Newsletter - 15th October 2019
2021 Census revealed EXCLUSIVE
Ancestry launch DNA-based health service BREAKING NEWS
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 27th September) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):
To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's FREE, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!
2021 Census revealed EXCLUSIVE
In the last issue I mentioned that several LostCousins members were involved in the rehearsal for the 2021 Census (Sunday 13th October was the effective date).
Thanks to those members I now have a copy of the 2021 Census form - you'll find it here on the dedicated site (2021Census.com) that I've created as a repository for information about the 2021 Census. It's rather basic at the moment, but then there isn't much to tell you - I'll update the site as more information becomes available.
Sadly the Office for National Statistics haven't taken up our suggestion that respondents should provide their precise birthplace, and are simply going to ask for the country - as has been the case in every other census since 1961. Since I was born in 1950, my birthplace was stated in the 1951 Census, but anyone younger than me will never have given this crucial information - and that's more than half the population!
Since this could well be the last census of its type it's a shame that the ONS hasn't taken the opportunity to record this information for posterity - even if it was just the county of birth it would help! Unfortunately it looks as if the family historians of the future are going to be faced with quite a challenge!
Tip: the form includes pages for up to 5 members of a household, many of which are essentially identical; the short version, which will download more quickly, includes only the general pages for the household, plus the pages for one individual household member.
Will log-jam seems to be easing
Judging from recent contributions to the discussion on the LostCousins Forum the Probate Service (or rather, their contractors) are at last beginning to clear the backlog of wills, many ordered as long ago as July, and supposedly due for delivery more than 2 months ago.
If you want to contribute to the discussion but are not currently a member of the forum, check your My Summary page to see if you qualify. The forum is a privilege reserved for members who are taking part in my project to connect cousins around the world - and whilst most could qualify, it will require about an hour of your time if youíre starting from scratch. Simply add to your My Ancestors page as many as possible of the relatives you can find on the 1881 censuses (all the information you need is available free online).
Tip: remember that ALL of your living cousins are descended from the branches of your tree, so the fact that your direct ancestors weren't recorded in 1881 makes little difference to your chances of finding 'lost cousins'. A good strategy is to start in 1841, or earlier if you can, then track each twig and branch using censuses and BMD indexes (especially the new GRO birth and death indexes).
Please don't write to me about delays in fulfilling your order - that's what the forum discussion is for - but I would be interested to hear about any discoveries you've made in the wills received recently that have solved a mystery or revealed a new branch of your tree.
When you take an autosomal DNA test your genome is sampled at around 700,000 specific points which are known to vary - but although these positions are defined by reference to the standard reference genome that was generated by the Human Genome Project, the reality is that there is no 'standard'. For genealogical purposes this doesnít matter - the aim is to find cousins who share the same DNA segments, irrespective of what is in the standard reference genome - but when it comes to medical applications, it's crucially important that sections of DNA aren't ignored simply because they don't appear in the reference genome.
A recent study which involved sequencing the genomes of 1000 Swedes (the people, not the vegetables), found 61,000 novel genetic sequences that are missing from the reference genome. Not simply different, but missing. A handful of these sequences were found in genes that can cause disease, and as one of the researchers said "These are sequences that we donít interrogate today because they are not in the human reference genome - so if they are somehow linked to disease, we wouldnít know about it.Ē
Studies of other populations have found similar omissions. Bearing in mind that one of the most promising avenues of genetic research is the possibility of developing medicines and treatments that are customised to the individual, researchers can't afford to ignore sections of DNA simply because they aren't in the reference genome.
Many genetic diseases are very rare - and for good reason, if the sufferers donít live long enough to have children they can't pass on their tainted legacy. This story of a girl with a rare genetic disease provides a glimpse of what might, just might, be possible in the future.
It's well-established - we inherit two sets of autosomes (chromosomes 1 to 22), and one set comes from each parent. Except when it doesn't work like that....
An article last week in The Atlantic reports that a study of DNA from 4.4 million customers of 23andMe and 430,000 donors to the UK Biobank found 675 cases where an individual had inherited two copies of the same chromosome from one parent (and none from the other), a condition known as 'uniparental disomy'.
This doesnít necessarily lead to ill-health - but it can. It could also have a small impact on genealogical DNA testing
Ancestry launch DNA-based health service BREAKING NEWS
Last week Ancestry confirmed their plans to offer genetic health tests direct to consumers, but gave no prices, dates, or other specifics (you can read the Bloomberg article here).
Today the company launched AncestryHealth (which will initially be available only within the US) - you can read the announcement from the CEO, Margo Georgiadis, here. The Core service makes use of existing technology to provide reports on 9 health conditions as well as 8 'wellness' reports. At the same time Ancestry are also introducing a Family Health History tool that can be used to map health conditions onto a family tree.
Ancestry have stated that most existing DNA customers will not be required to submit a new sample. I suspect that these are the users whose test was processed using Ancestry's latest (v2) chip, which was introduced during May 2016 - but if your test was processed using the earlier chip Ancestry wlll provide a new kit free of charge when you sign up for AncestryHealth.
AncestryHealth Core costs $49; AncestryHealth Plus costs $49 per 6 months, plus an initial $49 payment to cover AncestryHealth Core. But many of the advanced features of AncestryHealth Plus won't be available until early next year - it will make use of next generation sequencing technology to examine millions of markers in your genes and provide far more information than is possible with existing, chip-based, technology. If you follow this link you should be able to read more about what AncestryHealth Plus will offer.
Healthcare is, rightly, heavily-regulated - which is why Ancestry are initially launching only in the US. In fact, checking the small print I note that it isn't yet possible to buy AncestryHealth if you live in New York, New Jersey, or Rhode Island. Here in Britain we have a publicly-funded service, the National Health Service, so it will be interesting to see how Ancestry adapt their offering when it eventually launches.
Although the first story had an unhappy beginning, I'm glad to say it had a happy ending (names have been changed to protect the living).
"My adoption story reaches back almost a century, to the years just after the First World War. My mother, brought up by her mother, a single parent 'in service' as a housekeeper in a great many situations, knew that an elder sister had died 'of a fit' before she was born. Her father, she was told, had died 'of shrapnel', though as my mother was born a few years after the war my grandfather can't have been killed in action. My grandmother worked hard to keep her daughter, and no one had ever questioned the story - there were many children without fathers in that post-WW1 generation.
"When my mother was in her 80s she became curious about the sister who had died as a baby. Granny had kept her photo - a lovely child with beautiful curls - 'that was little baby Agnes' she had told me, and cried, but later she destroyed it.
"I started to look for Agnes, found her birth certificate, born to Granny and her soldier husband, a few years after the Great War. But the only death registered in her unusual surname was clearly another child of an unrelated family. I put our family tree on a website - but what to do about Agnes, so long unacknowledged? I decided her short life deserved recognition, and added her.
"A couple of years later I received some curious and, at the time, disturbing emails via that website, from Agnes's daughter-in-law! We had an emotional phone conversation. It turned out that Agnes hadn't died, she had been adopted, her name changed, and was alive and well in another part of the country. The family sent me some documents, including a copy of the lovely photograph (probably an adoption photograph) and the papers for her adoption, which had taken place through a recognised society. They were signed by Granny in her recognisable handwriting. It was amazing that the papers had survived, considering that this was all before adoption was legally-regulated (from 1927 onwards).
"By this time both sisters were in their late 80s, and prevented by frailty and distance from meeting. They spoke on the phone but their initial euphoria (Iíve got a sister!) turned to disappointment.
"Both felt betrayed by my grandmother. Agnes had been given away - 'Why?' she has asked many times, and of course we don't know. Clearly the marriage had not lasted, and probably money was a large factor. My mother felt she had been deceived by her mother who she was very close to all her life, sharing a room and often a bed too, until my motherís marriage. She cared for her mother through many illnesses, and gave her a home until she died aged 72. Granny had never told my mother the truth. Having given up Agnes, she was expecting my mother within a matter of months.
"I went to meet Agnes and felt an instant affinity. She looked, and sounded, and behaved just like my much-loved grandmother. And finally, another family member solved the transport problem and a four-generation group came to meet my mother, by this time in a nursing home. Mother and Agnes, both in wheelchairs, held hands and said You're my sister'. It could have gone either way, but was a magical moment. Sadly my mother died unexpectedly soon afterwards so that was their only meeting - ever.
"Agnes herself is now confined to bed in a nursing home and in her late 90s. She has her own family nearby who care for her and although physically frail she is bright and alert, and takes an interest in everything. She is always a joy to visit and I do feel a great closeness to her, as if she had always been part of my life.
I know there were times when my mother had regrets and didn't cope very well with the knowledge of what she considered her mother's deception. I feel that Granny, having given up her first child, regarded her as dead.† She knew she would never see her again and it was her way of coping. She then struggled to keep my mother in the face of many difficulties.
