Newsletter - 16 July 2010
About this newsletter
The LostCousins newsletter is published twice a month on average, and all LostCousins members are notified by email when a new edition is available (unless they opt out). To access the previous newsletter (dated 25 June 2010) please click here. Each newsletter links to the one before, and you can go back to February 2009 when the newsletter first went online; in due course there will be an online index to articles.
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Although the newsletters are hosted at LostCousins, they are not part of the main website. Click here to go to the main website and search for your living relatives.
2011 - the last British census?
Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister has recently stated that the Census - which is expected to cost £482 million in 2011 - is an expensive and inaccurate way of obtaining the information that the Government needs to run the country (if you missed it, there's an article on the Daily Telegraph website).
As family historians we rely enormously on the censuses that have survived and been published - but it's actually quite fortuitous that so much information is available to those us with British ancestry. Almost all of the Irish censuses prior to 1901 were destroyed, whilst in Australia census forms were - until very recently - routinely destroyed once the statistics had been collated. This helps to underline the fact that the needs of family historians have never been a significant factor in the collection of census data (if they were taken into consideration at all).
You may recall that a couple of months ago I suggested that we should keep copies of our 2011 census forms - indeed, I envisaged that there might be a website where we could input the data and specify our own date for its release, rather than settling for the one-size-fits-all 100 year period set down in the Census Act.
If the Census as we know it is abolished - and, let's face it, £482 million is an awful lot of money - surely there's nothing to stop those us collecting the data ourselves? Blimey, I'd be amazed if it cost more than £4 million. And if between us the family historians in Britain can't raise £4 million we can hardly complain about the Government not wanting to spend £400 million of our money, surely?
I recently had an email from Guy Etchells who, as you may know, was almost single-handedly responsible for getting the 1911 England & Wales census released early.
Guy has suggested that given the Government's budget deficit, releasing the 1921 census early could provide some much needed income - and he may well be right. However, for many of us there is a limit to how much we can afford to spend, and so - much as I'd love to see the 1921 census before its scheduled release date of 2022 - I'm not sure that releasing it early would necessarily maximise the Government's revenues.
I'd rather focus on getting the GRO birth, marriage, and death registers online, so that researchers with English and Welsh ancestors can get information as quickly, cheaply, and easily as those with Scottish ancestors. This would save ALL of us money and time.
The GRO have told me they don't have the statutory authority to do this - and I've told them that's complete bunkum (indeed it's the same twisted thinking that led to the abolition of reference checking in April). Wouldn't it be nice if the so-called public servants at the GRO adopted a can-do attitude, rather than hiding behind the skirts of their legal advisers? Surely we shouldn't need an Act of Parliament to drag the GRO into the 21st century?
Going back to the question of when censuses are released, LostCousins member Clive has suggested on the Your Freedom website (set up by the Coalition Government) that the 1920 Census Act - which set the 100 year embargo - be repealed.
Note: when the 1921 Census does become available, don't expect to see the 'fertility data' that was included for the first time in 1911. By 1921 they still hadn't processed the 1911 data, so they left this question out in 1921.
I've calculated that LostCousins members saved over £1 million by searching the 1911 England & Wales census and other resources during findmypast's fantastic World Cup offer - and I hope that if you haven't already done so, you'll enter the relatives you found on your My Ancestors page so that I can link you with some new cousins.
However, whilst the World Cup is over, it's still possible to get free information from the 1911 census if you're really clever, like LostCousins member Bob in Australia.
Bob pointed out that if you've noted down the RG14 piece number and the schedule number (ie the same census references that you need when you enter relatives on your My Ancestors page) you can not only use this information to display the names of the people in the household you found, but - by incrementing or decrementing the schedule number you can see who was living in adjacent households.
Of course, all of this information (and more) would have been available free during the offer, but we don't always think of these things at the time. It's just the same when I visit a records office - it's only when I'm collating the information afterwards that I come up with a list of queries that would have been so easy to answer if only I'd thought of them whilst I was there!
Of all the censuses that we can use to search for your 'lost cousins', the 1911 England & Wales census is probably the simplest. The two references that we need to know are the piece number (which is prefixed RG14PN) and the schedule number (prefixed SN). These are the first and the last of the references, which makes them really easy to identify.
For example, if the census references shown are:
RG14PN9571 RG78PN510A RD188 SD6 ED15 SN377
then you would enter 9571 as the Piece Number, and 377 as the Schedule Number (do NOT enter the prefixes).
The other references aren't required, but I would recommend that if your relative was in a large institution or barracks you record the Enumeration District in the Notes box, as large institutions are generally covered by just one Schedule Number (typically 1 or 9999).
Tip: whilst the 1911 Census will open up new opportunities to link with living relatives, especially amongst newer members, the 1881 Census is likely to produce the fastest results, because members have already entered well over 1 million of their relatives from this census. So make sure you have entered all of your relatives from 1881, especially the brothers, sisters, and cousins who had families of their own at the time of the census (since they are the ones most likely to link you to your 'lost cousins').
Talking of censuses, Linda wrote to tell me of a discovery she'd made in one of the many Essex registers that are available online - an unofficial census of the village of Ardleigh, taken by the vicar in 1796, five years before the first official census, and nearly half a century before the first census to list everyone by name.
†The Rev John Kelly personally went round the parish visiting each household and recording the names, ages, and 'qualities' of the inhabitants.† Concerned that the French might invade he also tallied up the number of males between 15 and 60 who were capable of bearing arms.
Another member, Susan, told me of her surprise and delight when she discovered that for a 30 year period - an entire generation - the baptism registers of the parish of Northwich in Cheshire included not only the names of the child's parents, but also the four grandparents! The burial registers were also very detailed, giving not only the date and cause of death, but also the names of both parents - even for those who died in old age.
If you're lucky you may come across a baptism register where each entry includes the names of the godparents - I've only seen it once, but the register was pre-printed so there must surely be others.
Tip: you may not have to visit a records office to see parish registers - there are LDS Family Centres all over the world where you can inspect microfilm copies of most registers. Click here to find out the addresses and opening hours of the centres nearest to you.
Researchers with ancestors from Cheshire are particularly lucky, because not only have many of the parish registers been transcribed as part of the new FamilySearch beta site, almost 500 tithe maps for Cheshire are online thanks to Cheshire County Council, and can be †searched by name of the owner or occupier.
Note: some of the supporting pages are unavailable following the replacement of Cheshire County Council by Cheshire East and Cheshire West councils, but it shouldn't take you long to find out how it all works.
Online Parish Clerks exist for many parts of England - it's our equivalent of the USGenWeb project which members in North America will be familiar with - but the Lancashire project stands out, with over 3.7 million parish register entries that you can search free online.
Tip: you can find links to other counties here; Cornwall also has very good coverage.
As I was writing this newsletter findmypast announced that their new fully-searchable birth indexes had gone line. Covering the whole of England & Wales from 1837-2006, it is the most comprehensive index available, and my initial tests show it to be highly reliable - which is a great relief in view of the poor job that Ancestry have done.
Mind you, it's not surprising that findmypast have an accurate transcription - you only have to compare the quality of the source images. Findmypast's have been newly scanned, so are crystal-clear and easy to read - many of Ancestry's are so hazy that their transcribers were lucky to be able to read anything!
One very nice feature is that you can search by County or by Registration District, or by a combination of the two. But be careful when searching by county, as Registration Districts that span the border of two counties† - such as Thetford - may only show up in the search results for one of them. (On the other hand, at least findmypast have allocated the districts to the correct counties, unlike Ancestry - where searching by county is a very perilous adventure.)
I like the way that you can include or exclude spelling variations, and limit this to the forename or surname individually - and also the way that 'unnamed males' and/or 'unnamed females' are added at the end of the search results. This is a feature I haven't seen at other sites, and could be very useful if you're trying to track down children who died in infancy and whose existence you discovered from the 'fertility data' in the 1911 Census.
In my last newsletter I mentioned that you can now search the 1911 Census at Genes Reunited, and that the free search gives birthplace information (which you won't see when you search at either findmypast or the 1911 census site).
However, I wasn't suggesting that members should take out a Platinum subscription - indeed, knowing what I know now, I'd strongly advise you against it! That's because whilst you can search the census and view a transcription, at Genes Reunited you can't see the household schedules that your ancestors filled in. I wasn't aware of this until it was pointed out by a LostCousins member (thanks, George).
