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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 03 October 2006
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles


Gordon A. Watts Topics in this week's issue include:
  • In Memorium - Ryan Taylor
  • Images of Nova Scotia 1870 - 1940
  • British school children contest in 1900s
  • Federal programs cut - Canada
  • A lesson learned


In Memorium - Ryan Taylor

Genealogists in general, and those in Ontario in particular, will be saddened to learn of the death of Ryan Taylor - author, lecturer, and previous editor of Families, the journal of the Ontario Genealogical Society. He was the author of a family history column in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, and was a member of the faculty of the National Institute of Genealogical Studies in Toronto.

Ryan lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was the librarian at the Allen County Public Library. He was visiting Toronto on business, and was scheduled to return to Fort Wayne on Monday 25 September. He failed to make his flight, and on Wednesday police issued a bulletin requesting information. On Thursday, Fraser Dunford, Executive Director of the Ontario Genealogical Society, made an announcement that a body believed to be that of Ryan Taylor had been recovered. At the time of writing no details were available, other than that foul play was not suspected.

The following biography was taken from the website of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.
    Ryan Taylor was born in Oshawa, Ontario and educated at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. He has worked as a librarian since 1972 in Manitoba, Ontario and Indiana. For some time he held a position in the Kitchener Public Library, Kitchener, Ontario and since 1994 has been a genealogical librarian at the Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    He first became interested in genealogy in 1964 and has worked on a series of family histories, both his own and other peoples'.

    He has written extensively on genealogical and historical topics. Since 1993 he has written the "Tracing Your Roots" feature in The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario) and has an on-line column. He was the founding editor of the newsletter of the Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies (1988-90) and a regular columnist in Kitchener Downtown Alive. Since 1982, he has been active in the Ontario Genealogical Society, serving as chairman of Waterloo-Wellington branch 1984-85 and as editor of its newsletter. He became reviews editor of Families, the OGS journal in 1984 and was its overall editor, 1988-1997.

    In 1981 he founded the oral history programme of the Kitchener library. In its first decade, the program recorded the memories of more than 600 Waterloo County individuals on 900 cassettes. He broadcast "Bookmark", a review programme, on CFCA-FM in Kitchener from 1983 to 1992, and was co-host of "Branching Out", a genealogical phone-in television show in Fort Wayne, 1997-1999.

    He was the English family history instructor at the British Institute of the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History in Salt Lake City in 2001.

    He lectures extensively on genealogical and historical topics, particularly British and Ontario research and methodology. As well as accepting speaking engagements in Canada from St. John's to Campbell River, he has spoken at American national conferences and in several states. In his spare time, Taylor is interested in reading fiction and biography, listening to vocal music, and enjoying the obituaries in the London Times.
Should you wish to offer your condolences to the family, you can send an e-mail to admin@genealogicalstudies.com. You could include your fondest memories of Ryan, anything that makes you smile when you think of him --- maybe comments about how he helped you solve a genealogical 'brickwall'! Since Ryan enjoyed books so much, your comments will be gathered and presented to his family in the format of a memory book.



Images of Nova Scotia 1870 - 1940

The Dalhousie Univerty Archives is the proud owner of a collection of some 45,000 glass plates, film negatives and prints, that originate from the Waldren Studios of New Glasgow and Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

'Rescued' from a New Glasgow attic in 1983, approximately 90% of the collection are portraits, nearly all of which are indexed and dated. The collection includes some of the earliest photos of black Nova Scotians from Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough Counties. There are many local scenes and photos showing coal mining, shipbuilding and other local industries. Family groups, sports teams, social clubs and school groups are also well represented. The archives have developed brief profiles of selected Nova Scotia communities as represented in the Waldren collection.

A part of this immense collection has been digitized and is available for viewing on the website of the archives. Search engines allow keyword searches based on photograph title, date, photograph description, photographic subject and geographic subject. You can also browse the collection by location.

Quality of the reproduced pictures varies from barely viewable to excellent. Those interested in period costumes will find the style of clothing displayed in these pictures very interesting. Who knows? - perhaps you might find some of your ancestors in these pictures. I have not as yet found any of my ancestors, but for someone with Nova Scotia roots it is worth having a look.




British school children contest in 1900s

This past July, one of my readers - Godfrey Owen - wrote me seeking information relating to a review of a new book, i.e. Terra Nostra: The stories behind Canada's Maps 1550 - 1950 by Jeffrey S. Murray (Senior Archivist, Library and Archives Canada). The review in question made reference to a British school children's essay competition conducted in 1900. This essay competition was part of a program sponsored by the Canadian government in an effort to educate the people of the United Kingdom regarding advantages offered to immigrants by Canada. The competition provided each participating school with a bronze medal as a reward for the best essay written about Canada.

