Auditor General report uncovers issues at Library and Archives Canada

According to a report from the Auditor General’s office, summarized in a Toronto Star article, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) spent $15.4 million on a digital record system it never used. “That finding is one of numerous concerns uncovered by auditors examining Library and Archives Canada’s ability to keep up with its archival mandate in an increasingly digital world.”

The audit revealed that in 2006, eight years before Guy Berthiaume, the current chief librarian and archivist took over, LAC built a system for storing and preserving digital records and shut down the project in 2012 “without documentation from management on the rationale for the decision.”

The audit also found:

  • LAC has a backlog of about 98,000 boxes, including 24,000 boxes of military records.
  • Finding aids for residential school system records at LAC listed boxes, but did not describe box contents, described records that did not match the contents of the boxes, or failed to identify all records in the boxes.
  • LAC says digital records will represent the “format of choice” by 2017.
  • LAC has no corporate digitial strategy or program in place to manage the enormous amount of electronic documents it anticipates receiving from federal departments.
  • Since 2009, LAC was able to update the directives for just 30 of 195 federal agencies, meaning it could not ensure it was acquiring all retired records of archival value. As a result many records were stuck in limbo, awaiting LAC’s decision as to whether they should be saved or destroyed.
  • LAC agreed with the auditor’s recommendations and responded with plans to address the various shortcomings.

Read more in the Toronto Star‘s article, Federal library struggling with backlog, key records poorly filed, auditor-general finds.

A CBC report about the audit is available here.

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Mount Royal Cemetery — and are the streets in Montreal named after real saints?

Montreal is sometimes called the City of Saints, in large part due to the many streets seemingly named after holy folks. But who are these saints, and are Montreal’s streets really named after canonized individuals? To find out who they are and for a peak at the Archives de Montréal, watch Cityline’s light-hearted, five-minute video, You’re Goin Down.

Mount Royal Cemetery
If you have another seven minutes to spare, take a look at Cityline’s Dying to Get In for a tour of Mount Royal Cemetery.

I hope these videos can also be viewed outside Canada.

With thanks to MTLBlog for tweeting about You’re Goin Down.

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Canada’s chief librarian and archivist reflects on his first six months

Canada’s chief librarian and archivist Guy Berthiaume reflects on his first six months as head of Library and Archives Canada in an interview with Ottawa Citizen reporter Chris Cobb.

During the interview, Mr. Berthiaume listed his four commitments:

1. Serve the public. (This includes genealogists — professional and amateur.)

2. Be at the leading edge. Reinvest in staff. Allow staff to increase their skills and knowledge.

3. Re-engage with stakeholders, such as the Association of Canadian Archivists.

4. Raise the profile of Library and Archives Canada. Become involved in exhibitions and conferences.

As for digitizing documents, Mr. Berthiaume said Library and Archives Canada has created partnerships with and not-for-profit “where it’s all accessible for free.” Sixty million pages have been digitized.

“With Ancestry there will always be access for free, and after five or 10 years, depending on the contract, the Ancestry documents will also be free access. So it’s for a short period but if we don’t do that the stuff will never be digitized. That’s why every major archive is working with Ancestry. … We are asking our customers to tell us what is important.”

In answer to the question, “At the end of your five-year term, what will you hope to have achieved?” Mr. Berthiaume said, “My motto is that we are here to help Canadians to know themselves, and if we can do that either digitally or in person, I will be very happy.”

The remainder of the interview and a video recording of part of it is available in Canada’s chief librarian and archivist reflects on his first six months.

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Lecture about Montreal’s smallpox epidemic of 1885

If your ancestors lived in Montreal in 1885, as mine did, chances are they were very much aware and perhaps terrified of the smallpox epidemic. The epic outbreak arrived on a train from Chicago, which brought in a carrier that killed thousands in Montreal.

Tomorrow, on Wednesday, November 26, the Société de généalogie Vaudreuil-Cavagnal’s monthly lecture will be presented by Jean-Philippe Warren and is entitled Montréal en deuil : La grande épidémie de variole en 1885 〈Montreal in mourning: The great smallpox epidemic of 1885.〉

“Canada--The Recent Smallpox Epidemic in Montreal--Vaccinating American-Bound Passengers on a Train of the Grand Trunk Railway,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 61: 1579 (December 26, 1885), 316, half-page wood engraving from sketch by James Marvin. Both in Bert Hansen Collection, New York City.

“Canada–The Recent Smallpox Epidemic in Montreal–Vaccinating American-Bound Passengers on a Train of the Grand Trunk Railway,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 61: 1579 (December 26, 1885), 316, half-page wood engraving from sketch by James Marvin. Both in Bert Hansen Collection, New York City.

Many French Canadians in Montreal opposed the smallpox vaccination, pitting them against the English-speaking community. Attempts to enforce control measures, plus the announcement in September 1885 that Louis Riel had been sentenced to death, resulted in street rioting that could only be suppressed by calling in the militia. The most ardent Catholics blamed smallpox on the immorality of the citizens. Liberals pointed the finger at the Catholic Church. Nationalists blamed the English. The English blamed the French.

The city faced one of the worst crisis in its history.

Mr. Warren is an sociologist and the holder of a Research Chair in Quebec studies at Concordia University.

The lecture will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Salle Félix-Leclerc in the Vaudreuil-Dorion Library, 51 rue Jeannotte.

For more information, visit the society’s website.

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Two books launched about Île-Perrot’s history and parish burials

Semaine nationale de la genealogieTo mark Quebec’s Semaine nationale de la généalogie (National Genealogy Week), the historical and genealogical society in Île-Perrot launched two books yesterday — one about the island’s history and another containing a directory of gravesites.

Histoire du terrier de la seigneurie de l’île Perrot 1672-2002 is about the history of the Île-Perrot seigneurie that is an island just west of the island of Montreal. Île-Perrot owes its name to François-Marie Perrot, the second governor of Montreal who succeeded Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve. The island was granted to Perrot in 1672 by his wife’s uncle, Jean Talon, first intendant of New France.

The second publication launched was Répertoire des sépultures de la paroisse Sainte-Jeanne de l’Île Perrot 1786-1910, a directory of gravesites in the Sainte-Jeanne parish in Île-Perrot.

On the Société d’histoire et de généalogie de l’Île Perrot’s website, two other books about the history of Île-Perrot are available. Information about the Histoire du terrier de la seigneurie de l’Île Perrot 1672-2002 has not yet been posted online. As for the second publication launched, I did find a CD with the same title on the society’s website that is available for $35. It is not clear if it was this CD that was launched yesterday or if they launched the print format.

The Société d’histoire et de généalogie de l’île Perrot began in 2008 and was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2011. Its mission is to bring together recherchers in history and genealogy who share a passion for the history of Île-Perrot and its pioneering families. Annual membership is $10.

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Marian Pierre-Louis joins Legacy Family Tree team

Marian-2013_243_TwitterLegacy Family Tree has announced that well-known genealogist Marian Pierre-Louis will join their team as social media marketing manager and to “provide outreach to Legacy customers through the Legacy blog, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.”

There is more good news in the announcement. Legacy will hold evening webinars in 2015, and Ms. Pierre-Louis will guest-host.

And the good news continues. To celebrate Ms. Pierre-Louis’ arrival, Legacy is offering one of her most popular webinars, Ten Brick Wall Tips for Intermediate Researchers, free to the public until Thursday, November 27. I liked this webinar so much I bought the CD. Click here to watch.

Read more in Legacy Family Tree’s announcement.

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Les cimetières du Québec website contains headstone photos taken in 199 cemeteries

Cimetieres du Quebec_home pageThe other day, I came across Les cimetières du Québec website that is filled with photos of headstones taken in 199 cemeteries across Quebec, with three more cemeteries to be added soon. Some cemeteries have been completely photographed, others only partly.

While I was not successful in my own searches, the website is worth a visit. You can search the website database by the name of the deceased or browse the names in each cemetery. There are also several general photos of the cemetery, often including a photo of the church.

Les cimetières du Québec is the brainchild of sisters Diane and Nicole Labrèche who enjoy wandering around cemeteries and taking photos. In some cases, when information is lacking in the headstone inscription, the sisters have looked at parish registers and added additional details to the database. The Labrèche sisters want to see their website grow and hope people will contribute their own photos to it.

Navigating the website
The French-language website is easy to navigate even if your understanding of French is limited.

On the Accueil (Home) page, you can select one of the cemeteries listed in the left-hand margin by region. When you find a person’s name that interests you, click on it to see a photo of the headstone. Alternatively, you can enter a name in the Recherche (Search) box. Type the last name in Nom and the first name in Prenom.

Cimetieres du Quebec_search

Cemetery location details
In most, if not all, cemeteries on the website, you will find a link to the location under one of the first two or three general photos of the website. Click on the link after Pour situer le cimetière to find details about the cemetery. (See example below.) Doing so will lead you to a chart that identifies the city (ville), county (comté), region, address, type (religion), latitude and longitude, size, status (active or non-active), and a Google Map. Also take note at the bottom of the chart to links to sources for more information about the cemetery.

Cimetieres du Quebec_situer

Links to other cemetery databases
In a couple of cemeteries, no names appear in the left-hand margin leading to photos. Instead, there is a link under one of the general photos of the cemetery that leads to another resource. That is the case for Bickford Corner Cemetery in Coaticook. In that case (see below), I found a link to a 228-page document that includes an inventory (inventaire) and other information. This inventory is filled with hundreds of photos. When the names of the deceased are only listed in an external inventory, they cannot be found in the Cimetières du Québec website database.

Cimetieres du Quebec_inventory

To find out which cemeteries have recently been added or which cemeteries will be added soon, read the Nouvelles (News) at the top of the Home page. Travail en cours (work in progress) now advises that three cemeteries are to be added. Derniers cimetières ajoutés (recently added cemeteries) lists seven new cemeteries. You can also follow them on Facebook where they announce new additions.

Cimetieres du Quebec_nouvelles

The Labrèche sisters encourage anyone with corrections, additional information, and/or photos to contact them at

Visit Les cimetières du Québec website here.

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Number of Canadians paying for online family history increases 1200%

According to an report, Canada has seen a 1200% increase in users who paid for online family history since 1994. During the same ten-year period, the United States saw a 1300% increase. Numbers drop substantially in the four other countries surveyed: Sweden – 700%; UK – 644%; Australia – 510%; and Germany where only 0.2% use paid for services.

In 2014, more than one in three (36%) online adults used the internet to learn more about their family history – double those in 2008. And this percentage is expected to double again by 2025.

Two-thirds of people feel it has become “more important than ever to know their family history.”

These are some of the results published in the Global Family History Report commissioned by and conducted by Future Foundation. More than 6,000 people in six of the world’s largest economies, the UK, Canada, US, Australia, Sweden, and German, were surveyed.

I would be curious to know the impact this increase in paid for online research has had on genealogy societies’ membership.

Ancestry's survey across six countries reveals interesting statistics.

Ancestry’s survey across six countries reveals interesting statistics.

Across the six countries:

  • A generation ago, the average family history stretched back 149 years. Today it has grown to 183 years.
  • In Canada, in 1984, the average family history stretched back 153 years. Today, it stretches back on average 185 years.
  • 71% have personally become more interested in family history in recent years.
  • 60% feel a personal responsibility to act as a ‘guardian’ of the family history.
  • 55% of young people are inspired to learn more about their family history through talking to older family members, rising to 62% of 18-24 year-olds.
  • 57% of older people were inspired to work on their family stories after coming into possession of documents photos or other materials.
  • 29% of people have been influenced by broader media awareness and television programs to research their family history.
  • 29% can track their family history back to before 1800.
  • 16% can trace their family history to earlier than 1700.
  • The oldest family histories are found in Sweden (averaging 2002 years).
  • 46% of people in the six countries studied have discovered living relatives they never knew about as a result of family history.

Benefits of family history

The majority of amateur family historians across the six countries (79%) simply enjoy their research as a leisure pursuit. However, learning about family history provides benefits.

  • 67% feel knowing their family history has made them a wiser person.
  • 77% say it has helped them understand who they are.
  • 66% say it has ‘given me more pride in who I am’.
  • 46% feel it has inspired them to be a better person.
Source: Ancestry Global Family History Report, chapter one, November 2014, Ancestry.
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This week’s crème de la crème — November 22, 2014

Some of the bijoux I discovered this week.

Fichier Origine by Sandra Goodwin on Maple Stars and Stripes.

Franco-American research from New Hampshire and Adrien Ringuette genealogy book collection gift to Centre Franco-Americain by Juliana L’Heureux on The Franco-American Blog.

Immigrants to Upper Canada via New York 1817-1819 by Lorine McGinnis Schulze on Olive Tree Genealogy.

Lincoln/Welland County Families by John D. Reid on Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections.

Why do you love to #explorearchives by Stephen McGann on The National Archives Blog.

When Aunt Mable’s Genealogy Is Wrong by Lee Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog.

Don’t Rely on the Search Engine by Cheryl Cayemberg on Have You Seen My Roots?

Stop Making Excuses by Lynn Palermo on The Armchair Genealogist.

Report cites Library and Archives woes, urban-rural library divide by Chris Cobb, Ottawa Citizen.

Black Loyalist Heritage Society president receives honorary degree by Amy Woolvett, NovaNewsNow, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Acadian child’s face reconstructed to illustrate history by Molly Segal, CBC News, Nova Scotia.

How French Canadians and indigenous women saved B.C. by Simon Yee, The Source, Vancouver.

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National Genealogy Week in Quebec — Semaine nationale de la généalogie

Semaine nationale de la genealogieFrom November 22 to November 29, genealogy societies across Quebec will celebrate the third annual Semaine nationale de la généalogie (National Genealogy Week). This year’s theme is Voici ma famille! (Here’s my family!) More than 50 free activities have been organized by genealogy societies and the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) in 13 regions. 

Among the planned activities are workshops, guided tours, exhibits, open houses, and presentations.

For a list of activities and the 32 organizations participating, visit the Semaine nationale de la généalogie website.

According to the Fédération québécoise des societies de généalogie (FQSG – Quebec Federation of Genealogy Societies) that has spearheaded the event, there are almost 25,000 genealogists in the province.

The FQSG was created in 1984 to bring together and represent genealogy societies in Quebec. Today, 71 societies are members. The list of member societies is organized by region.

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