31 March 2008

BIFHSGO Conference 2008

Registration has just opened for the 14th annual BIFHSGO conference, 19-21 September. I may be a tad biased as chair of the program committee but I think it's the best family history conference program I've seen in Canada this year, and that includes larger conferences. Take a look and be the judge for yourself.

Sherry Irvine, the keynote speaker, will give the Don Whiteside Memorial Lecture, with an intriguing title. See the pdf brochure. It isn't broadcast loudly but Sherry's lecture is open to all without charge. Read the brochure and you're sure to want to hear the impressive speakers and topics.

This year the convenience of on-line registration is available from the conference page on the society web site using a credit card over a secure connection, or by mailing in the printable form with your cheque.

30 March 2008

Robert F Allum

I was sorry to learn of the sudden death last Wednesday of Robert F Allum. A native of Birmingham, England, he was one of the principals behind Cold North Wind, the Ottawa-based web site that pioneered the development of Canadian newspaper digitization and indexing on the web site Paper of Record.

Notes from Gene-O-Rama

At Friday evening and Saturday's Gene-O-Rama event, at the former Nepean City Hall, I attended only one of the presentations. It was more an opportunity to talk to old friends and new acquaintances.

One nice addition to the marketplace this year was an Archives of Ontario display. It was their first appearance at this event, not overdue given that two-thirds of their clients are interested in genealogy, family and local history. Being newcomers they didn't have the choicest location but seemed to attract considerable attention running out of hard copy's of several information sheets. I had a good conversation with Sean Smith, an AO Senior Reference Archivist, advocating for a more aggressive digitization initiative, including for provincial newspapers, and a more client centred approach, especially regarding their clients who are too far from Toronto to visit often.

Don Pounder, a veteran researcher and reader of this blog, pointed out that the 19th Century British Library Newspapers database search defaults to a proximity search with a maximum four word separation. If you put AND between two terms the search is for both terms appearing anywhere in the article. Several other people commented on this database's OCR quality which they found a bit variable, sometimes surprisingly good for poor quality originals. My only experience with it impressed me positively. Can Gale can find a way to make this database affordable to the hobby genealogist?

Bruce Elliott gave me a copy of a course description and objectives sheet for a seminar course he will be running from September 2008 to March 2009 on "Gravestones and Cemeteries: Cultures of Death and Memorialization" at Carleton University. The sheet mentions public lectures as one of the results, something I look forward to hearing.

Bruce was concerned about Ottawa Branch selling off back issues of other society journals. We discussed moves to digitize back issues so making them more widely available but he is concerned about assured access. Technology may be the salvation by bringing digitization into searchable pdf within the capability and budget of smaller societies and permitting multiple electronic copies to be kept at diverse sites. Derek Hopkins of the Quebec Family History Society demonstrated a trial he has undertaken. If rights issues can be resolved monetizing, or bartering, a society archive of its own publications could be a good service for members and the community.

Ottawa Branch deserves kudos for organizing this event, the 25th edition of Gene-O-Rama.

29 March 2008

All the fun of the fair

The weekend after Easter sees the traditional Easter Fair at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Held on the marketplace and adjacent open spaces it was for me as a child a landmark in the year signaling a transition from the cold, dank days of winter.

The standout feature was a tower with spiral slide winding down the outside. You paid your money, received a coconut fibre mat, climbed up the tower and slid down on the wooden slide polished by years of excited children's rides. It was also the time of year when Matthes the baker sold white and black Fair Buttons, largish round cookies (biscuits).

What were the landmark events through the year in your ancestors?

28 March 2008

Ottawa Archives makes another step forward

Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister, Jim Watson, today, 28 March, announced the province of Ontario will provide $20 million of taxpayers money toward the construction of a 81,363 sq ft building housing the Ottawa Central Archives and Ottawa Public Library materials centre. The total costs of the building is projected as $38.63 million.

The archives will be home to several Archives partners including local genealogy groups. Minister Watson is seen greeting President of the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives John Heney after the announcement.

27 March 2008

19% increase in genealogy visitors

Did you do a lot of genealogy searching in February? According to comScore Inc's Canadian statistics the category genealogy saw a 19% increase in unique visitors in February over January. That's an amazing increase considering that February is a short month.

