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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring Is Here
The snow is nearly all gone, and the snow flurries that were forecast never reached our area, so maybe the driveway will dry up!

Our well water is too high in minerals for white laundry. Yesterday I took the white laundry to the laundromat in Alberta Beach. The wife of the owner of the laundromat was showing another customer her wedding photos from five years ago, so I joined them. I never knew much of Colombia, and found the photos very interesting. They showed a land of mountains and sea coasts. I never knew that Bogota had a population of 10 million people! That is a huge city!

At home I raked the branches etc. from the near garden, to prepare it for tilling in a few days.

I hauled the trailer load of garbage to the dump. This trailer used to be a tent trailer before the mice ate holes all through the canvas, but it has been re-purposed as a dumpster on wheels. The plywood flaps that were once beds, provide a perfect covering, keeping the animals out of the garbage, and keeping the garbage from blowing out in transit. When I brought the trailer back, I was having problems backing it into the right spot, so I uncoupled it from the car and Judy and I pushed it back into place. The undercarriage of a defunct lawnmower had been converted to a trailer-hitch caddy for that purpose a few years ago. Living in the country, you learn to improvise.

Totem Lumber was advertising a concrete-block barbeque pit for $100. We burn our waste paper to reduce the amount we have to store. Our burning barrel, the latest in a long series going back over 30 years, was completely burned out and no longer safe. So we decided that the concrete-block barbeque pit might be a good long-term solution. I drove into Edmonton, bought the curved blocks and fire screen, and brought it home in the trunk of our Corolla. (Yes, the front wheels still touched the ground!) Then I discovered that the tire of the big wheelbarrow was flat. We used two older, smaller wheelbarrows to move the blocks from the car to the area by the far garden. ... 17, 18, 19, ...!!! Where were blocks 20 and 21? The receipt said 20 blocks, so I called Totem. Apparently there are supposed to be 20 blocks in the kit, leaving an opening at the bottom to light the fire. They will provide the missing 20th block and we can buy block 21, which will help us to guarantee that the fire will not escape.

So yesterday was a productive day, even if it was not quite perfect. Spring is here!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Attention Canadians: Please Click "Yes"

The 2011 Canadian Census questionnaire to be filled out in May contains a question that permits you to be part of the history of Canada. If you check "yes" to this permission question, your descendants will be able to do family and genealogical research on you and your family in the future.

The amended Statistics Act permits the release of historical census records from 1911 to 2001 after 92 years. Equally important, beginning with the 2006 Census, Canadians will have the choice to decide if they want their census records released to the public after 92 years.
- Quoted from Dick Eastman

Binnawooda Townland, Ireland - Easter of 1847
I was thinking of my Buchanan ancestors, and what they would have been doing in Ireland at Easter in 1847. My great grandfather John, as a teenager, was one of the younger family members. Charles and William, two of his older brothers were already married with small children.

The potato blight was devastating the country. In some areas of western Ireland, the populations of whole rural districts had already starved to death. Fortunately, in the western part of County Tyrone the situation had not reached that point yet ...  But by this time, the decision would have already been made by the family to leave Ireland, and preparations would be well in hand. We know that the children attended Sunday School, so the family would probably have attended the Easter services in one of the closest churches, perhaps in Drumquin.

Their prayers at Easter of 1847 would have had a new dimension. Undoubtedly the Easter message of eternal life through Jesus Christ was on their minds, but their prayers were probably focused on more immediate concerns: seeking God's help with their escape from Ireland, and their survival on the ocean, and in the remote colony of Upper Canada. Travel by wooden sailing ships was dangerous. Some ships failed to survive the storms that made the North Atlantic infamous. They must have known of the risk of "immigrant fever" that killed many on shipboard. Yet, they were prepared to face these dangers and say farewell to friends and relatives, knowing that they would never see them again in this life. 

It must have been a heart-rending time! But they had faith in the future, and that they were making the right choice. I am among the tens of thousands of their descendants who can be grateful for the decision that they made.

Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I just received the results from an online family history survey done by blogger Myles Proudfoot of the blog  The survey is quite detailed, but if you are curious, the link below will open the results in MS Word format.

