Discover your inside story with AncestryDNA®

August 30, 2008

Global surname website launched

The Press Association: Global surname website launched

People interested in their family history can now find where their relatives have spread around the world by using a public website which maps surnames.

A team of geographers from University College, London, have used data from electoral rolls and telephone directories to map the distribution of 10.8 million different last names.

The information, which covers a billion people in 26 countries, shows amateur researchers just where different names originated and where families have scattered around the world through migration.

The online maps also have information on which of 6.5 million first names are most closely associated with different surnames and lists the top regions and cities for the presence of each last name.

The name tracer can be found at

August 28, 2008

It's a Small World After All

My husband's nephew is a blossoming genealogist. He suddenly expressed interest in his mother's family tree and of course my husband and I pounced! What more could genealogists ask for then to find fresh blood so to speak?

We showed him charts of his father's lines. We talked about genealogy resources. He was so interested that I gave him a list of questions to take to his maternal grandfather. A few days later he came back with the answers so I started researching.

Much to my surprise I found that he and one of my daughters-in-law share a common ancestor! Using the Kinship option of FTM I was able to see that they are 10th cousins twice removed.

I like to put things in a manner I can understand better. It is like my future 10th great grandchild hooking up with my sister's 10th great grandchild in the year 2175. I can't even begin to imagine that!

It's a small small world. It doesn't quite match me finding out that I am my father's 8th cousin once removed... but more on that in another post!

August 26, 2008

COMING SOON! fully indexed Canadian Ships Passenger Lists, 1865-1935

I received this note from the Media Group publicising this wonderful event. You must will need an or membership to use the indexes so if you are not a member, you can sign up for an Ancestry membership here


On Tuesday the 16th of September 2008, in partnership with the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will announce the world-first online launch of the complete and fully indexed Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935.

This is a comprehensive collection of passenger lists for all Canadian ports during this key immigration period and includes more than 5.5 million names of those who travelled from around the world to settle in Canada.

You will have the opportunity to interview the descendents of Canadian immigrants who appear in the collection and learn from genealogy experts about tracing your own family's history.

Please join us on September 16 at the Toronto Archives Building at 255 Spadina Road at 10:30 a.m.

August 25, 2008

A Tisket, A Tasket, I Lost my Genealogy Basket!

Organization. That's the word for today.

How many times have you looked for, and couldn't find, that document you stumbled on a few months ago, the one that showed what church Great grandpa was baptised in?

How many piles of papers do you have on your desk or the floor, the piles that defy gravity?

How often do you misplace (I prefer that word to "LOSE") your genealogy papers, the ones you absolutely must have by tomorrow?

How many times do you find a genealogy document misfiled in the wrong folder? Or in a folder labelled "STUFF TO SORT LATER"? Or in a folder that perhaps made sense when you filed the document but makes no sense now!

How often do you change whatever filing system you have for your genealogy?

If you answered more than once to any of the above questions, then you, like me, need help. You need organization!

But how do you get organization? Is there a gene for it? I don't appear to have it. I have so many piles of important documents and miscellaneous papers on and around my computer desk that I need a map to get to my chair.

I change my filing system at least three times a year. I've tried binders. Doesn't work for me. I like filing cabinets and I have a lot of them. I have tons of room. I have no excuse to not be organized. But still organization eludes me!

Every time I think I have a wonderful system of filing all the documents for all my genealogy lines, I use it for a month or two and then decide it isn't working. So I revise it.

Don't get me wrong, revision is often necessary. When we first start our genealogy, we don't have a lot of material. We probably are only searching one line at a time. So we can safely create one file folder for each surname. As we acquire more documents we might create one file folder for each individual. But eventually, especially if we research all siblings (which I do) for each generation, we can't maintain a system of one file folder per surname or even individual.

I've been researching my family tree for over 40 years. (I started quite young!). I've collected an awful lot of material in that time. Every so often, I go through it all and purge. It is one of the most difficult tasks for me - to decide that an email from 1993 is not necessary to keep, that the unsourced 120 page family tree from someone who is my 10th cousin 4 times removed, doesn't need to take up space in my filing cabinet anymore. That the papers I photocopied in 1990 and saved "just in case" are definitely not my lines and I can safely toss them out.

My usual system of purging is to take all my piles of paper from my desk and the floor and the top of the filing cabinets and start sorting. I love to sort. Since I tend to mix up my business with personal with genealogy papers, I have a lot of fun with this step. I make 5 piles - business, personal, genealogy, garbage and "hmmm... I'm not sure"

I can happily sort for an entire day. The problem is when I stop, I am overwhelmed by the size of each pile and the thought that now I have to actually DO something with each one! I have to take care of each piece of paper in each pile by filing it, or entering it into a genealogy program, or paying that bill, or making that phone call or.... I realize I've ended up with 5 piles that equal in total the size of the original piles! All I've done is move piles around. I've shuffled papers but I haven't really organized. Okay I do have one teeny pile of "garbage" but a HUGE pile of "hmmm...I'm not sure"

It is at this point that I turn to something else I love (I talked about my labeller in another post on this blog) - tubs! I have a storage tub fetish. I cannot pass by a row of tubs in any store without buying some. The clear plastic ones almost make me drool with anticipation. Here's a tub where you can PUT THINGS, and you can SEE what is inside and you can LABEL it for good measure! What could be more delightful??

I label 4 tubs - PERSONAL. GENEALOGY. BUSINESS. MISCELLANEOUS. I place the sorted (shuffled) piles of paper into the tubs. I put the lids on and stack them neatly in the corner. Done!

I know I still need to pay the bills, make the phone calls, book appointments, file the genealogy documents, enter the family tree data.... I'll do it, but later.... after all, tomorrow's another day!

August 24, 2008

Writing Your Own Obituary or How to Really Creep Yourself Out

Over on Facebook, where quite a few genealogy bloggers hang out, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak posted a link to Funeral Planning.

While I haven't gone so far as to plan my funeral or write my own obit (although the thought of doing so is tempting!), last year I have put together a copy of what I want done after my demise. Yes, really. I jotted notes on items such as burial versus cremation, what cemetery I wish to be buried in - and what inscription I want on a headstone.

I've been married three times (divorce then death brought me to my third husband) - should I put all three of my husbands' names on my stone? Do I want to have number one's name immortalized for eternity on MY stone??

My thoughts began to stray to having inscriptions like the following: "beloved wife of husbands two and three" and "long-suffering and not-so-beloved wife of husband number one aka he-who-shall-not-be-named"

What about my parents' names and places of birth? As a genealogist I want it all! I found myself fantasizing about having a 4-generation pedigree chart engraved on a huge headstone. Has it been done before? Is there room?

As a genealogist, I'm also concerned about my own obituary! After reading through hundreds of my ancestors' obits, I know exactly what I wish had been in each. Why oh why were women's maiden names so infrequently mentioned? Why does my great grandmother's obit simply say "she came with her parents from Ireland when she was a young girl"

Acck! Could they not have written something a bit more detailed, such as "she came with her parents John Smith and Lucy McGillicuddy from Ballyhoogan Co. Down Ireland in 1843 on the ship Rosemary which sailed from Belfast Ireland to Quebec on 23 May..."

My children never seem to remember that I was born in Oshawa, not Ajax (which is where I grew up). Neither my kids nor my husband seem to remember how my maiden name McGinnis is spelled!

So I've written down all the facts that I want included in my obit. My maiden name McGinnis (spelled correctly of course). My parents' names and where they were from. Where and when I was born. My husbands' names (yes, even he-who-shall-not-be-named). Where I lived until the age of 17. Where I went to University. A little bit about my interests and hobbies. My children's names. I've even included my 11 grandchildren's names although I doubt anyone will want to pay enough to have them all mentioned.

I'm doing this for future generations who will (hopefully) be looking for me 200 years from now. It was a bit disconcerting when I first began, but as I went along I really became quite interested in the task! After writing down all my notes for my tombstone inscription and obituary, I placed them in a large manilla envelope labelled "For my executor" and put it in an antique blanket box. Family members know where to find these papers.

