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.

    Thursday, 10 May 2012

    Ok, so blogging is a blast!

    I was sitting here today trying my best to figure out how to customize my blog to best suit my audience. I quickly realized that you have to have a minor in computer tech and a major in graphic design to do that, both of which I don't have. I hope you like the change, I do.

    I have been a little lax in my pinning lately and thought I'd focus on my blog instead. I have a few photos to show you. I'm in the "let re-decorate mode" so tell me what you think......

    My gazebo

    This is my gazebo in my backyard. We have roll down bamboo shades to have some privacy but I was thinking of getting some heavy sailcloth type material to make some curtains to give it a more homey feeling. I also discovered that a painted deck is a nightmare!! Does anyone out there have any ideas of how to keep from repainting a deck every year? We have ultra durable oil based exterior paint on it at the moment and it still chips and peels because of our Canadian winters.

    via Pinterest

    The above photo is almost identical in layout as my bedroom. At the moment my room is a manilla yellow colour with pale robin's egg accents. I was thinking of repainting the walls this colour because my furniture is dark too. I love that the night tables don't match. 

    And finally, we are going up to the cottage on Friday for the first time since Christmas. We've done a lot of renovating (it's from the 40s) and have decided to paint a bedroom At the moment almost the whole cottage is knotty pine. It's beautiful but a little claustrophic when you're in a tiny 10 x 10 bedroom. I've found some great examples of what it could look like if we painted it white and here's one of them. Here's hoping it turns out like this!

    Here's option No.!

    via Pinterest

    or Option No.2!!

    via Pinterest

    Wednesday, 9 May 2012

    The one who started it all

    Eunice and Sam Moore

    Firstly, I wanted to introduce you to the woman who got me started in genealogy. She didn't do it intentionally. She just answered a very basic question that I asked her. I said, "What part of Scotland did you come from?"

    With that, she began to tell me all about her childhood and losing her father in World War I, travelling to Canada as a 10 year old with her widowed mother and 2 siblings and what her own parents were like. I seemed to have awakened long lost memories buried deep inside her. Memories that she seemed tickled to be able to relate to someone who cared. And I really did care. I was fascinated. I didn't know then, but that moment is etched in my mind as the true moment that genealogy became my calling.

    I asked her if she could tell me more and I wrote down some facts. Now remember, this was 1984 and computers were not household items then. She had remembered the name of the ship that they immigrated on and where she worked as a young woman, how she met her future husband who was also an immigrant from Ireland who had lost his father in the war, and how she lost her sister at 22 years old in childbirth. I sat there mesmerized as she spoke to me. The sorrow of losing a parent and the voyage to another country with little money and no other family there...losing her only sister. How sad. Yet, she was a tiny white haired spunky lady,  full of life with sparkly blue eyes. She would always have a cup of tea ready and would say little Scottish "ditties" that I found so amusing.
    Eunice Speed Moore lived to be 94. I was so blessed to have known her and to me she was like a surrogate grandmother because my own 2 grandmothers were in Italy and I hardly knew them. She filled me with the wonder of family history, the love of family stories and the joy of sharing them with others. Thank you Nan.

    Tuesday, 8 May 2012

    My new addiction- Pinterest

    Pinterest! I found Pinterest quite by accident and have been hooked every since. What a great way to share your favourite photos or sayings and store things you like or hope to do for future reference. I've also learned a lot of things- like how to get rid of wasps in my backyard, clean my oven 'greenly', how fantastic other people's boards are and just how nice it is to dream!

    It's feeding my love of interior decorating and I'm making great connections to great new websites.
    Photo courtesy of Pinterest

    I now know what colour paint was used on this wall (Benjamin Moore- Chelsea Grey) and since my family room looks a lot like this and needs an overhaul, I saved it to my Interior Design 'board'.

    It's also been a wonderful tool for finding out more about what's available out there to learn from. Some "Pinteresters" are recommending websites they think are really good. As a genealogist, this is so helpful because I can now store them on my Genealogy board and refer back on it when needed. Here's an example:

    Photo courtesty of above website

    This is a fabulous website that holds old maps of England. It's free and searchable and a great tool for me.

    Giggling couple Pinterest
    This has to be one of my favourite finds so far on Pinterest. I see so many old family photos where the people seem so stern and unhappy. Because the old cameras required you to stay still for a long time to get a good shot, people were asked to not move or make facial expressions. Here we find a couple who are having a great time and obviously love each other. This is such a rare image for a photo of this age. It shows them as they really were and gives them personality. Love it.


    Monday, 7 May 2012

    What every family should know and DO!

    I love to go to auctions. They are exciting and you get to find treasures at a fraction of the retail cost. Most of the items I've purchased have been pre-loved but are in wonderful shape and are useful. The saddest thing I see on a regular basis are very old family photos. It hurts me to see boxes of beautiful old family portraits and memorabilia sitting on a table with no one interested (why would they be?) and going for next to nothing. Most are snapped up for the frames or because people collect photos of certain places or eras. They are not really interested in the people in the photo unless it's an unusual shot. Those people were someone. They were babies, children, husbands, wives, grandparents. They were loved and mourned and lived lives that were interesting. How sad that after all those years they are discarded because someone did not take the time to do the most important thing.
    Point one: They didn't record their names and the date on the back of the photos.

