Newsletter - 9th November 2018
Free access to ALL historic records and newspapers at Findmypast ENDS NOON MONDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 2nd November) 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):
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!
When the General Register Office made available their own online indexes of historic births and deaths in England & Wales it was transformational - at last we could view the mother's maiden name before 1911, and the age at death before 1866. The modern indexes include every forename in full, which also helps to identify the right entry.
Subsequently it became apparent that the ages at death of infants were, in many cases, wrongly shown - see my article What you really need to know about the GRO's new birth and death indexes from November 2016. But over the past 2 years I've also received a number of emails from members who were mystified that errors they had reported weren't being accepted.
This week I finally diagnosed a problem, thanks to an email from Kim in Canada, who had found three missing entries in the same quarter, and - significantly - all of them had the same volume reference (when looked up in the contemporary indexes at Findmypast or FreeBMD). What I discovered is that over 7000 birth entries from the third-quarter of 1881 which belonged to volume 4a had been duplicated, and also appeared as volume 3b. The entries which belong to volume 3b - over 5000 of them - are completely missing. There's an example of one of the duplicated entries (not a relative of mine) below:
Although there are only a small number of incorrect index entries in relation to the total number of births from 1837-1917 (the current upper limit of the new birth indexes), when an error of this nature is discovered there's always a possibility that other similar mistakes have been made.
If you've identified a missing entry in the GRO's birth or death indexes the chances are itís an isolated occurrence - indeed, it might simply have been mistranscribed. But if you able to confirm that all the other records from the same page are missing I'd like to hear from you!
Note: the simplest way of finding records on the same page in the GRO registers is to find the entry using the FreeBMD website, then click the page number.
Free access to ALL historic records and newspapers at Findmypast ENDS NOON MONDAY
From today until noon (London time) on Monday 12th November you can access all of Findmypast's historic records and newspapers. That's right - not just their military records, but all of their records, so that even if you're focusing this weekend on the grandparents and great uncles who fought in the Great War you can get a fuller picture of their lives.
It's also a chance to find out how the war was reported in the press at the time - and how the changes on the Home Front affected the everyday lives of the relatives who stayed behind. Please use the links below so that Findmypast know that you're a reader of this newsletter:
Tip: if you follow this link to my September Masterclass you'll find advice on making the most of Findmypast, including links to many of the key records.
I was born a few years after the Second World War ended, but at a time when food rationing was still in force in the UK. The slogan "Dig for Victory" was conceived in WW2 as a way of encouraging people to grow vegetables in their gardens and on their allotments, rather than flowers - but for most people the iconic slogan from WW1 is "Your country needs you", a message reinforced by Lord Kitchener's index finger pointing at the reader (see this BBC article from 2014).
So it was a bit of a surprise for me to realise a few years ago that food rationing and allotments dated back to the Great War - my epiphany came when I read an article entitled 'Pick it up and eat it' - food rationing during the First World War in the September 2014 issue of Journal of the Society of Genealogists. Written by David Evans it reports how in December 1917 over 3000 people had queued outside a grocer's shop in south east London in the hope of purchasing some margarine (over 1000 came away empty-handed), and explains that before the war the UK had imported around 60% of food.
Flowerbeds in London parks - and even opposite Buckingham Palace - were turned into vegetable patches, and the feeding of wild birds became an offence. Although there were various restrictions in place at earlier dates, especially for restaurants and hotels, it wasn't until the end of 1917 that rationing came into force, initially for sugar, and then from February 1918 meat, margarine, and butter. There were also limitations on the consumption of jam, cheese, and tea - the amounts of which were not determined nationally, but by local Food Committees.
If you look through newspapers from 1918 you'll see advertisements from producers of products that could be used to enhance the limited rations. Rationing continued after the war, but my November 1920 the restrictions had all been lifted.
The first attempt to bomb Britain from the air was not in 1939, but on 21st December 1914, when a seaplane (or rather a floatplane) headed for Dover - but the bombs it was carrying exploded harmlessly in the sea. A few days later, on Christmas Eve, another floatplane attacked, and this time it reached its target, although no casualties resulted, and the damage was not great.
There's an amazing website which gives details of all 103 German raids on Britain - you'll find it here - and it may interest some of you to know that the creator of the website, Ian Castle, is giving a talk at Islington Museum on Thursday 15th November. There's also information on the Imperial War Museum website - I'd suggest starting here. According to that page there were more than 300,000 people who sheltered in the London Underground between May 1917 and the following May - more than in the Blitz.
Note: after the Armistice some people continued to use their allotments, but others didn't, and my wife's grandparents and great-grandparents were able to set up a small greengrocery business by renting unwanted allotments near their village.
I wrote recently about Peter Jackson's film They Shall Not Grow Old, which updates silent black and white footage from the Great War with colour and sound. I haven't seen it yet, but it gets a 5* rating in today's London Times ("Cutting-edge special effects are combined with impeccable curatorial instincts to bring the First World War to life in a way that outmatches and outclasses even the best efforts of movie fiction").
But the reason I'm writing about the film again is to draw your attention to another article in The Times today, in which the film director asks for readers help in identifying some of the soldiers who are shown in the documentary - hopefully you wonít need a Times subscription to see the photos if you follow this link.
Note: the film is being shown on BBC2 at 9.30pm this Sunday.
The population of the Prairie Provinces of Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) grew much more quickly than in other provinces, so from 1906 additional censuses were held. The 1926 Census has been transferred from Statistics Canada to Library and Archives Canada, and according to this page it should be available online from March 2019 - and it will be free.
Many of you will already be aware that more than 50 million military records from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand are free online at Ancestry this weekend - the offer ends at midnight (London time) on Monday 12th November. If youíre in Australia you can access the records until 4am (AEDT) on Tuesday morning.
Some of the records are also available at Findmypast, but military records are notoriously difficult to index, so it's well worth searching at both sites, especially if you are looking for WW1 service records. 60% of these were destroyed during WW2 - but donít assume your ancestor's file is one of those that was lost until you've tried both sites.
Those of you who have yet to take a DNA test might well think that once you've tested your own DNA, that's it. But anyone who has already tested, and is faced with thousands or - if they tested with Ancestry - tens of thousands of matches, will know that itís just the starting point.
There's nothing in our autosomal DNA to tell us who it came from - you canít even tell whether it came from your mother or your father. So when you get a match with a cousin, they could be connected to you through any ancestral line in your tree (including the ones you donít know about yet, because they're on the other side of a 'brick wall').
Testing your brothers and sisters will produce more matches with genetic cousins, but you still won't know which part of your tree they come from - for that you need someone who shares some of your tree rather than all of it. It's simple when you think about it - if you and a known cousin of yours have a DNA match with the same genetic cousin, you can be almost certain that the match comes from the part of your tree that you share. All you need to do is identify the most recent common ancestors that you and your known cousin share - the new cousin you've both been matched with must either be descended from them, or from one of their ancestors.
Of course, this works the other way round too. If you're trying to crack a particular 'brick wall' you need to figure out which cousins are going to provide you with the best clues.
Tip: DNA tests are expensive, so start by connecting with as many 'lost cousins' as possible - theyíre also researching the ancestors you share, and some will have tested already, others will be prepared to test if you explain how you can both benefit. A couple of hours spent adding relatives from 1881 to your My Ancestors page might save you hundreds of pounds and hundreds of hours of wasted effort - and it'll also help with your conventional research, which makes it a really smart choice!
I've had an excellent response to my request for stories from members who have adopted - in fact there have been so many wonderful contributions that I'm not going to include all of them in this newsletter (the others will appear in the issues between now and Christmas). Names - where shown - have been changed to protect the privacy of all of the individuals involved.
Adoption legislation and practice varies around the world, and the first story comes from a member in Canada:
"We were supportive of our adopted daughter and son registering with the adoption registry here in British Columbia.† They were adults when they registered with the goal of learning more of their personal story, to find out who they looked like and whether or not there were health issues that they may have inherited.† For both our son and daughter the registry had no problem locating their birth mothers and each consented to making contact.
"For our daughter their first meeting was within a very few weeks of contact being made. They spent an afternoon together; it was exciting at first but it didnít take long for the relationship to grow cold. They had very little in common. The good news though was that she did get to meet her birth mother and ask those important questions although we suspect some of the answers werenít truthful. They do not have any further contact.
"Our sonís birth mother took a much more careful approach to their meeting. First, she felt that she needed to tell her parents that sheíd had a child and given him up for adoption. She wanted to do that in person and, as they lived out of province, it was almost a year before she was able to meet with them.† In the meantime she preferred to correspond in writing to our son.† He was her only child and although he was always in her thoughts, this was a big step for her. They developed a cautious but good relationship and when he saw her for the first time he definitely knew who he looked like.† She told him about his birth father and their relationship, about his birth family and answered his questions. Unfortunately it was only a few years later that his birth mother died of a brain tumour.† At that time her sister (our sonís aunt) stepped forward offering to be the family contact for our son.† That Christmas she worked with me to put together our sonís family history story with both of his families in words and pictures.† We are ever so grateful that our son made the effort to find his birth mother when he did.
"Being a genealogist and family historian, my husband and I totally understood our daughter and sonís need to learn more about their own story.† Iíd have wanted to do the same under their circumstances. If anything, the experience made us even closer to our daughter and son and I know that they feel the same way."
The second story is from the UK, but it involves the adoption of a girl from abroad:
"Unlike most adoptive parents in the UK, I adopted a child from abroad. My daughter was born in South Korea. It is very unlikely that she could ever search for her birth parents, or they for her, but I have always said to her that if she ever wanted to, I would help her in any way I could. However, she has never shown the slightest interest in doing so; she says we are her parents and that is enough. I thought becoming a mother herself might change her mind, but it has not.†
"I'm sure that her birth mother thinks of her often and I wish I could write to her, just to let her know that her grown-up child is much loved and is well, happily married and a mother of two lovely children.
"Overseas adoption is much more common in Europe and in fact I was living in Belgium when she was adopted. I have heard the view expressed here that I 'took her out of her culture'. That idea is perhaps why it isn't considered politically correct in the UK to adopt from another country. My reply is that it's better for a child to have a family here than to be in an orphanage within his or her own culture. (Koreans, especially 30 years ago, did not tend to adopt abandoned babies). I did try to teach her about Korea, and a bit of the language, but she has never been interested. Even K-POP leaves her cold!
"There were some tumultuous times during her teenage years but many biological parents can say the same. We are friends now and I'm proud of her - and delighted to be a granny."
There will be more stories in the next issue - I'm sure you will find them equally inspiring.
Note: if youíre an adoptive parent I'd like to hear your story - even if it isnít for publication.
In the last issue I explained that one of my aims in writing this newsletter is to get you thinking, and that this sometimes means taking an unfashionable stance. For example, in that issue I mentioned that:
"I find it quite discomforting when every mention of a soldier or sailor who was killed or wounded refers to them as a 'hero', because most of them didnít want to be there at all, and would have jumped at the chance to be back in Blighty with their loved ones. Of course, this doesnít detract from the fact that there were many acts of bravery, some recognised with medals or mentions in despatches, others known only to God because all of the witnesses perished..."
When I wrote that I didnít feel it was in the least controversial - unfashionable, perhaps, but anyone who has read contemporary accounts of the Great War will know how dreadful an experience it was for those in the trenches, and that even those who volunteered often regretted their decision. But for one reader what I wrote was "very insulting", and I thought it might be useful to print my response in case youíre ever faced with a similar situation:
The image of brave men courageously giving their lives is an attractive one, but to extend it to everyone who fought is quite wrong. The reality is that many, perhaps most, of those who were killed would have done anything to be back home. Some of those who signed up voluntarily in 1914 did so thinking that the war would be over by Christmas, and they didn't want to miss out on the fun - see this page on the Imperial War Museum website.
The very worst way to honour our ancestors is to forget what really happened. Propaganda in time of war is acceptable, but as historians we must respect the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.
My grandfather fought in the Great War as a conscript and lived - but his only surviving brother volunteered, and died at Ypres in January 1916. His 1st cousin who had emigrated to Canada volunteered in 1915 but was killed almost exactly 100 years ago, on 31st October 1918. My father volunteered in World War 2, and came through unscathed - but the rest of his gun battery were killed. He only survived because his job was communications, which meant he was delivering a message when the shell hit.
My father was not a hero, nor did he aspire to be one - and if the shell had killed him as well it wouldn't have made him any more of a hero. He never spoke about the war when I was growing up, even though he was demobbed less than 4 years before I was born. It was only when he was over 80 that I was able to talk to him about his experiences and record our conversations on video - but he still found it difficult to talk about some of the things that happened.
All families have been scarred by war - but war is ugly, not glorious, and whilst some of those who died were heroes, most were simply victims. You feel proud of what your family did - I just feel grateful that I haven't had to go through what my father and grandfather did.
Nobody can really say what life would be like now if the Great War had never been fought, or if the 'other side' had won - perhaps there wouldnít have been a World War 2? Or perhaps the eventual war would have been worse - at least neither side used chemical weapons in WW2, having seen what the effects were in WW1.
What we can say for certain is that many people, men and women, died while doing their duty - and this weekend we will remember them. But remember too those who were so seriously injured, physically or mentally, that their lives were forever scarred - including those left behind when their loved ones went off to war.
I was reminded of this sarcastic rejoinder to an improbable statement when I was reading The Rise and Fall of BritainsDNA: A Tale of Misleading Claims, Media Manipulation and Threats to Academic Freedom, a 26 page paper by four members of the Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London (UCL), one of whom is LostCousins member Debbie Kennett (you can download a PDF copy of the report here).
According to the paper the (now-defunct) BritainsDNA business claimed to link some of its clients to figures from Biblical times, including the Queen of Sheba - and managed to get considerable free TV and radio coverage, despite the doubts expressed by experts in the field of genetics, including those at UCL - who were threatened with legal action (they refused to back down). There are many aspects of this sorry tale that are worrying, but perhaps the biggest concerns are the way that the public were misled about what DNA testing could achieve, and the apparent ease with which BritainsDNA (whose other trading names included ScotlandsDNA) were able to get publicity on the BBC for what was arguably 'fake news'.
There's a summary of the findings here - even if you don't have an interest in DNA it's worth reading.
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......
I'm afraid that once again Peter's Tips has had to be deferred - but you wonít have long to wait, as I'm already starting work on the next issue, which I hope will be out early next week.
© 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?