28 December 2006

New Year Greetings

Postings here are still suspended while I recover from Christmas, a bout with a cold, and catching up with reading the books received. One book, Homo Britannicus: the Incredibile Story of Human Life in Britain, by Chris Stringer, is keeping me busy exploring the new findings about the oldest inhabitants of England who lived more than half a million years ago in a place not far from while I was raised in East Anglia.

13 December 2006

2009 Partial Release of the 1911 Census of England and Wales

Good news. According to an announcement on their web site, The National Archives is developing an online 1911 census service, covering most parts of the census.

"We are actively investigating the possibility of launching this digital service in 2009. Over two kilometres of census records, containing the details of 35 million UK ancestors, will be digitised. This will provide an online service, across most fields of the census, enabling researchers anywhere in the world to search and download digital scans of images from the census. As with our current online census services it will be both address and name searchable. It is anticipated that it will be available from 2009. ... The full 1911 census won’t be released until 2012. "

The City of Ottawa Archives Need a Home

The following is the text of a message sent from John Heney, President of the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives to the Mayor and City Councillors.

You will shortly have before you a budget item of the utmost importance for the preservation of the city's heritage that is held in our Archives.

This is not just about an improved facility. It is about the City's Archives having a home at all. The matter has been neglected for years. Now the situation is dire. More troubling is the fact that a workable answer to this crisis may slip through our fingers in the next few weeks if Council does not fully appreciate the problem and the urgency involved.

Under the speeded-up budget process, the detailed recommendations now being prepared by City staff and the dedicated Archives Steering Committee will only reach you after you have taken some initial decisions on the shape of the City's budget. To lift the Archives out of its facilities crisis, it is imperative for Council to make an initial commitment to the project, which will then be fleshed out with fiscally prudent, concrete proposals to Council soon thereafter.

The City budget directions and long-range financial plan

must include firm support for the funding necessary for
a main branch for the Archives.

All municipalities must maintain an archives/records function as mandated by provincial law. In Ottawa's case it is important to note that:

  • The Archives main branch lost an ideal, central location on Stanley Avenue and has since endured two moves, of no overall benefit, first to 111 Sussex Drive and then again, within that same complex.
  • It is leasing space from its federal landlord there, and it must also pay for offsite storage of some 80 percent of its holdings at several sites. Funds continue to leak from municipal coffers for inadequate accommodation, with no return on investment.
  • A fire in a rented storage facility this summer resulted in damage and loss of archival holdings. This underlines the fact that the Archives situation cannot continue to be left unaddressed.
  • The major increase in City records resulting from amalgamation has not been adequately addressed.
  • Inadequate space and unsafe conditions continue at 111 Sussex Drive, with the Archives hanging on to little more than a gentleman's agreement for the period following December 2007.

Please ...

Support a home for the Archives in the budget process !

In cleaning up the Archives' sorry state of affairs, Council will show prudent fiscal leadership. This is a chance for the City to create a facility that makes long-term sense, on a site where future expansion can be accommodated.

Ottawans deserve an outcome that they can be proud of, as residents of a city and a capital. Your support will be crucial in the coming weeks.


As a member of the Friends I too am concerned about the future of the City Archives. Few people are aware that a city archives is provincially mandated under the Municipal Act of Ontario in order to preserve a record and assist accountability in municipal government.

12 December 2006

Black Sheep Index

At the BIFHSGO monthly meeting on Saturday well over 100 enthusiastic members heard five presentations at the annual Great Moments in Genealogy session. It was gratifying to hear of progress made as a result of connections made at Society meetings. Some attributed their success to serendipity. When people tell me about lucking into a resource I recall the remark, attributed to Louis Pasteur, that "chance favours the prepared mind."

A resource new to me was mentioned by presenter Robert Brown. The Black Sheep Index is part of a commercial web site at: www.lightage.demon.co.uk/. It has indexes of 200,000 British villains and victims from newspapers and journals etc. There are also police, Great War, World War II, mining, railway, ships, publicans, church and medical indexes.

You can order copies of the articles indexed from the web site, but you might want to investigate if you already have access to the document or article. I found a reference to my great uncle who died in WW1, but the reference is likely to the citation for his Military Cross that I already have. In the example given in the presentation, from the railway index, the article returned was from the Times Digital Archive. There is public access to that electronic archive in Ottawa through Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. The year given in the index will help speed up the search.

11 December 2006

Announcement on NEW Society of Genealogists' Family History Show

After several years in the same location with the same format the Society of Genealogists' in the UK is breaking the mold with their annual Family History Show. SOG have previously taken advantage of partnerships with successful companies in the field. This takes it much further. The full announcement is copied below. Congratulations to SOG for trying something new.

Society of Genealogists' Family History Show

is to join forces with

Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE

The hugely popular BBC TV series, renowned for taking celebrities on a journey to discover their ancestral roots, is branching out into the event field to create Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE. The Event leverages the UK’s strongest history brand in launching the first national, history show, with personal heritage at its heart.

The Event will take place at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 5-7 May 2007 and will incorporate the Society of Genealogists’ Family History Show. And with an expected audience of around 15,000 visitors it will be the biggest event of its kind by far. The Society of Genealogists and organisers Brand Events will work together on this event, to offer a single, compelling proposition to exhibitors and visitors alike. Other major partners have already signed up, including The Daily Telegraph and The National Archives.

Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE will attract established historians as well as people new to the subject and will offer visitors the opportunity to meet more historians than ever before, in workshops as well as one-to-one. The line up includes leading genealogist and house historian Nick Barratt. Nick, a staunch advocate of bringing history to the masses and inventor of the term ‘personal heritage’ has been working closely with Brand Events in the development of
the show. House historian Jonathan Foyle, family history specialists Guy Grannum, Paul Crooks, Else Churchill, Mike Gandy and many more will be there along with military, lifestyle and many more historians. There will be in depth information on how to begin exploring personal heritage and advice on the best use of the technology available, as well as a wealth of product and information for those already some way into their journey.

Wall to Wall, the production company behind the programme, has partnered consumer event specialists Brand Events to create the new event. Brand Events has an incredibly successful track record in bringing new, sustainable event concepts to market, such as The Vitality Show, The Ordnance Survey Outdoors Show, La Dolce Vita, MPH’06 and Taste of London.
Exhibitor bookings already made for the Society of Genealogists’ Family History Show will be honoured, with huge opportunities available for greater involvement. All exhibitors will be contacted individually over the next few days and weeks to make individual arrangements.

"We are delighted to be sponsoring this event. Living history and genealogy are a fascination for our readers and 'Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE' will give visitors the opportunity to delve into this topic with the support of some of the field's most respected experts."
Will Lewis, Editor, The Daily Telegraph

“We know that Who Do You Think You Are? has inspired millions of people to explore their family history. We’re thrilled to be working with Brand Events to give people a whole new experience in the form of this exciting live event.”
Alex Graham, CEO, Wall to Wall Media

"The National Archives are very pleased to be a major partner in "Who do you think you are? Live. We look forward to showcasing our expertise and resources to bring history to life for the show's visitors."
James Strachan, Director of Public Services & Marketing, The National Archives

“The Society is delighted with this opportunity to bring the Society of Genealogists’ Family History Show to a bigger audience. An expanded show will enable the genealogical community, local societies, record holders and exhibitors to reach the wider family history interest. The Society of Genealogists, along with its show sponsor Findmypast.com, looks forward to working with Brand Events and our exhibitors to make this 15th Family History Show the best ever.” June Perrin, Acting Director, Society of Genealogists

“I’m very excited to be involved in this innovative and pioneering show. Bringing history to the forefront on such a large-scale is a challenge but we are working with a great team that combines expertise and talent that will no doubt succeed in every way. I’ve always felt that personal heritage is close to all our hearts and this is a great platform for historians such as myself to address audiences that don’t know where to go for help! It’s great to be involved from conception to completion.”
Dr Nick Barratt, Genealogist and Historian

“It is tremendously exciting to have the opportunity to leverage this strong brand in the event arena. With an estimated 3 million exploring their family history and many more with a passion for broader history subjects, I am confident this will be another block buster!” Nicola Meadley, Director, Brand Events

For further information contact:
Nicola Meadley, Director, Brand Events, 020 7471 1080
Jay Kauldhar, Show Manager, Brand Events, 020 7471 1080
Charlotte Campion, Sales Executive, Brand Events, 020 7471 1080
Fi Kahn, Speaker Coordinator, Sticks Research Agency, 07956 166700

10 December 2006

Thought for the day

Typos (and grammatical errors) are very important to all written form. It gives the reader something to look for so they aren't distracted by the total lack of content in your writing.
- Randy K. Milholland

08 December 2006

Old genealogy dogs learning new tricks

A few months ago, on a Skypecast, Dick Eastman expressed skepticism about the benefits of DNA for genealogy. Later on his blog he reviewed a draft of the new book Saxons, Vikings and Celts, by Bryan Sykes. I detected a change in attitude then. Now he has come around and is initiating an Eastman surname project.

He isn't the only one. Two friends in their 70s, people who've been working on family history for many years, recently consulted me about getting their own DNA analysis, one through the Genographic Project, the other through a Family Tree DNA regional project. Another friend asked about books on DNA and genealogy, a great Christmas gift for a genealogist.

It's learning new tricks that keeps us old genealogy dogs going.

Great Moments in Genealogy

Tomorrow, Saturday 9 December, the BIFHSGO monthly meeting is a perennial favourite. Members will recount thrilling breakthoughs, unusual twists in the trail, and in at least one case this year blind luck, in pursuing their family history research. For many it's (!) a not to be missed event. All welcome in the Auditorium at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, starting at 10 am.

07 December 2006

Anglo-Celtic Roots - December 2006

One of the advantages of being on the Board of BIFHSGO is getting the quarterly chronicle early. It's distributed at the Monday evening Board meeting, you don't have to wait until the Saturday monthly general membership meeting.

In addition to the regular columns and features the new issue includes a first, a pair of articles by Tad and Terry Findley - a married couple. They explore Tad's maternal line, which becomes quite an international tour. Written in the first person the articles well conveys the sense of discovery you get as the chase takes unanticipated turns - from Trinidad to England, Scotland, Ireland, the US, Canada and Venezuela.

Also in this issue is part nine of Patricia Roberts-Pichette's series on Middlemore Homes, this one describing the early history in Nova Scotia. A shorter item by Caroline Herbert reports on the trip she and Patricia took last September to a Middlemore Home Children reunion in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

We are frequently told that the quality of Anglo-Celtic Roots is one reason people join, and stay with BIFHSGO. Feeling left out? You can reserve your own future copy by joining the Society. Download a BIFHSGO membership form here. How about a subscription as a Christmas present?

05 December 2006

Another Box?

I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think.

Of course you are my bright little star,
I've miles
And miles
Of files
Pretty files of your forefather's fruit
and now to suit our
great computer,
You're magnetic ink.

I'm more than that, I know I am, at least, I think I must be.

from In The Beginning by Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues

Will you be another box amongst many with nothing but official data to mark your existence?

Plan on leaving a family history legacy.

Ancestry Adds 1851 and 1861 Census of Scotland

Now indexed and searchable, the 1851 and 1861 census transcripts are the latest additions to ancestry.co.uk. However, images of the originals are not available,likely as copyright clearance could not be obtained.

Don't forget that there are often public access locations where you can access ancestry, including the Ottawa Public Library and Ottawa Family History Centre.

These databases augment the 1841 census of Scotland, also available through ancestry, and the 1881 census which is on CD at the BIFHSGO library and Family History Centre. Don't forget to check FreeCen which has census data transcriptions for several Scottish counties for 1841, 1851 and 1861 at a price that's hard to beat.

04 December 2006

Ryan Taylor and Ancestors in the Attic

Last Saturday, 2 December, there was a memorial service for well know Canadian genealogist Ryan Taylor. A large number of family, friends and colleagues from as far away as the Allen County Public Library crowded into a room at the University of Toronto to remember Ryan. His brother related stories from his earliest days; former colleagues spoke of his contributions, and also his more arcane interests including Queen Alexandria. All were sad to lose someone who gave so much, and could have contributed so much more had he lived.

You can read a collection of Ryan's short articles at the Global Genealogy web site:

At the reception after the service it was good to talk to some of the folks Ryan was acquainted with from Ancestors in the Attic. I was surprised to learn that comments on the episodes in this blog are being read by them. I hope the opinions expressed on violations of good genealogical research technique, especially cavalier use of the IGI documented in previous posts, will be heeded.

The program appears to be attracting good advertising. Some of that revenue should be returned to improve the research, and so the educational value of the product.

You don't agree, one way or the other! By special request I've turned on commenting so you can respond.

30 November 2006

Save on DNA tests

In the last post I looked at the trend in prices for Family Tree DNA’s Y-DNA tests since they entered the market in mid 2000. Here's another perspective on how prices might change, and how to save. The bottom line is that while some reductions in analysis costs will likely occur the easiest way to save, while getting results promptly, will continue to be by taking advantage of group project rates.

How do I come to this conclusion? Leaving aside credit card costs, which will be a small percentage of the total bill, the costs can be divided between per sample and per marker amounts.

Per sample costs are for collecting and administering the sample, maintaining the database, shipping and storing the sample in the long term. That's not to mention costs of advertising and technical support. Also the initial stages of the lab procedure, extraction and amplification of the sample are independent of the number of markers tested. The only way these costs are likely to decline is through finding internal efficiencies or reducing service.

Warning – arithmetic ahead!

The other part of the cost is dependent on the number of markers tested, and technology is likely to impact that. At FTDNA rates the difference between the cost of a 67 and 37 marker test, 30 markers, is $US 3.00 per marker. At the same rate for all 67 markers that’s $US 201 out of the price of $US 349. The difference is $US 148. That’s for the individual rate and covers the per sample cost and, presumably, a little profit.

At the group rate for a 67 markers test of $US 269 the difference is $US 68. Applying $US 3 per marker to the 12 marker test leaves $US 113 at the individual price, and $63 at the group price. The range $US 60-70 is an estimate of the per sample cost.

The difference between the 12 and 37 marker cost declined by $US 0.80 per marker with the FTDNA price reduction of Spring 2006. While there would appear to be some scope for additional reductions, prices are likely to be driven by competition and market forces. Based on FTDNA's history of three price changes over six years, the most recent in Spring 2006, don't expect a price adjustment soon.

Finally, some people don't know they don't have to join a surname project to get a discount price. Group discount prices are available by joining an existing regional project, particularly noteworthy for those with an uncommon surname where it might be difficult to establish a viable surname project.

29 November 2006

Ancestors in the Attic: week 7

Sadly, the program this week slipped back to where it started.

The first story concerned a query as to whether a Canadian's McAdam ancestors were related to royalty, and evolved to whether there was a relationship to John Louden McAdam, who devised "a simple and economical system of construction which brought speed, efficiency, and comfort to the roads," and became the modern tarmac road. In attempting to establish the relationship the program relied on the IGI.

The researcher turned to Burke's Peerage to eliminate any linkage to royalty, then to the International Genealogical Index (IGI) to examine the link to John L McAdam. The IGI is a finding aid, not a definitive source. Were the Scottish Old Parochial Records not searched? Perhaps they yielded nothing; probably not good television. But to accept the IGI, especially entries based on patron submissions, and then turn speculation that two people of the same last name living 11 Km apart in the IGI into a relationship to be celebrated is not good genealogical practice.

According to the Dictionary of National Biography "McAdam, John Loudon (1756–1836), builder and administrator of roads, was born in the west-coast town of Ayr ... on 21 September 1756. .... His father was a minor laird and his mother a niece of the seventh earl of Dundonald ..." So if you're going to accept the tenuous link of the IGI then you may as well go all the way and claim a link, if not to royalty, at least to Scottish nobility ... and all the benefits that go with it.

Are DNA test prices changing?

Perhaps you've seen news about DNA breakthroughs, technologies that mean analysis of what previously took the dedicated effort of major labs can now be done by a high school student in her bedroom. Maybe things haven't gone quite so far yet, but the trend is right. So are prices for DNA tests likely to fall? Let's start by checking the history of commercial Y-DNA tests, specifically those marketed to the genealogy community by Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA became the first company to target the genealogy market in North America with a Y-DNA test, 12 markers for $US 219, in mid 2000. By early 2002, much delayed from the original announcement, Oxford Ancestors were offering a 10 marker test for $US 220. In June 2002 FTDNA, having captured the early adopter premium, reduced the price to $US 149. In August 2002 FTDNA started offering 25 marker tests for $US 209.

In Spring 2003 FTDNA prices were increased, by $US 10 for the 12 marker test and $US 20 for 25 markers. A 37 marker test was added in February 2004 for $US 289.

In April 2006 the FTDNA range was expanded again to what was eventually set as a 67 marker test for $US 349. At the same time the price for the 12 marker test was reduced by $US 10, and for the 37 marker test reduced by $US 30.

That's two decreases and one increase. Do you see a price trend? Note that the prices quoted are the rates for those not testing through a group project.

Come back for a second part to the analysis in the next post.

28 November 2006

Which DNA testing company?

Following up on yesterday's posting on how many Y-DNA markers to test in exploring your genealogy, the next question newbies ask is which company to choose to do the test. The folks at the International Society of Genetic Genealogy have compiled a convenient table comparing the major companies here.

Its easy to compare cost for the number of markers tested using the plot above. The companies included are Family Tree DNA, both individual and group project (P) rates , DNA Heritage, Relative Genetics, Oxford Ancestors, and the Genographic Project sponsored by the National Geographic Society in the US.

You can draw a fairly straight line between the points, except for the Family Tree DNA individual tests and the extraordinarily expensive 10 marker test offered by Oxford Ancestors. Looking at points falling below the line makes it clear that Relative Genetics, shown with an open circle, offers the lowest cost test, 18 markers for $US 95.

Cost and number of markers are not the only factors. Do you want the company to keep your DNA so you can order additional tests as the science advances and your, or your descendants, needs develop?

What reputation does the company have in being responsive to the client? Few folks get much insight from a tabulation of their analytical results. Most genealogists can benefit from a bit of advice to facilitate understanding the data. I only have experience with FTDNA and have found they routinely answer queries promptly, although not always accurately when it comes to responses on the timeframe to deliver delayed results.

Finally, although there are now several free public databases you can use to compare your results with others and so find genetic cousins, the FTDNA proprietary database which provides automatic matching for their clients is the largest, meaning a greater chance of finding a match. That's a major advantage and, along with reputation and ease of access, likely accounts for the company being able to make the claim that "nine out of ten genealogists choose FTDNA."

27 November 2006

How many Y-DNA markers to test

At the meeting of the BIFHSGO DNA group last Saturday we had ten people, a mix of folks who had experience with a test and those considering it. For the latter the biggest question was how many markers to test. Who wouldn't ask when you are looking at the difference between $US 99.95, plus $US 7.55 shipping and handling and tax, for a 12 marker test through the Genographic Project, and $US 349 for a 67 marker test through Family Tree DNA?

There are good reasons to start with a 12 marker test. If your deep roots, for times before the adoption of surnames, are of most interest then a 12 marker test is all you need. Two recent books on DNA in Britain, by Sykes and Oppenheimer, are based on 12 or fewer markers. By testing through the Genographic Project you will get a clear explanation of your results, and contribute to a worthwhile anthropological project.

You also have the opportunity to add your data to the large Family Tree DNA database and order additional tests without having to take another sample. The large database is important as the chances of finding a genetic cousins are better. According to the FTDNA web site, if you match exactly on 12 markers with someone with the same or variant surname then there is a 99% chance you have a common ancestor within the period in which surnames have been used. Finding that match might motivate you to upgrade. That is just what happened with a man in Australia with the same surname as me. He tested through the Geneographic Project, transferred his information to the FTDNA database. When we found a 12 marker match he decided to upgrade to a 37 marker text.

For anyone with an interest in DNA, whether for anthropology or general genealogical interest, a Genographic Project kit would make a great Christmas gift.

However, if you are looking to establish, or to disprove, a specific relationship within the period of surnames you need to test a larger number of markers. The closer the match on a greater number of markers the more certain you can be of a recent common ancestor. The less alike the DNA the more unlikely there is to be a common ancestor.

A final word; there are other respected commercial testing companies besides FTDNA. Some analyse more markers at less cost than FTDNA. However, none of them have as large a database as FTDNA. That's important if you're looking to discover genetic cousins.

24 November 2006

DNA and Genealogy

A meeting of folks interested in genetic genealogy is being held at 10 am tomorrow, Saturday 25 November, in room 154 at Library and Archives Canada. This is a first meeting following on my presentation Family Secrets Revealed by DNA Analysis given last September at the BIFHSGO annual conference. Mostly it will be a round table to share experiences and address questions.

There will be additional opportunities to hear my presentation in Trenton (ON) in February, Ottawa and Montreal in June next year.

23 November 2006

Ancestors in the Attic: week 6

I enjoyed this week's episode, despite the continued frenetic activity of the host. Am I the only one who finds his attitude toward the genealogists rather demeaning?

There was one nit to pick. Viewers should be made aware that they don't go to LAC Preservation Centre in Gatineau to see CEF WW1 soldiers records as has been suggested twice now. Rather the records are ordered from storage there and delivered to the main building at 395 Wellington in Ottawa. That takes a day.

A hidden gem this week is a collection of links to online letters and diaries on the program web site, links compiled by Fawne Statford-Devai. Find it here.

22 November 2006

All those genealogy blogs

According to The Genealogy Blog Finder there are 411 genealogy blogs in their collection. This is one of them. Of the other 410, in more than 20 categories, some will be familiar, Dick Eastman's for example. Others are just getting started. Try a few, you never know what you're going to get ... kinda like box of chocolates!

21 November 2006

How to magnify online images

Are you finding online census images and other original genealogy record images increasingly difficult to read? I am, so I've taken to using technology to help. Here are some ways to do it; not news but perhaps news to you.

You can get a free magnifier add-on for IE7, but reportedly it is spyware. If you're not using the excellent Firefox browser give it a try. It has an add-on called ColorZilla that allows you to zoom the entire screen up to 1000%. That's far too much for most purposes. 200% or 300% is usually sufficient. You can scroll the image to see it all. From the Firefox browser follow the menu items tools, then add-ons, then extensions. Alternatively Google for ColorZilla for information.

There's also a built in magnifier in Windows XP. It opens a window showing a magnified version of part of the main window. I use it to magnify the image near the cursor but there are other options. You can open the magnifier window by clicking Start, pointing to All Programs, then Accessories, then Accessibility. Then click Magnifier. There's also keyboard access by pressing CTRL+ESC, pressing R, typing magnify, and then pressing ENTER.

Now if only they'd invent a technology to read difficult handwriting!

20 November 2006

Surname Frequency

Want to know how common, or uncommon, your name is? Try this extract of an Office of National Statistics database containing a list of surnames in use in England, Wales and the Isle of Man in September 2002. Access is totally free. The list contains almost 270,000 surnames, shared by 54.4 million people.

With it I found that the name Reed ranked 166th amongst surnames with 37217 entries, Reid was next ranking 168th, and Read ranked 226th.

According to the documentation experience suggests that multiplying the result for your surname by 0.93 will give a good idea of the living population for your surname, and multiplying by 3.5 will give the population since the start of parish registers in the 16th century.

17 November 2006

Trends in Genetic Genealogy

An item here earlier in the week showed that the number of monthly postings on the Rootsweb DNA list is increasing, while those for some other major Rootsweb lists are declining. Are there other indications of increasing interest in genetic genealogy?

Family Tree DNA, the largest commercial DNA testing company for genealogy, includes statistics on its front web page. Since April the statistics have been dynamically linked to the company database; before that they were rounded estimates.

The company has reported total records in its database since April 2004. In the year to April 2005 these grew 48%. In the 12 months to April 2006 either the methodology changed, or business grew, dramatically, by 211%. For the 8-1/2 months from April to mid November 2006 the growth was 41%, an annualized rate of 57%.

Data for the number of 12 marker haplotypes and number of surnames have grown at about half the rate of the number of records. I think this means that more genetic cousins are being tested rather than entirely new 12 marker genetic territory being found, encouraging for those of us hoping to find more genetic matches.

The table below shows the data on which these figures are based

Date Records 12 marker haplotypes Surnames
01-Apr-04 19000 7800 7000
01-Jul-04 22000 8000 8000
01-Oct-04 24000 9000 9000
01-Jan-05 27000 9000 9000
01-Apr-05 30000 10000 10000
01-Jul-05 35000 11000 10000
01-Oct-05 40000 12000 15000
01-Jan-06 60000 15119 28921
01-Apr-06 83451 17147 46598
21-Apr-06 85226 17436 47377
20-Aug-06 104985 19905 53157
17-Sep-06 110176 20398 55288
15-Nov-06 117420 21236 57149

16 November 2006

Ancestors in the Attic: week 5

To the list of misleading if not simply incorrect statements perpetrated by this series we can add another. The senior genealogist claimed that he was a cousin three times removed of the host by virtue of a marriage between their respective great grandfather's cousins.

The terminology "removed" relates to the number of generations different two people are from a common ancestor. If anything these two people are of the same generation, not three times removed. However, the point is moot as there is no common ancestor -- no genetic relationship. They are only cousins to the extent that a remote link by marriage makes them so.

Several web sites explain this, try here.

15 November 2006

Trends in Online Genealogy

Back in June I posted about a declining trend for interest in genealogy as evidenced by the results of a Google Trends search on "genealogy". This is consistent with a widely reported decline in membership in family history and genealogy societies.

Here's more evidence. Rootsweb hosts many email discussion lists. You can browse the lists by month, and the total number of posts per month in each list is given. The decline in number of postings is clear for most of the larger groups.

ROOTS-L with 1010 postings in October has not had over 1200 postings since March 2004 and not over 2000 postings since October 2002.

GENBRIT had 2254 postings in October 2006. The last month it exceeded 3000 postings was March 2006, and the last month over 5000 was March 2005.

LONDON with 757 postings in October 2006, has enjoyed less than 1000 postings since July 2006, less than 2000 since March 2005, and less than 3000 since March 2002.

The exception is GENEALOGY-DNA with postings in an emerging area of interest. Eight months of 2006 have had more than 2000 postings, a level it first reached in March 2005. It first exceeded 1000 postings in March 2003.

14 November 2006

First World War Medal Index Cards

Much of the British documentation on WW1 soldiers was destroyed, but medal cards survived. You can already download copies of the front of each card in PDF format from The National Archives website for £3.50.

After TNA finished scanning the Western Front Association (WFA) took possession of the original cards. A proportion have address information, not previously available, written on the reverse side. Now the WFA have obtained
equipment to enable full colour scans to be made and a team of volunteers assembled. The WFA will de-archive the card, scan it on both sides, and email or post a copy to you for £5 (donated to the Western Front Association). A web-based application form is due to go online at www.westernfront.co.uk, or you can apply in writing to WFA, PO Box 1819, Stockport, SK4 4WN. This is a great way to support the WFA and get an enhanced product.

This item based on a posting by Your Family Tree.

13 November 2006

Ancestors in the Attic: week 4

The first segment of this episode was the most interesting genealogy. A WW1 military tag, including the letters “...OSTER”, number114816 and "5th CMR"was found in a field in England. We are told CMR stands for “Canadian Mounted Rifles.

There is decent documentation (a, b) on the program web site including images of the entire military file.

Using the Library and Archives Canada web site it is no major challenge to find Fred Foster, attestation number114816. The military file shows Fred was born in England, so how did he wind up in Canada, and why did he name a friend as his next-of-kin rather than his family?

Much more detail on the story is here, which is not referenced on the program web site.

According to the program web site "... Fred was most likely a Home Child." It goes on to say "We check the Home Child database at Library & Archives Canada and find a listing for Fred Foster. " This is misleading! There are other Fred Fosters in the database, but this Fred Foster arrived in 1911, a year not yet entered on the database. He was in a party of about 35 that came through the US, all past school leaving age.

The British records tell the earlier part of the story, a birth registration for Frederick Hothersoll J Foster in the Marylebone registration district in the last quarter of 1892. In the England 1901 census eight year old Frederick Foster, born Paddington, London, is a step-son in the home of George Oxley, his wife Eliza, mother-in-law Eliza Rule and brother-in-law Alfred Rule. All the Rules were born in Surbiton or Kingston, Surrey. In the Ancestry.com transcription Rule is interpreted as Hule. Eliza's marriage to George Oxley is registered in the first quarter of 1900 in the Westminster district.

In the March quarter of 1892 there is a marriage for Eliza Rule and John Foster registered in the Marylebone district. A death registration at Marylebone of 37 year old John Foster in the 3rd quarter of 1896 looks about right. Its not clear whether Fred's mother died before he went to Canada, although there are several promising death index entries that would have left him without either parent and no siblings to tie him to England at a time when Canada was seen as the land of opportunity.

10 November 2006

Yarmouth in New York

If you're looking online for illustrations for your family history there are plenty of places to go. I start with Flickr, Google Images or a library or archives web site local to the place of interest.

I was surprised to find a web site providing free and open access to over 520,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library. From the NYPL you'd expect items to be well catalogued, and they are. There are historic images of Ottawa and even the coat of arms of my home town of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk from a cigarette card.

Looking to illustrate an event in a particular war, other event or year? Search here, although as I found when searching 1812, you may not agree with the description of who is described as a hero or the victor.

09 November 2006

Abdel Tutu Chen McSteinberg - - 100% English

Do your family history studies find you researching in places you never imagined they would lead? If our names truly reflected the diversity of our origins, rather than a myopic version, we might all have names like the above. That is the conclusion from a study reported in the Daily Telegraph based on autosomal DNA tests conducted by DNA Print Genomics of Florida. The article is here and is based on a study conducted for Channel Four in the UK to be broadcast on November 13.

Although I don't question the diversity of our backgrounds I am skeptical about this test. The technique is proprietary and has not, as I understand it, been subject to peer review. What assurance does one have that there is any more basis to it than astrology?

08 November 2006

Hidden Lives Revealed

Between 1869 and the 1930 more than 100,000 young immigrants from the UK travelled to Canada under programs operated by various philanthropic organizations. The best known was founded by Dr John Barnardo. Another was commonly known as the "Waifs and Strays" operated by the Church of England.

Hidden Lives Revealed is an archive of original material about the organization, and children in care of this organization, now known as The Children's Society, in late Victorian and early 20th Century Britain.

Mentions of emigration and Canada are carefully obscured from documents such as annual reports reflecting continuing sensitivity to this aspect of the organization's work.

07 November 2006

The Boat Race Turns Digital

Since 1829 Cambridge and Oxford Universities have been battling in a boat race. Since 1845 the venue for this 16- 20 minute aquatic sprint, an English rite of Spring, has been the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake. Cambridge has the overall series lead 78-73. Lamentably, Oxford have won four of the last five races.

So what's this about a digital race, and what is the relation to genealogy?

In the Cambridge boat we have the Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online. There are over 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images -- Darwin's complete publications and many of his handwritten manuscripts. There is also the largest Darwin bibliography and the largest manuscript catalogue ever published. More than 150 ancillary texts are included, ranging from reference works to reviews, obituaries, descriptions of the Beagle specimens and related works for understanding Darwin's context. Free audio mp3 versions of his works, a machine reading of the text, are also available. If your genealogical interests have morphed into genetic genealogy you may find some background of interest.

The Oxford Digital Library is powering the Oxford boat.

This web site offers central access to digital collections of Oxford libraries and informs you about ODL services, funding activities, digital library technology and developments. Access to the present Beta content is here. I had hopes that there might be something of interest to the genealogist amongst the maps, but unless the focus of your family history is the Oxford area you will likely not get a lift from that section.

06 November 2006

Historic Maps for Genealogy

Have you seen the ad on TV: a man is walking along with his GPS enabled cellphone, a friend takes it from his hand and he freezes not knowing which way to turn? When its handed back he continues on his way.

The value of maps is something neophyte genealogists quickly discover. How do I find that cemetery? What are the surrounding parishes I need to search as I can't find my ancestor in the home parish records? Which building now occupies your ancestor's address from the 1880s, it surely wasn't a multi-storey car park then?

As most of my searching is in the UK, especially England, I keep to hand a current UK road map, I have a 2006 version of the AA Easy Read Britain map. In Basingstoke last month I saw the 2006 version at drastic discount now the 2007 edition is on sale. Also I keep to hand the Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers. Although expensive it is a good Christmas list item.

These days your favourite internet map sources may be sufficient. I use Google Earth, Google Maps, Mapquest, Multimap and the Ordnance Survey get-a-map. Despite its poor image quality the old Maps site for the Ordnance Survey is a keeper.

What I would really like is a site that let me click on a location on one map and be taken to the same location on a variety of other maps for different years. Is this something Google might try?

While it doesn't seem that Historic Map Works will quite do this, it goes quite a way in the right direction for detailed historic maps. It claims to be "the first GIS-linked, address-searchable map of 19th and early 20th century America. You can search our collection of over 100,000 antique property maps. Our collection of contemporaneous directories can be searched by family names, occupations, or addresses from the past 250 years." The site's current offerings, available to view free for the remainder of the year, are mainly for the US Eastern seaboard. Some Canadian, mainly Ontario, additions are promised.

03 November 2006

Ghosts of the Great War

At this time last year well known Ottawa Citizen journalist Tony Atherton led a project on the First World War with students at St Mark's School in Manotick. Does the war have any relevance for these teenagers or is it mostly lost in the mists of time, another subject to be studied?

Tony will describe the project, and how it tried to bring to life the contribution of those who served through research on some of the student's relatives, during a presentation at the BIFHSGO monthly meeting on Saturday 4 November, at Library and Archives Canada. Tony's presentation starts at 10 am. There is another presentation earlier.

At 9 am Christopher Watts, visiting Ottawa from The National Archives at Kew, will speak on "First World War British Army Service Records." Chris, who last Sunday headlined a successful all day session with the Toronto Branch of OGS, is author of “My Ancestor was a Merchant Seaman,” “My Ancestor was in the British Army”, “Tracing Births, Deaths and Marriages at Sea” and “Records of Merchant Shipping and Seamen. ”

02 November 2006

Ancestors in the Attic: week 3

The most interesting segment this week was about a WW1 soldier, Herbert Bessent. The first name is variously Herbert and Hubert, and the last Bessent and Bessant. He won the Military Medal at Passendale, but according to family information abandoned his wife and children in Toronto, then married again in England before his first wife died. A descendant of the first marriage, Laureen, was wanting to find out where he was buried.

Its difficult to get all the information from the fast moving program, but fortunately Laureen has a Rootsweb posting with some of the information including his middle name, Arthur, not mentioned in the program. The first marriage in Toronto can be verified with Ontario marriage records from ancestry.ca. The award of the Military Medal shows up in the London Gazette.

In the program it was claimed that Hubert's death occurred on Christmas Day 1963 near Bristol, but the death index shows a registration in Weymouth which is in Dorset a fair way from Bristol. Dorset is also mentioned on the program web page in the Rootsweb posting and an earlier Rootsweb posting which specifies death at Dorchester, not far from Weymouth.

Unable to find a grave the program panel concluded, without any substantiating evidence, that the body must have been cremated. One wonders whether funeral director or crematorium records were searched, whether they were searched in the right location, and if a death notice in a local paper was sought.

01 November 2006

Saskatchewan Homestead Index

This file locator database contains 360,000 references to those men and women who, under the terms of the Dominion Lands Act, took part in the homestead process in the area now known as Saskatchewan between 1872 to 1930.

To encourage settlement in the west the Government of Canada offered a free homestead of 160 acres for a $10 registration fee. In order to receive the patent for the land the settler had to be a male 21 years of age or a woman who was the sole support of her family. Before being granted a patent the applicant had to be a British subject or a naturalized British subject, had to reside on the homestead for a period of time, usually six months of the year for three years, make improvements to the land by cultivating at least 30 acres of land, and erect a house worth at least $300. The database also contains information on those who received Métis Scrip, South African Scrip, or WW1 Soldier Grants.

You can search by name or legal land description; the latter allowing you to identify the neighbours on that section and adjacent sections.

Using the file number found in the index, the researcher can access microfilm copies of the files at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and through its Family History Centers.

The file may contain information about the settler such as nationality, place of origin and family makeup, although names of other family members are seldom given. There may also be various sworn statements and information about the homestead itself including required agricultural improvements on the land before ownership was granted; in some cases, correspondence about matters concerning the homestead may be included.

31 October 2006

The Last Post

The Last Post is the name of a database based on short death notices for Royal Canadian Legion members with military backgrounds. These have been published in the Legion Magazine since 1928, although the online database only goes back to February 1990. It contains over 109,000 names and will increase as further entries are published. Considering that Canada lacks a facility like the Social Security Death Index of the US, or the GRO index to death registrations in England and Wales, a database like this is a good resource to know.

The Legion promises to gradually add entries from earlier editions.

Find the search page here.

As I wrote this I realized it would be appropriate if I were ending the blog. I hope you're not disappointed.

30 October 2006

Rootsweb Archives Search Engine

People are posting queries and responses all the time on a huge number of geographic, surname and other miscellaneous Rootsweb mailing lists. Its a full time job trying to monitor all your lines of interest, and you have to sought through a lot of extraneous material, sometimes opinionated tripe, to find relevant stuff.

Here's a handy resource to save searching year by year and list by list. The heading reads Test Concept so presumably its not fully support, but seems to do a pretty good job. Just enter a search term and Rootsweb will do the searching for you. This is a case where it really pays to spend a bit of time learning and applying more advanced search techniques to reduce the number and increase the quality of hits. From the site search tips file:

  • Search for a phrase by putting quotes around a group of words, like "john jones"
  • Perform a single character wildcard search using "?". For example, j?nes will find jones and janes
  • Perform a multiple wildcard search using "*". This will look for zero or more characters, so jon* will find jon, jones, and jonson
  • Use "AND" to require the search to find all words or phrases. "john AND jones" will only return results with both words
  • Use "NOT" to exclude words or phrases. For example "john NOT jones" will return all results with the word john but not jones.

26 October 2006

Ancestors in the Attic - week 2

The second week of Canada's History Television series featured some sound genealogical technique:

- a man could not be a descendant of Pocahontas as her male descendant line died out. They speculated there might be a link to an earlier generation of her British husband.

- a man's ancestor was shown to be a projectionist in Toronto based on City directories and a record found at the local archives.

- a woman was related to a home child by marriage (genealogy but not genetics).

While nobody wants a TV program showing the hours of mostly tedious research that typically go into solving genealogical mysteries I do wonder whether the host's frenetic style, and quick cut editing, will be successful in broadening the series audience appeal. The BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? and PBS's History Detectives take a more relaxed approach and WDYTYA certainly gets good ratings.

25 October 2006

Canada 1851 Census Indexed on Ancestry

If you've been searching for ancestors in early Canada, meaning present day Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, then you're lucky day may be today. Ancestry.ca have added to the flood of new genealogy database announcements that continue to roll out. Even better, you can search without charge, free registration required, until mid-November

The 1851 census, actually taken in January 1852, is sometimes considered the first complete one of Canada. There were prior censuses that covered smaller areas where usually only the heads of household were named.

Not all the census returns now exists, if they ever did. There were likely no go zones. In previous attempts some of the residents of Lower Canada (Quebec) were so suspicious that the results would be used for tax purposes that enumerators feared for their lives in approaching a community with a book and pencil in hand -- this from the Toronto Globe in its 10 January 1852 edition.

24 October 2006

Problems with browser upgrade

If you use SOGCAT, the Society of Genealogists online library catalogue, expect to run into problems using the upgraded Internet Explorer browser (IE7) released last week. SOG are aware of the problem and have posted a warning note on the site. I found the search still worked, but two warnings were issued at various stages before the search terms could be entered and results read. The new Firefox (2.0) browser has no such problems.

UPDATE: As of November 17 this problem is reported fixed for the SOG catalogue.

23 October 2006

Google Alerts

Google Alerts are regular email updates of the latest relevant Google search results (web, news, groups, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. Its great for keeping track of the latest additions and updates on your favourite topic, including genealogical postings. Try it with a search for your ancestral village or townland. Unless you want to be swamped with messages don't search for larger communities. You can be more selective about the search by using advanced search features which are explained at the Google help page here. Go to < www.google.com/alerts >.

20 October 2006

Major New Genealogy Databases

During the regular Thursday skypecast hosted by Dick Eastman last evening he mentioned to expect two new genealogical services with web databases to come online before the end of the year. He was not in a position to give any details. Dick commented that he saw this as the start of a revitalization of online competition where Ancestry has had a dominant position recently.

One of the services may well be the new British database, Ancestorsonboard, announced by 1837online, featuring BT27 Outward Passenger Lists for long-distance voyages leaving the British Isles from 1960 right back to 1890. According to their announcement "With Ancestorsonboard, you can search for records of individuals or groups of people leaving for destinations including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and USA featuring ports such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Passengers include not only immigrants and emigrants, but also businessmen, diplomats and tourists. Images of the passenger lists will be available to download, view, save and print."

In Canada we are in a little different situation from the US. Library and Archives Canada has an aggressive program to make original records, mostly unindexed, freely available online. I expect to see three new databases appearing on their web site in the next few days. During his welcoming remarks at the BIFHSGO conference in September Librarian and Archivist of Canada, Ian Wilson, announced that "digitized passenger lists for the ports of Quebec and Halifax"


Also "an index to Lower Canada land petitions, some 93,00 entries," and "the Ward Chipman database of United Empire Loyalists." These are great additions to their already strong free offerings.

19 October 2006

Found on the IGI

I missed quite a bit of last evening's first episode of Ancestors (in the Attic) on History Television, but tuned in for the final item about finding a woman's aboriginal ancestor, wife of the War of 1812 British officer.

After trying various paper records the panel resorted to the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and found a name. The source was stated to be oral history.

The IGI is blessed with creativity and good intention which may not necessarily align with the truth. The panelists would surely not fall for accepting such flimsy evidence without other justification. Unfortunately the way the item was edited did give that impression.

18 October 2006

Skillbuilders - City Directories

Looking to upgrade your genealogy skills? There's a load of good advice in a series of articles online from the US Board for Certification of Genealogists. Some of the advice is US-specific: those of us in Canada the UK and elsewhere will have to adapt to our situation. Much of it is short and to the point.

Kathleen W Hinkley has an article on Analysing City Directories. She shows an example of different people with the same last name being found at an address in different years indicating family connections that would not have been apparent from a single directory. If you are have access to runs of city directories for a location of interest take the time to go systematically through the directories. Where did people live? Did they change the way the name was spelt, or the forename presented? How did the description of the occupation change?

Ancestors in the Attic

Don't call those of us lucky enough to live in Canada, and have access to History Television, starting at 9:30PM EDT for the next few Wednesday's. Ancestor's in the Attic starts this evening. According to a detailed article on the Global Genealogy web site " its set at a fast pace, loaded with interesting real stories that thread throughout the half hour program.

17 October 2006

Brits Who Built Bytown - Vernon March

Many of Ottawa's landmarks were constructed by or for people of British or Irish origin. In the lead up to Remembrance Day here is information for Ottawa's National War Memorial.

Vernon March was born in 1891 in Kingston Upon Hull, England, the youngest son of a large farming family. His 1925 statue of Samuel de Champlain in Orillia, Ontario, likely helped him win the commission, after an open competition, for the National War Memorial which was conceived and built in a garden in Farnborough, Kent, England. Vernon died in 1930 and his remaining six brothers, Dudley, Harry, Percival, Sidney, Walter, Edward and a sister, Elsie, shown on this extract from the 1891 census, finish his work. In 1932 the memorial was shown in London’s Hyde Park to wide acclaim. The Canadian government took delivery in June of 1937 and it was officially inaugurated by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939.

16 October 2006

Advice for Genealogy Searches

Your journey exploring your family history may not be as well defined as this path. Any oral history with emotional content is suspect, accomplishments will likely be exaggerated and embarrassing episodes downplayed. These were some of the messages, illustrated by examples from his own family history, with which Terry Findley informed and entertained a large audience in the Auditorium at Library and Archives Canada at last Saturday's British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa monthly meeting.

Many of the cases Terry mentioned had been researched before the records became available in digitized form on Ancestry.com or elsewhere. Now that they are the search can often be completed in a tiny fraction of the time it originally took, if you know how to use the search engine effectively. On ancestry.com, available at some local libraries and Family History Centres, be sure to check out the search tips located at the top right of the search box.

13 October 2006

Leave No Stone Unturned

The BIFHSGO monthly meeting at 10am on Saturday at Library and Archives Canada is bound to be a good one as award-winning local speaker Terry Findley presents on his genealogy research.

"Most family historians run into roadblocks when researching their ancestors. Some unwittingly seize misleading or incorrect information and charge off in the wrong direction. Using case studies, Terry will recount how he got around some roadblocks in his family history research and how he avoided going down some wrong paths. Among his detective techniques, he will talk about getting the most out of online research, particularly Ancestry.com. Whether you are just starting your family history or if you have been at it for a long time, you will find something of interest in this presentation."

12 October 2006

Library and Archives Canada Renovation

The LAC reopened on Tuesday. Their web site states "All public research areas are open; however, some minor work must be carried out to complete the renovations. This may cause some disruption to different service areas over the next few weeks."

I haven't been in to see the reorganized floors, but understand from a regular user that a lot of material is no longer where it was. There is a lot to relearn. Not all the equipment is operational, and there is still considerable work to do over the next months until the physical facilities are complete. Returning visitors should plan on spending extra time to learn the new layout. If your visit is not essential you may want to defer it until things are more settled.

11 October 2006

Ottawa's Active Anglican Archives

One of the items awaiting my return from two weeks in England was a copy of the newsletter of the Friends of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa Archives. This is volume 6, number 3. Congratulations to editor Elizabeth Taylor who puts together a newsy newsletter, so many others are not, and to Archivist Glenn Lockwood under whose guidance the Archives is so active.

The Archives, at Christ Church Cathedral, is an important resource for area genealogists. Find basic information on its holdings, when and how to access them here. As the newsletter makes it clear, the Archives is more than genealogy. This summer Felan Parker, working during during a break from studies at Carleton University, produced a video Misfiled: an archival murder mystery, while co-chair of the recent BIFHSGO fall conference, Brian Glenn, is part way into a project to photograph and catalogue all the stained glass in the churches of the Diocese. Brian will speak on the project at the AGM of the Friends on November 19 at 2pm in Cathedral Hall.

09 October 2006

Smart Family History - Mini Book Review

Earlier I wrote about "Smart Family History", a newly published intermediate level book for the person researching family history in England and Wales. It is another of the selections by Diana Hall, genealogy specialist at the Ottawa Public Library, to be purchased for their collection by way of a donation from the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.

I've now had a chance to read it. I was a bit surprised at the samll format, easily graspable in one hand. Your Family Tree reviewed it as ... "a useful, concise and informative book to keep at your side."

It is arranged by the stages of life, and the records to be expected for each of them. The writing is not overly technical, but neither is it particularly inspired. The publisher obviously made the choice not to include examples, which would have improved the reader friendliness, but at the expense of making it longer. For me that's a misjudgement and I am hard pressed to recommend Smart Family History over one of the more comprehensive treatments, such as Mark Heber's landmark Ancestral Trails.

06 October 2006

Blood of the Isles: Book Review

With his previous international best seller, The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes gained a considerable reputation for popularization of genetics applied to human history. Blood of the Isles follows in the mould. The scope is the area geographically called the British Isles, which in order to assuage sensitivities he simply calls “The Isles.” It is based on Sykes' analysis of 50,000 DNA sequences, including many collected during the Oxford Genetic Atlas Project, which started in 1996.

The bulk of the book, chapters 8 - 17, takes Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England in turn, reviews geography, mythology, early writing and archaeological evidence, then reports DNA findings in that context. Sykes weaves in the personal story of collecting the DNA samples. Along the way you learn of the Neanderthal brothers of Tregaron, and where to get the best ice cream in Lampeter.

I personally found the liturgy of kings and nobles used as context uninspiring. Some of these men, Sykes claims, had an especially large number of descendants explaining some of the uniformity in DNA. On the other hand, I enjoyed two of the early chapters, about early surveys of physical characteristics; hair and eye colour, and blood type, which provide a nice response to FAQs.

One group likely to find this book thin gruel will be genetic genealogy enthusiasts. They may prefer to skip to the summary chapter 18 and the appendix. The basic data used is low resolution, less than the full range of the currently analyzed HVR1 for mitochondrial DNA, and mostly seven, sometimes ten, markers for Y-DNA. There is an appendix with summary tables, and a welcome web site with detailed data. I searched in vain for a listing of the marker profiles used to define groups.

These days, when much more detailed DNA analysis of mtDNA and Y-DNA is commonplace, this analysis seems rather broad brush, reflecting the state of the art in 2002 when the last samples appear to have been taken. It does show, in a non-technical presentation, that much insight can be gained from careful analysis of low resolution DNA data.

04 October 2006

Pros and Cons of DNA Testing for Genealogy

There is a quick summary of pros and cons posted on the Your Family Treee web site. This is a follow-on from my article in the current issue, number 43, now on newsstands in the UK.

02 October 2006

Genealogy and the Royal Society

Every scientific paper ever written was authored by someone. They could be in your family tree. If so, or if you are involved in a one name study, easily searcheable digital archives can make the investment of a few minutes worthwhile. You might also want to investigate what science says about an event in which an ancestor was involved, such as the 1918 influenza pandemic, or see if a location of family significance is mentioned. If you get into it the few minutes could easily stretch to hours.

For the first time, the Royal Society is making the complete archive of its journals, the earliest of which goes back to the 17th century, available online. Access will be free for two months. The list of journals is here.

Notice of this availability was found in the GENBRIT-L Rootsweb newsgroup.

28 September 2006

Ryan Taylor RIP

It is a shock to learn of the passing of Ryan Taylor, a well know lecturer, writer and genealogist- librarian at the Allen County Public Library. Ryan gave an all day seminar, and a monthly meeting presentation to BIFHSGO last April. He had close connections to Ottawa having attended both Carleton and Ottawa universities, and has relatives in the City. It was my privilege to know Ryan and find out from him that his Taylor family originated from my home town of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, from where his grandfather came to Canada as a home child.

My sympathies to his family.

Family First

Expect the frequency of posting to drop off for the next couple of weeks as I deal with some urgent family business.

27 September 2006

The Saxby Gale

Here is a diversion from the usual genealogical fare on this blog.

October 4 marks the anniversary of the Saxby Gale, the tail end on an Atlantic hurricane which caused considerable damage in New Brunswick in 1869. A major storm had been predicted for the date nearly a year in advance by Stephen Martin Saxby, a British naval engineer. Most of the people by the name of Saxby in Canada appear to be descended from him. Read about him here, and transcripts of original documents about the storm here.

Improving Audio for Genealogy

At the recent British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa conference one of the talks I particularly enjoyed was on audio recording, and in particular preserving and improving the quality of old recordings. I've been to talks on fixing old photographs before at genealogy conferences, there was one at this conference, but a talk on audio was new to me.

Many of us have cassette tapes and other old media containing conversations with relatives no longer with us. The presentation, by Society member Tony Kennard, covered hardware and software needed to transfer the recording to new media and reduce noise.

Tony pointed out that the old media have a limited lifetime. The recordings should be transferred to preserve them. He explained the deterioration of old media, salvaging a recording when you don't own a proper playback device, wiring options between the playback device and a computer, and software. He recommended the GoldWave Digital Audio Editor, which happens to be a Canadian product, as the best value for money for home use. He mentioned Audacity, a free program that I've used, but in his opinion its capability to remove noise is not adequate.

Finally he warned against archiving sound recordings in MP3 format as the compression is such that salvaging anything after damage is virtually impossible.

26 September 2006

Family Secrets Revealed with DNA Analysis

Here is the text of the handout that went with my presentation at the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa conference last Saturday.

1. Web Resources
Genetics & Genealogy - An Introduction with some DNA Case Study Examples, by Charles F. Kerchner, Jr. - http://www.kerchner.com/anonftp/pub/introg&g.htm

“How to” guide for DNA genealogists who have Y chromosome haplotype - http://www.geocities.com/mcewanjc/howto.htm

International Society of Genetic Genealogy - http://www.isogg.org

World Families Network - http://www.worldfamilies.net

Y Chromosome Haplotype Reference Database - http://www.ystr.org/index.html

2. DNA Testing
DNA Company Comparison Chart – very detailed information on markers tested - http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~bonsteinandgilpin/dna/ydnaco.htm

Company Sites
Ancestry-by-DNA - http://ancestrybydna.com
DNA Fingerprint (merging with FTDNA) - http://www.dna-fingerprint.com
DNA Heritage - http://www.dnaheritage.com
DNA Tribes - http://www.dnatribes.com
EthnoAncestry - http://www.ethnoancestry.com
Family Tree DNA - http://www.familytreedna.com
Oxford Ancestors - http://www.oxfordancestors.com
Relative Genetics - http://www.relativegenetics.com
Trace Genetics - http://www.tracegenetics.com

Project Sites
Genographic Project - https://www3.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/
Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation - http://smgf.org

3. Books
The Seven Daughters of Eve, by Bryan Sykes, ISBN: 0393020185

Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree, by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak and Ann Turner, ISBN: 1594860068

4: Web Lecture Extra
Beyond the Human Genome Project: http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/page.asp?tip=1&id=3853

25 September 2006

Limited Time Free Access to Selected Genealogy Databases

Until October 4 Olive Tree Genealogy, through a co-operative effort with ancestry.com, is offerring free access to:

- the very popular New York Passenger Lists 1851-1891 & 1935-1938 including Castle Garden passenger lists;

- the Boston Massachusetts Passenger Lists, 1820 - 1943.

Search as often as you like -- with no obligation to purchase anything - and no credit card required. All you need to do is use the special links provided on this URL to register by providing a full name and email address to ancestry.com

22 September 2006

Celebrate Your Anglo-Celtic Roots

Those in the Ottawa area this weekend are welcome to stop in to Library and Archives Canada for the 12th annual conference of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. Find the full program here. Even if you only have an hour why not visit at the marketplace, there's free parking Saturday and Sunday. See the products and services available from the exhibitors including Global Genealogy, Natural Heritage Books, and Archive CD Books Canada.

20 September 2006

New Online English Genealogy Resource

Ancestry comes through again. I had been wondering what they were up to. There has been a drought this summer with nothing much new by way of major data collections appearing on any of their web sites. On Tuesday the wait came to an end as they released scanned and indexed pages from 430 London telephone directories. These are for the Home Counties of London - Middlesex, Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire and Surrey; in total 72 million entries between 1880 and 1984 covering both homes and businesses. There is a good search engine, standard for Ancestry, and you get to view the original published page as well as the transcription.

This new addition is a bonanza for anyone with ancestors in the area; its a rare English family that doesn't have a branch into the London area. Not everyone had a phone through most of the period, far from it, but if listed you should be able to follow their moves, and perhaps correlate when they disappear from the directory with a death index listing. Remember, this is scanned and OCRd material. Expect errors , missing pages and other problems. Only the head of household is listed. This is a situation, are their any others, where it helps to focus on how full the glass is and not how empty.

19 September 2006

Great Genealogy Publicity

As a result of a lot of work on publicity the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa managed a nice bit of exposure last Saturday on Ottawa radio station CHIN for its conference next weekend. For a few days the hour long program is available on a podcast

18 September 2006

FreeBMD Updated

On Thursday last FreeBMD, a volunteer transcription of the index to civil registrations in England and Wales, was updated. The site now contains 122,117,046 individual records and nearly 157 million total records. If you searched before and didn't find what you sought its worth going back to see if the index entry of interest has been added.

Births are now reasonably complete from mid-1837 to 1910, except for gaps in the 1850s, 1862 and 1881. Marriages are reasonably complete to 1915. Deaths still have a way to go for 1860 and 1861, but are otherwise reasonably complete to 1911.

I was surprised on Dick Eastman's Skypecast last Saturday to find that some folks don't know you can search FreeBMD without cost through ancestry.com or ancestry.co.uk. While I prefer the original FreeBMD search engine, found here, the site does suffer from slow response at times and you will likely find yourself waiting around less if you search through ancestry. It will likely require a free registration.

16 September 2006

Can't Find the Genealogy God?

Many genealogists seem to have faith that a special Genealogy God exists able to tell them whether a relationship they have found or suspect is the truth. Particularly where information is conflicting they look for some omnipotence to tell them what to believe.

T'aint so! What you have instead is freedom. You are the judge of what meets your standards of proof. Others may choose to set themselves up as the judge of your standards. You have the freedom to judge their standards.

You can choose to follow codes of professional practise and seek to meet the "genealogical proof standard." In the US the self-appointed Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) has a web site that lists the elements:

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
Do these make sense to you? While the process is comparable to those for similar professional groups I do find they make a bit of a fetish about complete and accurate source citations, rather than a citation sufficient to allow finding the source. It smacks of pedantry that finds virtue in process rather than substance, perhaps because its relatively easy to judge when people apply for certification.

A rule of thumb some people use is that you need three pieces of evidence to support a relationship, and it should be independent evidence. It might be a child's birth certificate and the father, mother and child together as a family in two censuses. Even if all the paper records align in this way there is still the possibility of deliberate deception. A child fathered by a woman's husband's brother is a situation that might be easily concealed and that not even a DNA study might uncover. In practice its often impossible to know if the evidence is independent.

Unfortunately genealogy has not yet reached the stage of development where people work with a probabilistic assessment of the confidence in a relationship or fact. Such a systematic evaluation would show you can never be 100% certain ... although I can only say that with a high probability! You would set your own standard, be it 90%, 99%, or 99.999% confidence. Even the most enthusiastic adopter of the approach that the best fit in the IGI is good enough might have second thoughts if informed there is only a 40% chance it is correct. That 40% figure is not the result of any study, just chosen for illustration.

In my view a statistical approach is what the genealogical community should be aiming for, but I doubt the BCG powers that be would be comfortable with statistics and Bayes' Theorem.