Newsletter - 20th May 2015



Scare story leads to closure of DNA database

Genealogy blogger Dick Eastman to get weekends off!

Ancestry add alehouse licence records for West Yorkshire

Findmypast put Dublin workhouse records online

LostCousins bounces back after hard drive failure

Updates will save busy members time

Imperial War Museum abandons search room charge plans

World War 1 food protests

A message home: Calling Blighty

Lancashire Online Parish Clerks celebrate 10 years of achievement

Apprentice records at Findmypast

My Ancestor was a Leather Worker

Review: Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved?

PC tips: copying files and more

Do you keep backups of your data?

People who still use old gadgets


Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 5th May) 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 use the customised Google search below (that's what I do):



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!



Scare story leads to closure of DNA database

At the beginning of May the Electronic Frontier Foundation published an article which reported how police in the US got access to DNA information collected by Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF), which was one of the pathfinders of genetic genealogy. The article included this statement:


"This case highlights the extreme threats posed to privacy and civil liberties by familial DNA searches and by private, unregulated DNA databases. People should be able to learn about their ancestors and relatives and about possible risks for genetic diseases without fear that their data will be shared with the cops without their consent."


Some commentators who picked up the story fanned the flames, but Judy G Russell, who writes a blog under the soubriquet The Legal Genealogist presented a much more balanced case. In an article entitled "Facts Matter" she concluded that:


"the facts here donít show me that we in the genetic community have cause for alarm at all".


Sadly the furore had an unfortunate but not unexpected result - the website of SMGF was voluntarily closed down shortly afterwards. You can access an archived copy of the site here at the Internet Archive, but it's not possible to access any of the data. Sorenson has 39,000 Y-DNA results and more than 76,000 mtDNA results in its database which are now lost tothe genealogical community.


Genealogy blogger Dick Eastman to get weekends off!

In future Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, published by industry veteran Dick Eastman, will no longer be published at weekends. It began as a weekly newsletter in 1996, but became a daily publication in 2004 (the year that LostCousins was founded).


I don't always agree with what Dick Eastman writes, but I can completely understand why Dick came to this decision. I've often wondered about turning my own newsletter into a daily publication, however I quickly realised the disadvantages - it's not just the impact it would have on my personal life, but also the inevitable lack of perspective. Daily publications tend to rely more on press releases because there simply isn't time to research the background, and whilst there is an element of kudos in being first to report a story, there's also a greater chance of getting it wrong.


There's another reason why I can't spend all my time producing newsletters - I've got a website to run, and in the past week this has proved particularly challenging.


Ancestry add alehouse licence records for West Yorkshire

Last week added an interesting record set - license records for alehouses in West Yorkshire for the period from 1771-1962. Having previously researched Hertfordshire license records (my great-great-great-great grandparents ran The Compasses in Aldenham) I know how useful such records can be.


The West Yorkshire records I looked at were very interesting, with details of prosecutions for selling intoxicating liquor outside licensing hours, unlawful gaming, or allowing drunkenness on the premises.


Another recent release, also from West Yorkshire includes records for boatmen, carpet manufacturers, and cotton manufacturers - you can search them here.


Findmypast put Dublin workhouse records online

Last Friday Findmypast made available online 2.5 million records from Dublin Workhouse Admission & Discharge Registers and Minute Books. You can search them at,,, or - but you'll need either a World subscription or an Ireland subscription (the latter is only available from the Irish site).


The best news, however, is that this release is just the first stage of a project which will lead to all of the Irish workhouse and Poor Law Union records going online.


LostCousins bounces back after hard drive failure

A week ago a hardware failure at the hosting company prompted me to close the LostCousins site for a few days while I checked the integrity of the data - I hope this didn't inconvenience too many members, but I felt that it was more important to ensure that there weren't any knock-on effects from this incident (the first in our 11-year history). After all, it's the accuracy of the LostCousins matching system that has attracted so many family historians, and that's something I wasn't prepared to compromise for the sake of appearances.


