Saturday 31 December 2016

Happy Hogmanay!

For nearly 400 years, Christmas in Scotlandwas not celebrated. The reason for this stems from the Protestant Reformation. The Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian, felt that Christmas was, by and large, a Catholic celebration and as such was frowned upon. To all intents and purposes, Christmas was a regular day. People went to work and carried on about their business in everyday fashion. This began in 1560 and really carried on through to the mid 1950s. Even then, it was a half day holiday. Gifts were small, often just one gift or a stocking with gifts rather than the multitude of gifts we see today.

New Years Day was a public holiday and New Years Eve was, and still is, a major celebration. The history behind both the celebration of and the name Hogmanay is up for debate. However, many feel that the celebration is carried on from Norse traditions which celebrated the arrival of the Winter Solstice. Indeed, many Hogmanay celebrations throughout Scotland actually involve fire festivals. Stonehaven near Aberdeen, the Torchlight procession in Edinburgh are two examples of this.

Hogmanay is steeped in tradition and ritual. Many Scots will take the time during the day on December 31 to clean the house and pay off all debts prior to the “ringing of the bells” at midnight. This ritual was known as redding (getting ready for the New Year). The reason for this was to clear out the remnants of the old year and welcome in a young, New Year with a clean slate.

A few branches of the Rowan tree would be put above the door to bring luck. Inside was mistletoe to prevent illness to those who lived within. Pieces of holly placed around the house were thought to keep out mischievous fairies. And finally, pieces of hazel were gathered and placed around the home to protect the house and all who lived in it. Then all the doors of the home would be opened to bring in fresh air. Once this final piece of the ritual was completed, the house was then considered to be ready for the New Year.
Immediately after midnight, it is traditional to sing "For Auld Lang Syne", in a circle of friends whose linked arms are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year's Day.

Perhaps the most important and revered Hogmanay custom is the practice of 'first-footing' which dates back to the Viking days. This involves the first person to cross the threshold once the New Year bells have been rung. Superstition states that the “first footer” should be a tall male with dark hair. The darker the man's complexion the better, since no one wanted a Viking (raider) turning up on their doorstep - that could only mean trouble! A dark complected man represented luck for the rest of the year. In addition, the first-footer needs to enter the home carrying salt, coal, a coin, shortbread, and whisky. These gifts represent goodness and abundance for the New Year. The Coal for
heat/warmth, the coin for financial prosperity, salt for flavour, shortbread for food and whiskey for good cheer. These gifts are then to be shared with the other guests so that the wishes for a good and prosperous year can then be spread around.

The traditions live on even today. The gifts are still presented by the first footers, although not necessarily to the extent that they once were. But most of all, the new year is rung in with a good old-fashioned Scots welcome and hospitality. And each and every one is wished “A guid New Year to ane an` a` and mony may ye see!”

Wednesday 28 December 2016

2016 My Genealogy Year in Review

It seems like 2016 was non-stop travel. I had amazing opportunities to speak to lots of the Scots diaspora. And where Scots descendants gather, there is always great craic. Let's take a look back:

January was fairly quiet as I geared up for RootsTech. A couple of webinars on offer and lots of excitement and planning for my week in Salt Lake City

February WOW! I used to sit back and read about all the hype around RootsTech, think it might be nice to go, look at the cost and think otherwise. But 2016 was to be my year. I registered, booked flights and hotel and decided this was going to be a one-off. Just so I could say I, too had experienced RootsTech. By Day 2, I couldn't wait for RootsTech 2017! What a whirlwind of activity. Talks to take in, people to interview, after hours events to attend. And lots and lots of fun meeting up with the genealogists I only know online. I was still hosting a webinar series and even managed to host one from my hotel room in Salt Lake! RootsTech was an incredible experience and I am already hyped for February 2017.

March was webinars, webinars and more webinars.

April saw more travel. First to Winnipeg to give a full day of talks. Then onto Kelowna to give a full day of talks to the Kelowna & District Genealogical Society. Two amazing days with lots of learning and lots of helping others move forward in their research. But perhaps best of all there was loads of laughter. 

May was my spring genealogy tour to Scotland. I went for a week ahead of the group and finally had the chance to visit Orkney. I drove up through Sutherland and was acutely aware of the devastation of the Highland Clearances, even two centuries later. I saw the memorial cairn to Sir John A Macdonald's grandparents, visited the very historic town of Dornoch and made my way to the ferry over to mainland Orkney. Orkney was absolutely amazing. The history - prehistoric history - at every turn. The beauty of the island, the smell of the sea and the amazing wildlife. Orkney will always have a special place in my heart. 

June - as if Orkney wasn't incredible enough, I had the immense pleasure of observing 15 tour participants on their genealogical journeys. Records found, stories uncovered, blanks filled in. Then there were the participants that experienced their ancestors first hand by being invited to tour old homesteads, walking the routes their ancestors walked, seeing the books their ancestors read and worshiping in the same church their ancestors were married or baptized in. Such a humbling experience for them and for me. 

