Thursday, 30 October 2014

Book Review: The Lost Empress

If you like murder mystery mixed with genealogy try The Lost Empress by Steve Robinson. It's a page turner.
This fourth in a series of Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mysteries is timely. It's a fictional present day genealogical investigation of the period at the start of the First World War and the sinking of the Empress of Ireland.
To enjoy it you'll need to be prepared to accept a series of murders and turn on willing suspension of disbelief when it comes to coincidences.
Suppress your skeptical genealogist genes or you may be thrown off track, abruptly interrupting page turning.
In chapter 18 there's mention of a daughter no longer alive in the English 1911 census, the only source cited. But that census does not give gender of deceased children.
In chapter 33 finding information in the 1890 US census is mentioned, but less than 1% of that census escaped destruction.
While these aren't central to the story the existence of an article in The Quebec Mercury for June 1914 online is. In fact that paper published its last issue in October 1903, see (in French). The confusion may be due to an error propagated in a Wikipedia article that the newspaper survived until the 1950s. The French wikipedia article has the correct information.

The Lost Empress is $5.44 Cdn for the Kindle edition. The others in the series I haven't yet read are even less expensive.

Aside from enjoying the story it's almost worth it just to see if you can spot other genealogical issues.

Several other reviews are at

Women's WW1 UK Military Records Index on Ancestry

Ancestry has added indexes to two data-sets from The (UK) National Archives

Web: UK, Women's Royal Naval Service Index, 1917-1919 with 7,444 records
Web: UK, Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Index, 1917-1920 with 7,010 records

The naval index search provides name, enrollment date, service number and rank/rating (occupation).
The army index gives name, birth date and birth place.

Both provide a link to the complete record, with images, at TNA's Discovery website at a cost of £3.30.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Historical Society of Ottawa October Meeting

On Friday, 31 October, Peter Ryan, a member of the Bytown Fire Brigade and retired Ottawa fireman, will talk about the history of the Brigade and show a short video of its museum in the east end of the city.
He will also display various artifacts in the Brigade’s collection and discuss major fires of the past in the Ottawa area, and how they were battled.
As well, he’ll talk about visiting the museum and touring its displays.
The meeting starts at 1:00 pm  in the lounge of the Routhier Community Centre, 172 Guigues Street at Cumberland.

Putting a DNA Test Specter to Rest

"Even in an underserved population at high risk for adverse psychological reactions, subjects responded positively to personalized genetic results."

That's the conclusion for a study published in Genetics in Medicine which refutes one of the objections often raised to DNA testing.  A study of 82 participants, 64% African-American, from a vulnerable population with higher-than-normal risk for depression, about half unemployed with no health insurance, found 95% appreciated genetic results, and receiving these results was not associated with changes in symptoms of depression or anxiety. Furthermore, after return of genetic results, smoking cessation attempts increased.

Could it be the risk from surprises about ancestry results could be worse than those from health?

An abstract of the study is at and there's a popular summary at

Ancestry adds London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1738-1930 may have new information for you if you had a person of interest in the workhouse in one of the following London boroughs (Poor Law Unions or Parishes): Camden (St Giles in the Fields, St Pancras), City of London, Hammersmith and Fulham (Fulhan, Hammersmith), Hillingdon (Uxbridge), Holborn (Holborn, St Giles in the Fields and St George Bloomsbury), Kensington and Chelsea (Chelsea, Kensington, St Mary Abbots), Westminster (Paddington, St Marylebone, Westminster).
There are 3,264,526 records which contain name, dates of admission and/or discharge, age (or year of birth) and other details.
The other details can be telling. I found a Richard Ordish, age 42, admitted in Westminster on 30 March 1839 as a destitute, occupation paper hanger. That's the name of my 3rd great grandfather The clincher in identifying him as my ancestor is the parish to which he belonged listed as Cambridge which is where he died the following year and where his widow and children are found in the 1841 census.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

For every silver lining ... a cloud

John Grenham's most recent Irish Roots column What do we lose when records are digitised? reminds us that, despite the benefits, when it comes to digitization  "Every human intervention adds another layer of error, with incremental losses to accuracy and completeness."

Evaluating the reliability of the sources you use is fundamental. It's not unique to genealogical research.

An Exhibition at LAC!

It's an ill wind ... The temporary closure of the Canada Science and Technology Museum has provided an opportunity for Library and Archives Canada to host a timely exhibit Echoes in the Ice: Finding Franklin's Ship.
LAC stopped mounting exhibitions, seemingly almost closing the facility at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. Now under the leadership of Guy Berthiaume that trend is reversed, at least for this occasion.
There a press release here.
Will the trend continue? Perhaps LAC will mount a permanent display of significant items from Canada's documentary heritage from the organization collection giving tourists a reason to visit the building.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Spitalfields Nippers

In the early 1900s ... "one in five children in Spitalfields did not survive until adulthood, but our research reveals that among the poorest families, the mortality rate in the area was closer to a third." If you think Canada's Home Children had a tough life, and many of them did, think about their lives before coming to Canada.

The photographs here and here from a new book, based on the photographer's family photo collection, bring the conditions behind the statistics to life. The book Spitalfields Nippers, by Horace Warner, will be published on 1 November by Spitalfields Life at £20.

DNA 101 for Genealogists in Arnprior

Bill Arthurs, Chair of BIFHSGO's DNA Special Interest Group will be making a presentation on Wednesday October 29th at 7pm at the Arnprior Public Library.
The host is Patrick's Family History Group, named for Patrick Wohler, who was a volunteer at the Arnprior & McNab/Braeside Archives and also wrote the ‘Family Historian’ articles in local newspapers.
Admission is Free to PFHG Members, $5.00 for Non-Members

Genealogy Workshop: North Lanark Regional Museum

The North Lanark Regional Museum, 647 River Road, Appleton (near Carleton Place),
 is hosting a genealogy workshop from November 12-15.
On Nov. 12, 2 to 4 pm  there will be an overview of genealogy. Nov 13, & 14, 2 to 4 pm will be an opportunity for attendees will work on their own trees on Ancestry with guidance. On Nov. 15 9:30 AM to noon there is a presentation DNA Testing for Genealogy by Bob Butler & Brian Tackaberry.
More details and registration at:, or register by telephone at:: 613-257-8503

Cost is $15 per day – or $50 for all 4 days

Sunday, 26 October 2014

1,000,000 Canadian Headstones

Congratulations to Canadian Headstones which as of Saturday afternoon passed 1,000,000 gravestone photo records from across Canada.
This federally registered company, 7646712, under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, has the mission of capturing digital images and the complete transcription of headstones of our ancestors. It is supported by ad revenue and donations.
According to company director Cliff Seibel they are working on adding photos from Ottawa's Notre Dame Cemetery.

Norfolk Records added at MyHeritage

I'm always on the lookout for Norfolk records. MyHeritage just added two Norfolk collections:

England, Norfolk Register of Electors, 1844-1952: With over 4.5 million indexed names, this collection contains register lists, organized by Polling District, Parish and Street, for those who had the right to vote in Norfolk. As far as I can tell, not being a subscriber, there are few records after the 1910s.

England, Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts, 1685-1941: Bishops’ transcripts for the County of Norfolk arranged by church jurisdiction and in yearly bundles. The collection includes over 1 million baptism, marriage and burial records. You'll likely find many of these in the free Norfolk Transcription Archive.