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Sunday, 4 July 2010

Canada to impose new restrictions on future Census information

Looks like the Canadian Government, and particularly those with control over Canadas Census are about to shoot themselves, and future generations of Canadians who want to know about their ancestors, squarely in the foot, in a move the government says was prompted by privacy concerns.

Statistics Canada has quietly made major changes to the country's census in time for the upcoming round of national sampling in 2011. The long census questionnaire that provided information on a broad range on such topics as ethnicity, education, employment, income, housing and disability has been eliminated. Instead, those questions will be asked on a new, voluntary National Household Survey (NHS) and the results will never be released, in contrast with the treasure trove of census data that currently becomes public after 92 years.

"I'm just flabbergasted by the fact that they are taking the greatest source of information for the history of the country away from us," says Gordon Watts, an amateur genealogist and co-chairman of the Canada Census Committee. "It's a huge change and as far as I'm concerned, they've been playing dirty pool because none of the people who have been concerned about this, to my knowledge, have been advised that this was in the works."

Officials from Statistics Canada say the 2011 census went through the usual consultation process, with citizens invited to provide feedback online, but there was no indication this change was under consideration.

The idea of doing away with the long census questionnaire form, transferring the questions to the NHS and no longer releasing the information did not become public until Saturday, when it appeared in a government publication.

"This change was made to reasonably limit what many Canadians felt was an intrusion of their personal privacy," said Erik Waddell, a spokesman for Industry Minister Tony Clement (Statistics Canada falls under the purview of Industry Canada).

The decision to change the census came from the federal government and not from the ministry or Statistics Canada, he said.

Previously, each Canadian household was required by law to complete a census form, with 80 per cent filling out short questionnaires including eight questions on topics such as date of birth, marital status and language. The other 20 per cent of households filled out the long questionnaire, which included 53 additional questions probing everything from country of birth and mobility issues to people's occupation and how many hours they spend caring for children.

The NHS will include largely the same list of questions as the old census long form, but because Statistics Canada does not release survey data, it will never become public — something Watts says is an enormous loss to future Canadians.

"The census is the single most important documented information available to the historical and genealogical community. It is the only source in which you get information regarding families instead of individuals," he says. "Through successive censuses, you can track the formation of the family, you can track when children are born, when children grow up and leave, you can check patterns of migration."

The next census will be conducted in May 2011 and the NHS will be sent out to 4.5 million households around the same time, to be completed in hard copy or online. In 2006, one in five Canadian households received a long census questionnaire, but that will be increased to one in three for the NHS in hopes of obtaining an adequate number of responses, says Peter Morrison, assistant chief statistician responsible for census and operations.

Statistics Canada does not have a target response rate to ensure adequate national coverage of the survey, he added.

Morrison said to their knowledge, no other country collects census data in the manner that Statistics Canada will be doing.

The questionnaires will be available in multiple languages and "maximum efforts" will be made to gather data from households that are likely to respond, says Rosemary Bender, assistant chief statistician in charge of the NHS.

"We have a lot of experience conducting voluntary surveys and we're optimistic Canadians will comply with the information, will respond to it positively and that it will be a success story," Harrison said.

Academics rely on census data for understanding changes in society over time, says Margaret Conrad, an honourary research professor in the history department at the University of New Brunswick, and the documents are our primary portrait of the changing Canadian family.

One in five Canadians are engaged in personal genealogy research, she says, and the fascination seems to be growing, fuelled by television shows such as Ancestors in the Attic. But where genealogical history was once limited to what was scrawled inside the family Bible, a proliferation of websites and the public release of Canadian census documents up to 1911 now give amateur sleuths a vast storehouse of information that will no longer be available with this change.

"You just plug your name into and you get stuff that would have taken you months or even years to track down earlier on," Conrad says. "It's how they identify themselves as citizens in this country, by figuring out where they fit into this rapidly changing world and how their families got to where they were. I think that is an important anchor for people."

