Newsletter - 11th June 2020
Search tip: another use for wildcards EXCLUSIVE
Canada Day offer FREE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 29th May) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):
To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's FREE, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!
This week I received a request for help from someone who isnít a LostCousins member and - to the best of my knowledge - isnít even researching their family tree.
I'd normally turn such requests away †- after all, this newsletter goes out to more than 68,000 people who are members, so I have quite enough on my plate already - but on this occasion it was a matter of life or death. The lady who wrote was trying to help her half-sister, whose dying wish is to be reunited with her cousin Douglas - and I knew that by using my experience and the resources at my fingertips I'd have a much better chance of tracking him down than anyone else whose assistance she might be able to enlist.
It wasn't easy - it turned out that the surname I'd been given doesnít exist, so I had to hazard a guess at what it ought to be. Even then I was unable to find anyone with the forename Douglas who fitted the bill, so I enquired whether he was a maternal and paternal cousin, then tried looking for his parents - first by searching for marriages between couples with the right surnames, then by examining where and when their children were born.
I still couldnít find a Douglas, but eventually I came across a Dudley who was born around the right time, and had parents with the right surnames. Even better, there was a Dudley on the Electoral Register in the town where 'Douglas' was last known to have lived.
Could the two names have been confused?† The chances of this having occurred increased dramatically when the next email I received referred not to 'Douglas', but to 'Dougie' - it certainly seemed very possible that the name 'Dudley', one that isnít nearly as common nowadays as it was in my youth, had been misheard.
Eureka - maybe. 3 hours and 20 minutes after the initial contact I sent through what I hoped was the right name and address - and waited. Later that evening I received this email:
I cannot thank you enough, it WAS my sister's cousin and she is so made up he has already messaged her and she is beyond happy. A Million Trillion Billion thanks.
For me it wasn't a big thing to do - a couple of hours of my time, and whilst it delayed the release of this newsletter by a day, that's surely not such a big deal? You would probably have done the same in my position, even though it was for someone you didnít know.
And yet, it strikes me that there a few people reading this who havenít entered anyone on their My Ancestors page, so havenít provided their own cousins with a chance to connect!
Let me be perfectly clear - if youíre one of those people and you donít make the effort, some of your cousins will die without you ever knowing of their existence, and without being able to share their discoveries with you.
How long will you leave it before showing that you care, by reaching out to your 'lost cousins'? For goodness sake, I'm not asking you to be a Good Samaritan and help someone from a different tribe - I'm asking you to help people from your own tribe!
Search tip: another use for wildcards EXCLUSIVE
Wildcards are great characters - typically you can use an asterisk (*) to represent any number of characters, rather like a blank tile in Scrabble, but better! At Findmypast there doesnít seem to be any limit to how many wildcards you can use, although it's important to be aware that they can only be used fields which accept free-form text.
Although wildcards are normally used as a way of getting more results, not fewer, I recently discovered an unusual way of utilising them when searching the 1939 Register by occupation. A member of the LostCousins Forum came across someone whose occupation was described by the enumerator as 'Underpaid domestic duties' - probably a transcription error (there was a war on, after all). I thought it would be interesting to search for other instances, but found that searching for 'Underpaid domestic duties' produced nearly 8 million results, suggesting that it was carrying out a keyword search.
But even when I limited my search to the single word 'Underpaid' I still got millions of results - it was only when I added wildcard characters on either side, and searched for '*Underpaid*' that it finally worked as I wanted.
Nearly 13,000 Post Office employees lost their lives fighting in the two World Wars, and the GPO War Heroes site lists them all - you'll find it here.
Down under they donít talk about BMDs, it's BDMs - an arrangement that is alphabetically correct, but chronologically awry.
Australian certificates tend to provide much more information than those for England & Wales, but the information on certificates varies over time, and also by state; similarly the dates for which certificates are available varies by state. This page compiled by LostCousins member Graham Jaunay provides an amazingly comprehensive guide to what you can expect to see.
Warning: the more information there is on a certificate the more likely that there will be errors, and this is especially true of death certificates.
In the last newsletter I commented how many people living in the UK are unaware that they have cousins in the New World. If you have relatives who disappeared from the censuses during the 19th century you might find that they sailed to Ontario, Canada.
