|Air Photo Study
|This project came about as the result of a search for an historical context.
For the past two decades I have been involved in the genealogical search
for my family roots. In the course of this work I have explored much of
the United Kingdom's history as far back as the Seventeenth Century using
historical records. I am always amazed at how much information is available
about such topics as tiny obscure villages in the Scottish Highlands. This
type of information has significantly added to the understanding of my Scottish,
English and Irish roots.
Upon retiring from teaching in late 2001, with more time I decided to expand my research to include Canadian history. This was intended to provide the setting that my ancestors encountered when they immigrated to Canada. Since all of the four branches of my family eventually settled in the Ottawa area, in particular Ottawa East, I concluded that it would be relatively easy to research this history. But that was not to be the case.
I quickly learned that apart from a few snippets in general history books, there were no detailed record of the history of Ottawa East in print. Yes, there were census records, municipal directories and a box in the city archives with some odds and ends, but there was no narrative that chronicled the evolution of the community. It was almost as if Ottawa East never existed. Confronted with this situation I made the somewhat presumptuous decision that I would write the history.
My initial thought was to produce a small booklet detailing some key people and events; include some historical pictures; and a map. This I believed would take just a few months and be self-published via my trusty computer. With the initial research however, I began to encounter a wealth of fascinating material that illuminated a truly interesting story.
The first major discovery was the photographic record that had been left by the incomparable James Ballantyne, one of the fathers of Ottawa East and a true "Renaissance man". Amongst the many gifts left to the community by this man were over 800 photographs that detailed the life of the Village of Ottawa East, all preserved on glass negatives stored in the National Archives. Researching this collection was thrilling but it raised the question of how to make the images available to everyone.
It was at this point that I decided to drop the idea of using paper as the medium and switch to the power and storage capability of the CD-ROM. The rationale was that since almost everyone today has access to a computer, with the use of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) not only could everything be included but it would also be searchable. Therefore this format provided limitless possibilities in terms of genealogical databases, image libraries and the permanent storage of unique items that would have been lost to time.
Realizing that the project now required some financial support, I approached the Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) for assistance. From the very first phone call the idea of writing a local history was met with enthusiasm and unqualified support. A successful grant application was made by the association to the City of Ottawa Heritage Funding Program in the fall of 2002. While the project received only a portion of the requested support, the money was sufficient to pay for some of the research costs and production of 200 copies of the CD.
By the winter of 2003 the research was in high gear. Each week brought a new source of information and material began to grow as if it were an inverse pyramid. Along the way I encountered many individuals who enthusiastically supported the project. It is not possible in this short space to mention all of them but there is more information in the Acknowledgements Section. People such as Sue Hill, Fathers Dubois and Pigeon of the Oblate Order, Serge Barbe of the city archives, Andrew Roger of the National Archives, Bruce Ballantyne and many, many more all gave of their resources and encouragement. It was only through the kindness of people such as these that the project was successful.
Of signal importance was the chance encounter with Gandalf, the technical wizard. In early 2003 I attended a lecture given by David Walker at the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. The topic focused on the use of computers in historical and genealogical research. I approached David with some of the project's technical difficulties and he agreed to help. The rest is history and the reason that you are now reading this text is due in large part to his expertise as the Technical Director of the project.
By the winter of 2004 I decided that the never-ending story had to end and I selected the arbitrary date of May 15 as "CD-ROM Launch Day". The OOECA formed a committee and an event was planned. Hopefully all went well!
It is often said in genealogical circles that every family has a "keeper
of the records". To that end it has been a privilege to give back
to a community that provided so many wonderful experiences in my youth.
When asked about my roots I always say, with a great sense of pride, that
"I grew up in Ottawa East".
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