The Kinship Scrolls
A phone conversation took place on September 3rd, 2014 between Dr. Christopher Trott, Warden and Vice-Chancellor of St John's College, at the University of Manitoba and Connie Littlefield, researcher for the Amitturmiut Digital Media Project. This conversation was for Dr. Trott to explain the data files he had sent for the project, and also the Kinship Scrolls that he had created on the huge brown paper shopping bags taped together in 1981 when he was doing genealogical research in Igloolik.
You can also listen to the audio of this conversation, which unfortunately has static and is difficult to hear at times, so is best to listen along with the transcript.
Connie Littlefield: Was it in 1981 that you made these kinship scrolls?
Dr. Christopher Trott: I did that research between 1979 and 1981. In the summer of 1981 I put it all together and these are the results. It was four or five years later that I actually bought a computer, and started working on it. So when Jon and Gillian kept asking me “where are the electronic files?”...there are none.
CL: We can get them (kinship scrolls) photographed if we can remove the staples…
Dr. T.: Frankly, you can do whatever you want.
CL: OK, thanks.
Dr. T.: I don’t know that I would ever use those again. But I would be upset
if they were destroyed.
CL: They are a valuable artifact. Tell me what they are?
Dr. T.: I forgot you aren’t an anthropologist, so you don’t know how to read kinship charts… The top part is the ancestors, as far back as I could go… and then some of their children, and so on. Some of the bigger ones get complicated because what I’ve got is the inter-marrying families, so tried to connect them all together. Theoretically, what you should be able to do is take each of them, draw circles around chunks of them, and that would give you the camps; but it wouldn’t quite work out that way.
CL: So how is it organized?
Dr. T.: By family.
CL: By any particular community?
Dr. T.: The data base includes Igloolik, Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet… now for various reasons we get a little bit of Bear River and what is known today as Spence Bay. That’s got to do with the way people moved around. So the core is Igloolik, Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet… and it should cover everybody in that area. There is some variation because you get people who moved into Igloolik from Repulse Bay, stuff like that, so there are a lot of complications in there.
CL: Nobody had a last name?
Dr. T.: This was done before they had last names. It was just after the last names were introduced (1972) and they still didn’t understand them. There are some last names in there, but they are still muddled and unreliable.
CL: If we transferred all the names on the shopping bags, would they match the other files you sent us?
Dr. T: Yes. They match. I took off the E5s, but the numbers will match.
CL: Do you mean the Family 1, 2, 3, 4 charts...?
Dr. T.: No, I’m thinking of the registration distribution list which I still haven’t finished for you, I’m only up to 700 on it. It’s called “E5 registration.” This is actually the key master list. This is the one that you really want, and what everything should be built on… it’s basically the census. There are political difficulties with the E5 numbering system, but for our purposes it’s just a number that we can use, so you can cross-reference by numbers.
CL: So each one of these names are represented on the brown paper?
Dr. T.: Yes, somewhere. So the way I did it is I built the master list, the E5 list, and then I made the cards… files called, ‘Family 1, 2, 3, 4,’ etc. and those are connected together on the scrolls. So that’s the three levels you have. The cards are linked together on the scrolls. The cards are only about two generations deep. I was only able to take the top couple of generations, and connect those together, and that’s what makes the scrolls. Also, what the scrolls try to do is, where there are marriages between families, it tries to connect those together. So where the cards will just show family, the scrolls try to connect them together.
CL: How do you think we can connect these electronic files if we use them as is.
Dr. T.: My thinking is that the Excel list forms a master core. Somehow in all the other pieces, if we could make the numbers searchable, then they could all link together.
CL: That’s the problem, right? So if we just photograph the scrolls, there’s no way to search within them. What we could do is make it localized, so if you can see the scroll and search within it… but there must be some way to index it.
Dr. T.: You could possibly index it by the key people in each generation.
CL: People want to search, they don’t want us to do all the work for them.
Dr. T.: I tried to look at some of the family tree software (ancestry.com, etc.) to see if we could upload the database. I tried for a long time, but we can’t do it… It’s all controlled by the Mormons. The only way is to load all the data fresh into our own family tree software base, which would be a nightmare. And you’ve really got to protect your data so that the Mormons can’t rip it off. What they do is when you become a Mormon, they research your entire family history, and they back-baptize everyone. Theologically, I don’t agree with that, also I don’t like them collecting all that data. So I thought we could create our own family tree software, but of course it’s a licensing problem because they own all that. I think it would be better if we could use that Excel spread sheet and connect that to the scrolls.
CL: Do you know anything about Character Recognition software? We should try that maybe.
Dr. T.: No, but my wife was the archivist for the Anglican church for 20 some years, for the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. She knows all about that stuff. Camp by Date, and Date by Camp files went through character recognition software.
CL: Can I have those?
Dr. T.: Sure, and it worked for the Father Mary files too. Father Mary was the Catholic priest in Igoolik from 1945 to 1992. There were no Roman Catholics in Pond Inlet – well, there were 8. So, there was not much for them to do, so he became an archaeologist. He was a wonderful person. He knew all the people that we’re talking about. Camp by Date, and Date by Camp … I used to have Macintosh database of those. I had those on a 3.5” floppy, and now I can’t find them. I took the genealogy database and it listed where people were born, so I got it to sort according to that, on the unreasonable assumption that the Mother and Father would have met at the same camp where the child was born… then that told me where people were in that year. Then doing it the other way around told me where people were every year.
Once I printed that out and took it with me to work with the elders, and they were actually copying down the information! …because it reminded them of who was there in that particular time. They agreed with it.
CL: These will be so useful! There’s nothing else like it.
Dr. T.: The Anglican church records will have all that stuff. (NB: NOT digitized.)
The E5 document is the census. There’s more to add to that, by the way.
CL: Are there RCMP files?
Dr. T.: I do have data from the RCMP, but I can’t just send it to you. It’s my notes on the RCMP files from 1921 to 1941. What they did every year was a patrol. They were located in Pond Inlet, and they would do a patrol down to Igloolik and up to Arctic Bay. They would record where everybody was, how healthy they were, what the hunting was like, that kind of stuff. But it’s all in my hand notes, so I will have to extract those. I will just tell you that in the olden days, those files were all available at Library and Archives Canada. … you could just go there and tell them what files you wanted and they would bring them down to you. Good luck trying to do that now. Privacy. They’ll take all the names out, which is just useless for us. What’s the point of taking them then? (Laughs)
CL: The Catholic church must have records too, right?
Dr. T.: Yes, they were located in Igloolik… I don’t know what records the Catholic Church would have… Ask at Deschatelets – NDC Archives in Ottawa. (NB: This collection has also not been digitized.)
CL: I think that’s all my questions…
Dr. T.: What you’ll find is when you show these to people, they’ll say “Oh! How come you’re missing so and so?”
CL: That’s why we have to be able to modify the web site … ideally, it would be interactive. Even the geography will change as we go, because different people remember the landscape differently.
Dr. T.: It would be great if we could include short videos made in the camps… and link that in. It wouldn’t have to be complicated. As it is, you could link in Zach Kunuk’s family reunion video.
CL: The more layers, the better. We should even include a video about you making the scrolls… you must have been so young!
Dr. T.: First year of my doctorate. I was 23.
CL: Where did you grow up?
Dr. T.: Winnipeg. Similar climate. I once had two Inuit friends come visit in February and they said they had never been so cold in all their lives. Anyway it was a long time ago, 35 years ago, and pretty much everybody I worked with is dead. The children that I worked with are now grown up and have grandchildren of their own.
CL: How did you get into this line of work?
Dr. T.: I studied with David H. Turner at U of T and he worked with pygmies in Australia. He’s now retired. He developed a theory of aboriginal social organization, and then he took that theory and turned it upside down and looked at it and said good God, that looks like what the Cree are doing in Canada. So he wanted to test his model and see if it worked in Canada. There were about 6 or 7 of us graduate students working with him, and he went down the row with us saying, ‘You’re Cree, You’re Inuit, You’re Iroquois’… The rest is history. My research showed that his theory wasn’t accurate, but it shows how they did (organize socially). He later told me that I was the only graduate student that had the gall to tell him he was wrong. He came up to Pangnirtung about 5 years ago, it was his first time up North. I took him hunting and fishing, and he said to me, ‘how did you learn to do all this stuff?’ I said, ‘you sent me up here to learn this stuff!’ You told us to do whatever the people were doing, and so when they were hunting seals, that’s what I did. He said, ‘Yes, but I never thought you would do it!’ I said, ‘thanks! 25 years later you’re telling me!’ (laughs). Every anthropologist who ever lived has been to Igloolik, so I went to Arctic Bay, because I knew it was connected to Igloolik and Pond Inlet.