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.
In 2010-2018 Iserved 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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Adventures in Genealogy

I have heard it said "Genealogy is the greatest puzzle, the greatest detective game in the world." I love it! I remember as a young boy, standing outdoors on the farm with my father, asking him about his ancestors and who they were and where they came from. And being thrilled by his story of a long and dangerous ocean voyage from Ireland on a sailing ship long, long ago.

 In my early 20s, I actually took a genealogy class while I lived in Calgary. This led me to interview my parents, my mother's parents, aunts, uncles and older cousins and record what they said. On my mother's side of the family, information was readily available, as her parents were still alive and that family had kept in close touch with their extended family, including the Wright relatives back in England. The big puzzle for me was the Buchanans and Watsons - Dad's people. Dad's parents had come to Alberta from Manitoba when he was little, and the few relatives we had nearby had nearly all died. Those surviving had little information to offer.

So I decided to look elsewhere. Armed with a notepad and a binder of Family Group sheets, I hitch-hiked from Calgary, Alberta to Neepawa, Manitoba in 1962. (Yes, those were safer times. I certainly wouldn't recommend it now.) I remember that one couple that picked me up was so intrigued by my quest that they drove an hour out of their way to help me reach my destination.

When I finally arrived at Neepawa, I went to the local newspaper and asked to see some obituaries in their archives. The people were very helpful. They suggested I contact Mervyn Buchanan, the manager of the Windsor Salt plant.

Not having any better leads, I visited Merv. He and his wife gave me such a warm welcome that I felt like I had come home after a long absence. They asked me to stay with their family, and drove me to visit relatives in Riding Mountain, Birnie, and various places. While Merv was at work, I sought out relatives in Neepawa to interview. I returned home to Calgary with more information than I dared to hope for.

 Over the next two years I wrote to anyone who had been recommended by anyone as a source of family history information. Some failed to answer, but others referred me to people who knew more than themselves. Then, other pressing commitments took me away from genealogy for a few years. Does the term "binge genealogist" make any sense to you? I think it describes me too well.

About 1977 my work took me to High Prairie, Alberta. A family there asked me "Are you related to Gordon Buchanan, who owns the sawmill in town?" I said "It's possible, but probably not." They agreed, "Yes, he is originally from Manitoba." I replied "My father was born in Manitoba, so maybe we are related." After work, I rang Gordon's doorbell and waited apprehensively. I explained to the lady who answered that my name was Bill Buchanan, and I wanted to talk to Gordon about family history. She turned and said "Gordon, why don't you get your Buchanan Family Tree book?" This really got my attention! I had never heard of any such book. Gordon showed where he was in the book and I showed him where I was. We were related!

This book was a colossal amount of work on the part of its compilers and contributors. My quest for the next few months was to get a copy of the BFT book. The compilers, Lorne and Doris Buchanan, had moved from Neepawa and no one seemed to know where they were. My attempts to find a copy of the book for sale were unsuccessful. Then, unexpectedly a thick envelope arrived in the mail from Annie B. McMane. It was her copy of the book! She explained that she was living with her daughter, and could always use her daughter's copy. Not long after, a similar package arrived from Leona Murphy. These wonderful people! I can't thank them enough! I wrote a family history summary and made photocopies for my closest relatives, and sent copies back to Annie and Leona.

Some years later I acquired genealogy software and entered the BFT information, along with other information I had gathered. I posted a message on an Internet forum saying that I had put the BFT information into electronic form. This resulted in contacts by various people asking for the information, which I was happy to provide. Suzanne Schaller started an Andrew-Buchanan listserv, which has made it easier to share information. Other interested relatives have found me through my submissions to the Ancestral File.

A few years ago I decided to create a personal web site for a few of my interests. With time, this narrowed its focus to genealogy and expanded to include historical family photos. Along with her work on the Manitoba newspaper archives, Darlene Perrett was a big help in this area. Other than "word of mouth" I have found the web site to be the most effective way of helping people to find me. Any week that a "lost" relative sends me an email is automatically a good week for me.

In 2002, Suzanne Schaller suggested that the Buchanan family tree project was too big for any one person to update. Since she is descended from William Buchanan, she proposed to focus her energies on that part of the family tree. Since I am descended from John Buchanan, I volunteered to help update that part of the family tree. This led me to seek out the "lost" Hamilton, Keating, and McGillivray descendants. I find the Internet phone directories a handy tool, and they really came through for me in the cases of the Hamiltons and McGillivrays. I knew the Hamiltons had lived around Tisdale, Saskatchewan. None are currently listed there, so I started going through the married names of the daughters and found a Stella Woolsey in the Tisdale area. Stella explained that her deceased husband Harvey was from a different branch of the Woolseys, and suggested that I contact Norma Kabanuck, who gave me some information and suggested that I contact Roy Woolsey. Roy was a goldmine of information and old pictures. Roy suggested that I contact Al Hamilton. Then Teresa Fouillard contacted me, and she has been an on-going source of Hamilton info. The story of finding the McGillivrays was similar. I used the Internet directories to find Lorraine Kowblick, who put me in touch with Glen Thorpe, who sent me a copy of the McGillivray Family Tree book that he compiled in the late 1990s. My attempts at finding the descendants of John Keating and Margaret Buchanan always seemed to come up empty. Then Donna Phillips forwarded a message to me from George Johnson, and things opened up. George's wife is a Keating, and he had lots of Keating information. Visits to some of the George Watson descendants in the summer of 2003 led me to find the George Watson family in the 1900 census of Raber, Chippewa county, Michigan, but I could not find the descendants of his son, George Allan Watson. They disappeared in the 1930s and all attempts to find them were unsuccessful. Then I received an email from Theresa Adams in Alaska, that opened a door to this family. Her brother's children had found the web site and told her about it. When I found the family of James Watson senior in the 1851/52 census, I felt that we had enough information to look for his parents in the Old Scottish Parish Records. I think we have found them , but there is a need for further research.

 The adventure continues ... Bill Buchanan
(from my website -

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Web site For the past few days the alias for my URL has not been working. For now, please reach it at instead of It may be less elegant, but it works! Byethost has been an excellent free web host, but this is the second time the "" re-direction has stopped working. I may need to get into the habit of using the "byethost" version of the URL. I am sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you. I have changed the link on my blog to prevent this from happening in the future. So for now, all is well.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Genealogy in Time Newsletter For the past few weeks I have been getting a wonderful newsletter from Genealogy in Time. It is often the first information I receive about new online resources. Genealogy in Guyana On Thursday, a patron came to the FHC asking for help with his family history in Guyana. Everything I tried over the following two hours was basically fruitless. So yesterday I spent most of the day scouring the internet looking for resources on this small South American nation. These were the best leads I found. The Guyana / British Guiana Genealogical Society Be sure to read: The Guyana / British Guiana Genealogical Society Guyana/British Guiana Genealogy Society Forum Guyana Genealogical and Biographical Society blog contains transcribed newspaper anouncements of birth, marriage, and death, as well as some biographies and photos. Chinese in Guyana: their roots British Guiana Colonists is an index to colonists. Guyana - Family History & Genealogy Message Boards Guyana Colonial Newspapers Guyana Genealogy Queries Guyana government addresses The National Library of Guyana has newspapers, yearbooks, historical writings and photographs. African-American genealogy and searchable records and a collection of slave data. You can also join discussion forums about tracing family from the Caribbean islands, including Guyana. Guyana Genealogy message board The British National Archives Georgetown, Guyana News 1909 Argosy Directory of British Guiana - a list of prominent people. The National Trust of Guyana seems to be concerned with preserving historic buildings rather than family history. The Family History Library Catalog lists a few microfiche that may be helpful. Family History Centers in Guyana: Georgetown Guyana Prashad Nagar Georgetown, Guyana Note: These are not mailing addresses. Due to limited staff, Family History Centers are unable to respond to mail inquiries. But if you live in the area, they might be able to help you. Supplemental: An excellent article on the county and its history can be found at Parliament of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana University of Guyana (no family history listed) Guyana Government Information Agency (passports, birth certificates) 2002 census of Guyana, but seems to give no access to anything other than basic statistics, and no access to earlier censuses. Guyana News and Information Discussion on indentured East Indians in Guyana (projected database of East Indian Indentured Servants) Forum with family history interests I have also created an article for the FamilySearch wiki, containing these links. I see it has not been posted yet. Maybe I did something wrong. Enjoy finding your family!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Get My Ancestors
Two weeks ago I helped a friend with her family history. Her grandmother had given her two book of her own research which she had published, with extensive family group charts, photos, and photocopies of documents. My task was to enter the deceased family members into new FamilySearch. It was a few days of fun as I got to know her family better by data entry, combining records, researching, and finally having the family file cards she wanted printed. In the Family History Center on Wednesday I used the free Get My Ancestors software to download 10 generations of her ancestors and their descendants. She had submitted no genealogy to FamilySearch, and I had input fewer than 100 people. I was amazed that there were almost 18,000 deceased family members downloaded. Good job! (Caveat: It only works if you have access to, which is not yet available to the general public.)
Wednesday I also updated my Powerpoint presentation on indexing, and I gave the FHC Director a copy last night. She wants to use it to teach a seniors group about indexing. The plan is to use the presentation, followed by having members of the group do the Indexing "Test Drive". The "Test Drive" is really well done.
Last night in the FHC, a patron was seeking for the parents of her ancestor Virtue Hall, born 1843 in Somerset, England. (Apparently her family get a laugh from the fact that she is "seeking virtue".) I was able to help her find Virtue Hall as a young child with siblings and her parents John and Harriott Hall in the 1851 census at She was delighted!
Promoting Family History in an LDS Ward
The Director and I also met with a group of three people from a new congregation, who wanted to know what they could do to to promote family history. We discussed some ideas, including the Administrative Guide to Family History, and how the FHC can be a useful resource. I also mentioned the success that Parkland Ward is having with the new LDS family history course, and assigning family history consultants to help the class members. Knowledgeable and motivated family history consultants are the key to making things happen on the ward level. At the FHC level, the same is true. With knowledgeable and motivated staff, you are ready to help others to find joy and success in family history!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I received a nice comment, so I checked out the blog of the person posting. It is delightful!

I subscribe to Kimberley Powell's newsletter, and this week I noticed two short articles that seemed especially good. I invite you to check-out her blog and maybe subscribe to her newsletter. Brick Wall Strategies for Dead-End Family Trees By Kimberly Powell, Guide and Top 10 Tips for Finding Alternate Surname Spellings & Variations By Kimberly Powell, Guide ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Family Fun For Canada Day we had nice weather and most of the family were home for part of the day. It was a great day! Yesterday was not quite as much fun. My daughter arrived with front brake pads that were worn down to the metal, and her husband was working away from home, so it was "Dad's" job to fix the brakes. I don't have a garage, I have seldom needed one. So I strung a tarp between two cars to keep most of the rain off, while I jacked up the car and removed the first wheel. I soon found I didn't have a socket wrench to fit the bolts on the calipers. When I got the pads replaced on that side and reinstalled the wheel, it was time to work on the other side. The ground was muddy and as I was jacking up the car, it slid forward, falling off the jack and taking a nose-dive into the mud. A bigger problem was that there was no room under the car to put a jack. Eventually I did get the car raised and the brake pads installed and finished up the job. A job that should have taken an hour took about three hours. But I was glad I did it. How is that relevant in any way to family history? The prophet Malachi said "Behold I will send unto you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children unto the fathers ..." (Malachi 4:5-6) We need to look after our posterity as well as looking after our ancestors. We can run into unforeseen obstacles in both cases, but both can bring us a sense of joy!