Newsletter - 21st December 2018
New Year competition launches today GREAT PRIZES
Who Do You Think You Are? magazine offer NOW WORLDWIDE
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 15th December) 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!
From now until Sunday 6th January 2019 the LostCousins site will be completely free, allowing you the opportunity to connect with as many new cousins as you can - and unlike some other sites you wonít be asked to provide bank or credit card details. Because this offer coincides with the start of my New Year competition (see below) the ancestors and cousins you add to your My Ancestors page will also count as entries - it really is a great opportunity!
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 - and remember, all of the key censuses we use are available FREE online (see the Census Links page for a list) , so you wonít need any subscriptions at all. But it'll be even easier if you take advantage of a half-price 1 month or 3 month subscription to Findmypast - see the offer below).
Tip: even if you donít add any new relatives you can take advantage of this offer to check for matches with your existing entries (click the Search button on your My Ancestors page).
New Year competition launches today GREAT PRIZES
This year's competition is bigger and better than ever before, with an amazing collection of prizes to be won - and the great thing about it is that to win, you only have to do what should come naturally to any LostCousins member, 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 to one side and make a start, even if you can only spare 15 minutes - that's all it took for a previous winner of my annual competition!)
Every direct ancestor or blood relative you enter on your My Ancestors page between 21st December 2018 and midnight (London time) on Thursday 31st January 2019 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 might win:
This year's most valuable prize is a 12 month Pro or Ultimate subscription to the Findmypast site of your choice (worth up to £156), offering unlimited access to over 8 billion records and news articles, including the 1939 Register for England & Wales and the largest collection of British parish records anywhere online.
(generously donated by Findmypast, Britain's leading family history company)
With a Pro subscription (known as an Ultimate subscription at Findmypast.com) you can access any of Findmypast's historic records and newspaper articles, as well as their modern (2002-18) UK Electoral Register - and you can do this at any of Findmypast's four sites around the globe.
In 2018 Findmypast started selling DNA tests for the first time - powered by Living DNA, this autosomal test offers the highest resolution analysis of your English ancestry (normal price £79)
(donated by Findmypast)
Also on offer is a 12 month subscription to the British Newspaper Archive, the worlds largest online collection of newspaper from the British Isles - by my calculations there are over 360 million articles in this collection, which continues to grow.
(donated by British Newspaper Archive)
ONE copy of Family Historian v6 (kindly donated by Simon Orde, the designer and lead programmer of Family Historian)
Check out Family Historian now with a free 30-day trial - just follow this link. The winner of this prize will receive an activation code to turn the trial copy into a fully-functioning version of this amazing program.
FIVE autographed paperback copies of Hiding the Past, the first novel in The Forensic Genealogist series from Nathan Dylan Goodwin.
It's just over 5 years since I first became acquainted with Morton Farrier, forensic genealogist - and almost exactly 5 years since I introduced him to LostCousins members in my 17th December 2013 newsletter (you can read that original review here). But if you're lucky enough to win one of these books signed by the author I'd suggest you donít read it - instead download the Kindle version and keep the paperback somewhere safe, because one day it might be rather valuable!
FIVE 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 of finding a new cousin are better than ever before - for example, when you enter a relative from the 1881 England & Wales census there's 1 chance in 15 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. If it takes you more than a minute or two to enter a household from the 1881 Census (and youíre not mentally or physically disabled) please ask for my advice - there must be some misunderstanding.
Tip: although there's the option to enter lots of extra information about your relatives on the second part of the Add Ancestor form, it won't be used in the matching process. The only information I always enter, when I know it, is the maiden name of a married woman - this is automatically added to the Index of Maiden Names, so might help your cousins.
Save 50% on 1 month/3 month subscriptions to Findmypast
Not everyone can afford an annual subscription to one of the big websites - especially at Christmas, when there are so many other demands on our purses - so I'm very happy to promote Findmypast's latest offer of a half-price 1 month or 3 month subscription (you'll be offered one or the other - you canít choose - but if you are offered a 3 month subscription itís a chance to lock-on the savings for a longer period, because the discount only applies to the initial payment).
Please use the relevant link below so that LostCousins can also benefit:
Note: the offer is open to anyone who doesnít have a current Findmypast subscription - itís a great opportunity to get access over the holiday period to their billions of records, including many that you won't find anywhere else at any price! Your subscription will continue if you donít change the renewal settings. This offer ends on 3rd January.
In the latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine there's an article about cuts that East Sussex County Council are having to make in order to save £46 million over the next 3 years. Ironically it was only a few years ago that they opened The Keep, "a world-class centre for archives that opens up access to all the collections of the East Sussex Record Office (ESRO), the Royal Pavilion & Museums Local History Collections and the internationally significant University of Sussex Special Collections".
