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Newsletter – 6th June 2024


D-Day 80th Anniversary



Findmypast records are FREE! ENDS 10AM MONDAY

How to get the most from Findmypast

Military records FREE at Ancestry ENDS TUESDAY

New boss for Society of Genealogists

Memories: follow-up

DNA offers UK US Canada

Celebrity names

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 31st 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!



Findmypast is FREE! ENDS 10AM MONDAY

From 10am (London time) today, Thursday 6th June, until the same time on Monday 10th June, Findmypast are offering FREE ACCESS TO ALL OF THEIR RECORDS (with the exception of the 1921 Census). If you’ve never had a subscription previously, or allowed your subscription to lapse some time ago, it’s a great opportunity to find out what’s available and fill gaps in your knowledge of your ancestors. It’s also an opportunity for current Plus subscribers to get access to the newspapers and overseas records (which are part of the Pro and Premium subscriptions).


This free access offer includes not just the billions of historical records at Findmypast, but also the modern Electoral Registers, and the enormous collection of historical newspapers in the British Newspaper Archive (the largest online collection there is).


Although you will need to log-in (or register, if you have not done so previously) you will NOT be required to provide payment information. If you are, it’s because you have inadvertently clicked on the free trial link, attempted to access 1921 Census records,  or attempted to use Tree Search (which is not included in the offer).


This offer is available at all of Findmypast’s sites worldwide, but whichever site you choose to use, please the appropriate link below:







Note: please choose That's fine when asked about cookies so that Findmypast can record the fact that you used a LostCousins link. This will not only bring more kudos for us, it increases the chance of EXCLUSIVE special offers in the future! The offer starts at 10am (London time) on Thursday, so if it isn't live when you click the link, please come back a little later.



How to get the most from Findmypast

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 enter 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 even 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 records 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 marriage registers became mandatory. 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.


Here’s another example of how you might find Findmypast particularly useful for finding births after 1837…..


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 birth 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.


The 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 – try it now while Findmypast is free, and you’ll see what I mean!



Military records FREE at Ancestry ENDS TUESDAY

At Ancestry.co.uk you can access over 400 million worldwide military records completely free until 11.59pm on Tuesday 11th June. You will need to log-in (or register if you have not done so previously), but you won’t have to provide payment details. The offer has already started.


Discover Details of Your Family History - Search Records with Ancestry®


Tip: even though there is a considerable overlap between the military records, especially the UK records, at Ancestry and Findmypast, it's worth searching both sites since military records are difficult to index and search techniques and options differ between the sites.



New boss for Society of Genealogists

The Society of Genealogists has appointed a permanent Chief Executive Officer who succeeds the interim co-CEOs, Natalie Pithers and Rebecca Gregory, both of whom will continue as members of the management team having overseen the successful launch of Gold Membership. You can see a photo of the new CEO and read about his background here.



Memories (continued)

In the last issue I gave an example of how, by rewatching a video recording of my father which I made in 2007, I was able to identify one of his schoolfriends on the 1921 Census – and, in the process, realised that I may have discovered what inspired him to become a printer and, later, a proofreader.


After reading my article Julian wrote in to tell me about a 1960 film in which his father featured – it was a documentary made to mark the 300th Anniversary of the founding of the Royal Society, and when Julian saw it at the age of 4 he wasn’t in the least impressed. But 60 years later he was re-reading his late father’s memoirs and decided to investigate whether the film was available online – and after making enquiries he was provided with this link. I don’t expect that you’ll watch the whole film, but do look out for Julian’s father lecturing the Royal Society – it’s precisely 11 minutes in. What a proud moment!


As it’s the 80th Anniversary of D-Day today I decided to look through the letters that my father sent home during the war, to see what – if anything – he said about the D-Day landings.  



Of course, all mail had to be passed by the censor – you can see the purple stamp on the front of the Air Letter – so there was a limit to what he could say. Clearly news of the Normandy landings had reached Italy, where his regiment was stationed in June 1944.


My father had very legible handwriting into his 80s so you may well be able to discern how he obliquely referred to the D-Day landings, writing: “In these momentous days…..”. He goes on to reveal his approximate whereabouts: “…no doubt you are wondering just where I am and what I am doing. Apart from being still in Italy I cannot enlighten you but I can say that I have been in the Cassino area and lived for some days quite near Monastery Hill where we had a good view of the now world-famous monastery.”


Note: the Battle of Monte Cassino lasted from 17th January to 18th May 1944 – the monastery was destroyed during the battle. There were 55,000 Allied casualties, and by the end of the battle an estimated 20,000 Germans were dead or wounded.


Having alluded to what was, by then, a famous battle he reassured his parents that he hadn’t been injured: “I am quite fit and well so don’t worry on that score.”


This is just one of hundreds of letters that my father wrote during the war, and which his mother – the grandmother I never knew – preserved for posterity. Will anyone be reading my emails in 80 years’ time – I very much doubt it!


Finally, a chance to hear from someone who not only fought in WW2 but was involved in the D-Day Landings. Arthur Wilton was one of the hundreds of thousands of Allied troops on the Normandy beaches on 6th June 1944. He survived and, with the help of a video recording that Arthur made in 2013, his grandson Alex tells his story in this blog post at the Findmypast site.



DNA offers

The offer for Australia & New Zealand has now ended, but there are current offers in the US, Canada and the UK all of which continue until 16th June. Remember: at Ancestry you don't have to specify who will be testing, so there's no need to contact your cousins before placing an order.


Please use the appropriate link below so that you can support LostCousins with your purchase – if it doesn’t work first time please log-out from Ancestry and then click the link again, just to make sure:


Ancestry Canada
Canada Father’s Day Offer: Save up to $65 on AncestryDNA®.


Ancestry UK
UK Father’s Day Offer: Save 30% on AncestryDNA®.Offer ends 16 Jun 2024


US: Father's Day Sale: 60% off AncestryDNA®


Of course, while DNA doesn’t lie, it’s possible to misinterpret the results if you don’t know what you’re doing – so ensure you not only read my DNA Masterclass, but also follow the simple, straightforward steps that you’ll find there.



Celebrity names

In earlier centuries it was the aristocracy who could behave differently from everyone else (and get away with it): nowadays that privilege seems to be accorded to celebrities.


For example, consider the names of their children. I can remember that when I heard, back in 1967, that the musician Frank Zappa had decided to call his eldest child Moon Unit, it seemed pretty far out, man. Indeed in 1969, when he wanted to call his eldest son Dweezil, the nurse at the hospital where she was born refused to register the name – so he was officially called Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa, though the family still called him Dweezil (and some years later his name was changed officially). More recently Elon Musk decided to call his son X Æ A-12 which is a bit of a mouthful (if you can pronounce it at all).


What got me thinking about celebrity names was the news at the weekend that Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, the actress daughter of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt was petitioning to drop ‘Pitt’ from her name. According to the news report that I read the couple have been in the process of divorcing since 2016, and are involved in a legal battle over Chateau Miraval (which is not the name of one of their other children, but a French winery which they co-owned).  



Stop Press

The Ancestry DNA offer in Australia has ended, but there's a phenomenal offer in the US which has just started - the price has been slashed by 60% to just $39 for the standard test! See the DNA article above for the link.



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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2024 Peter Calver


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