Newsletter - 4th November 2019
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 25th October) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the hundreds of 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!
We all have our own reasons for researching our family tree - in my case it was to discover whether a family story was true, and having discovered how rewarding an activity it was, I just kept going.
However I'd had that question nagging in the back of my mind for many years - it was only when the 1901 Census launched in January 2002 that I tried to make a start. The only problem was, millions of other had the same idea, causing the website to crash completely - and it wasn’t until September 2002 that the census site was working.
Over on the LostCousins Forum there are dozens of similar stories posted by members - recounting how you got started is a great way to introduce yourself to the other forum users, all of whom are fellow LostCousins members. You can read their stories if you follow this link - you don’t need to be a member of the forum to see what others have posted, but if you've been invited to join (check your My Summary page), why wouldn’t you?
On Wednesday last week Woman's Hour featured an interview with Nicola Dunn, a family therapist who works with people who undergo genetic testing for medical conditions. During her work she has come across quite a few cases where the supposed father of a child can't be the biological father - and it was interesting to hear her talk about the issues.
You can hear the programme on BBC Sounds if you follow this link. The segment starts after 30 minutes and 37 seconds, but at the start of the programme there's another gem - an interview with the wonderful Maddy Prior about the 50th anniversary of the folk-rock group Steeleye Span (who were great favourites of mine in the 1970s).
Note: if anyone reading this knows Maddy Prior please tell her that I stopped going to Steeleye Span concerts a few years ago because the music is so loud that I can’t hear the vocals. Not everyone knows the words of all the songs, and, even if I did, I'd still like to hear Maddy's voice!
This poignant story of adoption in successive generations doesn’t involve a LostCousins member - the lady at the centre of this is Norma Symonds, the Mayor of Bishops Stortford (the town closest to where LostCousins is based).
I've never met her, but I think she was very brave to allow the local newspaper to publish her story - you'll find it here.
My next article involves another Norma, one who - because of a policy that we now find difficult to comprehend - is thousands of miles away.
The scandal of the hundreds of thousands of British Home Children who were exported to the colonies and dominions of the Empire, sometimes against the wishes of their parents, and often after being told that their parents were dead or didn’t want them back, continues to shock.
"Our family lives in New Brunswick, Canada, where my English grandparents were both sent under the child emigration program in the early 1900's. We have known next-to-nothing about our English roots because British Home Children rarely spoke about the families they had been forced to leave behind when they came to Canada as indentured servants.
"It meant so much to my grandfather, Albert Davies, that his twin brother Edward emigrated with him, even though they were separated after their arrival. Though the farms where they worked were not far apart, the boys were not allowed to visit, but they made up for it later: as adults, they were always together, hunting and fishing and pretending to be each other to trick unsuspecting grandchildren.
"After my grandfather passed away at nearly 101 years of age, I decided the time had come to look into our family history. Fortunately, with the advent of the internet, historical records were more accessible and I was thrilled to start building a family tree on Ancestry. My next step was to request my grandparents' personal records from the Middlemore Children's Emigration Home in Birmingham, England (copies could be ordered from the Library and Archives of Canada).
"The story I was able to compile from all these documents has been fascinating. Albert and Edward were born in 1901 in Birmingham to an unwed servant girl named Jane. She was the eldest of 9 children and had been in service since her teenage years.
"After the boys were born they went to stay with Jane's widowed mother and her youngest sister, Helen (you can see the four of them in the photo), while Jane worked to support them.
"When their grandmother grew too old and feeble to care for the twins anymore, Jane was advised to place them at Middlemore Home until other arrangements could be made. She knew there was a chance they could be sent to Canada, but was led to believe she could get them back.
"In the event 11 year-old Albert and Edward were shipped across the Atlantic with a group of other Middlemore children, never to see their family or their homeland again. Their mother got married soon after and tried to get them back, but her desperate pleas were refused. She wrote to her sons for the rest of her life (and her grandchildren remember getting Christmas gifts from England), but she never saw them again.
"We have no idea who the father of the twins was, but my strategy has been to trace the other Davies siblings and try to make contact with living relatives back in England. That has worked out well, since some of them had already been building Ancestry trees that included the same people I was discovering to be my relatives. One cousin was kind enough to visit the home where Albert and Edward had lived with their grandmother and aunt, whom they always referred to fondly as 'Aunt Nell'. This is the same house that is in the background of an old photo of the twins at the age of 6, or thereabouts.
"One day, while scrolling through Ancestry records, I came across this wedding photo, and was struck by a sense of familiarity as I gazed at the young bride.
"On a hunch, I sent a message to the tree owner, Kate, and asked about the people in the photo. I was told that the bride was her aunt, who had passed away recently. When I asked if she had any Davies relatives, Kate confirmed that the lady in the photo was the daughter of Helen - 'Aunt Nell'!
"Then came the astounding news that there was another daughter still alive and well, and Kate offered to put us in touch. Now I receive emails written by the 96 year-old 1st cousin of Albert and Edward! She is, to the best of my knowledge, the last surviving member of that generation of the Davies family. It has been so rewarding to have her share stories and photos of our English relatives, and in turn she has been grateful to learn about the branch of their family that no one realized was missing.
"We still have not identified my great-grandfather, but I'm hopeful that DNA testing will turn up a helpful match some day."
Norma's grandfather seems to have been one of the more fortunate Home Children, but he still found himself thousands of miles from his relatives, including the mother he was never to see again.
Let's hope that DNA testing does solve the mystery of who Norma's great-grandfather was - there should be sufficient information in the trees of her genetic cousins, but the challenge is to make sense of so much information. However, if there's one thing I've learned from this story, it's that Norma has the tenacity and determination to succeed - so I'm sure she’ll soon acquire the necessary skills!
Note: I recently watched the Long Lost Family Special about identical twins who were adopted separately - if you missed it you'll find it here, on the ITV Hub.
Last month I challenged readers who belong to the LostCousins Forum to find the birth registration and/or the 1841 Census entry for the famous journalist Henry Morton Stanley, best known for discovering Dr Livingstone.
It turns out that finding Stanley is even more difficult than finding Livingstone - after more than a fortnight we still haven't solved either of the mysteries (although Gill kindly sent me the photo on the right, of Henry Morton Stanley's memorial in the churchyard at Pirbright, in Surrey).
But even in his own lifetime there were all sorts of stories going around about his origins, so we can't rule out the possibility that he embellished the story slightly.
This extract from the Denbigh parish registers shows the baptism of John Rowlands - later known as Henry Morton Stanley:
Image © Welsh Archive Services / Gwasanaethau Archifau Cymru; used by permission of Findmypast
It looks to me as if the word 'Bastard' was added later, and I also wouldn't rule out the possibility that the mother's surname was a later addition. I wonder if the Bishop's Transcripts have survived?
But please don't write to me, instead post any observations that you may have on the forum - you'll find the discussion here.
If you’re entitled to join the forum there will be a link and a code on your My Summary page - just log-in at LostCousins and look for My Summary in the menu.
If you haven’t qualified yet you'll need to add more entries to your My Ancestors page, but it's hardly a daunting task - provided you focus on the 1881 Census it shouldn’t take more than an hour, even if your My Ancestors page is currently blank.
And there's a bonus - in the process of earning a place on the forum you're likely to find a 'lost cousin', so your time will be doubly well-spent.
Tip: at the forum there are areas for each of the counties of England, Scotland, and Wales - there you'll find links to resources that are too localised to be mentioned in this newsletter.
It's not unusual to find two entries in the baptism register for a child of the same name and the same parents - often this is happens when a child dies, and the parents re-use the name for the next child.
But this isn't the only circumstance in which there will be two entries, because baptism has two key functions, naming the child and receiving them into the church. If a child has been privately baptised (as two of the children were in the extract above) you might find that there are two entries in the register, one for the baptism, and one for the reception into the church. However this varies between parishes and over time - some vicars would annotate the original entry, others might not record the private baptism.
The Church of England discourages private baptisms, as you will see at the start of this extract from the Book of Common Prayer. At the end of the extract there is a special form of wording to be used when it isn’t clear whether a child brought to the church for baptism has already been baptised - this avoids the possibility of baptising the child a second time. Double baptisms are not permitted.
Double birth registrations are rarer, and when they do occur they're easily missed: see the next article for an example.
Double marriages are unusual, but far from unheard of - in most cases I've seen the groom was in the army and required permission to marry. If permission wasn't forthcoming he would marry secretly, then marry 'officially' when permission was eventually given. (See my 2010 article for more information.)
Note: if you have Catholic ancestors you might well find that their marriage was recorded in two churches, one Catholic, and one Church of England.
Last month I wrote about the teenage girl who was described on the 1911 Census as "Single - on the look out" - you can see the census entry again here.
It didn’t take her very long to find a man - but she didn't marry him, and by the end of 1914 she was the unmarried mother of a little girl:
As you can see from the GRO index, the birth was registered twice, first as legitimate (bottom entry) and then as illegitimate. Intrigued? Now take a look at the birth register entries:
As you can see, the birth was originally registered in January 1915 as if Joan was the child of Eva's parents, Francis Burren and Ann (née Wickens); then in March the birth is re-registered, showing Eva as the mother.
It's not unusual for the illegitimate child of an eldest daughter to be registered as the child of the grandparents (see this article from a year ago), and Ann was certainly still young enough to bear children, though her last child was born in 1905. You might think it would be difficult for the daughter to conceal her pregnancy and the mother to invent one, but since they were a farming family they probably wouldn’t have had much contact with the outside world - and they may well have come up with the plan soon after Eva knew she was pregnant.
No, the big difference in this case is that the perjury was subsequently admitted and corrected, which is something I haven’t seen before. Have you?
The project is directed by Dr Romola Davenport of Cambridge University and Professor Jeremy Boulton of Newcastle University, and is well worth a look - even if your pauper ancestors didn’t live in those two cities.
Over the weekend I was reading about another of their projects: it focuses on baptisms, with a particular focus on the age at which children were baptised. I found it fascinating - look out for an article in the next newsletter.
The October issue of The Local Historian, the journal of the British Association for Local History has an article which, while focusing on the identification of field names, provides some useful pointers that will help in the interpretation of medieval documents.
I'm a member of the BALH, so my copy arrived in the post, but the good news is that this particular article is available online for anyone to read - you'll find a PDF copy here.
It's also worth looking at the website of the Institute for Name Studies, which includes an index to the meanings of 14,000 English place names.
Gill wrote to me recently with an example of how finding an unexpected name in a will had helped her to identify a previously unknown branch of her tree:
"As you said in one of your newsletters, wills can be a great source of information - but they can also be a source of disappointment. This week I received some of the wills I ordered from the Probate Service, and trawled through them, trying not to expect too much. In fact, most of them were fairly straightforward and there were few surprises.
"However, one of them proved to be a gem. It was the will of my great-great-great aunt Margaret Hughes, who died in 1894 aged 86. She lived in Sketty, now a suburb of Swansea, and had had more than her fair share of tragedy in her life. She’d had two husbands, both of whom died within five years of marriage. She had had three sons, one of whom died in infancy, one at 10 years old, and the third, William Terry Hughes died in 1873 aged just 33. She and her son William had run a successful ironmongery business in Oxford Street in Swansea. - they were a well-known family. An account of William’s funeral was written up in the Western Mail and it described him as 'highly esteemed'.
"I was curious to know how she’d dispersed her estate – she left just under £3,000, and her executor was my great grandfather John Williams (her nephew). The will entrusted my great grandfather to liquidate her assets and distribute the cash among her nephews and nieces – helpfully all 19 of them were named in the will, along with their mothers’ names. Each was to receive £100 (a substantial sum in those days).
"I picked up two previously unknown ‘cousins’ as a result. I also knew from a letter in my possession that John Williams had taken his time about distributing the legacies and his cousins in the USA had got annoyed with him and had complained about the delay.
"But it was her final bequest of £100 that intrigued me. It simply stated that £100 was to go to 'Jessie Edwards of Waunarlwydd'. I did not recognise this woman’s name at all, but Waunarlwydd was a village on the outskirts of Swansea, so perhaps it was an old neighbour or a friend. So I turned to the censuses and records online.
"Luckily the name Jessie was relatively unusual and so I very quickly found her in the 1891 census, living in Waunarlwydd, a married woman aged 29, the wife of William J Edwards, a miner. Further, the 1901 census entry for William and Jessie included one Annie Atkins, described as mother-in-law, a widow. So this was Jessie’s mother, and this in turn helped me find Jessie’s baptismal entry in the parish records for St Mary’s Swansea.
