Newsletter - 19th July 2017
Another chance to save at Findmypast ENDS 30TH JULY
Free access to military records at Ancestry.co.uk THIS WEEKEND
Win a Queen's autograph in our Summer Competition OVER 50 PRIZES
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 7th July) 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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In April this year I reported that Westminster Archives have 9 boxes of forms relating to the 1915 National Register, and although I wasn't able to make it to the archives myself, a LostCousins member who was planning a visit kindly offered to check them out. Here's the very comprehensive report he provided:
Each box contained two or three parcels of forms wrapped in brown paper:
Box 1 - Paddington
Parcel 1 - Males, surnames COA-CRI, c.900 forms
Parcel 2 - Males, surnames CRO-DAY, c.500 forms
Box 2 - Paddington
Parcel 1 - Males, surnames DAW-DYE, c.600 forms
Parcel 2 - Males, surnames K & P, c.1000 forms
Box 3 - Paddington
Parcel 1 - Males, cancelled forms (sequence 1), surnames A-Z, c.600 forms
Parcel 2 - Males, surnames Q-R, c.800 forms
Box 4 - Paddington
Parcel 1 - Females, surnames COL-COO, c.500 forms
Parcel 2 - Females, surnames COP-CUP, c.600 forms
Parcel 3 - Females, surnames CRO-CUT, c.400 forms
Box 5 - Paddington
Parcel 1 - Females, surnames JOR-KIN, c.700 forms
Parcel 2 - Females, surnames KIR-LAZ, c.1000 forms
Box 6 - Paddington
Parcel 1 - Females, surnames MIN-MUS, c.1000 forms
Parcel 2 - Females, surnames MUS-NOR, c.700 forms
Box 7 - Paddington
Parcel 1 - Females, surnames WAT-WEST, c.700 forms
Parcel 2 - Females, surnames WESTO-WIL, c.800 forms
Box 8 - Scotland & Isle of Man
Parcel 1 - Males & females, surnames ADA-HED, c.400 forms
Parcel 2 - Males & females, surnames HEU-YOU, c.400 forms
Box 9 - Paddington
Parcel 1 - Males, cancelled forms (sequence 2), surnames A-Z, c.900 forms
Parcel 2 - Females, cancelled forms, c.500 forms
I unwrapped parcel 1 from box 1 and counted 500 of the forms in order to estimate the number of forms in each bundle from the thickness of the bundle. The forms I counted were sorted alphabetically by surname and at least 90% of them were 1915 forms like the third picture in your 20 April newsletter. The other 10% were titled "National Registration Acts 1915 & 1918".
I also unwrapped one of the parcels from box 5 and counted 100 of the forms. All of them were 1915 forms like the first picture in your 20 April newsletter.
So the bottom line is that I think they have at least 13,000 forms covering some (but by no means all) of the people living in what was then known as the Borough of Paddington. I didn't have time to investigate why they had a box of Scotland and Isle of Man forms, but I did notice that these were larger than the English forms.
My quest to identify surviving records from the 1915 Register began earlier this year when I heard that 2,409 forms for Cirencester and the surrounding villages were in Gloucestershire Archives - to discover a much larger cache at Westminster is a very pleasant surprise, although to the best of my knowledge there's currently no plan to transcribe and index the Westminster records.
Perhaps Findmypast, who have an existing relationship with Westminster Archives, will pick up the baton?
Another chance to save at Findmypast ENDS 30TH JULY
Family historians tend to do most of their research in the winter months, when the nights are long, so there's inevitably a slump in people taking out subscriptions during the summer. I wasn't surprised, therefore, to learn that Findmypast are once again offering a 10% discount on new 12 month subscriptions - nor that this offer doesn't apply in Australia, where it's currently winter.
At Findmypast.co.uk you can save on 12 month Britain and World subscriptions; at Findmypast.com (the US site) you can save on Premium subscriptions. All of these subscriptions include the 1939 Register, probably the most important British release since the 1911 Census.
This offer isn't exclusive to LostCousins, but you can support LostCousins when you use the following links:
If we do receive commission on your purchase I'll give you a FREE 12 month LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 - just make sure that when you click the link you can see the words 'LostCousins' on the browser command line when you arrive at the Findmypast site.
(If you don't see those words check that you haven't disabled tracking in your browser - and ask me for help if that doesn't solve the problem.)
To claim your free subscription forward to me the email receipt that Findmypast will send you (you can use any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one I wrote from to tell you about this newsletter). Please make a note of the precise time of your purchase in case the email doesn't arrive - I must have that time to confirm your entitlement. Your LostCousins subscription will run from the date of your Findmypast purchase unless you already have a subscription, in which case I'll extend it by 12 months.
Note: this article originally featured in my Christmas newsletter, but it was so well-received that I felt it would be helpful to provide an updated version.
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 searches….
The first thing you need to appreciate is that there are two ways of searching. 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.
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 are at least three ways of searching for the same historical record? Would you like to know which of those three ways I use myself? Yes, I thought so…..
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 at the bottom of the menu (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 country, 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):
1881 British census (FREE transcription)
* these parish register links will take you to the baptisms for the county - the Useful Links on that page will take you to marriages and burials
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.
In March I revealed that FamilySearch were planning to discontinue the use of microfilm. Although initially denied, it was later confirmed to me by FamilySearch insiders, and recently it was announced officially on the LDS website. The last day for ordering microfilms will be 31st August 2017 - it's the end of an era.
The most popular microfilms have already been digitised, and it is expected that by 2020 all of the microfilm images will be held in a digital format.
However, this doesn't mean that they'll be available online at the FamilySearch website - in most cases the agreements between FamilySearch and the owners or custodians of the records preclude this. Instead, researchers will need to visit their local Family History Centre, as they would have done to view the films - so the main difference will be the instant access to the material.
Individual Family History Centres may retain the microfilms they currently hold, but it's likely that over time there will be a complete switch to digital, and that the microfilm readers are removed to make space for the additional computer terminals that will be needed.
When English parish registers held at local record offices were microfilmed around 40 years ago, the relevant record offices were provided with copies of the films. What I don't know yet is whether they will be provided with digital copies as they are produced - I would certainly hope that this will be the case. Of course, over the past decade many of those record offices have allowed the registers they hold to be made available online, usually at Ancestry or Findmypast.
Note: the films at record offices typically refer to the Genealogical Society of Utah - but, of course, we now know them as FamilySearch.
Free access to military records at Ancestry.co.uk THIS WEEKEND
From Friday 21st July until midnight on Monday 24th July most of Ancestry's UK military records will be free. You'll need to register, if you haven't already done so, but you won't need to provide credit card or bank details (unless you try to access records not included in the offer, or sign up for the 14 day free trial).
Follow this link for more information.
The long-awaited new version of Family Tree Maker was officially released this weekend. Over the past few months 3,000 beta testers and around 100,000 'test drivers' have been trialling the program, as teething problems with the tree-sync were ironed out.
I know from following the discussions on the LostCousins forum how frustrating the delay was for researchers who use FTM as their main tree program - hopefully the wait will eventually prove to have been worthwhile.
Note: I've never used Family Tree Maker, so please don't ask me questions about it!
Earlier this year it was announced that life expectancy at age 65 had fallen, after rising for many years - this caused a certain amount of consternation, and it was interpreted by many as evidence that cuts to health and welfare funding were leading to a decline in the health of older people.
I've certainly noticed a deterioration in my own health over the past decade, but unfortunately it's more likely to be a result of my advancing years than austerity measures! Nevertheless I was interested to read an analysis in Significance magazine (which goes out to members of the Royal Statistical Society) - because it leads me to wonder whether the statistics might be misleading.
As you can imagine, life expectancy is calculated by looking at the age at which people die - and comparing the number of people of each age who died against the much larger number who didn't. Finding out how many people died is easy - since these figures are recorded by the GRO - but it's much more difficult to determine how many people didn't die, because of migration (even migration between England & Scotland can confound the estimates).
Whilst it wasn't mentioned in the article, I suspect there's a tendency for expats to return to the UK when their health deteriorates - because, despite what many think, we have one of the best health services in the world (indeed, the NHS came top in a recent study - see this BBC article).
As I was writing this newsletter life expectancy hit the news again, with a leading health expert claiming that the increases in life expectancy we've seen over the past century have ground to a halt - and blaming the worsening situation on austerity (you can read more about it here). However, he seems to have based his calculations on the same, potentially-flawed, statistics that prompted the earlier announcement.
Everyone knows the saying about "lies, damned lies, and statistics" (though nobody is quite sure who first said it - I always thought it was Mark Twain, but he attributed it to Disraeli). The reality is that if you don't look into the background behind statistics, and use them out of context, you can prove almost anything. A great example, one that all family historians will be aware of, is the assumption that low life expectancy at birth in the 19th century meant that there were few old people.
In fact the figures were skewed by the large number of infants deaths, so that whilst male life expectancy at birth was just 40 years in 1841, a man who was 65 years old in 1841 could nevertheless look forward to 11 years of life (on average). By 2011 male life expectancy at birth had increased by 39 years, but life expectancy at 65 had gone up by just 7 years.
I honestly don't know whether life expectancy has been affected by austerity - though I'm rather sceptical, since one of the effects of rationing and deprivation in World War 2 was to improve the health of the British population!
Last month I published a DNA Special Edition newsletter which set out the key facts about DNA testing. I thought I'd answered all the important questions - but I now realise that I could have made some of the basic facts clearer.
So here's my Dummies Guide to DNA testing…..
Can DNA testing help me knock down my 'brick wall'?
Who can test?
Anyone descended from the 'brick wall' ancestor*
Does it matter if the person testing is male or female?
Who should I test with, and which test should I take?
Ancestry - and they only offer one test
* your chances of success are highest if the 'brick wall' is in the last 5 generations
Until this week it was possible to activate multiple DNA tests with a single Ancestry account, but from now on it will only be possible to activate one test per account (the only exception is that parents will be able to activate tests on behalf of their minor children).
This means that in future there will need to be a separate Ancestry account for each person who tests - but don't worry, this doesn't mean that everyone will need to be an Ancestry subscriber. Instead the 'owner' of a test will be able to appoint someone else to 'manage' it.
You'll find full details about this change here.
Win a Queen's autograph in our Summer Competition OVER 50 PRIZES
Queen Mary was a cousin of Queen Victoria, wife of George V, mother of Edward VIII and George VI, and grandmother of our present Queen. Queen Mary's autograph could be yours - all you need to do is win our Summer Competition.
To enter simply do what comes naturally - or should do for a LostCousins member - enter relatives on your My Ancestors page. Every direct ancestor or blood relative you enter will represent an entry in the competition, but those from the 1881 Census will count double (because it's far more likely to match with an entry made by one of your cousins).
FIRST PRIZE: autograph of Queen Mary and a 5 year LostCousins subscription
20 runners-up will each get a 12 month LostCousins subscription - which can be a joint subscription covering two accounts (eg husband & wife)
There will also be 10 subscriptions given away each month (June, July, August) based on the entries made in that month - these will be drawn at the end of each month and the winners notified as soon as practicable thereafter (I'll be writing to the June winners shortly).
Everyone who takes part will have multiple chances to win even if they only enter a single relative - best of luck to all of you!
Although I'm pretty au fait with DNA testing, I'd like to understand more about how DNA actually works - so I was delighted to discover Herding Hemingway's Cats: Understanding How Our Genes Work by Kat Arney, who has a doctorate in developmental genetics, and just happens to be the daughter of a long-time LostCousins member.
Of course, I didn't take her mother's word for it - I looked at the reviews at Amazon, where I found that 19 of the 22 reviewers gave it 5 stars, which is about as good as it gets.
I'm about half-way through, so with luck I'll have a full review in time for the next newsletter.
I spent last weekend at a reunion for a group of a dozen or so friends who I've known for around 50 years (nearly 60 in some cases). Six of them were in the Boys' Brigade with me in the 1960s, and two of them were also in my class at junior school. One of them conducted my father's funeral service.
Two of the others were LostCousins members (I suspect a third will be joining before long), so it was a chance for them to sample some of the jams they'd read about in this newsletter, as well as my 2016 Sloe Gin and Shepherd's Bullace Gin. These had been decanted after 10 months, rather than the usual 3, giving them a more intense fruit flavour.
What do you do with the sloes after you decant the gin? I put mine in a Kilner jar and top it up with cheap white or rosé wine - the sort of wine that people bring to parties but nobody drinks. After few days the wine is transformed into something that is not only drinkable, but very more-ish.
Talking of food and drink reminds me that I have a little puzzle for readers: can you tell me who was born a Marquis, became a Knight, ended up an Earl, but is best known as a Lord? Oh, and he also had a recipe named after him.....
I forgot to mention that the Living DNA offer in my last newsletter is continuing - well worth considering if you've already tested elsewhere, but are looking a better analysis of your British ancestry.
That's all for now - but I've got lots more lined up for the next edition, which should be out before the end of the month.
© 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