Sunday, 29 March 2015

Genealogy in the Sunshine 2015 Wrap-up

Genealogy was in plentiful supply at the "Genealogy in the Sunshine" event organized by Peter Calver of Lost Cousins at Rocha Brava, Algarve, Portugal - 16-20 March 2015. Several people have asked about my experience saying they would consider going if offered again.

It goes without saying that when you have well-known knowledgeable speakers of the quality of Chris Paton and Else Churchill, who have both been BIFHSGO conference speakers, and John Hanson, the content will be first rate.

It was, and not just because of them. In fact my top pick from the speakers, perhaps because her material was new to me and presented in such an appealing manner, was British legal historian Rebecca Probert, author of Marriage Law for Genealogists: The Definitive Guide...what everyone tracing their family history needs to know about where, when, who and how their English and Welsh ancestors married. She spoke on Sex, Illegitimacy and Cohabitation; Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved - interpreting you ancestors' second marriages; and the Life and Times of an Army Wife in the Peninsula War as well as giving a morning presentation on the topic of her marriage law book.

The major presentations took place in the afternoon, the mornings being reserved for introductory or specialist topics. However, on Monday morning there was a panel on the Genealogical Proof Standard. Else Churchill started off with an overview of the GPS and the additional material the Society of Genealogists have on their website. That was pretty factual. The discussion, which involved a lot of questions and interventions from the audience, was at a fairly basic level. There remains a lot of scepticism over "reasonably exhaustive", the overly prescriptive nature of citation and just when conflicts can be said to be resolved. One opinion was that the GPS was nothing more than common sense. There was some discussion of DNA evidence allowing me to point out how it is becoming increasingly accepted by the US  profession, and required in some circumstances.
While I think the GPS can be improved upon after nearly 20 years, after all genealogy has come a long way in that time, still we should not be making the perfect the enemy of the good. I remain optimistic that one of these days, although perhaps not soon, the genealogical professionals will embrace a quantitative probabilistic approach.

The second (Tuesday) morning was dedicated to presentations by Debbie Kennett providing an introduction to genetic genealogy. It was a session I didn't attend, Debbie was a speakers at the last BIFHSGO conference. I did enjoy her more in-depth presentations on interpreting DNA results. Genetic genealogy continues rapid development and Debbie is right on top of these as well as being well tuned in to the genetic genealogy community internationally. The challenge with these presentations is providing enough basic material for the newbie and enough of what's new to satisfy the more advanced genetic genealogist.

There wasn't a dud presentation during the whole week - although I'll let others pass judgement on mine.

I wasn't the only Canadian on the program. Dr Donald Davis from BC gave an exceptional presentation comparing the 1841 English census with a small collection of the original householder schedules found in a county archive, and, together with his cousin Donna Fraser, spoke on their case study Finding Amelia.

Peter Calver also arranged a social program including an opening reception with wine, afternoon tea/coffee breaks each day, optional Safari Suppers on Tuesday and Thursday, and an optional closing dinner.

Was everything perfect? No, but it was good. The presentation rooms weren't ideal; WiFi was only occasionally, mostly not, available in my suite so I had to walk to reception for access. While that's something that could be fixed the parsimonious allocation of sunshine was not. Portugal is known as a cold (relative term) country with a hot sun. I have a sunburn that testifies to sunny days of sightseeing before the conference, and Algarve has lots of that to offer. The sun only reluctantly appeared during the conference, although did make enough of an appearance on the Friday morning to enable witnessing the partial eclipse of the sun.

The accommodation at Rocha Brava was perfectly satisfactory, we took advantage of a reasonably well equipped kitchen to save on meals out, international TV, and there were good electric heaters to take the chill off leaving us toasty-warm on the colder days.

I expect Peter will have more to report in his next Lost Cousins newsletter. Comments from anyone else at the event welcome.

OGS Conference 2016 Announcement

The OGS 2015 conference isn't yet underway but already the dates and location for OGS Conference 2016 are announced. The venue is the International Plaza Hotel, close to Toronto (otherwise known as Pearson, Mississauga or for the old timers Malton) airport at 655 Dixon Road. The dates June 3, 2016 – June 5, 2016.
It's a good conference facility, Toronto has lots of organizational talent to draw on and, even before the call for presentation proposals comes out, I'm hearing of good speakers planning to make proposals. I suggest you plan on being at there even if, like me, you don't have much in the way of Ontario ancestry.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Forces War Records Magazine

