Saturday, 31 May 2008

Free fancy prints of your Ancestry documents

Just posted on 24/7 Family History Circle blog is an item about custom prints of documents found through Ancestry that include the image, database title, source, index and other information.

Someone at our last local genealogy computer group meeting mentioned it, but it must have been in temporary trial as it wasn't there when we tried to find it. Now it's back.

While displaying the document you click the print icon and get the choice of normal or custom print. You get the option to do simple cropping, moving, resizing, changing colours, adding borders, and more. The title and other information are added automatically.

You print for free on your local printer, or print through Ancestry Press.

This is a nice facility to have for the times you want to pretty up the print out to impress, and perhaps win cooperation.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Announcement speculation

Friday 30 May is the first day of the annual OGS conference, this year being held in London, Ontario. It's the biggest genealogy event in Canada and as such often the occasion for announcements of new products and services.

At last year's event Ancestry.ca announced the company had reached agreement with Library and Archives Canada to index incoming ship's passenger lists. I'm hoping we might see an announcement of a product from that agreement.

LAC have been working on linking the LDS indexing of the 1881 census to images of the original enumerators forms scanned from microfilm.

It would also be interesting to hear any news on the availability of online images of the 1916 census of the Prairie provinces which is now held by LAC.

Brenda Dougall Merriman has been hard at work on a major update to her book Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the records which may be ready for release.

The new Legacy Family Tree 7.0, perhaps without the boxes, will be available at the conference from Global Genealogy.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

BCG and SOG

Don't judge a book by its cover, or an organization by its name.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists exists "to foster public confidence in genealogy as a respected branch of history by promoting an attainable, uniform standard of competence and ethics among genealogical practitioners, and by publicly recognizing persons who meet that standard."

It claims to be "nationally and internationally recognized."

The vast majority of those certified, the officers and trustees are US based. The organization is US registered. The example documents on the web site relate to US situations.

In practice it's a US organization.

It would be more appropriate to call it the US Board for Certification of Genealogists.

The Society of Genealogists is a British registered charity whose objects are to "promote, encourage and foster the study, science and knowledge of genealogy". Members benefit from its library, publications and educational programs.

It has offices and its library in London, England. The members of the Board of Trustees reside in the UK and I believe the vast majority of members do too.

In practice its a British, and mainly English and Welsh, organization.

It would be more appropriate to call it the British Society of Genealogists.

These are just two examples of organizations, both of which by all evidence provide valuable services, but where the title suggests a deceptively broad geographic scope of operation.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The most common surnames

The most common surnames in England and Wales are:

Smith, Jones, Williams, Taylor, Brown, Davies, Evans, Thomas, Wilson, Johnson.

That's according to a study of surnames in birth registrations from 1998 to September 2002. The data is from the Office of National Statistics, via this web site where you can also look up the ranking of many other surnames.

There are only minor differences from the 1881 list found in Steve Archer's 19th Century Surname Atlas CD

Smith, Jones, Williams, Brown, Taylor, Davies, Wilson, Evans, Thomas, Roberts

Brown and Taylor have swapped places, Wilson has moved up two places, and Roberts has moved up from 11th place in 1881 to replace Johnson.

How do Canada's top surnames compare? There is no official source -- seeing privacy bogey men everywhere Statistics Canada refuses to release a list based on the census, but the CBC published a list last year. It reflects the changing reality of a nation of immigrants.

Li, Smith, Lam, Martin, Brown, Roy, Tremblay, Lee, Gagnon, Wilson

Immigration statustics show that more than 50% of Canada's immigrants in the past decade have been from the Asia Pacific region.

Immigrants have been coming to Canada from the region for much longer. Library and Archives Canada's Canadian Genealogy Centre have just put up a new database on Chinese immigrants to Canada from 1885 to 1949.

A different immigration reality is apparent for the US. According to the 1990 US census the top names were:

Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown, Davis, Miller, Wilson, Moore, Taylor

By 2000 the list was:

Smith, Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller, Davis, Garcia, Rodriguiz, Wilson

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Announcement from Pharos Teaching & Tutoring

Sherry Irvine, theme speakers at BIFHSGO's September conference and lead author of Finding Your Canadian Ancestors sent me the following press release which may be of interest.



27 May 2008
– For Immediate Release


Pharos announces the launch of one to one online tutorials with expert genealogist Sherry Irvine

Pharos Teaching & Tutoring was the first British company to provide online tutor assisted classes aimed specifically at helping researchers with British ancestry.

Now, Pharos is launching a new one to one tutorial service to help genealogists tackle those nasty research problems generally known as “brick walls”. The service provides a practical option when it is difficult to find a course that fits the problem or when expert analysis is needed.

Sherry has been helping people solve genealogical problems for over twenty years, as a teacher, lecturer, writer and researcher. She is the author of books on Scottish, English and Irish research and her articles, full of practical ideas, appear in many publications. She is a popular presenter at seminars and conferences, and online as a Pharos tutor. Her particular expertise is solving problems from a distance.

Sherry’s own family history has taken her into all parts of the British Isles as well as across the centuries, from the 1500s to the twentieth century. She particularly enjoys genealogical puzzles and helping others see new research pathways.

The one to one process is a simple one. Students send Sherry their problems, she analyses what needs to be done, students then get a web based tutorial with Sherry, expert analysis of their problem, personal guidance and a plan of action to take away.

More information about the one to one tutorials is available on the Pharos website at www.pharostutors.com

Link to full description http://www.pharostutors.com/coursedescriptions.php#701

For more information on courses at Pharos, email - info@pharostutors.com
--


Monday, 26 May 2008

Digitization news

On Friday Microsoft announced they are winding down their digitization initiatives, including library scanning of rare books. The company's Live Search Books and Live Search Academic initiatives had digitized 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles.

Microsoft comments that "based on our experience, we foresee that the best way for a search engine to make book content available will be by crawling content repositories created by book publishers and libraries. With our investments, the technology to create these repositories is now available at lower costs for those with the commercial interest or public mandate to digitize book content."

Some of the comments on the announcement, also on the web site, are informative

"book digitization is best left performed by libraries.

Book digitization has become very affordable these days.

Tools like V-shaped book scanners (e.g. BookDrive DIY http://www.atiz.com) enable even small schools or local libraries to have the same scanning capability like those done by Google or Microsoft."

and

"Digitization of rare bound content can literally free books lost in the stacks or sitting lonely on some locked and dusty shelf. Anyone who thinks that libraries are too busy or too limited in resources to even attempt this are short sighted in the extreme."

Unlike one local library that is sitting on its duff watching, posed to become roadkill, the McGill University Library is one that has an active digitization program.

The McGill Library and Collections Digital Program is created to digitally capture and provide electronic access to McGill University's unique rare and special collections via the World Wide Web using advanced digital technologies. These collections include rare books, maps, manuscripts, prints, photographs, sound recordings, and more.

One product of the program is a digitization of The Canadian Architect and Builder (CAB) which was published between 1888 and 1908 and was the only professional architectural journal published in Canada before World War I.

If you have an ancestor prominent in these professions during this time period chances are he will be mentioned. Doing my regular test search for Northwood revealed William Northwood, a prominent Ottawan with a plumbing business, appointed as treasurer of a society, and his son George receiving certification as an architect.

Even if your ancestors weren't, you can also use the resource to find out about activities in the community. For example, there was a note on the departure for Canada of a monument to the two Ottawa Sharpshooters killed during the 1995 North West Rebellion which had been cast in England, and about the designer of a gravestone memorial to these two men.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Genea-Cyberquote II

In the following genealogical quotation each letter is uniquely coded. The code changes for each puzzle.

Example:

P P T X B P T Q
A A R D V A R K


BULTAXBPE OWTAT ATZTIBEX ATLVAGU BAT WTZG TEUYAT JVY MEVO XWT PEUXPXYXPVE WVYAU, AYZTU BEG VAQBEPNBXPVE VC ATLVAGU STCVAT IPUPXPEQ

adapted from DBAM G WTASTA

Note: Randy Seaver has posted another here, but don't scroll down as someone already posted the answer! As I poached his Genea prefix he's welcome to use the idea!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Homes, Gardens and History

The weather forecast for the weekend is promising so I'll likely be taking an afternoon trip to the Billings Estate Museum this Sunday, 25 May at 2 pm for a presentation organized by the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives. Bruce Elliott, local history professor and long-time genealogist, will speak on researching your house and garden and Edwinna von Baeyer on how you can create a heritage garden. $10 at the door.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Do you order civil registration certificates for England and Wales?

The following was posted on the Society of Genealogists web site. Those of us outside Britain have our own perspective on the service provided and should be heard. If my contacts are anything to go by the British government makes a tidy sum from sales of these certificates overseas.
===========
Information [22 May 2008] - Else Churchill reports - Recently I was asked to take part in a survey about the General Register Office’s Website and make some comment about proposals to integrate the website into the Direct Gov web portal for all Government websites. Now the survey has been broadened to the public and I have been asked to pass it on to interested parties. I think that it would be useful for family historians to look at the survey and make comments as they think appropriate. If you have any comments to make about ordering certificates through the GRO’s existing website, getting information about indexes, or any other aspect of the certificate service website then here is your opportunity. If you have any feelings about the integration of the General Register Office with the Identity and Passport Service and identity cards you can make comments. I am worried that the GRO website may well become much more difficult to find if it is subsumed wholly within Direct Gov and I know some people have been frustrated with the online ordering system.

You can complete the survey online.

Do take the opportunity to respond. I think the Identity and Passport Agency should know how important the registration service is to the family history community.

============

After you take the survey the browser goes to a page with no mention of the GRO function, only passports and security cards -- not a good sign.

Traitor. Pirate. Modern man?

LAC is full of talented people. Earlier in the week a notice came in about a book being launched by an LAC historian which asks: Can a man betray his nation but remain true to himself?

The notion is as controversial today as in 1603. It set me thinking about Leo McKinstry's contention that a true sense of identity lies in understanding your national story.

About the book. Here is the press release.

It was in 1603 that John Ward deserted his post in the English navy, fled to North Africa and offered lessons in gunnery and naval strategy to Jihadis. In 1610 Ward converted to Islam, provoking further outrage in England.

Barbary Pirate: the Life and Crimes of Captain John Ward, a new book by local historian Greg Bak, explores the nature of heroism, nationalism and religious belief against a backdrop of thrilling sea battles and international intrigue.

The military and cultural conflicts that shaped John Ward’s life seem entirely familiar today, but parallels between Ward’s times and our own are only one reason that Bak felt compelled to tell Ward’s story.

“He’s like an old friend,” Bak explains. “Well, maybe not a friend. Maybe he’s like the stringy-haired metal-head who tormented you in high school, and who later became an elite mercenary, training suicide bombers in a terrorist camp. You read about him in the paper and you think, ‘wow, he bullied me when he was a nobody.’”

Writing Ward’s biography took five years, during which Bak moved from Massachusetts to Ottawa, traded jobs three times, bought and renovated a house in Chinatown and became a father to twin daughters. But Bak first encountered Ward a decade earlier, while researching a PhD on English-Islamic history at Dalhousie University.

“Through to the 1800s John Ward was famous as an antihero of the age of sail,” says Bak. “Today he is virtually unknown, despite centuries of popular ballads, a play by one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, and even a Canadian novel.”

Since his death he has been viewed as an exemplar of English seamanship, a blood-stained, demonic pirate captain, and an opportunistic rogue. Perhaps only now, in our own era of religious rhetoric and warfare, can we make sense of John Ward's life.

Barbary Pirate exposes the hypocrisy of the ruling classes of the seventeenth century. Officially promoting an international Christian coalition against Islam, King James and his ministers followed their own agendas.

John Ward rejected the conventional morality of his day and shaped his own destiny. Can this justify his crimes? Barbary Pirate lets readers judge for themselves.

There will be a book launch for Barbary Pirate at Collected Works Bookstore, at 1242 Wellington St. West, on Sunday May 25, at 2:00 PM.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

What's new? Forthcoming genealogy books

Planning on giving a new book to a genealogist in the coming months? Here`s a list of genealogy publications announced on Amazon. The release dates are only carved in electrons. As I once discovered talking to an author and informing him of the release date of his unfinished book, some are more wishful thinking than firm deadlines.

In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past (Hardcover)

by Henry Louis Jr Gates (Author)
to be released on January 27, 2009.

Scottish Genealogy: Tracing Your Ancestors (Hardcover)
by Bruce Durie (Author)
to be released January 1, 2009.

Where Do You Fit?: Putting Together Your Family History Puzzle (in 4 Easy Pieces) (Paperback)
by Loretto Dennis Szucs (Author), Juliana Szucs Smith (Author)
to be released January 1, 2009

The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History (Hardcover)
by David Hey (Editor)
to be released November 9, 2008

The Online Genealogy Handbook (Paperback)
by Brad Schepp (Author), Debra Schepp (Author)
to be released November 4, 2008

Collins Tracing Your Scottish Family History (Hardcover)
by Anthony Adolph (Author)
to be released 3 November 2008

The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy: A complete resource to using the Web to trace your family history (Paperback)
by Kimberly Powell (Author)
to be released 17 October 2008

Finding Grandad's War (Paperback)
by Jeffery Badger (Author)
to be released 1 October 2008

Secrets of Tracing Your Ancestors (Paperback)
by Daniel Quillen (Author)
to be released 30 September, 2008

The Official Guide to Family Tree Maker 2009 (Paperback)
by Tana Pedersen Lord (Author)
to be released 1 September 2008

A Tree Without Roots: The Guide to Tracing British, African and Asian-Caribbean Ancestry (Paperback)
by Paul Crooks (Author)
to be released 1 September 2008

Collins Tracing Your Family History (Hardcover)
by Anthony Adolph (Author)
to be released 1 September 2008

"Who Do You Think You Are?" Encyclopedia of Genealogy: The Definitive Reference Guide to Tracing Your Family History (Hardcover)
by Nick Barratt (Author)
to be released 1 September 2008

The Grandparent's Book of Shared Memories: Keepsake Album & Genealogy Instruction Book (Hardcover)
by Fred Dubose (Author)
to be released September 2008

The Official Guide to Ancestry.com (Paperback)

by Susan Sherwood Parr (Author)
to be released 1 August 2008

Basics of Genealogy Reference: A Librarian's Guide (Paperback)
by Jack Simpson (Author)
to be released 30 July 2008

Tracing Your Jewish Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians (Paperback)
by Rosemary E. Wenzerul (Author)
to be released 23 July 2008

Finding Your Italian Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide (Paperback)
by Suzanne Russo Adams (Author)
to be released 1 July 2008

For some of these titles there's a description available by searching the title at Amazon.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

New genealogy titles in the library

It's your public library. You pay for it. Why not use it?

Here are some genealogy books newly listed in the Ottawa Public Library catalogue.

Genealogy online by Elizabeth Powell Crowe
New York : McGraw-Hill, c2008. ISBN: 9780071499316 (alk. paper)0071499318 (alk. paper)Description: xxx, 426 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.Edition: 8th ed., Fully rev. and updated

Erin's sons : Irish arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1761-1853 by Terrence M. Punch
.
Baltimore, Md. : Genealogical Publishing Co., c2008. ISBN: 9780806317823 (pbk.)Description: 196 p. : maps ; 28 cm.Added Title: Irish arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1761-1853

Companions of Champlain : founding families of Quebec, 1608-1635 by Denise R. Larson.
Baltimore, Md. : Clearfield Co., c2008. ISBN: 0806353678 (pbk.)9780806353678 (pbk.)Description: x, 178 p. : ill., maps ; 22 cm.Notes: Includes an index.Added Title: Founding families of Quebec, 1608-1635

Genealogy online for dummies by Matthew L. Helm and April Leigh Helm
Hoboken, NJ : Wiley Pub., c2008. ISBN: 9780470240571Series: --For dummies Description: xviii, 366 p. ; 24 cm. + 1 CD-ROM (4 3/4 in.)Edition: 5th ed.Notes: One CD-ROM inserted in pocket.

Townships of the province of Ontario Canada : a complete index of the townships in all the counties and districts / compiled by Muriel Gartner and Frederick Prong.
Toronto : Ontario Genealogical Society, 2007. ISBN: 9780777934111 :Description: 55 p. : maps. Edition: Rev. and updated / by Fred (C.F.) Prong. Notes: Includes index.

Finding your Canadian ancestors : a beginner's guide by Sherry Irvine, Dave Obee.
Provo, UT : Ancestry Pub., 2007. ISBN: 9781593313166 Series: Finding your ancestors series Description: p. cm.

There are more than 20 people on the waiting list for the Dummies book, and more than 10 for Finding your Canadian Ancestors, a indicating continuing interest in the topic amongst beginners.





Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Technical problems at LAC cancel OGS meeting

LAC have posted the following notice

Tuesday, May 20, 2008:

Due to technical problems, our main building at 395 Wellington St. will be closed until further notice.

UPDATE
LAC expect to be open for business on Wednesday May 21.

The CBC reported that "A broken water pipe flooded the main building of Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa early Tuesday morning, closing the building and causing a small amount of damage to some books."

This is just the latest in a long series of water problems in the building. In a March 2002 interview former National Librarian Roch Carrier mentioned there had been 70 previous occurrences. In 1994 over 1,000 books and documents were reported damaged in a flood.

As a result the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society has been forced to cancel their May meeting which was to be held in the building.

Seeking London burials?

Having recently resolved the long standing question of what happened to my g-g-grandfather, and now that I've obtained a photo of his barely legible gravestone, I've been looking at my family genealogy database for the next challenge. Prompted by a day on London genealogy being organized in Toronto for next November I wondered whether I could find the cemeteries which received the last remains of my London ancestors.

Mark Herber puts it succinctly in his book Ancestral Trails: "It can be very difficult to locate an ancestor's place of burial in London ...". The London Cemeteries website states "There is no central register showing places of burial for those who died in London, so be prepared to contact several locations close to where your loved one died. In addition, there are very few burial registers available online, so you should be prepared to visit offices in person to examine the registers, or to pay a (usually small) fee to have this done for you."

Most of my ancestors were not in London prior to 1850 and the closure of churchyard burial grounds. There should be a civil death registration for each of them giving the death location. Let's hope they had a local cemetery as their final resting place.

London Cemeteries has a convenient list of 140 cemeteries with the year of opening and a link to Multi-map showing the location. Multi-map has two versions of a conventional map, plus an aerial view and a birds-eye view looking from the four cardinal directions. The resolution is fine enough that you can make out some individual graves. Complete addresses for the cemetery office are not usually given but can be found, along with other information, by googling the cemetery name.

A few indexes are online and the number is growing. This blog previously had an item about a database for Abney Park Cemetery.

There is a database with details of all reused graves in West Norwood Cemetery. Search from the main database page, or click through to the grave owners list and find all burials in one plot. For example:

Grave Owners Result Page Grave number: 956-37
Grave Owner: James Albers
Address: 13, Harleyford Place, Kennington
Original Burial: 1844
Last Burial: 1863
Deceased:
Caroline Abertine Albers buried in 1844
James Albers buried in 1856
James Albers buried in 1863
Mary Dennis Albers buried in 1852

Supposedly there is a database of burials from 24 June 1856 to 2 June 1861 at the City of London Cemetery available for viewing online. That information is here, but the search form did not appear when I tried.

Richmond Cemetery Services offers a database for the East Sheen, Hampton, Old Mortlake Burial Ground, Richmond, Teddington and Twickenham.

Moving upstream on the Thames, Kingston University has a database for Bonner Hill Cemetery Burial Registers - 1855 to 1911, and Kingston Parish Burial Registers - 1850 to 1901. Careful, the database also contains census and marriage entries.

Also worth knowing about are 30 microfilm reels of the General register of burials, 1854-1976, for Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking in Surrey, which is the final resting place of 235,000 people, mostly Londoners. These are in the LDS Family History Library. Wouldn't this make a nice database to have online!

There is also information online on earlier burials.

Findmypast.com has the City of London burials database, 349,373 entries, and burials at a few area cemeteries in the National Burial Index, mostly before the second half of the 19th century. British Origins has "Boyd's London Burials, an index completed by Percival Boyd in 1934 to "a few of the burials in the London area" (in fact over 240,000) and Cliff Webb's London City Burials (over 35,000)."

One of the references you come across in researching the topic is Frederick Teague Cansick's 1875 book A Collection of Curious and Interesting Epitaphs copied from the existing monuments of distinguished and noted characters in the churches and churchyards of Hornsey, Tottenham, Edmonton, Enfield, Friern Barnet and Hadley, Middlesex. It's now available in full view through Google Books. However distinguished and notable, my London-area ancestors weren't there early enough to be included.




Monday, 19 May 2008

A tale of two Gazettes

The first products of a project to digitize historic Canada Gazettes are now online at the Library and Archives Canada website.

Perhaps the Canada Gazette isn't high on the list of places you'd look in your genealogy research. What might you find there?

According to their documentation "In it, you will find published new statutes (acts of Parliament) and regulations, proposed regulations, decisions of administrative boards and an assortment of government notices. Also included are private sector notices that are required by statute to be published so as to inform and engage the public.

Still doesn't seem promising. I wondered if, like the London Gazette, it might contain notices of federal medals and other honours awarded, notices in advance of probate and of bankruptcy. The documentation didn't help so I tried my usual search, on Northwood. The result, shown above, is a list of citations and links to gif and pdf images.

The first hit, when the image eventually appeared, was to the discharge from bankruptcy on a man living on Northwood Road.

In the immortal words, it was deja vu all over again. When London Gazette archives first became available online the results were the same type of non-informative listing. I spent far too much time waiting for images to download and then finding the reference was to Northwood as a place name, not a surname.

Now that's been fixed so you see a snippet of context alongside the citation and can quickly skip over the results that don't interest you.

That's an improvement I hope LAC will be quick to make. If they're interested in having genealogists use the resource, and why wouldn't they, they might also provide a short guide pointing to genealogically relevant resources in the Canada Gazette and providing search hints.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

John Wentworth Moody, 1923 - 2008

British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa founding member and first Director of Education and Queries, John (Jack) Moody passed away on the evening of Friday 16 May. He was a Society life member and member of the Hall of Fame.

John Wentworth (Jack) Moody was born and educated in Hamilton, Ontario, and graduated from The University of Toronto with a BSc in Metallurgical Engineering in 1950. He furthered his studies at the Royal Military College of Science, in Shrivenham, England studying electronics and weapons. His military service was as follows: Royal Canadian Sea Cadets 1936-39; RC Signals, NPAM, CA(A), CA(R) 1939-49; RCEME, CA(R) 1949-60. Jack served in Canada, England and NW Europe, taking part in the advance from late 1944 into Germany. He retired to the Supplementary Reserve as a Captain in 1960. His subsequent employment was primarily with Canada Post Corporation, retiring as Director of Engineering in 1978.

Jack Moody was a life-time member of several genealogy and historical societies and Past-President of the Historical Society of Ottawa. He served as Provincial Inquiries Director for the Ontario Genealogical Society, and was both the Inquiries Coordinator and Chairman of the Ottawa Branch. In addition to being a founding member of BIFHSGO, Jack was also a member of the Irish Heritage Association, the Suffolk Genealogical Society, the Genealogical Society of Nova Scotia and the Herb Society of America. Jack's own family research included DOANES, MOTHERSHILL, NELLIS, BARTON, HARDING. BRAINE, BUDD, and MOODY.

(Based on material from Anglo-Celtic Roots)

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Genea-Cyberquote

It's a long weekend in Canada so here's a puzzle to solve, a quotation of genealogical significance. Decode it by replacing each letter with the correct one -- thus:

NGENNLU
becomes
ADVAARK

The above is not the letter correspondence in this puzzle.

UKCHCKDSV HXG KSTKVMGSVHFBG KS CWG BKLGBI GJGSC CWHC IDQ SGGT CD ZKST H XGUDXT HAHKS.

HBKVDS WHXG


(Congratulations to Randy Seaver, Randy's Musings is a permanent link, who not only solved it within a couple of hours of posting, but also pointed out my transcription error - now corrected.)

Friday, 16 May 2008

How good is census indexing?

An email arrived from findmypast.com announcing their new transcription of the 1901 census records, starting with Gloucestershire and Somersetshire. The blurb read "The accuracy of our transcriptions, along with our high quality images, is what sets our censuses apart from our competitors'. After searching our transcriptions you may find people you haven't found on other sites."

I've also heard a respected genealogist (not an employee) at the Society of Genealogists make the claim that Findmypast's transcriptions are better than Ancestry's. How well does the claim stand up? I decided to rate them on a point basis, one point for each person correctly identified in a search for Reid in Somerset. Incidentally, Wikipedia states that Somersetshire is not the correct name for the county, but an archaic form that went out of fashion in the late 19th century.

A search on the exact name Reid yields 24 hits in Findmypast (FMP) and 22 on Ancestry (ANC). Of these 18 are identical. Whichever service you choose you stand a good chance of finding the person you seek. The glass is about 80% full. ANC and FMP each receive 18 points.

The first difference is a simple transcription problem. FMP finds Adam A Reid, ANC finds Adara A Reid. Looking at the original you can see how the Chinese indexers employed by Ancestry would read m as ra, but I'm surprised this was not caught in checking the work. One point to Findmypast.

The second difference is that FMP lists an Alex Reid living in Keynsham. However, looking at the original he, his wife and infant son are residing in Bitton, Gloucestershire. FMP has them in the wrong county. Penalize FMP three points for false identification.

ANC finds 14 year old Alvan Reid, a nephew in the home of Frances E Hancock. No amount of searching found this person on FMP, nor the Hancocks, nor several other people on the page. Unfortunately FMP has no way to search by piece, folio and page number as does ANC. Maybe there's a page missed. One point to Ancestry.

ANC finds Charles Tassela Reid and his wife Emily. FMP finds Charles Tassel Reed. Both are reasonable attempts at what investigation in other sources shows should be Charles Tassell-Reed. No points awarded.

FMP finds Martha Reid which ANC transcribes as Martha Rud. Rud is an unusual name and several of those found in the 1901 census look to be doubtful transcriptions. FMP appears correct; the entry is consistent with a marriage registered in late 1900. One point to FMP.

Finally FMP finds Reginold J Reid, ANC Reginald J Reid. On the original it certainly looks like --old, but which would you rather see it indexed under? Some argue you transcribe what you see, some that you normalize to a controlled vocabulary. In practice a worthwhile search engine should find the entry despite the difference in vowel. No points awarded.

Bottom line, 17 points to Findmypast, 19 points to Ancestry. Not a conclusive win, but also not a confirmation of Findmypast's claim. While the statement "after searching our transcriptions you may find people you haven't found on other sites" is true, it could equally apply in reverse.

One thing I did appreciate about FMP is the ability to zoom in the image more than you can with ANC. That may reflect a better quality image as FMP claims.

What the evaluation does show is the kind of variations to look for when an ancestor eludes you in the census.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The DNA heritage test furore

In my posting comparing Ancestors and Ancestry magazines I made passing reference to Penny Law's article "Heritage Tests, revelation or rip-off?" in the June issue of Ancestors. Her conclusion, "its just a bit of fun." The article attracted the interest of the Daily Mail and the BBC. In a blog posting 14th May 2008: DNA furore Ancestors editor Simon Fowler admits that "My personal view is that DNA tests of these kind are a complete con and do not contribute to individual’s family trees."

Before painting such tests as a "complete con" surely the magazine should have made an effort to reconcile the results of the different tests? Was expert advice sought on the specifics of particular situation; if so it wasn't evident in the article. It appears that one test was done on the donor's autosomal DNA, so sampling across the whole spectrum of the donor's ancestors, whereas the other two looked specifically at the paternal and maternal lines, but with different terminologies used. Perhaps the fact that the article confirmed the editor's "personal view" was enough, along with the comfort of quoting the opinions of Cynics in the United States who may or may not be knowledgeable.

As to contributing to an individual's family tree, that isn't the aim of heritage tests. There are well established and highly successful DNA tests that are helping people sort out tangles in their family tree where paternity issues exist and helping link, or de-link, branches of family trees.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Copyright

Hands up if you understand the rules, pros and cons around copyright as they bear on you as a creator and consumer of original material.

You don't see my hand up.

The little I do know comes from having listened to several presentations, and reading what I can, especially the weekly column written by Michael Geist published in the Ottawa Citizen and elsewhere. Read them, and much more, at his blog.

In his most recent column, on crown copyright, Geist asserts that "crown copyright costs Canadians hundreds of thousands of dollars while being used as a tool to suppress public criticism of government programs." Geist cites examples of use of crown copyright being denied for political reasons. In the most recent year for which records are available "crown copyright licensing generated less than $7,000 in revenue, yet the system cost over $200,000 to administer."

Copyright I may not understand, but a money losing proposition I do -- having been involved in my share.

Discussion on Canadian copyright legislation, with a new act expected to be introduced in the Commons soon, is one reason why it would be valuable to have a way for the Canadian genealogy community to speak in unison.

In the meantime, you may have noticed a new Creative Commons Licence logo is now found in the left hand column. You may freely republish for non-commercial purposes any material in this blog for which I own copyright. Commercial reproduction requires permission. Any reuse should acknowledge the source as Anglo-Celtic Connections, copyright John D Reid 2008, and include a link to the original where feasible.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Ancestors and Ancestry

The latest issue of Ancestry magazine, published by The Generations Network Inc, arrived at my door on Friday. It's the May/June issue. I went to place it in the pile of other genealogy magazines, the top one of which was the June issue of Ancestors published by The (UK) National Archives and Wharncliffe Publishing Ltd, and then wondered how they compare.

Superficially they're similar, glossy and full colo(u)r. Ancestry is 8" by 10", with 66 pages plus the cover. The cover price is 4.95 US dollars. Ancestors is slightly larger, the A4 metric format. That's 210 by 297 mm , or 8-1/4" by 11-2/3". The issue has 74 pages plus the cover. The cover price is 3.50 UK pounds, 6.82 US dollars.

For the arithmetically inclined, Ancestors costs about 3.5% more on a per unit page area basis than Ancestry. I was surprised the difference is so small as UK prices are often much greater for comparable products. Part of the reason must be that while this issue of Ancestry has 12 pages of advertising Ancestors published 17 pages. Ancestry's ads are mostly full page spreads for products and services of The Generations Network. Ancestors has a wider variety of advertisers including may smaller ads for genealogy research services focused on a county or group of counties.

Feature Content
Both magazines have regular and feature content. Ancestry also has categories Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with additional content as well as further categorizing the feature material. Of the four feature articles in Ancestry two "Getting Free Dirt on Their Hands" and "Shotgun Weddings" are US social history and of no direct interest to me. They were generally interesting; I probably wouldn't have taken the time to look at them if not for doing this posting. "Before My Very Eyes" reports on experience with two commercial photo-scanning and enhancement companies. Again these are US companies so of little direct interest. "Returning to Their Medicinal Roots" with its photos of food, comments on chicken soup and "an apple a day" stretched the bounds of what's suitable for a magazine titled Ancestry.

Ancestors has eight feature articles, two of them part of a DNA Special. Chris Pomery, author of two British books on DNA, provides a readable explanation of Genealogy of the Genes. Heritage Tests: Revelation of rip-off recounts writer Penny Law's experience with DNA tests by three companies for ancestral origins. Ancestry also had a DNA article in the Tomorrow section. You wouldn't need to be British to benefit from these. The remaining Ancestors features are mainly social history, some too specific to be of anything but general interest.

Regulars
Some of the regular Ancestry columnists had material of value to me. I enjoyed Colleen Fitzpatrick's analysis of an old photograph. It was annoying that the reproduction in the magazine was too small to allow you to deduce the same things she did. Megan Smolenyak's item in her Honoring Our Ancestors series was also instructive. The editors omitted identifying her as the author, except on the contents page.

In regular content Ancestors has a second good article, not specifically UK-oriented, by Chris Pomery, The Novelty of Networking. It also has book reviews and an Ask the Experts sections.

Overall
Despite the superficial similarity the magazines are different in that both are squarely targeted at their respective UK and US markets. It's unlikely I'd have seen this issue of Ancestry if it hadn't been included as a freebie with my Ancestry.com world subscription.

It wasn't until I read the masthead list of editors and contributers that I twigged to another difference. Women are just over one-third of names on the Ancestors list, nearly three-quarters for Ancestry. On visual appearance alone Ancestors, with maps, diagrams and images of old documents and steel-plate engravings would sit happily on the newsstand with the computer and technology magazines. Ancestry, with pictures of food and softer colours would not look out of place alongside homemaker magazines.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Ottawa Public Library needs a wake up call on digitization

Seven Northern New York counties, Ottawa's near neighbours with a total population under half a million, have cooperated to digitize and OCR more than a million pages of 31 local area newspapers and make them freely available online. Access them here. This was achieved through a library cooperative.

By contrast the Ottawa Public Library, serving a population approaching twice the size, appears MIA on digitization. When I asked one of their staff about this some weeks ago I was told the OPL was investigating digitization, then received an email stating "I was incorrect in thinking that we were undertaking a digitization project - we are not quite there yet."

"Not quite there" seems to be overstating the case. You can search the work plan for the Ottawa Public Library Board, scheduled for discussion on 12 May, for any mention of digitization. It's totally off the radar screen, not impressive for an organization that aspires to be "innovative."

I have sent an email to the City Councillors who sit on the Library Board, Jan Harder (Chair), Michel Bellemare, Peggy Feltmate, Diane Holmes, Shad Qadri and Marianne Wilkinson, requesting they add an item to the work plan that would see the OPL report to the Board on options for a local digitization project by the fourth quarter. Two responses so far have not been encouraging that the suggested action will be forthcoming, One Councillor does seem interested in exploring the issue further with the OPL.


Sunday, 11 May 2008

Digging Up Your Roots

Scenes from the Saturday 10 May event hosted by the Family History Center of the Ottawa Stake, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.






Hariette Fried from the City of Ottawa Archives who adds verve to any event.













Mike More, Chair of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. The photo is cropped so as not to show the hordes on the other side of the table.

















British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa featured information in their September conference.

















The Family History Center display was the only one with any need for a cash box.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Irishmariners.ie

A website with an online index of Irish born merchant seamen (and one woman) contained in the CR10 series of index cards in the Southampton Civic Archives. The website currently contains information, including date of birth, on 11,345 Irish born merchant seamen active from late 1918 to the end of 1921 out of an estimated total of around 20,000 plus. You need to know both first and surname, or identity number, to search.

The Southamption Civic Archives holds 270,000 cards covering the the British Merchant Marine during the period from late 1918 to the end of 1921 which usually includes passport-type photographs. It is part of the Central Index Register of Merchant Seamen, a collection of over a million and a quarter merchant navy service record cards with details of people serving on board British registered ships between 1918 and 1941.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Administrative changes

Unfortunately my attempts to change the address on this blog threw things off. When folks came to the blogspot address were redirected to a stale page at johnreid.ca. Sorry.

Waiting for the Vatican to drop the other shoe

According to the Catholic News Service the Vatican Congregation for Clergy has ordered dioceses across the globe not to give information in parish registers to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"The congregation requests that the conference notifies each diocesan bishop in order to ensure that such a detrimental practice is not permitted in his territory, due to the confidentiality of the faithful and so as not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

I confess not to be aware of this doctrine of "confidentiality of the faithful." It must have a particular meaning, but to the outsider sounds like the antithesis of proclaiming your faith.

Moreover, if collecting Catholic records in pursuit of LDS's "erroneous" rebaptism is so odious one would think it would also be objectionable for Catholics to have anything to do with records collected to such ends. Will the Vatican be issuing an edict prohibiting Catholics from using any LDS-collected genealogy records?

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Saturday May 10 Genealogy Events in Ottawa

At Library and Archives Canada (BIFHSGO ) 395 Wellington Street

9 am: Sylvie Tremblay speaks on effectively searching for ancestors and archival info at Library & Archives Canada (LAC)




10 am: Lucille Campey speaks on her new book "An Unstoppable Force: The Scottish Exodus to Canada."





At the Ottawa Stake Family History Centre 1017 Prince of Wales Drive

"Digging Up Your Roots" - 2008 Ottawa Ontario Stake Family History Fair
1 - 5 pm: Ten speakers, three different sessions run in most time periods.
See the full schedule on the Family History Centre website

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Report on "Who Do You Think You Are - Live"

I've been looking for a comprehensive report on the event this past weekend at London's Kensington Olympia. Blogger Chris Patten has it all here, including a link to a new user interface to The Times Online, free for "about two months."

Genealogy Society Membership Trends

Annual reports from various branches of the Ontario Genealogical Society have just appeared in Newsleaf. According to the President’s report membership in the Society is decreasing. Not every branch mentions membership trends, but its clear the situation isn’t uniform. Here are extracts from those that do:

Our membership has remained the same ... our membership dropped to 195, down from 222 the previous year … our membership has been stable for several years … we’ve experienced a slight decline in membership … membership this year dropped two persons … the slow, but nevertheless alarming slippage in membership numbers continues … branch membership has remained steady … for the first time in a number of years, our membership has been stable …. Membership remains about the same … with the decline in membership over the past few years … our membership is up … membership continued to decline in 2007, although in the 1.5% range which is an improvement over the previous few years … membership is down a bit from last year.

The President writes “I think that we are all aware of some of the main reasons for this decline.” I wonder if that’s true, or whether we just think we know. If even one branch is growing, and several are maintaining membership, what are the reasons they are bucking the trend?

Monday, 5 May 2008

Citation Cheat Sheet

Sometimes even your friends won't tell you! I've blogged before about Alison Hare's presentation on Citations for Canadians, but didn't know her handout is now online at the website of the Ontario Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists. Scroll down to the link at the bottom of the page. I keep a hard copy handy, on the off-chance I might become inspired to cite a source!

Alison is on the program to present an expanded version, Citations for Genealogical Sources, at the BIFHSGO conference in September.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Persistence pays

On Thursday the Genealogy Databases Posted or Updated Recently page for Ancestry.com showed a new database on US Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914. As usual when I find a new database, but without great hope, I entered Northwood looking for my runaway great-great-grandfather. I found him!

He first enlisted in the US Army, about the last place I thought of looking, in New York. It was before the birth of his second child in England. He served in Texas, Kansas and Missouri where he died and was buried in a military cemetery.

Evidently he never contacted his family back in England. The opportunity to claim an inheritance if he put in an appearance didn't tempt him back, if he knew of it, and when his children married they stated he was deceased, even though he lived to 1896.

That find alone justified subscribing to Ancestry's World Edition.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Start Writing Your Family History

Want to learn how to turn your family research into readable stories? The Ontario Chapter, Association of Professional Genealogists (OCAPG) announces "Writing A Narrative Family History," a day-long seminar with John Colletta, popular speaker, educator and author. Co-sponsored by the Canadiana Department of the North York Central Library, this is a day that will motivate and inspire your own family history writing: Saturday 27 September 2008 at the North York Central Library, 5120 Yonge Street, Toronto. Visit the OCAPG website at

http://www.rootsweb.com/~onapg

for full details of the day's schedule, how to register, information regarding book sales, directions to the event and nearby accommodations for out-of-towners.

A faculty member of the prestigious Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (Samford University, Alabama) and Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, John Colletta has planned the day around all the facets of good writing and good storytelling. One of John's own family accounts, Only A Few Bones, is a model for narrative writing but he is also known for They Came In Ships and Finding Italian Roots. Register early to ensure your space! http://www.rootsweb.com/~onapg.

via: Brenda Dougall Merriman

Friday, 2 May 2008

Press releases of interest

Here are some announcements from FamilySearch coinciding with the UK "Who Do You Think You Are?" Show.

FamilySearch Teams with Findmypast.com to Increase Online Access to British Historical Records

Chelsea Pensioners and Militia Records, and Merchant Seamen Records, held at The (UK) National Archives will be scanned by FindMyPast, indexed and transcribed by FamilySearch. Presumably the index will be available freely, but following the link to the original images will cost.

New Genealogy Guides for England and Scotland

Finding Records of Your Ancestors, England and Finding Records of Your Ancestors, Scotland, are the latest additions to the popular series of free online publications. The guides are designed for those who have already gathered some family history information about their British or Scottish ancestors and are ready to search public and private records.

The British Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition

On May 13 the British Library, British Arts and Humanities Research Council, and cooperating institutions will launch the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (ncse). According to the British Library press release this is "a unique digital resource, which gives the user an informative, accessible and authentic experience of 19th century newspapers. The collection illustrates the phenomenal growth and transformation of the press in the 19th century and brings to life a society and century in flux.

The titles included in the ncse are:

  • Tomahawk: a satirical illustrated contemporary of Punch with elaborate, full-page cartoons
  • English Woman's Journal: an early women's magazine published and set by women
  • Northern Star: a social reformist newspaper, which gave away portraits of notable Chartists and at its height had nine editions on a single day
  • Publishers' Circular: a trade magazine from the publishing industry with lavish illustrations
  • Leader: a mid-century political weekly, which began by printing Town and Country editions
  • Monthly Repository: a long-lived theological and philosophical monthly."
I'm unsure how useful the collection will be for family history, but we'll soon find out as it's to be free online to all.

There's more information at: www.ncse.kcl.ac.uk, including links to some other interesting digitization projects under Resources in the left-hand column menu.

Via ResourceShelf

Thursday, 1 May 2008

A model for LAC accountability to users

February 26 saw the first LAC public consultation session which I summarized here and LAC summarized here.

Hours of operation were at the forefront, and we were informed that any change would not likely be instituted until June or July.

There were many other, smaller, issues raised. Increasing user satisfaction means addressing them, but its been two months now with no feedback. These issues should be handled close to the working level, assuming responsibility and authority have been pushed down the line as good management practice demands. Is ADM level involvement really required?

The model is for client responsiveness is TNA, The (UK) National Archives. Here's the meeting announcement for their latest monthly users forum.

Hear what’s happening at TNA and have your say, over lunch
You are invited to attend a meeting of the monthly TNA User Forum, which is open to all users of TNA services.

Lunch is available from 12:15, so the meeting can start at 12:30.

Agenda
Title: The National Archives’ User Forum

Date of Meeting: Thursday 17 April 2008

Time of Meeting: 12:15 for 12:30

Location: Training Room

1. Welcome - Jill Allbrooke, Head of Enquiry Services
2. Matters arising

3. (missing in the original)

4. Programme for improvements to TNA’s public services at Kew (Kew 2008) (standing item) -
Chris Cooper, Kew 2008 Programme Manager
5. Complaints, suggestions and compliments received by The National Archives - Paul Sturm, Quality Manager

6. TNA’s public service performance against our targets (standing item) - Jill Allbrooke

7. Open discussion
8. Next meeting: Thursday 15 May 2008, Talks Room


What I like about this approach is:

1. dealing with matters arising. Clients fear that management will treat meetings like a pressure release valve where users can let off steam, and then close the value again but leaving the heat on. TNA deal with at the next meeting, if they can't be dealt with sooner;
2. being open about complaints, suggestion and compliments raised by other means;
3. maintaining a regular monthly reporting on performance targets;
4. an agenda item for open discussion;
5. a commitment to regular monthly meetings;
6. copies of past meeting minutes and documents available online here.

Providing lunch is a nice touch, a tangible demonstration that the user input is appreciated and of value to the organization.