Wednesday, October 30, 2013

But the math doesn't work!

Recently I received an obituary for a 4th cousin once removed, Diane Carol Sharpe. Now if you aren't already using obituaries in your research you should be since they are often a wonderful source of information concerning a person's life and the names & locations of their children. In this case the following detail was included in the notice:

Born 1945, in Saint John, NB, she was the daughter of the late Ronald and Florence (Cameron) Lyttle.

I already had her linked to her parents Ronald Reginald Lyttle and Florence Elmina Cameron through the obituary of her brother Kevin who died in 2002. Now I had her birth year. Only one problem ... her father would have been 15 years old at the time of her birth. This raised a really big red flag. Now there are a couple of possible explanations (there may be more but these are the ones that immediately came to mind).
  1. The information about her year of birth was incorrect.
  2. The age of her father at the time of his marriage to Florence was incorrect in the civil registration.
  3. Diane isn't the biological daughter of Ronald Lyttle.
  4. Ronald was actually under the age of majority when Diane was conceived.

I knew that Florence had divorced her first husband since that fact was recorded in the New Brunswick registration of the 15 Dec 1949 marriage between Ronald Reginald Lyttle and Florence Elmina (Cameron) Nickerson. I hadn't looked for Florence's first marriage but that became my first task. It was an easy find since the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB) has digitized and placed online, with a searchable index, the birth (1810-1917), marriage (1847-1963) and death (1815-1963) records of that province. There I found the registration for the 28 Mar 1942 marriage between George Robert Nickerson and Florence Elmina Cameron. The facts in this marriage concerning Florence lined up with the facts stated in her 1949 marriage to Ronald Lyttle.

Next was a shot in the dark ... had Diane married on or before 1963 in New Brunswick? I got lucky this time. The first search using Lyttle as the surname resulted in no matches but when I used Nickerson Diane's 13 Apr 1963 marriage to George Ray Sharpe was listed. Looking at the image it was plain to see that she listed her parents as George Robert Nickerson and Florence Elmina Cameron. She also signed the registration as Miss Diane Nickerson. Diane's age when married was 18 years and that means she was born about 1945. So that matches her obituary. However, we now have evidence that her father, at least in a biological sense, wasn't Robert Reginald Lyttle but George Robert Nickerson. In a perfect world we would also need to have Diane's birth registration document where hopefully it would list her father as George Robert Nickerson. But that record is presently restricted under the privacy laws. For now, at least in my tree, her father will be listed as George Robert Nickerson. My quandary has been resolved.

Tip for the day: As valuable as obituaries are, like any other record, you need to be able to back up the assertions made with other evidence.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Start With What You Know ...

When doing genealogy research, whether your own or for someone else, it is important to start with what you know. In this example I will be talking a query that was sent to me due to my participation in the Facebook "Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness - RAOGK International" group.

I consider this a good query since it asked a relatively straightforward question and provided enough clues to easily search for the information requested. Below is what was sent to me:

I am searching for a birth record for a Victor(e) Berube most likely the son of Jean Baptist Berube and Marie Modest Oulelet. Most records state he was born in 1824-25 but I see a baptism in 1821. Here is the accurate household in 1871 02, St-Nicholas d, Lévis 154, Quebec

Household Gender Age Birthplace
Victor Bérubé M 46 Q
Caroline Bérubé F 42 Q
Jules Bérubé M 19 Q
Lactitia Bérubé F 7 Q
Odina Bérubé M 4 Q

Much of the family still lives in Desraele Quebec, and Michigan.. I think there are links to New Hampshire as well but if we could find a birth record for Victor or a death of the father that would clear up many a family tree and the misinformation that he must have a different father because of the birthdate, Note that the wife and husband in most trees have the same exact birth and death dates.

The census record is from the 1871 census of Canada. My first step was to locate the image of that census record to verify what had been sent to me (part of my "trust no one, verify everything" philosophy of research). I found the record plus additional family members. The next step was to confirm the maiden surname of Victor's wife. For that I searched the Drouin collection on Ancestry for a baptism record for one of the possible children. There I found the baptism entry for Maria Latitia Berube, the daughter of Victor Berube and Caroline Trepaunier.

Next was the marriage registration for Victor and Caroline. Again the Drouin collection was searched and the very first record that appeared in the list was the 25 Nov 1845 marriage for that couple. Fortunately, Victor's parents were listed as Jean Baptiste Berube and Maria Modeste Ouilet. I've now confirmed the information provided concerning Victor's parents but the question still hasn't been answered ... when was he born?

To hopefully resolve the quandary of when Victor was born a search of the Drouin collection on Ancestry resulted in finding an 1821 baptism record for a Victor Berube. But is it the right Victor Berube? Reviewing the record and a bit of typing into Google Translate helped me with the French. From the looks of it it is the right record:
"The eight of September one thousand eight hundred twenty one, we the undersigned priest by the parish priest of St. Boch, was named Victor was born the same day of the legitimate marriage of Jean Baptiste Berubé farmer and Modeste Ouellet Jean Dionne godfather, godmother Marie Faucasse. The father is absent, the sponsor alone ___ sign with us." Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. 
The reason for doing all the work above now becomes evident. The parents in the baptism registration matches those in Victor's marriage record. From this record we now know that on 8 Sep 1821 he was born. But the question lingers, is this truly the same person as listed in the census? The Victor in the marriage record could be the second child named Victor if the first Victor died between 1821 and 1824. However, no burial records or additional baptisms were found.

So it is my belief that the Victor Berube in the query was born on 8 Sep 1821. As usual, all dates recorded on census records need to be taken with a grain of salt (or a whole mine's worth of salt!)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Resources for "A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study"

On Saturday, October 26, 2013 I gave a talk at the Ottawa Public Library called "A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study". The talk was a case study giving real-life examples. Below are the web pages I referenced in the talk.

Library and Archives Canada:
Main Page:
Service & Opening Hours:
User Card registration:
Soldiers of the First World War Search page:
War Diaries of the First World War:
Courts-Martial of the First World War:
Thematic Guides to Units of the CEF:
Service File Abbreviations:
Reading a Casualty Form:

Canadian Virtual War Memorial:

C.E.F. Paper Trail:

CEF Research :

Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

Internet Archive:

The Maple Leaf Legacy Project:

WW 1 Trench Maps (McMaster University):

WW1 Hospital Locations & Casualty Clearing Stations: 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Oct 26th, 2013 Talk - A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study

At the Nepean-Centrepointe branch of the Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) Public Library on Saturday, October 26th, 2013 at 11 a.m. I will be giving a presentation as part of their "Canada in the First World War" program. This day is being held in partnership with the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa and the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society. Along with my talk, archivist and historian Glenn Wright will give an overview on searching for information on your military ancestor, historian and strategic analyst Andrew Godefroy will present the Ottawa Branch's Ryan Taylor Memorial Lecture on the contributions of Canada and Ottawa to the Great War, and Robbie Robertson and Bob Anglin from the Canadian War Museum will be there to help identify Great War artifacts. This free event starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. and you don't even have to register in advance, just show up and learn more about Canada in the First World War.

My part of this will be a talk titled "A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study". At the recent BIFHSGO Conference in September one of the visitors to the research room asked me to find out how her cousin Victor Lou Sornberger lost his leg in the Great War of 1914-18. I will be going through the steps I took to get the file, what was found and where I looked next for more details. I will cover the basics of visiting the Library and Archives Canada building in Ottawa to review his service file, locating digital copies of  the war diaries, and finally figuring out roughly where on the battlefield he suffered his wound.

If you are in Ottawa I sincerely hope you will be able to make it out to the "Canada in the First World War" day.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Saving Money When Searching ScotlandsPeople

Several years ago I decided to document the various lines of my McKinlay family that came to Thornliebank, Renfrewshire, Scotland sometime between 1838 and 1841. That meant I would need to make use of ScotlandsPeople to locate the images of birth, marriage, death, and census records. I won't divulge exactly how much I spent looking up records but it was less than a one week trip to Scotland ... although not by much. Yet ScotlandsPeople is still one of the more affordable sites that charge you to get and see images of the records. However, I did learn some lessons on how to save money when searching ScotlandsPeople.

