Newsletter - 21st December 2019
New Year competition launches today GREAT PRIZES
How to join the LostCousins Forum EXCLUSIVE & FREE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 11th December) 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. Everyone who received an email about this newsletter is already a member, but If you found your way here by some other means, do join - it's FREE, and in future you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition available!
A year ago I revealed that tens of thousands of birth and death entries in the GRO's online indexes had either been omitted altogether, or duplicated in the wrong quarter. So when I heard that the GRO had updated tens of thousands of index entries my first thought was that they'd put right the mistakes I'd uncovered with the help of LostCousins members - but it turned out not to be the case.
In all the GRO updated 36,000 records where the death index entries showed the wrong volume number. It's quite possible that the errors wouldnít have affected the ordering of certificates and PDFs using the indexes (since the GRO would have been using the same system), but if you noted down the index references for one of the affected entries you might find that the volume number has changed.
The affected quarters and volumes were:
1840 3rd quarter - volume 24 incorrectly shown as 25
1841 3rd quarter - volume 25 incorrectly shown as 24
1869 2nd quarter - volume 9D incorrectly shown as 10A
1869 2nd quarter - volume 10A incorrectly shown as 9D
1895 3rd quarter - volume 8B incorrectly shown as 8C
1895 3rd quarter - volume 8C incorrectly shown as 8B
1911 2nd quarter - volume 8B incorrectly shown as 7B
1911 2nd quarter - volume 7B incorrectly shown as 8B
The errors and omissions I'm writing about relate to batches of thousands of consecutive entries. There are tens or hundreds of thousands of individual entries that have been omitted or mistranscribed, and for obvious reasons I don't want you to write to me about them, no matter how annoying you might find them. Should you suspect that an entry is part of a batch please prove it before writing to me -you'll learn a lot just by going through the process (this article describes how to do it).
From now until Monday 6th January 2020 the LostCousins site will be completely free, allowing you the opportunity to connect with as many new cousins as you can - and unlike some other sites you wonít be asked to provide bank or credit card details. Because this offer coincides with the start of my New Year competition (see below) the ancestors and cousins you add to your My Ancestors page will also count as entries - it's a really great opportunity!
If you're new to LostCousins, or have forgotten how easy it is to enter relatives, see the Getting Started Guide on the Help & Advice page - and remember, all of the key censuses we use are available FREE online (see the Census Links page for a list) , so you wonít need any subscriptions at all.
Tip: even if you donít add any new relatives you can take advantage of this offer to check for matches with your existing entries (click the Search button on your My Ancestors page).
New Year competition launches today GREAT PRIZES
This year's competition is bigger and better than ever before, with an amazing collection of prizes to be won - and to win you only have to do what should come naturally to any LostCousins member, search for your 'lost cousins'.
(For those of you who've yet to begin searching for cousins, this is a very good time to put your excuses to one side and make a start, even if you can only spare 15 minutes - that's all it took for a previous winner of my annual competition!)
Every direct ancestor or blood relative you enter on your My Ancestors page between 20th December 2019 and midnight (London time) on Sunday 2nd February 2020 represents an entry in the competition, and for each one you enter from the 1881 Census you'll get a bonus entry.
Tip: a 'direct ancestor' is someone from whom you are descended, such as a great-great grandparent - most people just call them ancestors; a 'blood relative' is a cousin, ie someone who shares your ancestry.
Shortly after the competition closes I'll start picking relatives at random from all those correctly entered during the period of the competition, and the lucky members who entered those relatives will be able to choose a prize from the list (the first person out of the hat gets to choose first, the second person has next choice, and so on).
Note: I canít wait forever for winners to make up their minds, so if you donít respond within 24 hours I'll award you the prize I consider to be most valuable of those remaining.
This year I'm going to keep up the excitement and the suspense by telling you about the prizes you can win one by one, in successive newsletters, starting with:
WIN A DAY TICKET TO FAMILY TREE LIVE 2020, at Alexandra Palace in London - an historic venue that's just amazing to walk around, as you'll know if you visited last year (there's also an incredible view looking down onto London).
There are FIVE tickets to be won, all generously donated by Family Tree Magazine, co-sponsors of the show (with the Family History Federation). Tickets will be valid on either Friday or Saturday (but not both).
The good news is that I'll be speaking on both days - you can see the lecture programme here.
But to win one of those tickets, or any of the other fantastic prizes I'll be offering, you need to add entries to your My Ancestors page. If you're new to LostCousins, or have forgotten how easy it is to enter relatives, see the Getting Started Guide on the Help & Advice page. Incidentally, if it takes you more than a minute or two to enter an entire household from the 1881 Census please ask for my advice - there may be some misunderstanding.
Tip: although there's the option to enter lots of extra information about your relatives on the second (optional) part of the Add Ancestor form, it won't be used in the matching process. The only information I always enter, when I know it, is the maiden name of a married woman - this is automatically added to the Index of Maiden Names, so might help your cousins.
How to join the LostCousins Forum EXCLUSIVE
Some people think that a forum is just like Facebook, populated by people with too much time on their hands. And some probably are - but the forums that I'm involved with work the other way round, they're designed to SAVE time. Whereas sites like Facebook bombard you with notifications (few of which are likely to be of any interest, if my experience is anything to go by), forums allow you to specify what youíre interested in, so your valuable time wonít be wasted.
For example, at the LostCousins Forum you can quickly and easily find information that's just as useful as anything in this newsletter - just a little more specialised. Why? Because for something to feature in the newsletter it needs to be relevant to a significant proportion of the 67,000 people on the mailing list, whereas on the forum you might find something that relates to a single parish.
It's not just one way - as a member of the forum you'll be able to post information of interest to others, or ask questions on just about anything related to family history. Because of the way that the forum works it'll be seen by the people best able to help - and you'll get an email to let you know when your question has been answered.
Membership of the LostCousins Forum is FREE, but it's only open to those who are taking part in my LostCousins project to connect cousins around the world.
Simply complete your My Ancestors page, adding relatives from the censuses I've selected, but giving priority to the 1880/1881 censuses. When your Match Potential (shown on your My Summary page) reaches the threshold you'll be given a code that will let you into the forum. Currently the threshold is just 1 - a very modest target for anyone with British ancestors, even if they left these shores long before 1881.
Tip #1: remember that ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree, so itís the branches and twigs that you need to track through to 1881. The best way to find 'lost cousins' is to enter their ancestors!
Tip #2: a good approach is to start with all the relatives you know about in 1841 (whether you can find them on the census or not), then track each family member as they marry and have children, until you get to 1881. Now that the GRO's birth indexes for England & Wales include maiden names it's a lot easier than it used to be.
Tip #3: always think of your cousins - and not just at Christmas; if you only enter relatives from the ancestral lines you're currently working on, how are your cousins going to benefit from your past research
New look for Findmy Past
Findmypast have revealed a new logo and a new look for their website - and whilst itís currently only found at their UK site, you donít have to be in the UK to see it. Indeed if you have a Findmypast subscription you should be able to use any of their worldwide sites for your research (and the same applies at Ancestry, by the way).
Here's what the home page looks like to a new user:
The functionality of the site hasn't changed - no records have been added in connection with this change, and none have been taken away. And the cost of subscriptions hasnít gone up, either. Findmypast's new look for a new decade is designed to be more friendly and less functional in appearance - but what do you think about it, have they succeeded in their aim? Please don't email me with your thoughts, instead join the discussion on the LostCousins Forum.
Nearly 3 years ago I wrote about the risks of cousin marriages, particularly those between 1st cousins, where the likelihood of one of at least one of their offspring inheriting a genetic defect is worryingly high.
Of course, many cousins are lucky - either because they haven't inherited the same defective genes from the grandparents they share, or because they donít pass those genes on to their own children. But without DNA testing it is mostly down to luck.
The American geneticist George Church, a DNA pioneer who is a professor at Harvard Medical School and co-author of over 500 academic papers, has recently announced plans for a 'dating app' that would screen potential life-partners for genetic defects that they might pass on to their children. The thing is, you donít need to be cousins to carry the same defective gene as your partner - itís just that if you are cousins the chances are many times higher.
But what seems to many like common sense has been condemned by others as eugenics (a word that's almost as ugly as impeachment). Is it wrong to want to avoid producing children who are going to suffer?
According to a survey of more than 2000 Britons carried out on behalf of KPMG, a majority (53%) would be willing to share their DNA with a pharmaceutical company to help research for drugs and treatments. Not surprisingly the proportion in favour is even higher amongst those who already have a chronic illness or disability.
The survey also asked respondents about their attitudes to DNA testing for family history purposes, but the results have yet to be published. I'm in correspondence with KPMG and hope to be able to provide extracts in the new year.
A former Florida football coach who trained the victim's son has been charged with the 1981 murder of a young mother - all as a result of his distant cousins taking DNA tests for genealogical purposes. Well done you guys!
You can read more about the story here on the CNN website.
Family Tree DNA have discounted prices until Christmas - but their Y-DNA test is the only one I'd generally recommend, and even then it might not be the best option. Unless you're taking part in a Surname Project the chances are that testing your Y-DNA wonít provide any useful information, so if your 'brick wall' is within range of autosomal DNA (ie it's in the last 5 or 6 generations), Ancestry DNA is a much better bet (and it can tell you about any of your lines, which makes it really cost-effective).
Prices below exclude shipping.
Ancestry.co.uk (UK only) - reduced from £79 to £59 until 24th December
Ancestry.com.au (Australia/New Zealand) - reduced from $129 to $89 until 25th December
Ancestry.com (US) - reduced from $99 to $59 until 31st December
Ancestry.ca (Canada) - reduced from $129 to $89 until 25th December
Family Tree DNA - save up to 40% on ALL tests
Remember, you can transfer Ancestry DNA results to most other sites in order to get more matches, but you canít go the other way. The only way to get exposure to the world's largest genealogical DNA database is to test with Ancestry - which is why I re-tested with them in 2017.
I've met fewer than 1% of the 67,000 family historians who receive this newsletter, so I was absolutely delighted when one of the LostCousins members I have met wrote to me with this wonderful story. Because living people are involved, and some of them are yet to discover the truth, no names are given:
I wanted to share my recent experience of DNA.
When I tested with Ancestry they came back with a list of many potential cousins around the world. I contacted all the close matches and generally established how each of us was related. But this left two mysteries: two people identified by Ancestry as 1st or 2nd cousins, but who claimed they were unable to help.
I persisted and one admitted that we were indeed (half) 1st cousins as her mother was the illegitimate daughter of my grandfather. My new-found cousin had been reluctant to admit this because her mother was still alive, in her 90s, and did not want anyone other than her genealogist daughter to know. I thought all my aunts and uncles had died so it was exciting news to find that my late mother had an unknown half-sister who was still alive, with four children, my 1st cousins. (The remaining DNA 'mystery' is one of these children, but she does not yet know the story.)
There was a family rumour that granddad had another family but I had found no trace through traditional research. Now I checked my new aunt's birth certificate: granddad had used his true given names and occupation but had invented a new surname - and not on just one birth cert but three! (The other two children died as infants). When his daughter grew up, she emigrated from the UK to North America where she and her family now live.
What must have been a scandal or nightmare back in the 1920s, today seems quite wonderful! Sadly, my new aunt has not yet given permission for the story to be told to her other children, or for me to meet her, but I hope to soon meet the one cousin who is in the know.
I thought I had finished family history research, but this chance find has got me started again.
Thank you for encouraging me and your other readers to take DNA tests. They can break down walls, sometimes walls we didn't know existed!
I can really relate to that story because my own maternal grandfather, Frederick Wells, is thought to have fathered an illegitimate child in the 8 years between his first wife dying (after less than 2 years of marriage), and his marriage to my grandmother in 1915. I have no information about the child - I donít even know whether it was a boy or a girl - and there's now little chance that they're still living, But I would love to meet their descendants!
I can't advise every member individually on the merits of DNA, but fortunately I don't have to - I doubt there's a single person reading this newsletter who wouldnít make discoveries about their family if they took the Ancestry DNA test.
Note: some people do fail to make discoveries, but only because they take the wrong test, or fail to follow the simple steps in my DNA Masterclass. Testing your DNA isn't a substitute for doing research - the two work hand in hand.
After the last newsletter several members wrote in with some of their own recollections from the war, and the years of austerity that followed. Here's what Eva told me:
"I was six years old when the Second World War began, and remember quite a lot about the diet and cooking. There was a very limited supply of fruit and I hated most vegetables, so i got scurvy. It's a wonder I've still got so many of my own teeth - probably due to the discovery of fluoride - but they're all filled.
"The doctor prescribed something called Haliborange, a mix of concentrated orange juice and halibut liver oil, much more delicious than the cod-liver oil we all were told to take (though ours was mixed with malt extract to make it palatable, so I didn't understand why my friends complained).
" At school they often gave us swedes with loads of pepper - I'd sit over it all through the lunch hour and couldn't swallow it, the same with the limp lettuce we were offered. We grew runner beans in the garden, and she would bottle them and bring them out in the winter. And my father grew spinach and potatoes, but he wasn't a great gardener. Nowadays he have Googled instructions, or even bought a book, but information was so hard to come by before the Internet - people forget.
"It was brunch late on Sunday mornings, with most of the bacon ration. We used to have macaroni on wash day with cheese, the rest of the bacon and tomatoes. Wash day was Tuesday for some reason, although all the neighbours did it on Monday.
"The remains of the Sunday joint (I'm not sure whether we had it on Sunday or Saturday evening, but Father had to work on Saturday) were minced and turned into something my grandmother who did the cooking, called Fricadelle, a rissole really. I remember she struggled with the shortage of onions, essential for tasty dishes, as I know myself! We were German refugees, so her cooking was different. She would cook savoury rice with chicken in a parsley sauce on high days and birthdays - she would never roast them, because they were usually far too old and tough
"I had to learn how to roast meat from my English husband, because it's something I wasn't brought up to do. Meat in Germany wasn't of the right quality (or too expensive if it was good enough, perhaps). She just did pot roasts.
"Her specialty was yeast baking, because you could bake cakes without using the precious butter ration - she'd brought up her own daughters - in Germany - during World War !. I still have her tattered old German cookbook with the thrifty war-time recipes. Of course the Government published cookery advice in England as well, but mainly, I think after WW2 was over, and my mother had taken up the reins.
"But I won prizes in Good Housekeeping Magazine competitions with the cooking methods I learned from my grandmother after I started cooking for my own family. English readers took a while to catch up!"
Eva's memories chimed with me because as a child my mother would give me haliborange tablets. I quite liked them - we had so few sweets in those days. I heard tales about cod liver oil, and I believe I was occasionally threatened by the production of a bottle, but I donít remember ever taking any.
Beryl lives in Australia now, but when war broke out she was still living in England:
"Your newsletter brought back memories.
"Christmas 1939 I spent as an evacuee with my aunt and uncle, Herbert Sanders, in Burbage, Leicestershire. We went to church, every service, as my uncle was the churchwarden. After 9 months of the phony war I returned to my parents in London, very homesick. Once the bombing started in ernest we moved as a family to Hinckley, We had chickens , so no egg ration, and we took over another uncle's 'allotment', so we had plenty of potatoes and green vegetables. At some stage I had an Australian pen friend who kindly sent us a parcel of dried fruit, so we had lovely Christmas pudding and cake. When meat was very short I had to go to a pork butcher and get tripe - my mother hated it, but my East Ender Dad loved it.
"In 1941 an aunt died of TB. I was tall and skinny so sent to the TB clinic where I was given a special allowance of 1pint of milk a day. There were plenty of rice puddings and bread and butter puddings and sometimes Spotted Dick and custard. Rabbit was available, and my mother made lovely Irish stews , sometimes there was steak and kidney or stuffed hearts - offal was not rationed.
"We had a damson tree, so fruit was bottled and jam was made. In the attic straw was laid down and lovely Bramley apples were stored (along with Dad's artificial arm - never used!)
"At the local Grammar school we would have to go and help get the potato crop in for local farmers. Coal was in short supply and I remember going through the snow with a sleigh to a local farm to get cut wood.
"The bombing went on night after night because we were under the flight path to Coventry and Birmingham. My father went out with the ARP warden, and my sister and I slept under the stairs.
"Meat rationing lasted until June 1954. As a student nurse in London (1948) we were very happy to have venison from Balmoral as the Queen Mother was our Patron. We used to carry around our jars of sugar and tatty packs of butter. No overweight young people in our day!
Quite right, Beryl - the health of the population improved during the war, in spite of (or, more likely, because of) rationing. An article published on the BBC website last week really brought home how difficult it is to lose weight through exercise - if you want to lose weight the easy solution is to eat less, a sobering thought as we approach the Christmas festivities.
Beryl mentioned that she was a student nurse - she trained at the South London Hospital for Women and Children (Clapham Common) for 2 years, then 1 year at Salisbury General Hospital for male nursing, and then back to South London for her final year, 1952. Coincidentally the authors of the review that follows were also student nurses in London - they were training at the London Hospital in Whitechapel when I met them almost half a century ago..... †
Many of us have nurses in our family trees so Rituals & Myths in Nursing: A Social History caught †my eye when it was published recently. It covers the period from 1919 onwards, straddling the foundation of the National Health Service in 1948.
As it's written by a former nurse I decided that it would be a good idea to invite two former nurses who I met when they were student nurses to read it and share their thoughts with other LostCousins members.
Here's what Margaret and Mary had to say:
"As nurses starting our training in the late 1960s at a London teaching hospital we found this book very nostalgic. The book not only covers myths and rituals but also often humorous anecdotes from nursing staff about work as a nurse, mainly from 1950s onwards.
"We didn't use Marmite on pressure ulcers like one Ward Sister, but we did use egg white and oxygen, now proved to be not only useless but unsafe as well.
"It is an ideal book for dipping into, and doesn't need to be read in one go. However it often flits from one topic or character to the next in the same chapter, potentially getting the reader lost at times, and having to re-read an earlier passage.
"The book is a wonderful catalyst for reminiscence and discussion, not only for nurses who trained in the 20th century, but also for nurses practising now, who may gain some insight into how things have progressed since the days of Florence Nightingale. If you had a nurse in your family, or a relative as an inpatient in hospital at some point, this book covers some of the experiences they might have had.
"The historical information appears to be well researched with thoughtful insights into this profession, and the book is a good read."
Much as I enjoyed dipping into the book, I couldnít tell how realistic it was - so many thanks to Margaret Wilkinson (nťe Steer) and Mary Howley (nťe Prewett) for their expert review.
As usual you can support LostCousins if you use the appropriate link below when you order the book - which was available for less than £10, including UK delivery, when I last checked (it's even cheaper in Kindle format):
The newest addition to my ever-growing pile of books to read is The Death Certificate, Stephen Molyneux's long-awaited follow up to The Marriage Certificate. I haven't started it yet, but if it's half as good as its predecessor I'll be in for a treat. You can read the original review of The Marriage Certificate here, and my exclusive interview with the author here.
I'm sure that most of you are so well-organised that you've bought gifts for everyone already - but for those who have had other things on your mind, here are some useful things that I've bought this year:
Fitness tracker - less than £30, and as well buying one as a gift, I've been using one myself for over a month
USB charger with 4 ports and plugs for UK & Europe - less than £10, and as well as buying two as gifts, I use them myself
Men's slippers with memory foam - I'm wearing mine now
Stainless steel, double-walled cafetiere 1 litre - I couldnít manage without mine (I have one for tea and one for coffee); less than £20
Electric blanket - snug, and ideal for winter (especially if you have cold feet like me)
Samsung compact laser printer - under £45 (my first laser printer cost me £1500 second-hand)
Christmas Day can be challenging for the cook of the household - and, for almost every one of the last 40 years that has been yours truly....
In the past I've cooked Christmas dinner for as many as 18 people - that was quite a challenge, especially since in those days I'd serve up three different types of potato (roast, mashed, and new), at least five vegetables (the essentials were sprouts, German-style red cabbage, carrots, parsnips and peas), three different stuffings, as well as bacon rolls, sausages, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, and gravy made from turkey stock. Phew!
These days the gatherings are much smaller, and I no longer feel the need to put myself under so much pressure. But however many youíre cooking for, the key is to plan in advance, do as much preparation as possible ahead of time, and - most importantly - create a written timetable and check that it's feasible. Often the limiting factors are not the number of hands (although that can also be a problem), but space on the hob and in the ovens. I have a Hostess trolley that gets wheeled in - literally - when there's not enough space to heat plates and serving dishes, or to keep vegetables warm.
Of course, things never go quite to plan, and that's why itís important to learn from our mistakes - although my timetable looks the same every year there are always subtle changes to avoid clashes and slippage that occurred in previous years. And sometimes it's necessary to be a little less ambitious: at one time I'd offer a choice of three starters, which is fine if youíre running a restaurant and have staff to help, but rather onerous if you're on your own in the kitchen, with no more than occasional assistance from volunteers.
But I do like to offer a choice of desserts - not everyone appreciates Christmas Pudding - and fresh fruit salad always goes down a treat. It looks good too, if you arrange it in the hollowed-out halves †of the pineapple (you weren't going to use tinned pineapple, were you?). Chantilly Cream works really well, but if you donít have the time pouring cream is fine. I do like to serve home-made brandy butter and rum butter with the pudding, but they can be made the day before. But I'm afraid I cheat and make custard from custard powder - if it was good enough for my Mum, then it's good enough for me.
This year I'll be cooking the turkey on Sunday 22nd, as that's the day there will be most of us around the table. I haven't decided yet what we'll eat on Christmas Day - but there are plenty of joints in the freezer, all picked up at bargain prices over the past few weeks. I think it was 11 years ago that we had a wonderful haunch of venison, which I had bought at the farmers' market in the next village - it turned out to be the last time my father was able to join us for Christmas, and apparently it was also the first time Dad had ever eaten venison.
No matter how hot and hectic it is in the kitchen I always allow myself a glass or two of champagne during the final stages of preparation - slaving over a hot stove certainly works up a thirst! But never more than that, otherwise the turkey might end up on the floor.....
This is where any major updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error first reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check again before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......
This isnít my last newsletter of 2019 - indeed, I hope to publish the next edition on Christmas Day, a tradition that I know many of you appreciate. In fact I'll be working most days and checking my email every day over the holidays, so if you have an urgent question you can get in touch - but please include the word 'Urgent' in the title of the email.
© 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?