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Newsletter – 17th March 2023



Negative Space: using research gaps to grow your family tree GUEST EXPERT

Last chance to save at The Genealogist ENDS SUNDAY

Ancestry wins contract to digitise WW2 service records

1931 Canada census to be released in June

Can you be half-married?

Double marriages

Clergy of the Church of England database

A tangled web – can you help solve the mystery?

Save up to 50% at Ancestry.com ENDS TODAY

Where will your DNA lead you?

Review: Old Wrongs

Peter’s Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (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):



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Negative Space: using research gaps to grow your family tree GUEST EXPERT

This guest article has been contributed by Dr. Sophie Kay who recently spoke to the Society of Genealogists on this important topic.(Website: www.khronicle.co.uk Blog: www.parchmentrustler.com)


Ah, jigsaw puzzles. The frustration of attempting to piece them together gives way to the joy of seeing the completed image resolve before you. This scenario sounds all too familiar to the keen family historian... who, after all, is simply working with a different kind of jigsaw puzzle.

Which brings me on to the issue of gaps.


Why should we pay attention to research gaps?

When you’re working with a jigsaw, you acknowledge the holes in the picture from the very start. Just because you’ve pieced together a single cat at the edge of the frame, you don’t assume that the entire picture is full of cats. So why, in our family history research, do we sometimes assume too much about an ancestor’s life based only on a small number of evidence points?


Gaps matter, because the ancestral story we see is the result of the evidence and the gaps taken together. Ignoring our research gaps can seriously alter how we interpret the evidence. So let’s introduce my Negative Space method, which harnesses the power of your research gaps to shape your onward searches for an ancestor.


What is Negative Space?

I use the term “negative space” to describe any part of your ancestor’s timeline where you lack documentary evidence for where they were or what they were doing. That absence of evidence can seem daunting, but it also holds a wealth of possibilities for us to explore.


When confronted with a gap in your jigsaw, you don’t just grab pieces at random and try them to see if they fit. Instead, you use clues from the edges of each gap: colours, shapes, details, to suggest what kind of pieces you need to look for next. Apply this same principle to the negative space in your ancestral research. Characterising your gaps will give clues as to which record sets to pursue.


Let’s see how you can go about identifying and using negative space for a single individual in your family tree.


First: visualise your research

You need to see where the negative space is to make use of it, so always start by visualising the evidence you have in chronological order. Timelines are great for this, but they’re not the only way. You might use a spreadsheet padded out with extra rows to reflect the gaps.


Second: ask what’s happening at the edge of your research gaps

Examine the start (A) and end (B) of each piece of negative space and revisit the documentary evidence you have for your ancestor at these points. Where are they, and what’s happening in their wider family?

Every gap for your ancestor falls into one of three types:


If they’re in a different place at A and B they’re a voyager, because they’ve definitely travelled. Search for evidence of migration: this could mean exploring passenger manifests, settlement and removal records – perhaps even institutional records.


If your ancestor is in the same place at A and B, then they might be a rester who’s stayed put – or they could be a boomerang that’s moved away and then returned, possibly more than once.


You can’t tell resters and boomerangs apart without actually doing the research, so keep an open mind. If you suspect a rester, then search for evidence of continuous residence using taxation records, electoral rolls or parish registers. If these don’t bear fruit, a boomerang may be more likely and you should explore similar migration sources to those for a voyager.


You can see an example in the timeline picture – what approach would you take to the negative space in this case?


Third: context is vital

Compare your negative space with your ancestor’s overall timeline. How old are they and what phase of their life are they in during the gap? A young man might be a prime candidate for military service; an elderly pauper might be at risk of ending up in the workhouse. These ideas stimulate searches in specific record sets.


Also set your ancestor’s timeline against local, national and global events, such as conflicts, workers’ strikes and urbanisation. How might these influence where they would go or what they might be doing?


Reap the benefits!

Confronting that negative space prompts you to explore a wider range of records and keep an open mind about your brick walls – so it helps your tree to grow rich with new stories and collateral lines. Embrace the gaps in your research and you’ll open your eyes to the wealth of narratives you have yet to discover!


