British Columbia Genealogical Society online chat tonight

BCGS-logo_webA blog comment on my post about online resources left by Diane Rogers at the BCGS pointed out that she hosts a monthly online chat. Log in and ask a question about Canadian genealogy, the BCGS journal or website, one of BCGS’ projects, or about BC genealogy, or comment on worldwide genealogy news or a find.

The chat is a text-based group communication and no headphones or special software installations are necessary. The chat begins at 8:00 pm, Calgary time.

Click this link to get to the BCGS website post where you will be able to join the chat with our westerly neighbours.

EDIT: For reasons I don’t know, the chat should have started about 20 minutes ago, but nothing seems to be happening. So, if you’re wondering why you can’t get into the chat, well neither can I. ~John

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The Generations Project

While doing research on a topic that I’m crafting a blog post about, I stumbled across a “television show” that is produced by byutv, a programming production company affiliated with Brigham Young University. I put “television show” in quotes, in that it appears that this show is produced only for the web and is not actually aired on any actual television network.

This show, called The Generations Project, follows one individual each episode as they seek to find answers to certain questions regarding their heritage. In the episode entitled “Natalie,” the show’s subject (a lady obviously named Natalie) we follow her trip to two different locations in the the USA seeking answers regarding her family after one of her four kids dies shortly after birth. In the course of her research, she finds out much more about a mysterious ancestor, and learns a number of things that shock her. She also draws great strength from another ancestor that she learns about, and returns home after her week of focusing on her genealogical research with much greater comfort and recognition of what she has, compared with her previous mindset that is so very focused on what she has lost. It’s a compelling tale.

Another episode follows David, a Canadian, as he tries to gain context of his own personal troubles by researching his family who emigrated from Jamaica some hundred years ago. He learns that the troubling myths about his forebears is myth alone, and he seems to benefit from knowing that his family were, in fact, good people who made choices to better their family circumstances.

The production quality of the show is very high, and these appear as professionally-produced as any other genealogy focused television show currently airing. I’m keen on the format, as I get to learn much more about each individual subject, as opposed to the very brief treatments that we get from other shows like PBS’ Genealogy Roadshow. There is a little more meat to the actual research part as well, which some shows completely gloss over.

There are 38 episodes from the three seasons produced thus far, so there are plenty of back episodes to enjoy. Unlike some shows where as Canadians we are unable to watch online, The Generations Project streams without having to use any kind of location masking, so it’s very accessible with any web browser. I find these kinds of shows to offer great inspiration for my own research, and this show does an excellent job of telling the stories that make it such a fascinating pastime.

You can watch all 38 episodes by visiting the byutv website.

UPDATE: I have received a reply to an inquiry that I sent to byutv. The show is no longer in production and no new episodes are anticipated. However, the 38 episodes already produced will be available for viewing online for the foreseeable future.

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You use WHAT for genealogy?


I recently attended a great webinar given by Thomas MacEntee through Legacy Family Tree Webinars. For those of you who haven’t heard of Thomas MacEntee, he is a tech wizard and “genealogy ninja” who keeps abreast of the newest technologies and explores their possible uses for genealogists. As part of his “you use what…” webinar he asks that participants spread the word about these new technologies so that genealogists will get on board and start using them. Many of these sites are social networking sites that MacEntee refers to as “cousin bait” meaning that other genealogists trawling the ‘net may stumble on your site or profile.
I have used Facebook for this but certainly other social networking sites will work as well. While I personally don’t get Twitter, I do see that it might be useful for just this kind of “bait”. Another great way to get your information out there and possibly lure cousins is to write a family blog. There are a number of great blogging sites out there, including Blogger and WordPress. They are so easy to use, anyone can have a blog. These blogs are searchable, so that when people google their names (c’mon – we all do it), anything relevant in your blog will come up.
Other techy resources for genealogists are things like Evernote, which is a note-taking app that allows you to access your data from any device. There are add-on apps such as the web-clipper that allows you to capture and keep interesting web pages – kind of like that shoebox you keep all of those interesting bits and pieces you find on your travels. It is free to download but you do have to make an account.
A similar sort of thing is Dropbox. This site allows you to store your data in the cloud so you can access it anywhere you have internet access and on any device. I use this a lot for collaborating with colleagues (and because I often forget the USB drive that contains the presentation I’m supposed to be giving in 5 minutes.) It is an excellent way to back up your data, as well. Because it is stored in the cloud and not on your device, a computer crash won’t affect it.
This is just a taste of the great information that I was able to glean from this webinar. If you’d like to keep on top of all the newest tech stuff for genealogists, I suggest you check out Thomas MacEntee’s website, High- Definition Genealogy
If you have a fave site or app that you’d like to share with us all, please post it as a comment to the blog and share the wealth!

