Newsletter - 11th September 2018
Get a free LostCousins upgrade BONUS OFFER
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 1st 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):
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!
Outstanding savings for new subscribers at Findmypast SAVE 30%
I hope you appreciated your free access to Findmypast over the weekend - I don't normally send out a special email to inform members about a single offer, but this one was too good to miss. Especially because I had a feeling that the free access might be followed up by an offer.
I was right - but what I didnít anticipate was such a generous offer. Findmypast have clearly figured out that September is the time when many of us in the northern hemisphere put away our sunglasses and dig out our reading glasses, so that we can get back to our favourite winter pastime - family history!
And they've made an interesting change - instead of offering monthly and annual subscriptions they're offering quarterly and annual subscriptions. It's not clear whether this is a permanent change, or whether it's being trialled during the offer period (some of you may remember that a decade ago Findmypast offered 6 and 12 month subscriptions). But, as I suspect you've already worked out, because the 30% discount only applies to the first payment itís a lot cheaper to pay for an annual subscription up front (even if it does mean having to raid the piggy bank).
In fact, according to my calculations (but you might want to check them), if you go the quarterly route you'll have paid the cost of an annual subscription by the time you're part way through the third quarter. That said, if other commitments mean you can only research for part of the year, a quarterly subscription might possibly be the way to go.
(I know that many of you will be disappointed that the offer is for first-time subscribers only, but if it was a long time ago try clicking the link anyway, especially if you've changed your email address in the interim. And all the more reason to buy a 12 month subscription if it turns out you do qualify!)
Just a reminder that despite the difference in names, the Pro, World, and Ultimate subscriptions are identical - they all offer access to the same records and newspapers.
Please use the relevant link below so that you can support LostCousins at the same time as securing your 30% discount:
Note that LostCousins can only benefit if your purchase is tracked as coming from one of those links. If you haven't changed the default settings in your browser, haven't installed any browser extensions, and donít use an Internet security package that blocks tracking itíll be fine. If youíre not sure whether tracking is blocked in your browser, here's what it should look like in Chrome and Edge:
In other words, the slider should be in the Off position whichever browser you use. If you purchase a 12 month Plus, Pro, World, or Ultimate subscription please note the precise time of your purchase because you'll need it to claim your bonus (see below).
Terms and conditions
Offer expires at midnight (BST) on Sunday 23 September 2018. This offer is only available to first-time subscribers. The discount can only be used once per user and can only be redeemed using a valid credit/debit card. After the initial discounted period, your subscription will automatically renew at full price unless you switch off auto-renew on the 'My subscription' page when logged into the site. Previously viewed records that are saved in 'My records' are only accessible with a valid subscription.
Get a free LostCousins upgrade BONUS OFFER
If you support LostCousins by using one of my links to buy a 12 month Findmypast Plus, Pro, World, or Ultimate subscription under the offer above I'll give you a free 12 month LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 on top of the savings of up to £46.80 on your Findmypast subscription - so you could save nearly £60 in all. Your LostCousins subscription will be paid for by the commission we receive from Findmypast, so please make sure that tracking isn't disabled in your browser, or by some other program on your computer (such as an adblocking program, or Interrnet security program). If we donít receive any commission then I'm afraid you won't qualify.
To claim your free subscription please forward to me the email receipt from Findmypast, ensuring that the time and date of your purchase is shown. If the email doesnít arrive you can send me a screenshot showing your purchase, but you must also tell me the precise time of the purchase, ie to the minute. My email address is shown in every email you receive from me, including the one that told you about this newsletter.
Your subscription will start from the day you buy your Findmypast subscription - unless you already have a LostCousins subscription, in which case I'll extend it by 6 months. The offer includes a joint subscription where required, so if you're researching your partner's tree, now is the time to open a LostCousins account for them, and link it to yours (by entering their membership number on your My Details page). Note that you can have two accounts at the same email address just so long as the passwords are different - indeed itís usually the best option.
MASTERCLASS: How to get the most from Findmypast
I'm sometimes contacted by readers who don't get the same excellent results as me when they search at Findmypast - so I'm going to tell you how I transform their searchesÖ.
The first thing you need to appreciate is that there are two ways of searching at genealogy websites. One is to enter lots of data on the Search form in the hope that some of it might lead to the record you're looking for - this type of search works best at Ancestry, where it typically produces lots of results (though most of them won't be relevant).
The other approach is to put the minimum amount of information on the Search form, see how many results you get and - only if there are too many results to glance through - filter the results so that you're only left with those that are most relevant. This type of search works best at Findmypast.
Because I'm so busy I prefer the second type of search - most of the time the record I'm looking for is on the first page of search results, so I get there very quickly. I even cheat by using wildcards rather than type long surnames in full - this has the secondary benefit of sometimes picking up records that might otherwise have been missed.
How minimal should your searches be? If I'm searching the census I'll typically enter just a forename, a surname (possibly using wildcards), and an approximate year of birth. I rarely enter a place of birth as this tends to vary so much from one census to another, but when I do I enclose it in wildcards, eg *London*
Different surnames require different tactics. The surname Smith is very unlikely to be spelled differently or mistranscribed - but you are likely to get lots of results, so you'll need to narrow your search in some way. By contrast, when I'm searching for my Vandepeer ancestors I'm more concerned about misspellings than anything else, so I'll typically search for v*d*p*r* and leave the other boxes empty.
Tip: even as youíre filling in the search form Findmypast are looking to see how many records they have that match what you have typed so far; a running total is displayed on the Search button so you'll know when there's no point entering any more information.
Put these tips into practice and you'll immediately see the difference. But don't stop reading, because I've got another, even more important, tip for you - one that even Findmypast won't tell you!
Did you realise that at Findmypast there can be three or more ways of searching for the same historical record? Would you like to know which of those three ways I use myself? Yes, I thought soÖ..
The gateway to all of the different approaches is the Search menu:
Let's suppose that you were hoping to finds one of your ancestors in the 1881 Census - you could choose Search all records, or narrow down your search by clicking on Census, land & surveys. But I wouldn't choose either of those options - I'd go to the precise record set I'm interested in by clicking A-Z of record sets, the option at the very bottom of the Search menu (but the one I use 99% of the time).
Why do I search specific record sets, rather than starting with a wider search, then homing in? Because it's the only way you can access some of the key search options. For example, when I search the 1881 Census directly the Search form offers an enormous amount of choice:
But half the fields - the ones I've highlighted in red - don't appear on the Search form when you choose Census, land & surveys.
So do what I do - whenever possible focus in on the specific record set of interest, whether it's a census, a collection of baptism registers for a specific county, or one of the hundreds of other record sets.
Tip: one of the secondary benefits of using this approach is that you'll get to know the records better. Because they come from many different sources there are all sorts of quirks - for example, some parish register transcriptions will be very detailed, others very basic.
Here's a table of links that will enable you to jump straight to some of key resources at Findmypast without going through the Search menu (all searches are free, so you don't need a subscription unless you want to look at the records themselves):
1881 British census (FREE transcription except Scotland)
* these parish register links will take you to the baptisms for the county
Note: there are a few record sets which currently can't be found using the A-Z of Record Sets; for example, if you're looking for the Chelsea pensioner records you'll find them under British Army Service Records because Findmypast have grouped together all service records. Other instances reported to me involve Australian cemetery records. But 99 times out of 100 the A-Z is the best solution.
Finally, another useful tip - one that even regular users of Findmypast frequently miss. When you search an individual dataset you'll see a list of Useful links & resources to the bottom right of the page - and when the records in question are parish records there will usually be a link to page with a list of parishes that are included, showing the dates that are covered.
Last October I reported that the City of London Cemetery, one of the biggest in the country, had still not put their historic registers online, despite telling me in a March 2014 response to my Freedom of Information request that they had been scanned in readiness for uploading. This was important because the cost of paying them to look through their registers is extortionate:
That's right - £100 per name, per year if you donít know the exact date of death, and £25 when you do. I worked out that I could spend upwards of £10,000 looking for my relatives, and whilst I could have taken out a second mortgage on the house, I had a feeling my wife wouldn't be too pleased.... so I've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting.
But this week I discovered purely by chance that images of the registers from 24th June 1856 to 7th October 1955 are, at last, online (nice of them to let me know!). Theyíre not indexed but once I'd figured out what to do I managed to search the 6 week period following the death of my maternal grandfather in a matter of minutes (I didnít find him, by the way, but at least I now know he's not buried there). The page which linked to the registers states that "This service containing 440,000 records is being run as a pilot scheme and is currently free to use", so there seems to be a possibility that they'll start charging at some point.
Here's what to do, so that you donít flounder like I did (there didn't seem to be any instructions):
It's fairly time-consuming going through hundreds or thousands of entries but there's always the chance of making serendipitous discoveries - and unlike many parish registers, the writing is beautifully legible. So get in quick and find your ancestors' burial entries in case they start charging!
WARNING: the online registers aren't quite in chronological order. They're sorted alphanumerically, not numerically, which means that (for example) Register 2 follows Register 19, and precedes Register 20. I imagine this will be fixed before the official launch.
In the last issue I mentioned that there are many sites which have which offer photos of headstones, or transcripts of memorial inscriptions, and I linked to an article which mentioned FindaGrave, one of the biggest free sites (another is the absurdly-named BillionGraves).
Of course, it makes sense to try free sites before spending money at DeceasedOnline, the site with the largest number of burial entries from this period (although searches at DeceasedOnline are also free), but there are a couple of things that itís very important to remember. The first is that many people didnít have headstones, either because they were buried in mass graves with 10 or more others, or because circumstances prevented the surviving relatives from erecting a permanent memorial (this is certainly the case for most of my relatives who died in the 19th and early 20th centuries).
The other is that it can be very useful to know where your relative ISN'T buried. At a site like DeceasedOnline, where the records for most cemeteries are based on the burial registers, you can be certain that if your relative isnít in those registers, he or she isnít buried in that cemetery - but at sites where the records are compiled by volunteers and based on headstone inscriptions, the fact that your relative isnít recorded means little. I'm not, of course, denigrating the work of volunteers (they do an amazing job), but simply reminding you that negative inferences can sometimes be just as useful as positive ones.
After my recommendation of DeceasedOnline in the last newsletter LostCousins member Linda sent me this email:
Thank you! Thank you!
The latest newsletter containing info on Deceased Online has allowed me to
find where my father was cremated in 1966. Only being a child I had no idea
and with most people also dead and others couldn't remember. I had written
to all the crematoria in the area but with no luck but my search on this
website found him immediately (and I had written to them but they said they
had no record).
I find your newsletters brilliant.
Thank you again it means so much to me
Note: after discovering the City of London registers online I subsequently discovered some registers for the municipal cemetery in Hereford which have been digitised by the same contractor - you'll find them here, and they're also free to view at the current time. There are quite a few councils which make information available online, often free - I obviously canít write about them all in this newsletter, but if you are a member of the LostCousins Forum you can post a link and description of the site in the relevant county forum. And if you're not a member of the forum yet, why not? All you need to do to get an invite is complete your My Ancestors page.
Finally, I just wanted to mention that the Abney Park cemetery index is back online - you'll find it here.
This week a tie-in was announced between the stationers WH Smith and a genealogy website which also offers DNA tests. Some people might think the bundle they're offering, which includes not only a DNA test but also a 3 month subscription to the website, is a bargain. I don't, however, and here's why.....
Testing your DNA with the wrong company is a waste of money. Not because the DNA test is inferior (they're mostly very similar, using chips manufactured by the same company), but because if youíre a family historian, rather than someone who is simply curious, what you really want is not a DNA test, but a list of genetic cousins.
According to the comparison chart published by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), Ancestry have the largest database of consumer DNA tests in the world - in fact they've got about 8 times as many tests in their database as the company which WH Smith will be promoting (you can see for yourself if you follow this link). That means that you're likely to find many more cousins when you test with Ancestry as you would if you tested with the other company.
Whilst the numbers may not be bang up to date, they are 2018 figures - so the ratio won't have changed dramatically. But there's something else you need to bear in mind - you can upload Ancestry DNA results to several other websites (including the one that WH Smith has done a deal with) in order to find even more cousins, but the only way to match your DNA against Ancestry's enormous database is to test with Ancestry, because Ancestry can't or won't accept uploads of test results from other providers. So if you want the maximum number of DNA matches you've got little choice - you have to test with Ancestry.
For me this was a costly realisation - long before Ancestry started selling their tests in the UK I'd bought DNA tests for myself and several of my cousins from Family Tree DNA, so at some point I'm going to have to pay for those cousins, or other cousins from their part of my tree, to re-test with Ancestry. Why? Because having now tested myself, my brother, and two cousins with Ancestry I can see what a dramatic difference it has made - thanks to Ancestry DNA I've been able to break down some of the 'brick walls' that have been blocking my way for 14 or 15 years.
I didn't have a choice when I bought tests from FTDNA several years ago - Ancestry hadn't started marketing their test in the UK. But most of you do - well over 95% of the readers of this newsletter live in a country where Ancestry sell their tests, and many of the others will have friends or relatives who can assist them.
A final tip - if you think that a family member might possibly buy you a DNA for Christmas, in the Black Friday sales, or at any other time, I suggest you make them aware of your preferences. It's one thing to waste your own money, but quite another to stand by and watch someone else waste theirs.
Note: I deliberately havenít mentioned the name of the company which will be providing the tests that WH Smith will be selling. In general I try to avoid mentioning companies whose products or services I don't recommend - experience has shown that people sometimes remember a name, but not what was said. Coincidentally the company concerned sponsors a newsletter which is probably the only serious competitor to this one - and if anything that underlines the importance of maintaining the independence of the LostCousins newsletter.
It was only this week that I realised how apt this old saying is when thinking about the inheritance of DNA. We get half of our autosomal DNA from each parent, but they only passed on to us half of what they inherited. Similarly we only pass half of what we inherited from them to each of our own children - the other half they get from our partner.
The good news is that even though you or I have only inherited half of our parents' DNA, if we have siblings they will have inherited some of the DNA that we didnít get (unless they're our identical twin). But no matter how many siblings test, there's always going to be some DNA which didnít get passed on to the next generation. And that's why, when you're starting out with DNA, you should try to persuade relatives from the earliest generations to test.
It's natural that you'd want to test your parents - if they are still living - but in practice it would be just as effective to test one of their brothers or sisters. Whilst your uncle or aunt wonít have inherited the same DNA from your grandparents as your parent did, their DNA is just as representative of your grandparents' DNA.
We all know that the primary aim of autosomal DNA tests is the discover genetic cousins, but how does it actually work?
Fortunately I donít have to explain this because there's a comprehensive article on Ancestry's website - you'll find it here.
A most unusual PoW camp
Ireland was neutral during WW2, and one consequence of this was the establishment of an internment camp, where combatants from both sides who strayed into Irish territory could be held for the duration of the war. You can read all about the K-lines internment camp if you follow this link - the account includes a list of all the air crew who landed in Ireland during the war and ended up in the camp - are you related to any of them, I wonder? Most were German or British, but there were also Canadians and a New Zealander.
This household from the 1881 Census clearly caused the enumerator to struggle a little, but did he make a mistake when entering the ages of the two young sons?
© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England. Used by kind permission of Findmypast
A check of the GRO's online birth indexes suggest that Richard Richards was actually 2 years old, and not 2 months old - and there is a possibility that the word 'month' is crossed out - but as LostCousins member Tim said when he drew my attention to this household, "I wonder how many would have just added this family to their tree as it is?".
I donít know about you, but when I'm adding twigs to the branches of my tree I always try to find the baptism or (for children born after 1837) the birth index entry, rather than relying on the census. Sometimes the name shown on the census doesnít match the birth registration, frequently the age is incorrect. And finding the birth in the GRO's new indexes allows the mother's maiden name to be verified.
Note: simple precautions like these are essential when youíre taking information from an online tree - you can't assume that just because the creator of the tree is more closely-related to the individuals than you are, theyíve got it right.
I've just splashed out on PDFs for three of the twigs on my branches, since the GRO indexes give different information about the mother's maiden name for three children who otherwise appear to have the same parents - it's rather an extravagance, but my birthday is coming up, so I decided to treat myself. (And, depending on what I discover, it might make an interesting article for this newsletter.)
