Wednesday, August 21, 2013

1921 Census: the Begining of Exporting Canada's Heritage?

On August 8th, 2013, the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC) announced that the 1921 Census, all 197,529 scanned pages of the census, were available to researcher via two methods: 1) in person at the LAC 2) online at …what was that? So it is official that LAC has handed over a vital piece of Canadian history to an American company. For Ancestry’s part, they say that “Canadian will always be able to access the 1921 Census of Canada free of charge” as opposed to have to be a paid member to view the material (as is the case with much of Ancestry’s database). While LAC’s partnership with Ancestry is a better outcome than some of the other rumored partnerships, it still is not the best option. The best option would have been for LAC to remain with the status quo and offer the census on their own website. The LAC website once featured many other census but now a couple lonely census are hosted on the site, such as 1871 and 1891. Other census have been slowly moving off LAC’s website so keep an eye on those remaining two and you likely see them vanish as well. But the 1921 Census is not the only census to be sent over to Ancestry; the 1916 Census of the Prairie Provinces is also on Ancestry.

So what does this mean for Canadians? Why shouldn’t we jump up and down and simply rejoice LAC’s new best friend? What it means is LAC is backing up a US based company with the things it has sole ownership over. Not doubt Ancestry comes ahead in the deal. Bottom line, Ancestry is in the business to make a profit and access to LAC’s original material simply helps their bottom line. Those census scans were completed by our government employees while working for our government. Those scans exist and should not be obtain via a 3rd party company, yet alone a company not even situated in Canada!

LAC had other options, such as Lindsay Patten’s Automated (AG). Not only is AG a Canadian based website, but it is a perfect example of a grassroots partnership. AG currently features a number of census and is my own first stop when searching the 1851, 1901 and 1911 census. AG took the image scans and allow the genealogy community to index each entry, line by line. The best part, it is free and easy to use. So that leaves the question, why wouldn’t this work for LAC? It wouldn’t work because, no doubt, a group of well dress salespeople make a great presentation to the powers overseeing the LAC. The power of persuasion works wonders on politicians.

While, yes, you can view the 1921 Census online on Ancestry’s website, you won’t have access to search the census index unless you’re a paying member. Some of us may warm up to this new relationship, however, I will continue to push the agenda to bring the census back to the LAC’s website. Only another ten year until the 1931 Census will be released… hopefully we have a government in power then that won’t export our heritage.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. My great grandparents paid for that census to be taken and now I have to pay to see it?