Bill's Genealogy Blog

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

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Location: Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada

I am a retired online school teacher. During July 2007 - January 2010, and September 2011 - March 2014, I provided part-time support for https://familysearch.org 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 http://mormon.org/

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Maps and the Seven Mile Rule

I find maps really useful for solving genealogy mysteries. For example, "Which is most likely to be the marriage or christening of my ancestor?"

A few years ago I read a Dear Myrtle's Blog posting that explained 'the 7 mile rule'. In rural areas in the 1800s, a young man had farm chores to do. He might get a few hours off to go courting, but he needed to be home in time for the evening chores. His usual mode of travel would be on foot, where his speed would be about 2.5 miles (4 km) per hour. This means that he usually had to find a bride within a distance of roughly 7 miles. So if the young man lived in a known location, his sweetheart probably lived within a 7 mile radius, and probably close to one of the few roads connecting the two points.

In reality, we know that love is not completely confined to elementary cartography. In some places there were other modes of transportation that would expand the range. In fact my grandmother lived in London, England, when she accepted a marriage proposal (by letter) from my grandfather who lived in western Canada, nearly half a world away! But generally the 7 mile rule is a useful guideline.

I often use Google maps (https://www.google.ca/maps or https://maps.google.com) to determine the distance between two points. The fact that the birth takes place in one county and the marriage of someone by that name occurs in the same county does not tell me how close the two places are. I need a map. I frequently use Google maps for that purpose. It is instantly accessible, and clicking Directions allows me to put in the names of the two places, to automatically calculate the distance and route between them.

But Google maps show an area as it is today, not as it was in 1863 or some other time in the past. This is where old maps really shine. On a recent podcast, Lisa Louise Cooke spoke about old maps and recommended a site http://www.oldmapsonline.org/  I like checking out old maps. Most of them seem to be in areas I am not researching, but sometimes I get lucky. The first thing I noticed was a 1948 map of Alberta, including many places that no longer exist, and are probably omitted from online maps! You may find the old maps useful too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Free Family Tree Templates


Today I have a guest blogger!


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Creating a Special Gift with a Family Tree
Researching your family history can teach you a lot about your ancestry. It also makes a wonderful gift once you have completed your research. Give it as an anniversary present, birthday gift or for other special occasions. If this is your plan, you need to begin early, especially if you plan to go in-depth with your research.
Set a Goal
You have numerous options for how you want to create your family tree. You may want to select a template that covers three or four generations related to the recipient of the gift. This option will have special meaning since the person already knows the people listed. 

You may prefer to be more historic in your approach and select a ten- or eleven-generation family tree template. This option makes for a wonderful gift that will appeal to many people. Just be prepared that the research could take you several months so play far ahead if this is the approach you choose. 

Another option is to take smaller templates and create multiple family trees. For instance, you may decide to cover the ancestry of all of the person’s grandparents. You would create four separate templates that could be placed together in a large frame. You would probably select three- or four-generation templates to ensure that everything fits in the space and isn’t too overwhelming. 

Choose a Template

Once you know what kind of research you will need to do and how much information you want to present, you need to decide on the format. Numerous options are available to suit many tastes. A landscape family tree template is a classic choice with ovals where you can put either information or photos. 
Bowties and wide or tall trees are other options that are ideal for three- or four-generations. They often allow you to include photos or more information other than just the names to personalize your design. 

For more in-depth research, you can also use the bowtie design. You may also want to try a circular pattern to fit more names into the space. A chart format is another option when you have a lot of names to include. It is easy to read and keeps everything organized. To be more decorative, choose a template that includes a border. You can even find ones that allow you to input the family crest. 


Give the family tree as a wedding or anniversary present and include both families of the couple on your template. A bowtie design is the ideal choice for this gift and is easy to read.


When giving a gift of a family tree to someone, you want it to be visually pleasant to look at and easy to follow. You may want to include photos or more data to create a gift that is interesting and will have meaning to the recipient. This is both a unique and heartfelt gift that you put a lot of time and effort into. Choose the right design for your gift that fits the information you collected and puts it into a lovely display. 


