Newsletter - 25th December 2018
Your Christmas Gift EXCLUSIVE
extra gift for your genetic cousins EXCLUSIVE
prices to go up in February BREAKING NEWS
DNA offers UPDATED
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published
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of this newsletter available!
I'm delighted to be able to
offer all readers of this newsletter the chance to read The Asylum, the
prequel to Hiding the Past, the first novel in the series featuring
forensic genealogist Morton Farrier. You'll find the opening chapter below,
followed by a link to the rest of this short story - I hope you enjoy it as
much as I did!
Eastbourne, East Sussex, England
Morton Farrier was annoyed. He was walking from
his Ford Mondeo with a sharp briskness that only added to his agitation. He
reached the house—one in a long line of terraced properties directly bordering
the pavement—and pressed the doorbell. With an impatient sigh, he glanced at
his watch, then pressed the bell for a second time. He was thirty-seven years
old, had a crop of short dark hair, chestnut-brown eyes and today was wearing a
pale pair of jeans and a navy t-shirt.
‘Oh, you did come back,
then,’ came the sullen voice of the short elderly man who had opened the door
to him. ‘Didn’t think you’d bother.’
Morton offered a weak
sarcastic smile. ‘Well, you did ask me to.’
The man, Gerald Peacock, grunted,
vaguely gestured for Morton to enter and then slammed the door shut. He barged
past him and marched off. Morton, assuming that he
should follow, began to head down the hallway, turning his nose up at the heavy
stench emanating from what he imagined to be a deep-fat fryer. Just what he
wanted: to go home stinking of chip fat.
As Morton had expected
him to, the old man turned left into the open doorway, which led into his
lounge, and there, unravelled on the coffee table, was the family tree that
Morton had researched and had had drawn up for him.
‘So, what was the problem
exactly, Mr Peacock?’ Morton questioned, loitering in the doorway.
‘Problems,’ he replied, picking up the family
tree and tossing it in Morton’s direction.
It fell to the floor just
short of his feet and Morton stooped down to pick it up. ‘Okay, what were the
Gerald Peacock tutted. He
had a thin narrow face and a sharp aquiline nose, which only added to the
severity of his general demeanour. ‘You’d better sit down; I’ve got a list
Morton did as he had been
instructed, taking a seat on one of the two red sofas, which formed a
right-angle around the coffee table. He removed a notepad and pen from his bag and
sat poised, watching Gerald muttering to himself, as he searched through a stack
of papers perched on the other end of the table.
‘Ah, yes,’ he said, sounding like a scolding headmaster, who was suddenly
reminded of a pupil’s misdemeanour. Gerald held a piece of paper out in front
of him and began to read: ‘Number one. You’ve put my date of birth down as the 15th November 1925, when in actual fact it was the 14th
of November 1925.’
‘Right,’ Morton said,
scribbling down the amendment.
‘Second. You’ve spelt my
grandmother’s place of birth incorrectly. I realise that it’s an unusual name,
but…really! You put z-o-o instead of c-e-u-x at the end of Herstmonceux! It’s laughable and, speaking frankly, really rather
‘Okay,’ Morton said,
drawing in a quick breath.
‘Third. You’ve spelt my
poor deceased wife’s name in the ornithological, or worse still, the masculine form
of Robin with an i instead of a y. She
hated it when people did that…’
‘Sorry about that,’
Morton apologized, thinking it a little over-the-top that this man was taking
quite so much offence on behalf of his deceased wife.
Gerald declared, making Morton squirm inside in the knowledge that he had
definitely saved the worst mistake of all until last, ‘…you’ve attributed an
additional marriage—God only knows where from—to my father.’ He laughed, picked
up the family tree and scrutinised it momentarily. ‘Yes, apparently my father
married one Louisa Pengelly in 1922! How lovely for them! I do hope it was a
joyous occasion. Just the tiny and fundamental fact, though, which rather puts
the mockers on their nuptials, is that it simply
isn’t true. I can’t very well show that’—he
waved with disdain towards the discarded family tree—‘to
my family. What on earth would they think?’
