Newsletter - 5th June 2015
2021 Census Consultation begins NEWSFLASH
Search the world for a dollar, a pound, or euro SAVE OVER 90%
Top tips for search success
What's in a name?
DNA testing strategies
Your Family Tree forum vanishes
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 1st June) click here, for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here, for a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a list of articles from 2012-14 click here. Or use the customised Google search below (that's what I do):
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!
2021 Census Consultation begins
Haven't we done this before? There was indeed a consultation in 2013, as a result of which it was decided that the 2021 Census would go ahead - but now we're getting into the nitty-gritty, looking at the detail.
You might think that the detail doesn't matter, but unless the right questions are asked, the information that family historians most need in 2122 simply won't be available. After all, one of the most useful pieces of information on 19th century census forms is the place of birth - but did you realise that this question hasn't been asked since 1951!
We all know how frustrating it is that the 1841 Census doesn't give the place of birth - can you imagine what it will be like for the family historians of the future, who won't be able to get this information from the 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001, or 2011 censuses when they are released?
If we can get the simple question "Where were you born?" into the 2021 Census we'll change the future of family history!
You might think that as mere hobbyists we won't be listened to seriously - but as I reported a year ago, 306 of the 444 respondents to the first consultation were family historians, and three-quarters of those family historians were LostCousins members. Our voice was heard on that occasion, and if we once again make a good case, our voice will be heard again.
Securing this small, but incredibly important, change in 2021 is even more crucial than it might seem, because it's quite possible that the 2021 Census could be the last England & Wales census EVER! When the government finally rubber-stamped the recommendation of the National Statistician last August, and agreed that the 2021 Census should proceed, they stated that their "ambition is that censuses after 2021 will be conducted using other sources of data and providing more timely statistical information."
In other words, this could be the only opportunity we have to collect this vital information.
How can you help? Firstly, by attending one of the roadshows being held in Newcastle on Monday 22nd June, Birmingham on Tuesday 23rd June, Cardiff on Wednesday 24th June, or London on Thursday 25th June. (I have already registered for the London roadshow - please let me know which of the roadshows you will be attending.)
Secondly, by reading the consultation document and responding appropriately. The consultation document is mainly aimed at those who are using statistics from the census, not those who are interested in the individuals - if we focus on what matters most to us our recommendations will come through loud and clear.
Thirdly, by ensuring that other family historians, particularly those who don't receive this newsletter, are aware how important it is to make our voices heard. It's extremely unlikely that any of us will be around when the 2021 England & Wales Census is released in 2122, but I can I assure you that I will die happier knowing that family history has a future!
The important thing to remember is that we may not be rich or powerful, but by pulling together we can make a difference - like the passers-by who lifted a double-decker bus last week in order to save someone who was trapped underneath (you can see the BBC story here).
Note: I remember the first 2021 consultation vividly because, not only did it close on Friday 13th (hardly an auspicious date), I was struggling to make my online submission over a dodgy wifi connection in a Caribbean hotel room, my bout of mosquito-borne dengue fever having peaked only the day before. It's probably just as well that there were hundreds more of you making the same points, but far more lucidly than I!
Search the world for a dollar, a pound, or a euro
How much could you find out about your family history in a month if you had a Findmypast World subscription?
Back in November I reported how in a single weekend I'd added 27 new direct ancestors to my family tree, thanks to the Devon parish registers coming online at Findmypast. There's only been one other occasion when I've made so many discoveries, and that was when the Canterbury Collection came online, also at Findmypast.
If I can do that in a weekend, what do you think you could achieve in a month? Well, you've got a chance to find out, because in June Findmypast are offering NEW subscribers the opportunity to get the first month of a World subscription for just £1, $1, or 1€ !
Follow the appropriate link below and you won't be the only one who'll benefit - LostCousins will also receive commission when you use these links (so please feel free to forward a link to this newsletter to others who might be interested):
Findmypast.co.uk - 1 month World subscription for £1
Findmypast.com - 1 month World subscription for $1
Findmypast.ie - 1 month World subscription for 1€
Findmypast.com.au - 1 month World subscription for $1
Warning: if you have subscribed to Findmypast previously you will probably see a message that the discount code is no longer valid - please don't contact me when this happens (remember, the offer is for NEW subscribers).
Of course, whilst the people I know at Findmypast are a nice bunch of people, they're not doing this out of the goodness of their heart - they’re hoping that some of you will continue to subscribe after the first month (in which case you'll be charged the full monthly rate). If you're not tempted to continue simply change the auto-renew setting at the bottom of the Personal Details page.
I think it's a smart move by Findmypast - there were a lot of family historians who were been put off subscribing to their site by the unfavourable publicity surrounding the launch of their new UK site in March 2014.
Whilst the problems were sorted out over the course of the next few months, some subscribers failed to adapt their search strategy to take advantage of the powerful new features - they obviously didn't read my tips articles....
There's only one way to get the best results from Findmypast, and that's to search individual record sets rather than searching collections of similar records. This applies whether you're a beginner, or - like most LostCousins members - a highly-experienced researcher.
Why is this so important? Because different record sets contain different information: sometimes that's because the source records vary (for example, the 1841 and 1911 censuses are very different from the other years), but it can also be because the records have been transcribed and indexed differently. Findmypast have transcriptions from many different sources thanks to their connections with family history societies, FamilySearch, the Society of Genealogists, and their acquisition of other websites (most recently Origins).
To allow for this variety, different record sets have different search forms - whereas when you search multiple record sets simultaneously you inevitably have to make do with a compromise.
To get the same astounding results that I get from my searches all you need to do is choose A-Z of record sets from the Search menu, then navigate to the record set you need. Rather than ploughing all 1600 of them type in a word (or part of a word) that appears in the title of the record set - for example, 'staff' if you want to search the Staffordshire parish registers, 'canter' for the Diocese of Canterbury parish registers, or 'army' to see a list of army record sets.
Tip: there will be rare occasions when you have to search collections I order to find out which of the record sets are relevant - but I suggest you switch to searching individual record sets once you've identified which are of interest.
What's in a name?
In the last newsletter I wrote about the ways that surnames change after marriage - but because I was writing about people like you and me, rather than the rich and famous, I didn't mention the fact that surnames sometimes changed in order to preserve a distinguished family name. For example, Winston Churchill was really Winston Spencer-Churchill, his ancestor George Spencer having changed his surname in 1817 when he became the 5th Duke of Marlborough (Winston's father was the 3rd son of the 7th Duke).
Similarly names were sometimes changed in order to meet the conditions of a will. When Edward Collingwood, owner of Dissington Hall, died in 1806 he left Dissington to his sister’s grandson Edward Spencer-Stanhope of Cannon Hall in Yorkshire, on condition that he changed his name to Collingwood at the age of 25. When the younger Edward died in 1866 his daughters inherited the house, and it eventually ell into the hands of Arabella who married the Rev Calthorp, who in turn was obliged to change his name to Collingwood.
I was never an avid watcher of Only Fools & Horses - I only saw the Christmas specials - so it was only recently that I discovered the paradox of Trigger's Broom. The character, who worked as a road-sweeper, comments that "this broom has had seventeen new heads and fourteen new handles in its time", at which point one of the other characters asks how it can be the same broom. It's an interesting philosophical question....
In the little-known short story Dr Ox's Experiment by Jules Verne there is a character called Van Tricasse whose marriage has lasted over 500 years. It could happen - let me explain! According to the story, in 1340 an ancestor of Van Tricasse was left a widower; he decided to take for his second wife a younger member of the family, and she in turn had married a younger cousin when he died; this sequence of remarriage continued until the present day (the book was published in 1872).
