Newsletter – 26th November 2021



Big savings on subscriptions to the British Newspaper Archive ENDS MONDAY

Last chance to save 25% at Findmypast ENDS SUNDAY

Lifelong savings at The Genealogist

Did you miss out on tickets for Professor Probert's talk?

Ancestry's Black Friday offers

Root and branch transformation

Gardener's Corner

Peter's Tips

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 22nd November) 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!



Big savings on subscriptions to the British Newspaper Archive ENDS MONDAY

From 10am (London time) today, Friday 26th November, until Monday 29th November you can save a massive 30% on subscriptions to the British Newspaper Archive. For example, a 12 month subscription comes down to just £56, little more than £1 a week.


If you have a Pro or Ultimate subscription to Findmypast you'll already have access to the 46 million pages in the archive, but newspapers aren't included in lesser subscriptions. And even if you do have a Pro subscription, heavy users of historic newspapers will appreciate the more flexible searching options – for example you can restrict your searches to pages added to the archive after a certain date, so that you don't keep ploughing through the same list of results and can focus on what's new - this is important because the archive is growing by about 4 million pages a year.


This offer isn’t exclusive to LostCousins, but I'd appreciate it if you could click the link below when you make your purchase, as you'll be helping to support the LostCousins project to connect family historians around the world who are researching the same ancestors.


British Newspaper ArchiveSAVE 30% UNTIL MONDAY


Tip: this offer also applies to Gift Subscriptions; if you want to buy a subscription for somebody else, perhaps as a Christmas present, please follow this link, however you'll need to add the offer code (BLACKFRIDAY30) manually.



Last chance to save 25% at Findmypast ENDS SUNDAY

Thanks to everyone who has supported LostCousins since this offer began on Monday. You've still got time to grab a bargain, but don't leave it too long because this offer is ending shortly.


Please follow the advice in the last newsletter to maximise the chances that your purchase will support LostCousins and earn you a free LostCousins subscription – you'll find full details here.  



Lifelong savings at The Genealogist

Regular readers of this newsletter will know that The Genealogist has an impressive collection of tithe maps and tithe records, most of which aren't online anywhere else. It's one thing looking at an address on a census, but quite another seeing the outline of the property on a map, especially since street names and numbering have changed, and many buildings have been demolished over the past 170 years.


Another unique record set is the so-called Lloyd George Domesday Book, the records created pursuant to the 1910 Finance Act. If you’re not familiar with these records this Discovery entry from the National Archives describes the records for Bedfordshire, though the records currently online at The Genealogist are mainly for the London area.


Of course, The Genealogist has many other record sets – over the years I've found their non-conformist records particularly useful. Not all records sets include images – for example, they only had transcripts of the 1939 Register when I last checked – but when you've mastered their unique search you might well pick up records that have proved elusive at other sites.


Right now you can buy a Diamond subscription, the top level, for the price of a Gold subscription – and you'll get a similar discount should you decide to renew at the end of each year. Please follow this link to take advantage of this offer and see the long list of extras that The Genealogist are including in this Black Friday special offer.



Did you miss out on tickets for Professor Probert's talk?

Unfortunately tickets for Professor Rebecca Probert's online talk on 8th December sold out very quickly when the last newsletter was published on Monday. I've been in correspondence with Professor Probert and I'm delighted to say that the capacity has been increased, so bookings are once again open – please follow this link (but don't leave it too long!).



Ancestry's Black Friday offers

Ancestry's Black Friday Sale has started in the UK with their cheapest price of the year (indeed, of many years) for DNA kits, just £49 plus shipping. The offer runs until 11.59pm on 'Cyber Monday', 29th November. In Australia you can save $44 on DNA tests – the price is just $85 plus shipping until 11.59pm (AEDT) on Monday.


In the US the price is $49 excluding shipping and taxes until 11.59pm (ET) on Monday – but there are also options which include a 3 month subscription, click the link below to find out more.


These offers are widely available but you'll only be supporting LostCousins when you use the links below: (UK only) SAVE £30 ON DNA TESTS (Australia & New Zealand only) SAVE $44 ON DNA TESTS (US only) SAVE $50 ON DNA TESTS


Remember, you don’t need to decide in advance who is going to test, so it's worth picking up an extra kit at such a low price. Shipping also works out cheaper when you buy more than one kit.



Root and branch transformation

It's no wonder some people think that family historians are a little crazy – when we draw family trees the roots are at the top and the branches down the bottom!


For most family historians (me included) researching our roots is the primary objective – we aim to get back as far as we can on as many ancestral lines as possible. But that doesn't mean that the branches of our tree, sometimes called 'collateral lines' are unimportant – far from it. All of our living cousins are descended from the branches, so the best way to connect with them is to enter relatives from the branches on your My Ancestors page.


It's a bit like a fruit tree – it's the fruit that we're interested in, not the branches, but without them the tree wouldn’t bear fruit.



Gardener's Corner

My wife has kindly contributed another article – I hope you enjoy it….


Sometimes I think that a key benefit of recovering from a brief but painful illness is that it triggers a fresh determination to create order and beauty out of potential chaos and pain. A recent middle ear infection was nowhere near as bad as it felt, but bad enough to remind me that there are meaningful things still to achieve in life. For me, one of these relates to the “woodland garden” – a large clearing opposite the house which was the first to receive plants before I had much gardening experience. It is open to the wildlife and contains around a dozen rhododendrons, magnolias and peonies surviving on a thin layer of loam over clay. There is a big show of colour in May – and then it's all over.


High time for a makeover; more year-round variety, with plenty of bark and foliage interest to complement a backdrop of sizeable deciduous trees. This time I have made a spreadsheet capturing the key information on dozens of suitable trees, shrubs, ferns etc; however, I am yet to complete the columns addressing the extent of deer and rabbit resistance because there is remarkably little consensus once my research broadens out. There are no ”keep off” signs that animals can choose to obey or ignore. But I have learned that many plants take time to build their toxicity, pungency or off-putting texture; so even if something is shown as reliably deer or rabbit proof, I plant a good sized, healthy specimen that has been grown on in a safe corner of the garden. Hardly anything can go from the garden centre directly into this environment and survive. I have tried rabbit fencing around new plants but in woodland this is unsightly, difficult to maintain weed free, and larger creatures will soon trample the fencing flat. So I must do my research, choose carefully and give new entrants a fighting chance.


The point of planting “understorey” trees and shrubs is to shrink the large visual gap between the ground and the towering “standards” such as oak, hornbeam, sycamore and ash. In smaller gardens, the same principle can be used to visually extend the garden upwards into the “borrowed landscape” above and beyond the solid boundary of a fence or wall. Magnolia, ornamental cherry, rowan (mountain ash), acers, crab apple, hawthorn, lilac, amelanchier (Juneberry), buddleia, cornus (dogwood), hydrangea and forsythia can successfully please the eye all year round while remaining manageable. This is not a completely artificial idea, given that a stroll through most deciduous woodland reveals many trees and shrubs at various stages of growth far beneath the canopy overhead. Some, like holly, thrive in deep shade. And beneath them there may be ferns, hellebores, bergenia, lily of the valley and other shade loving perennials, and the delicate snowdrops, primrose, oxlips, bluebells and anemones flourishing in the shafts of sunlight before the tree canopy blocks out the light. Perhaps the idea of a woodland garden is to emulate some of this closer to the doorstep. As ever, much depends on planting what will work for the soil, aspect, moisture and changing light conditions. And the place to start is with the larger items – ornamental trees.


There are a few ornamental trees which have caught my eye many times when visiting other gardens. One of the most striking is the prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry), which lacks the volume of blossom usually associated with ornamental cherry trees such as Kanzan or Tai-Haku. If you want a cherry tree to scatter a million blossoms in the breeze, the Tibetan may disappoint. But it has the most beautiful copper-mahogany bark that glows on a winter’s day like nothing else. A standard tree (single stemmed) seems to be more expensive than a multi-stemmed cultivar – but if grown for the bark, then surely the more stems the merrier. Given that even the best ornamental cherry is only a 2-week spectacle at best, I will plant a multi stemmed Tibetan cherry to glow beautifully during the cooler months, while other shrubs can take up the slack at other times.


Somewhat reluctantly, I admit to owning enough magnolia trees. There is a magnolia for every size of garden, and they bloom for several weeks in Spring provided that frost doesn’t spoil the show. Mine grow happily in clay, although I don’t know whether a looser or more alkaline soil suits them. I am constantly fighting two battles to keep them alive. The first is with ants nesting in the roots, creating a system of airy tunnels which destabilises and dehydrates the roots. The second relates to rabbits attacking the bark during the spring when the sap rises; I use bunched up chicken wire around the trunk up to 3- 4’ which also allows for good air penetration to prevent rot. It’s a long game with trees; protection could be needed for 5-10 years. There are a great number of hybrid magnolias available. The tallest I have is “Apollo”; the flowers are a good 8” and open from velvety husks into highly fragrant, waxy pink blooms with magnificent blackberry centres. The white stellata is, on the other hand, a border-friendly, delicately scented shrub with charming ragged white flowers. There is a sizeable pale yellow “waterlily” magnolia with enormous bright green leaves appearing as the blooms fade. And the traditional magnolia soulangeana from China, often seen dominating a front garden with spectacular lily-white tulip shaped flowers shot through with delicate pink. Ours was inherited in a sorry state; I pruned a third of the branches over three summers and this increased its vigour from a single bloom to a bud-covered tree.


To avoid the frustration of frost discolouring the flowers, many newer varieties (like Apollo) are bred to bloom later in spring. Two of these, “Sunspire” and “Sunsation”, are very boldly shaded in bright yellow, coral and red. The Bull Bay is an evergreen magnolia, although I am still waiting several years on for mine to flower. Magnolias have a comparatively long flowering season among trees – and the extent of understated or showy glamour is down to personal taste. Just remember that when you give a magnolia a home, it needs a good depth of soil and may not survive being moved. Keep them well watered (and in good quality loam-based medium if potted up).


Otherwise known as maple trees, acers are a subject all by themselves. We have a massive sycamore to contend with, which is also an acer although far removed from its finer cousins. Unlike magnolias, ornamental acers are grown for their spectacular foliage which can change dramatically through spring, summer and autumn before the leaves fall. But they have also been hybridised to produce all manner of shapes and sizes. Acer Griseum is a tall tree valued for its ornamentally attractive peeling blood-bark. The Japanese maple (acer palmatum) varies from extremely slow growing (where a metre high tree will cost a small fortune) to moderately vigorous growth; these sometimes have delicate feathery (serrata) leaves which are especially beautiful when red, copper or yellow. They are a staple of Japanese gardens and are often located near water where their reflection can be admired. Acers ideally need dappled shade and moisture; while they can make wonderful woodland margin specimens, the amount of shade and lack of summer moisture would be too uncomfortable for them in my garden. But as a feature tree in a large container, rockery or in a waterside setting, they are absolutely gorgeous when given shade from hot sun and a good watering.


Finally, I will mention my love-hate relationship with birch trees. When the woodland was cultivated for valuable timber, faster-growing silver birch were planted alongside the “standards” to create a competitive environment that would cause the standards to grow straight trunks, which increased the value of the timber. However, silver birch grows lanky and starts to rot at the base after about 30 years, causing them to lean at perilous angles before toppling over. I am keener to see the ancient standards without half-dead birch trees cluttering the space, but they have ecological value- supporting countless beetles, birds, and other organisms – and the fallen trunks create perfect damp, mossy beds for oxlips. However, the birch family is quite extensive, and some are very attractive. If you have a corner to brighten or want to create a dramatic “snowy” tree display, do consider the Himalayan Birch or the White Birch. The Himalayan is grown for its ghostly white, papery bark which seems to glow brighter as the days darken; it is often planted in groups to create a visually impactful landscape and looks stunning when surrounded or underplanted with well-maintained yellow or red-stemmed dogwood. White birch has rougher bark and is taller, but can also be impactful. Sadly, birch is not known for its longevity or pest resistance and it is a thirsty tree. But replacing a toppy trio of rotting silver birch with even one ghostly Himalayan beauty could lift the woodland garden altogether.


If you wonder whether there is room in your garden for another tree or large shrub, do remember that they work hard to keep our air clean. And many varieties will grow happily in large containers if they are properly looked after. If you give a new tree a home, lavish a bit of attention on it for a few years. A few extra buckets of water during summer droughts will be rewarded with a healthier specimen that can take care of itself better in the long run. Mulch the base, but not the trunk. Plant in the cooler months, but not into frozen or waterlogged soil. Make the planting hole larger than you really want to dig… mix in some feed, leaf mould, compost – anything to provide nutrients. Dust the roots with mycorrhizal fungi to stimulate the growth of roots after planting. Stake and protect your tree well against wind and animal damage. And take time to admire it.


There is nothing sadder than a glorious tree going begging for an admiring glance. Just like humans, they risk becoming invisible with age… so next time you see a tree in full glory, do take a moment to thank whoever planted it (whether Mother Nature, a bird or someone with landscaping intentions) for providing us and future generations with cleaner air and a more beautiful environment. Put out into the natural world what we wish for in return - health, happiness, and goodness!


Here are some links to websites to inspire you further. Apologies for them all being UK-based, but the same information will apply more widely. At the time of writing, only Paramount had a Black Friday 30% site-wide discount, but I have selected these websites more for the quality of their information, products, and delivery. Peter tells me that the Crocus link will also help to support LostCousins should you make a purchase.


Burncoose Nurseries

Ashridge Trees


Chew Valley Trees

Paramount Plants



Peter's Tips

Another UK energy company has gone out of business, and this one has so many customers that the government are going to have to subsidise them until the price cap is reviewed next April – the remaining companies can't afford to lose an additional £1.7 billion by taking them on. Unfortunately whilst subsidising gas and electricity helps to protect vulnerable consumers, it does nothing to encourage them to reduce their usage, and because high prices are the result of demand exceeding supply price subsidies perpetuate the problem. There are other, better ways to help households through the current crisis.


Back in July most commentators thought that the UK government was reckless to relax restrictions at a time when case numbers were already high. I explained the strategy in my July newsletter (here), but it's only now, with infections in continental Europe rising that the mainstream are beginning to realise that the government, or rather their advisors, were rather savvy. This week the BBC reported a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical  Medicine which hypothesised a situation in which everyone in Europe was exposed to COVID-19 simultaneously, and calculated what the impact would be in terms of hospital admissions in each country.


Thankfully the chances of something as calamitous as that happening is remote, but if it did, the UK would be best placed to weather the storm – by some margin. Allowing the virus to spread during the summer, foolish as it may have seemed to some at the time, will help to protect the National Health Service (NHS) this winter.


Note: I am deferring judgement on the new African variant.


We all know that masks and ventilation are important when we're indoors, but how can you tell how well-ventilated a room is? The simplest method is to measure the level of carbon dioxide when the room is occupied – the UK government's recommendation is that it is maintained below 800 parts per million (see this UK government advice on what the readings should be). If the level is high you may be able to reduce it by improving ventilation or lowering occupancy – but sometimes you'll be in environments over which you have no control, such as supermarkets. In this case the best thing you can do is get out quick!


I borrowed a professional CO2 monitor from my brother, who uses it in his work as a consultant to museums, but even a Chinese-made device on Amazon is going to be better than nothing. Without any way of measuring CO2 you're putting your trust in other people who might not be as cautious or as well-informed as you are! I've used the monitor in a variety of situations – in some it has given me comfort, in others it has made it clear that I should get out as quickly as possible!


Finally, my wife pointed out a Black Friday deal that isn't about gardening – at AllBeauty there are lots of Black Friday offers, with discounts of up to 60%, but you can save an extra £10 on an order of £100 or more from the Black Friday offers when you use the code BLACK100  



Stop Press

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......



At this time of the year things tend to change quickly, so I may update this newsletter over the weekend.



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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© 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.



© 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.