Morton frowned. The first
errors he fully accepted; it was careless of him, but they were simple, honest
mistakes. The final point, however, was a different matter. At the time of researching
the Peacock family tree, he had been fairly certain
that Gerald’s father had been married twice. ‘On that last point, there, Mr
Peacock... I’m pretty sure he did
marry Louisa Pengelly before he married your mother,’ Morton tried to defend.
‘Pretty sure? You’re supposed to be a genealogist—where’s your
‘But when I came here
last time, you asked me specifically not
to worry about researching your parents or grandparents, as you knew everything
about them,’ Morton said. ‘So, I didn’t use your limited budget on trying to
‘Exactly!’ Gerald fumed. ‘So,
why add something to the tree for which you have no evidence?’
Morton’s cheeks flushed,
as he accepted with an obvious degree of embarrassment that he shouldn’t have
assumed that the combination of the correct location and the unusual name had inferred
an additional marriage onto Gerald Peacock’s father. ‘Sorry about those
oversights. I’ll get the family tree changed and a fresh one sent out as soon
as possible for you.’
‘I should hope so, too,’ Gerald
said, a firm implication in his tone from which Morton could only deduce that
he had been dismissed.
‘Goodbye,’ Morton said
with a half-smile. ‘I’ll see myself out.’
Back home in his studio flat, Morton sat on his sofa
in front of the television and switched on his laptop. For most of the journey
home he had ruminated on whether or not he had made a
mistake in attributing that extra marriage to Gerald’s father. The more he
thought about it, the more he convinced himself that he must have made an error
after all. As much as it pained him to admit it, he had messed up this job and now
he would need to get the tree reprinted at his own expense, at a time when money
was tight and new work wasn’t exactly flooding in.
He clicked the GED-COM file
for Gerald Peacock’s family and it opened on the screen in front of him. It
took just a few seconds to make the first necessary changes. Then, he turned to
Gerald’s father, Stephen and selected to remove his erroneous first wife, Louisa
Pengelly. Are you sure you want to remove
this person? The software double-checked with him on the screen before
enacting this delete command. It was a good question. The simplest, quickest
answer was yes, he did want to remove her. If he answered in the affirmative,
then he just needed to save the updated file, then upload it to the printing
company, which he used, and the job would be finished; he’d never need to see
or speak to Gerald Peacock ever again.
He hovered the cursor over
the word confirm, but the tenacious streak
in his personality, which his university lecturer, Dr Baumgartner from the
University College of London had always admired, refused to allow him to click
it. Instead, he hit the cancel button
and sat momentarily staring at the screen. His confidence that Gerald Peacock’s
father had indeed married twice resurged. With a sigh of reluctance, he found
himself opening an internet browser and, on the General Record Office website, placing
an order for both of Stephen Peacock’s supposed marriages. He would just have
to foot the bill himself.
He turned back to the
family tree, realising that he had not searched for the death entry of Stephen
Peacock’s first wife, Louisa. He found it easily enough in the December quarter
of 1924. The exact same quarter as that in which Stephen had possibly married his
Morton looked curiously
at the laptop screen, considering the possible range of reasons that both
events might have occurred in the same quarter of the same year: one, as vehemently
declared by Gerald Peacock, was that Morton had been incorrect to connect the
two marriages to the same person; two, Stephen Peacock had committed bigamy; or
three, that Stephen’s second marriage had occurred very soon after his first
wife had died. Morton had researched several family trees, where a person had
quickly remarried following the death of their spouse, often out of financial or
childcare necessity. It was this option which struck Morton as being the most
likely. Still, something, which he couldn’t quite put his finger on, troubled
him about the job. But for now, he closed his laptop and settled himself down
for another night with a ready meal in front of the television.
To read the rest of this story please
follow this link to the BookFunnel website - you'll need to enter your name and email
address, but you won’t be asked for payment information and you certainly won’t
An extra gift
for your genetic cousins EXCLUSIVE
If you've taken an Ancestry
DNA test there are two ways in which you can help your genetic cousins - and neither
will cost you anything or take you more than a minute
or two of your time.
Perhaps most important is to
tell your cousins about my DNA Masterclass - you'll find it here.
It provides a simple, but very effective, framework that enables almost anyone
to maximise the value of their Ancestry DNA test.
But a close second is the
opportunity to give them a free LostCousins
subscription - you'll find the special code on your My Summary page (if you’re not sure where to look see this article).
