31 March 2010

The future of national libraries

Just out online is THRIVING or SURVIVING? National Library of Scotland in 2030, by David Hunter & Karen Brown.

It contains food for thought for policy folks dealing with reorienting their memory organizations.

According to the report the key challenges faced by national libraries in 20 years’ time were identified in the research as:

• making sure national libraries’ services are relevant to a wide range of users; developing beyond traditional user groups to embrace the general public and society as a whole;
• seizing the opportunities offered by digitisation and being proactive in coordinating digitisation in the library sector taking the lead in finding solutions to the legal issues around Legal Deposit in order to ensure that digitisation programmes are fully realised;
• making use of the latest technology to offer innovative services to the public, particularly important in meeting the challenge from other information providers such as Google;
presenting the case for funding effectively to governments by actively lobbying and promoting national libraries and their role as the ‘keeper’ of the nation’s cultural heritage; (my emphasis)
• creating organisations whose leaders can implement change and whose workforce are flexible and appropriately skilled;

The number of times Google was mentioned struck me. Here are a few:

Many of these mass digitisation initiatives have been partnerships between commercial organisations and major research libraries, most notably the Google Library Project.

If Google Scholar has everything at the click of a mouse, will customers of the future need to or want to use a national library for online research?

... over 70 percent of researchers go to Google routinely for scholarly content

“I sit in one of the largest national libraries in the world and if I want to know something, I Google it.”

... if they can get the information they want independently (currently from services like Google or Wikipedia), then they will do so.

“National libraries will find it difficult to justify expenditure on preservation and physical access when funders will say ‘you can get this on Google’.”

“National libraries need to show they can answer your question better than Google - a more in-depth experience.”

“We have a lot to learn from Google Scholar as we don’t create interactive user experiences very well (libraries have a very ugly interface) and we are competing with other, better services offered to the public.”

“Whoever the Google is in 20 years’ time it is important that national libraries collaborate with them. It is unlikely that national libraries will have the funds to compete directly therefore we need to work with these organisations in mutually beneficial ways.”

Read the full report in pdf at: www.nls.uk/about/policy/docs/future-national-libraries.pdf

30 March 2010

Le Temps newspaper archives

200 years of newspapers online and digitized is an achievement. The Swiss daily Le Journal de Genève "first came out on the 6th January 1826 and its last issue was dated the 28th February 1998. The complete collection represents 550,000 printed pages, equivalent to 2,000,000 articles."

While the paper is in French the interface, FAQ and other help is in English at www.letempsarchives.ch/Default/Skins/LeTempsEn/Client.asp?Skin=LeTempsEn&enter=true&AW=1269921780937&AppName=2

It appears the years 1917-1919 are missing, maybe the paper didn't publish.

The first mention of Ottawa is in a report on it being named the national capital where it is described as both new and insignificant.

April 10 - OGS Region VIII AGM

The Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogy Group is hosting the OGS Region VIII Annual General Meeting & Family History Fair, from 9 am to 4 pm at the Nick Smith Centre, 77 James Street,
Arnprior, Ontario.

Speakers and topics are:

Ron Shannon: Cemetery Restoration
Mary Lynn Benz: Mysterious Burials
Shirley Mask Connolly: Kashubs of Canada

Register before April 1, 2010

More information at: www.uovgg.ca/meetings.html

29 March 2010

LAC hosts Gene-O-Rama 2010

This year saw a switch of venue for Ottawa's oldest genealogy event, Gene-O-Rama, to Library and Archives Canada.

The opening session on Friday evening, 26 March, featured the presentation of the Pat Horan Memorial Lecture by Lisa Alzo, Silent Voices: telling the stories of your female immigrant ancestors, prior to which there were welcoming remarks by OGS Ottawa Branch perennial Chair Mike More and newly appointed LAC Assistant Deputy Minister Jean-Stéphen Piché. He won applause when he mentioned he had been a member of the team involved in the successful census release battle.

The marketplace featured most of the local genealogical and historical societies and several exhibitors, also perennials, from elsewhere.

Here Ed Zapletal, publisher and editor of the Moorshead Magazines publications Discovering Family History, Internet Genealogy, Family Chronicle and History Magazine talks to M T Al-Mansouri while circulation director Rick Cree watches the stand.

Malcolm and Chris Moody from Archives CD Books Canada brought a wide selection of CDs, still only a fraction of their catalogue. Further photos of their stand are on the company Facebook page.

One of the features of Gene-O-Rama is the number of smaller organizations and individual entrepreneurs exhibiting. I was pleased and surprised to see former work colleague and friend from Environment Canada, Jim Armstrong, with a selection of resources from his ancestral home in the Fitzroy Harbour area.

I had a brief talk with Louise St Denis from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies who brought a selection of the Institute publications as well as information on the institutes's online programs and courses.

There were two parallel sessions of presentations for a total of four sessions plus the Friday evening Pat Horan lecture. From Lesley Anderson I learned that you can put more than one name in the Ancestry.com search box for last names, perhaps both a maiden and married surname.

Room 156 was mostly dedicated to more technically oriented presentations. I missed Rick Roberts speaking on Recording and Citing Sources Using Legacy Family Tree. Another perennial favourite, Doug Hoddinott, explaining as part of his presentation on Family Tree Maker - more reasons to upgrade why he now believes FTM has regained a leadership position having at one time fallen behind Legacy Family Tree technologically. I spoke to a standing room only audience on DNA Testing for Genealogy: not just for women but will leave it to others to comment.

Saturday evening featured the Gene-O-Rama closing banquet with 50 people attracted to Algonquin College to enjoy a good meal and an informative and humorous presentation. Sex, Lies and Archives was presented by notable local historian and genealogist Glenn Wright, a former archivist at LAC, here looking somewhat pensive prior to the presentation.

Congratulation to the teams from Ottawa Branch, OGS, for once again organizing a memorable event.

28 March 2010

Newmarket Era-Banner newspaper index

The local public library is the go to place for local newspaper archives. Resources available, increasingly online, are surprising.

Newmarket (ON) public library has an online index to the local Era-Banner newspaper covering the years 1852 – 1929 and 1980 up to the present. Stories concerning Newmarket, East Gwillimbury, & York Region are indexed The index gives dates and information regarding photographs and articles about local people, local groups, forthcoming and special local events.

Access this index at http://newspaperindex.newmarketpl.ca/

Images of a few individual issues are now being added to the Internet Archives. Search on newspapers-ontario, a two page listing which also finds Historique des journaux d'Ottawa by Francis-J Audet.

TNA podcast: Bara Brith on the pampas: the Welsh in Patagonia

Bruno Derrick presents this latest in the TNA podcast series.

In 1865, a Welsh speaking colony was established in the valley of the Chubut River in Patagonia Argentina. The original emigrants sailed from Liverpool on the Mimosa and they were joined in the 1880s by a second wave of emigrants and a further colony was established in the foothills of the Andes. Although measures were later taken to remove some of the colonists to Canada and South Africa, most of the settlers and their descendants remained in Argentina. The National Archives holds a vast amount of material relating to this relatively unknown but fascinating episode in British history. This talk looks at the main records relating to the history and development of the settlement from the earliest days to modern times, and examines why the Welsh travelled to Patagonia, what they encountered when they got there, and how the colony developed over the years.

27 March 2010

FreeBMD March update

The FreeBMD Database was last updated on Fri 26 Mar 2010 and currently contains 182,885,169 distinct records (233,642,704 total records). Updates this month are mainly for the years 1932-48 for births, 1932-49 for marriages and 1936-42 for deaths.

Remember to periodically go back to run searches on this database for people you didn't find previously. Updates are frequently made to earlier years in the database.

26 March 2010

Michael Geist on digital media and LAC's ineffectiveness

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and well known syndicated weekly columnist, testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on March 25th.

He addresses the questions "How have developments in digital media changed the media environment?" and "What can government do?"

Sections that caught my eye included how the National Film Board have extended their reach through their online portal NFB Screening Room with daily views jumping "from 3,000 per day in January 2009 to more than 20,000 film views per day in January 2010."

Geist points to five things Canada should be doing. The second is worth reproducing in its entirety as it refers to LAC and a long-standing concern I've had with that organizations ineffective leadership in the field.

2. Digitization

There are few issues more central to new media policy than digitization. Most countries have recognized the need to ensure that national content is both preserved for future generations and made more readily accessible to the public. In Canada, plans have languished to the point that it feels as if someone has hit the delete key on the prospect of a comprehensive Canadian digital library.

Canada’s failure to keep pace has become readily apparent in recent years. In September 2005, the European Union launched i2010, a digitization action plan. Several years later, Europeana debuted, a website that provides direct access to more than 4.6 million digitized books, newspapers, film clips, maps, photographs, and documents from across Europe. The site plans to host 10 million objects by the end of this year.

By comparison, Canada seems stuck at the digitization starting gate. Library and Archives Canada was given responsibility for the issue but was unable to muster the necessary support for a comprehensive plan. The Department of Canadian Heritage, which would seem like a natural fit for a strategy designed to foster access to Canadian works, has funded a handful of small digitization efforts but has shown little interest in crafting a vision similar to Europeana.

The text, worthwhile reading, is at www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/4907/125/

LAC's plans and priorities

Every year at around this time the President of the Treasury Board tables in Parliament the Estimates for the coming fiscal year, starting on 1 April. Included are documents for each government department and agency, called Reports on Plans and Priorities, including one for Library and Archives Canada.

You can read the document for LAC for 2010-2011 at < www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/rpp/2010-2011/inst/bal/bal00-eng.asp >.

Here are some of the items in the LAC document that caught my eye.

1. Acquisition of published items either transferred to otherwise acquired increased to 95,000 in 2008-2009 from 70,000 in 2006-2007, a 35% increase.

2. In the same time period LAC acquisitions (purchases?) from the private sector decreased 43%.

3. Access to information requests for personnel records declined 20% in the same time period while requests for other government records saw a slight increase.

4. LAC is planning that its total expenditures will be $120 million in 2010-2011, a decrease from $125 million in 2009-2010, and the decline will continue to just under $100 million in 2012-2013. The number of full-time employee equivalents (FTEs) is planned to remain unchanged at 1,109.

5. The document explains that the permanent funding for LAC has remained constant at approximately $100 million over the past four fiscal years. This is expected to continue until 2012-2013, the end of the planning period. The reductions noted above are explained by termination of projects for which earmarked funding was received.

6. For 2010-2011 LAC is pursuing a single strategic outcome

Current and future generations of Canadians have access to their documentary heritage

encompassing everything it does for Canadians through its three business lines: acquisition, preservation, and resource discovery.

7. For its program activity "Managing the disposition of the Government of Canada records of continuing value" LAC anticipates spending nearly $7 million each year using 162 FTEs. The performance target is that the proportion of institutions (government departments and agencies?) that received or maintain ratings of "acceptable" or "strong" in their information management report card is 40%.

8. For its program activity "Managing the documentary heritage of interest to Canada" LAC plans on spending $64.4 million in 2010-2011 declining to $44 million in 2012-2013, and with no change in staffing at 492 FTEs.

9. For its program activity "Making the documentary heritage known and accessible for use" LAC plans on spending $19.5 million in each of the coming three years and employing 225 FTEs. Performance targets in this area include that 75-80% of clients who contact the organization online, by mail or through exhibitions are satisfied with the response to their inquiries. Another target is that 55-60% of clients report being able to find what they're looking for on the website. There is a specific deliverable promised in 2010-2011 to bring elements of the national portrait collection to Canadians across the country.

10. The final program activity, "Internal Services" accounts for $29.5 million and 230 FTEs and is expected to remain stable.


It's surprising that given the reduction in project funding, and the modernization initiative, there is so much stability in the allocation of resources between the various program activities for the next three years.

The document is thin on specific targets, and the targets there are, on the face of it, don't seem especially ambitious. I can find no indication of how the organization is currently performing on these targets, nor any indication of how comparable organizations perform. These are an impoverished basis on which to evaluate value for money in this government service.

Another example of the vagueness in this document is the undertaking to "respond appropriately to clients who need onsite service and support." Who will define appropriately? Is a minimum 90 minutes delivery on documents onsite appropriate? By whose definition?

25 March 2010

More Chelsea Pensioner Records

FindmyPast.co.uk have added more Chelsea Pensioner British Army Service Records 1883-1900. There are now 289,783 records to search and more to come.

via Chris Paton and Scottish Genealogy News and Events

The Commons - missing particpants

What do the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, National Maritime Museum, National Library NZ, Swedish National Heritage Board, U.S. National Archives, Australian War Memorial collection and McCord Museum have in common?

They are all participating institutions in Flickr: The Commons, which aims to show hidden treasures in the world's public photography archives and permit public input and knowledge to help make these collections richer, either by adding tags or leaving comments.

Now TNA, The (UK) National Archives, has joined with the group placing images in The Commons, including this camel image which should bring joy to someone's heart.

Start exploring The Commons at www.flickr.com/commons/

If we are known by the company we keep so are our institutions.

So where are Canada's governmental memory institutions?

Books recently digitized from the ACPL

The Allen County Public Library is the source for a wide range of genealogical and related material now appearing free on the Internet Archive. Here is a short list of some recent additions originating in the UK and Ireland.

Canterbury marriage licences (Volume ser.1) - Canterbury (England) (Diocese)
1st ser., 1568-1618.--2d ser., 1619-1660.--3d ser., 1661-1676.--4th ser., 1677-1700.--5th ser., 1701-1725.--6th ser., 1726-1750

An historical account of the Diocese of Down and Connor, ancient and modern (Volume 3) - O'Laverty, James v. 5 has separate title: The bishops of Down and Connor, being the fifth volume of an historical account of Down and Connor, ancient and modern

A history of the county of Brecknock. : In two volumes. ... (Volume 1) - Jones, Theophilus, 1758-1812

The transcript of the registers of the united parishes of S. Mary Woolnoth and S. Mary Woolchurch Haw, in the city of London, from their commencement 1538 to 1760. To which is prefixed a short account of both parishes, list of rectors and churchwardens, chantries, &c. together with some interesting extracts from the churchwardens' accounts - London. St. Mary Woolnoth with St. Mary Woolchurch (Parish)

Hampshire allegations for marriage licences granted by the Bishop of Winchester. 1689 to 1837 (Volume 1) - Moens, William John Charles, 1833-1904

Court rolls of the borough of Colchester; (Volume 1)

Rolls of arms of the reigns of Henry III and Edward III - Nicolas, Nicholas Harris, Sir, 1799-1848, ed. 2n

The armorial ensigns of the royal burgh of Aberdeen : with some observations on the legend relating to the capture and demolition of the castle - Cruickshank, John

A short history of Hereford - Collins, William, of Hereford

Alstonfield parish register [1538-1812] Part I-[V] July 1902-[Dec. 1906] (Volume pt.4) - Alstonfield, Eng. (Parish) Deanery of Alstonfield

History of the city of Chester, from its foundation to the present time; with an account of its antiquities, curiosities, local customs, and peculiar immunities; and a concise political history .. (Volume 2, pt.1) - Hemingway, Joseph

24 March 2010

Presentations portfolio updated

I've added the presentation I'll be giving at Gene-O-Rama this Saturday "DNA Testing for Genealogy: not Just for Men" to my presentations portfolio at http://anglo-celtic-connections.blogspot.com/2009/01/my-presentations-portfolio.html

Connecting Canadians: Canada’s Multicultural Newspapers

Although this blog's focus is the UK and Ireland, many Canadians also have roots in Eastern Europe. Connecting Canadians: Canada’s Multicultural Newspapers Beta Website has links to images of newspapers, no text search capability, from Croatian, Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian, Ukrainian, Yugoslavian, Latvian, and Lithuanian newspapers. It's at www.connectingcanadians.org/en/content/home

The site also has links to other resources.

Thanks to Marian Press for the tip.

Avoid higher prices

DNA testing company 23andMe is offering a substantial discount on both their Ancestry Edition and the Complete Edition tests until the end of March. If you want to know more about the test come to my Gene-O-Rama talk this coming Saturday afternoon at Library and Archives Canada. http://ogsottawa.on.ca/?page_id=101.

This TedMed talk which deals mainly with the health aspects of the 23andMe service provides a bit of background.

A discount applies to both tests. I recommend the Complete Edition at $299 US, plus shipping, as it gives you access to the raw data. The health-related results are a bonus. Go to https://www.23andme.com/partner/foa/

Also, remember that the cost of civil registration certificates of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales increases on April 6. See details in the previous post at http://anglo-celtic-connections.blogspot.com/2010/03/gro-certificate-price-increase.html

23 March 2010

Book Review: Destination Canada

Just out is the third edition of Destination Canada: a genealogical guide to immigration records, by prominent Victoria genealogist and newspaperman Dave Obee.

The new edition, with introductory remarks dated February 2010, is considerably expanded with 156 pages compared to 78 in the 2004 second edition. As noted in the introduction the availability of online resources, which has changed our access to immigration-related information more than we had dared imagine six years ago, made a new edition essential.

Destination Canada is published in a glossy soft cover 8-1/2 by 11 format laid out with short paragraphs and plenty of white space for ease of reading. Every page has an image or map to add visual variety, except for most of the pages that are inventories of LAC microfilms. A sample tested for readability came out at about a high school graduate level.

Destination Canada starts with an overview of four centuries of immigration to Canada and a summary of key resources concentrating on the format and content of the various documents available. The following chapters treat the availability of the information, online and on microfilm for various periods and ports of arrival. There are detailed listings of LAC microfilm numbers which correspond to arrivals at various ports and dates. Every journey has two ends and records at the ports of departure are not overlooked.

There is a chapter dedicated to the Immigration Branch records in LAC record group (RG) 76. The 583 microfilms in this series, not available online, are a lucky dip of immigration-related government documents dating from as late as the 1950s. Obee dedicates 16 pages to single line listings of the contents of each microfilm. In the following chapter five pages document the microfilms that correspond to various naturalization dates.

Additional resources, a bibliography and index round out the monograph.

One notable omission is the absence of anything but a cursory mention of immigration to Newfoundland. Immigration to the island predates that in almost every other area of Canada. Even if nominal records don't exist, and I suspect they are as scarce as cod's teeth are these days, a couple of paragraphs surveying the province's immigration history would not be out of place.

There is brief mention of Home Children. I was surprised to see on page 42 the unattributed statement that "It has been estimated that two-thirds of the Home Children suffered abuse of some sort." While I might believe that for some of the agencies in the early years inspections were gradually tightened up and abuse declined. That's just as today when statistics show crime is down while headlines highlight the exceptional cases; perception becomes popular reality. Mind you, if you judge by today's standards, rather then those of the time when spanking was normal, perhaps a majority of all children, not only Home Children, were abused.

If you're digging into Canadian immigration records in your family history search and having problems, or need to catch up on online resources, this is the book for you. It updates and expands on the immigration chapter in Finding Your Canadian Ancestors which anticipated the comprehensive availability of passenger lists online but was written before they became a reality. The detailed listings of microfilm content will be handy for those who can't find what they need in the 100 or so web sites referenced.

The book is still too new to have made its way to amazon.ca or globalgenealogy.com. It can be order directly from www.genealogyunlimited.com/

22 March 2010

Uriah Smith

Here's something completely different, a question about proving a genealogical identity. About the only anglo-celtic connection is the name Smith.

This amazing invention is attributed to Uriah Smith of Battle Creek, Michigan. It was featured in Time magazine in 2007 in an article on the 50 worst cars of all time. www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1658545_1657686_1657662,00.html

Intrigued, and thinking maybe it was a hoax, I googled Uriah Smith and up came a Wikipedia article Uriah Smith (May 3, 1832 - March 6, 1903) was a Seventh-day Adventist author and editor who worked for the Review and Herald (now the Adventist Review) for 50 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uriah_Smith. It mentions that in 1844 Smith has his right leg amputated. Could the inventor and clergyman be the same person?

On ancestry.com I found several patents issued to Uriah Smith, including one in 1899 for "a new and original design for a vehicle body providing at its front end with a forwardly projecting figure of a horses head", with the illustration shown here. So with a contemporary patent the Time item isn't a hoax.

Other patents registered to Uriah Smith from Battle Creek, are for a combination camp chair and cane, tablet for rapid writing, spectacles, improvement in folding seats for school desks, and improvement in artificial legs.

In the US 1880 and 1900 censuses a Uriah Smith is found living in Battle Creek, MI, occupation clergyman, with birth about 1832. In 1870 he is living with his parents in Battle Creek with his father's occupation described as selling patent rights.

Based on this evidence how strong is the case that the clergyman and inventor are one and the same person?

21 March 2010

Lost Cousins newsletter

I'd not been aware of the informative Lost Cousins newsletter until it was mentioned as a source by Chris Paton. The first item in the most recent, 20 March, issue is General Records Office blunders on.

"First family historians were hit by a 32% rise in certificate prices effective from April 6th - then the GRO announced that the checking service is to be discontinued:

We have been advised that there is no clear remit in statute for charging for a service to check additional index references, or to retain partial fees. In order to ensure full legal compliance, and in view of the fact that we cannot afford to offer this service free of charge, we are regretfully withdrawing our reference checking service from 6 April. This will include the withdrawal of the "checking points".

So, not only will we be paying more for certificates in future, we'll also end up with more incorrect certificates!"

There's lots more good information in the Lost Cousins newsletter. Items in the most recent one include:

New Zealand BDM - members' tips

How civil registration began
Certificates and signatures

Find this issue of the newsletter at http://lostcousins.com/newsletters/latemar10news.htm and the most recent issue at http://lostcousins.com/newsletters/latest.htm

Beginner session

Saturday saw the annual three hour BIFHSGO/OGS Ottawa Branch beginner genealogy session held at Library and Archives Canada. About 35 people, not all beginners, registered.

Following introductory remarks by Mary Ann Sharpe for BIFHSGO and Mike More for Ottawa Branch I spoke on the 7 golden rules of beginning genealogy, based on those published in Your Family Tree Magazine. Alison Hare followed with a talk on civil registration records focusing on Ontario and English records.

After a short break Glenn Wright presented on Canadian census records following his own ancestors through the various years, pointing out where the information included changed, and inconsistencies in the records.

The final presentation was by Lesley Anderson who spoke on local resources in the Ottawa area.

Not surprisingly more than half the attendees had watched one or more of the US WDYTYA episodes. However, none were attending the session as a result of having seen the program.

20 March 2010

TNA podcast: Counting the People

This talk is described by TNA as "Census returns are among the most popular records used by family historians and other researchers, but many of us give little thought as to what went on behind the scenes every time a census was taken. This talk explores the creation of the census, with the mass organisation of enumerators, temporary clerks, permanent civil service clerks and registrars, as well as the fascinating stories that lie behind each census, to help us better understand the records we think we know so well."

The presentation by Audrey Collins is excellent but to a remarkably quiet audience. It continues for over an hour and ends abruptly without the usual termination announcement.

19 March 2010

Ancestry add Perthshire, Scotland, Militia Survey, 1802

Indexed by volunteers, you can search by name and view originals of a form sent to householders within the Burgh of Perth requiring them to list the name of every man in their house aged 18 to 45, who was liable for service with the militia. The returns may include: Name of the householder, Occupation of the householder, Street address, Names of any inhabitants eligible for service.

Names of women appear only if they are the householder.

The number of entries isn't given. There are 287 with first name John, and 16 with last name Reid, and 5 in both categories.

Plans for New Family Search public release

The Ancestry Insider has a post revealing that FamilySearch "have a goal of getting the general public in (to NFS) by the end of the year. But we’re not just going to open the door for everyone.” He mentioned one possibility was allowing each user to invite a few family and friends. I know Google uses this method, apparently successfully.

The NFS tree is a shared, world tree currently available only to member’s of FamilySearch sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Read the full post at http://ancestryinsider.blogspot.com/2010/03/nfs-releasing-to-general-public.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+AncestryInsider+%28The+Ancestry+Insider%29&utm_content=Bloglines

18 March 2010

Ancestors magazine editor's top ten favourites

Simon Fowler, editor of the soon-to-be-no-more Ancestors Magazine has made available free on the magazine web site some of the pieces "he really enjoyed commissioning and reading."

1. Chants for the memory, by Stephen Davies
2. Bloody Belgians, by Simon Fowler & Keith Gregson
3. The New Kew
4. View from Kew, by Dave Annal
5. For the criminally insane, by Kate Tyte
6. Acting as family historian, by Penny Law
7. The rise of celebrity, by Tracy Borman
8. Prisoners in Paradise, by Brenda Mortimer
9. Crime and punishment, by Nigel Green
10. Herring women, by Karen Foy

Access them from www.ancestorsmagazine.co.uk/?page=top10 and do so soon. the site could disappear.

On his blog at www.ancestorsmagazine.co.uk/?page=blog Simon has recent posts on an index to Merchant Navy Gallantry awards now included in the TNA catalogue; and a university project on vernacular place names in Great Britain.

Also there are several comments on the blog posting announcing the end of the magazine. Sadly the new magazine being offered by Wharncliffe publishing will have "more for beginners and more celebrity stuff". The UK market is already flooded with that type of content. I've asked for a refund on my remaining subscription.

FTM webinar postponed

The Family Tree Maker webinar previously announced for March 24 is now rescheduled for May 19. The announcement is on the Ancestry.com blog at:

17 March 2010

National Library of Ireland adds online images

The National Library of Ireland has launched an enhanced online service, which has 34,000 photographs recording almost 100 years of Irish history.

“The library holds the world’s largest collection of photographs relating to Ireland,” said National Library director Fiona Ross.


Last year, the National Library introduced an online service whereby 22,000 photographs from the Lawrence, Poole and Independent Newspapers collections were added to its website database.

Since then, library staff have digitised an additional 12,000 images from five other important National Photographic Archive collections: Eason, Stereo Pair, Clarke, Tempest and Keogh.

The 34,000 photographs of Ireland were taken between 1860-1954."

Source: The Independent and ResourceShelf.

Irish records FREE at WorldVitalRecords

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day WorldVitalRecords have opened Irish databases until March 21st for free!

"Just go to our Irish Collection where you can search all of the databases, choose a single database to search, or browse through the pages of the collection.

This collection includes Irish Wills, Irish Passenger Lists and the Special Report on Surnames in Ireland."

via: http://blog.worldvitalrecords.com/2010/03/16/celebrate-st-patricks-day-with-worldvitalrecords/

1812 History

Preparations are underway to celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Canada celebrates victory in repelling US aggression; the US celebrates victory on the Lakes. We can all celebrate the peace agreement of 1815.

www.1812 history.com is dedicated to making the surviving records and artefacts from this time period available to everyone. It includes digitally search-able images of land grants, muster rolls, even a library patron list from the period, which may include the name of an ancestor.

Thanks to Glenn Wright for the tip.

16 March 2010

WO 97, British Army Service Records now at FindMyPast

The first 252,000 service records of soldiers in the British Army in receipt of a pension administered by The Royal Hospital Chelsea, in TNA group WO 97 and covering the period from 1883 - 1900, are now online through findmypast.co.uk. There are about seven colour images for each soldier.

Information the records may list is:
* Date and place of birth
* Age
* Name and address of next of kin
* Height
* Chest size
* Complexion
* Hair colour
* Eye colour
* Distinguishing features
* Rank and regiment
* Occupation before joining the army
* Kit list
* Medical history
* Conduct and character observations
* Countries where, and dates when, the soldier served
* Date the soldier signed up and date of discharge
* Service history including promotions, campaigns and countries where they fought
* Details of marriage and their children's names, baptisms and dates of birth

Read more about these records, the first helping of a collection that will eventually cover 1760-1913, and see sample images, at www.findmypast.co.uk/media/news/news-item.jsp?doc=CHEP.html

Beyond Basics Family Tree Maker Webinar

Ancestry.com have announced a free webinar for March 24th at 8:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time.

"Watch as the experts demonstrate some of the advanced features available in Family Tree Maker 2010. You’ll learn how to work with the Web Merge feature, resolve unidentified place names, export different branches of your family tree, and much more. To attend the Advanced Topics webinar, click here to register."

