31 October 2009

An invitation to the Librarian and Archivist of Canada

Since his appointment earlier in the year Daniel J Caron, Librarian and Archivist of Canada, has kept a low profile. The community for which LAC is a significant resource are wondering about the directions in which he intends steering the organization.

In mid-August Caron, chaired a panel on Archives for Effective Democracy at a Society for American Archivists conference in Austin, Texas. I was interested to see the slides accompanying a presentation he gave, available at http://saa.archivists.org/Scripts/4Disapi.dll/4DCGI/events/eventdetail.html?Action=Events_Detail&Time=-1488860178&SessionID=7731698vqi5735l2r8f8577lrs40d7564nt8y9j61u78n32cah7e66y96973997f&InvID_W=1106

The penultimate slide had the title The Way Forward: Modernization. The bullets underneath being:

- Rethinking the structure of our knowledge institutions
- Revisiting our work processes
- Redefining skills and competencies.

Perhaps Dr. Caron would take advantage of the LAC Services Advisory Board meeting in the building in Gatineau in which he has his office, to connect with this representative client group to share how LAC is proceeding forward, the timetable, and where it's leading.

30 October 2009

Halloween fun from Ancestry.ca



(Toronto, ON – October 29, 2009) As ghosts and goblins prepare to hit the streets this Halloween, Ancestry.ca, Canada’s leading family history website[i], has unearthed records of some of the most haunting people in Canadian history.

Digging deep into its four billion family history records, Ancestry.ca has exhumed real life ghosts, eerie occupations and some of the nation’s most sinister names.

Bloodcurdling occupations

Being a ghost might be great for some people, but a few Canadians couldn’t wait until the afterlife to join the dark side. It appears with a little dedication, anyone could find a job doing what they truly loved.

  • Witch – It’s a good thing he didn’t live in Salem! John Quinn, a 48-year-old resident of Gaspe, Quebec, lists his occupation as a ‘Witch’ in the 1881 Census.

  • Monster – Robert Hosking, a 42-year-old husband and father of four in Huron, Ontario, lists his occupation as ‘Monster’ in the 1901 Census. One can only wonder what his kids thought of him.

  • Lunatic Keeper – John Corbett has the distinction of being Canada’s only official ‘Lunatic keeper’, according to the 1901 Census. John, a 48-year-old, lived in Saint John, New Brunswick.

  • Criminal – John Middleton, a 19-year-old from Algoma, Ontario, was honest about his profession, listing himself as a ‘Criminal’ when asked for his occupation in the 1901 Census.

Real life ghosts

Every city and town has a unique ghost story as part of its lore. But what were the individuals behind these stories doing before they died, and before they started haunting houses? Here are some of the people behind some of Canada’s most infamous ghost stories:

  • Lillian Massey – daughter of Hart Massey, Lillian is one of Toronto’s most famous ghosts. She is said to haunt the family’s former home, now the site of the Keg Mansion restaurant on Jarvis Street. Lillian died in 1915 and it is widely believed that her presence is felt in the second floor bathroom of the house. Lillian is listed in the 1901 Census of Canada, living with her husband, mother and four servants in Toronto.

  • Corliss Walker – this Winnipeg theatre-owner built the Walker’s Theatre, which is said to be haunted by two of its own stage actors, Laurence Irvin and Mabel Hackney, who both drowned in 1914. The ghosts of the two actors are occasionally heard performing on the empty stage. Walker can be found in the 1906 Census of Canada, living with his wife and daughter in Winnipeg.

  • Esther Cox – the victim of several hauntings, this young Nova Scotia woman would seek the help of a psychic investigator before allegedly starting a fire, on which she blamed her ghostly attackers. Esther can be found in the 1871 Census of Canada, living with her husband and two children.

  • Peter Anthony Prince- this wealthy Calgary entrepreneur built what is now known as The Prince House, in 1894. Married four times, three of Prince’s wives died before him and are now suspected to be haunting the home, which is located in Calgary’s Heritage Park. Prince can be found in the 1891 Census of Canada, living in Calgary with his first wife, Margaret.

  • George Dagg – this Quebec farmer began experiencing ghostly encounters after adopting a young Scottish orphan. Exasperated, Dagg sought the help of journalist Percy Woodcock, who would witness the hauntings. George Dagg is listed in the 1871 Census of Canada in his hometown of Clarendon, Quebec.

  • William Lyon Mackenzie - Toronto’s first mayor, Mackenzie is said to haunt his old home, now the site of a museum dedicated to his family. Mackenzie is listed in the 1861 Census of Canada, living in Toronto shortly before his death with his wife Isabel and four of their children.

  • Patrick James Whelan – this unfortunate young man may have been the victim of some very bad luck. Whelan was convicted and executed for the murder of D’Arcy McGee, one of the fathers of Confederation, a conviction that many now question. He is now said to haunt Ottawa’s Nicholas Street Hostel, the former prison where his execution took place. Whelan can be found in the Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, where he is listed at the time of his marriage.

  • Laura Dunsmuir – Laura died in 1937 and is said to haunt the Hatley Castle of Victoria, BC, in the West Coast’s most haunted city. The Castle is now home to the Royal Roads Military College. Laura is listed in the British Columbia Death Index, 1872-1979, having passed away at the age of 79.

Bone-chilling names

The following individuals may not have had any personal experience with ghosts, goblins or the undead, but their names may have scared off more than a few early trick-or-treaters.

  • Nancy Monster – a 26-year-old woman living on her own in Stormont County, Ontario in the 1851 Census of Canada

  • George Skeleton – a 38-year-old man living with his wife in a lodging house in Brockville, Ontario in the 1911 Census of Canada

  • Michael Witch – a 42-year-old single Irish man living with his brother in Chatham, Ontario in the 1901 Census of Canada

29 October 2009

Life in a London prison ca 1880

The following description of life at Coldbath Fields prison is adapted from a contemporary London newspaper account. Coldbath Fields, a London prison for those sentenced to less than two years, was quite close to the current site of the London Metropolitan Archives.

On entering the prison, and having been washed, a prisoner enters upon a first stage in prison life which extends over 28 days. During this period he is employed, in strict separation, for 10 hours daily on hard labour, 6 to 8 hours being on the crank or treadwheel. He has for breakfast 8 ounces of bread; for dinner a pint and a half of stirabout (a kind of porridge); and in the evening 8 ounces of bread. At night he sleeps on a plank bed without a mattress. If a man is in for a month, or any less, this comprises his daily life, his unvarying food, his unmodified couch.

In the second month of his sentence if he has earned his full measure of marks, he has a slight but appreciable amelioration of his lot. On five nights of the week he has a mattress, tasting the joys of the plank bed only on the remaining two nights. He has school instruction, may have schoolbooks in his cell, goes for a walk in the yard on a Sunday, and may, by diligence and general good conduct, earn a "gratuity not exceeding one shilling."

In the third month his daily labour is somewhat lightened, the weaning from the plank bed is advanced and he makes its acquaintance only once a week. In addition to schoolbooks he may have "library books" in his cell, and there is placed within his reach the possibility of a gratuity of 18 pence.

In the fourth stage the plank bed disappears from the scene, the prisoner is eligible for employment of trust in the service of the prison, and, in addition to the right to the intellectual and physical recreations already acquired, he may receive and write a letter and enjoy the company of a visitor for the space of 20 minutes -- privileges renewed every three months, with the extension of the period of a visit to half an hour.

Only the warders are allowed to speak, the prisoners permitted only to make monosyllabic responses to a warder's question.

Added Resource (5 Nov 2009)
The Internet Archive have recently placed Eighteen months' imprisonment : with a remission (1883) in their collection at www.archive.org/details/cu31924031279775. The author, Donald Shaw recounts his prision experience, much of it in Coldbath Fields prison.

28 October 2009

TNA podcast - Apprenticeship records for family historians

A presentation on June 23, 2009, by Mark Pearsall, The National Archives' family history specialist, is the latest addition to TNA podcasts. It focuses on the apprenticeship system and how it worked in practice, from an traditional system, to a statutory system with a formal indenture between the master and the apprentice's parent(s) starting in 1563, to a system based on a company rather than a master from the early 19th century .

It covers the records that survive in The National Archives, in particular the Apprenticeship Books in record series IR 1 and merchant navy apprenticeship records through to the mid 20th century.

Surviving apprenticeship records are more likely to be found in county archives and record offices. That's also where you'll find parochial apprenticeships documented, likely in vestry minutes and churchwardens/oversears accounts, where they survive.

The content of the presentation is good, and the visuals are available on the website. However, for my taste the presentation style is on the dry side and drags rather. Some information is repeated too much. You may prefer to read the version in the TNA research guide at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/RdLeaflet.asp?sLeafletID=295

Thematic Guide for Grosse Île Quarantine Station

LAC are highlighting on their main page a "Thematic Guide to Sources Relating to the Grosse Île Quarantine Station, in Lower Canada, the Province of Canada and Canada, 1832 - 1937"

The heading refers to it as an unpublished guide, first produced in March 1988 with three subsequent revisions. It contains lots of references for finding material, of both genealogical and more general historical interest, under the headings:

Archival Sources and References in Library and Archives Canada
Relating to Grosse Île
Contextual Pre-Confederation Records
Relating to Grosse Île
Sources in Other Archives
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BANQ)
Other Private and Corporate Archives
Selected Bibliography

27 October 2009

Hot news - LAC reopens

According to an announcement at the LAC website heating has been restored at 395 Wellington Street and the building is open to the public as of Tuesday, October 27, 2009.

Public events have not yet resumed.

Finding old Geocities pages

Geocities is gone! Yahoo have closed it. A news item is at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8325749.stm.

Over the years many genealogists have put their family tree information onto a free Geocities website. Others have posted transcriptions and data of genealogical interest.

All your careful citations of Geocities sources will go for nothing if there's no copy of the original. However, some of it may have been captured by the Internet Archive's Wayback machine at www.archive.org/web/web.php. The url in the citation will come in handy as that's the only way to retrieve information from the Wayback machine, there's no way to search the full text.

In many cases the versions captured by the Wayback machine are more than several years old. It may be that the site hadn't been updated for some while as Geocities went out of fashion.

Even if you don't have the old Geocities url all may not be lost. I had success doing a simple Google search for the terms I expected to find in the Geocities page and was able to find a website which gave the link to the Geocities page address. Taking that address and plugging it into the Wayback machine retrieved an old version of the Geocities page. It didn't work every time. Some pages are seemingly lost and gone forever.

If Google doesn't work for you try searching for a mention in the Rootsweb mailing lists at http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/

The Surman Index Online

The Surman Index includes the names, dates, education and employment information for about 32,000 Congregational ministers. It covers the period from the mid-seventeenth century to 1972, and though it focuses on England and Wales, it includes Congregational ministers serving abroad provided they trained or served as ministers in Britain.

Further information and access to the index is at http://surman.english.qmul.ac.uk

Information is extracted from cards held at Dr Williams's Library. You can search or browse by surname and location. Here's an example, the only Northwood found. You can also view an image of the original card which may have more information.

26 October 2009

News/Opinion on the Ancestry.com IPO

In an article "A High Price for Ancestry.com" the New York Times writes:

Ancestry.com wants to put down some roots. The genealogy Web site hopes investors will provide $100 million in an initial public offering, valuing the whole thing at $572 million. That seems too high for Ancestry to cement a happy legacy with investors.

Read the full story at www.nytimes.com/2009/10/27/technology/internet/27views.html?_r=1

UK Genealogical Directories and Lists on the Internet

Do any of these titles sound interesting to you?

A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames
A History of Illnesses and Diseases in the UK
A Reference Book of English History
Aircraft Crash Record Office
Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives
Birthdate Calculator from Death Date and Age
British Military & Criminal History in the period 1900 to 1999
British Pathe Film Archive
Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy
English Calendar Quick Reference
Great Ships - Postcard and Ephemera Collection
Index of Lunatic Asylums and Mental Hospitals
IreAtlas Townland Search
Lloyds Register of British and Foreign Shipping from 1764 up to 2003
Maritime Photographic
Measuring Worth
Military Badges and Military Images
Money and Coinage in Victorian Britain
Palmer List of Merchant Vessels
Picture Australia
Poor Law Union Database
Postcards of Ocean Liners
Pottery Industry Jobs and Descriptions

They're just part of the content you'll find at UKGDL which "aims to help you find out the history of your family by linking to web sites that have on-line data which will help you discover what your families did and how they lived.

School lists, trade directories, electoral rolls, passenger lists, old photographs etc., are all valuable sources of information which can help you complete your family tree – many are now listed under UKGDL's menus."

UKGDL www.ukgdl.org.uk/ is a companion site to UKBMD www.ukbmd.org.uk/ known for its links to web sites that offer on-line transcriptions of UK births, marriages, deaths, censuses and also parish records, wills, monumental inscriptions etc.

Be sure you have plenty of time to explore UKGDL.

25 October 2009

FamilySearch puts an end to pointless indexing projects?

At www.familysearchindexing.org/home.jsf there is an announcement that "the FamilySearch indexing system will be down for maintenance on October 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (MDT, GMT-6). Please do not try to download or submit batches during this downtime."

The announcement continues "Many new and updated features will be introduced during this downtime, click here to see a list and descriptions of each of them."

One of these is about points which "provide a way for you to measure your personal indexing contribution to FamilySearch. In the future, points may even provide you with access to searchable record collections that are otherwise restricted by the record custodians."

Scotland's Places

There's a new website with the aim of "bringing authentic information and images together to help you discover places in Scotland."

The ScotlandsPlaces website www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk "lets users search across different national databases using geographic location. The user is able to enter a place-name or a coordinate to search across these collections or they can use the maps to refine and define their search."

Included are digital copies of:

Maps and plans of cities, towns, villages, farms, roads, canals, harbours, churches, schools, public buildings, private houses, mines and quarries

Photographs of the built environment in The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Archaeological reports on historic and prehistoric sites

Manuscript records and printed books from millions of pages in government and private records, including tax rolls, owners of land and heritages, and the annual reports of county Medical Officers of Health.

A search for Ayr, yielded the description "A parish in Ayrshire until 1975. The parish of Alloway was annexed into Ayr in 1690. The parishes of Newton-upon-Ayr and St Quivox were annexed into Ayr in 1895. It was a parish for both civil and religious purposes from the sixteenth century until 1975. The boundaries of the civil parish were altered by the Boundary Commissioners in 1891."

There was a map which you could click to refine the search, and 501 hits. Worth a look if you have Scottish ancestry.

24 October 2009

Norman K Crowder RIP

Members of the Ottawa, and Ontario, genealogical communities are sad to learn of the passing of Norman K. Crowder on Thursday 22nd of October 2009, age 83 years.

The newspaper obituary is at www.legacy.com/can-ottawa/Obituaries.asp?Page=Lifestory&PersonId=134889417

He was a member of the Ontario Genealogical Society, a founding member and member of the Hall of Fame of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.

Norm authored several genealogical books and publications including:

British Army Pensioners Abroad: 1772-1899
Early Ontario Settlers: A Source Book
Guide to the 1851 Census of Canada West : Renfrew County
Inhabitants of Toronto, Ontario, 1850
The Loyalists and Nepean
Upper Canada naturalization registers, 1828-1850

as well as several books on his own UEL and other ancestry.

Groundbreaking for new Ottawa City Archives building

A cold morning on 23 October 2009 as (l-r) Ontario Minister and local MPP Jim Watson, local Councillor Rick Charelli, Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives President John Heney, and Manager of Cultural and Heritage Services Debbie Hill participate in the official groundbreaking for the new City of Ottawa Main Archives and Library Materials Distribution Centre.

23 October 2009

LAC Building Closure - 395 Wellington, Ottawa

The following notice is posted on the LAC web site.

Due to an incident at the Cliff Street central heating and cooling plant, the building at 395 Wellington Street is without heat and is closed until further notice.

Please check the Library and Archives Canada website (www.collectionscanada.gc.ca) to obtain up-to-date information. We apologize for the inconvenience to our clients.

Another best for BIFHSGO

The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa was honoured again last Saturday, this time with an award for the Best Web Site by the (UK) Federation of Family History Societies.

If you haven't seen the site, at www.bifhsgo.ca have a look. Also check out the databases hosted there:

Middlemore Home Children Index (1872-1932). [Middlemore Home Children]

The ships that brought the Home Children to Canada (with references to further information held by LAC). [Home Children Voyages]

The 53 members of the Ottawa Sharpshooters, a volunteer company of the Governor General's Foot Guards, assembled in 1885 and was sent west to help suppress the North West Rebellion. [Sharpshooter Information]

An estimated 50,000 Canadians heard the thunder of guns to the south and headed that way to serve in the Union and Confederate Armies. The following database lists Canadian pensioners from both the war of 1812 and the American Civil War. [Canadian US Civil / 1812 War Pensioners]

The nominal List of Non-commissioned officers, Privates and Buglers of the Companies of Royal Sappers and Miners disbanded at the Rideau Canal in December 1831. [Rideau Canal Soldiers]

The database of information on 5,189 men who served in suppressing the 1885 North-West Rebellion. [North West Rebellion].

These are in addition to the major database on Home Children compiled by BIFHSGO and hosted by Library and Archives Canada - www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/home-children/index-e.html

22 October 2009

LAC - what's cool!

LAC advises that all events taking place at 395 Wellington are cancelled until the end of day, Sunday, October 25, 2009. Currently, the building has no heat or hot water.

I was briefly in the building today, Thursday. It was cool, and cold for those trying to work there.

Apparently a district heating plant in Gatineau is providing heat for the Parliament Buildings and 240 Sparks, but LAC at 395 Wellington isn't considered a high priority.

For updates on this situation, please consult the following Web page: www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/whats-new/013-421-e.html.

TNA podcast: Sources for Anglican clergymen

This short talk, billed as an introduction to the main sources for the history and education of Anglican clergy, at home and abroad, was given by TNA staffer Jessamy Sykes. The source web site at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/podcasts/intro-sources-anglican-clergymen.htm includes a few of the images used during the presentation.

21 October 2009

Ryan Taylor Lecture CANCELLED

Owing to the continuing lack of heat at Library and Archives Canada OGS Ottawa Branch are forced to cancel the scheduled Ryan Taylor Lecture which was scheduled for this Saturday.

Action on the new Ottawa City Archives

Work has (finally) started at the site of the new Main Archives for the Ottawa of Ottawa

The main contract is let to R. E. Hein Construction.

Sub-contractor Dave Bourne Tree Service was clearing tree and scrub and piling it in a heap in the northwest part of the site at Woodroffe and Tallwoods on Wednesday 21 October 2009. The heavy equipment did a good job of breaking the kerb where it entered the site at the northwest corner.

Trafalgar Day

I almost overlooked that today, October 21, marks the anniversary of the victory of the British Navy, under Admiral Lord Nelson, over the French and Spanish fleets. Fortunately Your Family Tree magazine remembered, and marks the occasion by making available a pdf of a pertinent article from a past issue at http://blog.fph.co.uk/resources/yft/Trafalgar.pdf

LAC - no heat, but enlightening

Posted at LAC last evening when I arrived for the Ottawa Book Awards was a notice:

"Due to an incident at the Cliff Street central heating and cooling plant, which provides heating and hot water to government facilities along Wellington Street, the facility at 395 Wellington is without heating and hot water for the time being. The delay for heat and hot water to return is not known at this time. More information will be provided to you when available."

The notice is also posted prominently on the LAC web site. Congratulations to the person(s) responsible for getting the notice up on the web promptly.

Whatever heat was lacking from the HVAC system was more than compensated by the body heat of the people crammed into Room A for the awards.

There were several historical books nominated in the English non-fiction category, but it was the award winner for fiction that came closest to recounting a family-history. Andrew Steinmetz's book Eva's Threepenny Theatre is described as: an usual blend of fiction and memoir that tells the story of the author's great aunt Eva who performed in the 1928 workshop production of the Bertolt Brecht's masterpiece The Threepenny Opera. Steinmetz takes the story back to Eva's childhood in Germany with her invalid mother and domineering siblings, the pronouncement of the family's Jewish origins, and her escaped to Canada.

Shannon Lectures: Memorializing the Civil War Dead

The 2009 Shannon Lectures, Gravestones and Cemeteries, will take place October through December 2009.

The first in the series, on October 23

Bruce S. Elliott , Carleton University
"Memorializing the Civil War Dead: Modernity and corruption under the Grant administration "

1:00-2:30 pm
Humanities Theatre, 303 Paterson Hall, Carleton University

More information at www.carleton.ca/history/events/shannon.html

20 October 2009

Not everything in genealogy a bed of roses?

As a result of my trip to Quinte Branch of OGS last Saturday I learnt of an article "Your Genealogy: Approach with Caution" published in the September/October 2009 issue of Family Chronicle magazine.

The article's first paragraph states the author's view that "it (genealogy) is a serious hobby." It continues by making a comparison to golf, but fails to acknowledge that if only serious golfers played the game there would be far fewer courses. Golf finds room for players of all aptitudes and dedication. Teens, retirees, businessmen and women, and once a year players in charity events participate, as well as pros. Golf professionals don't feel threatened by duffers, neither should professional genealogists and genealogical societies. Instead we should welcome the genealogical duffer as increasing the demand for resources to be made available and seeing the business opportunity in helping and educating them.

The article discusses "three problems that I fear will get worse in the future."

First "Terrible Genealogies." After lamenting the fake and mistaken genealogies that can too easily be found and spread via the Internet the article proposes a "rule amongst genealogical writers, editors and speakers that an article or talk that uses the word "Internet" or "web" also uses the word "proof" or "citation."

That sounds a bit like a rule in golf that you shouldn't be able to sell a three wood to someone without also selling "driver" lessons lest the buyer use it incorrectly.

Experienced genealogists know only to use information as a clue, something to investigate and accept or reject according to your own good judgment. The information may come with a citation, which aids the assessment process, but even without a citation the information is still a lead to investigate. The inexperienced given such information will likely find themselves landing in the genealogical equivalent of bunkers and water hazards. If they want to continue experiencing the hazards will be motivation to take advice and lessons.

The second problem in the article is "Identity Theft." The article states that "genealogical information on living people is a significant component of identity theft." How significant? There is no citation or reference. Is it a significant enough component for the police to make speaking to family history groups a priority in their public outreach? I suspect that the exchange of personal information through social networks, totally unrelated to genealogy, is much more significant.

The third problem, the one the article uses as many column inches to explore as the other two combined, is "The Free Lunch." The bulk of this discussion revolves around a situation the article author, Fraser Dunford, Executive Director of the Ontario Genealogical Society, is facing regarding an online index, and records, for 60,000 insurance documents in the custody of the Society.

He writes in the article "I firmly believe it is a fundamental responsibility of genealogical societies to acquire, keep, and make available, data sets such as this." However, that goes beyond the OGS mission statement www.ogs.on.ca/home/structure.php. Is this mission drift one reason why OGS fees are escalating?

The article also states that "this one small data set has cost the Ontario taxpayers about $25,000, the members of my society nearly $5,000 and will incur an ongoing annual fee of several hundred dollars (cost of space to store the documents.)"

He explores funding options and asks "If we think taxpayers should pay the bill ... are we willing to let politicians determine how and when genealogical data is available?"

For "politicians" the article might have said "our elected representatives."

They already make that type of decision regarding all the data held in government archives. They also make decisions that fund hockey rinks, football facilities, tennis courts, recreation centres, day-cares and numerous other facilities I don't use. Fortunately they make similar decisions in favour of genealogists, the most recent of which in Ontario is purchase of the Ancestry Library database to be available in all libraries across the province. Perhaps OGS will tell us whether they oppose that decision made by politicians on how to spend taxpayers dollars?

It may be that OGS made a mistake in deciding to archive the insurance records. Do they have, and could they afford, the facility needed to store them in perpetuity in properly controlled environmental conditions?

As for the more general question of there being no free lunch, users of Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, the Internet Archive, FamilySearch, FreeBMD and numerous other similar websites know what they pay. For an extended discussion of how this free lunch is possible download the book FREE, by Chris Anderson. It's free as an audio book at www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-07/mf_freer.

19 October 2009

190,000 Welsh Wills Online – Free to View

A new resource from the National Library of Wales - news release

The National Library of Wales has good news for family historians, social historians … and the inquisitive! Over 190,000 Welsh wills (some 800,000 pages) have been digitised and are now available on the Library’s website or direct on our online catalogue and are free to view.

Wills which were proved in the Welsh ecclesiastical courts before the introduction of Civil Probate on 11 January 1858 have long been deposited at The National Library of Wales. An online index and an opportunity to view digital images of these wills within the Library building has been available for sometime, however, from today remote users will also be able to view the digital images.

Amongst the collection is the will of Twm Siôn Cati alias Thomas Johnes, Fountaine Gate, Caron (SD1609-20), this year being the 400th anniversary of his death. The will of Howell Harris, the famous Welsh religious reformer can also be seen (BR1773-51).

As well as being a fabulous source of information the National Library’s online wills offer the ability to view all 193,000 wills free of charge, a service few other similar institutions are able to offer. Whilst most institutions charge readers to view their documents, the Library only charges for providing copies of them.

Toronto Cemetery Records, 1826-1935

Looking for a burial in Toronto before 1935? If so there's a good chance it's recorded in one of the Toronto Trust Cemeteries, now known as the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries. At present you pretty much have to go to Toronto sources, or order a microfilm from Salt Lake City, hopefully you order the right one, to get the information.

Now, in a cooperative project between Family Search and the Toronto Branch of OGS, www.torontofamilyhistory.org/projects.html, volunteers are indexing, essentially transcribing, burial records from four major city cemeteries.

York General Burying Ground (Potters’ Field), which existed at the northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor streets from 1826 to 1855 had about 5,600 burials. OGS already has a publication for those.

The Toronto Necropolis, at 200 Winchester Street in the Cabbagetown area of Toronto, will be transcribed from 1850-1935 , about 15,000 names. This is also a cemetery for which Toronto Branch already has a publication.

Mount Pleasant is Toronto's best known cemetery. Located at 375 Mount Pleasant Road it started operation in 1876 and will be indexed to 1935.

Prospect Cemetery at 1450 St. Clair Avenue West will be indexed from the start of records in 1890 to 1935.

I spoke to Jane MacNamara, who is leading the project for Toronto Branch. The genesis was a visit she made with a Toronto group to Salt Lake City a couple of years ago when they learned about Family Search Indexing. The cemetery records were filmed by the LDS in the 1980s and the Branch felt they were records that would be unlikely to become available online without a major effort. So many people have relatives buried in Toronto, even if they didn't die there but were returned to a family plot in the city, that an indexing project would be more widely useful than to just Toronto people.

The Branch is handling registering volunteers to do transcribing, already two weeks after the project was announced 20 people are signed up, including one in England, and more are volunteering. 4000 entries have already been transcribed. Jane says that while they would be pleased to hear from all volunteers they are looking especially for people who know the districts and streets of Toronto.

Volunteers transcribe a batch (image) of a page (often a two page spread) containing a maximum 50 records and up to 30 field in each record. That may sound like a lot, but, for example, day, month, and year are three fields. The information on the original preprinted forms varies depending on the cemetery and time and the transcription form can be adjusted to suit the record.

Jane admitted she was surprised that Family Search Indexing recommended transcribing so many fields, but recognizes it will make the database more useful in the long run. She also complimented the Family Search people she's dealt with on this project -- "wonderful folks."

The project was field tested with some Toronto Branch members and it led to one modification of the transcription requirement.

Each form is transcribed twice, by two different people, and compared by computer, with Toronto Branch assuming the responsibility of resolving differences of opinion. Jane is looking to recruit some Branch volunteers to share that workload.

You don't have to be a Toronto Branch or OGS member to be a volunteer transcriber, and Jane hopes that others will come forward. Who knows, it might even get more people involved with the branch and OGS! More information at www.torontofamilyhistory.org/projects.html

The completed index and links to digital images will be freely accessible online to the general public, permanently hosted by Family Search, when the projectis complete.

If you've worked on this project don't hesitate to share your experience by posting a comment.

Congratulations to Toronto Branch, and Jane MacNamara, on this progressive initiative.

18 October 2009

Saturday at OGS Quinte Branch

On Saturday I spent a most enjoyable day in Trenton, Ontario, speaking to the Quinte Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society.

The Branch meets in the Council chambers of the building which also houses the public library, with a magnificent view looking over the mouth of the Trent River. There's convenient free parking.

While I'd hesitate to say it's the MOST active, Quinte Branch must rank right up there. They're welcoming and friendly. They have some great local resources on their web site.

I drove from Ottawa in the morning, leaving a bit before 9am, arriving in plenty of time to grab a sandwich in Trenton, before finding the building and the Council chambers. Thanks to Bob Dawes the set-up was done well in time. I had a chance to chat with Georgette Green, and pay a quick visit to the Branch library housed in a room within the public library, before the event got underway with 60 or so people in the room. I was told that attendance at their meetings has been growing, meaning they've moved to a larger room since the last time I spoke there.

Branch chair Dick Hughes welcomed all, especially newcomers, and made a plea for additional volunteers. Some things you hear no matter where you go.

Bob Dawes has posted a summary of the meeting on the Branch website at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~canqbogs/news_2009-2010.htm#Immigrants

I was told people enjoyed the meeting. I know I did, especially talking to folks about their problems after the presentation. I was back in Ottawa by 7 pm, exhausted and pleased with how the day had gone.

If you're a online genealogist and have never gone to a local society meeting I suggest that you make the effort to attend one. Chances are you'll enjoy it, and you may just find ways and resources that will make your research online more productive.

£33m for the UK newspaper collection

A press release from the British Library is welcome news for those of us with British ancestry.

The British Library has today received a commitment of £33m from the Government to preserve and make accessible the world's greatest newspaper collection.

It will build a new storage facility and digitize more newspapers making them accessible online.
Read the press release at www.bl.uk/news/2009/pressrelease20091016.html

So what has LAC done to preserve and make available Canadian newspapers? Did they even ask for resources as part of the government's Economic Action Plan?

Ontario Library Week Oct. 18 – 24, 2009

A major event in Ottawa during Ontario Library Week is on October 23, 2009 at 10am, a groundbreaking ceremony for the new City of Ottawa Archives and Ottawa Public Library Materials Distribution Centre.

Event location: Tallwood Drive between Meridian Place and Woodroffe Avenue in the old City of Nepean.

Present: Mayor O’Brien, the Honourable Jim Watson, City Councillors and dignitaries.

16 October 2009

Glasgow home for Canada's first PM to be demolished

A small building standing in central Glasgow, about to be demolished, most recently a pub and a brothel, was the home of Canada`s first Prime Minister, John A Macdonald.

The following links to a Toronto Star article.


via: Scottish Genealogy News and Events

Getting a second opinion

It's often said that a person with one watch knows the time; with two, she can never be sure. The same applies to multiple census transcriptions.

Most of us have cause to grumble about census transcriptions from time to time. Interpreting a handwritten name is notoriously tricky. If you're looking for a person known to be in a particular location you can often figure out an otherwise undecipherable scrawl, a benefit not available to the person transcribing in bulk.

The earlier the record the more difficult the task, so I was pleased to see an announcement from Find My Past, www.findmypast.com that they have now updated their database for the 1851 census of England to include 10 additional counties.

* Kent
* Shropshire
* Staffordshire
* Cornwall
* Lincolnshire
* Leicestershire
* Westmorland
* Middlesex
* Hampshire
* Surrey

FMP, according to some reviewers, has better transcriptions than Ancestry. I tried a test with my Reid family in Islington, Middlesex. In 1851 there were three families in one house. I know that from having seen the original record on Ancestry. The two lodger families were completely missed by FMP's transcription. The first family was there. I wanted to check the original but in FMP the original census image wouldn't appear in my browser!

One of my latest research projects, using the Canadian 1911 census, showed another situation. Ancestry transcribed the surname one way, Automated Genealogy another, and neither was correct!

Let's meet up at OGS Quinte Branch - Saturday

I'm looking forward to a return visit to the Ontario Genealogical Society's Quinte Branch to speak at their monthly meeting on Saturday. My talk is Researching British Immigrants to Canada.

Focusing on 20th century immigrants pre-WW1, the period of greatest English emigration to Canada, this presentation shows how to use readily accessible Canadian and British records together to track down that elusive ancestral family.

The talk uses case studies. I've added a new one about a local couple to others that I've presented before.

The meeting starts at 1 PM, Saturday 17 Oct 2009 at Quinte West City Hall Library,
7 Creswell Drive, Trenton, Ontario

More information at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~canqbogs/meetings.htm

15 October 2009

BIFHSGO October Meeting - Lady Teviot

This month's British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa meeting presentation is:

I Never Thought of That, A Second Look at Problems

by Lady Teviot
President of the Federation of Family History Societies
Vice Chairman of the Friends of East Sussex Record Office
Member of the Council of the British Records Association

The talk concentrates on possible archival sources which have not been considered. It also looks again at the research already undertaken in order to throw a new light on other possibilities and on the knowledge that people did not always tell the truth. Fact and fiction can become intertwined over the years.

10am, October 17, 2009 at Library & Archives Canada, Auditorium, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa

If you're not in the Ottawa area there are plenty of other choices on Saturday.

I'm speaking at OGS Quinte Branch in Trenton, ON. More about that tomorrow.

OGS Kingston Branch has a session in which Nancy Cutway will demonstrate “Using Legacy Family Tree”.

There's a whole day event in Surrey BC - http://canadagenealogy.blogspot.com/2009/10/finding-your-roots-15th-annual-tri.html

We are survivors

Today, October 15, 2009, is Blog Action Day. I'm pleased to join in with thousands of bloggers internationally on this year's theme of climate change.

Do you think of yourself as a survivor, one who comes from a long string of survivors? Society is well adapted to typical weather and climate variability but struggles with extremes and their consequences. How many of us have ancestors who were refugees because of drought on the Prairies, famine in Ireland, or in shipwrecks owing to storms? How many more might be reading this if those who didn't survive had lived?

Many of the most disruptive consequences of man-made climate change will be the result of disproportionate increases in the number of extreme weather events. That's why sceptics like to speak of a benign sounding "warming." Who, especially Canadians with our proverbial nine months of winter, could object to a bit more warmth in the world?

But change might become manifest in climate oscillations, there's evidence for that in the paleo-climate record on a scale not experience in the written record. And its certainly clear from archaeological studies that past climate changes have wiped mankind from whole regions of the earth.

My generation respects our parent's generation that beat back Hitler at often huge personal cost. How will future generations view our generation and the climate inheritance we are leaving? Will your descendants be victims or survivors of a climate catastrophe, or will it not be a challenge they are forced to face because, like our parents when faced with the imminent threat, we acted?

14 October 2009

An abomination

Checking out the developing Family Search site at http://search.labs.familysearch.org I tried a search on a family I've been investigating from my native county of Norfolk in England.

Why does the site insists that I search Norfolkshire, an abomination. Why not Suffolkshire, Essexshire, Kentshire, Sussexshire or Surreyshire?

Perhaps someone in Salt Lake Cityville has an explanation?

Irish Research 101 at LAC

Thursday, 15 October sees the first in this year's Friends of Library and Archives Canada Kaleidoscope lecture series.

Terry Findley of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa will talk about researching your Irish family using Library and Archives Canada genealogy resources.

At 5:00 pm
Salon A, Ground Floor
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N4
Admission: $5.00

13 October 2009

Conference success

This year's BIFHSGO conference has come and gone. Regular readers will know I really enjoyed the presentations by Colleen Fitzpatrick. It was good to learn someone else's research got a boost from her participation.

Post it notes from Hades is a blog written, very well written, by an anonymous BIFHSGO member. In a posting last month, More family historical hysteria, http://postitnotesfromhades.blogspot.com/2009/09/more-family-historical-hysteria.html she recounts how Colleen helped her take a step forward in her research. It's a worthwhile read as are the other genealogical posts.

It's not genealogical but I also enjoyed many of the blog;s other posts including the latest, Spin around ninjas, http://postitnotesfromhades.blogspot.com/2009/10/spin-around-ninjas.html. which introduced me to the phenomenon of literal videos, sure to brighten even the dullest day.

12 October 2009

Genealogy webinars .. how much to pay?

Back in January 2008 I blogged on "What's good value for a genealogy conference" - http://anglo-celtic-connections.blogspot.com/2008/01/whats-good-value-in-genealogy.html. At that time the cost per session at a conference was in the range of $8-16 per session - that's Canadian dollars. That ignores the opportunity cost - having a choice between parallel sessions - after all, you do only get to hear one presentation at a time - unless the walls between rooms are too thin!

So what should you pay to attend a webinar? Just so we're clear, paraphrasing the Wikipedia definition, a webinar is a type of web conference, typically one-way from the speaker to the audience, with limited audience interaction. It can be collaborative and include polling and question & answer sessions to allow participation between the audience and the presenter.

Would you pay $49.99 US for a webinar? That's the registration fee for a one hour webinar being offerred by Family Tree Magazine , the US version - www.familytreemagazine.com/, for a session at 7 p.m. EDT, October 21st on "Researching Your US Ancestors' Births, Marriages and Deaths Online."

Family Tree Magazine offers five previous webinars as recordings for the discounted price of $29.99 US. Naturally you don't get to ask questions or participate in any other real-time feedback.

Much more afford-ably, Ancestry is advertising a webinar "Best Strategies for Searching Ancestry.com", starting at 8 p.m EDT Wednesday, October 14, 2009. It's free, but you do need to register in advance.

You can undoubtedly expect a healthy dose of Ancestry spin along with the free education. Some people are seething mad at Ancestry`s new format of search. They prefer the old search forms, threaten to end their subscriptions if they are removed and asking that the old forms be returned as the default. I hope the moderator and presenters acknowledge these dissatisfied customers. I find the new search performs well, but you do need to modify your previous search strategies.

Ancestry have an archive of 10 past webinars, all free. Connect to these Ancestry offerings at http://learn.ancestry.com/LearnMore/Webinars.aspx

To be fair to Family Tree Magazine, they do offer a free monthly podcast. I could only access the September edition. Like the magazine it`s highly US-oriented.

Also on Family Tree Magazine, it is running a poll to find the top 40 blogs, and Anglo-Celtic Connections is nominated! It's in the highly competitive news blog category. With high-profile competition like: Olive Tree Genealogy, Megan's Roots World, GeneaNet Genealogy, About: Genealogy, Eastman's Online Genealogy Newslettter, DearMyrtle and The Ancestry Insider I doubt I`m jeopardizing a position in the top four by being critical of the cost of their webinars!

If you do want to vote you can do so, early and often, at http://www.familytreemagazine.com/article/40BestVoting

Atten ... shun!

York Region Branch OGS Meeting
Speaker: Glenn Wright
Topic:"Atten ... shun! Using Canadian Military Records for Family History and Genealogy"

Glenn will provide an overview of Canadian military organization (e.g., Militia, Permanent Force, volunteers etc), military events from the War of 1812 to the Second World War, a summary of relevant records, and helpful hints and suggestions for researching a military ancestor or event. He would encourage those planning to attend the meeting to bring any special research problems they have encountered and even documents or photographs and he will attempt to explain, elaborate and even provide an answer.

7:15 PM, Wednesday 14 October
Richmond Hill Public Library
1 Atkinson, Richmond Hill, Ontario

11 October 2009

The Obituary Daily Times

There are databases you know about but don't often have occasion to go to. For me the Obituary Daily Times fits into that category. A daily index of published obituaries, you can subscribe to it on Rootsweb, at GEN-OBIT, but to avoid being swamped I prefer using the search engine at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~obituary/ as required

It's an index so entries look like:

OVERTON, Mildred (OAKLEY); 93; Pittsfield MA; Berkshire Eagle; 2000-10-17; pixie

A search will find hits for the term anywhere in the item so beware surnames that are also locations.

There are instructions on the web site about getting the complete published obit.

You may also want to try Online Obituaries at www3.sympatico.ca/jacquest/online.htm which is particularly strong in recent Canadian obits.

10 October 2009

FreeBMD updated

The FreeBMD Database was last updated on Fri 9 Oct 2009 and currently contains 174,509,759 distinct records (223,662,340 total records).

Significant additions this update are births in 1847, 1856 and 1932-1940; marriages in 1917, 1920, 1928 and 1932-1949; deaths in 1932-1937.

LAC is improving security

As a follow-up to my previous posting http://anglo-celtic-connections.blogspot.com/2009/09/beware-at-lac.html, I received a phone call from the person in charge of security in the building at 395 Wellington. He told me about the actions taken to investigate the theft I mentioned, including reviewing security video, and improvements being made to security measures.

Action we can take individually is the first line of defence. That's nothing new. Report suspicious behaviour. Don't leave unattended anything you're not prepared to lose. If you feel vulnerable going in or out of the building, particularly in the dark, only do so with a trusted companion.

09 October 2009

A Colleen Fitzpatrick story - IV

The final part of the Orange County Register series of articles on forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick is at www.ocregister.com/articles/says-one-fitzpatrick-2597526-dna-case

FTDNA full mtDNA or 23andMe test

It had to happen. The price of DNA testing has been dropping as technology improves.

Now Family Tree DNA, www.familytreedna.com, the leader for many years in DNA tests for genealogy, are reducing their prices for their Full Mitochondria test. I'm tempted, but have also been thinking about getting a test through 23andMe.

Here's part of the message sent to existing clients by FTDNA:

"As you know, this (Full Mitochondria) test has continually dropped in price from its initial introduction at $895 in 2005. These price decreases were related to volume and workflow, translating productivity into economies of scale that allowed us to reduce prices to those customers interested in testing their full mitochondrial sequence.

Now Family Tree DNA is doing it again, but this time we are going to take advantage of new technology that will allow us to run more samples in less time, and the savings are substantial. We expect that this price decrease will hearken a new era of Full Mitochondria Testing for the entire Genealogy community!

We will jumpstart this new era of complete mtDNA testing with an aggressive price in order to build the comparative database to the levels that genetic genealogists will be able to use to answer precise ancestral and geographic questions.

So now on to the news that you've been waiting for. A new price for the full mtDNA test will be introduced in November but until then we are offering our current customers a promotional price through October 31st, 2009:

$179 (was $410) for those who have already tested up to HVR2 (the order item is HVR2 to MEGA)

$199 (was $420) for those who have already tested HVR1 (the order item is HVR1 to MEGA)"

What's the benefit you get with a Full Mitochondria test? According to the FTDNA FAQ:

- to determine the most extended haplogroup assignment according to currently published research, including the ability to refine the haplogroup assignment further as more research is published without the need for further testing.
- to identify whether a relationship is likely to be close or distant.
- to have the full sequence available to compare with research, to include in research, and to eliminate the need to perform additional mtDNA testing on the sample.

Remember, the information in mtDNA is strictly about the maternal line - mother's mother's mother's .... mother.

Now for 23andMe. Their analysis covers about 500,000 locations across all your DNA. That includes 2,000 of the 16,000+ mtDNA locations.

The recent news from them that attracted my attention is mentioned in a recent post by Blaine Bettinger, who blogs as the Genetic Genealogist. See the full posting at www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/2009/10/04/a-new-tool-for-genetic-genealogists-23andmes-relative-finder/. Of particular interest for the genealogist is 23andMe's new Relative Finder (in beta) which compares your autosomal SNP results to the results of others in the 23andMe database to determine matches. They claim that for more than 5000 individuals with European ancestry, 90% had at least one distant relative between 2nd and 8th degree cousins!

You also get the medical risk information described at www.23andme.com as part of the test result.

The 23andMe test costs $399US plus shipping - the price for a while now. Will it too come down?

I don't have discretionary funds to take both tests, but know which way I'm leaning.

08 October 2009

1911 England and Wales census subscriptions here, for some

Findmypast.com announces that "A fortnight (that's two weeks for the uninitiated) from now we will officially launch the first and only 1911 census subscription available anywhere online, making us the only site to offer a complete 1841-1911 census collection."

The announcement, sent to existing findmypast.com subscribers, continues "As a reward for your loyalty we’re offering you exclusive early access to the new subscription."

A limited time discount is also promised to new subscribers in an announcement at www.findmypast.com/1911census.jsp

New file-level descriptions for some WW1 records at LAC?

The following notices from LAC came into my RSS feed dated Mon, Oct 5 2009 4:37 PM.

New file-level descriptions have been created for records created and/or maintained by the 10th Canadian Reserve Battalion (1916-1919), a unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.). The records document many aspects of the unit's activities. These descriptions are an electronic version of finding aid 9-74.

New file-level descriptions have been created for the records of Witley Camp, dating from 1915-1919 (finding aid 9-73). Witley was a camp in Surrey, England that served as a base for the 5th Division of the C.E.F. and a training facility for infantry during the First World War. At the end of the war troops were assembled at Witley prior to their return to Canada and demobilization. These records document many aspects of the activities of the camp.

First World War records constitute some of the most frequently requested at LAC so it's not too surprising that these should be chosen.

For two days the clickable headlines on the items lead only to the message

Not Found

Now they lead to pages with links to 22 and 53 lower-level descriptions, too brief to be very helpful.

07 October 2009

A Colleen Fitzpatrick story - III

Here's the link for the third part of the Orange County Register story, this time on tracing the identity of a Titantic victim. www.ocregister.com/articles/fitzpatrick-child-dna-2595638-family-shoes

More on government infrastructure investment at LAC

A previous post commented on a government press release, Government of Canada update on Economic Action Plan Investments in the National Capital Region, which mentioned work being done at Library and Archives Canada's location at 395 Wellington St.

"PWGSC is making a number of upgrades to the building including: front entrance granite repairs and replacement of two high voltage transformers."

Information received from PWGSC is that "the total cost of the front entrance granite repairs project is almost $700,000. This is a multi-year project that was accelerated with funding from the Economic Action Plan and it will therefore be completed sooner than originally planned.

The total cost for replacing the transformers is approximately $500,000."

Irish digitized historic photographs online

Having recently got a lead on the possible origins of my mystery great-grandfather, John Marmon, I've been exploring Irish resources. A delightful collection, new to me, is of historic photographs from the National Library of Ireland.

Comprising over 20,000 images digitised from Poole Whole plate, Independent H, Lawrence Royal and part of the Lawrence Cabinet collections, they are online at low resolution with basic information, including title, date and location where available.

I did a search for Kilkeel, County Down, from where my ancestor may have originated, and was surprised to find a large number of hits. County Down is in Northern Ireland, not the Irish Republic, but then many of the images predate the Irish Republic.

As the description of the collection warns I found some of the image descriptions inaccurate, sometimes obviously just displaced by one image, and all of them brief with a rather wide associated date range. There are some good images of a church my ancestor probably would have known, both of the interior and exterior.

Did your mother (or any other ancestor) come from Ireland? If so you'll probably find a photo useful to illustrate your family history in this collection.

Find the collection at http://digital.nli.ie/cdm4/index_glassplates.php?CISOROOT=/glassplates

06 October 2009

A Colleen Fitzpatrick story - II

Go to www.ocregister.com/articles/fitzpatrick-mother-dna-2594366-maurice-says for the second part of the four part Orange County Register story, published today, Tuesday 6 October, on forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick.

Scottish Catholic Parish Registers of Births & Baptisms

Duncan McNiven, Registrar General for Scotland, mentioned during his presentation at BIFHSGO's annual conference last month that Roman Catholic parish records (CPR) were due to come to the Scotland's people website soon. Soon is today, at least for records of births and baptisms from 1703 to 1955, but the Scotland's People website is careful to manage expectations about the dataset.

"Do not expect too much from CPR birth & baptism records. The amount of information recorded can be variable and in many cases will contain little information over and above that contained in the index entry."

At best: name of the child, whether legitimate or not, date of birth and/or date of baptism, father's name, mother's name and maiden surname, place or parish of residence, occupation of the father and names (and sometimes occupations) of witnesses. Occasionally, as in, for example, Ardkenneth, witnesses' relationship to the child (if any) may be recorded.

At worst: the mother's name is not recorded at all between certain years, or the entry does not record the sex of the child and the name is ambiguous.

That's part of the help file at http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/content/help/index.aspx?r=554&1374 which includes a link to a list and map of parishes. You may find other helpful information at www.scottishcatholicarchives.org.uk/.

Not all the records are Scottish. They include records of the RC Bishopric of the Forces for British service men and women serving in the armed forces worldwide.

Connect to the records at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk .

Disease and Distress in Toronto

Every year in November the Toronto branch of OGS puts on a workshop on some specialized aspect of family history. Last year the topic was London, England. This year it's on how our ancestors handled adversity.

Although the workshop isn't until Saturday, November 28, 2009, the workshops sell out early and you need to register well in advance to ensure a space. You can look at the program at www.torontofamilyhistory.org/doom.html.

One of the presentations, Murder, Mayhem and Town Tragedy, will be given by Lisa A. Alzo remotely from her home in Ithaca, New York. You will hear Lisa’s voice, see her PowerPoint slides, and be able to ask questions. Will it catch on? I've heard of some disasters when people have tried this, but the technology does seem to be improving. Both the speaker and the audience benefit from losing the stress of travel, with the trade-off being missing out on the human interaction we all value.

Beechwood Cemetery walking tour 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009 saw the 15th annual historical walking tour of Beechwood Cemetery. Sponsored by the Ottawa Citizen for the Friends of Beechwood Cemetery the tour featured stops at the graves of eight notable Ottawa journalists, Philip Dansken Ross, Hamilton Southam, Nicholas Flood Davin, Alexander Smyth Woodburn, Archibald Blue, Robert Murdoch MacLeod, Fulgence Charpentier, and Jean Caroline Galloway.

Although rain threatened it held off until the very end of the tour and participants enjoyed a walk through the cemetery grounds which are particularly picturesque as the trees take on their autumnal colours.

05 October 2009

Do you need research at Library and Archives Canada?

Although Library and Archives Canada have several of their most popular data sets online, either on their own website at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/index-e.html or through their partnership with ancestry.ca, there is still a lot of information that can only be obtained by going to LAC, or having someone do the research for you.

If your request is fairly straightforward you may find LAC staff able to help you directly. There is a range of client services described at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/contact/index-e.html. You access this help through one of the online forms: Ask Us a Question Form; Genealogy Inquiry Form (including requests for military service personnel files), or one of the other means described at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/contact/index-e.html. This is a free service, but the amount of time they will spend on your query is limited and you will have to pay for any documents you want sent to you. The backlog on the service can get quite long.

You may also get free help by sending an email to Al Lewis at the Bytown or Bust website (scroll way down to the bottom of the page at www.bytown.net ) who may post your query on his site, especially if its has an Irish-Ottawa Valley connection. Also, don't overlook the option of posting a query to a Rootsweb mailing list, they are still in business although traffic is way down. Try CAN-ONT-CARLETON for Ottawa area queries.

If you want more prompt, personal, and professional (or semi-professional) help you may wish to retain the services of one of the freelance researchers listed at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/the-public/005-2060-e.html. The researchers are listed in alphabetic name order with brief information on their specialty and qualifications where provided. No, I'm not on the list as I don't provide that type of service. If you're considering retaining one of them it's a good idea to Google the name to get a perspective on how active they are, especially in the type of problem for which you're looking for help.

04 October 2009

National Institute of Genealogical Studies 10th anniversary

Congratulations to the National Institute of Genealogical Studies who today, Sunday October 4th 2009, marked their 10th anniversary. This must make them the oldest/largest online genealogical education program, now offering approximately 150 online courses, and a Canadian success story.

Louise St-Denis, Institute Director, has announced a move of the Institute from the Continuing Education Department at the University of Toronto to St. Michael's College, also at U. of T. The change probably won't the noticeable for students, but does perhaps reflect that online courses are becoming increasingly part of the regular university way of doing business.

To mark the 10th anniversary all registrations received from October 4th through October 14th will receive 10% off. This includes all packages of courses as well as single courses, so the discount could be well worth while for a full package.

Louise tells me that to received this 10% discount you process your registration online at www.genealogicalstudies.com for the regular registration fee. You receive your discount by mailing your receipt for online payment to (admin@genealogicalstudies.com) who will refund your credit card for the 10%.

A Colleen Fitzpatrick story - I

The Orange County Register is running a series on Colleen Fitzpatrick, speaker at the recent BIFHSGO annual conference, and her search for the origins of a man who lost his memory. Read the first section at www.ocregister.com/articles/fitzpatrick-says-dna-2591767-nothing-do

via Dick Eastman's blog

Witness ... on the BBC World Service

The BBC World Service (Radio) is launching a new daily history programme at the end of October to be called Witness. It will focus on the memories and testimonies of people who lived through historic events.

It "will mix those testimonies with material from the BBC's audio archive - to tell personal stories on air. Not just the war, but scientific discoveries, social changes, sporting events, art, fashion… really we're interested in hearing from anyone who has a story to tell."

The person to contact is Kirsty Reid, Editor, Analysis, BBC World Service Radio. (44) 207 557 1497 (no email address given).

via FFHS

03 October 2009

TNA podcast - civilian honours and awards

This short presentation by William Spencer, author of Medals: The Researcher's Guide, was originally given on 22 September 2009 at Kew. It focuses on how to find information on the WW2 period.

The London Gazette is a crucial source for announcements of awards giving information on name, award and sometimes a citation. Spencer's presentation explains how the Gazette information can be used to access other records, especially the recommendation that was submitted to justify why the award should be given. These are found in a variety of files depending on the award given.

Access at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/podcasts/civilian-honours-and-awards.htm

British railway ancestors

The Society of Genealogists have added a list of railway staff, just names, at York Locomotive Shed for the period ca 1900-1930 to the members only areas on their web site.

Included are drivers and firemen along with the fitters employed within the shed, now rebuilt to form the National Railway Museum.

(posted by Frank Hardy on the SOG-UK list)

02 October 2009

Beechwood Cemetery walking tour

Sunday, October 4, 2009 sees Ottawa's popular Beechwood Cemetery tour. The theme this year is Journalists of Beechwood.

The event is four months later than previous, good for avoiding bugs and extreme heat. According to the forecast it should be cloudy, 40% chance of showers and a high in the upper teens. That's ideal walking weather if we dodge the rain. With the rain we've had recently it will likely be muddy anyway.

Refreshments will be served after the tour.

Beechwood National Memorial Centre,
280 Beechwood Avenue, Ottawa

For more information call: 613-741-9530

French-Canadian Newspapers: An Essential Historical Source (1808-1919)

Celebrate the arrival of some digitized newspapers from LAC. There's not much Anglo-Celtic about them, but I wanted to acknowledge that LAC has made an effort.

The contents are selected French-language newspapers from across Canada, in a digitized fully-searchable format. These newspapers form the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collection of first, final and special editions of French-Canadian newspapers.

That means that mostly there are no long runs of papers, just one or two issues. The exceptions are:

Le Courrier du Canada. Québec, QC (312 issues).
L'Évangéline. Weymouth Bridge, NS (80 issues).
L'Évangéline. Weymouth, NS (80 issues).
Le Libéral. Québec, QC (25 issues).
La Gazette d'Ottawa. Ottawa, ON (224 issues).

All the papers I examined were four pages, so there is a bit over 4,000 pages in the collection, the equivalent of four years of a six day a week four page daily paper.

You can search the whole collection together, or select on a geographical or temporal basis. The search results show as a list of issues in which there are hits. Select one and display a page. It come up as a pdf, then search the pdf for the target word which will be highlighted in the text.

That's a bit of a clumsy search procedure, but it does seem effective.

01 October 2009

Government infrastructure investment at LAC

A press release, Government of Canada update on Economic Action Plan Investments in the National Capital Region, announces a total of over $88 million for repair and restoration work in federal buildings, bridges and facilities in more than 60 projects in the National Capital Region. It includes mentioned of work being done at 395 Wellington St.

"PWGSC is making a number of upgrades to the building including: front entrance granite repairs and replacement of two high voltage transformers."

In the case of the front entrance granite repairs this is work that has been going on for 18 months, well before the government economic action plan, as the result of an employee tripping and breaking an arm. Quite why this work has been dragged out for so long by Public Works is likely as much a mystery to LAC as it is to the rest of us.

The announcement refers to the building as the "National Library and Public Archives." apparently news of the organization name change several years ago has yet to reach PWGSC!

Genealogy in Hertfordshire

If your family roots go back to the English home country of Hertfordshire you may be interested in the information at www.hertfordshire-genealogy.co.uk/home.htm which is just updated.

Some additional data has been added to a site a mentioned in July, the Hertfordshire Monumental Inscriptions site at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/jeffery.knaggs/MIs.html