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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 29 March 2010
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles

Gordon A. Watts
Topics in this column include:
  • US to destroy 2010 Census records?
  • 2010 - The Year of the British Home Child
  • Canada Post to issue stamp commemorating Canada's British Home Children

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

US to destroy 2010 Census records?

In the United States, personal information from Census has traditionally been made available to the public, with great fanfare, 72 years following collection. This has been possible initially because the paper forms on which the information was collected were retained. Later, Census records were microfilmed and retained in that form while the original paper forms may or may not have been destroyed. In recent years however, the trend in at least the UK, the United States, and Canada has been to retain digitally scanned images of the original Census forms so that when finally released, researchers could view an image of the original document. Availability of scanned images has been a boon to researchers - not only for Census records but also for records of virtually every description.

While I have only just become aware of it, for some time there has apparently been a rumour going around that the US Census Bureau and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had reached an agreement that the 2010 Census forms would not be retained by NARA. In an article published on the website of the Cape Cod Genealogical Society, Robert Ward, President of the society states that the US Census Bureau and the National Archives have agreed to destroy the 2010 Census forms, without scanning and retention, following statistical compilation of the collected data. The implication of this is that 72 years from now, no images would be available to those seeking to use them for research.

NARA however, states that this is not going to happen. On a website hosted by NARA, Paul Wester, head of the Modern Records Programs at NARA, states the following: (emphasis mine)
    "NARA has not officially received and registered a proposed records retention schedule from the Census Bureau for the 2010 census. ……… However, NARA staff members have been holding preliminary discussions with the Census Bureau about a draft retention schedule for records of the 2010 census.

    The 2010 census is planned as an all-electronic census which will affect the format in which permanent records are preserved. The Census Bureau will scan the respondent questionnaires as part of its business process for compiling the census. The draft schedule calls for the permanent retention of the scanned digital images. These scanned images are the 21st century equivalent to the microfilm copies of census forms generated for previous decennial censuses.

    In addition, the Census Bureau is also proposing permanent retention for the unedited file containing response data, with linkage information to the scanned images. This means that once the census is opened to the public 72 years from the enumeration date of the 2010 census, genealogists will have two means of searching for their ancestors. They can search the database, which will contain all the data (including names and addresses) from the respondent forms. They can also use the database to locate and retrieve images of the forms themselves.

    Once the Census Bureau submits the final schedule and the records have been appraised by NARA, NARA will publish notice of the schedule in the Federal Register, enabling the public to obtain and comment on the schedule. In the meantime, NARA will continue to work closely with the Census Bureau to ensure that the schedule meets the needs of genealogists and other researchers who will make use of information and data from the census."
It would appear that fears the US 2010 Census records would be destroyed and thus be unavailable 72 years in the future are unfounded. While the paper schedules themselves may be destroyed, digital images of them will be retained and will be available in the future.

2010 - The Year of the British Home Child

While there has been little or no publicity regarding it, at least that I have seen, on Monday 7 December 2009 the House of Commons of Canada passed a motion declaring 2010 to be the Year of the British Home Child. Mr. Phil McColeman (Brant, CPC) moved "That, in the opinion of the House, the government should designate 2010 as The Year of the British Home Child across Canada". Following debate in which twelve Members of Parliament spoke to the Motion (all positively) the Speaker asked for and was given unanimous consent of the House to adopt the motion.

On 26 January 2010, Jason Kenney - Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, formally announced that the Government of Canada had designated 2010 the Year of the British Home Child. In so doing he stated "Designating 2010 as the Year of the British Home Child is a meaningful way to acknowledge this chapter of Canadian History. The Government of Canada recognizes the hardships suffered by British Home Children and their perseverance and courage in overcoming those hardships. Over the next year, the Government of Canada will honour the great strength and determination of this group of child immigrants, and reflect on the tremendous contributions made by former Home Children and their descendants to the building of Canada." The full text of the announcement by Minister Kenney can be viewed here.

On 17 March 2010, the Honourable Gerry St. Germain, Senator for British Columbia (Langley-Pemberton-Whistler) addressed the Senate regarding his personal BHC connection to his maternal grandfather. He called for the Senate to consider recognizing the historical significance and contributions of the British Home Children (or "Little Immigrants") to Canada.

While there are no doubt others to be found, at least one website has noted the Year of the British Home Child designation. I refer to the website for British Home Children Descendants. Those seeking information regarding their own BHC ancestors, or who simply wish to link up with other BHC researchers, may find it worthwhile to visit this site. It includes a tribute page where members can leave their name, the name of their BHC and a brief message regarding them. There is a page for articles relating to BHC, and there is a Query Board that includes a number of forums intended to help researchers in their quest to find BHC ancestors and research interests. Included also are links to other websites relating to BHC and to items relating to BHC in art, film and literature. While much of the content here is available only to members, some is accessible to non-members as well. There is no cost to register as a member.

In 1994, a reunion of Home Children and their descendants was held at the former St. George's Home in Ottawa. At the end of the reunion David Lorente, founder of Home Children Canada, was presented with the painting represented here. David had earlier solicited ideas for a crest design suitable for use as a pin or crest that a Home Child or descendant could wear with pride. In David's mind this one was a winner.

Each part of the crest represents something relevant to those British Home Children who came to Canada. You can check out the explanation of each part on the British Home Children Descendants website.

Canada Post to issue stamp commemorating Canada's British Home Children

As part of their 2010 Stamp Program, Canada Post has announced their intention to issue a stamp commemorating Canada's British Home Children. Their announcement stated "From 1869 to the 1930's, close to 100,000 children were shipped to Canada from Britian's slums and orphanages, to be used as cheap domestic labour. As their "homes" weren't monitored after placement, they were all susceptible to, and most were subjected to, grave mistreatment. This massive wave of immigration, little known to most Canadians, has left a significant mark on our nation's social fabric. In 2010, a stamp issue will honour the courage and perseverance of the Home Children who came to Canada." The stamp is expected to be issued in October.

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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