Letter from the battlefield 100 years ago

If you have a quiet moment on this Canada Day, I encourage you to read this short letter from Lance Corporal Herbert Booth, 9th Battalion The King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry). He wrote it to his brother James shortly before the first day of the Battle of the Somme — July 1, 2016.

You will find a transcription of the letter in Jane Robert’s post, Letters: Life, Love, Death & The Somme, on her blog, PastToPresentGenealogy.

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O, Canada! 100 Canadian non-fiction books

Canadian flagCBC Books has assembled an interesting list of 100 non-fiction books about Canada. Several of these books may help genealogists better understand the period during which their ancestors lived.

Book_Baltimores MansionGenealogists looking for summertime reading may enjoy:

Baltimore’s Mansion by Wayne Johnston

Gold Diggers by Charlotte Gray

Roughing it in the bush by Susanna Moodie

The Hanging of Angélique by Afua Cooper

Nation Maker by Richard Gwyn

 

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Documentary about Newfoundlanders at Battle of the Somme on TV tonight

Newfoundland at Armageddon, Brian McKenna’s two-hour documentary reenactment of Newfoundlanders at the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916, will be aired on CBC-TV tonight, Thursday June 30 at 8:00 p.m. Learn more on Christopher Moore’s History News.

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Ancestry.ca offers four days of free access for Canada Day

In celebration of Canada Day, you can search some of Ancestry.ca’s most popular Canadian collections — census records and voters lists, immigration and travel records, vital records, and military records — for free until July 3, 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.

With Ancestry’s free-access offer and Findmypast’s offers (see previous blog post), I should probably wish you a rainy long weekend.

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Free access to more records on Findmypast thru July 6

Findmypast does it again. In addition to free access to all military records until July 4, the UK-based online genealogy service announced yesterday it is offering eight days of free access to more than one billion UK, UK and Irish records — and it has already started.

Read about Findmypast grants free access to all military records to mark centenary of Battle of the Somme here.

This offer is part of Findmypast’s new campaign to “help US family historians learn more about their earliest American ancestors” — but Canadians with ancestors in the US, UK, and Irish can benefit too.

Until July 6, you have free access to immigration and travel records, US marriages, and all UK, Irish, and US censuses.

And it gets better. In time for the American 4th of July holiday, the campaign  coincides with the release of two new record sets: more than two million US Passport Applications and Indexes (1795-1925), and more than seven 7 million US Naturalisation Petitions.

The records on Findmypast that are free to search include:

  • Over 106,000,000 US passenger list records
  • Over 116,000,000 US marriage records
  • Over 690,000,000 US and Canada census records
  • Over 265,000,000 UK and Irish census records
  • Over 10 million new and existing Naturalization records
  • Over 1.7 million brand new US Passport applications
  • Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960
  • Over 827,000 convict transportation records
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Legacy webinar subscription becomes more attractive

We genealogists have the reputation of being somewhat frugal. To save money, we take advantage of every free-access weekend, free online database, and free webinar — anything to avoid spending a dime. When we do spend a dollar, we make sure we get our money’s worth.

Legacy FamilyTree’s latest offer to entice genealogists to spend $49.95US (about $65 CDN) or $9.95 US a month ($13 CDN) for an annual subscription to webinars may encourage us to pull out our credit card. Here’s why.

This summer, in addition to its members-only webinar series, Legacy will offer five members-only in-depth series.

For example, starting July 18, Legacy webinar subscribers will be able to “attend” six classes by Ireland’s best-known genealogist, John Grenham. Mr. Grenham is the author of the genealogical standard, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors.

His six classes include:
Foundations of Irish Genealogy 1: The Raw Materials of Irish Genealogy
Foundations of Irish Genealogy 2: The Major Records I – General Register Office
Foundations of Irish Genealogy 3: The Major Record II – Censuses
Foundations of Irish Genealogy 4: The Major Record III – Church Records
Foundations of Irish Genealogy 5: The Major Record – 19th Century Property Records
Foundations of Irish Genealogy 6: Bringing the Major Records Together

The following classes are also part of the summer in-depth series:
Melissa Barker — Researching in Archives (5 classes)
Thomas MacEntee — Getting Started with Microsoft PowerPoint (10 classes)
Blaine Bettinger — Foundations in DNA (5 classes)
Gena Philibert-Ortega — Researching in California (4 classes)

The subscription also gives you access to all 363 classes in the Legacy webinar library, including all handouts. Learn more here.

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Learn online about the Battle of the Somme

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the worst day in British military history, when the four-month Battle of the Somme began, you may be interested in learning about it.

It was on July 1, 1916 — the first day of the battle — when the British suffered almost 60,000 casualties.

You don’t have to look far on the internet to find lots of websites, photos, and videos about the Battle of the Somme. Here are three documentaries, a website, and a new app that doesn’t require a smart phone.

Image from the WWI documentary, "The Great War: The Somme."

Image from the WWI documentary, “The Great War: The Somme.”

Documentaries
These documentaries are available on YouTube.

The Somme: From Defeat to Victory (BBC) – 58 minutes
This documentary challenges the traditional view of the battle as a disaster and reveals how it was on the Somme that the British army learned to fight a modern war.

Based on extensive research in British and German archives, the film mixes realistic, historically sourced drama scenes, archive, documentary footage and state of the art computer graphics to bring the extraordinary events of the Somme to life. It has been made with the advice of some of the world’s top military historians. The result is a film that offers a radical new perspective on the Somme, putting the terrible events of July 1, 1916 into their proper historical context.

The Great War: The Somme – 45 minutes
Why was the first day on the Somme such a disaster for the British? World War I, trenches and barbed wire ran across the entire continent of Europe from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. At 7:30 a.m. on July 1, 1916, after a devastating artillery bombardment lasting more than a week, 100,000 British soldiers waited in their trenches ready to advance on the German lines. They’d been told to expect minimal resistance, but as they picked their way slowly across no-man’s-land, guns opened fire. Shells burst overhead, and waves of men were machine-gunned down. It was a military catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.

Filmed on the battlefield itself, in laboratories and on firing ranges – archaeologists, military historians, and other experts from disciplines as diverse as metallurgy and geology investigate the factors and conduct tests to replicate and understand the factors that turned one terrible day into the bloodiest in the history of the British Army.

The Somme, 1916: Hell on Earth – 60 minutes
At 7.30 a.m. on July 1, 1916 the proud and eager young men of Kitchener’s Army went “over the top” for the first time. The Battle of the Somme had begun. By the end of that first terrible day almost 60,000 of their numbers had become casualties, and one of military history’s greatest disasters had unfolded before the disbelieving eyes of the Allied High Command.

Interactive Somme cemetery app
To further add to your understanding of the devastation of this battle, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has created an interactive Somme cemetery app that you can try here. The good news is there is no fancy app to download and you don’t need a smart phone to see it.

Make sure you click on the box, Learn more about this cemetery. From there, you can click on the Casualty Records and the cemetery plan.

One cemetery that stood out was Beaumont-Hamel. “On 1 July the 29th Division attacked the German-held village of Beaumont-Hamel, but was devastated by machine-gun and artillery fire. Four and half months later, on 13 November, the 51st (Highland) Division stormed the German lines and captured the village. Located within the Newfoundland Memorial Park, Y Ravine Cemetery is the final resting place of nearly 430 servicemen many of whom died in July and November 1916.”

CWGC website — The Somme
While visiting the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website, take a look at the tabs about the Somme across the top of the screen or simply click here.

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‘The Fenians Are Coming’ exhibit marks 150th anniversary of raids in Quebec

If you plan to visit Quebec’s beautiful Eastern Townships this summer, drop by the Missisquoi Museum in Stanbridge East to see The Fenians Are Coming, an exhibit that commemorates the Fenian raids 150 years ago. It runs until October 9.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia website, “The Fenians were a secret society of Irish patriots who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States. Some North American members of this movement were intent on taking Canada by force and exchanging it with Britain for Irish independence. From 1866 to 1871 the Fenians launched a series of small, armed incursions” of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Manitoba.

James Young, 1st Regiment, Prince of Wales Rifles of Montreal, Volunteer Militia, ca. 1862.

James Young, 1st Regiment, Prince of Wales Rifles of Montreal, Volunteer Militia, ca. 1862.

On June 7, 1866, General Samuel Spear of the Fenians and 1,000 men marched into Canadian territory, occupying Pigeon Hill, Frelighsburg, Saint-Armand and Stanbridge, Quebec, small towns close to the American border.

On June 8, Canadian forces arrived at Pigeon Hill and the Fenians, who were low on arms, ammunition and supplies, promptly surrendered, ending the raid on Canada East.

On a personal note, my great-great-grandfather James Young, who 18 months earlier had been held captive in the US civil war prison Andersonville, served with the 1st Regiment, Prince of Wales Rifles in nearby Durham and Ormston in June 1866.

The Fenians returned in 1870 with 2,000 men, but were soundly defeated in Frelighsburg by 40 local farmers who had formed a home guard.

Book launch
Earlier this month, the Missisquoi Museum was the site of the launch of historian Laurent Busseau’s new book, The Fenians Are Coming.

In an article in the Guide Journal, Missisquoi Historical Society president François Reid said, “The fruit of long and meticulous research, this book, The Fenians Are Coming, is a detailed and abundantly illustrated work, filled with newly discovered and never-told stories.”

Sales of the book will be an ongoing fundraiser for the Missisquoi Historical Society. Available in English or French, it can be purchased in person for $20 at the Missisquoi Museum or ordered online at info@museemissisquoi.ca.

Details about The Fenians Are Coming exhibit can be found in this news release.

You can read about James Young’s capture during the American civil war:
How my Scottish-Canadian great-great-grandfather was captured during the US Civil War — 150 years ago today
Maggots, shinplasters, and spooning at Libby prison — 150 years ago this week

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New France in the American midwest

Book_Lives of Fort de ChartresFort de Chartres, built in the heart of what would become the American midwest, embodied French colonial power for half a century.

The book, Lives of Fort de Chartres, by David MacDonald, details the French colonial experience in Illinois from 1720 to 1770 through depictions of the places, people, and events around the fort and its neighbouring villages.

Published this year by Southern Illinois University Press, the book provides biographical sketches of various people who lived at Fort de Chartres, near what is Prairie du Rocher, Illinois today.

In his blog, Curieuse Nouvelle France, Joseph Gagné recommends this book to those interested in reading about the history of New France in the US. Last year, he had helped the author with the manuscripts. (In the book’s acknowledgements, Mr. Gagné is described as “emerging as a leader in the new generation of scholars of Nouvelle France and French Louisiana.”)

In the first section of th Lives of Fort de Chartres, Mr. MacDonald explores the history of French Illinois and the role of the fort, focusing on native people, settlers, slaves, soldiers, villages, trade routes, military administration, and the decline of French rule in Illinois.

The second section profiles the fort’s twelve distinctive and often colorful commandants, who also served as administrative heads of French Illinois.

In the third section, the author presents ten thought-provoking biographies of people whose lives intersected with Fort de Chartres in various ways, from a Kaskaskia Indian woman known as “the Mother of French Illinois” to an ill-fated chicken thief, and a European aristocrat.

The book is available from Amazon (where you can look inside at several pages), ChaptersIndigo, the publisher, and elsewhere.

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New Canadian collections on Ancestry

Ancestry recently launched two new Canadian collections: Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada, Homestead Grant Registers, 1872-1930, and Canada, Photographic Albums of Settlement, 1892-1917.

PrintHomestead grant registers
The Homestead Grant Registers, 1872-1930, collection contains 668,623 records of registers of applications for land grants for the western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

Under the Dominion Lands Act in 1872, individuals could apply to homestead a quarter section (160 acres) of land and then apply for a patent (title) to the land after occupying and improving the land for three years. The registers contain a single-line entry for each homestead application and include date of application, date of grant, and details regarding the land.

Ancestry subscribers can access the land grant registers here.

Settlement photos
The Photographic Albums of Settlements, 1892-1917, is an image-only collection of photographic albums compiled by the Department of the Interior. Included are 3,358 images relating to agriculture, railroads, ports, cities, and immigration in virtually every province and territory in Canada (excluding Newfoundland). The majority of the photos were taken by John Woodruff and Horatio N. Topley, who were hired by the Canadian government to capture the spirit of Canada during this period.

This collection is available to Ancestry subscribers here.

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