Thursday, 27 November 2014

Scottish Institute 2015


OCTOBER 18 - 25 2015

Announcing  a specialised learning and researching opportunity in 2015:
The Scottish Institute

This Institute is a small group experience, limited to 15 registrants. The Institute is for Professional and Semi-Professional genealogists who may or may not conduct research for clients with Scottish ancestry.

The week will offer speakers on several topics including:
  • The holdings of the GRO 
  • The holdings of the NAS 
  • Land Records
  • Palaeography
  • National Health archives
  • Highland Records and Resources
  • Maps, newspapers and other resources at the NLS
  • Court records
  • Ancestral tourism
  • Scottish Genealogy Network 

The week culminates with a joint Professional Development Day with members of the Scottish Genealogy Network. This day of workshops will be followed by social networking with our colleagues in Scotland which will provide you with the opportunity to make important connections on the ground in Scotland.

The week is well balanced with 20 hours of learning and 20 hours of research.

More information is available at:

Questions not answered on the website can be directed to me at:

Friday, 24 October 2014

2016 Tour Now Booking

The April 2015 Genealogy Research Trip is Fully Booked. The itinerary is confirmed and can be viewed here:

Dates for the 2016 tour are set. The tour runs from May 30 - June 8. This tour is already starting to fill up. Spaces on these tours is limited to 15 researchers so that you get a better experience and to make the research in the archives more manageable for you.

If traveling to Scotland to conduct family history research is on your bucket list and 2016 is your year, don't wait to book or you may be disappointed.

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
  • Optional evening guided tours of Old Edinburgh and Greyfriars Kirkyard (additional fee)

For more information:

If you have unanswered questions:

Thursday, 23 October 2014

April 2015 Tour Itinerary Now Confirmed

Sunday: This is a day of arrival. We will meet in the restaurant area of the hotel at 6:30 pm for a meet and greet and to talk about the week ahead. There will be an opportunity to sign up for optional walking tours of Edinburgh during the week.

Monday: Following breakfast, we will meet in the hotel lobby as a large group for 8:45. From here we will taxi to ScotlandsPeople Centre where we will enjoy a Family History session followed by research time.  

Tuesday: Following breakfast we will again meet in the lobby of the hotel for 8:45. From here we will taxi to ScotlandsPeople Centre for a full day of research. 

Those who are signed up for the tour of Greyfriars Kirkyard will meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30. From here we will walk over to the Kirk yard gates to meet with the tour organizers. Payment is payable directly to the tour organizers.  

Wednesday: Following breakfast- we will meet in the hotel lobby as a large group at 9:45. From here we will taxi to the maps building of the National Library of Scotland.  

Those who are signed up for the tour of Old Edinburgh will meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30. From here we will walk over to the Greyfriars Kirkyard gates to meet with the tour organizers. Payment is payable directly to the tour organizers.

Thursday: Following breakfast- we will meet in the hotel lobby as a large group at 9:30. From here we will walk over to the National Library of Scotland. You will require a library card. This will take time to process the group. At 10:30, we will enjoy a talk on the resources available at the library followed by a tour of the library. The rest of the day will be available for research. If you require a taxi to get to the NLS, one will be ordered for you.  

Friday: This day is set aside for you to research in the local archives or Family History Society in the region where your ancestors lived. You may also choose to sightsee, shop or take a day trip instead.  

Saturday: Following breakfast, we will meet as a large group in the lobby of the hotel for 6:45. From here we will taxi to Stirling where we will enjoy a full day of learning at the Scottish Association of Family History Societies conference. Those who have made plans to stay overnight in Stirling will be on their own to get to the hotel they have booked. The rest of the group will be taken back to the hotel in Edinburgh.

Sunday: This day is set aside for you to research in the local archives or Family History Society in the region where your ancestors lived. You may also choose to sightsee, shop or take a day trip instead.

Monday: Following breakfast, we will meet in the hotel lobby as a large group for 8:45. From here we will taxi to ScotlandsPeople Centre where we will enjoy our final day of research.  

At 6:20pm, we will meet in the hotel lobby as a large group. From here we will taxi to Prestonfield where we will enjoy the Taste of Scotland Dinner and Show.
Tuesday: today is check-out day. I wish you safe travels as you return home with your newly found documents, stories and most of all, memories.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tombstone Tuesday - David Hume

This tomb belongs to one of the important Scottish Game Changers:  David Hume

David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist known especially for his ph...ilosophical empiricism and scepticism. 

 David Hume's aim was to found the 'Science of Man' - the study of human nature by scientific means. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment.

A statue of Hume stands on the Royal Mile.


