Historic Westmeath Township

If you have branches of your family tree in the Upper Ottawa River Valley area, you’ll want to stop by the Historic Westmeath Township Project website.


It is a rich source of information on a number of families of the historic Ottawa Valley — check the Family Registry section — and the lumber companies of that area, among many other bits of useful information.

That’s how I came upon the site: Tracking my great grandfather, I found a brief notice in the Ottawa Journal that because of a serious leg wound, he returned home from his job as slide master with the Upper Ottawa Improvement Company. In my search for information on the company I stumbled upon the HWT Project.

Report on the 2011 November Reunion

Well, look what I found among my drafts for posts …

Haha .. Never managed to post it! But as with most things genealogy .. “Better late than never!”

Our reunion was a great success! With all that has been going on since, I haven’t had a chance to talk about the day.

It was a great chance to meet relatives who didn’t know one another! And we did bring together quite a crew of descendants of Matthew O’Connor and Mary Doyle. And yes, we had a birthday cake in their honor, thanks to cousin Sharon!

My sister Margo (who was unable to come) was hoping that we could find some relatives from the Cadieux side. And we did! Our cousin Neal (his grandmother was Belle Cadieux) joined us and we were thrilled that he brought along some photos to share too.

I had been doing some research at the Arnprior & McNab Braeside archives and came upon a host of photos from our Frood ancestors. Maybe our 2012 reunion will have someone representing the Frood or Watt families.

Turns out that we still have some cousins from my father’s generation in the Ottawa area, which was a great and happy surprise  Matthew O’Connor and Mary Doyle’s next to last child was Emmett (my grandfather’s brother). His daughter Marion, who coincidentally lives not far from the site of the reunion, joined us! What a thrill to catch up with her and that part of the family. Her sister Rita lives in Oklahoma and brother Desmond in the Ottawa area. When I visited with her on the Sunday following, she showed me a letter to our grand uncle Msgr. O’Connor from FDR, asking his advice.

Family of another of my grandfather’s brothers, Stephen, were represented, too! Richard wasn’t able to join us, but his brother stopped by, and was interested in the details of the tree. He got to meet some new cousins, too!

Connie, representing the Delaney branch, was also with us. Her grandmother was Mary “Minnie” O’Connor (my grandfather’s sister; daughter of Matthew & Mary) who married George Delaney.

Gary Allen has been doing research on the Irish in the Ottawa Valley. He joined us for the family names, and discovered a connection to the family through Isidore Cadieux, brother of my great grandfather David!

Cousin John is very knowledgeable on the O’Connor tree, having done most of his research before we had internet sources, so he knows the original sources and details well. He was a great resource for those with questions about the O’Connor and Dolan lines.

Cousin Sharon is also well versed in the O’Connors and Dolans. She too was a go-to person for questions. …and she helped with the cake and refreshments.

We had a really great morning together. It was a great chance to connect to family we had only seen as names on the family tree, but have now had a chance to meet and enjoy. So many commented that it would be nice to do this each year, that we are working on the dates for 2012.

I’m hoping to find some representatives of the Wilson and McEwan lines who could join us.

Ancestry, FamilyTreeMaker and RootsMagic

10,000 people can’t be wrong! Or so Ancestry.com has decided.

While this post isn’t revealing anything new .. Ancestry announced that it sold FamilyTreeMaker at least a month ago. But the big news in that announcement was that both FamilyTreeMaker and RootsMagic will have the ability to sync with the online Ancestry trees users have created. That functionality is to come online by the end of 2016.

I’m glad that Ancestry listened to subscribers. It was a poor decision that they have now somewhat ameliorated.

And thanks to it, I have begun exploring the bigger world of online subscriptions to resources. My first decision was to say goodbye to FamilyTreeMaker. I’ve switched to RootsMagic7 and am looking forward to the sync function being available.

But I’ve also decided to end my annual subscription to Ancestry.com.

I’ve already begun trying findmypast.com. I will give them a shot for awhile, with the plan to subscribe to online family history record sites for no more than a year at a time. I will likely use Ancestry again, but for a few months only. Previously I had saved all year to be able to afford a World Membership with Ancestry. But their decision opened my eyes to a new approach, which I had never thought of before — because of my loyalty to and tie-in with my computer based tree.

It should be a fun adventure!

A New Year Has Arrived!

Greetings everyone! In what came as a surprise to me, 2016 has snuck up on me and arrived unexpectedly!

With the new year, I’m launching the occasional (very occasional!) newsletter to keep in touch with all my readers here, and with our Ottawa Family Tree Reunion friends and cousins, to talk about future reunions, to share ideas on researching the tree and to share new information about the various branches of our tree.

I expect that I will also chronicle in the newsletter and here, in the blog, my journey from FamilyTreeMaker software and the ancestry.com websites to RootsMagic7 and some new online subscription sites I’ll be exploring.

Here in the blog I’ll be continuing to explore what has become the single most popular topic among all posts: the free online resources for Canadian genealogy. (The all-time most popular post is about how to access and navigate the free Google newspaper archive to discover the Ottawa Citizen and other newspapers online.)

And I’ll continue to share the best of what I learn from online genealogy folks and my travels here are there for events and research. (Post Animal Kingdom in January, I’m looking forward to an Irish genealogy workshop at the New York Public Library at the end of February, provided the weather allows.)

For more pithy insights, links and helps to genealogy research (and updates on news and local weather too!), you can follow me on Twitter where you’ll find me @ottawafamtree

This past year we had 5,700 visits to the blog. I’m told that a New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. So if the blog were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people! But no tokens required to enjoy this ride!

Thanks to everyone who has visited, commented and connected at reunions! Wishing everyone a wonderful, healthy and joyous 2016!

Check in again soon!

Ancestry says Goodbye to Family Tree Maker

In what was a surprising email to subscribers, Ancestry.com announced today that it will no longer be selling Family Tree Maker software after December 31, and will no longer offer any support or functionality to its TreeLink after 2017.

Everyone I know who uses FTM in tandem with the online Ancestry site is angry and upset. I am, too. What will we do with our computer-based trees?

Most folks prefer to have a copy of their family tree on their own computer, not just “in the cloud.” Plus, when you are going to do research somewhere that has no wifi or internet access, you need a printout — something the Ancestry online site just can’t do in any helpful way.

Ancestry.com has been moving in this online-only direction for awhile: Full-on “business model.” Run by people who don’t seem to do genealogy, and aren’t familiar with people who do, and don’t seem to know what those who use the website, are asking for from the website. (See the 6,500 and counting comments on the blog, and the reaction to the New Ancestry.com version of the site.)

I’m not saying this just because I’m disappointed (I am!) .. but because that’s how Ancestry.com described it to us in their email and blog post. The market for genealogy software is “declining” and it takes a lot of resources to keep up the software and handle problems. And they’ve added wonderful things to the online site.

From the point of view of those of us who have been advocates for Ancestry up til now, Ancestry stood as the best organization to be the “Last Man Standing” as far as desktop ancestry software goes .. to “own” that market.

But I’ve come to understand that that would require a commitment to genealogy and individual family historians, and not just to the bottom line. The online service, in a genius approach, takes the material individuals put online, and uses software to make it into the product they sell.

That simply isn’t the case with the desktop software. If you don’t link and update to the online tree … the information, documents, photos — and their connections — on your computer, don’t become part of the Ancestry product. And software has to be updated, re-written when the site changes, updated with new features. That costs money.

You’d have to want to keep the software, just for the love of genealogy and genealogy researchers. Not to make a bigger profit.

That Ancestry.com disappeared somewhere in the various sales of the company, or parts of it, in the last few years.

RIP Family Tree Maker.


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