Newsletter – 14th May 2022
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 6th May) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):
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In the last newsletter I explained how you could use free Zoom software to record your own memories as well as those of other members of your extended family.
There are other ways this could be achieved, but I believe in keeping things as simple as possible – so using software that most of us are already familiar with (thanks to the pandemic) makes perfect sense. In this issue I’m going to tell you about another way you could use Zoom – and it’s also completely free, and very simple.
Here’s the problem – if you weren’t around, for whatever reason, how would other members of your family know how to access information that you’ve recorded online, or in programs that run on your own computer? Whether it’s a family tree program, an email program, or a favourite website, simply writing down your password isn’t usually enough – things that take you seconds or minutes could take someone else without your experience and knowledge hours, days, or even weeks to figure out.
You could write everything down, but think how much better it would be if you could be there to explain things! That’s what inspired me to come up with another use for Zoom – one that’s simple, yet wonderfully powerful….
If you’ve ever watched a Zoom presentation you’ll know that the speaker usually shares their computer screen at some point – typically to deliver a PowerPoint presentation. Whilst they’re sharing their screen you might not be able to see them, but you can hear them – which got me thinking…. why not use the same technique to demonstrate how I use a particular program or website?
All I need to do is set up a Zoom meeting for one with recording turned on, share my screen, then demonstrate what to do – ideally with an audio commentary. Almost all laptops have a built-in microphone, and although mine also has a camera I didn’t use it – I wasn’t the star of this video.
Note: though I talked about setting up a meeting for one person you don’t actually specify the number of participants when you schedule a Zoom meeting – the number of attendees is determined by the number of invitations you send out. The setting to record the ‘meeting’ automatically on your computer is under Options – you could start the recording manually, but you might forget.
Why not have a try it for yourself and see how you get on? If you’re not already a registered user of Zoom just follow this link – the free Basic Plan allows you to set up an unlimited number of meetings, each with between 1 and 100 participants! (The main limitation is the 40 minute limit to any one meeting, but you can always set up multiple meetings with the same people.)
Note: you can do much the same thing with other software, but making use of software that most of us already have and already use keeps it simple!
Four years ago I linked to this BBC article telling the stories of six mothers whose children were, tragically, still-born; I had many emails from readers of this newsletter who had been through similar experiences. The problem is still with us: according to the Office for National Statistics the number of still-births in England rose from 3.9 per 1000 births in 2020, to 4.2 per 1000 births in 2021. You’ll find a detailed review of infant mortality here; sadly it looks as if the targets set for 2025 aren’t going to be met.
This week I read this story of an 86 year-old woman who had found, for the first time, the resting place of the still-born daughter to whom she gave birth in 1961 – it’s a happy ending of sorts.
Note: registration of still-births in England & Wales began in 1927; Scotland followed in 1939. This 2009 paper discusses some of the historical issues, quoting a 1901 article in the British Medical Journal which alleges that many children who died within 24 hours of birth were classified as still-born.
Some while ago Findmypast added an index of Huntingdonshire Marriages from 1754-1837, the three generations prior to the introduction of Civil Registration – but it was browseable, not searchable. Now they’ve digitised the index so that you can search through more than 60,000 entries in seconds (I’ve included a link to Findmypast’s burial records for your convenience):
Tip: FamilySearch also have transcribed entries for Huntingdonshire, and if you visit a FamilySearch Centre or affiliated library you can view the parish register entries.
A month ago Ancestry announced a new feature they call SideViewTM, which makes use of their vast database of DNA results to determine – with a high degree of accuracy – whether a segment of DNA has been inherited from the tester’s father, or from their mother. It’s ground-breaking technology, but Ancestry have wisely chosen to introduce it slowly – at this stage the only visible sign is the separation of ethnicity estimates into Parent 1 and Parent 2.
