Newsletter – 10th January 2022



What you really need to know about the 1921 Census

Accessing 'Extra materials'

Don’t blame the transcribers, they’re doing their best

Detailed information about the census and the information recorded

Putting the 1921 Census online - the inside story EXCLUSIVE

From McQueen to Queen

Gay abandon?

Purple prose

Silence is golden

Genealogy mysteries: a reader writes

Numerous prizes still to be won in my New Year Competition!

How to enter more relatives and win more prizes

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (the Special Edition dated 6th 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):



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!



What you really need to know about the 1921 Census

I know that many of you found the Special Edition newsletter circulated on Thursday afternoon very useful, but inevitably there were some things that weren't included because I didn’t encounter them during my own testing, all of which took place that morning – because, like you, I didn't get access to the census until just after midnight.


Here 's what you really need to know – and I'm going to repeat some of things that were in Thursday's newsletter, because I know from the correspondence I've received that in the excitement some of you skim-read what I wrote rather than taking it all in. Also, please note that I have updated the advice on census references.


·      Who's included? Not just the inhabitants of England & Wales, but also those of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands; members of the Armed Forces wherever in the world they were stationed, with the exception of Scotland; Merchant Navy and fishing vessels that were either in port on Census Night or returned in the few days following; visitors, tourists, and people in transit.

·      Who's not included? Anyone who was not within the territory on Census Night (except as noted above); many people who were homeless or had no fixed abode; anyone who objected to the census and avoided being enumerated

·      Use the Advanced Search: I'm sure I don’t need to tell LostCousins members this, but I've done it anyway!

·      Transcripts: you shouldn't need to view the transcripts, which will cost you an extra £2.50, since all the information you need to know is either on the household schedule, or can be found by inspecting the associated images (see the next article for more details).

·      Before buying an image: you'll see a mini transcript (as shown on the right), but it will only give three forenames at most, typically the person you searched for and two others; it won’t tell you whether the people named have the same surname (in this case I happen to know that they don't), nor will the head of household necessarily be one of the people named (in this case he isn't).

·      Make sure you've found the right household: they are lots of ways to search and you can narrow down the number of search results by including extra information on the search form; if you do purchase the wrong household, learn from your experience so that you don’t make the same mistake again.

·      Census references: the piece number is handwritten on the 'Cover' (it's preceded by the reference RG15) but is also part of the filename when you download the image, and this is a much more reliable source; also on the cover is the enumeration district; the other reference to record is the schedule number, which is shown in the top right corner of a standard household schedule.

·      Addresses: the address of a household is on the 'Front' of the form.

·      Neighbours: if you buy an image and want to know who was living next door there's usually no need to carry out an address search – instead you can search using census references (usually the schedule numbers for the neighbours will follow on from the one you've already purchased). The first time I tried this out I discovered that one of the next door neighbours was the girl who my great-uncle William married in 1928 – what will you find, I wonder?

·      Large households: the standard form has room for 10 people; there is a list of the different forms here; households of up to 20 people should be available as a single unit, but I've seen an example where due to poor handwriting the link has not been made. You'll know from the mini-transcript how many people are included in the image(s) you’re buying.

·      Pro subscribers: the 10% discount on images and transcripts only applies to 12-month Pro subscriptions, and not to monthly or quarterly subscriptions.

·      Printing: the Print button on the image page doesn’t work for me (though it works for my wife, who has a different make of printer), but in any case I prefer to download images to my computer, save them, then adjust them before printing; some of the inks used in 1921 have faded, so adjusting the contrast and brightness will usually produce a clearer print (I use the free Irfanview program which makes adjustments to the image easy – and it has lots of other features, most of which I never need to use) .

·      Get your money back: one lucky LostCousins member will get a refund of the money they've spent on 1921 images in January (up to £175, sufficient for 50 images); to have a chance of being the lucky winner click the personal 1921 link on your My Summary page at the LostCousins site before each session, and add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page before the end of January; click here for an instant email reminder of your log-in details. (For full details of the many prizes on offer in my competition, and tips on how you can improve your chance of winning, see the articles at the end of this newsletter.)

·      You can support LostCousins: by using your personal link (see previous item) or by using this generic link; if tracking is disabled, please enable it.