"We don't know what happened to her husband, who may or may not have been the father of both girls. His military records are a masterpiece of filing and show that he served in both wars, using two names, but after that the trail runs cold.
"So - it has been a rollercoaster ride along the way, and I am sorry that it has caused some sadness and unanswered questions as well as happiness, but I am truly glad that we made the 90-year journey. Granny would have been truly amazed and I hope she would have been glad, too."
In time DNA testing may reveal more of the story. If there is a postscript to the story I hope to be able to bring it to you in a future newsletter. Meanwhile, I'd like to share with you this addendum to a story published last November about a member who had been forced to give up her baby, a little girl, in 1960 (you can read the original article here):
"I have already told you my adoption story and how my daughter found me - I now have an update. Naturally, my daughter had asked me about her father but all I knew was that at some stage he had married and gone to Australia. He never knew I was pregnant as my parents forbade me to contact him.
"Fast forward to a couple of months ago, and the daughter I'd given up for adoption decided to have her DNA done. Imagine her surprise when, before she even realised her results had been put up on Ancestry, she was contacted by someone in Australia. It turned out to be a half-sister who had no idea that her dad had fathered a child previously. Sadly †he had died over 20 years ago, in his late 50s, from cancer.
"Despite this being such a shock for his family in Australia they have all welcomed my daughter with open arms and have told her all about her father. My daughter has sent me photographs of her half-sister and apart from different hair and eye colouring, you can tell instantly that they are sisters. In fact, she looks much more like her Australian family than she does me and my family.
"So the baby I gave up for adoption all those years ago now has a happy outcome to her search for both her birth parents - albeit it too late to actually meet her birth father."
There's no doubt that DNA testing sometimes uncovers secrets that, with the benefit of hindsight, we'd rather not have known about - but almost all the stories I hear are like this one, about families being brought back together - rather than torn apart, as the sensational headlines in the mainstream media would have us believe.
Of course, some of us are more cautious than others, and some of us are more pessimistic about what DNA tests will reveal. If you fall into either of those categories then I recommend you bear in mind that if there is a dark secret in your family history, being involved in the discovery enables you to manage the situation so that the positive benefits are maximised, and any possible downsides are minimised.
Turning your back on DNA risks putting someone else in the driving seat, someone who doesn't have the perspective that reading this newsletter provides - someone who might who might blunder through your family like a bull in a china shop.
You know what they say about "too many cooks", but there are two Cooks who changed the attitude of Britons towards travel.
Captain James Cook was the first European to circumnavigate New Zealand, and to sail to the east coast of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands - where he was killed in 1779. There are no living descendants of Captain Cook, but his legacy lives on thanks to the millions of Australians and New Zealanders of British origins - and in 1934 his parents' last home, known as Captain Cook's Cottage (though it's uncertain whether he himself ever lived there) was moved from the site in Great Ayton, North Yorkshire where it was constructed in 1755, and reassembled, brick by brick in Melbourne, where it still stands.
Coincidentally, Melbourne also features in the story of another Cook: Thomas Cook (no relation to James) was born in the village of Melbourne in South Derbyshire - and he too left a great legacy. Though the travel company that he built eventually succumbed to competition from the Internet (I can't remember the last time I used a travel agent, but it must have been over 20 years ago), it linked an age when most people worked 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year, with no paid holidays, to the current era of several weeks paid vacation time, plus Bank Holidays.
Just one month after the 1841 Census was taken, the first excursion organised by Thomas Cook took 485 people by train from Leicester to a teetotal rally in Loughborough - at one shilling per person for the return journey the cost was 3 or 4 times higher (in relation to wages) than one would pay today, but if you only consider the change in the Retail Price Index it's half the price of today's off-peak tickets. By the time of Great Exhibition in 1851 Thomas Cook's business had expanded so much that he was able to take 150,000 people to London during the five and a half months that it was open to the public.
The first overseas excursion came in 1855, followed by trips to North America a decade later, and in 1869 Thomas Cook chartered two steamships to take travellers up the Nile - this was the same year that the journalist Henry Morton Stanley (born in Wales in 1841, just a few months before Cook's inaugural tour) was commissioned to search for Dr David Livingstone.
Thomas Cook went into partnership with his son, John Mason Cook, who opened a new head office in Ludgate Circus, London - but by 1878 the disputes between the two were such that Thomas decided to let his son take over the travel business that bore his name, whilst he himself set up a chain of coffee and cocoa houses in the Leicester area. You can read more about Thomas Cook on the Story of Leicester website.
