Newsletter - 1st October 2017
Worldwide savings at Findmypast ENDS SUNDAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 22nd September) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search below (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):
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Worldwide savings at Findmypast ENDS SUNDAY
Earlier this month I arranged an exclusive discount deal with Findmypast, but it only applied at their UK site. Now I know why - they were planning an international offer!
But you'll have to be quick - whereas my exclusive offer ran for nearly a fortnight, you've only about a week to take advantage of this one (it ends at midnight, London Time, on Sunday 8th October). You'll also have to be careful to use my link (below) if you want to support LostCousins and qualify for a free LostCousins upgrade.
So what's on offer? Findmypast are giving a handy 10% discount on all NEW 12 month subscriptions at their UK, Ireland, and Australian sites, and on NEW 12 month Premium subscriptions at their US site. And, since Findmypast offer a generous 15% discount to subscribers who renew, you can look forward to paying even less in 12months' time (assuming there are no price changes).
Note: the Australian site incorrectly shows the expiry date as 8th September, rather than 8th October, but the offer still works provided you are not logged-in to Findmypast when you click the link above.
All World subscriptions are the same, providing unlimited access to the entire Findmypast collection, which includes over 8 billion historical records and articles, including many which aren't available elsewhere, such as the 1939 Register for England & Wales, the British Newspaper Archive, and parish registers that no other site has.
If you take up Findmypast's offer I'll give you a free LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 for supporting LostCousins - just make sure that:
(1) you haven't installed ad-blocking software;
(2) tracking is enabled in your browser (it will be unless someone has changed the setting); and
(3) when you click the link you can see the words 'content=LostCousins' on the browser command line when you arrive at the Findmypast site (it might be off the screen, but if so just place the cursor on the command line and move to the right until you see it)
Why is this important? Your LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us - get it wrong and we'll all lose out!
To claim your free subscription just forward to me the email receipt that Findmypast will send you (you can use any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one I wrote from to tell you about this newsletter). Please make a note of the precise time of your purchase in case the email doesn't arrive - I must have that time to confirm your entitlement. Your LostCousins subscription will run from the date of your Findmypast purchase unless you already have a subscription, in which case I'll extend it by 12 months.
Feel free to circulate a link to this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.
Ancestry have just added the registers for most parishes in Derbyshire, with millions of baptisms, marriages, and burials - you can search the records here.
Although I don't have any ancestors from Derbyshire - to the best of my knowledge - I'll be analysing the records for people called Calver, since many people think that the surname originated there. (There's a village called Calver close to Eyam, the parish that was devastated by plague.)
Until recently Ancestry had exclusive rights to publish parish registers for Warwickshire - now Findmypast have uploaded millions of Warwickshire records, most of them backed by images of the relevant register entries.
Will this be the start of a new phase of competition between the two big sites, I wonder? Although searching is free at both sites, at Ancestry you have to pay to see any useful information.
You can search Findmypast's Warwickshire records if you follow this link.
Researching ancestors who lived in England & Wales is usually fairly straightforward until we get back to 1841, the date of the first census, and 1837, the year that civil registration began. But then it becomes much tougher, for a number of inter-related reasons. In this masterclass I'm going to first talk through the problems, and then explain how you can overcome them.
Why we need to use different techniques
When we're researching after 1837 we can refer to the GRO indexes, which (in theory at least) list everyone who was born, or married, or died in England & Wales. Once we get to 1841 we can refer to censuses which (again, in theory) list everyone in the country on a certain night. Best of all, those indexes and censuses are available online, so anybody anywhere can get access to them.
But before 1837 we don't have either of those available to us - prior to the introduction of civil registration parish registers are by far the best sources of early information (and often the only surviving documents that name our ancestors). Most people were baptised, most of those who have descendants alive today got married, and the one thing you can be sure of is that they eventually died, in which case they'll almost certainly have been buried somewhere.
However, even though the vast majority of baptism, marriage, and burial registers have survived, the registers are scattered across the nation. In most cases the original registers are held by the county record office, which means you cannot go to any one record office - not even the National Archives - and expect to find all the baptisms for (say) 1797. Indeed, even if you visit the repository of the registers you're seeking the chances are you'll only be able to view them on microfilm.
