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.