Monday, 31 October 2011

Connecting Through Google+

Google+ is not the new Facebook. I subscribe to both and find them worlds apart. Facebook is a step up from Twitter. Short status updates. Mostly inane comments that no one else really cares about. And for the younger set, it is all about the numbers. How many "friends" you have. Of course, they are not friends in the true sense of the word - people who care about and support you through all of life's ups and downs. But the higher the number, apparently, the more popular you are. The upside of Facebook is that on some level, you feel in touch with others. For me,  it is also a great way to get up to date photographs for our family newsletters.
Google+ is very different. There is no limit to the length of your post. You can set up circles so that you only connect with people you want to connect with. The conversation is far more intelligent. It is wordier. More meaningful. More thought provoking. I don't get caught up in the family happenings of others, because I am not in their family circles. I primarily use Google+ for connecting with the genealogy community. It keeps me up to date. It helps me learn new things. I can share and learn with like-minded individuals.
Genealogists are a unique group of people. By the very nature of their obsession (some would say hobby, but true genealogists know we are an obsessed bunch), genealogists connect to others. They reach out. They help. They share. They support, encourage and hold each other up. And they get very excited about each other's microfilm finds, census secrets, birth discoveries....well, just about every aspect of a great find.
In less than two weeks, I connected with hundreds of genealogists. That's an amazing connection. Then, when the beta part of Google+ was over, people began sharing their circles. The connections just kept growing. Like branches on a tree. It really is amazing. I recommend it to anyone who shares this passion. (Others are on G+ as well - writers, photographers, runners, dancers, you name it. But for me, the connection I want is with the genealogy community.) Here's how you can get started:

  1. You need a Google account to sign up for Google+
  2. Once you have signed up, set up your profile. Make sure you mention genealogy so others will want to connect with you. It is frustrating to find someone who wants to connect, but who hasn't filled out their profile. I don't want to connect with them if I don't know anything about them. After all, I'm here for a purpose. I am not a teen wanting to one-up my Facebook community with numbers. I want to know you. To know we have a common interest. To know we might learn from one another or help one another in our quest to find our ancestry. A picture often helps too, but I can understand why some people are shy that way. Especially on the internet.
  3. The next step is to set up your circles. These are the people you want to connect with. You can name you circles anything you want. No one else can see what you have called them. The names only need to be meaningful for you - travel troupe, photography buffs, whatever you want
  4. At the top of your page, there is a small search box. type genealogy into that box. Hit enter. And you will be connected with others who have genealogy listed in their profiles. Read over their profiles and see if you want to add them to your circle. You can overlap people in your circles by adding them to more than one. For instance, many writers are also photographers. Many genealogists are also photographers. You can have them in both circles. You can change them around whenever you want.
  5. Then, post something. Let others know you are out there. Don't overwhelm them with surnames or your research blocks. Take one topic and post on it. See the response you get. Then post again when you have something  to share. If you are not ready to make your own post, add a comment to someone else's post. Or +1 a post (this is like a "like" on Facebook). This helps others to get to know you and then when you are ready to post, they will take an interest and will read what you have to share.
  6. There are so many cool features in Google+ that you will come to learn about as you go along. Not all features are for everyone, but they are great to know about. One feature I can see a huge future for is the Google Hangout. This is like a mini video conference. You can have a short face to face virtual meeting. What a great way for Societies to have a quick meeting about a decision that needs to get made. And no one needs to get bogged down in scheduling. You can have a member who is a snowbird included in the meeting with those still at home. Face to face is always better than e-mail. And this is a great way to have those connections happen.
So, what are you waiting for? Get signed up. Look for me (Christine Woodcock), circle me and let's get connected!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Google for Genealogy

In an earlier post, I discussed using Google to set up GMail, how to refine your search results and how to set up alerts.
Google is intelligent and it is easy to use. You can search for information on the web, in images, in books, scholarly articles, in news, videos and through maps. Simply type your search query into the search box then click on the part of the web that you want Google to look at for you.

