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Published November 26, 1999

Women in Your Tree, Part VI - Explosion of information in cyberspace is a big boost to your search for female ancestors
By Sandra Devlin

This nine part series was the winning entry in the 2000 Online Columns/Articles category of the Council of Genealogy Columnists (since renamed the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors). The award was presented at the National Genealogy Society annual convention in Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Here we are at the sixth column in a series discussing how to research the female half of your genealogy and there remains scads of tips I have yet to write about.

We have acknowledged that rooting out information about women sometimes leads us from the path of traditional sources, but the more I research this, the more I am amazed at the variety of places there are to seek out information.

I hope you are as encouraged by this. I am.

This column will deal with two fantastic resources of invaluable help for all Canadians, not just Maritimers, namely: Early Canadiana Online and the Women's History Project conducted by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microrepreductions (CIHM).

Early Canadiana Online lists women's history as one its four strong points. Early Canadiana Online (ECO) is a collaborative research project to provide Web access to a digital library of primary sources in Canadian history from the first European contact to the late-19th century. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of literature, women's history, travel and exploration, native studies and the history of French Canada.

The collection is made up of images of the pages in the selected books and pamphlets. (Note: these are not transcribed, they are images from the originals.) Fully searchable by title, author, subject, or keyword, you could find a text with genealogy data, historical context or clues to lead you to other areas of research about your female lines.

Early Canadiana Online is a joint project of the National Library of Canada, Université Laval Library, University of Toronto Library, The Bibliothèque nationale du Québec (for the part on XIXth century French-Canadian documents) and the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions. It is sponsored by several major foundations. This resource is extraordinary .

To whet your appetite, here are some examples of what can be found there.

Using genealogy for a key word search on full text, 111 hits emerge. One of these hits is The Canadian Men and Women of the Time : A Handbook of Canadian Biography / edited by Henry James Morgan. 1177 pages. (Toronto : W. Briggs, 1898.)

Using the common Maritime surname Murray as a key word, several matches are at my ready perusal including: Memoir of LeBaron Botsford, M.D. by Frances Elizabeth Murray. 289 pages. (Saint John, N.B. : J. & A. McMillan, 1892.) On page 18 of this antiquity one reads about letters from "Elizabeth Upham, a gay, bright girl of that period. They are addressed to her cousin, William Botsford, during his visits to his father in Westmorland. These letters sparkle with wit and good-humoured satire, and contain a description of St. John society by one who mingled in it and enjoyed it thoroughly. The names of Chipman, Hazen, DeWolfe, Murray, White, Jarvis, Botsford, frequently occur, with others such as Putnam and Bissett, which have long since passed away. We hear of our great-grandmothers, their 'Assemblies', their 'Gregories' (receptions), their flirtations, their weddings..."

Succeeding pages are full of genealogical tidbits and fascinating insights into a bygone era, including Miss Upham's philosophical musings on women who married outside their religion just so they would not end up old maids: "Many of our apparently most trusty characters have apostatized from their declared faith, and become converts to matrimony. What think you of Miss Gaynor and Miss Irons forsaking the vestal standard in their old age and espousing the fashionable cause?"

In stark contrast to glimpses into the lives of the privileged in New Brunswick are the poverty-stricken realities of Irish famine orphans and widows housed in Toronto in 1847-1848. Within the 30 pages of Report of the Managing Committee of the Widows and Orphans' Asylum for the care and maintenance of the destitute widows and orphans of the emigrants of 1847 Widows and Orphans' Asylum (Toronto, Ont.), you can discover that six-year-old Judy Gallagher was placed in the care of Thomas Nash, a Markham, Ont. farmer on Dec. 2, 1847, "to be brought up as his own." My next stop, if I suspected this to be a female ancestor: 1851 census of Markham to learn if Judy's surname was changed to Nash.

In the report mentioned above there is a listing of the 197 people, mostly children, whose fates were literally transacted between September 1847 and May 1848. In addition, you can learn from the report the conditions of the asylum, plus the inmates' daily routines, expected rules of conduct and morality, food allowance and educational opportunities.

To further enhance the navigation of this fabulous website, CIHM have published several catalogues including Canadian Women's History Bibliography, ISBN 0665-83488-8.

The institute's pre-1900 monographs collection, besides being available on the Internet, is also on microfiche files housed at 35 Canadian research libraries and at seven libraries outside Canada.

In the Maritimes, complete or partial collections are held at the Université de Moncton; University of New Brunswick, Fredericton; Mount Allison University, Sackville, N.B.; Acadia University, Wolfville, N.S. and Dalhousie University, Halifax, N.S. Nearby, Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland and the University of Maine at Orono are also listed as subscribers.

Access to the records in women's history and other CIHM collections is afforded by the microfiche catalogue, printed catalogue and the on-line computer catalogues at subscribing libraries.

Orders and inquiries for CIHM should be directed to 395 Wellington St., Room 468, Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0NA; telephone: (613) 235-2628; fax: (613) 235-9752

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