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Do you remember the excitement of finding your ancestor’s signature for the first time?

In 1988 Dublin celebrated its Millennium and my mother’s family decided to have a reunion at Christmas time. This was planned well in advanced and we decided to attend.

I had found an article in Canadian Living magazine that was about a neighbour who owned a needlecraft shop in town. She had been married for 35 years and every Christmas had put a tablecloth out for visitors to sign instead of a guest book. She would provide a pencil and they would have to sign it larger than usual. In January she would embroider the signatures so they would be a permanent reminder of the visitors and the good times.

This would be perfect for the family reunion in 1988. It was held on New Year’s Eve and we had a large party. Cousins came from as far away as Australia and we had four generations present. It was the descendants of my mother’s paternal grandparents plus a few from her maternal line. One cousin who is a photographer took a group shot and then did family groups and they were put in an album and each family got one.

The meal was pot luck so everyone brought their specialty. A yule log was put in the fire so it didn’t have to be attended quite as often. In the family there were people who wrote plays, stories and poems. One of the plays written by my grandfather was presented. Stories and poems were read. Memories were shared and created.

I decided to bring a white sheet with me instead of a table cloth. I brought soft pencils and pencil sharpeners and told everyone to do what they wanted. We have a very creative family so there was lots of drawings as well as sayings and signatures. Only the littlest attendee didn’t contribute. We lost one family member early in the New Year and a few more since so this has become a family heirloom.


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Instead of just embroidering the names and leaving it at that I wrote a description of the event and the date around the signatures and embroidered that as well. This way someone who sees it 50 years later will know what it is.

There are probably going to be a few family reunions or gatherings this summer. This could be a way of creating your own family heirloom.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

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I’m Back!

Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at

Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at


You may have noticed that things have been quiet on my blog and social media sites lately. Instead of focusing on the ancestors of my past I have been focusing on my present family. We have gone through many changes but now I am ready to get back to work again. You will see some new posts coming soon and I hope to provide you with new information and shared stories in the coming year.

If you have any suggestions on what you would like to see on the blog and on my social media sites just leave a comment below.


©2015 – Blair Archival Research


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I’m Back!

Over the last six weeks I have not been able to post to the Passionate Genealogist because of technical difficulties. I am glad to say that I’m Back! So look for new posts coming in the next few days.

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Have you heard of Ancestral Atlas? It is a mapping website. It is free to register and you can upgrade to a subscription for £20.00. When you subscribe you have access to history map layers for England, Wales and Ireland; historical boundary maps for the USA; all new licenced data added to the site; Life Maps functionality and other benefits.

The map is world wide and you add events related to your family history and where they happened. If my Great Great Grandmother was born at 23 York Street in Dublin then I can go to that place on the map and upload the information of her birth. You can decide to keep the information private or share the information. You must register to add your own information.

There is a link for quick help where a box pops up and it has information to help you add a new person, edit an existing person, viewing the location of the people/events in your people list, adding an event when you know the location, and many other options. You have the choice of printing this help page so that it is close at hand when you are entering your information. There is a page of FAQ’s to help you with any questions you may have.

When you look at the map for the place you are interested in you will see little blue balloons and if you click on them then you will get information that someone uploaded regarding a person linked to that place.

You can filter your search by given name, family name, start year and end year.

Visit the website and see what Ancestral Atlas is all about.

©2012 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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Randy Seaver issued a challenge on his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun this weekend. He challenged you to write your genea-bucket list. I have never responded to one of Randy’s challenges before. This one is a little late because of our Canada Day long weekend but here is my Genea-Bucket List. Once I started I couldn’t stop!

“What is on your Genealogy Bucket List? What research locations do you want to visit? Are there genea-people that you want to meet and share with? What do you want to accomplish with your genealogy research? List a minimum of three items – more if you want.”

