Thursday, 31 August 2006

How Our Ancestors Lived: A History of Life A Hundred Years Ago

A few months ago the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa made a donation to the Ottawa Public Library for the purchase of books related to the interests of the Society membership. Some were familiar, others new to me. From time to time I'll blog about some of the acquisitions, which were selected by Diana Hall, the OPL's librarian who specializes in family history.

Family History Monthly reviewed
How Our Ancestors Lived: A History of Life A Hundred Years Ago as "a brilliant account of what Britain was like during the 1800s and 1900s ." The synopsis is that "David Hey draws on material from the 1901 census to paint a picture of what life was really like for our ancestors a hundred years ago. He describes work, play, love and death with expert text and a unique collection of historic photographs and graphic art. Illustrated case studies tell the stories of individual lives and allow the reader to build a picture of their own family's past."

David Hey, Emeritus Professor of Local History at Sheffield University, has a name I recognize, but not one I can place. He is the author of The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History, Family Names and Family History, and Journeys in Family History: Exploring Your Past, Finding Your Ancestors.

This is one I shall be looking to read when it arrives.

Date and Time

Where do you go when you want to calculate birth date from date of death and exact age, to the day, when someone died? I first checked out the calendar tool in Family Tree Maker, but from the description it wasn't clear how it handled the change in the calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian system. The British Empire changed to the Gregorian calendar in 1752 when 11 days were skipped 2 September 1772 being followed by 14 September. There is a good Wikipedia article on the Gregorian calendar here.
Fortunately there is a calculator at dateandtime.com which makes if very clear the calendar change is being included. Find it here.
Did the person who provided the exact age information you're using do the calculation properly?

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Family Stories: Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins

A few months ago the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa made a donation to the Ottawa Public Library for the purchase of books related to the interests of the Society membership. Some were familiar, others new to me. From time to time I'll blog about some of the acquisitions, which were selected by Diana Hall, the OPL's librarian who specializes in family history.

Do you have stories in your family, stories repeated over generations. One of mine is that an ancestor was one of the founders of the original Globe Theatre in London where Shakespeare's plays were originally mounted. I have no way of knowing if its true, but can think of one other family connection with theatres and Shakespeare that could be the distorted source of the story.

Family stories weave a web around us. They are part of our inheritance and any family historian worth the name will ensure they are preserved, along with the lineages, when they document the family history.

First on the OPL list was "Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins" by Elizabeth Stone. When first published in 1988 the New York Times reviewer summarized "... most readers will find this book highly evocative. Much the way ''Roots'' made people aware of family history, ''Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins'' is very likely to make people conscious of family narrative. It may not change the way we speak to one another, but it will certainly change the way we listen." Read the whole review, which is not without qualification, here.



Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Vernon's City of London Directory 1909-10

Back in April I blogged about a series of scans of Ontario city directories, and a few other books, becoming available on the Internet Archive. Since then there has been a hiatus in their being posted. The Toronto Reference Library informed me of an additional 50 volumes ready to go on the site, but it appears other things took priority. A lot of US history has been posted lately. Last Friday up pops Vernon's City of London, street, alphabetical, business and miscellaneous directory 1909-10. Nice to see the collection being augmented. Let's hope the rest arrive promptly, there has been a bit of a drought in new genealogical resources of all types.

Monday, 28 August 2006

New Genealogy Blogs

There are several new, or new to me, genealogy blogs out there that could well be of interest to you. How will you know unless you try? Check out the news, or opinions, expressed by knowledgeable folks anxious to share. If there are others that merit inclusion in the list please let me know by leaving a comment.

Mass of Excitement
Creative Gene
Genea-Musings
Genealogy Education
Librarians Helping Canadian Genealogists ...
Your Family Tree

For some other blogs, and to learn about blogging, try here.

Friday, 25 August 2006

Eaton's Catalogues 1906

What would you do? Your ancestor arrived in Ontario in 1906, a period of tremendous emigration from Britain to Canada, and found they needed a coat, or shoes, or a hat. Eaton's Catalogue to the rescue. The T. Eaton company and its catalogue brought the latest fashionable apparel from the city. It became a Canadian institution.

Discover the wares on offer, and prices of 1906, in a scan of the catalogue available online here.

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Free Ticket to Genealogy Conference


That's right, a no charge ticket. Just right click on the image, paste it into your graphics program and print it.
There is a little catch, the ticket is free ... but it won't get you in. The ticket was generated at Say-it.com where you're welcome to make your own free and fun custom tickets, church signs, or have your most or least favourite US politician, or the pope, say things of your choice.
To attend my presentation on Saturday 23 September at the British Isles Family History Society annual conference, or any of the other presentations, you'll need to register which can be done using the form here. A full conference registration is the way to go as you'll see if you browse the program. I'll be talking about DNA testing, understanding mitochrondrial and Y-DNA tests and my own experience.

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Genealogy by mtDNA

Yesterday I received an email from Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) informing me they had another client who exactly matches my mitochrondrial DNA (mtDNA) . For those not familiar with mtDNA, it's passed from generation to generation along the maternal line. I got mine for my mother, but as a male I won't ever pass it on to my children.

That makes three of us, clients of FTDNA, who share identical DNA in both Hypervariable regions 1 and 2 - that's a high resolution match. Because I've agreed to release of my name and email address to those who match I was able to see the new person's information.

A few hours later I received an email from that person giving his earliest know maternal line ancestor and asking about mine. From paper records I can trace my maternal line back seven generations, the earliest three of which were in one locality. That puts our earliest documented ancestors about a century and the North Atlantic Ocean apart.

mtDNA changes slowly which means that with present tests exact matches occur for people related quite distantly in time along their maternal lines. From the FTDNA web site, an exact high resolution mtDNA match has about a 50% chance of sharing a common ancestor within the last 28 generations (about 700 years). My new DNA cousin and I both have a lot of researching to do to get back that far!

FTDNA advertise they have about 31,000 clients who have taken mtDNA tests. I don't know if they all agreed to limited release of their results, but if so the three of us who share my mtDNA are about 1 in 10,000. With 300 million people in the USA, 60 million in the UK and 30 million in Canada, we could look for another 39,000 matches if everyone in those countries got a test. If they all descend from one woman 28 generations ago the intermediate generation daughters would have to have had daughters at a rate of 1.48 per generation. If the line started 54 generations ago the rate would be 1.22 per generation. That doesn't account for lines that don't produce daughters, so you'd expect the rate in surviving lines to be larger. What's the daughter production rate in your family history?

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Battle of Jutland

There is a detailed article on the Battle of Jutland fought on May 31 - June 1, 1916, at Wikipedia. It was the largest naval battle of WW1.

More than 6,000 British officers and men were killed and those casualties are listed at a new web site that also includes transcripts of some contemporary reports. North East Medals, which also has good information on British medals, makes available this interesting source.

Monday, 21 August 2006

Unorthodox Sources for Family History

The other day I came across a web site listing patents granted in Canada. That's not land patents but patents for inventions. It's here. You can access over 75 years of patent descriptions and images covering more than 1,500,000 patent documents. That isn't the kind of resource most people would go to when researching their family history although if your ancestor was an inventor it may be a good bet. Many of the patents were not granted to Canadians so try it even if your ancestor lived elsewhere. The same site gives access to trademarks and copyright databases which are more recent.

Anywhere names are given is fertile sleuthing ground for the family historian. Experienced genealogists know their way around a variety of records where life events are recorded. We're familiar with government records (civil registration of births, marriages and deaths; census; adoption; immigration and border crossings; military records; voters lists; land transactions; naturalization; wills), and church records (baptisms, confirmation, marriage banns and licences, marriages, burials, memorial inscriptions, older wills). Then there's war and other public memorials that may be either government, church or community sponsored. But where do we look after those? Think about what your ancestor did and what organization was involved that might have records back that far.

Top of my list would be newspapers. Checking death notices and obituaries for a few days, even a couple of weeks, after the event is likely to yield that most sought after genealogical resource, the names of relatives. You may learn the names of parents, siblings, offspring, greats, nieces and nephews, and where they were living. You may find mention of the year of death of a deceased spouse. On a happier note there are engagement announcements and reports of marriages.

Newspapers also hold plenty of other potential. Social notes, scholarships and awards, sports participation and much more. The problem for that type of mention is that until the past few years you had to plough through reels of microfilm on the off chance a family member would be mentioned. That's still the case with many newspapers, although digitization and OCR technology (however imperfect) are a reality for some, particularly the largest communities. Ottawa, unfortunately, has no newspaper digitized after the 19th century until the born-digital era.

City and telephone directories are widely used. We are fortunate in Ottawa to have a good collection of these at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) for all the country. LAC have placed quite a few late 19th century city directories online.

Did your ancestor go to school, or university? If so was there a year book? Perhaps there are still records existing. An article in the Summer 2006 Anglo-Celtic Roots, quarterly chronicle of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa, relates the story of finding material in a university archives for a relative who died in WW1.

Did your ancestor ever author a book? You may not know it, but it could be worth checking library catalogues online, especially if the name is not so common. Many libraries incorporate their catalogue into a collective one, such as at here for Canada. However, if your ancestor wrote a book of purely local interest it may be held only in the local area library so check it's catalogue too. The same is true of publications of specialist interest. I found scientific books written by a person I was researching in the catalogue for Natural Resources Canada library.

On the topic of local books, you should not overlook the possibility of your family appearing in a local history. Canada has many of these digitized and searchable at the Our Roots web site. The Prairie Provinces seem particularly blessed with these publications thanks to the initiative of the pioneers, or sons and daughters of pioneers, who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and wanted to record their history before it was forgotten.

Don't forget other local publications. Churches publish magazines. So do clubs of all kinds, and they acknowledge the contribution of volunteers. You may find your ancestor mentioned because he or she made coffee, served cakes, moved tables or collected tickets.

I blogged recently about finding photographs of people I was researching on the walls of local sports clubs. You may also want to investigate whether there are any records for local organizations such as the Women's Institute, Masonic Lodge or Knight's of Pythias. Names may be on the walls at their assembly hall or in newsletters. If you don't know where to start ask at the local family history of genealogical society, family history centre, public library or municipal archives. If there's a local university with a history department they may have a faculty member knowledgeable about local history.

There's at least one more type of unorthodox government record I didn't mention. Do you know what it is?

Friday, 18 August 2006

Celebrate Your Anglo-Celtic Roots

It was good to hear yesterday that conference registrations for the BIFHSGO annual conference are on track for a record attendance. It's being held September 22-24 at Library and Archives Canada, in Ottawa.

Information about the conference, and a registration form, is available here.

The focus of the conference is Scotland. We are pleased to have David W. Webster BSc, FIChemE, FSA Scot as keynote speaker. David has built a substantial reputation over the last 18 years as a professional genealogical researcher in the Scottish and related records of Scottish emigrants to North America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as to England, Ireland, and Europe. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 2001, David has written a number of books on genealogical research in Scotland, and is a regular contributor of articles to genealogy magazines in the UK and North America, and to Scottish family history societies.
In addition to delivering the Don Whiteside Memorial Lecture on Friday evening, David will be giving presentations on electronic and Web access to Scottish Genealogical Records, Scottish Statutory Birth Marriage and Death Records, Wildcards in Genealogical Research and using emigration records to bridge the gap to a Scottish ancestor and to search for present day relations in Scotland. David is also offering three demonstration sessions on Friday on using the
“scotlandspeople” website to research queries submitted in advance by registered attendees. These will be repeat sessions with attendance limited to 30 per session.

There's plenty more too. Will you have a difficult choice on Saturday morning between my talk and David's?

Thursday, 17 August 2006

Test for Scottishness

Newspapers around the world have picked up a story that a geneticist has developed a DNA test for “Scottishness”. "Dr Jim Wilson, of Edinburgh University’s public health sciences department, claims his test can tell whether people are descended from the Picts, who inhabited Scotland until the 10th century." You can read what the company, Ethnoancestry, has to say about the test here.

People would be wise to treat this type of test with some skepticism. Why would the Picts who settled in Scotland all have similar DNA? The test, which is based on 27 DYS markers, is proprietary means it has not been subject to open peer reviewed. What guarantee, beyond the company reputation, is there that the results represent a robust Pictish profile?

Here, as a free public service, I offer as an Anglo-Celtic Connections exclusive, a test for Scottishness. It too is guaranteed ... not to have been subject to peer review.

You're more Scottish if:

Your name start with Mc or Mac.

You can recognize your clan tartan.

You know its summer in Scotland 'cause the rain is warmer.

You like eating haggis while listening to the bagpipes.

You enjoy golf and curling, but play neither well.

You think of England as Lower Scotland, or if an American, Baja Scotland.

You're not so unsure of your Scottishness that you'd pay anyone £130 ($249) to test it?

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

Home Children

Last week I blogged about a new memorial gravestone at Ottawa's Notre Dame Cemetery to 23 young people, Home Children who came to Canada from Britain, who died in their teens or twenties and were buried in numbered graves. In fact its two gravestones.
I had the privilege of attending the memorial ceremony last Saturday and placing one of the flowers in remembrance of a child. Both these photos show Dave Lorente, son of a Home Children and pioneer researcher, who was MC. He couldn't have ordered better weather.
Also shown in the image on the left is a home child descendant, and on the right John Sayers, leader for a project to index Home Children in ships passenger lists. The project is the subject of an agreement between the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa and Library and Archives Canada. There is already a database with about 80,000 children indexed.
For those unfamiliar with the story of home children there are good web sites here, and here. The best book on the topic is here. For the genealogist there's a slim volume "Researching Canada's Home Children" available here by following Our Store, Heritage Books. Canadian Series, and clicking on the second page. Take a while to browse their other offerings too.

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Google Books extends copyright protection

Copyright holders have expressed concern about digitization initiatives such as Google Books fearing loss of revenue. A recent experience indicates they have nothing to fear as Google is taking a very conservative approach to copyright. In fact, to the extent that they are depriving people of access to books that have been in public domain for many years. Here's the story.

I don't always think of it, but every so often I visit Google Books looking for items related to my family history. Perhaps it was a news item about another source becoming available for their scanning that prompted me to visit his time.

My old home town was Great Yarmouth, in England, so I decided to search for books that mention Yarmouth. The third hit was a book I'd not heard of "The silvery hosts of the North sea, with a sketch of 'quaint old Yarmouth'" by C Stacy Watson. Maybe you guessed the silvery hosts refers to the herring that were a mainstay of the local economy. The fishery collapsed in the 1950s.

The publication was dated 1883, but only a snippet view was shown. It read "Of Yarmouth I can truly say there is little scenery, but there is plenty to see." I would like to have read more, but that's all that was available!

My initial thought was that the book should be out of copyright, but perhaps not. I'm no copyright expert. I seemed to recall there is a stipulation about copyright extending a certain number of years after the author's death. If the author was age 20 in 1883 and lived to be 100 he would have died in 1963, that's 43 years ago which perhaps could mean in some jurisdictions there would still be copyright protection.

Given today's genealogical resources can we find his death date. There was a little problem as he published the book under the name C Stacy-Watson, but nobody by that name could be found in the Ancestry database. In the FreeBMD death index there was a death entry for Christopher Stacy Watson in the 4th quarter of 1896. As the death was registered in Yarmouth, and he was the only man by that name in the 1891, 1881 and 1871 censuses, it was a pretty good bet it had to be him. That's 110 years ago, which should be long enough to clear copyright. So I emailed Google with that information and asked that the book be moved to the full view category.

Here is their reply:

The book you're referring (to) may be in public domain. However, as with all of our decisions related to the Google Book Search content, our goal is always to be conservative in our reading of both copyright law and the facts surrounding a particular book, and therefore we will continue to display the title in snippet view until we confirm that the book is in public domain.

Monday, 14 August 2006

7,414 of the first families to arrive in New Brunswick

It'’s always good to find pre-digested data. Members of the New Brunswick Genealogical Society give an assist to family historians with a compilation of genealogical data from files, books, manuscripts, records and other resources of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick in Fredericton. Start here and scroll down to the alphabetical listings.

Naturally you wi’ll want to verify the information for yourself. It is too easy for errors, and from some sources deliberate misinformation, to slip by. I checked out some of the families I have previously investigated, including Wiggins and Harper. The latter is the immigrant family of Christopher Harper, ancestor of Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, "born c1735 near Hull in Yorkshire, England, died 17 Sep 1820, m. Elizabeth Leppington b. c1735, d. 14 Jul 1808: came to NB in 1774 and settled in Sackville Parish, Westmorland County." Both the Harper and Wiggins information seemed consistent with that I'd previously found, which I would expect from such a credible source.

This information was found in a recent weekly column in Ruby Cusack's extensive site on Genealogical Sources and Books of New Brunswick, Canada, at http://www.rubycusack.com

Friday, 11 August 2006

Dick Eastman's Maiden Skypecast

I spent an interesting hour last evening sharing an online conference experiment with Dick Eastman, who needs no introduction from me, and 20 some others. It used the Skype system to link us all together. Several of the participants, including Dick, have already blogged about the experience.

Dick had done an admirable job up front in managing participant's expectations. He positioned it as a trial of the technology rather than an exchange of substantive information. That's exactly the way it turned out. I had a bit of trouble finding my way through the technological and administrative maze to get connected. Once I did the connection was solid.

Dick was able to turn individual microphones on and off, or mute everyone except himself. It was a blessing. Many people had background noise which was picked up and shared across the network, so muting their microphones meant much better quality sound.

Megan Smolenyak, who I thank for prodding me to blog this, raised the issue of where we go with this technology. She was too modest to offer a mini-lecture on DNA, although personally I'd welcome such an offer. I'd particularly like to know if she has any updates to her ideas in the What's Next chapter of her Trace Your Roots with DNA book. If that kind of mini-lecture is given it would be nice to also have some visual aids online to browse at the same time.

Another more democratic approach would be to ask participants to come with one or two "this may be news to you" items. There are developments all around the world which may or may not have content of direct relevance to others at the meeting, but which can spark ideas that can be adopted or adapted elsewhere. There was even a little bit of that with a brief exchange on the familysearch.org indexing projects, surely one of the most exciting initiatives in development. In Canada we have already benefited from a similar initiative in that we now have a freely accessible fully indexed census for 1901, and partial indexing for 1906 and 1911. Find these at the Automated Genealogy web site.

Thank you Dick for your initiative. There will be another trial next Thursday at 10pm EDT. See Dick's site for details.

Home Children Memorial

Tomorrow sees the dedication of a memorial gravestone at Ottawa's Notre Dame Cemetery to 23 young people, almost forgotten -- poor "home children" who died in their teens or twenties and were buried in numbered graves.
The man behind the initiative is Dave Lorente, a retired teacher who lives in Renfrew. He founded Home Children Canada and has worked tirelessly since the 1960s to keep alive the story and the memory of the more than 100,000 home children who cameto Canada from Britain and Ireland. His father was a home child, who came in 1929.
There is a story on the project, Gravestones will help ensure Canada's 'home children' are never forgotten, in today's Ottawa Citizen.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

Old English social life as told by the parish registers

You don't have to look far to find odd items in the Internet Archive. This book includes oddities relating to births, marriages, deaths and local customs, including a reference to "the parish bull", the responsibility of the parson but very different from a papal bull.

"Among the old entries in church books, reference is occasionally made to the parish bull, a charge having been levied upon the parson for keeping a bull for the use of his parishioners. As the Rector was entitled to the tithe of calves, it was to his interest to promote increase of tithable produce.
A correspondent of Notes and Queries (sth S., x. 334), says that, 'by custom of the parish of
Quarley, Hants, the parson was bound to keep a public boar and bull for the use of the parish
This he had neglected to do, whereupon his parishioners refused to give him the tithe of milk.' A memorandum dated April, I683, at St. Nicholas', Durham, affirms that ' it is ordered that Simors Lackenby is to keep in lieu of his Entercommon ground, one sufficient Bull for the use of the City and Borough kyne, for three years next ensuing ; and to give ten shillings towards a silver plate for a Course.'
From a copy of a Court Roll of the Manor of Isleworth Syon, dated September 29, 1675 it appears that Thomas Cole surrendered four acres and one rood of customary land lying in several places in the fields of Twickenham, called the Parish Land, anciently belonging to the inhabitants of Twickenham, for keeping a bull for the common use of the inhabitants in trust for the use of the said inhabitants, for keeping and maintaining a sufficient bull for the use aforesaid."

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

British records coming to Ancestry

An article in The Guardian here reports that war documents containing digitized images and records of 2.5 million men who served in the British forces during WW1 will be accessible on Ancestry's site, scheduled for November. Read a description of the records here.

Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Overlooked source for family history

Here's a tip. If you know your ancestor was a sportsman it may be worth checking the walls and archives of any local clubhouse for that sport.

A few years ago I was researching a Ottawa eccentric, E Stone Wiggins. One day by chance visiting the Britannia Yacht Club, near his home, I found a photo of him on the wall. He had been president of the club in 1899.

A couple of years later, while researching the Ottawa Company of Sharpshooters I spied a photo of Sharpshooter Lt. Henry H Grey, shown left, in a group at the Rideau Curling Club.

On Sunday I was checking out the photos on the wall at the cricket pavilion at the Rideau Hall and found a likeness of a relative of Rich Little, subject of a recent article in Families.

Monday, 7 August 2006

Icons of England

The first Monday on August is Civic Holiday in Ontario, and known as Colonel By Day in Ottawa. By, of the Royal Engineers, was responsible for the construction of the Rideau Canal, which we hope will eventually be named a World Heritage Site. The Rideau Canal is an icon of Ottawa.

What images come to mind when you think of England? Would Monty Python, Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood be on your list? They are just three of the new additions, voted by the public, to Icons of England.


Many more are nominated. Which would your English ancestors have been familiar with? Would they have voted for Garden Gnomes or Sea Shanties?

Saturday, 5 August 2006

14 things beginning with S

Your family history, and life, might benefit from adopting the ideas in this list.

Support local heritage.
Subscribe to a family history magazine.
Store a backup copy of your family history file with a friend.
Speculate about creative ways around your brick wall.
Stop being a pack-rat.
Soak up the atmosphere at the earliest known location in your family history.
Smile more.
Sleep on it.
Sing a song you learned as a child.
Sit a while with the oldest person in your family circle.
Share your knowledge.
Send flowers to a cousin.
Scan the Rootsweb mail list for your surname.
Save time for family.

Friday, 4 August 2006

Irish Collection

I ran across this large collection of free new resources for Irish family history at the web site for Library Ireland.

Until recently I had not appreciated how severely Irish immigration to Canada went into decline in the second half of the 19th century. "Unlike the experience of the United States the famine dispora heralded the closing phase of Irish Catholic migration to British North America. Between 1846 and 1850, only 230,000 Irish came to the Atlantic colonies and the Canadas." By 1901 the Irish born population of Ontario was only 3.2% and declined to 2.0% in 1911.

The collection seems like a mixed bag, and by the look of the dates a bit late to be of great interest to the folks with Irish ancestors who settled in Canada, unless perhaps to find ancestors who remained.

Cork County Directory 1862
Clare County Directory 1862
Cavan County Directory 1862
Ulster Towns Directory, 1910: Annalong, County Down
Ulster Towns Directory, 1910: Aghalee, County Antrim
Ulster Towns Directory, 1910: Antrim
The Scotch-Irish in Canada
Landing of the French at Killala
The Scotch-Irish of Pennsylvania
The Scotch-Irish of Ohio
Epilogue (1922-1930)
The Treaty
War and Conciliation
Sinn Fein and the Rising of Easter Week, 1916
John Redmond and Home Rule
Parnell and the Land League
Remedial Legislation
Young Ireland and the Fenians
The Famine
O'Connell and Emancipation
The Union
Revolution and Rebellion
Grattan's Parliament
The Struggle for Legislative Independence
Commercial Disabilities

Thursday, 3 August 2006

Families

The August issue of the Ontario Genealogical Society quarterly, Families, arrived earlier in the week and includes my latest article "A Little Family History Research". Its based on an investigation of the ancestors of Ottawa-born impersonator Rich Little and highlights the use of a variety of Internet sources.
I enjoyed several of the other articles, especially those by Brenda Dougall Merriman, Patty McGregor and Alison Hare. Alison was also guest editor for this issue --- nice job.

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

One for the record books

Yesterday was a day to be grateful for airconditioning as the thermometer topped out at 36.3C (97F for the Celsius challenged), not quite 37.8C which is the highest ever recorded in Ottawa, nor anything like the record heat of Toronto in July 1936, but memorably warm. I got those figures on records quite easily from the National Climate Data and Information Archive, operated and maintained by Environment Canada. They provide free access to official climate and weather observations for many locations at the Climate Data Online. Daily data go back to the 1880s for several locations, and to 1840 for Toronto. When you want to add a bit of colour to your family history its worth checking out the weather at the time of significant family events. If you're not in Canada check a local newspaper archives, that's where I found the image of kids keeping cool in 1936..


Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Toolbar Schmoolbar

One of the blogs I follow regularly is Stephen's Lighthouse. Stephen Abram impressed me as a speaker several years ago at a conference at Library and Archives Canada. He's now with SirsiDynix -- self proclaimed "global leader in strategic technology solutions for libraries".

A few days ago Stephen blogged on "Building Your Own Library Toolbar". The article even had a link to a toolbar developed for the Ottawa Public Library. It crossed my mind to develop one for BIFHSGO, but I had second thoughts. In promoting the idea Stephen wrote:

"This is a great way to gain 'shelfspace' on your users' monitors. You'll always be there as a presence and service reminding them about the books, but also your events, databases, virtual reference, story hours and more."

This strikes out for me. It's not looking at things from the user perspective where the library is a small part of their life. I already dedicate enough valuable desktop real estate to administrative overhead and don't need to lose even more when my existing desktop tools, which include a link to my library website, do what I need anyway.