31 August 2008

Records from the British Isles Vital Records Index, 2nd Edition, online at Ancestry

Databases with information extracted from English and Welsh birth and christening records (1530-1906) and marriage records (1538-1940) previously published in CD form from the LDS as the British Isles Vital Records Index are now on Ancestry.

The records are for a selection of localities in England and Wales. Coverage is far from complete, but you may get lucky.

I've had the CDs for many years but rarely used them after the initial screening for my ancestors. Now having them integrated with the other Ancestry databases means not having to remember to search a separate data set.

The CDs are still valuable as they contain additional Irish material not (yet?) available through Ancestry.

29 August 2008

University of London Student Records, 1836-1926

Registers and lists of University of London students are now online. Available are searchable pdfs for:

Students up to (and including) 31 March 1901
University of London General Register parts I and II (published 1890, 1899)

University of London General Register part III (published 1901)

Graduates, 1836-1926
University of London Historical Record, 1836-1926 (published 1926)

More details here.


28 August 2008

Loyalist books online

One of my regular stops is the list of new items posted by Ancestry. Most often these are digitized books. Those with United Empire Loyalist interests might want to check out three items new on Ancestry:

United Empire Loyalists, Enquiry into the Losses and Services in Consequence of their Loyalty, by Alexander Fraser, Parts I and II

The Old United Empire Loyalists List by Milton Rubicam

Both are publications of the Genealogical Publishing Company.

27 August 2008

Government blow to digitization

The following from Michael Geist's blog. I can hardly wait for the opportunity to express my view on this at the ballot box!

"Most of our major trading partners, including the United States, European Union, Australia, New Zealand, and China have already established digitization strategies that feature robust programs and ambitious plans. Those countries recognized that an effective digitization strategy yields significant domestic benefits such as wider access to knowledge for all communities, a greater appreciation of national cultural heritage, and the facilitation of lifelong learning. There are tangible international advantages as well, since digital access supports cultural exports and collaborative scientific research.

Yet the announced cuts move Canada in the opposite direction. For example, just as the government was cutting $11.7 million to the Canadian Memory Fund (which gives federal agencies money to digitize their collections and post them online), the European Union - which is currently led by the Conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy - was committing nearly $200 million next year alone toward digitization and efforts to provide online access to Europe's cultural heritage. The European Commission has urged its member states to increase their digitization budgets, as Europe works toward the creation of a massive European Digital Library.

These program cuts seemingly guarantee that Canada will fall further behind the digitization race, leaving Canadians without online access to their cultural and historical heritage and doing precious little to promote Canadian content to the rest of the world. The decisions may provide short-term gains among some voting constituencies, but also promise long-term pain for Canada's presence in the online world."

FreeBMD Update

The FreeBMD Database was updated on Thursday 14 August 2008 and contains 154,016,737 distinct records (198,415,308 total records). Don't forget to check back to see if that elusive ancestor has been added.

The database now contains 70,418,809 unique records for births, 37,981,251 for marriages and
43,096,978 for deaths.

An additional coverage chart, for 1930-1949, has been added for each of vital record set. There's not much coverage for that period yet but it's encouraging to see the intention implied.

26 August 2008

A little more on BMD index digitization for England and Wales

The Federation of Family History Societies has posted a response, hardly news to those who have followed the issue, from the British Government to a petition on this topic.

After mentioning availability on microform the response states:

"GRO recognises that the creation of a publicly-accessible online index will be of even greater value to many family historians. GRO was transferred on 1 April 2008 from the Office for National Statistics to the Identity and Passport Service (IPS). IPS has confirmed that the creation of an accessible online index is a commitment which GRO will continue to work

A necessary pre-requisite is that all the registration records from 1837 must be created in a digitised format. The project to achieve this has encountered delays, with about half the records currently digitised. IPS is investigating a new project to complete the work and to address the requirement for an online index. At this stage options for the best method
of implementation are being reviewed, and new timescales will be announced as soon as decisions based on the outcome of the review can be taken.”

No timeframe. Best for who?

25 August 2008

LAC Services Consultation

Historian, genealogist, researcher ... whatever the reason you use the services of Library and Archives Canada; whether you use those services on-site or remotely by inter-institutional loan or the LAC web site, your opinion on LAC Service Branch service strategy is sought.

LAC has prepared a Discussion Paper which is now available on this LAC web page. This Paper provides background on LAC public services, identifies examples of possible service changes and encourages LAC clients to share their ideas on service-related issues, challenges and opportunities. Check it out here.

24 August 2008

A Queen's thanks leaves historical legacy

Queen Elizabeth, mother of the present Queen Elizabeth II, arranged to have a decorative letter of thanks sent to people who hosted British children evacuated to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA at the start of WW2.

Designed and printed in Ottawa, 7000 copies were produced. The Queen's desire to show appreciation produced a flurry of administrative activity, not the least of which was trying to track down who to send the letters to. Children moved. They spent long summer holidays away from their school-time homes. Everyone had to be thanked; authorities wanted to avoid missing anyone out. The result is a raft of records which in Canada are in the files at Library and Archives Canada in RG9.

These records are especially valuable as they document otherwise difficult-to-trace children and their host families who came privately, with schools, companies and non-profit organizations, not just the children evacuated under the government (CORB) program .

23 August 2008

The not so good old days

My high speed connection is down and I'm reliving the olden days of dial-up. Expet light blogging until its fixed. In the meantime I'll contemplate the remainder of the new databases promised by TGN (Ancestry) CEO Tim Sullivan in a posting back in May, and in particular:

  • Canadian Passenger Lists (1865-1935) – 8 million names of immigrants and other travelers arriving to Quebec and other major ports during that timeframe.
  • Inbound UK Passenger Lists (1878-1960) – 20 million names of those passengers traveling to the UK.

22 August 2008

Bartholomew's Fair

The anticipation is building for August 24, St Bartholomew's Day. Bartholomew's Fair was celebrated for centuries in London, an important enough event to be opened by the Lord Mayor at Smithfield Market. How did your London ancestor, over 200 years ago, celebrate this important social event?

A 1802 newspaper, The Morning Chronicle , reported that at the instant the Lord Mayor declared the Fair open "... the most hideous noise commenced. The screaming of fiddles, the beltching and bursting of French-horns and trumpets out of tune, the squeeking and squalling of wretched clarinets, flutes and hauteboys ... formed a concert superior to what Discord herself could have invented."

"The booths are numerous, and fitted up in the usual style of splendour. On one hand we have a Theatre Royal, where dramatic pieces are enacted with the amazing celerity; and it is a fact that Pizarro and Blue Beard were performed in one of these Retreats of Thespis in the very short space of 18 minutes!"

"Proceeding a little further towards Saint John Street, the attention is called off on the other hand by a splendid Royal Circus, where a performer, who is styled Equestrian to their Majesties, exhibits his wonderful feats. There are also various receptacles for wild beasts, conjurors and charlatans of every denomination; philosophical entertainments, rational amusements, with everything which can possibly tend to exalt and improve the human understanding!"

"It would not be fair to omit that favourite amusement of the youthful visitors of both sexes of this elegant place of resort, we mean swings, roundabouts and etc. Neither would we be justified in not recording the delicacies which present themselves to the hungry; yards of fried sausages were devoured with particular avidity, and, ... nothing was to be seen but oceans of gin, and mountains of gingerbread, intersected with the appearance of hilarity and universal satisfaction.”
The article continues "To be serious," deploring the excesses it sees in the Fair.

It took more than 50 years but this annual fair was eventually ended in 1855.

21 August 2008

Ancestry / JewishGen partnership

The following press release, interesting in its own right, is also notable for being datelined CHICAGO. The Generations Network corporate website mentions no business office in that city, and most previous press releases are out of the corporate offices in Provo, Utah, or datelined in two locations including Provo. There is a Jewish genealogy conference underway in Chicago, but could the lack of mention of Provo, or Utah, be to distance the company from the Utah-based LDS Church which has had a rocky relationship with Jewish authorities?

CHICAGO – Aug. 19, 2008 – The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of Ancestry.com, and JewishGen, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and promoting Jewish genealogy and an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, today announced a partnership designed to provide easier online access to millions of important Jewish historical documents. JewishGen’s collection of databases will be integrated and be made available for free on Ancestry.com, making these historical Jewish records and information more accessible than ever before. As part of the agreement, the JewishGen site will also be hosted in Ancestry.com’s data center.

For the first time ever, those interested in researching Jewish ancestry will be able to search JewishGen’s databases on Ancestry.com, taking advantage of Ancestry.com’s powerful search technologies, including tree hinting and the ability to search all JewishGen databases through one simple interface. The agreement will also give researchers the ability to make connections within family trees and to perform broader searches – searching JewishGen’s databases in combination with the other 7 billion names and 26,000 databases available on Ancestry.com. In addition, visitors will be able to network with millions of Ancestry.com members to connect with others interested in Jewish genealogy and discover distant relatives.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with JewishGen, an elite and well-respected resource in the Jewish genealogy community,” said Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of The Generations Network. “Both organizations are committed to the preservation of important historical records. We look forward to working with JewishGen and to making these wonderful collections even more accessible for free on Ancestry.

Under the new agreement, some of the important JewishGen content that will be available on Ancestry.com includes databases from many different countries, the Holocaust Database, Yizkor Books (memorial books from Holocaust survivors), The Given Names Database and JewishGen ShtetlSeeker, among others. The JewishGen collections will be available on Ancestry.com by the end of the year.

“This important partnership between JewishGen and Ancestry.com demonstrates a commitment both to preserving Jewish heritage and providing the public with unprecedented access to these records,” said Warren Blatt, Managing Director of JewishGen. “The impact on the genealogy community will be significant; not only will genealogists now have the use of powerful search tools to make research easier, they will be able to find everything for their Jewish heritage research needs at one location.

David G. Marwell, Director, Museum of Jewish Heritage, said, "The continuity of Jewish heritage is central to the Museum's mission. We are pleased that this partnership will make it easier for users to discover their Jewish roots and connect or re-connect to their family's history.”

To learn more about this important agreement, or if you would like a sneak peek of the Jewish collections that will be available on Ancestry.com, visit www.ancestry.com/JewishHeritage.

About JewishGen

JewishGen, www.jewishgen.org, became an affiliate of the Museum on January 1, 2003. An Internet pioneer, JewishGen was founded in 1987 and has grown from a bulletin board with only 150 users to a major grass roots effort bringing together hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide in a virtual community centered on discovering Jewish ancestral roots and history.

Researchers use JewishGen to share genealogical information, techniques, and case studies. With a growing database of more than 11 million records, the website is a forum for the exchange of information about Jewish life and family history, and has enabled thousands of families to connect and re-connect in a way never before possible.

About Ancestry.com

With 26,000 searchable databases and titles and nearly 3 million active users, Ancestry.com is the No. 1 online source for family history information. Since its launch in 1997, Ancestry.com has been the premier resource for family history, simplifying genealogical research for millions of people by providing them with many easy-to-use tools and resources to build their own unique family trees. Ancestry.com is part of The Generations Network, Inc., a leading network of family-focused interactive properties, including www.myfamily.com, www.rootsweb.com, www.genealogy.com and Family Tree Maker. In total, The Generations Network properties receive nearly 8.5 million unique visitors worldwide (© comScore Media Metrix, March 2008). To easily begin researching your family history, visit www.ancestry.com.

SOURCE: Ancestry.com, JewishGen

CONTACTS: Sara Black, +1-213-996-3812, sblack@painepr.com, for Ancestry.com, and Abby Spilka, +1-646-437-4333, aspilka@mjhnyc.org, for JewishGen and the Museum of Jewish Heritage

20 August 2008

Autosomal DNA for genealogy

Did you hear the one about the Englishman, Irishman and Dutchman who went into a pub ... no, hold that ... it's so yesterday.

The new version is they went into a genetic analysis laboratory and, along with 2,511 other individuals belonging to 23 different subpopulations, widely spread over Europe, they had their DNA tested.

The test results, according to an article in the New York Times reporting on a paper in Current Biology, showed them to be genetic brothers, quite distinct from some other Europeans ... Finns, Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Spanish, and Portuguese.

This is just one exciting result now appearing from analysis of autosomal DNA, that's the DNA in chromosomes in the cell nucleus that aren't the sex chromosomes Y (commonly used in genealogy DNA testing) or X

Unlike Y-DNA, the autosomes are subject to variation not only as a result of occasional mutations, but also owing to cross-overs between chromosomes donated by the mother and father. Electronic SNP-chips capable of analysing 500,000 chromosome locations are helping to unravel the complexity of autosomal DNA inheritance.

The technology and understanding appear to be developing fast. I look forward to exciting new advances leading to new help for genealogists from massive autosomal DNA analysis.

19 August 2008


Do you like this posting? Tell me now!

We had a meeting of the conference planning group for the BIFHSGO conference last Saturday at which I queried if all the questions on the evaluation form we ask attendees to fill out are really useful. On review it seems quite a few could be eliminated without much loss of useful information.

One thing BIFHSGO does right is ask folks to fill out the evaluation form at the end of the conference. It wouldn't make much sense to ask whether they found the information they sought before hearing the presentations.

