Wednesday, February 28, 2024

February 30? - Always Find the Source of the Source!

With this being a leap year I thought I'd share one of the more interesting calendar related errors I've come across in my travels. It is for the burial of Michael Stafford, who according to the transcription of the record was buried on 30 Feb 1900.

Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 from Ancestry for the "Ontario, Canada, Roman Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1760-1923" register page with the entry for Michael Stafford buried 30 Feb 1900 in St. Augustine, Ontario, Canada.
Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 from Ancestry for the "Ontario, Canada, Roman Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1760-1923" register page with the entry for Michael Stafford buried 30 Feb 1900 in St. Augustine, Ontario, Canada.

As we all know, we can't trust transcriptions so our first thought is that the transcriber of the register made a mistake and no one caught it.

St. Augustine (St. Augustine, Ontario, Canada), Ontario, Canada, Roman Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1760-1923, "Baptism, Marriage, Burial, Confirmation; Goderich, St Augustine; 1861-1910," Michael Stafford, buried 30 Feb 1900, Interment p 2; digital images, Ancestry.com, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Jan 2024).
St. Augustine (St. Augustine, Ontario, Canada), Ontario, Canada, Roman Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1760-1923, "Baptism, Marriage, Burial, Confirmation; Goderich, St Augustine; 1861-1910," Michael Stafford, buried 30 Feb 1900, Interment p 2; digital images, Ancestry.com, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Jan 2024).

I thought that too. But when I looked at the column formatted register page, on the second to last line in the register the date is clearly written "1900 Feb 30".

Yet this is a column formatted register and it isn't in the usual format we often see in Roman Catholic church registers.Might there be an entry in the parish register itself?

Fortunately for us, that set of books have been digitized and also made available to us on both Ancestry and FamilySearch.

St. Augustine (St. Augustine, Ontario, Canada), "Baptisms 1895-1917, Deaths 1895-199, Marriages 1895-1911, Confirmations 1895-1927," p 14, burial of Michael Stafford, 3 Feb 1900; DGS 5,107,225, item 3, image 148 of 684.
St. Augustine (St. Augustine, Ontario, Canada), "Baptisms 1895-1917, Deaths 1895-199, Marriages 1895-1911, Confirmations 1895-1927," p 14, burial of Michael Stafford, 3 Feb 1900; DGS 5,107,225, item 3, image 148 of 684.

We can clearly read (at least those who have learned to read cursive) that:

"On the third of February nineteen hundred, I the undersigned parish priest buried in the Catholic cemetery of St. Augustine, the body of Michael Stafford aged sixty seven years."

At least the original entry in the church books makes sense. I just wonder what the poor clerk was thinking when they created the entry in that column formatted register. Their brain might just have been tired from copying the information.

Since his death was in the time when civil registrations of deaths in Ontario should have been filed with the authorities we can check the date of his death.

Ancestry.com, "Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938 and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1949," database on-line, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Jan 2019), entry for Michael Stafford, died 1 Feb 1900; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Collection: MS935; Reel: 97.
Ancestry.com, "Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938 and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1949," database on-line, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Jan 2019), entry for Michael Stafford, died 1 Feb 1900; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Collection: MS935; Reel: 97.

And we can see that on line 4 of the death register that it is recorded that he passed away on "Feby 1 1900" with the date of registration on "Feby 2 1900".

So remember, when things just don't seem to add up, start digging deeper!

This is just another lesson of why we always need to try to follow the records back to the original source document. Sometimes, such as in this case, we can make use of the digitized image. Other times we may need to consult a microfilm or original paper document.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ancestry and Enhanced Images

Whether you are a new user of Ancestry or someone who has been using their record collections for a number of years, you might not have noticed a feature when viewing images that may have been actually getting in your way. I'm talking about the "Enhanced images" feature.

1861 census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, Canada West, Lanark County, district 6, p. 3, John McMullen; RG 31; digital images, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 Feb 2024); citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-1042-1043; Ancestry enhanced image option enabled.
1861 census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, Canada West, Lanark County, district 6, p. 3, John McMullen; RG 31; digital images, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 Feb 2024); citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-1042-1043; Ancestry enhanced images option enabled.

Often I will see an image of a census page, like what is seen above, posted in various online forum. It seems like it is in black and white without any shades of grey. What you are actually seeing is an image that has been manipulated by Ancestry. On Ancestry's "Learn more about the Interactive Image Viewer" page, under the Image Tool section of the Frequently asked questions, we find:

Use enhanced images - When enabled, images are automatically adjusted for light levels. This is helpful for most collections.

Although Ancestry seems to believe that this might help us to read the writing in the images I have found that this adjustment to light levels can also hide faint writing and obscure other potential clues within the image. That is why I recommend to folks that you don't enable this feature unless really necessary. 

But how do we turn off the Enhanced Images option?

The first step is to view an image on Ancestry. I usually pick a census record since quite often the appearance of the image going from having the enhanced image option enabled to disabled is more apparent.

Screen capture from Ancestry of the 1861 Census of Canada record image page for McMullen found in Canada West > Lanark with an arrow pointing to a circled wrench icon representing the Tool menu on the right side of the image display pane.
Screen capture from Ancestry of the 1861 Census of Canada record image page for McMullen found in Canada West > Lanark with an arrow pointing to a circled wrench icon representing the Tool menu on the right side of the image display pane.

Here is a screen capture from my Windows desktop system viewing that same 1861 Census of Canada West image on Ancestry. You might note that the screen is a bit busy with the source details open on the right side and the virtual filmstrip open at the bottom. It's just how I view the images on Ancestry and you might not have all these panes open.

I've circled in red the icon with a wrench, which is the Tool menu icon, and also added a red arrow pointing to that icon so that it stands out in this screen capture. You will want to click on that icon to display the Tool menu and then click on the Settings menu item to open up all the settings.

Screen capture of the Ancestry image Tool menu with the Settings menu item opened.
Screen capture of the Ancestry image Tool menu with the Settings menu item opened.

Depending on the image you are viewing, there may be additional items you can play with under the Settings option. For example, for the 1911 Census of Canada images you can also turn on and off Highlight Households, Text Tips, Name Labels, and Column Labels. I prefer keeping those options enabled to help me quickly find the family or person I'm seeking.

You can turn off the enhanced images option by clicking on that button beside "Enhanced images". Note, this will affect how all the images will appear on Ancestry. Which in my opinion is a good thing.

As we can see below, the image is now in various shades of grey.

1861 census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, Canada West, Lanark County, district 6, p. 3, John McMullen; RG 31; digital images, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 Feb 2024); citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-1042-1043; Ancestry enhanced images option disabled.
1861 census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, Canada West, Lanark County, district 6, p. 3, John McMullen; RG 31; digital images, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 Feb 2024); citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-1042-1043; Ancestry enhanced images option disabled.

Now when you view an image it will look much closer to what the originally microfilmed image looked like. For the Canadian census images, it looks much closer to what we find on the Library and Archives Canada site.

Additionally, any images that you save to your computer will be saved without any of Ancestry's adjustments to the light levels. With the various grey levels you can even sometimes pick out the writing that might have been added later using a lighter or darker ink. This can be really important when trying to figure out the source of various notations on census forms.

Hopefully this little tip will reveal unseen clues in the various images in the records discovered on Ancestry.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

A Gotcha When Searching the LAFRANCE Collection

Every second Tuesday afternoon the Ottawa Public Library and the Ottawa Branch of Ontario Ancestors hosts a one hour in-person Genealogy Drop-In session where we have folks popping by looking for help in their family history and genealogy research. Most of the times the questions are answered right then and there. However, in a few cases it can take a bit of time to actually figure out the right answer or solution to a genealogical mystery. Such was the case from a few weeks ago.

One benefit for genealogy and family history researchers who have an Ottawa Public Library card is that we have access to Généalogie Québec via the library site from the comfort of one's home. One of our patrons had been exploring the Généalogie Québec site but they were having problems locating records they thought should be there. They had already discovered the images they were seeking in the "Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968" collection on Ancestry. However, they wanted to replicate finding those same records on Généalogie Québec as a test of that site.

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of "The LAFRANCE (Baptisms, burials and marriages)" search page from Généalogie Québec.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of "The LAFRANCE (Baptisms, burials and marriages)" search page from Généalogie Québec.

Going through the Ottawa Public Library portal and agreeing to the terms and condition of the Généalogie Québec site we are presented with "The LAFRANCE (Baptisms, burials and marriages)" search screen. There we can search by individual, couple, or parish. That is what the patron had been doing when trying to locate the baptism record for Nelson Deschamps from 1918. Yet no baptisms were appearing.

I knew we were missing something but there wasn't enough time to figure it out at that time.

Fast forward two weeks and it happens that both the patron and I were there early for the drop-in. So I asked for the details again. This time, without the pressure of doing real-time searching, I was taking my time and actually paying attention and reading to what is on the screen.

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of "About the LAFRANCE" section from "The LAFRANCE (Baptisms, burials and marriages)" search page from Généalogie Québec.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of "About the LAFRANCE" section from "The LAFRANCE (Baptisms, burials and marriages)" search page from Généalogie Québec.
That is when I noticed this very important line from the "About the LAFRANCE" section:

Every Catholic baptism and burial from Quebec between 1621 and 1861

Of course we couldn't find a baptism from 1918 since the collection for Catholic baptisms only goes to 1861 in LAFRANCE.

I had forgotten to do what I constantly remind others to do: learn what a collection actually covers. I felt so silly!

I knew I could browse the Drouin Collection records but that can be very time consuming, especially if you don't have an exact year or know the parish where the baptism took place. Also, even though many parish registers have a name index either at the front or back of the year's register, quite a few don't.

So I went to the "NBMDS (BMD Index)" page on Généalogie Québec. Of course, this time I checked the "About the NBMDS tool" section first. There we find that it is an index of about 1.2 million records of  Catholic and Protestant baptism, marriage and burial records, most of which are from the province of Quebec. It even states the years and regions covered.

In this specific research case, the record found on Ancestry stated the baptism place was "Thurso, Québec (Quebec), Canada". Thurso is in the Outaouais region of Quebec and is one of the regions that the NBMDS index covers. So in theory we should be good.

Screen capture from 3 Feb 2024 of item 2 returned of a search using the NBMDS tool on Généalogie Québec looking for Nelson Deschamps.
Screen capture from 3 Feb 2024 of item 2 returned of a search using the NBMDS tool on Généalogie Québec looking for Nelson Deschamps.

