On September 23rd and 30th I will be speaking at the Oakville Public Library, Central Branch. The topics are: “Scottish Research from a Far” and “Scottish Research beyond the Census & Civil Registration.”

If you are interested in attending this lectures you can sign up through the Oakville Public Library website.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

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Lately I have been reading “A Curious Mind The Secret to a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman. You may recognize the name Brian Grazer. He is a movie producer and business partners with Ron Howard. Together they have made memorable movies from “Splash” to “A Beautiful Mind.”

In this book he discusses his lifelong devotion to curiosity. He has “curiosity conversations” with well-known people from varying backgrounds. He is at heart a story teller. Brian Grazer says: “Curiosity motivates us to explore and discover. Storytelling allows us to share the knowledge and excitement of what we’ve figured out. And that storytelling in turn inspires curiosity in the people to whom we’re talking.” [Page 82]

This got me thinking about family historians. The main reason we get involved in researching our family history is curiosity. We are curious about our past, our family, the unknowns that are directly connected to who we are. If you don’t have curiosity I don’t think you would ever start on the path of researching your family history.

Many family historians take this a step further. We find a person who has no connection to us but our curiosity pushes us to learn more about them. We find a piece of ephemera, a newspaper article, a lonely tombstone and we want to learn more. Curiosity pushes us to tell the story of these apparently lonely items and the people attached to them. We can take it a step further and try to reunite found items with living family members.

Brian Grazer says: “The vividness of someone’s personality and energy really only comes alive when you shake hands and look them in the eye. When you hear them tell a story. That has a real emotional power for me, and a real staying power. It’s learning without being taught, it’s learning through storytelling.” [Page 90]

This is another part of family history. We interview and connect with the generations before us. They could be parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins, no matter how distant. We meet with them, connect with them, we look in their eyes and see a part of our own story. They may have parts of the story that we are unfamiliar with and the sharing of the story connects us.

He also says: “…the curiosity is all about the story. What’s the story of your life, and how are you hoping that money or a new hairstyle will help you shape that story and help you share it.” [Page 94] Now as family historians we are not worried too much about a new hairstyle. We may worry about money so that we can pay for the documentation to help us further our research.

Isn’t family history all about the story, our story? Isn’t it the goal of family historians to write our family story? We want to share that story with other family members. Our aim is to have our ancestors honoured and remembered by future generations.

The curiosity of family history usually starts with one person and one link to the past but it is shared with multiple generations with the hope that they can learn something from those that came before.

Wouldn’t you love to have a “curiosity conversation” with one of your ancestors?

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

 

 

 

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National Library of Ireland

National Library of Ireland

Lately I have become a little jealous of the people in Ireland doing genealogy. They have the most remarkable resources available to them and most of them are free. I wish they were available to genealogists outside of Ireland.

What am I talking about? Lectures, usually free, being held at the National Library, PRONI and other venues. Almost daily I get new reports of what is coming up in the way of topics and speakers. I would dearly love to attend some of these lectures but it is hard to do when you don’t live in Ireland.

Unfortunately, when I am in Belfast the lecture PRONI is giving would take time out of my research. The good thing with PRONI is that they sometimes record their lectures and put them on YouTube, so I can sit at home and watch them at my leisure.

The National Library of Ireland have been holding lunch time lectures all summer and they have announced their September line up. It would be wonderful if these were put on YouTube or a podcast.

I have been listening to the National Archives of England podcasts for years and they are very informative. Yes, a podcast is a little less enjoyable than a webinar when slides are involved but you still get the main idea of the lecture and can learn something new.

It would be a boost to the Irish genealogy community, and their link to the genealogy community outside of Ireland, to start making these lectures available to people who can’t be there in person. Since the majority of the lectures are being offered to the general public for free then that should be the same for the viewing/listening audience.

Wouldn’t you love to learn more about “Mapping Ireland’s Industrial Past” or “Using maps for thinking about history: An Illustrated talk”?

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

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©2015 - Blair Archival Research

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

 

As mentioned in a previous blog post I am preparing to go to Ireland to do research this Fall. Since my first stop will be Belfast my main focus at the moment has been on the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland – PRONI.

They have a great website and an e-catalogue that I have been searching. The other online catalogue being searched is Sources at the National Library of Ireland because they have some information in that database that can be found in PRONI.

When you do research in Ireland you need to research in Dublin, Belfast, England and sometimes Scotland for your Irish ancestors. They may not have lived in all those places but records pertaining to them may be found in the repositories of these countries.

Sources is the online version of the Hayes Manuscripts. In the early 1940s Richard Hayes started an indexing and cataloguing project that would encompass 30 countries. He was going to source all the documents that related to Ireland and have a single place to search for them. You can read more about it here.

Thanks to Richard Hayes we have a wonderful resource to search for records relating to Ireland and her people. The records could be found in repositories around the world including PRONI. A search of several surnames provided links to documents I want to examine at PRONI.

Now I only have one full day and several hours to do research at PRONI. There is no way to get a readers ticket prior to my visit. Therefore there is no way to pre-order documents I want to examine before I actually get there.

When I get to PRONI I will be researching with military precision so that I can access all the information I need. Just to double check I emailed PRONI and they confirmed that there was no way to pre-order copies before my visit. Copies can be ordered and mailed to me but there is a £15.50 search fee plus copy charges for every document I want copied. Since the exchange rate is not very good at the moment this option is financially unfeasible.

In the reading room five documents can be ordered at a time and it takes 20 minutes to get the documents. Reading the website I have learned that a photocopy order form will have to be filled out for each document. Once the copies are ordered the next five documents can be requested. Since there is 20 minutes to wait for the orders to arrive the forms can be filled out while I’m waiting.

To date I have about 27 documents to view and about 10 microfilms to search. The documents are almost certainly related to my family. This can be deduced from the catalogue reference description. The microfilms are church records and finding something is less certain.

So my research plan for PRONI is almost complete. All that is left is to tidy up the cutting and pasting I have been doing from the online catalogues. This is a great way to make sure you have all the right information to order the documents.

Next are the research plans for the Dublin repositories!

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

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My RootsTech trip in February came up rather quickly so I didn’t have time to get a full research plan done. Thankfully, every time I find something that I want to check I put it into my To Do List in RootsMagic. So when this trip came about I printed everything off that was under the repository name Family History Library.

 

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This helped me gather my research plan together quickly and I was able to find a few other items to check while there. At the end of my visit I usually end up checking out sources that weren’t on my list. This inevitably leads to a new find just before I leave but with no time to go further in the search. So when I get home it gets added to my To Do List in RootsMagic for the next trip.

I am preparing to go to Belfast and Dublin this Fall and have already started working on my research plan. Over the next few months I am going to create a series of blog posts and share with you how I am preparing for this trip. There are a few items that I really want to find out more about. One was found at the Family History Library in February. It was a Finding Aid for a manuscript held in Trinity College Library in Dublin.

My inquiries have shown that there are a few restrictions to use the Trinity Library to do research and I thought this was the perfect time to hire a professional. I have sent out my query and will see what the costs and timeline may be.

Why a hire a professional to do this instead of doing it on my own? Well they have the reading cards for the library and would go there on a regular basis. They know the library and how to locate documents. They will get this research item completed far faster than I would in the short time I have during my visit. The professional will hopefully find the document I am looking for and then I can see what information it has and may add a new item to my research plan before I go.

I am also in the process of contacting the repositories I want to visit to make sure they have the documents I’m interested in and to learn what would be the best way to access them. It may be best to order them in advance so that they are waiting for me when I arrive. Or that might not be an option. These are things I am going to find out before I go.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

 

 

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They left us everything book cover

 

Recently I read “They Left Us Everything: A Memoir” by Plum Johnson. This book was so good I could not put it down and had finished the book in a couple of days.

