OGS conference interview with Gordon L McBean

Here’s the second of my interviews with speakers at the 24 – 26 June 2022 OGS/Ontario Ancestors conference.

If you missed the first interview, with Wayne Shepheard, find it here.

I have a few more planned while Penny Allen, official conference”bloginator,” will interview quite a few others. The plan is to link them on the conference speaker profile page.

Why are we doing this? The initial impetus was to provide information about the speaker, and the presentation, encourage you to attend their presentation and register for the conference. You’ll find out more about the individual and perhaps discover they have other interests coincident with yours. I found that during both interviews, so reach out to make one-to-one contact with the speaker if you discover a commonality of interest.

Ancestry adds records for women in UK military service to 1920

Newly online at Ancestry, from holdings at the UK National Archives.

UK, Women’s Royal Air Force Service Records, 1918-1920. 

The collection consists of 31,399 records from AIR 80 – Air Ministry: Master General of Personnel and Director of Personnel: Airwomen’s Records,
It includes enrollment forms, certificates of discharge, correspondence, and casualty forms for active service, which were recorded when personnel switched units.
Members of the WRAF served in various non-combat roles, including clerks, cooks, housekeepers, photographers, drivers, tinsmiths, pigeon keepers, welders, and more.

UK, Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Service Records, 1917-1920. 

The collection contains 19,773 records from WO 398: War Office: Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps: Service Records, First World War.
The information is on:  application forms, enrollment forms, certificates of identification, certificates of discharge, correspondence, medical history forms, and casualty forms for active service, which were recorded when personnel switched units, references from employers, clothing history sheets, which contain details about uniforms.
Occupations were typically cooking, waitressing, administrative work, and cleaning.

Records in both collections may include name, with a maiden name if married, birthplace, birth date, race, nationality, residence, marital status, occupation, date and place of enlistment, date and place of discharge, regiment, unit, service number, names and addresses of next of kin, relationship to next of kin.

Chronic delays at Library and Archives Canada

Clients have experienced chronic delays in Library and Archives Canada‘s responses to access to information (ATIP) applications. They are significant, months and even years. The situation became severe enough to warrant an investigation.

A report Access at issue: The challenge of accessing our collective memory by The Information Commissioner of Canada, Caroline Maynard, was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, 26 April 2022.

It concluded that “LAC is not meeting its obligations under the Access to Information Act.”

The report, sent to the Minister of Canadian Heritage in January, includes a copy of his response in an annex. The Information Commissioner then commented, “I remain disappointed by an apparent lack of engagement to make concrete and positive improvements.” The Commissioner calls for “making the proper resourcing of ATIP operations a higher priority.”

More broadly, the report comments that “The challenges that LAC is facing cannot all be addressed through its actions. I call upon the Government to take a broader perspective in its efforts to improve access to information, and to find solutions that address the root causes of these problems.”

Two challenges facing Canada’s access to information system more generally are singled out:

-the manner in which consultations on access requests are conducted between institutions; and
-the lack of a Government-wide framework for the declassification of records.

The Information Commissioner makes the following ten recommendations.

1. Direct LAC ATIP officials to use their delegated authority to respond to all access requests with outstanding consultations forthwith.
2. Direct LAC ATIP officials, for new access requests requiring consultations, to establish a rigorous process to determine the length of time the consultations should take and to respond to those requests before the expiry of the extension sought, with or without the institutions’ input.
3. Process all pending access requests for records classified as Top Secret forthwith, even as implementation and certification of new infrastructure continues.
4. Respond to the backlog of access requests that resulted from LAC suspending ATIP operations during the pandemic.
5. Implement fully functional infrastructure to allow ATIP officials to process Secret and Top Secret records efficiently.
6. Ensure ATIP officials have access to the LAC network and record-processing software at all times, so LAC is always in a position to respond to access requests.
7. Require institutions to review and, whenever possible, declassify or downgrade the classification of records prior to transferring them to LAC.
8. Negotiate adequate funding for LAC’s ATIP office to support new programs introduced by other institutions.
9. Review and adjust the permanent funding for the various units with the ATIP office to reflect their workload.
10. Publish on the LAC website by the end of 2022 the concrete results achieved to implement these recommendations and provide quarterly updates.

In response the LAC website posted a Statement by the Librarian and Archivist of CanadaLesley Weir accepts that there is a shared responsibility — “With the support of our Minister, we will pursue all available means and channels within the Government of Canada to properly fulfill our mandate and address the issues raised by the Information Commissioner.”

The “apparent lack of engagement to make concrete and positive improvements” by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, reflects more general government neglect. Recall that the mandate letter to the Minister made no mention of this chronic problem at LAC. While the recommendation of the Commissioner was for LAC to provide quarterly updates on concrete results to implement the recommendations, the Minister commits only to “updates on progress on a semi-annual basis beginning in late 2022.”

For those who have been waiting months and years for a response to routine requests, those not made under the provisions of ATIP and so lower priority for LAC, like Second World War service files, this response from the Minister gives little hope for improved timeliness. Management, starting with the Librarian and Archivist, and the Minister should treat seriously the LAC mandate, which calls for holdings to be available, not just held and not just those ordered under ATIP.

Births and COVID 19

On Sunday, I  included a link to an article on provisional birth data from the UK Office for National Statistics.

It suggests there was a temporary decline in babies conceived during the first three months of the first lockdown in 2020, but then the fertility rate rebounded to levels above those seen in previous years.

What happened in Canada?

For the first four months of 2020, births recorded are on the low side of those for previous years, more or less in line with the trend in previous years. Then there’s a significant decline (not as dramatic as it appears as the baseline in the figure is 25,000 births.) It may be that part of the decline from April onward, prior to nine months after the start of the pandemic lockdown, results from problems with registering a birth.

StatsCan does not yet have monthly birth figures available for 2021; their quarterly birth estimates are:

The second to fourth quarters of 2021 show a rebound in births from 2020 as in the UK, while the long-term trend of the declining number of births continues.


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 26 Apr. 2 pm: Virtual Genealogy Drop-In, from Ottawa Branch of OGS and The Ottawa Public Library.

Tuesday 26 Apr. 2 pm: Different Ways to View Your Tree, by Uri Gonen for MyHeritage and Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Tuesday 26 Apr. 2:30 pm: Naming Practices in Genealogy, by John Beatty for Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.

Wednesday 27 Apr. 1 pm: Newspaper and City Directories, by James Tanner for MyHeritage.

Wednesday 27 Apr. 2 pm: Wringing Every Drop out of Mitochondrial DNA, by Roberta Estes for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Thursday 28 Apr. 6:30 pm: “A Nation Talking to Itself”: Intro to Newspaper Research, by Elizabeth Hodges for Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.

Thursday 28 Apr. 7:30 pm: Peeling back 13,000 years of Indigenous existence in Niagara, by Michele-Elise Burnett for the Historical Society of St. Catharines.

Friday 29 Apr. 2 pm: DNA Uncovers Family, by Diahan Southard and Nathan Dylan Goodwin.

Free Issue of Family Tree Magazine

Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections covers the contents and makes occasional comments on the month’s UK Family Tree magazine.

Now the Family Tree team is giving everyone the chance to sample the popular magazine for free. Here are the details.

“Sign up and you will immediately receive access to the full April 2022 issue, as a digital ‘page-turner’ edition.

Editor Helen Tovey said: “We want everyone to sample our wonderful magazine and this seemed like a great way to get people involved and for them to find out more about family history. We’re so proud of our monthly mag, it’s been going since 1984 and is packed with information and inspiration, and we also love putting together our weekly newsletter. Family history is all about sharing and so we’d thought we’d give something back!”

Highlights of the April issue include:
 Determining the origin of surnames
 How your ancestors' birth dates can hold the key to the past
 How to use kirk session records
 The lives and working conditions of tailors, dressmakers & seamstresses.”

