Newsletter - 2nd November 2018
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The powers that signed the Armistice in 1918 clearly had a sense of history, choosing to bring the Great War to an end at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month - but I doubt that they realised that 100 years later the 11th day of November would be a Sunday, which means that in this centenary year Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday coincide.
Considering how many died there seem to be surprisingly few of us who lost direct ancestors in combat - though itís not nearly so surprising when you remember how young many of them were. Most of us are descended from the survivors, those who came home at the end of the war, or whose occupations were so crucial to the war effort that they weren't called up (though some of those who could have stayed behind volunteered to fight).
It's important to remember that a significant proportion of those who fought in both World Wars were conscripts - and I find it quite discomforting when every mention of a soldier or sailor who was killed or wounded refers to them as a 'hero', because most of them didnít want to be there at all, and would have jumped at the chance to be back in Blighty with their loved ones. Of course, this doesnít detract from the fact that there were many acts of bravery, some recognised with medals or mentions in despatches, others known only to God because all of the witnesses perished. And there was bravery on both sides - as someone who has discovered German ancestors, I'm only too aware of this.
The Last Tommies
On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday BBC 4 is showing a 3-part series entitled The Last Tommies - you'll find a short trailer and four clips here.
In the November issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine there's a wonderful photo showing part of the crowd outside Buckingham Palace on Armistice Day. There are hundreds of people whose faces can be made out, so if a family member was there you might be able to spot them.
If youíre not a subscriber to the magazine you might find that you can get free online access through your local library - I certainly can, although I prefer to have a paper copy so that I can tear out key articles for my files. (I've got thousands of articles that I've filed away since I first began my research.)
And if you do spot a relative in the picture, please let me know!
Note: you'll find the same photo, but trimmed and on a much smaller scale, if you follow this link.
The Western Front Association (WFA) is a registered charity formed in 1980 "to maintain interest in the period 1914-1918, to perpetuate the memory, courage and comradeship of those on all sides who served their countries in France and Flanders and their own countries during the Great War."
In 1990 they purchased an acre of land in France for a modest sum, less than £1000, but that small hill was worth much more in the Great War - known as the Butte de Warlencourt, it changed hands three times in two years, at the cost of countless lives.
Uproar broke out when members discovered that the land had been secretly sold to a former chairman of the association, and an article questioning the move appeared in the Daily Telegraph. But shortly after the article was published it was announced that the transaction was being reversed.
On a slightly more positive note, at the end of last year the WFA came to an arrangement for Ancestry to digitise and make available online the roughly 8 million record cards which were saved from destruction by the charity - you can read more about it here. But the downside is that Ancestry subscribers will only be able to access an index - the images will be on the Fold3 website (formerly Footnote.com), which is owned by Ancestry, but requires a separate subscriptions. See this 2016 article for more details of Fold3.
Tip: it is intended that members of the WFA will eventually have free access to the WFA records - so at that point it might be cheaper to join the association (current cost £29 a year).
After the fall of France in May 1940, the German Gestapo prepared for the invasion of Britain by compiling an arrest list of more than 2,300 names. The list includes most major figures in the British political establishment, prominent cultural figures and European refugees - and itís available here on Findmypast.
It wasn't a surprise to find that Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and General Sikorski are on the list, but H G Wells and J B Priestley?
Regular readers will know that I spent three days last month at Bury St Edmunds looking through microfilm and microfiche records - a tedious chore I had kept putting off in the hope that the Suffolk registers would become available online (as the registers already are for most of the counties where my ancestors originated).
You can imagine the mixture of delight and annoyance I felt when I discovered this week that there are indeed plans to digitise the registers, although I donít yet know how they're going to be made available online, whether there will be indexes, or the timescale. I'll update you as soon as I know more.....
