Newsletter - 2 October 2012
Find your DNA partners NEW FEATURE
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 don’t 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!
I've written many times about the big savings that can be made by switching your Ancestry subscription to a different site, but I get so many emails asking for more details that I'm going to run over them once more.
Here are the facts: Ancestry offers a Worldwide subscription through all of its sites, but the cost varies enormously from one site to another - this partly reflects changes in exchange rates since the prices were fixed, but some of the differences are too large to be explained entirely by currency movements.
Even if you don't need a Worldwide subscription you might still be able to save money by switching. You might even be able to get a better (or more appropriate) subscription and save money.
Which Ancestry site is the cheapest? There's a hint in the title of this article! All of the sites that charge in dollars - whether US, Canadian, or Australian - are considerably more expensive than the UK site. Look how little you would pay at Ancestry.co.uk!
Note: the published price of a Worldwide subscription on Ancestry's UK website is £155.40, but that includes UK taxes. So long as you live outside the European Union you'll pay £135.13, as shown in the screenshot above - the actual price will, of course, be displayed before you complete your purchase.
At today's exchange rate that price equates to $210 (Australian), $218 (US), or $215 (Canadian), which is a substantial saving compared to the price you'd pay for exactly the same subscription (though with a slightly different name) at Ancestry.com.au, Ancestry.com, or Ancestry.ca! And although it says 'Initial Annual Membership Fee' it isn't a special offer price - renewals are charged at the same rate.
There are four simple steps to take:
(1) Cancel your existing subscription - do it now, even if it isn't due to expire for some time (you'll still get the time you've paid for, unless you're in the first 7 days of a subscription longer than one month which has been automatically renewed, in which case you'll receive a full refund). That way there's no risk that you might forget to cancel nearer the time. I always cancel on the day my subscription starts - that's the safest approach.
(2) Wait until your existing subscription has expired - otherwise you won't be able to switch sites. Then when you're ready to take out a new subscription* click here to go to Ancestry.co.uk (note: if you use that link LostCousins may receive some commission - if you don't we won't).
(3) Don't re-register. Simply log-in using your existing user name and password - that way you won't lose anything (and you can even continue using the same site to access Ancestry's records if you prefer).
* when my subscription runs out I can often manage for a week or two without renewing, so that's a way to save even more!
You can still save money if you don't currently have a Worldwide subscription - for example, the cost of a UK Heritage Plus subscription at Ancestry.com.au is $215.40 which is slightly more than you'd pay for a Wordwide subscription at Ancestry.co.uk!
Tip: if you want to share this tip with friends or relatives please send them a link to this newsletter - that way you'll be supporting LostCousins and its members.
British Newspaper Archive, the joint venture between the British Library and BrightSolid (owners of findmypast and Genes Reunited) now has over 5,750,000 newspaper pages online, taken from historic copies of hundreds of local and regional newspapers. Currently you can get 15 free credits when you register for the first time - potentially enough to view 3 complete pages!
I've found the records useful not only for researching my family tree, but also for researching the area where I live - which has changed enormously over the past 200 years.
Tip: there's also a collection of British local newspapers that can be accessed free at many public libraries (or online using your library ticket) - and, whilst it's a much smaller collection, there's little or no overlap so it's worth checking both. Some libraries also offer access to The Times archive and some other national newspapers - these are particularly useful when you want to put events in your family history into an historical context.
When we arrange for our own Y-DNA and mtDNA to be tested the results can only ever tell us about the ancestors in our direct paternal and maternal lines - the lines that run down the outside edges of our family tree. They can't tell us anything about the remaining 99% of our ancestors, which is why the Family Finder test I wrote about in my last newsletter is so exciting.
However, whilst your mtDNA and, if you are male, your Y-DNA are virtually identical to that of your ancestors in your direct maternal and paternal lines, your autosomal DNA is a mishmash. It isn't identical to, or even an approximation to, the DNA of any one ancestor - it has little bits from all of them. In other words, it's full of clues to your ancestry, but in isolation it doesn't prove anything. It's certainly unlikely to answer specific questions - the sort of questions that need answering if there's a particular 'brick wall' you are determined to knock down.
Imagine that you could re-draw your family tree so that your 'brick wall' ancestors were all at the edges of the tree, so that you could use the precise Y-DNA and mtDNA tests to find out about them. It's impossible, of course, and yet..... what if you could find another person who could provide the DNA sample you need, someone who shares the same ancestral line and has inherited the Y chromosome or mtDNA of your ancestor?
Find your DNA partners NEW FEATURE
No matter how experienced a genealogist you are, or how well you understand the principles of DNA testing, there's a limit to how many questions can be answered using DNA samples that you yourself provide.
Sometimes there will be another family member who can provide the necessary sample, but even when that is the case, you may need another sample to test it against (it depends on what it is you are trying to find out).
That's why I'm delighted to announced that from today you can use LostCousins to search for potential candidates by using the new DNA research category on your My Ancestors page. There are plenty of sites that allow you to upload your family tree, but only LostCousins makes it easy to enter people who aren't on your tree - either because you haven't worked out whether or how they are connected, or because you're carrying out a project such as a One-Name or One-Place Study.
How does this new feature work? Very simply, you look for DNA partners in precisely the same way that you search for cousins.
When you click the Search button on your My Ancestors page every single entry you've made is compared with the millions of entries made by other LostCousins members (this could potentially involve billions of comparisons, depending how much data you have entered), and any new matches found are highlighted with a red tick, as you can see in the example below:
Whenever you're matched with someone new the first thing you should do is go to your My Cousins page, where there will be an entry in the New contacts section.
The name of the person you're matched with isn't shown - you'll only see their initials (that's because LostCousins respects the privacy and security of its members). But you can find out how the other person is connected to you even before you contact them, simply by clicking on their initials - this displays the My Contact page for the relationship:
In this example the other member is a direct descendant of the person you've entered, which increases the chance that they'll be able to provide the sample that you need. But even if the other member is connected in some other way, they might still be able to put you in contact with a suitable donor - after all, they wouldn't belong to LostCousins if they weren't seriously researching their tree.
Tip: the My Contact page is available for every person you're linked with, and is particularly valuable when you're matched with someone who is a relative of yours, because t he information displayed is often sufficient for you to work out what the connection is - which means that once contact is established you get down to business right away! Use the Notes box as an 'aide memoire'.
How do you determine who to enter on your My Ancestors page when your aim is to use DNA to prove an hypothesis or solve a mystery?
The key things to remember are that the Y-chromosome passes from father to son, whilst mtDNA passes from mother to child. There must be an unbroken chain from the person whose identity you are attempting to infer or confirm, to the person who provides the test.
This means, for example, that I can't use a Y-DNA test to find out who the father of my illegitimate ancestors was because those ancestors were both female (although one did have a brother who might possibly share the same father, so there is still some hope).
Tip: when the terms 'paternal ancestor' and 'maternal ancestor' are used in relation to DNA testing it is always the ancestors at the very edges of your family tree - your DIRECT paternal and maternal ancestors - who are being referred to.
Here's the question that you should ask yourself: "if there is someone alive today who shares my ancestor's Y-chromosome or mtDNA, who will they be descended from?"
You might think that the answer to that question is simply "my ancestor", but that's only half the story. Why? Because the Y-chromosome or mtDNA in question didn't suddenly materialise when your ancestor was born - it was inherited from their father or mother.
Let's consider an example using the family tree from the last newsletter which I used to illustrate how Y-DNA and mtDNA are passed down the generations:
Imagine you're Robert Bradford, whose paternal grandfather was illegitimate. You've obviously inherited your great-grandfather's Y-chromosome which provides a clue to his identity - but only if you can match it against another sample. In many cases you wouldn't have any idea who the father of the illegitimate child was, so the best you can do is take a Y-DNA test yourself and see if there are any matches in the database of the testing company, or other accessible databases, that will provide a clue to the surname of your unknown paternal ancestor.
But let's suppose that in this particular case you have a strong suspicion that the father of Mary Bradford's child James was one Roger Smith - maybe he was lodging with the family at the time when the child was conceived, but died before James was born. Or perhaps there is a family story that points in Roger Smith's direction.
Now, because Roger Smith died before marrying, and - to the best of your knowledge - before fathering any other children, the only person who will have inherited his Y-chromosome is your ancestor James Bradford. So is this a hopeless cause?
No, it isn't - because Roger will have inherited his Y-chromosome from his own father, John, and John had another son, imaginatively called John Smith, who was living at home with Roger and his parents on the 1881 Census. Perhaps John did marry and have a son?
The only problem is, John Smith is such a common name that trying to track his descendants would be really, really difficult - and that's where LostCousins can help. If you enter not only Roger Smith, but also his brother John and their father using the 'DNA research' category you'll be matched with the other LostCousins members who have entered any one of them the moment you click on the Search button.
Of course, you're not guaranteed of a match, and even if there is a match, you don't know that Roger's brother had any sons. But since it will only take a couple of minutes to add the 1881 Census data for this family to your My Ancestors page, it's got to be worth a try!
It's not possible in a short article to cover every possibility, but whilst this example has focused on Y-DNA, similar logic applies to the inheritance of mtDNA. Of course, mtDNA will never tell you who the father of an illegitimate child was, but it might well provide a clue to the identity of a female ancestor whose baptism or marriage you've been unable to find.
Note: up to now many people have taken DNA tests without any real understanding of how they might help resolve their questions about their family tree. Using the 'DNA research' feature I've created doesn't commit you in any way to taking a DNA test - it merely helps to create a situation in which taking a test is more likely to tell you something useful!
There aren't many occasions when mtDNA can be used to answer specific questions, so I was delighted when Pamela wrote from Australia to tell me how it had helped her:
"I used a DNA test to knock down a brick wall around my great grandmother. There was absolutely no paper trail for her at all - I can't even find a marriage. The only information was in a biographical index of Western Australia about her mother applying for poor relief after the death of her husband, naming her 3 children - but not her. Colonial records being very informative, I requested the files for that area, but found that her file was gone.
"I had heard rumours about our great-great uncle being aboriginal and was informed that he was adopted, his mother dying in childbirth."
Pamela wondered whether her great-grandmother might also have been aboriginal. As the great-grandmother in question was her mother's mother's mother, she was in Pamela's direct maternal line - which meant that Pamela's own mtDNA would be virtually identical to that of her great-grandmother - so she decided to have her mtDNA tested.
The result proved that Pamela has an aboriginal ancestor in her direct maternal line, and given the other evidence - or lack of it - it seems extremely likely that it was her great-grandmother.
Tip: although testing your mtDNA is very unlikely to tell you precisely who your maternal ancestors were, it may provide some useful clues to their geographical and/or ethnic origin; in some cases these additional clues will greatly increase your chances of finding documentary evidence.
Whether we're using DNA or more traditional methods to research our family tree there could be occasions when we discover something that we wish we hadn't. Cheryl sent me an example from her own experience which illustrates this well:
Further to your DNA themed newsletter this month, I thought I would pass on my experience with DNA testing. The individual this story relates to has asked me not to publicly identify him, so I will keep that part vague.
My paternal line is LONG of Wiltshire whose documented pedigree stretches back to the 13th century. There is a tradition in the family (dating from at least the early 19th century) that another line originating in a nearby village is descended from my line - but with only circumstantial evidence (i.e an administration in 1630 naming names, but not the relationship to the deceased).
A certain gentleman (I will call him JL), very proud of his Long name and history, descended from this other line and a very keen genealogist, decided to settle the question once and for all. While we waited for the results of his DNA comparison with my brother's, we felt quite excited that at last we might know for sure, one way or the other.
Disappointingly, there was no match. Well, that was that, or so it would seem....
I continued to check his results and found overwhelming numbers of matches with another name. The same name as JL's great-great grandmother's SECOND husband. The lady in question was the daughter of an Earl, and the second husband was a 1st Baronet whom she had married in 1808, a year after her first husband's death. The hapless first husband was probably unaware his wife had passed off at least one of her children with her lover, as his. Not an uncommon situation in families of all ranks, and one which will affect any hopeful DNA matches today, unfortunately.
Needless to say, poor JL was shocked to learn he apparently has no Long DNA. But then again, perhaps my brother's DNA wouldn't have proved anything either, for the same reason.
There was an even bigger shock for an Ohio woman who discovered (through DNA testing) that she had married her own father. You'll find the full shocking story in this Daily Mail article.
How would you feel if you discovered that one of your relatives had been jailed 5 times and buried in an unmarked pauper's grave?
Leicestershire suffragette Alice Hawkins was imprisoned on 5 occasions because she fought for the rights of women. A mother of six, she worked as a shoe machinist, but still found time to speak out for a cause she believed in. Last week a memorial service was held at which friends and relatives commemorated her life - according to a BBC news article her great-grandson, Peter Barratt, said the whole family was "immensely proud" of her actions.
I'd also be immensely proud to have someone like Alice Hawkins in my tree - how about you?
There are lots of companies offering DNA tests - and inevitably some are cheaper than others. My only experience is of Family Tree DNA, about whom I've only ever heard good things - indeed, that's one reason why I chose them.
Having a DNA test isn't like buying gas or electricity - where you get the same quality product whoever your supplier is. Not only does the level of expertise vary, some companies only offer the cheaper, more basic tests - presumably in the hope that you'll buy on price alone, without looking too closely at what you're getting. But equally important, once you've taken your test you want your results to be checked against the largest possible database - and that's the second reason why I went with the company that has carried out more DNA analyses for family historians than any other.
The third thing that appealed to me about Family Tree DNA is that, like LostCousins, it was founded by someone who had a keen interest in researching his own genealogy. Bennett Greenspan may be the President and Chief Executive of the company, but three years in a row he's been at the Who Do You Think You Are? show in London talking to ordinary people like you and me!
The following article was contributed by LostCousins member Peter Taylor:
The recent article titled Genes for Face Shape Identified (Lost Cousins Newsletter 22 September 2012) set me thinking about other physical characteristics which tend to be handed down ancestral lines. My late mother, Mary 'Mollie' Wilkinson (1924-1978), used to speak affectionately of 'the Wilkinson finger'.
Whenever the latest Wilkinson descendant was born, she would rush off to examine its tiny fingers to see if the outer joint on the smallest finger on each hand had this characteristic slight inward cranking towards the other fingers. Then, excitedly, she would show everyone that he, or she is truly a Wilkinson! My own smallest fingers and those of all my three children share this physical characteristic.
My mother's paternal grandfather was Richard WILKINSON (1854 - 1927) who married Sara Jane ASHWORTH (1858 - 1927). I am in touch with Sara's first cousin, four times removed, Andrew ASHWORTH, who has emailed me with the information that he does NOT have this physical characteristic but shares a distinctive forehead shape with his ASHWORTH ancestors, so 'the finger' does not appear to have come from the ASHWORTH side of the family. However, Andrew's mother is Carole, née WILKINSON, and she DOES have it!
Other families may have another distinctive feature that identifies them as members of that family and it occurred to me that the Internet can provide a useful way of gathering information, to an extent that was never previously available to our ancestors.
I should love to know how many other descendants of the WILKINSON family share this particular characteristic of their little fingers.
Bramley, Leeds, UK
I was particularly interested to read what Peter Taylor had written because there's also a genetic trait in my family, which I believe comes from my mother's side (if only I'd taken more notice at the time I was told about it!). What about your family?
Findmypast have recently added a further 175,000 baptism and burial records for Middlesex - click here to find out more and see a list of the parishes included. Other smaller recent additions include burial records from Derbyshire, and baptisms and marriages from Kent.
It has become apparent that the transcriptions of about half of the 1911 England & Wales census entries at Ancestry don't include the Schedule Number, which is one of the two census references you'll need when completing your My Ancestors page.
It's a strange omission considering that the Schedule Number is one of the references you can specify when searching this census at Ancestry, but it needn't stop you entering your relatives - for ordinary households the Schedule Number is clearly shown in the top right-hand corner of the census form.
It's very easy to publish information on the Internet, whether you write a blog, contribute to forums, upload family trees, or have your own website - but there's little or no quality control, which sadly means that the level of accuracy can be very low.
Everybody makes mistakes, but some people have a vested interest in selling a particular point of view - politicians, for example. With the US Presidential Election just 5 weeks away I was interested to discover a supposedly non-partisan site called Politifact.com which analyses claims made by political figures from both sides - I even downloaded the app for my smartphone - but of more general interest is the forthcoming launch of Hypothes.is which will aim to cover the entire Internet using crowd-sourcing.
Of course, the danger for any experiment of this kind is that the people posting comments could be even more misguided (or bigoted) than the people whose words they are criticising - but the founders of Hypothes.is have apparently developed a system that will overcome problems like this.
Wouldn't it be great if the companies who run the big genealogy sites provided some simple means of commenting on the trees that others have posted?
It's so hard to get errors corrected - often the person who posted the original information proves either uncontactable or unamenable - and as a result the same mistakes can get copied time and time again by unsuspecting researchers. All too often the wrong version becomes so prevalent that it is accepted as fact, and those of us who have taken the time to research the evidence are considered slightly deranged for sticking to our guns!
Last year there weren't very many entries for my jam competition, but they were all very good - and the winning entry was absolutely outstanding!
This year there are once again two categories: Tomato jam and Open
Entries for the tomato jam category may include other fruit (my own recipe includes lemon or lime, and usually stem ginger too) - but tomato must be the main ingredient apart from sugar. Given the weather I expect there will be some green tomato jam entered this year!
Please remember that this is a jam competition - if you enter chutneys or other savoury concoctions the judges (my wife and I) will happily devour them, and may even compliment you on them, but you won't be considered for the two prizes. However, if there is sufficent demand I may add a chutney category next year.
The address for entries is shown on the Contact Us page; all entries should arrive during the month of November. If you send a recipe it must be accompanied by a sample pot - unaccompanied recipes will not be assessed.
All entrants will receive a free LostCousins subscription of between 6 and 12 months duration, and there will be appropriate prizes for the winners of each category.
Tip: if you think you're in with a chance of winning my competition, why not have a go at the competition in the October issue of Gardeners World (page 115)?
Do you like wine? I've got two tickets (worth £10 each) for the Tesco Wine Fair that's being held in London on Sunday 28th October, and I'm going to give them away to the member who adds the most entries to his or her My Ancestors page between 2nd-21st October. If the winner doesn't live near London he or she can nominate a cousin or friend - who must also be a LostCousins member - who can attend.
It's a chance to taste hundreds of wines and champagnes from all over the world for absolutely nothing! To be in with a chance of winning add at least 20 new entries to your My Ancestors page, then send me an email telling me how many you have added (your email must arrive by 22nd October as the tickets will be sent to the winner or nominee by post).
Tip: your My Summary page shows how many entries you've made - if you check it now, and then again on 21st October the difference in the totals will tell you how many you've added.
If you've got a sweet tooth and are very discerning then you would, like me and my wife, find the Hotel Chocolat chocolates from the Chocolate Tasting Club absolutely amazing. Catering for all tastes with 6 different collections (not just milk and dark) they're not only the most expensive chocolates I've ever tasted but also the best - which is why I splash out on half-a-dozen boxes each year, even though it might mean turning the thermostat down another degree to pay for them!
I'm not sure how much longer this offers lasts, but right now you can get your first box for just £9.95 (instead of £19.95) when you follow this link and enter the discount code FGAFF0109 - you even get a bonus gift valued at £7. There's absolutely no obligation to continue as a club member, although you might find it tempting to stay at least until Christmas!
In my last newsletter I mentioned that GiffGaff offers 250 minutes of phone calls, unlimited texts, and virtually unlimited Internet for mobile phones - all for just £10 a month with no contract or other tie-in. At the time they were actually offering unlimited minutes, but banned tethering (which is where you use your phone as a WiFi hotspot - very handy if you have a laptop or tablet, or a wife who can't get a signal on her Orange phone!).
I knew there were changes in the offing, because they surveyed their customers asking for suggestions (wow!), and starting in a few weeks time the £10 deal will offer 250 minutes, unlimited texts, plus a massive 1Gb of mobile data - and tethering will be allowed for the first time. For me it makes it an even better deal since my mobile Internet usage never comes close to 1Gb in a month, but I do like to be able to access the Internet on my netbook when I'm out and about. Click here to get a free SIM and £5 of free credit.
From today until 28 October you can save £10 on almost any order of £75 or more from Tesco Direct ('Sellers at Tesco' are not included) when you click here and use the code TD-MXTN at the online checkout. You can even get the discount if you pick the order up at your local store, just so long as you placed your order online. So if you were thinking of buying someone a Kindle for Christmas it's a chance to save £10 compared to Amazon's prices, although sadly you won't find the new colour screen models at Tesco.
By the way, if you have read either (or both!) of Steve Robinson's genealogy mysteries, whether on your Kindle, your PC, or simply as a good old book, do post a review at Amazon to help others make up their mind! User reviews are, for me, the number one source of guidance when it comes to low cost one-off items, although for expensive household items I always check what Which? magazine has had to say.
Finally, if you're thinking of entering my jam-making competition - or even if you aren't - why not pop along to your local supermarket just as they're discounting their produce before it goes out of date (this happens at 7.30pm at my local store, but all stores are different, even within the same chain). There's nothing like a pile of cheap fruit and vegetables to inspire new recipes!
Just after this newsletter went to press I made a great discovery - it's now possible to buy a Worldwide subscription to findmypast through their British site!
You might think that's no big deal - after all, worldwide subscriptions have been on sale through findmypast's overseas sites for some time. But the Search at the overseas sites is very, very different from what existing UK subscribers are used to - in fact it's closer to what you'll find at the new FamilySearch site. So for me it's a great relief that it's now possible to buy a Worldwide subscription and continue to use the existing Search for British records.
Findmypast are offering an Introductory Discount on the price of a Worldwide subscription - you can save £20 on a 12 month subscription or £10 on a 6 month subscription (remember that 12 month subscriptions are always much better value). You don't need a discount code, but you can help to support LostCousins by following this link to the findmypast site.
I hope you've found this newsletter interesting, and that you're finding my articles about DNA testing useful - do let me know either way!
© 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 by copying the relevant entry in the list of contents at the beginning of the newsletter. 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.