Newsletter - 17th May 2017
Win a Royal autograph! EXCLUSIVE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 4th May) 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):
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!
Although the LostCousins site has never been hacked, probably because the census data we hold is all publicly available (and we have never held payment information on our own servers), it has been upgraded so that in future you can log-in on a secure web page for complete piece of mind.
Simply click the LostCousins logo at the top of this newsletter - or any future newsletter - to go to the secure log-in page, though I suggest that for convenience you bookmark it in your browser.
Note: the passwords you use for your bank and email accounts should not be used at any other site, no matter how secure it claims to be.
You can save as much as £28 when you take advantage of Findmypast's exclusive offer of a 10% discount on new 12 month subscriptions for LostCousins members and claim a free LostCousins subscription (as my 'thank you' for using the link in this newsletter - but please read the Terms & Conditions below carefully to make sure you qualify).
The discount I've negotiated applies to ALL new 12 month subscriptions at all four of Findmypast's sites, but please remember that only World subscriptions and Britain subscriptions include the 1939 National Register for England & Wales, probably the most important dataset to become available since the 1911 Census.
There are over 2 billion British records at Findmypast - other key datasets include all the British censuses (apart from the Scotland 1911 census, which is only available at ScotlandsPeople), plus parish registers for Cheshire, Devon, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Plymouth & West Devon, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire Westminster, most of East Kent, large parts of Yorkshire, and much of Wales. There are also tens of millions of transcribed parish register entries including the National Burial Index (which extends to 37 counties), with millions more to come over the next month.
Of course, not all of the records are exclusive to Findmypast, but many are, especially the parish registers. And as you'll know from my article in the last newsletter, having access to the same records at a different site can be the key to knocking down a 'brick wall'.
Choose a World subscription and you'll have access to 4 times as many records - including nearly 100 million from Australia and New Zealand, an amazing collection of Irish records, and an outstanding collection of US marriages, many of which won't be found at any other site. And then there are the Catholic records, which I wrote about in the last newsletter… you'll find all the details here.
To take advantage of the offer click the appropriate link from the four listed below:
The offer ends at midnight (London time) on Wednesday 31st May, but the sooner you subscribe, the sooner you can start knocking down those 'brick walls' in your family tree.
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), 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, just in case the receipt doesn't arrive).
Terms & conditions: your free 12 month LostCousins subscription (3 months if you buy a Starter subscription at Findmypast.com) 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. If you use an adblocker the link may not work; if tracking is disabled in your browser the link will work, but Findmypast won't know that you clicked it, so won't pay us any commission. Don't use more than one device, and to give yourself the best chance of qualifying use a computer rather than a tablet or smartphone. Commission isn't paid on renewals or purchases that Findmypast regard as renewals, eg when a subscription has recently lapsed. You might qualify if you upgrade, but there are no guarantees.
Win a Royal autograph! EXCLUSIVE
In a little more than a week it will be the 150th anniversary of the birth on 26th May 1867 of Her Serene Highness Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, better known as Queen Mary, the wife of King George V and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.
Although her Royal title comes from Teck, part of the Kingdom of Württemberg, she was born at Kensington Palace in London, and brought up in England. A great-granddaughter of King George III, she was born in the reign of Queen Victoria, and lived through the entire reigns of her father-in-law Edward VII, her husband George V, and her sons Edward VIII and George VI.
In December 1891 she became engaged to Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, and also her 2nd cousin once removed. However her fiancé died just 6 weeks later, a victim of influenza.
In May 1893 she received a proposal from Prince George, the next son, who was now second in line to the throne - they had become close during the period of mourning for Prince Albert Victor - and they married on 6th July 1893.
According to Wikipedia Queen Mary was a keen collector of items with a Royal connection, so I think she would have been pleased to know that many items connected with her have survived, including this scrap of paper, part of the front page of a calendar:
The Birthday Competition (you'll find full details here) has been so successful in attracting new members and encouraging existing members to complete their My Ancestors page - as a result of which more 'lost cousins' are in touch than ever before - that I've decided to donate this item from my personal collection to the winner of our Summer Competition, which will be officially revealed in the next newsletter.
