Sunday, 2 January 2011

Book Review: Genealogy and the Law in Canada

As a professor in the Faculty of Law at University of Western Ontario Margaret Ann Wilkinson certainly has all the credentials to write this book in the OGS/Dundurn Press Genealogist's Reference Shelf series. With chapters on privacy and personal data protection, the business of genealogy, cemeteries as sources of genealogical information, copyright in genealogy, and genealogy and libel law, the volume is quite comprehensive in its coverage.

In her introduction Dr. Wilkinson indicates that the book is largely written for people interested in genealogy as a hobby and that chapter 2, on the business of genealogy, is one they can skip. Writing a law book for the hobbyist is a stiff challenge. While principles may be widely applicable the law varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction so the numerous conditions – ifs, ands, and buts  – don't make for entertaining reading, which is presumably why this is published in a reference series.

On the positive side, I did find I gained insight from reading this book on the rationale for some of the seemingly bureaucratic rigmarole one encounters in dealing with various record holding organizations.

The book has a glossary, section on statutes cited, on cases referred to, and notes. What it lacks, and desperately needs to meet the reference requirements of the hobbyist, is an index.

Take legal deposit posed in the book as "If a genealogist publishes a work based on genealogy, must it be deposited in Ottawa?" It's a question more than a few genealogists must have asked themselves. The answer is on page 92 in the chapter on copyright. Although that is perhaps the most obvious place to put it would every hobby genealogist know that topic was even covered? A simple index, or even extended table of contents, would help make this volume more accessible to its target audience.

Genealogy and the Law in Canada, by Dr Margaret Ann Wilkinson, a 125 page paperback, published for the Ontario Genealogical Society by Dundurn Press (2010), ISBN 978-1-55488-452-0, is widely available at online bookstores.

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