28 February 2010

Book review: The Great Filth

When Victoria became Queen in 1837, just 10 days before the start of civil registration, the annual death rate in England and Wales was 22 per thousand. By the time she died in 1901 the rate was less than 15.

The Great Filth by Stephen Halliday tells the story of how this was achieved despite a mass population movement to less healthy cities; 30% urban in the first census in 1801, 78% a century later. It's the story of the fight against squalor, poor housing, dirty water, sewage, ignorance and laissez-faire greed.

The major part of the book is devoted to the roles of scientists, doctors, public servants, midwives, engineers and highlights the work of the various champions within those professions. For Halliday the real champions are the engineers, like Joseph Bazalgette who was responsible for London's sewage system. He slams the medical profession, with a few exceptions like Dr John Snow, who did everything to protect their income and resist simple measures like handwashing -- "gentlemen don't have dirty hands."

He also condemns public servants and politicians who saw their role as restricted to defending the realm, administering the law and keeping taxes low, a philosophy in which they were joined by the affluent and influential.

The emphasis in the book is on London, a city which Halliday has studied in depth, but other cities are not overlooked, especially Liverpool. In 1841 one inhabitant in 29 died each year in Liverpool compared to one in 37 in London, a result of overcrowded unsanitary court housing. I was not aware of the extent to which 1847 saw Liverpool's situation made even worse by the Irish escaping the potato famine. Over 60,000 refugees swelled the city population in the first half of the year, one of my ancestors was likely among them. Many more landed and went on elsewhere. For those who stayed the conditions were an invitation to disease which arrived in the form of cholera in 1849 at a rate three times that in London.

I enjoyed the approach which profiled some of the individuals involved. The major figures are included in the text while profiles of important but less significant players are in boxes. Only in a couple of places did the personal profiles distracted from the flow of the narrative.

You can order The Great Filth at Amazon.ca link, and at a much higher price from Chapters-Indigo; or do as I did and borrow it from the library.

27 February 2010

Dictionary of Victorian London

Issue 92 of the National Archives Ancestors magazine is a special London themed issue. I've enjoyed many of the articles on the social history of the metropolis and have a few more to read.

The most intriguingly titled "Rollerskating through Victorian London" is a short interview with Lee Jackson, author of historical novels that focus on Victorian London.

The article gives a taste of Jackson's encyclopedic knowledge. You can see more of it in his Dictionary of Victorian London at www.victorianlondon.org, and even more so on his intriguingly titled blog, which he calls an appendix to the dictionary, at http://catsmeatshop.blogspot.com.

Together they open a cornucopia of other resources ... be careful following the links or before you know it hours will have slipped away.

The photo is © Andrew Dunn, 19 September 2004. Website: http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com/

26 February 2010

Attention Human Genetic History Buffs

There are a couple of people who read this blog interested in their deeper roots -- more anthropology than genealogy. It's not for everyone. Here for them, via the 23andMe blog, The Spittoon, is a nice collection of technical review articles

Attention Human Genetic History Buffs

Posted using ShareThis

Ottawa U history prof laments LAC service

Galen Perras, University of Ottawa history professor, writes in a letter to the editor in today's Globe and Mail:

"For years customer service to the public has been under attack at LAC (Library and Archives Canada) from those who advocate "records management" rather than true interaction with LAC's public clients. Service hours have been cut and I can attest, having visited almost 150 archives on three continents, that LAC's service to the public is among the very worst I have seen."

Despite LAC having responded to the outcry when management reduced hours three years ago Perras is right. A services advisory board was established then, but now appears to have been disbanded. On almost all counts public clients remain an afterthought at LAC.

At the UK National Archives order a document and you will get delivery within 40 minutes. Go to the area where documents are delivered and you can see tubs arriving on a conveyor belt and staff scurrying to make the items available quickly. It's clear they value the client's time. On my last visit when an item did not arrive on time the person in charge hurried away, found some information had to be redacted, and presented me with a free colour copy within 10 minutes.

At Library and Archives Canada even a simple WW1 service file takes at least a day to arrive from another building. Even documents in the building take 90 minutes to arrive, a service standard recently degraded from 60 minutes,

Such anecdotal evidence is instructive, but where is the benchmarking LAC should be doing to compare it's service to similar leading institutions internationally?

LAC is now tinkering around the edges with a modernization initiative, which means repriorizing when what the organization needs is a root and branch review. Ordering such a review is the role of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, James Moore. Moore could be helped along by members of the Commons Committee on Canadian Heritage: Chair; Gary Ralph Schellenberger, Vice-Chairs; Carole Lavallée, Pablo Rodriguez, Members; Charlie Angus, Rod Bruinooge, Dean Del Mastro, Ruby Dhalla, Jacques Gourde, Nina Grewal, Roger Pomerleau, Scott Simms, Tim Uppal. However, judging by the issues they are dealing with in committee they seem oblivious to their role with LAC.

The situation is a sad, sad reflection of the reality that our government regards our national heritage more as an opportunity for press releases than something to be treasured and celebrated.

Deceasedonline.com adds Cambridge, Gainsborough and London (Brent) Cemeteries

UK site deceasedonline.com has just added approximately 220,000 records for: Cambridge City, Gainsborough (in the county of Lincolnshire) and two cemeteries in London, Wembley and Willesden.

You can do a free search without payment. Details on the additions are:

For Cambridge

Cambridge City Crematorium, Huntingdon Road, Girton, Cambridge, CB3 0JJ.

Approximately 32,000 burial and 143,000 cremation records are available, with a mixture of register scans and computerised records. Maps showing the exact locations of graves and digital photographs of headstones are also expected to be added.

Newmarket Road Cemetery also known as Cambridge City Cemetery - Added 23 February 2010
Burials numbered 1 to 31,912, dated 3 June 1903 to 28 June 2005, are available as burial register scans in various formats at between 10 and 20 entries per scanned page. Subsequent data is available only as fully computerised records. In some cases data is available in both scan and computerised form. This has been done where each source contributes different valuable information, e.g. death and denomination (and sometimes occupation) in the computerised record, and death registration detail in the scan.

Cambridge City Crematorium - Added 23 February 2010
Cremations 1 to 104,953, dated 21 December 1938 to 28 June 1996, are available as cremation register scans at 8 entries per page. Cremations from 29 June 1996 are available only as fully computerised records and there are no associated register scans.

Huntingdon Road Cemetery
This is a new cemetery. Data for this cemetery will become available from next year as computerised records only.

Histon Road Cemetery
The Histon Road cemetery was managed and run by Cambridge City Council until 2007. It has since been passed to The Friends of Histon Road Cemetery, and the records for Histon Road cemetery and Mill Road Cemetery are held at Shire Hall. The records for this cemetery are not available on Deceased Online.

Mill Road Cemetery
The records for Mill Road Cemetery are held at Shire Hall, and are not available on Deceased Online.

For Gainsborough

Gainsborough House, 18 Parnell Street, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, DN21 2NB.

Approximately 24,000 burial records are available, with a mixture of register scans and computerised records. Maps showing the exact locations of graves are also expected to be added.

Gainsborough General Cemetery also known informally as Cox's Hill Cemetery - Added 22 February 2010

Burials numbered 1 to 23,930, dated 1 September 1875 to 23 October 2009, are available as burial register scans in various formats at between 8 and 20 entries per scanned page. Subsequent data is only available as full computerised records.

For the London Borough of Brent

Willesden Old Burial Ground (St Marys) - Added 22 February 2010

12,373 burials dated from 1865 to 6 October 2006 are available, as scans of the grave registers. There have been no further burials to 31 December 2008. Maps should be available at some time in the future, but a release date has not been determined. The information on the scans includes owner and owner address where applicable, together with details of others burials in the same grave. When a successful search shows further information available, this will often show both "Grave details and 'n' other burials" and "Burial register scan". The scan is actually taken from the graves register, and viewing the "Grave details and 'n' other burials" will add no further information, except a best effort at transcribing the names of the persons buried.

Wembley Old Burial Ground (St Johns) - Added 22 February 2010

1,461 burials dated from 28 March 1877 to 24 May 1977 are available, as scans of the grave registers. There have been no further burials to 31 December 2008. Maps should be available at some time in the future, but a release date has not been determined. The information on the scans includes owner and owner address where applicable, together with details of others burials in the same grave. When a successful search shows further information available, this will often show both "Grave details and 'n' other burials" and "Burial register scan". The scan is actually taken from the graves register, and viewing the "Grave details and 'n' other burials" will add no further information, except a best effort at transcribing the names of the persons buried.

25 February 2010

FindMyPast adds London Collection

Findmypast.co.uk launched their London Collection last week. The content is mainly index information, some that's been on the site for a while, such as the City of London Burials Index. Some is new to the site. The complete list is:

* City of London Burial Index – records from all the churches in the City of London from 1813 to 1890
* West Middlesex Marriage Index – detailing 84,863 marriages in 61 parishes from 1538 to 1837
* London Docklands Baptisms – comprising 407,558 baptisms for London's docklands areas 1712 to 1933
* London and West Kent Probate Indexes – mainly detailing wills and administrations from 1750 to 1858
* The Matchworkers' Strike – listing participants of the strike of over 700 men, women and teenage boys and girls working at the Bryant and May factory in East London in 1888, the same year as the Jack the Ripper murders.


Smith and Jones

Do you have a Smith as an ancestor? If not maybe you're on the wrong planet.

According to Wikipedia Smith is the most common surname in English-speaking countries. It's number one in Australia, England, Scotland, the USA, and probably New Zealand. It's 2nd in Canada, 5th in the Ireland, and 12th in Wales.

An article in the Summer 1976 issue of Population Trends, Smith and Jones: surnames in 1853 and 1975, examines entries in civil registration registers for both marriages and deaths in England and Wales. What surprised me was the comment that there are more entries for Jones than Smith in several years of the early period.

The 1841 census indexed by Ancestry has 210,040 Smiths in England, 2,376 in Wales, a total of 212,416. Jones is found 122,723 times in Wales, 86,713 in England, a total of 209,436. With more Smiths than Joneses I'd expect more Smith civil registrations.

These days it's simple and only slightly laborious to compile civil registration statistics from FreeBMD. That database is almost complete for this early period with only a single quarter missing more than 5% of events.

From the start of civil registration in July 1837 to the end of 1853 there were 2,815 more Smith births registered than Joneses, 132 more Smith deaths. Surprisingly there were 2,849 more Jones marriages than Smith. In only three of those years were there more Smith marriages.

Overall for the period there were only 98 more Smith than Jones events registered, but 10 years had more Jones events registered.

The lesson is you can't always take the number of registration events as a good index or surrogate for population.

24 February 2010

Ancestry adds England, Alien Arrivals, 1810-1811, 1826-1869

Ancestry.co.uk have added a data collection containing lists of aliens (non-British citizens) arriving in England between 1810 and 1869.

"The records come from the following National Archives collection series. These records were primarily created as a result of various acts passed by parliament to regulate immigrants and other incoming individuals.

  • FO 83/21-22: Lists of aliens arriving at English ports, August 1810-May 1811; 2 volumes of original lists created under an act passed in 1793 “for establishing regulations respecting Aliens arriving at this Kingdom, or resident therein, in certain cases”
  • HO 2: Certificates of alien arrivals, 1836-1852; 236 volumes of original certificates arranged by port of arrival
  • HO 3: Returns of alien passengers, July 1836-December 1869 (with a gap from January 1861 to December 1866); returns made of alien passengers on ships arriving at British ports as required by the Aliens Act, beginning in 1836; formerly known as Lists of Immigrants; also includes some papers on the drafting of the Act, its administration, and proposals for its revision
  • CUST 102/393-396 Accounts of aliens arriving at London (July-November 1826) and Gravesend (October 1826-August 1837); arranged by certificate of arrival number

The exact information recorded in each collection varies, but generally the following type of information is listed:

  • Name of alien
  • Port of arrival
  • Date of arrival
  • Ship
  • Country of origin, nativity, and/or nationality
  • Age
  • Profession
  • Certificate number"
London appears to be the most common port of arrival. Other ports I found are: Dover, Folkestone, Glasgow, Grimsby, Harwich, Hull, Kings Lynn, Leith, Newhaven, Southampton, Yarmouth. Some people are shown as in transit, likely to North America. Hull was a popular transit port for people who would travel overland for their trans-Atlantic passage from Liverpool.

Gene-O-Rama registration

A quick reminder that the fast approaching early-bird deadline for registration for the OGS Ottawa Branch Gene-O-Rama 2010, this year being held at Library and Archives Canada, 26-27 March.

You can save $5 by registering by the end of February, and more by taking advantage of registering online and not having to find an envelope and stamp.

Information is at http://ogsottawa.on.ca/?page_id=101

23 February 2010

More on The Ottawa Citizen digitized

Since the announcement of the availability of archives of the Ottawa Citizen online on Google in an article by Kelly Egan in the Citizen of 3 Feb. 2010 (p. B1) folks have been trying it out. This posting draws heavily, with permission, on material Prof. Bruce Elliott of Carleton University's History Department as well as my own trials.

Go to www.google.ca; click on NEWS, then on ADVANCED NEWS SEARCH (at top right), the on ARCHIVE SEARCH (for articles more than 30 days ago), then on ADVANCED NEWS SEARCH again. Under SOURCE type Ottawa Citizen, and enter your search terms under FIND RESULTS. There are four options: all words, exact phrase, at least one of the words, and without the words. All words seems to work best. Remember to be creative in coming up with keywords. The more letters in the words you search the more likely you will miss a hit owing to OCR errors.

The rationale for the order in which results appear is obscure, perhaps based on the number of times the search word occurs in the article or how close to the top of the article it occurs.

You can click on the graphs at the top of the results screen to narrow the date, or click on SEARCH OTHER DATES. Try the date range from 1800 to the present. Although the first issue of The Citizen under that title was supposedly published on 22 February 1851, Google's approach to assigning dates to papers has created earlier editions!

Just as you have may have gone to a handy newspaper to check the date, Google used dates found in the paper itself as the date to which it is indexed. The OCR can cause problems, and you will, for example, find issues from 1920 indexed in 1820 and articles from 1959 in 1950. I found one case where an incorrect year was published in the original paper which Google used for its index.

I also stumbled across a mirror image copy of two successive pages.

There are major gaps in the survival of the newspaper in the 1850s and 1870s, but the omissions in the Google news version are more extensive than that. For example, Ottawa Valley Marble Works in Arnprior ran an ad in every issue for several years 1859-61, with the name of the town appearing in each ad twice, once in upper case and once in lower. A search on MARBLE turns up a number of occurrences; a search on ARNPRIOR turns up none.

OCR problems are common. One needs to experiment with various search terms. There is a button "Flag this edition as unreadable". It would be great if Google adopted the National Library of Australia system for adding corrections.

Once you have a hit you can manoeuvre around the page by manipulating the blue rectangle in the thumbnail at top right, and browse back and forth within an issue of the paper. You can enlarge and reduce the image using the buttons on the toolbar. The FULL SCREEN button is the box with four arrows in the toolbar; it allows you to see a little more of the page at once.

"Archive Search Help" explains some of the subtleties and provides a "Get in touch" button that allows you to ask questions: a good step forward as it has been difficult to direct comments or questions to Google in the past.

There are inevitable gaps but it is a free resource, so we should be grateful for it as a 10% full glass rather than 90% empty.

22 February 2010

Ideas from the National Library of Wales

I have a small amount of Welsh ancestry but have never researched at the National Library of Wales. My father and his mother where born in Wales. Prior generations had moved there, likely in connection with the Cotton Panic in Lancashire when supplies of raw cotton were cut off during the US Civil War.

I've written often about the resources at TNA, the UK National Archives, and how looking at what other organizations do should be an inspiration to others.

Judging by a short video at www.llgc.org.uk/index.php?id=2 there are also some ideas, and attitudes, there that could be food for thought for those providing client service elsewhere.

21 February 2010

New Ottawa City Archives

Construction on the archives is progressed noticeably in the two months since I was last there.

The top image is taken from the corner of Woodroffe and Tallwoods, the north-east corner of the site.

This image is from the northwest corner of the construction site. Both photos were taken on Saturday 20 February 2010.

20 February 2010

TNA podcast: Fashion or ration

A short presentation by Robert Daoust from Feb 4, 2010, who speaks on how the fashionable woman of the Second World War and post war era (sometimes) managed to remain chic in a climate of rationing.

Focusing on the leading fashion designers Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies, and using sources from The National Archives, the talk considers the fashion industry of the time, and reveals how they not only contributed to the war effort and made a lasting impact on British style. The presentation is quite humorous.


19 February 2010

Ancestry.com growth in 2009

Ancestry.com grew healthily in 2009, beating analysts estimates, as announced in a press release on its annual report http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Ancestrycom-Inc-Reports-prnews-2525584512.html?x=0

  • Subscribers totaled 1,066,000 as of December 31, 2009, a 17% increase over 2008.
  • Subscriber additions were 165,000 in Q4 2009, a 15% increase over Q4 2008.
  • Monthly Subscriber Churn(1) decreased to 3.6% in Q4 2009 compared to 4.0% in Q4 2008 and flat with 3.6% in Q3 2009.
  • Subscriber acquisition cost(2) in Q4 2009 was $85.21, compared to $79.26 in Q4 2008 and $70.55 in Q3 2009, reflecting investments in new television commercials for both our domestic and international markets.
  • Average Monthly Revenue per Subscriber(3) in Q4 2009 was $16.67, compared to $16.45 in Q4 2008 and $16.48 in Q3 2009.
The company forecasts the number of subscribers will be in the range of 1,200,000 to 1,225,000 by the end of 2010.

18 February 2010

RIP John Babcock - Canada's last WW1 veteran

News soures are reporting the death of John Henry Foster "Jack" Babcock the last known surviving veteran of the Canadian military to have served in the First World War. He was born July 23, 1900

"Mr. Babcock joined the military at the age of 16, but because of his age he wasn’t allowed on the frontlines.

