Newsletter - 21 March 2011
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 3 March 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; in due course there will be an online index to articles.
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 don’t 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).
Tracing Your Roots census special
There was a special edition of BBC Radio 4's family history series Tracing Your Roots on Sunday 20 March that focused on the census. One of Britain's leading census experts, Peter Christian, was interviewed about the future of the census and, with the help of Nick Barratt - probably Britain's best-known genealogy expert - the program investigated the changing history of a street in Lancashire, as reflected in the censuses.
Tip: if you missed the programme you can listen to it free online using BBC iPlayer (it will be available for 7 days after the broadcast); you'll also find programmes from the two most recent series here.
By the way, if you're researching a particular street or locality and have information that would be of interest to descendants of the people who lived there you can use the One-Place Study feature of the LostCousins site. See the Help & Advice page for more details of this useful facility, and also the article below about the new House History feature.
There was a lot of interest in my suggestion that we each keep a copy of the 2011 Census form after we have completed it, and that - if submitting the information online - we fill in the hardcopy form first and retain it so that the family historians of the future can not only see the information without waiting for the official release in 2112, but also handle the form. Just imagine what it would be like to be able to handle the forms that our ancestors filled in!
One member came up with the idea of writing extra information on the form, such as middle names and birthplaces (which aren't asked for). One possible problem is that because the forms will all be scanned in shortly after the census is complete, the original forms may not be retained - after all, because so much of the information will be submitted online there won't be a complete collection of census forms as there was for previous censuses.
I will be following my own advice - completing the form by hand, then submitting the data online. I'll also record additional information not asked for in the census - not only middle names and birthplaces, but also the names and dates of birth of my parents and siblings.
However, the important thing is to make sure you make a copy of the form before sending it off - don't lock your information up for 100 years!
On 24 March there will be a free talk at the National Archives given by Audrey Collins during which she will talk about what went on behind the scenes at the census - and, intriguingly, she will talk about the only time that advertising was allowed on census material. Click here for more details of this and other events at the National Archives.
I've also been told that there's an interesting article about the censuses in the March 2011 edition of History magazine. I haven't been able to get hold of a copy myself, but LostCousins member Norma tells me that it's very good.
The National Archives are proposing to establish a new User Advisory Group, reshape the existing User Forum, and wind up the Online User Advisory Panel. The main aims are to increase the representation of online users and allow for user representation at a more strategic level: you can read the proposals here.
I've written recently about the importance of checking what online services are available free at your local library - apart from directly relevant sites such as Ancestry and findmypast, at least one of which is available at most libraries in England (and many elsewhere), many libraries also offer access to online newspaper archives - which may include both national and local newspapers. Even better, these newspaper archives can usually be accessed from home, using your library card number.
It only takes 5 minutes to Google your local libraries to find out what's available, yet I'm continually amazed how many members seem to be unaware of what's on offer! I hope you're not one of them….
There's good news and bad news when you access Ancestry at the library - the good news is that you're likely to find that it's the worldwide edition, giving you access to countries that would normally require Ancestry's most expensive subscription. The bad news is that because Ancestry Library Edition is designed for use in public places it doesn't offer any options related to family trees (mind you, that can be a mixed blessing, as you'll discover below).
However, the other money-saving option - which I revealed in my last newsletter - is to buy a discounted copy of Family Tree Maker 2011 Platinum Edition from Amazon. The price has gone up a little - possibly as a result of the demand from LostCousins members - but it's still a lot cheaper than buying (or renewing) a Premium subscription.
When I go to the findmypast site I'm quoted £129.95 for a 12 month Full subscription, but some members have reportedly been charged less. My suspicion is that lower prices are offered to people who are completely new to the site, and although at first sight it seems strange, it's surely no more unusual than Tesco charging different prices in different stores (which is something they do all the time).
Try clicking here to see what price you are offered!
(To check it out using a browser other than your default browser right-click on the link and select 'Copy shortcut' or 'Copy link location', then paste the link into the command line on your other browser.)
Note: I should point out that existing subscribers to findmypast still get the cheapest rate, thanks to the 20% loyalty discount. To make sure that you qualify for the loyalty discount check out the terms here.
Margaret wrote to let me know that anyone who signs up to receive Ancestral Scotland's newsletter is given 10 credits for use at the Scotlandspeople site (value £2). Click here to sign up.
The Scotland 1911 census will be available at the Scotlandspeople site from Tuesday 5 April. It will cost 1 credit to view an index entry, or 5 credits to view an image, so you'll have no trouble spending your 10 free credits (see previous article)!
Remember that the cost of 30 credits at Scotlandspeople is going up on 1 April from £6 to £7 - so it makes sense to buy your credits now. Although credits you buy now are only valid for 90 days, any unused but expired credits will be reactivated when you buy new credits.
