31 August 2009

The Drouin Collection

Dick Eastman has an article on legal action over Ancestry's indexing of the Drouin Collection.

RIP Simon Dee 1935-2009

Teens in Britain in the early 1960s recall with fondness the arrival of pirate radio in the form of Radio Caroline which freed the reigns of Auntie BBC. The first DJ on Caroline, or perhaps one of the first, was Simon Dee who used as his intro music "Sunny Side of the Street" in the iconic Tommy Dorsey version starting with what sounds like a ship's horn blasting.

He was born Cyril Nicholas Henty-Dodd on July 28 1935 in Ottawa where he lived to age 11. Following his short stint with Caroline he became a major British TV talk show figure, then fell dramatically from grace, something I missed having by then moved to Canada. Read the Daily Telegraph obit here.

US' bestselling genealogy books

Here, to round off the bestselling series, are the bestselling books in the US on genealogy research from ancestry.com

1. The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy: A complete resource to using the Web to trace your family history (Everything Series) by Kimberly Powell

2. The Source: A Guidebook Of American Genealogy (Third Edition) by Sandra Hargreaves Luebking and Loretto Dennis Szucs

3. Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures by Christine Rose

4. Civil War Research Guide: A Guide for Researching Your Civil War Ancestor by Stephen McManus, Donald Thompson, and Thomas Churchill

5. How to Do Everything Genealogy by George G. Morgan

6. Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage by Barbara Renick and National Genealogical Society

7. The Online Genealogy Handbook by Brad Schepp and Debra Schepp

8. The Organized Family Historian: How to File, Manage, and Protect Your Genealogical Research and Heirlooms (National Genealogical Society Guides) by Ann Carter Fleming

9. Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources, Third Revised Edition by Alice Eichholz

10. Genealogy as Pastime and Profession, Second Edition by Donald Lines Jacobus

If you read and commented on my Awful Books posting you may be amused to see the Jacobus book on this list! It's a 1999 publication, recent enough so that edition would have not made the Awful list!

30 August 2009

1911 Ireland census now complete online

All thirty-two counties for the 1911 census of Ireland are now available at www.census.nationalarchives.ie/

Corrections and improvements will be ongoing.

29 August 2009

Wolfram|Alpha does historic weather

I recall as a kid holding my brother when he was one day old. Perhaps as a future meteorologist it's significant that something else has seemed to stay in my mind about the occasion -- looking out of the window I could see snow on the roof of the house on the opposite side of the road.

Wolfram|Alpha now gives access to historic weather information so I've been able to test my memory. It turns out snow did fall on the afternoon of his birth and the next morning.

Find out how to use this search capability, which I've tested and seems to work for Canada, the UK and the US, at the Wolfram|Alpha blog. You may not have much luck for dates before the mid-1930s depending on location.

28 August 2009

Your GRO certificate cost

Curious about the cost of your GRO birth, marriage and death certificates? The following is based on a response to a Freedom of Information request.

If the entry applied for is on a digitised record - the GRO system will automatically match it to the correct image. Only historic Births (1837-1934) and death records (1837-1957) have been digitised.

All other events are on microfilm tapes. The tape containing the entry is manually pulled, an operator uses a scanner to locate the correct entry. Once the image has been located the operator uses Cosmographic software to enhance the image and mask it off for print. Once produced the certificate is sent to despatch were a member of staff folds and places the certificate in a C5 envelope to be posted.

If a certificate can not be located refunds are manually processed by a member of staff.

Producing a certificate, when the customer has provided the correct GRO reference on the application form, takes 10 minutes.

The cost of service is: £1.08 for labour, 0.4p for the certificate paper, 3p per envelope, and 30p mailing. The total is about £1.50. Presumably overhead for administration, accommodation and extras might double that, say £3 per certificate issued.

That leaves a nice £4 surplus. During 2006-2007, 2,052,109 certificates were despatched, meaning more than £8m surplus for the Treasury.

Access the original response to the FOI request here.

27 August 2009

Global Genealogy's top ten bestselling books

Following on the list of top ten bestselling Canadian genealogy books from amazon.ca posted a couple of days ago, here, courtesy of Rick Roberts, is Global Genealogy's list of their top ten bestselling books:

1. Vital Records In Ontario Before 1869, A Guide to Early Ontario Vital
Records. By Fawne Stratford-Devai & Ruth Burkholder

2. King's Daughters and Founding Mothers: The Filles du Roi, 1663-1673 (2
Vol. Set). By: Peter J. Gagné

3. Leaving Ontario, Resources for Tracking Ontario Migrants. By Fawne

4. Erin's Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1761-1853 (both volumes).
By Terrence M. Punch

5. Tracing your Irish Ancestors, Third Edition. By John Grenham

6. The Phillimore ATLAS and INDEX of Parish Registers - 3rd edition. By
Cecil Humphery-Smith

7. United Empire Loyalists, A Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper
Canada. By Brenda Dougall Merriman

8. The History and Master Roll of The King's Royal Regiment of New York,
Revised Edition. By: Gavin K. Watt, Brigadier General E. A. Cruikshank

9. The Irish Palatines in Ontario: Religion, Ethnicity, and Rural Migration
- Second Edition. By Carolyn A. Heald (pro-rated, published June 2009)

10. Loyalists and Land Settlement in Nova Scotia. Compiled by Marion Gilroy,
D. C. Harvey (reprint)

Congratulations to Fawne on having two of the three bestsellers! Fawne will be in Ottawa in October to give the third annual Ryan Taylor Lecture for Ottawa Branch of OGS.

Rick tells me Fawne's books will soon be getting wider distribution, through amazon.ca, along with others of his Global Heritage Press publications.

As a bonus, these are Global Genealogy's top selling CDs:

1. Tanguay Collection Dictionnaire Genealogique des Famille Canadiennes (7
vols); - Genealogique; Joseph-Arthur Leboeuf; corrections; Complement;
travers les registres; Repertoire general du clerge canadien; Cyprien

2. Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation
(pre-1867) Vol. 1, 2, 3 & 4. By: Donald Whyte.

26 August 2009

Britain's bestselling genealogy books

Following on yesterday's listing for Canada, here, courtesy of amazon.co.uk are the UK's bestselling genealogy books

1. "Who Do You Think You Are?" Encyclopedia of Genealogy: The Definitive Reference Guide to Tracing Your Family History by Nick Barratt
2. The Genealogist's Internet [Illustrated] by Peter Christian
3. Collins Tracing Your Irish Family History by Ryan Tubridy and Anthony Adolph
4. Genealogy Online for Dummies - UK Edition by Jenny Thomas, Matthew L. Helm, April Leigh Helm, and Nick Barratt
5. Track Down Your Ancestors: How to Research Your Family History Using Archives and the Internet by Estelle Catlett
6. Collins Tracing Your Scottish Family History by Anthony Adolph
7. First World War Army Service Records: A Guide for Family Historians by William Spencer
8. Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History by Mark D. Herber
9. Collins Tracing Your Family History by Anthony Adolph
10. Family History on the Net 2009/2010 by Colin Waters

I had eliminate many more books found by searching genealogy that were not especially relevant to genealogy research than for the Canadian list.

25 August 2009

Canada's bestselling genealogy books

As of 24 August 2009, here are the bestselling non-fiction books found by searching "Genealogy" at www.amazon.ca/. Books not relevant to researching or understanding family history, such as The Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche, are removed from the list. In some cases that's a judgement call!

1. Deep Ancestry: Inside The Genographic Project by Spencer Wells
2. Tracing Your Irish Family History by Ryan Tubridy and Anthony Adolph
Flight from Famine: The Coming of the Irish to Canada by Donald MacKay
Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills
5. Tracing Your Scottish Family History by Ryan Tubridy and Anthony Adolph
Erin's Sons: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1761-1853 by Terrence M. Punch
Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide by Sherry Irvine and Dave Obee
The Official Guide to Family Tree Maker by Tana Pedersen Lord
The Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers by Cecil R. Humphery-Smith
Scottish Genealogy: Tracing Your Ancestors by Bruce Durie

24 August 2009

Ancestry adds British Army WW2 Roll of Honour and POW databases

Two databases from WW2, previously published on CD from Naval & Military Press, are newly available to Ancestry World Deluxe and ancestry.co.uk subscribers.

1) War Office: Roll of Honour, Second World War comprises data for the British Army from The National Archives records series WO 304.

Information includes: Name of soldier; Initials, titles, and decorations; Birthplace; Residence; Enlisted rank; Rank at time of death; Enlisted Regiment; Regiment at time of death; Theater of War or country where wounded or died; Death date.

2) The UK, British Army Prisoners of War, 1939-1945 database includes: Name; Rank; Army number; Regiment; POW number; Camp type; Camp number; Camp location; Record office; Record Office number; Notes.

The source of the information must surely be German or Red Cross records, but is not specified in the description.

TNA podcast: The final balance: researching families and wealth in the 19th century using the death duty records

The latest TNA podcast delves into the records associated with four types of tax that may have become payable in England and Wales on death, either by the estate or beneficiaries of the estate. The most surprising thing I learned is that for one of these taxes you may find records of the ages of the beneficiaries.

High costs for Scots tracing ancestors online

According to an article in the Glasgow Herald "The cost of using online genealogy websites has come under scrutiny after it emerged that a website is charging Scots more than three times as much as English users to trace their family history."

As stated later in the article "
Charges to search or obtain census records are set by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS), and are defined by government statute." In this case it's not the private sector company that's milking this cash cow for all it's worth but the Scottish government.

However, as GROS will undoubtedly point out, compared to
£8 for a hard-copy English or Welsh certificate, the only option, the GROS online option is a bargain.

Thanks to Marian Press for bringing this item to my attention.

23 August 2009

FreeBMD monthly update

The August monthly update for the FreeBMD indexes to civil registration of England and Wales takes births to 1939, marriages to 1949, and deaths to 1933. There are a few records after these years, and lots of gaps which continue to be filled in this update. Some major gap filling this time is for events up to 1860.

22 August 2009

Enjoy Australian Who Do You Think You Are? shows online

The recent Australian series of Who Do You Think You Are? is now online at www.sbs.com.au/shows/whodoyouthinkyouare/videos/page/i/1/h/Videos.

Chris Paton on his Scottish Genealogy News and Events (SGNE) blog informs that "The celebrities included are Dennis Commetti, Jack Thompson, Geoffrey Robertson, Ita Buttrose, Kate Ceberano and Catherine Freeman. I must admit I haven't heard of any of them, but the third and fourth editions have Scottish connections. Worth checking out!"

I watched and enjoyed one episode, Jack Thompson, and will certainly go back for more. They're likely 60 minute as broadcast, running somewhat less without ads.

21 August 2009


How would you like it if somebody started impersonating you? When the "you" is Ancestry.com and you're trying to sell a share of your company, protecting your brand is critical.

According to this post on Domain Name Wire, Ancestry.com has started legal action with the World Intellectual Property Organization to force de-registration of four domain names which are to much like ancestry.com.

Determining what to digitize

Jill Hurst-Wahl on her Digitization 101 blog posted a short item Can you use Zipf's law to determine what to digitize? It reports on a conference presentation that draws the conclusion that "by digitizing representative portions of 20% of our collections, we could adequately serve 70% of our users."

Adequately serving 70% of users seems like a pretty modest ambition. You could throw away 80% of the physical library content if that's the level of satisfaction you aim to achieve.

Where the analysis does help is in setting priorities for digitization. The sheer magnitude of the digitization task can throw organizations into seemingly terminal paralysis, or at least motivate them to address other less thorny issues.

Take newspaper digitization. In looking at the impacts of a 1900 storm in Ontario I found that newspapers across the province carried much the same information, down to the death of a man in Windsor carried in an Ottawa newspaper. You don't need to look at each newspaper in the province to get a good (70%!) handle on the storm impacts. You do have to go to local papers to find detail, for example, that heavy rain fell with the storm in a community near Parry Sound which was very helpful in suppressing an extreme forest fire threat.

Digitizing major papers across the country with the latest technology to transform images to text, which has significantly improved over the years, would be an excellent start.

Having achieved that you could start filling in gaps and paint a more detailed picture of our heritage.

20 August 2009

Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Celtic Cross Celebrations on Grosse Île

The following is a press release from Library and Archives Canada

OTTAWA, August 19, 2009 - To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Celtic Cross celebrations on Grosse Île, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has made available on Flickr.com a selection of digital images related to the history and people of Grosse Île.

Grosse Île, an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, served as a quarantine station for the city of Québec from 1832 to 1937 and as the main point of entry for immigrants to Canada until the First World War.

Visitors to the LAC album at Flickr.com are encouraged to explore the interactive image collection, which allows people to comment, tag, and share content.

Related to the album on Flickr.com, LAC has worked collaboratively with Parks Canada on the development of an information kiosk at Grosse Île, providing remote access to the LAC virtual exhibition In Quarantine: Life and Death on Grosse Île, 1832-1937 and accompanying database Immigrants at Grosse Île. The exhibition tells the story of the quarantine station and the individuals who experienced life on the island. Through the database, visitors can access information on 33,026 immigrants whose names appear in surviving records of the quarantine station.

View the LAC photostream on Flickr:

View the Web exhibition In Quarantine: Life and Death on Grosse Île, 1832-1937:

Search the database Immigrants at Grosse Île:

Friends may not be forever

The Friends of the Archives of Ontario (FAO) wound itself up as an organization at the end of 2008. They were unable to find volunteers to fill key board positions, a challenge many such organizations face. FAO lasted just 10 years. A summary of the highlights of its history is given in this news item on their website.

It's ironic that just as the Archives of Ontario was getting ready to move into a brand-new building on the campus of York University its friend's organization was forced to disband. The move away from downtown Toronto alienated a large number of people. The reduction in hours at the new location has led many to seriously question whether the leadership of the Archives of Ontario is interested in service. Friends will only be there for the organization if the organization is there for its friends and clients. That's a lesson for all organizations that look for support from their client base.

A final meeting of FAO’s Board in January decided to distribute the organization's remaining funds to the Ontario Genealogical Society which would oversee the awarding of grants for indexing projects that would then bear and perpetuate the FAO name. OGS has yet to make an announcement about the future disbursement of the funds.

19 August 2009

Innovation in National Library of Australia newspaper digitization project

Everybody's doing it! Now the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitization project is enlisting volunteers to enhance their online services, in this case to improve the quality of the product.

When you click on a search hit on their nicely cleanly designed Historic Australian Newspapers, 1803 to 1954 site you see not only an image of the original paper, but also the transcribed text version. You can then suggest changes, line by line.

The system is still in development. At present making a change may throw off the highlighting of search words in the image of the original page.

18 August 2009

Cricket in Canada

Cricket is a sport with a long tradition in Canada. England exported it to the Empire and Commonwealth via the British military and administration. There are many cricket-related items in the LAC collection.

In Ottawa they supposedly first played the game on what is now Parliament Hill, and cricket has been playing on the Gov. Gen.'s grounds for more than 150 years. Some of the world's best players have taken the field there, including original cricket icon W. G. Grace, as did A. N. Hornby who was England team captain in the 1882 match in which Australia beat England and led to the inauguration of "the Ashes."

Today the sport is seeing a revitalization in Canada, largely owing to emigrants from Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

TNA have taken advantage of the present close Test Match series between England and Australia to highlight the cricket-related items in their collection. It's an admirable news consciousness in a public institution, the type that helps win friends and influence people.

An unconventional genealogical source for an English male immigrant is in newspaper listings of cricket match results.

17 August 2009

LAC request for archival material form

Usually when I go to LAC it's for library materials so I'm unsure how long a new form to request archival materials has been available. The big change is the inclusion of a section "How can we reach you if there is a problem with your request?" You can indicate your choice of by e-mail, on-site, or by phone. It addresses one of the frustrations frequently expressed; you put in your request and only find out the item wasn't found when you arrive to pick it up. Skeptics, and those with bruises from past experience, will wonder if LAC staff actually follow up on the contact.

It would be nice to know if the appearance of this form indicates that LAC has given up on, or further deferred, the ability for clients to place their own orders online. Why would they put out a new form if the online system is imminent?

16 August 2009

Awful genealogy books

You don't expect to hear a talk on genealogy these days without reference to the Internet, certainly not in a "how to" presentation. So why would it be acceptable to find a similarly outdated guide on the shelves of your local library?

Awful Library Books points out some of the really dated volumes to be found on the shelves of US public libraries. One example, a guide to cell phones, shows a book cover with people using the old large shoe, almost shoe-box, size phone!

Any genealogy how-to guide published pre-Internet is in the same category - obsolete.

Here are two examples from the Ottawa Public Library catalogue:

Genealogy as pastime and profession, by Donald Lines Jacobus, published by Genealogical Pub. Co., 1968.

Tracing your ancestry : a step-by-step guide to researching your family history, by F. Wilbur Helmbold, published by Oxmoor House, c1976.

Here are two from the Toronto Public Library:

This ancestry business : a beginner's guide to genealogy, by the Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry, published by the Society, 1979.

