Newsletter - 14th November 2015


Save 25% on ANY 12 month subscription to Findmypast ENDS THURSDAY

How evacuation was planned in 1939

Storm clouds on the horizon

Qualifications desirable in an enumerator

Online handwriting course FREE

From reeds, to quills, to nibs and beyond

1939: more amazing discoveries

Have you used your personal discount code? EXPIRES MONDAY

GRO asks the wrong questions - again!

Charity begins at 14

Missing from the 1939 Register

Around the world in rather more than 80 days

Millions more entries to come?   

WW1 Military Tribunals & regimental records for Surrey NEW

Canadian naturalization records updated

Lord Lucan's death certificate - the saga continues

When smoking was "good for your health"

Peter's Tips



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 7th November) click here, for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here, for a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a list of articles from 2012-14 click here. Or do what I do, and use the customised Google search below (it only searches these newsletters, so you won't get spurious results):



top 100 genealogy website 2015Whenever 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!



Save 25% on ANY 12 month subscription to Findmypast ENDS THURSDAY

In 2009 you could have paid £149.95 for a 12 month subscription to Findmypast's British records, but in 2015 you can access all the same records (and many more besides) for just £99.50


True, subscribers don't have access to the 1939 Register, but just consider all the other records that Findmypast have added in the last 6 years, such as parish register images and transcriptions for Cheshire, Devon, Hertfordshire, part of Kent, Lincolnshire (partly transcribed), Shropshire, most of Staffordshire, Westminster, much of Yorkshire, and most of Wales, transcriptions of all the Scottish censuses from 1841-1901, tens of millions of military records, hundreds of millions of newspaper articles, historic electoral registers, modern electoral registers, school registers.... the list goes on and on.


Of course, their competitors have been adding records too - but you may have noticed that their biggest competitor charges more in 2015 than in 2009, not less.


In the circumstances it was a struggle for me to persuade Findmypast to offer a discount on their already low subscription price - but you'll be delighted to hear that I eventually twisted their arm. You won't have any time for shilly-shallying, though, because the 25% discount I negotiated only lasts until midnight (local time) on Thursday.


The good news is that it applies to ALL 12 month subscriptions at ALL Findmypast sites - simply click the appropriate link below:


Findmypast Britain

Findmypast US

Findmypast Ireland

Findmypast Australia


When you take out a brand new 12 month subscription using these links LostCousins should benefit, and if so I'll reward you with a free LostCousins subscription: 12 months (worth up to £12.50) when you take out a World subscription, or 6 months when you take out a Britain subscription. Simply forward to me the email receipt you receive from Findmypast (you can send it to any LostCousins address, including the one I wrote from when I told you about this newsletter). Important: I must have the date and time of the receipt in order to verify your entitlement.


Note: if you currently have a Findmypast subscription you may not be able to take advantage of their offer.


How evacuation was planned in 1939

In 1939 each area of the country was assigned one of three roles:



I was fortunate to find a document online at the HistPop website which details which areas came into which category, and I suspect many of you will find it very interesting to look up the areas where your family lived. It's about 12 pages long - use the Previous Page and Next Page links at the bottom to navigate; my understanding is that areas not specifically mentioned were Reception areas.


Of course, trying to predict which parts of the country would be safe from the Luftwaffe wasn't a precise science - Peter wrote to tell me that his family moved "out of the frying pan into the fire" when they relocated from the Southend-on-Sea area of Essex, to Torquay, in Devon. Two articles he wrote about his wartime experiences have been published online - you'll find them here and here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


Storm clouds on the horizon

When Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939 it was a sad day, but it wasn't a surprise. You probably remember that when I wrote about Operation Pied Piper last weekend I mentioned that evacuation forms were circulated to parents as early as May 1939, and it turns out that plans for the issue of identity cards were being formulated as early as 1st December 1938, when the General Register Office circulated a memorandum to Registrars of Births and deaths about:


"proceeding immediately with certain of the preparations for the 1941 Census, as a means of providing for the institution of a National Register at very short notice, should a national emergency arise."


Qualifications desirable in an enumerator

When a further memorandum went out from the General Register Office on 6th January 1939 it stated that:



When you've seen as many pages from the National Register as I have, you'll know that the enumerators didn't always live up to those high standards - even handwriting that appears neat can be hard to read if the letters are written inconsistently, or confusingly.


The fact that subsequent amendments to surnames were made in block capitals suggests that even at the time the handwriting was causing problems.


Online handwriting course FREE

On the Cambridge University website I came across this online course in reading English handwriting. It won't help you read the enumerators' handwriting from 1939, since it focuses on handwriting of the 16th and 17th centuries, but it may well help you read documents that you come across in your research, such as wills and parish registers.


From reeds, to quills, to nibs and beyond

It's easy to criticise the handwriting we come across in old parish registers, but remember that they didn't have the choice of writing implements that we have - no biros, no rollerballs, not even fountain pens.


Our word 'pen' comes from the Latin penna, meaning a feather, but the first writing implements that we'd recognise as pens were the reeds used by scribes in Ancient Egypt, around 5,000 years ago. Quills were first used about 2,000 years ago, but it was around AD 700 that they really started to take over, though reeds continued to be used into the Middle Ages.


Quill pens were still being used in the late 18th century - they were used to write and sign the Constution of the United States in 1787. I sometimes wonder whether they're still using them at the GRO - they seem to be so far behind the times!


Metal nibbed pens gradually replaced quills during the 19th century, and when I was at school in the 1960s we still had ink wells in our desks in which to dip our pens. Fountain pens had existed in one form or another for quite a while before Lewis Waterman founded his companiy in 1883, but it was the use of capillary action to promote a steady flow of ink that made his pen so successful.


1939: more amazing discoveries

Since the 1939 Register became available online, less than 2 weeks ago, I've been flooded with emails from LostCousins members who have made discoveries or solved long-standing mysteries. I've even made a discovery myself which explains why two of my father's 1st cousins didn't talk to each other - but I'm going to save that for another time.


Fiona had been searching for her great-grandparents' marriage forever - well, for a long time, anyway. Even though the 1911 Census gave the number of years they'd been married she couldn't find it, and their 1939 Register finally confirmed that they weren't married - they were shown as single and her great grandmother was listed under maiden name (though at some point an identity card was issued in her 'married' name).


A surprise was also waiting for Gerard: "I thought I knew pretty everything about my immediate family, since I've been researching the family for many years. Imagine my surprise when I found my grandfather, 5 years before he married my grandmother (and only spouse, so I thought) . seemingly married to someone else. I've researched the 'mystery wife' a bit, and sure enough, he really was married previously, for almost 10 years, until 1944, when she died. It's a bit of a surprise, as my mother and her twin sister were born early in 1946, and have absolutely no knowledge of her existence."


Miranda had long struggled to find her paternal grandparents' births - always a struggle in Wales - but now she has their precise birthdates. She also mentioned that her father's middle initial, 'Ll' had, not surprisingly, been transcribed as 'H'.


Peter also managed to solve a long-standing mystery. His ancestor is missing from the 1901 and 1911 censuses, even though her husband IS listed, each time with a different 'wife', and her last appearance in official records was in 1892 - so it might well have been thought she was dead. However she finally reappeared in the 1939 Register, some 47 years later, and he's now on the trail of her death certificate.


Sheila wrote to tell me that her husband was also successful in his quest:


"My husband has been able to track down an elusive uncle without spending lots of money on certificates to find the correct one. The few pounds, by comparison, he spent on the Findmypast website to get access to the records, has been well worth it. Previously, the last record he could find on the Internet was his uncle's army discharge papers from 1920."


Wyn found that her mother had been recorded under her own married surname - this wasn't a transcription error, but a mistake in updating the register (Wyn and her mother have the same forename, and the entries are one above the other). Wyn also noticed that her mother's date of birth was 3 years out - again this wasn't a transcription error, she had clearly subtracted a few years from her age.



