Newsletter - 15th November 2016
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The very first digital copies of birth and death register entries for England & Wales have already arrived in researchers' inboxes, as the General Register Office trials the new system. My first order, placed at 12.30pm on Wednesday 9th, was scheduled for completion the following Wednesday, but the email with PDF attached arrived at 10.09am on Monday 14th November - here's what the PDF looks like:
As you can see, it's the same information that you'd get on a certificate. True, because it isn't certified you couldn't use it in court to prove your right to an inheritance (or anything else), but that's not why we family historians order certificates, is it?
It's rather wonderful to have a copy of the death register entry for someone born in 1758, don't you think? Although I'd previously found his burial, there's more information in the death register (and I'm now frantically trying to figure out whether the informant is a relative, or just a neighbour).
Here's another death register entry which Megan forwarded to me:
I don't know about you, but many of the certificates I've been ordering recently have been death certificates for the period up to 1865. The cause of death stated on 19th century death certificates isn't always very helpful, partly because the common causes of death have changed so much over the years. For example, it was announced this week that dementia has taken over from heart disease as the leading cause of death in the UK (see this article on the BBC News site), but you won't see it on many 19th century certificates.
My great-great-great-great grandfather died at 85 from 'senectus' - which Google revealed meant 'old age', but when Google fails there's a book which usually has the answer - you'll find my 2015 review here.
After all that talk of death I felt a heart-warming story was in order - and what better than this tale of the Derbyshire couple who married 65 years after they were forced to call off their engagement in 1951 because her mother's parents didn't approve of his profession. There's a lovely photo of the happy couple in this BBC News article - not so much Derby, as Darby & Joan?
LostCousins member John Pepperdine has analysed the records of over 5000 church marriages which took place in a single registration district between 1837 and 1911, comparing them against the GRO indexes (with the help of FreeBMD).
A quarter of a century ago Michael Whitfield Foster started work on a 10-year project to analyse the records held by the GRO and compare them with the GRO's own indexes, which were compiled on a quarterly basis. John's work is equally important because, although it only relates to a single registration district, it compares the locally-held registers with the GRO indexes.
John sent me a spreadsheet summarising his analysis, from which I could see that of 5150 marriages recorded in the registers of the various parish churches, there were just 4 which were completely missing, less than 0.1%, and 5 with only one person indexed. In one of those 5 cases the wrong surname seems to have been indexed, whilst 3 of the others were clearly late entries (the page number had an 'a' suffix).
John's sterling efforts confirm that mistakes were made, but I think we all knew that was inevitable. What we now know, is that relatively few church marriages were completely omitted from the GRO registers, and that's very useful knowledge, particularly since there are likely to be even fewer errors amongst register office marriages (since, unlike vicars, registrars are paid to do paperwork).
Of course, omissions aren't the only problem we have to cope with - some entries will have been mistranscribed, either by a modern day transcriber, by an indexer or by a later transcriber. For example, according to the GRO indexes Thomas Roberson Tingey's marriage in November 1839 is on page 837 of Volume 13, but the entry for his bride, Jane Beck, lists the page number (correctly) as 337. John estimates that about 1.6% of marriages will show different page numbers for the bride and groom at FreeBMD, although that doesn't necessarily mean that the GRO indexes are wrong.
Tip: FreeBMD indicates the expected page range for a district, so if you came across Thomas Tingey's entry at FreeBMD you would know it was likely to be wrong; the fact that there are no other entries with the same page number is another clue.
Often it is possible to overcome such errors, though it's clearly not so easy if you don't know who both parties were. Some errors will, no doubt, be righted if the GRO ever gets the funding to scan and transcribe their marriage registers; others will be resolved as more parish registers become available online. Perhaps when FreeBMD's data becomes available to others for analysis better ways of identifying and correcting errors will become apparent?
