Newsletter - 29th June 2015
Last chance to get a Findmypast subscription for £1 ENDS TUESDAY
Canadian records free at Ancestry.ca ENDS WEDNESDAY
Interview: Jess Welsby EXCLUSIVE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 20th June) click here, for an index to articles from 2009-10 click here, for a list of articles from 2011 click here and for a list of articles from 2012-14 click here. Or use the customised Google search below (that's what I do):
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As family historians we look upon the census as a valuable repository of personal information - but censuses were never intended to be used in this way. There were four British censuses before 1841, but it was only in that year that every member of the population was recorded by name, and as far as I can see this information was collected primarily to minimise errors, omissions and double-counting. It was only when the Old-Age Pensions Act was passed in 1908 and census information became a way of verifying entitlement that the wisdom of writing down the names became apparent.
You won't, therefore, be surprised when I tell you that the 2021 Census Roadshow I attended this week focused on the numbers. It was held at the premises of the Royal Statistical Society whose members had, on 15th November 1841, been amongst the first to be presented with the results of the 1841 Census. Looking at the long list of Presidents of the Society on the wall of the Lecture Theatre I noticed some familiar names, including Lord John Russell, who as Home Secretary oversaw the introduction of Civil Registration, and William Farr, who rose to the position of Deputy Registrar General.
After two hours listening politely to the presentations and the discussions that followed, I decided to ask a question on behalf of the historians of the future: "In view of the fact that the 2021 Census may be the last conventional census, will heritage issues be taken into account when deciding what questions to ask? For example, as the census hasn't included a question about birthplace since 1951, might it not be a good opportunity to record that information in 2021?"
I was somewhat taken aback by the tone of the response from Ian Cope, the man at the Office for National Statistics in charge of the 2021 Census. He began by referring to the fact that the 1901 Census had asked whether people were idiots, perhaps trying to make the point that some questions asked in the past were no longer relevant, though I couldn't help thinking that he was trying to suggest to the others in the crowded lecture theatre that I was an idiot for asking the question I did!
But to cut a long story short, we were informed that the legacy that the 2021 Census represents for future generations is not something that is going to influence the decision-making of the Office of National Statistics - they are only interested in producing statistics for immediate consumption.
I must admit to finding it somewhat ironic that in a year when weíre celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the 600th anniversary of Agincourt, and the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, history counts for so little over at the ONS (their website doesn't even tell you much about their own history). All the more reason for genealogists to respond to the Consultation before it closes on 27th August (in a future newsletter I will set out some suggestions to guide you in your own response).
Finally I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the LostCousins members who also attended the London roadshow - I met David, Mike, and Ann but there well may have been others. Also, if anyone reading this attended one of the other roadshows I'd be interested in any feedback you have.
This week Findmypast, in conjunction with the National Archives, added 1.9 million records to their England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935 collection which, with around 3 million records in total, is now the largest collection of its kind.
I discovered that in 1913 my 3rd cousin twice-removed was acquitted of stealing 48 rings, two watches and other articles belonging to the Great Northern Railway Company (lost-luggage items, perhaps?). However he may have been given the benefit of the doubt by the jury - in 1910 he had been sent to prison for 6 weeks after being convicted of stealing a car tyre and in 1935 he got 18 months hard labour for receiving stolen property.
Note: not all of the records have been transcribed to best effect - I found some where there was both an age and date but the date hadn't been transcribed, as a result of which neither the year of the record nor the year of birth of the criminal were shown in the search results.
Looking at a page of prisoners at Newgate Gaol in 1826 I wondered at how young - and how short - most of them were. Three lads aged 13, 14, and 16 - two of them well under 5 feet in height - were sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing a handkerchief valued at 10d. I suppose that at the time some would have said they were fortunate to escape the hangman's noose.
Many of those transported are also to be found in Australian criminal records that went online last week:
If you don't already have a subscription to Findmypast, you've got a final chance to get a 1 month subscription that will allow you to see ALL of these records (plus over a billion others, as well as hundreds of millions of newspaper articles) for just £1 - see the next article....
Last chance to get a Findmypast subscription for £1 ENDS TUESDAY
Nobody can say that family history is expensive when there are offers like this around - a 1 month World subscription for just £1 - see the last issue for full details and special links, but don't delay because the offer ends at 11.59pm (London time) on Tuesday 30th June.
Remember that many of the records, especially parish registers and newspapers, are only available online at Findmypast - serious genealogists simply can't afford to be loyal to a single website (even if it's called LostCousins!).
Since 1851 British censuses have taken held in late March or early April, but as everyone reading this newsletter will know in 1841 the census was taken on Monday 7th June (based on the inhabitants residing at the address on the previous day).
However, this wasn't the date originally planned - the Population Act, 1840 (right) specified Thursday 1st July as the date of the census. Unfortunately it was realised at the last minute that the July date would conflict with haymaking, so many agricultural labourers would be away from home.
The Census Amendment Act, specifying a new date in June, didn't receive Royal Assent until 6th April 1841 - so it's a wonder that the census went as well as it did!
Other amendments introduced were the rounding down of ages over 15 to the nearest multiple of 5 years and the introduction of household schedules:
V. And be it enacted, That Schedules shall be prepared, under the Direction of the said Commissioners, for the Purpose of being filled up by the several Occupiers of Dwelling Houses as herein-after provided; and the Registrars in England and Wales, and the Schoolmasters and other Persons charged with taking the said Accounts in Scotland shall, in the course of the Week ending on Saturday the Fifth Day of June in this Year, leave or cause to be left at every Dwelling House within their District One or more of the said Schedules for the Occupier or Occupiers thereof or of any Part thereof; and upon every such Schedule shall be plainly expressed that it is to be filled up by the Occupier of such Dwelling House, (or where such Dwelling House is let in different Stories or Apartments, and occupied distinctly by different Persons or Families, by the Occupier of each such distinct Story or Apartment,) and that the Person charged with taking the said Account will collect all such Schedules within his District on the Monday then next following; and every Occupier of any Dwelling House, or of any distinct Story or Apartment in any Dwelling House, with or for whom any such Schedule shall have been left as aforesaid, shall fill up the said Schedule to the best of his or her Knowledge or Belief, so far as relates to all Persons dwelling in the House, Story, or Apartment occupied by him or her, and shall sign his or her Name thereunto, and shall deliver the Schedule so filled up, or cause the same to be delivered, to the Persons charged with taking the said Account, when required so to do; and every such Occupier who shall wilfully refuse, or without lawful Excuse neglect, to fill up the said Schedule to the best of his or her Knowledge and Belief, or to sign and deliver the same as herein required, or who shall wilfully make, sign, or deliver, or cause to be made, signed, or delivered, any false Return of all or any of the Matters specified in the said Schedule, shall forfeit a Sum not more than Five Pounds, or less than Forty Shillings, at the Discretion of any Justice of the Peace or Magistrate before whom Complaint thereof shall be made, to be recovered, in case of Non-payment, by Distress and Sale of the Goods of such Offender.
I've seen comments suggesting that a census couldn't possibly have been carried out on a single day, but a trial run was held to determine how many households an enumerator could visit in one day, depending on the type of district; following this pilot study 35,000 enumerators were appointed.
In practice, however, there must have been many households where there was nobody at home when the enumerator came to collect the form, and whilst this wouldn't have been an insurmountable problem if the schedule had been correctly completed by the householder (since it could have been left out, or with a neighbour), a significant proportion wouldn't have been sufficiently literate to read the instructions and fill in the form.
For 10 years* from 1st October 1783 a Stamp Duty of 3d was charged for each baptism, marriage, or burial entry recorded in parish registers in order to finance the war with the revolting colonies in America. It is thought that some parishioners may have chosen to delay the baptisms of their children (which might well explain why I can't find the baptisms of some of my ancestors around this time); it has also been observed that in some parishes the number of paupers - who were exempt - rose, perhaps because the incumbent felt uncomfortable about collecting the tax.
It's certainly something that we need to take into account when searching the registers of this period.
* it was actually 11 years - see the next newsletter
Canadian records free at Ancestry.ca ENDS WEDNESDAY
Until midnight on Wednesday 1st July all Ancestry's Canadian records (235 million of them) are free - but only at Ancestry's Canadian site (follow this link).
Interview: Jess Welsby EXCLUSIVE
It was a LostCousins member, Liz, who encouraged me to read The Daddy of all Mysteries: The True Story of my Parents' Secret Love and the Search for a Father who I Never Knew †by Jess Welsby. I tend to relax with genealogical fiction, because I hear so many fascinating true stores from members - but I was eventually persuaded that this book was special (as you'll know if you read my review a couple of months ago).
I was delighted when Jess Welsby agreed to be interviewed for this newsletter:
Peter: Jess, you've written an amazing story - but the difference between your book and the other genealogical mysteries I've reviewed is that your story is true! At what point did you decide to turn your story into a book?
