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Ancestry Tips and Tricks

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Ancestry screen shot

Screen shot of Ancestry LE showing drop-down menu

Ancestry.com has just announced that it now has over ten billion records in its database. Wow! It wasn't all that long ago that I looked at the database and decided it didn't have enough Canadian or international content to make it worthwhile. Things change very quickly. Now I can’t imagine how we would function without our Ancestry LE subscription.

Of course, finding something in a database with 10 billion records can be something of a challenge. I liken it to being dropped in the National Library with the notion that somewhere there is a book with information about my family in it. Now go find it. Yikes, this could take a while.

There are a couple of fundamental strategies for finding information in a gargantuan collection such as this. The first thing I always recommend is for new users to look at either the Card Catalogue (you can find that by hovering over “Search” or clicking on the arrow beside “Search” on the front page of Ancestry LE) or by checking the locale where you are searching (you find the interactive map by clicking on “Search”). That way you can find out what records exist for the area you are searching. It pays to know what is in a database before you start searching. For example, if you are looking for a birth registration for someone in Alberta, you’d probably like to know that those records are not in Ancestry before you spend valuable time looking for them.

The next tip is to search one record set at a time. If you fire your name into the general search, you could turn up thousands of records, many of which are not relevant to you. By using the card catalogue to narrow the search down, you know that your results will be more likely to be relevant. Of course, this method requires that we know what we are looking for, which is one of the first rules of genealogy. It is always easier to find what you are looking for if you know what you are looking for (no matter what the advertising and “Who do you think you are?” say to the contrary.) If your search is for “grandmother’s birth record,” you have a better chance of success than if your search is for “everything about grandmother.”

Keep in mind, as well, that Ancestry LE has a great learning centre that can be accessed by clicking on “Help” in the upper right hand corner. There is a Wiki and an Answers section that can both be searched by keyword. It is a great resource to check if you are just starting out, or if you have encountered something in a record that you can’t figure out.

So, with those pointers in mind, visit us at any branch of the Calgary Public Library to try out Ancestry LE. You can access it with your library card number and PIN in any of our 18 branches. We've come a long way, from dusty originals to digitized records.

Ancestry LE interactive ma

Screen shot of Ancestry LE showing interactive map and tabs

Vimy Ridge

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1478

IODE War Memorial, Central Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

Last week we celebrated the 95th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. It is said that the Canadian action at Vimy was the turning point for Canada. Before Vimy we were a frozen outpost of the British Empire, after Vimy we were a nation. That bit of information is certainly crucial to an understanding of Canada’s role in the Great War . But I am a bit of a micro-historian myself. I believe that we can also come to an understanding of the impact of world events by understanding the role of individuals in those events. This ties in nicely with my interest in genealogy, but it has also served me well in a new role I have taken on. Library and Archives Canada have a project called Lest We Forget, which involves collaboration with libraries around the country. The goal of this program is to bring the lives of Canadian soldiers to students in high schools by exposing them to primary source documents, in this case, the service records of men and women from their geographic area. I was a little leery of this to begin with. I love working with primary sources but I’m not sure if that is a sign of some dysfunction or if there might be others out there who get the same thrill from dusty old papers. Well, the students we have come in contact with seem to have the same feeling about micro-history and primary source materials that I do. Who knew? So now with this affirmation in hand, I am spreading the word about primary source research and Canada’s military history.

All of this leads me to Private Thomas Lawless. One thing that was really driven home by my involvement in Lest We Forget is the absolute horror of the battlefield. Photos of no-man’s land show a churned up, muddy pit of horse carcasses and dead bodies. It was, to belabor an obvious point, a chaotic nightmare where the niceties of tradition could not be observed. Bodies sometimes had to be left where they fell. Thomas Lawless was one of these soldiers who were left behind. As a matter of fact, his body was not discovered until 2003, and therefore he was still on the missing list until 2011, when scientists were finally able to confirm his identity. Thomas was from Ireland, but lived in Calgary when he enlisted, on November 22, 1915. He was 27, had sandy hair and a fresh complexion. He arrived in England in June of 1916 on the Olympia, but seems to have immediately contracted tonsillitis, which seemed to be a chronic problem for him, and was admitted to hospital. He ran a fever for a short while but by July he was fit enough to rejoin his regiment. After he died, his next of kin, listed as Mrs.K. Johnstone of 8th Street West, Calgary, received $275.46 of his back pay. His brother in Ireland received his medals.

How do I know all of this about Thomas? His service records have been digitized and made available by Library and Archives Canada. You can access the Soldiers of the First World War database here: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/cef/001042-100.01-e.php

As the files that we are using in the Lest We Forget project are scanned, they are also put in this database. So while some records only include the attestation papers (but you can order the files if you want to see them) some include the entire service record. If you are researching an ancestor, or have seen a name on a cenotaph that you would like to pursue more information about, check out the Soldiers of the First World War database.

And just on a more personal note, some of the students from one of the schools in the Lest We Forget project are in France and were a part of the celebrations at Vimy. They are also going to visit the battlefields. They all carry their soldier’s story with them and I’m certain they will see the Great War through new/old eyes.

Attestation Paper LAC


Attestation paper of Thomas Lawless

Soldiers of the First World War database, Library and Archives Canada

Who on earth is PERSI?

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PERSI landing page

Saturday was Family History Coaching day at the Central Library. We had two outstanding volunteers from the Alberta Family Histories Society helping customers with their genealogical questions. As usual, the customers were not the only ones learning stuff. The volunteers and I always come away from these sessions with new information. That got me thinking about some of the lesser used resources for family history research. One source that I have used in the past, but which isn’t really used all that much by others is PERSI. You know that library people love acronyms so you probably guessed that PERSI isn’t a person. What it stands for is PERiodical Source Index – which still doesn’t tell you much about it. PERSI lives in Heritage Quest Online which you can access through our E-Library under History and Genealogy.

So why would you want to look at it in the first place? Because, periodicals (magazines, newsletters, etc.) are an overlooked resource for genealogists. An enormous amount of information is published every year in commercial journals and in the publications of genealogical societies. The good folks at Allen County Public Library in Indiana index this information and make this index available to all of us. In some cases, you can actually view the article online, in others you will have to make a request for an interlibrary loan of the periodical or a photocopy of the article. This can be done at your local Calgary Public Library branch (or, through your local library if you’re not in Calgary). You can also put in the request through Allen County PL by clicking on the request form link at the bottom of the page.

I ran a quick search to see what kinds of articles turn up when I look for information about my ancestors. The first thing you will notice is that the menu offers four options. You can search for information about people, places, how-to information and by periodical title. My first search was for my mother-in-law’s family in Ireland. I found a citation for an article about her family in Breifne magazine, published in Ireland, from 1973, as well as an article from a 1962 edition of Irish Genealogist. Cool, eh?

I also tried a place name search to see what I could turn up on the Okanagan, where my father’s family settled. I chose Canada in the search tabs and then selected British Columbia from the drop down menu. I used Okanagan as a keyword and my results included 854 hits including articles that listed the names on the Kelowna cenotaph, the names of Okanagan valley pioneers from 1881 and the names of railway workers killed on the Kettle Valley line (I’m going to request that one!) You can also use this search to find information to flesh out your family story. In addition to the drop-down menu for place names, you can also use a drop-down menu to narrow your search to a type of article or record. For example, a search using Alberta and Directories turns up many articles about directories in small towns in Alberta. Some of these may also include transcriptions.

In addition to genealogy periodicals, history publications are also indexed. These can be invaluable in filling in some of the details of your family’s story. Journals like Alberta History, Beaver and Legacy are included.

How-to articles can be searched by specific keywords or by using the drop-down menu to select article by record type. So if you want to have pointers on researching tax records or records of probate, you can see what kind of articles are available.

Whenever I do a tour for new genealogists, I like to point out our fairly large collection of magazines as a treasure trove of information. Now you don’t have to read each of the 1000 or so journals we have on our shelves, you can use PERSI to find the articles you need.

Happy hunting.

Oh, and just a reminder, if you haven’t registered for the AFHS/AGS Conference in Red Deer on April 14 and 15, you’re not too late. Check out the website and register. http://rdgensoc.ab.ca/registration.html This is going to be the Alberta genealogy event of the decade!

Ross Avenue, Red Deer, ca 191?

Postcards from the Past, PC 1086

PC 1086

Genealogy Conferences for 2012

by Christine H

Files

I am ashamed to admit that I have only ever attended one genealogy conference and that was as a representative of the library, manning a booth. That is all going to change, though, in April. On the weekend of April 13, the Alberta Family Histories Society, in partnership with the Alberta Genealogical Society will be holding a conference, “Find your Tree in the Forest” hosted by the Red Deer Branch of AGS. Registration is now open. You can access the schedule, speakers’ bios and registration information at the website: http://rdgensoc.ab.ca/conferenceindex.html

Many of the speakers at this conference are household names in the genealogy field. Dick Eastman and Gena Philibert Ortega will be there, Thomas MacEntee will be present via webinar and many local speakers will be presenting on topics as diverse Prairie settlement and introducing the Online Parish Clerks program in the UK. It promises to be a very interesting and informative conference. The early registration deadline is March 15.

Alberta Family Histories Society member Lois Sparling will also be presenting at the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference in Kingston from June 1st to 3rd. The theme this year is “Borders and Bridges, 1812-2012” and Lois will be presenting 4 sessions ranging from land records to Loyalists. This annual conference is a very extensive learning experience for researchers. It is like genealogy boot-camp, but with more parties. You can view the brochure at the conference website: http://www.ogs.on.ca/conference2012/

These are just two of the conferences that are going on this year. Dave Obee, on his blog Cangenealogy, has an events listing that includes other conferences that you may be interested in. You can find him at http://www.cangenealogy.com/index.html. Events are listed at the bottom of the page and there is also a link to the upcoming events page. Global Genealogy also lists upcoming events on their site: http://globalgenealogy.com/workshops/off-site.htm And, of course, the AFHS blog lists events of interest to Calgary genealogists. Their blog can be found at : http://afhs.ab.ca/blog/category/events/

So, if attending a conference was once of your genealogical resolutions for 2012, you’ve picked a good year.

Find Your Tree in the Forest

AGS/AFHS Conference, April 13-14, 2012 Finding your tree in the Forest Logo

Interesting blogs for genealogists

by Christine H - 3 Comment(s)

Blog

Since I write a blog, I like to read blogs by other people and organizations. (Any of you who have attended my “Cool Internet Tools for Genealogists” have heard my confessions about my never-ending blog list). So when I come across something new, I like to spread the word. So it was very big news for me that Library and Archives Canada is piloting a new blog < http://thediscoverblog.com/> This site is going to be a goldmine for Canadian genealogists. Library and Archives Canada is our essentially our ‘national memory’. They collect information on the country and its people. The resources it holds are extensive and includes materials that every genealogist needs. For example, you want to find an obituary for Uncle Joe who died in a small town in Saskatchewan. You think there might be a newspaper but for the life of you, you can’t find it in Google News or any of the other online sources. Calgary Public Library doesn’t have it so what do you do? Well, you can hire a researcher to find the obit, you can ask the local library if they will do a lookup for you or you can check the Library and Archives “Canadian Newspapers” database to find out what the newspaper for the small town in Saskatchewan was called, see if it is available from them on microfilm and place an interlibrary loan request for the appropriate date through your local branch. How would you know that? Well, it’s in the LAC blog.

