Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Times are changing in family history

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore said recently:

The old way of doing things is over. .... The opportunities are unbelievable and unparalleled in human history.

He was speaking earlier in the week at a conference titled Canada's Digital Economy: Moving Forward

Here's an extract of the speech.


Although the Minister's topic was the digital economy it's a sure bet that Moore is bringing the same forward-looking perspective to the activities of his department, including Library and Archives Canada.

An example of just how much things are changing slapped me in the face yesterday when I set about searching the British Library set of 19th century newspapers. You can search for free and often see enough in the snippet hit to tempt you to go further and subscribe. You can buy a 24-hour pass for £6.99 allowing you to view up to 100 articles. That's less than the cost of a single civil registration certificate.

What did I find?

A complete listing, 80 names, ages and addresses of people who died in a bridge collapse I've been researching.

A detailed listing of people who died of cholera in 1854 living around the Broad Street pump in London.

A news item on one of my ancestors, I'll draw a discrete veil across the details at present but it's the biggest breakthrough in my family history so far this year.

If you haven't used online digitized newspapers to explore your family history you're only doing things the old way. If there is no digitized newspaper for your area of interest make sure those whose mandate it is to make Canada's documentary heritage accessible are aware of your expectations.

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