Saturday, 18 April 2015

Bye Bye Birmingham But First a Tour of the Back to Backs

Traveling is always such an adventure. And today was no exception.

Last night I was on Canada time and didn't manage to fall asleep until after 3 am. When the alarm went off at 6:15, there was little hesitation in rolling over for another wee kip. When I went down to breakfast at the B&B, there were three others in the dining room, and all of us were in town for the WDYTYA event. The B&B owner offered to schedule me a cab, but one of the other guests offered me a ride into the NEC. We were able to catch various views of the NEC as we circled around, back and forth - even with the assistance of a Sat Nav!

Once inside, I was able to catch Linda Kerr's talk on DNA which had just started. Linda makes the different tests so easy to understand.



Then it was on to Stand #124 to show my Irn Bru nails to Sylvia Valentine. As I was approaching the booth, I came across Chris Halliday. We chatted for about half an hour and managed to set all of the wrongs in the genie world right - in our minds at least! If nothing else, it was a good laugh and a fun start to the day. Chris was ushered away to the Ask the Experts tables and I was off to get a seat to hear Kirsty Gray's talk on The Raw Materials of Industry and Industrial Power. While I have heard the talk before, I was much more engrossed in the mining stories this time, and the appalling conditions that the children were expected to work under.



I think the timing of Kirsty's talk was brilliant. I was fresh from my day at the Birmingham Library where I had viewed the Entrance Books for the Middlemore Children's Home and saw first hand the children who were transferred over, usually in groups of 10 or more, from the various workhouses in Birmingham. Top that with the stories of their working lives and it all leads to a tragic, albeit engrossing, tale.

I popped out of Kirsty's talk once the questions started and headed over to the train station. I was off to Birmingham New Street. After a short walk through a part of town that was not nearly as historic or well preserved as the area enroute to the Library, I was at the National Trust Museum Back to Backs. I had read on the web that the tours were by appointment only. However, I feigned ignorance and pled my case of traveling all the way from Canada....and with nary a negative word, I was in for the next scheduled tour.







Back to Backs were typical homes during the Industrial Revolution. Their main purpose was to provide housing for the ever increasing population as thousands poured into the city to find a job or ply their trade. These houses were not for the poor, they were the main housing system of the time. 

Back to Backs were only one room deep, with the main living/eating area on the main floor, along with a very small pantry, then a bedroom upstairs. There was a house in the front along a street, which shared a wall with a house in behind, facing into a courtyard. In the courtyard were toilets (outdoors of course) and a wash house for laundry. The amenities were shared by all of the people living in the set of Back to Backs. Depending on family size, this might have been 50 or more people in an 8 room complex. 









Having come fresh from Kirsty's talk on Industry and the working conditions of the Industrial revolution, it was quite powerful to then see the housing conditions and lifestyle that the workers returned home to. 






Then it was back to the NEC for a final once-round of the WDYTYA event before calling it a day and heading to the airport for my flight to Edinburgh. 

And what an adventure that was! I had initially decided to check both bags. However, once the first was checked, the airline staff said I could take both the carry on-sized bag and the back pack into the cabin. So, saving myself £40, the decision was made. However, once I got to the gate, I realized I wasn't sure if I was violating any of the security rules with what I had willy nilly tossed in the small case this morning. It didn't take long to find out. 

The case was kept aside and was rummaged through for liquids. GUILTY. Everything was of the right size with the exception of a brand new tube of Voltaren. I almost cried at the thought of it being confiscated. I told the security man that I needed it for arthritis. He asked if I had a prescription for it. No, it is an over the counter medication. And it is 150 mls rather than 100 mls. So much for the "value size" tube. I said, "When you get to my age, Voltaren becomes your moisturiser of choice" So a bargain was struck. He tested to make sure it really contained what the packaging said it did, and we did a trade off of hairspray for my Voltaren. Brilliant! 

I was in the very last row on the plane. The man next to me was incredibly chatty. He had been at the NEC with the two men across the aisle for an optic convention. And the six rows ahead of us were from a dental convention, also at the NEC. One of the men across had an e-cigarette, which he used and the smoke blowing across the back of the plane almost set me to run for the emergency exit. 

As we were approaching Edinburgh, the pilot came on with the usual " we are about to begin our descent.... the anticipated time of arrival is....and the weather in Edinburgh is...." Except it was all in SPANISH! 

We landed safely and were about half way to the gate when the plane stopped and an announcement was made "As is our practice on the last flight every Saturday, we are going to do an engine check. You may hear some loud noise and feel the plane vibrate" EH? An engine check? Surely that would have made more sense before we left Birmingham. Right, can we at least get off first? Nah. After a minute or two of shaking and baking we were on our way further up the tarmac. Only to park, be escorted onto a bus (a 44 seater for 84 passengers) and driven to the terminal. 

The good news is that I am now safely in Edinburgh, having experienced my first WDYTYA event. And as I await the arrival of my tour participants, I have a few hundred certificates to request of a colleague who was "loaned" 2000 credits into his ScotlandsPeople account!









Friday, 17 April 2015

WDYTYA Live Day Two

Given that I am neither a presenter or exhibitor, nor am I part of the Ask the Experts challenge, I'm finding three days of WDYTYA? Live a bit long. There are only so many times one can wander round the stands. And of course, I like to pack as much in as I can when I am in the UK. So, today was a bit of both worlds.

After a wonderful breakfast at the B&B, I headed back to the NEC and sat in on colleague Chris Halliday's talk on Scottish Parish Records. Not parish registers, but ALL of the records that are available for each parish. 

Chris was suitably dressed for the talk, putting the rest of us genies at a bit of shame as we mostly all work from home so our wardrobes are "comfy clothes" 


Chris gave a terrific overview of the records and where to find out what is available (or not available) for each of the over 900 parishes in Scotland. I always love listening to other genealogists talk about Scottish records since they have a different perspective and often share things I don't always think to share. Some great tips and reminders. 

Following the talk, I headed over to the train station and was off to New Street. A short walk through some amazing history and I was at the new Library of Birmingham. 





 







The Archives are on the fourth floor. Normally an appointment is needed but the staff were magnificent and were able to fit me in in fairly short order. 


I was primarily interested in the Middlemore records since my husband's great aunt relinquished all four of her boys to children's homes and they all ended up arriving in Canada as British Home Children. The eldest two were sent to Middlemore. 

The Library has the Entrance Books for all of the children who were admitted. They also have the settlement records and visitor reports for each child. For more recent years (ie post WWI) they also have group photographs and a few miscellaneous records. 


I was pleasantly surprised, as I went through the indices, to find that Middlemore was actually quite progressive and post WWI they also worked to repatriate or rehabilitiate families so that children would not need to leave the home as a first resort. 

As well, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of children who were given over to Middlemore, especially knowing  that this was only one of a number of Children's Homes. Middlemore sent over 6,000 children to Canada. 

There were several points in the Entrance Books where a dozen or more children were admitted together, all having been transferred from one of the local workhouses. 

I did have an interesting find today. It was in the Entrance Book for Middlemore Homes. This is their admission register. The mother of my four Liggins boys was, at the time she relinquished her children, living with a man named William Burks (Berks). Her husband was still alive, was sickly and unable to work. Although not divorced, she was living with this other man and reported him as being "a bad un" who was nasty to her children. Her intention was to leave Burks. This I knew from the records from Barnardos.

Today, I was looking through the Entrance Book. It is a chronological document. I was looking for 1898 which is when the older two boys were sent to Canada by Middlemore.  

I could NOT find them anywhere. I realised later I was looking in the wrong year BUT what I did discover is that 10 years earlier, William Berks had been in Middlemore!! I found him in the entrance book! AND he "was a bad un" even then. His mother was dead. He was hanging around very bad companions and his father had been summonsed before the magistrate 6 or 7 times for the boy's truancy! Small world indeed.

Then it was back to the NEC for the last couple of hours of WDYTYA. Another nice chat with Chris Halliday and finally a meet up with THE Kirsty Gray. We enjoyed a meal and a catch-up chat before making our way down to the other side of the restaurant where several other genies were congregated. 


Our drinks waiter was dressed up for charity. Kirsty thought he might have been a "Cheetah!" 


Thursday, 16 April 2015

To Birmingham

Well the time has finally arrived. This year is a bit different as I have no one traveling with me for the first time in 25 years. Also a bit different because the first stop is not Glasgow, but Birmingham. But to get there, I needed to fly to Belgium and then back track. 

The flight was booked with Jet Airways. Since this was my first time on Jet Airways, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised. A pillow and blanket awaited at my seat. The seat was a tad roomier than what I normally get. AND I could plug my devices in to charge them. 

The meal was an Indian vegetarian meal. Who knew airline food could be so tasty? And all beverages were complimentary. Even the alcoholic ones. 

We arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule at Brussels Airport. No fuss, no muss, no bother. In no time, we were on our way to the transfer gate and through security once again. The ceilings in the airport are decorated with poppies to commemorate Flanders Field. 


The flight from Brussels to Birmingham was interesting. We wandered for ages to get to the gate, only to be ushered onto a bus and driven out to the tarmac to get the plane. A 44 seater. 

Less than an hour after take off, we were landing in Birmingham. Then it was off to the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) to take in the Who Do You Think You Are? Live genealogy fair. 



The Hall is large and airy. Lots of room for wandering and not bumping into others. The morning started out slow but by noon, the crowds began to appear. There are stands from all over England and, of course, the Big Three are here - Ancestry, FamilySearch and Find My Past. 





Sadly, there is almost no presence from Scotland. Some of the genealogists are here, but the only stand on exhibit is ASGRA. 

It was great to run into Linda Kerr. We are Twitter buddies but only get to see each other once a year. It was also great to have a quick blether with Chris Paton. He is manning the Unlock the Cruises stand. 

I enjoyed a latte and a catch up with THE Kirsty Gray​! I'm looking forward to having dinner with her tomorrow night. 

It has been non-stop action for the past 21 hours. Soon it will be time to hit the pillows and try to get caught up on some much needed sleep. But first to get caught up with Chris Halliday and Linda Kerr over a coffee or two. 










Sunday, 29 March 2015

ONLY 7 SPACES LEFT FOR 2016 GENEALOGY RESEARCH TRIP TO SCOTLAND


All of the genealogy tours tend to sell out at least 7 months ahead of the time they start. However, with the increased interest, this time frame is changing drastically. Although we are still 14 months away from the 2016 tour, there are only 7 spaces left.

Once I get back from Scotland, I will start the conference/talk circuit and anticipate that will spots will be filled before mid summer.

If traveling to Scotland to research your family history, by gaining access to records not available online, is something you are interested in, book now before you lose the opportunity.

Year after year, as I take people to Scotland to research their family history, I hear participants tell me, "as soon as I stepped on Scottish soil, I felt like I was home. I knew I belonged."  There is no greater, more humbling experience than traveling to the land of your ancestors. The feelings of belonging and connection are powerful and make a compelling argument for the idea of memory being passed down through our DNA. 

All of this culminates in an irreducible sense of belonging as you walk the streets they walked, see the houses they lived in, the factories they worked in, the churches they worshiped in. These moments provide a deep sense of affinity for your ancestors. A deep appreciation of their battles and struggles. A sense of pride as they overcame in order to carry on. You come to understand not only their story but also your own history. How you came to be.







