Archive for the ‘General Posts’ Category

Nailing Jello to the Wall: Seeking your Irish Ancestors

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Tracing your Irish roots can be akin to spending every Saturday night in a bingo hall and rarely having the opportunity to fling up your arms and yell BINGO! The cataclysmic impact and mass emigration precipitated by Ireland’s Potato Famine has certainly made it difficult to track elusive Irish ancestors. Compounding the problem is a gaping hole in the usual resource pool that all genealogists rely on; the census returns.

While the census returns for 1901 and 1911 are now available online through the National Archives of Ireland, none of Ireland’s earlier censuses have survived. So, if you want to find records for your Irish ancestors that pre-date 1901, you are going to have to be somewhat more creative in your research methodology. Here are a few resources to get you started, or maybe keep you going!

At the library:


• A Guide to tracing your Donegal ancestors

o Godfrey Duffy, Helen Meehan

o Call # 929.3 41693 Duffy

• A new genealogical atlas of Ireland

o Brian S. Mitchell

o Call # 929.3 415 Mitch 2002

• Basic guide to Irish records for family history

o Brian Mitchell

o Call # 929.3 415 Mitch 2008

• Ireland’s Memorial Records: World War 1, 1914-1918

o The Committee of the National Irish War Memorial

o Call # 137 Com

• Probate Jurisdictions: Where to look for Wills

o Jeremy Sumner Wycherley Gibson, Else Churchill

o Call # 929.3 41 025 Gibso 2002

• Tracing your Irish family history

o Anthony Adolph

o Call # 929.1 094 15 Ado 2009


• Cumann geinealais dhun laoghaire

o From the Dun Laoghaire Genealogical Society

• Divelina

o From the Dublin Genealogy and History, Ireland

• Familia

o From the Ulster Genealogical Review, Belfast

• Genealogy Society of Ireland Journal

o From the Cumann Geinealais na hEireann

• North Irish Roots

o From the North Of Ireland Family History Society, Belfast


Belfast Burial Records

Council of Irish Genealogical Organizations

From Ireland

Irish Clans Network

Military Archives

National Archives of Ireland

Roots Ireland (pay per view)

The Gathering, Ireland 2013

Dieppe and The Veterans

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

If you have been researching your family’s military past, then you might find the video documentary series The Veterans, of interest.  This project is oral history at its best, consisting of interviews with Veterans of WWll through to Afghanistan. 

As we mark the 70th anniversary of The Dieppe Raid on August 19th, it is perhaps fitting, and rather poignant, that the first interview of the series (included below), was with Pte. Jack Bennet, who was among the first wave of Canadian troops to hit the beach at Dieppe.

Poll #3

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

The response for our first two polls has been fantastic, thanks everyone for participating.  This week’s poll is a big one so read carefully!

How many generations have you been able to go back in your family tree?

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Poll #2

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

First off, a big Thank you to all who took the time to participate in our first poll. Are you surprised at the results thus far? If there are other regions you would like the opportunity to vote for, then let us know and we can post another poll.

Now, on to our next Poll topic: Records. Remember, you can choose as many choices from the list as you wish. To view the results after you have voted, simply refresh the page.

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If you have uncovered a bit of family history in an unexpected place, we would love to hear about your experience.

The office will be closed on August 6th.

Have a fun and safe long weekend!

Highland Games: A little bit of Scotland in Ontario

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Whether they are held in Fergus Ontario, Antigonish Nova Scotia, the States, or Edinburgh Scotland, summer is high season for Highland Games and Clan Gatherings. If you are already a member of or affiliated with a Scottish clan, then chances are you already have the place, date and times for the next Gathering marked on your calendar. For those of us with no clan affiliations, but would still like to inject a wee bit of Scotland into our summer, here are a few ideas to help point you in the right direction:

New to the blog: Polls

Friday, July 27th, 2012

We are going to try something new on the blog: Polls.  We will try to put a new one up each week.  The poll has been set up to allow you to choose as many answers from the list as you wish.  Missed something or having second thoughts on your choices?  No worries, simply refresh the page, and you can vote again!

Give it a try and have some fun!

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Archival Description: The Road Map to your Collection

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

So, just exactly what is archival description and why would you want to use it for your genealogical collection? In a nutshell, archival description is the process whereby you create a catalogue, finding aid, or access point, that tells you what is in the collection, and most importantly, where to find it. Now, you may be thinking, “but I just finished arranging the collection, of course I know where to find stuff!” It’s not the finding of stuff that is the point here; it’s where the stuff sits within your collection. If we refer back to how archival arrangement works, you will recall that while the fonds is your highest level of arrangement, it is really in creating the different records series where most of your work is going to be done. The more branches you have in your tree, the more records series you are going to have sitting in your collection. If you, and more to the point, whomever inherits the collection after you, wants to find great Aunt Myrtle’s 3rd cousin on her mother’s side, where exactly in the collection will this information be found. Unless you create some sort of access point as to where this 3rd cousin sits within the collection, finding them will be akin to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Description is also about telling the story of your family and the people who populate your family tree. In archival speak we refer to this as the Biographical Sketch. Each level of arrangement has its accompanying description. At the fonds, or collection level, the biographical sketch would be an overview of the family itself. It’s up to you how much detail you put into it. To give you an idea of how a fonds level description is structured, check out this description of the Shipley Family from the Archive of Ontario’s website. The process is much the same when it comes to describing the different branches in your tree, and indeed, any of the individuals within that branch as well. What stories do great Aunt Myrtle and her 3rd cousin on her mother’s side have to tell? Again, it is completely up to you how much information and the level of detail you want to put into your description.

Remember, the whole point of doing this is twofold: So that anybody can easily find anything within your collection, and, so that the stories of your family, and the people in it, are given a voice.

Controlling the Chaos

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Exactly how much chaos you are attempting to control will largely depend on how long you have been researching and building your family tree. If you are fairly new to genealogy, then chances are you are utilizing mostly online and other electronic resources. If however, you have been engrossed in filling out your family tree for sometime, you will likely have a mountain of paper records in your collection. Regardless of which category you might fall under, both present their own unique challenges.

Although it’s always a good idea to have hard copies of your family records as back-up, if you are currently using a web application or software package to build your family tree, then you likely have few paper records to contend with. However, if you began your genealogical research back in the days when microfiche was king, and visits to the archive were a must, then paper records you will have, in abundance. Since you are unlikely to trip over or be buried by an avalanche of your electronic records, let’s put these in a desktop folder for the moment and explore how to best manage the paper records in your collection.

No doubt you have already applied some sort of organizational schema to your records. Great, but, will it stand the test of time? If you have documented your family history with the intention of passing it on to future generations, will the manner in which you have organized the collection make sense to others, or will it be akin to a dog’s breakfast? This is where making use of a few recognized archival standards will come in handy. The first one we will look at is arrangement.

There are 5 levels in archival arrangement:

1. Fonds

2. Series

3. Sub-series

4. File

5. Item

Don’t worry too much about file and item as you don’t really need to be this granular when it comes to arranging your own collection. The first three are where we want to focus our attention. If you have ever visited an archive, and being genealogists most of us have, you may have come across the term Fonds. Without getting too technical, a fonds is basically the sum total of all the stuff you have gathered to create your family tree/history. This is your highest level of arrangement. It is also the biggest. No doubt you will have accumulated research materials representing several branches of your family tree. This is where your second level of arrangement comes in; each branch becomes its own series. As we all know, each family branch begets even more branches, enter the sub-series. If you applied this type of arrangement to your own records, it might look something like this:

1. Fonds level: Smith Family History

2. Series Level: Branches

a. Mother’s Family

b. Father’s Family

3. Sub-Series:

a. Maternal Grandparents

b. Paternal Grandparents

As you can see, archival arrangement lends itself quite well to the organization of your genealogical records. If you have developed an organizational method that has worked particularly well for you, please feel free to share.

Next week, we will take a look at archival description, the road map to your collection.

Archival Advice

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

We are introducing a new category to the OGS blog: Archival Advice. This is where you will be able to find advice and tips on how to manage your family history collection. And yes, from an actual Archivist! Watch for the first post, Family Records: Controlling the Chaos, over the next few days.

Taking a stroll down memory lane this summer?

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Most of us have them, those boxes of old family photographs gathering dust in our basements, attics or where ever we tend to put things that we will “deal with later!”  The problem is of course, the longer you wait to sort them, the older they get.  It may not seem that long ago, but even those Polaroids from the ‘60’s are probably looking a bit the worse for wear by now.  At least there is a pretty good chance that you may actually know who the people in those photos are, but what about those really old family pictures that go way back, some as far as c.1900?  Chances are you’re a bit fuzzy on just exactly where the people in these photographs hang in your family tree. Knowing the date the picture was taken might help solve the mystery, but if you aren’t even sure of that, where do you go from there.  There is also the question of conservation, especially for those really old photographs.  How do you ensure that they are preserved for future generations? 

Our library collection, located at North York Central Library, contains several great resources to help you manage your family photographs.  Here are just a few to get you started: 

1. Dating old photographs, 1840-1929

Morris, Andrew J.: Moorshead, Halvor;

Call # 929.3 Dating 2004

2. Dating twentieth century photographs. 

Pols, Robert

Call # 929.3 Pols 2005

3. Preserving your family photographs. 

Taylor, Maureen A

 Call # 770.285 Tayl

4. Understanding old photographs. 

Pols, Robert

Call # 929.3 Pols 1995

5. Photography for the genealogist. 

Jonasson, Eric

Call # 770.28 Jonas

6. Photography for family historians. 

Pols, Robert

Call # 929.3 Pols 1998

7. The Ontario photographers list: vol.1, 1851-1900:vol. 2, 1901-1925. 

Phillips, Glen C.

Call #929.3 713 Phill

8. The early commercial photographers of Lanark & Renfrew Counties, Ontario 1850-1925. 

Wohler, J. Patrick; Wohler, Judy,

Call # 929.3 713 81

9. The Hugill Chronicles – a mosaic: father and son photographers, 1860-1900. Muskoka/Ingersoll, Ontario. 

Gibson, David L.

Call # 929.2 Hugill –G