Godfrey stated that his mother had participated in the competition, and was the winner in her school. He said that he had the medal issued to her by the Dominion of Canada. He asked if any of the children's essays survived today, and if I had ever seen any of them.


Not having any prior knowledge of this competition I wrote to Library and Archives Canada to enquire about it, and about the possibility that some of the essays written so long ago had survived. The response, when it came, was from the author of the book mentioned above.

Jeffrey S. Murray stated: "Although the essay writing contest is mentioned in the official correspondence and annual reports of the Department of Immigration and Colonization (these items can be found in the holdings of Library and Archives Canada), to my knowledge the essays themselves have not survived. I suspect, given their vast numbers, they were never filed in the department's central registry but were merely trashed once each annual event was over. I wish it were otherwise because they would certainly make for some interesting reading.

We get some idea as to the nature of the essays, however, from a newspaper article published in The Ottawa Evening Journal (February 13, 1901, pg. 9). The article, entitled "British Children and Canada," quotes some of the children's comments. I provided a transcript of the article below. Further information on Canada's advertising campaign for immigrants can be found in my book Terra Nostra: The Stories behind Canada's Maps (Septentrion/McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006)."
    British Children and Canada

    "In the annual report of the Department of the Interior for the year 1900, there is an interesting letter from Lord Strathcona, explaining what is being done by the high commissioner's office to educate the people of the United Kingdom regarding the advantages which Canada offers to immigrants.

    During the past few years, special attention has been devoted to the dissemination of information by means of lectures in the rural districts and by endeavors to induce schoolmaster and others connected with the training of the rising generation to give greater attention to the history, geography and resources of Canada than has hitherto been done. Over a thousand lectures are delivered annually as the result of the work at the high commission's office. The high commissioner has between 20 and 30 sets of lantern slides, which are in constant use, illustrating the different provinces of the Dominion, and the demand for the slides is usually greater than can be met. A large number of copy books with headlines, giving information about Canada, have been distributed among the English schools.

    Finally, last year Mr. Sifton, minister of the interior, had prepared for circulation in the schools of England, a "Canadian Atlas for the Use of Schools" and "Canada: Descriptive Text Book," by E. R. Peacock, M.A. of Upper Canada College. The Dominion government offered for competition a bronze medal to every school in Britain which would use the text books and allow its children to write competitive essays on questions relating to these books. The essays were to be sent to the High Commissioner's office in London for adjudication. Over 2,000 have been received, and the latest issue of the London Canadian Gazette, Mr. James Johnson writes as follows of the result:

    From the letter of the teachers accompanying them it was evident that the pupils took the liveliest interest alike in the study of the books and in the competition. Many of the essays are of exceptional merit, considering the age of the competing pupils - ranging from 10 to 15 years. In a considerable number of the answers to the teacher's questions - each school having its own set of questions - the exact phraseology of the text-books is followed, which suggests copying from them.

    To one familiar with Canada the experience of looking through these essays is distinctly amusing. One pupil, only 12 years old, describing, Manitoba said: "Manitoba is west of the Rocky Mountains"; "Winnipeg is noted for its scenery"; and the same child wrote: "Montreal is noted for its sawmills"; "Ottawa is situated on the St. Lawrence". Other competitors also located Ottawa on the St. Lawrence. Another (13 years old) wrote: "Montreal is noted for its fisheries"; and after contrasting the inhabitants of Canada to-day to those of the early days of its history, the same essayist proceeded to say: "But quite different are the lives of Canadians now. The majority of them, the farmers, living quiet, simple lives full of fun, and always ready to help each other. Perhaps they were once poor orphan children sent from a school to learn their own living." The astounding information is furnished by a 12-year-old competitor that 250,000 men are employed lumbering on the Ottawa river. To this question "name the cities of Ontario," such answers as the following were given: "Ottawa," "Toronto'" "Three River," "Hull," "London," "St. Croix," and "Guelph." In other answers, Ontario is referred to as a city of the province, and Ottawa is described as the capital of Ontario; while we are told "Queen Charlotte is the capital of Prince Edward Island" and "Vancouver Island is a beautiful city"-the city of Vancouver on the mainland of British Columbia being confounded, of course, with the island of Vancouver. Manitoba is put down as a town in one instance.

    The following extracts are taken at random from various essays: "In the winter Canadians amuse themselves out of doors. They do not sit over fires and read books, but they go out and skate on the ice and sledge on the snow." "The Canadians do not care so much for summer as for winter. In summer they look miserable, but in winter all is bustle and amusement," "There is a place called Prairie Land and it is the best wheat-growing country in the world, because it is where the Indians had their fires." "California has large gold mines" - true but they are not in Canada. "Canada is a tremendous country; it is broken up into small provinces such as Nova Scotia, Quebec, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Labrador, Franklin, and Yukon." "Lumbering is a very dangerous working place sometimes." "Sometimes in gold fields people find nuggets which last them for a lifetime, and they live like gentlemen." "In the Territories there is a place covered with flocks of buffalo." "In 1867 Canada was divided into two provinces - Ontario and Quebec." "In reading the history of Canada, we notice that the great men are Chabot, Cartier, General Wolfe, Lord Durham, and Lord Strathcona." "Quebec is the capital of the province of Quebec, set on an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence." "There is a railway which runs from Montreal to Vancouver Island." "In Canada the moon shines brightly all night, and the people go out for walks and they have skating. The people in England could not do that because the air is damp and they would catch cold." "Montreal is one of Canada's winter ports." There are many large towns in Canada, such as Ontario, Ottawa, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta." "Ontario is situated among the Lakes of Ontario and Nipissing." "Canada is in the western hemisphere; the people who live there are red." "There is only one railway of importance in Canada and that is the C.P.R." "The C.P.R. begins at Montreal and passes through Port Arthur, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, the Northwest and ends at Victoria"; but it is not explained how the iron horse gets across the Strait. "The Canadians are strong and healthy." "Cricket is one of the popular winter sports." "The French sailed across the Pacific Ocean and settled there." "The Dominion of Canada is divided up into provinces - namely Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ottawa, Manitoba, and the Island of Newfoundland." "Ontario was formerly called Lower Canada."

    Some interesting answers are given to such questions as, "Where would you like to settle in Canada, and why?" Among them are the following: In Manitoba, because it is a fine farming country." "In Quebec, because it is nearest England." In Ottawa, because it is the centre of the lumbering industry." "In British Columbia, because the summers are cool and the winters mild." "In Winnipeg, because it has excellent schools, and my little brothers and sisters could be educated; and Manitoba is a splendid farming country." "England is a nice country, but it is not so good as Canada." "Canadians pay no rent" - suggested probably by the fact that any man may be his own landlord: "they have light taxes; they can fish and hunt in the open season; they have good markets, free schools and rapidly developing industries." "I would like to go to Canada because Canadians are such bricks in every way, encouraging one when he is getting on, and helping him when he is down;" "Canada is a loyal country, and there they sing 'God Save the Queen' as warmly as we do in England;" "Canada is under the British flag, and if I went there I would go among my own countrymen; there is more room there, and there are better chances."

    On constitutional matters many of the pupils show considerably more knowledge than would have been expected. One notice, however, such error as "The Right Hon. Sir Wilfrid Laurier is Governor General of Canada;" "The Right Hon. the Earl of Minto is Prime Minister." Reference is made in not a few cases to the "House of Representatives." Lieutenant-governors are referred to as "Lieutenant-generals." The Governor General, it is stated in nearly all the papers, is advised by Parliament; but the author of the text-book is responsible for the statement in the following sentence: "He (the Governor General) represents British authority, but acts according to the advice of the Canadian Parliament." It would have been more accurate if "Canadian ministers" had been substituted for "Canadian Parliament."

    Not a few of the papers contain very fairly executed maps. The majority of them have references to Canada's greatly increased railway system, with special reference to the Canadian Pacific; to Canadian loyalty and patriotism; to the country's educational systems, although many of the competitors seem to be under the impression that the Dominion Government has control of educational matters, instead of the provincial governments, and in one case a competitor refers to Yale and Harvard as two chief universities in Canada; French Canadian loyalty is dwelt on in many instances.

    Making allowance for the age of many of the competitors, the papers as a whole are creditable. As regards the mistakes, it is not only among British children that ignorance of Canada exists. Principal Grant in his introduction to the text-book on Canada, remarks that "having lived seven years in Great Britain," he knows "somewhat of the general ignorance of Canada to be found there even in educated circles." "Canadians," continued Principal Grant, "who are inclined to resent this should reflect on the meagerness of their knowledge of Australia or even Great Britain and Ireland, and on the greater ignorance of Canada to be found everywhere in the Republic which immediately adjoins their borders."