I'm glad to say that the data passed all my checks, and whilst a small number of entries were lost when we went back to the previous night's backup (ie those that had been entered between the backup and the hard drive failure), 99.99% of LostCousins members will be completely unaffected.


Every cloud has a silver lining, and the period of relative inactivity before I reopened the site on Sunday allowed me to trial and implement some improvements to the site that I'd had in mind for some considerable time - and which will make life simpler for all LostCousins members, especially those of you who have entered large numbers of relatives on your My Ancestors page.


Updates will save busy members time

In the past week I've made a number of enhancements to the LostCousins site, and arguably the most important of these is to the My Contact page.


You might be surprised to hear that even though the My Contact is one of the most important pages at the LostCousins site, it doesn't appear in the menu - that's because there are multiple copies, one for each contact listed on your My Cousins page. To display the relevant My Contact page simply click on the other person's name (or their initials if their name isn't shown yet).


What makes the My Contact page so important? First of all, there's a box for notes so that you can record information about the relationship - for example, you might note the last time the two of you were in contact, or the names of your most recent common ancestors. The notes you enter can be displayed on your My Cousins page: click the paperclip symbol to show or hide an individual note, or use the Show all notes/Hide all notes links.


Tip: your contacts never see the notes that you enter - similarly, you won't see the notes they enter.


The My Contact page also lists all of the entries that appear both on your My Ancestors page and that of the other member - and indicates how each of you are related to each of them. With this information it's usually easy to work out how you're connected to the other person even before you make contact!


However, if you've entered the same relatives from more than one census, or have several relatives with the same name, it might not always be obvious which entry on your My Ancestors page is being referred to, and so last week I modified the My Contact page to include some extra data - the census references and the person's age. With this extra information you can be in no doubt who is being referred to, as you can see from this example from my own tree:



If you highlight a set of references, then copy it (Ctrl-C), you can use the Find function in your browser to find the household on your My Ancestors page. Open up My Ancestors in a separate window (right-click and choose Open link in new window), then press Ctrl-F to open the Search box, followed by Ctrl-V to paste in the references.


Tip: if you never before used your browser's Find tool to search a web page it's worth making a mental note of how to do it - it can be a great time saver (I use it every day).


I've also added a new sort option to the My Ancestors page - you can now sort your relatives according to the date you entered them (the newest entries are shown at the start of the list). One member has already commented that this new feature enabled him to spot a family that he'd inadvertently omitted after being interrupted while updating his My Ancestors page.


Although the dates aren't shown in the normal display, you can see the date and time of each entry by switching to the more detailed display (click Show more detail near the top right) - you might be interested to see how many - or how few - entries you've made in the past year. Please note that all dates and times shown are GMT.


The more detailed display includes maiden names and dates of baptism, which aren't usually shown; it's also text-only, which makes it ideal if you want to copy your entries to a spreadsheet - simply press Ctrl-A to select the entire page, Ctrl-C to copy it to the clipboard, then Ctrl-V to paste the information into a spreadsheet.


Tip: it's worth remembering these keyboard shortcuts because you'll find that they come in handy time and time again - for those with better memories than mine there are dozens more listed here (the other one I use frequently is Ctrl-Z to undo an action - that's probably because I make lots of mistakes!).


Imperial War Museum abandons search room charge plans

I'm delighted to report that plans to introduce charging at the Imperial War Museum's research room have been dropped.


The research room is open 4 days a week (Monday to Thursday).


World War 1 food protests

The January 2015 issue of The Local Historian, the journal of the British Association for Local History, has an interesting article about food protests in Devon during the Great War.


If you don't belong to the BALH (it's well worth joining, even if only for the journal) you'll find several contemporary articles in the British Newspaper Archive (which can also be accessed through Findmypast). For example, in November 1916 the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette reported on a protest meeting in Barnstaple, where one of the speakers said that "eggs were sold in Barnstaple Market on Friday at 4d each. Potatoes, he understood, were being retailed at 12s 6d a bag."


Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Used by permission of Findmypast Ltd.


What I haven't had a chance to do is look at the Hansard reports for this period, to see what was being said in Parliament about the problem - I'll leave that to you!


A message home: Calling Blighty

The North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University are trying to track down relatives of servicemen and women who appeared in Calling Blighty, "a series of short films made in 1944-45 of individual servicemen and women in the Far East sending personal messages home to their family and friends. These poignant filmed messages were shown to invited audiences in local cinemas, bringing much laughter, and certainly a few tears."


In some cases it would have been the last time that the mothers, wives, and family of these soldiers ever heard their voices - not all of them came back at the end of the war. You can find out more about the project here, and you can also view extracts from one of the films here.


Lancashire Online Parish Clerks celebrate 10 years of achievement

The volunteers of the Lancashire OPC project have transcribed over 8 million records from parish registers over the past 10 years, and at the end of this month transcribers from all over the world will be coming together to celebrate their achievement.


Apprentice records at Findmypast

Just after my last newsletter was published uploaded over 1 million records of apprenticeships, based on Inland Revenue registers, and covering the period 1710-1808. You can search the new records here - they include the names of masters, as well as apprentices.


My Ancestor was a Leather Worker

Indeed he was - so I was delighted to learn that the latest book in the excellent "My Ancestor Was....." series is about leather workers. Written by Ian Waller, it's available for £9.99 (£8.99 for members) from the Society of Genealogists - or you can download a Kindle version from Amazon for just £6.60 (you'll find other Kindle books from the series here).


Review: Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved?

In March those of us who attended Genealogy in the Sunshine 2015 had the pleasure of listening to some excellent talks by Professor Rebecca Probert - one of which was based on her new book, Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved?


The title reminded me of my schooldays when I learned a mnemonic about the six wives of Henry VIII, which went something like this: "Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived". However, I'm glad to say that Professor Probert's book is much more interesting and readable than the endless dictated notes I wrote down during history lessons!


Starting with divorce - which for most people was simply not an option until a century ago - she provides us with an insight into what life was like in earlier centuries for those whose marriages didn't work out (for one reason or another), or who lost their spouse. It might at first seem strange to devote a quarter of the book to divorce, given how few of us will be researching ancestors who succeeded in divorcing (the graph on p39 showing the number of divorces annually from 1858, when divorce became easier, barely registers any before the Great War) - but it is the difficulty of divorcing that prompted many to enter into bigamous marriages, "live in sin", or - as most must have done - suffer loveless marriages until one or other of the couple died.


One of the more exotic ways for a man to rid himself of his wife was to sell her, as memorably described in Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge. One such incident was reported in the Manchester Times on 11th June 1831:


Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Used by permission of Findmypast Ltd.


Bigamy was a risky course - the Bigamy Act of 1603 prescribed a sentence of death. Divorcing abroad wasn't a solution - the 2nd Earl Russell, brother of Bertrand Russell, served three months after his Nevada divorce failed to satisfy his fellow peers. (Wikipedia also records that Earl Russell was the first person in England to be issued with a car number plate - A1 - in 1903, having queued all night outside the council offices.)


Even if you've already read Marriage Law for Genealogists, the book which made Professor Probert's name in the world of genealogy, you'll learn a lot that's new from her latest work - I can thoroughly recommend it! Incidentally, if you do decide to buy the book you can support LostCousins by using one of the following links :††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


PC tips: copying files and more

Although family historians almost all use computers these days - and clearly you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't a computer user - using a computer doesn't make you an expert, any more than being able to drive a car means that you could take the gearbox apart (and get it back together again).


I was reminded of this when my motor mechanic friend came round this morning to take my wife's car for its MoT - even though he owns a laptop, which I picked out for him, he still writes out his invoices by hand. It got me thinking that there must be many LostCousins members who use computers, but haven't yet discovered some of the basic things that make life so easy for me.


