Monday, 26 November 2018

Manitoba Ancestors: Manitoba Church Records on Family Search

Church records can be a goldmine of information for genealogists. Not only will you get that valuable birth, marriage and death information, but you can also get names of extended family. These records can also pre date civil registration and census records, getting your family further back.

The problem with church records is that they are harder to track down that census and civil registration. They are held by the various churches and dioceses, not by the government. When you're researching from a distance, anything you can find online is a definite bonus.

If you have Manitoba ancestors, you'll want to check out Family Search's collection, Manitoba Church Records, 1800-1959. This browse only collection contains entries from Catholic, Lutheran and Unitarian parishes. It is not a complete collection, but still worth a look.

According to the Family Search wiki on the collection, you should be prepared to look at records written in English, French, and possibly even Icelandic. The wiki has helpful links to help you understand and locate key French and Icelandic words, as well as a link on Scandinavian naming patterns.

There are 6,567 images in the collection, but you can narrow down things down pretty quickly. First you're going to click on Browse through 6,567 images.

Then you're going to pick one of the shown locations:

Next you can narrow down by denomination/parish, and further by record type/year range.

I am more familiar with Catholic records, since my maternal grandparents were French Canadian/Acadian. So I decided to look at St. Eustache. I looked at Baptisms, marriages, burials 1874-1882, vol.1. The first image in the set says that the collection actually goes to 1897. So I immediately went to the last image to see, and the dates on the last few entries are indeed in 1897.

The first page of text for this one is quite interesting. My "franglais" serves me well enough, so from what I can gather, there are some entries included for Baie St. Paul, the original location of the church. Due to flooding, the church had to be moved, and in 1882 became St. Eustache.

Since the main congregation of the church was French and Metis, these records are in French. What is nice about them is that the handwriting is quite clear, however you will need to use the zoom feature to be able to read some of the entries. Depending on the writer, the handwriting can be quite small. Anyone who has experience in researching French Catholic records will be quite pleased overall though. French Catholic researchers have all seen at some point handwriting with the appearance of a drunk snake slithering across the page. Thankfully, that isn't the case here on the pages I looked at. The information in the records here is quite standard for Catholic records:

  • Date of event
  • Names of baby/bride/groom/deceased
  • Parents/Witnesses/Godparents' names
  • Age
  • Parish they belonged to
  • Marriage by license or banns
  • Occupations

Those who are unfamiliar with French Catholic records will be pleasantly surprised that a woman's maiden name followed her after marriage. There are a lot of burial entries where a married or widowed woman's name will be listed as well as her married name. Another bonus I've found in Catholic records sometimes is notations in the margins of the register. It isn't that uncommon to find a notation next to a baptism of a marriage later in life, or even a death. I found a few of these in this record set.

I also looked at the First Lutheran Ardal Congregation in the Gimli municipality to see how these compared to the nicely done Catholic ones. These ones had the look of a civil registration register. The birth ones had spots to record:

  • birth date and location 
  • baptism date
  • parents' names (including mother's maiden name)
  • sex
  • signature of the parent
  • father's occupation.
The death records gave information such as:

  • Name
  • Place and date of death
  • Cause of death
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Birth place
  • Name, relationship, and residence of informant
  • Date of funeral
The marriage records have a bucket load of information for the bride and groom:
  • Name 
  • Age
  • Single or widowed
  • Parent's names
  • Birth place
  • Residence
  • Religion
  • Occupation of the groom
  • Names and residences of witness
  • Date and place of marriage
  • Married by license or banns
The records for this congregation are written mainly in English, and with a nice hand. I have absolutely zero familiarity with the Icelandic language, but I was still able to make out names clearly.

Now, this isn't a complete set of records. There are gaps in years, and I'm sure there aren't records for every parish. It's still a nice pleasant record set to deal with. It made me wish I had Manitoba ancestors.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Military Ancestors: The weekly newspaper "Canada"

I came across a rather interesting, and rare, resource this week. During the first World War, a newspaper was published in London England called "Canada: An Illustrated Weekly Journal for all Interested in the Dominion". Part weekly newspaper, part gazette, this fascinating resource is so rare that I had a hard time even finding out who published it and when. One rare book seller's website has 2 issues of it from 1917. From the description they are not in the best condition (loose pages and stains), and are being sold for $150 Canadian dollars as a set.

I cannot find a complete history of the publication. But what I've been able to piece together from several different sources was that it started sometime before WWI, and published in London England, and/or possibly in Toronto. They had an office in each location, and a later edition listed an office in Montreal. Sometime after WWI, its name seems to have become "Canada's Weekly". The most recent historical edition I could find was in 1942. Pre WWI issues had the set up as a general interest magazine. There were articles on just about anything under the sun. I found stories on commerce, agriculture, politics, tourism, fishing, and mining just to name a few. The articles were evenly balanced, highlighting areas across the country. After the start of WW1, the editions focus mainly on war news.

What makes this such a great resource is that among the war news, you'll find:

  • Birth announcements
  • Marriage announcements
  • Death announcements and Obituaries
Just look at some of the entries I found:

Births June 1907

Marriages August 1916

Deaths April 1922

Even better than this, the wartime issues lists soldiers who received war honours, those wounded, those presumed missing, and those killed. Not just the officers either. You'll find lowly privates, corporals and sergeants too. The best part about the war honours entries is that they tell you the reason why these soldiers received their medal. Here's a few examples:

July 1916

August 1916

So where do you get your hands on them? Like I mentioned above, these are hard to find, especially online. Here's a few places I found issues:

Internet Archive
They're there, but extremely hard to find among the tens of thousands of items in their database. They have varying years. Here's the links I was able to find:

Find My Past
If you're a subscriber to Find My Past, among their collection are the issues for April - August 1916

Hard Copies
Here's a list of places that have hard copies of issues:

  • Fredericton Region Museum
  • Harvard College Library
  • Vancouver City Archives 
  • Library of Congress in Washington
  • Yale University Library
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find other locations, though I am sure they're out there. If anyone has come across these either online or off line, feel free to leave a comment letting us know where.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Ancestors in Service: Porters and Domestics Records through the LAC

My apologies for the absence of late. It's an awful thing when the daily demands of your non genealogy life gets in the way of doing what you love. I've been on holidays this week, and I've made it a genealogy stay-cation. Though I haven't broken through any brick walls in my personal family research, I've been able to catch up on some of my side projects.

As part of one of my side projects, I came across an interesting database on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website. If your immigrant ancestors went into "service" as a porter or domestic, then you'll want to look at LAC's database Immigrants to Canada, Porters and Domestics, 1899-1949.

During the 1800's and the first half of the 1900's, there was a great demand for domestic help in Canada. The demand was so great that an immigration policy was enacted to bring young single women (and some men) over to Canada to settle and work. The LAC has put together a database of the thousands that came over, using several different record sets to build it. Most of the women are from the UK, but there are some from other countries as well. If your ancestor was a black man who worked as a porter, he my be in here as well. A complete description of the database can be seen in the link above.

The Search Screen allows you to search by surname, given name and/or by keyword.

I decided to use MURPHY in the surname box. It's a surname from my own tree, and not as common as my usual go-to UK surname MCDONALD. This database starts after where my Mildred MURPHY enters my family tree, so I know I won't find her.

My result was 12 MURPHYs.

I clicked on the number beside the first entry, Mary MURPHY, age 28. This is the information that came up:

    So, according to this, Mary departed the UK 28 Jan 1910, and arrived in Canada 4 Feb 1910 on the Empress of Britain. She came through Mrs. Helen Sanford's Girls Home of Welcome. Her final destination was Winnipeg, where Mrs. Sanford's receiving home was located. Now, what we want to especially take note of is the File number (22787 part 3) and Volume (119), where we will find Mary's Emigrant's Application for Ticket. The digitized file is NOT on the LAC, but don't groan just yet. You'll notice that the microfilm number at the bottom is underlined and highlighted. If you press and hold the Ctrl key and click on that microfilm number, it will open a new window on the Heritage site. This site has many digitized microfilms from the LAC.

What you'll see in this new window is a listing of the Headquarters Central Registry Files. Go through the list to find your microfilm number. There are listed numerically, so it won't take long to find the one you need. I found the one for Mary (C-4782) on page 13.

Those who've used Heritage before know that the downside to this site is that the microfilms are not indexed. This means you're going to have to go "old school" and go through page by page. This particular microfilm has 1469 images. This is where that file number 22787, part 3 comes into play.

I clicked through the first few images to see how the microfilm is set up. This particular microfilm starts with File 22787 part 3 Volume 18. So I know Mary is probably going to be pretty far into the microfilm, as she is in Volume 19. This may seem like a monumental task to find where Volume 19 starts, but look at the image below:

Where I've put the red arrow has the File and Volume written sideways. I jumped forward and back through the images until I found the start of Volume 19. But then confusion struck, because Volume 119 belongs to File 22787 part 4, and deals with domestics who came in 1911. So I went back to the beginning of the roll. The first images deal with women who sailed in June of 1910. Mary's entry said she departed 28 January 1910. So obviously there's been an indexing error. Since this roll starts with departures in June 1910 and carries until at least 1911, we can reason that the files are in sequential order of sailing date.

I then went back to the main list of microfilm numbers on the Heritage page and selected the roll before this one: C-4781. This time I started at the last image and worked my way backwards. The last emigration tickets on this roll also stated departure was in June 1910. I kept jumping backwards until I finally found Mary in image 1676.
Now I know this is the Mary I'm looking for because she's 28. Of the other two Mary's on the list, one is 22. The other Mary doesn't show an age, but when I click on her information, it says she sailed in 1924. As well, our Mary's ship name and sailing date match. So what do we know from her application?

  • She lived at 16 Riddrie Terrace, Riddrie, Glasgow
  • She has worked as a domestic servant for 12 years in the Lanarkshire area\
  • The last year she worked as a general servant
  • She is a British subject by birth
  • Her final destination is Manitoba, and she intends to work as a domestic servant
  • She is not travelling with any family members, and traveled in steerage
  • The application was received by Immigration 9 Feb 1910
  • She applied 18 Nov 1909
  • She signed with a different surname, it was crossed out, and she signed Mary Murphy above it

Now let's look at further research options for Mary:
  • She came before the 1911 and 1916 censuses in Canada. 
  • She came after the 1901 Scotland census. We know she worked in the Lanarkshire area for 12 years, so we should be able to find her as a domestic in 1901.
  • What about that crossed out surname? 

Now, as you can see with my example above, don't totally trust the index. Mary was actually located on Roll C-4781, in File 22787 Part 2, Volume 118. If you've been researching awhile, you know that human error is inevitable with indexes. So if you can't find your ancestor where they say it's located in the index, look at the sets before and after it. But look at what we found when we did find her. We know where her last address was, and have an area in Scotland to research. We know what her occupation for the previous decade has been. We also have an area to fan out from for researching forward after 1910 in Canada. We can also do some research on the Agency that brought her, to find out more about her life. Not bad for a single page application.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Hone Your Skills With Transcribing and Indexing

One of the most frustrating aspects of genealogy is handwriting. In a perfect world, all the documents we come across would have been written in a neat legible hand. In reality, we are invariably going to come across a document where the handwriting looks like a snake fell in the ink pot and slithered drunkenly across the page. It's even more of a headache when they document you're looking at is not in your spoken language, or uses archaic terms and words not in existence anymore. 

One really excellent way to get yourself familiar with handwriting is to give a go at transcribing and indexing. It's also a good way to give back to the genealogy community. These records don't index themselves.

Transcribing is becoming a lost art. Once upon a time, the only way you could take home a copy of a record was to write it out by hand. Nowadays, you can save microfilm images to a USB, and depending on the archive, take a picture of a document. While this is quicker and handier, you should still give a go at transcribing. I'm the first one to admit that when I fine a new document, my excitement doesn't let me pick up all the details when I read through it. Transcribing the document word for word forces you to slow down and look at everything the document is saying. 

Indexing is another great way to get familiar with handwriting. Take census records for example. There's set columns, so you know what information is going to be in each one. You can train yourself to look at the handwriting to make out words. How did the writer form the letters? Looking at the entries above and below can help you decipher whether that occupation is carter or cashier. 

Indexing and / or transcribing a record set of a research area you're interested in can be invaluable. The obvious bonus is you might find your ancestors. An added bonus though is that the documents will give you sense of the community your ancestor lived in, and the families there. You'll get to know how they talked, and what their lives were like. This can be true of not only census, civil registration and parish registers. Transcribing a diary of a local person can tell you about everyday life in the community. Indexing newspapers also gives insight into the events and social activities that shaped how your ancestors' saw the world. 

There are some great Canadian opportunities right now to join in indexing and transcribing:

  • The one everyone is talking about right now is the indexing on Family Search of the 1926 Census of the Prairie Provinces. We have another 5 years to wait until the next Canada wide 1931 Census, but this is still a great record set for those with ancestors in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. You can find the link to the project here
  • Library and Archives Canada has a great program called Co-Lab, where you can help index or  transcribe documents. They also have photo collections that need descriptions and tagging. The main page of Co-Lab challenges is here.
  • The Nova Scotia Archives had started last year a crowd sourcing program called Transcribe. There is nothing posted in the way of projects that I could see right now, but the link to their page is here.
  • The BC Archives is also looking for transcription volunteers. ou can see what projects are going on right now here.
  • Ancestry's World Archives Project always has projects on the go. Check out the main page here.
  • Contact your local genealogy or historical society. I can guarantee that if you call and say you would like to volunteer your time indexing and transcribing records, they'll jump to say yes. Some records will require you to spend some time at the society, but you might also be able to do things at home as well. Preparing for this blog post, I came across many local museums and archives' websites across the country asking for volunteers.
  • Automated Genealogy is a volunteer website transcribing census records. They've branched out trying to index other record sets to link to the census records. You can see more details here.
  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society has many volunteer indexing and transcribing opportunities. Don't be fooled by their name. They have many Canadian based items in their holdings. Their page on volunteering is here.

Give it a try. You don't need to block off huge amounts of time. Even just half an hour a week can make a huge difference in these projects. It's a win/win situation for everyone. The organizations get the help they need, and you get to hone your handwriting skills.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Taking the Time to Browse Part 2: Ancestry

In this series of posts, we are looking at websites where you might be missing information by not browsing through record sets. This post is about Ancestry.

Now unlike Family Search, Ancestry doesn't usually have browse only collections. At least none that I could find in Canadian record sets. What you want to do is instead of using the name search, look to the right and use the browse feature. There are some good reasons for doing this:

1. Sorry Ancestry, but sometimes your indexing needs work. Especially with non Anglo names. Here's a perfect example. One of my paternal great grandfathers was named Patrice Joseph Mallais. Using the name search, I could not find him anywhere in 1911. I could find him in St. Isidore New Brunswick in 1901, and in Taboustinac in 1921. The only Patrice Mallais in the area of New Brunswick I was looking at was a nephew of my great grandfather. So I decided to start browsing. I brought up the 1911 census, then chose New Brunswick, then started browsing through each district in the area that he was living in 1901. Lo and behold, just a few pages into the Suamarez district I found his family. PATRICE MALLAIS had been indexed as PAHIQUE MALLARS. It wasn't even close to being a variation of his name, which is why Ancestry's search feature didn't pick up on it.

2. The second reason to browse is that in each record set, there are the odd section or page that isn't indexed. A good example of this is the Canadian Voters Lists collection. It says it holds records for 1935-1980. However, if you look at the description of the record set, you'll realize that the years 1979 and 1980 are browse only.

3. Even in a record set that is fully indexed, a name or two gets missed. In the 1851 Census, I found the Ferguson family living in Toronto, Peel County. This particular page only had the bottom half indexed at the time. The first 21 names did not show up in the index. John Ferguson lived next door to his parents, John and Christina. John the younger showed in the index, but his parents did not. Since I first found the record, Ancestry has updated the indexing. John the elder and Christina now show up. But when I first found the record almost 10 years ago, they weren't. I was lucky enough to already land on the page because of John the younger. Otherwise indexing alone at that time wouldn't have given me his location in 1851.

So how can you find and be able to tell what has been indexed and what hasn't? Well on the main search page, you're going to click on Search:
From the drop down menu you're going to click on card catalogue. Next you'll see:

Now, once you've picked a record set to look at, here's how to tell if a page is indexed:

.This means it has been indexed.

See how the people icon isn't highlighted? This mean it hasn't been indexed.

Ancestry has almost 2,000 record sets that pertain to Canada. Here are some of the record sets that I have personally come across that using browse struck gold:

Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980 As I said above, the years 1979 and 1980 are not indexed. As well, OCR was used for the indexing. On more than one occasion, an ancestor's name was missed.

Acadia, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1757-1946 There are several sections that have not been indexed. As an example, some sets dealing with before and during the Acadian Expulsion have either been only partly indexed, or not at all. Also, only some years of certain parishes have been indexed.

Canada, Photographic Albums of Settlement, 1892-1917 Some of the photographs are captioned with names of people.

Canada, Fenian Raids Bounty Applications, 1866-1871 This collection is only partially indexed.

This is just a sampling. So, if you can't find an ancestor and you know they should be there, take some time to browse. You may find what you're looking for. Or, even better, take a look at a record set that looks promising. You may find something new.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Taking the time to Browse Part 1: Family Search

Indexed collections on various websites can take you many generations back in a relatively short period of time. In our excitement, we can sometimes forget about "hidden" collections. There's a whole host of record sets that haven't been indexed. If you stick to name searches, you're never going to get hits from these collections. They can take awhile to find what you want. You may have to slog through quite a few images to strike gold. Anyone who's searched through reels of microfilm at your local Archive can tell you it can be a long and tedious process. But what if the one nugget of information you find beaks down a brick wall? All that eyestrain will be worth it.

For the next few posts, I'm going to highlight ones for Canada from sites such as Family Search, Ancestry, and a few other smaller sites. This week I'll be discussing Family Search.

There are 99 uniquely Canadian Collections on Family Search's website. Here's the thing though: Only 80 of them are indexed. That means there's 19 collections that you won't see results from in a name search! That's a lot of information you could be missing. Here's how to find them:

On the Search screen, you're going to click on Canada on the Research by Location on the right.
If you are looking at records from a certain province, then click on that province. Or you can just click Canada to get all the records.

The next screen will give you a name search section, but scroll down the page to the section Image-Only Historical Collections.

They have 18 BMD collections, 1 Census, 1 Military, 12 Probate and Court, and 2 Miscellaneous collections that are not indexed. Here's the complete list. Click on the collection, then the Learn More link to get detailed information on each one.

Probate and Estate files. Images count: 783,176

Naturalization documents from Victoria and Cranbrook Counties. Image count: 23,240

Wills and indexes from across BC. Image count: 127,172

Records of land granted or bought from the provincial government and from the Hudson's Bay Company. Image Count: 4,567

A larger collection continuing on from the one above. Image count: 540,745 

Land purchases of land not surveyed. Image count: 2,408 

Indexes and Land Records for the Railway Belt and Peace River Block. Image count: 286,123

Records from ports in British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, as well as a few foreign ports. Image count: 23,381.

Taken from RCMP periodicals, newsletters and books. Image count: 9,476

Indexes of information from HBC records and the Manitoba 1870 Census. Image count: 30,729

Baptisms, marriages and burials from around Manitoba. Image count: 6,567

One of 3 collections of death registrations for the province. Image count: 76,812

Continuation of the above collection. Image count: 16,806

Books of transcriptions submitted from the churches to the Province. Image count: 7,459

Marriage registrations from around the Province. Image Count: 119,291

Early records of marriages. Image count: 141,775

Indexes and Registers. A work in progress. Image count to date: 792,235

Registers from around the province. Image count: 3,754

The third of the death registrations collection for the Province. Image count: 80,741

Baptisms, marriages, and burials from around the Province. Image count: 6,071

Indexes and registrations from around the Province. Image count: 35,026

Parish registers from around the Province. Image count: 16,188

Provincial death registrations. Image count: 27,717

Provincial marriage registrations. Image count: 21,950

Probate files. Image count: 1,395,009

Images of the Index books for Halifax County. Image count: 23,008

Genealogy notes of families from the Queen's County area. Image count: 30,314

Covers several parishes around the Province. Image count: 126,354

Baptism, marriages and burials from around the Province. Image count: 22,448

Indexes to the records submitted by the churches to the Province. Image count: 1,300,530

A work in progress. Image count to date: 4,956,093

Coverage varies by parish. Image count: 278,512

Indexes and records. A work in progress. Image count to date: 310,188

A hodge podge of land, voter, biographical, and municipal records. A work in progress. Image count to date: 1,506,449

Indexes, Docket Books and files from the Supreme Court and King's Bench. A work in progress. Image count to date: 203,047

As you can see from the image counts, there are several MILLION images not yet indexed. Think of all the information you could be missing by not looking at these. And, as Family Search starts digitizes more and more records, this list will only grow.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Military Ancestors: Courts Martial Records of the First World War at LAC

When we find a military ancestor, it's natural to imagine them doing heroic deeds and ending up with a chest full of medals. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Our ancestors were regular people just like we are, and didn't always distinguish themselves in good ways.

Library and Archives Canada has an interesting online database called Courts Marshal of the First World War. These are court records from disciplinary hearings. Not all those charged were found guilty. So even if your ancestor wasn't found guilty of the charges you will still see them in here. The paper files themselves no longer exist, so this microfilm collection is the only record left. The database itself does not have digital images. But don't get disappointed just yet. By using the information it does have, you can still get to see the file.

First, you want to bring up the main database screen here.

Then, you're going to open up a new window, and bring up the search screen here.

As you can see, you can search by Name, Regimental Number, Unit, and/or Offense. Take note that if you are using a name only search, a surname that could also be a given name will show results for both. I used "Douglas" a surname from my tree, and got results for soldiers with both their first name or middle name as Douglas as well the Douglas surname.

On your search results, click on the Item Number next to the name. This will take you to a summary screen. Using the results for Douglas, I clicked on J. Douglas, and this is the information it gave me:

Now, it doesn't seem like you get much information, but what you are going to do is take a few key pieces of information from here. What you want to look at is first the Offense. It's going to be a section number. We're lucky here because in the Remarks it tells us that he's being charged with desertion. Not all the results have an explanation though. If yours doesn't then you're going to switch back to that main page window we first opened, and scroll down the page. Here you will find what each number in the offense section means.

The second piece of information you're going to look at especially is the Reference section. It gives you all the information you need to go to Library and Archives Canada and see the microfilm. But if you can't make the trip to the LAC or hire someone to do it for you, you can still access the microfilm. What you want to do is take note of the military file number and the microfilm number. In the case of J. Douglas, the file number is 649-D-19654, and it's on microfilm T-8657.

Now go back to the main page window and scroll all the way down to How to Access the Records. Then click where I've highlighted.

This is going to take you the digitized microfilms on the Heritage website. using LAC's link will take you right to the microfilm collection.

Click on the reel you want. For J. Douglas, we want T-8657. This is where the fiddling begins. These microfilms are not searchable by keyword, so you're going to have to jump around a bit to find the file number you want. We're looking for file 649-D-19654. Go through the first couple images of the reel to find a page that looks like this:
In the top left will be the case number. Looking at the first one in the reel will give you an idea of how much you have to jump ahead in the reel to find what you're looking for. Each case starts with this image, so you'll want to find this image to get to the start of the file you're looking for. As you can see, I had quite a bit of jumping ahead and around to find 19654.

Depending on the seriousness of the charge, you may be looking at a very large file. In the images are handwritten statements, and typed transcripts of the trial. You'll have the decision of the court, and the sentence if found guilty. There are also images of the exhibits entered into evidence, names of the witnesses and the court personnel. If your ancestor appealed his decision, documentation for the appeal may be there as well. It's fascinating reading.

You can save the image for each page by right clicking over the image, and selecting "save image as..". This will allow you to save it to your computer. For very large case files, it will be tedious. But it will still be quicker than trying to transcribe. There is so much information, you'll never be able to absorb it all in one sitting. As well, the microfilming done at the time didn't always result in nice clear images. It may take some adjusting on your part to make out everything clearly.

And what happened to J. Douglas? Well according to his case file, he was supposed to have returned from leave in London, England on 19 October, 1917. He did not return, and it wasn't until 5 February 1918 that he was apprehended. He was declared Not Guilty of Desertion, but Guilty of being Absent Without Leave. He was scheduled to 1 Year Jail Hard Labour.