Newsletter - 22nd January 2020



You read it here first!

GRO add birth indexes for 1984-2004 EXCLUSIVE

Project 1881 - let's make history!

Findmypast flash sale ENDS SATURDAY

MASTERCLASS: How to get the most from Findmypast

Success story: Peggy's tale

New Year Competition - donít miss out!

Prince George of Cambridge condemns Queen

The Great Fires of London

The importance of Midsummer Day 1700

What is the future for the Society of Genealogists?

National Archives to trial daily document limit

Transcription Tuesday

The 2020 Census has started!

Lexicon: 20/20 vision

Peter's Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 17th January) 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):



Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). If one of the links doesn't work this normally indicates that you're using adblocking software - you need to make the LostCousins site an exception (or else use a different browser, such as Chrome).


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!



You read it here first!

Because this newsletter is typically published only 2 to 4 times each month you'd expect it to be beaten to the best stories by blogs and newsletters that publish more regularly, sometimes even daily.


And yet that isnít what happens. Other publications tend to be dependent on press releases arriving in their inboxes, whereas I'm more of a roving reporter, actively looking for stories rather than waiting for them to come to me - though I'm also grateful for the many leads I get from readers.


So contrary to expectations, LostCousins is often first with the stories that really matter - and not just by days, sometimes this newsletter is years ahead of the competition. For example, one of them published a story this week about a useful resource that I'd first written about in 2012!


Note: it helps that LostCousins and the newsletter are completely independent of outside influences - I'm not beholden to a sponsor or owner, only to you, the readers (especially those of you who support my work by taking part in the LostCousins project and/or paying a subscription).



GRO add birth indexes for 1984-2004 EXCLUSIVE

Just 2 months ago I revealed that the General Register Office, the statutory guardian of civil registration records for England & Wales, had added deaths from 1984 onwards to their online indexes. As noted in November, this was a particularly valuable addition, since they stopped selling copies of the indexes over a decade ago.


Now they've added birth indexes for 1984-2004, and whilst this is not quite as valuable a resource - since they're already available at numerous sites, and have been for over a decade - itís still an interesting development, since it's the first time the GRO have themselves put any birth indexes from the past 100 years online.


Although they have digitized and (presumably) indexed births up to 1934, the GRO's own online indexes currently only extend to 1919, which means there's no option to purchase a PDF copy of a birth registered between 1920 and 1934.


I will do my best to find out what their plans are for the future - watch this space!



Project 1881 - let's make history!

Wouldnít it be wonderful if local historians, social historians, family historians and other researchers could pick a household from the 1881 Census and instantly connect with a living descendant (or other relative) who has documented what has happened to the family over the past 140 years?


It sounds like a pipedream, but when you look at how much LostCousins members have already achieved you'll realise that there's a real possibility that it could happen. Whilst it's true that so far LostCousins members have entered slightly fewer than 7% of the individuals recorded in the 1881 Census, an analysis of the statistics shows that 2% of the readers of this newsletter have entered 2.5% of the individuals on that census. So 100% ought to be able to achieve 100%!


There are two thing that are holding us back at the moment: the first is that many of the people who read this newsletter don't realise that they're LostCousins members. So let's be absolutely clear - if you received an email from me telling you about this newsletter, not only are you a LostCousins member, I'm relying on you to play your part in achieving an historic goal!


The second is that some members forget that LostCousins is all about cousins helping each other. If you only enter information from the part of your tree where you yourself need help then youíre turning your back on your own cousins from the other parts of your tree.


The New Year Competition has another 10 days or so to run - the closing date is Sunday 2nd February - so if youíre in the 98% that could contribute more to the project, there's a real incentive to do it now!


Edmund Burke wrote that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." We have the opportunity to create a legacy, one that will not only benefit society today, but the generations to come - please do what you can!



Findmypast flash sale ENDS SATURDAY

Until midnight (London time) on Saturday 25th January Findmypast are offering a 25% discount on all new 3 month subscriptions to their UK site, an opportunity that is open to former subscribers as well as first-timers.


This brings the cost of a Plus subscription (all British and Irish records) down to £8.96 per month for the first three months; a Pro subscription (all Worldwide records and newspaper articles) is just £11.21


In each case the monthly cost is lower than the monthly cost of a 12 month subscription, which makes it an attractive way to try out the site for the first time, or to catch up on new records if you've been a subscriber in the past.


Although the offer is only available at the UK site, I donít believe there's anything to stop overseas researchers taking advantage of it - you might even find that the UK site works out cheaper now that the British pound has fallen.


However if you've used the site before and are currently logged-in you may find that youíre not offered the discounted price; indeed you might not be offered a 3 month subscription at any price! In this case simply log-out, and click my link again.


You might see this offer advertised elsewhere, but you'll only be supporting LostCousins when you use the link below, or click the Findmypast banner above: - SAVE 25% ON ALL 3 MONTH SUBSCRIPTIONS


Note: the discounted price only applies for the first 3 months; at that point you might want to considered upgrading to a 12 month subscription (or you might choose to cancel altogether). Subscriptions are renewed automatically by default, but it's easy to cancel - this page explains what to do.



MASTERCLASS: How to get the most from Findmypast

This Masterclass was last published a year ago, and has been updated to include additional record sets and to reflect the recent change in design of the UK site.


I'm sometimes contacted by readers who don't get the same excellent results as me when they search at Findmypast - so I'm going to tell you how I transform their searchesÖ.


The first thing you need to appreciate is that there are two ways of searching at genealogy websites. One is to enter lots of data on the Search form in the hope that some of it might lead to the record you're looking for - this type of search works best at Ancestry, where it typically produces lots of results (though most of them won't be relevant).


The other approach is to put the minimum amount of information on the Search form, see how many results you get and - only if there are too many results to glance through - filter the results so that you're only left with those that are most relevant. This type of search works best at Findmypast.


Because I'm so busy I prefer the second type of search - most of the time the record I'm looking for is on the first page of search results, so I get there very quickly. I even cheat by using wildcards rather than type long surnames in full - this has the secondary benefit of sometimes picking up records that might otherwise have been missed.


How minimal should your searches be? If I'm searching the census I'll typically enter just a forename, a surname (possibly using wildcards), and an approximate year of birth. I rarely enter a place of birth as this tends to vary so much from one census to another, but when I do I enclose it in wildcards, eg *London*


Different surnames require different tactics. The surname Smith is very unlikely to be spelled differently or mistranscribed - but you are likely to get lots of results, so you'll need to narrow your search in some way. By contrast, when I'm searching for my Vandepeer ancestors I'm more concerned about misspellings than anything else, so I'll typically search for v*d*p*r* and leave the other boxes empty.


Tip: even as youíre filling in the search form Findmypast are looking to see how many records they have that match what you have typed so far; a running total is displayed on the Search button so you'll know when there's no point entering any more information.


Put these tips into practice and you'll immediately see the difference. But don't stop reading, because I've got another, even more important, tip for you - one that even Findmypast won't tell you!


Did you realise that at Findmypast there can be three or more ways of searching for the same historical record? Would you like to know which of those three ways I use myself? Yes, I thought soÖ..


The gateway to all of the different approaches is the Search menu:



Let's suppose that you were hoping to finds one of your ancestors in the 1881 Census - you could choose Search all records, or narrow down your search by clicking on Census, land & surveys. But I wouldn't choose either of those options - I'd go to the precise record set I'm interested in by clicking A-Z of record sets, the option beginners are least likely to choose (but the one I use 99% of the time).


Why do I search specific record sets, rather than starting with a wider search, then homing in? Because it's the only way you can access some of the key search options. For example, when I search the 1881 Census directly the Search form offers an enormous amount of choice:




But half the fields - the ones I've highlighted in red - don't appear on the Search form when you choose Census, land & surveys.


So do what I do - whenever possible focus in on the specific record set of interest, whether it's a census, a collection of baptism registers for a specific county, or one of the hundreds of other record sets.


Tip: one of the secondary benefits of using this approach is that you'll get to know the records better. Because they come from many different sources there are all sorts of quirks - for example, some parish register transcriptions will be very detailed, others very basic.


Here's a table of links that will enable you to jump straight to some of key resources at Findmypast without going through the Search menu (all searches are free, so you don't need a subscription unless you want to look at the records themselves, though you will need to register or log-in):


1841 British census

1851 British census

1861 British census

1871 British census

1881 British census (FREE transcription)

1891 British census

1901 British census

1911 England & Wales census

1939 Register (England & Wales)

GRO birth indexes for England & Wales

GRO marriage indexes for England & Wales

GRO death indexes for England & Wales

Hertfordshire parish registers*

Cheshire parish registers*

Kent parish registers*

London (Westminster) parish registers*

Devon parish registers*

Lincolnshire parish registers*

Norfolk parish registers*

Shropshire parish registers*

Staffordshire parish registers*

Wiltshire parish registers*

Yorkshire parish registers*

Wales parish registers

British Army Service Records

School Admission Registers

England & Wales Electoral Registers 1832-1932

UK Electoral Registers 2002-19


* these parish register links will take you to the baptisms for the county


Note: there are a few record sets which currently can't be found using the A-Z of Record Sets; for example, if you're looking for the Chelsea pensioner records you'll find them under British Army Service Records because Findmypast have grouped together all service records. Other instances reported to me involve Australian cemetery records. But 99 times out of 100 the A-Z is the best solution.


Finally, another useful tip - one that even regular users of Findmypast frequently miss. When you search an individual dataset you'll see a list of Useful links & resources to the bottom right of the page - and when the records in question are parish records there will usually be a link to page with a list of parishes that are included, showing the dates that are covered.


Tip: the parish register links in the table only cover counties for which Findmypast has images of parish registers; thanks to Findmypast's close links to family history societies they also have transcripts of register entries for many other counties, some of which are very comprehensive.



Success story: Peggy's tale

Peggy in Australia wrote in this week with a heart-warming tale of discovery, and I was delighted that she agreed to allow me to share it with you:


"My tale begins about 18 months ago when I took a DNA test with Ancestry to find my paternal grandfather. I had absolutely no information about him other than his location in September 1914.


"From my results I was stunned to find that I am 21% Jewish, so started to make contact with as many as possible of the matches who shared this ethnicity.


"The most rewarding contact has been with someone who Ancestry identified as a 3rd to 5th cousin (we share 100cM of DNA), Laurence in Los Angeles. We worked together for at least a year researching our joint family tree, plus I did a huge amount of work on many other branches of our joint families. This eventually resulted in me finally finding out who my Jewish grandfather was!


"To thank me for expanding their tree, Laurenceís sister sent me Inheritance as a gift through Amazon, but unfortunately, as I live in Australia, this wasnít available. She tried again several months later with the same lack of success, so she brought it over from Los Angeles and delivered it to me personally in mid-December.


"It was a real thrill for me to finally meet one of my Jewish cousins and also to enjoy the emotional story that unfolds in the book. Laurence is coming over to visit in March so I have more to look forward to!"


Peggy tells me that more recently she has found an even closer cousin, a half 1st cousin, in England - and his aged mother is her father's half-sister. Perhaps not surprisingly, her cousin doesn't want to break the news to his mother, who is now in her 90s - we always have to balance our own interests with those of our cousins.


Mind you, in my experience older people are often far more resilient than we expect - it seems that the perspective of age enables them to be more philosophical. Perhaps that's something to bear in mind if you're ever faced with a similar decision?



New Year Competition - donít miss out!

The chances are you havenít entered my New Year Competition yet - even though it's really easy. I'm not going to repeat all the tips from the last newsletter - you'll find them here - but I am going to remind you of the fantastic prizes on offer:







Prince George of Cambridge condemns Queen

Prince George (pictured right), the son of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge isn't the first to hold that title - and it was a predecessor who uttered the words "A woman on the throne of England Ė how ridiculous!" when the birth of Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent virtually eliminated his chances of ever becoming King.


Little Alexandrina, named after the Tsar of Russia, soon came to be known by her middle name - the one that she adopted as her title in 1837, when she became Queen at the age of 18. The story of Victoria's accession to the throne is told in this article on the History Extra website, the online presence of the BBC History Magazine.


In a week when the Sussexes have lost their HRHs, I was intrigued to learn of a recently-launched website which details the Line of Accession to the British Throne at different times in history - currently starting when George IV succeeded in 1820. It isn't going to help me with my family tree (I wish) but it's an interesting way of putting royal births and deaths into context, and in a sense the same drama plays out in any family where there is something of value to be passed down the generations.


Note: a blog post on the same site discusses who the next Duke of Edinburgh might be - and other similar questions. Well worth a read!



The Great Fires of London

There are a few historical dates that most Britons know: 1066, 1605, and 1666 - the last being the year of the Great Fire of London. Or, to be more precise, the year of the last Great Fire of London - because prior to 1666 the description usually referred to one of the devastating mediaeval fires that engulfed the city in 1133 and 1212.


