Newsletter - 10th March 2019
Ancestry DNA offers END 17TH/18TH
Save on Findmypast's TOP subscriptions ENDS THURSDAY
Highland & Island Emigration Society records FREE ONLINE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 28th February) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):
To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's FREE, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available. Which means that if you are already receiving emails, you’re already a member - just got to the website and click 'Password reminder' to get an automated email reminder of your log-in details.
Ancestry DNA offers ENDING SOON
You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St Patrick's Day - Ancestry are offering big discounts on DNA tests at several of their sites around the world.
As regular readers of this newsletter will know, the Ancestry DNA test is the one that I recommend for anyone whose ancestors are mostly British or Irish. Ancestry have by far the largest database of DNA results - and the only way you can get access to the entire database is to test with Ancestry, because they do NOT accept transfers of test results from other test providers.
It's worth reminding you that all autosomal DNA tests currently available to genealogists are very similar - they all look at around 700,000 pairs of bases scattered around the genome (which has 3.2 billion bases in all), and there's not a lot to choose between them when it comes to accuracy. So the question you need to ask yourself is which test will connect you to the greatest number of living cousins - and the answer to that is Ancestry.
Even though it is less than 2 weeks since Ancestry introduced their enhanced matching I've already managed to work out how I'm related to nearly a dozen new cousins, and whilst this hasn't knocked down any 'brick walls' for me personally, it most certainly has for most of those cousins!
Please use the links below so that you can support LostCousins at the same time as saving money on DNA tests:
Ancestry.com.au (Australia & New Zealand) AUD $89 plus shipping (offer ends 11.59 AEST on Sunday 17th March)
Ancestry.ca (Canada) CAD $99 plus shipping (offer ends 11.59 EST on Sunday 17th March)
Ancestry.com (US) USD $59 plus taxes and shipping (offer ends 11.59 EST on Monday 18th March)
Tip: although you don’t need an Ancestry subscription to connect with your genetic cousins, you might find that you're offered a cut-price subscription when you buy your DNA test - if so, it’s well worth considering. Without a subscription you'll need to ask your cousins' permission to see their Ancestry trees, even if they're public trees.
I've been very impressed so far by the enhanced matching at Ancestry (see this article for more details), and this email from LostCousins member Kate shows what a difference it has made for her:
"I just wanted to say thank you for pointing out the new DNA tools available at Ancestry. I thought I would give them a look and may have solved a 20 year 'brick wall'.
"My great grandfather, Thomas Henderson, was a real mystery. On his marriage certificate 1857 in Durham, England, he gave his father's name as Thomas.
On all children's births in NSW, Australia he gave his place of birth as Cumberland/Lazonby, Cumberland and Carlisle, Cumberland. His age was consistently given as being born 1834-1836. With this information we could only find a Thomas Henderson christened 1829 in Lazonby with a mother Jane Henderson. Couldn't find any further information on Jane.
"Using the new DNA tools (Common Ancestor) I had a 6th-8th cousin match with JB with 16 cM across 1 segment. This was the result
"The missing female on my side was Ann COULTHARD who married Ralph HENDERSON. They had a son Thomas 1827 in Hamsterley, Durham. The whole family were in Hamsterley, Durham. So it looks like my great grandfather lied about everything. I would love to know what caused him to go to this extreme, but guess that's on my wish list. For now I'm over the moon about finding his family, because DNA can't lie. Oh and I now have some more 1881 "cousins" to enter at Lost Cousins!"
Kate is clearly over the moon - and so is Shirley, but her story is going to have to wait for the next issue!
Save on Findmypast's TOP subscriptions ENDS THURSDAY
It's not too late to save 10% on the top (Pro/Ultimate) 12 months subscriptions at any of Findmypast's sites around the world - please see this article in the last newsletter for full details of this EXCLUSIVE offer, and also to find out how you can get yourself a free LostCousins upgrade (worth up to £12.50).
Note: you must use the links in the last newsletter - this offer is only available through LostCousins; read the instructions carefully to ensure that you qualify for your free LostCousins upgrade - everyone has qualified so far, but you don’t want to be the first to miss out, I'm sure!
Over 2 million entries from Hampshire parish registers were added to FamilySearch at the end of January, though you won't be able to view the original register pages unless you are in an LDS Family History Centre or affiliated library (such as the Society of Genealogists).
Findmypast have more than 3 million transcribed Hampshire parish records, and the good news is that the register images for more than 50 parishes in Portsmouth and the surrounding area are available online. If you have ancestors from Hampshire I'd recommend searching at both sites - even if they both cover the same parishes there are likely to be differences in the transcriptions.
Norfolk Record Office is drastically reducing opening hours from 1st April, the start of the new financial year - you can see details of the new opening times here. And they might not be the only ones to cut back - as more and more records become available online it’s inevitable that fewer people will visit in person, especially in those areas where the parish registers are online.
The news in Worcestershire is a little better - a proposed spending cut of £405,000 has been trimmed to £250,000 - still a substantial percentage of the budget of the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, but one of the councillors has confirmed that the opening hours won’t change.
But whichever record office you plan to visit, check the website in advance - and make sure that you take appropriate identification (what's acceptable varies from one record office to another).
As a boy I got fed up with people mispronouncing or misspelling my surname. Calver isn't foreign in origin, nor is it a particularly rare surname, but by the time I was in my teens I was determined that when I married I'd take my wife's surname! (In the event we each kept our own surnames.)
Given my experience when growing up I can understand what it must have been like for my German ancestors when they arrived in London in the late 18th century. My great-great-great-great grandfather was baptised Johann Jacob Kühner in 1760 at Eberstadt in the Duchy of Württemberg, but when his children were baptised in Bermondsey, just east of London's Tower Bridge, between 1794-1805 his name appeared in the church register in a wide variety of forms: Jacob Keenar, Jacob Kuhner, Jacob Kenah, Jacob Kehnir, Jacob Kihner, and John Kihner.
When he and his wife died, in 1816 and 1817 respectively, the surname was shown as Kuhner, but with just one exception the next generation adopted the spelling Keehner.
Findmypast have just added 7 million records to their collection of US Obituary Notices, but the first one I looked at (for a distant cousin of mine) wasn't something I'd refer to as an obituary - it was a couple of sentences put together from information in the Social Security Death Index. The same was true of his wife's entry - and of every other entry I looked at.
It's great to have this information at a website that I use almost everyday - but why oversell the record set by making it sound more than it is?
This BBC story about a collection of wedding photos found in Glasgow has a fascinating conclusion - well worth a read!
Highland & Island Emigration Society records FREE ONLINE
The Highland Potato Famine, which began in 1846, led to starvation comparable with the Irish Potato Famine, though on a much smaller scale. Amongst the charitable initiatives set up to assist the 200,000 people at risk was the Highland & Island Emigration Society (HIES), which helped around 5000 people to emigrate from western Scotland to Australia between 1852-57.
(They were not by any means the only emigrants - many more went to Canada, a destination that could be reached more cheaply, and which promised a degree of financial support on arrival. A few may have travelled at their own expense, but most received some form of support, often from their landlords.)
Travelling half way round the world by ship was hazardous and on some voyages more than 10% of the emigrants died before they got to Australia. The records of the HIES have survived and since February have been free to view at ScotlandsPeople - see this article for more details.
Other recent releases of Scottish records include Dundee & Forfarshire Hearth Tax Records for 1691 at Findmypast.
Eagle-eyed reader Jeremy noticed that the number of search results displayed at Ancestry is one less than the stated total whenever there are more results than will fit onto a single page. Whilst many of us would have assumed that the count was wrong, and left it at that, Jeremy carried out a detailed investigation, eventually concluding that the missing record is always the one that should have appeared at the top of the second page.
Of course, if the record you're looking for is on the first page you've got nothing to worry about - but if it isn't, well, this unusual bug could explain why you can’t find some of your relatives.
If you've got a coding background it won’t take you long to figure out where the programmer has gone wrong - which should mean that Ancestry are able to fix the problem quite quickly. But in the meantime I've got a little fix you can apply yourself - simply change the number of results per page. Yes, there will still be a result missing, but it will be a different result.
