Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kenneth Norman McMullen 1947 - 2014

In Memory of
Kenneth Norman McMullen
10 Apr 1947 - 25 Jan 2014

Goodbye Uncle Ken, you will be missed by all those that have been touched by your kindness and love. 

 May your travels in the "undiscovered country from which no visitor returns" bring you peace.

A young and happy Ken

Ken McMullen (left) being presented with the Premier’s
Agri-Food Innovation Excellence by MPP Dave Levac, 19 May 2009

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Have You Checked the Local Library?

We've all made use of the usual web sites for finding information on our ancestors (FamilySearch, Ancestry, Findmypast, national archives, etc.) but have you checked the local libraries in the towns and cities that they lived in?

Recently I've been doing research on the family of my aunt's husband's line. One of the tricky things with his line is his last name is "England". You can just imagine the challenge of using Google or the usual newspaper archives to find mentions of his family without the country popping up and polluting my results. Even if I included the towns or cities they lived in (Thorold, St. Catherines, Niagara Falls) as part of the search it was still overwhelming to filter through all the results when trying to search for a possible obituary or mention of a person.

So I decided to try the web sites of the various public libraries in the area of the former Welland county where these places are all located. What I found was a treasure trove of most likely little used resources by family history researchers ... indexes to names found in various collections.

For example, in the Niagara Falls Public Library they have a database with birth, marriage, and death indexes from the Daily Record, the Evening Review, and the Review. Suddenly I have a list in which newspaper, the date and even page an obituary can be found. The Welland Public Library has a Genealogy database of names that points to the reference material that the library holds. The St. Catherines Public Library also has an index from the various newspapers where you can search for names and other topics. Sure I might have to visit those libraries in person to view the articles but at least I know something exists. Just knowing that something exists is an important part of our research. Add the information you find to your to-do list (you do have a to-do list right?) and plan a genealogy road trip for some time in the future.

Some of the librarians will even look up a piece of information if enough detail is provided. By enough details, I mean the newspaper, date and page where the information is located. But you must be polite when making the request since they are doing you, an out of towner, a favour in retrieving the information.

Additionally, some libraries are also working with their local genealogy societies to house the material that the societies have gathered over the years.

So I ask you ... have you visited your local library and perused their genealogy collection? I know that each time I go to the Main and Nepean Centrepointe branches of the Ottawa Public Library I find another book that has another useful tidbit of information that helps me along in my journey.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Backups - Part IV (Wrap up)

In "Backups - Part II (Local backups)" and "Backups - Part III (Cloud Storage)" I wrote about two places where you can store the backups of your irreplaceable genealogy data. Today, as a wrap up, I have some simple tips that will make your life easier when it comes to protecting your information.

1. Backup before making any changes.

Before you make changes to the information in your genealogy software or do mass changes to files make a backup of that information. Each genealogy software package comes with the option to backup the information in a separate file ... make use of it.

2. Backup after making changes.

In this case I'm talking about when you've spent hours researching and entering in the information found. Before you head off to bed make a backup.

3. Verify your backups.

You have religiously backed up your information but is it really backed up? Try periodically restoring a file or two from your backup. In addition to making sure that the information is backed up you will also learn how to do a restore. It is much easier and less stressful to recover your lost data when you aren't trying to figure out how to restore the information for the very first time.

4. You can never have enough backups.

The one time you need to restore your information is the time you find out that your last (and only) backup had failed. So backup your information using different ways. Save it to local media AND also to a cloud-based service. Two copies are always better than one.

5. Keep copies of your backups outside of your home.

Natural disasters do strike. So keep a copy of your backed up information somewhere other than beside your computer. A bank's safety deposit box is a great place to keep it safe.

6. Make doing backups a habit.

Remind yourself to do backups by putting a repeating task or event into your calender. If you use Google Calendar have it send you a reminder by e-mail or SMS. In my case I back up my whole computer on the first of the month. If I've made a number of changes to my tree I back it up and synchronize it to my folders on Dropbox.

Murphy's Law usually comes into play when it comes to backups. The time you don't do a backup is when you have a computer failure or some sort of disaster occurs. So the final tip is ...

Backup   Backup   Backup

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Backups - Part III (Cloud Storage)

In "Backups - Part II (Local Backups)" I wrote about backing up your valuable and irreplaceable genealogy data to local storage media like USB flash drives. In today's post I will touch upon saving a copy of your information out in the Internet AKA "cloud".

Whereas with local storage once you have bought the media you own it but with cloud-based storage you might have to pay on-going fees. Additionally, high-speed Internet is highly recommended since trying to send a gigabyte of information over dial-up might just take a little while. The other drawback with cloud storage is you might not be able to get to your backed up information when you want to. It might be that your Internet provider is having problems or the file hosting service is not available due to a failure.

There are a number of places out on the Internet where you can easily save a backup of your information. For a long list of file hosting services I refer you to the "Comparison of file hosting services" on Wikipedia. Below are three of the better known known services.


Dropbox provides you initially with 2 GB of free storage but you can easily increase that to 18 GB via referrals of friends (500 MB per) or by following Dropbox on social media. You can purchase 100 GB of space for $99. The nice thing about Dropbox is that, in addition to web access, they support a large number of clients for desktops, laptops and smart phones.

Google Drive

Google Drive comes with 15 GB of free storage and you can buy 100 GB of space for $60. In addition to file storage the space is used for your Google Docs, Google+ photos and Gmail. Like Dropbox there are a number of ways to access your information ... from the web to using clients on your desktop, laptop or mobile device.

Microsoft SkyDrive

Microsoft's SkyDrive has 7 GB of free space and for $50 you can purchase 100 GB of space. If you already have Windows 8.1 you have Microsoft SkyDrive and, much like the other two, there are clients for Windows, Mac, and mobile devices.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Backups - Part II (Local backups)

Way back in December I posted "Backups - Part I (An Overview)" as a reminder as to why you should do periodic backups of your valuable information. In reference to this blog, I will be considering your valuable information to be all that genealogical data that you have accumulated over many years of research.

There are two places you can store your backed up information, either locally or out on the Internet or "cloud".

When I say locally I mean on some sort of media you can actually put your hands on whether it be magnetic tape, CD/DVD, USB flash drive (AKA memory sticks) or an external hard disk. The advantage with local storage is that once you have bought it you own it and don't have to keep paying for the usage. The big disadvantage with local back up storage is that if you keep it in the same location as your data there is a chance it may be lost in a natural or man-made disaster (fire, flood, earthquake, etc.). You can mitigate that risk of loss by keeping your backup media somewhere off site. This is where the physical size of the USB flash drive is so useful. It is small enough to fit in a bank's safety deposit box or to give to a friend for safe storage. Today's USB flash drives are inexpensive and can easily store up to 64 GB of information.

As to how to back up that information onto local backup storage you can use built in backup software (eg. Windows Backup), copying data via your file manager (Windows Explorer), or via third party software. In my case, I use a wonderful product called SyncBackFree to copy any changes to files (added, deleted, or modified) to my USB flash drives. It is quick and simple to use and, even better, it is free.

Just make it a habit to back up your information on a regular basis.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Baxter Missing Link

Like everyone else I too have my "problem" ancestors. This year I'm going to see if I can't resolve at least two of these brick walls. In this specific case it is Hannah Baxter, my 4th great grandmother. For the past 10+ years I've been trying to verify who her parents are. So what do I know so far?
  • She was born about 1801 (range 1801-1803 from census records) in the province of New Brunswick
  • She married Charles Howe, son of Lt. Caleb Howe UEL of the Queens Rangers and Esther Fairweather, on 20 Dec 1822 in Norton, Kings County, New Brunswick
  • She appears in the Canadian census enumerations of 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1881 in Kings County, New Brunswick
  • She is not found in 1891 census so it is assumed she died between 1881 and 1891
  • She had had a large family: Robert, Caleb, Ann, Mary, William Small, George B., Esther, Charlotte Willard, and Joseph
  • Her husband, Charles, died 7 Nov 1839 in Kings County, New Brunswick
According to the page "Simon Baxter of Hebron Connecticut" at Hannah is listed as the daughter of Elijah Baxter and Mary Smith. However, I've not been able to find any document that can substantiate that statement.

So where have I looked (other than the obvious places)?
I've not been able to find a death registration or obituary. I've also not come across a will or probate for her probable parents. I still need to look in the 1887 - 1891 editions of the Kings County Record to see if I can find any reference to her death just in case she died in that period.

So I put it out to all those other researchers, where should I look next? What other resources have I missed in my quest to find out who Hannah's parents are?