Newsletter - 9 September 2010
About this newsletter
The LostCousins newsletter is published twice a month on average, and all LostCousins members are notified by email when a new edition is available (unless they opt out). To access the previous newsletter (dated 26 August 2010) please click here. Each newsletter links to the one before, and you can go back to February 2009 when the newsletter first went online; in due course there will be an online index to articles.
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.
Although the newsletters are hosted at LostCousins, they are not part of the main website. Click here to go to the main website and search for your living relatives.
Records relating to 23 Poor Law Unions in England & Wales have gone online thanks to a project between the TNA and volunteers across the country. Starting in 1834, when the Poor Law Amendment Act was introduced, and continuing in most cases into the 1840s and 1850s, the collection comprises correspondence between the union and the central authorities which helps to create a picture of what life was like in a 19th century workhouse. Individual paupers and staff are mentioned in the records, which can be searched and downloaded free through DocumentsOnline, but it is too early to say how useful they will prove to be for family historians (most surviving workhouse records are held in local records offices).
As I was writing this newsletter I opened the October 2010 issue of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine to discover an excellent 6-page article about how children were treated under the Poor Law regime, written by Peter Higginbotham who is the leading expert on workhouses (his Workhouses website is a mine of information). In 1839 almost half of all workhouse inmates were children under the age of 16 and as recently as 1910 there were 60,000 children in the system, of whom more than a quarter were still living in workhouses - the rest were in separate establishments, such as Cottage Homes, or boarded out (ie with foster parents).
The author also talks about the establishment of industrial schools from the 1840s onwards, which on the whole provided a better life for children than the workhouses (which certainly lived up - or should it be down - to the standards described in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist). However, you need to be mindful that the same term was from 1857 also used to describe schools where unruly children were sent by the courts - closer, I suspect, to the 'approved schools' of the 20th century.
In 2008 I wrote about the Stepney Union casebooks, which are part of the incredible Charles Booth archive held at the London School of Economics - they provide in-depth case studies of inmates of the workhouses in Stepney Poor Law Union, which give a unique insight into the life of London's poor during the closing years of the 19th century.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they have now been indexed, so that it is possible to search for named individuals. For example, a search on the surname Clissold found an entry for Samuel Clissold, who was Case 306 in the study - you'll find his story on page 5 of this PDF document (beware: it's a very large file, so don't even consider clicking the link unless you have broadband!).
Together with the correspondence that TNA has digitised these case studies are a superb resource for anyone who wants to better understand what life was like for the poorest inhabitants.
Another site with interesting archives relating to the lives of the less fortunate in society that can be accessed free online is the lottery-funded George Marshall Medical Museum in Worcester, which has scanned and indexed records from Powick Lunatic Asylum in conjunction with the University of Birmingham - I was very impressed by what I found. This link should take you straight to the digital archive, and although the records are displayed in a very small window, if you click 'Detach viewer window' you'll get a full screen display.
Most of us have relatives in our tree who were in an asylum at one time or another, and even though the chances are they weren't at Powick, the insight you get from reading the records may help you to understand what life was like for these poor unfortunates.
I know that whilst a lot of members took advantage of the discount that findmypast were offering in June, quite a few people missed out in all the excitement of the World Cup. I'm therefore delighted that I've been able to negotiate an EXCLUSIVE discount offer for LostCousins members - a 10% discount on ANY findmypast subscription when you enter the code LCBONUS in the Promotion Code box on the Subscription page (it brings down the cost of a 6 month subscription to the 1911 Census to under £36 - you'd soon spend more than that if you were buying credits).
There's only one catch - the offer ends on September 20th, so you've got just over a week to make up your mind.
This offer doesn't apply to existing findmypast subscribers, who already qualify for a massive 20% loyalty discount when they renew without a break in their subscription, even if they are upgrading (or downgrading, for that matter). Of course, that's something that as a new subscriber you'll be able to look forward to in 6 or 12 months' time.
My guess is that it will be 2012 before any other subscription site has the full 1911 Census, so findmypast is worth considering for that reason alone (even Genes Reunited, which is now part of the same group, doesn't have the full records). But if you've used another site for the 1841-1901 censuses up to now, you also need to consider this - if there are relatives you've been unable to find in certain census years, how likely is it that they'll suddenly turn up now? Using a different site, with a different transcription and different search options is surely the best way to find those elusive (or perhaps reclusive) ancestors.
Findmypast is not just the only site with every England & Wales census, it's also the only site that allows you to search every census by address as well as by name. And you can search 6 of the 8 censuses (all but 1841 and 1871) by occupation - another handy feature that's either totally lacking or hard to achieve at other sites. But it's not just about censuses - findmypast has a link to the Federation of Family History Societies which means that there's a steady flow of new parish records (in August alone there were 4 announcements) - and the Outgoing Ships' Passenger Lists are just what you need if you're trying to track down relatives who emigrated. We all have relatives who served in the British Army, and the Army Pensioners' records from 1760-1913, which comprise over 6 million pages from the National Archives relating to over 1 million soldiers contain numerous personal details that you'd never find elsewhere. To get a better idea of the breadth of records available take a look at the Index to the findmypast knowledge base (which is crammed with useful information).
As we commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain I'm proud to say that findmypast is a British company, one which is ultimately owned by the Scottish publishing company D C Thomson (who many of you will remember as the publishers of the Beano and Dandy). Findmypast's policy of giving the best prices to existing subscribers is one that I applaud (see here for full details of their Best Price Guarantee Loyalty Scheme).
1911 BONUS OFFER: if you use the offer code to take out any findmypast 6 month or 12 month subscription which includes the 1911 Census I'll give you a FREE 6 month or 12 month subscription to LostCousins, provided you click here immediately before buying your findmypast subscription (that's because your LostCousins subscription will be paid for by the commission that we receive from findmypast). To claim your free subscription please forward to me a copy of the email receipt that you receive from findmypast.
I'm still getting emails from members who have examples of double baptisms and marriages in their tree, and it's impossible to mention them all - but are there one or two that I'd like to share with you.
David wrote to me about a double baptism that he'd found in Lancashire - it seems that the father discovered that the curate who carried out the first baptism was an impostor. Meanwhile Barry informed on a couple who had married three times in the space of a year, in 3 adjoining parishes - but the email that surprised me most was the one from Valerie, who told me of a death that was registered twice, once by the mother and once by the aunt!
Most double marriages reported by members involved a groom who was in the Army at the time, which suggests that the first marriage was entered into without the permission of the Commanding Officer.
What I hadn't realised is that only 4-6% of soldiers were given permission to marry, an amazingly low figure. Of course, a far greater percentage did marry, but their wives were 'off the strength' and didn't qualify for housing, or benefits for themselves and their children - not even a pension if their husband was killed. No wonder that if and when soldiers were eventually given permission they grasped the opportunity with both hands, even though it might mean going through a sham marriage ceremony.
I found a wonderful article on this topic which I'd love to share with you - but unfortunately it is impossible to link to. However if you copy and paste this title "Delicate duties: issues of class and respectability in government policy" into Google you will find it. Some of the revelations in that article are absolutely scandalous - and to think that some of the injustices continued well into the 20th century!
A few of you may be lucky enough to have an ancestor's Army Paybook - LostCousins member Jan has her great-grandfather's paybook which states: "A Soldier is not to marry without a written sanction, obtained from his Commanding Officer. Should he marry without this sanction, his Wife will not be allowed in Barracks, nor to follow the Regiment, nor will she participate in the indulgences granted to the Wives of other Soldiers." If you've never seen a paybook there's a digitised copy of one here.
Findmypast have just added over 363,000 Devon baptisms for the period from 1813-1839, thanks to the Devon Family History Society.
In July my wife and I went on holiday to Wales, and instead of taking a map we relied on our sat-nav to tell us which way to go. At one point in our journey it took us over an ancient toll bridge at Whitney-on-Wye, a place we'd probably never have visited had we planned the route ourselves, and as I dug into my pockets for 80p in change I was reminded of the influence that toll bridges and roads had on our ancestors' lives. For example, my father's Suffolk ancestors lived close to the turnpike road that ran from Bury St Edmunds towards Diss in Norfolk: indeed at one time some of my relatives lived right next to the toll house on the edge of Great Barton village - and when my great-great grandfather married a girl from outside the village, she came from another village on the same road. I wonder if you've noticed a similar pattern in your tree?
These days the A143 carries the traffic past the villages rather than through them, but before the advent of the railways turnpike roads were the arteries of the country. I stumbled across this article on the East Anglian Daily Times website that harks back to those days - you too might find it interesting.
Do you have friends who seem to be more popular than you are? The "friendship paradox" identified by psychologist Scott Feld in 1991 is that if you pick someone at random, the chances are that most of their friends have more friends than they do - or to put it another way, most people have fewer friends than their friends do. I'm not going to attempt to prove this mathematically, but if you're that way inclined you'll find plenty of references to this topic using a Google search. But what I am going to do is show you how it applies to family history.
When you discover a 'lost cousin', the chances are that person not only knows more cousins than you do, but it is likely to have more relatives on their family tree - which can only be good news as far as you are concerned. It's an added incentive - if one was needed - to complete your My Ancestors page (by which I mean entering ALL of the relatives you can find on the 1881 Census, and not just a representative few).
There's something about Gedcom
The Gedcom file format is wonderful invention that allows data to be interchanged between family tree programs, even though they have their own proprietary file formats (as most do). However, as experienced researchers will appreciate, the very flexibility of the format means that the information that different people enter can vary enormously, even when they're referring to the same person.
Here's an email I received a couple of weeks ago:
Please cancel my registration.
If I can't upload a Gedcom file then your site is of no use to me.
This was my response:
On the contrary, if you could upload a Gedcom file then the LostCousins site wouldn't be of any use to ANYBODY!
That's because the purpose of LostCousins is to provide an accurate alternative to the sites that allow Gedcom uploads. If we were just as inaccurate as the others our existence would be counter-productive.
Some people think that it saves time to upload a Gedcom file - it doesn't, because of all the inaccurate matches that waste time.
Information only needs to be entered at LostCousins once, and will only produce accurate matches, no longer how long someone remains a member. A Gedcom uploaded to another site will continue to produce inaccurate matches for as long as you remain a member of that site.
Are you taking part in the LostCousins project? Or are your cousins still waiting? Half an hour of your time could make all the difference!
ScotlandsPeople, the government-owned genealogy website that is the leading source of information for researchers with Scottish ancestry has been given a new look and faster searching. At the same time it has been announced that BrightSolid (formerly Scotland Online) has been awarded a further 3-year contract to manage the site. BrightSolid is best known as the owner of findmypast and Genes Reunited, two of the UK's leading family history sites.
The big question is whether Scotlandspeople will ever move from the pay-per-view model to a subscription model? Most researchers have found it uneconomic to use credits at other sites, and I'm sure that Scotlandspeople would make far more money in the long run if they offered subscriptions, because it would encourage people to research in greater detail.
According to an article in The Herald, three key organisations that hold Scottish public records have been invited to explore the benefits of merging. The General Register Office of Scotland and National Archives of Scotland are two of the bodies behind Scotlandspeople, whilst Registers of Scotland is responsible for property records - another resource of interest to family historians.
Would a merger be good news for family historians? In my experience the success of a merger like this depends on the people at the top having insight into how their organisations can best serve the public, who are the ones who pay their salaries. If it is successful, might we see something similar happening in England & Wales? I don't think that the same advantages of scale would apply, but there's little doubt that the General Register Office is in need of a shake-up, so perhaps the threat of a merger might wake their ideas up.
Professional genealogist and LostCousins member Celia Heritage is offering discounts to LostCousins members who attend two of her forthcoming courses. There's a one day course at Christ Church University at Chatham on October 2nd which will cover parish records - focusing not on the registers that we're all familiar with, but the other records that were traditionally housed in the Parish Chest. The other opportunity is a 5 week course in Ivychurch on Tuesday evenings starting September 21st: this course is suitable both for beginners or those with some experience.
To find out how much you can save and learn more about the courses please click here.
2011 marks the centenary of the Society of Genealogists, one of the most highly respected organisations in its field. There is to be a one-day conference in London on May 7th 2011 to which all are invited, and it will be followed by - not a dinner - but a banquet! The cost is very reasonable for an event of this importance, and there is a substantial reduction for early bookings - but in any case I'd recommend getting in quick, because I am certain that demand will far exceed supply. Click here for full details.
Between 2007 and 2009 Royal Mail released three sets of stamps featuring Army, RAF, and Navy uniforms from different eras, which you can see online here (under Special Stamp issues). Should these be of interest to you - for example, because one of your ancestors wore a similar uniform - note that they will be withdrawn from sale on September 17th, so after that date you'd have to buy them from a stamp dealer at an inflated price. It's unlikely your local post office will have stocks but you can order them online from the Royal Mail website. And remember, you can always use them for postage if you grow tired of them!
Talking of stamps, have you noticed that many British stamps now have little cut-out pieces in the shape of a paper clip? I believe the aim of these is to prevent fraudsters removing the postmarks from used stamps and reselling them (a fraud that once caught me out in the 1980s, though I only discovered afterwards when I read in the newspaper that the individual concerned had been sent down for a long prison sentence!).
You may also have noticed that if you hold these stamps at the right angle you can see the words ROYAL MAIL printed repeatedly, rather like the protective devices on bank notes - and indeed, I believe this is another security feature. But what you may not have realised is that on many of these stamps one of the letters has been altered, to identify the source. For example, I'm currently looking at a stamp that came from a book of twelve 2nd Class stamps, and it has the letter 'T' in place of the 'A' of MAIL (in the top right corner, just above the diadem of the Queen's crown). Other letters you might find are F, B, C, S, R and P. Nothing to do with genealogy, of course, but fascinating - what will they think of next, I wonder?
Still waiting to receive my Kindle from Amazon - hopefully it will be here next week. But in the meantime I've been watching a great video review at the Amazon site, the first I've seen - if I hadn't already placed an order I certainly would have done after seeing it!
Turning to family history, I've just heard about an offer at Historic Newspapers - who can provide original newspapers for almost any date since 1900 from their archive of 7 million papers. To take advantage of the offer click here and enter the discount code HNSUM to get a 10% discount on your entire basket. The code is only valid to the end of September, so it could be a good time to start thinking about Christmas presents!
The public library in the village where I live offers free online access to 19th century newspapers in the British Library collection, the Times from 1785-1985 and many more newspapers and magazines. In fact, I can get access to most of their databases from the comfort of my own home simply by entering my library card number!
Have you checked what your library has to offer? You may be pleasantly surprised!
This is where any updates or corrections will appear.
That's it for now - I hope you've enjoyed reading this newsletter as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it!
Copyright 2010 by Peter Calver & Lost Cousins Ltd except as otherwise stated