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Upcoming Talks

Feb
1
Thu
4:00 pm Hands-on Early Ontario Land Records
Hands-on Early Ontario Land Records
Feb 1 @ 4:00 pm – Feb 15 @ 7:00 pm
A THREE-WEEK COURSE ON THURSDAYS: FEBRUARY 1, 8 AND 15. An enormous amount of information about the people and families who lived in early Ontario survives in land records. The records of the Crown Lands[...]
May
17
Thu
7:00 pm The Search for Alban Leaf
The Search for Alban Leaf
May 17 @ 7:00 pm
The Search for Alban Leaf @ Uxbridge Public Library | Uxbridge | Ontario | Canada
MEETING OF UXBRIDGE GENEALOGY GROUP This presentation demonstrates the use of many English record types—in a period well before census and civil registration. The search for the subject of this case history, Londoner Alban Leaf[...]
Sep
25
Tue
7:00 pm Life on the Farm
Life on the Farm
Sep 25 @ 7:00 pm
Life on the Farm @ Wellington County Museum and Archives | Fergus | Ontario | Canada
LIFE ON THE FARM: YOUR ANCESTOR’S PLACE IN ONTARIO AGRICULTURE Meeting of Wellington County Branch OGS We often think of farming as a traditional occupation—something that hasn’t really changed much. But that is not and[...]
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Braving the complexities of Toronto land records: Part 1

Plan 43, registered 26 Oct 1852. This certified copy from the Toronto LRO was made 15 Jan 1953. I’ve added the red box to show area covered by the later Plan 356.

Toronto land records are not for the faint of heart. In the city, Upper Canada’s standard 200-acre farm lots were replaced by generous town lots with space for a big garden, a few fruit trees, and a stable for the horse. Times changed and the population grew, the town lots were divided into smaller holdings and new subdivisions reflected the trend. Enterprising landowners laid out developments, registered plans, and advertised their benefits to potential buyers. Sometimes they offered what the market wanted, but sometimes the lots didn’t sell and the subdivision had to be redesigned. Or perhaps the development did hit the mark, but after a time the design was less appealing.

New plans were devised, buildings were demolished, and rebuilt in a new configuration.

All this activity resulted in hundreds of registered plans of subdivision, some overlapping, some that became obsolete, but any of them might delineate your ancestor’s lot at a particular point in time. More about registered plans another time. We’ll start with “abstract indexes”.

Abstract Indexes
Each lot on a registered plan of subdivision had a corresponding record in an abstract index book. The record was a chronological list or an “abstract” of the transactions involving the lot. The abstract index book system was implemented in 1865, so transactions before that date were reconstructed from less-than-perfect records. You may discover gaps in the story.

Plan 356, registered 8 July 1881. This certified copy from the Toronto LRO was made 8 Jan 1952.

Rather than starting with the grant from the Crown, as with most farm lots in Ontario, the list begins with the first sale after the plan of subdivision was registered. In most cases, each lot’s record was started at the top of a dedicated page. Each line in the abstract represents a transaction and lists a number that connects with a document—or “instrument” in abstract index parlance.

The abstract index books were very much working documents—used frequently and not handled with kid gloves. The thick paper is sometimes chipped or rubbed at the corners so the page numbers are missing. In the chart below, I’ve shown missing numbers in square brackets. When viewing the microfilm or digitized images, be sure you’re not looking at a page number peeking through from a previous or subsequent page. You may need to count back or forward to a page with an intact number.

The clerks that created and added to the abstract index books endeavored to keep all the information about a particular lot in the same book. (And I appreciate their efforts.) Since transactions were added as they happened and at different rates, sometimes they couldn’t continue the story on the next page. So the clerk found space on another blank page, sometimes earlier in the book where there had been fewer transactions. For example, in Volume 1, indexed below, page 441 is continued by the clerk on page 6!

