Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Ontario Records Online: Survey Results

As of 7 pm on Monday, 20 November 384 responses to the online survey had been received. While a few more are trickling in they are unlikely to change the results in a significant way.

72.4 per cent of respondents were Ontario residents and 71.1 per cent OGS members.

In general are you in favour of greater online availability of Ontario records of genealogical interest?
YES - 99.2 per cent; MAYBE: 0.3 per cent; NO - 0.5 per cent

Do you favour the Ontario Genealogical Society advocating for online availability of Ontario materials of genealogical interest?
YES - 98.2 per cent; MAYBE - 0.8 percent; NO - 1 per cent

Specifically, do you favour Ontario probate indexes presently available on microfilm being made available online?
YES - 98.2 per cent; MAYBE - 1.6 percent; NO - 0 per cent

Specifically do you favour all Ontario probate documents presently available on microfilm being made available online?
YES - 94.5 per cent; MAYBE - 5 percent; NO - 0.2 per cent

Specifically, would you favour the Ontario Genealogical Society advocating for online availability of Ontario probate records now available on microfilm?
YES - 95.5 per cent; MAYBE - 3.4 percent; NO - 1 per cent

Would you accept Ontario probate indexes and documents being exclusively available online for a limited time, after which they would become freely available, through a commercial arrangement, such as with Ancestry, Findmypast or MyHeritage, in order to fund online availability and as long as the existing availability through microfilm was retained?
YES - 70.9 per cent; MAYBE - 21.7 percent; NO - 7.3 per cent

63 people left comments which are reproduced below with identifying information redacted in two cases.