His tomb, which is quite grand, is in the Old Calton Cemetery in Edinburgh


Tombstone Tuesday - William Miller - "Wee Willie Winkie"

This monument stands atop a hill in the Glasgow Necropolis.

William Miller is perhaps best known for his children's nursery rhyme:
Wee Willie Winkie rins through the toon,
Up stairs an' doon stairs in his nicht-gown,
Chappin' at the window, crying thru the lock,
"Are the we'ans in their bed, for it's now ten o'clock?"

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Create Your Own Who Do You Think You Are Ancestral Journey

There is no greater feeling than walking in the footsteps of your ancestors. YOU can create your own Who Do You Think You Are journey by joining a Genealogy Tours of Scotland ancestral research trip to Scotland.

Spend time in the archives. Find and read the documents, flesh out the story with land records, maps, newspapers, trade journals and more. Travel to the area of Scotland where YOUR ancestor lived and walk in their footsteps.

Visit their churches, walk the streets they walked, pay homage to them at their gravesite.

All of these things will help you to not only uncover the story and journey of YOUR ancestor, but will help to redefine who YOU are as well.

Give yourself the gift of heritage. Journey to Scotland and find out more about your Scottish ancestor.

Book now at:

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Tombstone Tuesday - Prehistoric Cairns

Just a mile down the road from Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness, Scotland lie a series of pre-historic cairns. Called the Balnuaran of Clava Cairns or simply, the Clava Cairns, these prehistoric structures are still in amazing condition.

It is estimated that these cairns are roughly 4,000 years old - older than the pyrmaids.

The North-East Cairn and South-West Cairn, are well-preserved passage cairns. The cairns are aligned to the mid-winter solstice. These cairns likely only housed one body each. Standing stones surround the cairns as protection.

These standing stones were added much later.

This central cairn is a circle with no opening or passage. It is thought that this was likely a fire ring where ceremonies were held in conjunction with the burials in the two passage cairns.

This kerb cairn was added most recently (3000 years ago) and may have originally provided an outline for a low earth mound or shallow grave.

What amazed me most about the cairns was that they were still relatively in tact, lying in a field, surrounded by farmland. For 4,000 years, they have been seen as sacred ground and so have been given a place of honour, and have been left in solitude. Had they been in North America, they would have been cleared eons ago and a subdivision would now stand in their place. Here's to the Scots for recognizing the importance of these pre-historic structures and for preserving them for future generations to enjoy and honour as well.


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Give Yourself the Gift of Heritage - Join Us For An Ancestral Trip to Scotland

Most of us are at a stage of our lives now where we can focus less on family and work and more on ourselves. To some it has been a long time coming. So, now that time is less of a constraint, why not give yourself the gift of connecting with your ancestral heritage?

Come to Scotland. Take time in the archives. Research your roots. Tour your ancestral

villages, towns, graveyards. Learn the history and culture. Feel more connected, more

rooted. Create a memory of a lifetime. Bring a friend or partner along to share the journey.

Non-genealogy partners travel for half price.


When You Join a Genealogy Tour of Scotland, You Get:


v     Pre-tour webinar on Scottish Genealogy Research

v     Pre-tour webinar on Planning For a Research Trip to Scotland

v     Pre-tour assistance to make the most of your time in Scotland

v     Pre-tour package of information to assist with your research planning

v     9 nights in a centrally located hotel where you will get the sense of living in Scotland

v     Breakfast every day

v     A Family History Talk at ScotlandsPeople Centre

v     A Family History Talk at the National Library of Scotland

v     5 days of dedicated research time where staff are expecting you and are ready to assist

v     Transportation to and from the research facilities

v     Time to visit the area where your ancestor lived in Scotland and assistance to plan this

v     25% discount at Borders Journeys Ancestral Tours

v     Time to research in a local archive, family history society or library

v     The chance to experience a Ceilidh and indulge your Scottish heritage

v     Transportation to and from the Ceilidh

v     Optional historic evening tours in Old Town Edinburgh

v     A great way to connect with your Scottish ancestors

v     Memories to last a lifetime


Why not join a tour to research your roots and discover your heritage?


The April 2015 tour includes registration at the Scottish Association of Family History Societies annual conference to be  held in Stirling.


There is also the opportunity to attend the Who Do  You Think You Are Live event in Birmingham, scheduled for the three days prior to the Genealogy Tour of Scotland.


Spaces are limited! Book now at:

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Is a Genealogy Research Trip to Scotland on YOUR Bucket List?

At Genealogy Tours of Scotland, (, we provide you with protected time at the ScotlandsPeople Centre, the Scottish Genealogy Centre and the National Library of Scotland. These are all based in Edinburgh and while on the tour, you will receive personal assistance from the archivists in each location. 

