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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 21 December 2005
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts As I write this I am sitting in my son's home in Calgary, where the temperature is considerably lower than it is back home in Port Coquitlam. Block heaters of the vehicles are plugged in to ensure that they can be started in the morning. I am thankful that I am inside where it is warm.

My report this time may be somewhat briefer than usual. Before leaving home my main PC had a visit from some gremlins that conspired to prevent my Windows 2000 from booting up. I had some articles and research available on it that will now have to wait until I return home and I am able to evict the gremlins. I will be returning home towards the end of the first week of January.

1901 and 1911 Censuses of Ireland to be indexed

If you are one of the 13 percent of Canadians, or one of an estimated 70 million people around the world, that claim Irish ancestry, you will be interested in learning about the following. Archival agencies in Canada and Ireland are reported to have concluded a cultural agreement to index the 1901 and 1911 Censuses of Ireland. The indexes are expected to be made available online - without charge.

The report states that all of the details of these two Censuses are to be indexed and made available for free on the Internet. It is not clear to your reporter however, whether this means scanned images of them will be available online without charge, or just the indexes. I suspect the latter. The archives of England and Scotland currently provide free online access to their 1901 Census indexes, but information in the index is limited and there is a charge to access the actual scanned images.

Census record availability for Ireland is spotty, with records of several Census years missing altogether. These include those for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891. Those records were apparently 'pulped' because of paper shortages during WWI, or were lost due to fire, flood or other reasons. Records of Census are available for parts of some counties for 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851. 1901 is the first year for which full returns of all 32 counties of Ireland, including the six counties of Northern Ireland, are available.

The indexing project is expected to take three years to complete, with the first phase of the 1911 [sic] records for Dublin to be online by December 2006.

For further information about this project, see the AFP (Agence France Presse) press release.

CWGC To Care For Boer War Graves

One of the many South African graveyards of the First and Second World Wars currently maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, at Maitland, Cape Town. [Picture: CWGC] The Boer War lasted from 1899 to1902. It claimed the lives of 22,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers, most of whom were buried in South Africa. Until now, responsibility for maintaining these graves has been up to the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), and the South African taxpayer.

Under an agreement signed this past September, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will soon commence caring for the graves and memorials of Commonwealth forces who died during the Boer War. The British Ministry of Defence has signed an agreement with the South African Government and starting in 2006 the Commission will care for the graves and memorials on an agency basis, with funds coming from the Ministry of Defence and the War Memorials Trust.

The agreement includes the care of Australian, Canadian and New Zealand graves. The Commission expects to take four years to inventory and refurbish these graves that until now may not have received the attention they deserve.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website is available at:

Henry Christmas has spent 50 years researching his surname DNA search for 'father' Christmas

Considering the time of year, it would seem appropriate that a team of scientists in Oxford, England, is trying to prove whether families with the rare surname of 'Christmas' all descend from a single male ancestor.

Scientists are seeking to compare the DNA of men from different 'Christmas' clans to see if they are linked by a common genetic heritage as well as by their surnames. They are being assisted by Henry Christmas, a former telecommunications engineer who has spent 50 years researching the origins and history of his own family name.

Just how scientists expect to accomplish all this is detailed in an article by Paul Rincon, BBC News science reporter, published on the BBC News website on 23 November 2005.

The full text of this article can be viewed at:

Canada's federal election looms

I need not tell anyone in Canada that we will, within a few weeks, be voting on a new federal government. Canadians are well aware of this fact by the campaigning of the various parties and candidates seeking our votes. It is not my intention here to express any partisan views, but simply to encourage all eligible voters to ensure that they are properly registered and that the registrars have their correct mailing address. This is particularly important if you have moved since the last federal election.

Apathy all too frequently plays a major part in our election process. It is through the election process that the ordinary citizen can help determine the direction our representatives in government take us. If we are apathetic and do not exercise our right to vote, do we then have the right to complain when our government does not do what we want it to do?

Unlike citizens of many countries in the world, Canadians have the right to vote for their representation. Some might argue that because we have that right, we also have an obligation to exercise it. Regardless of what party or candidate you favour, I urge everyone to exercise your right to vote.

Merry Christmas!

This column will be the last I write for the year 2005. It being the season, I wish each of my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I have never been a fan of so-called 'political correctness', nor am I particularly religious. However, for the 64 years of my existence, my greeting for this season has been, and will remain, 'Merry Christmas'. I take no offence when I hear others greet me differently, and have yet to personally meet anyone who took offence when I greeted them in my traditional way.

Whether you say 'Merry Christmas', 'Happy Hanukkah', or whatever other greeting your tradition or faith might suggest, I wish each and every one of you the very best. I wish for you, what you wish for me.

If you are travelling to be with family or friends for the Holidays, I urge you to do safely. Take the time to arrive safely, and to return home the same way. A few minutes, or hours, difference in travel time is not worth the heartache and suffering that could result from being involved in an accident because you are in a hurry.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas!

Until next time.

Gordon A. Watts

Your comments regarding this newsletter, and suggestions for future articles are welcome. Click here to send me a message with a subject line of "Gordon Watts Reports".

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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
(Pontiac County, Quebec)

The Merivale Cemeteries
(Protestant - Ottawa area)