Wednesday, 8 July 2015

What3words for genealogy

Want to pinpoint a location? What3words divides the Earth into a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares, each with a 3 word address. BIFHSGO holds its monthly meetings and annual conference at best.deserved.recently. Not far away is where OGS Ottawa Branch hold meetings.
For urban locations with street addresses this may not be too helpful or you could use latitude and longitude. My birthplace no longer exists, and never had a street address being known by a building name. I can pinpoint the location on a map, the what3words location is agents.random.breakfast, or maybe adjacent dollar.tangible.ombudsman.
Where it can come into its own is for locations like a grave site. Anywhere on the surface of the earth, even at sea, you can find it on the map at Even better, download the app to your smartphone and record the location while you're visiting and use the navigation to return there later.
Check out the video.

1901 Census shutting down

With the ready availability of the 1901 census of England and Wales on Findmypast and Ancestry the dedicated site will be closing down on 23 July 2015.
After that date you will no longer be able to access any saved records so download your saved records to your own computer before 23 July.
You can no longer buy new credits on, but if you have any remaining credits you can use them until 23 July.
Do you remember the beginning of the story? Contractor QinetiQ was responsible for functionality of the original site which crashed soon after launch on 2 January 2002 and was not restored to full operation until 21 November. According to the report Unlocking the Past (pdf) from the (UK) National Audit Office

The initial crash was triggered by overwhelming demand that caused technical problems for a system which was designed for much lower capacity and which was not able to divert such a large initial surge of traffic. The resolution of these problems became protracted, due to the parties (QinetiQ and the PRO) failing easily to agree on the results from their separate testing programmes, and the relationship between the parties deteriorated. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Guild celebrates membership milestone

Today The Guild of One-Name Studies reached another milestone as the 7,000th member joined. Read the press release at

According to the Guild website there are 8,760 study surnames registered with the Guild which you can search from the top right hand corner of the Guild homepage at Even if the surname isn't registered the search will return information about it.

Are you involved in organizing a genealogy conference?

If so I'd like to draw your attention to a three-part blog post by Jill Hurst-Wahl, associate professor of practice in the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. Although addressed to professional development in the library/information sciences community many of her thoughts transfer to "education" in the genealogical community.

Innovating Professional Conferences, Part 1: What's the problem? explains why we need to dramatically innovate our conferences.

First, we must meet people at that point where they have a need for professional development. That means using different delivery mechanisms for professional development, including webinars and other tools. It might even mean the development of specific tools that don't exist now.
Second, if we are delivering professional development that gives library and information professionals the training that they need when they need it, then we need to understand what the new role is for conferences as the exhibit halls that go with them. What do we need to come together in one spot to learn? What - in terms of what someone could learn - would justify the cost for attending such an event?
Innovating Professional Conferences, Part 2: How can librarians improve every conference? delves into issues of copyright and/or content licensing that come into play when professional development, which could include making presentations from a conference, is made available online.

Innovating Professional Conferences, Part 3: Can we bring remote participants into a conference?  ends with the conclusion:
Are there other problems with conferences and other solutions? Yes. In fact, there are likely as many problems and solutions as there are conferences and conference participants. The key is being willing to change...and for some conferences, those changes a long overdue because their number of participants and exhibitors are dropping. If they believe that professional development is important, then now is the time to do it differently, before their audience is completely gone.
Ask yourself as a conference organizer what you can do to surprise and delight attendees, something memorable they'll think of as a highlight of the year they could only have experienced by being there in person?

Proving maternity

A short report published in Investigative Genetics recounts an instance where a DNA test gave results about maternity which were not as straightforward as they might seem.

A couple in China wanted to adopt a boy and were required to prove with a DNA test the child was not their offspring. An officially sanctioned DNA test, using STR markers akin to the CODIS markers used by the FBI and RCMP, showed the woman shared an allele with the boy at each of 46 autosomal STRs. That's what you'd expect if they were mother and son. Officially the test was interpreted as not excluding the possibility that the woman was the biological mother, which the woman denied.

As a result further tests were conducted with mitochondrial DNA and SNPs and showed with a high degree of certainty that the child was not her son.

What's the explanation? Read the short report here.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Quebec obit database updated

The Drouin Institute has added 246,000 recent obituaries to its free bilingual website Genealogy Records for a total of 1,685,650 Canadian obituaries, from 1999 to 2015.

via a blog post by Gail Dever at Genealogy à la carte

Westboro Beach Genealogy Meetup

On Sunday 13 fellow genealogists enjoyed the companionship of a meetup at Ottawa's Westboro Beach cafe.
There are 12 in the picture; how many can you recognize?
Here, taken with my smartphone, is the 13th, photographer for the first photo, Christine Jackson.

32 Maps That Will Teach You Something New About the World

For the map-lovers, likely most of us, check out

via a tweet from Debbie Kennett.

The Somme

1 July 1916 was the first day of the Battle of the Somme. While no Canadian infantry were involved the 1st Newfoundland Regiment, attached to a British division, had 324 killed and 386 wounded out of a total of 801 soldiers at Beaumont Hamel.
1 July 2016 will see a joint Anglo-French memorial service at the Thiepval Memorial in France. 8,000 tickets will allocated in pairs, free of charge, through a public online ballot open to residents of the UK, France and Ireland starting on 28 September 2015.
Apparently no provision is being made for residents of Canada, including Newfoundlanders, who may have had soldier family members in the Battle to apply. Why?

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Supercharging Your Genealogy with DNA

On June 30 Maurice Gleeson posted a YouTube video of his talk at the June 2, 2015 meeting of the Durham Region Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. There's about three minutes of introduction before the start of the presentation the focus of which is using DNA results to break through genealogical brick walls using the various DNA tests.
Unlike most of his videos this was recorded by a camera in the room showing Maurice at the podium as well as the slides. While giving a more personal feeling it means the video quality isn't the best.

Funding Opportunities in Ontario: Seniors Community Grant Program

If your genealogical or family history society in Ontario needs project funding consider applying to the Seniors Community Grant Program of the Ontario Government. It provides annual grants which target the age range of many non-profit genealogical organizations and has just had its funding doubled. The program aims "to give seniors more opportunities to participate in  their communities by providing funding to not-for-profit community groups for  projects that encourage greater social inclusion, volunteerism and community engagement for seniors."

While no genealogical society projects are identified as having received grants here are those funded recently with a historical focus:

Clarington Museums and Archives, Bowmanville: $8,962.00
Seniors Celebrating Histories
Project to create a stronger volunteer program for seniors, including recruitment, training and development of seniors as Lead Volunteers to engage other seniors in volunteer roles and to develop a volunteer management and support program

Friends of Oxford County Museum School, Ingersoll: $3,000.00
Interpreting the Great War and Community Involvement in the Present

As part of a WW1 project, workshops will be provided to instruct community members in aspects of exhibit design so they may participate in preparing exhibitions marking the centenary of this historic event.

Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre, London: $9,330.00
Glen Cairn Memories - A Living History
A story-based intergenerational documentation project to celebrate the area's history.

Kirkfield & District Historical Society, Kirkfield: $1,900.00
Audio Visual Learning Workshop
A hands-on learning workshop to train a number of seniors in how to develop and present programs in a slide and/or video format.

North American Black Historical Museum & Cultural Centre Inc., Amherstburg: $8,000.00
Sharing our Seniors' Stories
African Canadian seniors partner with students to create scrapbooks of seniors' lives and stories for museum exhibition and presented to the senior volunteers.

Orillia and Area Senior's Centre, Orillia: $3,000.00
Enhancing Cultural, Social & Education Opportunities for Seniors in Orillia
A series of presentations and workshops for seniors to learn about the historical life, culture and religion of indigenous Canadians.

Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre, Red Lake: $10,000.00
Red Lake Seniors Preserving Local Culture and History
To create opportunities for seniors to become cultural volunteers and participate in activities that are
relevant to their culture and history.

The application period for 2015-16 grants has now closed.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Happy Independence Day to US Friends

Genetic Genealogy and Bioconvergence

The title "The Genome Imaginary: Genealogical Heritage and the Shaping of Bioconvergent Identities" should have been a warning.
A second clue this would not be an easy read came in the footnote on the first page "Genealogy has its own methodology, its own epistemology, and, indeed, its own ontology. However, these elements are not within the scope of this article."
Then there's the article's first sentence "Genealogy is a key, yet everyday and mundane practice, used to create as well as reveal kinship." Is that mundane in the first sense "Lacking interest or excitement; dull" or the second "Of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one?" LDS members would question the applicability of the second and every genealogist the first.

The author is Anne-Marie Kramer, a lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Nottingham whose "current research explores the meaning and consequences of the current boom in genealogy in the UK for the individuals undertaking it, their families, and British society more broadly."

The article's writing is opaque to me. Here's a summary taken from the end of the introduction:
Concentrating particularly on testing for ancestry, first, it critiques the epistemological claims of genetic genealogy: What does genetic genealogy claim to be able to know? On what basis is such knowledge described as legitimate and authoritative? And how do both of these claims relate to the entwinement or convergence of bodies, technology, and media? Second, it considers to what uses genetic genealogy is put. Here the article analyzes how genetic genealogy produces bioconvergent identities and biosocialities that claim to efface difference and yet render meaningful and reproduce gender and ethnic categories as embodied difference. Third, and last, the article traces how genetic genealogy comes to have meaning and becomes “real” by exploring the revelatory, affective, and performative aspects of genetic genealogy as mediated spectacle.
The article is written for Kramer`s peers using academic shorthand and "feminist semiotic analysis" rather than for the "mundane" genealogist. For us the terminology serves only to obscure the findings. That's unfortunate as many genealogists are interested in understanding the social context of the passion for family history. I hope Kramer will find her way out of the ivory tower and make her forthcoming book "Kinship and Genealogy" more comprehensible than this article.

Popular blog posts

Here are the top five most read posts on Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections for June

  1. Congratulations to OGS Toronto Branch
  2. Disruptive Innovation in Genealogy
  3. Forthcoming genealogy books
  4. Dr. Guy Berthiaume: What a difference a year makes
  5. Progress at