Newsletter - 16th August 2016
DNA discounts ENDS SOON
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 4th August) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it searches all of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):
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!
Although it's possible to search for (and order) wills for England & Wales from 1858 up to the current day at the official government website, it can be an extremely long-winded process if the surname is a common one, or if you don't know the year of death - and, of course, these tend to go hand in hand.
Almost exactly 6 years ago Ancestry launched an online index, the National Probate Calendar, which initially covered the years 1861-1941 with some gaps, but was soon extended to cover the whole of the period from 1858-1966. Ancestry offer a much more comprehensive search than the official site, which means it is more feasible to use the probate calendar as a supplement to the GRO indexes.
I'm delighted to report that after several years with no additions Ancestry last week added wills and administrations from 1973-1995, and you can search them here. I can't tell you whether the remaining gaps will be filled at some point, but I suspect it's far more likely that we'll see the calendars from 1967-1972 than those from 1996 onwards.
Incidentally, it is also possible to search the probate calendars from 1858-1959 here at Findmypast: you can carry out some searches that aren't practical at Ancestry, and aren't possible at the government site. This article from last August has some useful suggestions.
Note: for information about Scottish probate calendars see this newsletter article from October.
ScotlandsPeople have announced that the site will be closing at midnight on Wednesday 7th September for "essential planned work", which I suspect is connected with the transfer of operations from Findmypast to the new service providers, CACI.
The site is expected to reopen by Monday 12th September. I understand that on Thursday 8th and Friday 9th it will still be possible to access records at the ScotlandsPeople centre in Edinburgh, or at the local family history centres listed here.
Since LostCousins began using the 1881 Census of Scotland on 29th September 2004 we have standardised on the census references used by FamilySearch, since at that time their transcription was the only one available for this census (even ScotlandsPeople used their transcription at the time).
Subsequently Ancestry, Findmypast, and ScotlandsPeople all came up with their own transcriptions of this census - however, Findmypast and FamilySearch no longer quote references for the Scottish censuses which means that Ancestry is currently the only source (other than the pay-per-view ScotlandsPeople site) of this vital information.
Last year I introduced a feature which allows members with entries from the England & Wales, Scotland, and Ireland censuses to quickly and easily check their entries simply by clicking the button which appears alongside the census references on the My Ancestors page. This has not only proven to be a big timesaver it has also enabled numerous new matches to be made as inadvertent errors have been rectified.
Until now there have been a small number of Scottish entries - no more than 5000 - that couldn't be checked using the button, because the Registration District has an alphabetic suffix, eg 328B, and the format FamilySearch chose differs from that used by Ancestry. As Ancestry is now the primary source for this census I have decided to standardise on the Ancestry format in future, and this week I updated all the entries made by members over the past 10 years so that individual members won't need to make any changes.
This is a good opportunity to remind all members to check your entries using the button, if you haven't already done so - it takes only a few seconds to check each household, so it's well worth doing.
Note: the advice on the Add Ancestor form has been updated to reflect the change; whichever census you are using, always follow the advice given on the form - and please bear in mind that it changes depending on the census selected.
Stirling Archives have made available online indexes to their Poor Relief records - you can search them here.
Prior to the American Revolution in 1776 over 50,000 men, women, and children were transported in chains from Britain to the colonies in America - and they populated the fledgling nation, just as later generations of convicts were to populate Australia.
Ancestry have just updated their Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 dataset to include an additional 9,000 records. Other datasets that will help you track your errant ancestors include:
Another key source is the record of Old Bailey proceedings from 1674-1913 - you can search them free here.
There are also over 125,000 later records in this Findmypast dataset:
This project, which involves the Universities of Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield, Hertfordshire, and Tasmania is looking at the impact that the transportation of criminals had, both on their lives and the colonies to which they were sent. The lives of individual convicts will be traced through the surviving records in an attempt to draw conclusions about the comparative effectiveness of transportation and incarceration, both in the short-term and the longer-term.
You can read more about the project here.
This week Findmypast added over 230,000 parish records for Staffordshire, from 10 parishes, bringing the total to well over 4 million records from the county - I suspect that these new records had to be scanned (or re-scanned) before they could be made available online.
