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Vol. 1, No. 15Whole #15February 8, 2000* The Story of the 1999 NEHGS Technology Award Winners* Canadian Roots, Irish Ancestors
(Editor's note: The following was submitted by the winners of the 1999 NEHGS Technology Excellence Award, announced in San Diego last weekend at GENTECH 2000.)
"There's another one, " Janet turned to her husband, "that's the second call this month."
"What do you mean?" said Peter.
"Oh, it's a keen and eager researcher from Anytown who has just finished transcribing the headstones for whole west side of the United Church cemetery and they want to know if we'd like to have their data to share with our members."
"That's a good thing, yes?" asked Peter.
"You'd think so, but just last year eight volunteers from the Alberta Family Histories Society transcribed those very headstones. We added data from the burial records and published it. The whole data collection is available right now as a paper publication for $6.00. If 10 years had passed and this part of the graveyard were in active use, we could update our records. ... But this was a completely wasted effort." Janet sighed.
< "The volunteer is now so embarrassed about not checking to see what others have done, and feels so badly about the use of his time, that he wasn't even interested in joining our transcribing crew next weekend for our work on the Catholic cemetery in that town".
A daily experience, no. A common experience, yes. Janet Morgan has been the Projects Coordinator for the AFHS for a number of years and has often thought that a central registry was needed and should be widely available to potential volunteers so they wouldn't redo, the thorough efforts that have already been published. But, how to compile the information ... and how to get these eager beavers to consult it. Building the database wouldn't be difficult, just time-consuming.
Another AFHS volunteer, Judith Rempel, came along who was a keen internet user. Also, she was eager to use her HTML skills to maintain and help develop the AFHS website that had been started by volunteers Gordon Lane and Bill "Suddie" Mumford. Good friends by now, Janet explained the concept of a projects registry and raised the question, "How hard would it be to put this on the web?"
Janet started writing by e-mail and good, old-fashioned paper and envelope, to almost 100 key genealogical organizations across Canada and asked them to let the CGPR know what transcription, indexing, or extraction >/span>projects they had done. She asked for the source of the data, whether it was complete (or underway, or in the planning stages), and how researchers could get access to the completed work.
In the meantime, Judith started to build the outline of the website and to populate it with information about the projects. She also started to search Canadian and other websites for any online works that would meet the criteria for inclusion in the CGPR. The CGPR grew in concept and substance that fall and went online in December of 1998 as www.afhs.ab.ca/registry/
Now, while the size of the project seemed large and quite useful, it wasn't an immediate case of "build it and they will come." We started getting systematic hits on the site and by January when Dick Eastman made brief mention of the CGPR in his electronic newsletter that goes out to about 20,000 readers, we thought we'd made a significant inroad. No additional dollars were being taken from AFHS funds to build the information site. In fact, together with the main site (www.afhs.ab.ca), the whole online venture only cost the AFHS $35 in startup fees and an annual $100 membership in the local freenet (known as Calgary Community Network Association or CCNA: www.calcna.ab.ca). Since available time for <"marketing" was slim, the hit counter settled down again and we realized that while it was a tremendous resource, it was going to be one of those slow 'n steady races. Whenever opportunity arose to give a presentation to family historians about the effective uses of the web, Judith would roll out the CGPR, demonstrate how to navigate the site, and send home some happy clickers. The hit counter would slowly inch upwards.
To speed forward to the fall of 1999, we chanced to read the "last call" in Dick Eastman's e-newsletter that the New England Historic Genealogical Society (www.newenglandancestors.org) was seeking nominations for their first-ever Technology Excellence Award. The criteria were amazingly close to the ones we had settled on for our site. It was a unique concept in a field with hundreds of thousands of websites (although there are other amazing meta databases such as those held by Rootsweb.com and Ancestry.com),it was a finding aid that advanced the web-use of family historians in a new way. So, the AFHS proudly nominated the site and our Internet Service Provider and host, CCNA, cheered us on, never having begrudged a single byte of our data on their server for the minor annual fee we pay.
We knew the potential competition for the award was great and crossed our fingers that we had submitted in time and that a Canadian site would be considered by this very old and prestigious organization. Then, just 13 months after CGPR went online, Michael Caito, Internet Services manager for NEHGS, sent a brief and mysterious message, "I need to talk with Janet Morgan ... please give me her phone number".
