Newsletter – 14th September 2020



Do your messages disappear into a 'black hole'?

90% of LostCousins contacts reply!

Fire at Worcester Archives - something to think about

The scandal of the missing registers

Fake news: a postcard delayed in the mail for 100 years

Findmypast publish Mayflower records

Time to order PDF 'certificates'

Whatever happened to baby Doris?

The widest marriage certificate I've seen

A marriage of Metcalves

Can a marriage register entry be corrected?

Emily's problem

Blunt truth: my ancestor was an alcoholic

The oldest footballer

The least-young LostCousins members

Review: Tracing Your Family History Using the Census

Review: Children at Sea: Lives Shaped by the Waves

Review: The Fear of Ravens

One member's COVID-19 experience

Peter's Tips

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 30th 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):



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!



Do your messages disappear into a 'black hole'?

This month I've had replies from two cousins I contacted through Ancestry – nothing unusual about that, you might say, except that my original messages to them were sent in 2016 and 2017.


I suspect that the sudden responses are a product of Ancestry's recent introduction of a new messaging Interface, but whatever the reason it's good news.


Getting replies from Ancestry users can be problematic, and it's especially frustrating when the people concerned are genetic cousins. Mind you, Ancestry aren't the only DNA provider to have problems – I experience similar difficulties at MyHeritage and 23andMe.


So, as you can imagine, I had mixed feelings about the announcement from Findmypast that they are enabling private messaging between users – you can find out more here.  



90% of LostCousins contacts reply!

I've heard it said that 90% of Ancestry users don't reply. I'm sure that's an exaggeration – it certainly doesn’t match my experience – but, whatever the truth of that assertion, the good news for LostCousins members is that almost 90% of contacts DO reply!


The difference, of course, is that at LostCousins you have someone who'll investigate and take whatever action is necessary, whether this means writing a letter or making a phone call to the other side of the world. And whilst I can’t reach beyond the grave, I do my best to find out who has taken over the research of a member who has sadly passed away.


Tip: please ensure that you have added the email address of your beneficiary to your My Details page; it’s one of the best ways of ensuring that your research lives on.



Fire at Worcester Archives - something to think about

On September 3rd there was a fire at Worcester Archives, which resulted in the temporary closure of The Hive. Fortunately no documents were lost or damaged, but as so many records have been destroyed by fire in the past – including the 1931 England & Wales census, millions of Great War personnel files, countless Irish records, and centuries of Devon wills – it's an ever-present danger, especially since so many documents have never been microfilmed or scanned.



The scandal of the missing registers

I've long been aware that some registers are missing from apparently complete online collections, but this blog article by Dave Annal of Lifelines Research really puts the cat amongst the pigeons.


The only question is are they going to do something about it, or are they going to hide their heads in the sand like ostriches?



Fake news: a postcard delayed in the mail for 100 years

This story about a postcard that was delivered almost exactly a century after it was written is intriguing – until you realise that it's a prank. I'll leave it to you to work out where the postcard has come from….


Note: if you have a theory please don't write to me – I'll be busy helping members with their research. Instead post your thoughts on the LostCousins Forum, where there's an area where you can discuss matters arising from the newsletter. (If you’re not already a member of the forum check your My Summary page to see whether there is an invitation waiting for you.)



Findmypast publish Mayflower records

I'm not sure there's anything new in Findmypast's collection of Mayflower records (you'll find more information here), but it acts as the flagship for a month-long focus on migration. This blog article offers 10 tips for tracing relatives who migrated – it might inspire some of you to find new branches in unexpected places!



Time to order PDF 'certificates'

The General Register Office website still has a warning message about delays in fulfilling orders – but it seems that this only relates to paper certificates, and not uncertified copies of entries in PDF format.


When I placed an order for a PDF birth entry on the morning of Saturday 5th September I was quoted a delivery date of Friday 11th September – but on the Monday afternoon I received an email to let me know that the file was already in my box. Other members have reported waiting less than 36 hours.


