Friday 31 August 2012

September Issue of The Celtic Guide is Now Online!

The September issue of the Celtic Guide is now available online. This is a free resource and as with the previous issues, is chock full of great reading about all things Celtic. This month's theme is "Celtic Fringe Lands" and offers the following articles:

  • Diaspora
  • Galicia: Celts in Spain
  • Galicia: Celts in Poland
  • The Other World (Tir na nÓg)
  • La Vie en Breton (Anne of Brittany’s Enduring Legacy & Appeal)
  • Dalriada
  • Henceforth Tales: Buchanan
  • Fairyland
  • The Susquehanna Settlements
  • Lord Selkirk Settlers
  • Do You Belong to a Warrior Clan: The Gallowglass
  • Wales and the Celtic Fringe
  • Pict Land
The Celtic Guide is available for download as a PDF at: 

Happy Reading!

The Thing About Scottish Clans

I’ve had some people contact me recently with questions about researching Scottish Clans and being unable to find their ancestors that way. So, let’s have a wee look at just what a clan is:

From Miriam Webster comes this definition:

1. A traditional social unit in the Scottish Highlands, consisting of a number of families claiming a common ancestor and following the same hereditary chieftain.
2. A division of a tribe tracing descent from a common ancestor.
3. A large group of relatives, friends, or associates.

Well, now I see where the researchers’ confusion comes from. Here is a better definition from BrainyQuote:

A clique; a sect, society, or body of persons; esp., a body of persons united by some common interest or pursuit

Exactly! Clans really are communities, similar to a Kibbutz in Israel or a commune in Haight-Ashbury, or a sorority in University. A group of people who chose to belong to one another. It is a common misconception that every person who bears a clan's name is an actual descendant of the Clan Chief. Clans are simply groups of people who unite together in loyalty to the battle Chieftan.

While Scottish clans can provide those with a common surname a sense of identity, in reality, surnames were fairly irrelevant to the early highlanders and they would switch their names according to their loyalties at the time. This was especially true during times of battle, and battles were a frequent part of the history of Scotland. Most clansmen took the chief's surname as their own to show solidarity, for basic protection, or even for simple survival.

The word clan is derived from 'clann' meaning 'family' in the Scottish Gaelic language. When people take this as a literal translation, they can become disillusioned to  discover they are not able to establish that they are related to the Chief. Or that they are barking along the wrong genealogical line in automatically assuming a blood relationship. Some clansmen were related of course with marriages happening within the clans, but few were actually descended from the Chieftan. DNA will not necessarily show your relationship to the Clan Chief. In any clan, it is the allegiance that is significant, not the relationship.

To further complicate things, most clans are separated into Septs. Smaller subgroups that followed another family's chief. While most chiefs would be perceived as not being pleased with this in terms of it showing disloyalty, in reality, it was more likely that a member of one clan married into another clan, and by doing so, chose to pledge their allegiance to the new clan. Just like a couple where two religions are involved and one converts to the religion of the other. God makes no exception, although the individual churches may. These smaller Septs would then be part of the chief's larger clan. Another example of these smaller Septs might be a family that lived on the land of a powerful Laird and chose to follow him whether they were related or not. This was known as a Bond of Manrent. Bonds of Manrent were what allowed a weaker clan to pledged allegiance to a more powerful clan Chief in return for protection or sustenance. Simply stated, a Manrent was a promise by one person to serve another, to such ends that he “shall be friend to all friends and foe to all foes” of the new Chief.

In more modern times, a Sept is simply a list of surnames of people who are considered to have the “authority” to wear the clan tartan. In reality, you can wear whatever tartan suits your fancy. No permission is required with the exception of the Balmoral tartan, worn only by the Royal family and with the consent of the Queen. Another exception is a tartan that is specifically identified as being the tartan for the Clan Chief. Tartans are not the same as coats of arms in which case, you do need to belong and to show descendancy in order to bear that coat of arms. But that is a separate topic and one not for this blog post.

So, wear your tartan. Wear it proudly and if it gives you a greater sense of belonging to stick with the tartan of your surname, carry on!

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Discovering Your Scottish Roots Talk

For anyone in the Kitchener Ontario area, I will be giving a talk called Discovering Your Scottish Roots at the second annual Kitchener Genealogy Fair, Nov 3 at Kitchener City Hall. This is a FREE event. Lots of other workshops on that day. Learn to search your roots and discover your heritage in the process.
Hope to see some of you there!

Sunday 26 August 2012

Scottish Newspapers

For anyone living in the Guelph area, the University library has a Scottish Collection (the largest outside of Scotland!). One of the little known gems in the library is the newspaper collection. From their spec sheet:

"Runs of older Scottish newspapers are held by the library, many of which are located in Archival and Special Collections. There is a rare file of the Glasgow Argus and the longest run in existence from 1774 to 1814 of the Edinburgh Advertiser, in its day Scotland's most influential newspaper. Periodicals such as the Edinburgh Review, the Scots Magazine and a complete run of the Celtic Magazine are located on the second floor of the library as are microfilm holdings of newspapers such as the Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser from 1777 to 1880 and the Glasgow Herald from 1830 to 1869."

Certainly worth a look.


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.

Friday 24 August 2012

Latest Issue of Family Chronicle Chock Full of Scottish Resources

If you can get your hands on the Oct issue of Family Chronicle Magazine, you won't be disappointed! Two great articles for Scottish research. One by Alan Stewart with lots of online records for searching and one by Amanda Epperson who traces Scots from Columbiana Ohio back to their Highland Farms.

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.

Saturday 18 August 2012

RAF Muster Rolls for 1918 Available from FindMyPast

FindMyPast has added the Royal Air Force Muster Rolls for 1918. Although searchable by name, the men are indexed by air force number. Information available through these Muster Rolls include:

  • Job in the RAF
  • Rank
  • Date and terms of enlistment
  • Rate of pay
The men in these muster rolls originally enlisted with either the Royal Flying Corps or the Royal Naval Air Service. The  RNAS and the RFC merged in the spring of 1918 to form the RAF.

Happy Searching! 

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Ahead of BIFHSGO Conference - Speaker Interviews

Ahead of the BIFHSGO Conference in September (14- 16 at Library and Archives Canada), which this year focuses on Scottish Genealogy, Blogger John Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections, has conducted a series of interviews with the speakers. These interviews provide a great introduction to the speakers and give you a far better flavour of their bio than does a written blurb in a syllabus. To access the interviews, simply click then click on the individual speakers names to hear their interview with John.

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

Search Prison Ship Registers

FindMyPast has added Prison Ship Registers to their searchable databases.
You can search the records at:

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 at:
under May posts.

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.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Boer War Ancestors?

If you have ancestors who fought in the Boer War, both Ancestry and Find My Past have searchable databases.

Ancestry's can be found here:

And FMP's can be found here:

FamilySearch also shared a searchable database of British Concentration Camps from the Boer War. That database can be found here:

Happy Searching!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Scottish Genealogy Conference

The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) is holding their annual conference on the weekend of September 14 - 16 at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington St Ottawa. This year's focus for the conference is Scottish Genealogy with guest speakers Chris Paton and Patricia Whatley. Other speakers include Susan Davis, Lucille Campey, Tony Bandy, Ed Zapletal, Jane Buck, Shirley-Ann Pyefinch and the Don Whiteside Memorial Lecture (friday evening) will be given by Vic Suthren.

The conference hosts a marketplace and offers plenty of opportunities for networking. The fees are $120 for non-members for the entire weekend, or $90 for members.

More information can be found on the BIFHSGO website at

See you in September!

Selkirk Settlers Online Resources

2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the Selkirk Settlers arrival in Manitoba. These Scots were displaced highlanders, who were subjected to the Highland Clearances. Lord Selkirk used his title to gain land in Canada for thousands of these former highlanders. His intial land grants were in southwestern PEI. By 1812, all of the land in PEI and throughout the Hudson's Bay watershed had been granted, and Selkirk moved further west, to the Red River and Assiniboine Valley.

In honour of the 200th anniversary, the Province of Manitoba has planned a number of events. The week of Sept 3 - 9 has been specially designated as Bicentenary Week. Here is the link to the events:

If you have ancestors who were Selkirk Settlers, here are some resources to assist you in your genealogy research:

List of those who were cleared:

List of emigrant ships of those cleared:

More on Lord Selkirk Settlers:
Red River Settlement: Papers In The Canadian Archives Relating To The Pioneers by Public Archives Of Canada, Chester Martin, Thomas Douglas Earl Of 1771-1 Selkirk. Available in downloadable PDF:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Polly:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Dykes:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Oughton:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Spencer:

Hudsons Bay Company Archives:

Mailing List (Rootsweb):

As well, Library and Archives Canada hosts an online database of the Selkirk Settlers. From the LAC website:

"To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Red River Colony (or Selkirk Settlement) in Manitoba, more than 4,000 references to names of settlers found in the Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk fonds have been added to the existing database. Many staff members contributed to the success of this project, and their efforts are much appreciated."

You can search the database at: