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Newsletter – 30th April 2023

19th Birthday Issue



Waiting for Godot GRO

Claim your relatives before someone else does!

When will AI take over?

Hampshire marriages 1754-1921 now online

MASTERCLASS: Tracking down pre-1837 baptisms and marriages

Knocking down a ‘brick wall’ using the GRO indexes

Big savings on Who Do You Think You Are? subscriptions EXCLUSIVE OFFER

Findmypast end partnership with Living DNA

Which DNA test should you buy?

Save on Ancestry DNA US ONLY

The right Bearpark?

Peter’s Tips

Stop Press


The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 24th April) click here; to find earlier articles use the customised Google search between this paragraph and the next (it searches ALL of the newsletters since February 2009, so you don't need to keep copies):



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!



Waiting for Godot GRO

I’m not very good at waiting, especially when I don’t know what’s going on, or how long I’m going to have to wait. More than half a century ago I walked out of a theatre because I was tired of Waiting for Godot. Later I found out that he never does show up, so it was probably a good decision: apparently one literary critic described the play as “nothing happens – twice”.


50 years on there’s another mystery that may have been puzzling some of you – why is there a big hole in the main menu at the General Register Office (GRO) website?

No doubt at some point the GRO are going to make an announcement of great interest to those of us who have ancestors from England & Wales. But I can’t tell you what they will be announcing or when it’s going to happen.


Let’s hope that they don’t make family historians wait too long….



Claim your relatives before someone else does!

Looking at the LostCousins database statistics I can see that 91.9% of the people recorded on the 1881 England & Wales census have yet to be claimed by anyone. For the Scotland 1881 census it’s 96%, and for the Canada 1881 census it’s an amazing 98.4%!


When I set up LostCousins 19 years ago I had two primary objectives – one was to connect family historians researching the same ancestors, so that they could collaborate. The other, which I call ‘Project 1881’ was to link the people recorded on the 1881 Census with living relatives, so that all researchers – including social historians and local historians – could carry out studies that would otherwise be practically impossible.


As we all know, tracing back from 2023 to 1881 is fairly easy, but tracing forwards from 1881 to 2023 can be extremely difficult. Mapping an entire population over centuries isn’t a new idea: this article about Iceland will give you some idea of what England, Wales, Scotland, and Canada might be able to achieve – with your help.


Please take a moment to identify your relatives on the 1881 censuses, and add them to your My Ancestors page. If it turns out that another member has already entered the same relative you can exchange information and collaborate, but if you’re the first to claim that person you’ll be establishing an important link from the past to the present.


At a time when there are so many terrible things going on in the world, let’s show that we can work together for the common good!



When will AI take over?

Over the past 6 months there’s been a lot of discussion in the media about artificial intelligence, so you might be wondering when we can expect an AI to research our family history so that we don’t have to do it ourselves.


If that day ever arrived it would take all the fun out of it, for me at least – I’d have to find something else that could provide the same challenges and the same rewards. And, I suspect, the same disappointments and the same frustrations!


General purpose AI models are trained by scraping, analysing, and processing publicly-available data from the Internet – something that is giving rise to concerns about privacy and plagiarism. But when it comes to family history, my concern would be that online trees would inevitably be one of the main sources of data, and we all know how unreliable many of them are!


However, I do think we will see companies like Ancestry not only upgrading their hint-generation algorithms, but also providing tools to enable users to carry out checks on their own trees. Perhaps eventually this will improve the quality of online trees to such an extent that further automation will be possible?



Hampshire marriages 1754-1921 now online

It looks as if Ancestry are going full steam ahead with Hampshire parish registers (see the last issue for a guide to which parishes will and won’t be included). Marriage registers from 1754, when pre-printed volumes were introduced, to 1921 are now online and indexed – the link below will take you to the search page:


Hampshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921


In the next article you’ll find a list of all the parish registers that you’ll find online at either Ancestry or Findmypast….



MASTERCLASS: Tracking down pre-1837 baptisms and marriages

Researching ancestors who lived in England & Wales is usually fairly straightforward until we get back to 1841, the date of the first census, and 1837, the year that civil registration began. But then it becomes much tougher, for a number of inter-related reasons. In this Masterclass I'm going to first talk through the problems, and then explain how you can overcome them.


Why we need to use different techniques

When we're researching after 1837 we can refer to the GRO indexes, which (in theory at least) list everyone who was born, or married, or died in England & Wales. Once we get to 1841 we can also refer to censuses which (again, in theory) list everyone in the country on a certain night. Best of all, those indexes and censuses are available online, so anybody anywhere can get access to them.


But before 1837 we don't have either of those available to us - prior to the introduction of civil registration parish registers are by far the best sources of early information (and often the only surviving documents that name our ancestors). Most people were baptised, most of those who have descendants alive today got married, and the one thing you can be sure of is that they eventually died, in which case they'll almost certainly have been buried somewhere.


However, even though the vast majority of parish registers have survived, at least from the 17th century onwards, they're scattered across the nation rather than held in a central store. In most cases the original registers are held by the county record office, which means you cannot go to any one record office – not even the National Archives – and expect to find all the baptisms for (say) 1797. Indeed, even if you visit the repository of the registers you're seeking the chances are you'll only be able to view them on microfilm – and microfilmed entries can be hard to decipher.


Many registers have been transcribed, often by volunteers, and in some cases the transcriptions have been made available online. However you can't just go to one website and search through every parish register that has ever been transcribed, because some transcriptions are available at one site, some at another - and even if you have the time to visit them all, many of the transcriptions are only available at subscription sites, so you may not be able to access them. Furthermore, some of the transcriptions are only available on CD ROM or on microfiche - usually through family history societies - and there still many registers have NEVER been transcribed.


Faced with such a different situation some faint-hearted researchers just give up – research pre-1837 is so different that they are scared to even try. Some try, but fail – either because they don't fully understand how best to make use of the available resources, or because they don't realise just how much is available to them. And then there are those who pick an entry simply because it's the only one they can find – or because the website they use has 'hinted' that it’s the entry they're looking for.


Tip: in the world of genealogy ‘hints’ are not clues to the correct answer, simply suggestions for research.


Because of the way that records are scattered across the country, across the Internet, and across different media, it's tempting to adopt an unfocused "where shall I try next" approach. Now, I'm not a professional genealogist, but one thing I do know is that professional genealogists always search logically and methodically, and above all they record where they have searched and what they have searched for. In the days when I was still able to provide one-to-one research help to every member I'd frequently be told "I've searched everywhere" yet when pressed they couldn't tell me which parishes they'd searched, which periods the searches covered, or even - in some cases - precisely what surnames and spellings they looked for.


Start by gathering evidence

First collect all the evidence that indicates - no matter how obliquely - where and when your ancestor is likely to have been born. Sources of information will often include early censuses, marriage certificates, and death certificates – all of which can be helpful, but can also be misleading.


The fact is, many people didn't know where they were born, so often the birthplace they gave when the enumerator came round is the place – or one of the places – where they grew up. Similarly, some people didn't know how old they were – they might have known when they were born, but that isn't the question on the census form. It asks for their age, and not everyone was capable of subtracting one year from another, particularly if the years were in different centuries.


Remember too, that it was the householder who was responsible for completing the form (or supplying the information to the enumerator) - the ages and birthplaces of adopted children, stepchildren, servants and visitors are particularly likely to be incorrect. Ages can also be ‘massaged’, perhaps to reduce a large gap in age between husband and wife, or to reduce the age of an unmarried daughter. And after a certain age people are more likely to add years to their age, rather than subtract them.


Don’t be fooled by the evidence

Regard the information you have as ‘hints’ rather than as ‘facts’ – our ancestors may not have intended to mislead us, but all too frequently the records they left behind can lead us up a blind alley.


If your ancestor married after 1837 you may have a clue to the name and occupation of their father – but bear in mind that this can be misleading, and sometimes it is completely wrong. This is particularly likely if the person concerned never knew their father – either because he wasn’t married to their mother, or because he died at an early age.


Something else to watch out for is the possibility that your ancestor was born before their parents married, as in the case of my great-great-great-great-great grandmother Elizabeth Wakefield, who was baptised 3 weeks before her parents married, and appears in the register as “Elizabeth the daughter of Ann Eels a bastard”. Fortunately the marriage is on the same page of the register so I could hardly miss the baptism, but if I’d been relying on transcribed records it could have been very different.


Elizabeth was the eldest of 8 children, but there’s another reason why the baptism of the eldest child can be hard to find. Some women went home to their own mother to give birth to their first child, and even if that wasn’t the case, they may have chosen to go back to their home parish and the church where they married for the baptism.


Look out too for late baptisms – some children were baptised as teenagers, or even as adults. I’ve come across parents who were baptised on the same day as their own children!


Find out what's available online

When I began researching my family tree there was very little information available online – only one England & Wales census and not a single parish register. Most research had to be carried out at local record offices, or at the Family Records Centre in London, which opened in 1997 and closed just over a decade later. (Those who started before I did have memories of visiting St Catherine's House, Alexandra House, or Somerset House; some recall making appointments to inspect parish registers when they were still held at the church.)


These days there is a wealth of records online, including parish registers from many areas. But whilst most of the registers that are online (and many that aren't) have been indexed there is no single source you can go to, and many of the registers and indexed transcriptions are behind paywalls. It's therefore very tempting to search a handful of sites and ignore the others.


Beginners especially are often tempted to take the first entry that fits and add it to their tree, even if the name is such a common one that a more comprehensive search would throw up dozens of alternatives. The most blatant errors are usually made by those whose knowledge of geography is limited by their inability to look at a map!



A good place to start your search is the FamilySearch website – it's free, but you will need to register. At one time the International Genealogical Index (IGI) at FamilySearch was the key source for family historians, with more parish register entries than all other websites added together. However, over time the IGI gained a poor reputation because of the way that transcribed entries from registers were interspersed with entries from Bishop's Transcripts, and – more dangerously – entries submitted by individuals that usually had no documented source, and in some cases seemed to be no more than conjecture.


When the FamilySearch site was relaunched more than a decade ago the IGI temporarily disappeared. When it returned it had been completely transformed – the entries had been split between Community Indexed (those added as part of an organised transcription project), and Community Contributed (added by individuals). Subsequently the indexed entries were split into individual record collections, but you can still search them by following this link.


If you don't find the entry you're seeking in the IGI it's usually because the register that contains the entry hasn't been transcribed and included in the index. Although FamilySearch has at some point microfilmed most of the surviving parish registers, only about half have been transcribed and indexed – so half the baptisms and marriages you're looking for won't be in the database at all. Furthermore, hardly any burials for England & Wales are included in the IGI.


How can you find out which entries are included? The simplest way is to refer to Steve Archer's site (which covers Scotland and Ireland as well as England & Wales). As well as listing the years of coverage by parish and by event the site also gives the relevant batch numbers - searching by batch number is not only a great way to limit your search to a specific parish, it's a great way to overcome transcription errors or entries that have been recorded incorrectly by the clergyman who conducted the service (when you omit the person's name you'll get a listing of all the entries in the batch).


What should you do if the parish you're interested in is included in the IGI, but you still can't find the entry you're looking for despite searching through the relevant batch (in case there has been a major transcription error)? This suggests that the event didn't take place where you think it did, or when you think it did – or it didn't take place at all (not all children were baptised, and not all baptisms were recorded in the register, especially between 1783-94 when Stamp Duty was charged).


Find out which other parishes are nearby

There are at least two ways to do this. One is to use a 'parish locator' (such as the free ParLoc program) to get a list of all the parishes around the town or village where you believe your ancestor to have been born or married. In the country you might use a 5 mile radius, but in London that could give you a list of 100 or more parishes - so a radius of 1 or 2 miles might be more appropriate.


Tip: the nearest parish church may have been in a different parish - the size and shape of parishes varies enormously, and some parishes were split into two (perhaps because two older parishes had been combined).


Another option is to use the maps at FamilySearch - start with the parish where you had expected to find the baptism or marriage, then use the Radius Search (found on the Options tab). For example, when I was looking for the baptism of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, who married at Fornham St Martin in Suffolk in 1763 I got these results:



It was quite sobering to discover that there were 28 parishes within a 5 mile radius of Fornham St Martin. I eventually found the baptism I was looking for in a parish that was 9 miles away – there were 84 other parishes which were closer, a daunting number if the only resources available were a microfiche reader and a drawerful of microfiches.


If you haven't been able to find the baptism or marriage you're looking for in the IGI this strongly suggests that it's recorded in a register that isn't included in that index, so you should go back to Steve Archer's invaluable website to find out which parishes aren't included in the IGI for the relevant period - and they’re the ones that to focus your attention on.


Tip: many FamilySearch records will also be found at Ancestry and/or Findmypast; similarly Findmypast have provided FamilySearch with indexed census transcriptions. Being able to search the same records at multiple websites can be useful, but be careful not to pay for records that you could get for nothing elsewhere!


Although you can search all of the transcribed parish register entries with a single search from the FamilySearch home page, you won't find any records that are only present as unindexed images. It's therefore essential that you're aware of the unindexed images at the FamilySearch site that may be of relevance to your research.


To find out which records FamilySearch has for a particular country, click on the map that you'll find here.




The list of records is divided into two sections, Indexed Historical Records (which may or many not include images) and Image-Only Historical Records. A camera icon indicates which of the transcribed record sets have images associated with them, but this doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to view those images, as some are only available within an LDS Family History Centre or affiliated library (such as the Society of Genealogists Library).


As regular readers of the LostCousins newsletter will know, sometimes there can be images which are available to all users of the FamilySearch site, but are hard to find. The best way to find out what records are available for a particular parish is to carry out a Catalogue search.


Tip: an often overlooked feature of the new FamilySearch site is the 'wiki', which provides information about individual parishes, often including details of online sources of register transcriptions and/or images at other sites (follow this link to see an example). I find that the easiest way to find a parish within the wiki is to use a Google search, for example 'familysearch wiki great barton'.


Another free site with a large collection of transcriptions is FreeREG – at the time of writing it had over 28 million baptisms, nearly 9 million marriages, and over 20 million burials in its database. However, they're not evenly spread across the country: some counties are very well catered for, but others less so – however it's fairly easy to see what is and isn't there. Other volunteer-led projects include the Online Parish Clerk sites: they don't exist for every county, but the counties with by far the best coverage are Cornwall, with over 4 million parish register entries, and Lancashire with over 10 million records.


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the contents of some parish registers were published as books, and your best chance of finding them is through sites such as the Internet Archive, another free site, where a search for (say) 'Kent parish registers' brings up a long list of registers that have been printed in book form and digitised for all to see (you might pay to see some of these records at subscription sites). Another similar site is Google Books. Inevitably there is a big overlap between the two.


A straightforward Google search is always worth trying, as quite a few individuals have transcribed parish registers and posted the results on their own websites. Some record offices have information that you can search free online: for example Hertfordshire has a range of records including a marriage index, whilst Medway Archives have posted registers for their part of Kent online (not transcribed, but at least they are at your fingertips – and free).


Subscription and pay-per-view sites

An increasing number of parish registers and/or register entries have become available online at Ancestry and/or Findmypast, with further counties due to come online in 2024.


When I first wrote on this topic in February 2010 there were NO register images available at either site, but now you can search Bexley, Birmingham, Bristol, Derbyshire, Devon,  Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Lancashire, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Surrey, Sutton, East Sussex, West Sussex, Warwickshire, Westminster, Wigan, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, York, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and most of Wales at Ancestry, and Cheshire, Devon, Hertfordshire, most of East Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Plymouth & West Devon, Portsmouth, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, Warwickshire, much of Yorkshire, and most of Wales at Findmypast. Ancestry also have parish registers for Jersey, and a selection from Cornwall, whilst Findmypast who used to have Westminster register images, still have a complete transcription of the registers.


Ancestry also have indexed transcriptions of Essex registers, with links to the register pages at the Essex Archive Online site (see below – this requires a separate subscription). Ancestry are also in the process of digitizing Suffolk registers, and have finished scanning Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire registers – they should be online during 2024.


Note that there is relatively little duplication – archives generally license their records on an exclusive basis, at least for the first 5 or 10 years, which is why most serious researchers end up subscribing to both of the two big sites (though not necessarily at the same time). Many public libraries, especially in England, have a subscription to Ancestry or Findmypast, sometimes both - so it's worth checking what's available in your area.


Tip: many cities and metropolitan boroughs have a record office which holds the registers for their area, so that, for example, the Lancashire collection at Ancestry doesn't include records for every town that was originally part of the county. However Findmypast's Cheshire collection does include Stockport, and also Warrington - which is now in Cheshire, but was previously part of Lancashire.


Although there are no images, the National Burial Index at Findmypast has over 16 million entries from England & Wales, and most of the entries are pre-1837. Findmypast also has an extensive range of transcribed parish records thanks to their relationships with the Society of Genealogists and the Federation of Family History Societies.


Durham Records Online has over 4 million transcribed records from County Durham and Northumberland. The Joiner Marriage Index has over 3 million marriage records from more than 5000 parishes in 39 counties.


Essex Record Office offer online access to most of their parish register collection through Essex Ancestors - and whilst the subscription is quite steep at £95 a year (the cheapest subscription is £20 for one day), the quality of the images is excellent; many Essex wills are also included. Essex Ancestors do not provide an index to their register entries, but Ancestry have indexed the Essex registers (and link to the images on a pay-per-view basis). If you have an Essex Ancestors subscription this article explains how to use it alongside the Ancestry transcription – the tips will save you  lot of time.


Society of Genealogists library

Many of the largest collections of transcribed records held by the Society of Genealogists are available online to members: these include Boyd's Marriage Index, which has particularly good coverage in some of the counties (eg Suffolk and Essex) that are least well represented in the IGI; for a list of all the online collections click here. Many of the records, including Boyd's Marriage Index are also available through Findmypast.


The Society of Genealogists has many more records in its library, including an amazing collection of records on CD ROMs and microfiche collected by family history societies and other organisations. In August 2017 an enormous collection of microfilms which were previously held by the LDS London Family History Centre was added. Non-members can use the SoG library on payment of a fee of £10 for half day or £20 for a full day - more details are available here.


Family history societies

Many family history societies have transcribed parish registers and headstone inscriptions, and often these are made available as CD ROMs or digital downloads; some have online indexes (usually only available to members), others offer a lookup service (chargeable).


Tip: although some family history societies have made records available through Findmypast, their own record collection is likely to be more extensive and more detailed.


Record offices and archives

When you're within striking distance of the relevant record office there's no substitute for visiting in person - but check first what's available online so that you don't waste your time there looking up records you could just as easily (or perhaps, more easily) have searched from the comfort of your own home. When I was beginning my research I wasted a lot of time searching parish registers that had already been indexed for the IGI - I should, of course, have focused on the unindexed parishes.


Many record offices and archives will do research on a paid basis - charges range from £30-60 per hour, which sounds a lot but in my experience is usually money well spent. However independent researchers may charge less, and some record offices will provide a list (especially if they don't offer a research service themselves). Please bear in mind that the inclusion of a researcher on the list is not necessarily an endorsement of that researcher, but local knowledge can be invaluable.


The importance of the Register of Banns

One of the key reasons we search for the marriages of our ancestors is to find out the maiden names of our female ancestors (of course, if they gave birth after 1837 you'll usually find this information on the birth certificate). If the couple lived in different parishes, which was not unusual, they had to decide which one to marry in – and typically it would be the bride's parish that was chosen. This creates a slight problem, because unless she survived until the 1851 Census we won't know where she was born (and even then, it wouldn't necessarily be the parish where she was living at the time of her marriage).


Fortunately the banns register often comes to our rescue. Most people married by banns, rather than by licence, and if the couple lived in different parishes the banns would necessarily be read out in both, and so would be recorded in the Banns register for both parishes. However, there are not nearly as many banns registers available online as marriage registers – you're more likely to have to have to pay a visit to the record office.


Marriage licences, bonds, and allegations

There is an excellent guide in the FamilySearch wiki – you’ll find it here. Don’t assume that just because your ancestors were poor they married by banns: for example, if they came from parishes that were a long way apart it could have been expensive to arrange for banns to be read in both parishes.


Non-Conformists, Catholics, and Quakers

Between 1754 and June 1837 Non-Conformists and Catholics couldn't legally marry in their own churches, so discovering that your ancestors married in their local parish church doesn’t mean that they belonged to the Church of England. Nor does finding out that your ancestors were buried in the parish churchyard – not all chapels and meeting houses had their own burial ground. The religious census of 1851 found that as many people attended Catholic or Non-Conformist churches as attended the Church of England, although attendance and allegiance are not the same thing.


By far the best source of Catholic registers is Findmypast – you can see what they have to offer here. Many Non-Conformist registers were sent to the General Register Office in the 19th century and ended up in the National Archives – key sources include Ancestry, The Genealogist, and Findmypast.


Using the GRO's new online birth indexes

In November 2016 the General Register Office made available online indexes of births and deaths which include additional information. In particular, the mother's maiden name is now shown in respect of births from 1837 onwards, which not only makes it easier to locate the right birth entries, it might enable you to knock down a 'brick wall' without purchasing the relevant certificate(s), or finding the marriage. Also consider that whilst your ancestor might have been born before 1837, she might have a younger sibling who was born afterwards.


And finally…..

Remember that people didn’t stop baptising their children when civil registration commenced in July 1837, and most married in church even after they had the option of marrying in a register office.


Note: although this Masterclass relates to records from England & Wales, many of the techniques described can also be applied to research in Scotland, Ireland, and some other countries.



Knocking down a ‘brick wall’ using the GRO indexes

Earlier this month I published an updated version of the Masterclass Finding birth certificates. Reading it reminded Jane that at Findmypast it’s possible to search by maiden name, even for births before 1911 (when the maiden name was first added to the quarterly indexes).


More importantly, it’s possible to search by the mother’s maiden name without specifying the father’s surname – something that the search at the GRO site doesn’t allow – and this is how Jane managed to make a breakthrough:


I have been a subscriber for some years and have always read your newsletters with great interest. Many times I have been helped by your tips, but never more so than after reading your March 29th newsletter!


Using the information about mothers’ maiden names being given in the GRO indexes I had another go at finding the birth of my great grandfather John James Radcliffe around 1858/9 - it had eluded me for 20 years! The first mention I hasd been able to find of him was as John Ratcliffe in the 1861 census, living in Boundary Street, Liverpool with his grandparents and possible mother Anne.


© The National Archives – All Rights Reserved. Used by kind permission of Findmypast


When I searched the birth indexes at Findmypast without a surname, but using Radcliffe as his mother’s maiden name I found this entry:



The PDF copy of the birth register entry showed that he was born in Boundary Street, Liverpool to Anne Ashton formerly Radcliffe and John Mc Donald Ashton, a soldier:



This fitted perfectly, because when John James married in 1885 he said that his father was a soldier:



In addition my cousins and I have Scottish ancestry in our DNA and we guess it may come from John McDonald Ashton – so all of this seems to fit. I subsequently found his baptism in March 1859 at St Peter’s church where all the Radcliffes had been baptised, but once again his surname was shown as Ashton.


Well done, Jane – it just goes to show that the best way to knock a longstanding ‘brick wall’ is to do something you haven’t tried before!



Big savings on Who Do You Think You Are? subscriptions EXCLUSIVE OFFER

The exclusive offer I’ve arranged for LostCousins members is still running but please note that it applies only to print copies, not the digital edition.


I've been a reader of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine ever since issue 1, and I can tell you from personal experience that every issue is packed with advice on how to research your family tree, including how to track down online records, how to get more from DNA tests, and the ever-popular readers' stories. Naturally you also get to look behind-the-scenes of the popular Who Do You Think You Are? TV series.


There's an extra special introductory offer for members in the UK, but there are also offers for overseas readers, each of which offers a substantial saving on the cover price:


UK - try 6 issues for just £9.99 - saving 68%

Europe - 13 issues (1 year) for €65 - saving 33%

Australia & New Zealand - 13 issues (1 year) for AU $99 - saving 38%

US & Canada – 13 issues for US $69.99 – saving 59%

Rest of the world - 13 issues (1 year) for US $69.99 – saving 41%


To take advantage of any of these deals (and to support LostCousins) please follow this link.



Findmypast end partnership with Living DNA

Since 2018 Findmypast have been selling tests on behalf of Living DNA, a British company – but it was announced this week that the arrangement has come to an end. If you want  you can still buy a test direct from Living DNA, but there are better options for family historians – see the next article.



Which DNA test should you buy?

There are lots of companies offering autosomal DNA tests, some of them well-known names in the world of genealogy, and some you’ve probably never heard of before.


DNA expert Debbie Kennett recently reviewed the most popular tests for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine, and only one of them got a 5* rating – the Ancestry DNA test, which is also the only autosomal DNA test that I’ve recommended in recent years.


Ancestry has by far the biggest database of DNA results, which not only means that you’ll make more matches that can help you knock down your ‘brick walls’, it also enables Ancestry to do things that most other providers can’t.


For example, SideView enables Ancestry to predict – with a high degree of accuracy – which of your matches are on your maternal side, and which on your paternal side. This might seem like a small thing, but it means you’ll be less likely to waste time looking for connections that don’t exist. For example, if a genetic cousins has one of your ancestral surnames in their tree you might assume that this where the connection will be found – but if the SideView prediction is that you’re connected on the opposite side of your tree, youll probably want to think again.


However the two best things about testing with Ancestry is that you don’t need to know anything about the technical side of DNA are:



To knock down longstanding ‘brick walls’ usually requires you to utilise conventional records-based research as well as clues from DNA, so the way that Ancestry integrates family trees with DNA is a big plus point for users like you and me.


In her 5* review Debbie highlights just two things that you might consider a disadvantage: one is that you cannot transfer DNA results from other test providers – though actually that’s a good reason for choosing Ancestry, especially since you can transfer your Ancestry results to other sites to find more DNA matches (if the 10,000 plus you get at Ancestry aren’t enough!).  


The other thing to consider is that without an Ancestry subscription you can only see four generations of your matches’ ancestors – unless they invite you to view their tree (which they probably will if you ask, especially if it is a public tree). On the other hand, many serious family historians already subscribe to Ancestry – and only one person in the extended family needs to subscribe, because a single Ancestry user can manage any number of DNA tests.


For more about the Ancestry DNA test see my DNA Masterclass – it’s an essential guide whether you are considering testing or have already done so.


Ancestry UK


Save on Ancestry DNA US ONLY

Sunday 14th May is Mother’s Day in the US, which provides Ancestry with an excuse to offer discount DNA tests.


Of course, you don’t need to be a mother – or even female – to take an autosomal DNA test, and when you order DNA tests from Ancestry you don’t have to decide in advance who is going to be testing. I always aim to have a spare kit on hand so that if the opportunity arises I can send it out to my cousin immediately.


Ancestry.com (US only) – save up to 30% on Ancestry DNA ENDS 14TH MAY


I’m not currently aware of discount offers in other territories but please use the links below rather than any that you might find in earlier newsletters, as those older links may not work at all.


Ancestry.co.uk (UK & Ireland) – Ancestry DNA

Ancestry.com.au (Australia & New Zealand) – Ancestry DNA

Ancestry.ca (Canada) – Ancestry DNA



The right Bearpark?

Earlier in this newsletter we were discussing the GRO birth indexes – and whenever I come across a name that intrigues me I can’t resist search the birth indexes to see how rare it is.


For example, I came across the forename ‘Bearpark’ in the census, and assumed it must be a mistranscription by the enumerator; however there are two examples in the birth indexes:


There are even more births where ‘Bearpark’ was a middle name, so I realised that it must have originated as a surname. It’s one of the rarer surnames I’ve encountered, but not nearly as rare as ‘Other’.


Disappointingly I couldn’t find anyone whose initials were A.N. (ie A.N. Other). But I did find this birth:



She might perhaps have been known as A. Anne Other, which sounds a bit like A. N. Other.


Returning to Bearpark, I searched the death indexes, and was surprised to discover that although Bearpark Hird and Bearpark Rowlandson were born 70 years apart, they both died in the same year, and in the same registration district!



Even though they were clearly related (the birth index shows that the maiden name of the mother of Bearpark Rowlandson was Hird), it’s still a remarkable coincidence, albeit a sad one.



Peter’s Tips

I thought you might be amused to see these search results from the Tesco groceries app. We hear so much about the wonders of artificial intelligence these days that it’s sobering to see how unintelligent computers can be when they really try!


Those packs of cooking bacon frequently feature in my grocery basket – even though the price has gone up from 55p to 90p over the past couple of years it’s still the cheapest meat I can buy. I know that processed meats are thought to be unhealthy, but bacon is so tasty that a small amount goes a long way.


Incidentally, the carbon pawprint of pork is about a quarter of that for beef according to this chart on the Energy Saving Trust website. I discovered years ago that casseroles work just as well when pork is substituted for beef, since the meat takes up the flavour of the sauce. And it’s certainly a lot cheaper!


Staying with Tesco, I’ve just noticed that they have slashed the price of Pimms from £22 for a litre bottle to  just £10 for Clubcard holders (which is £5 less than I paid less than a week ago, and £6.50 less than the price of the smaller 70cl bottle!). This discount supposedly lasts until 8th May, but I doubt that stocks will last that long, particularly now the sun has come out, so it could be worth making a special trip to your local supermarket.


Finally, another example of artificial (un)intelligence, this time from Amazon:



My order was for a pair of wire-cutters – we’re putting up wire fencing to protect the plants in our garden from rabbits – so some of the suggestions make sense, but how on earth did they come up with the items on the right? Do they somehow know about the rabbits, and are hinting that we should get a dog?



Stop Press

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I’ll be back soon, but in the meantime please remember that from Monday 1st May until Tuesday 9th May we’ll be celebrating the 19th Birthday of LostCousins and the Coronation of King Charles III with TOTALLY FREE access to LostCousins – it’s a great chance to find the cousins you’ve never heard of, but who share your interest in genealogy.


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Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2023 Peter Calver


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