The first issue of this British online magazine is out from the folks at Forces War Records  (Alexa rank 119,758), a sister site of Forces Reunited (Alexa rank 263,316) and part of Clever Digit Media Ltd.
This is an entirely new-to-me organisation with another string to its bow being British Genealogy (Alexa rank 472,465) which the company describes as a forum leading the field in its technology and membership base.
The magazine cover story is a Genealogical Boot Camp for getting started researching military ancestors. Solid straightforward advice.
The lead "historic feature" is on Britain's Secret (WW2) Army: the Auxiliary Units and the Last Line of Defence. It's a useful description of a guerrilla-type organisation which I learnt a bit about when Time Team explored Shooters Hill in South London.
A Happening Now section includes news on military records, a what's on compilation and happenings from the Great War day-by-day 100 years ago.
The magazine, with about 28 pages of content, is free so it costs nothing but your time to check it out, and you'll certainly learn about the military resources of Forces War Records.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Celebrate Archives Awareness Week in Toronto

If you're in Toronto don't miss the events being organized by the Ontario Archives, starting April 7. See the details at

If you're not in Toronto it would seem you're plain out of luck, or perhaps living beyond the pale as far as that organization is concerned. Not even the opportunity to see the presentations being given online which is hardly costly or groundbreaking technology at this stage!

FamilySearch adds United Kingdom, World War I Service Records, 1914-1920

Now available from FamilySearch, sourced from The National Archives, Kew, Surrey. come 43,542,691 images, name indexed, the records from:
WO 363 (War Office: Soldiers' Documents, First World War "Burnt Documents") surviving records of service for non commissioned officers and other ranks who served in the 1914-1918 war and did not re-enlist prior to the outbreak of war in 1939 and
WO 364 (War Office: Documents from Pension Claims, First World War) service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who were discharged from the Army and claimed disability pensions for war service between 1914 and 1920 and did not re-enlist prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

FreeBMD March Update

The FreeBMD Database was updated on Friday 20 March 2015 to contain 245,478,955 distinct records. That's an increase of 669,185 records since the February update. Years with major (more than 5,000) additions are: for births 1958, 1963-4, 1966. 1971, 1973-4; for marriages 1952, 1965-6, 1968, 1971-5; for deaths 1971-4.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Ancestry adds Bexley, Kent, records

Sourced from the Local Studies & Archive Centre, Bexleyheath, come the following Church of England records, with image originals:

Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985, 49,848 records
Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1558-1812, 27,113 records
Births and Baptisms, 1813-1925, 67,801 records
Marriages and Banns, 1754-1935, 61,801 records

and also, from the municipal cemeteries of Bexleyheath, Erith and Sidcup:
Cemetery Registers, 1879-1985, 53,843  records

Alan Lomax Archive Online

If you know anything about folk music and folklore you know the name Alan Lomax. An American, he recorded thousands of songs and interviews with folk artists from around the world. They're now online at including material from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Gene-O-Rama: 27-28 March

A reminder that the evening of Friday March 27 & all day Saturday 28 is the almost annual Gene-O-Rama organized by the Ottawa Branch of OGS.

This year the lead speaker is Janice Nickerson; details of the program and speakers are at

As usual there will be a marketplace with lots of goodies to purchase, displays by representatives of local non-profit heritage societies and a computer research room.

According to the Environment Canada forecast we should avoid the snowstorm that plagued the event last year so making your way to the Confederation Education Centre, 1645 Woodroffe Ave. Ottawa should be routine.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Historical Society of Ottawa Meeting: March 27

This Friday Bob Garcia is the invited speaker on ­ "The Best Laid Plans of the Royal Engineers: proposed and lost fortifications of Kingston, 1827­-1903"

The presentation will give an overview of the efforts of the Royal Engineers to provide suitable fortifications to protect Kingston, the military depot for Upper Canada, the Royal navy dockyard, and the southern entrance to the Rideau Canal in case of a war with the United States. The execution of their plans was often affected by the political situation back in Britain.

Bob is an historian with Parks Canada’s Cornwall office, with research responsibilities for Parks operated national historic sites across Ontario. He joined Parks Canada in 1991 as a member of the interpretative staff at Fort Malden National Historic Site. Bob has a bachelor’s degree in history from McGill University and a Master’s in library and information science from the University of Western Ontario. He is a past president of the Essex County Historical Society and has had a long ­time interest in Canadian military heritage.

The location is the lounge of the Routhier Community Centre, 172 Guigues Street at Cumberland in Ottawa.

Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People

A blog post from the Wellcome Library reveals that these almost legendary pills were:

Originally produced and patented by Dr William Frederick Jackson, a physician in Ontario in 1866, the international success of the pills was due to the marketing skills of the Canadian politician, Senator George Taylor Fulford.
According to Ancestry William Frederick Jackson was born about 1853 in Brockville, Ontario
and died on 29 January 1935 in Leeds, Ontario. His father was William Hayes Jackson and his mother the delightfully named Polyanna Beach. His death notice in the Ottawa Journal of 30 January 1935 makes no mention of the pills. He is said to have been an associate of Alexander Graham Bell in the invention of the telephone and a graduate of McGill University where he was a fellow student of William Ostler.

A wikipedia article on George Taylor Fulford, also Brockville-born, gives further details on his involvement with Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People and reports he was the first Canadian fatal automobile accident victim.