Newsletter - 24th May 2019
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 17th May) 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):
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This week Ancestry announced that the number of completed autosomal DNA tests now exceeds 15 million, an amazing number considering that there are only around 3 million Ancestry subscribers worldwide. If there's anyone who still doubts that DNA testing is now part of mainstream genealogical research this should finally convince them!
It's always free to complete your My Ancestors page and search for living cousins, but generally you need to buy a subscription if you want to initiate contact with someone new.
But nobody ever has to pay, because there are several periods each year when the LostCousins site is completely free - and this weekend (which is a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK) is one of those occasions. In fact, since some members will be away for the weekend, or sunning themselves in the garden I'm going to extend the free period until midnight on Tuesday 28th May.
Now is the time to add the rest of your relatives from 1881 - note that roughly one-fifth of the relatives on your tree would have been alive in 1881, so if you've got an average-sized tree of 1000-1500 people you could have 200-300 relatives to enter, each of them a potential connection to one of your 'lost cousins'.
Note: although nobody needs to buy a subscription, if nobody did the site would have to close down, taking this newsletter with it - so many thanks to all of those who are supporting my work. At just £10 (about US$13) for a full 12 months itís one of the cheapest subscriptions around - not surprising, as it hasn't gone up since it was introduced in 2005!
It's natural to want to research your partner's tree, especially if you have children. But because of the unique features of LostCousins you can't enter someone else's relatives on your own My Ancestors page - it simply wouldnít work properly.
The good news is that if youíre the one researching both trees you don't need to involve your other half in the detail - you can use the same email address for both accounts (just so long as the passwords are different), so that you involve your partner when there's something exciting to tell them!
Donít worry if you've already entered some of your spouse's relatives on your own account - in a matter of minutes you can put everything right simply by following the advice below:
(1) First copy your partner's relatives to a NEW account in their name using the Refer a Relative feature on the My Referrals page - this is unlikely to take more than 5 or 10 minutes. You'll have an opportunity to change the relationships shown from 'Marriage' to 'Direct ancestor' or 'Blood relative' when you create the referral. (Don't open the new account until you have the referral code.)
(2) Log-in to your partner's account, go to their My Ancestors page, confirm that the relatives have been copied across, and click the Search button (if you have already been matched with one of your partner's relatives this will establish the match on the correct account). Log-out from the account.
(3) Log-in to your own account and delete your partner's relatives one by one from your own account - again it'll only take about 5 minutes. DON'T DELETE THEM UNLESS YOU'VE CONFIRMED THAT THEY HAVE ALREADY BEEN COPIED TO THE NEW ACCOUNT!
(4) Finally, contact me so that I can tidy things up.
I was recently invited to take part in a survey in connection with online completion of the 2021 Census - you'll find it here.
Note: it took me a little more than the 10 minutes suggested, but that's because I wanted my answers to be as useful as possible.
In March I brought you Bob's inspirational story, under the headline Never give up! Searching for an unknown father.
In that first article Bob mentioned that he was expecting to meet with his new-found half-sister, Barbara, and following the meeting he sent me this photograph of them together - I think there's a definite resemblance, don't you?
Bob also wrote:
"We both just felt that being together was the most natural thing in the world. Both my half-nieces refer to me as Uncle Bob and, along with photos and stories of my father, gave me a USB memory stick of him recounting (EDITED!) bits of his life. In a way. hearing the voice of someone so close and yet unknown, I couldn't have found a friendlier family and am researching THEIR/MY family in Canada. I plan to add members from the 1881 Canadian Census to LostCousins.
"Thanks for your help and encouragement (plus PATIENCE!) over the years.
"PS How lucky I was to have 2 cousins take the Ancestry DNA test at the same
time in Canada & England."
Bob's final comment is a reminder that when we test our DNA we're not just doing it for ourselves and the relatives we already know, we're also doing it for the relatives we've yet to discover. It's the same when you add entries to your My Ancestors page at the LostCousins site - if you limit yourself to the lines where you need help, ignoring the potential needs of the 'lost cousins' who share your other lines, it can easily come across as selfish behaviour.
Ancestry now have over 15 million DNA profiles in their database - and there are more than 3.5 million relatives recorded in the census who have been entered by LostCousins members. Both systems work better as more people take part, so if you're one of those whose contribution to the LostCousins project so far is zero or minimal, how about putting that right - not for my sake (I'm just the 'piggy-in-the-middle'), but the sake of your own cousins?
Just an hour of your time could change someone's life, just as Bob's life was changed by his unknown cousins taking DNA tests. Of course, there is one key difference between testing your DNA and completing your My Ancestors page - one of them doesnít cost a penny!
Another success story
Roger realised that using DNA he could not only verify his previous, records-based, research - he could also knock down some of his 'brick walls'. Here, in his own words, is how he managed to overcome one of them:
"In the last year I have had not one, but two, matches of my DNA that enabled me to choose my correct ancestor (there are many others that confirm my research - 22 out of my 32 3xgt-grandparents). One goes back to the Tall family from Devon from around 1750, which is a long way, but it seems to make sense! I have also been able to help one lady find her birth grandmother born 1889.
"Here is the other main story which I have shortened because many hours were spent looking at many records:
"Elizabeth Hall was born in Broad Oak, Gloucestershire in about 1800 according to the 1851 census of East Dean - she had married John Williams and their youngest son was Amos Williams, my ancestor - but I couldnít find an Elizabeth Hall born anywhere near Broad Oak. I wondered if she was related to the Hall families from nearby, and perhaps her christening record was missing Ė but nothing added up.
"Her first child was Samuel Hall Williams christened at Mitcheldean in 24 March 1817. He was christened again at Drybrook on 2 July. Thankfully the parish records for the Forest of Dean are available on the Forest of Dean website (it's free, but you need to register). Elizabeth married John Williams nearby at Walford, Herefordshire on 16 December 1816 and a witness was Samuel Hall. Was this her older brother?
"There was a Samuel Hall in East Dean in 1820, living only 1 mile from Elizabeth, and he was born at Llangarron, Herefordshire according to the censuses from 1851 to 1871. He married Hannah Morgan.† My Elizabeth had two Morgan boys (twins) age 17 living with her in 1851. Was this another connection of this Samuel to Elizabeth? I began searching for a Broad Oak in Herefordshire and there is a hamlet of this name 4 miles from Llangarron. Was the 1851 census wrong when it said Elizabeth was born in Broad Oak, Gloucestershire?
"Then I found that a Betty Hall was christened at Llangarron on 4 January 1801. I was never sure that I had the right Elizabeth Hall until a DNA match showed up in Yorkshire recently. The ancestor of my new cousin from Yorkshire was William Hall a coal miner who moved from Bilson, East Dean to Staffordshire and then to Yorkshire. Research of his marriages showed his father was Samuel Hall. The only Samuel Hall in Bilson was from Llangarron. So the DNA match (18 cM) comes from the parents of Samuel Hall (1794-1874) of Llangarron and Betty Hall (1800-1852) of Llangarron.
"Thanks to the DNA match I am fairly sure my Elizabeth (Betty) Hall came from nearby Herefordshire and not Gloucestershire, and I can now go back another generation."
Roger's story not only demonstrates how DNA can solve a puzzle, itís also an excellent example of how enumerators can tie us in knots by adding information that wasn't on the household schedule. It seems pretty clear that in this case it was the enumerator who added the county (Gloucestershire) to Elizabeth Hall's birthplace in the 1851 Census - indeed it's a very similar error to the one made in the same year by another enumerator in a different part of the country, who wrote that my ancestor was born in Leith, Scotland when in reality she came from Lee, Kent.
Note: as a 20 year-old student I was an enumerator in the 1971 Census, so when I criticise enumerators I'm including myself - goodness knows what mistakes of mine will be revealed in 53 years' time!
I've come across instances of deaths which appear twice in the GRO indexes, but in those cases the references have always led to the same register entry. So I was particularly interested in this example sent in by LostCousins member Dave, of a death registered twice - once in Essex and once in Kent:
Perhaps Dave's unfortunate great-great-great grandfather fell off the ship on one side of the River Thames, but was found washed up on the other side? Since the post mortem was carried out the Deputy Coroner for Kent, I imagine that the body was discovered on the southern shore.
When sailors are lost at sea their bodies may never turn up - or might not be correctly identified when they do. A death certificate can only be issued when there is a body - hence the problems faced by the heirs of Lord Lucan, which required a change in the law (see my article from 2015).
I'm sure we all have unusual things in our attics, sheds, and garages, but the discovery of a piece of Stonehenge must rank amongst the most unusual finds - see this BBC article for full details.
Before I was sent this book for review I didnít think there was much more I could learn about 'Votes for Women', but seeing the photographs of letters, official documents, and suffragettes themselves changed my mind.
I suppose itís like going to a record office and touching the register page that your ancestors' signed - suddenly it comes to life. Or like the scene from Pleasantville (one of my favourite modern movies) when everything changes from colour to black and white (and, eventually, back again).
There are barely 100 pages in this book, but it is extremely well put together, with just the right amount of text to put the images into context. I learned a lot about the women who changed the face of British politics for ever.
If you can pick it up at a discounted price it's well worth adding to your library, especially if you have a particular interest in the fight for universal suffrage in the UK. But I donít think it would work as well on Kindle, though there is an electronic version available.
Having once again mentioned DNA testing for dogs in the last newsletter I got an email another member who had found the results incredibly useful:
"...we've DNA tested as many of our dogs as possible because my husband and I typically adopt senior dogs. Aside from the fun of finding their breeds, it's great to know they don't have medically significant genes.
"Our current dogs are 100% Beagle in one case, and in the other, 25% American Bulldog, 25% Shar Pei and 12.5% each of Chow Chow, Boxer, Beagle, and mixed.
"While it didn't help our insurance rates, it was a great help to our veterinary behaviourist and veterinarian as our dog had several issues unique to her breeds. My previous mix with behavioural issues also greatly benefited from finding his breeds via DNA."
I believe the discount code in my original article is still valid - certainly worth a try.
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......
That's all for now - got to make the most of the sunshine before it disappears! But in my spare moments I'll be catching up on my reading, so look out for more book reviews in the next issue.
© Copyright 2019 Peter Calver
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