If you’re keen to learn more about this approach, you might enjoy my articles Negative Space and Mind the Gap. I’ll be speaking about Negative Space at the Society of Genealogists in July 2023, and the method also forms part of the syllabus for my brand-new Critical Thinking for Methodology course at Pharos Tutors, launching in June 2023.



Last chance to save at The Genealogist ENDS SUNDAY

You’ve got just 5 days to take advantage of the exclusive offer I’ve arranged with The Genealogist: you can get their top subscription, a Diamond subscription, for less than £100 – not just in the first year, but every year! Plus, in the first year you’ll also get a bundle of digital resources that will take your savings to over £100.


The Genealogist is not just another place to search the England & Wales censuses – though if you’re struggling to find someone it’s well worth a try, not only because they have a different transcription and a different search engine, but also because their keyword search makes it possible to find records that you might never spot at other sites.


For example, let’s suppose I’d had difficulty finding my ancestor Edward Noakes and his son George in the 1841 Census. They were both wheelwrights, born in the village of Fyfield, Essex but by 1841 they had moved to London. In that census birthplaces aren’t shown, but at The Genealogist I can search using the keyword ‘wheelwright’ , which makes it much easier to find them. In this case their surname had been correctly transcribed, and of the four wheelwrights called Noakes in that census, two of them are my relatives. But had their name been misread, or illegible, as so often happens in 1841 (since it was completed in pencil), being able to search on their occupation could have been vital.


However the main attractions of The Genealogist are the record sets that you won’t find at the major genealogy websites, such as Tithe Records and Tithe Maps, and the 1910 Valuation (usually referred to as the ‘Lloyd George Domesday’), and the ongoing project to connect census records to Map Explorer, which you can see demonstrated here.  


To see what you will get for £99.95 just follow this link – but don’t delay, otherwise you could miss out!



Ancestry wins contract to digitise MoD records

Thr National Archives have announced that the contract for digitising the military records that are in the process of being transferred from the Ministry of Defence has been awarded to Ancestry. Three million records for personnel who served after 1920 will be made available exclusively at Ancestry between 2024-2029.



1931 Canada census to be released in June

Library and Archives Canada will be releasing the 1931 Census, which enumerated 10,376,786 people, on 1st June this year. Initially the images will be available to browse, but Ancestry will use their handwriting recognition technology to transcribe the data, with help from FamilySearch volunteers who will check the transcriptions.


How good is Ancestry’s handwriting recognition software, and how long will it take? When the 1940 US Census was released it took 9 months to produce a transcription using conventional methods, but the 1950 US Census was, amazingly, transcribed in just 9 days. I don’t know what Ancestry’s target will be, but I’ll be surprised if I’m not able to search the census by name during June.



Can you be half-married?

Take a look at the 1732 marriage entry for John Pegler and Ann Thomas, taken from the register of St Martin’s church in the parish of Horsley, Gloucestershire:


© Image provided by Gloucestershire Archives. All Rights Reserved. Used by kind permission of Ancestry


You will see that it reads John Pegler & Ann Thomas were half married Augt 11th and that the curate later wrote I proceed no further, because they paid me but one half viz: 2s-6d


In relation to income, five shillings in 1732 is the equivalent of more than £500 today, so I’m not surprised that the unhappy couple struggled to come up with the full amount.


It seems there was no happy ending to this story: two years later John Pegler married Lydia Prout in the same parish.


Note: many thanks to Anita for sending me this example.  



Double marriages

It’s not unusual to find that a couple married twice – usually this is because the first marriage was clandestine. In my experience the most common situation involves soldiers, who required the permission of their commanding officer to marry – the second marriage would have taken place after that permission was given (which may have been some years later).


In the past few weeks two examples of double marriages have been discussed on the LostCousins forum – you can read the discussion here, even if you’re not yet a member of the forum.



Clergy of the Church of England database

You don’t need to have clergymen in the family to make use of the Clergy of the Church of England database. For example, when I was researching the “half marriage” mentioned earlier in this newsletter I was not only able to find the name of the curate whose insistence on being paid in full prevented two of his parishioners from being joined in Holy Matrimony, but also establish that he died the following year from natural causes.


Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Clergy of the Church of England website covers the period 1540-1835, and is completely free. For more recent records the best source is Crockford’s Clerical Directory, and you can search editions from 1868, 1874, 1885, 1898, 1908 and 1932 at Ancestry.