Your tour fees include:

· pre-tour preparation package
· pre-tour webinars
· 9 nights accommodation
· 9 breakfasts
· protected research time
· onsite overviews and talks
· 3 full days of research at Scotland's People Centre
· Full day of research at the National Library of Scotland
· Full day of research at the NLS Maps Reading Room
· Daily research fees
· Evening at the Scottish Experience Dinner show
· All ground transportation for research
· Time to visit the area where your ancestors lived (additional travel fees not included)
· Opportunity to visit the local family history society where your ancestors lived

For more information, or to book: For more information: www.genealogytoursofscotland.ca


For unanswered questions: genealogytoursofscotland@gmail.com

Monday, 23 March 2015

"I Just Feel So Whole"

Perhaps the best line of the entire Who Do You Think You Are? series was spoken by Angie Harmon as she stood on her family's farm, looking out at the same land her ancestors had owned.

"I just feel so whole" nicely sums up the entire ancestral journey. Year after year, as I take people to Scotland to research their family history, I hear participants tell me, "as soon as I stepped on Scottish soil, I felt like I was home. I knew I belonged."  There is no greater, more humbling experience than traveling to the land of your ancestors. The feelings of belonging and connection are powerful and make a compelling argument for the idea of memory being passed down through our DNA.  

As any family history researcher will tell you, there is great excitement when you find your ancestor in a document. Tangible verification of their existence. And there is a sense of wonder when you see their signature. It is almost as if  you could reach out and touch them. Multiply that by infinity when you walk the streets they walked, see the houses they lived in, the factories they worked in, the churches they worshiped in. These moments provide a deep sense of affinity for your ancestors. A deep appreciation of their battles and struggles. A sense of pride as they overcame in order to carry on.

All of this culminates in an irreducible sense of belonging as you come to understand not only their story but also your own history. How you came to be.

If you are ready to experience your own feelings of being whole, connected, belonging to your Scottish ancestors, join us on our next Genealogy Tour in May 2016. Very limited research spaces remain, so book before you miss out on this life-changing experience.


Saturday, 21 March 2015

T Minus 25

In just over three weeks I will be on my way "home" once again. This time, however, there will be a stop off in Birmingham first to attend Who Do You Think You Are? Live. 

I am looking forward to meeting up with friends and colleagues while there and to learning lots of new things. 

From Birmingham it will be onto Edinburgh to meet up with this year's tour participants. Always such an exciting time for me. Again this year, most of the participants are from the US, with a couple of fellow Canadians in the mix. 

I have my lists compiled. Not so much on what I want to research genealogy-wise, but places to visit and learn more about. Castles, Cemeteries (I'm an avid Taphophile) and historic places. 

I have my days planned well in advance, and as always, will hit the dirt running. This allows me to get the most out of my short time in Scotland and to alleviate jet lag. It is only when I return to Canada that the exhaustion sets in. For days. 

I look forward to sharing my time at WDYTYA Live and in Scotland through daily blogging. 

What I am not looking forward to is the travel. A long ass flight that generally goes poorly. If nothing else, it will provide fodder for the blog roll. 

Stay tuned!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Limited Spaces Remain for 2016 Genealogy Tour to Scotland

Although we are still over a year away, spaces on the 2016 Genealogy Tour to Scotland are filling fast and only limited spaces remain. 

If traveling to Scotland to do family history research is on your bucket list, don't wait to book. 

There is no greater feeling than walking in the footsteps of your ancestors. It will give you such a deep sense of connection to those who have gone before you. 

Create your own Who Do You Think You Are ancestral trip. Your tour fees include:

  • pre-tour preparation package
  • pre-tour webinars
  • 9 nights accommodation 
  • 9 breakfasts  
  • protected research time
  • onsite overviews and talks
  • 3 full days of research at Scotland's People Centre 
  • Full day of research at the National Library of Scotland
  • Full day of research at the NLS Maps Reading Room
  • Daily research fees
  • Evening at the Scottish Experience Dinner show 
  • All ground transportation for research 
  • Time to visit the area where your ancestors lived (additional travel fees not included)
  • Opportunity to visit the local family history society where your ancestors lived
Book your spot on the 2016 spot now at: