BIFHSGO January Meeting

This Saturday, 8 January, BIFHSGO offers a full online program, a 9 a.m. “education” talk and 10 a.m. main presentation.

Kirk Session Records for Family Historians at  9 a.m.

The Kirk Sessions of the Established Church of Scotland were responsible for the administration of their parish; they looked after the welfare of their parishioners as well as their discipline—in both spiritual and moral matters. The members of the Session—the minister and the elders—met regularly and their deliberations were recorded, often in great detail. So, whether your ancestor was a clergyman, a church elder, a poor man or woman seeking financial assistance or a woman with an illegitimate child there is a chance they will appear in the minutes and these can often provide information on ancestors that cannot be found anywhere else.

Branching Out at 10 a.m.

We often focus our research on what we believe to be the “key” people in our direct line of ancestors; those who have a “story to tell,” or who take our research back even further. As a result, we can miss out on some fascinating information about our extended family. This talk will look at members of one family whose histories were overlooked in the initial research. Their stories add depth and breadth to our understanding of this family and its history, of the wider context in which they lived and of their impact, if any, on society at the time.

Both talks will be given by Kate Keter BSc MSc QG. Kate has been researching family trees for over 30 years. What started as a hobby, soon became an obsession and ultimately led her to complete an MSc in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies from the University of Strathclyde in 2016. Since then, she has worked as a professional genealogist based in Linlithgow, a small town to the west of Edinburgh, and is also a tutor on the Post-Graduate Genealogy and the Family History short courses at Strathclyde University. She is a member of the Register of Qualified Genealogists (RQG) and the Association of Scottish Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (ASGRA).

To attend, it’s free, you must register at

1921 Census Experience

When it’s midnight in London it’s 7 pm in Ottawa. So unlike my UK friends I didn’t have to burn the midnight oil to try the 1921 census of England and Wales newly released on Findmypast.

I was impressed. Remembering the disaster that was the release of the 1901 census online (Findmypast was not involved) I expected hiccups. Although a few were reported the vast majority, like me, found the search quick and very efficient.

Even without paying, you’re returned enough information from the free search that you can be reasonably certain you have the right person.

As a search for my mother came up empty I tried her brother, Cedric

Mousing over the right-hand icons gave the additional information that in the household were Maurice, Sara as well as Cedric and five others. I then searched with the last name and parish, Wembley, and my mother was found with her second name rather than the first. Maurice and Sara were her grandparents. Knowing the family I was able to verify four of the five others without making a payment. But her parents were not there. Possibly they were in Scotland where he had previously worked as a musician.

My father I found easily with his parents, although not in Carmarthen but the parish of Llangendeirne, Carmarthenshire. That contains the mining community where I’d previously found his father.

I will be purchasing the images of these two original records, mainly to find workplaces, as well as that for a stray cousin I’ve been following.

The database has almost 37.8 million records for people living in England & Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man or serving in the British armed forces overseas on 19th June 1921.  Searching with the “Advanced Options” finds 280,661 born in Ireland, 33,676 in Scotland, 25,876 in the United States, 19,272 in Canada, 17,134 in Australia, and 2,841 in New Zealand, 


BBC History Magazine: January 2022

Table of Contents

Queen of spies
Victoria’s intelligence networks helped her defy her enemies – and her own governments – as Rory Cormac and Richard J Aldrich explain

A king of fire and light
Louis IX embodied both the horror and beauty of medieval Europe, write Matthew Gabriele and David M Perry

1921: a brave new world?
The release of the 1921 census leads Sarah Hellawell to consider whether Britain really did “roar” in the 1920s

The BBC at 100
In the first in a new series on the BBC’s history, David Hendy revisits the corporation’s earliest broadcasts

Enemies of the state
Mark Cornwall on 10 infamous treason cases and what they said about the power of the state in Britain

Captive of the revolution
Monica Whitlock meets Kim Gordon, who spent two years imprisoned in a Beijing hotel room during China’s Cultural Revolution

Actress, writer and rebel
Helen Batten charts the amazing life of Emily Soldene, a star of the Victorian stage.


