Ancestry Canada
Dave Obee       Local History / Family History


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Seminar topics and links

Three dozen choices in five categories:
General, Canada, Europe, England and Technology.

Some of them work well together, and others don't.
Check with Dave before making your final choices.

Check Dave's schedule to see where he is speaking.

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Squiggly Lines and Spit: How DNA is changing family history research
So you have spit into a tube -- now what? Genetic genealogy is a natural progression from what family historians have been doing for years. Here are some genetic genealogy success stories, backed by documented research. These examples might give you ideas for different ways to research your own ancestry, or inspire you to do a DNA test. It includes a basic summary of research using DNA, and offers pointers on how to get more value from your tests.

Using DNA to Solve Geography Questions
So you have spit into a tube -- now what? Your next step after getting your test results might be to consult an atlas, because geographic clues from your matches might get you looking in the right direction. This session includes some DNA success stories, based on geography and backed by documented research. It also offers pointers on how to get more value from your tests.

Passing It Forward: How to Engage the Younger Generation(s) We've been working on our family history for years, if not decades, and we know that can't go on forever. We don't want all of our work to go to waste, so we need to find a way to make it accessible for others. It would be even better if we could find younger relatives to carry on our research. How do we inspire them so they share out passion for family history? And then, how do we get their knowledge up to speed so any research they do will be accurate and reliable? This session will give a few ideas so we can find someone in the next generation, or the generation after that, and pass the torch to them with confidence.

A Fresh Light on Old Newspapers
Researching in old newspapers no longer means sitting at a microfilm reader for hours on end, winding through a seemingly endless string of news stories and advertisements. Today, the results we seek could be a matter of minutes away, thanks to the many digitization projects that have placed millions of newspaper pages on the Internet. But what are the pitfalls? This presentation takes you through the digitization process, from hard copy to your computer screen. It is designed to help you achieve the best results from your work. (Note: I have worked in newspapers for 50 years, I have researched with them for 50 years, and I have been behind a major digitization project. This talk draws from real experience.)

Decoding the Dash: Build the Stories of Their Lives
Grave markers often show the birth and death dates, with a dash in between the two dates. Those dates are usually the least interesting aspects of a person's life, because it is what is in between that counts. Lives are not measured by start and end dates; if so, they would have no meaning. This session uses examples to show what might happen when we start digging on the Internet, on the standard family history sites and beyond, and then dive into records in archives and libraries. It is easier than ever to tell the stories of your ancestors' lives.

Looking Forward, Looking Back: Half a century of genealogy, and the best is yet to come
Technology has had a huge impact on our lives and our research techniques. The first half of this presentation examines the recent history of genealogical research, starting before the rise of the Internet and the many resources we have at our disposal today. The transformation is stunning, and gives a hint of what might be in store for us. The second half looks at the potential impact of that technology, including some of the good points and a few of the bad.

Changing Places, Changing Borders: Overcoming geographic challenges
Yes, it has been possible to be born in one country, get married in another, and die in a third -- without ever leaving your home. The boundaries in Eastern Europe have been redrawn many times over the years, presenting challenges for modern-day genealogical researchers. But this phenomenon has not been confined to that area; even Canada has seen at least 50 boundary revisions between its provinces and territories. When jurisdictions have changed, it is especially important to learn how to interpret and record information.

A Sense of Place and Time: Putting Ancestors in Context
Charts alone don't tell the stories of your ancestors; to produce meaningful research, you need to understand the local geography and history in the areas where they lived. Your ancestors were affected by local events, after all -- they were not living in isolation. This talk explains why certain information is valuable, and how to locate it. It includes examples based on Dave's own research.

Beyond the Online Basics: A Genealogical Guide to Digital Collections
There are billions of scanned pages on the Internet -- a collection that few physical libraries could match. The problem is that many pages relevant to your research can be difficult to track down, since they are not on the usual genealogy websites. This session provides ideas on how to find the documents that will help you learn more about your families, or the local histories of the areas where they lived.

Every Picture Tells A Story
Old photographs hold clues that could tell you more about your family history. Today, millions of photos are taken every second, but at one time photographs were a much bigger deal. More importance was placed on them, and more care was taken before the shutter was snapped. These samples might help you to unlock some of the answers in your own collection.

Crowdsourcing Your Family Research
Are you stuck? Get help from others -- sometimes, in surprising ways. The word "crowdsourcing" might be new, but the concept has been around for decades. It's all about drawing from the work of other people, including those who were gathering information or jotting down observations a century or more ago. The Internet makes this easier than ever before, but you will need to look beyond basic genealogical sources.

The Geography of Genealogy
It is impossible to do comprehensive genealogical research without an understanding of where your ancestors lived. There are several good reasons to use geographic tools in your research. They help you to determine where you are from. They will also help you to find records dealing with your family. Maps and atlases help genealogists sort out where their ancestors lived in relation to regional and national boundaries, churches, rail lines, and other factors that help determine which records hold most hope. Geographic tools will also give you a sense of what life was like for your ancestors. This talk provides a basic overview of what to look for, and how to use the information that you find. (Please note that there are versions of this talk tailored for Canadian research, for English research, and for European research.)

Write Your Family History
One of the best ways to create a lasting memory of your ancestors is to tell the stories of their lives. While a genealogical chart can seem daunting (or even worse, boring) to a non-genealogist, a narrative is accessible. A well-written story will make other family members much more aware about, and more interested in, the research that you are doing. This talk -- by a genealogist who has been a journalist since 1972 -- includes some ideas that will help you get over your writer's block. It might even inspire people to start writing more stories for the society's journal.

Tracing Forward to Find Distant Cousins
Your distant cousins could be the key that unlocks your DNA research. Stymied in your search for these living relatives? Trying to find other descendants of your ancestors? You need to start in the past and trace forward. Researching subsequent generations can be difficult, because people leave clues regarding where they are from, but not necessarily where they are going to. That doesn't mean it's impossible; there are plenty of sources that will help you. Many Internet sites can help -- but it pays to know which ones are essential, and which tricks to use.

Between Friends / Entre Amis: Cousins Across the Border
Many of us have cousins in another country, and many Canadians and Americans have family members across that long, undefended border. This talk gives some examples of cross-border ties, along with advice on how to search in the other country. It could be that clues in one country can help solve genealogical mysteries in the other. And yes, DNA testing is helping us to find relatives we did not know we had.

Genealogy 101
An introduction. Why do we do what we do? What are the basic sources to use? A primer of the basics of family history research. Hint: Start close to home, then work from there.

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Getting Ready for the 1931 Census
The 1931 national census is due to be released in June, 2023 -- and since it will probably not be indexed right away, we need to get ready. Pick your priority people and get to work! This session offers ideas for identifying the census divisions and subdivisions where you will find your relatives. Using digitized census reports and mapping tools, you will be able to narrow your search options.

Destination Canada
More than seven million people arrived in Canada from Europe, the United States and Asia between 1815 and 1930. This session deals with the wide variety of sources that deal with immigration to Canada, including ship passenger lists (available from 1865 through 1935), border crossing records, and naturalization and citizenship documents. Many of these sources have been indexed and placed online, making it possible to access them quickly and easily. It pays to know, however, the scope and limitations of those Internet resources, and how to obtain information from other sources. Dave is the author of the book Destination Canada.

In Search of Home: Migration into, out of, and within Canada
Understanding the flow of people will help you understand how your family fits in the history of the country. In some cases, records are available in Canada and in other countries, but in other cases researchers will need to consider social history and traditional migration routes to understand the lives of their ancestors. Includes a look at the social history of the arrival of the railway, which helped bring massive development to the four western provinces. The railways brought settlers, and helped them get their goods to markets. The railway companies had a keen interest in bringing settlers, and ran colonization schemes designed to entice people to the West. Dave is the author of the book Destination Canada.

Mining the Canadian Census
Canadian census records are a tremendous source of genealogical information. Although the first nominal enumerations were done in the French colonies in 1666 and 1667, the most useful census returns date from 1851 through 1926. They provide snapshots of the population every five or ten years, and make it easier to sort out family units and relationships. To be most effective, a genealogist will need to understand the scope and limitations of the census, and to know which supporting documents will enhance the information found in the returns. Some of the limitations of the census are sure to surprise most researchers. Although the first nominal enumerations were done in the French colonies in 1666 and 1667, the most useful census returns date from 1851 through 1921.

Canadiana's genealogical treasures
The Canadiana website has a vast amount of material for family historians, but not many use it or even know about it. Canadiana's rich genealogy and local history collection includes local and family histories, telling of pioneering, settlement, and local government in early Canada. The focus on individuals and communities make the collection an ideal genealogical resource, helping people explore the experiences of previous generations and leaving clues about their wider social and cultural background. Related documents include voters lists, eulogies, directories and gazettes, biographies, civil service lists, published diaries, church magazines and pamphlets, militia lists, publications from professional and trade societies, school publications, and more. This talk is your guide to mining the 40 million pages of primary-source documents.

Canadian Genealogy Online
Many Americans have ancestors or cousins in Canada, and research north of the border can be rewarding. It is important to understand the differences between research in Canada and the United States. Canada has hundreds of websites of prime value to genealogists, and the sites to use will depend on which of the 10 provinces and three territories your family called home. Several sources should be checked by everyone, but some of the best finds will be in regional or local websites. This session will quickly guide you to the top sites, where it will be possible for you to make good progress on your Canadian lines. Links are on CanGenealogy, the most accessible Canadian link site.

Canadians in the First World War
The First World War touched virtually every Canadian. Between 1914 and 1918, 240,000 men were killed or wounded -- from a country with a population of just eight million. Today, researchers can learn about Canada's soldiers, including facts about their family and where they served. It makes sense to also look for context - what happened to those who survived the war, and to the family members who waited at home for news. Much of the information is available on the Internet (assuming you know where to look).

Family History in Western Canada
Western Canada is the youngest part of the country; serious settlement did not begin until thousands of people arrived from San Francisco for the Fraser River gold rush in 1858. They were followed by millions of people from just about everywhere. Today, it is possible to find plenty of information about the people of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Some national and regional sources will help, but it pays to know the differences among the four provinces. The first thing to do is to sort out the geography, because two of the provinces are barely a century old.

Family History on the Canadian Prairies
Most Canadians have connections to the three Prairie provinces, through cousins if not through ancestors. Researching those Prairie families can be rewarding, although it is important to note which sources are common to all three provinces, and which ones are unique to each province. Using examples from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta, this session looks at a variety of resources, and offers tips to help you learn more about your families on the Prairies.

Tracing Your Alberta Connections
Alberta is unique among the 10 Canadian provinces. It was the last of the three Prairie provinces to be opened to homesteading, which meant land in that province was available just as quality homesteading land dried up in the United States. That brought a rush from south of the border, and the American influence is still felt today. There has been another mass influx of people eager to work in the energy industry. Many of the key sources used in researching your ancestors or cousins in Alberta are also unique, so local knowledge is essential. This session identifies those sources for you, and will help you get results in your searches.

Genealogical Gold in British Columbia
The land now known as British Columbia has been inhabited for many centuries, but most genealogical records started after the 1858 Gold Rush, which prompted many arrivals from California. Today, the province leads the rest of Canada in its commitment to making available a comprehensive collection of valuable resources. This session will enable researchers to make the most of those sources, and build a better understanding of your family’s connections to British Columbia.

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Leaving Volhynia: The Ways Our Ancestors Departed
Volhynia, in the northeast region of Ukraine, was not like other areas in the Russian Empire that were settled by Germans. The Germans arrived there much later, and some started leaving within a couple of years of arrival. Thee was a steady drain of people over about eight decades -- to other parts of Ukraine, back to Germany, to South America, or to Canada and the United States. There is no single story about the emigration process. This sesison will look at some of the ways and routes of departures.

Nach Kanada! Immigration of Germans to Canada
Germans have been migrating to Canada since the 18th Century, and have played major roles in the development of the nation. Early arrivals came from German territory, while more recent arrivals came from countries such as Poland, the Soviet Union or Brazil. Germans appear in a variety of Canadian records, including some that do not have Canadians of British descent. This session included basic history of Germans in Canada as well as a guide to useful sources.

Introduction to Polish Genealogy
Millions of people around the world have ancestry in Poland, or in the former German areas that are now part of Poland. This session is ideal for people starting work on their Polish ancestry. It reviews the history of Poland and covers several of the key sources you will need to consult. Most of these sources can be found online, for free.

Genealogy, Geography and Germany: A guide to sources
Was your family from Germany? Prussia? If so, this session might help. It will review many of the most valuable geographic tools to help you find your places of origin, and where records might be found today. These sources include gazetteers such as Meyers Orts, as well as major sites that have maps, both old and new. Remember: It is impossible to do effective genealogical research without understanding geography.

Driven by Faith: The German Protestants in Ukraine
Ethnic Germans went to Ukraine for two major reasons: For economic opportunities and for the chance to practice their chosen religions. The Lutherans, Baptists and Mennonites who migrated east often followed different paths, but there are common factors in their history as well. This session reviews some of the most important sources that apply to all, as well as sources that are specific to each denomination.

Driven by Faith: The Baptists and Mennonites in Ukraine
Ethnic Germans went to Ukraine for two major reasons: For economic opportunities and for the chance to practice their chosen religions. The Baptists and Mennonites were after religious freedom, and they found it in Ukraine, although that freedom did not last. There are similarities between the two faiths, but also major differences, especially in terms of research possibilities for today’s genealogists.

The Wandering Ways of our East European ancestors
Our Eastern European ancestors knew how to pack up and move. Many of them did it over and over again, before finally settling in a home that, more often than not, was close to the homes of friends and relatives from the old country. This session looks into some migration trends, such as chain migration, and examines the records that are available to us. It includes examples of several families who moved again and again, and the similar paths they took. Understanding similar paths in your family might give you a better sense of why they ended up where they did.

Plenary Session: The Most Wonderful Time (to research your Eastern European ancestors)
Looking back, looking forward. For years, tracing the history and ancestry of the Germans from Russia has been fraught with peril, but today, it's easier than ever. More records are being made available, we have access to archives we could only dream of a few years ago, it is easier than ever to share our research, and DNA testing has opened new avenues and introduced us to more family members.

Researching the Volhynian Germans
The Germans who settled in Volhynia were not like the Germans who settled in other parts of the Russian Empire. Most of them arrived in the 1860s, coming from Poland and German areas such as East Prussia and Posen. Some stayed only a few years, while others remained for a generation or two. In recent years, several important sources have become available, and researchers are able to make serious progress for the first time. This session also includes geographic pointers, a short history, and a case study.

Researching the Germans from Russia
Germans from Russia can be difficult to trace, but it's not impossible. Factors include the time frame of their days in Russian territory, where they went after that, the area they were in, and their religion. This session covers some of the basics of Germans from Russia research, which might take the modern research to records in Poland, Ukraine and elsewhere. Research should also include a study of descendants in North America, Germany and other points. A huge amount of material is available these days, and don't forget the value of a trip to your ancestral homeland.

In search of home: A Germans from Russia family study
Tracing your German family back to Russia, and possibly through Russia to places of origin in Germany or Poland, can be rewarding. Research should also include a study of descendants in North America, Germany and elsewhere. The story of one family will help you to understand the lives they lived, and the conditions they faced -- in other words, the context behind the family history.

Research in Eastern Europe Today
DNA testing and the rapidly increasing range of Internet databases are changing the way we research family history in Eastern Europe. We still have to deal with boundary changes and unfamiliar languages, but what we can find makes it all worthwhile. Eastern European research can be highly rewarding -- and now, more effective than ever before.

Eastern European Family History Online!
Without leaving your home, you can research your family's origins in Eastern Europe. Plenty of resources are found online, but they are not necessarily on the usual family history sites. This talk will provide ideas for pushing your research in new directions, and suggest tools that would make your work easier. It should be possible to sort out problems and questions regarding geography, history and boundary changes.

Beyond the Online Basics: A Guide to Using Digital Collections
(Europe version.) There are billions of scanned pages on the Internet, and many of them are relevant to Eastern European research. The problem is that pages relevant to your research can be difficult to track down, and difficult to use. This session provides ideas on how to find the documents that will help you learn more about your families, or the local histories of the areas where they lived. It also gives ideas for making digitization projects work for you.

The Geography of Genealogy in Europe
It takes a few special tricks to find places in Germany and points east. The researcher can save time by consulting the best sources. This lecture includes several samples from the problems Dave has been asked to solve over the years.

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Lidzbark-Warminski: On the Road in Eastern Europe
A light-hearted look at travelling to do research in Eastern Europe. It's worth it, just to trudge down the dusty streets where your ancestors walked. Also, to fight with the local police, to fall on your face in a forest, to argue with the archivists, and more. Researching in countries such as Poland and Ukraine is not as easy as researching here, so you should keep your expectations in check -- and just enjoy the experience.

Stalin's Arrest Files
Records held by the KGB in the former Soviet Union can provide a wealth of information on families of people who were arrested. The prisoners often gave information about neighbours as well. This session includes many examples taken from KGB files, as well as tips on how to gain access to the material.

The EWZ files: Forced from Their Homes
The Einwandererzentralstelle series of films, from the Captured German Documents collection at the U.S. national archives, has been a tremendous source for Germans from Russia. Dave has purchased 70 of the films, covering every family in his mother's ancestral village in Volhynia. These films reveal rich detail about life in the German colonies.

Volhynia? Where is Volhynia?
You won't find it on any modern maps, or on many old ones, for that matter. But Volhynia is home to more than a million people, and was a prime destination for Germans in the middle of the 19th century. This session explores the history and geography of the region in the northwest corner of modern-day Ukraine. (And don't forget to look at as well.)

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The Geography of Genealogy in England
Knowing about geography will help you to find records dealing with your family. Maps and atlases help genealogists sort out where their ancestors lived in relation to regional and national boundaries, churches, rail lines, and other factors that help determine which records hold most hope. This talk provides a basic overview of English sources, and how to use the information that you find.

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Genealogy by Google
Google is an invaluable tool for genealogists. It pays to know some tricks, including effective filtering and search strategies. Don't forget Google Books, Google Maps, Google Images and the historic newspaper collection. You will quickly discover that a simple search simply scratches the surface of what is available to genealogists.

Travel Smart With Technology
Visiting an ancestral community is one of the greatest thrills a family historian can have. The experience provides a wealth of information, both from local archives and by simply walking the streets. But to make the most of the experience, it helps to prepare. This session will help you get ready for a trip to explore your family's roots, and use technology to its best advantage while you are travelling. It also includes tips for using tools that might not have obvious genealogical connections. If you don't want to travel with an electronic arsenal, you can still use technology to gain a better sense of an area before you set out. This presentation is designed to help travelers maximize their research into family connections outside Canada.

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