Read the announcement with additional information at http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2010/03/12/family-tree-maker-webinar-on-march-24th/

If you need a more basic overview of FTM 2010, particularly if you've struggled to adapt from a previous FTM version, there's a helpful archived webinar at http://learn.ancestry.com/LearnMore/WebinarVideoPage.aspx?video=http://c.ancestry.com/Affiliate/Knowledgebase/Webinar/162632_flv/162632.flv&title=Family%20Tree%20Maker%202010%20New%20Features%20Demo

Ottawa Branch OGS March meeting

Ottawa genealogists know that there are a few local speakers you grab the opportunity to listen to whenever possible. One is Alison Hare who is the speaker for this evening's Ottawa Branch meeting at Library and Archives Canada.

"The Time of Cholera" is about London’s cholera epidemic of 1854, best known as the story of Dr. John Snow, a water pump and a map. But who were the people who died? Alison, whose ancestor died in the epidemic, describes her quest to identify the forgotten victims.

The meeting convenes at 7:30pm. Juice and cookies will be available before the meeting, at 7:00pm.

15 March 2010

Canada 150: LAC remarks

Congratulations to the LAC web staff for promptly getting online the text of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada's remarks on March 11 made in the context of 150!Canada anniversary initial meeting.

Daniel J. Caron's remarks on "Memory, Literacy and Democracy" were given to a meeting of 200 public servants and 100 members of the public. They are posted at http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/whats-new/013-445-e.html

Caron reflects on challenges of "uncontrolled, disordered, informal experiences and unlimited communications relativity of cyberspace permitted by the Web and networks." He is right on in his analysis, but stumbles in providing leadership in addressing that challenge. The best is that "the public memory challenge ... is an immediate matter for all of us to consider together as a collective social responsibility."

Hopefully LAC will more clearly be seen to be taking this collective approach in their own modernization initiative. It's now three months since a series of pathfinders were issued with little LAC effort evident in leading a broad consultation.

While the substance of the remarks is thoughtful, the form is awful.

At a time when maximum 15 second sound bites, and 140 character Twitter posts, are the norm these remarks are baffle-gab. On the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease score where the higher the score the easier the read; where Time magazine typically scores 52, and the Harvard Law Review 30; this speech rates 19.3.

On the SMOG (Simple Measure of Gobbledygook) Index it rates 24.2 where the number is the years of education needed to completely understand it.

14 March 2010

Happy 4th birthday ACC

This blog started on 14 March 2006.

Four years later there are now very nearly 1600 postings archived.

Use the search box at the top left to find articles of interest from the total collection.

In four years there have been more than 136,000 unique visits and over 192,000 page views.

Thanks to all of you who visit, and especially to those who comment and provide suggestions for posts.

Also today, celebrate Pi Day -- 3.14

13 March 2010

Browse the Ottawa Citizen archive

Google have now introduced the ability to browse archived newspapers by date. Using it is a bit convoluted.

Suppose you're interested in the Ottawa Citizen. Do a Google News Archives advanced search specifying Ottawa Citizen as the source. Click on a hit to bring up a digitized back issue. Then click on "browse this newspaper" which will bring up a page like that shown. You can display by various time-frames up to the decade level. It will permit you to see exactly which issues are available.

Below is a histogram of the number of Ottawa Citizen issues available by decade.

Interesting that issues for the 1880s appear to be missing. They can be found by searching for Ottawa Daily Citizen rather than Ottawa Citizen!

CHA on LAC direction

The Canadian Historical Association (CHA) have posted a commentary on new directions for
Library and Archives Canada. www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=174610

The concerns expressed in the document are important. Some I have expressed during the time I served as a genealogist member of the seemingly now defunct LAC Services Advisory Board. As the document points out, the genealogical community benefits greatly from historians work with LAC, and other, original materials which are the basis of books, articles, TV and other digested materials. These provide the professionally-produce and, usually, peer-reviewed context for our family studies.

I do have a concern with the CHA document.

It states that "In an era of budget constraints, they would hope that senior administrators would ... make a strong case for adequate government support for what is demonstrably Canada's most important cultural institution."

Senior administrators have limited ability to make strong effective cases. The case needs to be made at the political, not the administrative level. CHA delegating the lobbying to senior LAC administrators is all too easy and likely all too ineffective a strategy. Lobbying at the political level is a burden for CHA leaders to assume.

There is a broader context. The CHA is not alone. Many other programs that support studies across the spectrum of academic investigation in Canada are being targeted by the proposed belt tightening following this government's economic action plan. The academic community as a whole would benefit from a co-ordinated political approach.

Thanks to Brenda Dougall Merriman CG for bringing the CHA commentary to my attention

12 March 2010

Google Street View: the sweet and the sad

Google have announced the extension of their street-level imaging service to cover more than 95 per cent of UK roads. Until now Google’s Street View service has been available in 25 UK cities, that's since last March. The increased coverage makes an additional 210,000 miles of detailed imaging public.

It's sweet to go and peer at places from your past and family history. The house where I first lived was clearly shown, there was just a peek view at the second while the nearby third was totally obscured by trees.

I was surprised that Google's camera went down the small lane on which sat the house where I was born, and sad to discover the house is no more, just a heap of bricks. It was in dilapidated condition last time I was there, at least five years ago, with windows boarded up.

If you're not familiar with street view, access it from Google maps by navigating to the area of interest, then drag the yellow person above the slider bar at the left, which leans inward when you grab it, to the area of interest. Click on a road that become highlighted in blue. You can pan and advance the image by clicking.

OGS Conference deadline

If you've been considering attending the Ontario Genealogical Society conference, 14-16 May in Toronto, but been procrastinating on making the commitment, now is the time. The last day for the early-registration discount is March 15.

For complete information on program, speakers, venue, Marketplace, registration and more, visit http://www.ogs.on.ca/conference2010.

11 March 2010

The Genographic Project update

A recent article www.cornellsun.com/node/41410 gives figures on the number of samples collected in the Geneographic project < https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/index.html >.

"Wells recently completed the first stage of the Genographic Project, collecting about 52,000 DNA samples from indigenous people across the world. “Of course it is not exactly how I imagined it would be,” Wells said. He cited the 350,000 members of the public that purchased kits online as one of the project’s greatest successes."

If all who purchased a kit returned it that would make a total sample size of over 400,000!

Ancestry adds Ireland, Famine Relief Commission Papers, 1844-1847

Here is the description of these papers from Ancestry.

"This database consists of two sub-series of Famine Relief Commission records held by the National Archives of Ireland.

The Baronial Sub-Series makes up the largest portion of the Relief Commission records. It consists of letters and other documents received by the Commission primarily from September 1846 through April 1847, though some earlier documents have been integrated into the collection. The Numerical Sub-Series consists of letters received by the Commission from November 1845 through August 1846, with a few dated up until May 1847.

These letters and other documents came from members of local relief committees, lieutenants of counties, clergy, and other citizens, and they touch on a broad spectrum of issues: reports on local food prices and relief efforts, requests for funds, lists of subscribers who had (or had failed) to donate to relief funds, queries about work projects or seed corn, names of committee members, even a recipe for rice and oatmeal “stirabout” one organization had used to feed the hungry and claims to be able to predict outbreaks of blight or snippets from the Bible a concerned citizen thought related to the crisis.