He spent his final years living in Spokane, Washington."

Better competition in UK genealogy online

Brightsolid, parent of FindMyPast.co.uk has won regulatory approval to buy Friends Reunited and Genes Reunited, with the regulator seeing the acquisition adding a stronger competitor for Ancestry.co.uk.

Read more via Chris Paton's Scottish Genealogy News and Events blog at http://scottishancestry.blogspot.com/2010/02/brightsolid-can-complete-purchase-of.html

Europe to America

Wednesday was a travel day for me, from London's Heathrow airport back to Ottawa. For the past few weeks I've been enjoying several history programs on BBC TV, including the "Seven Ages of Britain." "Empire of the Seas" was the story of the Royal Navy told in four hour-long episodes by British-Canadian author and broadcaster Dan Snow. His books include "Death or Victory - the battle of Quebec and the birth of Empire."

The only genealogy program was "Heir Hunters" which is case studies of probate research in England and Wales, mainly featuring the company Fraser and Fraser.

Unfortunately these programs are behind a UK-only firewall.

From British history I switched to American, in the shape of the second episode of Henry Gates PBS series, "Faces of America" www.pbs.org/wnet/facesofamerica/. The program aims to answer the questions "What made America? What makes us?"

Gates was shown presenting documents from the life's of various celebrities and then putting their experiences in context. The focus on Wednesday was on immigration stories. I enjoyed the program but found the approach ready to forgive the transgressions of the US government and society, as in Japanese internment and Irish immigrant support for the South during Civil War, but ready to soft-peddle unbridled British capitalism during the Irish Potato Famine. I wonder if lack of a national health care system and similar US unbridled capitalism will feature in upcoming episodes in discussing "What makes us?"

In the meantime the CBC seems devoid of historical content, and History Television Canada has sunk to the level of "Ice Road Truckers."

17 February 2010

Massive give-away of genealogical data

Ever wanted to own the whole 1901 Census of England & Wales on approximately 17,000 used microfiche? Or microfilms of the equivalent censuses from 1841 to 1891? It may be your lucky day. TNA is giving away used copies surplus to their requirements, one of each, in a lottery.

There are many other genealogical datasets as well.

Further information at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/news/424.htm

These being given away is just one more sign of how much how we access these records has changed with digitization ... and that's a good thing.

16 February 2010

Family Tree DNA does catchup

For nearly 10 years Family Tree DNA has been the leader in DNA for genealogy. They have the most clients which is key if you're trying to establish links with others -- say in finding a link between families with the same surname using Y-DNA.

However, in the past two years FTDNA saw their leadership position being eroded as companies like 23andMe marketed tests using autosomal DNA. Many in the field have been wondering why FTDNA have not moved into the area.

Now they're moving.

Under the title "Family Finder" Starting mid-March FTDNA will offer tests of blocks of DNA across the 22 autosomal chromosomes finding matches between people other than the direct paternal and maternal lines. They are marketing the test as having the capability of "finding five generations of family."

A post on the Rootsweb Genealogy-DNA newsgroup indicates they will test "well over 500,000 HapMap SNPs," and the price is $249." If true that is about equivalent to the test offered by 23andMe, but at a significantly reduced price.

I expect to be writing on developments as they occur.

IFLA newspaper conference

I stumbled on this notice which listed nations sending representatives

"Newspaper librarians and archivists from India, Finland, Australia, the U.S., the U.K., France, Sweden, Germany, South Africa, Singapore, Bangladesh and elsewhere will participate."

Notice any omission?

15 February 2010

London, England, School Admissions and Discharges, 1841-1911

Ancestry has initiated a volunteer project to index these records under their World Archives Project. According to the Ancestry blog:

"The London, England, School Admissions and Discharges, 1841-1911 were released last week – there are currently 350 contributors working on the project and they have already keyed 65,000 records! This collection is comprised of records for millions of students (names and birth dates) who attended school in London for a time period spanning over 150 years. Many times the records also include the names of the students parents so there is a wealth of knowledge available in this collection. These records are handwritten but are recorded in easy to follow forms. For additional information about this project you can refer to the Project page, the help article, or message board."

14 February 2010

Parish records at familyrelatives.com

The Your Family Tree blog has an announcement of interest .... "records from around 60 parishes across all areas of England, plus one from Abergavenny in Wales and records from Dunblane in Perthshire, Scotland. Records range from 1538 to 1900 and are scanned and indexed from existing printed transcriptions of the originals. They cover a mixture of baptisms, marriages and burials."


