Newsletter - 13th February 2015
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 6th February) click here, for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here, for a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a list of articles from 2012-14 click here. Or use the customised Google search below (that's what I do):
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Last April I reported that The Genealogist had transcribed 11 million tithe records from 11,000 parishes across England & Wales, and that they were planning to digitise the tithe maps.
This week The Genealogist announced that fully-linked maps for 4 counties (Middlesex, Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire) are now online, with maps for other counties to follow in the coming months. The black and white images have been digitised from microfilm - see the example above - as many of the original maps, which can be larger than a room, have deteriorated over the years. The next stage of the project - and, perhaps the most lengthy one - will be the conservation and digitisation of the colour originals.
There is an excellent guide to tithes on the National Archives website - you'll find it here.
The tithe records and tithe maps are only available as part of a Diamond subscription, which is the most expensive, so I've negotiated a £20 discount for readers of this newsletter. To take advantage of this discount, which unlike most offers will also apply at renewal, follow this link.
By the way, as of this week their Starter and Gold subscriptions now include all of the England & Wales censuses from 1841-1911.
On Wednesday Ancestry added over 3 million records from Gloucestershire parish registers. These links will take you direct to the relevant search pages:
I shall enjoy searching for my wife's Gloucestershire ancestors (it will be so much easier than looking for her Welsh relatives!). However these records don't include Bristol, since the registers are not held at Gloucestershire Archives.
Today Findmypast added over 850,000 transcribed parish records for the part of Bristol which falls into Gloucestershire (a smaller part was in Somerset); sadly I couldn't find the baptism of Mary Wheatley, my great-great-great grandmother who was born in Bristol according to the censuses, but we all know how unreliable her evidence is as to her own birthplace!
Tip: a free resource that I've found very useful in researching my wife's Gloucestershire ancestors is the Forest of Dean website.
This week Findmypast unveiled a new collection with 75 million US records based on passenger lists or naturalizations. There will clearly be some overlap with their existing Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960 records, although this new collection covers a longer time period, and arrivals records sometimes give different information from the departure records. Also, a quick check suggests that at least some of the records are available at other sites such as FamilySearch or Ancestry - nevertheless I'm sure there will be quite a few new discoveries made!
Gesher Galicia is a website for people with relatives from Galicia, formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, but now split between Poland Ukraine. Whilst the primary focus is on researching Jewish roots the records span all the ethnic and religious groups that once lived in this region. Searching the 320,000 records is free, but there is also a subscription option which provides added benefits and helps to support this non-profit site. Many thanks to Beulah for recommending the site - she found a lot of her husband's family there.
You might think that there wouldn't be too many people with the name Sarah Pleasant Willmore baptised in a given year, so Gordon was confused when he discovered that some people recorded her death in 1833, whilst others had recorded her marriage in 1848. Could there really be two people with such a rare combination of names?
When Gordon viewed the baptism register page at Ancestry he was absolutely amazed - not only were their two girls baptised on the same day in the same church, according to the register they were both born on the same day (to different parents, of course). Check out the St Matthew, Bethnal Green baptism register for 1822 if you want to see it with your own eyes!
Tip: I suspect the parents of the two children were cousins because rare name combinations tend to be repeated within a family. For example, there have only ever been three births registered in the name Florence Minnie Calver, but they are all relatives of mine who were born between 1875-79. One was my grandfather's sister, the other two were his first cousins.
In my last four newsletters I've included Masterclass articles to help you work through some of the key problems that we all encounter in our research. Every problem has a different solution, but for me there are two imperatives that should infuse everything we do:
Use the following links if you want to re-read any of the four Masterclasses:
Let's see whether you can apply the principles you've learned in order to solve my challenge - but first another brief tutorial on 'brick walls'....
On Wednesday evening a naked man leapt from the top-floor of a three-storey building in Braintree onto the roof of a double-decker bus. You might think this has nothing to do with knocking down 'brick walls' - indeed, some faint-hearted readers may even be shocked by the thought of a naked man - but read on....
