Newsletter - 6th May 2016
Yorkshire Collection complete at Findmypast BREAKING NEWS
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It's true that 2016 is 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, but for family historians it's our own family that really matters - and today my father would have been celebrating his 100th Birthday were he still alive.
1916 must have been a traumatic year for my grandfather: in January he lost his brother at Ypres, and with conscription being introduced for single men in March, then extended to married men in May he too would be on his way to France before long. But more of a worry, I suspect, was how my grandmother might feel after the birth of her second child - when my uncle was born in 1910 she had suffered from post-natal depression so severe that she spent 7 months in a lunatic asylum. There was no way of knowing how she would react after the birth of my father.
I wonder whether the decision to have a second child might have been influenced by the course of the war - by the summer of 1915 it was clear that conscription was inevitable. It turned out to be a good decision by my grandparents - their eldest son died of tuberculosis at the age of 25, so had my father not been born there would have been nobody to carry on the family name (only one of my grandfather's three brothers lived long enough to have children, and they were both girls).
My father never mentioned his grandmothers, who both died in 1923 when he was 6 or 7 years old, but he used to talk a lot about his grandfathers, especially John Calver - who worked as a gardener for most of his life, but ended up with a greengrocer's shop in what is now High Street North, Manor Park (at the time it was called White Post Lane).
The image above shows his marriage certificate - and as you can see, there are no fathers' names or occupations shown. Normally this omission indicates that the individual was illegitimate - and in the case of my great-grandmother you would be right in that assumption.
However, John Calver was the legitimate child of John Calver and Sarah Bray - I have both his birth certificate and their marriage certificate. He wasn't even their first child - their eldest son, also called John, had died in infancy.
It's perfectly clear to me what happened - on his wedding day my great-grandfather was a perfect gentleman, sacrificing his own reputation in an attempt to deflect attention away from his bride's unfortunate circumstances.
Of course, this is a rare example - you're much more likely to come across a marriage certificate on which the details of a fictitious father are given - but it does serve to demonstrate that we have to take everything we come across in our research, even official certificates, with a pinch of salt!
If you search through the burials for St George's Chapel, Deal - part of the Canterbury Cathedral Archives collection at Findmypast - you'll find several entries which refer to "the W. of Jas Crambrook", presumably the wife of James Crambrook. Here's one of them:
© Dean and Chapter of Canterbury; used by kind permission of Findmypast
You'll find entries in 1832, 1834, and 1836 (and there are others) - was Mr Crambrook really unlucky in his choice of wife, or was there something more sinister going on?
The first thing I noticed was that the entries weren't written in a printed register, as all burial entries should have been after 1813 - so I went to the Canterbury Cathedral Archives website and did some searching. It took me quite a while to figure out how to get sensible results from the online catalogue, but eventually I made some headway - the entries weren't from a burial register, they were from the Sexton's Notebook.
Fair enough - you might think that if anyone knew about burials it would be the sexton who digs the graves - but that's not the complete extent of the sexton's role, and looking through the notebook I came across entries that were clearly baptisms and marriages.
Eventually I realised what the 'burials' really were - they weren't burials at all, but churchings, the ceremony in which a mother who has given birth is blessed. Each of the entries but one occurred in the same year in which a child of James and his wife had been baptised - the one exception must have been a child which was still-born, or died unbaptised.
I hadn't come across a Sexton's Notebook before, so I'm not at all surprised that the transcribers misinterpreted the entries - would you have known any better, I wonder?
Yorkshire Collection complete at Findmypast BREAKING NEWS
As I was finalising this newsletter I received a press release from Findmypast which announced that their massive Yorkshire Collection has been completed with the addition of more than 5 million more parish records. They've also added a hotch-potch of other Yorkshire material from parish magazines to school registers and local histories - and whilst it will be pot luck whether you find an ancestor in those records, what a great addition to your family history it would be!
The final tranche of 2.2 million Yorkshire Baptisms takes the total to over 4.4 million; 1.4 million Yorkshire Marriages have been added, making a total of 2.2 million; 203,000 new records bring the total of Yorkshire Banns to 541,000; and 1.5 million Yorkshire Burials have been added, bring the total to more than 3.2 million.
Not every parish is included - there's a very useful breakdown by parish and event here.
Findmypast have added another 10 million records, which include 30 million names, to their United States Marriages collection. Some of these records have appeared online before, but there are 1 million names which are new, and in my experience it's easy to miss records that are online at sites which we don't use very often.
I've been using the records to piece together a branch of my tree in Indiana - I knew from an online tree that I might have relatives there, but without the documentary evidence to prove it, I wasn't prepared to add them to my own tree. If only everyone was as cautious!