Although I've never actually visited The Keep, I certainly feel as if I have - all thanks to the number of times I've been there in the company of Morton Farrier, the fictional forensic genealogist brought to life in the novels of Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The photo on the right shows the author outside the building, probably on a research visit.
In the past two issues I've written about revenue that Essex have earned from putting their registers online, and looked at the pros and cons of Suffolk following the Essex example. Given the budgetary constraints imposed in East Sussex you might expect them to be looking at revenue-earning opportunities, but it's not clear what plans, if any, they have to support their services by generating revenue from their collections.
Most of the Sussex registers have been online at FamilySearch for some time - although at one time they were cunningly hidden (see the article Sussex parish registers online but hidden from February 2016). Until recently the indexed transcriptions didnít link to the images, which not only helped to perpetuate the deception but also made life more difficult for researchers, and even now it isnít obvious that the register images are online, as you can see from the screenshot below:
The National Archives in Kew will bring in a new scale of charges from 1st February 2019 - for example, the cost of research will increase from £23.35 to £24.35 plus VAT for each 15 minutes (equivalent to £116.88 per hour). Of course, many people prefer to visit in person or employ a private researcher at a lower hourly rate.
The aim is to "set charges at a level that will recover full costs, ensuring that The National Archives neither profits at the expense of consumers nor makes a loss for taxpayers to subsidise" (the General Register Office sets charges for certificates and PDF copies of register entries on a similar basis).
In most towns and villages in England the names of those who lost their lives in the Great War are inscribed on a memorial, and Ashdon in Essex is no exception. But what is different is that three names were deliberately omitted - the brothers Albert, Frederick, and Erasmus Kent were not inscribed at the request of their parents.
This intriguing information comes from the Ashdon page at the website of the Hundred Parishes Society - it's an amazing project, and Ken McDonald, the Secretary, was one of the first people to join LostCousins, just weeks after we started in 2004. Ken is largely responsible for the beautiful large-format hardback book - with 400 pages and nearly 1000 photographs - that covers all of the 104 parishes in the project.
There are many tourist attractions within the Hundred Parishes, including Audley End House, the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, and Hatfield Forest (which is nowhere near Hatfield). In December the Essex Record Office blog featured as its 'Document of the Month' the 1923 sale catalogue for Hatfield Forest, the only Royal hunting forest which remains intact (it was bought by Edward North Buxton on his deathbed, and donated to the National Trust in 1924).
Who Do You Think You Are? magazine offer NOW WORLDWIDE
In the last issue I wrote about an exclusive offer which gives members in the UK the chance to subscribe to Who Do You Think You Are? magazine at a 50% discount to the cover price - just follow this link if you missed it.
I've now been able to negotiate an offer for members outside the UK - itís a 20% discount on the normal subscription price of the print version. For example, in Australia you would normally pay £75 a year (13 issues), but under the offer you'll pay just £60. To take advantage of this exclusive discount you must use this link (and not the one above).
Note: there is currently a problem for members in the US & Canada - I am trying to sort out why!
Look out for the Christmas Day issue of this newsletter because I'll have an exclusive extract from a brand new story by one of my favourite authors of genealogical mysteries. Better still, if you enjoy the sample - as I'm sure you will - you'll be able to download the entire novella absolutely free!
What a great reason to recommend LostCousins to friends and relatives who are also interested in family history - and remember that there's a special offer for your genetic cousins (you'll find all the details here), so there's a double benefit for them.
Note: you donít need a Kindle or tablet to read an electronic book - all you need is a computer or a smartphone.
No matter how many good news stories there are about DNA, there's always a bad news story waiting to hit the headlines. Even the BBC is involved, publishing a story yesterday headlined "The Christmas present that could tear your family apart" (you'll find it here).
All families have secrets, and one of the things we do as family historian is try to prise apart the truth and the mesh of lies that sometimes surrounds it. We've all got illegitimacies in our trees, but few of us knew that until we started to research in earnest. When I drew my first family tree, aged 8, there was no mention of my maternal grandfather's illegitimate child, his father's incestuous marriage, or the fact that my father's grandmother and two of his great-grandmothers were illegitimate. Perhaps if there had been a hint of scandal I might not have waited another 44 years before drawing my next family tree, and taking up this wonderful hobby!
Those indiscretions came to light long before I started using DNA to complement my records-based research - but DNA is helping me to provide answers to the questions that arenít in the records (or arenít credible), such as the names of the fathers of those illegitimate children.