However, I can tell you now that every blood relative from the 1881 Censuses you enter on your My Ancestors page between now and the end of May will count for both competitions - so start inputting and begin widening your search for cousins now!
Nearly all of the circa 3500 surviving Protestation Returns are now online - see my article from March for the historical background, and also the page that I created with links to all the surviving returns.
As far as I can see the only surviving returns not yet available online are those from Lincolnshire, Middlesex and part of Devon - however I haven't checked every single return, only a few samples from each county, so there could be others.
Tip: the Wiltshire returns have been bundled into one large batch - I'm afraid you'll need to page through to find the parish(es) of interest.
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 - and 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 way 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 used 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 - and remember, 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
Although searching individual record sets is almost always the best way to go, there will be occasions when you want to search groups of records at Findmypast.
For example, you might want to search all of the baptism records because you don't know where your ancestor was born. This can be quite difficult to do, because when you search all of Findmypast's birth and baptism records the Search form is a compromise: in particular, you can't specify the forenames of the child's mother and father if you know them, so you might end up looking at hundreds of records one by one (even though only a handful will show the right names for the parents).
Last December I demonstrated how you could supercharge those baptism searches using a little trick I came up with - you can remind yourself how it worked if you follow this link. Now I'd like to show you some more tricks, this time to do with censuses.
Searching the 1911 Census
As most of you know, when you enter your relatives from the 1911 England & Wales census on your My Ancestors page the two references you're asked to enter are the piece number and the schedule number. But whereas you can search other England & Wales censuses using the census references we use, neither Ancestry nor Findmypast allow you to search using the schedule number (even though it appears in Findmypast's transcription). There's no way round this at Ancestry, because they didn't transcribe the schedule numbers (which means that if you use their site as your source, you'll need to read the number off the handwritten schedule - it's usually in the top right corner).
However, I discovered that at Findmypast it's possible to search the 1911 Census using both the piece and schedule references, even though there isn't a box for the schedule number on the search form. Indeed if you click the grey arrow against any of the 1911 entries on your My Ancestors page, you'll see that's precisely what happens.
For example, if I click the arrow alongside my relative Alfred Stevens, whose household are listed on schedule 203 in piece 1095, when the results page appears the important part of the browser command line reads as follows:
You can carry out the same search by clicking here. Now try searching for another census schedule, not by clicking Edit Search, but by editing the relevant parts of the command line.
Try leaving the piece number as it is but changing the schedule number by one, up or down, which will typically tell you who the neighbours were - and, when you've made the change, put the cursor on the command line, then press the Return key. Depending whether you went up or down you'll get either the Player household or the Nevin household - but you can use this trick to find any private household in the 1911 Census, just so long as you have the piece and schedule numbers.
Tip: you don’t need to be a Findmypast subscriber to see the Search results - only if you want to display the full transcription or the schedule itself will you need a subscription.
Searching all of the England & Wales censuses from 1841-1901 simultaneously
Have you ever noted down the census references for a household in your tree, but forgotten to record which census they relate to? For my next trick I'm going to show you how you can search all of the censuses from 1841-1901 at the same time.
Here's what the Census search form looks like:
As you can see, there are no boxes where you can enter any of the census references. Without entering anything on the form click the Search button so that you get a page of results, and take a look at the URL near the top of the browser window - it should look like this:
All we need to do now is add the census references that we know, which in this example are:
Paste these parameters at the end of the URL, and press Return. Almost by magic you'll 20 results, all from the 1851 Census. (Click here to try it out yourself - you don't need a Findmypast subscription.)
Tip: remember that when you edit the URL in this way you can't click the Search button - instead you have to position the cursor on the URL (it can be anywhere on the line), and hit the Return key.
Finally a tip for when you're searching parish registers at Findmypast - look at the Useful Links (bottom right) where you'll often find a list of parishes showing the years of coverage.
I know precisely when my great-great uncle William Charles Pepperell was born - it was 10th July 1862. But when he volunteered for the British Army in February 1880 he added two years to his age, claiming that he was 19 years and 6 months old.
