Newsletter – 10th May 2021
Another chance to save 20% at Findmypast ENDS SATURDAY AM
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 29th April) 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!
LostCousins membership has been going up faster than usual this month thanks to a full page article in Computeractive and a mention in supermarket magazine Waitrose Weekend.
The aim of the LostCousins project is to connect family historians around the world who are researching the same ancestral lines – so the more people who take part, the more opportunities there are for all of us to find 'lost cousins' and knock down the 'brick walls' in our trees.
With each generation the number of ancestral lines doubles, so the further we get back in our research the more important it is to collaborate with others who share our interests. It's a daunting prospect, but there's a silver lining – with each generation the number of living cousins who share our ancestors goes up too, typically by 4 or 5 times, so the opportunities for collaboration increase at an even faster rate.
Of course, most of our cousins aren't family historians – despite the increase in interest in genealogy since Who Do You Think You Are? launched in 2004 it's not for everyone. That's why connecting through LostCousins is a much better strategy than working your way through the phone book – you can be sure that the cousins you find not only share your ancestors, but are researching them!
Tip: simply joining LostCousins (as everyone who receives this newsletter already has) isn't sufficient – to connect with your 'lost cousins' you need to search for them by adding relatives from the census to your My Ancestors page. The more relatives you enter, especially from the 1881 Census, the more cousins you'll find.
Meet me online this Wednesday
On Wednesday 12th May I'm going to be giving a short talk and answering questions over Zoom – it's free for members of the Society of Genealogists, but there's only a modest charge of £1.50 for non-members who want to attend. You'll find details and booking information here.
Another chance to save 20% at Findmypast ENDS SATURDAY AM
There was a phenomenal response to last month's exclusive Findmypast offer, but because it only lasted for a few days quite a few people missed out. So I'm delighted to say that Findmypast have decided to run another offer, and whilst it's not exclusive to LostCousins members this time, it's equally attractive.
From 10am (London time) on Monday 10th May until 10am on Saturday 15th May you can save 20% on new subscriptions at any of Findmypast's sites around the world. Although there will be many websites promoting the offer, the only way to support LostCousins whilst securing a 20% saving is to use one of the links at the end of this article.
If we receive commission on your purchase of a 12 month Pro, or Ultimate subscription I'll return the favour by giving you a free 12 month LostCousins subscription (or extending your current subscription); similarly the purchase of a 12 month Plus subscription could earn you a 6 month LostCousins subscription.
Note: Ultimate subscriptions (available at Findmypast.com) are equivalent to Pro subscriptions (at all other sites).
However, in this day and age simply clicking one of my links isn’t sufficient – you'll also need to ensure that your purchase will be tracked as coming from LostCousins, by disabling adblocking software and checking that tracking is allowed by your browser. I explained how to do this last month, so rather than repeat myself I'm going to ask you to follow this link. When you've followed the instructions there please come back to this newsletter and choose the relevant link below:
Findmypast.co.uk – SAVE 20% on 3 month and 12 month subscriptions
Findmypast.com.au – SAVE 20% on 1 month and 12 month subscriptions
Findmypast.com – SAVE 20% on 1 month and 12 month subscriptions
Findmypast.ie – SAVE 20% on 1 month and 12 month subscriptions
Tip: the discount only applies to your initial subscription period, ie 1, 3, or 12 months, so it makes sense to purchase a 12 month subscription to lock the savings in. Even better, when your 12 month subscription comes up for renewal you'll be entitled to a Loyalty Discount, currently 15%, if you allow it to be renewed automatically.
According to a news article by Rosemary Collins posted on the website of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine late last week, the project to digitize and transcribe the 1921 England & Wales census was shut down for 3 months last year in response to the pandemic. However, it seems that Findmypast and the National Archives are still hoping for a January 2022 launch.
I was fortunate to be chosen as a pre-release tester for the 1911 Census back in 2008 – I've no idea whether I'll get the opportunity again this time, but fingers crossed!
Note: the 1911 Census was not covered by the Census Act of 1920, so we didn’t have to wait until 2012 for it to be released.
North of the border, National Records of Scotland are still planning to release the 1921 Scotland census during 2021 – a precise release date will be announced in the summer.