13 February 2010

Half a day at TNA

There's a new home page at The (UK) National Archives for use by visitors to the building.

I spent a while browsing in the TNA reference library, and found my way to an impressive Canadian section. Here's a small part.

With all the resources available at TNA without needing a reader card it's no wonder an estimated 90% of people researching there don't use one. Its been a while since my research required one, so when it did I had to get a new one. The registration office is now on the top floor, up two flights of stairs. A driver's license and credit card was all that was needed for identification.

I ordered the document I wanted, with the assistance of a helpful staff member, and then went
for lunch in the cafeteria and checked my email at the cybercafe. There was a slight hiccup with
my order which didn't appear in the delivery box corresponding to my seat as promised. I was impressed by the energy the staff were putting into unloading the documents, but mine didn't come. It turned out some of the information had to be redacted so I received a free colour photocopy rather than viewing the original.

Audrey Collins gave a talk on newspaper archives, one I'd tried to hear in January. Owing to technical difficulties this time it was not recorded so won't become a podcast. However, the good news is that owing to the popularity of the podcasts TNA plans on recording some podcasts specially rather than during a public presentation. That should improve the sound quality. Hopefully they'll also provide the visuals.

Amongst the things I learnt from Audrey were that the Newspaper Library suffered bomb damage
during WW2 which destroyed some holdings from the 1890s; and that they have significant holdings of non-UK newspapers, with the English language papers from Colonial India
being especially useful.

12 February 2010

Best genealogy software

The March 2010 issue of Your Family Tree magazine comes in a "collector's pack" containing
a second magazine "Computing for Family Historians." Magazine editor Russell James in the
forward mentions that their research finds nine out of ten genealogists own a computer,
and 87% use it every day.

The content of that bonus second magazine is general computer oriented material, possibly
taken from the company's other publications and given a genealogical twist. The only specifically
genealogical article is a group test of genealogical software.

Included in the test are Family Historian 4, Family Tree Maker 2010, Legacy Family Tree 7 deluxe
edition, Personal Ancestral File 5.2 and Roots Magic 4 UK. Also evaluated is the Ancestry.co.uk's
(not different from the Ancestry.com or Ancestry.ca) capability to store your family tree online.

The software is evaluated on six criteria: making a start; entering family data (including sourcing)
; moving around your tree; see the bigger picture (charting); read all about it (reports); and handling multimedia.

Although they declare a winner none of the programs was top rated on more than two of the criteria. The top rated program excelled on charting and multimedia.

Surprising to me is what the tests failed to evaluate. Mapping capability is mentioned but was apparently not part of the evaluation. There was no mention of direct integration with online databases. It was unclear as to the extend the ability to develop special reports answering questions such as "which person in the database should I be able to find in the 1881 census" could be answered.

I won't reveal the magazine's top choice so as not to give away the ending for those buying the magazine.

11 February 2010

BIFHSGO February Meeting

10:00 a.m., 13 February at Library & Archives Canada 395 Wellington Street

"Just Names on a List? Let's Take Another Look at Passenger Manifest" by Glenn Wright

Ottawa folks know that the opportunity to hear Glenn Wright is not to be missed.

10 February 2010

More on British 19th century newspapers

Chris Paton on his SGNE blog has news of the update to the British Library 19th century newspapers database, not totally good news.


TNA podcast: Tracing ancestors in Nelson's Navy

A shortish presentation by Bruno Pappalardo from 20 October 2009, it is an overview of the essential finding aids and documents held by The National Archives which can be used to trace ancestors who served in Nelson's Navy. Emphasizes the need to different approaches for officers and ratings, and information available in TNA's catalogue.

Solid information, if not particularly entertaining.


09 February 2010

Is LAC satisfied with its consultation

In December Library and Archives Canada posted several documents they called Pathfinders which addressed issues they consider important for the organization modernization initiative. They called for consultation input, and invited others to post the pathfinders on their own websites.

I was interested to see if anyone had followed up on the invitation, so googled "Rethinking the Stewardship of Newspapers in a Digital Age" the title of one of the pathfinders. There were ten hits, including LAC's own posting and this blog's announcement.

That doesn't seem like much attention in response to what must have been a substantive effort.

Is LAC management satisfied with the response? If not what additional steps are they taking to obtain comments?

08 February 2010

Genealogy for beginners, or refresher

Although we call the half day session "BEGINNING GENEALOGY-The First Steps"

Take your first steps in genealogy with the Beginners Course, to be hosted by the British Isles Family History Society if Greater Ottawa, to be held 20 March 2010, LAC Exhibition Hall A at 9:00am until noon.

Syllabus: Seven Golden Rules, Census Records, Civil Registration, and Local Resources.
Speakers: John D. Reid, Glenn Wright, Alison Hare and Lesley Anderson.
Course sponsored by BIFHSGO & the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.

If you would like to attend please print, fill-in and mail (to the address provided on the form) the registration form. Note that registration is limited and that the corresponding course in 2009 filled up, so early registration is recommended.

A hint. Resources now available mean that if you began your family history research some years ago, and let it drop, you can benefit from these talks to learn about the new developments. The session makes a great refresher.

07 February 2010

TNA podcast - Medieval warfare: sources and approaches

This talk by Adrian Jobson and James Ross won't likely be of much direct relevance for family history, but interesting for history buffs nevertheless.

"Exploration of how records created by the crown before 1485 can be used to study medieval armies, campaigns and battles in Britain and France. The talk focuses on the records of key battles such as Bannockburn, Crécy and Agincourt."


Digitization of Orphan Works in the UK

This press release reflects an interesting development regarding this orphan works issue in the UK

National institutions call for removal of major barrier to mass digitisation

06 February 2010

Hampshire Legends

Having missed out on recent presentations I would normally be attending in Ottawa, and suffering withdrawal symptoms, I sought relief in a presentation to the Overton (Hampshire) History Society.

David Nash Ford is a local historian living in Wokingham, Berkshire, who originates from Yateley in Hampshire. He gave an entertaining presentation at the village community centre to nearly 40 people, a very respectable turn-out from a village of 4,000.

Illustrated by PowerPoint his presentation consisted of a series of anecdotes on local legends, from Roman times to the 18th century.

He recounted local Hampshire variations of stories also claimed by other areas, that of King Canute not holding back the sea, and the mistletoe bough bride.

Two legends related to Hampshire weather vanes, a bedbug vane at Kingsclere and a cockatee vane at Wherwell

See www.nashfordpublishing.co.uk and www.berkshirehistory.com for more.

05 February 2010

Due diligence needed for newspapers

Last year around this time I had a series of gripe postings. Maybe a year has mellowed me, maybe things have improved, maybe the news about the Ottawa Citizen on Google has me on a high, but I don't have a week's worth of things to complain about this year.

My brother brought me this poster from the library in Darwin, Australia. Together with the National Library of Australia's initiative on newspaper digitization initiative it constitutes more evidence of Australia's recognition of the importance of newspapers for national heritage.

Ask any politician or senior public servant and they'll tell you they watch the media like hawks. To be in a position to understand our history you need to know how the community is responds, as well as the actual proposals and actions of governments at various levels. While preservation of government records receives high priority nationally, and at other governmental levels in Canada, newspapers are being neglected.

The Librarian and Archivist of Canada should be ashamed of the lack of leadership and outright neglect that institution shows for newspapers. So should the Archivist of Ontario for the Archives which has systematically ignored newspapers for decades.

04 February 2010

Ottawa Citizen archive on Google

Thanks to Wallace, Glenn and Bruce who each sent me a message about archives of the Ottawa Citizen online through Google. I'll be looking at it when I return to Ottawa.

Here's the article from the Ottawa Citizen.


Ancestors in the Attic - Final Episodes

History Television Canada completes the season of Ancestors in the Attic on February 4 with two new half-hour episodes starting at 6pm EST, repeated at 9pm.

The episodes are described in a Global Genealogy posting at http://globalgenealogy.com/globalgazette/gazed/gazed192.htm

When she was eight years old, Marguerite Ogilvie, from Lac Du Bonnet, MB, secretly read a letter from her German aunt. In it, she discovered that her grandmother, Minna, had died "a horrible death" during WWII. But Marguerite's mother, Charlotte, would never reveal what happened to Minna, and after WWII ended Charlotte suffered a nervous breakdown. Marguerite's life was never the same again. All her life Marguerite was haunted by the death of her grandmother and the possibility that her mother's illness was brought on by the guilt of being unable to save her.

Now, at the age of 66, Marguerite Ogilvie has finally decided to go in search of answers and discover whether it was her grandmother's "horrible death" that caused her mother's breakdown and the destruction of her own life. To uncover the truth she will have to journey to Denmark and Germany, find her lost family and expose a piece of history kept secret for more than half a century.

At the age of 29, Christiane Weideli, from Vancouver, B.C., discovered that much of her life had been a lie. The people who had raised her were not her real parents, and she was not born in Peru, as she had thought. Instead, she had been adopted as a baby from Switzerland. Now in her forties, Christiane desperately wants to find her biological family. But there is a catch: her adoption may have been illegal and Christiane may be a black market baby.

