Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Canadian Expeditionary Force Online Research Resources

On November 22, 2014 I gave an update of my talk titled "A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study" to those that attended the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society meeting. There I talked about the various resources I used to learn more about two Canadian soldiers of the First World War: Victor Sornberger and Samuel McKinlay.

For those that couldn't make it out to the meeting here are some of the resources I make use of when delving deeper into the lives of Canadian First World War personnel.

Library and Archives Canada (

This is the first place I visit when I learn that someone has served with the Canadian military during the 1st World War. There are many useful pages on the LAC site. LAC is currently working on digitizing all the serviced files of those that served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. If the file isn't digitized yet, periodically (monthly) check the site for updates. Some highlights from their online collections are:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (

Here you will find details on some of the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars. You may come across grave registration documents, registers along with photographs of the grave markers and cemeteries. (

Among the many collections on Ancestry there are some that directly pertain to those that may have served in the Great War:

Internet Archive (

The Internet Archive is one of those resource that keeps on giving. Here you will find archives of many web sites and also digitized books that are no longer in copyright. For example, searching using the terms nominal roll CEF returns 77 documents with titles as diverse as "Nursing Sisters Nominal Roll 1914" and "Yukon Machine Gun Section Nominal Roll 1915"

The Maple Leaf Legacy Project (

The Maple Leaf Legacy Project is a volunteer led effort to photograph of every Canadian War Grave from the various conflicts that Canada has been involved in. This includes the South African War (1899-1902), World War 1 (1914-18), World War II (1939-45), Korean War (1950-52), and all United Nations Peacekeeping Missions to the present day conflict in Afghanistan.

Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group (

Many times when I can't find an answer to a question dealing with the CEF I may turn to the forums and documents made available by the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group. Often my question has already been asked and the participants of the CEF Study Group have provided a detailed answer on their forum.

World War 1 Trench Maps at McMaster University (

When I'm looking for a World War 1 trench map then I come here. They have digitized a number of trench maps for your viewing pleasure. You can zoom in on the map and actually read the names of the individual trenches. When combined with the battalion level war diaries found on the Library and Archives Canada site you may just be able to pinpoint where your ancestor fought in Europe.

Military History Research Centre (

This resource is available through the Canadian War Museum. In addition to being a physical library and archive the online presence has a catalogue of their holdings. Quite a few of their photographs have been digitized and are available to view via the Internet. Are you looking for the "Pigeon Service manual, Royal Air Force"? Then you are in luck since they have it in their collection. Many of the documents in the collection are available through interlibrary loan. Howveer, if you are in Ottawa and are planning on visiting the MHRC then call ahead or e-mail first to make arrangements since it is by appointment only.

Canadian Virtual War Memorial (

The Canadian Virtual War Memorial lists more than 118,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who have given their lives serving Canada or the United Kingdom. What is nice about this site is that you can upload your own images of your ancestors that fought in the various wars. That means you may also discover a picture that you had never seen before of the soldier you are researching.

Prisoners of the First World War (

The International Committee of the Red Cross has created a database of those that were held as prisoners of war during the First World War. If the civilian or serviceman was listed as a prisoner of war with their service record then checking this database and reading the information about life in the camps may shed some light into their life at that time.

"A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study" video

At the November 22nd, 2014 meeting of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society I gave an update of my talk titled "A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study". In this presentation I spoke about the various resources that are available to family history researchers to learn about those that served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War of 1914-1918.

With the magic of technology along with the recording and creative efforts of John D. Reid a video has been created of the slides and yours truly talking about researching Victor Sornberger and Samuel McKinlay.

So for those that weren't able to attend the meeting in Ottawa  here is the presentation for your viewing enjoyment.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

BIFHSGO's 20th Anniversary

Much like people much be registered when they are born so must corporations. On November 16th, 1994 the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa was issued the Federal Letters Patent as a corporation.

How things have changed

  • Then, in the first issue of Anglo-Celtic Roots potential authors were asked to submit typewritten, double-spaced copy on standard 8.5 by 11 inches paper to the society post box address.
  • Today we're request to submit in electronic format using MSWord-compatible software via email.

  • Then the first issue of ACR contained none of the terms Internet, www or http. They came along in the final issue of the first volume.
  • Today every major article published has Internet references.

  • Then out of nine society directors one was a woman.
  • Today out of eleven directors eight are women including the president.

We've come a long way.

Tip: Did your recent ancestors own or were they on a board of a Canadian federally incorporated company? If you know the name of the company you can search for the details at Search for a Federal Corporation.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Call for Presentations for the BIFHSGO Conference 2015

The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) is seeking proposals for presentations at its 21st annual conference, September 18-20, 2015 to be held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada at Library and Archives Canada.

