Newsletter - 26th May 2017



Last chance to save at Findmypast EXCLUSIVE

More control over your searches

Another 'brick wall' comes tumbling down

Storm in a DNA cup

Win a Queen's autograph in our Summer Competition OVER 50 PRIZES

Tips for busy bees

How to avoid ordering the wrong certificate

Fancy working for the Society of Genealogists?

Two birthdays

101 year-old man marries

Census questions 1801-2011

Historic copies of the Radio Times

Email addresses close on Wednesday IMPORTANT

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 17th May) 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):



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!



Last chance to save at Findmypast EXCLUSIVE

You can save 10% this year and 15% next year* when you take out any new 12 month subscription to Findmypast before the end of May - and I'll also give you a free 12 month LostCousins subscription, worth up to £12.50


* Findmypast subscribers who allow their 12 month subscription to renew automatically get a 15% Loyalty Discount; you can make your mind up nearer the time - there is absolutely no commitment.


You won't find this offer anywhere else, but that doesn't mean that it's only open to existing LostCousins members - so please spread the word! Every new member with British, or mostly British, ancestry is a cousin to approximately 200 existing members, so there's every reason to encourage other family historians to join (whether they're going to take advantage of this offer or not - after all, standard membership is FREE, and includes this newsletter).


In the last newsletter I listed the 12 English counties for which Findmypast has indexed parish register images (they have images for the whole of Wales), and mentioned some of the other key datasets, such as the National Burial Index, the new and growing collection of Catholic registers, and the 1939 National Register.


But there are so many important collections that there are many I didn't mention, such as the British Army records, many of which are exclusive to Findmypast, the British India records, historic Electoral Registers, and the British Newspaper Archive (which you could subscribe to separately, though it would cost you almost £80 a year - which makes a Findmypast subscription an even better buy).


To support LostCousins and qualify for your free subscription you must use one of these links - but do also read the Terms and Conditions below carefully:


The offer ends at midnight (London time) on Wednesday 31st May, but the sooner you subscribe, the sooner you can start knocking down those 'brick walls' in your family tree.


To claim your LostCousins subscription (which will run from the date of purchase of your Findmypast subscription, unless you already have a LostCousins subscription, in which case it will be extended), please forward to me the email receipt that you receive from Findmypast, bearing in mind that I need to know the precise time of your purchase (so write it down, just in case the receipt doesn't arrive).


Terms & conditions: your free 12 month LostCousins subscription (3 months if you buy a Starter subscription at will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us; if we don't receive any commission on your purchase then unfortunately you won't qualify. If you use an adblocker the link may not work; if tracking is disabled in your browser the link will work, but Findmypast won't know that you clicked it, so won't pay us any commission (if you're not sure whether tracking is disabled ask me for advice).  Don't use more than one device, and to give yourself the best chance of qualifying use a computer rather than a tablet or smartphone. 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.


More control over your searches

One of the best features of Findmypast is the way it allows you to re-sort the search results, just as you might if you had transferred them all into a spreadsheet, but without the hassle.


It's a definite plus compared to sites where you have little or no control over the way in which the results are presented. (To be fair, Ancestry do their best to present the most relevant results at the top of the list, but what I think is relevant and what they do are often very different.)


In case you haven't explored this Findmypast feature, here's an example of how it works in practice:



The initial sort is by 'Relevance', which in practice means that you get exact matches first, followed by near matches. By default variant forenames are included (eg 'John C', or 'John Charles') but not variant surnames, which I find is a good combination, however you can change either setting or both.


If you click on the arrow against 'Relevance' a menu will drop down, offering you a choice of alternative sort criteria - it's far better than working your way through page after page of search results as you might be forced to at other sites. The options vary according on the record set, but they're always relevant and potentially useful - depending on the nature of your search.


Note: do you remember when you first came across drop-down menus? For many people of a certain age it was when they bought a computer game called Emlyn Hughes International Soccer, which my company developed and published around 30 years ago. I didn't write the program or design the graphics, but it was my idea to use drop-down menus (and I was the one who signed up the former England and Liverpool captain - a lovely man). The link above will take you to a YouTube video of the Commodore 64 version - happy times!


Another 'brick wall' comes tumbling down

When the whole world seems to be falling apart it's some consolation that my family tree at last seems to be coming together. Earlier this month I wrote about the 'brick wall' I knocked down thanks to Findmypast's Non-Conformist registers - this week I knocked down another longstanding 'brick wall', this time with the help of DNA.


