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Article posted: March 10, 2000
Ryan's Heritage Notebook...
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles
Here are three resources which might help researchers involved with these ethnic groups:
A new website offers the chance for Chinese Canadians to link up with their family histories back home, and also to contribute more information which will eventually be placed in the Shanghai Library.
The first news I had of the website gave http://www.xungen.com as the address, but I found it easier to access using http://www.chineseroots.com
One problem with the site is that, since much of it is in Chinese, your monitor may have some difficulties in displaying that alphabet. (Mine did.)
However, if you need an English version, it can be found.
On the home page, there is a long box with "Chineseroots.com" written in it. To the right of this box is another box, without writing but very decorative in red and brown. Click on this box and you will find yourself in an English-language version, with full explanations of Jia Pu and how to use the site. There are chat rooms and message boards, so Chinese Canadian genealogists may find themselves linking up with researchers around the world.
I found the site easy to use, and the finding aids give a full description of what is in the collection concerned, a biography of the compiler if that is suitable, and makes recommendations about who might find it useful.
I read of a young woman's diary of 1897, ships' logs and school log books from Haystack covering many years. Perhaps most exciting were the diaries of John Lewis, a Methodist missionary early in the nineteenth century. He was stationed in several places on Placentia, Conception and Trinity Bays, and writes of those he meets and his activities with them. The archivists even specify that genealogists will find this collection especially interesting.
Newfoundland has offered its children to the rest of North America for many decades, with immigrants helping to populate the rest of the Maritimes, Ontario, New England and the west. There are people with an island background all over who will benefit from this new website.
You can find these archival aids at http://www.mun.ca/library/cns/archives/sociallife.html.
Researchers should also remember the maritime history collections at MUN which are among the best in the world. Also, E. R. Seary's Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland has recently been republished by McGill-Queen's University Press in a new edition.
Several years ago, Charles C. Trahan extracted and translated various old census records from Acadia. These were published in book form as Acadian Census, 1671-1752 (Hebert Publications, Rayne, La., 1994). The census information often included the place of residence, names, ages (including children), size of farm and numbers of animals owned. The fact that all children are listed with their ages is most helpful.
This book is not widely available in Canada. Even the National Library does not have a copy. However, it can be obtained through the facilities of the Latter-day Saints Family History Centers, as they have microfilm of it in Salt Lake City. The book itself may also be found on interlibrary loan from a few libraries.
Editor's Note: Click here for other Acadian books
"One Wife & One Concubine?
Some people remain uncomfortable with children born out of wedlock.
I recently was shown a genealogical query which read, "How do I account for a man with 1 wife and 1 concubine? These ladies were sisters! The man had 8 children by each. Family history states that he visited each sister every other night of the week and rested on Sunday."
This is an unusual situation, but as every family historian knows, every family has illegitemate children. What may be different now is that these relations are being acknowledged and included in family trees.
The recent edition of Debrett's Peerage has added mention of these relatives, much to the relief of the aristocrats of England. One of them said everyone knew about the other children, so it was time they were mentioned in official sources.
High profile families have their new discoveries announced on the front pages of newspapers. Former British Prime Minister John Major was still in office when his half brother turned up in the United States.
Major's father was an entertainer in vaudeville, touring in America as well as Britain. A son resulted from his affair while on tour.
Not long before the 1997 election, Major heard from a woman claiming to be his sister.
Relatives confirmed that she was, the result of another of his father's flings. Nothing was said publicly at the time, but recently the whole story was printed in the British press. A family tree was drawn up which included the four children of Major's father's second marriage as well as his newly-found children.
What is interesting is that neither the Major family nor the public seem to find this embarassing or unusual. It is simply family history. The heartwarming aspects of Major's relationship with his new sister were emphasized.
The genealogical query I was shown (about the busy man with the 16 children) was the result of someone not knowing how to record the situation in their family charts.
In fact, almost all genealogical software sold nowadays has alternative ways of describing the relations of parents in any family. Family Tree Maker, which I use, offers married, friends, partners, single as possibilities, as well as 'private' and 'unknown'.
Researchers are sorry to think that the last is too often the case.
The solution in the query above would be to put the wife's children down in the 'married' category and the other eight in the 'partners' category. Separate family charts would have to be made for each group, but any listing of the man's children would include everyone.
I cannot help but think that the relaxing of attitudes about children born out of wedlock is a good thing. Hardline thinking on this subject has been the cause of much grief over the years, which could be tranferred into permanent print when people were excluded from family histories. It is much better to be able to tell the truth without hurting anyone.
It is also healthier for all of us to acknowledge that things happen in people's lives, sometimes things over which they have little control. It is not up to us, as genealogists, to condemn. Be truthful but even-handed.
Toronto Area Genealogy Societies
When Toronto branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society became too large a couple of years ago, it was decided to split into two groups. One represented the metropolitan area and the other the more rural parts of northern York Region.
The York Region Branch of OGS has now been operating for a while, and has a publications list, newsletter and many other activities to attract people with interests in Georgina, Vaughan, Whitchurch and Markham. If you have research interests in that area, you can reach them at York Region Branch of Ontario Genealogical Society, Box 32215, Harding P.O., Richmond Hill L4C 9S3.
Books By Ryan Taylor
Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.
Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997
More Family History Research Resources