Newsletter - 25th October 2015
Explore Findmypast's existing records for peanuts ENDS SATURDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 15th October) 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 do what I do, and use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):
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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!
It's precisely 8 years, 8 months, and 3 days since I emailed the Office for National Statistics asking to inspect the 1939 Register - so I've got every right to be excited about the imminent release of these important records. But so have you, because it's arguably the most significant release since the 1911 Census (in 2009).
If you read my article in the last newsletter, which linked to an image of the household schedule, you'll know exactly what information was collected on 29th September 1939 - and that people were asked for their full birthdates. So it's an opportunity to discover the precise birthdates of uncles, aunts, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and (for some) great-grandparents too. And whilst we don't know yet what Findmypast are going to charge for access to the register, it's surely going to be a lot cheaper than buying a birth certificate?
You'll find more information about the register in this article on the BBC website.
There has been some concern that the only records available will be those for people who would be over 100 years old, if still alive, as this cut-off point has been used for other releases.
However, because the 1939 Register was subsequently used as the basis for the National Health Service Central Register it continued to be updated into the 1990s (at which point it was computerised); this means that we should also be able to see the records for most people who were born after 1915, but died before the 1990s.
Note: until April 2008 the General Register Office was responsible for administering the NHS Central Register - at that point they handed over responsibility to the NHS Information Centre, based in Leeds, although the original registers continued to be stored at the GRO in Southport.
On Wednesday 4th November Myko Clelland from Findmypast will be speaking about the 1939 Register to Peterborough Family History Society - visitors are welcome. You'll find more details here.
Since publishing the newsletter I've been informed that Myko Clelland will also be speaking in Cheshire on 11th and 24th November, at Gloucestershire Archives on 6th November, at the National Archives on 4th November, at Huddersfield on 14th November, and at Folkestone on 5th November. Other dates and locations will be announced shortly.
Unfortunately it's only the parts of the register that cover England & Wales that will be going online. The records for Scotland and Northern Ireland are held by National Records of Scotland and PRO Northern Ireland respectively; the records for the Isle of Man are not believed to have survived.
It costs £15 (per person) to obtain an extract from the Scottish register, and you'll need to provide the date of death (and the certificate if they died outside of Scotland); use this link. I believe that the only way to get information from the Northern Ireland register is using the Freedom of Information Act - follow this link for details.
Explore Findmypast's existing records for peanuts ENDS SATURDAY
Until midnight on Halloween (31st October) you can pay just £1, $1, or 1€ for one month's unlimited access to the 'local' records and newspapers at the site you choose - it's a saving of about 90%!
This offer is not available to existing subscribers and even if you're not a current subscriber you may find that you need to log-out from the Findmypast site before clicking the relevant link from the list below:
£1 for British records at Findmypast.co.uk
€1 for Irish records at Findmypast.ie
$1 for Australian and New Zealand records at Findmypast.com.au
$1 for US and Canadian records at Findmypast.com
Note: by using these links you'll not only be saving money, you'll be supporting LostCousins. Should the link not work for you, please see this article from my last newsletter.
At the end of the month your subscription will continue at full price - unless you un-tick the 'auto-renew my subscription' box in the My Account section of the site (it only takes 10 seconds). You might also choose to upgrade to an Annual subscription, which works out cheaper (but must be paid for up-front), or to a World subscription.
Much of what I know about DNA I learned from Debbie Kennett, either through her books, her blog, her talks at Genealogy in the Sunshine, or through the ISOGG wiki which she inspired and co-founded. A LostCousins member for almost 10 years, Debbie is an Honorary Research Associate at University College London.
On Saturday 14th November Debbie will be running a half-day course at the Society of Genealogists in London - it doesn't start until 10.30 so you don't necessarily have to live in London to attend, nor do you need to be a member of the SoG. To book follow this link.
A number of readers have commented that, despite the title of the article in the last issue, I didn't really recommend which of the three major DNA companies to choose for autosomal DNA tests (which are by far the most popular DNA tests these days). They're absolutely right: there are so many factors to take into consideration, most of which depend on your circumstances, and that's why I referred you to the ISOGG comparison chart so that you could make your own judgment.
However, the ISOGG chart goes into too much technical detail for most people, so I'm going to run over some of the key factors you might want to take into account.....
There is only one company that offers their test worldwide - Family Tree DNA. They're also the only company to charge the same price all over the world. And they're the only one of the three to allow researchers who have tested with other companies to upload their results - though those who transfer have to pay $39 for full access to matches (and you can only upload test results from 23andMe if their v3 chip was used).
Only two of the companies (FTDNA and 23andMe) offer a chromosome browser, a feature that allows you to see where you and another person match - this becomes more and more useful as you identify more cousins, and as more of your known cousins test. There is a chromosome browser at the mostly-free GEDmatch which you can use, even if you tested with Ancestry - but only if you and the others have uploaded your results (I'll be talking about how to do this in the next article in this series).
Two of the companies (Ancestry DNA and 23andMe) have over 1 million results in their databases; Family Tree DNA is estimated to have just 150,000 or so. However if you live outside the US it's worth bearing in mind that whilst Family Tree DNA have been offering their test in Europe for several years, Ancestry and 23andMe have only recently expanded outside the US (in Ancestry's case they only began selling abroad in January 2015). This means that whilst you will probably get fewer matches at Family Tree DNA, they're more likely to be relevant for someone living in Europe.
Another factor to consider is that many people who took 23andMe's test did so for medical purposes - and may have little or no interest in their family tree; also, because test results from their new v4 chip can't be uploaded to Family Tree DNA (though you can upload them to GEDmatch) you may miss some matches.
Note: Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA both use the same chip to process autosomal DNA, which means their results are highly compatible.
Nobody in my family has tested with 23andMe, so I can't speak from personal experience about the number of matches you might expect, but I arranged for my brother to test with Ancestry DNA, then uploaded his results to Family Tree DNA. As you would expect - given the disparity in the size of the respective databases - he has many more matches at Ancestry (1800 compared with 600), but what stands out for me is that there are significantly more close matches at Family Tree DNA. This suggests that our cousins are more likely to have tested with Family Tree DNA - which is not surprising when you consider that we have European ancestry, and for a long time their Family Finder test was the only autosomal test you could buy in Europe.
This is a key issue for the 90% of the readers of this newsletter who don't live in the US. If, on the other hand, you do live in the US then the fact that the largest databases are heavily skewed towards the US may or may not be a problem for you - it depends when your ancestors arrived. Bear in mind that autosomal DNA tests become less useful with each generation that you go back - because when you double the number of ancestors you roughly halve the amount of DNA that is inherited from each one. This means that if all your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower your chances of getting a match with someone living in England is miniscule.
Both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA allow their customers to upload family trees, but more Ancestry customers have uploaded trees and they also tend to be more detailed. Another advantage of Ancestry is the possibility that they'll spot a common ancestor between your tree (if you've uploaded one) and the tree of one of the people you've been matched with. My brother only has one of these matches at the moment, but it seems to be a genuine match with a half-4th cousin once removed (which ties in with Ancestry's estimate based on DNA of 5th to 8th cousin).
If you've already uploaded your tree to Ancestry, or are happy to do so (it can be a private tree), then there are definite advantages to testing with Ancestry, then uploading the results to Family Tree DNA, so you can search for matches at both sites. It's going to be more expensive, of course - someone in the UK would pay just £70 for the Family Tree DNA test, compared to £119 (including shipping) for the Ancestry DNA test, plus another £26 to get access to all the features at Family Tree DNA. But you might consider it's worth paying twice as much to get all those extra matches, especially if you're able to order when there's a discount offer.
In an ideal world, everyone who tested at Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA, or 23andMe would upload their results to the free GEDmatch site. That way it wouldn't matter nearly so much which company you tested with, and you could choose on the basis of price (or other factors, such as medical information or ethnicity estimates).
We don't live in an ideal world, but because I tested with Family Tree DNA, whilst my brother tested with Ancestry DNA, I was able to compare the numbers of results we got at GEDmatch - it was about 1500 each. Whilst that's fewer results than the 1800 my brother got at Ancestry, I think it's reasonable to assume that the researchers who upload their results to GEDmatch are likely to be keener and more experienced than average - and also more likely to respond to emails, which is a very important consideration.
Whichever company you choose to test with, you can support LostCousins by using one of the following links to place your order:
23andMe now allowed to offer medical information in the US
23andMe have finally received approval from the US Food & Drug Administration to provide selected health-related information to their customers. At one point they were forced to stop selling their DNA test in the US, and they were only able to resume when all health-related information was removed from the results.
The downside for family historians in the US is that the price of the 23andMe test has doubled, from $99 to $199 - bringing it more closely into line with the cost in other countries, where they have continued to provide health-related data.
What TalkTalk problems tell us about security
A few days ago the TalkTalk website was hacked, and both credit card and bank details of 4m customers are thought to have been stolen.
Hearing about this it made me really glad that I'm not a TalkTalk customer - and also that we don't hold any of that data at LostCousins. That's because we never have the data in the first place - if you buy a LostCousins subscription using a credit or debit card card the whole transaction is handled by WorldPay or PayPal using a secure page on their own site. The disadvantage is that when you renew your subscription you have to re-enter the data, but I think that's a small price to pay for peace of mind - don't you?
I'm not in a position to advise you what you should or shouldn't do if you're a TalkTalk customer, but if you've used the same password at other sites you should seriously consider changing it (at those other sites). Using the same password at more than one site might make things easier, but it is also risky.
In the October issue of Director magazine there are some hints on improving the security of passwords: it's suggested that we ditch complex passwords which have a jumble of letters, numbers and special characters because they can be counter-productive (for a start, a password like that is likely to be written down or stored on your computer).
Instead, they recommend that we use passwords made from four random words picked from the dictionary - their example is 'marmosetbelgiumpeanutsolstice' - on the basis that they're fairly easy to remember, but jolly difficult to guess.
As a young boy I used to watch silent movies on my uncle's projector, and of course Laurel & Hardy were amongst my favourites. I was reminded of Oliver Hardy's frequent complaint to Stan, "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into" when I read about the confusion over Stan Laurel's birthplace, which caused considerable embarrassment for the tourism organisation Visit County Durham.
Although Stan Laurel, born Arthur Stanley Jefferson, was baptised and educated in Bishops Auckland, which is in County Durham, he was born in Ulverston (now in Cumbria), as you can see from this FreeBMD entry:
Unfortunately in 2010, Visit County Durham printed 50,000 leaflets promoting Bishop Auckland which named it as the birthplace of the comic - as a result they got lots of publicity, but probably not the kind they wanted!
In our own research we tend to assume that our ancestors were born in the parish where they were baptised, though we know that after civil registration was introduced in 1837 this wasn't always the case. How can we know where someone was actually born if the birth preceded civil registration? The reality is that in most cases we'll never know for sure - we can only weigh the evidence and use our judgment.
Note: in September this year a collection of 41 letters from Stan Laurel to his cousin Nellie Bushby failed to sell at auction. You can read more in this BBC News article.
The production company CVTC, part of the Rank Foundation, is making a new series for the TLC channel that will feature people who have been, or are about to be, reunited with parents or siblings.
"Each episode will follow three to four different stories of separation and reunion. Some will be retrospective, whilst others will be reunions happening for the first time.
"The tone of the series is uplifting and sympathetic to the experiences of those whose stories we follow; we realise that we are addressing sensitive and extremely personal issues and as such we are committed to telling peoples' stories in the most respectful manner. The observational format allows participants to author their own story, as opposed to being presenter-led or a chat show format. We don't take on the search ourselves, but we can assist with expenses, such as travel costs as an example.
"If you would like to find out more, please do get in touch. You are not obliged to get involved by contacting us, it’s just an opportunity for us to give you some more information about the documentary."
The contact at CVTC is Georgia Smith, whose email address is Georgia.firstname.lastname@example.org
Since its establishment in the 1870s Scotland Yard's crime museum has been hidden away, only open to police personnel and invited guests. But until 10th April next year the Museum of London is hosting an exhibition which features objects from the museum - and demand is so high that advance booking is strongly recommended.
Note: I've recently been re-watching Scotland Yard, a series of 39 half-hour dramatisations of real crime cases made between 1953-61. Initially shown in cinemas they were later shown on the small screen, which is how I came to see them (though I can't recall whether they were on the BBC, or on commercial television). Introduced by Edgar Lustgarten, the famous criminologist, they're very much of their era - and all the better for that, in my opinion! And at less than £20 on DVD for all that nostalgic entertainment you can't really go wrong.
Another exhibition currently on in London features the Great War drawings of EH Shepard, best known for his illustrations of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh.
Running until 10th January, it coincides with the publication of a book, Shepard's War, which features over 100 of his drawings, cartoons, and paintings.
The main source of burial information from the mid-19th century onwards is the DeceasedOnline website, which has tens of millions of records - including over 8 million from London and 5 million from Lancashire. Obtaining information from local authorities can otherwise be a very expensive exercise, with fees often around £30 per name.
However there are a small number of cemeteries which provide free online information - and on the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham's website you can search for burials in three cemeteries , Rippleside, Eastbrookend, and Chadwell Heath. This is the area where I grew up, and the last time I attended a funeral at Rippleside Cemetery I stumbled across - literally - the graves of some of my relatives. When I searched on the website I was able to identify several others, but only today I discovered another while writing this article - perhaps I hadn't looked before she died in Hertfordshire, some distance away.
In the last newsletter I recounted the sad story of a Glasgow cemetery where many of the headstones had been pushed over or broken.
Sadly if we don't take any responsibility for our ancestors' graves many more will suffer a similar fate over time, so I was delighted to hear from Malvary in Canada that after visiting the grave of her great-great grandparents in Devon in 2012, and discovering that the headstone was broken (as you can see in the photograph on the right), she came back to England the following year to meet with a stonemason, and arranged to have it repaired at her own expense.
It's so easy to blame other people for not doing things that we often forget that we too can make things happen, if only we are prepared to spend the time and money.
What a great example Malvary has set for the rest of us!
Sadly I've never come across a family Bible with clues to my ancestry, but I know that others have been more fortunate, and Rena King - a LostCousins member for over 8 years - recently sent me her book The Family Bible: a Priceless Heirloom, which has been published by The Family History Partnership.
I didn't find any references to people from my family tree, but there are indexes of surnames and places at the back of the book - so you may be more fortunate. But despite not finding anything that will be help me directly with my research, I did learn quite a bit from reading the book that will help me indirectly.
I received a lot of correspondence following the article in the last issue, and I think it's fair to say that most of you couldn't see what the fuss was about.
One or two made the point that maiden names were sexist because women are forced to take their husband's name on marriage. But are they? My wife retained her maiden name when we married, and one of my 1st cousins twice removed did the same when she married in 1951 - though as she was a campaigner for women's rights in the workplace she might be regarded an exception.
However there's another exception in a different part of my tree, also from 1951, where my 2nd cousin took his wife's surname when they married - and though when my stepmother married for the first time in 1956 she took her husband's surname, she had forced him to change it before she would agree to marry him.
So I'd argue that while there may have been a time when women routinely took their husband's surname, those days are long gone.
One of my favourite regular features is Gem from the Archive in Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, in which archivists talk about interesting and unusual items in their collection.
In the November issue Patricia Kelly from Kent History and Library Centre talks about a Women's Institute logbook from the late 1940s which includes the most beautiful artwork - however the main reason it caught my eye was the very impressive list of jams and preserves that members had produced. (Will people one day look back at these newsletters and wonder how I found the time to make so much jam?)
I know we don't visit archives as much as we used to, now that so many more records can be accessed online, but it's important to remember that even in 2015 only a small percentage are online. When you next visit a record office, why not ask what special or unusual items they have in their collection?
My first tip is to take advantage of Findmypast offer above - everyone can afford £1, and there's no limit to what you might discover during the month.
A good way to save on everyday spending is to use a cashback credit card, and in the November issue of Which? (the magazine of the Consumers' Association) the American Express Platinum Cashback Card comes top of the table for those who spend an average of £500 a month or more. Although there's a £25 annual fee, if you're referred by an existing cardholder you'll get a £25 bonus, and there's also an introductory cashback rate of 5% during the first three months (it's normally 1.25% which is still generous).
I signed up for one of these cards just over a year ago and would be happy to refer any UK readers of this newsletter, not least because this way I can earn up to £125 a year in referral bonuses (as can you, once you become a cardholder!). Like most people I always pay my credit card bill in full, so don't suffer interest or penalties - and I've arranged for it to paid by direct debit, so it doesn't depend on my memory.
Also in the same issue of Which? there's a preview of the Amazon Fire 7 tablet, which can be pre-ordered now, but won't ship in the UK until 6th November. At £49.99 it's very competitively priced, though obviously it doesn't have the highest resolution or the fastest processor. If you buy 5 you get the 6th free (and you get them all for only slightly more than the price of a single iPad mini!).
Staying with gadgets, I've answered quite a few questions about the BT8500 phone in one-to-one emails so I thought it might be worthwhile repeating the advice here, since there's obviously some confusion:
Remember, if you don't speak to spammers and scammers you can't be conned by them!
Extra dates and venues have been added to the article on 1939 Register presentations.
© Copyright 2015 Peter Calver
Please do not copy any part of this newsletter without permission. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance - though why not invite them to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership, which includes this newsletter, is FREE?