31 July 2008

Inspiration from the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program

Most everyone's doing it. On 25 July the Australian Newspapers Beta service launched with 70,000 out of copyright newspaper pages from 1803 onwards. Additional pages are to be added each week.

The service, an initiative of the National Library of Australia, in collaboration the Australian State and Territory libraries, currently includes incomplete runs from:

The Argus, daily, Melbourne, 1915-19 and 1945 available
The Canberra Times, 1926-1929
The Courier-Mail, daily, Brisbane, 1933-34
Perth Gazette and Western Australian journal, daily, 1833-1847
The Mercury, daily, Hobart, 1916-1917
The Maitland mercury, and Hunter River general advertiser, New South Wales, 1843-1855 and 1880-1883
The South Australian advertiser, a daily newspaper, 1858-1861
The Sydney Gazette, the first newspaper in Australia, 1803-1815.

I like the approach. It's a cooperative project with national leadership. Content is free and being made available as digitization progresses. Although the material available for the beta is limited there is a measure of accountability in that the schedule for future scanning is made public.

Progress on Library and Archives Canada's equivalent program, following their National Consultation in 2002, is detailed here!

via Resource Shelf

30 July 2008

Ottawa History Digitization Survey

Digitized original sources are becoming increasingly important in genealogical and historical studies. Do you know of any online collections of digitized Ottawa historic materials?

Examples would be online newspapers, city directories, photographic collections, oral histories and other primary materials, likely from libraries, archives and museums, which
relate to the City of Ottawa.

Some of the materials identified so far are:

1. Ottawa City Directories: 1863 - 1899, broken series to 1881, digitized by Library and Archives Canada

2. Ottawa City Directories: 1909 - 1916 and 1923, Internet Archives Texts, digitized by the Toronto Public Library,

3. Early Ottawa Newspapers, digitized by Cold North Wind
Bytown Gazette, 1836 - 1845, 1,188 pages
Ottawa Free Press, 1871 - 1881, 5,902 pages
Ottawa Times, 1865 - 1867, 2,504 pages

4. William James Topley Photographs, digitized by Library and Archives Canada, 11,282 photographs, Ottawa-based photographer but not all are Ottawa subjects

A variety of other online sources contain images of original newspaper, photographs and other documents pertinent to the topic of virtual exhibits, such as "Ottawa Becomes the Capital" by the City of Ottawa Archives and "The Billings Family" by The Billings Estate Museum.

Is anything missing? Please help by letting me know of other existing or ongoing digitizations of local original material to assist in identifying further needs and opportunities. Respond to: aa327 (at) ncf.ca

Chris Watts is coming to Ottawa, Toronto and Philadelphia

Chris Watts FSG, author, frequent speaker and sometime consultant at The (UK) National Archives, with particular interest in military and naval history, is coming back to the US and Canada. He spoke on the west coast earlier in the year.

In November 2006 Chris gave an abbreviated presentation to the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa and the Society is delighted to have him back to give three full presentations at its annual conference at Library and Archives Canada from 19-21 September.

He will speak on English Occupational Records; Records of soldiers in the British Army, 1760-1913; and British Merchant Navy Seaman Records.

There's more information about these and the many other presentations at www.bifhsgo.ca Don't miss the early registration deadline of 15 August.

Chris will be travelling to Toronto to speak to the local branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society on Monday 22 September on "Every Journey has Two Ends."

Before coming to Ottawa Chris will be giving three presentations at the (US) Federation of Genealogical Societies meeting in Philadelphia, 3-6 September 2008. His topics are: English Apprenticeship Records; Sources for Family History at the National Archives UK; and Tracing Births and Deaths at Sea on British and Colonial-Registered Merchant Ships.

29 July 2008

Does Cuil cut it for genealogy?

There was a disturbance in the Internet cosmos yesterday when Cuil, a much hyped search engine, came on the scene. How does it compare with other search engines for genealogy?

For a realistic test I searched Northwood and Pattingham together, an uncommon family name in a small English village.

The search on Google delivered pages on british-genealogy.com/forums/, boards.ancestry.com/surnames and ancestry.co.uk/facts/

Live Search found
ancestry.com/​facts/, findaproperty.com/ and drive-alive.co.uk/

Ask's top three hits were museumstuff.com/family-history, ancestry.com/facts and www.sog.org.uk/prc/

Cuil delivered dateclick.co.uk, a naturalist.com and another page from dateclick.

The three results delivered by Google and Ask are clearly more relevant to a genealogy search with Live search trailing and Cuil entirely missing the mark.

28 July 2008

17th century British genealogy

Another in the series of podcasts from TNA "Our 17th Century Ancestors," originally presented by David Hay on 19 June 2008, is now online. The use of church records, manor court rolls and apprenticeship records is discussed.

You will only likely get back to the 17th century if your ancestors didn't move much. For an uncommon name the records may allow you to trace the line further back in the location, with gaps, but a good probability of their being a connection.

These are both true for my family. A line of Northwoods can be traced back continuously to a marriage in Pattingham, Staffordshire, in 1570. The name is found in the community in 14th century records.

Lt Col John Duncan McDougall

J Duncan McDougall, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Forces, military engineer, veteran of the conflict in Korea, and graduate of Queen's University, passed away last Friday in his 80th year.

In retirement Duncan made significant contributions to the success of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. He handled logistics during the preparations of the Society's book on the Ottawa Company of Sharpshooters including proofreading, indexing and printing. He also painstakingly transcribed the diary of the Company's commander, Captain Alfred Hamlin Todd.

During numerous conferences and other Society events he was a willing helper taking responsibility for audiovisual arrangements. He will be sorely missed.

27 July 2008

Digitized historical resources in British Columbia

The Vancouver Public Library website incorporates a collection of digitized British Columbia city directories dating from 1860 up to and including 1901. The site acknowledges the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre's BC History Digitization Program for funding the project.

In operation since September 2006 the BC Historical Digitization Program promotes increased access to British Columbia's historical resources, including providing matching funds to undertake digitization projects that will result in free online access to unique provincial historical material.
For the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years the Program provided approximately $200,000 in amounts up to $15,000. Applicant's contributions to the project equal at least 50% of the total project costs. Newspaper digitization is prominent.

One of the 2007 projects, continued in 2008, was digitization of Prince George newspapers in a project led by the Prince George Public Library.

The White Rock Museum and Archives placed scanned images of Semiahmoo Sun and White Rock Sun newspapers on Flickr where at least they are available if not digitally searchable.

For 2008 I was interested to see a projects: Digitization of the Cariboo Observer Newspaper (1908-1967) by the Quesnel and District Museum and Archives; Bill Silver Newspaper Collection, a digitization initiative of the Vanderhoof Public Library; and a joint project from the Okanagan Region to digitize The Vernon News (1891 to 1996.)

26 July 2008

UK Timelines

A series of key dates in the sociological history and development of Great Britain, useful for putting your family history in context, are at the Stoke on Trent and the Potteries. It has separate timelines for:

General dates -- to help put other developments into context.
Census and Registration -- census dates and statistics, registration laws and record keeping requirements.
Education -- development of education, Sunday Schools, free and National Schools. Women in education. Universities.
Health -- developments on health, nursing, the medical profession.
Infrastructure development -- roads, transport. Building and land laws
The Poor -- Poor Law development, legal obligations, poor relief.
Human Rights -- the justice system, voting rights, Chartism, women's rights.
The Workers -- working conditions, factory acts, child labour.

25 July 2008

Update on Roll-out of 1901 and 1911 Census (Ireland)

Cork Genealogist has posted news on this topic. In brief "records for Kerry, Antrim and Down will be going online in October of this year. The rest of 1911 will follow quickly thereafter in batches of counties."

Read the full posting here.

24 July 2008

Genealogy on the decline?

In April 2007 I wrote on the rise and fall of the Rootsweb mailing list showing that annual posts to all lists in total peaked in 2002. Posts to DNA-Genealogy continued to increase to 2006, the last full year available.

Now, 16 months on, its clear that the trend of postings to the DNA group is following the same trend. The peak month was June 2006 with 2,756 postings. June 2008 had only 1,596.
That the peak for DNA posting came much later than for Rootsweb postings overall reflects the newness of this approach to genealogy.

How, if at all, are people meeting the need previously catered to by mailing lists?

The top of the graph to the left, from Google Trends, which goes back to 2004, suggests that increases in web 2.0 (yellow line) and social networks (green line), the usual suspects, are partly responsible for the decline in mailing list (red) and newsgroup (blue). But the declines start before those increases.

Blogs might account for some of the earlier trend, but there were very few genealogy blogs back in 2004, and even fewer in 2002 when the Rootsweb newsgroup decline started.

The top of the graph to the left, another showing search volume from Google Trends, is for genealogy (blue), sewing (red) and knitting (yellow). Search volumes for all three have declined, but genealogy, which had most volume in 2004, now has least.

Could it be that interest in genealogy is actually declining and its much proclaimed status as the second most popular pursuit on the Internet is another urban myth?

23 July 2008

When was the 1891 Canadian census actually taken?

The official date for the census, just released in indexed and digitized form by Ancestry, is 6 April 1891. But, as pointed out by Library and Archives Canada, actual enumeration took weeks or months.

Enumerators were instructed to record the information on the census returns as it existed on the official enumeration date. The further the actual date of enumeration from the official date the greater the chance of error. You can assess this as the enumerator was required to record the actual date on each form, and mostly they did.

A survey of 36 forms across Canada found only two that were enumerated on April 6th; 23 were enumerated in April, ten in May, one in July and one in August. The later registrations were in British Columbia.

Amazingly populations for the country as a whole, and for major centres, were tabled in the House of Commons on 27 August 1891. With all the technology at Stats Can's command it takes them much longer to produce any results today.

Even if Stats Can could perform as well today the figures couldn't be tabled -- Parliament wouldn't be sitting in August!

22 July 2008

Ancestry launches 1891 Canadian census

The 1891 Census of Canada is now available on Ancestry.ca. Although some organizations and individuals have previously extracted parts of this census, several transcripts are found online and a few have been available on Ancestry, this is the first comprehensive digitization and indexing.

According to Ancestry's press release the database, taken from 139 rolls of microfilm from Library and Archives Canada (LAC), comprises 4.5 million names and 90,000 images of historical records. From the sample I've examined the quality of the LAC microfilm copy is quite good, better than that of the 1881 census images that LAC plans on adding to their web site "shortly."

The census covers all of Canada as it existed on the 6th of April 1891. Alberta, Saskatchewan and northern British Columbia were enumerated as territories. Newfoundland was not part of Canada at the time.

Of particular interest in 1891 is information about the place of birth of the individual's mother and father.

The census revealed a situation considered disappointing to those looking to populate the Prairies following the completion of the CPR in 1885. Canada's population had grown only about 11% in ten years, compared to 24% in the US and 17% in Canada in the previous decade.

Although this is the first comprehensive digitization and indexing an interesting sidelight is that, according to "The Dominion Bureau of Statistics: A History of Canada's Central Statistics ... by David A. Worton," the 1891 census was the subject of experimental use of electronic tabulating equipment that year. I wonder what happenned to the cards!

21 July 2008

Comparing collaborative genealogy websites

A recent posting on the Genlighten Blog is on online collaborative genealogy websites, a topic I've had in mind to tackle but not much experience. I'm fairly reticent about placing recent family information in other's hands, One institution I deal with still thinks its safe to use mother's maiden name as a security question!

Genlighten is a startup commercial service aiming to connect people wanting lookups with those offering that service. It's Blog archives start in June.

The article on online collaborative genealogy websites reviews Geni, Ancestry Family Tree, and New Family Search.

It was the latter as a collaborative site that attracted my attention. The posting states "it’s still very much under development and is currently only available to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS)," that it "aspires to become much more than either Geni, Ancestry, or their competitors" and "a key access portal for the LDS Church’s extensive (some would say indispensable) genealogical holdings." Sounds interesting.

The posting is a recommended read. Not reviewed but mentioned are The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG) and WeRelate.

20 July 2008

England and Wales 1841 and 1861 census information on FamilySearch

The pilot site for new FamilySearch shows red stars against database additions, so I was interested to see the 1841 and 1861 census for England and Wales has just been added.

The database is the result of cooperation between free-for-the-asking FamilySearch and the commercial FindMyPast.com. How can they co-exist?

My first test search was specific to the 1861 census for anyone with last name Ordish born at any time in Suffolk, England. Two hits were shown. The free information supplied was name, age, gender, birthplace, relation to the head of household and record type, in this case household. There is a link to the FindMyPast site where you can pay for the full information, including where the person was living, and an image of the original.

As a subscriber to FindMyPast this doesn't add anything for me. It is additional information for those who don't have that access and might be helpful to someone who had a transcript from another source, say FreeCEN, and wanted a second opinion on, say, the birthplace.

The wider benefit is in the general search, before selecting a specific dataset. In this way you can search across all the indexed records so the hits include, for instance, the baptism and marriage datasets as well as the censuses. There were some cases where a general search yielded only census results, even though there were baptism and marriage records to be found. There didn't seem to be a reason, but it is a pilot site.

19 July 2008

Tracing WW1 British Army Ancestors

TNA have a new podcast on WW1 army ancestors. It's the audio portion of a presentation by William Spencer. He first covers records of service for both officers (WO 339, 374, 337) and other ranks (WO 363, 364, 400) and adds information for nurses (WO 399) and other women's service (WO 398). He then lightly covers medal and operational records before returning to Ancestry's treatment of WO 363 and 364 in their digitization project.

It would be very helpful if the online presentation could also includes the slides, not a technically difficult task these days, as it's often difficult to follow the development without the visuals.

How to remember a tragic event?

On May 2 1845 there was a major disaster in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, when a suspension bridge, crowded with onlookers viewing a circus clown in a washing tub towed along the river by four geese, collapsed. Apparently 100 people or more lost their lives, three-quarters of them children and teens.

An inquest found that the bridge collapsed under the combined stresses of excessive and uneven loading and poor quality ironwork that weathered prematurely.

What exists in Great Yarmouth to commemorate this tragedy? The Suspension Bridge Tavern is nearby the site, and there's an unusual old gravestone of a child victim in St Nicholas cemetery that depicts the bridge collapsing and children pouring into the water.

According to a Yarmouth Mercury report the gravestone is badly weathered and conservationists are blocking its rescue. It's ironic that weathering that contributed to the deaths is now causing a physical memorial to be lost too. Could not a replica of the original be created and installed in the graveyard, and the original conserved inside the church, a museum or even the pub?

Or should we bother? Details of this small piece of local history can be retrieved through contemporary newspaper reports, now becoming more available online thanks to digitization. It was a significant enough event that, even though the local press coverage is not yet digitized, there are many reports in the Gale online 19th Century British Library Newspapers collection. Include are the names of at least 80 fatalities and graphic accounts of the event and subsequent inquest.

A note for genealogists; although the event occurred in May 1845 the deaths don't appear in the GRO index until the first quarter of the following year.

18 July 2008

Scan and Deliver

If you're interested in digitization initiatives check out this 11 July article in Information World Review.

The thrust is the problems in the UK of getting copyright clearance and of orphan works. That's different in the UK and Canada owing to difference in copyright legislation, although orphan works remain a difficulty, one that the new Canadian copyright legislation tabled in Parliament just before the summer notably fails to address.

However, it was this paragraph on the scope of British digitization initiatives that especially attracted my attention.

The British Library has digitisation projects going on all fronts: 19th century newspapers, archive sound recordings, manuscripts from Central Asia (as part of the International Dunhuang Project) and UK theses for the Ethos e-thesis service. With its mass digitisation of 19th century English literature nearing completion, the British Library faces some tough decisions about what to digitise next. Three of its projects are funded by JISC, which is supporting 16 digitisation schemes in the UK to the tune of £10m. Sound, moving pictures, newspapers, census data, journals and parliamentary papers are all in the process of digitisation.

I read this shortly after a reader bulletin from the British Library arrived announcing "the largest programme of moves we have undertaken since the opening of St Pancras in 1998."

Tacked on to the end of the bulletin was the Q/A

Is the planned closure of Colindale, the current site of the newspaper collections, and the transfer of these collections part of the Collection Moves programme?

Yes. To improve the storage conditions and therefore the lifespan of the newspaper collection, the hard copy collections will be moving to Boston Spa. Microfilm will be stored and available at St Pancras.

This seems to imply that a copy of every newspaper being moved will be available on microfilm at St Pancras. Let's hope that's the case, both for the preservation of the collection and convenience of the researcher. Having got them on microfilm they shouldn't stop but continue on to make them available online showing others the way.

17 July 2008

We should tell stories

Looking for an innovative way to relate your family history, or any story? For inspiration have a look at this use of digital technology, where you follow the principal character by means of Google Maps. Visit St Pancras Railway Station, the British Library ... I won't spoil the story by adding other places in London and beyond. The presentation in small chunks of text, and interactivity, draws you in. Don't miss the unexpected reward near the end.

via the British Library Digital Lives Research Project Team Blog

16 July 2008

WDYTYA Complaint

This article reports on Mr Wayne Coady, styled as spokesperson for the Injured and Abused Workers Coalition, who wrote to the CBC Ombudsman about the genealogy program Who Do You Think You Are? He complains that the CBC spent taxpayers money so they (the featured celebrities) could learn about "their" family background.

He argues the money could be better spent investigating the operations of the workman's compensation system.

Most operations of government can stand scrutiny. CBC already broadcasts a substantial amount of flagship public affairs programs. Mr Coady's concern is really that they don't choose to investigate his topic of concern.

So why does he hit on one of the corporation's few heritage and history related programs, and do so in such a lame brained way? If the CBC had just wanted to spend money so that the chosen few could learn about their family history they wouldn't need to turn them into TV programs. They did. I and many people I know enjoyed the programs and the insight they gave into the diverse backgrounds of a cross section of Canadians. We learn about this country through its people.

There is an extended list of other programs I'd happily see axed, but it includes areas that Mr Coady probably wouldn't want to take on. As a public broadcaster the CBC is obligated to meet a spectrum of viewer interests. I accept that many won't appeal to my viewing preferences.

Singling out for such unjustified criticism one of the pitifully small number of programs CBC runs on history and heritage does nothing to help the corporation find a balance of good programming.

15 July 2008

Genealogy Disaster Plan

Brenda Merriman sent along a suggestion for a posting on protecting your genealogical assets. It's an article from broomfieldenterprise.com by Julie Miller, a certified genealogist, genealogy researcher, lecturer and writer.

Her first of five precautionary steps is "Cite each source precisely and accurately."

I've been trying the new UK SourceWriter templates for Legacy 7 in the hope that it might make this task easier. Comments from others on SourceWriter are mainly positive, but maybe I just don't get it. Seems to me for official sources (census, civil registration) that, if I can find the information I did without having that information, it shouldn't be much of a challenge for someone who has the information, but without a precise and accurate citation.

Given that time is money, or at least limited, is writing precise and accurate citations the best use of that time? Most family members won't care about citations -- they want the stories.

I'd argue that the better use of limited time is to present information in a format that's likely to be treasured by your family. That's a nicely presented book on archival quality stock -- no problems with technological change meaning its unreadable in a few years. It should contain images of unique documentation and photographs. Then ensure that enough copies are spread around to increase the chances of it being preserved.

14 July 2008

Ancestors in the Attic repeats

On Tuesday and Wednesday, 15 and 16 July, History Television Canada is repeating episodes of Ancestors in the Attic. Two will be shown each day back-to-back starting at 3 pm.

Tonight, Monday 14 July, at 9pm WGBH, and likely other PBS stations, airs another episode of History Detectives. The programs are supplemented by quite a nice website.

13 July 2008

Free London Times Archive

There's a time limited free (with registration) opportunity to search and view an archive of the London Times, the UK's paper of record, from 1785 to 1985 ... link.

It isn't clear if this is a new digitization or another access point as The Times has been available in digitalized form for the same years through the Gale Group for some years.

In the UK many libraries offer their patrons remote online access, but very few do in Canada.

The site is promising that later years, after 1985, will also be digitized.

BCGS open house and family history research week

British Columbia and Alberta have progressive genealogy and family history societies and their major public libraries are strong in genealogical resources.

The two western provinces are also home to some of Canada's most prominent genealogists. One will be in Ottawa as theme speaker for the annual BIFHSGO conference in September.

Two librarians from the area are on the committee for the Genealogy and Local History for All: Services to Multicultural Communities conference next month in Ottawa.

A posting by M Diane Rogers' on her blog gives another example. The British Columbia Genealogical Society is running a Family History Research Week, July 21-26, 2008. The focus topics for the first three days are in the UK and Ireland. Here are the details from the BCGS website:

Walter Draycott Resource Centre & Library, #211- 12837 76th Avenue, Surrey, B.C.
(76th Avenue and 128th Street)
Call 604 - 502-9119, Library Administrator: Betty Allen

OPEN HOUSE, July 20th, in the afternoon, 2 - 4 pm.
Free all week. See what’s available in your area, or ask us for some assistance.
The Society’s Resource Centre & Library in Surrey, B.C., contains over 12,000 genealogical & family history related books and periodicals, microfilmed records, CDs & clipping & card files compiled by the Society, including one of 100,000 entries on past British Columbia residents. For more information, please call the Library 604 - 502-9119

The Weeks agenda

Monday - Scotland;
Tuesday - Ireland;
Wednesday - England and Wales;
Thursday - Canada;
Friday - USA;
Saturday - all others - Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

12 July 2008

More than 60 genealogy courses starting each month

Is a lack of knowledge holding back your progress in researching your family history? Perhaps a particular topic, or country far removed from where you live, has suddenly begun to feature in your family tree and you need specialized knowledge.

You can always buy a book, but some folks learn better through an interactive educational experience. While you can often find beginner level genealogy instruction at local Board of Education evening classes, community colleges or your local family history society, you will be very lucky to find the specialized course you seek.

Fortunately the help you seek can be as near as your Internet capable computer.

One source is the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, affiliated with the Professional Learning Centre, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto, which offers many courses each month.

NIGS is the oldest established online genealogy education organization. Thousands of people have improved their research skills, while enjoying the benefits of the time flexibility available by taking web-based courses.

There are courses at the basic, intermediate and advanced levels. Some of the advanced level courses scheduled in August are:

Canadian: Military Records
Canadian: Newspaper Records
English: Education, Health & Contemporary Documents
English: Taxes, Lists, Business, Electoral & Insurance Records
Genealogy and Copyright Guidelines
Genetics and Genealogy
Irish: Court Records, State Papers, Parliamentary Documents
Irish: Immigration, Naturalization & Emigration Records
Irish: Military, Naval & Pension Records
Librarianship: Cooperative Ventures and Referrals
Palaeography: Reading & Understanding Historical Documents
US: Court Records
US: Newspaper Records
US: Occupational Records

Find out about subscribing to a package of courses and earning a Certificate in Genealogical Studies by visiting www.genealogicalstudies.com

11 July 2008

Google Gobbled PaperofRecord

More than a year ago the PaperofRecord historic newspaper database stopped offering subscriptions and made the service free. At the time Bob Huggins, one of the founders, wrote that "it will always be free." Didn't seem like a very viable business model to me -- the owner would need deep pockets. At the time, March 2007, I speculated this might be Google - Did Google Gobble Paper of Record?

Speculation confirmed.

In a 9 July 2008 comment in response to a posting on the Public Domain Blog on Bob Huggins (assuming the posting is legitimate) clarifies the situation:

Just to clear up a few factual matters and to make you aware of the world to come. Firstly, PaperofRecord.com is a free site. Our founding entity Cold North Wind Inc was the first company in the world to digitize an entire newspapers collection in The Toronto Star. The Star is ranked in the top twenty newspapers in the world topping put at 700,000 circulation. At our peak we digitized over 20 million newspaper pages.

Secondly, PaperofRecord.com partnered our content with Google in 2006 to bring you a vast collection of newspapers that will span the planet in multiple languages throughout the past 500 years. This product will appear through the summer of 2008. We are very pleased to leave our pioneering newspaper digitization legacy in the stewardship of Google, and believe strongly that they are the perfect partner for the endeavour.


Bob Huggins
Cold North Wind Inc

As I wrote in March 2007, Google getting more heavily into newspaper morgues is exciting for genealogy. If you've found information of interest in your family history search in digitized versions of rare books in Google Books, or Microsoft's Live Search Books (RIP) you'll appreciate the potential. Local papers are the paper of record for tens of thousands of communities. In them you find not only births, marriages and deaths recorded but a host of community happenings, scholarships, school graduations, sporting events, business openings and closings, military matters, club meetings, social notes and the whole minutiae of daily life which can help bring an ancestor to life, if only you can find the item on him or her.

Find My Past puts more English and Welsh burial records online

As a result of its partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies, and their member societies, an extensive collection of parish burial records is now available through findmypast.com. The details of coverage, which is especially rich for Northumberland and Durham, Derbyshire, Cambridgeshire, and Glamorgan, are:

Suffolk 'Early' Burial Index (62,280 burials, 34 parishes)
Elmton, Derbyshire burials (1589 - 1868)
Burials of non-residents in north and east Cheshire (30,082 burials)
Halifax St John’s burial registers (11,176 burials, 1813 - 1937)
Sussex Burials (497,040 burials, 237 parishes, 1530 - 1995)
Bradford Parish Church Burials (36,804 burials, 1681 - 1837)
Lincolnshire cemetery registers (63,985 burials, 913 parishes, 1854 - 1999)
Lincolnshire Workhouse Deaths ( 10,222 entries for 6 parishes)
Elland St. Mary’s Burial Registers (32,966 burials, 1714-1843)
Dorset Burial Index (100,448 burials, 234 parishes)
Bradford Burial Index (9,254 burials)
Pontefract District Burials (48,160 burials, 15 parishes, 1670 - 1949)
Burials for Oldham & district, Lancashire (156,117 burials, 13 parishes)
Liverpool burials (2,742 burials, 1773 - 1858)
Derbyshire Registrar's Death Index (252,544 people, 23 locations, 1837 - 1949.
Northumberland and Durham Burials (595,004 entries, 187 locations, 1540-1999)
Non-conformist registers of Chepstow, Monmouthshire (214 burials, 2 locations, 1802-1900)
Huntingdonshire Burials (230,716 burials, 100 locations, 1538-1900)
Selby Cemetery, Yorkshire (10,135 burials, 1858 - 1936)
Cambridgeshire Burials (221,786 burials, 52 parishes, 1538 - 1951)
Billingshurst, Sussex, Burial and Probate (5,620 individuals, 1508 - 1857)
Montgomeryshire Burials (95,811 burials, 29 locations, 1579-1930)
Dunchurch Burials (5,956 burials, 1538-1900)
Rugby Burials (1620-1812)
Burials of Frant, Sussex (6,241 burials)
Glamorgan Burial Index (313,709 burials, 134 places, 1569-1999)

One of the burials indexed of interest in Ottawa is that of John By, age 53, of Shernfold Park, Frant, who was buried in the parish churchyard on 12 February 1836.

10 July 2008

LAC online exhibition on Sir John A Macdonald

There is now an online exhibition on Canada's first Prime Minister on the LAC web site. It includes much interpretative material on his life, policies, legacies, reproductions of photographs, ephemera, and more.

Researchers will like the catalogue-linked digitized versions of the first 185 volumes of LAC's collection of 593 volumes of textual records of Sir John's papers.

I checked out a part of the digitized collection that I'd seen previously. The quality of the online version of a letter to Sir John from his niece W H Sparkes in England taking him up on a promise he made regarding her son George "that I might send him to you if I did not know what to do with him"is excellent. George was found a government job, was at the bedside when Sir John died, accompanied the body to Kingston for burial, served in the Canadian forces suppressing the 1885 Northwest Rebellion, in South Africa and WW1.

At a launch event at LAC on Wednesday evening with guests Thomas Axworthy and Arthur Milnes the point was made that, compared to the founding fathers of the country to the south, Canada makes very little effort to celebrate its first Prime Minister.

The presentation and discussion were recorded and should, hopefully, appear soon as a videocast or podcast.

09 July 2008

A secret genealogy conference?

It seems to be a big secret. Visiting in the public areas of Library and Archives Canada you would never learn that the institution is hosting an international genealogy conference in less than a month.

Genealogy and Local History for All,
Services to Multicultural Communities, August 6-7, is one of several pre-conference events linked to the World Library and Information Congress 74th IFLA General Conference and Council in Quebec City.

Aimed at librarians and archivists working with genealogy and local history patrons and collections, it isn't supposed to be exclusive -- I'm told everyone is welcome to register.

The speakers and topics are:

Jeffrey Bockman on Drilling Down for DNA; John de Vries on primary and secondary Dutch records; Bill Forsyth on the Freedman Bank Records; Dave Obee on Eastern Europe; Marie-Louise Perron on cross-cultural backgrounds; Louise St-Denis exploring the relationship between librarians/archivists and professional genealogists; Paul F. Smart on Making the Records of the World More Accessible at FamilySearch; Jerome Teelucksingh on methods of preserving and locating information on West Indians in Canada; Janet Tomkins on challenges in researching Chinese-Canadian ancestry and the Chinese diaspora; Sylvie Tremblay on French-Canadian Genealogy; Susan Tucker (Keynote Speaker) on the boundaries of public and private memories and the roles records and various pieces of family art and artifacts play in society; and Marc Vallières on the scope and strategic approach of a major Québec regional history project.

While it's an innovative program the scope may be too broad for the individual researcher. The two-day regular registration of $175.00, which includes a tour and dinner at the Gatineau Preservation Centre, is also pretty steep for hobbyists. It seems more likely to attract professionals.

LAC Notes

The new schedule of opening hours at Library and Archives Canada is in operation. I'm told there were people lined up to take advantage at 9am on Monday. The whole building seemed busy while I was there on Tuesday. All three of the new microform reader-printers were in use; the book I ordered arrived promptly; people were being served efficiently on the 3rd floor despite occasional line-ups for service.

Over a sandwich I learned that despite digitization initiatives there has been no decline in requests for archival boxes in the building.

08 July 2008

Increasing travel costs promote digitization

Dick Eastman in his Online Genealogy Newsletter has a posting The Rising Cost of Travel Versus Online Research worth reading. He points out the high cost of driving to a major archives 35 miles from his home given the escalating cost of fuel, tolls and parking, and poor public transit access to those facilities. Dick points out that increasing costs make commercial online services look like increasingly better value, but that they still only provide a small fraction of the records you might go to an archives to see.

People who live not 35 miles, but 350 miles from an archives have long been aware of this cost of access to free public institutions. It's a reality the 35 milers are now waking up to. Under this economic pressure if public service institutions, like archives, want to maintain a respectable number of clients served they will need to increasingly embrace digitization and online provision of service.

Digitization of records, and providing them over the Internet, is just another step along the path that started when original records were placed on microfilm. There is no reason why simple digitization has to be handed over wholesale to commercial enterprises, unless you believe that archives and record offices should have been run as commercial entities anyway. There remains a substantial scope for commercial genealogy activity in providing value-added indexing.

Whichever organization provides it, digitization will have the benefit of providing increased equity of access, no matter where the client lives, and that's a good thing.

06 July 2008

The cat's out of the bag and the bird has flown

An announcement about the GRO Digitisation of Vital Events (DOVE) project has finally been made. Those who follow the British government and its genealogy bureaucracy will hardly be surprised.

Cast your mind back to 16 January 2007 when an announcement that the Family Records Centre (FRC) would be closed was made by the Office of National |Statistics (ONS) in a press release headlined Births, marriages and deaths records to go on the Internet.

Now the FRC is closed and, in a classic shell game move, responsibility for the GRO is shifted from ONS to the Identity and Passport Service. They are reneging on the other part of the bargain. Instead of the January 2007 announcement that "facilities to search indexes of births, marriages and deaths will start to be available on the Internet from early 2008," we learn only in July 2008 that "the project to produce the digitised index and make it available to the public online ... is likely to be delayed further." No firm deadline; not even an estimate.

On July 4 The (UK) Society of Genealogists wrote that "Having liaised with GRO about this project over the last three years the Society had heard regular assurances that the contractors Siemens were catching up with backlogs of digitising the certificates and that GRO was preparing to improve the indexes. This clearly is no longer the case."

Given that "Siemens has currently delivered over 130 million records; this is approximately half the total number of General Register Office (GRO) records of birth, death and marriage," what is stopping GRO from putting the existing index records online? Or why can't the digitised index information be made available to FreeBMD, assuming that work meets FreeBMD quality standards?

05 July 2008

BIFHSGO Conference Speakers

A reminder about the knowledgeable speakers presenting at the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa Conference, 19 - 21 September 2008 at Library and Archives Canada.

Giving three presentations:

Sherry Irvine
, CG, FSA Scot, BC-based lecturer, writer and Past President of the (US) Association of Professional Genealogists.

Chris Watts, FSG, author and consultant at The National Archives, Kew, with particular interest in military and naval history.

Giving two presentations:

Marian Press, librarian at the University of Toronto, genealogy instructor and writer, a regular speaker at genealogy conferences.

Gary Schroder, lecturer, media expert and long-time President of the Quebec Family History Society.

Giving one presentation:

Lesley Anderson, teaches genealogy and computer courses, Ancestry.ca consultant, BIFHSGO associate director of education.

Jane Down, professional conservation scientist, an active genealogical researcher, writer and competition award winner.

Alison Hare, CG, author, editor, twice awarded best presentation of the year recognition at BIFHSGO monthly meetings.

Jeffrey S. Murray, author and senior map archivist at Library and Archives Canada.

Glenn Wright, historian, archivist, consultant and former BIFHSGO director of Research and Projects. Author of The Caroline and her Passengers.

More information and online registration here.

04 July 2008

Ancestry should check out iGoogle

Ancestry.com have a new home page. There's an Ancestry blog posting explaining what's new along with some forthright comments from users.

With the massive amount of content Ancestry offers it's almost a fool's task to try and produce a home page that satisfies everyone. For quite a while I've used a bookmarked search page which, fortunately, doesn't seem to have been "improved" rather than Ancestry's home page as my entry point.

What's on the new home page? The single largest item is a search box. That's good. I suspect it's what most people are looking for. Almost as big is a box for a user submitted family tree. I don't use online trees but sent an owner some information a couple of weeks ago and was added to their contributor list. Now for my kindness I have a substantial part of home page real estate hijacked. I don't want it. It's as if Ancestry were being guided by Clare Boothe Luce's well known aphorism "No good deed goes unpunished."

Another thing I don't need is advertising irrelevant to my interests.

My Quick Links is given a prominent place in the right hand column and provides a way to link to web pages important to you. I added a direct link to Ancestry's English censuses, FamilySearch and FindMyPast. One benefit is that the more links you add the further down on the page the ads beneath it get pushed.

That's important as its the above the fold, the items that are immediately visible without scrolling down, that count.

Additional elements My To-do List, What's Happening At Ancestry, Recent Activity, and My Shoebox fall below the fold so are less intrusive.

Given the wide variety of users Ancestry aims to serve I don't know why they don't borrow a leaf from Google's book and make the page a lot more customizable. Google's iGoogle home page has a search box at the top but allows you to customize the rest of the page by adding gadgets, customized content elements, in three columns below. My iGoogle home page includes the local weather, Gmail, calendar, to-do list, news from two sources and quotes of the day which all appear above the fold. Also a Bush countdown showing only 200 days left to go -- happy 4th of July!

Note: As I was finishing this posting I came across a further Ancestry blog posting acknowledging several of the points mentioned here.

03 July 2008

Canada falling further behind on newspaper digitization

The announcement copied below on the US cooperative National Digital Newspaper Program is an occasion to again reflect on the situation in Canada.

The latest score: US - $1.9 million, Canada - a big fat zero.

I turned to LAC's recent, attractively produced but undated, document Moving Ahead in an attempt to find out what's happening. Sorry there no hyperlink -- strangely it's not online!

In its 46 pages, which proclaims using digital technology and putting information at people's fingertips as goals, there's not a single mention of newspaper digitization, and precious little mention of newspapers. Where is the recognition of newspapers as local sources for our history, and digitization as a means of making them available? That reality has not eluded others.

Perhaps LAC has taken a deliberate decision to abandon this part of the organization's mandate. There's no newspaper specialist within LAC as Sandra Burrows, who left the organization abruptly, has not been replaced.

So LAC, just what are the organization's plans on newspaper digitization?

Here's the US press release.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced on June 17, 2008, awards totaling $1,867,883 for six successful applicants representing their states in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). This funding will support the selection and digitization of historic American newspapers published between 1880 and 1922, by each participating state, according to NDNP guidelines. The Library of Congress (LC) will make these newspapers available to the public through the Chronicling America Website (http://www.loc.gov/chroniclingamerica) beginning in mid-2009. The six 2008 awardees - Arizona Department of Libraries, Archives and Public Records; University of Hawaii-Manoa; Ohio Historical Society; State Historical Society of Missouri; Pennsylvania State University; and Washington State Library; - will join 9 states already participating in the program.

NDNP, a partnership between the NEH and the LC, is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of all U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Supported by NEH, this rich digital resource will be developed and permanently maintained at the Library of Congress. The NEH grant program will fund the contribution of content from, eventually, all U.S. states and territories.

02 July 2008

Cockneys to Canada and other East End stories

Every so often you come across a gem of a web site.

If your ancestry has a branch into the East End of London this collection of stories by John Rennie, who has been writing for East End Life, a weekly newspaper published since 1996, will draw you in. On the About page he writes "It (the site) enables us to post all those pieces that never quite make it to the pages of East End Life … and strays off in search of related titbits about London, its news, museums, shows and other arcana. We even stray beyond the boundaries of Tower Hamlets. But at heart it’s those history pieces - some 600 or more of them now and counting."

There's a search capability which I tried by searching Canada. Some of the articles found were:

Cockneys to Canada, about the activities of the East London (Family) Emigration Fund which started operation in 1869 and boasted after having shipped over 1,000 souls that ‘since their arrival in Canada excellent accounts have been received from all the emigrants, not one of whom has expressed a regret at having left England. Even when difficulties have arisen, such as must naturally be expected from persons settling in a new country, there is a tone of hopefulness in their letters, which show the writers had no doubt of their ultimate success.

Ships of Hope and Deported kids, about home children and particularly the Barnardo's organization. Some thrived, but some did less happily. An example of the the contrasting fates of two boys – William Carter and James Carver – sent to Canada in 1884 from the Barnardo’s home in Stepney Causeway is given.

Two-gun Cohen, is about another home child whose story progresses from the East End, to the Prairies, to China.