Newsletter - 14th September 2017
Last chance to take up Findmypast's offer ENDS SUNDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 5th September) 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):
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!
This time tomorrow I'll have met with the GRO and heard what their plans are.
Will they be reintroducing PDF copies of BMD entries and, if so, will the cost and turnaround time be similar? Or are they planning a change of direction, and planning to work with a commercial partner (or partners) rather than continuing to go it alone? Or have they concluded that the PDF trial was a failure and that paper certificates are the only option, as they have been for the past 180 years, 2 months, and 14 days?
As you'll know from the article in the last newsletter, those of us who are attending the meetings this weekend will be sworn to secrecy - so whatever the outcome, I'm unlikely to be able to tell you anything until the GRO relax the embargo.
Findmypast's billions of records are always free to search, but did you realise that nearly a billion of them are also free to view? Simply click this link and register (or sign-in if you've registered previously).
Tip: you won't need to provide credit card or bank details (as you would for a 14-day free trial)
One of the free resources is incredibly important to LostCousins members - it's the transcription of the 1881 England & Wales census. It's because that census is free online that it was chosen as the 'key' that enables LostCousins members to find their cousins.
Of course, free records are often available at other sites - but that doesn't mean they're equally easy to find at other sites, because every site offers a slightly different search. Something as basic as the way that abbreviated forenames are handled can make a big difference - and Findmypast handles them better than most.
Since July last year Findmypast has had an interim CEO, Jay Verkler, who formerly headed up FamilySearch - but this week it was announced that he will become Chairman of the Board, whilst Tamsin Todd (right) will take over as the new CEO.
With a track record which includes roles at Amazon and Microsoft I suspect we're likely to see a continuing focus on the functionality and user-friendliness of the Findmypast site (and hopefully my list of suggestions from LostCousins members will find its way onto her desk before too long!). She's also a Trustee of the Imperial War Museums.
Meanwhile, over at Ancestry CEO Tim Sullivan has also decided to step down from his role and become Chairman of the Board. Amazingly both of these announcements came on the same day - though the difference is that Ancestry are still looking for a permanent replacement for Mr Sullivan; they've appointed Howard Hochhauser, who began as Chief Financial Officer in 2009, as interim CEO.
Last chance to take up Findmypast's offer ENDS SUNDAY
Until midnight (London time) on Sunday 17th September you can save 10% on a new Britain or World subscription at Findmypast.co.uk when you use the link below:
And if you stick with Findmypast, as I suspect you will, you'll benefit from a 15% Loyalty Discount when you renew next year. So at a time when prices generally are going up, the cost of researching your family history could fall!
Whilst the first year discount might be lower, I'm going to make up the difference by giving you a free LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 - just make sure that:
(1) tracking is enabled in your browser (it will be unless someone has changed the setting); and
(2) when you click the link you can see the words 'content=LostCousins' on the browser command line when you arrive at the Findmypast site (it might be off the screen, but if so just place the cursor on the command line and move to the right until you see it)
Why is this important? Your LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us - get it wrong and we'll all lose out!
To claim your free subscription just forward to me the email receipt that Findmypast will send you (you can use any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one I wrote from to tell you about this newsletter). Please make a note of the precise time of your purchase in case the email doesn't arrive - I must have that time to confirm your entitlement. Your LostCousins subscription will run from the date of your Findmypast purchase unless you already have a subscription, in which case I'll extend it by 12 months.
This offer is exclusive to readers of this newsletter, but it's not restricted to LostCousins members - feel free to circulate a link to this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.
This summer 57,000 microfilms previously held at the London Family History Centre were moved to the Society of Genealogists library in central London. Amongst them are copies of ALL the millions of wills which went to probate in England or Wales between 1858-1925, either at the Principal Probate Registry or the Local District Registries - and which would normally cost £10 each to buy.
Copies of documents can be printed out at a cost of just 40p per A4 page, and there's also the option to scan and save images to a USB, or use a digital camera (in either case a device fee will apply). If you’re not a member of the SoG there's a visitor fee of £5 (up to 2 hours), £10 (up to 4 hours), or £18 (all day: up to 8 hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, or 10 hours on Thursdays).
Of course, there's much more than wills in the LDS microfilm collection - the wills occupy just 3,000 or so of the 57,000 films; the highlight for most researchers will be the parish registers and transcripts, covering much of England & Wales. To find out whether the parishes of interest to you are available use the Library Catalog at the FamilySearch website, choosing 'Society of Genealogists' from the dropdown list of Family History Centers.
Tip: when searching for a parish start by entering the name of the place, then choose the relevant entry from the options displayed.
Last week Findmypast added an index to over 229,000 Lancashire wills and probate records. The collection covers the Amounderness, Copeland, Furness, Kendal, and Lonsdale deaneries and has been created by both Findmypast, which transcribed original records from the Lancashire Record Office, and the Lancashire and Cheshire Record Society, which provided index work.
You can search the index here.
This week the results of a BBC News investigation into the Smyllum Park Orphanage in Lanark revealed how hundreds of orphans are buried in an overgrown and unmarked section of St Mary's Cemetery.
You can read about the investigation here, and listen to the radio programme which aired on Tuesday evening here (it should be available outside the UK - I believe the restrictions usually only apply to TV programmes).
In July I mentioned that one of the lead authors of a recently-published research paper on the link between facial characteristics and certain genes is a DNA cousin of mine. I was delighted when he agreed to write an article for this newsletter setting out some of the basic principles behind his work in terms that all of us can understand. Let me hand you over to my cousin Dan:
Most of us at some point will have met a pair of identical twins, and been astonished by how similar they are in most respects. This is especially so when considering their physical appearance; including height, weight and the pigmentations of their hair, eyes and skin, and this is due them sharing 100% of their DNA sequence. Perhaps most noticeable of all is the similarity in the structure of their facial features, and this tells us that differences in facial appearance between individuals must be overwhelmingly genetic. In other words, they are due to DNA differences, rather than being a result of one's upbringing or some effect of the external environment.
Genes are also disproportionately shared between lower degree relatives and, accordingly, it is widely understood that facial similarity is on the whole lower between cousins than it is between siblings, and lower still between second cousins, and so on. Degree of likeness seems to manifest as the number of shared or extremely similar facial features, and these often appear to be inherited from particular ancestors, for example when someone is described as having 'their mother's eyes'. This is in contrast with other traits such as height, for which people appear to conform roughly to the average between their two parents, after correcting for their sexes and any year-on-year average increase in height due to improved population health.
This is probably due to the particular genetic mechanisms at work. A person's height is the product of a large number of genes acting in concert, each with a small influence. As we inherit, on average, 25% of our genes from each grandparent, roughly 25% of one's height-influencing genes are also likely to be inherited from each of them. On the other hand, I propose that a facial feature is likely to be under strong influence of a single gene variant. As each individual has two versions of each variant (termed alleles), these must have descended from just two of their grandparents. This model, based on the strong effects of small numbers of genes, can explain the inheritance pattern of facial features that we tend to observe in families, as it implies that individuals will tend to take after a limited number of relatives that they share at least one of their two alleles with.
In theory, then, it should be possible to locate particular genes that have strong influences on facial appearance, and eventually to understand their biological functions. Only recently has this become feasible due to advances in a) our ability to establish people's DNA sequence information (or 'genotypes') from blood or saliva samples on a large scale, and b) the camera technology that allows one to obtain accurate 3D images of faces. In a new publication, our research group describes work that has resulted in the discovery and verification of 3 genetic variants that have strong effects on facial features, influencing the spacing between the eyes, the protrusion of the face and prominence of the chin. This represents one of the first steps towards uncovering the overall genetic architecture of the human face, which one has to presume remains largely mysterious due to the huge amount of facial variation that exists between people.
Understanding these and other genes' influences on appearance serves a number of purposes, most obvious being those in forensic science; for example producing e-fit images for suspects from DNA samples they have left at crime scenes. But there are also medical applications. Treatments for those congenital illnesses which have accompanying dysmorphic facial features currently rely on plastic surgeons coming to, inevitably, fairly subjective decisions about the desired appearance for the patient, largely based on the average facial characteristics that exist within the appropriate ethnic background. It would be more desirable to estimate, in quantitative fashion, what the patient would have looked like, if they did not have their particular condition; giving a more accurate objective for the surgical outcome. In theory this can be achieved by interrogating their DNA sequence, provided that a reasonable number of the genetic causes of appearance have been established.
There has long been an interest in reconstructing the outward physical appearance of people based on their skeletal remains; often for forensic purposes, but also in archaeology. Presently this is done by remodelling soft tissue structure, either by hand, over a cast of the underlying skull, or by using 3D computer artistry. These techniques suffer from being relatively subjective, as the distribution of soft tissue can only be estimated approximately. It is now possible to extract accurate DNA profiles from skeletons that are thousands of years old, and this suggests the intriguing possibility of using information on face-influencing genes to build up a picture of what particular individuals from the past would have looked like. From a genealogical perspective, one could in theory even reconstruct the genomes of ancestors, computationally, by piecing together DNA segments shared between living descendants. Facial appearances of these individuals from the past, for whom no biological samples are available, could then be predicted using the remnants of their genomes carried by those living in the present day.
© 2017 Daniel J M Crouch
I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more from my cousin Dan in the coming years - it's a fascinating subject, and a topical one…. last week a number of British newspapers published the story of non-identical twins who look so different that their mother decided to talk to their new school before the start of term so that there wasn't any confusion. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Human Longevity came in for criticism over their claim that they can predict what someone looks like just by looking at their DNA.
In the last issue of this newsletter I published Eleanor Rigby Wood's entry from the 1939 Register, which was compiled just 12 days before she died "and was buried along with her name" (to quote the lyrics of the eponymous song).
I ended by asking whether you could identify F & E Rigby, shown on the same gravestone in the churchyard of St Peter's, Woolton, Liverpool as the parents of Doris W, who is recorded as having died on Christmas Eve 1927 at the age of 2 years and 3 months - some websites had suggested, somewhat fancifully that 'E Rigby' was Eleanor, and that Doris was her illegitimate daughter.
Julie was one of the first readers to identify Doris's parents as Frederick Rigby and his wife Elsie M Whitfield, and deduce that Doris and Eleanor (whose maiden surname was Whitfield) were related to each other both on their father's side and their mother's side.
Julie also pointed out that Doris's date of death shown on the headstone is wrong. In reality Doris died not in December 1927, as the inscription states, but in December 1926 (as can be seen from the entry in the GRO indexes):
It's possible that the confusion arose because her funeral took place in January 1927.
By the way, the headstone shown above is not the original, but a mock-up from the Beatles Story exhibition in Liverpool - Julie took the photo herself when she visited. Amongst the many other readers who responded to my request was Brenda, who produced a family tree for Doris showing how she was connected to Eleanor - thanks to everyone for their contributions, including those of you who posted corrections on websites which give wrong or misleading information.
Tip: headstone inscriptions are - like obituaries and death certificates - wrong more often than one would expect given their importance. The September issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine includes two letters from readers reporting errors, and one of them - Sheila, a LostCousins member - has found at least 28 discrepancies in respect of her own Scottish relatives.
The Canadian Headstone Photo Project, which has over 1.7m photos of headstones - including almost a million from Ontario - is being taken over by the Ontario Genealogical Society, as the founder of the project prepares for retirement.
Coincidentally LostCousins member Tom Grant wrote this week to tell me about the book he has co-authored on Vancouver's Mountain View Cemetery. You can buy Voices in Stone as a printed book, but Tom has kindly offered to make PDF copies available free of charge to LostCousins members - just follow this link.
WW2: the Home Front
When we think of our family's role in the war we're invariably drawn to the ancestors who served in the military, forgetting that there were many more who served - often in dangerous circumstances - on the Home Front. My mother worked in a factory producing carbon rods for arc lights; her father was a boiler maker for the firm which made many of the D-Day landing craft.
I recently stumbled across this wonderful PDF document on the Hampshire Record Office website which, while focusing on Hampshire, provides us with a comprehensive reminder of what happened on the Home Front, and why it was so important to the war effort.
There's also an amazing archive on the BBC website of 47,000 stories about WW2 contributed between 2003 and 2006 (so inevitably many of those whose tales are recorded are no longer with us).
Any book that has made it through to 7 editions is well worth a look, and this one is no exception. Compiled by genealogist Thomas Jay Kemp it aims to do one thing, and one thing only - tell you how to obtain copies of certificates from each of the 50 states of the US, as well as more than 200 countries and territories around the world. And when I tell you that it runs to over 750 pages and weighs several pounds you will probably deduce that it is pretty comprehensive.
Almost half of the book relates to the US - there are forms you can photocopy or scan, together with details of charges. For other countries the coverage varies: Australia, Canada, South Africa and the UK get similar treatment to the US, but for most other countries there are no forms, just contact addresses and information about the years of coverage. For the latter there is typically no information about cost or methods of payment, and whilst there's often a web address, this could be the website of the country's embassy in Washington.
Nevertheless, just knowing when civil registration began in some far-off country could save you a lot of time that might otherwise be wasted in fruitless investigation. This isn't the sort of book you'll want to read from cover to cover - it's a work of reference that most of us will only need occasionally, but when we do it will prove invaluable.
Given the cost of this weighty tome I suspect that relatively few amateurs outside the US will buy it, but for professional genealogists and family history societies it could prove an excellent investment. If you recommend it to your local society please ask them to use one of the links below when they place their order:
Morton Farrier is one of my favourite fictional genealogists, so I was delighted when his creator, Nathan Dylan Goodwin contacted me this week with news of a new addition to the Forensic Genealogist series - not a book, nor a novella, but a short story.
I don't know about you, but I really struggle to find the time to read books - so a short story that I can read in a few hours suits me down to the ground. As the story begins Morton's wife Juliette is expecting their first child, whilst Morton is researching Juliette's family tree, as a present for the new mum.
The tale focuses on Juliette's great grandmother, Grace - and what a story! What a woman!
I would tell you more, but I'd risk spoiling your enjoyment. Sadly it's only available as an electronic book, but you don't need to have a Kindle to read it - you can get free Kindle software for just about any computer, tablet, or smartphone (I generally read fiction on my phone). As ever, using the links below will earn a few pennies for LostCousins:
You don't need to have read the other books in this fabulous series to enjoy this story, but I'd thoroughly recommend you start from the beginning. You'll find my reviews here:
The links in the original reviews should still work, but if not you can use any of my links for the relevant website and search for the author by name.
Ancestry users can have more than one tree associated with their account - but only one of those trees can be connected to their DNA results. So it's quite possible that you'll be told, when looking at a member's tree, that they're not a DNA match - even though they are.
There can be similar confusion when an Ancestry subscriber manages accounts for their relatives - the person you are dealing with won't show up as a DNA match unless their own DNA is a match for yours.
It's not something to worry about, and it's certainly not a flaw in the system - it's just something to bear in mind.
Tip: if you have tested your DNA at Ancestry UK, but don't have a subscription, you might be able to get one for half price by clicking this link. Thanks to Robert who not only reported this opportunity, but took advantage of it!
Most of the sites that provide DNA tests and/or allow you to upload results from other providers also allow you to create a family tree, or upload one in GEDCOM format.
I get a lot of questions from members asking whether it's advisable to do this, and here's a brief summary of the advice I give:
It's very important to connect a tree to your DNA results, but it can be a private tree. Indeed I would recommend that it IS a private tree, because when you have a public tree at Ancestry anyone can view it, whether they're related to you or not.
Some Ancestry users have a public tree which gives details of their direct ancestors and a private tree that is more comprehensive - and this is a reasonably safe option, because if somebody finds your public tree there's a good chance they're related to you. But if you choose this route it's the private tree you should attach to your DNA results, not the public tree - because you're much more likely to show up in searches if your tree includes collateral lines.
Family Tree DNA
At the current time there doesn't appear to be any way to view the trees of anyone other than your DNA matches, although the optional settings suggest that this will be possible in future. My own tree shows my direct ancestors, but I've also added in living cousins who have tested - that's because FTDNA can sort my matches into paternal and maternal based on which cousins share them. I'm happy with the current situation, but might think again if FTDNA allow people other than my DNA matches access to my tree.
At GEDmatch anyone can find your tree, whether they're a DNA match or not. At the current time this doesn't worry me particularly, because GEDmatch is mostly used by more experienced researchers, but I have only uploaded a 'direct ancestor' tree. To the best of my knowledge nobody has ever found me as a result of searching my tree, so I don't think there is a strong argument for uploading your tree - despite the name of the website it's really about sophisticated ways of finding and analysing DNA matches.
The Poor Law Unions' Gazette claimed to give "information on all persons who desert their families", though I'm sure it was only the poor families who ended up in the workhouse whose breadwinners featured. Issues from 1857-1903 are online at the British Newspaper Archive, and also accessible through Findmypast (if you have a Britain or World subscription).
Disappearing to escape debts or family ties didn't only happen in the 19th century - the brother-in-law of a good friend of mine did a bunk around 1980, leaving his wife to deal with a seemingly endless stream of creditors. Fortunately he came back after 6 months, and they were still together 20 years later, so there was a happy ending, but that isn't always the case - today is the 10th anniversary of the day that 14 year-old Andrew Gosden left his home in Doncaster, boarded a train to London, and simply disappeared. You can read more about his case in this BBC News article - will you think of something that the police missed?
Sarah wrote to me yesterday evening asking for advice about tracing someone whose name she knew - the relative of a friend. I don't know the circumstances, but the first place I look when I'm trying to track down a living person whose name I know I always start with the UK Electoral Register, which is available at many sites for a small fee. I always access it through the Findmypast site (like the British newspapers it's included in a Britain or World subscription) because I can search the registers from 2002-2014.
The 2002 Electoral Register is important because it predates the change which allowed voters to opt out from the published register - many people are only recorded in that one year - but fortunately around 60% of people choose not to opt out (or are unaware that they have this option). I often use the Electoral Register to track down LostCousins members who have forgotten to give me their new email address - it's just one of the things I do to help cousins connect.
Next May legislation will be coming into force which restricts how organisations in the UK can make use of personal data. The legislation is mainly designed to prevent your details (and mine) being passed on to other organisations, something that LostCousins has never done - but it could also prevent me from continuing to send out these newsletters to everyone who is currently on the mailing list.
So, the next time you log-in at the LostCousins site you will see a message like this:
If you don't log-in before May next year then I may have to remove you from the mailing list.
Indeed, I may have to remove you from the mailing list before then in order to comply with the requirements of the company that operates your email - most email providers require senders of bulk mail to satisfy themselves that the people on their mailing list still want to receive it. LostCousins might be very small compared to Ancestry and Findmypast, but because there are over 64,000 members on the mailing list for this newsletter (and thousands more on the list for the North American edition) we're subject to the same filtering procedure as the big guys.
Many regular readers of this newsletter haven't logged into their LostCousins account for years. Reading this newsletter is NOT the same as logging-in at the LostCousins site - it's in a part of the site that is viewable by anyone, not just members, so there's no requirement to log-in.
Note: if you received an email from me telling you about this newsletter then you ARE a LostCousins member - you can't be on the mailing list unless you're a member.
My advice is to log-in TODAY, so that you can confirm that you want to continue receiving my emails to let you know when a new edition of the newsletter is published. It costs nothing and will only take 5 seconds of your time. To log-in you must use the email address specified in the text of the email that told you about this newsletter; if you don't remember your password you can use the 'Password reminder' link in the menu (as shown in the graphic above).
Note: if you have more than one account please log-in to each of them in turn. If you have more than one account at the same email address the password reminder email will show the log-in details for both accounts.
Please remember that if you're researching somebody else's tree, whether it belongs to your spouse, partner, or one of your in-laws you'll need to use a separate LostCousins account. This is because some of the most important features of the LostCousins site - the ones that make LostCousins stand out from the crowd - won't work when you enter someone else's relatives.
Tip: a joint subscription, covering two accounts, costs only £2.50 more than a single subscription; you can take out a joint subscription with a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, or in-law.
Yesterday the Frankfurt Motor Show opened, and it's dominated by electric vehicles. Following on from the pledges by several big countries to ban sales of vehicles powered by fossil fuels it looks as if the future is going to be electric.
But, surprisingly, we've been here before - back in 1906 there were many complaints by Londoners about the fumes and noise caused by motor omnibuses, prompting the Electrobus Company to launch a fleet of non-polluting vehicles. Although their lead-acid batteries allowed them to travel only about 40 miles between charges when the first electric buses hit the streets in 1907, the 1.75 ton battery pack could be replaced after the morning shift with a newly-charged pack to double the effective range of the vehicles (amazingly this could be done in just 3 minutes!).
Londoners loved the buses and investors flocked to provide the company with the capital it needed to expand its fleet. But sadly the company was run by rogues whose only interest was in fleecing the public, and by the end of 1909 the Electrobus Company had folded - although some of their vehicles found a new life in Brighton where they continued to run for 6 years. You can see a postcard of an Electrobus here on eBay.
Note: there are excellent articles online about the Electrobus Company that were published in The Economist and New Scientist, but you may not be able to read them unless you’re a subscriber; however a search at the British Newspaper Archive threw up numerous contemporary results which provide a fascinating insight into the scam as it happened.
For some time now my wife and I have used AllBeauty as a source of cut-price perfume, after shave, and other cosmetics - usually cheaper than so-called duty free shops - but she now tells me that FragranceX have a bigger range and are often cheaper (but if you're in the UK watch out for extras such as VAT and shipping). The good news is that by using the links above she can now support LostCousins whichever of the companies she buys from (they both ship around the globe).
Tip: you can get an extra 15% discount on your first order with FragranceX if you join their mailing list.
As I was writing the Eleanor Rugby article I noticed a comment that the 'Eleanor' part of the song title was supposedly inspired by Eleanor Bron, who had played the female lead in the Beatles' film Help!
This reminded me that hanging up in one of my cupboards is the dress that Eleanor Bron wore when she appeared in the Doctor Who series in 1985 - you can see a little bit of it here. Now, before you start speculating as to what I'm doing with Eleanor Bron's dress (even my mind is boggling as I write this), perhaps I ought to explain that in 1991 I attended a BBC auction of costumes and props from the programme, and that the dress is just one of the items I bought.
There's actually a second connection to Eleanor Bron, one that I didn't know about until I read her biography on Wikipedia - it seems she was at school with my ex in the early 1950s. Isn't it strange how the closer we look the more we discover? That's certainly true when it comes to family history, as I'm sure many of you have found.
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'll be back in touch again soon - and this time I will have the results of the Summer Competition (sorry for the delay but, as you can see from the number of articles, September has been very busy!).
© Copyright 2017 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