google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: June 2013

Strengthening Our Heritage through Family History


  On July 1st, Canada will celebrate it's birthday, 146 years since we officially became a country. I’m a very proud Canadian with a deep ancestry that I can date back to New France in 1650. I get a little emotional thinking about the sacrifices made by my ancestors and how they afford me the luxury of living in this great land.

In recent weeks, there seems to be a thought put out there that genealogy has little importance in the grand scheme of things. If you haven’t heard, we are waiting patiently (as we Canadians do) for the 1921 Census. I’m a little bewildered why our current Heritage Minister Mr. James Moore is sitting on the opportunity to release this census. There have been a few articles written over the past several weeks with regards to this delay and it still remains quite unclear as to why the wait with no response from Mr. Moore’s office.

I’m sure there must be some logical explanation and not the current thought that genealogy is irrelevant and only “3 old ladies in Kingston” have an interest as it has been implied in a recent article. Some indicate politics is at play. I’ve provided the links below if you would like to get caught up and read for yourself what others have to say about this issue.



 I’ve been approached by fellow family historians asking me what I know, when will we see this census, I direct them to the current petition.

This petition created by Bill Robinson stresses upon The Honourable James Moore that there are many waiting for the 1921 census all with varying reasons.  I’m a little disappointed in Mr. Moore, as the Heritage Minister surely he should have his finger on the pulse of Canadian history and genealogy and the importance it plays in this country’s identity.

The one thing I have come to understand through researching my family history is the incredible effect of identifying one’s ancestry can have on your own individual identity and culture. There is great power in motivating a nation to identify their family history within the context of their country’s history and the strength that brings to its culture and heritage. I don’t understand how we can promote our national heritage without including our individual family histories as part of that picture.
We are inching our way closer to the year 2017, when this country will be celebrating its 150th birthday, an important milestone in Canada’s heritage. There is a national project underway to encourage all Canadians to research and record their family histories, and then donate a copy to Library and Archives Canada in time for July 1, 2017. This leaves me scratching my head wondering; why the stall on the 1921 census release.  Let’s be honest, 4 years is not a long time to research and write your family history, even if you have started and especially if you haven’t begun.

Canada 150 is Canada’s largest history gathering project ever. It is a highly collaborative effort of organizations and individuals committed to recording Canadian family and community histories as our gift to our country on its 150th birthday. According to the Canada 150 website, the organizers met with the Canadian government in March to begin planning this incredible event. There is a vision to have the Governor General push a button to release the largest collection of personal Canadian histories and stories of our great nation on July 1st, 2017. I have to ask has anyone informed Mr. Moore of this initiative. Does he understand that the 1921 census is an important part of compiling and completing the family histories of millions of Canadians?  

Even today, as I post here, there is a conference taking place in Ottawa to help initiate and create enthusiasm to prepare for 2017. Canada 150/2017 Starts Now!  You can watch the final event today via live-stream. You can learn more about it here.

I believe that Mr. Moore’s intention is to celebrate this Canada Day by releasing the 1921 Census. I believe Mr. Moore is going to choose the perfect opportunity to encourage Canadians to discover their heritage and begin researching and writing their family histories in time for our 150th Birthday. (And if this hasn't occurred to him, he still has a couple of days to make it happen.)

A statement from his office on June 21st encourages us all to celebrate Canada History Week, which will fall from July 1st to July 7th this year and each year moving forward. 

We are encouraged “to reflect on our great country, learn about our history, explore a museum, visit one of our national historic sites, or join in a local event that celebrates the history of your community.In my mind, that includes family history.

Regardless of how Mr. Moore leans on family history and the release of the census, I plan to do my share in mobilizing Canadians to record their family histories over these next 4 years.

Let me know, do you plan to write a family history for Canada 150?


Happy Canada Day Everyone!  

Free Book! - Claiming Your History: How to Incorporate Your Past into Your Present


Claiming Your History: How to Incorporate Your Past into Your Present by Tracy Whittington takes an in-depth look of how we can take the knowledge and information we’ve learned through our family history research and carry that knowledge forward into our own lives.

Claiming Your History was  a treat  to read,  it was an easy read and I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful ideas that Tracy brings forward that you can incorporate into your own life, illustrated with beautiful examples. Not every idea will appeal to all readers but Tracy offers a wide range from the simple to the more complex.

Tracy does not claim to be any kind of an expert but her thoughtfulness and forward thinking of how one can use their family history to enrich their own lives, in their home and beyond was fresh and inviting.

Tracy makes the information in her book relevant and personal offering many examples from her own family history and experience. After each idea, she provides three resource links to investigate should you want to explore that particular idea further.  There are over 75 ideas to explore and more than 200 links to additional resources making this a very comprehensive guide on incorporating family history into one’s life.

Tracy helps us look beyond predictable wall murals and pedigree charts, she demonstrates clearly and with ease how to incorporate our family history into our homes, habits and traditions.

If that didn’t sound brilliant enough, for June 16 and 17th you can pick up Tracy’s book on Amazon for FREE! You have nothing to lose and so many wonderful ideas to gain.


7 Tools for Your Next Family History Interview


When the time comes to organize a family history interview, it’s important to have the right tools in front of you to capture those stories.  Of course, if your interview is spontaneous then the right tools are whatever you happen to have with you. However, if you have the opportunity to schedule an interview then taking some time to prepare can go a long way to meeting with success.

Coming prepared with the proper tools is important to feeling relaxed for both yourself and your interviewee.  Nerves can always come into play in an interview even with family.  The more prepared you are the less nervous you’ll be, making your family member more relaxed and your conversation more productive.

Here are 7 Tools I like to have with me when conducting a family history interview.

1.       Prepared interview questions – I am a big advocate of having a prepared list of questions. I’m also a big fan of not sticking to the list. I know that makes no sense. The questions are a merely guideline, they are not written in stone.  You should be fully prepared to follow the conversation wherever it may lead or pull your interview back on track with your next question. There is finesse involved, and that comes with practice, however having a prepared list is an ideal place to start.

2.       Audio or video recorder- I  always audio record my interviews.  If can be on my Sony handheld voice recorder or on my smartphone. Don't forget to make sure you have fully charged batteries or back-up batteries for your digital equipment. Lately, I been thinking of upgrading and if you would like to talk more about digital tools I suggest you stop by Susan Kitchens  website Family Oral History Using Digital Tools.  Of course, there are wonderful apps emerging that can also help, consider StoryPress or Saving Memories Forever to help you record those stories. 

Video recording is definitely becoming more and more of an option these days. Equipment is more affordable and more portable. However, you need to know your interviewee, not everyone will be comfortable with video recording.  If you can get everyone to agree, think how exceptional it would be to capture your family member’s image, voice and inflection along with their story.

3.       Old photographs and family heirlooms, and unidentified photographs all make wonderful conversation starters or can help spark a memory.  Unidentified photographs can become identified, opening the door to new information.  Never under estimate the knowledge your family member may have locked away in their memory.


4.       An updated pedigree chart- Sometimes a pedigree chart can help you keep family lines straight and can often help your family member as well.  I find the elderly often like the visual aid that a pedigree chart can offer, especially if there is tendency to repeat names each generation.

5.       A short bio of your interviewee with all your known facts clearly defined as a reference point can aid in your preparation. I always write a small bio about my relative in advance. It gives me the opportunity to get familiar with my family member's personal information before the interview.  A bio also helps me to prepare my questions and to clarify all information should something questionable arise. 


6.       Pen and paper is always good to have on hand for backup in case the audio and video fail. In addition, it serves for jotting down a quick note for a follow-up question. I never only rely on pen and paper to record an interview. I believe you'll be much more engaged and present in the interview if you don’t have to worry about taking notes.

7.       The Flip-PalMobile Scanner is an awesome interview tool.  If you’re conducting your interview at a family member’s house, they just may pull out some pictures to share with you, but they are often uncomfortable about letting them out of their possession.  The Flip-Pal allows you to scan at high quality and return the photographs within seconds.  


If you would love to know more about conducting a family history interview, download our free ebook, The Complete Guide to the Family History Interview. This guide includes 100 interview questions, tips for creating the right atmosphere. conducting a long distance interview and how to gently guide your interview and much more. 


Download Your Free Ebook!  



We respect your email privacy
-->