31 January 2008

Light blogging

Expect postings here to be light to nil for most of February. Check out the links listed in the left hand column if you feel the need for a fix.

New decade added to ancestorsonboard

Findmypast.com have added outbound ships passenger lists, completely indexed, for 1940-1949 to there offerring. They claim there are now 20 million people in the ancestorsonboard database. Ancestorsonboard records start in 1890 and cover all long-distance destinations from the UK.

30 January 2008

January tag cloud

What's this blog about? Here's what I've been writing about this month, courtesy of Tag Cloud

created at TagCrowd.com

29 January 2008

Living the poor life

The latest in a series of podcasts from The National Archives, available here, is about the Poor Law and a project being proposed to digitize and index link documents at TNA relating to selected poor law unions.

The presentation is by TNA specialist Paul Carter. He gives background to what he characterizes as the "good detailed and intimate information in the records."

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act created larger administrative units, termed Unions, than the previous parish-based system. This deterrent system, which Scrooge so favoured, was overseen by a Poor Law Commission, a central government body. The correspondence between the Commission and the local Unions comprises 16,700 volumes presently catalogued only by union and date range with no indication on the information within.

The results of a pilot project indexing and linking to images of original documents for the Southwell Union Workhouse in Nottinghamshire are available here.

Funding is being sought for similar projects on 20 other unions, named in the podcast, out of the more than 600 that existed in England and Wales. Carter gives examples of the type of information found in these records that may be helpful in researching the genealogy and life of an ancestor unfortunate enough to have been in the workhouse.

It would have been desirable to have the slides as well as the audio available. Nevertheless, TNA is to be congratulated on sharing this information on its web site.

28 January 2008

Abney Park Cemetery

I added some children, previously missed as they were born and died between censuses, to my family tree yesterday thanks to a database of burials at Abney Park Cemetery in London.

Abney Park, 32 acres in north-east London, catered to Non-Conformists (Methodist, Baptist, Congregationalists, Wesleyan etc.) Burials start in May 1840.

There is a free basic search available without registration. Free registration gives you access to an advanced search where you can limit the search to specified years and/or section of the cemetery. There is also a "sounds like" metaphone search and the ability to screen an entire GEDCOM.

An earlier London burial ground for Dissenters was Bunhill Fields which is indexed as part of a collection of City of London burials by findmypast.com.

27 January 2008

Comments on LAC service hours

Copied below is my input to Library and Archives Canada, as a member of the Services Advisory Board, to questions and options for extending hours of service presented to Board members. Input from readers of this blog were considered in developing my response, but the final text below is my opinion.

What clients want is reliable and prompt access to the material they need, to be able to conveniently review it, and make notes and copies for later in-depth research. Some need prompt access to newly identified material resulting from their research during the same visit, especially those from outside the NCR.

Whatever extended hours are decided, it will do little for client satisfaction if the service is unreliable. Prompt retrievals must be a priority. Clients should never be put in the situation of arriving at the building to find the material requested was not placed in the locker, the order slip left on the last visit is found in a box with a notation that the film is out on loan, or that the material is unavailable as its with an archivist. It is simple to notify clients by phone or email when retrieval standards can't be met, and would be even easier with an online ordering/notification system remotely accessible.

The cost of providing a full service hour is $1.2K; a consultation room hour $0.07K; and a reference room hour $0.02K/hr. I strongly encourage LAC management to look at sub-dividing the full service activity. For example, provide telephone and online consultation later in the day, so that folks in the West have access at reasonable hours, without that meaning everything else has to be open late. Extend the hours of retrieval service without providing access to a professional archivist and librarian at the same time.

A) Regarding how to allocate an additional full service hour, there is a diversity of preference. Some prefer an 8:30 am start, some 9:00 am which is my own preference.

B) Regarding consultation room hours, I hear a strong preference for opening 4 hours on Saturdays together with some extension on weekdays (option 2). I go along with that, and would prefer that the Saturday hours be in the afternoon.

C) Regarding reference hours, the cost per hour is so small the hours should be the maximum.

In closing two comments from one of my respondents, an Ottawa area genealogist:

If there was a security station on the 2nd floor that meant we had access to city directories outside of regular hours I would think I'd died and gone to heaven.

With the ability to photocopy from microfilm on weekends---and a fully automated electronic ordering system that would allow us to order archival or library materials ourselves, onsite or from home---I would be quite happy.

You can provide your input using the channels mentioned in this LAC posting.

26 January 2008

Naming Patterns

An article in today's Ottawa Citizen reminds me than one of the early challenges of being a parent is to choose a name for the child that satisfies all the grandparents. An early challenge for the grandparents is to keep smiling when you hear that choice.

Middle names are a good way to commemorate ancestors, if not as good as first names. Multiple middle names kept as many people as possible happy; the heir to the British throne is Charles Philip Arthur George. In my family we couldn't quite keep up with the royals; two middle names were used for each of us kids. When it came to researching my family history it came in really handy that one of mine has been used as a middle name for four generations, and before that it was a last name.

These days parents often look to celebrities for inspiration. That's not much help in genealogy, although it may give future generations of family historians insight into the parent's tastes in popular culture.

