Newsletter - 5th September 2017
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 20th August) 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):
Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). If one of the links doesn't work this normally indicates that you're using adblocking software - you need to make the LostCousins site an exception (or else use a different browser, such as Chrome).
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!
On Friday 15th and Monday 18th September the General Register Office will be meeting with user representatives in London and Southport to discuss the latest developments. I and others who attend will be required to sign Confidentiality Agreements so I won't be able to report back to you after the meeting, except in the most general terms, but I wanted readers to know that the GRO are continuing to make progress and - equally importantly - continue to value the input of users.
As you will know, I met with Findmypast last week, and I was favourably impressed by what they are planning for 2017-18, although I can't provide specific details as I was sworn to secrecy. What I can tell you, however, is that they are committed to ensuring that existing subscribers get a fair deal, and so the 15% Loyalty Discount for renewals will be continuing, which is excellent news.
Findmypast's policy is commendable - rather than offer big discounts to new subscribers and make existing customers pay top dollar (as some of their competitors do), they believe in keeping their customers happy.
However I was able to persuade them to come up with an exclusive offer for LostCousins members who take out a new 12 month subscription, although because of the short notice it only applies to their UK site….
From now until midnight (London time) on Sunday 17th September you can save 10% on a new Britain or World subscription at Findmypast.co.uk when you use the link below:
And if you stick with Findmypast, as I suspect you will, you'll benefit from a 15% Loyalty Discount when you renew next year. So at a time when prices generally are going up, the cost of researching your family history could fall!
Whilst the first year discount might be lower, I'm going to make up the difference by giving you a free LostCousins subscription worth up to £12.50 - just make sure that 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).
IMPORTANT: please also check that you haven't disabled tracking in your browser - and ask me for help if you're not sure where to find the setting.
To claim your free subscription 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.
Thanks to everyone who submitted suggestions ahead of my meeting with Findmypast last Thursday. There wasn't time to go through them one by one, so I gave them a two page list of your suggestions together with a handful of my own - I'll be getting feedback from them in the coming weeks.
Because it is such a large site, with thousands of datasets and multiple ways of searching, it was inevitable that quite a few of the suggestions were for features that already exist! The most common 'blind spot' was the Useful Links & Resources section at the bottom right of the Search page - you'll normally have to scroll down to see it, so it's easy to miss. For example, if you're searching an individual census, you'll find links to the preceding and following censuses; if you're searching parish registers there will often be a link to a schedule showing which parishes are included, and giving the dates of coverage (information you rarely, if ever, get at other websites).
Some members had also forgotten about the 'secret' tricks I came up with: these allow you to construct advanced searches that can save you hours of scanning through search results - you can re-read the original articles from last December and this May here and here.
Others hadn't thought to use multiple tabs when searching - I typically keep 4 or 5 tabs, sometimes more, open in my browser at different pages on the Findmypast site. For example, if I'm searching the GRO BMD indexes I'll have one tab for births, another for marriages, and a third for deaths.
Tip: if you’re new to Findmypast, or have struggled to get the results you were hoping for, there's a Masterclass that explains the different ways to search, and why using the A-Z of Record Sets is usually the key to success.
The response to the DNA Masterclass in the last issue was amazing - it seems that many of you had been struggling to make sense of your results until I set out my simple strategies for making the most of the thousands of matches that you'll get when you test at Ancestry. There have been many breakthroughs made over the past couple of weeks, but I'm going to focus on two stories that I'll think you'll find particularly interesting.
Jill had been searching for her great-grandfather Eric Lionel Armstrong (that's him in the photo) for a good 20 years - I'll let her tell you the story in her own words:
"I've been looking for Eric for almost 20 years. He first appears in the 1901 census when he was a coal miner age 21. Later that year when his occupation was a music teacher, he married Lydia Humphries and they had three children. One child died in 1909 and Eric reported the death.
"My mother told me that Eric had left his wife and my grandmother and went to Nova Scotia with the intention of sending for his family, but only the youngest daughter Amy age seven was sent to join him. I went to Kew to search Ship's Manifests from 1909-1912 and eventually found Eric's voyage in March 1912 and Amy's in November 1912 [this was in the days before the passenger lists went online at Findmypast].
"In 2007 I found his bigamous marriage to Martha Stevens in 1913 in Ontario. He had changed his name to Brenhyn Llewellyn Armstrong. Canadian marriage records give the names of the parents, John and Ruth, and also where you're from which was Fernall, Worcestershire. This was confirmed in the 1901 census and eventually the 1911 census and 1921 Canadian census.
"After having searched for Eric's origins for several years I now had another clue - the names of his parents. I searched the Worcestershire 1881 census for couples named John and Ruth with a son aged one and/or two and there was only one, a couple called John and Ruth Gough with their son Eli, and they were living in Fernhill Heath. After the 1891 census Eli couldn't be found anywhere. checked the obvious - marriage, death, emigration, military, newspapers, convictions etc. So Eli disappeared after 1891 and Eric first appears in 1901, and they were both born in 1879 in Fernall (Fernhill Heath). However, I couldn't prove this until I read your newsletter…..
"Eli had a sister called Fanny and I was able to trace her granddaughter who is 82 and lives near Birmingham. She agreed to take a DNA test and yesterday I received the results and we're closely related - 2nd cousins once removed. So thank you once again for the motivation to pursue my theory which has now become fact and it's made me very happy."
Jill had only one regret - that her mother was not still alive to learn the truth about her grandfather. That's the thing about family history - on the one hand there are the questions we wished we had asked while the relatives who could answer them were still alive, and on the other hand there are the discoveries that we would love to have been able to share before our relatives passed away.
(It's because I'm mindful of the latter that I get so angry when certain LostCousins members - you know who you are - keep coming up with excuses, instead of knuckling down and completing their My Ancestors page so that I can connect them with their living cousins….. whilst they're still living!)
Jill and I had an interesting chat about her ancestor's choice of aliases. Jill reckons that 'Eric Lionel' was inspired by 'Eli', and I reckon she's right. As far the transition from Eric Lionel to Brenhyn Llewellyn goes - you'll find that if you look them up, they both have a similar meaning, so one is effectively a translation of the other.
I've corresponded with Chris a lot over the past couple years - and whilst, like many of the older generation, she might struggle with anything technical, what she lacks in that department is more than made up by her persistence and determination. She originally tested, as I did, with Family Tree DNA - for a long time they were the market leaders - but like me, she chose to re-test with Ancestry:
"In the process of entering new names onto my tree I am looking at some Ancestry hints, some of which refer to member trees, which I usually ignore...... but I changed the habit of a lifetime last night and when I clicked on the trees, it told me whether the tree owner was a DNA match. What an easy way to find common ancestors, as the surname link is obvious via the hint! I found two DNA matches via this method and confirmed yet another longstanding 20+ year query in my G*** tree (all mariners, so very mobile and hard to be sure of the right person!) with relatively no effort at all. Can't believe how easy it is.
"I am massively impressed with Ancestry DNA and getting into this has inspired me to investigate further with FTDNA when I have exhausted the possibilities with Ancestry DNA (so no time soon at this rate of success!).
"My success is phenomenal. I have located descendants of just about all my 'dubious' ancestors on various different descendant lines to my own, both in the UK and abroad, to prove my theories. Great stuff! It has also underlined the advantage of having spent hours trawling through hundreds of Parish Records, Seaman's records and other primary data over the years at record offices, searching for possible ancestors and recording any likely candidates, as those 'possible' ancestors are now becoming realities. Most of them are in areas not covered by IGI with no online parish data, so the record office data is invaluable. Things can't all be done online!
"Shame I am so tied up with the new arrivals and grandson as I have so much family history that I want to follow up!!
"Thank you so much for advocating testing with Ancestry, as I had got nowhere with FTDNA. (To be fair I haven't really had time to sit down and get into it properly as I have been so busy this year, but Ancestry DNA doesn't take any intelligence to work out! FTDNA requires more computer confidence and the layout/terminology isn't as easy to comprehend, but I can see that if I spend time on it, I can get to grips with it). It makes all the difference in the world having a tree on Ancestry though. SO easy. I have also traced all my lines' descendants down to as close to present day as possible prior to DNA testing, so that has helped enormously as I recognise a lot of the descendant surnames and can place them in my tree fairly easily."
When I asked Chris whether she would mind me featuring her story in this newsletter she responded in a typically generous fashion:
"Yes, I am all for encouraging others, so use anything you like. I constantly tell people how helpful LostCousins is, not just in finding new cousins, but also with the fantastic newsletters which help to keep me abreast of changes and updates in our hobby. I used to rely on Family Tree Magazine for info, but no longer subscribe regularly, so your newsletters are of paramount importance. LostCousins appeals to people like me who aren't name collectors, but want to contact and exchange information with other researchers, the type of people I seem to be locating at present. You are doing a sterling job for genealogy and if others have as much success after following your suggestion to DNA test, then it helps everyone."
