Website Review – Lost Cousins

Tech Tuesday – Lost Cousin

Review by Don Taylor

I recently was listening to a podcast about the UK based service Lost Cousins. I had heard of it before, but I hadn’t given it a try nor had I looked at it for what it might be able to do to help folks in their genealogical research.

The primary purpose of LostCousins.Com is to help you find lost cousins so that you may better collaborate in your genealogical research. Most sites that connect you with other researchers do so based upon name and submitted tree information. This leads to many potential connections but few actual relatives. Consequently, many connections are unlikely to respond to your queries because they are too distant, often related by marriage, sometimes by multiple marriages. Lost Cousins does it a bit different; they focus on the quality of matches to other researchers rather than the quantity of matches. They use key census records as the key to finding cousins. You tag an ancestor in a particular census, on a specific page, with a relationship to you. Another person does the same thing. For example, in the 1880 Census, my 2nd Great-Grandfather is listed.  If the same person on the same page of the census is your ancestor too, then we are related.

Signing up is very easy to do. The site has a free level which doesn’t require you to provide a credit card nor detailed personal information.  You only need to subscribe (pay) if you find a lost cousin that you want to contact. (A subscriber may contact you, but you need to be a subscriber to initiate the first contact.) Even then, the service is very inexpensive (£10 per year).

Although Lost Cousins uses eight specific census records, the majority of users enter data into either the 1881 England & Wales Census or the 1880 US Census. The vast majority of my ancestors were in the United States in 1880, so I began entering my ancestors into the system.  For the 1880 Census, they ask you to enter the Roll / Film number, Page / Sheet number and letter, Surname, Forename, Age, and Relationship to you (typically, “blood relative” or “direct ancestor”).  In my case, into the 1880 US Census, I entered Roll 575, Page 374A, Surname Barber, Forename Frank, Age 40, and Direct Descendant. (Note: I entered “Frank” as he was entered into the census and not “Franklin” as was his actual name.) Then, I entered a second person, Asa Roberts and all was well. Neither of them had any cousin matches, but that was okay. I knew I have lots more ancestors to enter.

After only two entries, I ran into MY problem. I realized, particularly in some of my Family Tree Maker corrupted source entries (see Review and Rant), but also, some of my early entries didn’t have all of the information that I should have entered. Sure, I had enough information to find the record again, Name, Place, and Census Year is sufficient to search and find most entries, but it wasn’t the right information to enter into Lost Cousins. So, I need to go back and clean up some of my Census Record citations. That’s okay; I should clean them up regardless. I  entered other direct ancestors into the system, but so far no matches to cousins.

The eight censuses that Lost Cousins uses are:

  • 1841 England & Wales
  • 1880 United States
  • 1881 Canada
  • 1881 England & Wales
  • 1881 Scotland
  • 1911 England & Wales
  • 1911 Ireland
  • 1940 United States

In the two I entered, I did the “Search for Cousins.” No matches.  I’m not surprised. With only two entries in the 1880 US Census, Lost Cousins suggests I only have a match potential of 0.06%.

There are two ways for me to increase the likelihood of finding a lost cousin. First, I need to enter more of my ancestors from any of the above censuses into their system. Second, more cousins need to register and enter their ancestors into the system. I can take care of the first item, but I need you to help out by you to fulfill the second item. So, if you aren’t registered with Lost Cousins, I encourage you to register. Maybe, we are lost cousins, but if you don’t register we may never know.

The process doesn’t take long, and there is a potential for a big hit. Consequently, I think it is time well spent. The process of adding ancestors brought to my attention the need for me to clean up some of the census citations in my records.  Sigh….

Note:  Lost Cousins also produces a newsletter that registered individuals may subscribe to. Past newsletters are searchable, so registration may not only provide leads on lost cousins but may also provide leads regarding other websites and resources.

Reminder to Self:

  • Never take shortcuts in source citations!

My Future Actions:

  • Clean up my sources for the 1880 US Census, the 1881 England & Wales Census, and the 1881 Canadian Census.
  • Enter remaining ancestors with 1880 or 1881 census entries into Lost Cousins.

———- DISCLAIMER ———-

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