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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 05 July 2007
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles


Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this month's column include:
  • Meeting with Statistics Canada
  • Review of 'informed consent' question - a correction
  • Working with alternate characters
  • Looking for grandpa in FBI files
  • Ecclesiastical sources for Slave Societies
  • Memories of Nova Scotia
  • 'Planters and Pioneers' reprint
  • BHC documentary in the works
  • Cloverdale library offers free access to Ancestry.com


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



Meeting with Statistics Canada

On 16 July 2007, representatives of the Canadian Historical Association, along with myself will be meeting with Anil Arora, Director General, Census Program Branch, Census Manager of Statistics Canada. Representatives of the Canadian Sociological Association and the Canadian Political Science Association may be in attendance as well.

The meeting will be held in Ottawa, and the subject matter of the meeting will be the 'informed consent' question imposed on us by Bill S-18.

We are hoping that meetings with Information Commissioner Robert Marleau, and Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart can be arranged for the same time, but that has yet to be confirmed.

The timing of this meeting has not been the best for me. It means cancelling the first week of a three-week trip, travelling with my brother and sister-in-law to visit relatives in Saskatchewan. I feel strongly enough about these meetings that I am willing to do this. I expect I will be able to catch up with my brother at an RV park in Drumheller, AB.

I will keep you informed of any further developments.



Review of 'informed consent' question - a correction

In my column posted 24 April 2007 I reported on the poor positive response to the 'informed consent' question included on Canada's 2006 Census of Population. In that column I indicated that two Censuses would have to take place before a parliamentary review mandated by Bill S-18 could take place. I was mistaken.

In re-reading Bill S-18 and the Statistics Act, the applicable section states that a review of the administration and operation of the 'informed consent' question will take place "No later than two years before the taking of the third census of population ….." after the coming into effect of Bill S-18.

This wording does not specifically state that two Censuses must take place before the review can happen. In my view it does not preclude a review taking place now, before a second Census has its value as a research tool destroyed. I encourage all genealogical and historical organizations, and their members to contact our parliamentary representatives to seek support for such a review to take place now.



Working with alternate characters

At some time or other, if you have been using computers for any length of time, you will find a need to input a character or symbol that does not appear on our keyboards. For many of us this has posed a problem that on occasion has seemed insurmountable. For those of us that work mainly in Windows there have been various 'work-around' solutions, but none that appeared to have all of the characters or symbols that we would like to use.

Those of us that have been around since 'pre-Windows' days, and were used to working in DOS, have long been aware of using the 'Alt' key in conjunction with the separate keypad to enter three-digit codes that would bring up some, but not all, of the characters and symbols that we wanted. The various versions of Windows have included a Character Map in System Tools but it seems to me that the character or symbol that I am looking for is always left out. Besides that, bringing up the Character Map and selecting a character there is a lot more work that using a few keystrokes to input a character to my document.

A website produced by the 'Teaching and Learning with Technology' department of Penn State University has a web page that many will find helpful when there is a need to input foreign characters or symbols in a document. This page has a number of charts that break Alt-keypad codes into sections such as letters with accents, other foreign characters, currency symbols, math symbols and other punctuation. I have found it useful to print the various charts and keep them handy for reference when I need to input a foreign character or symbol to the document I am working on.

To use the codes to input a chosen character or symbol, hold down the ALT key while inputting the four-digit code on the separate keypad. (Using the numbers on the main keyboard does not work). Release the ALT key and the chosen character will appear in your document. A word of caution for DOS die-hards, even though the first number in the WINDOWS code always seems to be a zero, all four numbers of the code must be input on the keypad. Keying the four-digit code while holding down the ALT key will input the WINDOWS character. Leaving off the leading zero and keying only the last three digits will input a DOS character. They do not produce the same result.

For example, a character I frequently find a use for is a lower case 'acute e' (é). The three-digit DOS Alt Key code for that character is '130'. The four-digit WINDOWS code is '0233'.

Those considering putting together a non-English website might want to click the 'HOME' link on this page. Doing so will take you to a page with information links to assist in putting together such a website. I have not had time to do more than quickly peruse these links, but they look interesting - even for those considering development of a website in English.



Looking for grandpa in FBI files

Do you have an ancestor from the United States that you know, or suspect, may have had some involvement in 'shady' or questionable activities, or for other reasons may have been subject of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States? Did one of your ancestors lead an antiwar protest, smuggle booze during prohibition, or run numbers? If so you may be able to obtain a copy of an FBI file on them, should one exist, and learn a little more about your family history.

A website that I have just become aware of may help you get your ancestors FBI file, should one exist. The website is appropriately named 'Get Grandpa's FBI File', and is available at http://www.getgrandpasfbifile.com

The function of the website is to generate a Freedom of Information letter, based on information you provide regarding who you seek information on, and minimal personal information. You complete a form asking for your name, address and telephone number, and information regarding the individual you seek information about, i.e. name, aliases, date of birth, birthplace and date of death. There is a place on the form to add any other information you can provide to aid the FBI in locating the files sought. Having done all this, the next step is to print the generated letter, place it in an addressed envelope and drop it in a corner mailbox.

Assuming a file on your ancestor exists, and can be found, the first 100 pages can be obtained without charge. After 100 pages they can charge 10 cents for each additional page. As some files may be extensive you are requested to state a maximum amount you are willing to pay.

Concerned about the privacy of information you submit? Information on the site states that no private information is retained - it is removed from the server when your letter is printed.



Ecclesiastical sources for Slave Societies

Those of you who may be interested in Cuban and slave research will likely find a project by the Jean and Alexander Heard Library of the Vanderbuilt University useful. The website they have developed provides digitized photographs of documents held by various churches in Havana and Matanza, Cuba.

The opening paragraph of the description of the project states:
    "In 2003 the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a two-year Collaborative Research Grant of $150,000 to fund the project entitled "Ecclesiastical Sources and Historical Research on the African Diaspora in Brazil and Cuba." This project is advancing the study of slavery and the African diaspora by identifying, inventorying, and creating a digital archive of rich, underutilized, and at-risk ecclesiastical sources for Africans and persons of African descent in Brazil, Cuba, and the Spanish circum-Caribbean. Ecclesiastical sources are the longest serial data available for the history of Africans in the Americas, beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing through almost the end of the nineteenth century, and many are in perilous condition. Most have never been seen by scholars and if not captured quickly, will never be seen."
Quality of the available images varies. Some are very clear and readable - assuming you know the language, which I do not. Others are poor and faded, and often shows the degree of physical deterioration of documents that been retained in less than optimal conditions.



Memories of Nova Scotia

Anyone with ties to Nova Scotia, and even those who do not, will enjoy the music and scenery of a couple of Window Media Video presentations put together by Paul Landry, an elementary school teacher in Halifax.

The first is called A Taste of Cape Breton.

The second is called She's Called Nova Scotia. Rita MacNeil sings the song of the same name in the background.

Watching and listening to these well done presentations brings back memories of my altogether too brief visits to Nova Scotia - the first while stationed at RCAF Station Sydney on Cape Breton Island in 1962, and the second on a 17 week trip across Canada and the mid to upper States in 1997.

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island These video presentations included scenes taken on the Cabot Trail, a trip I did not manage during my brief time in Nova Scotia in 1962. I made certain I made up for that shortcoming on my trip in 1997. Anyone planning a trip to Nova Scotia would miss out on a great deal if they to do not include the Cabot Trail in their itinery. Also included in the presentations were scenes of the fort at Louisbourg - another place I made certain to visit in 1997.

Enjoy the presentations. I did!



'Planters and Pioneers' reprint

Researchers having ties with Nova Scotia will be familiar with a publication named 'Planters and Pioneers, Nova Scotia 1749 - 1775' by Esther Clark Wright. Many have heard of this much sought after book, but because only a few thousand were ever printed, few researchers have a copy of their own.

This book contains years of research by Dr. Wright to determine pre-loyalist and early European settlers in Nova Scotia. It includes more than 25,000 names gathered from township records, registry of deeds, probate records, county and local histories, census records, family histories, genealogies, and so forth. This is a unique work with virtually no others existing like it. I am not certain when the original edition was published but there was a revised edition published in 1982. Dr. Wright had hoped to publish future editions but the work ended with her passing in 1990.

In a recent post to the Nova Scotia mail list, Justin Wentzell of Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia, has announced plans for a limited edition reprint of the 1982 Revised edition of 'Planters and Pioneers'. The book will be available in both print and 'electronic' formats. Requests for pre-order sales have been so great that Justin has just announced that savings approaching 50 percent of the originally announced price will be realized.

To order your copy of 'Planters and Pioneers', or for more information, contact Justin at info@plantersandpioneers.com.

Justin had announced a website to provide information regarding the book and how to order. As of this writing however, there is only the bare framework of a page whose work is in progress. It is my assumption that Justin is too busy taking orders to work on the website.



BHC documentary in the works

A picture of children taken by Dr Barnardo - 19th century In a recent post to the British Home Children mail list Leslea Mair, a documentary filmmaker, and descendent of a BHC "Barnardo's boy", announced intentions to make a documentary about descendents of British Home Children attempting to make contact with relatives of their ancestor in England. She indicated that she has support from a national broadcaster.

Leslea is looking for people willing to allow her and a small camera crew to follow their journey through their search for information and accompany them to England to meet their relatives. She believes this documentary will be a vehicle to tell the story of the British Home Children and their descendents in Canada. She feels it has potential for not only national broadcast in Canada, but possibly in the UK and beyond as well.

If you are interested in participating in this project, and are planning or would like to plan to travel to England next spring or summer, contact Leslea at leslea@zootcapri.com



Cloverdale library offers free access to Ancestry.com

The Cloverdale branch of the Surrey Public Library (in British Columbia) has announced that they now offer free access to the online Ancestry Library Edition. This International version includes resources for British and American research, a wealth of digitized images, and the world's largest, online Canadian collection of genealogy records. Unfortunately, it is available in the library only, and is not available for remote at home access.



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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