Newsletter - 21st October 2016
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 7th October) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it searches all of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):
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Have you tried the revamped ScotlandsPeople site? When you do, you'll discover that not only are search results free (you used to pay for each page), you can now search and view the LDS transcription of the Scotland 1881 census completely free. This is great news - because it means it won't cost a penny to get the information you need in order to search for your 'lost cousins' whether your ancestors lived in England, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, or Scotland!
If you don't already have a ScotlandsPeople account you'll need to register (but you won't be expected to provide payment details); if you have registered previously, but haven't logged-in since the site was updated you'll be required to choose a new password. Once you're into the site choose Advanced Search and click Census returns as in the example below:
Check the box alongside 1881 (LDS) then enter your Search - and you'll see that all the results are free to view!
Although it says View image what you'll actually get is the transcription, which looks like this:
When you discover relatives in the 1881 Census you can use the information to search for cousins, simply by entering them on your My Ancestors page. In the past it has sometimes proved difficult to find the census references, but now it's really easy - I've highlighted the census references in screenshot above, and since they always appear in the same place, you really can't go wrong.
If these were my relatives (they're not - to the best of my knowledge) I'd enter them like this:
It really couldn't be easier - and remember that by entering those references you're focusing in on a precise page from the census, ensuring that you don't get matched with someone whose ancestor just happened to have the same name. (That's how LostCousins is able to offer 100% accurate automated matching.)
Of course, much of the information is the same for every member of the household - they'll have the same references and quite probably the same surname too, so you don't to enter it all over again (it's filled in automatically). In fact all you'll usually need to enter is their forename, their middle names or initials (if shown), and their age. So whereas it could take 20 or 30 seconds to enter the first person, it'll probably only take 10 seconds to enter each of the others.
So why not celebrate by finding some Scottish cousins!
When the ScotlandsPlaces website first launched in 2010 it was free, but when more records were added in 2013 a subscription was introduced (£15 for 3 months). However I'm glad to say that it's now completely free once again!
Records at ScotlandsPlaces include a variety of historical tax rolls, mostly from the late 17th and 18th centuries, and Ordnance Survey name books (which are primarily concerned with place names, but sometimes give the name of an owner or occupier). You can see a full list of the resources here, but please note that not all of the records have been transcribed - there are over 3200 volunteer transcribers already, but I'm sure they could do with more!
Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a service that could track down living relatives using National Health Service records - after all, everyone needs to go to the doctor from time to time?
Well, at one time such a service did exist - at least in England & Wales. It was called Traceline, and utilised the NHS Central Register - which grew out of the 1939 Register. The NHS Central Register keeps track of individuals from birth to death, recording the district in which they are registered with a GP.
Traceline operated between 2000-2008; it was based at the General Register Office premises in Southport. Traceline was a wonderful service - the search fee was just £30, with an additional £25 if the search was successful (this covered the cost of forwarding a letter to the relative concerned). I had the privilege of speaking to one of the team about 10 years ago, and was told that thousands of people used the service each year - but sadly Traceline was discontinued when the NHS Information Centre took over responsibility for the NHS Central Register from the GRO.
I've reproduced below part of an official leaflet explaining how it worked:
I was never able to get a straight answer about the demise of Traceline - had the service closed because the Data Protection Act prevented the use of the register in this way (it was around the same time that the GRO stopped selling copies of their birth, marriage, and death indexes), or was it because Traceline was losing money? I suspect it was a combination of the two.
Although the NHS Central Register is no longer used to help trace missing relatives in England & Wales, there is a service in Scotland:
The service in Scotland will not act for companies or law firms, unlike the old Traceline service (or directly for individuals, who must go through a recognised charity). There had been an earlier service in Scotland which operated along similar lines - this PDF document refers to a service which resumed in June 2006.
Is there any chance that a similar service might resume in England & Wales? Judging from the Information Commissioner's response to a 2015 consultation on the use of the NHS Central Register in Scotland there doesn't seem to be any reason why we can't have a similar service in the rest of Britain.
Some years ago Ancestry took over Footnote.com, renaming it Fold3 - and for the past couple of years, perhaps longer, Ancestry.com (the US site) has been offering All Access subscriptions, which combine an Ancestry World membership with a Fold3 subscription. The records at Fold3 mostly relate to the US, but they do have a collection of international records, and I discovered only this week (thanks to LostCousins member Geoff) that Ancestry.co.uk also offers an all Access subscription, priced at £229.99 - quite a daunting sum!
More worryingly, images for some of the UK record sets that have been recently added to Ancestry.co.uk are only available through Fold3 - yet there's no indication of this when you look at the list of recently added collections. Some users will no doubt be disappointed (or even annoyed) when they find that they can't access some of the UK images with a Premium membership at £119.99 (or even with a World membership costing £179.99) given the "guaranteed access to all our new UK releases" promise on the Subscribe page.
Only a small number of military record sets seem to be affected at this stage but it could be the tip of the iceberg:
Fold3 offers a 7-day Free Trial, but as you can do it just once you might want to wait until there are more UK image sets on the site.
Tip: the good news is that you can currently get a 4 month Premium subscription to Ancestry.co.uk for just £20 (£5 a month) when you follow this link.†
Over the past few weeks I've received several emails from members who haven't been receiving the emails that I send when a new edition of this newsletter goes online - and the common factor is that they all have BT email addresses. Typically they report that they haven't received emails in respect of the September and October issues.
It's probably not BT's fault - their email service is managed by Yahoo, who have come in for quite a bit of criticism (not least in this newsletter - here's what I wrote last month). The sad thing is that for every member who contacted me there are probably another 99 who either haven't realised that the emails have stopped coming, or have assumed that there's a technical problem at my end (if only the problem was at my end - then I'd be able to do something about it!). Even worse, most of those who did write in assumed that I'd unilaterally taken them off the list because they hadn't bought a LostCousins subscription - that's something I wouldn't dream of doing.
If somebody intercepted a letter I'd sent through the post and destroyed it before it could reach the intended recipient they'd be committing a criminal offence - but do the same thing with emails, and there are no sanctions whatsoever. There are 6717 LostCousins members who have asked me to send my newsletter emails to their BT email address - I just hope that some of them are getting through!
Note: Yahoo is in the process of being acquired by Verizon for $4.83 billion, although this article suggests that following the hacked account scandal Verizon are looking to shave as much as $1 billion off the price.
If you haven't figured it out yet, the string of characters in the title of this article can be read as "Too wise you are, too wise you be, I see you are too wise for me".
As kids we used to have fun with these sorts of puzzles. We didn't need PlayStations or iPhones, Facebook or Twitter - we made our own fun, even if it was only rolling a hoop along with a stick or making machines out of cotton reels, lolly sticks, and rubber bands. (I'm exaggerating slightly - hoops and sticks were a little before my time.)
But this article isn't about children's games - it's about DNA, specifically Y-DNA, the type that's passed by fathers to their sons (indeed, it's that little bit of Y-DNA that determined that I was born a boy). DNA results mean little in isolation - it's only when your results match with someone else's that you're likely to learn something useful, and that's how the "two Ys" came into my head. Although it's well over 4 years since I took a Y-DNA test, I still haven't had a match that's close enough to be useful - and I suspect that many others have had a similar experience. My own closest match definitely goes back at least 8 generations, and might not even be in the last 12 generations (which is about as far back as parish records go).
In the early hours of this morning I had an email from a member from Australia who asked whether it was worth her male cousin taking a Y-DNA test as a way of proving her hypothesis about the identity of their great-great-great grandfather. There's a lot of circumstantial evidence that points in a particular direction, and she wondered whether Y-DNA might be able to confirm or deny her suspicions. I have written on this topic in the past, but almost all of my recent writing has been about autosomal DNA, so I thought it would be helpful to reproduce my reply....
"Any DNA test depends on having something to compare the results against - one set of results in isolation rarely tells you anything useful.
"The advantage of a Y-DNA test is that is very specific - if you get a match then you know precisely which line it's in (the direct male line). The disadvantage is that there are relatively few people who will share that DNA, so the chance that any of them has tested is quite small.
"In round numbers there are about half a million people who have tested their Y-DNA for genealogical purposes, most of whom speak English as their first language, †and about 500 million people in the English-speaking world (the US, Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand). Of course, only half of those 500 million people are male, but it still means that only about 1 person in 500 has tested.
"The next question is, how many males are likely to share the same Y-DNA? This is a tricky one - ultimately we're all descended (in our direct paternal line) from a single male who lived around 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, and if it wasn't for the fact that Y-DNA slowly mutates all living men would carry the same Y-DNA. The specific markers that are tested have been selected because the rate at which they mutate is of genealogical value - if you get a very close match there is a good chance that the common ancestor lived in the last 400-500 years, ie the period since Thomas Cromwell's 1538 order that parishes in England should keep a register of baptisms, marriages, and burials.†
"In practice a match is only going to useful if you are able to identify the shared ancestor (who need not be the putative father - it could be someone in his direct male line), or if the surname of the other person matches that of the putative father - which would provide strong circumstantial evidence in support of your hypothesis. I sincerely doubt that there are anywhere near 500 living males who would fall into one of these categories, which means that your chances of getting an instant answer are low. Furthermore, because the focus has moved to autosomal DNA, the number of people taking Y-DNA tests seems to be quite low (the fact that of the three main testing companies only one - Family Tree DNA - offers Y-DNA tests could be seen as evidence for this).
"However, you shouldn't despair - if you can find a documented descendant (in the direct male line) of the putative father you can ask them to test. If they agree, then you've got something to compare your cousin's results against - and even if they don't, there's a chance you might get a match with someone else that provides clues to the father's identity."
As I mentioned in the previous article the focus has moved from Y-DNA - which looks at a single ancestral line - to autosomal DNA, usually abbreviated as atDNA. Because we inherit atDNA from both our parents, and they inherited theirs from both their parents (and so on) it is capable of providing us with matches on any of our family lines, at least in the last 6 or 7 generations - which is where our most perplexing 'brick walls' are likely to be found.
Note: although we inherit precisely half of our autosomal from our parents, that doesn't mean that one-quarter of our DNA comes from each of our grandparents; that's what it will be on average, but in practice it can vary quite considerably, and the more generations you go back the greater the dispersion from the mean. Indeed, there are some ancestors from whom you've inherited no detectable DNA at all!
The pool of cousins is enormous - Ancestry DNA calculated that, on average, someone with British ancestry has nearly 200,000 cousins who are 6th cousins or closer. You won't share detectable DNA with all of them, but you will get lots of matches - the challenge is to identify how you're related to the people you're matched with (if you're related at all - there will be some false matches).
Over time there will be more matches, as more cousins test - and the more of your known cousins who test, the easier it will be to figure out how you're related to your DNA cousins. That's because if you and one of your existing cousins both have a match with the same DNA cousin, you know that the match must be on one of the lines that you share.
Whichever company you test with you can support LostCousins by using one of the following links:
When I founded LostCousins in 2004 I knew that finding cousins was important, but with the advent of DNA testing it has become more important than ever before. In the past we searched for cousins in the hope that their research would fill in some of the gaps on our tree (and ours in theirs), and with the aim of collaborating on future research - but now we're after something more personal, their DNA!
Although autosomal DNA tests have been around for a number of years it's only quite recently that sales have boomed, increasing the user base from a few hundred thousand to a few million.
So far just over 1100 LostCousins members have indicated on their My Details page that they have tested their autosomal DNA (though I'm willing to bet that the true figure is much higher) and, as previously promised, this information is now available to their cousins. That means you can see which of your cousins have tested, and they can see whether you've tested or not - information like this is essential when you're working out how best to employ DNA testing as part of your research
When this new feature went live last week I discovered that more of my cousins had tested than I previously thought, and this has opened up new opportunities to identify DNA cousins. Whether you've personally tested or not, why not take a look at your My Cousins page to see which of your cousins have already tested?
Tip: the My Cousins and My Contact pages (there's one for each relative on your My Cousins page) provide a great way of keeping track of your cousins, whether you found them at LostCousins or elsewhere. It's one more reason why it makes perfect sense to invite the cousins you already know to join LostCousins.
This week Findmypast added another 48,000 records to their Easter Rising & Ireland Under Martial Law 1916-1921 collection, which documents the names of both civilians and soldiers who were court-martialled in the years following the Rising, as well as British Army and Royal Irish Constabulary search and raid reports. I also found the papers from Court of Inquiry held in lieu of an inquest which looked into the death of a civilian knocked down by an army vehicle, so it's quite a wide ranging set of records.
The events of Easter 1916 provide a backdrop to The Irish Inheritance, the genealogical mystery which I reviewed last month. It's the first book in the Jayne Sinclair series, and I'm sure I'm not the only one looking forward to the second (in the last newsletter the author, M J Lee, described how he wove together fact and fiction in the creation of the novel - you can read his article here).
On Monday 17th October a new documentary series began on BBC2 entitled The Victorian Slum - you can find out more about it here and if you have licence you can catch up with the first two episodes on BBC iPlayer. This article looks into the Victorian diet, and questions whether it may have been healthier than ours.
Whilst we think of Victorians as dying young, a study entitled How the Mid-Victorians Worked, Ate and Died published in 2009 noted that life expectancy at the age of 5 was as good or better than today, while the incidence of degenerative disease was 90% lower!
Talking of diet, recently published research suggests that if young children are fussy eaters, it's not the fault of the parents. Mind you, when I was growing up being fussy wasn't an option - we were grateful for what we got (and woe betide us if we left food on the plate). There's a BBC article about this new research if you want to know more.
This is a wonderful book. I greatly enjoyed A Habit of Dying, the first book to feature Lydia Silverstream (you can read my 2014 review here), but the follow-up, The Death of Tommy Quick and Other Lies, is astonishly good!
Many genealogical mysteries have multiple threads, so that we can be a fly-on-the-wall as the events that are being investigated take place - but whilst it's a great way to bring the story to life, it doesn't accurately reflect what itís like for the investigator. In The Death of Tommy Quick we see everything through Lydia's eyes, so it's much more realistic - and, like us, she has other commitments and roles to play, as an employee, a colleague, a partner.... the way in which her relationship with Stephen develops is beautifully handled.
And, as so often happens in real life, the initial investigation warps into something completely different - Lydia starts out by trying to return a set of Great War medals to the soldier's family, but in the process she makes one discovery after another, so that before long we've forgotten about the medals (although, to her credit, our heroine never does).
I don't know whether there's going to be a third book in the series - I sincerely hope so - but the first thing I did when I finished this one was to buy a second-hand copy of another book by DJ Wiseman. Even if it's only half as good as the Lydia Silverstream books it will be money well spent!
The Death of Tommy Quick and Other Lies was published as a paperback and on Kindle, but the paperback edition is only available from the publisher, which means it's rather expensive (£11 including postage within the UK, £19.50 elsewhere). However the Kindle version costs just £3.49 and remember, you don't need to own a Kindle to read the e-book, you can do what I did and read it on your smartphone (or a tablet, or a laptop). As usual I've provided links to the relevant pages at different Amazon sites so that, if you want to, you can support LostCousins:
From time to time I review books that have no direct connection with genealogy, but which have really impressed me - The Persuaders: The hidden industry that wants to change your mind is one of those books. Even though I've had an interest in psychology for half a century I was still amazed to discover just how easily people can trick us into making decisions, sometimes for our own good, but more often than not as a way of selling us something we don't really need, or getting us to vote for someone who doesn't deserve our support.
The author, James Garvey, is editor of The Philosophers' Magazine so there was a little more about the Greek philosophers than one might have expected in a popular book, but it was very relevant to the subject in hand. Nevertheless, I suspect that many of us are more worried about the impact that sites like Facebook and Twitter are having on politics and on society, and that's another important section of the book.
Inevitably the book looks at advertising, and the ways that we can made to believe things that aren't true - even packaging can influence our decisions. Clever advertisers can create a demand for their product by convincing us that it fulfils a need we didn't know we had, and sometimes this involves positioning an old product in a new market. When I first started buying mouthwash back in the 1970s it was Listerine - I'm not sure there were any others then - but I'm not sure I would have been so ready to use it if I'd known it had first been a surgical antiseptic, then a floor wash, and finally a treatment for gonorrhoea!
I bought the Kindle version of this eye-opening book, but itís also available as a paperback.
I mentioned last month that I still had a bottle of Elderflower Vodka that I'd made a few years ago - well, a couple of weeks afterwards we had friends coming to dinner, and double cream was on special offer in Tesco - can you guess where this is leading? I didn't have the time or the inclination to make 'proper' ice cream using egg yolks, so instead I looked up this recipe for Philadelphia-style ice cream and adapted it to suit my needs, leaving out the milk, the vanilla, and half the sugar, but adding equal quantities of my own unsweetened Elderflower Vodka and shop-bought Elderflower Cordial (which had also been sitting in the cupboard for a couple of years). I'm sure I don't need to tell you that it was absolutely delicious!
I've had my ice cream maker since 1983 - in those days they were very expensive, but I bought it with the proceeds of an endowment policy that my mother took out for me when I turned 21 (it was about £230, almost exactly the price of the Gelato Chef). My mother had passed away in 1976 so I wanted to buy something really special, and whilst the choice of an ice cream maker didn't go down well with my stepmother the fact that I'm still using it 33 years later demonstrates that I got it right.
Coincidentally 1983 was also the year in which the kitchen at our present house was installed (though we didn't move here until 1997). And, since so many of you have asked, I can reveal that at long last we're well on our way to a new kitchen! For the past two weeks I've been using the downstairs cloakroom as a makeshift kitchen, but there's only so much you can do with a microwave and portable hob - so we were absolutely delighted to discover late this afternoon that we now have a working oven. No sink, no taps, no worktops, no cupboards, and no floorcovering - but we do have an oven, so tonight we'll be celebrating with a roast!
Update 23rd October: Although Yahoo operate the email service for many BT customers, I understand that those who have signed up since 2014 use BT's own email service (ie BT Mail rather than BT/Yahoo mail). I'd be interested to know whether both sets of users are affected by the problems mentioned above.
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 any part of this newsletter without permission. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission in advance - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, as standard membership (which includes this newsletter), is FREE?