Newsletter – 17th November 2020



Good news at last!

Christmas 2020

Save 30% at Findmypast ENDS MONDAY 23RD

Sussex registers at FamilySearch

Don't ignore Bishop's Transcripts

In search of the missing link

Why Ancestry and Findmypast add FamilySearch records

Dating in the USA

Last chance to save on DNA tests? ENDING SOON

Review: Tracing Your Prisoner Ancestors

Review: Henry VIII in 100 Objects

What am I reading?

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 5th 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):



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!



Good news at last!

The recent announcements that the first COVID-19 vaccines are over 90% effective have been very encouraging – at least we now know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, even though we still don’t know how long the tunnel is.


I don’t know about you, but the response of my wife and I to the news has been to redouble our commitment to preventing the infection reaching our household. We've succeeded for 8 months, we can manage for another 4 months - or however long it takes to get to the head of the vaccination queue. Some people might regard it as a year wasted, but for us it has been a year to take stock, and to spend time on those important, but non-urgent things that otherwise never get done.


One thing we certainly won't be doing is taking risks at Christmas – nowadays we don’t need our relatives to be within spitting distance in order to talk to them. I can remember from my childhood that you used to have to book several days in advance if you wanted to speak to friends or relatives in Australia on Christmas Day and it cost an arm and a leg. Now, thanks to the Internet, even a video call to the other side of the world won’t cost us a penny.



Christmas 2020

Note: although I've written Christmas, it could be Hanukkah, Thanksgiving or whatever occasion is most special for you and your family.


Staying safe doesn't mean that we can't see our friends and relatives at Christmas – it simply means that we can't be in the same house. Things have changed dramatically since March – most of us have used some form of video-conferencing to talk to others, and in so doing we've overcome all sorts of hurdles that we might not previously have attempted.


So why not use Zoom or some other free service to connect with people you love on Christmas Day? Set up a screen in the right place and you could even have Christmas Dinner together. At this time of the year many of the things we eat are prepared in advance, so why not organise things so that you all eat the same food – each person, even the children, could take responsibility for preparing a different item that's shared with everyone else in the same Zoom conference. It doesn’t have to be food - it could be party hats, or decorations – just so long as everyone gets involved.


Did you see the article on BBC News about the Bridport couple who combined their surnames when they married, becoming Mr & Mrs White-Christmas? Apparently they first met at school, aged 12, so they've had plenty of time to find someone else with an even more appropriate surname!


Sadly 2019 was a year of divorces in England & Wales – the total increased by nearly a fifth over the previous year, to the highest level since 2014. You can read more in this BBC News article. And supposedly 'lockdown strain' is going to lead to even more divorces in 2020, though I'm not so sure…. we shall see.



Save up to 30% at Findmypast ENDS MONDAY 23RD

Until 23rd November you can save between 25% and 30% on any new or upgraded 12 month subscription to Findmypast when you follow the appropriate link below: – SAVE 30% until 23rd November – SAVE 25% until 23rd November – SAVE 25% until 23rd November – SAVE 25% until 23rd November


At the UK site this brings the cost of a PLUS subscription (British and Irish records) down below £84, and means that a PRO subscription (which includes virtually unlimited access to ALL of Findmypast's billions of worldwide records as well as their entire newspaper collection), at around 30p a day, costs less than the normal price of a PLUS subscription!


(At the US site the subscriptions are called ESSENTIAL and ULTIMATE, but they're equivalent to PLUS and PRO – but please note that the link provided by Findmypast was not working properly when this newsletter went to press).


And because this is first time I've been able to offer you a discount on Findmypast subscriptions since April Fools Day I'm going to give you a FREE LostCousins subscription when you support LostCousins by using the link above to buy a 12 month Findmypast subscription (and to ensure that your purchase is tracked as coming from this newsletter by following the advice below).


You'll qualify for a 6-month LostCousins subscription when we receive commission on your purchase of a 12-month PLUS subscription, or a 12-month LostCousins subscription if you go for a 12-month PRO subscription. Findmypast are also offering discounts on shorter subscriptions but you'll do much better to lock in your savings for a full 12 months, so I'm not offering any bonus on subscriptions under 12 months, or on any Starter subscriptions (which, quite frankly, are unsuitable for LostCousins members – they're strictly for beginners).




Unfortunately simply clicking one of my links doesn’t absolutely guarantee that you'll be supporting LostCousins when you make your purchase, because these days quite a few people use adblocking software, or have disabled tracking in their browser. Whether you've done this deliberately or inadvertently, it can have a big impact on small independent websites like LostCousins - in effect you’re telling the big website that you're buying from to ignore the information about which site you just came from. This prevents them from paying any commission on your purchase - great news for the big website, since it adds to their profits, but very tough on the small genealogy websites that depend on that income.


If you help LostCousins then LostCousins will help you. Your subscription will commence on the day you bought your Findmypast subscription unless you already have a LostCousins subscription, in which case I'll extend it by 6 or 12 months, as appropriate.


Tip: if you are also researching on behalf of your partner or another family member you can link the two accounts together and get a joint subscription covering BOTH accounts. Simply enter the other person's Membership Number (found on their My Summary page, or in a Password Reminder email), in the relevant box on your My Details page.


First make sure that your purchase is going to be tracked. If you normally use Firefox, Opera, or Safari I suggest you load up this newsletter in a different browser, such as Chrome or Microsoft Edge, before clicking the link above and making your purchase. All major browsers are free, so it makes sense to have a choice (many problems can be solved by using a different browser).


Tip: it's well worth installing multiple browsers as some websites for newspapers and magazines only allow a limited number of free articles each month; if you have two browsers you can usually have a double helping!


I also suggest you use a computer rather than a smartphone or tablet, but whatever device you choose, stick to it - clicking my link on one device and making your purchase on another won't work.


You'll find the 'Do not track' switch under Advanced Settings in older versions of Chrome, and under 'Privacy and security', then 'Cookies and other site data' in the latest version, The default setting is OFF, as shown below, and this is what you want:



The switch should be to the LEFT. If the switch is to the right (and blue) then please move it to the left.


In Edge you'll find the switch under 'Privacy, search and services' and it works in the same way. If it appears blue with a white dot, move it to the left so that it is grey with a black dot. I suggest you also temporarily turn off Tracking Prevention so that it is greyed out.


Once you are satisfied that your purchase is going to be tracked, click the link and make your purchase, noting the EXACT time of the purchase, without which I cannot confirm that you qualify. You may receive an email receipt for your purchase from Findmypast - if so you can forward this to me to claim your free LostCousins subscription – but don’t assume it's going to arrive (especially if you have a Hotmail or Yahoo email address). Otherwise send me an email quoting the precise time and date of your purchase (including the time zone), and stating the price you paid for your subscription.





Sussex registers at FamilySearch

Over the years I've written several times about the appearance and disappearance of Sussex parish registers at the FamilySearch website. I don’t have any ancestors from Sussex – so far as I know – but some of the branches of my tree ended up in the county, and this weekend I was taking a look at the registers for Petworth in West Sussex.


But although you can view the register pages in a letterbox-shaped window the download function at the FamilySearch site is disabled in accordance with the agreement between FamilySearch and West Sussex County Council. However there's nothing to stop you taking a screenshot while the relevant entry is visible; you can also right-click and select copy image.


Tip: see this article for a range of screenshotting techniques – though to keep things really simple I just use the Print Screen key and paste the contents of the clipboard into the Irfanview program that I've been using since it was recommended to me by a LostCousins member over a decade ago..


Some parish registers for East Sussex are also online, and subject to similar restrictions. To find out what is available for a specific parish use the Catalog, and specify 'Online', eg:



Always select the placename from the drop-down list provided.



Don't ignore Bishop's Transcripts

Bishop's Transcripts are the Church of England equivalent of GRO registers – they're manuscript copies of the registers originally held by the parish church (and now usually in the county record office). Many of them have been transcribed by FamilySearch, and they're particularly useful for those counties where the original registers aren’t available online, not least because BTs are often held in different locations from the registers.


For example, you can't view the registers for Cambridgeshire online, but FamilySearch has an extensive collection of Bishop's Transcripts which you can view online. You can't download the images, but you can copy them using one of the techniques described in the previous article. The BTs for Essex will also prove useful if you don’t have a subscription to Essex Ancestors (and they are downloadable).


Although Bishop's Transcripts are copies, and so could contain errors, they're generally more reliable than modern transcripts, not least because the person making the copies would have been familiar with the handwriting (indeed, it might well have been his own handwriting). And sometimes Bishop's Transcripts are more accurate than the original registers, for example where an error or omission has been spotted and corrected.


It's worth bearing in mind that the entries in the church registers were often copied from notes kept by the vicar or the sexton – so they weren't original, either. (See this article from 2016 for more information about the role of the sexton, and the information recorded in a sexton's notebook.)


Tip: at FamilySearch (or in records at other sites compiled by FamilySearch) transcribed entries from Bishop's Transcripts don't always include the name of the parish – instead they might give the name of the archdeaconry, or just the name of the county. I've found this to be a particular problem in west Suffolk, where events are often recorded as taking place in Sudbury or Bury St Edmunds, but I'm sure there are many other examples.



In search of the missing link

Several readers wrote to tell me that there were links missing from my last newsletter – in each case it transpired that they were using adblocking software, which was making the links disappear.


Fortunately it seems that you can disable this software on sites that you trust – so if you use adblocking software I suggest you add LostCousins to the list now, otherwise you won't know what you’re missing.



Why Ancestry and Findmypast add FamilySearch records

Last month Findmypast added nearly half a million BMD records from the Bahamas – these added to the tens of millions of records at Findmypast that have been provided by FamilySearch.


Why, you might wonder, do Ancestry and Findmypast add records that are already free at FamilySearch? There are two main reasons – one is that you can attach them to your tree more easily, the other is that they can provide you with hints that relate to these record sets.


Tip: sometimes you'll find that the same record appears in multiple datasets, but with a different year – when this happens it's typically because the event precedes the changes in the calendar which (in England & Wales) took place in 1752.



Dating in the USA

In 1948 General Eisenhower commented that "I have heard it said facetiously that Britain and America are two nations separated by a common language." He wasn't the first to convey these sentiments – the saying has also been attributed to George Bernard Shaw, although nobody can find any evidence that he said it; Oscar Wilde was thinking along the same lines when he wrote "the Americans and the British are identical in all respects except, of course, their language".


Growing up I remember being taught that in the USA a billion was a thousand million, whereas in Britain it was a million million – the Americans certainly seem to have won that particular battle. Later on I discovered that their pints, quarts, and gallons were also smaller – a ten gallon hat would only be an eight gallon hat in England – and that whilst their pounds were the same, they didn’t know what a stone was.


As family historians we not only have to cope with the challenges of the switch from Julian to the Gregorian calendar, and change in the year-end, we can also be confused by disparity in the way that dates are written on the opposite sides of the Atlantic. In Britain we generally write dates as day, month, year – but in the US the order is month, day, year (see this Wikipedia article for a global analysis - it's a really complex topic!).


On the site dates are usually presented in the English style, for example this is the death entry for my father:



Note that the age at death has been incorrectly calculated at 95 years, even though he was 8 weeks short of his 95th birthday when he died – but at least his birth and death dates are shown correctly. Sadly, however this isn’t always the case:



This entry was highlighted by a close family member who was understandably very upset to see that the birth and death dates were both shown incorrectly. The correct dates are 12th November and 7th January, so it seems clear that the problems have arisen because of confusion between the US and UK dating systems.


The information in the England and Wales, Death Index, 1989-2019 record set comes from a variety of sources, but in both of the above cases the source is the same. Findmypast have an equivalent index (United Kingdom Deaths 2007-2017), but show both entries correctly, even though they use the same source as Ancestry. In fairness I should mention that they did show my dad's age incorrectly, as 95.



Last chance to save on DNA tests?

At this time of year it’s always a gamble – do you buy now, or hold off in the hope that there are even better prices on Black Friday?


One reason to place your order now is that even if there is a slightly better offer at the end of next week (and there's no guarantee that there will be), you'll be ordering at the same time as hundreds of thousands of others, so your test kit(s) could take not only take longer to arrive, there could be another delay when you send your sample back. In a normal year it might be a simple matter to expand the laboratory to cope with higher demand, but in a year like this one I suspect that the resources are limited.


To put it another way, ordering now could make the difference between getting the results before Christmas, and getting them in January or February.


In the UK Ancestry have cut the price of their test from £79 to £59 £49 plus shipping (note that shipping works out cheaper when you buy more than one test). This offer lasts until 22nd 30th November - please use the link below when you make your purchase so that you can support LostCousins:


Ancestry DNA (UK only) £59 £49 plus shipping


Until 23.59 (AEDT) on 23rd November researchers in Australia and New Zealand can purchase the Ancestry DNA kit for just $89, a saving of $40 (prices are in Australian dollars and include taxes, but exclude shipping).


