31 October 2008

Métis Nation seeks genealogist

Elizabeth Lapointe has posted on her blog about a job opportunity at the Métis Nation of Ontario's head office in Ottawa. They are seeking a full-time genealogist/historian.

Global Genealogy to focus resources on its online business

Rick and Sandra Roberts are well known to attendees at genealogy conferences in Ontario, for their website globalgenealogy.com and support for information sharing through their Global Gazette. On October 29 they announced they will be closing their physical storefront in Campbellville as of November 15 to focus the business online.

They explain that the growth in online orders from customers who enjoy the convenience of online shopping, even those who live within a thirty minute radius of their physical store, made keeping open the store increasingly uneconomic.

The good news in the announcement, especially for those of us too remote from the physical store to have ever visited, is the promise that "Global Genealogy will publish more new books and CDs in 2009 than in previous years. More genealogy workshops and lectures, are planned, both locally and at a distance. And we will be able to get out to exhibit at more genealogy and history conferences than we have been able to in the past."

Best wishes to Rick and Sandra as they move with the times.

30 October 2008

Developing a research strategy lecture

J. Brian Gilchrist, historian, genealogist, author, radio & TV commentator will give the Ottawa Branch, OGS, second Annual Ryan Taylor Memorial Lecture Memorial Lecture "Developing a Research Strategy" this coming Saturday, 1 November 2008, in the Auditorium of Library and Archives Canada.

Every one of us reaches a point in our research when we think we are stuck. This session will present options: options based on a review of your own notes, and learning how to ask questions of people who can help: be it from networking with other genealogists, or with archivists and librarians, or on-line resources. There is a whole world of untouched resource material out there, and Mr. Gilchrist will help you learn how to access it.

Admission to this lecture, which starts at 10am, is free.

29 October 2008

Canadian city directories from Ancestry.ca

Ancestry.ca issued a press release on Tuesday. It starts:

In a world-first, Ancestry.ca today launched online
the fully indexed Canada City and Area Directories, 1819-1899, which feature the names and addresses of more than 5.2 million people who lived in Canada during the greater part of the 19th Century.

In total, 19,764 pages of directory pages were scanned and are now available to search online.

A pre-cursor to phone books, these historic directories feature an alphabetical listing of the majority of heads of households in major cities across Canada along with their address and occupation. It also lists businesses, town officers, schools, societies, churches and other public institutions.

Sounds comprehensive. How extensive is this collection?

For British Columbia directories are for New Westminster for 1890, for Revelstoke for 1897 and 1898, for Vancouver for 1888, 1890, 1896 and 1899, and for Victoria for 1860.

For Ontario there are directories for Hastings County for 1869 and for Ottawa for 1891, 1893, 1895, 1896, 1897, and 1898.

For Quebec directories Montreal has extensive coverage: 1819, 1820, 1842, 1843, 1844, 1852, 1854, 1861, 1863, 1864, 1865, 1866, 1868, 1869, 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1876, 1877, 1878, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, and 1895. For Quebec City coverage is 1822, 1847, 1855 and 1857.

In addition there are "All Provinces" directories for 1851 and 1857.

For several years Library and Archives Canada has offered, free of charge, Canada Directories: who was where with more comprehensive coverage.

For Ottawa, for example, the LAC collection includes 21 directories from 1863 to 1899. The Ancestry.ca collection is for just six years, but is fully searchable. Furthermore it's searchable across the whole directory collection. The LAC volumes are indexed so that you can go the the start of an alphabetical section but must then scan through to the person or address you seek volume by volume.

28 October 2008

New online exhibitions from LAC

The election embargo on announcements is at an end and we can look forward to the appearance of the backlog. Three new panels, one replacing the announcement on the 1881 census, and two announcing new online exhibitions, appeared on Monday on the LAC homepage. One is about Canadian Library Month, now nearly over.

Famous Canadian Physicians celebrates the achievements of Canadian doctors who have gained fame in Canada or internationally: Dr. Emily Stowe, the first Canadian woman to practise medicine and a lifelong champion for women's rights; Sir Frederick Banting and the discovery of insulin; Sir William Osler; Dr. Wilder Penfield; Dr. Gustave Gingras; and Dr. Lucille Teasdale-Corti. Each essay is accompanied by digitized images, textual documents and audio visual material.

An exhibition Reflections on a Capital Photographer profiles the work of William James Topley, one of the most important visual records of Canada during the first 50 years after Confederation. Active between 1868 and 1923 Topley's studio, which started as a branch of Notman's in Montreal, is a vast collection of street scenes in Ottawa and landscapes farther afield, portraits of our political leaders and average Canadians. There are just over 107,000 catalogue entries for the Topley collection, still not the whole collection, of which some 11,000 have digitized images. If you have an Ottawa ancestor you may find a portrait by checking the Topley collection using the Basic Search or the Advanced Search options of the LAC catalogue.

Both exhibits are funded in part by Canadian Culture Online, a funding source LAC is moving away from as it has failed to recognize the importance of funding large-scale digitization initiatives favouring more superficial content.

27 October 2008

Paul J. McGrath

Canadian genealogists will be saddened to learn of the death last Friday, October 24, in Scotland of Paul James McGrath, the result of a heart attack. Paul, born in 1959, was best known as staff genealogist for the family history television show “Ancestors in the Attic.” He was in Scotland shooting a segment for the program.

Paul was a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, principal of OntarioRoots.com specializing in exploring early Ontario and Toronto roots. He was Chair of the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society and a Director of the Friends of the Archives of Ontario.

A popular speaker he was editor of OGS Toronto Branch publications "The great contest for responsible government : the City of Toronto poll book of 1841" published in by in 2004, and "Toronto in the 1850s : a transcription of the 1853 tax assessment rolls and guide to family history research" published in 2005. He had a particular interest in the history of Toronto and was author of the article "The Lost Village of Norway" in the September 2005 issue of the Toronto Branch publication Toronto Tree.

FreeBMD reminder

A reminder to check the FreeBMD Database which was last updated on Sat 18 Oct 2008 and currently contains 156,886,636 distinct records (202,109,955 total records).

For those not familiar with FreeBMD, it's an ongoing project, the aim of which is to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales.

Most of the additions are in the 1920s, although there are still gaps in prior years. Work is starting on the 1930s.

26 October 2008

Digital newspaper collection in Quebec

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec are aiming to digitize the whole of the published and archival documentary heritage produced in Québec since the 17th century, including materials of foreign origin related to Québec. All categories of documents: printed and handwritten material, photographs, sound recordings and so on and included.

To date some eight million objects (book pages, magazines, newspapers or handwritten material, photographs, postcards, etc.) have been digitized. The resources are available free of charge on the Web or will be in the next few months. Priority is being given to newspapers and magazines from all Québec regions.

The material are available for viewing online, but are not full text searchable

The full list of newspapers is here. The English language newspaper material available with long runs are:

Canadian Illustrated News (1869-1883)

Daily Witness (1860-1913)

The Montreal Witness (1845-1938)

The Quebec Chronicle (1847-1924)

Quebec Mercury (1805-1903)

25 October 2008

LAC Proposed Exhibitions

The government announcement log-jam is broken. Library and Archives Canada have made a substitution on their main page drawing attention to a survey on possible future programming.

The topics being considered are the lives and careers of Canada’s Prime Ministers; Canadian achievements in radio, film, television, and music; Canada’s founding documents; Sir Winston Churchill; and the Rocky Mountains.

The survey asks for additional suggestions. Mine were: Canada Builders, A Nation of Immigrants, Canada's Ten Greatest Musicians, Canada's Ten Greatest Engineers, Captains of Industry, Who Do You Think You Are Canada?

I'm wondering if such suggestions are a waste of time. The impression I get is that some anonymous public servant looks them over and then discards them. Maybe the penultimate step is skipped. Wouldn't it be better public relations if LAC listed all the (printable) suggestions on their website and gave an opportunity for a further round of feedback with ongoing public availability of the vote results.

24 October 2008

Attleborough in War Time

Archive CD Books Canada has just released a CD version of an obscure title "Attleborough in War Time" written by Major John Henry Kennedy and published privately in 1919. This is the first British book they have issued, a possibility open to the Canadian partner now that the original Archive CD Books in the UK is no longer in operation.

Attleborough, in the great (I may be biased) county of Norfolk, sent 550 of the town’s men, out of a population of 2,500, to serve at the front and at home during WW1.

In his latest newsletter Archives CD Books Canada owner Malcolm Moody tells the story of how he came to gain access to the book, courtesy of BIFHSGO member Caroline Herbert who is a relative of Kennedy.

Malcolm writes "The book keeps alive the memory of these brave souls by recording the names and service records of each one as well as separately listing the Roll of Honor of those who gave their lives in the conflict. Not that the remaining inhabitants stood idly by. A good part of the book records the happenings in Attleborough in support of the war effort, the raising of funds, the establishment of hospitals and the special contributions by both individuals and local companies, all ably set, by the author, against the larger background of the progress of the fighting."

Apparently the book was privately printed in such limited numbers that no copies of the original are to be found in internet-accessible library catalogues. The new availability through Archive CD Books Canada is an example of the benefits of digitization for genealogy, and the long tail marketing capability afforded by the web.

23 October 2008

Ancestry adds Canadian Civil Servants Lists, 1872-1900

A little known genealogy gem of Library and Archives Canada is a series of publications listing Canadian civil servants. These volumes were transferred to microfiche some years ago through the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions but have remained obscure to many looking to find their Canadian ancestors.

Now the volumes for 1872, and 1883-1890 have been added and made searchable through Ancestry.ca

Included are full names
of all persons employed in the various departments of the Canadian government, not just those employed in Ottawa. They are listed by department and most volumes include title or grade, salary, date at which the grade was attained, birth date, and date of first appointment.

The volume for 1872 is especially worth checking out as it also contains information on origin (French Canadian, English, Scottish, etc.) and creed (Church of England, Roman Catholic, Methodist, etc).

Volumes were produced from before Confederation to the end of the First World War so expect additions on Ancestry.

Amongst other sources for civil servants not digitized is one totally obscure source held at LAC, a manuscript
"Register of Civil Servants in Ottawa"in series RG34. It includes married civil servants under the age of 46 working in Ottawa and was created during World War One by the National Service Board of Canada to establish who might be eligible for conscription. It includes highly summarized information on dependents. Those already serving with the military are not included. Thanks to Glenn Wright for the information on this resource.

22 October 2008

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane in Canada

Yesterday, and every so often I'm told I've been spotted on TV. Usually it's a rerun of a Disasters of the Century episode on the Galveston hurricane of 1900 ... it's a mixed blessing to be associated with a disaster of the century!

I'd done research into the havoc caused by the same weather system as hit Galveston. It was no longer a hurricane in Canada but still tens of lives were lost.

With another hurricane having devastated Galveston in September 2008 I suppose its inevitable that show would get renewed airplay.

A summary of my research on the 1900 event in Canada used to be at a website I compiled on Weather Prediction in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries: A Canadian Perspective. Courtesy of the Internet Archive, if you know where to look you can still read that article -- here's a link.

21 October 2008

Ireland follows Canada

Although I can find no confirmation, according to a posting in Lorcan Dempsey's weblog Ireland plans on following the model established by Canada in amalgamating the National Library and the National Archives. Also included will be the Manuscripts Commission.

In Ottawa the existing physical co-location of the two institutions made an obvious case for eliminating duplication and conflict within the building. But people still debate whether the amalgamation of NAC and NLC to form LAC was beneficial for the missions. Some feel the National Library got much the short end of the stick. I wonder if newspapers wouldn't have been so neglected, and newspaper digitization been pursued with greater vigour, if the National Library had remained independent?

20 October 2008

Ancestry posts UK incoming passenger lists

Ancestry.co.uk have launched a UK incoming passenger list database for 1878 to 1960. This is series BT 26 from TNA.

Indexed and linked to colour scans of the origins, the records may include name of passenger, their birth date or age, port of departure, port of arrival, date of arrival and vessel name.

The passenger lists are for people arriving in the United Kingdom from ports outside of Europe and the Mediterranean. You can expect to find expats returning to visit family and friends, tourists, immigrants to the UK and business travellers.

Searching is free but there is a charge for viewing the full entry and downloading images of the passenger lists.

A quick check found many people I have researched over the years and I anticipate spending considerable time with this database over the next few days.

LAC Services Advisory Board

The Board will meet in Montreal next Friday.

Unfortunately, and contrary to a decision of the Board, the agenda and background papers for the meeting have, yet again, not been posted on the LAC web site well ahead of the meeting. I'm hoping that this is a reflection of the election time embargo on department publicity postings, many federal departments have not restarted such postings, and not a deliberate LAC policy.

Here is the meeting agenda in outline.

1. Welcome and Introductions – Doug Rimmer
2. Update on service improvements – Alison Bullock, A/Director, Client Services Division
3. New Researcher Service Agreement - Adrienne Seel, Senior Policy Officer, Strategic Office
4. Acquisition Policies at BAnQ – Normand Charbonneau
5. LAC Acquisition Policies – Gillian Cantello, A/Director General, Published Heritage
6. Business Arising from previous SAB meetings – Doug Rimmer
7. Services Branch Service Strategy – Engagement and Coordination Office, Services Branch
8. Introduction of Strategic and Operational Sub-Committees – Doug Rimmer
9. Next SAB and sub-committee meeting – February 2009
10. Other Topics

19 October 2008

Ancestors in the Attic - Spirit Lake

Having missed a couple of weeks of Ancestors in the Attic I've been wondering how it's doing. I wasn't disappointed.

Saturday evening's episode, entitled Spirit Lake, followed a genealogical exploration undertaken by Ukranian-Canadian, Jerry Bayrak based on sparse information from his mother's that she grew up in a small town called Spirit Lake, near Montreal.

Googling ""Spirit Lake" Quebec" yields as the first hits several websites explaining its role as a WW1 internment camp for enemy aliens, including Ukranians who were Austro-Hungarian nationals.

LAC's Preservation Centre was shown as the repository for a camp roster showing the family. Two churches yielded family baptismal records -- shown in the original register with adjacent records carefully obscured to protect privacy.

Based on a government letter the program concluded the family were interned at their own request as they were unable to support themselves owing to prejudice in Montreal. However, that was a extrapolation for the family; there was no specific evidence of their request.

The program did a good job of explaining a little known aspect of Canadian history and the records available to dig up the family story.

18 October 2008

The Emergence of Women in the Scrum

It's not about progress in women's rugby!

The second part of the title of this presentation, which is being given as an attraction at the AGM of the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives, Sunday October 19, 2 pm to 4 pm, is The Ottawa Chapter of the Women’s Press Club During WWII.

The speaker is Marci Surkes, Director of Communications to a Member of Parliament.

There is no charge to attend this event at 111 Sussex Drive, Cafeteria, Terrace Level, Bytown Pavilion. Free parking in the main garage, entrance at the traffic lights in front of the building.

Here's the abstract and bio:

The war years witnessed an unprecedented entry into news reporting for young women across Canada, and the Ottawa Chapter of the Canadian Women's Press Club was one of the country's most active branches. In the 1930s and 1940s, Women began taking their place on the airwaves and on the pages of both city and national daily newspapers. Yet as the first female war correspondent for the Canadian Press was dispatching from France, women reporters at home faced critics who felt that women should be restricted to stringing social notes. But the resilient Ottawa Chapter members proved that pioneering women journalists could not be deterred, and would break into the newsrooms and scrums of the Nation's Capital.

Marci Surkes serves as Director of Communications and Policy to a Member of Parliament. She began researching the history of the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Women's Press Club while working as a reporter at the Ottawa Citizen in 2004, and is currently preparing the biographies of two late members of the Ottawa Chapter of the CWPC. Ms. Surkes is a Director of the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives.

Read the certificate very carefully

Essential resources for anyone starting to explore their genealogy are certificates handed down through the family. Read them very carefully.

At last month's BIFHSGO conference a person looking to start her research came to the consultation desk looking to find the date of emigration of her ancestor to Canada from the UK. We tried the Find My Past database of departing ships passenger lists from the UK and found a few possibilities.

I asked if she had any other documentation and she produced a well-creased original birth certificate. Although not conclusive that certificate, with information on a birth a couple of decades earlier, also held a useful hint as to which voyage was more likely. The certificate was issued a few weeks prior to the departure of one of those possible voyages. Had the certificate been obtained in connection with the emigration?

17 October 2008

New TNA Podcasts - Merchant Seaman and Victorian Women Prisoners

Two new podcasts in TNA's seminar series are now available.

The very latest, originally given on 14 October, is by Janet Dempsey and deals with records relating to British merchant seaman.

The good news is that there are records for individuals back to the middle of the 19th century. Unfortunately it's a complicated topic as the way records were kept changed frequently. I found the presentation difficult to follow -- it was likely easier with the visual aids used in the seminar room at TNA but these aren't provided. Not all presentations work as podcasts. You might try reinforcing the audio by following along with the merchant navy information at the TNA website.

Th talk on Victorian women prisoners looks at a series of records dating from 1853 to 1887 - and newly indexed records of females released early on licence in series PCOM 4. It also focuses on particular individuals in order to tell their tales, and illustrate the depth of information available. I found the presentation by Chris Heather (sp?), recorded on 7 October, easier to follow than that on merchant seaman.

16 October 2008

Resurrection Men

In preparing my presentation for the OGS Toronto Branch Genealogy in London Day I've been reading about resurrection men.

It turns out The Society of Genealogists is presenting, just in time for Halloween, a lecture Death & Resurrection by Alec Tritton. According to the session information:

"In 1831 in London it was estimated that there were at least 800 medical students each requiring at least three bodies for their anatomical studies for dissection. The only legal source was that of hanged felons which yielded just 52 bodies in the same year. Thus the resurrection trade flourished and bodysnatching was in the medical establishment, if not condoned, then they turned a blind eye to the trade. Where did these bodies come from and how were they transported? What was the price of a body and what happened to the bodies afterwards? These are just some of the questions answered in presentation."

Although resurrection men are mostly thought of as body-snatchers and grave-robbers the most famous case is that associated with the names Burke and Hare. The story of William Burke and William Hare, both of Irish origin, and the murders they committed in Edinburgh to supply fresh bodies for a medical school is found in a Wikipedia article.

15 October 2008

Fraternal Society Acronyms

If you've ever found yourself puzzled over the meaning of abbreviations in some obituary and death notices the following list, distributed by Glenn Wright for his presentation at September's BIFHSGO conference, may be helpful. A few links are added.

Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (AF & AM)

Ancient Order of Foresters (AOF)

Ancient Order of Foresters (AOOF)

Ancient Order of United Workmen (AOUW)

Canadian Order of Foresters (COF)

Canadian Order of Home Circles (COHC)

Canadian Order of Odd Fellows (COOF)

Catholic Mutual Benefit Association (CMBA)

Celtic Benefit Association of Ottawa (CBAO)

Daughters and Maids of England Benevolent Society (DMEBS)

Emerald Benefit Association (EBA)

Independent Order of Foresters (IOF)

Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

International Order of King’s Daughters (IOKD)

Knights of the Golden Eagle (KGE)

Knights of the Maccabees (KOM)

Order of Chosen Friends (OCF)

Order of Fraternal Guardians (OFG)

Order of Owls (OOO)

Royal Arcanum (RA)

Sons of Canada (SOC)

Sons of England Benefit Society (SOEBS)

Sons of Scotland Benefit Society (SOSBS)

Woodmen of the World (WOW)

14 October 2008

Canadian history from British newspapers

Recently I had an email exchange with friend and former work colleague Bob Jones. Bob maintains a list of Canadian disasters that took 20 lives or more, a project he started while with Environment Canada. Part of the motivation was to see if weather had become less significant as a cause, or contributory cause, for disasters over the years as weather forecasts improved. It turns out that other technological improvements confound the attribution.

Over the years I've been able to make suggestions for additions to Bob's disaster list as I stumble upon incidents. One that cropped up earlier this year, in Louise Campey's most recent book An Unstoppable Force, is the vessel Rambler, of Leith, listed as being wrecked in 1807 with loss of 138 lives "near Newfoundland" in a crossing from Thurso, Scotland, to Pictou.

Bob went in search of confirmation. Surprisingly neither Newfoundland marine history expert Robert C Parsons, nor Sue Swiggam of The Ships List, had any record of this incident.

I hoped that there might be a Newfoundland newspaper at LAC covering the period, no such luck. The earliest Newfoundland newspaper LAC has on microfilm starts a bit later.

As the crossing was from Scotland the news eventually made its way back there. A newspaper search found an item from the Caledonian Mercury of 12 December 1807 quoting a letter dated 4 November 1807 from Bay of Bulls, Newfoundland:

"Since writing you this day a boat has put in from Ferryland with the survivors of the wreck of the unfortunate brig Rambler, of Leith, which was totally lost near Cape Broyle, on the night of the 29th ult. The following is a list of the persons saved:- Adam Drysdale, second mate; Daniel McKay, seaman; William Cathin, John Morton, John Fulsick, apprentices; James Campbell, James McKay, Jean Gunn, passengers. It would appear that 138 passengers were drowned."

The loss was also noted briefly in Lloyds Marine List for 15 December 1807 published in the same paper.

The Observer of 24 January, 1808 carried another report:

"The brig Rambler, Norris, from Leith, with 250 passengers on board, bound to Picton, was wrecked on the coast of Newfoundland, on the night of the 28th of October, when every soul perished, except six men and one woman, and they are so much cut and bruised by the rocks, that their recovery is doubtful."

If you want to find out about early Canadian historical events, especially anything with a British connection, check the British newspapers. These days with increasing digitization of those papers the search is much easier --- if you can get access. You may be able to do so at a local university library. Unfortunately LAC and most Canadian public libraries don't provide this access to their clients, and the subscription model used by the companies selling the service only applies to corporate entities.

13 October 2008

Voters lists and the election

Elizabeth Laporte has a timely posting on Voter`s Lists at LAC on her blog just in time for the election next Tuesday.

I confess to having felt a bit older reading the start of the posting "I can remember when I was but a youngster of voting age in the early '70s living on Olivet Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia ..."

I was in the Halifax area working as a newly minted meteorologist during the previous election, that of 1968, the one remembered by those of us senior enough for Trudeaumania.

In those days the official weather forecast included a short synopsis about the weather, often referring to conditions expected for upcoming holidays and local events. Radio stations, especially the CBC, would use the synopsis in broadcasting the forecast. As I was working the night shift on election morning I produced a timely synopsis. It got more than the usual amount of attention. It started:

"Liberal amount of cloud and conservative amounts of sunshine will be scattered democratically across the Maritime Provinces this election day."

In Lesley Anderson`s presentation at last Saturday`s BIFHSGO meeting she mentioned that voters lists are one of the record types of interest to Ancestry.ca for digitization.

12 October 2008

TNA's Digital Microfilm Pilot

In common with most archives The (UK) National Archives has a large collection of microfilmed records. TNA is now piloting a project to make these available online.

Delivery is by using very large pdfs, each of which contains a whole piece, which could be up to 800 pages long. They call this Digital Microfilm. You should only try downloading if you have a broadband connection, and even then you need a good supply of patience. One thing you won't need is a credit card; the documents are free of charge to download.

Four records series of military and naval records have been digitized in this pilot:

  • ADM 142 - Registers of Seamen's wills, 1786-1909
  • ADM 175 - Records of service of the Coastguard, 1816-1947
  • WO 144 - War Office: Inter-Allied Armistice Commission: War Diary, and Despatches of Chief of British Delegation, 1918-1920
  • WO 338 - War Office: Officers' Services, Index to Long Number Papers, 1870-1922
The records are not indexed and you will need to scroll through the pdfs to find the information sought.

They are large files and even with broadband you'll find you'll want to avoid downloading at times of heavy traffic. I ordered WO 338/14 for surnames Micholson - O of the War Office: Officers' Services, Index to Long Number Papers, 1870-192. It is 294.94 MB and would have taken well over an hour to download at the rate it was going at 9am. I didn't time it but it appeared to download considerably more quickly at 10pm.
Shown is the part of that file that relates to the the surname Northwood. Each entry in the index gives surname, forenames or initials, regiment, unique long number, rank and remarks. The long numbers usually refer to WO 339. John Daniel D'Arcy Northwood was with GLRFC(?), had long number 156442 and is a Lieut. I recognize him as grandnephew of William Northwood who came to Ottawa.

This series is arranged by surname, and the name range for each section is indicated upfront. A bit more explanation of the record content would have been appreciated. What does GLRFC stand for?

ADM 142 offers fourteen separate downloads with the same heading, Register of Wills 1786-1861, with no indication of the arrangement that I could find. Given the time required to download I was not encouraged to explore further.

Based on this admittedly limited trial my impression is that the material needs improved explanation so that clients can better appreciate what they're getting before embarking on the extended download required.

It would be desirable to reduce the download time. This could be done by further sub-division of the films, or perhaps by using another technology like Torrents which I understand are widely used for large downloads.

Congratulations TNA on undertaking this pilot.

11 October 2008

BIFHSGO Conference Shots - Saturday, Sunday

A further selection of photos from the BIFHSGO Conference, 19-21 September 2008.

Sherry Irvine kicked off the Saturday session with a plenary presentation "UK Archives and Record Offices Online." Many county record offices are working fast and furious to put some of their materials of interest to genealogists online, some for free, some for a fee. Essex, where Sherry has family roots, was used as an example of a progressive county. The most recent major announcement is from the London Metropolitan Archives.

Following her presentation Sherry moved to the Global Genealogy sales area to sign copies of her books, all of which completely sold out.

The marketplace was inundated during the first break. If it doesn't look like it in the photo it's because it was taken when things had calmed down. This was the first BIFHSGO conference for Ed Zapletal, co-owner and editor of magazines Discovering Family History, Family Chronicle, and Internet Genealogy. He said he'll be back.

BIFHSGO always tries to have a presentation by one of LAC's many experts as part of the conference. This year Jeffrey Murray, LAC senior map archivist, and author of "Terra Nostra: the Stories behind Canada's maps 1550-1950" took on that role and even expanded on his presentation as originally conceived to give more emphasis to maps of genealogical interest.

All the way from the UK, via Philadelphia and Washington, Chris Watts made a return appearance for BIFHSGO. He had made a short presentation to a BIFHSGO monthly meeting nearly two years ago during a private research trip. In the first of three presentations he summarized various English Occupational Records of interest for family history. His other talks were on "British Army Records 1760-1913" and "British Merchant Navy Seaman Records." His talks were packed both with information and attendees. The handouts had to be reprinted.

Back at the marketplace the A team from the Quebec Family History Society was there with their Roadshow. On the right from front to back are Derek Hopkins, appropriately peering at a computer screen, Bob Dunn, John Reid (yes another one!), and QFHS President and conference speaker Gary Schroder.

Gary gave two presentations, again to large appreciative audiences. "English Probate Records: the Middle Ages to 2008: and "The English Parish Chest: Finding and Using the Records." These were also presentations where more handouts were needed than were printed. Copies may be found here and here.

The final presenter taking more than one turn at the podium was Marian Press, librarian and the University of Toronto, genealogy instructor and writer. Marian's articles are frequently found in Internet Genealogy, so it was appropriate that her first presentation was "Genealogy 2.0: what do I need to know?" On Sunday morning Marian made her second presentation, sponsored by Friends of the Ottawa Public Library, "The Past, Present and Future of Libraries for Family History." Sherry and Marian commented that they were both very much of a mind when it comes to the Internet and genealogy.

Another exhibitor at the marketplace, a longtime exhibitor, was Archive CD Books Canada. Their tables were loaded down with their CD reproductions of historic books, and those of their partners. Many of their products are now available online through subscription to World Vital Records.

Rounding out the program were presentations by local speakers, members of BIFHSGO, Lesley Anderson, Jane Down, Alison Hare and Glen Wright. Their popularity is shown in that they all spoke in the auditorium, the larger presentation space available, based on a vote of the membership earlier in the year. There were also opportunities to try genealogy databases from Ancestry, FindMyPast and ProQuest; individual consultation sessions by folks from the Canadian Genealogy Centre on Saturday (the photo shows Sarah Chatfield and Sylvie Tremblay) and BIFHSGO on Sunday.

The final presentation of the conference was a plenary session with Sherry Irvine speaking on "Migration within the British Isles", a panel session followed where audience members had an opportunity to ask questions of general genealogical interest, and then a prize draw conducted by BIFHSGO President Mary Ann Sharpe.

You may be sorry you missed this conference. I expect another one will be held next September. Don't be sorry again. Watch the BIFHSGO website for news.

All photography by Ken Wood, Copyright BIFHSGO 2008

BIFHSGO Conference Shots - Friday

A selection of photos from BIFHSGO's conference of 19-21 September 2008.

First impressions are important so the welcome team, led by Sharon Moor and Linda Gloss, ensure registrants get the material they need. Preparing packages in advance for everyone who pre-registers means those people get their documentation quickly. Walk-in registrations are also helped promptly.

Two pre-conference sessions were offered. Ottawa Branch of OGS led on a "next steps" session, a follow on to the beginner genealogy session which was offered in February. June Coxon, Lesley Anderson and Jeannette Logan (l-r) look pleased after the session ended successfully. Elizabeth Kipp, who also presented during the session, had already left to help with the computer room.

Having completed his pre-conference workshop on Legacy 7, Rick Roberts returned to the large Global Genealogy sales area. Rick chats with Mike More (seated), Chair of Ottawa Branch of OGS, perhaps about the 2009 version of Gene-O-Rama which is scheduled for March 27 to 28, at Ben Franklin Place. Mike and his Ottawa Branch colleagues were doing double duty staffing not only the Branch display but also the OGS stand where a variety of Society publications were for sale.

Canadian Genealogy Centre guru Mary Munk conducted one of three tours of floors two and three of the building at 395 Wellington. Altogether about 40 people took advantage of the opportunity to learn about what LAC has to offer and how best to use it.

Library and Archives Canada cosponsors the conference and Doug Rimmer, Assistant Deputy Minister for Programs and Services, was on hand to welcome participants prior to the Friday evening Don Whiteside Lecture. He reflected in the changes that have occurred in the past year, but owing to an election embargo was unable to add much about future developments.

Sherry Irvine, who presented the Whiteside Lecture, was introduced by Past President Willis Burwell. In her talk, "Genealogy with Wings: Reflections of a Family Historian in an Age of Techno-enthusiasm" Sherry spoke of the advantages that accrue to the genealogist who embraces new technologies as an adjunct to good genealogical practise, not a substitute for it.

All photography by Ken Wood, Copyright BIFHSGO 2008

10 October 2008

Does OGS offer good value?

On the home page of their website the Ontario Genealogical Society display the following:

Interested in learning more about your family history?

Do you live in Ontario?

Did your ancestors live in Ontario?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then The Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) can help.

A year ago I sent in an application to join the OGS and membership became effective this year. I joined for two reasons.

First, I'd always said that I have no Ontario roots so saw no benefit. I added, jokingly, that if I ever found an Ontario connection I would join. When research turned up a great uncle who had worked for Canadian Pacific at Fort William (the Lakehead), although only for a couple of years prior to joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force, my bluff was called.

Second, I wanted to support the Ottawa Branch of OGS. As an Ottawa resident I attend some of the Branch monthly meetings and other events which are freely open to all. The Branch is an important contributor to the local heritage community. I'm not comfortable being an eternal freeloader.

I still want to support the local branch. The branches are the strength of OGS. They run on a shoestring ($15/year in the case of Ottawa Branch) through the work of volunteer members.

But, just as I'm not comfortable being a freeloader, neither am I happy sending a substantial annual subscription ($45/year) to OGS HQ for what is for me comparatively little benefit. Let's have a look at the benefits of being an OGS member as described on the OGS website.
I'll append my comments.

As an OGS member, you:
  • receive the Ontario Genealogical Society's quarterly journal Families, quarterly newsletter Newsleaf and 8 issues/year of e-NewsLeaf.
As I don't have Ontario roots its perhaps not surprising I don't find much of interest in Families. It's a benefit I'd happily forego if given the option of a compensating reduction in membership fee. On the other hand, Newsleaf and e-Newsleaf do provide information I'm pleased to receive.
  • receive flyers describing publications and supplies available for purchase from OGS
Is this referring to the inserts that come in the mail with Families? Is that a benefit or junk mail?
  • can submit four family name queries each year to the Name Game - which is published in the quarterly Families
Again, not something I can benefit much from as I don't have Ontario roots. These days there's more distribution for this type of query on an internet newsgroup or social network.
  • have the right to vote at the annual general meeting and regional meetings, the right to hold office and the right to join any branch or branches.
I'd happily forego these provincial benefits if I could just pay the fee levied by the local branch.
  • receive invitations to regional meetings and the annual Seminar for further education in genealogical subjects and social contacts with other genealogists.
Isn't this what comes in Newsleaf?
  • can participate in genealogical research projects specific to Ontario.
I thought that's what I was doing when I helped index the Ontario Death's for FamilySearch. I don't recall being asked if I was an OGS member. Or perhaps this is referring to local cemetery indexing projects and the like. Did anyone ever get turned down as a volunteer for one of these because they were not a member?
  • get a membership card which can be used as a passport to resources.
Passport? What does this mean? The members only section of the website perhaps? Is there value there so far? The section includes the ability to:
  • Change your Password.
  • Review the 1962-2006 back issues of Families.
  • Read the current and back issues of e-NewsLeaf.
  • NEW - Search the Strays Database.
  • Read the growing collection of Church Histories of the Roman Catholic Diocese of London.
  • NEW - more histories added July 2008.
For me these are of marginal additional value.
  • can take advantage of OGS group rates for home/automobile insurance and out-of-province/out-of-Canada emergency insurance (MEDOC®) with Johnson Insurance Inc. and the Scholarship and Academic Grant Program for participating members
Are these any better than CAA, CARP or the many other affiliate rates most people have access to through other memberships?

My evaluation is that only if you can answer yes to the question Did your ancestors live in Ontario? is an OGS membership likely to offer good value, not just if you can answer yes to any of the three questions as the Society claims.

To repeat, I'd still like to have a way to support the local branch without having to send three times the money to OGS HQ to do so. Why would OGS not provide a local only membership option?

09 October 2008

BIFHSGO October monthly meeting

Come to Library and Archives Canada on Saturday morning, 11 October 2008, for a presentation by BIFHSGO Member, Margaret Burwell with the title "Jennie's Journey: Reconstructing a Life from Letters and Diaries."

Margaret found a collection of over 500 letters written by or to her great grandmother Jennie Clarissa Sherman (nee Galer). It helped explain the mystery of a long distance move in the 1870s, late in her life.

That presentation starts at 10 am, but come at 9 am to catch Lesley Anderson, BIFHSGO Associate Education Director, speaking on "Searching Online with Ancestry.com."

08 October 2008

All's quiet in the LAC front

Writing about LAC is a challenge these days. That's the way the government wants it. With the election in full swing there's an embargo on all but the most essential government announcements. That means not much more than basic releases from Statistics Canada, health warnings and routine weather forecasts and warnings.

At LAC the front page has been devoid of any change for some weeks. The most recent item under What's New at the website is dated 4 September.

Digging a bit deeper there are some LAC items, which I may have been previously overlooked, under Proactive Disclosure.

Under Contracts, on 1 April there is $1.2 million to Proquest for "other Professional Services" and seven contracts all dated 22 April for "Protection Services" to the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires for a total of $1.8 million.

Rather more intriguing is $1,102,475 on 29 April for "purchase of a collection of printed matter, including books, newspapers, pictures, manuscripts and forms" from Gilfillan Scott-Berning, a South African fine art dealer.

Proactive Disclosure under the heading travel this year includes three major international trips for Ian Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada. These were to Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Sweden, the UK and the UAE accounting for more than 2/3 of the total of $60K. However, two smaller trips, in June and July to Toronto and Waterloo, caught my eye as they include the phrase The Canada Project. Even though progress in digitization seems slow its encouraging to see this follow up on the Symons Lecture last February.

07 October 2008

Sarah Palin's Canadian and British Roots

Accord to an Ancestry.ca press release US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's "paternal great-great-grandfather Francis (Frank) H Oriel ... was born in Kingston, Ontario in May of 1832. His father, Henry Francis Oriel, was born in Norfolk, England circa 1799, later immigrated to Quebec and then he moved to Kingston, Ontario." The large family is found in the 1851 (1852) census in Pittsburg, Frontenac County.

Harper and Bennett - opinion

Superficial similarities between prime ministers R.B Bennett, who presided over the Great Depression of the 1930s, and Stephen Harper, have been pointed out.

Both family histories go back to New Brunswick Loyalists; both moved to Calgary to further their Conservative political careers.

Bennett, like Harper, was a loner who centralized power while preferring laissez faire economic policies.
Bennett advocated "The Iron Heel of Ruthlessness" when faced with social unrest and used Section 98 of the Criminal Code to dispense with the presumption of innocence. Harper has demonized anybody who opposes his policies and left a Canadian as the only western national detained by the Bush regime at GITMO.

But there's a difference in timing. Canada had already moved into depression on election day, 28 July 1930, under the unpopular Liberal government of W L Mackenzie King who was criticized for being out of touch with the country. Bennett was leader of the opposition.

Technically Canada is not yet in recession, but it's Harper, as the incumbent Prime Minister, who goes to the polls having led the country into economic decline.

In deciding how to vote next Tuesday ask yourself Ronald Regan's question.

06 October 2008

British Railway Staff Records

Another instructive podcast has been posted by The National Archives, Kew, this one by historian Bruno Derrick "guides us through how to trace those ancestors who worked on the railways during the Victorian era, both at home and abroad. Discussing the extensive collection of railway staff records held at The National Archives, this talk looks at various company records, accident records and railway magazines and offers advice on the best ways to approach and use these resources."

At one point the catalogue for RAIL 264 is mentioned. I tried it for the name Northwood. There was one hit, for a Daniel Northwood, who joined the Great Western Railway Company as a clerk in April 1863 and resigned in June 1866.

Daniel was in my Northwood database, the brother of William Northwood (1844-1928) who migrated to Ottawa and became the financial half of a successful business. Daniel was obviously also competent with figures as by the time of the 1871 census he was an assistant surveyor of taxes.

05 October 2008

On reused graves and Englishmen

I've been poking around at NOAH, the Norfolk (UK) Online Access to Heritage website, which has information and images from the Library Service, The Norfolk Record Office and Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service.

The poster shown, found at the site, is for a 1862 pre-Christmas musical soiree sponsored by the Gorleston and Southtown Seaman's and Working Men's Institution. The patriotic program included "O the Roast Beef of Old England" and "A song, a song for England" I was especially interest in the third item on the program "My Ancestors were Englishmen."

A Google search on the title found an article in the January 2004 issue newsletter of the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery on the song's composer John William Hobbs (1799-1877).

It was surprising to see the article mention that in 1987 Hobbs' gravesite was illegally resold and reused by another family whose tombstone now stands in place of the Hobbs monument. I'd encountered a database of these illegally sold gravesites at West Norwood while preparing my talk at the GENEALOGY IN LONDON conference in Toronto on November 8, but hadn't expected to find the database useful.

The database search didn't work when I tried it, but Hobbs showed up in a list of grave owners, his address given as 29, Upper Stamford Street, Lambeth, and six other relatives named buried in the plot.

Google books supplied the words to "My ancestors were Englishmen", maudlin but satisfyingly short on jingoism, written by W H Bellamy.

My ancestors were Englishmen,
An Englishman am I,
And 'tis my boast that I was born
Beneath a British sky ;

I prize my peerless birthplace for
Its freedom and its fame ;
In it my father lived and died ;
I hope to do the same.

I've heard of foreign countries that
Are very fair to see ;
But England, " dear old England," is
Quite fair enough for me ;

Find the rest of the words on page 111 of A Book of Popular Songs.

I'd hoped to find an online source for Hobbs music, I didn't. In lieu you might enjoy a staple from the Last Night of the Proms.

04 October 2008

Extended distribution of Pat Wohler's genealogy column

For some while Ottawa area genealogist J Patrick Wohler has been writing a genealogy column published in newspapers in the west end of the city and up the Ottawa Valley. This week the column started to appear in the local paper delivered to my area, The News EMC Ottawa South Edition. That's a welcome addition, especially as Pat frequently mentions local genealogical events.

This week Pat writes about Researching Jewish ancestry in Canada. He notes the unique records kept by Jewish synagogues and the organizations that keep records. Web sites mentioned include the National Archives of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Ottawa Jewish Archives and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Ottawa.

Google and Ancestry

The Industry Standard posted an interesting article on the potential for Google to try and take on some of the territory Ancestry rules.

From the article:

  • Ancestry.com has approximately 890,000 paid subscribers and 750 million page views per month.
  • Sullivan (CEO of The Generations Network) said (the company) was concerned about Google's potential plans, pointing out that the company had been very successful at indexing text documents: "Any printed material will end up on Google or the Web," Sullivan declared.
  • When asked about Google, Sullivan said, "We view that their mission and ours is quite complimentary." However, he declined to discuss the nature of communications between the two companies.
Part of that unannounced communication is that Ancestry is now putting newspaper content from Paper of Record, owned by Google, on their site as mentioned in my 11 July posting.

03 October 2008

More on World Vital Records

Elizabeth Lapointe recently pointed out in a posting on her Genealogy Canada blog that some books from the Dundurn Group are now available on World Vital Records.

The Dundurn material includes lots of good reference material, including: The Genealogist's Internet by Peter Christian (2003), DNA and Family History: How Genetic Testing Can Advance Your Genealogical Research by Chris Pomery (2004) and Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2006 (1997?). Valerie Knowles. (1997). These are not the current editions but still contain valuable information.

A subscription also gets you access to a good range of books from Archive CD Books Canada.

So why haven't I subscribed yet?

In part it's that I'm already subscribed to some of the material another way. For example, WVR's valuable UK census and civil registration indexes are from FindMyPast.

It's also because I'd be paying for a large amount of material I don't need. For their US subscribers WVR manages this by offering a US only subscription. You can purchase access to 800 million names in the United States, "normally $49.95 AND you can sign up today for HALF PRICE, $24.95." That's 3.1 cents per million names.

But if, like me, you have virtually no US interest your only option is to pay $99.95 for access to all 1,188,558,699 names, including the 800 million which are of little interest. That's 19.3 cents per million for the non-US names.

The pricing seems a bit odd. Why would a US name cost less? The US people I know are worth as much as anybody else, on average.

02 October 2008

Reality genealogy

Scrolling through Google Books hits for my ancestral village of Kirklinton, in Cumberland, I came across the following footnote information in an article on clockmaker George Graham in The Worthies of Cumberland.

"The careless way in which some parish books was kept was owing to the sheer indifference of the clerk, who took for granted that the heads of families had their big Bible in which to make due records of births and deaths. On the other hand, the majority of the rural population, steeped in ignorance, cared nothing for baptismal records, owing, in part, to the indiscriminate love-making then prevailing, and a healthy propagation of the species under circumstances that offered no great inducement to publicity. The legality of weddings was then as much established by the common consent of the contracting parties and their friends, as by sacerdotal ceremonies ; whilst death, falling to every man's lot, gave to the relatives of the poor but one public anxiety, and that was a "decent burial" — the "lying tombstone " being reserved for the Squire and yeoman, upon which figured the hour-glass and cross-bones, and many bold letters proclaiming the virtues of the deceased."

I doubt Kirklinton is that much of an exception. It's a dose of reality for any genealogist who believes too fervently in a record, even an accurately cited one.

01 October 2008

Canadian Census of Industrial Establishments 1871

A website has been launched to explain and give access to electronic data from the Canadian Census of Industrial Establishments 1871. The following is from the information on the home page flagged to me by an Anonymous contributor.

* Digitized from the manuscript schedules of the 1871 Census of Canada, the only detailed industrial census returns to survive so completely from the nineteenth century
* With more than 45,000 industrial establishments, each with up to 100 variables, including many that never appeared in the published census reports
* Provides uniquely valuable snapshots of industrial activity just after Confederation, at a time of transition in technology, business organization and work discipline
* The original data supported by full definitions, descriptions of procedures, maps and indexes
* Presents an atlas with detailed listing of census districts and sub-districts in 1871
* Access to the manuscript census data supported by simple and more complex search strategies
* Offers material of interest for the study of the technology, business and work organization of industrial activity and the history of families, businesses and communities in nineteenth-century Canada.


This database will be of interest to you if you have ancestors who worked in an "industry" in 1871, or you are interested in a particular area. You won't find genealogical information but the picture you can build up of the industry in your ancestor's community will add depth to your understanding to their life and times.

There is a bit of a learning curve involved in understanding the data and the search form, but this should not deter you; the explanation is comprehensive. A quick start guide for the impatient would have been nice, but its absence is understandable as this database is the result of an academic project.

The definition of an industrial establishment used was "a place where one or several people are employed in manufacturing, altering, making up or changing from one shape into another, materials for sale, use or consumption, quite irrespectively of the amount of capital employed or of the products turned out." I was a bit surprised at the industries the definition included.

Tailors, dressmakers, printers and bookbinders were included, but grocers and butchers were not.

Photographers are included. Let's explore that industry to illustrate the capability.

The search engine allows you to determine that of 145 establishments associated with the photographic industry across Canada 80% employed only one or two people.

William Notman and partners at his establishments in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa employed a total of 83.

Notman paid an average monthly wage above $30. The industry average monthly wage was a bit less than $25.

Thank you to Anonymous for bringing this to my attention.