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Newsletter – 15th December 2022




1921 Scotch found in Blackpool

Last surviving WW2 VC found in 1921 Scotland census

Centenarian ‘pen pals’ embrace technology

Protestation Returns 1641-42 indexed at Findmypast

Knocking down ‘brick walls’

Hundreds of prizes to be won

Please complete your My Prizes page

“My ancestors emigrated”

Still time to save 25% on Findmypast Gift Subscriptions NOW ENDS 23RD DECEMBER

British Army Pensioner records at The Genealogist

Historic aerial photos online

Two brutal murders in my home town - a century apart

Childhood illnesses

The muddled ages of South Korea

When family history is lost – and found

Nobody wrote this article

Ancestor poetry prize winners announced

Peter’s Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 7th 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. 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!




Until midnight on New Year’s Eve 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 won’t be asked to provide bank or credit card details. Because this offer coincides with the start of my annual 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!



1921 Scotch found in Blackpool

Last year LostCousins member Jan wrote to me with a conundrum – as a result of lockdown she was stuck in Scotland at the time of the England & Wales census, unable to return to her home in England. However, because the Scotland census had been postponed to 2022 she couldn’t fill in a Scottish census form – but by the time the delayed census took place she’d be back in England (all being well).


In the end Jan opted to complete her (English) census form as if she was at home in Birmingham. But for the Cleland family, faced with a similar situation a century earlier, it was different.


You will recall that the 1921 Census was also delayed – not by the Spanish Flu epidemic that had killed more people than lost their lives in the Great War – but by the threat of industrial action. Originally planned to take place on 24th April, it was rescheduled for 19th June (though because the forms were not reprinted it’s not immediately obvious from the records).


As you can see from this newsletter article from 2020 the dates considered were June and October, to avoid clashing with the holiday season – but on June 1921 the Cleland family were not at their home in Kirkcudbright, Scotland they were on holiday across the border in Blackpool, Lancashire.


© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives and with the kind permission of Findmypast


Most unusually the census form was typed – I imagine this was done before the Clelands left for their holiday. Also staying in Blackpool was their driver, one John Whan – who described himself as ‘Scotch’, a term that nowadays most Scots reserve for whisky, though it was once a perfectly respectable alternative to ‘Scottish’.   


© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives and with the kind permission of Findmypast


Unlike his employer, John Whan completed an English return; it’s instructive to compare the two forms, because there are several differences in the column headings.


Note: in compiling this article I’ve drawn upon the information in the ScotlandsPeople blog entry that you’ll find here.



Last surviving WW2 VC found in 1921 Scotland census

Colyn wrote from Australia to tell me that she has found John Alexander Cruickshank in the 1921 Scotland census. Born on 20th May 1920, he is the only person to have won the Victoria Cross during World War 2 who is still living – long may that continue!  


You can read his citation here – it’s amazing he survived the night, let alone survived to the age of 102. This page at the Imperial War Museum site includes further information. Cruickshank was invited to attend Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral, but I don’t know whether he was able to be there.



Centenarian ‘pen pals’ embrace technology

Two ‘pen pals’ who started corresponding by letter in 1938, then switched to email, have recently had their first video call – you can see them here. Perhaps this will encourage some of those who’ve yet to try Zoom to give it a go?   



Protestation Returns 1641-42 indexed at Findmypast

Findmypast have added an index to more than 132,000 additional records from Protestation Returns, bringing the total to nearly 149,000. You can search the index free – just follow this link – and whilst you’ll need a subscription to look at the records, in some cases they include no more information than you’ll see in the search results.


Indeed, since the original documents are free online, the parish and county – both shown in the search results – are all you really need to know. See my article from last year, and download the spreadsheet I created.


Unfortunately I can’t tell what proportion of the surviving returns are included in the index.



Knocking down ‘brick walls’

I’m delighted to confirm that genealogist and author Dr Janet Few has once again offered to help a lucky LostCousins member to knock down a ‘brick wall’ – see below to find out how you can win this amazing opportunity.


But only one of you can win – so wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could compare notes and collaborate with an experienced family historian who is trying to knock down one of your ‘brick walls’?


The good news is that there are dozens of LostCousins who share some of your ancestors – but I can only connect you to them if you’ve both entered the same relative on your My Ancestors page. This means that the more relatives you enter, especially from the 1881 censuses, the more connections you’ll make with ‘lost cousins’.


Why is the 1881 census the best one to use? It’s the only one that has always been free online, thanks to the volunteers who transcribed it many years ago (in a project co-ordinated by FamilySearch). Well over 2 million of the people on the England & Wales census have been entered by one or more members, almost 8% of the total, so the chances of getting a match are pretty good even if you only enter a few households.


Tip: a good strategy is to start with all the relatives you know about in 1841 (whether or not you can find them on that census), then track each branch and twig through to 1881 using the birth indexes, marriage indexes, and censuses.  



Hundreds of prizes to be won

I can’t promise that you’ll win a prize in my Christmas/New Year Competition, but with hundreds of prizes on offer the odds are very good. Indeed, last year some members won several prizes!



The TOP PRIZE this year has been generously donated by Findmypast – it’s a 12 month PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION offering virtually unlimited access to ALL of Findmypast’s billions of historical records from around the world (including the 1921 England & Wales census), modern electoral registers for the UK, and hundreds of millions of newspaper articles.   


There are lots more prizes to be won, including:



Janet Few is an experienced and qualified family, social, and community historian who has spoken at many national and international genealogical events. She is also a well-known author, several of whose books have been reviewed in this very newsletter, including Putting Your Ancestors in Their Place. A founder member of the Society for One-Place Studies, and a former Chair and Vice-Chair of the organisation, she is currently Chair of Devon Family History Society.


Whether you win this prize or not you’ll find it worthwhile reading Janet’s advice on what to do before you ask for help – you’ll find it here.



Wills are a wonderful source of information, but few family historians have mastered both the handwriting and the abbreviations.


I’m delighted that professional genealogist Dave Annal, former Principal Family History Specialist at The National Archives, and author of numerous books has offered to transcribe up to 4 pages from 1 or 2 wills submitted by the prize-winner (provided they are written in English rather than Latin).


Dave Annal’s blog is a great source of tips, and if you haven’t read his June 2021 post Walls Come Tumbling Down I would thoroughly recommend it – you’ll find the article here.



More family historians read this newsletter than any other independent genealogy publication, so just imagine what might happen if you were able to reach out to the readership!


Whether you have an ancestor who disappeared off the face of the earth, someone you can’t identify in a photograph, or any other family history-related mystery, if you’re the prize-winner I’ll give you up to a page in the newsletter to explain the problem and appeal for help solving it.


To have a chance of winning any of these wonderful prizes, all you need to do is enter my competition by adding relatives to your My Ancestors page, and indicate which prizes you are most interested in on your My Prizes page. Forgotten how to log-in to your LostCousins account? No problem, just click here and enter your email address (as shown in the text of the email you received telling you about this newsletter).


Other prizes include opportunities to attend exclusive Zoom presentations, with limited audiences so that everyone who wants to can ask a question (if you are on the guest list you will also have the opportunity to submit a question in advance, if you prefer). I’m still in the process of inviting speakers, but I’ve already arranged some great talks:



The leading expert on English marriage law and customs over the centuries, Professor Probert is the author of numerous books – both academic textbooks and easily understood guides for family historians like you and me.


Her best known book is the ground-breaking Marriage Law for Genealogists which debunked many of the myths that have seduced previous generations of family historians – you can read my review here.


Professor Probert will give a Zoom presentation followed by a Q&A session, but there will also be the opportunity to submit questions in advance. The presentation will commence at 10am (London time) on Saturday 11th February – put the date in your diary now in case you’re one of the lucky ones!



