Thursday, 29 June 2017

Canadian Genealogy without the 'Big Guys'

A while ago I read a blog article by Dear Myrtle in which she discusses the copyright issue of sharing free lookups using personal subscriptions to commercial genealogy sites. She referenced Judy G. Russell's article, Just Say No .... Judy Russell is the Legal Genealogist.

This posed a question :  "How do I research without paid subscription sites at my fingertips?"
Answer: Be Creative!!
I have been doing genealogy since the 'olden days' when computers and the internet were for corporate types. It took a lot of hard slogging using books, print periodical indexes, family history journals and many boxes of microfilm, as well as writing letters! Do you remember the PILIs before it was on Ancestry?
I went to family history centres, libraries, museums and archives from the very beginning. Once my children came along, it became even more difficult to do family history (no internet at home and very little time). I used to get to a point where I needed to escape to a library. My daughter now calls it my 'happy place'.

So getting down to brass tacks, how do I do genealogy without the advantage of a personal subscription to Ancestry or Find My Past? 

My tips researching genealogy for Free
Use Ancestry and Find My Past at the local library!
If we use the subscriptions in the library, the service will survive and help the library to stay open. Libraries and archives partner with Ancestry and other vendors to digitize their collections for youAs I do not have an individual subscription I use the pay as you go option as often as possible. Thankfully Ancestry has provided this recently. (Just to be sure, do read the fine print for Ts&Cs.) Sign up for an account which allows you to log in and search the indexes - then go to the library with your list. (TIP: there are other types of valuable online subscriptions via your library membership.)  Note: quite a few public libraries only subscribe to Ancestry -please check before heading there.  

Join a Family History Society - WHY?? - Because they are often run by volunteers and your money/membership helps to keep the doors open. TIP:  Rotate your membership amongst various societies to get great value for your $$ or ££ as well as to show your support. 
Indexes of articles in family history journals are often available for free on their websites.   Examples: BIFHSGO, OGS Index (Ontario), BCGS (British Columbia), Nova Scotia Genealogist. I leave it to you to make new discoveries!

Make notes of articles that indicate good online resources. Learning how to skim text quickly and efficiently will save you loads of time. Remember to cite, cite, cite, and especially the date and where you found the resource!

Read online research guides posted on family history society websites, public libraries and archive sites
  • these guides are written by knowledgeable staff and is often a way of 'passing down' their knowledge 
  • It's your opportunity to 'speak to a specialist'
Read Blogs - these writers are passionate genealogists and are very knowledgeable! Attend workshops and conferences - network with people in the area of your research. They hold the keys to break down your brick walls.


Free webinars provided by family history societies, archives and individuals (You Tube, Vimeo, Periscope-an example, paper.li ) - I learn something new every time!
A short list of my favourite Free online resources. 
  • Archive.org - a site of free e-books, provided by university libraries and more!
  • Automated Genealogy - a free site of Canadian census transcribed by genealogists! Excellent linking functionality.
  • CanGenealogy - Dave Obee's pages of genealogy links with an easy interactive map.
Above all, keep notes of your new discoveries, return to the same sites as websites change and new datasets appear all the time! Keep Calm and Keep On Researching!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The OGS Conference June 2017 - attending virtually from afar

As a Canadian genealogist, I was keen to attend the live streaming events at the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference, but due to numerous reasons I wasn't able to attend in person. An opportunity to live vicariously through the livestreamed YouTube videos was a big draw for me.

Here's my review.
Leading up to the first video, I connected with the Social Media Team at the Conference (see twitter handles) for some pre-plenary chats. This was easily done by checking in with the hashtag #OGSConf2017 and refreshing my browser numerous times. The SMT were very obliging during the videos, and chats were soon flying.

@ECraighenC @GrandmasGenes @treesrch @geneaalacarte @leprchaunrabbit @TheKirstyGray @JohnDReid @tinemoros @elle_dee_see @PassionateGenea

Friday 16 June 2017
     In addition to Dr. Guy Berthiaume's (Librarian and Archivist of Canada) review from LAC, I was really, really excited to hear Dave Obee speak at the Opening Ceremonies as I have attended some of his other talks where I learned so much! (I was so excited I stayed up until 2 a.m.! This is because my time zone is ahead of Ottawa by 5 hours.)

