Newsletter - 22nd August 2018



Save at British Newspaper Archive EXCLUSIVE

Whatever happened to Baby Jane?

Daisy chain

The perfect marriage of DNA & conventional research

Cousin marriages revisited

Top hat and tales

Chatsworth staff records now online


Review: Researching and Writing History

Review: My History: A Memoir of Growing Up

A whirlwind romance?

An unusual register entry

Peter's Tips

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 11th August) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):



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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 alert whenever a new edition of this newsletter is published!



Save at British Newspaper Archive EXCLUSIVE

You might have noticed in the Stop Press of the last issue that there's an offer running until 25th August which allows you to save 30% on ANY subscription (but it only applies to the first payment, which means the Annual subscription is by far the best buy).


Aware that a lot of people are on vacation at this time of the year, and not up to date with their incoming email, I managed to negotiate an exclusive extension for readers of this newsletter - the offer runs until Sunday 2nd September when you use this special link.


Note: please don't share the special BNA link; however you CAN share the link to this newsletter if you like.


The hundreds of millions of articles in the British Newspaper Archive can also be accessed through Findmypast, if you have Pro or World subscription - but as many keen researchers have discovered, the search at the British Newspaper Archive site is significantly more powerful.


Most useful of all is the ability to search for articles added between two dates - this means that you donít have to keep ploughing through the same results, which can otherwise be particularly tiresome, especially if your ancestors had common surnames. Remember, the BNA's coverage is expanding all the time - tens of millions of articles are added each year.


I love looking through old newspapers - and after stumbling across an intriguing 'Medical Notes' column in one local newspaper I couldn't resist searching for more. For example, these gems were in the 16th April 1898 edition of the Peterhead Sentinel and Buchan Journal:


Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Used by kind permission of Findmypast


In the Fife Herald of 29th December 1886 there's some sound advice that still applies today:


Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Used by kind permission of Findmypast


Changing the subject, an interesting news article appeared in The Middlesex Chronicle on 3rd August 1940 - it involved three people, two of them aliens, who appeared in court charged with forgery relating to an identity card. It's too long and complicated for me to relate, but if you want to know more you'll find the article at the top right of page 4.



Whatever happened to Baby Jane?

In 2003 the decomposing body of a young baby was found in a pond in Gainesville, Florida - at the time no identification was possible, so the baby was recorded as Jane Doe in the records.


Now there's a plan to use DNA testing to identify the child's parents using public DNA databases, according to this article in the Gainesville Sun.


Technically it's a homicide investigation, but I suspect that all anyone will discover is a sad story. If you've uploaded your DNA results to GEDmatch, do you feel that this is a valid use of your information?



Daisy chain

In 2012, a newsletter story from Lost Cousins member John Simpson about his Aunt Daisy led to John's meeting his cousin Iris for the first time, and this year that same article from the archives has led to Iris making contact with her brother Alex - for the first time in 70 years! This is the human face of genealogy - it's not just about long-dead ancestors, but can also be about re-connecting families.


You simply can't predict what you'll find out when you search for your 'lost cousins', whether you do it the traditional way, or using DNA. You might find solutions to the mysteries that have puzzled you since childhood; you might reveal that one of your ancestors led a double life. But one thing you can be certain of - you'll discover things about your family history that you didn't know (and sometimes things that nobody has ever known).


Sadly many researchers haven't even got to first base when it comes to making those wonderful discoveries - it pains me to say that as many as one in three of the people reading this article haven't entered a single relative on their My Ancestors page!


(I assume this indicates lack of understanding rather than complete indifference, but if you genuinely have no interest connecting with other researchers who share your ancestors, either to learn from them, or share your own discoveries with them, please let me know so that I can close your account.)


Some people seem to think that because LostCousins uses the 1881 Census to make connections between 'lost cousins' the site can't help researchers who are researching in the 16th century - but the reality is that the further you've researched your tree the more you'll benefit from finding 'lost cousins' (and the more cousins you'll be able to find). Others assume that because their ancestors left Britain long before 1881 they won't be able to find any cousins - but always remember that if your ancestors were British, it's virtually certain that the vast majority of your living relatives are still living here (so it's their ancestors you need to enter from the 1881 Census).


Others think that publishing their tree on Ancestry is all that's necessary (the "build it and they will come" fallacy). But there are only between 2 and 3 million Ancestry subscribers in the entire world - a small fraction of the number of people researching their family tree - and the more experienced a researcher is, the less likely it is that they're a current subscriber to Ancestry.


There are even a few people who believe that they know all of their cousins (!) or even that they don't have any cousins (!!!!). Poppycock and balderdash, of course, as anyone who has taken a DNA will know - we all have millions of living cousins, although we'll probably never be able to name more than a few thousand of them.



The perfect marriage of DNA & conventional research

I've written many times that taking a DNA test isnít a substitute for conventional, records-based, research - instead it offers us the opportunity to fill in the fairly rare, but exceedingly annoying, gaps in the surviving records.


You may recall that LostCousins member Muriel won an Ancestry DNA test in our Birthday Competition - recently she wrote to tell me about her successes, and said "I'm now pleased I researched branches, twigs and leaves as some of the matches have been easy to trace".


I often get emails from members who have recently received their DNA results and want to know what to do. The answer is, they should do what they should have done while waiting for their results, ie follow the advice in my Masterclass.


If you've tested with Ancestry, but aren't working your way through the Masterclass you should be - the reason I write Masterclasses is to ensure that everyone can get the same excellent results that I do. If you donít read them at the right time, or don't act on the advice, you're not only setting yourself up for disappointment, youíre likely to be wasting time and energy too.


Tip: there are Masterclasses on a whole range of topics - just search for 'Masterclass' using the customised Google search at the top of any newsletter. Or, if you're a LostCousins subscriber, log-in and go to the Subscribers Only page, where there are links to all of the Masterclasses.



Cousin marriages revisited

I've written many times about cousin marriages and the increased risk of hereditary diseases being passed on, not least because understanding how and why the risk changes helps us to get to grips with the way that DNA is inherited. In the 21st century it's impossible for family historians to ignore DNA, even if they want to (and I know some of you do!).


So I was interested when DNA expert and LostCousins member Debbie Kennett highlighted an article that briefly summarises the current understanding of the risks. Basically, the chance of a given child of two 1st cousin parents inheriting certain diseases or disabilities is doubled, from around 3% to about 6% - pretty good odds if youíre only going to have one child, but not so good if you plan to have 10.


Cousins (and sometimes closer relatives) have been procreating since the human race began - though marriages, in the sense of a ceremony uniting a man and a woman may go back less than 5,000 years. This article from The Week suggests that the first recorded marriages were in Mesopotamia around 2350BC - but another article describes marriage as being "as old as civilization itself", which pushes the date back further (depending, of course, on how you define civilization!).


The one fact that everyone knows about cousin marriages and inherited diseases is that many of Queen Victoria's descendants inherited haemophilia - but though Queen Victoria did indeed marry her 1st cousin, the haemophilia that some of her descendants suffered was not the result of her marriage to Prince Albert. You can read more about this topic here.


Of course, it doesn't need to be a gamble, because these days cousins who intend to marry can have their DNA tested in advance - they can then make an informed decision. It's not clear whether in the UK such testing is available through the National Health Service, but this page would be a good place to start if someone you know plans to marry a cousin (or has other reasons to be concerned about passing on an inherited condition).



Top hat and tales

For me one of the great advantages of having access to the British Newspaper Archive, either directly or through Findmypast, and to other historic newspapers through my library, is the ability to check out stories. These days it is more important than ever to distinguish between true stories and 'fake news'.


For example, a recent Twitter posting suggested that the top hat was invented by one John Hetherington, and that it caused great alarm. Whilst that may or may not be true, the assertion which followed certainly wasn't - the article claimed that the incident had originally been reported in The Times of 16th January 1797, and that certainly wasn't the case (like many in the UK I have access to The Times through my local public library - even when I am at home).


What I did discover, however, is that in 1899 the Huddersfield Chronicle reported the same story, but instead of attributing it to The Times, said came from "an old journal" - you can see the article here in the British Newspaper Archive blog. I found a website which suggests that the 1797 article was published in the "St James' Gazette", but only publication I've find with a similar name is the St James's Gazette, which was not established until 1880.


If you search the Internet you'll find many stories about the 'riot' that John Hetherington caused with his outrageous headwear - all referring back a 1797 story, which may or may not have been published by a journal which may or may not have existed, describing an event that may nor may not have happened.


So donít take things at face value - do what you can to verify stories by going back to the original source!



Chatsworth staff records now online

A couple of years ago I reported that historic staff records for Harewood House had been made available online - prompting much correspondence from members whose relatives worked there - and now I've discovered that records for another of our stately homes, Chatsworth, have gone online.


LostCousins member John pointed out this new resource to me, and kindly contributed this short article:


"We knew my mother-in-law had worked at Edensor on the Chatsworth Estate when she was 16 years old as Tricia had spent childhood holidays visiting relatives in Pilsley, another estate village. Our family history research, which had included a visit to the Estate archives had then traced the familyís association with the Devonshires back through another five generations to the 18th century.We have been pleased to discover that recently the Chatsworth estate has released on its website a database of many staff who had worked on the estate since the 1700ís.


"The details captured by students from the University of Sheffield have been taken from entries made in the estate archives over the period and are, currently, held alphabetically by surname in three databases. Where possibly there are dates, occupation, trade and where the information was found, and in line with the 1939 Register, no one born after 1918 is currently shown. If, like Tricia, different ancestors were blessed with the same Christian name, these might be difficult to separate at times, however most things are possible.


"Most are the names of the men - Triciaís grandmother, known to have trudged down to the Ďbig houseí from Pilsley in the snow carrying her sewing machine, is not currently found. Additional information for some, such as the detail of great-great-great uncle, Sampson, being the estateís Grotto Keeper, recorded in one of the books by the late Duchess, has yet to find its way into the database. But a wealth of information is already there."


You'll find the Chatsworth staff records here.




When I was a boy we had our main meal of the day at lunchtime, and around 6 o'clock we'd have tea, which could have been anything from bread and jam to slices of home-made brawn with salad.


Very occasionally we would have a cooked tea, which was referred to on those rare occasions as 'high tea', and I used to think of it as an equivalent to the nursery teas that I read about in books (in my day most children's books seemed to be about middle-class families with cooks and governesses, and children who rarely saw their parents - and certainly didnít eat with them).


More recently the term has become misappropriated, and applied to 'afternoon tea' when served in the grand fashion, with silver-plated teapots, multi-tiered cake-stands and finger sandwiches. It's rather like the way that the term 'silver service' is regarded as being 'posh', when it's really rather down-to-earth.


There's a lot of information about what poor working class families ate in Round About a Pound a Week, perhaps the most compelling book I've read since I began researching my family tree. If you can pick up a copy at a reasonable price it's an amazingly revealing read for anyone whose ancestors were struggling to get by around the time of the 1911 Census. I've provided some links that might help you track down a copy:†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††


Tip: it may be out of copyright where you live, but in the UK it will be in copyright until 2024.



Review: Researching and Writing History

You might think that a book sub-titled "A Practical Guide for Local Historians" isnít relevant to family historians, but if so you would be wrong - there's hardly a paragraph of David Dymond's work that doesn't apply equally to us!


This book was republished in a new edition in 2016, but my copy is of the 1999 edition. Writing just before the start of the new millennium he makes one of the points I've made time and time again in these newsletters "At the beginning of the 21st century our society produces vast quantities of paper, film, and tape, but it also destroys evidence on an unprecedented scale".


(It's worth noting that he was writing before the Data Protection Act wreaked havoc - things are far, far worse now.)


He goes on to say "Many aspects of contemporary local life will have no record unless we make it now", a warning that can surely be applied equally to family history. We delight in the records and ephemera that our ancestors preserved for our benefit, but what are we doing to record our own lives? Our texts and emails won't be around in a century's time - most of us donít even have them from a decade ago - and few of us write letters any more, or keep diaries.


But going back to writing history, he reminds us that the events of the past need to be seen in the context of the time in which they occurred. He deals with the different sources of evidence, both primary and secondary - all as relevant to family historians as to local historians (after all we share the same sources) - then considers how we should analyse and assemble that evidence.


