Monday, 18 February 2019

Digitization of Ontario Vernon Directories

The following is an extract from a news release from the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) and Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

Initiative Begins to Digitally Preserve Ontario’s Historical Vernon Directories 

OTTAWA, ONTARIO (18 February 2019)—The Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) and The Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are working with FamilySearch International to digitize the historical Vernon directories for the Canadian province of Ontario. The initiative will begin immediately to preserve and make the directories freely searchable online for family historians, researchers, and Canadians.

Vernon directories were published yearly, by city, from the 1890's to 2014, missing only 2010, when the company’s ownership changed. They cover most of Ontario, including the province’s capital city of Toronto. The name “Vernon directories” is derived from the name of the publisher. The initiative will span the next 2 years and encompass an estimated 1,300 directories in total.

OGS approached Vernon to request rights to digitize the historical publications. The publisher granted permission with the condition that OGS not monetize or profit from the digitized works. The nonprofit organization FamilySearch quickly emerged as a great partner, namely due to its optical character recognition scanning technology that will make the digitized images every-word searchable. As well, OGS approached LAC for the project, since the organization holds one of the biggest collections of Vernon directories in Ontario. In addition to providing access to its collection, LAC will be hosting the digitization project.

According to Steve Fulton, UE, president of the Ontario Genealogical Society, the directories are a rich resource for researchers, because “they list the names of local residents, their spouses, addresses, and sometimes even an individual’s title or position held at work.” Fulton explained that the directories were personally helpful to him in trying to determine when his grandfather passed away. “Through the directories, I determined he died between 1956 and 1957. I was then able to turn to newspaper obituaries for the area at that time to find him.”

This project will allow OGS and LAC to offer a very complete collection of directories for Ontario and beyond. The intent is also to reach out to local libraries for any missing directories that might be found in their collections.

Comment: A very welcome initiative. Directories are a go to resource and this initiative will make the LAC collection widely available while preserving the originals already suffering considerable wear and tear.

Note that directories for Ottawa and vicinity were mainly published by Might's.

Library and Archives Canada DigiLab Update

According to a tweet from LAC since 2017 researchers and the public have digitized 84,000 pages of textual records and photographs in LAC's DigiLab.

This week a partnership with the Canadian Research and Mapping Association will add 200 maps and 1,000 war diary pages from the Second World War.

More about DigiLab.

Presidents Day

In celebration of the day learn more about US Presidents. Google can help.

What were they like? Try a search using Google Incognito (to avoid the biases in your cookies). Check out "strong president" -- several are mentioned on the first page, and "weak president" -- only one, and it's not George Washington.

The British-Irish Dialect Quiz

From the New York Times, how much does your British or Irish accent tell about your origins?
I was raised in the very east of England as indicated by the mapped results of my responses to the 25 item quiz. The wider distribution in south-east England is likely a result of my parents upbringing.

FreeBMD February Update

The FreeBMD Database was updated on Saturday 16 February 2019 to contain 268,878,795 unique records, 268,517,257 at previous update.
Years with major additions, greater than 5,000 records, are: for births 1964, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984-86; for marriages 1965, 1980, 1984-85; for deaths 1983-86.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Ancestry Angst

John Sayers pointed out to me on Friday morning at LAC that searches on Ancestry's database Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1937 were yielding no hits. It's an important database for those like John researching British Home Children as so many of them settled in Ontario.

Searching at home gave the same result so I let an Ancestry contact know and received a reply early Friday evening that it that had been "escalated to our teams to fix." The problem persisted through Saturday Sunday Monday morning. Given the US President's Day holiday on Monday it may not get fixed before Tuesday at the earliest!

Sunday Sundries

Miscellaneous items I found of interest during the week.

London Poor Law, Selected Removal and Settlement Records, 1698-1930 
Following a post earlier in the week Gloria Tubman emailed to inform that the update is that some of the records are now indexed. Before one had to read each record via browse. There's also been a reorganization.

OGS News
The Ontario Genealogical Society has a new Executive Director. The appointment of Megan Houston, previously Education and Outreach Manager at the Sharon Temple National Historic Site and Museum in Sharon (East Gwillimbury)m, was announced by OGS President Steve Fulton. A graduate of York University with a major in History and a B.Ed., Megan is working towards receiving her Masters in History.

OGS now hosts the Manitoulin Roots database, with over seventy thousand people, created in 2007 by Marilyn Irish and Roberta Clark. Manitoulin Roots was originally hosted on Rootsweb.

Those two items come from the latest OGS eWeekly Update. It's free to all. Subscribe at

How to Clean Your Filthy, Disgusting Laptop

What Is Web Scraping? How to Collect Data From Websites
An overview of a broad topic.

Why governments are so bad at implementing public projects
"On time and on budget"?

Why do three buses always come along at once?

Buy (or Rent) Coal! The Coasean Climate Change Policy
... buy the right to delay mining the coal for say 10 years. Given the rate of improvement in solar (and other technologies), many coal plants will be uneconomic in 10 years.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Changes at the GRO

First the good news:

"GRO has been piloting a service providing PDF copies of historical birth and death records. From the 16th February 2019 PDF’s have become a permanent service."

Applications for PDF’s cost £7, must be made online and include a GRO index reference. England and Wales records which are available to order in PDF format include:

These are available for births from 1837 to 1918 and deaths from 1837 to 1957

Now the bad:

From 16th February 2019 GRO have increased the price of certificates and made changes to delivery options. Extra charges will apply if you do not order certificates online or include a GRO index reference (where available).

LAC Digitizes a Further Indigenous Newspaper

Now online, digitized copies of the Indigenous newspaper the Turtle Island News, from Ontario (2001–2013 editions). LAC obtained funding for the work from the National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) through the support of the Salamander Foundation and the newspaper publishers.

This is the third Indigenous newspaper that has been digitized and made available, following the Windspeaker and Ha-Shilth-Sa last June.

The digitized editions are online as pdfs and searchable as individual issues. LAC is working on creating a database which will hopefully make the collection available as a corpus. Until then access is via direct links.

Ha-Shilth-Sa newspaper digitized issues.
Windspeaker newspaper digitized issues.
Turtle Island News newspaper digitized issues.

Let's hope LAC management judges the project successful and is encouraged to take on further newspaper digitization.

Gene-O-Rama 2019

Online registration is now open for OGS Ottawa Branch, Gene-O-Rama 2019. It will be held 5-6 April at Confederation Education Centre, 1645 Woodroffe Avenue, Ottawa (corner of Hunt Club and Woodroffe)

This year the featured speaker is Glenn Wright who will give the Friday evening Pat Horan Memorial Lecture "Sex, Lies and Archives: True Stories of Love and Deception".

As is traditional that will be preceded, at 7:45 pm, by a Library and Archives Canada Update—New and Noteworthy, to be given this year by Lisa Tremblay-Goodyer & Megan Butcher.

Speakers on Saturday are Megan Butcher, Leanna Cooper, Ron Dale, Sadie De Finney, Ken McKinlay, Mary Munk, Shirley-Ann Pyefinch, Lisa Tremblay-Goodyer, and Glenn Wright.

Find full details and a link to register online at

Friday, 15 February 2019

Findmypast adds Records North and South of the Border

Scotland and the USA have new records in the Findmypast collection this week.

Scotland, Edinburgh Field Officers From Almanacs 1758-1800
Transcripts of 24,772 new Almanac entries reveal rank, regiment, date of service and where stationed.

Scotland, Irregular & Cross-Border Marriage Index
13,267 records from 1624 to 1898 cover places such as Gretna Green, Coldstream, and Lamberton Toll where couples eloped to be married, or had an irregular marriage.
These could be irregular in more than one way. Searching my name I found a couple of examples of unexpected additional information: " Married at Donaghadee, Ireland. Stranraer Parish Registers entry 13 May 1776", and "Sir Reid. Member of the Supreme Council of Justice of the Ionian Islands residing in Corfu."

There's a major addition to FMP's US records.

United States Marriages
Over 23 million additional marriage records covering 46 states. These come from FamilySearch.

and also
Arkansas First Draft Registration Card, 1940-1945 Image Browse

Deceased Online adds West Norwood Burial Records

After many months with no new content Deceased Online has added burial records for the 40 acre West Norwood cemetery in Lambeth. This is one of the 'Magnificent Seven' Victorian cemeteries, founded in 1836 and home to a great many listed monuments.

The 165,000 records available cover 1837 to 2005 and comprise microfiche scans of the original burial registers, information showing the other occupants of the grave, and maps showing the grave's approximate location in the cemetery.

A simple search can be performed without registration using first and last names a year range. Information returned from the free search is name, date of burial or cremation and place (not cemetery name). An advanced search is possible with registration and payment.

Among the notable famous people of the past buried in West Norwood cemetery are:
- Isabella Mary Beeton, author of the 1861 work Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, died in childbirth in 1865 at age of 28.
- Henry Bessemer, developer of the Bessemer process for the manufacture of steel.
- William Burges, among the greatest of the Victorian art-architects,described by contempories as eccentric, over-indulgent, and unpredictable, but his sense of humour and lively conversation won him many friends.
- John Dwight Doulton and his son Sir Henry Doulton. John Doulton, who died in 1873, was the founder of the firm that would become known as Royal Doulton.

Other Magnificent Seven cemeteries available on Deceased Online:
Kensal Green Cemetery
Highgate Cemetery
Nunhead Cemetery
Brompton Cemetery

Image courtesy of The London Dead at

Family History Reno Project (The Easy Do-Over)

The Quinte Branch OGS February meeting will help you if you want to clean up your family history file. This is the easy way to approach it.

Normally, a Do Over involves re-entering all of your family information from scratch while this approach allows you to continue using your file for research while cleaning it up. It allows you to take advantage of everything you've learned, over the years, as well as new resources, records and tools.

Presenter Bob Dawes is a past chair of Quinte Branch, and someone whose talks I'm always happy to attend.

This presentation will take place at 1 PM, Saturday, 16 Februay, 2019 at the Quinte West Public Library, 7 Creswell Drive, Trenton, ON

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Ancestry adds Poor Law Hospital Admissions and Discharges for London

If you go to the Ancestry catalog today and sort by Date Updated the first few entries are intriguing. 

As usual there's no information about whether they're major or minor updates. Was a whole new year added to the Ontario records or where a few spelling errors corrected? Is it the same for the London records? Would it be worthwhile or a waste of time running previously unsuccessful searches?

Then there's the title London, England, Poor Law Hospital Admissions and Discharges, 1842-1918 indicated as NEW, but with zero records!

Prompted by a blog post from Claire Santry, who must have an inside source, there are in fact not zero but "nearly 300,000 records of the elderly and chronically ill – many of them Irish – receiving medical relief in infirmaries attached to workhouses."

Claire also reported the London Poor Law, Selected Removal and Settlement Records, 1698-1930 collection has 5,500 additional entries with details of settlement and removals in the Bethnal Green, Hackney, Poplar, Shoreditch, and Stepney areas of London's East End.

Ann Adams RIP

BIFHSGO member and dear friend Ann Adams died peacefully on Tuesday 12 February from a stroke and a possible heart attack following major abdominal surgery.
Born in 1935 to Charles Spall, a school master, and May Mumford, Ann was a native of Wrentham, Suffolk. Ann attended school in Lowestoft and was evacuated to Wales during the war. She came to Canada (Montreal) in 1961 where she met Cliff. Long-time residents of Ottawa they had also lived in Montreal and Hamilton. Over five years Ann was one of the main people helping Patricia Roberts-Pichette on the BIFHSGO Middlemore project.

Family and friends may pay their respects at Whelan Funeral Home, 515 Cooper Street (between Bay & Lyon) Ottawa, on Sunday, February 17, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 PM. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, 1060 Baseline Road, Ottawa, at 11 AM on Monday, February 18, 2019. A reception will follow in the parish hall.

Ancestry Teaser

Stay tuned for announcements of welcome new capabilities from Ancestry and AncestryDNA at RootsTech. They will start rolling out to subscribers on the 27th.
Ancestry's Crista Cowan will be previewing these "cool new tools" in her Ancestry-sponsored streamed presentation "What You Don’t Know about Ancestry" direct from RootsTech at 1:30 p.m. MST, that's 3:30 pm EST, on Thursday 28 February.

Kingston Branch OGS February Meeting

The next Kingston Branch meeting taking place on Saturday 16 February, 2019 will be the Annual General Meeting, followed by Queen's University Archivist Paul Banfield speaking about Queen’s University libraries and archives.
The meeting starts at 9:30 am in the Sir John A. Macdonald Room at the Seniors Centre East, 56 Francis Street, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Parking is plentiful and free.

Thanks to Margaret MacDermaid for providing the information and who will be leaving the publicity role for Kingston Branch at the AGM.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Extreme Snowfall in Ottawa

As I write this, on Tuesday evening, 25-35 cm of snow are forecast before this storm blows itself out.

For perspective:

The greatest daily snowfall in any February in Ottawa, according to records from the Central Experimental Farm, was 45.7 cm on 8 February 1895. The contemporary Ottawa Journal article indicates a belief that such snow storms were routine in earlier times.

The greatest one day snowfall at the Farm was 55.9 cm on 29 January 1894. Many of us remember the 51.2 cm which fell in the storm of 16 February 2016, especially those of us who were at the Heritage Day event at Ottawa City Hall.

One of the greatest multi-day snow storms was 2 - 4 April 1885 with over one metre of snow officially recorded. According to an Ottawa Citizen report it snowed continuously for 60 hours.

More Sussex Parish Record Transcripts at FamilySearch

In August 2016 I mentioned here that FamilySearch had posted transcript records from the East and West Sussex Record Offices. There were 531,746 baptisms, 308,775 marriages, and 274,294 burials.
The collection was updated on Monday to now contain 1,994,348 records.
This is an index/transcript collection. There's a coverage list at,_Sussex,_Parish_Registers_(FamilySearch_Historical_Records) and information on availability of electronic images of some of the original parish records at

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

How Many DNA Tests Taken?

According to MIT Technology Review more than 26 million people have taken an at-home ancestry test with one of the top four companies. It includes tests sold, not necessarily taken, and will double count or more those who tested with more than one company.
The article includes sections on: what the tests do, counting users, network effect, health debate, crime and privacy.

Will the next Flagship EU Science project address the Humanities?

One of these might seem out of place on the list?

Enhancing human capabilities through AI;
Making cell and gene therapies available to the clinical community ;
Developing personalized-medicine;
Making solar energy more efficient;
Developing methods for enabling digital search of historical records in European cities.

The European Commission has selected six research projects in these field to compete to become one of its next billion-euro ‘flagship’ science initiatives.

Inclusion of the digital search of historical records project, known as The Time Machine, was a surprise.

A news item from Nature quoted Frédéric Kaplan, a computer scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, and one of the principal investigators on the project, which has already worked on Venice’s historical records as saying “As a project in cultural heritage, we were an outsider — it is a great victory to get this far.”

Find out more about the Time Machine Project, with a linked video, here.

George M Macaulay, CWGC Beechwood

Born of 2 June 1885 at Pushlinch, Ontario, George McVicar Macaulay (Service Number 1096174) was the son of Scottish-born Presbyterian clergyman Evan Macaulay and his wife Margaret (Munro).

By 1901 the family was in Ottawa. His father died in 1907. He is likely the Geo Macaulay, age 24 in the Chicago Ward 7 in 1910 as a Linotype operator.

Enlisting in Toronto in February 1917 he was assigned to the 255th Battalion giving his occupation as printer and his wife and son's address in Ottawa, Illinois.

He served with the 3rd Battalion of the Canadian Infantry in France but suffered a variety of medical ailments.

Shortly after returning from Europe he died of influenza, in Halifax, Nova Scotia  on 12 February 1919. He is interred in Sec. 29. Lot 144. North-East of Beechwood Cemetery.

Monday, 11 February 2019

MyHeritage LIVE

The second MyHeritage user conference, MyHeritage LIVE 2019, is just announced to take place on 6-8 September, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
While the speakers are not yet announced you can be sure there will be a host of internationally renowned genealogy and DNA experts.
The venue is the historic Amsterdm Hilton  located south of central Amsterdam, near the museum district. There's a special rate for guests who choose to stay at the hotel.

More information at

Gloucester Remembers Its War Veterans

The Gloucester Historical Society has a Virtual War Memorial, updated last month, listing about 1,850 veterans of Canada's wars associated with the former City of Gloucester, now part of Ottawa. It includes those who served as well as those who died, and covers the Northwest Rebellion, the South Africa, the two World Wars and Korea.
Information tabulated is: Surname, First Name, Rank, Position, Residence, Service, War, Burial Location, Death, and Reference.

They Shall Not Grow Old

If you're looking for a diversion from cold and snow head out to the cinema to see this film playing in Ottawa for another few days. Using First World War film from the IWM processed to take out the jerky motion introduced with hand-cranked cameras, colourized and accompanied by narration extracted from BBC interviews with veterans of the war it gives unique insight.

I saw it last week, having not been able to get in earlier, and recommend it. I also recommend staying after the movie for Peter Jackson's 30 minute explanation of the techniques developed and used to bring the events alive.

In Ottawa it's playing at the Scotiabank Ottawa Cineplex (Silver City) to Wednesday and Landmark Kanata to Thursday.

Norman McLeod Grainger Weir, CWGC Beechwood

Captain Weir, an accountant with the Canadian Army Dental Corps, died on this date a century ago, 11 February 1919 of pulmonary tuberculous.

Born on 9 July 1878, the son of James and Agnes Weir, of Uddingston, Scotland he initially earned a living as an auctioneer in Glasgow. He was divorced from Edith Radford with whom he had a son James in 1908. Ancestry has a compiled genealogy including newspaper clippings regarding the divorce proceedings.

He came to Canada in June 1910, worked in Toronto and Northern Ontario before enlisting in Ottawa in November 1916. In May 1918 he married Florence Augusta Sproule.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Suffolk War Memorial Roll of Honour, 1914-1918

Full colour digital copies of the pages in this volume recording the names of those from the English County of Suffolk who lost their lives in the Great War, with the exception of the Borough of Ipswich, can now be accessed for free. Available from you'll also find the same information in pdfs organised by surname and by parish.
In most cases there's more information in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, but not always. I found a case where the parish was given which was missing from the CWGC information.

Sunday Sundries

Miscellaneous items I found of interest during the week.

Talk of the Town: How Places Got Their Names
An episode of BBC Radio 4 Word of Mouth series on the origins of UK town and village names. Links to a big back catalogue of all Word of Mouth episodes at

The Great War at Sea 1914 - 1918
This summary, in a little over 3600 words, is a mainly British perspective by John Slaughter. It includes sections: Outbreak of War; Naval Battles; Dardanelles; U-boat campaign; Jutland; Death of Kitchener; Unrestricted Submarine Warfare; Zeebrugge; and End of War.

How lucky was the genetic investigation in the Golden State Killer case?

Average Earth From Space 2018

How to recover quickly if you get locked out of Google.

Crème de la Crème 
Every week Gail Dever lists "the bijoux I discovered this week" on her Genealogy à la carte blog. Not to be missed.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

TheGenealogist releases Second World War Casualty Lists

The following is a news release from TheGenealogist.

TheGenealogist is adding to its Military Records collection with the release of more than 1 million entries for people recorded in the Second World War Casualty Lists. Sourced from collection WO 417 held at The National Archives, these documents contain records from the war years of 1939 to 1945 and list casualties sustained by the British Army during the Second World War. There are volumes for Officers and Nurses, with separate volumes for Other Ranks. The Casualty Lists were compiled from daily lists that had been prepared by the War Office Casualty Section and cover the various expeditionary forces deployed in different locations across Europe, Africa and Asia as well as for personnel at home.

British Army Second World War casualties include wounded and POWs

WW2 Casualty Records will give family history researchers details of ancestors’ names and regiment as well as ranks and service numbers for those recorded. The World War 2 casualty lists contained more detail than their WW1 counterparts and often list the date of the casualty (as well as the list date), plus other information such as the unit a soldier had been serving in at the time. 

Included in these lists are those who had been unaccounted for by the military, been dangerously ill or injured, captured as a Prisoner of War or died. The records include troops who had been serving in a number of places across the world, but also cover personnel who had lost their lives, were injured at home or were serving at an overseas station outside the theatres of war. Updates and corrections appear in the records as new information was received by the War Office. 

These records allow a researcher to use TheGenealogist’s unique SmartSearch by simply clicking the magnifying glass at the bottom of the transcript. This will automatically search for any other records relating to that person. For example, if they were a Prisoner of War this will return other records from TheGenealogist’s military collection, including PoW records that reveal what camp that soldier had been recorded in.

If a person had died, you also get a smart link to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) which brings up details of their war grave, with further information. 

Use the WWII casualty list records to:
Find ancestors who were Missing, Wounded, Killed in Action or Prisoners of War
Discover army personnel seriously ill or accidentally killed serving at home or overseas
Check an ancestor’s rank and service number
Find the theatre of war in which your ancestor was serving when they became a casualty

Read our article:  WWII Casualty Lists finds two motor racing aces executed by the Nazis

Lights. Camera. Action. : RootsTech Film Fest.

Last Fall RootsTech, with partner Deseret News, initiated the RootsTech Film Fest. Participants in three categories: youth, amateur, and professional, were to submit a short video (under 3 minutes) centered around the conference theme Connect. Belong.

Videos were posted on YouTube. The 7 Youth, 61 Amateur and 15 Professional semi-finalists are posted at

Judging will be a delightful task. I've not looked at even half so may not have seen the best. Of those I did view I liked Part of the Beat in the Pro category, and Serendipity in the Amateur.

I'm hoping that these might motivate genealogical and family history societies to go beyond writing competitions.