Note: experienced computer users are advised to look away at this point; you'll probably know slicker ways of doing some of these things - but my aim is to keep things as simple as possible for the readers who see their computer use as a means to an end, rather than an experience in itself.


Now that we're on our own, here's my first tip - don't give up half-way through this article, because something that doesn't seem to make sense at first will probably make more sense one you've got to the end. For example, to keep it readable I won't explain every single term when I first mention it - but I will try to explain them all at some point. Also, I'm going to explain it from the point of view of a Windows 7 user - everything should also work with Windows 8 (or 8.1), and probably on Windows 10 when it arrives. Much of what I'm gong to tell you about will also work for older versions of Windows - however my first tip is for Windows 7 and later, as it's a feature introduced for the first time in Windows 7.


When I start up my Windows 7 computer there are already icons on the taskbar that runs along the bottom of the screen, ie to the right of the Start button. Those icons represent the programs that I use most frequently -Word, Excel, Chrome, Irfanview, my email program, and Windows Explorer - and having them there saves me a lot of time over the course of a week. So I'm going to start by explaining how you can add icons to your taskbar.


It's very easy - if a program is already running (and shown on the taskbar) simply right-click on the icon and choose Pin to taskbar. If it isn't already running, click the Start button to open up the menu of programs and right-click on the one that you want to add to the taskbar (in the screenshot below I clicked on Windows Explorer):



Chose Pin to taskbar from the options listed in the pop-up (you only need to do it once).


Once you've pinned a program to the taskbar you can open it by left-clicking once - there's no need to double-click - and you can also open an extra copy by right-clicking, then choosing the program from the pop-up:



In this example I could choose Windows Explorer to open a second (or subsequent) window, allowing me to drag-and-drop or copy-and-paste files from one window to another. For example, if you wanted to copy a file in your Documents folder onto an external hard drive (or a USB memory stick) you'd have the Documents folder open in one window and the external device open in another.


Tip: instead of choosing 'Windows Explorer' from the options listed I could have picked one of the folders shown - this would open up the folder selected in a new Explorer window.


By the way, do you know what I'm talking about when I refer to 'drag-and-drop' or 'copy-and-paste'? If you left-click on a file folder but keep the button pressed you can 'drag' the file to another location, then 'drop' it there by releasing the mouse button (usually you'll do this between Explorer windows, but you can also do it with many other programs).Here's Microsoft's own explanation - but mine is a little simpler.


If both locations are on the same drive the file or folder will be moved; if they are on different drives the file or folder will be copied to the new location. This is an extra thing to remember, so I generally don't use drag-and-drop: instead I use either cut-and paste or copy-and-paste. To cut or copy a file or folder right-click and choose either Cut or Copy from the list; now move the mouse pointer to the new location, right-click, and choose Paste.


Tip: there are also keyboard shortcuts you can use: Ctrl-X to Cut (the X looks like a a pair of scissors), or Ctrl-C to Copy,then Ctrl-V to Paste.


I'd encourage you to try out these tips now, so that they stick in your mind. By the way, it's also possible to pin web pages to the taskbar - I'll discuss this in a future article.


Do you keep backups of your data?

My late aunt lost all her family photographs when her house was burgled - she was devastated. No amount of compensation from the insurers could have made up for her loss.


In theory she could have guarded against such an event by having them all copied, but the cost of copying photographic prints in the days before home computers and scanners would have been prohibitive. But these days any of us can make digital copies - you can buy an all-in-one printer for less than £50 which will scan or photocopy just about anything that's flat (you can see some examples here).


But it's not just physical documents that are at risk - what about the information you store on your computer? I frequently hear from family historians who have lost their entire family tree following a hard drive failure or other mishap - yet it is so easy to take precautions!


Most computers, even laptops, come with a DVD-RW drive which allows you to make your own CD ROMs and DVDs - and it's a really cost-effective solution as you can buy recordable DVDs in the supermarket for 50p each or less (I pay less than 20p each - there are some good deals here).


Best of all, you probably won't need special software, because recent versions of Windows have it built-in. When I insert a blank DVD in the drive, this is what I see (I have Windows 7 on the computer I'm using to write this):



When I chose Burn files to disc using Windows Explorer another question pops up:



For most purposes it doesn't matter which you choose, but I like the safety of not being able to delete files (unless you're using a rewriteable DVD you can't reuse the space anyway), soI usually choose the second option.


There are two stages to creating a DVD - first you copy the files to the DVD drive using Windows Explorer (this is easiest if you have two Explorer windows open, one for the DVD drive and one for your Documents folder). Just copy and paste (or drag and drop) the files you want to preserve from your Documents folder to the DVD drive, where they'll show up as Files Ready to Be Written to the Disc. You can store over 4gb of data on a single DVD - that's enough for a million pages of text or thousands of photos or scans.



The second stage is to write the files to the disc - click Burn to disc in the menu near the top of the window (or right-click and choose it from the list of options).



Some readers may already keep copies of key files on a USB memory stick - but DVDs are both cheaper and more secure. The temptation with a memory stick or external hard drive is to keep only the latest version of each file - a highly risky strategy!


You may find that before you can load a saved file into your favourite program you need to copy it to your hard drive - that's because some programs expect to be able to save updates to the same location (and they can't do that when the source is a DVD). Don't let this sway you in favour of the memory stick solution - you don't want your backups to be over-written!


Tip: I replaced the DVD-RW drive in my computer with a BD-RW drive because Blu-ray discs hold around 25gb, 5 times as much as DVD - you can buy one for around £50 if you follow this link.


People who still use old gadgets

I was fascinated to see this BBC News story because I'm a bit of a hoarder. I still have my first computer (an 8k Commodore PET bought in 1978) and my first MP3 player (the Rio PMP300 - bought in 1998). And when I go to the local recycling centre I sometimes come back with more than I set out with!



I've just bought a new mobile phone, one that I've had my eye since it was released in the UK last autumn. Why have I bought it now? Because the Amazon Fire Phone is currently on offer at just £99 without a contract, a £200 saving on the regular price - but the offer ends on Friday 22nd May, so you'll have to be quick!


It won't be the right phone for everyone - there are higher specification phones available if you're prepared to pay a few hundred pounds more - but for the price it's amazing value (otherwise I wouldn't have bought it). I love the way that the perspective changes as I move my head - it's a better way of achieving a 3D feel than anything I've seen before.


When you buy the phone in the UK it's locked to the O2 network, but according to postings on the GiffGaff forum it's also possible to use a GiffGaff SIM (since GiffGaff runs over the O2 network). My wife and I have both switched to GiffGaff because we don't want to be tied in with a contract - and we also get free calls and texts between our phones. Follow this link to order a free SIM (you'll get £5 of credit free when you activate it and top up by £10).


Also ending tomorrow is a Flash Sale at The Book People - with savings of up to 85%, and free shipping on orders over £25.


How much interest do you get on your savings? I'm getting over 6% on some of mine, and I'll get that rate for the next 5 years! The secret in this case is peer-to-peer lending - lending small amounts to lots of individual borrowers through the Ratesetter website. Currently you can get a bonus of £25 when you follow this link and lend £1000 or more through the site.


Note: peer-to-peer lending isn't covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, but Ratesetter has a fund to cover any losses (there's currently £14m in the fund, which is 1.6 times the anticipated bad debts.


Finally, I received emails from several members in Australia about a family history spoof which featured on the satirical consumer show The Checkout. Whilst the program as a whole is only available in Australia, the clip I wanted to see has been posted on YouTube - and very amusing it is, though I don't suppose Who Do You Think You Are? and Ancestry were over the moon about it! You'll find the clip here - it's under 6 minutes long.


Stop Press

10am 21st May: I've updated the article on making backups since the newsletter was published yesterday evening

5pm 21st May: Yippee - I got my new Amazon Fire Phone to work on GiffGaff!


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2015 Peter Calver


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