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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 22 October 2009
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this column include:
  • I'm back!
  • Odds and ends at Library and Archives Canada
  • New Version of the Canadian Naturalization 1915-1932 Database
  • 1891 Census of Canada
  • Library and Archives Canada - Services Advisory Board

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

I'm back

It has been some time since my last column was published. It has not been because of a lack of things to write about, because in the last several months there have been many items of interest for those involved in genealogy or family history. The major problem has been a lack of enthusiasm on my part, perhaps a bout of "writer's block" relating to the main thrust of my column, coupled with extensive final preparations for a 50-year reunion for the Class of 1959 Grads of Burnaby South High School.

I started working on this reunion about April of 2006 -- more than three years ago. The last reunion of this class had been for twenty-five years, back in October of 1984. My initial efforts were concentrated on locating those former classmates that I knew how to contact, asking if they would be interested in having a 50-year Grad reunion. I asked them to provide information for fellow grads that they had remained in contact with. I was eventually able to obtain information on roughly two-thirds of the 426 people in my graduation class. Not all of them were interested in having a reunion, but there were sufficient to make me believe it was a worthwhile effort.

Two years after starting to locate former classmates, a committee was formed and preparations for the reunion began in earnest. Discussions were held relating to what form the reunion should take, where and when it would be held, what kind of menu to have, whether or not to have a band in attendance, or to simply provide the opportunity for old friends and classmates to reunite after being so long apart.

Different members of the committee took on specific tasks, such as choosing a location for the reunion, negotiating for the best deal with the hotel management, arranging for floral table centerpieces, contacting the Mayor of Burnaby to obtain a letter of congratulations to the attending grads, and other tasks necessary to producing a successful function. I had my own pet projects on the go, including designing and producing photographic nametags, and putting together a souvenir Reunion Booklet.

The Reunion Booklet included a picture of the school as it appeared when we graduated in 1959, a copy of the letter from the current Mayor of Burnaby, and a list of awards received by members of the graduating class. The highlight of the booklet was a section that included "then" pictures scanned from our class annual book, current headshot pictures, and brief biographies provided by almost all of the grads attending. The booklet included photographic sections to "remember" fifty-one grads known to be deceased, and the teachers that guided us through to graduation. Also included was a directory of contact information for all of the grads we were able to locate.

The culmination of our efforts took place at the Burnaby Delta Hotel and Convention Centre on 23 May 2009. There were 171 people registered, including 120 Grads, 44 spouses/partners, and seven of our former teachers. Grads began arriving for an informal reception at 4:00 PM, when they were checked in and received their name-tags and souvenir booklets. A cash bar was available, and hot and cold appetizers were served by circulating hotel staff. Several displays included class photographs from Burnaby South feeder schools going back to Grade 1. A buffet dinner was served at 7:00 PM. After dinner, members of the Reunion Committee, and the teachers who accepted invitations to be our guests were introduced. An open mike was provided where a number of amusing anecdotes about our school days were related, and finally 25 lucky Grads had their names drawn for door prizes. By all accounts, everyone had a good time, and look forward to having another reunion in five years.

Odds and ends at Library and Archives Canada

As indicated above, a number of things have happened since my last column was published. Perhaps the most significant of those has been the retirement of Ian Wilson, National Librarian and Archivist, on 24 April 2009. Mr. Wilson was appointed as National Archivist in 1999 and was subsequently appointed as National Librarian and Archivist, when the two institutions were integrated in 2004. Mr. Wilson was supportive of our efforts during our eight-year campaign to regain public access to historic Census records.

Dr. Daniel J. Caron
Librarian and Archivist of Canada
Although retired from Library and Archives Canada, Mr. Wilson remains active as President of the International Council of Archives, and intends to continue working on projects of interest to libraries and archives.

Subsequent to Mr. Wilson's retirement, the federal government announced the appointment, effective 27 April 2009, of Dr. Daniel J. Caron as his successor. Prior to his appointment as National Librarian and Archivist, Dr. Caron had a 27-year career within the federal public service, holding numerous positions. He has been with Library and Archives Canada since it was formed, and with National Archives of Canada before that. Dr. Caron's most recent position was as Senior Assistant Deputy Minister.

One of the first moves of the new Librarian and Archivist of Canada was to appoint Ms. Marie- Josée Martel as Assistant Deputy Minister for the Programs and Services Sector. Ms. Martel came to Library and Archives Canada in September 2008 from Treasury Board Secretariat where she was Executive Director, Service Sector. For the past year she has been focused on advancing the Canada Project and other digital activities.

Ms. Martel assumed her new duties effective 4 May 2009. As part of those new duties she has taken on the position of Chair of the Services Advisory Board. Founding Chair of the SAB, Doug Rimmer, has assumed new duties as Assistant Deputy Minister of the Documentary Heritage Collection Sector.

New Version of the Canadian Naturalization 1915-1932 Database

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has announced the release of a new version of the Canadian Naturalization 1915-1932 online database. It contains 206,731 names of individuals who applied for and received status as naturalized Canadians from 1915 to 1932. One of the few Canadian genealogical resources specifically designed to benefit those researchers with roots outside of the British Commonwealth, references located in the database can be used to request copies of the actual naturalization records held by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The database is available here

In putting this database together Library and Archives Canada was assisted by volunteers of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal, and by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Ottawa, who were involved in the original digitization of the images.

1891 Census of Canada

1891 census page
In February, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), with the assistance of, added the 1891 Census of Canada to the list of Censuses that are available online. The 1891 was the third national Census since Canada was formed, and collected information for Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia , New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia and the North-West Territories. The North-West Territories then covered much of the country that is now included by Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, northern Ontario, northern Quebec, Labrador, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

Original schedules are available online, and include information regarding names, age, country or province of birth, country or province of birth of father and mother, nationality, religion, and occupations.

I spent a brief period searching the database. For names I was seeking, the search engine worked well. For the most part, I found the quality of the images to be good, although the first few images I pulled up were quite dark. Of course, there is the never-ending problem of trying to decipher some of the handwriting, but that is something we are unlikely ever to avoid when viewing scans of older handwritten documents. A new feature with the release of this database allows visitors to suggest a correction to a record. There are links for viewing the scanned images in either PDF or JPG formats.

Search the 1891 Census of Canada now.

Library and Archives Canada - Services Advisory Board

The first meeting of the LAC - Services Advisory Board was held, almost two years ago, on 30 November 2007. The formation of this body came about as a result of many complaints and concerns expressed, initially regarding a reduction in the hours of operation at the LAC building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. The major complaint was that this reduction in service was being instituted without there having been any known public consultations.

As a result of the concerns expressed, LAC extended an invitation for its clients to attend an informal discussion where they would have the opportunity to ask questions and obtain explanations on the changes related to client services. That discussion took place on 19 September 2007 at the LAC building. Organizers of the session were surprised at the numbers attending, particularly since notice of the session had been made only by posters put up in the LAC building. There was insufficient seating available to accommodate all of the 55 to 60 people attending.

Those in attendance expressed several concerns relating to a reduction in the hours of service before branching out to include a number of general complaints about LAC. There were a number of unfavourable comparisons with other archives and libraries regarding hours of service, evening hours with full service, better microfilm readers and generally better service. Organizers of the session made it clear to those attending that none of the decision makers were in attendance. They did, however, give assurances that concerns expressed during the session would be raised with senior management.

Senior management of LAC obviously paid attention to the concerns expressed, both at the aforementioned meeting, and through letters and email that they had solicited for opinions. On 5 October 2007, LAC announced its intention to establish a two part process of public consultation on the delivery of its public services. First of these two parts was the creation of the LAC Services Advisory Board to be composed of representatives of user communities across the country. Its mandate was to consider issues directly related to the services aspect of LAC's mandate. The SAB would meet three or four times a year, either face to face at various locations, or by teleconference. Over the past two years, the mandate of the SAB has been expanded, and two sub-committees have been formed to study and make recommendations to the main body regarding specific aspects of LAC's operations.

The second part of the process was a promise by LAC to conduct regular public consultations, on a continuing basis, on a variety of topics. Feedback for these consultations would be gathered in person, through the Internet, by mail and by telephone. At the moment, I cannot state with any certainty how many further public meetings have been held, but I am aware that from time to time, users of LAC's online facilities are requested to complete a survey about their online experience.

I am happy to say that on the whole, I believe the consultation processes described above have been more than moderately successful. The original concerns regarding hours of service were listened to. Where changes could be made, within the constraints of budget considerations, the hours were adjusted in an effort to accommodate the needs of all onsite clients. Since then, LAC has responded to SAB suggestions regarding updating and maintaining various equipment (photocopiers and film printers etc.), use of cameras and personal computers, updating of user aides, updating and digitization of databases, changes to client registration procedures and user agreements, acquisition of materials, and many other topics. I look forward to attending the next meeting on 27 November, 2009.

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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