Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Ontario Records Online: Survey Results

As of 7 pm on Monday, 20 November 384 responses to the online survey had been received. While a few more are trickling in they are unlikely to change the results in a significant way.

72.4 per cent of respondents were Ontario residents and 71.1 per cent OGS members.

In general are you in favour of greater online availability of Ontario records of genealogical interest?
YES - 99.2 per cent; MAYBE: 0.3 per cent; NO - 0.5 per cent

Do you favour the Ontario Genealogical Society advocating for online availability of Ontario materials of genealogical interest?
YES - 98.2 per cent; MAYBE - 0.8 percent; NO - 1 per cent

Specifically, do you favour Ontario probate indexes presently available on microfilm being made available online?
YES - 98.2 per cent; MAYBE - 1.6 percent; NO - 0 per cent

Specifically do you favour all Ontario probate documents presently available on microfilm being made available online?
YES - 94.5 per cent; MAYBE - 5 percent; NO - 0.2 per cent

Specifically, would you favour the Ontario Genealogical Society advocating for online availability of Ontario probate records now available on microfilm?
YES - 95.5 per cent; MAYBE - 3.4 percent; NO - 1 per cent

Would you accept Ontario probate indexes and documents being exclusively available online for a limited time, after which they would become freely available, through a commercial arrangement, such as with Ancestry, Findmypast or MyHeritage, in order to fund online availability and as long as the existing availability through microfilm was retained?
YES - 70.9 per cent; MAYBE - 21.7 percent; NO - 7.3 per cent

63 people left comments which are reproduced below with identifying information redacted in two cases.

The most important need is for some type of online newspaper archive, such as Trove in Australia. Clearly this is a major undertaking as the original sources or copies would need to be gathered first.
It would be wonderful to have access to the probate records online. Right now I'd have to travel to see them or order the microfilm.
If free access followed by commercial access is necessary (because otherwise project could not proceed)... then I would prefer that the monies derived from the commercial access go to an Ontario institution, e.g. directly to the Archives of Ontario... (Maybe grant funding can be obtained for the digitization projects).
I am in the UK so online information would be wonderful.
I'm not a fan of BIG CORPS owning everything and making us pay for taxpayer owned public records. I do understand that these corps can help in the digitisation process and should get a financial reward but after a set time period - agreed upon by both parties- the records then should be accessible on all plarforms for free .
As the microfilmed probate records are now fully available to the public but through a needlessly complex and restrictive search process, I see no reason why they shouldn't be made available online. As always, the issue is the cost of digitization. Private sector participation seem unavoidable but should be carefully negotiated to ensure that provincial ownership and control of these records is maintained. Hence my "Maybe" response to the access scenario proposed above. Kudos to OGS for pursuing this general initiative on digitization! The provincial government itself should be acting more forcefully on this. Surely online availability of records would improve the efficiency of their own operations.
I'm trying to break a brick wall so I've been digging DEEP into geography and document availability in those localities. I have leads but they often stop just as I'm getting started. I hired a "professional" researcher 2 years ago. I got nothing other than my own family tree at ancestry copied and and sent to me. I have had good luck with on line repositories who only charge for the documents or for time and documents. But that means I have to find it first and then get the copy. So often there are multiple men with the same name and in the same place that it's impossible to know which one is mine. If I had online access to more I might be able to compare and figure out if any of them are mine. I'm too far away from Canada to even think about in person research.
I would prefer to see resources made exclusively available online for a limited period of time at a non-profit organization such as FamilySearch or The Ontario Genealogical Society before a commercial organization. Perhaps coupling a non-profit with a commercial entity, such as Findmypast/OGS or FamilySearch/Ancestry.
I'd be willing to help with indexing
I have long thought that the Ontario Probate records should be prioritized for digitization and online access! So glad to hear that the OGS is investigating this possibility! Fingers crossed that this idea becomes a reality.
I was just looking into getting the microfilm so this is very timely.
I had to travel from England to find several wills of my mother's immediate family. I couldn't afford to go back again to widen my search, but would happy to make a donation.
I reside in BC researching my ancestors who settled in ON. Having more access to ON genealogical records via my OGS membership would be very much appreciated. OGS please do!
Since I live in Calgary it would be a great help if we could go online to make use of these records! Sharen Haggarty
Would prefer AO to offer records on own website as does BC Archives vital stats Concerned with ability of OGS to manage theses datasets given decline in branches/members/executive
In my opinion, if OGS puts the effort into advocating and indexing these records then there should be some continuing benefit to the OGS membership, and these records should be freely available to the membership on a continuing basis. Since the Archives of Ontario holds the microfilms, they should host the digitized and indexed files. If AO hosting is not possible, then I would accept Ontario probate indexes and documents becoming freely available through a commercial arrangement ONLY IF OGS members continued to enjoy free access to them, and the commercial company hosting them makes them available for free to OGS members.
This could be done in stages - first digitize the films so they can be browsed online. Then index the indexes so they can be searched. Then link the indexes to the actual probate files.
I think this is a GREAT IDEA!!!
This would be of huge value to anyone interested in genealogical research. Microfiche takes an extraordinary amount of time to use. And for researchers with Ontario roots who now live out of province an online version would be invaluable!!
Just found out my husband has Canadian ancestors
For those of us who have deep Ontario connections having these and other records on line would make a huge difference.
As someone who has roots in Ontario and lives elsewhere, it would be wonderful to have more online resources to aid in family history research.
It is vital to make these records more available. For people not living near the Ontario Archive it is so time and energy consuming even committed and enthusiastic get depressed and half the time don't complete those researches!
On line availability would be very helpful for everyone but especially for those of us who live at a distance. As well, sometimes our local branch microfilm reader is not available or broken.
We have seen how successful this type of arrangement has been with the release of the 1921 census through Ancestry
I don't support the use of commercial sites for this project at all, regardless of the company.
Have you considered free-access FamilySearch as an alternative to subscription-based Ancestry, My Heritage or Find My Past?
Not currently a member, however, I have been a member in the past. I live in BC and just about ALL my ancestors came through Ontario, so I would use the Ontario information.
Index should be online with a fee to download the full document
to get the free on-line I would re-register as an OGS member
Thank you for undertaking this valuable mission!
These records, and other like them, are an important part of our historical record, and as such should be readily available to all Canadians using the updated methods now available.
Thank you for starting a conversation about this. Since so many Ontario records are governed by strict privacy laws, more expedient (i.e. - online) access to those records that are already available on microfilm would greatly advance genealogical research with Ontario records.
These specific questions with positive response answers are truly important for determining correct family tree relationships. They can hold information that reveals unknown family members as well as information on family values and relationships. This can be a goldmine for determining your family tree. I was born and grew up in Ontario and am now living in Victoria, B.C. and find it very difficult and time consuming to go through the existing process of ordering films in relation to being able to access them online. This could be a huge benefit to the genealogy community to be able to ensure more accurate trees to be passed down to the next generation.
The more documents that can be put on-line the better for people who do not have a mobility option to research their ancestor's which is what this is all about. Thank You for what you are doing.
I was born and lived in Ontario until 11 years ago. In the course of my research I discovered a branch of my mum's paternal family immigrated to the Hamilton area. I have been tracing them and would welcome further records to search. Also, I work at a library and help patrons with their genealogy, so am interested in this from a professional point of view as well.
This is a wonderful idea!!
I would want assurance that OGS membership would have guaranteed free access to the records before handing them over to a commercial entity.
Great initiative. Thanks for taking this on.
I was a member for many years. Have been stuck in Ontario fro over 40 years with a common Irish name (1840-1880 period). Having probate indexes and documents might down my brick wall.
Is there a possibility of transcribing records, once digitized, from one's home, like Family Search does? Many people/volunteers involved could cut costs.
Living in another province makes it impossible for me to use records that are only available at the Ontario Archives, etc. Hiring someone to do research for you is just to expensive.
I think it would be a valuable resource
Because I live in California, this proposal would be especially helpful for my family research
Having the Ontario probate records online would be awesome!!
It seems sensible for the Ontario Genealogical Society to sponsor such a move to make Ontario Archival records available online. 
I am a remote member from northern Alberta so anything online is a help. 
I'm not sure about the structure of the survey. Who's going to answer anything other than Yes to the first 5 questions? It might be more useful to ask how people would prioritize probate record digitization versus other records. Personally probate records and land records would be my priorities among Archives of Ontario records.
Good idea!
Hope this goes throught and would like more Indian information. Thank You
Probate records have been vital in my genealogical journey, proving many points.
I believe that the records should be available on line for free even after Ancestry or FMP or another service has access. I pay for Ancestry and FMP for the indexing, ease of searching and access to non-local records. Making them available for free with a browse feature is appropriate as they are public records.
I have been a member of OGS for 40+ years, but live in California so have a problem getting to records. This would be a real benefit.
If the 'exclusively available online for a limited time' means available to OGS members only, I might be willing to take out a membership if I needed to get early access. Since most of my ancestors were farmers, and most likely didn't have wills, I'm not sure when or if I would need access to probate documents. However, I am all in favour of getting as many documents made as available as possible while honouring reasonable privacy guidelines.
I have ancestors who arrived from England and settled in Ontario for several decades and many who remain in Ontario to this day, while others moved to the USA.
This would be a huge help since I live in Alberta and finding a local microfilm reader is difficult. Thank you.
This would be a huge benefit to people unable to travel to Toronto. Although I am a library patron, well versed in using the library website, the process to order them from the library is somehow daunting and off-putting. One goes through all the effort to order them and when one receives them one could find oneself caught up in something else going on in one's life, work or the community, and not have the time to use the material. Having the records available online at all times would be most appealing.
I think probate records should be available on the gov't website.
Family came to Wentworth County in 1820 -- however I live in Surrey BC -- so the more resources available on-line, the more extensively I can research our family tree since travelling to Ontario / Toronto is not an option at this time.
This would provide access to people with Ontario ancestors, but who currently do not live close enough to the repository for reasonable access.
Ontario probate records need to be Open Access; it would be better to apply for funding (for example, from LAC's DHCP program - http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/services/documentary-heritage-communities-program/Pages/dhcp-portal.aspx) to digitize these records, and then make them openly accessible, as opposed to housed by a commercial partner.
would also like to see Ontario Census that are not on line.
I trust the LDS but NOT Ancestry. Their records are contaminated, transcriptions more than often wrong. They are a huge corporate entity which has overtaken free genealogy websites and claim an interest in genealogy, but rather they are Corporations now housed in Switzerland, I believe, with no transparency as to who transcribes their records, or where the original sources come from.

Thank you to all who responded to the survey, and to OGS for publicizing it.

What next?  I'll ensure the results are made known to OGS and to John Roberts, Chief Privacy Officer and Archivist of Ontario.

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