Newsletter - 5 November 2012
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).For your convenience, 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 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, do join - it's free, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!
Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament - but I'd settle for putting a rocket under the General Register Office!
The GRO claims that it wouldn't be possible to put their birth, marriage, and death registers online without primarily legislation. I hope they are wrong - but if they are right then perhaps it should go further than anyone has previously envisaged. Wouldn't it make sense for the older registers to be handed over to the National Archives, who have shown themselves to be much more adept at putting records online?
Perhaps once the GRO realise that they could easily lose a large part of their operation they'll be more likely to come up with the sort of solutions that family historians - who provide the vast majority of their income - actually want!
World War One records free at Ancestry.co.uk
From Friday 9 November until Monday 12 November you can search the World War One records at Ancestry.co.uk completely free of charge. You will need to register (or log-in, if you have previously registered), but you shouldn't be asked for credit card details.
The following links will take you direct to the records that are included in the offer:
Silver War Badge Records, 1914-1920 NOT INCLUDED IN OFFER
Citations of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914-1920 NOT INCLUDED IN OFFER
Note: if I discover any changes or additional records once the offer starts I'll update this article, so I suggest you check back here before on Friday (or before you start searching).
Since findmypast introduced a World subscription at findmypast.co.uk a number of members have written asking whether all of findmypast's worldwide records are included, ie are there some records that you can only access through their findmypast.com.au, or findmypast.ie?
Here's the situation: right now you can't access all of the British records through the overseas sites, but I'm glad to say that you can access all of the overseas records through the British site. But don't rush to change your subscription - eventually a World subscription will offer the same records whichever site you subscribe to. Why the delay? I suspect it's because the British datasets need to be rejigged to work with the new-style search.
As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, I much prefer the more traditional search that only findmypast.co.uk offers to the "shoot first and ask questions later" approach of the new search - and I know that most members with British ancestry will feel the same way. So it's good to know that findmypast.co.uk is the first site to offer access to ALL of findmypast's datasets.
At least findmypast charge similar prices for World subscriptions at their different sites, unlike Ancestry, where the discrepancy is enormous. If you're an Ancestry subscriber living outside the UK check out this article from last month.
Note: findmypast.co.uk still hasn't officially launched the World subscription - once again LostCousins members are ahead of the curve! The Introductory Discount is still available, so if you're an existing findmypast subscriber click here and log-in to find out how much it will cost you to upgrade - you may not have to wait until your existing subscription expires.
Anne wrote to point out that there's a large collection of unindexed Kent records at FamilySearch that aren't available to view. These include over 100,000 images of parish registers, plus workhouse records, court records and many others. I understand that they may be viewable through LDS Family History Centres, but as Anne points out - it's rather frustrating for everyone else!
Founders & Survivors is a free Australian website that, with the help of volunteers, is tracking the lives of the 73,000 men, women, and children who were transported to Tasmania. Stephanie, the LostCousins member who told me about the site, is one of the volunteers - she was surprised how short the men were, mostly about 5ft 6in - and part of the project involves comparing the physical attributes of the convicts with their descendants who enlisted in 1914.
Many of the convict records are online, and in some cases you can view original documents - you can search for your relatives here.
Jesse King, the last woman to be hanged in Edinburgh - at the city's Calton Gaol - was a baby farmer convicted on two counts of murdering children in her care (although the police believed she may have killed many more). A programme about Jesse King will be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland at 2.05pm on Monday 12 November, and if you don't live in Scotland you'll be able to hear it on BBC iPlayer.
The National Archives are leading a consortium of over 100 archives which is planning to put online 9000 school registers and log books containing about 8 million names for the period up to 1914. According to one of the papers prepared for the September meeting of the User Advisory Group, the preferred bidder is BrightSolid Online Publishing, the company that owns findmypast and operates the British Newspaper Archive and ScotlandsPeople websites.
There's no indication when the records might be available, but my guess is that it won't be before 2014. However, if you have ancestors who lived in London it's worth knowing that there are already 1.7 million names online in Ancestry's collection of Admission and Discharge registers for 1840-1911. Although you'll need to be a subscriber to see the images of the handwritten registers, you can currently search and view the transcriptions free of charge here (you will need to log-in or register).
Around the same time that BrightSolid was named as preferred bidder for the school records its parent company DC Thomson announced that publication of the print edition of The Dandy comic would cease on 4 December (see this article on the BBC website for more details). First published in 1937, The Dandy once had a circulation of 2 million - now it is down to just 8,000.
The good news for those of us who have fond memories of characters such as Desperate Dan and Beryl the Peril is that - like the rest of us - they are moving online.
Tip: the final edition will include a reprint of the very first issue!
In the last issue I mentioned how it was possible to buy a complete set of The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy radio series on 12 audio CDs from The Book People for just £15 - and in passing I mentioned that I'd been at school with Douglas Adams, the author, although he was a couple of years younger than me.
This prompted LostCousins member John, who had been in the same form as† Adams, to send me a photo from 1965. Douglas Adams is in the centre and John is on his right (ie on the left in the photo).
Whenever I have any queries relating to my fellow students I refer to one of the 'Blue Books' that were issued each year and which - amongst other useful information - gave the names, houses, dates of birth, and year of starting for all the boys in the school. I see that in the 1962 edition I noted the nicknames of all the masters - though we'd never have dared call them anything but "Sir" in those days.
Did other schools have similar publications? They'd be invaluable to family historians because the information they contain couldn't be published today, thanks to the Data Protection Act. Since the Act came in Old Boys and Old Girls Associations have no longer able to publish personal details of members without jumping through lots of hoops - and the sad result of this is that few, if any, of them do.
You may recall that in September I mentioned that a pilot project to digitise the Home Guard records for Durham had revealed that half of the personnel were under 27 in 1939, which means that they were born less than 100 years ago.
It is possible to search the Durham records at the National Archives website if you follow this link. A free search reveals brief information such as date of birth and occasionally an address (even, surprisingly, for some people who were born less than 100 years ago!). My guess is that the address given is the place of birth, but it could also be the current address.
To view the original records - which usually comprise a two-page enrolment form - costs £3.36 online, but you can view them free at Kew.
The 80,000 records in the Durham collection are just a small fraction of the total of 4.6 million. It still isnít clear if or when the others might become available online. If you have any living relatives who served in the Home Guard it should be possible to obtain a copy of their records under the Data Protection Act.
The National Archives are seeking two new delegates to join their User Advisory Group - for more details click here. Please note that the closing date is 16 November.
In July I wrote: "I like to keep an open mind about whether the information I have is true. Most people believe what they want to believe, then selectively seek facts that will confirm their beliefs - whereas I aspire to a more open stance, seeking not only confirmation, but also denial."
I was interested to read something similar in an article by Else Churchill, the Genealogist at the Society of Genealogists, which is in the November issue of Your Family Tree magazine.
In the article she talks about the Genealogical Proof Standard, something that I hadn't come across before (like most of you I'm just an amateur, though a very enthusiastic one). It's set out very clearly on the website of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, based in Washington DC - and I'd urge you to follow this link and print out a copy as an aide memoire.
Else ends with the sentence "Proof is based on the quality of evidence, not its weight". For me this is a reminder that the biggest family trees are usually the most inaccurate - and that even when everyone agrees on something they might all be wrong, especially if they're all basing their conclusions on the same evidence.
Last month I highlighted how unreliable information found on the Internet can be.
David wrote to point out that this isn't a new phenomenon - family histories published over a century ago can also incorporate errors. Indeed, they're more understandable in many ways, since in those days it was far harder to track down records and verify them. (Anyone who began their research more than a decade ago will know exactly what I'm talking about!)
In David's case the book was W. A. Copinger's History and Records of the Smith-Carington Family, published in 1907 - so if that work underlies your own research you might want to double-check it!
For me, the star of the Modern British Childhood exhibition at the Museum of Childhood in London's Bethnal Green will be Muffin the Mule, who I remember seeing on television on the 1950s. Do you remember Annette Mills, who wrote and sang the songs? She was really Edith Mabel Mills, the elder sister of John Mills, the great British actor who made so many memorable films.
Annette died in 1955 at the age of 60, but John Mills lived to a grand old age - he was 97 when he died in 2005. About a year before his death I wrote to Sir John to ask what memories he had of my grandfather's 1st cousin, who was his employer before he went on the stage professionally, but sadly he remembered nothing - though I guess that at 96 that's not surprising!
Note: Fortunately there is still some record of his thoughts on the subject - in December 1960 my grandfather's cousin was a guest on This Is Your Life when John Mills was the subject, and I was able to obtain a videotape of the program from the BBC's archives.
The Modern British Childhood exhibition runs until 13 April next year. Admission is free.
First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who has written to tell me about the physical traits that run in their family. It's been a very interesting exercise, particularly because it has become apparent that most of them are more common than we might like to think - it's certainly been enlightening to discover that I'm not the only one with little holes in the top of my ears!
That particular trait is an example of a preauricular sinus, and apparently when the holes are found in both ears it's more likely to be hereditary. Sometimes they can become infected - and I hear they can also be associated with deafness - but fortunately in my case they have been benign so far.
One of the inevitable consequences of the fact that the traits are fairly common is that they arose a long time ago - indeed, in some cases they are likely to be evolutionary throwbacks (or atavisms).
Does this rule them out as a source of genealogical leads? Not entirely - there will be times when the sharing of a physical trait is the best evidence available that two people are related. And I would certainly encourage you to complete your My Ancestors page so that I can link you with the other LostCousins members are your cousins (indeed, you should do this whether or not you have family traits† - that's what this site is about, after all!).
If you have identified a physical trait in your family it would be an interesting exercise to contact your known relatives to find out which of them share the same trait. I suspect you're unlikely to find that the trait has passed down the male line, so any association with a particular surname is likely to be transitory, but I'll be delighted if you can prove me wrong by finding distant cousins with the same surname who have the same trait.
Finally - for now - one member reported a trait that a few centuries ago could have led to her being branded as a witch. I'll give a free LostCousins subscription to the first person who can not only guess what that trait is, but also tell me how rare it is.
I'm really grateful to Mike for passing on a tip that will make your Google searches far more effective (and for persisting when at first I didn't "get it"). Until last week I didn't think there was anything important I didn't know about Google searching, but this is something that they don't mention on their Advanced Search page (you have to click on the link Use operators in the search box to find it).
I expect that, like me, when you're searching for information about your ancestors you include 'genealogy', 'family tree', or family history' as one of the search terms to cut down the number of irrelevant results. But which of those you choose will affect the results you get - so it would be really nice to search for them all at once.
Do you know what a tilde is? I'm not talking about a brand of rice, but the little squiggly character that looks like this ~ (on my keyboard it's on the same key as the # symbol, but it could be somewhere else on yours).
If you put ~ immediately in front of a word Google will look not only for the word itself, but also for synonyms. This means that you'll be able to find not only entries that include the word 'genealogy' but also similar terms, such as 'family tree'.
You might well find other uses for the ~ symbol. Do let me know if you think they might be of interest to other members.
Tip: another useful symbol is the minus sign, which indicates that you don't want results that include a certain word. It's particularly useful when there's a celebrity who shares the name of the person you're looking for, eg 'beckham -david -victoria', or 'dylan -bob -thomas'
I'm all for complaining when something isn't right, but there are some people who like to whinge or moan about just about everything - and if you're not careful they can stop you making the right decisions.
This was brought home to me this week when Alex drew my attention to the modest rating accorded to the independent mobile phone company GiffGaff at the site ReviewCentre.com - and she quite understandably asked whether the reviews there would cause me to rethink my recent recommendation.
I must admit that when I saw that reviewers at the site had awarded an average rating of just 2.9 out of 5, I was initially taken aback - not least because my own experience has been very positive (I've just renewed for another month). But then I looked at the ratings for the five major mobile phone networks, which were 1.5 (Orange), 1.6 (Vodafone), 2.0 (T-mobile), 2.1 (O2), and 1.4 (Three). Even Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile didn't do much better with 2.0 and 2.1 respectively.
So in fact, far from being a pariah, GiffGaff actually has the highest rating - and by quite a margin!
Tip: I don't know about you, but I believe that reviewers who can spell and punctuate are more likely to be reliable - and that's one reason why I tend to start by reading the reviews at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com (even if I know that I'm likely to buy somewhere else) The professional reviews at the Which? magazine site are also worth reading, and whilst you have to be a subscriber to see some of them, a lot of very useful information is available free. †
Of course, I am very interested in hearing about any problems you experience using LostCousins or any of the sites I recommend in my newsletter - although where another site is involved it's obviously best if you try to resolve the problem with them first.
The competition to add the most relatives was won by Gail, who made 112 new entries on her My Ancestors page. Gail won two tickets for the Tesco Wine Fair in London but kindly donated them to others as she had a prior engagement that day.
The next competition is my annual jam-making competition, details of which were published last month. All entries must be received by the end of November to be considered for the prizes.
I recently met up with my 2nd cousin once removed - one of the many relatives I've found since I started to research my family tree - and I was very impressed by the photo book he showed me. Coincidentally Albelli, the biggest photo book company in Europe, this week sent me an email offering £15 off any photo book when the code UKALFFTB is used at the checkout (valid until 13 November).
In August I explained that some members in the UK are likely to be paying too much tax on their savings (you'll find the original article here). I was heartened to receive an email from Rosie who is getting a refund of over £250 as a result of following my advice!
Stamp prices went up this year by nearly 30%, but recipients of certain benefits can buy up to 36 stamps at last year's price - for further information click here. Of course, canny LostCousins members will have followed my advice to buy their stamps before the price increase!
Would you like a (nearly) free historical map? You only have to pay the postage of £3.49. Follow this link to Cassini Maps - the offer runs until 31 December or until 100,000 maps have been given away, whichever is sooner.
Finally, if you're quick and you live in the UK you can buy a copy of Family Tree Maker 2011 World Edition for just £22 including postage at Amazon.co.uk - and since it comes with a free 6 month World membership to Ancestry.co.uk worth £77 it has to be the bargain of the year! Follow this link to check whether the offer is still available.....
GREAT NEWS! Findmypast have added the British Newspaper Archive collection of nearly 6 million pages from over 200 local newspapers to their UK site, and if you have a Full or World subscription they are already included - there's no need to upgrade! When you consider that a separate 12 month subscription to the British Newspaper Archive would cost £79.95 it's pretty generous of findmypast to include these records for no extra charge.
Also, since writing my tips column I've discovered that you can buy Family Tree Maker 2011 World edition more cheaply from Amazon's French site, even if you live in the UK. I'm not sure how long this discrepancy will last, but it's well worth looking into (and you don't need to speak French, because the program is shown as an English import, and you should be able to log-in using your Amazon UK details). Click here to go direct to the page at Amazon France.
ScotlandsPeople have added Scottish wills - over a quarter of a million of them - from 1902-1925; there are now over 1 million wills available on the site. For the latest announcement click here.
Finally, there's an amazing special offer at Amazon. Right now you can get the Kindle version of In the Blood, Steve Robinson's unputdownable genealogical crime mystery ABSOLUTELY FREE. As far as I know the free version will work with the free Kindle apps for PC, iPad, and Android tablets - but even if I'm wrong, what have you lost? Click here to go direct to the page at Amazon.co.uk (for the equivalent offer at Amazon.com click here). I'm sure this fantastic offer won't last for long....
I hope you've found this newsletter interesting. Several of the articles were inspired by members, so do please keep writing in with your tips, comments, and questions!
© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver
You may link to this newsletter, and I have included bookmarks so you can - if you wish - link to a specific article (right-click on the relevant entry in the table of contents at the beginning of the newsletter to copy the link). However, please email me first if you would like to re-publish any part of the newsletter on your own website or in any other format.