Or say you want to order a copy of your grandfather’s military service record. Can you do that? Yes you can and the LAC Blog tells you how. I suggest that every person who is researching Canadian genealogy have a look at this blog. I am so glad that they launched it because every time I show a new genealogist the wealth of information held by LAC, they are astonished. And the blog provides a great introduction to not just what is in the collection, but also how to get at the information in the collection. Did you know that if you need a copy of a document and ask for a digital version, you are helping to build the digital collection at LAC? Whenever it is possible, LAC repurposes the digitized image for their online collection. So, you help yourself and others at the same time. How could this be any better?

So, while we’re on the topic of archives and blogs, I want to introduce you to the Smithsonian Archives blog. http://siarchives.si.edu/blog/start-new-year-right-tips-archives (I warned you about my blog addiction). Most people have heard of the Smithsonian. It is a huge collection of museums, archives, galleries, and research institutions which are known the world over. What I know about the Smithsonian is that when I am looking for information on the preservation of data in its various formats, I turn to them. They are world leaders in the field and, best of all, they make the information available to the public in terms anyone can understand. The posting that the link above will lead you to is particularly pertinent to people who collect things (as most genealogists do). It gives pointers on how to organize and preserve the “stuff” that has become part of our lives including digital photographs and email. It also has links to other blogs that discuss similar topics as well as a link to the Smithsonian’s Flickr feed which includes some stunning photographs ranging from hatching frigate birds to exploding stars. So, Happy New Year – now get back to work on your family tree!

News for French Canadian Genealogy Researchers

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Front page of Tanguay

Front page of Tanguay's Dictionnaire généalogique ...

Ancestry.com recently announced that they have added a very valuable resource to their collection. The Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu'à nos jours by Father Cyprien Tanguay is the resource for people researching French Canadians. It is often called just “Tanguay” (a sure indication that it is important!) and includes information about the founding families of French Canada.

In its paper incarnation Tanguay is 7 volumes plus supplement (it sits in our genealogy collection at 929.3714 TAN). It is the product of a lifetime of research and data collection by Fr. T. whose passion for genealogy led him to archives and churches in Quebec, the Maritimes, Ontario and the U.S. The result is a massive collection of pedigrees that, in some cases, takes the families back to their place of origin in France.

This collection is arranged by the surname of the male head of the family and can include dates and places for major life events as well as the names of children and their spouses. The collection is, of course, in French, so searches should be in that language. And, as with any compilation on this scale, there can be errors, but it is still one of the best resources for French Canadian research. And the nice thing about the collection as it appears in Ancestry is that there is a transcription of the page. This can be very helpful when looking at documents such as this one that were published in the 19th Century. The print isn’t always as clear as we would like. Its availability as a database also means that you will be able to search all the names in an entry, not just the head of household’s.

Ancestry also has several other great resources for searching French Canadian roots, including the Drouin collection (see, another source known only by the compiler’s name). These databases can be accessed through the library subscription to AncestryLE at any branch of the Calgary Public Library.

We also have other great non-database resources for those researching their French Canadian ancestors including an index to Quebec land grants, the Drouin collection on CR-ROM, the aforementioned Tanguay in paper form, as well as a number of very good guides to doing French Canadian research, including Miller’s Manual. 1886560471 You can find them in the catalogue by searching ‘Quebec genealogy.’

Le Pere Lacombe

Postcards from the Past, PC 1597

PC 1597

Lest we Forget: Researching Military Ancestors

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 1478

IODE War Memorial in Memorial Park

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

The Military keeps excellent records. Some of them they won’t let you see, but some of them are rich with detail for the family historian. We are privileged at Calgary Public Library, to be included in a project with Library and Archives Canada called ‘Lest we Forget.’ The aim of this project is to commemorate those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Students are given the opportunity to use primary source material (some of those wonderful records created by the military about their men and women) and tell the story of a member of Canada’s Armed Forces who died. Students can get the names of people they would like to research in a number of places – on cenotaphs, in the Books of Remembrance (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/books) the Virtual War Memorial http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/virtualmem) or through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/debt_of_honour.asp?menuid=14)

There are also resources for research closer to home. Many schools have plaques dedicated to their students who served in the military; churches also have memorials to their members who died in war. I have found lists of the war dead in company histories and in the histories of towns and communities, many of which we have in our Community Heritage and Family History collection. And that is just the beginning.

The next step in the students’ research is to look at the personnel records of their chosen person. These are available online at Library and Archives Canada for members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I ( http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/cef/index-e.html ) and can be requested for those who died in World War II. Of course there are other military service records, many of which can be viewed at the Central Library (for example, some mercenary soldiers came to Canada after the American Revolution and put down roots. We have lists of these soldiers in our genealogy collection – weird, eh?)

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Of course there are tons of other records that can be accessed if you have military ancestors. You can find out some of what is available for your own research in the following sources:

Canadians at War, 1914-1918, a research guide

Index to Canadian Service Records of the South African War

Tracing your Army Ancestors

And that doesn’t even begin to touch the resources that are available for “putting the flesh on the bones” so to speak - the resources that can tell us what it was like to serve in the war. These are available online and at the library. We have an extensive collection of books and resources relating to the Canadian military. There are also resources at the Military Museums, the Regimental museums and the University of Calgary.

If you are a teacher and are interested in having your class participate in the “Lest We Forget” program, please contact me, Christine Hayes, at email

If you are interested in learning more about researching your own military ancestors, keep our Family History Coaching program in mind. On the last Saturday of every month (except December) from September to June at 10:00 we have two coaches from the Alberta Family Histories Society on site to help genealogists with their questions. We also have knowledgeable staff available at all times to help with any and all questions related to genealogy (and anything else Humanities related)

PC 569

Six Soldiers in Calgary, 1916?

Postcards from the Past, PC 569

It's Archives Week in Alberta

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

File Cabinet

It is Archives Week in Alberta. It is not widely publicized and many people may shrug and say, “So what?” I know a lot of people think of archives as dreary, black and white kinds of places but they are, in fact, filled with exciting and valuable stuff. The theme this year, Archives in Living Colour, was chosen to draw attention to the fact that archives are more than just dusty repositories for old paper – they are living and vibrant and have relevance for all of us. We’ve all heard the adages about keeping touch with the past – well, archives fulfill that role. They are the, often overlooked, keepers of our history. Just check out their virtual exhibit . It includes images from 23 archives throughout the province including the City of Calgary, Glenbow, the Museum of the Highwood and the Whyte Museum. You will also be able to view virtual exhibits from past Archives Weeks.

In particular, family historians and genealogists should get to know their archives. In addition to keeping documents that are obviously of use to genealogical research, such as older vital event records, church records and census, local archives often collect the papers of people who lived in the area. They also collect information about the area that can include municipal records, including documents relating to land, taxes and businesses. Old newspapers can be found in archives as can employment records. Some archives collect family letters and photographs, and even genealogies and family trees. It pays to know about the archives in the area that your ancestors lived – they can be a treasure trove of valuable information. Here are a few titles to help you find and use archives in Canada:

Archives for genealogists (929.1072 BAR)

Researching Canadian Archival Centres (R929.1072 TAY)

and from our Government Documents collection on the Third Floor here at Central - Heritage institutions published by Statistics Canada (STATS CAN 87F0002)

13th Avenue Looking East

Postcards from the Past, PC 52

PC 52

Brace yourself!

by Christine Hayes - 0 Comment(s)

iStock

My mother always cautioned me about looking too closely into my family history. She was sure I would find one of them buried on Boot Hill. This was a long time ago, of course, as evidenced by the reference to Boot Hill, but her caution was well intentioned and, for the time, when everyone wanted to be like everyone else, it didn’t do to have family “buried on Boot Hill.” Well, I ignored my mother and plowed headlong into family history research and turned up some very interesting things, none of which were particularly shocking, since I have a great tolerance for peculiarity and pecadillos.