The British Newspaper Archive (also available though Findmypast if you have a Pro, World, or Ultimate subscription) is expanding all the time, and if I told you about all the additions as they occurred there wouldnít be room for much else in this newsletter. But the recent addition to the archive of Talking Machine News from 1903-08 couldnít be allowed to pass unnoticed because - as you may have noticed - I am fascinated by machines (and always have been).
I read how one day there might be phonographic studios, the aural equivalent of photographic studios - which reminded me how in my day you used to be able record your own disc in a booth the size of a phone box (clearly not how The Beatles started!). On page 35 of the 1st March 1906 issue Mrs J G Frazer tells readers, in an article entitled "The Phonograph in the Schools", that she gave a phonograph to the Perse School in Cambridge in 1902, which to the best of her knowledge was "the first application of the phonograph to scholastic purposes in England". Of course, phonographs were designed to record as well as play back - which opened up all sorts of possibilities, especially in the teaching of languages.
According to Wikipedia the first 'phonograph parlor' opened in San Francisco in 1889, offering coin-operated phonographs, each of which had a different wax cylinder. On the same page you can hear a demonstration message from 1906.
Note: I found a website with lots of information about recording booths - you'll find it here.
The opportunity for members of the public to contribute to the review (see last issue) closed on 28th October. This standard email has been sent out to anyone who emailed their comments:
What isnít clear to me is whether there was an earlier consultation, because the bare information provided in the recent review assumed an in-depth knowledge of the existing system.
If you click the graphic it'll take you to the page mentioned in the email, which has lots of information that I hadn't seen before. Even if you donít have connections to Australia you might find it interesting to see how things are done in another country, especially if there are likely to be changes to the system in your own country.
A report published this week recommends that mothers wait at least a year between giving birth and getting pregnant again - in order to reduce health risks to mother and baby. Looking at the baptisms and births of the children born to my ancestors I know that the gap between the confinements varied widely from one family to another, but I've never attempted to analyse whether one pattern related in a lower rate of infant death than the other.
Of course, earlier generations didn't have nearly as much control over pregnancy as we do today, and the fact that one mother became pregnant more quickly than another is more likely to reflect fertility (and general health) than any conscious decision. We also know (see this article from last month) that even today, miscarriages are much more common than previously thought.
Nevertheless it's always interesting to reassess what we know about our ancestors in the light of new discoveries.
I'm delighted that Dr Donald Davis, who discovered the only known household schedules to have survived from the 1841 England & Wales Census accepted my offer to write an exclusive article for this newsletter. Dr Davis was one of the star presenters at the Genealogy in the Sunshine conferences I ran in Portugal:
Before census records came online we used to crank through microfilm. The Census Enumeratorsí Books were available to us on film in their entirety. In the absence of indexing and other finding aids we would go cross-eyed looking for an elusive ancestral family in Districts we thought likely to be their home. l will never forget the day when I found a great grandfather in the census at the Family Records Centre. My excitement caused a stir. Neighbouring researchers came to see and learn that the nineteen-year-old Fulham rope-maker on my screen was this third generation Canadianís first discovery of an ancestor in the old country.
In 2004 I was simply looking for my people. It would be several years before I craved context for their lives. My focus grew from family to locality. It was again the census records which were the best source. I could, for example, compare my ancestral families to their neighbours, see who they likely went to school with and what the other parents did to make a living.
I became interested in the enumeration process itself. I was curious to know who it was who came to my relativesí doors, collected their household schedules and spent many hours transcribing their data onto the pages I was combing through. The original microfilming of the enumeratorsí handiwork told me who these folks were and much more.
Today much of this contextual information is hidden from us. Allow me to explain using the 1841 Census of England and Wales. If you scroll through the digital images on one of the commercial websites you can see page numbers at the top in the centre and in the upper right on alternate pages the folio number in larger, darker type. You will note that there are missing folios at the beginning and at the end of each and every Enumeration District.
Every Census Enumeratorís Book (CEB) has four Ďfoliosí at the start. A folio is a sheet with a front and a back, hence two pages. The first page of the first folio identifies the County, the Hundred etc., the Parish, Township, City etc., the Superintendent Registrarís District, the Registrarís District and finally the No. or No.ís of the Enumeration District(s) covered by this enumerator and contained in this CEB. The second page of the first folio is blank.
The first page of the second folio is a description of the Enumeration District created by the clerks in London on the advice of the local Registrar. It is helpful to note where the District fits in the hierarchy of jurisdictions. This will be an aid to finding other relevant public records. It ends with a description of the places within the District which the Enumerator is being directed by his Registrar to visit. The second page of the second folio is blank.
The first page of the third folio is ďto be shown by the Enumerator to any Person refusing to answer, or questioning his authority to require an Answer, or giving an Answer which he suspects to be false.Ē This is a threatening extract from the 1840 Act for taking account of the Population of Great Britain. It states† the stiff monetary penalties which will be imposed by a magistrate on any person who refused to provide information to the enumerator or who willfully gave false answers. The second page of the third folio provides detailed directions telling the enumerator precisely how he (they were all men until 1891) was to fill in each of the columns in the Enumeratorís Schedule.
The first page of folio 4 is ĎAn Example Enumeration Schedule showing how entries may be madeí. All 30,000 enumerators in 1841 were provided with a fictitious rendering of the parish of St Saviour in the Borough of Southwark. Did your enumerator pay close attention to the examples given him to emulate? The second page of folio 4 is page 1 of the Enumeration Schedule- the meat and potatoes of the census which is faithfully included on all online sites.
Following these census pages documenting householders there are three or more additional pages not seen online. The first is a ĎSummary of Totals in the Foregoing Pagesí. Each printed summary page can accommodate between 20 and 80 page summaries depending on the size of that particular Enumeration District. What is summarized? Number of Houses: inhabited, uninhabited and building ( under construction). Number of Persons who abode therein: Male, Female. These data are useful to the demographer or local historian and could be created from scratch using the published Schedules. They are useful to the curious family historian wishing to easily compare an ancestral household size or gender balance to others in the District.
The second page comprises three Tables to be completed by the enumerator. These tables have the potential to provide clues to the whereabouts of persons not otherwise captured in the Schedules issued to every household. There are three as follows:
Computed number of Persons (if any) who, on the night preceding the day of enumeration, have slept within the Enumeration District in boats or barges, or other small vessels remaining stationary in canals or other inland navigable waters, in mines or pits, in barns or sheds, in tents or in the open air, or who from any other cause, although within the District, have not been enumerated as inmates of any dwelling-house. This table provided columns for Males, Females and a Total for each of the five categories just mentioned. Below this Table is a blank space wherein ďthe Enumerator may shortly state the causes.Ē
A second Table is to be completed ďif any temporary influx of persons into the District, or temporary departure of persons from it, shall have caused a considerable increase or decrease of the Population of the District at the time of Enumeration.Ē The Enumerator is requested to state the probable amount of such increase or decrease, the causes to which either may be ascribed, and the kind of persons thus added to or deducted from the ordinary Population. Again a Table has columns for Males, Females and Totals and a space for the Enumerator to ďstate the supposed cause, and the kind of persons of whom such increase or decrease consistsĒ.
A third table states the number of Persons known to have emigrated from the District to the Colonies or to Foreign Countries since December 31, 1840. Columns are for Males, Females and a Total.
The third and last of the pages following the Schedules is for certifications. There are three tiers. The first was for the enumerator with his signature and date. Did your enumerator submit his work early or late? Procrastinators were sometimes struggling with the assignment.† The second and third were for the dated signatures of the Registrar and his Superintendent. Delays can be suggestive of corrections having been required.
As a student of the first modern census (with the pedantry gene mentioned in Peterís recent newsletter) I look forward to the day when the missing data will be accessible to us online. Whilst the tables mentioned were typically left blank, when they were completed they shed light on the social history of that District. I have examples of CEB tables completed by enumerators who provided names and ages of persons working overnight in mines and others who named persons who had recently emigrated to the Colonies.
© Donald Davis 2018
Those of you who began your census research on microfilm, as I did, will be familiar with the additional pages that Dr Davis describes - but, like me, you might not have taken much interest in them at the time. Some of the pages can be viewed online, but by no means all of them - and whilst this might not greatly affect run-of-the-mill genealogy, if you're carrying out more in-depth research you'll want to have all the information you can get.
In the next newsletter I'll have another guest article - this time from Professor Rebecca Probert, whose knowledge of marriage law and practice over the centuries continues to astound me.
According to an article published today on the BBC News website the success of IVF treatment is leading to fewer adoptions - over the past 40 years the number of adoptions in England & Wales has fallen by 62%.
A recent research paper looks at adoption reunions - you can download it free here. The sample is small, but the long-term outcome seems to have been positive on balance, though rather better for adoptees than for birth parents. However this research is based on contacts made through the Adoption Contact Register for Scotland between 1996Ė2006, and the fact that both the adoptees and birth parents chose to register indicates that they were predisposed to a reunion.
How different it must be for those who only discover they were adopted after taking a DNA test, and the birth parents who are only identified as a result of a family member testing - it's really important that adoptees tread very carefully when approaching members of their birth family.
Whilst many readers of this newsletter are adoptees, and some of you are birth parents (though, in the case of birth fathers, you might not even know that your liaison led to a child), I know too that some of you are adoptive parents. All too frequently we look at adoption from the point of view of the adoptees in their hunt for their birth parents, forgetting the impact that this will - not might - have on their adoptive parents.
If you are an adoptive parent I'd like to know what the experience is like from your side, so that I can address this topic in more detail in a future newsletter. As ever, you'll find my email address in the email that told you about this newsletter.
I can't imagine that any reader of this newsletter is a murderer or rapist, nor would I expect people like that to have an interest in researching their family history (except, perhaps, in a genealogical mystery novel - see for example this review). So the only way theyíre going to get caught as a result of DNA evidence left behind is if their DNA is "already in the system", or if some of their relatives have taken an autosomal DNA test and uploaded the results to GEDmatch.
The tale of how the Golden State Killer was caught has been told many times over the past few months, but this CBS News story is well worth reading - watch the video. For another view see this Time magazine article.
As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach some of the biggest providers of DNA tests are out to secure your business, offering some useful discounts against their normal prices. I'll update this article if, as I suspect, other companies announce offers after the newsletter is published.
For almost everyone who reads this newsletter the Ancestry test is the one to choose, and that would be my recommendation even if it was more expensive. Why? Because DNA testing is all about finding cousins, and with more than 10 million results in their database - far more than any other provider - Ancestry are likely to provide more useful matches than anyone else.
The important thing to remember is that you can transfer Ancestry results to some other sites, but you can't go the other way round - so to find the maximum number of cousins you've got to test with Ancestry. Of course, most of the cousins you'll find will be distant cousins, but that'll always be the case - because we have far more distant cousins than we do close cousins.
I first tested over 6 years ago. I've now tested with Family Tree DNA, Ancestry, and 23andMe as well as transferring my results to GEDmatch, Living DNA, and MyHeritage. Put it this way - I've made the mistakes so that you don't have to, all you need to do is follow my recommendations.
Ancestry.co.uk (UK only) £69 plus shipping ENDS 20TH NOVEMBER
Ancestry.com (US only) $59 plus taxes & shipping ENDS 21ST NOVEMBER
Ancestry.ca (Canada only) $99 plus shipping ENDS 14TH NOVEMBER
Ancestry.com.au (Australia & New Zealand) $109 plus shipping ENDS 20TH NOVEMBER
23andMe (US & Canada) $69 for one kit, $49 each when you buy 2 ENDS 23RD NOVEMBER
At the moment you can transfer your DNA results free to MyHeritage - but only until the end of November.
I don't recommend testing with My Heritage - Ancestry is a better choice (see above for my reasoning) - but if you have already tested elsewhere it's worth transferring your results in the hope of finding extra matches. As I'm about 6% German I was attracted by the fact that they sell tests in some European countries where Ancestry donít offer their test (such as Germany).
On the LostCousins Forum we've been discussing online trees, with particular reference to Ancestry, and whilst we started by looking at the pros and cons of public trees vs private trees, it soon became apparent that there is ample scope for improvements that would benefit everyone. So we're currently trying to come up with a package of suggestions to put to Ancestry, and whilst this might seem to some like trying to stop an oncoming train with your bare hands, I donít believe they could have become the world leaders in the genealogy industry by ignoring what their customers wanted.
If you are a member of the forum youíre welcome to join in - but please remember that we're no longer debating the merits (or otherwise) of public trees, the discussion has moved on. If you've been invited to join the forum but haven't, this would be a great time to get involved; if youíre not sure whether you've been invited or not, just check your My Summary page - either you'll find a link and a code, or a message asking you to add more entries to your My Ancestors page.
Note: the forum is an exclusive, completely free benefit for LostCousins members who are doing their utmost to connect with the other members who are their 'lost cousins'. Some parts of the forum can be viewed by non-members, but even in the open areas only forum members can post messages or view attachments.
Following the article in the last issue it has now been confirmed that Free UK Genealogy are pushing ahead with their plans to make their data freely available under an Open Data licence - subject to the agreement of individual transcribers, many of whom have already consented.
Just imagine how helpful it would be if the General Register Office could compare their online indexes of births and deaths against the indexes produced by FreeBMD (which are based on the contemporaneous GRO indexes) - it could provide a cost-effective means of identifying and correcting transcription errors. And bearing in mind that the cost of correcting those errors is paid by us, the users, keeping costs down is clearly important.
Note: there are some who argue that publicly-collected data should always be free - but the reality is that the cost of digitising and transcribing records has to be paid for somehow. Records are almost always free if you go to the record office that holds them, but if you want to take away a copy, or prefer the convenience of accessing the information from your own home, you'll usually have to pay. Which makes sense - because governments donít have any money of their own, ultimately it all comes from taxpayers like you and me.
I take great care to avoid discussing politics in the newsletter, but it isnít possible to completely avoid all contentious issues - I'd not only be letting you down, I'd be letting myself down. I believe that there are at least two sides to every argument, and I wouldnít want to live in a world where opinion was so polarised that one side couldn't have a sensible discussion with the other - that's how wars begin!
I've changed my mind on a lot of issues over the years, and I believe that the fact I've done this demonstrates strength - not weakness, as some might suppose. When circumstances change, or new facts come to light, it would be irrational not to reconsider my position, and I'd be surprised if most of you didn't feel the same way.
So if you read something in this newsletter that you donít agree with, please bear in mind that I might not be stating my own position, but putting the other side of the coin in order to ensure that issues are properly debated. One of the consequences of this is that I refuse to publicise online petitions, because they only ever present one side of the argument - indeed, one might argue that they're just another part of the filtering process that promotes division within society.
If you want to dispute something you see in the newsletter please don't email me until you've re-read it, slowly and carefully, and followed any links in the article - there's nothing worse than getting emails from someone who clearly hasn't read what I actually wrote. I want to get you thinking, not reading between the lines, and if you send me an email which demonstrates that you haven't engaged your brain it's hardly likely to be persuasive (and might well elicit a shirty response, especially if youíre one of the lazy so-and-sos who isn't taking part in my project to connect cousins around the world).
Why do I want to get you thinking? Partly because researching your family tree requires the use of cool logic, and if you want to get to the truth about your own ancestors you may well have to discard the rosy images that you grew up with - after all, some of us must be descended from liars, cheats, bankrupts, drunkards, bigamists, rapists, wife-beaters, or murderers. Were the mothers of my illegitimate ancestors good-time girls or rape victims - or simply victims of circumstance? What about yours?
But another reason to get you thinking is because there is a lot of evidence that exercising our mental powers helps to stave off dementia - and, given that most readers of this newsletter are of my generation, researching your family tree is probably one of the best ways to prolong your active life.
Note: if the title of this article sounds familiar, it's because I borrowed it from Joni Mitchell - you can hear her thoughtful song here.† Whilst tracking down that clip I also came across this wonderful black and white footage of Bob Dylan performing 'Mr Tambourine Man' at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 - don't miss it!
If you are of my generation you'll probably recognise the phrase "Prolongs Active Life" from the dog food adverts. I've discovered a site that lists many of the British TV ads that I remember, starting from 1955 - when ITV started - through to 1990, by which time I was fast-forwarding through the ads on my VHS player.
Although that site doesnít reproduce the ads, many classic TV adverts can be found on YouTube - for example, you'll find British examples from 1950s and 60s here and here, and Australian ads from the 60s and 70s here.
Murderous Contagion: A Human History of Disease is a reminder that we are remarkably fortunate to live in an age when doctors can cure most of our ailments - other than †old age, and the diseases of old age. The fact that we're so focused on cancer is, I suspect largely because most other diseases have been eradicated from the developed world, or can be treated with remedies of one kind or another.
I mentioned a couple of months ago that it's not so very long since England was blighted by malaria, spread by the mosquitoes that bred in the marshlands of Essex, Kent, and Sussex - but typhus and tyhoid (two different diseases that are often confused) and cholera continued to take lives, especially those of the poor, through most of the 19th century. My great uncle Ernest died of typhoid fever in New York in 1893 - whilst it could have been contracted during the voyage from Southampton it's more likely that he caught it after his arrival. Perhaps he had the misfortune to meet Typhoid Mary (Mary Mallon), who migrated to the US a decade earlier, and was certainly in New York by 1900.
Mary Dobson's book covers a wide range of diseases. We now have remedies for, or at least a better understanding of, most of them but that doesn't mean they're no longer a threat. I was fortunate that when I caught dengue fever I didn't develop dengue haemorrhagic fever, which is often fatal - and that my childhood scarlet fever (only mentioned in passing in this book) didnít cause any lasting damage. Diseases which get a lot of attention in the book include tuberculosis (which continued well into the 20th century, killing my uncle and several of my ancestors), puerperal fever (which killed many young mothers), and plague - which we think of as a mediaeval disease but still lingers.
The way in which the author describes the 'story' of each disease, explaining how it was initially misinterpreted, how solutions were often rejected by the establishment, and how it was (in most cases) eventually conquered or eradicated, is a reminder of how far we've come in our understanding. Diseases that were thought to be caused by miasmas - bad air - are now known to be spread by bacteria or viruses. And yet our understanding of 'modern' diseases - such as cancer, dementia, diabetes - is still at a fairly rudimentary level.
If you really want to understand how fortunate you are to have been born at all, read this book - it will leave you in no doubt as to how precarious life was for our ancestors, and this applies whether they were rich or poor!
I read the Kindle version which is a lot cheaper than the paperback (although there were some used copies at good discounts when I last looked) - but you have to decide what works best for you, given that it's the sort of book you're likely to be referring to time and time again. Whichever version you choose you can support LostCousins when by using the links below (even if you end up buying something completely different):
Florence Nightingale gets mentioned several times in Mary Dobson's book - and rightly so - even though, like many of her contemporaries she was a believer in the miasma theory. So I was impressed when Lesley told me that her grandmother had sat on Florence Nightingale's knee - probably around 1887-88.
Does anyone else have a connection to Florence Nightingale?
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'm sorry, there's no room for my Peter's Tips column this time, but hopefully it'll be back in the next issue.
© 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?