Very few family historians are shocked by what DNA reveals - and so far nobody has ever said to me, "I wish I hadnít taken that test". Nor for that matter has anyone who discovered an unexpected marriage certificate, or a cache of illicit love letters in their attic, told me that they wished they'd never found them - as family historians we're always aiming to get a better understanding of our forebears, and we can only do that by uncovering the truth, warts and all.
What really matters is not what we find out about our living relatives, but whether we use the information with kindness and discretion - someone who sells their 'shocking' story to a tabloid newspaper doesn't deserve my sympathy, and they probably donít deserve yours either!
It's recently become obvious that I haven't explained DNA testing very well. In the past week I've had three emails from members who, having read what I'd written, had concluded that DNA couldnít help them and yet each of them described a situation in which DNA was the perfect solution.
Perhaps I've confused readers by emphasising how DNA and conventional research must work hand in hand - because DNA doesnít contain any names, nor are the segments labelled to tell you which ancestor they came from. And yet, if you donít know the name of one or more of your ancestors, a DNA test is just what you need. It all sounds rather contradictory, doesn't it?
When you find cousins in the conventional way, whether through LostCousins or some other site, you know from the start how youíre related. You'll know that, because you have common ancestors there's a chance that you share some DNA, but your first instinct wonít be to rush out and order a couple of DNA tests. The assumptions are that you've both got your research right - and if youíre LostCousins members that's a fair assumption - and that the records that you've relied upon in doing that research are reasonably accurate.
But when you find a genetic cousin, itís unlikely that it will be obvious that you are related. The chances are that even though you have common ancestors, those ancestors probably won't appear in both trees, and may not appear in either tree. There may not even be any surnames that appear in both trees - and those that do could well be 'red herrings'. In other words, the likelihood is that the two of you would never have even considered the possibility that you were related, but for the fact that you share segments of DNA.
This is so different from the way we're used to researching our trees that many people struggle to understand how DNA can help. And yet it can! The most extreme case, surely, is someone who doesnít know who their parents are - a foundling, perhaps, or someone who was adopted privately, without leaving any trace in official records. Finding out who your parents are sounds like a big deal, but it's possible to use DNA to figure out puzzles like this, even though conventional research on itís own cannot help.
Perhaps the simplest way to think about how DNA is used is to imagine that there's a jigsaw of your family tree, but there's no picture on the box. Each of your genetic cousins is a piece of the jigsaw, and whilst you won't know at first how you connect to them, you will be able to figure out how some of them are connected to each other (indeed, in practice they'll often be able to tell you). Shared matches are the key to completing the jigsaw, because if A and B are both genetic cousins of yours, then your connection to them is very likely to be in the part of their trees that they share. If you and A have been matched with C, but B hasn't, then either B and C arenít cousins at all or theyíre such distant cousins that they donít share much DNA - so now you have even more information to work with.
How much analysis you need to do will depend on how close your closest matches are. If you're lucky enough to have a match with a half-sibling or a 1st cousin there aren't going to be that many ways in which you could be related to them; if your closest matches are with 3rd cousins, then it will be more complicated.
Here's another example. Ignoring known relatives, my closest match at Ancestry is G (a probable 3rd cousin). However G uses a pseudonym and wonít reply to my messages - so on the face of it I have no way of figuring out who he is. However G also matches M (my 2nd cousin), and P (my 4th cousin) - so I've been able to figure out roughly where G fits onto my tree even though he has no tree of his own at Ancestry, and wonít respond to me. If I was prepared to devote more time to the challenge I'm sure I could work out precisely who he is by combining genetic clues with records-based research - but in this case there's little to be gained by doing so, other than to satisfy my curiosity.
The purpose of this article - and hopefully it has succeeded to some extent - is to demonstrate now genetic information and records can combine in different ways to solve mysteries and provide answers. The less information you can obtain from historical records the more important it is that you test your DNA, yet at the same time testing your DNA before you've gathered as much information as you possibly can from conventional sources is counter-productive, and will cost you tens or hundreds of hours of wasted effort.
Tip: knowing which of your cousins have already tested their DNA is crucial - that's why this information is shown on your My Cousins page at the LostCousins site.
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.
That's all for now, because I'm going to be back again on Christmas Day with your exclusive gift (and Adoption Matters will also be back). In the meantime I hope you enjoy the festivities - and take advantage of any breaks in your busy schedule to enter my competition!
Oh, and a final thought - if you're going to order any last minute presents from Amazon, please use one of my links from a previous newsletter (it doesnít matter what it was for, just so long as itís the right Amazon site). Thanks - because every little helps!
© Copyright 2018 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?