Newsletter - 26th December 2016


GRO delay phases 2 and 3 of PDF trial

Save on 12 month subscriptions to Findmypast ENDS FRIDAY

MASTERCLASS: How to get the most from Findmypast

Hidden secrets revealed: supercharge your baptism searches! EXCLUSIVE


Save 10% at Living DNA

Present at the birth - of television

A real Good Samaritan

Cambridgeshire Bishop's Transcripts at FamilySearch NEW

Save on subscriptions to the British Newspaper Archive ENDS WEDNESDAY

Last chance to save at Family Tree DNA ENDS SATURDAY

A chance to complete your Jefferson Tayte collection ENDS JANUARY 3RD

Peter's Tips - Best of 2016 (part one)

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 9th December) 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!



GRO delay phases 2 and 3 of PDF trial

On Tuesday: I received an email from the GRO:


"Phase 1 of the PDF Pilot, copies of our digitised records, went live on 9 November and was completed with very high customer demand and, unexpectedly, no reduction in certificate orders. As a trial service it provided valuable insight in to the operation of the service, which we need to take into consideration in the remaining 2 pilot phases (the premium PDF service and PDFs of our non-digitised records).


"Consequently, taking in to account the festive period, pilot phases 2 and 3 will now not commence until early 2017."


A workshop is to be held in London on 6th January to discuss the preparations for phase 2. I won't be attending as it is clearly aimed at commercial organisations - I can't imagine many family historians paying several times the usual price for a 3 hour service, can you?


Nevertheless it seems that the GRO are pleased with the results of the phase 1, and reading between the lines there seems to be a good chance that they will reintroduce this service on a permanent basis at some point during 2017.



Save on 12 month subscriptions to Findmypast ENDS FRIDAY

You can save as much as £28 when you take advantage of Findmypast's seasonal offer of a 10% discount on 12 month subscriptions and claim a free 12 month LostCousins subscription (as my 'thank you' for using the link in this newsletter). The bad news is that you've only got 5 days to act - the offer ends at midnight (London time) on Friday 30th December.


This offer applies to 12 month World subscriptions at all four of Findmypast's sites (they're called Premium at and also to 12 month Britain subscriptions, which are only available through the UK site (




To take advantage of the offer click the appropriate link from the four listed below: (Save 10% on 12 month World & Britain subscriptions) (Save 10% on 12 month World subscriptions) (Save 10% on 12 month World subscriptions) (save 10% on Premium subscriptions)


Whilst the Findmypast offer is available elsewhere, you can only qualify for a free LostCousins subscription when you use the links above. To claim your LostCousins subscription (which will run from the date of purchase of your Findmypast subscription, unless you already have a LostCousins subscription, in which case it will be extended by a year), please forward to me the email receipt that you receive from Findmypast, bearing in mind that I need to know the precise time of your purchase (so write it down, just in case the receipt doesn't arrive).


Terms & conditions: your free LostCousins subscription will be funded by the commission that Findmypast pay us; if we don't receive any commission on your purchase then unfortunately you won't qualify. If you use an adblocker the link may not work; if you have disabled tracking in your browser the link will work, but Findmypast won't know that you clicked it, so won't pay us any commission. Commission isn't paid on renewals or purchases that Findmypast regard as renewals, eg when a subscription has recently lapsed.


In the next article I explain how to get the most out of your Findmypast subscription….


MASTERCLASS: How to get the most from Findmypast

I'm frequently contacted by readers who don't get the same excellent results as me when they search at Findmypast - so as my Christmas gift to you, I'm going to tell you how I transform their searches….


The first thing you need to appreciate is that there are two ways of searching. One is to enter lots of data on the Search form in the hope that some of it might lead to the record you're looking for - this type of search works best at Ancestry, where it typically produces lots of results (though most of them won't be relevant).