Finally, there is one discovery I made that I can tell you about - I found my Auntie Sheila! She wasn't a real aunt, she was one of two wonderful friends that my mother met when she was working at Ship Carbon, in Chadwell Heath, during the war (the other was Auntie Margaret, whose daughter Chris is a LostCousins member).


By the time I knew Auntie Sheila she was living on the South Coast, so I'd never have found out where she lived during the war, or even her birth date, had it not been for the 1939 Register. And, of course, once I had her date of birth I was able to find her in the death indexes as well.


PS Many thanks to Jean who wrote to tell me that her stage-lighting company still has a box of 'Ship' Carbons, and sent me the photo above.


Have you used your personal discount code? EXPIRES MONDAY

The email which announced my 31st October newsletter included a discount code that you could use to save 10% on the purchase of 300 credits from Findmypast (sufficient for 5 households). These codes can be used only once, and only at the Findmypast local to you, ie the one specified in the email.


If you haven't used your personal code already please remember that it will expire on Monday 16th November - so you'll need to be quick!


But please DON'T use the link in my email - you won't be supporting LostCousins, and it won't take you to the right page. Instead use one of the following links - they'll take you to the right page AND you'll be supporting LostCousins (whether or not you use the discount code in my email, and whether you're buying 60 credits, 300 credits, or 900 credits):


GRO asks the wrong questions - again!

Each year the GRO surveys its customers. Some of you will have already received an invitation to comment - if not you'll find this year's survey here.


As usual they haven't asked the questions we want them to ask! The big change compared to previous years is the possibility of receiving information by email, rather than getting a certificate in the post. However it doesn't look as if they envisage a significantly quicker service, or a significantly cheaper one - since they talk about a premium charge to receive the information by email within 2 to 3 hours.


At ScotlandsPeople you'd get the information instantly and cheaply - because the historic registers for Scotland are online. There isn't a fixed price because of the way ScotlandsPeople charge, but it usually works out at under £2, compared to the £9.25 we pay in England & Wales for a certificate. Now that the law has changed I can't think of any reason why we can't have a similar service for England & Wales and at a similar cost.


Going back to the GRO survey, here are some specific comments that you might want to consider (however the numbering of the questions seems to vary so, whilst the order is likely to be the same, the question numbers may be slightly different from the ones I've shown below):


Q10 asks why the user ordered their last certificate - rather strangely "family history research" is the LAST of the 8 options offered. Is that an indication of where we rank in their priorities, I wonder?


Q17 asks whether the user would be interested in receiving information by email, but gives no idea of the cost or timing. I suggest you assume the worst and reply accordingly.


Q19 asks how much the user would be prepared to pay for the email service, but again gives no indication about timing.


Q21 talks about a premium cost service offering emailed information within 2 or 3 hours; but still there is no indication of how fast the standard email service would be. The present priority service costs £23.40


Only at Q20 ("If you had a choice, how would you prefer to receive certificate information?") is it possible to express a preference for digital images online, and then only by writing it into the 'Other' box.


Tip: you can go back and change previous answers provided you haven't clicked 'Finish Survey' on the final page of the questionnaire.


Charity begins at 14

With just 5,763 records Ancestry's latest dataset isn't one of the biggest, but it is one of the most interesting.


WWII Civil Defence Gallantry Awards tells the story of the heroes on the Home Front - like 14 year-old Charity Bick, who added a couple of years to her age in order to become a Despatch Rider with Air Raid Precautions (ARP).


On 19th November 1940, still one month short of her 15th birthday, she became the youngest-ever winner of the George Medal, the second-highest civilian award for bravery in the UK, after helping her father - an ARP Warden - extinguish an incendiary bomb which was lodged in the attic of the building opposite the ARP post.


At first they tried to extinguish the fire with a stirrup pump, but it turned out to be out of order, and so they resorted to splashing water onto the bomb with their hands. Having finally succeeded she turned to leave, but fell through the ceiling of the room below - fortunately it was a bedroom and her fall was partially broken by the bed, so she suffered only minor injuries.


