31 January 2007

Nahanni and the British Library

In Canada we have National Parks that few will ever visit. But there is wide support for protecting them. The Nahanni National Park Reserve is one. They are part of Canada's heritage and define our national identity.

In the UK the British Library plays a similar part in helping defining the national identity, so it's sad to read reports of politicians so careless of the heritage entrusted to them that they are prepared to put a price on, and in some instances close, access to documentary heritage. This article from The Independent documents the proposals.

I have used the British Library once, quite a few years ago, looking for genealogical information on an East India Company soldier. It's an inspiring facility next to St Pancras Station. The Newspaper Library, which I've also used, is nondescript in its North London obscurity, but the contents include local newspapers which are the paper of record for ordinary folks. Pity the politicians don't seem to care about ordinary folks and their history, a sure sign they've been in power for too long.

30 January 2007

Ulster Town Directories - 1910

You won't often find mention of Irish resources here, I don't have any Irish ancestry, and most of those I know with Irish roots had ancestors who left during the famine, or earlier, a notoriously difficult period to research..

One of the better Irish resources is LibraryIreland. I've mentioned it before, " a free information resource on Irish antiquities, biography, genealogy, history (general, local and social), literature, and much more besides."

It's worth checking out, especially if you had family members who might appear in one of the 1910 directories for the towns below.

Incidentally, the theme of BIFHSGO's annual September conference this year is Ireland. Watch here or the BIFHSGO web site for an announcement of a speaker, maybe even speakers, directly from Ireland.

Aghalee,Annalong,Antrim,Ardara,Ardglass,Armagh,Armoy,Aughnacloy,Bailieborough, Ballinamallard,Ballintoy,Ballybay,Ballybofey, Ballycarry,Ballycastle,Ballyclare, Ballygawley, Ballygowan, Ballymena,Ballymoney,Ballynahinch,Ballyshannon,Ballywalter, Banbridge,Bangor,Bellaghy,Belleek,Belturbet,Benburb,Beragh,Bessbrook, Buncrana, Bushmills,Caledon,Carnlough,Carrickfergus,Carrickmacross,Carrickmore, Castleblayney, Castlecaulfield, Castledawson,Castlederg,Castlerock,Castlewellan,Cavan, Clones, Clogher,Clough(Antrim),Clough(Down), Cloughmills,Coleraine,Comber,Cookstown, Cootehill, Crossgar, Crossmaglen,Cushendall,Desertmartin, Doagh, Donaghadee, Donaghmore, Donegal, Downpatrick, Draperstown, Dromara, Dromore (Down), Dromore (Tyrone), Drumquin, Dundrum, Dunfanaghy, Dungannon, Dungiven, Enniskillen,
Falcarragh, Fintona, Fivemiletown, Galgorm, Garvagh Gilford (Down), Glenarm, Glenavy, Glenties, Gortin, Gracehill, Greyabbey, Groomsport, Hillsborough, Holywood, Irvinestown, Islandmagee, Keady, Kilkeel, Killinchy, Killough, Killybegs, Kilrea, Kirkcubbin, Larne, Laurencetown, Letterkenny, Limavady, Lisbellaw, Lisburn, Lisnaskea, Londonderry, Loughbrickland, Lurgan, Maghera, Magherafelt, Maguiresbridge, Markethill, Martinstown, Milford, Moira, Monaghan, Moneymore, Moorfields, Moville, Moy and District, Muckamore,
Newcastle, Newry (Down and Armagh), Newtownards, Newtowncrommelin, Newtownhamilton,
Newtownstewart, Omagh, Pettigo, Pomeroy, Portadown, Portaferry, Portballintrae, Portglenone, Portrush, Portstewart, Poyntzpass, Randalstown, Raphoe, Rasharkin, Rathfriland, Rathmullan, Richhill, Rostrevor, Saintfield, Scarva, Seaforde, Shercock, Sixmilecross, Stewartstown, Strabane, Swanlibar, Templepatrick, Toomebridge, Trillick, Waringstown, Warrenpoint, Whitehead.

28 January 2007

What good is genealogy?

A good way to keep seniors occupied so they don't riot on the streets in protest against Blair/Bush/Howard/Harper? A way to recycle senior's excess savings when they no longer have a mortgage? A good way to link generations? A job? A useful complement to local and public history?

Maybe all of the above!

How about as a useful contribution to your health care?

At least three members of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa have been treated for prostate cancer in the past year. Fortunately the prognosis is good for prostate cancers detected in the local and regional stages, nearly 100 per cent of men diagnosed in these early stages will be disease-free after five years. Amongst the risk factors are age, more than 65 per cent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65. The chances of being diagnosed are doubled when a relative has been diagnosed with the disease, and the risk is highest for men who have had relatives diagnosed before the age of 65. Do you have Irish ancestry? A study by the Irish Cancer Society found that the incidence and death rates from prostate cancer are higher in Ireland than in England, Scotland and Wales.

Men, make sure you are checked regularly and tell your family doctor if there is a family history of the disease.

25 January 2007

Ancestors or Oprah?

The TV choice facing me at 8 pm last evening was Ancestors in the Attic on History Television Canada or Oprah's Roots: An African American Lives Special on PBS. I opted for Ancestors.

The first segment, finding information on Howard Dabbs, a Canadian bomber captain who died at the age of 20 during a WWII mission, and whether there was a Dabbs Lake named after him, should have been no more difficult than searching Google, a newspaper archive online or Canada Geonames. Just about all the family history research seemed to have already been done by a relative.

The second segment showed how to find coroner's reports. What was not said was that often you are better off checking local newspaper coverage than looking for a coroner's report.

The final segment was on the Rush family, father and children, who were inmates of Smallburgh Union Workhouse in Norfolk, England, in 1851. The panel relied on census records to infer that the mother had deserted the family. It would have been good to check the records of the workhouse for the period which are at the Norfolk Record Office in Norwich.

I switched to PBS after Ancestors. What a refreshing difference in presentation style!

24 January 2007

TNA Podcasts

For those of us who research family history in the UK and Ireland from North America it's frustrating to learn about expert presentations being given back there, and having no access. Now there is one channel opening up, and it's free. The National Archives at Kew has placed online a series of talks, some of which are relevant to family history, in the form of podcasts. "Tracing births and deaths on board British and colonial-registered merchant ships " was given last December by Chris Watts of TNA. The link for this and other TNA podcasts is here.

23 January 2007

The Genealogy Community

I try and keep an eye on visits to this blog and have noticed a slight surge in hits by new visitors today. I wasn't sure why, then had a look at my Bloglines search file. I have a standing search for "genealogy" combined with a few negative search terms to filter out some of the garbage. Anyway, I spotted that I've been tagged by Family Matters: tech support for the family historian.

I'm not entirely sure what's involved, but as I understand the game I'm supposed to reveal some little know facts about myself, and finish with some links (tags?) to other genealogy blogs I read. Here goes.

  • Anglo-Celtic-Connections is a rip off of Anglo-Celtic Roots, the quarterly chronicle of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO). I've been compiling a monthly email newsletter that goes to BIFHSGO members a week before each monthly meeting. Last March I decided to start previewing some of those items in this blog which is now passed 200 posts.
  • My computer skills go back a long way but are pretty rusty. I first learned to program at the University of London (England) in the mid 1960s using the ATLAS computer and CHLF3 autocode. Anyone hear of them?
  • In my teens I was once an extra in a movie, and have done TV interviews including as a subject expert on History Television Canada on the most deadly US hurricane, 1900 landfall at Galveston, as it continued north to Canada and then east to Newfoundland waters where more than 100 people were killed.
  • I have been a resident of Ottawa for more than 20 years, but have also lived in Toronto, Fort Collins (CO), Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, and back in the UK in Leicestershire and Norfolk.
  • I'm still lamenting the loss last year of genealogist Ryan Taylor, who, reflecting on the friendships generated, said "I enjoyed all the memories. That's the real truth about family history."
Now for the hard part as I don't read many genealogy blogs, preferring to find things via the Bloglines route mentioned above. Naturally I read Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter (Blog). Are podcasts allowed? If so I also listen regularly to the Genealogy Guys Podcast with George Morgan and Drew Smith. Another blog I visit regularly is Stephen's Lighthouse which is aimed at the technical library community. Don't genealogists depend on libraries? Stephen's ideas are most often worth pondering. Along the same lines, interesting but not genealogical, is The Ten Thousand Year Blog. Finally I'll mention the blog for Your Family Tree, a British Genealogy Magazine for which I occasionally write.

22 January 2007

Genealogists Support British Census Petition Online

The number of genealogists and others signing an online petition to reduce the classified (closed) period for British census data from 100 years to 70 years is mounting rapidly. As of this morning, Monday 22 January, there are more than 9,000 signatures. On Friday when I signed there were 5,000.

The petition calls for census information from 1911, 1921 and 1931 to be available for use by the general public researching their family history. Census data from the US 1930 census is available and there has been no sign of a problem.

If you are British, perhaps an expat like me, consider signing the online petition to the British Prime Minister . The deadline to sign up is 8 March 2007. See how many signatures there are now, and sign if you can, here.

21 January 2007

OGS Seminar Early Bird Registration Deadline

Don't miss saving on registration for the Ontario Genealogical Society's annual Seminar being held at Algonquin College in Ottawa from 1-3 June 2007. The deadline for Early Bird registration is 31 January. Details and registration forms are at http://ogsseminar.org/.

OGS Seminar is a highlight of the year for Ontario genealogists, and Ottawa is a popular venue as folks can combine the conference with a research trip to Library and Archives Canada. For those with Ottawa Valley roots it's an opportunity to visit other local archives, libraries and museums too.

If you're coming from a distance you might want to make a vacation of it and plan on attending the Quebec Family History Society Conference, Roots 2007, being held in Montreal at McGill University, June 15-17. Further information at www.qfhs.ca/program.html

18 January 2007

Ancestors in the Attic - week 11

It has been several weeks since I last saw an episode of this half hour program on History Television Canada. It ran at 8:00 pm on Wednesday, to be repeated twice out of prime time for the benefit of night owls and addicts.

Did absence make my heart grow fonder? Not regarding the host's performance. Is the line between irreverence and demeaning so fine?


The family history in this episode was encouraging. The first item, on coffin ship immigration in the Irish famine era has very nice supplemental material on the web site that vividly portrays the horrors of the voyage. The second item, supposedly seeking the grave of a women from the Ottawa Valley, showed the value of land records. But it seems that the grave location was previously known; the program web log says "she wanted to know why her g4-grandmother, “Granny” Martha Gardiner West is buried in Penatanguishene." The third, the expert panel segment, was the most problematic where it claimed that a picture found at the Toronto Archives was of the person in question. Perhaps so but the images shown didn't make the point.

Overall this material made for a better web site than TV. I won't be burning any late night oil to see this episode again.

17 January 2007

1911 England and Wales census search service

According to Garrick Webster posting on the Your Family Tree magazine blog, the National Archives has made limited searches of the 1911 Census for England and Wales available via a paid-for research service available as of today. This is a costly "bespoke" service and you need to know the address where the person was living. Family historians can go to The National Archives 1911 census page and fill in the request form.

See the full posting here.

15 January 2007

Free Databases for Genealogical Searching

Here is a site mentioned to me when I was at the Society of Genealogists earlier in the month. It was new to me and contains genealogy databases from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, USA and a few more categorized under the headings:

Archival search engines Emigration
Baptisms Immigration
Births Marriages
Burials Military & naval
Census Miscellanies
Crime, poor law, litigation Naturalizations
Deaths Occupations
Directories Probate
Divorces Property
Electoral rolls, poll tax, etc. Telephone directories

A word of caution. Although the site is free there are pop-under windows that appear using IE7. The Firefox browser suppresses them, but I did notice a flickering of the cursor, possibly related to the suppression. I recommend ensuring you have solid virus and trojan protection in place before trying these links.

14 January 2007

Do you use the library for genealogy?

Ottawa is a knowledge-based city (government and high tech), one that started moving away from a natural resource base 150 years ago and has never been strongly manufacturing-dependant. So Ottawa has more reason than most to nurture the knowledge skills of its people as the base of its economy.

I'm sure the city's mayor and councillors understand that, but equally they are subject to the tyranny of the urgent trumping the important. In the current situation it's the urgent need for some of them to meet a promise during the recent municipal election to hold the line on property taxes. Those who use and value the public library system are, or at least feel, threatened.

In Ottawa we are fortunate to have a library system that is sensitive to the needs of family historians, I know that having spoken to the City Librarian, Barbara Clubb. However, the OPL is not well funded, even compared to other Ontario communities and family history resources share in this poverty.

Thanks to a posting on Resource Shelf it was interesting to discover a report, hot off the e-press, from the US Urban Institute. Making Cities Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development adds to the body of research pointing to a shift in the role of public libraries—from a passive, recreational reading and research institution to an active economic development agent, addressing such pressing urban issues as literacy, workforce training, small business vitality and community quality of life. The study was commissioned by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. I suspect the findings are equally applicable to Canada. It should be required reading for local politicians.

11 January 2007

Catch-up Items

Having now returned from four weeks in England it's time to catch up with items included in the last BIFHSGO monthly enews.

www.aftermathww1.com recalls what happens when the boys came home after the Great War.

Stories of crimes from the London Crime Museum at: www.met.police.uk/history

Darlington Railway Centre and Museum at: www.drcm.org.uk
National Railway Museum at: wwwnrm.org.uk

08 January 2007


In the next few days Find My Past (formerly 1837online), in conjunction with The National Archives in the UK will bring on line the first major segment of digitized and searchable passenger lists for ships leaving British ports on long overseas voyages. The records are those of the UK Board of Trade, BT27, comprising those from 1890 to 1899, about 1,600 ships, and will be searchable by passenger name. The people included are those who purchased a ticket, not necessarily those who sailed, and comprises emigrants, European trans-migrants, business travelers, civil servants and diplomats and those traveling for leisure. Crew members are not listed.

This commercial database will be available at prices comparable to those charged for TNA’s Documents Online offerings.

This is the first part of a dataset that will eventually extend to 1960 and comprise more than 30 million names. Passenger lists to the end of the Great War should be available by the late Spring, and the project complete by early 2008.