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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 30 November 2007
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this column include:
  • Time for a Canada-wide Genealogy Association?

  • Revised hours of service at Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

  • Grave marker photos on line

  • Welcome to small and special

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

Time for a Canada-wide Genealogy Association?

A number of times during our lengthy campaign to regain public access to Post-1901 Census records it was suggested to me that there was a need for a Canada-wide umbrella organization to represent genealogists and family historians, and their various regional societies. The idea being that such an organization could promote issues of common interest, such as the release of Census records, and lobby the government on those issues.

It was also suggested that should such an organization come into being, I should be the one to head it up. This was not however, something that I wanted to take on. I felt then, and I feel now, that whoever heads up such an organization should live in the Ottawa area so as to have easier access to those federal politicians we hoped to persuade to our points of view. I live on the West Coast, near Vancouver, and I am not willing to move away from family and friends. I feel also that the leader of such an organization should be more politically astute than I am. Politically speaking, I am essentially a one-issue person - that issue being public access to historic census records.

The idea of a Canada-wide umbrella organization for genealogists and family historians is a great one. It is not, however, a new idea. There has been such an organization in the past, i.e. the Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies (CFGFHS). For some time I had been aware that such an organization had existed, but until recently was unaware what it had been called. It would seem however, that even though it existed, it barely got off the ground before it folded. According to it's website (formed in 1998) there were only 12 member societies, and the last update to the website was 26 October 1998 -- a point in time when our Census campaign was just barely getting started. There was a link on the website to the Post-1901 Census Project website, but little else. In viewing the website it would seem that it had been set up simply as a central point for exchange of information between member societies. There was no indication that it was intended to be a voice to speak on behalf of those societies.

Recent attempts to contact anyone connected to the CFGFHS met with failure. Apparently, it was legally wound up some time in late 2005 or early 2006, with whatever assets there were being distributed among the few participating groups. In 1998 the formation of the CFGFHS may have been an idea whose time had yet to come. At that time they may have had no idea of the potential communication power of the Internet, and email, for a network of like-minded societies. Our Census campaign however, demonstrated that power beyond doubt.

It has recently been suggested that perhaps the time has now come to bring together Canada's genealogists and family historians in an organization able to speak to concerns of a Canada-wide scope. It has been further suggested that such an organization might be set up as an affiliated committee of the Canadian Historical Association (CHA). The CHA is a well-established and respected organization that since 1922 has represented the interests of historians and the heritage community to government, archive, granting and other agencies.

September 2007
John D. Reid - BIFHSGO
On Friday 16 November 2007, John D. Reid of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) attended a CHA Council meeting to put forth the idea of putting together an organization of genealogists and family historians that would be affiliated to the CHA. I am advised that a number of CHA Council members have responded positively to this suggestion, and that John received a sympathetic hearing when meeting with the Council. I personally think the idea of a Canada-wide organization for genealogists is a good idea, and one whose time has perhaps come at last. I think that if it were put forth as an offshoot of an established organization such as the CHA it would have a good chance at success.

Putting such an idea forth however, and having it acted upon are two far different things. Before anything can be done to form such an association representing the interests of genealogical and family history groups there is much work to be done, and many questions that need to be answered. Not the least of these questions is whether or not the proposed membership of such an organization, i.e. provincial and regional genealogy and family history societies, and individuals, would be interested in joining it.

With that in mind, I would like to hear from individuals and representatives of the various genealogy and family history societies from across Canada. I would like to know your thoughts regarding the possible formation of an association intended to support, educate and speak out regarding Canada-wide concerns of genealogists and family historians. Would you, or the society you belong to, be likely to participate in such a venture? If so, what subjects and/or issues would you suggest such an organization consider supporting?

An association such as that being suggested cannot exist without people to run it. What kind of administrative structure would you or your society find most useful? What kind of staff would you consider necessary to achieve the goals of genealogists and family historians, i.e. volunteer, part-time paid, or ?????

Finally, and perhaps the most important consideration - what financial resources would you, as an individual, or as a member of a group, be willing to contribute to sustain a Canada-wide association of genealogists and family historians. This would likely be in the form of an annual membership for individuals and/or groups.

Send me your thoughts on this. Click here to send me an e-mail with a subject line of 'Canada-wide Association of Genealogists'.

