Newsletter - 11th May 2018
Celebrate Mother's Day with a DNA test ENDS SOON
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):
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Great news - there's now a second source for the 1939 Register, one of the most significant releases of recent years, but also one of the most challenging transcription projects because of the need to respect the privacy of living individuals.
Ancestry launched their version of the 1939 Register for England & Wales on Bank Holiday Monday, but kept quiet about it until Wednesday, when they announced that it would be free until midnight on Sunday 13th May. Not only can you search free of charge when you click here, you can also save the images. You'll need to register or log-in - but you wonít need to provide bank or credit details.
Tip: always save images to your own computer rather than simply attaching them to your Ancestry tree; images you attach to your tree can only be viewed when you have a subscription which includes the relevant record set.
Nearly 1 billion records free at Findmypast
Now that Findmypast no longer offers exclusive access to the 1939 Register the quick link from the top banner has disappeared and been replaced by a Free records link.
At least, that was how it appeared when I looked earlier this morning - now it too seems to have disappeared. And even when you find it, the free records search only searches a selection of the records that are free.
Still, itís nice to know that nearly a billion of Findmypast's records are free, even if searching them isnít currently as easy as it could be.
Tip: searching at Findmypast is always free, and you can learn quite a lot from the free results, such as the preview of a 1939 Register entry. But perhaps most useful are the household transcripts for the 1881 England & Wales census, as they set out all the information you need for your My Ancestors page in a clear and neat format.
Two new events were announced on the same day - the news about Family Tree Live came through in time for my last newsletter (you can read the article here), but it was only after the newsletter was published that I heard about The Genealogy Show, which will be held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on 7th-8th June 2019. You'll find the website here - at the moment there isnít much information, but I'm sure that will change before too long.
Whilst two shows sounds better than one, that's not necessarily the case - for a successful show you need exhibitors, and there will be some companies that simply canít justify the time and expense of being at both. Will Ancestry and Findmypast be at both shows? I suspect they will in 2019, but whether they exhibit at both in 2020 is a different matter.
I can tell you now that LostCousins wonít have a stand at either show - I had stands at dozens of shows in my previous life, not just in the UK but as far afield as Paris, Frankfurt, California and Chicago - and I know that I can achieve far more as a visitor (or as a speaker, though so far I haven't been invited to speak at either of the events).
I also heard this week about The Genealogy Roadshow, which is actually a TV programme - and aims to solve family history challenges posed by members of the audience. I'm not sure itís the right format - magazines do a great job of answering readers' queries.
Under data protection law personal information shouldn't be used for a purpose other than that for which it was collected.
Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Until you realise that many of the records that we use in family history research are being used for a purpose other than the one originally intended. Nobody envisaged that censuses would be used by family historians - the government was collecting information for statistical purposes, to make it easier to run the country effectively.
Nobody envisaged that army personnel files and ships' passenger records would be made available on the Internet - there was no Internet when the records we see were compiled!
Similarly, itís unlikely that anyone who uploaded their DNA to the GEDmatch website envisaged that one day the information would be used to catch a serial killer and rapist - I certainly didn't.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal came about because Facebook data was misused - not by Facebook themselves (though it would appear that they left the safe door open) - but by others who exploited the trust of innocent users.
So, should there be an outright ban on information being repurposed, even when it's for the public good? I personally donít think so - it would impede progress and cause real harm.
For all the fine talk about rights being violated when the killer's DNA was uploaded to GEDmatch, nobody can seriously claim to have been harmed - other than the suspect himself (and since his DNA wasn't even in the database it wouldn't have made any difference what the terms and conditions said!).
It would be interesting to know how many people have withdrawn their DNA results from GEDmatch since the furore over the Golden State Killer erupted - precious few, I suspect. And itís not just about finding the guilty parties - exonerating innocent people is surely even more important, as this Innocence Project article explains.
But as this thoughtful blog post reminds us, there's always the danger that pushing the envelope too far will lead to unintended consequences (thanks to DNA expert Debbie Kennett for drawing my attention to it - you can read Debbie's own thoughts here).
