Newsletter – 20th
Wills consultation raises key questions HOT TOPIC
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Who Do You Think You Are? magazine EXCLUSIVE OFFER
DNA for Christmas ENDS
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Wills consultation raises key questions HOT TOPIC
Friday the Ministry of Justice published a consultation on the future of original
wills (and supporting documentation) from 1858 onwards. But first, let’s remind
ourselves about earlier wills….
wills prior to 1858 are held by The National Archives, or in records offices
around the country. My ancestors were poorer than most, but nevertheless some
of them made wills which went to probate. For example, John Calver, the
youngest brother of my great-great-great-great grandfather William Calver, was
a mere coachman for one of the local gentry – but nevertheless
he made a will which went to probate after he died in 1854.
family historians with ancestors from England & Wales will be familiar with
Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) Wills which are online at Ancestry and
The Genealogist – however what we see are not original wills, but digital scans
of black-and-white microfilmed images of the registered copies of the wills. The
National Archives does hold original wills (or in some cases copies of the
originals made under supervision during the probate process) in PROB 10 – for example,
the will of my coachman relative will be in PROB 10/7019 – but so far I’ve never felt the need to view the originals as it
would involve a trip to Kew.
1858 the system changed – instead of wills being proved in a multiplicity of
church courts the Principal Probate Registry was established. When I began my research I sent off a number of cheques for £5 to obtain
photocopies of wills, if they existed – but these days you can order them online
for just £1.50, and if a will has already been digitised you’ll get to see it
within a matter of hours.
to the consultation paper, which you can download here,
it costs about £4.5 million per annum to store the paper copies of wills and
accompanying documentation – and this sum is likely to increase year-by-year. It
is suggested that if all of the wills were digitised
it would not be necessary to keep the original documents – and the purpose of
the consultation is not only to ask for comments on that proposal, but also to
solicit other suggestions involving the public and/or private sectors.
course, if money was no object we’d want everything to
be kept. Similarly, in an ideal world we would all go to The National Archives
to view our ancestors’ original wills, rather than relying on scans of
microfilms of registered copies – but I don’t and I suspect
most of you don’t, either. In the real world tough decisions
have to be taken.
download a copy of the consultation and, when you have had a chance to read it
through, post your thoughts here
in the LostCousins Forum.
an old story, first recorded in 1256, that a great ruler was so impressed by
the game of chess that he offered the inventor a reward. The inventor asked for
a seemingly modest prize: 1 grain of wheat on the first square of the
chessboard, 2 grains on the second square, 4 grains on the third square and so
on, doubling each time. But were the story true the entire world production of
wheat until now, and for hundreds of years to come, would have been required to
satisfy the inventor’s request!
trees work the same way. Each of us has 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents,
16 great-great grandparents – and so on, until at some point in the 1500s there
are 10,000 ancestral lines clamouring for our attention. Or there would be,
were we not up against ‘brick walls’ in earlier centuries. Even so, anyone who
has been researching as long as the average LostCousins member is likely to
have identified somewhere between 100 and 500 ancestral lines – and, of course,
each of them ends in a ‘brick wall’. Sometimes ‘brick walls’ can be knocked
down simply by being patient – perhaps waiting for parish registers for a
particular county to become available online. ‘Brick walls’ in the last 250-300
years might be solved with the help of DNA. But mostly they get knocked down by
good old-fashioned research.
if you have only 100 ‘brick walls’ in your tree you can’t devote more than 1%
of your genealogy effort to each of them, and in practice most researchers tend
to focus on just a handful – they might be the most recent ‘brick walls’, or
they might be the most intriguing ancestral lines but, whatever the reason, at any
one time there are scores (or even hundreds) of your ancestral lines that aren’t
getting your attention.
is in no way a criticism – as I pointed out recently there are only 8 days in
the week, and we do have to get on with our lives. Family history might be very
important to us, but we can’t devote all of our time
and all of our effort to researching the past – our ancestors would be appalled!
Fortunately there IS a solution. Yes, the number of
ancestors doubles for every generation we go back, but the number of
descendants also gets larger – the further you go back, the more family
historians there are who are descended from a given ancestor. In fact, the
number of descendants increases much faster than the number of ancestors.
this: whilst not everyone is interested in family history, there are more viewers
in England who watch each Who Do You Think You Are? programme than the
entire population of England in the mid-1500s (which is as far back as we are
ever likely to get back on most of our ancestral lines). Look at it another way,
if you divide the population of England in 1558 (the year Queen Elizabeth I
came to the throne) by the number of LostCousins members who receive this
newsletter, it works out at well under 50 Elizabethans per member. (Yes, I know
we all have ancestors who weren’t English or even British, but it puts things
you remember that earlier on I mentioned that we each have around 10,000
ancestral lines in the 1500s? Well, the only way that can be reconciled with
the figure of 50 Elizabethans per newsletter reader is if each of those
Elizabethans is shared, on average, by 200 readers of this newsletter!
conclusion the more experienced you are, and the further back you have researched,
the more important it is to collaborate with your ‘lost cousins’ – otherwise you
can’t possibly honour all of your ancestors.
might think that using the 1881 Census is a pretty poor
way to connect with cousins who share your ancestors in the 1500s? Well, here’s
the thing – someone who shares some of your ancestors in the late 18th
and early 19th centuries also shares the same proportion of your
ancestors in the 16th and 17th centuries.
at LostCousins you’ll typically be connected with 3rd,
4th and 5th cousins – hence your shared ancestors will
have been born between 1750-1850. A 3rd cousin shares 1/8th
of your ancestral lines, a 4th cousin shares 1/16th of
your ancestors, and a 5th cousin shares 1/32nd – that’s
about 300 of your ancestors in the 16th century. Those unenlightened
researchers who poo-poo links with ‘distant’ cousins need to think again!
the 1841 Census is a little closer in time to your ‘brick walls’, it’s better
to use the 1881 Census if you possibly can – it’s the only census that we’ve
been using since LostCousins began nearly 20 years ago, and the transcription
is free online, which means that anyone who has an Internet connection can
search for ‘lost cousins’. Nearly 90% of all ‘lost cousins’ are found through
the 1881 Census.
a good strategy Is to start with all the relatives you know about in 1841,
whether you can find them in that census or not, then track each branch and twig
through to 1881. In the process you’ll probably add to your family tree, which
is a good thing – especially if you’ve tested your DNA, or
are planning to do so.
if you can start earlier than 1841, so much the better – but for most of us
there is a limit to how much time we can devote to researching collateral
year there are more and more prizes on offer in my Seasonal Competition, which
runs until 31st January 2024. It’s completely free to enter and you don’t
have to do anything clever or unusual – simply add census information for your relatives
to your My Ancestors page. Last year hundreds of members won prizes, and
there will be even more prize-winners this year!
why do we use census information at LostCousins? Because the censuses we’ve chosen
are readily available online, and in most cases they’re FREE to access (just
bear in mind that it may only be the transcription that is free – follow the
advice on the Add Ancestor form).
the last issue I revealed some of the wonderful prizes you can win in this year’s
MONTH FINDMYPAST PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION – NORMALLY £199.99
Findmypast Premium subscription offers exclusive online access to the 1921
England & Wales census, as well as billions of other records from Britain
and around the world – including Catholic records that you won’t find anywhere
else. The winner will also be able to search more than 70 million pages from the
historic newspapers in the British Newspaper Archive – by far the largest online
collection of British newspapers.
Findmypast have recently upgraded their newspaper search
MONTH DIAMOND SUBSCRIPTION TO THE GENEALOGIST – NORMALLY £139.95
the biggest online collection of tithe maps and tithe records, and a growing
collection of maps and records from the ‘Lloyd George Domesday’ survey of
1910-15, The Genealogist offers the opportunity to discover records that you
won’t find anywhere else. It’s also a
great place to find missing ancestors in the England & Wales censuses,
because not only does The Genealogist have better quality images of many census
records, there are search features that you won’t find
try the Map Explorer
time I also revealed two of the fantastic speakers who will be supporting
LostCousins this year, each of them experts in their field:
will be giving an exclusive Zoom presentation entitled Why EVERY family historian needs to
know the history of family law at 10am (London time) on Saturday 10th
the author of Marriage
Law for Genealogists Professor Probert is the leading expert in a field
that is incredibly important to everyone with English or Welsh ancestry.
Understanding why our ancestors married when and where they did, or why they
didn’t marry, is fundamental to our research. Although I have had the privilege
of hearing Professor Probert speak on many occasions over the past 10 years, I
can honestly say that I learned something new every time – it is such a fertile
field of study.
Dave Annal worked for The National Archives for
many years, and is now a professional genealogist and author
– but he’s also known to many as the presenter of Setting the Record
Straight, a series of short YouTube films which take a new look at old
10am (London time) on Thursday 15th February Dave will be leading a Zoom
seminar on the subject of Misinformation
and What YOU Can Do About It.
information whether in trees, books, are even parish registers presents a
problem that we all have to face, and after showing a
brief video we’ll be opening the discussion up to the audience – we want to
know what problems misinformation has caused for you, and how you dealt with
them. Were you able to persuade someone to change their tree?
NOW THERE ARE MORE GREAT PRIZES THAT YOU CAN WIN….
UK DNA KIT (RRP £79 plus shipping) – donated by Peter
If you’ve yet to take
a DNA test, or tested with a different company – as I did
back in 2012, long before Ancestry began selling their test in the UK – this is
a chance to discover just how much difference it can make. Whether your aim is
to knock down ‘brick walls’, or simply to verify your
records-based research using evidence that cannot be falsified, you will be
amazed by the results – provided, of course, you follow the advice in my DNA
perhaps you’ve taken the test yourself, but would like
to enlist the help of one of your cousins. With DNA the real challenge is
figuring out which of your matches share each of your ‘brick walls’, and
comparing your matches with those of a cousin who shares a particular ‘brick wall’
helps enormously. But don’t make it a close cousin as they share too many of
your ancestral lines – 3rd and 4th cousins are ideal.
If you live outside the UK please nominate a cousin in the UK – should you be lucky
enough to win.
I’ve also secured the
support of another very popular speaker, Jackie Depelle,
who is going to be talking over Zoom about Ideas for Researching
Non-conformist ancestors (one of many topics listed on Jackie’s website).
you know that the religious census of 1851 found that around half of those who
attended church were non-conformists? For many of us this could explain why we haven’t
found our ancestor’s baptism.
will be speaking over Zoom at 4pm (London time) on Friday 1st March,
and there will be an opportunity for those attending to ask questions. I’ll be
there – but will you?
log into your LostCousins account and indicate on your My Prizes page
which of the fantastic prizes on offer are of most interest to you – you won’t
be considered for prizes otherwise!
A Christmas gift from The Genealogist EXCLUSIVE
we’ve had good news about inflation today I suspect
that many of us are on tight budgets this Christmas. So I’m delighted that The
Genealogist has put together an exclusive low-cost introductory package
that will cost less than a posh
Diamond subscription provides access to ALL of the records
at The Genealogist including the biggest online collection of tithe
records and tithe maps, and a fast-growing selection of 1910 Valuation records
and maps (‘Lloyd George Domesday’). You’ll also have the
opportunity to search for ancestors who seem to be missing from the
census at other sites – the enhanced scans and unique search features increase
the chances of finding those elusive entries. And then
there’s the Map Explorer – which literally puts your ancestors in their place.
6 month Diamond subscription alone would be good value for £49.95 (normal price £79.95) but
because it’s Christmas The Genealogist
are including almost £65 worth of additional digital resources, including a 12
month subscription to Discover Your Ancestors online magazine and a
chance to attend The Family History Show Online 2024.
take advantage of this LostCousins Exclusive offer please follow this link
– but don’t leave it too long because this offer only lasts until 31st
Who Do You Think You Are? magazine
TV programme Who Do You Think You Are? began when
LostCousins was just a few months old, and for a long time it was required
viewing in our household. Nowadays I don’t see it as often, but I do read Who
Do You Think You Are? magazine every single month – as I have done since the
very first issue.
Christmas I’ve arranged an extra special offer for UK readers of this
newsletter – you can save 50% on a year’s subscription when you follow this link,
bringing the price down to just £34.12 for 13 issues. The offer ends on Christmas
Day – don’t miss out!
DNA for Christmas ENDS SOON
best prices of the year are almost always over the Black Friday period, and I’m
sure many of you took advantage of the opportunity to save on Ancestry DNA
tests. But if you didn’t, there are still significant savings to be made – the
current offer could well be the best deal you’ll get between now and next
AncestryDNA® is only £59! (UK)
Festive Sale! Save up to $59 on AncestryDNA®. Terms Apply. (AU/NZ)
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the last issue I referred to a RootsTech presentation by Dana Leeds which shows,
amongst other things, how she sorts her DNA matches using a spreadsheet. What I
didn’t make clear is that I wasn’t advocating that you use the Leeds Method – I
linked to the video only because it’s a good introduction to some of the issues
that we face when we’re trying to knock down ‘brick walls’ using DNA. So what should you be doing in practice?
difficult is it to identify an unknown parent or grandparent using DNA, assuming
you have no other reliable information? It varies enormously – you might have
to spend days or weeks of constructing trees for distant relatives – or you might
find the answer in a matter of hours. It’s partly down to how close your
closest match is, and how much research (if any) they’ve done into their tree.
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
I’ll be back in touch very soon – keep an eye on your inbox!
© Copyright 2023 Peter Calver
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