I was glad of this good news from Findmypast, because there was also some bad news about US records this week - according to Dick Eastman's blog the birth and death indexes have been removed from the New York Public Library on the instruction of New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (you can find out more details here).
Note: the website Reclaim the Records is a not-for-profit group of genealogists, historians, researchers, and open government advocates who are filing Freedom of Information requests to get US public data released back into the public domain.
If you live in the UK it's now £20 cheaper to buy a DNA test from Ancestry - they've reduced the cost from £99 to £79 (it was even cheaper at the recent show). The bad news is that the shipping charge remains at £20, and whilst that covers shipping both ways, it really doesn't cost anywhere near that much.
Even at the new price it's still over 20% more expensive for UK researchers to test with Ancestry than with Family Tree DNA, who charge $99 for their Family Finder test (about £69) plus one-way shipping of $12.95 (about £12 when you factor in the cost of returning the sample).
Of course, it's not just about cost - you've also got to consider how easy it is to find matches at the two sites. Many more people have tested with Ancestry - over 1.5 million according to a recent announcement - but that won't necessarily translate into larger numbers of useful matches for UK researchers, because so many of those who tested are in the US, and whilst many of them will have ancestors from the British Isles, they often don't know their precise origins. In that case, the chances are that neither of you are going to solve your 'brick walls' any time soon.
You can have the best of both worlds if you test with Ancestry DNA, then transfer your results to Family Tree DNA: you get the first 20 matches free, but you then have to pay a one-off fee of $39 (about £27) to get access to the remaining matches (and there are likely to be many hundreds). It makes it an expensive route - you're looking at a total cost of £126, compared to £81 when you go straight to Family Tree DNA. Not so bad if you’re only paying for one test, but once you realise what's possible you won't stop with just one test - you'll want your cousins to test as well.
Which brings me on to another thorny topic: to make use of your DNA matches at Ancestry you need to be a subscriber, whereas at Family Tree DNA there are no subscriptions to pay. This might not seem a problem right now - because you have an Ancestry subscription - but what about next year, or the year after?
Note: Family Tree DNA have a Mother's Day offer which is good value for anyone who wants to buy a full sequence mtDNA test; however, there are very few circumstances in which an mtDNA test will provide useful genealogical information, so check with me before ordering. The offer runs until Sunday 8th May.
The GEDmatch site offers free matching between autosomal DNA results from different sources, including Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA, and 23andMe - it's a great way to find more matches, and because of the sophisticated tools that are provided it can be easier to analyse them.
For example, only this morning I spotted an interesting match from 2012 that I hadn't noticed before - and it's with a LostCousins member, so one of you will be getting an email from me later today!
The point I really want to make is that the more people who upload their results to GEDmatch, the more matches we'll all find, and the less it will matter which company we test with - which is why I generally advocate choosing the cheapest autosomal test, which for UK researchers is the Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA.
Note: some of you may have noticed that in March uploads of results from FTDNA were suspended at GEDmatch; it was a bit of a storm in a teacup, which is why I didn't report It at the time. Uploads have now resumed following a change in numbering.
There are now around 3 million people worldwide who have taken autosomal DNA tests, most of them family historians - whereas there are less than 2.4 million with current Ancestry subscriptions. I mention these amazing statistics because many researchers still think that DNA testing is something to consider for the future. Well, the future is here!
Of course, making sense of DNA matches isn't easy - but then it can be a great struggle to make sense of online trees, many of which are unsourced (or, even worse, mistakenly linked to the wrong sources) and perpetuate errors by making them easy for others to copy.
There's a great TED talk about DNA that I watched this week. I don't usually watch online videos but this one is exceptional - so exceptional that I've embedded it in this newsletter:
Nevertheless, DNA testing is just another way of finding cousins, so don't spend out on a DNA test until you've completed your My Ancestors page.
We're used to there being a trade-off between time and money, so it's natural to assume that if you spend out a large sum on a DNA test you're going to be saving yourself time - dream on! You might think that it's tedious looking up censuses and keying in data, but believe me, sorting through DNA matches and trying to make sense of them is much harder, and far more time-consuming. And, of course, it's infinitely more expensive.
So why use DNA at all, if it's more expensive and more difficult? Because, to paraphrase the lager advert, it can reach the parts of your family tree that conventional research may never be able to reach (because the records don't exist, or were falsified). Most importantly DNA testing can not only confirm what we know, and contradict what we think we know, it can also help to knock down seemingly impregnable 'brick walls'.
