Newsletter – 4th March 2021



Family history on a budget

Major update to the National Burial Index

Black sheep flocking to Ancestry

Bigamy lives on

Mother's Day sale at Ancestry UK SAVE 25%

Free DNA uploads ENDS SUNDAY

Masterclass: How to make the most of your DNA test

Could you fit into Winston Churchill's shoes?

The Prince of Denmark

Not tonight, Albert

Save on Who Do You Think You Are? magazine EXCLUSIVE

Why Dorothy went to Oz

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 25th 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!



Family history on a budget

Free websites can be a lifeline for those family historians who can't afford to purchase subscriptions to the big genealogy sites, but just because something's free doesn’t necessarily make it worthwhile – for example, a lot of free sites have been created by software developers whose primary interest is in persuading you to click on their links.


Tip: I'm always very sceptical when I come across a free family genealogy site which gives little or no information about who is behind it – there's usually a reason for this, and it's unlikely to be a good one!


On the other hand, you shouldn’t ignore free sites just because you've splashed out on an expensive subscription elsewhere. Even if they have the same information, it is likely to have been transcribed independently, giving you an opportunity to find elusive records; furthermore, the site is likely to offer different search features, and this may enable you to pick up entries that you would otherwise have missed.


The key free sites that I use are:


FamilySearch, which has billions of transcribed records from around the world, and whilst you need to visit a Family History Centre or affiliated library to view some of the images, there are far more images online than most people realise. FamilySearch is a great place to search for elusive baptisms, and to find information from parts of the world that aren't well-served by subscription websites. It's essential to register at FamilySearch, but it's free, and they won’t pester you to join their church.


FreeBMD, the first site to offer online access to the GRO birth, marriage, and death indexes for England & Wales, though for many years the indexes were incomplete (even now the coverage is patchy for years after 1983, which was their original target end-point). FreeBMD makes it particularly easy to see which indexed entries are on the same register page, and this makes it easier to spot errors and omissions.


FreeReg has transcribed entries from parish registers across Britain, though the collection is much stronger in some counties than others. There's inevitably some overlap with other sites, but the FreeReg transcripts often include information that hasn’t been noted by other transcribers, such as maiden names.


General Register Office – the GRO is the not only the cheapest place to order birth, marriage, and death certificates, they have free online indexes of births and deaths which were compiled in the early years of this century using the registers. By contrast the indexes at other sites are based on the original quarterly indexes, also compiled by the GRO, but using different protocols.


Other sites that I recommend include:


Online Parish Clerks are volunteers who collect and make available online information about individual parishes; the coverage varies enormously across the country, but Lancashire and Cornwall stand out.


The National Archives has an excellent collection of more than 350 research guides which cover topics as varied as Aliens, Bankrupts, Coastguard officers, Wills, and the Women's Land army. It's the ideal place to start whenever you're researching a topic that's new to you. TNA also hosts Discovery, which holds more than 32 million descriptions of records held by The National Archives and more than 2,500 other archives across the country.


This is just a very small selection of the free sites that can help family historians, one that's based on my own research routine – but there are tens of thousands of other sites.


An excellent place to find out about other free resources is the LostCousins forum, which is itself free, and you don’t need to be a member to view the advice posted by others (though if you want to post questions or advice of your own you'll need to meet the modest qualification for membership, ie your Match Potential – shown on your My Summary page – needs to be 1 or more).


Finally, a reminder that local libraries often offer free access to subscription sites, and that during lockdown some sites that are normally only accessible from within the library can be used at home. I haven’t borrowed a book from a library since I was at university almost half a century ago, but my membership of Essex Libraries has been incredibly useful since I began researching my family history!



Major update to the National Burial Index

Findmypast have added more than 3.4 million records to the National Burial Index, which now includes over 16.8 million burials from England & Wales. You can see a list of the parishes included here (warning – it’s a very long list, so will take a while to load).



Black sheep flocking to Ancestry

Do you have criminals in your tree? Four record sets added to Ancestry in January could help you hunt them down:


UK, Calendar of Prisoners, 1868-1929

UK, Registers of Habitual Criminals and Police Gazettes, 1834-1934

UK, After-Trial Calendar of Prisoners, 1855-1931

UK, Prison Commission Records, 1770-1951



Bigamy lives on

We tend to think of bigamy as a purely historical crime, one that dates back to the days before divorce became easier and more affordable – to the best of my knowledge the only bigamist in my tree was the wife of my 4th cousin once removed, who was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment in 1945. But who could hope to get away with bigamy in the age of Facebook?


Who indeed? One optimist was Maurice Gibney, who had agreed to part with his wife, Yvonne, but didn't bother with the paperwork before marrying again – perhaps he thought that by marrying in Oman he would be 'under the radar'. According to this Daily Mail article Yvonne spotted the second wedding on Facebook  and the outcome was a 6 month suspended sentence for Maurice.



Mother's Day sale at Ancestry UK SAVE 25%

Ancestry DNA tests work for everyone, whatever their gender or orientation – so the fact that Ancestry UK's latest offer is associated with Mother's Day is purely a marketing opportunity for them, and a moneysaving opportunity for you.


By now most people reading this newsletter will have taken a DNA test, but if – like me – you tested several years ago you probably tested with another company (Ancestry didn't begin selling their test in the UK until 2016). Ancestry don’t accept uploads of DNA results from other companies, so the only way to compare your DNA against Ancestry's vast database (approaching 20 million) is to test with them, as I did in 2017.


Alternatively, invite your brother or sister to test, as I did in 2016 – they share your ancestors so their DNA is just as good as yours.


Of course, if you're fortunate enough to have one or both parents still living, they're the ones who should test. For example, my mother-in-law has more matches (15,353) than my wife (12,937) even though my wife's matches are from both sides of her tree. But if your parents are no longer living, perhaps there are siblings who could test? Their DNA is just as relevant, because your aunts and uncles share the same ancestors as one of your parents. (UK only) REDUCED FROM £79 TO £59 (plus shipping) - ENDS 31ST MARCH



Free DNA uploads ENDS SUNDAY

Until Sunday you can transfer your DNA to MyHeritage and "get all advanced DNA features free". Whilst I don’t find their system as user-friendly as Ancestry, it's a great way to get more matches with genetic cousins. To take advantage of the offer just follow this link.


Note: in case you're wondering, I have tried the MyHeritage tool that animates a still photograph of an long-dead ancestor – spooky!



Masterclass: How to make the most of your DNA test

Note: I've updated this Masterclass since it was published in March 2020


We all have 'brick walls' in our trees - in some cases because our ancestors were illegitimate, in others because of deficiencies in the records. Fortunately, because our DNA is inherited from our ancestors it's also a record of our ancestry – one that can not only overcome gaps in the archives but also provide us with a way of checking that our research is correct.


You probably don’t have samples of your ancestors' DNA to compare yours against - though it's technically possible to extract DNA from hair or a postage stamp, it's not a service that mainstream companies offer. But there are lots of other people who do have samples for comparison – your cousins. They inherited their DNA from their ancestors, and whilst most of their ancestors will be different from yours, any segments of DNA that you share were almost certainly inherited from your common ancestor(s).


Note: anyone who shares some of your ancestors is a cousin of yours, no matter how distant the relationship; in fact, distant cousins are particularly useful when it comes to knocking down 'brick walls', though close cousins can also play a part.


We can’t all be DNA experts – and the good news is that provided you follow the advice in this Masterclass, you'll be able to get amazing results even if you don’t understand the first thing about the science behind DNA. Indeed there are plenty of people who do know quite a lot about DNA who would probably achieve more if only they stuck to the simple strategies in this Masterclass!


Here's all you really need to know:


·       Most of the DNA tests on offer to family historians, and the only ones you should be seriously considering, are autosomal DNA tests; they can taken by both males and females, and they have the potential to solve puzzles anywhere in your family tree within the last 6 or 7 generations (around 250 years).

·       All of your DNA comes from your ancestors, but you inherit only half of your parents' autosomal DNA, they only inherited half of their parents' DNA, and so on

·       Unlike personal traits and some hereditary diseases, DNA doesn’t skip a generation - you can't possibly inherit a segment of DNA from a grandparent unless your parent inherited it first

·       Just because you and your cousins share ancestors this doesn't necessarily mean that you'll share DNA - you could have inherited different bits of DNA from the ancestors you share; the closer the cousin, the more DNA you're likely to share, but despite this distant cousins are often more useful (partly because there are so many more of them!)


Which test should you choose?

Don’t make your decision based on price; although all of the main DNA tests on offer are technically similar, what you're looking for is to get as many matches with genetic cousins as possible. Ancestry have by far the biggest database, with approaching 20 million users, and the only way to get access to that database is to buy the Ancestry test.


Most other test providers allow transfers – but Ancestry don't, and that's why it’s crucial to test with them. You can always upload your data to other sites later, but you can't go the other way. Another reason to choose the Ancestry test is the way they integrate DNA with family trees – it works really well.


The rewards of DNA

The reason I tested my DNA, and persuaded some of my cousins to join in, was to knock down 'brick walls' that conventional research couldn't breach. The sad reality is that if our 'brick walls' have resisted our efforts for years (or even decades), it’s unlikely that they're ever going to come crashing down if all we have to go on are the records that have survived down the centuries.


DNA can help by bridging gaps in the records and compensating for errors, but it means adopting new and unfamiliar strategies, and utilising somewhat different techniques to the ones that we're used to. But if you follow the steps in this Masterclass you won’t have to go through the steep learning curve that I did, nor will you make the mistakes that I did in the early days, before Ancestry started selling their test in the UK.


Before you even get your results.....

DNA isn't a substitute for researching the records – you need both. So make sure that you do all the conventional, records-based, research you reasonably can while you’re waiting for your DNA results, so that when they come through you're ready to go. Don’t leave it until the last moment, because in my experience the results invariably arrive well ahead of schedule, typically 4 weeks or less rather than the 6-8 weeks that Ancestry quote.


There are two types of cousins

Genetic cousins are the cousins you find by testing your DNA – but usually you won't know exactly how you're related to them, indeed you might not have a clue what the connection is! And that's where documented cousins come in – they're the cousins you can fit onto your family tree because you know precisely how they're related to you.


The most valuable documented cousins are the ones who are also researching their family tree, because they're more likely to be prepared to take a DNA test – indeed, if they’re LostCousins members it's quite likely that they've tested already, in which case connecting with them will not only make your DNA test more valuable to you, it will make their DNA test more valuable to them – in other words, it's in both of your interests to collaborate.


So that leads us to a key step in the process…..


Connect with your cousins

Complete your My Ancestors page at the LostCousins site, ensuring that you have entered ALL of the cousins (no matter how distant) that you can find on the 1881 Census. Yes, it might take you an hour or two, but skipping this important step could be expensive – if you don't find some 'lost cousins' who have already tested you're likely to end up paying for known cousins to test.


But it’s not just about money – connecting with documented cousins who have already tested could save you hundreds of hours in time spent fruitlessly analysing your DNA matches. DNA is like a jigsaw puzzle – the more pieces you can fit in place the easier it is to figure out how everything else fits in.


Tip: start with all the relatives you can identify in 1841, whether or not you can actually find them on that census, then trace each of your branches (sometimes referred to as collateral lines) through to 1881. Remember, ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree, so every branch and every twig is a potential link to a 'lost cousin'.


On my own My Cousins page there are 17 cousins who have tested (indicated by 'Y' in the DNA column), and 2 who are considering it (shown by an 'M'). If there is no entry in the column it's worth checking with your cousin in case they forgot to update their My Details page when they tested.


How your cousins can best help

Shared matches are the key – if you and a documented cousin match the same genetic cousin then it’s overwhelmingly likely that the genetic cousin is descended from one of the ancestral lines that you and your documented cousin share. When you view a DNA match with any cousin at Ancestry you can click Shared Matches to find out which other cousins you both match.


Note: Ancestry only show shared matches where both matches exceed 20cM.


If your cousins also tested with Ancestry ask if they would be prepared to make you a Viewer of their DNA results – this allows you to see ALL of their matches, whether they share them with you or not. Of course, you should offer to make then a Viewer of your own results, especially if they're actively researching (many people who take DNA tests aren't, of course).


Note: as a Viewer or Collaborator you can see another user's matches and their ethnicity results, but you don’t have access to their raw DNA results.


Being able to see ALL of a documented cousin's matches enables you to benefit from the matches they've made with genetic cousins who share your ancestors but who don’t appear in your own list. Remember what I said earlier: just because you and a cousin share ancestors doesn’t mean that you'll share DNA. For example, the chance of two 5th cousins sharing detectable DNA is only around one-third, so most of your 5th cousins who have tested won't appear in your list of matches – but they might appear in your cousins' lists, so the more documented cousins you collaborate with, the greater your chances of knocking down your 'brick walls'.


Everything I've written about so far can be done before you get your DNA results, so that you can be ready to "hit the ground running" when they arrive. But if you've already had your DNA results it's not too late to go back and fill in the gaps – indeed, it would be foolish not to.


How to process your DNA matches

I'm going to assume for the purpose of this article that you tested with Ancestry - but don't stop reading if you tested elsewhere because I'll be writing about some strategies you can use, albeit not as effectively, at other sites.


At Ancestry you'll typically have over 10000 matches with genetic cousins, and of those all but about 3% will be with 'distant' cousins, ie where the estimated relationship is 5th cousin or more distant. So you might think that the best strategy might be to focus on the top 3%, on the basis that if you can't make head or tail of those matches, your chance of resolving the more distant matches is negligible.


But you couldn't be more wrong – your 'brick walls' are most likely to be solved by matches that Ancestry regards as distant matches, and this is partly because nobody, not even Ancestry, can accurately determine precisely how close a DNA match is once you get beyond 1st cousins. Simply working your way through the list from the top will lead to wasted time and frustration, not least because many of your cousins won't have trees, and many of them won't reply to your messages.


Fortunately 5 years of using Ancestry DNA, and almost a decade of using DNA have taught me a few things. Here's how to get the best results and avoid all the wasted time and frustration…..


Upload a tree and connect it to your DNA results

I have a public tree connected to my DNA results, but it only includes my direct ancestors – this makes it useful for my cousins, but of little interest to name collectors and the like. It also protects the privacy of my living cousins, since their branches aren't included. You don’t need to have a public tree, but you do need to have a tree connected to your DNA to make use of the advanced features which I'm going to tell you about next.


Common Ancestors (no Ancestry subscription required)

The Common Ancestors feature, which utilises online trees to figure out how you and some of your matches are connected. It's something you could do yourself if you had unlimited time and a brain like a computer, but having Ancestry do it for you will provide a real boost.


About 1.4% of my DNA matches are flagged as having common ancestors: but what really stands out is that more than half of them are distant matches, and some of them have very small trees, some with under 10 relatives. You might be wondering how Ancestry can identify one of my matches as a 4th cousin once removed when he has only 5 people in his tree – it’s because they're looking at ALL the tens of millions of online trees in their database, not just the ones that belong to my DNA matches. (That's why you'd need unlimited time and a brain like a computer to do it yourself!)


To find out how you're connected click to reveal the common ancestor(s); click the name of the ancestor to see how the two of you are descended from that person. (The information in the first column will be based on the tree you've connected to your DNA results.)


Always bear in mind that online trees often include errors – just because you have a DNA match with someone doesn't mean that their tree is correct, although it certainly improves the odds! However the information for each generation will usually be supported by multiple trees uploaded by different users, which is another encouraging factor.


When I've verified my connection I first include a brief note against the DNA match at Ancestry, then add the cousin to the tree on my own computer, which often entails adding a new branch. At this point it may be apparent that there are relatives I can add to the My Ancestors page at the LostCousins site (to find further cousins), and doing it there and then makes it sure that it isn’t forgotten.


ThruLines™ (no subscription necessary)

Ancestry's ThruLines feature uses Ancestry trees in an attempt to knock down 'brick walls'. It was introduced before Common Ancestors, which it overlaps to an extent, but importantly ThruLines doesn't require an Ancestry subscription.


When you access ThruLines it displays the direct ancestors on your tree, generation by generation, and as you move the mouse over each box it indicates matches with genetic cousins who share that ancestor. Even if you don’t have an Ancestry subscription you can see how you’re connected to those cousins, and as with Common Ancestors the algorithm utilises all Ancestry trees, public and private searchable, not just those that belong ot your DNA matches.


However, if you don’t have an Ancestry subscription you can't view the trees of people who aren't DNA matches, and even for those who are matches, you can only see 4 generations of their direct ancestors (ie back to their great-great grandparents). Nevertheless, ThruLines is a very useful feature that will provide many clues.


Tip: you don’t need an Ancestry subscription to view a tree if you have been invited by the tree owner.


Where ThruLines really pays off is when it knocks down 'brick walls', by suggesting possible ancestors who don't appear on your tree. These are highlighted in green (rather than pink or blue), or with a DNA symbol (indicating that the information has been taken from the tree of one of your DNA matches – which increases the chance that it’s correct, though doesn’t make it certain). The screenshot below shows an example – not from my tree, by the way, so please don’t contact me if the names seem familiar!



Even if ThruLines doesn't break down any of your 'brick walls' immediately, bear in mind that it will be updated as other users test, and as those who have already tested add to their trees. Furthermore, it will almost certainly help you to identify branches of your tree that you didn’t know about previously – allowing you to add branches to your tree, and entries to your My Ancestors page (to find even more cousins).


As you've worked your way through your Common Ancestors matches, and your ThruLines you'll have been able to make notes against many of your matches to indicate how you're connected to them. But still the vast majority of your matches, even your close matches, will have nothing against them. The next step is to fill in some of the gaps by making use of Shared Matches.


Shared Matches (no subscription necessary)

There are two distinct ways to use Ancestry's Shared Matches feature, and they won't necessarily produce the same results – this is because Ancestry only shows shared matches of 20cM or more.


The first way is to work through your close matches (the ones who share 20cM or more with you); this will reveal which of your other close matches they also share, even if they don’t have trees of their own, or have minimal trees. Don’t jump to unjustified conclusions – for example, just because cousin A is a shared match with cousin B, who shares your Smith and Jones lines, doesn't mean that cousin A also shares those lines, because their connection could be further back in time.


The second way to make use of Shared Matches is to start with the cousins whose connection you already know, thanks to Common Ancestors and ThruLines. Many of them will be distant cousins of yours, ie they share less than 20cM with you, but that doesn’t stop them sharing more than 20cM with some of your close cousins.


The latter approach has the potential to pick up more shared matches, so it’s worth considering.


What to do next…..

Making use of the simple tools that Ancestry provides is a great way to make some headway, but you're really only scratching the surface - it's likely that your connection to over 95% of your DNA matches is still a complete mystery.


What you need now are some simple, straightforward strategies that will lead you to the matches most likely to help you knock down your 'brick walls':


Strategy 1: search by surname

Ancestry allow you to search the trees of your matches by surname, so that you can identify cousins who have the same ancestral surname in their tree as one of your ancestors.


There are two factors that make this a particularly useful strategy: one is that the search only looks at ancestral surnames, so ignores names that only appear in branches of your match's tree; the other is that the search looks at private trees as well as public trees (provided those private trees are designated as searchable, which almost all are).


Here's how to go about it:




Strategy 2: search by birthplace


As you will have discovered when working through your list of surnames, most of the time the surname of the ancestors you share with a DNA cousin doesn't appear in both trees - indeed, it's quite possible that the surname of your common ancestor doesn't appear in either tree!


The problem is, when your female ancestors married they generally took their husband's surname. This makes it more difficult to research female ancestors whose children were born before the commencement of civil registration, since baptism registers don't usually give the mother's maiden surname - usually the only solution is to find the marriage. By contrast you can continue researching your male ancestors even if you can't find their marriage.


Of course, this problem doesn't simply affect you and your research - it affects your cousins too; most researchers' trees become increasingly sparse with each generation. If you've only identified 10% of your 256 6G grandparents and your cousins have only identified 10% of theirs, the odds of finding out how you're related to a 7th cousin simply by comparing the names in your trees are pretty remote (a little more than 1% in this example, not great odds).


Another way to figure out the connections to your DNA cousins is to look for geographical overlaps - and here's how to go about it:




Strategy 3: look for overlaps with the more unusual components of your ethnicity

Most readers of this newsletter have mostly British, Irish, or western European ancestry. But some of you will have Jewish ancestors, or ancestors from outside Europe, and whilst ethnicity estimates can be quite misleading, they do provide another way of analysing your matches.


Here's what Ancestry show for one of my DNA cousins:



If Ancestry had detected a Jewish component of my own ethnicity this would be one of the matches I'd be looking at very closely.



Strategy 4: look for the 'elephant in the room'


Because we all have 'brick walls' in our trees there are parts of our ancestry that are a closed book - yet there will inevitably be clues amongst our matches, if only we look for them. For example, if - like me - you don't know of any Irish ancestors, but have lots of matches with cousins who do, you might begin to wonder whether one of your 'brick walls' is concealing a connection to Ireland. I can't provide you with a step-by-step guide - it's all about awareness (Louis Pasteur said that "chance favours the prepared mind").


But beware of the common situation in which you share a single DNA segment with lots of people who all match each other. This suggests that the people you’re matched with come from an endogamous population, one in which people generally marry within the same community - in this case you would probably do well to ignore the matches altogether as any connection is likely to be a long way back.


More tips



Technical information

Most of the matches we make with DNA cousins will be many generations back, since we have many more distant cousins than we do close cousins. The final column of the table below indicates roughly how many cousins you might expect to find if you and they all took the Ancestry DNA test:




Based on Table 2 from: Henn BM, Hon L, Macpherson JM, Eriksson N, Saxonov S, Pe'er I, et al. (2012) Cryptic Distant Relatives Are Common in Both Isolated and Cosmopolitan Genetic Samples. PLoS ONE 7(4): e34267. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034267

Revised using Ancestry DNA estimates for the chances of detecting cousins and the expected number of 1st to 6th cousins for those of British ancestry; the numbers for 7th to 10th cousins are my own guesstimates


Of course, in practice only a small fraction of your cousins will have tested - even Ancestry, by far the biggest providers of autosomal tests, have sold fewer than 20 million tests - but you can nevertheless reckon that the cousins you're matched with will be distributed roughly in proportion to the figures shown above. In other words, over 98% of your matches will be with relatives who are at best 5th cousins, and could well be 8th cousins or even more distant. This won't necessarily be apparent when you look at your list of matches because there's a tendency for matches to appear closer or more distant than they really are.


Tip: Ancestry won't show any of your DNA matches as more distant than '5th to 8th cousin', but it's very likely that amongst them there are many who are more distant. Once you get beyond 3rd cousins the length of the shared segment(s) is only a very rough guide to how closely you are related - you could share a 20cM segment with a 10th cousin, but no detectable DNA with a 3rd cousin. The same limitations apply at other sites too, of course.


This amazing chart from Blaine Bettinger's blog shows how variable the amounts can be, and how this affects the amount of DNA shared by more distant relatives:



In each box there are three figures: the lowest and highest amounts shared between relatives of each order, together with the average. However the average only takes into account matches - if there was no detectable shared DNA it isn’t taken into account in the averages (but does show in the range).


What you will notice is that the average stabilises at around 12 or 13cM even for the most distant relationships in the chart. For example, you can see from the first table that the average DNA shared between 8th cousins is just 0.055cM, but the average in this chart is over 200 times greater. How can this happen? It's because unless there's a matching segment of at least 6 to 10cM most companies won't report a match at all - and because the chart only includes matches which were actually detected, it bumps up the average quite considerably.


Very interesting, you might think - but what does it actually mean in practice? What it tells us is that neither you, nor I, nor any of the DNA companies can reliably predict how closely we are related to our more distant cousins. So don’t rely on the testing company's estimate of how closely you’re related to a cousin, look at the chart and figure out what's possible, then consider what's likely (this means, for example, taking into account your age and that of your cousin).


Even if your DNA match is with a 5th cousin, someone who shares your great-great-great-great grandparents, it probably won’t be obvious how the two of you are related. I don't know about you, but I certainly can't say who all of my 4G grandparents were - indeed, I don't even know for sure who all my 3G grandparents were. I've got several 'brick walls' in the last 6 generations (though fewer than before I tested my DNA) - and most researchers, including my DNA cousins, are probably in the same situation. Go back another generation and there are even more gaps - and it just gets worse from then on.


In practice most of the ancestors that link us to our DNA cousins are on the other side of a 'brick wall' - and this could be a 'brick wall' in your own tree, in your cousin's tree, or both trees. What a fascinating challenge!



Could you fit into Winston Churchill's shoes?

Winston Churchill would be on most people's list of Great Britons – in 2002 he came top of a poll in which over a million people took part, whilst in a 2015 survey only Florence Nightingale got more votes. So perhaps fitting into Winston Churchill's shoes would be a tall order….. but how about his slippers?


Next week a pair of Winston Churchill's slippers are coming up for auction – no shoe size is quoted, but they're said to be 29cm long, so too small for me, but possibly a snug fit for somebody reading this article.


Monogrammed and leather-soled, these are no ordinary slippers. They were made by the long-established firm of Nikolaus Tuczek, a bootmaker whose first London shop opened in 1853, and continued trading at different London premises until 1970 when the business was acquired by the bespoke shoemaker John Lobb (whose own history dates back to 1866). The records of Nikolaus Tuczek Ltd are held in the City of Westminster Archives, on permanent loan.


The advert below is one of many which appeared in The Sporting Gazette during 1869.


Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Used by kind permission of Findmypast.



The Prince of Denmark

In the 1869 advertisement above, the reference to 'H.R.H. the Prince of Wales' isn’t to Princes Charles, but to his great-great grandfather, who became Edward VII; similarly the reference to 'H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh' isn’t to Prince Philip (he's not quite that old), but to Prince Alfred, 2nd son of Queen Victoria.     


It's a reminder that whilst the phrase 'The Prince of Denmark' generally refers to the title character of Shakespeare's Hamlet there have been other Princes of Denmark. Nevertheless, it might surprise you to know that Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II and current Duke of Edinburgh, was once a Prince of Denmark (as well as a Prince of Greece). He gave up both titles in July 1947 before the announcement of his engagement to the Queen, and would have been plain Philip Mountbatten when they married in November 1947 had his future father-in-law, King George VI, not bestowed on him the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich as well as allowing him to style himself His Royal Highness.


The Royal families of Europe were notorious for marrying their cousins, and the Queen and Prince Philip are 3rd cousins - they are both great-great grandchildren of Queen Victoria.



Not tonight, Albert

History records that Queen Victoria had a headache on her wedding night, nevertheless children arrived quickly enough – Princess Victoria was born just 40 weeks and 5 days after the marriage, and there was only a gap of 50 weeks after that before Prince Albert Edward (later Edward VII) arrived.


According to the advice on the National Health Service website a mother who exclusively breastfeeds her baby is unlikely to become pregnant again during the 6 months after the child's birth. However, according to this article on the Brunel University website, Queen Victoria didn’t believe that upper class mothers should breastfeed their children, advocating instead the employment of wet nurses:


"A child can never be as well nursed by a lady of rank and nervous and refined temperament – for the less feeling and more like an animal the wet nurse is, the better for the child."  


Victoria was apparently not amused when two of her own daughters chose to breastfeed their own children, mocking one by naming a cow after her. In my family tree intervals of 18-24 months between births were typical prior to WW1, which suggests that for the working class breastfeeding was the rule, rather than the exception. You might get some insight into the practices in your own family by calculating the gaps between successive children.


Note: this article from the Journal of Perinatal Education discusses issues relating to breastfeeding, wet nursing, and feeding bottles in earlier times.      



Save on Who Do You Think You Are? magazine EXCLUSIVE

I've been a reader of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine ever since it launched. Even though I have many sources of information there are always a few things in the magazine that I didn’t already know, plus a few that I'd forgotten, so I always read it as soon as possible after it arrives through my letterbox (after disinfecting it, of course!).



I'm delighted that I've once again been able to persuade Who Do You Think You Are? to offer a special deal for LostCousins members - in the UK you can get 6 issues of the magazine for just £9.99 (less than you'd pay at the newsagents for 2 issues), whilst for overseas members there are big discounts on 13 issue subscriptions.


To take advantage of this offer and support LostCousins please follow this link.


Note: if you are in Canada or New Zealand the prices quoted are in US dollars and Australian dollars respectively.



Why Dorothy went to Oz

In the last issue I wrote about the pen-friends who began corresponding as the result of a message in a bottle, and continued the correspondence for over half a century. As so often happens a LostCousins member came forward with an even more impressive story. I'll hand you over to Dorothy:


"I was very interested in the item in the latest newsletter about a 50-year pen-friendship

as I also am in a long pen-friendship. 


"My friend Dorothy (yes, another one) and I began our correspondence when we were still at school in 1944. She lived in Melbourne, Australia, and I lived in Leytonstone, east London. We are now both 90 years old so we have been writing to each other for over 76 years. That's got to be a record, don't you think? We started writing using the old blue air-letters where you could only write one sheet and then you folded it and stuck down the edges. We were rationed here in the UK for several more years and from time to time Dorothy's parents sent us wonderful parcels, carefully packed and stitched with a canvas cover.


"Dorothy now lives in Sydney, she is a widow with three children, all living quite far from her in Perth, Canberra and western Victoria, whereas I am lucky in that my daughter lives only 10 minutes walk from me.


"My friend and I have met many times although I've only been to Australia once, in 1991, but my husband, who did a lot of travelling in his working life, used to manage a weekend with Dorothy and her husband whenever he got as far as Sydney.


"She first visited Europe when she was about 20.  It was then quite the thing for young Australians, New Zealanders, and Canadians to 'do' Europe and she travelled both ways by ship, which must have been a wonderful experience: going through the Suez Canal and stopping off to see the Pyramids etc.


"In the early 1970s, married with three young children, she came to live for a year on the Essex/Suffolk border, as her husband, Peter, was on a year's sabbatical from his lectureship in French at Sydney University and was studying for a post-graduate degree at Essex University. We also lived in Essex at the time so managed to see a fair bit of them.


"In the 1980s Peter came again and had been recording French dialects in Canada and France.  He persuaded us to change from writing letters to recording on tapes which we did for a long while, but I hated it.


"Over the years other visits have followed. In 1998 they came with us to France where we took a Holiday Property Bond cottage in Brittany as Peter wanted to 'blend in' and not be labelled a 'tourist'.


"In 2002 Dorothy came over again with the Sydney Philharmonic Choir to sing with the Birmingham Philharmonic at the Proms (Mahler's 8th Symphony for a Thousand Voices), and Peter came with her.


"When emails became the easiest method of communication we were happy to change to these and so it has continued, apart from the odd phone call, when we can remember to get the timing right. At one time Dorothy had an interest in tracing her family history and I did some research for her, as her father, who I had the pleasure of meeting twice, was born in Folkestone and was taken by his family to Australia about 1909.


"I hope I haven't bored you with this long tale but reading about the message in the bottle made me think of all the different ways Dorothy and I have kept in touch."


I certainly wasn't bored by this wonderful tale of a pen-friendship between two Dorothy's that has already lasted more than three-quarters of a century – long may it continue!


Another tale of pen-friends came from John:


"In 1966 I was hitching around Europe. I had had a French penfriend from school which had fizzled out. But in Dusseldorf, Germany, as I was looking for the next lift, a couple of adults approached me in a side street and asked if their son Josef could be my penfriend. I agreed but that too fizzled out after a few years, even though I'd studied German at school.


"But roll on 2019 and the wonders of Facebook (plus my extra-terrestrial powers of locating people from family history) and I found him...after FIFTY years. Happy and, like me, now with his own family."


Full marks to John for tracking down Josef – I can’t even remember the name of the French girl I corresponded with in the early 1960s. The experiences of John and Dorothy reminded me that we don’t always keep in touch with the cousins we discover during our family history researches, which is a shame, because even those who aren’t actively researching are likely to be interested in hearing about our discoveries.


I keep in touch with my distant cousins by including them on my Christmas card list, which means they get a 'round robin' from me once a year. What do you do, I wonder?



Peter's Tips

My wife received her first COVID-19 vaccination this week, and it's now nearly 4 weeks since my jab, so I'm pretty well protected. Nevertheless we've no plans to change our habits in the foreseeable future – if we need outdoor exercise there's plenty that needs doing in the garden at this time of year!


Rates of infection are continuing to fall in the UK, and I've updated my chart so that you can see how effective lockdown and the vaccination rollout have been:


Daily cases numbers: 7-day average





Week to





































But even if cases fall at 30% a week from now on, there will still be almost 2000 a day at the end of March, between 3 and 4 times the level of last July – and we were still being very cautious even then. Now that nearly 40% of the adult population in the UK have had their first dose the opportunities for the virus to mutate are greatly reduced, but I'm still expecting that we'll be offered a booster in the autumn, and I don’t think anyone will be surprised if it becomes an annual ritual, like the flu jab.



Stop Press

The WDYTYA offer link was inadvertently truncated, so didn't work, but it has been corrected. The Masterclass has also been updated to show that Ancestry no longer require a subscription for Common Ancestors.



I hope you've picked up some useful tips from this issue – but please remember that the primary reason that LostCousins exists is to connect members who are researching the same ancestors, so that we can ALL get back further on the lines where 'brick walls' are barring our way. An hour of your time spent adding to your My Ancestors page could make a world of difference – is it really so much to ask?


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2021 Peter Calver


Please do NOT copy or republish any part of this newsletter without permission - which is only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership (which includes the newsletter), is FREE? To link to a specific article right-click on the article name in the contents list at the top of the newsletter.