Newsletter - 17th August 2019



Last chance to save 30% at British Newspaper Archive EXTENDED

Birth rate hits record low in England & Wales

Surprise, surprise: delivery of wills delayed

Tip from the Forum: Victorian 'certificates' cheaper during August

Diabolical forged certificates

Continuing series: Growing up in London 1930-1960

Ivory castles

Are you a farmer or a hunter-gatherer?

Latest DNA offers

Wacky company seeks gullible customers

Half-day courses on Irish research

Review: Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet

Review: Cowards Die Many Times

A complicated family

Peter's Tips

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 9th August) 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!



Last chance to save 30% at British Newspaper Archive EXTENDED

There are two ways of getting 12 months unlimited access to the newspapers in the British Newspaper Archive - one is to take out the top Findmypast subscription (a Pro subscription costs £156 at the UK site), the other is to subscribe to the British Newspaper Archive directly (normal cost £80).


However, until midnight on Sunday 18th August you can save a massive 30% on a 12 month British Newspaper Archive subscription, bringing the cost down to just £56 - which is amazingly cheap when you consider that you're getting access to more than 33 million pages and over 400 million articles - numbers that will continue to grow during the period of your subscription.


Of course, there's nothing worse than having to plough through page after page of search results that you've seen several times before, which is why being able to restrict your search to articles added between two dates or after a given date, is so useful. This is just one of the extra search options that you get when you subscribe to the British Newspaper Archive directly - it makes an enormous difference, especially if you have common surnames in your tree (or, like me, surnames that are also place names


To save 30% on your subscription - and support LostCousins at the same time - please follow this link.


UPDATE: the discount didn't work on Sunday but it is now working again today (Monday). I haven't been told when the offer will be closing, but will update this newsletter when I find out.



Birth rate hits record low in England & Wales

According to the Office for National Statistics the birth rate in England & Wales hit a new low in 2018 - it has decreased from a high of 20.5 live births per 1,000 population in 1947 to just 11.1 in 2018, and the average number of children born to women during their lifetimes has fallen to 1.7, well below the replacement rate.


So when Prince Harry says that he and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, will have no more than 2 children they're talking about an above average number (though below average for the British Royal family).


You can find out more about the ONS survey here.



Surprise, surprise: delivery of wills delayed

Last month I reported an 85% drop in the cost of post-1858 wills from the Probate Service, bringing the cost down from £10 to just £1.50 - and not surprisingly this big reduction has resulted in a vastly-increased demand, with numerous people reporting to me that estimated delivery dates have been and gone.


Since none of your orders are likely to be truly urgent I recommend waiting patiently, rather than sending in complaints or making enquiries - this would only slow the process and increase the workload for the hard-pressed staff.


The LostCousins Forum (see next article) is a good place to find out whether there are other people experiencing the same problems with websites, family tree programs, or anything related to the hobby we love.



Tip from the Forum: Victorian 'certificates' cheaper during August

Uncertified copies of birth. marriage, and death certificates issued by the Australian state of Victoria will be slightly cheaper during the month of August - see this page on the official website. August is 'Family History Month' in Australia, so you might find that other states have similar offers - if so, please donít contact me, instead post the information on the LostCousins Forum here.


Tip: most readers of this newsletter could qualify for membership of the forum, which is free, simply by completing their My Ancestors page. Provided you focus on the 1881 Census it shouldn't take you more than an hour to earn an invitation - and as you'll probably find a 'lost cousin' in the process, the effort will be doubly worthwhile! Much more productive than an hour spent watching TV, and healthier, too.



Diabolical forged certificates

Edward in Australia sent me a cutting from the Bolton Chronicle of 11th April 1868 which reported the sentencing of one George Phillips, the son of a registrar, for forging certificates of birth and death - he was sentenced to 18 months hard labour, which was quite a light sentence given the gravity of the charge. I thought it would be interesting to look back at earlier court appearances, to find out the background to this case - and searching the British Newspaper Archive I found this article in the Stonehaven Journal of 20th February:


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


The plot was simple enough - Phillips would reply to advertisements for missing persons, hand over a death certificate, then pocket the reward. The authorities, however, came up with a cunning plan - they placed an advertisement offering a reward to anyone who could tell of the whereabouts of a Mr William Cauldwell Cook. Since no such person existed Phillips was arrested when he handed over a forged certificate to the woman he presumed was the mother of the missing man.



