Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig

This is a day when the world goes to pubs and drinks green beer. In fact up until the last half of the twentieth century Ireland was dry on St. Patrick’s Day. The pubs had to close for the holiday. Everyone wears green for St. Patrick’s Day but did you know the national colour of Ireland is actually blue.

This year the parades started on the weekend since the big day falls mid week. In Toronto on Sunday there was green all around for the annual parade. The oldest parade in Canada is in Montreal which started in 1824. Newfoundland is the only place in Canada that has a legal holiday on St. Patrick’s Day. The Islanders are mostly of Irish descent with a good number of their ancestors from Waterford and Wexford.

The Irish Diaspora has contributed greatly to countries around the world. When the Irish first arrived the one thing they could give to their new homelands was their brute strength and the will to get things done. Through the generations their circumstances have improved and the ancestors of those original Irish immigrants are helping to build stronger and more productive communities around the world. Some have even returned to the old sod to create a stronger Ireland.

I am a first generation Canadian. My roots are still very connected to Ireland. The family covers the whole island from north, south, east and west. There are professionals, land owners, roof thatchers, and farmers.

St. Patrick’s Day started as a remembrance of the death of St. Patrick who died on 17 March 461 AD. Now it has turned into a huge celebration of Ireland and the Irish people around the world. Everyone is Irish on this day no matter where their ancestors were born. So everyone have a Guinness and celebrate Ireland and her people.

Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig – Rút

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

“Who Do You Think You Are?” – How are they doing?

I have watched the first two episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” and have been enjoying the program very much. These episodes have dealt with several important aspects of United States history which I found interesting and learned something new.

The shows for Sarah Jessica Parker and Emmitt Smith both focused on one family line. The British shows, more often than not, cover several family lines which can make the journey more inclusive.

Unfortunately with North American television there is the requirement of many commercial breaks. As a result the length of the program is shortened which does not allow for much leeway in the amount information they can cover in one hour.

There has been a lot of talk about wanting to hear the stories of ordinary people. Why do they have to use celebrities? One thing to remember is that whether Sarah Jessica Parker is an actress or a cashier her family history would still be the same.

What is more or less certain in relation to your family history is that you will learn about different countries while doing your research. In North America almost everyone comes from somewhere else. This series will introduce people to countries and their histories that they might not have previously known.

If you have a family connected to one of the places or events featured they may also provide you with new sources to research your own family history.

The ratings for the program have been good. If this keeps up would they possibly consider doing another season? I think that would be fantastic!

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

The Maple Leaf Forever

The last few weeks while Vancouver has been hosting the Olympics the Maple Leaf has been flying strong and proud all over the country. No more so than in the closing ceremonies when every Canadian stereotype was marched into the stadium.

Did you ever wonder how the Maple Leaf became such a symbol for Canada or how the song “Maple Leaf Forever” came into being? You can find out at the Toronto Public Library website where they have a bit of the history of the Maple Leaf and the song.

http://ve.torontopubliclibrary.ca/Canada_Day/

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

How did we become who we are?

The saying that “you don’t know who you are until you know where you came from” holds true for a lot of people. You will discover that as you start researching your family tree you will find out what your ancestors had to go through to get you where you are now. Their journey explains a lot about who you are as a person.

We all make our own choices in life and have our own unique or shared experiences as we travel though it. But these are not the only things that create who we are. The choices and experiences of our parents and ancestors also got us to where we are now whether we acknowledge it or not.

If my parents had not decided to leave Ireland in the 1950s I would be Irish and not Canadian. The choice my father made as a result of high unemployment in Ireland changed the course of his descendents lives.

It wasn’t just the choices of my parents that got me where I am. If my great grandfather, a commercial traveller for Quaker Oats who lived in Lancashire, hadn’t walked down that street in Limerick and spotted my great grandmother things again would have been different.

The experiences of your ancestors and the choices they make or those that are made for them have shaped who you are as a person. The results of these experiences formed our ancestor’s beliefs, passions, opinions, fears and loyalties. As a result this helped them decide how to raise their families and what values to instill in their children.

As you go through the research process you may find that some things have not changed for your family through the last century but then again some things may have changed drastically. Where did your family’s work ethic come from? Why did your family have to leave their homeland?

In 1685 the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France sent my Huguenot Sers family to London England. In the mid to late 1700s a branch went to Dublin Ireland. These choices whether made by my ancestors or made for them as a result of other circumstances changed the path of their descendents lives.

Researching family history is not just looking at the individual person or family. You will have to learn about different kinds of history such as social, political, economic and military, as well as border changes and religious beliefs and freedoms. All these created your family history and as a result helped put you where you are today.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

“Who Do You Think You Are?”

The United States version of this popular British television show is to air on March 5th on NBC television. This show has crossed the globe with Canada, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Poland and South Africa all creating their own versions of “Who Do You Think You Are?” since the programs inception in 2004.

In Britain it is not just the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” there is also the monthly magazine, website and family history exhibition, “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” that is held annually the last weekend of February.

I have had the pleasure of watching the versions from Canada, Britain and Australia. The stories have been interesting and along the way I learned something new. The BBC production of Jane Horrocks family history took her to Lancashire to see how her family was involved in the cotton industry. My family was also involved in the cotton industry in Lancashire so I learned a bit of history that related to my family story from her family story.

The Canadian version lasted one season and was only half an hour in length. A bit disappointing since you couldn’t really get into the journey of discovering the celebrity’s family history. In North America there is the unavoidable “commercial time” that cuts into the program. This is not as much of an issue in Britain and Australia.

There has been a lot of talk that people are disappointed in the fact that they are not showing the research process in this program and others like it. They believe this causes people to think they can just go online and find out their family history without doing much leg work.

The point of these programs is to present a story that the viewers will find interesting. I just enjoy the story aspect of the program and how the celebrity reacts to what is discovered about their family’s past.

How many of us actually knew what it took to research our family history when we first started? Something hooked us and we began our road of discovery into our own personal history. We learned the process along the way. If we knew the work involved would we have actually started researching our family history?

Let’s enjoy the ride that these people are embarking on and share their joys and sorrows in discovering their family stories.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

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