Ancestry DNA (Australia and New Zealand only) $89 plus shipping


In Canada you can save $40 until 23.59 (ET) on 26th December:


Ancestry DNA (Canada only) $89 plus shipping


The reduction in the US lasts until 25th November – there's a saving of $40:


Ancestry DNA (US only) $59, reduced from $99


Tip: while you’re waiting for your test results be sure to read my Masterclass and follow the advice – there's a lot you can do in advance. Tempting though it might be to wait until you have the results before making a start, using DNA effectively requires the same cool-headed approach and analytical skills that work so well in conventional genealogical research – don't put yourself under unnecessary pressure by leaving things to the last minute.



Review: Tracing Your Prisoner Ancestors

Most of my forebears seem to have been on the right side of the law – one of my cousins was a Police Inspector in the middle of the 19th century, another married the detective in charge of the hunt for Jack the Ripper, and at least two of my direct ancestors appeared in court as witnesses to crimes. A couple of great-great uncles appeared in court for stealing rhubarb, hardly the most heinous of crimes, and a distant cousin was caught exceeding the 20mph speed limit in his motor car, but the worst any of my direct ancestors did was to become insolvent, a fate to which two of them succumbed – one of them spending time in the Fleet prison until he was able to reach an agreement with his creditors.


The common thread that links all of those cases is that I read about them in newspaper reports, either in the British Newspaper Archive, in The Times Digital Archive (free through my local library) or in the London Gazette (in the case of my insolvent ancestors) – and these are also key sources recommended by Stephen Wade, author of Tracing Your Prisoner Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians.


The book covers a wide range of topics related to crime and imprisonment, and includes a number of case studies which help to illustrate the subject, though they won't necessarily be relevant to any entanglements that your relatives might have had with the law. It reminds us of the records that were kept, and may have survived, whether at the National Archives or – more likely – in the local record office. Both Ancestry and Findmypast have a number of relevant datasets, though neither website features as prominently in this book as you might have expected.


More a compendium than a guide, this book will be of interest to many because of its subject matter, but I'd like to have found a more comprehensive index at the back. The price shown on my copy is £14.99, but at the time of writing there is an Amazon Marketplace seller offering it for £11.25 including UK delivery.                                      



Review: Henry VIII in 100 Objects

In the last issue I reviewed a book about Edward VIII, so it seems appropriate to review in this issue a book inspired by the only other English monarch (so far) to have the same regnal number. Whereas Edward VIII and his namesake Edward VII are best-known for their mistresses, Henry VIII is best known for his six wives.


Lavishly illustrated, with around 200 colour photographs, it's the sort of book you would be happy to leave on a coffee table for guests to glance through – and if you have any interest at all in history, you'll enjoy dipping into it yourself. Opening it at random I came across a love letter written by Henry VIII in 1528 to Anne Boleyn, who became his second wife – it’s one of 17 such letters that came into the possession of the Vatican around the time that the King was seeking a divorce from Katherine of Aragon.


When that letter was written he had been married to Katherine for 19 years. He only had 19 more years to live, and since it took him a further 5 years to divorce his first wife it’s amazing to consider that he nevertheless managed to work his way through 5 further wives.


At school we were taught to remember the fates of Henry's wives by the rhyme "Divorced, beheaded, died; Divorced, beheaded, survived". You might, like me, have been fooled into thinking that Henry's last wife, Katherine Parr, was the only one to survive him, but in fact Anne of Cleves - his 4th wife - was the one who lived longest, not only outliving Henry and his last Queen (who died in 1548), but also Edward VI, Henry's only son.


Not all of the 100 objects are pictured in the book, and many of those that are illustrated are buildings, places, or reconstructions - however for the author to have confined himself to movable objects that have survived for 500 years would have made the story that links them together less effective.


The hardback copy I reviewed is priced at £30, but Amazon quote the UK recommended price as £25, and you can buy it through their site for £20 or less including shipping. If you're at all interested in this period of English history you'll enjoy it!                                       



What am I reading?

I'm currently reading the latest novel from Steve Robinson, but sadly it doesn't feature Jefferson Tayte, the man who introduced me to genealogical mysteries. As readers will know I'm not a great fan of historical fiction, but I'll give it a go. It's on my smartphone so I can read it in spare moments – these days I don’t have much time to devote to reading. (There is also a paperback for those who prefer the old-fashioned ways!)


Reviews on Amazon are generally good, as you’d expect for a Steve Robinson novel, although there are some dissenting voices. If you decide not to wait for my review please use the appropriate link below so that your purchase can help to support my work. Thanks!                                       



Stop Press

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......



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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2020 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? To link to a specific article right-click on the article name in the contents list at the top of the newsletter.