However if you look at a page of DNA matches you might assume differently. Here’s a clip from the matches of one of my cousins (with most of the identifying information removed):
Note that my cousin’s match with me is shown as being on my cousin’s father’s side (as it happens, in this case the match is also on my father’s side but that information would be shown on my matches page). But how do Ancestry know that the match is on that side of my cousin’s tree? Not, as you might have supposed, because they’d figured it out themselves using SideViewTM – no, they used a much simpler approach, one based on a much older technology.
If you look at the match above mine, you’ll notice that there’s a question posed: Do you recognize them?. If you click Yes you’ll be asked Do you know which side of XXX’s family YYY is on?
And that’s the only reason why I’m shown as related to my cousin on his father’s side – it isn’t because Ancestry have done anything clever, it’s usually because they asked the question. I suspect that quite a few users will have forgotten this, and assumed that the information displayed is a product of SideViewTM.
Note: if one or both of your parents have tested, then of course Ancestry will know which side most of your matches are on – but that’s hardly rocket science.
Does it matter that some users will make an incorrect assumption? Absolutely, because if you don’t know the source of a piece of information you don’t know how reliable it is, and if the information turns out to be wrong you might incorrectly attribute the blame for the error. You might even spend hours pondering how a DNA match can be related on both sides of your tree when all that’s happened is that you’ve inadvertently answered a question incorrectly (this is particularly easy to do if you manage DNA tests for some of your cousins).
There are other potential sources of confusion: for example, if Ancestry – or, indeed, any other DNA provider – shows your relationship to a match as (say) 1st -2nd cousin you might assume they know what they’re talking about.
Well, they do – but only up to a point. The relationship shown is their best estimate, but that doesn’t make it correct – even if the range of relationships is accurate, the correct relationship might be 1st cousin once removed, or half 1st cousin. Reading this article it might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget about these other possibilities in the excitement of finding an unexpected close cousin.
And then there are the many occasions when the estimate is way out – for example, my 3rd cousin Pauline is shown as a 5th to 8th cousin of my brother, and she’s not a DNA match for me at all!
All of this is to be expected, because of the randomness in the way that DNA is inherited, but I’m willing to bet that most people who look at their DNA matches tend to ignore this possibility. For example, most beginners tend to work through their DNA matches starting the top, assuming that the cousins who are most closely-related will be higher up the list.
Tip: even if this were the case, it would still be a poor strategy, as anyone who has read my DNA Masterclass will know!
Incidentally, if one of your parents (or one of your children) has tested you may well have discovered for yourself just how random the inheritance of DNA can be. For example, my mother-in-law has a 393cM match which Ancestry estimate is with a 1st -2nd cousin, so you’d expect that my wife would share about half that amount – but in fact she shares just 55cM with that cousin, and Ancestry’s estimate of the relationship is 4th to 6th cousin.
Note: this apparent anomaly in my wife’s matches is reinforced by her ethnicity estimate, which suggests that she inherited far less DNA from her mother’s English father than from his Welsh wife.
There’s another source of misunderstandings that crops up quite frequently – when you look at the matches you share with a cousin it’s important to remember that the shared DNA figure is the amount of the DNA you share with the shared match. Without asking one or the other, all you can possibly know about the amount of DNA that your cousin shares with them is that it must be at least 20cM (otherwise they wouldn’t show up as a shared match at all).
Tip: if you know the amount of DNA shared between two genetic cousins (or between yourself and a cousin) I recommend you ignore ALL estimates of the relationship, whether offered by the DNA company or by a third-party website or app. Instead refer to the coloured chart in the DNA Masterclass, which will allow you to see the full range of possible relationships.
During the first 12 months of the pandemic 3.2 million UK households acquired a new pet (see this BBC News article), but the onset of the Second World War had a very different impact – some dog owners decided to have their dogs put to sleep because they were worried about them roaming the streets in the event that their homes were destroyed by enemy bombs.
Then as the war progressed stocks of dog food ran low – in March 1941 a spokesman for Battersea Dogs Home told a reporter that they had “collected a fairly large stock of dog foods after the war began, but it had seriously decreased and a request for further supplies was being made to the Ministry of Food….. a dog can be fed on potatoes and meat gravy, but it would have to be varied a little some days.”
