Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Middle Names

Time of 16 August has an article by Merrill Fabry Now You Know: Why Do We Have Middle Names? It goes into their history and adoption.
One of my early lessons in genealogy was about their significance. I inherited a middle name, Digby, from my father and his father. Looking through the English civil registration records for the birth of my great grandfather in the 20 year period around when I thought he might have been born, in those days on microfilm, I found many instances of Robert Reid. There was just one just one with middle name Digby. It turned out to be just as helpful for the previous generation as it was his mother's maiden name.
Did you know you can search for middle names on FreeBMD? In the First name(s) box enter * and a space before the middle name. It works up until the middle of 1910 when the indexes switch to initials instead of full middle names.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

LAC Saving the World

Going to an event where public servants talk to each other about their service and policy may not be something most of us would be first in line to experience. When the title of a presentation in such a forum is "Saving the world: one record at a time" one has every right to see it as from a limited perspective, even pretentious . . . if not tongue in cheek. That is the title of a talk given by Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada at the Canada School of Public Service in Ottawa at the end of May.
The text is here, but please don't rush to check it out, we wouldn't want to crash the servers.

Here are a few points that caught my attention.

  • We may have pushed them a little too far, trying to make librarians and archivists interchangeable, without enough regard for their individual expertise.
  • We made access the number one goal of our three-year plan.
  • Working with the company, LAC technicians adapted and redesigned the BancTec scanner to work with historical records (notably WW1 service files) so they can now scan everything, from photos to onion-skin letters to medical charts, safely and directly to a preservation format.
  • Partners digitized 35 million pages of archival material on microfilm; digitized and indexed 11 archival collections, representing 3 million pages online.
  • Block review, (looking at the scope of a collection and reviewing a sample of those judged low risk) has enabled LAC to open 18 million pages of Canadian Government records this way, and make them available to the public.
In general partnership and digital are the two words the presentation wanted to emphasise.

I was less impressed with there being only a single of mention of newspapers. It's a black mark on LAC's reputation that there's not a single librarian dedicated to the newspaper collection, and no digitization/OCR initiative, an area where peer organizations in other countries are taking the lead.

It's also ironic that the example chosen to illustrate block review was weather information from the 1950s, which happens to be a collection that LAC refused to take.

NWMP Articles in Western Canada Genealogical Society Publications

Earlier this year a blog post reported on a cooperative project between three of Western Canada's genealogical societies. The  Alberta Genealogical SocietyManitoba Genealogical Society and Saskatchewan Genealogical Society all intended having the Northwest Mounted Police as theme for their summer issues.

The intention is now reality. Electronic copies the three issues are available as a benefit of membership in any of the societies. The contents are:

Relatively Speaking (AGS)
Frederick Augustus Bagley (R.S.N. OS 322, NS 247): Maverick by Dale H. Bent and Penelope D.
Frederick Mortimer Gray (R.S.N. 4218): People We Meet by Gori Elder
Honest John Herron (R.S.N. 378): Policeman, Plainsman and Politician by Gord Tolton
Robert Belcher (R.S.N. OS 13, NS 3, 101): One of the ‘Originals’ by Gail Benjafield
Sergeant John Joseph Marshall (R.S.N. 1487) by John J. Marshall
Staff Sergeant Joseph Harvey Price (R.S.N. OS 202, NS 4) by Carol Anne (Price) Marshall
The Search for Ernest Kroesing by Bob Franz

Generations (MGS)
James Black Brown (R.S.N. 6244): Memoirs by Mavis Chalmers
James Black Brown: History Unfolds as Mountie Pioneers Meet by Bob Campbell
Thomas Henry Waring (R.S.N. 790) by Mary Anne Wright
William Henry Lowe (R.S.N. 3524): The W.H. Lowe Mystery by Isabel Campbell; William Henry
Lowe by Jean (Yates Lowe)

Bulletin (SGS)
David Paterson (R.S.N. 235): A Biographical Sketch by John deCourcy Fletcher
History of David (Pry) Paterson written by Frances Gaff Paterson
George Gordon (R.S.N. 2003) by Dennis Gordon
Harry Holdsworth Nash (R.S.N. OS 271, NS 399) by Richard Nash
Richard Elmes Steele (R.S.N. OS 7, NS 18): One of the Original 300 by Donna Shanks

Monday, 22 August 2016

Bytown or Bust

Way back in April 2009 I blogged about Bytown or Bust, a long running website/blog by Al and Grace Lewis. It is one I only visit occasionally, I have no Ottawa Valley ancestors, but when I do am always impressed by the material available.
It's now up to 1,700 pages. If you have ancestors who settled in the Ottawa/Gatineau area in the 1800s, more particularly the early part of the century, and especially if they are of Irish origin, must be on your resource list.

FTM: the story continues

Last December Ancestry announced it was discontinuing sales of Family Tree Maker software and would end support at the end of 2016. Many assumed FTM was dead. Other companies moved quickly, some would say in the style of ambulance chasers, to pick up clients for their competitive software.

