30 June 2007

Another landmark Apple product

On a lighter note, with the release of Apple's iPhone, I recommend this video.

A happy Canada Day to fellow Canadian genealogists, and everyone else. See you on the other side.

29 June 2007

Ancestry British additions

Ancestry.co.uk have added to their British resources:

British Phone Books, 1880-1984 has been augmented and now comprises releases 1-3. It now extends beyond London and the home counties to include "near full county coverage for England as well as containing substantial records for Scotland, Ireland, and Wales."

Burke's Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland, and Scotland. This is the second edition from 1841.

Burke's Family Records. This is a 1994 reprint of the 1897 edition.

28 June 2007

Celebrating Ottawa's Heritage

Ottawa is a great place to be to celebrate during the summer, and especially for Canada Day. 2007 is special as it's the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria naming the City as the nation's capital.
We are also celebrating the 175th anniversary of the completion of the Rideau Canal and take pride in the announcement of it being named a World Heritage Site.

Colonel John By, an Englishman under whose direction the canal was built, is remembered in the City as the Ontario Civic Holiday is named for him.

Impressive memorial markers at St James Cemetery, Gatineau (Hull), to two other men without whom Ottawa would not have developed as it did, are shown in the picture. In the foreground, partially obscured by foliage, is the memorial to Philomen Wright who came from New England to develop land just across the Ottawa River from the City. The more distant white monument is to Nicholas Sparkes, an Irish immigrant, who developed much of the land on which Parliament Hill and adjacent Ottawa now stand.

27 June 2007

Five characteristics of highly effective genealogists

Professional genealogists normally follow the codes of practice, guidelines and standards of self-regulating bodies. In North America the BCG and NGS codes are well known. These and others are conveniently compiled near the end of the book Professional Genealogy. In the UK AGRA, the Association of Genealogists and Record Agents, and its Scottish counterpart ASGRA fill a similar role.

There are many people, professionals and serious hobbyists, who profess to follow these codes, but not all of them are highly effective. Some seem just more adept at seeing through the mass of detail, finding the obscure resource, exploiting known resources in innovative ways and communicating the findings.

While hardly the result of a scientific study, here are five characteristics that seem to apply to highly effective genealogists.

They have a passion for the topic
You might even say they're obsessed. Go to their home and you'll find it crammed with knowledge -- bookcases full of resources, magazines and papers in abundance. Checking their email account you'd find genealogy dominating the correspondence. They may well have a broad range of other interests but chances are a conversation will steer back toward family history. Their enthusiasm often means a tendency to be creative in their approach to a challenge, a readiness to step outside the routine assignment, take up an unusual challenge, or to accept a leadership role.

They are analytical
It's all too easy to get carried away with the chase in solving a genealogical problem. Effective genealogists ensure they are starting with the right information. They are doubting Thomases and look for proof, or source citations, for the information on which a query is based. They don't dismiss family stories but allow for fuzziness that might have crept in as the story is passed along, perhaps with a bit of wishful thinking or telling the story as it ought to have been, not as it was. Having assured themselves they are working from a good foundation they follow the usual pattern of analysis, plotting a research strategy and then put it into action. They face up to the reality of the findings, including what may sometimes be inconvenient truths.

They network
Many professional genealogists work independently in their own businesses. Quite a few practice their skills in a related profession, such as librarianship or education, but tend to be the sole genealogy specialist within the organization. In such situations it's easy to become isolated. Nobody is an expert in everything, even within the limited domain of family history. A highly effective genealogist knows the limits of his or her expertize, and has a network they can turn to. If the task leads to a jurisdiction or area in which the genealogist does not have expertize, or access to records, the network serves as a means to access it, or direct a client to a competent resource. The network also facilitates sharing information and discussion of items of mutual interest.

They embrace technology
Would you choose a family doctor who hadn't kept up with medical advances? Think about the way you did genealogy a few years ago, if you've been involved that long, and how you do it today. We all know genealogists who rely on binders full of family group sheets, but they aren't the highly effective ones, the ones as comfortable with DNA as DAR.
Effective genealogists leaverage their expertize by exploiting technology. They keep up-to-date on the ever expanding repertoire of online resources -- databases, digitized histories and newspapers -- even blogs!

