Newsletter - 30th July 2015
Save with Findmypast's 20-20 offer EXCLUSIVE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 22nd July) click here, for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here, for a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a list of articles from 2012-14 click here. Or do what I do, and use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):
Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). If one of the links doesn't work this normally indicates that you're using adblocking software - you need to make the LostCousins site an exception (or else use a different browser, such as Chrome).
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!
This week I received an email from a LostCousins member who is also a Registrar - I think you'll find the comments quite thought-provoking:
"In respect of the access to historical GRO records - I realise that you are keen to promote contributions to the consultation process GRO are entering into. However this development is sadly coming at the worst possible time for keen family historians (like myself) after a very long wait. I am also a Registrar and I am at the sharp end of both cost cutting and income generating in this Local Government operated service. My opinion is that you are being very over optimistic in what could be provided, I think members are having their hopes raised too high with your comments in the newsletter. The economy may be improving in the private sector but it certainly is in for further large cuts in the public sector."
How can we reconcile what we want with what the country can afford? Should the service be contracted out to the private sector? Or should the government be prepared to invest up-front on the basis that taxpayers will get a good return on their investment? We can't expect our hobby to be subsidised by other taxpayers, so how much would you be prepared to spend each year on digital copies of register entries if the price was right: £20, £50, £100?
If you're a member of the LostCousins Forum please contribute to the informal consultation that we're running. If you're not, please check your My Summary page to see whether there is an invitation waiting - the LostCousins Forum is completely free, but it's strictly invitation only.
I've received a lot of enquiries about the LostCousins features that make it easier to share birth, marriage, and death certificates that I decided to run over the details again.
When you enter a relative on your My Ancestors page, you have the option of specifying which certificates you hold, by ticking the relevant box in the optional part of the Add an Ancestor form:
You can update an entry at any time by clicking the person's name, so if you later acquire another certificate you can add it (you can also make other changes, such as adding a maiden name that you've just discovered, or a baptism date). When you're matched with another member they'll be able to see which certificates you hold for the relatives that you've both entered - it's an added incentive for them to correspond with you. Similarly, you'll be able to see which certificates they hold.
The other feature, which we call 'dead certs' relates to certificates that were purchased by mistake - it's all too easy to buy the wrong certificate, as I know to my cost (quite a large cost, in fact). Of course, these certificates probably won't be any more use to your cousins than they are to you - but there's a good chance that there's anther LostCousins member who would be absolutely delighted.
I wrote about 'dead certs' earlier this month, but I didn't include a screenshot - so I'm going to put that right now:
As you can see, 'Dead cert' is one of the categories in the 'Relationship or connection' dropdown menu. Familial relationships such as 'Blood relative' and 'Direct ancestor' are at the top, because they're the ones we use the most; other categories are shown lower down the list - 'Dead cert' is right at the bottom.
Note: please avoid using the 'Unknown' category - it is being phased out. There is almost always a more helpful description - often this will be 'Possible relative'.
If you have any certificates that you've bought by mistake, see whether you can identify that person on one of the censuses we use, ideally the 1881 Census. If you can, enter them on your my Ancestors page, choose 'Dead cert' from the dropdown menu, and indicate which certificate it is (in the optional part of the form).
Sometimes you won't be able to find the person on any of the censuses we use - this is most commonly the case with a child who died as an infant. If you are able to identify one or more of the child's parents you can enter them, again using the 'Dead cert' category, but in this case do not tick any of the certificate boxes. This will signal to any other members you're matched with that whilst you hold a certificate, it isn't for the person named.
Note: although the General Register Office allows certificates for England & Wales to be copying shared freely, it isn't clear whether the General Register Office for Scotland allows copying. However there is nothing to stop you sharing the information on a certificate, so long as you transcribe it yourself.
Save with Findmypast's 20-20 offer EXCLUSIVE
Findmypast.co.uk's Britain subscription is £20 cheaper than their main rival's Premium subscription, but for the first 20 days of August you can save an extra 20% (or £20) because of the exclusive offer I've negotiated.
This brings the cost down to a mere £79.60 - less than the cost of a 12 month subscription to the British Newspaper Archive, even though all the British newspapers in the archive are included in your Findmypast subscription (as well as over a billion other records)!
Of course, no two family history sites have the same record collections, although there are overlaps when it comes to the most basic records, such as censuses and the GRO indexes. The key parish register collections at Findmypast cover Devon, Shropshire, most of Staffordshire, much of Kent, much of Yorkshire, Hertfordshire, Cheshire, Westminster, and most of Wales. Other important record collections include the most complete collection of WW1 service records, pre-1914 Army pension records, school registers from many parts of the country, and the UK Electoral Roll from 2002-2014 (importantly it includes the last year before the opt-out was introduced).