A tangled web – can you help solve the mystery?

Terri generously donated an Ancestry DNA kit for my recent competition – she asked for nothing in return. But one good turn deserves another (as Enid Blyton once wrote) so I offered Terri the opportunity to ask members for assistance with a mystery in her family tree.


Hello, Lost Cousins members! Peter has graciously allowed me to present one of my ‘brick walls’ to you in the hopes that someone (or several someones) will be able to help bring down that wall. This is a 2-part mystery: my great-grandmother and her mother, my great-great-grandmother seem to have been abducted by aliens in the first part of the 20th century.


My grandfather Edward Albert Thompson was born 2 February 1915 in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to Helen Elvira , wife of Albert Edward Thompson. He had an older sister named Alice Jean who was born 3 September 1912, also in Cleveland. He claimed to have not known much about his mother. He had always believed her maiden name was SCHRADER, and his birth certificate issued by the City of Cleveland seemed to support this “fact”. He believed she had left the family when he was about 3 years old and took Alice to live in Florida. He claimed to have not had any contact with either Helen or Alice until many decades later when he “ran into” Alice in Florida. They argued and never spoke again. (I firmly believe they argued and never spoke again – he had that effect on people, as he was lacking in some basic people skills. It’s his time frame I question.)


Eventually I obtained the marriage record for Albert and Helen. Lo and behold, Helen’s maiden name was STREETER not SCHRADER. A closer look at Grandpa’s birth certificate confirmed this. Albert and Helen were married on 12 December 1911 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Albert was 21, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to parents Samuel Thompson and Emma Pearce. Helen was 18, born in Elyria, Lorain County, Ohio, parents were unknown. According to the marriage record, Helen would have been born say 1893. This age/date combination conflicts with Grandpa’s birth certificate which states Helen was age 20 in 1915, so born say 1895.


Albert Thompson remarried on 31 December 1918 to Rose Pertz/Perz in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. It took me a while to actually pay attention to the marriage record as the marriage was recorded under the name Robert E. Thompson. All other personal information for “Robert” matches the known personal information of Albert including parent’s names and residence. This marriage record indicates that Robert/Albert was divorced in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1916. No divorce record was found in Cuyahoga County nor in adjacent Lorain County. Was this second marriage intentionally recorded under a false name? Was Albert committing bigamy? The answers are unknown, but it sure seems that way.


Helen and Alice were likely still living with Albert in 1917. Albert was claiming exemption from the draft for a wife and 2 children on 5 June 1917. I also have a portrait of Grandpa and Alice that was probably taken 1917-1918. Grandpa appears to be about 3 years old.


With the help of a DNA cousin, we figured out that Helen was the only daughter and youngest child of George W. Streeter and Maud Harding; according to the 1900 census, she was born July 1895.


© National Archives and Records Administration


Her birthplace is unknown but possibly Sandusky County or Erie County, Ohio. She may have been born in Lorain County, but I doubt it. I think they were trying to cover for the fact that she was only 16 and they did not have parental consent. I have not been able to locate her in the 1910 or later censuses. She may be the Helen Thompson who is aged 25 and a boarder in the household of Charles F. Ortman in Cleveland in 1920.


Grandpa wasn’t entirely honest about his knowledge of the whereabouts of his sister Alice. Alice and her husband Joseph Adam were witnesses to the marriage of my grandparents in Westfield, Chautauqua County, New York, on 12 October 1935. She may be the Alice Thompson, age 8, a boarder in the household of Captain and Alberta MacLachlan in Cleveland in the 1920 census. She was still in the household of Alberta MacLachlan in Lakewood, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in 1930. This time the relationship is given as “ward”. I do not know of any relationship between the MacLachlans and the Streeter or Thompson families. It appears that the MacLachlans were running a children’s home. (Grandpa said he spent some time in a “home” but never elaborated.)


I’ve been able to trace the life of Alice (Thompson) Adam through to her death on 2 March 1980 in Palatka, Putnam County, Florida. I was hoping she would lead me to Helen but no such luck. There are trees on Ancestry.com that attribute a death date of 1 February 1912 to Helen (Streeter) Thompson. This is obviously not correct. The Helen Streeter who died 1 February 1912 was only 6 months old when she died. Some of the “geniuses” on Ancestry have Helen dying on 1 February 1912 and giving birth to Alice that September! Really?!?! Sometimes I really dislike those little green, shaky leaves!


On to Part 2. Maud Streeter (née Harding) was born 16 May 1874 in New Haven, Huron County, Ohio to Hewitt Harding and Alvira/Elvira Weldon. She married George W. Streeter on 25 September 1890 in Norwalk, Huron County, Ohio. She married under the name Lillie Maud Harding at age 16 with parental consent. George and Maud had 4 children: Charles “Jay” Streeter born 23 February 1891 in Fremont, Sandusky County, Ohio (birth record located); Ray Arthur Streeter born probably July 1892 (some records I’ve found indicated 1891 but that cannot be correct as Charles J. was born in February 1891); Henry Cordlind born about September 1893; and Helen Elvira, discussed above. No birth records were found in Sandusky County for Ray, Henry or Helen.


The family was in Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio, in the 1900 census. Maud filed for divorce in September 1902 in Lorain County, Ohio. The divorce was granted December 1902. She was granted custody of the children and $1500 alimony. George was not to have any contact with the children. A lien was supposed to be attached to any real property which he may have owned. It is believed that Maud never collected the alimony. My DNA cousin believes Maud had to give up custody of the children and that Cordlind may have been adopted by a Smith family; Maud seems to have disappeared after 1902.


Ancestry gives me a hint for Charles J. Streeter in the 1910 census. Charles and a woman, likely his mother, named May E. Streeter are boarders in the household of Frank G. Rose in Manhattan, New York. It’s a close fit but not quite right. But there is no way to know who gave the information. If Mr. Rose gave the information, he may not know how many children May Streeter had. He may have assumed 1 child because he only knew of Charles. Or, most likely, May is not my Maud and this is just a close coincidence.


In the meantime, George Streeter moved to Indiana. He remarried on 25 September 1913 to Cora B. Stewart. I’m able to trace his life through to his death in Huntington, Huntington County, Indiana, on 12 August 1931.


I am attempting to locate the Civil War Pension file of Hewitt Harding, father of Maud. I am on my 4th attempt. Every repository I contact tells me they do not have the file and to contact a different repository. My hope is that Maud supplied an affidavit or is otherwise mentioned in the file. I just need to figure out which agency has the file. If this attempt doesn’t produce the needed file, I will have to hire a researcher to locate it.


There was a Maud Streeter remarried in Cleveland, Ohio, 1939-1941. She is not the correct Maud. That particular Maud Streeter’s maiden name was Copelin. There was Maude Harding married Gale V. Smith who is also NOT the correct Maud.


Sometime, when life slows down on the curveballs she keeps throwing to my DNA cousin and me, we want to investigate the life of Harry Cordlind/Courtland Streeter who may have been adopted by a Smith family. We are not 100% certain that Henry C. Streeter and Henry C. Smith are one and the same. My DNA cousin has been in contact with one of Henry’s descendants who agrees this is a possibility. My cousin has not been able to convince this person to do an Ancestry DNA test even though my cousin will pay for the test; unfortunately not everyone is on board with the whole DNA “thing”, as we all know only too well.


I have tried to locate second marriages for Maud and Helen in Ohio but without a state-wide database it is next to impossible. I’ve also tried searching for death certificates but, lacking a state-wide database without gaps it is next to impossible (with 88 counties in Ohio, it is very time-consuming to search records in Ohio county-by-county). And then there is the real possibility that Maud and Helen moved out of state. Only 49 other states to choose from!


I would really like to know what happened to Helen and Maud. I hope they found their Happily Ever After.


I thank all of you for your time. Below are links to Helen and Maud in both my Ancestry tree and the tree of my DNA cousin. The first two links are to my Ancestry tree; the second set of links are to his Ancestry tree. He is a descendant of Maud’s sister Nellie.








You can message me through Ancestry.com or, better yet, post to the Lost Cousins forum so that others can see what you’ve found.


Thank you for your time.


