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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 24 February 2006
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts Lovell's Montreal Directories online

Thanks to a fellow member of the British Columbia Genealogy Society I have recently become aware that the Library and Archives of Quebec (BAnQ) have placed City Directories of Montreal from 1842 to 1940 online. Information on the website indicates that this is a work in progress and that they expect to add remaining directories up to 1999.

I have spent a little time surfing through some of these directories, and found them very interesting. I have no known ancestral connections in Montreal or the area around there. However, for those who do, these Directories may well be a treasure trove of information. While the BAnQ website for the Directories appears to be available only in French (at least I found no link to an English equivalent page) the Directories themselves are published in English. From about 1920 - 1921 and later the Directories include sections in French.

Each Directory is individually accessible by year of publication. Pages of the directories have been scanned and grouped in sections as they appear in the originals. Clicking on the partial images shown in each section opens the pages. Quality of those images that I viewed is, for the most part, excellent.

These Directories are much more than a simple listing of names, although they are that as well. They include alphabetical directories of individuals and businesses, a street directory, and some classified advertisements. Many such advertisements are in the form of business cards. Some of these directories include a summary of conditions of the times, not only of the city, but also of Canada in general, and give information regarding who is holding various public offices - civic, federal and provincial. The variety and volume of information included in most of these directories is too great to list in detail here.

In modern terms I would suggest these directories combine many of the features of an almanac (excluding weather predictions), a miniature encyclopedia, and the white and yellow pages of today's telephone directories. In other words, for anyone having ancestral connections to Montreal and area, it is well worth a visit to these pages. They are available through the website of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec at

Scottish Songs

Have you ever found yourself whistling or humming the tune of a Scottish song, and wished that you knew the words? A website located at may very well be the one to make your wish come true. Thanks to the efforts of Diana Bodnar you can find the words for more than 200 Scottish songs.

In addition to the words of the songs, many of the pages include a few words that may describe how the song came into being, or a little of the history surrounding it. These pages are part of the Rampant Scotland website, the home page of which boasts 12,000+ Scottish-related Links, regularly updated, and 3,500 Web page features on Scotland and the Scots.

Irish Immigrants

Looking for a lost Irish Immigrant? A website sponsored by Boston College's Irish Studies Program may be helpful. The website, titled Information Wanted provides a search engine for a database of advertisements for Irish Immigrants to the United States published in the Boston Pilot.

The Information Wanted website describes the information available as follows:
    From October 1831 through October 1921, the Boston Pilot newspaper printed a "Missing Friends" column with advertisements from people looking for "lost" friends and relatives who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States. This extraordinary collection of 31,711 records is available here as a searchable online database, which contains a text record each ad that appeared in the Pilot.

    The Advertisements contain the ordinary but revealing details about the missing person's life: the country and parish of their birth, when they left Ireland, the believed port of arrival in North America, their occupation, and a range of other personal information. Some records may have as many as 50 different data fields, while other may offer only a few details. The people who placed ads were often anxious family members in Ireland, or the wives, siblings, or parents of men who followed construction jobs on railroads or canals.

    These "Missing Friends" advertisements provide a window on the world of Irish Immigration. For further resources and more about the history of Irish immigration, the Great Famine, and the Pilot, visit the History or Resources pages. vs LAC and Automated Genealogy

A short time ago announced newly added web pages to their databases to deal specifically with Canadian sources. At about the same time, they announced their online indexes for the 1911 National Census of Canada. Since that announcement was made, I have received many queries about how Ancestry has been able to so quickly provide such indexes whereas Automated Genealogy and other groups working on indexing the 1911 records still have a way to go. Questions have arisen whether or not, being a 'pay for service' website, is being charged for access to Library and Archives Canada scans of Census schedules. I have also been asked if Ancestry might be in violation of copyright by publishing their indexes.

The simple answer to the first question is that has employed people to work on indexing of the Census, whereas Automated Genealogy and other groups are dependent upon unpaid volunteers. These volunteers, for the most part, likely have been working on areas of their own particular interest and, having indexed that area may feel they have done their share and will leave further indexing up to others.

One of my readers recently posed some questions directly to Ian E. Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada. She questioned why the LAC website had not been accessible for a number of days. The response from Mr. Wilson was as follows:
    This is in response to your email of Monday, 20 February 2006. I would like to advise you that last weekend the LAC website was closed due to a scheduled shutdown of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) systems, including the LAC website, to enable us to implement upgrades and perform essential maintenance. This planned interruption of service was posted on our website five days prior to the event taking place. We apologize for any inconvenience this interruption of service may have caused you.

    Given the high demand for authoritative source material concerning the Canadian experience, not just the census but also the materials we are making available for schools and universities across the country we have had to increase our online capacity several fold this past year, before came online a month ago. I am advised that at various points each day we have over 15 downloads from our web site per second. Canadians are clearly interested in their history and we will do our best to keep up with the demand.

    As for your specific questions, here are the answers:

    QUESTION: Is the Canadian Genealogy Centre/Archives/National Library charging the Ancestry group any fee to access these images?

    No. and use the census images that are stored on LAC's technical infrastructure. Access to the 1911 Census from the site is done through a hard link to LAC servers. It is our understanding that does not maintain copies of the 1911 Census digital images on its technical infrastructure. Since the images are accessed through a hard link, as they are for all users using the LAC site, there are no costs associated with the transactions.

    QUESTION: If the Canadian Genealogy Centre/Archives/National Library is not charging the Ancestry group or other pay subscription group for access to this data and the images, why not?

    LAC is not charging for census images because they are accessing them through the LAC infrastructure, in the same way the public can access them from the LAC website.

    QUESTION: What is the Canadian Genealogy Centre/Archives/National Library position on the copyright issues in regards to these images?

    The Canadian Census is a government record subject to Crown Copyright which means that government agencies, through Public Works and Government Services, authorize access to such documents.

    Section 12 of the Copyright Act states:

    "Without prejudice to any rights or privileges of the Crown, where any work is, or has been, prepared or published by or under the direction or control of Her Majesty or any government department, the copyright in the work shall, subject to any agreement with the author, belong to Her Majesty and in that case shall continue for the remainder of the calendar year of the first publication of the work and for a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year".

    With the increased heavy demand for documentary heritage via the Internet, LAC is studying various options to facilitate access by Canadians to their documentary heritage; in some cases this may include partnering with prominent information providers on the internet.

    Our policy is to be equitable and consistent with all potential partners. LAC has not entered into any agreement that would require users to pay for content online.

    QUESTION: What is the Canadian Genealogy Centre/Archives/National Library position on this provider charging for a service provided by our tax dollars?

    LAC provides free access to all its documentary heritage available online. has developed certain value-added features and products, such as their name index, but the images remain ours and are freely available to the public.

    I hope these answers to your questions will reassure you about LAC's intent to facilitate access for all Canadians to their documentary heritage online.


    Ian E. Wilson
    Librarian and Archivist of Canada
    Bibliothécaire et Archiviste du Canada
Ancestry, with their employed indexers, most certainly have provided a complete index to the 1911 Census of Canada more quickly than have the volunteer indexers working through Automated Genealogy. I do not begrudge the indexes provided by Ancestry, or any of the smaller area indexes provided by various other groups. In my view, the more resources that are available on the Internet, the greater the chance we have of finding our ancestors. However, Ancestry is a 'pay for service' provider that charges for access, and not everyone is able to pay for access.

On the other hand, indexes on the Automated Genealogy website are available to anyone without charge. Lindsay Patten, owner of Automated Genealogy, has committed that all indexes on his website, compiled by volunteers, will remain free of charge. In the unlikely event that Lindsay is unable to maintain his website, copies of the indexes are provided to LAC so that they will not be lost.

I personally support the indexing projects at Automated Genealogy for a couple of reasons. I like the format of the indexes where you can simultaneously view and scan through several lines of a page, as opposed to using a web form to input and search for a single individual. To my knowledge, Automated Genealogy is the only Canadian source to index the entire Census rather than just a specific area of interest as is done by many genealogy and/or historical societies. I also like the ongoing 'linkage' projects at AG that allow easy connection of the same individuals in other online Censuses and other sources.

As I write this, Automated Genealogy indicates that indexing of the 1911 Census of Canada is 48.26% complete. The greater the number of volunteers, the faster we will reach the 100% mark. When seeking your ancestors in the 1911 Census, why not volunteer to index a few pages yourself. Whether at Automated Genealogy, or one of the other volunteer indexing projects under way, your efforts will not only aid your own research, but will help and be appreciated by others as well.

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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