July was the start of the highland games season.  I attended the Kincardine Scottish Festival and the Cambridge Highland Games in July. 

August was the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games and it was also the opportunity to speak at the One World, One Family event.

September saw another genealogy tour to Scotland and the opportunity to share in the genealogy adventures of another 14 tour participants. What an incredible time they had! We enjoyed loads of learning opportunities and indulged in our Scottish heritage at a Ceilidh. 

And prior to going to Scotland, I attended the BIFHSGO conference in Ottawa. 

October was another busy genealogy month with a full day of talks in Halifax for the Nova Scotia Genealogical Society. Halifax is an amazing city with history at every turn. What an honour to be able to immerse myself in that for a few days. 

And of course, our masterpiece was hosting the Great Canadian Genealogy Summit. This was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the talents of Canadian genealogy speakers. The attendees were wonderfully receptive and made some really terrific connections. 

November was my month to focus on my own family history. Rather than a lot of research, I spent the time creating family history treasures - digital scrapbooks, wall art and photo journals. 

December - can the year be over already? When I look back, I feel a sense of accomplishment. In addition to all of the things listed here, I managed dozens of articles, blog posts, webinars, creating presentations, handouts and editing newsletters. And I am even more motivated to take on everything that 2017 has to offer me in the world of genealogy. 

Top 10 Posts for 2016

A look back at the top 10 posts for 2016, in reverse order are:

10 Family History Month - Mort Cloths
Innovator Summit Semi-Finalists Announced Join Me in Halifax
Scottish Records Release on FindMyPast 6  Canadian Descendants of the Ship HectorPassengers Wanted
5 Family History Month - Lair Records 
Do You Have Orcadian Ancestors
Family History Month - Scottish Marriages Free Access to FMP for Holiday Weekend
Welcome to Family History Month 

Sunday 25 December 2016

Accentuate the Positive - A Look Back at 2016

Blogger Jill Ballhas posted her Accentuate the Positive meme. This is a great way for us to look back on the genealogy successes we have had this past year. Here's mine - slightly adapted:

A precious family photo I found was - it wasn't a photo I found. It  was a way to share photos with family members. I spent 5 weeks deeply immersed in creating beautiful, shareable gifts showcasing the old family photos.

My 2016 blog post that I was particularly proud of was the daily posts in October to highlight Family History Month.

 I made a new genimate who is such an inspiration.

A new piece of software I mastered was Artisan 5 a scrapbooking program that allowed me to create amazing ways to share our family photos.

A social media tool I enjoyed using for genealogy was Facebook. I love my page and the interaction between and among the Scots disapora that follow the page.

A genealogy conference/seminar/webinar from which I learnt something new was The GreatCanadian Genealogy Summit. I was one of the co-organizers and boy was THAT a learning experience. It was such a joy to see our dreams come to fruition.

 I am proud of the presentation I gave at/to I did full day workshops across Canada and these were a real treat. Although tired by the end of the day, sharing with others and helping them to move forward with their research was such an uplifting experience.

 A journal/magazine article I had published was - well, it hasn't actually been published yet, but stay tuned as it is due to be released in the spring!

I taught a friend how to find information on his Scottish grandparents and their parents and their parents....

 A genealogy book that taught me something new was - it wasn't a book - it was a group of colleagues! I am part of one of Marian Pierre-Louis'Mastermind groups. What an incredible learning journey that has been.

A great repository/archive/library I visited was I had the chance to visit the Stromness Museum in Orkney. I made mention of the Hudson's Bay Company and the curator led me to her shelves FULL of genealogical records - not only about the Hudson's Bay Company but about all sorts of little gems relating to those with Orcadian Ancestry.

It was exciting to finally meet all of the genies I have known for years via social media - either Facebook or Google+ at RootsTech

 A geneadventure I enjoyed was once again being honoured to share the personal journeys of Scots who join me in their ancestral homeland to do research. The places they have seen, the records they have discovered and the stories they have learned are heart-warming.

Another positive I would like to share is ... how terrific the genealogy community is. 

Saturday 24 December 2016

Scottish Records Release on FindMyPast

FindMyPast has released some indexes for Scottish records which might be helpful to those researching Scottish ancestors

The first is Scotland Mental Health Institutions Admissions 1857-1859
and includes and index of admission records for over 50 Scottish mental health institutions including asylums and poorhouses between 1857 and 1859. These indices you will get:
  • Name
  • Age
  • Birth year
  • Birth place
  • Occupation
  • Former residence
  • Place found
  • Year
  • Institution
  • Institution county
  • Patient identification number
  • Archive
  • Archive reference
The second is Scotland Prison Registers Index 1828-1884Was your Scottish ancestor a criminal? The indices will give you: 
  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Birth year
  • Birth county
  • Birth country
  • Occupation
  • Residence
  • Crime
  • Prison
  • Prison county
  • Prison country
  • Archive
  • Archive reference
These are the same indices that are available through

The index returns on Scottish Indexes

Monday 19 December 2016

Short Delay in New BMD Releases on ScotlandsPeople

With all of the glitches and headaches that the launch of the new website has created, ScotlandsPeople has decided to delay the addition of the new statutory records for 2017. These are usually available on January 1st each year, but are being delayed until the 5th of January 2017 so that staff will be on hand to respond to any issues that might arise. 

On January 5th, you can look forward to accessing:

  • Births for 1916
  • Marriages for 1941
  • Deaths for 1966



Friday 16 December 2016

Innovator Summit Semi-Finalists Announced!

I, along with my Google+ friend, Jill Ball, had the pleasure of being part of a several person team of judges to whittle down the list of submissions for the Innovator Showdown at RootsTech 2017. Of 42 submissions, we were given 21 to review for inclusion in the top 10. Being curious, I each checked out all 42 just to be sure we weren't missing out on something fantastic. 

The judging criteria was:

Family History
Submissions must be directly or indirectly related to family history.

Quality of Idea
Includes creativity and originality.

Implementation of Idea
Includes how well the idea was executed by the developer.

Potential Impact

Will users get excited about this, is it applicable, does it solve a genuine problem?

For me, it was also a case of not being a re-hash of programs that were already available. I wanted to see things that were new, fresh, original. I considered the impact on the lives of genealogists, whether those genealogists were professionals or hobbyists. Would the submission make some aspect of researching family history easier? Would it fill a need and solve a problem. Would it simplify processes? 

After some discussion as a team, here is the list of Semi-finalists: 

Champollion 2.0: 

Holy Cannoli I loved this one! This one promises to be a new friend for family history researchers trying to read old documents that are less than legible. Not the script itself, but seeing through stains, smears, overexposed or underexposed light. Can't wait to see how this one does in the finals. 

OldNews USA:

Others were more excited than I was abou this one, mostly because I don't have a great need for using USA newspapers. But the fact that you can access newspapers on your mobile device through this app is pretty amazing. I think this one has great potential.


This one is cool. It uses modern technology to share the story behind the photos. Like the old writing on the back of old photos, you can tell future generations what the story was behind the photo. Another one with great potential. 

CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing:

This one has a great place in genealogy as well. It promises to fill great gaps for genealogy societies that are working together on transcription projects. It essentially takes on the place of project manager, making the entire process of crowd sourced indexing less stressful. 

Double Match Triangulator:
Love this one! A way to make sense of all of the data we get when we get our DNA results back. And it sorts everything onto a spreadsheet to help us clearly see where the matches with other are. Another definite winner. 

This one has been about for a bit but is worth a deeper look. Emberall is an app that allows cloud based photo and story sharing. Emberall has some competition in the field but does have potential.

Another great innovation. You can scan, store, share photos and add stories. It allows people to record the story behind the photo and converts that into text which is fully searchable. The app also allows photo editing and minor photo restoration. The app is fully connected to FamilySearch and pulls in newspapers, documents and a whole lot more. 

This one is similar to the others that allow cloud based storage and sharing, but it also allows other family members to jump in and transcribe things like family letters, to tell stories about some of the photos. Kindex has combined cloud-based storage and sharing with crowd sourced indexing! It's a win-win. 

This one works on the same premise as Ancestry's "We're Related" app but people don't need to a subscription to Ancestry in order to make full use of Cuzins. 

Love that this one is designed specifically to engage our youth. Their cloud-based family tree site has the look, feel and ease of use of Facebook, is fully integrated with FamilySearch and allows kids to share their ancestor's stories on Social media. 

I can't wait to see what the future has in store with all of the bright minds that have come together to make submissions to the Innovator Showdown. And I am looking forward to meeting and speaking with the 10 semi-finalists. Meet the semi-finalists on the RootsTech website:

Monday 12 December 2016

Looking for an Online Course on Scottish Genealogy?

The Scottish Genealogy Research Strategies course from FamilyTree University begins today! It is self directed, so missing a day or two won't put you behind. The course is interactive and runs for 4 weeks. 

Hope to see you online!

To register:

Sunday 4 December 2016

Gift From Forces War Records

Your pre-Christmas gift from Forces War Records - Original 1914 Princess Mary’s box with gift cards inside.

The Princess Mary Christmas gift box was given to all members of the armed forces on Christmas day 1914. These small boxes, made from silver for Officers and brass for all others, typically contained an ounce of tobacco, a packet of cigarettes, a lighter, a Christmas card and photograph from Princess Mary, some also contained sweets. Amazingly, it took until 1920 to deliver all 2.5 million!
So here’s our pre-Christmas gift to you – an original tin containing a selection of gift cards from Forces War Records:
1.            12 months free membership
2.            Discount when you hire a professional researcher
3.            Free Family Historian Software

Become a full member between 4th Dec and 11.59pm 11th December, 2016 and this could be yours. (winner selected at random) Why not give the gift cards as Christmas presents.