Newsletter – 28th June 2021
Australians can save 25% on Ancestry DNA ENDS 4TH JULY
Just 2 days to save on Who Do You Think You Are? ENDS 30TH JUNE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 17th 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!
Some years ago Ancestry acquired Fold3, which specialises in military records; I've now discovered that last month they acquired Forces War Records, another specialist site.
In the past I've been reluctant to mention Forces War Records in this newsletter because the unsolicited feedback I've had from users has been quite mixed – hopefully under Ancestry's ownership the reactions will be more positive.
Note: Fold3 is not included in standard Ancestry subscriptions, so it seems unlikely that Forces War Records will be.
From July until April 2022 it will be legal for civil marriages to take place outdoors in England & Wales, making it easier to hold ceremonies which are COVID-safe – however this relaxation of the rules only applies to existing licensed venues (and church weddings must still take place indoors).
Outdoor weddings were proposed in a Law Commission consultation paper published last September, and there is a chance that this change will become permanent.
Scotland 1921 Census release delayed
At one time it was thought that Scotland's 1921 Census would be released in the second half of this year, but it has now been revealed that the release has been delayed until the latter half of 2022 by the pandemic.
I'm still expecting the England & Wales census to be released early in 2022. This article on the Who Do You Think You Are? magazine website has some interesting facts about the 1921 Census.
For some years transcribed versions of the 1841-1901 Scotland censuses have been available at Ancestry and Findmypast – now The Genealogist also offers the same Scotland censuses. I haven't yet had an opportunity to check whether they've re-transcribed the censuses, but I suspect that the transcripts have been licensed from one of the other providers.
Tip: if you’re adding relatives from the 1881 Scotland Census to your My Ancestors page I recommend you use the free LDS transcription at the ScotlandsPeople site.
1st July is a special date for Canadians - it marks the day in 1867 when the British North America Act came into force, uniting three British colonies - the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick - into a single dominion called Canada. Originally known as Dominion Day, it was renamed Canada Day in 1982.
Until Sunday 4th July it’s going to be completely free to connect with your 'lost cousins' through the 1881 Canada census – and since that census is always free at FamilySearch this means that it won’t cost a penny or a cent (whichever side of the Atlantic you're on).
Note: initiating contact with someone new normally requires a LostCousins subscription, although there are several periods each year when the site is completely free – so nobody is ever forced to pay.
If you haven't entered relatives from the Canadian census before, here’s an example from one of my Canadian branches to show how easy it is:
Here's what it looks like when you fill out the Add Ancestor form at LostCousins:
It really couldn’t be much more straightforward. As usual, once you've entered the first person in the household it’s even easier to add other members of the same household - because most of the information is filled in for you, including the census references and family name (which you can, of course, alter if somebody in the household has a different surname).
Tip: always follow the advice on the Add Ancestor form - and note that it changes when you select a different census.
Before I started researching my family tree I didn’t know that I had any cousins in Canada – now I'm in touch with at least a dozen living cousins, most of whom are also researching their tree.
Even if you're Canadian you might not have any relatives who were living in Canada in 1881 - but you probably know quite a few family historians whose relatives were on that census.
How about inviting them to take part in the LostCousins project to connect cousins around the world who are researching the same ancestors? They don’t need to have any ancestors from the British Isles - though if they do, there will be additional opportunities for them to connect with 'lost cousins', and they'll also find this newsletter that much more relevant.
Australians can save 25% on Ancestry DNA ENDS 4TH JULY
DNA has transformed the research of so many family historians over the past few years – several of my oldest 'brick walls' have come tumbling down since I tested with Ancestry in 2017, and I know that many other LostCousins members have been similarly successful.
Recently there was an opportunity for researchers in the UK & US to save on Ancestry DNA – now it is the turn of researchers in Australia and New Zealand. Until Sunday 4th July the price is reduced from $129 to $96, not quite the lowest ever, but close to it (prices are quoted in Australian dollars and include taxes but not shipping).
You don't, of course, have to restrict yourself to just one test. Whilst there's no point you taking more than one test yourself (unless you previously tested with a different provider), if you can persuade some of your cousins to test, especially the cousins who share your most frustrating 'brick walls', it'll make an enormous difference. Although for data protection reasons everyone who tests with Ancestry needs their own account, your cousins can appoint you as Manager if they don't want to get involved.
Tip: when you order DNA tests from Ancestry they won't ask who's going to be testing, so you might want to do what I do and buy a couple of spares – not only will you benefit from the sale price, you'll also save on shipping. It's not just about saving money – it means that when I persuade a cousin to test I can pop a kit in the post to them the same day.
Please use the link below to support LostCousins (it’s best if you log-out from Ancestry before clicking the link):
Ancestry DNA (Australia and New Zealand only) - $96 plus shipping ENDS 4TH JULY
For me one of the delights of family history is being able to rediscover facts about our ancestors that have been lost over the generations, or supplanted by plausible half-truths. We're not always helped by our ability to make connections between unrelated facts and the same was true for our forebears – it's the source of so many family stories that are provably false.
Sometimes we rely too much on information pieced together by family historians from earlier generations, forgetting that research was so much more difficult in those days that they are more likely to have made mistakes than a competent modern researcher. I suspect there are few pre-Internet family trees that would stand up to detailed scrutiny, a suspicion that is frequently reinforced by reading articles in learned journals which highlight errors in historic genealogies.
I recently came across an article entitled Tracing Early American Settlers: Mewboorn and Mewborn Origins in The Journal of Genealogy and Family History, which is published by the Register of Qualified Genealogists (RQG) and is (like this newsletter) free to read online. Written by Ian G Macdonald, who is a former chair of the RQG as well as a tutor for the University of Strathclyde’s online postgraduate genealogy courses, it is like a breath of fresh air. This sentence on page 2 sets the scene:
"By setting aside myth, legend, wishful thinking and romantic longing for noble origins, a clearer and more plausible story can be allowed to emerge that is just as remarkable in its own way."
I'm not going to go into any more detail because watching the story unfold is a joy – even if it does run to 70 pages including references. But there are two more highlights that I'd like to draw your attention to; on page 1 the author writes:
" A strength of this paper is that it shows what can be achieved today in American genealogy by using online sources only. The study has been carried out from the UK."
That will, I hope, encourage all those who live thousands of miles from the archives that house the records of their own ancestors – distance need not be an obstacle, and it certainly shouldn’t be used as an excuse. My final quote comes from the penultimate page:
"Wherever possible that descent is based on documentary sources, though in some areas of uncertainty hypotheses are developed based on probabilities where links are not clear. A technique for assessing patterns based on age and sex across the set of early Federal censuses between 1790 and 1840 has been developed and supports some of the hypotheses."
Where there are gaps in the evidence – and there almost always are – we can often reduce the level of uncertainty by being creative in our approach.
Take a look at the article when you have a moment – it could inspire you to find new ways of dealing with old problems!
We all take probability into account during our research, although we may not necessarily realise this at the time – for example, everyone knows that it's usually much easier to trace ancestors with rare surnames than those with very common names, but we might not think of this in terms of the probability that a given entry is the one we're looking for.
Probability is one of many tools at our disposal, and as with any tool we need to know when to use it, and how to use it. Typically we want to get from "this baptism/marriage is probably the right one" to "it’s overwhelmingly likely that this is the correct baptism/marriage", and the way we usually do this is to gather more evidence.
However we mustn't confine our search to evidence that would support our hypothesis – we must also look for evidence that, if it exists, makes it less likely to be correct. The hidden benefit of this approach is that if, after an exhaustive search, we can’t find any evidence that contradicts the hypothesis it greatly increases the chance that it's correct.
It's important to be particularly careful when our hypothesis assumes some sort of error or omission. For example, we've all seen baptism register entries where the mother's name appears to have been recorded incorrectly, but it would be rash to assume that this is the case without further investigation.
Understanding the context is also important: for example, it's much more likely that a baptism has been omitted from the register during the decade when stamp duty was charged on entries. Similarly, if someone is described in the register as John Smith junior, we can reasonably assume that John Smith senior was still alive and living in the same parish. Perhaps less obviously, if there is some other distinguishing feature – the father's occupation, or the name of the hamlet where the family lived – this may also suggest the existence of another person with the same name (provided that particular vicar didn’t routinely include that information in the register).
If you want to learn more about probability and genealogy there was an excellent article by LostCousins member John D Reid in the spring 2016 issue of Anglo-Celtic Roots, the Quarterly Chronicle of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa – you'll find it here. Some of you will have had the pleasure of listening to John's presentations at Genealogy in the Sunshine – back in the days when family historians could meet face-to-face rather than over Zoom.
Note: there's another article in the same issue which is well worth reading – 'Family Frauds: Researchers Should Beware of Perpetuating Falsehoods from the Past'.
The following article was published in the Ipswich Journal of 3rd January 1761:
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Used by kind permission of Findmyast.
I can understand why the newspaper wanted to publish the story of Peter Flower and his 38 children (which had previously appeared in the Norwich Mercury), but what a shame they didn't check it out properly!
Findmypast have Norfolk parish registers, but a search reveals only 24 baptisms where Peter Flower or Flowers was named as the father. However all but one were in the same parish of St John Sepulchre, and there were three wives, so at least that part of the story is true.
The biggest discrepancy is in the number of children borne by his first wife, so I suspect somebody mistakenly included some or all of the 14 children that his father, also Peter, baptised between 1687 and 1707 – ironically the first of those being the Peter mentioned in the article.
To be fair, I don't suppose journalists back then had the same resources available to them for fact-checking. By contrast, in the 21st century you'd expect a national newspaper like The Guardian to get their facts right – however I made the mistake of trusting them when I wrote about Wyman family marriages in the last issue, a mistake that I corrected soon after publication (thanks to the intervention of a LostCousins member who knew the truth).
Just 2 days to save on Who Do You Think You Are? ENDS 30TH JUNE
All good things must come to an end, including the exclusive offer I arranged with Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. Until Wednesday readers in the UK can get 6 issues for just £9.99, less than the price of two issues from the newsagents – just click this link and you'll not only be grabbing yourself a bargain, you'll be supporting LostCousins.
The offer for overseas readers also ends on 30th June – there are big discounts on 13 issue subscriptions, but the price varies according to where you live, so I'll leave it to you follow the link above and check what the deal would be in your home country.
My father received his service medals through the post in the mid-1950s – I suspect it was only the prompting of my mother that led him to send off for them. Earlier this month another Essex veteran, an ex-Royal Navy signaller, received her WW2 medals on her 100th birthday – you can read the story here.
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 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.