Newsletter - 26th April 2020
British Newspaper Archive adds overseas newspapers OFFER ENDS THURSDAY
Top prizes still up for grabs! WIN $1000
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month, but additional editions are being added during the pandemic (as so many members are confined at home). To access the previous issue (dated 20th April) 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 please join - it's FREE, and it's the only way to get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!
I've touched on this topic in the past, but there's a superb post on Facebook which sets out very clearly how the cause of death should be shown on death certificates. Unfortunately I donít know the name of the author, however they did give permission for it to be circulated. I've edited it slightly for readability.
There's a petition around which I would like to ask people not to sign until I've had a chance to write an explanation of how Death Certification works in the UK.
It is NOT what the petition is making it out to be, ie that doctors are being "gently discouraged" from putting Covid-19 on death certificates. They are simply being given the completely correct advice that the Covid-19 infection should be at 1b if relevant, and not at 1a.
A Death Certificate in the UK has two parts to it. Part 1 is divided into three: all entries at 1a, 1b, 1c must be medical causes of death. Part 2 may be a non-medical thing, if it is considered relevant.
The classic example I use for teaching is:
- a little old lady is walking across a supermarket car park when a distracted mother reverses out and hits her. It's only the tiniest bump, the car barely moving, but it's enough to send the little old lady tottering into a fall, and because she's osteoporotic, she breaks her hip. As a result of this, she's in hospital for some time, bed-bound. Being bed-bound in a hospital is very bad for your health and she develops a respiratory condition and dies from it.
Now, what would the Death Certificate say?
The thing that has actually killed her, the medical reason she died, is bronchitis. So that is 1a.
The reason she had bronchitis so badly was because she was bedbound, so was very vulnerable to it. So that is 1b.
And the reason she was immobile in bed was the broken hip, so that is medical cause 1c.
1c Fractured neck of right femur
The reason for the broken hip was the fall in the car-park caused by the car, but that isn't a medical thing, so it goes into 2.
1 c Fractured neck of right femur
2. Motor vehicle collision (pedestrian)
Now, if someone becomes infected with the virus, SARS-CoV-2, then the disease they develop is called CoviD-19 and it has a number of different symptoms. Not everyone gets all of them - many people only have a cough and a fever - some people test positive without having either - quite a few people have a very painful sore throat - lots lose their sense of taste and smell - and a small proportion develop pneumonia. And then there are people who already have heart problems, for example, whose hearts fail under the extra strain of the infection, the fever for example.
So Covid-19 isn't one killer thing. It's an underlying cause. The medical thing that kills would be the heart failure, the kidney failure, the pneumonia, those things. And so THOSE have to go at 1a.
1a Heart failure
Why can't it go first, at 1a? Because all deaths worldwide are coded, by ICD-11 - the International Classification of Disease, 11th version.
Every single possible way to die is given a number-letter code, and the reason THAT matters is because without it, we can't compare. We need to know whether public health spending is going to the right places. We need to know whether death rates are dropping over time. We need to be able to compare between different regions, between the different countries of the UK and between different countries.
And those codes are used in every single country, capitalist, communist, military regimes... they all use ICD-11, and the WHO and all the rest of the people involved in trying to get everyone to die a natural death of old age after a long and active life, they all rely on being able to trust those codes to be accurate.
So if Covid-19 is going in as 1a, you lose information.
1a Heart failure
That gives you an ICD code for heart failure (there are multiple sorts, and the coding will be specific), and a different ICD code for pneumonia (again, it may be a different ICD code for viral or bacterial, etc.).
If you put Covid-19 as 1a, then both deaths are recorded as being identical.
OK, so if both deaths are recorded as identical causes:
Then how do you know how many ventilators you need? If someone has died from Covid-19 in a way that didn't involve a ventilator, how do you separate those deaths out from the deaths that did require a ventilator? How do you plan for ordering in equipment? How do you make decisions about closing down cancer surgery in order to fill the operating theatre with ventilators, which may then be unused.
Do you see why I'm really unhappy about this petition? It very clearly means well, but they haven't understood how a death certificate works...
In time, yes, the numbers can be crunched to sort out the Covid-19-pneumonias from the bacterial pneumonias... because a Death Cert can be amended under specific circumstances.
But in the short-to-medium term, the NHS needs to know how many deaths involved a patient on a ventilator - even more so if it's a patient who needed a ventilator and wasn't on one - they need to know whether actually they need to increase their provision for cardiac care - how many more deaths from epilepsy have there been? What about pregnancy complications?
Death stats are vital.
I haven't seen the petition referred to, so I don't know how it is worded. However it is worth noting that the guidance above, which would apply in normal times, has been superseded by emergency legislation allowing COVID-19 to be entered at 1a or 1b, though it isn't clear to me why this is necessary..
British Newspaper Archive adds overseas newspapers OFFER ENDS THURSDAY
In the last issue I mentioned that you could save 30% on a 12 month subscription to British Newspaper Archive when you followed this link (the offer runs until the end of April). What I didnít mention was that the BNA is diversifying beyond the British Isles with titles from across the British Commonwealth - for example, if you follow this link to the list of titles added in the last 30 days you'll see that one of them is the Bombay Gazette.
Tip: you can access the same newspapers at Findmypast if you have a Pro subscription, but you wonít benefit from the advanced search features that the British Newspaper Archives offers. The feature that I find most useful is being able to restrict my search to articles added to the online archive after a certain date, or between a range of date - this means that I donít have to keep ploughing through the same search results time after time.
The National Archives at Kew, just outside London, holds records covering over 1000 years of history, primarily for England & Wales, though some relate to other parts of the UK. In common with most such repositories, only a small fraction of TNA's records are available online - nevertheless, these include some of the records most useful to family historians, including censuses, the 1939 Register, and military records (excluding personnel files for those who served, or continued to serve, after the Great War).
†It was some weeks ago when I first heard about TNA's plans to offer free access to digital records, but at the time there was no indication when this would happen, or which records would be included - bearing in mind that most of the digitised records have been licensed to commercial providers such as Ancestry, Findmypast, and The Genealogist.
On Wednesday we finally learned what categories of records are included:
However not all records are included - for example, the largest WW1 record sets are not included. There's also a limit of 10 documents per basket, and a total of 50 documents over a 30 day period, so donít order documents you can get elsewhere as part of a subscription.
It's also a good opportunity to explore the wealth of Research Guides - hundreds of them - at the National Archives website. These are always free but - perhaps because of that - are often ignored.
Findmypast has a phenomenal collection of parish records - they claim itís the largest online, and if you follow this link you can check out their claim for yourself.
The latest addition to the records are 1.2 million Kent records which have been published in association with Medway Archives. First a bit of history: the parish registers held by Medway Archives were the very first English parish register images to go online - I wrote about the 'CityArk' project in this newsletter in 2005, but I donít know how long they'd been available. It wasnít until June 2009 that Essex Record Office started putting their registers online (initially free), and it wasn't until later that year that Ancestry began putting the London Metropolitan Archives collection online.
Searching the Medway registers has always been difficult, but now Findmypast have an indexed transcription that links through to the images (which are still free on the CityArk website, as they always have been). It's a big improvement compared to the collaboration between Ancestry and Essex Record Office which I've written about extensively in the past.
This latest collection brings the number of Kent parish records in Findmypast's collection to just under 10 million.
Mass Observation began in 1937, but it was the insight it provided into life on the Home Front during the war years, and the years of rationing and austerity that followed that most people think of. For many of us the project came alive when we read excerpts from Nella Last's diaries - which she kept from 1939 to 1966 - or watched the 2006 adaptation of her wartime diaries (Housewife, 49).
The Mass Observation archive went to University of Sussex in 1970, and in 1981 the project was revived. Now they're looking for volunteers to write about their experiences during lockdown - if you're interested in taking part, please see this discussion on the LostCousins Forum for more details.
Social-distancing, school closures, closing of theatres and bars, facemasks - I could be writing about 2020, not 1918. In 2010 Nancy Tomes wrote a prescient article about the influenza epidemic of 1918-19, focusing on the lessons that were learned - the synopsis below will give you an overview, but I would thoroughly recommend reading the document if you can find the time:
The Spanish influenza arrived in the United States at a time when new forms of mass transportation, mass media, mass consumption, and mass warfare had vastly expanded the public places in which communicable diseases could spread. Faced with a deadly ďcrowdĒ disease, public health authorities tried to implement social-distancing measures at an unprecedented level of intensity. Recent historical work suggests that the early and sustained imposition of gathering bans, school closures, and other social-distancing measures significantly reduced mortality rates during the 1918Ė1919 epidemics. This finding makes it all the more important to understand the sources of resistance to such measures, especially since social-distancing measures remain a vital tool in managing the current H1N1 influenza pandemic. To that end, this historical analysis revisits the public health lessons learned during the 1918Ė1919 pandemic and reflects on their relevance for the present.