Christmas is a time for
giving - this is your chance to help your own cousins, and it won’t cost you (or
them) a penny!
BMD prices to go
up in February BREAKING
If you have ancestors from
England or Wales now's the time to place the orders for certificates (or PDF copies
of register entries) that you've been putting off - because on 16th February
2019 the cost will be going significantly, from £9.25 to £11 for a certificate
(an 18.9% increase), and from £6 to £7 for a PDF copy of a register entry
These increases might sound
exploitative in an era of low inflation, but you might be surprised to learn that
the last change in certificate prices was in 2010, since when prices generally
have gone up by well over 20% - and during the same period the basic State
Pension for those living in the UK will have gone up by 32.3% (though many UK
pensioners living abroad haven't benefited from the increase).
The cost of priority services
- less likely to be of interest to amateur genealogists - will be going up by
larger amounts, eg the next day certificate service
is going up by almost 50%, from £23.40 to £35. I think it's fair to say that family
historians are getting a relatively good deal - but it's important to note that
the GRO are introducing some new charges which might be relevant to us.
From 16th February there will
be an additional charge of £3 where the full index references are not provided.
This won't affect readers of this newsletter - unless you're following the advice
in my May 2017 article
entitled How to avoid ordering the wrong
certificate - which ended with the comment that "The GRO used to
charge extra for these sorts of searches, and could well do so again now that
the legislation has changed. But right now they don't,
so it's a great opportunity to fill in some of the gaps in your collection -
and in your knowledge of your ancestors' lives."
If you didn’t heed my warning then I suggest you don't delay any longer!
Another new charge that has
been introduced is a £3.50 fee when a certificate order cannot be fulfilled
because a register entry cannot be found that matches the information provided
- you could suffer this fee in addition to the £3 fee previously mentioned.
It's worth noting that both of these fees apply only to orders for certified copies
- which is understandable given that you can currently order a PDF only by finding
the relevant entry in the GRO's own online indexes. However, phase 3 of the
GRO's trial involved PDF copies of register entries that have not yet been digitised
- for which a fee of £8 was charged, only a small reduction compared to the
£9.25 cost of a certificate. Interestingly, whilst this service is not
currently available, the cost remains at £8 - so should the service recommence,
it'll offer a much bigger saving with certificates at the new price of £11.
You can find full details of
the price changes in Statutory Instrument No1268 of 2018, which is online here.
Note: although prices generally have risen, one thing
that hasn’t gone up is the LostCousins subscription -
it was £10 in 2005 when GRO certificates cost £7, it was £10 in 2010 when they
cost £9.25, and it will still be £10 in 2019 when certificates cost £11. Some
things never change....
I'm always surprised by the
number of researchers who don't make use of a particular site
simply because they don’t have a subscription to the site in question. Both Ancestry
and (especially) Findmypast provide useful clues when you carry out a
free search, and you may well be able to use the information you glean in order
to find the record at another site.
Tip: this technique is particularly useful as a way of
overcoming transcription errors - it’s unlikely that two transcribers will have
made the same mistake.
Another tip is to make use of
free sites to find information that you'd have to pay for at other sites. FreeBMD, FreeREG and FamilySearch are just three examples
of sites that parsimonious or impecunious researchers find useful. Other sites
with free information include record offices, family history societies, OPC
projects (especially Cornwall and Lancashire), and local BMD indexing
projects. A site that I've personally found incredibly useful over the years is
the Forest of Dean Family History Trust.
Tip: don't be put off by the fact that some sites
require you to register - it's not necessarily the first step to taking your
money (even FamilySearch, which is completely free, now requires users to
register). But do be wary of free trials, as these usually require you to
submit payment information.
If there's a free site that you’d
like to recommend to fellow LostCousins members
please post it in the relevant area of the LostCousins
Forum - for example, a resource that is specific to a particular
county can be recorded in the More
Resources sub-forum for that county. (But first check the Resources page for the county, if it
exists - you may find that the site is already listed.)
Tip: the LostCousins Forum
is a privilege reserved for members who are taking part in the LostCousins project to connect cousins around the world.
Check your My Summary page to see whether you've been invited - if you have
you'll find a link and a code (without a code you won’t be able to join)..
Everyone reading this
newsletter has a chance of winning a prize in my competition, which launched in
the last issue - you can find all the details here,
but I'd just like to remind you that the prizes include:
1 x 12 month Pro subscription donated by Findmypast
1 x Findmypast DNA test
1 x 12 month British Newspaper Archive subscription
1 x copy of Family Historian
5 x signed copies of Hiding the Past
You can win a prize simply by
adding relatives to your My Ancestors
page - you don’t need to enter more than everyone else (though the more relatives
you enter the greater your chance of winning a prize). Only one prize per
If you don’t have a LostCousins subscription I suggest you complete your My Ancestors page before 6th January,
as this will allow you to contact the cousins you find - after 6th January
you'll need to wait for them to contact you. See these articles
for more details.
Tip: it won’t matter if your cousin doesn’t reply
before 6th January - it’s only the initial invitation that normally requires a
to save at Findmypast
Findmypast's offer of a 15% discount on 12 month subscriptions for
first-time subscribers only ends on 1st January - please follow the link in
so that you can support LostCousins.
Findmypast's other offer is open to everyone other than existing
subscribers - see this article
in my last newsletter - but please bear in mind that it ends on 3rd January.
Last month I wrote, in a
previous article in this series "I wonder, is there anyone reading this
who only discovered that they'd fathered a child many years later?". The
first story in this issue came in response to that question:
simple answer to your query about fathers finding out many years later is -
Yes, after 48 years! - and I hold you to blame!!
have been doing research for a very good friend over the last 15 or so years
into his father. He was not told until his wedding day that his 'mother' was actually his grandmother and that his 'sister' was actually his
mother. On further enquiry he was reluctantly told that his father was an
Italian who had died in the war. Suffice to say it has been a very long and, so
far, mainly unsuccessful investigation.
this year he heard about DNA testing and asked me for my thoughts. I remembered
your many articles and so re-read them and, as a result, advised him that it
was certainly worth having a go. However, as I had no personal experience of what
the results were likely to show I suggested that whilst managing his DNA for
him I would also do my own so that I would have a control record of what a
'normal' person's DNA results would look like. My ancestors were almost
completely from the midlands and the south of the country.
results came through and my friend's results indicated a genetic background as
expected, including a large proportion from Southern Europe. Most of his close
cousins appeared to be of English descent however, and I started to then look
at his more distant cousins to find the Italian connection. In the meantime I barely glanced at my own results.
I did I found something a little surprising. Although
I had only a few 2nd and 3rd cousins plus quite a few 4th, I also appeared to
have someone described as "parent/child" with a confidence level of
"extremely high" and a name that only rang a very small bell.
quick check on his family tree didn't add much to my knowledge (or memory) and
I started to have doubts about the whole Ancestry process. Eventually I decided
to study it in greater detail and realised that the individual must either be
my father or my son! As I am now 71 I thought it
unlikely that any unknown father would have just submitted his DNA so concluded
that it must have been from my unknown son. I looked again at his family tree
which, of course, had a number of individuals just described as 'private' but
fortunately (although, sadly) his mother had died and was therefore named..... and then the memory came back.
obvious reasons I won't provide too much further information but suffice to say
that we have made contact and, as I also have an adopted daughter, I was able
to explain that I recognise that some people have both family trees (based on
the family they grew up with) and also ancestral trees (based on their natural
parentage). I have no wish to impose myself on his family but am happy to tell
him as much about his genetic background as he wants to know. He has three
young children and was a little worried about how they should relate to me. I
have agreed that it is for him to decide when and if he tells them. As yet he has not said anything to either his 'father' or
his (half) sister.
feel free to quote any of the above either as an example of successful DNA
research or interesting 'adoption' stories or just as an example of why so many
of us get so much pleasure out of family history research, aided I must say by
the persistent quality of your newsletters."
What a wonderful story - in the
course of helping someone else this member made a totally unexpected, but clearly very welcome
In the late 1960s I worked for
the Children's Department of a London borough, and in working with the files I
read many sad stories. But files relating to adoption were kept separately, so I
never got a true perspective on the issues involved - which made this email
from a LostCousins member all the
more interesting for me:
last 18 months before I retired from my Local Authority was spent going through
thousands of Adoption records and Vulnerable Children Records stored in
basements so that they could go into controlled storage and made easily
accessible for staff by correct indexing. Adoption records dated back to the
early 1900s. Until midnight on 31 December 2005 they had to be retained for 75 years.
This was then changed to 100 years, the current requirement.
I started the project I did not see why records were not easily accessible
by adoptees without formal requests and counselling. It soon became apparent. As I read
through the files I saw the great lengths the authorities went to in order to
place adoptees in a thoughtful and caring manner to the best of their ability. However as I read the files I also saw much tragedy. In some
but not all files, notes of abuse, both physical and sexual. The most poignant was letters
left for inclusion in the files by mothers giving up their child in the hope the child would one day search for their
regard to Vulnerable Children files, often referred to as Special Needs
nowadays, I was so grateful for current Social
Services. In files up to the 1950s even such children were often referred to as
imbeciles or idiots. These names were actually quoted
and enshrined in some Acts of Parliament. I saw some sadness and disturbing
things but overall much joy.
occasion I saw records of someone I could currently identify but all the information
I saw, has to go the grave with me and remain totally confidential. I now
understand why it is strongly recommended people use the trained intermediaries
when searching for birth parents. There can be so much joy but on occasion
I'm aiming to continue this
series into the New Year, so if you have an adoption-related story that you feel
able to share with other readers, do please get in touch.
It is supposed to be the season
of goodwill, but on 25th December 1839 a 33 year-old man, Robert Adams,
returned to the premises of his former employer, a baker, and stole a box
containing change totalling just over 10 shillings. Adams was tried at the Old
Bailey on 9th January 1840 and sentenced to one year's imprisonment.
© The Old Bailey Proceedings Online Project https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/images.jsp?doc=184001060078
Robert Adams seems to have
got off lightly - as you can see from this excerpt from the proceedings the
previous defendant was sentenced to 7 years transportation.
The Proceedings of the Old
Bailey, 1674-1913 is a fascinating site where even the most respectable
ancestors might appear as witnesses - and it's free!
I found this seasonal story
on the BBC News website - it's about a tin full of home-made mince pies that
were discovered under the floorboards of an hotel in the Isle of Man.
I doubt they are edible, but later
today I'm going to be eating a Tesco Finest Christmas Pudding with a best
before date of September 2012 - it'll be an interesting experiment (the pudding
I enjoyed last year was less than 3 years out of date).
This article isn't about the events of 2000 years ago - it's about what happened 25 years
ago, when my wife and I spent our very first Christmas together.
A week earlier, on 17th
December 1993, I had attended a postage stamp auction at Sotheby's in London,
having spotted an article in the paper a few days before. The lot that caught my
attention is described in the auction catalogue as "family correspondence
from 1833 to about 1848.... offered intact, substantial private correspondences
of this period are seldom seen".
Although the catalogue
referred to several hundred items, on inspecting the lot I realised that there
were over 1000 letters and sundry items - including a list of books, a laundry
list, and a price list from John Capper and Sons (established 1778), linen drapers
to the Queen. Other items included architect's plans, inventories, and what
appear to be sermon notes (the recipient of the correspondence was the daughter
of a country parson).
Most of the envelopes don’t bear
postage stamps, which is possibly the reason why I managed to purchase the lot
for less than the lower estimate. But for us the value was in the contents of
the envelopes - the letters that had, against the odds, survived for 150 years.
As a keen family historian I'm not surprised that I was attracted to the
collection, but for one thing - at that time I hadn't started researching my
own family tree, nor did I have any plans to do so! I guess there was something
in my subconscious all along....
Anyway, we spent the whole
Christmas deciphering, sorting, and indexing the letters - and making discoveries.
For me the most poignant moment was when a lock of hair fell out of one of the
envelopes - it had been sent by her soldier brother because he was being posted
abroad, and feared that he might not return. He survived
on that occasion, but a few years later his luck finally ran out.
There's still a lot to be
done with this amazing collection of early Victorian correspondence and
ephemera, and I'm hoping that this year we'll have a chance to sit down in front
of the fire and continue our exploration of the archive. And who knows, perhaps
there will be some interesting items to share with readers of this newsletter
over the coming year?
