Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Macleans on "Why are our national archives being locked from public view?"

An opinion piece by Anne Kingston in Macleans rehearses the familiar and sorry story at Library and Archives Canada. Few would argue with the article's view that Daniel Caron left the organization reputation shattered, its credibility in ruins. New management under Guy Berthiaume is working on restoration but can't do so alone.

Accepting recent recommendations from the Auditor General and sage advice from a Royal Society Expert Panel is encouraging. Even more so would be recognition from Minister of Canadian Heritage Shelly Glover that previous cuts went too far.

$80 million can be found for the Science and Technology Museum. $110 million is promised for the National Arts Centre. Both address structural deficiencies. The pressing deficiencies at aren't in the buildings but in the programs at LAC. A meaningful gesture toward restoring credibility in the organization's role in preserving and sharing Canada's documentary heritage would speak volumes. Not doing so would equally send a clear message about the Harper government.

Ancestry updates Canada, City and Area Directories, 1819-1906

There are now 8,299,563 indexed records in this predominately 19th century directory collection. Coverage reflects population.
In the West there's a single directory for Alberta, Calgary (1885), and a province wide directory for Saskatchewan (?) for 1888. The are 15 directories for Manitoba communities, mostly Winnipeg, and 25 for British Columbia with best coverage province-wide and for Victoria.
In Central Canada coverage is best: for Ontario for Toronto, Ottawa, London and Hamilton; in Quebec for Montreal and Quebec City.
Atlantic Canada has good coverage for Saint John (New Brunswick) and Halifax (Nova Scotia) with spotty coverage elsewhere. Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island are covered by six directories each.
Finally 13 are categorized as Canada and Multi-province which like the province wide counterparts are selective of high status individuals and businesses in their coverage.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

WDYTYA? Live: 16-18 April 2015

Thinking about a family history research trip to the UK in 2015. Consider timing it so you can take in the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, 16-18 April.
The schedule of presentations organized by the Society of Genealogists is now posted with lots of names familiar to me scheduled to speak: Dave Annal, Gill Blanchard, Else Churchill, Jackie Depelle, Janet Few, Simon Fowler, Michael Gandy, Julie Goucher, Kirsty Gray, John Hanson, Celia Heritage, Sharon Hintze, Doreen Hopwood, Debbie Kennett, Rosemary Morgan, Eric Probert, Rebecca Probert, Alec Tritton, There will also be celebrities, stands from commercial and non-profit organizations to browse and an opportunity for one-on-one consultations with experts.
Check out the full details at

BIFHSGO Conference Call for Presentation Proposals

The 21st Annual BIFHSGO Family History Conference will take place September 18 - 20, 2015. I'm told it will most likely be at Library and Archives Canada again. Conference themes are:
Scotland - family history
Photographs in Genealogy
Technology for genealogy (i.e hardware, software, apps, websites, databases, social media and DNA analysis tools)
The call for speakers is open until January 31, 2015. Proposals for lectures, workshops, seminars and panel sessions are sought. Submission details are at

Monday, 15 December 2014

Progress on digitization of LAC Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database.

LAC announced on Monday that 101,452 of 640,000 files are available online via the Soldiers of the First World War: 1914–1918 database.
The previous total, on November 18, was 78,914 of the 640,000 files available online. 22,538 files added in 28 days is a rate of 805 per day.  If continued at that rate the digitization would be complete in about October 2016.
While initially it appeared the files were being digitized in alphabetical order lately I see no obvious pattern in the order they're being selected.

Anglo-Celtic Roots Winter 2014

The 44 page Winter 2014 issue of BIFHSGO's quarterly chronicle is hitting mailboxes and supermailboxes full of the usual assortment of news and articles.
It includes the only article I've contributed this year, aside from the regular Cream of the Crop column with Ken McKinlay. Canada's 1914 War Dead looks at some of those who gave their lives in the first few months of the war when the Canadian Expeditionary Force had not yet arrived in France. Did you know three Canadians were killed in a battle in the South Pacific in November 1914?
There are two other military articles, by Betty Warburton and a writing competition piece by Brenda Turner.
Anne Renwick, another successful author in the writing competition, writes about an ancestral home and Wendy Crome on DNA.
Anglo-Celtic Roots is a BIFHSGO benefit of membership.

Call for Speakers – Genetic Genealogy Day in Toronto

"Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society is planning a one-day workshop on 6 June 2015 on Genetic Genealogy and its uses in family history research. We are looking for speakers who would like to be take part. The workshop will deal with the main types of DNA testing that are used by genealogists as well as how the results from genetic testing are used in conducting or supporting genealogical research. We hope to offer lectures for audiences at the beginner level as well as for people with a more advanced level of knowledge who have used DNA testing.

You’ll find our detailed call for presentations at The deadline to submit a proposal for this workshop is Saturday, 17 January 2015."

Thanks to Gwyneth Pearce, Secretary of Toronto Branch, for the tip.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

BIFHSGO's Last Monthly Meeting at LAC

Approaching 395 Wellington on Saturday morning, 13 December 2014, with banners restored in front of the building.

The Secret Bench of Knowledge is out in all weathers.

Terry and Tad Findlay arrived early as Terry was one of the speakers at the Great Moments event. He spoke of their travels to push back Tad's Kent ancestry.

Brian Glenn gave a "Before BIFHSGO" Education Talk explains the key dos and don’ts for a good PowerPoint presentation.

BIFHSGO President Barbara Tose prepares to give opening announcements and remind of the change in meeting location made necessary by a steep price increased imposed by Public Works and Government Services Canada. Two members were so keen on the move they went there a month early!

There was an appreciative crowd in attendance.

Program Director Jane Down introduced and thanked the four presenters.

Brenda Turner recounted the journey researching her ancestry many of whom found final resting places in West Templeton Cemetery.
Ian Browness revealed some out-of-the-ordinary sources he discovered in his talk A Lost Brother Re-discovered.

Sandra Adams explained why a search for Henry Shelverton, a name you'd think would be easy to research, was a challenge as he spent time hiding under an assumed name and how she discovered his whereabouts.

Those not at the meeting could still benefit from the advice tweeted out:

Stuck looking for info on lost ancestors? Remember to search Google Books for the names. Those old books can be a #genealogy treasure trove.

Can't find them in the census? Expand your search by looking for the family using first names only and leaving off the surname.

Always keep searching even when you think there is nothing more to find so you too can have a great moment! Thanks to our wonderful speakers.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

FREE Simple Guide to DNA Testing

The Kindle Edition of Richard Hill's eBook Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships, and Measure Ethnic Ancestry through DNA Testing is FREE for the next four days at
The book is a short easy-to-understand introduction to the different test types, their strengths and limitations. It regularly sells for 96 cents so the 100% saving isn't huge but it may be just what you need to decide whether to dip you toe in the genetic genealogy waters, particularly while Family Tree DNA has its end of year sale in progress.Richard Hill is author of a longer book "Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA” if your looking for additional inspiration. I enjoyed it.

News from Library and Archives Canada

On Thursday evening Librarian and Archivist of Canada Guy Berthiaume spoke at the Ottawa Public Library to an event organized bythe Library Association of the National Capital Region (LANCR) and L’Association des bibliothèques de l’Ontario-Franco (ABO-Franco).
The presentation was structured around five priorities and four commitments available as a handout.
In opening he reflected on the Grande Bibliothèque in Montreal which receives 2.5 million visitors annually, part of his former responsibilities. He acknowledged enjoying the scent of the book, and the scent of clients including the homeless with wool hats and mitts, enjoying the public library facility. He loved the mission of a public library helping everyone regardless of race, status or gender. He said they reminded him of the Emma Lazarus poem at the Statue of Liberty .
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
He mentioned Marianne Scott, Ian Wilson and Roch Carrier as important figures in the history of LAC from whom he takes inspiration, and Arthur Doughty for having laid the foundations.
He reviewed where the institution has been, its assets including documents, books, art, photographs, as many hours of audio and video recordings as he has lived, and more. In the first half of the fiscal year starting in April LAC acquired 65,500 titles and continues to build its collection of material from notable Canadians such as Marc Lalonde and Malak Karsh.

He admitted LAC has had a difficult month of November with the report of the Auditor General and the Royal Society Report on the Future of Libraries and Archives, but that concrete steps have been taken to respond to the issues and recommendation raised. He sees a willingness on the part of LAC staff and partners to see the organization regain its place nationally and internationally.

Berthiaume gave some examples of how LAC is changing such as digitizing and making available free online the service files of First World War Canadian service-men and women; loaning 40 items from the collection to the Canadian Museum of History for their Canada 2017 exhibition; hosting an exhibit on the Franklin Expedition while the Museum of Science and technology is closed; items placed on the Flickr account in 100 thematic collections attracting five million visitors; podcasts, eight of which are among the top ten federal productions, and, after considerable debate and effort to ensure preservation, loaning for a year the Canadian Constitution signed by the Queen and Prime Minister Trudeau  in 1982 to the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg.  This is all part of an effort to give LAC a higher profile in serving Canadians, including by revitalizing 395 Wellington Street as a memory institution location to visit in Ottawa, through partnerships and social media.

In closing Berthiaume  made reference to the Secret Bench of Knowledge which stands in front of 395 Wellington saying that it should not be a secret ... and neither should LAC.

During the question period I had the opportunity to ask about the organization plans for newspapers, the city directory collection and how input from the genealogical community, the largest single user group, would be obtained in further developing programs. On newspapers and directories he admitted these were items he had not been able to focus on. A member of the audience, a former reference librarian at LAC confirmed that city directories are popular but many of the them have "preservation issues" - they're falling apart. On consulting genealogists he had no firm plan but mentioned focus groups for both visitors to 395 Wellington and online clients.

Will we see action?

Much of the Ottawa presentation was taken from a speech in Montreal on 2 December the text of which is available at 

In other LAC news the Canadian Library Association Digest notes the retirement of Cecilia Muir, LAC's Chief Operating Officer, who had the misfortune to serve during turbulent times.