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/

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