Another member, Dianne, wrote to tell me that Genes Reunited have changed the system for 'hot matches', so that it's now far more difficult to discard the phoney matches. As I removed my tree from Genes Reunited some years ago I'm no longer plagued with 'hot matches', and therefore don't have personal experience of this change, but it does sound rather strange. However, I realise that different people have different hopes and aspirations, so if your experience of the new system has been more positive, by all means let me know.
Although I've found that findmypast is, on the whole, the most reliable site (and the one that's most open about what information they do or don't have in their database), it seems that, just like you and me, they aren't perfect.
I've discovered that the 1881England & Wales census at findmypast omits individuals who were on Royal Navy ships, or who were in certain institutions! Admittedly the missing entries are only 0.1% of the total, but if one of your ancestors happens to be in that 0.1% it could be confusing (and annoying too). Of course, it's always good practice to search at multiple sites when you have difficulty finding your relatives in the census, and as both Ancestry and FamilySearch have a free transcription of the 1881 Census findmypast's omission shouldn't provide too much of a problem.
On a more positive note, findmypast have recently plugged a gap in their 1901 coverage, adding 18,000 people who had previously been omitted for one reason or another.
Tip: just because you've bought a subscription for one site shouldn't stop you taking advantage of free searches at other sites
Ancestry have compiled indexes of births, marriages, and deaths that cover most of Australia - the first time that such a comprehensive index has been available. Whilst much of the data is already available free online at the websites of the individual states, being able to carry out a global search is handy, especially when you're not certain if your relative ever went to Australia, or where they ended up.
Tip: a free search may tell you all you need to know
Last month I mentioned the recently-launched Your Family History magazine, which has Nick Barratt as Editor-in-Chief, and is published by Wharncliffe (who used to publish the now-defunct Ancestors magazine on behalf of the National Archives).
I've now had a chance to study the first 3 issues more closely - and am also delighted to see that Issue 4 has an excellent article about LostCousins, which should certainly attract some new members (this is good news all round, since each of them is likely to be the 'lost cousin' of several existing members, though of course I won't be able to match them up until they complete their My Ancestors page).
For me the highlight of Issue 1 was the article by Nick Barratt on the 1940 German invasion of Britain which never happened - or did it? But I was also intrigued by another article, also by Nick, in which he revealed a skeleton in his own tree in the article Spies Like Us. And hidden away on page 65 was a short news article alerting readers to the Birmingham Pub Blacklist, which has crept into Ancestry as perhaps its smallest database, with just 87 records - every one of which makes fascinating reading. It just goes to show that life wasn't so different a century ago!
Issue 2 had a very comprehensive article about the Boer War and the records that have survived - and it starts with the interesting fact that the UK paid South Africa nearly £10m (a substantial sum in those days) in compensation for the damage suffered. I was also surprised to learn that of all the regiments that made up the British Army in 1899, there were only three that didn't see service in South Africa between 1899-1902, and that by the end of the war about half a million men had taken part on the British side.
To mark National Deaf Awareness week (which began on 28 June) Issue 3 had two articles focusing on the attitudes to deaf people over the past 250 years, and the records that have survived, notably in the archives of the British Deaf History Society. This is the first time I can recall seeing an article about deaf people and their lives in a family history magazine, and it's commendable that YFH spotted this gap.
As to Issue 4 - well, no prizes for guessing which article was my favourite! But second-place has to go to the article by LostCousins member Frances Lake, the co-ordinator of the Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons Group (DAP), which tells about her fight to discover the identity of her father's birth parents, which culminated in an unsuccessful case in the High Court in London. As someone who has also fought - ultimately unsuccessfully - †for what I believed in at the High Court I have the greatest admiration for Frances, and hope that one day she'll finally be able to achieve closure.
Each month new subscribers to Your Family History get a free book - this month it's Tracing Your Pauper Ancestors, which normally costs £12.99. If you click on the magazine picture above you should be taken to the YFH website.