New books are regularly announced in the magazine. Insulin: The Crooked Timber by Kersten T Hall, from Oxford University Press, is one a noted owing to the history of diabetes in my family. “Derived from an observation by Immanuel Kant- “out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made” this book ‘s subtitle highlights its focus on the complex, at times unsympathetic, scientists who discovered insulin a century ago. The creation of medication from that hormone transformed the lives of people with diabetes and this vivid take puts that milestone into its wider context. 

There’s also news of a film I might well want to see Operation Mincemeat starring Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald and Matthew Macfadyen .  “It’s an espionage story that almost defies belief. In 1943 the Allies were preparing t0 invade southern Europe but were, for good reason, woried they would face heavy resistance. But what if the Axis could be tricked into believing that an invasion would be coming via Greece and Sardinia rather than Sicily? It was preciselythis subterfuge that was perpetuated by British intelligence operatives Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley. They oversaw a cunning plan to place misleading papers on the body of a recently deceased man and drop it off the coast of Spain, hoping the information would be passed on to the Nazis.”
Opening in UK cinemas this week, Operation Mincemeat will stream on Netflix in North America.

Life in 1921

On the occasion of the release today of the 1921 census of England and Wales, a selection of nostalgic historical photographs from The Francis Frith Collection depicting life as it was in 1921 is posted on the company blog at

It’s worth a few minutes to contemplate the photos and recollect changes in a century that the census does not reveal. How has the streetscape changed? Image how the woman in Kendall, by the war memorial, in the long dress would be able to safely ride a bicycle.  While Google Street View shows cars dominating that war memorial scene today it was bicycles in 1921.

New Year Messages from MyHeritage and Findmypast

Messages from the major commercial genealogy companies, as the old year makes way for the new, are traditional. They review achievements of the past year and hint at what’s to come.


What did the company achieve in 2021? Check out the infographic!

What’s coming in 2022? All they say is “there are plenty of exciting things on the horizon.” Having added animation of ancestor’s photos, perhaps in 2022 they’ll enable the animation speaking a phrase you enter!
The first addition of the year has already arrived, List view for photos on designed for convenient editing and sorting of the details in your family photos.


A message from the CEO provided a summary. For 2022 the big deal is the release of the 1921 census of England and Wales on 6 January. Beyond that there are the weekly releases of records and continuing digitization of newspapers, no details revealed. When I answered a survey question asking to choose between desired additions three-quarters had already answered — additional British and Irish records.

Writing My Past: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Teresa, a frequent commenter on this blog, is a blogger herself at In her latest post, she’s taken up the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge from Amy Johnson Crow, the first week on Foundations.

Teresa identifies six foundations, the most important of which IMHO is number 6 — have fun. You can sweat over proper formatting and citations, and may even revel in the polished look of the finished product, but don’t expect gratitude from your extended family. More often than not they’d prefer a family story. Do the research and writing for yourself, not for others. If they like it that’s a bonus.

When I saw the topic I immediately thought of house foundations which didn’t seem promising.  It’s the kind of challenge they give you at Toastmasters, so I hear. You draw a card from a hat with a word or two and have to give a two minute extemporanious talk on the topic.


Ontario’s New COVID Response

On Monday Ontario Premier Ford announced measures to “help blunt transmission and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.”What does it mean for the GLAM sector — galleries, libraries, archives and museums?

“Closing museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and waterparks, tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals.”

“Public libraries limited to 50 per cent capacity.”

Here’s the situation casting around the local GLAM websites.

Ottawa Public Library: no information

City of Ottawa Archives: no information

Library and Archives Canada: no information. The latest post of 31 December “Monitoring the COVID-19 situation” indicates readiness to move when needed, tempering the optimism of the 13 December post “Gradual increase in services to the public in Ottawa.”

Science and Technology Museums: “Ingenium museums will be closed January 5 to 26.”

Canadian Museum of Nature: “On Wednesday, January 5, the museum will close until further notice because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Canadian Museum of History and Canadian War Museum: “closing to the public effective immediately and will reopen on January 19, 2022.”

Archives of Ontario: “The Reading Room is open by appointment only.”

COMMENT: It is tempting to speculate from the cheap seats on the situation and delayed response. 

Keep track of the COVID developments, as far as limitations in testing allow, from




2021 Conference Survey Results

Thanks to the 33 people who responded to the survey posted on 6 December. Here, belatedly, are the results. Points to note IMHO are in bold below.