Some might see this strategy as a wonderful way to avoid inheritance tax, at least in England where a bequest to a surviving spouse is tax-free, but it got me wondering whether I had any similar examples in my tree. The best I've found so far is of David Pilkington, who married for the first time c1794, then remarried to my direct ancestor Jane Till in 1846. He died two years later, and Jane remarried John Frost in 1863, giving birth to their only child in 1865. John died before the 1891 Census, so the "marriage" didn't quite last for a century, but there is an amazing gap of 70 years between David Pilkington's first child, who was born c1795, and his widow's last child, who was born in 1865. Jane herself lived to the ripe old age of 87, dying in 1907 (132 years after the birth of her first husband), whilst her illegitimate daughter Emma - my great-great grandmother - lived to 88.
I do hope I've inherited lots of genes from that line!
DNA testing strategies
As I said in my last newsletter, the question is no longer whether to take a DNA test, but which tests to take. However the best strategy isn't always intuitively obvious....
This week I was in touch with a LostCousins who was planning to take a Family Finder test, which can provide matches from all (or most) lines going back 6 or more generations. She was also hoping to confirm her hypothesis about the identity of her mother's maternal grandmother by testing a putative cousin who she knew to be descended - in the female line - from her prime candidate.
Quite rightly she had focused on mtDNA, since we inherit mitochondrial DNA from our mothers - and the obvious approach was for her and her putative cousin to take mtDNA tests, since if her theory was correct, they'd both be descendants in the direct female line. However, it then struck me that there was another way of getting the answer that would be cheaper, and potentially more useful - she could ask her 'cousin' to take a Family Finder test.
Why would that be a better strategy? Because if they turned out not to be cousins, they would have spent less money on tests - whereas if they were cousins they would be able to compare their results and work out which parts of their DNA had been inherited from their common ancestor (Family Tree DNA make this easy using their chromosome browser).
If you haven't taken you Family Finder (or similar) test yet you probably won't realise why this is so important, but let me try to explain using my own results. Yesterday I had 53 pages of Family Finder matches - a few of which are quite close, but most of which are more distant (inevitably, since every time you go back a generation the number of cousins goes up 5 times). Today I've got 54 pages of matches - and there are 10 to a page. Probably by the time you read this I'll have 55 pages of results....
Trying to work out how I'm connected to even one of those people is quite a challenge if there are no obvious clues - such as a common surname amongst our ancestors. But if one of my known cousins also tests there will be some people that we both match - and clearly the connection to those matches will (almost certainly) be in the part of my tree that we share.
Note: I say almost certainly because there are some confounding factors, but in life we don't have time to worry about the possibility that lightning might strike twice in the same place.
My goal right now is to persuade as many as possible of my known cousins to test - and that should be your eventual goal too. In this instance distant cousins can be more useful than close cousins - a 1st cousin shares half your ancestors, so you're not narrowing down the search very much. But if my half 4th cousin tests (we share just one 3G grandparent) it will be relatively easy to find the connection to anyone that we both match.
There are two benefits of adopting this strategy - not only will it be easier to work out how you're connected to your DNA matches (or some of them) you'll also know which ones to target, ie which ones are in a part of your tree which is causing you particular problems. Sometimes when we hit a 'brick wall' it's because our ancestor moved a considerable distance - something that's usually impossible to prove from surviving records alone. DNA matches can provide the extra piece of supporting evidence that you need.
Here's another example - it’s not unusual for part of a register to be missing or so badly damaged that it can't be read. DNA evidence might help you to make the leap across the gap to a previous generation.
See the article in the last newsletter for a run-down of the different DNA tests and testing companies.
Your Family Tree forum vanishes
The change of ownership of Your Family Tree has had an unfortunate consequence - the YFT reader forum has vanished.
Any updates or corrections will be recorded here.
I've rushed this newsletter out because I wanted LostCousins members to have the best possible chance of
© Copyright 2015 Peter Calver
Please do not copy any part of this newsletter without permission. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance (though why not invite them to join LostCousins instead - standard membership, which includes this newsletter, is FREE?