John kindly compiled these examples of the sort of things that can go wrong - you might find it instructive:
In Runcton North 3 Aug 1857 William GREENACRE married Eliza SUTTON (Freebridge Lynn Registration District) William appears in the 3rd quarter of 1857 but Eliza appears in the 4th quarter; the entries are on page 536A in each case. Viewing the entries reveals that they were both interlineated which suggests that they were not made until after the 4th quarter marriages had been processed
In West Acre 23 Dec 1854 John ALLISON married Martha BUNFIELD. Both parties can be accessed by searching in Freebridge Lynn RD and have page reference 1002 but the entry for Martha BUNFIELD indicates that she married in Penkridge R D
In East Walton 1 Apr 1848 Robert BAILEY married Ann MOBBS. Only Robert can be accessed by searching in Freebridge Lynn R D. Ann MOBBS is shown as marrying in London R D but both have the same page reference 272A
In North Wootton 22 Feb 1851 Joseph OAKES married Elizabeth Bell JEX. The parties can both be found by searching for the marriage in Guiltcross R D where it appears on page 259
At Babingly 2 Jul 1868 James STEEL married Margaret Elizabeth TUNGAY (Freebridge Lynn RD) The groom is listed on page 548A; the bride is listed in 3rd quarter of 1868 without a page number or registration district
In Denver 10 Apr 1858 Jonathan OLITER married Susan OATEY Denver is in Downham RD but the marriage is registered in Kingís Lynn RD
In Gayton 25 Oct 1838 Thomas PALMER married Eleanor PALMER (Freebridge Lynn RD) Possibly because the bride signed before the groom, the marriage is registered as Eleanor PALMER married Eleanor PALMER
I've written on many occasions in the past about errors on certificates, but now that it's possible to obtain copies of some entries in uncertificated form I need to talk about errors in the registers. For example, here's a marriage entry that Lesley sent me (this is taken from a GRO certificate):
It all seems quite straightforward - Sarah Vincent was a spinster whose father was John Vincent. Except that it's wrong in almost every respect, as Lesley discovered when she searched the new online birth indexes, looking for the birth of her great-great-great grandmother Mary Ann Balmer. The maiden name shown was not Vincent, but Younger, and before long Lesley discovered the marriage of Sarah Younger to Simon Vincent. Simon Vincent died a couple of years later, clearing the way for Sarah to remarry - so why not reveal that she was a widow? Perhaps, as so often happens, it was down to the questions that were asked, or not asked.
The certificate above shows the marriage of Robert Hanson to Mary Bradley - or does it? When Lynne searched the new GRO birth indexes she found that the mother's maiden surname was indexed as Birckley. Now she had the correct maiden name she was able to knock down her 'brick wall' and take the line back two more generations!
Another LostCousins member, Brenda, not only has a whole collection of certificates with errors (on a dedicated web page that you'll find here), she wrote a letter to Who Do You Think You Are? magazine which was published in the November issue pointing out that two birth certificates shown in a previous issue were technically incorrect, one giving the mother's name as 'Miller formerly Wilkins' and the other 'Miller formerly White', when they both should have read 'Miller, late White, formerly Wilkins'. Again, it was probably down to the questions that the registrar asked.
Brenda also responded to my request for information about the registration of foundlings - I'll let her tell you in her own words:
For several years I was one the team of volunteers from Kent FHS who went into Medway Register Office to index all their old registers and although none of my Kent ancestors lived in the Medway area to get 'inside information', on them I did gain a tremendous insight into the way registration worked in the early years and how procedures and attitudes have changed over the years (the Registrars take much more trouble now to ensure that all information given is correct). I also had the great privilege of handling the original register books. During my time going to the Register Office I saw the birth registrations of two foundlings.
The first was a child found exposed under a hedge in Strood. There were blanks in the columns for motherís name, fatherís name and occupation and the child was given the names Bentley Hedge.† The informant was the Master of the Workhouse.† This would be the birth registration indexed twice in September quarter 1904 in Strood District as HEDGE, Bentley.† Vol 2a Page 676 and as UNKNOWN, Bentley Hedge Vol 2a Page 676. Sadly, in the same quarter there is the death registration of HEDGE, Bentley aged 0.
The other foundling had a better chance in life.† He was found on the seat of a taxi cab on the rank in Gravesend (Kent) and again the columns for motherís name, fatherís name and occupation are blank and this child was given four names and the informant was a woman described as Ďin charge of the childí whose address was in Cliffe, Kent.† Alas I did not keep the note of her name.
This will be the birth registration in March quarter, Strood district Vol 2a Page 602a which is also indexed twice in the GRO; as UNKNOWN, Male and as CRAWLEY, William Patrick B. If memory serves me right Crawley would have the fourth given name.†
In 1901 census 3 year old William Crawley was living in Cliffe in the household of 57 year old widower George Fuller and described as 'adopted son'; more likely he was the 'adopted son' of Georgeís daughter Harriet and son-in-law Patrick BOSWELL who were living at the same address and had two daughters aged 2 and 6 months (Piece: 718 Folio: 15 Page: 21). I have not been able to work out why his surname became Crawley and not Fuller or Boswell.† It is just possible that the adoptive parents knew the true identity of the child but didnít tell anyone. WIlliam was not christened at Cliffe, although Patrick and Harrietís elder daughter was baptised there on 27 March 1899 having been born 8 January 1899.
The census shows William's birthplace as Gravesend (Kent) which is probably not correct - indeed if they thought he had been born in Gravesend the registration should have been done in Gravesend district.† More probable is the scenario that the cab driverís previous fare had been from somewhere in Strood registration district, which included Cliffe, to Gravesend. But also of course, presumably the cab driver, or someone around at the time, knew of a family in Cliffe who were willing to 'adopt' a foundling and they just did the registration from there. †
I hope this info will be of use to someone, especially the fact that GRO seems to have indexed foundling births twice; once as UNKNOWN, and again using the last of any given names the child had as its surname, both times with the same volume and page number.† Searching on volume and page number (with year and district) without a surname is possible on FreeBMD but not on the new GRO search facility.
Ann sent me this birth certificate for a foundling:
In 1977 the Abandoned Children Register was instituted by the GRO, although there were no entries in the register in 2012, 2013, or 2014. There were, however, 3 entries in 2010 and 1 in 2011.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching (it's on 24th November this year) US companies are looking towards Black Friday, the day after. Family Tree DNA have once again come up with some outstanding offers - and the good news is that if you're in the UK the reduction more than offsets the slump in the value of the pound!
Although Family Tree DNA are based in the US they will ship worldwide for just $12.95, so if you buy a Family Finder (autosomal) test at the offer price of $59 the total you'll pay is $71.95 - which for those of us in the UK works out at almost exactly £59, once you allow for the extra 2-3% that your bank will add (that's a 40% saving compared to Ancestry's regular price of £79 plus £20 shipping).
Here for convenience are the costs for the countries where most readers of this newsletter live:
Approximate cost in local currency (including shipping and bank charges)
Ireland and other Euro countries
There are even bigger discounts when you take a Y-DNA test (males only) and a Family Finder test - but bear in mind that a Y-DNA test can only tell you about a single line (the surname line), though by asking cousins to test you can find out about other lines (their surname lines).
You can find out about all the offers and support LostCousins by using this link (please remember to click it immediately before you place your order).
When you take an autosomal test, such as Family Finder, or Ancestry DNA, you'll get hundreds or thousands of matches. Only a few will be with close cousins - because we have far more distant cousins than we do close cousins - but you shouldn't ignore the more distant matches since they're potentially the most useful, because they're more likely to knock down a 'brick wall'.
The key to making sense of your matches is to bring your known cousins into the equation. For example, I recently arranged for one of my 1st cousins on my mother's side to test - because any matches we share must be from the ancestors that we share, which in this case means the maternal side of my tree. This is enormously useful information, not least because I have ancestors on both sides who come from the same part of the country.
But it's not just about positive inferences. If my cousin doesn't share one of my matches then I will generally start by looking for that match on my father's side of the tree. There's no guarantee that it will be on my father's side, just because one maternal cousin doesn't share the match - but it's a useful inference.
Tip: if one or both of your parents are still alive itís much better if they test - always test the earliest generations.
Of course, if lots of your cousins have tested then you'll be able to draw many more conclusions by looking at which matches are, and aren't shared with each cousin. And this is why it's so important that prices have come down - few of us could afford to pay for our cousins to test at £200 a time, but at £59 it's much more feasible.
Tip: whilst cousins who are also researching their family tree will probably be prepared to pay for their own tests, in my view it's not reasonable to expect cousins with no prior interest to fund their tests.
With over 8 billion records and newspaper articles, many of them unavailable elsewhere, Findmypast is one of the leading subscription sites - but if you're already a subscriber to Ancestry you might find it hard to justify a second subscription. So I'm glad to be able to pass on news of an offer that started this week - a One Month World subscription for just £1 (or $1, or Ä1 - depending on the site).
It's a great opportunity to search records that simply aren't available at other sites or which have been mistranscribed. I'm not suggesting that Findmypast don't make mistakes, but the chances are they'll have made different mistakes!
There are only two catches - one is that the 1939 Register isn't included in subscriptions shorter than 12 months; the other is that at the end of the first month your subscription will renew at the full price (unless you change the renewal setting in the My Account section of the website).
Note: by using those links you'll be supporting LostCousins.
I understand that it is hoped to transcribe a collection of Dublin Metropolitan Police Prisoners Books for 1905-1908 and 1911-1918, said to be amongst the most valuable new documents to come to light for this key period in Irish history. Images of the books are online here - but only when they have been indexed will their true worth become evident.
Explore Your Archive is a joint campaign by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association across the UK - it takes place during November, and if you follow this link you can find out about events across the country.
Save on tickets for WDYTYA? Live 2017 ENDS TUESDAY
Until midnight (London time) on Tuesday 22nd November you can save nearly 40% when you buy 2 tickets for next year's Who Do You Think You Are? Live event at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham from 6th=8th April; this link will take you to the special offer page.
I'm currently reading File Under Fidelity, the third book in Geraldine Wall's series about heir hunter Anna Ames and her interesting family - I'm referring to her living relatives, by the way, not her ancestors. One of the key themes running through the books is her relationship with her husband Harry, who has been diagnosed with a form of early-onset dementia - I'm really impressed by the way in which the author handles difficult topics like this.
Shopping tips often relate to big companies, so I'm pleased to be able to promote small businesses for a change. Each year American Express have a Shop Small campaign when cardholders can get a £5 rebate when they spend £10 at one of the small shops in their area which take Amex cards - in my village this includes the key-cutting shop, pubs, restaurants and several interesting businesses that I hadn't even realised were there!
But it's not just the small businesses that can benefit - if you apply for a Platinum Cashback card now using this link you can earn 5% cashback on your Christmas purchases (up to £125 cashback), and £25 simply for spending your first £1 on the card. It's true that there's an annual fee of £25, but with 1% cashback on your purchases plus special bonus offers (I got £26 in special bonuses last month alone) you are going to end up quids in.
Note: I always pay my credit card bill in full every month by direct debit; there may be better cards for those who are unable to do this.
There was good news from Nationwide this week: over the past year I've been transferring £500 a month of my savings into a Flexclusive Regular Saver account, which earns 5% interest - far more than is on offer in a regular savings account - and whilst this special interest rate is coming to an end, I'll be allowed to start again with a new Regular Saver account. Of course, there is a catch of sorts - you have to have your main current account with Nationwide to qualify, but as this is just one of many benefits I get I wouldn't bank with anyone else. For example, I get 3% interest on the first £2500 in my current account, free Europe-wide motor recovery, free Worldwide travel cover for me and my family, free mobile phone insurance, and the best possible rates when I draw cash abroad. True, I have to pay £10 a month for my FlexPlus account, but there are also great benefits with their free accounts.
If you live in the UK and are tempted to switch to a bank that is owned by its customers (and works really hard to keep them happy), drop me an email - you can get £100 for switching and if I refer you, I can benefit too. By the way, this bonus applies even if you open one of their free accounts!
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. It's a good motto for family historians but it's also one to bear in mind if you're a disgruntled Ryanair customer. In May 2011 my wife and I were delayed by 8 hours on our return home from Portugal, arriving at 3am instead of 7pm the previous evening - so we put in a claim under the EU regulations governing delays, although not immediately because there was a court case waiting to be decided which would be relevant. By the time I put in my claim it was December 2013, and they refused it right away on the grounds that the plane had been delayed by 'extraordinary circumstances' beyond their control; I wrote again asking what those circumstances were, but they refused to answer.
Fast forward to October this year - I discovered that Ryanair had joined a dispute resolution scheme, so I registered and submitted my claim. Bingo! Within a month the case had been decided in my favour, and Ryanair had agreed to pay the statutory compensation of 400 Euros per person. Let's hope it comes through in time for Christmas!
Findmypast have just announced that they have opened an extra 2 million records from the 1939 Register to mark the 1st anniversary of its release.
That's all for now - but I'll be back soon with yet more news from the world of family history.
© Copyright 2016 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?