Heritage trio creates database to help Canadians research past

A database created by three genealogy groups will help thousands of Canadians get in touch with their heritage.

The Canadian Genealogy Centre, a branch of the Library and Archives of Canada, recently placed the names of all Canadians

naturalized as citizens between 1915 and 1932 on its Web site. There are about 200,000 names there for this first phase of the project. Phase 2 will involved the years 1933 to 1951.

“”I estimate close to 600,000 in the final version,”” says Alan Greenberg, vice-president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal. “”The exact number is difficult to estimate prior to the work beginning.””

This Montreal group teamed up with the Jewish Genealogical Society of Ottawa and the Canadian Genealogical Centre to create this resource, the data of which is about half made up of Jews from Europe.

Greenberg says it’s hard to say when it will all be done. It’s been a work in progress for more than five years. He says it will be “”several years”” before the next phase is done, as it depends on volunteers entering the data.

“”For something that’s so simple, the impact of it is so significant,”” says Donna Dinberg. “”This will allow people to find stuff that they have not ever been able to find before.””

Dinberg is the librarian for the Ottawa society and is also the systems librarian and analyst for the Library and Archives. She was involved with this project as volunteer member before making it part of her professional life.

Currently, the information takes up 7GB of space.

“”We knew, as we were scanning, we were going to have a very large storage requirement for the page images,”” Dinberg says. “”And that was one of the reasons why we set about looking for a host server. We knew we couldn’t store it ourselves. Neither society owns a server.””

They considered some fee-based sites in the U.S. But Dinberg says they decided this information belonged in Canada, to be used free of charge. The project fit nicely with the mandate of the Canadian Genealogical Centre, which launched its Web site earlier this year.

About 8,000 of the names in the existing database are keyed in with their corresponding details because they are from documents that didn’t list people in alphabetical order. The rest are on documents scanned and stored as PDF files.

An algorithm was written that allows the data to be searched alphabetically. Typing in a name will return exact matches within the keyed-in names. From the scanned-in documents, the algorithm will get you pages where the name might be, based on the first two letters of the last name.

To make the searching process more precise, Dinberg says volunteers from genealogical societies across Canada are being sought to key in all the data.

Dinberg says the project’s been more time consuming than complicated or expensive. It cost about $5,000 to create. But she says it will make a huge difference to people doing research, considering the haphazard way this information used to be stored as hard copy.

“”The thing about this data is that once a person finds someone they may be looking for they can, through Access to Information, ask the government for the contents of the file,”” she says. “”And they get the whole file on that person. And there could be some significant information in there, not just their application for naturalization. You can have things like RCMP checks on the people.””

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