OCFA - What it is and how to use it

OCFA - What it is and How to Use it

By Lynda Greve, reproduced with kind permission from Perth County Profiles, Vol 16, No. 3, Aug 1998
Copyright Perth County Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society
Converted to the web by Suzanne Schaller, suzannes@cyberus.ca. I have also added some notes at the bottom with LINKS.

Lately, many Ontario Genealogical Society branches, including Perth County, have been receiving inquiries and requests for information concerning the Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid listings on the Internet. The people are wanting complete family information concerning these listings, and expect to receive this complete data as soon as possible with no effort or expense to themselves.

First, understand what OCFA is in itself. It is a finding aid. The name tells it all. OCFA is a tool, not a resource. A finding aid is intended to point you to the possible primary and secondary resources you might use to find more information about ancestors or others you are seeking. This aid is not intended to replace original research but instead to enhance your possibilities and help you define the area where you need to look for those resources.

Apparently there is dissatisfaction among Internet users because neither OCFA nor the participating OGS branches are providing a great deal of free information. Most branches charge a fee for accessing the information listed on the OCFA. There is a good reason for these charges. The OCFA comes from the indexes of the cemetery transcriptions which have been painstakingly prepared over many years. These transcriptions are usually the main source of revenue for the branches. This revenue helps ensure the continued existence of the branch and allows its members to pursue other research projects to expand the local genealogical resource holdings and allows for in-depth research by individuals, concerned groups and community associations intent on the preservation of local heritage.

The Perth County Branch, OGS, charges a fee of three dollars ($3.00) per page of transcription.1 These are photocopied by the publisher under our copyright and mailed, preferably prepaid, to the correspondent. International Reply Coupons do not constitute payment but only serve to cover postage costs. If the publisher discovers that the person(s) sought is definitely not in our cemeteries, there is generally no charge unless an excessive amount of time went into the search. That is the reason for stressing the full and exact name you seek since many of our cemeteries have a number of individuals with the same names but different spouses or family members. If more than one name is included on the same page, the benefit is yours since we do not charge per name as some branches do. Whatever appears on the page comes at one charge of three dollars ($3.00) [This $3.00 charge applies to Perth County. See below for information on other counties! - Suzanne]

Perhaps to many this seems excessive. However, if you wish to go to these cemeteries, most of which are rural and sometimes difficult to locate and even to get into, then that is your choice. There is a definite satisfaction in standing in front of your ancestor's tombstone and seeing for yourself where he or she rests. For many people this is impractical if not impossible. Then the fee is small. Our volunteer members spend hundreds of hours involved in cemetery transcription. We go at our own expense, on our own time, often many miles to transcribe and double check these tombstones before the endless hours of typing and indexing even begins. It is also not uncommon for the typist to return to the cemetery in order to check again something that does not sound quite right. We want the transcriptions to be as full and accurate as we can make them. Sometimes errors occur for which we apologize and attempt to correct them as they are found. It is painstaking and meticulous work that only a few volunteers are willing to attempt. Due to these hardy souls, our [Perth County's] cemeteries are all transcribed and most indexes for these now appear on OCFA. We welcome inquiries and requests but please remember the cost beforehand and please do not lose patience with us. Many tombstones yield only a year, not a complete date, so further research may be costly. Some stones are a treasure of information. We hope that the names you seek are among those, but be prepared to do some in-depth research after you get your transcription. That is where the real satisfaction lies in genealogy!

Lynda Greve, Publications, Perth County Branch Ontario Genealogical Society

Additional Notes:
1. Every branch's policy on fees is different. However, most are less than five dollars, many are as low as two dollars. If you don't know the cost of a lookup, write to the branch and ask them before you send them the name to be looked up. Or, check the appropriate branch page, if there is one, on the OGS Branches page, or the county information page on the Ontario GenWeb.
When you write to an OGS branch, ask for a publications list. A publications list is a price list of all the transcriptions a branch sells. You may find that the cemetery transcription only costs a few dollars. Many transcriptions are under ten dollars. You won't know the price unless you ask, and who knows, you might have more family in the same cemetery!

Free Lookup Offers for some cemeteries can be found at Canada GenWeb's HelpList and can also be found on some of the county pages of Ontario GenWeb. If we use these free offers, and if more people will volunteer to do lookups in the transcriptions they own, we can take some of the burden off OGS.