Newsletter - 17th February 2017

Special Edition


Marriage registers to be abolished? BREAKING NEWS

What errors in the census can tell us about… errors in the census! EXCLUSIVE

Save 10% on 12 month Britain subscriptions at Findmypast ENDS TUESTHURSDAY

Free weekend at ENDS MONDAY

Why you should focus on your closest DNA matches

How to figure out how you and your DNA cousins are connected

Family Tree DNA slash transfer costs

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 10th February) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):



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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!



Marriage registers to be abolished? BREAKING NEWS

I was horrified to discover today that a bill currently passing through parliament could lead to the abolition of marriage registers in England & Wales.


Three years ago there was an online petition calling for mothers' names to be added to marriage certificates,  but I didn't lend my support to the campaign - not because I'm sexist (definitely not) or old-fashioned (perhaps a little), but because I was concerned that changes made in the name of political correctness wouldn't take into account the needs of family historians. As I said to those who wrote to me in support of the campaign, equality could be achieved just as easily, and probably more simply, by removing fathers' names. Be careful what you wish for, in other words.


This morning I noticed an article on the BBC News website: a private member's bill that has already passed its first and second readings in the House of Commons, and could receive Royal Assent as soon as this summer, will abolish paper registers in churches and register offices.


The policy background on the parliament website notes on paragraphs 2 and 3 that:


"…any change would necessitate replacement of all 84,000 marriage register books currently in use. The change to an electronic system will enable the form and content of the marriage register entry to be easily amended to include, for example, the details of both parents of the couple, without having to replace all marriage register books.


"The changes will also increase the security of marriage records by removing the requirement for open marriage register books and blank certificates to be held in churches and other religious buildings, where they can be a target of theft."


I don't know about you, but a great deal of the information I have about my ancestors and other relatives came from church marriage registers which I found online, or in local record offices. And whilst fewer marriages take place in churches now than in the 19th century, the thought that family historians of the future might not be able to see their 21st century ancestors' signatures is rather worrying.


Paragraph 18 offers some comfort:


"The provisions of this Bill do not prevent churches or other religious buildings from keeping their own record of marriages.  There is no change to the content of the marriage ceremony and couples will still be able to obtain a marriage certificate following the registration of their marriage."


So, in theory, the existing marriage registers in churches could continue to be used - but will that actually happen in practice? After all, those registers still won't have a place for the names of mothers to be recorded.


It’s true that the proposed change would bring marriages into line with births and deaths, which have been registered electronically since 2007, but as a family historian I know how valuable the dual access to marriage information can be. To the best of my knowledge family historians haven't been consulted about the proposed changes, and that itself is rather worrying, don't you think?


What errors in the census can tell us about… errors in the census! EXCLUSIVE

Last month I mentioned that sometimes you'll find people recorded twice in the census. There are many reasons why this might occur, but one of the most common duplications occurs when household schedules are transcribed twice.


In this example the handwriting differs between one set and the other, so even though both sets are in the same Enumeration Book it's possible that two enumerators were involved. But for me the most interesting thing is not why the schedules were transcribed twice, but the differences between the two transcriptions.


If you go to your favourite subscription site and look up piece 5202 folio 26 page 9 of the 1901 Census for Wales you'll notice that there is an uninhabited property called Lime Kiln Cottage. If you page backwards through the Enumeration Book until you get to page 2, you'll see Lime Kiln Cottage again - but all of the entries on that page are crossed out.


What I did next was to compare the entries on pages 2 and 3 of the book with the same entries on pages 9, 10, and 11 - the same 58 people were recorded, but I spotted 12 differences between the two transcriptions. For example, the first entry on page 2 is for Sarah Owen, shown as a General Servant (domestic) born Birmingham. But on page 9 she is a Domestic Servant born Warwickshire, Birmingham.


These are small differences, to be sure - but clearly they can't both accurately reflect what was written on the relevant Household Schedule. Because the Household Schedules for the 1901 Census haven't survived there is no way we can be sure which version appears on the schedule, but the fact that these differences exist between two transcriptions of the same data tells us something about the ways in which enumerators re-interpreted what the householder wrote.


Another example: Mary Edwards, a spinster farmer has no entry in column 14 (Employer, Worker, or Own account) on page 2, but on page 10 she is clearly shown as an Employer.


On page 3 John Summerfield is shown as born in Shropshire, Trefonen - but on page 11 it's Shropshire , Oswestry. Now Trefonen is a village only 3 miles from Oswestry, but if he was my ancestor I'd want to know the village where he was born, not the name of the nearest town. In the same household Sarah Ann Summerfield on page 3 is abbreviated as Sarah A Summerfield on page 11.


This evidence from the 1901 Census confirms what Dr Donald Davis told us about the 1841 Census when he presented his groundbreaking findings at Genealogy in the Sunshine in March 2014 - that enumerators could (and did) alter what the householders wrote on the census schedules. It's only in 1911 that we see what our ancestors actually wrote - between 1841-1901 we're dependent on the enumerators who, in all fairness, could never have imagined that more than a century later we'd be criticising their handiwork!



Save 10% on 12 month Britain subscriptions at Findmypast ENDS TUESTHURSDAY

Until midnight (London time) on Tuesday 21st February you can save 10% on a new 12 month Britain subscription to bringing the price down from £119.95 to just £107.96 - a saving of almost £12. Your subscription includes unlimited access to billions of historic records (including the 1939 Register), hundreds of millions of newspaper articles, and the modern Electoral Register.


But that's not all - I'm going to give you the opportunity to double the saving - you can qualify for a free LostCousins subscription (worth up to £12.50) when you use this link to buy your Findmypast subscription!

To claim your LostCousins subscription (which will run from the date of purchase of your Findmypast subscription, unless you already have a LostCousins subscription, in which case it will be extended by a year), please forward to me the email receipt that you receive from Findmypast, bearing in mind that I need to know the precise time of your purchase (so write it down, just in case the email doesn't arrive). You can contact me using any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one I wrote from when telling you about this newsletter.

Terms & conditions: your free LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us; if we don't receive any commission on your purchase then unfortunately you won't qualify. If you use an adblocker the link may not work; if you have disabled tracking in your browser the link will work, but Findmypast won't know that you clicked it, so won't pay us any commission. Commission isn't paid on renewals or purchases that Findmypast regard as renewals, eg when a subscription has recently lapsed.


Free weekend at ENDS MONDAY

All UK & Ireland records are free at Ancestry's UK site between Saturday 18th February and Monday 20th February. There are around 2000 datasets in the offer, some big, some small, but here (in alphabetical order) are some of the more interesting, unusual, or unexpected resources that caught my eye:


American Wills Proved in London, 1611-1775

Beddington, Surrey, England, Royal Female Orphanage List of Children, 1890-1913

Birmingham, England, Calendar of Prisoners, 1880-1891 and 1906-1913

British Postal Service Appointment Books, 1737-1969

Burke's American Families with British Ancestry

Child Apprentices in America from Christ's Hospital, London, 1617-1778

Dictionary of National Biography

England and Wales, Death Index, 2007-2015

England, Criminal Lunatic Asylum Registers, 1820-1843

Gloucestershire, Hulbert Farm Day Books, 1894-1950

Happy Homes and How to Make Them

Ireland, Intelligence Profiles, 1914-1922

Medway, Kent, England, Poor Law Union Records, 1836-1937

Popular Errors Explained & Illustrated

Scotland, Names of Witches, 1658

UK, Licences of Parole for Female Convicts, 1853-1871, 1883-1887

UK, Police Gazettes, 1812-1902, 1921-1927

Y cwtta cyfarwydd


For a full list, including major resources such as censuses, parish registers, army records, and passenger lists follow this link.


To view the records included in the offer you will need to register (or log-in if you have registered previously) but you WON'T need to provide credit card or bank details to benefit from this offer. If you are asked for your credit card information then you're signing up for a free trial, which is completely different from this free weekend.


Note: as far as I know these records are only free at the site and not at other Ancestry sites.


Why you should focus on your closest DNA matches

Autosomal DNA is passed to us from both of our parents, who got it from both of their parents, and so on - in our own genes we have sections of DNA from hundreds of our ancestors. But unless some of our known relatives have also tested, there's no way of knowing which parts of our DNA were inherited from which ancestor - and this has important implications when we try to figure out how we're connected to the people we've been matched with (our DNA cousins).


Someone who is a 1st cousin of yours will share one of your two sets of grandparents - so when it comes to identifying your common ancestors there are only two possibilities. And, in any case, you probably know all your 1st cousins, or would recognise their names (with the possible exception of a female cousin who had married).


When it comes to 2nd cousins there are four possible ways that you could be linked, because you have four pairs of great-grandparents. Again you'll recognise many of the names, or at least the surnames - though the chance that one of your cousins will bear the same surname as you is much smaller.


Let's jump ahead to 5th cousins - there will 32 possible ways that you are linked, because you have 32 pairs of great-great-great-great grandparents. It's very unlikely you'll know any of your 5th cousins, and the chance that you'll even recognise their surname is minimal. And you might not know who all of your 4G grandparents were (I only know half of mine).


And if we look at 8th cousins there are 256 possible 7G grandparents that you might share (that's 2 to the power of 8 for the mathematically minded). You definitely won't know any of those cousins, nor are you likely to recognise any of their surnames - and you certainly won’t know who all those 7G grandparents were.


I suspect you're now beginning to appreciate why it is that starting with our closest DNA cousins makes our task easier. After all, if we can't figure out how we're related to our DNA cousins we're unlikely to break any 'brick walls'.


But so far we've only looked at things from our own point of view - remember that our 5th cousins also have 32 pairs of great-great-great-great grandparents, and only one of them is shared with us. So at the outset there are really 32 x 32 ways in which we could be related to them, ie 1024. For 8th cousins it's far worse - there are 256 x 256 possibilities, or 65536.


So when you see a DNA match described as "5th cousin to 8th cousin" - as over 99% of my 5300 matches are -you need to be wary about spending too much time looking into it. Not because they're not genuine matches (although some might not be), but because figuring out how you and a distant cousin are related can be very, very difficult.


Note: you can support LostCousins when purchasing a DNA test by using the relevant link below:


Ancestry DNA (UK)

Ancestry DNA (US)

Ancestry DNA (Australia)

Family Tree DNA

Living DNA


How to figure out how you and your DNA cousins are connected

As I noted in the previous article, the chances of finding surnames we recognise in the trees of our DNA cousins are small - indeed, the surnames of your common ancestors may not appear in either your tree or that of your DNA cousin (the further back the connection, the more likely this is). What other options do we have in these circumstances?


People didn't move around as much in earlier centuries - so geography is likely to be a much better guide than surnames (which, on average, changed every other generation). Even when people did move, they tended not to move far, at least until the Industrial Revolution took hold - so you're much more likely to find that your DNA cousins have the same places in their tree than the same surnames. Usually it won't be the same parish, but knowing that your cousin's ancestors and your own were (say) 20 miles apart in the 18th century strongly suggests where in your tree the common ancestor is likely to be found.


Note: you're fairly unlikely to find the same parish mentioned in both trees - for the simple reason that when we run into a 'brick wall' it's usually because we can't find our ancestor's baptism in the parish where they married (or their marriage in the parish where their children were baptised).


Of course, the common ancestor could be several generations back from your 'brick wall' ancestor, so even when you've found a geographical overlap you've still got research to do - but at least you've got a better idea where to look.


Another way to figure out how you're related to a DNA cousin is to look at the matches you share - if one of those shared matches is a known cousin of yours you can reasonably deduce that the DNA cousin comes from the same part of your tree. It's at times like these that distant cousins are very handy - because they share a smaller part of your tree, helping to pinpoint the connection with your mutual DNA cousin with a greater level of precision.


Family Tree DNA slash transfer costs

It's now cheaper than ever before to transfer your autosomal DNA results from Ancestry or 23andMe to Family Tree DNA - indeed you might not need to pay anything! Previously it cost $39 - now the matches are free, and it's only $19 to get access to the Chromosome Browser and other FTDNA features.


You'll find more details here at the FTDNA website.


Stop Press

This is where any last minute updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error (sadly I'm not infallible), reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check here before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......


Apologies, by the way, for the large number of errors in the last newsletter - including mistyping the name of one of the authors! I do in fact have a very good excuse - we had a power cut that lasted most of the day, so I was not only cold (no heating without electricity), I was using my laptop, which has a smaller keyboard. To cap it all, when the power was eventually back on my printer ran out of ink, so I couldn't print out a draft of the newsletter, it had to be proofed on screen. Still, worse things happen at sea…..


The next issue will include the competition results (all of the winners have already been notified) and several articles that I've had to hold over from this special edition due to lack of time.


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2017 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



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