A year later the National Canine Defence League was writing to newspapers calling for equitable sharing of the limited supplies “so that, as far as possible, every customer gets some meat for his or her dog”. Even in 1946, after the war had ended, the League was complaining that the supply of cereal for dog biscuits was half what it had been before the war. Food rationing continued in the 1950s – no wonder my mother was concerned when she saw me eating dog biscuits!
Where I grew up in the 1950s many of the roads were named after famous – or not so famous – authors. We lived in Christie Gardens – no prizes who that was named after – and my school was in Huxley Drive; not far away were Galsworthy Avenue and Priestley Gardens, the former named after the Nobel Laureate who wrote The Forsyte Saga, the latter for the novelist and broadcaster who is now remembered mostly for his plays, including The Good Companions, and the wonderful An Inspector Calls. He also wrote When We Are Married, which was turned into a film with Raymond Huntley, an actor who seemed to be in everything when I was growing up, reprising his role from the play.
The plot of When We Are Married is simple enough – it involves three couples who married on the same day 25 years earlier, and have decided to celebrate their Silver Wedding together – only to discover that the man who had married them was not, in fact, authorised to do so. However, as Rebecca Probert reminds us in her latest book Tying the Knot: The Formation of Marriage 1836-2020, the play is set in 1908 and therefore the weddings must have taken place in 1883, 15 years before the passing of the 1898 legislation which created the concept of an authorised person!
Fortunately few, if any, in the audience would have been so familiar with the history of marriage law that it spoiled their enjoyment of the play. The plot of the recent TV series Belgravia involved a similarly arcane piece of marriage law, though as the marriage in question took place in Brussels I still don’t know whether it would have been legal or not.
Note: I’ll be reviewing ‘Tying the Knot’ in a future newsletter – though aimed at the academic market, and priced accordingly, I’m finding it fascinating reading.
As a child I most associated the name Rowntree with fruit pastilles (first manufactured in 1881) and fruit gums (1893); I preferred the latter because they lasted longer. However Rowntree also produced Kit-Kat, Aero, and Smarties – and whilst those chocolate delights were all 20th century inventions, the company’s 19th century roots were in chocolate.
Cadbury’s, Fry’s, and Rowntree’s were all founded by Quaker families; in York the Rowntree family were active supporters of schools – not just for children, but also for adults (adult illiteracy was a significant problem).
Paul Chrystal’s book Rowntree’s – The Early History explores the background to Henry Rowntree’s purchase of a chocolate manufacturing business in 1862 and follows the fortunes of the business up to 1925, when Joseph Rowntree II died.
There is a lot of detail, perhaps more than a casual reader would wish for – but it certainly helps to convey the challenges that the Rowntree family faced. Though sales grew, profits were meagre – their Quaker background no doubt meant that they were less ruthless than some of their competitors. However, though they might have been model employers by the standards of the time, their refusal to employ the mothers of illegitimate children might seem un-Christian to some modern eyes.
If one of your ancestors worked for Rowntree’s (or even one of their early competitors), attended one of the many schools with which the family were associated, or perhaps lived at New Earswick, the garden village financed by Joseph Rowntree’s generous donations, then this book is likely to be of interest. I suspect too that many family historians with other connections to York will also find it revealing for what it tells us about the city and its inhabitants.
I read the hardback but it’s also available as a Kindle book.
When Sue began researching her great-uncle Norman Snow she wasn’t expecting to make any great discoveries – but the more she looked the more she found, so much so that she ended up writing a book! Here’s what Sue told me about her search:
At the beginning he was just a mysterious Great Uncle I knew nothing about. But the whole thing evolved over the years as more and more information came in.
I have used many of the usual resources: birth, marriage and death records, census records, visits to the National Archives, local archives, Ancestry, Findmypast and even visiting many sites to get inspiration. I have his army records from both England and Australia. But the biggest results came from searching at Google and in the British Newspaper Archives.