How your information is used at LostCousins
LostCousins has always offered a high degree of privacy and confidentiality. Nobody (other than you and me) ever gets to see your My Ancestors page or your My Details page - the unique matching system I devised nearly 15 years ago enables such accurate automated matching that there's absolutely no need for other members to see your entries.
Even after you've been matched with another member they'll only see your initials - they wonít know your full name until you agree to correspond, and even then they wonít have your contact details. Indeed you need never share your contact details - once contact has been established you can continue to message each other through the website indefinitely, even if neither of you is a LostCousins subscriber.
Tracking down 'lost' members
In the event that your email address no longer works, or there is no response, I may attempt to contact you in other ways, starting with the secondary email address you have provided (if any). I may contact cousins you've been matched with to see whether they have your new contact details; I may ask the member who referred you to LostCousins when you joined.
If you provided a postal address, or I can identify you in the public Electoral Register, I may send you a letter - but before doing this I'll try to check whether you still live at the same address (this is easiest in the UK where there are estate agents who track property sales recorded at the Land Registry). If I can find your number in the phone book I may call you, even if youíre on the other side of the world.
I may try to contact you on other websites including Ancestry, Genes Reunited, and Facebook; I often search using Google. In fact, if a relative of yours is trying to get in touch with you I'll do everything I can to track you down - since LostCousins is all about putting people in contact!
Of course, I won't go to all these lengths just because your primary email address stops working - I usually only go through this process when another member who has been matched with you contacts me.
What other members know about you
The only members who'll ever know anything about you are the ones youíre matched with. But until you agree to correspond they'll only know your initials, not your full name.
Members youíre matched with won't see the entries on your My Ancestors page, but they will know which of their own entries are shared with you. The My Contact page for the relationship shows how each member is related to each of the shared relatives (ie direct ancestor, blood relative etc) and if the Ancestor Number has been entered for a direct ancestor that will also be shown. It also shows whether birth, marriage, and death certificates are held - this is to prevent your relative inadvertently purchasing a certificate you already own.
After you have agreed to correspond with a cousin they will know whether you have taken an autosomal DNA test or not (assuming you have completed this part of your My Details page). But they wonít have access to your results, nor is there currently any facility in the LostCousins systems for processing or sharing DNA results.
If you want to help meÖ.
Please ensure that your primary email address is up to date and working (bear in mind that some email providers unilaterally block incoming emails, and may not advise either the recipient or the sender when they do this - Hotmail are probably the worst culprits). Include additional contact details if you possibly can - a secondary email address and/or a postal address.
If you receive a message from a relative but are unable to respond in detail because of illness or other commitments please send a holding reply if you possibly can.
If you want to help other membersÖ.
Enter the Ancestor Numbers for your direct ancestors, indicate which BMD certificates you hold for each relative, and complete the section at the bottom of your My Details page where it asks whether you have a taken an autosomal DNA test.
If you are researching on behalf of a friend or relative
Open a LostCousins account on their behalf - assuming they give their permission, of course (you can use your own email address). Never enter someone else's relatives on your My Ancestors page, even those of a spouse - the LostCousins system won't work properly, and you'll risk confusing other members.
This Sunday is Mother's Day in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - which means that companies which offer DNA tests are offering discounts in those territories (or worldwide in the case of Family Tree DNA).
It's worth mentioning that ALL of the tests that are discounted can be taken by either men or women, so it's really just an excuse for a sale.
Please bear in mind that there's only ONE test I recommend for first-timers - the Ancestry DNA test.
Why Ancestry? Because they have by far the largest database, and the only way you can match your DNA against those 9 or 10 million potential cousins is to test with Ancestry. This is because Ancestry use a phasing algorithm to improve the accuracy of matches, so they cannot accept transfers of test results from other companies.
You don't need to be an Ancestry subscriber - the only significant limitation is that you wonít be able to view your cousins' public trees without out their permission.
But whichever test(s) you decide to purchase please use the relevant link below so that you can support LostCousins - it wonít cost you a penny more, and you'll be helping to keep this newsletter independent.
Only AUD99 plus shipping at Ancestry.com.au (Australia & New Zealand) - ends 13th May
Save 20% at LivingDNA with the code MOMSDAY4 - valid in the US, Canada, Australia & New Zealand only, ends 14th May
Family Tree DNA
Save on Family Finder and mtDNA at Family Tree DNA - ends 14th May
Save 20% or get 3 for 2 with 23andMe (US and Canada only) - ends 13th May
Author and broadcaster Adam Rutherford, whose book A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes I reviewed in September 2016, will be speaking at the June meeting of 'Greenwich Skeptics in the Pub'. Admission is free and open to all, but there is a suggested donation of £3 to defer costs - and no doubt the landlord will hope you'll also pass some of your money over the bar.
The venue is the Star and Garter at 60 Old Woolwich Road, SE10 9NY - it starts at 7.30pm or thereabouts (you can find out more here). I shall certainly be there if I can - I loved the book, and he seems a really interesting character.
The life and death of two 104 year-olds
Daisy Staines lived at the Ashlyn Care Centre in Harlow, Essex, for eight years before she died on 25th April following a stroke. According to this BBC News article she had dementia, and staff at her care home had a struggle to track down any family members ahead of her funeral next Friday.
Eventually they managed to track down her great niece, thought to live in Swansea - but sadly she is 'unable' to attend the funeral. But there will be many others there - an appeal in the local newspaper has drawn quite a response from people whose paths crossed with Daisy, so I suspect there will be quite a gathering at Parndon Wood Crematorium at 10.45am on 18th May.
This week London-born scientist David Goodall, also 104 years-old, ended his life at a clinic in Switzerland, having travelled there from his home in Australia.
Until recently he lived on his own in a flat, and at the age of 102 he fought a battle to be allowed to continue working at Edith Cowan University in Perth, where he was an unpaid honorary research associate. You can read more about his life and death in this BBC article.
In 1965 The Who sang " I hope I die before I get old" in the classic My Generation. I wonder if any of them will live to 104?
Around 1981, when my software business was starting to take off, I was selected for jury service - †but I was allowed to defer it because of my crucial role, and eventually it was cancelled altogether. Being a great fan of Twelve Angry Men I've always regretted missing out on the opportunity to find out what really goes on in the jury room, and only a couple of weeks ago I commented to somebody that now, I'll never know, as at 67 I'm probably too old to be called for jury service.
Apparently not - because yesterday I opened an official-looking envelope to discover a Jury Summons. So, the good news is that I'll probably get my wish after all - the bad news is that I'll be stuck indoors right in the middle of summer.
I gather it's a good idea to take a book to read - well, I've got a whole pile that's ready and waiting for me to read and review! And, as Chelmsford Crown Court is only 15 minutes walk from the Essex Record Office, my journey won't be entirely wasted in the event that we get sent home early.
Recycling is nothing new - I have vivid memories of saving milk bottle tops and 'silver' paper when I was a child to help buy guide dogs for the blind - but these days there is so much more packaging, some of it quite unnecessary, that we have to be quite creative in reusing and repurposing rather than simply recycling.
For example, any plastic bag that comes into our house gets reused several times, even if it eventually ends up being used as a bin bag, and foil trays always go in the dishwasher for reuse. And talking of dishwashers, did you realise that they use less water than is required to wash up by hand?
One problem I haven't solved yet is our recycled rainwater - we collect so much that using it a watering can at a time isnít very efficient, and we could really do with some sort of pump, so that we can use a hosepipe. Any cost-effective suggestions?
Although my blood pressure is about the same as it was 2 years ago (when I was told it was normal), I'm now classed as having high blood pressure - at least, according to new standards adopted in the US last year. The safe limit has been reduced by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology from 140/90 to 130/80.
A recent article in New Scientist (28th April 2018 p.25) suggests that up to 80% of those who have been reclassified will be worse off - and they're not talking financially, although that's also a likely consequence. The American College of Physicians is also sceptical.
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?