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Saturday, 22 September 2012

BIFHSGO One Week Later

It’s hard to believe that one week has passed already since the BIFHSGO conference. This year’s focus was on Scottish genealogy and featured some wonderful speakers.
I did not take in the Friday workshops, choosing instead to use the Friday as a travel day.

Late Friday afternoon, the heavens opened up and the torrential rains began, which set the mood for learning about Scottish ancestry. The conference officially opened on the Friday evening. The Don Whiteside Memorial Lecture was given by Vic Suthren, who spoke on the War of 1812. I have to admit that interest in this portion of Canadian history has always eluded me. However, Vic’s talk was really the first time I have understood the war and its impact in creating Canada as a formidable nation. As Albert Einstein once said, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” and that was certainly the case for Vic’s lecture. His knowledge is so vast and his depth of understanding so great that he was able to explain the importance of the war in terms that even I was able to understand and follow along with. Having grown up in Hamilton, I was fascinated by Vic’s comments about the Battle of Stoney Creek. As well, friends of mine are descended from John Chrysler and so the battle of Chrysler’s farm was also a fascinating point for me.

At the reception following the talk, I was able to meet many of the people I have come to have regular e-mail contact with. It was great to be able to put faces to the names.

Saturday morning was quite chilly and I was instantly regretting leaving my jacket back at home. The Plenary was given by Chris Paton. I have heard Chris talk before, and knew that much of what he was going to say would be what I have already heard, but I always enjoy a refresher as well as Chris’ sense of humour. He started out by having us all say a big “hello from Ottawa” to those back in the UK, which he recorded and has placed on his blog http://britishgenes.blogspot.ca/2012/09/bifhsgos-2012-conference-report.html. Chris presents his information very well and, like Vic, knows his subject so well that it makes the rest of us feel that we too can do research in the Scottish records. As part of the Q&A, Chris referenced the “Poor Law” records. His Irish accent had it sounding more like “Purr Law” and I saw people scrambling to write down this rich, new, never-heard-of-before resource! I was poorless with laughter. After several requests to repeat the name of this new resource, Chris switched tactics and responded with “skint” Of course, few understood that one either!

The next session I attended was Lucille Campey’s talk on the Selkirk Settlers. Earlier this year, I put together a family history book for a family whose ancestors were Selkirk Settlers in Belfast, PEI, having come from Colonsay. Last month, I wrote a couple of articles on the Selkirk Settlers for magazines as well as a blog post on the online resources available for researching Selkirk ancestry http://scottishgenealogytipsntricks.blogspot.ca/2012/08/selkirk-settlers-online-resources.html
Lucille is very much an historian and her talk was very much a history lesson. Throughout her talk, I kept thinking that Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, received a raw deal in terms of how his UK peers would remember him. Lucille felt exactly the same way. Thomas Douglas really should be credited for bringing Celtic Culture to Canada. His desire for communities to transport their entire way of life to their new homes in Canada really was very innovative and was part of the reason for the success of the new colonisations. Lucille documented the path of the Selkirk Settlers from their start in Belfast, PEI, through Baldoon in Southern Ontario and then onto the Red River Valley in Manitoba. She portrayed a wonderful picture of both Lord Selkirk and of the hearty Scots whom he had assisted in re-settling in Canada.

Following lunch, my first session was “What’s New at FamilySearch” with Shirley Ann Pyefinch. I had the honour of attending a different workshop by Shirley Ann the previous month and once again was delighted with the wealth of information Shirley was able to share as well as how organized her presentations are. In both cases, after listening to Shirley Ann, I was eager to get home, get to my computer and get started on the various resources she provided.

My last session of the day was “McDNA” by Jane Buck. I have to admit, the whole DNA for genealogy purposes has never really interested me. However, Jane was a very dynamic presenter and I thoroughly enjoyed her talk. I left thinking “maybe…”

I opted not to attend the informal dinner Saturday evening, going instead to Byward Market for dinner. When I got the bill and realized they had charged me $8.25 for a draft, part of me was in awe at the audacity that allowed them to charge so much. Certainly, one could never afford to be an alcoholic in Ottawa!

Late Saturday night, I decided to give the first session Sunday morning a miss allowing me a bit of time to pack up and get organized and check out of the hotel. I was sorry to have missed Patricia Whatley’s talk on Scottish Poor Law.

I started my day with Ed Zapletal’s presentation on "Writing for Publication". I have enjoyed working with Ed in the past and have to say that I learned a great deal from him at this workshop. It really does make a difference having someone who knows their subject do a presentation. My particular interest in attending the workshop was in learning about copyright and I left feeling much more confident and knowledgeable. At one point, Ed was talking about copyright on pictures taken from the internet and that just because they are in the public domain does not mean they are not subject to copyright laws. Ed gave three websites where pictures can be accessed and each of these websites provides information on how to cite the source. As an example, Ed chose a photo of Sir John A MacDonald from the Library and Archives Canada Collection. My maiden name is McDonald (we were Mac at one point) and my son has repeatedly asked if we are related to Sir John A. Of course, everyone believes they have a connection to a famous ancestor, but I have been honest and stated “no, probably not” However, the photo that Ed used took me by surprise. It looked remarkably like my paternal grandfather. I can’t recall a whole lot of what Ed said about using these photos, as I was fascinated with the detail of Sir John A’s facial features and his classic “McDonald nose”. After that I decided I was going to contact my cousin in Aus and ask him for a DNA sample! Fortunately he works in a bio-chem lab, so will be more accommodating than the males on my maternal side.

After lunch, I was the session chair for Lucille Campey’s talk on the Scots in Ontario. This was a fascinating look at migration patterns as well as the UK governments strategic placement of the new colonisations in Ontario. Once again, I was taken in by the fascinating history as well as the new resources that Lucille discussed in her talk. History was never really a subject that grabbed my interest in school, but genealogy has changed my outlook, especially when history and ancestry are tied together in such a fascinating way.

The last talk of the conference was given by Chris Paton. I heard Chris’ talk last year on the murder of his three times great grandmother and the double sadness behind this event. (“There’s Been a Murrdurr”) so opted to get a head start on the long drive home.

The conference was very well put together, delivered some terrific lectures and was thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you to BIFHSGO and to the conference organizers.

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