Take advantage of the opportunity to get your free digital issue at: www.family-tree.co.uk/account/register

Military Monday: A Street Near You

I received a suggestion to post about A Street Near You, a WW1 website

It’s one I mentioned on the old blog site in November 2019 where I pointed out the need to be careful of taking the content at face value, in that case for Captain Harry Alden Whitby of the West Yorkshire Regiment.

With over 1 million burials and memorial inscriptions on the site there’s a good chance there’s someone in the database with a connection to your family. As far as I can determine the site is no longer being updated.


Sunday Sundries

Miscellaneous items I found of interest during the week.

Welcome new subscribers.

The Bould Thady Quill
An instructive blog post by John Grenham, and

US 1950 census update
Both MyHeritage and Ancestry have searchable name indexes for all records from Alaska, American Samoa, Delaware, Guam, New Hampshire, Panama Canal Zone, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Wyoming, and four overseas islands of Canton, Johnston, Midway, and Wake.

The U.S. Government Thinks History May Be Harmful to Your Health
Not just the US government.

The Ruins of St. Dunstan-in-the-East
Legacy of The Blitz

Effect of lockdowns on birth rates in the UK

Thanks to this week’s contributors. Anonymous, Brenda Turner, Craig Milne, Deborah Wilson Cronin, Gail B., Jean Kitchen, jon ackroyd, Paul Jones, Susan Courage, Unknown, Victor Badian

OGS Toronto Branch: Paul Jones presentation

I’m registered for Monday evening’s presentation Edvard August Schüth: An Accidental Biography by the always entertaining Paul Jones.

Paul recounts the story of an intriguing character he stumbled upon in his research and why he was driven to find out more about him. This man proved to be a member of a secretive society with connections around the world, and his life story spans four countries on three continents.

Don’t miss it!

Find out more and register at https://torontofamilyhistory.org/event/edvard-schuth/

Findmypast Weekly Update: focus on Catholic records

England Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms
The biggest release of the week, explore nearly 400,000 new parish baptisms from the diocese of Salford. Most are for the 19th century and up to 1907.

Most transcriptions will include birth year and date, baptism year and date, church, parish, and parent’s names. The majority also have images of the original register.

England Roman Catholic Parish Marriages
Find 85,988 new Lancashire parish marriage records in this collection, from the diocese of Salford.  These records, to 1907, offer a combination of details, including marriage date, the church name, parish of both spouses, and father’s name of both spouses.

England Roman Catholic Parish Burials
These 21,525 new burial records up to 1907 are added to a collection covering 92 churches across Lancashire and Greater Manchester. Find death date, burial date, and often burial ground. Check the linked image of the original available for most transcriptions to verify the information.

Happy St George’s Day


Celebrating 100  years ago, from the Ottawa Citizen, 21 April 1922.

“Members of St George’s and kindred societies have completed arrangements for the annual celebration in honour of England’s patron saint, St. George. On the evening of St. George’s Day, a service will be held at All Saints Church. Many storekeepers have promised to decorate their premises, and all citizens of English birth or extraction are asked to wear the national flower — the Rose.

The grand “killing of the dragon” will take place in the Russell Hotel Monday night, when the annual St. George’s dinner will be held. A number of splendid speakers will be heard, and Merrie England will be the theme of many a song and story. St. George’s Society is in a flourishing condition and the membership is steadily increasing.’

Four years later this article by J Sydney Roe was published in the Ottawa Journal. (From the 1912 Ottawa City Directory, James Sydney Roe (1877 – 1942) was Private Secretary to  Hon. John D. Reid, Minister of Customs.)

“With the approach of Saint George’s day the thoughts of those of us who were born in England, or whose forebears hailed from there, turn fondly homewards. England is always “home” to the English and that fact does not imply that they do not love Canada, the land of their adoption. Far from it. You will find almost inevitably that an intensified spirit of what may be termed Canadianism accompanies the reverent love that men and women of English birth possess for

This royal throne of kings,
This sceptered isle
This precious stone set in the silver sea.
This blessed plot, this earth,
This realm, this England.”

