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24 Jan 2011

Finding lost cousins: the power of the internet

This second post is in response to Peter Calver's posting on Lost Cousins.com.

I fully endorse the importance of contacting living relatives against the impotence of transcribing public records which have already been indexed.

The one-stop shop for me to locate distant cousins is 192.com. I have been happily using this site for years. I recently traced a relative to the Sevenoaks postal area. The address format was House name, road name, village name, town name (Sevenoaks). It didn't take long to establish the cousin lived in London Road, West Kingsdown. I then had dozens of relevant postcodes to try followed by ten or more possible house names, but I got there. Many times people opt out of the electoral roll but the phone book reveals they're still at their 2002 address, or nearby. I do a cross check to ensure that the phone book entry doesn't refer to another family listed elsewhere on the roll.

In the good old days 192 would serve up the full postcode if you just guessed the first three components e.g. TW10 8. Also you could guess place names by their format try this one XX. XXXX-XX-XXX, XXXX. But that wasn't ideal as in those days the postal area and county were not shown, so it could be a long hunt.

A later bug on 192.com meant you could copy and paste the concealed address into Notepad and the full latitude and longitude of the address would appear. That was an early Christmas present from the company.

I still use the site and have two useful tips for family history searchers:

1) In some browsers you are not restricted on the number of searches you can make. This helps when you are trying to find someone but have limited information.

2) That by monitoring where your cousin appears in the ranked list of results, and having a local streetmap at your side you can work out in which cluster of streets your relative lives, with just a few searches. I use Proviser to get all roadnames from a given postcode prefix.

I have heard back from a woman in New Zealand who has overcome disability to secure paid work for herself (a true heroine). She was shocked and excited to learn she had family in England, and we can now put her in touch with her uncle here thanks to these four sites:

a) Genes Reunited for helping me find Ellen, born 1852 in Buxton, grandmother of the two siblings. Very hard to find because she married four times nowhere near her birthplace.
b) 192.com for providing the address of the uncle's daughter in Cheshire at no cost
c) NZ government for the death cert for the long lost sister, who had married in that country
d) Google for an address for the niece in North Island

So get in touch with your cousins today!

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