    The Dominion Minister of the Interior, for his conception of this scheme of enlightenment in British schools and the Canadian Government office in this country, for so successfully carrying it out, are deserving of great credit."

    - The Ottawa Evening Journal, February 13, 1901, pg. 9
I cannot help but agree with Godfrey Owen when he wishes that the essay written by his mother, and those by other British school children had survived until today. From the snippets included in the report above, I am certain they would have been interesting reading.



Federal programs cut

This past week the Conservative federal government proudly announced that they had a budget surplus exceeding 13 Billion dollars and that this surplus would be applied to reducing the national debt. At the same time however, they announced that they were reducing government spending by cutting back on a number of government-supported programs.

Unfortunately, some of the programs affected by these cost reduction plans have a direct bearing on those who seek to use the Internet for research purposes. Two such programs are the Community Access Program (CAP), and the Museum Assistance Program (MAP).

The Community Access Program was initiated in 1994. It is run under the auspices of Industry Canada, and the stated goal is "to provide Canadians with affordable public access to the Internet and the skills they need to use it effectively." A map on the Industry Canada website shows thousands of sites across Canada that have been supported by this program. In answering the question "What is CAP?" Industry Canada has this to say:

"The Community Access Program (CAP) is a Government of Canada initiative, administered by Industry Canada, which aims to provide Canadians with affordable public access to the Internet and the skills they need to use it effectively. With the combined efforts of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, community groups, social agencies, libraries, schools, volunteer groups and the business community, CAP helps Canadians, wherever they live, take advantage of emerging opportunities in the new global knowledge-based economy. Under CAP, public locations like schools, libraries and community centres act as "on-ramps" to the Information Highway, and provide computer support and training.

The program plays a crucial role in bridging the digital divide; contributing to the foundation for electronic access to government services; encouraging on-line learning and literacy; fostering the development of community based infrastructure; and, promoting Canadian e-commerce.

CAP is also complemented by its youth initiative, the Community Access Program Youth Initiative (CAP YI). The youth program provides employment opportunities to young Canadians between the ages of 15 to 30 in various CAP sites across the country."

The Museums Assistance Program (MAP), under the auspices of Canadian Heritage, has provided financial assistance to Canadian museums and related institutions, for specific museum activities. Since 2003 the Museum Assistance Program has funded 417 projects relating to Access to Heritage, Aboriginal Heritage, and Organizational Development. By far, the greatest number of projects funded per Province have been in Quebec, followed by Ontario. Awards have ranged from a low of $1,200 to a high of $140,000.

While on the surface, it would appear that cutting of funding for MAP may have less effect than it will for CAP, any loss of funding will be particularly disastrous for those small town museums that must depend upon the tourist trade, and donations to their budget simply in order to exist.

As I write this article, it is not known specifically what the cuts to these programs will be, or how deep they will go. It is my opinion however, that any cuts to these programs will hurt those depending on the programs to further their family and historical research - in particular those who would otherwise have no access to the information they seek. The Community Access Program in particular, is a joint effort between many groups that may include Library Boards, School Boards, Boards of Trade, Economic Development Boards, Municipalities, Community Free Nets, Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC), Industry Canada and other federal and provincial departments and agencies.

It has been suggested that for every government dollar provided under these programs, ten dollars are generated from other sources. It follows then, if government funding for these programs is drastically reduced, or eliminated altogether, funding from other sources may similarly be lost.

If you are concerned about these losses, I urge you to contact your federal MPs and provincial MLAs to express those concerns. If no-one protests the cutbacks, the government will think no-one cares about them.

A lesson learned

In writing this column, many of the articles I include are suggested by my readers, or by something I have seen on one of the mail lists to which I subscribe. In my last column, I included an article headlined 'British Columbia passes new Adoption Act'. This article was written after following a link in a post someone else made to a mail list. It would appear, as was pointed out to me by several of my readers, that the Adoption Act referred to was not as new as was suggested by my headline. In fact, it referred to an Act passed before the current provincial government came into power.

In fairness, I did cover myself by mentioning in a note that the information written about was not dated. The link I provided to the Adoption Act was for the current legislation.

All in all, it was a lesson learned, and one that I shall endeavour to remember. That lesson being that I should not write articles about something for which I have only had a cursory glance. I thank those readers that brought this error to my attention. I trust that my readers will always let me know when I have similarly erred.


Until next time.

Gordon A. Watts gordon_watts@telus.net

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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