The building caught fire early on Wednesday evening, while the man was in the shower. Passers-by who realised the man's plight hailed an empty bus and asked the driver to help. The driver bravely reversed his bus close to the burning building, allowing the trapped man to jump from the window of the burning building onto the roof, where he stayed until firefighters arrived. It took them 8 hours to get the fire under control, so when Essex Fire and Rescue's Dave Barritt said: "If the bus hadn't been there we would be having a much more serious and sombre conversation" he wasn't exaggerating (you can read all about the incident in this BBC News report).
Still don't see the connection? This story demonstrates how you can sometimes solve problems by utilising the available resources in a way that were never intended to be used: take the census, for example - it wasn't devised to meet the needs of family historians, but as an aid to government in administering the nation.
Perhaps that's a bit obvious - after all the census is the bedrock of British family history - so consider instead the way that records are used as census substitutes in countries where (or for periods when) censuses don't exist, such as Griffith's Valuation in Ireland, or the 1939 National Register in Britain. Consider too the family reconstitution techniques described in my last newsletter, which could enable you to create a reasonably accurate list (or census) of the inhabitants of a parish at almost any point in time using parish records.
Another example: many people wouldn't think of looking in the death indexes for a birthdate, or to find a marriage, but that's how I often use them, as you'll see from this 2012 newsletter article.
When we're trying to knock down 'brick walls' our ingenuity can be our best friend, but it can also be our enemy. If we're always looking for short cuts we'll miss solutions that can only be found through painstaking information gathering. When you're looking at parish register entry do you scan the other entries around it? That's how I knocked down one of my 'brick walls' - two children with different surnames and different fathers were baptised on the same day, but I noticed that they had the same mother.
Jill wrote this week from Australia to tell me how looking through the marriage register knocked down one of her 'brick walls':
"Just had a big breakthrough, thanks to you encouraging everyone not to think of brick walls. I doubled my efforts to find more on Sarah Bull before her marriage in 1853 and on census in 1851. I looked again at hermarriage certificate in 1853 even though I have the original cert and have traced her witnesses. Just on a whim I went to the previous page of marriages. There was her brother John getting married at exactly the same time! I am just so excited I have more to go on."
Would you look in army records for clues to a marriage? That was the catalyst for the chain reaction that led to my latest challenge, and whilst you might wonder how solving puzzles from the family trees of others is going to help you with your own tree, consider this: most top sportsmen and women spend far more time practising than they do competing. As one is reported to have said: "The more I practise, the luckier I get" - why should it be any different with family history?
When we think of war cemeteries we think of poppies and neat rows of stone crosses - but it wasn't always like that, as you can see from the photo that Miriam sent of her great uncle's grave. She told me about a discovery she'd made after reading the last newsletter:
"My grandmother's brother Christopher (Kit) Bowman fought with the 9th Durhams in WW1 and died in June 1915 aged 23. I had often wondered whether he had married before he went to war but couldn't prove it. Your link to WW1 Soldiers' Effects on a free Ancestry weekend was the perfect combination and I went straight to look - and there he was or, rather, there was the name of his widow Martha who received £1 2s 6d. I am delighted to have found that out, but would you believe it I can't find a record of their marriage!"
I could indeed - there are a number of reasons why a marriage can't be traced, one of the most common being that the couple didn't actually marry at all!
But even when a marriage did take place it can be difficult to find - for example, if (unbeknown to us) the bride was a widow, she would almost certainly have married using her first husband's surname. However it wasn't a factor on this occasion because neither Miriam nor I knew what Martha's surname was - or at least, we didn't on Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon we knew just about everything, and that's when I realised what an interesting challenge this would make for readers of this newsletter.
Your challenge is to find out whether or not Christopher and Martha married, and either provide the index entry for the marriage or explain why they didn't marry (if that's the conclusion you've come to). In either case provide brief evidence in support of your conclusion, but do not send me any images as the chances are I've already seen them.
I'll give you a little bit of extra information to get you going - Christopher was born in Gateshead, his mother's maiden name was Armstrong, and on the 1901 Census his age is shown incorrectly as 11.
Tip: you'll need a subscription to either Ancestry or Findmypast to solve this challenge - you won't be able to gather sufficient evidence if you only have access to free sites. Whilst the Soldiers' Effects register entry shows C J Bowman, not Christopher Bowman, it's definitely the right entry as his army number tallies with the one shown on wooden cross in the photo above.
As I might well use this puzzle at Genealogy in the Sunshine next month I certainly won't be publishing the solution before then - this gives you at least a month to find the answer (although it really shouldn't take much more than an hour). There will be two prizes of a free LostCousins subscription - one for the first member who comes up with the right answer, and the other for the member who comes up with the best answer (my decision is, as ever, final). To submit your entry use any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one that I wrote from when I told you about this newsletter: please use "Bowman challenge" as the subject/title of the email.
Don't ask me for advice - that wouldn't be fair to others. All the information you need is in this newsletter, or can be found using either Findmypast or Ancestry. Remember that I've already solved the challenge, so you won't be helping Miriam by taking part - but you will be helping yourself by exercising and enhancing your research skills.
WARNING: until I've published the solution in the newsletter please do NOT discuss this challenge online, especially not on Facebook or Twitter, or post hints on any site since by so doing you will spoil the challenge for others. However, by all means pass on a link to this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested - publishing the link online is fine (anyone who follows it will see this warning).
Whether or not Benjamin Franklin actually said "We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately" it's a reminder that we can achieve far more when we collaborate with others.
Just look at the story about the burning building and the double-decker bus - if the man in the building hadn't attracted the attention of passers-by, and they hadn't prevailed on the bus driver to use his vehicle, the story would have ended very differently.
They didn't know each before Wednesday, just as you don't know your 'lost cousins' - but together they were able to find a solution. So often we assume that our cousins can only help us with the lines which we share, but as I told a group from the East of London Family History Society last Saturday, a fresh pair of eyes can often spot something that we've missed, even though it's been staring us in the face.
When you're helping others ask them tough questions - don't take what they tell you at face value otherwise you'll end up down the same rabbit hole as them! For example, somebody said to me the other day "I know from his marriage that he came from XXX and his father was YYYY" - at which point I reminded them that fathers' names don't appear in English marriage registers until the commencement of Civil Registration in 1837, and that the parish shown isn't necessarily the one where they were born. In other words they'd gathered the information from somewhere else, but in their own minds thought that it came from the marriage register, which gave it a veneer of accuracy that it probably didn't deserve.
These days the newspapers are full of inflation and deflation, but the real challenge for family historians Is conflation, when we take several pieces of information from different sources and manage to convince ourselves that they all came from the same incontrovertible source. For example, the other day someone said something along the lines of "I know my great-grandmother was born on DD/MM/YYYY because that's what she told my grandmother".
When I hear something like that alarm bells start ringing, because I know from my own experience that people remember birthdays, not birthdates. Birthdays may be celebrated every year, but after a certain point we don't focus on the age, do we? My wife struggles to remember how old her mother is, but she knows the date of her birthday - and I'm sure she isn't the only one. I've known people who couldn't remember their own age - and they weren't people with dementia.
There are now over 10 million pages from British and Irish newspapers in the British Newspaper Archive (they are also available through Findmypast as part of your subscription - though you'll need a World subscription to see both British and Irish papers).
I didn't notice, but Tim - one of the stalwarts who helps me out with the LostCousins Forum - has pointed out that last week the total number of entries made by LostCousins members exceeded 2.5 million for the first time.