Tip: I've discovered that the offer is ALREADY live - you don't have to wait for August.
Similarly, Findmypast.co.uk's World subscription is usually £50 cheaper than the competition, but during the offer period you can save an extra £25, bringing the price down to just £103.60!
Note: these offers are for new subscribers. If you've been a Findmypast subscriber in the past you may qualify - it doesn't do any harm to try - but I can't guarantee it.
I've also negotiated similar savings at other Findmypast sites around the world. Whilst each site offers a 'Local' subscription which covers local records, the 'World' subscriptions are identical (no doubt some canny readers will find that they can save even more by taking advantage of fluctuations in exchange rates!).
You can only take advantage of these offers and support LostCousins by using one of the links below to go to the special page on the appropriate Findmypast site:
If the links don't work for you please disable your the adblocking extension in your browser before trying again.
Should you not make your purchase immediately, please click the link again when you do - otherwise LostCousins won't benefit. If you want to share this offer with friends or relatives, that's fine with me, but please do it by sending them a link to this newsletter, and not a link to the offer page.
When you take up Findmypast's generous offer using one of the links above you'll also be supporting LostCousins - so as one good turn deserves another, I'm going to give you a FREE LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50! When you take out a new World subscription under the offer you'll qualify for a 12 month LostCousins subscription; when you take out a new Local (eg Britain) subscription you'll qualify for a 6 month LostCousins subscription.
Tip: if you already have a LostCousins subscription you can still benefit - I'll extend the expiry date.
All you need to do is forward a copy of the email receipt you receive from Findmypast showing the date and time (your LostCousins subscription will run from that date, so it's best to get your claim in as soon as possible), and quoting your LostCousins membership number, which is shown on your My Summary page. You can forward it to any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one I wrote from when I told you about this newsletter.
If you want to benefit from a joint subscription, covering two LostCousins accounts, you must link them together before forwarding the receipt; to find out how to link the accounts just log-in and go to the Subscribe page (it takes 2 minutes and only needs to be done once).
Terms and conditions: your Findmypast subscription purchase cannot be combined with any other offer; you must click the link for the Findmypast site where you buy your subscription (and you must do it before buying the subscription), otherwise the purchase won't benefit LostCousins and you won't qualify for your free LostCousins subscription. Upgrades, downgrades, and renewals do not qualify for this offer.
The 1939 Register is the closest thing to a national census that has survived for the period between 1921 and 1951 (since the 1931 England & Wales census was lost in a fire, and there was no census in 1941).
No precise release date has been announced, but I received an email from the National Archives last Saturday which states:
The good news is that even if it is delayed into the first half of next year, it will still be included in the subscription of anyone who buys a Britain or World subscription during the period of the offer I've negotiated.
The bad news is that personal information relating to living people will be redacted - this could mean that you're only able to see data for those born before 1915, though I hope that won't be the case. You may recall that when the 1911 Census was released early it was only the final column, relating to disabilities, that was redacted - one thing you can be certain of is that Findmypast will aim to negotiate the best possible agreement with the Information Commissioner.
The British Newspaper Archive is increasing the cost of its Monthly subscription from £9.95 to £12.95 with effect from 5th August, however the cost of an Annual subscription remains at £79.95
A number of members have also been surprised by the cost of renewal of their Ancestry.co.uk subscription - this increased at the beginning of the year from £107.40 to £119.99 for a Premium subscription, and from £155.40 to £179.99 for a World subscription. These increases were primarily prompted by the VAT changes that came into effect across the European Union on 1st January 2015, but changing exchange rates may also have been a factor.
Ancestry.co.uk have also changed their policy on VAT so that subscribers outside the EU pay the same price - this brings them into line with Findmypast.
As a result of these changes it's no longer cheaper for people in the US or Canada to buy a World subscription at the UK site, and if you qualify for the introductory first year rate at the Australian site it's the cheapest of the lot (at current exchange rates). Whichever site is most appropriate to your needs you can support LostCousins by using the relevant link when you buy a new subscription online:
Note: LostCousins subscriptions have NEVER increased (although we were also affected to an extent by the VAT changes at the beginning of the year).
At LostCousins we know that anyone we're matched is researching their family history and will be glad to hear from us - but what if we track distant cousins down using the electoral roll, or the phone book?
Personally I've always had a positive experience because if I write I include a stamped addressed envelope, and if I telephone I always start by apologising for calling out of the blue. Either way I aim to provide information from the other person's family tree, usually the names of their parents, in order to assure them that I'm who I say I am - and I try to avoid asking questions, other than to confirm that I've found the right person.