In days of yore traditional naming patterns often held sway. In England the first son was named for the father's father, the first daughter for the mother's mother. Then things were reversed, the second son named for the mother's father and the second daughter for the father's mother. After that the father and his brothers in birth order were used for sons, and the mother and her sisters for daughters.

In Scotland there was a naming pattern which honoured the parents father and mother first, as in England, but switched to names of grandparents rather than siblings.

Other cultures had different traditions, which caused a bit of a problem in mixed marriages.

The Ottawa Citizen article told the story of a Jewish family pressured to follow tradition and name a new child after a recently deceased and respected relative. Apparently it is no longer much in fashion, and was applied only in the Ashkenazic Jewish community. Sephardic Jews following a pattern much like the English.

If you're looking a specific naming pattern
try Googling "naming patterns" and the appropriate nationality or culture. You'll probably find several references available.

25 January 2008

Forthcoming LAC databases

The next database scheduled to appear on the Library abd Archives Canada website will be an index to Canadian forces killed in action during the Second World War. Name, rank, serial number, birth and death dates as well as the file number at LAC will be included. The individual's service file itself is not digitized. To see that, and it is worthwhile, you'll have to visit LAC or order a photocopy.

An index to Upper Canada land petitions, transcribed from a card index, is nearing completion and should be online in the next few months, possibly by the end of March.

24 January 2008

Where has your DNA been?

Inspired by some US genealogy bloggers listing where their ancestors were 100 and 200 years ago, to the left see a depiction of where my ancestors were living. Using the My Maps feature of Google Maps makes it almost too easy to produce.

Purple pins are for 1808, the blue for 1908.

My ancestors liked to move around. The only place with pins of both colours, hard to see, is London, England.

Two of the westernmost purple pins are the locations of my Y- and Mitochondrial DNA.

If you see things broad brush, my ancestors were in Western Europe and those two commonly analysed DNA components are a fair representation of my overall genetic origin, at the time.

If you look at details, and most genealogists do, the map illustrates the limitations of state of the art DNA analysis for genealogy.

23 January 2008

Recent changes at LAC

Visitors to Library and Archives Canada will notice an addition at the front of the building at 395 Wellington. While walking past the landmark Secret Bench of Knowledge an employee, well known genealogist Sylvie Tremblay, tripped on uneven paving stones. Her arm was in a cast since before Christmas which is now removed. The area in front of the steps is now covered with a wooden frame and matting (the matting has subsequently been removed). The bench is off to one side.

You will also find a new security station on the 3rd floor. It was staffed but not fully operational when I was there on Monday.

This change is announced on the LAC web site:

Clients of Library and Archives Canada who use our public research/consultation facilities at 395 Wellington will notice the presence of a new security desk on the third floor of this building as of January 21, 2008

This is one of several new security measures which were approved by Library and Archives Canada's Management Board in 2007 and is intended to enhance the security for our collections, employees and visitors.

What's new?

Full-time security presence on the third floor, the security post in the foyer is operational from:

  • 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays
  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends

Increased rounds on the second floor by security personnel.

What changes are being implemented?

  • Inspection of bags on entry and exit from the third floor
  • More frequent rounds in consultation rooms by security personnel
  • Enforcement of the requirement for clients and visitors to wear their identification cards at all times, as per the Regulations Governing the Use of Research Materials and Facilities
  • Revised sign-out procedures and random inspection of bags at the ground floor security desk.
This does not change the hours of operation of the Textual Documents Consultation Room (3rd floor), including the Restricted Documents Consultation Room, Audiovisual Documents Consultation Room, Microforms Consultation Room, Self-Serve Digital Copying Room and the Canadian Genealogy Centre. Staff assistance is only available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

22 January 2008

US National Digital Newspaper Program

If you share my interest in historic newspapers as a source for genealogy you may like to view a 73 minute video

Chronicling America and Building the National Digital Newspaper Program

a multi-part presentation from the Library of Congress describing a long-term effort to create and provide permanent access to a searchable database of U.S. newspapers and digitized pages. It gives good insight into the professional effort required to make the program a credible effort of lasting value.

The last part of the presentation which is supposed to be a demonstration showed only a static image of the home page. You may want to follow along on the database here. It includes digitized US newspapers from California, District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Utah, and Virginia, with content from 1900-1910.

It would be nice to think that my readers from Library and Archives Canada would take the time to look at what can be done and be inspired to push a similar initiative in Canada.

(via Resource Shelf)

21 January 2008

What's good value in a genealogy conference?

The program for the 2008 Ontario Genealogical Society Conference, 30 May - 2 June in London, Ontario,, was recently made available on the Society web site. The basic program is two plenary presentations, by Dick Eastman and Colleen Fitzpatrick, and seven other sessions. The theme is Wired Genealogy.

Basic early-bird pre-registration for OGS members is $110 Cdn. That's $12.22 Cdn per session. Finding a topic of interest by a speaker whose name you recognize in each session shouldn't be an issue as five presentations are run in parallel.

The cost per session increases to $16.11 Cdn for OGS non-members who miss the early-bird deadline of 1 April.

How does the cost compare with other pending genealogy conferences?

The (US) National Genealogical Society Conference is 14-17 May 2008 in Kansas City, MO. With basic early-bird registration of $175 US for NGS members, 19 sessions, and nine options in each the cost per session is $9.21 US. For non-members who miss the early-bird deadline it costs $12.89 US per session.

To these basic costs you need to add travel, food, accommodation and any other additional cost activities such as a tour, pre-conference workshops and banquets.

Total the costs for any these and you'll discover a major discretionary item in your household budget.

For a more affordable conference look at something more local. For example, the Ottawa Branch of OGS will hold its annual Gene-O-Rama on the evening of Friday 28 March and Saturday the 29th. For a $32 Cdn early-bird registration fee you get access to four plenary sessions, and one parallel mini-lecture. That's $8 Cdn per session.

With such a local conference you rarely get an array of high profile speakers. What you do get is talks by, and interaction with, people who know about your hometown resources. These are people you will likely be able to interact with again at Society monthly meetings.

Cost isn't value, and it may well be that the information gain and contacts you make at a major conference, that could save you hours of needless research, are good value. You have to evaluate what's being offerred and your needs. The sign in the training section of an organization where I worked stays with me:

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance

20 January 2008

Nearly a home child

It sounds like a home child story. The father dies in Britain when the boy is age 11, and soon after he's found on a ship's passenger list travelling without any family to Canada.

Eric Aldwinckle didn't quite suffer that fate. When his father, George Herbert Aldwinckle died in 1920, Eric first moved with his mother, and likely his sisters, to Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales. He was fortunate, his father's sister, Amy Smail, who lived on Wineva Ave in Toronto, paid for his passage and took him in at age 13.

Two years later, in 1924, his mother and her two daughters followed, the whole family giving Edith's sister-in-law's address as their destination.

All the voyages can be found in the FindMyPast.com database of Passenger Lists Leaving UK, 1890-1960, and Library and Archives Canada's collection of Form 30A of arrivals, available only on 16mm microfilm.

Eric, who had already shown artistic talent in Britain, prospered in the arts in Canada. He served as a war artist from 1943, and one of his oils "Mustang over Airfield" was singled out in The Times when exhibited in a London exhibition in 1944. The painting above is from the collection on the Canadian War Museum. A biographic summary is here.

One of his most unusual achievements was designing The Great Seal of Canada, a powerful symbol of Canada's Anglo-Celtic connection. It is used on all state documents. The seal shows Queen Elizabeth II, in her robes, holding the orb and sceptre, and sitting on the coronation chair.

19 January 2008

British online genealogy consolidation

According to an article in the (Glasgow) Herald a rising star in the UK online genealogy scene has been taken over.

They report that Title Research Group, owners of Findmypast.com, has been acquired by DC Thomson, owners of Scotland Online and operators of ScotlandsPeople which claims to be one of the largest online sources of original genealogical information.

As a findmypast.com subscriber I'm interested to see what this will mean. Scotlandspeople works on a pay per view voucher system. Findmypast offers both voucher and subscription-based service which, although I've not done the calculation appears to be better value for my usage.

(via Geneasofts)

18 January 2008

Northern Ireland resources online

For those with Irish ancestors a new website launched this month, January 2008, for the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland may be worth a look.

Of most interest for genealogy will undoubtedly be the free online databases directly accessible from a box near the top right-hand side of the main page.

There is a searchable index to the September 1912 Ulster Covenant, signed by 237,368 men, and the parallel Declaration signed by 234,046 women. Each person is identified by surname, forename(s), address, division, district, place of signing and an agents name. There is a link to the image of the original.

PRONI's freeholders records come from a variety of sources and are arranged on a county basis. They comprise two main types:
  • Registers - details of those who had registered to vote
  • Poll Books - lists of voters and the candidates for whom they voted
Freeholders’ records provide a range of information about land ownership and may contain all or some of: Name of freeholder, Address of freeholder, Location of freehold, Description of freehold, Name of landlord, Address of landlord, Value of freehold, Names of other lives, Date and place of freeholder’s registration, Occupation of freeholder, Religion of freeholder.

Wills is a database still in preparation. The first phase is for the District Probate Registries of Armagh, Belfast and Londonderry from 1858 to c.1900. It provides a fully searchable index to the will calendar entries for these 3 District Probate Registries with the facility to view the entire will calendar entry for each successful search.

Congratulations to PRONI on this initiative. The design is clean, the small images help make downloads quick, and there is Browsealoud available for those who have difficulty reading online. The search engine works quickly and results are well laid out. If only the Principal Probate Registry for England and Wales (Court Service) would take a leaf from their book, get off their collective duffs and get on with the job of putting their calendars to post 1858 wills online.

Get ahead with your family history

Here's a heads-up about a not-to-be-missed opportunity if you're having trouble making headway on your family history. It's also the perfect gift for the genealogist looking for a headline for the next family newsletter.

What would be better than a photograph of your famous ancestor or cousin? A company in Norfolk is giving you the opportunity to take your genealogy to the next dimension.

Prince Charles, Bob Hope, JR Ewing, Jackie Stewart, Gordon Richards, Derek Jameson, Harry Secombe, Shirley Bassey, Kevin Keegan, Harvey Smith, Starsky and Hutch, Tom Jones, Larry Grayson, Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, Diana Dors, Ted Heath and Barry Manilow. How about rock star Adam Ant, soccer player George Best, former prime minister Harold Macmillan and ex-US president Jimmy Carter?

