Newsletter – 28th January 2021
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 13th January) 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!
31st January is a very special day for me – it’s the anniversary of the day I first met my wife. But it could be a special day for you too, because it’s the last day of the New Year Competition, and your last opportunity to win one of the fabulous prizes on offer.
Here's a reminder of what YOU could win, and all for a few minutes of your time!
12 month PRO subscription to Findmypast (worth £159.99)
Virtually unlimited access to over 8 billion historical records from around the world, modern electoral registers for the UK, and more than 300 million newspaper articles. Generously donated by Findmypast.
12 month Diamond subscription to The Genealogist (worth £139.95)
Unlimited access to a wide range of records including non-conformist records, exclusive tithe records and tithe maps, and a growing collection of 'Lloyd George' Domesday records and maps which you won't find at any other site. Generously donated by The Genealogist.
Ancestry DNA kit -UK version (worth £79)
The best genealogical DNA test that money can buy – a chance to knock down 'brick walls' and confirm that your past research is spot-on! Donated by me.
12 month unlimited subscription to British Newspaper Archive (worth £79.95)
Over 40 million pages from historic British and Irish newspapers, with hundreds of thousands more pages added every month. Optimised search features including the ability to search for articles added after a particular date, so that you don't have to repeatedly trawl through articles you've previously read or discarded. Generously donated by Findmypast.
A professional, hand-drawn A5 portrait of one of your ancestors (worth £60)
See Alex Halliday's website for more details of the services she offers – for example, if you win you might choose to upgrade your portrait with a frame hand-crafted by her husband Michael in his workshop. Generously donated by the artist.
12 month subscription to Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine (worth at least £60)
A wealth of news, knowledge, and information from the world of genealogy – plus some inside stories from the TV series.
Family Historian v7 (just out!)
Simon Orde, the programmer of this Great British program has generously offered to donate a digital copy to the lucky winner. But you don’t have to wait for the result of the competition to find out what amazing features the program offers – you can download a free trial version here.
Three autographed copies of The Asylum-Hiding the Past
Nathan Dylan Goodwin will dedicate these copies to the three lucky winners – two great stories in a single paperback, Hiding the Past introduced us to Morton Farrier, The Asylum is a prequel to that first novel.
Autographed copies of The Marriage Certificate and The Death Certificate
Stephen Molyneux will sign copies of the paperbacks for the lucky winner. His debut genealogical mystery novel, The Marriage Certificate, is one of my all-time favourites, and The Death Certificate is a worthy follow-up.
Autographed copies of Ten Steps to a One-Place Study and Sins as Red as Scarlet: a Devon Town in Turmoil
Author Janet Few will autograph copies of these popular books for the winner.
We've never had such a wonderful range of prizes before – I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again, I'm really grateful to all those who have donated prizes!
To have a chance of winning one of these prizes simply do what should come naturally to any serious family historian – add more entries to your My Ancestors page. The more relatives you add the better your chance of winning, and remember – relatives from the 1881 Census count double. To maximise your chances of finding 'lost cousins' – and winning prizes – follow the advice in this article.
Tip: even if you don't win one of the prizes, you'll have an excellent chance of finding a 'lost cousin' or two – and that's the best prize of all, because you'll be sharing it with a fellow family historian.
Each January ScotlandsPeople make available an extra year's worth of online birth, marriage, and death registers: this year they're adding births from 1920, marriages from 1945, and deaths from 1970.
If you have to order birth, marriage, or death certificates, rather than downloading digital copies you'll be pleased to know both ScotlandsPeople and the GRO in England & Wales are providing a much faster turnaround than you might be led to expect by the warnings displayed on their respective websites.
I understand that wills are still being delivered promptly in most cases.
On Wednesday 20th January, millions around the world watched the inauguration of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr as the 46th President of the United States – however very few would have known where his paternal ancestors came from. Much has been said and written about Joe Biden's Irish and Catholic heritage, but his English ancestry has either been ignored or misrepresented.
There are 271 trees at Ancestry which show that President Biden is descended from John Biden and Anne Beaumont of Huntingdonshire, England – every one of them wrong, as this excellent research by Megan Smolenyak demonstrates. There is just one tree, published by English family historian Martin Haskell, which shows correctly that William (not William Henry) was born in Sussex.
On 8th March 1789 - less than 9 months after the US Constitution came into effect - William, the son of James Biden and Ann Silverlock, was baptised in the 14th century church of St John the Baptist, Westbourne, Sussex.
Image used by kind permission of West Sussex Record Office; All Rights Reserved
If anyone had told James and Ann that 232 years later their great-great-great-great grandson would become the most powerful man in the world, I doubt they would have believed it – they were unable to sign their own names when they married in 1785:
Image used by kind permission of West Sussex Record Office; All Rights Reserved
Indeed, as you can see, even the witnesses were illiterate – it's hardly surprising that the spelling of the surname varies between Biden and Byden (when their son James was baptised in 1800 the surname was once again recorded as Byden). Marriage by licence was generally less common than marriage by banns, since it cost more, but as the next three couples who married at Westbourne that summer also chose to marry by licence there may have been some practical reason why it was preferred at that time. The first child of James and Ann was not baptised until 18 months after the marriage, so there is no evidence that it was a 'shotgun wedding'.
Is the birthdate of 20th December 1787 consistent with a baptism in March 1789? One factor to consider is that from 1783-1794 Stamp Duty was levied on parish register entries, which undoubtedly deterred some parents from baptising their children promptly. But it’s equally likely that his age was exaggerated by a year at the time of his death on 24th November 1849 – he was, after all, just a few weeks from his next birthday – and that this led to his year of birth being wrongly calculated.
In fact, if you go to FamilySearch and look at the Mortality Schedule produced in 1850 (at the time of that year's US Census) you'll see that his age at death in November 1849 is given there as 60, which tallies perfectly with a birthdate of 20th December 1788.
I began this investigation after reading this Findmypast blog article (no subscription is needed); there have also been articles in Sussex newspapers and elsewhere, mostly drawing on the same research. Martin Haskell, creator of the only Ancestry tree which shows the correct baptism for William Biden, is descended from James Byden, baptised at Westbourne on 27th July 1800 – you can see the baptism here, at FamilySearch.
I wonder how many LostCousins members are descended from James Biden and Ann Silverlock? Do make sure that your My Ancestors page is up to date – who knows, you might even be matched with POTUS!
Honour thy father AND thy mother
There was time when family historians only traced their male lines – in the days before the Internet it was often the only practical option. Even today it's harder to trace the lineages of our female ancestors because it usually requires finding two entries rather than one: first their marriage (to discover their maiden name), and second their baptism.
But when it comes to our 19th century ancestors there's really no excuse, because we can usually find out
the maiden names of our female ancestors by looking at the birth registrations of children born after July 1837 (in England & Wales). Indeed, now the GRO birth indexes include the maiden name of the mother we don’t even have to order the certificate (or a PDF copy of the register entry).
And yet the My Ancestors page of a typical LostCousins member is still biased towards the lines of their male ancestors – that surely isn’t right? Our female ancestors risked their lives every time they gave birth – don’t they deserve better treatment from their descendants?
The vaccine roll-out in the UK is proceeding apace, and by the time you read this around 15% of the adult population will have received at least one dose – and this morning I was invited to book an appointment for my first jab (in just over a week's time).
Hopefully the production problems experienced by the two major manufacturers will soon be resolved – if we're able to continue vaccinating the UK population at the rate of 10 million doses per month, by the end of June or soon afterwards, everyone over 50, all care workers, all healthcare workers, and everyone over 16 with underlying health conditions will have had (or been offered) two vaccine doses. Up to now these groups have accounted for 99% of all COVID-related deaths in the UK, so we could a see significant relaxation of restrictions in July, with some changes taking place sooner, once a large proportion of the vulnerable population have had their first dose.
I'm optimistic that by July I'll be defrosting the large turkey I’d originally earmarked for Christmas, and inviting family members to come and share it!
Anyone who is familiar with the 'trolley problem', an ethical conundrum that has appeared in many forms, will have smiled wryly at the fuss caused by the advice of UK scientists to extend the period between vaccine doses to 12 weeks, so that more people can be protected at a time of high infection and vaccine shortages.
I thought their decision was absolutely right, and I read today that the Chief Executive of AstraZeneca, the major supplier of COVID-19 vaccine to the UK, agrees.
It will be interesting to see whether Germany is proved right in the decision not to utilise the AstraZeneca vaccine for over-65s, despite the shortfall in supply of other vaccines.
Note: did you see this article about a couple of newly-weds (aged 86 and 96) who had their jabs this week and advised others to get theirs?
