Friday, 24 October 2014

Wilson's Canadian Military Guides Online

Barbara Wilson, a widely admired military archivist who passed away earlier this year has received further fitting tribute with new online availability at the Library and Archives Canada website of two of her finding aids.

Guide to Sources Relating to the Canadian Militia, 1855–1988
Guide to Sources Relating to Canadian Naval Vessels, 1909–1983.

The Canadian militia guide is divided into two parts: Infantry, Cavalry, Armored and; Artillery. For each militia unit it draws together references from the following archival fonds:
Militia and Defence (Record Group 9; RG9)
National Defence (Record Group 24; RG24)
Governor General’s Office (Record Group 7; RG7)
War Office 32 (Manuscript Group 13; MG13).

The Canadian Naval Vessels guide is an alphabetical order list, by vessel name, taken from National Defence (Record Group 24; RG24).

I'd like to be able to add that the information in the guides is linked to an online file of the document referenced. Alas.  Even the descriptions are tantalizingly brief. For example, under HMCS Ottawa one resource is Movements, 1943-1945 at RG24 vol. 6810, file S.8700-353/18. A shrewd guess would be it's about the ship's movements. But there are also "proceedings" which have information on a ship's movements.

How do you get hold of a file? See Consulting and Borrowing Material and remember that most original archival documents in the LAC collection must be consulted on-site.

Finally don't overlook Barbara Wilson's finding aid Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Ancestry in Canada

A CEO's comments in company reports are always spin. CEO Tim Sullivan's comments in the company latest quarterly financial report are no exception.

" is executing well on our mission to help everyone discover, preserve and share their family history," said Tim Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of "We're continuing to focus on our core customers - the enthusiasts who are passionate about their family history - by adding valuable new content and features to our site, while also aggressively pursuing growth priorities designed to expand our total addressable market. These priorities include our AncestryDNA product, where we've doubled our customer base during 2014, our mobile apps, which are generating increased engagement, and our efforts to broaden category awareness, including the creation of terrific family history TV programming. Overall our business is healthy and we believe we're positioning the company to capture its long-term growth opportunities."
The report shows while subscription revenues have increased the company lost 50,000 subscribers in the year since 30 September 2013. Subscriptions stand at 2,125,000 as of the end of September. The company is losing money, less so in the latest quarter.

In Canada the picture is mixed.
The good news is the company website is receiving more visitors. The Alexa rank of jumped from 27,110 a year ago to 17,986 today.
But Sullivan's claim to be focusing on core customers is ringing hollow in Canada.
1,984 Canadian databases is an increase of 1.2% over a year ago compared to a 3.4% increase for Ancestry overall. The pace is slowing. Of the more than 375 million new records added during the last quarter only 0.7% were Canadian.
This year for the first time was not an exhibitor at the Ontario Genealogical Society annual conference. Neither did they have a presence in the marketplace at the BIFHSGO conference.

Although Ancestry is the major presence in the genealogical database market in Canada neglect or complacency would provide an opportunity for other companies prepared to invest in and capitalise on the Canadian market.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Terrorist's Won't Win If We Remember

Wednesday, 22/October, was an unnerving day in Ottawa. As I went to appointments outside the downtown area the mood was sullen; flags were being half-masted as news of the death was spread by exhaustive media coverage.

There's grief and sorrow for the family of the reservist soldier Corporal Nathan Cirillo from Hamilton who succumbed to a terrorist's gunshot while on ceremonial duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

In responding to the events let's remember that jihadists are a tiny minority and recall the lesson of Japanese internment and similar mistakes. It could be that Corporal Cirillo's Italian ancestors, if residents of Canada during the Second World War, would have been treated as the enemy.

TNA Podcast: Give this one a miss

I'm sure had I attended September's talk Maps: their untold stories at the UK Natiuonal Archives I'd have considered it an hour well spent. The talk was based on a new book by the same title by Rose Mitchell & Andrew Janes containing 100 maps from the TNA collection. They are clearly knowledgeable on the topic.
Unfortunately the presentation doesn't translate into audio. It takes only a few minutes of listening to "It's beautifully imaginatively drawn here", "You can see that" and "I can't resist showing you" to realize it's unfair to presenters and the listeners alike to offer it as a podcast without the images.

OGS Ottawa Branch Special Event

On Saturday 25 October at 1:30 pm at the Ottawa City Archives OGS Ottawa Branch presents The Ryan Taylor/J. Brian Gilchrist Memorial Lecture.

"A Research Journey into WWI, WWII, Medals, & eBay"

Dr. Jean-Luc Pilon will describe how twists and turns in his family history research, beginning with ancestors enlisted in the  Canadian Expeditionary Force,  led to the acquisition of long-lost military medals found on eBay, the story of the local ancestor to whom they were awarded in World War Two, and a moving graveside visit. A short video about this story will also be screened.
This event is free of charge, non-members are welcome to attend.

Dr. Pilon studied Anthropology and Archaeology and obtained his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Toronto.

The meeting will be followed at 3 pm by a get-together for the Computer Special Interest Group.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Canadian Exit Permits, 1942-1946

Canada needed all hands to the wheel during the Second World War. Exit permits were required if those able to work wanted to leave the county. Their names, mainly women and children, were published in Orders in Council of the Privy Council of Canada along with information about the people receiving them at their destination, often the UK.

You will find the names of those granted permits, and other names mentioned, at

Sample entries along with information on how to purchase photographs of the list that contains the information about your person of interest is at

Thanks to Glenn Wright for the tip.