Undeterred by this enormous challenge, Christiane has decided to return to Switzerland and, with the help of Ancestors in the Attic, search for clues to her hidden past and find, if she can, the parents who gave her up.

As usual, schedules are subject to change.

This is the final showing of new episodes of Ancestors in the Attic. History Television Canada declined to commission a further series last fall. If you enjoy the type of personal investigation human interest stories featured in the series let History Television Canada know. Go to www.history.ca/history/faq.aspx, scroll to the bottom, and leave a comment.

03 February 2010

Gene-O-Rama 2010

The following is a reminder from Mike More, Chair of the Ottawa Branch of OGS

Gene-O-Rama 2010 will feature a theme of Researching Female Ancestors and will include lectures from Lisa Alzo, Lesley Anderson of Ancestry.ca, Marthe Séguin-Muntz of the Canadian Genealogy Centre and Marie Careau of la Société de généalogie de l'Outaouais as well as Doug Hoddinott, John D. Reid and Rick Roberts. Glenn Wright will speak at the banquet on Sex, Lies and Archives: Behind Closed Doors at the Public Archives of Canada, 1900-1950
Gene-O-Rama is scheduled for 26-27 March 2010. Don't forget the new location at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street Ottawa.

For more details on the program or On-line registration, check out our website at:

02 February 2010

Ancestry updates

As of 27 January Ancestry have added more data for:

London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921
London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906
London, England, Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980

01 February 2010

BBC on the lost soldiers of Fromelles

A BBC article on attempts to identify remains recovered from burials associated with the Battle of Fromelles, some by DNA analysis.


FreeBMD January Update

The FreeBMD Database was updated on Sat 30 Jan 2010 and currently contains 180,025,261 distinct records (230,281,907 total records).

Bracknell Family Histoy Fair

Family History Fairs are held all over the UK. On previous British trips I've missed the nearest one to where I stay, the one held in Bracknell at the end of January. This year I made it to the Bracknell Sports Centre where the fair occupied two fairly large gyms. There was ample free parking and a food court type refreshment area.

UK family history fairs are unlike most of the family history events in North America which follow the conference model with a range of lectures, syllabus or preprints, a computer/internet room, complimentary refreshments and a marketplace as an add on at no cost for registrants. Often
the marketplace is open to non-registrants too.

Family history fairs offer a marketplace and computer/internet area and charge for admission, in this case 3 pounds. There was a single sheet with a map and list of exhibitors. At Bracknell three presentations were offerred as additional cost options of two pounds for each lecture.

The fair opened at 10am. I arrived at 1:15pm, just in time for a sparsely attended presentation by Chris Pomeroy "How DNA testing helps you confirm your family links." He concentrated on Y-DNA and surname studies, valuable in themselves but which for me was dissappointing. He was introduced by the statement that DNA is of no use to women for genealogy unless they can get a brother, father or other near male relative to provide a surrogate sample. As I'll be explaining in my talk at Gene-o-rama this is an outdated idea.

Chris Pomeroy mentioned that the stocks of his last book on DNA and genealogy, the second edition, are nearly sold out. Any future version will not be published by TNA which has exited the publishing business.

The event was comfortably busy.

One stall, that of Anguline Research Archives, gave considerable prominence to a Canadian product. The photo shows Archive CD Books Canada products on the display stand.

The Society of Genealogists had a stand selling their publications. I was surprised to find out that two of the three people staffing the stand were SOG's Chair and vice-Chair, Colin Allen and Michael Wood. They seemed to be looking forward to the SOG centennial in 2011.

Online database FindMyPast had a stand staffed by Debra Chatfield who was also one of the lecturers. She mentioned some of the products they plan on releasing, starting with records of Chelsea pensioners, although the release date may well be delayed owing to a publicity embargo in connection with the forthcomming UK election.

I had a brief conversation with Robert and Elizabeth Blatchford who produce The Family and Local History Handbook, now in its 12th edition. It was published last November -- the next is scheduled for March 2011.

There were many stands from county FHSs, the Guild of One Name Studies, publishers, second-hand book and postcard dealers and many others. Missing where Ancestry.com, magazines and DNA companies.

FreeBMD update

The FreeBMD Database at www.freebmd.org.uk/was updated on Sat 27 Feb 2010 and now contains 181,516,844 distinct records (232,041,948 total records).

This update adds 292,927 new unique births, 737,263 marriages (one entry for each partner) and 448,554 deaths, mostly from the 1930s and 40s.

Thanks for the volunteer indexers and project organizers for their continued contributions.