Newsletter - 25th October 2019
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 15th October) 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!
Thousands of keen family historians attended the opening day of the inaugural RootsTech London, at the Excel complex in the former docklands - but the exhibition hall is so vast that the number of people attending was really only apparent when we gathered in the auditorium to hear Steve Rockwood, President and CEO of FamilySearch International, welcome us all.
For me it was particularly heartening to hear him focus on the importance of making connections, because that's something that LostCousins has been doing since 2004 - however we couldn't have done it nearly so effectively had FamilySearch not made the 1881 Census freely available, both on their own website and through other sites. Thank you!
Nick Barratt - a long-time friend and supporter of LostCousins - took over as compere, introducing TV historian Dan Snow, who gave a very moving keynote address about the role his great-grandfather played in the Great War. Having recently watched Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece Paths of Glory for the first time it was chilling to learn that Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow had also blamed his men rather than accept that his own decision-making was at fault.
The photographs below show just a small fraction of the exhibition hall, and an even smaller fraction of the visitors - I'm told that even more people are coming today and tomorrow!
For more about what's happened (and happening) follow this link.
Norfolk parish registers and other records can be found at multiple sites - but the latest tranche released by the Norfolk Record Office are, for now at least, only available at Findmypast. My heart leaps whenever Norfolk records go online because some of my Suffolk ancestors lived very close to the border, so it's very possible that some have Norfolk origins.
According to Findmypast their new records come from over 2,500 registers, and include over half a million new baptisms, adding 307 new parishes to the collection, over half a million banns and marriages covering 461 new parishes, and over 400,000 burials from 301 new parishes.
There are now well over 4 million records from parish registers in Findmypast's Norfolk collection:
One of the outstanding features of The Genealogist is their collection of tithe maps and tithe records, which they are in the processing of updating with colour maps. The latest addition is from Warwickshire, mostly covering the years 1837-55.
The Genealogist has previously released apportionment record books and national greyscale maps; they also have colour maps for Rutland, Huntingdonshire, Buckinghamshire, City of York, Middlesex, Northumberland, Surrey, Westmorland, and the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire. You can save on a subscription to The Genealogist, and get a free subscription to Discover Your Ancestors online magazine if you follow this link.
DNA can help all of us to research our family trees, but now and again we'll discover that the genetic tree doesn't match the one on paper - often because there has been an adoption at some point. The discovery in this story, sent in by Margaret, came like a bombshell - it was so unexpected. And yet it was the most wonderful news imaginable.....
"In September 2016 I received the results of my DNA test. There wasn't anything obviously significant about any of the matches shown, mostly 3rd and 4th Cousins. I left it there - at that time Peter hadn't written his Masterclass, so I had nothing to guide me to the next level.
"Then in September 2017 I received through Ancestry a message from a Lisa Woodward stating she had just received her DNA results and discovered that it was extremely likely that I was her 1st Cousin.
"As I had - or so I thought - completed my immediate family tree, this seemed to me very unlikely. But after many emails backwards and forwards it was decided that a brother of my father had had an affair, and fathered a child, who had then been adopted. The person in question was Lisa's father who - according to Lisa - was born in the north of England, adopted and then at the age of around 20 emigrated to Australia. There he met his future wife, married and had three girls - of whom Lisa is the eldest.
"At this time I asked Lisa if her father had his birth certificate as it would show at least the mother's name. Sadly it had been mislaid some years ago and no one could remember the contents. No further communication was made until this year.....
"On 20th March I received out of the blue an email from Lisa headed 'Certificate'. Eager to open the email to find out the name of the Mother I was given the biggest 'bombshell' imaginable, the child, David was born on 16th June 1947 to Jenny and John Brown and there in the notes was the word 'Adopted'.
"Readers, this may not seem unusual to you, but this Jenny and John Brown were my parents. This meant that David was my brother! He was born in the very house I was brought up in - and where my sister was born five years after David (this child they kept). What family remain today are totally unaware of this situation.
"It doesn't end there, David was legally adopted through a Juvenile Court just a few weeks after his birth, but not by strangers - the couple who adopted him were related to me through marriage and lived just 34 miles away. He visited the same family that I did.
"Naturally I asked myself as to why I had not pick up this birth in the GRO index - I now know why. My mother had her name changed by Deed Poll prior to David's birth as my parents were not married, resulting in her maiden name showing as Brown, which was not her birth name.
"At the time of this development David was out in Vietnam teaching English through the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) system soon after he joined the Mercy Ship in Gran Canaria as a Volunteer. He finally made it to the U.K. on 28th July where I picked him up from a Lincolnshire Station.
"There was another shock - seeing David in the flesh I felt my (sorry, our) late father had walked back into my life, because the resemblance was unmistakable. My life has taken on another phase - after 72 years I finally got to meet up with a brother I never knew existed!
"The experience has been truly wonderful: lots of chatter, laughter, and sharing photographs. We even discovered one of the two of us aged about 2 and 7 on a beach with a family friend - of course, at the time we had no idea that we were brother and sister. This photograph had also appeared in an old family album belonging to my parents - I had never known who the boy was.
"Of course there are still many unanswered questions. Sadly David's adoption papers so far have been unavailable, though we live in hope. David had to leave at the end of September, however he has booked a return flight to join me again next May - I can't wait.
"Without DNA this would never have come to light - and yet the only reason I tested was because I was researching my family tree. I wonder how many others will miss out on wonderful, life-changing discoveries."
If you've been banging your head against the same 'brick wall' for years then a different approach is needed. In this example sent in by a reader it was DNA that provided the vital clues (note that the names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved):
"Hannah Glover had three children: Ernest was born in 1916 – no father was shown on his birth certificate. Joyce and James were born in 1921 and 1922; their parents were named as Andrew Peters, a carpenter, and Hannah Peters formerly Glover - yet Joyce and James never knew their father. When Hannah married in 1938 she did so as Hannah Peters, widow.
"We have searched many times for the marriage of Andrew and Hannah but without success, so we were hoping that they were together at the time of the 1921 census (between the births of Joyce and James) which would give us some more information about him.
"But along came DNA and James’ daughter Hazel tested with Ancestry along with her mother, and also Joyce’s son Reg. Hazel and Reg match on Ancestry as probable first cousins which is what we expected, although we had never previously been absolutely sure. They have a number of shared matches on Ancestry but no surnames on any of the accessible trees match anything in their joint ancestry. However the surname Andrews turns up in several trees and some matches also have the surname Andrews. In particular we noted the name Andrew Peter Andrews, a carpenter who would have been living around the same time as Andrew Peters.
"The closest match with Hazel on Ancestry is a grandson of the aforesaid Andrew Peter Andrews - and one of the most likely relationships suggested by Ancestry is half 1st cousin, which would certainly be consistent with Andrew Peter Andrews and Andrew Peters being the same person. (The other suggested relationships such as 1st cousin once removed and great-great grandparent can almost certainly be ruled out as being virtually impossible in practice.)
"The second closest match is a great granddaughter whose suggested relationship is half 1st cousin once removed or similar. Other matches who are further away are relatives, but not direct descendants, of Andrew Peter Andrews - again consistent with the hypothesis. We know that Andrew Peter Andrews was married and had several children with his wife, two of whom were born in West Ham, one of them in 1921. Joyce Peters was also born in West Ham - in the same month!
"Ernest’s daughter has also been doing detective work using DNA, and has made contact with her unknown grandfather’s family, who have provided family photos and a location providing additional evidence."
As you can see from this story, DNA doesn't hand you the answers on a plate - you still need to use your research skills and powers of deduction. But it very often provides new leads that you’d otherwise have been unlikely to stumble across.
I was fortunate that after my father died I found a cardboard box in his loft containing bits and pieces from my childhood that had been kept for over half a century - a story that I wrote at the age of 6, a picture I drew a couple of years later, and other bits and pieces that I never expected to see again.
This BBC News article tells how somebody else made an unexpected discovery from her childhood - has anything similar ever happened to you?
This issue's excerpt from this wonderful book is about entertainment. As the author points out, whilst many homes had wirelesses, there were no programmes designed for children until the War - and as for television, that really didn’t get going until the 1950s (my family rented a set for the Coronation in 1953, and my father was still renting from the same company half a century later.
So what other entertainment was there? These quotes from contributors to the book are a reminder of a different world, but one that many reading this will remember:
"On one occasion I saw a barrel organ in the street with men dressed up as women dancing in order to get some pennies. This was at a time of mass unemployment and was the only way they could get any money."
"One man used to come down the street sometimes with a roundabout pulled by a horse. He charged a halfpenny a ride, and the roundabout had to be pushed by hand by one of us, which would earn us a free ride."
"We spent hours skipping with a rope stretched across the road, singing esoteric skipping chant.... When we were skipping across the street the rope holders would think of a colour or film star or food, and the jumper had to guess it.... When you skipped they’d swing the rope higher and higher, and you took it in turns to jump over it. Eventually you’d hit it as you jumped and you were out. There were lots of skipping chants."
"In the war we used the shrapnel we collected to play hopscotch.... The markings in chalk on the pavement were 1–23–4–56–KQ."
I don’t suppose the games were so very different in other towns and cities. You can download a free PDF copy of Growing Up In London, 1930-1960 by logging-in to your LostCousins account (yes, if you received an email about this newsletter you do have an account!) and going to the Peter's Tips page.
This article in Nature explains why the potential demise of conventional censuses is not just a concern for family historians in the rich world, but also for people in poorer countries.
An article published in the British Medical Journal last week warns against relying on health inferences from home DNA tests - the authors' criticisms are not very different from what I've written in the past.
However if you've got half an hour to spare, this BMJ podcast is brilliant - very informative and well worth listening to (it helps that the main contributors are GPs). The way in which they discuss the tests is really insightful, and perhaps the most important lesson is that genetic tests aren't necessarily any more accurate than other medical tests.
Near the beginning one of the contributors mentions that there are around 250 companies offering direct-to-consumer DNA tests, so it’s worth bearing in mind there because are only a handful of DNA test providers that I've ever recommended to genealogists (which means that there are a lot of companies that you should probably steer clear of). And by the way, whilst the title of the podcast starts with the words 'Ancestry DNA', they're definitely not talking about Ancestry (the company), who didn't offer health tests at the time the recording was made.
Note: see the last newsletter for information about the new health tests announced by Ancestry, which are initially available only in the US.
US scientists are working on a new gene editing technique with the potential to fix up to 89% of the 75,000 known harmful defects, though it's at a very early stage. See this BBC article for more details.
Ancestry are rolling out updated ethnicity estimates for those who have already tested, and if my experience is anything to go by, they're getting rather good.
In the past I've warned that ethnicity estimates should be regarded as being "for amusement only" but when I logged-on and discovered that they've correctly identified me as having German ancestors I was really impressed:
Many supermarkets sell packs of 'Cooking Bacon' - they’re off-cuts and scraps, and what you get in a pack varies enormously. For example, I recently purchased a pack which had two thick steaks - but usually I look out for packs with thinly cut rashers, as they're more versatile. But whatever is in the pack, at 72p for 500g in my local supermarket it’s a bargain buy, whether you end up using the bacon as an ingredient (as in the Chicken & Bacon Risotto I made earlier this week), or as the heart of a meal. (Earlier this year the packs were even cheaper, at just 58p!)
Chicken livers are another tasty, but economical ingredient - fry and add yoghourt, or balsamic vinegar. Or try lamb's kidneys cooked in a frying pan with mustard and tomato sauce (or cream and sherry if you want to splash out). Delicious food doesn’t have to be expensive, nor need it be difficult or time-consuming to prepare - I can eat for a week for the price of a single meal out.
Do you have a favourite budget meal that's easy to prepare and - ideally - quick to cook? If there are sufficient suggestions we could put together a LostCousins cookbook!
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......
I was going to tell you a little more about Miss Eva Burren in this issue, but I've run out of time (and space), so I'm going to hold it over to the next newsletter. And as for Henry Morton Stanley - we're still struggling to find him on the 1841 Census. Can you do better? If so, please join the discussion on the LostCousins Forum.
© Copyright 2019 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?
Books mentioned below
have been chosen by Amazon. To see a different selection change the Search terms and click 'Go'.
Books mentioned below have been chosen by Amazon. To see a different selection change the Search terms and click 'Go'.