February 13, 2016

Free Access to Canadian & Immigration Records!

Olive Tree Genealogy received the following announcement: 

While Family Day isn’t celebrated nationally – in fact, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. are the only provinces to officially celebrate the day – Ancestry.ca is using this family-focused holiday to offer free access to all Canadians. 

We hope this will be welcome news to the 93 per said of Canadians who said they were interested in learning more about their family history according to a recent Ancestry survey.

Until February 15, Canadians will have free access to all Canadian records in additional to Global Immigration Records – that’s more than 230 million records.

So while the extra day off will allow for some Canadians to catch up with their present family, this free access on Ancestry.ca also allows all Canadians to connect with family members of the past.

Image is a screenshot from Ancestry.ca

February 12, 2016

10 Million Irish Catholic Parish Records Coming Online!

More than 10 million Catholic Parish records from Ireland are to be published online by Ancestry.com, the world’s largest family history resource. The collection means that Ancestry will have over 55 million Irish records and will provide the largest collection of Irish Catholic parish records available online.

The collection is made up of Baptism, Marriage and Burial records from over 1,000 Catholic parishes across the whole of the island of Ireland - both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Baptism and Marriage records make up the majority of the collection and Burial records can be found primarily for parishes in the northern regions.

Ancestry has indexed records from over 3,500 parish registers. This is the first time that the collection has been indexed with the images linked online.

John Slyne, VP, International Operations at Ancestry comments: “The Ireland Catholic Parish Registers is the single most important collection needed to trace Roman Catholic ancestors in Ireland in the 1800s and we are delighted to make it available through Ancestry.  Providing the very best Irish records to our members is important to us and this collection helps us do that, taking the total number of Irish records to over 55 million.  It also means we continue to provide the largest online collection of Irish Catholic parish records available anywhere which is good for those in Ireland and also those across the World with Irish roots.

The collection is set to go live on Ancestry.com in March 2016.

February 11, 2016

Woman of Courage: Ada Massey

Ada Massey
Because February is Women's History Month I wanted to share with my readers the story of strong and courageous women in my life. You will be able to follow along as you wish by choosing the label "Women of Courage" in the right side bar. I encourage my readers to join me in honoring women of courage in your own families.

Ada Massey was a young free-spirited woman. Born in the small town of St. Mary's Ontario in the summer of 1887, Ada was the first child born to Thomas & Harriet (Purdue) Massey. Eventually she was joined by 7 younger siblings. Their family was life was not unlike others of the time period. 

But Ada was different from other girls and young women her age. From an early age she began occassionally wearing men's clothing. Her behaviour became increasingly eccentric as judged by the mores of the early 1900s. After her father's death in 1912 when Ada was in her early 20's, her mother and brothers took to locking her in her room when she would have an emotional outburst. 

During one such time Ada climbed out her bedroom window and hopped on the family sleigh to drive into town. It was a cold winter's day and she had no hat or coat but Ada didn't care. 

Ada in mourning for her father in 1912
Eventually her behaviour and her emotional outbursts were too much for her widowed mother to handle and Ada was committed in January 1919 to what was then called the Insane Asylum in London Ontario. 

The notes of attending doctors and nurses reveal an anguished young woman, a woman whose wanting to cut her long hair short was judged a sign of insanity as "no decent woman would ever do such a thing."  

Ada insisted she wanted to cut her hair as it was far too hot in the summer and she was tired of fussing with it.

Poor Ada was never good at adding or subtracting numbers and when a verbal math test was administered by the doctors, Ada failed miserably. The notation on her chart reads "mentally retarded". 

Photo of Ada hangs on our wall

Reading Ada's hospital charts and notes one has to wonder if she were truly slipping into madness or was she just being dramatic so that she had some excitement in her otherwise drab life! She began to claim that she was married and that her husband was buried in the local cemetery. But reading her words made me think it was all a ruse, that she knew very well she was not married to a dead man, for her story kept changing. 

Meantime Ada's family sent letters and notes, as did Ada's many friends. Her mother wrote to the doctors asking for word of Ada's progress and expressing how much the family missed her. The doctors' notes back were brief and showed a total lack of caring. Ada was allowed visitors but the trip from St. Mary's to London was not easy so the family had few opportunities for a personal visit. 

Eventually Ada refused to eat. She wanted out. She wanted to go home and be with her family and friends. She wanted to go back to her job at the  J.D. Moore Cold Storage Plant. 

After her continued refusal to eat, force feeding was ordered. We can only imagine the ordeal she went through. Ada continued to refuse solid food. 

Less than 2 weeks after being admitted to the Asylum, Ada died. She was only 28 years old. The doctor's note to the family informing them of her death was one simple line of text 

Her death certificate notes the cause of death as "Exhaustion" I believe she simply gave up. I believe she was a misunderstood young woman who did not fit into the social norms of the day. And that is why I call her a Woman of Courage. 

Ada is buried in the local cemetery in St. Mary's  with her brother James. Rest in Peace Ada.

February 10, 2016

True Love Finds a Way - Sweethearts Reunite after 72 Years Apart

True love finds a way.

Norwood Thomas was a 21-year-old paratrooper when he met 17-year-old British girl Joyce Morris in London just before D-Day. They dated for a few months before the war intervened and saw Mr Thomas sent to Normandy.

After the war ended, Norwood went back to America, and settled in Virginia Beach, while Joyce ended up in Australia. They lost touch until recently.

Yesterday they reunited in Australia, courtesy of first-class tickets from Air New Zealand, and donations from complete strangers.  

Read the heart-warming story of 93 year old Norwood  and 88 year old Joyce  at Wartime Sweethearts Reunite after 72 years apart

February 9, 2016

Update on Alberta Homestead Collection

Olive Tree Genealogy received this note about the Alberta Homestead Collection which I believe will be of interest to those using the online database:

Hi Viewers, 

With Ancestry’s recent announcement in launching the Alberta, Canada, Homestead Records, 1870-1930 , the Alberta Genealogical Society would like viewers to seriously compare the scope of the two indexes. Ancestry’s index is has a minimal listing of approximately 207,000 records, whereas the Alberta Genealogical Society has in their combined database over 520,000 entries. 

The AGS all name homestead index for 1870 to post-1930, lists those applying for land patents between 1885 and 1897; those who completed the homesteading process and eventually obtained a title; those who applied but abandoned their homesteads; and other individuals whose name appears in the files for a variety of reasons—something the Library and Archives of Canada nor Ancestry has done. 

We invite everyone to view the AGS databases which have twice as many records, and twice the knowledge over the record index at http://www.abgenealogy.ca/alberta-homestead-indexes

Thank you, 
Lyn Meehan, 
AGS Communications

Image: screenshot from Alberta Genealogical Society

February 8, 2016

Woman of Courage Anna Maria Warner

Because February is Women's History Month I wanted to share with my readers the story of strong and courageous women in my life. You will be able to follow along as you wish by choosing the label "Women of Courage" in the right side bar. I encourage my readers to join me in honoring women of courage in your own families.

When my 5th great-grandmother Anna Maria (Mary) Warner was born in Schoharie New York in 1735, she could not have known the hard times she would go through as an adult. Her husband Isaac Van Valkenburg aka Vollick was imprisoned three times during the American Revolution for his Loyalist sympathies. When he was in prison, Mary was solely responsible for their 10 children. 

After Isaac was released from prison he joined Butler's Rangers and fled to Canada. Mary continued to aid the British, and in 1779 she and the children were taken from their home at North River, New York by American patriots. Their home was burned, Mary and the children were marched 80 miles north through the forest and left in destitute circumstances to either die or figure out how to get to Canada. Luckily natives found Mary and helped them reach Montreal by July of 1779.

There the family received food rations, lodging and blankets until 1782 when they settled in the Niagara area as impoverished Loyalists. Then came the Hungry Years when crops failed and food was scarce. Hundreds of Loyalists perished. I can not begin to imagine how Mary survived and kept her family alive during these times.

February 7, 2016

Honouring WW1 Nursing Sister Jean Cameron-Smith

Jean Cameron-Smith was born in Perth Ontario on September 22, 1871. A search of the online Birth Registrations for Ontario provides a late registration dated 1933.  Her father's name is given as Robert Ralph Cameron-Smith. Her mother is  Helen Mason.

Like Gertrude Billyard, Jean enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in London England on February 24, 1915. She was almost 39 years old. 

During her service overseas, Jean was promoted to Matron in September 1917. This photo was almost certainly taken in 1917 when she was in Oprington as a matron.

She served as a Nursing Sister in England and France and at War's end returned to Canada on the SS Carmania on 5 July 1919.

1921 finds 50 year old Jean in Edam, North Battleford Saskatchewan working as a Matron in a hospital. You can read more about Jean at http://www.pastforward.ca/perspectives/September_152006.htm

Jean's full service file is online as a PDF document.

February 6, 2016

Introducing Penny Allen, Canadian Genealogist

Recently I wrote a blog post called Where (and Why) Are Canadian Genealogists Hiding?

I issued a challenge to Canadian Genealogists to speak up and promote themselves better. As part of my challenge I crowdsourced a list of Canadian Genealogists which you can view at Update on Where Are the Canadian Genealogists Hiding?

Next I invited any Canadian Genealogists on that list to participate in a Guest Biography post here on Olive Tree Genealogy. I'm pleased to introduce you to  Penny Allen, a Canadian genealogist living in the U.K.

I asked Penny some questions about here role as a Canadian Genealogist and here are her responses.

1.      How and when did you become involved in the field of genealogy?

Quite a while ago, I was bitten by the genealogy bug when researching family history meant writing letters, using microfilm and ‘horrors’! – books. My parents are first generation Canadians and I was curious about the stories that I heard about my grandparents.

2.      What is your main genealogical focus?  

I have many interests in genealogy, but most of the time I delve into emigration, land ownership and early settlers to Canada. Because of my work, I enjoy learning about maritime history – the navy and merchant navy, WRENs and anything similar. I have yet to pursue my Scandinavian roots and am keen to start uncovering that branch of the tree.

3.       What are your website(s) and blogs? 

I have had numerous over the years, but my blog, ukcdngenealogy.blogspot.com is the most current.

4.      Do you have a Social Media presence?  

This information is available via my blog. 

5.      Do you believe a Social Media presence is important? 

Although I am aware of and support social media use in genealogical circles, I don’t embrace it fully, as I have had some negative personal experiences. However, I recognize its importance as a quick way to stay in touch with the genealogical community. It is valuable in its methodology, but I would stress that people do take care when using and providing information online. 

6.      Are you a member of any genealogical societies or organizations? 

At the moment, I am a member of the Alberta Family History Society and the Society of Genealogists (London).  Over the years I have been a member of various family history societies and I like to rotate my financial support amongst them as I feel that their work is very important. I regularly recommend their services to anyone who asks me for help.

7.      What does genealogy mean to you? Why do you believe it is important?

There is a quote (loosely interpreted) that basically says ‘You need to understand from where you came in order to know where you’re going.’ Family connectedness and knowing your roots does give a sense of belonging and purpose.

8.      What do you believe is the most exciting development in genealogy today?

There is no question that the use of DNA research in genealogy is one of the most popular ways of connecting with long lost family. It helps to pinpoint an area where a family originated and can put you in touch with other family members as well as researchers in the area. 

9.      Do you have a prediction or hope for the field of genealogy in the future?

Digitization of archival records seems to be expected as the norm nowadays and will be needed long into the future. However, many do not realize that there is a long process of implementation in most organizations, and these decisions can sometimes take years to manage. Not every resource is online and researchers will still need to make a physical visit to an archive, so my hope is that people will continue to support the valuable work of archives. A number of important archives in London have been impacted by researchers seemingly doing a large percent of their research online as demonstrated by the services that were recently cut at the Imperial War Museum. 

10.   Please feel free to add anything you would like to say that hasn’t been addressed by the questions above. 

I am concerned by the numerous cuts to local studies services in the UK which is often times connected to council library (public libraries run by local authorities) cuts. Often the council is trimming library services in general, and the local studies services are affected in the ‘downsizing’. This is purely an administrative action, saving costs, but in turn, cutting jobs means losing staff whose local knowledge has been built up over the years. The result is that many libraries are staffed by volunteers, and when faced with genealogical questions aren’t able to help customers (this has happened to me personally). It is disappointing that this knowledge base will be lost and more advocacies from users are necessary. My hope is the councils running libraries will realize how much this type of service is needed (as a result of positive action taken by the users) at local libraries!