JW:† It was the people who helped me to find my late father who bulldozed me into writing the book. The search itself has a website following, which has accumulated close to 300,000 hits and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to these people. Even so, at first I was completely against the idea for several reasons - from practical to emotional.
a) I had never written before.
b) Iíve been in business for 35 years and although I knew nothing about the publishing business, I knew enough about business in general to recognise that writing a book was a massive risk, both financially, for obvious reasons, and emotionally, because I would be putting myself up for criticism.
c) My biggest worry of all was - how would my mum feel about her life being revealed in a book. Even though she had died in 1989, I still asked myselfÖ do I have the right to tell her personal story? She was such a private person and I had never told anyone about my parents, which is why my search for my father had taken me nearly 20 years. So the answer kept coming back - NO.
Then, when I found descendants of my fatherís family and realised that I was going to be welcomed with open arms, it occurred to me that the entire community would eventually find out bits and pieces of my mumís story through the grapevine. The bits the community would not hear about, could be filled in by people - and itís human nature to jump to the wrong conclusion. Wagging tongues, ridicule and bigotry were the things that ruined my mumís life and I didnít want that to happen to her again, even though she was in her grave. I wanted her to rest in peace.† She didnít deserve what she was put through, just for falling in love with a Jewish man. So I decided to write the book to give my mum a voice. Something that she never had. The book shows my mum as the hero that she was, and I think she will be overwhelmed with the response her story has had.
Peter: Did you have any concerns about publishing personal details for all to see, and if so are there some things you decided to leave out?
JW:† Yes, I had many concerns, most of which Iíve explained in reply to your previous question, but I was also mindful of the story not just being about my mother and my familyís history. So I asked permission from the descendants of my fatherís family and I also let them read the book before I published it.
I was also mindful of living descendants of my fatherís extended family who I had not yet met. The people I had not yet found. They may not want their familyís history made public, so I left a lot of details out and Iíve also changed the names of a few people in one particular chapter because, although the story was important for the book, I felt it would be unfair to name names. I didnít want to open a can of worms.
Peter: There are lots of exciting moments recounted in the book - which is the one that really stands out for you?
JW: Gosh, thatís a hard question, so Iíll give you three answers:
The first has to be meeting my fatherís niece Shirley, and seeing my fatherís photograph for the first time. I knew him straight away; picked him out from all the other men in the wedding photograph! The second was when my fatherís other niece, Margaret, sent me a telegram that my father had sent to her when she married in 1941. It was not his handwriting but just reading the words that he had chosen was magical.
The third has to be when I rang my fatherís niece, Joyce, to introduce myself. Then went on to tell her how sorry I was not to have met her sister before she had died. "WHAT!" she said - poor Joyce had no idea her sister was dead! These three ladies are much older than me but they are all my first cousins and I love them to bits.
Peter: What would your advice be to anyone else in a similar position?
JW: Donít give up. There might be family out there who donít know you exist; a mother or father who is afraid to talk about their secret son or daughter. Another reason for writing the book was to inspire others and to show that it can be done, without it costing the earth. Thereís help out there, but discretion and consideration for the person youíre looking for and whatever family they may have, is paramount.
Peter: Are you still continuing to research your father's family?
JW: Yes, I still have a few mysteries to uncover and Iím helping other people to solve their family mysteries too. I was keeping my fingers crossed that the book might help to solve a few of the remaining mysteries and it has already solved one mystery, which I knew nothing about!
Peter: How difficult was the process of publishing your own book - would you do it again, knowing what you know now?
JW: Thereís not enough space to answer this question!† I could write a book about writing a book!
But after 4 years of writing, rewriting, submitting and then going down the self-publishing route, Iíd say it was one of the most difficult things Iíve ever done, because I was thrown in at the deep end. Knowing what I know now, I would do it all differently. I would go with my first instinct, which was to self-publish an eBook without bothering with the paperback. Itís been a massive learning curve.
Peter: Are you planning to write any more books, and if so will they be fact or fiction?
JW: If you had asked that question a year ago when I was often in tears and wishing Iíd never started, my answer would have been... are you haviní a laugh! Something that we say in Liverpool in reply to a question we consider ridiculous!† However, seeing the reaction Iíve had to The Daddy of all Mysteries and the amount of people who are asking me to write again, your question is not so ridiculous after all and my answer is...† maybe.
I donít think I could write fiction, though. Maybe something based on fact. There has to be a grain of truth in books for me to read one, so I think it will be the same for me to write one.
Peter: Thank you, Jess - what you've achieved is an example to all of us!
Note: if you haven't read the book yet this article from the Liverpool Echo will tell you a little bit more about Jess's incredible voyage of discovery.
I was rather tardy reading Michael Sharpe's debut book, Family Matters - A History of Genealogy, but it was well-worth waiting for - so I was confident that his new book, Tracing Your Birmingham Ancestors would be equally comprehensive. I wasn't disappointed.
The Birmingham area is one of the most difficult to research, because there are so many different counties that meet up - and the headlong expansion of Birmingham, from a small manor at the time of the Domesday Book to the Britain's second largest city today means that when we discover that our ancestor was born in Birmingham our first question must be "which Birmingham?". (For the purposes of the book Mike Sharpe defines Birmingham as all of the area now covered by the City of Birmingham within its post-1974 boundaries.)
Even the name has changed over the years - though called Birmingham or Bermingham in the Middle Ages, the letters were often interchanged, and by the 17th century the spelling Brummagem (from which we get the term "Brummies") seems to have been widely accepted. However, in the 18th century this spelling was regarded as vulgar, and Birmingham found favour once again.
The author covers every aspect of life (and death) in Birmingham: successive chapters cover the Church, politics, industries, transport, education, health, law & order, migration and housing, leisure; the final two chapters cover respectively the period before industrialisation and military matters (from the local regiments and militias to the 20th century wars).
There are two handy appendices: the first has a timeline from 1715, when St Philip's church was consecrated through to 1974, when Sutton Coldfield was incorporated into Birmingham and the two registration districts were amalgamated. The final appendix is a directory of archives and resources both online and offline - 12 pages of them!
Tracing Your Birmingham Ancestors is available either as a paperback or as a Kindle book - it's an essential guide for those with ancestors from the area.
At least 3 of my direct ancestors come into this unfortunate category, so I had been meaning to read My Ancestor Was a Bastard by Ruth Paley, which is one of the excellent My Ancestor Was... series from the Society of Genealogists, for quite some time. I now wish I'd read it earlier!
Illegitimacy has always been with us, but the way in which illegitimate children, their mothers, and their putative fathers have been treated by the legal system has varied considerably over the years - as a result of which the chance of finding surviving documentation, and the nature of that documentation changes. Also, it's fairly well-known that the rate of illegitimacy has varied over the centuries - prior to the 20th century the peak of 7% was in the mid-19th century - but the author expands on this by pointing out that between 20-30% of 19th century brides were pregnant on their wedding day.
I discovered that, because two of my illegitimate ancestors were born between the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834 and the introduction of a new system of affiliation proceedings in 1844, this greatly reduces the chances that I'll ever find any paperwork that points in the direction of the fathers. But it won't stop me trying - at least I now have a much better idea of what to look for.
The book also introduced me to the filius nullius rule and demonstrated how this could operate in the case of an adoption prior to 1927 - it's one of many useful and fascinating pieces of information to be gleaned from this short but jam-packed work of reference. If you decide to buy it from Amazon please use one of the following links if you can:
I've mentioned on a number of occasions that I'm earning a high rate of interest by lending money through the Ratesetter peer-to-peer lending site. An investment like this isn't for everyone - there IS a risk involved, although because only a small amount is lent to any one borrower the risk is spread (and there's also† a Provision Fund which has more than enough to cover the anticipated losses).
If you do want to invest some of your money in this way - current returns range from 3% per annum over 1 month to more than 6% per annum over 5 years - you can get a bonus of £25 on the first £1000 you lend by following this link. When you join you'll find that there's also another offer running, which is for both new and current investors, but it only applies to investments made between 1st-14th July: there's an extra £25 bonus when you lend £2500 for 1 year or longer (and larger amounts for bigger sums).
But don't take my word for it - check it out yourself, as I did when Ratesetter was recommended to me by a LostCousins member. Remember, everyone's financial position and risk profile are different - which is probably why opportunities like this exist!
Finally, if you missed out on the Amazon Fire Phone, which was reduced from £299 to just £99 when I wrote about it last month, you've got another chance to pick one up for just £99 - but only while stocks last. They are locked to the O2 network, but you're not tied in by a contract, and you should be able to use a GiffGaff SIM (as I do) instead.
GiffGaff once again came top in the Which? survey so even if you're not changing your phone, you might want to give them a try - when you follow this link you'll get a free SIM and £5 free credit when you first top-up. Calls and texts between GiffGaff phones are free (within the UK), something that my wife and I find extremely useful.
I forgot to mention that there will be a leap second added on Wednesday 30th June - after 23.59.59 the time will be 23.59.60! It will be interesting to see how various electronic devices respond.....
© Copyright 2015 Peter Calver
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