Newsletter - 2 January 2012

 

 

LostCousins member honoured by the Queen

Good news! Christmas offer extended

EXCLUSIVE findmypast discount

What's coming to Ancestry & findmypast in 2012?

When Christmas was cancelled

Putting a face to your 'lost cousins'

Is your online information a security risk?

Wedding ring found on carrot

Don't overpay for certificates!

When is a 25% discount not a bargain?

Free searches of the US 1940 census are promised

Which subscription site is the best?

How long does it take to find a 'lost cousin'?

Peter's Tips

Stop Press

 

The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 25 December 2011) please click here.

 

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). When you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open so that you donít lose your place in the newsletter - if nothing seems to happen then you probably need to enable pop-ups in your browser.

 

To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, please join - it's free!

 

LostCousins member honoured by the Queen

I'm sure you'd like to join me in congratulating LostCousins member Jan Gow in New Zealand who was awarded the Queen's Service Medal in the New Year's Honours List in recognition of her services to genealogy.

 

Tip: did you know that since 1993 it has been possible for anyone to put forward nominations? If you know someone who deserves recognition for their services you'll find more information here.

 

Good news! Christmas offer extended

There has been an excellent response to my offer of totally free access to LostCousins between Christmas and New Year - in the space of just one week more cousins were found than in the whole of the previous month!

 

I've therefore decided to extend the offer for a further week, until midnight on Monday 9th January. For the 80% of people reading this who haven't entered all of their relatives from the 1881 Census, now is the time to knuckle down - you could be in touch with some new cousins before the end of the day!

 

If you're one of the 20% who has completed your My Ancestors page - congratulations, there's nothing more you need to do! Just sit back and wait for your cousins to do their bit.

 

Tip: if you're not sure whether you've entered all of your relatives from 1881 there's a simple test - divide the number of relatives on your tree by 5 to get a pretty good estimate of how many would have been alive in 1881. Remember that whilst it's important to enter your direct ancestors and their households, it's usually the brothers, sisters, and cousins who had families of their own in 1881 who will link you to your 'lost cousins'.

 

EXCLUSIVE findmypast discount

I've also managed to persuade findmypast to extend the validity of the exclusive discount that I arranged with then before Christmas. Instead of expiring today it is now valid until midnight (London time) on Monday 9th January.

 

This is good news, because when I announced the offer in my last newsletter findmypast hadn't announced what datasets they planned to add in 2012 - now they have (see the next article for full details).

 

My offer of a free LostCousins subscription for anyone who takes out a new findmypast subscription still stands - to take advantage of BOTH offers follow these instructions below exactly:

 

(1) Click here to go the findmypast website (it will open in a new tab or new browser window), then either register or log-in (if you have registered previously).

 

(2) Next click on Subscribe, enter the exclusive offer code XMASCOUSINS in the Promotional Code box, and click Apply to display the discounted offer prices:

 

 

(3) Choose the subscription you prefer, bearing in mind that the 12 month subscriptions offer the best value. I'd also recommend the Full subscription unless you're an absolute beginner since the wealth of additional datasets are well worth the small additional cost (at the discounted price of £98.95 the total cost for an annual Full subscription just 27p a day, considerably less than the cost of a 2nd Class stamp).

 

(4) When you receive your email receipt from findmypast forward a copy to me at the usual address (the one I used to tell you about this newsletter). Your free LostCousins subscription can include your spouse or partner as well - just make sure that the two accounts are linked together before you write to me (the Subscribe page at the LostCousins site explains how to do this).

 

Note: these offers apply only when you take out a new findmypast subscription; they do not apply to continuous renewals (since they qualify for 10% Loyalty Discount), nor can they be backdated or combined with any other offers. Your free LostCousins subscription (worth up to £12.50) is paid for by the commission we receive from findmypast, so it is essential that you click the link or the screen shot above just before you subscribe.

 

What's coming to Ancestry & findmypast in 2012?

In 2012 Ancestry.co.uk plan to complete the 1911 England & Wales Census, whilst at Ancestry.com they will be adding the 1940 US Census.

 

Over at findmypast they plan to complete their collection of Scotland census transcriptions from 1841-1901 by adding the 1881, 1891, and 1901 Scotland Censuses, and these will be included in both the Foundation and Full subscriptions.