Tip: most of the LostCousins forum discussions are visible to everyone but to post a message, start a new discussion, or view an attachment, you’ll need to be a member of the forum. If you have qualified for membership there will be a link and a code on your My Summary page at the main LostCousins site. The qualification for joining the forum is a Match Potential of 1 or more. To increase your Match Potential (shown on your My Summary page) simply add more relatives to your My Ancestors page – it’ll be quickest by far to enter relatives from the 1881 censuses.



Save up to 50% at Ancestry.com ENDS TODAY

Under 11.59pm ET on Friday 17th March you can save up to 50% on 6 month memberships at Ancestry’s US site, Ancestry.com


Please use the link below so that you can support LostCousins with your purchase:




DNA tests are also discounted at Ancestry.com until Friday:


Ancestry.com – SAVE $40 ON DNA ENDS 17TH MARCH



Where will your DNA lead you?

It’s not all conspiracy theorists and chatbots on Twitter – this week I was reading an interesting thread posted by Martin Patience, a former BBC foreign correspondent, which explained how a birthday gift led to him discovering an unexpected link to a famous actor.


Tip: you don’t need to be a member of Twitter to follow the link and read the story.


To the best of my knowledge I’ve yet to be linked to any famous actors, but my brother recently had a match with a famous author and journalist – though as he (the author) doesn’t currently have an online tree the chances of finding how we’re related are pretty small.


But, interesting though such connections might be, the real reason genealogists test their DNA isn’t to find cousins but to knock down ‘brick walls’ – and in that respect it’s just like LostCousins. Interesting though it might be to connect with living cousins, what we’re really interested in is collaborating with them in order to knock down the ‘brick walls’ that we share.



Review: Old Wrongs

Some things are worth waiting for. It’s 7 years since I reviewed The Death of Tommy Quick and Other Lies, the second novel to feature Lydia Silverstream, so long that I was worried that I’d never find out how her new career as a genealogist was progressing.


Consequently when a copy of Old Wrongs arrived in the post it was like manna from heaven. D J Wiseman is a very fine writer, and any book from him is worth reading (Casa Rosa – his previous novel was an absolute delight), but the return of one of my favourite fictional genealogists makes Old Wrongs extra special.


Many genealogical mysteries have two (or more) threads: one reveals the historical events that underlie the mystery, the other follows the genealogist as he or she attempts to piece together the evidence. But the Lydia Silverstream books are different – we get to see things only through her eyes, so the journey of discovery is so much more realistic.


In Old Wrongs Lydia has a challenging task – Sir Christopher Stoppes, the 5th Baronet, has died, and there appears to be no heir to the title. However the terms of the trust set up by the 3rd Baronet are rather unusual and, given the enormous sums of money involved, the senior solicitor who acts as a trustee asks Lydia to make thorough enquiries using her genealogical expertise.


I really enjoyed this book, and you will too – but if you haven’t already read the first two books in this fabulous series I recommend you start with A Habit of Dying which was published in 2012 (though I didn’t discover it until 2014). As for me – I’ll just have to wait for the fourth instalment in the series!


Amazon.co.uk                            Amazon.com                                         Amazon.ca                                  Amazon.com.au



Peter’s Tips

Those of you who have been following the never-ending saga of my fibre broadband connection will be pleased to hear that it was finally up and running on 7th March, just over 11 weeks from the planned switchover date. For a brief period we had both copper and fibre connections, so I took the opportunity to run comparative speed tests – the download speed has increased from just under 16mbps to 507mbps, and the upload speed from less than 1mbps to 71mbps.


The final challenge was to get our phone working – with full fibre you have to plug your phone into the router, but initially the phone light on the router was off. Searching the Internet I found a number of forum posts which suggested resetting the router, so I did just that – only to find that I lost the data connection as well! Thankfully all it needed was for Vodafone to change the settings on the router, which they could do remotely – and after an hour on the phone to a very helpful lady everything was working perfectly.


The key tip that comes out of this experience is to choose a supplier who is part of the Ofcom compensation scheme!



Stop Press

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......



I’ll be back soon with more news and views from the world of genealogy – in the meantime please remember that LostCousins is so much more than just a newsletter, it’s a site where you can connect with experienced family historians who share your ancestors. The more cousins you can find on the censuses we use, and enter on your My Ancestors page, the more living cousins will appear on your My Cousins page!


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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2023 Peter Calver


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