I didn't make copies and send them to my children because I may want to add or remove items. When you come right down to it, I'm planning on sticking around a very long time! Who knows how many things I might want to change over the years.

By the way, I opted to NOT have hubby number one's name on my tombstone... I managed to get him out of my life, why on earth would I want him around afterwards?

August 22, 2008

Launch of 1911 England Census in 2009, in association with the National Archives, will be managing the launch of the 1911 census, in 2009. This mammoth project is underway at this very moment. will be the first, and for a time the only place to access the 1911 census online. If you haven't already, then be sure to register on the site in order to receive the latest updates and be among the first to use the census at its launch.

Be sure to visit for more census records

August 21, 2008

William Potes Tombstone Goes Home

The tombstone of Oklahoma pioneer William Potes spent decades in places it didn't belong.

Originally stolen from a cemetery in rural Murray County, it was discovered in an abandoned Texas college dormitory in 1982 and spent the last 26 years in the back yard of amateur genealogists Mike and Donna Ballard of Krugerville, Texas.

Donna Ballard said her research indicated the tombstone went missing around 1950. A security guard at Texas Woman's University in Denton discovered it when some old dorms were being razed to build new ones. He took it to the Ballards in
1982 and asked them to help solve the mystery.

Continue reading Tombstone Finds Its Way Home

August 20, 2008

Ontario Land Record Index - New Guide

Do you have an ancestor who settled in Ontario (previously Upper Canada and Canada West)? If so, you have hopefully obtained his or her land records. If not, you will need to venture into the often confusing maze of Ontario land records.

To start, offers a lookup servive in the microfiche index of the CLRI (Ontario Land Record Index) You must consult the CLRI in order to obtain the Archival Reference (and other details). Then you must convert the Archival Reference to a microfilm number in order to view the original record.

The Archives of Ontario has recently put online a guide to the complete process of researching Ontario Land Records using the microfiche index. It is called How to Use the Ontario Land Records Index ca. 1780 - ca.1920 and is an online guide to how to find the microfilm

To understand the archival reference code in CLRI entries and to identify the microfilm reel that contains the original entry, consult the Ontario
Land Records Index: How to Find the Reel of Microfilm You Need available in the microfiche binders in the Main Reading Room

In case you have not visited the AO website in the last while The Archives of Ontario wants your feedback. They have a customer service survey they would like you to fill in. Give them your feedback and you have the chance of winning $200.

August 19, 2008

Henry Louis Gates of African American Lives speaks to The Learning First Alliance

The Learning First Alliance recently conducted an interview with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Harvard Professor and creator-narrator of the African American Lives documentaries on PBS. These documentaries use genealogy and DNA research to reconstruct the family histories of famous African Americans including Oprah, Morgan Freeman and many others. Gates shares their family histories with these prominent people--who learn their family histories for the first time. The result is very moving.

Gates believes that this work has strong implications for K-12 curriculum. In the interview, he argues that schools can use DNA science and genealogical research to help African American students trace their own family history past 1870, before which the federal census did not include slave names.

Gates believes this work could reinvigorate history and science classes for African American students. He is creating curriculum to help teachers integrate this kind of research in their classes. The implications of his genealogical work are far-reaching.

In the interview, Gates says "Fifty percent of our black children are not graduating from high school. Fifty percent. That’s every other black child. So the situation is dire, and the condition is desperate. We have to try any innovation we possibly can to reach these kids. It occurred to me, given the response to “African American Lives”… You know, everybody is responding to this series. And why? Because your favorite subject is what? Yourself!"

He goes on to add "my idea is to use the fascination with one’s collective self, one’s familial self, to seduce people back into learning"

Mr. Gates new book called Search for Our Roots, which is the companion book to African American Lives 1 and “2,” will be published in February

Read the full interview online Tuesday August 19th at noon.