With a surname like Snow, I had to be creative in my searches. For instance, my name is Susan but everyone calls me Sue, so I tried a variety of possible nicknames, and “Norm Snow” brought an avalanche of great information from a Google search.
I knew he was a musician, and the article on the right (from the Herts & Essex Observer of 6th August 1938) I found in the British Newspaper Archive by simply typing in ‘Snow’ and ‘Band’, then filtering the newspapers down to the local area. I did have to trawl through quite a few results and occasionally I added in the name of someone else who I knew he had played with – but I now have 12 similar articles mentioning him.
Image © Reach PLC. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD and used by permission of Findmypast
It was a search for his full name in the British Newspaper Archive that led me to find his bigamy trial, which in turn led me to the National Archives, and the book of indictments at The Old Bailey; another story I found by searching for his mother – he is not mentioned by name but simply referred to as “the other defendant's husband”.
Family rumour had it that he had deserted during WW2 and left for Canada. My godmother was the last person within the family to see him, and told the story of him burying his uniform in the back garden before deserting. I have included that little bit in the book.
A Google search for a name and a place put me in touch with his daughter (my own ‘lost cousin’) who I am happy to say I am now friends with, and she has passed on stories that bring him alive – so much better than when you only have the records to go on.
I would never have known about an accident that almost stopped his career, or that he loved to polish horse brasses, how generous he was with his time or how music was his one true love. All these little clues are in the story that I’ve written down.
Thanks to researching and hours of seemingly random Googling (and emails to complete strangers) I now know the truth – and as a family we can be thankful for finding someone who disappeared from our lives.
‘Brick walls’ can take years to bring down, but by looking inside and outside the box and being creative, it’s amazing what you will find. The title of my book, “What Happened to Uncle Norman?”, came about because those were the words I used when asking mother about him for the first time. In the book I have interwoven the bare facts with people’s memories of him, to create a story of what I believe made him who he was.
Full marks to Sue for not only persisting in her search, but inspiring others by writing the book. I haven’t had a chance to read it – I have a big pile of unread books that I’m working my way through – but no doubt some of you will have seen the article about Sue and her book in the June issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine (the reviews at Amazon are equally complimentary – indeed, when I last checked all but one reader had given the book 5 stars).
It’s available at Amazon either as a Kindle book or a paperback:
You can also order the book direct from the author by following this link to her website. Sue tells me that £1 from each sale is going to the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation, a very worthy cause.
What would you do with an old laptop? You could give it away or use it as a paperweight, but if it’s still working you might be able to find a better use for it. For example, I’ve got a Dell XPS 18 that I bought in 2013 – it has a beautiful 18.4in touchscreen, bigger than the screen on my present laptop, but the battery has failed, its processor is seriously underpowered by today’s standards, and it’s also incompatible with Windows 11 (it won’t even update to the most recent version of Windows 10).
Recently I wondered whether I could use it as a second display for my current laptop – there are times when a second screen comes in handy, and Googling brought up this page of information on the HP website (you don’t need an HP computer – they work for all brands).
Though the instructions suggest that you need the same operating system on both computers I found that wasn’t the case – my new computer has Windows 11, and the Dell has to struggle by on the 2019 update of Windows, but within 5 minutes it was doubling as a second display. I could even make use of the touchscreen – and the cordless mouse that belongs to the Dell, though I haven’t found any way of using two mice simultaneously (I don’t think it’s possible).
Tip: Windows warned me that I might not be able to ‘project’ to the Dell as its hardware was not designed for this purpose – but it still worked.
What can you do with a second display? You could duplicate the first display – handy if you want someone else to see what you’re doing but don’t like them looking over your shoulder! But what I find most useful is to use the second display as an extension of the first – for example, if I was using the LostCousins site to enter relatives from the census I could display the census information on the second screen. (Whilst it is possible to display both on a single screen, it’s a bit fiddly – which is why in the past I’ve tended to print the census information, and use the printout as my source.)