But some interventions won't be welcome, as a member reminded me in an email this week:
"I have been researching my family for over 20 years, starting as far back as I could get, with the overall aim of finding living relatives that were previously unknown to me.
"I pursued my great great uncle's family to the USA over years then suddenly arrived at a living relative by marriage of my gg uncle's descendants via Ancestry. She sent me a newspaper article about my living relatives that made me realise that to try and talk to them might be a gross intrusion.
"I have realised that it is one thing looking at the misdemeanours of a long-dead ancestor, and quite another when that person is alive and still in the middle of their troubles. So I think that I must leave the present day family alone."
I didn't know what was in the newspaper article, so I chose to respond in general terms - perhaps some of you might be faced with a similar situation in the future:
"Whilst the dead have no rights to privacy, our living relatives are entitled to keep themselves to themselves. When we find a black sheep amongst our ancestors, or discover that one of them met a particularly grizzly end it adds colour to our research, but when this happens to a living relative it's a tragedy.
"However the fact that our relatives are going through a hard time doesn't necessarily mean that we should ignore them - perhaps what they really need is our support?"
What do you think? And how might you feel if you were the one going through a difficult time (as I know some members are)?
Last weekend I was in Derbyshire at a reunion with a dozen friends I know from the 1960s and 70s (plus a few partners).
As it happens, a couple of them are LostCousins members but that wasn't the common bond - we all used to live in the same part of Essex (or east London as it is now). We chose to meet in the Peak District because it was reasonably central (we are now scattered all over Britain), but as it happened a few of us had been there half a century ago, for our Duke of Edinburgh's Award expedition - a quite memorable experience because the weather was so awful that we had no dry clothing after the first day.
Some friends I hadn't seen since our last reunion, in 2000 - and for me the best thing was being reminded of my youth: we may all be in our 60s, but when we were back together we were young again!
Do you find that you stay in closer contact with your friends than you do with your cousins? One of the best features of the LostCousins site is the way it allows you to keep track of your cousins, even the ones you didn't find through the site. On your My Cousins page click 'Connect to a member you already know' to link to someone who's already a member, but isn't already listed there; on your My Referrals page use 'Refer a Relative' to invite a cousin who isn't already a member to join.
Tip: when you invite a known relative to join LostCousins you can help them get started by indicating which of the relatives on your My Ancestors page they share - when they first log-in after registering they'll all be copied across.
There was an interesting news story this week about a woman who was disinherited by her mother in her 2002 will because she eloped with her boyfriend in 1978, but managed to persuade the Court of Appeal to award her one-third of the estate, worth £164,000. The animal charities which would have received the whole amount will now get just two-thirds (less, presumably, some hefty legal bills).
On the one hand, it seems right that people should be able to bequeath their own wealth as they wish - on the other, it's hard to avoid the notion that the mother was simply being spiteful, especially since her daughter married the boyfriend, and they're still together (they also have 5 children). One also has to consider what the girl's father might have wanted to happen - he died in an accident when she was just 2 months old.
What do you think?
Yesterday I was one of the first to install Windows 10 following the official release (some intrepid souls have been running pre-release versions, but I can't take those sorts of risks). At this stage I've only activated it on my laptop, which has a touch screen and was already running Windows 8.1 - I'm going to wait a while before installing it on my desktop, which currently has Windows 7.
Although the version of Kaspersky Internet Security I was running wasn't compatible with Windows 10, I was able to update it free of charge (I should have done this before installing Windows 10, but didn't discover this until later). Don't rely on the free protection that comes with Windows - it may be better than before, but it's unlikely to be good enough.
I first reported this news story two years ago, but as we've been focusing on DNA testing in the newsletter recently I thought it might be helpful to run over the facts again.
In 2013 DNA samples provided by two 3rd cousins of Princess Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, were tested - demonstrating that their mtDNA was typical of someone who originated from South Asia. It's rare that testing mtDNA can provide genealogically useful information, but in this case there was a family story suggesting that Eliza Kevorkian (known as Kewark), housekeeper and mistress to Theodore Forbes - an ancestor who was involved with the East India Company - was of Indian/Armenian heritage. Their daughter Katherine Scott Forbes, born in 1812, would have inherited her mtDNA - as would her descendants in the direct female line.
Note: although mothers pass their mtDNA to their sons as well as their daughters, only the daughters can pass it on to their offspring.