 

Unless there's a change in policy the following additions at findmypast in 2012 will be included only in the Full subscription:

 

CRIME COURT & CONVICT RECORDS

3 million records will be added in partnership with the National Archives

 

PARISH REGISTERS & OTHER RECORDS

These will include Wales, Westminster, Canterbury, and Hertfordshire. The City of Westminster parish registers are a very exciting addition, because they plug a key gap in the London Metropolitan Archives records that are already online at Ancestry (they include important parishes such as St George, Hanover Square, and St Martin-in-the-Fields). According to the original 2010 press release the Welsh parish registers will include 8 million baptisms, marriages, and burials - so it has the potential to transform research for those of us with Welsh ancestry.

 

ELECTORAL ROLLS

In partnership with the British Library, which holds the biggest collection of Electoral Rolls in the UK, findmypast plan to put online rolls from 1832-1928.

 

When Christmas was cancelled

I hope you enjoyed your Christmas break as much as I did - but did you know that there was a time when it was illegal to celebrate Christmas? When Oliver Cromwell took over Parliament banned feasting and carolling, and it was not until the Restoration in 1660 that traditional celebrations were once again permitted. You can read more about this bleak period in history if you follow this link to the National Archives website.

 

Putting a face to your 'lost cousins'

According to New Scientist researchers in Singapore are developing facial recognition software that could one day be as good as people at recognising family resemblances.

 

The chances of recognising someone in a randomly-selected photo is so small that currently it's not worth spending the time looking at them. Although there are a number of websites that offer this service, you could spend six months doing nothing but look through photos before you found a single person you recognised!

 

But if a computer could reliably scan a similar number of photos in a matter of hours, it starts to become feasible to identify unknown people in photographs - so it will be interesting to see how the technology progresses.

 

Note: Google's Picasa software already attempts facial recognition, but it only works really well in ideal conditions.

 

Is your online information a security risk?

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have been examining how facial recognition software can be used to identify people from their online profiles - in a trial they found that one-third of students they photographed could be identified automatically from their Facebook photographs.

 

Data-mining technologies, which combine information from diverse databases to draw conclusions about individuals are widely used these days (a good example is the age estimate you see when you search the Electoral Roll at 192.com), but this is the first time that the power of facial-recognition technology has been demonstrated in this context.

 

In the family history world we tend to assume that other users are as morally responsible as we are - but when software can combine the information we've posted at one site with information about us that friends and relatives have posted at other sites it all starts to become a little bit worrying.

 

Wedding ring found on carrot

When I read the BBC news story about the Swedish woman who discovered her long-lost wedding ring on a carrot growing in the garden it got me wondering how many heirlooms are lost to posterity simply because we don't take sufficient care of them? Every day there are programmes on television about people who are selling off - often for quite trivial sums - the things they've inherited from their ancestors but, whilst it may be interesting viewing for some, I can't bear to watch.

 

On Christmas Day I carved the turkey with a carving knife that I hadn't used since my childhood - it belonged to my parents, and one of my favourite jobs on a Sunday was sharpening it on a steel. I don't know whether it was a wedding present, or whether my mother inherited it from her mother, but battered as it is after 60 years it will always have a place in my heart (though not literally!), as well as in my cutlery drawer.

 

Earlier this year as I was going through my late father's possessions I came across a bound volume of Boy's Own Paper from 1879, the year it was founded. Inside the cover was a note recording that it had once belonged to my father's maternal grandfather - my great grandfather. What a thoughtful thing to do!

 

Have you ever thought about how you can help your heirs make sense of what you leave behind? Will your prize-possessions end up in a jumble sale, or will they be valued heirlooms?

 

Don't overpay for certificates!

The Home Office recently issued a press release warning people not to order birth, marriage, and death certificates from intermediaries - some of whom charge as much as £74.99 for an 'express' service.

 

Even Ancestry, a well-respected site, charges £22.99 per certificate, more than twice the GRO's price - though to be fair they include a note in small print at the bottom which states "95% of our customers confirm that they are satisfied with our service and would recommend it to others and we hope you will also. So that you can make an informed decision when ordering, please be aware that there are other certificate ordering services available and that costs do vary."

 

According to the Registrar General "It is always quicker, cheaper and safer to deal directly with the General Register Office for certificate orders. While other outlets can be found online, there is no reason to pay over the odds and I would urge customers to look at the official site first before ordering anywhere else."

 

Did you know that the General Register Office is based in Southport at Smedley Hydro, which in Victorian times was an Hydropathic Spa and Hotel (there's a photo of the building here)? Original features that have been retained include stained glass windows, a panelled billiard room, and a ballroom with a stained glass roof.

 

Over the years the GRO have run a number of Open Days, and I had an email from LostCousins member Jill, who attended some years ago. She was impressed by how knowledgeable the staff were, and by the vast number of certificates that are processed on a regular basis.

 

Note: from 5th January the phone number of the GRO is changing, to 0300 123 1837.

 

When is a 25% discount not a bargain?

Ancestry have been emailing former subscribers offering them a 12 months subscription for the price of 9, effectively a 25% discount. Sounds like a good deal, doesn't it?

 

However regular readers of my newsletter will know that Family Tree Maker 2012 Platinum, which includes a 6 month Premium subscription to Ancestry, is available from Amazon.co.uk for just £29.99 (with free UK shipping) - an effective discount of over 44% even if you throw the software away

 

Note: the FTM offer may not be available outside the UK

 

Free searches of the US 1940 census are promised

There will be a free index to the US 1940 Census after it is released in April according to a recent joint announcement from Archives.com, FamilySearch, and findmypast.com (and yes, I do mean findmypast.com not findmypast.co.uk).

 

The US National Archives (NARA) are making digitised images of the census schedules available free online, but they aren't providing a name index - hence the decision by three leading genealogy companies to collaborate.

 

Which subscription site is the best?

Who Do You Think You Are? magazine have a 7-page article in their January 2012 issue in which four family historians with different backgrounds looked at the four main subscription sites, Ancestry.co.uk, findmypast.co.uk, Genes Reunited, and The Genealogist.

 

Three of the four reckoned that overall findmypast was their favourite; one chose Ancestry. However, everyone's tree is different - so my advice is not to blindly follow someone else's recommendations (not even mine!) but to look at the datasets that each site offers before coming to a decision.

 

Above all, check what's available at your local library - most libraries in Britain and many overseas have a subscription to one site or the other. Few of us can afford two subscriptions, so if your library offers a subscription to one of the two top sites, it makes sense to subscribe to the other one - so that you have access to as much data as possible.

 

How long does it take to find a 'lost cousin'?

Everyone's family tree is different, but if your ancestors were predominantly British, and most of your relatives were living in Britain in 1881 you've got a better than 50% chance of finding a 'lost cousin' in an hour.

 

What I mean by that is that if you spend an hour adding entries from the 1881 Census to your My Ancestors page, the chances are you'll be rewarded by the immediate discovery of a new living relative.

 

Now is the right time to try, because it won't cost you a penny to contact the relatives you're matched with - LostCousins is completely free until 9th January.

 

Peter's Tips

In the days after Christmas the auction site eBay is busy with people selling unwanted gifts, but it's also worth considering Amazon - in fact, because there's no up-front cost I personally prefer Amazon for things like books, CDs, and DVDs.

 

Not surprisingly I put on a few pounds over Christmas - and I bet I'm not the only one! Less food and more exercise is the answer - but how much less food and how much more exercise? These questions can be answered using an online Body Weight Simulator developed by a doctor from the National Institutes of Health in the US. If one of your New Year Resolutions is to lose weight, it's well worth trying it out.

 

By the way, the Body Sculpture BM1505 Power Slimmer at £59.99 which I mentioned in my last newsletter has proved to be a big hit with my wife, who received one from me on Christmas Day ("Whilst not of jaw-shuddering power, it's a fun and helpful boost to circulation, metabolism and other efforts to exercise and tone-up."). I don't whether it was the influence of my article, but Sainsbury's are currently out of stock!

 

Stop Press

This where any last minute amendments will be recorded or highlighted.

 

All the best for 2012!

 

peter_signature

 

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins

 

© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver

 

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