The most important need is for some type of online newspaper archive, such as Trove in Australia. Clearly this is a major undertaking as the original sources or copies would need to be gathered first.
It would be wonderful to have access to the probate records online. Right now I'd have to travel to see them or order the microfilm.
If free access followed by commercial access is necessary (because otherwise project could not proceed)... then I would prefer that the monies derived from the commercial access go to an Ontario institution, e.g. directly to the Archives of Ontario... (Maybe grant funding can be obtained for the digitization projects).
I am in the UK so online information would be wonderful.
I'm not a fan of BIG CORPS owning everything and making us pay for taxpayer owned public records. I do understand that these corps can help in the digitisation process and should get a financial reward but after a set time period - agreed upon by both parties- the records then should be accessible on all plarforms for free .
As the microfilmed probate records are now fully available to the public but through a needlessly complex and restrictive search process, I see no reason why they shouldn't be made available online. As always, the issue is the cost of digitization. Private sector participation seem unavoidable but should be carefully negotiated to ensure that provincial ownership and control of these records is maintained. Hence my "Maybe" response to the access scenario proposed above. Kudos to OGS for pursuing this general initiative on digitization! The provincial government itself should be acting more forcefully on this. Surely online availability of records would improve the efficiency of their own operations.
I'm trying to break a brick wall so I've been digging DEEP into geography and document availability in those localities. I have leads but they often stop just as I'm getting started. I hired a "professional" researcher 2 years ago. I got nothing other than my own family tree at ancestry copied and and sent to me. I have had good luck with on line repositories who only charge for the documents or for time and documents. But that means I have to find it first and then get the copy. So often there are multiple men with the same name and in the same place that it's impossible to know which one is mine. If I had online access to more I might be able to compare and figure out if any of them are mine. I'm too far away from Canada to even think about in person research.
I would prefer to see resources made exclusively available online for a limited period of time at a non-profit organization such as FamilySearch or The Ontario Genealogical Society before a commercial organization. Perhaps coupling a non-profit with a commercial entity, such as Findmypast/OGS or FamilySearch/Ancestry.
I'd be willing to help with indexing
I have long thought that the Ontario Probate records should be prioritized for digitization and online access! So glad to hear that the OGS is investigating this possibility! Fingers crossed that this idea becomes a reality.
I was just looking into getting the microfilm so this is very timely.
I had to travel from England to find several wills of my mother's immediate family. I couldn't afford to go back again to widen my search, but would happy to make a donation.
I reside in BC researching my ancestors who settled in ON. Having more access to ON genealogical records via my OGS membership would be very much appreciated. OGS please do!
Since I live in Calgary it would be a great help if we could go online to make use of these records! Sharen Haggarty
Would prefer AO to offer records on own website as does BC Archives vital stats Concerned with ability of OGS to manage theses datasets given decline in branches/members/executive
In my opinion, if OGS puts the effort into advocating and indexing these records then there should be some continuing benefit to the OGS membership, and these records should be freely available to the membership on a continuing basis. Since the Archives of Ontario holds the microfilms, they should host the digitized and indexed files. If AO hosting is not possible, then I would accept Ontario probate indexes and documents becoming freely available through a commercial arrangement ONLY IF OGS members continued to enjoy free access to them, and the commercial company hosting them makes them available for free to OGS members.
This could be done in stages - first digitize the films so they can be browsed online. Then index the indexes so they can be searched. Then link the indexes to the actual probate files.
I think this is a GREAT IDEA!!!
This would be of huge value to anyone interested in genealogical research. Microfiche takes an extraordinary amount of time to use. And for researchers with Ontario roots who now live out of province an online version would be invaluable!!
Just found out my husband has Canadian ancestors
For those of us who have deep Ontario connections having these and other records on line would make a huge difference.
As someone who has roots in Ontario and lives elsewhere, it would be wonderful to have more online resources to aid in family history research.
It is vital to make these records more available. For people not living near the Ontario Archive it is so time and energy consuming even committed and enthusiastic get depressed and half the time don't complete those researches!
On line availability would be very helpful for everyone but especially for those of us who live at a distance. As well, sometimes our local branch microfilm reader is not available or broken.
We have seen how successful this type of arrangement has been with the release of the 1921 census through Ancestry
I don't support the use of commercial sites for this project at all, regardless of the company.
Have you considered free-access FamilySearch as an alternative to subscription-based Ancestry, My Heritage or Find My Past?
Not currently a member, however, I have been a member in the past. I live in BC and just about ALL my ancestors came through Ontario, so I would use the Ontario information.
Index should be online with a fee to download the full document
to get the free on-line I would re-register as an OGS member
Thank you for undertaking this valuable mission!
These records, and other like them, are an important part of our historical record, and as such should be readily available to all Canadians using the updated methods now available.
Thank you for starting a conversation about this. Since so many Ontario records are governed by strict privacy laws, more expedient (i.e. - online) access to those records that are already available on microfilm would greatly advance genealogical research with Ontario records.
These specific questions with positive response answers are truly important for determining correct family tree relationships. They can hold information that reveals unknown family members as well as information on family values and relationships. This can be a goldmine for determining your family tree. I was born and grew up in Ontario and am now living in Victoria, B.C. and find it very difficult and time consuming to go through the existing process of ordering films in relation to being able to access them online. This could be a huge benefit to the genealogy community to be able to ensure more accurate trees to be passed down to the next generation.
The more documents that can be put on-line the better for people who do not have a mobility option to research their ancestor's which is what this is all about. Thank You for what you are doing.
I was born and lived in Ontario until 11 years ago. In the course of my research I discovered a branch of my mum's paternal family immigrated to the Hamilton area. I have been tracing them and would welcome further records to search. Also, I work at a library and help patrons with their genealogy, so am interested in this from a professional point of view as well.
This is a wonderful idea!!
I would want assurance that OGS membership would have guaranteed free access to the records before handing them over to a commercial entity.
Great initiative. Thanks for taking this on.
I was a member for many years. Have been stuck in Ontario fro over 40 years with a common Irish name (1840-1880 period). Having probate indexes and documents might down my brick wall.
Is there a possibility of transcribing records, once digitized, from one's home, like Family Search does? Many people/volunteers involved could cut costs.
Living in another province makes it impossible for me to use records that are only available at the Ontario Archives, etc. Hiring someone to do research for you is just to expensive.
I think it would be a valuable resource
Because I live in California, this proposal would be especially helpful for my family research
Having the Ontario probate records online would be awesome!!
It seems sensible for the Ontario Genealogical Society to sponsor such a move to make Ontario Archival records available online. 
I am a remote member from northern Alberta so anything online is a help. 
I'm not sure about the structure of the survey. Who's going to answer anything other than Yes to the first 5 questions? It might be more useful to ask how people would prioritize probate record digitization versus other records. Personally probate records and land records would be my priorities among Archives of Ontario records.
Good idea!
Hope this goes throught and would like more Indian information. Thank You
Probate records have been vital in my genealogical journey, proving many points.
I believe that the records should be available on line for free even after Ancestry or FMP or another service has access. I pay for Ancestry and FMP for the indexing, ease of searching and access to non-local records. Making them available for free with a browse feature is appropriate as they are public records.
I have been a member of OGS for 40+ years, but live in California so have a problem getting to records. This would be a real benefit.
If the 'exclusively available online for a limited time' means available to OGS members only, I might be willing to take out a membership if I needed to get early access. Since most of my ancestors were farmers, and most likely didn't have wills, I'm not sure when or if I would need access to probate documents. However, I am all in favour of getting as many documents made as available as possible while honouring reasonable privacy guidelines.
I have ancestors who arrived from England and settled in Ontario for several decades and many who remain in Ontario to this day, while others moved to the USA.
This would be a huge help since I live in Alberta and finding a local microfilm reader is difficult. Thank you.
This would be a huge benefit to people unable to travel to Toronto. Although I am a library patron, well versed in using the library website, the process to order them from the library is somehow daunting and off-putting. One goes through all the effort to order them and when one receives them one could find oneself caught up in something else going on in one's life, work or the community, and not have the time to use the material. Having the records available online at all times would be most appealing.
I think probate records should be available on the gov't website.
Family came to Wentworth County in 1820 -- however I live in Surrey BC -- so the more resources available on-line, the more extensively I can research our family tree since travelling to Ontario / Toronto is not an option at this time.
This would provide access to people with Ontario ancestors, but who currently do not live close enough to the repository for reasonable access.
Ontario probate records need to be Open Access; it would be better to apply for funding (for example, from LAC's DHCP program - http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/services/documentary-heritage-communities-program/Pages/dhcp-portal.aspx) to digitize these records, and then make them openly accessible, as opposed to housed by a commercial partner.
would also like to see Ontario Census that are not on line.
I trust the LDS but NOT Ancestry. Their records are contaminated, transcriptions more than often wrong. They are a huge corporate entity which has overtaken free genealogy websites and claim an interest in genealogy, but rather they are Corporations now housed in Switzerland, I believe, with no transparency as to who transcribes their records, or where the original sources come from.

