Archive for July, 2010

Interview with a Volunteer: Mike More

Friday, July 30th, 2010


Without the hard work of volunteers all across the province, OGS would simply cease to exist. Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. This feature is designed to introduce you to some of them and let you know about the work they’ve been doing

Mike More  is a member of OGS and the following branches:  Ottawa, Leeds & Grenville, Quinte, Simcoe, Bruce & Grey, Niagara Peninsula and York Region.

 How long have you been involved with OGS? 
Early in 1992, I submitted an article to the Ottawa Branch news. A few month later, I was asked to take over as Membership Director.

 What hats do you wear / have you worn?
I have been Ottawa Branch: Membership Director, Vice-Chair, Chair, Past Chair as well as on the Seminar 2000 Committee and Chair of Seminar 2007 Committee. I am currently Chair of Ottawa Branch again as well as Gene-O-Rama Chair, Genealogy Week Co-Chair, on the Conference 2012 Committee and  Director Region VIII.

 What project or event has been a highlight of your work with OGS?
 The most rewarding event has been the two OGS Seminars (now known as the OGS Conference) that we hosted in Ottawa. I enjoy helping others get more out of the hobby and the OGS Conference provides a great many genealogists with advice and help.

 How did you become interested in genealogy?
When I was a teenager, my paternal grandfather showed me the family Bible with the family back to his grandparents. I found it interesting and asked some questions to other relatives and compiled some notes, mainly BMDs. The hobby was put on hold while I attended university and through much of my career but the interest was re-kindled when a friend gave me a copy of a genealogy program for the Commodore 64. I entered my old data into the program and in search of advice, found Angus Baxter’s In Search of Your Roots in the library. One of the suggestions was to join your local genealogy society and I joined OGS.

Would you like to share a favourite genealogical adventure you have had or tell us about a part of your family history that you particularly enjoyed learning?
I still remember an early visit to the then National Archives and my thrill at finding my More ancestors listed on the 1871 census. Even though I had found them quickly by using the Index to the 1871 Census book, it was exciting to see the names written more than a century before.

Many thanks to Mike for his hard work!

Len’s Expert Advice: the Census is not perfect

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Searching census records:

Census enumerations occur in specific years. In Ontario these are 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911. In the U,S the federal census was taken in the previous year: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, but most of the 1890 census was destroyed.

Some states have state censuses half-way through the decade.

All census records are taken as of a particular date, and record what the enumerator thought he heard. They took some weeks to carry out so replies may not always be accurate for the eventual census date.

If an ancestor should be in an enumerated district, but was not enumerated, an explanation is demanded. People did get missed, but most likely they were elsewhere, and a wider search may find them.

-Len Chester

Len Chester is the Resident Genealogist at the Ontario Genealogical Society’s provincial office. He is a retired librarian and Family History Centre volunteer with over 40  years experience assisting others in conducting their genealogical research.  He is available to help you puzzle out your records. Contact him at

At the Library: Family Medical History

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Genealogy helps us develop a greater sense of our own identity by showing how our ancestors and the lives they lived have shaped us and the life we now live. Some people are more passionate about these discoveries than others, but one way in which family history research has become important to everyone is where health is concerned.

Scientists focusing on genetics are demonstrating through more and more studies that health problems are hereditary and that knowing your family medical history, helps you prepare for what health issues you may face in your future.

OGS has some books to help you with this.

Family health trees : genetics & genealogy
By Luanne McNabb, Elizabeth B.J. Curtis and Kathleen R. Barclay-Bowley

This book is an OGS publication. It is available at the provincial library and the second edition (2005) can be purchased from our e-store. The book explains genetics and describes how to chart your family’s health history. 

The Genes in your Genealogy
By Sherilyn L. Bell & Constandina N. Arvanitis
This instructional book discusses the genetic components of genealogy including DNA testing and health trees 

We also have several articles on this topic in the June 1994  issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly which you can also access at the Provincial Library. 

To find more books about family medical history, you can search our catalogue
Here are some words to use in the SUBJECT field
-medical records

OGS Projects: Keeping and Valuing Ontario’s Heritage

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Keeping and Valuing Ontario’s Heritage is The Ontario Genealogical Society project that offers digitization services to heritage organizations throughout Ontario. Any heritage organization may contact the Provincial Office to indicate their interest in the project.

 Through this project, digitized materials will be placed on the pay-per-view (PPV) section of the OGS website. This will allow web users to access documents from across Ontario in the comfort of their own homes. For a minimal fee, a user will be able to access documents such as vital statistic records, family history collections, church and school histories, and obituary collections. Other records that will be available include Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir Histories, land grant records, and tax records like assessment and collector’s rolls.

 The OGS has access to several pieces of scanning equipment. This includes a large sheet-feed scanner that operates like a photocopier, a microfilm scanner, an automated book scanner, and a copy stand. The copy stand is the piece of equipment most often used, as it can accommodate large or small and bound or unbound documents. It can also be easily moved and set up in any organization’s office space.

 Digitization is very important as it allows a second copy of the information to exist. While nothing can replace the paper copy of a document, the digital copy will preserve the information, should the original be lost in a fire or flood. Digitization also improves the accessibility of the records and the inclusion of the documents in the PPV site can help promote small heritage organizations.

 The heritage organization retains all ownership of the digitized documents and receives a digital copy of the documents. OGS will also retain a copy of the documents, allowing for a backup to exist, which increases the security of the records. Any one interested in more information is welcome to contact the Provincial Office.

On Our Website: Lost Photographs

Monday, July 26th, 2010
web address graphic

Image courtesy: Renjith krishnan, link below

Do you know who any of these people are?

Most genealogists experience it, and many may consider it to be the worst sort of brick wall there is: a mystery photo.

Photos are beautiful souvenirs of the past. Photos of your ancestors can breathe life into the story of your family drawing it out of the flat world of dates and life events and making you feel more strongly connected to your ancestors than you otherwise might feel.

But a photo full of strangers who may or may not be part of your family can be a very frustrating thing to encounter.

Luckily, OGS operates a lost photo service. If you have unwanted photos of unknown people, send them to us. We will archive them and occasionally publish them in hopes of reuniting the lost photo with its family.

Come check out our lost photographs page and see if you recognize anyone. You may help someone else escape their mystery photo nightmare.

Image: renjith krishnan /

Making Sense of the 2011 Census controversy

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The census is a major source of information for genealogists. In fact, it is one of the first places most of us go. It helps us track where our ancestors were and what they were doing at a given time.

 The news at the end of June that the Canadian government plans to make the long census form voluntary as of 2011 came as a bad shock to not only genealogists but many organizations which rely on census information to help them develop services and activities that meet the needs of their communities.

Here are some places you can go to inform yourself about the census and what these changes could mean for you.

The modern Canadian census is conducted every five years. The last one was in 2006. Here is some information on the questions that were asked in the long form for that census. It is the long form that the government is intending to make voluntary.

In his Statement on the 2011 Census Industry Minister, Tony Clement cites privacy concerns as the reason for the cancellation of the mandatory long forms. Some of the concerns he may be referring to are described in a speech by Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddard whose 2004 address at the Tenth Annual National Conference Organized by Privacy & American Business in Washington D.C. discussed concerns over the use of the U.S. based company Lockheed Martin to process census information. She expressed concern over Canadians’ personal information crossing borders and how this information would be used particularly with regards to the Patriot Act in the United States. Similarly, Saskatoon’s Sandra Finlay, who went to court after refusing to fill out the 2006 census cites concerns over the use of Lockheed Martin to process the census  as a motivator for her decision not to comply with law and fill out the forms.

Many organizations are demanding that the government re-instate the mandatory long form. In a letter copied to the Canadian Press,  the Statistical Society expresses concerns about the bias of information gathered from a voluntary form, and of course, news writers all across the country are reporting their opinions and the opinions of individuals and organizations.  The Quebec Inter-university Centre for Social Statistic has assembled many of these articles for you to read.

As of Wednesday, our  Chief Statistician resigned over this issue.

 Inform yourself and decide where you stand.

Centenary Club

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Did you have family in Ontario more than 100 years ago?

Have you done the research to prove it?

If so, apply to join the Ontario Genealogical Society Centenary Club and proudly share your heritage with everyone!

There are three levels: BRONZE for those who can demonstrate a line of descent of more than 100 years within Ontario; SILVER for those with over 150 years; and GOLD for anyone who can demonstrate a line of descent in Ontario of more than 200 years.

To learn more and download an application, visit the Centenary Club section of our website.

At The Library: Genealogy Books for Children

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

“I wish I’d started this when I was younger” is a fairly common refrain among genealogists.

We all wish we’d learned more about our family histories directly from family members who are no longer with us rather than having to research it and piece the stories together. We wish we had written down all those stories our great grandparents told us when we were little, and we’d like the children we know to start younger so as to avoid our mistakes.

One way to encourage children to be interested in genealogy is to read books that make family history come alive.

We don’t have any genealogy picture books at the provincial library, but check out your local library catalogue (or book store) for some of these titles to help you share your love of family history with the children in your lives.

One Tiny Twig
By: Dan Rhema
ISBN: 9780972983501

Fourteen year old Emily Twig receives a twig for a birthday present which sets her off on a time travelling detective mission to find out more about the many different Twigs who make up her family tree. She looks for clues in cemeteries and even Ellis Island.

