Researching your Family History on Facebook

Last month I decided to do a little sleuthing on my own family history for a change. I was hoping to find some more information on my Toppin family who lived in Limerick. In January I found a new group on Facebook called Limerick History Gazette. Their description reads: “An Archive of Unpublished 20th Century Limerick Images.” It is a closed group so I joined and followed it for a while to see what type of images would go up and what the response would be like.

On April 5th I uploaded the two pictures below with a post. “Hoping someone can help. My Great Great Grandparents Philip and Sarah Toppin lived at Willmount House in Limerick. The house had a compulsory purchase order and was bought by Limerick Council. Their children moved to what they called “New Willmount” on North Circular Road. Two of their sons owned the Shannon Laundry at Parnell St and Baker Place. It closed c1945 because of lack of coal supplies. Their son Arthur was president of the Shannon Aero Club and flew out of Coonagh Airfield. This is an aerial shot he took of Willmount. I would love to find a picture of the Shannon Laundry. I have some log books and tickets from it but have never seen what it looked like. Could someone help?”


Willimount House Aerial View

Willmount House Aerial View


2016-03-26 15.45.52

Willmount House


Within the hour I had my first comment and likes. People started sharing all the stories they remembered about the family. This post provided me with additional information on the family. The land where the original Willmount House stood is now called Toppin’s Field.

One memory that seems to stand out amongst most people was the fact that Arthur Toppin would hand out Fox Glacier Mints to all the kids. He seemed to always have some with him. One person shared the story of Arthur picking the kids up to give them a ride and his dog was in the back seat. He handed the kids the mints and the dog got them as well.

Another comment said Arthur drove a Wolsey Estate car and that he used to land a small biplane on the big field. Someone remembers helping Arthur push his plane from the hanger at Coonagh Airfield. He also remembers when Arthur saw a group of kids at the airfield gates he brought them into the club house and gave the kids sandwiches and let them watch the movie “Reach for the Sky.”

The Toppin family were remembered for their kindness and Arthur was also remembered for his handlebar mustache.

When the original Willmount House burnt down they remember hearing the fire engines while they were in school. At this time the Corporation had taken possession of the house. They had plowed under the orchards when they demolished the fire damaged building.

The mother of one person used to go in and care for Sarah Toppin when she got older. There was a picture of the new subdivision and part of the fence consisted of the top of the pillars from the main gate of Willmount house.

I received even more comments when on April 10th I put up the family portrait and said “Thank you everyone for sharing your memories and stories of the Toppin family with me. Here is a family photo taken in 1905. Back Row left to right Arthur, Jack, Maisie, Philip, Ernest. Front Row left to right Maud, Sarah, Philip (Father), Sarah (Mother) and Edith. Only Maud and Maisie married the rest stayed single.”


Toppin Family


I learned from these comments that there is a housing estate called “Willmount Estate” in the area of the old house. Where I thought Arthur and Ernest ran the Shannon Laundry it turns out their elder brother Philip, who died in 1914, was the one who started the business.

In our family Sarah Toppin was always known as Girlie and I thought it was a family name. It turns out their neighbours called her Miss Girlie. A lady called Bernie (Berri) Moss used to visit the Toppin’s every week but I don’t know why yet.

When posting these pictures my main hope was to get a photograph of the Shannon Laundry but I got so much more. Have you tried posting things on Facebook pages that don’t have a genealogy theme? This page is all about sharing pictures and memories of Limerick. It is not listed under genealogy/family history. Have you done this type of research? What new information did you discover?


© 2016 Blair Archival Research – All Rights Reserved

Do Not Believe Everything You Read!

It is important not to take everything you read at face value even if it is from a reputable source.

Humphrey Charles Minchin was my four times Great Grandfather. The Minchin family was from county Tipperary. Their family history is found in “Burke’s Irish Family Records”

According to this reference book Humphrey Charles Minchin first married Frances Catherine Sirr on 14 Jan 1775 in Dublin. Humphrey’s second marriage was to Arabella Ashworth in 1812. Above the notation to Humphrey’s second marriage is a reference to his daughter Louisa Arabella and it says she was born in 1821 and married Walter Bourne.

Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, editor, Burke's Irish Family Records (London, U.K.: Burkes Peerage Ltd, 1976)

This information would suggest that Louisa Arabella is a daughter from Humphrey’s second marriage. How many people would take this information as it is found?

The truth about this family is that Humphrey and Frances did marry on 14 Jan 1775. They had six children before Frances died in 1810. Their last child Louisa Arabella was born circa 1800 not 1821. This is where the information needs to be unraveled.

Louisa Arabella Minchin married Walter Bourne on 6 Aug 1821 in the Parish of Taney. The record is found in the parish registers. Louisa died on 2 Jan 1882 and her death certificate says she was 82 years of age. Her first child was born on 22 Aug 1822 and baptized shortly thereafter.

