Canada May Have a New National Society Soon

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Since last fall, there has been quiet talk among some genealogists in Ottawa that maybe Canada should have a national genealogical society, such as the National Genealogy Society in Arlington, Virginia.

Years ago, Canada did have one - The Canadian Federation of Genealogical and Family History Society. The office was headquartered in Brandon, Manitoba (one of the Western Provinces), and, for a while, a number of societies across the land belonged to it. However, interest in it slowly began to fade, until it was eventually dissolved in 1997.

One of the members of "CanFed" - Brenda Dougall Merriman, well-known Ontario genealogist and author - says that membership was not the priority it had been in 1967, when "CanFed" was started.

The reason for the interest this time was due to a shot across the bow of genealogy in Canada, which was fired by the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC)

Last September, the LAC decided (they said it was because of a quick budget cut) to reduce the hours of service from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., Monday to Friday, and stay open only until 4:00 p.m.. On the weekend, the hours were also reduced at both the reference and consultation rooms!

Then the LAC added what many felt was the real reason why the service had been reduced - they wanted to shift their priority to their online resources. Their onsite databases now number over 50, and while they have proven extremely popular, it represents only a small percentage of their total resources, so I do not believe it was this as much as it was the budget decrease.

Over the next few months, the LAC experienced a "disquiet" they had never felt before - because, you see, these new hours were put in place without consultation with the country's genealogists - the LAC's largest user group!

But whom could they consult? There are no national genealogical groups in Canada! The Ontario Genealogy Society is the country's largest genealogical society, but they don't represent the country - so the closest person they came across was noted Ottawa genealogist, Dr. John Reid of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO). He has attended every meeting of the LAC, and has written reports about them, which you can read on his blog at

To make a long story short, the hours have now been reinstated, and it seems to have quieted down for the present. The LAC has put a new department together called the Public Consultation & Services Advisory Board, which now holds periodic meetings with the public so that everybody can keep on top of changes made at the LAC.

I think all genealogists would agree that if you are going to be travelling this summer to the LAC in Ottawa, it is best that you check the website or at least phone them beforehand at 1-866-578-7777 (toll-free in Canada and the United States) to see exactly when they will be open.

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