The other way is to put the minimum amount of information on the Search form, see how many results you get and - only if there are too many results to glance through - filter the results so that you're only left with those that are most relevant. This type of search works best at Findmypast.


Because I'm so busy I prefer the second type of search - most of the time the record I'm looking for is on the first page of search results, so I get there very quickly. I even cheat by using wildcards rather than type long surnames in full - this has the secondary benefit of sometimes picking up records that might otherwise have been missed.


How minimal should your searches be? If I'm searching the census I'll typically enter just a forename, a surname (possibly using wildcards), and an approximate year of birth. I rarely enter a place of birth as this tends to vary so much from one census to another, but when I do I enclose it in wildcards, eg *London*


Different surnames require different tactics. The surname Smith is very unlikely to be spelled differently or mistranscribed - but you are likely to get lots of results, so you'll need to narrow your search in some way. By contrast, when I'm searching for my Vandepeer ancestors I'm more concerned about misspellings than anything else, so I'll typically search for v*d*p*r* and leave the other boxes empty.


Put these tips into practice and you'll immediately see the difference. But don't stop reading, because I've got another, even more important, tip for you - one that even Findmypast won't tell you!


Did you realise that at Findmypast there are at least three ways of searching for the same historical record? Would you like to know which of those three ways I use myself? Yes, I thought so…..


The gateway to all of the different approaches is the Search menu:



Let's suppose that you were hoping to finds one of your ancestors in the 1881 Census - you could choose Search all records, or narrow down your search by clicking on Census, land & surveys. But I wouldn't choose either of those options - I'd go to the precise record set I'm interested in by clicking A-Z of record sets, the option at the bottom of the menu (but the one I used 99% of the time).


Why do I search specific record sets, rather than starting with a wider search, then homing in? Because it's the only way you can access some of the key search options. For example, when I search the 1881 Census directly the Search form offers an enormous amount of choice:



But half the fields - the ones I've highlighted in red - don't appear on the Search form when you choose Census, land & surveys.


So do what I do - whenever possible focus in on the specific record set of interest, whether it's a census, a collection of baptism registers for a specific country, or one of the hundreds of other record sets.


Tip: one of the secondary benefits of using this approach is that you'll get to know the records better. Because they come from many different sources there are all sorts of quirks - for example, some parish register transcriptions will be very detailed, others very basic.


Here's a table of links that will enable you to jump straight to some of key resources at Findmypast without going through the Search menu (all searches are free, so you don't need a subscription unless you want to look at the records themselves):


1841 British census

1851 British census

1861 British census

1871 British census

1881 British census (FREE transcription)

1891 British census

1901 British census

1911 England & Wales census

GRO birth indexes for England & Wales

GRO marriage indexes for England & Wales

GRO death indexes for England & Wales

Hertfordshire parish registers*

Cheshire parish registers*

Kent (Canterbury archdeaconry) parish registers*

London (Westminster) parish registers*

Devon parish registers*

Lincolnshire parish registers*

Shropshire parish registers*

Staffordshire parish registers*

Yorkshire parish registers*

Wales parish registers

British Army Service Records

School Admission Registers

England & Wales Electoral Registers 1832-1932

UK Electoral Registers 2002-14


* these parish register links will take you to the baptisms for the county - the Useful Links on that page will take you to marriages and burials


Hidden secrets revealed: supercharge your baptism searches! EXCLUSIVE

Following changes to the Findmypast site the technique described below has had to be slightly revised. An updated version of this article will be published in November or December 2017


Although searching individual record sets is almost always the best way to go, there will be occasions when you want to search all of Findmypast's baptism records - perhaps because you don't know where your ancestor was born.


However, when you search all of Findmypast's birth and baptism records the Search form is a compromise:



There's no opportunity to enter the forenames of the parents - and whilst you won't always know what they were, when you do know one or the other (or even both) it's frustrating not to be able to home in on the records most likely to be of interest, especially if the surname is a common one.