Even before Ancestry added new features at the end of February their DNA matching was knocking down 'brick walls', and solving mysteries that had previously been thought insoluble. This story from LostCousins member Margaret is a wonderful example of what is possible, if only you don't give up!
"I've been trying to identify my maternal grandmother my entire life....
"My mother was born at Ravenswood Nursing Home, Highgate Road, Hampstead on 24 May 1920. This much was indicated on her birth certificate, along with the name of her mother as Beatrice Mary Robinson of no occupation, living at 18 Worsley Road, Hampstead. There was no father named, and the birth was not registered until 9 July 1920, so it was just outside the permitted 42 day window.
"In the 1950s my mother visited Somerset House to see if she could find her mother, but there were too many records for women with the same name (Beatrice was very popular in the Victorian era). Should we assume she was a young single mother? Could she be a widow who had lost her husband in the First World War, and if so, how would we find her maiden name? All these questions ran through our heads. We had no idea of age or birthplace to prove which of these records could be correct.
"At just 18 days old Mum was given to a lady we knew as ‘Mrs Pearce’. Mrs Pearce undertook short term fostering for women who had to work, often in service, and they would pay a small weekly fee (or sometimes not!). My Mum stayed with the family until she was 18 and married my father in January 1939.
"Memories she had from this time were of neighbours saying that she looked like her brother, that she was called Lorraine after a song her father liked, that he had something to do with a wine importer. Also, she remembers a well-dressed young couple visiting and taking her to the corner shop to buy sweets. She was brought up in a loving, happy home, with a continual stream of other foster children coming and going. She was the only one to remain there all her single life. The family loved her very much and Mrs Pearce was heartbroken when my Mum left to go abroad with my father - sadly, Mrs Pearce died shortly after. I have colourful letters she wrote to my Mother at the beginning of the Second World War. Sadly, my Mum never asked Mrs Pearce any questions about her origins.
"My sister took my Mum to London to see the house where her Mother lived in Worsley Road, and they checked the Electoral Rolls and Kelly directories. This did not give them much more information except that there were other people living at the address. Could one of them be the father?
"The house itself was impressive as, although it was in a row of large terraces, it was white-washed, castellated and had Moorish windows and doors. As soon as my children had left home, I was able to spend more time on research. I decided to begin with the house. Visiting the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre at the Holborn library in the 90s, I was able to look at microfiche of plans for the building of houses in Worsley Road, finding that William de la Tour Palmer was the owner. So Beatrice Mary must have been renting the house. She paid the rates, and we found that she was down as ‘Mrs’ and had left in the July 1923 owing money and leaving no forwarding address.
"Searching electoral rolls around 1920 I found that Beatrice had moved in around October 1919. I followed up some of the people who lived at the house at the same time but most came to dead ends or there was no proof for a relationship. However, we realised that Beatrice had to be over 30 or owning property to be on the electoral roll at all. So it seemed she was an older lady. Was she a housekeeper, perhaps? So many questions and so much time spent looking at different Beatrice Mary Robinsons on Family Search, and FreeBMD, then Findmypast and Ancestry over the years hoping that some clue would pop up. If she was a ‘Mrs’ it would be impossible to find her maiden name not knowing who she married. At one point a correspondent in America suggested she might have been part of his family, where a Beatrice Mary Robinson became a Nun. I even visited the Carmelite Nunnery in Notting Hill to see if they had any records. We decided she could have been between 30 and 45 in 1920, born between 1875 and 1890. This narrowed down the list.
"The other avenue we researched was the family of her foster mother, Mrs Pearce, her husband, and the adult step-sons. However, there was nothing to prove that any one of them was related. So why was she given to Mrs Pearce and then left for ever?
"It seemed that the best hope was to wait until the 1921 census came out, in the hope that it would reveal where Beatrice came from and if she was married. It was my eldest son's 50th birthday in 2017, and I decided it would be a lovely present to give him a DNA testing kit from Ancestry. After seeing the results he got, I decided I must test as well, since perhaps this was the way to find Beatrice? It was exciting to see all the matches but, not surprisingly, those I could readily identify were from my father's side.
"In January 2019 I got a very bad cold, which kept me housebound for 2 weeks. I decided to make good use of the time sending more messages to my matches on Ancestry. There was one that looked intriguing, so I explained about my search for Beatrice - and what a wonderful surprise when I received the reply! I learned that Beatrice was part of the Thomas family from Pembrokeshire in South Wales, that she had married a Robinson, lived in Hampstead, and then been widowed in 1917. It was all so exciting - but my joy was tinged with sadness that my mother and brother are no longer here to share in the discovery.
"I have continued to communicate with my maternal cousins and exchanged stories, and there are now even more questions to investigate about Beatrice’s life! But whilst I've found Beatrice it's not the end of the road - my next challenge is to identify my grandfather!!"
When Margaret was trying to discover her mother's origins she had the advantage of knowing her name - and thankfully it turned out that it really was correct. Identifying her father will be a little more challenging, but at least she should be able to tell - by a process of elimination - which of her DNA matches are from her grandfather's line, so I'm confident that it won’t be very long before I am able to feature the second half of this success story!
So often people who have adoption or illegitimacy on their tree tell me that "DNA can't help me" when they couldn’t be more wrong - it's when the paper records are missing or falsified that DNA comes into its own! There will be more DNA success stories in the future - in fact I've got some already lined up.
Almost three-quarters of a century later, two service medals have been handed to 95 year-old Nelly Hassell of Plymouth, who served in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). And when I say served, I mean it literally, as she was a waitress and barmaid in the officers' mess.
From reading this BBC article it would seem that Nelly was always entitled to the medals, but because she left the ATS just as they were being produced, she never received them. But now, thanks to the intervention of her grandson, she has been presented with them by the local MP.
It's a different situation for the 101 year-old father of LostCousins member Trevor Powell - Trevor has posted a petition on the UK Parliament's petition site calling for a clasp to be awarded to surviving members of the British Expeditionary Force which travelled to France in September 1939 in an attempt to halt the advance of the German invaders.
Note: the quotation which heads this article is from one of Milton's sonnets. Readers of my generation might recall it being used ironically in the 1960s by a waitress in the ITV soap 'Crossroads' - I think it was Diane, played by Susan Hanson (you can see her in this YouTube clip).
I'm currently enjoying Living in Sin, by Ginger S Frost - the first book-length analysis of cohabitation in England between the passing of Lord Hardwicke's Act in 1753 and the start of the Great War.
Whereas as Professor Probert's Marriage Law for Genealogists examines the legal position (see my review in the last issue), Living in Sin makes it clear that the law wasn't always very well-understood, even by the magistrates who were trusted to adjudicate on such matters. It's certainly going to be of interest to anyone who wants to understand why their ancestors behaved as they did - because we all have irregular marriages and cohabitees in our tree, and there are lots of examples that demonstrate how the law was - and wasn't - applied. I'll be reviewing the book in a future newsletter but if you can't wait please use the links below to ensure that LostCousins can benefit:
A recent article in the Daily Mirror suggests that we should be extra careful in March, because it’s one of the deadliest months of the year. However the Office for National Statistics responded in a blog posting which pointed out that the statistics on which the warning was based show the deaths registered in a given month, and not the deaths that occurred in the relevant month. Personally I'm not sure it really matters, but I shall nevertheless avoid walking under ladders!
Former Argentinian footballer Diego Maradona, best known to Englishmen of my generation for cheating in the 1986 World Cup Quarter-Final, was shown to have been cheating on his wife when he admitted being the father of Diego and Jana, now aged 32 and 22 respectively. Now, according to this BBC News article, he plans to admit to being the father of three more children, born in Cuba to two different mothers during the 5 years he spent there at the beginning of the century.
His lawyer has said that DNA tests will be used to prove the paternity beyond doubt, but I suspect that the mothers and their children may have previously tested their DNA in an attempt to force Maradona to accept his responsibilities. Whilst those tests couldn’t have proven who the father was, they would have demonstrated that the same man fathered all three children - providing powerful, if circumstantial, evidence that the mothers were correct in their assertions.
