Wednesday, 1 August 2012

When in doubt...

In the past month I have been doing a lot of research for clients. The biggest lesson I have learned, is to double check all my findings with at least 3 corroborating pieces of evidence to prove what I've found is correct....or at least prove that I've exhausted as many sources of information to prove my theory that the evidence shows I'm most likely to be correct.

There are some amazing online databases that have given us digital images to view and indexes to check. Unfortunately, there are also family trees that have incorrect information posted on these databases that, if not double checked. can lead you totally in the wrong direction.

In one case in particular, a family tree online showed that their ancestors had been born, marriage and died in Burma. Since the ancestors were Scottish and this was in the 1700s, it would have been a fascinating reason for them to be there. They were either soldiers, merchants or rubber plantation owners/overseers. It turns out, after double checking the actual records in Scotland, that there is abolutely no truth to these facts. The first red flag should have been that there were no corroborating sources listed with the facts. My guess would be that this was either a family story passed down through the generations, or the person who posted the tree had inadvertantly researched the wrong ancestors previously and posted their findings.

I've also found that some of the data on these websites have been transcribed incorrectly. There are many cases of incorrect spellings of names and places. Double check the original image , if it exists, to make sure your facts are indeed correct.

Ancestry, Genes Reunited, FindmyPast, are all very very good online databases that are invaluable to researchers from afar. Just be warned...that not everything you read is correct. To save yourself heartache or embarrassment (if you are doing a report for others), make sure you check, re-check and confirm that what you are reporting are the true facts.

The next thing you should be careful about is assuming that the family story you've been given is true. A lot of family lore is more of a fairy tale. Your great great grandfather was a Captain of a ship and he came from a wealthy family but left them because he didn't want to be tied down.

Maybe he was a captain and may he did come from a wealthy family. However, upon double checking the facts, you might be surprised to find out that he left his wealthy family because of a family battle, or legal reasons (trouble with the law). He may have been transported to Australia and once there, become a captain of a ship. Or maybe he was only a skipper of a small trawler in a small town and never came from a wealthy family but emigrated and that was the story he told to his children and grandchildren.

In our own family, we had a great grandfather always say he came from a very important family and that they were connected to royalty. He was a roofer who emigrated to Canada. Upon doing the research, it turns out that he indeed was from a very important family! He was directly descended from the last Laird of Boisdale from Clanranald, BUT, his mother had had him after her husband died. Therefore, he was from a noble Scottish family but because of the circumstances of his birth and the fact that by this point his family line were no longer wealthy , he probably passed down the story his mother told him which was true.

Almost every family story has an element of truth to it. It's your job to filter out the fantasy and get to the true facts. Unfortunately, this may make the story complete fiction, but at least the truth will be there for future generations to know.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Italy or Bust

My son has been accepted at a fantastic boarding school in Italy for this fall. Part of me is ecstatic for him, but the other part is terrified! He's just turned 16. Coming from Italian parents, I'm very happy that he will be able to fully enjoy and live in a culture that I feel so strongly about. Even though I was born in Canada, my parents were immigrants and I still have family that live there. I have a very strong connection to Italy and all that it represents to me.

It's interesting how different people react when I tell then he's going to go to school there. Some think this is an opportunity of a lifetime and are very happy for him, while others are extremely shocked that we would "send" our son so far away from home. How very confusing to me that my friends would think I would do anything that would not be in the best interests of my son.

Italy is so full of culture, history, art, culinary experiences and the landscape of the country is amazing. My son is very excited to be going and I have to say that, if I were given the chance at his age, I too, would be very excited to say the least!
Add caption

Students from CCI

Here's to our heritage, here's to our children learning about our heritage, and here's to parents trying to give their children the best exposure to where they come from!!!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A never ending quest

You know, I thought that after 30 years of doing genealogy research I knew a lot. Turns out....I don't!
I have almost completed my PLCGS (Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies) from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. When I signed up for the courses, I was so sure that I would find the curriculum pretty easy. Ummmmmm- NO!
The basic courses were pretty easy but I still learned so much. The intermediate courses were challenging and time consumming but really made me think about the whole process of the research. How to make a plan. How to document your findings. What questions are needed to be asked to get the best results..etc. Now that I'm almost through the advanced courses, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it's hard! I am humbled.

The best thing from all these courses is getting to know other students and fellow genealogists. I also got to meet a wonderful mentor/business coach called Beverly Rice. She is very experienced and has asked me to be a model (guinea pig) student for her mentoring program. When she asked, I was so honoured and now that we've had some sessions, I realize I know even LESS than I thought!! Especially when it comes to running a business.

I have a website, a blog, a facebook page for my business, a Tumblr account, a Pinterest account, I'm a member of at least 8 organizations and yet I have not begun to 'put myself out there' in order to see some positive results when it comes to running a genealogical business.

One of my fortes is that I can read, speak and translate English, Italian and French. I know now that I have an avenue to persue in that I am able to transcribe or translate documents from French or Italian into English. It's not my main goal in this line of work but it's a plus and a strength that not many have.

I am so excited about getting some new clients that I have not taken the time to take a step back and look at what I can offer that is different, special and needed. Thanks Bev for pointing this out to me!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Social Media burnout

I'm sorry it's taken awhile to post something new. I have had a very busy week with my new website up and running and continuing my courses. I never knew how exhausting it could be keeping up with all the social media everyone is into these days!

I'm no spring chicken, but I thought I knew all about all the avenues out there that you could "market" yourself with.  Was I wrong! I have a website, a blog, a Pinterest account, facebook, business facebook, linkedin and gave a pass to Twitter. Now I find that there is Tumblr and imgfave and who knows what else!! I can't keep up and they keep making new ones.

My whole intention in getting involved with these sites is to market my business but guess what? I'm getting so hooked on posting my 'pins' or my thoughts that I find precious little time to do what I should be doing. I think I may have to ignore these other social sites for awhile,  and re-channel my energies into my true love...genealogy.

Found this on one of the sites:
I must admit though, I do find very inspirational quotes and images that make my day.

via Pinterest from the net

The above is a beautiful example of how you can make your family history come alive and display it in a wonderful way.  It's like writing a book about your family and you already have all the information ready to include..and you know what I say.....every family has a story!!!!

I also say a quote that says,  Genealogy 
   " Preserving your past, Inspiring the future"

This is how I feel. I hope that someone in my future family is inspired by the history of their past family. That I they came to be, where they came from, how they lived and what interesting stories they gave us. I hope I put human faces and feelings on all the people who's blood runs in my veins and I want to do that for anyone else who asks me for help with THEIR histories.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Website is up and running!!! is now up and running!

I'm so excited!

It's been a work in progress but I'm pretty proud of the end result. Other than Twitter (not my thing), I'm totally social media connected now. My Sandra Moffatt Genealogical Research facebook page, Linkedin, my blog and now my website. Here's to my new life journey (insert the clink clink of champagne glasses)!

I ask that anyone viewing this blog post, take the time to look at my website. I welcome any and all suggestions as this is a new vehicle for me. What do you think? Can you "like" my facebook page too? It's a matter of trying to get more hits on google. I'm learning so much these days.

So glad I can now focus on doing the actual research.

Here are a couple of great photographs I found yesterday from the internet. They were found in nearly untouched condition. Taken around 1880 and hand coloured, they show life in the highlands of Scotland. I was fascinated by them.

Titled "The Matrons of St.Kilda", these poor women look very weary. Check out the bare feet on the older women!
I can't wait until I get to visit the UK again. Maybe this summer.

Looks like the women are doing the hard work here too!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Making connections is important

So about 2 hours ago I had a lovely chat with a 3rd cousin of my husband who lives in the UK. She's 79 and never married. I found her in 2008 when I was searching for any Moffatt relations who may be living in the UK as our branch is the only one out of 5 sons who were born in Liverpool in the 1860s to come to Canada.

She doesn't own a computer and so we've communicated via telephone and snail mail. It's very strange to think that writing a letter is a 'difficult and slow' way to keep in touch. I mean who really sends letters anymore? It kind of cool though, to receive a hand written letter from someone you've never met who is fascinated by the same family history! She gave me all kinds of information about the 4 older brothers who stayed in the UK which allowed me to fill in some blanks on my  tree.

  • What do I already know?
  • What sources do I already have?
  • What do my relatives know?
  • What has already been done?
  • Where do I start?
  • Who can help me?

  • This is a perfect example of how getting to know your elderly relatives works. It's also an example of how important it is to find other people or organizations who can help you along in your search for family history. I've received help from such countries as Tasmania, Australia, England, Wales, Italy, Antigua, Scotland and the United States. People from universities, archives, societies, blogsites, websites, museums, and even book stores have helped me in the past. Everyday people who just want to pay it forward on genealogy chat forums or who are related in some distant way have made me so grateful to be in this field. It never ceases to amaze me how generous people are in genealogy and it's a given that we try to share as much information as we can with each other whenever possible.

    So collaborate as much as possible with organizations or people who you think may be able to help. I get a special thrill out of knowing that I've helped someone solve a mystery in their tree.

    Be a hunter gatherer!!

    Monday, 14 May 2012

    Victoria Day Long Weekend means Going to the Cottage!!!!

    Pretty well all Ontarians know that Victoria Day weekend (which here in Canada falls on the 3rd weekend in May) is the weekend that anyone who owns a summer cottage goes up to open it up. If you are lucky enough, you get to leave work early on the Friday and miss the horrendous traffic. In our family, we are 4th generation cottagers. We have a system for long weekends. My husband works from home on the Friday. The car is fully packed with clothes, food, summer staples and tech gadgets and we make a bee line for the boy's schools to pick them up as soon as it's over. We then drive for the 3 or more hours to get to the cottage (regularly 2 1/2 hours) and unload.

    A lot of people think going to the cottage is a terrible idea. Who would want a second home to clean, cook in, fix up etc...well...apparently TONS of people do! For the little inconvenience of sitting in a car for a few hours and maybe having to smell your stinky dog's breath for too long, I think it's all worth it. There is nothing like stepping out of that car and just staring at the water and breathing that first breath in of clean, crisp air. Watching the dog tear off and head to the water for a drink and a swim, stepping into the cottage and smelling the knotty pine or that familiar smell of vintage quilts, and hearing the wood screen door slam. These things are all worth every second of travel time.

    This year we are tearing out old carpets and painting the knotty pine white in the bedrooms. The cottage was built in the 40s and we have been lovingly renovating it little by little. It's quirky, crooked, with sloped floors and wonky windows but I love it. I even love the fact that it's bedrooms are only 8' x 9'. Barely enough room for a queen bed and a dresser. It's cozy and cute.

    And this is why I love it so much. This is my son on a wakeboard as the sun starts to set and the above photo is our view from the cottage kitchen. We have a southwest facing view so we get the most spectacular sunsets every night.

    One day this will be a refuge for my sons and their families. Their children will be 5th generation cottagers. I hope we are giving them the same kind of memories I and my husband both had as children, memories that never leave you, and fill you with a sense of being part of a Canadian tradition. A sense of family, a love of nature and knowledge of how truly blessed we really are.