Newsletter - 24th April 2016
Let's celebrate with 33% off at Findmypast EXCLUSIVE - ENDS SATURDAY
Time to take a DNA test? ENDS TUESDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 17th April) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):
Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). If one of the links doesn't work this normally indicates that you're using adblocking software - you need to make the LostCousins site an exception (or else use a different browser, such as Chrome).
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!
Sunday 1st May will be the 12th anniversary of the day in 2004 that the LostCousins website went live - but it will be our first birthday since passing the 100,000 member mark last September.
Whilst I know that this newsletter is extremely popular amongst family historians, we mustn't forget that the main reason LostCousins exists is to connect cousins across the globe - so it was appropriate that Mary wrote to me this week from South Africa.....
Mary is a fairly new member - she joined last September - but she didn't have very long to wait for her first success. Here's an extract from the email she sent me on Tuesday:
"First of all I would like to say how much I enjoy reading your newsletters, secondly I have been meaning for some time to write to you to let you know how well Cousin Patricia and I have been getting along; apart from being able to share our family information and current research we have become friends, it is as if we have always known each other.
"We have been able to add another cousin to our research. I remembered a family I met when I was a child, they had a son a few years younger than I, and Patricia was able to find him. He in turn belongs to the North West Kent Family History Society, and has done so for many years. As Patricia says, we have become a very good team...
"Thank you Peter for all the enjoyment we are experiencing!"
One-third of all the matches at LostCousins involve members who live on different continents, something that I find amazing in so many ways. Even a generation ago there would have been little chance of making connections like these - Mary in South Africa, and Patricia in England - but now, thanks to the Internet, we can bring together families that have been separated for generations, if not centuries!
Let's celebrate with 33% off at Findmypast EXCLUSIVE - ENDS SATURDAY
Findmypast are sponsoring the pre-birthday party. Until the end of April you can join in the celebrations when you buy a new 12 month World subscription and take advantage of an extremely generous discount offer that is absolutely exclusive to LostCousins members.
There was a unique discount code in the email that alerted you to this newsletter - simply follow the appropriate link from the list below to save an amazing 33% on a 12 month World subscription. You'll SAVE OVER £50 at the UK site, and there are similarly generous savings at the other Findmypast sites.
All World subscriptions are the same, whichever site you subscribe through, and once you have your subscription you can use it at any of the sites. However, your unique discount code will only work at the site specified in the email you received (this was chosen based on your address in my records).
You can't do better than a 12 month World subscription - it offers unlimited access to ALL of Findmypast's 8 billion worldwide records and newspaper articles, including the 1939 National Register for England & Wales, Catholic parish registers for the whole of Ireland, parish registers for most of Wales and several parts of England, the National Burial Index, a massive US marriage collection, military records, migration records, censuses - the list goes on and on.
Of course there are some records, such as censuses, that are also available at other sites but most of the 1800 record sets are ONLY available at Findmypast - for example, parish registers for Cheshire, Devon, Hertfordshire, Plymouth & West Devon, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Westminster, most of East Kent, large parts of Yorkshire, and much of Wales are exclusively at Findmypast. Findmypast also has partly indexed register images for Lincolnshire, whilst Leicestershire and Rutland parish registers will also be going online at Findmypast later this year.
You can see a list of all the record sets if you click the Search tab at any Findmypast site, choose A-Z of record sets from the drop-down menu, then click Show list of everything.
When you purchase a new 12 month Findmypast subscription using the links above you'll be supporting LostCousins. So I'm going to return the favour by giving you a free 12 month subscription to LostCousins (worth up to £12.50) - this will run from the date of your purchase unless you’re already a LostCousins subscriber, in which case I'll extend the expiry date by 12 months.
Simply forward a copy of your email receipt from Findmypast, making sure that it shows the precise time and date (and the timezone, if it isn't London time). I recommend you also make a note of the precise time you conclude your purchase just in case the receipt doesn't arrive - sadly some email providers are less than reliable (and I'm talking about some of the biggest names). I don't publish my email address online, but you can use any of the LostCousins addresses, including the one in the email that told you about this newsletter - all emails come to me.
IMPORTANT: your LostCousins subscription will be paid for by the commission we receive from Findmypast, which means that you must use the appropriate link in the previous article (and it must be the last link you click before you make your purchase). Unfortunately using the special discount code isn't sufficient. If you've configured your browser to prevent tracking, or if you use two different devices (or two browsers) during the process, then sadly your purchase won't be credited to LostCousins, and you won't get your free subscription.
Over the past few months many of us have been frantically adding to our family trees using the wonderfully-detailed information in the 1939 National Register for England & Wales - I for one have solved a few mysteries, updated hundreds of records to show occupations, addresses, and birthdates, and added scores of marriages and children of which I was previously unaware.
There's loads of information about the 1939 Register in my special newsletter, which you'll find here. The article Extending your tree beyond 1911 using the 1939 Register explains the key techniques I have used (and continue to use - I've only explored a handful of branches so far).
Anne recently wrote to remind me that because it's possible to search the 1939 Register by address, electoral registers can be useful; phone books are another handy source, although only a small minority of households had a telephone before the war.
However I find that name searches using wildcards can be very effective, even the name has been badly transcribed, and if you know the date of birth of someone in the household then that usually means they're very easy to find.
But please bear in mind that not all of the records relating to people born after 1915, but now deceased, have been opened - however, since we're fortunate that we can see any of these records we can hardly complain.
In December the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that it had been decided to retain names and addresses collected during the 2016 Census, which will be conducted in August.
Since census data has never been publicly released and the ABS are committed to never releasing identifiable census data it's not clear what benefits there might be for the family historians of the future, but the fact that the information will be retained at least keeps various options open. You can read more about this topic here, and also here.
Many thanks for Luke to alerting me to this news, which I and most others seem to have missed.
A 6-year project by volunteers at the Central Library in Halifax has enabled indexes to 394,000 names from birth, marriage, and death announcements published in the Halifax Guardian between 1832-1921 to be made available free online on the Calderdale Council website - you can download the indexes, which are in PDF format, here.
This week there has been a ongoing discussion over at the LostCousins Forum which has made it clear that almost all of us have 'brick walls' in the last 5 generations (ie going back as far as our 32 great-great-great grandparents).
Fairly recent 'brick walls' like these can be the most frustrating, because they bar access to such a large part of our ancestry - for example, I cannot find the birth or baptism of one of my great-great grandmothers, even though she was (supposedly) born just after civil registration began. This means that one-sixteenth of my tree is effectively out of bounds - that fact that on her husband's line I'm back to someone who died in 1605 just rubs salt in the wound!
Fortunately this is the part of our tree that's within the range of autosomal DNA tests, the newest and in many ways the most powerful tests, because they look at hundreds of thousands of sites on our genome (earlier tests looked at a small number of markers - sometimes as few as 12 or even 4). Equally importantly, they're looking at the DNA we inherit from both our father and our mother (who in turn got from their parents, who got it from their parents, and so on.....).
On average we have inherited about 3% of our DNA from each of our great-great-great grandparents. It doesn't sound like a lot until you consider that there are over 3 billion base pairs in our DNA - so that 3% is actually an awful lot of base pairs. Of course, most of us can't afford to test our entire genome, but a typical autosomal test looks at around 600,000 sites, which means that 3% is still a pretty big number.
Cutting a long story short, an autosomal test can produce matches on any of our family lines from the last 5 generations - although, because of the way that DNA is inherited it might be possible to go back a bit further on some lines than others (as in the example I describe below). Armed with this information you would probably expect to get about 32 times as many matches as from a test that only looks at one line, such as Y-DNA test.
Actually it's a lot better than that - because the people we're being matched against are also getting matches on 32 lines. So in theory you might get 1000 times (32 by 32) as many matches - it's no wonder Family Tree DNA call their autosomal test Family Finder!
In practice the testing companies don't tell us about all of our matches, only the closest matches - for example, I've got just over 720 matches at the moment. Inevitably there are many more distant matches than close matches, simply because we have many more distant cousins than we do close cousins, and it usually makes sense to start by looking at the closest matches.
Lots of matches sounds like a good thing - and it is - but actually pinning down how we are related to each of our matches is quite a challenge, especially if you're the only person in your extended family who has tested. So I've done what many other family historians have done, and persuaded some of my distant cousins to test as well.
There are two key benefits from this approach - first of all, the fact that my DNA matches my cousin's DNA validates our research to date as far back as our common ancestors. After all, as the recent example of the Archbishop of Canterbury demonstrates, the paperwork isn't always right.
This week I found a DNA match with someone who shares my great-great-great grandfather (born in 1794) - but is descended from his first wife, whereas I'm descended from his second wife. Discovering that my new half 4th cousin once removed shares my DNA proves that we've both done our research correctly, even though it stretches back 222 years and 5 or 6 generations.