Findmypast have also added the option to Browse the Staffordshire registers - this provides an opportunity to look for names that have been misindexed, which is always a potential problem given the poor handwriting and the fading of ink. Newly-scanned registers are in colour, but the majority of those I looked at had been scanned from microfilm - often created decades ago by the Genealogical Society of Utah (better known as FamilySearch).
Findmypast helpfully provide a list showing the coverage by parish, by event, and by year of their entire Staffordshire Collection. Recently added parishes are noted, although it isn't currently possible to identify the most recent additions. You can also see a list of all the registers held by Staffordshire Archives here.
According to the French Genealogy Blog lists of passengers departing from the French port of Le Havre are now available online - previously they could only be viewed on microfilm in Rouen. I'm not going to attempt to explain the records in detail, since Anne Morddel has provided the key information in her blog article, but it's worth noting that the surviving records include both passengers and crew.
L’Inscription Maritime can be found at the website of the Seine-Maritime departmental archives, and you can search the records by name (though as far as I could tell wildcards are not supported, so you may need to try different spellings).
Tip: although the site is in French, if you use the Chrome browser it will translate it into English automatically (depending on your settings - you'll find Languages under Advanced Settings).
Unfortunately it isn't going to be possible to hold the next course in March 2017 as hoped because there simply won't be sufficient accommodation available for a group of our size - it seems the Rocha Brava resort has become very popular with people of my age looking for low cost out-of-season holidays.
My apologies to all those who pencilled this date in their diaries - I hope that we'll be able to do something in 2018.
There are still a handful of places remaining on the Society of Genealogists 'Family History Getaway' - it might not be as glamorous as a holiday on the Algarve but if you live in the London area it's a great opportunity to listen to expert speakers and, perhaps, knock down some long-standing 'brick walls'.
From FutureLearn to FutureLean?
It's week 5 of the free FutureLearn course Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree and I'm getting some very positive feedback about the course from LostCousins members who are participating. I'm delighted to say that there have also been quite a few complimentary remarks about LostCousins in the discussion forums, so I'd like to say a special welcome to everyone reading this newsletter for the first time!
Tip: although the course is intended to be accessible for beginners, even the most experienced researchers are going to learn something new (and no doubt be reminded of more than a few things that they've forgotten!). It's not too late to join in, and it really is free, no matter where in the world you live - just follow this link to sign up.
I can confidently predict that the more people who get enthused about genealogy, the more healthy the world will be. One of the things I've noticed over the years is that family historians are less likely to be overweight than the population as a whole - whether I've been attending shows or speaking to family history societies, it's become clear that you don't have to be an Olympic athlete to keep fit - simply taking part in an activity, even one that exercises the brain more than the body, can have a positive effect on our physical well-being.
Tip: if you are a bit overweight - as I was a year ago - all you need to do is eat a little less and exercise a little more. I lost 2 stone (about 12Kg), not by changing my diet, but by portion control - putting a little less on the plate - and not by joining a gym, but by doing some basic exercises at home. Like Queen Elizabeth II I own a Nintendo Wii, and I use a fitness program called EA Sports Active 2 to provide me with exercises and measure how many calories I'm burning up.
Incidentally, did you see this story in the newspapers, about the man who halved his weight after he was forced to buy two seats on an airplane? Amazing!
That example comes from the US, but before those of you on the other side of the Atlantic say "it couldn't happen here", let me point you to this study, which has shown that in Britain we eat rather more than we think we do - about 50% more, in fact. Even worse, another British study has shown that being overweight affects our brains - the brain of an overweight 50 year-old will have aged as much as the brain of a fit 60 year-old (you can read about the findings here).
On reading the first draft of this newsletter my wife asked whether the damage is reversible, clearly mindful of the fact that I was a little overweight until recently - the simple answer is that the researchers don't know yet, but finding out is one of their next objectives.
First published in 1931, this account of the lives of working class women - told in their own words - is an amazing book, one that I found hard to put down once I got beyond the long introduction by Virginia Woolf - a friend of Margaret Llewellyn Davies, the editor of the book. My advice is to skip it and jump straight to page 1!
