The Story of Thomas Hamilton Blair – My Grandpa

My Grandpa was a self made man. Thomas was born on 26 March 1908 in Glasgow to John Blair and Eliza Crawford Littell Rankin.

His mother was known as Bessie. He grew up in a modest middle class home.

John was a cab and taxi proprietor and had a successful business. His company would also assist with funerals.

The horses and carriages were always in use. When Thomas was nine years old his father died at the very young age of 49 years. Bessie was left to raise her son on her own.

Thomas went to Queen’s Park School. He was very involved in the Rovers and went to the Imperial Jamboree at Wembley in 1924. He would tell the story of sword dancing for the Prince of Wales at the Jamboree. When he was in high school he met my Grandmother. In the summer the Blair family used to camp at Whiting Bay on the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. The Campbell family stayed in a boarding house in Kildonan. My Grandparents were staying on opposite ends of the island but did manage to meet up.

He asked her father’s permission to marry her and was told that Norah would make up her own mind. The first time he asked Norah to marry him she refused saying she had to care for her widowed father. She accepted my Grandpa’s proposal when her older sister returned home because she had been widowed.

Thomas left school when he was sixteen years of age and worked at the Auchengeich Colliery in Chryston near Glasgow. It was owned by James Nimmo & Co. Limited. He entered the job on 15 October 1924 as an Apprentice to Mining Engineering and left on 30 November 1928 to “take up practical mining to qualify for entrance to the examination for a Mine Manager’s Certificate.”

He realized he needed more education to improve his life so he made the decision to go back to school. He would work in the colliery during the day and went to Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College at night. They were allowed to smoke cigarettes to keep them awake during the classes. Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College is now part of Strathclyde University. My Grandpa used to wear the Glasgow Tech tie which was blue and gold. Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College became the Royal Technical College in 1912 but my Grandpa always referred to it as Glasgow Tech.

He was an engineer but had no specific degree. He was grandfathered into the profession because of his skills and knowledge. Thomas was a member of the Institute of Civil Engineering and Mining Engineers.

This is my favourite picture of my Grandpa. I think he looks a little like Humphrey Bogart.

In 1930 Thomas applied for a job at the Taquah and Abosso Mines in West Africa and soon left for the Gold Coast Colony which is now Ghana. He set sail from Liverpool for Sekondi-Takoradi on 16 April 1930. The Gold Coast was known as the “white man’s graveyard” and he was told he couldn’t fly because the sudden change in temperature would kill him.

He used to stop at the Canary Islands on the way home and the trip would take about three weeks. To while away the hours on board ship they would play cards for martini’s which cost six pence each.

Thomas worked in the surveying department, assay office and as a shift boss underground. He earned 10 shillings and 6 pence a day which would be £50.97 in 2005 according to the currency converter on the National Archives of England website.

There were many photographs taken during his stay on the Gold Coast and we have a small photo album he kept from that time. He had a servant who took care of his every need while on the Gold Coast. When he came home to Scotland he would take off his clothes and drop them on the floor and he got static from my Grandmother for this.

Thomas was found on the Outbound Passenger Lists going to the Gold Coast several times. On 28 July 1931 he was on the Adda and his occupation was Miner.

When he went out again on 2 November 1932 he was on the Appam and his occupation was Engineer. On 14 November 1933 he left on the Apapa and listed his occupation as Mining Engineer.

On the 5th of February 1935 he left on the Apapa again and was listed as a surveyor. He had married my Grandmother two months before he left on this trip.

His last trip was 17 February 1936 on the Apapa and he was a surveyor. In between these last two trips he became a father.

On his last trip to the Gold Coast he was working for Ariston Gold Mines (1929) Limited. He had applied for a Mine Captain job in South Africa and his children believe he would have emigrated but my Grandmother would not go.

When he returned to Scotland he worked for John McAdam & Sons, Ltd. in Sutherland. Here the family had no running water, an outside toilet, they washed their clothes in the bùrn , their nearest neighbour, the Duke of Westminster’s gatekeeper, was 4 miles away and meat, bread and groceries were delivered to their door by three separate men driving trucks laden with supplies.

Then he worked for the County Council of Bute as a temporary District Road Surveyor for three months. In 1938 he joined Francois Cementation Co. Ltd. and started work for Cecil Grundy. He stayed with Cementation until he retired and Cecil Grundy became a life long friend.

During World War Two the family lived in Ripon in Yorkshire while my Grandpa worked at the airfields in the area to repair and build runways. His mother arrived for a visit on 3 September 1939, the day the war started. While she was with the family in Ripon her house was flooded after the German’s bombed Glasgow. Bessie Blair passed away in Ripon and is buried in the cemetery there.

Thomas was hired as an Engineer on the Liffey Hydro Electric Scheme in Ireland. His main duties were concerned with tunnel driving and rock excavation in the open cut but he was also to assist the Agent on the project. Thomas and his family lived in Poulaphouca during the length of his contract. They then moved to Naas in Kildare and back to Poulaphouca. Thomas worked in Ballyshannon in County Donegal on the Erne Hydro-Electric scheme. They then moved to Lucan.

While my father was at Trinity College he met my mother. The economic problems in Ireland in the late 1950s were similar to those of today and there was no work for my father so he was given a one way ticket to Canada upon his graduation. My Grandpa soon followed so it was thought that he might have known he was being transferred to Canada. He was being sent to head the Cementation Company’s Canadian operation.

When Thomas first arrived in Canada he stayed at the Royal York hotel. Louis Jardin the maître d’ at the hotel knew all his likes and dislikes and made him feel very comfortable. Thomas retired on 31 March 1970 because of ill health. He died on 10 February 1979. I was very lucky because I remember my Grandpa as a healthy man.

Thomas Hamilton Blair was a man who loved life and the good things in life. He arranged to have Fortnum and Mason baskets sent to him in Canada before he left. He also brought a few cases of his favourite scotch. His favourite cigarettes were from Foxes in Dublin and these were sent out to him on a regular basis. I remember that Foxes was a stop every time we visited Ireland so that we could bring Grandpa some cigarettes.

He had a great imagination. When his daughter was small he used to take her for a walk to look for faeries and gnomes. While on the walk they would find a bit of chocolate or a small teddy that had been left behind a tree by the faeries. He would go out before they left and place these small gifts for his daughter to find while out on their walk.

When in Dublin Thomas stayed at the St. Stephen’s Green Club and in 1956 the gentlemen were running a Calcutta for the Grand National horse race. He bought a horse called E.S.B. If you bought a horse and your horse won, you won the pot. E.S.B was trailing the Queen Mother’s horse and the Queen Mother’s horse stumbled so E.S.B won the Grand National and my Grandpa won a bit of money. My Grandmother was horrified that he had bet against the Queen Mother’s horse because she was a staunch supporter of the Royal family.

When my Grandfather retired he and my Grandmother moved closer to my family. They were a 10 minute walk from our home. I got to know my Grandpa a lot better during this time and have very fond memories of our time together.

© 2013 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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Ruth’s Recommendations

Here are my favourite blog posts from the last week.

The Genealogy’s Star blog has a post called “Spending Money on Genealogy” which looks at different few points on how we spend money on our passion. The post makes you think about what you spend in the pursuit of ancestors.

The Family Recorder has a post called “Webinar try-out” where she is the first to do a presentation using the webinar format at The National Archives. I am looking forward to watching the webinars. I have been an avid listener to the podcasts that The National Archives produce and seeing the speaker as well as the slides will be a wonderful bonus.

The Irish Genealogy News blog has a post entitled “More Belfast, Dublin & Sligo papers added to BNA.” This is very good news for those doing Irish research. Newspapers are a wonderful resource.

What were your favourite blog posts this past week?

Let me know in the comments below.

Other bloggers that write their own lists are:

Genea-Musings – Best of the Genea-Blogs

British & Irish Genealogy

Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog

©2013 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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Act Quickly Early Bird Registration for NGS Ends Tomorrow!

The Early Bird Registration for the National Genealogical Society conference in Las Vegas Nevada ends on March 19th. Sign up now to save money. You may decide to put some of the money you save towards attending one of the lunches or the banquet.

Early Bird’s are also the only ones who have the opportunity to order a printed syllabus. Remember that National Genealogical Society members get even deeper discounts.

All full-conference registrants will be entered in a drawing to win a seven-night stay at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel at Temple Square, courtesy of the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel. The prize will also include a free spot on one the Ancestor Seekers Salt Lake City research trips. Be sure to attend the opening session to find out if you are the winner. The winner must be present at the opening session to claim the prize.

To register online, visit the NGS website and complete the registration form.

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Are LAC employees now being “muzzled?”

The Calgary Herald newspaper has an article entitled “Canada’s federal librarians fear being ‘muzzled.

The lack of access to our historic documents has been appalling. Now they are preventing their employees from saying anything about what is happening at LAC.

The new rules are called the “Values and Ethics Code.”

If an employee of Library and Archives Canada is invited to speak at a genealogy conference that is now considered ‘high risk’ by the federal government.

What’s next?

©2013 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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Interview: Bev Trew Palmer – Fun Stuff for Genealogists

At the 2012 Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Birmingham Alabama I interviewed Bev Trew Palmer of Fun Stuff for Genealogists. Bev is a vendor and is a fixture in the marketplace of many conferences around the United States.

I asked her ten questions relating to her family history research and you can listed to the interview below.

Bev Trew Palmer FGS 2012

©2013 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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Ruth’s Recommendations

Here are my favourite blog posts from the last few weeks.

John Grenham had an interesting post called “Make sure they don’t die.” He looks at the importance of preserving family stories and how one family who had several siblings who emigrated are trying to find out about the two that were left behind.

If you have ancestors from Saskatchewan who were Catholic then the FamilySearch Blog has a post you might find interesting. “Announcing Saskatchewan Catholic Church Records on Family Search” promotes the release of these records on FamilySearch. The dates range from 1846 to 1957. The post provides you with a little background information of the Catholic Church in Saskatchewan.

The genealogyinsider blog has a post called “Time-Saving Tips for Busy Genealogists.” We are all busy genealogists and any advice is helpful.

Claire Santry of the Irish Genealogy News blog has two interesting posts. The first is “On the record: last month’s Genealogy Hedge School” where she talks about the HistoryIreland Hedge School that is held at the National Library of Ireland. Their topic was “Genealogy: Who Does It Think It Is?” She provides a link so you can listen to the discussion between several well-known Irish genealogists.

The other post is “1908 Dublin City Electoral Roll released.” This is the latest release from the Dublin City Library and Archives which is available on their free database.

Chris Paton of the British GENES blog also had two interesting posts. The first is “Coming soon – Lord Morpeth’s Testimonial Roll.” Chris was able to beta test this database and has a few links to explanations of what Lord Viscount Morpeth’s Testimonial Roll actually is all about.

The second of Chris’ posts is “Discover Your Ancestors – new bookazine and magazine.” Here he talks about the release of the second annual bookazine called “Discover Your Ancestors.” The demand was so great that they are now launching an online magazine as well as the bookazine. You can find out more by reading Chris’ post.

What were your favourite blog posts this past week?

Let me know in the comments below.

Other bloggers that write their own lists are:

Genea-Musings – Best of the Genea-Blogs

British & Irish Genealogy

Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog

©2013 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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Offiical Blogger for NGS 2013 in Las Vegas

The Passionate Genealogist is an Official Blogger for the 2013 National Genealogical Society Conference in Las Vegas Nevada. I will report on my experiences and all the activities at the NGS conference.

Attending conferences is a great learning experience, loads of fun and you meet all kinds of different people who are just as interested in genealogy as you are – no blank faces here when you start talking family history!

The early bird deadline for the conference is March 19th so register now.

See you in Las Vegas!

©2013 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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This press release is from


Leading family history website has today published online for the first time parish records held by the City of Westminster Archives Centre.

The Westminster Collection comprises fully searchable transcripts and scanned images of the parish registers dating back over 400-years.

The 3 million records cover the period 1538-1945 and come from over 50 Westminster churches including St Anne, Soho, St Clement Danes, St George Hanover Square, St James Westminster, St Margaret Westminster, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Mary-le-Strand and St Paul Covent Garden.

Some of the fascinating documents now available online detail the wedding of Theodore Roosevelt, the former US President, in 1886; the marriage of UK Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel; and the marriage of poet Percy Shelley.

Cliona Weldon, General Manager at, said: “This collection is one of the largest UK regional parish record collections we have ever published online.

“Wherever they are in the world, those tracing their London ancestors can now search this historical goldmine and uncover fascinating stories. Whether you are a family historian or a social historian, there is something that will intrigue everyone in these records”.

Adrian Autton, Archives Manager at Westminster Archives commented: “The launch of the Westminster Collection is of huge significance and makes Westminster records fully accessible to a global audience. This resource will be of immense value to anyone whose ancestors lived in Westminster and to anyone wishing to study the rich heritage of this truly great city.”

The new Westminster Collection at joins a growing resource of official UK parish records from local archives, including Cheshire Archives & Local Studies, Manchester City Council and Plymouth and West Devon Records Office, with many more in the pipeline, due to go live in the coming months. In addition, over 40 million UK parish records from family history societies can be found at in partnership with the Federation of Family History Societies.

The Westminster Collection is available on all of findmypast’s international sites as part of a World Subscription.

This marks the first phase in’s project with City of Westminster Archives. In the coming months the following records will be published online too:

• Non-conformist registers 1694-1945
• Cemetery registers 1855-1990
• Parish rate books 1561-1900
• Settlement examination books 1701-1840
• Removal registers 1710-1867
• Poor relief lists 1715-1869
• Workhouse admission and discharge books 1725-1869
• Apprenticeship registers 1640-1869
• Bastardy records 1657-1825
• Militia records 1780-1816
• Watch, constables and beadles’ records 1736-1830
• Wills and probate records 1504-1829

About Westminster City Archives

Westminster City Archives aims to provide a centre of excellence, where archives and local studies materials are acquired, preserved and made accessible, in order to raise the profile of Westminster’s unique heritage within a global context.

The Archives Centre is designated by the Bishop of London, under the terms of the Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978, as the repository for ecclesiastical records for the pre-1965 City of Westminster and has also been appointed by the Lord Chancellor as a repository for specified classes of public records under the provisions of Section 4 of the Public Records Act 1958. These include Petty Sessions records, probate records of the Westminster Commissary Court and Coroner’s Court records. It is also recognised by the Master of the Rolls as a repository for manorial and tithe documents under the Law of Property Act 1922 and the Tithe Act 1936.

The Archives Centre holds extensive collections relating to family, local, business and community history in the geographical area of the present day City of Westminster, including the former Metropolitan Boroughs of Paddington and St Marylebone. Among the resources available are books, pamphlets, directories, newspapers, journals, maps and plans, over 60,000 prints, drawings and photographs, local government records from 1460, electoral registers, census returns, parish registers, and business archives.

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