Bill's Genealogy Blog

Bill Buchanan is a long-time genealogy enthusiast, living in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada. This blog will describe my experiences as I research my family history and help others.

My Photo
Location: Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada

I am a retired online school teacher. I love family history. Since 2007, I have spent much of my time providing part-time support for the world's largest free family history site This is very rewarding. I have helped others with the Family Tree and related FamilySearch products.
Since April 2010, I have served in the Edmonton Riverbend Family History Centre. I have a FHC blog at Bill's Family History Center Blog For information the Latter-day Saints and family history click

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Peel of Buchanan

In a previous posting I referred to my search for "the old Buchanan castle". I had seen various references to this building, which existed in the 1600s and probably much earlier. It seemed  that it had to refer to the old manor house "Buchanan Auld House". But this seemed to be a "mansion" rather than a "castle". So where does the term "castle" come in? Finally I found references to the "Peel of Buchanan" which stood not far from the Auld House. A "peel" was a "tower house", a small castle resembling the "keep" of a large castle, but smaller, typically 4 or 5 stories high. From this description in the History of Stirlingshire, the Peel of Buchanan was definitely a castle, complete with a moat, and probably a drawbridge.

'We may now pass to another remarkable antiquity, which, like the last mentioned, has, hitherto, so far as is known, been unnoticed in print—" the Peel of Buchanan," about 200 paces in front of the mansion of His Grace the Duke of Montrose. The Enric [river] had had its course in this direction, though now flowing considerably to the southward. The ditch around this ancient fort was filled by the river, and crossed by a passage, probably a draw-bridge, from the north.'
The History of Stirlingshire, Volume 1, By William Nimmo, Robert Gillespie, page 59, published 1880

Friday, June 10, 2016

In Search of the Old Buchanan Castle

Buchanan Castle at Drymen, Stirlingshire is an interesting ruin, but a comparatively modern one. It was built in 1852-1858 by the Duke of Montrose to replace the manor house which burned in 1850. It was a classy residence in its day. But its day only lasted a century. In 1954 the roof was removed so that it could no longer be taxed as a residence, and the building has greatly deteriorated since that time. “A romantic ruin” is a frequent description of it. Let's go back in time.

Image result for buchanan castle

The photos above show Buchanan Castle as it used to be and as it is today.

Fragments of the old manor house, Buchanan Auld House, have been incorporated into the present Buchanan Castle Golf and Country Club building. As near as I can tell, the manor house was a large building but was not in the style of a castle.

There is a picture of the Place of Buchanan showing a white 3-story rectangular building, that was part of the “Auld House”.  John Buchanan, the last laird Buchanan of Buchanan, built a long one- story building as an exhibition hall. After his death, his estate passed to the Montrose family, and the First Duke of Montrose built 2 stories on top of the exhibition hall, added on to both ends, and finished the building attractively.

Buchanan Place

"The barons or lairds of Buchanan built a castle where the present house stands. Part of it exists, forming the charter-room. A more modern house was built by these chiefs, adjoining the east side. This also now exists. The last Buchanan in possession of the edifice was a collector of curiosities; and had constructed, for holding them, a long range of one story, called " the Volary," from the prevalence of its birds. The first Duke of Montrose, and grandfather of the present noble proprietor, erected on it two additional stories; which, with the volary, have been since used for inhabitation. Behind this long range, the late Duke built a kitchen, and some other apartments. On the east and west, his present Grace, some years ago, added two ends, in a very elegant stile of Doric architecture. They form parts of a plan, the centre of which has, in the drawing, a magnificent aspect. The architect was the late Mr Playfair."
History of Stirlingshire. Corrected and brought down to the present time  ... By William Nimmo (minister of Bothkennar.), 1817, pages 399- 400
The verbal description seems to match this 1787 drawing of the Place of Buchanan made by J. P. Neale, shown above, which can be seen about page 272 of

The chiefs of Clan Buchanan seem to have lived in this same location since at least the year 1225 when they were granted a formal charter. Did the older parts of the Auld House date back that far? Possibly. Was it the “old Buchanan castle”?

While searching for information I came across a reference to a stone “tower house” that was once part of the complex of buildings. It was called the “Peel of Buchanan”. A tower house was a small defensive castle and aristocratic residence, a fortified tower typically 4 stories high. I think I finally found the “Old Buchanan Castle”!

The Peel of Buchanan may have resembled this peel tower.

