Newsletter - 20th October 2017
12 months, 8 billion records, 10% less BREAKING NEWS
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 15th October) 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):
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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!
There's nothing worse than spending out £9.25 on a certificate from the GRO, waiting for it to arrive, then finding out that you've ordered the wrong one - and yet it's a mistake we've all made in the past.
Prior to 6th April 2010 the GRO offered a service where you would pay £3 (or was it £3.50) and they'd check each entry in a list until they found that matched the criteria you specified. You'd pay the normal cost of the certificate plus the checking fee for each entry they'd checked - it was a sort of insurance policy.
But in 2010 somebody in the corridors of power re-read the legislation and realised that there was no authority to charge for this service - on reading the announcement most people assumed that it had been discontinued. But it hadn't been discontinued - it just worked a bit differently. And best of all, it was now free!
When I wrote about the checking service in the last issue of this newsletter I explained how to place an order, but I didn't mention that there is a limit to how many entries will be checked. Subsequently a LostCousins member who is a professional genealogist reminded me that the GRO will only check a maximum 6 entries - which might possibly cause a problem if you're searching for someone with a very common forename/surname combination.
It's not a problem you'll run into very often, because you have to specify the registration district, and they'll only search three years (the year you specify and one on either side). Even 'John Smith' tends not to show up more than 6 times in a 3 year period, at least not in the registration districts I checked. (You might, however, run into a problem if you're searching for a 'John Jones' in Wales, because in some parts of Wales a quarter of the inhabitants are called Jones.)
It's not a foolproof solution - the GRO will stop searching as soon as they find an entry that matches the criteria you specify, so you may never know that there was another matching entry. On the other hand, if you're too specific you might be told the entry can't be found, even though there's a 'near match'.
Tip: †if you can, avoid specifying an occupation - since there can be many different ways of describing the same job.
The good news is that if they don't find a matching entry you won't be charged at all, whereas if they find an entry that matches all the criteria you specified - it's very probably the one you wanted.
I can't imagine that this free service will last for ever: now that the GRO has more flexibility, subject to Ministerial approval, to offer different services at different prices, there will probably come a point where they'll start charging (or else discontinue the service altogether). But while you can, take advantage of their generosity!
Finally, if you are unsatisfied with the service you receive from the GRO you can now contact them online by following this link.
12 months, 8 billion records, 10% less BREAKING NEWS
Just as I was starting to unwind after a very busy week news came through from Findmypast of a discount offer on all NEW 12 month World subscriptions - it runs until midnight (London time) on 31st October (but see note below about the UK link).Fortunately I'd already started putting this newsletter together, so I was able to rush it out for the weekend - I know that for a lot of readers it's the only time you get a chance to work on your family tree.
The discount applies at all four of Findmypast's sites, and to encourage you to use my links I'm once again giving away LostCousins subscriptions to those who take up the Findmypast offer.
Tip: remember that Findmypast offer a generous 15% discount to subscribers who renew, so you can look forward to paying even less in 12 months' time (assuming there are no changes in the price structure).
All World subscriptions are the same, providing unlimited access to the entire Findmypast collection, which includes over 8 billion historical records and articles, including many which aren't available elsewhere, such as the 1939 Register for England & Wales, the British Newspaper Archive, and parish registers that no other site has.
UPDATE: I've just been informed that for technical reasons the offer at the UK site will end at 5.30pm on Wednesday 25th October; fortunately it shouldn't cost any more to subscribe to the Australian site instead (and it might even cost less). Remember, when you have a World subscrption you can log-in at any of the Findmypast sites.
The offer applies to new and lapsed subscribers only. If your subscription has recently lapsed you might have to log-out from your Findmypast account before clicking the link.
If you take up Findmypast's offer I'll give you a free LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 for supporting LostCousins - just make sure that:
(1)† you haven't installed ad-blocking software;
(2) tracking is enabled in your browser (it will be unless someone has changed the setting); and
(3) when you click the link you can see the words 'content=LostCousins' on the browser command line when you arrive at the Findmypast site (it might be off the screen, but if so just place the cursor on the command line and move to the right until you see it)
Why is this important? Your LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us - get it wrong and we'll all lose out!
To claim your free subscription just forward to me the email receipt that Findmypast will send you (you can use any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one I wrote from to tell you about this newsletter). Please make a note of the precise time of your purchase in case the email doesn't arrive - I must have that time to confirm your entitlement. Your LostCousins subscription will run from the date of your Findmypast purchase unless you already have a subscription, in which case I'll extend it by 12 months.
Feel free to circulate a link to this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.
Although the 1939 Register for Scotland isn't available online (though you can order an extract here), ScotlandsPeople have recently released the 1935 Valuation Rolls, which will provide clues to what your ancestors were doing around the same time.
Searching the rolls is free, but you'll need credits if you want to view the records. You can find out more here.
There are some interesting items in the National Army Museum's collection, but it wasn't until MJ Lee (author of The American Candidate) told me that I realised that they have the enlistment books for Irish regiments of the British Army which were disbanded following the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. There are nearly 12000 men listed, and you can search free here.
Note: I took the opportunity to check whether there's another book in the Jayne Sinclair series on its way - and I'm delighted to say that there is.
In the last issue I mentioned the index of approximately 300,000 soldiers who were born before 1901 and discharged after 1920. I believe the significance of the birth date is that they would have been old enough to be conscripted during the Great War - and that's very important, because most (about 60%) of the service files for WW1 soldiers were destroyed by enemy action during WW2.
Until recently, if you didn't find your ancestors' records online, it would have been natural to assume that they were amongst the 60% whose files were burned. But if your ancestor stayed in the army after the WW1 - or joined up again - the chances are that his file would have been stored elsewhere, and that's why this new index is so important.
Although it costs £30 to get a service file from the MoD (unless it is requested by the soldier concerned or their spouse), at one time the more discouraging factor was the delay of well over a year in obtaining the copy. I'm glad to say that now the delay appears to have reduced to just weeks for Army and RAF records, though 5 to 8 months is still being quoted for Navy records.
The Hearth Tax Online website hosted by the University of Roehampton is still out of action having been hit by a massive cyberattack. On the other hand, the British Army Ancestors website, which was hit on Monday evening, was back online the following day.
One of the delights of browsing through parish registers is the occasional unexpected discovery of items that you wouldn't usually expect to find, such as Jane Austen's alterations to the marriage register for her father's church. I wrote about Austen's youthful indiscretion in March - you can read the article again here.
A few weeks later LostCousins member Gerald came across this sombre poem in one of the parish registers for Shalbourne in Wiltshire:
Reproduced by kind permission of Wiltshire & Swindon Archives
Written by G M Johnson "in moralizing mood" it is hardly an uplifting work, but I hope that one of you can finish it off by providing suitable endings for the lines in the first verse, which seem to have suffered water damage (perhaps the tears of someone who read the poem?). Email your suggestions to me, and I'll publish my favourite in a future issue.
Other delights I've come across in parish registers in the past include lists of the inhabitants, recipes for healing potions, and a map of the vicarage garden identifying the different trees. But whatís the most surprising thing that you've found?
In the next newsletter I'm hoping to feature a rather unusual offer - it's designed to encourage experienced researchers like you to give a little helping hand to friends and relatives who would like to research their family tree, but don't have your experience.
I suggest you ask around and make a note of who is interested - but please donít invite them to join LostCousins just yet (you'll see why in the next issue!).
In the last newsletter I mentioned the French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon and referred you to an article about him that I wrote years ago.
My wife spotted some rather grisly crime scene photos from the early 20th century which were found in Bertillon's case files and published in the Daily Mail in May this year - you'll find them here.
One of the reasons I recommend testing with Ancestry is because it's the only way to get access to their enormous database of more than 5 million tests results - and you've got the option of uploading your results to GEDmatch and Family Tree DNA to make further matches there.
Or have you? Jerri wrote to tell me that she was unable to upload her results to Family Tree DNA because of a change in the file format, and she could only upload them to GEDmatch using the new Genesis system, which is in beta testing.
Is it a change in the file format, or have Ancestry switched to a different chip? When I asked Jerri how many lines of data she had in her file it was about 18,000 lines shorter than mine. A small part of the difference could be because I have Y-DNA and Jerri doesn't - but on the other hand the file for my wife's results is the same length as mine.
At the moment the best guess is that they've switched to a different chip - presumably V3 as we've already had V1 and V2 - but I'm waiting for confirmation.
Note: the change doesn't, of course, affect matching with other Ancestry users. †
I'm not going to mention the recent demise of former American game show host Monty Hall because the last time I wrote about him, and the puzzle that the show inspired, I was deluged with correspondence (you can read all about it here).
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......
© 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?