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 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

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 so it may not be visible without a subscription ]

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

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.

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.

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 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  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

The Top 100 listing is at:

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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Old Newspaper Clippings and Memories

For the last two Thursday evenings I have been able to spend a few minutes of my shift at the Riverbend Family History Centre searching  the newspaper archives at

My experience with digitized newspapers has usually been negative. The OCR (optical character recognition) has been so poor that searching them has usually been more frustration than it is worth. I was happy to discover that the OCR quality at was generally excellent. My search criteria were: Buchanan Neepawa

It is sure handy to have a unique place name like Neepawa to search!

I found many obituaries and announcements, which I shared with others who are actively researching the Neepawa Buchanans. This one I found last night brought back a flood of fond memories.

Sunday, 23 Jun 2013 Red Deer Advocate Red Deer
Mervyn Ross (Merv) Buchanan of Red Deer, Alta. passed away peacefully on June 23, 2013 at the age of 83 years. Merv is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary May, his daughter Joanne (Randy) Kuharski of Red Deer, his son Buck (Jan) of Red Deer, his son-in-law Al Frankowski of Rossland, B.C., eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brothers Gerald of Neepawa, Man. and Ron of Winnipeg. He was predeceased by his daughter Judy. A celebration of Merv's life will be held at 11 a.m. on August 23, 2013 at White's Funeral Home in Neepawa, Man.

When I hitch hiked to Neepawa from Calgary in September of 1962, I was looking for family history information. Someone at the Neepawa newspaper told me "You should talk to Merv Buchanan, who manages the salt plant." So I looked for Merv. He was enthusiastic about my project to gather Buchanan genealogy, and invited me to stay with him for a few days. Besides feeding me and giving me a place to sleep for free, he spent as much free time as possible taking me to visit Buchanan relatives in the general area. That is how I came to meet Mabel Henry, who also became an inspiration. I filled out a notepad and pedigree charts and family group sheets as we went from family to family. I left for home with more information than I could have ever hoped for. I will always be grateful to Merv and Mary May for their kindness.

During my visit to Neepawa in 1997 Merv gave me scanned copies of portraits of his ancestors Samuel Buchanan and Mary Watson. About 2008, he phoned me and asked if I could send him copies of the portraits, which had been lost during the move to Red Deer. I was surprised that he was living in Red Deer, but glad that his health had improved since I had last seen him in 2002. He explained "My wife and I always said that we would never follow our children back and forth across the country. Then our daughter Judy died, and that changed."

A search in the newspaper archives at for "Buchanan" living in "Neepawa", turns up lots of results. Most of them are for Merv Buchanan or Mac Buchanan. Why? Because they coached sports in the community for many years and were active in local service clubs.

Merv, thank you for your example of kindness and your acts of service to those around you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What do you do on the day before Christmas?

Well, in this case, I helped a friend to register a domain name for his small business. Octave DeSmet has a business hauling round bales in central Alberta. A little over two years ago I registered for him, but the registration recently expired. We tried tried for 2 months to renew his web site registration with, but no matter what we tried, nothing worked. I was ready to give up, but Octave finds his web site very useful for potential customers. They can calculate the cost of hauling before they even pick up the phone.

I found that the similar domain name name of was available, and I looked at other registration services. advertised a good price, but then added enough required services that the final cost was no bargain. At my son Andrew's suggestion, I checked-out, whose price was only about $60 for a 5-year registration. I had trouble getting Octave's phone number into a format that the registration form would recognize as valid, but a FREE PHONE CALL to netfirm's help line solved the problem in about a minute. Try viewing it works! If it doesn't work, please let me know.

This evening, I will gather with family and friends to celebrate God's gift to us. But for now, I am happy to have been able to do a good deed for a friend.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Kingdom of Kippen

While searching for something else, I came across this book online. I have long been familiar with the curious story of the "Kingdom of Kippen", a parish on the border of Stirlingshire and Perthshire Scotland, but this has a lot more information. Among other things, it tells how the Buchanans of Arnprior became known as the "Kings of Kippen".


THIS facetious "kingdom" was constituted in the reign of James IV, and came about in the following manner. Sir Duncan Forrester of Garden was comptroller of the King's household under James IV.
The Menzies were then proprietors of great part of the parish of Kippen, and of some part of that of Killearn.

Menzies of Arnprior, in that part of the former which is included in Perthshire, had a quarrel with Forrester of Garden, who, as Menzies was childless, insisted that he should either settle his estate upon him by testament, or instantly withdraw from it. Menzies applied to [clan chief] Walter Buchanan of Buchanan, and offered to leave Arnprior to one of his sons if he would defend him from Forrester.

Buchanan accepted the offer, and sent his second son, John, with a dry nurse, to live with his adoptive father.
On hearing this, Forrester came to Arnprior, in Menzies' absence, and ordered the nurse to carry back the child, otherwise he would burn the Castle of Arnprior about their ears. The woman, however, setting him at defiance,and threatening him with her master's vengeance, intimidated him, and he did not make good his word.


John Buchanan became proprietor of Amprior, and afterwards the noted "King of Kippen," a phrase which originated in the whimsical episode between himself and James V, who, it may be explained, was fond of travelling in disguise under the title of "The Guid Man o' Ballengeich," after the steep path leading down from the Castle of Stirling.

The story has been variously put. It is shortly this : — The King, with his nobles, was residing in Stirling Castle, and having sent a party for some deer to the hills in the neighbourhood of Gartmore, on their return to Stirling with the venison they passed through Arnprior, where they were attacked by the chief, and relieved of their burden. On expostulating with Buchanan for so ruthlessly taking from them what belonged to the King, Buchanan replied that if James was King in Scotland, he was King of Kippen.

The messengers reporting the circumstance to the King, he, relishing a joke, resolved to wait on his neighbouring majesty of Kippen, and rode out one day with a small retinue from Stirling. Demanding admittance at the palace of Arnprior, he was refused by a fierce-looking warrior standing at the gate with a battle-axe sloped on his shoulder, who told him there was no admission, as his chief was at dinner with a large company, and could not be disturbed at that time.

"Tell your master," said James, " 'the Guidman of Ballengeich' humbly requests an audience of the King of Kippen."

Buchanan, guessing the quality of his guest, received His Majesty with the appropriate honours, and became so great a favourite that he had leave to draw upon the carrier as often as he pleased, and was invited, as "King of Kippen," to visit his brother sovereign at Stirling.


In my mind's eye, I can vividly see the tough old nurse, telling-off the bullying nobleman and evicting him from the castle!

If I remember correctly, Sir Walter Scott's telling of the hijacked venison incident is a little more colorful, but it is an amusing story regardless who is telling it.

The "Kingdom" as seen today

Merry Christmas, and may you have joy and success in 2015. 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Identifying Harvey Tibbits

I researched Harvey Tibbitts, the obscure first husband of Margaret Matilda Buchanan, my great aunt. I had amazing success. I already knew that he and “Maggie” were in the 1880 census living near Council Bluffs, Iowa. But I found him in the 1871 Canada Census and the 1861 and 1851 census of Upper Canada, along with tons other relatives and also found his uncle Elhannan Tibbits on an personal page. I shared this information with some cousins who share my interest in genealogy:

1852 Canada West (Ontario) Middlesex County, Westminster Township

48    Elhannan    Tibbits    Male    28    1824    Lower Canada

1    Mary    Tibbits    Female    77    1775    United States [Mary Curtis, the mother of George]

2    George    Tibbits    Male    54    1798    United States
3    Rachael    Tibbits    Female    36    1816    Upper Canada
4    Alonzo    Tibbits    Male    19    1833    Lower Canada
5    Hannah A    Tibbits    Female    14    1838    Upper Canada
[A gap of 10 years for the death of George's first wife Elizabeth and marriage to Rachael Norton, widow of Leonard Odell.]
6    Lorenzo    Tibbits    Male    4    1848    Upper Canada
7    Harry    Tibbits    Male    1    1851    Upper Canada [Harvey]
8    Henry A    Odell    Male    11    1841    Upper Canada [Rachel's child from her first marriage]
9    Eliza A    Odell    Female    9    1843    Upper Canada
10    Catherine    Odell    Female    8    1844    Upper Canada

20    Joseph    Tibbits    Male    44    1808    Lower Canada [younger brother of George]
21    Sophronia    Tibbits    Female    38    1814    United States
22    Silvy A    Tibbits    Female    14    1838    Upper Canada
23    Sarah    Tibbits    Female    12    1840    Upper Canada
24    Chestina    Tibbits    Female    10    1842    Upper Canada
25    Rosetta    Tibbits    Female    6    1846    Upper Canada
26    Alphonse    Tibbits    Male    4    1848    Upper Canada

29    Nilson    Tibbits    Male    28    1824    Lower Canada [Nelson, a brother of George]
30    Delana    Tibbits    Female    24    1828    Lower Canada
31    Myron    Tibbits    Male    4    1848    Upper Canada [a well-known medical doctor]

35    Leonard    Tibbits    Male    31    1821    Lower Canada [a brother of George]
36    Mary    Tibbits    Female    30    1822    Lower Canada
37    Eliza A    Tibbits    Female    9    1843    Upper Canada
38    Mary J    Tibbits    Female    7    1845    Upper Canada
39    Chester    Tibbits    Male    5    1847    Upper Canada
40    Colistia    Tibbits    Female    2    1850    Upper Canada

42    Benjn    Tibbits    Male    56    1796    United States [a brother of George]
43    Mary A    Tibbits    Female    25    1827    Ireland
44    Robert    Davis    Male    7    1845    Ireland [possible step child]

NOTE: Mary and her sons George and Benjamin were born in the USA.
In the 1880 census, Harvey says his father was born in Vermont.
From Vermont, they migrated to Lower Canada by 1824, then Upper Canada by 1833.

1861 Census of Canada
Name:    Harvey Tibbets    Gender:    Male    Age:    10
Birth Year:    1851    Birthplace:    Upper Canada
Home in 1861:    Middlesex, Canada West    Religion:    E Methodist
Film Number:    C-1051            Page Number:    14
Household Members:   
1861 Census of Canada, Canada West, Middlesex               
43    Elhanan    Tibbets    Male    37    1824    Lower Canada       
44    George    Tibbets    Male    63    1798    United States    Married   
45    Mrs G    Tibbets    Female    45    1816    Upper Canada    Married  [Rachael]
46    Lorenzo    Tibbets    Male    12    1849    Mc [UC]           
47    Harvey    Tibbets    Male    10    1851    Upper Canada    
48    Betsy J    Tibbets    Female    8    1853    Upper Canada   
49    George L Tibbets    Male    6    1855    Upper Canada          
50    William R    Tibbets    Male    4    1857    Upper Canada   

1871 Census of Canada
Name:    Harver Tipits [Harvey Tibbitts]     Gender:    Male    Age:    20
Birth Year:    abt 1851        Birth Place:    Ontario
Religion:    Weslyan Methodist        Origin:    English
Province:    Ontario            District:    Middlesex East
District Number:    09            Division:    03
Subdistrict:    Westminster        Subdistrict Number:    a
Household Members:   
Name    Age
3 3    Tipits    Elhanen    Male    47    1824    Quebec    Married    English
3 3    Tipits    Elizie    Female    30    1841    Ontario    Married    English [Eliza Ann Odell]
3 3    Tipits    John    Male    5    1866    Ontario        English
4 4    Tipits    George    Male    73    1798    United States    Married    English
4 4    Tipits    Rachil    Female    55    1816    Ontario    Married    English
4 4    Tipits    Lourenzo Male    22    1849    Ontario        English
4 4    Tipits    Harver    Male    20    1851    Ontario        English [Harvey]
4 4    Tibit    Betey    Female    18    1853    Ontario        English
4 4    Tibit    George    Male    16    1855    Ontario        English
4 4    Tibit    Wm    Male    14    1857    Ontario        English

This page for Elhanan says that his parents are:
Jonathan TIBBITS 1775 – 1847
Mary Polly CURTIS 1775 – 1854 [This agrees perfectly with the 1851 census! Apparently the ones born in Lower Canada are much younger brothers to George and Benjamin. It makes me wonder whether some of the families on that census page with other surnames are the families of the Tibbitts daughters.]

This is the one where we first discovered Harvey and Maggie in Iowa.
1880 United States Federal Census about Harvay Tibbetts
Name:    Harvay Tibbetts     Age:    29   Birth Year:    abt 1851  Birthplace:    Canada
Home in 1880:    Valley, Pottawattamie, Iowa
Race:    White   Gender:    Male
Relation to Head of House:    Self (Head)
Marital Status:    Married
Spouse's Name:    Margaret Tibbetts
Father's Birthplace:    Vermont
Mother's Birthplace:    Canada
Occupation:    Farmer
Household Members:   
Name    Age
Tibbetts    Harvay    White    Male    29    1851    Self    Married    Canada    Vermont    Canada
Tibbetts    Margaret    White    Female    18    1862    Wife    Married    Canada    Ireland    Ireland

Interesting! Harvey's father was also in Iowa, along with brother William's family and various other family members. 

1880 United States Federal Census
Name:    George Tibbitts   Age:    82  Birth Year:    abt 1798  Birthplace:    Vermont
Home in 1880:    Valley, Pottawattamie, Iowa
Race:    White  Gender:    Male
Relation to Head of House:    Self (Head)
Marital Status:    Married
Spouse's Name:    Rachael Tibbitts
Father's Birthplace:    Vermont
Mother's Birthplace:    Vermont
Occupation:    Farmer
Household Members:   
Name    Age
Tibbitts    George    White    Male    82    1798    Self    Married    Vermont    Vermont    Vermont
Tibbitts    Rachael    White    Female    68    1812    Wife    Married    Canada    Canada    Canada
Tibbitts    William    White    Male    23    1857    Son        Canada    Vermont    Canada

Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925
Name:    George Tibbits
Age:    87
Birth Year:    abt 1798
Birth Place:    Vermont
Residence Date:    1885
Residence Place:    Valley, Pottawattamie, Iowa, USA
Race:    White
Gender:    Male
Marital Status:    Widowed
Household Members:   
3    William B    Tibbits        Male    White    27    1858    Canada    Married
4    Eva M        Tibbits        Female    White    22    1863    Illinois    Married
5    Almina M    Tibbits        Female    White    0    1885    Iowa   
6    George        Tibbits        Male    White    87    1798    Vermont    Widowed

Anyways, there are a ton of other Tibbits family members in the Iowa, Pottawattamie, Council Bluffs area in the 1880s. When Harvey's parents moved there, several of their children and relatives came with them. I am guessing that land was cheap and plentiful at the time. I have not found a record of Harvey's death, but there are good records of him until 1880 and then nothing. I am guessing he died about 1881, as Maggie married Red Bob in 1883.

How did Maggie and Harvey meet? London and Elma, Ontario are not that far apart, and young men like Harvey often covered a lot of distance looking for work. And a young single man that age might also be looking for a wife. Maggie would have been about 17 years old and marriage would probably have been a priority for her too.

The little-known Harvey Tibbits has been well identified. The Tibbits are not related to me but I have researched them because I wanted a better understanding of Harvey.