Thank you to all who responded to the survey, and to OGS for publicizing it.

What next?  I'll ensure the results are made known to OGS and to John Roberts, Chief Privacy Officer and Archivist of Ontario.


22% Less Digitization at LAC?

Library and Archives Canada's recently issued Departmental Results Report for 2016-2017 shows a surprising decline in the number of images digitized. You have to read that report along with the one for the previous year to discover it.

Without in any way discounting the essential work of other aspects of LAC's operations, necessary for continuing service, the concentration in this post is the activity of Program 2.3: Access to documentary heritage in the Results Report which is of most immediate pertinence for the user community.

The report on Program 2.3 is in three sections: Description, Results and Results achieved.

Comparing the Description to the corresponding section in the 2015-2016 report shows, in addition to several minor edits, the additions highlighted in the two paragraphs reproduced below.

This program is designed to make Canada’s documentary heritage known and available to Canadians, to promote a better understanding of Canadian society. 

It includes activities to digitize, describe, organize, index and interlink this documentary heritage, to facilitate access. 

The final two paragraphs in the section are reversed from the previous year moving the section including the Documentary Heritage Communities Program ahead of that on Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act activities.

The Results section states that "LAC digitized 9,287,106 images, which focused mainly on the First World War, Indigenous realities and Expo 67." The previous year report stated "LAC digitized over 12 million images ..." Why the decrease of 22 per cent?