When the Great War broke out in 1914 he was in Canada, and volunteered again, although by now he was 52 years old! No problem - this time he gave his date of birth as July 1869, shaving 7 years off his age. Who knows what his age was between 1880 and 1914?
In some countries records of births are not systematically recorded, so someone's birthdate isn't written down, let alone etched in stone. An article on the BBC News website last weekend related how in Ghana people can change their age almost at will.
Well, in that case I'm looking forward to celebrating my 21st Birthday in Accra this autumn!
Although attestation forms for soldiers who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force have been available online for many years, the project to digitise the corresponding service files has taken longer than anyone expected - the original completion date was December 2015.
As of yesterday 438,679 of approximately 640,000 files were available online - you can search them here (after reading the information about the records choose Search database from the menu). They're being uploaded in (approximate) alphabetical order and the last surname recorded is Oliver, so I'll probably have to wait a few months for them to reach Pepperell.....
Australian Red Cross WW2 PoW record cards online
It's hard to keep track of everything that's happening in the world of genealogy, so I'm grateful to Shauna Hicks whose Diary of a Australian Genealogist blog revealed this week that 58,000 Missing, Wounded and Prisoner of War Enquiry Cards (mostly from WW2 - there are some post-war items) donated by Red Cross Australia to the University of Melbourne Archives are now available online.
Follow this link and enter the surname of the person you hope to find - and please let me know if you make an exciting discovery!
I came across this blog post which serves as a reminder of the mistakes that we all made when we started to research our family tree. Is there anything you'd add to the list?
Although we usually look for, and expect to find, our ancestors in the registers of their local parish church, the Religious Census of 1851 showed that only just over half of those who attended church in England & Wales worshipped in a Church of England church. Most of the remainder attended Methodist, Baptist, or Independent churches (the latter often described as Congregational).
In Wales the vast majority attended 'chapel', the description generally accorded to non-conformist places of worship in Wales - but whether your ancestors were Welsh or English you can't afford to ignore the possibility that the reason you can't find your ancestor's baptism is because you're looking in the wrong registers.
Tip: don't assume that, just because your ancestor married in the parish church, and was buried in the churchyard there, that he can't have been a non-conformist - few independent churches had their own burial grounds, and between 1754-1837 all marriages (other than Jewish and Quaker marriages) took place in the parish church.
Stuart Raymond's book, Tracing Your Non-Conformist Ancestors is definitely not light reading, but it is crammed full of information, references and links. When I tell you that the index runs to 11 full pages you will get some idea of its wide range, which encompasses many sects which are little-known today, such as the Muggletonians and the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. It is an excellent work of reference for anyone who knows or suspects that some of their ancestors were non-conformists - which is, I suspect, most of us!
The book doesn't include all dissenters - the author has another book in the pipeline which will focus on Catholics - but it does include an excellent chapter on Quakers.
My parents were baptised and married in the same Baptist church, and though we attended a different Baptist church after we moved in 1958 I'm not aware that we ever considered other denominations - yet when I asked my father in his later years how and when the family came to be Baptists he couldn't tell me. I have established that several of his ancestors on his mother's side were baptised at the Independent Meeting House at Coggeshall in Essex, but I've been unable to find the baptism of his mother or her father - and after reading this book I have a pretty good idea why that is.
What you won't find in the book is a simple strategy for identifying non-conformist ancestors, then tracking down the surviving records, but I suspect there isn't one - there is so much variation across the country, between one denomination and another, and over time, that the best we can do is ensure that we are aware of all the places of worship in the area where our ancestors lived.
There are slim volumes available in the My Ancestor Was… series from the Society of Genealogists, including My Ancestors Were Congregationalists¸ and My Ancestors Were English Presbyterians or Unitarians which cover particular denominations, but for £14.99 (or less) including delivery this 240-page book covers so much ground that it certainly deserves a place on my bookshelves and, perhaps, on yours too!
Whilst there is a Kindle version, it's not much cheaper - nor is this the sort of book you're likely to read on the beach - so I'd recommend you buy the paperback. As usual you can support LostCousins by using the links below, even if you end up buying something else from the same site. (If you buy through Amazon be sure to check out the offers from third-party sellers, which are often considerably cheaper.)
As I read The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell, I couldn't help thinking "I've read something like this before", and I have - many of the genealogical mysteries that I've reviewed in this newsletter seem to have been inspired by Dan Waddell's novels, and his unlikely hero Nigel Barnes.
To hundreds of thousands of family historians Dan Waddell will be a familiar name because he wrote the best-selling book that accompanied the Who Do You Think You Are? television series, but I reckon he could attract an even larger audience if he continued to turn out fiction as good as The Blood Detective. Published nearly a decade ago, in 2008, it predates Steve Robinson's Jefferson Tayte mysteries, Nathan Dylan Goodwin's Morton Farrier stories, and many more.
Nigel Barnes is typical of the heroes of the genre: more Clark Kent than Superman, he is bespectacled, single, with an eclectic taste in music - oh, and he doesn't know who his father was. Sound familiar?
Because the book was written when the Family Records Centre - long since closed - was a key source of census data, and the repository of the indexes for births, marriages, and deaths much of the research takes place there. I felt quite nostalgic - many of you will too, I'm sure. But at the same time, I wouldn't want to go back to an era when so few records were online that I often devoted a whole day to a single census lookup - I kept thinking how much easier things are these days!
Mind you, because he was working for the police our hero was able to call on all sorts of favours - the General Register Office provided a turnaround time that presaged phase 2 of the PDF trial, whilst the National Archives and the British Library stayed open all hours to accommodate the demands of a bleary-eyed team who were hoping to save the next victim of a serial murderer who was recreating 19th century crimes.
And just when you think you've got it all figured out, the author adds a couple of unexpected twists - it's a roller coaster ride! Robyn in New Zealand wrote to tell me that she struggled to put it down, and I suspect you will too. Very highly-recommended - you can get it in paperback or, in some territories, as a Kindle book.
Just when you think that the genealogical mysteries we read are so far-fetched that they couldn't possibly happen, along comes a true story that tops them all!
Recounted in the Boston Globe, it features a child stolen by a serial killer with multiple identities, who at the age of 35 hopes to find out who her parents were, and what her real name is, through DNA testing. Does she succeed? You can read the full story here.
Note: thanks to Dick Eastman for highlighting this story in his newsletter.
I've just come to the end of On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan, which I won't be reviewing in this newsletter as it has little relevance to family history, other than the fact that it is set in the pre-Larkin year of 1962, a time of relative innocence. It's a very well written novel, one that I was inspired to buy after being mightily impressed by one of Ian McEwan's more recent novels, The Children Act (which I reviewed last year).
Coincidentally - or perhaps not - the book I'm currently reading is Post-War Childhood by Simon Webb, which considers whether we Baby Boomers really grew up in a charmed era, or whether it's actually the present generation who have "never had it so good". You'll find out my take on this controversial topic when I review the book, hopefully in the next newsletter.
Everyone knows that alcohol and driving don't mix, but I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only person to have had an accident as a result of drinking too much coffee!
Just over 20 years ago I went to a breakfast seminar in a hotel in Watford where they served deliciously strong coffee. Because they left the pot on the table I kept helping myself, and by the time the seminar finished I'd probably drunk 9 or 10 cups.
I got to my office without any problems, but during the day visitors and staff commented how red-faced I looked - but I felt fine, in fact I felt great. Yet when I set off in my car to go home I hadn't driven more than half a mile before I'd crashed into a bollard - I was suffering from an overdose of caffeine, even though it was some 7 hours since I'd drunk any coffee.
I was reminded of this mishap when I read in the news today about a teenager in South Carolina who died as a result of drinking too many caffeinated drinks in a short time - and realised that I'd been very fortunate.
Just after this newsletter was published Ancestry released their Wiltshire Parish Register collection - the links below will take you straight to the relevant Search pages:
Then on Friday 19th Findmypast added over 1.3 million new entries to their collection of Nottinghamshire transcriptions - the links below will take you to the relevant Search pages:
I hope you've found this edition useful - I'll be in touch again 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