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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 26 March 2007
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this week's issue include:
  • Canadian Census 2006 - informed consent
  • Nova Scotia's Historical Vital Stats now online
  • discontinues free access for Family History Centers (LDS)
  • Changing names
  • Changing address (previous article link)
  • Another Lunenburg reunion
  • HeritageQuest Online sold
  • adds Drouin Collection
  • Genealogy Film Festival at 27th IAJGS International Conference
  • DNA testing at BCGS

Scroll down this page to read the complete articles...

Canadian Census 2006 - informed consent

On Tuesday 13 march 2007, Statistics Canada released the first statistics relating to the response of Canadians to the 'informed consent' (or 92 year) question on the 16 May 2006 Census of Canada. Unfortunately, neither the overall response to the question, nor the method in which the response is portrayed by Statistics Canada, can be considered satisfactory to genealogists or historians.

The information released indicated that fewer than 56 percent of Canadians responded YES to the question of whether or not they would allow the information they provided to be released to the public after 92 years. Those who responded NO, or gave multiple answers, or left the answer BLANK were lumped together in a single percentage. Presenting the information in this manner fails to give the whole picture, and as such is very misleading.

The table in which Statistics Canada breaks down the response to the question into regions can be viewed here.

In correspondence last year with my Census contact in Statistics Canada I was advised that when made available, statistics on the question, aside from being broken down territorially, would show the number of those who had responded YES, those who had given MULTIPLE responses, those who had responded NO, and those who had left the response BLANK. This would be in keeping with the form in which responses to the question in the 2004 Test Census had been presented to me.

Following the release of the statistics on 13 March I sent the following email to my contact in Statistics Canada.
    From: Gordon A. Watts
    To: Dale Johnston
    Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 9:33 PM
    Subject: Statistics re: informed consent in 2006 Census

    Dear Dale.

    I have viewed the first results of the 2006 Census of Canada released this morning on the Statistics Canada website. I must state in the most unequivocal terms possible my disappointment in the way response to the so-called 'informed consent' question has been presented.

    In your email to me of 14 December 2006 you indicated that when released, the response to the 92-year question would be broken down for each geographic area, to those who responded YES, those who responded NO, those who incorrectly responded in more than one way (MULTIPLE RESPONSES), and those who did not respond to the question (left it BLANK). You indicated that numbers would be given for each category of response.

    In the chart shown on the Statistics Canada website, for each geographic area the number of those who responded YES is given as a percentage. Those who gave MULTIPLE RESPONSES, those who responded NO, and those who left the response BLANK are lumped together as a single percentage. Lumping these categories together fails to give a true picture of the responses to this question. It also fails to consider the number of BLANK responses for those living in 'collective dwellings' where information for the individual being enumerated has been taken from administrative records, thus depriving the individual of the ability to answer the question for themselves.

    The appearance is that someone in Statistics Canada does not wish a true picture of the response to the 'informed consent' question to be made public.

    I would greatly appreciate it if you would provide me with the numbers relating to responses to questions 8 and 53, broken down as per information you provided to me in your message of 14 December 2006. While the language of the forms completed is of little importance to me, I would appreciate additional information showing the breakdown of responses to the question on short forms and long forms, similar to that provided to me for the 2004 Test Census. If necessary, I will request such information through Access to Information, but I would prefer not to have to go through that route.

    While not intended as a personal reflection upon yourself, you are aware it is my considered opinion that Statistics Canada in general, and Dr. Fellegi in particular, failed miserably to live up to promises made to Senate Committees deliberating Bills S-13 and S-18. During those Senate Committee hearings Dr. Fellegi committed that, as Chief Statistician of Canada, he and Statistics Canada would promote and encourage respondents to Census to answer positively to the 'informed consent' question.

    Had information from the Statistics Canada website, specifically that titled "The 92-year question - Say yes!", been included as an insert with the paper Census questionnaires, we might have considered the promise of Dr. Fellegi to have been fulfilled. As it is however, Statistics Canada receives a less than satisfactory grade for their failure to make known to all respondents to Census the importance of responding positively to questions 8 and 53.

