Wednesday 31 October 2018


As an Ambassador for RootsTech in 2019, I get the honour of giving away a four day pass to the event!

As a prize winner, you will get a FREE 4 day pass allowing you access to:

  • over 300 sessions
  • Keynote and General Session
  • An AMAZING exhibition hall
  • evening events

All you have to do to win is enter the draw! Simply navigate over to the right hand side of this webpage and find the header ROOTSTECH PASS GIVEAWAY. Enter your name and email address and then cross your fingers! 

Prize will be drawn November 12, 2018. 

Saturday 20 October 2018

Cancellation Opens Space In Glasgow Tour

I received information yesterday that one of the people who had signed up for the Glasgow 2019 tour has to cancel, leaving one space open.

Tour dates are May 16-24th and includes three full days at the Mitchell Library where there is a hub for the ScotlandsPeople database, the Glasgow City Archives and the Special Collections department. Other research opportunities include a the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society and the Lanarkshire Family History Society as well as the North Lanarkshire Archives.

Optional tours are a guided walking tour of the city's east end (Calton/Bridgeton) and a guided tour of the Glasgow Necropolis.

This is the last tour that is being scheduled for the forseeable future. And likely the last one for Glasgow.

If you have Lanarkshire roots, this is an ideal research trip for you. Tour fees are just $2495 cad ($1900usd)

For more information or to register:

The space will once again go on a first come, first serve basis.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Why Is the Fee So High?

The Scottish ViC is the only virtual conference dedicated to Scottish genealogy. It can be attended from anywhere in the world. Access to the presentations remains open for 5 days to allow for time zone challenges so that people can watch during normal waking  hours. 

I started the ViC after attending several talks and conferences with my tour groups in Scotland. What I learned most from these presentations was that the information shared by the speakers was far different than the information shared, perhaps by those very same presenters, when they are in North America. Clearly the needs of the researchers are different. Thus the focus is different. 

However, most of the people who have been on a tour with me, especially those who have been repeat participants, need a different focus in their learning as well. And they are not alone. Loads of people researching their Scottish ancestors can benefit from the different focus. The most practical way to make that happen was to bring the presentations to them. Thus the birth of the ViC. 

I value my relationships with my colleagues in Scotland. Many have become friends. I am grateful that they are willing to help me to help others learn about researching their Scottish ancestors. I know what goes into a presentation. Hours of work. Writing, creating a powerpoint, finding just the right graphic, knowing how much information each slide should warrant, editing, practicing and promoting. It was a no-brainer for me that I would pay my colleagues for their willingness to share their knowledge, for their time and for their talents. 

We have become so used to everything being free in the genealogy world that we forget the work involved behind the scenes.  So many want to advance their research and their learning without having to pay for doing so. It's the only profession and one of the few hobbies where free is the expected norm. 

I am not a millionaire. And so, to be able to provide a high quality program, to recoup some of the payments made (for the presentations, for the handouts and for taking the time to be available for a live Q&A) and for a fraction of the cost of the webinar platform, I need to charge a fee. I see no shame in that. None. 

What I do find puzzling is why some people find it offensive to be asked to pay for a conference. They wouldn't balk for an in-person conference, so why do they balk at paying for a virtual conference? The presenters still have to work to put the presentations together. The benefit is that virtual conferences are an absolute bargain for anyone attending. No travel, no accommodation, no meals, no time away from family, work, or other obligations. Even on the day. If you need to leave for a couple of hours, you can pick the presentations up again when you get back. It's a win-win. I'd love to have you join us at the Scottish ViC!

Thursday 4 October 2018

Connecting Through Shared Memories

I love my cousins. And I sure have lots of them. So much of my childhood and early adulthood was spent in their company. Weekend visits, family birthdays, holiday dinners, vacations. My mum and two of her sisters lived close by. One aunt was a block away, the other about 20 minutes away. Rarely a day  went by when I didn't have cousins around. 

My mum's cousin lived an hour away. Those visits were extra special because we got the whole weekend together. Summers were spent together as aunts, uncles and Granny came from Scotland to visit. And then our week at the cottage. Mum and dad rented a cottage from our neighbours and EVERYONE showed up at some point. Sometimes for the duration. 

As we got older, we tended to go our separate ways. And with parents aging we have had the chance to re-connect. Two years ago, I reconnected with my cousins who moved out west. It was like we had never been apart. Spending time with them is my happy place. Mostly for the laughter and the shared memories. 

Two weeks ago, I was at a Celebration of Life for an uncle. And had a chance to re-connect with other cousins. Although the event was sad, the time together wasn't. We spent lots of time looking at old photos and recalling times spent together as kids. 

Really, once people leave our lives, all that we have left are the memories. I am so incredibly blessed to have shared memories with my cousins. I love my cousins.