1. Attend genealogy conferences in Canada, England, Ireland and the United States every year.
2. Go to Ireland to do research every year.
3. Go to Salt Lake every year to research in the Family History Library.
4. Write the family history for all 25 surnames that I am researching.
5. Go to Scotland to do research and visit the places connected to my family.
6. Write articles for genealogy magazines.
7. Visit the places connected to my family in Ireland. This would be a very long trip.
8. Visit Australia and New Zealand to do research and see where my family lived.
9. Break through some of the stubborn brick walls.
10. Meet my cousins in the southern United States, Australia and New Zealand.
11. Find some items connected to my ancestors that I have found referenced in museums.
12. Research and complete some local history projects.
13. Speak at a major US genealogy conference.
14. Scan my family photos.
15. Conduct more interviews with well-known genealogists/bloggers.
16. Take a genealogy cruise.
17. Conduct research trips to Ireland. There is a trip set up for February 2013. You can read more here.
18. Inspire someone in the next generation of my family to be interested in family history.
19. Read a new genealogy book every month. This one is harder than it seems.
20. Create genealogy podcasts.
21. Write more books relating to genealogy/family history.

I am passionate about all things genealogy so this is a long list. There are many places, people and research repositories that I want to visit. My excitement was building thinking about doing all these as I was writing the list. They say when you write things down and put them out into the atmosphere that they have a good chance of happening. Fingers crossed.

©2012 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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On Saturday I had the pleasure of speaking to members of the Ontario Genealogical Society at the Region II meeting hosted by the Oxford County Branch of OGS.

There was a large crowd in attendance. The first speaker was Shirley Sturdevant, Vice President of OGS, sharing the latest news from the society. She gave us a pictorial tour of the office and introduced us to the people who help keep the OGS provincial office running.

My lecture was called “The Whys and Wherefores of Scottish Emigration.” The lecture looked at the reasons behind Scottish emigration and where they went throughout the world.

The ladies of St. David’s United Church in Woodstock provided a lovely lunch. After lunch the elections and business meeting for Region II were held.

James F.S. Thomson was the last speaker of the day and his lecture was “Coming in Waves: British and Irish Emigration to Canada.”

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and they were introduced to some new resources to research their own ancestor’s emigration to Canada.

©2012 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa monthly meeting. The topic of my presentation was “A Brick Wall Chisel: The Cluster Research Project.”

The presentation looked at how using a cluster research project can help you break through some of the brick walls you may encounter during your research. This is a technique I have successfully used many times for clients and in my own research.

I arrived in Ottawa a few days early to enjoy the city and spent some time researching in Library and Archives Canada. I went to the National Gallery of Canada and wandered around ByWard Market.

I came across a very interesting sign outside a pub.

Parliament may not have been sitting but the nice weather brought out the crowds and the patios were doing very good business.

If you get the chance to visit Ottawa and attend a BIFHSGO event I would recommend it. The people of BIFHSGO are terrific hosts.

©2012 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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The wiki is a useful tool for genealogists to have in their bookmarks tool box. What is a wiki? According to a wiki is “a web site developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content.”

The most well known wiki is Wikipedia. On this wiki you can find information about countries, provinces, states, counties, towns and villages. You can also find information about churches and other organizations to be found in the area you are researching. Many people have started a wiki page about their ancestors.

FamilySearch has a wiki which is a wealth of information. There were 66,570 articles at the time this post was written. If you are trying to learn more about things such as Methodist church records in Ireland there is a page that can help you. They provide links to websites that can provide more information. They also provide the steps to search the Family History Library catalogue to see what records are available.

There is a tutorial at FamilySearch to help you use the wiki and start your own wiki page. It is called Help: Tour. You can learn to contribute to the wiki, store information on the wiki and research your family history on the wiki. has a wiki that has four kinds of content: “The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy,” “Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources,” “Other great content” and “Content added by you.” They have a list of pages that they would like to have added to the wiki and are asking for contributors to start these pages.

My Heritage has a wiki called My Ancestry Wiki which is based on the family tree. You either upload your own or join one that is already started. You can invite family members to go in and update and add new information.

The wiki’s that would be most useful to the researcher at the moment are the FamilySearch Wiki and Wikipedia. The other wiki’s are a work in progress and tend to be very specific in the areas of coverage.

Wiki’s are a great tool but you must use them carefully and double check all the information you find. Check the sources for the pages to see where the information originated.

If there is a subject you are very well versed in then consider creating your own page on a wiki.

©2012 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

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Today is the 189th birthday of Gregor Mendel and Google has paid homage to him by creating their logo in a pea theme.

Gregor Mendel was the father of the science of genetics. He studied the inheritance of certain traits that were found in peas. He was an Augustinian Friar living in Austria when he started his study of the humble pea.

As with many great thinkers his research was not recognized until after his death. At the turn of the 20th century his research was rediscovered and this was the beginning of modern science of genetics.

The knowledge of genetics has helped many around the world including those interested in genealogy.

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While I am a firm believer in using research techniques to find information on my family there is the ever present serendipity that shows up at the most opportune times.

I had found a reference to a possible marriage between Thomas Kelly and Mary Orford in the Marriage Licence Indexes at the National Archives of Ireland. The reference read:

Kelly, Thomas, Kildare, Gent, Mary Orford, Dublin, Sptr, 3 Aug 1767 St. Anne’s parish

I thought this was a great find for so early a record. Then in the 1980s I ordered some copies of “The Irish Ancestor” edited by Miss Rosemary ffolliott. There were nine journals to read and I was enjoying going through them all. In journal No. 2 from 1971 I came across an article called “Old Parochial Registers of Scotland: References to Parties from Ireland” extracted by Donald Whyte.

The first page described the project and the first few extractions were noted. When I turned the page the second extraction jumped out at me. It read:

“11th August 1767: Thomas Kelly from Kildare in Ireland and Mary Orford from Dublin being well attested as single persons & of good Character having got publication of Banns, were lawfully Married here this day”

This extract came from the OPR’s for Kirkcudbright. I ordered the film from the Family History Library to confirm the extraction. What they were doing in Kirkcudbright and why they married there is a mystery. The marriage licence is dated the 3rd of August and the marriage took place on the 11th of August. Since they had a marriage licence from Ireland it is possible that they only read the banns once. The distance from Kildare to Kirkcudbright is over 400 kilometers and travel in 1767 was not the swiftest.

If I had not decided to order some back copies and if there was not an extra copy of the 1971 journal then their actual place of marriage would not be known. Why they went to Scotland and how they actually got there remains a mystery which I hope one day to solve.

While doing a cluster research project in Cheshire in England I came across an interesting entry in the marriage register. Daniel Broadbent married Martha Cheetham by licence on 9 March 1780. Daniel signed his name and Martha signed her mark. “Behold!” in bold letters is written above the entry. There is a note by the minister who presided over the marriage:

“N.B. A peculiar Marriage! Daniel Broadbent was aged twenty three – Martha Cheetham aged eight three!”

The minister’s feelings may be the reason the marriage was done by licence and not banns. Maybe he refused to read the banns for a marriage with such an age difference. It would be nice to know why they decided they should get married.

While looking for the marriage of my Great Great Grandparents I came across the first marriage for my Great Great Grandfather Henry Thompson. In a round about way this also helped me find the marriage of his sister.

They were married at the same time. I would not have found this by ordering the marriage record from Ireland as they only provide you with the marriage record for the couple requested.

The Family History Library has microfilms for early civil registration records in Ireland and when you get a copy you get the full page of entries. This is how I found the marriage of Priscilla Thompson.

Henry married Hannah Fayle and Priscilla married George Richard Fayle. It is a case of siblings marrying siblings. George was a witness to Henry’s marriage and Henry to George’s. William Thompson was a witness to both and is Henry and Priscilla’s brother.

I had not known of Henry’s first marriage. My Great Great Grandmother was his second wife. He lost his first wife and child within six months of each other just over a year after the marriage.

Have you come across interesting entries in parish registers or other records? Has serendipity found its way into your family history research? Please tell me your stories in the comments below.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

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