The first thing that drew me to this book is that it is a memoir based in Oakville and I knew the house in which her family lived. Next it was the fact that Plum was caring for her aging parents. This is something I am doing now. “They Left Us Everything” took it a step farther because Plum had to go through the decades of family memorabilia and clutter to get the house ready for sale after her parents had passed away. Thankfully my Mum is very anti-clutter so I won’t have to do the hard work that Plum did.

This process brought childhood memories, both good and bad, to the forefront for Plum. She discovered previously unknown things about her parents and remembered things that had been long forgotten. It helped Plum with the process of letting go. She had the support of her three brothers but she was the one providing her parents with the support and doing the clear out of the house.

She discovered the importance of preserving the family history and its importance to the next generations.

This book makes you laugh and cry. It was very difficult to find here in town as every book shop was sold out. It you want a great read this summer I recommend “They Left Us Everything: A Memoir” by Plum Johnson. I passed my copy on to a friend who I hope is enjoying it.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

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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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2015-05-31 15.47.15

 

Just because it is summer doesn’t mean you can’t get your genealogy conference fix. In August there is the One World – One Family Conference in Brampton Ontario. It is being held on August 22nd and is a full day conference. The Ontario Genealogical Society SIG for Scotland is holding a pre-conference on August 21st.

From September 18-20 the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa or BIFHSGO is holding their annual conference. This year the theme is Scottish family history, photographs in genealogy and technology for genealogists. They will be having experts from the UK and US.

So if you are suffering from a little withdrawal then start making your plans and sign up for one or both of these upcoming family history conferences.

 

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

 

 

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The first half of this year has been very busy with speaking engagements. I speak locally and further afield at various libraries, genealogy and historical societies.

In February I did the last of my “Researching Your Ontario Ancestors” series at the Oakville Public Library.  Then I presented an Irish Workshop at Heritage Mississauga which was so popular it was repeated in April.

In March I visited the Hamilton Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society and presented “Taking Your Irish Ancestors Back Over the Pond.”

April I was back at Heritage Mississauga presenting “The Genealogy Top Ten Organization List” and “Five Things You Need to Know Before You Start Writing Your Family History.”

 

Photo Courtesy of Heritage Mississagua

Photo Courtesy of Heritage Mississauga

 

In May I presented the first in a series of two lectures entitled “Researching Your English and Welsh Ancestors” at the Oakville Public Library. The second part was presented in June.

It was back to Heritage Mississauga in June for my Scottish Workshop and it was a full house of eager genealogists which is always fun.

My next lectures start in the fall. In September there is a two part lecture series on Scottish Research at the Oakville Public Library and in October a First World War Workshop at Heritage Mississauga. In November I am presenting two lectures at the Waterdown & East Flamborough Heritage Society Book Fair.

As for 2016 I am already booked in March for a two part Irish lecture series at the Oakville Public Library and at Kingston Branch Ontario Genealogical Society for their March monthly meeting.

If you are looking for a speaker for one of your events you can contact me for details.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

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The last weekend of May was the OGS Conference held at Georgian College in Barrie Ontario. I went with my friend Elise who happens to be the Local Collections Librarian at the Oakville Public Library. It was the first OGS Conference I have attended in a while where I was an attendee and not a speaker. It was nice to have the time to meet new people and have acquaintances become friends. This was a fun conference.

One job I did have during this conference was handing out “Blogger Beads.” This is a ritual started by Thomas MacEntee at the US conferences. If you are a blogger then you get to wear beads and everyone knows you write a blog. This was the first time it was done at the OGS conference and I sponsored the beads. There were about a dozen sets of beads handed out and a lot of people were asking what the beads were all about. I gave the first set to Thomas MacEntee just before the start of his workshop on Friday. I am hoping to do it again at OGS Conference 2016 in Toronto.

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We had signed up for the deluxe conference package. We had all the meals, attended two workshops and then the two day conference. We stayed at the Georgian College residence which was comfortable and fairly close to everything. There was a long walk from the lecture halls to the marketplace but they very cleverly divided the space and served the meals there on Saturday and Sunday so it brought everyone to the marketplace.

The marketplace included a demo section and I attended a few of them. There were a few technical difficulties but they are to be expected and were soon fixed. Some demos were very informative. The ones I attended were: What to do after having DNA done; The Ontario Name Index (TONI): An Introduction; The Surname Society; Conference 2016 and Other Happenings and Society for One Place Studies.

What I noticed missing from the marketplace was Findmypast and a more obvious FamilySearch presence. There was a small table for FamilySearch but it was a local Stake and not what I am used to seeing at the US conferences. I realize that the OGS conference isn’t as large as the ones in the US but I feel the companies are missing the opportunity to connect with Canadian customers. We don’t have large conferences so this is their chance.

There was a research room where you could access numerous subscription databases for free and get some research advice.

The meals were catered by the college and some of the students were involved in the event planning and catering programs at the college. The food was very nice.

On the Friday I started by attending the workshop by Kirsty Gray called “What is a Surname Society and Why Do One?” It was very interesting and Kirsty was a great speaker. I got to know her much better during the conference. I had also joined the Surname Society by the end of her presentation!

In the afternoon I attended “Maps and Mapping for the 21st Century Genealogist” with James F.S. Thomson. He did a great job with a lecture that had so much information to share in a short time period.

We had dinner with some friends and then attended the Opening Session with Keynote Speaker Kirsty Gray. Her topic was “If I Could Turn Back Time” and she was fantastic. She had the audience laughing and that is always a good thing.

First thing Saturday morning we attended the Panel Discussion “Tracks through Time” with Thomas MacEntee moderating and the panel were: Richard M. Doherty, Dr. Maurice Gleeson, Kirsty Gray and Dave Obee. There were some technical difficulties but Steve Fulton and his trusty team soon had them sorted. They worked very hard during conference.

My first session of the day was Dave Obee’s “A Sense of Place and Time.” This was “understanding the local geography and history of the areas where your ancestors lived.”

The last session of the day was Kirsty Gray’s “Searching of Surnames: Challenges, Pitfalls and the Downright Ridiculous” and again she didn’t disappoint.

 

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Saturday ended as it always does with the Banquet. Elise and I shared a table with Thomas MacEntee, Dick Doherty, a group of ladies from Toronto Branch and other new friends. The chat was full on and interesting. Dr. Maurice Gleeson was the Keynote Speaker and he talked about “Genealogy 2020 – All Aboard.” He was a very entertaining speaker and is so knowledgeable on the topic of DNA.

 

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Sunday felt like a very early start. The last day always does at a conference. Time to pack up and check out. The first lecture of the day was “Putting Your Ancestors in their Place: an introduction to one-place studies” by Dr. Janet Few. Dr. Few was in England and her lecture was streamed in. It was so informative. I wish we could get some of the books she recommended here.

“They Came From Scotland: Tracking Your Immigrant Ancestors” by Christine Woodcock was next. I was a room monitor for this one and introduced her.

In the afternoon I got to attend “The Route of DNA from Flanders to Barrie, via London and Limerick” by Dr. Maurice Gleeson. A brilliant lecture that included some cousins of Dr. Gleeson’s in the audience.

The last lecture of the conference for me was “World War I British Army Research” with James F.S. Thomson. Again he provided a wealth of information and tips for researching from Ontario.

Kirsty Gray opened the conference and so it seemed fitting that she closed it. Her topic was “Back to the Future” which she tied in with the opening session very well.

The organizers of this conference have much to be proud of as it went very well. They did a lot of hard work and the volunteers should be commended. There were many young people helping out which was nice to see.

Now we look forward to Conference 2016 “Genealogy on the Cutting Edge” to be held in Toronto from June 3rd to June 5th. Two speakers already announced are Judy G. Russell and CeCe Moore.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

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