Thursday, 6 December 2012

Give the Gift of Heritage

If you are looking for a special gift for your genealogy sleuth this Christmas, why not give them the gift of connecting with their ancestral heritage. Take them to Scotland. Allow them time in the archives to research their roots. Tour their villages, town, graveyards. Learn the history and culture. Create a memory of a lifetime. Help your genealogist search their roots and discover their heritage.
Non-genealogy partners travel for half price.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Genealogy Tours of Scotland Newsletter Now Available

The December issue of the Newsletter is now available.

In this issue:

  • Only 4 spots left for 2013
  • Highlights from 2012
  • Ancestral Tourism - preparing for a genealogy holiday
  • Travels of a Taphophile
  • Part of Edinburgh Castle belongs to Nova Scotia

Genealogy Tours of Scotland Newsletter Dec 2012

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Spaces are booking up quickly. If you are considering joining the 2013 tour, please reserve your spot soon before the spaces are all filled. The next tour will not take place until 2014.

Travel to Scotland, spend time in the archives and get access to records not available online. Days of research will take place at Scotland's People Centre (you can also book time at the National Archives), the Scottish Genealogy Society and the National Library. There will also be the opportunity for you to visit the local genealogy society in the area where your ancestors lived. Daily fees for these research days are included in the tour fees.  

A Sample Itinerary for the tour includes: 

Day 1: The tour begins today. Today is a bank holiday. Banks, post offices and other government buildings will be closed. The afternoon will be free time to enjoy the city, take a city tour, or to rest after the long flight and 5 hour time change.   

Day 2: Following breakfast, we will be taken to Scotland’s People Centre. Here we will enjoy a Family History Event, which is not only an introduction to the facility but a workshop on Scottish Research as well. Coffee and tea will be provided during this event, which will run the entire morning. You are free to research all afternoon.  

Day 3: Following breakfast, we will return to Scotlands People Centre for a full day of research.   

Day 4:  Following breakfast, we will head to the Scottish Genealogy Society. Here, we will take part in a Family History event to learn about moving forward in our Scottish research. 

Day 5:  Following breakfast, we will be taken to the National Library. Here we will be shown a presentation on what the Library has to offer then given a quick tour. You will require a temporary library card in order to research here.  

The weekend is open for anyone wishing to travel or sightsee.   

Day 8: Arrangements can be made for you to attend the genealogy society in the area where your ancestors lived to provide you with the social history details you won't necessarily get elsewhere. If this is at a distance, you might want to also spend the weekend in the area to gain a better sense of who your ancestors were and then attend the local genealogy society on the Monday prior to your return to Edinburgh.   

Day 9:  Following breakfast, we will return to Scotlands People Centre for a full day of research. The evening will be spent at the Taste of Scotland Show.
Day 10: Following breakfast, we will check out of the hotel so you can transfer back to Glasgow airport.  

What better way to truly understand your ancestors than to visit their homeland? Walk where your ancestors walked. Visit the churches they attended. Pay tribute to them at their grave.


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Planning a Genealogy Holiday

Genealogy vacations are on the rise. People are “heading home” in an effort to discover their heritage. This will have a positive impact on the economy of countries such as Scotland where the history and heritage are rich and where the repositories provide priceless treasures of their own.

Traveling to the home of your ancestors takes planning. It is not enough to show up in the village, head to the local pub and start asking questions. You need to do some research ahead of time. 

  • Learn about what repositories are available, what archival materials they hold, who can access them and what is required to access them (do you need a “readers ticket” or special card? Do you need photo i.d? Do you need to provide passport photos so an i.d. card can be created for you?) 
  • Learn the hours that the repositories are open, whether an appointment or booking time is required and whether there are fees involved. 
  • Many archival institutions have their holdings off-site and so it is important that you know this and order ahead so that your time can be well spent and disappointment minimalized.
  • Read up on whether you are allowed to photograph the images, scan the images, download or copy the images.
  • Take your laptop or tablet as well as a USB stick. 
For anyone traveling to an archival repository, the most important part of their research experience is not just the interaction with the archival documents, but their interaction with the Archivists themselves. The Archivists provide the road map to the archives and the records contained within. It is the Archivist who helps the researcher truly understand the information that can be gleaned from the records. The Archivist can put the documents into perspective. The Archivist can help the researcher know where to look next. And it is the Archivist’s enthusiasm and passion for what they do that puts the passion and enthusiasm into the researcher himself. It sparks the learning, and quells the yearning.

Genealogy Tours of Scotland, takes groups to Scotland every spring to research in the repositories in Edinburgh, including the Scotland’s People Centre, the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish Genealogy Society. Arrangements can also be made for you to visit the family history society in your ancestral part of Scotland. More information can be found at

A trip to your ancestral homeland is both awe-inspiring and humbling. It provides you with such a deep seated feeling of reverence knowing you stand in the same place where your ancestors walked. The sights, some of the landmarks and the sounds may have changed, but the deep emotion of knowing your great, great anything once stood in the same spot you are now standing in, or worshipped in the same church you are visiting is incomparable. It helps you put the dates, names and places into perspective. It breathes life into the documents. Take the time to plan your trip and you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

In Search of Your Scottish Ancestors

I have just finished a new book, In Search of Your Scottish Ancestors. Filled with information to assist you in your research, including lots of online resources to search.

Here is the Table of Contents:
  • Starting Your Search                                                             
  • Scottish Marriages                                                          
  • Scottish Naming Pattern                                                     
  • Important Things to Consider                                            
  • Cluster Genealogy  
  • Lord Selkirk Settlers  
  • Online Sources for Selkirk Genealogy  
  • Scottish Clans
  • Connecting With Others  
  • Online Resources  
  • Local Resources  
  • Not Everything is Online  
  • Ancestral Tourism

  • Preparing for a Genealogy Research Trip 

The book sells for $7 (plus shipping) and can be purchased on the website's home page at

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Special Borders Tour for Descendants of the Border Reivers

This is an add-on package to the basic genealogy tour. The Border region of Scotland has a long and tumultuous history. Families known as Border Reivers were notorious for raiding the homes, farms and towns of other families. The battles that the Border Reivers entered into were not in name of country, but in name of family. Names like Armstrong, Robson, Elliot, Graham, Routledge, Dickson, Oliver, Johnston and Nixon were scattered throughout the Border region and were quick to defend their family's honour.

This add-on package allows for three days in the Borders. Although stationed in Melrose, trips will be made to Hawick and the Hawick Heritage Hub (archives),  Kelso, Jedburgh, Langholm, and Canonbie. Tours of the battlefields of Flodden, Solway Moss and Ancrum Moor are also on the itinerary. There will be an opportunity to visit the Borders Family History Society as well.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Special Highland Tour for Descendants of Selkirk Settlers

This is an add-on package to the basic genealogy tour. The Highland Clearances were some of the darkest times in Scottish Highland history. Many families who were burned out of their homes later emigrated to Canada with the assistance of Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk. This add-on package will help you re-visit some of the highland areas that once were home to the Selkirk Settlers.

This 7 night package takes you to Oban (where the ships sailed from), and into Mull (2 nights), Iona and then Skye (2 nights). From Skye we travel to Dornoch (2 nights) with a side trip into the Kildonan Valley. Upon our return, we stay in Glasgow in preparation for the flight back to Canada.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


The 10% discount summer sale ends Friday August 31, 2012 at midnight. Book now to take advantage of this discount.

Groups are eligible for a $100 per person discount.

Want to bring along your non-genealogy-minded partner? You can do so at a 50% discount.

See website for details:

Come with us to Scotland and gain access to records not available online.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Travel Tuesday - A Trip To Scotland to Access Ancestral Records

When I was in Scotland, I was able to access records not available online. I wanted to really focus on the Haddow side of my family - my father's maternal side. I have the Haddows documented back to 1680, and it was the more recent records I was interested in. The ones of my grandmother and her siblings, all of whom have died within the last 60 years. Records as new as 50 years are not available online.

In the course of accessing these records, I decided to have a look one more time at the Old Parish Registers. What a treasure. Certainly, the information in the OPRs is scant by comparison to the Statutory Records, but they are spectacular to see just as a piece of documented history. I love the old penmanship, even though it can sometimes create a challenge when trying to decipher what it actually says.

However, depending on the registrar, the information can be informative. Here is an example:

This is the registration of the baptism of my gt gt gt grandfather, Walter Haddow, who was christened in 1783!

The Parish Register for December 1783 reads:

Haddow: John Haddow & Mary Creighton Westmuir had their 8th child born 22nd, Bapt 28th Named Walter. James & George Creighton Witnesses.

Baby Walter was the last child born to John & Mary. He married Sibby McLachlan on January 8, 1809:

The Parish Register for January 1809 reads: 

Haddow /8/ Walter Haddow Coalier Westmuir & Sibby McLachlan residing in Camlachie.

Different registrar, less information. But when compared to other sources, I am able to know that this is the correct couple. (the #8 was the date in January, not Walter's age!)

A trip to your  ancestral homeland is awe-inspiring. It provides you with such a deep seated feeling of reverence knowing you stand in the same place your ancestors walked. The sights, some of the landmarks and the sounds may have changed. But the deep emotion of knowing your great great anything once stood in the same spot you are now standing in, worshipped in the same church you are visiting is incomparable. It helps you put the dates, names and places into perspective. It breathes life into the documents. And as always, it makes you want to know more.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Tombstone Tuesday -and the Travels of a Taphophile

I spent three weeks in Bonnie Scotland in May. For the first two weeks, I headed up a group of family history researchers. I learned a great deal about my own family history during these two weeks. I was also able to spend a lot of time getting better acquainted with Edinburgh, my favourite city.

As my kids know only too well, I am a bit of a “taphophile”.  A taphophile is someone with a passion for and enjoyment of cemeteries. Taphophilia involves epitaphs, photography, brass rubbing, art, and history of deaths.

A Taphophile describes someone who travels to visit cemeteries for the enjoyment of looking at old and unusual stones. Taphophiles are usually more interested in the historical aspects of cemeteries or graves than they are in the people who are buried within. I took in two cemetery visits while in Scotland. The first at the Necropolis in Glasgow. The Necropolis is the largest and oldest cemetery in Glasgow, covering 37 acres and housing 50,000 corpses. There are 3500 monuments/mausoleums. These include  some of the most ornate structures in Scotland, and are a testament to the early merchants of the city.

 While I would hate to have to transcribe this headstone, I was in awe at the amount of information one could glean from it. The entire obit (or perhaps even eulogy) is contained on this monument!

Over 46,500 people are buried here in the common ground. No headstones, no monument, no testament to their lives. This is where burial records become important research documents.

The Necropolis is, in fact, located in the Merchant City area of Glasgow. These merchants, or “Tobacco Lairds” as they were known were prominent in the trade and shipping industry—shipping sugar, tea and tobacco. Also in this area are the textile industries, warehouses, the largest carpet factory and the local market area know as the Barras.

Glasgow Green, the largest and oldest park in Glasgow also dominates this area. The Green was an open space which was welcome relief to the crowded tenements of the factory workers. Public hangings and public rallies were a large part of life at Glasgow Green.

My second cemetery visit was at Greyfriars Kirkyard, a particular favourite of mine. The graveyard was within a couple of blocks of the hotel.

I became so much more aware of the history of the area in this old part of Edinburgh. That awareness was interesting to me. I love Edinburgh and can’t count how many times I have taken the city tour. But most trips to Edinburgh have been a day here and there or in for a specific purpose and then out again. This time, living in Edinburgh, I was much more aware of the city and of the history of Old Edinburgh—especially the area formerly surrounded by the Flodden Wall. The wall was two fold in purpose. One was as a military defence but the larger purpose of the wall was that it controlled entry to the market through a number of ports. This was particularly important once Edinburgh was granted status as a Royal Burgh, making it entitled to collect taxes on imports and exports. It also was a deterrent to smugglers. The Flodden Wall was built after the battle at Flodden Field. It extends from the Castle, around Grassmarket, through the Kirkyard at Greyfriars, down to the Mound and ends at Princes St Gardens.

My third and final cemetery visit was at the Kirk O' Shotts, where some of my ancestors are buried. Interestingly, they are buried together in the same plot, but the headstone only indicates three people buried there. Thankfully the burial records from Kirk O' Shotts show the others who share the grave.

And, although I didn't get a chance to visit in person, I was able to get photos and MIs of my ancestors who are buried in Mid Calder cemetery, thanks to the publication of the Mid Calder Cemetry by the Scottish Genealogy Society. These photos were particularly moving since a great deal of my research time this trip was spent piecing together the story of Walter, Mary and their children, one of whom is my paternal Grandmother.

©SGS 2012
 Any other (closet) taphophiles out there?

Friday, 10 August 2012

Summer Sale Ends Soon

Last chance to save $260. Summer sale ends soon. Book now to save 10% on Scottish Genealogy Research Trip to Edinburgh. Gain access to records not available online. Book now at

Read about the 2012 research trip on this blog under May posts.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Sharing Treasures with Flip Pal

One of the things I had hoped to do while I was in Scotland was retrieve some old photgraphs. These were not just for me, but for me to share in the family newsletter and with anyone who might be in the photographs or whose family might have been in the photograph. My uncle is reluctant to pass over old photos in case he doesn't get them returned. Knowing that he didn't  have to part with his photos made it far easier for him to share.

Both my eldest aunt and my uncle were ready when I arrived with my Flip Pal. My aunt had a box of old photographs of her family and of her siblings. My uncle had taken out his photo albums and was able to share old photos that way.

One of the joys of the Flip Pal is that I could scan the photos at my aunts, load them into my laptop and then share the photos with my uncle when I went to visit him.

Neither aunt nor uncle have computers but both marvel at what can be done with them. My favourite photo from this part of my trip was the look on my aunty's face when she and my uncle saw, for the first time, a photo that my eldest aunt had of my grandfather.

 And here is the treasured photograph:

 I believe this was taken just prior to my grandfather's marriage to his first wife, Sarah Costello. Sarah died in childbirth with their sixth child.

Stone Masons - True Artists

While I have always enjoyed the old buildings in Scotland, I was particularly taken this trip with the sheer artistry of the stone masons.

Note the detail in the lace of Queen Victoria’s dress on this statue atop the
Doulton Fountain in Glasgow Green

 More of the artistry around the Doulton Fountain - a tribute to the British Commonwealth

 Representing Canada

Street lamp on the Mound in Edinburgh

Forecourt fountain at Holyrood Palace

Knotted rope around window at Wallace Monument

Ceiling of the old Abbey at Holyrood Palace

Jenners Department Store in Edinburgh

Unfortunately with the more common use of cinderblocks, poured or pre-moulded cement or even glass and steel, these artisans have become an extinct breed. However, their legacy lives on in the monuments that they have created. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Interview for Celtic Life

What I Learned On My Research Vacation

Over the 10 days of my research vacation, I amassed huge stack of certificates, MIs and headstone photographs. I have a better sense of the area where my ancestors lived, having driven out to see the villages listed on the documents. Now that I am back home, it was time to start making sense of it all in a way that was tangible, meaningful and in a way that can be shared with future generations.

One area I chose to focus my research was on my paternal grandmother's family of origin. My paternal grandmother has always fascinated me. Perhaps because I never really knew her, having been only a toddler when she passed away. Although I have taken the Haddow line back to 1680, I have a deep yearning to know more about Maggie and her family.

This photograph has been a source of inspiration. Maggie is in the back row, behind her mother - the woman seated on the right. 

When the 1911 census was released, I learned that the little girl in the front, holding the basket, is in fact my aunt. My dad's eldest sister. But what of the other women? Thanks to being onsite at Scotlands People Centre and being able to view documents not yet available online, here's what I have learned:
Two years after their marriage, my paternal great grandmother, Mary (McCabe) Haddow gave birth to a daughter, Jessie. Following the Scottish Naming Pattern, Jessie was named for her maternal grandmother, Janet (Jessie) Lawrie. Baby Jessie was born on December 21st, 1882 at the home of her parents in Mid Calder. 
After she left school, Jessie worked as a postal runner. She later married James Sneddon on September 11, 1908 in Mid Calder. James was from Pumpherston, a nearby village. At the time of their marriage, James was a Shale Miner and Jessie was a postal clerk. James and Jessie had a son, George who was born December 6th 1908. 
The 1911 census is unique in that it asks the length of the marriage (in this case, two years), the number of children born alive, (the 1911 census for James and Jessie states that there were three children born alive) and how many of the couple’s children are still living. The 1911 census for James and Jessie states that only one is living. This would be young George. This sent me looking at death records for infants. I found that James and Jessie had a set of twins, Walter Haddow Sneddon and Agnes Miller Sneddon, who were born prematurely on March 1, 1910. The young babies died 2 hours and thirty-five minutes after they were born. This must have been devastating for the young family.  

On May 31, 1911, Jessie gave birth to another daughter, Mary McCabe Sneddon.

Jessie died at age 72 on May 22nd, 1955. She died at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh (right behind the hotel I was staying at). The cause of death listed on her death registration is Myocardial Infarct (heart attack) that she had suffered five months earlier as well as a pulmonary infarct (a lack of oxygen to the lung resulting in tissue death).

After 47 years of marriage, they are buried together with their infant twins in Mid Calder Cemetery. (photo courtesy Scottish Genealogy Society). Jessie is not in the above photo. I believe this photo was taken just prior to the marriage of my grandparents, and by then Jessie was married with a young family.

As for the other sisters, Walter and Mary’s second daughter was Maggie. Maggie was born 10 August 1888 in Kirknewton, Mid Calder. Maggie is my granny. Her history has been well documented for future generations.

Walter and Mary’s third daughter, Elizabeth Brown Haddow, was born on 24 August, 1890. Elizabeth is seen on the 1891 census, along with her parents and her sisters Jessie and Maggie. Elizabeth married Thomas Porteous Nathaniel on December 2, 1910. Thomas was an engineer (journeyman—meaning he had completed his apprenticeship) from Pumpherston. Elizabeth and Thomas had three children: Dunlop (born 1912), Henry (born 10 March 1916) and Walter Haddow (born 1920). Elizabeth died January 25, 1963 at Bangour Hospital. She was 72. Elizabeth’s cause of death was bronchopneumonia. Her usual residence is listed as 15 Retham Park Pumpherston. The informant of her death (to the registrar) was her son, Henry.

Walter and Mary’s fourth daughter, Mary McCabe Haddow was born 30 March 1893. Mary is seen in the 1901 census along with her older sisters, Jessie, Maggie and Elizabeth as well as with her younger sister, Jeanie. Mary never married. She was known to have had at least one child, daughter Molly (Mary). There is some speculation that she may have had other children as well. Mary died at the age of 70. She was a retired housekeeper at the time of her death. The informant of her death was her daughter, Molly Haddow. Their usual residence was 23 Main St Mid Calder. Molly continued to reside in the home after her mother's death.

Walter and Mary’s fifth daughter, Jeanie McCabe Haddow was born on 18 January, 1899. Jeanie never married. She worked as a canteen manageress (perhaps at the school where Molly also worked). Jeanie died on December 21st 1960 as a result of breast cancer. The doctor noted that the breast cancer had re-occurred after radiotherapy. Jeanie was 61 years of age. She died at home and the informant (to the registrar) was her niece Mary (Molly) Haddow.

The youngest of Walter and Mary’s daughters was Katie Clark Haddow. Katie was born on April 8th 1901. Katie never married. She worked as a domestic. She died on July 31, 1979 of gastric carcinoma at Bangour Hospital. Her usual residence was 23 Main St Mid Calder - the same home as her sister Mary and Mary's daughter Molly.

Walter died at his home on Bank Street in Mid Calder on 24 February 1927 as a result of tuberculosis. He was 64 years of age. The informant of the death is son in law James Sneddon (husband of Jessie). James and Jessie were by this point living at 3 Robertson Ave in Edinburgh. Mary McCabe Haddow died on 19 March, 1945 at her home on Bank Street in Mid Calder. She was 84 and her cause of death was cardiovascular degeneration. The informant of her death was daughter Jeanie. Walter and Mary are buried with their unmarried daughters: Jean, Mary and Kate in Mid Calder cemetery.

(photo courtesy Scottish Genealogy Society)

As a genealogist, I believe in sharing. Not just with other genealogists, but also with family. In order to share what I learned on my research vacation, I prepared and presented this "newsletter" to my paternal cousins so that they may also have the story and so that their descendants will know from whence they came:

Friday, 1 June 2012

Part of Edinburgh Castle Belongs to Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has a long historic link with Scotland, and not only in name. As early as 1624, King James I (King James VI of England) offered a number of baronetcies to his loyal landowners. These land grants were in what is now Nova Scotia. In order to fulfill the qualifications of receiving crown land, the receiver was to stand on his plot of land and declare allegiance to the King. The distance involved called for some creativity and so King James VI & I declared a portion of Edinburgh Castle as “Nova Scotia” so that the potential landowners could stand on this “portion of Nova Scotia” and declare their allegiance without having to travel to the Americas. On the wall, just outside the main gate of the Castle, is this sign:

The sign reads: “Near this spot in 1625 Sir William Alexander of Menstrie Earl of Stirling received sasine or lawful possession of the Royal Province of Nova Scotia by the ancient and symbolic ceremony of delivery of earth and stone from Castlehill by a representative of the King. Here also, the Scottish Baronets of Nova Scotia received sasine of their distant baronies.”
Of course at this time in history, Nova Scotia incorporated parts of southern and eastern Maine as well as lower and western New Brunswick, especially along the Fundy Coast.

So, the next time you are in Edinburgh, be sure to visit the Castle and see Nova Scotia while you are there!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Leaving My Paper Trail For My Descendants

It is interesting to me how I view things differently since I have been smitten by the genealogy obsession. What used to be routine and in some ways mundane has become a legacy for future generations. As I was filling out the landing card on my way to Scotland

and again as I was filling out the Canada Customs card en route to Toronto

I was aware that I was leaving my paper trail for future generations to discover. By filling out required government documents, I am helping my descendants trace my story 100 years from now. While they may not know the purpose of my visit, they will be aware that I went home for a period of time. Will they be thrilled to find the document? To see my own handwriting? Will they wonder what the purpose was? Will they check the documents against others to see if perhaps I had gone home for a wedding or funeral? Certainly, the documents will add pieces to their puzzle, but will they also add more unanswered questions? Will the documents pique curiosity? One can only hope.