Newsletter - 13th September 2019
Save 20% on Society of Genealogists membership ENDS SUNDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 6th September) 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!
On Tuesday 10th September the University of Leicester celebrated the 35th anniversary of the discovery of DNA fingerprinting by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys - this Guardian article has a picture of the very first DNA profile.
At first the potential for DNA in solving crimes wasn't generally recognised but after it was used to nail a serial murderer in 1988 it became an important tool for forensic scientists (though in that particular case the culprit pled guilty, so the evidence wasn't tested in court). However, it's not just about catching the guilty - in the same case DNA evidence was used to clear a suspect who had falsely confessed to one of the murders, as the Guardian article explains. By 2016 as many as 50 million people had had their DNA tested since the invention of DNA profiling - and that's before DNA testing became popular amongst family historians.
But there are more anniversaries this week. Wednesday 11th September was the 18th anniversary of 9/11, when as many people died in terrorist attacks as are now missing in the Bahamas, following the hurricane.
On a happier note, Wednesday was also the 71st anniversary of the day my parents married, at Seven Kings Baptist Church; I wouldn't be talking to you today if they hadn't met and fallen in love. By the way, that's the best man next to my Dad in the photo - and doesn't my mum look beautiful? (But it was one of the bridesmaids who became a model.)
Saturday 11th September 1976 should also have been a happy day - I had two tickets for the 'Last Night of the Proms' at London's Royal Albert Hall, an annual musical celebration of Britishness, fuelled by jingoism and patriotism. But as you can see, I still have them..... I didnít go, because the day before I'd been told that my mother had terminal cancer.
Today, Friday 13th September, is the 43rd anniversary of the day mum died. I always had trouble living up to her standards, but I think she'd be pleased - and perhaps a little proud - that I've spent the past 15 years bringing thousands of families back together.
Save 20% on Society of Genealogists membership ENDS SUNDAY
You can save 20% on your first year's subscription when you join as a full or associate member and enter the promotional discount code SSP20 - but you'll have to be quick because this offer ends on Sunday 15th September. To find out more about the benefits of SoG membership follow this link.
Findmypast haven't set a closing date for their offer (see last issue for full details), but I can't imagine that an offer this generous is going to last much longer. Do please read the information carefully to ensure that you can both support LostCousins and earn yourself a free LostCousins upgrade.
So far almost all of the readers of this newsletter who have taken advantage of the offer have qualified for the LostCousins upgrade: just two have missed out - one had disabled tracking in their browser, the other had installed an adblocking program (which had the same effect). It's worth bearing in mind that free and mostly-free sites generally rely on advertising as source of income - so when you block advertising or disable tracking you can be depriving those sites of much-needed funding.
As far as I can ascertain Findmypast have no plans to extend this offer to other territories - sorry!
Do you remember reading in the last newsletter about Jeffrey Fry, who has worked at Waterloo Station for 58 years - which the BBC clearly felt was a record?
Several members wrote to tell me that they'd come close to matching the record - but Bob has actually beaten it! He started working in the civil service in September 1959 and retired - in his 80th year - at the end of May 2019. That's not far short of 60 years, so Jeffrey Fry - if youíre reading this - there's a challenge for you!
Bob tells me that he comes from a 'civil service' family - his father joined when he was demobbed in 1919 and was still working for the civil service when Bob joined 40 years later. So that's over a century between them....
The previous extracts from this wonderful book focused on fathers - this time itís the turn of mothers:
"It was hard for my mother after my father died. At our age she had been in a loveless orphanage. Always resourceful, she bought second-hand clothes at jumble sales, unpicking and washing the wool, and either knitting new garments for us, or crocheting it into blankets and outfits for my two dolls. One was white, always good, the other black, naughty but lovable. I blanch when I remember saying she couldnít help being naughty because she didnít believe in God. Such racist views were assimilated without thought."
"When I was 13 I came home from school to make myself lunch Ė my mother was a cleaner and father a caretaker Ė when there was a knock on the door. A man said: ĎAre you Patsy? Iíve come about the adoption.í I was traumatised. That night I told my mother and she said: ĎSorry, I have something to tell you.í I said: ĎYes, youíre not my mother, and I know who it is, itís that horrible Annie Horrigan opposite.í When I was about six sheíd stopped me in the street and said: ĎHello Patsy, you know Iím really your mother, donít you?í At the time Iíd put it out of my mind, but I should have twigged because my name then was Patricia White but my ration book had Patricia Pring on the top. So it was that I discovered that my natural mother had four children, by several fathers. My elder sister, who was the only one to stay with our natural mother, later told me we had different fathers, and to this day I donít know who mine was. My natural motherís husband disappeared, and I think she made ends meet in the same way. The eldest of the four was a boy, Jack, who was sent to grandparents in Ireland and ran away to sea. I only saw him at my natural motherís funeral. Then there was a sister younger than me. She was sent to an orphanage and was bitter about it all her life. In fact my adoptive parents hadnít been married themselves until after the war, after which they formally adopted me. They were living together opposite my natural mother when I was born, and they took pity on me because they could see I was being neglected, so they took me in, then formalised it over ten years later. When eventually I wanted to marry it was to a Roman Catholic, so I had to find out if Iíd been baptised as one. To do that I had to pluck up courage to ask my natural mother. My adoptive mother was fiercely opposed to this, so I went to see her on the quiet, and she told me Iíd been baptised RC at St Mary Magdalene in Marylebone."
Remember, thanks to the generosity of Peter Cox, the compiler of this wonderful collection, you can download a free copy in PDF format. Simply log-in to your LostCousins account, then look for Peter's Tips in the website menu.
Note: if you've forgotten how to log-in, click here for an instant email reminder. (Make sure the email address you enter is the one shown in the text of the email that told you about this newsletter.)
As a young boy I was given a copy of A A Milne's Now We Are Six, which I read over and over. And over.
At that age it never crossed my mind that Christopher Robin was a real person, but now I know better - especially after reading this Daily Telegraph article by Giles Brandreth, who got to know A A Milne's son in his later years. (It was first published in 1998.)
In the last issue I also mentioned a news story about the detective work that enabled a batch of love letters to be reunited with their owner after 70 years - so I was delighted to discover that LostCousins member had been doing some detective work of her own. And what a lovely story it is.....
"I am a regular reader of your Lost Cousinís newsletter and absolutely love reading through your information and also reading other members' stories - so I wondered if youíd be interested in reading about my own detective work?
"Iíve always had a keen interest in family history and our roots and have held a long standing ambition to attempt to write a novel based loosely on my own genealogy research. As I took early retirement last year and now have a little more time on my hands I continued with the family research that I started way back in the 1980ís, pre-Internet days. Obviously as you are aware searching genealogical resources is now much, much easier as birth/marriage and deaths and old parish records are available online either via free or paid sites. So it was with great enthusiasm that I gathered information in readiness for my writing.
"I was keen to know more of my mumís childhood and teenage years before she married my dad in 1952 and I started looking through the family mementoes that she had obviously treasured and kept, from photographs, to her 21st birthday cards and also some letters from an old friend in Canada. Mum had passed away 10 years previously and I had kept everything safe and decided recently to read in more detail the letters from her friend in Canada to see if they could offer any clues to help me with my research. They actually threw up many questions, and not many answers as the letters were obviously replying to ones my mum had written, and I only had one half of the story.
"It occurred to me that mumís friend Irene could still possibly be alive as she would be around the age of 90 and I then wondered if it would be possible to try and track her down and return the letters and possibly she may have kept the letters that mum had sent to her. But where and how did I start?!!!!
"The only information that I had was her name: Irene Molyneaux. I started by compiling a family tree file for her and began searching for her birth around the same time that my mum had been born in 1929 in and around Preston, Lancashire which is where almost every branch of my family lived. Fortunately for me there was only one birth in 1928 that matched. This then provided me with the maiden name of Ireneís mum and I began searching for a few yearís prior to her birth for a marriage now that I knew both parentís surnames.
"Again I was successful in locating a marriage in 1928 in the right location. So I continued to build up a mini family tree file and I discovered that Ireneís grandfather had the same family surname as my grandmother and there was a tenuous family connection, a few times removed! This family connection couldíve been how my mother and Irene knew each other.
"I uploaded the mini tree to Ancestry. After a few days I received Ďhintsí from Ancestry that other people also shared this information that I had compiled for my new tree. After many searches I discovered a marriage between an Irene Molyneaux and a Hubert B Hart in Canada. I was also able to locate an emigration document for Irene showing a sailing from Liverpool to Canada for a person of the correct age and location, which tallied with the information and date on the postcard and letters that I had. I was unable to contact the owner of this other tree on Ancestry so I started Googling!
"I put the name Irene Hart into Google and drew a blank. I then put her husbandís name Hubert Benjamin Hart into a search and it brought up an obituary site that the family had set up following his death. There was a short biography and this confirmed that Hubertís wife Irene had pre-deceased him:
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Hubert Benjamin Alexander 'Bud' Hart on January 4 2010, at the age of 81 years. Bud is survived by his daughters, Betty (Jim) Krewusik, Donna Dowe, and Rhonda (Michael) Burke; sons, Grant and Victor; sister, Alice Campbell; brother, Les; 9 grandchildren; 8 great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. Bud was predeceased by Irene, his wife of 45 years, and both of his parents.
"From this information I possibly had the names of Ireneís children and the daughterís married names. Armed with this information I searched on Facebook for Betty Krewusik and immediately located someone of this name living in Canada, so I thought I may have the right people to contact.†† I was getting very excited by this time as a couple of weekís searching was about to bear fruit I hoped.
"I sent a private message to Irene's daughter apologising for messaging her out of the blue, but explained that I thought our mothers could have been friends in their teens and that I had some letters from her mum which I would like to share with her. I did not hear anything in reply for a couple of days so tried to send a 'friend request'. This also did not work.
"I went back to the memorial information and searched for another married daughter and again sent the same message.
"The next day I received a cautious response from Betty asking how I knew her and found her, as she had no record of my mum or any letters that her mum had sent. I forwarded the post card from the ship that she had sent to my mum and she confirmed that it was indeed her motherís writing. As you can imagine she was extremely moved by what seemed like messages from beyond the grave.† She told me that she still missed her mum dreadfully and it was such a comfort to read her words.
"Over the following 10 days I sent a scanned copy of each letter and she was overjoyed to read them and described it like reading a novel and waiting anxiously for the next chapter and apologised that she had nothing to send me in return. I told her that I wasnít sending them to her to get anything back, but just wanted copies of the letters to be returned to the family. She explained that her mum had a hard life with her dad and very soon after they were married a fire occurred in their house and her mum lost everything which connected her to family and friends back in England.
"I said that I wished we couldíve reunited our mums as they wouldíve been thrilled to be back in touch with each other, but sadly they had both passed. Betty then said that in a strange way our mumís have been reunited, but it was through their daughters that we had done this.
"The letters had continued for only about a year and it is a mystery to know if there were more or why they stopped.
"I asked Betty if her mum had ever returned to England and she said that she often wanted to but the family were unable to afford the journey for her, and by me sending the letters to her she had gained great comfort from them and could not thank me enough for tracking her down.†† We have promised to keep in touch with each other and we are now Facebook friends.
"Many thanks, and hope you enjoyed the story!"
I certainly did Barbara, and I've no doubt that a lot of other LostCousins members did too; in fact, I suspect that more than a few of you reading this will have found it inspirational. Have you solved a similar mystery through detective work? Do let me know how you managed it!
Note: in the group photo Irene is at the centre of the back row, and Barbara's mother is on Irene's right. Ethel, her mum's sister, is second from right in the front row.
On 26th September Michael Gandy is giving a one-hour talk at the Society of Genealogists at their London premises - entitled Tracing your Medieval Ancestors: The Realistic Possibilities
It's designed for those of us who have got back to the 1500s on some of our lines, and are wondering about the feasibility of researching further back. There were only 11 places left when I last checked, so if you want to attend, youíd better not delay - you can find out more and book here.
At the end of July I wrote about the health aspects of DNA testing, and one of the websites I mentioned was Promethease. This week MyHeritage announced that they had bought Prothease and its sister website, SNPedia.
MyHeritage are keeping Promethease separate from their own, clinically-validated health reports; but if you have tested with another provider, such as Ancestry, the good news is that Promethease is being made free, though until the end of 2019.
But bear in mind the warnings I gave in July - you might not like what you are told! Also see the article below.
There was an interesting article in New Scientist last month which reported on two legal cases related to DNA and health. In London this autumn a woman will be suing a hospital in ther High Court for failing to warn her that her father had been diagnosed with Huntington's disease: there is a 50% chance of the mutation being passed on to a child, and the woman is arguing that had she known of her father's diagnosis she wouldnít have had a child herself.
The other case involved a woman in Germany who sued a doctor for telling her that her ex-husband had been diagnosed with Huntington's disease, meaning that their children were at risk. The result was that the woman went into a depressive state - she would rather not have known.
So if youíre thinking of taking a genetic health test, or uploading your DNA results to Promethease, you might first want to consider how you would react in the event that you discovered some really bad news.
You can't get away from it - life in the UK is currently dominated by Brexit, and if the UK leaves without a deal it is even going to have an impact on LostCousins. Currently we don't have to charge VAT on subscriptions because we're too small, but if the UK leaves the EU without a deal we'll have to charge VAT on all sales to members who live in the EU. I donít think there is any way round it.
Note: 'Deal or No Deal' was the name of a long-running TV show fronted by Noel Edmonds, who I was at school with. He went around with my friend Hugh Ferguson's older brother Edwin (known as Tony); sadly both brothers became drug addicts and were dead within a few years of leaving school - the 60s and 70s weren't quite as wonderful as some people think.
According to this BBC article friendship, hobbies, and humour are the key to staying positive - and I'd like to think that with LostCousins you get all three. We all share one of the most fascinating hobbies there is, and I know that - like me - many of you have made some wonderful friends as a result of finding distant cousins. As for humour - I hope that some of the things I write bring a smile to your face! †
When I read this news story about a man who had spent £30,000 in legal fees fighting a £100 speeding fine I was reminded of the time I fought a £15 parking fine imposed by Harrow Council. It was a genuine mistake on my part - the car park used to be free - and the parking charge would have been only 20p (this was 30 years ago). Considering that the fine was 75 times the cost of parking I reasoned that nobody would deliberately try to evade the charge, so all they were doing was penalising honest citizens who, like me, had other things on their mind. I offered to pay a £3 fine and donate the remaining £12 to the Mayor's charity, which I felt was a fair way of resolving the issue.
The council didnít think much of this offer, so I was summoned to appear in court a few weeks later. Convinced that I was morally right I decided to check the bye-laws, to make sure that the council were following the law to the letter. It didnít take long to spot the flaw in the legislation - whilst the bye-laws stated that parking without a ticket was an offence, due to a drafting error there was no penalty specified for that particular offence (although there was for other infringements). Whoops!
I pointed this out to the council, who pooh-poohed my assertion - then told me they'd got an opinion from a QC to back up their view. This was very interesting news - they were so convinced they were right that they were prepared to spend hundreds of pounds consulting a QC over a £15 parking fine? Hmm.....
I had a feeling that the QC's advice had not been nearly as reassuring as they claimed - and for them the stakes were high, because if they lost in court it would not only be bad publicity, they'd have to repay all of the fines levied for this offence since the bye-law was introduced. I stood my ground, and on the morning of the court case I got a phone call from the council, asking me if I would be prepared to drop the case if they waived the fine. It would have been interesting to have had my day in court, but I'd achieved my objective, so I accepted the offer and donated the entire £15 to the Mayor's charity. I got a phone call from the Mayor thanking me for my donation - and he clearly knew the background to it!
I'll save the story of how I tangled with British Rail - and won - for another day.
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© Copyright 2019 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?
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