Friday, 9 October 2015

LAC Top Ten Topics

From March 2 - 6  2015 Library and Archives Canada conducted an online web usability study. There was feedback from 705 respondents. Clients responses produced the following ranking by subject area.

1. Genealogy (e.g. penitentiary lists, family histories)
2. First World War (e.g. maps, trench newspapers, photographs)
3. Photographs (e.g.  cities, people, events)
4. Finding aids (e.g. government, private)
5. Canadian people (e.g. Aboriginal heritage, authors)
6. Canadian events (e.g. Rideau canal, Expo 67)
7. Transportation (e.g. aircraft registration documentation, train photographs)
8. Canadian government (e.g. Cabinet documents, Orders in Council)
9. Rare books (e.g. comic books, Lowy collection of Judaica and hebraica)
10. Prime Minister Papers.

Item 1 received four times as many votes as item 10.

Hopefully the Genealogy category goes beyond the examples to include directories and newspapers.

The list should not serve to marginalize other essential activities at LAC. Sometimes questions like this lead to impossible choices. Which is more important air or water? Lack of either will kill you, it depends on whether you'd prefer to die a quick painful death or a slow painful death.

Thanks to LAC for a timely response to my information request.

Brockley Cemetery records now on Deceased Online

Records for Brockley cemetery back to 1858 as well as those for the conjoined Ladywell cemetery are now at Deceased Online. They promote it as "one of South London's cemetery jewels" with a wide range of fascinating records.
As usual the search is free, including a free advanced search where you can specify the exact cemetery. The free list of matches returned includes the exact date of burial.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Two new Irish Web databases at Ancestry

They're new to Ancestry as of October 8 and listed as:

Web: Dublin, Ireland, Wilson's Directory, 1820 (7,721 records)
Web: Ireland, Wills of Irish Soldiers Who Died in the British Army, 1897-1922 (9, 360 records)

As Ancestry cautions about all its Web databases "All data in this third-party database was obtained from the source’s website. does not support or make corrections or changes to the original database."

With these two additions Ancestry now claims 183 Irish titles although you might well ask why some of these rate as specifically Irish. For example:

JewishGen Yizkor Book Master Name Index
UK, RMS Titanic, Outward Passenger List, 1912
Chronicles of the N.Z.E.F., 1916-1919
New Zealand Army WWI Casualty Lists, 1914-1919 New Zealand Army WWI Roll of Honour, 1914-1919
Registers of Kendal Westmorland 1558-1587
UK, Extracted Probate Records, 1269-1975
Miriam Weiner Eastern European Archival Database
Holocaust: Survivor names printed in Sharit Ha-Platah, 1946
Holocaust: Survivor List from the files of World Jewish Congress Jewish Given Name Variations
Holocaust: Register of survivors printed in Pinkas HaNitzolim I & II, 1945
Great Britain, Royal Naval Division Casualties of The Great War, 1914-1924
The Loyalists of Massachusetts
Private Member Stories Public Member Stories Private Member Photos
Public Member Photos & Scanned Documents
Royalty for Commoners
Queen Victoria's Descendants
Dictionary of National Biography
Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry
Railway Gazette Worldwide Historical Data, 1860-1930
While there are likely people with Irish connections given the extent of the Irish diaspora the same could be said of almost any Canadian or US census. 

Robert Darnton speaks at LAC

Wednesday's presentation in the Wallot-Sylvestre seminar series “Libraries, Books, and the Digital Future” was by Robert Darnton, a highly respected American cultural historian, academic librarian and Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D. (D. Phil.) in history from Oxford in 1964. His academic specialisation in 18th-century France meant he was comfortable responding to questions in French.

Most of the talk was about the Digital Public Library of America in which he has been involved since its inception. He started the presentation by speaking of the unsteady rise of libraries, starting with the library at Alexandria which was more a storehouse with limited access for scholars, though old university libraries with physical deterrents to keep out "undesirables" to today with considerable open public access on the internet.

On new technology he commented that one medium (digital) does not displace the other (print). Recent statistics show some rebound in printed book sales, perhaps not reflected in sales at local bookstores, and that for three hundred years after the printing press it was still more profitable to hand copy small run books rather than print them.

In speaking on the Digital Public Library of America he heaped praise on the participation of public libraries commenting that their community service is under appreciated. One can only hope that the Ottawa Public Library, which is not only not a leader, it isn't even a follower when it come to digitization, will get on board.

The whole event was exceptionally well organised which goes along with a markedly more positive atmosphere at LAC.

Videos and transcripts of the presentation will be available on the LAC website at some future date. Prior Wallot-Sylvestre seminars available are by David Fricker and David S. Ferriero.

Federal party leaders with Quebec roots are related: Ho Hum!

This release from arrivevd in my email. My comments follow.

After revealing Mulcair and Trudeau’s family connection in 2013, Ancestry discovers another federal family link – this time to the leader of the Bloc Québécois

·         As revealed in 2013, Mulcair and Trudeau’s connection goes back 400 years; the two are 9th cousins

·         New research reveals Mulcair and Duceppe are 10th cousins through their 9th great-grandfather, considered as one of the “founding fathers” of Quebec

·         Mulcair has Canadian politics in his blood – his 3rd great grandfather was the first Premier of Quebec, while his 2nd great grandfather was the 9th premier of the same province

TORONTO (October 7, 2015) With less than two weeks until election day and recent polls showing a tight three-way race between the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP, new research reveals that some parties’ leaders may be more historically aligned than previously thought.

According to Ancestry, the world’s largest online family history resource, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is related to both Liberal leader Justin Trudeau – the two are 9th cousins – and Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe, who is Mulcair’s 10th cousin.

As revealed by Ancestry in 2013, Mulcair and Trudeau’s family ties go back nearly 400 years to their 8th great-grandparents, Mathieu Amiot and Marie Miville. Miville’s father, Pierre Miville, is one of the founding fathers of Quebec, and when his family arrived in the 1640s, they were considered to be one of the largest to settle in “New France”. When Amiot married Miville in 1649, her dowry brought him property in the town of Quebec, making him a very successful landowner.

Mulcair and Duceppe’s family connection goes back even further to their 9th great-grandfather, Marin Boucher. Marin was part of the “Percheron Immigration” from Perche, France in the 17th century. Most of these immigrants were builders, carpenters or - like Marin - stone masons, so they could literally build a new nation here in Canada. In fact, it is believed that the majority of French Canadian origins have Percheron blood.

For Mulcair, politics certainly run in the family. His 3rd great-grandfather, Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau headed a Conservative government as the first Premier of Quebec in 1867.

“While it’s fun to imagine that family ties spanning back 400 years could impact something as large as a federal election, the reality is that researching your family history can be incredibly eye-opening, revealing connections to other Canadians you could have never dreamed of,” said Lesley Anderson, family historian with Ancestry. “Records can not only reveal interesting family ties, but they also help paint a picture of what Canada was like centuries ago, and how your ancestors fit into the story of our nation.”

COMMENT: Here we see Ancestry taking advantage of the election to publicize their services.  Most of us will have forgotten the company findings that "Mulcair and Trudeau’s family ties go back nearly 400 years to their 8th great-grandparents."
We all have 1,024 8th great-grandparents, how does that compare with the population of Quebec at the time? According to Statistics Canada, as quoted here, the non-indigenous population of Quebec in 1610 was 18, by 1620 it exploded to 60 and by 1753 it was 2,000. Hardly surprising that  people who trace their Quebec roots back that far would have common ancestors. Ho Hum!

Children's Homes in Britain

My grandfather James D Reid was placed in care of a children's home shortly after the death of his father in May 1899 in Edmonton, Middlesex. Records show him, age 7, entering the Edmonton Union workhouse and then moving to the associated Chase Farm School where he's found in the 1901 census.
Peter Higginbotham, well known for his workhouse website, gives brief histories of this and many other children's homes, along with general information on the type of conditions, at In addition to homes in England here's information on those in the Isle of Man, Channel Isles, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and Jamaica.
A recently updated section is on Certified Industrial Schools with background information at

BIFHSGO 10 October Meeting

9:00 a.m. Before BIFHSGO Education Talk
Exploring Findmypast
Ken McKinlay will look at an invaluable resource for those researching their roots in the British Isles with search tips and tricks.

9:30 a.m. Discovery Tables
• John D Reid will host a table with resources he used to prepare his presentation about the discovery of Richard III.
• Joyce Phillips-Johansen, wife of  Anthony Johansen who wrote Fair Wind and a Following Sea about his life in England during WWII, will host a table with the book.
• Doug Emmons will offer a selection of his genealogy books for free to members.

10:00 a.m. You Be the Judge: Did DNA Prove the Skeleton under the Leicester Car Park was Richard III?
In 1485 the body of King Richard III, killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, was buried in nearby Leicester. Over the years the exact grave location and fate of the remains were lost to history. An archaeological excavation in 2012 revealed a skeleton. John D Reid will review the forensic evidence and ask you to be the judge whether the skeleton is the king as the evidence is revealed. We look at how the University of Leicester scientists came to their conclusion using likelihood ratios for non-genetic and genetic data and draw out lessons for genealogists.

This, like all BIFHSGO monthly meetings, is open to members and visitors. Free admission and parking. The venue is The Chamber, Ben Franklin Place,101 Centrepointe Drive, Ottawa, Ontario. More information about these presentations is available at the BIFHSGO website meetings section.

I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Shannon Lecture – Through Images, Words, and Sounds: Filmic Narration and Public History

This Friday in the second presentation of the Carleton University 2015 Shannon Lectures on the theme Performing History: Re-Staging the Past, Dr. Bruno Ramirez will present “Through Images, Words, and Sounds: Filmic Narration and Public History.”
Dr. Ramirez’s talk will address the dangers and rewards of filmic versions of the past. Drawing from his practice as both academic historian and screenwriter of historical films, with a main focus on the immigrant experience in Canadian history, Dr. Ramirez will discuss the relationship between historical films and public history.
The talk is at 1:30 PM, Friday, October 9, 2015, in the Multi-Media Lab, Discovery Centre, MacOdrum Library.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

UK Outbound Passenger Lists from TheGenealogist

TheGenealogist announce the release of five million Emigration BT27 records as part of their growing immigration and emigration record set. These records contain the historical records of passengers who departed by sea from Britain to non-European ports in the years between 1896 and 1909. You can search by name, port of embarkation, port of destination, country of departure, country arrival and nationality. 

What's unique about this collection from TheGenealogist is easier searching for those transmigrating through England in order to then board one of the large transatlantic passenger ships. The preliminary journey has been recorded for many transmigrant passengers within the BT27 records. For the first time these can be easily found using a unique transmigration button. The system also attempts to recognise groups of people on the same voyage as a potential family 

While the whole BT27 collection from the (UK) National Archives under the title Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Outwards Passenger Lists spanning 1890 to 1960 is available from It's always an advantage to have another source with different search capabilities.

September 1939, the register, is coming

Release of the register of people living in England and Wales in September 1939 is coming soon. In 2015, for the first time, Findmypast in partnership with The National Archives are publishing the 1939 Register online providing insight into a country on the verge of war. In this blog post product manager Estelle Calfe explains the significance for family historians. There's more than I knew.

Sign up for updates at

Canadians: Get Ready to Vote

Every election is important. Every eligible voter should be able to exercise the right. If you are eligible and haven't received a Voter Information Card from Elections Canada for the Federal election on Monday, 19 October giving the hours and location where you vote, as well as information on advance voting and other ways to vote, please refer to the information below.
Don't forget, to vote you need to take acceptable voter ID with you to prove you're who you say you are -- one piece of government-issued ID with your photo, name and address.
My Voters Guide
Videos (English) (French)
Accessible Voting

A Tale of Two Sisters from the Borthwick Institute Blog

Who doesn't like stories? Jane MacNamara drew my attention to this sad story illustrating how records can work together to tell a story.
Another recent blog post, Shedding new 'Lite' on Atkinson Brierley takes you behind the scenes at the Borthwick Institute highlighting use of the Dino-Lite digital microscope, conservation activities and volunteer training. People like an occasional peek behind the curtain, something public organization could usefully be less reticent about doing.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Toronto Branch OGS: Call for Speakers: Quebec Workshop

Toronto Branch is planning another of their full-day workshop in April 2016 on Quebec Family History. Gary Schroder, long-time President of the Quebec Family History Society, will be the lead speaker.

The branch is seeking other speakers with Quebec expertise who would like to be part of the workshop team.

Read the announcement and access links for further information at

Charlotte Gray wants Canada's history to be an election issue

A timely interview of Canada's leading biographer and historian. Charlotte Gray laments that Canada’s history has been sadly neglected and cuts to Library and Archives Canada have meant that preserving and accessing our shared past has become more challenging.

One of the points she makes is that digitization of historical materials in Canada is lagging.

By coincidence I found a blog post with the US National Archives and Records Administration List of Digitization Priorities based on a request for public input on June 15, 2015.

Where is Library and Archives Canada's list? Where is the process that would lead to it?

1665: London's Last Great Plague

I forego mentioning many of the online lectures offered by Gresham College, London’s oldest Higher Education Institution. Although often interesting relatively few deal with topics of direct interest for family history.

Just posted, recognizing the 350th anniversary of London's devastating outbreak of plague in which some 70,000 people died and the royal court moved to Oxford, is a lecture by Professor Vanessa Harding -- 1665: London's Last Great Plague

Understanding of 17th century London would be impoverished if not for regular weekly official handbills reporting the previous week’s deaths and causes of death known as Bills of Mortality.

As Harding points out:
The principal justification for collecting the information was to be able to detect the onset of an epidemic – a sustained rise in weekly death totals in the early summer was a pretty good indication – so that those with responsibilities could plan their strategies. But ordinary Londoners became expert at assessing the implications of the weekly Bill, especially as it charted the spread of plague from parish to parish.
It's a mark of how far we haven't come that, as far as I know, no such regular public source of  current statistics exists today. In Britain the best similar data I'm aware of, lacking detail on cause of death, is the ONS publication of Weekly Provisional Figures on Deaths Registered in England and Wales. The latest is for the week ending 28 August 2015.  Statistics Canada publishes annual Deaths, estimates, by province and territory. There are specialist annual publications in Canada on topics like cancer deaths so the information must exist. If anyone knows of a source, in whatever jurisdiction, please post a comment.