Newsletter - 17th April 2016
Ireland 1916: Easter Rising records go online FREE UNTIL 27th APRIL
Findmypast.co.uk 20% saving ENDS TODAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 11th April) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):
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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!
According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, Permira - the London-based private equity firm that took Ancestry private in 2012 has sold most of its stake to an American private equity firm called Silver Lake, and the Singapore government. Permira is said to have tripled its investment, although this doesn't necessarily reflect a tripling in the value of Ancestry - no doubt some financial engineering was involved.
Ireland 1916: Easter Rising records go online FREE UNTIL 27th APRIL
It's almost 100 years exactly since the Easter Rising in Dublin which led eventually to the founding of the Irish Free State.
The National Archives at Kew have 75,000 documents from this period, many of which were originally intended to be kept secret until 2022 - see the image on the right (which is Crown Copyright, and reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives and Findmypast).
From today until 27th April these records will be accessible completely free of charge at all four Findmypast websites - you will need to register, if you haven't already, but you won't need to provide credit card information or bank details.
You can access the records using any of the following links:
After that date they will be included in the Ireland, Britain, and World subscriptions.
According to the Findmypast press release:
"More than 3,000 people were injured or killed in a conflict which saw three civilians killed for every one rebel. The records reveal the impact that the conflict had on men, women and children across Ireland. There are eye-witness accounts, interviews with civilians and reports of the trials of the leaders of the Rising and their sentences of execution.
"The once classified records shine new light on the subsequent period of Martial Law in Ireland which was declared by the Lord Lieutenant in 1916, including the War of Independence, when the British military assumed control of the executive, judiciary and legislative arms of the entire country.. The contents of the collection provide a picture of what life was like for ordinary citizens in Ireland during this turbulent time.
"The 25,000 search and raid records show the efforts of the military and police to discover arms, ammunition and seditious material through thousands of raids as well as their search for individuals associated with Sinn Féin, Irish Citizen Army, Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Army. Members of the public accessing the records on Findmypast will find the names of the thousands of people who were detained and interned in prisons in Ireland, England and Wales and tried by courts martial, including the names of prominent nationalists and elected officials.
"Military correspondence between the barracks in Dublin and the War Office in London grants new perspectives on the motivations and fears of the British Army leadership. The movements and actions of several key nationalist figures are also documented, including those of James Connolly, Eamon De Valera, Thomas Ashe, Joseph MacDonagh, Arthur Griffith, Padraig Pearse and Francis and Hannah Sheehy Skeffington and Countess Markievicz."
Ancestry have also recently added records from the same era, but they're currently not available free;
I didn't learn much from history at school - in fact, History O level was the only exam I've ever failed in my life - and in any case we only studied the period up to 1914.
As a result my very limited knowledge of the struggle for Irish independence was largely informed by living and working in London in the 1970s and 1980s when IRA bombings were sadly not uncommon. Like many people, I suspect, I gained the impression that it was mostly about religion, but reading some of the documents, particular those in the file illustrated about it's clear that economic factors were also behind the clamour for Home Rule (you can read them here).
Indeed, some of the arguments used were quite similar to the ones being used today by those who want the UK to leave the EU - which is quite ironic given how popular EU membership is in modern day Ireland.
I found a wealth of information about the historic relationship between Britain and Ireland here on the UK Parliament website - it's well worth reading if, like me, your knowledge of the history of the conflict is limited.
Note: I'm sure there are widely-differing views on many of the issues - I am not endorsing what it says on the Parliament website, in Findmypast's press release, or in the documents in the archives.
Findmypast have released over 1.2 million records in the first phase of a project to put all surviving Irish Quaker records online. There are now only 1600 Quakers in Ireland according to the official Quakers in Ireland website, but at the time of the potato famine in 1845-48 there were 3000 (out of a population of 8.5 million).
Most of the records in the collection are congregational records, but there are also births, marriages, and burials; there are also 16000 migration records, most of which record migration within Ireland. You can search Findmypast's Quaker collection here.
Iain Ferguson (of the ScotlandsPeople Centre) will give three presentations, including hints and tips, on how best to search the records on the ScotlandsPeople search system. These free talks will take place at New Register House, Edinburgh, and booking is required (see the Events page on the National Records of Scotland website).
The dates and times for the three talks are as follows:
Friday 29 April 2016, 2-3pm
Friday 3 June 2016, 2-3pm
Friday 8 July 2016, 2-3pm
The Federation of Family History Societies and Findmypast last week announced a 10 year extension to their exclusive partnership - they originally joined forces in 2007. Over 48 million records from more than 100 family history societies are included.
At the show last week I spoke to Peter Christian, one of the leading lights of GENUKI, about the changes that are taking place at the site, which is one of the hidden gems of British genealogy. I understand that the addresses of the pages won't be changing, so links will continue to work - what will be changing is the way that content is managed. In future it will be easier for contributors to change and add to their entries, so we can expect to see more regular updates than we're used to.
Tip: if I'm looking to find out about a particular parish or registration district I find that Google search for 'placename GENUKI' usually comes up trumps!
Free online genealogy course at FutureLearn
Following the article on my last newsletter I've received a lot of comments, overwhelmingly positive, from members who signed up for the first presentation of this course, which is now in week 5 out of 6.
It is still possible to sign up for the current course, but perhaps more interesting is the link that asks for people interested in the next presentation of the course to register their interest. Find out more here, on the FutureLearn site.
Tip: many of those who commented on the course also remarked on the favourable comments about LostCousins that had been posted on the course forum. The more members who join the more cousins we'll find - so thanks to all those who mentioned LostCousins!
Just over a week ago Findmypast uploaded more than 900,000 Royal Navy and Royal Marine pension records from 1704 to 1919 - you can search them here.
To the best of my knowledge I don't have any direct ancestors who served in the Royal Navy, but I know that a couple of their brothers joined up - however I couldn't find them in the records, so they may not have qualified for pension. I did wonder whether some of my collateral relatives who seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth might have gone to sea, but there was insufficient information in the records I looked at to determine whether it was my relative or someone with the same name.
I also noticed that whilst the records purport to cover the period up to 1919, there were in fact no records at all after 1899, and precious few after 1870. It may be that Findmypast will be adding more records at a later date.
Findmypast.co.uk 20% saving ENDS TODAY
The offer in my last newsletter, which offers a 20% saving on a new 12 month Britain or World subscription at the Findmypast.co.uk site ends at midnight tonight (Sunday 17th April). Although the offer doesn't apply to existing subscribers, lapsed subscribers can take advantage of it - just click the link above.
Anne Harvey is a very experienced family historian, who joined LostCousins back in 2004 - but I first came across her as a writer of feature articles in family history magazines. However you will also have come across her name in this newsletter in January of last year, when I wrote about her first novel - which I found extremely enjoyable (you'll find the review here).
I was delighted when Anne agreed to write an article for this newsletter based on one of the 'brick walls' that she encountered during her own research. Perhaps it will inspire you to solve a mystery in your own tree?
Sometimes breaking down brick walls involves as much guesswork as detective work, as my own search for my grandfather demonstrates.....
When I first started investigating my family history in 1987, I started with my maternal grandfather, William Morris, who’d been killed at Gallipoli in 1915. A short article in our local journal reported that William Morris was "Missing in Action, believed killed". His body was never found but, via the War Graves Commission, I discovered that he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli.
From a fragile army document, I knew he’d previously spent some time serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers. Presumably, with the onset of war in 1914, he’d been recalled, even though, at the age of 39 and with five children, he shouldn’t have had to serve. From this, I calculated that he’d been born around December 1876 in Hull, Yorkshire. Yet I could find no record of a birth for him, despite checking three years either side of 1876. Without that and his mother’s maiden name, I was stuck.
I knew that his father was a Welshman called Jonathan Morris. At that time, there were no censuses online, meaning hours spent trawling census records for Horwich, Lancashire, in record offices. Eventually, I found the family in the 1891 census; Jonathan Morris, born Abergele, 1845; Hannah Maria, born Whydmore (sic), Norfolk 1844; William, born Hull, Yorkshire, aged 14. Whydmore turned out to be Wymondham, pronounced Wyndham, Norfolk. Presumably, a problem with accents for the enumerator. There were no siblings for William who might have provided a vital birth certificate to give me Hannah Maria’s maiden name. Neither could I find a marriage registration for Hannah Maria and Jonathan.
Over the years, as more information became available, I returned to the problem. When the 1881 census came online, I could search at home. After doing a variety of searches, I ended up with a hundred or so entries for Jonathan or John. One of them leapt out at me; a John Morris, born Abergele in 1845, living in Wymondham, Norfolk. Clicking on the ‘household links’, to my delight, I discovered my grandfather, William, born Hull, 1876. Except that his surname was Palmer! Hannah Maria was simply listed as Maria Palmer, married.
There were two William Palmers registered in Hull in the relevant period but a quick check with the local register office showed that neither of the mothers were an Hannah/Maria. The 1871 census, found Maria Palmer lodging with two brothers, again in Wymondham, but there was no sign of a husband.
In the meantime, I compiled a list of all girls named Hannah/Maria born around 1844 in Wymondham, using the 1851 census. There were about 15 of them and I spent the next couple of years trying to eliminate them, either marrying them off or burying them. Eventually, I was left with about six of them with no clue to what had become of them. There the problem stalled for another year or so.
Then, William Morris’ photo appeared in a Photo Detective series in a now-defunct family history magazine, together with a brief summary of my search. As a result, someone contacted me to say she’d found a marriage of an Anna Maria Buttolph to a James Palmer in 1869 in a parish adjoining Wymondham. I remembered that Anna Maria Buttolph was one of the girls from the 1851 census I’d been unable to find information about. The marriage certificate showed that Anna Maria’s father was a John Buttolph, living at The Lizard, Wymondham, as shown on the 1851 census.
Jonathan Morris was a widower by the 1911 census but when had Anna Maria died? I searched the death registrations between 1891 and 1911 and eventually found an entry in the December quarter of 1891 in the Forehoe registration district, which included Wymondham. A death certificate proved beyond doubt that Anna Maria Buttolph was my great-grandmother for the informant was John Morris, residing at the Horwich address in the 1891 census. I can only assume that she was visiting her family and had died suddenly.
I’ve never been able to find a marriage for a Palmer to a Morris anywhere in the country so can only assume that they were never able to marry, presumably because James Palmer was still alive.
So was my grandfather the child of Jonathan Morris? I’d like to think so because William claimed him as next of kin during his army service and, to my late mother, he was always ‘Grandad.’
© Anne Harvey 2016
I'm very much looking forward to reading Anne's second novel (Bittersweet Flight), which came out on March 29th. I'll be reviewing it in a future newsletter, but if you enjoyed the first book as much as I did I don't suppose you'll wait!
I would never advise a family historian to buy anything other than a Windows computer - most of those who switch are persuaded to do so by their children or grandchildren who seem to think it will make life easier. True, the Mac Book Air is light and has a good battery life - but there Windows laptops that are just as good, if not better.
When you switch from Windows to Mac you're often writing off all the software you've bought previously, and in some cases this could also mean losing the data you've created. You've also got to learn a new operating system - and whilst the Mac OS might be simpler than Windows for someone new to computers, it's hard to see how someone already familiar with Windows is going to find switching easier.
On top of this there are relatively few Mac programs for family historians - and hardly any programs exist in both formats, which makes switching difficult. It is possible to run Windows on modern Mac computers, but it costs extra, runs slower, and is more complicated - and in any case, it seems that not all Windows software will work when you go down this route.
