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Newsletter – 16th August 2022



Changeable weather

Church wardens’ accounts

What’s in a name?

Confusion in the chapel

A double date in the graveyard

Some certificates lost but Nuneaton

Railway children

Who owns swans?

Ancestry DNA sale in the UK SAVE 25%

Findmypast sale continues in Australia and New Zealand

Success story


Woebegone or O-be-gone?

Peter’s Tips

Stop Press


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



Changeable weather

September 1796 was so unpleasantly hot that Jane Austen wrote “What dreadful Hot weather we have! – It keeps one in a continual state of Inelegance.”


Be careful what you wish for, Miss Austen – just three months later it was so cold that the River Thames in London had frozen over, and a temperature of -21°C was recorded in London at Christmas.


I’m not old enough to remember 1796, but I do remember the long hot summer of 1976 – and that too was followed by a cold December, though not nearly as cold it had been 180 years earlier.


What weather did your ancestors experience? What impact would it have had on them, their families, their health, and their livelihoods?


This PDF summary of British winters goes back to the early 1600s, and you’ll find another collection from 1700 onwards here. For more recent (and more detailed) data see the Met Office website, which has records for some weather stations from the mid-19th century onwards.



Churchwardens’ accounts

Parish registers tend to be focus of our research, but it’s important to consider other documents from the parish chest, such as churchwarden’s accounts – which in some cases pre-date the introduction of registers in 1538.


This page provides a useful introduction to the accounts and their contents, and also links to The Churchwardens' Accounts of England and Wales project which is run by the University of Warwick.



What’s in a name?

As family historians we tend to regard surnames as the thread that connects us to our ancestors, as this article by genealogist Paul Blake on the BBC website reminds us. But English surnames are a relatively recent invention: when Juliet asked


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet”


it wasn’t so very long after the adoption of surnames in England. Whilst the arrival of the Normans in 1066 began the process, it was only by 1400 that most English families bore hereditary surnames, so had the command to maintain registers of baptisms, burials, and marriages gone out to parishes earlier we might have seen some very different entries.


Until 1969 the surname of a child wasn’t explicitly recorded in the birth register – entries were indexed under the surname of the father or the mother depending whether or not they were married to each other. In the earliest years of civil registration births which appeared to be illegitimate were usually indexed under the surnames of both parents – provided that the father’s name had been recorded – and a similar procedure was adopted in the late 20th century as the number of parents who were unmarried soared.


Finding a birth entry is obviously easier when it’s indexed under both surnames, although it won’t be readily apparent that the birth has been registered under both names unless you look (searching by index references at FreeBMD is my preferred option).


I wrote ‘appeared to be illegitimate’ in the previous paragraph because I’ve seen a birth entry for a child born to married parents in the 1840s which was recorded as if they weren’t married – the mother’s maiden name was shown, but not her married name. When the GRO’s new birth indexes were released in 2016 illegitimate births were indexed only under the mother’s surname, so this anomalous entry is hard to find – so it’s just as well that we still have access to the contemporary indexes.


A recent email from Ancestry about the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor prompted me to look up his 1875 birth index entry, which appeared to indicate that his parents were married, although according to all of the online sources I’ve checked there’s no evidence that they were. Here’s how his birth was registered:



There are discrepancies in the names of both parents – the father was actually Daniel Peter Hughes

Taylor, who was born in Sierra Leone and returned there after studying medicine in England; the mother is generally acknowledged to have been Alice Hare Martin. This British Library article has a suggestion as to where the Holmans surname came from, but I think further research is necessary – if you have any theories please post them on the LostCousins Forum (rather than writing to me).


Note that the birth was registered after 43 days, which seems to be just outside the usual 42- day time limit, though I’ve never been able to confirm whether the day of the birth and/or the day of registration should be counted. Sometimes birth dates were ‘adjusted’ to avoid a penalty, though that doesn’t seem to have happened in this case, as the baptism register gives the same date:


Register held by London Metropolitan Archives; copyright image used by permission of Ancestry. All Right Reserved.


Did Alice delay registration until the last minute in the hope that the father of her child might return and ‘make an honest woman of her’?


You’ll also have spotted that her son was Samuel Coleridge Taylor, not Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. This highlights something that we often forget – hyphenated surnames were extremely rare in England until the late 19th century. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created a double-barrelled surname using his middle name, didn’t use a hyphen.


Recently it became possible to register the birth of a child with a surname which is neither that of the father nor the mother – one member wrote to tell me that when the child of one of his relatives was born the surname chosen was formed by connecting the parents’ surnames with a hyphen. Many couples choose to hyphenate their surnames on marriage, but in this case they hadn’t, so it could potentially be confusing for family historians of the future.


We’re used to surnames changing on marriage: traditionally the wife takes the husband’s surname, but my 2nd cousin once removed took his wife’s surname at some point after they married in 1951; though their children’s births were registered under the original surname, when they eventually married they did so under their mother’s maiden name and, whilst this sometimes happens after a marriage break-up, in this case the father’s death was registered under the same surname.


Sometimes people change their surname before they marry – a distant cousin of mine was born into the Roof family, but married using the surname Rolfe; my grandmother was a Beamont at birth, but married as Beaumont (she wasn’t alone – the other members of her branch of the family also adopted the Beaumont spelling). Another relative insisted that her fiancé change his surname before they married – she didn’t want to be Mrs Coffin.


A sad story in the news recently highlights how name changes can confuse. The case of Archie Battersbee, a 12 year-old boy from a broken home who seems to have committed suicide in April, made headlines as his mother Hollie Dance contested the advice of doctors that it was in her son’s best interests for his life support to be turned off.


Archie’s parents had separated, though not divorced, so the fact that his parents had different surnames was not unusual, but when I found his birth index entry I was surprised to see that his mother’s maiden name was shown as Pittaway:



Some Google searching revealed that his mother’s name was originally Lisa Pittaway – presumably she adopted the name Hollie Dance after the marriage break-up. It must have been very confusing for poor Archie.  



Confusion in the chapel

Family historians soon learn not to trust the information on marriage certificates – so often the ages of the participants and the identities of their fathers are misleading – but these marriage entries from 1827 are quite remarkable:


Register held by Lancashire Archives; copyright image used by permission of Ancestry. All Right Reserved.


Notice that whereas the domiciles of participants would normally be shown as ‘of this parish’ (where appropriate), the wording used is ‘of this township’, reflecting the subsidiary status of the chapelry and, in one case ‘of Symonston in this chapelry’.


You will also have noticed that in four of the six marriages only one witness has signed the register, rather than the two required by law. (Several marriages on adjacent pages of the register are similarly deficient.)


But the outstanding feature is the fact that the wrong couples have signed entries 282, 283, 284 and 285. All four of these marriages took place on the same day, New Year’s Eve, and you have to wonder whether the celebrant (who came from the adjoining parish of Altham) had been checking out the communion wine. Three of the four couples made their mark, so they can hardly be blamed for what went wrong, and even if the fourth couple did notice, by the time they signed there was only one blank entry remaining.


Despite these horrendous errors the marriages would have been valid – to quote Professor Rebecca Probert in an email to me: “non-registration didn't invalidate the marriage, so mistakes in registering it couldn't. And there was no provision invalidating weddings for lack of witnesses either.”


Note: see the last issue for reviews of two of Professor Probert’s books on marriage law.



A double date in the graveyard

It’s not often that you see a legible 300 year-old headstone inscription in a graveyard – most inscriptions of that age have been worn away by the weather or obscured by a combination of moss, lichen, algae, and fungi.


It’s therefore not surprising that the inscription pictured on the right proved confusing to the LostCousins member who took the photograph: the wording is perfectly clear, but the year of death doesn’t look quite right…..


The clue is in the date – Janr the 2d – which for you or I would be the second day of the year, but in England in the first half of the 18th century the year began on March 25th, not January 1st. This practice continued until 1751.


From 1752 the year began on January 1st, effectively slicing 84 days from 1751 and making it the shortest year in English history.


Note: 1752 was also a shorter year than usual – Britain changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar


Although under English law the year began on March 25th, many people considered January 1st to be New Year’s Day – including Samuel Pepys, who wrote about it in his famous diary. Furthermore, in Scotland the change had taken place in 1600, so for over 150 years there was a difference in the calendar between the two countries.


To avoid confusion, if a date fell between January 1st and March 24th it was usual to write the year as, for example, 1665/6 or 1720/1 – hence the double date on the headstone. Family historians use the same convention today, but it’s not always clear which year is meant in transcribed records, and in some case different transcriptions will show different years.



Some certificates lost but Nuneaton?

I was alerted today to this article from the Coventry Telegraph, which talks about the theft of a folder of birth, marriage and death certificates from Nuneaton Register Office in 1996, and which is apparently causing problems for local residents who need copies.


Register offices don’t normally hold certificates other than blank certificates – they have registers, or at least they did until the process was digitized. Less attractive to a family historian, but more valuable to a thief, would be blank certificates as these could be used for fraudulent purposes.


Unlike some other media outlets the LostCousins newsletter is only interested in facts, and so I contacted Warwickshire County Council to find out the truth. It turns out that the theft involved registers that were stolen from a box safe in one of the offices; fortunately copies are sent quarterly to the General Register Office, so no entries were completely lost.



Railway children

Dr David Turner, lecturer in Railway Studies at the University of York has compiled an interesting Twitter thread on the history of perambulators on British railways – you’ll find it here.


For more about prams see this review from last August.



Who owns swans?

I always thought that swans were owned by The Queen, but that’s only partly true. According to the website of the Royal Family “The Queen retains the right to claim ownership of any unmarked mute swan swimming in open waters, but this right is mainly exercised on certain stretches of the River Thames.”


I wonder how she exercises her right – is roast swan a regular feature on the menu at Windsor? Incidentally, the term ‘unmarked’ means that the swan has not been claimed by another owner – I didn’t know this until I read this article in the Guardian about a rare book that is being auctioned at Sworders in Stansted Mountfitchet (the Essex village where LostCousins is based).


It’s amazing what you can find for sale at auctions, and what you might find hidden in a large lot, though there’s a family in New Zealand who got rather more than they bargained for (see this BBC News article).



Ancestry DNA sale SAVE 25%

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that, having taken just about every DNA test there is (including Whole Genome Sequencing), I’ve concluded that there’s only one test that I can wholeheartedly recommend, the Ancestry DNA test. Not because it’s cheaper, or more advanced – but because you’ll get far better results.


Ancestry not only have the largest database of people who have already tested, they integrate their enormous collection of family trees with DNA matches far more successfully than any other site. For us, the users, it means that it’s much easier to turn the mass of data into meaningful information – information that can both help us knock down ‘brick walls’ and validate our records-based research.


It’s true that there are some tools other sites offer that you won’t find at Ancestry, but that’s not a bad thing – using those tools effectively requires an understanding of genetics and statistics that few of us will ever possess. It’s like the difference between having to fix up your own car before you can drive somewhere, compared with getting into a chauffeur-driven limousine. Sure, you might not know how many horses there are under the bonnet, or what sort of carburettor is fitted, but you’ll get to your destination far quicker, with far less effort, and with fewer wrong turnings.


My DNA Masterclass explains how to make DNA work for you, rather than the other way round – in line with the LostCousins philosophy of achieving more whilst expending less time, less money, and less effort. By all means ignore the advice, but if you do, don’t come crying to me when things don’t work out – I’d be stupid to dole out advice to someone who hasn’t followed the advice I gave them previously!


Ancestry have just launched a DNA Sale in the UK, with £20 off the usual price of £79 plus shipping. Remember, you don’t have to decide who is going to test, so there’s nothing to stop you doing what I do, and ordering an extra kit or two. This not only locks in the price reduction, it saves on shipping costs.


This offer is not exclusive to LostCousins, but you can only support LostCousins when you follow the link below:


Ancestry.co.uk – SAVE £20 on DNA tests (UK only)


Note: it’s not just about the commission that helps to support my work – the more sales that are recorded as coming from LostCousins members, the more notice Ancestry are likely to take of the feedback from LostCousins members when I pass it on to them.   



Findmypast sale continues in Australia and New Zealand

It’s National Family History Month in Australia and New Zealand, so Findmypast are marking the occasion with a discount on all of their subscriptions – though as the discount only applies to the first payment, you’ll make by far the biggest saving when you lock in the discount for a full year with a 12 month subscription.


20% discount reduces the cost of a 12 month Plus subscription to $185.59, whilst a Pro subscription – which includes newspapers and worldwide records – costs $256.79. To support LostCousins please follow the link below and if you get a message about cookies click That’s fine (you can always go back and change the settings later):


Findmypast.com.au – SAVE 20% ON ALL SUBSCRIPTIONS



Success story

I frequently get emails like the one below, but I’m not always able to publish them (because of the often sensitive nature of the discoveries), so I’m very grateful to Robert for allowing me to share his story with you:


“I hope you will be interested in a major breakthrough using DNA ThruLines at Ancestry. I have been checking back the suggested descendant lines starting with my earliest known ancestors. My 4th great grandparents William Kibblewhite and Mary Pizzey were married at Hungerford, Berkshire in 1748, my line of descent being through their daughter Martha, born 1749-50. She was the only child I knew of. ThruLines suggested four potential matches, one from their son Henry born 1751 and three from a supposed son named William Pounds born 1762.


“The Pounds surname puzzled me. You probably know that Find My Past now have transcripts of many Berkshire parish records, so I tried a search of baptism records for children of William and Mary Kibblewhite and found just two, Martha and Henry. But the big surprise was that Henry’s entry appears as Henry Pound or Kibblewhik (sic). So I did a further search using the surname Pound, and found 4 more children, including William Pounds baptised 1753.


“But the discovery doesn’t stop there. I wanted to explore further the apparent change of surname. Many of the newly discovered descendants lived in the village of East Garston near Newbury, so I decided to try a Google search for ‘Kibblewhite Pounds’.


“I made the amazing discovery that the name Kibblewhite Pounds is still known in that village – indeed, it is possibly the oldest of the village families, tracing back to the 14th or 15th century. The East Garston Parish Council website has a memorial tribute, with photographs, to William Kibblewhite Pounds 1905-1986.


“So I shall now enquire further into the possible existence of a family history going back some 6 centuries (or more), with the hope of finding the forbears of my 4th great grandfather. Thanks to you for the great advice you give on following up DNA matches - this has certainly paid dividends for me!”


Robert’s story is a reminder that taking a DNA test is just the start of the voyage of discovery – it’s what you do afterwards that really matters.


FTDNA Banner



When I first started writing about DNA testing, back in 2006, Y-DNA tests were by far the most common - and also the most useful.


Because Y-DNA is passed on by males to their sons, it tends to follow the surname - the main exceptions being when there was illegitimacy (because a child typically takes the mother's surname) or adoption. Where one of these has occurred, a Y-DNA test can provide clues to the likely surname of the biological father.


These days Family Tree DNA are the only major provider of Y-DNA tests, and I would caution readers against purchasing Y-DNA tests from any other company (at best they will only be of value as paternity tests and, even then, only if the putative father also tests - they won’t help you research your ancestors).


Tip: although some autosomal DNA tests also examine parts of the Y-chromosome the information they provide isn't compatible with standalone Y-DNA tests. Y-DNA tests are based on STRs (short tandem repeats), repeating segments of DNA, whereas autosomal DNA tests look at SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms), individual letters of DNA that vary between individuals.


Y-DNA tests are relatively expensive because they are 'old technology'. Nevertheless, prices have dropped considerably over the years, and whereas the entry-level test looked at just 12 markers on the Y-chromosome when I first tested, 37 markers is now the minimum.


Advantages of Y-DNA tests



Disadvantages of Y-DNA tests



In the 7 years since I tested I haven't learned anything about my Calver ancestors that I didn’t already know - though it has at least confirmed that there are no recent illegitimacies or adoptions in that line.


However, I have been able to help some of my cousins in the US: one had an ancestor who was adopted in the 19th century, and he was able to identify the likely father as a result of matching with me. The others bear the surname Culver, which is a much more common surname than Calver in the US, though less common in England - I was able to explain that their ancestors probably changed the spelling after they arrived in the US (the two surnames have different etymological origins).


I’ve also got some clues to my Stevens ancestry, though the evidence is still circumstantial; there is also a possible lead on my Wells line, but I need more matches.


Ultimately, whether you might benefit from Y-DNA depends on whether there is a suitable donor in your tree. Most of the illegitimate ancestors in my tree were female, so Y-DNA cannot identify their father, but my great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Harrison, was said to be the son of another Joseph Harrison when he was baptised, aged nearly 5, in 1820 – and I'd like to find out whether that was really true.


Which of your 'brick walls' can be solved using Y-DNA? Now is the time to check, because there's a big saving to be made.....


Until the end of August you can save $20 on a 37-marker test, and even more on more comprehensive tests – though in most cases 37 markers are perfectly adequate. At just $99 during the offer the price is far lower than I paid back in 2012, and a substantial saving compared to the $169 price you might have paid in 2019.


If you think that Y-DNA might help you knock down one of your ‘brick walls, please use the link below so that you can support LostCousins when you make your purchase:





Woebegone or O-be-gone?

For the past two-and-a-half years my wife and I have been very careful to avoid contracting COVID-19 in the hope that vaccines would eventually provide a viable solution. It’s easier for us because we don’t have any children, let alone grandchildren – most of our friends and relatives who do have offspring have caught the disease for the first time since the beginning of July.


The announcement yesterday that the UK has become the first country to approve Moderna’s new dual vaccine, which is effective against both the original strain and the now-prevalent Omicron variant, is the news we’ve been waiting for. The mortality rate might be much lower with Omicron, but the risk of long COVID is still worryingly high, and the effectiveness of previous booster doses against Omicron infection has been minimal.


The only fly in the ointment is that, according to this BBC News article, there are 26 million people who qualify for the autumn booster dose, but there will be only 13 million doses of the vaccine available between now and the end of the year. However, Pfizer also have a modified vaccine in the pipeline – perhaps that will help fill the gap?


In the meantime we’re using lateral flow tests to limit the chance of infection spreading to or from the few friends and relatives we meet up with, most of whom are as cautious as we are (but you can never be too careful). When our stock of NHS tests runs out we’ll be ordering exactly the same kits from this website (hopefully they’ll still be half-price – it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind they offer).



Peter’s Tips

This weekend I read an online article entitled Apples are baking on branches and hosepipe ban hits millions as England falls into drought. Thankfully we have quite a good crop of apples this year, even though Essex is one of the driest parts of the country – though it’s the courgette crop that has really overwhelmed us.


Tomorrow I plan to make my first batch of Courgette, Apple, and Lemon jam – but earlier in the season when the supply of apples was limited to a few windfalls I was searching for courgette recipes, and came across this delicious curry recipe, which I’ve now made three times, each with slightly different modifications. We don’t go out of our way to choose vegetarian meals, but this is the sort of dish that I’d happily eat regularly.


The dry weather has certainly affected the blackberry crop, though I’m hopeful that the rain forecast for this week will help – I need something to go with the elderberries, which are just starting to ripen.


Did you hear about the Indian man who finally won a 22-year legal battle over an overcharge of a few pence? You can read about it here. I try to pick my battles a little more carefully, but I couldn’t help admiring his tenacity – just imagine what he could have achieved had he put all that time and energy into something more productive!


I couldn’t believe what a fuss people made over the increase in the Bank of England base rate to 1.75% – could you? When I bought my first house on 1st April 1977 (hardly an auspicious date) the rate was 9.5%, having been as high as 15% a few months earlier. By early 1980, when I sold the house so that I could give up my job and run my computer software business full-time, the rate had gone back up  - all the way to 17%, nearly 10 times today’s rate! What is it they say about those who don’t learn the lessons of history?


Finally, going back to food, I really didn’t know what to make of this article – it seems like a joke (or an art installation), but somehow I don’t think it is…..



Stop Press

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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2022 Peter Calver


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