Newsletter – 10th September 2022
QUEEN ELIZABETH II (1926-2022)
Last chance to save 20% at Findmypast.co.uk ENDS SUNDAY
Last chance to save on Ancestry DNA ENDS WEDNESDAY
British Newspaper Archive offer ENDS SUNDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 5th 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!
The news around the world is dominated by the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, at the age of 96, but my wife and I have been more affected by events closer to home. On Sunday evening my wife learned that her mother, aged 95, had tested positive for COVID-19 in her care home; then on Tuesday a good friend of ours in the next village passed away suddenly and unexpectedly (we saw him only on Saturday – he had been looking after our cat while we were away for our summer break).
I will do best to prevent these sad events impacting on the advice and help I give to LostCousins members, but I apologise in advance if some of my responses seem abrupt or even rude – we’re all human.
When I was born King George VI was still on the throne, but I was too young to know about such things. His eldest daughter, who became Queen Elizabeth II when I was less than 18 months old, is the only British monarch I can remember (unless you count the Duke of Windsor, her uncle, who reigned briefly in 1936 and lived in exile until 1972). I’m sure it’s the same for many of you.
For most of my life I believed that one day I would meet the Queen, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve come to realise that it would never happen. I’ve met future Prime Ministers and former Prime Ministers, but never our monarch – Queen Elizabeth may have been shorter in stature, but she was head and shoulders above all of them in my estimation.
I know some of you have been more fortunate – please share your memories with other members on the LostCousins Forum.
I’m sure I will struggle to get the words right when I next sing the National Anthem – I’ve only ever sung “God Save the Queen”.
For some of you it will be different – if you were born in the reign of King George V, you could well have sung the National Anthem in honour of three Kings (George V, Edward VIII, and George VI) before Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952.
However, this isn’t the first time I have mentioned King Charles III in this newsletter – I wrote about the future King Charles III in a newsletter article in 2014, suggesting that he might be prepared to allow a re-examination of the remains of ‘the Princes in the Tower’, something that his mother was against. At the time I was chided by some readers, who believed that Prince Charles would adopt the title King George VII on his eventual ascension to the throne – but as we all now know, that hasn’t happened.
On the BBC News site there’s an article about when our banknotes, coins, and stamps might change to reflect the new monarch – I don’t see that happening any time soon, and in any case, existing coins and notes are unlikely to be withdrawn. When I was a boy there were still coins in circulation that had been issued during the reign of Queen Victoria – the oldest coin that I found in my change was a ‘bun’ penny from 1860, the first year they were issued (it was one of only 5 million minted that year).
Until midnight (London time) on Sunday 11th September you can save 20% on Pro subscriptions at Findmypast.co.uk
For £143.99, a £36 saving against the usual price, you’ll get 12 months virtually unlimited access to the billions of historic records in Findmypast’s worldwide collection (the only exception is the 1921 Census, which is not currently included in any subscriptions at any site), as well as around half a billion newspaper articles, and over 124 million entries from modern electoral registers for the UK from 2002 onwards. And because of Findmypast’s 15% Loyalty Discount, you shouldn’t be faced with a big increase in a year’s time.
I’m often asked whether Findmypast is better than Ancestry – my answer is always that if you can afford it, you should subscribe to both (because many key records are only found at one site or the other), but if you can’t, choose the site which you’ve never subscribed to before, or if you’ve tried both, the site that has more of the parish registers for the counties which you’re currently researching.
The counties of interest are likely to change as your research progress: all of my ancestors were in London at some point during the 19th century, but in almost every case they had come from much further afield. For example, my great-great-great grandfather John Holmes was born in London, but his parents married in Devon, and his father was stationed there with the Staffordshire militia. Similarly, my great-grandfather Alfred Bea(u)mont was born in London, but his father was born in Hertfordshire, and his maternal grandfather came from Kent.
Findmypast has images of the parish registers for: Cheshire, Devon, Hertfordshire, most of Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Warwickshire, much of Yorkshire, and most of Wales (please note that when first published the previous newsletter omitted Surrey from the list – it has now been updated).
See my Masterclass Tracking down pre-1837 baptisms and marriages for a comparison between Ancestry and Findmypast (it’s over a year old, but still pretty much up to date). These days parish register images for a small number of counties are available at more than one site, but whilst the images might be the same, the transcriptions are likely to be different, so that’s something else to take into consideration.
FINDMYPAST.CO.UK – SAVE 20% ON 3 & 12 MONTH SUBSCRIPTIONS ENDS SUNDAY
Somebody asked why I’m not giving away free LostCousins subscriptions to members who take up the Findmypast offer, as I’ve often done in the past.
When times are hard, people cut back on things that they don’t really need – and unfortunately that seems to include LostCousins subscriptions, even though the cost of just £10 a year (unchanged since 2005) makes one of thr smallest items in the budget of most genealogists. It’s not only less than the cost of a single paper certificate from the GRO, it’s half the cost of 24 hours online access to Essex parish registers (which aren’t even indexed – you need an Ancestry subscription for that)!
Note: the one deal I’ve found that’s cheaper is a digital subscription to Essex Society for Family History – it’s remarkably good value at just £8, providing access to a wide range of member benefits including nearly 2 million transcribed records, one of which is the headstone inscription for my great-great-great-great grandfather Samuel Wheatl(e)y, who was buried at Netteswell, in 1858 (though he is described as ‘of Islington’).
In August subscriptions paid by LostCousins members fell by 10% compared to the year before, at a time when prices are rising by 10% a year. I am determined to keep the subscription price at £10 – and that’s why I’ve had to pause the giveaways.
But please do continue to click my links when you take up any of the offers mentioned in these newsletters – it’s only because of the commission we receive that I’ve been able to keep the subscription at the same level for the past 17 years.
Note: many of you will have read that the British pound is at its lowest level against the US dollar for 37 years – this means that for members in the US and some other countries the cost of a LostCousins subscription is lower than it has ever been! For example, it’s only about $12 in the US, even after your bank has taken a cut.
Last chance to save on Ancestry DNA ENDS WEDNESDAY
When the records are missing, incomplete, misleading, or simply hard to find DNA is usually the answer - and without a doubt testing with Ancestry was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I’ve not only knocked down numerous ‘brick walls’, I’ve been able to confirm that my records-based research is correct – which is a much under-rated benefit of testing.
If you’re in the UK you can save 25% on Ancestry DNA until midnight on Wednesday. Please follow the link below so that you can support LostCousins:
Ancestry.co.uk (UK only) – Ancestry DNA reduced from £79 to £59 (plus shipping) ENDS 14TH SEPTEMBER
Life’s complicated enough – so why make things more difficult than they need to be? That’s the excuse that many people use for not testing their DNA, but for me it’s the other way round.
I use DNA to make my research easier – it’s not an end in itself, it’s a resource that can fill in the gaps and point me in the right direction when there’s no clear way ahead. It also provides a means of checking that my records-based research is correct – there was always the possibility that I’d identified the wrong parents of an ancestor who was born before 1837, but so far everything has checked out.
But there are some people who aren’t satisfied with following the simple, straightforward steps set out in my DNA Masterclass – they want more. For example, one reader recently told me how Ancestry hadn’t found a match between him and his 3rd cousin. Although that’s perfectly possible, because of the way that DNA is inherited (the table in the Masterclass puts the chance of a detectable match at 98%, not 100%) he decided to compare his DNA with his cousin’s DNA at the GEDmatch site.
I’ve used GEDmatch myself in the past – before Ancestry DNA came to the UK I’d try anything – but these days I rarely visit, and I certainly don’t recommend it to others, because it exposes users who don’t fully appreciate the limitations of consumer DNA tests to all sorts of opportunities for error. For example, in this case he ran a comparison of his own DNA against his cousin’s with a minimum threshold of just 3cM, when the default at GEDmatch is 7cM (Ancestry require a minimum of 8cM).
When Ancestry increased their minimum match from 6cM to 8cM a couple of years ago they did so in the knowledge that the vast majority of the supposed matches were spurious (ie they were chance matches, or a product of the limitations of low-cost tests) . Not all of them were spurious, but it was a sufficiently high proportion that the scope for spending time in fruitless analysis far outweighed the usefulness of those matches. Let’s face it, even with the new lower limit, most of us have upwards of 10,000 matches, and some have many more.
Since most of the 6cM and 7cM matches were found to be spurious in Ancestry’s analysis, that tells us that matching segments as short as 3cM are almost always going to be spurious. In this case GEDmatch came up with 6 segments of just over 3cM that appeared to be shared by the reader and his cousin – but how likely is it that they had both inherited these segments from the same ancestor?
I decided to perform an experiment: I manage lots of DNA tests for relatives, and where I had permission I uploaded some of them to GEDmatch years ago. So I decided to compare my mother-in-law’s DNA against that of one of my 1st cousins.
Bearing in mind that I’m only related to my mother-in-law by marriage, the chance that she is genetically related to my cousin seems very small, particularly since he was born in Essex, and she was born in Wales; they certainly don’t show up as cousins at Ancestry. However, when I reduced the threshold to 3cM, GEDmatch threw up 5 matching segments of between 3.1cM and 3.7cM
That’s worrying – if a comparison between two apparently unrelated people picked at random throws up 5 small matching segments, it surely calls into question the validity of small segments that are apparently shared between people who are related? Perhaps some are genuine – but which ones?
Fortunately you can avoid all these conundrums by keeping it simple – stick to the tried and tested techniques in my DNA Masterclass, and you can’t go wrong. Over the past 10 years I have personally taken just about every DNA there is, including having my whole genome sequenced, and now manage or collaborate on the DNA tests of over 20 of my relatives – if there were a better way of doing things, I can promise you, I’d be using it!
In the last issue I published the story of a member who discovered at the age of 73 that the father who brought him up was not, in fact, his biological father. Predictably this encouraged a few readers who shun DNA tests to suggest that he must regret having tested – but that isn’t the case.
Of course, most DNA stories are good news stories – no matter which way you look at them. This week I received an email from Chris, who told me a lovely story about her latest DNA discovery:
“Just a quick message to tell you about an amazing coincidence that has recently occurred as a result of trying to help a friend.
“Though born in the UK, my son’s girlfriend’s mother now lives in France, had to take an Ancestry DNA test when she was in England (DNA tests are banned in France). On a more recent visit to England, she asked if I could help her to input her family onto Ancestry as she had made a mistake, and also asked if I could show her how to make use of her newly discovered DNA matches.
“The easiest solution was to use my own DNA matches to show her what could be done. Imagine my utter amazement when after inputting her details to show what happened when there was no match, Ancestry revealed that we are 5th-8th cousins!! Assuming I had somehow input the wrong data, I checked again, with the same conclusion – we are actually related!! What are the chances of that??
“We immediately informed our respective children who laughed uncontrollably, saying they always knew we had quirky similarities, and proceeded to give thanks for the fact that my son is adopted (as I suspect they may make their relationship more permanent in the near future)!
“Prior to investigating the DNA connection, I noted that she had ancestors in the Ascot-under-Wychwood area of Oxfordshire, which is on my radar as a possible location for the family of my elusive great-great-great grandmother Hannah Heritage, who died pre-census in 1840 in Gloucestershire and whose ancestry I have been researching for the past 30 years with no success.
“Hannah possibly had a brother John who emigrated to Australia and stated he was born in Oxfordshire...... which led me to a possible family in Shorthampton, Oxfordshire and another in Oxford.....and a possible brother or cousin who was born in Ascot-under-Wychwood........but it seems likely the family were stone masons and as such very mobile and difficult to trace. Nevertheless, this DNA revelation gives me more possibilities to investigate during the dark winter months, as she has afforded me ‘editor’ status for her tree.
“I am more than happy to help in the development of this new family tree, in the hope that it just might shed light on my own brick wall. Who knows? Time and a lot of effort with research will tell, but the moral of the story is that helping another researcher can sometimes be of unexpected benefit to oneself!”.
Of course, if you go back far enough we’re all cousins – even the mouse that our cat caught last night was a (very) distant cousin of mine, and of the cat too. But the chances that we’ll turn out to be sufficiently closely-related to a specific individual, even another human, for them to show up as a DNA match are very small – it used to be said that we’re all 10th cousins, or thereabouts, and whilst I can’t vouch for the accuracy of that statement, I do know from the table in the DNA Masterclass that the chance of two 10th cousins sharing detectable DNA is around 1 in 2500.
Still, we have an awful lot of 10th cousins – around 80 million according to the table in the Masterclass, so some of the matches we get will be with 10th, or even more distant cousins. But Ancestry won’t tell you how distant the relationship is, because the amount of shared DNA becomes a poor predictor of the relationship once you get beyond 3rd cousins (hence the wide 5th to 8th cousin grouping that Chris referred to in her email).
When you read the previous article you may have been surprised to see that whilst Chris has been appointed an editor of her friend’s tree, there was no mention of her having access to her friend’s DNA matches. If you have a good memory you’ll recall that not long ago I published an article by a technologically-challenged grandmother – well, guess who that was!
Actually the process of sharing DNA results isn’t that much different from giving someone access to your tree so, for the benefit of Chris and anyone else who is flummoxed, here’s what you do:
By all means send a link to this article to any of your relatives who want to share their DNA results with you – this will be particularly advantageous for them if you have an Ancestry subscription and/or experience of working with DNA and they don’t.
Tip: you can link to any article in any newsletter by going to the contents list at the top, right-clicking on the title of the article, then choosing ‘Copy link’ (or the equivalent in your browser). Then just paste the link into an email or text message.
As a young boy I fell in love with the song Stranger in Paradise, one of many songs in the 1953 musical Kismet which were set to the music of Borodin, and to this day hearing that song takes me right back to the 1950s.
As I was finalising this newsletter I heard the song coming from upstairs, where my wife had the wireless on as she did some spring cleaning. I explained to my wife how I’d first heard it before she was born, and it was only then that she revealed that the programme on the radio was playing the favourite music of our late Queen. 1953 was, of course, also the year of her Coronation.
Talking of ‘Kismet’, in Victorian times there was an attempt to bowdlerise Nelson’s last words, as this excerpt from the website of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich explains:
There has been extensive debate over Nelson's final words to Captain Hardy on board HMS Victory.
At least three surviving eyewitness accounts declare that Nelson said "Kiss me Hardy" prior to his death. Surgeon William Beatty, Chaplain Alexander Scott and Purser Walter Burke all noted the moment of tenderness between Nelson and his flag captain……
Many in the Victorian era believed "Kiss me Hardy" had been misheard. They suggested instead that Nelson had been speaking Turkish, declaring "Kismet Hardy". 'Kismet' means fate or destiny.
However, contemporary historians argue that this explanation is a Victorian invention, since the earliest recorded use of the term 'Kismet' in the English language does not appear until after 1805.
Perhaps those prudish Victorians should have stuck to putting skirts on table legs – though that too seems to be a later invention, according to the History Myths Debunked blog.
My brother sent me a link to an interesting article, which points out that there is more Neanderthal DNA in existence than ever before.
Most inhabitants of Europe and Asia have between 1% and 4% Neanderthal DNA – not a lot you might think, but considering that there were never very many Neanderthals even in their heyday (the article suggests the population was in the tens of thousands), it’s about the proportion I would expect if there was random mixing of the Neanderthal and homo sapiens populations.
In other words, the Neanderthals didn’t die out – they were simply assimilated into the general population.
British Newspaper Archive offer ENDS SUNDAY
The British Newspaper Archive is a sister site to Findmypast, and if you have a Pro or Ultimate subscription to Findmypast you’ll already have access to the newspapers and magazines in the archive. There are already more than 56 million pages, with an estimated half a billion articles, and literally billions of mentions of names.
The primary focus is on local and provincial newspapers, so your ancestors don’t need to have been famous – or infamous – to qualify for a mention. Local newspapers specialise in ‘human interest’ stories, covering accidents, school sports days, examination results, amateur dramatics, and a wide range of sporting events – indeed, the more local people they could mention, the more copies of the newspaper they were likely to sell!
However if you don’t already have access, it’s worth considering the advantages of subscribing to the British Newspaper Archive. Frequent users of historic newspapers will appreciate the more flexible searching options – for example you can restrict your searches to pages added to the archive after a certain date, so that you don't keep ploughing through the same list of results. This allows you to focus on what's new, which is important because the archive is growing rapidly – by my calculation over 10 million pages have been added in the past year alone!
This offer isn’t exclusive to LostCousins members, but you will only be supporting LostCousins when you use the link below:
BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE – SAVE 20% ENDS SUNDAY
Please bear in mind that the reduction only applies to the initial payment (and shorter subscriptions are, in any case, much more expensive per month), so my advice is to get the longest subscription you can afford.
This weekend’s football matches have been postponed, and I read this morning that the Last Night of the Proms has been cancelled on account of the death of the Queen; I can empathise with that.
I’ve never been to the ‘Last Night’, which is traditionally a joyous occasion that celebrates British music – and Britishness generally – but 46 years ago I did have tickets. However I didn’t go, because the previous evening I’d discovered that my mother was dying of previously undiagnosed liver cancer; I never saw her again – she died a few minutes before I arrived at the hospital for my next visit.
I still have the unused tickets…..
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 felt it was appropriate that this issue of the newsletter should be in black, and I’ve left out any adverts – I hope it doesn’t make it too difficult for you to spot the links (they are all underlined). For most readers life will be back to normal – if there is such a thing these days – by the time the next issue is published, but for some things will never be quite the same again.
God Save the King!
© Copyright 2022 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?
Many of the links in this newsletter and elsewhere on the website are affiliate links – if you make a purchase after clicking a link you may be supporting LostCousins (though this depends on your choice of browser, the settings in your browser, and any browser extensions that are installed). Thanks for your support!