Newsletter - 17th March 2017


GRO launch final phase of PDF trial BREAKING NEWS

Save on World subscriptions at Findmypast ENDS WEDNESDAY

....and get a FREE LostCousins subscription

Masterclass: How to get the most from Findmypast

FamilySearch films will travel across London to SoG

Ancestry DNA extend offer to UK & Ireland ENDS 26TH MARCH

How should you interpret your DNA results?

The Shefford wives

The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 13th March) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):



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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!



GRO launch final phase of PDF trial

Great news! The GRO yesterday announced the commencement of the third and final phase of their PDF trial.


This time the focus is on marriages and more recent births and deaths - records that were not digitised during the DoVE project nearly a decade ago:


Births 1935-2006

Marriages 1837-2010

Deaths 1958-2006


The cost of each PDF will be £8, only a small reduction on the cost of a certificate (£9.25); nevertheless in this digital age I can imagine that some researchers will prefer scanned copies of register entries, even though they have no legal validity, being uncertified.


The trial will end just before Easter, at 4pm on Wednesday 12th April - or when 40,000 PDFs have been sold, whichever comes sooner.


Bear in mind that the GRO registers are copies - you almost certainly won't see your ancestors' handwriting, though there's a chance that the entries for some of the more modern church marriages were completed on the day by the participants (it all depends on the vicar).


You'll find full details here on the GRO website, but please note that you WILL need to provide the full index references, which will mean finding the entry at FreeBMD, Ancestry, Findmypast or any of the other sites that have copies of the GRO indexes.


Tip: indexes for marriages after 2005 are not online at any site - if you want to order a PDF for a marriage that took place between 2006-10 you would need to visit one of the handful of libraries that have microfilm copies of the indexes (you'll find a list here).


Finally, a reminder that the historical information in a PDF copy of a register entry is exactly the same as you would get if you ordered a certificate - no more, no less.



Save on World subscriptions at Findmypast ENDS WEDNESDAY

From 10am (London time) on Friday 17th March until midnight on Wednesday 22nd March you can save 10% on 12 month World subscriptions to Findmypast.


Since Sunday week is Mother's Day in Britain, perhaps this is an opportunity for the many mothers reading this to tell their offspring and spouses to forget the flowers, chocolates, and perfume, and buy something that will give pleasure all year round?


But don't worry, gentlemen, you're not excluded from this offer - although judging from the emails I receive it’s the ladies who wear the genealogical trousers in most households!


You can take advantage of this offer at any of Findmypast's worldwide sites - just pick the relevant link from the list below to make that that only do you benefit from the offer, LostCousins will benefit too:


All 12 month World subscriptions include unlimited access to all of Findmypast's records including the 1939 National Register for England & Wales.


....and get a FREE LostCousins subscription

In appreciation of your support I'm giving away a free 12 month LostCousins subscription to everyone who takes up the offer, taking the total possible savings up to £28! But please read the terms and conditions below first to make sure you don't miss out on this bonus.


To claim your free upgrade simply forward to me the email receipt you receive from Findmypast, making sure it includes the date, time, and timezone (if not GMT). Past experience has shown that the emails don't always arrive, so note the precise time of your purchase just in case - I have no way of verifying your entitlement unless I know to the nearest minute when you made your purchase. (A screenshot will not suffice unless it shows the time.)


I'll also need to know the email address under which your account is held if it's different from the one you’re writing from. Or else quote your membership number (which you'll find on your My Summary page).


Tip: you can forward the receipt to any of the LostCousins email addresses including the one that I wrote from when I told you about this newsletter.


Under this offer you can get a joint subscription covering two accounts - the second member can be your spouse, partner, child, grandchild, or in-law. Simply add their membership number to your own My Details page and choose the appropriate relationship, but please do it BEFORE you forward the receipt to me.


Terms & conditions: your free LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us; if we don't receive any commission on your purchase then unfortunately you won't qualify. If you use an adblocker the link may not work; if you have disabled tracking in your browser the link may appear to work, but Findmypast won't know that you clicked it, so won't pay us any commission. Commission isn't paid on renewals or purchases that Findmypast regard as renewals, eg when a subscription has very recently lapsed, and may not be paid on upgrades (but if we get paid, you'll get your free subscription - I can assure you of that). If you have more than one device please make sure you click the link on the device you will use to make your purchase.


In the next article I explain how to get the most out of your Findmypast subscription….


MASTERCLASS: How to get the most from Findmypast

Note: this article previously featured in my Christmas newsletter, but it was so well-received that I felt it would be helpful to repeat it here.


I'm frequently contacted by readers who don't get the same excellent results as me when they search at Findmypast - so I'm going to tell you how I transform their searches....


The first thing you need to appreciate is that there are two ways of searching. One is to enter lots of data on the Search form in the hope that some of it might lead to the record you're looking for - this type of search works best at Ancestry, where it typically produces lots of results (though most of them won't be relevant).


The other way is to put the minimum amount of information on the Search form, see how many results you get and - only if there are too many results to glance through - filter the results so that you're only left with those that are most relevant. This type of search works best at Findmypast.