Top 10 Gaining Site Categories by Number of Canadian Unique Visitors
February 2008 vs. January 2008
Total Canada -- Home and Work Locations(x)
Source: comScore Media Metrix
Total Unique Visitors (000)
Jan-2008 Feb-2008 % Change
Total Internet : Total Audience 23,802 23,814 0
Genealogy 1,705 2,021 19
Taxes 2,591 3,041 17
Lotto/Sweepstakes 5,219 5,725 10
Weather 9,719 10,374 7
Automotive -- Manufacturer 4,225 4,492 6
Real Estate 7,107 7,265 2
Sports 11,887 12,032 1
Flowers/Gifts/Greetings 5,749 5,818 1
Car Rental 723 729 1
Jewelry/Luxury Goods/Accessories 1,686 1,699 1

In recent postings Randy Seaver believes he sees a bottoming out in hits, following on long term declines, on some major genealogy sites based on Alexa statistics. One swallow doesn't make a summer and I'd certainly want to see more evidence in a sustained trend.

Gene-O-Rama this weekend

The Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society presents the 2008 edition of their annual public genealogy event this weekend. The Friday evening and Saturday program is here, featuring speakers Janice Nickerson, Randy Saylor and Elizabeth Kipp, PLUS mini-lectures by Doug Gray, Doug Hoddinott, Elizabeth Kipp, and Robert Wilkins, PLUS access to a whole pile of CD and internet resources, PLUS the marketplace. It's all at Nepean Centrepointe co-sponsored by the Ottawa Public Library.

Even if you don't get to the sessions visit for a hour or two, browse and buy at the marketplace. It's a great place to meet genealogy friends old and new. I'll be at the BIFHSGO table; please stop by and say hello.

26 March 2008

Passenger list statistics

Having completed the indexing of UK outbound passenger lists (1890 - 1960), ancestorsonboard have now compiled statistics on travellers to various countries in 5 year categories. Notice how the US (blue bars) is the most popular destination through almost the whole period, the huge number of travelers in the pre-WW1 period with Canada (red bars) taking an increasing share.

It would be nice if the company would provide a way that subscribers could develop this type of statistic from the database for themselves. At present the requirement to enter a surname precludes doing so.

25 March 2008

OGS Newsleaf goes electronic

As a member of the Ontario Genealogical Society, since the start of the year, I was a bit disappointed that the publications I was to get didn't arrive -- I had to prompt head office in Toronto.

This morning my the first issue of e-Newsleaf, edited by Elizabeth Lapointe arrived. It's not only my first issue but THE first issue. The contents are:

Library and Archives Canada Links Canadians to Irish Roots
Moorshead Sells His Magazines
The Library and Archives Canada Does an About-Face
Toronto Branch Offers Course of Interest to OGS Members

Congratulations to OGS on this new more timely communication. And thank you to Elizabeth for mentioning this blog.

23 March 2008

Don't renew that subscription

Friends Reunited, the UK based site that links old schoolmates based on the school they attended plans to go non-subscription. According to an article in The Telegraph "in the past year, the number of unique monthly visitors to Friends Reunited has plunged by 62 per cent." "Most of Friends Reunited's revenue is legacy revenue. They have been relying on people not cancelling their subscription."

I have previously subscribed to Friends Reunited and the companion site Genes Reunited. They helped me locate second cousins. That was several years ago. There was no real benefit after that and I dropped the subscriptions. Genes Reunited still sends emails informing me of possible matches which I now ignore. They cry wolf too often.

Why would you continue to pay for a service with no significant benefit? I advise folks to subscribe if a genealogy service or society looks beneficial, but not to renew unless you're getting your money's worth. You'll save yourself money. No responsible organization wants, or should want, dissatisfied clients or members. There's nothing like declining membership and subscriptions to help keep an organization service-oriented, or to help one that no longer serves toward its inevitable demise.

22 March 2008

Another chance at searching 19th Century British newspapers on line

On the Society of Genealogists newsgroup Chris Watts points out a posting by "Charani" on another group:

"Gale obviously realised that there was great interest in the database so they have made a *legitimate free trial offer*

If you go to http://access.gale.com/gdctrial/ and register, using "None" in the institution field and "International" in the location field and you will get an email with your log in details from Gale
that not only lets you have access to the 19th Century British Library newspapers but The Times and many other databases to.|

I haven't tried it yet.