Continuing series: Growing up in London 1930-1960

My schooldays weren't the best days of my life - I saw school (and university) as little more than a means to an end. Nowadays teachers aren't allowed to touch pupils, even if they are injured or crying, but in my day the slipper and the cane were a constant reminder of who was in charge. These extracts from Peter Cox's wonderful Growing Up In London, 1930-1960 are not so very different from my own experiences:


"When I was eight or nine the teacher insisted on pronouncing my name ĎVine-Stineí. She knew German and thought she was being clever. But it was from Russia, not Germany, pronounced ĎWeen-steení. Teachers had to know best, so she refused to change it."


"My new imposed surname began with Z, so I was always last in any roll call and it was constantly mispronounced. Not knowing how to defend myself from mockery, I became difficult and aloof, and retreated into offended haughty silence, which surprisingly did not actually do me much harm in the long run. I became known as the Countess."


"Corporal punishment for (only) boys was unquestioned. One of my classmates, Ralph, was whacked virtually every day, twice on each hand. Tears streaming, heíd return to his seat with his stinging hands tucked into his armpits. Harry was a horrible little scroat whoíd finger Ralph for crimes he hadnít committed.


We had a Harry at my junior school - he was actually called Daniel, but the word 'scroat' sounds very appropriate (I wish I'd known it at the time). We had a couple of Ralphs too - twins John and David seemed to be victimised by our form teacher, who mercifully disappeared in the middle of the school year.


There will be more extracts in future issues of this newsletter. Based on the reminiscences of U3A members, Growing Up In London, 1930-1960 was published in hardback at £20 in 2015, but is now out of print (the last few copies were snapped up by lucky LostCousins members - there is a single used copy available on Amazon at £32.20 plus shipping). Thanks to the generosity of the author, a LostCousins member himself, you can download a free copy in PDF format by logging-in to your LostCousins account and going to the Peter's Tips page.


Note: not sure whether you are a LostCousins member? You are if you received an email from me telling you about this newsletter - and in text of the email you'll find the email address under which your account is registered (which may not be the one at which you received it). Use the 'Password reminder' link in the website menu if you've forgotten how to log-in.



Ivory castles

Last month I published some extracts from Growing Up In London, 1930-1960 which mentioned toothpowder, prompting a lot of correspondence from readers who remembered Gibbs Dentifrice - which seems to have been the only toothpowder which came as a solid block. I published a follow-up article but the emails kept flooding in, including some from readers who still had examples of the jigsaw puzzles and board games that were used to encourage children to clean their teeth regularly.



The board game (on the left) is in the possession of Kathleen, who also has the rules - I think it was a bit like Snakes & Ladders. The jigsaw photo (on the right) came from Elisabeth and features the Lord Mayor's Show. Children were told "your teeth are ivory castles" - if you look closely at the board game you might just be able to make out the words 'health and happiness' on the castle at the top.


You can see an example of a colour advertisement from 1923 if you follow this link to eBay.



Are you a farmer or a hunter-gatherer?

There are two quite different ways of approaching DNA testing for genealogical purposes: this was brought home to me in the past week when I had a long discussion with a LostCousins member who's still going about things much the way I did from 2012 (when I tested with Family Tree DNA) to 2017 (when I tested again, this time with Ancestry).


I canít remember exactly how many matches I had when my Family Finder results first came through 7 years ago, but it was probably in the region of 500. This seemed like a lot at the time, but I soon realised that most of them were so distant that figuring out how I was related to more than a handful of them wasn't going to be easy - particularly since many of them hadnít uploaded a tree, and in any case searching trees wasnít FTDNA's strong point (it still isn't).


The approach which I dub "hunter-gatherer" is to work independently from your documented cousins, hunting for the links between you and your genetic cousins and gathering what information you can to help. Having tried it for 5 years it isnít the way I'd choose to work, partly because itís very time-consuming but also because the potential is limited. Why? Because this approach works best when you have a chromosome browser and when you can see all of your shared matches. Ancestry doesnít provide either of these, which means that hunter-gatherers are inevitably going to be fishing in a smaller pool.


And it's not just a smaller pool, itís a considerably smaller pool. I currently have 21226 matches with genetic cousins at Ancestry but only 1163 at 23andMe, which is the only company that has carried out anywhere near as many tests as Ancestry (the number is low because most of 23andMe's customers tested for health purposes, so have opted out of cousin-matching). At FamilyTreeDNA, where I tested in 2012, I now have 2496 matches; at MyHeritage I have 4507 - still just a fifth of the number I have at Ancestry.


Personally I'd rather fish in Ancestry's much larger pool, even though they donít have a chromosome browser and restrict shared matches to close matches. The good news is that those things donít matter nearly as much when you're a "farmer" like me.


My definition of a farmer is someone who is more proactive than reactive, planting the seeds of success by encouraging cousins to test, quite possibly paying for those tests, and almost certainly managing (or playing a part in managing) the results. For example, apart from my own DNA results I manage or co-manage the results for my brother and seven 1st, 2nd, or 3rd cousins - so when I'm utilising the strategies in my Masterclass (see last issue) I've got many, many more opportunities to find genetic cousins who can help me knock down my 'brick walls.


I didnít personally pay for all of those 9 tests, but even if I had done it would have been money well spent - because time is money and, even at the minimum wage, the hundreds of hours I've saved would pay for the tests many times over. Ancestry is so much easier, simpler, and quicker to use than other sites because DNA and family trees are so well integrated. The ThruLines feature can lead to some great discoveries - if I had a choice between ThruLines and a chromosome browser I know which I'd go for!


Tip: since around half of active LostCousins members have already tested their DNA, finding 'lost cousins' is a great way to save money you might have spent on a DNA test for a known cousin.


But it's not just about time and money, itís also about results - all of the 'brick walls' I've knocked down with the help of DNA have collapsed as a result of matches at Ancestry. True, I've found some great cousins at other sites, and have several clues that may pay off in the future, but 7 years after I first tested there's still only one site that has helped me knock down any of my 'brick walls', and that's Ancestry. Nobody likes paying for the same thing twice, but it's sobering to think that had I not taken the plunge and tested with Ancestry in 2017 I'd probably be just as sceptical about DNA as many of you.


Incidentally, Ancestry users can transfer their results to most of the other sites to get extra matches. But you can't go the other way - Ancestry donít accept transfers (nor do 23andME at the current time), and that's why I almost always advise testing with them. Even if it costs slightly more to test with Ancestry, the 'cost per cousin' is far lower.


Note: are you wondering what the difference is between a documented cousin and a genetic cousin, and why it matters? See this article from June.



Latest DNA offers


Ancestry are celebrating Father's Day in Auatralia with a big discount until Sunday 1st September (I believe this offer will also be available in New Zealand, but the sale price of $90 is in Australian currency). Ancestry have by far the largest database of genealogical DNA results, so you'll find many more cousins than at any other site. Please use this link or click the banner below to make your purchase so that LostCousins can also benefit:



Family Tree DNA's August sale continues, with savings from $20 upwards. The pick of their tests is the 37-marker Y-DNA test, since FTDNA are the only mainstream company offering standard Y-DNA tests for genealogical purposes.


Tip: some companies which sell autosomal DNA tests include Y-DNA but their results are not compatible with standard Y-DNA tests. If you know what SNPs and STRs are you'll understand why.



To buy any of FTDNA's tests at sale price and support LostCousins at the same time please use this link (note: do not use FTDNA links in newsletters prior to August 2019; they probably won't work, but even if they do, LostCousins wonít benefit from your purchase).


MyHeritage have extended their UK Summer Sale by a week - the price of a test is reduced from £75 to £59 until Monday 19th August. Order 2 kits and shipping is free. Please use this link so that you can support LostCousins.


MyHeritage sell their test in some European countries where Ancestry don't market theirs, so if you have recent ancestors who came from continental Europe (or living cousins in the countries where Ancestry donít sell) it's worth considering their test.


Finally, for dog lovers who want to know more about their best friends, the Wisdom Panel DNA test is discounted by £15 until Monday 26th August when you follow this link and use the code DOGDAY19



Wacky company seeks gullible customers

One of my distant DNA cousins has a PhD in genetics, so when he mentioned on Twitter that he'd come across a peculiar DNA service on sale in the Westfield Centre I thought I'd take a look. I'm not going to give the company concerned free publicity which it doesnít deserve, but it's a good opportunity to remind you that if you order a DNA test from a provider which hasn't been recommended in this newsletter youíre probably throwing your money away.


Tip: a lot of companies selling DNA tests will include the words Ancestry DNA in their write-ups. Do NOT confuse the tests they offer with those offered by Ancestry. Price is not a good guide - in my experience the more expensive a test is, the more likely it is to be useless..



Half-day courses on Irish research

Next month the Society of Genealogists are running two half-day courses at their London premises. On the morning of Saturday 14th September Roz McCutcheon and Jill Williams will be talking about " Tracing your Irish Ancestry - for Beginners and Refreshers", then in the afternoon they'll follow up with " Moving your Irish Research On".


The cost is £20 for each course (SoG members get a 20% reduction), and you can find out more if you visit this page. When I last checked there were only 5 places remaining for the morning course, and 11 for the afternoon course, so book now to make sure of your place.


If you have Irish ancestry but canít get to London, take a look at the book review that follows.....



Review: Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet

As someone who has yet to discover any Irish ancestors I'm always very careful to refer to experts in the field, such as Claire Santry, whose website I've mentioned several times, and Chris Paton, whose Irish and Scottish background provides a valuable perspective. When I was looking for someone to speak about Irish family history at the Genealogy in the Sunshine conferences I organised a few years ago I turned to Chris, who is not only a genealogist, author, journalist, and blogger, but also an excellent speaker.


At the time the first edition of Chris's Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet had recently been published, and it collected 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon - the only exception was someone who was just starting out and needed a beginner's guide to family history generally. (If every family history book was designed for beginners they'd be jolly repetitive and tedious to read for the rest of us - and what a waste of paper!)


Any printed book that refers to Internet sources soon becomes out of date, so after 6 years this 2nd edition is very welcome - though commendably Chris Paton does his best to futureproof the links by recommending the use of the Internet Archive and suggesting Google searches (both good options if you come across an expired link in one of my old newsletters). Incidentally, he's also spot on when he says that deep links to council websites are likely to have the shortest life!


There's an amazing amount of information crammed into 190 pages - very little space is wasted on photographs or screenshots. Chapter 1 looks at the range of websites, both free and paid - if you're thinking of buying a subscription or credits it's important to know what you'll be getting (and what you won't be getting). Chapter 2 deals with vital records - civil registration, parish registers, and other sources such as wills and notices in newspapers. It's the longest chapter in the book at 40 pages, and rightly so; the guide to what is and isnít available from the GROs in Dublin and Belfast is exceptionally good.


Chapter 3 focuses on censuses and census substitutes, such as land records and electoral records. Chapter 4 looks at occupations (not the occupation of Ireland by the British, but the work that people did); official records of those in the armed forces, the Merchant Navy, the police, and criminals are the most likely to have survived, but there are some useful suggestions for those whose ancestors were involved in other occupations. Chapter 5 looks at the events of 1912-23 that ultimately resulted in the partitioned Ireland that we see today.


Chapters 6 to 9 provide information and links specific to the 32 different counties; Chapter 10 deals with Ireland's diaspora and the record sources that will help you track them down. I can't vouch for the accuracy of all the information as it's not my field, but I have every confidence in the author (and, after all, this is the 2nd edition of a book that was very well-received first time around). One quibble - if you read the section on DNA youíd probably be discouraged from testing with Ancestry, which would be a great shame, but readers surely aren't going to be buying the book for advice about DNA tests which they can get free from this newsletter!


If youíre in the UK you can buy the book from Amazon Marketplace for just over £10 including shipping, a big reduction on the published price of £14.99, but even if you have to pay full price you will get your money's worth out of this book (and probably many times over).


Thoroughly recommended to anyone who is struggling with their Irish forebears - the only bad news is that the book isnít due for release in North America until November/December (but I've included an extra link which might possibly enable you to buy a copy from England rather sooner):††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Wordery†††††††††††††††††


Note: using these links will allow you to support LostCousins, even if you end up buying something completely different from the same site.



Review: Cowards Die Many Times

Although this is the third novel by Peter Hey that I've reviewed, and the third to feature a Shakespeare quotation as its title, itís only the second book to feature genealogist Jane Madden, who we first met in When Beggars Dye (you can read my review here).


Genealogical mysteries tend to involve at least two intertwined threads and this enjoyable book is no exception. Similarly the heroes and heroines tend to have complicated family histories of their own - whether they were adopted, or come from a broken home (as in the case of Jane Madden). There's also a tendency for the female leads to be in the police, or ex-police, and Jane ticks that box too. But that's not a criticism of the genre - more of an attempt to explain why I and so many others find genealogical mysteries absolutely fascinating!


In Cowards Die Many Times the main storyline - the father who abandons his family to make a new life for himself - echoes Jane Madden's own upbringing, although I didnít realise this as I was reading the novel, only when I sat down to write this review (it's an example of how cleverly the author weaves the threads together). Jane is commissioned by her client, Guy Ramsbottom, to find out how his great-grandfather - the son of a coal miner - could possibly have trained to become a doctor at a time when there were no grants or loans.


Jane is fairly new to genealogy, though she doesnít let on to her clients; fortunately her experience in the police has proven to be excellent training - and she also has a mentor. Her relationship with Tommy is a little like that between Anna Ames and Steve in Geraldine Wall's series (another of my favourites); Jane is intuitive, a people person, whilst Tommy is a computer wiz who comes over as slightly autistic (I donít mean that as a criticism, by the way). They're an odd couple, but then they say that opposites attract. Is there romance in the air? It's not as simple as that, as you'll discover.....


By now you've probably noticed that I've told you very little about what actually happens in the book - and that's deliberate, it wouldnít be a mystery if I gave the game away! If you have already read the first book in the series you wonít need my encouragement to buy the follow-up, but if you haven't I'd recommend you read When Beggars Dye first, because the threads that carry over from one book to another help us to get inside the minds of the leading characters.


Both books are available in Kindle format for the trifling sum of £1.99 each. Remember, you donít need a Kindle to read a Kindle book - almost any smartphone, tablet, or computer can do the job (and the Kindle app is free). But paperback versions are also available, and fairly inexpensive too, at £5.99††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††


PS I forgot to mention that there's a chapter in the book called LostCousins- it even mentions this newsletter. Fame at last!



A complicated family tree

In the last issue I mentioned the case of a grandmother married to a great-grandfather - which prompted Valerie to write in with this example from her own tree:


"My great-great grandmother was married to my great grandfather. Elizabeth Currie gave birth to a daughter, also named Elizabeth Currie, when she was 16 and unmarried. Five years later she married bachelor James Neil and the couple had three children. Young Elizabeth was living with the family in the 1891 census but recorded as a visitor. Mother Elizabeth died in 1900 and in the 1901 census young Elizabeth had changed her surname to Neil and was recorded as daughter/housekeeper.


"Eventually she became his partner and bore six children, one of whom was my grandfather. These children were all illegitimate according to their birth certificates and their father's name was not given. On the 1911 census record the children were recorded as his grandchildren. The older half-siblings of these children were also their aunt and uncles and half-siblings of their mother! It has been very complicated recording the twisted branches of my family tree!"


Had James Neil married his step-daughter it would have been illegal - indeed, it would still be illegal today, even though they were not blood relatives. Mind you, considering that the father of the younger Elizabeth isnít known we canít be absolutely certain that she and her step-father weren't related, in which case the tree would be even more complicated!


I found this in an 1821 book (A collection of epitaphs.... by William Graham, Land Surveyor).:



Anyone fancy drawing this family tree?



Peter's Tips

August is one of my favourite months, not because of the weather - which is often disappointing - but because of the wide range of fruits that can be found in the hedgerows. In the 1950s I used to pick blackberries with my parents at Hainault, on the border of Epping Forest, and it gives me great pleasure to be able to do the same 60 years on - but now I'm also harvesting elderberries, wild damsons, and wild plums of various types. The sloes aren't ripe enough yet, but it won't be long (I donít wait for the first frost - I put them in the freezer instead). With each year that goes by there seem to be fewer and fewer people picking wild fruit - it may not be a cost-effective use of my time, but like family history it gives me a lot of pleasure!


Interest rates on savings accounts are dropping again, so it's very tempting to invest with peer-to-peer lenders. You can get a bonus of £100 if you follow this link and invest £1000 or more for at least a year with Ratesetter - that's equivalent to 10% on top of interest you can earn. (Note: I'm not a financial adviser so make sure you know what youíre doing - what's right for me might not be right for you.)



Stop Press

I've updated the DNA offers article to include Ancestry's offer in Australia.



Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2019 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?


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