Newsletter - 23rd July 2016
Find cousins who share your Somerset ancestors ENDS TUESDAY
Overcoming your 'brick wall' GUEST ARTICLE
A street-full of cousins GUEST ARTICLE
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Last week Ancestry.co.uk uploaded Somerset parish registers with more than 7 million entries - it's a major boost for anyone who has ancestors from that part of England:
Also included in this release are 47,000 entries from Somerset school registers, and 101,000 entries from gaol registers:
Find cousins who share your Somerset ancestors ENDS TUESDAY
To celebrate the addition of this important new Ancestry collection I've come up with a special offer for members with ancestors from Somerset. Between now and midnight on Tuesday 26th July you'll be able to initiate contact with LostCousins members who share your Somerset ancestors even if you're not a LostCousins subscriber.
Simply add to your My Ancestors page all the relatives you can find living in Somerset on the 1881 Census, remembering that it's the members of your ancestors' extended families (their cousins, in other words) who are most likely to provide the vital connections to your living cousins. You don't need a subscription to any site to enter relatives from the 1881 England & Wales census - the transcription of this census is always free online at both Ancestry and Findmypast.
Tip: you can take advantage of my offer even if your direct ancestors migrated away from Somerset before 1881, because the Somerset parish registers at Ancestry will make it much easier to track what happened to your ancestors' siblings and cousins. Remember, all of your cousins are descended from collateral lines - indeed, that's what makes them cousins!
Last month I reported that The Genealogist had added 6 million parish records for Norfolk, taking their collection to 10 million records from the county - this week I learned that Ancestry.co.uk have just added over 8 million Norfolk records, a collection that must inevitably overlap considerably with that at The Genealogist:
In the past The Genealogist and Ancestry have worked together on certain projects, notably the 1911 Census - this might be another example of their co-operation.
I've always wondered how much my ancestors had to pay to have their children baptised, to have the banns of marriage called, or to bury their loved ones - but finding these statistics is remarkably difficult.
So I was delighted to discover that in the front of the 1707-1787 register for the parish of All Saints, Writtle, Essex, the vicar had listed all of the relevant charges:
Table of fees due to the Minister of Writtle
For Registering Baptism 6d
For going to give Baptism at Home 5s
For Publishing Banns 2s
For Certificate of Banns 1s 6d
For Marrying with Banns 5s
For Marrying with Licence 10s
For Licence to Marry - Bond Warrt Stamps & Oath £1 9s 6d
For Churching a Woman 6d
For breaking the Ground in the Churchyard: for a Parishioner dying in the parish 2s
For a Headstone 5s
There are many other charges for burials depending upon the type of memorial, and whether the person was a parishioner or not. The final charge in the list is:
Easter Offerings for each Person 16 Years old (to be paid by the Master of the Family) 4d
One of the key points is that there was no charge for a baptism ceremony carried out in the church - the charge was for registering the baptism. This could mean that some baptisms carried out were not recorded in the register - the 6d charge would have been a large sum for a farm labourer, who would have been earning in the region of 10d per day in the early 18th century.
Note: this PDF document gives estimates for farm wages in different areas of England between 1670-1850.
In Britain we're fighting to get more information added to our next (and potentially last) census in 2021, but in Australia privacy advocates are arguing that the collection of names in their 2016 census (which will take place on 9th August) represents an unnecessary security risk. This press release from Liberty Victoria sets out some of the concerns - to see the other side of the story follow this link to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
According to a report from the fraud prevention service Cifas, identity fraud rose by 57% in the UK last year. Younger people are more vulnerable because of their use of social media, but over 60s nevertheless accounted for over 17% of the total.
It always amazes me how much information it is possible to glean by scouring public records - for example, recently I noticed that someone involved in a discussion in one of my LinkedIn groups had included his birthday in his profile. Starting with that piece of information I was able to find his birth in the GRO indexes at Findmypast, which confirmed his year of birth and gave me his mother's maiden name. That might not be all that a fraudster needs, but itís a frighteningly good start!
Note: you might not include your birthday in your profile, but I bet that if you have a Facebook or Twitter account you get congratulated on your birthday - and that could be just as informative.
Some people are under the impression that the most dangerous thing you can do online is use your credit card - but in reality it's probably one of the safest things you can do (assuming you're dealing with a reputable site), because the transaction takes place using a secure connection. It's almost certainly far more dangerous to send somebody a cheque - because it includes the name of your bank, the precise branch, your account number and your signature!
Many years ago, when I first began researching, Rootsweb was an important source of information. It still handles many mailing lists, including the Society of Genealogists mailing list - the only one that I regularly read.
Earlier this year the Rootsweb servers were badly hit by technical problems which resulted in the loss of some data - and as I write many of the mailing lists at Rootsweb are unavailable, and have been for at least a day. So don't be surprised if you too run into problems.