Genealogy for beginners, by Arthur James Willis, published by Phillimore, 1979.

I'm not picking on Ontario - Ottawa and Toronto aren't exceptions.

From the Winnipeg Public Library:

Searching for your ancestors : the how and why of genealogy, by Gilbert H. Doane, published by University of Minnesota Press, c1960.

In search of Scottish ancestry, by Gerald Hamilton-Edwards, published by Genealogical Pub. Co., 1972.

15 August 2009

Red hair and bad teeth?

Did your ancestor have red hair and bad teeth? They may go together according to a blog item posted in The Spittoon, the blog of genetic testing service 23andMe. They quote an article in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

According to the blog:

For several years now scientists have known that the same genetic variations that give redheads their fiery manes can increase the amount of general or local anesthetic a person needs in order to be properly put out or numbed up.

New research suggests that the effect of these variations is strong enough, and hasn’t been addressed by dentists well enough, that the people who carry them are more than twice as likely as those who don’t to avoid going to the dentist altogether.

Surname distribution in Canada

Elizabeth Lapointe on her Genealogy Canada blog recently posted on surname maps. Elizabeth points to www.dynastree.ca which allows you to display, province by province, absolute and relative frequency of surnames based on telephone directory entries.

In speaking to community groups I've always found it adds interest when folks can look at the distribution of the names in their families. Usually I do this using Stephen Archer's UK surname distribution CD, which is based on the 1881 census. There are other options for the UK online, here's one, but I've learned not to rely on live Internet resources when making presentations to avoid disappointment.

Ontario, with an area of 917,741 km2 is a bit larger than, say, Germany where Dynastree is based, which contains 357,000 km2. It would be nice if Dynastree's surname distribution map could be broken down more finely, something that shouldn't be very difficult given that Ontario contains six non-overlapping telephone area codes.

14 August 2009

OpenBMDrecords - epetition response

Yes, we know its wrong but we're just going to sit here and watch.

You don't have to read too closely between the lines to get the message from the government's response to a petition on providing full and open access to old registers of English and Welsh birth, marriage and death.

Why don't they just come out and say they're making too much money out of issuing certificates to kill this particular golden goose!

Here's the official response, reproduced below.

Thank you for your e-petition which calls on the Government to provide full and open access to the registers of birth, marriage and death between 1837 and 1908.

The Government understands that many family researchers want to have full and open access to the information in historic birth, death and marriage registers and accepts that the current legislation is overly restrictive with these records.

Under current legislation - the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 and the Marriage Act 1949 - access to the information in birth, death and marriage registers is only possible by means of a certified copy (certificate) of a particular entry, when that entry has been identified from the index and the statutory fee paid. There are other pieces of legislation which allow for the release of information in birth, death and marriage registers for specific purposes, e.g. statistical data, but there is no power to provide full and open public access.

The Government proposed in 2003 a wide-ranging set of reforms to the civil registration service in England and Wales. These proposals included an intention to digitise all the records with historic records being accessible to view on a database, possibly with a small charge, but without the need to purchase a certificate. It did not prove possible to introduce the necessary legislation by a Regulatory Reform Order as we had intended and there has not been a suitable opportunity to legislate since then. Nevertheless, we remain committed to modernising the way in which these records can be accessed and the Registrar General keeps this under active review.

Thanks to Old Census Scribe for bringing this to my attention.

13 August 2009

OurOntario.ca Community Newspapers Collection

It's good to see a selection of Ontario newspapers digitized directly from microfilm and OCRd becoming freely available online through OurOntario.ca, a project of Knowledge Ontario. Each paper contains interesting information -- it had to or the paper wouldn't have stayed in business. The story could have been about one of your ancestors, or as happened to me in one of the newspapers in this collection, someone you've researched.

Before I go on to the story, here are the titles available in this collection:

The British Whig (1834 - 1836, 1844-1850) - 2115 pages
The Essex Free Press (1895 - 1968) - 31383 pages
The Kingston Chronicle (1826 - 1832) - 963 pages
The Kingston Chronicle and Gazette (1835 - 1837, 1841 - 1847) - 1754 pages
The Kingston Gazette (1810 - 1820) - 1404 pages
The Provincial Freeman (1853 - 1857) - 540 pages
The Stouffville Tribune (1888-1905 ) - 927 pages
The Voice of the Fugitive (1851 - 1852) - 204 pages

The Stouffville Tribune for 18 January 1889 has this anecdote about Sir John A Macdonald and Ezekiel Stone Wiggins - public servant, eccentric, and astronomy-based weather prophet.

An amusing incident occurred during the course of the Governor General's reception at Ottawa on New Year's Day. After Prof. Wiggins had been introduced to his Excellency and was passing the Crown Ministers with a bow, Sir John Macdonald stepped nimbly forward and, offering his hand, said aloud: - "Why, Wiggins, you go by like a comet." This created a suppressed laughter, in which his Excellency joined, but the professor was equal to the occasion, for he said: - "Comets always go swiftly by the sun." Subsequently he remarked that he was greatly obliged to the Prime Minister for catching him at perihelion."

12 August 2009

TNA podcast - Upstairs and downstairs in the royal household

A talk given by Vanessa Carr is the latest in this TNA series. An introduction to, an overview of, the administration of the Royal Household from the restoration of Charles II to the death of Victoria. The talk is based on the records of the Lord Chamberlain's Department and the Lord Steward's Department, which were responsible for above stairs and below stairs management respectively. All the minutiae of royal life is here, from the granting of warrants to tradesmen, to the daily menus prepared for the kitchens. Much of the material appears to be finance-related.

Help choose Ottawa public art

The following announcement is via the City of Ottawa.

Help choose public art for the new Central Archives and Ottawa Public Library Materials Centre

You are invited to meet the five artists or artist teams that have been short-listed in the Central Archives and Ottawa Public Library Materials Centre public art competition.

Meet the artists, view the proposals and record your comments on Wednesday, August 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Atrium of Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Drive.

The Public Art Program commissions artists’ works for display in public spaces. One percent of funds for municipal development projects is set aside for public art to beautify the space and make art accessible to everyone.

The Art Selection Committee will take the public’s comments into consideration when they meet again to choose the winning proposal. The five finalists will present preliminary sketches, scale models or maquettes, and detailed work plans including budgets of the proposed artworks.

The finalists are: Marie J. Coulombe, Adrian Göllner and Joanna Swim, Marcus Kucey Jones, Don Maynard, Mark Thompson.

11 August 2009

Free access to WorldVitalRecords.com

Take advantage of a free three day open period, August 11-13, to WorldVitalRecords.com. This is your opportunity to search those elusive Paper of Record newspaper databases for free.

Here's the press release:

PROVO, UT, August 11, 2009 - WorldVitalRecords.com, an online family history resource, today announced the addition of the largest number of records to be released in a single day since the site launched in 2006. To commemorate this milestone, for the first time WorldVitalRecords is offering free public access to its entire online collection of historical and genealogical records beginning August 11 and continuing through August 13, 2009. The public will have unlimited access to more than one billion records in over 11,000 databases from around the world including newspapers, census, birth, marriage, death, immigration and military records; family trees; stories and publications; and yearbooks.

"As a genealogy enthusiast, I'm thrilled that people can go to one place like WorldVitalRecords.com, try family history research for free and find their parents or grandparents, and see how simple it is to start tracing back and discovering stories that bring family history to life," said Jim Ericson, Vice-President of Marketing for Family Link. "This is a rare opportunity to delve into the records and discover information about your family and ancestors you may have never known."

Featured records in this release include:

Historical Newspapers
Through a partnership with Newspaper Archive, WorldVitalRecords is adding access to pages from a variety of newspapers from all over the United States, dating from 1759 through 1923. This collection features images of entire newspapers from the western frontier, the Midwest at the turn of the century, and the long-time standard of our nation's news, "The New York Times" which includes over 7 million names. Newspaper Archive produces the largest historical newspaper database online, and the collection is fully searchable by keyword and date, and individual pages can be saved or printed.
According to Gena Philibert Ortega, Genealogy Community Director for FamilyLink, "Part of the fun of family history is uncovering details about our ancestors’ daily lives -- the events of the day, the goods and the services they bought. Newspapers allow us to better understand our ancestors."

Immigration Records
Living in a country of immigrants, ship passenger lists and other records documenting immigration can be an essential part in learning more about your family history. It is a thrilling experience to see their names transcribed on paper the day they entered this country through the Port of New York. Browsing and searching these passenger lists is a perfect way for someone to start researching their family history. This record collection provides documentation of over 150,000 passengers who arrived on nearly 8,000 ships at one of the busiest ports in the United States, New York, from 1820-1832.

In partnership with the website E-Yearbook.com, WorldVitalRecords is doubling its collection of digitized yearbooks. This collection features university yearbooks from the late 1800 to mid 1950s. E-Yearbook.com houses the largest collection of old college yearbooks on the Internet. Universities featured this week include Duke University, University of Oklahoma, Iowa State and the College of William and Mary.

Vital Records, Military Records and Tax Lists
Other records being released on the site include birth, marriage, tax lists, military records, and death records from Maine, North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Focused on helping users discover and share their family history, WorldVitalRecords adds new records to their online collection everyday.

About WorldVitalRecords.com
WorldVitalRecords.com is simplifying family history research by providing many easy-to-use tools and resources to discover and connect with others interested in family history. WorldVitalRecords provides access to more than one billion international and U.S. records WorldVitalRecords.com provides affordable access to genealogy databases and family history tools used by more than 258,000 monthly visitors. The site registers 3.6 million monthly pages views and serves tens of thousands of paying subscribers. With thousands of databases, including birth, death, military, census, and parish records, WorldVitalRecords.com makes it easy to fill in missing information in your family tree.
WorldVitalRecords is part of the FamilyLink.com, Inc. network of family-focused interactive properties including, GenealogyWise, WebTree, WorldHistory, and the We're Related and My Family applications on Facebook.

Deceased Online adds burials

Last month approximately 114,000 records from Angus, previously known as Forfarshire, in Scotland, were added to the Deceased Online collection. Data is from the six cemeteries below:

Arbroath Eastern Cemetery
Around 15,200 Burials dated 25 December 1894 to 16 October 2003.

Arbroath Western Cemetery
Around 24,800 Burials dated 31 October 1867 to 27 December 2003.

Brechin Cemetery
Around 18,300 Burials dated 26 October 1857 to 18 December 2007.

Kirriemuir Cemetery
Around 13,200 Burials dated 30 March 1858 to 17 January 2008.

Newmonthill Cemetery
Around 26,900 Burials dated 14 May 1850 to 30 August 1985.

Sleepyhillock Cemetery
Around 13,200 Burials dated 5 January 1895 to 7 January 2008.

Another 86,000 burial records are promised during the next few months from over 75 cemeteries.

For a list of 73 burial locations in Angus, 15 cemeteries and the remainder are classed as churchyards including The Elms in Arbroath, under construction, see here.

09 August 2009

Capacity crowd for John Grenham in Ottawa

A capacity audience, about 250 people, was at Ottawa's Ben Franklin Place Council Chambers on Sunday afternoon and warmly received two presentations on Irish genealogy by John Grenham. A list of web addresses from the talks will be posted at the BIFHSGO website; many are already linked from www.irishtimes.com/ancestors with which Grenham is involved.

During the break Ottawa's own Mother McGuinty passed among the crowd seeking young ladies with fine ankles to work in her famed establishment.

Prior to the event John Grenham was interviewed on CHIN Radio's The Gaelic Hour. A podcast version of the program is available here. The interview runs from 21:00 to 29:15 and 37:40 to 44:15.

Irish Family History Foundation Online Genealogy Databases

In celebration of John Grenham's visit to Ottawa, a reminder of the Irish Genealogical Online Record Search System (ORS).

Organised by the Irish Family History Foundation, the co-ordinating body for a network of government approved genealogical research centres in the Republic of Ireland (Eire) and in Northern Ireland, ORS has almost 40 million Irish Ancestral records, primarily Church births (baptisms), marriages and deaths, computerised and searchable online, a total of 15,616,784 records. Derry is to be added shortly.

The indexes, listing surname, first name, year and county of all records online is yours to search freely. To view a detailed record you can purchase credit online for instant access at a cost of €5.00 per record.

ALERT: Save on BIFHSGO Conference

Beat the 15 August early registration deadline for the BIFHSGO conference. Why pay more than you have to to learn from the knowledgeable presenters at the conference?

The 15th is coming next Saturday. If you're mailing in your registration, with a cheque, it needs to be postmarked by the 15th. You can save the bother of printing out or finding the form, filling it out, finding an envelope, addressing it, finding a stamp, sticking the stamp on, and mailing it by simply registering online. Online registration also saves the cost of the stamp.

Individual BIFHSGO member registration is $65 if you register on or before the 15th. You save $10. Rates for nonmembers and families are on the website.

Also on the website is information on a couple of pre-conference events and an option to order lunches.

Out-of-town speakers this year include:

Colleen Fitzpatrick PhD, the author of Forensic Genealogy, widely recognized for its innovative forensic science approach to genealogical research.

Nora Hague, Senior Cataloguer and Photographic Archivist at the Montreal McCord Museum of Canadian History, an expert in historical photographic processes.

Duncan Macniven, Registrar General for Scotland, responsible for demographic matters providing information for family history, population statistics and census-taking.

Heather McNabb, the principal researcher for the McCord Museum's 2003-04 exhibition The Scots: Dyed-in-the-Wool Montrealers, co-edited A Kingdom of the Mind: How the Scots Helped Make Canada.

The Don Whiteside Memorial Lecturer this year is Charlotte Gray, recognized for her achievements in popularizing Canadian history, one of Canada's best-known and highly respected non-fiction writers.

08 August 2009

Manitoba Life and Times Newspapers

Here's another collection of digitized Prairie newspapers, these forming part of the Manitobia.ca project, an major initiative of the Manitoba Library Consortium. Collections of more than ten years are linked in the list below:

Brandon Sun Weekly: January 2, 1884 - July 1, 1897
Courrier du Nord-Ouest: May 31, 1888 - December 27, 1888
Daily Nor'Wester: February 3, 1894 - June 14, 1898
Echo du Manitoba: January 27, 1898 - July 20, 1905
The Enlightener: June 25, 1919 - June 26, 1919
La Liberté: May 20, 1913 - April 20, 1920
Le Manitoba: October 13, 1881 - July 29, 1925
Le Métis: May 27, 1871 - September 29, 1881
Libre Parole: May 4, 1916 - September 20, 1917
Manitoba Free Press: November 9, 1872 - May 18, 1878
Manitoba Gazette: October 12, 1878 - March 15, 1879
Manitoba Herald: January 11, 1877 - August 2, 1877
Manitoba Liberal: July 19, 1871 - June 15, 1872, July 22, 1899
Manitoban and Northwest Herald: October 15, 1870 - November 21, 1874
Manitoba News-Letter: September 13, 1870 - July 1, 1871
Minnedosa Tribune: December 7, 1883 - November 30, 1922
Morning Telegram: June 9, 1898 - August 21, 1907
New Nation: January 7, 1870 - September 3, 1870
Nor'Wester (1859): December 28, 1859 - November 23, 1869
Nor'Wester (1874): June 29, 1874 - December 21, 1875
One Big Union: August 30, 1919
Ouest Canadien: February 14, 1889 - August 14, 1889
People's Voice: June 16, 1894 - May 1, 1897
Portage la Prairie Weekly: February 8, 1884 - September 6, 1916
Quiz: October 19, 1878 - June 7, 1879
Red River Pioneer: December 1, 1869
Standard: November 28, 1874 - August 30, 1879
Strikers Defense Bulletin: August 1919
Voice: May 8, 1897 - July 26, 1918
Western Labor News: April 4, 1919 - September 5, 1919
Western Star: June 24, 1919
Winnipeg Citizen: May 19, 1919 - June 20, 1919
Winnipeg Daily Sun: August 17, 1881 - July 4, 1885
Winnipeg Socialist: May 1, 1921
Winnipeg Telegram Strike Editions: May 28, 1919 - June 28, 1919
Winnipeg Tribune: Jan 1939 - Dec 1945

The digitization was done by Commonwealth Imaging in Calgary.

07 August 2009

Peel`s Prairie Provinces Newspapers

From the University of Alberta, part of a larger historical collection, is a set of 13 Prairie newspapers, more than 10,000 individual newspaper issues:

Alberta Non-Partisan: October 1917 - July 1919
Le courrier de l'ouest: October 1905 - December 1915
The Gateway (Ûniversity of Alberta student newspaper): November 1910 - August 2006
Grain Growers Guild: August 1909 - December 1919
The Illustrated War News: April - August 1885
Le Franco-Albertain: November 1967 - December 2000
La Survivance: November 1928 - November 1967
Le patriote de l'Ouest: August 1910 - March 1932
Poundmaker(University of Alberta student newspaper): September 1972 -April 1974
Red Deer News: January 1906 - January 1926
The people's weekly (CCF): September 1950 - December 1952
L'Union: January - June 1919 and November 1923
Wetaskiwin Times: January 1928 - December 1931

I especially like the Illustrated War News for coverage of the 1885 North West Rebellion. The digitization was done by Commonwealth Imaging in Calgary, the same company that digitized Victoria`s British Colonist.

06 August 2009

Brightsolid acquires Friends/Genes Reunited

Brightsolid, a subsidiary of Dundee-based DC Thomson and owner of FindMyPast.com, have purchased Friends Reunited Group from ITV for £25 million.

The group includes Friends Reunited, a social network with 20.6 million members, Genes Reunited which is currently the UK’s largest family history website with 9 million members worldwide, and Friends Reunited Dating.

The deal is subject to clearance by British competition authorities.

Reports here, and here.

John Grenham in Ontario

Well known Irish genealogist and author John Grenham will be in Toronto and Ottawa this weekend.

Grenham is one of three speakers at an Irish Ancestry Workshop on Saturday, August 8, 2009 hosted by the Toronto Branch of OGS and the Canadiana Department of the North York Central Library. Other speakers are Richard 'Dick' M. Doherty and Nuala Farrell-Griffin. The Toronto Branch website informs WORKSHOP NOW FULL.

Another chance is in Ottawa. There's no pre-registration for Sunday afternoon's event sponsored by BIFHSGO and Ottawa Branch of OGS, but COME EARLY TO ENSURE A SEAT.

The presentations are:

Chasing Shadows: Irish Genealogy Online
Few large sets of Irish genealogical records are available online; however, there
are many highly valuable local or partial record-sets, which can be difficult to track down. The presentation starts with an outline of the main Irish records and where any on-line transcripts can be found.

Whatever you’re having yourself: Irish Census Substitutes
Brief summary of better-known substitutes, but focuses on more useful and
lesser-known records, including: Loan Funds, Charleton Marriage Fund, agricultural surveys,
official petitions and electoral records. Since the range is infinite, a complete account is
impossible; the aim is to sketch the main areas in which these records are being uncovered, to show how they can be used, and to bring hope to those who have run out of the standard Irish sources.

Sunday 9 AUGUST 2009 – 1:30 pm
The Chamber, Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Dr., (Nepean) Ottawa
Free Parking on site. Admission: $10/person at the door

05 August 2009

WDYTYA and Ancestry

Ancestry.com makes considerable reference to the TV program "Who Do You Think You Are?" in their draft IPO prospectus released on Monday.

Ancestry has a record of success with the program. "Our subscriber additions were 569,851 in 2006, principally driven by the airing of “Who Do You Think You Are?” in the United Kingdom ..."

They indicate they have already made commitments to programs in the US series . "... we have purchased product integration in the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” in the United States, but we may only at a later date, or never, experience an increase in revenue or brand awareness as a result of such expenditures."

Ancestry indicate they expect the US program to air in early 2010. "If public interest in family history generally or in our websites specifically were to increase as a result of a successful marketing and advertising promotion, media focus (for example, as a result of the potential introduction of the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” in the United States in early 2010) or other reasons, we could experience a spike in new subscriptions. "

However, the US version of the show has already been postponed once, and Ancestry seems far from certain that he will in fact be broadcast. "We do not control the release of this television show and cannot be sure if or when it will be released or if it will have any effect on our revenues or results of operations."

The revenue figures in the document show that Ancestry makes more money per capita in the UK than in the US. Based on 2008 data, if the company had the same penetration in the US as in the UK revenues would increase by $30 million.

04 August 2009

TNA podcast - Dr Williams' Library: an early birth registry

This short, clear podcast presentation by Dave Annal from May 2009 briefly describes Dr. Williams, the foundation of his library, and then in more detail the records of nonconformist births which were formerly held there. Approximately 60,000 birth registrations, many with quite detailed genealogical information on the family, are now available through BMDregisters.co.uk. Some are also found in the British Vital Records Index and the IGI.

Britain's Lifeline

There's a short article "Britain's Lifeline" by Janet Dempsey in the August issue of Ancestors magazine. On convoy records, it complements my posting earlier in the year on Second World War Merchant Shipping Records.

You can now search TNA's catalogue in ADM 199 with a ship name and find all convoys in which it sailed, incoming to the UK and outbound to Russia only, with the convoy number, other ships in the convoys and date.

Additional information for your ship of interest may be found at the Convoy Web site.

03 August 2009

Ancestry.com reveals company vitals

Ancestry.com Inc. on August 3 filed a preliminary registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. This is preliminary to issuing an initial public offering with the objective of raising $75 million. Together with appendices the document is more than 150 pages of financial tables and legalese; mostly not exciting reading for a genealogist.

Some items of interest I picked up in a first scan:

From the company overview statement:
Ancestry.com is the world’s largest online resource for family history, with almost one million paying subscribers around the world as of June 30, 2009.
Over the past three years, registered users have created over 11 million family trees containing more than 1.1 billion profiles. They have uploaded and attached to their trees over 22 million photographs, scanned documents, written stories and audio clips.
Revenues have increased from $122.6 million in 2004 to $197.6 million in 2008, a compound annual growth rate of 12.7%.

Competitive advantage:
Approximately 45% of subscribers have been with the company continuously for more than two years as of June 30, 2009. In the six months ended June 2009, visitors to the company websites spent an average of 19.1 minutes on their websites per usage day.

Total revenues for the company in 2008 were $197,591.000. The total cost of revenues was $43,614,000. The total operating expenses were $138,257,000, the largest single component of which was $52,341,000 for advertising and marketing.

In 2008 Beijing Formax, based in Zhongguancun Science Park, Beijing, China, performed a majority of the company's data transcription as measured by cost.

The company considers its competition to be:
• FamilySearch, and its website FamilySearch.org
• Commercial entities, including online genealogical research services, library content distributors, search engines and portals, retailers of books and software related to genealogical research and family tree creation and family history oriented social networking websites.
• Other non-profit entities and organizations, genealogical societies, governments and agencies that may make vital statistics or other records available to the public for free.

Employees and compensation:
As of June 30, 2009, the company had approximately 570 full-time employees and approximately 100 part-time and contingent employees. None of our employees is covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
All but one of the 13 directors and executive officers are male. Their ages range from 33 to 61. Nine are in their 40s.
For 2008 Timothy Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer, received total compensation of $ 2,242,482 on a base salary of $ 350,000. total compensation for the other company executives was: Joshua Hanna $1,219,890; Andrew Wait $778,871; David Rinn $620,925; Michael Wolfgramm $473,175.

Estimation of absolute risk for prostate cancer using genetic markers and family history

Many men I know involved with family history have been diagnosed with prostate cancer (PCa). According a recent Stats Can report PCa accounts for the largest number of cancer cases experienced in Canada.

A study newly (abstract) shows that "Multiple DNA sequence variants in the form of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have been found to be reproducibly associated with PCa risk."

"Considering men with 11 risk alleles (mode) and negative family history as having baseline risk, men who had >/=14 risk alleles and positive family history had an odds ratio (OR) of 4.92 [95% confidence interval (CI): 3.64-6.64] in the Swedish study. These associations were confirmed in the U.S. population. Once a man's SNP genotypes and family history are known, his absolute risk for PCa can be readily calculated and easily interpreted. For example, 55-year-old men with a family history and >/=14 risk alleles have a 52% and 41% risk of being diagnosed with PCa in the next 20 years in the Swedish and U.S. populations, respectively. In comparison, without knowledge of genotype and family history, these men had an average population absolute risk of 13%."

England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892

You may find an ancestor here! Are you sure you want to know?

Ancestry posted a notice of a new database added on Saturday. That's unusual, they normally only add material on weekdays. The database contains criminal registers from England and Wales for the years 1791-1892. Apparently viewing the index results is free, but you need subscription access to view the register images.

Information listed may include:

  • Name of criminal (or person charged)
  • Age
  • Birthplace (not often listed after 1802)
  • Crime
  • When and where tried
  • Sentence (death, transportation, imprisonment, acquittal, etc.)
  • Where and when received
  • Date of execution or release
  • By whom committed, to whom delivered
You can search by name or browse images from a specified county and year.

Ancestry advises that register entries may lead you to further information in: calendars of prisoners; prison registers; court records such as depositions, indictments, and case files; warrants, including pardons, reprieves, and transfers of prisoners; and transportation records. The online search guide “Tracing 19th and 20th Century Criminals”, from TNA is recommended.

Also don't overlook the possibility of finding a report in a contemporary newspaper in the British Library 19th Century digitized collection.

02 August 2009

Celebrate Col. By Day

In Ottawa we celebrate the Ontario Civic holiday as Col. By Day after the British Royal Engineer responsible for the construction of the Rideau Canal.

Ottawa's heritage is celebrated by an event alongside the canal and centered on the Bytown Museum, an event now part of the larger Rideau Canal Festival. almost every local heritage organization will have a presence on site.

The weather forecast is good and I expect to be on-site in the afternoon. I hope to see you there.

Orphan works

Canada's federal departments of Heritage and Industry are pursuing a consultation on copyright. Most of the discussion is about digital media, but there's a thorn in the paw of this old bear - orphan works.

Below is a comment drafted to submit to the consultation. Comments before I do so welcome.


When copyright was initially introduced in the UK in 1710 the term was 14 years. The term has been gradually increased which has led to a corpus of works for which it is difficult or impossible to contact the copyright holder; so-called orphan works. Estimates are that these account for a large fraction, possibly even a majority of all publications.

It's often books from smaller publishers and individually published works, including family histories, that become orphans. Often when the copyright holder of one of these works is finally tracked down they are only too happy to allow the use of, say, an image or extended extract from that work at no cost.

As written the law fails to balance rights and obligations of all affected parties by placing an unreasonable burden on those wishing to make use of orphan works and build upon the product of the creator's endeavour.

In 2007 a Joint Steering Group established by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions IFLA) and the International Publishers Association (IPA) agreed on five principles to be followed by users of orphaned works:

• A reasonably diligent search should be undertaken to find the copyright owner.
• The user of an orphan work must provide a clear and adequate attribution to the copyright owner.
• If the copyright owner reappears, the owner should be reasonably remunerated or appropriate restitution should be made.
• If injunctive relief is available against the use of a previously orphaned work, the injunctive relief should take into account the creative efforts and investment made in good faith by the user of the work.
• The use of orphan works in non-exclusive.

To facilitate this agreement in Canada the copyright law should establish a registry whereby a creator or their agent could assert and renew their right every, say, ten years, and provide speedy access for those wishing to obtain copyright clearance. Where a work's creator does not maintain effective control of the work through the registry or some other recognized means which facilitates obtaining clearance then the copyright holder should be deemed to have abandoned their rights.

01 August 2009

Federal funding for newspaper digitization

The federal government has announced support for Athabasca University's "Connecting Canadians: Canada's Multicultural Newspapers" project.

From the announcement "This project will digitize and deploy to the Web up to 20 multicultural newspapers on an open-access basis. In addition to making multicultural newspapers freely available to anyone on the Internet, it will include audio and video streaming of selected articles and teaching and learning activities that will be of interest to students, teachers, and researchers. A key driver of this project is the use of technology to facilitate access to the content, which will be PDA- or mobile-friendly."

Does this signal that the feds are ready to fund additional newspaper digitization?

Read the full press release here.