The situation is reminiscent of a Mark Twain misquote: The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

Following massive negative reaction in February Ancestry sold FTM to Software MacKiev which has several years experience with the Mac version of FTM, and that it "will continue to have all the familiar capability."

As I wrote in February "FTM users should continue to watch and wait. There may well be yet other options for those who want to stay with desktop software, or you can always go with a cloud-hosted solution."

On Sunday I received a bulk email from Jack Minsky, President of Software MacKiev. Quoted below are a couple of paragraphs.

Still works with
Our updated versions for Mac and Windows pick up right where Ancestry left off so you'll still get Ancestry's "shaky leaf" hints, and use TreeSync to keep your Ancestry online tree in synch with the Family Tree Maker tree on your computer. You won't need to transfer your Ancestry subscription if you have one – it will just work. And all your tree files will just open after you update, no conversion utilities required. Our free updates for FTM 2014 and Mac 3 users will be available soon, but there's also a discounted upgrade for users of older versions (see below), and full versions for new users in our Web store
Discounted upgrades from older editions.
If you know anyone who has FTM 2012 or older (or Mac 2 or older), let them know that for a limited time they can download an upgrade copy for just C$39.95 (vs. C$99.95 regular price) by clicking here. They'll get a full free–standing Canadian edition installer for one computer, so they won't need to worry if they don't still have their old edition installed or they're moving to a new computer. They'll also have a chance to purchase a backup DVD for C$20 (including shipping and handling) or can upgrade their single–computer license to a three–computer family pack for extra C$30. You may also purchase FTM at the upgrade price for someone as a gift.
Did you notice the regular price --  $99.95 Cdn. Compare that to  Family Historian 6 at $59.50 Cdn; Legacy Family Tree 8.0  Deluxe Edition for US$29.95; Roots Magic 7 at US $29.95;  and others.

If you stay with FTM, and believe the company promise, you should have a clear path forward with no transition concerns, no learning curve to navigate and a reasonably competitive upgrade price at present.

However, I'm hearing good things about Roots Magic which is still offering a $20 US special for transfers from FTM, file import without using GEDCOM which can cause loss of data and interface capabilities with Ancestry previously only available with FTM.

Comments from those with recent experience in making the transition welcome.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Book Review: Forgotten Hero: Alexander Fraser

Military hero, ambitious, intelligent, capable, hard-working, trusted, politically-astute, loyal to the British crown.
Fiery tempered, sensitive as a school girl, petulant, vindictive, did not manage money well, convicted of drunk and disorderly conduct, sentenced to jail.
Did the man so described in the preface rightfully disappear from Canadian history after his death in 1872, even in his adopted home town of Perth, Ontario?
Obviously not according to the authors of this 2012 publication Forgotten Hero: Alexander Fraser.
Both authors bring a depth of local knowledge. Co-author genealogist M. E. Irene Spence was stimulated to start the investigation in finding out her family home was originally built for Fraser and named for his wife.
Lead author Ron. W. Shaw is a well known historian of Perth and area with five generation roots in the area and three other books on the topic to his credit. He is also a musician, evidenced by this song he wrote and performs on the occasion of the bicentennial celebrations of the Perth Military Settlement.
The book covers the full extent of Alexander Fraser's life. If his life in Perth was the extent of his prominence he would be not very different from many other half-pay officers who settled there. He stands out for the role he played during the nighttime raid at the Battle of Stoney Creek, considered a turning point in the War of 1812. That earned him a commission from the ranks to officer  -- without purchase, and a posting to New Brunswick where he met and married his wife from a Loyalist family. Placed on half-pay at the end of the war he took up land in the Perth Military Settlement.
The book makes the point that his actions were largely motivated by advancement for him and his family, a matter of some difficulty in Perth where he was considered not quite up to the social standards of the officer class.
Beyond the biographical material one gleans considerable information about the life and times in the early 19th century British military in Canada, and the various organisations which touched Fraser's life.
Genealogists often turn to an index on first picking up a book. Unfortunately that's lacking in Forgotten Hero.

This review is based on a copy received from

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Victorian Spectacles

They're an everyday part of my life. You too?
Each morning I reach for my eye-glasses before anything else. I've been wearing them since my early teens, except for a brief period with contact lenses. Both my parents wore them occasionally in later life for reading.
I don't recall anyone else on the family in glasses. Chances are others did, the history goes back. Check out the Wellcome Library website for an informative blog post with some amusing images at

Ireland Police Gazettes come to Ancestry

Issues of the semi-weekly Police Gazette published in Dublin contained information on wanted criminals, crimes committed, criminals who had been apprehended, and missing persons. Although most coverage is for Ireland there are many notices for Scotland and England.
Each issues is four pages in length. The run, slightly broken, covers 1863, 1866, 1870-1, 1874 - 80, 1882-3, and 1884-93

These issues were indexed by volunteers in a Ancestry World Archives Project.