dmck on Family Tree Circles
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My most memorable moment in researching my family history occurred early in 2003. My father phoned me about a letter he had received, inviting him to the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the “Brudenell Pioneers” in Prince Edward Island. The letter went on to explain that the MACLAREN family and others had arrived aboard “The Commerce” in 1803, and all known descendants were being invited to join in the 200th anniversary celebrations.
There was information about the planned activities and a book the organizers were putting together. There was an email address to contact for registration, ordering copies of the book, and further information. The problem was that I had traced my family back to my 4th great grandmother, Isabella MacLaren (b. 1780 in Scotland), but had not been able to connect her to the MACLAREN family history I’d seen on the “Island Register” website for Prince Edward Island genealogy.
I sent an email to the organizers, asking how they had found my father’s name, and explaining that while we’d love to attend if we were descended, I had not proven that our Isabella was the daughter of James MacLaren who had come to Canada.
I received a reply the next day, explaining that we were descended from the GORDON family, who had also come on the Commerce, and asking for more information about Isabella. She and her husband had moved to a different part of the island, and she had been lost track of. Could I please tell them what I knew about Isabella and the sources I had used? They wanted to verify the information so that it could be added to the book that was being produced.
So, in July of 2003, my dad and I travelled to Prince Edward Island for the celebrations. We attended a ceremony and toured the area our ancestors had settled. My father proudly played his bagpipes in a group alongside the Chief of the Clan MacLaren, who had come from Scotland. And we each bought a copy of the book, “Perthshire to Three Rivers”, which included all known descendants of the 30 people who had arrived on the Commerce, including our Isabella MacLaren.
Recently, someone asked a question about where to start researching and creating a family tree. I thought about the things I've learned along the way, and a few things I wish I had done differently. I was lucky to have been able to videotape my paternal grandmother talking about her family, and wish I'd been able to videotape my other grandparents as well. The most frustrating thing for me has been when I find information that contradicts something I have written down, but not knowing where I'd gotten the information I had written down...
Here is my reply (with websites added thanks to ngairedith):
I'm not an expert by any means, but I can tell you about some of the things that I have done and some things I WISH I had done.
Start with your parents. Talk to each of them about themselves and their families. Get as much detail as you can (where they lived, dates and places of special events). Video or record them talking if you can and take as many notes as you can. At the top of the page where you're recording, write the date and who you're getting the information from. Ask them about their memories of where they lived, their grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. Use photograph albums and home movies to help you and them remember as many of the details as you can. Do they remember occupations of their parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles or anything about where those people lived? They may not remember birthdates, marriage dates, or death dates of relatives, but guide them to get a rough idea if you can, e.g. "Do you remember about how old you were when..." or "Where were you living when..." or "Was _____ born before or after ____?"
Meet with cousins, aunts, and uncles if you can, and do the same thing. If you can't meet with them, can you phone them, email them, or snail-mail them? Start with the people who are the oldest, as they may be able to give them more leads into the past. Every time you get information, write down where you find it.
Find a "family group sheet" (a kind of record form) somewhere on the internet (you can download one for free from ancestry.com) and fill it out for as many people as you can. EVERY time you get information, write down where you got it (can you tell that I didn't always do that?). You can find other ways to organize your information (analysis sheet, research checklist, research journal for repository and records searched, correspondence log, fill in when writing and when replies are received family group sheet and more ...) from the Wakefield Family History Sharing website.
As you collect information, organize it with a family tree program or using a family tree website. I know there are a number of programs and websites available, but I haven't tried enough of them to recommend a specific one. Post the details you've found and those you're looking for on this and other websites to try to find information. Look for websites that focus on genealogy of the particular area your ancestors are from, for example, I was very lucky to find a website devoted to genealogy of Prince Edward Island, Canada, where both my dad's parents were born.
Try to always look at information and judge how reliable it is (that's why you need the source information). When you find someone with the name you're looking for, keep a record of it, but make sure that it makes sense, because at times it's very easy to go in a wrong direction.
There's a start. Best of luck. Maybe one day we'll find that we're cousins...
Thank you to ngairedith for the links for forms!
My husband's great grandfather was Alexander Stewart, b. 1860 in Lauder. We are trying to find his parents. We have written down that Alexander's mother's name was Christina (from his marriage certificate to Elizabeth Jack). I've found some census records for 1861 and 1871 that have a Christina Stewart with an Alexander about the right ages, both born in Lauder, but there are complications.
In the 1861 census, Christina (Christian) Stewart is 24 and is listed as the daughter of James Hay (age 62). Agnes Hay (age 17), Thomas Rallray (age 4), and Alexander Greive (age 11 months) are also listed as children of James Hay, and there is an Alexander Stewart (age 15) listed as a boarder. All but James have the birthplace listed as Lauder.
In the 1871 census, Christina Stewart, age 36 is living with Thomas Ratrea (age 14), Alexander Stewart (age 10), Robert Knox (age 8), and Margaret Welson (age 5). Thomas, Alexander, Robert, and Margaret are all listed as children of Catherine Stewart, yet they all have different last names. All are listed with a birthplace of Lauder.
How large was Lauder in the 1860s and 1870s? What are the chances that these are the same people? To me, there are so many similarities, that I think they are, but I can't explain all the different last names. Does anyone have suggestions for where to go from here?
My husband's great-grandmother was Ellen Edwards. She married Frederick Biddle about 1895 and she and her family came to Canada in about 1906. According to the 1901 England Census, she was born in Warwickshire about 1877 (but my husband had a birthdate of 20 April 1872). All we know about her family is that she had a sister, who was an actress in London about the time of Jack the Ripper. If anyone can give me any hints about her parents or how to find them, we'd appreciate it.
Hi, I'm new and I've noticed the colour-coding beside the journal entries, but I haven't found anywhere that explains the colours. Can you tell me what each of the colours mean, please?
I have in my head that I'd like to produce a book with some (probably not all) of the family history I've collected, and I'm looking for advice.
If you've made one before, how did you organize it?
Are there things you did that you are very glad you did a certain way?
Are there things you would change?
Where did you get it made up?
Are there places or websites I could visit to see examples of how other people have organized their family history books?
I'm certain that it will be a long process, and I'm not in a real hurry, but any help you can give me would be appreciated.
I was visiting my aunt today and we were scanning photographs from my grandmother's photo album to add to our family tree. We came across two photos of a man we didn't recognize and on the back was written, "Grandpa Northcott's hired man". Near the end of the album was a card that said "In Memorium" and had a photo of the same man, with his name and birth to death dates. His name was Cyriel Blauwe and his lifespan was 1881 to 1934. He would have lived in Southern Ontario if he had been working for my great-grandfather. If anyone is researching that family, I would likely be able to get the photos (or at least copies of them) to you.
Just found this website today. Researching WALKER(James Walker b. Scotland 1788 came to Canada early 1800s), NORTHCOTT (John Northcott, b. 1833 England, came to Canada about 1851), MCKENZIE(from Caithness area, Scotland--George McKenzie b. 1926 came to Canada in the 1940s), BIDDLE(Frederick Biddle b. 1872 in Birmingham, England came to Canada about 1900. His grandfather, aunt, and two uncles emigrated to Utah about 1860, but his father, John, stayed in England.)
Other surnames through marriages: STEWART, EDWARDS, MACBRAIRE, SMITH, GAY, HAYTON, NORTHCOTT, WILLMORE
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