Saturday 31 December 2011

Start Your Family Tree Week December 26 - January 1

Today's helpful hint on Find My Past   for starting your family tree includes a link to Scotland's People for learning more about old occupations. From there, the list is alphabetized. Click on the letter of the alphabet and it will lead you to a list of the old occupations starting with that letter. Each occupation comes with a description of the job.

Check out jobs such as aqua-vitae maker, litster or wowman.

Happy Searching!

On This Day, I Thee Wed....

Christmas was less of a celebration in Scotland than it was in other places throughout the world, and until 1958, it was not even a holiday from work. The larger celebration was Hogamany, or New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Day was a day off for everyone and as such, you will find that many marriages occurred on December 31, allowing family to gather without the need for early rising to attend work the next day.

98 years ago, on New Year's Eve, 1913, my grandfather, Harry Crawford, married his first wife, Sarah Costello. Harry was just two and a half weeks shy of his 21st birthday. Sarah was 20. Harry and Sarah were married in the Manse of Shotts Kirk, the family’s local church. It was a time of great celebration.

Harry and Sarah had six children together. Sadly, Sarah died of complications in childbirth on July 25, 1924 during the birth of baby Joseph Costello Crawford. Harry was devastated at the loss of his wife. His children, with the exception of baby Joseph, were taken in and raised by his mother, Agnes Crawford. Joseph was taken in by Harry’s maternal aunt. Baby Joseph died on October 17, 1924 at the tender age of 3 months. He died of pneumonia.

Just shy of four years later, Harry re-married and this couple, my grandparents, had another 15 children together.

Dora always considered Sarah’s children as her own and was the grandmother to all of their children. In total, Harry sired 21 children. This is an amazing legacy for any man. Dora mothered 20 children. She loved them, took pride in them and missed them when they weren't around. She was adored, loved and admired in return. Perhaps Harry's greatest legacy to his descendants was the woman he chose to mother them.

Monday 26 December 2011

Start Your Family Tree Week December 26 - January 1

Find My Past has launched Start Your Family Tree Week. It runs from today (December 26) until January 1. Each day, there  are tips to getting your family tree started. For those who are not new to genealogy research, there are also hints about websites to check for documents and other information.

Today the tip is to get as much information as you can and to get it recorded properly. The Find My Past website has free PDF downloads. The first is a Family Tree Chart for recording your family information. The second is an Interview Guide for interviewing family members.  And the final free download is a Quick Guide on how to get started (a hint at what records to check).

Happy Tree Building!

Tuesday 20 December 2011

British Newspaper Archive Now Available on GenesReunited

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the British Newspaper Archive had gone live. This is an ambitious undertaking which will allow access to millions of digitized images of historic newspapers from throughout the UK, including Scotland.

Word comes this morning from GenesReunited that digitized images from the British Newspaper Archives is now available through their site.

In their press release, they state:

"We are very pleased and proud to announce that you can now access the British Newspaper Archive on Genes Reunited. This is unlike any other data set available online, and will give you an insight into what was going on in the world whilst your ancestors were alive. View articles written at the time of key events in history, such as the breaking news of the sinking of the Titanic, or the reports following the grisly murders of Jack the Ripper."

This means that you will now have access to:

  • News Articles
  • Family Notices
  • Letters
  • Obituaries
  • Advertisements
The search is really very user friendly and allows you to narrow your search to a given time period as well as to a given county. The free part of the search allows you to see an unreadable thumbnail of the image as well as a few words so that you will know whether you have the correct item. If you do not have a subscription, the images can be viewed as a pay-per view, but I am unclear how many credits you will be charged.

This is certainly worth a look:

Sunday 11 December 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Traditions

Although Christmas has always been about the birth of the Christ child for me, once I became a mom, I needed a tangible way to have my children know that Christmas wasn't just about Santa and presents. It was about Baby Jesus and all that He gave to us. So, we started a Christmas eve tradition of celebrating Jesus' birthday. When I was teaching Sunday School, this was one of the favourtie days in the Sunday School year. We would start in advent, learning about advent, then starting our way through the Christmas story. On the Sunday before Christmas, we had our birthday party for Jesus, complete with games, balloons and cake. The kids received loot bags and were asked to bring in an unwrapped toy for a child in need. It was always such a fun day and often the kids would bring a friend to enjoy the party with us.

My kids are a bit older now, but the tradition continues with a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas eve. Hopefully this is a tradition that my kids will carry forth with their kids. 

Saturday 10 December 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Personalized Gifts

I remember when I was younger, my elderly aunt would complain about "another china mug" or "another dust collector" when someone gave her a gift, not knowing quite what to get for someone of her age and stage of life.

I started collecting old photos when I started genealogy. I have amassed hundreds, perhaps a thousand family photos. When I saw the joy, the pure unadulterated joy, that the gift of our family history book gave to my aunts and uncles, I knew that from that moment on, if a gift I gave them didn't create tears of joy and memories, it wasn't worth giving.

It was so enriching for them to have a solid, tangible connection to their past. Something they could show off with pride and something to be treasured so that future generations could also enjoy it. At first, I started doing scrapbooks.

I would do small books and personalize them to include the life story and photos of the recipient.

From there, I graduated to personalized calendars. They have been a huge hit and something everyone looks forward to each year. This year, thanks to the MyMemories digital scrapbooking software and my Flip Pal mobile scanner, I have been able to incorporate scrapbooking along with the personalized calendars.

I can't wait for the reactions on Christmas when the calendars are opened and the product is all so new again.

As family historians, we hold the pictures, the documents and the stories. The greatest gifts we can give are to share the stories in meaningful ways with the relatives that are still here with us.

Happy gifting!

Friday 9 December 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Christmas Eve

I miss my mum the most on Christmas eve. For as long as I can remember, we always spent Christmas eve together. Even when we were off at our own events, we would get together after and talk well into the morning. Sometimes my brother would join us, other times not. We would call family out west and wish them a merry Christmas. It was a ritual. After the wee hours turned into near-dawn, we would call family in Scotland and be the first to wish them a merry Christmas.

Once my daughter came along, and then my nephew, and after we got through the magic of hanging the stockings and preparing the cookies, milk and carrots (for Rudolph), mum and I would settle in and watch the Christmas eve mass on tv, and chat into the early morning hours. We still managed the phone calls. (I remember one year, she mis-dialed and talked to someone in Hong Kong!)

Then after mum died, Christmas eve suddenly seemed so empty. The church, the kids routines, were all the same. We started our own ritual of celebrating Jesus' birthday, complete with cake and candles,

but later, when not a creature was stirring, the silence was deafening. And defeating. She really was gone. The long chats and phone calls would never happen again. At least not in the same way. Something so simple suddenly became so painful. I now dread Christmas eve and I can't wait for it to be over. For another year.

First Women's Football Team Was Formed in Scotland

Great piece from the Daily Mail on social  history of women. The article is on the first women's football league. Helen Matthews aka Mrs Graham founded the first women's football team in Britain. Helen was the "goalie" and was from Stirling Scotland.

Thousands flocked to watch the women do "unwomanly" things. Scotland defeated England 3-1. After the second straight defeat, riots erupted (not unlike today!) and the game of Women's Football was banned in Scotland. Not to be put off, Mrs Graham simply moved her team south of the border.

All of the women on the Scotland team were activists for women's rights and won a major campaign for the rights of women to vote just one day after the riots had erupted.

We've come a long way, baby!

Wednesday 7 December 2011

British Military Nurses

I have previously mentioned that FindMyPast has British Army nursing records on its website. The records provide a name, date and the service provided. However, there is another website specifically dedicated to British Military Nurses. There are nurses tales, diaries accounts of nurses in the First World War, the Matron-in-Chief’s account of nursing with the expeditionary force in France and Flanders and numerous other first hand accounts from British Military Nurses.

The website provides a wealth of information on British Military Nurses including a history, civilian nurses, and a list of UK Home Hospitals under Scottish Command. There is also a searchable database of the nurses from the Women’s Scottish Hospital.

The website is well worth a look and provides a wonderful history lesson on British Military Nurses.

Happy Searching!

Tuesday 6 December 2011

West to New England

In 1650, at the Battle of Dunbar, the English defeated the Scots. 10,000 Scots were captured and marched from Durham to Newcastle. They were given very little to eat. This was a true story of “survival of the fittest” with many prisoners dying on the way either from disease, or being killed due to disability or inability to keep up with the crowd.

The Scots who did survive, presented a problem for the English, just due to sheer numbers. It was too expensive to house and feed them, but too dangerous to set them free and perhaps allow an uprising.

One week after the battle, England's governing body, the Council of State, turned the prisoner’s over to Sir Arthur Hasenlrigge to be disposed of as he saw fit.  Several of the prisoners had petitioned to be transported overseas. As such, 150 of the fittest were sent down to London, led aboard the “Unity” and transported off to New Hampshire in America. Several weeks later, another 270 were led aboard the “John & Sara” and set sail for Boston.  

The ship’s list of the John & Sara has been transcribed and can be found at:

Saturday 3 December 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Ornaments

Ornaments have been a big part of Christmas. Many many years ago, my aunt and I started a tradition of gifting each other with a new ornament every year as an adornment on our gifts to one another. We even managed entire sets over time.

Then, as a fundraiser one year, my mum's friend made ceramic ornaments and everyone bought those.

We have had ornaments for every special occasion

First Christmas Together
New Home

Baby's First Christmas for each of the kids
Even celebrations of the cats and their first Christmas with us

I have always had a pet. I am a dog person, but my husband, not so much. So we have cats. They don't know they are cats because they have been raised like dogs - loving, loyal and attention seeking. Since the cats came along, we haven't had tinsel on the tree so as not to create an unnecessary emergency when the cats chewed the tinsel. But we do want the cats to be part of our tree,

so we always make sure we leave ornaments on the low branches that are safe enough for them to take off.

They haven't really stuck to that rule, however, and every year, we wake up to find an ornament from the upper branches laying on the floor.

When my mum passed away, I inherited her ornaments. They now adorn our tree every year. And the memories along with them.

Of course, we have all of the standard home made ornaments that the kids have made and that we have treasured. Our tree will never make it into a designer magazine. But it tells a story every year and speaks volumes about the special memories of a very special time of year.

Merry Christmas!

Friday 2 December 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Holiday Foods

For as long as I can remember, we had dumplin for dessert. Smothered in custard. It was always the highlight of the dinner. And no matter who was hosting the family, my aunt always brought the dumplin.

 I love this photo of my wee gran. She loved spending Christmas in Canada.

There has been lots of chatter lately on our family facebook group page about dumplin. One of my cousins asked for the recipe and the memories started to get shared. It’s a tradition that has been lost over time. And I can guarantee my kids wouldn’t thank me for even trying to make one.

A few years later, my mum’s shortbread became a holiday tradition. She spent hours and hours blending the ingredients and kneading the dough. She came one year to teach me how to make it and was stunned when I took out the pastry cutter to make it easier to cut the butter into the other ingredients. It saved hours! In the end, the result was every bit as good as mum’s and even my uncle gave his seal of approval (and no, thank you, I had no interest in carrying on his tradition of tablet. The thought of it makes my teeth ache). My mum said that whenever she died, she could die knowing that the shortbread would live on as a tradition.

After shortbread, she added in mincemeat tarts. Double crusted and dusted in icing sugar. To die for. Especially warm from the oven and accompanied by a tall glass of eggnog.

My son has been diligent in learning the shortbread recipe. Something I can be assured his children will also learn. My daughter has started adding in her own holiday baking. And we can’t seem to manage the wait for December before we are asking for it!

In some cultures food is akin to love. In ours it is a matter of a love of food!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday 1 December 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories -Tree Troubles

We love a real tree. In our life before kids (hard as that is to remember), we had an open house every year just before Christmas and part of the tradition for at least 8 years was for the tree to fall over near the end of the open house (most people took that as their signal to leave whether they had been ready to leave 5 minutes earlier or not). The only year that the falling tree wasn’t the highlight of the open house was the year our advent wreath caught fire!

When Heather was born, we dragged her along in her sleigh. We did the same with Christopher for his first Christmas. Then, in 2001, we had an extension built onto the house. We decided that rather than risk 5 gallons of water all over the new carpet when the tree went for a toss, we would invest in an artificial tree. So for seven years, we built our tree. Doug took no chances and tied the tree up anyway. Not such a bad idea once we added cats into our household. Two years ago, we decided to once again venture out and get a real tree. Christopher had missed out on that part of our annual Christmas preparations. So off we went.

It was an all day event. We finally had the tree up and ready to decorate about 3:00. We left the kids to it. It looked terrific. A few burned out lights, but otherwise a great tree. After supper, Doug was commenting on how great the tree was. I said "yes, but it seems to be at a 45 degree tilt" The kids overheard and started fussing about getting it fixed. I told them dad would get to it in a minute, "after all it is not about to fall down in the next five minutes, I promise you" No sooner were the words out of my mouth than I heard Doug yell, "it's over..........get towels........" Seems that our luck with real trees is back (and yes, it was tied up.......took the nails right out of the wall when it went for a toss). We did manage to break a record though. Shortest time ever before the tree tipped. Usually it lasted a week.

Last year, we managed to cut down a tree that had two trunks! (What the heck?)

While we didn’t have the falling over problem, we were hit with a different plague. It dried out and every day, more and more needles would rain onto the floor. By Christmas morning, we were down to a few barren twigs…….making it the shortest time our tree has been up past the opening of the presents. About an hour to be exact!

Wonder what memories (or near nightmares) this year’s tree will hold!?!

Merry Christmas!