Although the 1841 Census wasn't
the first UK census, it was the first census in which the name of every inhabitant
was supposed to be recorded. But while the information may be more
comprehensive than in 1801, 1811, 1821, and 1831 it is nevertheless less
informative than in 1851 and later censuses.
heads of household aren't identified,
nor are their relationships to the other members of the household shown. To add
to this confusion the procedure was rather different in 1841 - where two or
more households were living in the same property only one census schedule was
Fortunately close examination of the enumeration schedule usually
provides the clues we need; the instructions to enumerators included this key
piece of information:
At the end of the names of each family draw a line thus / as in the Example. At the end of the names of the inmates in each house draw a double line thus //
You can see the full instructions
If you've inadvertently included people who aren't family members on your My Ancestors page
please delete them to avoid confusion. In general only
include people who aren't relatives if you believe that by connecting with
their descendants you'll be able to help them - or that they'll be able to help
Tip: amending or deleting entries on your My Ancestors
page is simple - just click the person's name.
DNA offers UPDATED
Some of the offers in my 15th
December newsletter run out today, Christmas Day, but check back tomorrow for
Boxing Day offers in the UK and possibly elsewhere.
Please remember that you'll
only be supporting LostCousins when you click one of
my links to make your purchase.
- £49 plus shipping until 11.59pm GMT on 26th December ENDED
- $89 plus shipping until 11.59pm AEST on 26th December ENDED
Ancestry.ca - $79 plus
shipping until 11.59pm EST on 31st December NEW OFFER
Ancestry.com - $75 plus
shipping until 11.59pm EST on 31st December NEW OFFER
Ancestry DNA is the autosomal
test I recommend - based not only on my own experience, but also on the size of
their user base - however, whichever test you take you must follow the advice
in my Masterclass,
otherwise it’s not just your money that you'll be wasting, but also tens or
hundreds of hours of your time.
Tree DNA - $99 plus shipping for Y-DNA, $49 for Family Finder until 3rd January EXTENDED
- £49 in the UK (and free shipping when you order 2 or more) ENDED
I'll update this article with
further offers as soon as they start - you'll need to reload the newsletter (or
refresh the page in your browser) to see the new version.
I'm rather old-fashioned - I
still send Christmas cards through the post. It's expensive at 58p for 2nd class
postage - nearly 50 times what it would have cost half a century ago - but there's
something special about receiving a card through the mail.
Fortunately I'm able to reduce the cost significantly by purchasing
stamps on eBay - not the recycled stamps that fraudsters offer, but genuine
unused postage stamps from stamp dealers. I've been buying stamps at below face
value from stamp dealers for around 35 years - but don’t worry if you've missed
out up to now, because it’s never too late to start.
The biggest savings are on
commemorative stamps from 20, 30, or even 40 years ago - you might save 30% or
even more. But it's not just about saving money - there's an extra benefit for
family historians like you and me. When you send somebody a letter in an
envelope covered with an interesting selection of commemorative it’s very
unlikely that they'll put it in the bin without opening it (I'm sure you wouldn’t
in their position). So it's a great way of ensuring
that your letters get read, which is rather important when you’re writing to a
cousin whose details you've found in the phone book, or in the Electoral Register.
Here are some examples of the
lots that I would buy:
(The last lot is from a seller
I've used before - I was very pleased because the stamps were all sorted by
value, which made it a lot easier when it came to Christmas.)
One of the reasons these
stamps are so cheap is because they're gummed, not self-adhesive - and this
reminds me that our ancestors left samples of their DNA every time they licked
a stamp. I wonder how long it will be before consumer DNA tests are able to
handle samples from sources like that?
We had our main Christmas
meal on Sunday and I found the recycled foil containers I'd collected during
the year very useful for cooking bacon rolls, cocktail sausages, stuffing and
other similar items. Similarly, plastic containers from ready meals are great
for storing left over food in the freezer. Do you have any Christmas tips? I'd
love to hear them.
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......
This could be the
last newsletter of 2018 - but whether it is, or whether it isn’t, I'd like to take
this opportunity to wish all LostCousins members a
very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
© Copyright 2018
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?