Tuesday 2 October 2018

Away With the Fairies

While the saying "away with the fairies" actually refers to someone who is not quite right in the head, or off in La-La land, the belief in and fear of fairies has led to the Scots being one of the most superstitious group of people, perhaps on the planet. 

I always understood my dad's logic "if I see you do that again, I'll knock you into next week"  My mum's logic was far less rational and rife with superstitious beliefs. No real explanation was offered, just the fear of death if I didn't comply. 

No shoes on the table

Placing shoes on a table will bring bad luck. This belief stems from the days when, after a miner died, his boots would be placed on the table as a sign of respect. This sign of respect morphed into a fear that placing shoes of a living person on the table would result in the person's death or would invite death to visit the home.

Throwing salt over your shoulder

Spilled salt is considered to bring bad luck. It is thought that this belief stems from Judas spilling salt at the last supper - a subliminal sign of his upcoming betrayal. The bad luck is said to be remedied by throwing a pinch of salt over your right shoulder, and into the eye of the devil. 

First person over the threshold on New Year's Day had to be dark haired and dark complected

This is a key component of any hogmanay celebration. A dark haired man was thought to bring good luck. In fact, it is more likely that one didn't want a fair haired, fair skinned man walking through the door as that was a throw back to the days of the Viking invasions and one certainly didn't want a Viking coming through the door. 

Never give a wallet or piggy bank without placing a coin in it first

A gift of a wallet, purse or piggy bank was always to be accompanied by a coin to ensure that the receiver of the gift would not suffer money woes. An empty wallet might invite debt or loss of income.

Don't cross knives

Crossed knives were thought to once again be a signal of bad luck or death. This one stems back to the time of battle when crossed swords could be followed by serious injury or death of one of the embattled men. 

If you drop a glove, someone else must pick it up

I can't count the number of times I would be summoned to pick up a wayward glove in order to stave off any ill will. Again this harkens back to the days of battle. Many men wore a woman's glove in their helmets (their mother's or their wive's gloves). There was a belief as well that if a woman found a glove, her future partner would have the other glove and this would be sign of destiny that they were to be betrothed. 

Don't mix red and white flowers

This one nearly scarred me for life. It was believed that a bouquet of red and white flowers was a signal that death was imminent. The red signaling blood. I remember being quite young, perhaps 13 or 14 and being in Scotland. I had been to the market and bought my mum a bouquet of carnations. Red and White. When I took them home, there was a gasp. Mum was thankful at the thought, but stated that red and white flowers were a sign of death. My aunt, not wanting to crush my wee soul, said "It's ok, there are some pink ones in there as well" That night, my mum was hit by a car, in front of my Granny's house. Mum was taken to hospital. Gran and I were sitting in her living room. "It's they flooers" I was certain I had caused my mum to be hit by a car. 

The list of superstitious beliefs goes on and on. It really is a wonder I am not a full blown neurotic. 

Monday 1 October 2018

October is Family History Month

While Family History Month is no an event that is Nationally recognized (see Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell's post it does allow us to focus our thoughts and celebrations on our ancestors during the month of October. 

Family History month in Ontario coincides with Foster Family Recognition week. Which is all that is left of what used to be Family Awareness month. In the late 1980s, all of the 1990s and most of the first decade of the millennium, October was a month to celebrate families. Attractions offered special events, cities proclaimed the recognition for family awareness and many of their recreation departments offered events for families to attend together. The OACAS (Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies) declared a Foster Parent Recognition week during October to celebrate the special role that these families have in the raising of the province's children. That then evolved into Child Abuse Awareness Month.

Then along came Dalton McGuinty, Premiere of Ontario from 2003-2013. A number of groups were lobbying for a statutory holiday between Christmas and Easter, to break up the long, cold hibernation of Ontario winters. McGuinty caved in 2008 and in doing so, called the day "Family Day" That then stopped Family Awareness Week in October. The new stat holiday was set aside as a day for families to spend time together. Snow-tubing, skiing, or simply shovelling. 
While the focus on time spent as a family shifted from a full week in October to a single day in February, that hasn't stopped any of us from focusing on families or family history at other times during the year. 

In North America most family history/genealogy societies to continue to focus on family history during the month of October - after the relaxation and time spent with family in the summer, and before the rush of the Christmas season.
I will continue to do the same. 

In October in Canada, we have the added focus on Thanksgiving, a day in which families often come together. Time spent at fall fairs, visiting apple orchards and pumpkin patches or gathered around the dinner table. Unlike the US Thanksgiving, our holiday was created to celebrate and be thankful for the harvest. Not on the arrival of pilgrims. And since most Scots descend from farmers, this is also a fitting time for Canadians of Scots descent to celebrate and give thanks for their Scottish ancestor(s) grasping the opportunity to enjoy a better life in a new land. 

What about you? How are you honouring and celebrating your family - past and present - this month?