20 March 2008

Commercial genealogy leader presentations at BYU

The Ancestry Insider blog has a worthwhile post summarizing presentations by two leaders of US commercial genealogy database companies at the recent Brigham Young University Computerized Family History Conference.

I'll return to Paul Allen's presentation (that's Paul the lesser of World Vital Records) in an upcoming posting.

Tim Sullivan revealed that TGN (owner of Ancestry) advances genealogy "by spending lots of money", investing "over $100 million a year providing services and growing the number of people involved in genealogy." The company will spend "over $40 million in 2008 around the world trying to get more people involved in genealogy." That's four times the company annual expenditure on "acquiring, imaging and indexing content."

A comment posted on Ancestry Insider slams TGN for "too little focus on what the customer wants, and the prime focus on what the marketing staff wants to sell them instead."

It would be interesting to know how this expenditure on promotion compares with that in comparable web-based companies. Ancestry's advertising underwrites the costs of magazines, give-aways, and TV programs like the Canadian version of "Who Do You Think You Are?" That's not to mention the demonstration rooms at conferences and sponsorship of shows. Someone pays for those and it isn't a fairy godmother. We'd all like to see more money spent on providing more resources, and more accurate transcriptions. One way, some would say the only way, to achieve that is to grow the size of the market.

19 March 2008

Arthur C Clarke

Although it's years since I read any of his writing I was saddened to read of the death of Arthur C Clarke. I quote Clarke’s Three Laws often, especially the third when speaking of DNA analysis for genealogy.

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Accord to his obituaries 1, 2, Arthur Charles Clarke was born on December 16 1917 at Minehead, Somerset. The son of a British postal-service engineer (Charles) who turned to farming, he was born in his grandmother's house in southwest England. His mother, Nora, had worked as a post-office telegrapher before marrying. When he was 13, his father died. While the running of the farm fell to him and his mother, plus three younger siblings.

The parents marriage was registered in the 3rd quarter of 1915 in Williton, Somerset, at which time the husband was listed with middle initial W and wife as Mary N J Willis. His mother's birth was registered at Williton in the last quarter of 1892. According to the 1901 census she was the second daughter of John Willis, a cattleman, and his wife Hannah who lived in Carhampton, Somerset.

The paternal line is not as clear. The best fit in the 1901 census for his father is Charles W Clarke, age 14, born in
Bishops Lydeard, Somerset, the eldest son of Thomas Clarke, age 47, born in Six Mile Bottom, Cambridgeshire, a sub-postmaster and his wife Elizabeth, age 40, born in Bishops Lydeard.

18 March 2008

Find My Past completes UK outbound passenger list project

This is a day I've been waiting for.

Find My Past have released the final decade of passenger lists, allowing you to search from 1890 all the way up to 1960, for folks leaving the UK. There are now more than 24 million passengers, across 164,000 exclusive passenger lists.

This dataset has to be the jewel in the company crown for those whose genealogy involves people who left Britain. It can act as an index to help find people who migrated to Canada in the early years, from 1890. Use it to find the voyage then check the incoming passenger lists which generally provide more information on the individual. The last few years are the only resource available for the period. I've already found some friends, and not found others yet, who migrated in the last decade.

Ian Wilson takes international role

A tip of the hat to Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, recently elected unopposed as President of the International Council on Archives (ICA). The two-year mandate will begin at the end of July 2008, following the ICA 6oth Anniversary Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Mr Wilson takes over at a time of change for ICA, a global network of more than 1,400 institutional members in 190 countries. A new Secretary General for the Council Secretariat in Paris will also take up duties at the same time. More information here.

17 March 2008

Canadian Great War Project

Malcolm Moody's most recent Archive CD Books Canada newsletter mentions a biographical database of all the Canadians who took part in The Great War being developed. The current database contents are available at www.canadianGreatWarProject.com.

With presently 83,028 soldier entries there's quite a way to go yet to the goal of 619,636 who served in the CEF. They'd appreciate help, including adding information from non-official sources.

The site is also worth visiting for the extensive background material accessible from the menu on the left side of the home page.

If searching for CEF fatalities don't forget the Maple Leaf Legacy Project as well as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database.

15 March 2008

Genealogy and Local History for All

"Genealogy and Local History for All: Research services for multicultural communities" is the title of a conference being held at Library and Archives Canada on August 6-7, 2008. This is a satellite conference to the World Library and Information Congress and the IFLA General Conference (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) taking place Quebec City from August 10 to 14, 2008. Watch the LAC web site, and this blog for further information.