August 18, 2008

Plan to Digitise Vital Registrations England & Wales back to 1837, Fails

A government website, which promised direct access to 171 years of family records, had been delayed indefinitely following the failure of a Whitehall computer project.

An attempt to scan, index and digitise 250m records of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales from 1837 to the present day was supposed to result in a new public website that would let people trace their ancestors at the touch of a button next February. Now, three years after the government awarded the £16m contract to German computer giant Siemens, the deal has been terminated with only half the work done.

The General Register Office (GRO), which is responsible for the records, said only 130m had been scanned, and plans to make the index public had been shelved. Missing are details of birth records from 1837 to 1934 and death records from 1837 to 1957. The Identity and Passport Service (IPS), which runs the GRO, said it had only paid half the fee as a result.

Continue reading

To search other English records see

August 17, 2008

Stacy & Kyes Store ledger Rushford, Allegany County New York

I have an old ledger book from the Stacy & Kyes store in Rushford, Allegany County New York which lists sales of goods (and who bought them!) from 1868 to 1872. The Gazetteer and Business Directory Of Allegany County, N.Y. for 1875 lists a Wm. E. Kyes as a seller of dry goods, groceries, boots, shoes, hats, caps, crockery etc., on Main Street in Rushford.

Stacy and Kyes sold drugs, paints, books, groceries and just about everything else you can think of. For example, in May 1868 we find Albert Woods. Albert came into the store every day over a period of 10 days, each time buying one item. On May 12th he bought crackers for 16 cents. May 13th he returned and bought 3 lb of sugar for 78cents. Over the next few days he bought a fourth of tobacco for 25 cents, a 1/2 lb. of tea, and 95 cents worth of groceries.

A few days later Albert returned for more tobacco! Albert's wife may have been baking for the very next day he bought a sack of flour for $3.30. July saw Albert buying oil - one gallon for 60 cents. In August he bought alcohol for 56 cents and a couple of days later another sack of flour. I wonder if there was a reunion or party planned? Over a time period of 3 months Albert spent $10.75 total at the store.

The index pages from the Stacy & Kyes Store ledger have been scanned and put online on

August 16, 2008

National Archives to Open Official Personnel Files of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

The National Archives will open more than 35,000 official personnel files of men and women who served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which was the U.S. wartime intelligence agency during World War II.

The files cover civilian and military personnel who served and were later transferred, discharged, reassigned, or died while in service prior to 1947.

The 750,000 pages include initial applications to join the OSS; preliminary training and subsequent work assignments; pay, leave and travel documents; evaluations, basic medical information; and awards, decorations and discharge papers. Occasionally, photographs are included in the application file. Senior officials, officers and men engaged in special combat actions, such as Detachment 101, Jedburghs, X-2, espionage, and major intelligence missions may have citations summarizing those efforts in the files.

Some of the notables who were in the OSS include former CIA directors Allen Dulles and William Casey, famed chef Julia Child, Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, Arab/Israeli peace negotiator and civil rights advocate Ralph Bunche, and Hollywood actor Sterling Hayden

What a treasure trove this will be for genealogists! And now you can start by searching for individuals who served in the OSS online in the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) listing for the OSS Personnel Files, ARC ID: 1593270.

August 13, 2008

Organizing and Remembering Passwords

I've been thinking a lot about passwords. It seems more and more websites require a login (username and password) to use their facilities. Of course as genealogists many of us already belong to subscription websites like,, Genealogy Today and so on - all of which require a login. Google mail and other mail services need a password. Online banking is also password protected as are E-Bay and other auction sites.

We all learn pretty quickly that it is not a good idea to have one password for all our important or private areas of the internet. Instead we are urged to create separate passwords for every spot we visit. We're also urged to not record these passwords, but at the same time, told to guard them carefully and not forget them!

As my password list began to grow (and being the webmaster of over a dozen sites as well as volunteer list admin of dozens of mailing lists and message boards) just adds to that list!) I realized I had to come up with a method that would allow me quick and easy access to my safe-guarded areas.