Tip: when you're completing your My Ancestors page remember that it's the members of your ancestors' extended families (their cousins, in other words) on the 1881 census who are most likely to connect you to your living cousins. Don't make the mistake of stopping once you've entered your direct ancestors and their immediate families!
It's nearly 2 years since I first mentioned the wonderful historic map collection at the National Library of Scotland website, and pointed out that it covers England & Wales as well as Scotland - but there are thousands of new members who have joined since then, who may not be aware what a wonderful free resource it is.
It'd also an opportunity to mention that the collection now also includes maps of WW1 trenches n France and Belgium - indeed, there are a lot of maps that weren't there last time I visited, including Estate Maps of Scotland, and maps of Scottish towns, some of which are 25in to the mile. Maps of English towns are on their way too.
In February I mentioned that the project to digitise nearly a quarter of a million index cards for Great War volunteers was nearing completion - and it was finally completed just before the end of April. You can search them here.
In 2001 two friends of author Alexander Masters discovered a cache of notebooks in a skip on a building site. This Guardian article describes how those notebooks (which turned out to be diaries) eventually inspired a book, A Life Discarded, which was published yesterday.
I obviously haven't read the book yet, but the story of the notebooks' discovery and the way in which their secrets were revealed reminds me very much of the collection of early Victorian correspondence that I acquired at an auction in 1993 - and which I hope will one day also inspire a book.
A week ago a wonderful article appeared on the BBC website about Rudyard Lake, a man-made reservoir that became a tourist destination in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The beautiful setting so inspired John Kipling and his wife Alice that they named their son after the lake.....
These demonstration video clips have been cleverly created to look like authentic footage from an era when even still photography was relatively new - well worth a look.
The Lambeth Walk is a song from the 1937 musical Me and My Girl - and those of you who were LostCousins members in 2011 may recall me mentioning that at my father's funeral my brother and I sang one of the songs that Dad had written just after the war, and which was loosely based on The Lambeth Walk.
What I didn't know until recently was that during World War 2 the music song was used in a short propaganda film mocking Hitler and the Nazi regime - it's one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. There were many slightly different versions released by different film companies, but this is the version I like best:
There's another centenary approaching - Sunday 21st May 1916 was the first time that British Summer Time came into force, enacted as part of the Defence of the Realm Act which was passed just 4 days earlier.
Summer Time was inspired by William Willett whose 1907 pamphlet The Waste of Daylight was republished many times - it details numerous occasions on which time was changed in other parts of the world, and highlights the fact that there was once a 25 minute time difference between London and Dublin (both are now in the same timezone).
During World War 2 the clocks in Britain didn't go back at the end of the summer in 1940, so in the later years of the war the country was 2 hours ahead of GMT during the summer months, and 1 hour ahead during the winter. A similar experiment took place between 1968 and 1971, but on this occasion the clocks were 1 hour ahead of GMT the whole year round.
Recently-published research carried out at the University of Miami over a period of 5 years suggests that physical exercise helps to keep the brain younger and fend off dementia, possibly by keeping down blood pressure and reducing the risk of strokes. This is good news for me, as I started exercising more regularly just July when I decided to bring my weight down.
Although I go swimming on holiday, and play tennis as much as I can year-round, the most regular exercise I get is based on a fitness program called EA Sports Active 2, which runs on our Nintendo Wii. I could do the same exercises without a virtual trainer to chide me, but I suspect I'd be less likely to.
However, I can't do anything else at the same time - and now that I'm reading a lot more books I decided to get an exercise cycle that I can use while sitting down in a chair. The DeskCycle wasn't cheap, but considering I spend up to 14 hours a day sitting in front of a computer I reckoned that it was a worthwhile investment - and I'm certainly very impressed so far.
It hasn't prevented me from being diagnosed with idiopathic peripheral neuropathy, which is apparently quite common amongst people over 60. Personally I'm not yet convinced that my bout of dengue fever hasn't got some connection to the problem (since the symptoms have never disappeared completely) but who am I to question the medical professionals? I'd be interested to hear from others who have been diagnosed with the same problem - does it get better, does it get worse?
Despite the medical problems that we inevitably face as we get older, it seems that people between 65 and 79 are the happiest age group according to research by the Office for National Statistics, so it seems I'm at the start of a golden age. I can only hope that by the time I get to 79 they come up with a new survey which reveals that people over 80 are the happiest!
ScotlandsPeople are offering users a chance to renew their expired credits - log-in, click Buy more credits then enter spring2016 in the voucher codes box.
That's all for this edition - I'll be back again soon with more news from the wonderful world of family history.
© Copyright 2016 Peter Calver
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