Newsletter – 9th
England & Wales census to be abolished ENDS 2021?
Findmypast is almost
completely free ENDS 10AM MONDAY
Military records free
at Ancestry ENDS MONDAY
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England & Wales census to be abolished ENDS 2021?
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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….
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
is almost completely free ENDS 10AM MONDAY
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
as far as I can tell this offer is only available at Ancestry’s UK, Canadian,
and Australian sites.
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.
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
Joyce had inherited this, which suggested that her grandfather was born on 10th
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).
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.
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:
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’.
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:
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
this case it was clear that the GRO were at fault, but this example, also from
Joyce’s tree, is rather different:
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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
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!
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
© Copyright 2023 Peter Calver
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