Tuesday 11th May is Census Day in Canada and, as with the British censuses, it seems that the future needs of genealogists and historians haven't been taken into account – respondents aren’t required to give a place of birth unless their household is one of the 25% selected to complete the long-form census, but even that only asks for province (or country for those born outside Canada).
You can view the census questions here; for more details about the Canadian census I recommend the 93-page PDF book Painting a Portrait of Canada: The 2021 Census of Population, which is free to download.
To be fair, Statistics Canada don't entirely ignore family historians – there's a page on their website headed 355 years and counting (which refers to the first census, carried out in 1666), and the article entitled The life of an 1871 Census enumerator is well worth reading, even if you don’t have any Canadian connections.
Provisional figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that age-adjusted deaths rose by 15.9% in 2020, compared to the previous year (you can read the full report here). Most of the increase is, as you might have expected, the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Numbers are also changing at the other end of the human life-cycle – in 2020 births fell by 4% compared to the year before, to a level not seen since 1979 (when the population was much smaller than it is today). You might think that this fall is also a product of the pandemic, but given the typical 9 month gap between conception and birth any impact is more likely to be reflected in the 2021 statistics.
In fact birth rates have been declining for some time – this is the sixth decline in a row, and number of births has been below the 'replacement rate' in most years since 1971. See this BBC News article for more information.
From last Tuesday, 4th May, the new system for marriage registration went into effect across England & Wales – which means that from now on the names of both parents will be included in marriage register entries.
The campaign for equality dates back several years, and involved an online petition. At the time my comment was "be careful what you wish for", and unfortunately this turned out to be spot on. To avoid the cost of replacing tens of thousands of handwritten marriage registers the government decided to introduce an electronic system, which means that whilst churches may continue to have marriage registers, they will no longer fulfil any legal requirement, and any certificates issued by the church will be ceremonial rather than legal.
You can read about the changes in this PDF document issued to clergy by the Church in Wales. This article on the BBC News site makes the changes sound like unmitigated good news, but I'm not sure that the family historians of the future will agree!
Note: also last week it was announced that the cost of a gender recognition certificate has been cut from £140 to £5 – the certificate apparently enables a person's 'acquired gender' to be recorded on birth and marriage certificate (see this BBC News article for more information).
Clergy newsletters offer insight into GRO procedures
Since 2011 the General Register Office has issued newsletters to clergy in England & Wales with advice on the procedures to be followed – you can view all 11 issues, including the most recent (March 2021) if you follow this link.
The latest issue refers to training materials, which unfortunately are in a secure area on the Local Registration Services Association website, but an updated version of the Guidebook for the Clergy which incorporates the changes is now available, and can be downloaded here.
Note: you may also find this document of interest – it is issued to incumbents in the Diocese of Gloucester and gives wide-ranging advice. I imagine that other dioceses offer similar support.
On Friday Findmypast announced the creation of a new collection which brings together all of their Australian passenger lists and adds around 9.5 million new records – bringing the total number of records for the period 1826-1972 to more than 26 million. (To put this number into perspective, the current population of Australia is just under 26 million.)
The following datasets are included in the collection:
· Australian National Passenger Lists 1898-1972
· New South Wales passenger lists (assisted & unassisted)
You can search the new collection here.
At the end of April over 100,000 entries were added to the index of Irish wills from 1484-1858 at The Genealogist. Ancestry have also been adding to their collection of Irish records, including more than 1.5 million records in three datasets that have never been published online before:
Ireland, Court of Chancery Records, 1633-1851 (841,316 records)
Ireland, Exchequer Court of Equity Bill Books, 1674-1850 (688,470 records)
For a more extensive list of Ancestry's Irish records please follow this link.
Escape from the Nazis
One of my ancestors was a Walloon refugee from the Spanish Netherlands who arrived on these shores around 1567; some of my other ancestors arrived from Germany in the late 1700s, though I don’t know the circumstances of their departure.
This story from The Guardian is a reminder that even in the 20th century there were refugees trying to escape from oppressive regimes – it's beautifully written by a descendant of one of them.
Note: this page at the FamilySearch site has general information about Walloon refugees (and the Huguenots who arrived later).
In solving a mystery in her family tree, Lesley highlighted the extent to which procedures varied between registrars in the early days of Civil Registration. This PDF copy of the 1837 birth register entry for her great-great grandfather shows his name as George Spencer:
In the original quarterly birth index he is recorded as George Spencer, but in the modern GRO birth index he appears thus:
As there is nothing to indicate that the parents were married (and in this case they weren't) the modern indexer has omitted the Mother's Maiden Surname – that's not a surprise. Perhaps more surprising is that the name wasn't included in the original quarterly index under Godfrey as well as under Spencer, since the birth of my great-grandmother was indexed this way in 1842.
But what really stands out looking at the modern index entry is that the name Spencer appears both as forename and surname – this is a consequence of the registrar entering the boy's forenames as 'George Spencer', presumably confused by the heading, which doesn’t make it clear that only forenames should be entered. At FreeBMD it's easy to find other entries from the same page of the register, ie:
I picked some other names from the same page – in each case the registrar had recorded the father's surname as if it was the child's middle name, for example:
Mr Wright (the Wokingham Registrar) wasn't the only one to get it wrong – a search for boys whose birth was registered in the first quarter of 1837 where the surname and second forename were both Smith revealed 41 entries across the country, including this one:
The idea that someone could be named Charles Smith Jones Smith seems quite amusing – but in the quarterly index he appears as plain Charles Smith.
Registration errors can sometimes reveal useful information – it's clearly a good bet that Charles Smith's mother bore the surname Jones. Examples like these show how important it can be to refer to both the contemporary and modern birth indexes – the indexers worked according to different criteria, so produced different results.
Going back to George Spencer, or George Godfrey as we might expect him to have been known (since illegitimate children usually took their mother's surname – Lesley told me that he was, in fact, given the forenames Charles Spencer when he was baptised on 27th August 1837, 4 days before his birth was registered (he appears in the baptism register as 'Charles Spencer, son of Jemima Godfrey, single woman'.
If there's one thing that the Internet is good at, it's enabling people around the world to communicate and collaborate – but choosing how to share information and who to share it with is important. There's no one-size-fits-all approach, because we all have different attitudes to privacy – and even those who are normally happy to share their data are likely to take umbrage if someone else purloins their information and attaches it to the wrong tree (especially if, as sometimes happens, the miscreant refuses to remove it when his error is pointed out).
Chris Paton, the author of Sharing Your Family History Online will be a familiar name to most of you – he is a prolific author of books and articles, as well as an inspiring speaker. He begins with a brief introduction to the basics of family history research and the key websites, but don’t skip that chapter completely because he brilliantly paraphrases the Genealogical Proof Standard, transforming in the process into a much more credible rubric. He also highlights the importance of safeguarding your 'digital estate', and highlights the option at Family Tree DNA to nominate a beneficiary (there is, by the way, a similar option at LostCousins – please log-in and go to your My Details page if you've yet to nominate someone).
In Chapter 2 the author looks at communication and social media, from Facebook to Zoom and everything in between, including forums and even email, which might be rather long in the tooth, but remains the lingua franca of the Internet. Chapter 3 focuses on collaboration and crowd-sourcing – and naturally he begins with a look at LostCousins. I was a little surprised that there was no mention at all for Genes Reunited, the site which inspired me to look for an even better way of connecting cousins, but he may well have felt that it has had its day.
In Chapter 4 the author turns to the issue of how to record your family history, and when the discussion turns to online trees he has some words of caution which I shall take the liberty of repeating here:
"Whilst you and I might be the wisest, kindliest, most diligent family historians ever bequeathed upon mankind, the distant cousins suggested from discoveries within online-hosted family trees may not be, if indeed they are our distant cousins in the first place. With every advantage from an online tree comes a disadvantage. One of the greatest is the ability for people to see what you have placed online, to appropriate it for their own use, and to then royally screw it up with their own horrendous efforts."
© Chris Paton 2021
DNA is the focus of Chapter 5, and rightly so – because without going online DNA results are of little or no value. There are no written records to refer to – all you can do is compare your DNA against that of others using online tools. All of the major providers of genealogical DNA tests, and all of the different types of test feature – it’s a useful guide to what each offers.
The final chapter is entitled Sharing and Preserving Stories, and as a former maker of documentaries for both the BBC and Scottish Television the author is in an exceptionally good position to provide advice on creating audio and video presentations, as well as writing books and articles. Otherwise it's so easy to fall into the trap of publishing a work that tells the audience more about the author than the author's ancestors.
Whilst this book could be a useful guide for beginners, the breadth of coverage means that even experienced researchers will learn from it – let's face it, we all have our favourite sites, and this can often blind us to other opportunities. It's a bit like someone saying to me "I don’t need to enter data at LostCousins, I've got an Ancestry tree", when the reality is that you can’t view someone else's public tree unless you are invited by them or have a current Ancestry subscription (which rules out most of your cousins, since there are only 3 million or so Ancestry subscribers in the whole world).
At just £12.99 (or less if you shop at Amazon), Sharing Your Family History Online is a worthy addition to your personal family history library – just make sure that if you lend it out you keep a record, otherwise you might never see it again!
Note: don't be put off by the Amazon rating, which has been distorted by a single reader who gave only 1* but couldn’t be bothered to say why. ****** ** *** (as Detective Superintendent Hastings would say).
There are many ways to connect with cousins who are researching your ancestors, but there's only one site that is optimised for this purpose. What makes it different, and why does that matter?
You’d want to join a site like that, wouldn't you? Well, the good news is, you already did – so now's the time to consider whether you’re taking full advantage of our membership!
A new book from Nathan Dylan Goodwin is always a treat, and like all treats it deserves to be savoured. I began reading this book in January, just before it was published, but I've been so busy this year that I really couldn’t find the time to do it justice – so last weekend I took advantage of the unseasonal weather to start again from the beginning and give the book the attention it deserved.
My, am I glad that I did - the creator of Morton Farrier, and the highly-enjoyable Forensic Genealogist series has done it again! Madison Scott-Barnhart is another great character, and the Venator Cold Case series has got off to a barnstorming start with this search for a serial killer whose only mistake was to leave his DNA behind.
This new series was clearly inspired by the arrest and conviction of the Golden State Killer, which followed an investigation by genetic genealogist Barbara Rae-Venter and her team – so I wasn't surprised to discover that the author had consulted with Rae-Venter, as well as many well-known names from the world of genetic genealogy. The casual reader might assume that the techniques utilised are only useful to law enforcement, but keen family historians will recognise that they can be used equally well to identify the birth parents of foundlings and other adopted children of unknown heritage.
At the end of the book there were several open storylines, so now I can't wait for the next instalment in the series! Thoroughly recommended for anyone who enjoys genealogical mysteries and/or crime stories – no detailed knowledge of DNA is required.
I read this book on my smartphone, which is how I prefer to consume fiction since I can have it with me at all times – but it’s also available as a paperback (or an audio book) if you prefer.
My wife and I went away for the Bank Holiday weekend, and when we returned home she noticed a bleeping sound. It didn’t take long to establish that the noise was coming from the fridge-freezer – the door of the freezer compartment was open, and sadly some of the food had completely defrosted.
Closing the door didn’t restart the freezer, and when I inherited the fridge-freezer from my late father 10 years ago the manual didn’t come with it. Fortunately I found a manual for a different model from the same manufacturer which recommended removing the food and completely defrosting the unit, and a couple of hours later the unit seemed to have defrosted.
However, when I tried switching the power back on the freezer still wouldn't operate. At this point I was feeling pretty gloomy about the prospects of it ever working again, but I decided to leave it off overnight in case there was some hidden ice that was preventing it from operating.
Next morning there was a puddle on the floor – the towel I'd left at the bottom of the freezer compartment hadn't been able to soak up all the water. This seemed promising – this time something did happen when I turned the power back on, and after a couple of hours the temperature was down to -18°C.
The only food completely lost in this sorry episode had been in the freezer since long before lockdown; the rest could be salvaged, if only to feed the cat – I just hope she doesn’t expect Lemon Sole fillets every week from now on! The moral of the story is that I should have chosen to defrost the fridge-freezer, rather than have defrosting forced upon me…..
On a more constructive note, last week I came across a wonderful website which is all about Meccano, one of my favourite toys – you'll find it here. That discovery inspired me to search for information about another toy that fascinated me as a child – my Bayko building set – and I found this website.
Finally, if you saw the sad story about a whale trapped in Richmond Lock you might have wondered, as I did, how the poor creature ended up on boat rollers. You'll find lots of information about the lock here.
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 fu before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......
© 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.