Newsletter – 29th June 2020
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 11th June) 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.
I don’t have very many Catholics in my family tree, but I discovered a baptism I hadn’t found before when I searched Findmypast's recently expanded collection. To find out more about the new additions follow this link to the Findmypast blog.
There were two Britons who, whatever their other accomplishments, will be forever associated in my mind with World War 2: Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn.
In September 1939, the month that she recorded We'll Meet Again, Vera Lynn was living in Upney Lane, Barking with her parents Bertram and Annie Welch - as you can see in this extract from the 1939 Register:
© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England and used by kind permission of Findmypast
It's not far from where I grew up - goodness knows how many times I must have driven past the address, not realising its significance!
If you haven't already read it, an article published earlier this year in The Oldie provides interesting insight into Dame Vera's life, and there are some wonderful photographs in this BBC article published after her recent death.
Footnote: I also wrote about Winston Churchill when he died in 1965 – in fact, I've just realised that I've been writing articles and editing newsletters and magazines for nearly 60 years!
You won't find Vera Lynn in the 1939 Register if you search for her under that name – whether you look at Ancestry or Findmypast. All experienced family historians have developed techniques for searching the censuses effectively, but the 1939 Register offers even more opportunities to hone our skills than a conventional census.
Remember that whilst censuses record the situation on a single day, the 1939 Register was updated for up to half a century after its creation – something that creates the illusion that the enumerators had crystal balls. To understand how and why the 1939 Register differs from a conventional census read Inside the 1939 Register, a special edition of this newsletter published in 2017 – but still relevant today.
9 out of 10 questions that I'm asked have already been answered in one of the online guides that anyone – not just members - can read on the LostCousins site. Whatever your level of experience they're a great resource that you can't afford to ignore!
You'll find Beginners Guides on the Help & Advice page – including Getting Started guides for those who may be experienced family historians, but are new to LostCousins.
At the other end of the spectrum, over the past decade I've published a range of Masterclasses on topics that are important to all family historians, and most of them have been updated several times to reflect new online resources, or new techniques that I've discovered.
If you're a LostCousins subscriber - and remember, it only costs £10 a year to support my work and help ensure that this newsletter remains independent - you'll find links to the most recent versions of all of my Masterclasses on the Subscribers Only page. (Of course, you'll need to be logged-in to your LostCousins account to access this exclusive page.)
But even if you’re not a subscriber you can find the Masterclasses using the customised Google search near the top of this – or any other – newsletter. Just type in the word 'Masterclass' and sort the results by date.
No matter how experienced you are, reading the Masterclasses will help you refine your search techniques and become a better researcher.
They think it's all over
Judging from the crowds on the beach at Bournemouth, Dorset last week there are some who think the easing of lockdown restrictions mean that we can all relax and go back to our normal way of life. At least the change in the weather at the weekend eliminated the worst of the excesses.
Of course, it would be nice to think that COVID-19 has been defeated, but unfortunately viruses don't know when to stop – as resurgences in several locations around the world have shown. It seems inevitable that we're going to have to live with this virus for a long time – and even if a vaccine can be developed (which is by no means certain) it will take time to manufacture sufficient doses for everyone, and longer still to vaccinate the world's population.
Edward Jenner carried out his first vaccination experiment in 1796, and by the mid-19th century smallpox vaccination was widespread in England – eventually spreading around the world. But the last naturally-occurring outbreak in the UK was as recent as 1962, when 19 people died (you can read more about it in this BBC article). How many months – or years - will it take to contain COVID-19, I wonder?
Smallpox was still much feared when I was young, and this chapter from Vaccinating Britain: Mass vaccination and the public since the Second World War on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website describes the challenges that faced public health officials in Britain in the post-war era. Other chapters in the same book look at diphtheria, polio, whooping cough, rubella, and the MMR controversy.
The 1951 public information film Surprise Attack (available here on YouTube) was part of the effort to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated against smallpox. Fans of Dad's Army will notice a familiar face amongst the cast….
Note: there are dozens of other public information films – several of them health-related – here on the National Archives website.
I often find myself struggling to remember the name of a product from my childhood, or the jingle from the TV advert. Whilst there are no clips, lots of memories can be found hidden away on the website of Headington in Oxfordshire when you follow this link, and once you have the name of the product or the catchphrase from the advert you can often find the TV commercial on YouTube.
Note: I'm struggling to remember the name of the slimming rusks that my mother used to buy (she wouldn’t touch the Energen rolls that her own mother ate). As I recall they were golden brown, round, flat and about half an inch thick; my sister thinks they were called Tea Break, but Google can't find anything that matches. Does anyone else remember them?
UPDATE: thanks to everyone who has suggested Farley's Rusks - we did have those, but for my baby brother. Pauline and Judith have written in confirming that the name of the slimming aid was Tea Breaks, and Pauline pointed out Tesco now sell a similar product called 'Dutch Crisp Bakes', which looks very similar.
The term 'green bacon' is one that you don't hear much these days – indeed some from the younger generations might think it is a Dr Seuss story – but I certainly remember it from my childhood in the 1950s. The bacon, that is, not the story (which wasn't published until 1960). Green bacon is more commonly described these days as unsmoked bacon, which is precisely what it is – and I'm perfectly happy eating it, though as a child I didn’t like the taste at all.
