British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa
British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa

Annual Family History Conference

September 20-22, 2013

The 19th Annual Family History Conference was held at the Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa. The focus for 2013 was Ireland. Thank you to the 268 registrants, and our many volunteers, vendors and sponsors who made this conference a success.

A variety of conference handouts are available in the Members Only section.
Friday, 20 September 2013 — Pre-conference Seminars
Eileen Ó Dúill — Irish Civil Records and the Sad Story of Irish Census Losses
This seminar will focus on Irish birth, marriage and death records. Examples of civil records and a discussion of the issue of non-registration will be included. An overview of the history of 19th century Irish Census will be provided along with an examination of 1901 and 1911 Census returns. Participants will also learn about the most useful websites for assessing civil records and extant Census returns. Also discussed will be documents sent by participants who are having difficulty deciphering Irish names, place names etc. These documents could contain vital clues to where in Ireland ancestors originated.
Lisa Louise Cooke — Google Earth for Genealogy
Google Earth provides a 360-degree three-dimensional way to view your ancestor’s world, giving you a much clearer view of the big picture. In this hands-on workshop you will learn how to unlock mysteries in your research—from unidentified photographs to pin-pointing the locations of your ancestors’ homes and land. You will also discover how to use Google Earth to geographically document the story of your ancestors’ lives. Learn how to captivate even the non-genealogists in your life by adding compelling multi-media elements such as photographs, video, historic documents, and more to your maps! Google Earth is one of the best online genealogical tools available, and, best of all, it’s FREE!
Lesley Anderson — Searching for Your Irish on
Sometimes it seems you need “the luck of the Irish” to find pointers or records of where your people are from across the pond. Ancestry is working to bring together Irish records, so we will review some of the great Irish collections now available on These collections include land and property records, indexes of births, marriages and deaths, a photographs database and more than 19,000 detailed maps of Ireland that can take you to the very spot where your ancestor lived. The “Born in Ireland” search form can help you find your Irish immigrant ancestor easily, while the new collection of 40,000 Irish images showcases the length and breadth of Ireland and allows you to experience the land of your ancestors. Lesley will use a combination of seminar/lecture and step-by-step exercises and examples to cover the history of Irish coming to Canada and historical records that are available on and from Ireland and the UK. She will offer tips for searching the Ancestry collections and discuss creating and connecting with online Family Trees.
Rick Roberts — Using Family Tree Maker Software to Record and Share Your Family History
Benefit from dozens of hints and tips that will help you improve your results using Family Tree Maker. Discover the best techniques for entering information, dealing with conflicting dates and events, recording sources, how to make professional quality genealogy charts and reports at the click of a mouse that your family will treasure for generations. A TreeSync segment will show you how to access and update your family file from anywhere. Most people use less than 20% of Family Tree Maker's capabilities. Here’s a chance to learn more about FTM so you can decide which other features and options will help you to best record and share your family history using Family Tree Maker.

Friday, 20 September 2013 — Conference Opening

Philip Donnelly — These Old Walls of Ireland: Recording the Memories
Much of our genealogical research focuses on documenting the civil records—births, marriages and deaths—of our ancestors. These are essential first steps but the real reward for the family historian comes when glimpses of the life experiences of earlier generations start to emerge through the fading light of yesteryears. Reading the inscription on an ancestor’s grave is an emotional experience, but finding the ruins of the home where earlier generations lived and died can imprint an indelible memory. In rural Ireland, the old walls that were once the homes of the ancestors of millions of Irish descendants worldwide are quickly disappearing, and even the local old-timers may not remember who used to live there. This lecture opens a window on some of Ireland’s current or proposed projects—anchored at the level of the townlands and the parishes—to record the markers and the memories of days long gone by.

Saturday, 21 September 2013 — Presentations

SESSION 1 (Plenary)
Eileen Ó Dúill — Introduction to Irish Genealogy: Where Do I Start?
This lecture offers a place to start to those who are beginning the search for an Irish ancestor. A discussion of the ‘paper trail’ created by the immigrant ancestor will focus on learning the county of origin in Ireland of the ancestor from sources in Canada. The importance of the townland will be explained.Advice to beginners in Irish research will include a review of identifying information about the immigrant ancestor; the four main sources for genealogical research in Ireland, what these sources can offer and how best to access them; and a look at some lesser known sources. Since many Canadians could claim Irish citizenship, the seven documents required to apply for an Irish passport will also be reviewed.
Shirley-Ann Pyefinch — Irish Resources Available on LDS Websites
This presentation will detail the features of the and other LDS websites. Learn how to effectively navigate, search and use new tools available in order to get the research results you need. Irish genealogical information resources will be discussed.
Lisa Louise Cooke — Tap Into Your Inner Private Eye: 8 Strategies for Finding Living Relatives
It’s easy to get caught up with finding dead relatives, but it’s the living ones who can share their personal stories, their boxes of photos in their attic, and their address book full of other relatives. It is imperative that you find and talk to these folks while you still can. But finding a living person can prove quite a challenge in today’s identity security-conscience society. Lisa Louise Cooke has interviewed private investigators who are in the business of locating people, and brings their tips and techniques to you. You will learn how to track down those elusive living relatives who just may hold the key to your brick wall, or possess that treasured photo you’ve been looking for.
Eileen Ó Dúill — Progress Report on Irish Genealogy 2013: Are Things Getting Better?
Since 2008, Ireland has been experiencing an economic recession. Despite this situation, the last five years have seen some developments which have made doing Irish research easier. This lecture will provide up-to-date information on improvements in conducting Irish genealogy.
In March, Tourism Ireland declared 2013 to be Family History Year in conjunction with “The Gathering”. Events and activities will be reviewed. Other developments, such as the 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland online, will be highlighted, including a discussion of plans to allow the release of the 1926 Census. Developments and improvements at the major record repositories—the National Archives of Ireland, National Library of Ireland, General Register Office and, most especially, the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland—will be provided, along with a review of useful contacts for Irish research.
Sandra Adams, Bill Arthurs, Elizabeth Kipp and John D. Reid — One-Name Studies Panel — Success through One-Name Studies
How can a one-name study help crack those tough nut genealogical cases? Learn from a panel of experts who will share the secrets of their successes. Experienced genealogists know that, when faced with a roadblock, it is often useful to research siblings and other relatives. When the task is particularly challenging, they look for insight by extending research to all people with the surname and variants. Sometimes the name is just intrinsically interesting. Brief presentations by each of the panelists will describe significant aspects of their one-name studies. The panelists will discuss further aspects of their studies in response to questions.
Linda Reid — Around the Brick Wall: Tracing Back an Irish Family through Collateral Lines
Using siblings’ records may be the route to finding earlier ancestors. The three case studies in this presentation involve a marriage settlement in the Registry of Deeds (Dublin), a will, and a visiting Irish niece in an English census—all investigated to find earlier generations of the Irish family when the direct path seemed to end.
Lisa Louise Cooke — How to Save Your Research from Destruction and Ensure Its Future Survival
Don’t let your lifetime of genealogy research end up in the landfill! Learn the seven key strategies to securing the future of your research including designating a ‘research keeper’, setting up a Genealogy Materials Directive, and making donations with a Deed of Gift. Don’t miss this class – your family research legacy depends on it!

Sunday, 22 September 2013 — Presentations

Jane McGaughey — Irish Family Ghosts: When Personal History and Professional Research Collide
Like hundreds of thousands of other Irish descendants in Canada, Dr. Jane McGaughey can trace her family history to both the pre- and post-Famine periods. Unlike some professional historians, however, her ancestors have consistently “turned up” in her research, both in her first book, Ulster’s Men, and her current research project on Irish participation in the 1837/38 Rebellions. This is an investigation of the collision of personal interests and the academic profession through the history of one battle in November 1838 that saw four strands of the Irish diaspora fighting both for and against the future of British North America. This story of “family ghosts” combines Irish United Empire Loyalists, Orangemen, Irish army regulars and proto-Fenians on the shores of the St Lawrence River in one of the more grisly moments of Canadian history.
Lisa Louise Cooke — Genealogy on the Go with the iPad/Tablet
Technology has brought much more than the convenience of digitized genealogical records to our home computers. It has also delivered an incredible level of portability to family history research! The iPad is built for hitting the road and is ideally suited for genealogy due to its sleek lightweight size, gorgeous graphics and myriad of apps and tools. In this lecture you will discover the top apps for genealogical success and best practices for getting the most from your tablet from the author of the book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse.
Eileen Ó Dúill — Dublin, 30 June 1922: Did Everything Blow Up?
Researchers involved in Irish research will have heard of the devastating fire in June of 1922 which destroyed the Public Records Office in Dublin. This lecture will provide some background to the history of the Public Records Office of Ireland and an examination of the record groups which were deposited there prior to June 1922, including the structure and content of the PRO at the Four Courts. Contemporary accounts will provide the details of the explosion on 30 June 1922 and a discussion of the reaction of the Irish people of the time will be explored. A list of documents that were lost as well as those which survived will be provided. A report on the rebuilding of the Public Records Office collection into what is now the National Archives of Ireland will encourage researchers not to assume that all Irish documents blew up in 1922.
Linda Reid — Are They Really My Ancestors? Using Autosomal DNA Tests to Confirm (or Deny) Relationships and Ancestors
The ancestors on our family trees may not be accurate despite the paper trail. Testing cousins and second cousins of ourselves or our parents can confirm related ancestors (or cast doubt). The Family Finder test of Family Tree DNA uses autosomal DNA to look for relatives on all branches of the family. It compares your test results with others tested and posts on your online account a list of your potential matches and suggestions of how the people might be related (e.g. 3rd cousin). Many people use this test to hunt for distant unknown relatives. Linda has used it to confirm the ancestors on her documented (legal) family tree and will share her results in this presentation.
Sher Leetooze — The Ulster Detective
The presenter had always been told that research in Irish records was difficult, and much different than researching in English records. So, to find out about Ireland—Ulster in particular—she undertook a research project to learn more about how to do it. This project turned out so well that she turned it into a family researcher’s guide to researching in Ulster. With that under her belt, she went to Northern Ireland to try to find her family— success! This presentation will offer some ideas on where to look, how to write a query letter/email, and which places offer you the best research opportunities.
Lisa Louise Cooke — Genealogical Cold Cases: A Step-by-Step Process
It can seem as if technology changes on a daily basis. That fact poses an opportunity for genealogists to merge tried and true genealogical research techniques with new and innovative technologies. It’s time to dust off that genealogical brick wall you gave up on long ago and take a fresh approach. Cold case detectives do this on a regular basis, and in this class you will learn to track ancestors like a bloodhound, sniff out holes in your research, and get missing information on the record. Get ready to discover the twelve-step process that will generate the new leads you need to bust your case wide open.
SESSION 8 (Plenary)
Eileen Ó Dúill — Come to Ireland to Find Your Ancestors
This lecture is designed to help researchers who are planning their first trip to Ireland. It will review the preparatory research that is necessary before setting out for Ireland and offer advice on the best use of time while in Ireland. This ‘insider’s guide’ to repositories and resources in Ireland will map out an effective research strategy and avoid the most commonly made mistakes. All of the major repositories in Dublin and Belfast will be discussed. The ultimate goal is to make it possible for you to ‘walk the land of your ancestors’.