The key things I took away from his talk were:- - -  decisions our ancestors made were life changing- - -  how do our ancestors fit in to the bigger picture- - -  **Understand the Whys**- - -  be aware of your references - Genealogist: 'my ancestors farmed in Alberta in 1850' Dave: 'No they didn't - b/c Europeans were not farming in Alberta in that time period' : ie: know and understand the history of the area you are researching- - -  It's a one-way street they [your ancestors] cannot go back, immigration is all about pushes and pulls- - -  Understand the impacts to the indigenous peoples of Canada that our ancestors' arrival created

Saturday 17 June 2017
      The timing of this video was a little easier to stay awake for and I even managed to get out to the shops beforehand.
Permission given by the photographer @treesrch and Archives of Ontario
At the end of this video Danielle Manning from the Archives of Ontario announced that the 1935 marriage registrations & 1945 death registrations for Ontario will be available via Ancestry by the end of June or early July. Exciting! The main presentation was from highlights of the exhibition Family Ties to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday and Ontario's 150th birthday.

A1 – Family Ties: Exploring Genealogy through the Archives of Ontario’s Canada 150 Exhibit

BROWN family - George Brown was a leading voice in Ontario politics and involved in Confederation of Canada. At age 18 he left Scotland, (1840s) and in the 1850s was publisher of Globe newspaper now the Globe and Mail. He is known for being instrumental in constitutional reform, 'representation by population'.

A representation of social life of an upper middle class family living in Ontario. George m. Ann Nelson 1862 in Scotland. Children: Margaret (Maggie), Catherine (Oda), George Jr. (Ginney). Although married in Scotland, they made the conscious decision to have their family in Ontario. Ms. Manning's talk highlighted some of the letters between the members of the family. Maggie and Oda were among the first female graduates at the University of Toronto. Ginney eventually served as a member of the British House of Commons. George Sr. was murdered by a former employee of the Globe in 1880 and died aged 61.
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McCURDY family -  Nasa McCurdy was a slave in the United States who emigrated from Ohio to Amherstburg Ontario in 1856 and was an 'agent' involved in the underground railroad. The McCurdy family attended the Nazarene African Episcopal Methodist Church which is located on the site of the Amherst Freedom Museum. Howard McCurdy, the 2nd black member of parliament and a Member of Canada, gave this tribute to his ancestor: "My family has had a history for more than 150 years of involvement in the human-rights movement. It dates back to at least when my great-great-grandfather (Nasa McCurdy) was an agent in the Underground Railroad." [to the Windsor Star 2012]
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WOLVERTON family - This family's story of involvement with the American Civil War connects major events to the confederation in Canada. Two brothers, Alonzo and Newton joined the war efforts of the Union Army at the ages of 20 and 15 respectively. Their sister, Rose Goble helped to keep the family connected by writing to her brothers and discussing world events, family events and news of the local community. Alonzo rejoined the Union Army after the war, being promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. Newton returned to Ontario where he joined the 22nd Oxford Rifles and was involved in the melee during the Fenian uprising. An interesting item on display in the exhibit is a hair wreath that is on loan from the Huron County Museum. Hair wreaths were a popular memento during this period.    Please see more about the hair wreath below re: Krista McCracken's blog. 
Note: in April 1861 the American Civil War broke out. Estimated that 40,000 men from British North American fought with the Union Army.
         Four went to the civil war by Lois E. Darroch
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Families of SHINGWAUK - centers around the dream of Chief Shingwauk 'Shingwaukonse' of the Ojibway people who wanted to create a 'Teaching Wigwam'. This work was continued by two of his sons who worked with Rev. Francis Wilson in the 1860s to raise funds to build a school. Sadly the hope of inclusivity was over run by the Residential School system which followed. The school opened with 50 students who as children were forcefully separated from their families. The school was in operation in this manner until 1970. Today, the Shingwauk Residential School Centre continues to work in the community, raising and educating the people in the ways that Chief Shingwauk would have approved of. The archives of the Shingwauk RSC provides the artifacts for the exhibition. Their mandate is Sharing, Healing and Learning and are involved in facilitating reconciliation initiatives.
Note: Indian Act 1876 (Canada)
- - - - - - - - -
Krista McCracken has archived all the tweets about the opening of the exhibition 5th October 2016 on her blog. http://kristamccracken.ca/?p=987   There is a picture of the hair wreath towards the end.

