Newsletter - 1st March 2016


10 million Irish Catholic register entries: online, indexed, and FREE!

Free access to all Ireland records at Findmypast ONE WEEK ONLY

Find your Irish cousins ENDS TUESDAY

Did your ancestors work 'at the big house'

Learning from other peoples' mistakes

Inside the NHS Central Register EXCLUSIVE

No girls allowed: US compromise on three-parent babies?

Is DNA testing worth the money?

Will your genes help you live to 100?

Society of Genealogists to sell off surplus books

Tracking living relatives through company records
Centenary of conscription

Why Stirling Moss didn't pass his driving test

Review: Bletchley Park - the Secret Archives

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 20th February) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):



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10 million Irish Catholic register entries: online, indexed, and free!

Less than a month ago I broke the news that Findmypast would be launching indexes to the 3500 Irish Catholic Parish Registers, covering more than 1000 parishes across the island, which were put online last year by the National Library of Ireland. Here's what it says on the NLI website:


"For most family history researchers, parish registers provide the earliest direct source of family information. Unlike many other records, parish registers provide evidence of direct links between one generation and the next (via baptismal registers) and one family and another (via marriage registers). They are also, for the majority of Irish people who lived during the 18th and 19th centuries, the only record of their existence."


Originally I reported, based on what I'd read at the Irish Genealogy News website, that they would be included in Findmypast's Ireland and World subscriptions, but there's been a significant change: they won't be included in any subscriptions, because they're going to be free. "Free forever" were the words ringing in my ears after I came off the phone to Findmypast late yesterday afternoon, which is fantastic news for researchers with Irish Catholic ancestors - and of course, most of the population of Ireland were (and still are) Catholic.


Images of the registers have been free at the National Library of Ireland's website since last July's launch, but it's like looking for a needle in a haystack if you don't have any idea which of the 1000-plus parishes your ancestors came from. And since there are more than 30 parishes in the average county, even if you knew the county you'd still have a time-consuming challenge. It's not surprising that in the 7 months since the images went online I haven't had a single email from a LostCousins member who has knocked down a 'brick wall' in their Irish family tree.


Being able to search by name and date will make an incredible difference - although I wouldn't be surprised if there are quite a few transcription errors (I found it very difficult to read many of the register entries that I looked at).


Some statistics to get you thinking: there are 370,000 images, with more than 10 million entries, which between them record over 40 million names. Some will have been available previously through the subscription site Roots Ireland, but for researchers all over the world to have such a wealth of information at their fingertips - completely free of charge - will undoubtedly lead to numerous discoveries.


The earliest records date from 1670 and the most recent from 1900, but the majority of the records are from the 19th century, with the last entries for many parishes in the early 1880s. Because so many Irish people emigrated in the 1840s and 1850s, before civil registration began in 1864, the records will prove invaluable for many who, up to now, have been unable to locate their Irish roots.


Note: you may find that in some registers information isn't visible because of the way the pages have been microfilmed, for example the dates are missing from the right-hand page of this image from a baptism register. The transcribers were working from the digitised images, so inevitably this information is also missing from the transcription. Please don't contact me about errors in the transcriptions - instead report them to Findmypast using the 'Report an error in this transcription' link.


ALL Ireland records at Findmypast are free ONE WEEK ONLY

To celebrate the release of the indexes Findmypast are offering free access to ALL of their Irish records, at all four of their sites from 9am today (Tuesday) and 9am next Tuesday (8th March). All you need to do is register, if you haven't done so already.


The following links will take you direct to the special page at the relevant Findmypast site:


Findmypast Ireland

Findmypast Britain

Findmypast USA

Findmypast Australia


Tip: Findmypast's extensive collection of Irish newspapers is included in the offer; also, I understand that many researchers have found that the Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers 1828-1912 (with 22 million records) can be a very fruitful source of information.


Find your Irish cousins - completely free ENDS TUESDAY

Until midnight on Tuesday 8th March you won't need to have a LostCousins subscription to contact a new cousin who shares your Irish roots, which gives you a real incentive to enter your Irish relatives, whether you find them on the Ireland 1911 census, the England & Wales 1881 census, or the US 1880 census. And because you can get the information you need from those censuses without paying for any subscriptions it won't cost you a penny to find your 'lost cousins'.


So get to work on your My Ancestors page now!


Tip: remember that it's the members of your ancestors' extended families - their cousins, in other words - who are most likely to link you to your living cousins. The wider you spread the net, the more likely you are to hit the jackpot.


Did your ancestors work 'at the big house'

Local History News recently included an article about the Landed families of Britain and Ireland blog which has details of over 200 families and their homes - and whilst these may not be the biggest and best known houses, that's what makes this resource so useful.


One of the houses is Frickley Hall in Yorkshire, home to the Aldam family - about whom I know quite a lot, since in 1993 I acquired at auction a large collection of correspondence addressed to Mary Stables Wright, who married William Aldam MP in 1845. I don't have any connection to the family, by the way - this was in the days before I was researching my own family tree, and my future wife and I were studying the Victorian era.


If your ancestors worked in a large house you might well find some useful information in the blog, which is based on a lifetime's research by Nick Kingsley, who recently retired from the National Archives - and you might even be able to add to the information that's there.


Learning from other peoples' mistakes

One of the great things about the 1911 England & Wales census was the way we could glean extra information as a result of the mistakes that our ancestors made when filling in the Household Schedule - for example, my great-grandfather gave the numbers of children born to both of his wives, and for me this was invaluable.


There are similar opportunities in the 1939 Register that have arisen because of mistakes by the enumerators, for example:




The entry for Mrs Kate Emms has clearly been confused with that of her 9 year-old son or daughter (whose record is closed), and because it was later corrected, albeit only in part, we know the precise dates of birth of both of them. If we then look at the top of the next page of the register, we can deduce that the closed entry is for a daughter who married a gentleman with the surname Royce:



We can also see from the date shown in green that the marriage took place no later than July 1964 - and indeed there is a marriage in the GRO indexes in the second quarter of that year.


Tip: there is all sorts of additional information to be gleaned from the 1939 Register if, like Chris who spotted this record, you keep your eyes open!


Here's another example of an enumerator's slip, one that certainly amused me - see the occupation given for Edith Hodgson!



Inside the NHS Central Register EXCLUSIVE

Soon after the National Health Service was founded in 1948 it became clear that it was necessary to have some way of identifying patients in order to ensure that medical records didn't get mislaid when people moved around the country, or muddled because two people had the same name, and that the same person didn't appear on the list of more than one general medical practitioner (GP).


The National Register, created in 1939 and regularly updated, provided an ideal solution - everyone had a unique number, which became their NHS number. When I was born in 1950 I was added to the register, and you can see my entry here (I've erased the day of birth for security reasons):



As you can see, this entry is in an almost identical format to those in the original 1939 Register - the key difference is the substitution of 'Family Allowance' for 'Personal Occupation'. Note the four letter code - this became the first part of my original NHS number, which was MMJW 463 (the final '3' is the entry number).


But the most interesting part of the entry is on the right-hand page - the part that we don't see when we view the 1939 Register:



At first glance it looks like a meaningless jumble of numbers and letters, but because I know where I was living at various times in my life I was able to deduce that EX stands for Essex (where I grew up), SOH is Southampton (where I went to university), NEL is North East London (the new name for the part of Essex where I lived), LNB is one of the London boroughs, and MX is Middlesex. None of the dates shown correspond precisely to the dates when I moved - it's more likely they indicate when I first visited a new doctor.


How is this significant in the context of the 1939 Register? The key thing about the 1939 Register is that, having been adopted for use by the NHS, it continued to be updated until the paper records were eventually computerised (this happened at a national level in 1991, but locally it happened earlier - my computer record from the Central Register appears to date from 1983).


The information that we can't see on the right-hand page of the 1939 Register looks just like the hieroglyphics above - it simply records when the individual concerned moved from one doctor to another. Hardly confidential medical information - so I wonder whether one day we'll be allowed to see it?


Have you got a copy of your entry from the NHS Central Register? What, if anything, did you learn from it?


No girls allowed: US compromise on three-parent babies?

I first wrote in 2012 about the technology that makes it possible for mothers who carry faulty mitochondria to give birth to healthy children, and I reported a year ago on the decision to allow this procedure in the UK.


Earlier this month the Food and Drug Administration in the US received a report from the country's Institute of Medicine which recommended that whilst donation of healthy mitochondria should be allowed, it should be limited to boys, as they cannot pass on the donated mitochondria to their offspring.


However it's unlikely that formal approval will be granted any time soon - there is a congressional ban that prohibits the agency from reviewing applications "in which a human embryo is intentionally created or modified to include a heritable genetic modification". You can find out more in this Washington Post article.


Is DNA testing worth the money?

DNA testing offers a great way to answer questions that conventional paper-based research cannot solve, because within our DNA we have clues to our ancestry that can't be found in any other archive.


But that doesn't mean that DNA testing is the best way to knock down our 'brick walls'. I think most experienced researchers would agree it's only the best way when the other alternatives have failed.


A good example of the use of DNA to knock down a 'brick wall' is when we're trying to discover the paternity of an illegitimate child, or the parentage of a foundling, and know that if there were any contemporary records they haven't survived.


But there are relatively few cases like that - they're the exception rather than the rule. Even where DNA can help, researchers often choose the wrong test, or test DNA from the wrong person. I would have hoped that anyone who read the series of DNA articles I published last year would get it right, but experience has shown that misunderstandings can persist.


Another common error is to assume that because DNA testing in relatively expensive, it's an easier way to find cousins and knock down 'brick walls' than using other routes - LostCousins for example. In reality autosomal DNA tests are not only more expensive, it's far harder and more time-consuming to work out which of the hundreds or thousands of people you've matched with really are cousins, and how you are related.


So I would advise you to add the rest of your relatives from the 1881 Census before investing in DNA testing - it is a far easier way to find living cousins, as well as being much cheaper. Remember that the key relatives to enter are the members of your ancestors' extended families (their cousins, in other words).

But if you do decide to make use of DNA testing, make sure you read my DNA articles first - you'll find them by following these links:


Understanding DNA #1: your genetic inheritance

Understanding DNA #2: mtDNA myths

Understanding DNA #3: the truth behind DNA tests

Understanding DNA #4: how DNA is inherited

Understanding DNA #5: choosing the right test

Understanding DNA #6: choosing the right company

Understanding DNA #6: choosing the right company (continued)


There's at least one more article to come, which will describe what to do when you get your results.


Tip: if you use the links in those articles to order your DNA tests(s) you'll be supporting LostCousins.


Will your genes help you live to 100?

Researchers at Stanford University in California are aiming to identify genetic variations that are more common in centenarians - and already four have been found, according to this New Scientist article.


Of course, if we haven't inherited those variants there's probably nothing we can do about it - except to keep plugging away at our family history, since keeping our minds occupied is believed to be a great way to stave off dementia.


Or come back as an elephant - research at the University of Utah reported last year demonstrated that elephants are less likely to die from cancer because they have at least 20 versions of the p53 gene, whereas humans have only one.


Society of Genealogists to sell off surplus books

The second-hand book stall was always a popular feature of the Society of Genealogists stand at Who Do You Think You Are? Live­ - but when the show has moved to Birmingham it was no longer practical to transport the books.


Instead, the SoG will be holding a sale of surplus and ex-library stock at its London premises from 15th March until the end of April - you don't need to be a member to take advantage of the bargains that are on offer. And whilst you're there why not visit the library, which has a wonderful collection (I've found the CDs of parish records very useful)? Visitor passes start at £5 for 2 hours - you can find out more here.


Note: on Saturday 5th March Dr Geoff Swinfield will be running a half-day course at the SoG entitled "Tracing Living Relatives", a topic that is close to the heart of all LostCousins members. There were still 4 places available when I last checked - follow this link for full details.


Tracking living relatives through company records

Over the past two years I've been testing a new version of the Companies House website - it has been quite nostalgic, because in the early 1970s I used to spend a lot of time at Companies House in City Road, just outside the City of London, doing research for my degree dissertation, and as part of my job as an investment analyst.


At the old site you can search by company name, or number, but at the new site you can also search using the name of a director - it's a great way to track down the relatives from the rich branch of your family which didn't want to have anything to do with your branch (or your more successful former classmates)!


Currently the beta site is free - it's not clear whether they're going to charge when it goes live (some information is free from the current site, but some you have to pay for, although the sums are quite small, typically £1 or £2). But why not search now, while it's definitely free?


In my case I was able to track down a 3rd cousin who was one of the bridesmaids at my parents' wedding, but moved to France many years ago - before I even knew of her existence. When she emailed me back I discovered that she and her husband used to live just a few miles from where I am now! I wonder who you'll find?


Tip: if you're running a DNA study for your surname it could be a great way to find people who might be prepared to take a Y-DNA test, and can afford to pay for it themselves!


Centenary of conscription

The Military Service Act was passed on 27th January 1916, coming into force on 2nd March - every male between the ages of 19 and 40 who was single or, if widowed, had no dependent children was deemed to have enlisted - with very few exceptions. You can find out more about the Military Service Act here.


By a sad coincidence 27th January 1916 was also the day that my great uncle Herbert, who had volunteered to fight, was killed at Ypres. My father never got to meet any of his father's brothers - all three of them died before he was born; similarly I never got to meet my father's only brother, who died before I was born.


Why Stirling Moss didn't pass his driving test

My first car was a MGB roadster with wire wheels - what we used to call a 'sports car', although it was actually slightly slower from 0-60 than my current Yaris Diesel. Mind you, when you're that close to the ground it feels like you're going twice as fast as you really are. It didn't stop me exceeding the speed limit on occasions, however, and if you got stopped for speeding in those days there was a good chance that the policeman would enquire "Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?".



Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss, OBE was born on 17th September 1929, so he was not yet 6 years old when compulsory driving tests began in June 1935. However he never had to take a driving test, because with the outbreak of World War 2 tests were suspended - examiners were redeployed on traffic duties, or supervised petrol rationing. It wasn't until November 1946 that tests were reintroduced, by which time Stirling Moss was already driving - and the rest is history!


Driving tests were suspended again in November 1956, during the Suez crisis - they didn't resume until April of the following year. There's more information about the history of the driving test here.


Review: Bletchley Park - the Secret Archives

The story of the British code-breaking operations at Bletchley Park has received so much prominence in recent years that it's hard to remember that until the 1970s the work carried out at this incredible establishment during the war was still Top Secret. Many of the workers went to their graves without revealing anything of their experience, even to the closest members of their families.


Bletchley Park - the Secret Archives is a beautifully-presented special edition of a book previously published as The Lost World of Bletchley Park but with the addition of a slip-case and removable memorabilia that help to bring the place, the period, and the people to life. Even before I started reading the book I found myself overwhelmed by thought that this small group of people could have played such a key role in the winning of the war.


With over 200 images and 15 removable reproduction documents, including Alan Turing's notes on the Enigma machine, it's a beautiful way to learn more about this amazing establishment - I really enjoyed it.


Tip: although I bought my copy through Amazon, and at a very good price, I didn't buy it from Amazon themselves - when I'm buying a brand new book I always pay the cheapest price shown on the Amazon site, which will often be from an Amazon Marketplace seller.


Peter's Tips

I decided it was about time I checked what the differences are between BT's new call-blocking BT8600 phone and the BT8500 model that I've got myself (and have been recommending to members) - especially since the new model is nearly twice the price.


I printed out the specifications for each and went through line by line - it turns out that the only difference is an extra button. I then worked out how many times I would have used that button in the past 6 months - had there been one on my phone. Not 50, not 20, not 10, and not even 1 - I wouldn’t have used it at all!


Why wouldn't I have used it? Because the button can only be used if an unwanted call gets through - and since this has never happened since I installed the phone (because it works so wonderfully well). So my advice is to buy the BT8500 now just in case BT decide to discontinue it in favour of their high-priced new model. The best prices I've found are at Amazon - and if you do buy something after clicking that link, even if it's something completely different, LostCousins should benefit.


I should mention that I'm not the only one who is enamoured of this timesaving device, which paid for itself in the first month of use - LostCousins member Alan wrote in to say that after getting 120 unwanted calls in a month he was at his wits end: "The BT8500 caught my eye and seemed to be the answer to my plethora of unwanted calls.  I bought it and set it up.  I had received my last unwanted call!  I cannot speak too highly of this product."


Incidentally, you don't need a BT line to make use of this phone (but I don't think it can be installed outside of the UK - though maybe one of you will know otherwise).


Tip: I've always done well when I've bought nearly-new items at Amazon, especially ones from their own warehouse.


Stop Press

This is where any last minute updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error (sadly I'm not infallible), reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check here before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......


That's all for this issue - I'll be back soon with more news from the wonderful world of family history..


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins