Newsletter - 6 June 2011

 

1911 Census takes second place

Who is the most interesting person in your family tree?

Lincolnshire registers online

Ancestry launch Dorset records

How to complain

FamilyRelatives and the Advertising Standards Authority

Cheap Ancestry subscriptions

London Probate Index at findmypast

South African records online

New Zealand census - new date set

Searching for family history using Google

FamilySearch reinstates batch numbers

County boundaries in the census

Tracing relatives after 1911

Identifying relatives in photographs

Solved- after 49 years!

Peter's Tips

Stop Press

 

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 21 May 2011) please click here. Each newsletter links to the one before, and you can go back to February 2009 when the newsletter first went online; there will shortly be an online index to articles thanks to the sterling efforts of members Elizabeth and, especially, Gill.

 

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). Note: 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 you are still using Internet Explorer you may need to enable pop-ups (if the link seems not to work, look for a warning message at the top of the browser window).

 

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1911 Census takes second place

In the next few days the 1911 England & Wales census will overtake the 1841 Census to become the second most popular of the 7 censuses from the English-speaking world that are supported at LostCousins. This is remarkable when you consider that it's not much more than a year since members have been able to enter relatives from 1911.

 

However, it might surprise you to know that for a while to come the 'average' member will still have a better chance of finding cousins through the 1841 Census than through 1911 - that's because more than twice as many people were recorded in 1911, so whilst more relatives from 1911 may have been entered, it represents a smaller proportion of the population.

 

Of course, the census for which we have the greatest coverage is 1881 - partly because we've been using that census since LostCousins launched 7 years ago, but also because it's the only census that's available free online. When you enter a relative from the 1881 England & Wales census there's almost 1 chance in 20 of finding an immediate match, which to my mind is jolly good odds when you consider that it takes less than a minute to enter someone.

 

If you don't have the time to enter every relative who was recorded on all three censuses here is the strategy I would recommend:

 

(1) Start by entering every blood relative you can find on the 1881 Census, no matter how distantly-related they may seem - what matters is whether they share your ancestry, not how many generations you have to go back to find the common ancestor. Please identify your direct ancestors, ie your grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great grandparents etc (best of all, enter their Ancestor Numbers - you can read these off the blank Ancestor Chart provided).

 

(2) Remember to enter your relatives from collateral lines - the brothers, sisters, and cousins who had families of their own in 1881. Of all the relatives on your tree, they are the ones most likely to lead to your 'lost cousins'!

 

(3) Next consider the relatives that you've found on the 1841 Census. Are there any who emigrated, or who appear to have disappeared without trace between 1841 and 1881? If so, the only way you're likely to find their descendants is by including the 1841 entries - it's amazing how often an unexpected branch can turn up in the New World (unfortunately outgoing passengers weren't recorded officially until 1890).

 

(4) Finally, enter the relatives who were recorded in 1911, but can't be found on earlier censuses, or who arrived in Britain after 1881, and who therefore first appear in the 1911 Census (if they came from Ireland and you've traced their origins, remember that you can also enter the relatives who stayed behind).

 

A question I'm often asked is what to do when someone is recorded on more than one census, or - in rare cases - more than once on the same census! Your My Ancestors page is a list of census entries, not a list of relatives, so if someone appears on more than one census (one of my relatives appears on 3) he or she can be recorded more than once. However, the 1881 Census should always take priority.

 

Who is the most interesting person in your family tree?

The Federation of Family History Societies is holding a competition that is going to appeal to many family historians "Write an account of your most interesting person and bring them to life in no more than 1,000 words."

 

You'll find more details of the competition and prizes here. If you do decide to enter, send me a copy of your entry and I'll award free LostCousins subscriptions for the ones that I find most interesting.

 

Tip: I won't be looking for tales about the rich and famous, but for seemingly ordinary people who did extraordinary things (and I suspect the same strategy might win over the FFHS judges too).

 

Lincolnshire registers online

The new website Lincs to the Past holds over 200,000 images of individual pages of Lincolnshire registers for the following periods: baptisms 1538-1911, burials 1538 onwards, and marriages 1538-1837.

