2015 Reunion on Sunday September 27

Can you join us this coming September 27?

We’ve scheduled our reunion at our usual meeting place, the Kanata Country Inn & Suites on Terry Fox Drive.

We’ll gather from 2pm to 5pm. (They are renovating the first floor, so the exact location on that floor will be announced later.)

If you’ve stopped in before, do join us again and bring us up to date on your research!

If you’ve never joined us before, please do! Even if it turns out there’s not a connection, we do love helping people with research and ideas!

And of course, there’ll be coffee, tea, and … our reunion cake!

Sounds like fun, eh?

Finding Obituaries Online

How to locate an obituary online?

The place to start is with a quick online search for FirstName MiddleName BirthSurname [MarriedSurname] along with a city .. city of birth, suspected place of death, or a city you know the person lived in. (Any search engine will give you most of the possible variants in the search results, I myself prefer the Google format.) Then it’s just a matter of trudging through the returns. You eliminate most of the useless results by adding the city. Don’t stop looking at results after you check the first page (unless they stop showing your search names). The gem you’re hunting for may be on the second, third or fourth page!

In the case of those truly common surnames (and my tree has lots of them!) I start with the full names of husband and wife along with a place. It narrows things down considerably .. (though it is surprising just how many John Doe’s married Jane Roe’s).

This approach will sometimes turn up both individual obits plus a marriage record .. for both of them .. or a child! (Another variant is an ancestor’s full name, followed by a comma, and then the full name of a child — the married last name for a female child — and a place.)

Know your search engine: Do you need quotes around full names? is a key question to find out at the outset. (For example, Google doesn’t need quotes around names, and will return the name Robert Wilson as a full name, before listing Robert only matches. But to prevent finding hundreds of Robert matches right up front, Newspaper.com needs Robert Wilson)

No luck? Time to move along to a free newspaper site. If you haven’t found your way to the Google newspaper archive (not that they make finding it easy!), it’s the place to start.

Read an updated post on using the Ottawa Journal on ancestry.com, and on using the Google newspaper archive here.

Check the newspaper archive list by town and title. If you don’t know the names of the historic local papers for the period you’re researching, do a quick online search for Historic Newspapers In.. and add a city, county or region. You’ll want all of those variant names to see if they’re in the free archive. In some areas, and in some eras, papers changed names frequently, and disappeared, then re-appeared. When the county or town changed its name .. so did the papers .. viz. Bytown becomes Ottawa.

Hunting for obituaries can also end up teaching you some valuable regional naming history that you’ll find really useful in later research!

Hopefully you’ve struck gold! But if not there are two other strategies left: a pay for use newspaper archive, and researching microfilms in a library or archives.

1. Among the pay for use sites, there are 2 that I have found most helpful for my Canada research: Newspapers.com and PaperOfRecord.com

Before choosing any pay site to spend your hard-earned money on, a little prep work is called for. Always check the list of available papers first thing. (Here for papers on Newspapers.com and PaperofRecord.com) Make sure there are materials that can be of help.

Then check the subscription options. For newspaper research, because it can be conducted at specific periods of times, you might want to consider a month at a time plan, or a few months only — subscribing only at those times when you’ll have time to use the site and so get your money’s worth. Always turn off the auto-renew feature! Time really does fly when auto-renew is at work. You might have finished your research, but your credit card will still be at work! (I have a cousin who subscribes to family history research sites only in winter months when she knows she’ll have time to spend lots of evenings researching.)

Newspapers.com is owned by ancestry.com, which offers combination subscriptions to both sites plus a military record site called Fold3.com

2. Sometimes the only way to an obituary (or any information at all) is through a library or archives in the area your ancestor lived. Don’t think of this as a last resort. It is for certain your best source! I am a great fan of local archives and libraries. The folks you’ll find to help you there are your best resources! In many, many local libraries or genealogy/local history society archives, you’ll find obituary indexes for local papers that will take you to the exact page and column of an obituary .. and much more. Local histories, family histories, and such things as tax rolls and property valuations are a few of the other things you can find too. See my posts on local archives and big city library research trips for more on local library and archives resources





The Value of Obituaries

WilliamWilsonObitSometimes, when you’re wondering where that ancestor disappeared, an obituary will provide the answer. But not their obituary!

Relatives doing family history have asked why I have spent time researching branches of the family tree that are not my direct ancestors.

The answer is a bit convoluted .. just like the route to finding my direct ancestors.

Sometimes the trail for my family tree goes nowhere. But tracking the siblings of my ancestors may be a route around the roadblock that will lead right to my ancestor .. or to a cousin who may know other details I’m looking for about our common ancestors.

Case in point: the Wilsons of Aylwin, QC.

That’s the family of my great grandmother, Eliza Wilson. They are from Scotland, all the earliest records show this. But where in Scotland?

Her father, Robert Wilson, first appears in Huntley (near Carp, where Eliza is born), then Nepean, and finally Aylwin QC. Robert was a tanner, the likely reason for his early death.

When his wife, Annie Graham, remarries and ends up in Gloucester with her younger children and new husband, Eliza meets a next door neighbour .. and eventually marries John ‘Jake’ McEwan.

Some of her siblings seems to disappear. An obituary finally puts her brother William Wilson in Eastview (Ottawa). And her brother Robert?

Listed among the survivors is Robert .. of “Hokim, Wash.” That would explain why Robert disappeared completely. He was among those who headed to the United States during the logging boom of the early 1900s. US Census records subsequently show him first living in Wisconsin (where he marries) and then in Washington State, near Seattle. Thanks to a Google search, it was easy to find that he had lived in Hoquiam, Washington.

Obituaries prove the point that much of what appears in historic newspapers was really hearsay .. it was what the reporter heard them say! Important then not to get hung up on the mistakes, like Eliza McEwan becoming L (for Liza) McEwan .. but at the right address!

Are we a little closer to finding someone who knows the family origins in Scotland? Hopefully! I’m working on a Hoquiam Family Reunion for the Wilson descendants of Robert in May 2016 .. along with another group of Wilsons in the Hoquiam area .. possibly Robert’s uncle’s family?

To be continued.

The Story of Dundas, 1784 to 1904

A little gem found in one of my favourite sites, archive.org is The Story of Dundas: imageBeing a History of the. County of Dundas from 1784 to 1904 by J. Smith Carter, published in 1905. Especially useful are the mini biographies found in the appendixes, and a nice plus are the many photographs of early settlers and of the professionals — doctors, dentists etc, in the county. If you’ve got Dundas ancestors, take a look here and download a copy in a variety of formats.

Fitzroy Harbour Catholic Mission Marriage Records

You can always find something interesting and helpful at Ottawa Valley Irish blog. The latest of helpful resources is a transcription of Marriage Records from the Fitzroy Harbour Catholic Mission. While I knew the Mission served the Harbour area, I learned from the blog that it also served Catholics from the other side of the Ottawa River in Quyon, Quebec area.

If you’d like to take a read yourself and explore the 1852-1856 marriage records, find your way here.OttawaValleyIrish

Reunion Date Set!

We’ve set our date for the 2014 Reunion!

We’ll be meeting once again in Kanata at the Country Inn & Suites.

Sunday September 21, from 1:30-5pm.

For all the details, click on the Reunion 2014 button at the top of the home page.

Hope you will be able to join us!

“Lost” Irish Census Records Online

The explosion and fire at the Public Record Office at Dublin’s Four Courts during the Irish Civil War wiped out hundreds of years of records going back as far as medieval times, including most of the census records from 1821 forward thirty years.

British Lancia armoured police vehicles outside the wreckage of the Hammond Hotel in O’Connell Street, Dublin during the Irish Civil War in July 1922. Photograph: Brooke/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
British Lancia armoured police vehicles outside the wreckage of the Hammond Hotel in O’Connell Street, Dublin during the Irish Civil War in July 1922. Photograph: Brooke/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Who perpetrated the incident on the afternoon of June 30, 1922? No answer has ever been established. Some blame the national army which was shelling the anti-Treaty forces who were occupying the Four Courts; others believe the anti-Treaty forces deliberately blew up the records in an act of defiance of the new State.

Contrary to the general perception though, not all the census records were lost. Now, for the first time, the records which survived will be made available to the public online. They contain partial census records from 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851.

1821: Some 250,000 census records relating to the counties of Cavan, Meath, Galway and Offaly from 1821 survive.

1831: The 1831 census records for County Derry mostly survived.

1841: the last census before the Famine, a section of the Cavan records survived.

1851: substantial records from both Antrim and Dublin remain intact.

Another valuable source of information released are the thousands of pension application forms from 1909. In order to be eligible for the first State pension, you had to prove you were 70 — and that could only be done through the census records. A civil register of births was not introduced until 1864.

NatlArchivesIrlIn total some 629,000 records of the estimated 12 million that were in the public record office before the explosion are now available to the public to view. The project was result of a partnership between the National Archives, FindMyPast.ie and FamilySearch.org.

The National Archives of Ireland census page (link below) offers a nice summary of available census resources and substitute sources of information.

A nice summary of the situation of Irish census materials is also found in the Irish Roots column of John Grenham in The Irish Times here.

See the websites: FindMyPast.ie and census.nationalarchives.ie

–from reporting by Ronan McGreevy, The Irish Times