13 March 2008

19th Century British Library Newspapers - FREE TRIAL

There's a posting on the Glamorgan list with information on a free trial of this collection of 2 million pages of 19th century British newspapers. Well worth checking out at:


I don't know how long it will last for free!

Too late! It's over!

LAC scanning and indexing project

LAC has posted a timely notice regarding a proposed scanning and indexing project with The Generations Network (Ancestry). Read the full text here.

This is an important initiative for genealogy. Similar arrangements by NARA and TNA with TGN and other companies have and are making records available online, at a price, where they would otherwise only be accessible by visiting the institution and searching the record by eye. At a minimum nothing in these agreements reduces access by those who choose not to purchase.

The proposal appears to go at least one step further by making images scanned by TNA available free online, but unindexed. Further, it appears TGN may be agreeing to expand free access to these records for visitors to LAC and other Canadian libraries and archives.

For those who already have subscriptions, or ready free access through a local public library, the choice of Ancestry, the company with the largest subscriber base, as a partner is welcome.

However, LAC needs to ensure that the company it neither getting nor perceived to be getting a sweetheart deal. Thus the statements "This notice provides interested parties with an opportunity to comment on the proposed arrangement, including interest in similar projects" and "The following does Not constitute a call for tender or request for proposal" appear somewhat contradictory.

It should be clear that the agreement with TGN is not exclusive. Other organizations must be free to propose and undertake similar work under a parallel agreement with LAC on the same or other records.

Interestingly NARA also have a recent notice on their web site about a proposed agreement with TNA. LAC could benefit from using some of the language of that proposal. In particular:

- The first selection of archival materials will be a test project and, upon its mutually satisfactory review, the parties will define and continue to define additional archival materials to be digitized and will produce project plans for succeeding projects.
- NARA's agreement with TGN will be non-exclusive. NARA has already reached digitizing agreements with other entities and will continue to consider additional agreements.

12 March 2008


I don't know the name of the person who parked this car straddling two parking spaces at Library and Archives Canada on March 12, and also stayed beyond the time limit. I do know they inconvenienced others.

Genealogy TV

In the US, NBC have announced they will be programming a US version of "Who Do You Think You Are." This is reported to be only six shows.

In Canada, CBC has yet to announce whether they will schedule a second WDYTYA series, although late last week the company made announcements on several cancellations, returning and new programs for the fall season .

A message from the Federation of Family History Societies seeks people for a new UK series:

The Great British Body – New Science and Historical show is being produced by ITV, who are looking for people who can trace all of their family lines back at least three generations. This is a programme that aims to inform, entertain and inspire using a combination of science, human stories and history. In particular, ITV are interested in families who can trace their ancestry back at least three generations to perceive what the body inherits genetically and how social and cultural change can affect you. The show aims to audit the British Body and to see how it has developed over the years to eventually culminate in a celebration of the British body, past, present and future and what we represent as a nation. ITV are trying to find people from every county in the UK to come along to their roadshows in Brighton, Birmingham and Newcastle to best see how geographical situation can make a marked difference, as well as more specific reasons that relate to the family themselves. The dates for the roadshows are Saturday 12 April, Newcastle; Sunday 13 April, Brighton; Saturday 19 April, Birmingham. So if 3 out of 4 of your great grandparents were born in the same county as you were Warren Townsend at ITV would like to hear from you, on Tele 020 7157 4732 or email warren.townsend@ITV.com ITV are hoping this will be an interesting experience for the families involved and a chance for them to explore their own ancestry and the way their family has developed.

10 March 2008

Asleep at the switch?

For an organization with a $100 million annual budget, with a website that's supposed to be a major instrument for providing service across the country, LAC has a relaxed approach to maintaining the "In the Spotlight" section of its home page current.

Maybe the editor is still trying to make his/her way through the more than 90 cm of snow that have fallen in Ottawa since the end of Black History Month.

Genealogy events in Ottawa

For your diary, the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society has an interesting lineup of presentations scheduled for their monthly meetings. All talks are in room 156 at Library and Archives Canada.

March 18, 2008 7:30 PM
Speaker: Michelle Leduc, Deputy Land Registrar
Carleton County Land Records
Information about land records residing at Elgin Street Court House, Ottawa, Ontario

April 15, 2008 7:30 PM
Speaker: Lesley Anderson
Ancestry.ca update
An update of Ancestry.ca acquisitions of records available to researchers

May 20, 2008 7:30 PM
Speaker: Representative from Hulse, Playfair, McGarry
Changes in Local funeral Customs
Will describe the changes that have taken place in funerals over the past 150 years.

June 17, 2008 7:30 PM
Speaker: Terry Findley
The Ripple Effect

Also, don't forget Ottawa Branch's annual Gene-O-Rama event at Nepean Centrepointe, 28-29 March. Read about it at the Ottawa Branch web site.

09 March 2008

London Profiler

If your genealogy goes back to London you're likely already aware of the Booth Poverty Maps of Victorian London. They're online as part of the Charles Booth Online Archive here. Street by street the maps colour code the social conditions, from the lowest class, described as vicious and semi-criminal, to the wealthy upper-middle and upper classes.

The modern day equivalent is found at the London Profiler web site. Here you can visualise a neighbourhood's profile using different area classifications through a Google Map interface. It's a beta version. The example to the left shows an area centred near the Society of Genealogists building colour coded for crime. The SOG is located just north of the Barbican underground station. The purple area to the south is St Paul's and the City showing less crime (maybe not white-collar crime); the darker red areas further north indicate more crime. Try it for yourself, and compare with the Booth map.

The same folks who developed the London Profiler, Spatial-Literacy.org, also offer a mapping for the whole UK of the Office for National Statistics "2001 Area Classification of Super Output areas and Data zones" That's a geographic grouping according to key population characteristics. The example to the left is for the area around Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, showing disadvantaged urban communities shaded purple and countryside in dark green. Those familiar with the area would question the coding for the area north of Breydon Water. Try it for areas of your interest. Would your ancestor have been able to afford to live in his former home where it is today?

08 March 2008

LAC-SAB: Getting down to business

At its second meeting the 30 members of the Library and Archives Canada Services Advisory Board, who met in Ottawa on Friday 7 March, made clear recommendations. Here are some of the main items.

On hours of service at 395 Wellington, it was recommended by a majority vote that the hours of operation for full service be 9-4 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 10 - 5 on Tuesday and Thursday. The Board recognized that with a wide variety of users these will leave some dissatisfied. The option of having some full service hours on Saturdays was raised and considered by LAC for the longer-term.

Other measures to extend the hours of useful operation at 395 Wellington, but short of full service, are being introduced including remote ordering, extending the hours for use of digital cameras and microform machines.

A commitment to rethink many of the operations, including the 3rd floor service area (fish bowl) and reducing paperwork such as by introducing one time authorization for use of digital cameras.

Changing the description of the building organization to avoid the confusion of the current "reference" and "consultation" terminology.

The time frame of introduction of many of these changes is the end of June, and the operation will be kept under review with a view to further improvements.

The Board strongly recommended LAC not implement filtering software on public Internet work stations but introduce individual log on using the existing client card to discourage abuse and assist tracing abusers.

The board heard a report on the impact on LAC of the CBC TV series "Who Do You Think You Are." Demand on the LAC servers jumped four times immediately following the TV program, with peaks evident as the program was broadcast in different timezones. LAC commented that "both new and repeat visitors grew over the duration of the series, suggesting both trial and repeat use of the promoted resources." Reportedly CBC experienced larger audience numbers than expected, but have yet to announce a decision on a second series. The cost of the series to LAC was $400K plus in-kind support.

One of the greatest concerns raised by the Board at its previous meeting, and in the other consultations, was on finding aids. LAC is converting existing finding aids to digital form, making the information searchable or browsable (depending on the quality of OCR possible), and uploading finding aids to the LAC website. In the fiscal year ending this month Adjutant-Generals Office, Lower Canada (Correspondence); Penitentiary Branch, Department of Justice (Operational Records); Canada Post philatelic collection; records relating to Canada in the Public Record Office; and various political and/or social materials finding aids have been addressed. I got the impression that there was encouraging progress, although the task is large, especially considering that there are collections without adequate finding aids.

There was an extended discussion on items raised by Board members. It was requested that these be recorded in the meeting summary and that LAC indicate what action they will take. Topics varied from the local, such as parking at LAC, to the strategic. Included in the latter were issues of licensing of digital materials, partnerships, cherry-picking of items from larger collections for LAC acquisition, national leadership on newspaper digitization, and making the LAC photographic collection more available online.

For genealogy one item of particular interest mentioned, that might be acquired, was a microfiche collection of Canadian Pacific employee records starting in the 19th century held at the company offices in Calgary.

As the Board is advisory it can only make recommendations. Decisions are made by LAC management.

06 March 2008

Legacy Charting

Millennia Corporation recently announced the availability of time limited trial access to a charting add-on for Legacy Family Tree 6. I've been experimenting with Legacy since obtaining a copy at the Quebec Family History Society Roots 2007 conference last year, thanks to a namesake who won it in a draw but already had a copy.

As a long time user of Family Tree Maker I found the lack of a good charting capability in Legacy a marked disadvantage, one which has now nearly disappeared with this addition.

After installing the software the program asks to go searching for databases on your system in Legacy, GEDCOM, PAF, Family Tree Maker and Roots Magic formats -- you can specify one or any combination. From there on producing a chart on the screen is a three step process. You select the database you want to chart, then click on NEXT to select an individual, which you can do by scrolling through a list, entering first and last names in a search box, or navigating to relatives of the person selected by default. Details of the person selected appear in a panel. Then you click NEXT to select the type of chart you want. The choice is from six versions of an ancestor chart; two of a descendant chart; four versions of DNA charts showing which descendants would have inherited the principal person's Y-DNA, if a male, or mtDNA if female; four types of fan chart; and one type each of hour glass and bow tie charts.

You have an amazing number of choices for changing the appearance of each chart. Theme, colour, box content, borders, size, background and title can all be specified. The implementation is superior to Family Tree Maker's.

You can print, email, export to file, or send a chart for printing by a service bureau, useful if that requires a large format printer. I did encounter one problem when charts which printed fine did not export to file the way they appeared on the screen -- part was missing. This happened with various file formats.

This charting is supposed to be standard in Legacy Family Tree 7 expected this spring. At the moment it's not as convenient having to go a separate program as the integrated capability in Family Tree Maker. With this addition I'm seriously considering switching to Legacy 7 when it comes on the market.

Those in Ottawa will have an early chance to learn about the new Legacy in detail when Rick Roberts from Global Genealogy, who has been involved as a tester for this software during its development, presents a BIFHSGO pre-conference seminar starting at 10am on Friday 18 September. Check the BIFHSGO web site for details coming soon.

05 March 2008

Overused idioms in genealogy

According to Wikipedia an idiom is "a term or phrase whose meaning cannot be deduced from the literal definitions and the arrangement of its parts, but refers instead to a figurative meaning that is known only through common use."

An overused idiom is a cliche, and do we ever have cliches in genealogy! Here are a couple of my (un)favourites.

Search brickwall on Google and the fourth hit is an article from ProGenealogists which describes brickwalls as "those genealogical research problems that seem too hard to solve." There is a Yahoo forum where you can post your brickwalls. Family Chronicle magazine has published 500 Brickwall Solutions to Genealogy Problems and More Brickwall Solutions to Genealogy Problems.

Putting flesh on the bones means adding detail so as to make something more interesting. To means going beyond genealogy, the recitation of names, dates and relationships, to learning about the person's life as described in this article by Sher Leetooze on the Ontario Genealogical Society owned website "Generations, Memorial that live on." Incidentally, I hadn't encountered that web site previously. It has content, such as how to plan and funeral and a directory of florists, that seems a bit unusual for a genealogical society.

There must be many others. "Digging up you roots" comes to mind.

04 March 2008

LAC Services Advisory Board Meets on Friday

On Monday, March 3, I received an email with some of the material for Friday's (March 7) meeting of the LAC Services Advisory Board. The record of decision for the last meeting included the agreement that LAC should "Put agenda and documents out publicly well in advance, (to) aid (the) consultation process in user communities." This was not done although I am told the material will be posted. Apparently insufficient time was allowed.

The major agenda items for Friday's LAC-SAC meeting are:

Report on 26 February LAC Public Consultations
New Hours of Service
LAC policy on filtering software on public Internet work stations
Impact on LAC of “ Who Do You Think You Are”
Service Improvements
Finding Aid digitization

Copied below is the text of the document summarizing the 26 February public consultation


Two public consultation sessions on Library and Archives Canada (LAC) services were attended by 37 members of the public. Following are highlights from the sessions.
Doug Rimmer, LAC Assistant Deputy Minister (Programs & Services), noted that feedback from the consultation sessions and the Services Advisory Board (SAB) will be used to inform decisions on expanded service hours to be presented to the LAC Management Board later in March 2008.

Michelle Doucet, Director-General, Services Branch gave a presentation on Proposed Improvements to Service Hours.


-Support more evening access (suggest moving to even later hours, e.g., 9:00 pm)
-Question why LAC made changes to service hours last fall; what is goal of making changes and the consultation process?
-Need idea of actual timeline for implementing proposed hours of service changes
-Different hours proposed for different days could cause confusion
-Website does not tell users where materials are physically located and during which hours
-More hours outside of normal working hours
-Proposal to have first Saturday of every month as a full-service day
-Proposed return to 8:30 – 5:00 weekday service hours

Next Doug Rimmer and Michelle Doucet led a discussion on the other service issues most frequently raised by LAC users. Participants were asked to rate these issues. The results of this priorisation exercise were as follows:

Priorities for Action
-Digitise more finding aids to government records and provide better access to electronic databases
-Replace/maintain microfilm readers. Allow portable scanners
-Clients don’t know how to begin research, are physically lost in building (395 Wellington)
- Provide confirmation of on-site loan orders/other requests
- Provide capacity for off-site ordering of material

Other comments and issues raised during the consultation sessions included the following:

On consultations
-Very positive process
-Need more regular communications to ensure people are aware of any changes
-How was consultation process communicated?
-Increase the role for users to contribute more to the LAC
-Composition of SAB; appropriateness of approaching SAB members with issues and comments; role and mandate of the Board

On Resources/Support
-Need more electrical outlets in consultation rooms
-Is account registration being considered?
-Is there a list of databases on-line?
-Need to plan for seasonal variations and spikes in usage
-Need more digitization
-Accessibility and signage of directories
-Telephone services (menu choices, hours for accessing LAC personnel)
-Insufficient parking; onerous, non-user friendly security procedures
-Could not find Access to Information form on Website
-Equipment failures, magnification limitations
-Need for more finding aids
-Timeline for delivery of new equipment (before March 31)
-Hope SAB is not temporary (raise their profile to build support from users)
-Need for welcome desk in main lobby – provide direction and advice (orientation booklet, site plan, professional personnel)
-Need to update finding aids and databases; need to resolve problems with access codes
-Cannot have absolute quiet in consultation rooms - requirement for occasional quiet discussions
-Space limitations in area where Library orders are placed; improve space usage
-Should LAC continue to invest in equipment for reading microfilm given declining usage levels?
-Desire to have option of purchasing scanned copies instead of pages
-LAC Website has some out-of-date content/addresses that don’t work

On LAC Staff
-Proposed part-time staff on Saturdays (archivists-in-training, retired researchers)
-Knowledge levels of staff (reference desk personnel sometimes could not answer questions)
-Require more information on rules governing use of Consultation and Reference
-Desire greater access to specialist researchers and librarians
-LAC’s reference service response is extremely valuable
-Seem to be fewer staff during current hours – recognize staff are over-worked and stressed
-Sometimes difficult to find the right specialist who has knowledge on specific topics

Written comments

Participants in the consultations handed in evaluations and other worksheets. The evaluations of both 26 February sessions gave them identical scores of 4.26, where 5 is stated as “Excellent” and 1 is stated as “Poor”. The most frequent positive comments on all the sheets concerned the re-instatement of some hours of service and the frank discussion at the meeting on a variety of topics. The most frequent criticisms on all sheets were that there should be even more hours of service, and a variety of service issues, with finding aids and poor orientation dominating. The most frequent additional comments were thanks for holding the consultations and compliments on services. The most frequent follow up requested was to see results/changes posted on the web.

02 March 2008

Capital Collections

Most cities, as well as national archives, have collections of images, often photographs, that can enhance you own family history. The presentation at BIFHSGO's monthly meeting on Saturday was brought to life by images from a collection of paintings held by Library and Archives Canada.

Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Services illustrates the historical and cultural life of Edinburgh, Scotland and the Scots through an image library which includes a selection of photographs, drawings, watercolours and engravings.

You can search by keyword, or scan themed exhibitions. An innovative approach is exhibitions, just three images, the personal choice of images from the collection by significant people (celebrities) connected with the City.