Over 29,000 emigrants who arrived in Ontario between 1865-1883 have been indexed online at the Ontario Archives site, and can be searched free if you follow this link.
Although most of the records in the archives are not online, if youíre not familiar with Canadian records it's well worth looking through the research guides that you'll find here.
A lot of people donít realise that we use the 1881 Census of Canada to connect cousins who are researching the same ancestors, so to encourage the thousands of members in Canada to spread the good news to friends and relatives I've come up with an offer especially for those who have relatives (not necessarily ancestors) on that census.
Until Canada Day, 1st July, you can connect with cousins who share your relatives on the Canadian census whether or not you have a LostCousins subscription - potentially saving you about $17.
This offer applies to both new and existing members, so it's an excellent time to tell Canadian friends and cousins about the benefits of joining LostCousins (which, of course, include this newsletter). You donít need an offer code, and there's no catch - just start entering your relatives from 1881 and see who you can find!
Tip: relatives you enter from any of the 1881 censuses before the end of June will also count as free entries in my competition - the top prize is $1000
Margaret wrote to me from Australia a few days ago:
"Recently I had a Lost Cousins match with Heather. She is not a relative of mine, but is carrying out a One Place Study in respect of Great Ellingham, Norfolk.
"The match was a small family of my former husband's: William Miller, his wife and one child, in 1841, and in 1852 the family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. Heather was interested to †know about them. Well, that spurred me on to more research!
"Heather has now written and published a lovely piece in her blog - she also found more about the family than I had.
"Because almost all my husband's and my families arrived in Australia in the 1840s and 1850s Lost Cousins matches are rare, and highly prized.
"I love reading your newsletter, Peter. This match is to me a bonus."
Coincidentally I also heard from Heather, who is very pleased with the matches she has made - perhaps her success will encourage others who are carrying out One-Place Studies to use LostCousins to further their research?
Note: if you're considering formalising your research into a village or street into a One-Place Study there's no better person to advise you than Janet Few - you can read my review of her latest book here.
In 2014 I wrote about two characters that you'll find in parish registers, but which arenít part of our modern alphabet, This fascinating YouTube video will tell you about other letters that have been dropped since medieval times.
There's more drama in the emails I receive from LostCousins members than in any television programme - I just wish I could publish all of them, but often the best stories have to remain confidential to protect the privacy of those involved.
I first heard the story below in November 2018 - it has taken until now to get permission from all concerned, but I think you'll agree that itís a tale worth waiting for. Here's what Anthony told me:
"My mum had three first cousins with a surname called Horsey: one of them, Harry Alfred Horsey, was a pilot who flew in WW2. His extensive experience included flying Hurricanes and Spitfires, but when his Tempest V developed a problem in April 1945 he was forced to land behind enemy lines in Germany; he was taken in for the night by the local Burgermaster. The following morning a report was made to Varrelbusch Aerodrome and at 10:00am on 3rd April Harry was collected by Rolf Brinkman, former Oberfeldwebel at Varrelbusch, and Wenner Assumussin, former Feldwebel at the same aerodrome. Shortly afterwards Brinkman and Assumussin took Harry away and Brinkman shot him in cold blood (you can read a more detailed version here).
"Harry was murdered less than 4 weeks before Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker - unlike Hitler, who had married his mistress Eva Braun the day before, Harry was just 22 and unmarried when he died.
"A few years earlier another RAF officer, whom I believe to have been a bomber pilot, had married and they had a son, John - but in 1941, just 2 months before John was born, his father was killed in action. A few years later his widow remarried and she bore two more children.
"Many years later, when John's mum was 96, he and his own daughters were clearing out his mum's house (she has since moved into a care home) when they found a suitcase of photographs in the loft. In the suitcase was a photograph of an airman, "Harry", complete with a loving message from him written on the back. John's daughters noticed that Harry was a dead ringer for their father when younger. When John showed the photo to his mum, despite her failing memory, she immediately said 'Ah, that's Harry - he was shot by the Germans'.
