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

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 Note there is no guarantee the list is up to date as some of the information on the website is outdated, such as "This is to help avoid ordering films from the Family History Library that are already here".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

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.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

British and Irish research: the differences

Irish ancestry? If so you may benefit from viewing Wednesday's Legacy Family Tree webinar, given by Brian Donovan. It is online free to view for a week.
"Ireland was England’s oldest colony, so many assume the records will be the same. They are not precisely because the two country’s histories and their relationship to each other were different. We all know about the terrible loss of Irish records, but there are great treasure troves of surviving records which don’t exist in England - records about war, rebellion, security and land control. So while there are great obstacles (record loss, language, differing histories), there is a great wealth of resources rarely accessed by genealogists. This talk will examine these differences in records and research techniques between Britain and Ireland, why Irish records were created, or destroyed, and how they can be used to unlock your past."
The presentation started with an overview of Irish history and geography then moved on to the records and where they may be found online. The pace accelerated toward the end, you may want to pause the playback to note the web address unless you have a subscription giving access to a handout with clickable links.

BIFHSGO November Meeting

The main presentation on Saturday, 18 November 2017 is:

Not So Quiet on the Western Front - The Grants of Formby in the Great War 
Presented by Tara Grant
10:00 am to 11:30 am.

Tara Grant’s grandfather, Alexander Henry Grant, and his three brothers, George, John Leslie and Douglas, all served with the British army during WWI. Enlisting in the Territorial Army, the brothers served in different regiments and battalions and fought at many of the major battles including Hill 60, Vimy, Carporetto, Canal du Nord and Cambrai. Combining their service records with the Regimental war diaries and newspapers it was possible to follow their military careers through the four years of the Great War. Overcoming her fear of researching the mass of First World War records (what is a brigade?) has added enormously to Tara’s understanding of the harrowing years her grandfather and his brothers experienced.

Tara Grant's ancestry is predominantly British and Scottish with a little Loyalist, German, French Huguenot and East India Company (although there is a half Dutch-Moroccan pirate way back on the tree). Working on her family history taught her more about Canadian and British history than she ever learned in school. Tara works as an archaeological conservator for the Canadian Conservation Institute (another way to learn history you were never taught in school).

The warm-up educational presentation is:

Using the Collections of the Military History Research Centre to Aid and Augment Genealogy 
Presented by Carol Reid
9:00 am to 9:30 am.
Carol Reid is the collections manager, one of two archivists in the Military History Research Centre at the Canadian War Museum. She trained as a museum professional and has more than 30 years of experience in a variety of museums and archives in Ottawa. She has been with the Canadian War Museum for the last 29 years and been responsible for the acquisition, cataloguing, and care of the museum’s paper and audio archive collections for 18 years.

Join us in The Chamber, Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Drive, Ottawa, Ontario.

Between presentations there will be displays of military related artifacts from members.

REMINDER. A significant winter storm is expected this weekend. Ottawa is likely to be near the line between rain and snow -- not so quiet on the warm front! Before leaving for the meeting check your email for a possible cancellation notice sent to BIFHSGO members by 8 am.

William Cowan Crawford: CEF Beechwood

Private William Cowan Crawford died on 16 November 1916, age 26 after a lengthy illness. The son of Margaret Crawford, of 331, Main St., Alexandria, Dumbarton, Scotland. He had no relatives in Canada.
His lengthy service file here documents his war-related service before and after enlisting and cause of death.