Welcome to Scottish Genealogy Tips And Tidbits

A wee bit of info to help you in your journey to discover your Scottish Ancestors and maybe even crack a brick wall or two!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Theatre Ancestors?

If you have ancestors who worked in the theatre, you may find this  database from the National Library of Scotland of  interest:


The database contains an extensive collection of programmes, playbills and posters.

The Empress Of Ireland

The RMS Empress of Ireland was commissioned by CP Steamships to undertake the cross Atlantic voyage, moving passengers between Great Britain (Liverpool, England) and Quebec City in Canada.  The Empress of Ireland was built in Glasgow by the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company (Govan) and was first launched in 1906. Information about The Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company archives can be found on the National Archives website: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/searches/subjectView.asp?ID=B6299

The Empress of Ireland was one of several ships of its time moving immigrants from the British Isles to their newly anticipated lives in Canada. They also took many of those same immigrants back home to conduct business or visit family left behind. These large ocean liners allowed the less affluent to travel abroad at reasonable cost.  

Between the time of its launch in 1906 and the fateful sinking on May 29th 1914, The Empress of Ireland had completed 95 round trips crossing from Liverpool to Quebec City (or on occasion Halifax).  On May 29th, 1914, her first run of the season, and her 96th voyage overall, The Empress of Ireland left the port of Old Quebec and sailed along the St. Lawrence on her way out to sea. It was 2 a.m. on a calm, somewhat foggy night. The pilot ship had just left the larger vessel, which was still fairly close to shore. Captain Henry Kendall was aware of another ship plying the same river, but in his estimation, the other ship was several miles away. What happened next is up for speculation, depending on whether the information is relayed by CP Steamships or the Norwegian Company, but in fairly short order, the two vessels collided, with the SS Storstad, a coal-bearing cargo ship ramming the Empress of Ireland mid-ship and causing the passenger ship to break apart, take on water and within 14 minutes, sink to the bottom of the river. 1,012 lives were lost that fateful night: 840 passengers and 172 crew members. This makes the sinking of the Empress of Ireland the worst marine disaster in Canada 

The wreck of the passenger ship lies in 40 metres of water. The artefacts that were recovered by the dive team hired by CP Steamships are now to be brought back to Canada and housed at the Museum of Civilization in Hull. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/ottawa/Museum+Civilization+finally+acquires+Empress+Ireland/7461001/story.html

There was a Marine Court of Inquiry launched into the accident and some of the transcripts from that inquiry can be found at: http://ied.dippam.ac.uk/records/38706 

There were 64 witnesses called at this inquiry. The blame was placed with the Storstad. The results of the inquiry, presided over by British Admiralty Judge, Lord Mersey were that the Court ordered the Norwegian Company to pay Canadian Pacific's damage claims.  

Memorials for lost lives have been erected in Rimouski where many of the victims were buried, as well as in Toronto. http://torontocemeteries.blogspot.ca/2012/05/today-in-history-empress-of-ireland.html 

If your ancestor was one of the passengers who lost their life that fateful night, the following websites may be of interest to you: 

Crew List for Empress of Ireland


Monday, 29 October 2012

Book Review

Susan Davis, Communications Director of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa(BIFHSGO) has graciously prepared a review of my new book:

Woodcock, Christine. In Search of Your Scottish Ancestors: Search Your Roots; Discover Your Heritage, Ontario. 2012. 56 pp. ISBN 978-0-9917500-0-9 Paperbound.
When Christine Woodcock told me she was publishing a book on researching in Scotland, I immediately wanted a copy. Still feeling a bit timid about crossing the pond to look for my Angus, Glendinning and Bell ancestors in Scotland, this how-to book is a welcome addition to my bookshelf. 

Packed with useful information, it is organized into a series of chapters that takes you from starting your search to providing advice on ancestral tourism. Written in an informative but friendly manner, the book is based on Christine’s first-hand experience as a researcher and educator. Each year, Scottish-born Christine, leads a group of family history researchers on Genealogy Tours of Scotland. 

In her chapter, Important Things to Remember, Christine reminds us to Beware the Ear of the “Hearer” and shares her challenge of getting past the heavy Scottish brogue to find her gggrandfather Henry Fowler. After years of research and a new strategy, she finds him listed as Henry Fuller. “Once I saw the name, it made perfect sense. I could literally see him standing at the door and the census taker asking, “Surname?” and my great-great-grandpa answering “Fooluhr.”” 

Christine gets you thinking about cluster genealogy research and your ancestors’ social circles in her chapter Who are the People in the Neighbourhood? One of the research examples she shares is her
ancestors and their neighbours who were miners working for the same coal company and living in company housing. Deep family connections were made when three of 10 Crawford children married three of 11 Fowler children. She also devotes a chapter to the Selkirk settlers. 

Very familiar with the various Scottish records, Christine provides insight into how to access the various records online with an extensive list of lesser known online databases and a handy list of the local resources provide by Scottish family history societies. She provides a primer on using ScotlandsPeople.
Printed in a booklet format, In Search of Your Scottish Ancestors is easy—to read, understand and put to use. It is also a convenient size to carry about. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some research on Mary Ann Angus, my gggrandmother who left Aberdeen as a teenager in the 1860s to settle in Canada with her family.
For more information about Christine, her book and her tours, visit her website: http:www.genealogytoursofscotland.ca


Thursday, 25 October 2012

To Be or Not to Be – Clan Gathering 2014

The story about whether or not there will be a clan gathering in 2014 has played out with all of the drama of a soap opera with changes being made daily over the past week.  

2009 was the first Homecoming and such a rousing success that Tourism Scotland has decided to do it all again in 2014. The year 2014 has been and will continue to be designated as Homecoming.  

But the challenges have begun. Homecoming 2009 was held in Edinburgh. A city well versed in hosting the masses. The basic infrastructure is already in place. The city knows how to deal with medical emergencies.  Security and safety responses can be put into place. Transportation is already in place. To host the various clans planning to attend the Homecoming, Tent cities were erected. Hotels were prepared for a brisk business. The event was well planned for, well managed and ended as a resounding success.  

Fast forward. The new venue is to be Stirling. A city with a population 1/5th the size of Edinburgh. A quite sleepy little city with lots of history, lots of scenery and a fraction of the tourists. The event was slotted to happen at the same time as the Stirling Highland games in July. Shortly after the announcement was made, calls started flooding in from the clans wanting to know about tent rentals. No doubt, panic set in and plans were suddenly in need of reconsideration. Back to the planning table. An announcement about scrapping the idea of the Gathering happening in Stirling, and reported on in the Scotsman.  

But millions of £s in tourism were at risk. As well as Scotland’s reputation. So, the idea of locating the tented city to Bannockburn in June seemed to make more sense. A decision was made to have the clans arrive close to the time of the celebrations for the 700th anniversary of the famed Battle of Bannockburn. The National Trust took over planning details. All seemed well.  

Then, Stone Mountain 2012, the largest Highland Games takes place in the US and confusion erupts. Here are two articles that ran almost simultaneously, the first on Oct 20th announces the move to Bannockburn. The second on Oct 21st announces the Chiefs’ dismay that the entire idea of a clan gathering has been put on ice.

Somewhere along the way, someone realizes the tight timelines involved in getting the whole thing off the ground and mentions that 2015 might be a better choice. And the press has a hay day. Of course, Tourism Scotland has designated 2014 and if there is to be a Clan Gathering, it will coincide with the other events planned throughout 2014, the Year of Homecoming II. So in an attempt to quell the rumours and settle the nerves, this announcement came out yesterday:

Of course, this one needs to be read with a grain of salt since it is from the same source who reported on Sunday that the whole thing was off and perhaps postponed to 2015.  

Unfortunately, the Irish are putting the Scots to shame in that their celebrations for Homecoming 2013 are well organized and well underway, also putting them on target to be well attended. If the Scots don’t get their act together shortly, they may well miss out on millions in tourism revenues.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Discover Your Scottish Roots Talk

For those of you in the Kitchener area, I will be a speaker at the Second Annual Genealogy Fair on November 3 at Kitchener City Hall. I will be speaking on Researching Scottish Ancestry and will have copies of my new book, In Search of Your Scottish Roots available for sale that day.

The Genealogy Fair is a great event and is free. Other topics for the day include:

Deciphering German Script
Care of Genealogy Documents
Census Surfing
Researching UEL
Using Archives Online
Genealogical Research in Ireland
Researching Czech Parish Registers

The Keynote address will be given by Kevin James, Professor of History, Centre for Scottish Studies, University of Guelph.

There will also be a Marketplace.

This really is a great day. I hope to see you there. If you get the chance to attend, be sure to say hello!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

In Search of Your Scottish Ancestors

I have just finished a new book, In Search of Your Scottish Ancestors. Filled with information to assist you in your research, including lots of online resources to search.

Here is the Table of Contents:
  • Starting Your Search                                                             
  • Scottish Marriages                                                          
  • Scottish Naming Pattern                                                     
  • Important Things to Consider                                            
  • Cluster Genealogy  
  • Lord Selkirk Settlers  
  • Online Sources for Selkirk Genealogy  
  • Scottish Clans
  • Connecting With Others  
  • Online Resources  
  • Local Resources  
  • Not Everything is Online  
  • Ancestral Tourism
    Preparing for a Genealogy Research Trip 

The book sells for $7 (plus shipping) and can be purchased on the website's home page at

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Family Ephemera

I might have to marry my cousin! I received some pictures from him this morning. He received a CD with over 200 photos from an estranged cousin in Scotland. The cousin in Scotland was the inheritor of all of the family photos and papers. Family History is totally alien to him, as in fact are most family ties. The rest of us were all of the belief that whatever treasures had remained were now lost to us. Fortunately he has had a change of heart and at the very least has scanned and passed the items on.
Among the pictures was this treasure - my paternal grandmother's certificate of merit for school. She was 13 and the certificate is dated 1902. I love that it says "I certify that Maggie Haddow's character and conduct have been entirely satisfactory" She went on to be a teacher!

 Maggie, aged 21. By now she was a teacher

The school Maggie attended and later taught at

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Photos of the Red River Settlement

Library and Archives Canada now has photos of the Red River Settlement online. They can be viewed at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lac-bac/sets/72157631407101076/

Shale Mining Records Online

Shale Mining was once a very busy industry, employing thousands of men and women in Scotland. Although few records still survive, the Almond Valley Heritage Trust is working to preserve those that did. They are also adding digitized images of the available salary records, tenancy records, employee cards, apprenticeship records, accident records and other materials. The website also includes maps of the shale villages in West Lothian as well as photographs of the various miner’s houses.

The Almond Valley Heritage Trust have digitized a number of books on Shale Mining and made these available on their website along with a list of the various jobs within the shale mining industry. This is definitely worth a look for those with shale miners in their family tree.  http://www.scottishshale.co.uk/HistoryPages/Occupations/index.html

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Free Access to 1911 Census

Ancestry is offering free access to their 1911 census records for England, Wales and the Isle of Man from now until November 2.


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Forces War Records Adds New Records

Forces War Records has added 40,000 names to its searchable database. These new records are for the Home Guard, affectionately known as Dad's Army.

The search will give you the rank, battalion, age, medals and date of death. Forces War Records allows a free search up to and including the index, but to view the actual record you will require a subscription.