    To most people, this photo would mean nothing. To the family though, it speaks volumes. This happens to be a photo of two brothers. When they were younger, they came to Canada. One brother left to go to the United States where he settled with his wife and had a family , while the other stayed in Canada and did the same. This is before the internet, email, even long distance phone calling. They would maybe have written to each other occasionally. This photo is of a reunion of the two. Luckily, I know the story and have recorded it for future generations who will have no idea who these two men were, how they are connected and what they mean to them.

    If you have a chance and you have old photos, write whatever you know about the people in them on the back of them. If you don't know who the people are, the next thing you need to do is find an elderly member of your family and ask them. For the digital era and online photo albums, you need to name your photos with distinguishing info or keep a separate journal.

    This takes me to point two. Get to know you older family members. They are fountains of information. They will most likely know who the people are and tell you all kinds of amazing stories about them. The trick is to get to them before they forget or worse still, pass on.

    This is the back of a hand coloured photo that was taken in 1878. Someone took the time to name the person in the photo. It says "Grandpa Moffatt (John Henry Cornelius Boysdale Hender Moffatt) and then there is an amazing note from whoever took the photo to the person who  hand coloured it with instructions about what colour the child's hair was, his eyes and his outfit.  It is an absolute priceless photo and was only discovered during a family reunion. Thankfully someone 100 years ago decided to record the name of this child. If they hadn't, I doubt very much that it would be in existence today.

    Point three: If you have the chance to, keep a journal of your family history. Family stories, family legends, people's details, questions you'd like answered and basically everything you know about your family and where they came from. As a genealogist, it sometimes amazes me when I encounter people who don't know anything past their own parents. They sometimes don't even know their grandparents names. If you ever want to have your family history done, you need to have at least a basic knowledge of 3 generations back from yourself (which would be your grandparents). Where they were born, when and their names. It's much easier to find information about them if we have at least this information to begin with. Were they born in the US, Canada, England etc. What city did they live in ? Were they born there? What year were they born or married?

    Sometimes you just have to dream

    via Pinterest
    I love the colour of the paint in this office. I'm in the process of making my office more 'official' and I think I'll go with this. What do you think?
    via Pinterest

    Having just brought home a new puppy, we've decided to put a runner up our stairs (that, and the fact I keep falling down them!). Our stairs look just like these. The pattern is suble and elegant.
    via Pinterest

    This photo is so inspiring to me. We are so blessed to have a cottage on the lake to escape to. It's doesn't look like this but everything else in the photo is identical. Maybe one day....

    I'm so excited about my new website that will be launched in the next week. It's a big step for me because I've been plugging away as a genealogist for a long time but now I feel really official. With the blog started and my Pinterest addiction (check it out, it's under Sandra Moffatt Genealogical Research),  Facebook and LinkedIn, I feel totally "social media" updated and ready to go. I just can't seem to get into Twitter. Maybe I'm too old, or maybe I talk too much for 1 sentence tweets.

    I love all aspects of history and genealogy, but on the other side of the coin, I adore interior decorating. I never studied it or worked as a decorator, but I worked in the industry for over 12 years. It was so much fun and fed the "artist" part of my personality. It's an industry full of creative, colourful, adventurous people who "paint" their masterpieces onto people's homes and into their lives through design and decor. I think if I were younger I'd try to do both but I just can't seem to see an Interior Decorator who spends hours in libraries, archives and on the net researching working out so I'll stick to sharing my loves of all that is design/decor on this blog.

    Please feel free to share any ideas you have on anything you find interesting here. I'd love to hear from you.
    Well, this is my first post on my new blog and I'm feeling quite excited AND intimidated. I am also launching my new website in the next week so it's all steam ahead!
    I decided to make a blog because I've discovered that I needed a forum for my thoughts and I wanted to share them with you to get feedback and inspiration.

    For those of you who don't know anything about Genealogy, I'm hoping that this blog opens up the wonderful world of discovering your family history to you. It's an amazing trip but I warn you- it's addictive! I started 30 years ago and the one thing I discovered (much to my delight) is that it never ends.

     In this photo there I have a great, great-great, and a great-great-great grandfather!

    This is a family reunion shot the shows family members finding themselves on a chart.

    I'm a little OCD when it comes to details which is a good thing in this business. It also helps that the detective type of research involved in genealogy is fun for me. When you spend hours, weeks, or even years searching for that 1 piece of information that will solve a mystery, it's like winning a lottery. The excitement is unexplainable. The funny thing is, that most people don't get it. My favourite line I've heard is when someone finds out what I do is " You research dead people?"...hahaha. I find that there are 3 types of people out there when it comes to genealogy; the ones that are totally uninterested in their ancestors and don't care, the ones that never thought about it and would like to find out and the ones who are fascinated and feel the need to know where they came from, how they got here, to this place and who the people in their past where...what their names were, where they lived, and what they did for a living.

    Some families have fascinating famous ancestors with life stories that you could make a movie out of, while others lead quiet lives working on farms and struggled to survive. Either way, the families have a story. A story worth telling about lives worth living to bring us to where we are today, and that's why I do what I do. To honour these people and to leave a legacy for the ones living today to give to their children and grandchildren. I feel we should never forget where we came from. There are cultures that honour their ancestors, like the Native Americans, some African countries, some Asian countries and even European and Mexicans who celebrate the Day of the Dead.

    I'm going to share with you how to start searching, how to connect with elderly relatives to get information and you can join me on my journey as I travel through other people's histories. It's so much fun, and I hope you come along for the ride!