Newsletter - 27th January 2017
You've still got time to win my competition! ENDS TUESDAY
Save on Ancestry DNA in Australia ENDS SUNDAY
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This month Ancestry.com announced that the number of DNA tests they had sold had passed the 3 million mark, with 1.4 million sold in the 4th quarter of 2016 alone (compared to 1 million in the WHOLE of 2015). Apparently over half a million tests were sold on one day alone - Black Friday!
Some gloomy researchers might feel that Black Friday is an appropriate description given the way that DNA testing seems to be taking over from conventional research in the public mind, but for those of us who have already tested the opportunity to match with so many potential cousins is an intriguing prospect.
However, I suspect that in the early days we could run into problems - I'm sure that some of those who have tested see it as a short-cut, a substitute for the challenge and intellectual stimulation that more traditional methods provide. There will, I'm sure, be many whose knowledge of their family tree is so rudimentary that they're going to be heavily reliant on others for answers.
But hasn't it always been like this? When Who Do You Think You Are? first screened in the UK (fortuitously it was just a few months after the LostCousins site opened) there were hundreds of thousands of Britons who wanted to know more, but didn't have the necessary research skills. We helped our cousins then, and have continued to do so ever since - let's help them now!
Note: although I personally tested with Family Tree DNA, I paid for my brother to test with Ancestry DNA.
If you decide to test with Ancestry DNA you can support LostCousins using the following links:
The new 'In Pictures' feature at the British Newspaper Archive makes it easier to search for photographs - for example, I found a 1948 picture of my grandfather's 1st cousin. 'In Pictures' is at the beta stage, but I didn't encounter any problems during my testing.
To find out more see this blog article.
BNA have also added more than a million articles from Irish newspapers - you can also search these newspapers if you have a Findmypast Ireland or World subscription. There are now over 18 million pages from historic British and Irish newspapers in the collection, comprising over 200 million articles.
Note: Findmypast's contract with the British Library requires them to digitise 40 million pages over 10 years, so there's clearly plenty more to come!
According to a report in the February issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine there were 42,000 PDFs ordered during the three week trial in November, about 2,000 per day.
I don't know what conclusions the GRO have come to, but a key surprise for them was the fact that the number of paper certificates ordered was unaffected (and that's probably why the turnaround time for PDFs gradually became extended). I suspect that the release of the enhanced birth and death indexes a few days before the trial was a contributory factor, and the fact that the trial was known to be limited will also have spurred some researchers to place more orders during the period than they might otherwise have done.
It's possible that the GRO will decide to run another trial before committing to a permanent service. The November trial wasn't publicised by the GRO, and whilst many keen researchers will have found out about it from this newsletter, or from Facebook, there will be many who only found out after the trial had ended.
Phase 2 of the GRO's trial involves same day email delivery of PDFs - an attractive prospect, perhaps, but I suspect few family historians will be prepared to pay the premium price of £45.
In reality this service is intended primarily for lawyers and heir hunters who need to see the results quickly, often so that they can place further orders once they know what the first certificate says. At the current time their only option is the priority service, which offers next day despatch of a certificate by 1st Class post for £23.40, or by Special Delivery for an extra £6.45.
It might be different for a professional genealogist but, inquisitive as I am, I can't think of any circumstances in which I would pay £45. What about you - could you conceive of a situation in which you would pay such a high price?
Although the PDF trial attracted a lot of attention, the best innovation was the release of the GRO's enhanced birth and death indexes - because they provide researchers who have English or Welsh ancestry with an enormous amount of information that doesn't cost a penny!
Here are some of the many ways these indexes can be used - have you tried them all?
Tip: fewer than 10% of your living relatives have a surname that is one of your ancestral surnames - by tracing the marriages of your female relatives with the help of the enhanced birth indexes you'll greatly expand your tree, and your chances of finding 'lost cousins'.
From time to time the Passport Office (of which the General Register Officer is a part) publishes a report listing the records help by the GRO - it's not just births, marriages, and deaths in England & Wales.
For example, the latest report tells us that the GRO holds records of births and deaths on British-registered hovercraft from 1972 onwards, and - more usefully - of all children given into the care of the Foundling Hospital between 1853-1948. You'll find the complete list here, but please note that just because records are kept doesn't mean that they are available for inspection.
Since 2008 the GRO and its equivalents in Scotland and Northern Ireland have made available weekly lists of deaths that have been registered in their respective jurisdictions under the DDRI (disclosure of death registration information) scheme. But unfortunately for genealogists this information isn't available to everyone:
"Organisations wishing to apply for a weekly supply of UK death registration data must be able to demonstrate that they will only use the information in the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of offences. In addition, they will need to meet the required security standards."
There is a charge of £14,250 per quarter to each of the approved organisations; the latest report I could find lists the subscribers as:
Capita Employee Benefits Limited
Faraday Tracing Bureau Limited
GB Group Plc
Mortality Manifest Limited
Prudential Distribution Limited
Synectics Solutions Limited
Tracesmart Limited trading as LexisNexis
In the USA the Social Security Death Index lists most, but not all, deaths - there are over 94 million records for the period 1935-2014 that you can search at Ancestry (most are for the period from 1962 onwards). You can also search the SSDI at Findmypast and FamilySearch.
There was a move to remove the SSDI from the public domain, but in the end a compromise was reached - in future records will only be made public after 3 years.
You've still got time to win my competition! ENDS TUESDAY
It has been great to see so many of you taking part in this year's competition, particularly since it has already resulted in a sharp rise in the number of matches being made between cousins (which, of course, is the aim).
For example, Rob wrote this week to tell me that:
"Just before Christmas I made contact with a wonderful new cousin Helen born in New Zealand now living in Australia. On the 1st January I found another, then today I found a further FOUR."
To enter the competition you only have to do what should come naturally to any family historian - search for your 'lost cousins'. Will you be as successful as Bob? You won’t know if you don't try.
Every direct ancestor or blood relative you enter on your My Ancestors page before midnight (London time) on Tuesday 31st January 2017 represents an entry in the competition, and for each one you enter from the 1881 Census you'll get a bonus entry.
Tip: a 'direct ancestor' is someone from whom you are descended, such as a great-great grandparent - most people just call them ancestors; a 'blood relative' is a cousin, ie someone who shares your ancestry.
Shortly after the competition closes I'll start picking relatives at random from all those entered during the period of the competition, and the lucky members who entered those relatives will be able to choose a prize from the list below (the first person out of the hat gets to choose first, the second person has next choice, and so on). Obviously I can't wait for ever for the winners to make up their minds, so if I don't get a response to my email within 24 hours I may decide for you!
Here's what YOU can win:
This year's most valuable prize is a 12 month World subscription to Findmypast, offering unlimited access to over 8 billion records and news articles, including the 1939 Register for England & Wales (worth £155.95)
(generously donated by Findmypast, Britain's leading family history company)
With a World subscription you can access any of Findmypast's historic records and newspaper articles, as well as their modern (2002-14) UK Electoral Register - and you can do this at any of Findmypast's four sites around the globe.
Living DNA's autosomal test offers the highest resolution analysis of your British ancestry (worth £120)
(kindly donated by Living DNA, Britain's most innovative DNA company)
Also on offer is a 12 month Britain subscription to Findmypast, offering unlimited access to over 8 billion records and news articles, including the 1939 Register for England & Wales (worth £119.95)
(donated by Findmypast, this year's leading sponsor)
ONE copy of Family Historian v6 (kindly donated by Simon Orde, the designer and lead programmer of Family Historian)
If the winner lives outside the UK the prize will be a downloaded copy; winners in the UK can choose between a downloaded copy and a boxed copy (they function identically). Check out Family Historian now with a free 30-day trial - just follow this link.
You can also win 900 Findmypast credits (worth £54.95), sufficient to unlock 15 households from the 1939 Register (although you can also use them to access other records).
TEN 12 month subscriptions to LostCousins worth up to £12.50 each
If you already have a subscription I'll extend it by 12 months
Even if you don't win one of these prizes there's a far greater reward at stake, and it's one that everyone can win - you could find a 'lost cousin'. Every single relative you enter is a potential link to another researcher who shares your ancestry - and whenever you click the Search button the LostCousins computer will compare every single entry you've made against the millions of entries made by other members!
Tip: unlike some websites, which update their databases at intervals, the LostCousins database is updated instantly - there is no waiting, whether you're entering a new relative or updating an existing entry.
This year your chances are better than ever before - for example, when you enter a household from the 1881 England & Wales census there's 1 chance in 17 of an immediate match!
If you're new to LostCousins, or have forgotten how easy it is to enter relatives, see the Getting Started Guide on the Help & Advice page.
When war broke out the writer Nina Bawden (née Mabey) was living in Goodmayes, Ilford where I grew up - her experiences as an evacuee were the inspiration for Carrie's War, a novel written for children which has twice been adapted for television. Like my mother she was evacuated with her school to Suffolk, and some of her memories from that time are recalled in Virginia Nicholson's Millions Like Us, which chronicles women's lives during WW2 (I'll be reviewing it in a future newsletter, but I can tell you now that I'm finding it very interesting).
When the children came back to Ilford from Suffolk my mother left school and got a job - my grandmother didn't want her to be sent away again - but Nina went with the rest of her school to Wales, and that's the setting for her novel. 1940 now seems like a lifetime ago (and it is) but when Nina Bawden's book was published in 1973 the war was still fresh in many people's minds - the popularity of TV series like Dad's Army and the ITV series Manhunt, both favourites of mine, was testimony to this.
In the February issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine Guy Baxter from the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading writes about their unique collection of memoirs from the time of evacuation. One of the 600 items in the collection is reproduced in the magazine - a 1941 letter from Barbara Stagles, who was evacuated from Bristol to Rockwell Green in Somerset with her sister Betty.
This blog posting from the Essex Record Office has photos of evacuees at a tea party in 1944 - if you have connections with the county it's well subscribing.
Note: many of the children who were evacuated can be seen in the 1939 Register (although Nina Mabey isn't one of them).
I was too young to remember the floods of 31st January 1953, but I do remember visiting Peter Pan's Playground (now Adventure Island) at Southend-on-Sea a few years later and seeing the mark indicating how high the water had come.
Earlier this month resorts on the east coast of England were once again under threat from the sea - both my brother and my brother-in-law live in Essex towns from which people were evacuated, though fortunately neither was directly affected.
But 31st January also has positive memories for me - it was the day in 1993 when I first met my wife.
Note: if, like me, you were a visitor to Southend in the 50s and 60s this YouTube video of Peter Pan's Playground might bring back some happy memories.
BBC News recently reported a family in Yorkshire which claimed to be the only British family spanning 6 generations - you can read the story here.
However, with the birth of baby Harvey on Monday another family, this time in Grimsby, also joined this select group.
Looking though my tree the most I could find was 5 generations - my great-great-great grandmother Jane Till, who was born in 1819, lived until 1907, by which time her daughter Emma, my great-great grandmother, was herself a great-grandmother. (Emma would also have achieved the same feat had she lived three years longer.)
Do you have any examples in your tree where 6 generations of a family were alive at the same time?
Ancestry have set-up a separate blog for customers whose research interests are primarily in the UK and Ireland - you'll find it here.
Although the blog has only just launched Ancestry have thoughtfully added past articles from their main blog which are of particular relevance - well worth a look!
Save on Ancestry DNA in Australia ENDS SUNDAY
Yesterday was Australia Day, so until Sunday 29th January you can avoid paying shipping charges when you order a test from Ancestry DNA.
To celebrate Australia Day Findmypast have released more than 3 million Petty Sessions records for the state of Victoria: the collection includes transcripts and scanned colour images of original registers.
The Petty Sessions dealt with the type of matters that would now be presented at a Magistrates Court; the records cover the period 1854 to 1985 - you can search the records here.
Note: the collection is not complete - the records cover 74 courts, although there were as many as 235 operating in 1880.
Every now and again I click on one of the fake news items that appear on websites like Facebook and Mail Online just to see what the latest scam is. Usually they're fairly benign - all they're trying to do is attract you to a different site in the hope that you'll click on some of their adverts. But this morning I found a real humdinger:
Not only did I get on the screen, there was a computer-generated voice repeating the warning - and telling me that if I closed the browser window the problem couldn't be fixed. For me it was an interesting experience - I generally only read about these sorts of things happening to other people - but I can imagine that some people who are less IT-savvy might fall for the scam.
Note: I did, of course, close the browser tab - problem solved. Not that there was a problem in the first placed, of course!
The fake news item was typical - it featured a celebrity and hinted that there was some important news that I didn't know (in this case that they had died). Richard Branson is frequently used (or rather, misused) in these scams, but on this particular occasion it was a well-known actor.
I should point out that fake news is never identified as such - you have to be a born sceptic, like me, to spot it reliably. These days even reputable news outlets can be fooled into publishing fake news, particularly if it fits their particular political biases. One of the most insidious features of fake news is that - because it isn't reported on reputable sites like the BBC News site, or CNN - people think that they're the first to hear about it, and want to share it with others through social media. Fake news, like rumours, can spread like wildfire.
Whilst the scam I encountered might seem more dangerous than any fake news story, I'd rather have someone hijack my wallet than my mind - the hyperinflation that hit Germany in the 1920s may have been bad, but what came afterwards was worse, much much worse.
Written by criminal lawyer Barrie Roberts, Bad Penny Blues is the third book in the Chris Tyroll series. It's certainly not the best piece of genealogy-related fiction that I've ever read, but it did hold my attention, and I definitely enjoyed the ride. At the centre of the story is one of the last convicts to be transported to Australia in 1865, but all that's known at the beginning of the book is his initials.
Because it was published in 2000 there are second-hand hardback copies available from as little as 1p (excluding shipping), but I bought the Kindle version - which was only released in August last year. You can support LostCousins by ordering using the links below:
Following my review of File Under Fidelity I was contacted by members in Ireland and New Zealand who were unable to purchase the books (which are only available in Kindle format). When I contacted Geraldine Wall, the author, she told me that she had not intended to prohibit sales in those territories and she was able to make changes to the settings that enabled both members to order the books. So it's worth contacting me if you have difficulty purchasing any other Kindle books I have recommended!
The Christmas and New Year period is a time when we tend to indulge ourselves, so I hope you don't mind me indulging you with some culinary treats….
Early in the new year I found myself faced with a conundrum. I'd started to make Baked Apples, one of my favourite deserts - and also an occasional breakfast treat - when I suddenly realised that I didn't have any dried fruit in the cupboard. Normally I'd stuff the apples with sultanas and raisins, then add soft dark brown sugar and a little water - but now I had to use some ingenuity.
Looking around I spotted an orange. Without peeling it I sliced it into 6 pieces, one for each apple, and stuffed the pieces into the cored apples - a great start, perhaps, but I reckoned it needed something extra to balance the citrus, some nuts, perhaps?
Then I remembered there was the remains of a bottle of almond liqueur in the cupboard. I added the brown sugar, then trickled the liqueur over the apples - although it wasn't strong I didn't want to add too much liquid, since the juice would come up out of the orange segments once I put the dish in the oven.
Don't ask me what the oven temperature was or how long I cooked the apples for - I didn't make a note at the time, so I'd have to make it up. But when it came out of the oven my new concoction looked and smelled delicious - and as for the taste…. Mmmm! As a finishing touch I added a scoop (or two) of caramel ice cream in each bowl, but I'm sure it would have been almost as good with plain vanilla - the combination of flavours and textures was amazing!
A week or so earlier I'd popped into my local Tesco store to see if there were any Christmas left-overs at bargain prices, but found there was very little that appealed. However, I'd timed my visit so that it coincided with the final markdowns of the day, and there were loads of blueberries in 150g packs. At £2 a time I wouldn't have even considered buying them - but at 20p each they were a bargain.
The 28 packs I bought made 7 or 8lbs of blueberry jam (with orange and lemon peel and juice to offset the sweetness), and almost filled a 2 litre Kilner jar with stewed blueberries for breakfast (delicious with low fat natural yoghurt).
If you can figure when your local supermarkets make their final reductions you too could pick up some bargains!
I should have confirmed that the Leicestershire parish records which I predicted in the last newsletter are now online. Also Ancestry have made available parish registers for Jersey - mostly in French, of course:
Until the next time,
© Copyright 2017 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