So if you've been holding off ordering PDFs, perhaps now is the time to place your order?


Note: I recently wrote about a similar improvement in the delivery time for England & Wales wills.



Whatever happened to baby Doris?

The PDF that arrived so quickly was this birth entry for Doris Wells Gregory:



It was a speculative purchase – I don't have any known relatives with the surname Gregory, but my grandfather Frederick Wells is thought to have fathered an illegitimate child between the death of his first wife in 1907 and his marriage to my grandmother in 1915.


Intriguingly I couldn't find the child on the 1911 Census, nor was there a death record that fitted. Was Doris privately adopted, I wonder? If you spot something I've missed please post your findings on the LostCousins Forum (see above for details of how you can join).



The widest marriage certificate I've seen

We're used to seeing marriage certificates issued by the General Register Office, or the local register office for the district where the marriage took place, but certificates could also be issued by the church where the couple married as in the example below:  




The parish church of St Luke, Miles Platting, Lancashire (shown in the picture accompanying the certificate) is no longer standing, but this c1963 photograph from the Local Image Collection of Manchester City Council shows the church from a similar angle.


Do you have any similar marriage certificates in your collection?



A marriage of Metcalves

I'm very grateful to Ruth for pointing out this 1789 marriage in the chapelry of Stalling Busk in North Yorkshire – everyone who took part bore the surname Metcalfe, including the witnesses and the curate who performed the ceremony!


© North Yorkshire County Record Office, used by kind permission of Findmypast


Just 8 days later an angry mob stormed the Bastille – let's hope the couple didn't choose Paris for their honeymoon!


Six years ago I came across an even more spectacular marriage register entry, but I'm still waiting for permission to publish it…..



Can a marriage register entry be corrected?

Marriage certificates are certified copies of marriage register entries. Sometimes mistakes are made during the copying process – signatures can be very difficult to decipher – and in this case you can request an accurate copy. But what if the marriage register entry is wrong in some respect – can it be corrected?


Experienced family historians know that the majority of historic marriage register entries contain at least one error - however the General Register Office won't even consider making changes unless at least one of the couple is still living, so whether historic entries are right or wrong, there's nothing that can be done to change them.


This page on the GOV.UK website explains how to make an application to change the information in the marriage register; section 8 in this PDF guide prepared by the Oxford Diocesan Registry Clerk explains when and how changes can be made by the church.


Note: section 2 of another useful guide from the same source explains how to establish the identity of the persons who wish to marry. Of course, in the 19th century no such evidence was required, which is probably why there are so many errors!



Emily's problem

This BBC article tells the story of 'Emily', a 31 year-old expectant mother who is hoping she'll be allowed to keep her baby.


Is Emily in a similar position to some of our ancestors, or have things changed since the 19th century?

What do you think about this case? I had very mixed feelings…..



Blunt truth: my ancestor was an alcoholic

According to my late aunt, her grandmother – my great-grandmother – was an alcoholic who would spend her hard-working husband's wages on drink. She died in 1938, so I never met her – indeed, I never knew any of my great-grandparents – but if true it would help to explain why I never saw my parents drink alcohol when I was growing up (with the exception of a small glass of Stone's Ginger Wine at Christmas).


But my ancestor has nothing on Charlie's: Margaret Blunt hit the headlines in 1895 when she made her 100th court appearance for being 'drunk and disorderly'. This article (right) from the Cheltenham Chronicle is just one of many that appeared in provincial newspapers across the country.


Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – used by kind permission of Findmypast


The other case reported in that article is of Mary Ward, who had been committed to Holloway prison on no less than 65 occasions - also for being drunk and disorderly. The wording if the exchange between the prisoner and the magistrate following sentencing suggests that she might still have been under the influence!