Between these two series, these records contain more than 10,000 names and provide an intimate view on a defining moment in modern Irish history."


There are only two documents that relate to the area from which I believe my ancestor came - Kilkeel in County Down. Both are handwritten and one has hardly any contrast. That part of Ireland was less impacted by the famine than many others.

Added 10:40am: Ancestry.ca now have a press release on this dataset - copied below.


Seven thousand historic letters published online for the first time

  • Records describe the death and despair of millions
  • More than 4.4 million Canadians with Irish ancestry may find clues about lives of their ancestors
  • Records are free to access

March 10, 2010 (Toronto, ON) Ancestry.ca, Canada’s largest family history website[i], will offer free access to records that outline in vivid and gruesome fashion the devastating effects of the Great Potato Famine of Ireland, which began in 1845.

Published online for the first time, the collection, Ireland, Famine Relief Commission Papers, 1845-1847, is made up of almost 60,000 images of original documents collected by the Famine Relief Commission and features letters, studies and details of environmental conditions that led to and resulted from the great famine.

This collection will be of great interest to the 4.4 million Canadians who claim some form of Irish ancestry and who may be able to find important pieces of social history in the collection, providing an unparalleled account of the lives of their ancestors.

The Great Famine of Ireland was a period of starvation, disease, death and mass emigration in the mid-19th century, caused by a disease that ravaged the potato crops across Europe, a staple food of Ireland’s poorest citizens.

In response to the failure of the potato crop, the Famine Relief Commission was established in November 1845, collecting letters from all local official sources covering the advance of the potato disease and the condition of the general public. Reports were received from lieutenants of counties, resident magistrates, poor law guardians, the constabulary, the coast guard the clergy and from concerned citizens.

Some of the records are particularly graphic in their content. A Reverend Thomas Wilson, chairman of the relief committee in Clonuskert, Roscommon, wrote of six deaths per day in the parish from hunger and disease.

Another report, by H McDermot, commanding officer of constabulary Fairhill, gives details of the deaths of Martin and Michael Joyce, a father and son, from starvation. It states that they went to bed together and were found dead in the same bed.

Patrick Browne, a poor law guardian in Aughrim parish, sent a letter to Col. Duncan McGregor, inspector general of constabulary, noting 16 deaths in the parish from hunger in the previous weeks and the difficulties faced in affording proper burial for these people, with a request for funds to purchase coffins for the destitute who were on their way to death.

Karen Peterson, marketing director for ancestry.ca, comments: “The famine was a major turning point in Irish history, and while St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of all things Irish, it is also an appropriate time for us to remember the millions of Irish lives lost during this tragic period.

“These events have special significance for hundreds of thousands of Irish emigrants that fled to Canada during the famine, many of whom can now find out more about the plight of their ancestors during the 19th century.”

These records are especially valuable to people with Irish ancestry as almost all the 19th century Ireland censuses were destroyed during the Irish Civil War, meaning often obscure records are used to piece together key information about Irish heritage.

Other resources for discovering Irish heritage at ancestry.ca include:

The Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, which feature the records of more than 230,000 Irish who arrived on Canadian shores, mostly during the years of the Great Famine.

Many Irish also came to Canada by way of New York and other US ports and their records can be found in a range of US immigration collections, including the Irish Immigrants: New York Port Arrivals, 1846-1851, and the Irish Canadian Emigration Records, 1823-1849, which includes letters and documents with information such as details on orphan children, including adoptive parents, date of arrival, name of the ship on which they travelled and even their state of health upon arrival.

The Historical Canadian Censuses, 1851-1916 often times include information on the country of birth of an individual’s parents. This can sometimes lead to discoveries of previously unknown Irish roots.

The Famine Relief Commission Papers, 1845-1847 have been digitized in partnership with the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) and Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and are available free at ancestry.ca. Additional Irish content can be found at ancestry.ca/irish.

March 13 BIFHSGO and QFHS meetings

BIFHSGO and QFHS both have meetings next Saturday, 13 March 2010

British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO)

Those of us in Ottawa meet at 10:00 a.m., at Library & Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa

Speaker: Gibson Glavin

Topic: Constable George Johnston's Road to Recognition

This talk will describe the journey of oral and documentary research taken by the great grand nephew of Constable George Johnston (NorthWest Mounted Police) to see the tragic death of Constable Johnston, in 1882 at Fort Walsh, officially recognized by the RCMP.
Constable George Johnston was born near Billings Bridge, Ontario in 1860. He was one of the Johnston(es) clan who had immigrated to Ontario from Northern Ireland a few years earlier. He joined the NorthWest Mounted Police in 1879 and was posted to Fort McLeod, NWT. He lost his life after the accidental discharge of a rifle in the hands of another Constable. His death went unrecognized by the Mounted Police until 2009.

Quebec Family History Society (QFHS)

For those in Montreal the QFHS meeting is at 10:30 a.m at St Andrew's United Church, Lachine

Speaker: Sharon Callaghan
Topic: Paths of Opportunity

Sharon will talk about her book Paths of Opportunity, which evolved from a desire to discover more about the Irish Montreal experience of her great-great-grandparents.

10 March 2010

23andMe review and special

Paul Stamatiou has a very thorough review of his experience with DNA testing company 23andMe at http://paulstamatiou.com/review-23andme-dna-testing-for-health-disease-ancestry which rings true with my experience. The ancestral part of the test will be the focus of much of my presentation at Gene-O-Rama on Saturday March 27th. See http://ogsottawa.on.ca/?page_id=101

Until 31 March 2010 23andMe are offering a half-price special, $199 plus shipping, on their DNA Ancestry test at www.23andme.com/partner/foa/. They state it was used to test the DNA of "well known Americans": Elizabeth Alexander, Mario Batali, Stephen Colbert, Malcolm Gladwell, Eva Longoria, Yo-Yo Ma, Mike Nichols, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Meryl Streep, Kristi Yamaguchi.

LAC's Lest We Forget Project

On March 8 the Globe and Mail publish an opinion piece www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/saving-living-history/article1493288/ on the Lest We Forget workshops, a Library and Archives Canada program which connects students to veterans from their hometowns, at minimal cost, and brings historical wartime records alive to a younger generation. The Globe lamented that hands-on access was being replaced with online access to a small selection of digital files.

On March 9 the Librarian and Archivist of Canada published an open letter addressing changes. Here it is in full.

"On March 8, 2010, the Globe and Mail published an article about the Lest We Forget project. For the benefit of your readers, I would like to set the record straight: the Lest We Forget project is not being cut. On the contrary, it is being expanded through partnerships and published on line to facilitate access.

Currently, four out of five of the students that use Lest We Forget do so by receiving photocopies of military records sent from Library and Archives Canada to their schools. This practice continues. Furthermore, it should be noted that on-site access to these records also continues at our offices in downtown Ottawa.

On April 9th - Vimy Ridge Day - Library and Archives Canada is launching a representative sampling of 200 digitized military service records on its website. These digitized files will allow teachers to conduct Lest We Forget activities independently, anywhere in Canada and, in fact, around the world.

Over the past six months, Library and Archives Canada has been looking at partnerships to enhance the delivery of this and other important programs. The objective of these partnerships would be, for example, to offer a Lest We Forget workshop anywhere across Canada, including Ottawa, with the help of veterans, local libraries, remembrance volunteers, or any qualified facilitator with an interest in this field. Our objective is to maximize the number of students across Canada who will discover, first-hand, the individual stories that these soldiers' files have to tell. This approach allows us to do more for this program and frees up our resources to move on the development of other important parts of the collection.

Library and Archives Canada continues to be committed to honouring Canada's military heritage. A quarter of our collection consists of military records and we actively maintain partnerships with the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada to ensure that Canada's collection of military documents are acquired and preserved for the benefit of present and future generations.

Dr. Daniel J. Caron
Librarian and Archivist of Canada"


The letter makes it clear that LAC is intent on doing less on "Lest We Forget", shifting the burden to partners, and reallocating resources ... " ... frees up our resources to move on the development of other important parts of the collection." The letter is ambiguous as to whether LAC staff will continue to be available to student groups who choose to come to the LAC building on Wellington St.

Coming at the time of the death of the last surviving Canadian Great War veteran makes the decision particularly ill timed. Or is it? It could be just bad luck, but would it be too Machiavellian to ponder whether LAC management wished to make a point with their political masters by cutting in the most objectionable place ... elsewhere called the RCMP musical ride strategy.

The REED Project

One of the more unusual papers at the forthcomming OGS conference is Patrons and Performances: Finding Connections to the Arts in Early Modern England and Wales to be presented by John A. Geck. It's the kind of presentation I look for as an option when I get tired of the usual genealogical fare. Face it, how many time do you want to hear, and pay to hear, admonitions to "Cite Your Sources"!

The presentation is about the Records of Early English Drama (REED) project. and its free online database about patrons of the arts, their roles in society, and their genealogy. Most of the information is very early for most researchers, from the 12th to the 17th century in England and Wales. There's a keyword search that allows you look for parishes and manors, etc., as well as names. The names are for the patrons and other social elites; you're more likely to find information for a town of interest to you than an individual.

The site is: http://link.library.utoronto.ca/reed/index.cfm

For information about other presentations at the OGS conference 2010 see: http://torontofamilyhistory.org/2010/

Thanks to Jane MacNamara for the tip.

09 March 2010

Ancestry updates Ontario marriage information

Ancestry have announced an update to their data collection of Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1930. The one line announcement is done in their usual cryptic way and doesn't mention exactly what's new. It doesn't seem to be civil registration records which only go to 1926 on Ancestry although that's not the most recent year released. Can we hope to see that update soon?

It looks like the update is earlier records that have been added from Roman Catholic and District register sources. Ancestry often issue a more complete announcement about such releases a few days after they become available.

Anniversary of Wiggins Storm

Today marks the 127th anniversary of a storm that never happened.

A letter to the Ottawa Citizen published on the 22nd of September 1882 under the heading An Astronomer's Warning announced "The Greatest Storm of the 19th Century Coming."

The letter was penned by public servant E Stone Wiggins who first denounced the "utter uselessness of our meteorological bureaus", then made his "announcement"— A great storm will strike this planet on the 9th of March next ...

The Associated Press carried Wiggins' prediction, and it appeared in newspapers in the United States and Europe. To give additional publicity he published an almanac.

Some took the storm prediction seriously, supposedly fishermen from Gloucester, Massachusetts, refuse to go to sea.

Others took advantage of the publicity for a bit of commercial humour. Published in the Ottawa Citizen were:

"Wiggins Storms is drawing nigh,
Five pounds of tea you 'd better buy.
Go to Stroud's without delay,
Or perhaps your money may blow away"

and a fantasy, with a bowler hat illustration, that:

"The Lake of the Woods was so much twisted that the Northwest Angle became the Northeast;
The Ottawa end of the Rideau Canal was cantered to starboard three degrees;
The storm overtook a Manitoba blizzard and turned it into a spring freshet in 15 seconds;
The Equator was broken in two places;
A brick whirled from the main tower of the Parliament Buildings, struck a gentleman citizen of the flats, and would have knocked him endways had he not been protected by one of Mr. RJ. Devlin’s excellent hats.
This is the hat.
The brick is inside."

What happened? There was a bit of a blow on the East Coast on the day Wiggins identified, but no worse than a storm a few days earlier. The New York Times immediately consigned him to "the limbo of exploded humbugs."

08 March 2010

More on Dead Ancestors

TNA have posted additional information about their decision to kill Ancestors Magazine which I blogged on Saturday at http://anglo-celtic-connections.blogspot.com/2010/03/dead-ancestors.html.

"All subscribers will be able to claim a refund for any outstanding monies, and all refunds will be handled by Wharncliffe Publishing Ltd. Subscribers should contact the Wharncliffe Publishing Ltd customer services team on 01226 734689 to obtain a refund, or by writing to Wharncliffe History Magazines, The Drill Hall, Eastgate, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2EU.

We are currently discussing plans to launch a new magazine from The National Archives in the autumn. This work is being led by Simon Fowler, the current editor of 'Ancestors', and his team. Further information about this will be available on our website later in the year and in our free monthly newsletter."

Read the TNA item at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/news/441.htm

Ottawa genealogy beginners session

Have you always been curious about your family history but never before had time to pursue it? Do you have a bunch of old family records, want to construct a family tree and explore your ancestors lives? Curious about how to use records of births, marriages and deaths and census information online to learn about your ancestry? There's wonderful help and genealogical resources you can find in the Ottawa area, much of it free.

Take your first steps in genealogy at a half-day beginner session to be hosted by the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa on 20 March 2010, at Library and Archive Canada Exhibition Hall A, 395 Wellington St in central Ottawa, 9:00am until noon.

Syllabus: The Seven Golden Rules of Beginning Genealogy, 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 at www.bifhsgo.c/pdf/BEGINNING_GENEALOGY_webform_2010.pdf

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.

A confession

The first paragraph of this posting was written using words that Google suggests as those that will likely attract most hits based on the key word ancestry.

Here's the paragraph again with those words highlighted:

Have you always been curious about your family history but never before had time to pursue it? Do you have a bunch of old family records, want to construct a family tree and explore your ancestors lives? Curious about how to use records of births, marriages and deaths and census information online to learn about your ancestry? There's wonderful help and genealogical resources you can find in the Ottawa area, much of it free.

07 March 2010

National Burial Index for England and Wales, Third Edition

The (UK) Federation of Family History Societies has announced CD publication of the Third Edition of its National Burial Index containing records taken from Anglican parish, non-conformist, Quaker, Roman Catholic and cemetery burial registers throughout England and Wales.

These records come from different types of sources: parish registers, bishop's transcripts, earlier transcripts or printed registers. They are transcribed and computerised mainly by family history societies although a few individuals contribute records. It does NOT include information from tombstone memorial inscriptions.

The Third Edition covers some 9100 burial locations in 50 counties, a total of 18.4 million records. It adds 5.2 million records to those in the second edition which itself added 7.8 million records to the first edition.