In the last newsletter I mentioned a most unusual name, and ever since I've been inundated with other examples. One can understand where the name Arthur Wellesley Wellington Waterloo Cox came from, but Singular Onion Gallehawk? Hazel tells me that 'Onion' was his mother's maiden name, but that still leaves me wondering about 'Singular'. Ralph contributed two more horticultural names, both from his tree - Rasberry Hall Williams, and Thistle Gordon Barrett.
Elaine tipped me off about a very unusual forename that's found in New South Wales in the first decade of the 20th century - Chlorine - whilst Frances wrote about Little Elizabeth Parsons, who was born in 1881 and married in 1907 as Little Lizzie Parsons. Better than Little Lord Fauntleroy, I suppose!
I'd like to thank everyone who has submitted comments relating to the new FamilySearch site - these are very helpful, and when I have verified each point that has been raised I will contact FamilySearch with my report.
In the meantime it is apparent that some FamilySearch users haven't read the documentation on the new site. There's one document in particular that you will find useful, entitled Adjusting to the New Version of www.familysearch.org and I'd encourage you to glance through it.
The rise and fall of Private Butwell
Looking through the British Army Service Records at findmypast I came across a James Butwell, who I thought at first might be a relative of mine - and whilst I ultimately couldn't find a connection I found it so fascinating to read about his rollercoaster career that I thought I would share it with you.
He joined the 25th Foot as a Private on 10 January 1860, and clearly made a favourable impression on his superiors because on 1 March he was promoted to Sergeant - only to be arrested the very next day and court-martialled for drunkenness, whereupon he was reduced to Private.
Never mind, because on 8 June he was promoted to Corporal - and then on 24 August he was not only promoted to Sergeant but also appointed Drum Major. This time he managed to keep his rank until the following January when he was imprisoned for going AWOL and - surprise, surprise - reduced to Private again. By November 1863 they must have decided to forgive and forget, because he was once again appointed to Drum Major - a position he retained until May 1864 when he was yet again imprisoned for drunkenness and reduced to the ranks.
After that it was more of the same, and when he finally came to the end of his service the Regimental Board that awarded him a pension noted that his name had been entered in the Regimental Defaulters Book 22 times, and that he had been court-martialled 5 times. And yet they described his character and conduct as good!
There's been a lot of discussion over the past few years about the 1939 National Registration Act, which obliged anyone not already in the armed forces to register and carry an identity card, but you could be forgiven for not knowing that there was a similar Act passed in 1915, during the Great War.
I recently acquired an original First World War identity card on eBay - it only cost a few pounds - and whilst it would be so much better to have a card that belonged to a member of my family it's still wonderful to touch an original document.
You'll also find original Second World War identity cards for sale on eBay, though it's obviously cheaper to buy a facsimile as part of the collections I mentioned last month (click here to read that article again).
Helga wrote to tell me about National Archives of Australia site called Mapping our Anzacs which allows free access to the records of 375,000 soldiers who served in the Australian Army during WW1. Although I haven't yet found any relatives of mine, I was very impressed by the quality of the colour images.
Rachel's email is one of just many that I've received since I first pointed out the dangers of posting your family tree online - and sadly her experience is typical:
After approximately 5 years of Ancestry membership I have finally made my tree private instead of available for public viewing. It made me really sad to do that as I believe you will get more contacts and leads if someone can view your tree. I made it private because someone had picked up William Bramwell, my Great Grandfather, and added him to their tree in place of another William Bramwell that was their ancestor. I contacted him several times to politely point out his error, but he didn't answer and continued to pull great chunks off my tree, including a huge number of photos of people and places to which he has no connection. I have no problem sharing anything on my tree, but do expect people to be polite at the least and to check their research.
Posting your family tree online where anyone can see it is like playing Russian roulette. Most of the time you're lucky, but when you're not, the consequences are fatal.
If you really must post your family tree online then you might want to consider Genes Reunited, because even after you've been linked with someone you don't have to share your tree with them - instead, once you've verified the connection, you can simply email the part that's relevant to them. But remember that at LostCousins you can find people who share your tree without revealing any information about yourself or about your ancestors - it's the safest and most accurate site there is.
Strangely I still come across people who have been LostCousins members for several years, and find my newsletters invaluable - yet they haven't managed to find a spare half hour to complete their My Ancestors page so that their living relatives can get in touch. If you're in that position perhaps you could let me know what's holding you back?
Although house history and family history are different topics there's often quite an overlap. For example, the house of one of my 'lost cousins' was featured on Who Do You Think You Are? last year because an ancestor of the celebrity had lived there - and when we visit our local records office it makes sense to find out what information and documents they hold relating to our house, as well as to our family.
I'm therefore delighted to announce that LostCousins has a new feature to help those who are researching the history of their house - and it works in a similar way to the One-Place Study feature I mentioned earlier. All you need to do is find your house on any or all of the censuses that we support - 1841, 1881, and 1911 for England & Wales, 1881 for Scotland - then enter the inhabitants on your My Ancestors page, using the House history category in the relationship section.
When you click the Search button you'll be matched automatically with other LostCousins members who have entered the same people because they are descended from or related to them.
Tip: because you probably won't know who was living in your house in 1841, 1881, or 1911 you'll find the Address search feature at findmypast extremely useful.
The General Register Office indexes of births, marriages, and deaths are a valuable resource because they cover the whole of England & Wales - but they aren't perfect. I'm not talking about transcription errors, which are easily overcome - I'm talking errors and omissions in the indexes, and perhaps in the registers themselves. Some years ago Mike Foster carried out extensive research into the GRO records of marriages, identifying many different sources of error - and whilst the missing or grossly misrepresented entries may account for well under 1% of the total, that's still a large number.
In many parts of England & Wales there are projects to construct a local index of births, marriages, and deaths - based on the indexes and registers held locally. In theory these should be more reliable, because they are closer to the source - but even if they had as many errors and omissions, the chances are that they would not relate to the same entries. In other words, if you can't find an entry in either the GRO indexes or the local indexes then the likelihood is that you are looking for an event that didn't happen (or you are looking under the wrong name, in the wrong place, or at the wrong time).
The UKBMD site brings together most of the local BMD projects in England, Wales, and the Isle of Man, and most of them can be searched simultaneously - although my personal recommendation is to search them individually if possible. What's really exciting is the additional information recorded in many of the indexes - for example, they often include the mother's maiden name for births, and for marriages the name of the spouse, which in the GRO indexes are only found from 1911/12 onwards. In some cases this will mean that you don't need to order the certificate in order to proceed with your research.
Usually the local BMD indexes identify the sub-district where the event took place, which is an additional aid to finding the right entry (especially births). Marriage certificates purchased from the local register office are more likely to show the participants handwriting, though it's worth checking before you order as you might otherwise end up with a typed certificate.
I've had reports of local register offices charging different prices for certificates - the statutory fee is £9, so if you are quoted a higher price I suggest you ask for a breakdown of the charges.
Finally, I hope that I haven't given the impression that you can only order local certificates if you have identified the entry in an online index at UKBMD or another site - that isn't the case, although it's obviously much better if you do have this information. Local register offices are usually very helpful, and some will contact you if they are concerned that the certificate they are about to issue may not be the one you're looking for.
Frances wrote to tell me of a most unusual occurrence she had found - the death of a child registered in the quarter preceding the quarter in which the child's birth appeared. As 42 days are allowed to register a birth, but only 5 to register a death, I can understand how this might have happened - though I'm surprised the registrar didn't pick this up at the time the death was registered.
Obituary - Dennis Howard Calver
My father died on 10 March - he would have been 95 in May. He wasn't rich, he wasn't famous, and you won't find his obituary in the newspapers, but everyone who knew him says what a lovely man he was, so I wanted you to have the opportunity to read about my father's life. You'll find the obituary I've written here.
If you knew my father and would like to attend the funeral on Monday 28 March please contact me for details. But even if you didn't know him, after reading his obituary you may wish to join me in commemorating his life by contributing to one of the three charities that my brother, sister, and I have selected:
The cost of postage within the UK goes up on 4 April by about 12%, so make sure that you buy as many 1st and 2nd class stamps as possible - it could be one of the best investments you ever make. And, if you have a Superdrug outlet near you, you can save even more - because they are offering 5% off 1st Class stamps until 3 April (limit 72 per person per day). Many thanks to John for passing on that tip.
It's amazing what snippets of information in letters, on postcards, or inscribed in the front of books can lead to. For example, when I was looking through my father's wartime letters I found one of the few letters from his mother that he'd been able to keep (it was sent after the end of the War, whilst Dad was waiting to be demobbed - it wasn't practical for him to keep the letters he received while on Active Service).
This letter was dated 30 December 1945, so from this short paragraph I was able to deduce that Pauline had been born on 2 April 1944, and that her parents were Phyllis and Eric. Since Phyllis's name followed after that of Aunt Lottie, it seemed likely that Phyllis was her daughter - so all I had to do was find a Lottie (or Charlotte) in my family tree who had a daughter named Phyllis.
Though I've identified many of the 20th century marriages of my relatives using the fully-searchable indexes at findmypast, Lottie had married someone with a fairly common surname, and I hadn't been able to identify a likely marriage for Phyllis in the Essex area, where I would have expected to find it. But with the additional information that her husband was called Eric I was able to find the marriage in Kent - and verify that it was the right family by proceeding to find the births of Pauline and baby Peter.
[Interestingly that's the first time I've come across the name Peter in my family tree - I wonder whether he came to mind when my parents were thinking of a name for their first child less than 5 years later?]
What snippets of information do have that - when combined with other knowledge - can provide clues to parts of your tree, or parts of your family history that are currently uncharted?
This is where any amendments or updates will highlighted.
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.