For the past couple of years, I have read in awe the postings from the American genealogy community as they have rallied for a cause: The SSDI, Georgia Archives, library closures, indexing the 1940 census.
For the most part, Canadians are far more complacent. It's an innate part of our nature. We don't get riled about much - except maybe changing the hockey night anthem or threatening to eliminate the small size of our beloved Horton's coffee cups. We all love a good rant, but we rarely make them.
However, one thing that has certainly united the Canadian Genealogy community is the farce of what the rest of the world knows as Library and Archives Canada. Funding cuts, service cuts, the muzzling of employees. On June 1, LAC took possession of the 1921 Canadian Census. It was handed over in microform (microfilm) since the original records were destroyed a number of years ago, and all that remains are the microfilm images. LAC is responsible for digitizing (pretty simple given it is already in microform), indexing and making the census available online to the public. For free - just like the other census records. In the past two days, it has come to the attention of the genealogy world that the digitizing is complete. A geographical index is complete. The 1911 census was actually released at this stage and then only searchable by name once other, pay-per-view, companies had done the leg work in that area. For some unknown reason (nothing from LAC seems transparent or reasonable anymore), LAC has decided to withold the release, mostly because they don't see its release as a priority. The latest comment from a senior official is that the release is only important to "three old ladies in Kingston who want it for their genealogy" - no doubt an off-the-cuff remark that will come back to bite someone in the tuchus. However, that non-Canadian attitude has certainly sparked a fire in the belly of Canadian genealogists. Today they have united for a common cause. News has spread through Facebook groups, across Facebook pages, on Twitter, throughout Google+ Circles and via e-mail. Canadian genealogists are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. A frenzy of e-mails and letters have been sent to the Heritage Minister, the Honourable James Moore. Copies have been sent to local MPs, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and in one instance, to CBC asking for a public enquiry into the delayed release.
Now its time to rally the rest of the troops. Everyone with an interest in Canadian genealogy records, whether they themselves are Canadian, their ancestors were in Canada or those who are just passionate about access to records or freedom of information is being called into action to assist in getting LAC to release these records to the public and to do so expeditiously even if it means outsourcing to the genealogy community.
Here are the e-mail addresses for:
The Honourable James Moore (Minister of Heritage and Official Languages):
Local Members of Parliament:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
and yes, CBC's Fifth Estate:
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Sunday 9 June 2013
For anyone traveling to an archival repository, the most important part of their research experience is not just the interaction with the archival documents, but their interaction with the Archivists themselves. The Archivists provide the road map to the archives and the records contained within. It is the Archivist who helps the researcher truly understand the information that can be gleaned from the records. The Archivist can put the documents into perspective. The Archivist can help the researcher know where to look next. And it is the Archivist’s enthusiasm and passion for what they do that puts the passion and enthusiasm into the researcher himself. It sparks the learning, and quells the yearning. Next time you are researching and seeking assistance, be sure to thank the archivist!