Because I'm so busy I prefer the second type of search - most of the time the record I'm looking for is on the first page of search results, so I get there very quickly. I even cheat by using wildcards rather than type long surnames in full - this has the secondary benefit of sometimes picking up records that might otherwise have been missed.


How minimal should your searches be? If I'm searching the census I'll typically enter just a forename, a surname (possibly using wildcards), and an approximate year of birth. I rarely enter a place of birth as this tends to vary so much from one census to another, but when I do I enclose it in wildcards, eg *London*


Different surnames require different tactics. The surname Smith is very unlikely to be spelled differently or mistranscribed - but you are likely to get lots of results, so you'll need to narrow your search in some way. By contrast, when I'm searching for my Vandepeer ancestors I'm more concerned about misspellings than anything else, so I'll typically search for v*d*p*r* and leave the other boxes empty.


Put these tips into practice and you'll immediately see the difference. But don't stop reading, because I've got another, even more important, tip for you - one that even Findmypast won't tell you!


Did you realise that at Findmypast there are at least three ways of searching for the same historical record? Would you like to know which of those three ways I use myself? Yes, I thought so…..


The gateway to all of the different approaches is the Search menu:



Let's suppose that you were hoping to finds one of your ancestors in the 1881 Census - you could choose Search all records, or narrow down your search by clicking on Census, land & surveys. But I wouldn't choose either of those options - I'd go to the precise record set I'm interested in by clicking A-Z of record sets, the option at the bottom of the menu (but the one I used 99% of the time).


Why do I search specific record sets, rather than starting with a wider search, then homing in? Because it's the only way you can access some of the key search options. For example, when I search the 1881 Census directly the Search form offers an enormous amount of choice:



But half the fields - the ones I've highlighted in red - don't appear on the Search form when you choose Census, land & surveys.


So do what I do - whenever possible focus in on the specific record set of interest, whether it's a census, a collection of baptism registers for a specific country, or one of the hundreds of other record sets.


Tip: one of the secondary benefits of using this approach is that you'll get to know the records better. Because they come from many different sources there are all sorts of quirks - for example, some parish register transcriptions will be very detailed, others very basic.


Here's a table of links that will enable you to jump straight to some of key resources at Findmypast without going through the Search menu (all searches are free, so you don't need a subscription unless you want to look at the records themselves):


1841 British census

1851 British census

1861 British census

1871 British census

1881 British census (FREE transcription)

1891 British census

1901 British census

1911 England & Wales census

GRO birth indexes for England & Wales

GRO marriage indexes for England & Wales

GRO death indexes for England & Wales

Hertfordshire parish registers*

Cheshire parish registers*

Kent (Canterbury archdeaconry) parish registers*

London (Westminster) parish registers*

Devon parish registers*

Lincolnshire parish registers*

Shropshire parish registers*

Staffordshire parish registers*

Yorkshire parish registers*

Wales parish registers

British Army Service Records

School Admission Registers

England & Wales Electoral Registers 1832-1932

UK Electoral Registers 2002-14


* these parish register links will take you to the baptisms for the county - the Useful Links on that page will take you to marriages and burials


FamilySearch films will travel across London to SoG

It was confirmed yesterday that - as I exclusively revealed in my last newsletter - the London Family History Centre's microfilm collection will be moving from the National Archives at Kew to the Society of Genealogists in Clerkenwell, central London.


Many, perhaps most, of the films in the collection are the only copies in the UK, and I suspect that in some cases they are the only copies outside Salt Lake City. The announcement came in an email from Else Churchill, the Genealogist at the SoG, who also commented that:


"The collection of about 57,000 microfilms complement the SoG’s remarkable library of genealogical sources and both bring together, in one place, an unparalleled resource for family history researchers in the UK. Having been carefully curated over many years, the FamilySearch Films include many thousands of copies of original church and local records from the United Kingdom and Ireland; probate records for England and Wales before and after 1858 and selected items for Caribbean research.


"The films will be available to view at the National Archives until 31 May and should be available for consultation at the Society of Genealogists Library from 26 June 2017."


The SoG already has one of the finest collections in the world, including many unique items - this will confirm the SoG Library as one of the most important destinations for family historians.


Ancestry DNA extend offer to UK & Ireland ENDS 26TH MARCH

You can save £10 on an Ancestry DNA test - and support LostCousins - when you follow this link. This offer applies to UK residents only and brings the cost of the test down from £79 to just £69 until Sunday 26th March.


Note: there is a standard shipping charge of £20 which covers shipping both ways (shipping is only £10 each for the second and subsequent kits ordered at the same time).


There's a similar offer for members in Ireland here. This offer brings the cost of the test down from 95 Euros to 80 Euros until Sunday 26th March.


Ancestry DNA have over 3 million results in their database - so you're likely to get many more matches than when you test at other sites, although because many of Ancestry DNA's customers are relative beginners (compared to the average LostCousins member), they won't all have family trees.


UPDATE (Saturday): I've just heard about Ancestry's forthcoming DNA Communities feature, which will apply to both past and future tests!


Ancestry DNA's sale in the US, Canada, and New Zealand started earlier, and will end a week earlier (on Sunday 19th March). Please use these links so that you can support LostCousins:


How should you interpret your DNA results?

Most people who take DNA tests are far from expert - many rely on cousins who have been working with DNA for years. But if you don't have a cousin who'll figure it all out on your behalf, how do you manage?


The good news is that if you test with Ancestry they keep it simple - they don't expect you to know anything over and above what LostCousins members already know, how to research a family tree. They present you with a list of matches in order of priority - the ones at the top of the list are the closest cousins -  and for each DNA cousin you're presented with two pieces of information. For example, here are my top 3 matches (I've obscured the names to protect their privacy):



Each shows a possible range for the relationship and a confidence level - the latter is a measure of how likely it is that the other person is really a cousin of yours. I suspect that in calculating these Ancestry look not only at the total amount of shared DNA, but also at the length of individual segments - long segments are less likely to be shared by chance.


When you click the VIEW MATCH icon you'll be taken to a screen where you can find out more detail, for example:



The term centiMorgan, usually abbreviated to cM is a bit like a centimetre in that it's a measure of the length of segment of DNA. So the higher the figure the more DNA you share with your cousin, and the more close your likely relationship. What Ancestry don't tell you, however, is the length of the longest segment, although if there is only 1 segment you'll be able to figure it out.


If you test with Family Tree DNA you'll be shown more information - they'll give you their estimate of how closely you're related, of course, but they'll also tell you up front the total length of all the segments that you share (you don't have to go looking for it), as well as the length of the longest segment.



If you upload your results to GEDmatch, which I would recommend you do (since it's free), they give you even more detailed information. But the two key columns are the ones that give you the total length of matching segments and the longest matching segment.


Both FTDNA and GEDmatch allow you to re-sort your matches by clicking the column headings - if you're looking at more distant cousins I'd suggest sorting by the length of the longest segment (normally the results are sorted according to the total length of the segments that you share).


For more information about DNA matches take a look at the July 2016 DNA Special Edition of this newsletter, which you'll find here. When you’re reading it, bear in mind that Ancestry allows you to search for place names in the trees of your matches - this can be an enormous benefit.


The Shefford wives

I've mentioned previously that in some parishes the names of the women were also recorded on the Protestation Returns - but it was only yesterday that I first saw an example, thanks to LostCousins member Yvonne.


If you'd also like to view the return for West Shefford in Berkshire just follow this link - you'll find the ladies of the parish listed on the second page.


Tip: rather than use the online viewer, copy and paste the image into Irfanview (or your favourite graphics program).


The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland

When this massive work was published last autumn - at the equally massive price of £400 - I commented that it was clearly aimed at reference libraries. I've been checking the online resources of my library occasionally ever since - but it was only this week that (thanks to prompting from Graham) I discovered that it is now available in Essex libraries, and at home to library members.


It's part of the Oxford Premium Reference Collection - make sure you log-in using your library card number, and not a user name. Libraries have to subscribe to individual titles, so if your library hasn't subscribed to this one already, why not give them a nudge?


By the way, as I mentioned in the original article it's well worth downloading the free sample of the Kindle version, which includes lots of helpful information on surname origins from the beginning of the book (but read it on a large screen, as the text is very small and the pages are fixed in size).


Peter's Tips

Yesterday evening my wife and I enjoyed a delicious meal - yet it was easy to prepare and cheap to buy. The recipe is one that my late partner taught me back in the late 70s or early 80s - we just called it 'fish dish', but it wouldn't surprise me if it has a fancy name (though I've never seen it in a recipe book - and I have a bookcase full of them in my new kitchen!).


First grease a Pyrex casserole dish with butter, then lay plaice fillets across the bottom and up the sides in the hope that they won't stick together. Fill the dish with thickly sliced mushrooms and sliced sweet peppers - contrasting colours work well - then salt liberally (I use low-sodium salt), add pepper to taste, and squeeze a lemon or two over the top.


I start it off in the microwave for 5 or 6 minutes while the oven is heating up, but you can use the oven throughout if you prefer. Once the fish is cooked I add cream and a little butter, then finish it off in the oven, or under the grill - 10 minutes should be plenty, but if you use the oven the timing is more flexible.


Serve it up on a bed of rice (or mashed potato, if you prefer), with vegetables of your choice - courgettes, mange tout, or green beans will work particularly well. Be sure to spoon over plenty of the delicious juice. And please don't worry if the fillets fall apart as you dish them up - believe me, nobody will mind once they've tasted it!


Note: in the near future I'm going to create a separate Peter's Tips website since there's so much more I'd like to tell you, but there's a limit to how much is appropriate in a genealogy newsletter (some people feel I've already gone past that point, I know!). There will still be a Peter's Tips column in this newsletter, of course.


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......


In the next issue I'll be taking a close look at the 1939 Register, and showing the relationship between register entries and identity cards using an example kindly provided by a LostCousins member. See you again soon!


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© 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