Since Frances Shand Kydd and both her cousins were descendants in the direct female line of Katherine Scott Forbes she must have carried the same mtDNA, and passed it on to her children, including Princess Diana - who in turn would have passed it to her own children, Prince William and Prince Harry. Being male William and Harry can't pass the mtDNA to their own children - Prince George and Princess Charlotte inherited their DNA from their mother.
However it wasn't only the mtDNA of the two cousins that was tested - their autosomal DNA was also tested, suggesting that they had each inherited atDNA from an ancestor who lived in South Asia. But the amounts were small - between 0.3% and 0.8%.
In case you're wonder why the percentages were so different, I'll remind you how autosomal DNA is passed on in the next article - but suffice it to say that it's quite possible that Frances Shand Kydd didn't inherit ANY autosomal DNA from Eliza Kevorkian's Indian ancestors, quite likely that Princess Diana didn't inherit any, and even more likely that Prince William didn't. In other words despite have Indian and Armenian ancestry our future monarchs may have nothing but Greek, German, English and other Western European DNA - not that it would matter to most people either way!
In previous articles I've explained how important it is to get away from the conventional view that Y-DNA tests are for our father's side of the family, and mtDNA tests are for our mother's side. The arrival of autosomal DNA testing in 2009 transformed the world of genetic genealogy by providing a way to mine the information in our genome as a whole, offering the potential of matches with cousins from any of our family lines.
The famous double helix comprises two strands of DNA, one inherited from the individual's father, and one from their mother - and what they'll pass on to their children is a mixture of the two. I'm not going to attempt to explain the process of meiosis in detail (I didn't even get as far as O level Biology), but the important thing you need to know is that whilst the process is essentially random it involves chunks of DNA which are usually millions of bases in length, rather than individual bases.
One way to visualise what happens is to imagine driving down a two-lane road and occasionally crossing from one side to the other. Every now and again you'll come to a roundabout (which in this analogy represents the end of one chromosome and the beginning of the next). If one lane is painted blue (representing your father's DNA) and one red (your mother's DNA), the path you took would be made of up blocks of red and blue. Every part of the road would be represented, but the colour would vary along its length.
Similarly you would pass on to your children just half of the DNA that you received from your parents - but there will probably be more, perhaps significantly more, from one parent than the other. Whilst we get exactly half of our autosomal DNA from each of our own parents, the amount we inherit from each grandparent won't be precisely a quarter, and it's possible - though unlikely - that we've inherited none at all from one grandparent. The more generations we go back the more likely it is that you will have inherited no DNA at all from some of our ancestors from that generation.
However, even though I may have inherited no DNA at all from a particular ancestor, one of my siblings may have done - and it's quite likely that some of my cousins will have done, and the more of my cousins who test the more I'm likely to discover about my ancestors.
There will be more about DNA in my next newsletter.....
Tip: if you want to know how meiosis really works, these short lectures from the Khan Academy are not too difficult to follow, although because they're not written for family historians people like us they don't focus on the bits that are of most interest to us.
There was barely an empty chair in the Stock Village Hall last Thursday for my presentation - thanks to the LostCousins members who came along at short notice having read my last newsletter - and judging by the kind comments I've had since it must have gone pretty well.
I certainly impressed one of the listeners - a couple of days before the meeting he'd commented that he didn't know why he was coming since he already knew all his cousins. That was like a red rag to a bull, and at the last minute I decided to create an entirely new presentation based around his maternal ancestors - since on further enquiry it had turned out that he'd done almost all of his research on his father's side.
Starting with nothing but his name I managed to identify his parents, and maternal grandparents - and found his grandmother aged 5 with her family on the 1881 Census. I demonstrated how quick and easy it was to enter additional members of a household, then clicked the Search button - and wonder of wonders, there was a match with a cousin in Australia!
Sadly I can't guarantee that every new member of LostCousins will make a match with the very first household they enter, but there's a better than 50% chance of making an immediate match when you spend just half an hour entering relatives from the 1881 Census.
The most impressive slide in my presentation was all down to you, the readers of this newsletter:
This is just a small selection of the emails I received after the last newsletter - I can only hope that this issue is as well-received!
At last weekend's reunion there was a book on the table in the lounge that I'd never heard of before, The Adopted Prisoner, by Leslie William Law. A true story from World War 2, it's not the sort of thing I'd normally read - but then it isn't an ordinary story. I hope to review it in the next newsletter, although I've got a couple of family history books that I also have to finish.
This is where any last minute updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error (sadly I'm not infallible), reload the newsletter (press F5) then check here before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......
© Copyright 2015 Peter Calver
Please do not copy any part of this newsletter without permission. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance - though why not invite them to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership, which includes this newsletter, is FREE?