A picture containing company name

Description automatically generated

Newsletter – 9th November 2023



England & Wales census to be abolished ENDS 2021?

Findmypast is almost completely free ENDS 10AM MONDAY

Military records free at Ancestry ENDS MONDAY

Everyone makes mistakes – including officials

What Audrey Collins had to say about civil registration

Looking forward to Christmas and the New Year

Stop Press



The LostCousins newsletter is usually published 2 or 3 times a month. To access the previous issue (dated 21st October) 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!



England & Wales census to be abolished ENDS 2021?

You may recall that on 29th June this year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a consultation document that outlined their plans to abolish the census.


You don’t remember that? Well, funnily enough, neither do I – in fact, by the time I heard about it the consultation had closed. The future of population and migration statistics in England and Wales isn’t the sort of title that would normally have genealogists writing to their MPs, so it seems to have slipped under the radar. (It perhaps didn’t help that it was published shortly before the General Register Office launched their Online View facility for historic England & Wales births and deaths.)


The ONS haven’t completely ignored the needs of genealogists (see section 3.5 of the consultation document), but they don’t seem to be aware of the reason why the census is such an important source – the fact that almost everyone in the country is recorded and, in most cases, shown with other family members.


Providing future generations of researchers with more information won’t necessarily help if it’s the wrong sort of information, or if it’s impossible to be sure who the individuals are. Furthermore, we already have available to us many datasets which, between them, provide lots of information on some people – but precious little about others.


Perhaps worst of all, because the data collected will be anonymised for 100 years, we won’t know for a century whether the ONS’s gamble has paid off. I’m not optimistic….


Note: it’s not just family historians who are concerned that the ONS are being reckless – Professor Alice Sullivan from University College London, one of 60 social scientists who have signed a letter of protest said that the ONS is “sleepwalking into disaster”, and told The Times that “Although this is a consultation it’s very much putting forward a fait accompli that there’s not going to be another census”.



Findmypast is almost completely free ENDS 10AM MONDAY

Every single historical record at Findmypast, other than the 1921 Census, will be free from 10am (London time) Thursday until the same time on Monday 13th November.







You’ll need to log-in (or register if you haven’t done so previously), but you won’t be asked to provide card or bank details. If you are it’s probably because you inadvertently chose a Free Trial.


Please be patient if the site runs slowly over the weekend – with an offer like this it’s inevitable that the site will be very busy.


This offer applies at all Findmypast’s sites around the world, but the start and end time is the same, ie 10am London time.



Military records free at Ancestry ENDS MONDAY

Ancestry are also offering free access over the Remembrance Day period – but only to their military records, though there 22 billlion of them worldwide so it’s an amazing collection.






You’ll need to log-in at the top right (or sign-up, if you haven’t done so previously) but you shouldn’t have to provide card or bank details. If you are asked for them it’s probably because you inadvertently chose a Free Trial.


Note: as far as I can tell this offer is only available at Ancestry’s UK, Canadian, and Australian sites.



Everyone makes mistakes – including officials

Family historians tend to believe that because certificates of birth, marriage, or death are official documents they must be correct. But registrars and staff at the General Register Office have made mistakes from time to time – so when there is an apparent discrepancy, always keep an open mind.


For example, one member obtained this certificate from General Register Office (GRO) in 2001 – whilst it’s handwritten, rather than a facsimile of the register entry, you’d still expect it to be accurate (and most of the time you’d be right).



But Joyce had inherited this, which suggested that her grandfather was born on 10th January:



Which should she believe? If William Alfred Ridley was born on 4th November then the registration of the birth on 19th December would have been beyond the 42 day limit that was commonly believed to apply (though as you’ll know from this article, it was a myth then, and it’s a myth now – even though some registrars would like you to believe otherwise).


Joyce never knew her grandfather, who died before she was born, but her mother seemed to recall that he had celebrated his birthday on 4th November, and so for the next two decades Joyce assumed that the certificate she had purchased from the GRO was accurate.


Fast forward to 2023, when Joyce wrote to me. After reflecting on the problem, I decided it was well worth spending £2.50 for a digital copy of the birth register entry, and this is what it revealed:



I can understand how a GRO clerk in a hurry misread ‘Tenth’ as ‘Fourth’, but on close examination you can tell that there is no ‘r’ to be seen – nor is there the bar that would usually distinguish ‘F’ from ‘T’.



I advised Joyce to write to the GRO asking for a CORRECT birth certificate for her grandfather, since that is what she had paid for back in 2001. The response from the GRO was predictable:



To be fair, I don’t suppose that the Customer Support staff at the GRO have the authority to make exceptions to the general rule – so I have advised Joyce to write again, emphasising the impossibility of identifying the error within 3 months. Hopefully the query will be escalated to a manager who can see how inequitable it would be to stick to the 3-month limit in a case like this – after all, it was only when the Online View service was launched 22 years later that it there was any real opportunity to check whether the information on the 2001 certificate was correct.


In this case it was clear that the GRO were at fault, but this example, also from Joyce’s tree, is rather different:



The birth of her great aunt Florence had been registered under the name Thomas, an error that was only rectified 55 years later when her sisters made a Statutory Declaration.


Was there some sort of misunderstanding between the registrar who registered the birth and the child’s mother? Or was the entry somehow mistranscribed when it was sent to the GRO at the end of the quarter? There is no child with the first name Thomas on the relevant page of the GRO register, nor on the adjacent pages – though there is a boy on the same page whose second forename was Thomas.


But as the Statutory Declaration was made in front of the Superintendent Registrar of Wokingham registration district, it seems reasonable to assume that the local register entry is identical to the GRO’s copy.


Understanding the circumstances in which civil registration was brought in sometimes helps us to understand why some of the entries, especially in the early years, seem anomalous.



What Audrey Collins had to say about civil registration

I was very fortunate to meet the late Audrey Collins in the very early days of LostCousins. I recall that we chatted at length during the launch party for the 1851 England & Wales at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2005, but I suspect our paths had crossed before that.


In 2014 Audrey spoke at the National Archives (TNA) about the early days of civil registration in England & Wales – I wish I’d been there. Fortunately we can read a transcript of her talk here, or else download an MP3 recording.



Looking forward to Christmas and the New Year

To have a chance of winning my Annual Competition you only have to do what should come naturally to any LostCousins member: search for your 'lost cousins', and tell other family historians about the opportunities that LostCousins offers.


For those of you who've yet to begin searching for cousins, this is a very good time to put your excuses to one side and make a start, even if you can only spare 5 minutes a day.


Every direct ancestor or blood relative you enter on your My Ancestors page before midnight (London time) on 31st January 2024 represents an entry in the competition, and for each one you enter from the 1881 Census you'll get a bonus entry.


Tip: a 'direct ancestor' is someone from whom you are descended, such as a great-great grandparent - many people just call them ancestors; a 'blood relative' is someone who shares your ancestry, but isn’t a direct ancestor (eg your ancestors' siblings and cousins, and their descendants).


If you’ve made entries since the last competition ended on 31st January 2023, then very well done – because they’re also going to count towards this year’s competition!


Last year there were more prizes and more winners than ever before, and it’s likely to be the same this year (although I’m still negotiating the prizes with donors). Best of all, you can win more than one prize – some entrants won several prizes last year!


Once again we’ll be using the My Prizes page at the LostCousins website: once the prizes are announced it will list the prizes on offer and allow you to express your preferences. You will only be considered for prizes in which you have expressed an interest.


In 2021 the competition moved into the 21st century with several prizes that took advantage of Zoom to provide unique experiences and opportunities – from one-to-one consultations with experts, to exclusive presentations with a small audience so that everyone who wanted to was able to ask a question. Some sessions were repeated at different times of the day so that members could join in whichever part of the world they were in. It’s a reminder that LostCousins connects cousins all over the world!



Stop Press

This is where any major updates and corrections will be highlighted - if you think you've spotted an error first reload the newsletter (press Ctrl-F5) then check again before writing to me, in case someone else has beaten you to it......



Description: Description: peter_signature


Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


© Copyright 2023 Peter Calver


Please do NOT copy or republish any part of this newsletter without permission - which is only granted in the most exceptional circumstances. However, you MAY link to this newsletter or any article in it without asking for permission - though why not invite other family historians to join LostCousins instead, since standard membership (which includes the newsletter), is FREE?


Many of the links in this newsletter and elsewhere on the website are affiliate links – if you make a purchase after clicking a link you may be supporting LostCousins (though this depends on your choice of browser, the settings in your browser, and any browser extensions that are installed). Thanks for your support!