“There are now no visible traces of the Peel of Buchanan which is said (RCAHMS 1963) to have stood about 200 paces in front of Buchanan Old House. The site is now part of a golf course, and one of the green-keepers told the Commission's officer that he had come across traces of stone foundations in the area. A small stretch of water, about 400 yds to the SW, which appears to have been formed within an old course of the Endrick Water, is known as Peel Pond.” “The Peel of Buchanan was demolished before 1724. It comprised an 'old tower and a great many other buildings.'”

By this time in history, the skirmishes between clans were over, and the new fashion for aristocratic residences was the palace rather than the fortress. And the Peel was probably a decrepit eyesore compared with the newer buildings. See the article in wikipedia

In its glory days the Peel of Buchanan was surrounded by a water moat, as the Endrick river passed by. The course of the river subsequently changed, and the foundations of the Peel, and its moat, are now hidden beneath the green grass of the golf course. The only remnant of the old watercourse is Peel Pond. The History of Stirlingshire, Volume 1 By William Nimmo, Robert Gillespie, page 59.  

"THE families of note in Stirlingshire about the end of the 13th century, and subsequently distinguished, were the Levenax, the Callendars, the Livingstons, the Erths, the Mores, the Stirlings, the Buchanans, the Drummonds, the Napiers." History of Stirlingshire. Corrected and brought down to the present ... William Nimmo (minister of Bothkennar.), ‎William MacGregor Stirling - 1817

I suppose that the term "old Buchanan castle" may have been used to refer to the manor house or to the peel. I had always thought it referred to the manor house. But that was before I knew about the Peel of Buchanan. Tower houses were commonly called "castles" and I find that the Peel more closely matches the usual definition of a "castle". I feel saddened by its loss.

The chronology as I currently understand it goes like this:
1225 the Buchanan chiefs were living on the site, perhaps for 200 years. They probably lived in fortified houses but tower houses were uncommon at that time.
1400 The Peel of Buchanan was probably built about this time and the chiefs would be living there.
Over time, additional buildings were added.
1660s the exhibition hall or “volary” was built by the last John Buchanan of Buchanan
1683 the Montrose family acquired the Buchanan estates and moved in
1690s the Place of Buchanan was created by expanding the exhibition hall
1720s the Peel of Buchanan was demolished
1850 a fire destroyed Buchanan Auld House/Place of Buchanan
1852-1858 the new Buchanan Castle was built
1954 the roof was removed from Buchanan Castle and it was allowed to decay

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

A Family Divided by the American Revolution

I find the story of Thomas Sherwood and his family especially interesting. The American revolution has sometimes been called "the first American civil war", and this was very obvious in the case of the Sherwood family. The three brothers moved from Fairfield, Connecticut to a place 5 miles north of Fort Edward NY, to begin farming.

When the revolution broke out, brothers Seth and Adiel joined the rebels. But Thomas read in his Bible that he should fear God and honor the king. And in obedience to the scripture, he moved his family north to Quebec and joined the British cause. Various Sherwood cousins joined one faction or the other.

A family story that I find rather touching is that Thomas was given a letter from Seth's wife requesting financial help, as her husband was a prisoner of war and was unable to help. Thomas protested loudly that there must be a mistake as "No brother of mine would be a traitor to his king!" but somehow the sister-in-law received the help she had asked for. Even in the midst of war, family was most important.

His cousin, Captain Justus Sherwood was more famous, but this account mentions them both:

"On October 4, 1777....Towards dusk the Queen's Loyal Rangers and the other provincials were sent to reinforce Colonel von Breymann --- the officer who had been leading the reinforcements near Bennington --- at a redoubt on the north side of the British camp. The Germans were under attack by the Kentuckian Daniel Morgan and his corps of rifleman, and a few snipers of provincials might help turn the tide. As night fell the rebels overran the men at von Breymann's redoubt. Justus was ordering his men back within the camp when he felt hot iron pierce his thigh and he staggered and lost his balance. Lieutenant John Dulmage, swimming before his eyes, aided by a German soldier, was lifting him from the redoubt. As the second Battle of Freeman's Farm was ending, Dulmage, aided by men from the company, carried Justus past Burgoyne's own headquarters to the hospital tents on the north side of the camp, near the bank of the Hudson where the provision of bateaux were tied up.

"The hospital was a madhouse of shrieking men, surgeons sawing shattered  limbs on tables slimy with blood. Dlumage found an empty straw palliasse [straw mattress], and joined by Thomas Sherwood and Elijah Bothum, both very alarmed, they laid Justus down gently. With a knife his lieutenant cut away the breeches from around the bloody hole. In his agony Justus heard John say that he had stopped a musket ball but the bone was intact. Elijah brought a tumbler full of rum, which Justus sipped while awaiting a surgeon to attend to him.

