Thursday, December 4, 2014

Online Resources for Your Loyalist Research Project

When trying to research your Loyalist ancestors the challenge is locating those key records. It is even harder when you live a distance from that archive, museum, or library (You have checked the online resources of that library near where your Loyalist lived?) that holds a copy of the files you desperately want to read. Fortunately with the Internet it is a little bit easier (although still a challenge).

One thing to keep in mind are the following guidelines as to what defines a Loyalist:

  • Either male or female, as of 19 April 1775, a resident of the American colonies, and joined the Royal Standard prior to the Treaty of Separation of 1783, or otherwise demonstrated loyalty to the Crown, and settled in territory remaining under the rule of the Crown; or
  • a soldier who served in an American Loyalist Regiment and was disbanded in Canada; or
  • a member of the Six Nations of either the Grand River or the Bay of Quinte Reserve who is descended from one whose migration was similar to that of other Loyalists.

Here are just some of the online resources I use:

United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada

  • List of Branches - Often the best place to ask for assistance is either the nearer branch of UELAC or the branch closest to where your Loyalist settled.
  • Loyalist Directory - Besides just the list of known Loyalists and whether someone has proven their descent from that specific Loyalist you may also periodically come across the actual application form that was submitted (like what I sent in for proving my descent from Lt. Caleb Howe of the Queens Rangers).

Ancestry ($)

Library and Archives Canada

LAC has a page describing the various fonds available both onsite and online that can aid in locating information on your Loyalist Ancestor. The following online collections may save you a trip to Ottawa (although it is a very nice city if I do say so myself).

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

"Wallace Hale's Fort Havoc" collections are an amazing set of documents compiled by R. Wallace Hale that he has made available via the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick web site. Of particular interest to Loyalist researchers are the following starting pages:

Nova Scotia Archives

Until 1874 Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were one colony. New Brunswick was split off from Nova Scotia when the large influx of Loyalists leaving the thirteen colonies of what became the United States of America when the British lost the war and many of those Loyalists settled in Parrtown. If you have any New Brunswick Loyalist ancestors then checking the records at the Nova Scotia Archives needs to be done.
  • Nova Scotia Land Papers 1765-1800 - Volumes 1-25, the surviving records from 1765 to 1800, have been indexed and made available online. The searchable index contains 11,464 names of people who received land in the province during that time period.


New Brunswick, County Deed Registry Books, 1780-1930 - This unindexed collection of the New Brunswick County Deed Registry Books includes not only the usual land records of the settlers of New Brunswick (before 1784 New Brunswick was a county of the Colony of Nova Scotia) but also a listing of those that drew lots in Parrtown (later Saint John). The same list, although with some more details, can be found in Dr. Esther Clark Wright's book "The Loyalists of New Brunswick". You can find some instructions for looking through this collection in my post "Expecting only Deeds and Mortgages? How About a Will?"

Internet Archive

This is one of those great resources that just keeps on giving. Here you will find many out of copyright books that have been digitized for preservation. Just search for the keyword "Loyalists" or "Loyalist" and you will come across articles that may be only 2 pages in length to books with over 600 pages. You can read the articles and books on line or you can save them to your computer in PDF (and sometimes EPUB or Kindle) formats. Here is just a very small sample of what can be found:

Usually if I find a mention of an older book in an article on Loyalists I will see if it has been digitized and made available either through Google Books or the Internet Archive.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Diary of Regimental Sergeant Major George Beck

The Dorset History Centre has embarked on an interesting project as part of commemorating the Great War of 1914-18. Daily they are posting the entries from the personal diary of Regimental Sergeant Major George Beck of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The full entries from his diaries will be posted but they are also tweeting the entries 100 years after RSM Beck wrote them.

Some of the diaries are of the usual stuff that soldiers deal with on a daily basis and can be quite drab and boring.

29th November: NIEPPE
"29th November: NIEPPE", Dorset History Centre, The diary of Regimental Sergeant Major George Beck, 19 Nov 2014, ( : 30 Nov 2014)

While other entries in his diary describe the action and activities of the battalion in detail:
13th October - CAESTRE
"13th October – CAESTRE", Dorset History Centre, The diary of Regimental Sergeant Major George Beck, 13 Oct 2014, ( : 30 Nov 2014)

What makes this interesting, at least to me, is that his diary is a personal one and not the official battalion or regimental diary. Although it may parallel what is written in the official diaries, he will also include items of a personal nature or of interest just to him.

If you are interested in reading the World War I battalion level war diaries (AKA WO 95) of the 10 Infantry Brigade: 1 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment for the period of 1 Aug - 31 Dec 31 1914, they can be downloaded from The National Archives for the cost of £3.30 or viewed for free in The National Archives reading room at the archives itself.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Canadian Expeditionary Force Online Research Resources

On November 22, 2014 I gave an update of my talk titled "A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study" to those that attended the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society meeting. There I talked about the various resources I used to learn more about two Canadian soldiers of the First World War: Victor Sornberger and Samuel McKinlay.

For those that couldn't make it out to the meeting here are some of the resources I make use of when delving deeper into the lives of Canadian First World War personnel.

Library and Archives Canada (

This is the first place I visit when I learn that someone has served with the Canadian military during the 1st World War. There are many useful pages on the LAC site. LAC is currently working on digitizing all the serviced files of those that served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. If the file isn't digitized yet, periodically (monthly) check the site for updates. Some highlights from their online collections are:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (

Here you will find details on some of the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars. You may come across grave registration documents, registers along with photographs of the grave markers and cemeteries. (

Among the many collections on Ancestry there are some that directly pertain to those that may have served in the Great War:

Internet Archive (

The Internet Archive is one of those resource that keeps on giving. Here you will find archives of many web sites and also digitized books that are no longer in copyright. For example, searching using the terms nominal roll CEF returns 77 documents with titles as diverse as "Nursing Sisters Nominal Roll 1914" and "Yukon Machine Gun Section Nominal Roll 1915"

The Maple Leaf Legacy Project (

The Maple Leaf Legacy Project is a volunteer led effort to photograph of every Canadian War Grave from the various conflicts that Canada has been involved in. This includes the South African War (1899-1902), World War 1 (1914-18), World War II (1939-45), Korean War (1950-52), and all United Nations Peacekeeping Missions to the present day conflict in Afghanistan.

Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group (

Many times when I can't find an answer to a question dealing with the CEF I may turn to the forums and documents made available by the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group. Often my question has already been asked and the participants of the CEF Study Group have provided a detailed answer on their forum.

World War 1 Trench Maps at McMaster University (

When I'm looking for a World War 1 trench map then I come here. They have digitized a number of trench maps for your viewing pleasure. You can zoom in on the map and actually read the names of the individual trenches. When combined with the battalion level war diaries found on the Library and Archives Canada site you may just be able to pinpoint where your ancestor fought in Europe.

Military History Research Centre (

This resource is available through the Canadian War Museum. In addition to being a physical library and archive the online presence has a catalogue of their holdings. Quite a few of their photographs have been digitized and are available to view via the Internet. Are you looking for the "Pigeon Service manual, Royal Air Force"? Then you are in luck since they have it in their collection. Many of the documents in the collection are available through interlibrary loan. Howveer, if you are in Ottawa and are planning on visiting the MHRC then call ahead or e-mail first to make arrangements since it is by appointment only.

Canadian Virtual War Memorial (

The Canadian Virtual War Memorial lists more than 118,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who have given their lives serving Canada or the United Kingdom. What is nice about this site is that you can upload your own images of your ancestors that fought in the various wars. That means you may also discover a picture that you had never seen before of the soldier you are researching.

Prisoners of the First World War (

The International Committee of the Red Cross has created a database of those that were held as prisoners of war during the First World War. If the civilian or serviceman was listed as a prisoner of war with their service record then checking this database and reading the information about life in the camps may shed some light into their life at that time.

"A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study" video

At the November 22nd, 2014 meeting of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society I gave an update of my talk titled "A Soldier of the Great War: A Research Case Study". In this presentation I spoke about the various resources that are available to family history researchers to learn about those that served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War of 1914-1918.

With the magic of technology along with the recording and creative efforts of John D. Reid a video has been created of the slides and yours truly talking about researching Victor Sornberger and Samuel McKinlay.

So for those that weren't able to attend the meeting in Ottawa  here is the presentation for your viewing enjoyment.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

BIFHSGO's 20th Anniversary

Much like people much be registered when they are born so must corporations. On November 16th, 1994 the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa was issued the Federal Letters Patent as a corporation.

How things have changed

  • Then, in the first issue of Anglo-Celtic Roots potential authors were asked to submit typewritten, double-spaced copy on standard 8.5 by 11 inches paper to the society post box address.
  • Today we're request to submit in electronic format using MSWord-compatible software via email.

  • Then the first issue of ACR contained none of the terms Internet, www or http. They came along in the final issue of the first volume.
  • Today every major article published has Internet references.

  • Then out of nine society directors one was a woman.
  • Today out of eleven directors eight are women including the president.

We've come a long way.

Tip: Did your recent ancestors own or were they on a board of a Canadian federally incorporated company? If you know the name of the company you can search for the details at Search for a Federal Corporation.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Call for Presentations for the BIFHSGO Conference 2015

The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) is seeking proposals for presentations at its 21st annual conference, September 18-20, 2015 to be held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada at Library and Archives Canada.

The three themes for the conference will be Scotland, Photographs in Genealogy, and Technology (including hardware, software, apps, websites, databases, social media, DNA analysis tools etc.). Proposals on these three themes for lectures at the conference on the Saturday and Sunday are sought as well as for workshops or seminars on the Friday.

Details on writing the proposals can be found at under the Conference 2015 heading. Please send your proposals to before January 31, 2015.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Facebook: A Valid Source to Cite or Not?

Recently the "The In-Depth Genealogist" published an article by Christine Woodcock titled "That Online Tree is NOT a Source!"1 While I agree with most of her article I do disagree with the last sentence in the following paragraph where she wrote [underlining is mine]:
"I’ll tell you what is NOT a source: Someone else’s research. Someone else’s tree. Someone else’s educated guess or deductive reasoning. Neither is information received in an e-mail, from a message board, mailing list or Facebook group."

I find that the last sentence is overly broad since, at least to me, it treats all information received over those media as invalid sources that cannot be cited. Although I do hope that the sentence applies to received information stated previously in the paragraph. Even a simple change to "Neither is the same information received..." would link that statement to the previous sentences as to what is not are sources to cite and I would, in principal, agree with the paragraph.

Earlier she had written "A source is a record of the event, documented at the time of the event with information given by a witness to the event." What makes the mode of communication that is sent by e-mail or posted online any less valid than placing an announcement in a newspaper or writing and photocopying a letter for sending by postal mail? Given that in today's modern world many family announcements are made by e-mail or Facebook why wouldn't an announcement distributed by any of those mediums be not considered a source? As discussed on the Evidence Explained forums, Facebook is accepted as a source for information and can be cited (

What needs to be evaluated, just like with any other document that is received, is who provided the information and when it was create in terms of proximity to the event. If the information being sent or posted is concerning an event from a bygone era or is a repeat of something said elsewhere then, as a good researcher, you should locate the document or post that is being talked about and cite that instead. Unless that too points to another document or post ... follow the chain until you get to the true source of the information.

Yet what about if I am an actual witness to an event and I post the information online or sent it out in an e-mail? Can and should someone else cite what I have stated as a source? I know I have received or seen those announcements of births, marriages, and deaths via e-mail and Facebook posts. Knowing the person that has posted the information and the fact it was posted the same or next day after the event, in my mind, has the same weight as receiving a letter in the mail announcing what has happened. I just make sure I save the information as a screen shot or in a text file just in case someone asks me to show my source for the recorded fact.

I do agree that hearsay information passed over those means of communication should not be cited. At best they should be treated as possible clues and follow up questions need to be asked such as "Where did you find that information?" and "Can you share the source of your information?"

As always: read, analyze, and think when using any potential source of information.

1. Retrieved 24 Oct 2014 at 11:41 am EDT