31 July 2009

Irish 1911 census further delayed

The National Archives of Ireland announces further delays in the 1911 census, a project in which LAC is heavily involved.

"Future releases of counties will comprise:

1. Limerick, Mayo, Waterford, Armagh, Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Fermanagh, Kildare, Kilkenny and Leitrim;
2. Londonderry (Derry), Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Queen’s County (Laois), Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Tyrone, Westmeath and Wicklow.

We are anxious to achieve the highest possible degree of accuracy with the transcribed census data, and efforts to ensure this has necessitated a short delay in releasing the next tranches. We now expect to be placing the first listed tranche online by late August, along with corrected data for previously published counties. The second listed tranche should be available at some stage around the middle of September. As before, this will be subject to our being satisfied that the data meets our required levels of accuracy."

Read the full announcement here.


Is LAC delivering?

It's been a frustrating week trying to use the newspaper collection at LAC. Microfilms I wanted were either out on interlibrary loan, not delivered as requested, or not found in the collection despite being listed in the catalogue.

Being the end of the month I was interested to see if LAC is delivering on service improvement commitments, as listed in a document prepared for the LAC Services Advisory Board June 19, 2009 meeting.

Free of charge downloading from microform scanners to client-supplied USB or CD is working well. The people staffing the desk in the microfilm room are being cool, not acting like they were guarding the crown jewels.

My impression is that the microform equipment seems to show fewer black streaks on the image, reflecting better maintenance.

I have received an "Acknowledgement of receipt" for remote orders. However, there was no notification back when items could not be found, which meant one fruitless visit for me this week.

The updated Canadian Naturalization database with nominal indexes was placed online.

There has been no announcement, and I haven't noticed, that self-registration onsite has been implemented in July.

Front line service staff are not yet wearing name tags.

There has been no announcement that a new user agreement has been implemented in July.

30 July 2009

Ancestry updates obituary collections

If you're like me there's at least one less common surname in your family background you like to track. For me it's Northwood. There are quite a few living Northwoods, and former Northwoods, on the periphery of my family tree. I've identified other Northwoods who I can't connect but suspect there must be a link.

To keep track of these people it's helpful that ancestry has obituary collections. Compiled from obituaries published in newspapers and from various online sources they often contain names, dates, places of birth and death, marriage information, and family relationships.

Ancestry just updated their obituary collections for Australia and New Zealand, Canada, Caribbean, UK and Ireland and the US.

29 July 2009

Service reduction at LAC

A notice is posted at Library and Archives Canada stating that from next week the expected delivery time for published materials will be 60 to 90 minutes, rather than the 30 to 60 minutes which is the present service standard. I am informed by a staff member that this change, say reduction, in service is due to a decision that will make materials less readily available than they were. It will likely be permanent. Maybe one day LAC will let us know why they made that decision!

If you're coming to LAC from outside Ottawa and area make sure to order published materials in advance. My recent experience is you won't find everything you order waiting when you get there, screw-ups and material out on inter-library loan, so manage your expectations.

Better yet, avoid the trip (and trap) altogether. Use inter-library loan yourself. Have the material sent to your home institution. Unfortunately that doesn't work for rare and reference material.

MIs for some cemeteries in Herts

This site by Jeffrey Knaggs contains simple listings of memorial inscriptions for the following cemeteries in Hertfordshire.

28 July 2009

Limited free access to the 1911 census in the UK

Seven institutions in England and Wales are soon to launch free access to their 1911 census:

These are in addition to the existing free access at TNA.

The announcement, a first encouraging sign for those of us looking for more widespread affordable access, was made by TNA.

Treasures of the Documentary Art Collection at LAC

LAC's documentary art collection is an overlooked and under-appreciated resource. The collection is stored in the Gatineau Preservation Centre. There are occasional touring exhibits, recently items from the Peter Winkworth Collection have been profiled, but only the public taking a tour get the chance to see the entire collection, and usually little more than a glance at a few items.

Thanks to the Friends of LAC you can see a broader selection of the collection through a pdf version of a Kaleidoscope series presentation Treasures of Early Canadian Documentary Art given last October by LAC's Manager of Art and Photography Jim Burant. Check it out through the Friends of LAC website.

27 July 2009

OGS Conference 2012 Logo Design Competition

The following is an announcement from the Ontario Genealogical Society


July 24, 2009
The 2012 Annual Conference of the Ontario Genealogical Society, hosted by the three branches within Region 8, will be held in Kingston, Ontario. The title of the Conference is "Borders and Bridges: 1812 to 2012".

Entries are invited to a competition to design a logo that can be used for all Conference 2012 publications. It should be clear and easy to read, and capable of being rendered in both coloured and black-and-white versions as well as smaller and larger scales.

The competition is open to all current members of OGS. Entries should be sent to conference2012@ogs.on.ca no later than December 31, 2009. Please include your full name and address, telephone number, and OGS membership number.

The designer of the selected logo will receive one free registration to Conference 2012.

The following background information may guide your design considerations for "Borders and Bridges: 1812 to 2012". The War of 1812 was a border dispute between England and the United States. Issues such as borders; land settlement and pension records (on both sides of the border) of participants in the war of 1812 and other wars; immigration and migration; and genealogical resources in areas bordering eastern Ontario as well as in Ontario will be among the topics covered by speakers at the Conference. Also, genealogy is about making connections and bridges between people and families.

News from The Gathering

Chris Paton, who compiles the Scottish Genealogy News and Events blog, recorded two short interviews, now available online on YouTube, during last weekend's "Gathering" in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.

Discover my Past Scotland magazine's editor Hilary Bowman talks about the online magazine, with news of a forthcoming edition for England.

Dee Williams, head of the Edinburgh based ScotlandsPeople Centre, talks about the website and Centre and mentions further records coming later in the year and beyond.

26 July 2009

Internet Genealogy -- August/September 2009

The latest issue of the magazine Internet Genealogy arrived in the mail on Friday and features on the front cover Digital Maps Online: we look at the best resources for finding old maps on the 'net!

The item is four pages long starting on page 22, an article by George G. Morgan well-known US genealogist and one half of the genealogy guys. Morgan does a nice job describing some important US map resources, the David Rumsey Map Collection, the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, and others. Given the richness of the resources he mentions, and the desirability of showing some examples, he runs out of space to cover non-US resources. The article does include a section toward the end on "locate historical maps for everywhere" which suggests doing a Google search with the name of the location and "historical map".

Other articles in the issue include: North Carolina online; Hamburg passenger lists online; British World War II merchant vessel cards; Grading the next generation; Top 10 sites for Norwegian genealogy ... and that's just half of it. The full contents of the issue should be listed here along with subscription information.

25 July 2009

Harry Patch RIP

Harry Patch (1898-2009), for a short while Britain's oldest man, was the last British survivor of the carnage of the Western Front.

ProGenealogists web site ranking

Utah-based genealogy consultants ProGenealogists have produced what they bill as the 50 Most Popular Genealogy Websites for 2009. They claim their ranking is superior to others because it's based on a website analytics process, not an individual or group subjective assessment.

According to ProGenealogists' Kory L. Meyerink the technique adopted uses rankings from four analytics sites, Alexa, Compete, Quantcast, and Ranking.com. He describes the technique in an article linked from here. The article mentions that "It also appears that two of these sites seek to rank sites based on worldwide usage, while the other two focus on U.S. sites." Later in that same article he lists the key criteria for including a Web site on the list, including "Sites must be listed in at least three of the four ranking services."

The upshot is that it's difficult if not impossible for anything but a US site to rank. I recognized only one non-US site on the list, genuki. I wonder how it got there?

I doubt this represents a deliberate slight to the rest of the world, just normal national myopia.Wouldn't it be more accurate, and appropriate, to title this a list of the 50 most popular US genealogy websites for 2009?

Mayhew's Poor London

A good resource for understanding the lives of poor ancestors in 19th century London is the sociological classic London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew.

While researching for information on London prisons, I was surprised to come across another of his books The criminal prisons of London, and scenes of prison life. There's a new reprint for sale at ancestry.co.uk for £35.10.

Both books date back to the 1860s and I wondered if, as they are out of copyright, maybe they had been scanned into the Internet Archive or Google Books.

It turns out that London Labour and the London Poor, all three volumes and an extra volume are available as E-Texts. find links from the Wikipedia article on the books here.

The criminal prisons of London, and scenes of prison life is available here through Google books, and here through the Internet archive.

24 July 2009

Long-lost relatives

Have you ever solved a knotty genealogical problem by writing to a local newspaper? That tactic isn't new. I was surprised to stumble across a column in a Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, from August 1899 with a list of such queries. They were a mixture of people at home in England and abroad looking for contacts. Some Canada-related examples from the one issue:

JONES (CHARLES, ELLEN, ELIZA, and SARAH) were sent to Canada in 1873 from Middlemore's home in Pritchett-street, Birmingham. Brother Peter and sisters ask.

From Canada: Sydney Lovelace who left home 14 years ago seeks his father John LOVELACE or any relatives.

From Aldershot, F. C. Barton seeks his brother Michael E. BARTON, last heard of in May 1897 when he left Winnipeg, Manitoba, to go to Yukon River goldfields.

VOYSEY (WALTER) was in Toronto, Canada West (sic), in 1870. Sister Grace and her husband (Robert Laxton) ask.

PLUMS (Ada) went to Canada in March 1895 and afterwards was waitress in hotel in Detroit, USA; supposed now to be in Toronto. Mother enquires.

These are nice genealogical sources as you usually get the names of at least two relatives, better than a city directory entry.

The column also gives follow-ups. For example:

Writing from Ontario, Mrs Lulu Redman says: "My stepmother's brother saw an item in Lloyd's (July 2) stating that James Tyler in London wished to know the whereabouts of RICHARD REDMAN. The slip was sent at once to us in Canada. Richard Redman is my father and is very enxious for the address of my cousin James Tyler. Father had lost all track of his relations for years."

The Long-Lost Relatives column ran from 1886 to at least 1900 (the end of the digitized series).

Some of the entries that mention Ottawa are: Henry James PIGGOTT (1886), George Joseph SAVELL (1886), Roderick MCLURE (1887), William BRACEY (1888, found), Arthur H PEPPER (1888), Henry John BULL (1889), Matilda Ann HURRIT (nee BELL, 1890), James ANDREWS (1890), plus 22 more.

These can be searched as part of the British 19th Century Newspapers database. You need to subscribe to see the full text.

23 July 2009

Cheshire Non-conformist records

Newly added, 74,925 indexes only to Cheshire Non-conformist records, 1671-1900 at FamilySearch.org Record Search pilot (click Search Records, and then click Record Search pilot).

Should Ireland release the 1926 census

Michael Merrigan, general secretary of the Genealogical Society of Ireland, publishes an editorial advocating "the release of the 1926 census returns as an enormously significant contribution to our understanding, knowledge and appreciation of the early years of the independence of our state and its people."

22 July 2009

LAC expands naturalization database

The following is an announcement of a substantial augmentation to LAC's naturalization database. It is now a full nominal index covering all lists from 1915 to 1932. Previously, only 1915 to 1921 was fully index. It went from 20,000 entries to 206, 731 entries.


New Version of the Canadian Naturalization 1915-1932 Database

Ottawa, July 22, 2009 - Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to announce the release of a new version of the Canadian Naturalization 1915-1932 online database. It now includes the names of 206,731 individuals who applied for and received status as naturalized Canadians from 1915 to 1932. This database is one of the few Canadian genealogical resources specifically designed to benefit those researchers with roots outside of the British Commonwealth. References located in the database can be used to request copies of the actual naturalization records, which are held by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The database is available at: www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/naturalization-1915-1932/index-e.html.

Library and Archives Canada gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal <http://jgs-montreal.org/> [http://jgs-montreal.org/] and its volunteers, without which this project would not have been possible.

Additionally, we acknowledge the support of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Ottawa <http://www.jgso.org/> [www.jgso.org/] in the original digitization of the images. The contributions of many LAC staff were instrumental in the success of this project, and their efforts are much appreciated. For more information, please contact us at webservices@lac-bac.gc.ca.

40 years ago - TNA podcast

One of the signs of advancing years is that you get contacted by former work colleagues, younger ones, interested in the history of the organization. That happened to me this week along with other signs, the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, an event I recall quite distinctly as it also has family history connections for me, I watched it during my only visit with a first cousin two times removed near New York. Then there's the TNA podcast "The Summer of '69". I'm used to thinking of TNA podcasts as dealing with history, not things I remember.

The podcast, presented by Mark Dunton, deals in large part with political events in Britain as well as social events. The website includes most of the images and documents referred to in the podcast, appreciated, as well as a transcript of the presentation.

One thing that surprised me was Dunton's comment: "So what was the weather like, in the summer of '69? Its quite difficult to find a source that will tell you, in meaningful terms, about the quality of summers from historical periods."

Not so! The image is a sample from The Times, for 21 July 1969, a panel of weather information included faithfully each day. A search on the word weather for the date or range of dates of interest on The Times Digital Archive will easily find that information.

21 July 2009

Recognition for the Canadian Genealogy Centre

Congratulations to the Canadian Genealogy Centre on being recognized as one of the 101 best family history websites for 2009.

According to a note published in the what's new section of the LAC website "The Canadian Genealogy Centre was chosen as a winner because it keeps expanding its online offerings, with the 1891 census joining the 1881 and 1911 enumerations, along with 1871 Ontario and 1906 Northwest Territories censuses. You'll also find land, military, immigration and vital records, directories and a database to track your Mountie ancestors."

That recognition comes from Family Tree Magazine, the American publication, not the UK one of the same name.

Now wouldn't it be nice if LAC could blow its own trumpet, celebrate the organization's good work, instead of hiding it away under a link. There is an opportunity. The LAC front page is looking kinda tired and could do with some fresh content. For example, and speaking of blowing its own trumpet, couldn't the Portrait Gallery folks find a different photo to celebrate the Festival Karsh? Didn't he take a few more!

20 July 2009

FreeBMD update

The FreeBMD database, index to civil registration, was updated on Sunday, 19 July, with lots of new data added: for births from 1931 to 1940; marriages from 1932 to 1949. Updates for deaths are mainly in 1932 and 1933. That's in addition to gap filling and refinements.

19 July 2009

“Disease, Distress and Disaster” Workshop in Toronto

The following is posted for Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society


“Disease, Distress and Disaster” Workshop

28 November 2009

North York Central Library Auditorium

5120 Yonge Street, Toronto

The Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch and the Canadiana Department of the North York Central Library will be co-hosting a one-day workshop on the adversity that shaped our ancestors’ lives. We are looking for speakers who would like to be part of the workshop.

You are invited to submit proposals for lectures on any aspect of adversity in our ancestors' lives and how the individual or the community coped with it--or did not. Adversity could include accidents, disease, war or other conflict, environmental degradation, persecution, etc.

Workshop attendees will be most interested in lectures emphasizing sources and research techniques that might be useful in their own research. We are looking for both very focused, and more general presentations, at various skill levels.

Topics of greatest interest will deal with the Victorian age through the first three decades of the 20th Century, with an emphasis on Canada, Ireland or Great Britain.

Each session will be one hour long, including five or ten minutes for questions.

Presentations should be illustrated—we can make available a computer projector or an overhead projector. Speakers will also be expected to provide a handout of supporting material (up to four pages), which we will photocopy for all registrants.

Speakers will be paid an honorarium of $100 per lecture, plus modest expenses for travel and accommodation.

Please submit your lecture proposals by e-mail. Please keep them brief and informal, at this point. (We may ask for more details later.) Be sure to include your mailing address, phone number, and a brief bio.


For more information about the Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch, please see: www.torontofamilyhistory.org.

To submit proposals or ask a question about the event, please contact Paul Jones at pastchair (at)torontofamilyhistory.org.

18 July 2009

Henry Allingham and Walter Cronkite, RIP

Rain this morning seems appropriate.

Blue Church gravestones

It's an Eastern Ontario landmark, midway between Prescott and Maitland overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

The prominent column memorial is to Barbara Heck (1734-1804) who " brought into existance American and Canadian Methodism".

What caught my eye at the Blue Church was the symbolism on the gravestones, especially as I had recently listened to Donna Walcovy speak on that topic.

17 July 2009

How good is newspaper digitization?

It seems I was very fortunate to find all three words in my great-grandfather's name accurately deciphered in two articles from the British Library's 19th Century Online Newspaper Archive. The story of what I found will be coming in a future issue of Anglo-Celtic Roots, the quarterly chronicle of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.

The conclusion that I was fortunate comes from reading Measuring Mass Text Digitization Quality and Usefulness, an article in D-Lib Magazine, July/August 2009 Volume 15 Number 7/8, available at http://www.dlib.org/dlib/july09/munoz/07munoz.html/.

The authors comment that manufacturer supplied OCR percent accuracy figures, >99.9%, are misleading as they are based on perfect laser-printed text, not the kind of printed and often microfilmed text normally available to work from. "...gaining accuracies of greater than 95% (5 in 100 characters wrong) is more usual for post-1900 and pre-1950's text and anything pre-1900 will be fortunate to exceed 85% accuracy (15 in 100 characters wrong)."

The article reports overall averages for the British Library19th Century Newspaper Project as follows:

  • Character accuracy = 83.6%
  • Word accuracy = 78%
  • Significant word accuracy = 68.4%
  • Words with capital letter start accuracy = 63.4%
These represent the highest OCR accuracy rate expected as they are based on two samples from the "best" sections of a large sample of pages.

For genealogical purposes the 63.4% figure is most pertinent as it relates to the ability to find names.

The authors suggest that if word accuracy is greater than 80% then most fuzzy search engines will be able to sufficiently fill in the gaps or find related words.

A high success rate would still be possible from newspaper content because of repeated significant words. Theoretically if the chance of finding a single instance of a word is 63.4%, the chance of finding one of two occurrences is 86.6% and of finding one of three occurrences 95%.

16 July 2009

Abbreviated Genealogical Wisdom

and conquer.

Go backward
to come forward.

The timeline is your
best friend.

In searching, don't filter
too quickly, refine.

If you can't find the truth in
the story, check out the storyteller.

15 July 2009

All Ontario libraries get Ancestry Library Edition

There's good news for genealogists across Ontario. Ancestry Library Edition should now be available at ALL branches of ALL public libraries in Ontario. May 1, 2009 was the go-live date and the database is licensed for two years from that date. Read the press release.

For major libraries, such as Ottawa's, which had already negotiated access at all their branches the province-wide funding will be a saving on their budget.

For libraries which had access at a limited number of branches the Ancestry Library service should now be available at all branches.

Libraries that didn't enjoy the service should now have it in all their branches. If your's doesn't have it yet, just ask; it should be added within a month. You're paying for it through your provincial taxes after all.

This addition to the service was made possible by a one-time grant from the Ontario government. At the end of the period the use will be reviewed. It's not cheap; use it or lose it.

14 July 2009

The Scotsman archive at half price

The following announcement is from The Scotsman:

To celebrate Homecoming Scotland 2009, we have a special offer on our Digital Archive packages. Purchase one of our special half price subscriptions during July and save up to £79.98. All subscription periods commence from the moment your payment is processed, with various price points available to suit your needs.

Payments can be made by credit or debit card only – we do not accept cheques or cash. This offer applies to new private sales only. Corporate and educational customers should refer to the subscription information below.

  • 24 Hour Pass: RRP £7.95 | Offer price: £3.97 | Save £3.98

    The 24 Hour Pass provides a full day of unlimited access to the archive.

  • 48 Hour Pass: RRP £12.95 | Offer price: £6.47 | Save £6.48

    Need more time? The 48 Hour Pass provides two full days of unlimited access.

  • One Week Pass: RRP £19.95 | Offer price: £9.97 | Save £9.98

    The One Week Pass provides one full week of unlimited access to the archive.

  • One Month Pass: RRP £39.95 | Offer price: £19.97 | Save £19.98

    The One Month Pass provides one full month of unlimited access to the archive.

  • One Year Pass: RRP £159.95 | Offer price £79.97 | Save £79.98

    The One Year Pass provides one full year of unlimited access to the archive.

Grey County Digitized Newspapers

A bit over a year ago I wrote about the Tweedsmuir Histories of Ontario's Grey County online.

Now, while scouting around for digitized newspapers, I find that the Grey Highlands Public Library has reproduced the Markdale Standard (1880 - 1950) and Flesherton Advance (1883-1950) for online browsing. Using software from HaliNet, both newspapers can be browsed, searched and printed from anywhere at the GHPL Newspaper Index.

I stumbled across these papers indirectly, while searching in the Old Fulton, New York, newspaper collection. Surprised to find Grey County in New York? I was.

13 July 2009

Genealogy, can it be FREE

I've spent time this weekend listening to a free audiobook by Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and editor of Wired magazine. His book is Free: The Future of a Radical Price, available in several FREE formats including as a Sricbd eBook. I choose to download the free audiobook version using the easy download link near the bottom of this posting from COGDOGBLOG.

Over the years I've had lots of discussions with people who pooh-pooh the idea of free genealogy. Their arguments are mostly along the lines of "you don't get something for nothing" and "there's no such thing as a free lunch".

Anderson points out numerous examples, especially in the online economy. There the cost of serving up a few extra bits is miniscule so there are numerous examples of services being effectively free. He cites: free searching from Google, Google word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation facilities provided "in the cloud", free small ads on Craigslist. The list goes on and on.

For genealogy there are free databases like familysearch, FreeBMD, FreeCEN, FreeREG, automatedgenealogy, books on the Internet Archive and Google books, digitized Canadian newspapers such as the British Colonist, US newspapers through Chronicling America, and databases from LAC. Let's not forget a variety of free genealogy blogs.

Part of the "free" is due to the work of volunteers.

Part is supported by reasonably unobtrusive advertising. You may well argue that advertising means it isn't free. Anderson provides evidence that our perception is quite different about this alternate forms of payment as long as we're not taking money from our pocket.

There are also techniques such as providing a premium service, used by Dick Eastman who makes available a Plus edition of his newsletter to which only a small percentage of his readers subscribe. They get extra content and help support, along with advertising, the free edition of the newsletter which gives him the prestige and benefit of a large readership.

Even in the non-virtual world there a numerous examples of free.

Does it bug you when you pay a little bit extra for an item to provide a free service which you choose not to receive? For example, you don't use the store's free parking; you pay cash and are charged the same price as someone who pays by credit card; you don't collect the affinity club points offered by the store?

In most cases we don't object to these because the amount is small. Perhaps we rationalize "I didn't collect that benefit but I'll collect the benefits elsewhere that someone else will be paying for." It would be nice if that thinking could be extended. I don't have a kid going to school but I pay taxes to support the school system. Perhaps as a quid pro quo people who don't use archives or libraries wouldn't complain when I use those facilities which they don't, and I expect them to be available without cost.

Anderson's book is food for thought.

12 July 2009

TNA podcast: Royal Naval medals: an introduction

This 36 minute podcast of a talk from April 2009 discusses the Royal Naval medal rolls held by The National Archives in record series ADM 171.

Speaker William Spencer from TNA, author of Medals: The Researcher's Guide, explains how to interpret the most commonly used codes and abbreviations found in them. He shows the use of medal rolls to locate other records.

When I checked none of the illustrative material he used and referred to is posted making following this presentation rather heavy weather sailing.

11 July 2009

Canadian Scottish history

You'd have to be a poor Scot not to find something of interest at Electric Scotland's extensive collection of online resources. It includes an extensive section on Canadian Scottish history at www.electricscotland.com/Canada/index.htm.

Scans of several books include a four volume set on The Scot in British North America published in 1880, a two volume set on The Scotsman in Canada published in the early 20th century, and many shorter pieces on places and people of Scottish interest.

I was particularly interested to see 52 issues of the weekly Scottish Canadian newspaper dating from 13 November 1890 to 22 October 1891. Based in Toronto, each issue contained nostalgic prose and poetry, snippets of Scottish news presented county by county, and lots of advertising. Each page of what is usually a 16 page paper is presented as a JPEG image. There's no OCR or indexing.

Electric Scotland has a lot more. The antiquarian books collection contains 231 completely scanned books, 22 works in progress, 38 items termed "Detailed Accounts, Smaller Books and Partial Books", and 71 books in text format mostly from Project Gutenberg.

Naturally, in an item on Scotland I can't miss the opportunity to make a mention of BIFHSGO's annual conference, 18 - 20 September 2009 at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, which has a special focus on Scotland. More here.

10 July 2009

TNA budget cut deja vu

Nick Barrett, genealogist with the UK television program Who Do You Think You Are, writes a letter to The Times deploring TNA budget cuts "At a time when personal heritage in the form of genealogy is enjoying a boom period, and history is being re-energized in schools through hands-on teaching based on primary sources, this move reflects the sad decline of an institution that was founded in the Victorian age as part of a conscious effort to preserve and improve access to our public heritage."

Maybe Victorian solutions to preservation and access don't fit the 21st century reality.

Some of Barrett's complaints are a bit hard to swallow. Through TV programs like WDYTYA people get the impression that documents magically appear when the celebrity featured walks through the archives door. They don't see the work that goes on to find that document -- it's not good televison. Expectations of organizations like TNA and LAC increase. If documents are to be preserved that can only be done by copying, online availability, and the ready access demanded and met by indexing. That costs. Why should the general public demand, online or on-site, be considered somehow less worthy of support from the public purse than those of academics and other specialists? If the demand goes up shouldn't the budget go up to provide the previous program level? If that's not politically viable how should cuts be made?

Barrett draws attention to plans to “displace” all TNA's specialist advice staff as part of a continuing efficiency drive to make 10 per cent savings.

Was it ever thus?

An article in The Times on Wednesday, Nov 12, 1980 is headlined "Lord Denning says 10% cuts would damage the National Archives."

Lord Denning, who was Master of the Rolls wrote that that far from condoning any cuts, we (an advisory committee he chaired) considered that the service provided was already inadequate.

"We were shocked to be told at the end of last year that a 10% cut was going to be imposed on the office ... " "We were disappointed that we were not consulted before such a proposal was made and we are strongly opposed to it."

During 1979 the staff of the Public Record Office was reduced from 466 to 436, 6.5%, and managers were under instructions to achieve a further cut. This was at a time that saw a 2% increase in visits and 8% increase in documents produced. Another comment in 1979 was "genealogy continued to enjoy a boom among general readers."

09 July 2009

Vision of Britain

I blogged about the Vision of Britain's site more than a year ago. It has just been updated and friend Don Treble brought it to my attention. It's at http://vision.port.ac.uk/index.jsp.

Don wrote "It contains maps and information from as early as 1801. So far I've only looked at the maps (my other obsession) and these include Ordnance Survey First Series 1 inch:1 mile maps from 1803. If you click on the tab for Administrative maps, it gives the same maps with all the parish boundaries marked."

Thanks for the tip Don.

The UK National Archives new animated guides

TNA have taken the KISS idea to heart with a new series of animated guides designed "to help you get the most out of your research and The National Archives' website."

They're short, just a couple of minutes and presented in Adobe Flash 8.0 - you can download a viewer at the site if needed.

There are six segments, the first four specific to TNA: how the records are arranged; the life of a document; using the catalogue; and ordering documents. The final two offer more general advice: preparing to research; and recording research results.

I can see scope for more of these, in particular for new visitors to TNA's building at Kew, although it may be that's not something they're looking to encourage.

These are certainly models for other organizations, like Library and Archives Canada, to consider when they look at how to help their clients with their research.

08 July 2009

Irish Newspaper Archives

I've yet to find a reason to delve deeply into Irish family history so here's a resource that may be familiar to those who do; it's new to me.

Irish Newspaper Archives www.irishnewsarchive.com provides access to over 2 million pages from these titles: Sunday Independent (1906-2002); Anglo-Celt (1846-2008, suspended publication for six years in the early 1860s); City Tribune (1984-2009); Connacht Sentinel (1927-2009); Connacht Telegraph (1909-2009); Connacht Tribune (1984-2009); Connaught Telegraph (1975-2003); Donegal News (1980-2001); Freemans Journal (1763-1924); Irish Independent (1905-2001); Irish Farmers Journal (1957 -1998); Leitram Observer (1904-1998); Meath Chronicle (1897-2007); Munster Express (1908-2004); Nation (1894-1897); Nenagh Guardian (1900-2009); Southern Star (1892-2008); Sunday Independent (1906-2002); Tuam Herald (1994-2000); Westmeath Examiner (1882-2008).

Notice the two highlighted titles, the only ones that predate the latter part of the 19th century. The Freemans Journal has also been digitized by the 19th century British Newspaper Library for 1800-1900, along with the Belfast News-letter (1867-1900).

Additions promised at the Leinster Journal (1767-1828), and the Kerryman (1950 - 2008).

Searching is free but mostly you don't get much of an idea of the content from the snippet view result shown.

Individual subscriptions cost €10.00 ($16.25 Cdn) for 24 hours, and are available for various periods up to 1 Year for €350.00

07 July 2009

Free OCR

Have you ever had an image of some text, perhaps a digital camera photo of a document, and wished you didn't have to retype the text into your computer? Surfing around looking at technology to digitize text stored as images I came across a free online, no registration website www.free-ocr.com/ You simply give it the address of the image, PDF, JPG, GIF, TIFF or BMP, maximum file size 2MB and the language, and it come back with text you can cut and paste into your document.

As you can see from this sample of a single column from an 1888 Ottawa newspaper the OCR is far from perfect, especially when there's background noise in the image as toward the bottom in this example. For occasional use it's a decent option, and you can't beat it for price.

Order haclbeen rapid, particularly in
late years. There were now some
000 members—belonging to lodges in America and Africa. Lodges
uld be established this year in England. The S. O. E. Society seemed
especially adapted to the English c aracter, and was destined to follow
England s drum' beat round the world. The passwords and signs were
for‘the purpose of allaying suspicion, encouraging plainness o speech,
and preventing disorder and inconvenience. T e ritual was symbolical,
dignilied and efective. The subjects of religion and politics were
taboed in the lodge rooms.
- The benelits were $3 per week for I3 weeks and $1.50 per week
for next succeedin 26 wee s; $30 on death of wife; $7 ondeath of
child; $75 on of member. Initiation fees varied from $3 to $15;
weekly fees from 10c to 25C. Twelve men could erect a lodge. '
In Egpland there were 32,®0 benefit societies and one person in
every II the population belo ed to one. Neglect of thrift was the
heaviest charge rought againstngnglishmen. The national sins being
improvidence, pauperism and drunkenness. The helps to thrift in the
Old Country were numerous. The great hindrance to thrift was the poor
aw system. ‘ ’
In England investigators have discovered that there is an enormous
and wilful waste of the earnings of the labouring man, owing to mis-
management in their Friendly Societies——notwithstanding govemment
statutes and inspection the evils have only been partially abated. The
poor rates also are burdensome, and the workhouse system has, as we
ave said, the effect of demoralizing the weak or faint hearted. The
sm expended lpn puplic eaarities are also —enormous—and in many cases
s A 'ty is urt u to t receiver. 0
·' have consequently been advocating a scheme of
national to rerné¢lY national pzuperism. It is stated that $50
paid into state bgieeach individual of t nation before the- age of 2I
_A r ¥l3•.¤§¤te¤:>cElv¤e >pee•miary~bene6ts as follows ;-—Up
toézpyears of age,*§$2 for sickness; after 70- years $1 per
_, ia would- save England and Englishmen enormous
sunrsofmoney, would prevents disappointment amonithe in- `
··sur¢f§; selfereliant. Suc ya pol-
—i°Y‘9f ¤¤¤¤1$ul¤¤ry. had been adopted
in F ranoe, Italy, Switzerland,
, » . ,7 lil ;1'_ > _'· · IA · V
In di6`ered_from those in E§land. Friend-
ly theJS. untri. , and the aver-
¤££ PW ufitwas, or would be soon, a
• as `
eet¤•;ory~beae&rs as follows :——Up
toj76yearsofage,Ҥ$2 pergw for sickness; after 7o- years $1 per
I ct WEQEFQBSIODS P ’ - . _ ,
BQSJWIIE _, ' ea would- save {England and Englishmen enormous
the sumsuimoney, woulduprievente disappointment amongprbein- ‘
pglwysbc self·reliant. Suc _a pol-
at`. I land eenuisleery. had been adopted
lt in `ini , _ Q SIIGGQD in F ranoe, Italy, Switzerland,
T @“.°{h° IB. di8`ered_from those in E§land. Friend-
- IY \h¤¥$e E- ¤¤tri· . and the aver-
age. per " iitsxas, for would be soon, a _
• in I i za.-state 0I' iltsnfance. i ”
- .‘. , .. lj ·- . j .. a L - . . .
* ‘ th first.:'at` which. the four Ottawa;
R indi R\!$S¢ll hademet together for so-
.‘ A ° It would the meeting was intended
as a demonstration; toxestify by our words audapplause that Eng¢ .
»n which _lithrnen»were in.favo'ur df the maintenance of law and order throughput
irv..•rere Her “Maiestv’s dominions; toshow that the S¤nS' of England o_

06 July 2009

Ancestry.com makes it legal

A press release, The Generations Network Becomes Ancestry.com, announces the company is returning to its roots.

Details on proposed changes at TNA

I previously posted about the headline changes proposed for The UK National Archives, not opening to the public on Mondays and charging for parking. Further information is available on background to these and other proposed service changes.

TNA explain that "the proposals are part of the organisation's plan to reduce running costs by 10 per cent by 2010 and to improve energy usage." They state that "The amount of money that we need to save to remain financially viable is a fact, not a proposal." It isn't evident why its a fact. Is there less revenue expected from government?

The figure given for saving that need to be achieved is £4.2 million, which suggests the TNA total budget is £42 million, or $80 million Cdn.

Some of the other service reductions proposed are: remove selected large microfilm and microfiche records series from the reading rooms; streamline copying services with the introduction of a new online request service ( no longer operating Digital Express and estimating services); not providing expert staff between 17:00 and 19:00.

Other reductions that might be noticeable are mowing the lawn less often and not cleaning the windows as frequently.

Improving online services is also part of the plan including: developing the online catalogue; continuing digitisation projects, launching innovative online help and expertise.

There is a series of Q/As here with more information, and hints at some long-term objectives.

Those of us who mostly use TNA from a distance have, or are supposed to have, the opportunity to comment by email. "Supposed to" is more appropriate as my emails to the address on Saturday and Sunday bounced back as undeliverable.

One of my queries followed up on the web site statement that 170 times more "documents" are produced online than physically at Kew. It would be helpful to know what fraction of the online documents are produced to on-site terminals at Kew? Reductions in the hours of operation at Kew will have an impact on those online users. If it's substantive the effect will be to move users who would have received the service free at Kew to the costly Documents Online remote service. That's setting foot on the slippery slope to charging for all access.

05 July 2009

Tobacco and your ancestor

Did your ancestor work in the tobacco industry making of selling the product? Do you picture your ancestor with a cigarette or cigar in their mouth? Chances are that if they were in the trenches in WW1, or served during WW2, they smoked cigarettes.

The graph, showing mentions of the words cigar and cigarette in The Times by decade, illustrates the burgeoning importance of the cigarette following the introduction of machine production in the early 1880s and consequent reduced cost.

04 July 2009

NZ and US add digitized newspapers

The National Library of New Zealand announce the addition of seven new titles to their stable of 1.3 million pages of digitized newspapers in their Papers Past initiative. A nice feature of this initiative is that pages are highly segmented. If you get a hit on a name you only have to download a small segment of the page, although you can if you want to see it in the context of the full page.

In the US ProQuest is boosting coverage with exclusive access to 85 titles in the Gannett chain. This is in addition to ProQuest's existing titles including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. As Dick Eastman points out, ProQuest subscriptions are available to libraries, not to individuals. You need to find a cooperative library to search these.

03 July 2009

Fully indexed England and Wales marriages at Ancestry

Now we can easily look for those elusive 20th century marriages. Ancestry.co.uk have added a full nominal search capability to the England and Wales civil registration marriage indexes for 1916-2005. This is the second serving of a fully searchable collection of all the indexes promised for this year. Birth registration indexes were added earlier.

The search doesn't quite work as advertised yet. Although you can enter both bride and groom names only the principal name will be searched on. Also the "find spouse" search doesn't work. Hopefully they'll fix these issues. In the meantime you can look at the page image, find the spouse name and then search that to find the spouse first name.

Many people should be using this database in the next few days looking to extend some of their collateral lines forward, those a bit off to the side from their main line.

02 July 2009

Proposed changes at TNA

The start of official consultations is today, but proposals leaked. The (UK) National Archives wants to stay closed on Mondays, and start charging for parking.

TNA comments "These changes to our Kew service reflect the growth in demand from our online customers, who account for over 90 per cent of our usage, and are unaffected by these changes."

TNA also comments "In fact, over 170 documents are now downloaded for every one original document seen by a visitor to the reading rooms." I'm wondering if this includes people visiting Kew who go online there. I know I downloaded many more documents on my last visit than I've done remotely.

I understand Mondays were selected as they are the quietest day at TNA. Of course, there will always be a quietest day and you can extend the argument until there's no service.

It also looks like a cash grab. While you can use TNA in person without cost you pay 3.50 pounds per document for most Documents Online service. Making the physical facility less accessible forces people toward the costly online service. Or will they announce a reduction in the cost of the online documents to compensate for the reduction in service and the money saved in not being open on Mondays?

On parking, I wonder how the residents of nearby Ruskin and Defoe Avenues will feel about the influx of people looking for free onstreet parking.

In case you're going to TNA soon, I understand the changes won't be implemented for several months.

01 July 2009

Genealogy educational resources

The July issue of Ancestors magazine has an article by Chris Pomery looking at British genealogy educational resources on the web.

One resource not included that comes to my attention thanks to a tip from Brenda Dougall Merriman, is from the University of Nottingham. Under the general heading "Skills Resources" are sections on dating documents, weights and measures, using archives, accounting records, deeds, deeds in depth, manorial records, and maps and plans.

This could be a good way to spend part of a rainy Canada Day.