Their disembodied heads are among 70 going under the hammer at Keys fine art auctioneers in Aylsham, Norfolk, on February 12 and 13 for between £50 and £80 each.

They are the latest victims of a clear out at Great Yarmouth's House of Wax Museum, celebrities on the wane, beyond their best before date or whose wax heads needed updating.

Be the successful bidder and head for home with a unique addition to any family room that would be bound to send the family head-over-heels with excitement ... or have you heading for the door.

Read the full story from the Eastern Daily Press, under the headline "Hammer goes down on famous heads."

17 January 2008

Date for LAC consultation meeting

People who wrote to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) to express concern over the change in hours of service that were introduced in September 2007 should have now received a follow-up email. Antonio Lechasseur, LAC Director, Client Services Division, wrote to invite participation in a new public consultation process.

The first open public consultation is now scheduled for the afternoon and evening of Tuesday 26 February 2008 in Ottawa. This is later than originally planned; better late than never. The agenda and other background documents will be posted on the LAC website and made available at the meeting.

For those not able to attend the meeting it will be possible to comment on the documents by e-mail.

Archive CD Books UK Collection

The following announcement was posted by Ancestry.co.uk, and picked up by Dick Eastman:

Leading UK family history website Ancestry.co.uk has reached an agreement with Archive CD Books to host many of its records as it has now ceased to trade in the UK following the decision by its founder Rod Neep to retire from the business.

More than 1300 Archive CD Books collections will now be hosted on Ancestry.co.uk including one of the largest collections of county and city directories going back hundreds of years, a variety of 18th, 19th and 20th Century military records, parish registers from 1500s and Gazetteers and Pedigrees from across the UK.

Ancestry.co.uk Managing Director Simon Harper comments: “Rod has built up an impressive and genuinely useful collection at Archive CD Books over the past seven years which Ancestry is delighted to host and make available to its members.

“As a great deal of work goes into digitising historical records, Ancestry is always keen to talk with those who have already taken the time to do so and who may wish to host theme on our website.”

Rod Neep started Archive CD Books in the UK in March 2000 with the aim of making reproductions of old books, maps and documents available on CD and working with libraries, museums and record offices to renovate old books in their collections.

Rod Neep comments: “I am extremely pleased that my work in Archive CD Books will continue to be made available to the widest possible audience through Ancestry.co.uk. Following my retirement this is the ideal solution for everyone.”

Archive CD Books has expanded internationally over the years and will continue to operate in Ireland, The Netherlands, Canada, U.S.A. and Australia.

It appears that Ancestry.co.uk has not purchased the collection, but will be hosting part of it. Commenting on the announcement, Archive CD Books Canada President, Malcolm Moody, said "we continue to market the all the GB CD products as before." That will include the extensive collection of UK census CDs, many of which have images of the originals of considerably better quality than those on the Ancestry site, that are not part of the agreement with Ancestry.

The announcement from Ancestry.co.uk did not indicate when the images will become available. Ancestry seems to dribble new material onto its sites rather than introduce major new datasets. Ancestry may also have problems with some of the earlier CDs which are not searchable, or for which the OCR is not up to recent standards.

Apparently the agreement with Ancestry has been in the works since at least November, and was a major part of the consideration when Rod Neep closed the Archive CD Books UK operation.

16 January 2008

New TNA podcasts

Almost a year ago I mentioned that The National Archives (UK) has a series of podcasts, presentations made at Kew. Many of them now available were recorded in the last few months. Despite not having the visuals that go with these presentations, which is an improvement I would recommend to TNA, they are worth reviewing.

Some podcasts explain TNA initiatives, like the most recent "20th Century Cabinet Records: Digitising a core collection of modern political records" by Ed Hampshire. The project will see full text digitization of UK Cabinet documents, both decisions and supporting documents, starting from the middle of WW1 to the 1970s. There will be considerable educational material produced too.

Others, like "In the name of God, amen: Wills for family history" are more practical for genealogy. Dave Annal looks at how to access wills and how you can use them to get a better understanding of what life was really like for your ancestors.

Some of the others are:

The Road to Jamestown (2 parts)
Modern Sources for Immigration (to the UK) (2 parts)
Army deaths, marriages and births 1761-1913
Finding Records of Births, Marriages and Deaths
Sex, Lies & Civil Registration
Sources for First World War army ancestry
Tracing your Irish ancestors at The National Archives

You can find them all linked from The National Archives web site here.

15 January 2008

A lucrative field of genealogy

Last time I was in England I picked up a copy of The Times to read Thursday's official list of estates with no known beneficiaries. The listings are brief, name, address, date of death and amount in the estate. About 2,000 estates are listed each year. You can also search listings, seemingly not including estate value, at the Bona Vacantia web site.

Companies in Britain, and elsewhere, work to find beneficiaries and do the work for them of claiming their share of the estate. The companies typically work for a fee of 20-25% of the estate. It's probably one of the more lucrative fields of genealogy. They must be quite successful as relatively few cases seem to go unsolved.

If "Who Do You Think You Are" and "Ancestors in the Attic" have given you a taste for family history research programs you might enjoy the opportunity to screen episodes of a BBC program, Heir Hunters, available free online. There are 15 full-length episodes available showing the work and its competitive nature. The thrill of the chase is evident.

14 January 2008

Rabbit droppings and Fourses cakes

They add interest to any family history; often the ways of our ancestors seem quite bizarre. Did a great great grandfather carrying rabbit droppings around in his pockets to ensure a long, healthy life. That was practiced in the Fen country of East Anglia, and perhaps more widely in Britain.

An article in the Eastern Daily Press quotes Sian Hogarth, a freelance historical interpreter, on this and traditional cures.

"For coughs and colds, it was recommended you take brown paper, smear it with goose fat and stick it under your shirt on your chest. If it was a more serious cough, and you were coughing up blood, they advised crushing rose petals into sugar," she said.

"A preventative measure was to put a dried pig's bladder on your chest, although it is quite difficult to get hold of one these days."

Fourses cake, Norfolk vinegar cake and herring pie are some of the traditional foods mentioned in the article.

Fourses cake was quite widespread treat in Britain, also known as Lardy Cake after one of the main ingredients. With all that satutated fat its a wonder any of us survived to look into our genealogy!

There's a fourses cake recipe here with several other recipes for Suffolk foods linked from the page.

13 January 2008

Irish Family History blog

There's a new blog of interest if you have roots in Ireland. Irish family history and genealogy includes comments, tips, news and reviews. It includes a list of useful sites for Irish research, both free and subscription, in the right hand column. Worth a look.

12 January 2008

Soldiers of Gloucestershire

If your ancestor served with the Gloucestershire Regiment in World War I a new on-line index to records of 40,628 officers and men who served will be of interest.

Its part of the well laid out web site associated with the Soldiers of Gloucestershire museum located in the City of Gloucester. The site is worth exploring, even for those without any Gloucestershire ancestry, for the extensive material in the collection and timeline sections which has useful background on some of the campaigns and places associated with the regiment since 1694.

10 January 2008

BIFHSGO monthly meeting and other free events at Library and Archives Canada

The next in the series of BIFHSGO monthly meetings is at 10 am next Saturday, 12 January 2008 in the Auditorium of Library & Archives Canada when Robert J. Brown will speak on “Where Did She Come From? The Empty Ancestry of Edna May.” Find more information on the presentation, Robert Brown, and other news in the January BIFHSGO newsletter.

The next OGS Ottawa Branch event is at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, 15 January, when Barbara (Mills) Apro will speak on Resources of the Lanark County Genealogical Society.
January 16 at 2 p.m. in room 156.

The following afternoon, 2:00 pm on Wednesday, 16 January, also in room 156, the Friends of Library and Archives Canada throw the spotlight on LAC's photographic collection. Sarah Stacy, LAC Photo Archivist who focuses on the acquisition of Canadian photojournalists' fonds, will be the presenter. This is a talk in the Friends Kaleidoscope series of public talks given by Library and Archives Canada collection specialists; well worth hearing if your schedule allows.

The Friends are sponsoring a second talk, Be A Nice Girl: A Woman's Journey in the 20th Century. Presenter, Ruth M. Bell, Order of Canada recipient and author of Be A Nice Girl, will discuss her personal viewpoint of the struggle for gender equality in the 20th century. That's at 2 pm on Wednesday, 30 January in room 156.

09 January 2008


Randy Seaver, whose Genea-Musings blog I visit often, posted about joining Facebook and enrolling in the We're Related application. Not quite by coincidence, as reading another blog posting I'm sure must have inspired us both, I also signed on with Facebook on the same day.

It actually started when I had a chat with Louise St Denis from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. She has some interesting changes in her business as well as personal life about to happen. Most aren't appropriate here, or embargoed. Stay tuned.

Louise did mention a potential initiative related to Facebook. One in four Canadians apparently now have a Facebook account.

A couple of hours later I noticed that Paul Allen (the lesser), who bills himself as Internet Entrepreneur and founder of MyFamily.com, now developing World Vital Records, has a new blog posting on that company's initiative on Facebook.

It was time to check out Facebook, and that initiative called We're Related.

One of the first things I found investigating Facebook was a table from November 2007 showing its popularity, especially in Canada.

There are other social networking sites so the figures reflect Canadian preferences for Facebook rather than overall interest in social networks. If you're looking to make contacts in other countries you may prefer to use a social network that's strong there. The relatively low penetration in Facebook, and undoubtedly other social network sites, for over 45s is also notable; I'm not so far behind my cohort. There's lots of potential!

It took about 20 minutes to register, to decide on the information I wanted to add and have the system scan my email for people who I might choose to add as friends. The first person responded within two minutes! Two people identified our friendship as through BIFHSGO, but I've not yet found how that is used.

I also signed up for We're related, but wasn't prepared to upload a GEDCOM.

Randy commented in his post "I've tried several genealogy "social network" sites and have been unimpressed by the "family tree" aspects of them - they just don't seem useful to me yet." I feel the same way about Facebook as a whole, but its early days yet.

Genealogy Tip: take advantage of free viewers

A friend in the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa mentioned having problems opening an Excel spreadsheet file. Not owning a copy of Microsoft's office suite can leave you out of the game. Maybe you connected with an internet buddy, they sent a file revealing everything you've been searching for, but you now have the brick wall of an unreadable family history file. If that frustration sounds familiar you need to know about the mostly free options and alternatives available for viewing, and in some cases manipulating these documents.

My advice was to find the free Microsoft Excel Viewer by Googling <>, following the first link and clicking on Download. Further down the page you can read about some complementary programs, including viewers for Word, and PowerPoint, and upgrades allowing you to view files created by more recent versions of these Microsoft products.

If you'd like to work with as well as view files there are several free office suites available for download. OpenOffice is one of the best know, and as their web site boasts "a multiplatform and multilingual office suite and an open-source project. Compatible with all other major office suites, the product is free to download, use, and distribute."

If you use Google for more than searching you might want to try the Google Docs facility, an online application. Check out the Wikipedia article here if you have concerns about security in an online application.

Files produced by genealogy software are often a challenge. Mud Creek Software Inc has a free viewer, a lite version of their GENviewer, that will read GEDCOM, PAF, TMG, FTW, Legacy and RootsMagic files. The results may not be the prettiest but will be a lot more satisfying than looking at the dialog box asking you to pick from a long list of application to open it, none of which work for that file.

08 January 2008

Public consultation at LAC

It seems this session will be later rather than sooner. I was told to pencil in Tuesday, January 22, possibly late afternoon and early evening, for the long promised consultation session for users of the facility at 395 Wellington. It now appears that date is not feasible.

Check back here, and maybe at the LAC web site, for updates.

A Song Of Winter Weather

It isn't the foe that we fear;
It isn't the bullets that whine;
It isn't the business career
Of a shell, or the bust of a mine;
It isn't the snipers who seek
To nip our young hopes in the bud:
No, it isn't the guns,
And it isn't the Huns --
It's the MUD,

Anyone with an ounce more poetry in their soul than I do could compose a parody of Robert W Service's verse, A Song of Winter Weather, to describe what we've been through in Eastern Canada this winter; Mud, Mud, Mud replaced by Snow, Snow, Snow. Now its Slush, Slush, Slush and Fog, Fog, Fog.

Robert W Service (1874 - 1958) is another example of a Brit who contributed to Canada's heritage. Born in Preston, Lancs., educated in Scotland and best known for his verse about the Yukon, notably "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee."

A Song of Winter Weather is found in Rhymes of a Red Cross Man composed during WW1 and dedicated to Robert W's little known brother, Albert Niven Parker Service. Albert was the youngest son of the large family of Robert and Sarah (Parker) Service who travelled on the Victorian in March 1905, many years after Robert W left the UK, bound for Halifax and St John enroute to Toronto. Albert and other family members received land grants in Alberta and he took up work with the Bank of Nova Scotia in Edmonton, before joining the 52nd Bn. of the CEF. He died on 18 August 1916 when hit by a shell while serving as a Lieutenant.

07 January 2008

LAC hours of operation

Library and Archives Canada held the first meeting of its Services Advisory Board (SAB) on Nov 30th. After the meeting LAC summarized the Board's concerns:

1. [Full Service Hours] Current staffed hours of service are inadequate. The SAB would like to see an increase in the number of service hours per day, and how these increased hours would be allocated at the points of service.
2. [Consultation Room Hours] Increase the range of activities in the 3rd floor consultation rooms outside regular hours (self-serve photocopying, etc.).
3. [Reference Room Hours] Improve access to research tools located on the 2nd floor.
4. [Service Quality] Improve service quality by reviewing the organization of work and internal procedures.

Coming Soon
Before the end of the fiscal year, March 31, LAC have undertaken to proceed with the following:
- improvements to registration processes and creation of new user orientation tools;
- upgrades to technology used in LAC 3rd floor consultation rooms (e.g. reader-printers, etc.);
- installation of a security station on the 2nd floor at 395 Wellington (to enable access to research tools outside regular hours).

Coming in 2008-2009
An additional $500K per year has been allocated to LAC Services for next fiscal year. SAB members have been asked by Board Chair, and LAC Assistant Deputy Minister, Doug Rimmer to provide input on some details on the improvements that should be offerred. Board member comments to him are due by January 18.

Please take this as an invitation to provide your input by sending a comment to this blog, or to pastpresident (at) bifhsgo.ca . The service others ask for may or may not meet your needs so this is an opportunity to have your say. I especially welcome comments from the genealogy community.

A] Full Service Hours
LAC proposes to add one hour of staffed services (moving from 6 hours to 7 hours each weekday) for the following: registration and orientation, reference rooms, Canadian Genealogy Centre, consultation rooms, telephone services at a cost of $317K over the year, or $1.2K per full service hour.

Advice is sought on the following options:
i) 8:30 - 15:30 (LAC preferred)
ii) 9:00 - 16:00
iii) 10:00 - 17:00
iv) Some other variation, perhaps not evenly spread though the week.

B] Enhanced Consultation Room Hours
These 3rd floor services enable users to obtain documents ordered in advance (circulation), and maximize the use of new technologies (digital photography and self-serve copying, etc.). LAC is proposing to extend these beyond the hours for which full consultation service is provided. Retrieval of newly ordered documents will not be available. The cost is $0.07K per hour.

Advice is sought on the following options:
i) Provide an additional 4 hours, 2 evenings a week, e.g., Tuesday-Thursday or any other combination;
ii) Provide an additional 4 hours, 2 evenings a week, e.g., Tuesday-Thursday or any other combination, and add 4 hours on Saturday;
iii) Provide an additional 4 hours, 5 evenings a week;
iv) 4 hours on Saturday, 10:00 to 14:00, 4 hours on Sunday, 10:00 to 14:00;
v) Some other variation.

C] Enhanced Reference Room Hours
LAC is proposing that research tools, such as finding aids and city directories, and more computer terminals in 2nd floor reference rooms will be made more available to users by adding security staff, in combination with increased automation and digitization of research tools so that they can be put online. This would not add to the availability of microform reader-printers, self-service copying, etc. The cost is $0.02K/hr.

Advice is sought on the following options:

i) Open at 8am, with security staff only
ii) Add 4 hours after closing on weekdays, with security staff only
iii) Add 4 hours on Saturday, from 10:00 to 14:00; add 4 hours on Sunday, from 10:00 to 14:00
with security staff only
iv) From 8:00 to 23:00, with security staff, outside of regular hours on evenings and weekends
v) Some other variation.

I have already received comments from members of the genealogy community on these proposals, and have my own views, but will defer posting these.

05 January 2008

Pre-ordering materials at Library and Archives Canada

Many folks, especially those interested in Canadian genealogy, are unaware that there is a system in place for ordering materials prior to a visit to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. These can be either archival or library materials, although an even more convenient way to consult books is by inter-institutional loan, usually through your local library.

Ordering materials in advance is explained here. You can have have them placed in a locker or otherwise made accessible so you can get to them during all hours the building at 395 Wellington in Ottawa is open (8am - 11pm on weekdays, 10am - 6pm on weekends.)

Unfortunately anecdotal evidence is that the system fails with frustrating frequency. You make it into the building only to find the assigned locker unaccountably empty or material unavailable. This may be a biased impression as satisfied clients rarely mention their good experience, but I've experienced similar inconvenience when materials I order while in the building where not placed in my locker by the date promised.

If you have experience with ordering using this system, either good or bad, please leave a comment so it can possibly be raised at the Services Advisory Board.

You may also be interested to read a relatively new blog, Canada Genealogy, or, 'Jane's Your Aunt' by M. Diane Rogers. Diane writes about Canadian Genealogy & Women's History: Current Ideas, Information & Projects. The most recent post as I write is about the delay in promised client consultations by LAC. I have been told informally to expect an open consultation meeting at 395 Wellington sometime toward the end of January.

The Irish in Glamorganshire

Many Irish became refugees from their homeland in the late 1840s. Although large numbers left for North America the closest destination for many was just across the Irish Sea, in Lancashire, where an expanding industrial economy meant the prospect of jobs. 164,915 people claimed Irish birth in the 1851 census for Lancashire, 9% of the population.

While Lancashire was an obvious destination from Dublin, for those further south in Ireland Wales was attractive, and especially Glamorganshire with its coal and iron industries. In 1851 4.2% of that county's population was Irish-born, half of all of Wales' native Irish population. An analysis of the Glamorgan census here showed Irish names Patrick, Dennis, and Cornelius to be quite frequent.

According this BBC article the Irish settled primarily in the four largest South Wales towns - Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Merthyr. The arrival of the Irish caused tensions; they were prepared to work for less than the Welsh. The strain became too much leading to Cardiff's first race riot in November 1848. Catholic churches and homes were assaulted as Welsh mobs rampaged through the streets looking for an Irishman, John Connors, believed to have murdered a Welshman, Thomas Lewis. Connors was convicted of manslaughter and transported to Australia.

By 1901 the Irish-born population of Lancashire had declined to a fraction above 3%, and to 1.3% in Glamorganshire, as the migrants died, moved on elsewhere or neglected to report their Irish origin. The evidence isn't clear, but one of those who failed to report their Irish origin in later censuses may have been my great-grandfather.

04 January 2008

FreeBMD, FreeREG, FreeCEN

Most people who research their family history in England and Wales know about the FreeBMD project, a freely available database of the GRO indexes to civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths. It is nearing completion for the period from the start of civil registration in July 1837 to the start of the First World War. Work to fill in the gaps is continuing and good progress is being made on the later years. As of 15 Dec 2007 FreeBMD contained 142,986,702 distinct records.

Less well known, and much less well advanced is FreeREG, a project to provide free Internet searches of baptism, marriage, and burial records, that have been transcribed from parish and non-conformist registers of the U.K. As of 2 Jan 2008 FreeREG comprised 3,480,627 records (1,914,316 baptisms, 568,089 marriages and 998,222 burials). Quite a few counties have yet to start data abstraction; the most advanced in England and Wales are: Norfolk, Somerset, Lincolnshire, Worcestershire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

A third project, FreeCEN claims 11,446,759 records for England, Wales and Scotland, but that total count may not have been updated in over a year. The project aims to provide a "free-to-view" online searchable database of the 19th century UK census returns. A few counties have nearly 100% coverage, especially for the early years.

You may be surprised to find that FreeREG and FreeCEN contain records of interest to you, its worth checking.

Many people have and are working to abstract or transcribe these records. More are always welcome. Recognition should go to two Canadians of British origin who make major contributions to these projects as co-ordinators: Derek Hopkins for the SCAN2 syndicate under the FreeBMD project; and Kirk Dawson for the project to abstract Norfolk records for FreeREG. Thank you gentlemen.