The oldest footballer

This BBC article about a Japanese footballer who is still playing professional soccer at the age of 53 surprised me – not because of the age of the player concerned, but because the writer of the article didn’t even think to mention Sir Stanley Matthews, one of my childhood heroes, who was 50 years old when he played his last professional match in England. He played his final match at the age of 70, for an England Veterans team against Brazil Veterans.


In the 1990s I got to spend some time with Sir Stanley, and heard wonderful stories about professional soccer in the years before and after World War 2. He was a great sportsman – I only wish I had seen him play at his peak.



The least-young LostCousins members

I've been overwhelmed by emails from members who are still actively-researching in the their late 80s or 90s – it has been truly inspirational for me as I approach my 70th birthday in a couple of weeks' time!


Over the coming months I'm going to feature some of the many interesting stories I've heard, and I'm going to start with Blenda, who at 92 is one of the least-young members:


"I am 92 and still actively researching my own and my husband's ancestors. I have been a family historian since 1965 and have been actively researching since retiring in 1987."


"I began by following my father's family name Dant because it was fairly uncommon. I grew up in Cambridge and the Dant family used to run a ferry service across the Cam which ended  in 1928 the year I was born. Those first years were particularly exciting because I was allowed to read the original Parish registers at St Ives, Cambs and was able to trace the Dant family back to 1690. History has always fascinated me and finding so many distant cousins over the years is very addictive. I have exchanged letters and emails from many people that I would never have known otherwise and I try to keep in touch with as many as possible. Sadly over the years many have died (as have most of my school friends).


"I had two really exciting discoveries in 1996/7. First was from a distant cousin living in Vancouver - his mother was born in Oakington, Cambridgeshire where many of my ancestors originated. We spent two wonderful weeks in Vancouver in September 1997 and found a letter waiting on our return. It was from Calgary where one of my husband's distant cousins had discovered my interest in the family that she too was researching, We have been corresponding regularly since then, initially by letter but eventually by computer.


"You asked who is most interesting, to which I must reply that I find all my ancestors fascinating. But if I had to choose I would say that David Dant, a waterman, born in St Ives, Cambridgeshire in 1808 is the person I would most have liked to meet. He could read and write and entered all his children's births in his Bible. He was descended from several generations of watermen.


"If I could ask questions of my ancestors (and most of them were ag labs) I would love to know if they were aware of what was happening in their world, and how did they manage to survive? Today we are inundated with news from around the world but how much were they aware of any changes, and were they affected by any of them?


"Must add one other piece of information. Between 2009 and 2014 my research was interrupted by ill health. I was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumour resulting in hydrocephalus. Fortunately it was treatable and apart from complete loss of balance and hearing I have been able to resume my research since then although I have lost touch with some of my correspondents."


What an inspiring story – Blenda didn’t let a brain tumour stop her from researching her ancestors! There will be more stories from senior members in future newsletters.



Review: Tracing Your Family History Using the Census

There's so much that can be learned from censuses, but if you want to get the most from these key records you first need to understand how and why they were compiled. When I began my research I bought Making Sense of the Census by Edward Higgs, which proved a very useful introduction, and I later expanded my knowledge by purchasing People Count by Muriel Nissel – well worth buying if you can get hold of a used copy at a reasonable price. The latter book is primarily about the work of the General Register Office who we now associate with civil registration, but of course the GRO who responsible for the census until relatively recently (hence the RG codes at the National Archives).


Tracing Your Family History Using the Census: A Guide for Family Historians by Emma Jolly is the 2nd edition of a  book first published in 2013. A lot can happen in 7 years  - in 2015 the 1939 National Register was published by Findmypast following campaigning by Guy Etchells, myself, and others – and although it doesn't get a lot of attention in the new edition (after all, it wasn't really a census) the few pages devoted to it are full of useful information.


Because of the books I'd read previously I didn't learn much that was completely new (the 1896 quinquennial of London, was however new to me), but I rediscovered a lot of things that I had forgotten, such as how to identify sections of the census that are missing. The census is so important to family historians that being able to search the censuses effectively is crucially important, and being aware that most of the censuses have been transcribed multiple times by different providers is a key asset.


If I have a criticism of the book it is the failure to provide beginners with sufficient information to choose wisely between different providers – a novice might be uncertain whether to choose the provider with the most pros or the one with the least cons. However that's not going to be a problem for LostCousins members: very few people who receive this newsletter are novices.


Although the main focus of the book is on the England & Wales censuses, the Scotland and Ireland censuses are also covered. The coverage extends beyond the familiar 1841-1911 range, with chapters on earlier censuses and census substitutes, and on later censuses. I learned for the first time the Scotland 1921 census is due to be released some months earlier than the England & Wales equivalent (there was, of course, no Irish census in that year because of the troubles). There's also a short section on colonial censuses.


Two small but important omissions that the author might want to rectify in the 3rd edition are the fact that almost 500 household schedules from the 1841 Census have survived (they were discovered in Shropshire Archives by a LostCousins member), and that thousands of records from the 1915 National Register have also survived in local record offices.


Note: you can read about both of these discoveries in past issues of this newsletter – just use the search near the top of the page.


If it has been a long time since you read a book about the census then Emma Jolly's book would be a very sound choice – you'll not only discover new facts about these key records, if you’re anything like me you'll also be reminded of many things that you've forgotten! It's available as a paperback as well as in Kindle format (though in North America it won't be released until November):                                                                   



Review: Children at Sea

I wasn't looking forward to reading Children at Sea: Lives Shaped by the Waves by Vyvyen Brendon, but once I picked it up I found it compelling, not just because of the style of writing, but also because the author has chosen eight children who went to sea under very different circumstances: they include slaves, convicts, mariners, home children, and migrants.


The book is exceptionally well-researched with 20 pages of notes at the end, as well as a 'select' bibliography which runs to nearly 5 pages! You won’t be surprised to learn that the author is a former history teacher.


The book opens with the story of Mary Branham, one of the convict children who sailed to New South Wales with the First Fleet in 1787; the second tale concerns Joseph Emidy, a slave from Africa who secured his freedom and eventually became a well-respected musician in London. Other stories feature a Barnardo's girl sent to Canada, a foundling brought up in Thomas Coram's hospital who ran away to sea, and four young lads who chose the sea as a career, including one who was at the Battle of Trafalgar.


If you have ancestors who went to sea, or migrated (voluntarily or otherwise!) you'll find the descriptions of the harrowing conditions they had to endure eye-opening – it’s not surprising that some didn’t survive the journey.


Available as a paperback or in Kindle format, the book is out now in the UK and Australia, and later this month in North America:                                                                   



Review: The Fear of Ravens

Regular readers of this newsletter will know that I can be rather slow to review genealogical mystery novels – not because I don’t enjoy them, but because I enjoy them so much that I like to savour them.


As it happens the delay in reading The Fear of Ravens, the latest book in the Esme Quentin series from Wendy Percival, means that my review is more timely than it would have been otherwise, because we're just a few weeks away from Halloween.


I don't believe in witches, but many people did in earlier centuries – and Matthew Hopkins, often referred to as the Witchfinder General, is thought to have been responsible for putting to death as many as 100 supposed witches, mostly in East Anglia (where many of my ancestors originated).The victims were hanged, not burned at the stake as popular lore has it – but it was still a horrible end.


Even in the 21st century there are still some who believe in witchcraft, and when Esme starts researching into an old mill and the families that owned it, she finds that some locals aren't prepared to co-operate. But is the problem related to lingering beliefs in witches, or is it really about a feud between two local families?


The Fear of Ravens is available in paperback and as a Kindle book – I read the Kindle version on my smartphone, which is my preference when it comes to fiction (after all, I'm unlikely to read a mystery novel a second time). But I know that some of you prefer to hold a book in your hands – and it does have the advantage that you can lend it to your friends and relatives.


