Newsletter - 8th May 2020
VE Day Special Edition
Ancestry offer free UK records ENDS SUNDAY
Findmypast launch new collection with WW2 photos FREE UNTIL 15TH MAY
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 5th May) 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!
There's a big fuss about the high number of people from minority groups who are dying from COVID-19 - apparently black people are 4 times as likely to die as white people. Nobody, least of all the newspapers, knows why this is, but I'm sure the scientists and statisticians will figure it out in time.
But shouldnít we be more worried about the disproportionate impact on older people? This chart from the Office of National Statistics (showing deaths registered up to 24th April by age group) suggests that the average LostCousins member is 50 to 100 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the young reporters we see on TV asking silly questions.
We canít make old people younger, any more than we can make black people white - but let's at least keep things in proportion. Amongst the older people who have died are 9 Chelsea Pensioners at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, according to this BBC article.
Stay home - Protect the NHS - Save lives!
On 30th April 1945 Adolf Hitler had committed suicide in his bunker as Soviet troops closed in; on the same day Capt Tom Moore celebrated his 25th birthday.
Just over a week later, precisely 75 years ago today, Winston Churchill announced to the British people that the war in Europe would end at midnight - yet less than 2 months later he was voted out of office as Labour won the General Election by a landslide, taking almost twice as many seats as the Conservatives.
Note: lots of small parties also fielded candidates in 1945, with varying degrees of success †- the Commonwealth Labour party, led by Harry Midgley, won just 14,096 votes. I mention this only because in a recent newsletter I reported the baptism of Midgley Midgley of Midgley, so I couldn't help noticing the name. Coincidentally there are more Midgleys later in this newsletter..... see if you can spot them!
Ancestry offer free UK records ENDS SUNDAY
Although there are no parties for the 75th anniversary of VE Day, family historians can celebrate with free access to all of Ancestry's UK records (at their UK site) until Sunday 10th May. To access the records you will need to register (or log-in if you have registered previously) but you will not need to provide credit card or bank details.
Tip: if you're asked to provide payment information itís because youíre using the wrong site, accessing records that aren't included †in the offer, or else have clicked on the Free Trial icon by mistake.
There are so many UK records at Ancestry that I thought it would be helpful to provide links to some of the key UK record sets at Ancestry, as I've previously done for Findmypast. Please note the links will continue to work even after the offer is over, though after Sunday you'll need a subscription to view the records.
Essex parish register transcriptions (with links to images at Essex Archives - requires separate payment)
London Metropolitan Archives (parish registers and other records for most of London)
1939 Register (England & Wales)
Note: this weekend's free access to UK records is only available at Ancestry's UK site, but you should be able to log into the UK site wherever you are in the world.
Findmypast launch photo collection FREE UNTIL 15TH MAY
From Friday 8th May until noon (London time) on Friday 15th May you can view thousands of photos in a brand new collection at Findmypast completely free (although you'll need to register). Featuring many images from WW2, it's the first instalment of what promises to be a massive collection, one that I'm told will eventually include millions of photos taken by press photographers between 1904 and 2000. Many of them have never been published before.
To search the collection follow this link - you can search by subject matter or by keyword.
Note: as far as I can tell all of the photos currently in the collection are included in the free access offer, even if they're not from the 1939-45 period.
What did Ernest Cawcutt say about VE Day?
Over the past year I've been publishing extracts from the wartime notebook of Ernest Cawcutt, a Gas Board employee who shared my interest in statistics, recording not only air raids on London throughout World War 2, but also details of rationing and the availability of key provisions.
You might have thought that VE-Day would have rated a mention in Ernest's notebook, but it doesn't. He does, however, note that there were no air raid warnings in London during April 1945 (though V2 rockets were still targeting the city).
The food shortages during World War 2 meant that people had to eat food they wouldnít normally consider - see this BBC article for one person's memories of whale meat!
Those of us who are avoiding going out are having to be quite creative in the kitchen - if youíre really desperate these wartime recipes from Country Life magazine might be worth trying.... I might experiment with the Chocolate and Carrot Pudding.
When I was born at Ilford Maternity Hospital in 1950 the tube station at Newbury Park - just a stone's throw away - had been open for a mere 3 years, the extension of the Central Line having been interrupted by WW2. I can remember my father telling me that the station at nearby Gants Hill housed an underground factory during the war, and this is one of many interesting facts confirmed in this CNN article.
Newbury Park was originally an LNER station which connected to Ilford - my father was born in a house that backed onto the railway line - which had been turned into allotments by the time I came along, though the bridges are still there (if you know the area you'll probably find this website interesting)..
During the war London Underground also housed several deep-level shelters, and the evidence of these can still be found - if you know what to look for (see this article).
When I suggested that putting 'old age' as the cause of death was always frowned upon I was inadvertently exaggerating the situation. In fact it's acceptable for people over 80, and I amended the article shortly after publication to reflect this - I also included a link to the advice that is currently in force.
Many thanks to the members who are former registrars and deputy registrars for drawing this to my attention. This is a good example of why I discourage readers from printing the newsletter - I canít update your paper copy (nor can you click on the links!).
At one time it was extremely difficult, and often very expensive, to find the final resting places of those who were buried in cemeteries run by local authorities or private companies - †even though this is how most of our British ancestors, especially those who lived in cities, were interred after the mid-19th century. But in 2009 a new company launched with the aim of making it far easier than ever before for family historians to locate the graves of ancestors who weren't buried in the parish graveyard.
Of course, there are many projects that use teams of volunteers to photograph headstones and record memorial inscriptions - and since many of them offer free access to their database they're worth trying. But most of my relatives were cremated, or buried in unmarked public graves - their names don't appear on any headstones, so they're doomed to be forgotten. By contrast Deceased Online use cemetery burial and cremation registers as their primary source and, for me at least, the results have been amazing.
The story of how Deceased Online came about, and why they are in a unique position to provide this valuable service is explained in an article on their website - and the good news, at the end of the article, is that they're planning to release a further 4 million records in the near future.
Note: can you spot the error in this FindaGrave listing for Elsie Waters, who I wrote about recently? Or this listing for her brother Horace John Waters, better known as Jack Warner? Always check information you find on the Internet †against original sources.
Since writing about a family who were using their downtime to clean the headstones in their local churchyard I've been contacted by a number of people who have informed me that churchyards are an important habitat for lichens, some of which are very rare.
The charity Caring For God's Acre has some interesting information on its website that will help you make up your own mind.
I could tell you what the strange symbols in this parish register mean, but as it's a holiday weekend I thought you might appreciate a little puzzle. There's no need to write in - I'll publish the answer in the next issue.....
Used by kind permission of Ancestry - provided by West Yorkshire Archive Service - All Rights Reserved
When I was studying for my Masters degree at the end of the last century (though it seems like a lifetime ago) I came across the phrase 'cognitive dissonance', which psychologists use to describe the situation in which someone holds contradictory beliefs. The phrase sprang to mind this week when I was musing on the conundrum that so many people tell me how wonderful this newsletter is, yet they wonít believe when I tell them that there are dozens of their own cousins who are not only members of this website, but are researching the same ancestral lines.
I can assure you that I'm not trying to make Monkees out of you - the fact is that we all have millions of cousins that we don't know about, though most of them are very distant, generally far too distant to be of any use to genealogists. However, the average person with British ancestry has around 200,000 living cousins who are 6th cousins or closer, a range that is very interesting from a genealogical point of view, especially when you take DNA into account.
Whilst the vast majority of those 200,000 cousins wonít have any real interest in family history, the ones who do (especially if they are experienced researchers) are likely to be members of LostCousins. There will be about 200 of them - a significant resource, in other words.
That's an enormous resource - and whilst you'll never connect with all of them, it's the ones who are most experienced that youíre most likely to find. I'm not suggesting that every 'lost cousin' you find will have researched further than you on every line that you share, but it's very likely that they'll know more about some of those ancestral lines than you do. After all, none of us devotes an equal amount of time to every single line - we all have our favourites.
How many ancestral lines are you currently researching? Last time I counted there were over 120 in my tree, every one of them a 'brick wall', and most of the surnames that would have meant absolutely nothing to me 20 years ago. It sounds a lot, but on some of my lines I've gone back 13 generations, to my 12G grandparents - and when you consider that (ignoring cousin marriages) we have over 8000 12G grandparents, you can see that I'm just scratching the surface.
Ironically some of the most experienced researchers I know are only researching 2 lines - their father's direct paternal line and their mother's direct paternal line. I can relate to this, even though in this day and age it sounds misogynistic - after all, those are the two surnames on our birth certificates, so we've grown up with them. This factor alone explains why some of your 'lost cousins' will know more about some of your ancestors than you do - it's not because they're smarter or more experienced, itís simply because their area of focus has been different from yours.
As you can imagine I don't have time to enter into correspondence with every doubting Thomas amongst the LostCousins membership - so if you don't believe what I've written in this article I trust you'll keep it to yourself, so that I can focus on helping the deserving members who are doing their level best to contribute to the LostCousins project (to connect family historians around the world who are researching the same ancestors).
Let's suppose that there was no pandemic, and you were going to organise a family reunion - hard, I know, but bear with me for a moment. If your family is anything like mine, many of the distant cousins will never have met, and even those who have wonít have seen each other for a long time. Some might never have a chance to meet again.
So you'd want to make sure that everyone came to the same place around the same time, wouldn't you?
That's precisely how LostCousins works. Just over 16 years ago I chose 3rd April 1881 as the date of the reunion, and created a website where cousins could meet.
It wasn't as if there was no other way of connecting with cousins in those days - but there were lots of different sites, most focusing on a single county, and many required you to join a society and pay a subscription. LostCousins provides a simple solution that can work for anyone whose relatives were recorded on the censuses I've chosen.
Of course, not everyone can be at a family reunion - some may be too ill, some may have prior engagements, some will have passed away. And so it is with the 1881 Census - most of your ancestors died before 1881, some were born after 1881, and some contrived not to be recorded on the census, either because they were out of the country, or because they were missed by the enumerator. And in any case, you only share your ancestors from 1881 with a small number of close cousins.
If you want to connect with your 'lost cousins', the cousins who are so distant that you donít even know of their existence, the best way to do it is to enter their ancestors. But if you don't know who your cousins are, how can you know who their ancestors were in 1881? You don't - but fortunately you don't need to. Just enter as many as possible of the cousins you can find in 1881, and you'll be matched with the living cousins who have entered the same relatives, whether they're directly descended from them or not.
Many readers wrote in to empathise with the problems I have remembering things from a long time ago, and Jane sent in a wonderful quote from her late friend Jill:
My great friend Jill Carpenter Hargood (who lived to 93 with perfect memory and an agile mind) said that sometimes as she got older a fact eluded her, but the answer came a little while later. As she explained: "The librarian of my mind is the same age as me, he can only walk slowly nowadays; he knows exactly where everything is, it just takes a while for the fact to be brought to the High Desk at the front." It was a lovely image I thought. She daily read the Telegraph, The Guardian and did all the crosswords and puzzles with a watch beside her to time them.
There are quite a few LostCousins members of a similar age who I correspond with - I just hope I'm as alert as they are when I get to their age. Though the way things are at the moment, just getting to their age would be something!
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......
Until the next time - stay safe!
© 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?