Newsletter - 26th May 2016
Save 20% at Findmypast ENDS SATURDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 23rd May) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):
Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). If one of the links doesn't work this normally indicates that you're using adblocking software - you need to make the LostCousins site an exception (or else use a different browser, such as Chrome).
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!
Save 20% at Findmypast ENDS SATURDAY
From today until midnight (London time) on Saturday 28th May you can save 20% on any new Findmypast 12 month subscription.
This offer applies at all of Findmypast's international sites, and it's worth reminding you that all 12 month Britain and World subscriptions now include the 1939 Register, which is a phenomenal resource for family historians who, like me, want to identity all the twigs and branches. Remember that the 1939 Register isn't like a normal census, a snapshot of the country on a single day - it continued to be updated (by hand) for half a century.
Findmypast's offer isn't exclusive to LostCousins, but you'll only be supporting LostCousins when you use the following links:
Note: all World subscriptions are the same, whichever site you subscribe through, and once you have your subscription you can use it at any of the sites.
Of course there are some records, such as censuses, that are also available at other sites but most of the record sets aren't online at any other sites - for example, parish registers for Cheshire, Devon, Hertfordshire, Plymouth & West Devon, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Westminster, most of East Kent, large parts of Yorkshire, and much of Wales are exclusively at Findmypast. Findmypast also has partly indexed register images for Lincolnshire, whilst Leicestershire and Rutland parish registers will also be going online at Findmypast later this year.
You can see a list of all the record sets if you click the Search tab at any Findmypast site, choose A-Z of record sets from the drop-down menu, then click Show list of everything.
It was a sad coincidence that the Office for National Statistics chose to publish their response to the 2021 Census Consultation on Monday, just as my last newsletter was published.
I suppose it was predictable that they would reject our plea for 'birthplace' to be added to the census in 2021, but the manner in which they did it showed utter contempt for this country's heritage - and for all of us who care about the legacy we will be leaving for future generations.
They constructed a scorecard to rate the proposed additions to the census questionnaire on a scale that ran from 0 to 100, but did it in such a way that our request would inevitably get a poor score.
One of the criteria was so perverse that words failed me when I saw it - we got 0 points out of 10 because the birthplace question wasn't asked in the 2011 Census, even though it's because the question hasn't been asked since 1951 that it's so important to include it in 2021! Remember, the 2021 Census could well be the last conventional census - but even if it isn't, there are many people born after 1951 who simply won't be around in 2031.
We also got 0 points out 10 because the birthplace question isn't included in the Scotland and Northern Ireland censuses. But how do they know what the questions will be in those other censuses? To the best of my knowledge the other countries in the United Kingdom haven't finalised their 2021 questionnaires, and in any case nobody knows whether Scotland will still be part of the UK in 2021 (it could well depend on the result of next month's EU referendum). I suspect that if England & Wales were to add the birthplace question the other countries would follow - but even if they don't, why deprive our English and Welsh descendants of this vital information.
We got 2 out of 30 for 'purpose' because the birthplace information will be of little value to most users of ONS data. This is hardly surprising, considering that genealogists only get access to censuses when they are more than 100 years old, by which time they have been transferred from the ONS to the National Archives - perhaps this is why the ONS don't care a fig about us.
Incidentally, the ONS tried to minimise the contribution of genealogists by suggesting that you were simply doing what I told you in my newsletter:
It's true that in my newsletter I did my best to guide you through a complicated document which was largely irrelevant to non-statisticians but, as you may recall, I ended by saying that "It's very important that the views expressed, and the wording you use, are your own".
You can read the consultation response in detail if you follow this link. I'd like to once again thank the hundreds of members who took part, and congratulate those of you whose comments have been quoted.
What concerns me most about the way that our request has been treated by the Office for National Statistics is their total lack of concern for the heritage value of the records - it simply isn't a factor in their decision.
I believe that's wrong - if we're spending half a billion pounds of public money, shouldn't we consider all the potential benefits that might accrue to the nation?
We're not asking for anything revolutionary - birthplaces were recorded on censuses from 1851-1951, and that information has been invaluable to family historians in the past, even though it wasn't collected with family historians in mind. If the 2021 Census does turn out to be the last of its kind then the failure to collect birthplace information will surely be seen by future generations as extreme carelessness, if not wilful recklessness.
I'm not a great believer in petitions, but it may be that there is no other way to get the government to take this matter seriously. Do you have a better suggestion?
Vision of Britain is a site that I've been aware of for some years, so I was surprised to discover that I hadn't written about it in the newsletter. It brings together historical maps, reports and statistics to present a picture of the nation over the past two centuries.
LostCousins member Paula wrote to me this week asking for advice about online trees:
"I have an Ancestry family tree and have noticed a couple of people have 'harvested' sections of my family and placed them on their trees - photos and all. However I have been unable to find out how they are actually connected to my tree and I have not had any response to emails to them asking this question. I have been through the Ancestry info but there doesn't seem to be an FAQ for this this specific issue."
Sadly experiences like Paula's are far too common - there are far too many people who will happily take chunks of other researchers' trees and incorporate them into their own without asking permission and without carrying out adequate checks.
There's a very simple solution: DON'T publish your tree online. Have an online tree by all means, but keep it private so that people who think they might be related have to contact you in order to get information.
Tip: all trees at Findmypast and Genes Reunited are private, but at Ancestry you can choose whether your tree is public or private. At LostCousins we don't have trees, and nobody else can see what you enter on your My Ancestors page.
In the last newsletter I mentioned that until Monday 30th May you could upload your tree to Findmypast, and get free access to any records which were referred to in hints.
I ended the article by saying that "There's an area on the LostCousins forum where you can post your comments and suggestions (if you're a forum member) or read what others have to say (if you're not) - you'll find it here."
Clearly not everyone took that suggestion to heart - I received several emails from members complaining that they'd uploaded their trees, but hadn't got any hints, even though this was an issue that had been covered in the forum discussion.
The reality is that comparing thousands of individuals in a family tree against billions of records in the Findmypast database takes time - and when there are thousands of others trying to do the same thing at the same time, it takes even longer. To provide users with the best experience Findmypast search for record matches only when their systems have spare capacity - this enables them to devote a lot to computer time to the automated searches without impacting on the performance of the site for users who are looking up records themselves.
I tested out the hints feature extensively last weekend, when I was writing my newsletter, and at that time the delay was minimal - so short that I didn't think to mention it in the article - but once the free period began on at 9am on Monday the demands on Findmypast's system increased many times, forcing them put trees waiting for hints into a queue.
Note: I tried to upload one of my other trees yesterday morning, but got an error message; later in the day I received an email from Findmypast suggesting that I try again, and the second time it worked. So if you also got an error, it's worth trying again.
Last week I had a meeting with the Managing Director of Rocha Brava, the beautiful Algarve resort which hosted Genealogy in the Sunshine in 2014 and 2015, and will hopefully be the venue for 2017.
I can't give you a firm date at the moment, not least because I'm waiting for formal confirmation that Who Do You Think You Are? Live will take place between 6-8th April, as indicated on Facebook. However, I can tell you that we're currently looking at the last week of March for Genealogy in the Sunshine 2017, ie Saturday 25th March to Saturday 1st April - so you might want to pencil all these dates into your 2017 diary!
In the last issue I commented that it wasn't possible to pick up messages remotely using BT's 1571 service. This is true for the basic 1571 service, but I have been reminded that there is an advanced option which does allow you to check your messages when you're not at home. However since this service currently costs £3.95 per month it's an expensive solution - and so it certainly doesn't change my advice.
This is where any last minute updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error (sadly I'm not infallible), reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check here before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......
That's all I've got for you in this special, extra issue - I'll be back next month with more news from the wonderful world of family history.
© Copyright 2016 Peter Calver
Please do not copy any part of this newsletter without permission. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance - though why not invite them to join LostCousins instead as standard membership, which includes this newsletter, is FREE?