I found it interesting that it is a link to his Dropbox account, and I taught that use of Dropbox in my class just last Thursday.

I also noted that it disagrees with Kory Myerink's rating for the most frequently used genealogy websites, and is much closer to what I would expect.


FAMILY HISTORY SURVEY          April 2011
  The Family History Survey was fielded March 12 to April 5 2011. Respondents were self-selecting, linking to the survey from Twitter feeds, genealogy blogs posts, Facebook pages, LinkedIn and email forwards
  •  1050 respondents were recorded (I was expecting about 200). 954 respondents completed the survey. Resulting in a 91% completion rate
  •  A variety of genealogists responded to the survey from the inexperienced to highly proficient. I make no claim to be have a random representative sample. There is a respondent skew towards those more connected via social media.
  •  Survey completion length was typically 15-20 minutes
  •  Final survey wording can be found here 

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Last week I posted the Buchanan immigrant story on our family listserv.

Our Buchanan Immigrant Experience
St Patrick's day is not far past, and I was reflecting upon the experiences of our Irish ancestors.
Our Buchanans were Irish famine immigrants from Binnawooda townland in the western part of County Tyrone. Some thought they were leaving hardships behind, but Andrew Buchanan senior realized that there would be hardship ahead, and so appreciated the fact that his family were all grown to young manhood.
In 1847 Andrew and Jane Buchanan of County Tyrone Northern Ireland set sail for Canada in a wooden sailing ship.
There was the father Andrew, aged about 57 (all ages should be considered approximate)
The mother Jane aged 53
Robert 32
Charles 30
James 24
Andrew 21
John 18
Samuel 17
Jane 11
There were also Charles' wife Ann (Porter), aged 22 and daughter Mary aged 1.
Also William's wife Ann (Thompson), aged 23, and baby daughter.
Ann Thompson's older brothers Robert and William may have come on the ship with them. If so, both were married and Robert probably had 3 small children.

On the first try, the ship ran into a severe storm and nearly sank. It had to return for repairs.

On the second try, they reached the Canadian quarantine station on Grosse Ile with an epidemic of immigrant fever (typhus) on board. Grosse Ile was already full of sick people, so they were sent on to Kingston, where Andrew the father, and William's baby died. The wonderful people of Kingston risked their own lives to nurse the sick and dying Irish, as there was no cure for typhus!

Eventually the family was released from quarantine, penniless. All of their money had been spent for passage on the ship and for food during the month or so in quarantine. They went west to Esquesing to work in the harvest, to earn a little money. Then they travelled west to North Easthope, where the women stayed while the men cut a trail through the wilderness and claimed land about 30 km north of Stratford, Ontario. Early in the new year, the women joined them. The Buchanan settlement was later named Donegal, and in 1853 it became part of Elma township, Perth County, Ontario. William Buchanan's daughter Margaret, born in 1848, is said to be the first white child born in the area that became Elma Township.

A generation later, in 1879, most of our Buchanan family moved west as far as the railroad could take them (now St. Boniface, Manitoba), then by ferry and covered wagon. The things that could not fit into the wagons were sent up the river by riverboat. The town of Neepawa, Manitoba was later established near their farms, and became their main source of supplies. David James Watson, son Jane (Buchanan) Watson wrote an interesting account of this journey.


Today I received a query ...

Hi Bill:-

   Did you have an early map of Ontario, just wondered where Esquesing and North Easthope is?



I did a little research and sent this reply.


Hi Ken,

Esquesing township is in Halton County. Here is a map
For another perspective try a search for Acton, Ontario, Canada  at and zoom out.
It appears to be maybe 60 miles/100 km east of Donegal, "as the crow flies". Of course without a network of roads it may have been 3 times the distance back then.

North Easthope is about 15 miles/25 km southeast of Donegal. Search for North Easthope, Perth East, ON, Canada
"Perth East was created in 1998 after the Ontario government imposed amalgamation on many local governments throughout the province. The village of Milverton was combined with the surrounding former townships of Ellice, Mornington, North Easthope and South Easthope."

I hope this helps.