There he was, just like I had hoped. Even better, the transcribed information actually made sense.

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the transcription for the baptism record for Joseph Alfred Nelson Deschamps from the "Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968" on Ancestry.ca.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the transcription for the baptism record for Joseph Alfred Nelson Deschamps from the "Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968" on Ancestry.ca.

As you can see above, the transcriber of the entry for Nelson's baptism record on Ancestry has Nelson being baptized before he was born. That's not going to happen in the Catholic church.

Yet the NBMDS index entry for Nelson's baptism on Généalogie Québec doesn't link to the image. So we have to do a little bit more work.

We need to go to the Drouin Collection records on Généalogie Québec and browse the parish registers.

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the Drouin Collection records landing page on Généalogie Québec.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the Drouin Collection records landing page on Généalogie Québec.

In this specific case I drilled down the folders via Quebec > Fonds Drouin > T > Thurso > 1910 > 1918

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the Drouin Collection records browsing the folders to "Québec/Fonds Drouin/T/Thurso/1910/1918/" on Généalogie Québec.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the Drouin Collection records browsing the folders to "Québec/Fonds Drouin/T/Thurso/1910/1918/" on Généalogie Québec.

Now all we have to do is look at the various images from 1918 to locate the baptism of Nelson Deschamps that, according the Généalogie Québec index entry, took place on 25 Apr 1918. Very quickly I came across the same image found in the Ancestry collection.

Genealogy Quebec, https://www-genealogiequebec-com.ezproxy.biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/tools/drouin-collection, Drouin Genealogical Institute, 2024, Drouin Collection - Québec/Fonds Drouin/T/Thurso/1910/1918/, d1p_00170648.jpg; image of page with baptism of Joseph Alfred Nelson Deschamps, B. 15.
Genealogy Quebec, https://www-genealogiequebec-com.ezproxy.biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/tools/drouin-collection, Drouin Genealogical Institute, 2024, Drouin Collection - Québec/Fonds Drouin/T/Thurso/1910/1918/, d1p_00170648.jpg; image of page with baptism of Joseph Alfred Nelson Deschamps, B. 15.

 

So why would one want to use Généalogie Québec since it can take a bit more effort to see this sort of image when compared to the Drouin collections on Ancestry? 

The first reason is that the Drouin Institute keeps adding more records to their collections on Généalogie Québec. These new record may not make it on to Ancestry or any other genealogy site for quite some time. 

Additionally I've found the transcriptions of the records on Généalogie Québec are of higher quality than what I've come across on Ancestry. If I can't find a record I know should be in the various Drouin collections on Ancestry I will always come to Généalogie Québec to search through their collections. Quite often I will find that "missing" record there. Then when I look at the images on Ancestry for that specific parish and year I will find the name has been horribly transcribed in the Ancestry index.

Finally, although it didn't apply in this specific case, for those with deep roots in Quebec, the LAFRANCE collection is an amazing resource that can save you considerable time in your research.

Lessons Learned

The first lesson is always, always read the about section for any collection. That way you will know what should be covered in any collection. More importantly, you will also learn what isn't in the collection you are using.

The second lesson is to take the time to explore the various tools and collections on a site. If one collection doesn't have what you are seeking, quite possibly another collection will provide you will the answers.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Gemini - Google's AI Now Available in Canada

After being one of the few countries in the world without access to Google's AI tool, Bard, us folks in Canada now have access to Google's new Gemini AI app on the desktop.

Screen capture taken on 8 Feb 2024 of part of the Gemini landing page retrieved using Firefox from a location in Canada.
Screen capture taken on 8 Feb 2024 of part of the Gemini landing page retrieved using Firefox from a location in Canada.

If you are used to using the free version of ChatGPT (version 3.5) then you will be familiar with all the usual gotchas. I'm not going to go into using the tool since much smarter folks with greater understandings on how these tools work have written about AI and Genealogy. Here are just some of the resources I've used in the past:

Instead I'm going to give you an example of why you need to double check everything you get back from these tools if you are asking specific research questions.

In the following edited conversation my questions in bold and Gemini's answers in italics, I posed the following:

Put yourself in the role of an experienced genealogist
In Upper Canada, when were Catholic priests first permitted to perform marriages?

The story of when Catholic priests could officially perform marriages in Upper Canada (now Ontario) is a bit convoluted and involves multiple milestones:

Pre-1834:

  • Restricted Recognition: Catholic marriages were not legally recognized under British common law, which dominated Upper Canada.
  • Religious Ceremonies: Catholic priests performed marriage ceremonies, but these had no legal standing. Couples often married twice: once in a Catholic ceremony and once with a government official to legalize the union.
  • Challenges and Ambiguity: This situation created challenges for Catholics, particularly regarding inheritance and property rights. Some couples only had the Catholic ceremony, leading to legal disputes later.

1834:

  • Partial Change: The Marriage Act of 1834 permitted "any clergyman regularly ordained" to solemnize marriages. This technically included Catholic priests, but...
  • Unresolved Confusion: The Act didn't explicitly mention Catholics, and some officials remained hesitant to accept clergy outside the Church of England.

