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OGS President Addresses Partnership between LAC and Ancestry in Release of 1921 Canadian Census

Genealogists with Canadian ancestry have been watching Library and Archives Canada (LAC) since they took custody of the 1921 Census of the Canadian population from Statistics Canada on June 1, 2013 after the required 92 years.  The Ontario Genealogical Society, along with many other organizations and individuals, sent letters to Library and Archives Canada, The Hon. Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada, The Hon. James Moore then Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and local Members of Parliament. We advocated for the protection of Library and Archives Canada and our Canadian archival documents and for the timely release of the census.  As President of The Ontario Genealogical Society and its 3500 members I offered to be a part of the consultation process.  Unfortunately all formal communication with parties outside of Library and Archives Canada ceased.  We were eventually told that dialogue was already in progress with a third party and that LAC was committed to making the 1921 Canada Census “rich and complex information accessible and available to all Canadians no matter where they live…”

On Thursday, August 8, 2013 LAC and Ancestry made separate announcements regarding their partnership to make this Canadian census available to the public.  At present, the census images can be browsed for free online at www.ancestry.ca and users are told to return for updates since the collection will be indexed this year. To quote LAC, “Canadians will be required to pay for the extra convenience of doing advanced searches from their home.”  Free access will be available in person at Library and Archives Canada and through hundreds of libraries across Canada subscribing to Ancestry.ca.

Although The Society is very pleased that these images are finally available to the public, we are concerned about its release through a subscription site. The lack of consultation with Canadian heritage organizations ignored their skills, experience and offers of assistance.  Details of the arrangement are still unfolding and we hope that answers to our questions will be forthcoming regarding the arrangement between Library and Archives Canada and Ancestry:

  • Was there no Canadian organization that could handle this?
  • Is this deal exclusive to Ancestry?
  • Has LAC given away its rights to use the digitized images later on their own web page, indexed or not?
  • Might other organizations have access to the images and produce their own indexes as has been done successfully in the past, perhaps then making the information free to all?
  • For how long will there be free access to the raw images or indexed information on the Ancestry.ca site?
  • Is there a limit to the number of years Ancestry will have the sole rights before the census might appear elsewhere or is this material solely in their hands?
  • What of access to the other census schedules?
  • Why have the microfilms or images not been available at Library and Archives Canada until now?

There are many unanswered questions being asked by our members and others in the heritage community.  We look forward to more details.

The 1921 Canada Census was taken at a very critical time in Canada’s history.  For many family researchers whose ancestors immigrated to Canada after the First World War, this is the first opportunity to have some insight into their families on North American soil.  For many born in other lands, birth and marriage records may be difficult to find.  This census provides a picture of the individuals and families who resided in Canada on June 1, 1921.  Responses to the 35 questions on the population schedule alone will possibly answer many questions about the family and perhaps provide leads to other sources.

Take advantage of these images to investigate your family in 1921.  Continue to be vigilant in helping to safeguard our heritage archival documents.  Together we represent those no longer living to ensure their lives and contributions to our country are not forgotten.  Speak for them whenever you see the need.

Shirley L. Sturdevant, President

The Ontario Genealogical Society

 

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12 Responses to “OGS President Addresses Partnership between LAC and Ancestry in Release of 1921 Canadian Census”

  1. Richard Murray says:

    Shirley,
    Very relevant questions that require equally relevant answers.
    I trust you will be presenting them to all the right people.
    I had a two year subscription to Ancestry.com (which included Ancestry.ca). While I found much information on my American connections, much of it had to be corrected upon accessing the source documents and family bible entries.
    Too much of the Canadian information on Ancestry is not transcribed well. The spelling of names of people and places is awful at times, so the source document must be accessed to be sure of the information, leaving their transcriptions useless on many occasions.
    I fail to grasp why an American commercial enterprise was given these records when the 1851 (N.B.), 1901, 1911 and 1916 (Western), censuses were done so efficiently by volunteers at http://automatedgenealogy.com/census/ and is available, indexed, on-line free of charge.
    This egregious move by LAC leaves me with no other belief, than someone (either LAC or Heritage Dept. or both), involved has profited by this.
    There is a distinctly foul odor emanating from this, and I for one, will be forwarding your article to my MP and the Minister of Heritage.

  2. Shirley Sturdevant says:

    Thanks for your quick response to this item. We shall keep asking questions and trying to ensure the genealogical community receives answers so we can better understand these current actions and our next steps.

  3. The answers to your questions are found here http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/012/012-215.01-e.html It’s a very detailed explanation of the deal between LAC and Ancestry.

    Basically Ancestry gets to use the images while they do the indexing. The images and index are on Ancestry (behind a pay wall) for a certain time period (either 3 or 5 years, I can’t recall) THEN the indexes are turned over to LAC and they put the index and images online for free.

    That is why we saw so many earlier census records coming online on the LAC website in the past month – the terms of the LAC-Ancestry agreement were up so Ancestry turned over all the indexes they had paid to have done.

    Seems like a win-win situation to me! If we waited for LAC to index we’d be waiting a very long time!

  4. Shirley Sturdevant says:

    Thanks for the link. I went back to the LAC page looking for this so I could see when it was written/posted. I had to go to the home page, then About Us, then Collaborations, then Collaborative Arrangements, then “Learn more about the Library and Archives Canada Agreement with Ancestry.ca” to reach it without your specific link. The 1921 census is not specifically mentioned. At least we see some of the thinking and history behind this current agreement but it was neither easy to find nor a path most people would take to look for something of this nature. Thanks again for your link and your thoughts.

  5. J Chisholm says:

    I’m surprised to see no reference to considering LAC working with FamilySearch.org – well known for providing truly free indexing and access worldwide .

  6. Richard Murray says:

    I would like to respond to J. Chisholm and Lorine McGinnis Schulze, above.
    Ancestry and FamilySearch.org are both owned by The Church of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormon Church. Ancestry is the money making wing of the trio and gets much of their information from Family search, much of which comes from the freely supplied information submitted by people using the site. I am one of those people.
    If you look closely on the Family Search site, you will find a button that will sign you up as a volunteer to transcribe documents, one of those being census documents that will be forwarded to Ancestry.
    I have volunteered in the past to do transcription work for this site and probably will in the future. However, contrary to what Ms. Schultz may imagine in her statement; “– the terms of the LAC-Ancestry agreement were up so Ancestry turned over all the indexes they had paid to have done.”, is just not accurate.
    As stated in my response to the original article by Shirley, the better option for genealogists would have been for LAC to make the census available to http://automatedgenealogy.com/census/ which is an easy to access free site here in Canada, where volunteers would transcribe, then other volunteers would proof-read, which bye-the-way, does not get done on Ancestry or Family Search, hence the terrible mistakes in a great deal of Ancestry data.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Richard Murray writes: “Ancestry and FamilySearch.org are both owned by The Church of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormon Church.”

    Ancestry.com is not owned by the LDS. The company is majority owned by Permira funds, along with certain minority co-investors.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Richard Murray says “I fail to grasp why an American commercial enterprise [ancestry.com] was given these records”

    Ancestry.com is not an American business. The primary owner, Permira is a European private equity firm with global reach.

    Ancestry.com subscription payments go to Ancestry.com Europe S.à r.l.

  9. Jessica says:

    I think it’s a good idea. Ancestry has more of a following and more people that are willing to pay are willing to transcribe for a faster pace. I really enjoy ancestry’s membership and I really think they made a good move with this. People from all over the world can help out rather than just Canadians who know Canadian sourced websites. Ancestry probably made a contract to have exclusive use for so many years before it’s released to the masses for any website use. For me I am ok with this.

  10. Richard Murray – there are several factual errors in your comments.

    “Ancestry and FamilySearch.org are both owned by The Church of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormon Church.”

    Ancestry is not owned by the Mormon Church. Ancestry.com purchased by the European private equity firm Permira for $1.6 billion in 2012.

    “Ancestry is the money making wing of the trio and gets much of their information from Family search, much of which comes from the freely supplied information submitted by people using the site.”

    This is not true. Ancestry.com has over 10 billion digitized, indexed records most of which they paid to acquire and transcribe or index.

    You also stated that I was wrong in saying that Ancestry turned over its indexes to LAC once the length of time agreed on was over. I was not wrong. That is how the agreement is set up – ancestry has exclusive rights to the images for x number of years (3 or 5) and during this time Ancestry pays to have them indexed. Then the indexes and images are returned to LAC to be published for all to view FREELY. If you use the link I provided previously (http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/012/012-215.01-e.html ) you can read the agreement terms for yourself.

  11. Debbie says:

    I have reviewed all comments above and find that they are all pretty well giving us the same answer that Canadians will not be doing the volunteer indexing and proofing for this important Canadian census. My issue is that not everybody can afford to pay the huge monthly or yearly charges in order to enjoy research. I am really only interested in my Canadian ancestors and even then some of the sites are now asking for subscriptions.

    The prior census info is available to me for free and I think that it should stay that way – yes I can look at the actual document riight now for free at Ancestry but it is tedious and timeconsuming and if your family lived in a rural area or small town you have no towns listed nearby just subdistricts and where do we find a list that gives you the subdistrict for 1921 census – one example is I had great grandparents that moved to Alberta from Saskatchewan around 1919 and moved to Drumheller Alberta area but choices under Alberta gives main cities and then a lot of subdistricts – do I have to go through each one to find their names or is there an easier way? Assistance or suggestions greatly appreciated.

  12. Debbie commented “The prior census info is available to me for free and I think that it should stay that way – yes I can look at the actual document riight now for free at Ancestry but it is tedious and timeconsuming ”

    Debbie – this is how we oldtimers used to do our genealogy research. There were NO INDEXES for census records at one time. And they were NOT online.

    So — we researchers had to go to the Archives or a Library and start searching, page by page. But now everyone has the amazing convenience and money saving tool called the internet. You can search from your computer chair or your couch to your heart’s content. You don’t have to give up a day to drive hours to the Archives, pay for parking, fight traffic, hire babysitters, etc

    And I call us “oldtimers” but trust me, it was not that many years ago. Now you have convenience and no cost which is amazing.

    I totally get that you are finding it frustrating to hunt page by page, screen by screen (btw did you read my blog post where I said it took me almost EIGHT HOURS of searching to find my mother in the 1921 census? I was thrilled – who cares if it took that long, at least I found her) BUT if you wait 3 years you will have the index free on FamilySearch.

    And organizations such as AutomatedGenealogy or AllCensusReocrds have been given approval to start a volunteer indexing effort, just as we did for the 1911 census. My efforts on AllCensusRecords to co-ordinate volunteers for 1911 were small compared to a site like AG, but we made a valiant effort.

    Back to your question for an easier way to find names, I was searching for my parents and grandparents in Guelph Ontario. Trust me it was tedious work! I knew what streets they lived on in 1911. I found a 1917 City Directory and got more names of streets but matching those street names to the sub-districts proved a futile exercise. I even tried to match existing districts (all with different names than in 1921) with the 1921 names but found nothing. So eventually I just shrugged my shoulders and started my search. I did it all in one day but you could do an hour or two each day until you find your family. Or… wait those 3 years for the free index on LAC

    Good luck.

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