Monday, March 30, 2009

Gene-O-Rama 2009 - Friday Night

I said on my Twitter posting that I was to going to the Ottawa Genealogical Society's Gene-O-Rama, and I did - to both Friday evening's Pat Horan Memorial Lecture, and to Saturday's lectures.

The speaker Friday evening was Dr. Bruce Curtis, a professor of Sociology at Ottawa's Carleton University. His topic was entitled, "Locating, Identifying, Knowing: Census Making in Canada in 1871".

Credit: J.M. Lapointe, CD

This was an interesting and thought-provoking talk, as it showed the thought processes behind the 1871 Census. It was called "the census with the pastoral vision" because the political people wanted to show (even if it was slightly untrue) how pastoral Canada was at that time.

And, of course, we know it was the beginning of a population shift, as millions of Canadians went south looking for work in the factories of the Northeastern States and to the Northwestern States for jobs in the lumber industry. Canada was becoming more industrialized as time went on - so the country was anything but pastoral.

He told about how the 1861 Canadian Census was such a boondoggle (it was taken in the winter, sometimes the enumerator wasn't educated, the enumerator sheets weren't protected against the weather, etc.) that the government of the day vowed that the 1871 Census was not going to be the same.

Instead, enumerators were given smaller, folded sheets to record their information, they were trained to take the answers, and it was the first time a population map was drawn up of the country.

It was also the first time also that both migration and religion were recorded. No one was allowed to put down "Canada" as their answer to the question, "Where are you from?" - you had to put down the country where you or your people were originally from so that the governent knew where their people were from.

You can access the 1871 Canada Census through inter-library loan of microfilm from the LAC, or browse the Ontario Province of the 1871 Census on the Internet through the LAC (head of household only) at <>, or search the whole census through

After the lecture, we went out of the auditorium and had juice/coffee and cookies. We had our sights firmly set on Saturday and the delights it would bring. I already see where John Reid has posted a picture of me on his Anglo-Celtic Connections blog. (Yes, John, you caught me totally unprepared for that one ... touche!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Beginners Genealogy Course - Local Resources

Terry Findley—the last lecturer in the highly-successful Beginner's Course in Ottawa on March 21st—gave his lecture on "Local Resources".

As I listened to his lecture, I wondered how many of the sixty or so people who were there had actually done any research on their family histories.

Roughly three-quarters of the attendees were what we would call "first timers". That is, they hadn't done any research at all, so, naturally, they were very interested to hear about the facilities that Terry was about to mention.

The first place he spoke about was the Canadian Genealogy Centre (CGC) -

He called it the "jewel of family history in Ottawa", and went on to explain that the Canadian Genealogy Centre has databases (for example - census, Canadian Passenger Lists, First World War papers), books, and now even a presence on and

The CGC is located within the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) at 395 Wellington Street. A research pass is required for access to the rooms which hold the records.

He talked about the Mormon's Family History Library on Prince of Wales Drive, and its many holdings.

It is a welcoming place, where you might run into fellow researchers who might be related. It happens a lot at the FHL!

While you are there, feel free to order microfilm—for a nominal fee—from their main library in Salt Lake City. The knowledgeable volunteers will be glad to assist you.

The Ottawa Court House—located at the corner of Laurier and Elgin Streets, right next to Ottawa City Hall—was a surprise to many because they didn't know that it is where you find land records and might even discover some wills there, also.

The Anglican Diocese of Ottawa is located next to Christ Church Cathedral on Bronson Avenue, in the northwest part of the city.

It has such records as the BMDs of Ottawa. Its website is

One thing Terry said—which was a surprise to him when he was doing his research—was that it also contained BMDs of other religions, so if you can't find them in anywhere else in Ottawa, you should go there because they may have it.

The Ottawa Public Library has the Ottawa Room, where you will find newspaper indexes for such local newspapers as the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Journal.

He said that it will be closed for the next month while they renovate it (they are making it bigger), but it has a wealth of materials there. It's a good place to check for finding more on the social history of the city.

And, lastly, he talked about the city archives, located in the old city hall on Sussex Drive

It houses the libraries of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS), the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO), as well as the C. Robert Craig Memorial Library (a specialized railway library).

The archives is moving to a new building in the spring of 2011 near Algonquin College in the city's west end.

He gave us each a great piece of advice when going to these places to do research.

First, contact the facility to check where it facility is located (in case it moved, as noted above), what the facility has for holdings, its available parking, their hours of operation, if there are any researcher restrictions, if they have copy services, and so on.

By being prepared in advance, it will make your visit much more pleasant.

Don't forget to ask lots of questions to the staff and volunteers who man these facilities - you just may be delightfully surprised by the answers you receive! Terry punctuated this fact (the whole lecture, actually) with many well-told (and well-received) anecdotes.

Terry Findley is a lecturer and former BIFHSGO Director of Conferences and Programs. Credit: J.M. Lapointe, CD

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beginners Genealogy Course - Civil Registration

I have heard Alison Hare quite often in the past, so when I saw that she was going to be one of the presenters at the recent Beginners Course in Genealogy held in Ottawa, I was delighted!

She is very good, and her lectures are always interesting. I learn quite a bit from her, as she always has little nuggets of information in her talks - but you have to listen for them.

Her lecture this time was on Civil Registration - the government's way of making sure that every individual in Canada is registered when either a birth, marriage, or death takes place.

According to Alison, these BMDs (birth, marriage, and death records) are the "main building blocks of family history".

In Canada, civil registration is a provincial responsibility. Six out of ten provinces now have them online (the provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia) but she says you can't do a really good job online unless you go to the Family History Library (FHL) in your local area and look through their books for church registrations, too. The dates vary, as well, when it was required for registration.

How reliable are the BMDs? How must trust can we place in the records?

Alison says that depends on who was registering the event, and when the event was registered.

The event—say, a birth announcement—that was registered by the father a few days after the event occurred would be more likely to hold the correct day that the child was born - than one registered a few months or years after the child was born.

And a close family member would be more likely to remember the true date of the event rather than a member of the clergy or a local doctor.

So take these things into consideration when reading a birth, marriage, or death certificate.

Also, Alison says to remember that these records are not complete, and if you cannot find someone, then maybe their first or last names are misspelled, the records themselves may be incomplete, or perhaps indexes to the records may be incomplete, especially the online ones.

She says to extend the time frame in which you look for a registration - the people may have moved or neglected to register the event.

Alison is a Certified Genealogist. Her profile is on the Association of Professional Genealogists website at Credit: J.M. Lapointe, CD

Tomorrow, I will cover the presentation about Local Resources with Terry Findley.

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.