29 August 2007

Ancestors in the Attic II - episode 2

The content for the second episode of the second series was mixed. There was a segment which involved researching forward in time to locate an obscure 70s era musician in Toronto. The searcher was seeking to get copyright clearance to reissue some album tracks. This wasn't searching for "ancestors" and the success was apparently reported by the program, with reenactments to suggest the host was involved, rather than being the result of their efforts.

The second segment, finding an ancestor who fought with British forces in the Napoleonic War, and subsequently came to Canada, was presented as if it wasn't much of a challenge.

In the best segment the panel made a reappearance with the task of tracking down a Canadian counterfeiter in the US in the early 20th century. Again, it was more family history than genealogy, but showed good use of a diversity of unconventional sources.

After having shown a more adult approach in the first episode of the new series the host reverted a bit. Pity.

26 August 2007

Monmouthshire wills index

When borders move it's always a source of confusion. Do you look for the county of Monmouthshire in England or Wales? I recall when the first microfiche of the 1881 census came out I was surprised to find the county in England. Since 1974 the confusion has been resolved in favor of Wales.

There is a nice index to wills for Monmouthshire from 1572 to 1858 with over 16,500 names. The site also has information on how to view or purchase a copy from the National Library of Wales.

This item courtesy of Hugh Watkins blog.

22 August 2007

New Gazettes Online in beta

If you're looking for official announcements in England you go to the London Gazette, one of the country's oldest continuing publications. It's best known as the place to find legal notices on bankruptcy, calls for claims on the estates of recently deceased people, notices of military promotions and medals awarded; and an often overlooked genealogy source.

Although an OCRd version of the London Gazette has been freely available to search online for some while its been difficult to use. Results have been shown as pdf pages and required a slow process of opening each one to review the content. Now there's a beta version that shows a preview snippet of each item, a substantial improvement. To see the full item you still have to open the pdf.

It would be nice to see the search term highlighted on the page, and also the search capability more advanced to allow exclusions (-Middlesex) and proximity (within 5) type searches.

19 August 2007

Ancestors in the Attic II

History Television Canada started showing a new series of Ancestors in the Attic on Saturday evening. It devoted the full episode to the story of a Toronto woman seeking information on her birth parents in Scotland. Through the adoption file she finds the name of her mother, now deceased, and eventually locates a half-brother and his family. Through an old family friend she discovers that her father was a free-French serviceman. The story nicely illustrated the research interaction between public records, in this instance at the GRO Scotland, and family information sources.

The program retained the same host, visual style and introductory music as previous. A noticeable slowing of the pace compared to the previous series was apparant with fewer quick cuts. And, most welcome, no belittling or flip comments from the host.

The schedule for upcoming presentations is here.

16 August 2007

Elvis; the lost roots

Appropriate to the day, here are links to articles on the Scottish roots of the Presley family from The Times (London) and The Sunday Herald (Scotland).

13 August 2007

Service reductions at Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives Canada has announced major reductions in hours of service at it's main building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa as of 1 September. The announcement came as a surprise; as far as I can determine there was no client consultation and the change is announced at a time when many regular patrons are away with their attentions elsewhere.

30% reduction
According to a post on the LAC web site, weekday full service hours will be 10 am to 4 pm, that's 30 hours a week. These are the hours during which LAC professional staff can be consulted and materials ordered. At present these services are provided from 8:30 am to 5 pm on weekdays, that's 42.5 hours a week. The reduction in service hours is nearly 30%.

23% reduction
Hours when pre-ordered and self-service materials can be examined are also being reduced. On weekdays the building will be opening at 8:30 am and closing at 8 pm. At present the weekday hours for much of this material is 8 am to 11 pm. The reduction in hours is 23%.

60% reduction
The cuts are even more drastic on weekends. The present availability of pre-ordered and self-service materials from 8 am to 11 pm is being reduced to noon to 6pm, a 60% reduction.

The announcement gives the following rationale:

Library and Archives Canada is committed to providing quality services to all Canadians, wherever they live. To honour this commitment, we are adjusting our hours of operation, in keeping with the anticipated needs of clients and evolving information technologies. We are steadily adding documentary heritage material to our website, thereby increasing access to the collection for Canadians both in the National Capital Region and across the country.

I shall be writing directly to Antonio Lachasseur, Director, Client Services Division, with the following comments:

1. The changes were announced without opportunity for meaningful client consultation. A widely advertised consultation session should be conducted at 395 Wellington early in September, with any change in hours deferred until client's feedback can be taken into consideration.

2. The 30% reduction in full service hours, to 30 hours per week, is an appalling standard of service for an organization like LAC.
It puts LAC right at the bottom of the league table, and trailing badly, when benchmarking against comparable organizations. The weekly core service hours at the (US) National Archives in Washington are 40; the UK National Archives (Kew) 48.5; the Archives of Ontario 44; Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec in Montreal 54.

3. The reduction in weekday full-service hours in the mornings, and elimination of all weekend morning service, will be keenly felt.

4. No reductions should be implemented in the time available to access the already frustratingly cumbersome and delay-ridden process for ordering and obtaining delivery of materials.

5. The reduced hours will be a particular inconvenience to those from outside Ottawa visiting LAC on research trips who expect to work long hours and over weekends to justify the trip expenses.

6. It is paradoxical that LAC having recently gone to considerable expense to create a physical Canadian Genealogy Centre these reductions now make the facility less accessible.

7. There are still major records not online, most notably census images from 1861 to 1891. While technology has evolved to the point where this can be done LAC has not yet chosen to make such key records available online. Until such common records are online it is premature to make major reductions in physical access.

The LAC announcement includes "Should you have comments or questions, you may wish to contact Antonio Lechasseur, Director, Client Services Division at web@lac-bac.gc.ca or 613-996-5115 or 1-866-578-7777 (toll-free in Canada and the United States); TTY: 613-992-6969 or 1-866-299-1699 (toll-free in Canada)."

I encourage all to express their views to Mr Lachasseur.