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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 16 February 2006
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts With a new year well under way, and a new federal government gearing up, we hope that both will be better than the last. It has been awhile since my last column but with holiday travelling, family considerations, fighting with computer gremlins and some minor medical problems I have had little opportunity for research and writing. Most of the gremlins have been evicted from my main PC and other considerations are mostly on their way to being resolved, so it is time now to get back to work.

In Memorium - Sandra Devlin

Genealogists, and many others, lost a friend on 1 February 2005 when Sandra Devlin lost her battle with cancer. Sandra was well known in genealogy circles, particularly in Atlantic Canada where she published her syndicated column, 'Missing Links'. As reported in my column posted 8 October 2005, Sandra had to cease publishing her column because of her progressing illness.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Sandra in person, but over the course of our seven-year battle to regain public access to Historic Census records we occasionally corresponded by email.

Our most sincere condolences go out to Sandra's family. She will be missed by many.

Sandra's obituary, as posted by Riverview Funeral Home, follows:

    Sandra Devlin passed away peacefully on February 1, 2006 at the Moncton Hospital following a valiant struggle with cancer. Her wit, insight, strong will and bottomless heart will be missed by the many people whose lives she touched.

    Born in Saint John, NB, Nov. 28, 1946, Sandra was the daughter of Ellen Eileen (Mills) Hosford and the late Harold Edwin Hosford (2004). Although she lived in various communities in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Ontario over the years, she grew up in Riverview and always called the Moncton area home.

    Besides her mother, Sandra is survived by her daughter, Shonda Joy Secord (her husband, Pierre Rondeau), of Rosemere, Que., and her son, Matthew Kenneth Secord (his wife, Annette), of Dartmouth.

    She is also survived by her loving and dedicated caregiver, Michael Harpell; three grandchildren, Ariel Rebecca Rondeau, William Benjamin Rondeau and Lauren Paige Susan Secord; her brother, Michael Hosford (his partner, Betty Holt); nieces, Kelley and Jill Hosford; and her ex-husband, Donald Secord, Halifax.

    Besides her father, Sandra was predeceased by her second husband, Rodney V. Devlin, in 2003.

    Sandra was a graduate of Moncton High School and alumnae of St. Francis Xavier University. She received her teaching licence from Holland College in 1992. She belonged to St. Paul's United Church, Riverview, where her parents were pioneer members.

    She was a member of Elmwood Cemetery Board of Directors, Society of Family History Writers and Editors, Canadian Association of Journalists, Moncton Press Club, Canada's National History Society, Club 31 RAF Veterans Club, Air Force Veterans Club, New Brunswick Genealogical Society - Southeastern Branch and New England Historic and Genealogical Society.

    After over 25 years in print journalism with such papers as the Frederiction Daily Gleaner, Guelph Daily Mercury (Ont.), New Glasgow Evening News (NS), Truro Daily News (NS) and Northern Daily News (Kirkland Lake, Ont.), Sandra launched a successful freelance career in 1996, the foundation of which was her self-syndicated genealogy newspaper column, Missing Links. Missing Links was published over the years in 17 newspapers in Atlantic Canada.

    For nearly 11 years, Sandra also wrote a weekly opinion column, In Other Words, in The Guardian, Charlottetown. She was a contibutor to many other publications and was honoured with multiple awards.

    In the early 1990s, she was a journalism instructor at Holland College, Charlottetown. From 2000 to 2003, she worked in community relations for Southeast Regional Health Care Authority.

    At the time of her death, Sandra was working on a true crime novel. Resting at the Riverview Funeral Home, 214 Pine Glen Rd. on Sunday February 5, 2006 from 2:00 - 4:00pm & 7:00 - 9:00pm.

    The funeral service and time of sharing memories of Sandra will be held at the Riverview Funeral Home on Monday February 6, 2006 at 2:00pm with Rev. Shawn Redden officiating.

    Interment will be in Elmwood Cemetery in the spring.

    In Sandra's memory, donations made to The Friends of The Moncton Hospital "Jim Clements Education Fund", or The Dr. G.L. Dumont Hospital Oncology Unit would be appreciated by her family.

    Funeral arrangements were entrusted to The Riverview Funeral Home, 214 Pine Glen Rd.
Those wishing to express their personal condolences to Sandra's family can contact her daughter Shonda by email at or write a note to Sandra's home at 89 Milner Rd., Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada E1E 2S2.

Further tributes to Sandra, by Sharon Sergeant ( and Dick Eastman (Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter) may be viewed at by clicking on their names.

Legal action of Information Commissioner

The legal action of Information Commissioner John Reid on behalf of genealogists and historians was terminated when Bill S-18 received Royal Assent on 29 June 2005. However, a parallel action for access to Census records was to continue. This action was on behalf of Peter Di Gangi, a Director of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat (ANS), who had been working to establish aboriginal territorial rights for the Wolf Lake, Barriere Lake, and Timiskaming First Nations.

There is a difference between the action that was undertaken on behalf of genealogists and historians, and that taken on behalf of Peter Di Gangi. Genealogists and historians were seeking access to all Historic Census records, 92 years after collection, in accordance with existing legislation believed already giving them that right. With the passage of Bill S-18, this was effectively achieved. To establish that the First Nations claimant groups had traditionally used and occupied the territories claimed Mr. Di Gangi had to show continuity of group membership and occupation of particular territories.

To this aim he sought access to records of Census for specified districts in Quebec and Ontario for 1911, 1921, 1931 and 1941. Representatives of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat did not require unfettered access to the records. They were willing to have supervised access "or any reasonable alternative" that would ensure researchers could view relevant information. They were willing to enter into a confidentiality agreement and undertake not to disclose any information not relating to Algonquin ancestors. Statistics Canada had refused their requests.

The last communication I had from legal representatives of the Information Commissioner indicated that this action was to have been heard on Monday 23 January 2006. Given time for a decision to be rendered in this matter, I hope to be able to report the end result in a future column.

ScotlandsPeople adds BMD data

Those seeking ancestors in Scotland will be interested in the following.

ScotlandsPeople, the official government source of genealogical information, has released statutory data earlier than was possible in previous years. Customers can now access online records from the Statutory Registers of Births for 1905, Marriages for 1930, and Deaths for 1955. Almost 100,000 new index and corresponding image entries have been added to the site, amounting to six gigabytes of data. This is now available at

In addition to the new data release, ScotlandsPeople has deployed a large update of indexes on the site. These include corrections of indexing and transcription errors in Statutory Birth, Death and Marriage indexes (Census updates for all years will follow shortly). Incorrect returns have been removed while corrected records have been added. This could necessitate changes from some previous searches.

The ScotlandsPeople website includes extensive help pages to assist customers in their various searches. They recommend that customers read these pages available at Plans are under way to launch Census data for 1851 and 1841 as early as possible in the New Year. While the announcement anticipated the 1851 Census would be added in January, and the 1841 Census added in February, as I write this neither is obviously present on the website.

University of Toronto libraries

The University of Toronto - Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library has announced online access to their 'Canadian Pamphlets and Broadsides Collection'. Their website, located at describes the collection as follows:
    "The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library has extensive holdings of Canadian pamphlets and broadsides in a great diversity of subject areas from agriculture and land settlement to politics and government to education, temperance, transportation, natural resources, and the arts. The collection encompasses examples from the earliest period of printing in Canada, such as the 1763 prospectus for the Quebec Gazette, to a 1930 price list of officer's uniforms issued by the Montreal firm of W. Scully. Within the broad class of pamphlets and broadsides a variety of genres is represented, including programs, campaign literature, catalogues, reports, and many forms of advertising. The collection includes items in English, French, German and several aboriginal languages."
The site provides access to pre-1930 Canadian pamphlet and broadside holdings printed in Canada, by Canadian authors, or about Canadian subjects, mainly of a non-literary nature. Images are derived from works in the public domain. The site consists of 597 broadsides (single sheets, printed on one or both sides) and 1255 pamphlet titles, which amount to 43182 page images. Additional titles will be added on a regular basis. Page images in are in full colour, and contents of each item are fully searchable.

New from Library and Archives Canada

Canada is not normally known for 'blowing our own horn'. The following announcements from Library and Archives Canada lead to web pages that do just that - in a small way. I found them interesting. You may as well.
    New virtual exhibition: Cool Canada

    Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce the launch of Cool Canada, a new virtual exhibition. This site, funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage through its Canadian Culture Online initiative, uses digitized collection material from Library and Archives Canada to highlight lots of fascinating people, places, inventions, achievements and events that make Canada cool. Project themes include Incredible Inventions, Canadian Giants, Interesting People, Fascinating Places and Amazing Events and Phenomena. You are invited to visit the site at: The contributions of many LAC staff were instrumental in the success of this project, and their efforts are much appreciated.

    Celebrating Women's Achievements - Canadian Women in Government

    On this site you will find a selection of exceptional Canadian women who have made outstanding contributions to Canadian society and the world. Each woman's life and achievements are described, following by a list of suggested readings. For 2005 we have added: First Women Lieutenant Governors and Territorial Commissioners, under the section: Government. We have also added biographies for: Nellie J. Cournoyea (First Aboriginal woman government leader), Gladys Strum (First woman president of a political party in Canada and more...) and Manitok Thompson (First woman member of the Nunavut legislature). Biographies for Canadian Women in Government were researched and written by the staff of the Reference and Genealogy Division, Library and Archives Canada.

    You are invited to visit the new biographies at:

New resources at Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Public Library has recently posted regarding additions to their access to resources. The Ancestry Library Edition is a library version of the popular database. It is available for free at any branch of the Vancouver Public Library. The additional resources are as follows:
    England & Wales birth, marriage and death indexes, 1837-1983. This database consists of scanned images of the indexes. The indexes provide references that can be used to order copies of the actual birth, marriage and death registration records. Previously, this information was only available at the Family Records Centre in London, at Family History Centres (partial), or by paid online subscription.

    Census of Canada, 1911 . A complete name index of the 1911 Canadian census, with links to digitized images on the Library and Archives Canada website.

    Ontario births, 1869-1907. Online index to Ontario births, with digitized images of the corresponding original records.

    Ontario marriages, 1858-1899. Online index to marriage index information. Allows quick identification of microfilms to be ordered from the Archives of Ontario on inter-library loan.

    Ontario deaths, 1869-1907. Online index to Ontario deaths, with digitized images of the corresponding original records.

    Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s. A name index to information about individuals gleaned from over one thousand different Canadian sources, including city directories, marriage records, land records, census records, and more.
In addition to the above, a short time ago I made some inquiries relating to access of databases at LDS Family History Centres. I was advised that any FHC having high-speed access to the Internet had free access to I have been advised also regarding a number of local community libraries that also had access. It might be worthwhile for anyone considering subscribing to, or some of the other major genealogy database sources, to first check with your local library to see if they already have access that you can use without charge.

Elizabeth Lapointe appointed to ISFHWE

Elizabeth Lapointe, editor of, has been named as Director - International/At Large of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors. She replaces Sandra Devlin who, as reported above, is now deceased. The January 2006 news release of this appointment follows:
    01 Jan 2006

    (Ottawa, Ontario) George Morgan, President of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE), announced on December 30, 2005, the appointment of Elizabeth Lapointe as Director - International/At Large.

    Genealogy columnist, author, and editor of Canadian genealogy, heritage, and history news service-Elizabeth will be finishing the term of fellow Canadian genealogy journalist, Sandra DEVLIN, of Moncton, New Brunswick, who resigned her position due to personal reasons. Sandra belonged to the organization for several years, and her presence will be sorely missed.

    "Elizabeth will serve the remainder of this year's term for Sandra and will stand for election in the spring of 2006", said Morgan. Further, he added, "Please join me in extending a warm welcome to Elizabeth as a member of our great ISFHWE Team!"

    "After working for a number of years as a reporter for an Ottawa newspaper, I have spent the last ten years writing for the genealogy community and have been the editor of for two years," said Elizabeth. "As Director - International/At Large, I will be responsible for bringing new members to ISFHWE and for being the spokesperson for Canadian and international members."

    She also writes for and for various newspapers and magazines.

    Elizabeth will be at the Ontario Genealogical Society's annual meeting this spring (May 26th to May 28th) in Oshawa, and invites ISFHWE members and fellow genealogists to come over and say "Hi!".

    Now living in the Ottawa area, she is originally from Nova Scotia, of a United Empire Loyalist background on both sides of her family.

    Elizabeth can be reached at (819) 281-7575 or can be e-mailed at for an interview.

    For more information on ISFHWE, please visit their website at

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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