30 December 2007

Top baby names in Northern Ireland and Scotland

The General Register Offices of Scotland (here) and Northern Ireland (here) have published their provisional lists of most popular names for newborns in 2007. Comparing with the list I recently blogged for England and Wales, these parts of the UK are more similar and distinct from England and Wales when it comes to name. I wonder how much sub-regional variation there is within the UK.

N Ireland: Jack, James, Matthew, Daniel, Ryan
Scotland: Lewis, Jack, Ryan, James, Callum
England and Wales: Jack, Thomas, Joshua, Oliver, Harry

N Ireland: Katie, Grace, Sophie, Lucy, Emma
Scotland: Sophie, Grace, Lucy, Katie, Erin
England and Wales: Grace, Ruby, Olivia, Emily, Jessica

For the Republic of Ireland no list for 2007 is available as yet. For 2006 the list shows the top five baby names were:

Boys: Sean, Jack, Conor, Adam, James
Girls: Sarah, Emma, Katie, Aoife, Sophie

29 December 2007

Genealogical rules of thumb

According to Wikipedia a rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It is an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.

Here are a few rules of thumb in genealogy.

1. A women will typically first marry at age 21, so if you have a year of marriage subtract 21 for a rule of thumb estimate of the birth year. Add 21 to the year of birth for the marriage year.

2. A man will often be a year or two older than his wife, say age 23, at marriage.

3. The first child will typically be born 1 - 2 years after marriage.

4. If there are many children in a family they will typically be born a couple of years apart. If there is a gap it may indicate a miscarriage or unrecorded still birth. It may also signal a child who died young and born while the family was temporarily relocated.

5. The average span of a generation, between the birth of a parent and a child, is 25 - 30 years.

28 December 2007

Photo misinterpretation

A picture of an ancestor is a great addition to any genealogy. Fortunately photography became quite common from the 1880s and chances are you can look at images of ancestors back three and more generations. Do you stare at the image trying to get inside their head? I do. But after reading a recent article in The Telegraph I'm wondering about the impressions I get.

Remember passport or driver license photograph you hated. Suppose the treasured photo with your great grandfather was one he despised, but it was saved as others in the photo liked their portrayal. My great grandfather, John Marmon, scowls at me nearly a century after he was captured in his daughter's wedding photo. Does it do him justice?

He had a beard, more men did in those days. Looking at the picture through 21st century eyes do we read the same things into the image that they would in those times? That's were an article in The Telegraph reporting recent research findings comes in:

Prof Wiseman discovered that beards have a huge effect on how people are seen. When compared with the clean-shaven, those sporting white beards are seen as less generous (by 28 per cent), cheerful (39 per cent) and caring (29 per cent).

"When it comes to the relationship between perceived personality and facial hair, beards matter - and the effects are mainly negative," says Prof Wiseman.

Later in the article:

"Although there is absolutely no relationship between honesty and facial hair, the stereotype is powerful enough to affect the world - perhaps explaining why everyone on the Forbes 100 list of the world's richest men is clean-shaven, and why no successful candidate for the American presidency has had a beard or moustache since 1910."

It's worth reflecting on how your impressions of your ancestors seen in old photos are influenced by this type of cultural filter.

27 December 2007

Top baby names in England and Wales

The GRO has released the list of top baby names for 2007.


Once again, there is no change at the top, with Jack the number one boys' name. Thomas also retains his second place slot with 5803 boys sharing the name in 2007. The only movement in the top five is the exchange of places between Joshua and Oliver to third and fourth respectively, with Harry remaining fifth.

Jayden, which is now the 32nd most popular boys' name, has been climbing steadily since its appearance in the top 100 in 2004.

Mohammed has risen from 73rd five years ago to 17th in 2007.

Grace, who only joined the top five last year, is now the most popular name for girls. Ruby has also increased in popularity and, with 4355 girls sharing the name, is the second choice for girls in 2007. Last year's most popular girls' name, Olivia, is third. Emily has risen one place to fourth and Jessica has fallen two places to fifth.

Evie has climbed 46 places in the last five years, making it the 15th most popular choice for girls in 2007.

Names move in and out of fashion. None of the top five boys or girls names in 1964 rank in the 2007 top five. Fashions also come back. Thomas, 2nd amongst boys in 2007 was 4th in 1904.

26 December 2007

Ottawa Past and Present Re-presented

At the last BIFHSGO monthly meeting I picked up a limited-edition reprint of a book Ottawa Past and Present. It was first published in 1870, so its Present is now far in the past. The author, Charles Roger (1810-1889), is the great grandfather of one of BIFHSGO's senior members.

I was a bit surprised to find a book with exactly the same title was published in 1927 by Alexander H D Ross and wondered if any of the material from the first could be found in the second. Fortunately Ross' book has been reproduced by Archive CD Books Canada and sample pages are reproduced on their web site.

Compare the following from Roger's book:

"The first newspaper published in Ottawa was intitled "The Bytown Independent" and was established by Mr James Johnson, a man of considerable energy and no inconsiderable talent, It was established in a house at the corner of Bank and Wellington Streets ..."

with a passage from Ross'

"On the 2nd of February, 1836, the first number of the Bytown Independent & Farmers' Advocate was published in a house near the corner of Wellington and Bank Streets. It was a small five-column sheet edited by James Johnston,
"a man of considerable energy and no inconsiderable talent"

The reprint of Roger's book is already sold out, unfortunate as it's a interesting read for those interested in Ottawa's past, but Ross' can be purchased from Archive CD Books Canada. It's one of the items in their January sale at 40% off. For those with an interest in the past might make a good present.

24 December 2007

Gender balance in UK to Canada immigration

Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War by Virginia Nicholson (ISBN 9780670915644) is the newest book in my personal library. It describes the social history of the British women born between 1885 and 1905 who remained unmarried owing to their intended or potential husbands having been killed in WW1.

Only a little way into the book it notes that these were referred to as surplus (or superfluous) women, following confirmation in the 1921 census that England and Wales had 19,803,022 women and 18,082,220 men.

An editorial in The Times of 25 August 1921 under the title Surplus Women opines that "the only possible escape lies in the emigration of women on a large scale."

I wondered if it happened, and thanks to a database of UK outbound ships passenger lists from findmypast.com there is a way to approach an answer.

To use that database you are required to enter a surname, so I developed statistics for the most frequent name, Smith. The graph shows, year by year, the ratio of women to men on the passenger lists of ships bound for Canada.

Until the outbreak of WW1 males dominate. Was there an outcry about women unable to marry in that period as their potential spouses had emigrated?

During WW1 the statistics are erratic as few people were travelling. After the war and through the 1920s there is closer to gender parity. Only in the 1930s, when the number of immigrants Canada was prepared to accept was greatly restricted, did the women travelling to Canada consistently outnumber the men.

22 December 2007

The year in snippets

What happened in genealogy in 2007? Here's one way to look at it, the first sentences (or two) posted on Anglo-Celtic Connections for each month of 2007.

In the next few days Find My Past (formerly 1837online), in conjunction with The National Archives in the UK will bring online the first major segment of digitized and searchable passenger lists for ships leaving British ports on long overseas voyages.

There were only two segments this week. The first was a complex story of family members losing touch owing to separations and divorces, and descendants finding each other. (Ancestors in the Attic)

March 1st is St David's Day. The patron saint of Wales gets scant attention, and the Welsh get little notice in genealogy as many of the records are part of the English system.

There's been a lot of buzz about Family Search Indexing, an initiative from the LDS Church.

Family Tree DNA, the largest commercial DNA testing company for genealogy, shows annual growth in the number of records over 60%. Ever more people are getting tested as they search for genetic cousins and explore their deep roots.

Big announcements are expected this weekend in Ottawa from Library and Archives Canada, and Ancestry.ca (at the OGS Seminar)

Findmypast.com has added another decade of records to the UK Outbound Passenger Lists currently available.

Library and Archives Canada has announced major reductions in hours of service at its main building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa as of 1 September.

A reminder that the reductions in service hours previously announced came into effect at the start of the month. Hours of full service are now 10am - 4pm, weekdays. (LAC)

An open letter from Craig Heron, President of the Canadian Historical Association to Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, was posted as a comment on this site last week. Folks remain upset about Library and Archives Canada's reduction in service hours imposed at the beginning of September.

Expect posts to be limited for the first half of November while I deal with family matters.

I enjoyed this episode which threw the spotlight on two out-of-the-ordinary genealogical sources. (Ancestors in the Attic)

21 December 2007

A gap in your gift list?

The image is of an 1895 Christmas card from C Division of the North West Mounted Police at Battleford, NWT (now Saskatchewan) from Library and Archives Canada. Not familiar Christmas imagery, but it is surprising how that has changed over the years. The Ottawa Citizen has an article, not online, that draws on material in the LAC collection, Some images in the article are reproduced under Christmas Cards in the Citizen gallery.

Do you have historic Canadian Christmas cards you might donate to LAC. By far, their most valued source of acquisitions is private gifts donated by individuals, companies, organizations or associations.

LAC is interested in works or documents created or published in Canada, regardless of subject, language or format, and those created or published outside of Canada, provided the author or subject has some national relevance. They can be archival documents, books, films or videos, photographs, maps or architectural plans, portraits or other works of art, sound recordings, musical scores, microfilm, digital or analog material. If you're concerned that your materials may not be properly appreciated by the next generation of your family consider a gift to LAC, or a provincial or local archives, historical society of museum.

You can find out more about donating archival materials to Library and Archives Canada here.

Here's a Christmas bonus. You can download a pdf with the words of many popular Christmas season songs, courtesy of the Ottawa Citizen, here.

20 December 2007

Ancestry Announcements

Ancestry, and its parent company The Generations Network have made two announcements of note.

The first was posted on Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.

FamilySearch and The Generations Network Agreement Give Patrons Access to More than 24,000 Ancestry.com Databases and Titles

SALT LAKE CITY — FamilySearch and The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of Ancestry.com, today announced an agreement that provides free access of Ancestry.com to patrons of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and the 13 largest regional family history centers effective today.

With this new agreement full access will be provided to more than 24,000 Ancestry.com databases and titles and 5 billion names in family history records. In addition to the Family History Library, the following 13 regional family history centers have been licensed to receive access to Ancestry.com:

  • Mesa, Arizona
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Oakland, California
  • Orange, California
  • Sacramento, California
  • San Diego, California
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • Pocatello, Idaho
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Logan, Utah
  • Ogden, Utah
  • St. George, Utah
  • Hyde Park, London, England

You can read the complete item at Dick's site.

I've added the table, available here, showing the states that have a large number of LDS members. Of the centres getting the Ancestry service only Las Vegas is not in a state in the top five ... did they just take a gamble on Las Vegas? Hyde Park is also an odd ball.

I can see why the LDS would want this service back in their centres to assist their adherents in their religious duties, but what does Ancestry get from the deal? Exposure? I doubt they need that in Family History Centres. Or is there a part of the deal not being mentioned?

The second announcement is on the Ancestry blog. Ancestry World Tree is considered outdated and will be replaced with the Ancestry Member Tree system which was introduced in July 2006. I don't recall having used either of these. Ancestry did nothing to earn my good will regarding user-submitted information when they took data I had posted to Rootsweb WorldConnect and offered it through their subscription service.

The Ancestry blog posting contains a table comparing World Tree and Member Tree, and showing Member Tree as offering more. But one thing Member Tree does not offer, which World Tree did, is the option to keep information totally private. Be aware that when you post to Member Tree Ancestry will be making some of the information you add public. Your option if you don't want that is not to use the Member Tree system.

19 December 2007

Expectations of libraries and archives

Have you used various specialist libraries and archives? How well did they serve you? What do you expect, and how well do the various institutions deliver?

I'm sure I'm reinventing the wheel, but here's a preliminary list of attributes that I look for in a research or specialist library or archives, oriented to the person who needs to visit the institution. Have I missed anything?

Ease of access to the facility (convenient location, good public transport service, parking, accessibility)
Convenient hours of access
Availability and security of personal storage
Effective yet unobtrusive security and facility orientation (how to use, signs)
Availability and cleanliness of washrooms and cafes
Client-orientation approach and desirable ambiance

Ease of identifying what's in the collection and available to view (catalogue, finding aids)
Knowledgeable and accessible consultation staff (archivists and librarians)
Ease of ordering items
Ease of identifying the order status and prompt notification of when and where item available
How long between identifying the need and viewing the material
Availability and condition of self-serve equipment (microform readers, printers, copiers, computer workstations)
Availability, cost and timeliness of copying and photo-reproduction services
Policy and procedures that facilitate use of personal equipment (digital cameras, laptop and smaller computers)
Appropriate environmental conditions for consulting materials (light, noise, temperature)
Accessible services (power, wi-fi)

Please add items I've missed by leaving a comment.

18 December 2007

Library Innovation

I had my name on the list to borrow a recent book from the Ottawa Public Library for a couple of months. Singled Out is by Virginia Nicholson. Amazon has some short reviews here.

Today the Ottawa Public Library has 20 people on the waiting list for two copies. I eventually gave up waiting and ordered a copy online from Amazon. It seems to me there's an opportunity for the Library to be entrepreneurial, and do everyone a service. Here's how.

Why couldn't the library partner with an online bookstore? Library patrons reserving a book online, who might have to wait months to come to the top of the list to borrow the hot new book, might opt to buy it via the library website -- and the library could collect a commission on the sale. That would also take one person off the waiting list.

But it gets better. If, like me, you have far too many books in the house maybe you'd welcome the opportunity to put it to good use after you'd finished with it. Maybe a tax receipt could be given for donation back to the library if that book still has a waiting list. That way others could read it sooner. That would also be another book the library could sell when the time came to review holdings.

What am I missing here? If one of my librarian readers knows of a snag in this proposal please post a comment.

16 December 2007

Canada Census Indexes

For family history the censuses, along with civil registration records, are fundamental. England, Wales, Scotland and the USA have name-indexed versions of all their existing and publicly accessible census returns available online, leaving Canadian genealogists feeling second rate. The good news is that it looks as if we won't have too long to wait to see further progress.

The returns of 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911 are those taken for all of post-confederation (1867) Canada that are released and list each person by name.

One of the first census records to be indexed was 1871 for heads of household in Ontario. The indexed version is available at the LAC website. FamilySearch Indexing have a project to index the whole census. The project started in south-western Ontario and is now serving Nova Scotia pages for online indexing. The project is now limiting the time available to complete each image to four days in an effort to finish it off soon.

The 1881 census index has been available at familysearch.org for several years.

The 1891 census is now being indexed by Ancestry.ca and should be available in 2008.

Ancestry have also indexed the 1901 and 1911 censuses, as well as the 1906 census of the Prairie Provinces. These are available by Ancestry.ca subscription, and also at the free site automatedgenealogy.com

There are pre-confederation censuses for 1851 (indexed by Ancestry), 1861 for more restricted areas and some earlier census that were more local or restricted to heads of household. An entirely different regime applied for Newfoundland and Labrador prior to that province joining Canada in 1949. An overview of the census records is at the Canadian Genealogy Centre website.

15 December 2007

Ancestors in the Attic: episode 2027

This was a touching story, well told, about a man in an Inuit community seeking information about his grandfather, John C Taylor, a Scottish whaling ship captain, who had a child with an aboriginal woman. After returning on whaling trips for several years he never came back, nor communicated, again.

A descendant of Taylor was found in England as a result on an Internet message board posting, and that person visited the community Canada. The question as to why contact stopped was not addressed.

The episode repeats on History Television Canada at 8pm on December 19.

14 December 2007

Most British babies born outside of marriage

According to a report in Wednesday's Daily Telegraph, in the 1950s just 5% of British children were born outside marriage. By 1970 that was around 10%, and, according to the Office for National Statistics figures, in 2006 is was 49.4%. Based on projections by The Spectator, 50.4% of British children will be born outside of marriage in 2007.

Civil registration statistics suggest the sagging popularity of marriage is partly the reason. Although outside marriage often the father acknowledges paternity.

In 2005 about one third of children had their birth registered with the mother's surname. That percentage had not changed much in 10 years, but rose from near 20% in 1985.

Leaving aside the very debatable social implications, genealogists face no longer being able to track the father through civil registration records in many cases. Is this another instance where technology, by way of DNA analysis, is coming along at the right time?

LAC Public Consultation

On Wednesday, not quite two weeks after the meeting, LAC posted a brief "Notice Regarding Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Services Advisory Board (SAB)" on their web site. Apparently a more complete record of decision is coming. As agreed at the meeting, all the meeting documents should be posted too.

One of the commitments repeated is to a "general public consultations, held on a regular and ongoing basis, concerning LAC's client services, with the first meeting planned for January 2008."

As of Wednesday there was no notice posted at 395 Wellington, nor on the web site, with meeting details. Could LAC do with some encouragement? The contact for follow-up to the notice above is Pauline Portelance, Senior Media Relations Officer, Library and Archives Canada
819-994-4589 or 613-293-4298. pauline.portelance@lac-bac.gc.ca

13 December 2007


Thanks to Brenda Dougall Merriman for alerting me to the establishment of a new listserve. The rationale for it, and procedures to join are described below. This could be an important step in helping spread information and coordinate efforts between genealogical and related historical organizations across Canada.

With all the upsets that have gone on in the past while with the destruction of several major historic sites such as St Mary's Cemetery Jordan Station Ontario and Gladstone Baptist in Middlesex Ont and many others that are in danger a number of people have expressed concerns that their is no national dialogue forum on how to WORK TOGETHER to save our history.

There are thousands of small and large groups out there who are struggling to make their voices heard and can't find others to listen. We need to address this shortfall.

To help start a dialogue and make things more efficient I've started a mailing list called CAN-GENEALOGY-SOCIETIES@rootsweb.com

Send the word "subscribe" to CAN-GENEALOGY-SOCIETIES-request@rootsweb.com
This list is for Genealogical societies, History societies, Family reunion groups, researchers and anyone else who wishes to share and communicate information with other groups.

I've not set any specific topics for the list. I'm going to let the members set the style. About the only thing we will not be doing is "general look-ups" for your ancestors

Hopefully we can get people, groups and representatives from all areas of the genealogy and historical communities and all levels of Governments to work together to exchange information and suggest ways to help each other improve their respective areas of expertise.

Such things as informing others of your expertise and collections, what you are doing and are trying to accomplish and save. Public/society meetings, advice on how to improve public service, fundraising, improving public profiles, getting Government support, and especially getting help from others to save historic places, things and information that may be lost if nobody steps forward quickly.

Too often we only find out about historic losses in the newspaper long after the sad deed has been done. The few in the know are often helpless to do anything simply because they don't know who to call or how to go about saving something.

Spread the word.
Lets work together as a team.

Nelson Denton

Gas and Goblins

I am reminded of a comment supposedly made to Tommy Douglas. Paraphrasing, around the time Douglas quit as Premier of Saskatchewan an old timer came up to him and commented that Douglas had initiated a lot of positive changes in the Province while Premier ... and he had opposed every one of them.

What made me think of this was an item quoted in Fueling Progress: one hundred years of the Canadian Gas Association. It gives an example of how pioneers of industry were met with strange objections

"More than 100 years ago pioneers of the gas industry who were trying to get the people of Connecticut to discard candles and oil lamps for a new and brighter light were confronted with a paper that set forth the objections to the change in the following manner:

  1. A theological objection. Artificial illumination is an attempt to interfere with the divine plan of the world which had preordained that it should be dark during the night time.
  2. A medical objection. Emanations of illuminating gas are injurious. Lighted streets will incline people to remain late out of doors, thus leading to increase of ailments by colds.
  3. A moral objection. The fear of darkness will vanish and drunkenness and depravity increase.
  4. Police objection. Horses will be frightened and thieves emboldened.
  5. Objections from the people. If streets are illuminated every night, such constant illumination will rob festive occasions of their charm."
What would your ancestors of the time have thought? If they sold candles or oil lamps maybe they'd agree, just as the companies that sell fossil fuels argue against the science of global warming today.

12 December 2007

FamilySearch Indexing Irish Civil Registration

If you've ever thought you would like to contribute to making genealogical records freely available online, but were put off by the prospect of having to decipher handwritten documents, now would be an excellent time to make that contribution. That's especially true if you have Irish ancestry.

FamilySearch Indexing have made images of PRINTED civil registration indexes for births, deaths and marriage available online for transcription. Being printed, if you can read, type and are on the Internet you have everything needed to help with transcriptions. I've started a page of a death index register and find each line goes quickly.

To start register with familysearchindexing.org

11 December 2007

Sons of England

Do you belong? Seeking to fit into a group, maybe even a group of misfits, meets a human need. Online social networking has taken this to a new level of technological sophistication, if not profundity.

Our ancestors, handicapped as they were without Facebook, were still able to make do. The Sons of England and Beechwood Cemetery, by Glenn Wright, an article in the Winter 2007 issue of Anglo-Celtic Roots, BIFHSGO's quarterly chronicle, explores one such group.

As explained in the article, the Sons of England were founded in Toronto in 1874. By 1896 there were 13,000 members in hundreds of lodges across Canada. Membership required payment of a weekly fee for which medical attendance, medicine and, if required, a funeral allowance were paid.

Membership directories, other publications, and lists of people attending events are sources in which you may find an ancestor's name. The fact that a grandfather or great-grandfather was a member of such a society is not the kind of information that is often known by later generations. A search in records of this and similar societies, often found in local archives, may reveal an unanticipated aspect of your ancestor's interests.

10 December 2007

Best wishes to Dick Eastman

A few days ago I wrote a posting which read "I've learned a lot from reading Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter over the years, both the free and subscription versions. He's a tremendous asset to the community and I rarely miss a posting."

I'm missing the postings now. Dick has announced he is in hospital with a diagnosis of diabetes. New postings are suspended. 163 people, and counting, have left comments with good wishes and the hope that he can get back to doing what he so obviously enjoys. I join that choir. When he does start being active again I wonder if he might get a DNA test done to see if it might have alerted him to a genetic vulnerability for diabetes?

09 December 2007

CBC Marketplace distorts DNA genealogy testing results

I wonder, if I went to CBC headquarters in Toronto and tried to get an interview with Wendy Mesley about how they distorted the results of DNA testing in their recent Marketplace item would I get an interview? Showing a company refusing to be interviewed about a supposed abuse is a common approach for Marketplace. Would the CBC be as open as they expect others to be?

How did CBC distort this item?

1. The program chose the most basic mitrochrondrial DNA test (HVR1) to use on their subjects. Like going to a hotel which advertises it has luxury facilities, if you choose the room with the cheapest rate you don't expect it to be the most luxurious.

2. The program suggested that everyone with British roots should expect to have haplogroup H mitrochrondrial DNA. If memory serves about 70% do, which leaves the other 30%. What would Marketplace have done if the result for their test subject had been something other than group H?

3. By using the test done on Oprah, much more complex and expensive than that paid for by the CBC, and then setting Oprah's result as a benchmark on expectations, they set the tests up for failure. I won't comment on the reliability of the test Oprah took.

4. If Marketplace had chosen a male as their subject, and had him take a Y-DNA test, they would very likely have obtained results showing more ancestral insight. Perhaps the producers don't understand that only men have Y-DNA which, because it changes more rapidly than mitochrondrial DNA, gives greater resolution.

I would not particularly recommend Genebase, the company featured in the program, as a vehicle for DNA testing. In my view there are better options. However, Marketplace could not, and should not, have overlooked the emphasis Genebase places on Y-DNA as indicated by this extract from their website:

"Extend Family Research with Your Y-DNA Markers: Discover entire branches of your family tree using Y-DNA. Once your Y-DNA markers are tested, you can use them to trace your ancestral roots with DNA Analyzer, or join an exciting Surname Project to find distant relatives."

Why did the CBC misrepresented commercial DNA testing for genealogy in this way. Perhaps it makes for better infotainment, certainly not for better understanding.

08 December 2007

Tombstones sent to landfill

Marjorie Stuart, OGS Co-Chair for Cemetery Preservation, sent this message a few days ago ...

This past week the Municipality of Thames Centre, the administrators of Gladstone Baptist Cemetery, had the cemetery destroyed and the broken tombstones sent to a landfill. The municipality did this over their concern for health and public safety. Public safety is a number one concern for all cemeterians. However, recent photographs of the cairn show the approximately 70 tombstones leaning against a wall and most appear to be intact. No effort was apparently made to restore or preserve these tombstones which date to the 1850s. Photos of the cairn, which has been destroyed, can be seen at http://www.thamescentre.on.ca/cemetery/cemeteryfrontpage.htm as well this was reported on local television and the London Free Press and may be viewed at http://lfpress.com/newsstand/Videos

Apparently the cemetery was in the care of the municipal council who failed to appreciate that staff would understand a decision they took in October to mean the tombstones should be dumped. A London Free Press article indicates this has "completely embarrassed" the council.

The OGS message called for people to write to provincial and local politicians. However, it appears the message has already been transmitted; perhaps the publicity generated will serve as a lesson to others to whom the care of cemeteries is entrusted

A blog entry, including a transcription of the memorial inscriptions, is here.

Thank you to Linda Reid for bringing this to my attention.

Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: Book Review

Just issued, this is the new definitive guide for genealogical research Canada-wide. It should replace the late Angus Baxter's In Search of Your Canadian Roots which predates most internet resources.

The first author is Sherry Irvine, an award-winning Certified Genealogist, past President of the (US) Association of Professional Genealogists, a frequent lecturer and instructor. Co-author Dave Obee has six other genealogy books to his credit which show a particular interest in Western Canada.

The book is positioned as a beginner's guide. For the total newbie I suggest reading the appendixes right after the books preface. Appendix A, is Research Fundamentals; Appendix B, Pay Attention to the Hazards; and Appendix C, The Internet.

"Library and Archives Canada," the country's premier genealogical resource, is the topic of the first chapter. "Canadian Geography and Finding Locations" follows, for as the chapter starts out by stating, "Geography and genealogy go hand in hand. It is impossible to do quality research into your family's history without understanding the geography of your ancestors' lives."

The following chapters treat various types of records from a Canada-wide perspective. They are: Immigration, Census, Vital Records - Created by Governments, Vital Records - Church Registers, Cemetery Records, Probate Records, Military Records, Land Records, Newspapers, and Other Ways to Find People.

Then follow three chapters on groups with special records: Aboriginals, Arcadians and Loyalists.

The largest part of the book, chapters 16-26, is dedicated to provincial and territorial resources, starting with Alberta, in alphabetic order. Each chapter starts with a map showing the larger communities. Then follow sections that mirror the earlier chapters; Introduction, Finding Locations, Census, Civil Registration, Church Records , Cemetery Records, Wills and Probate Records, Land Records, Newspapers, Other Ways to Find People, Special Sources, Websites, Bibliography, Addresses. You will need to read these sections in conjunction with the corresponding earlier chapter to get a full picture.

Many an experienced Canadian genealogist will want this book in their collection for reference to these chapters as their research takes them to unfamiliar provinces and territories. Some of the sources mentioned, such as township papers in Ontario, take you well outside the ground normally frequented by the beginner. However, you can only go so far in a book covering the world's second largest country. Those with more geographically focussed concerns will need to seek out specialized resources. You will find the lists of websites and bibliographies helpful in finding these.

For historical context timelines for Canada, France, the UK and Ireland, and the US are in Appendix D.

I liked this book, and not just because this blog is mentioned on page 249. It was refreshingly up to date, including even changes made to the LAC website in September. Grouping the website address at the end of each chapter, rather than including them in the text, makes for readability. Online resources are mentioned extensively. Although Ancestry is the publisher it didn't impede appropriate mention of competitive resources such as Automated Genealogy and Our Roots.

The layout has plenty of white space, and the writing style is clear. At $18.95, the price printed on the cover, it is good value. I found amazon.ca selling it for $16.75Cdn.

07 December 2007

Squeezing more out of old family photos

Colleen Fitzpatrick's book "Forensic Genealogy" was one I enjoyed. You have to admire her skill at photo interpretation. Now I find, thanks to this posting from Randy Seaver, that she has a web site where she posts pictures and asks questions based on them. It has a contest you can enter, and her site has an archive of previous pictures ... an interesting and informative diversion that may help you squeeze more insight than you anticipated out of old family photos.

06 December 2007

Enjoy great moments on Saturday

December 8, 2007 10:00 a.m.
PRESENTATION TOPIC: Great Moments in Genealogy.

In the auditorium at Library and Archives Canada.
“Luck of the Scots“ by Carol Annett, BIFHSGO Writing Group member and a great storyteller,
“Lunatics in the Family” - by Garfield Clack, whose earlier great moments appear in the Spring 2005 edition of Anglo-Celtic Roots
“From Brick Wall to Building Stones; or How my Brick Wall is the Answer and not the Question” by Glenn Wright, former Director of BIFHSGO Research & Projects and regular contributor to Anglo-Celtic Roots

and more

04 December 2007

Five gifts for the genealogist

Are you struggling with a lack of inspiration on what to buy the genealogist in your family, or wondering what to answer when you're asked what you want? Here are some ideas:

1. Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: a beginners guide by Sherry Irvine and Dave Obee. Just issued, this is the definitive guide and will replace Angus Baxter's In Search of Your Canadian Roots the next time we update BIFHSGO's brochure Recommended Books for Beginning Genealogy. The lowest price I found was $16.75Cdn at amazon.ca.

2. Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Published this year, for the serious genealogist, to help you cite and understand each type of source record so that the evidence can be better interpreted and the accuracy of conclusions properly appraised. Listed at $48.47 Cdn at amazon.ca but out of stock. Available from Global Genealogy at $54.95 Cdn.

3. Family Tree Maker 2008 software. The #1 genealogy software since 1989, now with a fresh new look and feel, and an attractive range of charts so you can examine your families in pedigree charts, descendant charts, timelines and more. The Canadian Essentials version, $39.95 Cdn, available from Global Genealogy, includes a one month subscription to the Ancestry Canadian database.

4. A Digital Camera. There are many compact models in the Christmas flyers for less than $200 Cdn. Tuck it away in your bag and be ready to take those tombstone photos, take it to the archives to photograph the documents rather than transcribe them and save not only transcription errors but also the wear and tear of additional handling of the original required to make a photocopy.

5. A membership in a family history or genealogy society. A local society allows you to meet and socialize with like minded folks. A society from your ancestor's place of origin, or origins, provides access to local expertize and resources. Check cyndislist.com under the location, then Societies & Groups.

Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies

There is some interest in forming an umbrella group to represent the interests of the Canadian genealogical and family history community at the federal level, and also to provide a means to promote cooperation between member societies. Gordon Watts has written about this in the 30 November issue of Gordon Watts Reports. Comments back to Gordon would be appreciated.

Apparently this isn't the first effort to form such a group as Brenda Dougall Merriman recalls in the contribution below. Let us not ignore history lest we repeat it.


The former Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies was formed on 15 August 1986 in Brandon, Manitoba. Its
website was posted in 1998 but has not been maintained.
The Federation originated among prairie societies and some of the early leaders were Dirk Hoogeveen (Regina), Laura Turnbull (Grande Prairie), and Bob Pittendrigh (Regina). By 1987 the steering committee became Ruth Breckman (Winnipeg) and Joan Benoit (Montreal), while Ryan Taylor was the first newsletter editor.
We had strong support from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and some groups in BC. Annual meetings were held in conjunction with various society events in different provinces. In the spring of 1990 the Federation had 46 society members (including branches of larger societies) and 43 individual newsletter subscribers.
Presidents were Ruth Breckman (Mnaitoba) 1988-1989, Dolores Christie (Alberta) 1990-1991, Brenda Dougall Merriman (Ontario) 1992-1993, Harry Skene acting president (Manitoba) 1994-1996.
The acting president's final message in the last issue of the newsletter (Winter 1996-97) outlined some of the problems that plagued the organization at that time:
. Distance and travel costs for volunteer board members made it increasingly difficult to hold meetings once a year with a quorum.
. Member societies were no longer nominating volunteers for board positions.
. Membership was dropping.
. A new direction for the Federation might best serve its members as an information-sharing organization, with further exploration of electronic means.
The lack of volunteers apparently stalled that further "exploration" just as the electronic age was becoming a fact of every day life. It seems clear that the Federation was not a priority among most member societies by the mid-1990s, probably for a number of mixed reasons.
The Federation recognized and always believed that a vital link was essential, in some form, to unite Canadian societies in common causes. Many people put heartfelt effort into the organization over its 12+ years of existence. I salute them all, with fond memories. Now it's time, and who can argue, for a revitalized effort.
Perhaps others who participated in "CanFed" can add to this.

1911 Irish Census

If you've been waiting to see the results of the Irish census digitization project, today's the day. You'll find they've started with Dublin for 1911.

It would be a good idea for you to start here. You'll learn, for instance, that you will be viewing the original household manuscript returns, the forms filled out and signed by the head of each household on census night rather than the enumerators form which we are accustomed to seeing for the rest of the UK, Canada and the USA censuses.

The site has been slow in responding, likely the result of high demand.

03 December 2007

Could Dick Eastman be misleading us?

I've learned a lot from reading Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter over the years, both the free and subscription versions. He's a tremendous asset to the community and I rarely miss a posting.


I was surprised to find myself doubting his opinion recently.

I watched a video, available here, of a talk he gave at BYU entitled Putting the Genes in Genealogy. It started with him reflecting on why people investigate their roots, making a contrast between name collectors and those who want to know more about the ancestors in depth including their role in a larger historical context.

Then he got into health and family history, and genetics. He pointed out that a study of elevated occurrence of hemophilia, a genetically linked affliction, in Maine had been traced by genealogical studies to an originating family in the state. He used that to argue that the study of genealogy will be of great assistance in helping people assess their susceptibility to genetic disease.

You only inherit one of each of the 22 chromosomes from each of your parent's pair, it may or may not be the one that's defective. There is no information on which one it is in a genealogy study so the best you can get from a genealogical study is a likelihood. However, once the cost of genetic testing declines substantially, and that's an ongoing process, everybody will be able to get their own precise DNA evaluation for genetic disease susceptibility. In his eagerness to find a rationale for studying your roots Dick overstated the case.

I must be quick to point out that genetic susceptibility is thought to only part of the picture. Lifestyle and diet are also important factors weighing in the balance of whether a disease develops.

01 December 2007

Ancestors in the Attic: episode 2025

I enjoyed this episode which threw the spotlight on two out-of-the-ordinary genealogical sources.

For those with Icelandic ancestry most of the work seems to have been done, in large part because of the existence of good census records back 300 years. The story built up to justify the genealogical search, although a bit far fetched, did serve well to illustrate the sources available.

The second story illuminated a unique Canadian source, the Tweedmuir History Books. The web page here gives the background on these local histories compiled by Women's Institute branches. If you run into a genealogical roadblock, and the family is thought to have been in a community for some while, its often worth going after a local history, like a Tweedsmuir.

Finally the panel demonstrated tracing an ancestry back to establish Loyalist ancestry. I liked the fact that the search used a variety of sources. It demonstrated evaluating the likely reliability of conflicting records, so justifying ignoring data provided by an uninformed source.

30 November 2007

LAC Service Advisory Board Meeting - 30 November 2007

The first meeting of the Board was held at 395 Wellington Street from 9am to 3:30pm, LAC Assistant Deputy Minister Doug Rimmer was in chair. All but two of the members were present or represented.

All the background documents from the meeting will be posted on the LAC web site, including a list of members along with minutes from the meeting. It was decided that the agenda and documents for future meetings will be posted in advance to facilitate Board members consulting with their constituencies.

The morning agenda comprised introductions, confirming the board mandate, background briefings on LAC and the rationale behind the reduction in opening hours introduced by LAC in September and subsequent reversal of some of the reductions.

The Board's deliberated on the opening hours in the afternoon. Members recommended that earlier opening and later closing be implemented as soon as possible, but were concerned that restoring hours by itself was not sufficient. LAC management undertook to review the policy on use of digital cameras, to make it more flexible, and improved management of the workflow around the "fishbowl" where documents are ordered, received and copies arranged.

There was a commitment to hold an open consultation meeting at 395 Wellington in January.

The next Board meeting will be in late February of early March.

29 November 2007

The Ancestry.ca Survey

Canada Newswire carried a press release on Wednesday Do you know your grandmother's maiden name? One in four Canadians have no idea, according to Ancestry.ca survey.

Amongst the interesting findings in the release:

1. 73 per cent of Canadians are interested in learning more about their family history,with women slightly more interested than men;
2. The provincial breakdown is New Brunswickers (85%), followed by Albertans (82%) and British Columbians. 74% of Ontarians show interest and 67% of Quebecers. People from Saskatchewan (61%) show least interest.
3. 39 per cent of Canadians cannot trace their roots back more than 100 years;
4. 20 per cent don't know where their families came from before moving to Canada.

Some of the other findings of the survey were:

5. Four per cent of Canadians claim to be able to trace their family history back more than 500 years;
6. Almost half of all Canadians (48 per cent) would consider having their DNA tested to discover more about their ancestry.

My only disappointment was that the press release included quotes from Megan Smolenyak, identified as chief family historian for Ancestry.ca. Megan is someone I admire. I heard her speak on DNA and learned a lot. I recommend her book with Ann Turner, Trace Your Roots with DNA, for those wanting to learn about genetic genealogy. I have no argument with what she is quoted as saying.
But she's no Canadian. It's not as if there's any lack of top rate people in genealogy in Canada, and getting a Canadian to comment would have helped further promote family history in Canada. Ancestry should be more sensitive in the future.

28 November 2007

Sources for Research in Welsh Genealogy

A knowledge of English genealogical sources can get you a long way in researching Welsh family history, especially for the period after the introduction of civil registration and the nominal census. Research in the Principality does have its own peculiarities, so this online guide to sources, compiled from The Local History and Genealogy Reading Room of the US Library of Congress, is welcome.

The sources are given under the headings: Handbooks; Pedigrees and Family Histories; Bibliographies; Parish Registers; Local History; Biographical Information; Records; Maps, Atlases, Gazetteers; Geographical Names; Personal Names; Periodicals; Religions; and Welsh in the United States.

Aside from the sources listed the guide recommends two web sites, the National Library of Wales and GENUKI for Wales.

Some of the sources are quite old and unlikely to be found in your local library, but being well out of copyright may have become available online. One such, found through Google Books, is the 1852 publication "A Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Welshmen" by Robert Williams.

For those who find the idea of a whole book on "eminent Welshmen" rather unlikely, is it any more oxymoronic than one on "sober Scotsmen" or "modest Englishmen" or "sensitive Americans" or "intellectual hockey fans"?

Impact of LAC's reduced opening hours

The papers to support LAC's Services Advisory Board deliberations on Friday arrived on Tuesday. The most interesting examines the impacts recent changes to service hours have had on visit patterns at 395 Wellington according to the "log books" used to record the arrival and departure of clients.

Overall it appears the number of daily visits declined by about 7% in September as a result of the reduction in hours. A large part is the result of fewer visits between 8am and 10am on weekdays, with a slight increase in the next hour. There are also substantially fewer people in the building in the late afternoon.

Could it be a coincidence that it is just the hours where LAC Service Staff are no longer available that have seen the biggest decreases? By contrast, the reinstatement of weekday late evening and weekend morning unstaffed hours caters to only a small number of visitors.

My hypothesis is that it is lack of access to support services, especially the ability to order and receive materials, that is responsible for the reductions in number of clients in the shoulder hours, and not so much the lack of professional consultation services.

Do you agree? All observations welcome.

27 November 2007

Hats off to Ottawa Branch of OGS

The Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society have announced a donation to the Ottawa City Archives. The Canon model reader-printer, a similar model to those at LAC, will be a tremendous addition to the legacy machines, many of which are well passed their best before date. The machine is delivered and awaiting installation. A training session for volunteers and staff is planned.

The donation was made possible by a healthy surplus generated when the Branch hosted the annual OGS Seminar last June, thanks in large part to the volunteer efforts of many of their members. Thank you Ottawa Branch.

26 November 2007

25 November 2007

Thank you Andrew

Thanksgiving may be over in Canada and the US, but its not too late to give thanks for the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie who was born on this day, November 25th 1835, in Dunfirmline, Scotland.

The first library I every used, in Gorleston, Norfolk, was a Carnegie library. Ottawa's main library was originally supported by Carnegie with a $100,000 donation. That was only after city Council had voted down a motion to build a library as . . . the city just didn’t have any money to spare for “luxuries.” Some on the present Ottawa city council must be close genetic descendants of their predecessors.

24 November 2007

1930s now online at Ancestors Onboard

Recently added from the folks at Find My Past are British outbound passenger lists from 1930-1939. The series is now complete from 1890 when this record series started to WW2. The period of record now online is said to include 18.4 million names within 125,000 passenger lists. Find more detail here.

23 November 2007

LAC restores most opening hours

Good News!

As of Monday, November 26, 2007, the Consultation Rooms and the Canadian Genealogy Centre on the third floor, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, will be open for the following hours:

  • Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. - 11 p.m.
    * With LAC Service Staff available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Saturday - Sunday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Statutory Holidays: Closed
More details are posted on the LAC web site here.

This removes a considerable irritant, largely the result a wide range of clients making their views known, and doing so clearly. Congratulations and thanks to them.

The reduced hours with LAC staff available remains a concern, and will undoubtedly be raised when the LAC Service Advisory Board meets on November 30th.

English surname suffixes

The Daily Telegraph has an article based on a new volume in the English Surnames Survey series, The North Through its Names: A Phenomenology of Medieval and Early-Modern Northern England by Dave Postles

It's fairly well known that Mc, Mac, Fitz, O' and ap are British surname prefixes, and "son" and "s " suffixes meaning "of" in the sense "son of" or "daughter of" or "family of." I was not aware that the suffix "son" generally has northern English roots, while similar surnames with "s" on the end indicate southern English ancestry.

I checked this out using Stephen Archer's British 19th Century Surname Atlas, which is based on the 1881 census. Adamson, on the top left, and Adams, bottom left, show the pattern, as do Johnson and Johns on the right. You can easily try this yourself with the online surname distribution facility on the new National Trust Names site. Try Roberts and Robertson.

Postles' book is 208p, published by Oxbow Books in 2007) ISBN-13: 978-1-84217-176-9 ISBN-10: 1-84217-176-3.

There's an excellent Modern British Surname web site worth reviewing. Those not intimidated by statistics will especially appreciate it.

22 November 2007

NWMP Service Files Online

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) with their iconic red tunic, their legendary courage and perseverance, have been an integral part of Canadian popular culture for well over a century.

LAC have just put online the full surviving service file on each of the more than 4,000 men who served with the North West Mounted Police (NWMP), the RCMP's forerunner, between 1873 and 1904. Included you will find official forms, letters of recommendation for enlistment, personal correspondence, clippings and other information about the individual, sometimes long after he took his discharge from the Mounted Police. If one of these men was a relative you've found a gem to include in your family history, one any genealogist would treasure, a remarkable window on his life.

These are part of a major new LAC online exhibition, not yet publicized, Without Fear, Favour or Affection: The Men of the North West Mounted Police. To get a more rounded picture of life in the force have a look at the sections Signing Up," "On the Job," "Serving the Nation"

21 November 2007

The Trouble With WDYTYA

While in England I watched four taped episodes of WDYTYA, and had two in the Canadian series waiting on my return. I was reminded of smoked salmon.

I love smoked salmon. It's a delight when the sandwiches turn up on the deli platter, rather than pervasive mystery meat. I usually buy a package when it goes on special. If the sale lasts long enough I buy a second lot, but at the end of that will tire of it.

There's an element missing with WDYTYA, and I think I know what it is. Learning the origins of people is interesting. The story moves from a relative, who has documents at hand and is ready with the key information, to an archives where the original source documents are set out, to an ancestral location where a locally knowledgeable historian or distant relative appears to reveal more of the story.

What isn't being captured is the excitement of the chase. When every stop yields further progress you lose the thrill that follows the frustration of a long search rewarded at an unexpected point. We've all experienced the moment at an archives or family history centre -- inhibitions drop and you let out a cry of delight, causing those around to smile as they recognize the emotion. It's the powerful motivation provided by random reward. Just like smoked salmon, the satisfaction grows dull when the reward is too predictable. Maybe hours of fruitless searching don't make for good television, but it's an element of the genealogical hunt that doesn't come through in WDYTYA and that keeps genealogists motivated, year after year, battering at their brick walls.

20 November 2007

John Green: Whose father was he?

For those in the Ottawa area, a reminder that the OGS Ottawa Branch's monthly meeting presentation this evening, 20 November, is by Alison Hare. This is an update of her award-winning presentation given to BIFHSGO earlier in the year and well worth hearing again.

In 1836 John Green petitioned for land in the Ottawa Valley near an unnamed son he said had come to Canada at the time of the Peter Robinson settlers. Research eventually determined that none of the Peter Robinson settlers were viable candidates. When all the possibilities have been ruled out, what is a researcher to do? This case study reveals the surprising answer to the mystery, and demonstrates how the Genealogical Proof Standard can help solve difficult problems.

19 November 2007

Update on genealogy databases

Great Ormond Street children’s hospital patients: 1852 - 1914

London’s Great Ormond Street children’s hospital has launched a web site containing more than 50 years’ worth of patient records. The new site covers over 84,000 child patients who were treated between 1852 and 1914. You can search it at http://www.smallandspecial.org/ .

From the front page you can search by first name, surname, and approximate year of birth. (There is a far more extensive search available at http://www.smallandspecial.org/search but you’ll have to register to use it.)

The results are in a table that shows date of admission, sex, name, diseases, and registration district. There are no hyperlinks on the table but you can choose a name and click on it for more details. Additional information includes admitting doctor, ward, and length of stay. If you register on the site (registration is free) you’ll get even more information including case notes, residence of the patient, and outcome of the disease. (Not all data is available for all records.)

This information found through ResearchBuzz

Ancestry - British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920

The WO363 records, known as the Burnt Documents, are now a database containing the surviving service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who served in WWI and did not re-enlist in the Army prior to World War II. The documents included are: Attestation forms, Medical history forms, Casualty forms, Disability statements, Regimental conduct sheets, Awards, Proceedings on Discharge, Cover for Discharge Documents, Index Cards. The type of information to be found is: name of solider, age, birthplace, occupation, marital status, and regiment number.

Only information for some soldiers with surnames beginning A - C is available at present.

Ancestry - Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901-1936
Looking for strays? This database contains selected Australian electoral rolls, with the exception of South Australia. Electoral rolls were compiled by each state during election years to determine the number and names of individuals eligible to vote. Only those of voting age who were British subjects and not aboriginals were allowed to vote in the years included. Information listed in electoral rolls usually includes: name of voter, gender, address, and occupation.

This database currently includes electoral rolls for the following states and years:

  • Australian Capital Territory: 1928, 1935

  • New South Wales: 1930, 1936

  • Northern Territory: 1922, 1929, 1934

  • Queensland: 1903, 1905, 1913, 1919, 1925, 1930, 1936

  • Tasmania: 1914, 1919, 1928, 1936

  • Victoria: 1856, 1903, 1909, 1914, 1919, 1924, 1931, 1936

  • Western Australia: 1901, 1906, 1916, 1925, 1936

17 November 2007

23andMe article in Wired

Wired Magazine online has a good article 23andMe Will Decode Your DNA for $1,000 which nicely complements my recent posting The Killer in Me (below).

The article is mainly about the company and what their DNA analysis might be able to tell you, and not tell you, about your genetic susceptibility to a variety of diseases. It also tells a celebrity genealogy anecdote:

"Jimmy Buffett dropped by to get an early peek at his results. A few month's earlier, the singer had let 23andMe peruse his genotype and compare his genealogy to Warren Buffett's. The two men had long wondered if they were somehow related (they aren't, it turns out). Now Jimmy wanted to check out the whole experience. He sat down in front of a laptop in Wojcicki's office, and she looked over his shoulder, guiding him through the site. First he clicked through his ancestral genome, noting that his maternal lineage showed a strong connection to the British Isles. "So the women came over with the Saxon invasion; pretty cool," he said. Another click and he perused his similarity to other ethnic groups, spotting a strong link to the Basque region of Spain. "No wonder I like Basque food so much," he noted."

This gives the impression that at the moment you won't get any more out of 23andMe's analysis for genealogy than from the less costly services that have been available for several years from companies like Family Tree DNA. But those companies must be closely watching technology developments, especially the ability to analyse thousands of SNPs from across the whole genome for a few hundred dollars. A recent press release from Family Tree DNA shows the company continuing to concentrate on Y and mitrochrondrial DNA, with more emphasis on full sequence mitochrondrial analysis.

16 November 2007

The Killer in Me

This isn't a confession of homicidal tendencies, but the title of a TV program that aired on ITV in England on 8 November. Four celebrities took DNA tests to identify their vulnerability to genetics-based disease. DNA tests are a better approach to assessing genetic susceptibility more often addressed when the family doctor asks about family history of certain diseases.

The program turned out to be a bit of an advertorial for the UK company Genetic Health. Some time was spent on "why take a test." Because for many diseases genetics is only one risk factor knowing about "bad genes" can spur you on to lifestyle changes. In some instances these can entirely compensate for an adverse genetic risk. They argue that if you have a regular medical checkup then a DNA test is a logical extension of the precaution.

The argument fails where a DNA test can identify a genetic risk for which nothing can be done, and the program showed one celebrity struggling with whether to take a test for vulnerability to Alzheimer's for which there was a recent family history and no treatment. She ended up declining the test.

By contrast one of the subjects had been concerned about a family history of heart disease, and was delighted to learn that his risk was low. The program quoted the statistic that 90% of people offered a test choose to take it. In presenting test results showing elevated risk the doctor was careful to quickly follow on with suggestions for compensatory lifestyle changes.

There were a few areas where the program could have been better. In making the decision about whether to take a test there was no discussion of the possible impact on ability to get life or health insurance, nor the possible impact on others. As someone with a science background I would have liked to have seen some discussion of the error bands on the assigned genetic risk.

15 November 2007

Well done Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Remembrance Day saw me visiting the grave of my great uncle in Chichester, West Sussex. He migrated to Canada a couple of years before WW1, enlisted in the CEF at the start of the war, lost sight in both eyes in battle, returned to Canada to try farming in Saskatchewan, but eventually returned to live in England. I never met him, and only relatively recently did I discover he had any connection with Canada.
On leaving the cemetery I spotted several Commonwealth War Graves Commission graves for Canadians who died serving in WW1. Before it started raining I noted 234690, Lance Cpl Gilbert Desjarlais, 1036122 Private A Cossette, and 404521 Private J A Allen, each well tended grave with a memorial cross and poppy placed for Remembrance Day.

14 November 2007

West Surrey FHS Show

On Saturday 3 November I had the chance to stop by this regional event organized in Woking, Surrey, by the local family history society. It consisted of a marketplace, roughly the size of that at the last OGS Seminar, with stalls from several similar societies from surrounding counties and smaller companies. The larger companies; Ancestry, Find My Past, Family Tree and Your Family Tree were missing. The Society of Genealogists was the present. Most stalls were continually busy.

A second room featured help desks on a variety of topics and 10 minute mini-lectures. I spent time at the stand of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. Chris Pomery, author of "DNA and Family History", and a new book "Family History in the Genes" was present. The new book is a smaller format than his first and aimed more at a beginner level. I got the impression that there was less interest in DNA in the UK than North America, but there is the likelihood of a linkage with the Guild of One Name Studies, which would be a natural.

Free admission meant there were lots of people there. The organizing society made income from renting tables to exhibitors, but I can't imagine that covered the full cost. They may well have had a grant or similar support.

06 November 2007

WDYTYA (UK) - Carol Vorderman

I had the chance to watch a tape of this programme and compare it with
the Canadian version. The look and feel are much the same, especially
for this episode composed of independant investigations on her
maternal and paternal sides.
For those surprised at the way these episodes develop, a short item in
the December issue of Ancestors magazine is instructive. Producers
were accused by some of the local experts of asking them to lie for
the camera. The BBC is quoted as claiming it is 'absolutely not a case
of misrepresentation." They explained that because it was not a
documentary but a 'formatted factual entertainment series', they were
allowed to use 'different approaches.'

02 November 2007

Family time

Expect posts to be limited for the first half of November while I deal with family matters.

31 October 2007

Canadian Digital Information Strategy

Yesterday one of this blog's regular readers passed along information on a draft strategy, in the form of a copy of a letter to LAC. Today there was a posting about the strategy on the Ten Thousand Year Blog, one I monitor regularly. Although the development of the strategy is being led by LAC there is nothing about it on their web site, not yet anyway.

Perhaps LAC has a new communication strategy that relies on bloggers!

Or perhaps LAC is looking to bury it.

UPDATE: As of 2pm a notice was posted here.

The document describes itself as 'a call to action' and ‘a hymn book from which we can all begin to sing’. It's full of mush like ... Canada can be a leader ... even though a substantial part of the document shows how Canada is a laggard. Most would be appropriate to any country if you replaced Canada and Canadians by the appropriate words.

There seems to be a scratching around for substance when they ask 'As you review this draft, we ask you to consider how to advance its implementation and to suggest concrete follow-up steps that will ensure that the Strategy is acted upon.' They desperately need client input, which is notably absent, and ask for it by 22 November.

30 October 2007

Is Stephen Harper related to Count Dracula?

Recently the press have been having some fun with celebrity genealogy. US vice-President Cheney is related to presidential candidate Barack Obama according to the Associated Press. An Obama spokesman quipped that every family has its black sheep. CBS news reported that Obama is also President Bush's 11th cousin, and the ninth cousin of actor Brad Pitt.

The same CBS report revealed that Bush is also seventh cousin, five times removed of Abraham Lincoln; 11th cousin, twice removed of Princess Diana; and ninth cousin, three times removed to Marilyn Monroe.

Even with the loonie leaving the US buck in the dust, can Prime Minister Stephen Joseph Harper possibly hold his own in that social league?

Now, in an Anglo-Celtic Connections exclusive, I can reveal that the same resource used for Obama and Bush, ancestry.com, shows Harper has similarly notable relatives. The link is through his great-great grandfather Bedford Harper's mother, Susan Crane.

In Canada Harper is related to Prime Ministers Robert L Borden and Richard B Bennett, all three Conservatives.

In the USA Harper is related to President Millard Fillmore, who served for the Whig party, forerunner of the Republicans; and Republicans James Garfield and Gerald Ford.

Is this right leaning tendency coincidence or genetic? A genetic basis may not be so far fetched an idea. If homosexuality can be genetic, as some believe, why not conservatism?

If Harper took a Y-DNA test maybe he'd find he shares the profile associated with descendants of Genghis Khan. Or perhaps there's a connection though his Harper line which goes back to the county of Yorkshire in England. He may descend from marauding Viking raiders.

Let this be a warning to kids out trick or treating in the vicinity of 24 Sussex Drive, a relative of Count Dracula may be in the vicinity!

29 October 2007

UK Newspaper Digitization, and Indexing

In a GENBRIT Rootsweb posting Hugh Watkins draws attention to the free online Cambrian Index database. It contains close to 400,000 entries for birth, marriage and death, most of them extracted from The Cambrian which claims to be the first newspaper published in Wales, and covers the major part of the nineteenth century. There are also entries from The South Wales Daily Post and the Western Mail.

Watkins' post was commenting on a new set of databases from the "Gale Group" which came online 22 October. The 19th Century British Library Newspapers contains full runs of 48 influential national and regional newspapers including the Birmingham Daily Post (1857-1900). Liverpool Mercury (1811-1900) and Glasgow Herald (1820-1900). For those with black sheep grazing in the family tree, or their victims, the collection includes the Illustrated Police News (1867-1900). A full list of titles and coverage is here.

Those of us outside the UK are shut out of access at present. Put a trip to a local university on your list of things to do on your next visit. Supposedly it's available to all further and higher education UK institutions.

28 October 2007

AIA - North West Rebellion

Despite a few problems this Ancestors in the Attic episode, attempting to verify a family legend about the involvement of a man from B Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery in capturing Chief Big Bear during the 1885 North West Rebellion, was interesting.

Contrary to the information given, the CPR was not complete at the time of the Rebellion. This meant that soldiers from eastern Canada had to bridge four gaps in the line north of the upper Great Lakes on foot or in sleighs on their journey west.

Contrary to the impression given, The Library of Parliament is available to the public only in exceptional circumstances, if no other option for viewing the material exists. A television crew gains access where no ordinary researcher can. Fortunately there's a much easier, if less picturesque option to view Sessional Papers for the period. They are freely available through the Early Official Publications project of Early Canadiana Online - here.

Contrary to the impression given there is no big mystery about whether Chief Big Bear was involved in the Battle of Cut Knife Hill. Virtually any book on the Rebellion will confirm he was not.

If you're researching the Rebellion check out BIFHSGO's database containing information on 5,189 men who served in 1885. It's a transcription of a compilation by Charles Arkell Boulton, each record providing the soldier's name, company, and unit. Also provided are the individual's rank, regiment and company and notes regarding fatalities and injuries.

26 October 2007

WDYTYA - Steven Page

In Thursday evening's episode following his maternal line allows Steven Page to explore the life of a Jewish immigrant family in early 20th century Toronto, and trace them back to Poland. There is a good web article supporting the program. While at the site don't forget to visit the Digging Back section to see if there's one of the short video educational segments you haven't viewed.
Maybe it's obvious, but a teaching opportunity was missed when it was not pointed out that only because the family ancestral home-town was mentioned in a diary could they identify it. Without that family record they would probably be stuck only knowing the information from the census, that the ancestor was born in Russian dominated Poland.
The final scene had Page visiting the site of a former Jewish cemetery in his Polish ancestral village, which no longer has Jewish residents owing to the inhumanity of one race against another. The desolate cemetery is marked by a monument erected by local historians.
In an interesting juxtaposition the following program, The Nature of Things, featured locations where people had been driven out by climate change. If that climate change is being caused by our over-reliance on fossil fuels maybe that depopulation too is an example of the effects of blind inhumanity.

25 October 2007

Globe and Mail TV Genealogy Article

There is a good article about the current crop of Canadian genealogy TV shows in today's Globe and Mail, here.

Remarks to LAC

While I'm still waiting for the text of the CHA press release, here are the remarks I made at the meeting on October 23 between a CHA-led client group and the Librarian and Archivist of Canada with other LAC senior executives.

Although officially representing the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa, I believe I speak for most Canadian genealogists in expressing appreciation for the efforts Library and Archives Canada has made to cater to our community by placing some of the most frequently consulted original records online.

Each community represented here probably has an aspect of the cut in hours that hurts most. Based on my consultation, what directly hurts the genealogical community most is the loss of the weekday morning hours, and thus the ability to get material retrieved promptly so that we can work on it during the remainder of the day. There seems to be no data showing that this morning period was not well used.

The other hours cut seem to hurt genealogists more indirectly. Authors and researchers can no longer as easily complete the comprehensive investigations needed for articles, books, films and TV programs we genealogists would like to see. The historians we genealogists would like to have staff archives, maybe even your successors’ successor, find it more difficult to graduate.

I have also heard considerable complaint about a declining level of service at LAC, especially, but not only, regarding the support staff who rarely stay in one place long enough the master the job. Knowledgeable clients find themselves drawn into helping other clients because staff help is so lacking. The newly reduced hours are being cut even more when staff close off facilities early. This happened just yesterday when a lens was removed from a microfilm reader-printer at 3:45pm while the client was temporarily out of the room.

LAC has been under budget restraint for so long I suspect you are suffering from the pernicious death by a thousand cuts and may not appreciate how critical the situation has become. How do you measure this? It appears the Auditor General has never looked at LAC services, and I’m wondering if any recent internal audits or evaluations have been undertaken.

It’s unfortunate your effort to put more material online was presented as a zero sum game – more material online = less physical access. I know you have partnerships, and plans for more of them. That should lead to more information online. It should mean making the pie bigger, not slicing the same pie differently. I asked on my blog, and four out of five people agreed with the statement "I would accept the presence of banner ads on LAC online products if it resulted in more products becoming available and less pressure to cut back on other services?" Ads are becoming increasingly accepted as a way to support online content, witness changes at the NYT and CNN. That’s one opportunity, I’m sure there are others.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to us today.

In his subsequent remarks Ian Wilson made a specific reference to the notion of ad supported products on the LAC web site saying they had broached the idea but it is contrary to government policy.

I'm sure my perspectives are not everyone's. Share your's by posting a comment.

23 October 2007

No change in LAC hours, but early consideration promised

A delegation lead by Craig Heron, President of the Canadian Historical Association, met with Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, and two of his senior executives, to discuss the reduction of hours at LAC and other issues today, Tuesday 23 October. A complete list of meeting participants is below.

A press release from CHA will be posted here soon.

Ian Wilson confessed that the reduction in hours without consultation was a mistake. He listened carefully to the interventions from delegation members and undertook to review the decision on opening hours with his management team within the context of a mid-year organizational review, the results of which should be apparent by the time of the first meeting of the LAC Services Advisory Board which will likely be held toward the end of November.

Meeting participants
Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada
Doug Rimmer, Assistant Deputy Minister,
Michelle Doucet, Director General, Services

Craig Heron, Canadian Historical Association
Peter Di Gangi, Algonquin Nation Secretariat
Grace Welch, Association for Canadian Map Libraries and Archives
John Reid, British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa
Jean-Francois Lozier, CHA Graduate Students' Committee
Marc Vallières, Institut d’histoire de l’Amérique française
Krista Cooke, National Council on Public History
Brian Osborne, Ontario Historical Association
Andrew Waldron, Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada
Susan Swan & Deborah Windsor, Writers' Union of Canada