Fortunately I've discovered a way to supercharge my baptism searches. Start by searching by name and then look at the URL displayed at the top of your browser. For example, if I search for 'John Calver' the URL reads like this:


This produces 798 results (I could have reduced the number by specifying a range of dates, eg 1820 +/- 10 years, but as this is just an example I've kept the search as simple as possible).


Let's suppose that I know the forenames of both of the parents, and that their names were Thomas and Mary. If I add the following text to the end of the URL shown above, I can repeat the search so that it only produces results where the parents' names were Thomas & Mary:




This is perhaps a little too specific - the name Thomas is often shortened to Thos, so I can widen my search to include variants:




By the time I've pasted this onto the original URL it looks like this:


Originally there were 798 results - now there are just 7, all of which have the right parents' names. Don't believe it works? Click this link and see it in action - you don't need a Findmypast subscription to try it out. You can even edit the URL to carry out a search of your own.


Most URLs are too long to fit on the screen, so you will usually need to scroll right to find the end. And, of course, you'll need to edit the examples in this article to reflect the names you're searching for.


So far I've only used this technique with baptisms, but the more adventurous amongst you might find similar applications with other searches.


Tip: when you edit the URL in this way you can't click the Search button - instead you have to position the cursor on the URL (it can be anywhere on the line), and hit the Return key.


If editing the URL seems too complicated you can sometimes get the same results using the Keywords field - this is the method I used to use. But it won't work very well if the child has the same name as one of the parents, or if one of the names is abbreviated or spelled differently, or if one of the parents' names is a Saint's name which appears in the name of the church.


Win fantastic prizes and find cousins in our Seasonal Competition

There are some excellent prizes in this year's competition, and the great thing about it is that to win, you only have to do what comes naturally - search for your 'lost cousins'. (For those of you who've yet to begin searching for cousins, this is a very good time to put your excuses on one side and make a start, even if you can only spare 5 or 10 minutes.)


Every direct ancestor or blood relative you enter on your My Ancestors page between 16th December 2016 and midnight (London time) on Tuesday 31st January 2017 represents an entry in the competition, and for everyone you enter from the 1881 Census you'll get a bonus entry.


Tip: a 'direct ancestor' is someone from whom you are descended, such as a great-great grandparent - most people just call them ancestors; a 'blood relative' is a cousin, ie someone who shares your ancestry.


Shortly after the competition closes I'll start picking relatives at random from all those entered during the period of the competition, and the lucky members who entered those relatives will be able to choose a prize from the list below (the first person out of the hat gets to choose first, the second person has next choice, and so on).


Here's what YOU can win:


This year's most valuable prize is a 12 month World subscription to Findmypast, offering unlimited access to over 8 billion records and news articles, including the 1939 Register for England & Wales (normal price £155.95)


(generously donated by Findmypast, Britain's leading family history company)


With a World subscription you can access any of Findmypast's historic records and newspaper articles, as well as their modern (2002-14) UK Electoral Register - and you can do this at any of Findmypast's four sites around the globe.



Living DNA's autosomal test offers the highest resolution analysis of your British ancestry (normal price £120)


(kindly donated by Living DNA, Britain's most innovative DNA company)



Also on offer is a 12 month Britain subscription to Findmypast, offering unlimited access to over 8 billion records and news articles, including the 1939 Register for England & Wales (normal price £119.95)


(donated by Findmypast, this year's leading sponsor)




ONE copy of Family Historian v6 (kindly donated by Simon Orde, the designer and lead programmer of Family Historian)



If the winner lives outside the UK the prize will be a downloaded copy; winners in the UK can choose between a downloaded copy and a boxed copy (they function identically). Check out Family Historian now with a free 30-day trial - just follow this link.



You can also win 900 Findmypast credits (usual cost £54.95), sufficient to unlock 15 households from the 1939 Register (although you can also use them to access other records).




TEN 12 month subscriptions to LostCousins


If you already have a subscription I'll extend it by 12 months


Even if you don't win one of these prizes there's a far greater reward at stake, and it's one that everyone can win - you could find a 'lost cousin'. Every single relative you enter is a potential link to another researcher who shares your ancestry - and whenever you click the Search button the LostCousins computer will compare every single entry you've made against the millions of entries made by other members!


Tip: unlike some websites, which update their databases at intervals, the LostCousins database is updated instantly - there is no waiting, whether you're entering a new relative or updating an existing entry.


This year your chances are better than ever before - for example, when you enter a household from the 1881 England & Wales census there's 1 chance in 17 of an immediate match!


If you're new to LostCousins, or have forgotten how easy it is to enter relatives, see the Getting Started Guide on the Help & Advice page.


Save 10% at Living DNA

2016 is the year that the possibilities of DNA testing became impossible for any family historian to ignore, as the number of researchers who had tested exceeded the number of subscribers to Ancestry, the biggest genealogy site in the world.


But it was also the year in which a new British company, Somerset-based Living DNA, launched the most innovative DNA test to date. Until January 15th you can save 10% on their new high-resolution DNA tests, which offer a real opportunity to identify where in Britain your ancestors came from.


You can find out more (and support LostCousins) when you follow this link. Use the voucher code XMAS16 to claim your discount.


Present at the birth - of television

Christmas is a time when families tend to cluster around the TV, so I was fascinated to discover this week that it was 90 years ago that John Logie Baird demonstrated his 'televisor' to a group of 50 scientists in London. You can read more about this story in this BBC News article.


104 year-old Andy Andrews was a 14 year-old apprentice when he went to work for Baird - and attended that momentous demonstration. Sadly Mr Andrews passed away on Monday - but you can hear him reminiscing if you follow this link to YouTube.


Interestingly the last words from Mr Andrews on the film are "We can't look back, can we? We have got to go forward, all the time."


Hearing that, I thought "No, family historians can do both - and that's what I like about our wonderful hobby!"


A real Good Samaritan

Fifteen years ago my wife and I were travelling to Heathrow Airport on our way to the US. We arrived at the station in our village in time for the train to London, only to discover that it had arrived early and left ahead of schedule - as a result of which we were in serious danger of missing our flight. I ran across to the ticket office to explain what had happened, and the gentleman there said he'd see what he could do: a few minutes later the Stansted Express made an unscheduled stop, just to pick us up - we were so relieved!


I was reminded of this experience when I came across this wonderful story published on Christmas Eve 2010 on the BBC News website - it just goes to show that in our materialistic society there are still people who will go out of their way to make the world a better place.


Cambridgeshire Bishop's Transcripts at FamilySearch NEW

There's good news and bad news this Christmas for anyone who has ancestors from Cambridgeshire. The good news is that FamilySearch have made available online nearly 62,000 pages from Bishop's Transcripts for the county, covering the period 1599-1860 (or later). The bad news is that only a very small number of the entries have been indexed so far, all from the period 1813-60 - to search the transcriptions follow this link.


To view the images you need to register with FamilySearch (it's free), then log-in: you'll find the images here.


Unfortunately the films are identified only by number, not by content - and the numbers don't correspond to the film numbers given when you search the FamilySearch Catalog. I eventually found a way of getting to the right film - it may not be the best way, but it works!


Let's suppose you wanted to find the film of the Bishop's Transcripts for the parish of Harleton - as you type the name of the parish you'll be prompted with matching names, as you can see here:



Here's the results you'll get when you click the Search button:





Now click the Church records entry to reveal the holdings:




When you click the first entry you'll find out the film number, but more importantly there's a link you can click (the camera icon) which will take you to the online images:



There's may be more than one parish on a single microfilm, so don't worry if the first page you look at it relates to a different parish. If you choose the Browse multiple images option it will be easy to spot where one parish ends and the next begins.


Tip: this technique for accessing the Cambridgeshire BTs also works for Sussex parish registers, which are still hidden on the FamilySearch site (as I exclusively revealed in February - you can read my original article here).


Save on subscriptions to the British Newspaper Archive ENDS WEDNESDAY

You can save 20% on a 12 month Personal Use or Gift subscription until midnight (London time) on Wednesday 28th December. For most family historians a Findmypast Britain subscription will be a better bet - since it includes the British newspapers from the archive (the Irish newspapers are included in the World subscription) - but the more powerful search that the BNA offer will be of interest to some.


To take advantage of the offer - and support LostCousins - follow this link and enter the Promo code XMAS16.


Last chance to save at Family Tree DNA ENDS SATURDAY

You've got until 31st December to grab the cheapest autosomal DNA test on the market!


Although Family Tree DNA are based in the US they will ship worldwide for just $12.95, so if you buy a Family Finder (autosomal) test at the offer price of $59 the total you'll pay is $71.95 - which for those of us in the UK works out at almost exactly £60, once you allow for the extra 2-3% that your bank will add (that's a saving of almost 40% compared to Ancestry's regular price of £79 plus £20 shipping).


Here for convenience are the costs for the countries where most readers of this newsletter live:



Approximate cost in local currency (including shipping and bank charges)

United Kingdom


Ireland and other Euro countries








New Zealand



There are even bigger discounts when you take a Y-DNA test (males only) and a Family Finder test - but bear in mind that a Y-DNA test can only tell you about a single line (the surname line), though by asking cousins to test you can find out about other lines (their surname lines).


You can find out about all the offers and support LostCousins by using this link (please remember to click it immediately before you place your order).


A chance to complete your Jefferson Tayte collection ENDS JANUARY 3RD

Until January 3rd readers in the UK can buy Kindle versions of the first four books in Steve Robinson's Jefferson Tayte series of genealogical mysteries from for the bargain price of 99p each; at they're $1.23, an equally attractive price.


Peter's Tips - Best of 2016 (part one)

Without a doubt the call-blocking BT8500 and BT8600 series phones are the most popular of all the gadgets I've written about - they literally change our lives, freeing us from the tyranny of the phone by intercepting unwanted callers. But not only do they work for us - installing them at the homes of our elderly relatives can prevent them being pestered, and possibly persuaded, by the scammers that prey on the vulnerable.


Although they're sold by BT and are BT-branded they work with other phone companies (for example, I'm currently with Sky), but you do need Caller ID to make the most of them (this is often free). All of these phones include a digital answering machine, and if you're travelling you can pick up your messages from anywhere in the world. My phone paid for itself by allowing me to cancel the 1571 service that I'd been using, but it was the hour a week in saved in unwanted calls - and unwarranted stress - that really mattered.


Looking through this year's newsletters the genealogy tips that stand out include my exclusive revelation in April that you could look at some of Ancestry's records without a subscription (this loophole was soon plugged, unfortunately), and my exclusive disclosure in February that the Sussex parish registers were hidden on the FamilySearch website (still the case).


Many LostCousins members found the DNA Special Newsletter in July incredibly helpful (you'll find it here) but, for most of you, the insight I was able to give into the new GRO online birth and death indexes was probably the most important contribution I made to your research. Undoubtedly these enhanced indexes will continue to deliver discoveries for years to come, as we follow up the twigs and branches on our family trees.


It can be hard slog putting together these newsletters, but it's made easier by the encouragement I get from readers like you - and the amusement that come from some of the stories and articles that I feature. After viewing this propaganda film from WW2 it was weeks before I could get the tune out of my head!


What was your highlight from my 2016 newsletters? In the next issue I'll include some of your suggestions along with the rest of my own personal favourites.


Stop Press

This is where any last minute updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error (sadly I'm not infallible), reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check here before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......


That's all for now - but I'll be back around New Year with yet more news from the world of family history.


Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2016 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