So it is at this season of the year which brings St. George’s Day the doors of memory fly open and half-forgotten scenes and dear dead faces flash upon the screen. We see the little lanes that wander to the cliffs hard by the sea, the smell of the gorse comes to us again, the whirr of a covey of partridges, the hedgerows with the robins popping around, the fields carpeted with daisies, the woods ablaze with bluebells gently bedecking the graves in country churchyards, the clanging of bells from village spires, the roar of the Strand, the cries of the flower girls at Charing Cross and Piccadilly Circus, and roses, roses, roses! These are the thoughts that crowd in; not of the might and majesty of England, but her simple ways and customs and the friends we knew in the dead days of the long ago. Do you recall the verses about the English spy caught in German lines and sentenced to be shot at dawn?

“ My one regret is England — England the home of man,
All through these hours of darkness I’ve trodden her lanes again,
I can even smell her roses right here in this noisome place, England, my merry England, with the salt spray in her face.”

This is also an occasion upon which one can refer openly to England as England without having some well-meaning person tell you that you should always say Britain. But really you don’t talk about St George and Merrie Britain do you? It is St George and Merrie England. I think it was Chesterton who wrote

“St. George he was for England,
And before he slew the dragon
He took a draft of English ale
From out an English flagon.”

I frankly admit that one is on dangerous ground, very, in referring to so noble a Saint as St George having anything to do with the beverage which, when taken in sufficient volume, is apt to be slightly exhilarating (“Fergie’s foam,” always excepted). So for the benefit of those who are at grips with the demon rum, it is suggested that they change the third line of Chesterton’s poems to “he took a cup of breakfast tea.” That will settle matters nicely, the only difficulty being that in St George’s time tea was undoubtedly as difficult to get as a draft of English ale. But Chesterton’s idea is quite all right. He indicates that St George went about the task of killing the dragon in the orthodox way by having a pint of “arf and arf” before he tackled his job. Eh, what.

Come with me for a moment on a memory trip. This is our day and we honor it. Stand neath the shelter of one of the Landseer lions on Trafalgar Square and watch the surge of traffic sweep down Whitehall, along Cockspur St, up the Strand and Northumberland Avenue. Hear the chime from Saint Martin’s in the Fields hard by. That roar of traffic, the peel of Saint Martins, constitute the sweetest sound in the world of all to the old-time Londoner who visits the city of his birth after long absence.

Come to the Midlands where the Ouse and the Nen meander gently through the meadows, up to Peterborough in the heart of the Fen country with its lordly cathedral; go onto Ely, Lincoln and Norwich, York and Chester. Or if you prefer to go South there is the lovely Kentish country with the hop gardens, Surrey and Sussex, Brighton and Bournemouth, and on to Somerset and Devon in the West. And everywhere we go we shall see the cowslips and roses pass through old-world villages with their Norman churches and “God’s Acre” where the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. Lovely verdant England, the land of our youth! We may not notice as many country mansions as we used to remember and we may have to remodel the lines which sang of their glories to

“The stately homes of England,
how beautifully they burn”

And there is lovely Cornwall. I always think of Cornwall as the hand of old England stretching furthest into the Atlantic to welcome home her sons and daughters. Cornwall, wave washed Cornwall where they used to sing:

“And they shall scorn Tre, Pol and Pen
And shall Trelawney die
There’s thirty (sic) thousand Cornishmen
Will know this reason why.”

That, there, our little trip is ended. But can’t you smell the roses, and the sea, my brothers?

I know it’s rather risky just now to talk about the weather when, in these parts particularly, winter has apparently fallen asleep in the lap of spring and does not seem to realize that it is time to go, but I recall the story of the Englishman who landed from a steamer in Montreal on one of those cold rainy days we sometimes get in July. He saw standing on the wharf a man he recognized as a compatriot. “Say matey” he asked, “don’t they ever ‘ave any ‘ot weather out ‘ere, any summer or nothing?” “Blimy don’t arsk me,” was the sad reply, “I’ve only been ‘ere eleven months meself.”

The article continues. To read the rest it’s in the Ottawa Journal of Thursday 22 April 1926, page 6.