  • 85 percent registered for Rootstech, two-thirds for  BIFHSGO and Scottish Indexers.
  • There’s a bit of a bias in that 46 percent would choose the BIFHSGO conference if they could only register for one!
  • There’s a challenge for making online conferences attractive for businesses in that 82 percent of respondents did not consider any purchases.
  • 70 percent were able to make progress in their own genealogy as a result of online conference attendance, and another 20 percent thought they might do in the future as a result of attendance.
  • The following responses to “Based on your experience this year, what comments do you have that would be helpful to those organizing future conferences online?” are food for thought.

Online conferences are likely better for the environment and dealing with Covid, but I yearn to return to the in-person experience.

Make sure there is time for viewers to ask questions. One of the conferences I attended had 30 presentations over a weekend and the recordings were only available for 4 days once they became available. It simply was not enough time.

Very valuable, please continue offering online.

I would prefer to continue attending online conferences – the lower cost leaves more money available to subscribe to online databases or to purchase books, etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed the BIFHSGO Conference. The topics/speakers were excellent and I liked that it was spread out over a week.

Availability for people in different time zones (some working or in school outside home); comfortable environment (humour, privacy & conduct policies); lot of opportunity for chats w/presenters & among attendees & Q & A; aids to listening/seeing included as a matter of course (e.g. captioning); variety of topics, speakers/exhibitors (incl. style & length). I rate the Scottish Indexes conferences as the top conferences this year on these factors. Note that in this survey “Scottish Indexes” is incorrectly spelled as Scottish Indexers.

I am thrilled to have access to so many online opportunities without the tremendous costs and sometimes inconvenience of in-person attendance and travel, I know many people miss in-person contact and I do believe that more technology should be applied to meaningful interactivity and hybrid models. I am quite pleased to forgo socializing if I can attend more virtual events. Aside from pandemic concerns, the environment benefits from less travel.

Keep up the excellent work.

Realise that next year will be different. A lot more organisations will be offering on-line conferences so there will be a lot of competition for the time, the money, the speakers etc.

Not sure I have anything to suggest – there has been a lot of learning by online organisers in the past 18 months. I hope too that where organisations return to live meetings they are able to stream to a wider audience. Wider participation has been a plus of COVID

I liked the Breakout sessions but they are impossible in a large conference and are tricky even in a smaller conference. Pre-recorded sessions were OK but had no opportunity for Q&A. held by far the very BEST managed conference.

With a virtual conference your potential audience is worldwide so offer content which makes your conference stand out and be unique.

If possible branch out into more niche topics, as the basics have already been covered in the last 2 years, and even if those interested are geographically scattered they can still attend. Bring in experts from a distance without travel costs. BIFHSGO’s presentation on the Irish Registry of Deeds this year is an excellent example.

I am glad I did not need to choose only one. I hope conferences will continue to have an online option even after returning to in person. Very helpful to have printed notes ahead of time, although summary with links is also helpful.
Excellent to have option of rewatching lecture or to watch lecture missed in real time.

Indicate what level of experience the workshops are aimed at.

Remember your audience can be global not only local, be mindful of timings and opportunities for all.

Keep them coming, and allow for after event viewing – especially important for those attracting an international audience

Keep all online conferences so everyone who wishes to can attend. If a registration fee, keep it minimal to encourage attendance.

I’m starting to think that Thomas MacEntee’s comments that presentations should be in the RootsTech style of about 25 mins might be better for the future. Unless it is more of a demo or instructional type of presentation.

This week’s online genealogy events

Choose from free online events in the next five days. All times are ET except as noted. Those in red are Canadian, bolded if local to Ottawa or recommended

Assume registration in advance is required; check so you’re not disappointed.

Tuesday 4 Jan. 2 pm: Virtual Genealogy Drop-In, from Ottawa Branch of OGS and The Ottawa Public Library.

Tuesday 4 Jan. 2:30 pm: Using US Records to Find Your Immigrant’s Link to the – Old Country, by Sara Allen for Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.

Tuesday 4 Jan. 7:30 pm: In Search of Home: Migration into, out of and within Canada, by Dave Obee for Durham Region Branch of OGS

Wednesday 5  Jan. 2 pm: The Only Thing You Need to Know About DNA and Genealogy, by Diahan Southard for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Thursday 6 Jan. 11 am: The 1921 Census is Here. by FMP and DNA staff

Thursday 6 Jan. 6:30 pm: Fireside Chat – DNA, by Sara Allen and Allison Singleton for Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.