I really enjoyed this book, which kept me guessing right to the end – but if you haven't read the first three books in the series I suggest you start with them so that you get the maximum enjoyment (you'll find my reviews of the earlier books here, here, and here).                                                                   



One member's COVID-19 experience

This article was written by a LostCousins member who I had the pleasure of meeting a Genealogy in the Sunshine a few years ago – anyone who thinks COVID-19 is "just a touch of flu" should read it.


Since retirement, we usually spend the months of October - May in France, so that is where we were when the pandemic hit (and where we still are.) It was easy to identify when I must have been exposed to the virus, since we live in a remote location (3km from the nearest village of 800 people) and only go into the more densely inhabited world to do our shopping or other business every week or two. In this instance, however, we had actually been out twice within a week, so could have been exposed on either occasion. I’m betting for the visit with the car insurance agent, who shook our hands (ouch!) and put his hands all over my mobile phone looking at pictures of the log house we are building in the US.


This was just before the confinement order, when nobody was wearing masks except front line workers. We washed our hands thoroughly afterwards, but I didn’t wash the phone… so it could have been that or air droplets either in his office or at the grocery store where we went next. At that point (11 March) there were only half-hearted efforts to protect against the virus and no masks yet worn. Six days later France went into lockdown, but by then I was already showing symptoms. Like many at that time, I didn’t get tested because I wasn’t sick enough and there didn’t seem to be much point since we live in an isolated area anyway. So I just stayed home while my husband did the occasional food shopping. The confinement rules were very strict here — only one person from a household could go out at a time to do essential shopping close to home. Everyone who was out and about had to have a signed affidavit stating what they thought they were doing and masks needed to be worn. Just a week too late for me!


My early symptoms were pain and tightness in the chest and restricted breathing. This is so unusual for me, that I knew right away what it must be. I am not at all subject to respiratory illnesses (barring one mild bout with pneumonia at age 15 in India) and so this was very odd. This went on for about three weeks, when the pain in my chest thankfully went away, but I was left with a feeling of tightness in the chest for another 10 days or so and shortness of breath on and off (still now…) During that time I had the following symptoms at various times: headache, body aches (mostly odd cramping in my legs), diarrhea, coughing when I did anything with my voice requiring an extra push from the lungs (talking loudly, singing, etc.)  I never had a fever, unless it was very mild, but for a few days my blood pressure inexplicably went up (unusual for me.) I was too ill to do any genealogical research (now that should make you sit up and take notice!) as I couldn’t keep anything straight in my mind.


In the beginning I was very wobbly and for exercise would walk around in the grapevines near our house (we are lucky to have a whole valley to wander in, without meeting another soul) carrying a lightweight stool and sitting down on it from time to time. Then I would feel stronger for a few days and start to do longer or more strenuous walks and the next day would relapse with headaches, coughing, etc. This has been the pattern ever since, with an ever-changing lineup of symptoms. I have heard it described by others as a grab bag: you put your hand in and pull out the day’s quota of symptoms, with no idea what they might be. This scenario illustrates the case for many others, like me, who have the long version of the disease. Google “long Covid” or “Covid long-haulers” and you will find many, many different stories. Most of us had so-called “mild” cases, i.e. we were not hospitalized. Many of us, especially at the beginning, were never tested and most show negative results on antibody testing. It is now understood that the antibody tests are not set up to test for the kind of immune response that is most common in recovered Covid patients. Just another way in which the narrative of the virus has changed since the beginning and our knowledge of the possibilities has increased. I just wish we knew whether or not we do now have some resistance to the virus. I’m supposing yes, but nothing about this virus can be taken for granted.


I’d like to stress that this disease is very different from any illness we are accustomed to. The trajectory we always assume is: feel ill, get worse, then gradually and progressively get better. This is not what happens with us long-haulers. Instead: feel ill, get worse, mistakenly think one must be getting better, relapse in new and strange ways, get better again, think it is on the way out again, relapse again, etc. Five and a half months later my symptoms have settled down to 1) extreme fatigue nearly every day (legs don’t want to hold me up) 2) what I call brain “skips” of short term memory loss (time seems to go by but I have no memory of what I was doing during that time) and 3) every two weeks or so a relapse with headache and digestive upsets for several days, sometimes accompanied by high blood pressure. Perhaps the relapses are getting shorter and less intense now… or is it just wishful thinking? I told my husband yesterday that I thought the “catch” in my lungs was finally clearing up… then today there it was back again. We just don’t understand this virus well enough yet to know how long the recovery time will be.



Peter's Tips

I don’t know about you, but reading that story made me even more determined to keep COVID-19 out of my system. I realised this weekend that it was precisely 6 months since my wife and I last visited a pub or restaurant, and we continue to avoid shops and other enclosed spaces when we go out (which isn't that often). Better safe than sorry!


These paragraphs from an article by Dr Julie Highfield in the July/August issue of The Psychologist are worth reading:


"…we offer a follow-up review two or three months down the line, post-hospital discharge. Most patients who experience intensive care don’t remember an awful lot of it – that's the nature of sedation, it actually affects long wave sleep and the way you lay down memories. As time goes on and we lighten sedation patients often experience delusions and hallucinations and can be very confused and disorientated, which is what we call ICU delirium. The memories of this remain with some patients, and leave them with a sense of threat and trauma… much of follow-up allows for sense making and processing of this. There's also a lot of other stuff which is part-psychological, part-physiotherapy, part-medical, which is filling in the gaps and making sure people are on the right pathways.


"I've noticed the difference between Covid patients and other ICU patients is the intensity of the delirium seems to be greater,; the hallucinations are far more vivid than I've ever come across. People are left with worse fatigue and it's hard to know whether that's post-viral fatigue, or if it is related to ICU deconditioning."


Extract © British Psychological Society


This BBC article shows some of the winners of an online photography exhibition that captures the spirit of lockdown – let's hope that in the years to come we don’t come to think of that period as the good times!


Many of us have been forced to change our ways of working, playing, and living since the pandemic began so I thought I'd mention a gadget that I've found very useful. I've previously purchased 'bricks' that will charge a mobile phone or tablet, but they're no use when I want to charge my laptop or a something that requires mains power.


In the past I've made do with a car battery and an inverter when I've needed mains power, but it's a messy solution – the car battery is large and heavy, and it's impossible to avoid having cables all over the place. The device on the right is smaller than a car battery, very much lighter, and can deliver up to 300w at 230v through two standard 3-pin sockets.


It also has 5v USB sockets, a 12v car socket, and can in theory be charged by a solar panel, although I've only ever charged mine from the mains. I bought mine to use when travelling but it would also be handy during a power cut. The capacity of 372Wh is sufficient to keep a portable fridge going overnight, or a laptop going for about a day - and whilst it’s not cheap, it is half the price of a brand name alternative (even though they’re probably made in the same factories in China).



In the fortnight since my last newsletter I've once again been busy foraging for berries and making jams, and even though I cut the amount of sugar I use by at least half compared to a typical recipe, I reckon I'm on my seventh or eighth 1Kg pack of jam sugar.


The next job is to make flavoured gins: it'll just be sloe, bullace, and damson this autumn (I made elderflower and rhubarb & ginger earlier in the year).


But I am tempted to try making sloe cordial this year, as I don't think it’s right to deprive teetotallers of the gloriously-unique taste of sloes. I've found some recipes on the Internet, but if you've got a recipe that has been handed down, please pass it on!


Finally, a little challenge for you – can you figure out where in Europe the photo on the right was taken?


Please post your guesses on the LostCousins Forum – no prizes, I'm afraid, but hopefully it'll provide hours of fun!



Stop Press

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 again soon – in the meantime, please stay safe!


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2020 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? To link to a specific article right-click on the article name in the contents list at the top of the newsletter.