30 June 2008

Happy Canada Day!

What does Canada mean to you? Talk about an open-ended question! But pollsters do like to take polls, and John Reid—on his Anglo-Celtic Connections blog—relays some interesting results in brief from the Dominion Institute’s survey of the top 10 or top 20 answers. Can’t personally say “beaver” or “hockey” or “Niagara Falls” enter my head immediately. Our perception of Canada may be quite (interestingly) different from other viewpoints on the global compass. And our own perceptions are shaped by our family life and work life in such an amazingly varied country.

I see Canada in the excellent, wonderful humour we nourish and share, even with (or because of?) all those regional and cultural differences. We know we’re good at it because we do it all the time amongst ourselves. Give a Canadian a microphone or a letter to the editor on almost any topic and chances are you get some very good satirical or black humour (the best) comments.

If the Dominion Institute insists on a one-word or one-phrase answer for what Canada means to me? LAKE SUPERIOR.

Since I moved to Toronto quite a few years ago, CANADA DAY has taken on even more significance for me. I live in the old Town of York of 1793 as planned by Upper Canada’s first Governor John Simcoe and his surveyors. A number of my former clients had ancestors living here—carpenters, sailors, builders, administrators and real estate speculators—and it was possible to learn quite a lot about them. Some of those ancient inhabitants still lie beneath the sod of St. James Park over there or under the pavement of the adjacent diocesan parking lot. No, I don’t see ghosts on my walkabouts, but I can often see the imprint of times past.

My street sits under the water of Lake Ontario’s old shoreline, and my home is on the site of a nineteenth century shipping wharf. Where I live is also home to many entertainers and performers who suit the delightful St. Lawrence neighbourhood. Each CANADA DAY we like to serenade our neighbours in all directions with O Canada. Our resident leader is Syd Dolgay, an original member of the Travellers folk music group. The Travellers’ signature song was a Canadian adaptation of Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land. We always sing that too!

2004: PAL gathers to warm up the vocal chords.

02 June 2008

Freedom 25

Take a peek at my books down in the right column. Two new editions are the products of Brenda’s last twelve months in researching, revising, writing, being reviewed, consulting, more research, more re-writing, printing glitches and occasional suicidal thoughts. That was me about March belting out “I Will Survive” as a theme song. It’s been 24 years since the first edition of Genealogy in Ontario appeared. Here are a couple of illustrations that didn’t make it into the book.

The Books of Remembrance for Canadian military service are in Ottawa but can be viewed on the Veterans Affairs Canada website:, "Canada Remembers." The statue of Governor Simcoe is at Queen's Park in Toronto.

About Genealogical Standards of Evidence (3rd ed.) has also been revised to reflect mainstream twenty-first century methodology. Now I’m free to sort out priorities for my next projects.

This past weekend, 30 May to 1 June, was the Ontario Genealogical Society’s annual Conference (as it happens, the biggest such event in Canada). I was there on Saturday afternoon to sign books at the OGS table in the Marketplace of vendors, exhibits and regional information centres. A great chance to catch up with old friends, new friends and all the books. OGS had an attendance near 700 which is amazing, considering the downturn in registration the last few years for most North American conferences. Smart publicity contributed, and the theme “Wired Genealogy” clearly resonated with the general public. Dennis Mulligan must be a happy man.

The Ontario Chapter, Association of Professional Genealogists, had a table to promote membership and individual services; I could only spend a short time there. OCAPG member Ruth Blair was energetically doing double duty at times, with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies located at the next tables. At the end of this month my official position with NIGS comes to an end after six years. OCAPG member Nancy Trimble’s election as OGS vice president was good news; her broken leg was not so good news, but with her motorcycle ambitions curtailed, we know that matters genealogical have her undivided attention, eh? Paul McGrath at the “Ancestors in the Attic” display discussed the wrap-up of the third series and the preparation for a fourth with fingers crossed. Unfortunately I missed Dick Eastman, John Reid and many other people.

Speaking of endings, beginnings and good theme songs, Maclean’s magazine tells me that disco is back. Not that I knew it went missing, but it’s reassuring to know that good things get re-cycled without my help. Now all the secret wannabe Y!M!C!A! impersonators can safely reappear. Much more fun than rehearsing the steps to Zjozzy’s Funk in my sleep. Welcome back, Gloria Gaynor.