There are precious few British families that made it through the Great War unscathed - it was a time of terror, of trauma, and of tragedy.
But whilst there are no longer any living veterans of the first great conflict of modern times their voices live on, in recordings held by the BBC and by the Imperial War Museum - which you can hear in a wonderful series of radio programmes broadcast over the past two years but available online here.
In a few days' time it will be exactly 100 years since Captain Charles Algernon Fryatt was executed by the Germans for attempting to ram a U-boat while captaining a North Sea ferry.
The event that led to Fryatt's execution took place in March 1915, when he was in command of the SS Brussels, a cross-channel steamer owned by the Great Eastern Railway company. Ordered to stop by a U-boat when just off the Dutch coast, Fryatt decided to steer towards the submarine, forcing it to dive.
On that occasion Fryatt and his ship escaped, but fifteen months later he wasn't so lucky - the Germans were out for blood and he was cornered by 5 German destroyers just after sailing from the Hook of Holland. He was tried, sentenced, and executed in the space of a single day - 27th July 1916.
Stewart Cooney, who served with the Royal Artillery in World War 2 was the last of his line - his wife and their adopted son had both pre-deceased him. So, when he died last month in a care home a quiet funeral was in prospect, with nobody in attendance other than staff from the care home.
But, after an appeal on social media, hundreds of people turned out for the funeral - the chapel was overflowing with mourners paying tribute to a lonely old soldier who had served his country.
You can read more about this heartwarming story here, on the BBC website.
Army service records now browsable at Findmypast
Findmypast have nearly 8 million British Army service records in their collection, but whilst they have always been searchable, it has only just become possible to browse the records. This allows researchers to look at records in a different way - perhaps studying a particular regiment - but could also lead to discoveries of records that have been misfiled, miscatalogued, or incorrectly indexed.
You can browse the service records here.
Note: also browsable for the first time are the Absent Voters lists from 1918-21.
Overcoming your 'brick wall' GUEST ARTICLE
Itís generally pretty simple to research our ancestors, but occasionally you will get stuck. So how do you get out of the genealogical mire? Here are ten top tips from expert Simon Fowler:
1 Donít make assumptions about your ancestors without testing them. In particular, remember Occamís Rule that Ďthe simplest explanation is usually the correct oneí.
2 Spellings of names, especially surnames, change over time.
3 Your ancestor may have always been called by a name that wasnít on their birth certificate. Or rearranged their forenames or had them rearranged by a clerk.
4 Donít trust the written record - it can be wrong. Clerks will and do make mistakes in writing down names, misspelling surnames and getting forenames wrong.
5 There may be records you havenít used. The Victorians, in particular, produced a lot of paperwork that effectively duplicate each other. So if the document you want is missing, there may be something almost as good.
6 Donít rely on family tradition - it can be wrong.
7 Note down all the sources you have used so you can revisit them if you need.
8 Donít use online databases without checking whether there is a description of the material, what it contains and most importantly what is missing.
donít want to be found. Keep things in proportion. Donít waste your time in
pointless searches, on the off chance.
10 Attend the AGRA conference in Cambridge on 17 September to hear from the experts about overcoming genealogical brick walls!
© 2016 Simon Fowler
Simon Fowler is a member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) and is taking part in the genealogical help session at AGRAís conference on Demolishing Brick Walls in Cambridge on 17th September. You'll find full details of the program here.
I've just received the birth and death certificates for Patrick Edward Daly - and very revealing they are, providing proof of perjury and adultery:
There's a special area on the LostCousins forum where we're going to be dissecting this case - and whilst you'll need to be a forum member to contribute, anyone can follow the proceedings simply by clicking this link.
When someone approaches me with a longstanding problem in their family tree I invariably inject a sizeable dose of scepticism into the dialogue. It's not that I don't trust people to tell me the truth, just that long experience shows when we can't find the proof we're searching for, it's often because we're looking in the wrong place, or for the wrong evidence.
Sometimes we can be so determined to prove our hypothesis correct that we ignore evidence that points in the opposite direction ("there are none so blind as those who will not see"). A more scientific approach is to try to prove that our hypothesis is incorrect - this helps us to focus on the counter-arguments.
Note: occasionally I come across a researcher whose 'brick wall' is so important to them that they don't want to solve it! More often than not these are mysteries that could be solved once and for all with a DNA test. So always consider the possibly that≠ you're the 'brick wall'.....
The Guardian printed this story of a 117 year-old Mexican lady who had been waiting years for a copy of her birth certificate, then died just a few hours later - but I'm not sure that I believe it. Do you?
An equally improbable story that I really want to believe is this one, about the man who proposed to his girl-friend via a fake United Airlines in-flight video.
There have been many stories of children separated soon after birth, but few are stranger than the tale of Vanda James from East Anglia, who spent many years wondering what had happened to the baby boy she remembered from her childhood.
A few years later Vanda, then aged 10, had found her mother's diary, which revealed that she had given birth to a son she named Kenneth - but it was only after her mother's death in 1990 that Vanda learned from a cousin that the child was the product of an affair. Like so many children born in such circumstances he had been put up for adoption, as a result of which Kenneth had become John Best - but when a researcher working for the ITV series Long Lost Family eventually tracked him down it transpired that, following gender reassignment surgery, John was now Debbie.
So Vanda never found her long-lost brother - but half a century later, she found a new sister! You can read more about this unusual story here.
As everyone knows, the number of ancestors in our family tree doubles with every generation, so if we go back 10 generations we have 1024 ancestors, whilst there are 1048576 when we go back 20 generations, and over 1 billion if we go back 30 generations - roughly 1000 years.
There's only one problem with this simple calculation - there weren't that many people living 1000 years ago! The discrepancy is explained by the phenomenon of pedigree collapse, which occurs when cousins marry - because cousins have shared ancestry their offspring will inevitably have fewer distinct ancestors than the calculations would suggest.
In practice there will be many of our ancestors who unwittingly married distant cousins - and a few, no doubt, who knowingly married close cousins. This means that not only do we not have as many ancestors as a simple calculation would suggest, we're related to many of our ancestors multiple times - which means that we're also related to many of our cousins multiple times.
The ultimate pedigree collapse is of a tree where every living descendant is descended from one individual from nearly 2000 years ago - I'm talking, of course, about the English elm (Ulmus procera). According to a 2004 paper published in Nature every English elm tree is descended from a single example which was taken by the Romans from Italy to Iberia, and then brought to Britain for the purpose of supporting and training vines. The trees don't produce fertile seeds, instead spreading by means of root suckers.
Note: it's probably the fact that English elms were clones that caused them to be so susceptible to Dutch elm disease.
A street-full of cousins GUEST ARTICLE
Alan Craxford, a long-term member of LostCousins recently wrote to tell me about the fascinating results of his research into the inhabitants of a single street - and he kindly agreed to turn it into an article, one which I suspect you'll find not only interesting but instructive and inspirational!
Given my somewhat unusual surname I think I am aware where most of my ilk fit into the family tree. However I have always been rather intrigued by the fact that our long term ancestral home, Gretton, Northamptonshire, has a street which bears the family's name. No-one is quite sure when Craxford Lane was first so called, or why the family were so honoured. †It only appears by name in the censuses of 1891 and 1911 where there are about 20 cottages, and in the latter census there were no residents named Craxford.†
It has been said† (*1) that In a population of between three and five hundred people, after six generations or so there are only third cousins or closer to marry. During most of human history, people have lived in small, isolated communities of about that size, and have in fact probably been closer to the genetic equivalent of first cousins, because of their multiple consanguinity. In nineteenth-century rural England, for instance, the radius of the average isolate, or pool of potential spouses, was about five miles, which was the distance a man could comfortably walk twice on his day off, when he went courting- his roaming area by daylight. The bicycle extended the radius to twenty five miles1
I had seen hints of this effect in previous researches around the Welland Valley. I wondered about the 'neighbourliness' of Craxford Lane. The purpose of this study was to investigate the links and liaisons between the families living in Craxford Lane and test out this theory in microcosm. To say I was unprepared for the results would be a profound understatement. I traced the ancestry of each household back over the census returns and the parish records through about seven generations and about 150 years (1750 - 1911). This showed that 19 of the 20 households were indeed related by blood or marriage (or both) - and all of them showed some relationship to the Craxford family.
The most obvious linkages were the straightforward marriages between unrelated families. Close behind numerically were the consanguineous unions: marriage between second and third cousins were quite common and one first cousin marriage was also found.† Beyond that the level of degrees and removals between marriage pairs became less clearly defined. There were several instances were partners to a marriage had been married before or who married again after a death. There was one woman who married her dead husband's brother. We then came across the phenomenon of "affinal relinking"† where there may be one or more intermediate marriages between the union of members of same family tree. In an attempt to assess these relationships in greater depth we have paid particular attention to female lines of descent and to what became of the quite large number of illegitimate children born within these families.
There were 16 distinct surnames residing in Craxford Lane in 1911. There were a similar number (although the list not completely matching) of surnames whose family lines figured in the relationships. The results of this study have been written into an article entitled "Craxford Lane: A Genealogy" which can be found on the Extended Craxford Family Website.