Accessing 'Extra materials'

The image that we see when we hand over our £3.50 may be the most important part of the 1921 Census as far as we're concerned, but it's just one side of the story. Indeed, it's just one side of the form – the back side. The address, and most of the instructions to householders, are on the front side of the form – whilst the form is just one of many that were bound into a book with a stiff cover.


When you first view the image of a household schedule you'll see that near the bottom of the page there are thumbnail images of other schedules from the same enumeration district:



You probably don't want to pay £3.50 to find out who was living next door, but next to the highlighted Thumbnails tab you'll the words Extra materials – clicking this will allow you to view other images that you have already paid for, including the Front side of the household schedule, and the Cover of the book:





Don’t blame the transcribers, they’re doing their best

Transcribing a census isn't easy at the best of times, but when the information the census forms contain can’t be revealed to anyone, not even the transcribers, it’s many times more difficult. Add on the impact of a pandemic that led the release of the Scotland census to be postponed by at last 6 months, and it’s a wonder that Findmypast managed to get the 1921 England & Wales census out on time.


So please be patient whilst Findmypast tidy up the data – a process that will almost certainly take a few months. Relatively few records are affected, but when you have nearly 38 million people on a census, even a 3% error rate would translate into over a million records that need to be revised. Places of birth are particularly problematic because sometimes the wording on the form was incomplete, or easily confused because of the complex transcription process (see the note below).  


The good news is that experienced family historians like you are experts at overcoming all sorts of errors – it's the newbies who might struggle. But let's face it, they're going to have to learn sometime, and it might as well be now!


Note: some of you will remember that to maintain the confidentiality of living people the 1939 Register pages were transcribed in blocks, so that no transcriber saw more than a small part of the data for any individual. Having seen some of the transcription errors I believe that a similar 'jigsaw' process was used with the 1921 Census - which would not be surprising, given that it is the first census covered by the Census Act 1920 to be published.



Detailed information about the census and the information recorded

At the bottom of the Advanced Search page for this census you'll find a highly-detailed description of the records, all of which will add to your understanding of this census, and some of which will help you locate ancestors who are proving hard to find. You'll also see at the right a number of Useful Links including one which lists Occupation Codes (which you'll see written in green on the census forms), and another which lists Registration Districts and Sub-Districts. Those two are free of charge – but some of the other links lead to images which you would currently have to pay to view.



Putting the 1921 Census online - the inside story EXCLUSIVE

I'm delighted that Stephen Rigden, Records Development Manager at Findmypast, has written down the story of how the 1921 England & Wales Census was published online – not just because I can share it with you, but also because it's a record that, sadly, we don't have for earlier censuses. It's an article to read and then re-read, because it provides so much insight into the process of digitising a census. Do feel free to share it with other family historians using the link in the contents list at the top of this newsletter (right click and choose 'Copy link'), but please don’t circulate copies – there is no need, because this newsletter is online for everyone to read, as are all LostCousins newsletters since February 2009.


IT IS A LONG TIME NOW since researchers in England & Wales have been familiar with the experience of handling original census returns. I started working as a professional genealogist in 1987 and even then we used microfilm surrogates in the then Public Record Office at its Chancery Lane and Portugal Street sites. Of course, there are countless advantages to digitisation and online publication which none of us would wish to be without – open access, endless search permutations, speed of research, instant download. Using microfilms and browsing speculatively in the hope of finding a family of interest could be quite dispiriting, as was queuing outside in the cold in Portugal Street. What becomes harder to appreciate when one is accustomed to the census online, though, is the physicality of a census as an archive collection. The digitisation of a new census provides a rare opportunity for those involved to get to know what a census is really like.


The first thing that strikes one is that the 1921 Census is huge. We all know that that must be true, given that it covers an entire country and more, but it is another thing to see with one’s own eyes the archive boxes containing more than 28,000 volumes of census material arrayed on rolling stacks. The sheer size of the collection and the scale of the task to digitise it are daunting. And in this case Findmypast was entrusted with and responsible for the entire project from end to end – everything from laying out and equipping the studio, the initial stocktake, the assessment, preparation and conservation of documents, the imaging of every piece of paper in every book in every box, and the post-imaging re-assembly – not to mention catalogue metadata development, database creation, transcription, cleaning and standardisation of data, search functionality etc. And all this under conditions of security and confidentiality.


As readers will know, the 1921 Census was closed for 100 years under the 1920 Census Act. All images and transcriptions that we created had to be encrypted – effectively locked up and placed out of reach until 50 days before release in January 2022. So, although we have been actively working upon the project since January 2019, we couldn’t access the material we had digitised until mid-October 2021.


Our work was undertaken on closed government premises which required security clearance and the strict observance of protocols – no mobiles, no smart watches or other devices with camera function; no open windows; no straying from approved walkways within the building. This was over and above the usual conservation and archive conditions that one would expect – no food or drink in the studio, no pens, no jewellery except plain wedding rings, no hand cream.


After the collection was digitised, it was uplifted from its temporary location and conveyed under conditions of similarly strict security to its place of permanent long-term storage. From that point onwards, the physical census is effectively closed again in practice. For the foreseeable future, then, access to the 1921 Census will only be through the digital surrogate that Findmypast has created.


The time in the studio was therefore a wonderful and privileged opportunity to get to know a census inside out. No one will ever know the 1921 Census as deeply and as intimately as those conservation team members who worked on this project for so many months. And those of us who were present during the closing phases of the digitisation project in September and October 2021 will be the last persons to have that hands-on experience of the 1921 Census.


So what was it like? Even when you’ve opened hundreds of the bound volumes, there is still an excitement in untying and opening a fresh box and discovering what is inside. Usually, you would find two volumes of approximately equal thickness, but sometimes just one fat one, or even three or four slimmer books if the pieces covered sparsely populated areas or shipping. Each piece is a big landscape volume with tough hard covers front and back, into which the hole-punched census schedules had been bound. Originally, the volumes had been belted shut with an integral strap which was bolted to the rear cover board. At some point before our involvement, broken and damaged belts had been replaced with new straps. Both types of strap bore a nice Stationery Office ink stamp. The original belts were left on if still in good condition, but our instructions were to cut them off cleanly and replace them with archival unbleached cotton tying tape if not.


When you untie the belt strap, or unknot the tape, and open the book, it stretches well over a metre and occupies a good part of the width of your workbench. The census schedules themselves had been laced into the covers, using the four holes punched in 1921 along the left-hand edge, and we had to cut these ties to release the individual schedules for processing. The fronts of the schedules contain the address panel, printed instructions and worked examples. The backs of the forms show the household information that every researcher most wants to see – details of household members – with the householder’s signature towards the bottom-right and the schedule number inserted by the enumerator in the top-right. The schedules were bound into the volumes with their backs uppermost. This means that when you open a volume and turn the protective acid-free paper insert, you see immediately the details of the first household.


Turning over the schedules page by page, you start to follow the enumerator’s walk and visualise how the census was taken back in the summer of 1921. Each volume has its own integrity – it enumerates a very precise and closely defined geographical area. A subsidiary part of the 1921 Census collection contains the so-called Plans of Division (TNA’s archive series RG 114) which carved up the country into manageable units and, among other things, described each enumeration district in detail. The Census Office knew what it was doing with a very high degree of accuracy and certainty.


You start to see patterns too. Patterns of employment, for example. Page after page show the same or similar occupations, or the same industry, or the same employer. The pattern of farm labour is revealed to you. On previous censuses, you would see agricultural labourers, horsemen and others but without a sense of how they belonged together in the economic landscape. Suddenly, in 1921, you see how they are working for a particular local farmer, whose name appears time and time again.


The Census Office was very interested in employment in 1921, and in particular in the distances people were travelling to work (this is why workplace was requested on the form). I wasn’t entirely sure of the benefits to family historians at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that all sorts of possibilities are opened up by the 1921 Census capturing details of employment. Firstly, of course, as a genealogist you now know who your ag lab ancestor worked for and where, or in whose factory your great grandfather worked his lathe. But you can also find his or her workmates. Local historians can now see this information and reconstruct a workforce. You could, if you wish, find all the labourers in a steelworks, or all the ticket inspectors on the municipal tramway. This was simply not possible with the 1911 or earlier censuses.


When you work with the census as an archive collection, what you see is context. You see things you wouldn’t see online because your online search experience is so targeted – with a little luck, online you should be able to go straight to the person of interest to you. What this does, for most of us, is limit our experience of the census to our own families and the specific archival pieces that interest us. It is slightly better for professional researchers who investigate families other than their own, and thereby gain a broader understanding, but even their experience amounts to little more than a glimpse. Working on the digitisation of the 1921 Census exposes you to all sorts of things you would otherwise have been unaware of – the variety of different forms (for different places and different types of sizes of household), for example, or the various returns for institutions such as asylums, hospitals and workhouses. I’m very keen on browse experiences on genealogy websites, where you are able to open a volume and then page through the images from start to finish.


There is a separate browse experience for the 1921 Census available from launch. However, as access is initially pay-per-view only, take-up of this is likely to be low except in locations such as The National Archives or the National Library of Wales reading rooms, which are blessed with free onsite access. In the fullness of time, though, when 1921 Census enters subscriptions, I’d recommend that all serious family historians take the time to browse through at least one entire piece, from cover to cover, even if it is merely one for your local area. It will take you an hour and probably more but there’s really nothing like it for developing a deeper understanding of the census as an archive record. And the good thing about doing that online is that you won’t end up with the lingering smell of the 1921 Census in your hair and on your clothes, and your fingertips darkened with the century’s worth of dirt and dust that has accumulated in the physical volumes!


The 1921 Census is the last for 30 years, due to the accidental destruction by fire of the 1931 and the lack of a 1941 census being taken in wartime. As far as anyone knows at this juncture, the 1951 Census will not be opened until 2052. I’d therefore encourage all family historians with roots in England & Wales, or the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, to make the most of the 1921 Census, as it is likely to be the last family history event of national significance for some time. It really is hard to think of anything that could eclipse it.


Stephen Rigden, Records Development Manager, Findmypast


Thank you, Stephen, not just for the incredible effort and expertise that you put into the project, but also for taking the time to set down your story – not in ink that will inevitably fade, on paper that will eventually deteriorate, but in a digital format that will preserve it for centuries to come. Thank you too for the suggestion to browse the 1921 Census – I will certainly do that one day, but in the meantime I'm going to browse the 1939 Register, and get a sense of what it will be like.



From McQueen to Queen

The instructions on the front of the 1921 Census Schedule state that "The Head, or person acting as Head, of a private Household is required by law to make a return in this Form, stating the particulars asked for in respect of all persons forming part of the household for Census purposes."


But what should you do when the only members of the family present on Census Night are 3 year-old twins? Such was the case at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair on the night of Sunday 19th June 1921, as this extract shows:



Apart from the twins, Timothy Patrick Bowes-Lyon and his sister Nancy, and their two nurses, Nora McQueen and Catherine Palk, there were 6 other servants present, and the return was signed by one of them, Sarah Craigie – though only because her name was the last on the page, since her handwriting doesn't match the other entries. In fact none of the staff seem to have filled out the entries for the twins, not even their nurses, but the relationship shown (Grandchild) suggests that the entries were completed by or on behalf of one of their grandparents.


I decided to look the return for Claude George Bowes-Lyon, the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, whose eldest son, Patrick, was the father of the twins. I found the Earl at St Pauls Walden Bury in Hertfordshire and as there were 12 people in the household they had been issued with an EE Census Schedule, which can list up to 40 people. Present on Census Night were the Earl and Countess, together with two of their sons, as well as 8 servants.


Their daughter Elizabeth was elsewhere in 1921 – I couldn't find her on the census, though perhaps you can – but I do know where she was 5 years later, because on 21st April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street the Duchess of York gave birth to Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor. Don't recognise the name? Here's a clue – she'll shortly be celebrating 70 years as Queen of England!



Gay abandon?

When I first heard that Gay had decided to visit The National Archives at Kew for the launch of the 1921 Census I was worried that by mentioning the free access at Kew (as well as Manchester and Aberystwyth) I'd encouraged her to take a risk – with as many as 1 in 10 people in London testing positive for COVID at the end of December I wouldn’t encourage anyone to use public transport unless they really had to. But Gay had wisely chosen to drive, and had also sought assurances from the staff at TNA about the precautions in place – it was a well-considered decision.


The next day she wrote with some advice for others who might decide to make the trip:


"First I found the most frustrating thing was you couldn't actually book a computer - it was first come, first served. Then they were not sure that you would be able to access via your own device once in the building. They did change this and say that it would be possible.


"It was also necessary to fill in forms for a temporary ticket for the reading rooms and, to qualify to attend, book to view at least one document or the visit would be cancelled. This was annoying as the only reason I was visiting was to view the 1921 census. I did find us a document each to look at.


"We arrived at 9 am - with the reading room opening at 9:30. Everything went smoothly. Must admit I expected it to be much busier than it was and there were banks of computers specially set up and lots of spaces. Even by the time we left at 14:00 it was still relatively quiet. The National Archives had clearly put in a lot of effort to set it up, and all the staff were amazing and welcoming.


"I dragged a laptop there to be prepared and one of my daughters brought an iPad, just in case a computer. wasn't available. We did not need to use them. It is a great pity that when booking it was not possible to book a computer and be allocated a space. We felt it was made more complicated than necessary so did that cause the lack of take-up? Obviously Omicron would have also been a consideration for many."


Have you visited one of the other locations since the launch and, if so, do you have any advice for someone who might be planning a visit?



Purple prose

I've made some amazing discoveries as a result of viewing the 1921 returns for my ancestors – but I've also found myself embarking on a new quest. Two of the four returns I've viewed so far have been written using purple ink – you can see one of them here – and I was unsure whether it was a newly-fashionable colour, since I haven’t noticed it in the 1911 Census, or just a quirky thing in my family (the two households were closely related). It has even been suggested that it’s not ink at all, but pencil, or that the ink was originally a different colour (note: it’s because most inks fade that registrars use special ink).


Purple ink has certainly been popular at various times in history – it was used by Roman Emperors, and if you follow this link you'll see an 1862 poster for encre violette. In fact, thinking about it, my very first computer printer – an Anadex dot-matrix printer bought over 40 years ago – used a purple ribbon. In those days tills in shops often generated receipts in a similar colour – presumably because it didn’t fade, unlike the print on modern till receipts, which soon vanishes (I guess that's that one way to cut down the number of refunds!).


In 1856 aniline purple, later renamed mauveine, was discovered by chance and it spurned an entire industry. According to Wikipedia "between 1859 and 1861, mauve became a fashion must have". But was there a resurgence in interest around 1921, I wonder? If you’re a collector of antique fountain pens you might well know about early 20th century inks (or know a man who does) – if so, please post the information on the LostCousins Forum.


Tip: if you have qualified to join the forum there will a link and a code on your My Summary page. If you haven't yet qualified please add more relatives to your My Ancestors page – membership of the forum is a privilege reserved for those who are taking part in the LostCousins project and have achieved a Match Potential (also shown on your My Summary page) of 1 or more.



Silence is golden

It's not unusual to find children – usually girls – who were named after one of the virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity are the most common, though in certain places at certain times Temperance can be popular. But the forename Silence was a new one on me – and whilst it’s not one of the seven virtues, there's a lot to be said for it.


When Lynne told me about the 1691 marriage she'd spotted between Silence Williams and William Heron I decided to check that it hadn’t been wrongly transcribed. Whilst I couldn’t find an image of that entry online I was able to find the entry for her second marriage – as Silence Heron – in 1705. Do you have a Silence in your tree?


Note: in 1967 'Silence is Golden' was a No.1 hit in the UK for The Tremeloes. Which reminds me, did I ever tell you about the time The Tremeloes came round my house? Unfortunately I wasn't there and nor was my sister, who was the person they had come to see – she'd sent them her autograph book to sign and rather than entrust it to the post, they decided to drop it in as they were in the area (the group came from Dagenham). I doubt our mother was nearly as impressed when they turned up at the door as we would have been!



Genealogy mysteries: a reader writes

I don’t have time to read all of the books I'm offered for review, not even if they're been written by LostCousins members – so I was delighted that when a member wrote to tell me how much he had enjoyed John Nixon's series of genealogical mysteries featuring Madeleine Porter, I was able to persuade him to write the following review:


Between 2012 and 2020 John Nixon published nine mysteries which rely on genealogical research for their solution. Amazon refers to the stories having "a dash of genealogy thrown in." That phrasing underplays genealogy’s involvement in the storytelling.


The series is known as the 'Madeleine Porter Mysteries' with John’s protagonist being Mrs Madeleine Porter, a widow who is described as "approaching sixty years old" (Stolen Futures) and "a petite woman with grey hair falling to her shoulders. She had never been able to afford expensive clothes, and she was most at home wearing jumpers or cardigans, with trousers or jeans and sensible shoes"(Family Shadows).


Rather like Miss Marple, Madeleine Porter appears to be unexceptional. In fact, Madeleine is a minor character in the first novel, Family Shadows, but she is the key researcher in most of the rest of the series, helped by the man who eventually becomes her second husband.


Her first husband was a vicar and after he died Madeleine moved in with her bachelor brother, Tim. When Tim marries and he and his new wife begin having children, Madeleine decides it is time to find a residence of her own. She fancies a place near the coast and settles in a rented cliff-top property in the fictitious Seatown on the Dorset coast. After an initial interest in working on family mysteries, she advertises her services locally to help others who would like to research their own family history, believing her experience as a vicar’s wife will aid her in talking with a wide variety of people and be sensitive to their reactions. Consequently she becomes involved in the past of several families.


The novels contain many of the features of mystery stories in general with several story threads developing at the beginning which apparently have few links with each other. The reader is kept alert with an array of years, events and names. You may sometimes feel like Ian Clay who says: "Make out a timeline..... I'm getting muddled" (Hammer Blow). Gradually possible connections emerge: for example, in the second novel, (The Cuckoo Clock) one historical mystery focuses on why Madeleine’s new landlord values the cuckoo clock in the cottage so highly and this neatly links with other threads.


Similarly, the third novel in the series, Stolen Futures, begins with the death of pregnant teenager, Harriett Clarke, in 1877. A week later occurs the apparent suicide of a married neighbour, Alfred Bennett. Are these two events connected? Based on the fact that Harriett at times looked after the three Bennett children, Harriett’s older brother presents this view strongly at Alfred’s inquest. The community believes his interpretation and Alfred’s widow and children have to move from the area. The ramifications of this presented view echo down the generations to the present day involving a Clarke descendant (a local MP) and a Bennett descendant (a former tax inspector). However the truth requires careful sifting over time, which is where Madeleine Porter is needed. Even so, as Madeleine knows, sometimes the outcomes "may not be what you would hope them to be" (The Cuckoo Clock).


There are, of course, in each novel, red herrings to keep the reader’s attention, plus coincidences (as in Agatha Christie novels) that help the story develop. John Nixon often takes the reader back to the time, say 1877 or 1901, when earlier events happened – as when a family gathers around the wireless in September 1939 to hear war declared (Unearthed) – and shows how this person and that ancestor led to this child being born. The writer also involves dramatic irony so these past re-creations mean that sometimes the reader learns aspects that the descendants do not know and Madeleine has yet to work out.


Overall, each novel presents an involved story, with rounded, believable characters and depictions of the past that largely ring true. All sorts of genealogical evidence is drawn upon, including birth, marriage and death certificates, wills, census returns, inquest notes, newspapers, ancestors’ letters, family rumours and uncertain memories.


It's advisable to read the first three books (Family Shadows, The Cuckoo Clock, and Stolen Futures) in sequence, but after that the order is less important. All nine novels are available either as paperbacks or in Kindle format – please use the relevant link below so that you can support LostCousins when you make your purchase:                                                   



Numerous prizes still to be won in my New Year Competition!

I've already mentioned the attractive cash prize that you can win, simply by completing your My Ancestors page, but it's just one of the wonderful prizes on offer. To win requires no expertise, other than the research skills that all serious family historians acquire by indulging in their favourite hobby!


Here's a reminder of the other prizes on offer…..


SPECIAL PRIZE: Baroness Scott interview followed by Q&A session (11am 3rd February 2022)

Baroness Ros Scott was the prime driver behind the legislation that allows the General A close-up of a person smiling

Description automatically generatedRegister Office to  provide 'certificates' in an electronic format – I first reported her proposals on Christmas Day 2014, and what a Christmas present for family historians it turned out to be!


The 2015 Deregulation Act subsequently  imposed a duty on the GRO to come forward with proposals relating to historic certificates, and in late 2016 we were all taking part in the PDF trial, which eventually became a permanent service.


I will be talking to Baroness Scott in front of a small virtual audience about her interest in family history and how that has fed into her work in the House of Lords – I suspect I'll be asking whether she hopes that one day there will be instant access to the historic registers for England & Wales, as there already is in Scotland. Following the interview there will be an opportunity for members of the audience to ask questions.


To maximise your chance of winning this valuable opportunity add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page during the period of the competition, and indicate your interest on the My Prizes page at the LostCousins site.


The Genealogist - UK census, BMDs and more online

STAR PRIZE: 12 month Diamond subscription to The Genealogist (normal price £139.95)

You could win unlimited access to a wide range of records including non-conformist records, exclusive tithe records and tithe maps, and a growing collection of 'Lloyd George' Domesday records and maps which you won't find at any other site. If you already have a Diamond subscription an additional 12 months will be added.


The prize winner will be chosen after the competition closes on 31st January 2022, but if you can't wait you can get a 4 month Diamond subscription for just £44.95 when you follow this link (you'll also get a Free 12 Month subscription to Discover Your Ancestors Online Magazine worth £24.99).


STAR PRIZE: 12 month unlimited subscription to British Newspaper Archive (normal price £79.95)

Over 46 million pages from historic British and Irish newspapers, with hundreds of thousands more pages added every month. Upwards of half a billion articles, notices, and adverts, and literally billions of names. Was your ancestor famous for 15 minutes?


Optimised search features include the ability to search for articles added after a particular date, so that you don't have to repeatedly trawl through articles you've previously read or discarded. The prize winner will be chosen after the competition closes on 31st January 2022.


SPECIAL PRIZE: Scottish Research Resources Before 1800 with Chris Paton (mid-January, date to be confirmed)

Do you have Scottish ancestors? In this talk Chris Paton, author and professional genealogist will Zoom you to pre-19th century Scotland, when things begin to get a little more complicated with your ancestral research. From Kirk to state, a variety of records are available but it's one thing to find them, and quite another to understand them, with different handwriting styles, language problems and the feudal nature of Scottish society forming some of the many challenges that make earlier Scottish research fun but challenging.


Chris will explore the various record types available, and how to access them both online and offline. This exclusive Zoom presentation in front of a select audience will be followed by a question and answer session in which all are invited to participate. To maximise your chances of being one of the lucky few to attend, add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page bearing in mind that the winners will be selected about a week before the talk takes place.


You'll find my reviews of two of Chris's most recent books here and here.


STAR PRIZE: One-to-one brick wall busting session with the editor of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine

Most of you will know Sarah Williams as the editor of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine – but she is also a highly competent genealogist with a Masters degree in Medieval Studies. I'm delighted to say that Sarah has generously offered to help knock down an English 'brick wall' for the lucky winner of this prize.


This one-to-one consultation will take place over Zoom on a mutually convenient date, and whilst there's no guarantee that Sarah will be able to solve your problem during the session, I'd be surprised if her insight into your 'brick wall' doesn’t lead you in a new and more productive direction. To maximise your chance of winning this valuable opportunity add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page before Christmas, as the winner of this prize will be chosen on Christmas Day.


Tip: only one lucky member can win this prize or the one below but everyone can benefit from the advice in my Masterclass 'Knocking down brick walls' which was recently updated and can be found here. (Note: that there are links to ALL of my Masterclasses on the Subscribers Only page.)


SPECIAL PRIZE: Seminar on marriage law with Professor Rebecca Probert (date to be confirmed)

Many of you will already be familiar with Professor Probert's books for genealogists (you'll find my reviews here and here), but even if you haven't read the books you'll know, I'm sure, that she is the leading authority on historical marriage law in England & Wales. Her books have over-turned numerous myths about the ways our ancestors married, shedding new light on their behaviour and the sometimes difficult decisions they were faced with.


Currently Professor of Law at Exeter University, in 2015 she was seconded to the Law Commission to work on their scoping paper Getting Married and since August 2019 she has been acting as specialist advisor to the Commission on their Weddings Project.


This exclusive Zoom presentation in front of a small invited audience will be followed by a question and answer session in which all are invited to participate. To maximise your chances of being one of the lucky few to attend add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page.


SPECIAL PRIZE: Nathan Dylan Goodwin interview followed by Q&A session (date to be confirmed)

I'll be interviewing Nathan Dylan Goodwin, the creator of the Forensic Genealogist series featuring Morton Farrier, live on Zoom – and you could be in the audience! Amongst other things I'll be asking questions about the characters in the books, and where the inspiration for them came from.


After the interview I'll be inviting questions from the floor – note that the number of attendees will be kept low so that as many people as possible have the chance to ask their question. However you can also submit questions on the My Prizes page – that way your question could get asked even if you’re not fortunate enough to be invited.


To maximise your chances of being one of the lucky few to attend, add as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page – and don't leave it to the last minute, because this is an opportunity that no fan of Morton Farrier will want to miss!

Note: you'll find my review of Nathan's latest book


SPECIAL PRIZE: Secrets of the census with Dr Donald Davis (date to be confirmed)

Speaking to us from Canada will be Dr Donald Davis, who retired from a vocation studying the health of populations to an avocation exploring population records – he is currently looking forward to the release of the 1921 England & Wales Census which, taken following the Great War, explored new avenues of importance to family historians.


When the previous census (1911) was released we saw for the first time the forms that our ancestors had filled in, replete with misunderstandings, spelling mistakes, amendments, and gratuitous comments. This was eye-opening – all that had survived from the 1841-1901 censuses were the enumerators' summary books. Or so it was thought – then Don discovered a cache of household schedules from the 1841 Census at Shropshire Archives and many of our assumptions about the census were overturned.


INVITED PRESENTATION: 'Brits to Canada', with John D Reid (date to be arranged)

From the first part of the 19th century, to late in the 20th, many British people from all walks of life chose to cross the Atlantic for opportunities in Canada. Are they missing from your family history? Explore the resources available to you to throw light on your Canadian cousins and some remarkable personalities and stories.


Born in Norfolk, now a long-time resident of Ottawa, John D Reid is a retired environmental research scientist. Since 2006, he has presented an independent view of British and Canadian family history resources and developments, seen from an Ottawa perspective in his Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections blog.


Those of you who were fortunate to be amongst the attendees at one of the Genealogy in the Sunshine events I organised in Portugal some years ago will, I'm sure, remember John D Reid as well as Chris Paton and Dr Donald Davis, all of whom were amongst the distinguished speakers – as was Professor Probert in the second year.


INVITED PRESENTATION:  'Lost an ancestor? There were 3 million Britons in India', with Elaine MacGregor (date to be arranged)

Did members of your family travel to India; could some of your relatives have been born there?


 Elaine started researching her family history in her teens and used her grandmother’s dog breeding pedigree forms to fill in a basic family tree!  Then life intervened and it was only about 30 years ago that she started researching her family in earnest when her husband bought her a family history software package for Christmas. She knew that her father and grandmother were born in Calcutta, but it was not until she joined FIBIS (Families in British India Society) over 20 years ago that she discovered through research that she has 6 generations in India.


Elaine will be speaking over Zoom to a small invited audience, and there will be time for Q&A at the end. Please indicate your interest on the My Prizes page at the LostCousins site; the date and time of the presentation will be announced closer to the time – in the meantime you can maximise your chance of being one of the fortunate few by adding as many relatives as possible to your My Ancestors page.


Remember, the competition ends on 31st January, and to have a chance of winning one or more prizes you need only enter relatives – from any of the 9 censuses we use – on your My Ancestors page.


Note: only relatives who are genetically-related to the member concerned will count, however if you are researching on behalf of someone else (eg a spouse) entries you make on their account will also qualify;  relatives from the 1881 censuses count double.



How to enter more relatives and win more prizes

Although the key page at the LostCousins site is called My Ancestors don’t assume that you can only enter your direct ancestors and their immediate families. Indeed, this would be a very poor way to find your 'lost cousins', because ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree – that's what makes them cousins. For example, 1st cousins branch off your direct line 1 generation ago (they share your grandparents), 2nd cousins branch off 2 generations ago (they share your great-grandparents) and so on.


Inevitably we have more 2nd cousins than 1st cousins, more 3rd cousins than 2nd cousins, and so on – and that's one of the reasons why we can't afford to ignore our more distant cousins. All cousins share our ancestors – the only difference between close cousins and distant cousins is that the common ancestors we share with close cousins are more recent. However family historians like you and me are more likely to be knocking down 'brick walls' in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries than the 19th century, 20th and 21st centuries – so the fact that our cousin is distantly-related can actually be an advantage.


A good strategy for identifying relatives to enter on your My Ancestors page is to start in 1841, or earlier if you can, then track each branch and twig making use of the censuses, BMD indexes, and parish records too (if they're readily available). Typically for each person in your tree who was alive in 1841 there will 3 or 4 who were alive in 1881, so you'll soon be making contacts with new cousins – as well as increasing your chances of winning prizes in the competition.


Not sure about the different relationships? Your direct ancestors are the people from whom you are directly descended, ie your 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents and so on; blood relatives are people who share some of your ancestors (which includes all of your cousins, no matter how distant, and their descendants). You don’t need to remember this – when you choose a relationship in the Add Ancestor or Edit Ancestor form a brief reminder is displayed on the right.



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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2022 Peter Calver


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