My husband uses post-it notes. They are stuck all over his desk shelves. For me that doesn't work as it takes too long to find the one I want. Plus I don't like the clutter and the fact that anyone coming into our computer area has easy access to our "stuff".

I tried writing mine in an address book. Nope, I didn't like it as I couldn't keep the sites in alphabetical order within the letter category. I also ran out of room under one letter and had to expand into a letter that was incorrect. For someone with only a few passwords this might be a viable option but not for me

In desperation I bought Digital Personal Password Manager. It's a cool little device that you hook up to your computer. Then you teach it your fingerprint and your passwords. Whenever you go to a password protected site that you have "entered" on the device, you simply press your finger or thumb on the red pad and bingo your password is entered on the site and you are in.

At first I liked this method but I quickly began having problems. many times the fingerprint reader would not accept my finger! I had to move it, adjusting it ever so slightly, rolling it one way and another until it would take. My husband loves his, it works like a charm every time! But for me it was a dismal failure.

[Photo on left is an invented password and username, it's not the real one!] Finally last year I hit on what for me works beautifully. I use a roladex. The roladex allows me to create one card for each site. I can make changes as needed, I can change my password, record what credit card I used to buy a subscription, etc. I can buy extra roladex cards if I need more. I can insert a card so that the sites are in alphabetical order. When a card gets too full of scribbled notations, I can toss it and start a new one!

I'm the Roladex Queen now and I can't say enough about how much easier my online life is since I started using it.

What do my Grandma, Eaton's Department Store, William Massey and American Express have in common?

As a child I never experienced going to stores. We lived in a village where the only store was a tiny variety store which sold a bit of everything.

My mother didn't take her children with her when she shopped, so it was not until age 10 that I experienced a store for the first time. My grandmother took me to "The City" (Toronto) to Eaton's Department Store. Timothy Eaton founded a dry goods store on Yonge Street in 1869, and that small shop ultimately became the largest department store chain in the country. Timothy Eaton's first store was occupied by the 20th Century by Eaton's large Main Store, the Eaton's Annex and a number of related mail order and factory buildings. Eaton's is now defunct and where the huge store once stood is a large mall called The Eaton Centre. It is the 3rd largest shopping mall in Canada, and an important Toronto Tourist attraction.

For me, as a 10 year old, a trip to "The City" was an adventure on its own, as the only time I ever went there was our family's annual trip to the Santa Claus parade in downtown Toronto every November. The number of people in Eaton's overwhelmed me and I don't remember much about the store itself! I was impressed, but scared, as I rode on an escalator for the first time. I'd never seen a store with more than one floor or taking up so much space so it felt very alien to me and definitely outside my comfort zone. I do remember how lovely my grandmother looked in her skirt and jacket, nylons and high heels. And I chuckle at the thought of seeing someone dressed that way in any store now!

But what do Timothy Eaton, William Massey and American Express have in common? In a convoluted, six degrees of separation kind of thing, Timothy Eaton, the founder of Eaton's Department Store, moved to the town of St. Mary's Ontario in the 1860s and opened a small store. St. Mary's was a very small town and my husband's 3rd great-grandfather William Massey also lived there.

William, a teamster, worked for the newly formed American Express Company which had an office in St. Mary's in the mid 1800s. In 1862 William was charged with stealing over $800.00 from the Company (approximately $20,000.00 now) and arraigned for trial. One of the jurors at his arraignment was non other than Timothy Eaton!

August 12, 2008

One Step Search Engine for 1881 Canada Census

Steve Morse has uploaded a One-Step form for the 1881 Canadian census. It's in the Canadian Census section of

One advantage of Steve's form is that the district and subdistricts can be selected from a drop-down list rather than requiring the user to type them in and possibly
misspelling them.

August 10, 2008

BFF (Blogging Friends Forever) Award

Kathryn Hogan of Looking4Ancestors just passed me the BFF (Blogging Friends Forever) Award.

The rules of passing this award on are:

* Only 5 people are allowed to receive this award
* 4 of them followers of your blog.
* One has to be new to your blog and live in another part of the world.
* You must link back to who ever gave you the award.

The BFF Award is a cool idea, it's an interesting variation on the TAG game played last year amongst genealogy bloggers. In that TAG, you had to write about 5 things that were not generally known about you.

The problem I have with the rules of this Award is figuring out who is new to my blog and where they live. So I figure I'll bend the rules slightly and find someone whose blog is new to me. With the new surge of Genealogy Bloggers coming on to Facebook and joining Genea-Bloggers Group, that part will be easy.

There are so many terrific new (and old!) blogs out there and I just haven't had the time to read them all. Two that recently came to my attention is Janet Hovorka's The Chart Chick and M. Diane Roger's CanadaGenealogy, or,'Jane's Your Aunt'. So I'm passing on this BFF Award to Janet & M. Diane as two of my five.

After much deliberation (and because it's difficult to find someone who hasn't already received the BFF Award!) I'm passing on one of the three remaining to Thomas MacEntee's Cooking Blog And I Helped! Thomas already has a BFF for his genealogy blog and I really enjoy his writing and his recipes on his Cooking Blog.

With two more to go, I decided to pass the BFF Award on to my friends Illya D'Addezio of for his Genealogy News Center and Kathi Reid of Ancestor Search

Keep on Blogging!

August 9, 2008

Genealogy Crossword Puzzles and Games

Ali and Lilith come for their annual week on Grandma and Grandpa's farm soon. Since Ali, age 10, is our budding next-generation genealogist and Lilith is interested in ancestor stories, I always like to have a genealogy activity ready for them.

Last year I organized a very successful Ancestor Cemetery Hunt. This year we'll repeat that at a different cemetery but I wanted something more sedentary, something we could work on together but inside.

After hunting around the 'net for Genealogy crossword puzzles or word searches, I gave up and created my own. This is an image of part of the Genealogy Word Search I created. It's pretty easy, just make a list of genealogy related words and start putting them into an Excel page.

Next add letters randomly in the empty squares. In this photo I left the Genealogy words bolded for my answer sheet. In the final Word Search page I printed for the grandchildren, all letters are the same non-bolded look.

The Genealogy Crossword puzzle is not proving as easy to create. It was pretty easy to come up with the puzzle and the clues (definitions). However trying to add the superscript numbers in Excel didn't work for me. Trying to do this in Word also did not work. The image on the left shows my first draft attempt. Some numbers are superscript, some are normal. I could not get them to set to superscript! I would of course resize the boxes to be equal sizes, and black in all the unused squares before printing this off. This was to be my answer sheet, the final Crossword puzzle would have empty squares to be filled in.

I could add the numbers by hand and that is likely what I'll end up doing. Because when all is said and done, I only have so much patience. If anyone knows how I can create nice little superscript numbers, please post details here and save me from tearing my hair out!

August 8, 2008

1881 Canada Census IMAGES now online

Library & Archives Canada has just put the images for the 1881 Canada Census online. The census is fully searchable and you can view the page for any ancestor name you are interested in.

I found the online images impossible to read and could not see a method of enlarging them but it is easy to save to your hard drive. Then simply open in any graphic program and enlarge to a size that suits you. See for more census records online

August 5, 2008

Creating a Genealogy Family Memory Book, Part 2

This is one page from another of my Family Memory Books. It is the start of the section on my son's grandfather Jack and I wanted to show the different looks you can achieve.

Since I have Jack's old British passport I thought it would be a good idea to scan and place it in this Memory Book for my son and his children. I also included on this page a photo of Jack as a choir boy, the death certificate of his father, and a treasured photo of Jack in the streets of London England in WW11.

I use a very old program called Microsoft Picture It! Publishing 2001. There may well be much better and fancier ones available. But mine suits my purposes and allows me to create fancy or coloured backgrounds, fancy borders, edge effects, fade out effects and much more. Best of all, you can play around with the photos and documents right in the program. So you can change your layout and text and see exactly how it will look before you print. You can also save it as a webpage or email it to someone else.

This second image shows the same page but with a few changes. Here I created a fancy border around the photo of Jack as a choir boy. I also created a soft blurred edge effect around the top left photo of Jack in London England during WW11. Lastly I created a sepia background on which to place the photos. The choices are endless!

My first few Memory Books were plain and simple. I just wanted to place the images in a manner that was pleasing to me but I wanted to do them quickly. The more pages I created, the more I liked what was happening! I began to slow down and experiment.

Another thing I really like about Picture It! is that you can create 50 pages in the project, and you can place your images in the tray while you arrange and rearrange to your heart's content. It's rather like rearranging the living room but you don't have your husband complaining about moving the piano to seven different spots until you find the right place!

August 4, 2008

Creating a Genealogy Family Memory Book

Last winter I began scanning my old family photos and slides. As unofficial keeper of the family documents and photographs, I am entrusted with such treasures whenever someone dies. After years of accumulation of these items,including an old photo album from my grandmother's brother's family, I decided I simply had to organize and preserve them.

Scanning was my first step and I joined Scanfest, a monthly session hosted by Miriam of AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors. We get together on Windows Live Messenger where we scan and chat, and share tips on working out problems with old documents and photos. It's a great way to help motivate me to scan for a few hours while having fun!

Once I had all one family treasures scanned, I began scanning various documents I'd gathered in my genealogical research on that family. Scanning complete, I began editing the scans - cropping, resizing, correcting darkness and light problems and so on.

As soon as I had everything complete for one family I decided to create what I call a Family Memory Book. I eventually want to do one for each family line I have photos and documents for, but for now I worked on my English side - my mother and her parents going back as far as I have photographs. I have a page for each family member for whom I have a photo. Some individuals have many pages as I have a lot of photos and documents for them. Some have only 1 page, others share a page with other family members. It isn't a family tree so does not have to be in any particular order. As long as I labelled each photo, everyone can be identified by comparing names to a chart of the family tree which is included as one of the first pages of the book.

The photo at left is an example of one page from this 40 page booklet on my mother's English lines. This page holds a photo of my mother and her sister at very young ages, my mother's original birth certificate and a group photo of her at a young age with her parents and older sister. The group photo is actually a photocopy of an original and had to be seriously edited after scanning as photocopies are never a good solution. Sadly it was all I had to work with as no one knows who had the original or where it is now. (As an interesting aside, the young boy standing in the group photo was the son of family friends. The family lost touch but he became my mother's second husband some 65 years after this photo was taken.)

In this Family Memory Book I have scanned and placed photos, birth records, death records, newspaper obituaries, postcards of the ship my grandparents sailed on from England to canada in 1914, copies of ships passenger lists and any other documents I found when researching the lineage.

Because I have many family heirlooms passed on to me by my English grandmother, I also took pictures of them and included those in the Memory Book. This page is my Grandfather Charles in the Kent Buffs, and his gold pocket watch and initialed signet ring which my Grandmother gave me.

Each photo in the book has a caption or explanation with it. The progam I am using allows me to stack the photos as if I were creating a scrapbook. I can overlap. I can resize the photos right on the page so that I can see how the page will look. I can create borders. The choices are endless!

When this Family Memory Book is complete I will print them off on top quality laser paper, create a front and back cover which I will laminate, then I'll give one to each of my siblings and other family members. What better way to share the wonderful photos I own plus preserve copies in case anything happens to the originals.

August 3, 2008

Another Not-So-Famous Ancestor of Sorts

I'm still thinking about connections in History and Genealogy. About 6 degrees of separation.... Sometimes we have more details on an ancestor's life and can do more than play the "I wonder if..." game.

For example, my step-father (an Ancestor of sorts?) was first married to a woman who was one of Sir Frederick Banting's lab assistants.

Frederick Banting was a Canadian medical scientist, doctor and Nobel laureate, also the discoverer of insulin. Banting also painted with A. Y. Jackson of the famous Group of Seven artists who revolutionized Canadian art. Banting and Jackson took several painting trips together out west and up to the Artic.

In 1921 Banting began his research at University of Toronto which would lead to the discovery of insulin which was later used in the treatment of diabetes. In 1923 Banting received the Nobel Prize for Medicine. In 1934 Banting was knighted by the King for his work in the field of medicine.

Greta, my step-father's first wife, worked with Banting at his University of Toronto Lab. When Greta married my step-father (as his first wife) Banting attended the wedding and gave the young couple a painting he had done on a painting trip with A. Y. Jackson to Alberta in 1924.

After Banting's death in 1943 in a plane crash, the Wedding Gift painting was one of several displayed at an art exhibit of Banting's known works of art in Hart House, University of Toronto. For many years the Wedding Gift painting hung on the wall of my step-father's home in Ontario and then British Columbia. It bounced along in the back of a van driven by my mother across the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia back to Ontario in the 1980s, after my step-father's death.

The painting came full circle and was placed in storage until a decision was made about its future. What stories it could tell!

And so, in a convoluted way, I have an ancestor-of-sorts who is not-so-famous but was connected by his wife (also not-so-famous) to a rather famous and important person who himself was connected to a very famous-and-important person in the art world. And what fun to think about possible times they may have spent together.

This is the kind of connection to history story that I believe belongs in a personal genealogy journal. Perhaps one day, a hundred years from now, a descendant will read the story and feel connected to his or her past in a way that is not possible to achieve from simply reading a name on a census record.

August 2, 2008

Connecting Genealogy With History

A lot of the fun of genealogy is finding details beyond names, dates and locations. What is more thrilling than discovering an obituary for an ancestor where we learn that Great Grandma Susan was an avid quilt-maker, went to church every Sunday and enjoyed her roses in the garden. Or that Great Great Grandpa Daniel loved his Dandelion Wine and was known to imbibe a bit too much on occasion.

Not everyone has a famous ancestor. In fact, most of us have ancestors who were hard-working men and women with little time to do much more than survive! So often the details of their daily lives are sketchy. If we are lucky enough to find a journal or diary that survived, we count our blessings and move on. Most of us will never be that lucky and so we have many ancestors who will remain a blur, a shadowy outline on our famiily tree.

But what about paths that cross in history? Have you ever considered looking beyond your direct ancestor to see who else may have connected with them during their lifetime?

For example, my grandmother McGinnis lived on Water Street in Guelph Ontario Canada, for much of her life. I have proof of that from census, family records, cemetery and burial records and so on. I remember going to her home as a child but hadn't seen it in years so I decided to take a trip to Guelph to see how many of the homes of my ancestors remained.

As we drove down Water Street, I saw a Historic Plaque for the home of John McCrae (1872-1918), the Canadian Physician and poet who wrote "In Flanders Fields"

Grandma lived only 2 houses away. The thought flashed through my mind - I wonder if he and Grandma knew each other? Did they pass on the street and nod hello with a cheery "Good morning!"? Grandma McGinnis was born in 1880, she was 7 years younger than John McCrae. I wondered if they attended the same school in Guelph? Research revealed that John McCrae attended Guelph Collegiate and Vocational Institute (a local High School). So did my Grandmother and her 9 siblings. Surely some of them passed John in the halls!

Now, I am not claiming that my Grandmother was John McCrae's best friend. In fact I'm not claiming she knew him well at all. But Guelph is a friendly city and neighbours living that near each other must have at least exchanged a few pleasantries now and again. I like to think of Grandma and John chatting for a few moments about the weather ("Hot enough for you, John?") or the price of fresh vegetables.

Grandma's younger brother Edgar Peer fought in WW1, as John McCrae did. Edgar was killed in 1918, John McCrae died that same year. I sent for Edgar's military records and discovered that Edgar was was shot in the thigh during the Battle of Passchendaele and sent to the Field Hospital where John McCrae was treating the wounded soldiers. I am not saying that John tended to Edgar's wounds, but I do like to play the game of "I wonder if..."

Playing the game of "I wonder if...." helps me place my ancestors in historical context and thus gain a fuller appreciation of their lives. It is also a heck of a lot of fun!