Newsletter – 2nd June 2023
Save 15% on Findmypast subscriptions EXCLUSIVE OFFER – 4 DAYS ONLY
The introduction of printed marriage registers FREE ONLINE PRESENTATION
Time to buy a DNA test! SAVE 30%
This week at the Society of Genealogists ONLINE PRESENTATIONS
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 25th 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!
Save 15% on Findmypast subscriptions EXCLUSIVE OFFER – 4 DAYS ONLY
Although family history is one of the cheaper hobbies, it can still be difficult to find the money for a 12 month subscription, even though annual subscriptions invariably provide a significant cost saving compared to shorter subscriptions.
So I am delighted to have been able to negotiate an EXCLUSIVE 15% DISCOUNT on new 12 month subscriptions to Findmypast – and whilst the new Premium subscription isn’t included in the offer, if you purchase a Pro subscription from Findmypast.co.uk you can upgrade to Premium for £20 (or the approximate equivalent at Findmypast’s other sites around the world).
Note: the only difference between the Pro and Premium subscriptions is the 1921 England & Wales census. The Premium subscription includes virtually unlimited access to this census; with a Pro subscription you get 10% off the normal pay-per-view price.
With a PLUS subscription you’ll have unlimited access to ALL of Findmypast’s billions of British and Irish records, including censuses up to 1911, Church of England parish registers for many counties, Catholic records, military records, ships passenger lists, historic electoral rolls, and the modern UK Electoral Register for the UK – which can help you track down living relatives, schoolfriends, former colleagues etc. With 15% off you’ll save over £20, bringing the price down to under £115 – or about £2.20 a week, less than the cost of a sandwich, and (believe it or not) less than you would have paid back in October 2009, when there were far fewer records on the site. In those days there were no parish registers, no Catholic records, and even the census collection was still incomplete – so much has been added since.
The PRO subscription includes everything in the Plus subscription, as well as billions of records from outside the UK, and unlimited access to half a billion newspaper articles in the British Newspaper Archive. In fact it includes everything that Findmypast has to offer, with the exception of the 1921 Census. With 15% off you’ll save more than £27, reducing the cost to a little over £157 – or about £3 a week.
Perhaps the best news is that, as an annual subscriber, when your subscription comes up for renewal in a year’s time you’ll qualify for Findmypast’s Loyalty Discount. As this is also 15% you won’t see any increase next year (unless subscription prices rise, which sadly can’t be ruled out given the high rate of inflation).
The offer is open to both new subscribers and former subscribers, but ends at 11.59pm (London time) on Monday 5th June – don’t miss it! Existing subscribers can’t take advantage of this offer but if you have a 12 month subscription you’ll benefit from the Loyalty Discount when it renews.
Tip: in the next article I’ll explain how you can support LostCousins when you make your purchase AND get a bonus for yourself.
Although the Findmypast offer is exclusive to readers of this newsletter, you’ll only be supporting LostCousins if you use the appropriate link at the end of this article – but don’t stop reading as the next bit is important!
Please make sure that your purchase is going to be tracked - if you have installed any browser extensions with names that include the words 'ad' and/or 'block' this is a danger sign! (Beware: if you allow your children or grandchildren to ‘help’ you with your computer they may have installed something you don’t know about.)
I also recommend, based on past experience, that you don't use Firefox - I suggest you load up this newsletter in Chrome or Microsoft Edge before clicking the appropriate link below and making your purchase. All major browsers are free, so it makes sense to have a choice (especially since many problems can be solved by using a different browser).
I also recommend you use a computer rather than a smartphone or tablet, but whatever device you choose, please stick to it, as clicking my link on one device and then making your purchase on another definitely won't work.
In Chrome you'll find the 'Do not track' switch by going to Settings, then Privacy and security, then Cookies and other site data – the default setting is OFF, as shown BELOW, and this is exactly what you want:
The switch should be to the LEFT and appear grey. If the switch is to the right (and blue) then please move it to the left.
In Edge you'll find a similar switch in Settings under Privacy, search and services and it works in the same way. If it is set to the rightt, move it to the left. I also recommend turning off Tracking Prevention, at least temporarily.
Once you are satisfied that your purchase is going to be tracked, click the link and make your purchase, noting the EXACT time of the transaction (to the minute!).
Provided that we receive commission on your purchase you’ll receive a free LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 – you’ll get 6 months for purchasing a Plus subscription or 12 months when you purchase a Pro subscription. To claim your bonus forward the email receipt you receive from Findmypast, ensuring that the time and date of your purchase is shown. Alternatively send me an email stating the precise time and date of your purchase, the time zone (if you are not in the UK), and the amount paid. As usual , my email address was in the email you received telling you about this newsletter.
IF IN DOUBT PLEASE CHECK WITH ME BEFORE MAKING YOUR PURCHASE - AFTERWARDS WILL BE TOO LATE!
Findmypast.co.uk - Save 15% on 12 month Plus & Pro subscriptions
Findmypast.ie - Save 15% on 12 month Plus & Pro subscriptions
Findmypast.com.au - Save 15% on 12 month Plus & Pro subscriptions
Findmypast.com - Save 15% on 12 month Essential & Ultimate subscriptions
The Ultimate subscription at the US site is equivalent to a Pro subscription at other sites, but the Essential subscription is a cut-down version of the Plus subscription (so check carefully before choosing it).
Tip: it’s usually best to purchase from your local website, even if you prefer to use one of the other sites for your research. Once you have your new subscription you can log into whichever site you wish (they all have the same records).
From time to time I’m contacted by readers who don't get the same excellent results as me when they search at Findmypast – so I'm going to tell you how I transform their searches….
The first thing you need to appreciate is that there are two ways of searching at genealogy websites. One is to enter lots of data on the Search form in the hope that some of it might lead to the record you're looking for – this type of search can work well at FamilySearch or Ancestry, where it typically produces lots of results (though most of them won't be relevant).
The other approach is to put the minimum amount of information on the Search form, see how many results you get then – only if there are too many results to glance through – filter the results so that you're only left with those that are most relevant. This type of search works best at Findmypast.
Because I'm so busy I generally prefer the second type of search – most of the time the record I'm looking for is on the first page of search results, so I get there very quickly. I even cheat by using wildcards rather than typing long surnames in full – this has the secondary benefit of sometimes picking up records that might otherwise have been missed.
How minimal should your searches be? If I'm searching the census I'll typically enter just a forename, a surname (possibly using wildcards), and an approximate year of birth. I rarely enter a place of birth as this tends to vary so much from one census to another, but when I do I enclose it in wildcards, eg *London*
Different surnames require different tactics. The surname Smith is very unlikely to be spelled differently or mistranscribed – but you are likely to get lots of results, so you'll need to narrow your search in some way. By contrast, when I'm searching for my Vandepeer ancestors I'm more concerned about misspellings than anything else, so I'll typically search for v*d*p*r* and leave the other boxes empty.
Tip: even as you’re filling in the search form Findmypast are looking to see how many records they have that match what you have typed so far; a running total is displayed on the Search button so you'll know when there's no point entering any more information.
Put these tips into practice and you'll immediately see the difference. But don't stop reading, because I've got another, even more important, tip for you – one that even Findmypast won't tell you!
Did you realise that at Findmypast there can be three or more ways of searching for the same historical record? Would you like to know which of those three ways I use myself? Yes, I thought so…..
The gateway to all of the different approaches is the Search menu:
Let's suppose that you were hoping to find one of your ancestors in the 1881 Census - you could choose Search all records, or narrow down your search by clicking on Census, land & surveys. But I wouldn't choose either of those options - I'd go to the precise record set I'm interested in by clicking All record sets, the option beginners are least likely to choose (but the one I use 99% of the time).
If I search the 1881 Census specifically I’ve got a vast range of options on the search form:
The boxes highlighted in red don’t appear when you carry out a more general census search, and whilst that might not matter for some searches, if you don’t know that these other options exist you’ll never have a chance to use them.
Choosing All record sets also allows me to find out what record sets Findmypast has which are relevant to my research. For example, if I want to search Devon parish registers I’ll type devon in the search box at the top left:
If I hadn’t used these records before I would be able to confirm that:
You can see from the list that at Findmypast records are organised in a way that makes them easy to search – all of their Devon marriages can be searched at the same time, whether they were before or after the 1754 watershed when separate registers were mandated. Similarly baptisms and burials aren’t split in 1813, when pre-printed registers were introduced: this not only makes it quicker to search, it makes it easier to pick up late baptisms you might otherwise have missed.
Tip: identifying the siblings of your ancestors is a simple, but effective, way to make sure that your research is on the right (ancestral) lines. It not only gives you a better idea of when your ancestor’s parents married, making it easier to go back another generation, you may find that your ancestor was a witness to the marriage of one of their siblings (or vice versa).
Another advantage of the way that Findmypast group records is that finding entries which were recorded in the combined registers is simpler. It’s difficult enough researching in the 1600s and early 1700s – we don’t need additional obstacles in our way.
Tip: even when two sites appear to have the same record set, differences in the way that the records have been organised (or in the search options provided) can mean that records easily found at one site are difficult to find at the other. Most researchers have a ‘favourite’ site, usually the one they’re most familiar with, but don’t make the lazy assumption that your favourite site is better in every respect than all the other sites.
When I began my researches I had to go up to London every time I wanted to look up an entry in the General Register Office’s quarterly birth, marriage, or death indexes – but these days we have a multiplicity of choices, including FreeBMD and the GRO’s new birth and death indexes, which are also free online.
When the GRO reindexed their birth registers they included the mother’s maiden name from the start of civil registration in July 1837 – previously this important information was only available from 1911 onwards, which made finding the correct 19th century births much harder than it should have been. But searching at the GRO site is tedious and restrictive: you can only search 5 years at a time, you can only search for males or females, not both, you can’t specify a county or multiple registration districts, and you can’t use wild cards, or leave the surname field blank.
Thr good news is that over the past few years Findmypast have been updating their birth index to include the mother’s maiden name from 1837 onwards, and whilst there are still a few gaps, it’s so much quicker and easier to search at Findmypast than at the GRO site (or any other, for that matter) that it’s usually my first choice. I find it particularly helpful when I’m looking for all the children of a particular couple.
Here's a table of links that will enable you to jump straight to some of the key resources at Findmypast without going through the Search menu (all searches are free, so you don't need a subscription unless you want to look at the records themselves, though you will need to register, or log-in if you have registered previously):
1881 British census (FREE transcription)
1939 Register (England & Wales)
* these links will take you to the baptisms for the county – from there you can easily access other records
Note: there are a few record sets which currently can't be found by searching in the way I've described; for example, if you're looking for the Chelsea pensioner records you'll find them under British Army Service Records because Findmypast have grouped together all army service records. Other instances reported to me in the past involve Australian cemetery records.
Finally, another useful tip – one that even regular users of Findmypast frequently miss. When you search an individual dataset you'll see a list of Useful links & resources at the bottom right of the page – and when the records in question are parish records there will usually be a link to a page with a list of parishes that are included, showing the dates of coverage.
Although Findmypast make it quite easy to search the censuses by address, those of you who have been researching as long as I have may well have fond memories of the street indexes at the late-lamented Family Records Centre.
There was a project to make the street indexes available online through a wiki hosted by the National Archives, but this was closed to new contributions in 2012, and the indexes are now only accessible via an archived version of the site in the Government Web Archive. Indexes are available for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, and 1891 – you can find them here.
Yesterday the 1931 Census of Canada was released online, although currently it is only browsable. Ancestry and FamilySearch are working together to transcribe the census using AI – which worked well for the 1950 US Census when it was trialled last year.
The one thing that journalist Mary Louisa Toynbee has in common with my antecedents is the pet name ‘Polly’, which was also the name by which my great-great aunt Mary Bright was known within the family. That’s where the resemblance ends, as my ancestors seem to have been poor, mostly labourers of one sort or another, and the two – one on each side of my tree – who tried to better themselves by becoming grocers managed to go bankrupt (at least one of them ended up in a debtors prison).
I was prompted to compare our family trees when a Twitter post drew my attention to this review of her memoirs, which were published yesterday. By and large people who write memoirs do tend to come from privileged backgrounds, which is why we know so much more about the middle and upper classes of earlier centuries than we do about the average working man. (We know even less about the lives of the women.)
Those of you who are old enough to remember the Monty Python sketch featuring four successful businessmen who tell ever more exaggerated stories of the hardships of their youth will understand it when I say that I’m proud of my humble ancestry – but it certainly makes it more difficult to find evidence of their lives beyond the parish register entries. Even those who went into the workhouse seem to have picked an establishment for which few records, if any, survive. Viewers of Who Do You Think You Are? would have zero interest in my family tree, even if I somehow became a D-list celebrity.
Early in my research I discovered the term ‘gateway ancestor’, usually someone who descends from the aristocracy, and thereby provides a link to medieval genealogies – and I got the impression then that eventually everyone finds one of them in their tree. Well, more than 20 years later I’m still waiting, and if you’ve been more fortunate please don’t write in as it’ll only depress me further – it seems I’m doomed to be marooned in the 1500s!
Note: if you’re too young to remember the ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch, or would like to listen to it again, you’ll find it here on YouTube.
In the last issue I erroneously implied that printed marriage registers were mandatory from 1754 onwards, when Lord Hardwicke’s Act came into force (in my defence I should mention that FamilySearch also get it wrong in their History of Parish Registers in England). In fact, pre-printed registers weren’t mandatory until 1813 – but it is certainly the case that when the 1753 Act was passed printers saw an opportunity to sell pre-printed registers and that most parishes found it convenient to use one of them.
I’m very grateful to John Wintrip, professional genealogist and author for highlighting my error – and for sharing with me the slides he used when he spoke on the Implications of Hardwicke’s Marriage Act in Genealogical Research to fellow members of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA).
In fact, I found the slides so interesting that I have persuaded John Wintrip to give a Zoom talk on this topic to LostCousins members – it will be at 10am (London time) on Tuesday 4th July. If you are interested in attending please DON’T write to me – instead log into your LostCousins account and indicate your interest on the My Prizes page (which is normally used for our annual competition, but is well suited to other events).
Because there are members all over the world it wasn’t possible to pick a time of day that will work for everyone, but we’ll do our best to accommodate as many members as possible. Apologies in advance if you are one of the unlucky ones.
Note: if this event is over-subscribed I will give preference to members who are taking part in the LostCousins project (to connect family historians around the world who are researching the same ancestors).
Professor Rebecca Probert, the leading authority on marriage in England over the centuries, has written the introduction and contributed an article to the latest issue of the journal Family & Community History, which focuses on marriage. The good news is that although it’s an academic journal the relevant articles are available free online. So far I’ve only had a chance to glance through Professor Probert’s article, but it has a mention of the sterling contribution to her research made by LostCousins members, which is always heartening.
You’ll find the journal here.
Time to buy a DNA test! SAVE 30%
One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is “How can I be sure that I’ve found the right person?”. Nobody wants to trace somebody else’s ancestors instead of their own, but often there are too few surviving records for us to be absolutely certain that we’ve identified the correct baptism, or the right marriage.
I first tested my DNA in 2012, but it wasn’t until I re-tested with Ancestry in 2017 that things started falling into place. Suddenly I was getting matches with distant cousins, matches which proved that we’d both got our research right as far back as our common ancestors. I was able to use a few of these matches to knock down ‘brick walls’ further back in my tree, but all of them were valuable – it’s important not to under-estimate the reassurance they provided that my previous research was correct.
Family historians who haven’t tested their DNA (and even some of those who have), often assume that DNA tests are all about finding close relatives we don’t know about and thereby uncovering family secrets – after all, most families have a skeleton or two in the proverbial closet. But that’s not how it works in practice, because 99% of the matches we get will be with distant or very distant cousins.
Of course, it’s not always obvious how you’re connected to a distant cousin – many people who have taken a DNA test are at an early stage in their research, and some have no tree at all. That’s why it’s crucially important to follow the strategies in my DNA Masterclass – they sidestep the matches who have no tree at all, deprioritise the matches with very small trees, and point you in the direction of the cousins who are most likely to help you knock down your ‘brick walls’.
Working out how you’re connected to one of your DNA matches can be satisfying, but it’s only the first step in the process. If you are able to persuade them to allow you to view their DNA matches (ideally as a ‘Collaborator’ rather than as a ‘Viewer’), the chances of knocking down one or more of the ‘brick walls’ that you share improve significantly.
When it comes to DNA there is only one test that I can wholeheartedly recommend, the AncestryDNA test. It’s not the cheapest nor the most expensive, but it is by far the most useful. That’s partly because Ancestry has a considerably larger database, so you’ll get more useful matches, but mainly because Ancestry do so much to help, with features like Common Matches and ThruLines which make the most of Ancestry’s enormous collection of family trees. Put it another way, they do most of the work, so you don’t have to!
With Father’s Day approaching Ancestry are offering some enticing reductions on DNA tests in the UK, the US, and Canada – and you can support LostCousins with your purchase if you follow the appropriate link:
Ancestry.co.uk (UK & Ireland only) SAVE 30% – ENDS 15TH JUNE
Ancestry.com (US only) SAVE $40 – ENDS 18TH JUNE
Ancestry.ca (Canada only) SAVE UP TO $65 – ENDS 16TH JUNE
Ancestry.com.au (Australia & New Zealand only) SAVE UP TO $54 – ENDS 8TH JUNE
If you are logged into your Ancestry account the link may not work, so please log-out first. Finally, a reminder that anyone – male or female – can take the Ancestry DNA test.
Don’t do things by halves
Sadly my parents weren’t able to take a DNA test, nor were any of their siblings, so the best proxy I have for their DNA is my own (and that of my brother and sister).
Whilst we inherit all of our DNA from our parents, we don’t inherit all of our parents’ DNA – we only inherit half of it. For example, whilst I inherited a complete set of chromosomes from my father, those chromosomes were cobbled together from parts of the chromosomes he inherited from his own parents. My brother would have received a different mishmash of chromosomes, so between us we’ve probably got around three-quarters of our father’s DNA. The same applies to our mother’s DNA.
Had our parents both been alive when DNA tests became available it would clearly have been better for them to test rather than the two of us. If you test your own DNA when your parents could test you’re only testing half of their DNA – hardly the route to the best results!
Even if only one of your parents is still alive they should test. Indeed, it doesn’t need to be a parent who tests, it could be one of their siblings (ie your aunt or uncle). Had autosomal DNA testing come in 2 years earlier I could have tested my father and my mother’s sole surviving sister – who inherited just as much DNA from my maternal grandparents as my mother did.
The important thing to remember is that it isn’t our DNA that matters, it’s our ancestors’ DNA that is going to link us to our genetic cousins. So the closer you can get to your ancestors, the better – which means testing members of the earliest surviving generation.
This week at the Society of Genealogists ONLINE PRESENTATIONS
At 2pm (London time) tomorrow, Saturday 3rd June, you can hear genetic genealogy expert Debbie Kennett give a talk entitled I’ve got my autosomal DNA results but what do I do next? which will be of particular interest to those who have tested with Ancestry (though she will also give some tips for other sites).
Debbie really knows her subject – she spoke at both of the Genealogy in the Sunshine events I organised a few years ago – and she is the DNA expert for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine (you’ll find a discounted subscription offer here). For more details, or to book your place see this page at the SoG website – it’s £6.50 for SoG members, £10 for others.
Next Thursday, 8th June, also at 2pm (London time) I’ll be giving a talk about LostCousins – explaining why it’s so important to collaborate with other researchers, and how much easier it is when you’re put in touch with someone who is not only an experienced family historian, but has already indicated their interest in collaborating with their own cousins.
If you know someone who might be interested in attending they can book here – again it’s £6.50 for SoG members, £10 for others (but I’ll be giving away a free one-year subscription worth £10 to new members who register at LostCousins for the first time after hearing my talk).
I’m delighted that my wife has come up with another fascinating article for those who share her love of gardening….
Welcome back – and hello to any newcomers. It’s already June but this is my first gardening article of the year, so my profound apologies for a very long wait. I have been busy installing fencing, planting camellias, and planting other shrubs while the English Spring has brought ample rain to soften the ground and make a day’s gardening not too hot for me or for the plants. More on what I’ve been planting and learning about on another occasion.
But what has finally motivated me to rest my bones and get typing was a newspaper article about wisteria, which the newspaper claims can add 5% to the value of a property. Wisteria is one of Peter’s favourite plants, and before we moved here a quarter of a century ago he would gaze longingly at the stunning wisteria outside a Georgian house in the main street of the village where we were living.
Peter has once again suggested that the main body of my article should be on a separate web page (this is a genealogy newsletter, after all), so please follow this link to read it. But I will take the liberty of including here links to some online bargains that I’ve spotted this week (please use the links provided as LostCousins may benefit):
Gardening Express has supplies of several varieties of mature (6’) and smaller wisteria plants, as well as some unbeatable offers on soft fruit, fruit trees (4 bare root trees for £9.97, reduced from £79.97), and dozens of garden plants
Crocus also has a good selection of wisteria plants in varying sizes depending on your budget (and patience!)
From 1st July electricity prices in Britain will be coming down by about 10%, and gas prices by around 25%. If, like me, you found ways of reducing your power usage over the winter your monthly Direct Debit could well be higher than it needs to be: for example, since the beginning of this year I’ve been paying £284 a month, but it should now be more like £184. EDF allowed me to reduce the payments to £227 with quibbling, but to reduce them any further I’ll have to wait for the next account review (in July).
When interest rates were close to zero I didn’t worry too much about paying more than I needed to each month, since I knew that the surplus would be refunded at the end of the year, or set off against the following period’s bills. But now, with deposit rates approaching 4% for easy-access accounts (and around 5% if you can afford to tie your savings up for a year), there is more of an incentive to make our spare cash work harder. I make a point of paying with a cashback credit card whenever I can, and I also have a debit card that gives me a 1% rebate on most bills.
Note: although I’ve had credit cards of one sort or another for half a century I’m one of those annoying people who pays the bill in full every month – I don’t suppose the card issuers have made much money out of me!
I’ve never lost a phone, at least not permanently, but my very first mobile phone was stolen from my offices in 1990 – even that was not my fault, because I’d lent it to my sales manager, who spent much more time on the road than I did. I suppose the government official who drained a dam, emptying it of 2 million litres of water over the course of three days, in order to recover their Samsung phone had an equally impressive record to uphold – but at what cost? He did get the phone back, but by then it was too waterlogged to work. You can read more about this story here.
Do you remember the song in the Cadbury’s Flake advert: “Only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate….”? I was reminded of those words this week when I read about the ice cream sellers who are moaning that after Cadbury’s relocated their manufacturing the flakes were just too crumbly and too flaky. That advert is also on YouTube – it’s from 1985, apparently (doesn’t time fly?).
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......
© Copyright 2023 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?
Many of the links in this newsletter and elsewhere on the website are affiliate links – if you make a purchase after clicking a link you may be supporting LostCousins (though this depends on your choice of browser, the settings in your browser, and any browser extensions that are installed). Thanks for your support!