My wife and I recently bought identical ex-demo HP laptops which are incredibly fast (just 7 seconds from pressing to the power button to the sign-in screen), come with Windows 10, and have full HD resolution touch screens. Yet we both paid under £400 (mine was under £350 because I took advantage of an eBay offer).
Of course, I wouldn't try to persuade a Mac user to switch to Windows - stick to the devil you know, is my advice!
Note: if you're a similar age to me you may recall that "Have you got a light, Mac?" (response "No, but I've got a brown overcoat") comes from a 1967 Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band track by the incomparable Viv Stanshall, who like me grew up in Essex - if you're feeling nostalgic you'll find it on YouTube here.
Lambeth Archives has been closed since Friday 8th April - staff only learned about the closure when they arrived for work. There is a brief notice on the website:
Until more information becomes available we can only speculate on the nature of the 'security issues'.
Frances Lake, a LostCousins member for many years, has kindly contributed this article describing her experience:
I recently read the article on Contacting Living Relatives and the follow up.
As some of your readers may know, I was active in the campaign to get the law changed last year to allow descendants access to the birth records of their adopted deceased relatives and I am pleased to report that it is now possible for prescribed relatives to access such information through the use of an intermediary agent.
Some people, quite reasonably, ask why it is necessary to use an intermediary agent. They say, for example, I only want access to the original birth certificate, I don't want to contact living relatives - but the desire to take your research to the next level is very strong. That is why, in the drafting of the change to the Adoption Act, a lot of thought went into the matter of privacy and finally it became clear that Government would only grant access to original birth information if the relative seeking access was counselled by an intermediary. The reason for this is that the intermediary agent must be certain that the relative is going to behave in a responsible manner on receipt of the information. If, in the process, living relatives are discovered, the agent has the skills to contact people in a discreet way and negotiate contact.
I felt the sadness of the writer of the article in the Lost Cousins newsletter, who was aware that a living person had 'priceless information' but would not share it. He is correct, some people are still, even in these enlightened days, uncomfortable discussing personal matters like illegitimacy and poverty and, hard thought it may be, I believe we have to respect their right to privacy, but don't give up, try getting someone else in the family to approach the person with the information you want, they may be more comfortable talking to someone else. Or consider engaging an intermediary agent.
It was gratifying that the writer obtained some pleasure out of sharing his knowledge so widely with his cousins and it was a job well done, but, like many of us, he has found that there are always gaps in our knowledge and that is what drives us on.
I am pleased to report that since the change in Adoption law and regulations, I have received feedback from many descendants who have written to tell me that they have had happy reunions with lost relatives, but, sadly, there are also some not so happy stories - not everyone wants contact and, for example, my own father's adoption court file was supposed to have been lodged with the London Metropolitan Archives, but when the time came to access it, they could not find it. Maybe it will turn up one day.
Founder and Co-ordinator:
The price of DNA tests has dropped dramatically, but I was amazed last week to discover an article on the BBC News site which suggested that it was possible to get a test for under £5. Since the date of the article was 1st April my first thought was that it was a joke, but a Google search turned up newspaper articles with similar information and earlier dates which were clearly referring to the same test.
However as I investigated further I discovered that although the test kit cost a mere £4.99 in a supermarket, you had to pay another £99 to get the results - so it wasn't quite the outrageous bargain it seemed.
Note: the article was updated after I complained to the BBC on 12th April, so what you'll see now isn't what I originally saw.
But there's another problem when you take a DNA test provided by a company other than one of the big three firms that I've written about in my series of DNA articles - the tests simply aren't compatible. For example, the autosomal DNA tests that are offered by the genealogical testing companies analyse in the region of 600,000 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) from across the genome - they're looking at individual bases out of the 3 billion or so pairs.
By contrast the tests offered by companies that specialise in paternity testing and forensic testing use a much smaller number of markers called STRs (short tandem repeats). These have the advantage that they are more easily analysed when the samples are degraded or mixed, but because the number of markers tested is so small (perhaps as few as 24 or even fewer) and the results aren't stored in publicly-accessible databases, they're of extremely limited value to genealogists.
Here are links to last year's series of DNA articles - if you're ever tempted to order a DNA test from a company not mentioned in those articles please get in touch first, as you're likely to be making an expensive mistake!
I recently received an email from a member suggesting that some family historians might be worried that taking a DNA test would push up the cost of medical insurance.
It's a realistic concern - but the good news is that almost all of the DNA tests offered to genealogists have no medical relevance, because they test different parts of the genome. There is one company - 23andMe -which in some countries offers a dual-purpose test, but the cost is so high that few family historians are likely to even consider it.
This week's New Scientist has an article which briefly reports some interesting research which shows that although most humans have inherited some Neanderthal DNA (typically 1%-4%) there are no remnants of the Neanderthal Y-chromosome in modern human males (you can also read about the research in this BBC article).
The scientists came up with some complicated theories why this might be the case, but I look at this more simplistically - perhaps human woman simply didn't fancy Neanderthal men?
I've always thought that in England we could choose whatever name we like - and there some people who have really weird names.
In 2009 a BBC News article revealed that there are people called Justin Case, Paige Turner, and Bard Dwyer, whilst an earlier article in 2005 questioned whether there were really children called Ikea. My research shows that in fact there were 6 babies named Ikea between 1996-2004, as well 4 called Aldi, and 2 called Asda - though you have to go back over a century to find someone named Tesco or Sainsbury.
But when Laura Matthews from Essex wanted to change her middle name from a Elizabeth to a somewhat less than conventional Skywalker, the Passport Office refused to accept it, on the basis that it was an infringement of a trademark. Yet there are over 100 people whose first name is Nike - though admittedly she was a goddess before she became a running shoe - and there are about 10 boys whose forenames are Luke Skywalker (perhaps one day they too will have trouble getting a passport?).
There was some great news this week from GiffGaff, the mobile phone network that my wife and I use, and which I've recommended on a number of occasions in this newsletter - from 28th April the cost of calls we make and receive while in other EU countries is going to reduce dramatically, from 15p to just 4p a minute for outgoing calls and from 4p to a mere 0.5p a minute for incoming calls. Sending a text will be just 1.5p, and mobile data 4p per megabyte (which means collecting emails and simple surfing will be easily affordable).
Whilst many people whinge about the EU, this is one of those occasions where ordinary people like you and me are going to benefit - all providers have been forced to reduce their roaming charges. I should mention, however, that the super-cheap GiffGaff rates in the second column are only for people who have a current Goodybag - anyone on pay-as-you-go will have to pay the same rates for outgoing calls, texts, and data as they would in the UK.
Because I don't make a lot of calls, some months I'd save money with pay-as-you-go, but I prefer to pay a little more for peace of mind - Goodybags start at £5 a month, and there's absolutely no commitment to renew (although there is an option to renew automatically, if that's what you prefer). I no longer use my home phone for outgoing calls because it's cheaper to use my mobile - how things have changed!
To switch to GiffGaff you'll need an unlocked phone (although you should be OK if it's locked to O2, as GiffGaff runs on the O2 network). Unlocking phones is cheaper and easier than ever before, provided you're out of contract, but I always buy unlocked phones for maximum flexibility.
Tip: I don't usually buy new phones - I buy second-hand or reconditioned phones at a fraction of the original price. For example, my current phone - a Samsung Galaxy 4 Note in perfect condition - cost not much more than £200, against more than £600 when it was first launched in late 2014.
If you're tempted to switch to GiffGaff please follow this link - you'll be able to order a free SIM and we'll both get £5 extra credit when you top-up for the first time.
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 for this issue - I'll be back soon 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?