Hansard records that in 1991 Thomas Cook was described by Lord (Geoffrey) Rippon as the inventor of the traveller's cheque, but whilst he certainly popularised them from 1874 onwards, they had been in existence for over a century - they were first issued by the London Credit Exchange Company.in 1772, around the same time that centralised clearing of cheques was introduced (bank clerks would meet daily at the Five Bells tavern in London's Lombard Street).
The words "Dr Livingstone, I presume" may never have been spoken by Stanley, but I can remember being told about them at a very early age, possibly at Sunday School. Henry Morton Stanley was commissioned by his editor to find Livingstone - but the task I'm going to set you is to find Stanley!
According to Wikipedia Henry Morton Stanley was born John Rowlands on 28th January 1841 in Denbigh, the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Parry, but brought up in his early years by Moses Parry, his maternal grandfather. Wikipedia and other sources record that his birth certificate referred to him as a bastard, but I've never seen that description on a birth certificate.
I had a quick look for the birth of John Rowlands or John Parry in the GRO birth index, but in the short time available I couldn't find an entry that fitted - nor could I find John in the 1841 Census. I think it's about time that the information on Wikipedia was checked (and updated if necessary), so perhaps the members of the LostCousins Forum can succeed where I failed? If you're not already a member of the forum check to see whether there is an invitation on your My Summary page - please don't write to me direct (this is a challenge for forum members only).
Note: I did find Stanley's autobiography online, but it didnít seem to answer any of my questions.
Christopher Eccleston is one of my favourite actors, but I donít think he did himself any favours when he whinged about his rejection by the makers of Who Do You Think You Are?
Anyone who has followed the programme since the beginning - and it's only a few months younger than LostCousins - will know that numerous celebrities have been rejected over the years because - after a great deal of intensive research - nothing has been discovered that would make the programme both interesting and entertaining for viewers.
My ancestors were also poor and uninteresting (except to me), and even if I became a celebrity overnight it wouldnít make my ancestors any more interesting to the viewers of BBC1. If you want to know more about the workings of WDYTYA? you'll find a talk given by Nick Barratt when you follow this link.
Single - but "on the look out"
A LostCousins member sent me this amusing entry from the 1911 Census:
© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England and by permission of Findmypast.
But much more interesting is what happened next.... I'll tell you more about Miss Eva Burren in the next issue.
If you've taken an autosomal DNA test please consider contributing to the research being carried out by Gabrielle Samuel of King's College:
Iím a social science researcher at Kingís College London University. My research involves looking peopleís views on police searching genealogy DNA databases in as part of their criminal investigations.
Iím looking to speak to people (over 18) from the UK, who have had their DNA sequenced (and/or uploaded this to a genealogy site), about their views on this police searching. I can explain the details of it if you have not heard of it before. It will involve one interview (very casual) of about 30 mins (shorter or longer if you prefer), via phone or in written format.
Unfortunately, Iím unable to compensate you for participating, and for the time and effort you will put into this. Though, I hope that your participation will contribute to building a picture of the types of issues of concern (or not) people have about this technology, which can contribute towards decision-making at the governance level.
If you have any questions or concerns, or if you are happy to participate in the study, please contact me at email@example.com
Note: please don't volunteer if you are a user of social media - Gabrielle already has sufficient participants with that profile.
I first visited the antiques warehouse in Ely, Cambridgeshire a quarter of a century ago, some years before I was inspired to start researching my family tree. When I revisited recently I found an excellent selection of books related to family history, and purchased several. One of them was Clandestine Marriage in England 1500-1850 by R B Outhwaite. Published in 1995, it deals with marriages which were - to use an anachronism - 'under the radar', and which ultimately led to the 1753 legislation that most of us know as Lord Hardwicke's Act.
I suspect the book is out of print - the few new copies available on Amazon are VERY expensive. But there were several used copies available through Amazon Marketplace at around £10 (including UK shipping), or about $20 in North America - I'd snap them up if I were you, as this book is a classic!
I recently commented on the fact that these days, children living at home rarely contribute to the housekeeping, even when they're working. So I wasn't surprised to read this Daily Mail article, which highlights the extra cost of having sons because - on average - they stay at home for 4 years longer.
Being taller than average I tend to walk faster than most - so I was heartened to read that people who walk faster tend to age more slowly (though which is the cause, and which the effect isnít immediately obvious). You can read more about the research in this article on the BBC News site.
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 later this month - then in November I'll have a free genealogical mystery for you to download, not a short story, or a novella, but a whole book!
© 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?
Books mentioned below
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