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

Gordon A. Watts Topics in this week's issue include:
  • Lest we forget
  • Ryan Taylor Memorial in Toronto
  • Canadian Museums Association petition
  • Vital Statistics from New Brunswick newspapers
  • New US information source
  • New at Library and Archives Canada

Lest we forget

At this time last year I wrote an article with the same headline as the one above. It is a very brief headline, but the meaning behind it is far from brief. It is a reminder that more than 117,000 Canadians have fought and died in various wars so that we might enjoy the freedom we have today. It is a reminder that Canadians in Afghanistan continue to fight, that some have died, and that others may yet die so that citizens of that country might gain the freedom of a democratic government that Taliban terrorists would deny them.

Originally called Armistice Day (and still called that in some countries), Remembrance Day throughout the British Commonwealth was created by King George V of the United Kingdom on 7 November 1919 to commemorate the end of the First World War (Monday, 11 November 1918, at 11 a.m.). It was dedicated to members of the armed forces who were killed during World War I. It was not until 1931 however, that a bill was passed - changing the name from "Armistice Day" to "Remembrance Day" and specifying that it be held on the same day each year - the eleventh of November. At the same time, Thanksgiving Day was moved to October.

It has become tradition that on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, two minutes of silence is observed in remembrance for the men and women who had served, and continue to serve our respective countries during times of war, conflict and peace. The two minutes recall World War I and World War II. Before 1945 the silence was for one minute, and today some ceremonies still only have one minute of silence.

Possibly one of the most remembered poems ever written is "In Flanders Fields". It was taught to me as a child in school, and so far as I am aware it is still taught to school children today. What many may not know, or may not remember, is that it was written by a Canadian, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp officer, Dr. John MacRae [1872-1918]. "In Flanders Fields" was written on a battlefield following the death of a friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, on 2 May 1915.
    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.
At this time last year, there were seven surviving Canadian soldiers from World War I. Since then, at least two of those survivors have died, including Clare Laking - a resident of Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. Clare, at age 106, was scheduled to lay a wreath for Remembrance Day ceremonies but fell ill before, and was unable to attend. He did not recover from his illness. Another veteran at Sunnybrook was Lloyd Hammet. A CBC News article dated 10 November 2005 named Lloyd Clemett of Toronto, P. Dwight Wilson of Oshawa, and John F. Babcock of Spokane, Washington as other Canadian surviving First World War veterans. It is not known by this writer if they still survive.

Whether we call it 'Remembrance Day' as in Canada, or 'Veteran's Day' as in the United States, or by another name in whatever country you happen to live in, I urge you not to forget. At 11:00 a.m. on 11 November 2006, stop what you are doing, bow your head and observe two minutes of silence to remember and honour those who gave their lives so that we might live the lives we do today.

As I did last year, I recommend viewing and listening to two online tributes to veterans. The first - a visual and musical tribute by Terry Kelly, called 'A Pittance of Time', and an explanation of how it came to be written, can be accessed online in either English or French versions

The second - a 'Thank you' to the men and women who fought in World War II, titled 'Before you go', can also be accessed online

'Before you go', with music by John Melnick and lyrics by Sam Bierstock, is a tribute to US veterans, although in the video I note some Canadian insignia, and even a picture of Prime Minister Paul Martin. It was the goal of those originally posting this tribute to see it sent to every living veteran of World War II while we still have them, and to their families and survivors. They stated that we have not thanked them enough, and asked that readers forward the link to every World War II veteran (or their families and descendants) that you know.

I challenge anyone to view the videos accompanying these tributes with dry eyes. I could not.

Let us never forget.

Ryan Taylor Memorial in Toronto 02 December 2006

In my column of 3 October 2006 I reported on the death of Ryan Taylor, well known author, lecturer and genealogist. A memorial service has been planned for Ryan in Toronto. The details follow:
    Saturday, 2 December 2006: 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
    University of Toronto,
    Continuing Education, Claude T. Bissel Building
    140 St. George Street, Room 728, Toronto.

    Directions: One block south of Bloor between Spadina and Queen's Park; Subway stop: St. George; North of Robarts library on St. George.
Those planning on attending the memorial service are requested to so advise by email to or by voice: local to Toronto (416) 861-0165; outside of Toronto 1-800-580-0165.

Canadian Museums Association petition

In my last column I included an article titled 'Federal programs cut' that made reference to cuts in funding being made by the federal government of Canada to the Community Access Program (CAP), and the Museum Assistance Program (MAP).

Subsequent to that column, the Canadian Museums Association have announced the launch of an online petition that states, in both official languages, as follows:
    To: Government of Canada


    We, the undersigned, believe museums play an important role in the fabric of Canada by preserving our heritage and showcasing it for everyone's benefit. Museums are not a waste.

    We ask the Conservative Government in Ottawa to stop slashing funding and to honour its election promise to better support museums and our heritage across Canada.
The CMA encourages you to sign this petition, pass it on and forward it to everyone you know, call your MP, and write letters! Adding your voice can make a difference! Numbers do count!

The "Save Museums!" petition is available online.

For further information on the cuts to museums in Canada, and reactions to those cuts, visit the Canadian Museums Association website.

Vital Statistics from New Brunswick newspapers

The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick have recently placed online transcriptions of vital statistics taken from newspapers. The database comprises 298,097 transcriptions from 102 volumes and covers a time period ranging from 29 January 1784 to 31 December 1896. The database contains 640,984 name indexes including 311,514 unique names extracted from 75 newspapers.

This impressive database is the result of twenty-three years of work by Daniel F. Johnson (1953 - 2005). The PANB have presented it on their website as a tribute to Daniel and a resource for researchers.

Information may be found by following a Name Index, or by using a Full-Text Search. In the brief time that I have searched this database I found a number of articles regarding one of my family names. While not all articles found could be linked to my specific family, some of them definitely were.

While labelled as New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, the database contains more than articles of births, marriages and deaths. Some articles make reference to visiting relatives and other items of interest. Searching for articles using the Full-Text Search function brought up some interesting items. For example, searching for articles containing the phrase 'loyalists from New Jersey' brought up a number of items, including some lists of names of "prominent Loyalists of New Jersey against whom proceedings were instituted in the counties named during the Revolutionary war for the purpose of confiscating their property for joining the New Jersey Royal Volunteers or for giving aid and comfort to the adherents of the Crown". A search for 'River John' produced a total of 182 records. Checking the first 30 of these, I found most of them to be marriage announcements, with some announcements of deaths. Another article provided an assessment of ratepayers for Fredericton in 1870.

To learn more about the database and it's compiler, and to access the records, visit the PNAB website.

[EDITOR: Click here for links to this resource, and many more searchable New Brunswick genealogy & history online databases]

New US information source

Although a new entity to me, according to the website of NewsBank, Inc., it has been "one of the world's premier information providers for more than 35 years", satisfying needs of public libraries, colleges and universities, schools, government and military libraries, professionals and researchers. So far as I am aware, until now these services were available only to institutions, and not to individuals.

In a recent announcement however, NewsBank, Inc. has opened up their collections to individuals at home through an offering they call GenealogyBank. Through this subscription service they offer "instant Web-based access to millions of the United States' core genealogical records from the 17th to the 21st centuries". These comprise a collection of their best genealogical material and much exclusive content, including digital images of genealogies, obituaries, marriage notices, birth announcements, local histories, casualty lists, military documents and "many other types of primary sources published across the nation over hundreds of years".

I have not personally subscribed to GenealogyBank and therefore cannot vouch for their content. However, if that content comes close to what they claim, it promises to be a valuable resource for genealogical research. To learn more about that content check the 'overview' at

For a trial search and/or to subscribe to GenealogyBank visit

(Have you used or subscribed to GenealogyBank? I would like to hear your comments regarding your experience there.)

New at Library and Archives Canada

Passenger lists were the official immigration documents from 1865 to 1935. The lists contain information such as the name, age, country of origin, occupation and destination of each passenger. The lists are organized by port and date of arrival. This database provides access to passenger lists for the ports of Québec (1865-1921), Halifax (1881-1912, to 1922 shortly), to Saint John (1900-1912), North Sydney (1906-1908), Vancouver (1905-1912) and Victoria (1905 to 1912), shortly. Access passenger lists.

The Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers collection (LI-RA-MA) contains documents created between 1898 and 1922 by the consular offices of the Russian Empire in Canada. The series on passports and identity papers is comprised of about 11,400 files on Jewish, Ukrainian and Finnish immigrants who came to Canada from the Russian Empire. The series includes passport applications and questionnaires containing general information. Nearly half the database is now available online, with the rest to be added shortly. Access this collection.

Ward Chipman the Elder, (1754-1824), a Massachusetts lawyer, was also an army administrator in the State of New York between 1777 and 1783. In 1784, he settled in New Brunswick, where he served as solicitor general until 1808. The Ward Chipman Papers contain muster rolls of Loyalists, and their families, who were members of demobilized regiments and who settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This research tool provides access to nearly 19,000 references to Loyalist families. Access these records.

Visit the virtual exhibition Moving Here, Staying Here. The Canadian Immigrant Experience

[EDITOR: Click here for links these resources, and many more searchable Canadian genealogy & history online databases]

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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