Monthly Archives: August 2013

Research Tip of the Day (Oral History Interviews)

If you read genealogy ‘how-to’ books, ‘researching your family history’ guidebooks, advice for oral historians, and so on and so forth, you’ve no doubt already come across this very obvious, but very important, piece of advice. But the advice (or admonition) is so important, I believe (and I speak from bitter, regretful experience), that I think it bears repeating:

Don’t wait.

Don’t wait too long; don’t save it for a rainy day; don’t wait until it’s too late to conduct an oral history interview with an elderly relation who might (and who almost certainly will, if you listen carefully) supply valuable information; colourful anecdotes; or just a sense of the ‘pastness’ of your family’s past. Do it now. Or, if you cannot do it now, do it tomorrow. And perhaps you should have done it the day before yesterday? (Believe you me, I speak from bitter, regret-filled experience).

Do not wait.

Don’t think, ‘Well, I really should interview Aunt Mildred one of these days,’ and then put it off until some point in the distant, seemingly infinite and limitless future. Yes, Aunt Mildred at age 86 seems as hale and hearty as a woman half her age, and has been known to drink a much younger man under the table. She’s a real force of nature, is Aunt Mildred, and such a character! I really should try to interview her one of these days.

Don’t wait. Do not wait until “one of these days” is a day late, and a dollar short.

Your elderly aunt, however impressively sturdy and young for her age, is but mortal, after all, and her time on this earth is finite and limited. Call Aunt Mildred today, or at least tomorrow morning, to set up an interview. Don’t risk depriving yourself (and your family) of the information and the insights that your aunt might have to offer; don’t risk depriving Aunt Mildred of the chance to reminisce, and to regale you with stories of times past, or perhaps to finally set the record straight. Do not wait to talk to Aunt Mildred. Talk to her now, or tomorrow morning, or perhaps the day before yesterday.

(The above example of “Aunt Mildred” is almost [almost!] entirely fictional, and devised for illustrative purposes only [or almost only, at any rate]. When I get a chance, I will post about an actual, real-world example of the ‘don’t wait’ approach to oral history interviews. In this, I will speak from experience).

 

The 1921 Census of Canada

is finally available, though not yet indexed by name.

It is now available free of charge at ancestry.ca (but without index by name, so you need to know where your ancestors lived in order to readily find them). According  to John Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections (who always has the latest scoop on anything related to the LAC), it will be available at ancestry.ca with “a geographic index only,” but “Ancestry [ancestry.ca] is working on a name index to be available to their subscribers this fall, and made freely through LAC after three years.” 

Family ties: how far back do they go?

When my paternal grandparents married in 1932, each was marrying into a familiar family. As I’ve mentioned before, my Moran ancestors and my Lahey ancestors have been linked by intermarriage since the middle of the 19th century. Not that my paternal grandparents were first, second, or even third cousins, as best I make out. But each had collateral ancestors who had married the other’s collateral ancestors, if that makes sense (and with collateral ancestry, things can stop making sense very quickly, which is one reason why I love my TNG database).

The first Lahey-Moran connection that I’ve discovered is not a marriage but a sponsorship. On 4 March 1832, my 3x-great-grandparents James Moran and Margaret Jamieson served as godparents to Elizabeth Lahey, born 16 August 1831, the daughter of Patrick Lahey and Elizabeth Wharton. Elizabeth Lahey was probably baptized at March township; the baptism was recorded in the register for Notre Dame, Bytown [Ottawa]. Her father Patrick was the brother of my 3x-great-grandfather James Lahey.

My paternal grandparents Allan Jerome Moran and Mary Catherine Lahey married at Ottawa on 25 May 1932, one hundred years after James Moran and Margaret Jamieson stood sponsor for Elizabeth Lahey. By Canadian standards, those family ties go back very far indeed!

NOTE: A note on baptismal sponsorship and familial relations.

If I’m looking at an Ottawa Valley area RC baptismal record from about the 1850s until about the day before yesterday, I’m going to assume that I should be looking for a blood connection between the baptized child and his or her godparents. And if I don’t readily find one, I’m going to assume that I should be looking harder. Not that I’ll always uncover one, of course, and not that such a blood connection will always exist. But for me, the presumption is always in favour of at least one of the two godparents as blood relation (aunt; uncle; cousin; etc.).

For the 1820s and 1830s, however, things look a little bit different.

In some of the early townships of Carleton County (e.g., Huntley township, where my Moran ancestors very peacefully settled; and March township, where my Lahey ancestors somewhat less than peacefully settled), Irish Catholics were very much in the minority (the same cannot be said of some of the later settlements of, say, Renfrew County, where Irish Catholics, if they did not actually form a numerical majority, certainly managed to achieve critical mass). For early Irish Catholics of the Bytown area, my sense is that strangers from very different parishes and counties of Ireland forged friendships and close ties (it helped to belong to the same New World parish, or perhaps mission, of course) which then led to marriages, and then intermarriages, which then led to close family connections. Well, that’s the story of my dad’s family, at any rate. Someone from Galway marries someone from Cavan in Upper Canada; and then someone’s sister from Tipperary marries (in Upper Canada) someone whose parents came from Galway and Cavan; and by the end of the 19th century, they’re all one big (if confusingly connected) family. Had these folks stayed in Ireland, they never would have married one another, because they never even would have met (originating from such very different Irish counties, after all). In Canada, they become close (if confusingly connected) family members.

Were there any blood ties between the Morans or the Jamiesons and the Laheys or the Whartons? I’ve yet to discover any. Both the Morans and the Laheys were Bytown area pioneers, and amongst the early Irish in the Ottawa Valley.