Newsletter – 24th September 2020
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 14th 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):
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It was announced in July that the Scotland census due to take place on 21st March 2021 had been postponed until 20th March 2022 – but the Office for National Statistics decided that the England & Wales census would still go ahead on the scheduled date.
Last week it was announced that the Ireland census will also be postponed by almost a year from 18th April 2021 until 3rd April 2022. Now that we're seeing another rise in COVID-19 cases will the ONS be forced to think again, I wonder?
This year's RootsTech London conference was cancelled months ago; now the decision has been taken to turn the main RootsTech event, normally held in Salt Lake City, into a virtual event. Best of all, it will be free (it cost me around £100 to attend RootsTech London).
You can find out more details and register here.
Nearly 5 years ago, in January 2016, I discovered that this wonderful sampler was going to be sold by the auctioneers in our village:.
Since I'd never before seen a sampler which recorded information from a family tree I decided to buy it. It didn't take me long to work out who William and Mary Godwin were, so I resolved that if I was successful in buying the sampler I'd reunite it with their descendants.
A few months later I had the pleasure of handing it over to one of them at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in the National Exhibition centre (I hadn't realised quite how heavy the frame was until I was faced with taking it on the train to Birmingham!).
I was recently sent this photograph showing two of the descendants, Meriel and Liz, posing with the sampler a couple of years ago – I'm so glad I was able to reunite it with the family. Liz, on the left in the picture, was visiting from New Zealand – thank goodness she didn't plan her visit for this year!
The term 'sacristy' refers to a room where vestments are kept – a sort of cloakroom, I suppose – but the recently rediscovered medieval sacristy at London's Westminster Abbey was built on the site of an even older graveyard, so archaeologists have also found the bones of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people.
You can find out more in this Guardian article.
Mayflower fact and fiction
Tens of millions of Americans are descended from the handful of colonists who arrived on the Mayflower 400 years ago, but in Britain we are often confused about precisely who they were and what they did.
This BBC article debunks some of the most common myths and errors – I think you'll find it interesting.
On no fewer than 6 occasions over the past 3 years I've written in this newsletter that ethnicity estimates are "for amusement only", so I was a little surprised at the reaction from LostCousins members to Ancestry's latest revision.
Like most of those commenting on the LostCousins Forum I find it difficult to explain the new figures in the context of what I know about my ancestors, but it's not something I'm going to lose sleep over, since ethnicity estimates are only a vague pointer to the origins of our ancestors.
It doesn’t help that our ancestors moved around. Everyone with so-called British ancestry is ultimately descended from immigrants, since at the peak of the last Ice Age there was nobody living here.
Even if the cultural science was precise, the biological science can’t be – although we inherit 50% of our DNA from each parent, that doesn’t mean that we get 25% from each grandparent. As I pointed out on the LostCousins Forum recently, if you have two English grandparents and two Scottish grandparents the amounf of 'Scottish' DNA you have inherited could be precisely 50% (if the two Scots were married to each other), or somewhere between 0% and 100% if each of the Scots married a Sassenach.
It's no wonder that that whilst the headline estimates that Ancestry present seem precise, the error bars are very wide. For example, my latest ethnicity estimate suggests that I'm 3% Scottish, but when I looked more closely I discovered that the range is 0% to 11%.
So it's mildly interesting to the extent that I have a 'brick wall' ancestor (a great-great grandmother) whose father and/or mother might have come from Scotland, but it isn’t going to change my research strategy. There's a good reason for my scepticism – my previous estimates showed me as 7% German, which ties in closely with what I known about my ancestry, but Germany doesn’t get a look in this time.
And by the way, my brother – who has precisely the same ancestors as I do – is shown as 8% Scottish (range 0% to 17%). He doesn’t have any German DNA either – but then he didn’t according to the previous estimates. What fun!
One day the technology will improve – perhaps when Whole Genome Sequencing becomes the standard. But in the meantime please, please, please don't write to me about your ethnicity estimates – they're for your amusement only.
Another oversize marriage certificate
In last issue there was an example of an extra wide certificate – there was a photograph of the parish church printed to the left of the standard form. This prompted Christine to send me a photo of one of the certificates in her collection – it’s not wider, but taller:
Note that the engraving doesn’t show the parish church, but St Asaph Cathedral (Llanfechain is in the diocese of St Asaph). See also the advice to the couple, taken from Chapter 3 of the Epistle to the Collossians:
"Wives, submit yourself unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord" (verse 18)
"Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them" (verse 19)
Whether or not the letter was written by the Apostle Paul is a matter for debate, but he's not generally regarded as an expert on marriage – indeed, he advises those who are single to remain so if they can.
It's not unusual to discover couples who, on the 1911 Census, claim to have married earlier than they actually did - usually to conceal the illegitimacy of their eldest children (though whether they were hiding it from the enumerator or the rest of their family one can only guess).
But it's very unusual to find an official marriage certificate that backdates a marriage – in fact, when Pat in Australia sent me the example below it was the first I'd ever seen:
On the face of it this is a perfectly standard marriage certificate issued by the General Register Office. But when you compare it with the church register entry at FamilySearch you'll see that the year is wrong (note that although FamilySearch is free, you need to sign in to search or view records).
If that doesn’t convince you that the GRO have got it wrong, here's the original marriage certificate:
(Notice the advice to the bride and groom – does it sound familiar?)
And finally, if you look this marriage up in the GRO quarterly indexes, you'll find that it's recorded in 1875, not 1874.
So what's going on here? The registers held by the General Register Office are bound from loose leaves submitted quarterly by churches and register offices. Those leaves contain entries copied from the original registers, which are locally held – which is why when you order marriage certificates from the GRO you don’t get to see your ancestors' actual signatures.
Tip: understanding how the GRO registers and indexes are compiled is very important – many otherwise experienced family historians have been known to make incorrect assumptions. It's also important to understand how the contemporary (quarterly) indexes differ from the GRO's new online indexes for births and deaths (see this 2016 article for a brief explanation).
Clearly whoever copied the entries for St Philip's, Manchester for the first quarter of 1875 hadn’t got used to the new year – or had been over-indulging in the communion wine. It's very unlikely that the Smith/Ogden marriage is the only one to show the wrong year, and it's not impossible that all of the 20 marriages that quarter were incorrectly copied.
Who was the culprit? Looking at the register entries I'd say it was Henry Heppenstall, the curate – and not Robert West, the rector (who actually conducted the ceremony). Did any of your relatives marry at St Philip's during the first quarter of 1875? I'm curious to know whether the other entries were also wrong – but not so curious that I'm prepared to pay £11 a time to find out!
Tip: if you’re not familiar with clerical terms such as curate and rector this handy guide on the Crockford's Clerical Directory website will help. A curate is described as a 'Deacon or priest appointed to assist the incumbent or take charge of a parish temporarily during a vacancy or while the incumbent is incapacitated.'
Karen found this interesting entry in the GRO birth indexes:
DICKS, ELLEN LOUISA
MARY ANN JEFFRYS
GRO Reference: 1841 M Quarter in WESTBURY AND WHORWELLSDOWN Volume 08 Page 434
Have you noticed what's different? It shows the mother's full maiden name, not just her maiden surname. A bonus if you find the entry, but you might not - because searching with the maiden name JEFFRYS doesn't pick it up.
I wonder if there are any other examples of this anomaly?
Last month I invited members who are still actively researching in their late 80s or 90s to get in touch and tell me a little about their discoveries – Jean was one of the many who responded.
"I am 88 in 12 days and cannot remember a time when I was not a family historian. When I was 10 I would sit at my grandmother’s knee and encourage her to talk about her youth and family.
"Later it was my father’s story of money in Chancery which caught my interest and as time allowed I wrote it all down, determined to research it all properly one day. As the years passed I questioned family members and squirrelled away their stories until I was able to seriously start researching in 1983 when I was 50+ and stopped office working – I also had time to start a One-Name Study (Corbet).
"Introducing family researchers to each other always gave and still gives me a special kick, and I still encourage everyone I meet to research their family and record their findings. So rewarding!
"Those were the days when you joined county family history societies for help, travelled to distant county record offices to search locally indexed parish registers, or stayed home and sent for copies of the International Genealogical Index (IGI) for baptisms and marriages. I cannot express the depth of my gratitude when the World Wide Web was invented and I was introduced to the joys and use of a home computer, the Internet and emails.
"Later, as age took its hold and I became concerned that my considerable collection of Corbet records would end up in a skip, I successfully searched for someone who would take over my considerable ONS records. From that time I spent more of my time researching my own family while trying to research some of the tales I had heard from Nan and Dad. Many held grains of truth which led me to discover family secrets including six children, born to an unmarried woman in the 1860s, whose surname, over time, changed from her maiden name, to her partner’s Hungarian name, to Smith. On one census she described her occupation as ‘precarious’. A woman after my own heart! What a tangle, but such rewards when two descendants approached me after discovering my research.
"I haven’t mentioned the man who had numerous legitimate and illegitimate children from three women, and the attempts he and his amours made to cover it all up with surname changes. Somehow he managed to support them all financially
"My years as a member of the Society of Genealogists mean that I still try to find three recorded proofs of someone’s existence, and try to kill off my ancestors to make sure the person presumed to be my 7 times great grandfather lived into adulthood. There is no disappointment quite as bad as finding out he died aged 3.
"Well, of course, all these years of research have, and continue, to niggle away at my still ever active (thank heavens) brain as I spend whatever time I can filch from my day to family history research, hampered by a body which is letting the side down, so to speak. I am ever grateful for having been born with an enquiring mind and let me not forget to say that in the last year I took an Open University module and managed a decent 70 result.
"Thanks for all your work for us."
And thank you, Jean, for sharing your story and inspiring the rest of us. It's so good to know that at 88 you’re still going strong – long may you continue!
David wrote recently from Australia with a fascinating account of research that he'd carried out – and which had an unexpected outcome:
Like yourself, I grew up during a time when every adult was either Aunt or Uncle. I never knew whether they were related or not - no problem when I was a child but most frustrating when I started family history research.
There was one such adult, Lauren Smalls (LS), who I have wondered about many times over the years - was she related or not? Yesterday I decided to see whether I could work anything out.
This is what I knew:
I didn't know her maiden name.
I guessed that LS's husband had died before 1994 (as he wasn't present at the funeral). I was able to confirm this by using the Ryerson Index (an index of Australian newspaper death notices). This gave me the husband's middle name. I then did a full name search at MyHeritage and came across several references. These records were managed by JS (one of my facts) and showed his brother as RS (another fact). At this point it was all circumstantial but when I viewed the record there was a photo of RS and I recognised him as being the person I remembered from my childhood.
The associated tree also showed LS's middle name (Ellen), maiden surname (Moon) and birth year (1915) and also MS's married surname (Nice -MN).
The next stop was FreeBMD. I searched for LEM's birth and although her maiden surname was relatively common (22 records for the year), one record stood out with an uncommon surname (Wattinglee) for her mother's maiden name. This surname was already in my tree. Another check at FreeBMD, looking for a marriage of Moon and Wattinglee, gave me only one result in the right location and right timeframe. A few more FreeBMD checks gave me LEM's grandparents (on her mother's – Wattinglee – side). These were names I already had on my tree as my great uncle's parents in-law. So I had finally proved that although LS's (nee LEM) name was on my extended tree she was not biologically related to me. Success number one.
Wind back a month….
I received an unexpected letter from a UK solicitor stating that I had received an inheritance from a cousin (BD) who had died last year. There were ten named bequests (including myself), but whilst they were conveniently listed in the will as being cousins of BD, it didn't go the next step and state the precise relationship. Being a family historian I thought it would be interesting to see whether I could connect them to my tree.
I already had myself and two others on my tree. And I knew BD's immediate family - her mother's maiden name was the same as LEM's mother's. But when I started looking for Aunts and Uncles of my deceased cousin I realised that I had her Grandparents names completely wrong. Once I had removed them and located the correct Grandparents using the GRO Online indexes (which weren't available when I originally researched this part of my tree, hence the error), I was able to find all of BD's Aunts and Uncles – which of course tied back to my original searches for LEM/LS.
Using the UK Electoral Rolls at FindMyPast I was able to identify seven names - leaving one unknown person in the will. But I still couldn't connect any of them to my tree yet. Based on the will, the missing person was also living in Australia (at the time of the will - three years ago). When I was emailing the UK solicitor, providing my necessary details, they asked whether I knew this missing person as they hadn't received a reply to their initial contact letter. The only comment I could make at the time was that the address was a post office box in a rural community so maybe they were farmers and only checked their mail irregularly.
Fast forward to yesterday…..
After doing my research into LS I realised that the missing person from the will was MN (LS's married daughter MS). Checking the connections in my tree to BD it turned out that MN and myself were both first cousins once removed of BD. MN was related by BD's mother and I was related by BD's father. I have passed this information onto to the UK solicitor so that MN can receive her inheritance – which otherwise she might have missed. Success number two.
Having found LS's maiden surname, this helped me connect the seven will names to my tree. Although they are all on BD's maternal side, so not cousins of mine, it's nice to tie down loose ends. Success number three.
Isn't family history research wonderful?
Thank you, David, for a wonderful example of what we can find out when we set our minds to it. And the best thing of all is that, having acquired research skills through family history, we can apply them elsewhere in our lives – perhaps to fact check stories in the tabloids that seem too good to be true, or to debunk Internet conspiracies.
We live in a world where a sizeable minority of the population believe that the Earth is flat, that the moon landings were faked, and that COVID-19 is a conspiracy masterminded by Bill Gates. It has never been more important to use our research skills for the common good!
Over on the LostCousins Forum we've been discussing the mysterious case of Doris Wells Gregory, who was born out-of-wedlock to Ethel Daisy Gregory in Woodford, Essex on 20th March 1909, but couldn’t be found on the 1911 Census two years later (see the article in the last issue for more information).
I speculated that she might have been adopted and forum members Susan48 and MeganN came up with a very plausible solution:
© Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England. Used by kind permission of Findmypast
The family were living in Southwark, just south of the River Thames, but clearly they'd lived north of the river at some point because their daughter Amy was born in Walthamstow.
Ann Dyer's maiden name was Foster (the two stepchildren were born prior to her marriage in 1900 to John Ernest Dyer). There's no birth registration for a Doris Wells Dyer, nor are there any female Dyers whose mother's maiden name was Foster. Edmonton might be in Middlesex but it’s not very far from Walthamstow and Woodford. Perhaps Ann Foster knew the Gregory family quite well? Or perhaps John Dyer knew their daughter Ethel rather too well?
It's either a most remarkable coincidence, or else Doris Wells Gregory was adopted by the Foster/Dyer family. But if Doris wasn't the natural child of John & Ann, who was the second child born to the marriage? Or were they, like so many others, misinterpreting the questions?
Doris Wells Dyer appears in a few Ancestry trees, but there's no record of her after 1911; Doris Wells Gregory, on the other hand, got married in 1930 to Edward David Warner – and gave her father's name as John Edward Gregory. Could that made-up name have been inspired by John Ernest Dyer, I wonder?
With luck the 1921 Census for England & Wales will go online in early 2022 – it'll be interesting to see what that reveals!
If you enjoyed reading Lost Heirs of the Medieval Crown, which I reviewed 6 months ago, you'll already be familiar with some of the dramatis personae in Douglas Boyd's Plantagenet Princesses: the Daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II.
It focuses on the offspring of just one Royal couple – but what a couple! Eleanor was both Queen of France and Queen of England. Henry's mother, Matilda, was the daughter of Henry I, she was married as a child to the future Holy Roman emperor, Henry V and would have been Queen of England had Stephen of Blois not seized the throne when she was pregnant with her third child.
Eleanor was the daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine, and when he died she became Duchess at the age of 15. She was promptly married to the King of France's son, Louis, and just one week later she became Queen of France on the death of Louis VI. She provided Louis VII with two daughters, but her failure to provide him with a son persuaded him to consent to an annulment of the marriage based on consanguinity – she then married Henry, who was Duke of Normandy, but became Henry II of England just 2 years later.
Three of the five sons of Henry and Eleanor became Kings, but this book focuses on the three surviving daughters. Two of them married Kings, the other was the mother of an Emperor. One was the mother of four Queens and one King, and the grandmother of two Saints. Marriages took place for geopolitical gain, or in exchange for vast dowries; most of the Princesses were child brides. It was a very different world from the one we know today.
It's not a book you can dip into at random because many of the key characters had the same names, but that's a problem we family historians face all the time – my Johns and Williams are just as confusing as the medieval Matildas and Eleanors. Provided you read the chapters in sequence it's easy enough to follow, and if you don't – well, there are family trees near the back of the book that you can use to re-orient yourself. You'll also find a comprehensive index, as well as extensive endnotes.
Knowing relatively little about this period of history I found the book instructive as well as enjoyable – and despite the 800 years that separate us from the Plantagenet Princesses there are interesting parallels with the ways in which modern politicians with dynastic ambitions manoeuvre their family members into positions of authority!
Using the links below will help to support LostCousins even if you end up buying something completely different. The copy I reviewed has a cover price of £25, but you can buy a brand new copy at Amazon for just under £20 (there are also good savings at other Amazon sites – make sure you check the offerings from Marketplace sellers):
Back in June I asked whether any readers could remember a rusk-like slimming biscuit called Teabreak which my mother use to favour in the 1960s (her mother preferred Energen rolls, but I agreed with Mum that they were like cotton wool).
Tracking down this product proved amazingly difficult, and whilst there were many helpful suggestions, nobody could find the right product (though one or two remembered it).
Eventually Della came up with the advertisement on the right – note that Teabreak rusks are described as being "for all the family!", probably to differentiate them from Farley's Rusks.
As it happens we did also have Farley's Rusks in the house, but they were strictly for my baby brother.
Many thanks to Della for tracking down the ad, and also to my sister Sue for remembering the brand name – she's very good at remembering things from our childhood that I've forgotten!
Monday was 'Respect for the Aged' day in Japan (what a good idea!). Two days previously Kane Tanaka became Japan's oldest ever inhabitant when she achieved the age of 117 years and 261 days, but according to this BBC article there was no party - instead she celebrated with a bottle of Coke.
I certainly won't be celebrating my 70th in a few days' time with a bottle of Coke – I can’t stand the stuff, and the last time I drank cola a quarter of a century ago I was almost physically sick.
Talking of birthday celebrations, this week Ann wrote to ask whether I planned to allow members the opportunity to buy me a drink for my 70th birthday, as I did when I was 65. I wasn't intending to, but since I won't be able to have a party, it would be nice to celebrate in some other way - so why not?
If all goes well you should see a PayPal button below that you can click should you want to express your appreciation – there are 4 options (click the arrow to display them all). Please note that you don’t need a PayPal account, almost any credit card and most debit cards will work. Cheers!
If you live in England, and haven’t already done so, please install and activate the NHS COVID-19 app on your phone. Even if, like me, you don’t go out very often, the more people who download the app, the greater the peer pressure on the others. I installed it within seconds of the app going live at midnight!
(for an independent commentary on the app, see this article in Wired magazine.)
The latest measures announced today by the Chancellor of the Exchequer are designed to encourage employers in the UK to keep more staff on by making them part-time, and as it happens this is similar to a proposal I sent to Tony Blair over 20 years ago, when he became Prime Minister. Of course, I didn’t predict the pandemic at that time, I was simply putting it forward as way of keeping unemployment down in a recession. It just goes to show that ordinary people like you and me are just as capable of coming up with good ideas as the politicians and their advisers
Over on the LostCousins Forum we've been discussing whether it's worth disinfecting groceries before putting them away. The government say it’s not necessary, but I take the view that for those of us who are limiting our contacts with the outside world, deliveries and post are the way that the virus is most likely to get in.
I'm still working my way through the £35-worth of Hydrogen Peroxide that I bought in the first half of April – it's effective, and relatively safe since it degrades into water and oxygen (which is presumably why it’s allowed to be used on organic produce, even though it's – shock, horror – a chemical!). I bought mine here.
Talking of post, one LostCousins member and his wife, both older than me, are still recovering from COVID-19 after their son – who works for Royal Mail – unwittingly infected them after catching it from a fellow employee. Early last month the Manchester Evening News reported on the 'shambles' at the city centre sorting office, and putting the two stories together you have to wonder whether Royal Mail have been acting like a responsible employer should (apparently they docked the pay of employees who were isolating at home).
Mind you, there are hazards everywhere – I read today about a man who died from eating too much liquorice! Little chance of me succumbing to liquorice – as a child I only tolerated it because to enjoy a packet of sherbet I had to use the liquorice as a straw. And when it came to Liquorice Allsorts, I'd peel off the layers of liquorice and eat the rest!
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......
By the time you hear from me again I'll probably be in my eighth decade – wow, that makes me sound really old! At least I know that I've got a good 20 years of research left in me, judging from the emails I've received from our most senior members.
© Copyright 2020 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.