Humphrey married Arabella Ashworth on 6 Jul 1812 in the parish of St. Peter’s in Dublin. A reference to this marriage was found in the parish register at the Representative Church Body Library for the Church of Ireland.

The notation of b is probably a typo and should read m.

Please remember not to believe everything you read. Reference books are a great resource but please research further to verify the accuracy of the information.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Do You Utilize the Resources at your Local Library?

Since the Internet has become so prevalent in our daily lives it is almost as if some people have forgotten the resources at their local library. Any library that is lucky enough to have available funds have put some of their resources online. There is still an awful lot of information that is not available online and it seems like a lot of people forget that point.

Do you know what resources are held at your local library in the local history section? I know my library has a special area for local history and all the books, maps, microfilms and other related items are held in that area. There are three microfilm readers to read the films that are stored in the cabinets. I know my library has the indexes to birth, marriage and deaths in Ontario. They also have all the census records as well as land and assessment records for my county. There is a small collection of year books from the area high schools. They also have historic newspapers on microfilm. These are not indexed but are a real treasure trove of information. The newspapers are only available at my local library and are not online.

Do you know the name of your local history librarian? If you do not I would suggest you find out as they are a wonderful resource for information on the local area. If the library does not have the information themselves then I am sure the librarian will be able to point you in the right direction.

Do you have a brick wall that you just can not seem to break? Maybe your librarian can help you chip away at it. They may know of resources that you had not thought of before. They may be acquainted with a special record that is not widely known about but can provide you with more information.

It is a sign of the times that the first place everyone turns to for answers is the internet. They forget the wonderful resources that are available in their own backyard at their local library. Why not make an effort to go into your local library this week. Have a chat with the local history librarian and see what you can find to help you with your family history research. If you cannot disconnect from the internet why not check out your library’s website to see what you can find. Maybe even email a question through “Ask a Librarian”.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Cluster Research: How it can help you break down some brick walls

Every genealogical researcher has come up against a brick wall in their research. Hopefully it is not one that is insurmountable but can be broken down. Have you ever done a cluster research project to help you break down that brick wall?

A cluster research project, or sometimes called a reconstruction or reconstitution project, requires that you search all the collateral lines of your family to find additional data that will hopefully break down that brick wall. It can also be a one name study in a particular area to see if familial links can be found. The process can be more difficult if the name is a common one but that just increases the challenge. Remember searching for spelling variations of the surname is another important step in the process.

I have used this method for clients and was able to get one client’s family back to a place in Ireland where he found a marriage for the couple who came to Canada. This information was found by doing a one name study over three counties and five townships in Ontario. The information did not come from the client’s direct line but from a newly found collateral line. It was a long process but was well worth it.

You might start with doing research in one county but find you will have to cover more area in your search. This is especially true if the area in the county where the family is from is near a border. You must be flexible in where your research takes you.

Do not limit yourself to the criteria with which you started the project. If you suddenly find a record that takes you to a new county follow that lead. If you do not follow the lead you may miss the link that brings the research all together. Add this new information to your research plan and continue on with your research.

This is a process I also use for my own research. It has worked well for proving a family story wrong and for proving one right. It also has not worked a few times but you never know unless you try.

Organization is critically important to the project. You have to be able to keep track of all the records searched as well as the people found. It can become difficult when you have several with the same name and have to distinguish between them. Only you can decide the best way to organize the data gathered in the project. I have used a genealogy program and a spreadsheet as well as paper and pencil. They have been used singularly or together. Research plans, research logs and source citation sheets are all very important.

A good book on the subject is “Family History Problem Solving through Family Reconstitution Techniques” by Andrew Todd. It is published in England.

It can be a large undertaking to do this type of research but the result can be the bulldozer you need to break down that brick wall you have been banging your head against for years.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

You won’t find it all on the Internet…

While going through my family information in preparation for the trip I have noticed one thing about my research plans. It has been a recurring theme that is just unavoidable. I won’t find everything on the Internet.

There is still an awful lot of work that can only be done in an actual building that holds items that provide information. This means using books, microfilms and other resources. It could be an old fashioned concept but one that is still necessary in family history research. The building can be an archive, library, historical society, court house, university library or family history centre.

I will admit that I love to go into libraries and just be with the books. I will go through dozens of books checking for specific and obscure information that could relate to my family history.

The darkened microfilm room with everyone intently staring at the images is a very peaceful place, except of course when you get the one microfilm reader that squeaks at every opportunity.

Then there is the one thing that brings a smile to all faces and it is when someone expresses a very excited “yes” to signify that they have found the piece of information they have been looking for and it has solved a problem. They realize their excitement has broken the silence and they quietly do a little happy dance in their chairs.

One person is usually found to be mumbling quietly to themselves, a sign of madness in some places but not a family history library. They are usually the ones who didn’t find what they were looking for and are trying to figure out where to look next.

The library is a place where you can find direct information on your family or information that will help expand your family’s history. Either way you will be enhancing your experience by leaving home to do research in an actual building.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research