Monday 31 October 2016

Family History Month - Using Magazines for Genealogy Research

Most of us who are researching our ancestors are aware of the value of using newspapers for our research and how they assist us in understanding the social history of our ancestors. But few of us are aware of the value of using magazines for genealogy research.

The National Library of Scotland is a national deposit library. As such, they receive copies of everything published in Scotland. That includes magazines. These magazines might be from your ancestor's place of employment, their social club or organization, their trade guild, their church, their regiment or their athletic club. 

Magazines like these often include:

  • obituaries
  • promotions
  • recognition for achievements
  • club celebrations
  • board of directors
  • election results 

and perhaps best of all: PHOTOGRAPHS! 

The thousands of magazines available at the NLS are only available in-house but they are well worth looking through. You just never know what you might discover about your Scottish ancestor.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Family History Month - LAC Resources for Scottish Immigrant Ancestors

For those who have ancestors that left Scotland and emigrated to, or passed through, Canada, there are some resources available through Library and Archives Canada. These resources include: 

  • Glasgow Juvenile Delinquency Board - Girls Industrial School, Glasgow, RG 76, volume 119, file 22468, microfilm C-4782. File includes a list of children sent to Saint John, New Brunswick, between 1895 and 1906.
  • Fifteen Parish trainees from Glasgow allocated to Toronto, 1927, Glasgow Training Scheme. RG 76, volume 323, file 310968, microfilm C-10236.
  • Alexander McOwen, Virden, Manitoba - Special immigration agent to Scotland, 1904-1906, RG 76, volume 337, file 350610, microfilm C-10247. File includes list of names.
  • Mackay Brothers, booking agent lists, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1915-1922. RG 76, volume 362, file 453045, microfilm C-10264.
  • Mackay Brothers & Company, booking agent lists, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1910-1921. RG76, volume 564, file 809010, microfilm C-10644.
  • Group of 27 labourers sent from from Leith, Scotland, 1906. RG 76, volume 367, file 484243, microfilm C-10268.
  • Party from Stornoway sent out by the Queen Alexandra's Unemployed Fund, 1906. RG 76, volume 377, file 522409, microfilm C-10275.
  • J. Bruce Walker, Commissioner of Immigration, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Letters from successful "Scotch" ploughmen, 1908-1911. RG 76, volume 548, file 805711, microfilm C-10633.
  • H.W.J. Paton, Aberdeen, Scotland, booking agent, farm hands and domestics, lists, 1908-1921. RG 76, volume 538, file 803839, microfilm C-10627.
  • Alexander Wyllie, Glasgow, Scotland. Bonus claims, lists, 1907-1909. RG 76, volume 415, file 601089, microfilm C-10302.
  • D. Cumming, Glasgow, Scotland. Bonus claims, lists, 1907-1915, 1918. RG 76, volume 426, file 629453, microfilm C-10309.
  • D. McFarlane, Glasgow, Scotland. Booking agent, lists, 1907-1923. RG 76, volume 435, file 652806, microfilm C-10315.

Unfortunately these records are all on microfilm and must be ordered via LAC. Fees are $.40 per photocopied page. They can email the pages to you or send them via regular post. 

To order:

Saturday 29 October 2016

Family History Month - Recalling Memories

In a recent conversation, the question was asked: 

What were the sleeping arrangements like when you were growing up?

My father was one of eight siblings. They lived in a two bedroom miner's row house. Four girls were in one room, four boys in the other. Beds were shared.

My mother was one of 20. And while they were not all home at the same time, her and her siblings talk of sleeping "head to toe" One person slept north/south on the bed and their bed-mate slept south/north. Some slept across the bed as that gave more room. They often slept three or four to a bed. 

In both instances, there would often be times when kids who were not siblings joined in on and bunked down wherever they landed. 

My granny used to love coming to Canada for her holidays. Three weeks, six weeks, three months, six months. She always started out at my aunt's house up the street, but within a few days, was at my mother's doorstep, bags in hand. I honestly can't recall where I ended up sleeping while Gran was visiting, I just know that when she was staying with us, my room became hers. It was never stated, it was understood. 

I recall, too, spending a week at our neighbour's cottage. There were three families sharing a three bedroom cottage. My mum, my aunt's family and my uncle's family. The adults all had bedrooms. The rest of us (about 10 kids) slept on floors, sofas and cots in the living-room or kitchen. Sleep was fairly elusive as my mum and her brother spent the night calling out to one another and sharing stories, memories and jokes. But the memories are of laughter, love and spending the night wherever we could find a flat surface. 

What were the sleeping arrangements like when YOU were growing up? 

Friday 28 October 2016

Family History Month - Evoking Memories

There is a Chinese proverb that states, "A family with an old person in it has a nugget of gold". That is especially true for anyone researching their family history. As any beginning genealogist knows, our older relatives have a wealth of family history to share. It is vital to tap into this resource and knowing how to get the information is the key to unlocking this treasure trove of your family's history.

One of the best ways to evoke a memory is through photographs. The visual sparks a recollection of the event, the people, the joy, the laughter, the surrounding details. If you can spend time with an older relative going through old photographs you will unleash a torrent of memories. The opportunity will allow you to identify those in the photo, the reason the photo was taken and sometimes tidbits of information about some of the characters in the photo. One of the lovely things about the elderly is that their filters relax as they age. Things that were once taboo to speak of with others may now get shared quite freely ("she was always such a tart, you know")

As you are spending time with family over the holidays, at reunions, family celebrations, take advantage of the opportunity to sit and speak with the elderly relatives. If photographs aren't available ask questions that will evoke memories for them. If you are at a wedding or christening, ask about weddings or christenings of long ago. 

Thursday 27 October 2016

Just TWO Spaces Left for Highland Research and History Tour!

There are just 2 spaces left for the Highlands Research and History Tour in April 2017. This is a unique opportunity to get to know the history that your Highland ancestors were confronted with and to gain a deeper understanding of what led them to leave their homeland.

This tour allows for four full days of research (Inverness, Fort William and Skye) as well as touring the area in Sutherland where the most brutal of the Clearances took place, the Culloden Battlefield (and taking in the memorial service) and visiting Glenfinnan Monument where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his Standard. The tour ends in Glasgow where we will attend the annual conference of the Scottish Association of Family History Societies. Many of the Family History Societies will be in the marketplace, giving you easy access to their expertise and their resources. 

Ahead of the tour, you will get pre-tour preparation including webinars and regular emails to keep you on track for your time in Scotland.

If you have Highland ancestors, consider joining us for this unique opportunity to research in the area where your ancestors lived. But don't wait too long or you might miss out.

Family History Month - KPL Genealogy Fair

On Saturday, November 5th, I will be speaking at the Kitchener Public Library's Genealogy Fair. This is one of my favourite Genealogy events. A full day of speakers, a marketplace and it's all available for FREE!

This year's Keynote speaker is Jen Baldwin of FindMyPast. Jen will be speaking about engaging the Next Generation in genealogy and helping to spark the interest in people of all ages who share a passion for genealogy research. 

Check out the rest of the program:

Hope to see you in Kitchener!

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Family History Month - RootsTech

Once again I have been chosen to be an ambassador for RootsTech. However, at RootsTech 2017, I will also be a speaker and an exhibitor.

RootsTech is an incredible experience and can be a bit overwhelming. But it is definitely worth attending. The air is electric. The exhibit hall is huge and the talks are endless. But the best part about RootsTech are the connections that you make. With other researchers, with vendors, with speakers. Those last long after the week is over. 

Plan to attend in RootsTech in 2017. Plan to spend extra time in Salt Lake City so you can do research in the Family History Library. Wander through Temple Square. Drink in every aspect of the week in SLC. 

One of the Keynote speakers will be LeVar Burton! That alone is worth the trip!

The Featured speakers for Family Discovery Day are Kalani Sitake, Hank Smith and Vai Sikahema. Family Discovery Day is a FREE day for families to come and learn about the importance of researching family history and documenting the stories of our ancestors. 

Check out the rest of the program!

Hope to see you in SLC!

*disclosure: As a RootsTech Ambassador, I receive free admission to the conference in exchange for sharing my experience on social media. 

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Family History Month - Telling the Stories

Having just come back from the Great Canadian Genealogy Summit, I was once again reminded of how important it is to tell the stories of our ancestors. Jennifer DeBruin gave a moving and inspirational opening plenary where she shared the stories she has written about her ancestors and how she has become more intimately connected to them and their plight as a result. Then, Lynn Palermo gave us the "how-to" of putting the stories together. 

Both ladies were clear that we need to choose one ancestor and start with their story. It becomes too easy to become overwhelmed and the best way to start is to narrow yourself down to one person. One who has really spoken to you. No doubt you know their story inside and out and would be only too happy to share it at any genealogy or family gathering. 

Don't fret over writing. This story is a personal journey and one that you are likely only to be sharing with family and other descendants of the person you are writing about. If you can come into a genealogy meeting and tell me the story, you can write it! It's that simple. Take pen to paper and write as if you were telling me the story. 

Glasgow Tour SOLD OUT Once Again!

The last minute opening didn't last long! The space is once again filled. 

However, there are still spaces available in both the Highland Research and History Tour

and the Edinburgh Tour

Would love to have you join me in your ancestral homeland!

Space Has Opened Up for the Glasgow Research Tour!


  • ·        8 nights at the Glasgow Marriott and 8 full breakfasts
  • ·        The Scottish Association of Family History Societies Conference in Fife (registration, transportation to and from Fife and lunch)
  • ·        Guided tour of the Glasgow Necropolis
  • ·        Three days of research at the Mitchell Library which houses the Glasgow Archives. They also have access to the same database that is available at the ScotlandsPeople Centre minus the Kirk Session records
  • ·        One day of research at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society
  • ·        One day of research at the University of Glasgow Archives, which house all of the business archives for Scotland. They also house the NHS records for the Glasgow/Lanarkshire area and the records of the Friendly Assurance Society, an early insurance company.


Monday 24 October 2016

Family History Month - Using Poor Law Records Webinar

Using Poor Law Records for Scottish Genealogy Webinar
Mon, Dec 5, 2016 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM EST

Poor relief in Scotland required a process of application and given that specific criteria needed to be met, not everyone who applied actually received poor relief. However, the applications are an absolute treasure trove of genealogical information and can give a fantastic "peek" into the lives of y our ancestors.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Family History Month - Working to Preserve History

There is a big crowd-sourcing project underway to assist with preserving the names of local towns, villages, estates, farms and streets of 1900 Scotland. And best of all, it is incredibly easy to use. Here's a walk through:

Warning: this project can be highly addictive!

Click on:

Click "Login"

Scroll down the page and click on "Sign Up"

Fill in your email address, create a password, fill in your name and you are ready to go. 

Return to the home page

Read through the tutorial. It is not lengthy and is really easy to follow. 

Return to the home page. Scroll to the bottom and enter the area of Scotland where your ancestors lived. Even if they didn't live there in 1900. 

Wait for the map to load

Zoom in

Click transcribe at the top of the page. 

Click on any word on the map. Then in the pop up box, type the word that is visible on the map. The transcription program is case sensitive, so pay attention. Then click "done" You will see a brown location balloon appear.

If you see a green location balloon on the map, it means someone has already transcribed the word and that transcription needs verification. If you click on that green balloon and then type in what you see, the program will check to ensure your typing matches the other person's typing, and the green balloon will then turn purple. 

Purple balloons mean that the word on the map has been transcribed AND verified. The transcription is complete. 

If your area is all completed, find a new area to transcribe. 

Well, what are you waiting for? Enjoy your new black hole of genealogy fun!

Saturday 22 October 2016

Help with Old Handwriting

Old handwriting can be difficult to read (although studies show that those of us who spend hours pouring over old documents trying to decipher what has been written are better at memory retention than those who don't). Penmanship was only available to the educated - clergy or teachers, usually. And in those days, uniformity was more important than legibility. Don't despair. Here are a couple of websites to assist with "cracking the code" on Scottish Handwriting.

Friday 21 October 2016

Family History Month - Selkirk Settlers

In July 1803, three ships, the Dykes, the Polly, and the Oughton sailed to Canada with eight hundred former highland crofters and headed to Prince Edward Island. The Polly arrived in the harbourof Orwell Bay, Prince Edward Island on Sunday, August 7th, 1803, carrying 250 adults and 150 children. Most of these passengers were from Skye. The Dykes, which also brought Lord Selkirk, arrived in Charlottetown two days after the Polly. Most of the passengers on the Polly were from Mull. The Oughton arrived on August 27th, 1803, carrying another 40 or 50 passengers, this time from Uist.

The land given to these new settlers consisted primarily of evergreen forest. Each family was given between 50 and 150 acres for a nominal fee. The lots were laid out so that four or five families were grouped together. The new immigrants quickly cleared their lands, built their houses, and settled into their new lives. Being able to working the land once again became somewhat of a tonic for them. They were a self sufficient community within a year of the first settlers arriving. Later generations moved to the Bruce Countyarea of Ontario, setting up communities along the Saugeen Rivernear Paisley as well as along the coast of Lake Huron from Southamptonto Kincardine.  Yet others moved to Assiniboia, Saskatchewanand founded settlements in that area.

Having used his land on the southwest shoreof PEI for the initial settlers, Selkirk was eager to continue to pursue his original desire to find land in Upper Canada. He was eventually able to purchase land in Southern Ontario, near the junction of Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, in what is now Wallaceburg.

Selkirk was able to purchase 116,000 square miles in the Red River Valleyand along the Assiniboine River in Manitobaand what is now Northern Dakota – an area five times the size of the whole of Scotland. Selkirk purchased this land at a cost of 10/s ($26.50 in today’s currency).

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

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Polly:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Dykes:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Oughton:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Spencer:

Thursday 20 October 2016

Family History Month - Scottish Highland Soldiers

As North America was still forming, Highland men were specifically recruited to assist with keeping the new settlements safe.

The first such recruitment in 1734 was a group of Highlanders from Inverness and surrounding areas who were recruited by General James Edward Oglethorpe to protect the settlement of Savannah, Georgia. They traveled on the Prince of Wales and the passenger list has been transcribed by the Immigrant Ship's Transcription Guild. The list is available at:

From 1775-1784, 2000 Scots highlanders were recruited to the 84th Regiment of Foot  which defended the lands in the 13 colonies and then fought on the side of the British government in the American Revolutionary War. These men had military experience in the Seven Years War. The 84th Regiment of Foot was divided into two companies. The muster and pay lists for both companies can be found here:

After the Revolutionary War, the 84th Regiment of Foot disbanded and the men settled in Nova Scotia as United Empire Loyalists. They were given land grants of between 100 acres (for privates) and 500 acres (for Officers).  To search the indexes for these early land grants, consult:

Brick Wall Busters for Scottish Genealogy Research
Mon, Nov 7, 2016 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM EST

Scottish documents contain a wealth of information and can make researching so much easier when you really take a look at what the documents are telling you. It becomes important to really pay attention to the key words on the documents so that you know what records you need to look at next in order to break through brick walls and learn as much as you can about your Scottish ancestors.

Wednesday 19 October 2016


GUELPH ONTARIO -  Clans and Scottish Societies of Canada (CASSOC) is pleased to announce that they will be hosting the Scottish North American Leadership Conference in 2017 to commemorate the 150th birthday of both Canada and Ontario.

The Conference will be held August 10—12, 2017 at the University of Guelph and will tie into the Fergus Scottish Festival,  one of the largest and oldest Scottish Festivals in Canada.

This three-day event in Ontario will celebrate the long history and rich heritage of the Scots who shaped the fabric of our great nations.

The goal of this celebratory event will be to bring together the Scottish Diaspora to jointly explore the nature of Scottish History and Heritage in North America, to
examine the value of the diverse contributions of these groups, and to develop ways to pass this rich history, culture, and these traditions onto our youth.

The event is open to all persons with an interest in Scottish heritage, history or
culture regardless of age, gender or ability.

We look forward to having you join us in Ontario in 2017!

Family History Month - The Spelling of Scottish Surnames

It is important to note that spelling was not consistent until dictionaries made it standard in the 1800s. Until this time, spelling was quite fluid and tended to be according to the enumerator or registrar. Often this was done in a manner similar to phonetic spelling. It is not uncommon, then, to find that your ancestor's surname changed from Clerke, to Clarke and then to Clark. All sound the same in Scotland(clark) and yet the spelling has evolved over time. This becomes important, too, to ensure you don't rule out people who might be your ancestor, but who you have ignored based on the (mis)spelling of the surname.

As a standard, surnames in Scotlandweren't adopted by the common man until about the 1600s. Prior to that, people were known by patrynomics (Donald, son of John or Donald John's son), by physical trait (John the Red - Red John - for someone who might have been a redhead, by location (Thomas by the burn or Thomas Burn) or by occupation (David the miller or David Miller). Once surnames became common practice, many of these former descriptors were adopted as surnames. Others, particularly the Highlanders or border clans, took on the surname of the clan chief or landowner for the estate they lived or worked on. For this reason, not everyone named Wallace, for example, is related to William Wallace. Nor is every Mc/MacDonald related to the clan chief.

People often have questions about the Mc vs Mac surnames. Some understand that one is Irish and the other is Scottish, while others understand that one is Catholic while the other is Protestant. In reality, they are interchangeable. Both Mc and Mac are the anglicanized spelling of the Gaelic M' or M'hic. M'hic or M' for short, means "son of" in Gaelic. This has been transcribed over the centuries as Mc or Mac, depending on the transcriber and their understanding of how the prefix is spelled. In Irish, the common prefix is O' which is the translation from the Irish Gaelic, again meaning "son of" So whether your ancestors were Mc or Mac, don't discount the other spelling in the event you might also be discounting your ancestor and his/her documents!

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Family History Month - The Value of Old Money

In old documents we often read about the wages of our ancestors, or how much they paid for their rent, home, funeral etc. Have you ever wondered what the equivalent of that would be today? Here's a website that will help you to gain a better understanding of the value "back then" to the equivalent value today:

Or there is this link that shows old UK money in new money values:

Monday 17 October 2016

Family History Month - Old Diseases

Often as we read old documents, we find words that are unfamiliar to us. Old occupations and old diseases are likely the two most common. But that doesn't need to stump us or stop us in understanding more about our ancestor.

A common cause of death for women in the 1800s was Milk Fever - an infection following childbirth but one that people thought was associated with nursing women. Milk Leg was another complication of childbirth - today we know this to be caused by clotting in the legs following childbirth, but in the 1800s this again was associated with nursing mothers.

There were a myriad of illnesses commonly listed on death records but that are unfamiliar to us in the 21st century. Here's a list to some of the more common causes of death in the 1800s:

Sunday 16 October 2016

Family History Month - Old Occupations

Sometimes we find that the terms used to describe the occupations that our ancestors had are confusing. Was your ancestor a Carter? A Legger? A Teamster? Old occupations can be a great source of information about your ancestors and how they lived. But cracking the definitions of the trades or occupations can sometimes be a challenge.

Here's a link to a website with an alphabetical listing of old occupations. Have a look and see if you can figure out what your ancestor did for a living:

Saturday 15 October 2016

Family History Month - Findmypast Adds Scottish Records

Findmypast has added Scottish records! Here are the additions:

Sheriff's Court Paternity Decrees 1750-1922 - over 25,000 records from across Scotland. These records provide:
  • Name
  • Role – Pursuer or defender
  • Year
  • Decree date
  • Court
  • Child’s sex
  • Child’s birth date
  • Defender’s name
  • Defender’s occupation
  • Defender’s residence
  • Pursuer’s name
  • Pursuer’s residence
  • Pursuer’s occupation – this may include the name of the pursuer’s parents

Deeds Index 1769 - index shows the type of deed, the date the deed was recorded and the two parties names in the original court document

Monumental Inscriptions Index for 209 burial grounds across 14 counties, including the Isle of Skye. Index shows name, date at death and burial place

Pre-1841 Censuses and Population Lists from a handful of Borders parishes including: Jedburgh, Greenlaw, Melrose, Ladykirk, Applegarth and Sibbaldie

Friday 14 October 2016

Family History Month - What is My Clan?

Having spent several weekends at highland games this summer, assisting people with their Scottish genealogy research, likely the most common comment I heard was,  "I'm not sure what clan I Belong To" As simple as the question seems, the answer is a tad more complicated. You see, most people think that a clan is a family and implies a family connection, but that just isn't so. Let’s have a wee look at just what a clan is.

Here is a definition from BrainyQuote:

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

Clans really are communities, similar to a Kibbutz in Israelor a commune in Haight-Ashbury, or a sorority in University. A group of people who choose to belong to one another. A collective of individuals with a common purpose.

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 many were not 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 blood relationship.

In the days when allegiance to a clan chieftain was a matter of survival, you could not belong to more than one clan. The clan system essentially died in the aftermath of the battle of Culloden. Following Culloden, there was a systematic effort to suppress the Highland way of life.

Thanks to Sir Walter Scott and the Highland Society of London, the wearing of tartan started to see a resurgence. And other pieces of highland life started to also emerge once again. Today, since there is no need to pledge allegiance to one clan and one clan only, based on survival (food, shelter, protection), it really is quite possible to belong to more than one clan. Few have rules that preclude membership in other clans. So, if you want to belong to the clan society for every Scottish surname in your ancestral tree, you certainly have a right to do so (again, depending on the clan society's membership rules). Most people are happy to have membership in one or two clans (surname of a maternal line and a paternal line, perhaps). And as for tartan, the only rules are that you can't wear the tartans that have restricted access (the tartan designed for a clan chief, royalty or other rare selective tartans). Otherwise, it is open game. Wear the tartan that you associate with, the tartan whose colours you most admire or whose cause you support. And wear it proudly.

To see a listing of tartans, their associations and the restrictions, if any, regarding who can wear them, visit the Tartan Register website at:

Thursday 13 October 2016

Family History Month - Using Google for Genealogy

I love Google. It's simple, efficient, opens a world of knowledge and makes me feel smart just through its simplicity and ease of use. But did you know that Google is one of the best resources for genealogists?

  • Reading a census and not sure exactly what your ancestor did for a living? Google it
  • Reading a death registration and not sure what your great, great aunt died of? Google it
  • Unsure where exactly your ancestor lived in their state or even in their "old" country? Google it
  • Looking for a genealogy society that deals with the region your ancestor lived in? Google it
  • Need a professional genealogist "on the ground" in your ancestral homeland? Google it.

To get a feel for where your ancestor lived, go for the details. Don't just Google Lanarkshire ScotlandOr even Shotts, Lanarkshire, Scotland.Instead, Google the actual address that is listed in the document. When the results page comes up, click on "maps" then zoom in using "street view" It may not show your ancestors home, but will show you what is there now. Go back to the "web" tab and scroll down to see if the results page has old maps or even stories or information about the street, home, village.

Don't sweat the small stuff. The most relevant results to your query are all on the first page, so don't panic about the fact that you get 3,245,692 results.

To drill down to the relevant pages that Google searches on your behalf, try using the "and" command. Thomas Fowler and Shotts will alert Google to the fact that you are not just looking for any old Thomas Fowler, but that you are specifically interested in Thomas Fowlers from Shotts. This will give you a much different result than if you had not used the "and" command. Quick tip: use the word and rather than the plus sign. Using the plus sign limits your search to items within the Google+ platform.

Next, remove the unnecessary. To find your ancestor Jonathan Ford, use the phrase Jonathan Ford -cars. This will filter out all the references to Ford vehicles. Quick tip: don't leave a space between the minus sign and the word you want eliminated.

Note that if you use quotation marks around your search term, Google will only return results with the two terms together. This may eliminate some useful results. You may search for "Jonathan Ford" but the results page won't show any references to his wife Lucille Ford and her husband Jonathan. The reason - you specifically asked for references to Jonathan where he is listed with his full name. By using quotations, you are limiting the results.

One fantastic resource for genealogy is Google Books. You will find this under the "More" tab at the top of the search results. Google has made out of copyright, often out of print, books freely available. Many of these books have to do with the lives and times of our ancestors. They may be histories of the places our ancestors lived or worked, government commission reports, lists of people transported from the UK to the colonies and so much more. You can type your search words in the search bar, and then when the results are returned, simply click on "More" then "Books" and this will change the focus of the results.

If you are unsure of anything about the lives of your ancestors: how they lived, what their occupation was like, their villages etc you can use the "Image" feature. Again, type your query in the search bar and then when the results are returned, click on "Images" and this will give you picture results that will let you "see" various aspects of what life was like during the times when your ancestor lived.

You can also drag and drop a photo into the search bar and the results will be photos that are similar to the item in your photograph!

Finally, you can let Google search while you can't. You can set up a Google Alert. To do this, click on In the search box type in the words you want Google to alert you about when new content is published to the web. Click "Create alert" then click on the pencil icon and set up the frequency that you want to receive your notifications, the region of the world for Google to check, how many results you want returned (only the bestusually is sufficient) and the email address to where the alerts should be sent. Then sit back and wait for the emails to come in.

In the alert query box, you can type your ancestor's name, a surname or village that you are researching, or just about anything else you want.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Family History Month - Start at the Beginning

One of the many issues with the ability to open an account and start building your family tree online, is that this process completely negates the basic building blocks of genealogy research. We wouldn't read a book written by someone who had never learned grammar or spelling, so why do we think it is alright to pay attention to family trees built by people without learning the basic skills of genealogical research?

Start at the Beginning:

Start with yourself. Document everything you know - your full name, date and place of birth, date and place of baptism, where you went to school, where you worked. If you are married, document how you met, when and where you married. Who was in your wedding party, where you had your reception, honeymoon and any other details you can think of. Document your children - their birth dates, and places, weddings etc.

After you have exhausted all of the information for yourself, start working your way backwards - your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, their children etc.

Search One Line at a Time:

Stick with one line at a time. This will help you to stay focused and to ensure that you fill in as many details as possible. Once you have exhausted the line, move to the next line (generally spouse of the line you are pursuing)

Talk to Older Relatives:

Older relatives are a wealth of information, either first hand, or stories that have been passed down through the generations. Ask as many questions as you can. See the blog post on interviewing older relatives for what to ask and how.

Take Notes:

For all of the details of weddings, births, relationships/courtships, work, school etc, use the notes tab in your family history software

Use a Paper Form FIRST:

Even in this electronic age, paper is always best when starting your family tree. Have one family group record for each individual branch of your family (parents, children). Once you have collected all of the data on a paper record, you can start entering it into your software program.

Organize Your Research:

Start at the beginning and organize, organize, organize. Make file folders for each individual family and place the file folders in an expandable folder for each branch.

Cite your Sources:

Start right from the beginning to cite your sources. Document where you found the information, and where others can find the same information. List the name of the document, the website or archives that you recovered the document from, and any document number that is assigned to the document. Have this information on your paper record and in your software program.

Visit a Genealogy Society or Family History Library:

Genealogy is all about connecting. Connect with others through your local genealogy society or Family History Library. The volunteers there are ready and willing to help you. Take advantage of that. The societies often have workshops where you can meet with others and learn from experts. Take advantage of their large collections of documents,  files, obituaries, newspapers, cemetery records and all of the wonderful bits and pieces that they have to offer.

Search the Internet for Learning Opportunities:

Find webinars, workshops, conferences and choose as many as you can afford. Genealogists are great at sharing what they know and they want you to do well in your research. If you are able to attend a conference or workshop in person, do so. The connections you make through networking will be invaluable in your research.

Most of all, have fun.

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Genealogy Tours of Scotland Fall Newsletter

The Fall edition of the Genealogy Tours of Scotland newsletter is now available on the home page of the website. You can access the newsletter by clicking on the blue button in the middle of the home page.


Family History Month - Mitchell Library

The Mitchell houses a Genealogy Centre which is a hub for the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh. Here you can access the same databases as you can in Edinburgh. The same daily research fees of £15 apply.

The Mitchell also houses the Glasgow City Archives and its extensive collection relating to the history of Glasgow including:


Poor relief records - these are perhaps the richest source of genealogical information across any archival collection. The poor relief was not for the unemployed, but for the unemployable. Lunatics, infirm, disabled, or the elderly were eligible to apply for poor relief. Able bodied adults who were capable of work were not eligible. The exception were women whose husband had deserted them, widowed women or women with one or more children who were illegitimate.
The information in the applications are often rich with details on the lives of the people who made the application.

Source for Irish Family History because of the influx of the Irish into Glasgow at various times, the Glasgow City Archives has become an important source for Irish Family History. Many of the Irish were in positions to have to apply for poor relief and through these records, you can gain a wonderful sense of their lives. Often you can find their counties, cities and townlands through these applications as well.

Archival materials pertaining to Glasgow businesses. While these rarely include personnel information, they do include minute books which may name your ancestor. As well, they have the financial records for the business, some photographs and correspondence from the businesses.

Schools - beginning in 1870, head teachers were required to keep a log book. This contains more social history than detailed information on the individual students. It may talk about attendance being low for planting or harvest or due to any illnesses. More important for family historians are the school admission records. These may include names, previous schools attended, reason for leaving the school, notes on siblings in the school.

Churches - ScotlandsPeople has the records for the established church of Scotland. The Glasgow archives has records for all of the other denominations. Records include tithe records, sick calls, kirk session records (an absolute wealth of information), baptisms, marriages and burials or mort cloth rentals.

Prison Records (Barlinnie)

Asylum Records (Glasgow Lunatic Asylum, renamed Glasgow Royal Lunatic Asylum and now known as Gartnavel Royal Hospital)

Burial and lair records - these can tell you who purchased the lair, the fee paid, the address of the purchaser, who is buried within the lair and sometimes their relationship to the lair owner. Note that between 6 and 12 people can be buried within one lair. Other records held by the Glasgow Archives includes obituaries and undertaker records.

NHS Archives. The NHS did not start in Scotland until 1948.

The Glasgow Archives also have the estate recordsfor the island of Islay as well as the private papers for a number of landed families. The information in these records can include rental books, leases or tack agreements, correspondence, diaries and much more.

The family history resources available through the Mitchell can be explored at:

The Mitchell has an extensive collection of photographs, documents and eye-witness accounts regarding the Blitz on the Clydeside when the area was heavily bombed during WWII, with factories and shipyards being the main target for destruction.

The Mitchell has a virtual volumeswebsite where you can view maps, photos and document the changes in Glasgow's streets over time:

The Mitchell also has a number of Scottish newspapers available on microfilm. 

Monday 10 October 2016

Family History Month - Scottish Genealogy Symposium

Join me in Halifax for a full day of Scottish genealogy talks. Register by midnight on Wednesday October 12th, 2016 at

Estate Records

If your ancestors were part of the Highland Clearances, it becomes difficult to find documentation for them. That's where consulting the Estate Papers might help. To find out about your ancestor prior to the Clearances, the best resources for finding ancestors who might have been cleared are the Estate Papers. Specifically the Rental Books, Accounts of Arrears and Removal Lists. These records, while some may be on deposit with an archival facility, remain the property of the family, so the place that houses them can not digitize or publish them. They are rarely indexed, generally just catalogued, so they require patience to have a look through them. 

Here's where to find some of them:

  • The Sutherland Estate Papers are on deposit at the National Library of Scotland
  • The Cromartie Estate Papers are on deposit with the National Records of Scotland
  • The Argyll Estate Papers remain with the Duke of Argyll and are accessible by visiting the archives at Inverary Castle
  • The Buccleugh Estate Papers are on deposit with the National Records of Scotland
  • The Islay Estate Papers are at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow
  • The Angus MacLeod Estate records are available for consultation at the family's archives on the Isle of Lewis
  • Gairloch Estate records are held at the Gairloch Museum and Archives and can be viewed by appointment

Sunday 9 October 2016

In the News

The British Newspaper Archives ( not only have national newspapers, but also local smaller newspapers. These are a great resource for:

  • Birth announcements: these give names of the parents as well as maiden name of mother. They often will include other family members as well such as grandparents
  • Engagement/Marriage announcements: these give names of each partner as well as parents for each person. In the older newspapers, details about the bride's dress, her bridal party and names of the groomsmen are also written about
  • Social Notices: these are fantastic sources of detailed information. It can be about a child's birthday party, a card party, who is visiting from out of town...the possibilities are endless and the read is often quite informative
  • Death announcements/Obituaries/Funeral notices: don't overlook the detail provided in these. Not only are family members listed, but pay attention to the name of the funeral home. If it still exists, chances are you can contact them and get details about the burial, the plot/lair which includes who paid for it and who else might be buried alongside your ancestor (spouse, children, parents)
  • Financial notices (bankruptcies, estate notices, creditor notices): although these often signal a sad time for your ancestors, they can provide important information regarding the lives of your ancestors
  • Police/Court/Criminal or Justice notices: another treasure trove not only for genealogical information but also for family history information. These notices are the spice of life when it comes to putting the story of your ancestors together.
  • Reports of Accidents or other injury: again, while not a pleasant find, the information can be invaluable in understanding the events leading up to the accident or death and often will include information regarding witnesses, family members, addresses and other salient details

Saturday 8 October 2016

Part of Edinburgh Castle Belongs to Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has a long historic link with Scotland, and not only in name. As early as 1624, King James I (King James VI of England) offered a number of baronetcies to his loyal landowners. These land grants were in what is now Nova Scotia. In order to fulfill the qualifications of receiving crown land, the receiver was to stand on his plot of land and declare allegiance to the King. The distance involved called for some creativity and so King James VI & I declared a portion of Edinburgh Castle as “Nova Scotia” so that the potential landowners could stand on this “portion of Nova Scotia” and declare their allegiance without having to travel to the Americas. On the wall, just outside the main gate of the Castle, is this sign:

The sign reads:

“Near this spot in 1625 Sir William Alexander of Menstrie Earl of Stirling received sasine or lawful possession of the Royal Province of Nova Scotia by the ancient and symbolic ceremony of delivery of earth and stone from Castlehill by a representative of the King. Here also, the Scottish Baronets of Nova Scotia received sasine of their distant baronies.”

Of course at this time in history, Nova Scotia incorporated parts of southern and eastern Maine as well as lower and western New Brunswick, especially along the Fundy Coast.