What I like most about genealogical mysteries is the continuity from one book in a series to the next – I feel that with each book I get to know a little bit more about the lead character. I can’t say that I’ve ever identified with Esme Quentin, the hero of Wendy Percival’s highly-popular books, but she’s certainly a convincing amalgam of some of the researchers I’ve come across since founding LostCousins back in 2004.


I’ll be interviewing Wendy Percival via Zoom, asking questions that have intrigued me – and hopefully some that have intrigued you. If you are fortunate enough to be in the audience you’ll also have a chance to ask questions – but please don’t expect Wendy to reveal very much about book 5 in the series, you’ll have to wait until it is released!


The interview will commence at 7pm (London time) on Monday 6th February – so make a note on your 2023 calendar.



It might be a new site, but A Few Forgotten Women, which launched earlier this month, was created by a team with a wealth of experience.


This event will start with a discussion between the founders of the site, and then we’ll open it up to the audience, for you to ask questions or tell us about the women in your tree.  It starts at 4pm (London time) on Saturday 28th January.


Tip: there are many more prizes to come – they’ll be added to the My Prizes page as soon as they have been confirmed.



Please complete your My Prizes page

Because there will be hundreds of prizes and hundreds of prize-winners there needs to be an efficient way of ensuring that the prizes go the entrants who are the most deserving and the most appreciative.


The My Prizes page allows you to indicate which prizes are of interest to you by giving each of them a rating for 10 (most interested) down to 1 (least interested). As to whether you are one of the most deserving entrants – that will depend on how many entries you add to your My Ancestors page during the period up to 31st January.


Note: some prizes will be awarded before the competition ends, so it is better to act sooner rather than later!



“My ancestors emigrated”

A third of LostCousins members live in the New World, and many are descended from Britons who migrated before the 1881 Census. If you’re one of them you may think that LostCousins can’t connect you to your cousins….


Well, think again! When your direct ancestors migrated they may well have taken their family with them, and they may well have been followed by other family members. But they would nevertheless have left hundreds of cousins behind, and it’s those cousins who are the ancestors of your living British cousins.



Still time to save 25% on Findmypast Gift Subscriptions NOW ENDS 23RD DECEMBER

If there are family members who are struggling to decide what to buy you for Christmas, why not suggest that they club together to buy you a Findmypast subscription?


Until Friday 23rd December most Gift Subscriptions to Findmypast are discounted by 25%, which represents a very useful saving at a time when most prices are going up. But do please ask your relatives to use the link below so that their purchase will benefit LostCousins – it’s thanks to the commission we receive that I’ve been able to keep the cost of LostCousins subscriptions unchanged at £10 since 2005.


Findmypast.co.uk – SAVE 25% ON 3 & 12 MONTH PLUS & PRO GIFT SUBSCRIPTIONS


Findmypast.com.au – SAVE 25% ON 3 & 12 MONTH PLUS & PRO GIFT SUBSCRIPTIONS






Tip: the discount only applies to the initial period, so if your relatives can only afford a 3 month subscription you might want to chip-in so that you can lock in the savings for a full 12 months.


The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online


British Army Pensioner records at The Genealogist

When I heard that The Genealogist had added nearly 630,000 records from the Royal Hospital Chelsea – which was responsible for paying army pensions – I didn’t expect to find anything new, because I’d already searched the records at other sites.


So I was pleasantly surprised to discover this previously unseen entry for my great-great-great-great grandfather, an Irish Catholic who served in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars:


© Crown Copyright images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives and with the kind permission of The Genealogist


Most of the information I already had from other sources, but there’s something written below ‘London’ which I can’t decipher – maybe someone reading this can?


I know from another source that he received a pension of one shilling, though I don’t whether that was 1s a day, 1s a week, 1s a month, or (surely not) 1s a year? Again, there must be someone out there who knows more about these things than I do.


I don’t have a lot of ancestors who served in the army, but I did also find several previously unseen records for my great-great-great-great uncle John Butwell



There has been a lot of interest in the exclusive offer I arranged at The Genealogist – you can read all about it here. But all good things must come to an end, and this offer only runs until Christmas Eve – so if it is something you’re considering, I suggest you make a note in your diary or (better still) make the decision now!



Historic aerial photos online

400,000 historic aerial photos from the collection of 6 million held by Historic England are now available online – and they’re free to view.


According to the website they will adding more maps as they are digitised.



Two brutal murders in my home town - a century apart

Yesterday the callous murderer of law graduate Zara Aleena was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 38 years. Almost precisely a century earlier, on 11th December 1922, a man and a woman were sentenced to death following another brutal murder that had also been committed in Ilford, the town where I grew up.


Frederick Bywaters and Edith Thompson were convicted of the murder of Edith’s husband, Percy Thompson, and executed after their appeals were rejected – Edith Thompson was the first woman to be hanged in England for 15 years.


Ironically Bywaters had, a year earlier, narrowly escaped death when he fell while boarding a train at nearby Barking station. But for the prompt intervention of a fellow passenger who pulled the communication cord, he might have died and Percy Thompson might have lived.    



Childhood illnesses

A lot of the diseases that terrified my mother when I was growing up are no longer such a threat, thanks to vaccines and better treatments – but scarlet fever, which kept me away from school for much of 1956, has made a resurgence (as the NHS advice on scarlet fever explains). Last week there 866 cases reported in Wales alone, a record.


The Wellcome Library has a collection of Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972 for London boroughs – you’ll find them here. Checking the 1956 report for Ilford I can see that I was just one of 139 children aged between 5 and 15 who were diagnosed with scarlet fever that year – I wonder if they all took as long to shake it off as I did?



The muddled ages of South Korea

Ages on British censuses are notoriously unreliable, but the way that South Koreans measure their age would be completely foreign to us – they are considered to be aged 1 on the day they are born, and another year is added on 1st January. This means that someone born on 30th December 2022 would be considered 2 years old on 1st January 2023, rather than 2 days old.


But just to confuse things they count the years differently for certain purposes, as this Guardian article explains.


However from next June it’s planned to change to the system that’s generally accepted internationally, so everybody will get a year or two younger.



When family history is lost – and found

I found this article from the Guardian quite moving. Well worth reading, and definitely something to mull over….


But on occasion something thought lost forever is found – as in this case, or this one. Home movies are a wonderful way of bringing back memories – there’s something special about seeing someone moving, even though there’s no sound and no colour. Since I started researching I’ve uncovered two lots of home movies that feature long-dead relatives, both shot by family friends – wonderful!



Nobody wrote this article

If you're reading this, you're probably a genealogist who is passionate about tracing your family tree and reconnecting with long-lost relatives. And if that's the case, you've probably heard of LostCousins – the online resource that helps genealogists like you find living relatives who are also researching their family history.


LostCousins is a unique website that uses the information from your own family tree to connect you with relatives who are also members of the site. It's easy to use – all you have to do is enter the details of your relatives (including their names, dates of birth, and any other relevant information) and LostCousins will do the rest.


Once you've entered your information, LostCousins will search for other members who are researching the same ancestors as you. When a match is found, you'll receive an email notification and can then get in touch with your newfound cousin. It's that simple!


But LostCousins is more than just a tool for finding relatives – it's also a community of genealogists who are all passionate about their family history. The site features a number of forums where members can discuss their research, ask questions, and share tips and advice with each other.


One of the best things about LostCousins is that it's completely free to use. That's right – you don't have to pay a penny to access the site and all of its features. This makes it an incredibly valuable resource for anyone who is researching their family tree on a budget.


So why not give LostCousins a try? Sign up today and start connecting with your long-lost cousins – you never know what fascinating information you might uncover about your family's past!