LEFT: A section of the 1884 insurance map showing the minimal development some 30 years after Plan 43 was registered. RIGHT: A current map from Toronto Open Data. I have added a red box to show the approximate area covered by Plan 43.

Why am I writing about this now?
The Genealogical Society of Utah, now known as FamilySearch, microfilmed these records way back in 1959. The Archives of Ontario (AO) has also had a copy of those microfilms for many years. The AO microfilms and finding aid are only available in the Reading Room. While the records for rural areas get a lot of use—Toronto records have been a struggle.

But good news. FamilySearch has now begun to digitize the records and make them available online at no cost. The abstract index described below is one of two digitized films for Toronto abstract indexes at the time of writing.

I’ve always meant to create an easier way to access these records—but now seems like the ideal time to make an attempt. Consider the description of “Volume 1”, below, a test. I’d very much like your feedback as to whether it is helpful and how it could be more so. Please leave a comment at the end of this post.


Toronto, Volume 1 (digitized film 197251 or 8199936)

This abstract index book shows part of the 100-acre Park Lot 21 that was subdivided in 1852 by the Registered Plan of Subdivision 43, and Plan 356, which in 1881 superseded and reorganized a centre portion of Plan 43. Plan 43 covered the area bounded by today’s Plymouth Avenue (on the south), the laneway south of Clinton Street Public School (on the north), Manning Avenue (on the east), and a line projecting north from Gore Vale Avenue (on the west). The lots are designated by a number and whether they lie east, west, north or south of a street—including Clinton Street, Bellevue Place which was renamed Treford Place, and Conway Street which was renamed Mansfield Avenue. Lot numbers do not correspond to house numbers. Plan 356 replaces numbers with letters.

Notes: The initial page for each lot is shown in boldface. Page numbers noted in this table are handwritten in the top corners of the pages. You may need to adjust the contrast of the digital or film image to see them. Page numbers shown in square brackets indicate that the actual number is missing. You’ll need to count forward or back to find it.

Film Plan Street, etc. page
197251 43 Park Lot 21 (instruments before the filing of Plan 43) 1
43 Bellevue Place, north side, lot 1 4
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 3, 4, 5 (continued from page 441) 6
43 Bellevue Place, north side, lot 2 7
43 Bellevue Place, north side, lot 3 10
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 5 (continued from page 393) 12
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 4 13
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 5 41
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 6 44
43 Conway St, north side, lot 1 59
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 2 (continued from page 342) 62
43 Conway St, north side, lot 2 63
356 Conway St, north side, Block D 69
43 Conway St, north side, lot 3 71
356 Conway St, north side, Block D 76
356 Conway St, north side, Block E or C (continued from page 394) 92
43 Conway St, north side, lot 4 93
43 Conway St, north side, lot 5 97
43 Conway St, north side, lot 6 102
43 Conway St, north side, lot 4 (continued from page 96) 107
43 Conway St, north side, lot 5 (continued from page 101) 109
43 Conway St, north side, lot 6 111
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 6 (continued from page 381) 112
356 Conway St, north side, Block F 113
356 Conway St, north side, Block G 134
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 1 153
356 Clinton St, west side, Block C [160]
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 2 [177]
356 Conway St, north side, Block F (continued from page 133) 181
356 Clinton St, west side, Block B 182
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 3 (continued on page 216 and 182) [208]
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 4 214
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A 216
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 5 222
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 6 228
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 7 232
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 346) 234
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 8 235
43 Clinton St, east side, lot 1 236
356 Clinton St, east side, Block H 241
43 Clinton St, east side, lot 2 265
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 3, 4, 5 [283]
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 6, 7, 8 311
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 336
356 Clinton St, west side, Block G (continued from page 383) 338
356 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 4 (continued from page 377) 339
356 Conway St, north side, Block D (continued from page 396) 340
356 Clinton St, west side, Block B (continued from page 390) 342
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 6, 7, 8 (continued from page 387) 343
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 395) 344
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 3, 4, 5 (continued from page 385) 347
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 221) 348
356 Map showing right of way in Block A, north of Gore St. 349
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 5 (continued from page 227) 350
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 6 (continued from page 58) 354
356 Clinton St, east side, Block H (continued from page 264) 356
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 3, 4, 5 362
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 349) 364
356 Clinton St, west side, Block B (continued from page 207) 366
356 Conway St, north side, Block D (continued from page 91) 370
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 365) 374
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 4 (continued from page 40) 376
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 6 (continued from page 355) 378
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 5 (continued from page 43) 380
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 6 (continued from page 379) 381
356 Conway St, north side, Block G (continued from page 152) 382
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 3, 4, 5 (continued from page 363) 384
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 6, 7, 8 386
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 375) 388
356 Clinton St, west side, Block B (continued from page 369) 390
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 389) 391
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 5 (continued from page 353) 392
356 Clinton St, west side, Block C (continued from page 176) 394
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 391) 395
356 Conway St, north side, Block D (continued from page 373) 396
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 6 (continued from page 412) 397
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 6, 7, 8 (continued from page 343) 398
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 234) 400
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 3, 4, 5 (continued from page 347) 404
356 Clinton St, east side, Block H (continued from page 361) 406
356 Clinton St, west side, Block G (continued from page 338) 408
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 6 (continued from page 112) 410
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 4 (continued from page 339) 413
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 5 (continued from page 12) 414
356 Clinton St, west side, Block B (continued from page 62) 416
356 Conway St, north side, Block C (continued from page 92) 418
356 Conway St, north side, Block D (continued from page 341) 420
43 Clinton St, east side, lot 2 (continued from page 282) 422
356 Clinton St, west side, Block G (continued from page 409) 423
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 3, 4, 5 (continued from page 405) 424
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 403) 426
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 5 (continued from page 380) 428
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 403) 429
356 Conway St, Block F (continued from page 181) 430
356 Conway St, north side, Block C (continued from page 419) 431
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 6, 7, 8 (continued from page 399) 432
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 4 (continued from page 413) 434
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 6, 7, 8 (continued from page 433) 435
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 4 (continued from page 434) 435
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 3, 4, 5 (continued from page 425) 436
43 Clinton St, west side, lot 5 (continued from page 415) 438
356 Clinton St, west side, Block B (continued from page 417) 440
43 Clinton St, east side, lots 3, 4, 5 (continued from page 437) 441
356 Clinton St, west side, Block A (continued from page 427) 442
356 Conway St, north side, Block D (continued from page 421) 443
356 Clinton St, east side, Block H (continued from page 407) 444
43 Bellevue Place, south side, lot 5 (continued from page 428) 444

Salt Lake City in 2018

We’re headed west again to Salt Lake City—and the amazing Family History Library—on February 27, 2018.

March brings the beautiful spring blossoms in Temple Square.

We’ll arrive just before the big RootsTech conference begins, so you’ll have the option of hearing from all sorts of experts and seeing the newest gadgets and software. Or you can dive right into your research!

I’ve been to Salt Lake City many times. For the first trips, it was an opportunity to have microfilmed records at my fingertips that otherwise were only available by arranging for their loan to my local Family History Centre. This involved the postal system, and waiting time, and making appointments—and a lot of distractions in between.

Today, many of the same records have been digitized and are available online. More every day. That’s a huge change. The one thing that hasn’t changed—or perhaps has increased—is the distraction factor. I now go to Salt Lake City to have an island of time to devote to digging into those records and putting them together into a story.

I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to do some of my own family research—with the odd diversion to some of the rogues and rebels I’ve found in other people’s families. (My ancestors were—so far—distressingly well behaved.)

I’m also looking forward to sharing the experience with friends who have travelled with the group before and introducing new group members to the Library and the intriguing city.

Maybe you’d like to join us? We will arrive in Salt Lake on Tuesday, February 27, 2018. You can choose to stay for one or two weeks.

You’ll find prices and more details about the trip here. Our blocks of airline seats and hotel rooms are limited, so I’d advise booking soon. There are a handful of “repeat” travellers already on the list.

 

Salt Lake City in September

We’re headed west to Salt Lake City—and the amazing Family History Library—on September 4, just before Labour Day.

I’ve been to Salt Lake City many times. This will be trip 22—eek! For the first trips, it was an opportunity to have microfilmed records at my fingertips that otherwise were only available by arranging for their loan to my local Family History Centre. This involved the postal system, and waiting time, and making appointments—and a lot of distractions in between.

Today, many of the same records have been digitized and are available online. That’s a huge change. The one thing that hasn’t changed—or perhaps has increased—is the distraction factor. I now go to Salt Lake City to have an island of time to devote to digging into those records and putting them together into a story.

One of my favourite places in Salt Lake City: Red Butte Gardens

One of my favourite place in Salt Lake City: Red Butte Gardens

I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to do some of my own family research—with the odd diversion to some of the rogues and rebels I’ve found in other people’s families. (My ancestors were—so far—distressingly well behaved.)

I’m also looking forward to sharing the experience with friends who have travelled with the group before and introducing new group members to the Library and the intriguing city.

Maybe you’d like to join us? We will arrive in Salt Lake on Sunday, September 4, 2016, for one or two weeks.

You’ll find prices and more details about the trip here. Our blocks of airline seats and hotel rooms are limited, so I’d advise booking soon. There are a handful of “repeat” travellers already on the list.

Salt Lake City in February: Join us!

This beautiful city—and the amazing Family History Library—has me hooked. I’ve been to Salt Lake City many times. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to do some of my own family research—with the odd diversion to some of the rogues and rebels I’ve found in other people’s families. (My ancestors were all very well behaved.)

I’m also looking forward to sharing the experience with friends who have travelled with the group before and introducing new group members to the Library and the intriguing city. Maybe you’d like to join us? We will arrive in Salt Lake on February 10, 2015, for one or two weeks. Most of the group will depart from Toronto, but we can accommodate other starting points.

The Salt Lake Temple, focal point of Salt Lake City's Temple Square (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

The Salt Lake Temple, focal point of Salt Lake City’s Temple Square (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

The first few days of the trip, February 11 to 14, will be buzzing with two big family history conferences—FGS 2015 and Rootstech 2015—that have combined forces for a one-time special genealogical event. But if you’re anxious to hunker down and get your nose into those old records right away, that’s OK. The Family History Library will be fully staffed and open extra long hours.

You’ll find prices and more details about the trip here. Our blocks of airline seats and hotel rooms are limited, so I’d advise booking soon. There are a handful of “repeat” travellers already on the list.

Finding an 1896 estate file in York County: a step-by-step example

Most Ontario counties have published indexes to estate files for the period 1859 to 1900, and some indexes go beyond those dates. But York County is an exception to the rule. It was the most populous county, containing the City of Toronto, and the prospect of creating a modern index was, and is, daunting. Those of us with ancestors in York must use the contemporary indexes created by the courts themselves. The indexes and estate files are on microfilm at the Archives of Ontario and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and are available on interloan from both places.

The case we’ll follow is Joab Scales, the tobacconist grandfather of Maude Scales Darby that I wrote about last time.

Knowing the date of death makes the search much easier. Ontario civil registration records tell me that Joab Scales died of heart failure in Toronto on December 4, 1895, age 76.[1] By law, no one could apply to administer his estate until at least seven days after his death—if there was no will, the wait was two weeks. So the search should start with mid December records and continue, if necessary, for up to five years.[2]

The first step, if you’re at the Archives of Ontario, is to consult the printed User’s guide to Surrogate Court microfilm to find the index. This finding aid is divided by counties, and it is important to read the introduction on the first page of each county.[3] The introduction for York County, in the picture below, tells us that for 1896, we need to look at the Original Index Volumes, and record the Grant number. Right below the introduction, we see the Original Index Volumes listed. The year 1896 will be on the first one: GS 2, reel 232.

Archives of Ontario. User's guide to Surrogate Court microfilm, p. 157

Archives of Ontario. User’s guide to Surrogate Court microfilm, p. 157

The next image is from the Original Index Volumes on film GS 2, reel 232. The index is semi-alphabetical by surname—a page or several pages were designated for each letter of the alphabet. As an estate file came before the court, it was added to the appropriate page. For the more “popular” letters, the alphabetization was refined by designating pages for letter combinations. This detail is from a “Sca” page, and you can see that names have been added chronologically.

York County Surrogate Court Index, 1887-1919, detail of "Sca" page, RG 22-303 GS 2 reel 232, Archives of Ontario

York County Surrogate Court Index, 1887-1919, detail of “Sca” page, RG 22-303 GS 2 reel 232, Archives of Ontario

Joab Scales’ name is listed fourth. The grant was of Letters Probate and issued on 7 January 1896. The York County introduction told us to record the Grant number, which is the first column.

Oh, dear: 112?? We’ve been thwarted by the clerk’s misguided attempt to fix his mistake.

We have a couple of choices. (Giving up is not an option.) We could look at all estate files that begin with 112—possibly 99 files averaging 20 pages each—or we could use the Register Book information shown on the right side of the index image. It tells us to look on page 586 of Register Book 26.

So, back to the User’s guide to Surrogate Court microfilm, the York County section, for a listing of the Registers. In the time span that includes 1896, we see that volumes 25, 26, and 27 are all on film MS 583, reel 013.[4]

Archives of Ontario. User's guide to Surrogate Court microfilm, p. 158

Archives of Ontario. User’s guide to Surrogate Court microfilm, p. 158

On the film, we scroll through until we find Volume 26. (Remember there were three volumes on the film and therefore duplicate, even triplicate page numbering to be wary of.)

York County Surrogate Court register #26, cover page, RG 22-302, MS 583, reel 13, Archives of Ontario

York County Surrogate Court register #26, cover page, RG 22-302, MS 583, reel 13, Archives of Ontario

Now, we’re looking for the page 586 that was listed in the filmed Index for Joab Scales. The Register Book recorded the essential information in brief: who died, that the will was proven, who was appointed to administer the estate, and that the administrators had sworn to do so diligently. Format varied over the years, but in 1896, the clerks filled in the blanks in a preprinted form with three names on a page.

York County Surrogate Court register #26, page 586, RG 22-302, MS 583, reel 13, Archives of Ontario

York County Surrogate Court register #26, page 586, RG 22-302, MS 583, reel 13, Archives of Ontario

Here’s a detail shot showing the entry for Joab Scales in the middle of the page—lots of good genealogical information, including his date of death and the names, occupations and residences of his administrators, who may be relatives. The document also states that they were executors named by Joab in his will. This increases the probability that they’re related. But most importantly, for our purposes, it provides the final two digits in that illegible Grant number: 11255.

York County Surrogate Court register #26, page 586 (detail), RG 22-302, MS 583, reel 13, Archives of Ontario

York County Surrogate Court register #26, page 586 (detail), RG 22-302, MS 583, reel 13, Archives of Ontario

Armed with the Grant number, we go back, once more, to the York County section of the User’s guide to Surrogate Court microfilm—this time to the list of Estate Files.[5] We locate our Grant number 11255 in the right time period, 1895–1896, and the final column tells us it is on film GS 1, reel 1051.

Archives of Ontario. User's guide to Surrogate Court microfilm, p. 177

Archives of Ontario. User’s guide to Surrogate Court microfilm, p. 177

So now we’re breathing down the neck of that illusive Joab Scales estate file. Stay tuned for the next episode!


For much more information about searching for Ontario estate files and other probate records, see my book, Inheritance in Ontario: Wills and Other Records for Family Historians.

