Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Researching HBC Ancestors

On Thursday, September 5th at 1:00 pm, eastern, I will be giving a presentation on researching ancestors that worked for the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) for Genealogy with a Canadian Twist. 

One of the results of men working for HBC was that they took what were known as "Country Wives" and married or coupled with Cree women. The children resulting from these relationships gave rise to the Métis and the presentation will include resources for researching Métis ancestors as well. 

Please join me!

The presentation is FREE  at the time of the live webinar. 

Sunday, 11 August 2019


I am delighted to have been chosen as a speaker for the Virtual Genealogical Association's first Virtual Conference. The conference runs from Nov 1- 3, 2019 and showcases 19 speakers over the three days. 

Registrants will have access to the recordings and handouts for all sessions for 6 months following the conference - watch any time, any place, on any device. Register at ($59 for members, $79 for non-members).

Closed captioning via will be added to recordings of all sessions and will be made available to registrants within 7 days of the live broadcast.

Thursday, 8 August 2019



The Edinburgh tour runs from Sept 13-19, 2020 directly ahead of the Borders Tour.

Fees include:

Pre-tour preparation
Hotel & Breakfast
Three full days of research at ScotlandsPeople Centre (NRS)
Research at Scottish Genealogy Society
Research at National Library of Scotland

As with all empty spaces, this will go on a first come first serve basis.

For more information, or to book your space:

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Damage to Original Records at the National Records of Scotland

Social media was on fire today with the news that precious original documents have been damaged at New Register House thanks largely to indifference. 

The building that houses the National Records of Scotland, ScotlandsPeople Centre and the Court of the Lord Lyon was purpose built to preserve the growing number of government documents. The building of what is now General Register House was an 11 year process, from 1774-1785. That was 234 years ago. 

New Register House was added in 1869 to provide much needed storage for the documents that were being created following Statutory Registration in 1855. While perhaps a more modern addition, it is still a century and a half old. 

Unlike today, in 1869 next to no one in Scotland or elsewhere for that matter cared about genealogical research. Fast forward to 1977 when the western world was gripped by the new "mini series" Roots. That sparked an interest in learning more about our ancestors. The interest in the 21st century, with the easy access to records online and user friendly platforms to assist with building, storing and sharing family trees has grown exponentially. 

In response to this came innovation out of Register House in 2002, with the digitization of vital documents and making them available on the world wide web. More innovation in 2007 when dedicated research space was created for people to come in - literally off the street - to research their Scottish ancestors.

The world wide web soared in growth and more and more digitized records became available online. In response, the NRS changed service providers for their online presence, with a promise to bringing large sets of records online. Records such as Kirk Sessions and Court Records. Despite the records already sitting in virtual volumes, the promise of moving them onto the website has been rife with indecision, lack of follow through, lack of open, honest communication and has, ultimately, resulted in a false promise that has never or perhaps will never become reality. 

It is this same indecision and lack of follow through that led to the disaster last week of records being damaged as a result of recent torrential rain. Rain isn't new for Scotland. However, as the earth warms, the storms pack a bigger punch. Staff at the NRS noticed that the dome in West Register House sprung leaks whenever the rain was more than what Scotland had been accustomed to in 1869. These same staff raised concern. Repeatedly. And yet, like the promise of large record sets coming online, nothing was done. This indifference, indecision and lack of follow through has now resulted in disaster. Ruined documents. 

It's not enough to breathe a sigh of relief that the documents are digitized. They were digitized nearly two decades ago when the technology for digitizing was fairly new. It is not uncommon to find a document that is underexposed, overexposed or otherwise unreadable. When asked, the registrars are incredibly accommodating about returning to the original registers and re-scanning the page (using more modern technology) so that it is more legible. The public has no access to original records if they have been digitized. But the registrars certainly do and their job will be far more difficult as a result of the water damage from the leaky roof that no one took responsibility for fixing. 

The mind boggles that in a building full of archivists and registrars, the safe preservation of original documents hasn't been set as priority one. Five years ago, the NRS undertook an Estates Review and recognized the need for a new venue. 

We need a new purpose built archives for government documents. One with adequate storage so that records can be accessed within an hour rather than within a day or two. A building without leaky roofs. I think of the Highland Archives in Inverness, the Glasgow Women's Library, the National Library of Scotland and the Mitchell Library when it comes to more modern research space and adequate storage. 

While the Highland Archives is a very modern building, the others aren't. It IS possible to have both aesthetics and functionality. But that can't happen with indifference, indecision and lack of follow through. 

Friday, 12 July 2019

In Search of Your Scottish Ancestors: British Institute

I will be teaching the Scottish course at this year's British Institute in Salt Lake City. The Institute allows for an intense week of learning and research. The classroom experience is in the morning followed by an afternoon, early evening of research at the Family History Library.

The course will cover the following topics over the course of the week:

·         Researching Scottish Ancestors – The Basics
·         Breaking Through Brick Walls
·         Online and Offline Resources for Scottish Research
·         Genealogy Resources in Scottish Archives (NRS, Local and University)
·         Genealogy Gems in Scottish Libraries
·         Mapping Your Scottish Ancestors
·         Those Poor Daft Scots – Poor Law and Asylum Records
·         Researching Scottish Occupations
·         Researching Scottish Criminal Ancestors
·         The Highland Clearances – Before and After
·         Settling in America
·         Settling in Canada
·         Hudson's Bay Ancestors and Metis resources
·         British Home Children and Farm Servants
·         Customs, Superstitions and Traditions
·         Preparing for a Genealogy Research Trip to Scotland

For more info on the British Institute:

Friday, 5 July 2019

Speakers Confirmed for Scottish ViC 2020

Saturday January 25th, 2020

Speakers and topics are now confirmed for the Scottish ViC in 2020. Once again, we have a great line-up of speakers and topics.

Presentations will be (in no particular order as yet):

Margaret Fox - archivist Margaret Fox will once again give a presentation. As anyone who has attended a previous ViC knows, Margaret is incredibly knowledgeable and incredibly thorough in her presentation. Her topic will be Wills and Testaments.

Irene O'Brien - archivist Irene O'Brien will talk about the records that can be generated when a person dies. Death registers, Cemetery & Lair records and funeral home records.

Emma Maxwell - genealogist Emma Maxwell will be giving two presentations in 2020. One will be on Asylum records and the other on Prison records.

Aoife O'Connor - Aoife is from Findmypast and will be talking in depth about the British Newspaper Archive. Newspapers are a fabulous way to find the stories of your ancestors lives.

Dr Stephen Mullen -Based at the University of Glasgow, Dr Mullen's work focuses on Scotland and Glasgow's historical connections with the Caribbean and wider Atlantic world in the 18th and 19th centuries. His presentation will focus on the economic and social impact of Caribbean slavery on Glasgow and Scotland.

Christine Woodcock - genealogy educator, Christine Woodcock will give a presentation on the enticements that were offered to Scots which led them to emigrate to Canada. 
Registration opens October 1, 2019

Monday, 24 June 2019

Dolphins, Whales and Icebergs, Oh My!

For eons now, a trip to Alaska has been on my bucket list. And next year, I will get to check that one off! 

Gena Philibert-Ortega is running a genealogy cruise out of Seattle in August 2020 that is a one week trip up the Gulf of Alaska, returning through the Inside Passage. This will take in not just the probability of dolphins, whales and icebergs but also glacial lakes and fjords. Day excursions will help me learn more about the history and heritage of Alaska - the goldrush days and the Indigenous peoples. 

All this shared with fellow genealogy researchers where we will hear talks, share stories and offer advice on our brick walls. 

Ready to join us?

This week there is a sale. Your cabin can be reserved for just $100usd. Book a balcony cabin and you get a free drinks package. Then start counting the days!

Monday, 3 June 2019


There is ONE space left for each of the Edinburgh tours in 2020. Through some shuffling, a space opened up in the May 2020 tour. And there is still one space left for the September 2020 tour.

Each Edinburgh tour is timed to precede one of the regional tours that are being offered in 2020. May is ahead of the Orkney Tour and Sept is ahead of the Scottish Borders Tour.

I have found in the past that people appreciate being able to research in two different places while only needing to fly once.

As always, the spaces will fill on a first come first serve basis.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Just TWO Spaces Left for September 2020 Edinburgh Research Tour

The very popular Edinburgh research tour is almost FULL with just TWO spaces left. This is the second Edinburgh Tour for 2020, and takes place Sept 13-19, 2020, just ahead of the Scottish Borders Tour.
The Edinburgh tour allows research at The ScotlandsPeople Centre, the National Archives, the National Library and the Scottish Genealogy Society. Each of these facilities have records for the whole of Scotland, making Edinburgh the ideal location for researching your Scottish ancestors.
As with all of the Genealogy Tours of Scotland, this tour will fill on a first come first serve basis and then will be closed, ending the opportunity for taking part. 

Monday, 27 May 2019


This is the last opportunity for the Orkney Research Tour May 24 - 31, 2020. 

I have two spaces left for research (non researchers are welcome and do not take away from the research spaces available). However, the hotel is releasing the two remaining rooms TOMORROW so after that I can guarantee neither space nor price.

The Orkney tour includes three full days of research at the Orkney Library, which houses both the Orkney Archives and the Orkney Family History Society. People are also welcome to head along to the Tankerness Museum in Kirkwall where there is a very large photo collection.

In addition to research, there will be two full days of sightseeing. One day on the west side of the mainland where the neolithic sites are located (Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar Standing Stones, the Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe chambered cairn).

And one day on the east side of the mainland which includes the Churchill Barriers and the Italian Chapel.

As always these two remaining spaces will go on a first come, first serve basis.

This tour is a once in a lifetime and will NOT be repeated in future years. 

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Ancestral Tourism Fosters Kinship

One of the lovely by-products of an ancestral tour is the kinship. In almost every single group I have led, two strangers leave as friends, and remain friends long after the tour ends. They share research stories, life stories and support each other in ways I never could have imagined. 

I, too, have been incredibly blessed by kinship. Tour participants return on future tours or return to Scotland on their own and contact me to share their experiences. They have become friends and I never could have imagined how enriched my life has become as a result. 

We are all kin in that we are part of the larger Scottish diaspora. We are kin because we share a hunger to uncover as much as we can about our Scottish ancestors and to embrace our Scottish heritage. And we are kin because we have shared time together in our ancestral homeland. Researching, sightseeing, learning and bonding. 

I truly do have the best job in the world. 

Thursday, 23 May 2019

A Busy Week of Research

It is almost impossible to believe that today was our last day of research together. The weeks seems to have flown by. 

On Monday, the group was divided into two smaller groups for research at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society. Again, each tour participant was paired up with a volunteer to start digging into different strategies for discovering their family history in the West of Scotland area. 

Tuesday was our first full day at the Glasgow City Archives. We were given an overview of the records by Dr Irene O'Brien, senior archivist at the GCA. Then some of the participants went to the registrar to consult the ScotlandsPeople database and the rest of the group had the amazing opportunity to consult original records. What a fantastic experience that is! 

Wednesday saw a return to the Mitchell to once again consult original records at the archives, or to consult the ScotlandsPeople database. Some also went across the corridor to consult the special collections held at the Mitchell. 

On Wednesday evening, we enjoyed dinner together as a group. We walked down to the Buttery where we enjoyed a lovely meal and a nice, relaxed evening. It was a wonderful respite from a very busy week, and a chance for us to enjoy each other's company. 

Today we were back at the Mitchell with most using the ScotlandsPeople database until that department closed, then moving over to the archives. In the evening, we went to listen to a talk about the maps that are held at the Mitchell. We also learned about the changes to Glasgow over the last couple of hundred years as they are shown in the series of maps held by the library. Again, being able to consult original records was a wonderful experience. 

Tomorrow is our last breakfast together, then we are off on separate adventures. Some are heading to Europe or England, some are heading to meet up with family and others are staying to explore more of their ancestral homeland. I will be heading back home. I will be taking new information and new documents with me as well as a better understanding of the world my great grandfather grew up in. I will once again be sharing the news about the richness of the resources available for genealogy research in Scotland.
And while I will be taking back some wonderful memories, I will be forever blessed by the relationships that were developed during our time together as a research group. 

Monday, 20 May 2019

Govan Old Stones

I have been a supporter of the Govan Stones for a number of years now. Last night, there was an open house of sorts including a couple of talks, so we headed over to Govan from the Necropolis. The Govan Old Church is generally open for a couple of hours in the afternoon, so having the opportunity to show the stones to the tour participants was an added bonus. 

Glasgow Necropolis

Yesterday afternoon, the group enjoyed a guided tour of the Glasgow Necropolis. The cemetery was planned and financed by the Merchant's House of Glasgow. Architects David Hamilton and John Bryce designed other parts of the cemetery. 

The Necropolis is to the east of the Cathedral and houses 50,000 bodies. Only about 3500 graves have headstones and there are 32 mausoleums. Architect Alexander Thomson designed many of the tombs.

The Necropolis is a "Who's Who" of Glasgow's elite as well as some of Scotland's elite. Some of the key players in Scottish history have monuments here but are buried elsewhere. 

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Edinburgh Tour 2020 30% THIRD FULL

SEPTEMBER 13-19, 2020

The ever popular Edinburgh research tour is already 30% FULL. This is the second tour that was added for 2020, and takes place Sept 13-19, 2020, just ahead of the Scottish Borders Tour.

The Edinburgh tour allows research in National Records. The ScotlandsPeople Centre, the National Archives, the National Library and the Scottish Genealogy Society all have records for the whole of Scotland, making Edinburgh the ideal location for researching your Scottish ancestors.

As with all of the Genealogy Tours of Scotland, this tour will fill on a first come first serve basis and then will be closed, ending the opportunity for taking part. 

Saturday, 18 May 2019


image courtesy of

How fun and exciting is THIS news? From Mayflower400: 

Mayflower 400 UK have today announced the launch of the Mayflower Self-Guided Tours app, an innovative and informative free app that provides users with easy to follow self-guided tours of the UK towns, cities and villages connected to the Mayflower.

App users will enjoy free, guided walks and driving tours of each of the villages, towns and cities connected to the Mayflower, which include Plymouth, Southampton, Rotherhithe, Dartmouth (Devon), Harwich (Essex), Boston (Lincolnshire), Scooby & Babworth (Nottinghamshire), Austerfield  and Doncaster, Immingham (North East Lincolnshire), Gainsborough (Lincolnshire), Worcestershire and Leiden (Holland).

The app makes use of GPS to notify users of nearby places of interest, allowing visitors to follow in the footsteps of the Mayflower Pilgrims and explore all the stops on the Mayflower trail at their own pace, learning about the history of the Pilgrims journey through England and Holland and their final voyage on the Mayflower.

Charles Hackett, Chief Executive Officer - Mayflower 400 comments: “We've launched the app in the build-up to the Mayflower 400 anniversary year to help visitors get the best possible experience from visiting the sites that tell the stories of the Pilgrims' origins. The app has been designed to take people on a Mayflower journey, telling the stories behind the places the Pilgrims were from and where and why they travelled.

“It will help people to discover iconic places on the Mayflower trail - including the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth and the famous Mayflower Pub on the cobbled streets of London as well as sharing the stories of the Separatists including Brewster, Bradford and Clifton in their home towns and villages. There are excellent tour guides across the Mayflower destinations who can provide personal informative and insightful guided tours that really bring the story to life – the app provides visitors with the opportunity to take a tour in their own time.”

The Mayflower Self-Guided Tours app also offers access to each of the walking guides offline, so that users can take the tours in their own time and in any order. To download the free Mayflower self-guided tours app to your device, visit  

What a fabulous way for a family, couple, individual or small group of friends to enjoy the rich history of the Mayflower story as well as the Mayflower400 events!!

East End Walking Tour

This afternoon, we went to the Glasgow Women's Library for a guided walking tour of the East End of Glasgow. The tour was incredibly informative and rich in history, highlighting the role of women in Glasgow's history. The tour also helped us to put the lives of our Glasgow ancestors into perspective and to help us understand the times in which they were living. 

The external walls of the elevator are decorated with book titles

Domestic school for girls

Drying Green at Glasgow Green where women would
take their washing to dry

Old Central Police Station

Glasgow Tardis

Sir Billy

Learning about the Saracen Head
We ended our tour at the Weaver's Cemetery on Abercrombie Street.  

Martyr's Memorial

The Glasgow Women's Library walking tours are wonderful opportunities to learn more about the women who played important roles in the history of not only Glasgow but also of Scotland. The tours are also a great way to support the work of the library. 

Thank you to our incredible tour guides: 

Mary-Alice, Sue, Kristin and Beverly