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Legacy 8

I have been a user of the Legacy Family Tree program for several years, and was intrigued to hear that a new major release is forthcoming. The folks at Legacy began giving previews of the improvements on the Legacy blog in June. Though they haven’t announced a firm release date, they do believe it will be out before 2014 arrives.

There is certainly no shortage of software available to help genealogists to track their facts and source their finds, and I’m not actually certain that Legacy is the single-best among them. It has served me well, albeit intermittently, for several years, and I’ll be looking forward to upgrading to their new version when it is released.

The basic version remains free to download and use. For those who purchase the premium version now, you will also get a free upgrade to Legacy 8 when it is released to the public.

** Note: It must be mentioned that this post is not a paid or otherwise remunerated endorsement of Legacy Family Tree. We all have our own preferences for methods and tools, and this software simply happens to live in my toolbox.

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The 1921 Census: Help, there’s no index!

 1921 Census of CanadaI was very excited when the 1921 census was released but I am not one to wait for the indexing so I have been digging around and managed to find my grandmother in an orphanage in Saskatoon with her siblings.  I found this entirely by accident.  While working on a question for another researcher, I found listings under the name “Sister” in a Saskatoon directory.  Thinking this might be the nuns who raised my grandma (I knew she’d been in a Catholic orphanage) I found the address of the orphanage in the directory and then used that to narrow my search of the Saskatoon pages of the census.  This was pure luck, I realize, but there are some tools we can all use to help us find our ancestors without the indexing – and I know you are all just dying to get at it so I thought I’d pass along a few tools that I have discovered as well as some information that was forwarded to my from my friends at the Ontario SIG.

(Just as an aside, Alberta Family Histories Society has a number of SIGs, or Special Interest Groups.  You can see a complete listing on our website.   Contact information is also included so if you are interested in joining a group or just dropping in on one of their meetings, I cannot recommend these groups highly enough.)

Anyhow, back to the census.  I’ve already mentioned directories.  They are an invaluable resource for finding your ancestors between censuses, but they are also great in narrowing down your search field for the 1921 census.  Directories were usually only done for cities, but there are some rural directories as well.  You can find a listing of digitized directories at this site.

Directories can also be found at the Internet Archive  by typing in the name of the place and the word ‘directory’.

You can also use Vital Events records to find locations for your people.  Search for an event such as a birth, marriage or death to pinpoint a location.  AncestryLE (available at the AFHS Library, the Family History Centre and the Calgary Public Library) has indexes to many vital events registers as does FamilySearch.  You can also check with the genealogical society or archives in the area you are researching to see what indexes are available through their sites.

Ancestry also has passenger lists and border crossing records that may indicate the destination to which your ancestor was travelling.  Naturalization records can be searched at Library and Archives Canada.  These often include a place of residence.

If you had ancestors who were First Nations and living on a reserve, or ancestors who were confined to an institution such as a hospital or prison you may have an edge as  these institutions were often enumerated separately.  Again, you need to have a general idea of where they were, but as you go through the list of sub-divisions under each division you will see the reservations, penitentiaries and other institutions listed in the descriptions.

Once you’ve narrowed down your search you can use maps of the census divisions to help you pinpoint the exact part of the census you need to scan.  You can find maps of the census divisions at the Canada Century Research Infrastructure site.

It is also possible that your relatives didn’t move between 1911 and 1921 so it can pay off to search the 1911 (or in the case of the Prairie Provinces, the 1916) census.  You can search the censuses at the Library and Archives Canada site.  This might help you find a land description or an electoral district or an address.

You can access the images from the 1921 census through the Ancestry site without having an account. Just click on this link.  You can use the Browse function on the right hand side of the page to navigate to your province and district.

When the indexing is completed you will need to sign in to Ancestry, either through your personal account or at one of the above mentioned libraries.

I hope this helps you get revved up to dig into the newest census.  I want to thank Colleen Casey of the Ontario SIG for all of her wonderful tips.  If you have any resources that you would like to share, please post them in the comments and I’ll pass them along.


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