If you decide to follow in Chris's footsteps by testing with Ancestry DNA please use the relevant link below when you place your order - you'll be helping LostCousins to stay independent, and ensuring that you can rely on the advice in this newsletter:
Tip: some members who have bought Ancestry's DNA test have been offered a discounted subscription afterwards - will you be one of the lucky ones? Update Wednesday 6th: I've just had an email from Tim, who was offered a 50% discount!
Reading recently about the driver who was driving across a bridge in New Jersey when it opened up to let a ship pass, but survived by putting his foot down and accelerating across the gap, reminded me of a story I heard as a child about a London bus jumping across the gap when Tower Bridge - probably the most recognisable bridge in the world - suddenly started opening.
Surely it couldn't be true? In those days there was no easy way to check out stories, but now it takes just a matter of seconds to find a newspaper report in the British Newspaper Archive (which can be accessed via Findmypast).
A story like this would have featured in many newspapers, but the search result I looked at was from the Yorkshire Evening Post of 31st December 1952 - it reported how the driver of the number 78 bus, one Albert Gunter, kept going and managed to land safely on the other side. However the drop of 3 to 4 feet resulted in a dozen of the 20 passengers being injured, 3 of them sufficiently seriously that they were kept in hospital. There was, of course, no film footage of the mishap, or even a photograph, though a couple of weeks later the Illustrated London News published an artist's impression (this is also in the British Newspaper Archive).
Going back to the Yorkshire Evening Post, I couldn't help noticing the article which followed, reporting the death at 97 of Frederic Amos Forster, a draper who was apparently still working at the age of 90. This reminded me that Robert Richardson, son of the founder of the Norfolk boatbuilding and boat hire company, still turns up at the office every day (including weekends), even though he is 91 years old.
Note: I suspect those self-made men worked on after retirement age by choice - but nowadays many people are forced to continue working at an age when earlier generations would have been retired (assuming, of course, that they lived that long - which many didn't).
Next Monday the original orchestral score for the Beatles song 'Eleanor Rigby' is being sold at auction (you can find details here). It is thought the name was taken from a gravestone in the churchyard of St Peter's, Woolton, Liverpool - but although the inscription refers to Eleanor Rigby, it then describes her as wife of Thomas Woods (she was born Eleanor Rigby Whitfield - Rigby was her mother's maiden surname). Eleanor Rigby Woods died just 12 days after the 1939 Register was compiled - this is her entry, which provides her precise birthdate:
© Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England and used by kind permission of Findmypast
Although she left no children behind some have suggested that she bore a child prior to her marriage - but it’s a very strange way to interpret the inscription, don’t you think (there's a photo of the gravestone here). The real mystery is, not who was Eleanor Rigby, but who were F & E Rigby, the parents of the 2 year-old child buried in the same grave? Perhaps the members of the LostCousins Forum can come up with the answer?
Note: it was at St Peter's, Woolton that John Lennon and Paul McCartney met in 1957.
If, like mine, your eyesight is deteriorating with age you might find that reading this newsletter is a bit of a struggle. I've had several members complaining that the print is too small, not realising that the solution is in their own hands - all popular web browsers include a Zoom function, which allows you to increase the size of text on your screen. Chrome, the world's most popular browser (and the one I use and recommend) will even allow you to increase the size of text that you print - in the Print dialogue click 'More settings' then adjust the Scale (the default setting is 100).
Tip: please DON'T print out this newsletter if you can possibly avoid it; not only is it costly and wasteful, you won't be able to click on the links, so much of the time you'll only get half the story, nor can you be sure that you've got the latest version (each issue is updated several times, either to correct errors or provide important updates). Every newsletter since February 2009 is still online, and will remain available indefinitely - there is absolutely no need to print them out.
But there comes a time when what's really called for is a bigger screen, and you don't have to buy a new computer to get one - even a laptop will usually allow you to connect an external monitor (on newer models you'll find an HDMI port). If you follow this link you'll find a full HD 23.8 inch monitor for just under £90 which not only has an HDMI port but also the older DVI and VGA ports.
In the last issue I mentioned how few people pick fruit from the hedgerows these days, and this was brought home to me when, nearly three weeks after my first visit, I revisited the wild damson tree I'd discovered. On my original visit I'd carefully left plenty of fruit on the tree for other foragers, but on my return most of it was laying on the ground, rotting - so I suspect nobody had bothered to pick any of it. What a waste!
This time we picked as much as we could carry….
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'll be back in touch again soon - and will have the results of the Summer Competition!
© 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