The article above was written by the artificial intelligence chatbot CHATGPT – I asked it to “Write an article for the LostCousins newsletter”. It’s not perfect (no mention of the fact that we use information from the censuses) but, to coin a phrase, “the bot done good”.



Ancestor poetry prize winners announced

Poems by Post invited LostCousins members to write a poem about one of their ancestors – and there was an excellent response. What a talented lot you are!


The winners have just been announced – and you can read the entries submitted by the runners-up here on the Poems by Post website. The winning entry, by Julie Collins, will receive it’s first airing when it is distributed to Poems by Post subscribers around the world in March – what a wonderful accolade!


(Until tomorrow, Friday 16th December, you can save 20% on gift subscriptions to Poems by Post using the discount code 20WHENEVER – if you use this link the code will be added to your basket automatically.)


Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who took part. Just for fun I invited the chatbot CHATGPT to write a poem about family trees in the style of Shakespeare, and this is what it came up with:


Oh, how sweet the family tree doth grow

With roots so deep and branches high

A symbol of our kin and blood

A testament to times gone by


In every leaf and every bark

A story lies of those of old

Of love and strife, of joy and pain

A legacy to behold


Through every twist and every turn

The family tree doth guide our way

A beacon of our history

A never-ending source of pride


So let us cherish every branch

And tend to its leaves with care

For the family tree doth give us strength

And guides us on our journey fair.


Better than anything I could have written, methinks!



Peter’s Tips

Subject to weather, strikes, and Acts of God, on Monday we are finally going to have full-fibre broadband installed – hopefully in the next issue I’ll be able to let you know how it went.


This is the last Christmas that Royal Mail will allow the use of definitive stamps without barcodes, but the good news is that the deadline for using up non-barcoded stamps has been extended to 31st July 2023 following a campaign by newspapers and others. Stamps with pictures (commemoratives) will continue to be valid even though they don’t have barcodes – reading between the lines it seems that the driver behind the change is the fraudulent re-use of stamps, a problem that only seems to affect the 1st and 2nd Class definitives that are in everyday use.


If you’re left with stamps that you can’t use before the deadline you can trade them in for barcoded stamps – you’ll find the form here.


With Christmas fast approaching newspapers and magazines have been reviewing Christmas fare. Most of it is of little interest to me (I shall make my own mincemeat and my own mince pies as usual), but I did look closely at the reviews of ‘traditional’ panettone, and Asda seemed to offer a reasonable product at a fair price. However it wouldn’t have been worth paying the delivery charge had I not noticed they had a special offer on my favourite wine – that was the icing on the panettone, so to speak.


The delivery arrived late afternoon by which time it was dark, so I transferred the items into bags and took them indoors – and only after the driver had left did I realise that I’d received just 2 of the 4 panettoni I had ordered – instead I’d been given 2 smaller panettoni of a different brand. These were priced at £3.50 each rather than the £7.50 each that I’d been charged. Asda had also sent a pair of rubber gloves which were the wrong size.


Never mind, there was a refund request form on the website, which I completed the next day. Sorted? Well it might have been, had not my refund request been rejected within seconds, the ‘explanation’ being that my previous orders had been taken into account. That was a bit of surprise because, whilst I had placed an order with Asda a few years ago, I’d had to re-register before I could place this order – so goodness knows what they were referring to.


After making several phone calls I was eventually given a £5 e-voucher to use against my next order – the only problem being that if I do place another order before Christmas the delivery charge will be at least £6.50, so by that time I’d be even more out of pocket. The Customer Support person may also have told me that I could hand the incorrect items from the previous delivery back to the driver, but I could barely understand a word she said (nor could my wife, who by this point was listening in).


It’s not worth the hassle of disputing it with my credit card company, but I can at least warn the 44,532 UK readers of this newsletter that the systems at Asda are in need of a shake-up.



Stop Press

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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2022 Peter Calver


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