Newsletter - 13th March 2018
St Patrick's Day: DNA offers END SUNDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 9th March) 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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The April issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine includes an excellent guide to the 1939 Register written by Audrey Collins of the National Archives - even though I've written at length about this unique wartime record myself there are always new things to discover and, without a shadow of a doubt, Audrey knows more about the 1939 Register than anyone else.
Tip: the WDYTYA magazine subscription offer I told you about at the end of February is still running - you can find out more here.
Because the 1939 Register has only ever been available online as high-resolution full-colour scans it's easy to ignore the importance of colour to our interpretation of the information on the pages we see. Annotations and amendments in red or green leap out at us, and thanks to differences in ink colour most of the time itís possible to discern how a crossed-out entry once read. The different ink colours also help us to date the changes.
Of course, most pages have entries which are closed, so we're generally in the dark - quite literally - about what's behind the 'blackout curtain'. Sometimes, however, there are traces of the hidden entry - perhaps ascenders or descenders stray into an adjoining entry. It's not much, but it might be sufficient to confirm your suspicions about the identity of the individual you're not supposed to see. We won't see all of the entries until 2040 at the earliest - and even then there is no guarantee that we'll get to see all the information on the right-hand page.
At the back of each volume of the register you'll usually find a page or two with individuals listed, and not in any apparently logical order. These are continuation entries needed when the right-hand page filled up, and it tends to be mostly younger people on those pages - partly because they would have been more mobile, necessitating more postings, and partly because they would have lived for longer after 1939 (ditto).
As you may recall I've published an entire newsletter dedicated to the 1939 Register - you'll find it here (and if you ever need to get to it in a hurry, there is a link from the Subscribers Only page). But if you already consider yourself to be an expert on the 1939 Register I'd like to leave you with a challenge - what is most unusual about the page below?
You donít have to be Irish to benefit from Findmypast's latest offer - it's available at all Findmypast-branded sites around the world, and includes the top subscriptions at each of those sites.
You can save 10% on a NEW top-level 12 month subscription, and because Findmypast reward loyalty, you'll have an opportunity to renew at a discount (currently 15%) in a year's time! The subscriptions listed below all provide access to the same records even though the names are different:
SAVE 10% on 12 month Pro subscriptions at Findmypast.co.uk
SAVE 10% on 12 month World subscriptions at Findmypast.ie
SAVE 10% on 12 month World subscriptions at Findmypast.com.au
SAVE 10% on 12 month Ultimate British & Irish subscriptions at Findmypast.com
All of these subscriptions include virtually unlimited access to all of Findmypast's historical records and newspapers from around the world, including the 1939 Register, their fast-growing Catholic records collection, military records, migration records, and parish registers for many counties in England and most of Wales (plus transcribed records for many other counties). They also have an amazing collection of Irish records, and an impressive collection of records from Australia and New Zealand.
This offer is not exclusive to LostCousins, but LostCousins can only benefit if you use a link that I've provided. So I'm once again offering a free 12 month subscription to members who go out of their way to take up Findmypast's offer using my links - this means that the total savings you make can be as much as £28. But please read the terms and conditions below so that nobody misses out.
To claim your LostCousins subscription (which will run from the date of purchase of your Findmypast subscription, unless you already have a LostCousins subscription, in which case it will be extended by a year), please forward to me the email receipt that you receive from Findmypast, bearing in mind that I need to know the precise time of your purchase (so write it down, in case the receipt doesn't arrive). You can use any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one I wrote from when telling you about this newsletter.
Terms & conditions: your free LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us; if we don't receive any commission on your purchase then unfortunately you won't qualify, so it's up to you to make sure that doesn't happen. For example, if you use an adblocker the link may not work; if you have disabled tracking in your browser the link will appear to work, but Findmypast will ignore it, so won't pay us any commission (this is the most common problem - if youíre not sure ask for my advice before making your purchase, afterwards is too late!). Commission isn't paid on renewals, and may not be paid on upgrades.
If youíre already a Findmypast user you may have noticed some changes recently. To my mind the best innovation is the blue capsule at the bottom of the screen which tells you how many results there would be if you started your search at that point.
This might seem a trivial thing - indeed, at first I thought it was pointless. But then I realised I was modifying my behaviour in response to the prompts - if the number of search results was low I'd stop filling in the search form, since it clearly wasn't necessary to filter the results any further. And if the number was zero I might backtrack and modify the information I'd already entered, perhaps adding a wildcard, or else ticking the 'Name variants' box.
I probably havenít done a very good job of explaining it - the fact is, itís one of those things that just works!
Note: I understand that not all Findmypast users are seeing this new feature - they appear to be trialling it on a sample of users.
I mentioned in the last issue that Findmypast are updating their birth indexes to include the mother's maiden name for the period prior to 1st July 1911 when this information was first included in the contemporary indexes compiled by the General Register Office and later transcribed and indexed by FreeBMD, Findmypast, and one or two other sites.
I was perhaps a bit behind the times when I said that only a small minority of the entries had been updated - the project appears to be proceeding very quickly, and when I searched for the 13 children who were born to my great-great grandparents William Samuel Stevens and Sarah Holmes between 1854 and 1877 I was delighted that as many as 5 were found.
Although it was a largely academic project - to provide a very rough estimate for this article of how many records now have the mother's maiden name added - there was a bonus of sorts. Previously I hadn't bothered to look up the date of birth of my great-great uncle George Stevens in the birth indexes because I had already found his baptism, which gave his date of birth as 21st September 1874 - but the birth doesn't appear in the GRO indexes until the first quarter of 1875. Since births are supposed to be registered within 42 days this got me wondering - but first I checked the next entry in the register, for another baptism on the same day, just in case the two birthdates had somehow been transposed. This proved not to be the case - or, at least, since both entries were registered in the first quarter it seemed unlikely.
Why was George's birth registered late? Was it because they hadn't chosen a name (he wasn't baptised until 17th January 1875), though this shouldn't have made any difference, or was there some more practical reason - for example, was it possible that George wasn't really the child of William Samuel and Sarah, but of their unmarried daughter Jane, who by then would have been around 19 years old?
You might think this is me being cynical, and unfairly slandering poor Jane Stevens - but as some of you may recall from my November 2016 article ('Two unusual birth certificates'), two years later Jane, still unmarried, gave birth to a daughter who she named Georgina. That birth certificate was quite fascinating because Jane pretended she was married to a Henry Stevens and that her maiden name was Rushbrook - in reality the father was Henry Rushbrook. You see the way my mind is thinkingÖ. George, Georgina - could they both have the same mother, and perhaps the same father?
On the other hand - and it's important that we consider the evidence on both sides of the argument - there was another son, Edward, born in 1877 who can't have been Jane's son, because he was born less than a month after GeorginaÖÖ
I think I'll order the PDF for George Stevens' birth just to see what birthdate is shown - in the next newsletter I'll let you know what I've found out.
Going back to these enhanced indexes, whilst it would seem obvious that Findmypast are somehow getting the data from the GRO site, I do wonder why - if this is the case - they aren't taking the opportunity to upgrade the forenames where initials are shown in the original indexes?
In the last issue I wrote about the search for Roy Phillips, the heir to a fortune who can't be found because his identity changed when he was adopted. Since that article appeared on Friday I've been approached by a member who is related to Roy - but sufficiently distantly that there would only be one chance in six of getting a match with Roy (assuming he has tested, as many adoptees do). I'm sure there must be many LostCousins members who are more closely related to Roy - statistically there should be around 20 of you who are his 5th cousin or closer, and whilst half will share a common ancestor on his father's side (so probably wouldn't be able to identify the connection) that still leaves 10 potential matches.
But what I want to write about in this issue is more general: DNA and adoption. I frequently get emails from members who tell me that they were adopted, or one of their parent's was adopted, and asking whether DNA testing can help.
The answer, of course, is that very often DNA is the ONLY thing that can help. It depends where in the world you live - in the UK it's now fairly easy to find out about your birth mother (and, perhaps, your father), and since the change in the law promoted by LostCousins member Frances Lake, the untiring founder of the Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons Group, it's also possible to find out similar information for a deceased direct ancestor (usually a parent, since adoption wasn't legally regulated in England & Wales until 1927). But in other countries the law is less accommodating, and there are some whose adopted parent is still living, but refuses to take the necessary steps. There will also be some whose adoptions were not legally regulated - at one extreme this could be someone who was informally adopted within the family, perhaps by grandparents or an aunt and uncle, and at the other it could involve kidnapping, baby-trafficking, or war.
Someone who is adopted is likely to get just as many matches with cousins when they test - which, if you follow my advice and test with Ancestry, means over 10,000 matches. It's unusual to get matches with previously unknown relatives who are closer than 2nd cousin, but one adopted LostCousins member who asked for my advice had a match with a half-niece. It was a sad case in many ways - the niece's father, the half-brother of the member, had absolutely no interest in his birth parents, nor (the last I heard) in meeting his half-sister. But that isn't the fault of DNA - the same thing could happen to an adoptee who identifies living relatives in some other way.
So, if you are an adoptee, or born to a single mother, or have a similar event in your direct line it's well worth testing your DNA - and obviously you would want to do so with Ancestry, because they have by far the largest database.
Tip: when you test with Ancestry you can download your results and transfer them to other sites, but you cannot do things the other way round; in other words, the only way you can compare your DNA against that of the estimated 10 million people who have tested with Ancestry is to test with Ancestry yourself. That's why I re-tested last year - it goes against the grain for me to pay twice for what is in effect, the same service, so that's why I do my best to ensure that you don't make the same mistake as I did.
St Patrick's Day: DNA offers END SUNDAY
Although it's only three days since my last newsletter I've already learned about two new offers. In Canada you can save $30 - Ancestry.ca have reduced their price from $129 to $99 (plus shipping); in Australia and New Zealand you can take advantage of the lowest price ever for Ancestry DNA tests in those territories, just $90 (normally $129) plus shipping of $30. These offers end on Sunday 18th March, and you can support LostCousins when you make your purchase using the following links:
Canada (reduced from CAD129 to CAD99)
Australia or New Zealand (reduced from AUD129 to AUD90)
USA (previously $99, now $79, but reduced to $69 until Monday 19th March)
You may find that shipping works out more cheaply when you order more than one test at the same time - that's certainly the case in the UK. The UK offer finished yesterday, but if you are a LostCousins subscriber be sure to check the Subscribers Only page where you'll often find offers.
Family Tree DNA also have a St Patrick's Sale, which brings down the price of their Family Finder test by $20 to $59 (excluding shipping). This price applies worldwide, so itís very attractive if you live in a country where Ancestry don't sell their test. Family Tree DNA are the only major company offering Y-DNA tests, and they have by far the biggest database of results - and whilst theyíre not discounting their Y-DNA tests you can get a good price on bundles, eg 37-marker Y-DNA test and Family Finder for $199 plus shipping. However please bear in mind that when you buy a bundle it must be the same person who takes each test. You can find out more about all the offers here (itís worth clicking the link just to see the photo!).
Tip: don't buy any mtDNA test unless you check with me first - and donít buy any DNA test from a company you've never seen recommended in this newsletter. There's usually a very good reason why I haven't written about them!
Make sure that you have extended your family tree as far as you can in every direction - if you've only focused on your direct line you'll struggle to make sense of your DNA matches, because all of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree - indeed, that's what makes them cousins.
And do everything you can to connect with living cousins who are researching their family tree, not just at LostCousins but at other sites. It's much, much easier to determine how you match your genetic cousins if you have shared matches with documented cousins, especially if they have tested their DNA or are prepared to do so. I know there are people out there who think that spending an hour or two completing their My Ancestors page is so arduous that they can't find the time (even though theyíve been members, in many cases, for more than 10 years) - but believe me, nothing is as tedious and energy-sapping as trying to work out how you connect to your genetic cousins when you havenít done the basic groundwork!
Tip: when you are connected with a 'lost cousin' you'll usually know immediately whether they have already tested their DNA.
A family from Perth has found the oldest verified message in a bottle on a beach in Western Australia - and itís 132 years old! You can read more about this amazing find in this BBC News article.
It was in August 2010 that I first reported that the National Archives were planning to introduce charges for parking at Kew, but the plans were put on hold - until now. From 3rd April you'll have to pay, but the cost is very reasonable - cheaper than many hospital car parks, and around the same as I have to pay when I visit the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford or the Suffolk Record Office in Bury St Edmunds, neither of which have any parking of their own.
You can read more about the planned charges here.
I donít, of course, know the precise circumstances which led to this comment on 1911 Census schedule, but I think itís a reasonable bet that the young lady concerned was annoying her father as he filled in the form:
In case you can't read it, the two year-old's occupation is shown as "annoying other people"! Many thanks to LostCousins member Dave who spotted this gem in a Facebook discussion (I knew Facebook had to be useful for something).
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 2018 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?