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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Finding John Vinson’s Father & John Vinson (c. 1817 – c.1865)

By – Don Taylor

Finding John Vinson/Vincent’s Father
It is my goal to find ancestors in all of the census records that were taken during their lifetime. Based upon the 1870 Census, I’m fairly certain that John died between 1860 and 1870. I would guess most likely during the Civil War. So, I have a lot more research to do there. But, I really wanted to track him back earlier, see where he was in the 1840 Census. Hopefully, that would tell me his father’s name, something I did not have. I knew John’s mother’s name was Elizabeth. She was a widow in the 1850 Census.

Information I had:

Mother: Born abt 1786
Father: Unknown
John: Born abt 1817 in Halifax County, NC
Nancy: Born abt 1825 in Halifax County, NC
Using Ancestry.Com, I used the Card Catalog to select only the 1840 Census.

Knowing that John was born in Halifax County and lived his entire life in Halifax County, I searched for anyone with the surname Vincent in Halifax County, NC and had no hits. Then, I searched for people with the surname Vinson in Halifax County, NC and had 4 hits. I then compared my known information about the family to see if any of them fit the things I thought I knew.

Three of the family units had few to no similarities whatsoever, but the fourth one fit it what I think I knew about John exactly.

1840 Census – Halifax County, North Carolina – Source: Ancestry.Com

Burket Vinson’s household consisted of five individuals:[1]

A male 60-70 years old – Presumed to be Berket
A male 20-30 years old – Fits John who was 23 then.
A male 15-20 years old – Unknown (possibly a brother?)
A female 50 to 60 years old – Fits Elizabeth who would be 54 at the time.
A female 15-20 years old – Fits Nancy who would be 15 at the time.

So, everything in the Burket Vinson household matches up.

Additionally, John named one of his sons, Joseph Burkett, which kept the Burkett name in the family for another generation.

So based upon the 1840 Census record for Burket Vinson, the known birth location for John, the continuation of the given name Burket, I tentatively associate Burket Vinson as John’s father. I will continue researching to see if anything contradicts this assumption. But I’m pretty sure I’ve puzzled through this wall.

John Vinson/Vincent (c. 1817 – 1860-1870)
John Vinson was born about 1817 (Between 2 Jun 1816 and 1 June 1817) in Near Weldon, Halifax County, North Carolina.

In 1840, he appears to be living with his parents, Burket and Elizabeth Vinson, a sister, Nancy, and possibly a brother.[2]

He married Lenora Busbee about 1843, because their first child, Virginia was born between June of 1844 and June of 1845.

A second daughter, Elizabeth, was born between June 1846 and June 1847.

Their third daughter, Susan R Vinson, Mary-Alice’s Great Grandmother, was born 22 August 1848.

The 1850 Census finds the young farmer with a farm worth about $50. Living with John and Lenora was Eliza Beasley, age 30.[3]

Finally, their first son, James W., was born between June 1851 and 1852.

Another son, Benjamin I., was born 1855-1856.

Another son, Joseph Burkett, was born 1857-1858.

In the 1860 Census, the family is still living near Weldon in Halifax county. John is a farmer whose real estate value is $800 (a 1600% increase in value over 10 years) and whose personal estate value is $538.[4] This was a fairly valuable at the time for a farm being worked without slaves, as the Vinsons had no slaves.

As a quick aside — the 1860 Census indicates one of John’s children is “Barkhead.” I thought that was one of the funniest names I had ever encountered. Now, I sure it was Joseph Burkett. But is still interesting to think that maybe he went be “Barkhead” when he was young.

Living with John is Ellenior, a 35 year-old seamstress. The change in name from Lenora to Ellenior and the 7 year change in age made me originally think that Lenora and Ellenior might be two different people and that John remarried between 1850 and 1860. However, finding Lenora in the 1870 census with all the children put that consideration to rest (for now at least), but, it is still an area of concern.

Finally, another daughter, Ellen B. was born 1861-1862.

I cannot find John in the 1870 Census, but found Lenora and the children, which suggests John died before 1870, probably during the Civil War.[5] I need to research and determine if the 45 year-old John served.

Further Actions:

Follow Burket & John in the 1830 and 1820 Censuses.
Determine if John fought during the civil war.
Determine more about the life of Lenora Busbee


List of Greats

Susan R Vinson
John Vinson
Burkett Vinson




[1] 1840 United States Federal Census,, 1840; Census Place: Halifax, North Carolina; Roll: 362; Page: 2; Image: 674; Family History Library Film: 0018094.
[2] 1840 United States Federal Census,, 1840; Census Place: Halifax, North Carolina; Roll: 362; Page: 2; Image: 674; Family History Library Film: 0018094.
[3] 1850 United States Federal Census,, 1850;Census Place:  , Halifax, North Carolina; Roll: M432_633; Page: 34A; Image: 73. [Family 636  – John Vincent.
[4] 1860 Census, 1860;Census Place: Western District, Halifax, North Carolina; Roll: M653_899; Page: 424; Image: 228; Family History Library Film: 803899. – John Vinson.
[5] 1870 United States Federal Census,, Year: 1870; Census Place: Rapides, Halifax, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1141; Page: 545B; Image: 516; Family History Library Film: 552640 – Lines 26-31.


————-  DISCLAIMER  ————-