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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 10 August 2006
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts Topics in this week's issue include:
  • On a personal note...
  • Burnaby South High School Class of '59 Reunion
  • Yesterdays Journey... Derbyshire, England and afar
  • Toward a Digital Information Strategy for Canada
  • Genealogy Website Helps Chinese Canadians Explore Their Roots
  • Indexing Canada's Census records
  • Roots Around the World...Abbotsford Genealogical Society Seminar

On a personal note...

In younger years I did not think that it could ever get too hot in the summer for me. In 1962 I spent four and a half months, from the middle of May to the end of October, at Keesler Air Force base in Biloxi, Mississippi. I was in the R.C.A.F. and had been sent there for training on some new digital equipment. After I became acclimated I got so it felt that 85 degrees Fahrenheit was getting kind of cool. In September and October, the Canadians there for training were still going swimming, while the Americans were wearing parkas. I finished my training, and left Keesler AFB and Mississippi on 30 October 1962 - coincidentally my twenty-first birthday.

Today, almost fourty-four years later I find, much to my disgust, that it can in fact get too hot for me, and I tend to get lethargic. The last few weeks, with high temperature records falling like bowling pins (at least in the western provinces) I have not felt like doing much at all, much less trying to put together my next column. It is time however, so here I am.

I am not usually an individual that does things on the spur of the moment. However, in the past week I have started two projects in just that way. This past Thursday (this now being Sunday 6 August) I woke up, had a bite of breakfast, and was waiting at the paint store when it opened. By noon I had purchased my paint and brushes, and was starting to apply a long, long overdue coat of paint on the exterior of my house. As I write this I am about two-thirds of the way through my first coat. I am trying to work early in the morning, or later in the evening, when the direct sun is not too hot - for me, or for the paint.

In starting to paint my house (spur of the moment project number two), I surprised (read shocked) my neighbours on their return from vacation. My son, who lives in Calgary, did not believe I was actually painting my house until I sent him an email with a picture attached. He feels I seldom do much about the house, and most of the time he is correct. At the moment though I am on a roll and hope it will continue for a while yet.

Spur of the moment project number one actually started on the last day of July. For some time I have been watching and waiting in vain, for someone to announce an upcoming high school graduation reunion. I graduated from Burnaby South High School in the Class of 1959. Looking through my old yearbook I found there were 423 students in my graduating class, one of the largest grad classes up to that time. The year 2009 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of our graduation. I finally decided if there was to be a reunion then, I would have to start the ball rolling myself.

In the past week, I have managed to find contact information for some 40 to 50 of my former classmates. Those that have responded to my queries by email, telephone, or through some reunion websites have so far, with only one exception, been enthusiastic about the concept. I have been surprised to find how many that have responded, live within a short distance from where I am. One of the grads, who I have not had contact with since leaving school, lives within four blocks of me, and within half a block of the route taken on one of my infrequent walks for exercise.

So, - if there are any Burnaby South High School Class of '59 grads out there reading this, send me an email. I want to hear from you.

Yesterdays Journey... Derbyshire, England and afar

If you have an interest in research in Derbyshire, England you may want to pay a visit to the website, Yesterdays Journey. The home page of this website states that Yesterdays Journeys records the names of those people who had dealings with various events and Officials and the paperwork involved. Documents that sent them back to their legal settlement or let them stay in a new parish; the warrants for their arrest; indentures that gave them a start in working life; papers naming the fathers of illegitimate children; or Wills that folks left.

Documents may identify where individuals were born, a trade, an employer, their wages, how long they worked with for each person. Where they got married, which regiment they served in, how many children they had, names, ages and other bits of information to help add real history and detail to your ancestors lives.

A sidebar contains links to Apprentice Records, Bastardy Papers, Removal Orders, Rogues and Vagabonds, Settlement Certificates, Settlement Examinations, and Wills and Administrations.

Yesterdays Journey deals primarily with Derbyshire. It does however cover the whole of the British Isles as people moved around seeking work, travelled as vagrants through the County or were chased throughout the realm as the responsibility of fatherhood and law caught up with them. There are references to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and America, as well as other lands overseas, as some moved further afield.

Check it out. You may find it interesting.

Toward a Digital Information Strategy for Canada

Message from Ian E. Wilson
Librarian and Archivist of Canada

Toward a Digital Information Strategy for Canada

There is broad consensus across Canada on the need to ensure that Canada's digital assets are created, protected, preserved and made accessible now and in the future. A recent survey found that 96% of Canadians feel it is important that Library and Archives Canada (LAC) stay current with the latest technology to safely preserve Canada's documentary history in digital formats; 93% feel it is important that we make our collection and services accessible on the Web as much as possible.

LAC has assumed a leadership role in developing a national strategy to manage digital information, in collaboration with industry, government, heritage institutions, universities, research organizations and the pan-Canadian network of libraries and archives. We recently completed four thematic meetings across the country as part of this collaborative development process, and an invitational national summit will be held in late fall, culminating in a strategy.

The meetings highlighted the need for a holistic approach to strengthen Canada's capacity to create, manage and use digital information, thereby ensuring our position within the emerging global knowledge economy. Participants discussed how to increase the digitization of Canadian materials to a truly national scale, so that individuals seeking information online can draw from our nation's past intellectual output. They addressed how to ensure that both commercial and non-commercial digital information become as widely available, as flexible for current and future uses, and as enduring as possible. And they discussed the need to build a robust network of digital information repositories, each capable of preserving access to its content over time.

These meetings were a first step in exploring a complex set of new opportunities and challenges: opportunities to embrace quickly, and challenges to address together, strategically. More information about the themes and outcomes of the meetings is posted on the LAC website.

Library and Archives Canada Partners With Vancouver Public Library
Genealogy Website Helps Chinese Canadians Explore Their Roots

A new partnership between Library and Archives Canada and the Vancouver Public Library allows Chinese Canadians to explore their roots as never before. The new Chinese-Canadian Genealogy Website of the Vancouver Public Library celebrates the contributions of Chinese Canadians to Canada and provides community members with a powerful tool to assist them in accessing their heritage.

The VPL site, sponsored in part by LAC, offers a variety of practical tools and resources to support all levels of genealogical research, from basic techniques commonly used by genealogists, to more advanced guidance. Tips for searching indexes and records are featured in an easy-to-read format. The site explores complex topics, such as how to locate information about individuals and families whose Chinese names might have been transcribed incorrectly upon their arrival in Canada. It also features milestones in Chinese-Canadian history, links to stories of Chinese-Canadian pioneers, and patterns of migration and settlement.

Although the site uses Canadian-based English-language sources, references to Chinese-language materials and to resources available in China are also included.

While Chinese Canadians have been well established in Canada since the 19th century, there have been few resources developed for those wishing to explore their connection to Canadian history. The Chinese-Canadian Genealogy Website acknowledges this gap by offering them the means to explore the story of our nation.

Visit the Chinese-Canadian Genealogy Website.

Indexing Canada's Census records

Our campaign to regain public access to Canada's historic Census records was mostly successful on 28 June 2005. Shortly thereafter, scanned images of the 1911 National Census were placed on line by Library and Archives Canada. More recently, through partnerships between LAC, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, scanned images of the 1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (sometimes referred to as the Census of 1852) have been placed online by LAC. Scanned images of the schedules of Census for 1901 and 1906 were previously made available.

We are grateful that theses images, with the promise of more to come, have been made available to us without having to pay a subscription fee for access to them. A major drawback to these images however, has been that they are not nominally indexed and to find any specific individual that has been enumerated can take a great deal of time and effort. Fortunately, this task has been made immeasurably easier by the efforts of many volunteers - members of various genealogy and historical societies seeking to assist others while at the same time they look for their own ancestors.

Different groups working on those areas of their own particular interest have done much of this indexing. The only indexing project that I am aware of, that is being done with the intention of including the entire Census rather than only areas of special interest, is that being done by volunteers working with Automated Genealogy. Because the intention of Automated Genealogy is to index the entire Census, and because they have an arrangement with Library and Archives Canada, it is my personal choice for any of my volunteer indexing efforts. Indexing on AG for the 1901 and 1906 Censuses has been mainly completed, but that for the 1911 Census has a ways to go yet.

As things stand while I write this, the 1911 Census for Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon have been 100 percent indexed. New Brunswick has been 99.93 percent indexed with Ontario following with 87.25 percent, Manitoba at 71.04 percent and Quebec at 61.51 percent. Unfortunately, the western provinces have fallen behind with Saskatchewan at 44.94 percent, British Columbia at 44.31 percent and Alberta coming last at 32.48 percent.

I frequently receive requests for assistance from individuals looking for ancestors in Canada's Census records. I note many similar requests on the posts to various genealogy mail lists. A common thread in many of these requests is that they cannot find the people they seek in the available indexes. They comment that the indexes do not seem to be complete, or ask if they are.

I am more than willing to help those making such requests when I am able, as are many others reading them on the various mail lists. With each request that I respond to however, I suggest that the requester consider volunteering to index some pages for their area of interest. If everyone seeking an ancestor did this, the 1911 Census indexing would be 100 percent completed in short order.

To volunteer a little indexing time at Automated Genealogy, visit the main website at

Roots Around the World

While perhaps a little early to promote genealogy events for 2007, the Abbotsford Genealogical Society has announced their Biennial Seminar - Roots Around the World, to be held 28 April 2007.

Featured speakers include Halvor Moorshead (Editor of Family Chronicle & Internet Genealogy magazines), Ugo Perego (Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation) - DNA, Candy-Lea Chickite (North American Research), Sydney Baker (Home Children), Dr. Penny Christensen, Dave Obee, Brenda Smith, and more!

Attendees will have the opportunity to have their DNA sampled for genealogical purposes.

The seminar will be held at Rick Hansen Secondary School, Abbotsford, BC

For further information, and to keep up with events, visit the website of the Abbotsford Genealogical Society 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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