Congratulations everyone! Or at least, everyone who has entered data - because sadly there are still people who come up with excuses, not realising that it takes less time to enter a household than it does to send an email to explain why you don't have the time to do it.
Ironically those people think that I'm the only one they're letting down - but in reality it's they and their own cousins who suffer. If I get annoyed with them (and I do, believe me, I do) it's not because it affects me personally, but because I'm acting as a proxy for the other members who are their cousins.
Tip: if everyone who receives this newsletter spends just 25 minutes entering their relatives from the 1881 Census not only would we pass the 5 million mark in a trice, there would be an additional 70,000 matches between relatives who didn't know each other and probably never would, but for LostCousins. Around a third of those matches would be between members on different continents! Now, wouldn't you like to be part of a project like that?
Genealogy in the Sunshine - next month's programme revealed
Although I organise Genealogy in the Sunshine myself, it's the speakers who make it a success - and this year there's a fantastic line-up of speakers and we've got some really interesting talks to look forward to, as you can see from the timetable of the main afternoon sessions.
The morning sessions will be smaller, shorter, more interactive, and optional - I'm told that one eminent speaker will be offering advice round the pool, and I shall expect everyone to go home with a suntan!
I'm also organising social events most evenings to ensure that those who are coming on their own won't be on their own - unless they want to be, of course. For companions who aren't on the course there's plenty to do during the day - tennis, swimming, walking across the cliffs, and birdwatching are the healthy options. As last year, many of those coming are staying for longer than a week - the additional cost of the accommodation is often cancelled out by the lower cost of mid-week flights.
Note: following a last-minute cancellation I still have a couple of places on the course for anyone who is interested - for an overview of the course and the beautiful Rocha Brava resort well be staying at next month follow this link.
The link between DNA and genealogy is getting ever closer, which is why both last year's inaugural Genealogy in the Sunshine and next month's event had to feature presentations from Debbie Kennett, who is not only the UK's leading blogger on the use of DNA in family history research but also Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Human Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London.
Even more impressive is that Debbie has been a LostCousins member for 9 years - then again, almost all the distinguished speakers at Genealogy in the Sunshine are long-term members!
Yesterday Findmypast announced a partnership with Family Tree DNA, the company that I and my cousins have tested with. At this stage I don't know the extent to which the two sets of data (DNA results and family trees) will be interlinked, but no doubt more information will come to light in the coming weeks.
Ancestry are already linking DNA results to tree data, but to date their test has only been available in the US. Now AncestryDNA have set up a UK website and are taking orders from invited subscribers - so there's another choice opening up for family historians in the UK.
Choosing the DNA company to test with isn't a simple decision, so I'm not going to make any recommendations until I've heard what Debbie Kennett has to say next month.
The families of two French girls who were accidentally switched at birth 20 years ago have been awarded nearly €2m ($2.3m; £1.5m) in damages. The error was discovered 10 years ago after one of the mothers arranged for DNA tests, and was subsequently reported in this newsletter - but despite the DNA verdict neither mother wanted to swap back.
You can read more about this unusual story in a BBC News article.
Since Christmas I've been reading Foundation, the first volume of Peter Ackroyd's History of England. You might think that the fact that after all this time I'm still only on page 75 (out of 447) indicates that the book is hard going - but the truth is that for someone like me, who learned little about history at school (because it was so badly taught) there's a need to evaluate and think about what I'm reading.
This first book starts in the pre-historic period and ends in 1509, the year that Henry VIII came to the throne - there's so much that I didn't know, especially about the period before 1066 - and whilst I'm never likely to be able to identify my ancestors that far back I don't really need to because, like most of you, I'm probably descended from everyone who lived at that time (everyone who has living descendants, that is). The story of England is, therefore, the story of my ancestors.
This is where I'll post any last minute additions.
This newsletter is one of the most challenging I've published - I hope that it helps you to move up to the next level!
© Copyright 2015 Peter Calver
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