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!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Scottish Chapbooks Now Available Online

Yesterday, I had the honour of attending the launch of a new digital collection at the University of Guelph Library. Special Collections Librarian, Melissa McAfee and professor of Digital Humanities, Andrew Ross, have been working tirelessly and collaboratively to digitize the University's very large collection of Scottish Chapbooks. This exhaustive and extensive work culminated yesterday with the launch of the new website, Scottish Chapbooks (http://scottishchapbooks.org/)

Chapbooks were enormously popular among the working classes in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Typically in the 17th and 18th centuries they were geared toward adult readers and in the 19th century many were written as children's literature.

Chapbooks were cheap, crudely made books that were peddled by traveling salesmen, known as "chap men". Thus Chapbooks were books available from chap men.

The chapbooks were typically printed on a single sheet of  paper, folded to make eight, sixteen, or twenty-four pages. In Scotland, where literacy rates tended to be higher than elsewhere in the British Isles, chapbooks were in high demand.

Chapbooks became a very attractive and simple way to disseminate popular culture to the working class people, especially in rural areas. Chapbooks not only provided information, but also entertainment. In some instances chapbooks also provided, a somewhat biased view of history.

Chapbooks were inexpensively priced, often selling for one or two pennies each. The chapbooks would be shared among the members of the community and quite often also used as toilet paper or food wrappers once everyone had had a chance to read them.

The University of Guelph, Special Collections Department, has one of the largest collections of Scottish Chapbooks. They have now digitized these and made them available online for scholars, historians, genealogists, archivists and yes, even the average reader, to take enjoy.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2015

The Ontario Genealogical Society is taking place at Georgian College in Barrie from May 29-31 2015. 

A Genealogist’s/Family Historian’s Dream!

Friday Workshops
Using Google, Surname Studies, Irish Land Valuation Records, Biography Writing

Saturday and Sunday Genealogical Lectures
Five Lecture Streams featuring Canadian, English and American Genealogical Speakers
Kirsty Gray, Thomas MacEntee, Richard M. Doherty, Dr. Maurice Gleeson, James F.S. Thomson, Jane E. MacNamara, Dr. Janet Few, Janice Nickerson, Fran Murphy, Sarah Warner, Debra Honor, Dave Obee, Kathryn Lake Hogan, Tammy Tipler-Priolo, Ruth Burkholder, Guylaine Petrin, Gary Schroder, Christine Woodcock, Sandra Joyce and Karen Mahoney, Austin Bovenizer, Ken McKinlay, Vicki McKay, and Alan Campbell

Books, maps, software from commercial vendors as well as information and sales tables for 32 OGS Branches and Special Interest Groups. Fast Tracks (20 min) presentations
 inside Marketplace.
Note: Marketplace is open to the public. You do not have to be registered at the conference to visit the vendors.

First-Timers Gathering: Friday 29 May 4:30pm

Banquet: Saturday 30 May 6:00pm
After-Dinner Speaker Dr. Maurice Gleeson “ Genealogy 2020 – All aboard!”

For Information:
www.ogs.on.ca/conference [for information and online registration]
Conference@ogs.on.ca [for answers to questions]

Telephone: (416) 489-0734

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Thank You Cambridge!

I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening on Thursday, speaking to a group of Scottish family history researchers at McDougall Cottage in Cambridge. 

The cottage is an historic home that has been fully restored to its original glory. It is cosy when a crowd gathers, as we did on Thurday night. As always, there is great craic when the descendants of the Scots Diaspora gather. 

I hope that everyone managed to get some time on the ScotlandsPeople website once they got back home and were able to move forward in their genealogy research. 

I hope to return to McDougall again. Always such a great group. Thank you, Michelle and Joleen for putting the event together. 

Tartan Day - April 6

April 6th will be the 695th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, a letter written to Pope John XXII declaring Scotland an independent country and allowing Scotland to use military action when provoked.

The Declaration, written in Latin (the formal language of the times), was signed by 51 noblemen. As a toast to this very historic event, Canada began celebrating its Scots heritage in the mid 1980s with parades, pipe bands, highland dancing, Kirkin o' the Tartna and other gatherings of the Scots Diaspora. This became widely known as Tartan Day. And in 2011, Canada had its own (Maple Leaf) tartan officially recognised.

In fairly short order, many other countries of the Scots Diaspora also declared or celebrated Tartan Day on April 6th. The exception to this is Australasia, which celebrates International Tartan Day on July 1, the anniversary of the repeal of the Act of Proscription which forbade the wearing of tartan by anyone outwith the military.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Genealogy Fair Kitchener Public Library

The Kitchener Public Library is once again hosting a full day Genealogy Fair on 

Saturday, April 25 
9:00 - 3:30 
at Kitchener Central Library

Keynote speaker will be Armchair genealogist, Lynn Palermo who will be sharing about storytelling and writing your family history. 

Other speakers:

Sandra Joyce - British Home Children
Karen Ball-Pyatt - Online Databases
Carolyn McNeil - Sorting and Storing Photos
Amanda Hill - Ontario Archives
Ruth Burkholder - Land Petitions
Patti Metzger - Digital Books
Kathryn Lake-Hogan - Canadian Census Records
Nuala Farrell-Griffin - Irish Ancestry

This is a FREE event. There will be a marketplace. 

In Search of Your Scottish Roots Talk

I will be returning to McDougall Cottage in Cambridge next Thursday, March 19th to give a talk on getting started with your Scottish genealogy research. 

The talk starts at 7 pm.

If you are in the area, please drop by. And if you are at the talk, come up and say hello!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Has Ancestry Dot Com Made Us Lazy As Researchers?

In the last two weeks I have heard so many stories about incorrect information on public family trees and that because the information gets shared exponentially, it makes the  mistakes that much more widespread.

In the past week, I have also held two online webinar/workshops to assist people to become more efficient at Using the ScotlandsPeople website. It takes a completely different tack to use this website because it is NOT a subscription website. However, it is also the only website where you can view original images of the Scottish registers and see all of the information that was gathered at the time of the event. And Scottish documents are some of, if not THE best for providing genealogical data.

It occurs to me that part of the issue that ties these two things together is that subscription sites like Ancestry Dot Com have created a slew of lazy genealogy researchers. Part of the joy in genealogy is the thrill of the hunt. We tune into, hone and cultivate our inner detective. But the subscription websites like Ancestry Dot Com take the need for these skills away. We upload a tree. Shaky leaf appears. Click. New document. Click and attach. No thought, no detective skills. It doesn't even matter that this might not be YOUR ancestor. The website has become more of a computer game than a tool to enhance our genealogical skills. And that, in turn, leads to all sorts of false information being spread all over the 'net.

I see a leaf, click. Oh, this tree says my gt gt grandfather died in Ohio. If I haven't learned to hone my inner detective, I might take this with a "thank you for all of the work you have saved me" and incorporate this information into MY tree. Except my gt gt grandfather never left Scotland. In fact two couples and one single man were the only ancestors I have that emigrated to the US. No matter how many shaky leaves I get, that fact is not going to change. My personal frustration with Ancestry is that despite the fact that my tree details that my ancestors were all in Scotland, I get matched with records that are 5000 miles from the land of my ancestors. My professional frustration with Ancestry is that it requires no detective skills, and is raising a generation of lazy genealogy researchers.

Let's look at what skills are REALLY needed to be able to be successful as a genealogist. You will note that neither clicking a mouse nor copy and pasting make the list.

Know how to find information
Yes, Ancestry Dot Com is a rich database. They host a wealth of records. I can remember how hard genealogy research was before Ancestry Dot Com made records from other states and other countries available. They have enriched our experience as researchers and our opportunities to access the information we crave. Use them as a database and be grateful that your subscription gives you unlimited access to the records they hold.

Other online databases are also fantastic resources. As are libraries, local, state, provincial or county archives, genealogy societies and family history centres. Don't limit yourself to just one point of research.

Cultivate an eye for detail
Look at every piece of information on that document. Look again. Put it aside for a day or two and then look at it again. You will be surprised at what you see that you didn't see the first time. Remember those posters that have words written backwards, numbers interspersed with letters and yet we can read what the poster says? Our brains read without paying attention to details. But to be a good genealogist, we need to pay attention to the details on the documents. To do that, we need to look at every detail. Put the document aside and then look at it with fresh eyes a few days later.

Develop your reasoning skills
Being able to think through a problem without making illogical leaps will help you resolve conflicting information. And it will help you to understand what caused the conflict in the first place.

Pay attention
This isn't the same as cultivating an eye for detail. Pay attention to what the information is telling you. Is this really your gt gt grandfather? If you pay attention to dates of events, you will know that he can't possibly be because that would have made him 8 when your gt grandma was born. Same name. Same location. Same father's name. But the dates are terribly wrong. Therefore, he can't be YOUR gt gt grandfather. He may be your ancestor so don't discard the document. Just don't ignore the information that shows he isn't the ancestor you think he is.

Keep notes
Notes are important. Keep notes on who you have received information from. Where you have checked for documents. What you have learned and what you still need to find out. Notes will keep your research focused and will help you to make better sense of the documents you find and who the information should be attached to in order to be correct. It will also help you know who also knows a particular ancestor so that you can go back and re-visit what they know that you don't and vice versa.

Critical Thinking
Simply stated, use your noggin. Piece the parts of the puzzle together and know why the flat sided pieces don't fit in the middle of the picture.

Active Learning

As with any activity you are passionate about, keep learning. Listen to webinars. Go to conferences. Attend talks and workshops. Read blogs. It's important to keep up to date with what is new, what others find useful, new record sets that have been released. It will make you a better genealogy researcher and will really help you hone your inner detective. 

Free Access to Find My Past This Weekend

Find My Past announces that from 7am on Friday, March 6th (EST) to 7am Monday, March 9th (EST) their records will be free to view.

Note that EST is GMT -5:00

Here's the link to get you started on your weekend of genealogical discoveries: