Monday, March 29, 2010


James Tanner in his blog Genealogy's Star has written an interesting (for me) blog post where he is trying to come up with a definition of genealogy  that moves genealogy from its present unstructured state to a more focused and practical discipline. Such a debate I feel is due. Mind you historians have been arguing a definition of history for centuries now, and usually end up agreeing to disagree.

I consider myself a historian and researcher first, and a beginning genealogist second. As such I come at a definition from different angles than James.

James states that “Neither is genealogy genealogy without history and neither is history history without genealogy.” There we agree. He also states: ”the study of the basic underlying structure of all societies no matter at what scale.” Here I am inclined to nitpick a bit. Are we talking about the Gaelic speaking highland Scottish society where families were fluid but the clan structure constant?  Is the clan then the family? Perhaps it is and can be called an extended family. I would suspect though than the concept of the extended family in this context would drive genealogists wild as many people would not easily fit on a family tree. The only group I am aware of so far with the concept of a “kissing cousin”. I have two “kissing cousins” myself who are considered family but not blood relations. Wait until genealogists 30 to 50 years down the road try and fit them into my family tree!

I tend to view the great events of history as influencing the family, and not the other way around.  Also, a definition of family over history is fluid. It changes over time as social, economic, political, and geographic influences come to bear.

Genealogy should not be simply collecting names. These are people. They can tell you something about their times.

Genealogists and historians use much the same sources. True, but they view those sources from different perspectives.

From where I sit genealogists do seem to be moving towards making genealogy a discipline. The starting point has begun with professionalizing the discipline through education. What I am waiting for now is the first great thinker to produce a book that weaves genealogy and history together.

Thursday, March 25, 2010 Update has updated their birth (1869-1909), marriage (1801-1926), and death (1869-1934) records for Ontario which are available for World Deluxe Members. I tend to use the Library Edition for my own research. So far I have found little of use for my own family trees. Especially for marriages. I suspect that what needs to be done here is to find the records (if they still exist) for the traveling ministers (mostly Baptist and Methodist) from before the 1840s in Upper Canada..

For those with Deluxe memberships it might well be worthwhile checking it out. has also re-indexed the 1790, 1800, and 1810 US Censuses.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Revising Educational Textbooks

An ongoing debate about the state of education has (although in a lesser extent in Canada)  been heating up in the U.S. This article from the Toronto Star outlines changes the right in Texas want to make in history textbooks that students in their educational system must adhere to.

Generally I have read with interest about the trends in education. In the past I have remained silent but unhappy about how we in Ontario teach history to our children. To my mind little is cast in iron. Researching history is a chancy affair. We have to cut through decades of propaganda, and in many cases faulty research. We also have to beware of judging our ancestors through 21st. Century  biases. One thing that bothers me is that our leaders today seem to have little or no appreciation for our past.

I have been always been in favour of open debate. But it looks like human nature will win out at least for the moment.

Friday, March 19, 2010


James Tanner in his blog Genealogy’s Star has an interesting discussion of the rules of copyright as they exist in the U.S. Copyright laws are of particular interest to genealogists and historians. Especially as they would relate to the Internet.

In Canada copyright law follows the American example to an extent. For example, an author has immediate copyright protection for his work as soon as it is published, during his lifetime, and 50 years after his death. Copyright also extends to the Internet. For a fuller explanation see Canadian Copyright Act- An Overview.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Year Of The British Home Child

2010 has been designated as Year of the British Home Child in Canada.

From 1869 to 1939 various workhouses, sheltering homes, orphanages and child care organizations in Great Britain emigrated over 100,000 orphaned, abandoned, pauper children ages 1 to 18 to Canada today known as the British Home Children.

Canada Post is issuing a stamp to commemorate the British Home Children this October.

It is estimated that 12%, over 4 million of the Canadian population, are a descendant of a Home Child.