Newsletter - 19th September 2019
Stop Press UPDATED
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 13th September) 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!
On the evening of Monday 23rd September DNA experts - including long-time LostCousins member Debbie Kennett - will be at the Royal Institution in London's Albemarle Street discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of DNA testing in a panel session entitled DNA testing kits and me. Tickets are £17 (or £10 for over 60s like me), and doors open at 6.30pm for 7pm start.
If you're interested in attending or finding out more follow this link - but if you are over 60 you may be able to attend free of charge! I've bought 4 extra tickets to give away to LostCousins members, and the first 4 members who contact me will get them.
Note: I will update this article when all the tickets are gone. As of 2pm on Monday there were still TWO free tickets unclaimed so I'm now offering them to ANYONE over 60 (even if thery're not yet a LostCousins member)!
In the last issue I mentioned a talk by Michael Gandy at the Society of Genealogists entitled Tracing your Medieval Ancestors: The Realistic Possibilities which was scheduled for 26th September. This event has now disappeared from the SoG calendar (it had already been rescheduled once) though in any case, fewer than 0.1% of the readers of this newsletter could have attended - not because of distance, infirmity, or prior commitments, though they would have been factors for many - but because the room wouldnít have been big enough!
So, for the 99.9% who couldn't have been there, here is a link to a free one hour talk by the renowned historian Professor Nick Barratt. Entitled Tracing your Medieval and Early Modern Ancestors it is on the Findmypast website, but not only do you not need a subscription, you don't even need to register or sign-in!
I've had confirmation that next week Findmypast are going to stop giving away DNA tests to researchers who purchase a Plus or Pro subscription at their UK site - the final date of the offer will be Thursday 26th September.
Remember, if you use my link you could also get a free LostCousins subscription, paid for by the commission we receive from Findmypast (but it's up to you to ensure that tracking is enabled in your browser, and that you haven't installed an adblocker or other software that will block tracking). See my articles in the 6th September newsletter for full details of the offers.
Of course, Findmypast are relative newcomers in the field of DNA, so you wonít be matched with many cousins in their database - at least, not in the foreseeable future. But that really doesnít matter, because when you upload your results to GEDmatch and MyHeritage you'll get thousands of matches with genetic cousins - so itís a great, cost-free way for those of you who canít make up your mind whether DNA is worthwhile to "dip a toe in the water".
The 85% price cut has created such a backlog that most wills are being delivered a month or more after the supposed delivery date. If youíre one of those waiting for wills please join the discussion at the LostCousins Forum where you'll be able to compare your own experiences with those of other members. (Please don't write to me direct on this topic as any information I have will be published in this newsletter and/or on the forum.)
Tip: you donít need to be a member of the forum to read what other people have posted, but you will need to join in order to post messages of your own. If you qualify there will be an invitation on your My Summary page.
When I was corresponding with a member last weekend I mentioned how useful I had found Friends Reunited when it launched at the turn of the millennium, and this prompted her to tell me this poignant story:
"I became a member of Friends Reunited in 2002, and was able to reconnect with quite a few 'old' school friends. However, what I didn't expect just three weeks after joining is receiving a message from my son who I gave up for adoption in 1970 when he was a week old.
"Apparently he had applied for his adoption papers two years earlier and had been looking for me all that time, never thinking that I wasn't living in England (I emigrated in 1974). In his first message he told me a lot about himself that I had been wondering about over the years (his changed name, marital status, children, occupation, who he looked like), though I never had any thoughts of trying to find him.
"We finally met up three years later back in England. It was good to spend time with him, but as much as we both wanted our new-found relationship to work, it didn't. I guess when you join these social network sites you have to expect the unexpected."
Do you have an adoption story that I can feature in the newsletter? If so, please get in touch( although I donít include my email address on the LostCousins website, it was in the email that told you about this newsletter).
Jane was inspired to write to me by Barbara's story in the last newsletter - I suspect that Jane's story will prove just as inspiring!
"I enjoyed reading the story about the woman finding her motherís friend's family and sharing the letters. I had a successful mini mystery of my own that I resolved thanks to Internet detective work.
"We did a family trip to Scotland in 1980 with my grandparents, and I remember stopping by this house below, to see if my grandfatherís cousin ĎChrissyí was home. There was no answer so after waiting awhile we left. My grandfather hadnít been back to Scotland since the 1930ís so he wasnít even sure if she was alive or still living there. I have no idea where we were or which side of his family this cousin Chrissy was from.
"My grandfather has since passed away and no one else could give me any details. but I was organizing some of my grandmotherís photos and while her photos were pretty similar to the photos that I took on the trip, her photo of this house had ĎStruaní marked on the back. I Googled 'Struan', only to find that there is more than one place in Scotland called Struan, so I went on Google Streetview and found that the houses looked different in each village - but that one village resembled the building style of Chrissyís house.
"I then found a Bed & Breakfast in Struan with an email address and sent them a photo of the house and asked if they knew where it was (I figured a B&B owner was easily reachable, and they would likely know their village). I had a very quick reply that the house was ĎBridge Houseí and not only was it just down the road from them, her husband knew the people that had lived there. Once I heard the name everything fell into place - my grandfatherís mother had died at Bridge House in the 1930ís (he had the death certificate) and it was the home of her daughter (Chrissy would have been my grandfatherís cousin). I was very pleased to have that little mystery resolved, something that wouldnít have been possible without the internet!"
What impressed me about Jane's story is the way she moved from one Internet resource to another, ending with the masterstroke - the email to the B&B. Yes, she was lucky to get such a helpful response, but if there's one thing that I've learned from my own research, itís that doing something is better than throwing up our hands in horror and saying "It can't be done".
There was an amazing response to the article in the last newsletter: I had an email from a reader who was related to Christopher Robin Milne on his father's side, another from a reader who was related on his mother's side, a third from a reader whose 19th century farming ancestor lived at Cotchford Farm, where A A Milne and his family lived in the early 20th century, and a fourth from a reader who, earlier this year, stayed in the Devon holiday cottage where Christopher Robin used to live.
Considering that this newsletter goes out to over 67,000 family historians I shouldn't, perhaps, have been surprised to find that there so many connections between the Milne family and the membership, but I nevertheless still found it pretty amazing.
Meanwhile I spotted this article from the Brighton Argus, which will also be of interest to fans of the books.
Note:a later owner of Cotchford Farm was former Rolling Stone Brian Jones. Two days after he was found dead in the swimming pool I was amongst the crowd of more than a quarter of a million at the Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park, where thousands of white butterflies were released in his memory.
Remember when you were still studying, and had to sit exams? The examiners posed questions, you had to answer them as best you could - and whilst it usually helped if you had a choice of questions to answer, if you didnít know the answers to any of them you were unlikely to pass. Inspired guesswork can only get you so far.
These days family historians are more likely to be testing their DNA than taking exams, but there's an interesting parallel between the two activities. When you're matched with a genetic cousin the first thing you want to know is "How are we related?" - and answering that question is crucial to making sense of your DNA results.
Now consider that you'll have thousands, or (if you followed my advice and tested with Ancestry) tens of thousands of matches with genetic cousins. Yes, it's better to have more matches than fewer matches - however what you really need is not more questions, but more answers!
Someone said to me the other day, "Why should I search for 'lost cousins' when I already have more genetic cousins than I can possibly handle?". What I gently explained to him is that genetic cousins are questions, whereas documented cousins are answers.
Often all you know about a genetic cousin is that you have a shared ancestor - but in 99% of cases that shared ancestor could be anywhere between 4 and 14 generations back. (Bearing in mind that once you go back more than 10 generations we're all related, you might begin to wonder what the point of DNA testing is!)
A documented cousin can be someone you already know - or someone you find using LostCousins. In each case the evidence for the connection is set out in historic records - BMD registers, parish registers, censuses and all the other sources that family historians are accustomed to using: so you not only know that youíre related, you know how youíre related. And the good news is that you can use this information to answer the questions posed by your matches with genetic cousins.
How can connections to documented cousins help you resolve your DNA matches? Simple - if both you and one of your documented cousins have been matched with the same genetic cousin then it's very likely that youíre all connected through the same ancestral lines. In other words, you now know which part of your tree to look in to find the connection with your genetic cousin - for example, this could be one-eighth of your tree (if your documented cousin is a 3rd cousin), or one-sixteenth (for a 4th cousin). This makes it far more likely that you'll be able to find the precise connection to your genetic cousin.
A reader of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine recently wrote in with this unusual example, taken from the Probate Calendar from 1908:
I thought it would be interesting to dig a little deeper, so I first looked to see whether all of these forenames are shown in her entry in the new GRO birth indexes. Sadly they aren't - the first four forenames are shown in full, but the others have been completely omitted:
By contrast, the contemporary indexes show the first two forenames followed by 23 initials:
As far as I can tell Ann was the only child of the marriage. By 1901 Arthur Pepper had been widowed but his daughter was not living with him; in fact, I struggled to find any mention of her after 1891 - if you are able to find her please post your research on the LostCousins Forum (in the Latest Newsletter area) rather than contacting me direct.
Tip: if the Match Potential shown on your My Summary page is 1.00 if more then you are invited to join the LostCousins Forum. If your Match Potential is lower than 1.00 it's likely that you haven't entered all of your relatives who were recorded in the 1881 Census - remember that all of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree, so tracking the branches and twigs through to 1881 is crucial. †
The lead article in the latest issue of Genealogist's Magazine, the Journal of the Society of Genealogists: was written by John Wintrip (whose books received glowing reviews in this newsletter in March 2017 and March 2018). In it he raises an interesting question - one that I hadn't given much thought to previously, though I had noticed occasional anomalies: how did the bride sign the marriage register, ie did she give her surname as it was before the marriage, or as it was afterwards?
It's a particularly interesting question because by the time the register is signed the marriage has already taken place - so it would be quite logical for the bride to give her married surname. John Wintrip found that between 1754-1837 the practice varied by parish - and he draws the reader's attention to the printed examples often found at the beginning of a marriage register.
One thing I've noticed in my own research is that brides who acted as witnesses at other weddings on the same day weren't consistent in how they signed their name - some used their maiden name, even though they were witnessing a marriage that took place after their own. But the ones that stand out for me are where the bride started signing her maiden name, but crossed it out, and replaced it with her married name.
If you're an SoG member the article is well worth reading - I've only picked out a few highlights.
Goodness knows how the plumber featured in this BBC article manages to stay in business, but I wish there were more like him!
Writing about the untimely death of Brian Jones, who was found in the swimming pool at Cotchford Farm in 1969, reminded me of the house I bought in 1982. It too had a swimming pool (those were the days!), and about 10 years' before a previous owner, who was apparently 'known to the police' had been found dead in that pool - a fact that the seller wisely chose not to reveal to me until after I'd committed to buy the property (I didnít find out about the dry rot until too late, either)! Nevertheless, for a time I was on top of the world - but just 5 years later I was paying £40 a week for a rented room in a shared house (though at least I was still alive and kicking).
I have to say that having lived in a rented room for the best part of a decade in my late 30s and 40s I tend not to have a lot of sympathy for the 20-somethings who complain that they canít afford to buy a house, but donít save up for a deposit (as we all did). In an article in the September issue of The Oldie Tom Hodgkinson commented that his mother was exaggerating when she said that if only young people stopped buying expensive cups of coffee they'd find it easier to buy a house - and whilst he's arithmetically correct, I suspect that Liz Hodgkinson was also right in a way, because people who will happily spend £3 on a cup of coffee are probably equally lavish when it comes to meals out and takeaways - to say nothing of foreign holidays and other forms of entertainment that few of us enjoyed when we were their age.
I've commented previously how rare it seems to be these days for the younger generation to make a fair contribution towards the housekeeping when they're still living at home - no wonder they feel hard up when they finally move out. Indeed, I get the impression that most pay nothing at all, whereas in 1975 I was giving my parents £20 a week, about £250 a week in today's money.
FRIDAY 20TH: Findmypast have added baptism, marriage, and burial registers for around a dozen parishes in Cumberland - you can see which parishes are included if you follow this link
That's all for now - but I'll be back in touch soon.
© 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?
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