I first wrote about the potential for recovering DNA from postage stamps in an April 2012 article, but at the time it was a 'wish list' item. However, consumer DNA testing has moved on, and since I recalled that 2012 article in my Christmas Day newsletter the prospect of being able to sequence the DNA of my long-dead ancestors has moved a little closer.
Quite rightly some are asking whether it is ethical to test someone's DNA without their permission, even after their death. As a genealogist trying to knock down 'brick walls' my initial instinct was to answer 'Yes', but I'm not sure it's that simple - testing the DNA of your own ancestors is one thing, but what if you tested the DNA of someone who isn't related to you in any way?
For example, many collectors have letters written by members of the Royal Family, some of which are accompanied by the original envelopes. Whilst they wouldn't necessarily have licked their own stamps, they may have sealed the envelopes themselves (to protect the contents from prying eyes). They could have used a sponge, but what if they didn't - is the DNA of Edward VII, a man known to have sown more than a few wild oats, fair game? The founder of MyHeritage, one of the fastest-growing providers of DNA tests, is quoted in this article from The Atlantic as being a collector of autographs - could the DNA of Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill really end up on the MyHeritage website, as the article seems to suggest?
Family historians frequently make unexpected discoveries, so we are used to dealing sensitively with information about our forebears, particularly where our discovery impacts on living relatives. I think it would be sad if we were restrained from following up some avenues of research simply because there are people in the world who are less sensitive to the feelings of others.
The jest in the title is my way of paying homage to the handful of dedicated readers (you know who you are) who are invariably the first to point out the errors and omissions in the newsletter - by the time I'm ready to publish it online I'm usually so exhausted, so it's not surprising that a few errors slip through. Though since my late father was a proofreader for most of his working life (and a printer before that) I really must do better.....
I mentioned stamps in the previous article - are you aware that Royal Mail is increasing postage prices by around 5% with effect from 25th March? The cost of sending 1st and 2nd class letters is going up by 3p, from 67p to 70p and 58p to 61p respectively - which means that the cost of sending a letter for next day delivery has gone up by 67 times (6620%) since I was born in 1950. If you live in the UK, perhaps now's the time to buy some extra books of 1st and 2nd Class stamps.
Should you ever need to find out how much it cost to send a letter or postcard in the days before email was invented this page at the Great Britain Philatelic Society website will prove invaluable. Everyone knows that it cost 1d to send a letter in 1840 (when the Penny Black, the world's first adhesive postage stamp, was issued), but did you realise that this rate only applied to letters weighing half an ounce (14g) or less? This explains why people not only wrote on both sides of the paper but sometimes wrote twice on the same page at right angles, in order to fit twice as much in the same space (the Victorian equivalent of a ZIP file). These days the weight limit for a letter is 100g, nor far short of 4oz - and in 1840 it would have cost 8d to send a 4oz letter. However, by 1897 the cost had fallen to just 1d.
If you watched the latest series of Endeavour (the Inspector Morse prequel), you may have noticed that the poison pen letters in the third episode bore 1d stamps - in fact the cost of sending a letter in 1969 was 5d or 4d (1st or 2nd class). A sloppy error in what was otherwise a very enjoyable series.
The British tax year ends on 5th April, and given the low rates of interest on savings I'm willing to bet that most of you won’t have earned anywhere near the tax-free allowance, which is £1000 for basic rate taxpayers. There's not much you can do about this in 2018/19, but you can prepare the ground now for 2019/20. I've started investing again with Ratesetter, one of a handful of respectable peer-to-peer lenders (there are plenty of the other sort, of course), and you can currently get a welcome bonus of £100 if you follow this link and invest £1000 for at least a year (when you use my link I'll also be rewarded, but not as handsomely as you!). I'm not a financial adviser, of course - and nor was the LostCousins member who told me about Ratesetter a few years ago (but I'm still very grateful to him for the tip!).
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......
© Copyright 2019 Peter Calver
Please do NOT copy or republish any part of this newsletter without permission - which is only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership (which includes the newsletter), is FREE?