There's quite a bit about the style of writing we should aspire to, and the unhelpful habits we should aim to avoid, or minimise. I recognised several of my own failings! There are many examples, some good and some bad, to help us appreciate why some ways of doing things are better than others.


Everyone who reads this book and takes the lessons to heart will end up a better writer, but I suspect that we'll also end up better readers and better researchers too! All in all it's one of the most invigorating works of non-fiction that I've read - I only wish I'd discovered it years ago.


I mentioned earlier that I read the 1999 edition - which I picked up at a bargain price - but I wish now that I hadn't been such a cheapskate, because I'm sure the 2016 edition is even better. As usual you can support LostCousins if you use the links below (even if you end up buying something completely different).†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† The Book Depository



Review: My History: A Memoir of Growing Up

I'm not a great fan of autobiographies, but I was tempted to buy Antonia Fraser's memoir because I wanted to understand why she, the daughter of a Labour peer, and regarded as one of the most beautiful women in England, had ended up marrying a much older Tory MP, one who seemed to me to be rather boring.


The story begins in the 1930s and there's a lot about the author's childhood. Isn't it strange how no matter how much we have as a child, we always want more? The Pakenhams may not have been a particularly well-orff family by middle class standards, but they were jolly lucky compared to the average family!


A strange thing happened - as I was reading the book I had a picture in my mind of the young Antonia, not the 85 year-old grandmother who autographed my copy of the book a couple of months ago (she'll be 86 on Monday). Was it wishful thinking on my part, or was it testimony to the way that she wrote? Perhaps a bit of each.


One thing was clear - if you want to become a published author, a good way to achieve your goal is to work for a publishing company. Antonia got a job with George Weidenfeld, co-founder of Weidenfeld & Nicolson - and he was still her publisher when this book was written in 2014 (he died in 2016 at the age of 96).


The book ends with the publication of the author's first history, Mary, Queen of Scots in 1969 - by which time she had 5 children, but we learn nothing about them and virtually nothing about their father. So I still donít know how the two of them came to marry!


In an age when so-called celebrities publish their autobiographies in their early 20s itís refreshing to read one written by an accomplished author who has waited more than half a century to tell the tale. And whilst not billed as a family history, in many ways it is.



A whirlwind romance?

LostCousins member Edward spotted a marriage announcement in the Leeds Times of 8th April 1837:


Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Used by kind permission of Findmypast


Sometimes it's impossible to verify such 'interesting' entries, but in this case I was able to find the marriage at Findmypast (despite the vicar's unusual spelling of the groom's surname):



Reproduced with the permission of The East Riding Archives & Local Studies Service, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Findmypast


The register entry states that the marriage was by banns, so the couple did at least have a couple of weeks to reconsider their decision!



An unusual register entry

This week's New Scientist has an article about Easter Island - the small Pacific island famous for its statues - which suggests that, contrary to previous assumptions, society on the island didnít collapse after the 17th century.


This would not have been news to the parishioners of St Mary, Rotherhithe - where on 30th October 1811 the following baptism took place:


All rights reserved. Reproduced by kind permission of the London Metropolitan Archives and Ancestry


In case you can't read it, the entry states: "Henry Easter, Said to be the Son of Crangalow, King of Easter Island, in the Pacific Ocean, about 22 years".


A Google search for 'Crangalow' found a book which reports that Henry was brought from the island in 1806 by Captain Benjamin Page of the whaling ship Adventure, and suggests that he returned to his island home not long after his baptism.



Peter's Tips

Well, as foreshadowed in the last issue, I've been busy picking fruit and making jam - not only a second batch of Spiced Blackberry & Apple, but two batches of Plum (one enhanced with a little cinnamon), and two of Blackberry & Elderberry.


After the holiday weekend it should be time to pick the bullaces - we're just eating our last jar of Shepherd's Bullace jam, so really need to re-stock.


Although I tend to spread jam quite generously I use far less sugar than most recipes suggest, so it's relatively healthy. It may not keep for years and years (sugar acts as a preservative), but then there's not much chance of that in this household!



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......


In the next newsletter I'll be writing about Deceased Online, one of my favourite sitesÖ..


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2018 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?