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.

Sunday 15 June 2014

New Website: Children's Homes

A new website for those with ancestors who were placed in orphanges, children's homes, industrial or training schools or reformatories. It is run by Peter Higginbotham who has done extensive research in the area.
Here's the link:

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.

Monday 9 June 2014

Genealogy At Kincardine Scottish Festival

For those in or near Huron County, Kincardine Scottish Festival & Highland Games have added genealogy workshops to their events line up. Hope to see you there!

Monday 2 June 2014

Symposium on Scottish Genealogy Research

Friday August 22, 2014


Springhills Suites by Marriott

Vaughan Ontario

James Thomson: Basic Scottish Research

Linda Reid: Using DNA to Confirm or Deny

   Genealogical Relationships

Ruth Blair: Scots-Irish Research

Dr Kevin James: Scottish Emigration

Christine Woodcock: Tracking Scots Emigrant Ancestors

Cost: $35 for OGS members; $45 for Non-members.

Lunch included. 

Registration forms are available at:


For more information, contact: