This time a year ago, genealogy societies in Canada were scheduling in-person meetings, workshops, all-day seminars, and conferences. Only a handful were offering webinars that could be viewed by members and guests, and some were recording their meetings.
It seems like a lifetime ago.
Then, within a couple of weeks of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, the Canadian genealogy world leapt into the digital world, leaving behind the ways of the 1980s and 1990s.
For many who hosted and attended virtual events, it was a big learning curve, but they all quickly adapted.
To replace in-person gatherings and meetups, at least one Canadian organization, the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa, created virtual breakout rooms for small groups of people to chat during breaks.
Suddenly, with little preparation or warning, we became members of a virtual international audience of like-minded people. Family historians in Vancouver could attend meetings in Ottawa and people in California could learn about their Ontario ancestors, military records, or DNA research in a Toronto-area presentation — all from the comfort of their home.
What we lost with the sudden cancellation of in-person get-togethers, we gained in an increased number of learning opportunities.
We saved time and money on travelling to events and, more importantly, we had the opportunity to listen to speakers who had been out of our reach until the pandemic.
With no other choice, Canadian genealogists learned to embrace online learning and virtual events.
Social distancing requirements and increased online opportunities also encouraged younger people to start exploring their family history.
Taking advantage of the best of in-person and virtual events
As we move forward through 2021, inching our way closer toward the fall when many Canadians will be vaccinated, let’s not toss away what we gained during the pandemic and revert back to in-person genealogy events only.
Let’s take the best of both worlds — in-person and virtual events — to create a hybrid.
This may mean monthly meetings will be both in-person and virtual, and recordings will be available for members afterward.
There are attractive financial incentives as well. When a society invites someone from out of town to lead a virtual workshop or deliver a presentation, there is no cost for transportation, hotel room, or meals. If 200 people pay $10 to attend a virtual event, the society will earn $2,000 before paying the speaker’s fee. Perhaps some societies will offer their members a discounted fee as incentive.
The challenge will be to find a way to hold an in-person conference and still allow others to virtually attend part or all of it. Is there a way to generate the in-person experience of getting a swag bag and visiting the exhibit hall for those attending online? Should people attending virtually pay a lower fee or the same amount as those attending in person?
Since a return to normal may not happen until this fall at the absolute earliest, societies have time to modify the way they hold their virtual meetings to find out what works best.
They have time to survey members and visitors about what they liked about the last virtual presentation they attended.
Societies have time to prepare for a post-pandemic world — without throwing away all that genealogists gained in a virtual world.
Here’s a look at what’s in store for Canadian genealogy.
Government and corporate events
Census day will be May 11. The census will no longer offer a small number of ethnic examples, referring instead to a list of hundreds of possible answers. There is a new question looking for the numbers of Inuit enrolled in Inuit land claims agreements, and another asking about Métis government representation, as well as questions to count and locate veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces.
For those who like to prepare ahead of time, Statistics Canada has already published the census questions.
The 1931 Canada census should become available to the public in 2023, 92 years after it was collected.
Prince Edward Island’s adoption records will be considered open on January 31 if a birth parent or adoptee doesn’t submit a disclosure veto before then.
Since plans to mark Manitoba’s 150th anniversary in 2020 were dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the province announced that all Manitoba 150 initiated events were being paused until 2021. Funding will remain in place to support community projects and events when public health advises it is once again safe to hold large public gatherings.
After years of lobbying by the Association for Manitoba Archives, Winnipeg said it will release a consultant’s report in 2021 on moving the City of Winnipeg Archives to a new and improved location. The municipal archives had been housed in the former Carnegie Library until rainstorms damaged the building in 2013 and forced the materials to be relocated.
Since the opening of the Glengarry County Archives‘ new building in Alexandria, Ontario, planned for fall 2020, was delayed by the pandemic, it is scheduled to be held sometime in 2021. The Glengarry County Archives is the largest repository of historical records in eastern Ontario.
After the resignation of its president and CEO Margo Georgiadis at the end of 2020, Ancestry will likely announce her replacement in the first half of this year.
We may see in July British Columbia registrations of marriages from 1945 and deaths registrations from 2000 on the BC Archives website. The next time a new collection of BC birth registrations will be released is 2024 — 120 years after the 1904 births were registered. In 2004, the British Columbia Vital Statistics Act added an extra 20 years to the release of births, extending it to 120 years. Until then, researchers will have to be satisfied with the online birth records from 1854 to 1903.
By May, Ancestry may release Ontario marriage registrations for 1939 and death registrations for 1949. Birth registrations for 1915 may follow sometime in July or August.
If the pandemic and related restrictions haven’t played havoc with the digitization process and release schedule, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick will release birth records for 1925 in January, death certificates for 1970 in March, and marriage records for 1970 in June.
In August, Nova Scotia Archives may release on its website birth records for 1920, marriage records for 1946, and death records for 1970. The birth records will likely include some “delayed” entries for individuals born in 1920 or earlier, but not registered until a later date.
It has been more than a couple of years since The Rooms, which holds Newfoundland and Labrador‘s historical records, said an “online index is under development” for about 200 Newfoundland and Labrador parish records. Let’s hope 2021 is the year they finally produce the index.
Canadian collections and the British census
If we asked Ancestry, MyHeritage, and FindmyPast which Canadian collections they will release this year, they would probably say, “Not as much as you’d like.”
Ancestry is expected to add a Canadian Newspapers.com marriage announcements index to its website.
Ancestry also plans to update the Quebec notarial collection, which may mean more more notary records, not just the index.
Findmypast is expected to publish the 1921 British census, and this release will be popular among a large number of Canadian genealogists. Taken on June 19, 1921, it consists of more than 28,000 bound volumes of original household returns containing detailed information on close to 38 million individuals. The 1921 census includes, for the first time, information on marriages ending in divorce. Findmypast will probably see a dramatic increase in subscriptions when the census records are released.
The British Columbia Genealogical Society will celebrate their 50th anniversary this year with special events. Already, they have sold all 200 commemorative calendars. Their anniversary cruise from Vancouver to Alaska, featuring Blaine Bettinger and Mary Kathryn Kozy, is still scheduled for September 12 to 19. It has been planned for a long time, and they’re crossing their fingers it will take place. They did, however, cancel a big anniversary seminar due to COVID-19 and will replace it with a series of virtual morning seminars.
The Alberta Genealogical Society is updating its website to include the resources currently held by all of the branches. By the end of January, the updated resources list should appear on the front page of the society’s website. When visitors click on a resource, it will immediately take them to the branch’s website where the resource is located.
The Alberta Family Histories Society hopes to hold a 40th anniversary celebration in April or May. It had been postponed from June 2020 due to the pandemic. The society will launch in the first half of 2021 a new website project, called Alberta Ancestors, which will host their cemetery databases. Other features will be added over time.
The Saskatchewan Genealogical Society will continue to advocate for access to updated indexes for birth, marriage and death records in Saskatchewan, as well as the cost for copies of records. In February 2020, the society launched a letter-writing campaign to the Minister responsible for eHealth Saskatchewan and to MLAs. The Minister’s response was not encouraging.
Ontario Ancestors‘ book scanning project with FamilySearch has been delayed because of the pandemic. While the book scanner has been received, the society can’t begin to schedule the start date until the FamilySearch volunteers can travel to Canada. For the same reason, the society’s Vernon Directories digitization project with FamilySearch at Library and Archives Canada has been put on hold.
One of the goals this year for the volunteers working on Ontario Ancestors’ CanadianHeadstones website is to make it possible once again to submit photos. A blog for news and updates is also in the works.
The priority initiative for the Genealogical Society of Nova Scotia, the South Shore Genealogical Society, and the New Brunswick Genealogical Society is to create a new website.
Conferences, webinars and other virtual events
The Québec Genealogical eSociety‘s first virtual conference will take place, in English and French, from January 14 to 17. The program can be found in the 2021 Conference drop-down menu at the top of the Québec Genealogical eSociety’s website.
The Société généalogique canadienne-française is holding its winter-spring workshops via Zoom. Topics include introductory classes, Acadian research, land records, coroners’ reports, wills and online newspapers. In order for instructors to be able to provide online assistance, most classes are limited to a maximum of 30 people. Fees range from $20 for members and $30 for non-members to $80 and $100 for the beginners’ classes.
At least five Canadian genealogists will deliver presentations at the free global event RootsTech, from February 25 to 27. The latest news is that more than 70,000 people have registered to watch the online conference.
The British Columbia Genealogical Society will hold a series of virtual morning seminars. Three speakers already confirmed are Dave Obee (April 3), Janice Nickerson (May 1), and Lucille Campey (June 5). Each will deliver two presentations. The seminars will be open to the public for a fee. Whether or not members will be charged a nominal fee has yet to be determined.
The Alberta Family Histories Society and the Calgary Public Library will co-host a virtual presentation about Métis research featuring Christine Woodcock on March 8. They will continue to hold meetings via Zoom until public health restrictions allow for social gatherings of more than 75 people, which is about how many members attended in person before the pandemic. Because they only have room for a limited number of people at their virtual meetings, non-members must contact the society if they want to attend.
The Alberta Genealogical Society will hold an all-day GenFair on April 24. It will be a virtual event with their annual general meeting during the fair.
On the fourth Monday of each month, the Alberta Genealogical Society will hold free webinars. The board of directors will review the decision to continue making the webinars available to the public in late February. The society is now in the process of coordinating all of the branches’ virtual presentations. By early February, the branches virtual presentations will appear on the society’s website.
Ontario Ancestors will mark their 60th anniversary with the virtual conference and family history show, My Roots, Your Roots, Ontario’s Roots, on June 4 to 6. The society will also introduce two new topic-focused symposiums. They will continue to hold their free monthly webinar series and many branches will continue to hold virtual month meetings and presentations.
The first Canadian Genealogical Virtual Research Institute will be held July 19 to 23. It will be dedicated to Canadian research and similar in format to the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh and the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. The program will be available January 15, and registration is scheduled to open February 15.
The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa will continue to hold virtual monthly meetings and the occasional workshop that will be open to the public. The society will also offer a virtual conference in September with the theme, Irish Lines and Female Finds.
The Saskatchewan Genealogical Societies will offer virtual educational sessions during the year. Some will be public and others will be for members only.
The New Brunswick Genealogical Society branches will continue to hold regular meetings and presentation over Zoom. For now, the virtual meetings are only promoted to members.
Legacy Family Tree Webinars’ lineup includes a new monthly series, called O Canada, that features six Canadian speakers. In the regular lineup, Alison Hare will deliver her presentation, The Time of Cholera: A Case Study about Historical Context, and Mags Gaulden will speak on mtDNA Projects. The webinars are free to watch for up to seven days after the live presentation. After that, a subscription is required.
My 2021 wish list for Canadian genealogy is:
- Better promotion of archival repositories’ new digitized collections in a What’s New section on their website and on social media.
- Access to more digitized Canadian newspapers, especially newspapers in Atlantic Canada. After no new Canadian titles in 2020, it would be great if Newspapers.com added more Canadian newspapers.
- Continued Facebook Live sessions from Ancestry, MyHeritage, Findmypast, and Library and Archives Canada.
- More ethnically diverse presentations in genealogy societies to attract new members.
- Increased willingness and patience from seasoned genealogists to help new genealogists online and, eventually, in person.
- Beginner genealogy classes for newbies.
- A return to in-person meetings, get-togethers, and lunches with genealogy friends before the end of 2021.
Many thanks to all the societies who generously shared their plans for 2021 with me.
Source: Genealogy à la carte https://genealogyalacarte.ca
Posted On: January 4, 2021 at 06:12AM