Green onions is another name for scallions, or what we Brits call spring onions. However, it seems that some people reserve the term 'spring onions' for green onions with a bulb – it's the same vegetable, simply more mature.
Green Onions is also the name of an instrumental track by Booker T and the MGs which was recorded in 1962 and released both as a single and an album. It's probably not as well-known or well-loved as their 1969 track Time is Tight, but hearing it brings back happy memories of my teenage years.
Note: there are a number of recipes for green eggs online – some more appetising than others!
Being unable to hug your grandchildren is (or was, depending where you live) reputed to be the worst deprivation of lockdown, though I suspect that Gyles Brandreth was right when he wrote in the June issue of The Oldie that most children would prefer an ice cream to a hug.
He goes on to question when all the hugging started – certainly not in his middle-class childhood, or my working-class one. Does anyone know?
I've mentioned before that at the time of the 1911 Census my paternal grandmother, Ethel Emma Calver (née Bright) was in Essex Lunatic Asylum with post-natal depression:
© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England and used by kind permission of Findmypast
Inmates in asylums are shown only by their initials, so It was fortunate that I was able to identify her in the census – her middle initial wasn't shown, her age was a year out, and her birthplace was shown as unknown. Indeed, it was only because the admission register has survived that I was able to confirm that she was actually there, having been admitted on 31st August 1910. Ironically, having been in the asylum for over 7 months, she was discharged the day after the census – had she left a couple of days earlier I'd never have known to look in the asylum records.
Nobody in the family talked about my grandmother's problems and I doubt my father even knew – people didn’t talk about these things, as this poignant BBC article reminds us.
Of more than 1000 inmates in Essex Lunatic Asylum in 1911 my grandmother is the only one to have been identified and entered by a LostCousins member. How many of us are forgetting to look for our ancestors in asylums and hospitals, I wonder?
Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of the Forensic Genealogist series of novels featuring Morton Farrier, has come up with a new twist – a short online story with an interactive element. At various points in the story you can choose what action Morton takes – and whilst I suspect that all routes eventually lead to the same conclusion, it somehow feels a little more involving.
Tip: you don't need to be a member of the forum to read what others have posted – take the opportunity to look at other areas of the forum. To qualify for membership your Match Potential (shown on your My Summary page at the main LostCousins site) needs to be 1 or more – you can increase your Match Potential most quickly by entering relatives from the 1881 Census.
Placenames are not only interesting to local historians, they're also interesting to family historians - one reason for this is that many surnames derive from placenames.
The entries in A History of English Placenames and Where They Came From by John Moss are organised alphabetically by region, so you can browse the areas that you're most familiar with, but all of the places which have their own entry are listed in the index at the back of the book, so that you can find out quickly whether a particular town or village is included.
I imagine that what many family historians will do is start by looking up the names of the places that are relevant to their research – and no doubt being disappointed that some of them, perhaps most of them, are missing.
However, that's only one way to use this book, because whilst he only gives the origins of around 2000 English placenames, by providing a list of common placename elements from Old English, Middle English, Old Scandinavian, and Celtic the author gives us a toolkit that we can use to take apart the names of other places that don't feature in the book.
It's also worth looking up similar names: for example, whilst Stansted Mountfitchet – where LostCousins is based – does feature in the book, other villages that contain the word Stansted or Stanstead don't have their own entry.
I read the hardback, but some of you might prefer the Kindle version – being able to search might be an advantage when you're trying to interpret a placename that doesn’t make it into the book. And given how many towns, cities, and counties round the world – from Melbourne to Washington – have acquired their name from an English progenitor, this book is going to be interest to many readers of this newsletter, no matter where they live or where their ancestors originated.
If you're wondering why there has been such a big gap between this newsletter and the previous one, I can assure that it’s not just down to the summer weather – although I have to admit that it was nice to enjoy the sunshine while it lasted.
No, the real problem was my laptop, which has had an intermittent screen problem for several years but has now reached the stage where I'm lucky to get anything at all on the screen. Then the touchscreen stopped working, but the last straw was when I had to cope with multiple cursors, only one of which I could control, which meant that programs were opening up when I didn’t want them and closing down when I did.
Fortunately I'd just read a glowing review of a fast, but reasonably-priced laptop in Computer Shopper, so it was just a question of biting the bullet and emptying the piggy-bank. Fortunately it only took me a morning to transfer my data across and install the programs that I use on a daily basis, which was a great relief – otherwise it could have been July before you heard from me!
Going back to more mundane matters, I mentioned in the last newsletter how I repurpose the resealable packs in which many frozen vegetables come, but I should have explained that I repurpose or recycle almost all packaging. As long as it’s clean I'll find another use for it – polythene bags can be used for all sorts of things, such as tossing vegetables in oil and seasoning before putting them in the oven. But the packaging that gets reused the most times are metal trays, and the lidded plastic containers in which microwaveable meals are sold.
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......
© Copyright 2020 Peter Calver
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