Friday 30 September 2016

How I Spent My Summer

Fellow genealogist, writer and blogger, Cheryl Hudson Passey has written a great post on how she spent her summer. At the end of that post, Cheri challenged other genealogy bloggers to share their summer experiences. That got me to thinking. In looking back, it was incredibly busy!

Summer started a bit early for me as I flew to Fort Lauderdale to exhibit at the NGS Conference. I took my kids and we were able to enjoy some tourist time as well. Ten days later, I was off to Scotland. I had a great time touring the north. I drove from Edinburgh to Orkney, taking in the history of Dornoch and Sutherland County along the way. Sutherland was one of the largest areas to be cleared during the Highland Clearances, and the Factor was particularly ruthless in his handling of the evictions. It was hard to comprehend that the enormous desolate spaces in the eastern highlands had once been thriving crofting communities.

Orkney has long been on my bucket list, and it did not disappoint. It was sheer magic. The history, the brochs, the prehistoric villages and chambered tombs cover the landscape. The sea surrounds the islands and the history is not only remembered, it is honoured. The fact that the weather was a comfortable and sunny 16c every day certainly added to the magic as did the 18 hours of daylight every day.

After Orkney, I drove back down to Edinburgh to meet my spring Genealogy Tour Participants. We had an amazing ten days together. The stories were a daily inspiration. Ancestral homes visited, ancestral churches worshipped in, and hundreds of documents uncovered. I am so blessed to be part of these genealogy journeys every tour.

The first week of July, I headed to Kincardine on the shores of Lake Huron to exhibit at the annual Highland Games. There is a rich Scottish history in Kincardine and surrounding areas and they do a fantastic job of honouring their heritage. Two weeks later, I was exhibiting at the Highland Games in Cambridge, Ontario.  This is always a fun day. It is great to hear the stories of others who are in search of their Scottish ancestors.

August saw me at the Highland Games in Fergus, Ontario. This is the largest Scottish festival and clan gathering in Ontario. I remember going to Fergus as a child and going now as an adult helps me to enjoy it from a different perspective. In August I also took part in the annual One World, One Family event near Toronto. Once again I was honoured to be a speaker.

And September has seen the wrap up of my summer shenanigans. I went to the annual conference of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) and then one week later, I was off to Scotland once again to meet up with the fall tour participants. 

This was another amazing journey. While in Scotland, I had the pleasure of attending a talk on the remains of the Scottish soldiers that were uncovered at Durham Cathedral. I also had the chance to take in the Doors Open events in Edinburgh.

It's now back to a routine. Although October promises to be every bit as busy as the summer, I am looking forward to all of the opportunities that present themselves.

What genealogy adventures did YOU have this summer?

Wednesday 28 September 2016

New ScotlandsPeople Website

The long anticipated website switch-over at ScotlandsPeople has finally launched!

Here are the added changes:

  • The look and ease of use
  • You now sign in with your email address rather than a username
  • Credits, while still purchased in bundles of 30 are now £7.50 instead of £7. Given that there has not been an increase in several years, this increase is minimal
  • You no longer need to spend credits to view the indexes. Index returns used to be 25 per page and each page was one credit to view. All returns are now simply in a list and the list is free to view. 
  • Images now cost 6 credits instead of 5. But remember that there is no longer a charge to view the indexes so you are still paying the same, and in some cases, less since you might have needed more than one page of the index previously
  • ALL church records are now included, not just the Established Church of Scotland, so those ancestors you might not have been able to find before may well be online now. 

Here's what has stayed the same:

  • Any unused credits are still available
  • All saved images are still on your account
  • All previous searches are still on your account

Here's what's coming: 

No word as to when but hopefully by year's end or when the new year releases happen, the un-indexed Kirk Session Records will be available online. These can be searched by Kirk and you will need to scroll through to find the entry for your ancestors. Bear in mind, the surnames are in the left margin, so this will make the scrolling a bit easier - if you don't stop to read all of the Kirk "gossip" as you scroll. 

There will, over time, be more un-indexed records coming online, with Maps and Plans following the Kirk Session Records, then other records currently held by the NRS will be added over time. 

These NRS records will be under a subscription basis (the fees as yet to be determined) since they will be more difficult to find, being un-indexed.

Sunday 25 September 2016

A Busy Week of Research

It is amazing how quickly the week passes when the group is immersed in research. We have attended a talk at the Scottish Genealogy Society on the Poor Law Records in East Lothian. We have had two full days at the ScotlandsPeople Centre and two full days at the National Library of Scotland. 

Some of the participants have gone to the Scottish Genealogy Society to do research. Others have gone to local archives, family history societies or libraries in the area where their ancestors lived. 

Most of the participants have gone to visit the streets where their ancestors walked, the churches where their ancestors worshipped and the graveyards where their ancestors are buried. 

We have taken part in historic walking tours of both Greyfriar's Cemetery and of the Old Town of Edinburgh. Many participants have visited the Castle, the National Museum, Edinburgh Cemeteries and the Royal Museum. Others have visited the highlands and islands. We have made connections, gained a deeper understanding of the lives of our ancestors and felt at home in our ancestral homeland of this bonnie, bonnie country. 

We have two full days left. And we plan to pack in as much as we can. 

Edinburgh Museum of Fire

The last complete Victorian Fire Station, the Central Fire Brigade Station at Lauriston Place (Lauriston) which is home to the Museum of Fire. This was also the FIRST fire brigade in Edinburgh. Hundreds of Property Developers have visited the Museum to see how many flats or hotel rooms they can squeeze into the building.

The many requests by Friends of the Museum to the Scottish Government to save Lauriston from the developers, so that it can remain as the home of the Museum of Fire, have been dismissed. Please help to make saving Lauriston from the developers a PRIORITY of the Scottish Government.

Please take the time to ensure that this important piece of Edinburgh's history is preserved. Please lodge, or support, a motion calling on the Scottish Government to halt the sale of the former Central Fire Brigade Station at Lauriston Place, Edinburgh and subsequently develop therein a Scottish National Museum of Fire.

email your concern to and

Doors Open Edinburgh

What a great day it was to be out and about in Edinburgh on Saturday! I started my day visiting the Anatomical Museum at the University of Edinburgh. Sadly this museum is only open one Saturday per month. 

This photo shows the dissection theatre where students can watch dissections taking place. 

The museum has a collection of skulls, including the skulls of Robert Burns and William Burke. Burke's skull was in an area where photography was not allowed. 

The main museum was upstairs and photos were not allowed. It was fascinating to see the collection of death masks and the skeleton of William Burke. He really was a short little man. 

From the University, I headed over to the Museum of Fire. It was wonderful to see the kids taking and interest in the old trucks, speaking to the retired firemen, dressing up and climbing on the displays. 

There is a replica of the close where the Great Fire of Edinburgh started in 1824. The fire destroyed 50 buildings and left 300 people homeless. There is a definite sadness that this jewel of Edinburgh's history is at risk of closing. The museum is the site of Edinburgh's first fire brigade and the history that goes with that should be preserved for the future. Please take the time to sign the petition to save this precious piece of history. 

After the Fire Museum I was off to Leith to visit Trinity House. This is the home for the headquarters of the Incorporation of Masters and Mariners. This started out providing benevolence to poor retired seamen, but was quickly sanctioned by the Queen, who then made it a governing body for qualifying mariners. 

 Trinity House

 Part of the original building 

 The Dolphin was a training ship

 Memorial window pays tribute to those who lost their lives to the sea

Model of the Cutty Sark

 Model of a gun ship

Mail room

After leaving Trinity House I walked to the shore. The plan was to visit Custom House. 

 Dazzle Ship

 Merchant Navy Memorial

Custom House was a disappointment. The advertising for Doors Open was that this was the first time the building was to be open after a generation. However, the gimmick was simply advertising for fundraising for Historic Scotland. There were some market stalls and loads of big airy empty rooms. Absolutely nothing about the history of the building - which might have actually led to people understanding WHY they should donate to save the building. 

After walking my feet to the bone, I enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at Fishers. 

Then it was back to the hotel to sit with my feet up and read through all of the leaflets I had picked up along the way. 

Friday 23 September 2016

Historic Edinburgh Tours

The past two nights have been spent in the wonderful company of Robert from Historic Edinburgh Tours. 

Wednesday night started with a slight drizzle which quickly turned to a downpour. Although it let up after about an hour, it was still a damp night. The tour was an historic tour of Greyfriar's Cemetery and the rainy, gloomy night added atmosphere to the tour. 

Thursday night was the Old Town Tour. Thanks to the onset of fall and the drawing in of the nights, we were able to experience the projector during the tour. The tour provided an up-close and personal tour of Edinburgh's (and indeed, Scotland's) history. Standing in the very place where the events occurred brought the entire drama to life.


As always, Robert was engaging, entertaining and exceptionally knowledgeable. 

Thursday 22 September 2016

Maps Marvelous Maps

Maps anchor us in time and place. Maps show us where we are going. Maps teach us about the world in which we live. 

From a genealogy perspective, maps help us to pinpoint where our ancestors lived. We can get a sense of the terrain as well as how rural or urban the area might have been. We can use maps to track how far our ancestors moved throughout their lives. Often we find that even thought they might have moved several times to get employment, they rarely left a small radius of 5 or 10 miles. 

The National Library of Scotland has over 2.5 million maps in their collections. And they have the best online collection of digital maps bar none. Their collections include estate maps, town plans and maps, military maps, county and country maps. 

Estate maps can show the farms your ancestors lived and worked on. We can see quarries, coal mines, forests, lochs, farm fields and location of the buildings belonging to the estate.

Town plans and maps show us how densely populated the town or village was and often will have labels on the buildings. These labels may determine the type of building, or they may be the name of the building's owner or proprietor. Military maps can show us the early roads leading to the area where your ancestor lived. 

Currently, the National Library of Scotland has an exhibit about Maps. It is a wonderful exhibit. 

Here is a preview:  

1580 map of Scotland (Scotiae tabula) by Abraham Ortelius

 1780 map of the City of Edinburgh by John Ainslie