Saturday, February 06, 2016

Guess I'll go out to Alberta online

Some years ago, I did a little piece of work for Ancestry, the online genealogy company, and got a year's membership comped. Which I used, quite happily, to do various odds and ends of looking up people and censuses and such, and also constructing a family tree starting with our children and going well back on both sides.

That experience may have skewed my views, but I kinda like online genealogy services.  Sure the public records ought to be free, and not sold by private subscription,  But basically the public records remain free.  What you get for your private-subscription money is a lot of digitizing and indexing and don't-leave-your-desk instant access, most of which the public repositories that hold the records are unlikely to provide very soon.

Case in point:  I got an email from Ancestry the other day, reporting that they have just made accessible Dominion Lands Act homesteading records of Alberta 1870-1930  -- records available elsewhere for sure, but not something I've ever pursued, and now suddenly a few clicks away inside Ancestry.  As it happens, my late father-in-law was born on an Alberta homestead. I did the few clicks, and there's an image of the document where his father, George Joseph Brophy, Ontario-born, resident in Calgary, farmer, put his signature on his claim to 160 acres in 1909:  Blackie, Alberta, "right out on the bald-headed prairie," as someone from High River told us when we once went there.

No Brophys have lived anywhere near that homestead for about 85 years, and it isn't anything previously unknown to the family, but maybe I will get props from my in-laws: 'Hey, look at this document I found."

There's a lot out there. I can see why it's popular.

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