Archive for the ‘General Posts’ Category

How to Research Your Family History: Part 3

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

We now come to the two most difficult issues that genealogists must grapple with: Proof and Citing your sources.

Prove everything before going back another generation. Otherwise you may discover that you have spent much time developing a magnificent family tree of great value to someone else. The rule of thumb is that you should have three independent sources before accepting anything as fact, although you will quickly learn to judge the reliability of sources. This is because

  • A family story is rather unreliable
  • A family tree found on the internet is quite unreliable
  • Great aunt Minnie’s recollections of her childhood may be unreliable
  • A date of birth given on a tombstone may not be reliable
  • The age of an adult given on a census may be reliable, but be skeptical

Consistent age from several censuses is reliable. The date of a christening found in a church register is usually reliable but a date of birth in the same record may not be. A civil registration certificate is quite reliable and on its own can be regarded as proof.

What happens if you don’t find the evidence you are looking for?

First, remember the rule – Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Ministers sometimes forgot to put the entry in the record book. The person recording the information may have mis-heard the name and written down something else, a problem that often occurred when there was an unfamiliar accent. Becoming very creative about spelling may help you find the document you’re looking for.

For every fact you find – and accept – you should note the source so that someone else can go there to check your data. And of course you will want to return to that source too. You will be surprised how often you will want to re-check something a year or so later.

This rule particularly applies to information gathered from the Internet. Remember:
The Internet is a wide sea, but very shallow.

Unfortunately genealogies supplied on the internet rarely cite sources, so most of the information supplied on the Internet is only a starting point for your own research. The information is an interesting idea, worth slightly less than family legends, but requires you to verify the facts before it becomes valuable data.

Nothing is true until you have proven it true and cited your sources so that others can check your facts.

How to Research Your Family History: Part 2

Saturday, September 6th, 2014
Keeping Records

Once you start the process of researching your family history, it will quickly become evident that you are going to end up with a lot of information about a lot of people. At this point, you might be thinking that you should find and install genealogical software so that you can start building your tree as well as organize and store all of your data. As tempting as this idea might seem, hold off – for now.

Initially, keep it old school. Rely on good, basic record keeping principles to organize your records – and stick to pencil and paper as you start filling out your tree. (Please refer to an earlier post, Controlling the Chaos, for tips on how to organize your records) There are many excellent genealogy programs and you need to pick the one that fits your specific needs and style. Give yourself enough time to actually determine what these will be – otherwise whatever software you chose may end up frustrating you.

Keep paper records until you have data on about a hundred people; then start looking at the software. Do some research by asking other genealogists what they use – feedback based on hands on experience is invaluable. Also, check sites like Genealogy Software Review - here is their best of for 2014. And don’t forget, if you are on a Mac- it’s best to use software developed for a Mac – here is the Genealogy Software Review for Mac 2014.

There are two basic documents that you need to record two basic types of information.

  1. You need to know who the ancestors of a particular person are. You record this on chart called a Family Tree. Start with yourself, then work back to your parents – your four grandparents, your eight great grandparents, and so on.
  2. The second document is a Family Record – for information about a set of parents and all their children. At a minimum you should create a Family Record for each couple in your Family Tree.

These two forms are the only essential ones, although there are many other useful forms, charts and diagrams. A good source of forms with a Canadian orientation is the book Using Forms for Genealogical Research by Susan Smart (OGS 2005). It contains 42 forms which you can photocopy for your own use.

Visit the OGS eStore for other useful Genealogy Guides.

WWI and OGS Member in the News

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

A recent Toronto Star article details a recent discovery made regarding the bodies and belongings of 16 lost Canadian soldiers of the Great War. The whereabouts of 14 of those sets of remains are still unknown today, but through the work of Genealogist and OGS member Janet Roy, two of them have at last been accounted for.

Read the Star’s article here


Brickwalls: Seeking Information on John Heard of Angus, Ontario and Reginald Lorenzo Heard

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Brickwall #1 -

John Heard/Hurd b abt 1921 England (parents listed on marriage certificate Thomas & Sarah Heard) with possible middle name of Freeman. Have never found arrival date or origins of birth in England. Heard is too common a name. Marr #1 Sarah Jane Thompson 18 Oct 1875 parsonage Barrie = 15 children. Marr #2 Rebecca Harvey born USA 2 Mar 1847 Whitby Ontario = 6 children. John Heard died 30 Dec 1895 Angus Ontario, will probated 1898 and on son William’s death 1933 it says father born Plymouth, mother born Ogdensburg New York (have traced this family) but can find no proof of John Heard & Plymouth. Anyone know which way to go on this one?

Brickwall #2 -

Heard, Reginald Lorenzo born 5 Nov 1913 Essa Twp. Registered 8 Jan 1914 (my copy dated 28 Apr 1982) no
parents named but genealogy of the family – his parents were Wilfred Charles Heard and Ida May Alexander
of Simcoe County. Reginald married Edith Elizabeth M. M. Barker (7 Sept 1912-28 Apr 1975) on 2 Jan 1937 in
Oshawa, Ontario = 3 children lived, twins died at birth. Reginald had no siblings.

Have a card re: War Service Badge GS 1070441 for Heard, Reginald Lorenzo with rank & serial numbers
issued June 26, 1985. For years city directories listed him as soldier, and for some he lived with his
mother Ida May Heard in Oshawa.

Family information from late daughters – Reg married Elizabeth Mae DeAmbroise using name Reginald
Larribee Hurd 9 Oct 1943 & had 3 children.

From copy of marriage certificate Reg then married Jean Murray Stover as Reginald John Heard 8 Aug 1964
in village of Sombra County Lambton by license as a divorcee. Here is the questioning part – statement says his
parents were Wesley Duncan Heard and Mary Alice Lander both born Texas as was he ? (He had an uncle named Duncan Wesley).

Reg died 11 March 1983 Edmonton Alberta not long after his daughters found him. So who was this man really?
I could find no connections on Ancestry & Family Search to this American family. Any suggestions?

If you think you can help Marie-Jeanne, she may be reached directly at:

FYI: Important Information Regarding the Canadian Archives Summit

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

“Towards a New Blueprint for Canada’s Recorded Memory”

A National, Regional and Online Discussion

OGS President, Shirley Sturdevant, recently received the following communique from Ian E. Wilson, former Librarian and Archivist of Canada:

The leaders of the Association of Canadian Archivists, the Council of Canadian Archives, L’association des Archivistes du Quebec and the Committee on the Archival System Task Force (CAST) have been planning a special Canadian Archives Summit, to be held at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, on January 17, 2014.  This is a unique opportunity for the Canadian archival community and our key partners to discuss, envision and create the archival services Canadians need and expect as we become a digital society.

The proceedings will be live streamed to 15 or 20 locations across the country where regional groups will listen to the series of 7 minute presentations and form their own discussion circles to feed ideas into the national conversation.  We see this as one step in a longer term process to develop consensus and allies on the future of archival services.  The proceedings will be kept live online for a month or two with a moderated discussion to allow all who are interested to voice their views; then we will prepare a report for consideration at annual meetings of various constituencies in May-June.

Genealogists and Family Historians are a key stakeholder group throughout Canada’s Archival community. As such, we have a vested interested in the future of our Archives. The OGS continues to be in close communication with the Summit’s organizing group, and will participate where opportunity permits.

Here are some links should you wish to learn more about this important Archival Summit:

The Canadian Archives Summit Program: 

The Association of Canadian Archivists:

The Archives Association of Ontario:

Revisiting Dates and Availability for Ontario Vital Statistics

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

A lot has happened in the Genealogy world in 2013. For Canadians, it was the much anticipated, and controversial, release of the 1921 Census of Canada this past August. Currently, the paid subscription site Ancestry, is the only access point for searching this census. If, however, you are accessing from a Canadian IP address, you can search the fully indexed 1921 Census of Canada for free. Keep in mind that you will still be required to set up an account.

As with each new resource that we are given access to, the 1921 census has no doubt raised as many questions about our families as it has answered. In view of this, and as we prepare to welcome 2014, and all the genealogical highs and lows our discipline engenders, it might be a good time to revisit what is available in the way of Vital Statistics for Ontario, and where to find them.

Ontario Births:

  • Prior to 1869
    • Civil registration for births in Ontario did not come into effect until 1869, so you will have to rely, where possible, on church records.  The Archives of Ontario (AO) website offers some tips on how to search for church records.
  • 1869-1913
    • Reading Room at the Archives of Ontario
    • Local Library, Archives or Family History Centre
    • Through the AO’s Interlibrary Loan Service, provided your local library or archival institution is a member of the Interlibrary Loan Network
    • Microfilm reels – index and registration –  may be purchased through the Ontario Genealogical Society (Pending approval of the Archives of Ontario)
    • (free genealogy website)
    • Paid subscription to genealogy website (check your local library to see if they subscribe to any of these sites)
  • 1914-1915
    •  Reading Room, Archives of Ontario.
    • Through the AO’s Interlibrary Loan Service, provided your local library or archival institution is a member of the Interlibrary Loan Network
    • These records are not available for sale.
  • 1916-1917
    • These records are closed for scanning. According to their website, the AO is planning to make 1916 births available in microfilm format sometime in late 2013

Ontario Marriages:

  • Prior to 1869
    • As with births, the civil registration of marriages in Ontario began in 1869. The Archives of Ontario has some marriage registrations dating back to 1780, but the collection is not extensive.  As with pre-1869 births, you will have to rely on church records for early Ontario marriages.
  • 1869 -1928
    • Reading Room, Archives of Ontario
    • Local Library, Archives or Family History Centre
    • Through the AO’s Interlibrary Loan Service, provided your local library or archival institution is a member of the Interlibrary Loan Network
    • Microfilm reels -index and registration –  may be purchased through the Ontario Genealogical Society (pending approval of the Archives of Ontario)
    • Paid subscription to genealogy website
  • 1929-1930
    • Reading Room, Archives of Ontario.
    • Through the AO’s Interlibrary Loan Service, provided your local library or archival institution is a member of the Interlibrary Loan Network
    • These records are not available for sale.
  • 1931-1932
    • These records are closed for scanning. According to their website, the AO is planning to make 1931 marriages available in microfilm format sometime in late 2013

Ontario Deaths:

  • Prior to 1869
    • Deaths were not registered in Ontario before this date. Your best bet is to try to locate Estate Files from the Surrogate and Probate Courts. For more information on how to search for and locate these records, follow this link to the Archives of Ontario’s pathfinder page for Ontario Court of Probate and Surrogate Court Records: Wills and Estate Files.
  • 1869-1938
  • 1939-1940
    • Reading Room, Archives of Ontario.
    • Through the AO’s Interlibrary Loan Service , provided your local library or archival institution is a member of the Interlibrary Loan Network
    • These records are not available for sale.
  • 1941-1942
    • These records are closed for scanning. According to their website, the AO is planning to make 1941 deaths available in microfilm format sometime in late 2013.

Vital Stats are of course not the only sources genealogists may use when documenting their family histories.  Crown Land and Land Registry records, as well as divorce records and of course newspapers, are but a few of the resources available to genealogists and family historians.

The Archives of Ontario is your best resource for accessing all of these record collections. Click here for the Research Guides and Tools page on the AO website. Don’t forget to check out the Citing Archival Records guide-book as well.

Contact Information for the Archives of Ontario:

Mailing Address:

The Archives of Ontario (map)

34 Ian Macdonald Boulevard

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

M7A 2C5

Email Address:


1-800-668-9933 Toll-Free Number (Ontario only)



FYI:Douglas Skogstad Appointed OGS Secretary

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

As of January 2014, Douglas Skogstad, current Director for Region XI will be taking on the position of Society Secretary. Douglas takes over from Bob Crawford who sadly passed away last month.

The OGS Secretary maintains minutes and records of Board meetings as well as the AGM, acts as a signing officer for the Society, and is responsible for the general correspondence of the Society among other tasks.

We thank Douglas for volunteering for this role.

OGS Member Participates in Irish ‘Reverse Genealogy’ Series ‘Tar Abhaile’ (Come Home)

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Sudbury Branch member Brenda Cavallin is enjoying an experience most of us can only dream about; having her (Irish) roots reach out to find her, rather than the other way around.

Brenda has been chosen to be one of 6 participants in Tar Abhaile (Come Home), a 6 part bilingual Irish/English television series by Red Pepper Productions. Here is a brief synopsis from the Show’s website

“Hosted by broadcaster Evelyn O’Rourke, the series is based on the premise of ‘reverse genealogy’ – whereby community volunteers trace the long-lost relatives of Irish families living in countries including the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, and then invite their back to their ancestral homeland.”

“…Brenda Cavillin from Ontario, is overcome with emotion when she returns to the home of her ancestors…”

Brenda’s story airs next Sunday, November 24 at 9.30pm & Monday, November 25 at 7:30 pm. For those of us in Canada, we can view the series via TG4’s player at Click on the Tar Abhaile logo on the left hand side of the page.

Each episode will be available on the player for 35 days after its original airing.

cuimhnigh i gconai



OGS Members:The Archives of Ontario Seeks Real Genealogy Stories of WWl

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Do you have an ancestor who fought during World War I?

The Archives of Ontario is offering OGS Members a chance to share their WWI family research through two exhibition cases (34″ x 58″ in size) located in their Reading Room.

More information and application forms are available in the OGS Members Only Area.

FYI: Early Canadian Cookbooks

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Want to cook like your pioneer ancestors? Check out this great website created by Anje Merkies on Early Canadian Cookbooks:

If you want more information on the Culinary History of early Canada, visit the University of Guelph’s Archival & Special Collections site:

If anyone is up for the challenge of trying one of these heritage recipes, let us know how it turns out. You can even send us a photo of your creation. Send it to: librarian[at], and we will post it on the blog.