My great-great-great grandmother Maria Shearing was born in Leith, Scotland according to the 1851 Census, but in Lee, Kent according to the 1861 Census. The latter seemed more likely because she married in Old Charlton, Kent in 1830 - though as it was before the introduction of civil registration in 1837 there was no information about her father in the register (and the witnesses didn't seem to be family members).


Nevertheless, I reasoned some time ago that she was very probably the daughter of James Shearing and his wife Catherine, whose offspring were baptised at St Margaret, Lee. One clue was that James had been briefly married before, to a Sarah Noakes who died shortly after giving birth to their only child - and when Maria married it was to a William Noakes from Essex (whose father had a sister Sarah who would have been around the right age).


Unfortunately, whilst the baptisms for James and Catherine's other children had been transcribed, there was no mention of Maria. She wasn't even mentioned in the copy registers at the London Metropolitan Archives, though as there were children baptised to James and Catherine in 1809 and 1813 there was a glaring gap in 1811 into which Maria could well fit.


I eventually discovered that the original registers, held at Lewisham Archives, did indeed record the baptism of a Maria Shearing in March 1811 - but her parents were shown as James and Mary. The vicar might have got the mother's name wrong - it happens quite often - but I couldn't be absolutely certain that her parents were James and Catherine without some other supporting evidence.


But this week I noticed that my 1st cousin and I had a match through Family Tree DNA with someone who had ancestors called Shearing (though there was no indication that they came from England, let alone where in England it might have been). It was a longshot, but after all these years there were no easy options - so I emailed my DNA cousin asking whether her Shearing ancestors had come from Kent. She replied overnight - she was in Canada - and you could have knocked me down with a feather when I discovered that she was descended from James & Catherine, making us 4th cousins once removed!


And that's the whole point about DNA - by itself it tells you very little, but used in conjunction with conventional research it can tell you an awful lot.


Storm in a DNA cup

Many of you will have noticed an article on the BBC News site (and many others) which criticises Ancestry's alleged exploitation of users who take their DNA test.


Family historians who test their DNA with Ancestry do so for two key reasons - one is to find cousins and knock down 'brick walls', the other is to find out their ethnicity, ie where their ancestors might have come from. For either of these to work Ancestry need to be able to compare the DNA of different users, and the more results there are in their database the better the outcomes are going to be for users.


The way Ancestry use DNA is very similar to the way that LostCousins works - nobody gets to see anybody else's information. Once cousins have made contact they can choose what information to share - surely this is exactly how it should be?


In my view the critics have picked the wrong target. Consider the way that family trees work at Ancestry - when you post a public tree it can be viewed and copied by any one of Ancestry's subscribers, whether they are related to you or not. Once you have published your tree online it effectively becomes public property in perpetuity - you have given up all rights for all time, not just to Ancestry, and not just to their subscribers, but to anyone they choose to pass it on to.


I'd much rather allow Ancestry to use my DNA results "for the purposes of providing Ancestry’s products and services, conducting Ancestry’s research and product development, enhancing Ancestry’s user experience, and making and offering personalised products and services" than have my family tree misused by all and sundry. How about you?


Note: Ancestry aren't by any means the only site to encourage users to post public trees - and they do at least offer the option of a private tree, which some don't.


Win a Queen's autograph in our Summer Competition OVER 50 PRIZES

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Queen Mary, great-grand-daughter of George III,  grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II, wife of George V, and mother of King Edward VIII and King George VI.


In the last newsletter I published a picture of the autograph that I'm giving away as the 1st Prize in my Summer Competition - you can see it here. Now all that remains is for me to tell you about the other prizes, and what you need to do in order to WIN!


To enter simply do what comes naturally - or should do for a LostCousins member - enter relatives on your My Ancestors page. Every direct ancestor or blood relative you enter will represent an entry in the competition, but those from the 1881 Census will count double (because it's far more likely to match with an entry made by one of your cousins).


Relatives entered since 17th May will count for this competition, and because those made between 17th May and 31st May will also count as entries for our Birthday Competition there's a good reason to start right away, rather than leaving it to the last moment.