Many registers have been transcribed, often by volunteers, and in some cases the transcriptions have been made available online. However you can't just go to one website and search through every parish register that has ever been transcribed, because some transcriptions are available at one site, some at another - and even if you have the time to visit them all, many of the transcriptions are only available at subscription sites, so you may not be able to access them. Furthermore, some of the transcriptions are only available on CD ROM or on microfiche - usually through family history societies - and many registers have NEVER been transcribed
Faced with such a different situation some researchers just give up - research pre-1837 is so different that they are scared to even try. Some try, but fail - either because they don't fully understand how best to make use of the available resources, or because they don't realise just how much is available to them.
Because of the way that records are scattered across the country, across the Internet, and across different media, it's tempting to adopt an unfocused "where shall I try next" approach. Now, I'm not a professional genealogist, but one thing I do know is that professional genealogists always search logically and methodically, and above all they record where they have searched and what they have searched for. I can't count the number of times members have written to me saying they've searched everywhere for a certain baptism, yet when pressed they can't tell me which parishes they've searched, which periods the searches covered, or even - in some cases - precisely what surnames and spellings they looked for.
Start by gathering the evidence
First collect all the evidence that indicates - no matter how obliquely - where and when your ancestor is likely to have been born. Sources of information will often include early censuses, marriage certificates, and death certificates - all of which can be helpful, but can also be misleading.
Many people didn't know where they were born, so often the birthplace they gave when the enumerator came round is the place - or one of the places - where they grew up. Some people didn't know how old they were - they might have known when they were born, but that isn't the question on the census form. It asks for their age, and not everyone was capable of subtracting one year from another, particularly if the years were in different centuries.
Remember too, that it was the householder who was responsible for completing the form (or supplying the information to the enumerator) - the ages and birthplaces of adopted children, stepchildren, servants and visitors are particularly unlikely to be correct.
Search the IGI
Your next step will often be to search the International Genealogical Index at FamilySearch; the IGI probably has more parish register entries than any other website, and yet it's free! Now and again I'm lucky enough to find someone who looks as if they may be my ancestor, and has a sufficiently rare name that there are unlikely to have been two of them around in the same place at the same time. However, not many names are that rare - indeed, many of the surnames we now think of as rare were once quite common in certain parts of the country.
There are two types of entries in the IGI - those that are described as Community Indexed and those that are Community Contributed. The former are extremely reliable, but the latter are very variable - for example, there are many entries which are clearly not taken from parish registers and are often simply conjecture. I suggest you start your search with the Community Indexed entries; if you do extend your search to the Community Contributed entries be sure to check your findings against the parish registers before incorporating them into your research.
If you don't find the entry you're seeking in the IGI it's usually because the register that contains the entry hasn't been transcribed and included in the index. Although FamilySearch has at some point microfilmed most of the surviving parish registers, only about half have been transcribed and indexed - so half the baptisms and marriages you're looking won't be in the database at all.
Tip: hardly any burials for England & Wales are included in the IGI.
How can you find out which registers are included? The simplest way is to refer to Steve Archer's site (which covers Scotland and Ireland as well as England & Wales). As well as listing the years of coverage by parish and by event the site also gives the relevant batch numbers - searching by batch number is not only a great way to limit your search to a specific parish, it's a great way to overcome transcription errors or entries that have been recorded incorrectly by the clergyman who conducted the service (when you omit the person's name you'll get a listing of all the entries in the batch).
What should you do if the parish you're interested in is included in the IGI, but you still can't find the entry you're looking for despite searching through the relevant batch (in case there has been a major transcription error)? This suggests that the event didn't take place where you think it did, or when you think it did - or didn't take place at all (not all children were baptised).
Find out which other parishes are nearby
There are at least two ways to do this. One is to use a 'parish locator' (such as the free ParLoc program) to get a list of all the parishes around the town or village where you believe your ancestor to have been born or married. In the country you might use a 5 mile radius, but in London that could give you a list of 100 or more parishes - so a radius of 1 or 2 miles might be more appropriate.
Tip: the nearest parish church may have been in a different parish - the size and shape of parishes varies enormously.
If you haven't been able to find the baptism or marriage you're looking for in the IGI this strongly suggests that it's recorded in a register that isn't included in that index, so you should go back to Steve Archer's invaluable website to find out which parishes aren't included in the IGI for the relevant period - and they’re the ones that to focus your attention on.
However my preferred solution is to use the maps at FamilySearch - these are wonderful but only cover England & Wales.
At the old FamilySearch site you were limited to the IGI, which hadn't been added to for many years - but the new FamilySearch site has a wealth of other records. For example, there are 69 million baptisms in the dataset described as England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, and 16 million marriages under England, Marriages,1538-1973. Many of these entries are also found in the IGI, but some are different. I believe these records sets are based on the Vital Record Index which was previously distributed on CD ROM.
Tip: many of the FamilySearch records will also be found at Ancestry and/or Findmypast; similarly Findmypast have provided FamilySearch with indexed census transcriptions. Being able to search the same records at multiple websites can be useful, but be careful not to pay for records that you could get for nothing elsewhere!
Although you can search all of the transcribed parish register entries with a single search from the FamilySearch home page, you won't find any records that are only present as unindexed images. It's therefore essential that you're aware of the unindexed images at the FamilySearch site that may be of relevance to your research.
To find out which records FamilySearch has for a particular country, click on the map that you'll find here.
The list of records is divided into two sections, transcribed records and untranscribed images. A camera icon indicates which of the transcribed record sets have images associated with them, but this doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to view those images, as some are only available within an LDS Family History Centre.
Tip: an often overlooked feature of the new FamilySearch site is the 'wiki', which provides information about individual parishes, often including details of online sources of register transcriptions (follow this link to see an example).
Another free site with a large collection of transcriptions is FreeREG - at the time of writing it has almost 20 million baptisms, over 6 million marriages, and over 14 million burials in its database. However, they're not evenly spread across the country: some counties are very well catered for (Norfolk in particular), but others less so - however it's fairly easy to see what is and isn't there. Other volunteer-led projects include the Online Parish Clerk sites: they don't exist for every county, but the counties with by far the best coverage are Cornwall, with over 2.2 million entries last time I checked, and Lancashire with nearly 8 million records.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the contents of some parish registers were published as books, and your best chance of finding them is through sites such as the Internet Archive, another free site, where a search for (say) 'Kent parish registers' brings up a long list of registers that have been printed in book form and digitised for all to see (you'd pay to see some of these records as subscription sites!). Another similar site is Google Books - inevitably there is a big overlap between the two.
A straightforward Google search is always worth trying, as quite a few individuals have transcribed parish registers and posted the results on their own websites, and some record offices have information that you can search free online, for examples Hertfordshire has a range of records including a marriage index, whilst Medway Archives have posted registers for their part of Kent online (not transcribed, but at least they are at your fingertips - and free).
Subscription and pay-per-view sites
An increasing number of parish registers and/or register entries are becoming available online at Ancestry and Findmypast. When I first wrote on this topic in February 2010 - less than 8 years ago - there were NO register images available at either site, but now you can search Birmingham, Derbyshire, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, Liverpool, most of London, Manchester Cathedral, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, West Yorkshire, and Wigan at Ancestry, and Cheshire, Devon, Hertfordshire, most of East Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Plymouth & West Devon, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Westminster, much of Yorkshire, and most of Wales at Findmypast.
Note that there is little duplication - archives generally license their records on an exclusive basis, at least for the first 5 or 10 years, which is why most serious researchers end up subscribing to both of the two big sites (though not necessarily at the same time). Many public libraries, especially in England, have a subscription to Ancestry or Findmypast, sometimes both - so it's worth checking what's available in your area.
Tip: many cities and metropolitan boroughs have a record office which holds the registers for their area, so that, for example, the Lancashire collection at Ancestry doesn't include records for every town that was originally part of the county. However Findmypast's Cheshire collection does include Stockport, and also Warrington - which is now in Cheshire, but was previously part of Lancashire.
Although there are no images, the National Burial Index at Findmypast has over 12 million entries from 37 counties across England & Wales, and around 90% of the entries are pre-1837. Findmypast also has an extensive range of transcribed parish records thanks to their relationships with the Society of Genealogists and the Federation of Family History Societies.
Durham Records Online has 3.5 million transcribed records from County Durham and Northumberland. The Joiner Marriage Index has over 2.7 million marriage records from nearly 5000 parishes in 35 counties.
Essex Record Office offer online access to most of their parish register collection - and whilst the subscription is quite steep at £85 a year (the cheapest subscription is £10 for one day), for many people with Essex ancestors it's the most practical solution; many Essex wills are also included. I live in Essex, but it would cost me more to drive to Chelmsford and back than to buy a 24 hour subscription, not least because of the cost of parking when I get there. On the other hand, a visit to ERO would allow me to access a wide range of other records which aren't available online.
Society of Genealogists library
Many of the largest collections of transcribed records held by the Society of Genealogists are available online to members: these include Boyd's Marriage Index, which has particularly good coverage in some of the counties (eg Suffolk and Essex) that are least well represented in the IGI; for a PDF list of all the online collections click here. Many of the records, including Boyd's Marriage Index are also available through Findmypast.
The Society of Genealogists has many more records in its library, including an amazing collection of records on CD ROMs and microfiche collected by family history societies and other organisations. In August 2017 an enormous collection of microfilms which were previously held by the LDS London Family History Centre was added. Non-members can use the SoG library on payment of a fee, which ranges from £5 for 2 hours to £18 for a full day - more details are available here.
Record offices and archives
When you're within striking distance of the relevant record office there's no substitute for visiting in person - but check first what's available online so that you don't waste your time there looking up records you could just as easily (or perhaps, more easily) have searched from the comfort of your own home. When I was beginning my research I wasted a lot of time searching parish registers that had already been indexed for the IGI - I should, of course, have focused on the unindexed parishes.
Many record offices and archives will do research on a paid basis - a typical charge is £30 per hour, which sounds a lot but in my experience is usually money well spent. However independent researchers usually charge much less, and some record offices will provide a list (especially if they don't offer a research service themselves). Please bear in mind that the inclusion of a researcher on the list is not necessarily an endorsement of that researcher, but local knowledge can be invaluable.
The importance of the Register of Banns
One of the key reasons we search for the marriages of our ancestors is to find out the maiden names of our female ancestors (of course, if they gave birth after 1837 you'll usually find this information on the birth certificate). If the couple lived in different parishes, which was not unusual, they had to decide which one to marry in - and typically it would be the bride's parish that was chosen. This creates a slight problem, because unless she survived until the 1851 Census we won't know where she was born (and even then, it wouldn't necessarily be the parish where she was living at the time of her marriage).
Fortunately the banns register often comes to our rescue. Most people married by banns, rather than by licence, and if the couple lived in different parishes the banns would necessarily be read out in both, and so would be recorded in the Banns register for both parishes. However, there are not nearly as many banns registers available online as marriage registers - you're more likely to have to have to pay a visit to the record office.
Using the GRO's new online birth indexes
In November 2016 the General Register Office made available online indexes of births and deaths which include additional information. In particular, the mother's maiden name is now shown in respect of births from 1837 onwards, which not only makes it easier to locate the right birth entries, it might enable you to knock down a 'brick wall' without purchasing the relevant certificate(s).
Note: although this Masterclass relates to records from England & Wales, many of the techniques described can also be applied to research in Scotland, Ireland, and other countries.
Many readers commented on the lovely story of George & Jean Spears who died within a few hours of each other having celebrated their 75th Wedding Anniversary a month before - and that was to be expected.
What I didn't expect, however, was to receive an email from a member in Canada who knew the couple well, and was present when they met the Duchess of Cambridge. Indeed, the only reason that the member concerned wasn't in the photograph of that encounter in the BBC article is that it was taken over her shoulder!
If, like me, you watched Downton Abbey from the beginning you will remember that the first episode was dominated by the news that Patrick Crawley, heir-presumptive to the Earldom and the Downton estate (and, it was hoped, the future husband of Lord Grantham's daughter Mary), had perished on the Titanic.
Patrick was in line to inherit because the Earl of Grantham had only daughters: in England male primogeniture determines how titles are inherited, and when there is no male heir a title simply dies out. For example, when the 9th Duke of Portland died in 1990 there were no living male line descendants of Henry Bentinck, the 1st Duke - so the title became extinct.
Note: one Portland title did survive - Henry Bentinck was also the 2nd Earl of Portland, a title he inherited in 1709 on the death of his father Hans William Bentinck. Henry Noel Bentinck was a male line descendant of one of Hans' other sons, and became the 11th Earl of Portland on the death of the 9th Duke in 1990. On his death in 1997 the title passed to his only son, Timothy Charles Robert Noel Bentinck, better known to fellow LostCousins members as the actor Tim Bentinck, who plays David Archer in the long-running radio series, and is a keen family historian.
When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 she succeeded William IV as monarch of the United Kingdom, but she didn't become the Queen of Hanover because there the royal succession was determined by Salic Law, under which no female could succeed so long as there was a male relative. Instead the kingdom was ruled by Ernest Augustus, the 5th son of George III, until his death in 1851; without British protection Hanover was absorbed by Prussia in 1866.
A few years ago I was privileged to attend a tea party at Abbey Farmhouse, the home of Lord & Lady Braybrooke, whose family have owned the Audley End estate for many generations. Abbey Farmhouse is almost opposite the main gate of Audley End House, which was built 400 years ago on the site of Walden Abbey so that the Earl of Suffolk - who was Lord Treasurer to King James - could entertain his employer.
Coincidentally, the very first time I visited the beautiful part of Essex where LostCousins is based was 50 years earlier, when my late parents - having recently acquired their first car - joined the tourists looking over Audley End House. I suspect they would have been amazed to know that half a century later I would be taking tea with the family.
You're probably wondering what joins these stories together…. well, in June this year the 10th Baron Braybrooke died at the age of 85, having fathered 8 daughters but no sons. As a consequence the title passed to his 5th cousin under the rules of male primogeniture, whilst the estate - which had been run by his daughter Amanda for many years - passed to Louise Newman, the grand-daughter of the 7th Baron, who had declared in his will that if any Lord Braybrooke failed to produce a male heir, the estate should revert to his line.
Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, criticised the outdated inheritance practices that had led to such a situation - though admitting that changing the rules wouldn’t be easy. Nevertheless, in 2015 the laws governing the succession to the British throne were changed (with effect from 28th October 2011, long before the birth of Prince George) so that sons would no longer take precedence over daughters.
Dali wasn't Dadi
Three months ago I wrote about plans to exhume the remains of the artist Salvador Dali in order to determine whether he was the father of Maria Pilar Abel Martínez, a tarot card reader who was born in Girona, Spain. It turns out that Dali wasn't, in fact, her father - so I wonder whether she will now consider testing with Ancestry or Family Tree DNA in the hope of finding out who her father really was?
DNA testing has become popular amongst adoptees (and those conceived as a result of sperm donation) as a way of tracing their genetic parent(s), but it's not something anyone should embark upon without serious consideration.
If you're an adoptee you might think that the worst possible outcome is that you're rejected for a second time by your birth parent(s), but the real tragedy, I suspect, would be to ruin someone's life by turning up out of the blue.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in following the article in the last newsletter. Several members commented how useful it had been for older or less able members of their family to watch funerals online using a similar system to the one I described, but Christine went a step further, organising everything herself so that a relative on the other side of the Atlantic could be a virtual attendee at her mother's funeral.
It got me wondering why such a system should be limited to funerals? Surely there are many relatives who are unable to attend a wedding or christening, but would prefer to follow the ceremony in real time, rather than simply seeing a video after the event?
I love the taste of tap water, so I rarely buy bottled water in the UK - the exception is when I fly, when I usually take advantage of the Daily Telegraph offer (a free 750ml bottle of water when you buy a newspaper at the airport).
On that basis I suppose I could argue that all of the bottled water I buy is shipped by air: but other than the main ingredient this is the only thing it has in common with Svalbardi, water which comes from icebergs that are thousands of years old, and sells at over £60 for a 750ml bottle!
I guess there are people out there with more money than sense (though I doubt any of them read this newsletter!). I shall stick to giving tips for people like me!
Update: 12th October - the extended PDF trial has started at the GRO - it will run for a minimum of 3 months, so there's no need to rush!
© Copyright 2017 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?