The second advantage - and this is the big one - is that when my cousin and I both test our matches are going to overlap, and where they do overlap we can be fairly certain that those matches are on the lines that we share. This makes it much easier to work out how we're related to our 'new' cousins.
Although it has been around for 30 years, DNA testing is still in its early days - even now only a small percentage of researchers have tested their DNA. Nevertheless there are well over 2 million who have taken autosomal tests, and the numbers are growing rapidly, the potential for finding DNA cousins is enormous.
DNA testing isn't a substitute for good old-fashioned paper research, but it complements it extremely well. Paperwork can be lost or falsified, but DNA can't be faked - it's like a watermark that runs through the generations.
Tip: the reason why testing companies only tell us about the closest matches is because the less DNA we share with another person, the more likely it is that it matches purely by chance. However, if you want to investigate further, you can upload your results to the free GEDmatch website and adjust the parameters yourself. Incidentally using GEDmatch has another big advantage - it allows you to match your results against those of people who have tested with different companies (which is why price is the most important factor when deciding who to test with).
Until Tuesday 26th April there are big savings to be made on DNA tests from Family Tree DNA, the ONLY big company to provide ALL of the different tests that genealogists are most likely to need.
However for most researchers an autosomal test is the best option, for the reasons I've explained in the previous article - and, perhaps surprisingly, autosomal tests are also the cheapest meaningful tests. Family Tree DNA's regular price is $99, but during the sale you'll pay just $79 (for someone in the UK it works out at around £65 by the time postage is taken into account).
This is a significant amount of money, but it's about half what you'd pay for a Y-DNA test (which only looks at your direct paternal line) - and you're guaranteed to get lots of matches, whereas a Y-DNA test might produce none at all, as I know to my cost. As for mtDNA tests - well, don't get me started.....
What does a DNA test involve? Either you'll provide a sample of your saliva, or a scraping from the inside of your cheek - depending on the instructions that come with the kit - so it's not complicated or painful. DNA tests from Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA don't provide any health-related information, so there's no possibility that your health insurance costs will go up (or down) as a result of testing.
However, there is one circumstance in which I'd find it hard to recommend taking a test, and that is if you have British ancestry, but haven't completed your My Ancestors page. That's because it's much quicker, far easier, and infinitely cheaper to find cousins using the LostCousins site!
Because it's our birthday, next weekend the LostCousins site will be completely free - it's a great opportunity to contact the cousins you've already found, and to find new cousins. The offer runs from Friday 29th April to Monday 2nd May.
Of course, you don't have to wait until then to complete your My Ancestors page - in fact, if you've got half an hour to spare you may as well start right away (see the illustrated Getting Started guides on the Help & Advice page if you haven't entered anyone before).
How to find more cousins
Whilst it makes sense to start by entering your direct ancestors and their immediate families, it's actually the members of their extended families who are most likely to provide the vital links to your living cousins. When you enter your ancestors' 1st cousins you're extending the reach of your search by two generations, so that instead of limiting your search to your own 2nd and 3rd cousins you're extending it to include your 4th and 5th cousins as well.
Tip: more members have entered more relatives from 1881 than any of the other censuses we use, so enter as many blood relatives as you can from this census, even if they seem quite distantly-related.
Family Historian v6 adds record matching at Findmypast
The family tree program I aspire to use for my own research is Family Historian, which has been on my computer since version 2 (it's now up to version 6.2). It's not only incredibly powerful, it was developed here in Britain, which puts it right up there with Dyson vacuums, Stilton and Eccles cakes in my estimation.
Whilst I'm still using the program I started with in 2002 as my main program, every now and again I export a GEDCOM file then import it into Family Historian - and so I was very excited to hear that Family Historian will now automatically match against records at Findmypast.
I've been very impressed so far with this new feature, and whilst you obviously need a Findmypast subscription to look at the records themselves, this is going to be a great timesaver for many people.
Note: I'm about to start reading Getting the Most from Family Historian 6, by Simon Orde, the developer of Family Historian - it has only just been launched, and sold out at the recent show. I'll be reviewing it in a future newsletter - but don't expect to see the review any time soon, because the book is absolutely crammed full of information about features that I didn't even know existed!
Were you (or was a family member) born in the week of 3rd-9th March 1946? Or in the same week of March 1958?