Because it's summer in the northern hemisphere a lot of members will be travelling, so I've set the closing  date for the competition as Thursday 31st August - at which point I'll start selecting entries at random until all the prizes have been awarded. And here are the prizes:



FIRST PRIZE: autograph of Queen Mary and a 5 year LostCousins subscription


20 runners-up will each get a 12 month LostCousins subscription - which can be a joint subscription covering two accounts (eg husband & wife)


There will also be 10 subscriptions given away each month (June, July, August) based on the entries made in that month - these will be drawn at the end of each month and the winners notified as soon as practicable thereafter


Everyone who takes part will have multiple chances to win even if they only enter a single relative - best of luck to all of you!


Tips for busy bees

There's never enough hours in the day - I'm sure you know the feeling - which makes it very easy to put things on the back burner, even important things like connecting with your 'lost cousins'. But it really doesn't take long - here's how you can find your first 'lost cousin' in 30 minutes or less:



If you didn't get your first match inside 30 minutes despite following those tips, get in touch and I'll make sure you're not doing anything incorrectly.


How to avoid ordering the wrong certificate

Who Do You Think You Are? magazine recently published a question from a reader which read:


"Can you give me any tips for obtaining the correct birth/death/marriage certificates from the General Register Office. I have several certificates for the wrong people, particularly death certificates where the age, name and even the location seem right."


There were a number of suggestions made by the magazine's expert, but he omitted to mention the most important thing of all - that when you order a certificate from the GRO you don't have to provide the index references.


Why is this important? Well, if you provide the index references you'll get the certificate you order, whether it's right or whether it's wrong. But if you don’t provide them the GRO will search a three-year period using the information that you do provide - which must include the full name, year, and registration district.


Of course, if that's all the information you provide you could end up with the wrong certificate. But if you provide additional information they will check it against the entry, and only provide a certificate that matches.


For example, when I wanted to obtain the death certificate for my great-great-great-great grandmother Elizabeth Stevens it was a common name. But the one thing I did know for certain was that she was the widow of John Stevens - so I specified that as her occupation (because that's where it would appear in the register entry):




The GRO used to charge extra for these sorts of searches, and could well do so again now that the legislation has changed. But right now they don't, so it's a great opportunity to fill in some of the gaps in your collection - and in your knowledge of your ancestors' lives.


Note: this technique can be used for births and marriages as well as deaths - but it's most useful in the case of deaths.


For further guidance on ordering BMD certificates from England or Wales please see these official Guidance Notes.


Fancy working for the Society of Genealogists?

There are three vacancies at the SoG which are currently being advertised. There's no indication of salary, but since the jobs are in London I would expect them to be well-remunerated.


I know there are many LostCousins members who would be capable of fulfilling the different roles - all the details can be found here. The closing date is 5th June, so you don't have long to dust off your CV and polish it up!


Two birthdays

In 2011 I asked whether members knew of anyone other than the Queen who celebrates two birthdays - and after nearly 6 years I finally got a response, from David who sent me this article from the Sheffield Star.


May Lashmar was 106  years old on 11th May - but she won't receive a card from the Queen until 1st August, which is the date shown on her birth certificate. Born May Frost, just a few weeks after the 1911 Census she is recorded on the 1939 Register with her correct date of birth:

© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England and Findmypast


101 year-old man marries

For 30 years Rita Monteiro worked as a maid to Francisco Marcolino, who lives in northern Portugal, but at the beginning of May their relationship changed - they became husband and wife. It's not really an unusual story - the late 19th century British censuses are littered with single or widowed men living with a housekeeper whose role clearly went beyond the minimum required for the job.


But this case stands out because Francisco is 101 years old - and is a wealthy man, with an estate thought to be  worth 2 million Euros, an enormous amount of money in a poor country like Portugal. Perhaps predictably his children are challenging the marriage - you can read more about this story on the BBC News site.


Census questions 1801-2011

Although there's often little variation from one census to the next, over the years the questions asked in UK censuses have changed quite considerably. 1951 was the first year when householders were asked whether they had a piped water supply, but it wasn't until 1961 that they were asked if they had hot water on tap (many still didn't).


Many of the forms are available online but this week I discovered a fantastic spreadsheet on the Office for National Statistics website which makes it really easy to see how things have changed - you'll find it here.


Historic copies of the Radio Times

Hidden at the BBC website is a wonderful resource - copies of the Radio Times from 1923-2009 which have been partially transcribed and indexed so that you can search for programmes that you remember from your youth.


This week I discovered a name that had eluded me for years - do you remember Shirley Abicair, an Australian folk singer who appeared on children's television in the 1950s? I remember her playing a zither and singing - I think I fell in love with her at the age of 6 or 7.


