Friday, 10 March 2017

One Reason to Read Genealogy Newsletters & Blogs

A simple Google search will bring up hundreds of Genealogy and Family History newsletters and blogs written by professional genealogists, and amateur sleuths alike.   Trying to decide which ones to read on a regular basis can be overwhelming at times.   If we read all of them, we wouldn't have time to work on our own projects.

That being said, I recommend finding a few you like, and making sure you read them on a regular basis.  Not only will it open your eyes to new places to search, or a new perspective on a brick wall - but often times it can save you money.

Case and point - Irish Genealogy News.   Claire, the author, writes the blog in tandem with her Irish Genealogy Toolkit.   Both sites are a wealth of information!   For those of us researching our Irish history, the Irish Genealogy News is not only full of interesting tidbits, but also lets you know how you can save money. 

For example, today's entry tells us how you can get a 20% discount on the Irish Newspaper Archives  (offer expires March 18).    On March 6, she let us know about a 1/3 off discount on an annual subscription.   Those two alone represent a potential savings of 110 Euros or ~ $160CAD !

Add in updates on Genealogy Projects such as headstone transcribing/photographing, and reviews of books or magazines, and other great posts on a regular basis, and it's definitely a site to add to your reading schedule.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Resources for Research into the CEF

Remembrance Day always triggers my desire to find out more about the soldiers in my family.  Many of them enlisted or volunteered in the CEF or the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  Most of them, thankfuly, made it home relatively unscathed.   But some of them were lost to the battle fields somewhere in France or Italy.   Often the only readily available information about how they died is where they are buried.  That doesn't tell us very much.  It doesn't give us a picture of what their lives were like, who their commrades were, what struggles they endured, or what victories they celebrated.  Each life deserves to be honoured, and these soldiers deserve to have their stories told and passed down to future generations.

To start to flesh out their story, the first thing we need to narrow down is where were they when they died ?

To begin with, we look at their attestation paper, located on this page at the Library & Archives Canada,.  As I noted in my January, 2014 post about my uncle, Hasting Martin, most Attestation papers will have a stamp or hand written note at the top of the front page which indicates the Battalion to which they were initially assigned.    In my uncle's case, he was assigned to the "1st C.O.R.", or the 1st Central Ontario Regiment.  But, as with most of the soldiers in WW1, he was fairly quickly re-assigned to another troop or battalion once he was over seas.    What often takes the most time when researching my soldiers is trying to find out where they were assigned next.

For example, last week I was researching a soldier in my cousin's family.  He was killed in early 1917 - but there is a discrepancy as to exactly when.  Some references say March, others June.  This is actually unusual, as the Canadian military is typically clear about assigning a date even if the soldier was missing in action and presumed dead.  What I do know is that he is currently buried at the Cabaret-Rouge British War Cemetery in Souchez, France.  But that he was originally buried at the smaller North Angres British Cemetery, which is located about 10 minutes north east of Souchez.

This tells me that he died in France, in a battle sometime between March and June, 1917.

His Attestation paper indicates that he was initially assigned to the 193rd Battalion. But a glance at military movements doesn't show any battles involving the 193rd Battalion in France that year.  So how did he die ?

First step is to find out what Battalion he was with at the time of his death.

Last week I ran across a great resource that quickly addresses this:   Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. Infantry Battalions. (.pdf document)

This document has a page of resources for every Battalion in the CEF from the 1st Battalion to the 260th Battalion.    First it provides a summary of the battalion, and then it goes on to list reference numbers for things like War Diaries, Appointment of Officers, Promotions, Demobilization, Narratives, Operations, etc. that you can order from the Library and Archives.

For me, the most valuable item is that initial summary.  For example:

Source:  Library & Archives Canada, 2015-11-20

This is the "summary" portion from that document for the 193rd Battalion.     This indicates that my soldier was likely recruited in Nova Scotia (which he was), likely in early 1916.   His Attestation Paper confirms this - he signed it on March 16, 1916, in Cumberland, Nova Scotia.

According to this, the Battalion left Nova Scotia on board the HMS Olympic  (i.e. a ship), and reached England just a few days later in October.    Then it notes that some of them went into the 73rd Battalion, and most went into the 42nd Battalion in December.   The remaining members were absorbed in their entirety into the 17th Canadian Reserve Battalion.

Now, to find out what happened to him, I can take a look at the movements of those Battalions, and find out which of them was in the area at the time, and narrow down my soldiers movements.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Unexpected Find - Military Records

Today I was writing up a tidbit on my great-great Uncle Hasting, to celebrate his birthday (January 26, 1897).  Among the records I had already had on file for him was his Attestation Papers which he'd signed on May 14, 1918.  The papers give a wealth of information including his occupation, a physical description of him at the time, as well as confirming his mother's name and address.

But it's the header that led me to much more:

2nd M D    1st Depot Battalion.   1st C.O.R. Regiment

The MD refers to Military Division.  The next indicates the Battalion he was with.  And finally, 1st C.O.R. Regiment.  That stands for 1st Central Ontario Regiment.

I knew from an article written about Uncle Hasting in a newsletter in 1962 that he'd served with the 4th Infantry Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.  Once I'd discovered that he'd been assigned to the 1st COR initially, I managed to track down that he was almost immediately added to the backup troops heading overseas to join the 4th.  But where did he go and when ?

I lucked out on  This site has been a wealth of unexpected information over the past few years, and today was no different.  On that site I discovered the "Records of the Fourth Canadian Infantry Battalion", compiled by Captain W.L. Gibson, paymaster and historian of the Battalion, and published by The Maclean Publishing Company in Toronto in 1924.