In 1946, before the foundation of the National Health Service, the first national maternity study surveyed all of the mothers who gave birth in England, Wales or Scotland during that week. It was ground-breaking research into the social and economic costs of giving birth that was inspired partly by the falling birth rate - health visitors asked each mother a whole range of questions about her family, her home, the confinement, and the amounts of money spent on clothing for herself and the baby.
About one-third of the children in the 1946 study continued to be followed - which is why I wondered whether any of you might have taken part in the studies. You can read more about the 1946 study here, and about the 1958 study here (both studies are still continuing!).
If, like me, you're fascinated by projects of this type you might be interested in Helen Pearson's book The Life Project, which I'm currently reading.
This thin (31 page) book by Lynn Assimacopoulos describes her true-life search for the birth parents of Ryan, a friend of her son, who had lost both his adoptive parents in a car crash. It's well written but, perhaps because I could read it in less than hour, it didn't entrance me in the way that The Daddy of All Mysteries, the true story of Jess Welsby's search for the father she never knew, did.
Not knowing anything about the adoption system in the US, it was also difficult for me to gauge how challenging the search was, or what the chances of success were at the outset - but I suspect that family historians who live in America will possess more insight into the obstacles that confronted the author.
Most of you will have bought Kindle copies, I'm sure - but wouldn't you love to have a paperback copy signed by Steve Robinson himself? I know I would, but sadly I'm not allowed to enter the competition.
All you need to do to enter the competition is send me an email which lists Steve's 5 Jefferson Tayte novels in order of publication, and tell me (in no more than 40 words) which is your favourite and why. You don't need to have read them all - though how anybody could read one and not read them all beats me!
The member I judge to have sent in the best answer will win the prize (though I may ask for Steve Robinson's help with the judging). You can use any of the LostCousins email addresses, but please use 'Competition entry' as the subject so that I can file it away until Judgement Day.
The closing date of the competition is Friday 6th May (which would have been my father's 100th birthday); entries received after that date may be read, but won't be considered for the prize.
My father didn't have a Facebook page when he was alive, but he acquired one after he died in 2011. Apparently there are millions of Facebook users who are now deceased, and it's possible that at some point in the future there will be more deceased users than living ones - according to this BBC Future article which was spotted by LostCousins member Elaine.
Often users live on digitally for the simple reason that their log-in details died with them - even today few websites allow users to nominate a beneficiary, as LostCousins has since 2004.
Mind you, very few LostCousins members have taken advantage of this feature - though whether that's because they think they're going to live forever or because they're not aware of it, I'm not sure. Perhaps you'll log-in and update your My Details page now that you know the option exists? I certainly hope so.
You may have read recently that Ancestry has been taken over (again) although it's difficult to find out exactly how much of the company is owned by which investors.
But whoever owns Ancestry, their investment seems to be flourishing - the number of subscribers increased by 5% in the first three months of 2016, and sales were up by over 20% compared with the same period of 2015.
People keep saying to me that interest in family history seems to be declining but if Ancestry - the market leader - is growing, then the number of serious researchers is clearly continuing to rise. Perhaps the reality is that there are fewer people with a casual interest, but more like you and me? If so, that can only be a good thing!
Note: you can read Ancestry's detailed announcement on their corporate website here.
Unlike Findmypast, Ancestry doesn't usually give out very much information with their free census searches - you normally have to be a subscriber to find out very much.
But an eagle-eyed member (who has asked not to be named in case of reprisals) pointed out to me that if you allow the mouse pointer to hover over the View record link the transcription appears in a pop-up window, as you can see from this screenshot:
But for the fact that the page number is missing, it's all the information you'd need to enter this family on your My Ancestors page (they're not relatives of mine by the way - at least, not as far as I know).
Did you realise that the customised Google search near the top of all my recent newsletters will search ALL of my online newsletters going right back to February 2009? And nothing else - apart from a couple of adverts put there by Google, you'll ONLY get search results from my newsletters.
As with a normal Google search you can use quotes around phrases, eg "parish registers", or use AND to restrict the results, eg "parish registers" AND Sussex.
In fact, it's so easy to find articles this way that I do it myself - I don't have an index or master list of past articles, because I simply don't need one.
ScotlandsPeople are offering users a chance to renew their expired credits - log-in, click Buy more credits then enter spring2016 in the voucher codes box.
That's all for this issue - I'll be back soon with more news from the wonderful world of family history..
© Copyright 2016 Peter Calver
Please do not copy any part of this newsletter without permission. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance - though why not invite them to join LostCousins instead as standard membership, which includes this newsletter, is FREE?