Our Community

Why We Still Need Genealogical And Family History Societies

by Edward Kipp (with additions by Heather Oakley)

( Ottawa Branch News, Vol. 37, No. 2, March-April 2004)

I am a member of a large number of Genealogical and Family History societies and enjoy receiving their newsletters and journals. I like to have access to their local resources. Depending on the society, there are often discounts on books. I attend lectures to learn about genealogical resources and, in general, broaden my knowledge. For my local societies, which include the OGS and the UELAC, I volunteer to do work and at the same time have fun doing it.

The question of why we need societies, no matter what the subject area, keeps coming up both in my work and extra curricular activities. The main reason for this is the overpowering presence of the Internet and World Wide Web. People say, “Well I don’t use books or printed resources anymore, I just do a search on the Web.” or “I “Google” or “Ask Jeeves” on the web.” They also say “Well everything I need is on the web and it’s “free.”” Right! I have been in discussions and read articles about the decline of membership and attendance at conferences. The Ottawa Branch itself has seen a decline in numbers over the past years. Our annual conference, Gene-O-Rama, however still seems to be popular.

So why do we still need genealogical and family history societies?

The Benefits of OGS

By Mike More (with help from Jim Neelin and Norine Wolfe)

(Ottawa Branch News, Vol. 37, No. 4, August-October 2004)

During the Chair’s Breakfast at Seminar 2004, I commented, with tongue in cheek, on the relationship between Ottawa Branch and Head Office in Toronto (particularly after what the Maple Leafs did to the Senators in the playoffs). I was reminded that WE ARE ALL OGS. And it’s true. If you pay your dues to Ottawa Branch, you are a member of OGS (even you few remaining Associates). Not only that, the past and current Presidents pointed out that they could not by any stretch be considered Torontonians; David hails from Brockville and Ron is from “up the valley”.

So what does OGS do for us out here in the Branches? What do we get for our money?

Have you checked out the latest version of the OGS website ( http://www.ogs.on.ca/ )? Their links page may not be as impressive at Cyndi’s List but it does focus on Ontario . The new Cemetery Ancestor Index and Locator (look under Resources) includes the location of every known cemetery in Ontario . Just underway is a new Search Engine for the names of those buried in the cemeteries. Already eleven branches (including Ottawa ) have agreed to include the indices to their cemetery publications. You will be able to search for an ancestor and then link to the appropriate Branch to order the publication or submit an Inquiry. This should replace the OCFA, which has not been updated for six years (and which never had the support of much of the Society).

This database is a direct result of the OGS Cemetery Project that was started in 1973. As of 2003, 96% of the known Ontario cemeteries have been completed. Volunteers in the Branches throughout Ontario did the transcribing of these cemeteries.

And speaking about projects, how many of you have used one of the Indices to the 1871 Census of Ontario ? Or searched the on-line research tool of the Canadian Genealogy Centre. The index of the entire province of Ontario was a project of OGS undertaken to mark the organization’s twenty-fifth anniversary in 1986.

Among the current OGS projects are:

  • The Ontario Genealogical Society Provincial Index (OGSPI), a hypertext library established in 1997 to index Genealogical information on Ontario families which presently includes one and a half million names.
  • The Strays Project records people described in a record as being from, or connected with, a place outside the area in which the event took place; strays can be of great value to genealogists looking for that “lost” ancestor.
  • The Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Registers Project is transcribing the microfilmed baptismal records in cooperation with the United Church of Canada Archives who hold copyright on these records. The United Church has allowed OGS to transcribe and sell the compilations.
  • The Upper Canada Land Records Project is creating an alphabetical index to both the Lower and Upper Canada Land Books.

OGS is selling the microfilm reels of the Ontario Vital Statistics. This is an extremely popular item on their price list. Or you can simply use the OGS Finding Aid for the Province of Ontario Vital Statistics Records at the Archives of Ontario and order the film at your local Family History Centre.

Do you need a publication on genealogy? The OGS website allows you to search the Publication catalogue on line by Author, Title or Keyword; or select the publication from the alphabetical listing. Each title has a link to more detail on the publication.

Newsleaf was recently improved and should be much easier to read for some of our older eyes. It still contains a wealth of information on the Society and the Branches including upcoming events, projects and Branch addresses and websites .

The Society has recently completed an Introduction to Genealogy Course . It is available in PowerPoint and will soon be produced on paper for those with less technical abilities. Ottawa Branch used it to help produce our recent Beginner’s Genealogy Course and it’s available for future events.

Behind the scenes, OGS has been involved in a number of lobbying activities. Along with the Ontario Historical Society, OGS was instrumental in saving both Clendennen Cemetery in Markham and St. Alban’s Anglican Church Cemetery in Palgrave from relocation to allow a developer to build on the land. OGS contributed substantially to the legal costs of the court cases for these decisions

OGS has also provided support, both through its membership and by funds, to the Post 1901 Census campaign, including the current petition program.

The value of OGS rests in the networking among the members. Cliff Collier and the Education Committee of the OGS put together the ” Introduction to Genealogical Research ” package and made it available to all members of OGS. A member came up with the idea for every project in the past. Each of us should think of other endeavours the Society could conduct to make our organization stronger. Networking among people researching surnames is invaluable and we all promote it. Networking between the Branches, the Board of Directors and all members of the Society should be promoted as well. The stronger we make our organization, the more we will feel we are getting our moneys worth. When that happens people will praise the efforts of Head Office, and perhaps even be grateful for their hard work, instead of worrying about how much it costs to join.