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Newsletter – 17th April 2024

 

 

LostCousins is more than a newsletter – and don’t you forget it!

Multiplication – that’s the name of the game

Hear Professor Probert speak about bigamy RECORDING

Divorced by accident!

Coventry records online NEW

Double identity: follow-up

Dance teacher dies at 106 – leaves behind mystery

See you later, Hannah Gater

An introduction to wax seals

Ancestry DNA Sale UK & US ONLY – ENDS SOON

The Genealogist adds 10 million directory entries EXCLUSIVE OFFER

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The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 11th 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 is more than a newsletter – and don’t you forget it!

Did you join LostCousins to get this newsletter? A lot of people do – and that’s great, provided that they remember that LostCousins is so much MORE than a newsletter. The newsletter may be the glue that holds us together, but the reason LostCousins exists is to connect experienced family historians who not only share the same ancestors, but are researching them.

 

Beginners don’t need help, they need guidance. But when you’ve been researching your family tree for as long as most LostCousins members (typically 20 to 40 years) you most definitely need help – because there’s simply too much for any one person to do. And in the next article, I’ll explain why….

 

 

Multiplication – that’s the name of the game

Back in November 1961 Bobby Darin sang a song called Multiplication, about the birds and the bees. But you can also look at the process in reverse: everyone has 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents and so on.

 

This means that when you’re researching your family tree, the amount of work doubles with each generation – and that’s without allowing for the fact that we have to manage with fewer records, and they tend to be more difficult to find (and harder to decipher when we do).

 

By the time we get back 10 generations – which typically means the 1600s – there are over 1000 lines to research. We might not get that far on every line – indeed, it would be a miracle if we did, but the more ‘brick walls’ we knock down, the more ‘brick walls’ we’re up against, because that ‘multiplication’ thing applies to ‘brick walls’ as well!

 

I suspect that if you counted up the ‘brick walls’ in your tree the number would be in three figures – and that’s quite a challenge!

 

The good news is that the further you get back, the more cousins there are who share a given line. And whilst they won’t all be interested in family history, and they won’t all be LostCousins members, there will be plenty who are. Again it’s about multiplication….

 

Take a look at the table near the end of my DNA Masterclass – you’ll see that on average we have 20 million 9th cousins (ie the cousins who share our ancestors 10 generations back). That’s an amazing number, and on average there are 20,000 for each of our ancestral lines.

 

Even if only 1 in 1000 of them is an experienced family historian that’s still 20 people who would benefit enormously from collaborating, rather than working alone (and potentially doing the same research 20 times over).

 

So please spend an hour or two completing your My Ancestors page. It’s not about finding cousins so that you can organise reunions, exchange Christmas cards or become ‘friends’ on Facebook – it’s about collaborating with people who have the same goals and objectives as you do. And the same ancestors!

 

 

Hear Professor Probert speak about marriage and bigamy RECORDING

If you weren’t able to attend Professor Probert’s online talk about bigamy at the end of last month you will be please to know that it was recorded, and you can see and hear it by following this link.

 

You can also hear Professor Probert speak about marriage over the past 500 years in a short podcast interview with BBC History Extra – you’ll find it here. (Apologies in advance for the adverts.)

 

 

Divorced by accident!

There was an interesting article in the Law Society Gazette recently about the refusal of the High Court to set aside a final divorce order granted after a large firm of solicitors mistakenly applied online on behalf of the wrong couple.

 

It certainly puts a new slant on the saying “Marry in haste, repent at leisure”, though it also reminded me of the Terry Gilliam film Brazil (which, eerily, seems to have anticipated the Post Office scandal).

 

 

Coventry records online NEW

Findmypast have added 275,000 records relating to Coventry, Warwickshire including workhouse admission and discharge registers, burials at London Road Cemetery, and vehicle registrations from 1921-1944.

 

You’ll find the new records here.

 

 

Double identity: follow-up

In the last issue I published the story of a man who changed his name and concealed his true identity from his family – it was only thanks to DNA that the mystery was finally solved.

 

I’ll be publishing some more ‘name change’ stories in future issues but, in the meantime, perhaps the story of Angela Redgrave will inspire you to look differently at some of the mysteries in your own tree?  

 

 

Dance teacher dies at 106 – leaves behind mystery

In June 2022 dance teacher Angela Redgrave was awarded the British Empire Medal in Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours list – at 104 she was the oldest of more than 1100 recipients on that list. When I read that she passed away last weekend at the age of 106 I thought it would be interesting to look her up in 1921 Census – but it proved more difficult than I expected. Indeed, the further I looked into her long life the more twists and turns there were – something that I anticipated would take 5 minutes ended up taking all day!

 

In the last newsletter there was an article about a soldier who changed his identity, creating a mystery that would only be solved more than 140 years later, when some of his descendants took a DNA test. It got me wondering how many others have yet to be identified, either because they had no descendants, or those descendants haven’t found the clues that would unlock the mystery.

 

In most families there are half-remembered stories and minor deceptions that could lead a beginner astray, but now there are so many records online that we can usually work around those, especially when it’s the 20th century that we’re researching. But whilst Angela Redgrave didn’t deliberately lay traps for the unwary, she didn’t make it easy, and nor did her parents!

 

Why not start, as I did, by reading the BBC News article which reports her death, then follow up with the 2022 story about her medal (which includes a short clip of her speaking - not bad for 104, I thought)?

 

The first question on my mind: was Redgrave her maiden name, her married name, or a stage name? She’s referred to in the articles as Ms Redgrave, which doesn’t really help – but there are some useful clues about her origins. The 2022 article says that she was born in Finchley, but grew up in Watford, then moved to Somerset after the war – this must be the Second World War, of course, since she was only 1 when the Great War ended. The 2024 article mentions a daughter, Felicity and a son, John – worth noting in case I ran into difficulty. A Google search led to this page on the Royal Academy of Dance website which, as you can see from the extract below, gave her precise date of birth as well as her place of birth and some information about her father – surely it was going to be easy?

 

 

No such luck. There was no birth registered in the name Angela Redgrave in 1917, indeed there wasn’t anyone named Angela Redgrave born until 1949. Perhaps it was her married name: I searched for marriages between women called Angela and men with the surname Redgrave, but again there were no results that made any sense.

 

When it comes to living people (or people who were living until recently), and have been in business, one of the most useful sources is Companies House. So that was my next port of call – and at last I had a modicum of success:

 

 

So she was really Grace Angela Redgrave… I repeated all of the searches, expecting that this time I would come up trumps, but still had no success.

 

It was time to try a different tack – I searched the 1939 Register, looking for anyone called Grace or Angela who was born on 21/9/1917. The great thing about the 1939 Register is the fact that it was updated with name changes – which greatly increased the chance of spotting the surname Redgrave. But still no luck.

 

Next I turned to the British Newspaper Archive, or rather Findmypast, which has the same newspapers – and immediately struck gold with the article on the right, taken from The Sheerness Guardian of 22nd May 1937.

 

(Image © KM Group. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD and used by kind permission of Findmypast)

 

The words hit me like a bolt from the blue: “Grace Redgrave, a very popular dancer, is the daughter of the Rev H H Redgrave, M.A., temporary curate of Holy Trinity.” I not only had confirmation that Redgrave was her father’s name, I also had her father’s initials.

 

The go-to reference source for information on members of the clergy is Crockford’s Clerical Directory, and The Genealogist has a good selection of directories, including the 1929 edition of Crockford’s.

 

Hyma Henry Redgrave is the only H H Redgrave in the book, but I’ve included the preceding entry in the clipping, since it’s hard to believe that Hyma Goulden Redgrave isn’t somehow related to Hyma Henry Redgrave.

 

Note: there are only 6 people with the first name Hyma in the GRO birth indexes from 1837-1999. One of them is Hyma Goulden Redgrave, but there is no sign of Hyma Henry Redgrave.

 

With this information I was able to find Rev Hyma Henry Redgrave and his family in the 1911 Census:

 

© The National Archives – All Rights Reserved. Used by kind permission of Findmypast

 

They look every bit a respectable middle-class family: the vicar, his wife and their two adult daughters, plus their two live-in servants, Hannah Gater and Mary Williams. But as you’ll discover in the next article, things are not always what they seem.

 

 

See you later, Hannah Gater

The 1911 Census was taken on 2nd April, and less than three months later King George V and Queen Mary  were crowned at Westminster Abbey – it was time for celebration, for ‘pomp and circumstance’ in the phrase borrowed by Sir Edward Elgar from Shakespeare’s Othello.

 

But the tranquility of early 20th century Europe was soon to be upset by the outbreak of war in 1914. However the peace of the Redgrave household at Burslem Vicarage was shattered even sooner, thanks to the vicar’s wandering hands.

 

The photographs on the right, taken from the Dundee Courier of 1st December 1913, shows Rev Redgrave and Miss Hannah Gater arriving at Lichfield Consistory Court.

 

(Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD, used by kind permission of Findmypast)

 

 

This article from the Halifax Evening Courier of 3rd December 1913 reveals that Rev Redgrave was found guilty of four of the seven charges of immoral conduct brought against him.

 

During the trial evidence was given that Rev Redgrave had taken Hannah into his home after the death of her mother, Sarah, in 1909.

 

Subsequently the vicar “had gone about with her to distant places under suspicious circumstances…. he was in the habit of kissing her, and fondling her on his knee, even in the presence of others.”

