Recently I wrote a blog post called Where (and Why) Are Canadian Genealogists Hiding?
issued a challenge to Canadian Genealogists to speak up and promote
themselves better. As part of my challenge I crowdsourced a list of
Canadian Genealogists which you can view at Update on Where Are the Canadian Genealogists Hiding?
I invited any Canadian Genealogists on that list to participate in a
Guest Biography post here on Olive Tree Genealogy. I'm pleased to introduce you to Patricia Ryan
I asked Patricia some questions about her role as a Canadian Genealogist and here are the responses.
After being raised on a Saskatchewan farm – back when dirt was new [haha] – and having later lived in a few different cities, I currently reside in a small Saskatchewan town … happily just outside of the city ‘rat race’.
1. How and when did you become involved in the field of genealogy?
I think the one thing most of us have in common is waiting too long. Like so many people, I showed no interest in family history until the oldest [and last] living member of my family, who could have answered my questions, had passed away. That was my Mother in 1994 – and this kicked off my interest in genealogy. I inherited her old photo albums. You know the ones that were large, heavy, and had thick, black pages that felt like cardboard? The ones with all the pictures glued in, with no names, dates, or locations? Yup. Those unknown people peeked my curiosity. Over the decades I’m sure Mom had told me the identities of everyone, but I had listened with my ears closed. Too bad.
So I began my first foray into genealogy with a family story of an uncle who was said to have fought overseas in WWII, who married a Queen’s Nurse, was then wounded, received a medal, lived his final days/years in a Veterans hospital in Vancouver BC, Canada, and who was buried in a Soldier’s plot on that same West Coast. This search began before the Internet, so it was all done with paper, pen, stamps, and a lot of impatient waiting. When the first results came back his military papers showed none of the family story was true. Not. One. Single. Detail.
But when I shared this information with my much older brother he was able to show me evidence that the Service Files were incorrect! What the heck?! How could I not trust the War Department to have kept accurate records? How do you know who and what to believe? So I set about serious learning, and eventually I managed to get it all sorted out AND the family story was 100% accurate – as were the SECOND set of military papers I found. But the first file was also correct! I learned many valuable lessons and I was bitten, hard! It was a great personal accomplishment so I believed that if I could solve that tangled mess there was nothing out of my reach. Oh yes and it was so much fun!! HaHaHa
2. What is your main genealogical focus?
I guess over the years, and now decades, my focus has changed, a lot. I began with researching my paternal line, and really forgot I had a Mother until almost four years later! Haha My Father was born in Scotland. My Mother was born in the USA. This makes me a 1st generation Canadian so it was quite jaw dropping when I discovered I had great grandparents living in Ontario Canada in the 1850s, AND many more generations back, there was an entire ancestral line of great greats living in Quebec Canada in the 1600s! So am I still 1st generation? I am a combination of Scottish, Irish, German, Dutch, and maybe some French – and I love them all.
I got involved in instructing in the late 1990’s, and then speaking at conferences followed quickly behind. Passion had turned to obsession, so much so I quit my good paying power job and devoted every second to studying and researching my family. I am a founding member of the College of Certified Saskatchewan Genealogists, and have graduated their courses. Of course, with no income I was forced to learn to do all my research as economically as possible! I credit this need with turning me into the thorough, careful researcher I am today. If there is an inexpensive method of finding something I’ll find it! Haha AND I’ll share the method(s) with my students and conference audiences. I was also invited to join GenClass around 2008. We were slightly ahead of our time as we offered online, inexpensive, classes that even included chats in an online chat room. It was great fun and another learning experience working with professional genealogists around the globe – there were several from the USA including Lisa Alzo, two from Israel, and others from Scotland, Australia, and me representing Canadian research. We stayed together for a number of years until GenClass was folded into a much larger genealogy group.
Teaching and presenting really forces you to become as much of an expert as possible, on whatever subject you are speaking about. No one wants to verbally stutter-step or be shamed in front of one, or a hall full of people! But it does take away from other researching time, so most of my time now is spent on developing new courses and new presentations, but I still use, almost exclusively, my own families as material so I still get to research. It is much more difficult after such a long time researching, to get many familial genealogy ‘happy dances’, but that only makes each one truly special when they do happen. So my focus has really turned to education, although I still work on my brick wall people, and when a break through happens it usually means another new presentation gets written. I really like helping people learn to do this - the right way. I love seeing them get that ‘ah ha’ moment!
The other thing that is evolving is my travel focus. I still love the Caribbean for winters, but have been lucky enough to travel to the homelands of many of my favorite ancestors. We are allowed to have ‘favorites’, aren’t we? Haha I’ve been to Scotland, even managing to get an invite into the home where my Father was born in 1900. I’ve been to old east Germany & the Czech Republic, managing to get inside the house of my great grandparents who left for America in 1879. Fall 2016 we are headed out on a driving trip to the Maritimes, with ‘slight’ side trips to where my families lived in eastern USA States. And without a doubt, my favorite ancestral country is Ireland which I’ve also visited and found the land of my ‘old ones’. I also managed to find that Van Morrison was performing in a small town hall, holding only 300 people, ten miles from where my Irish grandfather & families had lived. And I got tickets – in row 4!! Amazing. Being an accomplished researcher can come in handy for all kinds of things!!
Please continue reading about Patricia in her PDF file.