Thursday, 31 July 2014

I almost fell out of my family tree

It just about blew me away, an e-mail from Library and Archives Canada announcing a post on its blog – Newspaper Collection website launched.

Anybody could be excused for thinking that LAC had forgotten it had a newspaper collection. It's been neglected, no newspaper specialist on staff, no newspaper digitization initiative.

The blogworthy news about newspapers at LAC is a new version of its Newspaper Collection website. What's to write home about?
"Highlights of the new version include links to other websites offering free online digitized copies of newspapers, direct links to the AMICUS descriptions, and other improvements that make the website easier to navigate."
Let's take a look at each of these; first links to free online digitized copies of newspapers. Click on Canadian News Online and you'll find links to a sampling of news resources not part of LAC's collection. The important word is sampling. Lack of an entry is no guarantee a resource doesn't exist.

Second, direct links to the Amicus descriptions. I went to have a look at the Amicus description for the Ottawa Citizen. Find it here. Interestingly the link beside E-LOCATIONS leads to the image reproduced above. Perhaps someone from LAC would be kind enough to explain the relevance.

Third, easier navigation; perhaps when you get used to the content but I didn't find the navigation intuitive.

Notice that the most recent source cited is 20 years old! Is this the best LAC can do and all we can look forward to from LAC for its newspaper collection?

Final day for One World One Family early registration

August 1st is the deadline for early registration for the Fifth One World One Family Conference, August 23, 2014 in Brampton, Ontario.

Names familiar to me on the speaker list include: Shirley-Ann Pyefinch, Dorothy Kew, James F. S. Thomson, Linda Reid, Elizabeth A. R. Kaegi and Christine Woodcock. It's worth the registration just to hear them.

There's additional choice including a series of talks recorded at the RootsTech conference earlier this year. Here's an incomplete list of workshops and addresses:

Accessing and Preserving Family Heirlooms by Archives Ontario
Discovering Your Ancestors in the Great Wars by Shirley-Ann Pyefinch
Finding Your Ancestors from the Philippines by Jette Soutar
French Canadian Research by Marie-Chantal Hogue
Getting Started in Jamaican Genealogical Research by Dorothy Kew
Great Non-Genealogy Sites for British Isles Research by James F. S. Thomson
Hunting and Fishing: Different Approaches to Genetic Genealogy by Linda Reid
Indexing - A Way to Help Others Build Their Family Tree by Rick Dunstall
Irish Resources Available on LDS Websites by Shirley-Ann Pyefinch
Missing in Action: Solving a Six Decade-Old Mystery with DNA by Elizabeth A. R. Kaegi and James F. S. Thomson
Recent Developments in British Isles Research by James F. S. Thomson
Researching Ukrainian Family History by Natalie Lisowiec
RootsTech Workshop – 5 Essential Resources for Hispanic Genealogy (in Spanish) by Sonia Meza
RootsTech Workshop - Five Ways to Do Family History in Your Sleep by Deborah Gamble
RootsTech Workshop - Ten Things I Learned about my Family on my Couch by Tammy Hepps
RootsTech Workshop: Basic Online Resources For the Beginning Genealogist by Lisa Alzo
Starting From Scratch: How to Begin Family History Research by Claire Nabrotzky
Tantalizing treasures in the Peel Archive’s Wm. Perkins Bull collection by Kyle Neill
Using FamilySearch to Solve Genealogical Problems by James Ison
Using Local Sources for Scottish Genealogy Research by Christine Woodcock
Using Social Media for Genealogy Research by Christine Woodcock
Why Mormons Build Temples by President Richard Norton
尋根 - 中國家譜研討會 Finding Chinese Ancestors by Grace Chan

Ancestry adds Dorset, England, Quarter Sessions Order Books, 1625-1905

The 115,173 records in this Dorset database document "Quarter Session judges’ decisions in matters that include settlement inquiries, highway rates, criminal trials, registers of settlement, orders of removal, bastardy examinations, apprenticeships, licensing, contracts, lists of justices, and other matters related to the business of running the county." It's a mixed bag. Some documents will just give a name and amount paid. Other's, such as removal documents, might give names and ages of children together with the parishes involved.
The database is taken from files at the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester and linked to images of the originals. In the early years you will have to wrestle with interpreting writing in Secretary hand.
Poole in Dorset was a major port of departure for early settlers in Canada.

The Master Genealogist bows out

Wholly Genes have announced that they are discontinuing genealogy software The Master Genealogist. The website announces that:
"The Master Genealogist (TMG) has been discontinued. Official technical support will be discontinued on 31 Dec 2014 but user-to-user support will remain available on the Community Forum and TMG-L discussion list, among other online resources.
For the time being, the product and updates will remain available in the interest of researchers who want to communicate their data to family members or upgrade to the latest version. It is made available with the understanding that, while there may be additional bug fixes before the end of the year, there will be no more development of new features."
Genealogy software expert Tamura Jones provides technical background to the decision explaining that the program rests on an out-of-date database.

It's becoming evident that the hay-day of stand-alone genealogy software is past as more of our computer services become based in the cloud. The LDS software PAF is no longer supported, Ancestry no longer make annual updates to Family Tree Maker and ceased sales through retailers a couple of years ago.
Don't get me wrong, the day of stand alone software isn't past. When your internet link is down, when its unavailable when you travel, when you`re concerned about trusting sensitive information to a third party, one that could go out of business or stop providing support, standalone software is the answer.
BUT, the trend is clear.
Internet availability is becoming more reliable, as much of a utility as electric power, and would you refuse to use a family history database on a computer because the power may go down?
The internet is also becoming more pervasive thanks to smartphones. It may not be everywhere when you travel but when you can duck into a MacDonalds or Starbucks for a wifi connection it`s getting more so.
Is the information in your online family tree database any more sensitive than other information you trust to the net? Do you make online financial transactions?
And is your standalone software provider any less likely to go out of business than a provider of web-based software? You may think, yes, but I have the software on my computer. Ask yourself how long will my computer last and will the next one, or the next update to the operating system, continue to support the genealogy software and the software it is built around.

Cloud-based genealogy services don`t yet provide everything, but on the other hand do provide services not available from the standalone variety which itself aren`t comprehensive. Will it give you a list of all the people in your database who you`d expect to find in the, say, 1891 census of Canada?Are you sure it knows about sections of that census that are missing?

Ottawa has had a small but enthusiastic TMG user group for many years.  It meets monthly at the City Archives with meetings publicized by Malcolm Moody in the Archive CD Books Canada newsletter. Will what to do be a topic for their upcoming meetings?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Carleton University: Learning in Retirement

The programs for the two fall sessions of Carleton University's Learning in Retirement are now available for registration. Note the series on the basics of genealogy being offered in the second session.

Fall 2014 – Session I (September 9th – October 20th) offers the following ten lecture series:

Women and Islam
Truth and Propaganda
Art and Architecture in Ancient Greece
Flash-Focus on Carleton University’s Art Gallery: The McAllister Johnson Collection
Brain and Behaviour
The Art of Dropping Out
Environment and History: An Introduction to Our Evolving Place on Earth
Raiders, Traders and Explorers: A History of Viking Expansion
Best of Ballet
A Brief History of the Cold War

Fall 2014 – Session II (October 27th – December 5th) offers the following eleven lecture series:

Canada’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
We Shall Overcome: The Civil Rights Movement Through Song
Gold in the Darkness: Studies in Early Christian and Byzantine Visual Art
Flash-Focus on Carleton University’s Art Gallery: Landscape in a Canadian Context
From Longhouse to Lumber to Legislation: An Anecdotal History of Ottawa
Vino e Pasta: Regional Wines and Foods of Italy
Leisure in Britain: 1750 to 1950
Who Were the Vikings? A Look Into the Society and Culture of the Viking Age
A Walk Through Canadian Art - Lecture Series FULL
Who Do You Think You Are? The Basics of Genealogy
Getting to Know Your Brain: Current Topics in Neuroscience

Take a search refresher

Plunking a search term into Google will often get you a long way, or at least a lot!  Sometimes you need more. I've mentioned sources for more advanced searching before. There's a recent refresher, and update as protocols do change from time to time, at How to Find Anything Online With Advanced Search Techniques.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Ancestry IS watching you!

Did you know that Ancestry, as part of its mission to "facilitate discovery of relevant person’s records and the construction of family trees," watches the search terms you enter and analyses them to improve their overall search?
If you enter a last name Ancestry compares it to your searches in the next 30 minutes identifying pairings as possible name variants.
Ancestry also finds pairings by looking at your trees and comparing names to those in the records you attach.
The company uses a method analogous to machine language translation to refine the pairings.
Read a full report here, not for the faint of heart, and a less-technical summary here.

Every Man Remembered

It's never been easier to enshrine the memory of WW1 generation service, even a century later.

The latest, reported by the BBC, is the Every Man Remembered database from the Royal British Legion that allows people to commemorate relatives or someone they knew, or find a person for whom no-one has yet left a tribute. Despite the use of the word Man the project covers every serviceman and woman who died in World War One, and not just British forces. Those from every Commonwealth country are included, a total of 1,117,077 service personnel.
You can add a summary and longer story. Strangely the word kill is forbidden, replaced by asterisks so that skill becomes s****. The site asks for a donation, £10 to "buy a poppy" or more.

Everybody's doing it, and seeking funds. There's the previously mentioned Imperial War Museum's "Lives of the First World War" project. For Canadians who died information can be added to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial - without any donation requested.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Paul Marsden on digitizing Canadian WW1 service files

Library and Archives Canada military archivist Paul Marsden was interviewed on Monday on Canada AM regarding LAC's project to digitize complete WW1 service files. See it at

Paul with be giving part of a pre-conference seminar on the afternoon of Friday, 19 September at the BIFHSGO conference.

University of Toronto and WW1

As did many universities in combatant countries the University of Toronto was a significant source of soldiers for the First World War. They came from students, faculty, and graduates. As the war progressed the University also played a role in training, notably for the Royal Flying Corps.

Find out more about the University's role at

On July 31 U of T's Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History and the Munk School of Global Affairs, with support from the Canadian Armed Forces present: 1914-1918: In Memoriam, an event that will commemorate the sacrifice of Canadian men and women in World War I with distinctive military band performances, military formations, and commentaries. (Sign up for free tickets.)

If your ancestor who served during the war was associated with a University it may be worthwhile checking their website, perhaps digging into the University archives website.

Experience counts in genealogy search

The results of the survey on ease of search on genealogy databases are in.

Those who responded to the survey, 71% of whom were female, had a lot of genealogy search experience. 43% had more than 10 years of frequent use; 14% more than 10 years of occasional use; 30% had 5 to 10 years of frequent use.
6% of respondents fully agreed that genealogical databases at Ancestry, FamilySearch and findmypast are generally easy to use. 71% somewhat agreed with that statement.

To the statement Ancestry, FamilySearch and findmypast provide adequate instructional material to permit making good use of their service only 4% expressed full agreement while 62% felt that "most do, some don't."
Of all those responding 93% selected experience [trial and error] as the best means they had used to improve overall search skills. Magazine articles [61%], and conference presentations [58%] also was selected by more than 50% of respondents.
41% fully agreed that standards are needed for genealogy search so that you don't need to learn different search techniques for each database or database supplier. Another 36% somewhat agreed.

The reliance of long-time genealogical database users on their experience suggests a reason for strongly negative reactions to changes in search. Both Ancestry and findmypast have experienced this in recent years. 

Start of the Great War

A century ago on this date, July 28 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia starting, in terms of nation to nation conflict, a tragic chain of events.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Québec and WW1

As someone who never studied Canadian history at school the WW1 conscription crisis in Québec is something of a puzzle for me. I was at school in England and I don't recall the Great War being a topic in history classes, it was too recent.

An article Quebec’s conscription crisis divided French and English Canada has helped fill the gap in my education.

“In Quebec, Vimy means absolutely nothing to people. But for Quebec francophones with a bit of education, the First World War was about the conscription crisis.” “For French-Canadians, it’s a marker of identity, and also of pride, for having resisted”

Untold stories of the war

From The Guardian, a dozen short articles by writers including Jeremy Paxman, Michael Morpurgo and Margaret MacMillan telling some of the surprising and heart-rending stories still emerging from the conflict a century later.