But that's exactly what LAC is doing with its on-line survey.

Occasionally, just after you enter the site, a form pops up asking if you'll take a five minute survey. One of the questions is along the lines ... did you find the information you came to find. How could you have done?

Ask a silly question ... get a silly answer.

18 August 2008

Update on forthcoming Genealogy Books

On May 22 I posted about forthcoming genealogy books, according to Amazon. Here's an update.

The Official Guide to Ancestry.com (Paperback)

by Susan Sherwood Parr (Author)
to be released 1 August 2008

Author now indicated as George G Morgan, an update of his earlier book by the same title dated 1 May 2007. According to Amazon "This title has not yet been released."

Basics of Genealogy Reference: A Librarian's Guide (Paperback)
by Jack Simpson (Author)
to be released 30 July 2008

Listed as now scheduled for release 30 September, 2008

Tracing Your Jewish Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians (Paperback)
by Rosemary E. Wenzerul (Author)
to be released 23 July 2008

Amazon now lists this as an August 2008 publication, and temporarily out of stock.

Finding Your Italian Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide (Paperback)
by Suzanne Russo Adams (Author)
to be released 1 July 2008

Amazon lists this title as not yet released.

So it looks like all of them are still forthcoming! I wonder, will any of them be available for Christmas?

17 August 2008

More on the 1916 census of the Prairie Provinces

Here's more news about the newly released 1916 census now that I've had a chance to look at a sample.

First the really good news. The census includes lots more information than in the 1906 census: family and first name, military service, domicile (township, range, meridian, municipality), relation to head of household, sex, marital status, age, place of birth (province or country), religion, year of immigration, year of naturalization, nationality, race or national origin, whether can speak English, whether can speak French, mother tongue, whether can read, whether can write, occupation, employer/employee/self employed.

The question on military service is especially interesting as the possible answers are overseas, in Canada or none. It looks as if people who would normally be in the household, but were away on service during WW1, are also being enumerated.

Second, the good news. There's a finding aid at the LAC Genealogy Desk which details the communities. As with the 1906 census finding aid, locations are often only identified by township and range and meridian, and sometimes by community name. It's helpful to know the geography of the area you're searching.

Third, not so good news but easy to fix. The drawers containing the LAC microfilms aren't identified. I had to look two drawers down from the last labelled drawer to find the microfilm I wanted.

Fourth, the bad news. The quality of the microfilm copy was mixed on the film I examined. The image at the top of the page was usually quite legible but darkened considerably toward the bottom, particularly at the sides, so that in some cases it was impossible to read the names in the lower third of the page.

16 August 2008

CBC TV ignores Canadian history

According to CBC TV audience relations the network has no plans to air programming relating to Canadian history in the coming months. The exact information was that there is no series planned, although there may be history items within the context of other series.

CBC, which receives substantial tax-based funding, has a mandate to provide a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains. Programming under that mandate is supposed to be predominantly and distinctively Canadian, reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, contribute to shared national consciousness and identity, and reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada.

Last year's Who Do You Think You Are? series fulfilled the mandate admirably, providing insight into the diverse origins of Canadians, and did it in an entertaining way by using Canadian personalities. Unfortunately it was a half-hearted CBC effort with poor publicity and only a half-hour program compared to the winning one hour format in the UK.

Meantime Australian and US versions of WDYTYA are in production. In the UK the return of the series last Wednesday brought in 6.85m (29.9%) to BBC One in the 9pm hour, more than 10% up on the same time slot the previous week and marginally better than for the start of the series a year ago.

Having fumbled it last year CBC TV has now completely dropped the ball on Canadian history.

15 August 2008

Fraternal Societies

Exactly a century ago the Toronto Globe carried an article on page 2 on the election of officers to the Sons of England Benefit Society Supreme Lodge.

Such prominent coverage indicates the importance attached to what The Canadian Encyclopedia (1988) called "the largest and most important English cultural society."

In 1913, just at the peak of migration from England to Canada, the Sons of England had 40,000 members with Lodges across Canada."

These were the days before the social safety net and the Sons played a role as a mutual benefit society, organizing receptions of newcomers, provided medical services and paid unemployment and disability benefits.

Also according to the article "the social evening "At home," was modelled on the English music hall. On these occasions, the Sons were expected to thrill to jingoistic songs, weep at evocations of England, savour warm, dark ale, and revert to regional dialects."

At the BIFHSGO Conference, September 19-21, Glenn Wright will be giving a presentation on Fraternal Societies. Today, September 15, is the final day to take advantage of discount registration, available to all, not just sons of England.

14 August 2008

1916 Census of the Western Provinces now available at LAC

The 1916 Census of the Western Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) is now available at Library and Archives Canada. The self-serve microfilm reels (reels T-21925 to T-21956) are in the Microfilm Consultation room. Copies are also available for interlibrary loan.

Copies of the microfilm reels shelf-list are in the Microfilm Consultation Room and at the reference desk in the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

This census is only available on microfilm. It has not been digitized, so is not yet available online on the LAC website. Digitization and indexing are being undertaken as part of an agreement with TGN (Ancestry).

The Canadian Genealogy Centre webpages providing census information will be updated shortly.

The above information is confirmed with Sylvie Tremblay, Chief of the Canadian Genealogy Centre, who adds that the images are of reasonable quality.

English and Welsh marriage records online

Findmypast.com have announced the availability of over 3.2 million new English and Welsh marriage entries in its Parish Records Collection.

The records, a mixture of indexes and, in some cases, full parish register transcriptions, were produced by local family history societies and are made available through the coordination of the FFHS. Access is by pay-per-view or subscription.

Detail on the information available by location is below:

Genealogy for the rest of the family

Most of the genealogists I speak to are enthralled by the discoveries they make in researching their family history. Unearthing and confirming each new fact is inherently satisfying; the simple act of filling in that blank on the family tree tangible proof of progress.

For every ten of those folks there is perhaps only one who has documented the family stories in a way that makes it appealing to the non-genealogist. The majority for one reason or another just haven`t got to that stage ... yet.

If you're in that majority you might want to pick up a copy of the August issue of Family Chronicle magazine. It has three articles with practical advice from experienced genealogist-writers.

Toronto-based Janice Nickerson, a frequent magazine contributor, starts with "Easy Ways to Write Your Family History." She suggests taking small chunks of the story, perhaps just a particular event in an ancestor`s life, and writing one or two pages. You`ll receive the same satisfaction completing one of these that you do in filling in a blank on the family tree. Repeat the process, and you`ll end up with a collection of short items which will be the building blocks for something longer. She includes suggestions for getting help and making the story come alive.

Chloe Y. Miller writes on "Give Your Family History the Write Stuff!" with suggestions on how to kick start the creative process.

Lisa A. Alzo`s article "Four Weeks to Your Family History" is the longest. It gives you a day-by-day prescription. Week one is for Setting Goals and Gathering Materials; week two Getting Back to Basics; week three Nuts and Bolts; and week four Ready, Set, Write.

If you know you want to write, or scrapbook, your family history but have been struggling with getting started there`s advice in these articles you won`t want to miss.

13 August 2008

Archives of Ontario user survey

The Archives of Ontario has commissioned a survey of their clients from Ipsos Reid. If you're a regular client be sure to take a few minutes to provide feedback. If, like me, you've never visited their facility in Toronto you can still express your views as an occasional remote user.

My own response deplored the poor service for those outside the GTA owing to a lack of any regional outlets, such as provided by the Archives in Quebec.

The AO web site is also notable for the relative lack of digitized records which exacerbates the service problems for those who cannot conveniently visit the physical site.

A tip of the hat to Lesley Anderson for drawing this to my attention.

12 August 2008

The deadline for BIFHSGO conference early registration rates is 15 August

Every year there's a rush of registrations for the BIFHSGO conference to beat the 15 August early registration deadline. The 15th is coming up on Friday. Don't miss it. Why pay more than you have to?

Find information on the conference, and the two pre-conference seminars, from the main BIFHSGO website. Convenient online registration is available at no extra cost.

11 August 2008

Australia's gift to Canada - maybe?

Nearly a year ago Library and Archives Canada (LAC), through the Prime Minister, gave the people of Australia a national treasure, an historic playbill printed in Sydney in 1796, a document that experts have confirmed to be the oldest surviving document printed in Australia.

What would Canada wish for in return? Maybe the National Archives of Australia (NAA) could give LAC the willpower to institute proactive digitization of record series nominated by clients.

Not only does NAA, like LAC, do proactive digitization of series it identifies, they also invite
researchers to nominate record series for proactive digitization.

All nominations are evaluated against selection criteria to ensure that high-use, high-value or at-risk material is digitized first. If chosen the records are made available to all online at no cost to the requester. Apparently some of the series listed here were nominated by clients.

It would undoubtedly take months of meetings and email exchanges for LAC to put the mechanism in place.

In the meantime why not nominate a record series directly to Ian Wilson, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. Write to him at:

Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4

Deeply Rooted

Thousands of genealogists and historians played bit parts in the drama of securing the release of historic Canadian censuses. For most of us it was by signing petitions, sending emails and letters to MPs and ministers, and perhaps participating in a consultation.

We now have the opportunity to see the development through the eyes of one of the major players, Senator Lorna Milne, who championed the cause for the historian and genealogist. Posted on Senator Milne's web site is her pdf format book titled "Deeply Rooted - The story of one Senator's battle to preserve the Historic Census results."

Reading through the 183 pages, double spaced, throws light on what was happening behind the scenes during those long gaps that we endured on the road to passage of bill S-18 on 28 June 2005.

It has been said that the making of laws is like the making of sausages—the less you know about the process the more you respect the result. The census release issue is a good case study. Reading the book you see how the combination of ego, personal blind spots, inexperience and political expediency played into transforming what should have been basic government housekeeping to facilitate our understanding our history into such an extended saga.

10 August 2008

Roots For the record

On Thursday, at the end of the ethnic and cultural genealogy conference at Library and Archives Canada, I stayed for a reception in celebration of 10 Photos that Changed Canada, a feature in the August / September issue of The Beaver, Canada's History Magazine.

I purchased a copy and was mostly pleasantly surprised by the content. I'd already learnt that the issue contained a column with debatable advice for the early stage genealogist by Fraser Dunford, Executive Director of the Ontario Genealogical Society.

The subhead on the article "Smart genealogists put it all on paper" brought to mind my experience some years ago. I'd been carefully keeping a notebook with my genealogical findings. Then I lost it, managed to recover it at considerable expense, then lost it again never to be found. What saved the day is that I'd transcribed the really important stuff onto my computer where it resides, and is securely backed up online. There's material I considered less important that I hadn't transcribed, and I wonder if some of my more recent findings would have made more sense in the context of that data.

Smart genealogists don't rely on a single copy, whether on paper or online. Secure backups remote from home are far easier to achieve electronically. You don't even need genealogy software. Google documents is free, has remote backup built in, and will store everything you can write on paper.

I was also surprised to see the article advocating the use of preponderance of evidence, a term which was abandoned over a decade ago by the (US) Board for Certification of Genealogists. It was considered "inadequate" and "more confusing than helpful." The reasons are discussed here.

The kind of diligent search that is required by the now (US) accepted Genealogical Proof Standard is well illustrated by an article in the same issue of The Beaver that uncovered the existence of parish records for the birthplace of larger than life Mountie Sam Steele long believed to be lost.

09 August 2008


When your family history research leads you to an unfamiliar part of the world it's useful, if not vital, to have a good atlas and/or gazetteer to hand. The GeoNames geographical database, which claims eight million geographical names including 2.2 million populated places, is available for lookup online and as a download, free of charge, under a creative commons attribution license.

I tried it and found Bradwell, Norfolk, one of the villages in England in which I once lived, was missed. All the other places I checked were found. You would probably be better off checking a national database first, like the Ordnance Survey site for the UK and the Geographical Names of Canada site.

I learnt about the GeoNames geographical database during a presentation by Dave Obee at the Genealogy and Local History (GENLOC) and the Reference and Information Services (RISS) sections of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) conference at Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, 6-7 August 2008

07 August 2008

1881 Canadian census with images now online

The newest Library and Archives Canada database, the 1881 census with connection to original images, went online at 2pm on Thursday 7 August. The index is from the set produced for the LDS (FamilySearch) with digitization of the images funded by Statistics Canada.

Ethnic and cultural genealogy conference - Chinese-Canadian genealogy

This is one of a series of postings on presentations during the Genealogy and Local History (GENLOC) and the Reference and Information Services (RISS) sections of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) conference at Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, 6-7 August 2008.

This presentation Genealogy Outreach to Chinese-Canadians was by Janet Tomkins, genealogy librarian at the Vancouver Public Library.

She pointed out that public libraries genealogy activities should take consideration of the ethnic background and countries of origin of the communities served, which in Vancouver includes a Chinese community with a history back to the 1860s. She identified challenges associated with research relating to Chinese-Canadian ancestry and the Chinese diaspora.

The Vancouver Public Library addressed the need with a Chinese-Canadian Genealogy website with basic resources and a wiki. This compliments the LAC database with 98,361 references to Chinese immigrants who arrived in Canada between 1885 and 1949.

Mention was also made of an initiative by Simon Fraser University to make information from local historic Chinese newspapers available online.

Naval Officers’ records at TNA's Documents Online

The blog associated with Ancestors Magazine draws attention to 57,000 records of Royal Naval officers who joined the service between 1756 and 1917 (and warrant officers to 1931) now digitised and available through TNA's Documents Online service. You can search by first name; last name; rank; date of enlistment, and date of birth.

06 August 2008

Ethnic and cultural genealogy conference - Keynote address

On August 6 and 7 Library and Archives Canada is the venue for a conference of the Genealogy and Local History (GENLOC) and the Reference and Information Services (RISS) sections of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

The conference is to "explore aspects of genealogical research relating to specific ethnic and cultural communities, such as African-American, First Nations, French-Canadian, Caribbean, Chinese and Continental European." That's everything but the Anglo-Celtic Connection. I'm attending anyway, and aim to blog about some of the presentations I find interesting.

The opening, keynote, speaker was Susan Tucker, Curator of Books and Records at the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A.

Since 2003, she has explored aspects of the histories of women, genealogy, archives and memory and the places where these intersect. During the past two years, Susan Tucker has worked alongside various types of memory keepers in an ethnographic study of the transmission of genealogical information.

Her presentation focused on a case study from the Louisiana Acadians, Cajuns, community layering information from a family genealogist working with public records and family historical sources in a variety of forms. She stressed the importance of migration events, which for this extended family saw some members arriving in Louisiana via stays in Haiti and Jamaica, and others who moved directly from Acadian to Louisiana. The sisters were reunited by chance in 1804, the reunion becoming a key event in the family history.

The presentation was illustrated with original art depicting events and people from the family history, and integrating local history sources such as Longfellow's poem Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, and a statue of Evangeline erected in Louisiana in 1929.

The study was used to illustrate the boundaries of public and private memories and the roles records and various pieces of family art and artifacts play in society.

DNA and Genealogy

At 7:30 pm on Wednesday, August 6th I'm presenting " Family Secrets revealed through DNA analysis," this time for the Lanark County Genealogical Society. The location is Lanark Highland Town Hall, Lanark Village.

Lanark Village is 80 Km from downtown Ottawa via Highway 7 to Ferguson Falls Road and follow the signs for Lanark Village. Free parking is available.

All are welcome to attend.

05 August 2008

Colonel By Day 2008

Each year on the first Monday in August Ontario celebrates a civic holiday, known in Ottawa as Colonel By Day after John By, the Royal Engineer in charge of the construction of the Rideau Canal. It's an opportunity, organized by the Council of Heritage Organizations of Ottawa, for local heritage groups to meet the local community. Here are some photos from this year's event.

Mary Anne Sharpe (President), Lynn Glenn, Margaret Gervais (Director), Brian Glenn (Director) and Willis Burwell (Past President) from the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa enjoy a million dollar view over the locks.

Mike More (Chair) and Jim Stanzell (in uniform) from the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.

Gary Bagley ready with good information from the United Empire Loyalists, Sir Guy Carleton Branch.

Mary Holder (archives volunteer) and John Heney (President, Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives) in front of the City Archives Display.

Mother McGuinty, Meg Hamilton (CHOO/COPO) and John Heney seek salvation.

Another view of the genealogical stands.

There was much more than genealogy

Vintage Stock Theatre players make a point about the Irish role in building the Rideau Canal.

The blacksmith from Jones Falls attracted many onlookers

Military justice was at hand for miscreants.

04 August 2008

Is your memory eclipsed?

I don`t recall much detail more than 50 years ago, but do remember a warm day near the end of the school year. We gathered in the school playground, (52°34'33.40"N, 1°43'34.32"E) pieces of darkly smoked glass in hand, not recommended now, to watch the solar eclipse. There were a few clouds above our school playground but we had a good view of the partial eclipse which caused noticeable darkening. Thanks to a couple of web sites I now know the date -- Wednesday 30th June 1954.

First seen in Nebraska, the eclipse was visible from the Great Lakes eastward, although according to newspaper reports cloud obscured the observation across much of Ontario. Glimpses were seen from Ottawa between the clouds. The moon`s shadow crossed all of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, most of the USSR and was last seen in Jodhpur, India. Britain was south of the path of totality, except for the extreme north of the Shetland Islands.

Did you, or did your parents, see that solar eclipse? Which eclipses might your ancestors have seen?

NASA has a detailed solar eclipse page and a Javascript Solar Eclipse Explorer facility where you can enter latitude and longitude, or choose a major city, and explore solar eclipses back to 1499 BC and forward to the year 3000. Apparently the 30 June 1954 event only 80% obscured the sun at maximum where I was.

Using the Eclipses Online Portal you can specify a year, from 1501 to 2100, choose an eclipse, and view animations of the passage of the moon's shadow across the globe and how the eclipse looked from a selection of major cities.

03 August 2008

McGill University Digital Collection

As an alumnus of McGill University I couldn't let the last posting on the University of Toronto stand alone.

The McGill Canadian County Atlas Project is one that is well known in the genealogical community, but there's lots more in the online from McGill's Digital Program, managed by the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the McLennan Library.

The image is by A J Casson from the Canadian War Poster Collection.

The Canadian Architect and Builder was published between 1888 and 1908, the only professional architectural journal published in Canada before World War I. Searching the full text I found reference to the Ottawa Northwood family.

Another Ottawa-related holding is the Fredrick Taylor Archive. He was born in Ottawa to parents Florence Magee and Plunkett Bourchier Taylor, a member of the Ottawa Company of Sharpshooters during the 1885 North West Rebellion. An older brother, E.P.Taylor, became one of Canada's leading industrialists.

Quite a bit of the material is indexes or bibliographic rather than full text (or image) digitization.

02 August 2008

University of Toronto Libraries Local Digital Special Collections

The University of Toronto has been a digitizing partner in the Open Content Alliance (OCA), through which over 50,000 digitized books from the University of Toronto Libraries have been placed online. But I was not aware of the scope of the university's other digitization initiatives -- until I came across a listing of their Local Digital Special Collections.

Collections that caught my eye were:

Books Online 858 titles digitized under the OCA program that are full-text searchable, unlike the texts on the Internet Archive that can only be searched by catalog data.

The Champlain Society Digital Collection consisting of 83 of the Society's most important volumes (over 41,000 printed pages) dealing with exploration and discovery over three centuries. It includes first-hand accounts of Samuel de Champlain's voyages in New France as well as the diary from Sir John Franklin's first land expedition to the Arctic, 1819-22.

Toronto Korean-language newspapers, approximately 7,420 pages.

The Wenceslaus Hollar Digital Collection, over 2500 of the prints of Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677), a great master of the art of etching, the lion’s share produced in and about England. The image shown is on August in a series on the months.

While at the U of T site genealogists shouldn't overlook Canadian Necrology, an index to obituary and death information for both prominent and lesser-known Canadians, covering a time span from the late 18th century to 1977. It contains over 20,000 records; the majority come from newspapers such as the Globe and Mail, Toronto Daily Star, Gazette, and Mail and Empire; an additional 4,000 records were compiled by William Henry Pearson (1831-1920), a Toronto resident with a lifetime passion for necrology.

01 August 2008

Canada features in the British Library Annual Report

In conversation with managers at Library and Archives Canada I often find myself advocating that they look at the operations of comparable organizations internationally. LAC does have unique challenges, and, also shares many with comparable organizations.

This came home to me yet again in viewing the annual report of the British Library for 2007/08, done in a multimedia online format. I was drawn in immediately, and not just because of the innovative presentation. The first story was Canada-related:

“My name is Stef Penney and I wrote a book called The Tenderness of Wolves. I came to the British Library to research life in the backwoods in 19th-century Canada. When I started I really didn’t know what the story was going to be, but I soon found an amazing wealth of material in the Canadian collections. They have accounts by employees of the Hudson Bay Company and the North West Company; pioneer settlers like Susanna Moodie and her sister, Catherine Parr Traill; and then explorers like James Clark Ross and people who were looking for the Northwest Passage. So, gradually, through all these things, a picture built up and the story took shape."

Further in I was pleased to see my views of newspapers reflected in the words of the Library Board's Chairman

Newspapers are an immensely rich source for research. However, they deteriorate quickly because of the poor quality of the paper they are printed on; it is crucial that they are properly preserved for future generations. This is one element of our newspaper strategy – our ambition is to digitise the best of our historical collections, to open them up and make them much more widely accessible on the web.

And I was interested to see an online poll on the question, Which of the Library's collections would you most like to see fully digitised? The top response was newspapers, favoured by half the respondents.

The report should be required reading for LAC executives and senior managers.