From that day in the first week of January 2000, Janet and Judith have been grinning. We won! We couldn't possibly choose between us who should attend the GenTech Conference in San Diego to officially receive the award. We must both go!
Financial commitments were made by NEHGS for a winner - but we were glad to supplement from our pocketbooks. Then, we put word of the award on "dist-gen", our AFHS/CCNA genealogy e-list. Congratulations started to pour in and within 24 hours, there were unsolicited pledges to pay for the second person's expenses! This took us completely by surprise...especially as the pledges continued. Then, a meeting of the AFHS Board turned into a bidding fair. One member suggested that the AFHS officially top up the pledges with additional monies, and another said, "make it larger". Well, the result was that the Board agreed to complement any donated funds so that no personal costs would be incurred for the three-day trip to San Diego.
Each of the individual events left us giddy and overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support. Never once have we heard someone say, "Why would you do that?" No barriers or roadblocks or politics. Just support. And look at the result. The CGPR now has "international recognition", is a central feature in AFHS' efforts to bring quality and effectiveness to the field of family history, now has over 8,000 links and is growing daily.>/span>
But, best of all, Janet now gets e-mails that say, "I see that you have listed a cemetery transcription for Anytown; is anyone working on the little cemetery behind the church, because I'd like to work on that one". The Canadian Genealogical Projects Registry (CGPR) can be found online at <http://www.afhs.ab.ca/registry. It contains links to over 8,000 data indexing, transcription and extraction projects for Canadian genealogical data sources. The framed website leads the researcher through a series of choices:
left frame: select a province or territoryselect a life event (e.g., birth, marriage, death, census, etc.)top frame: select a record type (e.g. civil, church, newspaper, etc.)>br> right frame: select the locality of interest
This leads to one or many database choices that, when clicked, take the visitor to a full-frame view of that resource or to the homepage of the database steward.
Janet is a retired pharmacist who, when she isn't wearing her Project Coordinator or Education Coordinator hats at the AFHS, pursues her family history research on Robinson, Hurlburt, Hurd (Ontario, Ireland) and Morgan,Rushby (England, Wales).
Judith is a Research Social Planner with the City of Calgary and operates a webdesign business out of her home (www.jrsolutions.net). She is the volunteer webster for the AFHS and other organizations. Her research is focused on Rempel, Peters, Stobbe and Kettler (all Russian-Mennonite surnames).
The NEHGS Sales Department is pleased to announce the arrival of new editions of two popular guides:
In Search of Your Canadian Roots, Third EditionBy Angus Baxter
This new edition includes revised listings of finding aids, record repositories, and e-mail and website addresses. It discusses the great migrations of Scots, Irish, English, Germans, Huguenots, Ukrainians, and Jews to Canada; describes the national archives in Ottawa; summarizes the holdings of the LDS Church relating to Canada; and explores the vast nationwide record sources such as census records and church registers. The core of the book provides a detailed province-by-province survey of genealogical sources, including vital records, wills, land records, censuses, church records, newspapers, and books, and then lists libraries, societies, and archives and their major holdings and ongoing projects.
GPC. 2000. 400pp. Softcover.$19.95* Item #B2-85175
Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, Second EditionBy John Grenham
This new edition carefully explains the elements of Irish research and provides an indispensable body of source materials. Part 1 discusses the most basic genealogical sources in light of a research project, while Part 2 examines sources that have a more advanced application. Part 3 consists of a reference guide to a comprehensive range of materials including county source lists and church records. The new edition includes an expanded account of Northern Ireland repositories and a more comprehensive description of the Family History Library holdings. The most significant addition is a 150-page list of all known Roman Catholic parish records that can be found in the National Library of Ireland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the LDS Family History Library, and local Irish Heritage Centres. County by county, and church by church, this list gives the dates, locations, and formats of all existing copies of baptism, marriage, and burial records, keyed to parish and county maps.
GPC. 2000. 396pp. Softcover.$19.95* Item #B2-62530
You may place your order online at www.NewEnglandAncestors.org or by calling the Sales Department, toll-free, at 1-888-296-3447. A shipping and handling charge of $3.50 for the first item, and $1.25 for each additional item, will be added to your order. Massachusetts residents will also be charged 5% sales tax. Please refer to this newsletter when placing your order by telephone.