Thursday 6 Jan. 7 pm: The Importance of Blending Family Oral History with Solid Genealogical Research Techniques, by Richard Doherty for OGS (Ontario  Ancestors)

Friday 7 Jan, 2 pm: Researching during the slave era (1817-1865), by Shelley Viola Murphy for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Saturday 8 Jan.  9 am:  Kirk Session Records for Family Historians (Education Talk), by Kate Keter for BIFHSGO.

Saturday 8 Jan.  10 am: Branching Out. by Kate Keter for BIFHSGO.

Saturday 8 Jan.  10 am:  Understanding and Making the Most of Your Family Photos, by Stephen Gill for London-Middlesex Branch of OGS.

Saturday 8 Jan. 2 pm:  Dutch Genealogy. by  John Boeren for Huron Branch of OGS. TO BE RESCHEDULED

Military Monday: Army Girls

I was given a hardback edition of Army Girls as a Christmas gift. Published in the UK in November, it’s not yet sold in Canada although it can be shipped from the UK.

These women served in the UK, and later overseas, with the Auxilliary Territorial Service (ATS), which in 1949 became the Women’s Royal Army Corps. They included my mother who, among other things, served on an anti-aircraft gun site. I hoped to learn from the book about her life experience in the ATS.

The book is “the intimate story of the final few women who served in World War II and are still alive to tell their tale. They were female soldiers in a war Britain wanted to fight without conscripting women. It was a vain hope, by December 1941 for the first time in British history women were called up and a generation of girls came of age in khaki, serving king and country. Barbara trained to drive army-style in giant trucks and Grace swapped her servant’s pinafore for battledress and a steel hat, Martha turned down officer status for action on a gun site and Olivia won the Croix de Guerre in France.”

At first, the ATS was not popular with young women, and with their parents who had to agree to single women’s enlistment, owing to the history of women camp followers and prostitutes. Initially circumscribed by ideas of what a woman was capable of, as the war wore on and the lack of men to perform various tasks became apparent, women took on expanded responsibilities — short of firing weapons. They acquired skills, and made friendships, while in the ATS. The former became a gateway to a career after the war — my mother became a teacher after having had an instructor role with the ATS.  However, the post-war periodcut off from those friendships, perhaps in a new marriage and as a mother (remember the baby boom) was perhaps as much of a challenge as that on enlistment.

Sunday Sundries

Miscellaneous items I found of interest during the week.

The 1921 Census of England and Wales is almost here

According to this video, the process of preparing the census for online access on 6 January started 3 years ago. so it can be available at the start of the release period. How much preparation will be done to ensure Canada’s 1931 census, due for release next year, is promptly available?

Victorian cemeteries: When were they founded, and where can you find online records?

Five ways the internet era has changed British English – new research

Victorian Knitting Manuals Collection

Treasure trove includes record for almost all land in Ireland
Watch the video, then contemplate how many other obscure record sets exist in other jurisdictions that don’t have the unfortunate motivation of the losses at the Four Counts to prompt making them available.

The Most Scathing Book Reviews of 2021

Thanks to this week’s contributors. Anonymous., Barbara Di Mambro, Basil Adam, Brenda Turner, Crissouli, Douglas, gail benjafield, Glenn Wright, Jesiica Phillips,  jon ackroyd, Judy Thamas, Karen Holt, Nick McDonald, Teresa, Unknown.

LAC — Monitoring the COVID-19 situation

Library and Archives CanadaOn New Year’s Eve Library and Archives Canada posted “While all services (including those delivered in person) remain unchanged for the moment, LAC will continue to monitor the pandemic situation closely, and clients should be aware that some adjustments may eventually be required based on directives and advice from public health authorities.”

Throughout the pandemic, LAC has been ultra-cautious. As a result, clients have been missing research opportunities that they might have had — say if the organization was part of the private sector with income depending on the service supplied.

In deciding on “adjustments” LAC, and other Federal GLAM organizations, should look at the overall risk for a visitor, and an employee, including the risk on the journey to work on public transit and in day-to-day life in the community.