1851:

  • Clarification and Recognition: The Marriage Act Amendment Act of 1851 explicitly named "regularly ordained ministers of the Roman Catholic Church" as authorized to perform marriages.
  • Full Legal Recognition: From this point onwards, Catholic marriages performed by priests had full legal validity in Upper Canada.

Important Points:

  • Gradual Process: It wasn't a single switch in 1834. Recognition took time and legal clarification.
  • Local Variations: Even after 1851, some local officials might have initially resisted accepting Catholic marriages.
  • Documentation: If you're researching an ancestor's marriage in Upper Canada, consider both the Catholic ceremony date and the legal registration date to get a complete picture.

Remember, understanding historical context is crucial. While Catholic marriages faced legal hurdles, perseverance and advocacy ultimately led to full recognition, reflecting the evolving religious landscape of Upper Canada.


At first blush, this is actually a pretty good response. It told me about the acts involved and gave me some background. However, wanted to see what sources it might have used.

 

Can you provide any sources where you found that information?
Certainly! Here are some reliable sources where I found the information about the legal recognition of Catholic marriage ceremonies in Upper Canada:

Primary Sources:

  • Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada: https://www.oba.org/Home
  • Marriage Act Amendment Act of 1851, Upper Canada: https://www.oba.org/Home

Secondary Sources:

  • "Courtship, Love, and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century English Canada" by Cecilia Morgan: <invalid URL removed> (Chapter 2 delves into legal recognition of Catholic marriages)
  • "The History of Canadian Law: Public and Private Law to 1914" by P.B.W. Goold: https://www.amazon.com/Canadian-Law-Introduction-Neil-Boyd/dp/0176724427 (Chapter 8 discusses marriage laws and religious ceremonies)
  • Library and Archives Canada website: https://library-archives.canada.ca/eng (Offers digitized archival records related to marriage laws and petitions)

Additional Resources:

  • Archives of Ontario website: https://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/index.aspx (Provides access to historical land and marriage records)
  • Canadian Catholic Historical Association: https://cchahistory.ca/ (Offers resources and publications on Catholic history in Canada)

These sources provide valuable insights into the legal evolution of marriage laws in Upper Canada and the recognition of Catholic marriage ceremonies. By exploring them further, you can gain a deeper understanding of your ancestors' experiences and the historical context surrounding their marriage.



That's even better. Except when I when to the first site, the Ontario Bar Association, I couldn't find any resources that dealt with those historical marriage acts in Upper Canada. That was the first sign to me that something wasn't quite right. 

So I asked Gemini this question about that marriage act.

 

Can you provide more information about the Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada?

The Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada: A Deeper Dive

The Marriage Act of 1834, passed in the then-province of Upper Canada, marked a significant change in the legal landscape of marriage. Here's a breakdown of its key features and the context surrounding it:

[...additional details omitted for brevity]

Full Text of the Act: https://www.oba.org/Home

[...additional information omitted for brevity]

A good summary of the act but I still wanted to read the original act and I still couldn't find it.


I can't find the Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada. Is there any more information you can provide to help me locate the original act?

I apologize! While I mentioned the Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada, the link I provided wasn't specific enough. Here are some resources where you can find the original act:
Digital Copies:

  • The Law Society of Upper Canada: This website offers access to various historical legal documents, including the Statutes of Upper Canada. You can find the Marriage Act of 1834 here: https://www.oba.org/Home
  • Library and Archives Canada: This website contains digitized copies of historical documents, including Upper Canada statutes. You can search for the Marriage Act of 1834 here: https://library-archives.canada.ca/eng

 

I played around in the Library and Archives Canada site with no luck. But I also noticed they called the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) site the "Law Society of Upper Canada". That was another red flag for me. Those are two different organizations. Also, since about 2017 the "Law Society of Upper Canada" is now known as the "Law Society of Ontario". Hmmm.

I'm sorry, but I must be an idiot since I still can find that act

Please don't call yourself an idiot! Finding historical documents can be quite challenging, and it's not at all a reflection of your intelligence. I apologize if my previous instructions weren't clear enough. Let's try a different approach.

 

At least it is kind. It also gave me detailed instructions (yay!) for using the OBA site but I guess that the site had changed since Google last looked at it for teaching its AI system since the instructions didn't work.

Meanwhile, while all this was happening I was making use of my favourite Canada Pre-Confederation law site "British North American Legislative Database, 1758-1867". This site is really useful when you come across a notional like "4 & 5 William IV c. 7" which was in one of the responses Gemini displayed at one point.

Only one problem, I couldn't find any acts referring to marriage in the 4th and 5th years of the reign of William IV in that database. So I popped over the "Statutes of Her Majesty's province of Upper Canada" collection on Canadiana where I checked the Statutes of Upper Canada from 1833 to 1835. Chapter 7 in any of those years didn't apply to the solemnization of marriage. I also check the "Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom/William IV" page on WikiSource and it did have acts listed from the session of Parliament listed under "1834 (4 & 5 Will. IV)". But chapter 7 was about "Postage in North American Colonies Act 1834".

I had noticed on the "British North American Legislative Database, 1758-1867" site that in 1831 there was the "An Act to make valid certain Marriages heretofore contracted, and to provide for the future Solemnization of Matrimony in this Province. (The Royal Assent to this Bill was signified, by Message of His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, to the Legislative Council and Assembly of this Province on the Second day of March, 1831.)".