How about Stranger on the Shore, which first aired in the autumn of 1961, and is best remembered for the haunting theme tune composed and played by Acker Bilk? Or The Moving Toyshop, an adaptation of Edmund Crispin's novel which was shown in March 1964, though goodness knows how I managed to persuade my parents to let me stay up so late on a Monday evening (it must have been school holidays).


You can access all these memories and many more right here.


Note: this unofficial site has browseable copies of the TV Times from the 1950s through to the 1980s


Email addresses close on Wednesday IMPORTANT

Is there anyone in your address book with an email address ending with any of the following?


Not only are ALL of these addresses going to stop working on 31st May, it's likely that all the email correspondence held on the servers will be lost.


Please warn anyone you know with one of these addresses - don't assume that they've been notified because I know for a fact that many LostCousins users were completely unaware of what was going to happen until I emailed them.


It's hard to believe that this is really happening - indeed I had to check with the EE Press Office to make absolutely sure. Here's the official statement from an EE spokesperson (grammar and punctuation uncorrected):


"At the end of May 2017, we will be closing the free email service that was offered with select Orange home broadband, dial-up and mobile plans prior to October 2012. Since it was first introduced, a wide variety of providers now offer better free email services with more advanced functionality. The number of Orange Email users has also been in decline since 2012, and the vast majority are no longer Orange broadband or mobile customers. Therefore, we have decided to close the service on 31st May 2017. This means customers can move to a better email experience and we can focus on providing our customers with the best possible products and services."


There are going to be some very unhappy people on Thursday morning - please don't allow your own friends and relatives to suffer.


Peter's Tips

Before we had 'fake news' we had myths - and somewhere in between we had 'old wives' tales'. I bet that there are all sorts of things you learned in your childhood that have no known scientific basis, such as eating carrots to improve eyesight, or spinach to supplement the body's reserves of iron.


So I was fascinated by this article in New Scientist which puts to the test more than a dozen commonly-held beliefs about food and cooking - I think you will be too! (When I wrote about this article I thought it was free for anyone to read, I've subsequently discovered that this isn't the case - however,don't give up, check whether your local library offers Zinio - mine does, and one of the magazines I can read free online is New Scientist.)


In about 6 weeks it will be 20 years to the day since my wife and I moved into our house, and so I decided it was about time I sorted out our Wi-FI. In truth this wasn't something we thought about when we were house hunting in 1996 - I'm not sure that the word Wi-Fi was even in my vocabulary, and it certainly wasn't in the dictionary.


Up to now we've managed with sticking plaster solutions. First we had cables running around the house, some of them cunningly hidden, some of them glaringly out of place. Next we tried powerline adaptors, which worked well up to a point; then we tried a Wi-Fi extender; finally we ended up with a combination of the two, but there were still dead spots.


Eventually someone came up with a system that would work, even in a house like ours - and amazingly that company was BT. Their Whole Home Wi-Fi system comprises three identical disk shaped devices - you plug one of them into your existing router, and position the others around the house in the locations where they can do the most good. The neat thing is that all the disks use the same name and password, so you're not conscious of switching from one to another as you move around the house - it just happens.


The free Android/iPhone app isn't great, but I eventually twigged that this didn't really matter, because I could log-on from my computer, just as I would my existing router. When the system launched last year it was priced at around £300, but you can now get it for less than £200 at Amazon - and do you know what's best of all? It doesn't matter who provides your broadband.


Talking of broadband, I received an email yesterday from Sky in which they said they had extended my existing broadband contract for another 12 months. At first I was astounded by their cheek - then I remembered how much I was paying each month for my broadband…. absolutely nothing! Admittedly I'll be paying full price for my phoneline, whereas it was half-price in the first year - but overall it's still a pretty good deal, don't you think?


Staying with phones, I had an email this morning from GiffGaff to let me know that from 14th June their 'Goody Bags' will work throughout the EU. It's not that they're being generous - an EU Directive is forcing all mobile phone companies to stop charging penal rates to users who roam. But there are plenty of other good reasons to switch to GiffGaff (such as free calls between GiffGaff users) - follow this link to order a free SIM card and get a £5 bonus the first time you top-up.


Stop Press

Update 31st May: I've arranged an exclusive discount with British Newspaper Archive, who have by far the largest online collection of British newspapers in the world. To take advantage of this offer, click here or on the banner and enter the discount code LCBNA20



I hope you've found this edition both useful and interesting.


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2017 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