Suzie Kolber created http://obituarieshelp.org/free_printable_blank_family_tree.html to be the complete online resource for “do it yourself” genealogy projects.  The site offers the largest offering of
family tree charts online. The site is a not for profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history. 

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My Observations: The ObituariesHelp.org site has a huge array of different templates (patterns) for displaying family trees. For example, one of them is for adoptees to include both their adoptive family's pedigree and their birth family's pedigree. I am not sure I have seen that before! These charts can be an attractive way to display your genealogy. My genealogy software has a few basic charts, but nothing like this!

To use one, download it, open it in Adobe Reader, click Sign, change the type size to something larger (maybe 14 or 18), click the space where you want to add text, and add the information. Then print it out on your printer. Copies of the filled-in chart can be saved for sending by email, or for printing later.


Disclaimer: I have no connection to obituarieshelp.org and do not specifically endorse the companies advertising on their website. But I find the templates interesting.

Suzie, thank you for your posting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Heirloom Sewing Machine to Give Away

I have a family heirloom to give away to any of Louisa Ing's descendants. It is Louisa's old sewing machine, a treadle-powered Honeymoon machine, that could use some TLC. On this sewing machine, she created and repaired the clothing for her family, often by the light of coal-oil lamps. Her children are now great grandparents, and in some cases great-great grandparents.  A few months ago Judy and I sold our acreage home and we now live in an apartment in James and Karin's house. We got rid of tons (literally!) of stuff, but I couldn't throw away the old sewing machine. We have no place for it, and I would like to see it remain in the family, if possible.


If you are interested in looking at it, please contact me billb1847@hotmail.com 

An Heirloom Brooch

NOTE: The idea for this blog post was sparked by Patience Brewster, a designer of unique gifts who shares photos of heirlooms from her family on her blog http://www.patiencebrewster.com/blog 

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Before their marriage in London, England on February 22, 1880 Samuel Wright gave a special brooch to his fiancee, Charlotte Harriet Eley. Charlotte was wearing this brooch when they were married.

The brooch is about 1.5 inches (less than 4 cm) long. It is gold with a ruby in the center and two small pearls on either side. (I apologize for the poor quality of the color in this photo.) 

Later, Charlotte gave it to their daughter Louisa Ellen Wright when Louisa left England to marry Richard Samuel Ing in Canada. She was the second generation to wear the brooch, when they were married in Macklin, Saskatchewan, on 6 Jul 1913.

She passed the brooch to their daughter Dorothy May Ing. When Dorothy married William George Buchanan on 22 Feb 1941 at Winfield, Alberta, Canada, she was the third generation of brides wearing the heirloom brooch.

Dorothy passed the brooch to her eldest son’s fiancee Judith Marlene Kinney. When Judy married William Richard Buchanan in Raymond, Alberta, Canada on 23 Mar 1968 she was the fourth generation wearing Charlotte’s brooch.

When Bill and Judy’s daughter Laurel Rae Buchanan married Christopher West Layton, she was the fifth generation of brides wearing the special brooch.

In a few week's time Laurel's oldest daughter will be the 6th generation of brides wearing Charlotte's brooch on her wedding day.

We hope that there will be future generations of brides in our family wearing this special family heirloom.

This heirloom means a lot to our family. We have had it in the family for over 130 years. Through this brooch we feel a part of these ancestors. It has helped us to feel connected to them. This brooch has been a common link that has united our family across the generations. I’m thankful for our ancestors and the heritage they have given us.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wreck of the "John Geddie"

As I was researching Judy's Kinney ancestors. I came across a manifest listing Judy's ancestor William "James" Kinney as a sailor on the wooden sailing ship "John Geddie". Eleven years later, this ship came to a blazing end.