So I called Gemini on this issue:

Are you certain that the Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada actually exists? I found an act from 1831 in the first year of William IV's reign (1 William IV c. 1) and a later act from 1847 affirming the 1831 act. But I've found no references to an 1834 act

I apologize for the confusion I caused. You're absolutely right, I made a mistake. There was no Marriage Act of 1834 in Upper Canada. The relevant legislation related to marriage during that period is as follows:

1. An Act to alter and amend the Laws now in force in this Province respecting the Solemnization of Marriage (1 William IV, c. 1, 1831): This act permitted "any clergyman regularly ordained according to the forms of law of any religious denomination in this Province" to perform marriages. However, it was initially interpreted ambiguously and didn't explicitly mention specific denominations like Catholics.

2. An Act to amend the Act passed in the first Year of the Reign of His present Majesty, intituled, 'An Act to alter and amend the Laws now in force in this Province respecting the Solemnization of Marriage' (10 Victoria, c. 56, 1847): This act clarified the 1831 legislation by explicitly naming "regularly ordained ministers of the Roman Catholic Church" among those authorized to perform marriages.

The confusion likely arose from conflicting sources or misinterpretations. I deeply regret misleading you and appreciate you bringing this to my attention. It's important to be accurate and provide reliable information.

Oops!


I keep saying this, and I will continue to say this, when asking for fact based information from the current iterations of what is commonly referred to as AI, it is like asking an overly confident 8 year old child a question. They, AI and the child, will often continue to insist the answer provided is correct until you tell and show them they are wrong.

By the way, ChatGPT 3.5 had the same problems with this question and it really had me going down the rabbit hole looking for nonexistent acts.

So now I  keep asking the simple question "Are you sure about that answer?" when asking research oriented questions to the AI tools.

To be honest, I have found these tools useful when asking for general guidance in my research such as what resources should I look in when I might have hit a genealogical brick wall. Or even when I updated my bio for my talks.

Lesson for today:

Just like any fact or event we come across in our genealogy research, everything we get from these AI tools such as ChatGTP, Gemini, etc. needs to be double checked and verified through our own resources. 

Enjoy playing with Gemini!

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Finding on the Ground: Northern Ontario Districts

For most folks researching their kin in the land records of Ontario they are dealing with the records in the counties where we have abstract books organized by township, concession, and lot. That isn't the case for those looking for the land records who settled in the more northern districts of Ontario. So please indulge me as we take a journey to those districts of Ontario and look at their land records.

Recently in one of the genealogy groups I frequent on Facebook the following query was posted:

Looking for some help to decipher the information in column 3 on this 1901 census, schedule 2.  It is for my ancestor William (Guillaume) Gauthier.
From what I can determine, it says " a NBay  b 39 & 40 in 11 con "
I assume NBay is for North Bay and 39 and 40 are lot #’s?  Is there any way to locate this location on a map?

The following image was also included:

Image of the 1901 Census of Canada, Schedule 2, Ontario, District 92 (Nipissing), Sub-district 1, Ferris, p 1 combining the header section of the page with and extract of lines 40 to 50 with line 43 highlighted with a red box; original source of image unknown; image of the full page found on Library and Archives Canada (http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/1901/z/z002/jpg/z000085084.jpg : accessed 3 Feb 2024).
Image of the 1901 Census of Canada, Schedule 2, Ontario, District 92 (Nipissing), Sub-district 1, Ferris, p 1 combining the header section of the page with and extract of lines 40 to 50 with line 43 highlighted with a red box; original source of image unknown; image of the full page found on Library and Archives Canada (http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/1901/z/z002/jpg/z000085084.jpg : accessed 3 Feb 2024).

The first thing to note is that the enumerator has combined the instructions on how to record the information in column 3. In the "Instructions to Chief Officers, Commissioners, and Enumerators" for the Fourth Census of Canada 1901 we find that the "Place of habitation" should really just be prefixed with a single letter to indicate the sort of description:

  • a. Name of Municipality
  • b. Range or concession and lot, or cadastral number
  • c. Street and house number
  • d. Or other description

Here, the enumerator has written both "a" and "b".

So the entry in that column "a NBay b 39 & 40 in 11 con" can be translated as "The name of the Municipality, Township, or Parish is North Bay; lots 39 and 40 in the 11th Concession". But is that "North Bay" a reference to a municipality, township, or parish?

The top of the census actually gives us a few important clues to help us answer that question. There we find that it is Schedule No. 2 for the Province of Ontario, District No. 92 Nipissing, Sub-district Y, Polling sub-division No. 1 in Ferris.

1901 census of Canada, Schedule 1, Ontario, district 92, sub-district y-1, p. 5, top of page; RG 31; digital images, Library and Archives Canada, Library and Archives Canada (http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/1901/z/z002/jpg/z000084890.jpg : accessed 3 Feb 2024); citing microfilm T-6483.
1901 census of Canada, Schedule 1, Ontario, district 92, sub-district y-1, p. 5, top of page; RG 31; digital images, Library and Archives Canada, Library and Archives Canada (http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/1901/z/z002/jpg/z000084890.jpg : accessed 3 Feb 2024); citing microfilm T-6483.

Looking at the top of page 5 for Schedule 1 of that same place we see that it is for the Township of Ferris. Why page 5? That is the page referenced in column 1 of Schedule 2. For the 1871 and 1901 Census of Canada, most of the non-population schedule pages don't have a name recorded but instead the page and line number of where the head of household is found on Schedule 1.

With all that information we can surmise that we are looking for lots 39 and 40 in the 11th concession of Ferris Township.

Using the Make A Topographic Map site from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry we can "Search by Location" and then "Select a Township & Lot/Concession" to plot that location on a map. I cover how to do this in my "Finding on the Ground: An Ontario Concession/Lot on a Map" post. The look and feel of site has changed a little bit (what website doesn't change over time) since I wrote that post in 2021 but the steps are basically the same.

So question two has been answered: "Is there any way to locate this location on a map?"

Yet why stop there? 

What about locating the land record transactions?

In my talks and blog posts I usually focus on the counties on Ontario. It's about time I also talk about the challenges with the districts of Ontario. Just so that we are clear, these aren't the early districts of Upper Canada like Johnston, Midland, Home, etc. but places like Nipissing, Muskoka, and Parry Sound.

For many of the lots in these district, in the Ontario land record books you won't find them referenced in the Township/Concession/Lot format. Instead they are listed under parcel numbers. So how does one take a known township, concession, and lot number and convert it to a parcel number?

For that we need to visit the Ontario Land Property Records Portal, AKA OnLand, and hope that the historical books they have digitized on that site will point the way.

For this case we will be looking in the Historical Books for the Nipissing Land Registry Office (LRO 36). For the more southern counties we could just search the Abstract/Parcel Register Books for the concession and/or lot and get a list of books to browse through.

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the OnLand LRO 36 Historical Books search results of the Abstract/Parcel Register Books for Concession 11.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the OnLand LRO 36 Historical Books search results of the Abstract/Parcel Register Books for Concession 11.

That is not the case here as you can see from the screen capture above.

Instead I will turn to browsing the First Registration Books in the Historical Books for the LRO. These First Registration Books "contain a list of first registrations from registry to land titles (e.g. Crown Patent or Crown plan)." I have found these books useful in translating the concession and lot into a parcel number.

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the OnLand LRO 36 Historical Books listing for the First Registration Books.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the OnLand LRO 36 Historical Books listing for the First Registration Books.

Since we are looking for Ferris Township I selected Book 2 "TOWNSHIPS; D TO L" since Ferris Township should fall within that range of letters. On the first page of that book it does list "Ferris (East)" and "Ferris (West)" so there is hope.

On image 57 of 236 in that book I found the start of the Township of Ferris (East) for lots 1 to 29. So I just kept moving forward through the images until I came to image 80 of 236 and found the page titled "CON 11" in the corner for the Township of Ferris that had the listing for lots 39 and 40.

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 from OnLand from Nipissing LRO(36), Historical Books, First Registration Book, Book 2, Township of Ferris, Concession 11, Lots 25-41, image 80 of 236.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 from OnLand from Nipissing LRO(36), Historical Books, First Registration Book, Book 2, Township of Ferris, Concession 11, Lots 25-41, image 80 of 236.

There for Lots 39 and 40 we see written: "All Lot - Pcl. 2408 Nip." We also see that lot 41 references the same entry. That "Pcl" abbreviation stands for "Parcel" and it seems to reference "Nipissing". This differs from other entries on the same page that state "W&F". That little detail will be important in the next step.

But now that we have a parcel number we can search the Abstract/Parcel Register Book for the Nipissing Land Registry Office

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the OnLand LRO 36 Historical Books search results of the Abstract/Parcel Register Books for Parcel 2408.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the OnLand LRO 36 Historical Books search results of the Abstract/Parcel Register Books for Parcel 2408.

We find several results returned. One with the Township / Municipality labeled "WIDDIFIELD; FERRIS". That probably would be book we'd want to look in if the reference was "W&F". But we are wanting the "Nip." books so we have a choice, either the NIPISSING "PARCEL 02326 TO 02449" or "LEASEHOLD PARCEL 02401 TO 02600". We don't know from the information available as to whether William Gauthier owned or leased the land but I usually go for the non-leasehold books first.

Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the OnLand LRO 36 Historical Books of the Abstract/Parcel Register Book for NIPISSING Municipality Parcels 02326 to 02449 for Parcel 2408 found starting on image 152 of 326.
Screen capture taken 3 Feb 2024 of the OnLand LRO 36 Historical Books of the Abstract/Parcel Register Book for NIPISSING Municipality Parcels 02326 to 02449 for Parcel 2408 found starting on image 152 of 326.

Fairly quickly I found the start of Parcel 2408 on image 152 of 326 from the NIPISSING "PARCEL 02326 TO 02449" book. There I could read that William Gauthier received a Free Grant Patent number 1393 dated 11 Feb 1905. Remember that to get the patent William would have had to have performed settlement duties so he would have been on the land for several years prior. In the first paragraph I could see the description of the land was for Lot Number Thirty-Nine, Broken Lot Number Forty, and Broken Lot Number 41 all in the 11th Concession of the Township of Ferris.

Unlike the Abstract Register Books where we need to consult the instruments to see the details, these Parcel Books have the details in them. For Parcel 2408 there are six pages of information describing how the land was transferred from one person to next...all available for download in a PDF for free.

I will admit that this was a relatively easy example for me to work through. I did make some assumptions that bit me when I was doing my first attempt at locating the property. One assumption was that I should have been looking in the "WIDDIFIELD; FERRIS" book. That was because I forgot to look at the whole page listing the lots for that concession to see what was written elsewhere. That rabbit whole took me about 30 to 45 minutes to get out of.

Just a heads up, some districts and townships may be a bit more of a challenge to research. In one of my presentations I make use of an area in Parry Sound district as an example of researching land in the districts. There I found that some lots were in the Abstract Register books while adjacent lots were recorded in the Parcel Books. 

So just be flexible when it comes to researching land records of properties found in the districts of Ontario.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Upper Canada Land Books

When we are diving into the land records for what later became the province of Ontario we sometimes come clues written on the part of the petition giving the disposition of the request. Such is the case for the petition for land made by Sheldon Ward in 1825.

"Upper Canada Land Petitions, 1763-1865," digital images, Library and Archives Canada Archived - Microform Digitization (https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=29&interval=50&sk=0& : accessed 28 Jan 2024), Sheldon Ward, 1825, Volume 530, Bundle W 14, Petition 91; RG 1 L3, C-2955, images 877-878.
"Upper Canada Land Petitions, 1763-1865," digital images, Library and Archives Canada Archived - Microform Digitization (https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=29&interval=50&sk=0& : accessed 28 Jan 2024), Sheldon Ward, 1825, Volume 530, Bundle W 14, Petition 91; RG 1 L3, C-2955, image 878.

In this specific case we are interested in the line "Entd in Land Book M page 271" towards the top of the page

What is this Land Book they mention and where can we find them?

As stated on the "Upper Canada Land Books" collection page on the Héritage site hosted by the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, the Upper Canada Land Books hold the "...deliberations, decisions and recommendations of the Land Committee of the Executive Council of Upper Canada." As such, we may find additional clues concerning the petition and what was recommended.

Yet with 41 reels of digitized microfilms where do we start?

Fortunately a number of the microfilms actually have shelf list near the beginning of the reel giving the Land Book letter, dates, volumes, and reel numbers. So that you don't have to keep looking for that information here it is in a table for you that you can copy and paste into a document on your own computer.

Reel IDRecord GroupProvinceBookVolumes
C-100RG 1 L1Upper Canadaselections from Quebec Land Books A and B18
C-100RG 1 L1Upper CanadaA, pp 1-23219
C-101RG 1 L1Upper CanadaA, pp 233-end19
C-101RG 1 L1Upper CanadaB20
C-101RG 1 L1Upper CanadaC21
C-101RG 1 L1Upper CanadaD22
C-101RG 1 L1Upper CanadaE, pp 1-11123
C-102RG 1 L1Upper CanadaE, pp 112-end23
C-102RG 1 L1Upper CanadaF24
C-102RG 1 L1Upper CanadaG25
C-102RG 1 L1Upper CanadaH26
C-102RG 1 L1Upper CanadaI, pp 1-13727
C-103RG 1 L1Upper CanadaI, pp 138-end27
C-103RG 1 L1Upper CanadaJ28
C-103RG 1 L1Upper CanadaK29
C-103RG 1 L1Upper CanadaL, pp 1-48430
C-104RG 1 L1Upper CanadaL, pp 485-end30
C-104RG 1 L1Upper CanadaM31
C-104RG 1 L1Upper CanadaN32
C-104RG 1 L1Upper CanadaO, pp 1-36133
C-105RG 1 L1Upper CanadaO, pp 362-end33
C-105RG 1 L1Upper CanadaP34
C-105RG 1 L1Upper CanadaQ35
C-105RG 1 L1Upper CanadaR, pp 1-42836
C-106RG 1 L1Upper CanadaR, pp 429-end36
C-106RG 1 L1Upper CanadaS37
C-106RG 1 L1Upper CanadaT38
C-106RG 1 L1Upper CanadaU, pp 1-38839
C-107RG 1 11Upper CanadaU, p 389-end39
C-107RG 1 L1CanadaA40
C-107RG 1 L1CanadaB41
C-107RG 1 L1CanadaC, pp 1-35042
C-108RG 1 L1CanadaC, pp 351-end42
C-108RG 1 L1CanadaD43
C-108RG 1 L1CanadaE44
C-108RG 1 L1CanadaF, pp 1-65145
C-109RG 1 L1CanadaF, pp 198-end45
C-109RG 1 L1CanadaG46
C-109RG 1 L1CanadaH, pp 1-65147
C-110RG 1 L1CanadaH, pp 652-end47
C-110RG 1 L1CanadaI48
H-1976RG 1 L1

Index: Finding aid MSS1802-1976
H-1977RG 1 L1

Index: Finding aid MSS1802-1977
H-1978RG 1 L1

Index: Finding aid MSS1802-1978

In this specific case we are looking for Land Book M and from the table we can see that it is on microfilm C-104 in volume 31

Fairly quickly the entry for Sheldon Ward was found on image 233 on that digitized microfilm.

"Upper Canada Land Books," digital images, Héritage (https://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_mikan_205068 : accessed 28 Jan 2024), RG 1 L 1, Land Book M, volume 31, pages 270-271; citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-104, image 233.
"Upper Canada Land Books," digital images, Héritage (https://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_mikan_205068 : accessed 28 Jan 2024), RG 1 L 1, Land Book M, volume 31, pages 270-271; citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-104, image 233.

In this case it doesn't give us much more information. Just that Sheldon Ward was "Praying for a Grant of Two hundred acres of Land as a Settler. Granted One hundred acres".

The "W91" above his name references his petition found in Bundle W, Petition number 91 in the "Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865" collection we've already found on the Library and Archives Canada site.

Other entries in the books may give additional clues such as the entry on page 270 for James Trotter of Trafalgar where it states "...that he has received a Patent for the west half of Lot No. 15 in the 6th Concession of the Township of Trafalgar, that he has a Family of five Children...". His petition could be found in Bundle T, Petition number 54 in the "Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865" collection on Library and Archives Canada.

Some of the entries can be quite long such as the one for Peter McGill, Esq. His petition can be found in Volume 347A, Bundle M 14, Petition number 285 in the "Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865".

"Upper Canada Land Books," digital images, Héritage (https://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_mikan_205068 : accessed 28 Jan 2024), RG 1 L 1, Land Book M, volume 31, pages 268-269; citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-104, image 232.
"Upper Canada Land Books," digital images, Héritage (https://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_mikan_205068 : accessed 28 Jan 2024), RG 1 L 1, Land Book M, volume 31, pages 268-269; citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-104, image 232.

So one never knows what they will find in these land books.

Also, for the digitized books on microfilms C-100 to C-110 we can do a text search.

Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 from Héritage of Upper Canada Land Books : C-104 performing a search with the text "sheldon ward" (without quotes) and seeing that the results include imaged 233 and 540.
Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 from Héritage of Upper Canada Land Books : C-104 performing a search with the text "sheldon ward" (without quotes) and seeing that the results include imaged 233 and 540.

Here we see that a search for "sheldon ward" (without the quotes) returns two images. We've already seen image 233 above. However, when I look at image 540 I don't see that name on either of the pages. We always need to look and read at all the suggested pages but there may be indexing errors.

Some of the other digitized microfilms in the "Upper Canada Land Books" collection are the index cards we used to find the the wooden cabinets.

Where can we go from here? I would probably look at the Ontario Crown Land RG 1 Warrants and Fiats Collections found on FamilySearch which I touched upon in my post "Ontario Crown Land RG 1 C-I-1, C-I-2, C-I-3 Collections on FamilySearch". One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, I will attempt to explain how I browse through the images in that collection to find the images of the indexes, registers, and warrants and fiats to learn more about the results of land petitions and subsequent grants to settlers in Ontario.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Toronto Trust Cemeteries on FamilySearch - Updated

Back in February 2022 I wrote about "Toronto Trust Cemeteries on FamilySearch" where I discussed using browsing the digitized images to locate records not indexed in that collection of digitized books. However, with the November 2023 changes to the FamilySearch Catalog place names, especially when it comes to places in Ontario, the first part of that post using searching for that collection by place name needs to be updated.

Instead of searching by place name we are going to search using the Author field for the words "Toronto Trust Cemeteries" (without the quotes) like this:

Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 of the FamilySearch Catalog search screen searching by Author with the author name of "Toronto Trust Cemeteries" without the quotation marks.
Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 of the FamilySearch Catalog search screen searching by Author with the author name of "Toronto Trust Cemeteries" without the quotation marks.

This results in two groups being returned, "Toronto Trust Cemeteries (Ontario)" with 11 entries and "Toronto Trust Cemeteries. Superintendent of Administrative Services (Ontario)" with 1 entry.

Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 of the FamilySearch Catalog search results for the Author Name "Toronto Trust Cemeteries" (without quotation marks) with the "Toronto Trust Cemeteries (Ontario)" grouping opened.
Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 of the FamilySearch Catalog search results for the Author Name "Toronto Trust Cemeteries" (without quotation marks) with the "Toronto Trust Cemeteries (Ontario)" grouping opened.

When the "Toronto Trust Cemeteries (Ontario)" group is opened you can see all the cemeteries covered by the Toronto Trust Cemeteries. This list includes not just those cemeteries in Toronto but also those affiliated cemeteries in Scarborough, North York, Concord, Oshawa, and Richmond Hill. This is the same list of cemeteries, with the addition of the Toronto Crematorium collection, that we find listed on the Mount Pleasant Group cemeteries search page.

Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 of the Mount Pleasant Group cemetery search page at https://www.finditatmpg.com/Default.aspx.
Screen capture taken 28 Jan 2024 of the Mount Pleasant Group cemetery search page at https://www.finditatmpg.com/Default.aspx.

Lesson for today:

With this latest update to the FamilySearch Catalog it is forcing many of us to adjust our thinking when it comes to using place names as the key item to search on when using this catalogue. So if you can't find the collections that you are looking for via a place try using the other fields to search on. I've been finding the Title and the Keywords to be particularly useful to hunt down the misplaced and reassigned collections within the FamilySearch Catalog.