Monday, 14 September 2009

Irish 1911 Census goes Online

The 1911 Census for Ireland is now available online. The census, with a free search facility, is available on the Irish National Archives website, and covers all 32 Counties

Amateur genealogists can search by name, surname, age, sex and place, for their family history.

It is the first time that such information, which includes the images of the original "filled out" census forms, has been put online.

"We have decided to make the material immediately available, in the knowledge that the vast majority of our users will be able to find what they want," the National Archives say.

"Corrections and improvements will be ongoing, and we are very grateful to all users who have submitted corrections to us."

Released two years early, the census of April 1911, was the last census completed until 1926 and offers a unique insight into an Ireland from long ago.

The forms show an Ireland divided into type of resident, -- boarder, visitor or family -- as well as religion, literacy, professional, marital status, Irish language ability and children.

A snapshot of Dublin themes, in 1911, reveals:

* Poverty and Health: inner city tenements were "filthy, overcrowded, disease-ridden and teeming with malnourished children."
* In the suburbs: "The 19th Century saw a steady move to suburbs such as Rathmines, Monkstown and Blackrock by many wealthy Dubliners."
* City Transport: "There were 330 trams operating on lines which ran for 60 miles along the city's roads, drawing the suburbs tightly to the city."
* Religion: "In 1911 the city was 83pc Catholic, 13pc Church of Ireland, 2pc Presbyterian and Methodist and 2pc others, including a growing Jewish presence."
* Law and Order: "In 1910 there were 2,462 charges of drunkenness in the Dublin Metropolitan police district, while 3,758 people were drunk when they were taken into custody."

The census form for Ireland, unlike that in Britain, included a question asking the religion of every person in the household.

Irish people were also asked whether they could 'read and write', 'read only', or 'cannot read'.

Such a question was not asked in Britain and, as one Irish newspaper noted, "why it should be so is not easy to understand".

The Republic's National Archives hope to get the 1901 census online between late this year and early 2010.

The census is available on

Monday, 31 August 2009

Using Google Picasa Web Albums for your Genealogy

Do you use Picasa Web Albums for storing your family history and genealogy photos and pictures online. Well I was browsing on YouTube and came across this great video which will show you just what you can do on Picasa to help organise them (there's more than you may think :-). The video is by genealogyscrounge and I recommend his YouTube Channel which has loads of other helpful genealogy related videos.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

War records of 250,000 medieval soldiers go online

The service records of medieval soldiers have been made available in a new online database.

The website contains 250,000 service records of soldiers who fought in the Hundred Years War between 1369 and 1453.

It includes the names of archers who served with Henry V at Agincourt, meaning you could see if any of your relatives helped rout the French in the famous 1415 battle.

The Medieval Soldier Database contains full profiles of individual soldiers, with muster roll evidence allowing researchers to piece together details of soldiers’ lives.

Dr Adrian Bell of the University of Reading, who undertook the research project with Professor Anne Curry of the University of Southampton, said: ‘The service records survive because the English exchequer had a very modern obsession with wanting to be sure that the government’s money was being spent as intended.

‘Therefore we have the remarkable survival of indentures for service detailing the forces to be raised, muster rolls showing this service and naming every soldier from duke to archer.

"There are accounts from the captains demonstrating how the money had been spent, and entries showing when the exchequer made the requested payments.’

The database, which shows which campaigns soldiers fought in, and other details including what they were paid, how often they were off work sick, who rode the furthest and who was knighted.

The youngest soldier on the records is Thomas, Lord Despencer, whose career began when he was 12 years old in 1385.

Thomas Gloucestre, who fought at Agincourt, is also included on the database, and his career can be traced over 43 years and includes campaigns in Prussia and Jerusalem.

The records also show that social mobility was possible, as in the case of Robert de Fishlake, who enlisted at the age of 16 in 1378 and progressed from being an archer to a man-at-arms.

The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Use the database free at

Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Irish Famine 1845 - 1850

To continue the Irish theme from last week's post on Irish genealogy, I thought that this week I'd write about the Irish Famine. I have a particular interest in this because my own Irish family came from Skibbereen in West Cork, one of the worst affected areas. I've visited the family History centre there and seen the exhibition on the famine, which is an incredibly moving experience, and I have visited the Abbeystrowry graveyard where there are 9,000 people buried in the famine grave pits. I was also lucky enough to be able to find the house on Bridge Street where my great grandfather was a shoemaker, he was born in 1844, the year before the famine started in 1845.

The Famine started in September 1845 when blight was first noted in Wexford and Waterford. By November half the potato crop was ruined. The British Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel, immediately recognizing that the circumstances in Ireland meant that this crop failure could cause famine, ordered corn and meal to be sent from the United States and a Relief Commission set up. Food aid had to be bought at market prices, a requirement which meant that the aid itself was less than fully effective since many poor Irish had no money at all and employment on Relief Works was not always immediately available.

The first deaths from hunger took place in the spring of 1846. The new Whig administration under Lord Russell, influenced by their laissez-faire belief that the market would provide the food needed, then halted government food and relief works leaving many hundreds of thousands of people without any work, money or food. Grain continued to be exported from the country. Private initiatives such as The Central Relief Committee of the Society of Friends (the Quakers) attempted to fill the gap caused by the end of government relief and eventually the government reinstated the relief works, although bureaucracy made food supplies slow to be released. Grain continued to be exported from the country. The blight almost totally destroyed the 1846 crop and the Famine worsened considerably. By December a third of a million destitute people were employed in public works such as road making.

1847's exceptionally hard winter made conditions even worse. A typhus epidemic killed tens of thousands, including wealthier people as the towns were now also affected. 1847's harvest was largely unaffected by blight but too few potatoes had been planted so the Famine continued unabated. The Soup Kitchens Act provided financial assistance to local authorities to help them feed Famine victims but this Act was withdrawn in September and relief was made the responsibility of local Poor Unions and of charitable organizations. This put impossible loads on local Poor Unions, particularly in the rural west and south. Emigration reached new heights and the infamous coffin-ships crossed the Atlantic in large numbers carrying people fleeing from the famine.

The blight returned in 1848 and outbreaks of cholera were reported. Evictions became common and Famine victims on outdoor relief peaked in July at almost 840,000 people. A doomed uprising against the government was led by William Smith O'Brien. The potato crop failed again in 1849 and famine was accompanied by cholera outbreaks.

In 1850 the potato crop was okay and the Famine mostly ended. By 1851 Census figures showed that the population of Ireland had fallen to 6,575,000 - a drop of 1,600,000 in ten years. The famine left in its wake perhaps up to a million dead and another million emigrated. The famine caused a sense of lasting bitterness by the Irish towards the British government, whom many blamed — then and now — for the starvation of so many people. The fall-out of the famine continued for decades afterwards and Ireland's population still has not recovered to pre-famine levels.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Irish Genealogy

We are rapidly approaching the great Irish holiday of St Patricks Day on the 17th March, when the world goes green! I thought therefore that this would be a good time to do a post specifically on Irish genealogy for all those with roots in the Emerald Isle.

Unfortunately researching your Irish roots is not easy because a lot of records went up in smoke during the Civil War in 1922, where they were kept in the Public Record Office in Dublin. These included most of the Census records and BMD records. Happily most of the Roman Catholic parish registers were retained by the parish churches and although up to now have proved difficult to access, more and more registers and others records are now starting to be digitised and available online.

The GRO (General Register Office) for Ireland has a very good history of registration and records in Ireland HERE. The details of whats available at the GRO is HERE and their fees, payment methods (they have no online facility yet) and regional offices can be found HERE.

To aid your own research I've listed below the best websites & sources I've come across in my search for my own Irish family roots.