Liverpool, England, Crew Lists 1861-1919
Name: James Kinney
Age: 26
Birth Year: abt 1843
Birth Place: Dublin
Event Date: 31 May 1869
Port of Registry: Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Ship Name: John Geddie
Official Number: 54117
Reference Number: 387CRE/479
"James Kinney 26 born Dublin, certification RVS 34710, previous ship Chillianwallah Quebec Dec/68 Lpool, joined ship 31 May Lpool, capacity AB [Able Bodied seaman], time aboard 2 June, wages 2 15 0 2 15 0,  discharged 1 Nov/69 LPool"
[This is on ancestry.com so it may not be visible without a subscription http://goo.gl/wGM5Ci ]

The CHILLIANWALLAH was a square-rigged wooden sailing vessel.
Ship's master: C. Conway
Tonnage: 1,249 tons
Dimensions: 182.8 feet long, 39.1 foot beam and holds 24.7 feet deep
Construction: 1864, Lachance in Québec; repairs to damages in 1866
http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/TheShipsList/2001-12/1008632106

04/12/1877 Chillianwallah SV (+1877) wreck
On December 4th, 1877, the Canadian wooden sailing ship CHILLIANWALLAH, built in 1865, on voyage from New York to Antwerp with a cargo of resin and staves, was abandoned by her crew in leaking condition. There were no casualties.
http://www.wrecksite.eu/wrecked-on-this-day.aspx?lW9n3qIom+Z6n0/Tl6I/NQ==


The story of the wreck of the John Geddie: Here is an excerpt from the official report:

The "John Geddie," official No. 56,117, was a barque built of wood at Maitland, Nova Scotia, in 1866. Her registered tonnage was 650.57 tons, and at the time of her loss she was the property of Mr. John A. Ledwood, of Liverpool, at which port she was registered. ...

The ship had recently delivered a cargo in London of American mineral oil, and another at Rouen, where it was found that twenty barrels of the oil had leaked out. [I notice that the oil was actually shipped in barrels. The John Geddie was no supertanker!] From Rouen she went to Penarth, where, in January last, she underwent the following repairs: She was caulked on each side from copper to covering board, including waterway, seams, and butts on deck; she was supplied with new main and mizen masts, and her rigging received some repair.

While the vessel was at Penarth, Capt. James Alexander took charge of her, and he informed the Court that he found her hold in a very dirty state, the whole of the skin beams and between decks being saturated with crude oil, of which there was a strong smell. Amongst the dunnage wood in the hold he found a cask of crude oil, which he caused to be put into the fore part of the between decks.

On the 28th, 29th, and 31st January she loaded 1,007 tons 13 cwt. of the Ocean Company's semi-anthracite steam coal, worked at the pit between the 27th and 29th, the weather during the time of loading being wet. [I note that this far exceeds its licensed capacity, but that did not seem to be an issue at the time.]

The cargo was stowed in the following manner: Between the fore mast and mizen mast she was full, with the exception of an air space in the middle line of the ship, through which a man could crawl. From the fore mast the coals sloped forward, leaving a space for about 50 tons, the between decks from the after part of the fore hatchway to the stern being clear of coals. In the after end of the vessel the coals were sloped in a similar manner, leaving about 30 tons space. In the between decks forward there were stowed the cask of crude oil, ropes, planking, pitch, and potatoes. ...

Thus loaded and fitted, the "John Geddie" sailed for Montevideo on the 12th February, with a crew of thirteen hands, including the master, James Alexander, who holds a certificate of competency, No. 89,099, her draft of water being aft 18 ft. 9 in. and forward 18 ft. 2 in.

During the passage the fore and aft hatchways and the chain pipes appear to have been kept open on all possible occasions, and the master, who has had much experience in carrying coal cargoes, stated that, although he had no thermometer on board, he was in the habit of examining hatchways, chain pipes, and after ventilator frequently, with the object of seeing whether there was any symptom of the cargo heating. The crew, moreover, were in the constant habit of going below into the fore part of the between decks for stores and provisions, and thus had the opportunity of detecting any unusual heat.

Up to the 4th of April nothing of importance occurred; on that day the master, thinking the vessel to be too much by the stern, sent one watch into the hold to trim the coals. The men were at work for some four hours, but noticed no unusual heat, gas, or smoke.