- - - - - - - - -
The AGM was interesting - I thought it was especially important that the amount spent on electronically delivering the ballots was revealed, as this says volumes to how easily these events can add up! I especially caught notice of the Awards - these are definitely a great promotional tool for the OGS and more history students should take advantage of the experience! https://www.ogs.on.ca/ogs_awards.php


A number of video / interviews were held at the OGS Conference by Grandma's Genes - the one I watched was WikiTree LiveCast - Live from the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference, Eh?  with Leanne Cooper, WikiTree Leader Annette Cormier, Ottawa Public Library Genealogist, Romaine Honey, Kirsty Gray from Surname Society in the UK. Gail Dever's blog post about the social media events. There are a number of reviews on John D. Reid's blog, Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections, including a 'rough' transcription of Guy Berthiaume's talk. Keep your eyes peeled for other reviews.

This has been a taster of what the conference was like and is definitely proof that you can learn and participate by attending genealogy conferences virtually!  I know it would not be fair or economically viable to have the entire conference live streamed but perhaps someone will come up with the idea of a 'Go To Meeting' - especially for the separate sessions. Note to next year's organizers: I for one would be happy to pay (perhaps on pay as you go?) in order to benefit from all the 'greats' in the room! 
Be sure to stay tuned for the OGS Conference in Guelph Ontario 2018!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Diaries of Canadian colonial women

This post covers one of my favourite topics - 'life stories', also known as 'living histories' or 'life writing'  - interpreted loosely as 'an account of a person's life'.  A comment by Kiriaki Iossifidis on Heroines.ca really struck a chord with me. She says her favourite heroines are the 'nameless, faceless, immigrant women' - it is these women who are overlooked.

Through these pages, women share their stories of what it was like to settle in a young Canada. There are many personal accounts and self published books of people's experiences settling on the prairie, and I ordered these through the libraries in southern Alberta on a recent visit. Not many are available online as their availability and print runs were small - so perhaps they could be considered limited editions? Take a gander at your local library catalogue, or order them through Inter Library Loan.


AB As Grandma Said by Mildred Honess   A 20 pound pail of cookies! Can you imagine preparing cookies, bread and 3 meals a day for 20 men? This took place once a year over 3 to 4 days, in order to fuel the threshing crews who helped to bring in the harvest on farms across the country. Mildred's grandmother, Annie Armstrong, widowed at 35, moved to Alberta with 4 children aged 10 to 17 from North Dakota in 1907. She bought land and started her homestead as well as a country school and post office in the community now known as Lomond.  The experiences that Mildred recounts in her recollections are similar vignettes on many farms across the Canadian prairie at the turn of the century. This book provides a homey conversational tone, includes facts and figures of how much goods (foods) cost as well as wages: her mother was one of the aforementioned cooks who earned $9.00 per day, the same as a man on the threshing crew. (However, many were farm wives doing the same work without pay.) In the introduction, she shares: 'Use it up, Make it do, Wear it out, Do without'. This 'memory book' gives an insider view of history as it was being lived. Library copy. Published in Canada. Ask your local librarian how to find a copy. 

AB Pioneering in Alberta by Jessie Browne Raber, published in 1951 in Canada. This 'life-story' gives a first hand account of emigrating to a farm in Alberta from England at the turn of the century. The first chapter reviews the decision to move from England to western Canada. It is poignant to hear that 'Dad didn't know anything about farming' and 'He was tired of keeping his nose in musty account books [...] 'he longed to be out in the fresh air'.  In the spring of 1895 the decision was made to leave Shrewsbury, England. An auction sale took place and 4 crates were packed with sensible items for a new homestead. The author gives a vivid account of the voyage and the happenings on board: a concert that their family took part in, the sailors pointing out whales and an iceberg and then finally the arrival in Quebec. A ship came alongside as they came up to the St. Lawrence River to take people from their ship to go to New York. She also mentions the Immigration Hall and the crowds of people. After their health inspection, they found a cab to take them to Montreal where they stayed the night, and then boarded their train to Calgary. The book continues with arriving at their new home and adjusting to the weather, the people and their new community.  Library copy. Ask your local librarian how to find a copy. 

AB No Ordinary Woman Mary Schaffer Warren, a Pennsylvania Quaker who arrived in Alberta in 1889. Her husband Charles Schaffer died in 1903 and she is well known to have acquired 'country' skills in traipsing around in the backcountry of Rocky Mountains of Banff and Jasper. A well-known historical figure in the area. This book is available at the British Library. Ask your local librarian how to find a copy. 

AB Lizzie Rummel: Baroness of the Canadian Rockies by Ruth Ottmann - a baroness who lost her home in Germany during WWI came to Alberta, Lizzie lived on a ranch near Millarville. In 1938, aged 41, she rode into Mount Assiniboine Lodge where she started work as a chambermaid,  eventually running the lodge and earning the Order of Canada recognizing her work as 'mountaineer par excellence'. A well-known historical figure in the area.  Library copy. Ask your local librarian how to find a copy. 

SK Wheat and Woman by Georgina Binnie-Clark, Published in Canada.  A journalist who contributed to the Imperial Colonist, the official publication of the British Woman's Emigration Association. Within parts of the book she mentions making her living at writing for various publishers. Originally from London, she mentions : '[...] living in the very near neighbourhood of Westminster Abbey [...]'.  As I read excerpts from Georgina's diary, I became aware that the farm she purchased in Saskatchewan was all in the form of an experiment. The first line in the book: "You gave me your word that if I bought the farm your son would take off the crop." p.4  It is a book of conversations and reflections of what it was like as a woman to farm a piece of land in 1905 with hired men who were not overly confident of her skills. Georgina was a strong woman and she remained on the farm for 2 1/2 years after which a devastating fire wiped out her crops and her profit. In the conclusion she does not mention returning to England, but does say that she requested a meeting with the Minister of the Interior, : '[...] concerning the claim of women to her fair share in the homestead lands of Canada [...] p.401.  Library copy. Also available at the British Library. Ask your local librarian how to find a copy. 

MB  How dear to My Heart by Carol B. Roberts - Published in Canada -memories about farm life on the Canadian prairie - feeding the men who were hired for harvesting; how she enjoyed walking through the fields with her mother -in all kinds of weather; memories of school days and finishing school at grade X; the church serving the community as a social building; one of the chapters - 'Things We Did Without'. Library copy. Ask your local librarian how to find a copy. 

ON   Seven Eggs Today: The Diaries of Mary Armstrong, 1859 and 1869 Published in Canada. Mary Armstrong was born in 1819 in Mansion House Chapel, Camberwell Surrey (United Kingdom). She moved with her family to 'Upper Canada' in 1834 when she was 15. (Limited view on Google Books) This book is available at the British Library. Ask your local librarian how to find a copy. 

Much to be done : private life in Ontario from Victorian diaries by Frances Hoffman and Ryan Taylor. Published in Canada.  A look back in time to women's lives on the farm in the 19th century, covering aspects of daily life; the chapters contain excerpts from the women's diaries and tells tales of hardships but also of triumphs. Some of the women were well-to-do who wrote in their diaries to share memories or relieve their homesickness. Other women, like Margaret Emma Griffith, wrote about working as a cook on the ship her husband was captain of. Belle Kittredge wrote about earning a living 'writing' letters on the type-writer. Another account tells of hired men who earned their keep by recording the marriages, births and deaths in families bibles as they had beautiful hand-writing. This book is available at the British Library. Ask your local librarian how to find a copy. 

Early Voices : Portraits of Canada by Women Writers, 1639-1914 by Mary Alice Downie, with Elizabeth Jane Errington edited by Barbara Robertson. Selected pages view on Google Books.

The Small Details of Life: Twenty Diaries by Women in Canada, 1830-1996 edited by Kathryn Carter. Published in Canada.
         The women : Kathryn CARTER, Sarah and Susan CREASE, Mary DULHANTY, Miriam Qreen ELLIS, Marian ENGEL, Mary Eidse FRIESEN, Elsie ROGSTAD JONES, Sarah Welch HILL, Dorothy COATE HERRIMAN, Amelia HOLDER, Phoebe McINNES, Dorothy DUNCAN MacLENNAN, Jessie and Susan NAGLE, Susan ABERCROMBIE NAGLE, Caroline Alice PORTER, Sophie Alice PUCKETTE, Constance KERR SISSONS, Mina WYLIE. Somewhat available on Google Books.

Discover more:

30 Outstanding Women Canada's Great Women - Canada’s History article - Jan.8.2016

Central Alberta Regional Museum Network
Aboriginal and Ethnic Minority Women

Early Canadiana Online - a library of full-text historical articles includes books and government documents. A basic search resulted in 684 results for women's history.

The United Farm Women of Alberta (UFWA) (1915-2000) was an auxiliary group to the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA). 

Heroines - A guide to women in Canadian history - although the date on the home page of this website is 2004-2017, some of the linked pages are only indicated as 2004 - however some interesting tidbits. The Biographies page is a general listing of famous and not so famous Canadian women. An example: Mrs. Kwon Lee was the first Chinese woman in Canada. Corroborating evidence is not provided to prove this statement however. This online resource is created by Merna Forster, historian and author.

Global Genealogy.com -  books for sale  - this link provides search for 'diaries' - a good site for purchasing unique and difficult to find Canadian heritage titles that help in genealogy research. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Finding Your Ancestors in Ontario

If you are looking for ancestors or relatives in Ontario, this province is a rich resource for genealogical research. This review of Ontario resources is based loosely on my own experiences of family history research in Simcoe County and Huron County. Although I am an experienced genealogy researcher, I do not profess to be an expert in Ontario research. Listed are numerous how to articles and standard resources for Ontario genealogy. Perhaps you will find a new favourite?

Your best success will come from blogs of genealogists who live in the area and are familiar with Ontario repositories. Contact these genealogists with first hand knowledge of Ontario records - please see below.

Brief History
One of the earliest settled provinces in Canada, present day Ontario was formed in 1791 and originally known as Upper Canada (southern Ontario). Another name you may come across is British North America or BNA. (Source: Wikipedia_Upper Canada) By 1841 it had become known as the province of Ontario. The capital of Canada, Ottawa (1858) located in Ontario, was known as Bytown (1841). Toronto, the capital city of Ontario, was known as York (1793). (Source: Canadian Encyclopedia) Placenames in Ontario were often named after places in England, family names or indigenous names.

© Penny Allen
Family History Research
Start your Ontario research with the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS), as they have fabulous resources, and as well, most county family history societies are branches of the OGS. TONI - The Ontario Name Index  is a great resource to search for your ancestor by name - it is an index, however, there are options for purchasing the information. (>3,000,000 records!) Remember to check the OGS journal - Families, as it has been a great help to me, significant articles on very specific family names or areas of interest.  Ontario Record Resources provided by the OGS is another page that provides links.   Sign up for the FREE OGS weekly E-newsletter for the latest news and insights into Ontario genealogy.

In first attempts searching for your ancestors in Ontario, it is important to identify the name of the town and also the county that the town is located in. The easiest way to do this is by using the County Locator tool provided by the OGS (Ontario Genealogical Society).