It has also proven very handy to have a second display as I’ve been writing this newsletter – I can research as I write, and whilst I could simply use my old laptop as a second computer, copying and pasting links and text is infinitely easier with a single computer.
Tip: if you prefer a more visual guide to setting up your laptop as a second display this YouTube video will help.
In the UK food producers and manufacturers have a legal obligation to include either a best before or use by date on their food, but whilst supermarkets and other retailers can legally sell produce that has passed its best before date, they cannot sell food that has passed its use by date since this date is related to safety rather than quality. Yet in 2014/15 most of the 270,000 tonnes of food destroyed or discarded by UK retailers was perfectly edible – indeed, I often use items that have just passed their best before date, and rarely-used herbs or spices from my store cupboard could be many years out of date.
Note: the figure quoted above is for food wasted by retailers, which is just the tip of the iceberg – this report in the House of Lords library suggests that in 2018 the total amount of food waste in the UK was an incredible 9.5 million tonnes.
In recent years the government has pressured retailers and manufacturers to replace use by dates with best before dates where possible: for example, Co-Op supermarkets recently decided to switch from showing a use by date on pots of yoghurt to a best before date. Whilst Tesco, the supermarket which delivers most of my groceries, still shows a Use by date on their yoghurt pots, because I only ever buy natural yoghurt I take little notice of the dates – I can taste whether or not it’s still OK to eat, and it’s the same with cream or milk. Incidentally, when food does spoil it’s often because it has been carelessly contaminated – now I know why my mother used to tell me not to put my buttery knife in the jam!
When I was young and we had bottled milk delivered by a milkman there was no Use by date, though I think there was a letter or number embossed on the foil cap so that we knew which day it had been delivered, and could use up the oldest milk first. If the milk did go sour it wasn’t wasted – Mum would put it on the window sill until the curds separated from the whey, and then make scones. Searching on the Internet suggests that she would have used the whey, rather than the curds, but little was wasted in our household – you didn’t if you’d lived through the Depression and World War 2 rationing – so I’m sure she used the curds for something.
A change that Tesco have made is to eliminate dates completely from packs of fruit and vegetables – which is pretty sensible considering that if they were sold loose there would be no dates. On the other hand I do aim to use the oldest packs first, to minimise wastage, so I’m delighted that they’ve continued to label them with codes that can be translated into dates (presumably take their own stock rotation easier). It’s a simple enough system – there’s a letter that signifies the month, ie A for January, B for February and so on, and a number for the day.
Changing the subject, I was amused to see an article in the news this week about Lord Sugar lambasting the accountancy giant PricewaterhouseCoopers for offering their 22,000 employees Friday afternoons off if they got their work finished by lunchtime.
Personally I thought PwC had come up with a jolly good incentive for their staff – indeed, when I was Financial Controller of a retail chain in the late 1970s I made the same offer to the retail accounting team (which processed invoices from suppliers), and was rewarded by them doing 6 days’ work in 4 and a half, whereas previously they had been managing only 3 days’ work in 5! To be fair, they knew they were going to be made redundant when the work was done – which is precisely why I decided to try a counter-intuitive approach.
Finally, back to food again. My wife has been growing chard for a few years, but until now I’ve struggled to find a way to prepare it that preserved the delicacy of the leaves, whilst ensuring that the stems were cooked through. Eventually I decided to take a different approach, roughly chopping the stems and roasting them in the oven for 30 minutes (not 10 as suggested in one recipe) with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, then stir-frying the leaves towards the end of the cooking time.
They made an excellent accompaniment for the chicken and mushroom risotto I made on Thursday – two delicious vegetables for the price of one!
No article this issue, but my wife mentioned that she had ordered some half-price blueberry bushes in pots, and suggested I pass on this link now as they may have sold out by the time the next full article appears. She did also mention that you need to buy more than one bush unless you already have blueberries in your garden – there is a pollination chart here which you will find useful.
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