 

 

 

(Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Used by kind permission of Findmypast)

 

 

 

Giving judgment the Chancellor of the Diocese said that there was some evidence of adultery, but the Court was not prepared to find as a fact that the charge was proven.

 

What the Court presumably did not know was that little more than 3 months’ later, Hannah would give birth.

 

Cecil Goulden Redgrave was the first of seven children born to Rev Redgrave and his much younger partner – they didn’t marry until 1937, after the death of Elizabeth Redgrave his legal wife.

 

Even though I now knew much more about Angela Redgrave’s family, I still hadn’t found her in the 1921 Census. I knew that I should be looking for Grace, rather than Angela, and she said she was born in Finchley, north west London, in late September 1917 – so she would have been 3 years, 8 months old at the time of the census (remember, it was delayed until June).

 

Well, that isn’t what her father wrote when he filled in the form:

 

© The National Archives – All Rights Reserved. Used by kind permission of Findmypast

 

Grace – or rather, ‘Gracie’ – is shown as 7 years and 7 months old, double her actual age, whilst her father has not only lost his first name altogether, he has shed 16 years from his age.

 

But Grace isn’t the only one to appear older than she really was – her brother Cecil Goulden Redgrave is shown as 8 years and 3 months old, which if correct would have meant he was born before the court case that cost his father his job.

 

The other reason I didn’t find the household at first is the place of birth shown for Grace and all of her siblings (other than Barbara, the youngest) – they’re shown as born in Quebec, Canada, and for all I know that could be correct, since there’s no sign of their births having been registered in England. But on the other hand, I haven’t found them on any passenger lists.

 

Barbara’s birth was registered, by her father – who was economical with the truth, claiming to be married to Hannah, but giving her maiden name as ‘Gates’, rather than Gater. It could possibly have been an error by the registrar, but as the same maiden name was recorded when her younger sister Dorothea was born in 1925, I suspect not.

 

Note: was the name Dorothea inspired by the character in Middlemarch, I wonder? So much of this story is fiction that it wouldn’t surprise me.

 

From 1937 or 1938 to 1949 Rev Redgrave was the Rector of Stow Bedon with Breckles, a parish in Norfolk (I found this entry in the Discovery catalogue at The National Archives). By the time he took up his position he would have been 78 years old, though in 1939 Register he was still claiming to be 14 years younger, as you can see:

 

© The National Archives – All Rights Reserved. Used by kind permission of Findmypast

 

Cecil is now shown as born in March 1914, 3 months after the court case (rather than 9 months before, as the 1921 Census had suggested).

 

When Hyma Henry Redgrave died in 1958 his age was recorded correctly as 98. You can see where Angela Redgrave got her longevity genes!  

 

Note: I’ve found out a lot more about this family, but it will have to wait for another time!

 

 

An introduction to wax seals

As a child whenever one of my parents mentioned ‘sealing wax’ I thought they were talking ‘ceiling wax’ – whatever that might be. It didn’t cross my mind that there was a time when envelopes didn’t have gummed flaps, or indeed a time before envelopes, when there needed to be some way of sealing letters.

 

There’s a short introduction to seals here, but there’s a much more comprehensive guide on the Kings College, Cambridge website – I discovered it quite by accident, and found it fascinating.

 

Note: Kings College has been in the news recently because of their plans to install solar panels on the roof of their famous chapel.

 

 

Ancestry DNA Sale UK & US ONLY

First of all, my apologies for any confusion caused by the early termination of the Ancestry.co.uk DNA offer in the last issue – it was much of a surprise to me as it was to you. The good news is that there’s a new offer which starts today – so, if you did miss out last time, now’s your chance to save 25% (or £20 per test). The offer ends at midnight on Sunday 21st April.

 

Save 25% on AncestryDNA®. Terms Apply.

 

Tip: if the link seems not to work first time, log-out from your Ancestry account and click again.

 

And if you’re in the US, don’t miss Ancestry’s 50% off Flash Sale – it ends tomorrow (Thursday).

 

50% off Flash Sale on AncestryDNA®. Only $49! Ends 18th April 2024.

 

 

The Genealogist adds 10 million directory entries EXCLUSIVE OFFER

I mentioned above that I found Hyma Henry Redgrave in the 1929 edition of Crockford’s Clerical Directory at The Genealogist – so I thought you might be interested to know that they’ve added another 10 million entries (all from the first three decades of the 20th century) to their collection.

 

Of course, there are lots of other sites where you can find directories – though not necessarily the same directories – as well as censuses and other genealogy staples. However there are some important records which are exclusive to The Genealogist, including the 1910 Lloyd George Domesday Survey (which is being added to county by county) and large parts of their enormous collection of tithe maps and tithe records.

 

If you’re tempted to try The Genealogist, there’s an exclusive offer which you’ll find here.

 

 

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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins

 

© Copyright 2024 Peter Calver

 

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