Major additions (over 100,000 entries) in this edition are for Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, County Durham, Essex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, City of London, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Somerset, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Yorkshire (North and West Ridings)

Detailed listings on coverage can be found by clicking on the county at www.ffhs.org.uk/projects/nbi/nbi-coverage.php

The NBI includes the following information (where available):

  • Forename(s) and surname of the deceased
  • Day, month, year of burial
  • Age
  • Details of the place (parish) where the event was recorded
  • The county where this is located (pre-1832 list of counties)
  • The society, group or individual who transcribed the record
Convenient online ordering is available from GenFair at www.genfair.co.uk/ and search for NBI.

Philemon Wright Day

According to a note in The Ottawa Genealogist today, March 7, 2010, is the 210th anniversary of Philemon Wright and extended family settling in Wrightville, now Gatineau, Quebec.

The party included his wife and six children, his brother Thomas with his wife and six children, and others.

Born in Woburn, Mass, September 3, 1760 Wright successfully pioneered lumber exports down the Ottawa River. He died on June 3, 1839 and is buried in St. James Anglican Cemetery.

06 March 2010

Dead Ancestors

The following curt announcement is posted on the Ancestors Magazine blog at www.ancestorsmagazine.co.uk/?page=blog#198

"The April issue of Ancestors (no 94) will be the last to the published, as at the end of March as the two partners in the venture The National Archives and Wharncliffe History Magazines (WHM) are going their separate ways."

Comment: TNA have been withdrawing from their publication business line so while I'm greatly dissappointed I'm not surprised. I've been a subscriber for some while and found it to be the best of the British genealogy magazines. I wish editor Simon Fowler all the best.


The first episode of the first US series shown on NBC, and carried on CityTV in Canada, stuck very much to the original British model. I enjoyed it.

Sarah Jessica Parker played the role of the person following her roots with seeming spontaneity as discoveries about events in her family past were revealed. You have to throw off the idea that the program should show the nitty gritty work on the family history search as that doesn't make for good TV. Accepting that, the program did demonstrate some good practice -- starting with information held in the family and working backwards.

What surprised me was the implication in the story that in order to feel "American" you have to be able to trace a branch of your family back to a significant event in US history, in this case the California gold rush. Links to the Salem witch trials, which pre-date the US, were a bonus. On that basis nobody with a history in the US less that 150 years would seem to qualify as being able to feel truly American! Apparantly one such root is all it takes as the many more ancestors on SJP's father's side of the family, and her mother's father side, did not appear to enjoy such deep roots in the county.

05 March 2010

137 years of Popular Science FREE

Here's another one of those resources a family historian would never think of searching prior to digitization. The entire archives (137 years) of Popular Science is now accessible and searchable, thanks to technology and scanning from Google.

The search capability is fairly rudimentary; but we are promised that advanced features and browsing are in the works.

I tried it out on "Wiggins" and got a hit for an editorial about Ottawa's charlatan scientist of the 19th century, Ezekiel Stone Wiggins.

A search for "Ottawa" produced many hits, mostly ads related to lumber, and also a report from the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club from December 1886. That item includes mention of a paper "The Canadian Otter" being given by Mr. W.P. Lett, the same William Pittman Lett who was Ottawa's first city clerk, notable for oratory, letters, publishing, poetry, journalism and books. The Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives have proposed that the City name Ottawa’s new Central Archives and Library Materials Centre as the William Pittman Lett Building.

Search the Popular Science archives from www.popsci.com/archives

With information from Resource Shelf

Personnel change at Library and Archives Canada

LAC Programs and Services Sector has a new Assistant Deputy Minister. Jean-Stéphen Piché replaces Marie-Josée Martel who has retired after less than a year in the ADM role. Reporting to the Librarian and Archivist of Canada he has overall responsibility for LAC's client services.

Jean-Stéphen Piché most recently served as LAC's Director General, Government Records Branch where he was responsible for setting strategic directions for recordkeeping and for leading a multi-disciplinary team in developing business solutions for Government of Canada-wide recordkeeping issues.

From 2001-2006, he was the Director of LAC's Web Content and Services Division. Under his guidance, the Division facilitated access to Canada's documentary heritage through the Library and Archives Canada website.

An archivist by profession, Jean-Stéphen Piché started as a records archivist at the National Archives of Canada in 1990, and holds a Master's in Canadian history from the Université de Montréal (1992). He has published and presented extensively on various topics related to digital preservation, digitization, recordkeeping and the use of information technology in the service of records and information management.

04 March 2010

Protect those precious papers

The March/April 2010 issue of Family Chronicle magazine contains a short article by Ottawa conservator Kyla Ubbink giving 12 tips on how to care for historic family documents.

Tip 11, use custom enclosures, is one that Kyla has helped me with. I have a small book "Daily Light on the Daily Path", still in publication, that belonged to my great-grandfather, a C of E minister. It has the date 1885 written in together with his signature. I decided to give it to my god-daughter.

Kyla repaired some damage and made a custom protective box which will help minimize future deterioration when some of her other tips are ignored.

Kyla has further tips on her web site: www3.sympatico.ca/kyla.ubbink

03 March 2010

Faces of America: DNA episode

If near a TV set with access to the US public broadcasting system channel I recommend you tune in tonight's "Faces of America." The episode is advertised to be focusing on DNA tests conducted on 12 "renowned Americans" by California-based autosomal DNA testing company 23andMe.

I'll be watching, especially as I'll be talking about 23andMe's tests, and possibly others, in my Gene-O-Rama presentation at the end of the month.

For those who haven't seen the previous "Faces of America" episodes, the program is exploring the questions "What made America? What makes us?"

I was surprised and pleased they included Malcolm Gladwell as one of the "renowned Americans." Not that he doesn't rate the renowned label. It's a bit unusual that a US program would acknowledge that there is an America, and are Americans, outside the US. With his mixed British-Jamaican ancestry, and Canadian upbringing, Gladwell provides a stimulating contrast to the all too frequent myopic US view.

Those outside the range of PBS can get a good flavour of the program, including video highlight snippets and even whole episodes, at www.pbs.org/wnet/facesofamerica/

Help from Quinte Branch

Need help finding ancestors in Hastings, Prince Edward and southeastern Northumberland Counties in Ontario?

In a posting last fall I mentioned OGS Quinte Branch's online searchable names index that contains over one million names from cemetery transcriptions, baptism records, newspaper indexes and genealogies.

Branch Internet guru Bob Dawes emailed to let me know about a new pdf finding aid for the database.

02 March 2010

GRO certificate price increase

Act soon. The price of English and Welsh birth, marriage and death certificates is going up.

As explained at http://www.ips.gov.uk/cps/rde/xchg/ips_live/hs.xsl/1569.htm, on Tuesday 6 April the price of a certificate ordered online jumps from £7 ($11 Cdn) to £9.25 ($14.40 Cdn).

A reduced price if you provide the exact GRO reference will no longer apply.

Thanks to Christine Jackson for the alert.

WDYTYA TV schedule

The US version on the UK program Who Do You Think You Are? is scheduled to debut on NBC starting at 8pm next Friday, March 5th. The first person profiled is actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

Other scheduled personalities are:

March 12: Emmitt Smith
March 19: Lisa Kudrow
March 26: Matthew Broderick
April 2: Brooke Shields
April 9: Susan Sarandon
April 23: Spike Lee