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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 26 February 2010
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this column include:
  • Modernization at Library and Archives Canada
  • My personal 'brick wall'
  • New at UK National Archives

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

Modernization at Library and Archives Canada

Those who regularly access the websites of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will be aware that LAC is seeking to "modernize" their operation to come into line with today's greater demand for online digital materials. In recent years LAC has partnered with various resource providers in order to expedite provision of those digital materials most frequently requested. It is obvious however, that demand is rapidly outstripping the resources and ability of LAC alone to meet that increasing demand. In this regard, LAC states "There is a growing awareness that there is too much content for one institution to address alone, and that collaboration among memory institutions is essential."

In an effort to meet today's information provision challenges, LAC states that they are "developing a new framework based on three pillars of documentary heritage: acquisition, preservation and resource discovery. The framework will be based on four guiding principles designed to assess the value of acquisitions: Significance, Sufficiency and Sustainability and Society. Consultations on the framework and other new approaches are currently underway, setting the stage for ongoing collaboration among actors who share similar goals".

(Read more on "Modernization @ LAC")

In regards the 'consultations' mentioned above, I have recently become aware that Professor Terry Cook has been contracted by LAC to conduct surveys of archivists and historical researchers and their respective communities. Prior to the surveys currently being conducted by Professor Cook, it is my understanding that an earlier survey was conducted among librarians and their professional associations.

I have some concerns that what is conceivably the largest group of researchers involved, having a vital interest in the collections, operations and future direction of Library and Archives Canada, appears to be excluded from these surveys. I refer, of course, to the large community of genealogists and family history researchers in Canada and elsewhere.

Professor Cook has indicated that "a separate initiative will involve genealogists". To date however, I am not aware of anyone in the genealogical community that has been contacted in regards to any such "initiative". If any of my readers are aware of any such "initiatives" regarding genealogists and family history researchers, I would appreciate being so advised.

I have written a letter to Mr. Daniel J. Caron, Librarian and Archivist Canada, expressing my concern in this matter, and asking to be advised as to when, and by what means, genealogists and family historians might be solicited for their input regarding "Modernization @ LAC". I will advise in a future column as to what response I receive.

My personal 'brick wall'

Anyone involved in genealogy will know about "hitting a brick wall". To most people the meaning of the phrase is obvious - that they have reached a point in their research where it seems that they can go no further. On the one hand, brick walls can sometimes take days, weeks, months, years, or even decades to overcome, if ever. On the other hand, the Internet, and increasing availability of online digital resources, can sometimes serve to batter down those brick walls quite quickly.

I became involved in genealogy somewhere around 1990. On my mother's paternal line (PERRIN) and maternal line (CAMERON) I was fortunate in getting a 'jump start' because of information received from relatives who had collected ancestors before me. One of the first things that I discovered from this information was that the woman who sparked my interest in genealogy, and who I had known for some 14 or so years, turned out to be a fourth cousin through our mutual connection with George FARNELL (b. 29 April 1759 in Yorkshire, England). I have added considerably to the brief information available to me at that time, taking the PERRIN line back to about 1720, and the CAMERON line back to about 1735.

On the WATTS side however, I was not as fortunate, having gone back only as far on my father's paternal line as my great great grandfather William WATTS. I knew only his name, and could only guess at where and when he was born. I had assumed his birth to be about 1820. I had no information regarding who he had married, and knew about only one of several children - my great grandfather Philip WATTS. Through the 1881 UK Census, I knew who Philip had married and that they were living, with two children, in the house of William BRIGHT, my great grandmothers father. My grandfather Fred WATTS was born shortly after the 1881 Census was taken. My father's maternal line of DAVIS was no better, only going back as far as my grandmother's parents. My mother had stated that she knew no one who knew less about their ancestry than my father's family. This therefore, was my personal 'brick wall' and until pursuing the contact mentioned in my column of 9 November 2009 I had no idea regarding how I would break it down.

Caris Sofia Watts
Born 11 February 2010
My contact in England had provided me with a link between my gggrandfather William WATTS and his father Robert WATTS, as well as some other WATTS information. While doing some online research on the names provided by my contact, I found information posted by Peter Claydon, someone I have known for a number of years through my membership in the British Columbia Genealogy Society. While I knew that Peter had done some WATTS research, until now I had been unable to find any link between us.

I spent several days extracting the WATTS information that Peter had posted to the Internet, and consolidating it with my own information and that of my contact in England. I have compiled this information in a Family Tree Maker file, separate from my main database, and have printed a descendency chart from the resulting file. While much remains to be done, verifying the new individuals in my combined file, when all is said and done it appears that Peter Claydon and myself will end up being fifth cousins. Our closest common relatives are Edward WATTS, born before 22 Jul 1744, and Ann LEWINGTON, born before 06 Nov 1743. Both were born in Ramsbury, Wiltshire, England. They were married 12 Sep 1770 in Mildenhall, Wiltshire, England. It would appear that my major brick wall has started to tumble.

As much as I am excited about the number of WATTS ancestors I have added to my genealogy, it does not match the excitement regarding the latest addition to my own descendency. My newest granddaughter, Caris Sofia WATTS, was born at 4:53 pm Thursday 11 February 2010. Six pounds, fifteen ounces, with a nice head of dark hair that comes from her mother. Since starting to write this article I have traveled to Calgary and have been able to see her first hand, and to hold her when she was only eight days old.

New at UK National Archives

Do you have UK ancestors that you think may have been born, married, or died while at sea? If so, you will be interested in newly scanned BMD records produced by the UK National Archives, together with partner Previously available only on microfilm at the National Archives you are now able to search online for over 150,000 individuals who were passengers at sea between 1854 and 1908. I would encourage anyone accessing this site to take advantage of the Guide to BMD Registers. This handy guide gives brief explanations on what types of records are held in each Register, i.e. RG4 through RG8, RG32 through RG36, and BT Series. First time users of these Registers may find the information located here useful as well.

In addition to the above, you may also search passenger lists from 1890 to 1960 at to find if your ancestor went to sea . Lists available here include the names of immigrants, emigrants, businessmen, diplomats and tourists and can be searched by name, destination, port of departure and ship name.

Searching for ancestors who have served in the military is not always the easiest thing to do. For those who have ancestors that served in the Royal Navy you can now search and download over 600,000 service records for most ratings who joined between 1853 and 1923. These records are found in the Registers of Seamen's Services (ADM 188 - 1873 to 1923) and the Continuous Service Engagement Books (ADM 139 - 1853 to 1872). For service up to 1928 these records can tell you about your ancestor's birth, physical appearance, occupation, and on which ship they served.

Visit the UK National Archives - Documents On Line web page to start your search through these databases and others records.

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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