I am not sure how many family history hobbyists either ignore or do not realise the extent of this aspect in their own family tree. I am not sure what further research methods there are, short of laborious cross checking of archive documents to tease out these relationships and it is certainly not easy to present them in an easily readable form. This study which applies to just one street confirms Professor Fox's assertion but it is equally valid if extended to the village as a whole. It applies to other centres I have studied including, perhaps more surprisingly, a family population we found on Victorian Tyneside where North and South Shields could almost be considered a single entity which happens to have a river running through it.
1 Robin Fox, Professor of Social Arthropology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA in:
Shoumatoff, Alex: The Mountain of Names: A history of the Human Family with introduction by Robin Fox; Kodansha International, New York, USA (1995). ISBN 1-56836-071-1
Note: after submitting this article Alan sent me a link to this page on his website which shows the 5 different ways in which two cousins were related. It'd particularly interesting in the light of the articles which follow.....
My dictionary defines endogamy as "the custom forbidding marriage outside one's own group", but genetic genealogists use the term more broadly. For example, the ISOGG wiki page on the topic begins with these sentences:
"Endogamy is the practice of marrying within the same ethnic, cultural, social, religious or tribal group. In endogamous populations everyone will descend from the same small gene pool. People will be related to each other in a recent genealogical timeframe on multiple ancestral pathways and the same ancestors will, therefore, appear in many different places on their pedigree chart. Endogamy can be the result of a conscious decision or cultural pressure to marry within the selected group but also occurs as a result of geographical isolation (for example, in island communities).
"Examples of endogamous groups include Ashkenazi Jews, Acadians, Polynesians, Low German Mennonites, the Amish, people from many Arab countries, people from Newfoundland and people from many islands. Endogamy is also a problem in early Colonial American populations."
Over time the gene pool of an endogamous population is likely to become more and more restricted as a result of variant genes dying out, and this, together with the inevitable cousin marriages, will make genetic matches appear closer than they really are.
However, just because you and a DNA cousin share more DNA than would normally expected doesn't necessarily mean that your common ancestors came from an endogamous population. This is because it's inevitable that the DNA cousins we find will, on average, tend to be more closely related to us genetically than we might expect. Why? Well, if you look back at the article How far back is our common ancestor? in my last newsletter you'll see that most of the DNA cousins we find are so distantly-related that, but for random variations in the way that DNA is inherited, the relationship wouldn't be detectable at all.
In the June issue of Your Family History Anthony Adolph wrote a very interesting article about the Queen's African ancestry. We're used to the Royal Family being described as German - but African?
It seems that Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III, (and Queen Elizabeth's 4G grandmother) is her closest connection to Africa - she is believed to be descended from Madragana Ben Aloandro, daughter of the Moorish ruler of the Algarve, not just once, but 7 times.
Anthony Adolph also argues that most Europeans have African ancestors within the past millennium, so perhaps the Royal Family is more representative of the average Briton than we think? Even I have German ancestors - though not quite so many as Prince Charles, judging from this Telegraph article which was published in June 2015.
It has long been said that people are more likely to change their spouse than their bank, and the latest statistics confirm just how set in our ways we are in the UK. Only 1.05 million people moved their bank account in the last 12 months, fewer than in the preceding year - and this despite the incentives on offer!
The bank to gain most customers as a result of switching was Halifax (who offer a £100 incentive), but Nationwide Building Society - who I bank with - were a very close second. Nationwide offer several accounts, most of which are totally free, and all come with handy benefits - plus, if you ask an existing accountholder (like me) to recommend you we'll each get a bonus of £100. You can see the range of accounts that Nationwide offer here - if you're interested in switching drop me an email so that we can both benefit.
I'm a great believer in life-long learning, and it's not too late to join me and tens of thousands of others on the free online course GENEALOGY: RESEARCHING YOUR FAMILY TREE at the FutureLearn site (find out more and sign up here). Whilst the course is designed to be suitable for beginners, we can all benefit from reprising the basics - LostCousins members who participated in the first presentation gave me some very positive feedback.
If you prefer the face to face approach, and live within striking distance of London, the Society of Genealogists is organising a 'Family History Getaway' during the first week of September. Entitled 'Victorian London Family & Social History' it includes 15 lectures over 5 days from a highly-experienced list of speakers headed by Else Churchill and Michael Gandy - there's also time set aside on each day for your to pursue your own research in the famous SoG library. Although the course is open to non-members you might want to consider joining the society in order to benefit from the substantial discount for members.
You can find out more here (there are only 19 places remaining as I write, so don't delay).
Finally, a reminder to update your My Details page to indicate whether or not you've taken an autosomal DNA test, or are considering it. This information will be invaluable for your cousins, because it's by using the test results from known cousins that we can maximise our chances of finding new cousins.
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 Ctrl-F5) then check here before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......
That's all for now - I'll be back soon with more news from the wonderful world of family history!
© Copyright 2016 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 as standard membership, which includes this newsletter, is FREE?