"John is now 78, and a couple of Christmases ago his daughters bought him a DNA test. When John checked the results of the DNA test he found that there were no matches with his own surname [not that unusual, I don't have any either - Peter]. Around the same †time I contacted him - John was one of my best DNA matches - and I had mentioned Horsey as one of my family history surname interests. The 1944/5 photograph of an RAF airman called Horsey, his physical likeness to John and the DNA evidence convinced John and his family that Harry was his actual father.
"Happily enough, I have loads of Horsey family photos and memorabilia because my mum and her sister Deirdre were obviously very close to their cousins. The murder of a close cousin had been a shock to them and there were several newspaper cuttings and photos. My wife Denise and I arranged to meet John and his wife - coincidentally he lives about 13 miles away from us, even though his family were from down south.† His story had been quite overwhelming but John was delighted with what I was able to show him as much of it was new to him.
"John and I keep in touch and he has also been able to find a first cousin, with whom he was able to exchange memorabilia and life histories when they met. What a story! DNA played a vital role in confirming the genetic connection and allowing the new family relationships to become established. I wonder how many thousands of people who have had DNA tests will have had similar life changing experiences?"
Although the main reason most of us test our DNA is to overcome deficiencies in the records and knock down 'brick walls' that a few years ago would have seemed impregnable, a beneficial side-effect is the ability to confirm our records-based research. No matter how meticulous we can rarely be 100% certain that we've found the right baptism, and therefore the right parents - and whilst it might give us some comfort to find that other researchers have come to the same conclusion, we can't ignore the possibility that they might have made the same mistake, probably for the same reasons.
DNA provides a completely independent check on our research, and whilst the reach of DNA is generally only about 6 generations (ie 5th cousins), we have so many more distant cousins that we're inevitably going to have DNA matches with some of them. Indeed, over half of our DNA matches are likely to be with relatives who are 6th, 7th, 8th cousins - or even more distant.
For example, in the last few weeks I've come across several 8th cousins once removed in North America who share my 7G grandparents Francis Medley and Mary Linnett, who married at St Barnabas, Great Tey, Essex in 1674. I can now be confident that my research on my paternal grandmother's Bright line is accurate as far back as 1780, when Richard Bright married Mary Medley, and that the Medley line is accurate back to 1674.
So whilst knocking down previously unscalable 'brick walls' is the greatest benefit of DNA testing, it's important not to disregard the secondary benefits that come from verifying our records-based research. After all, you might not make mistakes, but vicars certainly did!
Note: I'm hoping that DNA will also †solve the mystery of who Richard Bright's parents were - he was baptised in the non-conformist chapel at Coggeshall in 1756 but, unfortunately for me, the minister failed to enter the name of either parent in the notebook that sufficed as a record of baptisms.
A few days ago I ordered a DVD of Simon & Garfunkel's 1981 concert in Central Park. The film was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who'd previously directed promotional videos for both the Rolling †Stones and the Beatles, as well as the documentary Let It Be.
The name seemed familiar, and I discovered that I'd recently bookmarked an article which claimed that he is the illegitimate son of Orson Welles, although a DNA test apparently proved inconclusive (see this 2010 article in the Guardian).
But what inspired me to write about him was the discovery that, according to Wikipedia, Lindsay-Hogg had a long-term relationship with Jean Marsh, best known for her below stairs role in Upstairs Downstairs (which she created with fellow actress Eileen Atkins). And that's intriguing because Michael Lindsay-Hogg is actually Sir Michael Edward Lindsay-Hogg, 5th Baronet, so very much upstairs!
Professor Rebecca Probert, whose books on marriage law will be well-known to many of you, has asked if LostCousins members can help with a project she is planning - and based on past experience I knew you would be delighted to co-operate. The remainder of this article was written by Professor Probert.
The proposed project forms part of a wider study examining the laws regulating how and where couples can get married. The structure of the current law Ė with its division between civil and religious weddings, the differential treatment of Anglican, Jewish, Quaker weddings, and the registration of buildings rather than officiants Ė all dates back to the Marriage Act 1836.
While the annual reports of the Registrar General provide very detailed statistics on how many people married in different types of ceremonies, it remains unclear why certain areas had higher levels of civil or Nonconformist marriage than others. Drawing on the wealth of knowledge generated by family historians provides a unique way of obtaining an insight into this. The project will also collate and disseminate the information in a way that will help the wider family history community understand this area.
