Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beginners Genealogy Course - Census

The second lecture given at the Beginners Course in Genealogy at the LAC last Saturday was "A History of the Census", an overview of Canadian, British, and American census records given by BIFHSGO member — and recently-retired Library and Archives Canada military expert — Glenn Wright.

He describes looking at census as "a giant first step" in figuring out the relationship between people and places. After BMDs (birth, marriage, and death records), it is the most important piece of evidence that you can look at in starting your family history.

He encourages genealogists to "linger over a census page" for awhile to discover different things about one's ancestors.

Take a look at their neighbours: you can discover who they were, what kind of socio-economic strata they lived in, for example. You can also see their name, and see if they spelled their surname different than yours. Was their religion different than yours is today?

Censuses are not a perfect record, he cautions, but they are a snapshot given of a country on a specific day in history.

Canada is the only country which collects religion information, and in the 1916 Prairie Census, the person was counted as being home even though he was overseas at the time. This is noted in the record by an "O", meaning overseas, or if he was home in Canada, was noted with the letter "C" by his name.

Glenn gave out a page of good census websites. In Canada, the site is the Canadian Genealogy Centre <>, Ancestry Canada <>, Automated Genealogy <>, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints <>, the All Census Records website <>, and numerous provincial websites.

It has been quite a year for Glenn. Besides giving courses and talks on genealogy, he has also provided help to the Ancestors in the Attic Canadian TV program. He is one of the "behind the scenes" guys on the show. Credit: J.M. Lapointe, CD

Tomorrow, I will cover the presentation about Civil Registration with Alison Hare.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Beginners Genealogy Course Held in Ottawa

This past weekend, on a sunny and crisp Saturday morning, we went to the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa to see and hear the "Beginners Course in Genealogy". The next three blogs will focus on the presenters and their topics they gave because it is important (among other reasons) that people know that genealogy is thriving in the Ottawa area!

The four presenters were: John Reid, "Seven Golden Rules"; Glenn Wright, "Census"; Alison Hare, "Civil Registration"; and Terry Findley on "Local Resources".

Today, I will start with John Reid.

It was the second course we had attended (the first, being last fall), and there was an overwhelming crowd, as you can see in the pictures.

Photos 1 & 2 - We were told beforehand that they were sold out, and they were! People crowded into the large room, eager to hear the presenters give their talks during the "Beginners Course in Genealogy". Credit: J.M. Lapointe, CD

The first presenter was John D. Reid, author, lecturer, and member of the Ontario Genealogy Society (OGS, Ottawa Branch) and the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO). He went over the first steps one should take when embarking on family research, according to Family Tree (UK) Magazine, and they are to -

1. Work Backwards - Start with a person of interest - be it your father or grandfather, for instance.

2. Be Organized and Honest - Record everything you find out about the line you are working on. What results will you accept with your findings?

3. Interview Your Relatives - Interview the elderly first since they may not be with us much longer, and they usually have lots of stories to tell!

4. Set Your Sights - Pick which line — for example, your paternal line — that you are going to follow. When you are finished that line, pick another one.

5. Understand Surnames - Do a bit of history on the surname. What does it mean? Where does it come from? Also, why did the family move from one area to another, or from one country to another. What were the push/pull factors of migration?

6. Societies and Education - Try to join a society in the region of origin of your family, and, of course, take courses (like the one being offered here). Learn from the people who went before you, and you will be in good company.

7. Use Technology - There are software programs specially manufactured to fit your genealogy, so use them. Technology also includes the Internet, online databases, and DNA testing.

Photo 3 - John D. Reid, former president of BIFHSGO and the man behind Ottawa's popular and informative Anglo-Celtic Connections blog. Credit: J.M. Lapointe, CD

The organizers promise that there will be an intermediate course in the fall as part of the BIFHSGO Conference, held Sept 18th to the 20th, and it will cover such topics as "Tips & Tricks with", "More to Newspapers Than Obituaries", and "Now That I Have Done My Research, How Should I Write it Up?".

Tomorrow, I will cover the presentation about the Canadian Census with Glenn Wright.

A write-up of Saturday's course will also appear in the April edition of the OGS e-NewsLeaf. which will be issued around the middle of next month.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Genealogy Fair

Leeds & Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society (OGS) will be holding their AGM and Genealogy Fair on April 25th at St. Lawrence College in Brockville.

It will be an all-day affair from 9 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. They will have three speakers -

- Kees Van den Heuval will talk about digitizing and storing photographs;

- Jessica Squires will speak about the "Indian Affairs" records at the Library and Archives Library; and

- Timothy J. Abel will talk Research in New York State and the movement across the St. Lawrence.

The cost is $20.00 per person (lunch included) and will be held at the St. Lawrence College, 2288 Parkedale Avenue in Brockville.

I will be going to cover it for the OGS newsletter, NewsLeaf.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Petition to Protect Ontario's Inactive Cemeteries

This past Saturday, I — along with others at the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) — signed a petition to support the passing of "An Act to Protect Ontario's Inactive Cemeteries, 2009".

That is Bill 149, and it was introduced by Mr. Jim Brownell, MPP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry.

Bob Crawford, the past-president of the Ontario Genealogical Society, is quite heavily involved with the cause, and if you want some background information on the plight of cemeteries in Ontario, you can read some of his comments in the May 2008 NewsLeaf (Vol 38 No 2) in an article entitled. "A Thank-You, a Plea, and a Goodbye ...".

To get a copy of the petition, visit the Bill 149 Petition at the OGS website. Get people to sign it and then forward it to the OGS Provincial Office, #102-40 Orchard View Blvd., Toronto, ON M4R 1B9.

This must be done before the summer recess so that the bill does not die. It is now going to the committee and then it will, hopefully, come back for the Third Reading, and then will be passed before the legislature is adjourned.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Irish Genealogy Night - Part III

Lesley Anderson from and Brian Glenn from BIFHSGO rounded out this special evening with a very informative talk on where to search for an immigrant ancestor.

Lesley stressed that you should start your search in the land that they migrated to - in this case, Canada.

She had listed 19 records she would check, but the two most important are BMDs (birth, marriage & death certificates) and census. One can use both of these records to cross-check against each other to verify birthdays, where the person was living, whether the person was married or not, his occupation, etc.

She explained that was launched in January 2006, and to date, close to 410-million records have been put on the site.

The Vital Statistics of Ontario can be checked on This summer, two more years will be added to the end date of each one - births will go from 1909 to 1911, marriages will go from 1924 to 1926, and deaths will go from 1934 to 1936.

The most impressive non-pay site that she has encountered is the one by the Library and Archives Canada, which has very good Irish-Canadian databases and information.

Brain Glenn told us that the LAC and the National Archives of Ireland is in the process of digitizing the census of 1901 and 1911, and they will be made free on the National Archives of Ireland website.

Lesley ended the session by talking about the Boston Pilot, a newspaper which had a section on looking for missing Irish people in the U.S. and Canada (from 1831-1921).

Ruby Cusack has mentioned her experience with this database on her website.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Irish Genealogy Night - Part II

Mike More, Chairman of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society, told us about the society, the area it covers, and its projects. He then gave a talk on what he perceives are the Eight Golden Rules of Genealogy.

1. Work Backwards

I think we all know this by now, but there are still some who try to circumvent the process and try to work from the past to the present.

People have been researching genealogy since the 1800s, and over 200 years of research has told us something - that if we want success - we have to start with ourselves.

2. Never Assume

Always check for facts. If it is down on a piece of paper that your great-grandmother was born on a certain date, you can never assume it is the right date - you must check the birth or baptismal certificates to see if it is correct.

3. Spelling of Names

Never completely trust the spelling of first and last names.

There have all been variants in the spelling, and if your ancestor spelled the surname SMITH one way and the Canadian census taker spelling it SMYTH - then you have a problem, unless you know that the names can be spelled differently.

Fortunately these days, there are programs with SOUNDEX capabilities to help you with surnames.

4. Search for Information to Confirm a Fact

Always try to find three pieces of information that confirm the fact that you have in front of you.

Everything is only speculation until it is confirmed.

5. Write Everything Down

Cite your sources!

Information closer to the date the event happened is usually more correct than information that is later recorded.

For example, birth information would be more correct close to the birth than information recorded 20 years after the birth.

6. Join a Genealogical Organization

When you join a group, it gives you a sense of belonging. You will be with people who have the same interest as yourself, and you can ask them questions about their experiences with genealogical problems.

7. Do Your Homework for a Trip

Remember to put down the five questions to be answered - why, where, when, who, and what. Once done, go to the local library, archives, or churches, for instance, to look for the answers.

8. Share Your Information

Publish your family history either on the Internet, e-books, GEDCOM, scrapbooks, or photo albums, for example. Just publish it.

And if I can add my own piece of advice - do not forget to put a copy in the local archives so that when it comes time for someone else to add to your genealogy, a copy of your work will be waiting for them.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Irish Genealogy Night

I went with my husband and a friend to the first-ever "Genealogy Night" sponsored together by the city's genealogical societies and the Irish Society of the National Capital Region. Unfortunately, our camera was not working last night, so there aren't any pictures.

We were a bit late but arrived in time to join several dozen interested people hear the last of the talk given by Kyle Browness of the Library and Archives Canada. He talked about how the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has taken the initiative by putting on the Irish Studies Symposia of 2006 and 2008 at and also by visiting The Shamrock and the Maple Leaf, which contains photos, letters, books, and music on the website at

He talked about how they have put the full symposia onsite. You can go to the website and choose over 40 or so presentations to read, to listen to, or watch them on video.

Kyle said that the music content in The Shamrock and the Maple Leaf will triple over the summer, and that the photos on have doubled since they were first put on in November, 2008.

He also noted that the response to all of these resources that the LAC has put on the Internet has been good, and they are very hopeful that this reaction will continue in the future.

He said they did this because the presenters want everyone to share in the knowledge that was extended during the two days of each of the symposiums about Irish-Canada, which covered a wide range of topics. They are important to family history researchers because they give a historical context to Ireland and to the Irish-Canadian immigration.

Tomorrow, I will cover the first of the talks given by Mike More, the Chairman of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. And the day after, I will cover the presentations given by Brian Glenn of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa and Lesley Anderson of