On the 14th April, the weather being fine, the water smooth, wind from S.E., course S.W. 1/2 W., all plain sail set, the fore and after hatches off, ventilators open during the whole day, there was no manifestation of smoke, heat, or other cause of alarm.

At 8 p.m. the master and boatswain left the deck, and went to their cabins ..., the chief mate, who was not present at the inquiry, taking charge of the deck. About 9 p.m. the wind came from the N.E., and the sails were trimmed accordingly.

About 10.30 p.m. the look-out man on the forecastle saw a quantity of white smoke coming up the fore hatchway. He at once gave the alarm of fire, and the chief mate ordered the hatches to be put on, and called all hands. On being aroused, the master, boatswain, and steward, who slept in the cabin, found the cabin full of smoke, accompanied by a very offensive smell. As soon as the master reached the deck he ordered water to be poured down the chain pipes. In a very short time, however, smoke was seen issuing through the seams of the deck. No hope remained of saving the ship, and he ordered the boats to be got out, provisioned, and watered; rockets were sent up in the hope of attracting the notice of a vessel which had been spoken in the evening. These signals of distress were seen by the barque "Napier," of Quebec, who bore down to their assistance. At 2 a.m. on the 15th the master and crew abandoned the burning ship, and were received on board the "Napier."

In some fifteen minutes after her crew had reached the "Napier," the "John Geddie" burst into one sheet of flame, and in a few minutes was burnt to the water's edge, her destruction taking some four or five hours from the first alarm.
http://www.plimsoll.org/resources/SCCLibraries/WreckReports/14616.asp


James Kinney and his shipmates lived a dangerous life. Fortunately, he wasn't serving on the John Geddie when it became a floating inferno! But the possibility of disaster was ever-present on those wooden ships of earlier times. I think it helps us to appreciate our ancestors when learn something about their lives.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Youtube for Family History

In her latest blog, Lisa Louise Cook recommended that Youtube.com is a good place to get the flavor of our ancestral homes. I decided to give it a try, using Drumquin, County Tyrone, Ireland as my test case. Why Drumquin?
1. My Buchanan ancestors lived nearby in the early 1800s.
2. We have two Y-DNA matches in the area.
3. I have been in contact with several others researching Buchanan families in the area.
4. The name is unusual, perhaps unique. This should cause fewer false hits.
5. A rural Irish village is probably more like it used to be in the early 1800s than major centers I could have chosen, such as London or Liverpool.

So what did I find? There were a lot of youtube videos about Drumquin. Most were enjoyable.

The one that really captivated me was Margo O'Donnell singing "The Hills Above Drumquin". Her lilting Irish voice and the haunting Irish music was spell-binding to me. (I am also a fan of Canada's Rita MacNeil, who has a similar voice.) 

I had read the words to the song once before, but the singing and the music took this charming song to new heights. As I listened again, I heard a reference to a nearby rural area called Kirlish, which was the home of a correspondent's ancestors. I too felt a sense of "home" in a strange way.

My Buchanan ancestors left the area in 1847 during the peak of the Great Famine, and never returned.

Thanks to Youtube.com  I can revisit the area from the comfort of my own home, any time I want.

Lisa, thanks for the wonderful suggestion!


Saturday, January 31, 2015

100 Most-Visited Genealogy Websites

Recently the GenealogyInTime Magazine Newsletter released their list of the 100 top genealogy Websites of 2014. There may be other similar lists from other sources, but this one is based on Alexa results, so I believe this is the most accurate.

I like the fact that they provide a useful analysis of the types of sites and changes in ranking since the previous year. This is a free newsletter. I encourage you to subscribe. If you find you don't like it, you can easily unsubscribe. Besides good articles, they also have a genealogy search engine similar to Mocavo, except theirs is free. The magazine's home page is http://www.genealogyintime.com

The Top 100 listing is at:
 http://www.genealogyintime.com/articles/top-100-genealogy-websites-of-2015-page01.html

Somewhere in that list may be exactly what you have been looking for. FamilySearch.org and FindAGrave.com continue to be the most popular free sites, but there are others waiting to be checked out.