To set up alerts, you need to click on the arrow next to "more". Then click "even more" at the bottom of that list. 

To set up your iGoogle dashboard, go to the Google homepage. In the top right corner, there is a wheel that looks like a gear. This is your options button.

By clicking on this gear, you will get a drop down box of choices

Click on iGoogle and your home page will change to the iGoogle home page. You are now ready to set up your dashboard to make it useful for you. Just under the iGoogle logo on the left side of your screen, you will see a red box labelled "Add Gadgets" Click on this. Once the page changes, you will see a search box on the right side of the screen entitled "Search for Gadgets" Type the word "Genealogy" in this search box and you will then be shown a number of gadgets that you can add to your dashboard. Also try typing "Genealogical" or "Genealogy Blogs" in the search box. You will get a few new gadgets through these searches. Ancestry and FamilySearch both have gadgets. So do a number of blogs. You can add Youtube, News, Weather, Facebook, Twitter and any number of other things that you want to see on your dashboard when you first open your internet. Play around. If you add a gadget then change your mind, you can delete it again by clicking on the arrow at the top right of the gadget and choosing "delete this gadget" from the drop down list.
You can move the gadgets around so that the ones you don't use that often are futher down on your screen. Simply click on the gadget, hold the mouse until the 4-way arrow shows and then drag the gadget to a new location. Hold the mouse down while you are doing this.

Happy Searching (and playing!)

An Immigrant's Journey

A great YouTube video showing the immigrant's journey through Ellis Island

Thursday, 27 October 2011

List of Immigrants from Poor Law Union

Lorine McGinnis Schulze at Olivetree Genealogy has done some wonderful work over the past six months pulling together passenger lists of Poor Union Immigrants to Canada and making them freely searchable on her website. There is a wealth of information on the Olivetree site and this has just added to that repertoire.
Take a look at the list of pauper immigrants sent to Canada from England pre-1865 when the ships into Canada began actually keeping records.

Happy Trawling!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Preparing for a Trip to the Ontario Archives

We have organized a bus trip to the Ontario Archives on November 18th. Before we go, there are some things you need to do to get ready.

First: You need to register. Click here to get to the online application. Hit "submit" when you have answered all of the questions. Your card will be given to you when we arrive at the Archives. You must show government issued ID to pick up your card (driver's licence or passport. Not a health card)

Second: Organize your research and see what documents you want to look at while you are at the Archives. Make a list. Here are some of the records that may be of interest: 
  • Brant County Land Deeds - 1834 - 1876 are on films GS1801 - GS1816 depending on the year.
  • Alphabetical Index to Wills 1830 - 1917 is available on film GS1819
  • Births from 1869-1914 are found on MS931 films 1-18
  • The Indexes to birth and still birth registers are on RG80-4
  • Indexes to birth, marriage and death registers are on RG80-11
  • Divorces granted between 1867-1930 are only available through Library and Archives Canada
  • Divorces granted between 1931 - 1979 are available through the Ontario Archives
  • Brant Sanitorium Patient Case Files 1913-1958 RG10-157
  • Homewood Sanitorium Death and Discharge Records 1909-1918 RG63-D-6
  • Criminal Justice reports:
    • Criminal Investigation Reports and Records 1901-0921 RG23-RG26
    • Major Criminal Investigation Reports (solved cases) 1922-1969 RG23-29
    • OPP members diaries/notebooks/journals 1925-1989 RG23-30
    • Special Investigations Branch Crime Reports 1936-1984 RG23-49
    • Criminal Investigation Reports and Files 1922-1970 RG23-50
    • Major Occurrence Reports 1969-1983 RG23-51
  • Brant County Coroner's Reports 1931 RG22-1195
  • Norfolk County Coroner's Reports 1912-1965 RG22-3695
  • Ontario County Coroner's Reports 1896-1935 RG22-3895
  • Office of the Fire Marshall investigation records 1929-1988 RG33-30
There are lots of other records available, but this will give you a good idea about how to prepare. Write a list of the people you want to find out more about. Write down the dates and the records you want to access. That will make your time at the Archives more productive. We will get a 20 minute orientation once we are there.

The Archives are wheelchair accessible and there is an elevator. You can  bring a lunch. There is a lounge area where you can enjoy a lunch or a snack if you bring one. Lockers will be provided for books, bags, backpacks, coats, lunches. These are NOT allowed in the reading rooms.
Wallets, research notes, laptops and digital cameras are allowed. Pencils are to be  used rather than pens to protect the records.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Putting Your Family History Together Using Publisher

A couple of years ago, I had the honour of putting together a family history for my friend. My friend's mom was getting on in years. My friend's grandad was a war hero. He fought in both world wars. The family had boxes and albums full of pictures. Enough to make any genealogist envious. But more importantly, grandpa's story was a story to be known by future generations. So, we put the story together. And we included photos.

When the book was finally finished and presented to my friend's mother, she was delighted. She read and re-read the book. She showed all of her friends, my friend's friends and anyone else who happened to stop by. We made copies for my friend's uncle, my friend and her brother. My friend's mom left strict instructions about whose copy was to get left to which grandchild! She said to me, "I can go anytime now. Not that I want to go, but when I do go, I can go in peace, knowing my mum and dad won't be forgotten" To this point she was the only person who really knew the story. She told the story when asked, but of course wasn't asked as often as she would have liked. Now the story was recorded for all time and was in a format that could be passed down through future generations.

Many of us who are Boomers and Zoomers have the same wish - to be remembered. For our family stories and traditions to be known by future generations. We no longer live with extended family, so younger generations don't hear the oral histories. Often we live in different cities, or even on different continents. But we want to feel that connectedness and we want our offspring and their offspring to feel that they are a part of us. Putting together a family history is a great way to share these stories and to preserve them for future generations.

While it all may seem daunting, it really is easier than you think. This afternoon at our fall workshop, we looked at "how-to" put your family history together using Publisher. Publisher is part of the Microsoft Office series. In the older series, it is included in the package. In 2007, it needs to be purchased separately. This can be expensive but worthwhile. It really is very easy to use.

To start:
Open Publisher

On the left, there is a column. Choose "Blank Publication" A blank publication will appear and on the left will be another column with options for decorating the page. Click out of that (the X at the top).

Add extra pages:

From the "Insert" box, choose "Page" You will then get another pop up box. You can add as many pages as you want. You can add them before or after the current page. You can always add more pages later. If you need to delete pages, you can do so by going to the "Edit" button and then selecting "delete page" from the drop down box.

To add a text box:

You can either use the drop down box under "Insert" or you can use the icon on the left side of the screen. The icon has an A in the corner with lines inside the rest of the box to simulate writing. Once this is clicked (either from the drop down box or from the icon) move your mouse to the top left corner of the page. A + will appear. Hold down the mouse and drag to make the text box the size that you want.

The cursor will be blinking back at the top of your text box and from there you just start to type.

To choose your font:

Choose from the toolbar at the top of the page. Both the font box and the size box are drop down boxes and you can choose from the lists. Most older eyes prefer rounded type like Arial or Verdana while Editors prefer Times New Roman (the standard default) or Courier. The normal size to read is 12.
To add pictures to your story:

Again, you can choose from the Insert drop down box or from the icon on the side toolbar. The icon has a mountain and sun and looks like a photograph. Choose "from file" to open up "My Pictures" or "My Documents" or, as we saw in the workshop, from a jump drive. Double click on the photo you want to add. To resize,

take your mouse to the corner of the photo and squeeze the picture diagonally to the other side. Hold your mouse down throughout this process. You may need to do this more than once, depending on the size of the picture. When you insert a photo into the text, the text will adjust to wrap around the photo.
You can crop photos so that you only get the part you want. When you click on the picture, another toolbar will appear:

This is an odd looking icon. Two Right angles interlocked. On this toolbar, you can also add a border to your photo by using the icon that looks like a paint jug spilled over with a paint brush beside it:

Then on the pop up box that appears, choose "Colors & Lines"

Next choose the colour and thickness that you want the border to be:
Once you use each of these tasks a couple of times, it will soon become second nature. Don't forget to save your story. You can move pages around if you think the story will flow better:

Simply hold your mouse over the page you want to move, then "lift" and move it by placing in on top of the position you want it to be in. Then release the mouse and the page will be seen in the new position.

As you go along, your favourite button will become the "Undo" button:

It is an arrow that is going counter clockwise. It undoes whatever it is you just did. So, if you add a picture you then change your mind, simply click on the undo button and the picture will disappear. If you move a picture or text box or trade one page for another, and want to move it back again, click the undo button and you will be back to where you were before your mistake.

Once you have your story written, print it out and edit from the hard copy. Make the changes you want until you are satisfied, then print a clean copy and take it to a printer (Staples, UPS or a local printer) and have copies run on a professional grade copier. The print centre can also bind the pages into a book for you. Staples can use a coil bind, add a dust cover front and back and make your book look very polished for less than $3 per book. If you want a more professional looking book with special binding, find yourself a top quality printer or self-publisher to have the book formatted. For the most part, the cerlox or coil bind from Staples will be all you really need.

Happy writing and publishing!!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Farm Service Force

During the Second World War, as men went off to fight for their country, many jobs were left unattended. This included agricultural work. While many women went into factory work, children were often recruited to assist on the farms. These children were part of what was called the Farm Service Force. Their jobs would include such tasks as ploughing, planting, harvesting on the farms themselves, or as canners and packers in canning houses. 

The records of these Farm Service Force workers are available through the Ontario Archives. Their website states:

"Series consists of records used in the development and implementation of regulations issued by the Department of Education pertaining to farm service by students during World War II. The series also contains special regulations and circulars dating from World War I which were likely used as reference materials during World War II.

The files include Department of Education records pertaining to the Ontario Farm Service Force, including memoranda and correspondence pertaining to the Department's Circular 27 Memorandum Re: Students who Enlist for Active Service or Engage in the Production of Essential War Materials detailing wartime regulations respecting Departmental certificate and diplomas, Circular 27A Memorandum to Principals of Secondary Schools Re: Circular 27, and other related regulations. The series also contains briefs, press releases and minutes of meetings pertaining to the Ontario Farm Service Force and war-time employment of children on farms."

Here's the link to the website:

Pioneer Coffins

The early coffins were generally made by the local cabinet maker or carriage maker.

The coffin takes on the "shape" of the human body. The first part to be made was the bottom and was measured to fit the feet of the deceased. From there, it widens to accommodate the hips, then wider still to accommodate the shoulders. Then the coffin narrows to fit the head.

This way, when the viewing was finished, if the ground was frozen, and the body needed to be kept in the barn or shed for the winter, it was stood on end and the shape of the coffin ensured that the person did not collapse inside while waiting for the ground to be thawed enough to allow burial.

The inside of the coffin was painted with pine tar, a sticky substance from the pine tree which has a pungent pine odour. The smell stopped the smell of decomposition from taking over the house. As well, the tar was a natural preservative that slowed the decomposition of both the body and the wood. Pine tar was often used in medicines and stopped the spread of any diseases that the body may have been carrying (like cholera, small pox and typhus).

The door of the coffin was sealed shut with pine pitch. This is a thinner pine material, which looks like sap and is very gummy. It is a fairly strong adhesive. This, too, prevented any diseases from being “leaked” from the casket should the body need to sit for a time before being buried. It was also helpful for keeping the coffin closed on long, bumpy wagon rides to alternate villages for burial.

Old Hundred

From the Brantford Expositor, October 14, 1961:

“Old Hundred,” one of the oldest houses in Brantford, located at
100 Wellington St, has been acquired by the Westfield Pioneer Village Association.

The Village is now in the early stages of construction 20 miles from here near Rockton in Wentworth County. It is expected to be open for public viewing in 1963 and to be completed by 1967. The Brantford home, built in 1852 by Robert Gillen, on property deeded by the Six Nations,

was originally purchased by the city from the owner, Miss Helen M. Straith. It was to have been torn down for parking space. Glenn Kilmer, principal of the Pauline Johnson Collegiate, who is secretary of the pioneer village association, heard of the city’s plans, and negotiations for saving this well-preserved house are now complete”

This is definitely my favourite home in Westfield. It was home to 4 generations of Gillens. The father, Robert, was a magistrate. The home used to be at 100 Wellington St, right across from the Superior Court. The home was nicknamed "Old Hundred" as seen on the mail slot.

Robert Gillen's daughters were teachers in Brantford.

Friday, 14 October 2011

James Esson Photographs on Exhibit at Toronto Public Library (1853-1993)

James Esson was one of a handful of Canadian Photographers who produced "stereoscopic" views. These were very popular in the late 1800s. For more information:

Major Disruption of Computing Services Tomorrow at LAC

From the Library and Archives website:

"On Saturday October 15, 2011 from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., a major interruption of Library and Archives Canada's (LAC) computing services will affect clients of LAC.

During this period, the following services will be unavailable:

•All LAC Websites
•All LAC's applications (Library Search, Archives Search, etc.)"

Kitchener Genealogy Fair October 29th

Kitchener Public Library is holding it's First Annual Genealogy Fair. This is a FREE event. Held in the rotunda of the City Hall. (Map). The Genealogy Fair runs from 9:30 - 3:30.

Topics include: Introduction to Genealogy, Introduction to Irish Research, Google for Genealogy, Laurier Archives, Land Records, Ontario Archives. Keynote Speaker is Janice Nickerson who will be speaking on her behind the scenes involvement on Who Do You Think You Are?

There will also be venders selling books and other genealogical materials, so mark the date and plan to attend. For more information:

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Free Access to Quebec Vital & Church Records on Ancestry

As part of their 15th anniversary, Ancestry is offering free accesses to new data bases every day for 15 days. Today's database is the Quebec Vital & Church Records 1621-1967.

Upgrades to British Home Child Database at LAC

Library and Archives Canada has announced upgrades to the BHC database. While it is still essentially the same information, ie: passenger lists, you can now also learn what other children were travelling with the party. As well, the Board of Guardians has been added. It is not their reports, but does tell you who the BHC were taken into care by upon their arrival. This part of the database is not yet complete as there were no records of my 4 Liggins boys.
For a look at the upgrades, here's the link.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Anything to Declare?

Most of us who frequently cross the border into the US get frustrated with the customs experience. While intellectually we all understand the need, emotionally we know our two countries are friends and partners and we really don't like the long line ups, the routine questions and the possibility that we will get pulled over for a "random check" However, we can take solace in knowing that no one seems to be exempt from the customs experience.

Here is a delcaration from the return to earth of Appollo 11 when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins did the first moon walk:

Notice the signatures of each of the astronauts:

And in answer to the routine "Where have you been?":

"What are you bringing back into the country?"

Moon rocks and moon dust samples! And we think it is cool when the kids bring back seashells!

A little known part of a customs declaration, and one that is more common when travelling by air or by sea, is the statement about possible diseases that may be brought into the country. The standard answers, of course, are mad cow disease, TB, yellow fever, malaria, and in certain years, H1N1 or SARS. With the moon being a brand new research field and one never before travelled, the customs officer has written in:  "To Be Determined"

I will now have a whole new understanding of the questions when I am impatiently waiting in line for the chance to cash in on some deals across the border!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Writing Your Family History

Our fall workshop is only a couple of weeks away. The theme is "Writing and Publishing Your Family History" In the morning, guest Mary Mansour is going to talk about the books that she has published and share her knowledge of what needs to get done to put a family history together. The afternoon will be a "how to" session using both Publisher and MyMemories to show you how you too can create a family history book that will soon become a family heirloom.
Mark your calendars and plan to join us on Oct 22nd for this informative workshop. Our library and bookstore will both be open  through out the day.