Monday, October 19, 2020


 Once again, it's time for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun at his blog, Genea-Musings. 

This week, he's asking us to 

" List your Top 10 (or 20 if you want!) FREE based genealogy sites, and a short reason for listing them."

Recently I had posted my list of top 50 websites - you can download my list for free. A few websites on that list are not free or are not all free, but with careful planning and timing (or in normal times) most can be accessed for free either through a subscribing library or a Family History Centre or during free weekends and the like. These are all websites useful no matter who, where, what you are researching. And I'm not including my favourite search engines here.  

It was hard to pick a top ten list, but I'm game. I admit cheating a little bit here and there....

Many of these sites are on social media and/or offer e-newsletters. I recommend you follow them. It will help keep your research choices up to date.

The first three were pretty easy - 

From my 'biggest or bigger section' -

1. FamilySearch:  This is the Great Grandma of the genealogy websites. FamilySearch has been assisting genealogists and family historians since 1894. And on-line since 1999! For many searches, you can do it all here - records, books, trees abound, but the Research Wiki is a must.  Go there first no matter where you are researching to find out what you need and where to start, and see and learn how to do it in the Learning Center. 

2. Cyndi’s List:  The Great Auntie, for sure. Cyndi Ingle has made it her ongoing mission to organize and catalogue genealogy's online world since 1996. Here's where you can browse categories for ideas and get links for new-to-you websites. For example, Social Networking for Genealogy for Facebook group links, and Societies & Groups for contacts with all kinds of genealogically useful groups from local on up.

3. World GenWeb Project:  Your results may vary, all theseGenWeb project sites are run by volunteers, but many small gems are included. Browse here worldwide, currently from Albania to Zimbabwe.

4. World Archives Project, free,  Volunteers are indexing collections for Ancestry, and the indexes (not images) are then added to Ancestry’s free collections. Volunteer indexers do receive Ancestry benefits, and it's another way to help keep a lot of genealogy free. The newest projects are collections from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

From my Genetics and Genealogy section -

5. International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG): It's good to see so much positive interest in adding DNA to genealogy research. The ISOGG site has the up to date answers, and the links you need, whether you are a DNA newbie or a seasoned DNA researcher. 

From tools for searching

6. SearchReSearch: If you're wanting to up your online search skills, Dan Russell's challenges here are meant for you. 

7. One-step Webpages, Stephen P. Morse: Great variety of genealogy tools and aids - test out the immigration record and language searches. 

From the Maps of the World section -  I can't pick just one. Maps are the first thing I think of when starting research in a new place and time. 

8.  Map Collection, Perry-Castañeda Library, University of Texas Libraries:

8.5  David Rumsey Map Collection:

From Library / Publication Collections - No, it isn't all on the Internet, but you can find out where it is.

9. WorldCat:  Find that book, document, article, or even a microfilm (!) you've read about on-line at a library near you - or far away. (Or maybe you can find it on the Internet Archive  now that you see the correct title on WorldCat. Then you can check it out with your free virtual IA library card.) You will see many archival collection references on WorldCat, but you can check the associated ArchiveGrid too. Yes, both seem predominantly USA collections now, but the database is building. Its archival collections, for example, include material from Australia, Spain, Canada and Sweden, South Africa, Poland... 

9.75  World Digital Collections:  This should keep anyone busy and happy - manuscripts, rare books, maps, photographs, and more. This is a project founded by the U.S. Library of Congress, with the support of the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. See the list of current partners here - from Abu Dhabi to Kyiv.

From the 'Asking Questions, posting queries section' – Always be sure to read any rules, suggestions and Codes of Conduct, etc. before you ask questions on a genealogy website, forum or the like. Query writing is almost an art. You need to give enough information for someone to help or answer you, but not so much information that they aren't sure what your question is. 

10. Genealogy and Family History Stack Exchange: Read first "How do I ask a good question?" including how and what not to ask, for instance, about possibly living people. 


Hope you found a new / not used in a while one here to visit. 

I'd have liked to sneak Rootsweb in here, but at the moment, access to many of the information and features there is still a problem. Hoping for next time. It is on my 50 list with a warning.  The Rootsweb e-mail lists are no longer, many have moved to Facebook, or Message boards are still available. See my note above on 'asking questions'.

Whew! That was hard. Download  MY 50 WEBSITES ALL GENEALOGISTS COULD USE… here,  for more links to useful websites.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Nordic Genealogy Conference - Background for understanding the Canadian census

Looking forward to hearing more about Nordic genealogy this week.

More about the Nordic Genealogy Conference - on right now virtually - and the National Nordic Museum in Seattle, Washington, USA here:

                                                    Sun, Nov 30, 1930 – 37 · The                                                     Province (Vancouver, British Columbia,                                             Canada) ·

The Census & Jack Canuck,  "How Many And Who Are They? Canada Plans the Census" by Grant Dexter, The Province, 30 November 1930, page 37.

Most researching their Nordic families in Canada will be looking at the historical censuses. We are often 'spoiled for choice" as a number of census databases are available, some free as is Library and Archives Canada (LAC).  See the LAC Census page for links to the free databases there and to much helpful information about the censuses and searching, including common abbreviations. The FamilySearch Wiki has a good Canada Census database chart showing LAC and the other choices.   

Depending on which database you choose, you may be offered specific details to add to your tree. As I mentioned recently in another article, I hope you will want to go beyond the hints. Occupation, for example, is included, as is ethnicity or 'race'. (These are historical documents and you will see terms used on the census or in the instructions that we would not use this way today.) This information can help you determine whether you have the correct individual or family, and open up doors to learning more about their lives in Canada and, if immigrants, before.

If researchers live in Canada, they'll likely have had the experience of talking to a census enumerator at their door or filling out a census form themselves. I remember quizzing my father later about his answers. I didn't think he had been 'truthful' and I was quite surprised by that. (Although I didn't quiz him till after the enumerator had left.) He only wanted to be 'Canadian' and wasn't going to say he knew where his family was from. In one sense, he was truthful, sort of. We did know for sure his mother was born in England. But at that time, it was only the father's line they were interested in. Dad did know his father was born in Toronto, Ontario, but did not know for sure where his paternal grandfather was born. I was pretty sure even then he was from England, but we had no evidence! 

Looking at the census answers we always need to remember that individuals had their own ideas, worries and reasons for answering questions a certain way. We can't take any information for granted. Still the census is good evidence for their being (usually) in a certain place at a certain date with (or without) certain people. See below.

We also need to remember that enumerators were the same with their own ideas, worries and reasons for doing things a certain way. And they were bound by obligations and any number of questions and regulations that changed from census to census.  

Statistics Canada has a useful timeline of censuses outlining some of the changes up to 2016. The 1871 census, for example, was the first to enumerate people de jure - according to their usual place of residence, not where they were.

Family Tree Knots has links to most of the Canada Census Enumerators Instructions 1851/52-1921. These often explain 'odd' entries and abbreviations we see. 

Here is a link to the 1926 Census Instructions to Commissioners and Enumerators. Note for instance the 1926 instructions regarding those born in Russia, "before the war", later Finland, to enter "Finland"as their place of birth (the province/state or region, or a city or town), not "Russia". (Most of the Instruction booklets are on the Internet Archive and if you are using LAC's free census indexes and images, links to the Enumerators' Instructions are in the information sections.)

The Canada Year Book, 1948-1949, Chart, "Immigrant Arrivals, 1867-1947", Dominion Bureau of Statistics, Department of Trade and Commerce, Canada, Ottawa, 1949, between pages 178/179.  Statistics Canada Open Licence. Canada Year Book Historical Collection, Archived Content. 

For much more about Canada's historical census, read Dave Obee's book, Counting Canada, A Genealogical Guide to the Canadian Census, 2010.

Another article in this series will be about researching the historical content of the census, particularly as applies to immigrants to Canada. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Nordic Genealogy Conference - When Should You Try to 'cross the ocean'

Looking forward to hearing more about Nordic genealogy this week.

More about the Nordic Genealogy Conference - on right now virtually - and the National Nordic Museum in Seattle, Washington, USA here:

Photograph titled: "Edwin A. Alm and his family in Sweden before coming to Canada". Photographer unknown. Courtesy Edwin A. Alm / Library and Archives Canada / PA-102051. No restrictions on use. The collection also includes biographical material and photographs of family members.

In genealogy, when tracing immigrant families in Canada, often you hear a warning not to look overseas until you've gathered as much information as you can from Canadian or North American records, and analyzed it for details to shape your history of their life here, and for details which will help you pin down where they lived before emigration. 

Now, I want to stress that this is good advice and often can save hours (maybe years) of frustration. Many of us have common names, and family that lived in well populated places. It's all too easy to follow the wrong family and end up tangled up in all the wrong places. Don't jump to looking for Johnsons, Eriksens or even Rydbergs overseas without good solid grounding.

But once you have a few specific details on the 'original' immigrants or first generation Canadians, including any known siblings (like years of birth, year of immigration, first residence in Canada), perhaps clues for place names of birth or residence locations overseas, and if your names are not too common, you may be able to give your research a boost by checking family trees from overseas.

Doing research on Nordic families in overseas records can be frustrating if you don't have all the right information (and don't know the language yet). And if you are looking overseas for immigration dates and places people were going to, it can be very unsettling to see over and over - in any language - just "gone to Canada" or "America" or "North America". 

Yet many times, it seems immigrant families and those back home were in touch, usually with letters or postcards, at least for the first years or the first immigrant generation. But after several generations and migrations across country or borders, family members lost touch. But those letters or postcards in the home country may have been saved. Family members overseas could be searching now too but with very old but specific details.

If I have what I believe is good information on the earliest immigrants to Canada and their children, I often do searches in family trees on websites I know have more Europeans among their customers. 

MyHeritage is always one of my choices for this. Searching the trees there includes the MyHeritage trees, and those at (a MyHeritage company) and the tree, so it's a wide search. (If you don't have a membership, you may see free search results and may have full access at a library or a Family History Centre.) 

Another choice might be This European based website is mostly free; premium features are available. 

Both these companies do have free offers. Right now has its digital library free for all from September 28-October 4, 2020.

Since my personal Nordic interests are mainly in Sweden, I also belong to DISBYT, a tree database created by the DIS (Föreningen för Datorhjälp I Släktforskningen) in Sweden. This gives reciprocal access to Finnish and Norwegian tree databases too.

Tread cautiously with family trees, but stay optimistic! 

And, do keep washing your hands.