July 2015

Preparing for a Research Trip – Research at the Family History Library in February and Beyond

My RootsTech trip in February came up rather quickly so I didn’t have time to get a full research plan done. Thankfully, every time I find something that I want to check I put it into my To Do List in RootsMagic. So when this trip came about I printed everything off that was under the repository name Family History Library.


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This helped me gather my research plan together quickly and I was able to find a few other items to check while there. At the end of my visit I usually end up checking out sources that weren’t on my list. This inevitably leads to a new find just before I leave but with no time to go further in the search. So when I get home it gets added to my To Do List in RootsMagic for the next trip.

I am preparing to go to Belfast and Dublin this Fall and have already started working on my research plan. Over the next few months I am going to create a series of blog posts and share with you how I am preparing for this trip. There are a few items that I really want to find out more about. One was found at the Family History Library in February. It was a Finding Aid for a manuscript held in Trinity College Library in Dublin.

My inquiries have shown that there are a few restrictions to use the Trinity Library to do research and I thought this was the perfect time to hire a professional. I have sent out my query and will see what the costs and timeline may be.

Why a hire a professional to do this instead of doing it on my own? Well they have the reading cards for the library and would go there on a regular basis. They know the library and how to locate documents. They will get this research item completed far faster than I would in the short time I have during my visit. The professional will hopefully find the document I am looking for and then I can see what information it has and may add a new item to my research plan before I go.

I am also in the process of contacting the repositories I want to visit to make sure they have the documents I’m interested in and to learn what would be the best way to access them. It may be best to order them in advance so that they are waiting for me when I arrive. Or that might not be an option. These are things I am going to find out before I go.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research



Summer Reading – Book Review

They left us everything book cover


Recently I read “They Left Us Everything: A Memoir” by Plum Johnson. This book was so good I could not put it down and had finished the book in a couple of days.

The first thing that drew me to this book is that it is a memoir based in Oakville and I knew the house in which her family lived. Next it was the fact that Plum was caring for her aging parents. This is something I am doing now. “They Left Us Everything” took it a step farther because Plum had to go through the decades of family memorabilia and clutter to get the house ready for sale after her parents had passed away. Thankfully my Mum is very anti-clutter so I won’t have to do the hard work that Plum did.

This process brought childhood memories, both good and bad, to the forefront for Plum. She discovered previously unknown things about her parents and remembered things that had been long forgotten. It helped Plum with the process of letting go. She had the support of her three brothers but she was the one providing her parents with the support and doing the clear out of the house.

She discovered the importance of preserving the family history and its importance to the next generations.

This book makes you laugh and cry. It was very difficult to find here in town as every book shop was sold out. It you want a great read this summer I recommend “They Left Us Everything: A Memoir” by Plum Johnson. I passed my copy on to a friend who I hope is enjoying it.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research

Creating a Family Heirloom

Do you remember the excitement of finding your ancestor’s signature for the first time?

In 1988 Dublin celebrated its Millennium and my mother’s family decided to have a reunion at Christmas time. This was planned well in advanced and we decided to attend.

I had found an article in Canadian Living magazine that was about a neighbour who owned a needlecraft shop in town. She had been married for 35 years and every Christmas had put a tablecloth out for visitors to sign instead of a guest book. She would provide a pencil and they would have to sign it larger than usual. In January she would embroider the signatures so they would be a permanent reminder of the visitors and the good times.

This would be perfect for the family reunion in 1988. It was held on New Year’s Eve and we had a large party. Cousins came from as far away as Australia and we had four generations present. It was the descendants of my mother’s paternal grandparents plus a few from her maternal line. One cousin who is a photographer took a group shot and then did family groups and they were put in an album and each family got one.

The meal was pot luck so everyone brought their specialty. A yule log was put in the fire so it didn’t have to be attended quite as often. In the family there were people who wrote plays, stories and poems. One of the plays written by my grandfather was presented. Stories and poems were read. Memories were shared and created.

I decided to bring a white sheet with me instead of a table cloth. I brought soft pencils and pencil sharpeners and told everyone to do what they wanted. We have a very creative family so there was lots of drawings as well as sayings and signatures. Only the littlest attendee didn’t contribute. We lost one family member early in the New Year and a few more since so this has become a family heirloom.


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Instead of just embroidering the names and leaving it at that I wrote a description of the event and the date around the signatures and embroidered that as well. This way someone who sees it 50 years later will know what it is.

There are probably going to be a few family reunions or gatherings this summer. This could be a way of creating your own family heirloom.

©2015 – Blair Archival Research