At this point most people would have considered they'd done enough for one night, but Charity picked herself up, dusted herself off, and began ferrying messages on her bicycle between the ARP posts and the Control Room - since the telephones were out of action as a result of enemy action. On several occasions she was forced to dismount and lie in the gutter as nearby bombs exploded, but she continued to ferry messages.


"Hitler don't frighten me!" she was later reported to have said, and in 1943 she became a WAAF, joining the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. She served until the late 1960s, when she went to work in Scotland for the Department of Health and Social Security.


You can see a 1996 photograph of Charity in this newspaper article.


Missing from the 1939 Register?

Charity Bick's family lived at 17 Maud Road, West Bromwich - you can see their entry in the 1939 Register here:


© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England and Findmypast


However, it's clear from that entry that on 29th September 1939 Charity wasn't at home - I suspect that she had been evacuated from the heavily-industrialised Midlands to a more rural location. Perhaps her desire to stay with her family was one of the reasons she volunteered for the ARP.


Interestingly there is also no sign of William Bick, Charity's father, having served with the ARP - often this is noted in the first column of the right-hand page of the register (the only part of that page we're allowed to see). Information like that, when it appears, is a bonus.


At the current time Charity Bick's record in the 1939 Register is closed - she died in 2002, long after the NHS Central Register was computerised, eliminating the need to update the original register. However, as she lived in Scotland for many years until her death, I'm not sure if her record would have been updated even if she had died earlier.


Around the world in rather more than 80 days

Anita's father is also missing from the 1939 Register - but for a rather unusual reason - in May 1939 he set off to walk around the world, an adventure that he anticipated would take 4 years. I'll let Anita tell you in her own words:


"By September 1939, he had reached southern Italy; he spent a night sleeping on the slopes of Vesuvius, and as he later commented in an account he wrote of his journey, the internal rumbling of the mountain mirrored the rumbling of oncoming war. He retreated back to Lugano in Switzerland to await developments, hoping it might all be resolved and he could resume his travels, but it soon became apparent that this was not the case, and he set off back to England. Meanwhile, his parents had become very worried about him, and on Friday 13th October 1939 an article ('Fear for city hiker') appeared in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph. But he made it safely home. He never did get to finish his world tour, however; after joining the Army, he was sent to France (taking part in the D-Day landings), and subsequently to Belgium, where he met my mother. They were married in 1947, and once he had a wife and family, it was no longer possible. But that is why he is missing from the 1939 register."


There was a picture of Anita's father with his rucksack on his back in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph - if you have a Findmypast Britain or World subscription you can view it here.


Millions more entries to come?

It's possible that we could see a flood of records for people who died in England or Wales between June 1969, when the date of birth was first added to the death indexes, and 2007, when the GRO stopped selling copies of their death indexes.


I'd be very surprised if Findmypast aren't looking at ways of matching the death indexes against the closed records in 1939 because there are around 5 million records that could, potentially, be opened.


In the meantime, if the record for one of your relatives is closed, even though they have passed away, you can submit their death certificate. There are two routes - if you don't have a 12 month Britain or World subscription to Findmypast you'll need to complete this online form and attach a scan of your relative's death certificate.  There is a charge of £25 for this service, which according to the National Archives "covers the search and administration costs".


However, if you do have a 12 month Britain or World subscription you can submit your request via Findmypast, and it will be processed at their expense - so it's yet another reason to take advantage of the offer I've negotiated (see above).


Note: at present you need to be able to identify the household where your relative was living in order to open the record; clearly this is going to be impossible for the million or so children  - including my mother - who were evacuated before Registration Day, but hopefully Findmypast will come up with a solution.


WW1 Military Tribunals & regimental records for Surrey NEW

During the Great War, tribunals were set up in each local authority under the Military Service Acts  - their role was to determine whether a person should be exempt from military service, whether because of their occupation, ill health or infirmity, financial or domestic obligations.


This week Findmypast made available online surviving records from military tribunals in Surrey held between 1915-18 - you can search them here.


Last week Ancestry put online records for the Queen's Royal West Surrey and East Surrey Regiments covering the period 1914-1947. You can find out more here.


Canadian naturalization records updated

Library and Archives Canada have updated their database of naturalization records, which now extends from 1915-1944; work is continuing to extend the index to 1951.


You can search free here.


Note: this is one of the few Canadian genealogical resources specifically designed to benefit researchers having roots other than British.


Lord Lucan's death certificate - the saga continues

It seems I was a little premature when I reported in the last issue that a death certificate is at last going to be issued in respect of Lord Lucan, who disappeared in 1974 following the murder of his childrens' nanny, Sandra Rivett - at the last minute her son lodged an application with the High Court. You can read more in this Mail Online article.


When smoking was "good for your health"

Back in 1939 few people realised that they were more likely to die from smoking than from Hitler's bombs - indeed, some advertisements promoted cigarette as good for your health.


The American example on the right is just one of those that attempted to associate smoking with health by referring to the habits of doctors - this article on the US National Library of Medicine website analyses the ways in which tobacco companies repeatedly pitched smoking as part of the solution rather than (as we now know) part of the problem.


In 1957 the Government of Harold Macmillan proposed abolishing tobacco relief for pensioners, which had been introduced by Hugh Dalton, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer after the war. The MP for Norwich was against this "mean-spirited measure", as you can see from this quote from Hansard:


"The concession that was made by the granting of the tobacco tokens is one that experience has shown all of us to be highly prized by the retirement pensioners who have been in receipt of it. In many cases, there is no doubt whatever that it has only been by the granting of the tobacco tokens that these old men, and, nowadays, some old women too, have been able to have the comfort and solace of tobacco in the last years of their lives.


"Not only has this concession therefore attained very great importance in the lives and circumstances of our old people, but through the course of the years it has ceased to be treated as something separate and distinct from the normal family income and has now become completely interwoven into the peculiar pattern of the spending of retirement pensioners—a peculiar pattern imposed upon them, as we all know, by the narrowness and rigidity of the circumstances in which they have to live. Therefore, there is no doubt whatever that this is not an unimportant proposal in the Bill but is of very great importance to the majority of retirement pensioners.


"Even some of those who in future will receive a net increase of 7s. 8d. on the existing pension—I am referring to those who do not get any assistance from National Assistance—will find that the abolition of the tobacco token is quite likely to limit them in the exercise of what they have found to be a great comfort in their existing conditions. I believe that many of them, addicted, as most of us have been at one time or another, to tobacco, would sacrifice essentials that are necessary for their physical well-being in order to get their smoke. This is, therefore, an important matter."


It's no wonder that pensioners today are living longer than ever before!


Peter's Tips

As you may have noticed, there's so much to tell about the 1939 Register that I've spread it across several newsletters (15th October, 25th October, 31st October, and 7th November); you'll find some of the most useful tips on the web page I set up specially, at


Whilst I've provided links to each of the newsletters in the previous paragraph it wasn't really necessary, because every newsletter links to the one before (you'll find the link just below the list of contents). All of my newsletters issued since February 2009 are still available online, and whilst some of the links within the newsletter will no longer work (because the sites concerned are no longer operating, or have been reorganised) I do amend such non-functioning links when I notice them.


Talking of links, did you know that you can copy the links in the table of contents in order to refer friends or relatives to a specific newsletter article? Simply right-click on the link and choose Copy hyperlink (or the equivalent in your browser).


Stop Press

Family Tree DNA are having a seasonal sale - you can save $10 on their Family Finder (autosomal DNA) test, the one you're most likely to want, or $30 on a Y-DNA test which follows the direct paternal line and can be taken only by males. You'll be supporting LostCousins if you use either of the links I've provided when you order your test.


To re-read my series of articles which take the mystery out of DNA start here and follow the links to the previous articles in the series.


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2015 Peter Calver


Please do not copy any part of this newsletter without permission. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or email a link to your friends and relatives without asking for permission in advance - though why not invite them to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership, which includes this newsletter, is FREE?