I also have been working as a genealogy assistant for a very long time and have encountered the family stories of hundreds of people, so, in comparison, my family is boring. This is perhaps a privilege of my occupation – that I get to hear the stories of so many different families but one thing I have noticed and want to pass on to anyone interested in starting their family history is brace yourself. You are going to find information that you may not want to know. You know the Ancestry ad, the one about the grandfather’s multiple marriage certificates, that is tame compared to the grandfather who had about eight different families. There was only one marriage certificate, however, which meant that gramps was a bigamist. In one family, it turned out that grandmother was purchased from her father for a horse and buggy. And I can’t tell you the number of people who never married yet had children, who went to prison, who were found floating in the river, and on and on.

Many people accept these family stories with aplomb. There is actually a subset of genealogists who celebrate their black sheep (although the definition of a black sheep varies from family to family – in my family it was someone who married outside of the church) But every now and then I encounter a genealogists who is truly shocked and unable to come to terms with what they have found. There is a belief that people in the past were more moral and disciplined, that they followed the rules and, with a few exceptions, behaved in a much better manner than we do now. What I have found is that this is simply not so. Our ancestors swore, cheated, drank, cavorted and behaved badly. And I think that when we start our family stories we need to be prepared for the eventuality that our ancestors may have feet of clay.

Irish Genealogy

by Christine Hayes - 1 Comment(s)

Trinity Library Dublin

Library at Trinity College Dublin

I recently finished a course through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies on the basics of Irish research. Anyone who has tried to find family in Ireland knows of the obstacles that are the realities of Ireland. What I didn’t know, was that there are so many resources still around.

I love Ireland – my husband’s family is still there and I cherish the time I spend there. But it is a different country. One cannot approach Ireland believing that because it is an English speaking country, for many years under British rule, that it is anything like Britain. It is not. In many countries where the British ruled, the people absorbed much of the British culture and adopted some of the ways of Britain, with regards to government and record keeping, things that genealogists rely on to find info about their ancestors. The Irish sort of did, but not entirely. Irish culture was strongly matrilineal. Irish women often retained their birth names. Any time during a child’s minority, the mother could “name a father” for the child. In this way family relationships became very wide reaching and sometimes had little to do with actual blood relationships. The culture was bardic and much of the early record keeping was done in the form of poems and recitations about families or tuaths. To this day, I can get more information about family relationships from my husband’s cousins than I can from the records that exist. In some ways, the family relationships in Ireland remind me of the family structures in the First Nations communities around Calgary. Children are “fostered” but are in no way less members of the family that the natural born children. This way is changing in Ireland, but within my generation, there are still family members who are “like brothers”. All this is, of course, preamble to the actual methodology I use to find my ancestors but, it’s my blog and I’ll ramble if I want to.

Anyhow, the best advice I can give to any researcher looking for their family in Ireland is get yourself a really good how-to manual and make yourself familiar with what records are available. We have a number of books that are invaluable to the Irish genealogy researcher. How to trace your Irish ancestors by Brian Mitchell and Tracing your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham.

Another invaluable resource for Irish researchers is a reference book specifically to assist researchers in locating records: Irish records: sources for family and local history by James G. Ryan. The book tells you what records there are and where they’re held. This is a very good starting point because I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to assist genealogists looking for records that simply don’t exist (or haven’t been found yet – we can always hope)

We also have a good selection of manuals on how to find and access the different records available such as civil registration, monumental inscriptions, and testamentary records, as well as guides for researching in specific areas of Ireland. You can find these in the catalogue by searching the terms Ireland Genealogy.

Although challenging, researching your Irish forebears can also be very rewarding. Ireland has a rich and colourful history, both at home and here in Canada. In a visit to a Wexford graveyard, I discovered the burial site of Thomas D’Arcy McGee and met an wonderful local historian who filled me in on the families in the area and a Calgary ex-pat who, coincidentally, had worked with my father and my brother (these things always happen in Ireland – I believe it is magic) So, hard work though it may be, there is that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – left by leprechauns or fleeing rum-runners, I’m not sure, but it is there and it is worth the work.

Keep in mind that our genealogy Saturdays kick off again in September (the 24th to be exact). If you're really stumped or would just like to discuss your project, come on down.

Library Interior Ireland

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