    The value of Historic Census records for genealogical and historical research has been in the 'completeness' of the records. The overall positive response of less than 56 percent for the 2006 Census falls far short of the 90 percent plus estimate given by Dr. Fellegi to the Senate Committee deliberating Bill S-18. Future research value of the 2006 Census has been destroyed by the 'informed consent' question that genealogists and historians were forced to accept in order to regain access to Historic Census records to which existing legislation already stated our entitlement. More than 45 percent of future genealogists seeking ancestral information from the 2006 Census will be out of luck. Historians will be unable to use Census records to paint an accurate picture of the History of Canada relating to 2006 and later.

    The legislation enabled by Bill S-18 provides for a review of the effect of the 'informed consent' question after two Censuses had been conducted under it. It may come as no surprise to you that consideration is being given to seeking that review without waiting for the research value of another Census to be destroyed.

    I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

As frequently happens on the Internet, after four days my email bounced back to me, supposedly because the StatCan mail server could not be found, or was not responding. It was re-sent on Sunday 18 March 2007. I will keep you updated on any response I get to my message.

There is a saying that "figures don't lie, but liars can figure". I bring this up not to accuse anyone of lying, but to support my position that lumping together the multiple responses, NO responses, or BLANK responses is misleading and does not present the whole picture. If one were to paraphrase this saying using 'words' instead of 'figures', they might come up with something to the effect that "words can be put together to say whatever you want - regardless if they are a true portrayal of the facts or not".

Below the table on Statistics Canada's website is the following statement - "The 2006 census, for the first time, gave Canadians the opportunity to choose to have their census information made available to the public in 92 years -- in the year 2098". This statement was the opening sentence in an article, by CanWest News Service writer Meagan Fitzpatrick, published in the National Post 14 March 2007.

The following letter to the editor of the National Post was my response to the article by Ms. Fitzpatrick. It was published, slightly edited, online and in the paper Saturday 17 March 2007.
    15 March 2007

    The National Post.

    Re: "More than half of Canadians willing to share information"

    In her 14 March article Meagan Fitzpatrick stated "The 2006 Census, for the first time, gave Canadians the opportunity to choose to have their census information made available to the public in 92 years... ." The implication of this statement is that never before in the history of Canada has information from Census been made available to the public.

    Unfortunately, Ms. Fitzpatrick, along with the general public, has been misled by information provided by Statistics Canada. In actual fact, for the first time in history Canadians had the opportunity to prevent information they provide to Census from being released to the public after a period of closure. For genealogical and historic research purposes this is a major step backward.

    For censuses prior to 2006, information for all respondents has been made available to the public after a period of closure. Up to 1980 that period of closure was governed simply by archival practice, which was generally considered to be about 100 years. With the passage of the Privacy and Access to Information Acts in 1980 to 1983 the period of closure was legally mandated, for the first time, at 92 years.

    Statistics Canada would have the public believe that the 'informed consent' (or 92-year) question was something sought after by genealogists and historians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Opposition to such a question is a matter of record in Hansard records of Senate Committee hearings.

    Regulations attached to the Privacy Act clearly state public access to Census records is allowed for purposes of research, after a 92-year period of closure. That access however was being prevented, through a technical loophole invoked by Chief Statistician Ivan P. Fellegi

    After an eight year campaign to regain access to Historic Census records, genealogists and historians were coerced into not opposing imposition of an 'informed consent' question in Bill S-18. They were advised that unless they agreed not to oppose the question, the government would not present the Bill to restore unfettered access (after 92 years) to Censuses up to 2005.

    With an overall positive response to the question of less than 56 percent, the 2006 Census has been destroyed as a complete and viable research tool for genealogists and historians. For more than 44 percent of Canadians, future genealogists will find no mention of their ancestors in the Census. No longer will historians be able to compile a complete demographic picture of the Canadian family through Census.

    It is a tragedy that defies comprehension.

    Gordon A. Watts
    Co-chair, Canada Census Committee
    Port Coquitlam, BC
I have been advised from an unconfirmed source that 12 % of respondents left the answer blank. If the 12 % figure is correct, this means that from a total population of 31,612,897 people, 3,793,548 did not understand the importance of the question, left the answer BLANK, and were consequently considered to have given NO responses.

At the start of this article I made reference to the 'first statistics' relating to the response of Canadians to the 'informed consent' (or 92 year) question. Unfortunately, there are statistics relating to the question that will not be available until some time in September, and the full picture of the question will not be known until then.

Included in the BLANK responses were an untold number of residents of 'collective dwellings', i.e. hospitals, prisons, asylums etc. These residents were not given the opportunity to answer the question for themselves. Their information was gathered from administrative records and the answer to the question was automatically left blank, ensuring an assumed NO response. These responses are included in the overall total available today. It is disappointing that we must wait until September to find out how many individuals fall into the category that were unable, or were never given the opportunity, to answer the question for themselves.

Nova Scotia's Historical Vital Stats now online

The morning of Monday 19 March 2007 saw the launch of a new website that contains a database of one million historical birth, marriage and death registrations in Nova Scotia. The database contains records dating back to 1864.

The new website was developed in partnership with Unisys Canada Inc. and Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM). Visitors to can view high-quality digitized images of original records online. (And YES, the 's' following http in the URL belongs there. I assume it indicates the site it addresses is secure).

Records are searchable by entering a person's name. Search parameters can be enhanced by entering a year or time-frame for the search. Once having found the record of interest you can order electronic files or paper copies online, or simply record the information contained in the record manually. It does not appear possible to copy and paste information from the record.

In order to view the scanned images, it is necessary to download and install a Viewpoint Media Viewer. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to access the results of a search and the website could benefit from inclusion of a few directions in that regard. They may be there, but I did not see them.

Once having figured out how to access a specific record, I would like to see a larger window in which to view the document desired. It is possible however, to enlarge the image within the window and having done that to scroll the document up or down, or from side to side. Quality of the enlarged image appears to be good. The few images I accessed appeared faint, but otherwise were relatively easy to read. The faintness of the image I put down to a light original, and there is not much that can be done about that. It was not possible to see a complete readable document within the window without scrolling up or down, or side to side.

I spent about 15 minutes this morning searching a few names in my ancestry. In that time I found the names of a great grandmother and her parents that I had not previously known. I also found the middle name of the wife of a first cousin twice removed, as well as the names of her parents. I did not record this new information and so I will have to return to do that - and hopefully find a great deal more new (to me) information.

Records available through the new website are Births 1864 - 1877, Marriages 1864 - 1930, and Deaths 1864 - 1877 and 1908 - 1955. I personally find the closure limits of the records in Nova Scotia to be excessive but for the time being I guess we will have to live with them. For anyone having ancestry in Nova Scotia however, within the legal constraints imposed, there is a wealth of information waiting for them to find. discontinues free access for Family History Centers (LDS)

Recent postings to some genealogy mail lists included information that is discontinuing free access to most of its databases from LDS Family History Centers. The following message was sent to the Family History Centers as explanation to the change in policy.
    From: Worldwide Support
    To: Family History Center Directors in English Language Areas
    Date: March 16, 2007
    Discontinued Access to Databases

    For many years, has provided free access to patrons of family history centers around the world. Ancestry has informed the Church that as of April 1, 2007, it will discontinue this free access to the full service.

    Free access through to the following databases will continue:

    1. Index and images for the 1880, 1900 and 1920 U.S. censuses
    2. Full name indices for the British 1841-1891 censuses (England and Wales)
    3. World War I draft cards indices as created and miscellaneous other databases

    Free access is likely to be discontinued for the remainder of the databases including:

    1. Index and images for the 1930 U.S. census
    2. Index and images for the 1901 British census (England, Scotland, and Wales)

    At this point, is not offering an option for family history centers to independently purchase commercial or library site licenses. Patrons, of course, may choose to subscribe directly to

    Free access to online databases is important and we therefore intend to add many new databases to (the website of the Mormon Family History Library). Much of the data preparation will be accomplished through the online indexing program available at We encourage you to visit the website to learn more.

    Volunteers have already begun indexing the 1900 U.S. census and other projects. Other censuses and vital record collections will be indexed as soon as the 1900 U.S. census project is completed. The more volunteers that participate, the sooner access can be provided. Since access to databases on is free to all, we anticipate that this will be of great interest to individuals around the world. We are also exploring opportunities to provide broader access to additional databases from other online service providers.

    Please inform patrons regarding our plans to provide access to records and invite them to help by participating in the FamilySearch Indexing projects. We will communicate as more information becomes available. Thank you for all that you do on behalf of our patrons.
In fairness to I copy here an excerpt from a message sent to all employees of The message sent by management (i.e. Tim Sullivan) was lengthy - detailing accomplishments of Ancestry in recent months. I include here only that part of the message dealing with the relationship with the LDS and the withdrawal of free access to their databases.
    From: Tim Sullivan
    Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2007 4:38 PM
    To: FYI ALL
    Subject: Update

    I also wanted to share a few thoughts with all of you on another topic. For the last seven years, our company has provided free access to inside the family history centers of the LDS Church. During this time, we've done this without any formal agreement or compensation.

    Several months ago, we informed the Church of our desire to craft a formal relationship that would allow us to continue providing this free access. This is similar to the way that we license to over 1400 public libraries in the U.S. and U.K. We do this for a license fee which lets patrons of these institutions use our service for free inside their facilities. As you can imagine, this is a very popular program among libraries.

    Unfortunately, we were not able to come to agreement with the Church on the terms of this proposed relationship. We are disappointed by this, as we know that patrons of family history centers value, and we think our institutional licensing program is priced very fairly. We remain willing and eager to have available in family history centers, and we are even hopeful that at some point the Church will reconsider their position and decide to give patrons of their family history centers access to the world's greatest online resource for family history research.

    We will continue to provide access in family history centers to a small number of databases which are covered by other agreements, and none of our other many agreements with the Church are impacted by this change. We continue to have a number of mutually beneficial agreements and relationships with the Church, and as two large players in the family history space, we share a common goal of getting as many people as we can interested in their family history. Our relationship is a good one, and we are always looking for ways to cooperate with the Church in order to grow our business and ignite more interest in the category. I'm sharing all of this with all of you because I am sure that there will be some unhappy patrons of family history centers, and I wanted everyone to understand that this was not a one-way decision on our part.

    Finally, I am constantly asked whether we think of the Church as a competitor. The answer to this really depends on the underlying assumptions of the question. Are we competing for dollars? No. Do we have exactly the same goals? No. Are we unfriendly? Absolutely not. Is TGN committed to making sure that remains the #1 resource for online family history? Absolutely. Is Ancestry going to continue to be the home of the world's largest online family tree? Yup. Should we be able to innovate faster than anyone on the planet in this space? Of course. Are we two large players that each have done tremendous things to help people understand their family history? Yes. Can we continue to cooperate with the Church to get millions more people interested in family history? We can, and we will.

    I think we have a pretty good game plan for continuing to grow a truly great company.


Changing names

For those who may have been confused by the reference to 'TGN' in the article above, the parent company of has recently changed its name from ', Inc.' to 'The Generations Network. The companies coming under the umbrella organization of The Generations Network include,,,,,,, and .

Changing address

My column posted 19 December 2006 included an article relating to Loyalist history and Tarleton's Legions. Since the posting of that article the host organization - the Mersey Heritage Society - has changed web servers. The article on "Tarleton's Legion" by Thomas H. Raddall may now be found at a new address at

Another Lunenburg reunion

click on image for larger view More information pulled from the mailing lists is the following that relates to another 'gathering of the clan' to take place in Lunenburg this year. It was published in the Lunenburg Progress Enterprise of 21 February 2007.
    CLIMB YOUR FAMILY TREE - Genealogical Event Set For Lunenburg -

    It just might turn out to be a local version of the Gathering of the Clans. This June 8 and 9, the Lunenburg County Genealogical Society is hosting "Make Sail for Lunenburg - Climb Your Family Tree," an event that will allow descendants of the area's early European settlers an opportunity to learn more about their family histories and exchange information with each other.

    Paula Masson, chairwoman of the society's program and education committee, says the event is being planned to correspond with the Town of Lunenburg's 254th birthday, which is celebrated on June 7. "The reason we're doing this is to raise awareness among the local community members of the genealogy of the Town of Lunenburg and Lunenburg County," Ms Masson explains, adding that it is hoped the event will also help promote the work of the genealogical society. "And we are going to be partners in this with the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and the Lunenburg Heritage Society because we all have common objectives."

    A somewhat similar event, the Grand Family Reunion, was held at the town's historic Academy in July of 2003 in honour of Lunenburg's 250th birthday celebration, drawing nearly 1,500 descendants of the first foreign Protestants who came to the area in 1753. That gathering drew Lunenburg family descendants from across North America and beyond, and, with this year's event still four months away, Ms Masson has already received a number of inquiries from the United States. "We've already had people from New York and Massachusetts who have shown interest in the weekend," she says.

    Climb Your Family Tree will kick off on the evening of June 8 at the theatre room of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic with an educational presentation by Ralph Getson, who will speak on the subject of Captains in your Family, followed by a new presentation by noted Nova Scotia genealogist Terry Punch. "So it will be a very educational evening, and there will be a reception to follow, as well," Ms Masson adds.

    The following day, activities move to the Lunenburg fire hall where from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. displays will be presented on various family histories as well as Lunenburg heritage.

    Pre-registration is required for anyone interested in attending the June 8 presentations at the museum. Registration forms and further information is available on-line at or at or by contacting Ms Masson at [902] 634-4092. "Hopefully people will register early as there is limited space," she says. "We are hoping it will become an annual event, but it all depends on how successful this [one is.]

HeritageQuest Online sold

Over the past year there has been much discussion and speculation on the mail lists regarding access of HeritageQuest Online and their many large genealogy databases. Many users of HeritageQuest have complained about loss of 'at home' access through their local libraries or genealogical/historical societies.

According to an article in the May 2007 issue of "Family Tree" magazine, HeritageQuest Online has been sold. Managing Editor Diane Haddad stated:
    "ProQuest, creater of the HeritageQuest Online genealogy records site...has sold that service along with the rest of its ProQuest Information and Learning division. Bethseda, Md-based Cambridge Information Group is the buyer. CIG will combine one of its subsidiaries with the ProQuest business, creating a new company that will operate both in Bethseda and in ProQuest's home, Ann Arbor, Mich. ProQuest endured a bumpy ride last year: In February, the company announced accounting irregularities had caused an earnings overstatement of $80 million in less than five years. Then it faced backlash after discontinuing remote access to HeritageQuesst Online through genealogical society Web sites. ProQuest sold its Business Solutions division to Snap-on in October."
It remains to be seen what difference, if any, this will have on those seeking to continue, or regain, their 'at home' access to HQ through their local library. adds Drouin Collection has recently added the Drouin Collection to its growing list of genealogy databases. The Drouin Collection is said to be the largest and most valuable French-Canadian family history resource available. The collection covers the beginning of European settlement in Canada to the 1940s, and includes nearly 12 million records marking the history of Quebec families over three centuries. is currently providing all of the vital records from the Drouin Collection in scanned image format. Nominal indexing is a work in progress but has some time to go before it is completed. In the meantime the records may be searched by province, parish and/or time period. More than 95 % of the records are in French. is working with experts at the University of Montreal to produce an accurate index of French-Canadian names. It is expected the nominal index will be available later this year.

Areas included in the collection include the following:
  • Quebec Vital Records (Drouin Collection), 1621 - 1967
  • Quebec Notarial Records (Drouin Collection), 1647 - 1942
  • Acadian French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1670 - 1946
  • Ontario French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747 - 1967
  • Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1695 - 1954
  • Miscellaneous French Records (Drouin Collection), 1651 - 1941 is providing free access to records of the Drouin Collection until the end of March.

Genealogy Film Festival at 27th IAJGS International Conference

Schelly Talalay Dardashti advises that the Second Genealogy Film Festival will take place at the 27th IAJGS Internation Conference on Jewish Genealogy, 15 - 20 July 2007 in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

The 2007 Genealogy Film Festival line up, coordinated by Pamela Weisberger of Los Angeles, will screen from morning to evening. It will include educational, entertaining and illuminating films covering many geographical and genealogical subjects. In April, the complete schedule will be announced on the conference website. There will be no charge to view the films.

For all event details, online registration, the complete program schedule including some 100 speakers and 200 sessions of all types, go to

DNA testing at BCGS

In my last column I mentioned that the British Columbia Genealogical Society would be conducting some sessions for DNA testing on Friday 27 April 2007. I did not have complete information at that time and so the inclusion here of further information.

This is an opportunity to participate in submitting your DNA to the global database of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy foundation in Salt Lake City, Utah. There is no charge for this, but you will be asked to provide a PEDIGREE chart with four or more generations - all lines - of family information. The chart can be submitted on paper, or as a GEDCOM file on a disk. Testing is open to anyone over the age of 7.

Space for the BCGS sessions is limited to 20 persons per session so pre-registration is required. Those wishing to register should contact Eunice Robinson 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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