I've just started reading Murderous Contagion: A Human History of Disease by Mary Dobson, whose research paper on malaria in the marshlands of southern England I mentioned in the last issue - at just £3.99 for Kindle itís much more affordable than the book by Dr Dobson that I mentioned last time. I'll be reviewing in a future issue, but here are the links if you want to buy it now:
Not yet on my Kindle but arriving soon, according to the author, is the next mystery in the series featuring genealogist Jayne Sinclair. MJ Lee's books are always are delight to read - they're so meticulously researched - and I'm sure the new book, set against the background of the unofficial truce of Christmas 1914, will be no exception.
The Silent Christmas is due out on 28th September, but you can pre-order it now:
If you haven't read the previous books in the series you'll be interested to know that at the current time you can also buy the first 3 Jayne Sinclair books as a Kindle 'box set' for just £5.99 (or local equivalent):
LostCousins can benefit when you make ANY purchase from Amazon in the UK, the US, or Canada - just click any one of my links for the relevant site. Remember, it's your support that keeps this newsletter independent!
I suspect you'll find this poignant article on the BBC News website as moving as I did - a mother continued to call her daughter's mobile phone for 2 years after she died.
Reading this story about the actor who proposed to his actress girlfriend using a wooden Monopoly game that he'd carved himself reminded me how I proposed to my wife - I hid the engagement ring in an Advent Calendar in place of the miniature chocolate bar that should have been there (it did the trick - we married the following Valentine's Day).
We've got a good crop of cooking apples this year, but where we live the blackberry harvest has finished, so the two batches of Spiced Blackberry & Apple jam I made last month will have to last us until next year. That won't be a problem so long as I donít give too much jam away, as I've also made two batches of plum jam, two of bullace jam, and one of blackberry & elderberry, but it still leaves me with the problem of how to use all the apples.
I haven't made apple & elderberry jam before, so that's one possibility. I'm also tempted to make chutney, something I haven't done for a very long time - hopefully the extractor fans in our new kitchen will keep the smell of vinegar from going all over the house!
We seem to be ever more reliant on electricity these days. If you've got a caravan or a boat you've probably experienced problems at one time or another with the 12v/24v batteries struggling to meet your needs, but whilst a solar panel might be the obvious solution, until fairly recently they were big, ugly, and expensive. But things have changed dramatically - earlier this year I found a 100w flexible panel with controller for less than £125.
Over the course of a year a 100w panel can generate between 70 and 90 kilowatt hours of electricity (which would typically cost about £10 to £14), so it's not an enormous return on your investment, especially if youíre not using it all year round - however it's the convenience of having power to top-up batteries (and reduce the chance of them failing) that convinced me. There are various suppliers, but you'll find the panel I bought here - the price is still the same as when I bought it a few months ago (but make sure you claim 5% discount by clicking the checkbox).
Until recently I'd regarded solar-powered lights as a bit of joke, but a couple of months ago I took a chance on a set of 4 security lights, which cost me less than £50 - and my wife and I have been so delighted with the performance that we've recommended them to friends. You can see the lights we bought here - theyíre best value when you buy 4, but you can also buy them individually, or in pairs.
Regular readers of this newsletter will know that I love a bargain, and I know that many of you do too. One of the easiest ways I've found to save money is to buy nearly-new items (often they're new, but have damaged, missing, or opened packaging). Amazon is a good source, though I generally restrict myself to items sold by Amazon themselves ("Amazon Warehouse"). For example, when I wanted to buy a new Denman hairbrush earlier this year, I noticed that I could get an "open pack" item for 22% less - and since it would be new and in the original packaging, why would I want to spend any more (unless, perhaps, it was intended as a present for somebody else)?
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 hope you've enjoyed this issue. Do make the most of the free access to the City of London burial registers - I've no idea how long it will last, and donít dare ask! Finally, according to a recent article in The Times we're at our smartest at this time of year (in the northern hemisphere, at least), so itís a great time to knock down 'brick walls' and extend our family trees!
I'll be in touch again soon,
© 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?