 

As is often the case with sites designed by archivists it doesn't meet the standards of user-friendliness that family historians have come to expect, but I eventually found a PDF file that explains how to search for parish registers.

 

Ancestry launch Dorset records

If you have ancestors who came from Dorset you'll be delighted to know that last week Ancestry made available online a wide range of records from the Dorset Record Office, including baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial registers, and also will and probate records. Currently only parish registers from 1813 onwards are online, but I'm sure that Ancestry plan to add earlier records in due course (the will and probate records cover the period from 1565-1858).

 

I don't have any Dorset ancestry, so I haven't had an opportunity to road-test these records properly. I just hope they haven't made too many blunders - when they put the Liverpool registers online recently Ancestry transcribed the wrong records for one of the cemeteries, so that people who bought a grave for a relative appear in the Search results as if they had been buried themselves! It's amazing that the world's leading family history business could make such a careless error, and given the understandably sensitive nature of the modern records (they go up to 1988) it's one that has created a lot of distress for the LostCousins member who first alerted me to the problem, and who is - I understand - still waiting for an apology from Ancestry.

 

Tip: a free source of parish register information for Liverpool is the Lancashire On-Line Parish Clerk website (you'll also find many photos of gravestones); there's also an OPC site for Dorset which has 1.4 million records available. If you haven't already done so it's worth checking what OPC projects there are covering the counties of interest to you, although I should warn you that the coverage can be very patchy.

 

How to complain

I get a lot of complaints. Actually 99% of them aren't anything to do with LostCousins, they're from members who are seeking my advice or consolation in relation to some untoward experience at another genealogy site - usually Ancestry, but even findmypast come in for the occasional brickbat.

 

What I've discovered over the years is that often people don't explain a problem in a way that someone else can readily understand. This is understandable - we're not all IT experts, so we can't be expected to understand what's going wrong.

 

However, there are two things you can do that will enable you to make your point better, and improve the chances of getting a sensible reply within a reasonable time-scale! One is to investigate 'around' the problem, ie try to figure out when it does and doesn't happen rather than just quoting a single instance. For example, if you complain merely that you canít find a particular ancestor in a census it's likely that the person at the other end will assume that there's a transcription error - whereas if you are able to point out that everyone from a particular town or village is missing you may get their attention.

 

The other strategy is to take 'screenshots', so that the person at the other end can see exactly what you are seeing on your computer screen. I don't mean that you have to get your camera out - the solution is much simpler than that!

 

Did you know that when you press the button labelled 'Prt Sc' or 'Prt Scr' (on my keyboard it's to the right of the F12 key) the entire screen is copied to the clipboard? All you need to do then is 'paste' the contents of the clipboard into a graphics program, such as the free Irfanview program that I've recommended on countless occasions, and save it as a JPG file that you can then attach to an email. Windows 7 even has a 'snipping tool' that you can use to record a specific part of the screen, though personally I prefer to use Irfanview to trim off any irrelevant parts of the screen (use the mouse to draw a border round the area you want to keep, then choose Crop selection from the Edit menu).

 

I've been complaining for over 30 years, and there aren't many organisations that haven't come in for criticism from me at some point in time - I even complained to the Consumers Association once that their own advertising was misleading! So take it from me, if you want to get a positive result from your complaint, make it as easy as possible for the organisation to give you a sensible response.

 

Tip: a lot of online problems are caused by over-zealous Internet Security programs. If you decide to block pop-up windows, whether in your browser or in your security suite, please make sure that you list as exceptions sites that depend on them, such as findmypast and LostCousins (even this newsletter relies on pop-up windows!). The same applies to 'cookies' - if you use the default browser settings you should be fine, but if you disallow cookies completely, or set the slider to High you won't be able to log-in at LostCousins and many other sites (including Tesco.com).

 

FamilyRelatives and the Advertising Standards Authority

It's many years since I've recommended FamilyRelatives.com in my newsletter, and there's a reason for that - whilst they once had some features that were both unique and useful, they've long since been overtaken by other sites.