Another very good tool for early County research (1870s - 1880s) in Ontario is the online County Atlas provided by McGill University. These county atlases contain information about landowners and their property giving a very visual picture and sometimes a drawing of the landowner. Next a sensible course of action is to investigate whether the county archives or genealogical society have transcribed cemetery lists or obituaries.

BMDs or Vital Statistics Ontario - certificates usually only available to next of kin

Archives of Ontario     Ontario Archives on Twitter

Huron County
   Search the webpages of the Huron Branch of the OGS (Ontario Genealogical Society) Goderich, Ontario. There are many specialized online collections to be found in the county of Huron. A few to mention here:  Wingham Cemetery Database  |  Reuben Sallows (1855 - 1937)  photographer, Goderich Ontario  |  Huron County Library - Online Newspapers

Simcoe County
  Search the webpages of the Simcoe Branch of the OGS (Ontario Genealogical Society). As with research in many parts of Canada, there is quite a bit of information in archives at the county or provincial level.  The Simcoe County Archives have many specialist publications that may not be digitized and are only available in print at the archives. For example, a publication of the Auld Kirk Cemetery is available listing all the people of Scottish descent who are buried there. Please check out Wayne Cook's Simcoe County pages a little bit on the 'loud' side, but full of interesting resources.

Ontario E-Resources:

John D Reid (Thursday 7 April 2016 WDYTYA handout) - Finding English Emigrants to Canada and Their Descendants

Ontario resources on Dave Obee's CanGenealogy pages

Search tool for Archives in Ontario  |  Archives of Ontario Guide: Tracing Ancestors at the Archives of Ontario

Toronto Public Library Digital Collections - the city of Toronto and Home District directory of 1837

Early Ontario Records - Although a teeny bit old school web design, this is a website that I latched on to quite early in my genealogy research. I am so impressed with the amount of work that went into this site and all those links!

Print Resources

Ontario Genealogical Society Publications

The Beginner's Guide to Ontario Genealogy by Fraser Dunford Published by Ontario Genealogical Society  ISBN13: 9780777934128

Ontario Land Registry Office Records, A Guide by Fraser Dunford Published by Ontario Genealogical Society  ISBN13: 9780777934469

Important genealogical collections in Ontario libraries and archives : a directory by Ryan Taylor. Published by Ontario Genealogical Society  ISBN13: 9780777901854 

Here Be Dragons!: Navigating The Hazards Found In Canadian Family Research, A Guide For Genealogists With Some Uncommon Useful Knowledge by Althea Douglas Published by Ontario Genealogical Society ISBN13: 9780777901960

Genealogy in Ontario, Searching the Records, 30th Anniversary Edition By Brenda DougallMerriman, CGRS, CGL Published by Ontario Genealogical Society  ISBN13: 9781550343113


Toronto Ontario from the CN Tower
© Penny Allen 
Ontario Genealogists' Blogs

Candice McDonald - Finding Your Canadian Story

Gail Dever - Genealogy a la Carte

Jane E. MacNamara - Where the Story Takes Me

John D. Reid - Anglo-Celtic Connections

Olive Tree Genealogy - Lorine McGinnis Schulze

Researchers Located in Ontario 


Janice Nickerson - http://www.uppercanadagenealogy.com/

Kathryn Lake Hogan  http://www.looking4ancestors.com/

Lorine McGinnis Schulze   http://www.olivetreegenealogy.com/index.shtml  Olive Tree Genealogy

Melissa Ellis  archivesearch@gmail.com

Ruth Blair  http://familyhistorysearches.com/

Archives of Ontario Genealogical Researchers

Although this may seem a teeny bit of information overload, it is a partial list of resources (too many to list here!) & more waiting to be discovered through family history society, archive and library webpages. Please do have a thorough look through all of the links. Ancestry, Family Search and the Ontario Genealogy Society are also hard at work providing more and more Ontario resources online. It is worthwhile staying up to date with the current research and records by following one or two Ontario genealogy blogs that I have mentioned above. Have fun!