The three themes for the conference will be Scotland, Photographs in Genealogy, and Technology (including hardware, software, apps, websites, databases, social media, DNA analysis tools etc.). Proposals on these three themes for lectures at the conference on the Saturday and Sunday are sought as well as for workshops or seminars on the Friday.

Details on writing the proposals can be found at under the Conference 2015 heading. Please send your proposals to before January 31, 2015.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Facebook: A Valid Source to Cite or Not?

Recently the "The In-Depth Genealogist" published an article by Christine Woodcock titled "That Online Tree is NOT a Source!"1 While I agree with most of her article I do disagree with the last sentence in the following paragraph where she wrote [underlining is mine]:
"I’ll tell you what is NOT a source: Someone else’s research. Someone else’s tree. Someone else’s educated guess or deductive reasoning. Neither is information received in an e-mail, from a message board, mailing list or Facebook group."

I find that the last sentence is overly broad since, at least to me, it treats all information received over those media as invalid sources that cannot be cited. Although I do hope that the sentence applies to received information stated previously in the paragraph. Even a simple change to "Neither is the same information received..." would link that statement to the previous sentences as to what is not are sources to cite and I would, in principal, agree with the paragraph.

Earlier she had written "A source is a record of the event, documented at the time of the event with information given by a witness to the event." What makes the mode of communication that is sent by e-mail or posted online any less valid than placing an announcement in a newspaper or writing and photocopying a letter for sending by postal mail? Given that in today's modern world many family announcements are made by e-mail or Facebook why wouldn't an announcement distributed by any of those mediums be not considered a source? As discussed on the Evidence Explained forums, Facebook is accepted as a source for information and can be cited (

What needs to be evaluated, just like with any other document that is received, is who provided the information and when it was create in terms of proximity to the event. If the information being sent or posted is concerning an event from a bygone era or is a repeat of something said elsewhere then, as a good researcher, you should locate the document or post that is being talked about and cite that instead. Unless that too points to another document or post ... follow the chain until you get to the true source of the information.

Yet what about if I am an actual witness to an event and I post the information online or sent it out in an e-mail? Can and should someone else cite what I have stated as a source? I know I have received or seen those announcements of births, marriages, and deaths via e-mail and Facebook posts. Knowing the person that has posted the information and the fact it was posted the same or next day after the event, in my mind, has the same weight as receiving a letter in the mail announcing what has happened. I just make sure I save the information as a screen shot or in a text file just in case someone asks me to show my source for the recorded fact.

I do agree that hearsay information passed over those means of communication should not be cited. At best they should be treated as possible clues and follow up questions need to be asked such as "Where did you find that information?" and "Can you share the source of your information?"

As always: read, analyze, and think when using any potential source of information.

1. Retrieved 24 Oct 2014 at 11:41 am EDT

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Ottawa Shooting ... a few thoughts

Unfortunately Ottawa has joined the list that no city wants to be part of ... that of a target of violence and terror. I'm not going to repeat the details, rumours, and comments of what occurred on October 22nd, 2014. You can easily find them online from your favourite news source or from CBC at

While it is important to reflect on what has happened and to seek answers as to why it occurred it is just as important to not become fixated on this event.

So reach out to your loved ones by phone, text, Facebook, Twitter or in person. Give a smile to those you pass on the street, greet your neighbours with a kind hello, and say thank you to all those that stand in harm's way as part of their duty and calling. However, don't just do it when a tragedy strikes but reach out when all is good in the world.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Canadian Gravemarker Gallery - Beechwood National Cemetery photographed

From the Canadian Gravemarker Gallery Update Newsletter that came out October 1st:

"We are very pleased to announce that The Beechwood National Cemetery in Ottawa is now completely photographed and online. There are over 50,000 grave marker photographs to browse; and the cemetery owners report that there are over 90,000 burials in this "park-like" beautiful cemetery."

For those that don't know about this wonderful resource for images of grave markers in Canada they have almost 865,000 images from over 1,400 cemeteries across Canada and they are constantly adding more images every month.

Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada was established in 1873 and is the home of the National Military Cemetery and the RCMP National Memorial Cemetery. The cemetery registers for Beechwood Cemetery can be found digitized and indexed on Ancestry in the "Ottawa, Canada, Beechwood Cemetery Registers, 1873-1990" collection.

John D. Reid has mentioned he is slowly exploring the lives of the 98 soldiers of the Great War of 1914-18 that are buried in Beechwood Cemetery. He will be posting some of those details on the anniversary of their death in his well-known blog Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections. On September 21st John gave details on what he was able to find about the first WW1 Ottawa soldier, Thomas William Hardingham, that was buried at Beechwood Cemetery.