How can YOU help?
any of your ancestors marry in a register office in England and Wales?
ē If so, could you provide details of the location of the wedding, the age and occupation of the parties, and any reasons why they might have chosen to marry in a register office?
any of your English and Welsh ancestors Catholics or Nonconformists?
ē If so, could you provide details of when and where they married Ė whether in a register office, Catholic or Nonconformist church, or in the Anglican church? If they did not marry in a place of worship that matched their religious affiliation, do you know why?
If you would like to share this information please email Professor Probert at R.J.Probert@exeter.ac.uk †with these and any further details you would like to share (or any questions about the project). Emailing the information will be deemed to be consent to it being used as set out below. Taking part in the research does not pose any foreseeable risks to those providing information.
How will the information be used?
All data will be entered into an Excel spreadsheet on a password-protected computer. It will be kept for 10 years and then destroyed.
The findings will inform a monograph on the history of the current law of marriage. A summary of the findings will be made available to all those who provided information and will be disseminated to the family history community more widely.
All personal data (eg email addresses) will be processed in line with the data protection principles under the GDPR.
Who has reviewed this study?
This project has been reviewed by the Research Ethics Committee at the University of Exeter (Reference Number 201920-095).
Further information and contact details
If you are not happy with any aspect of the project and wish to complain you are welcome to contact the Universityís ethics team at email@example.com
Thank you for your interest in this project
I wrote a while back about Hydrogen Peroxide, which I use to disinfect groceries when they arrive - but I hadn't considered another option, perhaps because I hadnít encountered it for nearly 60 years.
LostCousins member William tells me that in the 1980s Milton tablets, traditionally used for sterilising babies' bottles, were also used in laboratories for washing down surfaces or cleansing hands (the active ingredient is Sodium Hypochlorite).
I donít have any Milton in my store cupboard but I do have a large tub of food grade Citric Acid, which I normally use for descaling kettles (but would have come in useful for Elderflower Champagne had I been quicker off the mark picking the elderflowers). Apparently this can also be used to kill the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 (see this US government website for some more suggestions).
Published in 2019 to mark the centenary of the 1918-19 pandemic, The Spanish Flu Epidemic and its Influence on History has turned out to be even more timely than anyone could have imagined. According to the dust jacket, Jaime Breitnauer - the British born author - divides her time between the UK and New Zealand. One can only hope, for her sake, that she found herself in New Zealand in March, when COVID-19 began to devastate Europe.
Told partly from the perspective of those who contracted the novel influenza, it looks at how the crisis was handled in different countries around the world. There are some disturbing echoes of the †conflicting viewpoints we see today: in Brazil, for example, the journal A Careta had suggested that Spanish flu had been manufactured in Germany as a weapon, and insinuated that the government would use the situation to interfere in the private affairs of its citizens. In Washington DC every hospital bed was filled, and the undertakers had run out of coffins; in Sweden the medical board initially advised that the epidemic was mild, leading to local authorities taking different decisions: in Stockholm schools remained open, in some other cities they were closed.
By the time of the Armistice on 11th November 1918 over 1.5 million German soldiers had died from flu - it clearly must have encouraged the Germans to sue for peace. Within Germany all sorts of cures were being touted: a malaria drug, quinine, was thought by some to protect against the virus, though others recommended eating beetroot or inhaling onion juice.
The first wave of influenza was followed by a second wave which targeted the young, triggering a 'cytokine storm' - also one of the most deadly aspects of COVID-19. In fact there are many similarities between what happened a century ago and what is happening now, though thankfully we have a better understanding of viruses than we did then - viruses were too small to be seen under optical microscopes, and it was only the invention of the electron microscope in the 1930s that allowed them to be seen.
Reading this book made me realise that what we're going through at the moment isn't unprecedented - simply unprecedented in living memory. In the (often misquoted) words of the philosopher George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".
I read the hardback, but if you live in the UK the Kindle version of this book is currently available for just £3.99 - a real bargain!