03 January 2008

Progress in genealogy DNA testing

Last May I wrote that "Family Tree DNA, the largest commercial DNA testing company for genealogy, shows annual growth in the number of records over 60%. FTDNA is also seeing growth in the number of distinct surnames in their database, up about 30% in 12 months. As of 1 May there are 62581 unique surnames in the database."

As of December 31 2007 the annual growth rate in the number of records at FTDNA slowed to a still respectable 42% annually. The number of distinct surnames in the database grew 23%.

People are opting to have a larger number of Y-DNA markers tested. 12-marker tests grew 22%, 25-marker tests by 35% and 37-marker tests by 60% on an annual basis.

With more than 173,000 records in their database FTDNA retains a substantial advantage over competitors. The company's biggest asset is being able to make the analytical result meaningful to the genealogist.

However, technology is advancing, and analytical costs tumbling, at an amazing rate. Blaine Bettinger in his blog The Genetic Genealogist, recently posted his educated guess that he will be able to sequence his entire genome for $1,000 or less by the end of 2009. Even if progress is not quite that rapid, will FTDNA be able to meet the challenge or be overtaken by others?

02 January 2008

WW2 RCAF service files

I promised Jan, a distant cousin in Australia, an email with information on her relative who was killed when his Wellington bomber, on a training flight over Worcestershire, crashed during WW2. Born in Alberta, he moved to California as a child and returned to Vancouver in the early 1940s to enlist in the RCAF.

I'd had no previous reason to look at WW2 service files, at Library and Archives Canada. Many people don't know that the service files are open for all to read, as long as you can prove the person has been dead for at least 20 years. You don't have to be a relative, although of most interest for your genealogy and family history. Unlike the WW1 files which have been stripped of much information those from WW2 are largely intact.

The one I looked at contained extensive official information. Here are some of the things I found in the file: record of service airmen; photos, pay book; post office savings book; dental records; occupational history form; fingerprint card; airman's statement of embarkation; report of medical board; assessment of suitability for further training; clinical chart (showing a period during which his temperature rose above 103 degrees); Province of BC death certificate; burial return; casualty notification form; pilot training report; Bomber Command hospital or sick list record card; Airman's / Airwoman's record sheet (active service); record of pay; RCAF record of kit; interview report; St John's Ambulance first aid certificate; RCAF individual record of flying; RAF brief statement of service and certificate of discharge; RCAF report on pupil pilot - flying and ground training; RAF report of beam approach training; RCAF attestation paper; fatal casualty file; Air Force estates file (including inventory of effects).

Three relatives were named, with addresses, and five people who were references on previous employment. The blood group was mentioned; about the only thing missing was a DNA sample, and I wouldn't be surprised if DNA lurked somewhere in the file for the super-sleuth to discover.

After going through the administrative rigmarole with LAC I took digital photos of about 30 pages. Jan's email inbox overflowed as did her gratitude.

01 January 2008

Canadian roots of the British holiday camp

Happy new year. It seems appropriate to post a holiday related item today.

If your ancestors were in Britain during the 20th century the odds are they had some connection to a holiday camp. Like millions of workers the family may have taken their annual holiday at one. If the family lived near one perhaps a teenager found a summer job there as did my brother. My father was a manager in a company, the Caister Group, that owned a holiday camp, although he was not involved in that part of the company business. It had been the first that catered to families

According to Wikipedia, "holiday camp, in Britain, generally refers to a resort with a boundary that includes accommodation, entertainment (and recreation) and other facilities. The accommodation typically consisted of chalets - rather like small flats/apartments arranged in blocks of three or four storeys, and terraces of ten to twenty long. In the UK large numbers (some in the many hundreds) of static caravans are termed holiday camps."

The first camp catering to families was founded at Caister-on-Sea, just north of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, in 1906 by John Fletcher Dodd, a former grocer and founder member of the Independent Labour Party. The first guests, socialist friends from London, stayed in tents. It was known as the "Caister Socialist Holiday Camp." Here is a recollection of a holiday there in 1947. A vacation resort still operates on the site.

The name most associated with holiday camps is Butlin. According to the DNB William Heygate Edmund Colborne Butlin (1899 - 1980), known as Billy was born in South Africa. He emigrated to Canada in 1912 and worked in Toronto for Eaton's drawing advertisements. In 1914 he enjoyed fishing, canoeing and swimming at a lakeside camp provided by Eaton's for its employees, which was to become the inspiration for his British holiday camps.

During WW1 Butlin served (attestation paper here and here) without distinction or enthusiasm, returned to Canada after the armistice, and then set out on his entrepreneurial career in 1921 back in England. More detail on his life in Canada is here.

Butlin's holiday camps were not for everyone. Here is life at a camp according to an article in the 1947 Globe and Mail: ".. entertainment is perhaps the chief feature of the camps, whose organized jollity makes them repulsive to many. The guest has hardly a five minute stretch in the day that Butlin will not fill with some sort of unusual activity. Loudspeakers never let the guest out of earshot. He is being invited to go to some part or other of the camp where some interesting competition is underway. He is invited to join in mass singing. He is invited, nay he is urged and almost coerced, into playing at something. He is eating perhaps better food in cleaner surroundings than he has ever enjoyed before. There is never a dull moment ... "