Newsletter - 22nd June 2017
LostCousins is completely free this weekend! ENDS MONDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 7th June) 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 little more than a week's time it will be the 180th Anniversary of the commencement of Civil Registration in England & Wales on 1st July 1837. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the GRO were able to mark the occasion by announcing that, after evaluating the recent PDF trials, they would be offering PDF copies on a permanent basis?
In the June 2017 issue of Genealogist's Magazine (the journal of the Society of Genealogist) there's a fascinating article by LostCousins member Gwyneth Wilkie entitled 'Some reactions to the introduction of civil registration'. We all know that there was confusion at the time, some of it caused by members of the clergy who had misgivings about the new system, and the author quotes from numerous contemporary sources including this notice from the Registrar General:
Note:the above images are from Google Books
As family historians we're fortunate that most parents continued to have their children baptised even after 1837 since this provides us with a second source of information - one that usually corroborates the information in the civil register. When it comes to marriages the two sources are - or should be - identical, but discrepancies did occur, and possibly still do.
For example, according to the marriage certificate I obtained from the local register office in 2002 my great-great grandmother Mary Ann Burns gave the name of her father as James Brown, which really had me guessing - but the church copy of the marriage register, which I only thought to check several years later, shows his name as James Burns. Both registers were signed by the participants, so it's surprising that none of them noticed - or were they, perhaps, persuaded to sign an incomplete entry?
But it's not always the church copy of the register that is right - in the July 2017 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine Hazel Picton provided an example where the marriage register had the wrong forename for the bride's father, but the certificate she ordered from the GRO showed the correct name.
In the same magazine another reader wrote with the question "Why is my ancestor, Sarah Butcher, described as being the wife and aunt of her husband?".
The expert response was clear: "It was, and is, allowable to marry one's aunt and I am not sure why attention was brought to this fact in the parish registers…." (you should be able to see the full question and answer here).
But is that correct? When I was writing about cousin marriages a few months ago I did quite a lot of research into the 'prohibited degrees', and the definitive source of information on this topic is surely Rebecca Probert's book Marriage Law for Genealogists. Professor Probert states that until 1835 such marriages were voidable, which meant they would be annulled by a court if someone objected - but from 1835 onwards they were automatically void.
Note: you definitely wouldn't have wanted to marry your aunt between 1650 and 1660 - during that period the penalty was death.
There are some countries where avunculate marriage is permitted but, according to Wikipedia, Australia is the only English-speaking country where it is currently allowed. Here's the answer I would have given to the reader:
"In England marriages between a man and his aunt or between a woman and her uncle have always been against ecclesiastical law, however if - as in this case - the marriage took place before 1835 it was not automatically void; someone had to object to the court. It's possible, therefore, that the vicar was highlighting the situation in the hope that someone reading the register - perhaps the bishop - would take legal action."
It's interesting to note that from 1835 you couldn't even marry your spouse's aunt or uncle - even though there was no blood relationship. Such marriages were automatically void until 1931 when it became legal to marry a deceased spouse's aunt or uncle (but not until 1960 was it legal to marry a divorced spouse's aunt or uncle).
By now you can probably understand why my copy of Marriage Law for Genealogists is so well-thumbed!
Tip: The Book Depository offers Professor Probert's book for £10 including free Worldwide delivery - follow this link to support LostCousins.
Findmypast have well over a billion records in their British and Irish collections, and until midnight (London time) on Monday 26th June almost all of them will be completely free! All they ask in return is that you register with them if you haven't already done so - and there's no catch, you won't be asked to provide credit card or bank details. (Of course, if you have registered with them previously you can simply log-in.)
This isn't an exclusive offer, but by using the links below to go to your local (or preferred) Findmypast site you'll make it easier for me to negotiate exclusive offers in future:
Everyone has their own opinion as to whether Ancestry or Findmypast is the best site, but if you have British or Irish ancestors you'll eventually need access to BOTH - which is why this free weekend is so useful.
I understand that the records excluded from this weekend are the 1939 Register, newspaper articles, and - for privacy reasons - two modern records sets, the UK Electoral Registers 2002-14 and the UK Companies House Directors 2002-14. But you'll still have over 1.1 billion records to view over the next 5 days, which means that if you wanted to look at every single one you would have to look up 2546 every second of every day (or over 9 million every hour).
Tip: you may have noticed that on several previous occasions Findmypast have followed up a free access opportunity like this one with a subscription offer - so I suggest you make a note to check this newsletter for updates on Tuesday 27th June!
LostCousins is completely free this weekend ENDS MONDAY
With free access to the censuses at Findmypast, there couldn't be a better time to investigate the branches on your family tree so that you can add extra relatives to your My Ancestors page - especially since every direct ancestor or blood relative you add represents an entry in my Summer Competition (and, by the way, relatives from the 1881 Census count double!).
You'll find full details of the competition and prizes here, but take another look at this original Royal autograph that I'm donating as the top prize:
Queen Mary was the wife of George V and paternal grandmother to our present Queen - she died just a few weeks before the Coronation in 1953.
The LostCousins site will be completely FREE this weekend - this means you won't need to be a subscriber to contact the new cousins you find. Even if you don't plan to enter any new relatives you should still log-in and click the Search button on your My Ancestors page to find out whether you have any new matches.
Tip: if you've forgotten how to log-in click here and enter your email address (the one that appears near the end of the email that told you about this newsletter).
I'm delighted to announce that LostCousins member Maureen Selley, Secretary and former Chairman of Devon Family History Society, was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.
Maureen is one of those people who seems to get everywhere - including Genealogy in the Sunshine in both 2014 and 2015, where she was always happy to help out others less experienced than her (which meant most of us!).
Another LostCousins member who has been recognised for her work in the field of family history is Jan Gow in New Zealand, who was awarded the Queen's Service Medal in the 2012 New Year's Honours List. On 5th July she's going to be in England, giving a talk at the Society of Genealogists entitled Tracing Family History in New Zealand: Discovering Ancestral Footprints - for more information, or to book please follow this link.
Tip: if there's someone you know who deserves recognition for their efforts - and not necessarily in the field of genealogy - you can nominate them for an honour here.
Just recently I've spent more time on my family tree than for a long, long time - partly to get away from the awful, awful news out there, but also because my DNA matches have provided me with a chance to knock down some of my oldest and most infuriating 'brick walls'.
For example, I've been trying to find the baptism of my 3G grandmother Elisabeth Goode for the best part of 15 years. She lived until 1864, so I know where she was born - or, at least, where she thought she was born - and I've got a pretty good idea of when she was born from the ages in the censuses and on her death certificate.
But whilst there's a Goode family baptising children in the parish of Great Barton around the right time, I can't find her baptism in the register. The entries for the period are extremely hard to read, so perhaps if I was able to persuade the archivist to let me see the original register I might spot the missing entry - but in the meantime I've had a DNA match at Ancestry with someone who also has Goode ancestors in their tree, and not only did they live just 10 miles from Great Barton, some of them lived in the village where my prospective 4G grandparents were married.
This is just one of many recent examples where I've been using DNA to provide clues or substantiate hypotheses relating to my 'brick walls'. Another relates to my great-grandmother Emily Buxton, who was born out of wedlock in 1842, but whose mother had the foresight to record the alleged father's name as Robert Roper when she registered the birth (in the early days of civil registration it was possible to do this even if the father didn't attend).
But such an entry isn't proof - and there was nobody with the right name and the right occupation on the 1841 Census, so I began to wonder whether it was a 'red herring' until a couple of years ago when I discovered that in 1826 a Robert Roper living less than 10 miles away in Mendlesham had been involved in bastardy proceedings relating to another illegitimate child. Was he a serial adulterer, I wondered?
I still don't know if this was the same Robert Roper, but there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel - because I've got a DNA match with someone who has a Robert Roper in their tree who was baptised in Mendlesham at around the right time.
I'm not going to bore you by telling you about all the leads I've found while analysing my 6700+ DNA matches, but I just wanted you to get a flavour of the sort of discoveries you're likely to make when you test you own DNA.
Thanks to everyone who wrote to commend my DNA Special Newsletter - several members told me that it was the first time they'd really understood what DNA could do, and others asked if they could pass on the information to fellow members of family history societies and Facebook groups.
Tip: whilst I don't allow articles from the newsletter to be republished, you can give out links to the newsletter or to individual articles without asking my permission. Not sure how to link to an article? Simply go to the list of articles at the beginning of the relevant newsletter, right-click the title of the article of interest, then choose 'Copy link' (or the equivalent for your browser).
A lot of members asked specific questions, and here are some of the most popular themes:
Q I have already tested, so is there any advantage in my only sibling testing?
A You only inherited half of your parents' DNA, and the same applies to your sibling. However, they'll have inherited a different selection of your parents' DNA, which means that they'll match with some people that you don't. On average you'll get about 50% more matches when two siblings test rather than one.
Q My immediate goal is to find the identity of the father of my paternal grandfather. He was born out of wedlock and his father’s identity was a closely guarded secret. From what I was able to determine, the identity of the father was not even known to my grandfather. My question then is, would the Y-DNA test be the appropriate test to get?
A Taking a Y-DNA test is a big gamble - it's quite possible you won't get a single useful match. By contrast an atDNA test will produce thousands of matches, and whilst on average only one-eighth of the cousins you find will be related through each of your great-grandparents, that's still many hundreds of matches to investigate. Y-DNA tests can be a useful tool, but they really only come into their own when you have a putative cousin to compare with, or when the 'brick wall' is many generations ago.
Q I am trying to identify the origins of my great-great grandfather, who was born in France; can DNA testing help?
A Had you not mentioned France the answer would have been "Yes, absolutely!" - but because DNA testing is illegal in France the chance of getting useful matches is low. You'll probably knock down other 'brick walls' by taking an atDNA test, but unless you get matches with French-Canadians you're unlikely to find out about your French ancestor.
Q In Australia this week there was an article on Insurance Companies that demand access to any DNA tests that those seeking life insurance have had. I wonder whether the DNA tests Ancestry etc. offer would create a problem for people in these circumstances? Have you heard about this?
A If someone took a DNA test to find out about their likelihood of contracting various ailments, then it would be understandable that an insurance company would want them to disclose that information (just as they would have to if they went to a doctor and she carried out some other form of test).
However, since none of the companies I recommend offer health-related tests there's nothing to worry about.
Q I don't have a DNA match with a distant cousin, even though there is plenty of paper evidence to prove that we are related. What has gone wrong?
A The more distant the cousin, the less likely it is that you'll have matching DNA segments, even if you have both inherited DNA from your common ancestors. The table in this article gives the chance (out of 100) for different degrees of cousinship - for example, 5th cousins have a 32% chance of being matched at Ancestry (it's lower at other sites).
Q I wonder if you can give me your opinion on how I can find out about my maternal grandfather's origins using DNA. I visited the various stands at the exhibition but all gave contradictory opinions and I wasn't convinced by any of them.
A Just take an atDNA test - you've only got 4 grandparents, so roughly a quarter of the thousands of matches you get will be with cousins who are connected to you through a specific grandparent. The real challenge is to figure out which of those thousands of matches come from each part of your tree, and that's when it helps to get close cousins to test. Matches that you share with a given cousin are almost certain to come from the part of your tree that you share with them.
Q Is there a DNA test best suited to maternal and paternal sides of a family?
A You inherit atDNA from both of your parents, just as they inherited theirs from both of their parents, so atDNA testing can potentially tell you about all of your lines. But first complete your My Ancestors page - if you've already done the research it will only take an hour or two, and if you haven't you'll find it much harder to make sense of your DNA matches when you test. DNA testing isn't a substitute for conventional research - it's a last resort for experienced family historians who are up against 'brick walls'.
Ontario Genealogical Society and Findmypast have announced a deal which will bring millions of Ontario records online.
The first records, scheduled for release later this year, will include 3.7 million entries from the Ontario Name Index, an ambitious project with the goal of including every name found in any publication relating to Ontario, ranging from registers of birth, marriage & death to obituaries, memorial inscriptions, newspaper articles and more, together with 2.6 million entries from the Ontario Genealogical Society Provincial Index including data from censuses, birth, marriage and death registers, references in books, land records, passenger lists, military records and a host of other references.
Many of my relatives emigrated to Ontario, mostly to Toronto, in the late 19th or early 20th centuries - but I didn't know about any of them until I started to research my family tree. The fact that so many families from different parts of my tree ended up there suggests that most people with British ancestry will have cousins in Canada - and I suspect that, like me, many of you won't know about them.
Ironically the one cousin I haven't been able to trace in Canada is my great uncle who, according to a family story, was killed in a logging accident. I'm beginning to think it was a myth: one great uncle was killed at Ypres during the Great War, and a second died of typhoid in New York - is it really possible that the third brother also died a tragic death overseas? Amazingly, until I began my research my father didn't know that his father had three brothers - he'd only been told of one, the uncle who "died in a logging accident".
Going back to Canadian records, one of the best sources of information is the Library and Archives Canada website: you may recall that last month I mentioned that digitization of WW1 service files, which is proceeding alphabetically, had reached Oliver - they're now up to Patterson.
Although the Essex village of Stansted Mountfitchet is best known for its international airport, its mediaeval castle (not that there's much of it left), and as the home of LostCousins, it's also where you'll find Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers - who on Tuesday will be selling several watercolours by William Earl Johns, who was born not far away in Bengeo, Hertford.
William Earl Johns isn't a name most of you will be familiar with, but I would guess that at least half of you will have heard of Capt W E Johns, author of the Biggles books - as a lad I read them all.
Sadly the pictures are well out of my price range, but I will definitely be going along to have a look at them - and you can also see them online here, in an article from our local newspaper.
Nowadays I'm more likely to be reading genealogical mysteries in my spare time, so after finishing Blood Atonement (reviewed here) I contacted the author to find out whether there were any more books in the pipeline.
I must admit I wasn't very hopeful considering that 8 years have elapsed since the last book in the Nigel Barnes series was published, so I was over the moon when Dan Waddell told me that a third book has already been released - but so far only in France. Blood Reckoning will be out - in English - on Kindle later this summer, and there's also a short story featuring Nigel Barnes coming out around the same time (Blood Underground).
Even better, Dan told me that he's working on a fourth novel, which we're likely to see early in 2018. So great news all round for anyone who, like me, has become a firm fan of the Nigel Barnes series.
Over the past few months I've switched to using a mixture of sugar with stevia when cooking - it halves the number of calories for a given level of sweetness.
Cutting out unnecessary calories in this way allows me to enjoy occasional treats, such as Duck Confit, and I make no apologies for repeating this recipe from the May 2010 issue of the newsletter:
"It makes a very economical gourmet meal. Salt the duck legs and cover them in duck or goose fat (if you have it, use cooking oil if you don't) and heat them slowly in the oven at 120 degrees for up to 5 hours. Finally remove them from the fat, sprinkle with sea salt crystals and heat in the oven at 220 degrees until crisp*. Serve with garlic mash and the green vegetables of your choice - superb!"
* or finish them off under the grill, which is quicker and reduces the risk of drying out the meat - but be careful not to let them burn
Sadly over the course of the past 7 years the cost of duck legs has increased by 50% in my local supermarket, from £2.50 to £3.75 for a pack of 2, so I generally only buy them when there is a special offer (the last pair I snapped up for a mere 94p on the reductions shelves, so they tasted even better!). But when you consider how much you'd pay in a restaurant for food of this quality it's still a bargain. And one of the great things about this recipe is being able to keep them in the fridge for ages (just make sure that the fat covers the meat completely if you're going to keep them for more than a week).
Did I forget to mention that you should retain the fat for next time? Even if you started with cooking oil, over time the duck fat content will increase.
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......
© 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