Revised hours of service at Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

Those who do personal research in person at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa will be pleased that hours of service there have been revised once again - this time positively. On Friday 23 November 2007 the following notice regarding hours of service was posted on the "What's New" page of the Library and Archives website:
    Effective Monday, November 26, 2007, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will reinstate the following hours of service at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa: early morning hours, all of the evening hours, and some additional weekend hours. In addition, LAC will reinstate some of the hours during which services are provided by LAC staff. In order to do so in the most effective manner, LAC wishes to obtain the advice of the new LAC Services Advisory Board (SAB), drawn from its client communities, before undertaking these further changes to hours of service. The scope of and options for further changes will be discussed at the first SAB meeting on November 30, 2007, in Ottawa.

    As of Monday, November 26, 2007, the Consultation Rooms and the Canadian Genealogy Centre on the third floor, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, will be open for the following hours:

    • Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. - 11 p.m.
         With LAC Service Staff available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Saturday - Sunday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
    • Statutory Holidays: Closed

    Users will have access to the finding aids and collections located in these areas during all of the above hours.
I will be attending the SAB meeting mentioned above on 30 November 2007, and will report on the results of that meeting in my next column. As indicated in the 'Terms of Reference' for the Library and Archives Canada Services Advisory Board, minutes of the meeting will also be documented and posted publicly.

Grave marker photos on line

For a number of years, Murray Pletsch has maintained the 'Northern Ontario Gravemarker Gallery', a website dedicated to placing online pictures of gravemarkers erected in cemeteries of Northern Ontario. According to a recent posting to the Northern-Ontario-Cemeteries mail list (Rootsweb) it would seem that Murray, in response to requests from individuals in other provinces, is branching out. Murray states that he is developing a new website, to be at, on which he will be able to accommodate gravemarker photographs from cemeteries anywhere in Canada.

To that end Murray states "If you have family or friends across Canada who may be interested in photographing their local cemeteries, please pass on this information. If you are interested in your local cemeteries going online, please contact me at".

Murray places only completed cemeteries online, i.e. those for which all headstones have been photographed. Those placed online will be searchable, or you can browse through thumbnail pictures that can be enlarged by clicking on them. Quality of those pictures I viewed was good. The intention is that the search indexes will be 'spousal duplicated', i.e. pictures of gravemarkers with more than one name will be duplicated and searchable under both (or more) names.

Creation of the Canadian Gravemarker Gallery promises to be a potentially massive project, requiring the help of a great many volunteers. If you are interested in assisting in this project, I urge you to contact Murray (at the email address above) prior to going out with your camera. According to his FAQ for the Northern Ontario Gravemarker Gallery, he will send you a "Tips and Hints" information package, to explain the intricacies in photographing entire cemeteries. These tips will save a lot of work by informing you what resolution to set on their cameras, how close to stand from tombstones, highlighting inscriptions...etc.

We commend Murray for taking on this project, and wish him luck (and many volunteers) in developing it. I look forward to watching its progress.

Welcome to small and special

"Small and Special is a collection of resources relating to the early years of The Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, England's first in-patient children's hospital. Here you can trace a patient, learn about childhood diseases, or investigate a member of the medical staff.

Small and Special includes a database of patient admission records - from the Hospital's first in-patient in 1852 to the last admission in 1914; a collection of articles on the early history of the Hospital and pen-portraits of the Hospital's personalities; and a gallery of images."

The above paragraphs appear on the opening page of Small and Special, a project, launched in 2001, that is the result of a partnership between Kingston University's Centre for Local History Studies and the Museum and Archives Department of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust.

The Admission Registers of the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, from its opening in February 1852 until December 31st 1914, form the core of the project. There are a reported 84,000 records in the database. Each entry gives the child's name, age (in years and months), sex, and address. Further columns give diagnosis, which can include as many as four separate conditions, date of admission into the hospital and date of attack.

There are two methods of searching the database - a 'quick search' that, if only a surname is given, will give a maximum of 20 results even though there may be more results available. Although not immediately obvious, each name listed in the search results is a link that can be clicked to bring up the record for that individual. The quick search will give only the basic patient information. To obtain the full record it is necessary to register, after which you can see all records resulting from a search - not just the 20 allowed with the quick search. Registration is free, and there is no charge for accessing any of the available records.

According to information on the website existing records will be complemented at a later date by Registers of Cromwell House, the hospital's convalescent home, from 1869 until December 1910.

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".

To view back issues of Gordon Watt's columns, visit Gordon's biography page where all of his archives articles are available.

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