You can read about other early fires of London, going back to Roman times, on this Wikipedia page. The fire of 1212 was later said to have killed thousands of Londoners, though the evidence is lacking; similarly the 1666 fire is said to have killed no more than a handful, yet the scale of the destruction suggests that many more perished in the flames.


A recent article in the Metro newspaper shows extracts from a 1572 map of London, and comments on the similarities to the modern city. If you search past newsletters (using the custom Google search towards the beginning of this issue) you'll find numerous mentions of old maps of London and elsewhere, most of which are available free online.



The importance of Midsummer Day 1700

In the October 2019 issue of The Local Historian (the Journal of the British Association for Local History) there is a fascinating article about the impact of the Vagrant Removal Costs Act - which had been passed in 1698, but only came into force on 24th June 1700.


If, like me, youíre a member of the BALH the article is well worth reading, but if you're not you'll find some interesting commentary on this and other related Acts on the London Lives website.


Tip: back issues of The Local Historian are available in digital format on the BALH website - issues that are more than 3 years old can be downloaded free of charge by non-members, and as it has been published since 1952 you're certain to find many articles of interest.



What is the future for the Society of Genealogists?

There has been extensive discussion this week on the Rootsweb mailing list for members of the Society of Genealogists. As you will know from my first newsletter of 2020, all Rootsweb mailing lists will be closed down with effect from 3rd March, just 6 weeks away - and the initial catalyst for the discussion was the failure of the SoG to signpost the future of this invaluable discussion forum.


There is, in fact, a members' forum on the SoG website, but it has been little used since it was set up, perhaps because it isn't as fully-featured as, for example, the LostCousins forum.


But the discussion diversified, considering the impact on members of the planned change of premises, with some pointing out that a move away from central London would reduce the number of members who were able to visit the library, and others suggesting that more records should be made available online. None, however, was able to come up with the magic wand that would be needed to satisfy everyone.


The Society of Genealogists isnít like a typical family history society - the membership is geographically diverse, and includes many professional genealogists. I belong to the SoG not for what I get out of it, but because I believe that it is worthy of my support - and yours too, if you can afford it.



National Archives to trial daily document limit

At the beginning of the month the National Archives in Kew announced a 6 month trial during which "readers will be able to order a maximum of 12 documents for the same day, plus up to 12 documents ordered in advance (a maximum of 24 documents per reader per day)."


According to TNA the average number of documents per reader is currently 8 per day, which suggests that most visitors will be unaffected by the change. On the other hand, if the change is going to have so little impact, why bother making it at all?


The trial commences on 31st March; if you visit TNA before the trial commences please let me know what impact (if any) it would have had on you.



Transcription Tuesday

Who Do You Think You Are? magazine is once again running Transcription Tuesday, which this year is on 4th February. You can take part at home, or get together with others locally - and you donít even need to be a subscriber to the magazine. To find out more please follow this link.


Tip: you can currently make big savings on WDYTYA magazine and other BBC titles - follow this link and use the code JANUARY20 (offer ends 31st January)


The 2020 Census has started!

There are parts of Alaska that are difficult to access for much of the year, so the census has already started there, as you can read in this CNN article.



Lexicon: 20/20 vision

As we're in the year 2020 I thought it would be a good opportunity to clarify what is meant by 20/20 vision. I have to admit that until fairly recently I thought it was like a test score, and that 20/20 meant perfect vision (given how the term is often used I donít think I'm the only one to be under that misapprehension).


In fact, 20/20 vision is 'normal' vision - it equates to being able to read the eighth line on a conventional eye chart. If you had 20/40 vision it would mean that at 20 feet you would only be able to read what someone with normal vision could read from 40 feet away (in the US this is the minimum requirement for a driver's licence). Someone with better than normal vision might be able to read from 20 feet what others can only read from 15 feet away - in that case their vision would be described as 20/15.


If you want to know more check out this site - or this one.



Peter's Tips

A recently-published study shows that healthy habits not only lead to a longer life, they add extra healthy years - you can read more in this BBC News article. I have resolved to exercise more, eat more healthily, and drink less alcohol in 2020 - so maybe you can do it too?


But donít think that you can go on a quick-fix diet, then go back to 'normal' - the top doctor in the National Health Service recently warned that it wonít work (and it could even be dangerous if you push your body too far).



Stop Press

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......



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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2020 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?