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Gordon Watts Reports
Column published: 22 April 2011
By: Gordon A. Watts   Biography & Archived Articles



Gordon A. Watts

Topics in this column include:
  • Census Day - 10 May 2011
  • Have we lost interest?
  • Death Pennies




Census Day - 10 May 2011

Starting on 2 May 2001, all households in Canada will receive a yellow Census package. Census Day 2011 is on 10 May. The Census includes all persons who, on that date, have their main residence in Canada, including newborn babies, room-mates and persons who are temporarily away. It also includes Canadians and their families who are working abroad for the federal and provincial governments, Canadian embassies or the Canadian Armed Forces. It contains the same eight questions from the 2006 short-form questionnaire, with two added questions on language.

About four weeks following receipt of the Census questionnaire, approximately 4.5 million households will receive the new, voluntary, National Household Survey. This survey will include virtually the same questions that were contained in the former mandatory long-form questionnaire. It will include the same 'informed consent' question for release of information 92 years in the future that appears on the Census questionnaire, although at this time there is no legislation stating it will actually be released then.

It has been stated that Census records are the single most important source of information to document the history of a country. In Canada this statement must now include the National Household Survey. Genealogists need not be reminded of the value of these records for tracing their family tree - often finding ancestors and relatives that they may not have previously known existed. Many others however, i.e. those not involved in historical or genealogical research, need to be reminded of the importance of filling out completely the upcoming Census and the new, voluntary National Household Survey. In particular, they need to be advised of the importance of responding YES to permit information they provide to these surveys to be made available, 92 years in the future.

It is time now to spread the word. Talk to everyone you know to advise of the importance of fully completing the Census and NHS questionnaires, and to responding YES to the question of allowing information to be released 92 years in the future. Talk about it at work, at your group meetings, during coffee breaks and at your child's sporting event. Post about it to your mail lists, and on whatever social networking websites you belong to. Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, and call your local talk-show programs.



Have we lost interest?

Several of my recent columns have dealt almost exclusively with Census issues. These included the removal, without notice or consultation, of the mandatory long-form questionnaire and it's conversion to a voluntary National Household Survey. Included was the government directive to Statistics Canada to investigate alternate means of collecting information that would result, for all intents and purposes, in the total destruction of the Census as we now know it. The article suggesting "Leave a legacy - Tick YES" as a title of a campaign to encourage others to fully respond to the upcoming Census and to tick YES to allow information provided to be made accessible 92 years in the future, elicited exactly one response.

The reaction to the articles in these columns, or more specifically the lack thereof, makes me wonder if, in writing about these issues, I am 'flogging a dead horse'. During the seven-year campaign to regain public access to Post-1901 Census records we had a terrific number of people participating. Now that we have that access there seems to be an attitude that says "I got what I wanted - I do not care what happens in the future".

Have we lost interest? I sincerely hope not.



Death Pennies

Several months ago I came across a term that I had not heard before. I refer to a series of memorial plaques that have commonly become known as 'Death Pennies'. Following World War I, the British government decided to present a memorial to the next of kin of military personnel who had died during that conflict. A government committee was established to decide the nature and form of this memorial, which was determined by holding a public competition. The winner, Edward Carter Preston, received a prize of £250.


The winning design took the form of a bronze plaque, 4 ¾ inches (121 mm) in diameter. It showed the figure of Britannia, classically robed and helmeted, standing facing right, holding a modest laurel wreath crown in her extended left hand. Her right arm and hand supported a trident by her right side. In the foreground a male lion stands facing right. Above the lion's head was a blank rectangular panel in which the name of the deceased would be cast. To the right of Britannia's head and by the side of her right arm are small sinuous dolphins. At the lower right edge is a branch of oak-leaves and acorns. Within the exergue (i.e. at the bottom), in symbolic confrontation, a lion pounces on an eagle. The standard text is around the edge of the piece: HE*DIED*FOR*FREEDOM**AND*HONOUR'. On the mass-produced plaques made available for distribution E. Carter Preston's initials were embossed above the lion's right forepaw, and a number (possibly an operative's or Ministry of Munitions factory number) was impressed by the animal's right rear paw.

In addition to the plaque, a scroll with the following inscription was sent separately in seven and a quarter inch long cardboard tubes.
    "He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who, at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten."
The plaques were dispatched under separate cover in stiff card wrapping enclosed within white envelopes bearing the Royal Arms. Both memorials were accompanied by a letter from King George V which bore his facsimile signature and read as follows:
    "I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War. George R.I."
For more detailed information regarding Next of Kin Memorial Plaques (Death Pennies) visit the pages of the Imperial War Museum from which the information in this article, and the photographs were borrowed.


Until next time.

Gordon A. Watts gordon_watts@telus.net

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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