 

Sadly they still seem to be making claims to uniqueness for features that are now equalled or bettered at other websites, and so I recently felt compelled to report them to the Advertising Standards Authority (which now covers websites). I will let you know in due course how the ASA responds.

 

Note: if you ever find anything on the LostCousins site that you consider misleading or out of date please let me know.

 

Cheap Ancestry subscriptions

You can still save a lot of money by buying Family Tree Maker 2011 Platinum, which comes with 6 months' Premium Ancestry membership, although when I checked the Amazon site today I noticed that they had once again bumped the price up to £35.99 (though it's still a big saving compared to the £107.40 cost of an Annual Premium subscription).

 

Even though I much prefer using findmypast for the records that are available at both sites, I find the London Metropolitan Archives registers very useful - and in any case, I need to subscribe to both sites to be able to evaluate them properly on behalf of members.

 

Note: I am not recommending Family Tree Maker as a program - I have never used it myself, even though I have a copy sitting on my bookshelf ready for when my Ancestry subscription runs out in October. My tree programs of choice are Family Historian and Genopro, which is the one I use every day (see my April newsletter for more details).

 

London Probate Index at findmypast

Findmypast have just launched the complete London Probate Index, adding more than 42,000 entries covering surnames beginning with G-Z (the A-F section of the index has been available online for over a year). To find out which records are included visit the Knowledge Base page at the findmypast site.

 

South African records online

I'm often asked about South African records, so I was delighted when Steve wrote to tell me about two sites he uses, the Genealogical Society of South Africa (whose many online records include birth, marriage and burial registers, plus over 300,000 gravestone photos), and the National Archives of South Africa. Steve tells me that at the NASA site he chooses the RSA option, as this enables him to search all of the records simultaneously.

 

New Zealand census - new date set

The Christchurch earthquake caused so much disruption that the census that was due to take place this year was postponed - however Patricia has written from New Zealand to tell me that a new date has now been set, in March 2013.

 

Searching for family history using Google

Steve also mentioned a web page that makes it easier to search for family information using Google, and the first time I tried it, it led me to a new 'lost cousin'. I can't promise that you'll be as lucky as me, but I'd certainly recommend you try it with some of the more unusual surnames in your tree - it will work best if you give the names of two people who are likely to be mentioned on the same web page, eg husband and wife.

 

Of course, you could do the same thing by constructing your own Google search, but it's much easier and quicker this way.

 

FamilySearch reinstates batch numbers

One of the complaints frequently voiced about the 'new' FamilySearch site was the inability to search using batch numbers, so I'm delighted to report that this omission has now been rectified (thanks to Andy for pointing this out).

 

Tip: if you don't know what batch numbers are, or why you'd want to use them, see my article "Unlock the Secrets of the IGI" on the Help & Advice page.

 

County boundaries in the census

When you're searching the census by county you need to be bear in mind the possibility that the place where your ancestors lived may have fallen within a different county for census purposes. For example, the Essex village of Stansted Mountfitchet (where LostCousins is based) is found under Hertfordshire in the census.

 

Census districts were based on Poor Law districts, which were no respecters of county boundaries. However you'll sometimes find sections of the census relocated for no apparent reason - for example, in 1841 parts of Morpeth and Berwick-on-Tweed will be found under Durham, even though they are actually in Northumberland (this seems to have been a result of the way the 'pieces' were organised and numbered when they were archived).

 

Update: I've discovered, thanks to Wilf, that in 1841 Berwick and parts of Morpeth belonged to the County of Durham, and were only ceded to Northumberland in 1844.

 

At findmypast you can search not only by name, but also by address - this makes it easy to identify towns and villages that have been misplaced.

 

Tip: searching by address can also be a great way to identify streets that have been completely omitted from the census (or where the records have been lost); although there are lists at both findmypast and Ancestry of missing sections of the census they aren't complete, nor do they record individual streets.

 

Tracing relatives after 1911

I had some very positive feedback about my Masterclass article in the last newsletter, so I know that many of you are already trying out the techniques I recommended. To keep it simple I focused on records that are all available at findmypast, but if you also have access to Ancestry you might well find some clues in the National Probate Calendar and the BT phone directories.

 

But even without referring to those additional resources I've added more than 100 new relatives to my tree in the past 2 weeks alone, including many living relatives. If you haven't yet tried the techniques in the Masterclass perhaps that information will inspire you to do so now!

 

Identifying relatives in photographs

In my last newsletter I wrote about the latest 'lost cousin' I'd found "because we are 5th cousins I expect there are few people out there who would question how useful such a distant connection might be, but they'd be wrong - we're both researching the same ancestors, which is all that matters!".

 

Pamela wrote from Canada to confirm how well such distant connections had worked for her:

 

"I have had great success connecting with distant cousins...I have my great grandmother's photo album from 1860 to about 1915, in which there are numerous un-named photos. I have been able to identify 3 of the people in the album (from a total of 7 photos) because the un-named people were the ancestors of my distant cousins."

 

The opportunity to discover photographs of relatives from earlier generations is one of the great benefits of finding 'lost cousins', but it can work both ways - your new-found relatives may be able to identify some of the people that you don't recognise.

 

Solved- after 49 years!

It was July 1962, and school was "breaking up" for the long summer holidays. I was asked to look after an 8 year-old boy whose parents were abroad and unable to collect him, and because he was staying close to where I lived it was arranged that I'd take him home with me on the train so that his uncle and aunt could collect him later that day. None of this could have been anticipated, but I took it in my stride - it was what happened next that stuck in my memory for nearly half a century...

 

When the lad's uncle and aunt came to collect him my mother offered them a cup of tea, and as they chatted they idly glanced at the photographs on the mantelpiece. Suddenly they recognised someone they knew - and before long they'd figured out that a relative of theirs was a relative of ours, which meant we were all related!

 

I only heard about this afterwards - I was in the other room at the time - and it was only many years later, when I started to work on my family tree, that I began to wonder precisely what the connection was. I didn't have a lot to go on other than the young lad's name and a hint that the connection was in my mother's father's mother's part of my tree.

 

It was only a few days ago that I struck gold - tracking collateral lines after 1911 I found a relative in my tree who had married someone with the same surname as that young boy. However, I couldn't find the boy's birth in the GRO indexes (perhaps he was born abroad, if that's where his parents were living), so eventually I took the plunge and telephoned the 10 year-old phone number that I found for the couple, by now in their 90s, who I believed might be his father and mother.

 

The phone rang and rang - then eventually it was answered by an elderly gentleman who seemed genuinely pleased to hear from me, even though I was a complete stranger to him. As we talked, and I explained my half of the story, there was good news and bad news. I had identified the right couple, and I had telephoned the right number - but sadly my 2nd cousin once removed had died not long before. If only I had focused on this problem more intensively - perhaps I would have got there in time.

 

Nevertheless, my cousin's husband was very helpful and we had a very pleasant chat. I agreed to pop a copy of the family tree in the post, and he told me what he could about his late wife's family and his son - I discovered that the shy young lad of half a century before was now a senior university lecturer, with a PhD, no less! With those extra clues to work with, I was able to find his email address, and before long we were exchanging memories of our schooldays (which is one of the reasons why this newsletter is getting to you just that little bit later than I originally intended).

 

Peter's Tips

I recently mentioned a book that I'd heard being read on Radio 4 (it was the Book of the Week) and found very interesting, as well as moving. The Warmth of the Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting is subtitled 'ageing without growing old', and that's something that's very important to me (and, I suspect, to a lot of other members). Anyway, the reason I'm mentioning it again is because you can now buy it from The Book People for just £3.99, which is amazing for a hardback book that was published at £16.99.

 

Albelli, the biggest European producer of photo books and personalised calendars, has a 25% discount code that expires in 3 days time (it may be less by the time you read this). Follow this link and place your order before the offer ends on Thursday 9th June - it's a different way to display your ancestors' photos!

 

Stop Press

The County Boundaries article has been updated since this newsletter was first issued.

 

That's all for now - I hope you've found my newsletter interesting. Many of the articles are inspired by you, the members, so please do keep writing in with your thoughts, comments, and suggestions.

 

peter_signature

 

Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins