Following a healthy lunch I attended an APG panel discussion "From the Printed Page to the Digital Age" organized and chaired by Sharon Murphy. There were about 40 people in attendance and lots of questions from the floor.
Brian Gilchrist, who admitted being a delinquent APG member, saw the greatest change to be in technology for quality controls since he started into genealogy in 1966. He lamented the loss of access to original documents he had in the early days and the information you miss when you have to rely on a b/w microfilm copy rather than the original.
Susanna de Groot, who has 10 years experienced, mentioned the difficulty in keeping up with continual changes.
Janice Nickerson, who started in genealogy in 1982, commented that you can find simple things more easily now; that speeds up the drudgery part of the job and leaves more time for the more interesting records -- obscure documents -- and analysis.
Ruth Burkholder - commented that she finds herself more of an isolated researcher than she used to be when colleagues got together and talked more as they were searching in the same archives.
Tammy Priolo commented on the old days of working through piles of old book, and the education that resulted compared to the rapid retrieval now with the internet. She did comment that internet access had been especially valuable to her in Northern Ontario where access was previously difficult.
I couldn't keep up with the diverse bunch of questions from the audience. I asked about whether the internet was helping clients to find qualified researchers, and if there services were more widely advertised because of the internet. The responses varied, some still relying on local and personal networking, some taking greater advantage of internet groups such as APG, personal and company web sites.
Sherilyn Bell gave a most informative presentation "Weary of Y Chromosome & Mitochondrial DNA Testing?" She gave a good review of this traditional testing, then moved on to more recent developments suggesting how DNA analysis would change genealogy.
David Obee spoke on "Travel Smart with Technology." Dave travels a lot and suggests he's made most of the mistakes. As well as the well worn suggestion to prepare well, an oldie but goodie, re argued with the advice to travel light instead pointing out that it's costly to lose opportunities when technology fails. He carries backups for much of his technology. Links for his presentation are here.
The evening banquet speaker was well known author, and Ottawa resident, Charlotte Gray who spoke on her experiences in writing about women for whom she had completed biographies. In this, as in all previous talks I've heard her give, her presentation was thoughtful and well appreciated.
It was a long but enjoyable day.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Following a healthy lunch I attended an APG panel discussion "From the Printed Page to the Digital Age" organized and chaired by Sharon Murphy. There were about 40 people in attendance and lots of questions from the floor.
At Saturday morning's Ontario Genealogical Society AGM the membership present voted in favour of the OGS Council motion to increase the annual fee from $45 to $60 in 2010. An amendment to stage the increase over five years failed. My amendment to institute a rebate for members who opted to receive regular publications electronically was ruled out of order.
Most speakers from the floor who addressed the motion supported the the increase, although some expressed a concern that the increase would result in fewer branch memberships.
At 11:15am I attended a presentation "Tracing Your Foremothers" by Shirley Gage Hodges, president of the Genealogical Speakers Guild. She suggested you look at what roles your ancestors have filled, friend, employee, church member, teacher, student, neighbour, and the type of records that might be available.
The presentation was well done, even though much of it was presented from a text.
The talk was interspersed with humour, such as this quote "It's the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have time" by Tallulah Bankhead 1903-1968.
She ended by expressing the opinion that the most important mistake we make is spending more time in tracing back our families rather than recording our own biography.
The talk was illustrated by clear colourful slides fully legible from the back row where I was sitting.
Donegal, Cork, Galway, Wexford and King’s County (Offaly) are now available on the National Archives of Ireland site. Search here.
They comment that "Even though there is still some material missing (in particular, some Irish language returns, and corrections submitted by the public), we have decided to make the material available, in the knowledge that the vast majority of our users will be able to find what they want. Corrections and improvements will be ongoing, and we are very grateful to all users who have submitted corrections to us."
Under future plans they inform that:
"Further tranches of counties will comprise:
1. Limerick, Mayo,Waterford, Armagh, Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Fermanagh, Kildare, Kilkenny and Leitrim;
2. Londonderry (Derry), Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Queen’s County (Laois), Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Tyrone, Westmeath and Wicklow.
At present, we hope to be placing the first listed tranche online by mid – July, and the second tranche by end -August, but this is subject to our being satisfied that the data meets our required levels of accuracy.
In September, we will be rebuilding the site to include full transcription of all of the data on the household forms for 1911, including religion, occupation, relationship to head of family, literacy status, marital status, county or country of origin, Irish language proficiency, specified illnesses, and child survival information.
1901, with all data transcribed, will be launched towards the end of 2009."
Friday, May 29, 2009
Arriving in Oakville to a warm sunny day I drove to Sheridan College and eventually found my way to registration which was quite a way from the furthest reaches of the marketplace and the main entrance. My registration package awaited, was promptly produced, and some deficiencies in the material included were quickly and cheerfully addressed.
I dropped in briefly to the graduation ceremonies for the National Institute for Genealogical Research, a happy occasion.
After a buffet dinner meeting many friends and acquaintances, see the blog posting by fellow Ottawa blogger Elizabeth Lapointe, it was off to the opening ceremonies and J. Richard Houston Memorial Lecture given by Kory L. Meyerink.
This meeting marked the official change of honourary patron, from Senator Lorna Milne to Senator Vivienne Poy. Senator Milne emphasized the work that she did to have the post 1901 censuses released is not complete as there is still the question of the default exclusion from release to be addressed. Senator Poy surprised us by mentioning she had her Chinese family history back 2000 years, and that she had a Scottish great-grandfather. She seems interested in expanding the cultural range of OGS from the traditional Anglo membership.
Kory Meyerink, gave the J. Richard Houston Memorial Lecture Beyond the Begats: Developing Biographies from Paper and Digital Sources. He emphasized the need to fill in the dash between the birth and death date, and suggested techniques by which genealogists could become family "biographers." Many of these involved looking at information on collateral lines and community experience. The lecture was illustrated with reference to Ontario Loyalist ancestors and will be published in Families.
Having driven from Ottawa prior to all this the two hour evening session felt like a bit too much of a good thing, especially when Saturday morning's first presentation starts at 8 am.
I'm informed that on Thursday Stephen Young and Rex Peterson of FamilySearch gave a presentation to Family History Centre volunteers in Toronto.
They mentioned the digitization at BYU of family histories in their collection. They gave an example of how to see a sample.
Look in the Family History Library Catalogue under author "Becker, John Adams". (The same John Becker who edits Families). If you click on his first book, you'll see a link that takes you immediately to a digital copy of the book. You should see it through this link. It's all free!
Is OGS checking for availability of the books they intend digitizing from the Society library from other sources, with deeper pockets, before going ahead?
Added note: I spoke to Stephen Young and Rex Peterson at the OGS conference in Oakville and learnt that the books available in full text are the same as those at the BYU Family History Archive.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Early on Friday morning I'll be leaving for the OGS annual conference being held at Sheridan College in Oakville.
I expect to be at the registration desk around 4 or 5 pm on Friday and would be pleased to talk, especially about concerns on the proposed OGS fee increase.
I've already heard talks being given by Alison Hare, Marian Press and Gary Schroder, all of whom I recommend. I'm particularly looking at attending other talks on topics of my interest, likely not Ontario-specific.
Elizabeth Lapointe at Canada Genealogy will also be blogging, and twittering, from the conference. At previous conferences I've found there's so much going on people can have quite different experiences. I'll be blogging about mine here. It'll be interesting to compare our posts.
The following information from the Canadian Genealogy Centre announces the availability of new advice pages of interest to those with Jewish and/or Polish roots; and a shorter section on heraldry.
Information on Jewish (http://www.collectionscanada.
A page about Heraldry (http://www.collectionscanada.
Three of the Ontario Genealogical Society 30 branches stand out for their web sites.
Each branch has a web site. Most provide basic information about the branch and its programs. A few show the hallmarks of considerable work that has gone into the site -- they deserve recognition.
This evaluation wasn't exhaustive, but it did have criteria: design, timeliness and unique content.
The three OGS Branches (in alphabetical order) that stood out from the others are:
Durham Region, Quinte, York Region
There was another near miss.
And the best site:
Durham Region: Unique resources, a blog and RSS feed make this well designed site the best overall.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The following is a 27 May press release from the Ontario Genealogical Society
The Board of the Ontario Genealogical Society has approved an ambitious program to digitize and place online the Society's provincial library.
The online e-Library will operate much as a regular library. Anyone will be able to borrow a book and, if a copy of the book is available, will receive a coded file containing the book. The patron will be able to read the book for a period of time, say two weeks, after which the file becomes unavailable. The book cannot be copied. These restrictions ensure that copyright is not infringed.
The 3 500 family histories held by the library will be scanned first. Periodicals and OGS publications still in print will not be placed online. It will take well over a year to get the entire library online. The system will be tested within the next few weeks when about a hundred books will be placed online within the Members Only section of the OGS website. The system will be available to the general public in the early fall when more than a thousand books become available.
The Society is investing $16 500 in software, to be taken from the Endowment Fund, and will incur an annual expense of several thousand dollars, essentially to ensure that copyright is not infringed. As a result there will have to be a fee for each book borrowed. The Board will determine the fee at its May meeting. It is expected to be small for Society Members and much larger for non-members. OGS Members should note that OGS in-print publications will not be included in the e-Library.
Most people enjoy treasure hunts, especially genealogists and family historians. Librarians love to help people seeking information, and seeking to learn. Reference librarians are getting adept at pointing family history researchers to a range of free online databases. Put these together and you get the Vancouver Public Library's just completed genealogy contest.
More than 100 people sent in answers and the VPL gave a book prize, Finding Your Canadian Ancestors by Sherry Irvine and Dave Obee, to five people drawn from the 75 fully correct entries. Here's the VPL's contest. Why not challenge yourself?
Answer the questions below using the following FREE Canadian genealogy databases. Each database answers ONE question.
British Columbia City Directories, 1860-1901
Canadian Naturalization (1915-1932)
Census of Canada, 1881
Daniel F. Johnson’s New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics
Immigration Records (1925-1935)
In Search of Your Canadian Past: The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/CountyAtlas
Prince Edward Island Baptismal Index
Saskatchewan Vital Statistics – Genealogy Indexes
Soldiers of the First World War
Western Land Grants (1870-1930)
1. What were the names of 4 children born to Margaret Walsh and James Thompson and baptised in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island during the 1860s?
2. What was the occupation and residence of Morris Applebaum, an immigrant from Poland who became a naturalized Canadian on March 13, 1920?
3. Where was future Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker living at the time of the 1901 census? What were the names and ages of other members of the household?
4. Charles Edwin Martindale enlisted as a soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on May 10th, 1916. Where was he born?
5. How many people with the surname Smith are buried at Sunnyside Lawn cemetery in Surrey, B.C.?
6. What was the first name of the youngest person with the surname Howe to arrive in Quebec City on the Montcalm in 1925? How old was he or she?
7. Who were the parents of Jules Ernest Azur, born in Batoche, Saskatchewan in 1906?
8. Who did Andrew Babineau of Moncton, New Brunswick marry on December 20, 1891?
9. Which four individuals were granted the quarter-sections making up Section 10, Township 10, Range 10, Meridian W1 in Manitoba?
10. In which township in Brant County, Ontario was Alfred Jones living around 1875?
11. How many people with the surname Douglas, born in Scotland, were living in Manitoba in 1881?
12. What was the occupation of H.H. Burr of New Westminster, B.C. in 1877-1878?
The answers may be found on the VPL website.
This would be a good model for other libraries to adapt.
Thanks to Janet Tomkins of the VPL for the lead.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The UK Independent publish, for the first time, newly discovered photos showing allied soldiers on their way to the Somme.
You can read the full story of how these images came to be taken, recovered and restored here, along with a link to view many of them.
Some of the more interesting photos, including one with a Canadian military insignia on one of the buttons, are here.
Thanks to M. Diane Rogers for the tip. Diane has a longer posting on her CanadaGenealogy, or, "Jane's your Aunt" site.
Looking for an ancestor who was an officer in the British Army? If so he should appear in the Army Lists which where published starting in 1642.
The lists give more detail for more senior offices. For Lieutenants and below it's typically just name and promotion dates.
You may not find the originals easy to access, but if he served between 1778 and 1892 he may be in the free Army Lists now online through the Internet Archive (direct link to search results.) It has substantial gaps, and there seems to be no way to search for a particular year. Below is a selection that may help you get started.
A list of the officers of the army and of the corps of royal marines 1778
A List of the officers of the Army and of the Corps of Royal Marines 1826
Hart's Annual Army List, Militia List, and Imperial Yeomanry List 1840
The East-India Register and Army List 1845
Hart's Annual Army List, Militia List, and Imperial Yeomanry List 1850THE NEW ARMY LIST AND MILITIA LIST JANUARY 1855
Hart's Annual Army List, Militia List, and Imperial Yeomanry List 1860
Hart's Annual Army List, Militia List, and Imperial Yeomanry List 1865
the new army list militia list and indian civil service list 1880
Hart's Annual Army List, Militia List, and Imperial Yeomanry List 1890
Monday, May 25, 2009
In a recent posting on the Ancestry Town Hall Meeting this blog noted that "Ancestry apparently have a relationship with some of their harshest critics. If you want to have your gripes addressed it seems it's good to be a really squeaky wheel."
Squeak. Here's an appalling case of Ancestry deception. Squeak. Squeak.
Ancestry recently made available selected issues of Crockford's Clerical Directories. These contain biographies of Anglican clergy in the UK. They also provides other information such as details about the Anglican churches and benefices in England, Wales, and Ireland. The years covered are 1868, 1874, 1885, 1898, 1809, and 1932.
Here's the search dialog box that appears when you attempt to search these volumes. There's space for first and last names and other information. But, try a search and you'll find that names were never identified as such in the digitization. Search for a man with last name Newby and you'll get lots of hits for a place called Newby, and some for people named Newby. There's no discrimination. The hits for the surname don't appear first. It's simply deception that you can search specifically for a name.
Aside from that problem this is an example of OCR'd documents with a poor quality OCR - likely one of the earlier efforts from the now defunct Archive CD Books UK. My great grandfather appears in the 1898 issue but he won't appear when you search from the form. Only because the listing is alphabetical was I able to track him down.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Nearly 1.5 million new unique index entries were added to the FreeBMD database on Saturday 23 May. The new data is mainly from 1927 to 1939. Gaps continue to be filled in earlier years. The most recent year with 10,000 index entries is 1939 for births, 1945 for marriages and 1935 for deaths.
McKim's Canadian Newspaper Directory claimed to be "a thoroughly complete and up to date hand-book
of Canadian Journalism." The main purpose was to assist potential advertisers. It included circulation ratings and details concerning each paper.
It also served as a mini-gazetteer.
Genealogists turn to newspapers for birth, marriage and death notices, and family historians know they contain much more of interest. But which paper do you look for if your ancestor's community didn't boast a paper? As shown in the extract, McKim's directory can help as the listing for each community with a paper including surrounding towns and villages where no papers were published.
McKim directories for 1899, 1905, 1909 and 1919 have been digitized for the Internet Archive by the University of Toronto. See a clickable list here.
I find the Flip Book (beta) reader to be best as it allows zooming and searching.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
In their May newsletter Archive CD Books Canada announce they have just, in the last few days, completed an agreement to carry the products of Anguline Research Archives. Anguline is a British based digital reproduction specialist and has a catalogue of over 300 titles, rare books on CD at an affordable price for the local and family history researcher.
These products should start appearing in the Archive CD Books Canada catalogue in next few weeks.
You can subscribe to the Archive CD Books Canada free newsletter, and keep up with news from them and their international partners, from their home page here.
Friday, May 22, 2009
If you have ancestors who lived in London you may well have spent time with maps trying to figure out just where they lived. London is so vast its easy to get lost. Some resources I've found helpful are the various maps free online from Map and Plan Collection Online, MAPCO.
The site offers a wide variety of maps, from Roman times to the early 20th century, many in colour and with impressive sufficient resolution.
The site is frequently updated with additions and improvements.
The image is a degraded overview, hopefully clear enough to give a general impression but degraded sufficiently to keep me out of copyright problems, of Cross's New Plan Of London 1850. At 4½" to 1 statute mile it is a work of art and close enough to the 1851 census to be helpful in locating roads once you zoom in.
Stanford's Map Of London Showing The Boundaries Of Parishes, Ecclesiastical Districts, And Poor Law Divisions 1877 is 3" to 1 statute mile. Use it to locate the church your ancestor may have used, and the records of which may contain information on baptisms and marriages.
MAPCO has maps from further afield than London. Set aside some time when you visit as it's all too easy to get drawn in.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
The organization remains Library and Archives Canada, but the faces are changing following the appointment of Dr. Daniel J. Caron as Librarian and Archivist of Canada. The appointments and deployments below are now announced.
Doug Rimmer, formerly Assistant Deputy Minister, Programs and Services Sector has been appointed Assistant Deputy Minister, Documentary Heritage Collection Sector. He replaces Ingrid Parent who has accepted an appointment as University Librarian at the University of British Columbia.
Zahra Pourjafar-Ziaei becomes A?/Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Management Sector. She had previously served at Deputy Chief Technology Officer
Marie-Josée Martel becomes Assistant Deputy Minister, Programs and Services Sector. She came to LAC in September 2008 from Treasury Board Secretariat where she was Executive Director, Service Sector. She will also Chair the LAC Services Advisory Board.
Sean Berrigan, formerly Director-General in the Strategic Office, assumes the role of Senior Advisor to the Librarian and Archivist of Canada.
Most of the names are new to me. As is common at the Public Service executive level, corporate memory is scarce in these appointments. If you have information or opinion they should be aware of to help them provide better service they all have email which can be found through GEDS, the Government Electronic Directory Service.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
In the spring 2009 issue of the journal of genetic genealogy Whit Athey writes an editorial "DAR versus DNA". The stimulus is an article in American Spirit, the magazine of the Daughters of the American Revolution which explains why at the present time DAR rejects any DNA evidence submitted as a part of an application for membership. DAR’s contention is that DNA evidence does not provide sufficient accuracy to prove descent from a revolutionary soldier.
Athey concedes this for most cases. He points out however that in all cases it can add supporting evidence. Further, DNA can certainly disprove a relationship - something that most applicants would not willingly delve into given the possibility of non paternity events.
If DAR and other lineage societies were serious wouldn't they ask for ALL evidence, not just that they have grown comfortable with over the years, and require applicants to submit a DNA test result and demonstrate in the light of that evidence how the claim to be a descendant is at least plausible? Otherwise can the exploration of the evidence be said to be reasonably exhaustive as specified in the Genealogical Proof Standard?
The editorial is worth the read.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Just posted on Roots Television is a short interview Dick Eastman recorded with Sylvie Tremblay where she describes the services provided, and records available, at LAC and especially from the Canadian Genealogy Centre.
Sylvie emphasized the web presence mentioning some statistics that were new to me. CGC has 375 bilingual web pages, and the site received 7 million page view in 2008, double that of the previous year. The most popular records are the WW1 military files.
She gave a useful tip that much material is stored off-site and people coming from out of town need to order the material they want to view in advance. It's a good (correction) idea to check that the order was filled and is waiting before you travel.
The interview was recorded at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference last month. Other interviews recorded at the same meeting are Dan Lynch on Google Your Family Tree and dynamic Donna Walcovy on gravestone and cemetery preservation.
These and many other interviews can be found at Roots Television.
At their forthcoming Annual General Meeting members of the Ontario Genealogical Society will be considering a proposal from the Board of Directors for a $15 fee increase. Costs have escalated and fees have not kept up given creeping inflation. The Society finds itself in a deficit situation that is unsustainable.
OGS has no direct market competition. But individuals are making their own market decisions. I suspect many former and potential members are choosing to purchase a database subscription instead of a society membership. Ancestry claims 1,000,000 subscribers which must be substantially more than the membership in all genealogical societies combined. It's not just OGS, many genealogical organizations continue to experience membership decline.
One way to judge the relative value of Society membership is to benchmark fees against those of similar organizations. The list below shows a comparison of some Canadian and foreign FHSs. The annual fees, in Canadian dollars, are for a single membership with separate entries for OGS with the present, proposed, and proposed plus one branch membership fees. You can click on the links to the various society web sites and find out about the benefits members get for their annual subscription.
(US) NEHGS -- $87
OGS -- $75 (proposed, plus one branch membership)
(US) NGS -- $70
OGS -- $60 (proposed)
(Australia) SAG -- $58
QFHS -- $55
(UK) SOG -- $48 (overseas membership)
OGS -- $45 (present)
VGS -- $45
FHSNL -- $42
AGS -- $40
SGS -- $40
AFHS -- $35
BCGS -- $35
BIFHSGO -- $35
MGS -- $35
NBGS -- $35
There's quite a variation in benefits between these various organizations. Take care to balance benefits and cost. For example, the NEHGS provides online access to a wide variety of regional databases, and even some outside the region.
Several people I have been in contact with find the proposed OGS fees too high for the benefits presently offered and would prefer that the Society pare back expenses.
Share your views, anonymously if you prefer, by responding to this post. It just might help the OGS Board in preparing for their AGM.
Monday, May 18, 2009
We scrutinize census and civil registration records. When they don't reveal the information we need we look further afield. A frequent topic for genealogy conferences is the more obscure sources. There's such a presentation in the forthcoming OGS conference "Unusual and Overlooked Sources for the 20th Century" being given by Marg Aldridge.
My addition to the obscure list is sessional papers. These mainly comprise annual reports and accounts of government and government regulated organizations. Pretty dull stuff, unless you find an ancestor.
Ontario sessional papers are becoming available through the Internet Archive and Google Books. There are lots of names to be found, notably accounts showing payments to and from an individual, or company, and the organization. Did your ancestor do plumbing or snow clearing for a government agency? If so you may find the individual or company named in the accounts as having received a payment.
I also spotted a list of children enrolled on a school for the blind.
If you're lucky you may find something more substantive. I stumbled on copies of original claims advanced by Loyalists in the 1905 report of the Ontario Archives copied from a 1785-1786 compensation claim hearing in Halifax.
Below is the first part of a fairly typical claim, establishing loyalty then proceeding to losses incurred (not shown).
The Internet Archives seems to have a wider range of sessional papers, from volume 33 (1901) to volume 52 (1920), than Google Books. These Ontario sources are "Yours to Discover."
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Toronto librarian Stephen Abram posted a Facebook item recently What is a Group of Librarians?
He blogged some of the responses here.
A gaggle of librarians
A collection of librarians
A catalogue of librarians
A catalog of librarians
A shush of librarians
A volume of librarians
A flap of librarians.
Shush is my favourite.
I wondered about a collective for genealogists, Googled it and found a recent Rootschat discussion. I especially liked the suggestion
An Ahnentafel of Genealogists.
My suggestion, with an eye to the Genealogical Proof Standard, is
A Coherency of Professional Genealogists
If you can do better please post your suggestions.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Less than two weeks now until Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2009. As it says on the website "features include nine workshops and thirty-five presentations. In addition, take advantage of an opportunity to speak with the experts, drop into our computer research room and access pay-per-view sites at no charge, and display the families you are researching on the "Wall of Ancestors" and/or visit the more than forty vendors and OGS Branches to serve you."
The schedule, as a pdf, is here.
I'll be there along with several others from the Ottawa area, the most notable being Charlotte Gray who is guest speaker at the banquet. I expect to be blogging the conference right here.
It looks to be a popular event. Accommodation at the Sheridan College residence was sold out when I tried to book.
Brenda Dougall Merriman's book United Empire Loyalists, A Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada (Ontario) is advertised as an essential guide for everyone researching Loyalist heritage.
The US National Genealogical Society at its banquet on 15 May gave Brenda prestigious recognition in the form of an award of excellence for the book.
The award, for Genealogical Methods & Sources, is presented to "an individual or nonprofit organization for a specific, significant single contribution in the form of a book, an article, or a series of articles published during the past three years that discusses genealogical methods and sources and serves to foster scholarship and/or otherwise advances or promotes excellence in genealogy."
Congratulations to Brenda, who is also a blogger.
Friday, May 15, 2009
There's been a fair bit of hype about a new free online facility with the objective of "making all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone. You enter your question or calculation, and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and growing collection of data to compute the answer."
It's also described as a huge almanac that keeps getting updated, linked to a large computer.
So is there any value for genealogy?
I've yet to encounter a genealogist who has much need to integral calculus, or even differential calculus. There's a whole lot of powerful capability if you do.
It does have a fair bit of date capability. You can ask about any date and it'll tell you the day, the elapsed time since then, and anything significant that happened that day. It knows when Easter was in 1922 and tell you how much time has elapsed since that date.
It also knows about population of countries (but not provinces), and cities (Ottawa, Toronto) distances, geographic areas, and currency. It can understand and perform calculations like how may people die each year in Canada per square Km of surface area.
There's lots to explore, and I just scratched the surface.
For genealogy the information seems limited at this early stage. It knows the birth and death dates of British kings and queens and US presidents. It can tell you that it was 93 years, 11 months and 17 days from Richard Nixon's birth to Gerald Ford's death.
It believes Mickey Mouse's birthday is Wednesday Nov 18, 2009!
It knows Stephen Wolfram's birthday, but not his mother's!
Find Wolfram Alpha here.
This website is a photo tribute to the 21st Battalion CEF that formed in Kingston Ontario in 1914 and proceeded first to England, then on to France to fight in the Great War.
There's a lot to read on this site, including the transcription of the diary of Company Sergeant Major Lou Verdon.
He is perhaps an extreme example of a recent British immigrant who signed up early in the war. Born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England, he came to Canada in July 1914. He had a police background, stayed initially with his brother in Ottawa, joined the Dominion Police and the Governor General's Footguards. By 6 November he was attested to the 21st Battalion at Kingston Ontario and, less than a year after he left, was back in England as a member of the CEF.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Just announced in Raleigh NC, for the third time the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa quarterly chronicle Anglo-Celtic Roots has been awarded first place in the National Genealogical Society Newsletter competition for Major Genealogical or Historical Society Newsletters. ACR previously placed first in 2004 and 2006 and has been runner-up several times.
Congratulations to all involved: Editor: Chris MacPhail, Emeritus Editor: Irene Kellow Ip, Copy Editor: Jean Kitchen, Assistant Editors: Carol-Anne Blore, Bob Johnston, Assistant Editors Photography: Ken Wood, Bert Hayward, and Proofreaders: Heather Boucher, Dorothy Hepworth, Anita Nivens, Don Ross, Ted Smale and Brian Watson.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Directories can be used as (incomplete) census substitutes. Ancestry.com have added "Lovell's Canadian Dominion directory for 1871: containing the names of professional and business men, and other inhabitants, of the cities, towns and villages, throughout the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, ... corrected to January, 1871."
At a ceremony at Ottawa City Hall on May 5th the contributions of OGS Ottawa Branch Chair Mike More were recognized with the award of the City's Distinguished Civic Award – Heritage.
In Mike's absence the award was accepted by Heather Oakley.
The citation reads:
Michael More has been involved with the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) for over 12 years, and has held the office of Chairman for the last 10 years.
He chairs 10 Board of Director meetings and 10 general membership meetings annually, and has spent countless volunteer hours promoting and protecting heritage and family history in Ottawa and elsewhere.
Michael spends numerous hours working to ensure that our heritage is preserved for future generations. He attends local heritage events to make certain our community understands the importance of heritage and family history. He conducts beginner genealogy courses and makes presentations on how to conduct your own genealogical sleuthing. He also works to ensure genealogy, culture and heritage are given priority in municipal, provincial and federal budgets.
Michael can often be found behind the Ontario Genealogical Society’s table at genealogical events around the Province, and at local heritage events like Colonel By Day and Heritage Day. He also volunteers weekly at the City of Ottawa Archives to assist visitors with access to the holdings of our Ottawa Branch Library. Michael has also led, or been part of, committees organizing annual province-wide seminars.
Congratulations to Mike for this well earned recognition.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The National Archives of Ireland announces that the indexed 1911 census for Cork, Donegal, Wexford, Galway and King’s County (Offaly) will be placed online by the end of May, together with improved quality versions of Antrim, Kerry and Down released last December.
Read the full announcement, which includes information on further releases, here.
Ancestors in the Attic asks, were your ancestors sinners or saints? I've yet to find a list of Canadian saints, but this index gives brief information on people associated with the other end of the spectrum.
The site lists all persons executed in Canada, 1011 prisoners found to date. It includes the names of most persons executed under Canadian jurisdiction between 1867 and 1962 plus many others before Confederation. There is also information on the date, victims and crime.
I found this site mentioned in the Winter 2009 issue of the Quebec Family History Society magazine Connections.
Monday, May 11, 2009
LAC have posted a notice in the building at 395 Wellington reading:
It is with pleasure that Library and Archives Canada announces that as of May 11, 2009, there will no longer be a charge to download digital copies produced from the microforms readers/scanners to a USB key or CD. Users must supply their own USB key or CD.
A welcome birthday present delivered a day early!
Earlier in the month Ancestry.com hosted a Webinar, a one-hour presentation by four of their top managers and half-an-hour of responding to listeners, subscribers to Ancestry World Edition, questions.
The Webinar is audio with slide support, most of what you'd get from an in-person presentation without the cost and inconvenience of travel. Around 1000 people participated live. The timing of the live presentation didn't fit my schedule, but now everyone can view the archived Webinar here.
This is a welcome initiative from Ancestry. Insight into what the company aims to achieve, how they are organized to achieve it, and notice of the additions and other changes (mainly improvements) is welcome.
The statistics alone are impressive. One million subscribers; eight million users (Rootsweb?), 5,000 servers.
The news of new content becoming available, including all Canadian censuses soon and more from the London Metropolitan Archives, is nice.
Improvements to the website and relevance of search results is promising, although I'm tempering my enthusiasm. I'll take the over the top marketing terms in the presentations, especially from the CEO, with a grain of salt until we see delivery.
Ancestry apparently have a relationship with some of their harshest critics. If you want to have your gripes addressed it seems it's good to be a really squeaky wheel.
This kind of communication with, if not accountability to, the client community would be a good step forward in cementing relationships for other organizations. Did I say LAC?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Pigot and Co's National Directory of the Whole of Scotland and of the Isle of Man, for the year 1837, is now available online for free at Google Books.
Directories for this period are far from comprehensive, but you may be lucky. The web site address suggests the book was scanned in Australia.
The Ontario Genealogical Society have now made available to members a database which is an index to policies issued between 1875 and 1929 for the Independent Order of Oddfellows life insurance program. Approximately 60,000 men from all across Canada applied.
The index contains: the applicant's last and first names, his date of birth, the community he was living in when he applied, the province, the policy number, and the policy date.
The index is searched by surname, meaning that for common names you do have to scroll through multiple pages to find, or fail to find, your man. Smith occurs on 36 pages with 20 policies per page.
OGS informs that the actual application form contains a great deal of information: health information, marital status, occupation, beneficiary (usually wife, parent, or sibling), number of siblings, and a health status of siblings, parents, and grandparents (often including age at death but not including names). It also includes the signature of the applicant and may include interesting attachments. It is a four page 8 ½ by 11 document.OGS will provide a copy of any application form dated more than one hundred years ago. The hundred year rule supposedly is necessary as the application contains health information. It's strange that there's no ability for next of kin to receive information before 100 years.
For policies where access is permitted the full document is available by writing to OGS including all the information from the index and enclosing a cheque or credit card number for $10.80, which includes tax.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Edward Marsden presented this talk at TNA on 2 April 2009. It focuses on the problem of serious habitual criminals and how to keep track of them which became an issue when transportation to Australia ceased in the 1870s. The lecture focuses on the methods utilised by police and government to record and monitor such offenders, and how the surviving records can be used by present-day historians to investigate both historical and contemporary questions concerning serious and persistent crime.
The presentation recounts some interesting cases of habitual offenders, including one which relates to British Columbia, drawing on criminal and other records to build up a picture of these men (mostly men) and their careers.
Unfortunately there is no specific information given on how to find the criminal records sources used.
Friday, May 8, 2009
The following information. passed along without comment, was sent to members of LAC's Services Advisory Board and should be posted by LAC shortly.
LAC hopes to complete the digitisation of The Canada Gazette in 2009.
In the fall of 2009, LAC will launch the French Canadian Newspapers exhibition and database, which will feature LAC's entire collection of first, final and special editions of French Canadian newspapers spanning the period from 1808 to 1919 online (approximately 240 editions of 4-20 pages each for an estimated total of 4800 digital pages).
The following three publications will be featured in the searchable database: Le Courier du Canada (1857– 1901), Évangeline (1887-1910) , and La Gazette d’Ottawa (followed by Le Canada, 1878-1898).
View Larger Map
One of the newsworthy genealogy-related project going on now is excavations underway at Pheasant Wood, near the French village of Fromelles, the site of a series of pits, the mass graves for Australian and British soldiers killed in action during the Great War Battle of Fromelles .
This Commonwealth War Graves Commission project is working to have remains, which were buried by German forces, permanently laid to rest in individual graves at a new CWGC cemetery.
The CWGC records suggest that between 19 and 21 July 1916 the Australian dead at Fromelles numbered 1,780, the British 503.
There is a project web site here, that includes lists of names of Australian and British soldiers some of whom are thought likely to be buried at Pheasant Wood here.
The list of names was developed by Peter Barton, a First World War historian and author with the help of records in the basement of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva blogged about here last March.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
The speaker for this month's BIFHSGO meeting should be familiar to readers to this blog. Yes, this posting is unmitigated self-promotion. Here's the announcement copied from the BIFHSGO website.
10:00 a.m., 9 May 2009 at Library & Archives Canada 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa
"London Ancestors Rest in Peace. But Where?"
Presented by John D Reid.
It can be very difficult to locate an ancestor's place of burial in London... Unlike English BMDs, there is no single national registration of burials. Seven of my ancestors were lost in London. The talk describes my approach to finding their final resting places and burial documentation. How successful was the search?.
Plus, a pre-BIFHSGO presentation at 9 a.m. Ridge Williams will be giving a talk on "Search for your Welsh ancestors".
Today, 7 May 2009, is exactly three years since StatCounter started tracking hits on this blog, a bit after the blog started. Yesterday it recorded the 100,000th pageview.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
While at TNA last month I picked up a four page handout "Useful Websites for Family History." It's dated 23 March 2009. These are the 8 Canadian (.ca) domain sites mentioned.
www.collectionscanada.ca/02/020122_e.html 1901 census of Canada
(Note: now stale. The link for the 1901 census at LAC is now http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/census-1901/index-e.html)
www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/textual/governmt/vstats/v_events.htm British Colombia births, marriages and deaths
http://vitalstats.gov.mb.ca/Query.php Manitoba, Canada, births, marriages & deaths
http://www.isc.ca/vitalstatistics/genealogy/vsgs_srch.aspx Canada Saskatchewan births over 100 years
www.collectionscanada.ca/genealogy/022-505.004-e.html Canada naturalisation 1915 - 1932
http://ist.uwaterloo.ca/~marj/genealogy/thevoyage.html Canada; shipping lists
www.magma.ca/~mkort/scotgaz.html a list of all places in Scotland
www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/archivianet/cef/index-e.html 600,000 Canadians who enlisted, 1914-1918
These wouldn't all constitute my choices. I'd certainly replace the LAC 1901 census site with automatedgenealogy.com which has a name index and links to the LAC images.
Below is a summary of remarks I made on May 5 to an LAC staff session on becoming a service oriented organization.
Gilbert and Sullivan fans will know of the ditty “I’ve got a Little List”.
As someday it may happen that a victim must be found,
I’ve got a little list. I’ve got a little list,
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And never would be missed, they never would be missed.
It’s tempting to take on the task of filling up the list by reference to experiences I’ve had at LAC.
There are lots of small annoyances, some examples:
- Why do the security guards insist on giving out downstairs locker keys in numerical sequence so that everyone is squeezed into the same section, and there’s nobody in the other sections?
- Why some weeks after I last renewed my reader pass did it no longer work and another have to be issued?
- Why can’t there be some indication of which microfilm readers will conveniently accommodate 16mm microfilm with magnification so you can read them?
- Microfilm readers often have black dirt smears on the glass plates, literally a black mark for LAC
- Why do we pay the same for USB drive copies as hardcopies?
I like LAC, it’s one of the reasons I put up with the climate in Ottawa. Most of the staff I encounter when at 395 are doing their best within bureaucratic constraints.
So in writing my list I don’t want to set sights especially on the front line folks but more on the organizational culture. Simply put, Service simply isn’t a top priority for LAC.
That’s evident in several ways:
(1) The preamble of the Library and Archives of Canada Act states that the mandate of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is:
to preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations; (there are three other parts but its always the first that gets the attention),
(2) The Minister’s forward in the latest RPP says: " Library and Archives Canada is the cornerstone of our country’s collective memory. It preserves documentary sources ... The role that LAC plays in modernizing Government of Canada recordkeeping enables our Government ..."
(3) the last major building for the organization was for preservation (and very nice too),
(4) the next one is also for preservation,
(5) the proliferation of security guards.
Let me tell you about my experience on a recent trip to TNA, The National Archives, at Kew, where service is paramount.
I walked in the door and asked at the information desk about needing to renew my reader card. I was told I didn’t need one unless I wanted access to original documents. I didn’t, so put my bag securely away in a spacious locker-room and went upstairs.
At first the layout befuddled, it was different from the last time I was there. A staff member approached me within 30 seconds, asked if I needed help and directed me to where I needed to go.
I picked up a ticket for a specialized seminar that afternoon, the type I often listen to on their podcasts.
I found a computer – they were all modern with a non-sticky mouse and rapid response, not labouring with a slow CPU or inadequate memory.
I got to work and was able to photograph the computer screen with my digital camera, so saving printing costs as I only needed research quality copies. No charge, no hassle.
All the time there were staff around, all wearing name tags, willing to help with problems.
I reserved one of nearly 60 computers dedicated to the 1911 census for an hour; they had even more staff, identified by special T-shirts, to help in that section.
Part way through the session there was an announcement that the daily 15 minute presentation on introduction to researching at TNA was about to begin.
There were several large racks with helpful step by step guides for accomplishing various common research tasks.
I noticed there were a large number of reference books, including runs of city directories, and the army and navy lists, all open for researchers to examine, without my ever having gone through any sign-in or being issued a reader card. On my previous visits these had been protected by needing a reader card. Security was there, but non-intrusive, and not time consuming.
I noticed information about the next monthly meeting of the TNA Forum where senior managers would be available to hear comments, answer questions, and deliver substantive responses to questions asked previously which they were not able to answer at the time, and to give out news. The minutes, with responses in detail are posted on the TNA web site.
Everything wasn’t perfect. There was a line-up for specialist consultation, but with seats for those waiting. There was also a line up to get a reader’s pass to access the area for consulting original documents, two positions were operating out of three.
My overall impression was of an organization primarily dedicated to helping me find the information I wanted, not one primarily dedicated to protecting the holdings.
Just this past Saturday I got an email from a colleague, a librarian, and also a member of the LAC Services Advisory Board, who wrote “Spent yesterday at The National Archives. Now that is a research facility! An incredible service ethic.”
LAC should be benchmarking its performance in service against the world’s best comparable institutions like TNA. Even benchmarking against the Ottawa Public Library, which manages to give open access to stacks of rare books and microfilm reels of local newspaper archives without requiring the bureaucratic sign-in process experienced at LAC would be helpful.
There are many other things I could go on to. I’d love to explore LAC’s deplorable lack of leadership on newspaper digitization, but time doesn't permit.
What one thing would I do to make improvements at LAC? There are so many small things. I’d go for process improvement so that all those issues can be raised and addressed over time; regular monthly consultation sessions, requiring real accountability of the Senior Managers, including ADMs, to users. That's the way it happens at TNA Forum. There's prominent public disclosure on the web site of the meeting's proceedings, with only expletives deleted.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The following is a May 5 press release from Find My Past
MAKING WAVES IN GENEALOGY: ONLINE LAUNCH OF MERCHANT SEAMEN CREW LISTS INDEX
Lists of 270,000 merchant seafarers at sea in 1860-1913 made available online
The indexes to lists of crew members working on British merchant ships between 1860 and 1913 are now available online from today at leading family history website findmypast.com.
Over 270,000 merchant seafarers are included in the crew list indexes, which were completed by ships every six months, from captains to able seamen to engine room staff and stewardesses. Family historians can now view the indexes online to help track down seafaring ancestors, who have been notoriously more difficult to trace than their land-dwelling counterparts.
The records are from ports around the British Isles so the indexes give genealogists the opportunity to find ancestors wherever they had signed on - not just ships from their home port.
With the launch of this latest set of records, in association with the Crew List Index Project (CLIP), findmypast.com is further expanding its extensive collection of online records to help family history enthusiasts compile detailed information about their ancestors' lives.
Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager at findmypast.com, said "The UK has a vast array of records documenting our seafaring ancestors, who played such an important part in the nation's history. However due to the complex nature of the documenting system, these records are held in many different archives across the country, creating a massive hurdle for
family historians looking to access their ancestors' records.
"Happily, the Crew Lists Index Project has made huge strides in collating a national index of the records, which we're making easily accessible to the general public online today. Today's addition to the findmypast.com suite of genealogy records is a significant step forward for family history enthusiasts who are looking to trace their seafaring ancestors."
Peter Owens of CLIP added "Thanks to all the hard work by many volunteers, this is data which will make researching seafarers far simpler. This publication is another important step in making these records accessible, and we hope it will stimulate a growing interest in our rich maritime past."
How to trace seafaring ancestors
1. Log onto www.findmypast.com and search for your ancestor in the
Crew Lists section.
2. Once you have located your ancestor, make a note of the ship's
official number and records source. The original records are not
currently hosted online, but you can contact the repository that holds
the original records to arrange access to the documents. The original
documents will contain information about each crew member's age, date of
birth, date of signing on and off the ship, their occupation, the ship's
voyages and the names of any ships in which the crew member previously
For more information log on to www.findmypast.com.
Find My Past is available to visitors to Library and Archives Canada on one computer in the Canadian Genealogy Centre.
Monday, May 4, 2009
In my talk on newspapers for genealogy last Saturday I dealt mainly with Canadian papers, but have promised to add material on British papers to a forthcoming presentation. Previously I've recommended going to the British Library catalogue, newspaper subset advanced search here to find out what newspapers exist for a particular location and time. That remains a good option.
On Monday I went to LAC to investigate newspaper resources and was amazed to stumble upon a treasure tucked away amongst the reference books beyond the double doors to the west of the main reference area, room 222. It's Canadian!
The Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals, 1800 - 1900, is a 20 volume set. It has 50,000 entries, a total of 9,000 facsimile title pages and includes 48,000 personal names including every name in the DNB and Modern English Biography associated with a Victorian periodical.
I looked up Hackney in London and found numerous entries, including some really obscure ones.
There are complimentary volumes for Scotland and Ireland; I suspect the English volumes include Wales.
These are publications of the North Waterloo Academic Press. They also offer an online edition, priced for institutions. Get more information here.
Your best bet for access is likely at the nearest really good library, I checked several universities, Carleton, Queens, Toronto, each of which had it in their catalogue.
For those serious about genealogy the (US) Board for Certification of Genealogists offers a process whereby those who demonstrate capability to work to a standard can be recognized by that organization.
As an aid to the community the Board have regularly provided seminar presentations at US genealogy conferences covering the essentials on BCG certification. Now a video of one such seminar presented last November is available on the Board website here.
This free two-hour video seminar is in convenient segments, mostly less than 10 minutes although one is over 30 minutes. They are grouped under the headings: Preparatory Information; Parts of the Portfolio and; The Process. I reviewed a few segments which are certainly well produced.
In viewing these keep in mind that BCG is a US-based organization.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Responding to expressions of interest from many quarters a database of two million pages of digitized and searchable 19th century British newspapers has just been made available for time-limited public subscription online here.
The database comprises 49 local and national titles from all parts of the UK. For example, the Ipswich Journal is available from January 04, 1800 to December 29, 1900. There's a full list of titles with the range of dates covered here.
You can search and view a snippet result for free, but need to subscribe to see full articles. The free snippet may be enough.
A 24-hour pass costs £6.99 allowing you to view up to 100 articles; a seven-day pass with 200 article views costs £9.99. That's not bad compared to the cost of a single document from TNA's Documents Online.
found via Chris Paton's Scottish Genealogy News and Events blog
The most recent podcast offering at TNA's website is a lecture by Chris Watts, who was a speaker in Ottawa last September.
Chris explores departure and arrival records for the UK and other countries, both nominal and for ships through Lloyd's publications, using several case studies, including a couple for his own relatives who ventured to Canada.
Find it and a host of previous podcasts here.
Participants in the Ottawa Stake FHC on Saturday seemed to enjoy the presentations, as did the presenters. Here BIFHSGO members Lesley Anderson and Glenn Wright are able to smile despite both having recently passed landmark birthdays, events that they mentioned while giving a captivating talk on the census.
The BIFHSGO display table was much improved, largely thanks to the efforts of President Mary Anne Sharpe who seems to be holding something behind her back. She was pleased to have the display of flags, but is seeking similar ones for the Channel Islands of Jersey, Gurnsey, Alderney and Sark. I didn't notice flags for Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou, Lihou, the Isle of Man or Rockall either.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Earlier this week ancestry.com, and presumably ancestry.everythingelse, announced changes to the way dates are handled in searches. It's a step in "what you’ve told us is the most important – getting relevant results; and relevance is our top priority this year in search." That's a quote from an Ancestry blog posting.
- If you are searching for someone and you just know a birth year, we will assume the person lived about 100 years. And we will only return records from the birth year - 5, and birthdates + 102.
- If you are searching for someone and you just know a death date, we will again assume the person lived about 100 years, and we will only return records from the death year - 105 to death year+2.
- If you put in both a birth year and a death year, we will return records between birth year - 5 to death year + 2.
Ancestry is being open by telling its clients what they're doing, facilitating public comment, and responding to the comments publicly. That's more than can be said for most government organizations.
Comment 105 was not related to dates but the non-appearance of some databases in some searches, something I've been puzzled about.
The comment is why is the Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, database listed under a regional search for Ontario, but is omitted from the search results.
"For example, in the regional search, if I search for Albert Barber in Ontario, the Canadian Passenger List is not included in the results. When I clicked onto the database itself and searched for Albert born England, he is there."
Being a subscriber I obviously value what Ancestry offers. I recall the old days, am thankful for Ancestry's, and other's, indexed online databases, and look forward to the improved relevance.
Friday, May 1, 2009
Many British people had relatives who served in India during the time of the fabled British Raj. It's a specialist family history area that was well covered in the May 2007 issue of the UK Ancestors Magazine. Now you can browse the full issue for free online through www.ancestorsmagazine.co.uk.
Also online is a booklet that was included in that issue on reading old handwriting. One of the items on my to do list is to transcribe an 1830s will. It's been on the list for a while as I've been stymied by the writing, so I've added reading the booklet to the to do list as well.