Irish Genealogy Links Lists:-

CYNDI'S LIST (the biggest & the best)

Other useful sites

IRISH GENEALOGY (Good guide to where to find records)
THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES (Good introduction to Irish genealogy)
GENUKI-Ireland (Huge online genealogy resource)
ROOTSWEB MAILING LIST from here you can subscribe to the mailing list and browse or search the index for your ancestors surname and/or place of birth.
FAILTE ROMHAT (Griffiths Valuation page, but also check out the blue website index strip near top of page as it has many links to transcripts of census, directories, cemeteries etc.)

At the FAMILY SEARCH website you can search for your ancestors name or just a surname, which will throw up Irish records from the 1880 US Census, 1881 British & Canadian Census's, Pedigree Resource files & Ancestral Files as well as the IGI (International Genealogical Index).

It's also possible to search the IGI by Irish County/Parish at Hugh Wallis's searchable website of IGI batches HERE

The new Family Search PILOT SITE now has the Irish Civil Registration Indexes from 1845 to 1958 online.

Records for Passengers Who Arrived at the Port of New York During the Irish Famine, 1/12/1846 - 12/31/1851 - SEARCHABLE DATABASE

CASTLE CLINTON IMMIGRATION CENTRE offers free access to an extraordinary searchable database of information on 10 million immigrants to the USA. from 1830 through 1892, the year Ellis Island opened.

ELLIS ISLAND Passenger Lists 1892- 1924 - Search for your Irish ancestors as they arrive in New York.

Records of Irish Convicts & Rebels transported to New South Wales, Australia - SEARCHABLE DATABASE

Was your ancestor a CONVICT? (Not just Irish, includes links to Old Bailey records etc)


Subscription Sites:-

The following are very good sites for searchable databases where you can do free searches but will have to subscribe to view the actual detailed records.

(Northern Ireland & Ulster)

Useful Blogs & Websites:-

The following list is of blogs & websites run by people researching their own Irish genealogy, but which contain useful general information for Irish researchers.


Books for Irish family historians (link to

Collins Tracing Your Irish Family History, by Anthony Adolph and Ryan Tubridy

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, by John Grenham

How to Trace Your Irish Ancestors, by Ian Maxwell

Finding Your Irish Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide, by David S Ouimette

I hope you find the above useful in kick starting your Irish research and I'll probably be making further additions to these lists over the coming months, so keep checking back.

Greek Genealogy

Someone asked me about Greek genealogy today, so I thought I'd post what I've been able to find. So here we have what I consider are the best places for links to Greek Genealogy websites -

also you could try Family Search as they have Greece listed. Don't know what sort of records they have, but worth a try, just choose Greece in the Country option & enter your ancestors surname.

The following are also very good sites specific to Greek genealogy.

Try Dimitri's Name Database to get an idea of which region your ancestor came from at

Another great site I have been advised of is at

This has:-

- Growing number of Data Records on Greeks in Greece and Diaspora countries, including United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Greece, Asia Minor, Turkey, Cyprus, Russia, Odessa, Ethiopia, Egypt plus more
- Links to Greek Records microfilmed and available through LDS Family History Library
- 260+ links to help you with your Greek genealogy research
- Greece Gazetteer – 35,900 place names and Latitude & Longitude coordinates
- FREE Online Antiquarian Books regarding Greece, Asia Minor, Cyprus, Greek-Americans, etc.
- Greek Naming Traditions
- Historic photographs
- Greeks in the news circa 1870s thru 1920s – Flower Peddlers, Peanut Vendors, etc.
- WPA Interviews 1936-1940 Greek-American Life Histories
- plus much, much more – being updated all the time

Some of the sites on the links above have forename & surname Greek translators so watch out for those as many immigrants converted their birth names to American equivilents when they arrived in the U.S.A.

Hopefully you will find these links useful when researching your Greek family history.