It is not due to any decrease in the pace of digitization of First World War Service Files as can be seen from the graph.

According to Normand Charbonneau, LAC Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Operating Officer, the same resources were dedicated to the digitization effort in both years, but in the previous year much was digitized from microfilm for Canadiana.ca, which goes quickly, whereas in 2016-2017 the source was original material in different sizes, and from some slides requiring disassembly.

The report is silent on digitization from the LAC published collections, such as newspapers and city directories. By contrast the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, is making digitization of library materials one of her top priorities because of the widespread benefit.

During the year LAC and its partners adopted a national digitization strategy and developed a three-year action plan. Let's hope that will lead to more digitization and not just more strategy and plans.

LAC made major efforts during the year to increase service in and beyond 395 Wellington. About 60 events and exhibitions were held in several Canadian cities, up from 20 the previous year. Agreements to provide LAC service in Halifax and Vancouver were signed and staff are now in place. Exhibitions continue to be staged at 395 Wellington and more events were held.

Signing of an agreement with OCLC to replace AMICUS late in the fiscal year followed the "progress" reported the previous year.

The TD Summer Reading Club reported at increase to 700,000 from 300,000 children enrolled the previous year.

The Results Achieved section has two resource measures and the one service standard measure reproduced below.  Note that the figure does not provide a valid basis of comparison.







Two service standards reported the previous year (1) Percentage of service standards met for formal access to information and privacy (ATIP) requests, and (2) Percentage of service standards met for digital copies, were not in the current report. Accountability is lost when consistent reporting is lacking. That's why the monthly reporting on CEF service file digitization is so welcome.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Parish Registers for England on Microfilm at Ottawa FHC

Over the years the Ottawa Stake Family History Centre acquired a collection of microfilms catalogued on a spreadsheet downloadable from www.ottawastakefhc.on.ca/.

As an experiment on plotting from locations in a spreadsheet this Google map plots the locations for which they hold microfilm of parish registers for various locations in England. Note there is no guarantee the list is up to date as some of the information on the website is outdated, such as "This is to help avoid ordering films from the Family History Library that are already here".

These days you should be able to get access to many such parish registers as online digital microfilms through the computers at Family History Centres and affiliated institutions.

Did Old King Coal Kill in Your Family History?

Coal was and is dangerous. Was your family history changed by coal?

In Canada miners died in tragic numbers. Do you remember the 1992 Westray disaster? In the UK 160,000 people were killed or injured in mines and quarries between 1700 and 2000, mostly in the 20th century.

Even more people died, or had their lives cut short, living and breathing in an area where a lot of coal was burned for industry or for domestic heating.


According to the article Air pollution in Victorian-era Britain – its effects on health now revealed, coal combustion led to repeated respiratory illness, slower growth during childhood and shorter adult stature. Men born in the 1890s, whose birthplace and heights were recorded when they enlisted in the British army during World War I, who grew up in the most polluted districts were almost an inch shorter than those who experienced the cleanest air.

I wondered if that was true for the British-born men in the CEF. Men born in Wolverhampton and Birmingham had an average height of 5ft 6in compared to 5ft 7in for the CEF as a whole.

A higher death rate in urban areas, especially for young children, was about one-third attributable to industrial coal use.

Will your future family history be changed as coal, the most carbon intensive fuel, is phased out to limit climate change?

Writing this reminded me of my childhood experiences with coal growing up in England.

Our house was heated by coal. Every few weeks coal would be delivered by the hundredweight in sacks to a wooden bin in the back yard. A chore each day was to fill a metal coal scuttle and carry it inside. Lighting a fire, involving layers of scrunched-up newspaper, kindling wood and the coal on top, was made easier by a gas poker attached to the mains gas supply.

Smoke would periodically belch into the house until the chimney warmed and began to draw, a process aided by blocking the top part of the fireplace opening with sheets of newspaper.

Although that smoke wasn't healthy the appearance and smell helped convince you of the prospect of warmth even though you might only feel it by standing close by with your back to the fireplace, known as warming your buns.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Deceased Online adds Lambeth Cremation Records

Newly available, sourced from Lambeth London Borough Council, Deceased Online has digital scans of registers for:
  • Lambeth Cremations; 52,000 records from 1958 to 2012
  • West Norwood Cremations; 38,000 records from 1915 to 2004 

Read more about these records here.

It has been quite a while since Deceased Online added any new records. There's the promise of more: "Records for the Lambeth, West Norwood, and Streatham cemeteries have been digitised and will be released at a future date."




Narrowing the Gender Gap

There's good news from Statistics Canada, and not only because of a slight improvement in timeliness. On Thursday they released Deaths and causes of death, 2014 several months in advance of the previous schedule.

While Canada in 2014 saw slightly more male deaths (130,761) than female deaths (128,060) these numbers have been converging over the last three decades. There is a more rapid decline in male mortality than in female mortality since the late 1970s because women's and men's lifestyles have become increasingly similar.

The 2012/2014 statistics show Canadian life expectancy at birth reached 79.7 years for men and 83.9 years for women. Every year over the last 30 years, life expectancy at birth has increased by an average of 2.9 months for men and 1.8 months for women in Canada. As a result, the gap in life expectancy between men and women was reduced to 4.2 years, compared to more than seven years at the beginning of the 1980s.

Other good news is that infant mortality was the lowest rate observed in Canadian history. It's 4.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014 compared to 77.4 in 1921.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Findmypast adds British Military Records

The major new addition to Findmypast this week is

British Army, First World War Soldiers' Medical Records

with over 212,000 names from The National Archives' series, MH106, War Office: First World War Representative Medical Records of Servicemen.
Included are admissions and discharge records from hospitals, field ambulances, and casualty clearing stations together with records from Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital dating from 1910.

If you're looking for someone with a common name good luck. First names are not given, just initials. There are 646 people named J. Smith.  Perhaps you can narrow down the possibilities from the index information that he was a gunner, service number 3611 serving with the Royal Field Artillery admitted in 1917 to the 14th Field Ambulance. Additional information in the attached image is that he was age 26 and had served 2-4/12 years and that, unlike most, no religion was given.

There are seven other military additions or updates to Findmypast this week.

British Armed Forces, First World War Widows' Pension Forms

Transcripts and images from The National Archives' series PIN 82, Ministry of Pensions: First World War Widows' Pensions Forms. The over 8,000 transcripts will reveal service number, regiment, cause and date of death, spouse's name, marriage year and children's names. Images may provide further details about your ancestor, such as their attestation year, rank and date and place of death. Some records will also note any awards or medals.

British Army, Royal Welch Fusiliers 1807-1948

More than 96,000 enlistment registers, transfer registers, discharge registers and casualty reports from 1830 to 1946 to uncover a detailed history of Royal Welsh Fusilier military service. Each result will include both a transcripts and an image of the original document.

Hampshire, Portsmouth Military Tribunals 1916-1919

From the Portsmouth History centre 14,141 records to find out about exemptions from military service through a military tribunal. Under the 1916 Military Service Act certain occupations were deemed exempt or essential to the war effort. Others could also seek exemption by applying to a tribunal for reasons such as illness, potential business damage, conscientious objection, or family hardship.

From the transcripts together with the linked image of the original record you will likely find birth year, marital status, the date of their tribunal hearing, the location, addresses, occupations, employers' details and decisions or recommendations made by the tribunal.

Military Historical Society Bulletins

More than 6,000 pages of fully searchable Military Historical Society Bulletins in pdf, from 1950 through to 2017, reveal historical facts about military events, background information about regimental uniforms, and regimental histories, images of soldiers, uniforms, and badges.

British Army, First World War Casualty Lists

Explore over 2,000 issues of the War Office Weekly Casualty List, a publication of the names of those who were reported as missing, taken prisoner of war, wounded, or killed in action, providing the individual's name, rank, regiment, and service number.

British Army Service Records.

Over 47,000 new records for the Scots Guards records are added to the collection of British Army Service records. The collection includes a myriad of Army forms including attestation papers, medical forms, discharge documents, pension claims, and proceedings of regimental boards.

Prisoners Of War 1715-1945

New records covering non-British Soldiers include the names of thousands of prisoners from nations around the world.

And the non-military addition this week is:

Middlesex, Harrow School Photographs Of Pupils & Masters 1869-1925

Portrait or group photographs along with a transcript of details related to the student originally captured by Hills & Saunders. Findmypast has added supplemental information about each student from the Harrow School Registers that may include their house, housemaster, clubs, monitor, father's name and address.
This image is of a student who later became a Governor General of Canada. Who is it?



Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives AGM and Presentation

A reminder that the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the City of Ottawa Archives is this Sunday, 19 November, 2 pm at the Archives building, 100 Tallwood Av.

The featured talk is Digging Through the Archives: A Journey of Metis Self-Discovery.


Friday, 17 November 2017

Ontario Records Online: Survey

"If it's not on the internet it doesn't exist" is a quote that goes back at least ten years.

For some a reasonably diligent search ends if you can't find it online --  too obscure to warrant the effort to seek it out and the cost of travelling to view it. Those genealogical resources are and will remain in repository obscurity ... unless.

That came to mind in discussing Ontario probate records, a large collection underused. It's trapped on microfilm. For access you go to the Archives of Ontario (AO), or order microfilms to a local library. Some other archives hold copies of the microfilms for their locality. In any case it's a two step process.

"First, borrow and examine the INDEX microfilm in order to find an estate file number.
Second, borrow the correct ESTATE FILE microfilm that contains the will and other documentation that you are seeking."

If you're not near the AO the process can take weeks. If you've been doing genealogy for a while you'll remember that's the way it used to be with Ontario civil registration records before Ancestry entered the picture.

What about the unless? Suppose a credible organization lobbied for specific record sets to be made available online?  Is that what you'd want? In Ontario the obvious organization for genealogy is the Ontario Genealogical Society.

I've shared these survey questions with OGS and they are interested to find out the community opinion. They tell me the survey will be mentioned in their Saturday OGS eWeekly Update which is free to anyone who subscribes whether or not you're an OGS member.

Please take the survey HERE. You may need a Google or Gmail account to do so.


Qualicum Beach Family History Society 2018 Conference

Advance registration is now open for the 20-21 April, 2018 Qualicum Beach FHS conference.

Featured speaker, Thomas MacEntee, will be giving four presentations of interest whatever your ancestral background.

  • 10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Genealogy
  • Successful Collateral and Cluster Searching
  • The 15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists
  • You Use WHAT for Genealogy? – Wonderful Uses for Unusual Tools.
My friend Lesley Anderson will speak on

  • Searching Effectively on Ancestry
  • Ancestry DNA – How it Can Help Your Research
Tara Shymanski will focus on Canadian records
  • Canadian Census Records
  • Exploring Canadian Records to Find Your Ancestors.

Kingston Branch OGS November Meeting

The Kingston Branch will meet on Saturday, 18 November at 10 a.m. at the Kingston Seniors Centre, 56 Francis St. in Kingston.
Nancy Cutway will present her talk "In Remembrance: Vimy and Other European Memorials."  
Visitors always welcome.  Further details at www.ogs.on.ca/kingston

By way of advance notice, here are the monthly meeting presentations scheduled for January - May 2018.

January 20, 2018 -- SPECIAL--MEETING BEGINS AT 9:00 a.m.Marian Press has kindly offered to give TWO presentations: (1) Are You Really Finding It All When You Search?: Mining Databases For Every Nugget Of Information and (2) Putting Your Family Tree Online: Making Use of Modern Technology to Share What You Know.

February 17, 2018 -- Annual General Meeting and 45th Anniversary.

March 17, 2018 -- Dr. Bruce Elliott will speak on Ireland, Irish Immigration and Research in Canadian Records.

April 21, 2018 -- Kyla Ubbink will speak on Preservation of Documents and Photos.

May 19, 2018 -- James Brownell will speak on The Lost Villages and Genealogy Records.