Dulmage left to look after the company, while Thomas and Elijah sat with Justus and held him steady until the surgeon had extracted the ball. With teeth clenched, Justus wondered why the rum was doing so little good.

"Throughout the night Justus lay comforted by more doses of rum. In the morning Thomas Sherwood came in, and on asking about Brigadier Fraser, Justus was saddened to learn that he had died before dawn at the house where the Baroness von Riedesel was staying. The army's present predicament was not Fraser's doing. After a moment's silence Thomas reported that Burgoyne had ordered a withdrawal up the Hudson. The vanguard was leaving, although rain teemed down, beating on the walls of the tent. Outside the road was a sea of mud, guns towed by emaciated horses and oxen, pushed by men who had scarcely the strength to walk, let alone salvage the artillery. The most severely wounded men would be left behind, but John Dulmage had men making a litter for Justus. All refused to forsake their captain."

Loren Kelly

Buckskin Pimpernel: The Exploits of Justus Sherwood, Loyalist Spy by Mary Beacock Fryer - 1981 - 288 pages Page 18

Saturday, April 02, 2016

In Search of Agnes - New Brunswick Research

One of Judy's cousins is interested in finding the ancestors of his grandmother, Agnes Teale, of Tisdale Saskatchewan. Agnes was married to Augustus "Charles" Teale, from Hessle, Yorkshire, England. I am well acquainted with the ancestors of Charles Teale, but his wife was somewhat of a mystery, so I thought it would be interesting to find out more.

This was her second marriage, and what our branch of the Teale family thought was her maiden name, was in fact her married name from her first marriage. So her maiden name was not Agnes Clayton, it was Agnes Murphy. Armed with that information from the cousin, I started looking for additional information. The cousin mentioned that her first husband was Joshua S Clayton, and they were married in New Brunswick, and had two Clayton children. After Joshua's death in Belgium in WWI, the children were raised by her in-laws.

New Brunswick Provincial Marriages 1789-1950
Name Joshua S Clayton
Event Type Marriage
Event Date 23 Feb 1909
Event Place Saint John, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Gender Male
Age 21
Birth Year (Estimated) 1888
Father's Name Joshua B Clayton
Mother's Name Eva Scribner
Spouse's Name Florence Murphy
Spouse's Gender Female
Spouse's Age 18
Spouse's Birth Year (Estimated) 1891
Spouse's Father's Name Wm Murphy
Spouse's Mother's Name Enora Ragan [Honorah sounds like Enora.]
Certificate Number 001420
Page 48

I found the church marriage record in the Drouin Collection in and also found the government marriage record. Strangely enough, her name is given as Florence Murphy in these marriage records. And multiple official records of her children give her name as Florence Agnes Murphy or Agnes Florence Murphy. Her father's name is given on Drouin and government marriage records as William Murphy. However, her mother's name is indexed differently depending whether you look in FamilySearch or

I found the record of the marriage of her parents.
Oct 1880 Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada
"William Murphy and Hanorah Regan
On the eighteenth of October eighteen hundred and eighty I married William Murphy and Hannorah [sic] Regan after dispensing with banns, both of Studholm, Kings County, in the presence of Dennis Regan [or Ryan] and Margaret Ann Graham. James Vorcker"

Now I searched the New Brunswick Vital Records for the birth of Agnes. I believe this is her birth although the given names are recorded as Mary Agnes. There is no record in the New Brunswick Archives of the birth of a Florence Murphy to a William Murphy that can match our girl. Florence may just be a nickname. In the document below, the father's name is a perfect match and the mother's surname fits too. I cannot find any other William Murphy married to a Regan in this time and place.

Index to County Birth Registers
Sex F
Date 1890-04-27
County KINGS
Code 5-1-14-87
Microfilm F13367

In the Canada Census records from 1871-1911 we can see the family of William Murphy of Studholm RC Parish, Kings County, New Brunswick. Firstly we see him with his first wife, Mary. Then with Joanna, and lastly with his third wife, Elizabeth. 

On I found a profile page for him that includes this information and lists his parents as Robert Murphy and Julia Anna Keleher of Ireland. 

But I have had very little success searching for Honora/Joanna. 

The New Brunswick Archives site has wonderful scanned images of the original documents for FREE. The search engine is very limited but it is still a great place to do research. 

Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and FamilySearch

For the past few weeks I have been in touch with one of Judy's cousins in Saskatchewan. This is another of those situations, where a few years ago I could have asked some of the older Teales, Hamiltons, and McGillivrays about friends and neighbors. But that generation is gone now, and when I could have asked them, I didn't know the right questions.


I have badly neglected this blog. I remain very involved in family history, but not so much in my personal research. Every Thursday evening Judy and I serve in the Edmonton Riverbend Family History Center. We have had some evenings when nobody comes and others when there are more people than we can handle. It is fun teaching people to find their ancestors in online databases or teaching them to scan and upload old family photos! Sometimes we even get to teach them to use the microfilm readers.

Since April 2015, I serve about 25 hours per week in FamilySearch Support, where we help people experiencing problems with our website (This is the world's largest free family history website.) We provide toll-free telephone numbers from most areas of the world as well as email at and real-time text chat. I am one of about 450 people serving in North American English Support during our daytime. In our evening, the Asia- Pacific Support team looks after English language support, and they are followed by the Europe-Middle East-Africa Support team, before it becomes the turn of North America again. Our website is available in 10 major languages, but English is the most heavily used. I find it a personally rewarding service. 

If you are doing family history research, I encourage you to visit our website!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Buchanans of St John's Derg Parish, Castlederg, County Tyrone, Ireland

My Buchanan family lived in this parish during at least part of 1815-1824. It was a Church of Ireland (Anglican) parish, although the Buchanans usually identified themselves as Presbyterians.

The latest Genealogy In Time newsletter mentioned records newly available for County Tyrone. Among them is a set of index cards from  St John's Derg Parish, Castlederg, County Tyrone. The first three births are obviously our family, but there is an excellent chance that the others are related to our family too. When our family emigrated to Canada in 1847, they undoubtedly left relatives behind.
Derg: Parish
Name Date of Baptism Book Ref.
ROBERT 2nd April, 1815. AA 438
CHARLES 26th May, 1817. AA 524
WILLIAM 28th March, 1824. AA 736
ELIZA 25th January,1829. AA 959
WILLIAM 3rd March, 1839. AA 1352
MATTY lst June, 1841, B 8 97
ELLEN 24th September, 1843. B 187
ELIZA 7th June, 1846. B 295
REBECCA 29th April, 1849. B 350
MARGARET 30th June, 1852. B 428
MARY 28th May, 1865. B 846
BUCHANAN (2) Derg Parish
Name Date of Baptism Book Ref.
ELLEN 23rd December, 1875. B 1199
SAMUEL IRWIN lst January, 1885. B 1409

Probably related:
BUCHANAN Derg Parish
Martha 18 Feb 1866 A 501
Willaim 3 Feb 1867 A 523
Sally 31 Mar 1875 A 679
Sarah 11 Feb 1894 B 194
Marriage Date   Name & Surname  Age  Condition  Rank or Profession  Residence at time of marriage  Father’s name & Surname  Rank or Profession of Father  Witnesses:
September 21st 1869
William Patton 27 Bachelor Labourer Ballylennan John Patton Labourer Thomas Crowe
Rebecka Buchanan 22 Spinster Ballylennan William Buchanan Labourer Thomas Funston
October 12th 1869
Thomas Crowe 32 Bachelor Labourer Ballylennan John Crowe Labourer Andrew Chism
Mary Buchanan 30 Spinster Spamount William Buchanan Labourer William Funston


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Finding Alberta Homesteads and Farmsteads (made easy)

As I was reading a recent newsletter from, it referred to homesteads and had a link to the following site:

I looked up the homesteads of my grandfather Richard Ing and his brothers James and Thomas.
Then I wondered whether my other grandfather William Andrew Buchanan had ever taken out an Alberta homestead.

Sure enough!

BUCHANAN, William Andrew Section 17 Township 41 Range 5 Meridian 5 Film # 2956 in Accession # 1970.313 at Provincial Archives of Alberta File # 2210868

Where on earth is that??? The 5th Meridian is just 5 minutes drive west of me, so it would have to be somewhere in the western part of Alberta, but where?

After a few false starts I found this site.

Then I followed this helpful note to plot the location using Google Maps! 

NOTE: If you will use these numbers with a GIS tool, like Google Maps or a GPS, you must put a MINUS sign in front of the longitude result. For example, 110.0079112 should be -110.0079112 when entered into Google Maps.

The result was a somewhat remote place roughly 20 miles or 30 km north of Leslieville, Alberta. This made good sense, since my dad had attended school in the Leedale-Leslieville area. Now I knew exctly where they lived!

You might want to give it a try for some of your ancestral farms in Alberta.