They communicate well
As passionate, analytical, networked and technologically adept as one may be, all that can come to nought if the result isn't communicated to the client in a way they understand. Effective genealogists go beyond written report formats, as found in Professional Genealogy. They seek feedback and welcome further questions on findings. They delight the client by providing more than agreed, whether it be contextual or ideas for the next steps.

Most magazines and archives will provide you lists of genealogists offerring their professional services. If all you need is a look up, and you can't find a willing volunteer, most will likely do a competent job. But assessing their capabilities from an ad is tricky. You may not hit a highly effective genealogist, one who combines these five talents, right off. When you do cultivate them. The reward will be worth it.

26 June 2007

Beechwood in the latest Anglo-Celtic Roots

The summer issue of Anglo-Celtic Roots, volume 13, number 2, is now out; read a list of the major contents here and scroll to the bottom of the page. ACR was awarded the Newsletter award for major genealogical societies for the second time in three years at the recent annual meeting of the National Genealogical Society in Richmond, VA. This issue maintains that standard.

Beginning in this issue is a series by Glenn Wright on "Brits at Beechwood" -- that's Ottawa's Beechwood Cemetery. Last Sunday saw the annual summer tour of notable graves at Beechwood. The theme was Ottawa Poets and featured Duncan Campbell Scott, Arthur Stanley Bourinot, John Newlove, Nicholas Flood Davin, Marian "May" Osborne, William Wilfred Campbell, William Pittman Lett, and Archibald Lampman.

The story of William Pittman Lett was animated by "Mother McGinty" purveyor of beer and spirits in an establishment frequented by ladies with pretty ankles.

And there in whitewashed shanty grand,
With kegs and bottles on each hand,
Her face decked with a winning smile,
Her head with cap of ancient style,
Crowned arbiter of frolic’s fate,
Mother McGinty sat in state

You can read the Project Gutenberg version of Lett's Recollections of Bytown and Its Old Inhabitants here.

During the tour I walked with Glenn who passed on some astounding additional insights into the poets, so I'm certainly looking forward to reading his Beechwood series.

Another notable article with a Beechwood connection was by Margaret Burwell. Last year she was one of the animators on the Beechwood tour, which had a military theme. She spoke about her great aunt, Minnie K Gallaher, who was a nursing sister during WW1 and died in the sinking of the hospital ship Llandovery Castle on 27 June 1918. You'll have to find a copy of the issue to read this story of Margaret's great moment in genealogy.

25 June 2007

How do you search genealogy records?

It's a challenge we often face in genealogy. You receive a microfilm full of records arranged alphabetically and have to figure out how far to wind through the reel to get to the desired record. I've never heard anyone give guidance on how best to search.

I think most of us look at where the film begins and ends and then wind through the reel until you're at what you judge is about the right point. You check and wind a bit, or a lot, forward or backward, then check again. You keep on doing that, making the moves progressively smaller, until you find your record.

What do you do when the file is digital, with a sequence number and name listed only for the first and last record? That was what I was faced with when I signed up as a beta tester for the Pilot for FamilySearch - Record Search mentioned in a recent post by Randy Seaver. FamilySearch issued two challenges, the first was to figure out how to sign up, the second a search challenge -- finding a specific person's record in the US WWII Draft Registration Cards. They are arranged alphabetically by personal name but only roughly indexed, by blocks of about 5,000 records.

There must be an optimum way to search, involving some arithmetic, based on the fraction of the way between the extremes of the names in the sequence your name is likely to be found. If the sequence has all the surnames beginning with O, and the name you seek starts with Ow you might start 23/26ths of the way through the sequence numbers . The name you find could could be "Overy, Charles", so you refine the arithmetic using that name and sequence number.

It would be really nice if a tool could be made available to do the calculations for you, maybe even one that accounts for the relative frequency of names in the region covered.

There's another approach to save doing advanced arithmetic -- the half-way technique. First check the record half way through the sequence, you still need to do a little arithmetic but dividing by two is something most of us mastered a while ago! If the record you seek is beyond that point you go half way again to the end (75%) and check again. If that's past your record go back half way (66-2/3%) to the middle. You can estimate the number rather than calculate. It helps to record your results so you don't forget what was where. When you're in the right vicinity just search sequentially forward or back to your record.

I found the record I sought quite easily, without the frustration of a cranky microfilm reader. The cards were easy to read, the viewer worked quickly and had a good zoom capability. I'm looking forward to the increasing availability of microfilms from the LDS collection online. Try it yourself -- the instructions to register are at Randy's posting.

22 June 2007

New LAC homepage

After a week of announcing it's coming it's here, the new Library and Archives Canada homepage. The new is bolder than the old - I like that. Here they are together.

Unfortunately there's a significant blunder. On the right hand side text in the black boxes beside the pictures is the same colour as the background. I've highlighted the Canadian Genealogy Centre text to show it's there. Come on guys, you can do better than that!

LAC inform me that the text should come up black, and the boxes light grey.

Kudos to the web folks at LAC who have now fixed the problem.

Randy Seaver posted a comment asking for the address for Library and Archives Canada. It's www.collectionscanada.ca

CBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?"

CBC have released the names of the people featured in the Canadian version of this British hit TV program. The thirteen including: Don Cherry, Margot Kidder, Mary Walsh, Scott Thompson, Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, Steven Page, Avi Lewis, Sonja Smits, Measha Brueggergosman, Randy Bachman, Shaun Majumder, Chantal Kreviazuk. The series is now scheduled to launch on CBC Television on Thursday, October 11 at 7:30pm.

New British records

If your genealogy is in the British Isles consider checking out these recent additions to British, mainly English, records online.

British Origins added new records in May:
1831 Tithe Defaulters on Irish Origins -- over 29,000 names
Transatlantic Migration North America to Britain and Ireland 1858-1870 - - 42,000 names
Boyd’s Family Units -- the focus is London, "a further 10,000 Boyd’s Family Units family sheets which include 137,000 names"
London City Burials -- 36,000 burials in 76 parishes of the City of London from 1813-1853. There will certainly be overlap with the City of London burials 1788-1855 at FindMyPast.com

The Federation of Family History Societies added 336,000 records on June 5th. See details here.

FreeBMD was last updated on Sat 26 May 2007 and currently contains 134,484,978 distinct index records

UKBMD has additions to the local indexes to BMDs since the beginning of May for Cheshire, Isle of Wight, Lancashire, North Wales, Wiltshire and Yorkshire.

Ancestry have quietly added an update to the 1901 census of England -- it isn't clear how significant an update.

Ancestry have also added a database of Breconshire, Wales, marriages from 1813 to 1837 , the period just prior to the start of civil registration of marriages, compiled from parish registers and Bishop’s Transcripts.

In addition, remember that Rootsweb's WorldConnect is continually being updated.

20 June 2007

Ancestry re-enters the DNA testing market

Ancestry.com's (officially The Generations Network) announcement earlier in the week that they are re-entering the DNA testing field is welcome news. It increases competition.

Ancestry previously had a brief fling with DNA testing. They entered the field in January 2002, in a partnership with Relative Genetics, a Sorenson Group company, with a 24 marker Y-DNA test, a mitrochrondrial DNA test for both the HVR1 and HVR2 regions. Both Y- and mt- DNA tests retailed for about $220US with promotional discounts offered. A five marker mtDNA test for native American heritage was also marketed. They exited the field in July of that year; I'm not aware a reason was ever given. Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) offered a conversion kit so that folks who had tested with Ancestry could transfer results to their database.

This week's announcement brings the DNA analysis expertize of Sorenson Genomics into partnership with the database and marketing expertize of Ancestry. The Sorenson group is closing their Relative Genetics retail operation, which responses at my presentations indicate only had a tiny market share.

The news release mentions that results of the Relative Genetics' DNA database will be included in Ancestry.com's database. Will the partnership be ethical enough to offer an opt out, or even better an opt in, provision? Many people who test are hesitant to publicly release their DNA results preferring the type of matching conducted confidentially by FTDNA.

Despite the strengths I suspect it will be a challenge for the partnership to gain market share. For most people it is the ability to compare your DNA results with others that counts in selecting a test company. Family Tree DNA has the largest database and, unless significant numbers of their clients transfer their results to Ancestry, it seems likely FTDNA will maintain this advantage for quite some while. Look for Ancestry to offer some attractive opening specials to gain market share.

19 June 2007

McGill Remembers

One of the most memorable presentations at the Quebec Family History Society Roots 2007 meeting last weekend was by Professor Christopher Milligan of McGill University's Faculty of Education and Wes Cross of the Dean of Students Office on the McGill Remembers project.

McGill University's WWII participants, of which 5, 568 were students, included 295 women, as well as numerous staff members. In total, 298 individuals were killed in action, 52 became prisoners of war, and 629 were awarded medals.

The university is fortunate that its Archives contains individual records of over 5,000 students and staff, originally uncovered and organized by military historian Robert Collier Fetherstonhaugh at the McGill War Records Office starting in 1942.

The files are worth exploring by any genealogist with a McGill ancestor of the era. They contain photos, news clippings, correspondence, and dispatches of both McGill military personnel and civilians, as well as colored card indexes of names, and lists of awards, honours, prisoners of war, and those either missing or killed in action.

Milligan and Cross have an initial web site here, and ambitious plans to remember the contributions of all who served, and not just in WWII. They are soliciting funding, additional information from families, and hope to stimulate similar initiatives at other Canadian universities.

18 June 2007

Genealogists enjoy a great time in Montreal

Along with many others, from Canada, the US and further afield I spent the weekend in Montreal at Roots 2007 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Quebec Family History Society. Aside from my own presentation I had no administrative commitments. That freedom allowed me to enjoy the presentations, see part of a movie being shot on the campus of McGill University and re-explore part of downtown.

One of the talks I particularly enjoyed included Lisa Dillon speaking on the University of Quebec at Montreal demographic project involving census records. They have a complete version of the 1881 census of Canada, improved over that at www.familysearch.org, available free after registration here. A part of the 1851 census (actually taken in 1852) is also available. Volunteers are being sought to extract more 1882 data online. Lisa mentioned that the LDS Church is intending to initiate projects to extract 1861 and 1871 Canadian census information.

Congratulations to QFHS President, Gary Schroder, and his team for organizing a most stimulating conference.

15 June 2007

Another unusual name

One of the delights of an Ancestry.com subscription is exploring newly available databases. It's been a drought period for new datasets on Ancestry of interest to me of late, but in April, when "English Settlers in Barbados, 1637-1800" came online, I took the opportunity to search some of the less common surnames in my family. That was unsuccessful, and then I remembered the one previous occasion I'd had to explore Barbados' records.

John Rogers from the Ottawa Company of Sharpshooters died at the Battle of Cut Knife Hill on 2 May1885. He was a native of Barbados. While researching the book "The Ottawa Sharpshooters" I found his mother was baptized Mary Licorish Kidney, a most unusual name.

Previous information was that Mary had been born in Barbados in 1818, too late for this dataset. There were lots of Kidney and Licorish family members, and John's paternal line was tentatively extended back to a g-g-grandfather named Andrew. The Kidney and Licorish families also appeared in Ancestry's "Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834"

14 June 2007

The Seven Daughters of Eve Illustrated

According to the book The Seven Daughters of Eve a majority of Europeans can trace their maternal line, to one of seven women: Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine, Jasmine based on the haplogroup of their mitrochrondrial DNA.

Now Oxford Ancestors has commissioned Danish artist Ulla Plougmand-Turner to produce abstract portraits of these women using mixed sequences of ancient DNA. Plougmand-Turner, a model before turning to art as a profession some 15 years ago, won the Venus Award of the Society for the Appreciation of the Female Nude in 2003. The works are now on exhibit at Wolfson College, Oxford, where Bryan Sykes, the book's author and Professor of Human Genetics, is a Fellow.

Read the story from the BBC here, and view a brochure on the exhibit here.

Thanks to Marian Press for bringing this to my attention.

13 June 2007

The LAC Genealogy Strategy - calm before the storm?

Library and Archives Canada pointed me to a posting on their web site, a copy of their new 20 page Genealogy Strategy, and asked my opinion.

It has three sections: The Context; The Strategic Approach; and Management and Organizational Considerations. Unless you're a policy wonk avoid reading it when you're the slightest bit tired.

LAC sees genealogy as a way to make people aware of its broader holdings. With every bit of information specific to your genealogy interest they aim to provide contextual material to help you see your query in a larger context. "Would you like an order of war art with your attestation paper?" They also see it as their role to foster partnerships and grow the size of the genealogical sector.

My comment, when asked last week, was let's see the actions that follow. Like us all, the folks at LAC can't always deliver 100% on the best of intentions as other higher priorities emerge. They expect to see early results from their incipient genealogical focus this year.

Is the agreement with Ancestry.ca announced in early June it? I hope and suspect there's more to come soon. There's been little other news coming out of LAC of late, and although people are remaining tight lipped something is afoot. There could be an announcement in the next few weeks, perhaps more on partnership. I wouldn't be surprised to hear of a digitization or other major initiative.

The timing on the announcement is changed; now expected in the fall.

12 June 2007

Unusual Names

For the genealogist unusual names have a particular attraction as trivia. There's a list on Wikipedia here, a tribute to the eccentricities of some parents, or to people who switch to an unusual name.

Take the case of Alphabet (or Alpha) Pepper, Ann Bertha Cecelia Diana Emily Fanny Gertrude Hypatia Inez Jane Kate Louisa Maud Nora Ophelia Quince Rebecca Starkey Teresa Ulysis Venus Winifred Xenephon Yetty Zeus Pepper. Her birth registration, in West Derby, Lancashire, in the first quarter of 1883, occupies three lines in the index.
According to a Rootsweb, WorldConnect entry she was born 19 Dec 1882 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, baptized on 2 January 1883 St Peter's, Liverpool. Her father was Arthur and mother Sarah Jane (nee Creighton) with marriage registered in the June quarter of 1882.

By the time of the 1891 census the family is in Hammersmith, London, her father a cab driver (Groom) age 38, her mother also age 38.

In the 1901 census Arthur appears as a widower, working as a cab proprieter, still in Kensington, London. There is a Sarah Jane Pepper, age 46 in the death registration index for Fulham, London, in the September quarter of 1899. Ann eludes me in 1901. There is neither death nor marriage registration for her before the 1901 census. It's possible the record was under one of her middle names, or maybe she didn't like the measly options presented by her parents and selected something else.

A death registration for an Arthur Pepper in 1908 is the right age for the father. He must have been proud of the name. Time reported in its January 26, 1931 edition that
in his will he left property of £95, giving power of attorney to a relative named Ann Bertha Cecelia Diana Emily Fanny Gertrude Hypatia Inez Jane Kate Louisa Maud Nora Ophelia Quince Rebecca Starkey Teresa Ulysis Venus Winifred Xenephon Yetty Zeus Pepper.

If anyone knows of Ann's fate please post a comment.

11 June 2007

Roots 2007

If you're within striking distance of Montreal this weekend you may want to attend the Roots 2007 conference of the Quebec Family History Society. It's at McGill University right in downtown Montreal. Check out the conference web site for more information, including on my Saturday afternoon presentation "When the Paper Trail Runs Out: How DNA Can Extend Your Family Story and Resolve Dilemmas." I shall also be helping with the BIFHSGO display at the marketplace so please stop by and say hello.

Find it again

They're always telling us to cite our sources so we can find the information again. The same applies to knowing a pinpoint location. Where exactly was that gravestone? Could someone find it easily? Where is the house the ancestors lived in ca 1945? Will people be able to find the spot after the building is demolished?

If you're a techno-genealogist you'll have your GPS at the ready when you visit any such site and record the exact latitude and longitude. That will give position within a few metres for inclusion in your write-up.

Even without a GPS, having visited a location you can likely find it again on a map. Lifehacker had a recent posting about extracting latitude and longitude using Google Maps and a bit of javascript code. It didn't work for me, but one of the comments had a technique that did.

In Google Maps, zoom in to find the location as precisely as possible. Place the cursor on it, right click and select "Center map here". Now click on "Link to this page" just above the map on the right. The address in the browser bar will change. Scroll along it and you'll see embedded something like "ll=45.447065,-75.662241". It's the latitude and longitude in degrees and decimal degrees. If you prefer to record degrees, minutes and seconds use a converter such as the one here.

Unfortunately Google maps won't always take you to the location if you enter the coordinates, let's hope that comes soon.

You can also use Google Earth, but it may be more difficult to find your location. However, you do get the exact latitude and longitude at the cursor location displayed at the bottom left of the screen.

09 June 2007


Congratulations to those who received awards at the Annual General Meeting of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa, held Saturday 9 June.

Hall of Fame
Gerry Glavin and Patricia Roberts-Pichette

Best Article in Anglo-Celtic-Roots
Robert Watt

Best Talk by a Member at a Monthly Meeting
Alison Hare

Citations of Excellence
Irene Kellow Ip
Bert Hayward

08 June 2007

The best public library for genealogy

How do public libraries compare based on the quality of genealogy resources provided? How do you know if your library is offerring good genealogy service? As a genealogist what do you look for from a public library?

I've selected three aspects of the service to genealogists and compared several libraries across Canada using the information on their web sites. You may consider other resources and criteria important. I'd welcome comments.

The libraries I choose are, from West to East, Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, St. John's. Sorry Charlottetown, Fredericton, Regina, St John and many others.

First, a good public library should have a section on their web site dedicated to genealogy, preferable one that's easy to find. On Thursday 8 June Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal and St John's all had a link to genealogy from their home page. Saskatoon, Winnipeg, London, Toronto and Halifax had rather more obscure genealogy content. No genealogy page could be found for either Victoria or Vancouver.

Second, most people think of books when they think of a library, so I expect to find a good selection of genealogy and genealogy-related books. I chose six books: Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner's Trace your Roots with DNA; Bryan Sykes' Seven Daughters of Eve; Angus Baxter's In Search of your Canadian Roots (all editions); Brenda Merriman's Genealogy in Ontario; Mark Herber's Ancestral Trails; and Elizabeth Mills' (ed) Professional Genealogy.

Seven libraries had all six including all the libraries from Winnipeg westward, Toronto and Ottawa. London, Hamilton and Halifax had five of the six, and St John's four. Montreal was excluded as the catalog appeared to be combined with a provincial facility and not reflect holdings at branch libraries. I did not consider Montreal in the final analysis.

Third, increasingly people want their library to be an information resource. The library should have a range of freely accessible databases of genealogical interest, with as many a possible accessible by card-holding patrons over the Internet. I looked for Ancestry Library, Heritage Quest, Pages of the Past (Toronto Star), Globe and Mail (Canada's Heritage from 1844 ), Times of London, Oxford DNB, Newspaper Archive. There was a lot of variability.

All the libraries from Montreal westward, except Hamilton and Winnipeg, offer Ancestry Library, the library edition of ancestry.com, for use in-branch. As the largest subscription genealogy database, and with the service not now being offerred through Family History Centres, Ancestry Library is a major benefit to genealogist-subscribers. It was given major weight in the final analysis.

Victoria offers none of the other databases. Vancouver offers the Globe, Times of London and Oxford Dictionary of National Biography with at home access. Calgary offers the most extensive range - Heritage Quest, Toronto Star, Globe, and Times of London all available for use at home.
Edmonton offers Heritage Quest and the Globe for at home use. Saskatoon offers no additional databases, and Winnipeg, which does not offer Ancestry Library, is the only library to offer Newspaper Archive which has some historic Manitoba newspapers. According to their web site Newspaper Archive is offerred free to public libraries so its puzzling that more libraries don't offer it.

The picture gets grimmer as you move east. Hamilton, Halifax and St John's offer no genealogy-related databases. London and Ottawa provide the Globe for use at home. Toronto offers both the Star and the Globe for at home use. Montreal gives access to the Globe at its facilities.

Congratulations to the Calgary Public Library which appears to offer the most comprehensive range of genealogy services and gets top rating, 14 points. Next are Edmonton (12), Toronto (11.5), Ottawa and Vancouver (11), London and Saskatoon (9), Victoria (8). Montreal was not rated and the others follow.

It's quite likely your library is not included. I know there are places outside Canada, and communities in Canada outside the Cities mentioned. Also it's possible I may have overlooked something for the cities rated. In any of these situations, especially where I missed something, please leave a comment.

07 June 2007

Victoria's Victoria

There's nothing like student labour to get things done at low or no cost. The University of Victoria has taken advantage to develop a great local resource by way of project work for a course "History 481: Micro History and the Internet." Gradually since 2002 research from this and related courses, as well as contributions from members of the larger community, have been added to the Victoria's Victoria website.

The jewels in the crown for genealogy are four indices to tens of thousands of summarized transcripts of newspaper articles:

A general index to the British Colonist (also called the Daily Colonist) from 1858-1921 (years 1894-1899 incomplete but in process);
A specialized index to stories related to the West Coast of Vancouver Island in the British Colonist (also called the Daily Colonist) from 1858-1921;
A specialized index of stories related to the Boer War the British Colonist (also called the Daily Colonist) from 1899-1915;
A specialized index to stories related to buildings, builders, building trades, architects etc... from 1858 to c. 1900.

Many of the people mentioned are of British origin. It's another place you may turn up that wayward ancestor who was never heard from again.

Apropos my recent Timelines blog entry, there's also a timeline for Victoria on the site, covering 1592 - 1925.

06 June 2007

Should I switch?

Back in March I posted suggestions for improving Family Tree Maker, the genealogy software I've used for many years. This weekend I had a chance to talk to Geoff Rasmussen from Legacy Family Tree at the OGS Seminar and asked about two of the three concerns with FTM mentioned in the previous post. I didn't ask about the other, recording DNA information, as the Legacy web site mentions that the product has a capability to record DNA results, although can't do anything with them.

Asked about the capability to include sources, Geoff explained the existing capability, and mentioned the company is working on simplifying source input for version 7.0, due later this year. Asked about mapping he intimated that there may be integration with Google Maps in the next version.

I remain concerned about Legacy's range of charts. Legacy reportedly requires an add-on Charting Companion at extra cost to be competitive. Someone who knows both FTM and Legacy told me last year he runs Legacy, but retains FTM for its superior charting capability.

The bottom line is that I shall be taking a serious look at Legacy when the next major release arrives.

05 June 2007


One of the presentations I made a point of attending at the recent OGS seminar in Ottawa was by Laura Prescott, a US-based speaker, professional researcher and writer. Judging by the number of times it's listed on her web site "Timelines: Placing Your Heritage in Historical Perspective" is her most popular talk. It was a polished performance. In it Laura shows matching historical events to an ancestor’s life; synchronizing one ancestor’s life events to another’s using genealogical software as well as everyday software programs to create a graphic profile and timeline.

Her main point was that, although genealogy software and custom programs do a nice job of making graphical presentations of timelines, often the most useful is a chronology in text format. Unlike graphic presentations, which almost force you to show a linear march of time, with text you can easily give more detail for especially active periods of an ancestor's life.

One of the challenges of producing a timeline is finding an appropriate overlay of historical events. The web sources listed in the conference syllabus were largely US-oriented, but in her presentation Laura suggested some web sources for the rest of us. The BBC has a convenient British timeline, part of a great website on British history. There are many others that can be discovered with your favourite search engine using timeline and topic as the search terms. For topic Scotland I found the Timeline of Scottish History, for Wales try here. Wikipedia has a useful Timeline of Canadian History.

03 June 2007

First thoughts on the OGS Seminar

It's over. I dragged my weary feet home on Sunday afternoon after three days of extensive walking around Ottawa's Algonquin College and the annual Ontario Genealogical Society Seminar. The research room, which I co-lead, was at one extreme while the rooms where the meals were served, and special events held, was at the other.

I had forgotten how, when a meeting is in your own city, you get to experience less of it owing to your involvement in the organization. Fortunately I did manage to attend a few good presentations, and heard nothing but compliments about all the presentations. I also spent time in the marketplace, as well as making two presentations and doing duty in the research room.

Kudos to the many folks from the Ottawa Branch of OGS who volunteered for the event, all under the capable leadership of Branch Chair, Mike More.

The big announcement, one I missed, was of a cooperation agreement between Library and Archives Canada and Ancestry.ca which will see an index to passenger lists of ships arriving at Quebec from 1865 to 1900 made freely available. Border crossings records from the United States to Canada that took place between 1908 and 1935 will also become available. Dick Eastman has the full text here. I am informed these agreements with Ancestry.ca do not imply there is a lack of scope for other companies or organizations to partner with LAC.

01 June 2007

Odds and Ends

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

When not giving my two presentations I expect to spend considerable time in the BIFHSGO computer room. See the line up of free trial site here and stop by to try one or more. I'll also be in the marketplace which looks like it will be a busy place. Please introduce yourself and let me know your opinion of the blog.

After several days with nothing but state level US records being added Ancestry have announced an upgrade to their version of the 1861 census of England and Wales. If you're had trouble finding someone the update may make it worth trying again.

Free BMD
It's getting to the point that you're rather unlucky if you're not able to find an indexed GRO registered birth in England and Wales from mid-1837 to 1912, and to 1915 for marriages and deaths. The FreeBMD Database was updated on Saturday 26 May 2007 and currently contains 134,484,978 distinct records.

If you can't find the person you seek maybe the record is missing from the GRO index. The problems with it have been well documented. In such cases it's worth seeing if there's a local index, check under the county at the UK BMD web site.