Wednesday, 20 March 2019

CWGC Evasive

A few weeks ago I made an enquiry to the Commonwealth War Grave Commission. Two tries did not yield the information I requested — just properly bureaucratic responses giving only information that is already available on the website.
I let it drop until yesterday, no point in pushing on wet noodles. Then I received an email with a link to respond to a survey on my satisfaction with their response. On clicking that link "Invalid Key" appeared. Responding directly to the request email returned "Address Not Found".
I'm not impressed.
That's in contrast to my admiration for the work of the Commission in caring for cemeteries and memorials and the information provided through

Spring Equinox 2019

The Vernal (Spring) equinox occurs today at 5:58 pm EDT, a few hours before the full moon crests at 9:42 pm. It's the closest coincidence of a full moon with the March equinox since 2000.

The idea that there are equinoctal gales was widely believed by our ancestors — embedded in the culture of earlier generations:

There began the sea, the tumult of which could be distinctly heard during the equinoctial gales.

"The Underground City" by Jules Verne
It was in the latter days of September, and the equinoctial gales had set in with exceptional violence.
"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Conan Doyle
Part of the cliff had been partially beaten down, no doubt, by the sea in some equinoctial gale.
"In Search of the Castaways" by Jules Verne

Perth & District Historical Society March Meeting

“The Fair Deal”

Our Society can expect to have a fair appeal to all who attend the March 21, 2019 meeting.  Loree Tannett returns, but with a different topic from her previous visit in February 2017.  This time, she takes us on a trip to the annual fall fair.

Fairs, in one form or another, have been around for centuries.  While they may exist for many reasons, it is the annual agricultural version we are most familiar with in our area - and the theme for our presentation.  Fairs in Canada are governed by the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, the umbrella group for the provincial organisations – for our province, the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies.  These local fairs can be large and extend for several days, or small, and measured in hours. 

When we were young, the annual fair was exhilarating, magical, fascinating – a feast for the senses.  For the adults, the fair was an opportunity to see the results of the year’s labours, whether for agricultural or the domestic arts.  The competitions touched on every imaginable category, from best in class farm animal or crop to the top product from the kitchen or the sewing basket – and they could be lively.  The fair was also a social activity, providing the opportunity to catch up on the latest news or gossip in the community.  Not least, the fairs helped the younger generation to develop, and receive recognition for, their skills through the 4H programmes. 

Loree, who has a longstanding interest in local fairs, has frequently entered the competitive fray with her own work, often successfully.  For her presentation, she will look at the background, history and evolution of the rural/agricultural fair found throughout Ontario and Canada.  It will also touch on a more recent attraction to the annual fair, the “Midway” - how it has altered the perception of the fair and has become so commonplace in the fairs of today.  A major challenge for modern-day fairs is ensuring that they remain relevant, and, while recognising the community’s roots, also adapt to changing times and attitudes. 

Please join us
Thursday, March 21, 2019- 7:30pm
at Perth's Royal Canadian Legion,
26 Beckwith Street E., Perth, (Toonie Donation).

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Genealogy Publisher F+W Media Files for Bankruptcy Protection

According to the 11 March 2019 Wall Street Journal, F+W Media Inc., the company behind the US Family Tree Magazine and marketer of enthusiast magazines, books, conferences, trade shows, and interactive media properties, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Wilmington, Delaware on Sunday. It has already laid off 40% of its workers.
Roberta Estes posts on her blog DNA Explained about the impact on her and many other independent genealogy entrepreneurs.
The company, through subsidiary Family Tree Books, is the publisher of many family history books including Blaine Bettinger's Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy and Tamar Weinberg's The Adoptee's Guide to DNA Testing which I'm currently reading.

LAC Co-Lab Update

Here's an update on Co-Lab projects since last month.


Legendary train robber and prison escapee Bill Miner is 56% complete (50% last month).

War Diaries of the First World War: 1st Canadian Division is 92% complete (41% last month).

The Call to Duty: Canada's Nursing Sisters is 72% complete (71% last month).

Rosemary Gilliat (Eaton)’s Arctic diary and photographs is 34% complete (33% last month).


Japanese-Canadians: Second World War is 64% complete.

New France and First Nations relations is 22% complete.


The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918–1919.

Correspondence between Sir Robert Borden and Sir Sam Hughes.

Letters from Wilfrid Laurier to Zoé Lafontaine/Laurier.

Thomas J Moxley, CWGC Beechwood

Born in Ottawa on 4 June 1899 Private Thomas James Milton Moxley (510390) was the son of Milton and Florence Grant (nee Hill) Moxley. His father, a stonemason, died in January 1907 and is also interred at Beechwood Cemetery as was his mother who died in 1943.

On enlistment with the Canadian Army Service Corps in November 1915 he claimed he was a papermaker born in 1896. He arrived in England in December 1915 and in France in February 1916. He was active service for one year until admitted to hospital for a bronchial condition, and later tuberculous. He was invalided to Canada in March 1918. A notice in the Ottawa Journal at his death stated he was overseas for 2 years and three months seeing considerable heavy fighting.

He died on Wednesday, 19 March, 1919, age 19, of pulmonary tuberculous at Ottawa's Lady Grey hospital (now the Royal Ottawa Hospital). A full military funeral saw the Union Jack draped coffin carried to Beechwood Cemetery on a gun carriage drawn by six black horses. Burial was in Sec. 29. Lot 15. South-West. No. 19.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Which is the best England & Wales Civil Registration Birth Index?

Ancestry has just updated its index to England and Wales births now claiming 71,311,303 entries from 1916 to 2007. For the prior period, from 1837, Ancestry has 62,793,107 entries making a total of 134,104,407 entries. Is it the most complete?

FreeBMD has 112,732,688, mostly complete to the early 1980s.
Findmypast has 124,866,012 entries to 2006.
MyHeritage claims 191,016,478 records in England & Wales, Birth Index, 1837-2005 and a separate database "England & Wales Births, GRO Indexes, 1911 - 1954" with 59,734,601 records.
The Genealogist claims "Complete Birth, Marriage & Death records index for England and Wales as published by the GRO (1837-2005)" without giving a number of births indexed.
FamilySearch's "England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008" has 132,174,287 entries sourced from Findmypast in 2014!

I most often use FreeBMD as I prefer their search and presentation of results. The GRO itself has indexes to 1837-1918 births with extra information, but a more restrictive search which is invaluable for finding siblings in that period as the mother's maiden name is included as a  search option.

The Genealogist’s Best Friend

As true today as when I wrote it 3 years ago, with updates.

If you’re just getting into family history it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Google “genealogy” and find well over 100 200 million hits. Where to start? One good place is your local library. Larger libraries often have one or more genealogy specialists. Yours may offer a free one-hour one-on-one consultation to help you start off on the right foot and focus your research. The resources available will depend on your ancestry. The librarians will be able to direct you to the most promising sources once they understand your particular needs.

If you’re moving beyond the beginner stage but still learning—a happy place to be—you may seek advice from someone you met through Facebook or another social network, a fellow member of your local family history society, or a volunteer at a nearby family history centre. Keep an eye out for educational opportunities being offered as webinars as well as in-person talks offered by a local society or your public library. These delve more deeply into specialized topics such as genetic genealogy, military records or Jewish ancestry.

As you explore your family history in depth, beyond names and dates to your ancestor’s life and times, you’ll find libraries and librarians coming to the fore again.

Database resources are given ever more profile by libraries. Through library access to a collection of British newspapers online I have found a great-grandfather, a Church of England minister, being fined for keeping a dog without a licence. Another relative was convicted for purloining money from the bank where he worked, a third fined for selling fake patent medicine. A distant relative exhibited a contraption at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London to forecast the weather based on jumping fleas. Look hard enough, if you dare, and you’re bound to find interesting stories in your ancestry!

The National Library of Australia’s magnificent Trove collection of digitized newspapers became the source for finding out about my father’s return from being a German prisoner of war in the Pacific in 1940. The Chronicling America digitized newspaper collection, made available through the Library of Congress, provided insight on the life of my relative who left England to join the US Army, serving in Texas. Both Trove and Chronicling America can be searched through the MyHeritage newspaper collection.

You’ll also want to consult maps. Many libraries have local collections. Online, the National Library of Scotland website <> offers free high-resolution zoomable images of over 160,000 200,000 maps of Scotland, England and Wales. For locations further afield, consult the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection <>.

In word association tests library and book go together. Books, an essential resource for understanding historical context, remain the major component of today’s broad range of library services. Think about appropriate subject terms for a search in your local public library catalogue; it’s probably online, as are those for major specialist, university and national libraries.
WorldCat <> brings together many of those catalogues. If you find a publication of interest not in their collection, your local library may be able to obtain it through Interlibrary Loan. 

WorldCat provides links to many out of copyright digitized publications with free access through services such as the Internet Archive <> and Google Books <>. Not to be overlooked are specialist libraries, such as the Wellcome Library <>, one of the world's major resources for the study of medical history.

Libraries and librarians are about connecting people to the information they need and educating them about finding that information. That’s why they’re known as the genealogist’s best friends. Are you taking advantage of the free in-person and virtual services librarians and libraries have to offer?

Genealogy Drop-in Tuesday

The Ottawa Public Library offers two genealogy drop-in opportunities on Tuesday 19 March.

Genealogy Drop-In / Généalogie "Portes-ouvertes"
At the Greenboro Library, 363 Lorry Greenberg in the Computer training room, 10:30 am - noon.
Drop in to work on your family tree! A genealogy librarian will be here to answer questions and help you get the most from library. Venez travailler sur votre arbre généalogique!  Un spécialiste de la généalogie sera là pour répondre à vos questions et vous aider à tirer le maximum des ressources de la bibliothèque.

Local History & Genealogy Drop-In Club 2019
At Nepean Centrepointe, drop in anywhere from 2-4 pm to work on your family tree, share research strategies, & discover what resources are available for your research. Specialists to answer questions & help you get the most from library resources.  Bring your laptop, or tablet too!

Sunday, 17 March 2019

OGS/Ontario Ancestors

It was a surprise when the eWeekly Update landed in my email inbox early on Saturday morning. It arrived for the first time as the Ontario Ancestors eWeekly, not the OGS eWeekly. What's in a name? The information was much the same.

When OGS announced the new Ontario Ancestors branding it seemed this was borrowing from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. There NEHGS exists comfortably alongside American Ancestors. However, there are indications that's not the intention for Ontario. For instance, this most recent eWeekly includes "More new books authored by Ottawa Branch, Ontario Ancestors (formerly known as Ontario Genealogical Society, OGS)."

A comment posted by Paul Jones asked if those of us who live in Ontario but have no Ontario Ancestry will still be welcome in the society? As of the 2016 census 29.1% of Ontario's population were immigrants. Is that a segment the society is no longer interested in attracting and serving?

A rebranding for marketing to the large US market where the change was introduced at RootsTech, is one thing. Extensive replacement should surely be agreed by the Society as a whole?

Sunday Sundries

Miscellaneous items I found of interest during the week.


Great Famine Voices Roadshow 2019
Ottawa, 6-7 May
Eganville, 8 May
Kingston, 9 May
Quebec City, 11 May

A Genetic Basis for Insomnia Emerges from the Twilight
Links between sleep difficulties and cardiovascular and psychiatric illnesses. Two studies implicated a gene involved in restless leg syndrome.

Which countries have the most immigrants?
While the United States has the highest number of immigrants (48 million in 2015), six times more than in Canada (7.6 million), immigrants make up more (17.2%) of Canada's population than in the US (12.9%).

New tool uses Google Street View to track (Ottawa) neighbourhood gentrification

Donald Trump’s use of humiliation could have catastrophic consequences – a psychologist explains why and Economic Dignity: We must not lose sight of what economic policy is all about: allowing people to lead dignified lives.

Does a Carbon Tax Reduce CO 2 Emissions? Evidence From British Columbia
No Pain, No Gain

Free online tool for converting PDF to Word, Excel or Powerpoint.
Anonymous, without limits, quick and easy to use. I tried it with a 1943 document from LAC — a pdf in a column format to Excel worked surprisingly well.

Emoji menu built into Windows 10
Press Windows key + semicolon. 😊

BIFHSGO: What a wonderful resource for your "long distance" members, to be able to watch the videos of the meetings!

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Special Offer on Roots Ireland Annual Subscriptions

The following is from the Ulster Historical Foundation. I have no experience to share on Roots Ireland.

"From the 8th to the 31st of March, Roots Ireland are offering a 25% discount on their 12-month subscriptions.

To take advantage of this offer, go

RootsIreland have the most complete and most accurate set of Roman Catholic church records online. Their index is easily searchable and has features such as standardised surname and forename searches which make your searches even more user-friendly.
They hold over 23 million records, compiled from 34 genealogy centres around Ireland, which are being added to continually."

Friday, 15 March 2019

St Patrick Blessings: Free access

MyHeritage and Ancestry are opening up their Irish collections for free this weekend.

Until 20 March 2019, MyHeritage offers FREE access to all their Irish record collections.

Ancestry has free access to 140 million Irish records until Monday here.

Note: I haven't tried these; with free access, there can always be glitches.

Findmypast Additions an International Mix

In the additions this week St Patrick leads followed by countries with patron saints St George, the Virgin Mary and La Negrita.

Irish Newspaper Transcript Archive, ffolliott Collection 1756-1850
Search a comprehensive catalogue of more than 54,000 biographical notices from Irish newspapers compiled by the celebrated Irish genealogist Rosemary ffolliott. Each record includes a transcript and original image that enable you to discover details in birth, marriage or death announcement printed in a newspaper.

Kerry Histories & Reference Guides

  • A History of the Kingdom of Kerry - Published in 1871, written by M.F. Cusack. 
  • A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to Killarney, The Kerry Coast, Glengariff, Cork and The South West of Ireland - First published in 1880, this is the seventh edition of the guide. 
  • The Ancient and Present State of the County of Kerry - Published in 1756, written by Charles Smith M.D. , this is the fourth county history written singularly or jointly published from Smith.
Limerick Histories & Reference Guides
  • Limerick and its Sieges - Published in 1890, written by Rev. James Dowd, A.B., T.C.D. This is the second edition of the book. 
  • Round About The County Of Limerick - Published in 1896 written by Rev. James Dowd, A.B., T.C.D. Dowd.
  • The History, Topography and Antiquities of the County and City of Limerick, 2 Vols - Published in 1826 and 1827, written by Rev. Patrick Fitzgerald and John James McGregor. 
England, Domesday Book 1086 Browse
Britain's earliest public record, the Domesday Book was commissioned in December 1085 by King William the Conqueror. It contained records for, 31 counties, 13,418 settlements, in England south of the rivers Ribble and Tees. Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk are not included. Good luck interpreting it!

United States Passport Applications
Over 62,000 additional records for1795 to 1925 from NARA collections M1372 and M1490. Each record will provide a transcript and, where available, an image of the original documents which includes a photo after 21 December 1914.

Costa Rica BMDs
Sourced from the IGI, these new indexes contain over 800,000 records covering baptisms, marriages, deaths and civil registrations between 1700 and 1975. Costa Rica Baptism Index 1700-1915
  • Costa Rica Marriage Index 1750-1920
  • Costa Rica Death Index 1787-1900
  • Costa Rica Civil Registration, 1860-1975 Image Browse

Hearth Tax Digital

The hearth tax was levied in England and Wales from 1662 until 1689. New, Hearth Tax Digital facilitates access to an increasing number of these Restoration hearth tax records in a single searchable database across returns and counties. At present the site has the records for London & Middlesex and Yorkshire East & West Riding, and over the next six months data for more cities and counties will be added.

OGS Kingston Branch March Meeting

On Saturday, March 16th Kingston Branch will welcome Ruth Blair for a presentation about Irish genealogy resources, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. The title of her talk is “Calling All Irish Ancestors: Researching Irish Records.”

This lecture will show you what online resources are available to help you research your Irish family history. We will look at the available digital images and repositories that can further your research in Ireland. It is not only records relating to civil registration, church, census and land but other sources that could lead you to discover more about your Irish ancestors.
Visitors are welcome. Meetings are preceded by a brief educational session that starts at 9:30 am, followed a short business meeting at 10:00 am, and then a guest speaker or program.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

FreeBMD March Update

The FreeBMD Database was updated on Thursday 14 March 2019 to contain 269,239,094 unique records (268,878,795 at previous update).
Years with major additions, greater than 5,000 records, are: for births 1964, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984-87; for marriages 1965, 1980, 1984-85; for deaths 1983-86.

Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections Anniversary

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the first post on this blog. Thirteen — lucky for some.

Over the years I've posted nearly 10,000 items including the popular Rockstar Genealogist polls. An item posted this month, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives records going online has over 9,000 views blowing away the previous record.

Thanks to the many folks who visit regularly, and to FeedBurner which provides a service so you can automatically get an email with headlines from the blog each day. See the left-hand column in the blog to subscribe.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge complimentary access to their databases granted by, as a member of their advisory group; also MyHeritage which has just released  6.8 million Norwegian census records from 1891, 1900, and 1910 for those chasing their elusive Scandinavian DNA ancestry.

Quinte Branch OGS March Meeting

The Saturday 16 March 2019 meeting of  Quinte Branch will feature a digital presentation "Organizing your DNA Matches" by Diahan Southard.

This digital presentation will explain various methods for keeping track of your DNA matches – especially your autosomal matches. The kind of information you need to keep track of and why will be covered using Excel, Word, email folders and correspondence.

Diahan Southard worked before and after graduation for the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. Growing up with the budding genetic genealogy industry lead her to her current position as Your DNA Guide, where she provides personalized, interactive experiences to assist individuals and families in interpreting their genetic results in the context of their genealogical information. 

The meeting is at Quinte West Public Library, 7 Creswell Dr, Trenton 1-3 pm.
Visit and

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Videos on New DNA Tools

On Tuesday Blaine Bettinger posted two YouTube videos explaining the DNA tools released by Ancestry and MyHeritage at RootsTech. As I write this 13 hours after they were posted the AncestryDNA one has 1.7K views, the MyHeritage video over 500 views.
In both he starts with a warning "These tools are not the END of your work, they are the
BEGINNING." They generate a hypothesis, not a conclusion.
Both videos are clear and straightforward. Recommended. Do take your time as there's a lot of material. The beauty of videos is that you can pause the playback to try a tool before moving on to the next topic. Take advantage.

Blaine concludes each of these videos, before a very brief promo for his DNA Central membership site, with "There is NO single tool or piece of evidence that provides you with a conclusion."

There's a good chance these automated methods will find connections you didn't even though you previously had access to both the DNA and documentary evidence. There's also likely a greater chance you'll find connections suggested that don't stand up to scrutiny. However, it's early days. As matching techniques become refined and more documentary evidence is incorporated into the algorithms the balance will shift.

Just as the computer can more often than not beat the human at chess and Go that day can be anticipated for genealogy.

Ancestry adds Cork Marriage Licence Bonds Index

Ancestry makes available an index collection with 11,926 records to Cork, Ireland, Marriage Licence Bonds Index, 1623-1750. It covers the diocese of Cork and Ross.

This is taken from an 1896-7 publication by Herbert Ross Gilman available elsewhere without charge, including at Cork Past and Present.

John James Gawn, CWGC Beechwood

Born in Sunderland, England on 10 May 1888 John James Gawn enlisted in January 1916. He died in Kingston of pneumonia and tuberculous on this date, 13 March 1919, and was interred in Beechwood Cemetery.

The flawed article in Ottawa Citizen of 15 March 1919 recorded:
Full military honours will mark the funeral of the late Pte. J. Gawn, 18 Empress Avenue, who died at Kingston on March 13th. The funeral will take place on Saturday at 3 p.m. from his residence, under the direction of Comrade H. B. Miller, of the G.W.Y.A.
The late Pte Gawh was born in Sunderland. England, in 1888. He came to Canada eight years ago and before enlisting was employed for four years as a machinist with the Ottawa Electric Railway. Deceased was an Anglican. He leaves a wife and a three-year-old daughter. His mother. Mrs. Elizabeth. Gawn; one brother. Sergt. Alfred. A. Gawn C M R., and two sisters, Mrs. McGregor and Miss E. Gawn, all of Ottawa, also survive him. Sergt. Gawn was taken a prisoner at Sanctuary Wood and spent two years and eight months in a German prison camp. His widow has three brothers in the United States Army and one in the Gordon Highlanders. Deceased was a member of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.

Newspapers are a first draft of history. A more reliable account is at

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

DNA Test Update

Current sales, with the number of tests completed and processing times from the DNA Geek.

A reminder that you can usually get a better deal on tests at a company stand at a family history show.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars this week

Two Legacy Family Tree webinars worth mentioning this week.

For the genetic genealogist intrigued by MyHeritage's Theory of Family Relativity™, Ran Snir will take an inside look today, Tuesday 12 March, at 2 pm EDT.

On Wednesday 13 March at 8 pm EDT, it's Reclaim The Records: Using Freedom of Information Laws for Genealogy by Brooke Ganz, the first genealogist to successfully sue a government archive for the return of records to the public.

Free Online Historical Photo Archives from Canada

Kenneth R Marks, of The Ancestor Hunt, has updated the Ontario part of his collection of now 310 online photo collection links for Canada.

As with his other collections, including newspapers, he updates approximately every six months.

Beware, the clock runs faster when you browsing these.

RootsTech in London

Two of my Ottawa genealogy friends are already booked to attend this event, 24-26 October in London. I'm going too.

Find out more about the event at How some in the genealogy industry are reacting to RootsTech's expansion to London

OGS has a package organized for this event. Find out more at

Monday, 11 March 2019

Deaths at Sea on British Registered Ships

At Saturday's BIFHSGO meeting I was asked about finding information on deaths at sea. I remembered having seen such an online collection but couldn't remember where.

So I asked a friend — Google.

Findmypast has a collection: British Armed Forces and Overseas Deaths and Burials. It "brings together an extensive collection of death and burial records from The National Archives and the General Register Office. Among the records, you will find members of the British armed forces who died while serving their country overseas, British civilians who died while travelling or working overseas, and individuals, including seamen, who died at sea."

By "an extensive collection " they mean 237 sources, from ARO2 - GRO War Death Army Officers Indices (1939 to 1948) to WO 69/71 - Register of Marriages & Baptisms, C Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery. It's more than ships and more than deaths. And more than I was expecting!

  • By searching for the name of the merchant navy ship on which my father was serving when it was sunk in 1940 I found entries for the 10 people "killed by enemy action."
  • My Great Uncle is included in the GRO War Death Army Officers Indices (1914 To 1921).
  • Searching Northwood, a family name, yielded records of deaths of two Australians in a mid-air collision involving a British Airways plane in 1976 over Zagreb in GRO Death Abroad Indices (1966 To 1994).

One of the sources goes back to before 1800. This would be a good place to look for people with a British connection you've had difficulty tracing.

Commonwealth Day

Today, the second Monday in March is Commonwealth Day, known until 1958 as Empire Day.

There will be no Commonwealth Day parade. You may see the Royal Union Flag, or Union Jack, flying alongside the Maple Leaf flag on or at government buildings and premises, such as federal buildings, military bases and airports. If there is only one flag pole the Maple Leaf flag takes precedence in Canada.

In addition to Canadian-born, over 2 million people born in other Commonwealth countries make Canada their home.