Newsletter – 19th April 2021



Last chance to save 20% at Findmypast ENDS TODAY

Findmypast messaging checks out

Clues from a 60 year-old postcard

Thank you for paying online

Impossible dates

Did you Watch with Mother?

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 16th 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 join - it's FREE, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!



Last chance to save 20% at Findmypast ENDS MONDAY 19TH

I'm delighted that so many of you have taken advantage of the EXCLUSIVE offer I arranged with Findmypast, which offers a 20% saving on all new 12 month subscriptions for both new and lapsed subscribers. All the information you need is here in Friday's newsletter, but please follow the instructions carefully if you want to support LostCousins and earn yourself a free LostCousins subscription.



Findmypast messaging checks out

In the last issue I talked about the roll-out of private messaging across all of Findmypast's sites around the world, but at the time I wrote the article I hadn't had a chance to try it out myself.


I got a swift response to my message – and whilst the other person turned out to be someone I already knew (a cousin I originally found through LostCousins) it was good to know that this new system does work. We both received email alerts to let us know that there was a message waiting, but these were delayed by a day - presumably deliberately - so by the time they arrived we'd already responded!


Note: the one drawback is that there's no way of knowing who the other person is until they respond – so, like me, you could be messaging someone you already know. Then again, perhaps that's not such a bad thing – we hadn't been in touch for quite a time, so it was good to catch up.



Clues from a 60 year-old postcard

I suspect that many of you will be able to relate to this story – indeed, some of you may have done something very similar!



Thank you for paying online

When a letter arrives from a LostCousins member enclosing a subscription renewal cheque I handle it carefully, like all other incoming post and deliveries. I can't disinfect it, but I can quarantine it for a few days – so that's what I do.


However I'm glad to say that most of those who would have previously paid by cheque are now paying by online bank transfer, which is not only quicker and safer for me, but also cheaper for you (postage is now a minimum of 66p – almost exactly the cost of my weekly season ticket, 13s 4d, when I started commuting to London in the 1960s!).


Note: cheques and bank transfers can only be accepted from UK bank accounts – the cost of processing overseas payments, even those made by sterling money order is prohibitively high.



Impossible dates

Four years ago I drew the attention of readers to an entry in the register of St Martin, Herne, Kent which appears to show that Thomas Oliver Saunders was baptised on 29th February 1769 – even though 1769 was not a Leap Year:



© Image copyright Dean and Chapter of Canterbury; used by kind permission of Findmypast


Readers came up with a number of theories which might explain away this apparently impossible date, but the example that Eleanor sent me this week is literally written in stone:



This memorial inscription from St Joseph's Cemetery in Cork, Ireland suggests that Bryan Garvey died on 29th February 1929 – and whilst 1928 was a Leap Year, 1929 most definitely wasn't.


When I was a boy, I read a book where the plot depended on the hero realising that a document dated 1752 must have been forged because the date on which it was supposedly signed was one of the 11 days in September that were lost when England moved from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Anyone remember which book it was?


Note: talking of plots, I came across this website which details many of the locations that have appeared in Midsomer Murders since it began in 1997 – some of them are remarkably close to where my ancestors lived, though I doubt any of my ancestors lived in 'chocolate box' cottages!



Did you Watch with Mother?

These days you can watch TV around the clock, but when I started watching television in the early 1950s there was only one channel, and not much to entertain a young boy. Watch with Mother was as good it got during the day, but whilst I greatly enjoyed Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men as well as Rag, Tag, and Bobtail I'm afraid I couldn't stand Picture Book, merely tolerated The Woodentops, and only watched Andy Pandy in the hope that Teddy would make an appearance (I was certainly not a fan of the eponymous hero, though I reserved my deepest loathing for Looby Loo).


What I didn’t know then was that these programmes were created in a shed in the garden of a cottage in Kent. The narrator and co-creator was Maria Bird, who had been born Mary Elizabeth Bird in South Africa – the image below shows a page from the Bird family Bible:


By Theobird - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons


Andy Pandy is older than me by a few months – he made his first appearance in June 1950. If you want to relive the experience, the BBC Archive on Facebook has an episode here; follow this link for a lot more information about Maria Bird and the children's programmes she was responsible for.


Tip: you can view vintage issues of the Radio Times (which, of course, includes BBC television programmes) here.



Peter's Tips

It’s just over a week since I had my second jab, and the vaccination centre has been re-purposed as a sports centre. OK, that's a slight misrepresentation – it was a sports centre in the first place, but was only allowed to re-open on Monday when lockdown was relaxed slightly on Monday 12th April.


So far I haven't done anything that I wouldn’t have done before I was vaccinated – I haven't been in a shop since last summer – but I know that during the past week many others, particularly younger people who haven’t been vaccinated yet, have been out enjoying the sunshine.


The good news for me – and people like me – is that so far the vaccines seem to be highly effective. In the US around 77 million people had been fully vaccinated by the middle of the week just ended, but so far only 5800 of them had been reported as contracting COVID-19. Of those just 396 were hospitalised and 74 had died. (See this CNN report for more information.)


Whilst these numbers will no doubt increase over time, these numbers reinforce the estimates of medical experts in the UK that many thousands of lives have been saved by the vaccination program. Nevertheless, the amazing reduction in daily cases in the UK is primarily the result of lockdown, not vaccination – we're still a long way from herd immunity – so the relaxation of lockdown will inevitably lead to some increase in case numbers.


The other piece of good news this week is that the B.1.1.7 variant (first identified in the UK), whilst more easily transmitted, doesn't appear to increase the severity of the disease.



Stop Press

This is where any major updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error first reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check again before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......



Finally, just to mention that the birthday of LostCousins is approaching – it's amazing to think that on 1st May we’ll be 17 years old!


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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2021 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? To link to a specific article right-click on the article name in the contents list at the top of the newsletter.