Friday, 27 May 2011

Was Your British Ancestor an Apprentice or Tradesman?

For those of you with tradesman ancestors, who have a subscription to Find My Past, you can find record abstracts kept by Inland Revenue for your apprentice tradesman. These records provide a wealth of information including: name of the guardian of the apprentice, where the apprentice came from, who he was indentured to, and the amount paid to the master tradesman for agreeing to take on the apprentice.

If you do not have access to Find My Past, you can access an index of the records through the National Archives at: trade

As always, Happy Searching!

New British Library Newspapers Site

Launching in the fall, the British Newspaper Archive will make millions of pages of historical newspapers available online for the first time – unlocking a wealth of material for genealogists.

The website is still in production, but examples are available at:

When the website launches, there will be over one million pages of newspapers from the pre- 1900 era available. Over the next two years, there will be 4 million pages and within the 10 year time-frame allocated for the digitization project, there will be over 40 million pages added.

For all of us looking for those missing bits of information to add to the social history of our ancestors, this new website will be a virtual treasure trove.

Monday, 23 May 2011

History of the Messacar Family - Any Way you Spell It!

The original Massaker family came to the States from Germany aboard the “Princess Amelia” and landed in what is now New York. They arrived on 11th May 1647. By 1750 it was impossible to follow the many lines and various spellings. The early German families were happy as long as it sounded correct. Some of these early Massaker families married into the Slaght family. Prior to owning a computer Wayne had typed records which were difficult to organize. Wayne tried contacting people but found this was never very satisfactory. His advice is to put your information out on the web and let people come to you.
Prior to owning a computer, Wayne had typed records. As many of us who started years ago will know, these records were often difficult to organize. Some of Wayne’s early research came from other members of the family such as Charlie Meseacar, who was the caretaker of Greenwood/Waterford Cemetery and Howard Messecar of Mount Pleasant. 
In 1996, Wayne obtained a computer and began using Family Tree Maker. From this, he published his first book, which he formatted in Family Tree Maker and then inserted photographs. Wayne produced his second book in 2000.
A number of members present are also related to the Messecar family and they can access his Family Site on Ancestry or Roots Web – World connect.
Currently there is a DNA project which is helping to make connections to family members and their lines. Some connections are hard to relate and there is still a lot of work to be done. DNA testing cost $120 and some people object on ethical or religious grounds.
Wayne advised people not to commit sources to memory only, make sure to keep records. Don’t reply on other people’s records which may be useful, do your own research to make sure they are correct.
After his talk Wayne answer questions and then spent time talking to people on an individual basis.This was especially helpful to those who were related to the Messecar family.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Alderman George R. Wooler & Elizabeth Wooler

These cards were in my late Mothers' [ whose maiden name was Wooler] effects and she had no idea of any Canadian connection as she was orphaned as a baby and brought up by an Aunt & Uncle who likewise had no knowledge of the senders.
I have researched the direct Wooler line back to the 1600's and would be interested if anyone researching the Woolers in Canada had found a link back to England, my line lived around the Gisburn Forest area of Yorkshire for many years and some still do, another line moved to Liverpool in the 1880's.
I am intrigued that George & Elizabeth on the 1915 card have an address "Woolers Terrace" in Paris Ontario, does this mean they built the Terrace or just a coincidence?
I assume that as an Alderman he had moved up the social ladder.
The fact that the cards were in my Mothers family suggests someone was in correspondence from England possibly.
I googled and found from Murray Fair's listing that George & Elizabeth are buried in Paris Cemetery, Brant County,George died 1936, Elizabeth died 1941.

If anyone has information on or is connected to this family, please contact the our branch at:
Brant OGS

Here are the cards (a treasure in and of themselves)

How Well Do You "Google"?

We all know Google as a powerful and super simple search engine. But few of us know about all of the other, more detailed searches that Google can provide. In the last three years, the in depth use of Google for genealogy research has really taken off.
Here are some handy things to know about Google:

  1. Gmail is free and can be accessed from any computer in the world. You can have as many Google Gmail accounts as you want and can even keep a Gmail account specifically for your genealogy research. Usually when you join a genealogy site (Rootsweb, Ancestry, mailing lists, etc) you need to provide an e-mail address. Rather than blocking up your inbox or leaving yourself vulnerable to spam, why not set up a separate Gmail account just for genealogy?
  2. Refine your search. We have all heard about using quotation marks and how that pares down the number of  results we get back. For instance if I Google "John Walker" here's what I get back:

Over 12 million hits. I am overwhelmed already! But if I use quotation marks, here's what I get:

4 million hits. So we have narrowed it down to 30% but still far too many pages to work through. Notice that the first few references are from Wikipedia. I'm really not interested in what Wikipedia has to say about John Walker - I want genealogy references. So, I can exclude all references to Wikipedia by placing a minus sign right before Wikipedia in my search reference. Into the search box I now type: "john walker" -wikipedia. Here's my result:

Still 4 million results, but three out of the top four results are now genealogy related. Now we are getting somewhere. I can refine the search even further by adding in John's wife's name like so:

"john walker" -wikipedia + jane mckinight.
Here's what comes up:

182 thousand results and the first page all relate to my John Walker! Now I have new leads on where to look for John.

           3.   Google Alerts. I can set up an alert for these web pages or for John Walker + Jane McKnight and any new information will get delivered directly to my inbox. Here's how to set up an alert:

Go to Google's home page:

At the top left hand side of the page, you will see the word "more" with a down arrow. Click on the arrow and you will get:

At the bottom of the drop down list, you see the words "even more". Click on this and you will be taken to this page:

The top of the frst column is "Alerts" Click here and you will be directed to set up an alert. In the search terms box, I type in the information I want Google to be on the look out for. From the first drop down box, I choose my category of where I want Google to look. I am going to choose "everything" since I want Google to search websites as well as blogs, mailing lists, message boards, and so on.

Then I can choose how often I want Google to search for me. Since this isn't a hot topic for the web, I don't need Google to let me know "as it happens" and likely not even daily. So, I choose "once a week". I then tell Google where to send the information it finds. In this case, I am having the information sent to my Gmail inbox. Now I just sit back and wait and let Goolge do the work. In the meantime, I am going to have a look at the websites on that first page of genealogy on John Walker and Jane McKnight.

There are so many other useful things about Google when it comes to genealogy research, but I will let you play with these for a while. Stay tuned for future posts on the uses of Google in genealogy research!
Happy web hunting!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

You CAN Change Your Mind About Releasing Your Census Information

In 2006, for the first time, individuals were given the option to decide if they wanted their census information released in 92 years.

Approximately 56% of Canadians said “yes”. 

44% said “no” or left the question blank (leaving it blank is the same as saying "no"). This means that 44% of Canadians are now lost to their descendants who may wish to search for them in future years.

If you think that you made the wrong decision and would now like to have your information available to your descendants, you can reverse your decision. Statistics Canada has provided a “Request to change response to the consent question on the 2006 Census of Population” form. It can be accessed at:

Tell Us About Your First Ancestors in Brant

We are interested in learning about the people who chose to come to Brant to live. We want to know about the first people in your family who came to live in Brant. We are also working on a database of surnames of people in Brant so that we can help researchers connect with others who may be researching the same names.
On the bottom right hand side of this page, you will see a link to our "Early Settlers Chart." Please have a look at this and take the time to fill it out for us. The chart is in PDF format. You can print it off and mail it to the Branch or drop it off the next time you are in the area. If you would like a copy in WORD format that you can save to your computer, fill in and e-mail back to us, send me an e-mail: Blog Editor

Join Us For Our Strawberry Social

Do you have your ticket yet??

Our annual BBQ and Strawberry Social is on Monday June 20th and takes place at Smokey Hollow.
Join us for great food, prizes and games. The OGS Library and Bookstore will be open for anyone hoping to catch up on some research while at the BBQ. Bring a friend. This is a great way to introduce new researchers to everything our Branch has to offer.

Tickets will be available at our May meeting (May 22, 2 pm in the Library). They can also be purchased during regular library hours Monday - Thursday 10-4 and Saturdays 1 - 4.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Irish Genealogy Research

In keeping with the theme of last week's Spring Workshop, I have added a number of updates for Irish Genealogy Research on my "Other Blog". With the re-opening of the PRONI (Public Register's Office of Northern Ireland) Centre in Belfast where people can go and do onsite research, there has been a great deal of activity in making Irish Records more accessible and user-friendly. Here's the link directly to that blog post:

In addition, there is a new website for Welsh research. This is a WIKI type of site where people can add information from their own research. The blog post for this new site can be found at:

Halton's Digital Newspaper Archive

Halton has launched a digital newspaper archive. The archive contains digital copies of many of the community newspapers as well as an index of births, marriages and deaths. The website contains over 235,000 records in total. The Advanced Search function on the website allows searches by name, date range and geographic location.


KnowledgeOntario has digitized more than 33,000 files including historic photographs, life stories and vintage diaries. Have a look:

OGS Database of Toronto Area Students & Teachers in WW1

The Toronto OGS has created a database of Toronto-area students and teachers who volunteered for active service in World War I and II. The database currently contains over 20,000 names and it is expected to grow.

What’s new at Library and Archives Canada

  • Index of Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865). According to LAC, “many early settlers, both military and civilian, submitted petitions to the Governor to obtain Crown land”. Typical petitions include military discharge certificates, United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolutionary War and reparations to Upper Canada citizens who had suffered loss during the War of 1812. These records are worth checking for anyone who had ancestors that settled on a farm in Ontario between 1783 to 1865.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Great Local Resource

The Brant County Public Library has a great website for genealogy research. They list local resources, Canadian resources, maps, land records and a wealth of websites to get you started or keep you going in your research. The page is a bit tricky to find. From the main page at: move across the top bar and click on "Adult". Once that page loads, scroll down the list on the left side of the screen and you will find "genealogy" Once you click here, you will be taken to the resources listed above.

Of particular note is the new Digital Historical Collection: Here you will find digital collections pertaining to local history. While all of this is interesting to those searching in Brant County (Burford, Oakland, Paris, Glen Morris, Scotland, St George), most intriguing to me is the link called: Record Your Personal History. I am a huge enthusiast for preserving family history, not just in a family tree program on a computer, but also in a readable, form such as a book or website. This amazing little gem on the Brant Library website allows you to do just that. You are able to record your own history, your knowledge on a famous or well known person from Brant County, your memories about growing up, living in or visiting Brant, local places of interest, or a family history (yours or someone else from Brant.) Please take the opportunity to visit this website and play around with the page. You may have lots to offer to this site so that others can learn about our amazing part of Canada.

Census 2011

There's a lot of buzz around the various genealogy sites and societies about the 2011 census. You will remember in 2006 the Government in it's infinite wisdom decided to give people the option of "opting out" of having their census records released in 92 years. A truly nightmarish thought for any genealogy researcher.
This year, the big debate of course has been the long form and the ability to opt in or out of that. To me the difference between the two is like getting a statutory record vs a parish record. A wealth of information about your ancestor vs one or two lines that confirm your research. The worry, of course, is the "privacy" issue and how that will impact us all 92 years from now when we are a fleeting memory and our ancestors are trying to reach back and connect to us. Personally, it's doubtful I'll be here to worry about what strangers learn about me in 92 years, and if I am still here, (by some miracle of science) I am not likely to give a darn what strangers might learn about me.
We all know people who are paranoid about this privacy issue though. So, I suggest we encourage them to complete the long form census report, clicking the box not to release the information if they so choose, but begging them to then print off a copy of what their answers were and tuck those papers away with their other personal, vital papers (birth, marriage, passports, land deeds, whatever they have put away for the next generation to worry about). That way, they don't need to worry about what information strangers will discover about them, but their families won't miss out on truly "knowing" them when, generations from now, they carry out research in an attempt to satisfy a deep yearning to "know" those who came before them.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

War Brides

The afternoon of yesterday's workshop was a real treat. The topic was War Brides and we had two speakers who shared their personal stories with us. Our first speaker was Peter Jones.

Peter's mother, Helen, was a war bride. Her story was heart wrenching and Peter did an amazing job telling it and keeping us on the edge of our seats waiting to see how the story would transpire. Helen and her beau sought permission to marry, which in most cases was simply a "rubber stamp formality". Preparations were under way and then just before the big day, word came down that the permission was NOT granted and Helen's beau was shipped away. The family remain unclear as to the reasons, but feel that it may have had to do with Helen's dad and the forces believing that Helen may have been a "spy" For the next 22 months, permission was granted and revoked. Finally with the war coming to an end, permission was granted for a final time.
Helen and her beau had written numerous letters to each other over the 22 months that they were separated. Peter has over 340 of these letters in his possession. One day they will make a remarkable book!

Our final speaker for the day was Joan Johnson. Joan was a war bride and gave her first hand story of meeting, marrying and then emigrating with her husband. Joan talked of the culture shock and the hardships of her early life in Brantford. Joan read her story that she had published in Bridging the Gap. Her story will be re-published in our August newsletter, so stay tuned for that.

After Joan's enlightening talk on being a War Bride, she gave us her very personal account of how she has been effected by genealogical research. During one of her trips home to England, an aunt asked Joan about "Nancy". Joan enquired as to who "Nancy" might be and learned that Nancy was in fact her sister!! Several years later, Joan's son, Michael, a genealogy researcher set out to find Nancy. This was a long arduous task, but eventually, Nancy and Joan were reunited and have rebuilt their "sister" relationship. Joan's story was very moving and inspiring. A great ending to a great day!