[1] Ontario death registration #2847 for 1895, as viewed on Ancestry.ca, August 9, 2013. (Joab had been born in Kentucky. His doctor and informant was Dr. W.J. Hunter Emory. He was a Methodist.)

[2] It is unlikely, but not impossible, that you’d find an estate file more than five years after the death.

[3] The equivalent information can also be found here: http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/microfilm/surrogate_court_york_t.aspx#index. The films are available on interloan from the Archives of Ontario or from familysearch.org.

[4] Unfortunately, most of the Register Books microfilms are not available on interloan from the Archives of Ontario. However, most of the same Register Books were filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available for interloan from familysearch.org/search/catalog/24422.

[5] The equivalent information can also be found here: http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/microfilm/surrogate_court_york_t.aspx#estate1. The films are available on interloan from the Archives of Ontario or from familysearch.org.

 

Hot off the press: Inheritance in Ontario

Very pleased to find a box from Dundurn Press at my door last week—the first copies of my new book Inheritance in Ontario: Wills and Other Records for Family Historians.

The book covers wills and related records from 1763 (well before “Ontario” existed) up to current records. For novices and researchers new to Ontario records, I’ve explained the structure and value of estate records. Experienced researchers will appreciate the descriptions of records beyond the estate files we typically use. The book covers records at the Archives of Ontario as well as those available on interloan and through FamilySearch.org around the world.

Cover of Inheritance in Ontario by Jane E MacNamaraResearchers with roots before 1793 will be particularly interested in Chapter 2: Early Records of Inheritance, where I’ve extracted the names of all parties involved in hearings before the District Prerogative courts. Not just the deceased, but administrators, heirs, guardians, friends, relatives, and creditors—a rich resource for the period.

Thank you to the archivists and librarians in Toronto, Ottawa, London, Prince Edward County, Detroit, and Salt Lake City, as well as friends and fellow researchers in most of those places—for your help and insight and support. (Now I’ll have to find something else to pester you about!)

For more details, please visit the Inheritance in Ontario page.

Mark your calendar for our 2013 Salt Lake City trip

I can’t quite fathom how this much time has passed, but 2013 will be my 20th trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. A number of my travel mates seem anxious to add to their list of visits, and you’re invited, too.

The elegant new City Creek development—shopping and residences—in downtown Salt Lake City. (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

The elegant new City Creek development—shopping and residences—in downtown Salt Lake City. (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

We’ll fly from Toronto on Sunday, September 8. You can choose to stay for one or two weeks. (We can accommodate other departure points.)

For family historians, there is no place like the Family History Library—an unimaginable collection of original records on microfilm from all over the world, free access to subscription databases and an extensive collection of genealogies, local histories and research handbooks.

The best parts, though, are the knowledgeable staff, top-notch equipment, and the opportunity to grab some concentrated research time in a too-busy life!

Salt Lake City also has some of the most spectacular desert and mountain scenery in the U.S.A. Our hotel is just a short walk from the magnificent Salt Lake Temple, the Mormon Tabernacle, major concert halls and shopping. TRAX, the city’s electric transit system (free in the downtown area) will take you to more shopping and points of interest. A short drive or bus ride will take you to the Great Salt Lake, state parks, many historic sites and Olympic-class ski resorts.

September is lovely in Salt Lake City—warm, late-summer daytime temperatures with cool evenings. The gardens of Temple Square will be overflowing with flowers—chrysanthemums, asters, lavender, roses, sage, and exotic grasses.

The Carlton Hotel is a pleasant stroll away from Temple Square and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

The Carlton Hotel is a pleasant stroll away from Temple Square and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

We’ll be staying at the Carlton Hotel. Built in the 1920s, it is a friendly, 45-room hotel with cable TV and a refrigerator in each unique room. A full cooked-to-order breakfast (or continental if you prefer) is included. Regular van transportation to and from the Family History Library is provided free of charge.

THE TOUR PACKAGE INCLUDES:

  • round trip airfare from Toronto
  • hotel accommodation for 7 or 14 nights including breakfast
  • a special group dinner
  • introduction to the Family History Library
  • walking tours to points of interest
  • all applicable taxes
The Salt Lake Temple, focal point of Salt Lake City's Temple Square (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

The Salt Lake Temple, focal point of Salt Lake City’s Temple Square (photo: Jane E. MacNamara)

Royal City Travel (Guelph) will handle travel arrangements for us, again. Although prices for 2013 will not be available for a few months, you can use the 2012 prices below as a guideline. We’ll stay as close to them as we can.

Airfare and accommodation (per person)

ONE WEEK (Note: 2012 prices)
Single occupancy $2195
Double occupancy $1800

TWO WEEKS (Note: 2012 prices)
Single occupancy $3083
Double occupancy $2290

I’ll be posting more details about the trip from time to time, and we’ll set prices and start taking reservations by the beginning of May.

To keep up to date, you can subscribe to this blog. (It’s easy, just fill in the “Want to know when I write?” box on the left.) Or send me an email.

Reflections on Rootstech

I’m just back from the big Rootstech conference and two weeks of research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Others have tweeted and blogged about Rootstech announcements and news, so I’ll not try to one-up them. You may even have watched some of the sessions live online. But I will attempt to draw together some of my overall impressions—and what they seem to say about the state of genealogy.

Rootstech was big. More than four times the size of any genealogical conference I’ve attended. The male/female balance was closer than any family history event I’d been to, and the age range much wider. (There were also more cowboy hats—but mostly on the heads of brightsolid staff, Scottish brogues and all.)

The concurrent sessions—13 in each time slot—were about evenly split between “user” and “developer” target audiences, and designated as beginner, intermediate, or advanced level for each target group. It wouldn’t be fair to say the audience was split along similar lines, because there was so much overlap in interests, skill levels and emphasis.

Many of the “user” sessions were fairly basic and a bit disappointing to experienced researchers, however very appropriate as an introduction to family history techniques for the “techie” half of the audience. I enjoyed myself more when I figured out that I could understand and benefit from the beginner and intermediate “developer” sessions. (And my knowledge of html is strictly cut and paste and cross my fingers.)

Maybe Rootstech organizers could more actively encourage participants to wade into the other stream at next year’s conference.

But back to overall impressions…

Supplying genealogical data is now big business. No doubt about it. But there seems to be a realization that data doesn’t stay exclusive for long, and the better business model is to provide the customer with easier, more accurate, focused, and documented searching. Transcriptions and indexes need to improve, and customers expect value for money. Brightsolid’s first American project—offering US census records only, purchased with credits rather than a timed subscription—will be an interesting experiment to follow.

We were shown intriguing collaborative projects—from a new and better GEDCOM, to a microdata schema that can be added to archive, library and genealogical websites to help Google find historical information, to perhaps the most visible, the 1940 US Census Community Project.

There were many new software products to organize and share the data collected—some of them valiant efforts that, I’m afraid, will soon be left in the dust. Notable were QR code medallions designed to be embedded in gravestones.

I would liked to have seen more emphasis on thorough research, thoughtful conclusions, and documentation, which tend to get lost with the avalanche of data sliding in our direction.

A bright spot on this front was FamilySearch. Representative Ron Tanner shared their plans for merging the LDS-only New Family Search with the public site and allowing merging of records and correcting of data submitted by anyone. A brave and huge step towards accuracy, submitters will be able to attach digital images of records directly from the Family Search site and other sources, and if you change someone’s data, you’ll be prompted to explain why. (And they’ll be able to change it back.)

While sometimes it seemed that I was the only person not glued to a smart phone or tablet or laptop (or all three) during the multimedia presentations—I learned a lot and was reassured that the spirit of collaboration and openness will boost the quality of our research and conclusions.