This tale sent in by Mike is a warning of what can happen when we don’t vaccinate ourselves and our loved ones:
"No vaccination by the Dowse family in India led to a tragedy. Alfred Sydney Dowse was a Medical Orderly in the Army stationed in India. He met and married an Anglo-Indian in 1926. They had six children and in January 1941 disaster struck. His wife and six children contracted smallpox: in a period of 4 days he lost his wife and four children to this dreadful disease. Two children recovered and he returned home to live with his niece (who had just been widowed when HMS Hood blew up and sunk on 24 May 1941). We shall never know why the family did not receive a smallpox vaccination, but fortunately the disease is now eradicated together with that other terrible disease, polio. Just don't know why there is any resistance to the COVID vaccination."
I assume that whoever sent a 'parcel bomb' to the vaccine factory in Wales this week is a vaccine-denier. What a twisted mind they must have!
Hopefully by next Tuesday you'll have entered all the relatives you possibly can on your My Ancestors page (and checked them against the census – remember, you can’t win a prize with an entry that doesn't follow the rules). So you'll be ready to do another good turn – this time helping people who aren’t related to you.
This year's Transcription Tuesday, organised by Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, will be supporting four important projects – you can find out all about them, and how you can take part, here.
There is no William Wednesday, and there never was. So what explains these search results from the 1837-1915 England & Wales marriage indexes at Ancestry?
You probably know that FreeBMD provided Ancestry with their transcription of the GRO indexes for the period 1837-1915, but what you might not be aware of is that subsequent corrections to the FreeBMD database have not been uploaded to Ancestry.
If you carry out the same search at FreeBMD you get these results:
You’re probably not surprised to see that Martha Greenaway's forename is now spelled correctly, but how has William Wednesday morphed into William Monday?
Brian, the eagle-eyed LostCousins member who spotted this anomaly also provided the solution: in the printed indexes there are three people with the surname Monday who married in that quarter: Francis, John, and William. Francis was correctly transcribed as Francis Monday, but John became John Tuesday, whilst William was transformed into William Wednesday. As Brian said, such are the perils of using spreadsheets!
Tip: I frequently receive emails from members who are having difficulty logging into their LostCousins account – in most cases this is the result of their browser remembering a previously incorrect password and continually inserting it. I suspect that similar problems occur at many sites – the only difference is that at LostCousins we have an audit trail that allows me to diagnose problems when they occur. If you ever encounter a problem like this simply delete the password that your browser has thoughtfully inserted, and enter the correct one.
I've written many times that ethnicity estimates
are for amusement only, but this example from a LostCousins member which
compares his estimates with those for his identical twin brother really takes
You'll know from my recent article that even identical twins don't have precisely the same DNA, but the major factor is that consumer DNA tests are not 100% accurate; even small errors can confound the complex statistical process by which ethnicity estimates are made.
Matching of genetic cousins is a much simpler process, and one that is less likely to be affected by a small number of misreads. That said, whilst Ancestry identified them as twins and they had a similar list of close matches, the amounts of shared DNA often varied – though because the amounts of DNA shared by cousins vary considerably it's unlikely that the variations would affect the analysis.
See the chart in my DNA Masterclass to get a sense of just how much shared DNA can vary – not because of errors in the testing process, but because the inheritance of autosomal DNA is essentially random.
Tip: a number of members have mentioned that they found this example of DNA inheritance helpful.
Most of the publicity around the police use of DNA databases has related to the apprehension of murderers and rapists, but there's another very important role: identifying victims. This article from the Seattle Times describes how the remains of 14 year-old Wendy Stephens were finally identified after 37 years, thanks to the GEDmatch database.
The Chester Creek Murders is the first book in a new series from Nathan Dylan Goodwin, best-known up to now for the 'Forensic genealogist' mysteries featuring Morton Farrier. It has been sitting on my Kindle for over a week while I've been dealing with a backlog of emails which went into my spam folder when my usually reliable spam filter went awry (I suspect that the frequent occurrence of the word 'virus' may have triggered this).
So far I've enjoyed what I've read, but it's early days; nevertheless, if you don’t want to wait for my review, please use the links below so that you can support LostCousins:
I always have a good breakfast, typically fresh or home-cooked fruit with 0% fat Greek-style natural yoghurt, followed by an egg. There are only so many ways you can cook an egg, so this week I invented an American-style combination: scrambled egg served on half a buttered and toasted cinnamon & raisin bagel, topped with a spoonful of home-made plum jam. Absolutely delicious, and well worth trying!
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......
I'll be back soon – in the meantime do PLEASE take part in the LostCousins project to link cousins around the world who share the same ancestors. Just a few minutes of your time could change somebody else's life!
© 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.