Newsletter - 3rd March 2017
1642 'Census' begins to appear online BREAKING NEWS
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1642 'Census' begins to appear online BREAKING NEWS
The House of Lords is very much in the news at the moment - but for family historians the best news is that digitised images of some of the Protestation Returns of 1642 (held in the House of Lords archives), are now available online.
In May 1641 all members of the House of Commons swore an oath of allegiance to the Protestant religion, and in the following January the Commons ordered that all adult males should do the same. The names of those who conformed were listed by parish, and this return was submitted to Parliament. In a few cases those who refused to sign were also listed.
Note: in a few areas (such as Cornwall), people wrote their own names, but usually a local official wrote out all the names.
There are nearly 3,500 Protestation Returns that have survived - not all are for parishes, but they include about a third of English parishes at the time. According to Ancestral Trails there are none at all for the City of London, Bedfordshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Rutland, or Suffolk - but they are nevertheless the closest we have to a census for the period just before the Civil War. The returns were made in March, and because the legal year ended on 25th March until 1752 they were dated 1641.
There's a map on the Parliament website that shows the approximate location of the parishes for which returns have survived - you'll find it here. Just type in the name of the place of interest, or the nearest town - you'll probably need to enlarge the map to see the markers for individual parishes (I've already done that in the example below):
Click the marker to confirm the name of the parish and display a link to the online catalogue entry.
When you click the link you'll either be taken to an image of the return or, as in this case, you'll get an error message:
I believe that this page lists all of the returns which are currently available online (note that they're all from the counties of Berkshire, Cornwall, and Cumberland), but the only way to be absolutely sure is to click the relevant link - if there is one - in the catalogue entry. But please don't contact the Archives to complain or ask when the problems will be fixed as they're already working hard to put it right, and the more emails they have to answer the longer it will take.
As luck would have it none of the returns for the parishes where my ancestors are known to have lived in the 17th century are currently available online, but you could well be luckier. If you're not, here's a link to the record for Chieveley in Berkshire (now better known as the site of the M4 Motorway Services).
Note: I've created a web page with links to all of the returns, both those that have already been placed online and those that should be uploaded in the coming weeks and months - you'll find it here.
I don't know about you, but I haven't identified all of my 9G and 10G grandparents - the ancestors who might be recorded in the Protestation Returns (this is hardly surprising, of course, since - barring cousin marriages - there are 2048 of the former and 4096 of the latter). So when the returns are all available what I'll be doing in most cases is looking for surnames that I recognise in the hope of breaking down some of my 'brick walls'.
Talking of cousin marriages reminds me of an interesting discovery I made this week….
My great-great grandfather John Calver and his brother William married two sisters, Sarah and Susan Bray - this is just one of many instances in my tree where two brothers married two sisters, and I'm sure that most people reading this could point to numerous instances in their own tree.
To the best of my knowledge there never has been any bar to marriages of this kind: when William and Susan married in 1843 it was a case of brother-in-law marrying sister-in-law - there was no genetic link between them. Marriages between 1st cousins, on the other hand, have always been regarded with a degree of caution - even today they are barred in nearly half of US states, and the Roman Catholic church requires cousins to get dispensation before marrying.
This article from the New York Times suggests that the genetic risks are low, but looking at a marriage between 1st cousins that I've found in my family tree, I'm not so sure. In 1871 Mary Calver, daughter of my great-great grandparents John Calver and Sarah Bray married Charles Bray, the son of Sarah's brother William. Although they were married for over 30 years at a time when most couples had large families, they only had one child, Charles William Bray, born in 1876 - and whilst he married in 1903, his wife had no children at all (a fact that I have long suspected, but was able to confirm using the GRO's new birth indexes).
There are other cousin marriages in my tree, but so far I haven't found any others between 1st cousins. Do you have any marriages between 1st cousins in your tree and, if so, is there any evidence that it affected their reproductive capacity, or the health of their offspring? Note: there's no need to write if there is no evidence of problems, as will normally the case (after all, cousin marriages wouldn't be allowed if the risks were that great).
Note: the Royal families of Europe are renowned for their interconnectedness. I wrote last year about cousin marriages and the genetic problems these caused for one Royal house - you'll find the article here.
Identical twins are the result of a fertilised egg splitting to form two embryos, which necessarily have the same DNA. But do they continue to have the same DNA throughout their lives?
The answer is 'Yes' if you believe this Daily Mail article from 2013 - but I prefer to believe what the experts tell us, for example this 2008 article from Scientific American and this 2016 article from the BBC Science Focus website.
I was prompted to research this question by watching a report from an American TV programme which highlighted the differences between the results when identical triplets and quadruplets were tested. If you're tempted to watch the clip I should point out that it only talks about ethnicity - either the Inside Edition researchers didn't examine the raw data or they didn't think it worth reporting what they found.
It doesn't matter which company you test with, they can't tell which parts of your DNA came from a specific ancestor, let alone the ethnicity of individual ancestors. All they can do is use complex statistical algorithms to compare your DNA with samples of DNA from different parts of the world - and by allocating segments of DNA to specific regions they build up an overall picture of your supposed ethnicity.
Small differences in the underlying DNA can potentially lead to big differences in the results - it depends how robust the statistical algorithms are. But that's not the only factor - the reason that consumer DNA tests are so cheap is because they're not designed to be 100% accurate or 100% complete. There will be a small number of bases (out of around 700,000 pairs) that have been misread, and some that haven't been read at all - and even if the same person tested twice they won't be the same bases.
I've always considered ethnicity analyses to be "for amusement only" - sometimes they'll tally with what we know, or think we know, and sometimes they won't, but either way they're unlikely to help us break down any 'brick walls', not least because the geographical areas are large and overlapping. The only exception is the new test from Living DNA which, rather than using broad brush areas such as Western Europe or British Isles, provides much greater detail.
Earlier this week I spent a couple of days researching my Kent ancestors using the Canterbury Cathedral Archives registers at Findmypast. It's a real treat for me to be able to focus on my own tree, and I got so involved that at one point I found myself tracking the family of the woman my great-great-great-great uncle married in 1822. I'm glad that I did, because when I found the baptism of her great uncle Thomas Oliver Saunders I noticed something rather unusual:
© Image copyright Dean and Chapter of Canterbury; used by kind permission of Findmypast
The baptism of Thomas Oliver Saunders was clearly added later (because it has been interlined), but have you noticed the date - 29th February 1769? 1769 wasn't a leap year, so the day after February 28th would have been 1st March - which is probably the date when the child was baptised (though we'll probably never know for sure).
The 1939 Register at Findmypast covers England & Wales - but it is possible to obtain extracts from the Northern Ireland register by contacting the Public Record Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI). And best of all, they're not charging for the information.
I'd never seen an example from the Northern Ireland register before so when a LostCousins member told that she'd obtained a copy I asked if I could share it with you:
Notice that whilst the details for some members of the household have been obscured completely (to protect the privacy of those who are, or may be living), it's possible to view the notes on the right-hand side, which are largely excluded from the English release.
If you review the notes you'll see that none of the dates is later than 1951, when identity cards were still compulsory, and rationing was continuing. This suggests that, unlike the English register, the Northern Ireland register was not used as the NHS Central Register (although I'm still waiting for confirmation of this point by PRONI).
Note: at the time of writing there is no dedicated page on the PRONI website - but you can complete the online form here (thanks to Claire at Irish Genealogy News for her help).
Although I already knew the answer, I decided to doublecheck with the GRO that phase 3 of their PDF trial will EXCLUDE those register entries that have already been scanned, ie births up to 1934, and deaths up to 1957.
Those births and deaths were, of course, included in phase 1 of the trial - when you could have bought a PDF for just £6. During phase 3 the cost will be £8, which reflects the higher costs incurred by the GRO.
When will phase 3 begin? It's certainly not imminent, but I doubt that the GRO will want to delay any longer than they have to, especially with the end of the financial year approaching.
The Genealogist have just added full colour tithe maps for Northumberland to their impressive collection - there are over 600 maps, linked 62,000 tithe records for the county. The following example is for the village of Bilton:
© Crown Copyright image reproduced courtesy of the National Archives and The Genealogist
Also new at the site are 'Police Letter Books' for Hampshire - covering the period 1891 to 1911 they could provide insight into the careers of ancestors who served in the Hampshire County Constabulary.
Tip: you can save £20 on a Diamond subscription to The Genealogist if you follow this link.
Over 1500 members entered my seasonal competition - which just goes to demonstrate what a wonderful array of prizes there was on offer!
1ST PRIZE was won by Paul in Northamptonshire, who chose the Living DNA test as he already had a Findmypast subscription
2ND PRIZE went to Monica in Yorkshire - she chose the Findmypast World subscription worth over £155 (Monica's experience demonstrates that anyone could have won - she walked away with the most valuable prize even though she only entered 7 relatives on her My Ancestors page!)
3RD PRIZE of a Findmypast Britain subscription was won by Sara in Gloucestershire, who like Monica had been a LostCousins member for less than a year
4TH PRIZE went to Simon in Lancashire, who already uses Family Historian, so chose the Findmypast credits, which he will use alongside his existing Britain subscription so that he can view records from other countries
5TH PRIZE, a copy of Family Historian v6, was won by Sylvia in Australia
Many thanks to Findmypast, Living DNA, and Simon Orde of Calico Pie for donating such wonderful prizes. There were also 10 LostCousins subscriptions on offer - of these 7 went to members in the UK, and the other to members in Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.
Congratulations to all the winners - and to the hundreds of members who may not have won prizes, but who were matched with new cousins as a result of the entrants' outstanding efforts. After all, connecting with someone who not only shares your ancestors, but is researching them, is one of the best gifts there is!
Last week the BBC News website reported that a box containing the ashes of 'Rupert 1978-2003' had been found on the promenade at Brightlingsea, a coastal town in Essex. The writer of the article speculated whether the ashes were human or animal remains - so naturally I took up the challenge.
It didn't take long - a 30 second search at Findmypast revealed that nobody called Rupert who died in England during 2003 was born in 1978.
But I guess that if the reporter had bothered to do what I did, it would have turned from a story to a non-story…
Much more interesting was a recent episode in the BBC Radio 4 documentary series 'Objet Trouve' about a military jacket found in a Belfast shop which turned out to have a note in the pocket. It's not often that I listen to a radio programme all the way through, but this one was so riveting that it held my attention for every one of the 28 minutes! You can listen to it here.
Tip: you can listen to BBC radio programmes wherever you are in the world.
Findmypast have made available online browseable images of marriage and other records for the Russian Orthodox Church in London. Although I attempted to learn Russian at school half a century ago, after half a dozen lessons I gave up and switched to Italian - so what I can tell you about these records is quite limited (even if they were in Italian I'd still be struggling!). But if you have Russian ancestors you'll almost certainly recognise the names of family members should they appear in the records, which include marriages up to 1915.
Finding a marriage which may or may not have taken place in 1915 is at the heart of MJ Lee's latest genealogical mystery, The Somme Legacy.
Over 19,000 British soldiers died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, and 9 Victoria Crosses were awarded for extreme bravery (one of which sold at auction this week for £240,000 - see this BBC News article).
Ex-detective turned genealogist Jayne Sinclair has to get to grip with a multitude of family squabbles: her own, with her husband Paul; her client's, with his curmudgeonly father - and last, but not least, the in-fighting between her client's putative ancestors. All of this takes place against the backdrop of an immoveable deadline - the estate of the last Lord Lappiter will pass to the Crown in a matter of days unless our intrepid heroine can prove that the marriage between war-hero Lieutenant David Russell, heir to the Lappiter title, and Rose Clarke, a mere shop-girl who spent most of her life in an asylum, actually took place.
As in his previous book, The Irish Inheritance (you'll find my review here) the author employs an enormous amount of well-researched historical detail to bring the events to life. I thought his research had gone a bit awry when he talked about the smells of rotting vegetables and fish at Smithfield Market (London's wholesale meat market) until I looked into its history - fish and vegetable markets were indeed built there in the late 19th century.
Almost every genealogical mystery I've read has a villain with a screw loose, and this book is no exception. At first sight Herbert Small is an unbelievable character, but then I realised that in my time I've come across quite a few people who are just as selfish and petty (none of them current LostCousins members, I'm glad to say!).
On several occasions I had to force myself to put this book down, because it was such a pleasure to read that I would have felt guilty had I finished it before I'd researched and written this newsletter and replied to all the emails in my inbox. I hope you enjoy it every bit as much as I did, but without the interludes!
I read the Kindle version, which costs just £2.38 - but there is also a paperback available at £8.99 - and, as ever, you can support LostCousins by using the links below:
Tip: you can support LostCousins by using these links whenever you shop at Amazon - even if you're buying something that I haven't recommended.
Identifying the remains of those who died in the Great War was a challenge - there was no DNA in those days - and the work is still continuing. I'm grateful to DNA expert (and LostCousins member) Debbie Kennett for referring me to this BBC article which tells how one of the fallen at the Battle of the Somme has finally been identified after more than a century.
The Imperial War Museum museum plays a key role in Jayne Sinclair's investigations in The Somme Legacy so I thought I'd draw your attention to the fact this is the centenary of the museum's foundation.
Originally based in the ill-fated Crystal Palace (which had been the home of the 1851 Great Exhibition when first erected in London's Hyde Park), then at Kensington, the museum moved to its present London home in 1936 (it occupies a building that was previously part of the Bethlem Hospital, better known as Bedlam).
To mark the centenary the museum is putting on display some of the many personal items that were submitted by grieving families when the museum first opened - letters, photographs, and other mementoes of those who gave their lives in the service of their country.
You can read more in this BBC article.
David Hey's final book (he died last year while it was in production) isn't a history book in the conventional sense - instead it looks at the history of our green and pleasant land from the point of view of local and family historians, whose primary interests lie not in the adventures of kings and princes, but the everyday lives of their very ordinary ancestors.
I learned an awful lot while reading this book - not about my ancestors themselves, but about the places and the times in which they lived. Thanks to this book I'm going to be visiting places that I've never been to before - even though some of them are in the county where I live - and revisiting others, but viewing them in a new light.
It's not a thick book - less than 200 pages if you don't count the copious notes, extensive bibliography, and the index - but it took me nearly 3 weeks to read, because it’s so crammed with information that I found that I couldn't absorb more than a few pages at a sitting! You simply cannot skim a book like this - every page has something that will intrigue you or surprise you, or get you thinking (and often all three).
If your only interest is adding names to your family tree this book isn't for you - but if, like me, you want to understand more about your ancestors' everyday lives it will provide insights that you won't get from watching TV documentaries.
I bought a (very slightly) used copy of the paperback edition of The Grass Roots of English History, which cost me just under £14 including shipping, but currently the best deal is a new copy for about £16.50 (these prices were at Amazon.co.uk - it wasn't any cheaper elsewhere when I looked, but iof you're outside the UK the Book Depository might work out cheaper). The Kindle version is a little cheaper - but when it comes to a book like this, which I'm going to be referring to time and time again, I'd rather have the real thing, and I suspect you would too.
My memories of the 1950s are all in black and white, and somewhat faded, so it was refreshing to pick up Robert Opie's book The Fun of the Fifties, which is packed with hundreds of colour images of things that surrounded me as I was growing up. Some I could have listed without seeing the book, but others I'd completely forgotten about!
This book will mean little to someone born after 1960, but if like me you grew up in the 50s (or earlier) I can guarantee that it will bring back memories. For example, Shredded Wheat is still with us, but I'd completely forgotten that in those days it was 'Welgar Shredded Wheat'.
In fact, I was so inspired by the book that I paid much more than I had originally intended to buy a 1950s Hornby Dublo electric train set - something that I always wanted as a boy, but never owned (though I did have a clockwork 'O' gauge set and, much later, a Trix Twin electric set).
My hardback copy of the book says £12.99 on the back, but I bought it brand new for just £3.99 - money well spent, in my opinion!
As I was looking through back issues of the Toronto Star from 1970 (trying to track down the descendants of my great-great uncle Richard Calver, who emigrated there with more than half of his 15 children in 1910) I came across an advertisement for a 25in colour television reduced from $699 to 'only' $549. Now I can't tell you exactly how much that is in 2017 Canadian dollars because I couldn't find a suitable index, but I reckon it would be over $3000, or around £2000 in British terms.
It's amazing to consider that TVs and computer monitors, once luxury items, are now so cheap - Argos are selling a 24in flat screen TV with a built-in DVD player for under £100. I'm sure it isn't the best quality - it's not even full-HD - but it gets great reviews from customers (and I don't remember 1970s televisions being that wonderful, either).
These days just about any TV can be used as computer monitor (even if you don't have an HDMI port on your laptop you can get a USB adaptor - I bought this one, though I'm sure there are now cheaper alternatives available). But I'm always surprised how few people use an external screen with their laptop when they're working at home - just because your computer has a built-in screen that doesn't mean you have to use it!
Of course, the simplest option is to buy a dedicated computer monitor - and these have come down in price just as dramatically. The great thing about buying an external monitor for your laptop is that you'll still be able to use it when you upgrade to a new computer.
My very first home computer (bought in 1978 for nearly £700) had a 9in black and white screen - now you can get 24in flat screen monitors with full HD resolution for under £100 including delivery! You'll find a good selection of well-known brands at competitive prices here (but make sure you choose one that has an HDMI port, even if you don't need it at the moment). Amazon is another good source, and you should read their customer reviews even if you are going to buy elsewhere.
Talking of reviews, I regularly contribute reviews to TripAdvisor, and never eat out unless I've previously checked out the reviews. I tend to rely more on what other customers say about the food than the service, since I don't mind putting up with bad service if I get good food (whereas good service and bad food is an embarrassing combination), but the great thing is that we can all make up our own minds based on what is important for us.
Back in the 1970s I used to buy a magazine called Time Out and if I wanted to go to the cinema I'd always choose one of the films that they panned - I seemed to have very different likes and dislikes to their film critics! So I'm taking a chance when I recommend to you a film that I watched this week and greatly enjoyed - it was Saving Mr Banks, telling how Walt Disney nearly didn't get the rights to create Mary Poppins. I watched Mary Poppins at the age of 14 soon after it came out - it was the last but one time that I went to see a film with my parents (The Sound of Music, which came out 3 months' later was the last).
Another film set in the same era is Eight Days a Week, a documentary about the Fab Four (and if you're around my age you'll know exactly who I'm talking about!). My wife gave me the 2-disc Special Edition for Christmas and we both enjoyed watching - and, of course, listening - to both the movie itself and the extras on the second disc.
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......
I suspect that with Who Do You Think You Are? Live we're entering a busy time for family historians - which means I'll also be kept busy. But please don't stop writing in with your questions and suggestions for the newsletter - many of the articles are inspired by emails from members like you!
© 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