Census Records

For the 1841 to 1891 decennial census records you can make use of FamilySearch to locate individual family members. However, much of the information on the census has not been transcribed. If the person wasn’t born in Scotland then the birth location may have been left blank. Additionally the index doesn’t have all the family members listed in the transcription so it makes it very difficult to make sure it is the right person based on their family. Also the specific details on what page to find the record in ScotlandsPeople are not in the index.

If you have a subscription to Ancestry or have access to a library or archive with the Institution/Library version of Ancestry you can access transcriptions of the 1841 to 1901 decennial census records. The index includes all the people in that household. The transcriptions have all the information from the census and the index includes the parish number, enumeration district, page and line number so you can easily find the record on ScotlandPeople.

Findmypast is much like Ancestry except that the results don’t place the person in question in context within the household. This makes it difficult to transcribe the household in the correct order.

ScotlandsPeople is the gold standard since it includes all the available decennial census records (1841-1911) and the associated images. If you can find them in Ancestry or Findmypast then you know they can be found on ScotlandsPeople. However, unlike Ancestry and Findmypast where you have a subscription, on ScotlandsPeople you pay for each image that you haven't viewed previously.

Birth & Baptism Records

FamilySearch has transcriptions for both statutory and old parochial registers in the "—Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950" collection. The statutory registers cover the period between 1855 to 1875 plus 1881 and 1891. There are also some records outside of those years. You can also order microfilms to view the documents to verify the transcriptions. As a plus, you can look for people in the statutory records based on the names of parents. This feature is not readily available on ScotlandsPeople. Even better … FamilySearch is free.

Search for people using FamilySearch and then, by knowing all the details from the search results, you can focus in on the right person on ScotlandsPeople using much fewer credits than just using ScotlandsPeople by itself.


The Scotland, Marriages, 1561-1910 collection on FamilySearch has both the old parachial and statutory registers covering the same years as the birth and baptism collection. FamilySearch allows you to search the OPR marriages on the name of the father. This is not readily available on ScotlandsPeople. However, not all parish records have the father’s name included in the transcription. Not everything on the original record has been transcribed by FamilySearch so looking at the image on ScotlandsPeople is critical.


Only ScotlandsPeople have the death records available. There are no other sites with transcriptions of all the death records.

Tip When Using ScotlandsPeople

If you search on a surname, a date range, and a district/parish you will probably get a very long list. However, that list can save you money over time. Copy and pasting the results into Word or Excel gives you a useful checklist as part of your research log and to do list. Since ScotlandsPeople keeps track of your searches you can also refer to that search under the "Previous Searches" tab and click on the names of the people found to view the images. It won't save you a lot of money but a credit here and a credit there may mean you save enough to view another image.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Talk: "Saving Money When Searching ScotlandsPeople"

As part of this month's BIFHSGO's Scottish Genealogy Group meeting I will be giving a brief presentation titled "Saving Money When Searching ScotlandsPeople". I will be talking about some of the tips and tricks I use to wisely spend my money when researching my Scottish ancestors.

The meeting is taking place between 10:00 a.m and noon on Saturday, October 19th, 2013 in room 226 of the City of Ottawa Archives located at 100 Tallwood Drive, Ottawa, Ontario.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

One is the Loneliest Number

Genealogy research is one of those hobbies that is often a solo activity. If you are lucky you will have at least one friend or family member that shares a passing interest in this time consuming hobby. Yet family members and friends often roll their eyes as you talk about the minute details concerning how you found that record that has eluded you for years.

So why it is such a solo activity? Could it be the hours spent in libraries and archives reading books and pouring over microfilms? Or maybe the late nights when everyone else has gone to bed and you are just looking for that one digitized record or database index entry that still eludes you.

Yet that doesn't have to be the case. Over the past several years I've been fortunate to meeting and talk with other family history researchers that have similar regional or family interests. So where do you find these elusive like minded people?