In addition to the repository visits, time is available to travel to the area of Scotland where your ancestors lived. I provide connections to ancestral tour companies, run by genealogists in Scotland, who will give you a personalised tour of your ancestors home area including graveyards, churches, streets, business and anything else you may wish to see that is still standing. 

If a genealogy research visit to Scotland is on your bucket list, contact me and I can assist you to make the most of your ancestral visit. ( I'm looking forward to sharing your genealogical adventures with you!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Limited Spaces Remain for 2015 Genealogy Research Trip to Scotland

If you wait, it may be too late!

Following a very successful trip to Bruce County, which boasts a rich Scottish history, spaces on the April 2015 Genealogy Research Tour are filling quickly. Only THREE spaces remain for the 2015 tour. 

If traveling to Scotland to conduct family history research, accessing records not available online and visiting the land of your ancestors is on YOUR bucket list, you won't want to miss out on this opportunity. The next scheduled trip will not be until May 2016 and will not include the SAFHS conference. 

Don't wait. Book your space NOW:


Tombstone Tuesday - I Am a Taphophile

I am a Taphophile. Perhaps even at a certifiable level. And as I look back on my life, I'm pretty certain this addiction was passed down from my dad. 

What is 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.

Most Sunday afternoons, my dad and I hiked the woods along the base of the escarpment and always ended up in the  local cemetery. We would walk the rows of headstones and grave markers, take note of newly laid graves or large amounts of flowers that had been laid, usually signalling that a funeral had taken place in recent days. That was the start of a lifelong addiction.  

And I find as my interest in genealogy grows, my addiction deepens. One of my favourite indulgences when I go to Scotland each year is to take in different cemeteries. To some people, these cemeteries are creepy wee places. Full of horror, ghosts and maybe even the odd poltergeist. As I wander around them, I am in awe at the history laying beneath the earth. The names of major players in Scotland's history. Top scholars, fathers of free thinking, inventors, famous physicians, philosophers, poets, authors. Each cemetery is a history book.  

My addiction has expanded. I am not just using the gateway fixes of cemeteries anymore, but now include battlefields, memorials and even pre-historic cairns. The richer the history, the deeper I am hooked.

Any other taphophiles out there?  I have thought of starting a self help group. But how would we meet? In a cemetery? With a pen and scribbler? Cameras at the ready?









Monday, 14 July 2014

Edinburgh Well Heads

At the foot of Castle Esplanade, where it connects to the Royal Mile once sat a reservoir known as Castlehill Reservoir. This reservoir was fed by springs and streams from the Pentland Hills. This reservoir was the source of water supply for the old, walled town. There are a series of well heads along the Royal Mile and one in GrassMarket which once provided drinking and washing up water to the inhabitants of the City.  

These wells were built in the 1685 by Master Mason, Robert Milne. People would gather at the well head to gather their water supply. Because the wellheads provided a place for people to gather, it was a place of gossip and a great place to catch up on all that was new with the other inhabitants - illnesses, relationships, new babies, scandals and indiscretions. 

The water was pulled up from the wells by way of narrow necked buckets known as "stoups" (the bucket would be stouped doon the well to collect the water). These buckets would then be carried back to the tenement for use by the residents.  

During the summer months when the City declared rationing, the wells would only be open from midnight until 3am. Long lines could be expected as the poorer inhabitants gathered to get their share before the water ran out. In the anxiety of not knowing whether water would be available, many scuffled and fights often broke out.  

The City's elite hired others to fetch water for them. These men were knows as "Caddies" who would have a special barrel to collect and carry the water. The barrel would be strapped to their backs to better distribute the weight as they then delivered it to their benefactors.  

Although long decommissioned, with the advent of indoor plumbing, these well heads remain intact and are a visual reminder of the harsher times in which our ancestors lived.

West Bow Well in Grassmarket.

Lawnmarket Well Head on the Royal Mile

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Heading to the Highlands - Games That Is

This weekend is the annual Highland Games and Scottish Festival in Kincardine Ontario. Kincardine has a rich Scottish heritage with many of the first settlers having emigrated from Scotland. Some with the Selkirk Settlers, who later migrated to Bruce County. Some with the Lewis Settlers, Scots emigrants from the Isle of Lewis, who migrated to Bruce County from the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The land along the shores of Huron county are rich and arable and the highland farmers adapted quickly to their new surrounds.

Every Saturday night, there is a Pipe Band Parade in Kincardine. So, if you are within driving distance, why not take a dander up and get your Scottish on. I will be offering a workshop tomorrow afternoon on Scottish Genealogy Research. And will be at a booth on Sunday. So, if you are at the Festival, make sure to come up and say "hello"

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Edinburgh's Witches Well

Just outside the walls of Edinburgh Castle, as you come off the Esplanade and onto the Royal Mile, there is a cast iron wall fountain which commemorates the place where over three hundred women were burned at the stake after accused of witchery.  

In the 1500s, more witch burnings were carried out at Castlehill than anywhere else in the country. The accused suffered brutal torture before being put to death at the stake.  

Often the women were strangled first and then their bodies were burned.  

If your ancestors were accused of witchcraft, here is a link that may be helpful in your Scottish research:


Inchcolm Abbey

Inchcolm Abbey is a well preserved medieval church, dating from 1235 when the church, originally established as a priory by David I became an abbey. The Augustinian canons settled here enjoying both the island’s isolation and its tranquility.

After the Protestant Reformation of 1560 brought monastic life to an end, the island continued to serve in the defence of Edinburgh. Repeatedly attacked by English raiders during the Wars of Scottish Independence, it was fortified during both World Wars. Today there is a visitor centre and the island and the Abbey are open to tourists via boats leaving from Queensferry.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Tombstone Tuesday - Cemetery for Soldier's Dogs Edinburgh Castle

A small garden past the parapets at Edinburgh Castle is the final resting place of the canine companions of the regimental officers. This garden is out of reach for visitors so is serene and well maintained. It can be viewed from above. The cemetery has been in place since the time of Queen Victoria in 1840.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Combine Two Genealogy Events Together in 2015

WDYTYA and Genealogy Tours of Scotland run back to back in 2015

I just wanted to let you know that Who Do You Think You Are Live, the largest family history expo has just made an announcement about changing both the venue and the timing of their show for 2015. Normally held in London in February, the organizers have decided to move the Expo to Birmingham, making it more accessible to the entire country. AND they have changed the dates, so that it actually happens right before our tour begins. The dates for WDYTYA Live are April 16, 17 & 18. Our research tour begins on the 19th.
For those of you who would like to take advantage of both, please note that I am able to include WDYTYA in the 2015 tour as it will require transportation to Birmingham as well as accommodation while there. But you can certainly manage both back to back events and make the most of your time in the UK.
The Expo, which is put on by the Society of Genealogists (England) is a three day event with vendors and genealogists from around the world. Of note, FindMyPast, Ancestry, FamilySearch will all be onsite. There are talks throughout the weekend. The vendors area can be accessed for free. To hear the speakers, a ticket for the full three days runs about £30.
Birmingham is in central England, or what is known as the Midlands. It is about an hour from Manchester if you were to fly there instead of Edinburgh or Glasgow. Flights are available directly to Birmingham from Glasgow, Edinburgh or London via Flybe. WDYTYA has partnered with Virgin trains and is offering a 25% discount to anyone registered for the expo who will be traveling by train to get to it. This is available by advanced purchase only.
Birmingham is an industrial city with a rich history. There is a wonderful living museum there called the Black Country Museum. Birmingham and surrounds were part of what is known as Black Country for the colour of the men were when they came home from their factory jobs, covered in soot or grease from their work. Also in Birmingham is the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. A must see for any chocolate lover - free samples are given out! An hour north of Birmingham is the Royal Doulton Factory and other "pottery" outlets (actually fine china). An hour south is Stratford Upon Avon and the home of William Shakespeare. Twenty minutes to the west is Coventry, which was decimated in the bombings of WWII and which has an incredibly beautiful story in its Cathedral. Coventry is also the home of Lady Godiva, and the Daimler museum. And for the more adventurous, London is two hours south (by train). I have been to all of these places and can attest to how wonderful they are to visit.
Here is the link for WDYTYA 2015. They are currently busy orchestrating a show set for Glasgow in August, so details for 2105 have not yet been sorted out or posted. But you can sign up for a newsletter to stay abreast of the developments.
And to book with Genealogy Tours of Scotland, the link is:

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Tombstone Tuesday - Protecting the Dead

In the early 1800s in Edinburgh, learning to be a surgeon or physician was a difficult task. These were the days long before x-rays, CT scans or MRIs, so the only way to know the internal anatomy of the human body was through dissection.

Permission was granted to the anatomy department of the University of Edinburgh to be allowed to use the bodies of criminals who had been hanged or otherwise executed for the purposes of learning about anatomy. This part of the death sentence was known as "anatomising"

In addition, the homeless who had no one claim their bodies and who then became the property of the Council were also given over to the anatomy department.

However, it was quickly learned that this could be a lucrative business adventure as the Anatomy Dept would pay rather princely sums for a freshly deceased cadaver. This of course gave rise to grave-robbing or body snatching. Late at night, under the guise of darkness, the seedier side of the overcrowded populace of Edinburgh would enter the local graveyards and dig up the newly interred bodies. They would then drag them off to the Anatomy Dept at the University of Edinburgh's Medical School where they would be paid in cash, apparently no questions asked. 

To prevent their loved ones from being disinterred, family members of the poorer of the city's populace would take turns sitting vigil at the graveside of their dearly departed for three to five days, thinking that after this length of time, the bodies would be of no value to the grave-robbers.

The more well-heeled would pay for mortsafes to keep their loved ones safely in the ground. These two are at Greyfriar's Cemetery in Edinburgh's Old Town:

and in some cemeteries, such as St Cuthberts they had guards posted to ward off the resurrectionists. This is the guard tower at St Cuthberts:


I love these old remnants which serve as visual reminders of a very sinister piece of Scottish history.

Monday, 16 June 2014

James Young Simpson

James Young Simpson was an obstetrician in Edinburgh, who in 1838 invented the "Air Tractor" or the vacuum extractor for difficult births to assist in getting the baby out of the birth canal and into the world. Shortly thereafter, he invented the forceps. In 1847, he discovered the anaesthetic properties of cholorform and began offering this to his patients. Another brilliant Scot who made his mark on the world, this time the world of medical science, and in particular, obstetrics! The maternity hospital in Edinburgh bears his name.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Leanach Cottage, Culloden Battlefield


This is the Leanach Cottage on Culloden Battlefield. This is the only building remaining from the time of the battle. It continued to be occupied up until 1912. The cottage did have barns, but they were burned down by government forces when 30 or so Jacobites who had been wounded but not killed were found seeking refuge in the barns. The gov't forces barricaded the men in the barns and set the barns alight, killing the men and razing the barns to the ground.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tombstone Tuesday - Bloody MacKenzie

Tomb of George "Bloody" MacKenzie. MacKenzie was Lord Advocate and member of the Privy Council of Scotland. He was charged with persecution of those opposed to Charles II and as such was notorious for rounding up, imprisoning and or the Covenanters. He threw them in a mock jail on the grounds of Greyfriars Kirkyard. It was open to the elements. The prisoners were routinely beaten, starved and many died of starvation or exposure, all at the say-so of MacKenzie. Due to his nasty treatment of the Covenanter Prisoners, he was given the nick name of "Bloody MacKenzie" In a twist of irony, his mausoleum/tomb is adjacent to the prison he ruled with an iron fist. It is said that his ghost is unsettled at this juxtapostion and so he regularly roams the graveyard as a poltergeist.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Tombstone Tuesday

My annual trips to Scotland to conduct family history research also allow me to tap into my taphophilia. I generally try to pick two or three new (to me) cemeteries to visit and learn about. This year was no exception. I was able to visit four cemeteries:

  • Old Calton in Glasgow aka the Weaver's Cemetery
  • Old Calton in Edinburgh
  • Carlisle Cemetery
  • and my old standby, Greyfriars

I am always amazed at the age of the stones and the history of some of the people interred in each cemetery. Many of them key figures in Scottish history. Of particular interest this year was Carlisle Cemetery in Northern England. A cemetery where some of my Lindsley ancestors are buried. The stones were quite ornate. In many ways, they were reminiscent of the stones in the Glasgow Necropolis.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Cries of Culloden

Today we went to Culloden Battlefield, which is just a few miles from where we are staying.

Our first stop was the Visitor Centre. This allowed us to walk through the timeline leading up to the day of battle. 

We listened to "first hand" accounts and were able to view the battle in surround theatre. Coming out of the theatre, there is a wall covered in the names of those who fell at Culloden. Reading them sent shivers up my spine and caused a heaviness in my chest. 

From the visitor centre, we collected audio guides for our walk through the battlefield. 
Past the English line

Past the memorial stones, commemorating the fallen clans, 

Past the Well of the Dead 

And out to the memorial cairn.

From the cairn, we walked to the Jacobite line. The Jacobites had a serious disadvantage, not just based on exhaustion and disorganization, but based sheerly on terrain. The English were on relatively level fields while the Jacobites were in dense brush, thick Heather and heavy, marshy bogs. They stood little chance when charging forward of getting anywhere but stuck. Sadly this led to the slaughter of hundreds of men in mere minutes. 

The battlefield is well preserved. It is, for the most part, barren, open and still. It is easy to hear the cries of our ancestors as they are carried along the winds blowing across the moors. A truly haunting place to visit. And a memory that will stay with me for a lifetime.