Thursday 25 May 2017


Thrilled to learn earlier this week that one of my talks at Jamboree will be live streamed! This means that even if you can't attend Jamboree, you can still benefit from the information. 

My talk Underused Databases for Scottish Genealogy is being live streamed on Sunday at 10 am (pacific time). You can register here

I am only one of 14 talks that are being live-streamed so be sure to check out all of the speakers and topics on offer. Here's the line-up:

Friday, June 9

1:00-2:00         Facebook: A Tool for Genealogy Research Thomas MacEntee

2:30-3:30         Genealogical Proof for the Novice Genealogist Annette Burke Lyttle

4:00-5:00         Treasures in Township Records Peggy Clements Lauritzen, AG®

5:30-6:30         From Famine to Plenty – Finding My Immigrant Ancestors’ Stories Tessa                                Keough

Saturday, June 10

8:30-9:30             Descendancy Research: Another Pathway to Genealogy Michael L.                                       Strauss, AG®

10:00-11:00        Wives, Girlfriends, Widows, Exes and Mistresses: Documenting Women                                Gena Philibert-Ortega, MA, MAR

11:30-12:30        Sources of Genealogical Research for Armenians in the Caucasus Camille Andrus

2:00-3:00           Your Ancestor’s FAN Club: Using Cluster Research Drew Smith, MLS

3:30-4:30           Technology Resources for Deciphering Foreign Language Records Randy                              Whited

5:00-6:00           DNA vs Irish Annals Brad Larkin, MBS, MCSE

Sunday, June 11,

8:30-9:30           Researching Your Irish Ancestors Online Donna M. Moughty

10:00-11:00       Underused Databases for Scottish Genealogy Christine Woodcock

12:30-1:30          What’s New in Eastern European Genealogy Lisa Alzo, MFA

2:00-3:00           Using the Bureau of Land Management Tract Books Michael John Neill

Visit Me in the Exhibitor's Hall at Jamboree

I am looking forward to being part of the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree this year. I will be exhibiting in the Exhibit Hall and I hope you will stop by and say hello. 

I will in be in booth 125 at the back of the Hall, so be sure to work your way all the way around the Hall. I'm looking forward to speaking with people interested in researching their Scottish ancestors.  You can sign up for webinars, learn about the tours, find out about eCourses and get some ideas about where you might find records on your Scottish ancestors. 

See YOU at Jamboree!

Join Me at Jamboree

In just a couple of weeks, I will be in Burbank California for the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree! 

I will be presenting three talks at Jamboree: 

Breaking Through Your Scottish Research Brick Walls (Saturday 8:30 am), 
Step Away From the Computer (Saturday 2 pm) and 
Underused Databases for Scottish Genealogy (Sunday 10 am). 

All of these talks are part of Jamboree's Researching British Isles and Ireland Track. 

When I am not speaking, I will be in the Exhibitor's Hall so plan to stop by to say hello or share your stories. 

Looking forward to connecting with you at Jamboree!

Announcing a Glasgow Tour for 2018!

At the request of several participants, I have put together another Glasgow research tour for 2018. Tour dates are May 16-24th, 2018. 

Tour fees are $2675 Canadian. 

The tour will allow for five full days of research with an optional sixth day. The tour runs from mid week to mid week, allowing free time on the weekend. This not only provides a break from the research, but it allows time to process what we have uncovered. And it allows time to re-charge ourselves by resting, shopping or sightseeing. 

New for 2018 is the opportunity to research Lanarkshire ancestors who were outside of the city of Glasgow proper. These opportunities include:
  • Lanarkshire Family History Society
  • North Lanarkshire Archives 
North Lanarkshire Archives collects and preserves the historical records covering the areas of Airdrie, Bellshill, Coatbridge, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth, Motherwell, Shotts, Stepps and Wishaw.

There will be three full days of research at the Glasgow City Archives, where records for South Lanarkshire are on deposit. 

