Newsletter - 27th June 2017
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 22nd June) 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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It's certainly not the biggest dataset at Ancestry, but it is the newest in their United Kingdom collection: Medway, Kent, England, Methodist Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1798-1932 contains an estimated 15,000 records from Methodist chapels and churches, mainly in Gillingham and Chatham, but also in Rochester, Strood, and Lower Rainham.
These obviously weren't the first English parish registers to go online, but they're held by Medway Archives, who through their CityArk website were the first to make digitised images of parish register pages available online - long before Ancestry and Findmypast got in on the act. And they were free! Checking back through old editions of this newsletter I see that I first reported this breakthrough in August 2005, and it wasn't until June 2009 that I was able to report that Essex Record Office were embarking on a similar venture. Neither collection was transcribed and indexed, and that remains the case today, although there are partial indexes at other sites, including FreeREG.
Note: I understand that it was the same person who was responsible for both online collections - he moved from Kent to Essex. Sadly, although the Medway collection continues to be free, Essex started charging - the current cost of an Annual Subscription is £85, which makes Ancestry and Findmypast seem rather cheap by comparison!
Ancestry were the first of the big websites to put parish registers online with their first instalment from the London Metropolitan Archives, as I reported in October 2009 - it's amazing to think that 8 years ago neither Ancestry nor Findmypast had any images of parish registers, yet now registers for half of England and most of Wales are online. This map from the Findmypast site shows - in orange - the parts of the country for which they have original parish register images which are exclusively online at their site (they also have images for Norfolk and Lincolnshire, but these are non-exclusive).
I haven't been able to track down an equivalent map showing Ancestry's collection, but even looking at what one site offers it's amazing to think how far we have come in the past 8 years. By the way, if you're wondering why some parts of the country are coloured green, these are areas for which Findmypast will be adding transcribed parish records, though not - as I understand it - register images in 2017.
Save on 12 month World subscriptions to Findmypast ENDS SUNDAY
As I suspected might happen Findmypast have followed up their offer of free access to their British & Irish records with a subscription offer. You can save 10% on World subscriptions at their UK, US, and Australian sites until midnight on Sunday 2nd July when you follow the relevant link below:
If you don't live in one of those three countries I'd recommend subscribing through the Australian site, as at current exchange rates it works out slightly cheaper than the other two - and when you have a World subscription you can access all the records at all of the sites. The best of all possible Worlds, in other words.
Although it's short notice I've also decided to give away a 12 month LostCousins subscription (worth up to £12.50) to members who take advantage of Findmypast's offer using the links above - your subscription will be paid for by the commission we receive, so please read the Terms and Conditions below carefully, to make sure you qualify. Your subscription will run from the day you purchase your Findmypast subscription - unless you already have a LostCousins subscription in which case it will be extended. To claim your subscription forward to me the email receipt that Findmypast will send you - but make a note of the precise time of your purchase in case the receipt doesn't arrive (I cannot verify your entitlement without the time and date).
Terms & conditions: your free 12 month LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us; if we don't receive any commission on your purchase you won't qualify. Look for the words LostCousins on the browser command line when you arrive at the Findmypast site after clicking the link - if you don't see those words then Findmypast don't know that you've come from LostCousins, so contact me for advice before making your purchase. Commission isn't usually paid on renewals or purchases that Findmypast regard as renewals. You might qualify if you upgrade, but there are no guarantees.
In 2015 I reported that the body of motor racing legend Fangio was to be exhumed in connection with paternity claims - now comes the news that a judge in Madrid has ordered that Salvador Dali's body be exhumed so that DNA tests can be carried out. You can read more about this story in an article on the BBC news site, but what I'd really like to know is, given the chance, would you have one of your ancestors exhumed for DNA tests, and if so, which one and why?
According to an article in New Scientist earlier this month, experts in the field of artificial intelligence reckon there's an even chance that by 2060 machines will be capable of outperforming humans in every task. Which, if they're right, means that before long there will be no need for people to research their own family tree.
The idea doesn't appeal to me in the slightest - except on one respect. Wouldn't it be great if a computer could go through all the online trees weeding out the obvious errors, like people marrying before they are born?
Though I suppose the ultimate question is whether a computer could write this newsletter..... but maybe it already is?
Actor Charles Dance, probably best known for his role in Jewel in the Crown, was amazed to discover that he had two half-sisters who were born almost half a century before he was - the eldest in 1898. You can read more about the discovery in this Daily Mail article.
Congratulations to everyone who entered our Birthday Competition, which celebrated the 13th Anniversary of the founding of LostCousins in May 2004. It wasn't a difficult competition - all you had to do was add relatives to your My Ancestors page - but it was wonderful to see the amazing number of cousins who connected for the very first time as a result of your efforts.
In this respect we were all winners - either we found new cousins ourselves, or we ended up with a higher probability of finding cousins in the future. But only one person could win the 1st Prize, an original Lottery Ticket from 1796 in remarkably good condition:
The winner was Ian, who lives in the West Midlands and has been a LostCousins member for just over 4 years. During that time Ian has entered over 900 relatives from the 1881 Censuses, and he has 24 contacts listed on his My Cousins page - although it was actually one of his 8 entries from the USA 1940 census that won him the prize.
Over the next couple of days I'll be notifying the 12 runners-up, each of whom wins a LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 - at a quick glance it appears that 2 of the runners-up live in Australia, whilst the others are all in the UK, so commiserations to our many members in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and elsewhere.
In the last newsletter I wrote about a man who married his aunt, questioning whether the marriage was legal - as an expert quoted in a family history magazine had suggested. After consulting Rebecca Probert's Marriage Law for Genealogists I was able to confirm that this particular marriage was indeed illegal, but because it took place before 1835, it was not automatically void.
A number of readers wrote in with examples from their own tree, one of which - from Patricia - had me scratching my head:
"My maternal grandparents, living in London, in 1914 wished to marry, but my grandmother was underage, being 19. Her parents had presumably declined to give permission, or hadn't been consulted at all. My grandfather was 23. They sneaked off to a registry office and she declared her age as 21, all other information being correct. Was their marriage legal? They both returned to their respective parental homes, then 3 months later had a church wedding."
Naturally I once again referred to Professor Probert's excellent work, which told me that after the introduction of civil registration in 1837 "a parent was able to forbid the grant of a superintendent registrar's certificate and thereby prevent the marriage from going ahead. If the marriage did go ahead despite this, it would be void."
But what if the father was unaware of the marriage? If the bride looked 21 the registrar would have had no reason to query it, and if the couple chose to marry in a different registration district the father might not hear of the plans until too late. I contacted Professor Probert at the University of Exeter for clarification - she confirmed that "if the couple married in a different registration district to avoid [the father] finding out, the marriage would still be valid. There's a case from 1917 (Plummer v Plummer) in which the underage wife married in a false name and falsely declared that her father was dead, and the court still upheld it!"
A further reminder that we can't rely on the information on certificates came from Kevin in Australia who reported that there were discrepancies - of precisely 2 months in one case, and 5 months in the other - between the birth dates given for two of his relatives in their respect birth register and baptism register entries. In England & Wales free registration of births only applies for the first 42 days after birth, but since there was no requirement to produce the child or any other evidence when registering the birth the registrar could only take the mother's word for it (these days it would be more difficult to falsify the registration).
I had confirmation yesterday that the GRO are still evaluating the PDF pilot and considering what the next steps might be. Clearly the GRO won't want to keep family historians and other service users in the dark any longer than they need to, but I wonder whether they'll feel to need for further consultation before making a decision?
It's not really a topic for triviality, but I couldn't help smiling when I saw that there was a G Hardist working at the Royal Arsenal gun factory in Woolwich according to the 1901 Census for Plumstead, Kent:
© Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England and used by kind permission of Findmypast
Of course, terrorism is nothing new - my grandmother was working just around the corner from the site of the Sidney Street siege in 1911, which involved Latvian revolutionaries.
This week I picked up a copy of a book that I've heard a lot about, but have never actually read - The Seven Daughters of Eve by Professor Bryan Sykes. I'm not expecting to be impressed, based on what has been said about the book by people who know far more than I do about DNA, but it won't do any harm to form my own opinion.
I've never bought mobile phone insurance, but it comes as part of the package of benefits with my Nationwide FlexPlus account - which is just as well because I managed to smash my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 this week in rather bizarre circumstances. Though hopefully not so bizarre that the insurers won't believe me when I submit my claim…. I'll let you know how I get on.
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© Copyright 2017 Peter Calver
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