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.

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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, August 07, 2017


Yesterday at church, a lady about my age described her panic as she was driving her brand-new car home from Edmonton one night and suddenly realized she had no idea where to find the light switch!

As she told this story, two things came to mind. One was the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared." ... good advice in almost any situation.

The other thing was a personal experience from a long time ago. My friend Gary Mitchell was allowed to take a few friends from Edgewater to Radium Hot Springs in his parents' brand new 1959 Pontiac. You may remember these. They were slightly smaller than a supertanker and had double tail fins on both sides. In their day that was class!!!

It was dark, so he was driving with the headlights on, and all went well until it started raining. As we were driving through Sinclair canyon (a snaky course between solid rock walls), he reached down to turn on the wipers and accidentally turned off the headlights! With scant seconds to live, our short lives flashed through our minds. Fortunately, Gary found the light switch and turned the lights on, in time to avoid the rock walls of the canyon.

The point of the story is that it is important to plan ahead and know what to do in an emergency situation, before the emergency occurs. In other words, to "Be Prepared", because if we have decided beforehand what we are going to do, there is less need to panic, and we can make reasoned response to a looming emergency.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Feedspot Top 100 Genealogy Blogs

I received a pleasant surprise. My blog is mostly my personal musings about family history. I wish to thank you for taking the time to read it.


"I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Bill's Genealogy has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 100 Genealogy Blogs on the web.

I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 100 Genealogy Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

Also, you have the honor of displaying the following badge on your blog. Use the below code to display this badge proudly on your blog."

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

My Early Memories of the "McNeil" Place

Visiting Mom recently brought back a flood of old memories. Today, I came across a file I had created of some of my oldest memories. The McNeil house was the earliest home I can remember, although I was 2 years old when we move there.

Life in the Log House on the McNeil Place
In 1944, my parents bought a 160 acre farm about 7 miles west of Breton, Alberta. They purchased the farm from the estate of a Mr. McNeil who had been murdered in Edmonton. It had a 2-room log house, a log barn, a root cellar, some bush and some fields. Any strange sounds or happenings were humorously ascribed to Mr. McNeil's Ghost. Dad put in a partition dividing the bedroom into two for more privacy. The roof was waterproofed by tarpaper covered by boards. Whenever it rained water dripped through the roof. Mom had several tin cans that she placed under the main drips.

My parents had two horses, "Pet" and "Dobbin", and a few cows. The main milk cow was called "Old Jersey", who produced a milk that was rich in cream that Mom would churn into butter, sometimes with help from us kids taking turns using the dasher. We had a German Shepherd dog called "Watch, a pair of mallard ducks called "Donald and Bloom", and various cats, rabbits, and chickens, and they all got along peaceably together.

Mom and Dad grew mostly wheat, oats and clover. We had no tractor, so all of the farm work was done by the strength of Dad's own muscles and those of his horses. Using his horses, Dad would cultivate the fields, seed them using his seed drill, and cut the hay with his sickle-bar mower or cut and bind the grain with his binder. I remember helping him to stook the sheaves (or bundles, as we called them). The wheat would scratch my face as I lifted two bundles together and set them down to form part of a stook of six bundles. Sometimes we children would chase the field mice that liked to hide under the bundles, and undoubtedly eat the grain. I remember lifting one up by its tail and it turned and bit my hand. I also remember the stubble scratching my feet and ankles as I ran through the field in my bare feet.

On threshing day, a big old steel-wheeled tractor such as a Hart-Parr or Rumley would arrive pulling the threshing machine. Dad would have his horses hitched to his wagon and hay rack. Uncle Jack and a few neighbors would also arrive with theirs. They were our threshing crew, and they would be well fed for their hard work. Dad would repay the neighbors by serving in their threshing crews in turn. Threshing day was like a party with good food, lots of people, and these huge noisy tractors that shook the very earth under our feet, while nearly deafening our ears. On a quiet farm in the horse and buggy era around 1950, this was big-time excitement! Our usual entertainment consisted of visiting neighbors, playing cards or board games and listening to radio programs that arrived via staticky tube-type radios: Fibber McGee and Molly, Boston Blackie, Our Miss Brooks, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, Ozzie and Harriet, and I Was a Communist for the FBI. Mom and Dad also enjoyed reading but we children were too young for that entertainment, although they would read to us, and on Saturdays one of the Edmonton radio stations would read the weekly comic strips to us from the Edmonton Journal.

