Newsletter - 6th September 2019
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 17th August) 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):
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!
It's almost exactly 80 years since Britain began to evacuate children from cities and other supposed targets for German bombers to villages, seaside towns, and other parts of the country which were thought to be safer - in practice some turned out to be more dangerous for the evacuees than the neighbourhoods they'd left! Most of the evacuees left home before National Registration Day, so finding them on the 1939 Register can be quite a challenge, since even if they are deceased the record might not have been opened.
Thousands of evacuees were questioned as part of the lottery-funded Home Front Recall Project - this Reading University press release from 2005 appeals for former evacuees to contact their Research Centre for Evacuees and War Child Studies. Sadly for family historians the responses to the questionnaire will be sealed in the archives of Reading University until 2045 - but if youíre wondering whether one of your relatives might have contributed, the good news is that I found a number of PDF documents that list thousands of contributors, and you can search them by name or town. Usefully both the maiden and current surnames are given for married women; in some cases (mostly in Document A) schools are listed; the snippet below comes from Document B:
Note: the Roger Calver shown above ISN'T a relative of mine, but his ancestors came from a village not far from where my own ancestors lived; ironically I can trace his Calver ancestors back further than I can my own. You can see and hear Roger Calver talking about his evacuation in a short video on the BBC News website.
Evacuee database Document A - details of around 700 children who were sent overseas (169 pages)
Evacuee database Document B - details of around 3000 children who were evacuated within the UK (672 pages)
Evacuee database Document C - audio recordings including radio broadcasts (36 pages)
Evacuee database Document E - school records (3 pages)
Evacuee database Document F - academic research eg dissertations (8 pages)
Evacuee database Document G - press cuttings and articles (5 pages)
Evacuee database Document H - video recordings (11 pages)
Evacuee database Document I †- exhibition materials including posters (2 pages)
Evacuee database Document J - list of correspondence, includes many names (29 pages)
As far as I can tell, not all of the records are closed, but most of those relating to individuals are. Nevertheless, finding the name of one of your relatives in the list could provide you with additional background and new lines of enquiry.
Tip: millions of children were evacuated, so the chance that a particular individual is one of those who contributed is small. But the chance of finding someone from the same town, or even the same school, is much higher - for example, many of the children who lived in Ilford were evacuated to Suffolk, especially Ipswich (which was where I eventually found my late mother in the 1939 Register).
Findmypast already have the largest online collection of Roman Catholic records from Britain and the US, but this week they've added almost 500,000 additional records from Scotland. To find out more about all of Findmypast's latest additions - which include school records from Yorkshire, and parish register entries from Portugal - please click here.
Tip: searching is always free at Findmypast, though you will need to register. You can get a lot of information from a free search - try it!
One of things that has frustrated family historians for years is the inability to correct errors in the transcribed records at FamilySearch - but now that's changing, as you can see if you follow this link.
Note: it will only be possible to make changes where there are online images of the original records.
Findmypast.co.uk are currently offering a free DNA test (normal price £79 plus delivery) to new subscribers in the UK. To qualify you need to purchase a 12 month Plus or Pro subscription using this link. No closing date has been given, but the emails I've received have described the offer as "for a limited time" and "while stocks last". If the offer is still running you'll see a screen like this when you click the link:
Unlike many offers, this one seems to be open to former subscribers, so if your subscription lapsed some time ago and you've been thinking of re-subscribing, this is the ideal time! Whether youíre a new subscriber or a returning subscriber you'll qualify for a 15% Loyalty Discount in subsequent years, bringing down the cost of a Plus subscription to around £2 a week.
But before you make your purchase read the next article carefully, to ensure that both you and LostCousins can benefit.....
LostCousins can only benefit when you use a link that I've provided and your purchase is tracked as coming from the LostCousins site. So I'm offering a free subscription to members who go out of their way to purchase a 12 month Findmypast.co.uk subscription using the link above and ensure that the purchase is tracked as coming from LostCousins. (This is the default in most browsers, but if you have changed the Privacy settings, or installed a browser extension you may have blocked tracking, sometimes referred to as cross-site tracking.)
Please read the terms and conditions below so that you don't miss out - and check with me before making your Findmypast purchase if you're not sure whether your settings are correct.
To claim your LostCousins subscription just forward to me the email receipt that you receive from Findmypast. Screenshots are NOT sufficient - I need to know the precise time, to the minute of your purchase (so write it down, in case the emailed receipt doesn't arrive - a common problem - or you have problems forwarding it). You can use any of the LostCousins email addresses, including the one I wrote from when telling you about this newsletter.
Terms & conditions: your free LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us; if for any reason we don't receive any commission on your purchase then unfortunately you won't qualify, so it's up to you to make sure that doesn't happen. For example, if you have disabled tracking in your browser or Internet Security software the link will appear to work, but Findmypast will ignore it, so won't pay us any commission (this is the most common problem - if youíre not sure, ask for my advice before making your purchase, afterwards is too late!). Commission isn't paid on renewals, and may not be paid on upgrades.
Your LostCousins subscription will commence from the date of your Findmypast purchase, unless you have an existing subscription, in which case it will be extended by 12 months. If you have linked your account to another LostCousins account (see the Subscribe page for how to do this) you'll get a joint subscription covering both accounts.
I'm delighted to be able to share with you Helen's tale of her recent successes:
"I recently established contact with several Ďlost cousinsí via matches on the LostCousins website and have been delighted with the outcomes. The blood relationships might not be especially close, but as I recount below, the feeling of connection is still strong.
"Firstly, I was delighted to find a relative on my maternal grandmotherís side, who said I was the first Ďlost cousiní to contact her. We quickly established that we live less than half an hourís drive apart and she was keen for us to meet up. Her research is all paper-based and so it was easier for me to go to her house so we could look over her files. On my first visit in July, we spent a very pleasant afternoon chatting and exchanging information about our shared relatives. Her documents were all neatly arranged in folders, one for each grandparent, so of course we concentrated on our shared line, but actually what I enjoyed most was having a good chat about family history and local resources, and the difficulties of passing on your research to disinterested offspring!
"Then on a beautiful August day, we drove out together to a small group of villages, about an hourís drive away at the other end of the county, where our ancestors lived in the 19th century. We spent a fabulous day there, walking the quiet streets, seeing the old houses (some modernised but many still with thatched roofs), visiting the churches and graveyards and finding several relevant gravestones. We were also surprised to find the Ďsmallest consecrated churchí in the county (according to a nearby plaque). We were hoping to have a pub lunch, only to find the only pub in the area was closed for refurbishment! However, we were pleased to find a nice village shop selling delicious sandwiches and cakes, with outside seating, and a very friendly and welcoming shopkeeper. All in all, Iím really happy to have found a new friend, not just a 5th cousin. And all thanks to LostCousins.
"On seeing the name of another of my LostCousins matches - also on my maternal grandmotherís line - I realised I had already corresponded with someone in Australia of that name years ago (via Genes Reunited), whose husband is my 3rd cousin once removed. I also have Australian DNA matches of the same surname on Ancestry. From their trees they appeared to be Sís in-laws, but the person managing their tests hadnít responded to my message. I sent an email to S and she replied within half an hour, †confirming that she is indeed the same person Iíd been in touch with years before, and that my Ancestry DNA matches are her husbandís brother and her mother-in-law. Then, later that same day I received a positive response from the person managing the relevant tests on Ancestry - Sís sister-in-law - no doubt prompted by my contact with S.
"And not only that, a further surprise was in store when I looked closely at this Ancestry tree. As well as seeing the connection to me, I also spotted an ancestor of another LostCousins contact M (related to me by marriage), with whom I had exchanged emails a couple of years ago. It turns out my DNA cousinís husband was descended from Mís ancestor, so their son (also a DNA match with me) is related to me on his mother's side and to M on his father's side. It was good to contact M again with the new information.
"Another LostCousins match has also been in touch and sent me a very nice message. We established that we are 5th cousins, this time on my maternal grandfatherís line. Her maiden surname was the same as my motherís and she commented how peopleís mis-spelling of the name always annoyed her - it brought back memories of my motherís identical comments! She explained that she always takes a break from family history over the summer but wants to correspond further in the autumn, so I look forward to exchanging more information with her in due course.
"So overall (to paraphrase a famous beer ad) several examples of LostCousins reaching the parts other genealogical sites donítÖ.."
Thank you, Helen - especially for that last comment. Nowadays cousins are two-a-penny when you take a DNA test (literally it you take Ancestry's test since you're likely to get upwards of 20,000 matches) - but finding cousins who not only share your love of family history, but also your membership of LostCousins is still rather special.
When I was on holiday in Norfolk recently I noticed some interesting items in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Loddon:
I spotted around a dozen of these informative placards, each associated with a gravestone. There was nothing to indicate who had placed them there, but I would imagine it was the local history society - they clearly weren't put there by family members. As family historians we tend to forget that local historians sometimes know more about our ancestors than we do - and since there are many more local history societies than there are family history societies we certainly shouldnít ignore them!
Research published this week builds on the pioneering work of the People of the British Isles project, focusing on Scotland, the Shetlands, and the Isle of Man - but also providing some interesting insights into migrations across the British Isles as evidenced by DNA. You donít need to have tested your own DNA to appreciate the value of the research but, if you have, it might shed new light on your ethnicity estimates.
You'll find the research paper here - note that if you download a PDF copy you'll find it easier to magnify the maps and charts.
The research in the preceding article will help historians to understand migration patterns - it's just one of many ways in which DNA is helping us to understand our origins. For that research they used modern DNA samples, because they were readily available, but other research is based on ancient DNA recovered from bones or teeth that have survived for thousands, or even tens of thousands of years. A Google search suggests that the oldest DNA that has been sequenced is horse DNA from 700,000 years ago, but things change so quickly that it might well be out of date.
The health applications of DNA have been well publicised, but are possibly not as well understood - they include identifying anomalies that cause hereditary conditions, and genetic variations that predispose or protect us from illnesses. Sequencing the DNA of individuals will allow doctors to choose the best treatments, removing a lot of the trial-and-error that takes place at the moment when there are multiple drugs available, some of which work best in some individuals, and some in others. Inevitably the research that leads to discoveries depends on members of the public like you and me being prepared to allow access to their DNA.
DNA is also used to solve centuries-old mysteries - the identification of the remains of Richard III springs to mind - and decades-old criminal cases. Again this depends on ordinary people being prepared to share their DNA results.
DNA is also used to identify bacteria and other organisms - for example, the water of Loch Ness is currently being sampled in an attempt to find out whether the Loch Ness Monster really exists (see this BBC article for more information). A more practical application is identifying the different bacteria in the microbiome of the human gut.
Finally, DNA is used by adoptees and family historians to identify their ancestors by finding others who share those ancestors; it's also the only way to verify that records-based research is correct (since records sometimes lie). No sharing of DNA is required - all that's necessary is to deposit one's results in a database where they can be matched with the results of others.
Tip: even when youíre matched with a genetic cousin you don't get access to their DNA, nor do they get to see yours. Generally all they'll know is that a very small part of their DNA matches yours.
King George VI was naturally left-handed, but he was forced to write with his right hand - some believe it was this that led to his stammering (familiar to anyone who has watched that wonderful film, The King's Speech). This was certainly what my parents told me, another left-hander, when I was young - fortunately neither they nor my schoolteachers sought to correct my 'disability'.
Although it has long been thought that left-handedness was partly genetic, it is only recently that specific DNA segments have been fingered - see this BBC article for more information.
The term cack-handed originally meant left-handed (itís one of the less derogatory terms), but is now generally used in the sense of inept or clumsy. Terms such as sinister, gauche, and adroit only serve to reinforce the prejudice against lefties.
Note: as whole-genome sequencing becomes more common, the opportunities to mine the data in order to find the source of other genetic traits are growing, but there are many pitfalls to avoid, as a paper published this week by geneticist Graham Coop explains (you can download a PDF copy here).
Left-handedness crops up in Peter Cox's excellent 2015 book, compiled from the recollections of U3A members who grew up in London just before, during, or after World War 2:
"I was left-handed. My father changed my brothers over, but not me. ĎUse the other hand.í I refused, and he relented."
Other memories of fathers include:
"My father was a controlling, intolerant, dictatorial, narrow-minded, opinionated and arrogant bully. I was very fond of my maternal grandmother and my aunts, who lived close by, but he refused to allow them in the house."
"My father told us later that we four children were each caused by a failure of a different method of contraception. He didnít specify which."
"Occasionally weíd meet up with an ĎUncle Georgeí, a dumpy, round-faced man, who years later I was told was my father."
"Since 1940 weíd seen little of my father. He was an Air Raid Warden at Harrods and spent most of the duration up in SW1. Later my mother discovered he had a mistress on the staff."
Unfortunately copies of Growing Up in London, 1930-1960 have sold out, but thanks to the generosity of the compiler you can download the book in PDF format completely free of charge. Simply log-in to your LostCousins account and go to the Peter's Tips page.
Note: everyone who received an email about this newsletter is a LostCousins member; if you're not sure of your log-in details you can get an instant reminder by clicking Password Reminder
It's time for change at the top: in the USA the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the National Genealogical Society have announced plans to merge, whilst in England the Society of Genealogists are looking for new premises, having outgrown their existing facility in Clerkenwell, central London.
The SoG's premises were once part of the 'golden triangle' of archives, the other two being the Family Records Centre and the London Metropolitan Archives - but the Family Records Centre closed down over a decade ago, whilst the importance of the London Metropolitan Archives to family historians has reduced as more and more records have become available online. It might make sense for the SoG to move to a location close to the National Archives in Kew - not a triangle, but a formidable combination nonetheless.
Although there's still nearly 2 years to go before the census proper, plans for a rehearsal of the 2021 Census are well-advanced, and I received an email a fortnight ago inviting me to apply for roles in one of the 4 areas where the rehearsal will take place (Carlisle, Ceredigion, Hackney and Tower Hamlets). I won't be able to take part in the rehearsal, but perhaps you might? I've already had an email from one LostCousins member who has a role in the census - I hope there will be many more of you.
To find out more about the jobs available please follow this link.
Note: I worked as an enumerator on the 1971 Census - it was very interesting, even though I had no interest in family history at the time..
This week it was disclosed that the telephone numbers of an estimated 18 million Facebook users in the UK (and 200 million around the world) had been published online - it's just the latest in a series of data disasters at Facebook. It's a shame that so many people are forced to use Facebook to keep in touch with their families - perhaps one day there will be a viable alternative.
Facebook isn't the only big Internet company with egg on its face this week - Yahoo's email services were out for much of Thursday, which prevented people with BT, Sky, and TalkTalk email addresses (which are managed by Yahoo) from accessing their email. I had intended to send this newsletter out yesterday, but because such a high proportion of LostCousins members have Yahoo-managed email addresses there simply wasn't any point.
There is a viable alternative to Yahoo - Gmail offers free email, and has consistently avoided the disasters that have affected Yahoo and Hotmail/Outlook. Given how security-conscious most LostCousins members are I'm surprised that so many of you continue to rely on Yahoo or Hotmail!
Tip: Gmail can collect email from other email addresses on your behalf - this takes the pain out of switching to a different email address. Gmail is also very good at sorting the wheat from the chaff, but unlike the other providers I've mentioned doesnít seem to throw anything away, so you'll find any missing emails in the All Mail folder.
Dr Nick Barratt, who is a good friend of LostCousins, was involved with Who Do You Think You Are? from the very first series - it arrived on our screens on 12th October 2004, when LostCousins was less than 6 months old, and is not only still being shown, but has spread around the world.
Nick gave a talk in Auckland, New Zealand a month ago which is available online here - I hope you find it interesting.
This wonderful story was published on the BBC News site just as I was finalising this newsletter - I found it quite inspirational.
Both canals and railways made it quicker, easier, and cheaper to transport raw materials, goods, and livestock around Britain - but railways also made it easier for people to get around, so I've always wondered whether railways played a significant part in my ancestors' decision to move to London from the country. The Railway Haters: Opposition to Railways from the 19th to 21st centuries looks in detail at the controversy that accompanied the piecemeal building of the railway network in the 19th century, then deals with unionisation, nationalisation, devastation (as a result of Beeching), and privatisation - finishing with a look at HS2.
The title of this book provides a strong clue to where the authors' sympathies lie, so I wasn't surprised that landowners and others who objected to the building of the first railways came in for criticism - but I felt the writing could and should have been more even-handed. Railway companies in the 19th century were speculative ventures which were largely motivated by private profit, rather than the public good - so for landowners to object to railways crossing their land seems perfectly reasonable to me, particularly since many of the estates had been extensively (and expensively) landscaped.
Furthermore, whilst they were private ventures, because the railway companies were established by individual Acts of Parliament they had the right to acquire land through compulsory purchase. It's hardly surprising that landowners demanded - and often received - generous compensation, and required lines to be concealed in cuttings or tunnels. For example, last week I passed Berney Arms station (near Great Yarmouth), which is in the middle of nowhere but remains open because the landowner who sold the land to the railway in 1844 did so on the condition that they provided a stopping place in perpetuity. (You can read more about this story here.)
The book is full of facts. I found Chapter 2, 'Inland Transport Before the Railway Age' particularly interesting - it deals with coaches, turnpike roads, and canals, and in so doing demonstrates why railways made such an enormous difference. It was the carriage of goods, not people, that provided the primary motivation for most railway schemes - railways were not only quicker but more direct than canals, so they didn't need to undercut the canals by much in order to take their business away.
Inevitably some of landowners whose properties lay on the path of a planned railway were investors in canals that would be hard-hit by the competition from rail - this was another reason why schemes hit the buffers. Some railways were never built; others quickly ran out of money, and either folded or were taken over.