The first writer's account was of particularly interest to me because she was born in Bethnal Green, a part of London where several of my ancestors lived, in 1855, but the story of deprivation and high infant mortality is repeated in accounts from other parts of the country. The one thing that links the contributors is their membership of the Women's Co-Operative Guild, an organisation founded in 1883 to educate women in the principles and practices of Co-operation and to work for the improvement of the status of women.
It's so important to read first-hand accounts rather than relying on hearsay, or the treatises cobbled together by social historians - and whilst we're hearing only from survivors, their stories are at times quite heart-wrenching. Life as We Have Known It is well worth reading - almost all of us have ancestors who would have experienced similar hardships.
In the UK it's cheapest from Amazon, but if you're overseas you'll probably find that The Book Depository works out cheaper because they offer free delivery worldwide (but either link will help to support LostCousins).
Note: for an insight into the trials and tribulations of the working-class poor in London in the early 20th century read Round About a Pound a Week, one of the best books I've ever read.
Scientists at the University of Copenhagen started work on a massive project - to sequence the DNA of all 10,000 bird species, in order to construct an evolutionary tree. You can read more about the Bird 10k Project here.
Many thanks to DNA expert and LostCousins member Debbie Kennett for sharing this information via (where else?) Twitter.
Family Finder tests from Family Tree DNA are still discounted to an unprecedented $69, and the closing date for the Summer Sale still hasn't been announced - follow this link to ensure that you support LostCousins (and also see my article from the last newsletter for more information).
One member tells me that she has ordered 9 tests in the sale - remember that by persuading cousins to test we can not only find more matches, but also learn more about the matches we've already made.
Ancestry DNA are having a sale in the UK - until Thursday 18th August the price has been slashed from £79 to £59, though with shipping it still works out more expensive than Family Tree DNA's offer (plus you need to be an Ancestry subscriber to view the trees of your matches - there are no subscriptions at FTDNA). Nevertheless, the fact that more people have tested with Ancestry could sway your decision - if you do decide to test with Ancestry you can support LostCousins by using this link.
Remember that whichever company you test with, you can upload your results to the mostly free GEDmatch site to connect with cousins who have tested with a different company.
IMPORTANT: please remember to indicate on your My Details page at LostCousins whether or not you have taken an autosomal DNA test - this will not only help the cousins you've been matched with come up with the best testing strategy, it will encourage them to share their results with you.
Of the nearly 2000 members who have completed this question so far 40.7% have answered Yes, 45.9% have said No, and the remainder are considering testing.
The ITV programme Long Lost Family recently broadcast the story of Susan Webb (nee Galsworthy), who had to give up her illegitimate daughter just 6 months after her birth in 1967. Their researchers managed to track down Samantha, who after adoption was known as Donna, and when they met up again after 48 years apart it was an emotional occasion. There a number of newspaper reports online, but this one from Susan's local newspaper is particularly good - and if you're in the UK you can watch the programme by following this link (it will be available until the end of August).
As a child I used to chant "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" when someone said something unpleasant - I expect some of you did too. So I was a little surprised, though only a little, to receive an email complaining about my use of the word 'bastard' in its literal sense in the last newsletter (when writing about the 5 illegitimate children of King Charles II and Barbara Palmer - who the diarist John Evelyn described as "the curse of the nation").
Is the word really shocking to genealogists? I don't suppose there's anyone reading this who doesn't have some illegitimate ancestors - I can think of at least 3 in my tree - so most of us will have encountered Bastardy Bonds, which recorded the sums that the alleged fathers of illegitimate children were bound to pay towards their welfare. And, of course, the word appears frequently in baptism registers (and you'll even find it in the King James Bible). We can't avoid the word, so let's use it as it should be used - if a word is only ever used as an expletive the original meaning can eventually be lost, as in the case of 'blimey', which began as the blasphemous oath "God blind me" (other terms with a similar derivation include 'zounds' and 'strewth').
This year there have been numerous instances of people being overheard saying things when they thought nobody was listening, but it's nothing new - I always think back to the late Richard Dimbleby, who was much criticised after he commented "Jesus wept" when technical problems occurred during coverage of the Queen's visit to Berlin in 1965 - you can read the BBC's apology on page 14 of The Times of 28th May 1965.
Talking of Richard Dimbleby, who sadly died at 52 just a few months after that incident, reminds me that I have a collection of tapes recorded from the wireless on Coronation Day in 1953 - which I acquired when I bought an old tape recorder at auction many years ago. Disappointly that Grundig tape recorder didn't work, despite much pleading, but I hope to hear the tapes shortly on a similarly ancient - but working - Philips tape recorder that my brother has lent me.
The rare Dimbleby surname lives on: his sons David and Jonathan are both famous broadcasters, who respectively present the current affairs programmes Question Time (on BBC1) and Any Questions? (on Radio 4). I had the pleasure of attending the live broadcast of Any Questions? last month when the programme visited my old school - and one of my questions was chosen to be put to the panel, although I never had the opportunity to ask it because the discussion of the previous question strayed onto the topic of mine! Coincidentally, Robin Day, the first presenter of Question Time, attended the same school - though many years before me, of course.
Another Old Brentwood - one who was there at the same time as me, though Charlie Bean was 3 years younger - became deputy governor of the Bank of England, a post that he held for 6 years until 2014. Which brings me on to interest rates: this month's rate cut was good news for many borrowers, but bad news for savers - many of whom were already receiving under 1% on their deposits.
When interest rates fall there's a tendency to switch to more risky investments, one that most of you would do well to resist! However, you'll know that for several years I've been involved in peer-to-peer lending, which sounds complicated and risky, but is actually quite simple and can be a lot safer than you might think - because the companies I've chosen have funds set up to cover loans that aren't repaid by the borrowers. I get an average interest rate of around 3% on money tied up for a month, but the return on longer-term loans can be significantly higher - 4%, 5%, or even more!
If you follow this link to Ratesetter you'll get a £100 bonus when you lend £1000 for a year or more (I'll get £50 too); the other site I use is Zopa, and if you use this link and lend £2000 or more we'll each get a £50 bonus. Remember, I'm not a financial adviser - and nor were the members who told me about these sites in the first place - I'm simply telling you how I maximise the return on the money I've saved for my own retirement. Everyone's financial position is different, so what's right for me won't necessarily be right for you.
Occasionally there are risk-free opportunities to earn extra income on our savings, such as the government's pensioner bonds - unfortunately at the time I was a few months too young to take advantage of that opportunity. But I didn't completely lose out - as regular readers of this newsletter will know, I've deferred my state pension, which for those of us who reached retirement age before 5th April 2016 provides a 10.4% increase for each year we defer (on top of the normal indexation).
But if you hunt around there are other options, and these apply to all ages: for example, as a Nationwide current account holder you can earn 5% on regular savings (up to £500 per month), a generous rate that they've pledged not to change, despite the reduction in base rate, and they also pay 3% on balances of up to £2500 in a FlexPlus current account, the account I have, or you can get 5% for the first 12 months if you open a fee-free FlexDirect account.
You can also get a £100 bonus when you switch to Nationwide after being referred by an existing accountholder - which I'd be pleased to do for any LostCousins member, since I'll get a bonus too! Just drop me an email and I'll tell you what to do - switching bank accounts is really easy these days.
Of course, the best returns come from harvesting nature's bounty in the wild: at long last the blackberries are ripening - and whilst they're smaller than usual that could mean that the flavour is more concentrated. I've also seen a few ripe elderberries, but I won't be harvesting them for a couple of weeks yet as there are too many green ones in the sprays, and I'm also holding off on the sloes.
In the garden my wife's tomatoes are still green as you can see, even the ones in the greenhouse, but she tells me that they're going to ripen very soon….. the delay in the seasons isn't all bad news, though, because I'm still harvesting rhubarb, which would normally have been spongy by now. And even if there are plenty of green tomatoes left at the end of the season it'll be a good excuse to make green tomato jam!
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 now - but do look out for the next issue as I usually come up with something special for the Bank Holiday weekend!
© Copyright 2016 Peter Calver
Please do not copy any part of this newsletter without permission. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission in advance - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, as standard membership (which includes this newsletter), is FREE?