A search through those records told me that Hasting was assigned to the 4th on May 14, 1918 as a member of the 1st C.O.R., and that he was T.O.S. (i.e. "taken on strength", or joined the Battalion in person) on October 9, 1918 in the north of France.  It continues to tell us the Battalion's movements throughout France, and then how the boys headed to Southhampton, boarded the S.S. Olympic and landed at Halifax on April 15, 1919.   They then headed to Toronto where the unit was disbanded on April 23, 1919, and according to those records, Hasting returned to Markstay, Ontario.  It also confirms that he was not wounded during his time served.

What more can I take from this information ?  If I wanted to, I could search for military photos of the Battalion at any point along their route in France; capture photos of the SS Olympic, perhaps even interior shots that would show how the troops were treated during their voyage home.  I could search newspaper archives to see if there was more information about the Battalion either during the war, or upon their arrival in Halifax or Toronto.   Even a simple search for military medals, uniforms, etc., would fill out even more information about his time serving our country. 

One unexpected find, but vast potential for adding life and spark to a story.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Let's Take a Tour of this Blog

The main purpose of the blog initially, was to create a warehouse for on-line resources that others can use in their own searches.  My bookmarks are rather unruly, and I'm frequently hunting for one link or another.  So if you look at the list of links to the left, you'll see how I've categorized them for now.

At the moment, these are literally just lists of sites that I use on a semi-regular, or very regular basis in my hunting.   My family all, at one time or another either lived, or passed through, Ontario or Quebec, Canada.  So my list of links is heavily focused on those two provinces in Canada.     The majority of my family also hails from either Ireland or Wales, so again there may be a slight weight given to those lists.   And finally, a large number of them also settled in Boston, Massachusetts, or Cleveland, Ohio, so those will be two growing areas in the United States category.

Over time, as I slowly add to these lists, they may shift and change, and more main categories could be added.   But for now, they are what they are.    I've lumped things like Ships and Passenger Lists, Cemeteries, Newspapers, and Maps together instead of dividing them up between countries because those are items that do ebb and flow between countries.  Newspapers from the U.S.A. often make mention of events in Ontario.   There was a time when an expat Irishman would die in Canada, but his burial records would also be filed in their family church in Ireland, or a Canadian burial record would denote the place of birth or residence of their parents in Ireland.

Eventually, I'd like to try and highlight some of these sites and maybe give some suggestions as to how you can use the information you find there, to lead you to another site or another bit of information. But for now, enjoy the list.  And please feel free to suggest others that you've found handy as well.  You'd be amazed at how much we can all learn from one another.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

So here we are...

Oh look, another genealogy blog on the internet.  Yay ?!?    I know, I know.  But here I am, blogging about the subject that seems to have taken the world by storm lately - genealogy.  Or am I ?  

Let's see...
ge ne al o gy 
npl. ge·ne·al·o·gies
  1. A record or table of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or ancestors; a family tree.
  2. Direct descent from an ancestor; lineage or pedigree.
  3. The study or investigation of ancestry and family histories.
Well, if you take a look at the F.A.Q. I've written (over on the left there...), you'll see I'm not particularly interested in the "direct descent from an ancestor; lineage or pedigree."   And while I can produce alot of tables and records, the majority of my documentation and files aren't the clinical birth-death-marriage records required by the rules or "laws of genealogy." Oh sure, I have all of that data wherever possible. But I add to it that little bit of extra - the spice of life.

No, in the world of family trees, mine is not a lombardy poplar (tall, straight, narrow), it's more of a gigantic old maple tree (wild, branchy, reaching for the sky, with very deep roots)   It is full of stories and photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, book notations, family folk lore, and truths.    It can be staid and boring in spots, but usually it is fascinating, fun, and inspiring.    My family tree isn't unique, special, or outstanding.  The truth is, all of our families have the same types of people, the same types of stories, the same folklore, and the same intrigue.  Some of us just don't know where to look for it.

Over the past couple of years I've been slowly building a library of short write-ups about various family members, typically in celebration of their birthday or anniversary, and I post them for my family to see on Facebook, or occasionally email them.   My friends often comment that they wished their family was that interesting, and family members will ask where I'd discovered all these little bits of information - things they'd never heard of.   Surely I'm just creative, and I make some of this stuff up ?No.  I can honestly say that I haven't had to make any stories up, or invent things out of thin air.  Everything I've written has been based on the facts and information I've found in my searches either in my boxes of collected paper and photos, or mostly on the internet.

My family isn't any different than most.  I have boxes (and boxes and boxes) of un-identified photos, old letters, post cards, and newspaper clippings.   There are basements full of old slides, film reels, school photos, and newsletters.    Most of it has sat for years, unorganized, and undocumented.   But then one day, after lugging boxes of unorganized papers back from my Grandma's house, the bug bit me, and for the past few years I've spent most of my free time organizing and documenting, and scanning everything I could get my hands on for all of my families.   And, most importantly - I've been sharing whatever I could with whomever was interested.  That, my dear readers, is the key.

This blog is part of that sharing.  It won't be focused on my families - although as I mentioned to my mother the other day, I'm fairly certain I could write a trilogy of thick books on each one of them from the looks of my study shelves.    What I'd like to focus this blog on is the WHERE.  Where did I find those little tidbits that can flesh out a person's life enough to make them just that much more interesting. How can I help others to find that same little bit to add to their own family story.

As I always say - every life holds a story just waiting to be told.  Let's go find yours.