The tour is once again being limited in size to allow for group cohesion and also so that we don't overwhelm the research facilities. 

As it sits right now, based on those who expressed interest, and were therefore given first opportunity for registering for the tour, there are only FIVE spaces left. 

If you have Glaswegian or Lanarkshire ancestors and would like to research in the records in and around Glasgow, this is your chance! But don't hesitate or you may lose out. 

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Canada Gets Separate Search Facility on Findmypast!

There was a lot of complaining last year when Canadian documents were lumped in with American documents leading the search results to return documents that weren't relevant to the search for Canadian records. The good news is that this has changed! You can now search Canadian and US records separately. However, not all results are strictly Canadian. 

So, it looks like we are one step closer to having relevant results returned when we are looking for ancestors in CANADA. 

Give it a try: Findmypast

Monday 22 May 2017

After the Tour - How Am I Changed?

It is nigh on impossible to complete a Genealogy Tour to Scotland and not be changed. The changes are sometimes subtle and take time for you to understand. Others are more immediate.

One of the subtle changes is that you become aware that you are part of a larger picture, a larger family, a larger diaspora. This gives you a better sense of yourself as the descendant of a Scot as well as a better understanding of your own "Scottishness". This may incorporate a better understanding personality traits like being quick-witted or being quick to anger.

More immediately, however, you become aware of where you belong. Almost every tour participant over the past six years has stated that as soon as they set foot on Scottish soil, they had a sense that they had "come home." A more profound feeling is that of belonging.

Any genealogy research allows a person to feel more complete, more whole. However, researching your ancestors in their home country - walking the same streets, visiting their homes, churches, graves deepens your sense of belonging and sense of connection in a way few can put into words. The experience is not unlike an adopted person who finally gets the opportunity to meet their biological family. The sense of belonging can be quite profound as it provides you with an understanding of where you belong and who you belong to. Knowing "these are my people" provides a definite change in mindset for tour participants. And this, ultimately causes a pull to return again to their homeland.

Plans to return tend to germinate during a tour. Fairly early on. Participants know they need to return. Planning later takes into account what the return will look like. Will it include family members and incorporate further distances over a longer time? Will it once again be a genealogy research tour? If so, will time be added so that more of the homeland can be explored? 

About 40% of tour participants return to Scotland within a year of taking a Genealogy Tour to Scotland. 75% return within 2-4 years. Some return on future tours and plan to have family join later or to travel afterward. Some return to connect with family they learn of while on a tour. And yet others return just to explore the country. The villages, the regions, the cities. 

Whatever it is that takes you back, knowing that this is where you belong and the strong pull to return is just one of the many ways that you will be changed after a Genealogy Tour to Scotland. 

The University of Strathclyde’s Genealogical Studies Programme by Distance Learning

The University of Strathclyde’s Genealogical Studies Programme by Distance Learning

The online Genealogical Studies programme represents a major advance in the process of academic certification of Genealogy and related studies. This programme was the first in the field to place the various genealogical disciplines within a rigorous academic framework while carrying credit at a postgraduate level from a UK university. The Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and MSc are awarded at SCQF Level 11 (this is the Scottish master’s degree level). The Programme is now in its 10th year and has over 325 alumni located across the world.

What are the aims, objectives and course content of the programme?

We feel that all genealogists and researchers in archives must acquire a common body of knowledge and a standard of practice in order to work effectively.  Irrespective of the particular environment the student will be entering (for example, as a professional genealogist, to work at archives or libraries or for personal interest), the principles and practices of genealogical and archival research must be fully understood in order to be effectively applied, and common standards adhered to (e.g. levels of “proof”, recording and reporting, citations and referencing).

Thus the programme provides a thorough grounding in the theory and practice of genealogical research. Our main focus is on students gaining expertise in searching, recording and presenting results.

The Programme is broken into 3 steps which together form the total MSc degree:
·         The Postgraduate Certificate step deals primarily with English and Scottish records with an introduction to Irish records. The Certificate also provides a firm grounding in genealogical practice, genetic genealogy, heraldry and palaeography (the study of handwriting). The Certificate is where most students begin. Direct entry to PG Diploma is possible but requires the student to hold an equivalent of our PG Certificate.

·         The Postgraduate Diploma step extends the geographical focus and adds American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, British Empire, Jewish, European and more advanced Irish sources. A series of written etudes on such topics as a house history and a client study brings a more academic slant to the Diploma level which is capped by the submission of a 5,000 word research project.

·         The part time MSc step requires student to complete a research dissertation (12,000-16,000 words) on a topic chosen by the student with input from tutors.

Programme Delivery
The Programme can be taken part or full time or in a modular version:
       PG Certificate is available part time over 1-year which requires around 20 hrs per week; this 1-year version starts in October. The modular version runs over 2 years and requires around 14 hours per week; modules can be started in October, January or April.
       PG Diploma is available part time over 1-year which requires around 20 hrs per week; this 1-year version starts in October. The modular version runs over 2 years and requires around 14 hours per week; modules can be started in October and March.
       MSc level by dissertation is part time over 1-year and hours vary depending on the student and research project. The part time MSc begins in October with the 12,000-16,000 word dissertation due in late June.
This means the part time programme takes 3-5 years to complete an MSc.
We also offer a full time MSc which combines the materials from the PG Certificate, Diploma and is capped by the dissertation of 12,000-16,000 words.

Learning and Teaching
       The programme is delivered entirely online on the University’s virtual learning environment.
       Teaching materials include written lectures and multimedia presentations along with discussion forums and chat sessions.
       Students are assigned a tutor who provides feedback and support.
       There are no exams; assessment is largely practical in nature with academic research projects on the PG Diploma and MSc levels.

Student IT requirements
You’ll need:
      Access to a reliable computer – PC or PC compatible from home with a good Internet connection. Students can use a Mac but we don’t provide support.
      The ability to run applications such as Adobe Connect, Adobe Reader and a Media Player
      Ability to subscribe to certain online databases (though we normally arrange some free access for PG Cert students).
      Willingness to use genealogical software; Family Tree Maker is the course standard.

Entry requirements
       For the part time courses, normally we require an undergraduate degree (the area/field does not matter) or similar evidence of study skills, however non-standard educational or professional qualifications will be considered. Training through work could very well qualify.
       Some experience in genealogical (or other relevant) research is required. We look for a range of sources used and a level of comfort with communicating results.
       For the fulltime MSc, an undergraduate degree in any field is required along with some experience in genealogical research. This version is quite intensive and we have found that students without the experience of degree level study are at a real disadvantage.

For more information on the Programme

·         Visit our webpage at: we have FAQs and course timetables.
·         E-mail us at:

Other aspects of the Genealogical Studies Programme

Bannockburn Genetic Genealogy Research Project

Genetic genealogy is becoming more and more important as a tool for genealogical research and the Bannockburn Genetic Genealogy Project aims to show the power of genetic genealogy by revealing living descendants of combatants in the Battle of Bannockburn whose 700th anniversary was marked in 2014. Having identified several male line descendants of combatants using documentary sources, we invited them to take a DNA test, and then attempted to find another individual who closely matched each testee. If successful, this would show that the second individual was descended from the same combatant, despite having no supporting documentary evidence. 

The Project was successful in this regard and you can view the results to date at:

Sunday 21 May 2017

Scottish Diaspora Tapestry

I had the great fortune of being in Edinburgh when the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry was on display at St Giles Cathedral. I have twice missed the tapestry when it has been in Canada. 

Of particular interest to me, of course were the panels designed in Canada to honour our Country's rich Scottish heritage. 

To learn more about the Tapestry and the stories behind the panels, visit:

St Mungo's Clooty Tree

This Clooty Tree is just outside the door to St Mungo's Museum of Religious Life in Glasgow. In Scotland.

Clooty trees are a tradition that goes back to Celtic times, before the arrival of Christianity. 

Clooty trees are generally found from Cyprus to Japan and are near sacred places - shrines, springs and mountains. 

The cloths tied to the tree represent people's hopes and prayers.

Saturday 20 May 2017

Scotland's Secret Bunker

As we left St Andrews and headed for Anstruther, we came across Scotland's Secret Bunker. What an incredible place! Lying 100 feet below ground, the Bunker was set up as a place where the government would have set up business in the event of a threat of a nuclear attack. 

The bunker is at the end of a long underground tunnel which slopes downward to the roof of the bunker. 

Inside the bunker are the Security Station


The Command Centre

  These switchboards could connect up to 2800 lines

A maintenance room

A medic's office 

A Broadcast Station

And the office for the Minister of State

For anyone touring Fife, this attraction is definitely worth seeing and exploring. An education in our not too distant history. 

Friday 19 May 2017

Ready to Start Searching Your Scottish Ancestors?

Are you ready to get started on researching your Scottish ancestors, but not sure where to start? Join me in Gravenhurst, Ontario, next weekend for a two hour workshop. I will be speaking at the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre  at 10 am for the Muskoka & Parry Sound Genealogy Group. 

We will be looking at where to start, how to start and what websites to you. We will look at naming patterns, illegitimacy, irregular marriages and more. 

Plan to join us and let's start unwrapping the stories of your Scottish ancestors

Thursday 18 May 2017

After the Tour - Reliving the Memories

The post-tour glow lasts for a very long time. We bask in the understanding of ourselves as part of the Scots Diaspora. We sense the lives of our ancestors in a way we never could have without visiting Scotland. 

Smelling the sea air, 

seeing the landscape, 

engaging with the wildlife, 

walking the streets, 

visiting graves, kirks or homes, 

researching the documents and seeing the names and the stories come to life.  

We yearn to return.  The pull is strong. We plan our next visit. Maybe this year, maybe next, maybe in the future, but we will return. With family or without. To research or to tour. We plan the routes, we plan the sights, we plan the days. 

We find ourselves, more and more, living in Scotland in our heads. We join and like Facebook groups and pages that bring us our homeland on a daily basis in our newsfeeds. We watch documentaries about the history, archaeology, architecture of Scotland. We surf the web and dream about our return. All of this leads to a deeper understanding not only of our homeland, but the struggle our ancestors felt at leaving. 

And it helps us to understand why so many stayed loyal to their heritage after the emigrated. Their friendship groups were other Scots. They carried on the traditions of food, culture and worship. It really is true that you can take the Scot out of Scotland but you can never take Scotland out of the Scot. 

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Scottish Fisheries Museum

While touring around the Fife Coastal Route, we came across this wee gem of a museum in Anstruther. Based across from the harbour, the museum looks quite small, however, don't be fooled. In reality it takes up most of the block and is easily navigated thanks to the "follow the fish" decals on the floor. They certainly keep you moving in the right direction.

Notice the bandages on the women's fingers

Fish wives were key to the fishing industry. 

A mourning necklace worn by a fish wife whose husband had died at sea

The museum shares the history of the rising fisheries industry, including the herring boom. It also documents the changes to fishing vessels over time. The museum boasts 19 historic fishing vessels in its vast collection.

Changes to fishing methods are on display and there is also a display dedicated to whaling.

The fisherman's cottage was almost missed, but fortunately we were alerted to the need to look for it when we arrived at the museum. 

Social history museums are key to helping us understand our ancestors and the lives they lived. It is not enough just to see on a document that our ancestor was a fisherman. We need to see how they lived, what the work looked like, how the community came together in order to really understand what it means to have a fisherman as an ancestor. Museums like the Scottish Fisheries Museum provide such an important role in preserving our history and heritage.