Forthcoming Resources

--  Patient records and case notes, photographs, administrative documents and registers will be among 800,000 pages of UK mental health records digitised in a project funded by the Wellcome Library. The records will come from the York Retreat, St Luke’s Hospital Woodside, Crichton Royal Hospital, Gartnavel Royal Hospital and Camberwell House Asylum.

They will be added to the Wellcome Library’s own collection of archives from public and private mental health institutions, including the records of Ticehurst House Hospital in Sussex, which provide a rare insight into the running of a privately run asylum. The project will take two years and is part of an ambitious initiative by the Wellcome Library to make freely available over 50 million pages of historic medical books, archives, manuscripts and journals by 2020.

See the announcement here.

-- MyHeritage have announced a new collaboration and product integration with personal genetics company 23andMe which appears to go well beyond the marketing relationship currently existing between MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA.

"23andMe will provide its 750,000+ customers special access to MyHeritage’s family tree tools and matching technologies directly from its website. Eventually they will replace 23andMe's own family tree editor. 23andMe’s customers will enjoy automated family history discoveries by MyHeritage such as Smart Matches™ and Record Matches, bringing them significant new opportunities to grow their family trees and to enrich their family history."
This will be good news to genetic genealogists who have been far from happy with the family tree facility provided by 23andMe.

The immediate benefit to MyHeritage aren't as obvious but there's every prospect of them developing as genetic genealogy gains an even greater following.

According to the MyHeritage announcement the first phase of integration is to be completed by early 2015.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Canada's Great War Album

A gala event at the Canadian War Museum last evening was the occasion for the launch of Canada's Great War Album: Our Memories of the First World War.
"Published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, Canada's Great War Album is an unprecedented and remarkable collection of Canadian photographs, memorabilia, and stories of the war. Two years ago, Canada's History Society invited Canadians to tell their family stories from the First World War. The response was overwhelming and assembled for the first time are their personal stories and photographs that together form a compelling and moving account of the war. Canada's Great War Album also includes contributions from Peter Mansbridge, Charlotte Gray, J.L. Granatstein, Christopher Moore, Jonathan Vance, and Tim Cook. In the spirit of the bestselling 100 Photos That Changed Canada, the war that changed Canada forever is reflected here in words and pictures."
Mark Reid, no known relation, the editor spoke on the book, how it was compiled and some of the stories. A surprise was to have emcee Don Newman return to the podium to tell the story of his relative who won the Victoria Cross but died shortly before Armistice Day in the influenza epidemic.
A representative from Shaw Communications showed four one-minute vignettes based on stories from the book which, with several more, will air on Canada's History channel.

Industrial England Workshop in Toronto

Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society sent a reminder of the fall workshop, "Industrial England", coming up in less than two weeks - on Saturday 1 November.
"This full-day workshop, co-sponsored with the Canadiana Department of North York Central Library, will explore the social, economic and cultural effects of the Industrial Revolutions on the lives of English people from 1750 to 1900. Author and professional genealogist Kirsty Gray will be our keynote speaker.
Spaces are still available, but we encourage you to sign up soon to ensure a spot. OGS members are eligible for a fee discount.
Full details about the program, speakers and how to register, are available on our Branch website at"

Monday, 20 October 2014

Genetic Genealogy Ireland 2014 Videos

Maurice Gleeson has started uploading to YouTube videos of presentation from this past weekend at the Genetic Genealogy Ireland conference in Dublin .
So far there's a brief introduction and a nearly one hour video by Maurice - Which DNA test is best for you? If you've heard Maurice presentations before you'll recognize some of the content -- appreciate the new information -- and the humour. Recommended.
Watch for further videos coming to

Suggestions for Speakers at a Canadian National Genealogy Conference

As mentioned a few days ago a National Genealogy Conference is proposed to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 17-19 of 2015.
I had a phone conversation with Heidi Wilker, one of the organizers. While there are no commitments at present she mentioned Dave Obee, Terry Punch, and Garry Shutlak as possible speakers.
Who else? The speakers should be Canadians, come from across Canada and be able to give informative presentations that hold the audience's attention.
Your suggestions either as a comment or directly to me at johndreid at gmail (delete this) dot com would be appreciated.

Census: The Family Historian's Guide

There's a revised edition of Census, Peter Christian and David Annal's guide to the UK and Irish censuses. The slightly altered full title is Census: The Family Historian's Guide. It is no longer published in association with The (UK) National Archives.
Reviews of the previous edition were overwhelmingly positive. Recent criticisms that details of online access in the 2008 edition were dated should be largely addressed although, as the authors point out, changes after their text was finalized in early 2014 are inevitable.

According to the publisher's blurb the new edition has been updated to cover:
  • the many innovations on the main census websites, which have all added new census data and made changes to their facilities in the six years since the first edition;
  • the complete records of the 1911 census for England, Wales and Scotland, now available on both official and other commercial sites; and
  • all the surviving Irish census records, which have now been digitised in their entirety.
Looking for more detail? Check out the authors' article What You Will Find In This Book (pdf).

In Canada the 384 pages paperback edition, $21.74 from is on 1-2 month backorder while available for $9.99 on the Kindle eReader where you can preview the first and part of the second chapter.  Chapters-Indigo has the paperback for $20.19 and at $12.99 for the Kobo eReader.

Peter Christian is also author of The Genealogist's Internet. Davis Annal is author of Easy Family History: The Beginner's Guide to Starting Your Research and co-author, with Audrey Collins, of Birth, Marriage and Death Records: A Guide for Family Historians.