Dad's favorite horse, Pet was part Morgan, and was a wonderful animal. Dad could go hunting with her and fire his 30-30 Winchester from her back and she would hardly flinch. Mom and Dad always grew a garden and we picked wild berries. Dad supplemented our diet by hunting. And of course, food needed to be purchased in Breton, usually at Sexton's Store, where our family had a charge account. I can still remember how excited my mother was to see some tropical fruit for sale that she had not seen since WWII had started. It may have been bananas, but I don't remember what the fruit was, but just her excitement at seeing it in the store.

My brother Reg was about a year and a half younger than me and Lloyd was about another year and a half younger than him. Eddy and Judy were 8 and 10 years younger than me. Us three older boys in particular were able to do a lot of things together.

Our central heating system was a wood-fired cook stove. Our water system was a well perhaps 20 feet from the house. Instead of kitchen cupboards with a built in sink, there was a wash stand holding a bucket of water (with a ladle floating in the bucket), and an enameled wash basin, and under it was the slop pail for dirty water and table scraps. The cupboard was a piece of furniture maybe 4 feet wide by 7 feet high. Meal preparation and most other work in the kitchen happened on the kitchen table. The cupboard was just for storing dishes, pots and pans and ingredients. There were no electric appliances. Someone from 100 years previous would be puzzled by the radio but everything else would be quite familiar. Actually there was another anomaly. About 1950 Dad bought Mom a gasoline powered wringer-washer.

Explosives were often used to remove stubborn stumps. I don't know where Dad got the blasting cap and the fuse but he decided to show us what effect a blasting cap would have on a tin can. He waited until we were all safely on the other side of the slab fence, lit the fuse, and dropped it into a jam can, and ran the 20 feet to join us. The explosion ripped the can into tiny shreds. A valuable lesson was learned by all of us that day. If a tiny blasting cap could do that kind of damage, don't play with dynamite.

During the winter Dad would work in the lumber camps for wages. He used an axe and a Swede saw (a bow saw). He wore leather mitts with woolen liners. He must have been terribly cold. Pet also served as his skid horse to skid the logs to the pick-up point.

Dad's father William Andrew Buchanan, whom we called Pa, died the year before I started school. He lived in a shack behind the house of Jack and Tina, He had a blacksmith shop there, and I remember seeing him work there with glowing hot iron, pounding and shaping it with his hammer and anvil. Sometimes he would let me turn the bellows while he worked. He could even use his hammer and anvil to weld two pieces of iron together which seemed somewhat amazing. He was hospitalized for a stroke, and he was recovering well. When the nurse delivered his tray of food he was joking with her about going home the next day. When she returned to pick up his tray a little later, she found him dead. I can still remember a few details of his funeral in Wetaskiwin.

In my Grade One year, my parents boarded me with the Alfred Bensons, a childless couple in Breton for the winter. I remember spending Christmas with my parents at the Green Squirrel Lumber Camp at Alder Flats. The camp was on the Walberg property, and was named after my brother Lloyd, who scampered around in his green parka.

When I was in Grade 2 Reg and I walked about 2 miles each way to catch the school van. This was nothing exceptional, as my parents and their parents also had walked to school. On one occasion Reg and I decided that we would play hookey. Instead of walking all the way to Kubejko's corner, we played until we thought it was lunch time and ate our lunch and then played some more. We were surprised that our mother figured out that we had not spent the day at school, when we arrived back home about noon. It was hard to put one over on Mom! I believe it was later that winter that my parents rented a house in Breton, while the Halucza family lived in our house and looked after our animals for the winter. Mom and Dad gave them the calf they had raised.

The next year Jack found a job in Edmonton with Standard Iron Works, and he and Tina moved to Edmonton. We moved into the new house that Dad and Jack and their father had built on Jack's farm, the former Charlie Broughton place. Mom and Dad now had two farms to run.

Monday, July 10, 2017

New Family Member

In family history, I tend to look back in time. But sometimes I need to look forward.

Here is a photo of our newest grandchild, Lillyanna Dorothy. She is beautiful, with a full head of black hair and a clear complexion.

As I think of the changes my mother has seen during her lifetime, and the changes I have seen in mine, it is hard to visualize what the future holds for Lillyanna. God bless you little one. May He shelter you in the hollow of his hands, as you move forward to play your own special role here on earth. May you bring to your parents the joy that only a child can bring!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Violet Hilda Ing Matthews

I received an email from my brother Reg telling me that our aunt had passed away on Monday.
(Interestingly, I live about an hour's drive away and he lives 7 hours away.)

I confirmed it with my brother Lloyd, and he said he found out from the local Breton newspaper.

MATTHEWS, Violet Hilda (Ing)
May 29, 1922 – June 12, 2017

Violet Hilda Matthews (Ing), 95, of Leduc, AB passed away on June 12, 2017.
Violet was born in Kirriemuir, AB on May 29, 1922, the second youngest of 6 children, to Richard and Louisa Ing. Violet moved to the Breton area with her family in the spring of 1934. She married Ray Matthews in 1946 and moved to the farm where they raised their 5 children. She loved entertaining family and friends, flowers, singing and volunteering.
Violet is survived by sons Gary (Rita) and Stan (Brenda); daughters Diane, Darlene (Wade) and daughter-in-law Sue (Ron); sisters Dorothy Buchanan and Myrtle Carson (Evans); 11 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. 
She was predeceased by her parents, husband and son (Harold), sister Marion Lidgett, and brothers Walter & Charlie Ing.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Village of Breton (Breton Cemetery), Box 480, Breton, AB T0C 0P0.
For service details, please visit
Serenity Funeral Service, Leduc (780) 980-3688


Dear Auntie Vi was my mother's dearest friend as well as being her sister. After my mother was widowed, they lived in the same senior's lodge in Breton and then in Leduc, and finally in the Leduc Extendicare.  She was looking well when I saw her at Mom's birthday party last month.

When I was little, the families of my mother and her brother Walter and her sister Vi would meet at their parents' home in Breton on Saturdays, and we knew each other really well.

When my parents moved to Camrose in 1953, the Matthews family moved there too as our next door neighbors. I remember many hours of playing cribbage and other card games with her. She was patient, kind, and good humored.

Bless you and your family Auntie Vi.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Settling Stratford, Connecticut in 1639

Judy's ancestor Robert Seabrook is listed as one of the 17 families who founded the town of Stratford, Connecticut in 1639. Among the other founders were his sons-in-law Thomas Sherwood and Thomas Fairchild.

Thomas Sherwood was the husband of Sarah Seabrook and they were Judy's ancestors. Thomas Fairchild was the husband of Emma Seabrook.

During the week I came across this map showing Stratford as it was in 1639. I found it very interesting.

The village site was along a river, which was frequently the case, as it provided a source of abundant fresh water for settlers and livestock, and easy transportation in an era before roads were built. And along the left edge of the map we find "Indian Wigwams", an indication of friendly natives. Often the knowledge and experience of natives made the difference between survival and death to the European immigrants trying to survive winters on the new continent.

Near the center was a meetinghouse or church, and across the street from the meetinghouse was the home of Rev. Adam Blakeman. I wondered whether the group of settlers had been led to this spot by the minister, another common settlement practice. The meeting house would often serve as a school and a community center.

Reading the article in Wikipedia, I found that the Stratford settlers were part of the same Puritan movement as the Mayflower settlers 19 years earlier.,_Connecticut

The article begins by saying "Stratford is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. It is situated on Long Island Sound at the mouth of the Housatonic River. Stratford is in the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk Metropolitan Statistical Area. It was founded by Puritans in 1639." The article discusses Rev. Blakeman's leadership and the history of Stratford in some length. I found it an interesting 5 minute read.

Dorothy's 97th birthday

Recently, we had a birthday party for my amazing mother, which also served as an informal Ing family reunion. (We used to hold these every year at Breton, but the health of the older generation no longer permits this. Three of the six children are still living, and all are in their 90s.)

Here is a photo I took on this occasion. They are left to right, by age: Myrtle 92, Violet 95, Dorothy 97 (ages as of the end of this month).

Mom (Dorothy) was able to have good conversations with various members of the family, but by the time this photo was taken, she was noticeably tired. 

The weather was in the low 20s C and there were no bugs yet, so the dining patio was ideal for a large group. I didn’t take a count at the time, but I remember the following people being there:

Mom, Vi and Myrtle

Of Marion’s family: Ernie, Donna; Ted; Sherry

Of Mom’s family: Me and Judy, Laurel and Cadence, Evelyn and 2 children, Andrew and Nicole and 5 children; Lloyd; Justin, Kim and 4 children (arrived late, because of another commitment); Ed;
Judy and Bernie; Jason; Brandon, Tiffany, and William; Nikki, Taryn and her friend John

Of Vi’s family: Gary; Stan and Brenda; Diane

Of Myrtle’s family: Shirley

So I count over 40 people. James and Karin’s family would have come if her brother's wedding had been on a different day.

It was a beautiful time, full of expressions of love and gratitude.

Happy birthday Dorothy, Vi and Myrtle! All three have birthdays in May.