Thursday, 27 November 2014

Thomas MacEntee Shows the Best Things in Life are Free

Rockstar genealogist Thomas MacEntee has a US Thanksgiving gift for everyone.

You can download his latest book 500 Best Genealogy & Family History Tips - 2015 Edition for the Kindle for FREE through Monday December 1, 2014 (a $5.99 value)!

Thomas describes it as a “brain dump” of his many years of knowledge about genealogy and family history - favourite tips and tricks from over 85 presentations, 10 books and numerous articles.

Read more and how to download and read even if you don't have a Kindle here.

Thomas will be coming to Ontario in 2015. Watch for announcements.

BIFHSGO Video: A Soldier of the Great War:A Research Case Study

On Tuesday I posted about Canadian Veteran Death Cards, something I learned about at Ken McKinlay's talk to the Ottawa Branch of the OGS last Saturday.
Ken has now posted a video of that talk about two soldiers that served in the CEF on the BIFHSGO YouTube Channel and further detail on the resources mentioned on his Family Tree Knots blog at Canadian Expeditionary Force Online Research Resources

Probate Search Facility

For those of us an ocean away from the UK the announcement that as of Friday 12th December, the Probate Service for England and Wales will make available online records from 1858 to the present is good news. It will include the records of some soldiers who died on active military service between 1860 and 1982, predominantly those who died in the First World War.
"You can search, order and receive copies direct from your own computer without waiting for the Probate Registry to send them to you.
You can search and if there is a match you will be informed straightaway. You can then decide if you wish to pay £10 and order the documents.
You can pay by credit or debit card.
You will be informed by an email when the documents are available for downloading on your computer.
This is a change in the way the Probate Service deliver our copies and search service and therefore from Friday 12th December the London Probate Service will cease to provide a copy ordering function as this will now be available online. The facility will remain open for collection of orders made before the 12th December but will close permanently from Friday 19th December.
The Probate Service has over the last few weeks received feedback from users on the changes we are making and ahead of the 12th December would like to extend and invitation to a Search facility users meeting to be held on Tuesday 2nd December between 1-2 pm in the search facility."
It makes sense to take advantage of web technology to make these records more available.


It's costly. For those of us who remember spending a few pence to obtain photocopies of probate documents at Somerset House £10 is outrageous.
Also the implementation is far from ideal. There is insufficient information to search on to enable you to distinguish your Mary Smith from the others who died in the same year.
The Society of Genealogists has identified other lacunae and will be attending the 2 December meeting to represent our interests. Representation is one of the main reasons I'm a Society of Genealogist member. If you want the family historian's voice heard in UK developments like this I encourage you to join SOG. The more members the strong the voice.

842,355 English and Welsh Lunatics

Ancestry now has online registers kept by the Lunacy Commission, 1846 to 1913, of asylum patients in both public and private asylums. They record the name and sex of the patient; the name of hospital, asylum, or licensed house; and the date of admission and of discharge or death of each patient.
Annual admissions recorded in the register increase from about 6,000 at the start of the record to over 20,000 at the end.
The original data source is Commissioners in Lunacy, 1845–1913. Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, Series MH 94. The National Archives, Kew, England.

Two smaller related collections sourced from TNA also debut on Ancestry:

4,332 records: England & Wales, Criminal Lunacy Warrant and Entry Books, 1882-1898
613 records: England, Criminal Lunatic Asylum Registers, 1820-1843

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Minister Addresses Auditor General Report on LAC

On Tuesday afternoon Heritage Minister Shelly Glover appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in their deliberations on Supplementary Estimates, the first meeting of the committee since the summer break.
With the critical report by the Auditor General on Library and Archives Canada having been released in the morning NDP and Liberal committee members took the opportunity to grill the Minister who said what had happened at LAC before under Daniel Caron was unacceptable. In response to questions from Stéphane Dion the Minister said they had known LAC was in trouble for "a long while" which is why they moved to replace Caron. Asked why large budget cuts were made at LAC the Minister responded it was part of the action necessary across government to meet the economic situation. She did not explain why the ax fell so heavily on LAC when other activities in the Heritage portfolio were protected and even given increased funding.
Officials from Canadian Heritage when asked about LAC matters answered questions to the best of their understanding but made the point that while LAC is part of the Minister's Heritage portfolio, it does not report to the Department of Canadian Heritage. That's the official situation but may not be as true in practice, especially regarding budget.
Find an audio file, and eventually a transcript of the meeting, here.

Shannon Lecture: Great Epizootic of 1872-1873.

Friday November 28 sees the next lecture in this year`s Carleton University History Department Shannon Lecture series.

In early October 1872, a mysterious illness swept through the urban horse population of Toronto. The Globe first reported the phenomenon on 5 October 1872, noting that “[f]or some time past a large number of horses in the city have been affected with disease of the respiratory organs, but during the present week another disease has prevailed to an alarming extent among the horses in this district.” Horse owners and other observers were perplexed and assumed the disease to be a “catarrhal fever.” Horses throughout the city, particularly those kept at the street railway company stables, suffered from sore throats and hacking coughs which kept them from working for up to two weeks. It was, as Dr. Andrew Smith from the Ontario Veterinary College wrote, a “considerable loss and annoyance to owners of horses and to the community generally.”
The outbreak of disease among the horses of Toronto in the autumn of 1872 was the beginning of a continent-wide pandemic known as “The Great Epizootic.” Following the events in Toronto, the disease spread throughout North America, reaching as far south as Cuba. This paper will trace the origins of this disease, eventually thought to be a virulent strain of equine influenza, and its impact on urban life in North America in 1872-73 as it spread from Toronto to all of the major cities on the continent. The Great Epizootic not only illustrated the centrality of domestic animals to the functioning of nineteenth-century North American cities, but it also demonstrated that these cities generated unique ecological conditions and a networked disease pool capable of producing animal disease environments that were distinctly urban in character.
The presentation by Sean Kheraj, assistant professor in the Department of History at York University, is in the Humanities Lecture Theatre, 303 Paterson Hall, from 1:00-2:30 pm.

HSO: St James:The Oldest Cemetery of the NCR

Michel Prevost, the University of Ottawa Chief Archivist, is the speaker at the Historical Society of Ottawa meeting on Friday 28 November 2014. He will speak on St James:The Oldest Cemetery of the National Capital Region. Located in the Hull sector of Gatineau it is the resting place of many of its first residents, including the founder of Hull, Philemon Wright, Nicholas Sparks and John Scott, the first Mayor of Bytown.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Family Tree DNA Seasonal Sale

We were talking about it on the sidelines of the BIFHSGO DNA meeting on Saturday - now the annual Family Tree DNA sale is here.
Judy Russell, top Rockstar Genealogist, has all the details at

Auditor General Report: Documentary Heritage of the Government of Canada—Library and Archives Canada

The Auditor General has tabled his Fall Report. While chapter 3 on Mental Health Services for Veterans has received most media attention chapter 7 on the Documentary Heritage of the Government of Canada—Library and Archives Canada is not neglected.

The audit objective was to determine whether Library and Archives Canada has fulfilled its responsibilities for acquiring and preserving government documentary heritage from federal institutions, and for facilitating access of these records for current and future generations. It covered the period from 2009–10 fiscal year with audit work completed on 30 April 2014, prior to the arrival of the present Librarian and Archivist of Canada.

The AG concludes that LAC does not adequately fulfil these responsibilities. Library and Archives Canada:

- is not acquiring all the archival records it should from federal institutions
- has a backlog of 98,000 boxes of archival records
- does not have a corporate digital strategy
- did not use its trusted digital repository.
The department accepts each of the AG`s findings. The actions LAC undertakes to follow up are:
  • In the fall of 2014, Library and Archives Canada will approve a focused and accelerated plan to ensure full disposition coverage for the Government of Canada institutions by the end of the 2017–18 fiscal year. 
  • In the fall of 2014, Library and Archives Canada will establish a dedicated task force and approve a plan to eliminate the Government of Canada’s documentary heritage backlog by December 2015. (Note the plan will be approved by December 2015, not the backlog.)
  • By March 2015, Library and Archives Canada will have an approved digital strategy to firmly ground its acquisition, preservation, and access functions in the digital era. 
  • In April 2015, Library and Archives Canada will begin a comprehensive digital transformation program. 
Undoubtedly the backlog of 98,000 boxes of archival records contains gems of genealogical interest, not to mentioned of broader historical interest. It makes a farce of open government when records decades old remain inaccessible. The inability to acquire and process records means that they remain in the hands of the responsible line department. A case in point is passenger lists from the late 1930s onward.

It`s shocking to read that $15.4 million was spent on developing and implementing a trusted digital repository from 2006 to 2011, which was tested, approved, and deemed operational in July 2011, only to be shut down unused in November 2012 as the institution had `changed its approach.`
The scope of the audit was entirely about archival activities of LAC neglecting the library function. A risk is that in responding to the deficiencies identified the library function, already depleted of resources as indicated by withdrawal from the inter-library loan program (except as last resort), will be further neglected. Furthermore the AG has nothing to say about LAC`s front-line services.
Who will follow up to monitor whether LAC takes the actions it proposes by the dates indicated

More UK Directories at Ancestry

Now with 27,108,675 records UK, City and County Directories, 1766 - 1946 this is the ninth largest in the Ancestry collection. There are directories from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Coverage is best for England.
Don`t overlook Ancestry`s British Phone Books, 1880-1984 which has ten times more records.

Interview with Librarian and Archivist of Canada

Gail Dever and Christine Jackson drew to my attention an Ottawa Citizen interview with Guy Berthiaume on the occasion of him occupying that role for six months.
Find the interview at; it includes a short video interview.
Thanks to Gail and Christine.

Canadian Veteran Death Cards

One of the military resources mentioned by Ken McKinlay in his talk to OGS Ottawa Branch on Saturday with which I was unfamiliar was veteran death cards.
Available online from Library and Archives Canada on an archived collection of digital microfilm, they contain about 130,000 cards going up to deaths in the early 1960s.
Included are many veterans of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who died after discharge or who died in Canada during the war; some veterans of the British Forces who died in Canada after the war; some members of the militia who died in Canada during or after the war; some navy veterans who died after the war; few veterans of the Newfoundland Forces who died after the war; few veterans of Allied Forces (e.g. Indian, French and American armies) who died in Canada after the war; a few veterans of the North West Mounted Police who had military service; a few veterans of the South African War and the North West Field Force (1885 Rebellion).
They are incomplete so it's a bit of a lottery whether you'll be able to locate the person you seek.
To find them go to and find 99 digital microfilm files. Go to the surname range of interest and start browsing through - no indexing available. The information given is as shown on the sample page for a man who died in Elko, Nevada.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Rootstech and FGS 2015

A reminder that the 2015 edition of RootsTech, is being held February 12–14, in Salt Lake City, Utah. I had a chance to go a couple of years ago and very much enjoyed it. If you consider yourself a serious genealogist, and most especially if you research US relatives, it's worth going once.

If you like your genealogy leavened with entertainment the coming Rootstech offers "YouTube sensations Alex Boyé and One Voice Children's Choir", "performers showcasing the sights, sounds, and dancing from various world cultures"and "American Idol finalist David Archuleta and the cast of BYUtv's Studio C."

Each of the three days starts with a keynote speaker, this year featuring on Friday A.J. Jacobs, "an author, journalist, human guinea pig and cousin" and on Saturday entertainer and media personality Donny Osmond.

The speakers in the main family history sessions are not yet announced; that should be coming very soon.

This year the (US) Federation of Genealogical Societies will immediately precede Rootstech, 11-14 February. The program and speakers, many from the Rockstar Genealogist list, are announced here.

Relationship Chart

This chart was posted on Lifehacker, one of several versions all liable to confused the layperson! You may want to print it out and keep it handy.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Ottawa and Fire

Saturday was busy, at 9:30 AM a DNA SIG meeting with presentations by Errol Collins and Doug Hoddinott on autosomal DNA and their Newfoundland ancestry, 1 PM Ottawa Branch OGS and a presentation A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study by Ken McKinlay followed by a Computer SIG meeting.
In between times I visited an exhibit on "Ottawa's blazing history" and the fires that shaped the capital at the City Archives - 100 Tallwood Drive at Woodroffe.
22 panels, two A/V presentations and exhibits of artifacts illuminate this most burning of issues. See also an early fire engine in the lobby.
The exhibit is in Gallery 112, down the hallway from the reception marked by a fire hydrant. It's on until March 21st.