Thursday, 27 October 2016

Ryan Taylor/ J. Brian Gilchrist Memorial Lecture

This annual lecture organized by the Ottawa Branch/OGS sees Carol Reid, collections specialist, (Archives) speaking on The Canadian War Museum's Military History Research Centre - Resources Available for the Genealogist.

The Canadian War Museum’s Military History Research Centre houses, in one convenient location, the George Metcalf Archival Collection and the Hartland Molson Library. These extensive national collections of research material document Canada’s military history from the colonial period to the present.
The George Metcalf Archival Collection contains unique archival documents and photographic materials, and is especially strong on First and Second World Wars.
The Hartland Molson Library Collection has approximately 60,000 volumes including regimental histories, published personal memoirs, periodicals and newspapers, wartime pamphlets, military technical and field manuals, multi-media, and 5,000 rare books.
Saturday, 29 October, 13:00 – 15:00
City of Ottawa Archives, 100 Tallwood Drive, Nepean (Room 115)

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Visit to PRONI

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast is certainly housed in an impressive spacious facility. On entry there's a security person who directs the newcomer to a registration desk where you show photo ID, fill in a form, have a photo taken and are issued a researcher card good for five years. There are lockers, an exhibition area, washrooms, an education area and restaurant. The restaurant isn't the only thing PRONI has that Library and Archives Canada lacks; they also have a sensible policy that allows you to wear a light windbreaker type jacket to the research area.
One floor up are the two research areas. One to the right as you ascend the stairs has seperate internet and catalogue computers, a help desk, a small collection of publications and a microform reading area. Original  material is ordered from the catalogue and, I was told, typically arrives within 15 minutes or so. That beats TNA by a 10 - 30 minutes and LAC by a couple of days. There are displays to tell you when your material is available.
What should be the role of the help desk? Is it to help the user access the institution holdings? Or is it to help the client achieve their research goal? Those are not always the same thing. During my visit I was directed to microform holdings by an advisor who didn't seem to know that a significant quantity of the Catholic parish records have been indexed by Ancestry and Findmypast, and did not seem to be aware of the Irish resources on the commercial sites.

Library and Archives Canada hosts the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark in Signature Series

Mr. Clark will be the guest of Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, as part of the Signatures Series, which features original interviews with individuals who have donated their archives to LAC.

Reserve your spot now for this encounter, to be held on Thursday, November 24 from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m., at LAC, 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. Places for this free event are limited, so please register by email

Documents from the Joe Clark fonds will be on display during the event.

The Code for Griffith's Valuation Broken

Claire Santry points out a new beta resource to determine the quality of land included in Griffith's Valuation.
See Claire's post at

Historical Society of Ottawa: October meeting

This Friday 28 October 2016 delve deep into The Social History of Bytown, 1841-1875 with a HSO presentation by Mary Cox

"In January 1837, Thomas Hunton, age fourteen, arrived in Bytown, population only 1,300, to work as a clerk in a dry goods store. By the 1840s, he owned his own dry goods store, and by the 1860s operated a thriving enterprise at the corner of Sparks and Mecalfe Streets. In 1844, he married Amelia Houghton, whose mother was of the prominent Billings family. The couple lived at the corner of Laurier Avenue and Metcalfe Street, where the Ottawa Public Library is now located, in a home built by the architects who designed the Parliament buildings. Through their extensive courtship letters, Mary Cox explores the social history of Bytown and early Ottawa. What was Bytown like when Hunton arrived? How did the recession of the 1840s affect the Hunton family? How did the wealthy react to the arrival of Irish immigrants who brought typhus to Bytown? Finally, Mary asks the question why did wife Amelia take her son Frederick to court following the untimely death of her husband Thomas in 1875?"

Mary Cox is Ottawa born and raised. From an early age, she developed an interest in Ottawa history, inspired by an elderly friend of her mother who told amazing stories of her life growing up in Ottawa. As a teenager, Mary started to collect books on the history of Bytown, and researched Bytown's history at the National Archives. When ten years ago a friend handed her a story about Thomas Hunton of Bytown, her passion was rekindled. She combed every issue of the Bytown Gazette for information about Hunton and his family. Discovering on an internet search that courtship letters written between Thomas and his then girlfriend Amelia Houghton were extant, she subsequently transcribed more than 90 of these letters. One short story about Thomas has so far produced almost 200 pages of a book about his life and times in Bytown and Ottawa.

The Historical Society of Ottawa meets at 1 pm at the Routhier Community Centre, 172 Guigues Street in Ottawa. All welcome.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Canadian First World War Records

The following is an announcement from Library and Archives Canada.

We are pleased to announce an updated version of our "Service Files of the First World War, 1914-1918 – CEF" database.

The new database, now called "Personnel Records of the First World War", provides access to the service files of members of Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) along with records for other First World War personnel.

As this new database replaces the former CEF database, don't forget to bookmark the page and add it to your Favourites list.

The new database includes records for the following groups:

Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)Imperial War Service Gratuities recipientsNon-Permanent Active MilitiaRejected CEF volunteersRoyal Newfoundland Regiment and Forestry Corps

Discover the Personnel Records of the First World War collection today!

And be sure to visit the First World War pageof the Military Heritage section of our website for an overview of all our First World War records.

We wish to acknowledge the participation of the Provincial Archives Division of The Roomscorporation of Newfoundland and Labrador for access to its digitized personnel files

Survival of World War II Canadian War Brides and Their Descendants

Of the 43,454 war brides who came to Canada after the Second World War, 94 percent of whom were British, an estimated 5,500 survive in 2016. They had 20,997 European-born children; many more were born after their arrival in Canada. War brides and their descendants are estimated to number 640,000 in 2016, 1.8 per cent of Canada’s population.

This draft article provides summaries of the data sources and techniques used in the estimation. Comments welcome.

Monday, 24 October 2016

NYPL Directories Initiative

An email from former OPL genealogy specialist Patricia Barlosky draws my attention to the New York Public Library which is starting to digitize 137 years of New York City directories (1786-1923), and will make them available free of charge online.

Patricia comments that although this may not be exciting news for most genealogists in Ottawa, of more general interest is the explanation of why city directories are such good research tools, as well as the potential that digitization provides to combine data in totally new ways.

Wouldn't it be great if all our public libraries recognized that in 2016 and beyond it isn't good enough to just make their city directories available in hard copy or microfilm, and assumed the public service responsibility for digitizing their community directories.

Monday in Dublin

Following on three fascinating days at BTOP/Genetic Genealogy Ireland a series of visits in Dublin were arranged.

The first was to the new EPIC Ireland Museum, an audiovisual experience exploring aspects of the Irish Diaspora. That was preceded by a discussion led by Brian Donovan on how genetic genealogy could be incorporated. That part of the tour ended at a genealogy centre incorporated in the same area of the huge building. It's well worth a visit when in Dublin.

The group walked over to the offices of Ancestry for lunch and a presentation on the company operation. Dublin is the centre for the company non-US operations. We learned that the 5 minute video Momondo, available on YouTube, is most responsible for the growth in AncestryDNA testing, followed by the Lederhosen ad. We also learned about the ways in which the company explores options for improving its services. I was pleased to hear that we may be relieved of receiving hints derived from our own trees, by way of another patron, within 9-12 months.

I had to leave the tour which was going to an exhibition at the GPO on the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the First World War, one of three additional stops.
Thanks to Gerard Corcoran, ISOGG Ireland Rep, who organized the day.

Rockstar Genealogist Extra: USA

The national Rockstar Genealogist standings in 2016 were based on the nationality of the person voted for. In previous years the ranking was based on the nationality of the voter so that those with a high profile from another country were often listed.

Here's what the list for the USA would have been under the previous nationality of the voter system.

1. Judy Russell
2. Blaine Bettinger
3. Roberta Estes
3. CeCe Moore
5. Dick Eastman
6. Thomas MacEntee
7. Joshua Taylor
8. Thomas W. Jones
9. John Philip Colletta
10. Megan Smolenyak

Note that Elizabeth Shown Mills declined to have her votes tabulated.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2016

Three days, 21-23 October, of top quality talks in Dublin organized by Maurice Gleeson were a feast for the genetic genealogist. Sponsored by Family Tree DNA, the event was held in conjunction with Back to Our Past, a more general genealogy show with the presence of all the major international commercial players active in Ireland, Ancestry, Find my past, Family Tree Maker, Family Tree DNA, and many of the Irish family history organizations - governmental and societies. Also exhibiting was the new UK company Living DNA with their new autosomal test featuring higher geographic resolution for the UK than available from the big three DNA genealogy companies.
BTOP was in turn part of a 50+ show, the whole thing sponsored by Ancestry. I understand the genealogy component was considerably busier than last year.

Highlighting some talks from the third day.

Robert Casey spoke on Y-SNPs: Key to the future, one of several presentations that explained using SNPs, STRs and genealogical information in conjunction to sort out genetic family trees and link to paper record trees. The rate at which new Y-SNPs are being found is revolutionary. There is the prospect of new technology that will make the analysis less time intensive, and an anticipated improved Big Y test from Family Tree DNA.

The first of two amazing presentations showing developments in autosomal DNA analysis was The genetic identification of the 1916 Cork Rebel, Thomas Kent,  by Jens Carlsson. Executed in 1916 Kent's body was buried in a shallow grave where it was subject to moisture that degraded the DNA. Nevertheless short strands of autosomal DNA were recovered and analysed using a shotgun technique (don't ask). By comparing the recovered DNA against that of two relatives the analysis established the identity with a confidence better than the one in the number of humans who have ever lived.

The second amazing presentation was by
Edmund Gilbert on the Irish DNA Atlas. This is work in progress and the audience was asked not to take photos or record the presentation. My notes are rough as the material came at us quickly - don't rely on it. This is a project complementary to the People of the British Isles project using similar techniques but with even stricter recruitment criteria. Samples from 194 people were used. The analysis is computationally intensive using the equivalent of 94 four processor personal computers for 12 hours each. At the most course resolution the data falls into groups for north, south and east Ireland and Planter group. At finer resolution groups were identified which could be associated with the ancient kingdoms of Ireland. An analysis was shown which split the Planters into three groups and identified differences in origin balance.

Diahan Southard gave a tear-jerker of a presentation on how she gradually came to identifying the ancestry of her adoptee mother, who was in the audience. The story was superbly told and illustrated with exceptionally well prepared visuals, which were also evident in a previous presentation Diahan gave.
The whole event was well chaired as well as organized by Maurice Gleeson who must be counted a treasure of the genetic genealogy community. Many of the presentations from the three days will become available on YouTube, again thanks to Maurice.

Rockstar Genealogist Extra: England, Scotland and Wales

The national Rockstar Genealogist standings in 2016 were based on the nationality of the person voted for. In previous years the ranking was based on the nationality of the voter so that those with a high profile from another country were often listed.

Here's what the list for England, Scotland and Wales would have been under the previous nationality of the voter system.

1. Janet Few
2. Kirsty Gray
3. Debbie Kennett
4. Paul Howes
5. Celia Heritage
6. Else Churchill
6. Maurice Gleeson
8. Dick Eastman
9. Peter Calver
10. Jackie Depelle