Newsletter - 27th January 2018




Suffolk County Council respond to criticisms

Can you save on Ancestry subscriptions and DNA tests?

British Newspaper Archive OFFER ENDS SUNDAY EXTENDED

Latest research reveals ancient links between Britain & Ireland

What the DNA experts won't tell you

Is there such a thing as a distant cousin?

Low cost DNA transfers ENDS SUNDAY

New home for Family Tree Analyzer

ScotlandsPeople's annual upgrade

Stilton cheese-rolling: annual event cancelled

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 22nd January) 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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"If any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy MatrimonyÖ.."


Most of our ancestors married by Banns, which would have been read on three different Sundays in their parish church. Usually this was just a formality, but occasionally someone would come forward with an objection, as they did when David Dawson and Elizabeth Smith sought to marry in the parish of Swanton Morley with Worthing, Norfolk in the autumn of 1789:


© Norfolk Record Office, reproduced by kind permission of Findmypast


I don't know if you can make it out the wording in the margin, but it reads: "Nov 8th 1789 the Banns were forbidden by G Smith, Father, she being a minor".


This is the first time I've seen such an entry, so I thought I'd share it with you. Of course, even if the Banns were read, it doesnít guarantee that the couple married. In December 1810 the Banns were read three times for the marriage of Francis Drison (Driesen), my 3G grandfather, to Charlotte Cook at St Olave's, Bermondsey - but the marriage didn't take place. If it had, I wouldn't be here today - something like this really underlines the fact that every single one of our direct ancestors is crucial to our very existence!


Suffolk County Council respond to criticisms

There is a lot of concern about the closure of the Lowestoft Record Office, which I mentioned in the last issue, and some have suggested that the council might also be planning to close the Bury Record Office (which is the one I would normally use, if I only had the time to research my Suffolk ancestors!). Some have even questioned Suffolk's commitment to the county's heritage.


In fact Suffolk has long been planning a new heritage centre called The Hold, based in Ipswich - you can read all about it here. I understand that the Bury Record Office is safe for the foreseeable future, and indeed it has just been repainted.


In the meantime the Lowestoft Journal has reported that the planned changes at Lowestoft have been put on hold while Suffolk County Council consult with users - something they should perhaps have done before?


Can YOU save on Ancestry subscriptions and DNA tests?

There are potential savings to be made on Ancestry subscriptions and/or DNA tests if you live in the UK, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand.


Australia & New Zealand

At Ancestry's Australian site you can buy DNA tests for just $99 (Australian), which they say is a $30 saving, but I remember them charging $149 not long ago, so it seems to me more like a $50 saving. The price includes taxes but excludes shipping (which will probably be cheaper if you order more than one test at the same time).


The great news is that, unlike at some other sites, it's not necessary to give Ancestry the names of the people who will be testing at the time of ordering - so you don't have to figure out who should test or ask if theyíre amenable, Believe me, you wonít end up with unused test kits - there's always somebody you wish had already tested!


To support LostCousins please use this link when placing your order (you may find it necessary to log-out from your Ancestry account before clicking the link, especially if you have previously purchased a DNA test). This offer ends at 23.59 AEDT in Sunday 28th January so you will have to act fast! (I did email members in Australia and New Zealand earlier this week, so this is just a final reminder.)


When you buy a DNA test you may be offered a discounted Ancestry subscription - this is well worth considering, but you DON'T need to be an Ancestry subscriber to test your DNA or contact your matches.


UK & Ireland

There's something here for almost everyone - but you have to bear in mind the old adage: nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Although there is no DNA offer running at the moment, some people have found that they can still save 20% by following the link from my October newsletter, which I'm repeating here for your convenience - try it and see!


Tip: you may need to log-out from Ancestry first, especially if you have previously bought a DNA test).


When you buy a DNA test you may be offered a discounted Ancestry subscription - this is well worth considering, but you DON'T need to be an Ancestry subscriber to test your DNA or contact your matches.


If you have previously tested your DNA but don't have an Ancestry subscription you may be able to get one at a bargain price by following this link - itís certainly worth trying. And if you havenít tested your DNA and have no intention of doing so you may be able to save on a World subscription using the link in my June newsletter, which is repeated here.


Tip: some Ancestry subscriptions are for 6 months and some for 12 months - make sure you know what you're buying, and remember that if you allow your subscription to renew you will pay the full price. Existing subscribers are not eligible, I'm afraid.


British Newspaper Archive OFFER ENDS SUNDAY EXTENDED

The generous offer I wrote about in the last newsletter has been extended to Monday 5th February - you'll find all the details here (the link has been updated).


Latest research reveals ancient links between Britain & Ireland

Just out this week is an interesting paper from researchers at Trinity College Dublin, the Sanger Institute, and University College London which, in effect, builds on the findings of the Peoples of the British Isles study which I wrote about in April 2015. There's a summary of the findings in this Irish Times article, but you can read the full paper here.


What the DNA experts won't tell you

When I first started writing about DNA over a decade ago I was highly critical of the way that tests were marketed - the firms who sold the tests tried to convince us that we wanted (needed?) to know about where one of our ancestors was 30,000 years ago, even though every single one of us is descended from every person on the planet 30,000 years ago (or, rather, from all of those who have any living descendants). Those tests (Y-DNA and mtDNA) are still around today, and whilst they have their uses, for most people they prove an expensive disappointment, mtDNA tests especially.


Why are Y-DNA and mtDNA tests of relatively little value to family historians compared to autosomal DNA tests? Because their strengths are also their weaknesses. They each look at a single ancestral line (your direct paternal line or your direct maternal line), so you know which line to focus on when you find a match - but the chances of getting a close match are quite low, for the simple reason that whilst you have millions of cousins whose connection to you can be shown through DNA tests of one sort or another, only a minute fraction of those cousins will share a specific ancestral line, and only a small percentage of them will have taken the same DNA test. And even if you get a match with someone who has identical DNA on every marker it still won't tell you who your common ancestor was, or how long ago they lived.


Tip: even if you test your entire mtDNA sequence and get an exact match the common ancestor could be more than 500 years back, before parish registers started. Even if you have a match in the last 500 years your chance of identifying the common ancestor is small because tracing your maternal line is challenging, since the surname changes with every generation. On your paternal line you only need to find your ancestors' baptisms; on your maternal line you must find their marriages too (it reminds me of the saying about Gingers Rogers having to do everything that Fred Astaire did, but "backwards, and in heels").


It's rare to find one of the experts writing that such-and-such a test is a waste of money, but you'll hear it from me time and time again - I know that there's a limit to how much most of the people who read my newsletters are willing (or able) to spend on their genealogical research, because I too have a limit. So what you'll hear from me is very much focused on getting the best results for the least expenditure and the least effort. (Donít underestimate the time it takes to make sense of your DNA results, nor how important it is to have an efficient and effective strategy for analysing your matches.)


I'm a great believer in focusing on the low-hanging fruit, both in my orchard and my research - the fact is, while you're doing the easy bits the difficult pieces often fall into place, like windfalls landing on the grass, or come within reach as the branch bends under the weight of evidence.


In other words, itís not just what you do, but the order in which you do it. So if you're up against a really tough 'brick wall', why keep banging your head against it when there are other 'brick walls' in your tree that can be more easily knocked down (or stepped around)? New record sets are becoming available online all the time: something that you could waste hundreds of hours on - and still not solve - this year might be resolved in 5 minutes if you leave it until next year, or the year after. Maybe the solution will come from new records, and maybe it will come from a DNA match - it doesn't matter - the key thing is to do things in the right order.


Here's an example that really brings this home: this week I had an email from a member who had purchased an Ancestry DNA test: "Should I test myself, or should I ask my son to test, so that we can find out about my late husband's ancestors?"


Itís a very, very common situation. But the answer isn't simple, nor is the best strategy intuitively obvious. If the only objective is to find out about her husband's ancestors then the best person to test will be a surviving brother or sister-in-law, because they will share the same ancestors, and only those ancestors. Testing the son will only confuse matters because thousands of matches from his father's side will muddled up with thousands of matches from his mother's side, making the task far more difficult than it needs to be. (It will also limit the opportunities for finding his father's cousins, since he's an extra step away from them compared to his paternal uncles and aunts.)


In reality it's more likely that the aim is to eventually find out about relatives from both sides of her son's tree. In that case, doesn't it make sense for the son to test? Only if funds are so limited that his mother will never test. If there is a reasonable prospect of funding two tests then the best people to test are the mother and a paternal uncle or aunt; if there no are no surviving brothers or sisters then the son should test instead. In the former case it doesn't much matter who tests first (assuming both are healthy), but who should test first in the latter case?


It seems intuitively obvious for the son to test first, to get immediate access to cousins from both sides of his tree - and yet, this answer is as wrong as wrong can be! Why? Because much of the time would be spent trying to figure out which cousins are from which side - and that time would be completely wasted, since when the mother eventually tests it will be obvious which matches are from her side. So clearly it makes sense for the mother to test first (or for both to test together).


Most of you reading this will be in a similar situation - whether you are the child, the parent, or the in-law the same logic can be applied to determine who should test, and which of you should test first.


The vast majority of the people in the world who have taken genealogical DNA tests live in the US, so you won't be surprised to learn that most of the DNA experts who write and blog about genetic genealogy are American. Anyone who writes about DNA testing is likely to do so through the filter of their own experiences - I certainly do, though I also take into account what I am told by the many LostCousins members who write to me about their own DNA highs and lows. Where your ancestors came from can make an enormous difference to the number of cousins you find when test your DNA - the figures I quoted recently of 1,000 matches at Family Tree DNA and 10,000 matches at Ancestry were deliberately pitched at the lower end, to avoid disappointment, but there are many who have two or three times as many matches, sometimes many more.


There are two key reasons why you might get lots more matches. One is because you genuinely do have more cousins than most - this is likely to apply to those from cultures where the norm was to have large families and for most of the children to survive into adulthood. The other is because distant cousins share more DNA with you than would normally be the case, as a result of which the number of close matches will appear to be higher. LostCousins member and DNA guru Debbie Kennett posted a very interesting article on her blog this week - it's well worth reading, as indeed are all of her articles on genetic genealogy.


Is there such a thing as a distant cousin?

I received an email this week from a member who was seeking my advice on an important topic. She wrote:


"My family tree has quite a lot of people in it who have very tenuous links. When it comes to 'first cousin three times removed' or 'second cousin twice removed' is it really worth keeping them in my tree? I would appreciate a bit of expert advice on how far to research."


To someone other than a genealogist those relationships do sound quite distant, don't they? But they're certainly not tenuous - nobody who shares your ancestors (and therefore your DNA) can be described as having a tenuous relationship. If even one of your common ancestors hadn't lived long enough to have children neither of you would have been born - how can a relationship like that be tenous?


And to me, as a family historian, those relationships donít sound distant either. Most of the cousins I'm collaborating with are 3rd cousins, whilst the cousin who I've worked with most closely over the past 15 years, exchanging over two thousand emails, is a half 4th cousin (we share the same 3G grandfather, but are descended from different wives).


When youíre relying on records to research your ancestors you have to seek out cousins from distant branches, because if your branch didnít inherit the family Bible, one of the others did. If your great-grandfather didn't inherit the family photo album from his parents, the chances are that one of his siblings did. The same is true when you're researching using autosomal DNA (such as Ancestry DNA, or Family Tree DNA's Family Finder) - but in this case youíre looking for the genes that both of you inherited, and the distant cousins that you both match with.


Finally, if you are a great-grandparent (as many readers of this newsletter are), consider this: only one-eighth of your great grandchildren's DNA was inherited from you, and only one-eighth of their family tree is shared with you. That is precisely the same proportion of your tree that you share with each and every 3rd cousin!


3rd cousins don't seem so distant now, do they?


Low cost DNA transfers ENDS TOMORROW (SUNDAY)

Not so long ago Family Tree DNA charged $39 for someone who had tested with another provider to transfer their results and access all of the Family Finder features, including the Chromosome Browser (which shows you where on your DNA you match your cousins). The price was cut to $19 last year, but until midnight (Houston time) on Sunday 28th January you can save $9 by using the code ATULJAN18 when you check-out.


The first step is to download your results from Ancestry and upload them to FTDNA - this part is free (see this article from last August for simple instructions). If you have tested with Ancestry recently it's possible that the file you download won't be in quite the right format for FTDNA, but don't worry - there's a solution in my October newsletter here.


A free transfer gives you access to your matches, but itís worth spending $10 to get full access - and if you use this link then LostCousins should benefit.


New home for Family Tree Analyzer

If you're a user of Family Tree Analyzer, a handy utility written by one of LostCousins' cleverest members, you will know that when you run the program it automatically checks for updates. However because FTA has recently moved to a new host site your version won't be updated - instead you'll need to visit the new site and download the latest version (from then on it will update automatically).


You'll find links and any other information you need to know here on the LostCousins forum. You don't need to be a member of the forum in order to access that page, but if you use FTA the chances are you've been invited to join (check your My Summary to find out whether there's an invitation waiting there).


ScotlandsPeople's annual upgrade

In January each year ScotlandsPeople add 12 months' worth of births, marriages, and deaths to their collection of historic registers - in 2018 the new releases are births for 1917, marriages for 1942, and deaths for 1967.


This year Scotlandspeople have also upgraded their Name Variants search to include variants of around 100 forenames, used in nearly half a million entries - you can read more about this change here.


Stilton cheese-rolling: annual event cancelled

In a former life I rented a small warehouse north of Peterborough, so often drove past the village of Stilton in Cambridgeshire, which is generally acknowledged to have been the origin of the eponymous blue cheese. But strangely cheese made in Stilton - or, indeed, anywhere in Cambridgeshire - cannot legally be described as Stilton. Nevertheless, this didn't discourage the villagers from inaugurating an annual cheese-rolling competition in 1959 when the A1 highway was re-routed to bypass the village.


However, according to this article on the BBC News website, the 2018 event has been cancelled, owing to a lack of interest - apparently only two teams entered last year, whereas the organisers reckon that "To make a real contest we need 12 to 16 men's teams and eight to 12 ladies teams. We have not come anywhere near these targets for four years".


Closer to home, the Dunmow Flitch Trials date back to mediaeval times - the earliest recorded claimant dates from 1445, but the Dunmow Flitch is referred to in Chaucer's writing a century earlier, and some reckon it originated as far back as 1104.


In modern times the trials have been held every four years and are open to married couples from all over the world who can satisfy the Judge and Jury of 6 maidens and 6 bachelors that in 'twelvemonth and a day', they have 'not wisht themselves unmarried again'.. If you want to take part in the next event, scheduled for 2020, you can find more details here.


Note: this coming Wednesday is the 25th anniversary of the day I met my wife - and the next trials are to be held on the 23rd anniversary of the day we moved into our house; perhaps I should propose that we enter?


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......



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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?