Sunday, 21 June 2015

Ottawa's Mini RootsTech: A Quiet Success

Having used up all my genea-monies to trek to the REAL RootsTech in Salt Lake City this past February, I begrudgingly missed the 2015 OGS Conference "Tracks through Time" in Barrie, ON. Knowing I will also be missing OGS Scottish Special Interest Group's SYMPOSIUM and the One World, One Family conference (both held in Brampton, Ontario) coming up in August, I made a point of busting my furry hump to get to Ottawa's FREE, mini [very, VERY mini in comparison] version of RootsTech: the "Voices from the Dust" conference hosted by the Ottawa Stake Family History Centre. I had to forego the semi-regular FREE Professional Development webinar hosted by Gena Philibert-Ortega on the same afternoon for The National Institute of Genealogical Studies [see Information > Virtual Learning Room for the list of upcoming FREE live meetings] but placated myself with the knowledge I will be able to watch the recording at a later date. 

I have been to Ottawa's FHC before on a tour for a class taught locally by Lesley Anderson and [shamefully, only...] a couple of times since then to do research on my own. Those times, one could only enter through a back door indicated by a Family History Centre sign. For this event, all doors to the church and remainder of the facility were accessible.* It's a nice location, set back from the East side of Prince of Wales Drive (#1017) and surrounded by trees. There are two entrances/exits from the road - the Northern one usually being used as an entrance. Then you can drive around the whole building to exit from the drive on the other (south) side. Ample FREE parking surrounds the facility.

Inside, some of the decor is a little dated but the facility is clean, cool, quiet and peaceful. When you arrive to research, you don't have access to much of the building -- just the research room, a couple of the rear rooms (including a Mother-Baby room) and your gender-appropriate washroom. I knew there was more to it but didn't expect it to be was quite so large. There are multiple class/meeting-type rooms, a gymnasium with a stage (avec drapes), a simple and serene chapel and probably more that I did not encounter. Although there were signs on the walls indicating which presentations were taking place within, it was a bit of a maze finding my way around. Once I got over the fact that I would have to wander and nobody cared if I stumbled into the wrong room [and realized the place wasn't so big I would be forgotten in the abyss if I did get lost], all was well.

Since the event was open to all and advertised as a FREE event, I expected the bare minimum -- rooms with chairs and presenters. Which was perfectly fine with me. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to meander into a mini exhibition hall which remained open throughout the event: 
Mini Exhibition Hall
Ottawa Stake FHC, "Voices from the Dust" Conference
Photo taken (with blurry camera phone) by LDC, 20 June 2015.
Opposite view of Mini Exhibition Hall.
Ottawa Stake FHC, "Voices from the Dust" Conference
Photo taken (with blurry camera phone) by LDC, 20 June 2015.

Societies local to the Ottawa area and a few relevant, local vendors displayed their swag. Display and information only, no sales. I think I got all of them, except for the one or two vendors who did not show (empty tables). In the order I pulled their pamphlets out of my purse, they are:

At the far end of the exhibition hall, a table offered lemonade or bottled water. Another table offered a small selection of finger foods like cheese and crackers, fruit and cookies. Not surprisingly, this area was always crowded.
View of the crowd at the food table in the Mini Exhibition Hall.
Ottawa Stake FHC, "Voices from the Dust" Conference
Photo taken (with blurry camera phone - hey at least I don't have to worry about identifying people!!) by LDC, 20 June 2015.

As you can see, it was not a huge crowd of participants (at most 100 souls over the course of the day, perhaps) so the atmosphere was relaxed and accommodating, probably less intimidating for newbies. I heard at least two individuals exclaiming that this was all new to them, their first time attending a conference - so, clearly, even smaller efforts like this community event should be given their due merit.

I think there were six attendees, MAX, who could have been close to my age, including two presenters, two hosts of a display table and one bored kid on his laptop in the lobby. This is not a new experience for me as far as Canadian/Ontarian genealogy events go. I'm usually the youngest in a sea coloured shades of grey.**

I arrived a little late and missed the opening remarks [which I didn't even realize would be happening, that's how low-key I thought it was going to be]. I will know to arrive on time next year! Three live tracks for each session were scheduled with an additional track showing select videos recorded during RootsTech 2015 (and available for your FREE! viewing pleasure HERE).

Session 1
A) A Place for You and Me by Shirley-Ann Pyefinch 
B) Parish Records – A Resource For Family Historians by Gloria Tubman
C) Your Family History in Book Form as an Enduring Heirloom by Magdalene Carson
D) RootsTech Video: You've Mastered the Census and Basic Search, What Next? by Karen Auman

Session 2

A) Keeping the Past: Storing and Preserving Family Archives and Memorabilia by Kyla Ubbink
B) Doing Family Tree Research in Your Pajamas by Ken McKinlay 
C) Genealogy Resources and Services at the Ottawa Public Library by Romaine Honey 

D) RootsTech Video: Family History on the Go Using SmartPhones and Tablets by Rhona Farrier and Crystal Beutler 

Session 3 

A) Researching Your Family History at Library and Archives Canada by Sara Chatfield 
B) Learn FamilySearch Indexing by Brenda Bowman 
C) Overview of the City of Ottawa Archives by Grace Lewis 

D) RootsTech Video: Building a Genealogy Toolbox by Thomas MacEntee

I thought I'd end this post by sharing a few of the tidbits that stood out for me from each presentation I attended. The quality of all presentations I attended was excellent and I can only assume the rest followed suit.

Parish Records – A Resource For Family Historians
by Gloria Tubman
- parish records are the best substitute for civil registration
- civil parishes are NOT necessarily the same as ecclesiastical parishes
- another reason for a large gap in dates between a birth and a baptism is that some churches charged a fee to perform religious rites

Keeping the Past: Storing and Preserving Family Archives and Memorabilia
by Kyla Ubbink
Rockstar Preservationist presenter, Kyla Ubbink getting started!
Ottawa Stake FHC, "Voices from the Dust" Conference
Photo taken (with blurry camera phone) by LDC, 20 June 2015.
- use acid free boxes and folders, please!
- get artifacts and pictures out of yellowing plastic immediately!
- use spacers and/or stuff gaps with cotton to reduce damage of artifacts stored in boxes
- use Mylar (brand) polyester clear plastic envelopes, sleeves, folders, etc
- use ONLY a Stabillo Marking Pencil to write on the backs of photos
- store photos vertically (not stacked) to avoid pressure which = heat that ruins them
- do NOT use bubble wrap when storing your items
- little white dots on books and shelves = book lice [*scratch scratch*]
- supplier recommendations: Chris Green Stamps (Bank & Second, Ottawa),, art supply stores (but NOT student materials!)
- visit the Canadian Conservation Institute for more information:
[There really were sooooo many tips and tricks that I can't do her talk justice by only showing these few but I don't want to steal her stuff either!]
Kyla Ubbink demonstrating how to safely remove photos from those awful "sticky" albums. HINT: dental floss!
Ottawa Stake FHC, "Voices from the Dust" Conference
Photo taken (with blurry camera phone) by LDC, 20 June 2015.

Overview of the City of Ottawa Archives
by Grace Lewis 
At this point, I have [shamefully] not done any research at the City of Ottawa Archives on Tallwood Drive although I have attended a couple of DNA Day events there.
- open Tuesday through Saturday
- free parking
- sign in at security, then make your way to the third floor
- purpose is to collect and preserve corporate and community documents
- community collections include: Billings Estate, Ogilvie Family Papers and much more including over 3 million photos
- partner collections include: United Church of Canada, BIFHSGO, Ottawa branch of OGS, UEL library, Railway library.
- free, in-archive access to, British Newspaper Archive, Ancestry and more

All in all, it was a very informative day for me. I left, once again, marvelling at just how much I do not yet know - in general and about our area in particular. Wondering if I will EVER feel as though I have a good enough understanding of ANYTHING to speak about it... [not that I want to]. And with yet another list of blasted books I need to buy!!!

Yes, The Asterisks Mean Something

* I mention this because, when you arrive to do your research and park far from the door actually used as the entrance to the FHC part of the facility [yes, okay, like I did], it's a pain in the buttinski. 

** I was going to say "lone brown spot" in a sea of grey... however, number one, that's not true - there were many attendees without greying follicles and, number two, that phrase led me to imagine floating poop and, although I may at times exude my fair share of smelliness, I refuse to label myself a piece of bobbing excrement. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

I Hate Father's Day

I don't normally begrudge my fellow human beings their loved ones. But, then, I don't normally have my missing family member shoved in my face either.
My dad died when I was eleven. So, for 24 years now I have not had a father to celebrate. You'd think I'd be used to it by now...

I don't have any grandfathers to celebrate either. My paternal grandpa passed long before I was born. My maternal grandfather died when I was eight and I never met the man who was biologically my maternal grandfather (who died in 1994 anyway).

It's not that I'm unappreciative of the fact that other people have fathers whom they love and wish to honour [they do! and they should!] It's not that I want to take a holiday away from anyone. I don't want people to boycott or disallow celebrations or to be a Father's Day Scrooge*... But I have to say -- when you don't have a father to celebrate and your husband is not a father yet, Father's Day sucks.

It's not that it's just one day. I could probably handle one day.** It's the month-long lead-up to Father's Day which starts immediately after Mother's Day. Tell us how special your dad is! Take a photo of the fun activities you like to do with your dad! Why do you love your dad? Make your dinner reservations for Father's Day now! Blah blah blah. It's like society rubbing salt in a wound.
Perhaps I'm over-sensitive because June just happens to be an extra sh!tty month for my family where Dad is concerned. Not only does Father's Day occur in June but so does the date of my Dad's birth (June 11th). As does the date of his death (June 23rd). Reminder after reminder after reminder that my Dad is not here, that my dad is gone, that my dad is missing, that other people get to celebrate and love their fathers on a special day (and every day, frankly), that other people didn't miss out on having their dad there while they grew up and hit milestones, graduated and got married...

After Dad died and we'd moved off the farm to be nearer to my mom's family, the first Father's Day my mom spent away from my brother and I sticks out in my mind. Thoughtful, loving, caring Family friends invited Brother and I over for dinner that night so we wouldn't be alone. I was and still am touched that they thought to do such a thing for us. But it was awkward. It was awful. I felt like we were stealing the proverbial thunder of the father in our presence. I wish we'd just stayed home. I don't recall any of the specifics - just the pervasive yucky feeling of the experience. And that I hadn't expected to feel that way.

Similarly, my in-laws used to just assume I'd be okay going out to dinner with them and their extended family on Father's Day. It was nice of them to wish to include me but there was an absence of thought that, maybe, just maybe I would prefer NOT to go, which I resented. After Hubby's own father died, he unfortunately started to understand where I was coming from.

It's like when you happily attend a wedding and - oh boy! - here comes the Father-Daughter dance! You're supposed to think oh!, isn't it so touching?! when all you can think is "Why did that asshat get to live to dance with his daughter and my wonderful father didn't??" It's awful and uncharitable but it's a feeling and feelings can't be helped; feelings just are.

So... Sorry. I don't want to be included in someone else's celebration.  I'm happy that you have a dad and that you love him - but your dad is not my dad. I don't want to make a special effort to acknowledge your dad. My special day to acknowledge your dad, should I choose to do so, is called his BIRTHDAY.

I tried to come up with some happy Father's Day memories to share instead of this Post of Gloom and Negativity but I don't really recall how we used to celebrate Father's Day -- which is to say that I don't recall one in particular, except the one I've already mentioned. I imagine we celebrated much like we did for birthdays... perhaps breakfast in bed made haphazardly by us enthusiastic but domestically-challenged kids... There likely would have been gifts presented to him after his specially requested dinner (likely pork chops and potato puffs) was made and served by mom... chocolate cake (anything sweet!) served for dessert. I doubt there would have been any special activities... maybe fishing. We were out in the country where feeding the cows and avoiding gopher holes was as close to golf as we got -- and I kinda doubt my dad would have been into golf anyway. He was into horses and cowboy stuff, camping and the outdoors, building and fixing things... He was rugged. To think of him swinging a silver stick at a tiny ball on serenely coiffed grass is just wrong.
THE scene from the 1982 movie The Man From Snowy River, a western set in Australia circa 1880, starring Canadian Tom Burlinson. I was very young when we saw this film on VHS in our farmhouse living room but I still remember my cowboy Dad whooping at this scene. #MovieAddict #ThisIsMyDad
I do remember the first time Dad's birthday came along after he died. My brother, who was eight at the time, insisted we have a cake with candles in Dad's honour. This made me extremely uncomfortable and I hated it with a passion. It felt stupid and unnatural. But mom explained it was important to Brother and I was made to suffer through singing Happy Birthday. Yeah, it was really happy. I don't recall who blew out the candles. Thankfully, we were not at home but in a neighbour's kitchen. But we're talking about Father's Day, not birthdays... Suffice to say, it doesn't feel right to write a tribute to my Dad in a Father's Day post when I don't have any particular (good) memories about that day and another feeling casts such a predominant shadow. Surely, the day to sing his praises would be his birthday anyway. And a summary of his life on the anniversary of his death...

To be honest, I've had most of this post written for some time but it has remained incomplete amongst the rest of my many unpublished, half-finished articles. I've struggled with publishing the privacy of my feelings which the general population doesn't seem to share. I am still struggling with spreading the gloom... Or maybe giving in to my own is more accurate at this point. I don't like to be negative.*** I prefer to find a silver lining... to suss out whatever is good about a situation or person... to come up with positive spin and work that angle... to spread love, light, goodness, kindness, happiness, optimism and good karma [*barf* ...but true]. I consider it a challenge and I don't like "failing" at it. I should be able to provide some kind of constructive suggestion instead of being cynical, defeatist and pessimistic. But I don't really have a Polly-Anna for this particular instance... The closest I've come is proclaiming June to be, henceforth, My Daddy's Month of Super Powers. Surely, he must be up there wielding his mighty lasso of superpowers (a la Indiana Jones) to bring us goodness [and special treats? I dunno...] in this particularly unpleasant segment of the year that excludes yet simultaneously exudes his presence!...?

I want to say I miss my dad. And I do. But it doesn't feel exactly right to say that either. Because I never truly knew him, not as a person. I knew him as infallible. I knew him as my protector. I knew him in 2D. [He would have LOVED Jurassic World, btw, and the cowboy-esque character Chris Pratt plays].**** I miss what I remember having a dad in my life felt like. But at the same time, I can't translate that into my life as it is now -- I don't know what it would feel like, as an adult, to have a father in my life. So I can't say I miss it. I miss what little of his personality I do remember. I mostly miss that I didn't get the opportunity to know him better, to have him present in my life.

So it's not that I go through every day of my life thinking about the loss of my Dad. I don't. I am aware of it in general and of how not having an adult male figure in my life has likely affected me overall -- just not pointedly, on a daily basis. Father's Day, lately, seems to be a day to feel sorry for myself and to mourn and lament what is "missing" from my life -- and I really hate that. I would not be who I am today if my dad hadn't been who he was while he was here and if he hadn't passed -- and, while I would love for him to still be here with us, my life would be utterly, totally and completely different. I likely would be just like most of you - unaware that this is even an issue for some people.

It was Laura Hedgecock's post "What's Your Father's Day Story?" (published on my dad's birthday, I shall point out) that pushed me to click the Publish button on this post. Not everyone has the same, happy story; all of them should be recorded. And, further, to quote Ron Perlman (of Beauty and the Beast, Sons of Anarchy and Hellboy fame): "The reason we're here is to talk about what we did... no matter what it is I'm going through, I'm not the first one, and I'm not gonna be the last".

I hope this post, my feelings, my experience resonates with others who have similar stories. I hope it spreads awareness that Father's Day, for me and many others, is kinda like Valentine's Day when you're single and don't want to be. Oh, it's going to be such a special day with your sweetheart and, oh, you can show this person how much you love them and how much they mean to you! And, oh, you're going to have such a good time and you will make memories and blah blah blah. Shut the eff up already! I don't have a Valentine!

Yes, The Asterisks Mean Something

* I've tried making lemonade out of lemons but this just doesn't feel right:

It feels like an injustice or even blasphemy to celebrate my mom instead when my dad was a good dad for the time he was here. Likewise, it just doesn't feel right (or good) to make a point of celebrating and remembering a guy who's not here anymore on a specific day when everyone else's IS. There's a hole in that theory. It's a missing person. It amplifies the loss, not the person. And it's the person who should be raised up on their special day.

** Hell, let's be real. I can handle it all. I'm just venting. And recording another viewpoint for posterity and my own family history.

*** I definitely don't always succeed at avoiding negativity!! But I try, at least, to say nothing if it can't be nice. Especially on the internet. Where, without a second thought, everyone complains publicly about whatever is bothering them -- bad service, some annoying colleague or schoolmate, a Kardashian or some seemingly arbitrary decision to cast Ben Affleck as Batman [I think he's a solid actor who will pull it off just fine, btw]. CHOOSE NOT TO SPREAD HATE & NEGATIVITY, PEOPLE!! C'mon!!

**** Jurassic World... which we saw in 3D [there's the thought connection that may have seemed missing] We saw it on Dad's birthday, too, now that I think about it. Funny how seemingly unconnected things fall into place serendipitously and you realize they were connected all along...


Perlman, Ron. Easy Street (the Hard Way): A Memoir (Boston, USA: Da Capo Press, 2014), p120.

Buy it on Amazon, HERE!