There's another book sale at the National Archives - and once again I've been filling my boots (or should I say my bookshelves). For just £2 you can buy Nick Barratt's Tracing the History of Your House - which would cost you £8 at Amazon, and for £2.99 I'll also be getting Michael Gandy's Family History Cultures and Faiths: How your ancestors lived and worshipped - Expert Advice to Speed Up Your Search, which would currently cost £7 at Amazon.
Spend over £15 and delivery is free - and if you're lucky the TNA computer might even add up your order incorrectly (my books totalled £20.72, but they only charged me £20.71 - I know it's only a penny, but you know the saying!).
Have you discovered the National Archives Labs website? It's a site where the National Archives can trial new services without disrupting the existing site - rather like the FamilySearch beta site, I suppose. From comments by users it seems that there are some problems using Internet Explorer, but I had no difficulty using Firefox.
I'm still experimenting with the site, so I'm not going to attempt to explain in detail what you can and can't do - and in any case anything I say will probably be out of date. But in brief the three services currently offered are:
∑ Person Search, which seems to be a cross-database search covering all National Archives indexes, including Documents Online - this could be particularly useful if you have unusual surnames in your tree;
∑ UK history photo finder, which allows you to search a large collection of photos taken in 1920s-1940s (and for once they don't seem to be postcards);
∑ Valuation Office map finder, which makes it easy to find the maps which are the first stage in looking up records created under the Finance Act 1910
In the US censuses are released when they are 72 years old (National Archives please note) so the 1940 Census is due out in 2012. But whether or not you have US connections you might be interested to watch the short training films for enumerators which are available online at YouTube.
I've just returned from a very enjoyable holiday which incorporated visits to Oxfordshire and Caernarfonshire Records Offices - and you'll be pleased to hear that the staff at both were not only knowledgeable, but very helpful. At Caernarfon we were allowed to handle the original registers (no white gloves), so my wife was able to touch the very pages that her ancestors had touched when signing the marriage register 150 years earlier.
I had thought of visiting Glamorgan Records Office as well, but noticed at the last minute that they don't accept CARN (County Archive Research Network) cards as identification, and that my driving licence wouldn't be sufficient either (they wanted a utility bill or bank statement). So my first tip is, always check in advance what forms of identification will be acceptable.
Most supermarkets reduce the prices of foods as they reach their sell-by date, and in the case of fruit and vegetables the reductions can be quite dramatic (yesterday I bought some bags of prepared salad reduced from £1.50 to just 1p). In my local supermarkets the prices can be marked down more than once, and if you can time your visits appropriately there can be some real bargains.
When fruits and vegetables are reduced by 80% or more I often buy large quantities to make jams or chutneys. As you may know from previous newsletters my favourite is tomato jam - and as I've just made a large batch which turned out very nicely I thought you might like to have the recipe that I used.
I started with 3kg of tomatoes, which cost me £1.35 in total (they were reduced from £1.49 to 45p per 500g punnet, plus there was a Buy One Get One Free deal). They were large, so after washing I chopped each into 5 or 6 pieces - however, if you're lucky enough to pick up some cheap cherry tomatoes I'd suggest leaving them whole, but puncturing two-thirds so that the juice can escape.
Next I heated them in a very large saucepan to soften and bring out the juice, and strained most of it into a jug (how much juice you need to strain off depends on the tomatoes, but if you don't strain any off you'll have trouble getting the jam to set). I then added 2kg of jam sugar, which had been warming in the oven, and kept stirring until it had dissolved. I added the juice of two very large unwaxed lemons, together with the thinly sliced peel - though I removed most of the white pith first, since I'm not a marmalade lover (leave it on if you are). Finally I added the juice from a jar of stem ginger before chopping the ginger and adding that too (if you have time it's even nicer to thinly slice the ginger into pieces the size of a thumbnail).
All that remained was to boil the jam until it thickened, then pour it into the sterilised jars that had been warming in the oven - you should get 10-12 normal-sized jars. Total cost about 60-70p per jar (excluding labour), for something you can't buy in the shops (but would cost at least £3 a jar if you could).
Nothing to do with genealogy, I know - but when it tastes so good who cares?
This is where any updates or corrections will be posted.
That's it for now - I hope you've enjoyed reading this newsletter as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it!
Copyright 2010 by Peter Calver & Lost Cousins Ltd except as otherwise stated