Newsletter - 4th June 2018



How to get a coat of arms - yes, really!

DNA sales restart

Privacy concerns? Why DNA is the least of your worries…..

Census secrets

The diary written on floorboards

Married by mistake

More Northern Ireland church records coming to PRONI

Readers' stories

Can DNA solve the riddle of Somerton Man?

Stop Press



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How to get a coat of arms - yes, really!

Over the years there are many whose wallets have been lightened by companies offering to prove their entitlement to a coat of arms. Should you be tempted bear in mind that the right to a coat of arms passes in the male line from the person to whom they were first awarded - simply being a relative isn’t sufficient, even if you have the same surname.


But according to this article on the BBC News site there is a legitimate way to acquire a coat of arms provided - to quote the immortal words of Shirley Bassey - you’re "a man of distinction, a real big spender".



DNA sales restart

With Father's Day and the World Cup on the agenda Ancestry and other companies are discounting their tests.


Please use the links below (and make sure tracking hasn't been disabled) so that LostCousins can benefit from your purchase - it won’t cost you a penny more, but it will help to keep this newsletter independent: (UK only) £63 plus shipping SAVE 20% - ENDS SUNDAY 24TH JUNE (US only) $69 plus shipping - ENDS MONDAY 18TH JUNE (Canada only) CAN$99 plus shipping SAVE $30 - ENDS SUNDAY 17TH JUNE (Australia & New Zealand only) AU$89 plus shipping - ENDS MONDAY 11TH JUNE


Family Tree DNA are not only discounting their Y-DNA tests for Father's Day, but also Family Finder. Other offers are from 23andMe, who are offering a discount in the US: and Canada, and Living DNA who are offering 20% off worldwide. But if you're testing for the first time I recommend the Ancestry DNA test - you'll get much more for your money!





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Living DNA (Worldwide) SAVE 20% - STARTS 5TH JUNE, ENDS 18TH JUNE



Privacy concerns? Why DNA is the least of your worries…..

Since the unmasking of the suspected Golden State Killer there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth on both sides of the Atlantic as lawyers and genealogists get to grips with the ethical and legal issues that this case has prompted.


The owners of GEDmatch, the site that provided the DNA match, quickly updated the site's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy to make it absolutely clear that It is acceptable to upload "DNA obtained and authorized by law enforcement to either: (1) identify a perpetrator of a violent crime against another individual; or (2) identify remains of a deceased individual".


Only a few of the 929,000 DNA profiles uploaded by GEDmatch users have been withdrawn following this change, which perhaps demonstrates that most people care more about 'the greater good' than some theoretical violation of their privacy that may have occurred.


But raw DNA data is only half the story (in isolation it's virtually meaningless) - the real key to identifying the suspect in the Golden State Killer case was the information that his cousins had uploaded from their family trees, a fact that some may have forgotten.


Here's a quote from an article in the 1st June issue of Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter:


"The genealogists who contributed the information did so willingly and presumably gave permission for the family DNA to be available to all. However, the relatives of the uploading genealogists may or may not have given permission for THEIR personal DNA information to be made available to the public. After all, it isn’t the DNA of any one individual; it is indeed the family’s DNA information. Not all family members have agreed to having that information made available to genealogists, law enforcement personnel, insurance companies, and worldwide hackers alike."


Quite right, Dick - but isn't that also true of the public family trees that many family historians upload to sites like Ancestry and FamilySearch? Indeed, some might argue that an online tree is far more revealing because the connections between family members have already been made - whereas, as anyone who has tested their autosomal DNA will know, it can take many hours of effort to work out how even one of your thousands of genetic cousins is connected.


It's true that the more responsible websites automatically withhold from public trees information on family members who are still living (typically based on the assumption that someone born less than a century ago is still alive unless their death has been recorded in the tree). But it's often very easy to fill in the gaps, especially if there is online access to modern BMD indexes (as in England & Wales).


I don’t suppose that anyone who publishes their family tree online asks all of their relatives for permission - I suspect that most take the view that, so long as living people aren’t named, no harm is being done. Indeed, getting permission from every relative would probably be impossible - some would be too young to give consent, others would be too old, and many would be hard to track down.


I've always warned members not to publish their family trees online - indeed, one of biggest advantages of being a LostCousins member is the ability to connect with other researchers who share your ancestors without providing a family tree at all!


Of course, not everyone agrees with me about public family trees - some believe that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. But when you make a decision please, please remember to take into account how it might affect your own relatives.



Census secrets

Although censuses are often the first records that family historians become familiar with, it's surprisingly easy to miss some of the information they provide.


For example, if you've only ever subscribed to Findmypast, you may not be aware that at Ancestry you can view all of the pages from the Enumeration Books, including the page at the front which describes the extent of the enumeration district. I've found this very useful on the occasions when I've suspected that the street or alleyway where my ancestors were living has been omitted from the census.


Similarly, if you've only ever accessed the 1911 Census at Ancestry, you might not have realised that when you're viewing a household schedule at Findmypast you can click on Related Images (at the bottom right) to see the name and address handwritten by the enumerator on the other side of the form, as well as pages from the Enumerator's Summary Book.


This additional information can be crucial if your ancestor was in an institution of some kind as the name may not be shown on the main schedule - here's an example:


© Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England, used by kind permission of Findmypast


In most censuses inmates in lunatic asylums are shown only by their initials - this makes them challenging to find.


I did manage to find my paternal grandmother on the 1911 Census - sadly she was in a lunatic asylum for 7 months following the birth of her first child, and was discharged the day after the census. Had she gone back home before the weekend I'd never have known… perhaps it was her way of communicating with the grandchildren she would never meet?



The diary written on floorboards

There are many ways in which our more literate forebears recorded their thoughts and passed on messages to future generations - some stitched samplers, some wrote in family Bibles, others kept diaries. But this story on the BBC News site of the carpenter who wrote in pencil on floorboards takes some beating!



Married by mistake

LostCousins member Gill pointed out this article on the BBC News website, and there was one photo that intrigued both of us - a newspaper billboard with the headline "BEST MAN MARRIED TO BRIDE BY MISTAKE".


For me it's impossible to look at an old photo of a newspaper billboard without imagining the vendor shouting out "Read all about it……". Those were the days!


Anyway, back to the story - Gill went to the British Newspaper Archive and found a newspaper article that explained all. It could happen to anyone…..  



More Northern Ireland church records coming to PRONI

If you've got ancestors from Northern Ireland there's some good news on the blog of genealogist, author, and speaker Chris Paton - the Public Records Office for Northern Ireland have digitised a significant number of Church of Ireland and non-conformist records, although sadly they're not going to be made available online.


You can see a list of the new records and another of previously digitised here, but please note that some of the records are closed, either because they are recent or because the requisite permissions have not yet been forthcoming. According to the article the new records won't be available until this autumn.



Readers' stories

Many readers were touched, as I was by Jennie's story in the last issue, which described how she tracked down her grandmother's old boyfriend.


Several of you wrote in with tales from your own family, including Russell in Australia - whose story is every bit as poignant as Jennie's:


"I can't top Jennie's story but I am reminded of one in my family. My late aunt travelled to England by ship in the late 1940s. She had been planning to go earlier but the war intervened. On the voyage she met two men, one from New Zealand and one from Cornwall. The three became friends and went sightseeing together at the stops along the way.


"My aunt fell in love with Harry, the man from Cornwall, but it was the New Zealander who proposed. They were married in Birmingham and came to Australia to live before eventually retiring to New Zealand. My aunt kept in touch with Harry each Christmas, and later discovered that the reason he had never proposed was that his niece, who had been married in the early 1940s and had two children, had been abandoned by her husband. With no other relatives able or willing to help he took her and the children under his wing and felt he could not offer my aunt the life she would have expected.


"After her husband died my aunt started ringing Harry once a week. By this time Harry, who had never married, was in his 90s and going blind. They never met again. My wife and I visited Harry at his home in Cornwall about 15 years ago. He was 104 and blind and was being cared for by his niece (the same one) who was in her 80s but looked much younger."



Can DNA solve the riddle of Somerton Man?

To me Somerton means only one thing - it was the birthplace of my great-great-great grandmother, Ruth Butwell and her father Thomas. But Somerton in Oxfordshire isn't the only Somerton in the world - it isn’t even the only one in England - and the story of Somerton Man takes its name from a beach near Adelaide in South Australia.


On 1st December 1948 the body of a man was found on Somerton Beach - but he had no ID on him, and all of the labels had been cut from his clothing - there seemed to be no way of identifying using the technology available at the time, but closer examination revealed a tightly-rolled scrap of paper in a small hidden pocket which bore two words in Persian, some letters which appeared to be in code, and a phone number.


The police gave up on the case long ago, but Derek Abbott, an engineering professor from the University of Adelaide, with an interest in mathematics, cryptography and forensic engineering has taken up the case - and as he followed the trail he fell in love with, and married, the woman whose DNA might one day solve the mystery. You really couldn't make it up!


I discovered the story in this week's New Scientist magazine, but a similar article appeared on the ABC News site last December - you can read it here.



Stop Press

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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2018 Peter Calver


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