Many of you will know Anne Harvey as the author of numerous articles in family history magazines, so you wonít be surprised to know that she's a LostCousins member. However that wasn't the reason †I've been reading Such A Time As This, the third book in her series about a group of young people living in Lancashire in the late 1950s and early 1960s - I read it because I enjoyed her first two books so much!
I may be a decade younger than the key characters in the book, but it still brought back memories for me - and I suspect it would for many of you. The societal changes of the last 60 years have been phenomenal, but those us who have lived through them have mostly adapted and come to regard them as normal, so it was a delight to remember how things used to be - and if you grew up in a different country you'll find it interesting to compare your own experiences with those in the book.
I really enjoyed this book, but I would recommend reading the books in order as elements of the story carry over from one book to the next. If you missed out on the earlier books you'll find my reviews here and here; if you didnít, then you don't need me to tell you to buy the third book!
I read the book on my smartphone - for me itís the ideal way to read fiction, since I can dip in and out at any time. And at just £1.99 each for Kindle versions the books are a bargain - you could buy them all for the price of a single magazine. But if you prefer to stay with paper, as I know many of you do, look out for second-hand copies of the earlier books -† in the UK you can pick them up at Amazon for just over £3 each.
I've no doubt there are many people reading this who have thought of writing an autobiographical memoir - though I suspect that the number who have actually put pen to paper is much, much lower. Writing about our own experiences is self-indulgent, which means itís a challenge to make it interesting to others, even members of your own family †- but if you follow the advice in this free online course your chances of success will be far higher.
Save on Who Do You Think You Are? subscriptions EXCLUSIVE
I've been a reader of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine since it launched. Even though I have many sources of information there are always a few things in the magazine that I didnít already know, plus a few that I'd forgotten, so I always read it as soon as possible after it arrives through my letterbox (after disinfecting it, of course!).
I'm delighted that I've been able to persuade Who Do You Think You Are? to offer a special deal for LostCousins members in the UK - 6 issues of the magazine for just £9.99 (less than you'd pay at the newsagents for 2 issues).
To take advantage of this offer please follow this link.
After my wife and I began self-isolating on Friday 13th March it was nearly 3 weeks before we were able to get our first Tesco delivery slot, and even then we had to wait a further 3 weeks for the actual delivery. Those first few weeks of uncertainty were worrying, but also exciting, as we found sources of food in the garden that we hadnít used before - nettles and sorrel - and discovered recipes that we hadnít tried before.
These days I've discovered that itís possible to get delivery slots at fairly short notice - for example, when I looked on Saturday morning there were delivery slots available for the following Saturday and Sunday. They were evening slots, so not particularly convenient, and the delivery charges ranged from £5 to £6, which is at the top end of the range, but for older people like me it's so much safer than going to the supermarket in person. In the past three months I've only risked one visit to the petrol station, one to our local minimarket (at 6am), and two click-and-collect orders which I could pick up outside the store.
The real challenge is to vary the menu - it's so easy to buy the same things and cook the same recipes, but there are only so many times I can eat roast chicken - cheap and healthy though it might be compared to many of the alternatives. In the old days (before coronavirus) my menus were partly determined by what I found on the reduction shelves at the supermarket, so a degree of variety was inevitable - but now I have to provide the creative input.
Overall we're probably eating a bit less, or would be were it not for our late afternoon snack while we watch the Downing Street Press Briefing, and sympathise with the politicians, clinicians, and scientists who have to answer loaded questions from journalists (I donít know about you, but I've noticed that the questions from the public are generally much more insightful). Nevertheless I'm still more than 10 pounds lighter than I was 3 months ago, which is something to be pleased about, especially when you consider that obesity is a risk factor for COVID-19.
One side-effect of the pandemic has been buying more frozen vegetables - which can be cheaper as well as easier to prepare - button sprouts are a particular favourite of ours. A bonus is that many frozen vegetables come in resealable packs which, when empty, can be washed and used for other food - the best sort of recycling!
This is where any major updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error first reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check again before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......
Finally, a reminder that my competition has been extended to the end of June - and the top prize of $1000/£1000/Ä1000 is still to be won! Will you be the lucky one?
© Copyright 2020 Peter Calver
Please do NOT copy or republish any part of this newsletter without permission - which is only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership (which includes the newsletter), is FREE?