Many towns and cities have genealogy societies. Living in Ottawa means I'm lucky enough to several groups near by. I belong to the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa and Sir Guy Carleton branch of the United Empire Loyalists's Association of Canada. Historical societies are also another venue to meet and talk with others that may have your passion into researching the history of the people and places you are interested in. Don't forget about the local libraries, archives and museums. Talk to the curators and ask about who else drops by on a regular basis that may share the same interests as yourself. Many times the archives and museums have educational talks so drop by and meet those that also have taken the time to listen to the talks. There are also the Latter Day Saints' Family History Centres. Besides being a great resource for genealogy material you also can meet and chat with other researchers there.

If you have a tree on Ancestry have you explored the "Recent Member Connect Activity" page? There you will find a list of who have save the same records that you have used to people within their own tree. Maybe you have added photographs to your online tree. Has someone linked your picture to someone on their tree? If so, have you taken the time to send them a message asking about their connection to the people referenced in picture?

On Ancestry and several other genealogy sites you can share your family tree. Have you taken some time to search other trees for common relatives? Even better, have you sent the owner of the tree an e-mail or message asking about their connection? The owner just might be a distant connection.

In this age of social media there is also Twitter and Facebook. Search on the hashtag #genealogy on Twitter and you will come across many others talking about genealogy research (#familyhistory also works). On Facebook you will come across many regional and family focused groups. Read and participate in those online discussions.

For myself I've done all the above and have connected with many people either researching the same families or at least the same region. Many times they have been able to provide a different perspective on what I've been researching. When I run into a brick wall concerning some distantly connected relative I know I can always reach out to a cousin to ask for their input as to where to look next. Sometime they even have the answer to my problem!

So take a step away from your computer or microfilm and reach out to other genealogy researchers. Share your war stories and know that there are others with the same interests.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

McKinlays in Londonderry

For some years now I've been working on the family of my 3rd great-grandparents James McKinlay/Margaret Orr with much success in finding records in Scotland. Through the various Scottish census records I learned that the family appeared to have come from Ireland but I had no idea exactly where. Yet that is often the case with many of those that left Ireland.

My next clue came about from the fortuitous 1855 birth of my great-granduncle James McKinlay in Scotland. That was the first year of the Scottish civil registration and the form used gathered more information than in subsequent years. From that document I learned that my 2nd great-grandfather James McKinlay was born in Londonderry, County Derry, Ireland around 1823.

I searched various sites until I came across the Irish Family History Foundation. I searched for each child I knew about but too many results came back so I got a little creative in the searching. I searched baptisms using the first name of the father, James, the last name of the mother, Orr, the county Derry, and finally a 10 year date range centered around 1825. A transcription of a baptism record for a Rebecca McKinley was listed. Rebecca is the sister of my 2nd great-grandfather James McKinlay. The transcription matched what I had found in the census records:
Name:    Rebecca McKinley
Address:    Back Mountain
Gender:     Female
Date of Baptism/Birth:    25-Apr-1830
Parish/District:    ST. COLUMB'S
County:    Co. Derry
Denomination:    Church Of Ireland
Father:    James McKinley
Mother:    Margaret Orr
Just today I came across October 2013 edition of "Irish Lives Remembered" magazine. Normally I have time just to quickly glance through the index but I noticed they had a focus on Londonderry. This time I took a bit more time to read the articles. One of them mentioned the 1831 census abstract of Londonderry. A quick Google search brought me to Bill Macafee's transcription of the microfilms. A download of the Excel version of his transcriptions resulted in finding a James McKinley living in Templemore parish (guess where St. Columb's is located?) in N. W. Liberties Barony in Londonderry, Bishop Street [outside]. Could this be my 3rd great-grandfather? Even better there is a John McKinley in the same location and next record number. Could this be a brother of my 3rd great-grandfather?

I still have much work to do but the tip for today is don't stop looking for information on your ancestors. More records are coming online everyday and you will continue to learn about new resources.