"The baptism register identified Jessie as 'illegitimate', with no father’s name indicated. But it was the entry in the marriage indexes which answered the conundrum.
"Searching the indexes using her husband’s name, William J Edwards, I found a likely entry, a marriage to a Jessie Hughes - in other words, the same surname as my ancestor Margaret. The marriage record in the parish records confirmed my suspicions. The entry named her as Jessie Hughes, and her father as William Hughes, deceased, an ironmonger. So Margaret had left her granddaughter a bequest without identifying her relationship.
"Why her son William and Annie had not married is anyone’s guess. - we my never know. But now I have a previously unknown branch to investigate!"
If you've ordered wills since the July price cut and are still waiting to receive them, check out the discussion on the LostCousins Forum.
In June last year I wrote about the mystery of 'Somerton Man', whose body was discovered on an Australian beach in 1948, but whose identity had remained a mystery for 70 years. At that time DNA seemed to offer the best hope of identifying him, but permission to exhume the body had twice been refused.
Now the Attorney General for South Australia has given permission, on the condition that taxpayers don't have to pay the cost, estimated at $20,000. You can read the updated story here, on the ABC News website.
When I first started writing about DNA testing, back in 2006, Y-DNA tests were by far the most common - and the most useful.
Because Y-DNA is passed on by males to their sons, it tends to follow the surname - the main exceptions being where there was illegitimacy (when the child typically takes the mother's surname) or adoption. Where one of these has occurred, a Y-DNA test can provide clues to the likely surname of the biological father.
These days Family Tree DNA are the only major provider of Y-DNA tests, and I would caution readers against purchasing Y-DNA tests from any other company (at best they will only be of value as paternity tests and, even then, only if the putative father also tests - they won’t help you research your ancestors).
Tip: although some autosomal DNA tests also examine parts of the Y-chromosome the information they provide isn't compatible with standalone Y-DNA tests. Y-DNA tests are based on STRs (short tandem repeats), repeating segments of DNA, whereas autosomal DNA tests look at SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms), individual letters of DNA that vary between individuals.
Y-DNA tests are relatively expensive because they are 'old technology'. Nevertheless, prices have dropped considerably over the years, and whereas the entry-level test looked at just 12 markers on the Y-chromosome when I first tested, 37 markers is now the minimum.
Advantages of Y-DNA tests
Disadvantages of Y-DNA tests
In the 7 years since I tested I haven't learned anything about my Calver ancestors that I didn’t already know - though it has at least confirmed that there are no illegitimacies or adoptions in that line.
However, I have been able to help some of my cousins in the US: one had an ancestor who was adopted in the 19th century, and he was able to identify the likely father as a result of matching with me. The others bear the surname Culver, which is much more common than Calver in the US, though less common in England - I was able to explain that their ancestors probably changed the spelling after they arrived in the US (the two surnames have different etymological origins).
But ultimately, whether you can benefit from Y-DNA depends on whether there is a suitable donor in your tree. Most of the illegitimate ancestors in my tree were female, so Y-DNA cannot identify their father, but my great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Harrison, was said to be the son of another Joseph Harrison when he was baptised, aged nearly 5, in 1820 - and I'd like to find out whether that was really true.
The only way I would be able to confirm my Harrison ancestry using Y-DNA would be to find a male cousin who bears the surname Harrison - but whilst my great-great-great grandfather had three sons, I've only been able to trace one of them, my great-great grandfather, and his only son died aged 10.
Which of your 'brick walls' can be solved using Y-DNA? Now is the time to check, because there's a big saving to be made.....
It's still over 7 weeks to Christmas and more than 3 weeks to Black Friday (which is on 29th November this year), but some of the top providers of DNA tests are getting in early, with big discounts on offer.
Family Tree DNA are offering up to 40% off their tests until 28th November, but the one to focus on is their Y-DNA test, since they're the only major company offering these tests - see the article above for more information. At $99 (excluding shipping), down from $169, the price is the lowest it has ever been, so now's the time to figure out whether and how you can make use of Y-DNA.
Please use this link when you purchase a test from Family Tree DNA so that LostCousins can benefit. Family Tree DNA will ship to just about any country in the world.
Ancestry have also announced offers - but remember that you must buy from your local Ancestry site. All prices below exclude shipping and are in the currency of the relevant website.
Ancestry.co.uk (UK only) - reduced from £79 to £59 until 24th November
Ancestry.com.au (Australia & New Zealand) - reduced from $129 to $109 until 25th November
Ancestry.ca (Canada only) - reduced to $79 until 7th November
Ancestry.com (US only) - reduced from $99 to $59 until 27th November
Please use the appropriate link so that your purchase can support LostCousins - thanks! Note that you may need to log-out from Ancestry before clicking the link.
When Ancestry first offered DNA tests in 2012 the ethnicity estimates provided were based on just 22 regions - now they're based on over 1000 regions, and you'll find a list of them here.
There are now over 40,000 people in Ancestry's reference panel, more than 10 times as many as there were just a couple of years ago; this enables them to create new regions and provide more accurate estimates. But calculating your ethnicity estimates - or mine - isn’t easy, and this White Paper explains how Ancestry go about it.
You may not understand it all, but it will at least give you a sense of how carefully they go about the process of compiling ethnicity estimates - and also why they change when the reference panel is updated.
There's always one.....
In the early days pioneering DNA test providers came up with all sorts of dubious reasons for unsuspecting members of the public to spend money on DNA tests - remember 'The Seven Daughters of Eve'?
I thought that we'd put all that behind us, but no - now there's a company that claims to be able to tell you which foods are good for you. But before you splash out, take a look at the responses from Twitter users.....
A magazine subscription is "the gift that keeps on giving", and one of the biggest magazine publishers has launched their pre-Christmas sale. Follow this link and use the code XMAS19 to save on dozens of popular titles including Who Do You Think You Are?
Note: if you're not in the UK you may find that the code only works for digital subscriptions.
Make sure you know how to log-in to your LostCousins account because in a couple of weeks' time I'm going to be giving away a genealogical mystery - not a short story, not a novella, but a complete novel which has collected dozens of 4 and 5 star reviews since it went on sale at Amazon a few years ago. It's completely free, but to get it before it goes on general release you'll need to log-in to your LostCousins account.
Not sure how to log-in? No problem - the email that told you about this newsletter includes the email address that's in my records - which won’t necessarily be the one you normally use, or even the one where the email ended up. That email address is your user name, and you can use it to request a reminder of your password when you click the Password reminder link.
(You won’t need a LostCousins subscription to benefit from this offer, but I'd like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who are generously supporting the LostCousins project - without you the independence of LostCousins would be in danger.)
Interest rates keep going down for savers, and whilst there are lots of firms (usually with posh names) offering unfeasibly high returns I'm not reckless enough to speculate. Something that seems too good to be true usually is.
Some years ago I came across someone who was promoting investments in hotels and holiday resorts on the Caribbean island of St Lucia, and I was rather surprised to hear how optimistic he was, since I'd just got back from a holiday on the island (courtesy of Tesco Clubcard) and seen that building sites had been abandoned. Maybe it worked out all right in the end, but there was no way I would have invested in that project.
By contrast I've had money invested with the peer-to-peer lenders Zopa and Ratesetter since they were first recommended to me by two canny LostCousins members in 2012 and 2014 respectively. The returns aren't spectacular - typically 3% to 5% - but it's a lot better than you can get from most savings accounts, and if you join when there's a special offer you can get a bonus. For example, at the moment there's a bonus of £100 when you invest a minimum of £1000 with Ratesetter and keep it invested for at least a year - just follow this link.
Note: I am not a financial adviser - what's suitable for one person might not be suitable for another. Make sure you read the small print!
Thanks to everyone who has sent in recipes following my comments in the last newsletter - not enough for a book yet, so keep them coming! This BBC article about a young woman living frugally might be interesting to some of you - though you might find, as I did, that her concept of frugal and yours are some distance apart. For example, this week I created three meals (each for two people) from a chicken that cost just £1.25 from the reductions shelves in my local supermarket. There were even a few scraps left over for our cat....
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......
That's all for now, but I'll be back in touch soon with news of your free genealogy mystery. In the meantime, if you ever feel that you need cheering up (and I suspect a lot of us do right now), this clip of Dick van Dyke singing 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' in a restaurant should help!
© 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?