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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 19 December 2007
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this column include:
  • Library and Archives Canada (LAC) - Services Advisory Board

  • Canada-wide Genealogy Association

  • More about the former Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies (CFGFHS)

  • More grave marker photos on line
  • Merry Christmas

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

LAC - Services Advisory Board

On 30 November 2007 I had the honour to be one of 25 individuals in attendance at the inaugural meeting of the Library and Archives Services Advisory Board. Those attending this meeting were representatives from various user communities across Canada. They included a representative from The Canadian Press, representatives from various universities, libraries, archives, and genealogical and family history societies, as well as a few individuals with no stated affiliations. When asked how those invited to participate on the SAB were chosen we were advised that all were known to be users of the facilities of LAC and that all had at some time or other expressed concerns regarding the operation of those facilities.

Following validation of the Board's membership and Terms of Reference, members were provided with background information on LAC's strategic choices and overall financial picture. It was confirmed that the major reason for the unwelcome changes in manned service hours were budgetary. Members were given a presentation showing financial estimates and costs involved in restoring different LAC services. Following considerable discussion, the following items received broad consensus by members of the board:
  • The recent restoration of evening hours and additional weekend hours were a good first step.
  • The current six hours a day during which LAC staff provides services are not sufficient.
  • To consider different service hours related to time of day and number of points of service available.
  • Users should have access to a greater range of activities when staff are not in the reference and consultation rooms, for example, self-serve copying.
  • LAC needs to provide improved access to finding aids.
  • Users consider quality of service equally important to the amount of time during which access to the collections is provided. There should be a review of the number and types of tasks that staff is reasonably expected to manage to maintain a satisfactory level of service.
As promised, on 13 December 2007 LAC placed a summary of the meeting on their website. This summary currently appears under the 'What's New' heading. I would prefer to see items dealing with the SAB in a separate section having a link in the main web page sidebar. This would allow past minutes and other articles dealing with the SAB to be viewed without having to scroll through volumes of items in 'What's New'.

All things considered, it is my feeling that the institution of the Services Advisory Board has been a good thing. LAC administration appears sincere in their desire to see the consultative process succeed, and to follow up on advice given by the board.

The next meeting of the SAB is expected to take place near the end of February, or beginning of March, 2008. Prior to that happening however, the second part of LAC's new public consultation process will take place. In January, LAC will conduct the first of what is expected to be a continuing public consultation on a variety of subjects. The public will be invited to participate in person, through the Internet, by mail or on the telephone. All Canadians, wherever they are located and whatever their interest in the LAC Collection, will have the opportunity to provide their views on how LAC can best deliver the service potion of its mandate.

Canada-wide Genealogy Association

In my last column I posed the question of whether or not it was time to form a Canada-wide Genealogy Association. I asked a number of questions relating to the possible formation of such an association. While the response to those questions was not exactly overwhelming, the responses received were mostly favourable. A few made some constructive suggestions.

While in Ottawa for the LAC SAB meeting, I met informally for dinner with John D. Reid (BIFHSGO), Louise St. Denis (National Institute for Genealogical Studies), and Glenn T. Wright (consultant historian and former archivist with LAC). John had invited those available SAB members involved in genealogy to meet for a no-host dinner to discuss ideas and possibilities relating to a Canada Genealogy Association.

No earth shaking decisions were made, and although we were in agreement regarding a need for a Canada-wide Genealogy Association, we had a few different ideas on how to achieve that goal. We did agree that it was something that would not happen overnight, that it would have to start out small and build from there. There was agreement that a good start would be to have a committee attached to the Canadian Historical Association.

More about the former Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies (CFGFHS)

Following the posting of my last column, and the article referring to the Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies, the following information was received from Brenda Dougall Merriman, CG, a past President of that organization:
    "The former Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Societies was formed on 15 August 1986 in Brandon, Manitoba. Its website was posted in 1998 but has not been maintained.

    The Federation originated among prairie societies and some of the early leaders were Dirk Hoogeveen (Regina), Laura Turnbull (Grande Prairie), and Bob Pittendrigh (Regina). By 1987 the steering committee became Ruth Breckman (Winnipeg) and Joan Benoit (Montreal), while Ryan Taylor was the first newsletter editor.

    We had strong support from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and some groups in BC. Annual meetings were held in conjunction with various society events in different provinces. In the spring of 1990 the Federation had 46 society members (including branches of larger societies) and 43 individual newsletter subscribers.

    Presidents were Ruth Breckman (Mnaitoba) 1988-1989, Dolores Christie (Alberta) 1990-1991, Brenda Dougall Merriman (Ontario) 1992-1993, Harry Skene acting president (Manitoba) 1994-1996.

    The acting president's final message in the last issue of the newsletter (Winter 1996-97) outlined some of the problems that plagued the organization at that time:
    • Distance and travel costs for volunteer board members made it increasingly difficult to hold meetings once a year with a quorum.
    • Member societies were no longer nominating volunteers for board positions.
    • Membership was dropping.
    • A new direction for the Federation might best serve its members as an information-sharing organization, with further exploration of electronic means.
The lack of volunteers apparently stalled that further "exploration" just as the electronic age was becoming a fact of every day life. It seems clear that the Federation was not a priority among most member societies by the mid-1990s, probably for a number of mixed reasons.

The Federation recognized and always believed that a vital link was essential, in some form, to unite Canadian societies in common causes. Many people put heartfelt effort into the organization over its 12+ years of existence. I salute them all, with fond memories. Now it's time, and who can argue, for a revitalized effort.

Perhaps others who participated in "CanFed" can add to this."

More grave marker photos on line

Subsequent to my last column, and the article relating to Murray Pletsch's 'Northern Ontario Gravemarker Gallery' I received the following information:
    Dave Cooper has advised regarding his project started in 1999 and placed online in January 2000. Located at, this project concentrates on the cemeteries of Oxford County, Ontario. Dave reports that he has been unable to find any help to take photographs and has essentially been working on this project on his own. Anyone willing to assist Dave should contact him at

    For cemeteries in Newfoundland, visit the StonePics website. This website claims to have location information for 1700 cemeteries of Newfoundland, including exact latitude and longitude, and a total of 177 different CD volumes, available for purchase, containing the digital photographs of headstones and monuments from which the database information was taken.

Merry Christmas

This column will be the last I write for the year 2007. In a few days I will be traveling to Calgary to spend Christmas with my son and his two girls. I have already had a dinner gathering for family and friends at my home in Port Coquitlam.

As I do each year at this time, it being the season, I wish each of my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I have never been a fan of so-called 'political correctness'. For the 66 years of my existence, my greeting for this season has been, and will remain, 'Merry Christmas'. I take no offence when I hear others greet me differently, and have yet to personally meet anyone who took offence when I greeted them in my traditional way. I have been pleased this year to see even more retailers once again wishing shoppers 'Merry Christmas' rather than saying 'Holiday Greetings'.

Whether you say 'Merry Christmas', 'Happy Hanukkah', or whatever other greeting your tradition or faith might suggest, I wish each and every one of you the very best. I wish for you, what you wish for me.

If you are traveling to be with family or friends for the Holidays, I urge you to do safely. Take the time to arrive safely, and to return home the same way. A few minutes, or hours, difference in travel time is not worth the heartache and suffering that could result from being involved in an accident because you are in a hurry.

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.

Canadian Genealogy & History Resources from Global Genealogy:

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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
(Pontiac County, Quebec)

The Merivale Cemeteries
(Protestant - Ottawa area)