You can download the article in PDF format if you follow this link.
Philip and Samuel Kahn were twins - born on 5th December 1919. Sadly Samuel died just a few weeks later, one of the many victims of the Spanish Flu pandemic - but Philip not only survived infancy, he also came through World War 2.
But in 2020 Philip finally met his match. Still living at home and walking one† or two miles a day he was fitter than many people younger than him, but eventually his luck ran out, and he died from coronavirus on 17th April. I first read this story on the BBC website, but there is much more detail in this CNN article.
All over the world governments are seeking to expand testing for the novel coronavirus, and now Gene by Gene, the parent company of Family Tree DNA is offering to carry out COVID-19 testing on behalf of approved healthcare provider - if you want to know more, follow this link.
Note: FTDNA's DNA offers end today, Sunday (but as they're based in Houston, Texas it'll be Monday for most of us. See this article if youíre thinking of splashing out.
Top prizes still up for grabs! WIN $1000
Over 600 new matches have been made so far in April, as many as were made in the first 22 months that LostCousins was in operation. Clearly you had to be patient then, but you don't have to be patient now - youíre probably only an hour away from finding a new living relative.
Hundreds of LostCousins members have entered over 1000 relatives from the censuses, thousands of members have entered 200 or more - and inevitably they're the ones who have made most of the matches. But the odds of making new matches are getting better all the time - when you enter a single relative from the 1881 England & Wales census there's a better than 7% chance (that's 1 in 14) of an IMMEDIATE match with another member.
If youíre one of those who has entered fewer relatives the opportunities are greater than ever before - and that's even before you take into account the chance of winning one of the 100 competition prizes. The top prize of $1000 (or £1000, or Ä1000 depending on where you live) has yet to be won, as have most of the other prizes, which include Ancestry DNA tests and LostCousins subscriptions.
How will you know when you've won?
You'll have a match with 'Easter Egg', an imaginary individual whose ancestors in 1881 came from all over: England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands.
How will you know what you've won?
When you look at the My Contact page for the relationship you'll see an Ancestor Number - if it has just one digit you've won the 1st prize, if it has two digits you've won one of the 2nd prizes (an Ancestry DNA test), and if it has three digits you've won the 3rd prize (a LostCousins subscription).
Tip: to view the My Contact page for anyone on your My Cousins page, whether you're in contact with them or not, simply click their name (or initials).
Although the prizes are all associated with individuals recorded in the 1881 Census, one of the best ways to discover relatives in 1881 is to start with all the relatives you know about in 1841 - whether or not you can find them on that census - then track each individual as they marry and have children (and possibly grandchildren too). The GRO's online birth indexes are really useful for tracking collateral lines because they show the mother's maiden name, but censuses are also a great source. On average you'll find between 3 and 4 relatives in 1881 for each one you know about in 1841, so itís a great way to improve your chances of finding 'lost cousins' and winning prizes.
We know from the surviving records that 19th century enumerators didnít always get everything right. It is interesting to speculate why one enumerator in Yorkshire ended up creating his summary pages with a pencil and ruler (see example below).
© Crown Copyright Image courtesy of The National Archives, London, England. Reproduced with the permission of Findmypast
The member who spotted this example speculated that there weren't sufficient pages in the Summary Book, but going back to the start of the book I could see that it contained 66 pages, of which only 42 had been used - even if the enumerator had made a pig's ear of the entries there would have been sufficient spare pages to transcribe them again.
It's possible that there was a problem at the printers, and that the remaining pages were blank (or completely missing); another possibility is that a catastrophic event destroyed the remainder of the book. Perhaps it was the result of a spilled inkpot, a knocked-over candle, or the rage of a scorned mistress? I also wondered whether the enumerator might have misplaced the Summary Book and, with a deadline to meet, couldn't afford to wait until the book was retrieved - this is something we sometimes see in parish registers. However, I was able to rule out that hypothesis - because the last household page 42, the last of the printed pages, continues on the first hand-drawn page.
Inspection of the book at the National Archives might settle the issue - but that will have to wait..... †
It's not that unusual for a child's forename to be a surname - indeed, many forenames were originally surnames, including Percy, Neville, and Kelly. Middle names are often family surnames, the mother's maiden name being the most common source. For example, my paternal grandfather was Harry John Buxton Calver, his mother having been known as Emily Buxton prior to her marriage (although in fact I have no Buxton ancestors, and neither did she).
Just because a name looks like a surname doesn't mean that it is a family surname - or a surname at all. For example, my grandfather had a cousin whose name was Charles Henry Barton Calver - but Barton was the name of the village where his father was born.
And so we turn to Midgley Midgley of Midgley, whose forename was both a surname and a place name. The son of Robert and Martha Midgley, of Midgley - a hill-top village a few miles from Halifax, in West Yorkshire, he was the youngest of the 6 children they baptised on 5th October 1819. The chapel at Luddenden was a 4 mile hike from Midgeley, with some steep hills in between, so it's quite likely that Robert & Martha were waiting until all their children could walk before making the journey.
I've never previously come across someone whose forename, surname, and place of birth were identical, so when Judith sent me this example I knew I had to share it with you. But perhaps you've already got a similar example in your own tree? If so, do please post your example on the LostCousins Forum so that others can see it!
Note: the image on the right shows the Bishops's Transcript, which is in the custody of the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York (and is used by kind permission of Findmypast). The original baptism register shows the same information, but it's worth remembering that Bishop's Transcripts can sometimes be more accurate than the registers the entries are copied from,
One of the first books I got for my Kindle was Daniel Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year. Published almost 300 years ago, it is an evocative account of London in 1665, when the plague was at its height. Although I mentioned it in this newsletter back in 2010 I didnít review it then, so it seems an appropriate time to put that right.
It's a very readable book, as youíd expect from the author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, but it clearly canít be based on Defoe's own experiences because he was only 5 or 6 years old at the time. The title page contains the wording 'Written by a CITIZEN who remained all the while in London', which might well be true, since Defoe was born in London, but whether one regards it as a novel or a non-fiction work, he must clearly have relied on the memories of others.
The son of James Foe, a London butcher, he changed his name to Defoe because it sounded more 'gentlemanly'. After several failed business ventures he turned to writing novels as he approached 60, and it is the first of these - Robinson Crusoe - for which he is best known. Robinson Crusoe is thought to have been inspired by Alexander Selkirk, who spent over 4 years as a castaway on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific between 1704 and 1709.
A Journal of the Plague Year is well out of copyright, and you can read it free at the Project Gutenburg website if you follow this link. There are also Kindle and paperback copies available at Amazon, some for less than a pound. It's even available as an audiobook.
Trams had vanished from London's streets by 1952 (see this BBC article and this newsletter article from 2010), and as far as I know I never got to ride on one - though I have fond memories of trolley buses, which were also electrically-propelled and plied fixed routes. British Electric Tramways by E Jackson-Stevens was published in 1971, long before the resurgence of trams and light-railway systems in London and other British cities, so itís a nostalgic look back at what used to be.
There are more photos than there are pages - if you remember the old trams it'll bring back memories, and if you donít it'll show you what you missed! I picked up my copy for £2 in the bookshop of a heritage steam railway, but there are plenty of second-hand copies on Amazon (and even some on eBay - see link below):
As I often say to people who write to me, just because a site is free doesn't mean that it's harmless. For example, at one time much of the malware that found its way onto home computers (and even office computers) was the direct or indirect result of downloading a free piece of software.
These days scammers tend to reel people in using fake news stories about celebrities, or by offering free guidance on a topic that is likely to be of interest to their targets. They're good at their job - their websites can be very convincing - but ultimately theyíre not out to do you a favour, they're out to help themselves.
A good way to find out whether a website can be trusted is to find out who operates it. So when I was contacted by a woman who wanted me to promote UK Care Guide to LostCousins members the first thing I did was try to find out who was behind it - and that's when the alarm bells started ringing.
For a start, there is no company called UK Care Guide registered at Companies House; secondly, the postcode for St Petersgate in Stockport isnít SK1 4EB - indeed, according to Google Maps the two locations are almost a mile apart. The actual postcode for 7 St Petersgate is SK1 1EB, which isn't wildly different, however it inevitably makes me wonder whether all this is carelessness, obfuscation, or part of some sinister scheme. But I simply donít know the answer - and it's not for want of trying, because I wrote back to the person who contacted me:
Mary, can you please provide details of the company that operates your web
site? I couldn't find this information on the site, and we obviously like
to know who we're dealing with.
Perhaps predictably, I got no reply. So whilst there may well be some useful information on their website, based on what I've found out I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole - and you probably shouldn't either. After all, readers of this newsletter are experienced researchers, so we donít have to rely on others to do our research for us!
By the way, I donít usually deign to mention websites that I wouldnít recommend to members, but in this case I felt it would provide a useful example of what you should be looking for when deciding whether or not to trust a website. If in doubt, don't!
Tip: bargepoles vary in length, but theyíre all well over 10ft long, so ideal for social-distancing!
Last December Google added a new security feature to their Chrome browser - you can read about it here. If activated, then when you log-in to a website it checks whether your log-in details have been stolen - as so many have over the years.
What's potentially confusing is that if you have used the same email address and password at more than one site, you'll receive the warning message whichever of those sites you log into. Your log-in details might well have been stolen from a site that you haven't used for ages, quite probably one that you've forgotten about, perhaps one that is no longer even in business - yet the warning message will pop up the next time you visit a different site where you use the same credentials. This might well be LostCousins - because although members are asked to choose a password that they donít use at other sites, not everyone will have done this.
To the best of my knowledge the genealogy site that suffered the biggest theft of user details was MyHeritage - this affected 92 million user accounts, including mine (you can read about it here). Although you will have been forced to change your password at MyHeritage, you might not have remembered to change your password at other sites where you use the same log-in details.
Fortunately, even if hackers were to get hold of log-in details that give access to your LostCousins account there would be slim pickings. Not only do we not store members' credit card information or bank details, we never even have them (because all online payments are made on a secure page at the WorldPay website). And almost all of the data that members enter comes from publicly-available censuses, so there's little or nothing that fraudsters would find useful.
There is a website where you can find out whether your email address has been involved in any data breaches - I suspect that most have, because relatively few people do what I do, which is to use a different email address for each website. To check your own email address follow this link.
Tip: hackers also target email providers - for example, 3 billion Yahoo users were affected in 2013, and 500 million in 2014. You could be affected even if you donít use Yahoo, because hackers also steal email address books -which is why some of the spam emails you receive appear to come from friends or relatives. They might even harvest data from the emails themselves. And, by the way, itís not just Yahoo who were hacked - some Outlook and Hotmail accounts were hacked only last year.
If you use a different password at every site, how are you supposed to remember them all? The good news is that you donít have to - there are password manager programs that will not only remember your passwords, they'll invent hard to guess password as well (if you want them to). The program that gets the best reviews is LastPass, and although there's a premium version that you have to pay for, the standard version is free (and perfectly adequate for most of us)..
The lockdown is having unintended consequences - a well-meaning cleaner at Newmarket Library decided to sort all the books in order of height. To be fair itís something I've done myself on occasion, as it reduces the chance of smaller books being hidden by big ones, but I can understand that the librarians preferred the Dewey Decimal Classification System - which, to be fair, does have the advantage that thereís a place for everything and everything has a place. You can see the neatly-ordered books in this BBC News article.
My first Tesco delivery of the lockdown arrived on Tuesday, so we're eating normally again. I was thinking of writing an Ode to an Egg until I discovered (thanks to that spoilsport Google) that others have scrambled faster and beaten me to it. Despite my delight at receiving the delivery I was taking no chances - everything was wiped down with, or soaked in a dilute solution of, hydrogen peroxide (and no, I donít recommend drinking or injecting it). I opted for hydrogen peroxide partly because it was often used to clean fruit and vegetables even before the epidemic, but also because it's effective even when diluted to 0.5% concentration.
Some experts reckon that it isnít necessary to disinfect groceries, but having spent 6 weeks in lockdown I can't see the point of taking unnecessary risks, even if they're small risks. One thing that doesnít worry me, however, is the mobile phone mast close to our house - having lived next to it for 23 years (and studied the research) I know that the biggest danger to us would be if some crackpot set fire to it!
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......
This is quite probably the last newsletter you'll receive before our 16th Birthday on 1st May - but then again, these days things are so unpredictable, so who knows?
© 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?