There are over 400 pages in the book, but very few pictures and no maps - if your geography is as poor as mine you'll find it useful to have an atlas by your side, and if youíre a railway enthusiast a copy of Macaulay's 1881 railway map would be ideal. The authors certainly know their subject, though the book would have benefited from some editing - in places the writing is no better than you would find in a tabloid newspaper - and their bias is such that they donít have a good word to say about the railways post-privatisation, even though in many parts of the country the services have improved beyond all recognition.
Rich or poor, our 19th century ancestors would have been affected by the railways - they were both a product of, and a contributor to the Industrial Revolution. Towns that were bypassed by railways tended to shrink; those with the best connections tended to grow. Love them or hate them, railways changed our ancestors' lives - and in so doing indirectly shaped ours.
I read the hardback, but this book is also available in Kindle format - which makes it easier to search. Whichever version you buy you can support LostCousins by using the links below (even if you end up buying something completely different):
Please note that the book won't be released in North America until October/November (but you may be able to order it from Wordery - who offer free worldwide delivery).
When Jeffery Fry began working at Waterloo at the age of 15 in 1961 they were still running steam trains - now, at the age of 73 he's still working there, not only the station's longest serving employee, but one of the few people in the country to have worked so long for the same employer.
You can read more about Jeffery here, on the BBC News site - but what I'd really like to know is, are there any LostCousins members who can beat Jeffery's record of 58 years working for the same employer?
Talking of railways, I was in London last month and had to travel on the Circle Line - which is my least favourite line, because the service seems to be so intermittent. Since we had to be at Liverpool Street station to catch the 15.55 to Stansted (our SuperSaver tickets weren't valid after 15.59) I was rather annoyed that the indicator at Temple station wasn't providing particularly helpful information. We'd already been waiting for 10 minutes when I took this photo. on the right, and had noticed that even when the destination of a train was shown on the board it didnít always coincide with what it said on the front of the train.
It's 7 stations from Temple to Liverpool Street, with a long escalator and a walk at the other end so by now we were getting seriously concerned that we would miss our train. So when the next train came in we got on it, even though it wasn't going to Liverpool Street - because neither, according to the indicator board at that time, was the one after, or the one after that. The plan was to travel to Aldgate East, and catch a Metropolitan line train to Liverpool Street
Fortunately my wife knows a thing or two about the London Underground system, and when we got to Monument she suggested I look out of the door to see what the indicator board there was saying - and miraculously the train behind was now shown as a Circle Line train, travelling via Liverpool Street. We caught our train with 5 minutes to spare.
This week the BBC reported how a train on the Liverpool Street to Southend line travelled at speeds of up to 80mph with a carriage door open - it reminded me of the time many years ago when I was on a crowded train and the guard opened the doors on the wrong side (was he cack-handed, I wonder?). That incident didnít make the news, though it was potentially more dangerous as the doors opened onto adjoining railway track.
Staying with trains, I had the pleasure of travelling on the Bure Valley Railway in July - and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the driver of the steam locomotive was one Geoff Calver (no relation - to the best of my knowledge). Sadly steam is not an environmentally-friendly method of propulsion, but the impact of heritage railways on global warming and pollution can surely only be a drop in the ocean......
At this time of the year I'm often to be found scouring the hedgerows. In one of the most popular villages of the Norfolk Broads there's a wonderfully bounteous wild damson tree and - having realised that nobody else picks the fruit - this year I gathered sufficient fruit to make several pounds of jam, a large bottle of damson gin, and a copious quantity of stewed damsons that we enjoy for breakfast with fat-free Greek-style natural yoghourt. (The key ingredient is star anise, which beautifully complements the intense fruit flavours.)
This is the first year I've made damson gin, so I'll be interested to see how it turns out. I've already made one bottle of sloe gin this year (using last year's sloes which I found at the back of the freezer), and plan to make more with the current year's crop. But our favourite is bullace gin: made using Shepherd's Bullaces (also known as Essex Bullaces in my part of the world), it has a slightly sharp but intensely fruity flavour. Bullace jam is another favourite, and I made a few pounds earlier this week - but there is much more to come (just as soon as I finish writing this newsletter!)
Sunday September 8th: MyHeritage have just acquired Promethease and SNPedia (see my article from 6 weeks ago).
© 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
have been chosen by Amazon. To see a different selection change the Search terms and click 'Go'.
Books mentioned below have been chosen by Amazon. To see a different selection change the Search terms and click 'Go'.