The Keeping Quilt
By Patricia Polacco
ISBN: 9780689820908

This beautiful picture book tells the story of a quilt that was made from the dress the author’s Great Gramma-Anna wore when she immigrated to the United States. The quilt is passed down through the generations of the family and plays a great role in all of their lives. In telling the story of the quilt, Polacco tells the history of her family.

Your Family Tree
By Núria Roca
ISBN: 9780764135798

This book explains, through pictures, how family trees work. The book focuses on a young Japanese-American boy and his ancestors and asks questions that are designed to encourage a child to think about ther own ancestors: “Do you know a story about your owngreat-grandparents?” It is a book to help start the family history discussion with a child.

The Family Book
By Todd Parr
ISBN: 9780316738965

Todd Parr’s books are not exactly about genealogy but he does write about families. His other books include The Mommy Book, The Daddy Book, The Grandpa Book, and The Grandma Book. He’s also written a book about adoption.  In The Family Book, Parr describes the many different types of families that can be found today. These books can help start a conversation about all the relatives and the family history.

So check your local library or book store the next time you’re looking for something to read with the children in your life.

Interview With a Volunteer: John Noble

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Without the hard work of volunteers all across the province, OGS would simply cease to exist. Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. This feature is designed to introduce you to some of them and let you know about the work they’ve been doing.


John Noble is a member of OGS and the following branches: Sudbury, Kawartha and Ireland SIG.

How long have you been involved with OGS?
I have been a member of OGS since 2002

What hats do you wear?
 I am the current  Chair of the Ireland Special Interest Group (SIG)

What project or event has been a highlight of your work with OGS?
I think at the past conference 2010, the first executive and first general membership meeting of the new Ireland SIG – it was encouraging to see so many attend the general meeting with lots of positive suggestions!

How did you become interested in genealogy?
I became interested in genealogy in 2001 when my youngest son expressed an interest in finding out if we had a family crest and where our ancestors came from. Couple with that, when my father-in-law passing away the same year, a couple of his nephews from Quebec attended the funeral and brought with them a book of the 125th anniversary celebrations of the little community where they had all been born and grown up. In the book was a family history of all the major families in the community. Having seen this, I thought –hey that’s what I can do and I was hooked!

Would you like to share a favourite genealogical adventure you have had or tell us about a part of your family history that you particularly enjoyed learning?
I proceeded to do my own family tree and that of my wife. I was amazed at the information that is available and also of the many people literally around the world who provided me with so much data. In 2004 my wife and I travelled to Ireland to visit the places where our ancestors originated from.  That was simply outstanding and really awe inspiring. In 2005 I returned to Dublin to do research and again in 2008 to Belfast. Although I did not find my ancestors specifically, I enjoyed holding and reading documents that were 200-400 years old!  Time and time again, I have suddenly made contact with someone who is distantly related to some member of the families or extended families and we are able to compare and exchange information.

My most interesting research was concerning my own birth. I was born in Toronto in December 1944 during one of the worst snow storms in Toronto History. I wanted to find out more about the hospital I had been born at – St. Mary’s Hospital! I knew it was not far from where my parents lived on Dovercourt Rd – south of Bloor just west of Bathhurst! My mother had to walk to the hospital to deliver me since there was no transportation running because of the storm. With the help of the late Paul McGrath. I was able to obtain 2 booklets on the history of the hospital, which was located at Jarvis and Isabella in Toronto. The hospital is no longer at that location but is now the current Scarborough General Hospital! I was thrilled to find this information!

I have also had my DNA tested through Family Tree DNA and have matched with 4 other people with the same surname which means we are related somewhere back in time. This whole area of DNA is a most fascinating and intriguing one!

Many thanks to John for his hard work!

On Our Website: Memorial Database

Monday, July 19th, 2010
web address graphic

Image courtesy: Renjith krishnan, link below

There are several databases full of Ontario genealogical information available on our website through our Members Only section. Become a member to take advantage of these resources.

 One of these databases is the

Memorial Database

This is a project designed to honour those who have served our county in time of war or as Police or Firefighters and provide OGS members with a genealogical resource.

Through the dedicated work of individuals, Branches and Legion members, we have indexed  names found on Memorials throughout Ontario and this information can be found in this database. Included is the inscription found on the memorial, a picture where available, the location of the Memorial and any additional information found related to the names on the Memorial.

These memorials were found in a number of locations: Churches, Schools, work sites, and cenotaphs in many of the small towns through out Ontario.

If you wish to add to this project forward the information to the OGS. Include a digital image of the Memorial, its location, any other relevant information and images of the names.

Image: renjith krishnan /