Newsletter - 25th December 2018
Your Christmas Gift EXCLUSIVE
An extra gift for your genetic cousins EXCLUSIVE
BMD prices to go up in February BREAKING NEWS
DNA offers UPDATED
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous newsletter (dated 21st 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):
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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!
Your Christmas Gift EXCLUSIVE
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!
Nathan Dylan Goodwin
2011, 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 problems.’
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 somewhere here.’
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 amateurish.’
‘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.
‘And finally…’ 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 proof?’
‘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 prove it.’
‘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 second wife.
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 be charged.
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 NEWS
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 (16.7% more).
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 member.
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 subscription.
Last chance 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 this article 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:
"The simple answer to your query about fathers finding out many years later is - Yes, after 48 years! - and I hold you to blame!!
"I 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.
"Early 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.
"The 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.
"When 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.
"A 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.
"For 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.
"Please 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 discovery!
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:
"My 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.
"When 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 birth mother.
"With 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.
"On 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 sadness."
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.
In particular 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 issued.
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 here.
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 you.
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.
Ancestry.co.uk - £49 plus shipping until 11.59pm GMT on 26th December ENDED
Ancestry.com.au - $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.
Family Tree DNA - $99 plus shipping for Y-DNA, $49 for Family Finder until 3rd January EXTENDED
MyHeritage DNA - £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 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?