LostCousins 2012 Christmas Newsletter
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To go to the main LostCousins website click here. 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!
Whether or not you are a findmypast subscriber you can claim 50 credits, worth over £5, when you click here and use the offer code LCXMASFREE (note that although you'll need to log-in, or register, you won't be asked to provide your credit card details).
Tip: if you have friends or relatives who need a nudge to get them interested in family history, why not send them a link to this newsletter (http://lostcousins.com/newsletters/xmas12news.htm) so that they can take advantage of the offer? It might be just the incentive they need to get started.
Incidentally, there's nothing to stop you claiming your free credits AND getting a discount on a findmypast subscription under the offer I wrote about in my last newsletter. Both findmypast offers expire at the end of December, so DON'T MISS OUT.
Note: whilst the discount offer doesn't apply to existing findmypast subscribers, the free credits should be available to everyone. I've certainly claimed mine, and am using them for Living Relatives searches (these are the only searches that aren't included in any of the findmypast subscriptions). But, if you have a Foundation or Full subscription, it's also a chance to see what you will gain when you upgrade to a Full or World subscription.
When you take advantage of the EXCLUSIVE discount I've arranged at findmypast.co.uk (click here for full details) don't forget to claim your free LostCousins subscription, worth up to £12.50.
And make sure you follow the instructions precisely - for example, if for any reason you're logged out during through the process, please start again from step 1 (otherwise you won't qualify for your free subscription).
My wife pointed out this wonderful poem. Reading it I couldn't help but be reminded of the correspondence I found when going through my father's papers after his death in 2011, and you won't be surprised to hear that it brought tears to my eyes.
The book from which the poem was taken won't be available at Amazon.co.uk until Friday, but all 8 of the reviews at Amazon.com give it 5 stars, which - when you consider how personal poetry is - seems amazing.
Talking of family letters, my wife and I spent our first Christmas together going through a trunk full of correspondence - yet the family the letters related to wasn't hers or mine! Intrigued? You'll probably see some examples from this correspondence in my newsletter next year....
In the summer I published two challenges that proved incredibly popular, and whilst it's too late to win one of the prizes on offer, feel free to submit an entry if you haven't already done so - it's an amazing way to sharpen up your research skills. You'll find the challenges here and here (each is preceded by an article on how to knock down 'brick walls' and these are well worth re-reading).
In my Christmas challenge you'll have to use all the resources at your disposal to piece the clues together in order to work out who owned this Illustrated Birthday Book, which I acquired some years ago as part of an auction lot. As you may be able to see from the scan it is leatherbound with an embossed silver (?) front cover - and on the title page it is referred to as "The Illustrated Shakespeare Birthday Book".
The publisher is Ernest Nister of London, who lived from 1842-1909, and the Preface is dated 1890 - so that provides us with some idea of when the book might first have been bought.
Most entries are written in an adult hand, and some seem to be the autograph signatures of individuals concerned. A few have clearly been written by someone much younger - so was it passed from father to son, or mother to daughter? Perhaps you'll be able to tell me as part of your solution.
Although I bought this book many years ago, it was only on Christmas Eve that I started to wonder about its origins, and realised what a wonderful challenge it would be for members. I've scanned several pages from the book, each of which has at least one name and birthday. Many of the surnames are unusual, which will surely help you figure out who is referred to - but you may find some of the handwriting hard to decipher.
What links all these people together? Who owned the book? If you think you can answer those questions email me with your solution (please send a plain text email: no pasted graphics, no attachments).
If nobody has come up with a convincing solution before my next newsletter - which I'm hoping to publish on New Year's Eve - I'll show you some more pages from the book, including an entry from February 29th.
Co-habiting couples conundrum
Like me, you may have been surprised to see that so many Victorian couples gave the same address when they married - it certainly doesn't fit with the conventional vision of Victorian England. I have often wondered whether in some cases they might have given the same address to avoid the expense of banns being read in two different parishes - but that couldn't possibly account for all of them.
I was, therefore, interested to read an analysis in Rebecca Probert's excellent Marriage Law for Genealogists of 99 marriages that took place in Bethnal Green in the three months after the 1891 Census. Whilst 42 gave the same address in the marriage register, only 8 were living together according to the census; of the 57 who gave different addresses, 3 were together on the census.
Professor Probert then looked more closely at the 11 couples who were living together on the census: in 5 cases they were actually living with the parents of either the bride or groom, with the future spouse shown as a visitor or lodger; in a further 5 cases the couple were shown as married on the census, which is precisely what you'd expect - they'd hardly admit to the enumerator that they weren't married. And in the final instance the groom was shown twice on the census, once with his parents and once with the bride he married a week later.
The author also comes up with a very plausible reason why couples might say they were living together when - according to the census, at least - they weren't. Apparently the Victorians so hated the idea of unmarried couples living together that some clergymen and registrars offered to marry cohabiting couples free of charge - so perhaps the modern-day politicians who argue that married couples should have tax-breaks really are arguing for a return to 'Victorian values'!
Marriage Law for Genealogists may sound like a rather dry title, but I found it to be a real page-turner - it turned out that much of what I thought I knew about the legality of marriages was completely wrong (or only applied for part of the time). Highly recommended!
The BBC recently reported that in Argentina a woman was proposing to marry the convicted killer of her twin sister - which immediately raised the question in my mind as to whether such a marriage would be lawful in England.
Although it was (until 1907) illegal for a man to marry his dead wife's sister, in this case the alleged murderer was not married to the victim. I wonder whether there has ever been a similar case here?
In the Christmas edition of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine there was a letter from a reader which referred to parish records that tend to be under-utilised. One was the Register of Banns, which I've mentioned in this newsletter on a number of occasions, and is a great way to find a marriage that didn't take place in the anticipated parish - the other was the Register of Services, a resource I'd never previously thought to check.
It seems the Register of Services can include useful background information such as the number of people attending a funeral, and even the amount of money put in the plate. Church of England Canons include the following provisions:
1. A register book of services shall be provided in all churches and chapels.
2. In the said register book shall be recorded every service of public worship, together with the name of the officiating minister and of the preacher (if he be other than the officiating minister), the number of communicants, and the amount of any alms or other collection and, if desired, notes of significant events.
A Google search turned up an interesting website which has digitised copies of these registers for some Scottish parishes.....
The Scran Trust exists to provide educational access to digital materials representing Scottish culture and history.
A search for 'Register of Services' produced several results for Scottish parishes, and when I searched more generally for 'register' there were more wide-ranging results, such as "Berwickshire Register of Juveniles Sentenced to Whipping", registers of employees, hospital admissions registers, registers of the poor etc.
It looks as if the images provided are sample pages, rather than complete registers - access to the digitised images requires the purchase of a subscription, otherwise I'd know more - but it could well be a useful site for anyone with Scottish ancestry who wants to get a better feeling for the sort of documents that are available. A 6 month subscription for personal use costs just £10, but if you live in Scotland you may be able to get free access through your local library.
According to a recent New Scientist article researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a prototype scanner that can digitise a book at the rate of 250 pages a minute, many times faster than a conventional scanner (and about 1000 times quicker than me scanning pages from the Birthday Book that features in my latest challenge!).
Watching QI recently I was interested to learn of William Jennens of Acton Suffolk, sometimes called the Acton Miser, who when he died in 1798 is reputed to have left a fortune worth over £2 million (the equivalent of a multi-billionaire today).
Although Jennens prepared a will, he died before he could sign it - and as a result his estate became the subject of a High Court battle which lasted 117 years, and only ended when the entire estate had been swallowed up by legal costs.
Stephen Fry, the QI presenter suggested that it was this real-life case which inspired the fictional case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce in Bleak House, and since the Jennens case had already been in the Chancery Court for 55 years by the time that Charles Dickens' book was published it seems quite likely.
However, I couldn't help wondering whether William Jennens might also have been the inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge, the repentant miser of A Christmas Carol?
Note: as a Christmas treat I bought 1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off for my Kindle. Whilst it wasn't free - as many Kindle books are - it only cost me 20p! Now who's the miser?
The price of copy certificates from the General Register Office Northern Ireland went up from £14 to £15 on 17th December. When you consider they're only charging couples £36 to marry in a Register Office (a price which includes the provision of a certificate) it does seem as if researchers are being exploited.
However, it was revealed some time ago that GRONI were planning to put their registers online, as ScotlandsPeople have already done - so there is hope that researchers will be paying much less in future. For more information see Chris Paton's excellent blog.
The online collection of parish registers at Essex Ancestors now includes virtually all of the registers held by the Essex Record Office. See the Essex Record Office blog for more information.
On 31st December the Family Tree DNA offer ends: until then you can save about one-third on most tests. For example, a 37-marker Y-DNA test - the same one that I took earlier this year - costs just $119 (plus $6 postage if you are in the UK), which is less than £80.
I've taken advantage of the offer to order a full-sequence mtDNA test, and I've also persuaded a male cousin from my mother's side of the family to take a Y-DNA test. Click here to see the full range of tests available.
To find out more about DNA and how it can help knock down 'brick walls' see the special DNA edition of my newsletter, which you'll find here.
Based on the many thank-you notes I've received from grateful members during 2012 I reckon that, in aggregate, my tips this year have already saved LostCousins members hundreds of thousands of pounds - and that's before the free credits from findmypast, which are worth as much again.
That's a fantastic saving for these troubled times, and whilst I can't guarantee that I'll be able to save you as much money in 2013, I'll certainly do my best.
But it's not just about saving money - I've also introduced thousands of members to the wonderful genealogical mysteries written by Steve Robinson (which reminds me, I got a great idea for a plotline whilst reading Rebecca Probert's book on marriage law!). If you've yet to discover Steve Robinson's books, which feature over-weight and under-loved genealogist Jefferson Tayte, you'll find them here on Amazon UK, and here on Amazon.com. Highly recommended!
I know too, that many members have managed to break down 'brick walls' in their trees after reading my articles on 'brick walls' during the summer, and honing their skills on the challenges I set in June and July. The Masterclass articles and other tutorials have also proved popular, and I'm very grateful to the members who have contributed articles this year.
Of course, no newsletter could exist without news - so I'm constantly on the lookout for items of interest to members. And whereas some genealogy newsletters simply reprint press releases, I do my best to try sites out myself before recommending them to members (the bonus for me is that I sometimes make discoveries in my own tree during those investigations!). Naturally this means that there are some sites you'll never read about in my newsletter....
I can't always be first with the news - daily blogs clearly have an innate advantage over a newsletter that's published less than 30 times a year - but thanks to the tips I get from members I am often first to break news about major developments, such as the arrival of a major collection of British newspapers at findmypast.co.uk (which have provided so many of us with unexpected insights into the lives of our ancestors and their extended families), and the launch of the World subscription at the same site.
But the reason I came up with the idea for LostCousins in 2003 wasn't to do any of these things: my aim was to link together researchers with other researchers who shared their ancestors - their 'lost cousins'.
For me, this has been a 9-year mission to help members explore new resources, seek out new cousins and new branches of their family trees, and boldly go where no researchers have gone before.
So I'd like to thank all of those members who have completed their My Ancestors page so that their cousins can link up with them - and mildly (it is Christmas, after all) rebuke those of you who keep coming up with excuses for not playing your part in this great project.
I do hope that those of you who can contribute more data will do so. Almost 5% of all the inhabitants recorded on the England & Wales 1881 census have now been entered by one or more members, so when you enter a household from that census there's about 1 chance in 20 that you'll be linked with a relative of yours. When you consider that it costs nothing to enter the data, and takes less than 2 minutes to enter an entire household, it's hard to understand why anyone wouldn't want to take part in the project!
Let's all do what we can to find MORE cousins in 2013!
This where any late updates will be posted, so it's worth checking back after a few days.
All the best for Christmas and the New Year,
© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver
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