Twelve Months of Genealogy

Twelve Months of Genealogy – December

When December comes around we all turn to planning our holiday celebrations. This month let’s look at the way our ancestors celebrated the holiday season.

The first week of December we will look at religious services. If your family followed a Christian faith then usually the last Sunday in November is the start of Advent. Advent has a Latin origin and means “coming.” The Advent candle and calendar are two symbols of the observance.

You can find out more about the observance of Advent here.

Did your ancestors observe Advent? What family traditions came out of this celebration?

Maybe your family was of the Jewish faith and celebrated Hanukkah. Hanukkah is an eight day celebration of the Festival of Lights. Every night of the festival the family gathers and a new candle is light on the menorah and the children are given small gifts. This year Hanukkah is celebrated from December 20th to the 28th.

You can find out more about the celebration of Hanukkah here.

How did your ancestors celebrate Hanukkah? Were they able to observe the holiday openly and freely? Does your family celebrate Hanukkah the same way your ancestors did?

In week two we will look at the traditions that your family follow today. Do you know where they came from? When they started? Is your family starting new traditions that your great great grandchildren will be following in the future?

Christmas trees, cards, lights and puddings became popular during the Victorian era. The Christmas tree was lit with candles. The fruit and spirit filled Christmas pudding that Mrs. Cratchit was so concerned about in “A Christmas Carol” is not the same pudding that was consumed in medieval times.

Can you trace your holiday traditions through the family to see when they may have started?

The third week of December we will look at the holiday meal. When we think of Christmas dinner we think of turkey. Each country usually has their own version of Christmas dinner and the delicacies that are served. I know that my ancestors in England and Ireland liked to serve goose or ham for dinner. The type of meal served at Christmas for our ancestors would depend on the amount of money they had to spare.

Was there one item that the family would splurge on? Is there something you serve at your Christmas table that has come down the generations? Has the preparation of it changed in any way? Is there one item that must be on your Christmas table or it’s just not Christmas?

The last week of December we will look at the celebration of the New Year. I have Scottish ancestors and Hogmanay was more important than Christmas. On December 31st the New Year would be piped in and Auld Lang Syne would be sung. During the song everyone would cross their arms in front of them and then hold hands with the people next to them.

The big parties and special meals continued into the first of January. The house had to be spotless so cleaning would be done the week prior. Then there was the importance of who stepped over the threshold first. It had to be a dark haired man bearing gifts such as coal and a potato. Some other gifts could be salt, shortbread, whiskey and a black bun.

Did your ancestors have a celebration for the New Year? Was it what we think of now with the hats, streamers and counting down to midnight? Or was it different?

Did your ancestors celebrated the Epiphany? Epiphany usually started on Christmas day and ended around January 6th. The original twelve days of Christmas.

Take some time this holiday season to learn more about the history and traditions of your family’s holiday celebrations.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Twelve Months of Genealogy – November

November is a month of Remembrance in Canada and other places around the world. This is the time when we remember the veterans of all the wars and conflicts that have involved Canadians. The poppy is the symbol of remembrance. This month we will look at places to find information on your veteran ancestors.

In the first week of November we will look at records for Canada. The first stop should be the Genealogy and Family History section of the Library and Archives Canada website. Here you can find information on soldiers of the First and Second World War. The Soldiers of the First World War database has digital copies of attestation papers. You will find a link so you can order a copy of their military file online.

In two previous posts (post 1 and post 2) I have gone through the information to be found under the topic of military in the Library and Archives Canada Genealogy and Family History section. This section used to be called the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

In the second week of November we will examine the military records for England. Here the first stop is The National Archives of England and Documents Online. Documents Online have databases for Army, Navy and Air Force. The First World War Medal Index Cards are a great resource.

You can find the First World War Medal Index Cards on Ancestry as well as digital copies of the surviving military files. At Findmypast you will find Chelsea Pensioner records as well as many other military records.

In the third week of November we will look at military records for the United States. The first stop is usually Ancestry but you will also find information at World Vital Records which covers the conflicts from the Revolutionary War to World War II and at FamilySearch. The National Archives and Record Administration has a section on their website dedicated to Veteran’s Service Records.

The fourth week of November we will look at the military records from Australia. The ANZACS (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) hold a very special place in the hearts of the people of Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian War Memorial has descriptions of all the conflicts Australians have been involved in from 1788 through to the present day. They have a wonderful site that you should visit and take time to go through all the different links and pages.

There is a general database you can search to find information on veterans from many different conflicts.

The National Archives of Australia hold the military personnel records. They have a page dedicated to the First World War and if you scroll down you can access a link to a search page. You can search their records to see if a reference can be found for your ancestor and you can usually access a digital copy of their military file.

You will find a link to Mapping our Anzacs which is a virtual scrapbook to remember those who fought for King and country in the First World War. There is a link here to access the military files and they encourage people to create scrapbook pages to remember their loved ones.

The last week of November we will look at some general places to find information. If you have a regiment name then the first place to start is a Google search. In England you may find a regimental museum which may be able to help you with more information.

Research the battles in which your ancestor fought and find out what the soldiers went through. I know that one of my collateral lines fought in the Battle of Waterloo and that his first child was born just behind the field of battle. Women were sometimes allowed to follow their men during campaigns. They would stay behind at the camp during battles. This usually happened if the soldier was an officer.

You may be able to find sketches or pictures of the uniform your ancestor might have worn. Did they wear a uniform or their regular clothes? This sometimes happened if they were in the militia.

The military file might be the first place to look for information but not the last. What about muster rolls, pension rolls, and other records where you might find someone who was in the military.

Do not forget things like military diaries. Library and Archives Canada have digital copies of the war diaries of the First World War online.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has a searchable database online. You can search for casualties of the First and Second World Wars from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, India and South Africa.

Is your ancestor remembered on a war memorial in their home town? You can search online and see what you can find. Scotland has The Scottish National War Memorial online. You can search the Scottish Roll of Honour for entries from the First and Second World Wars and post 1945.

This Remembrance Day why not write the story of your veteran ancestor so that their sacrifice and their accomplishments will not fade away.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

Twelve Months of Genealogy – October

October is the first full month of fall and in Canada Thanksgiving will be celebrated on October 10th. The end of the month is Halloween. Halloween used to be All Hallows Even the night before All Saints Day which was also known as All Souls’ Day. These are days of remembrance for those who have died but are held in purgatory. All Soul’s Day represents them getting to heaven.

In October we are going to investigate cemeteries. The first three weeks will represent a different country (Canada, Ireland and Scotland) and the last week will look at some places to find information that is useful for anyone researching cemeteries.

The first week cemeteries in Canada will be examined. The Canadian Headstone Photo Project is a volunteer service that takes photographs of monuments and puts them online. It is a work in progress and you can help by adding some monument photographs that you may have. They also have projects for Ireland (Fermanagh and Tyrone) and the USA.

In the Province of Ontario there is the Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid. You can search by name, county, township or cemetery. It provides the information of who is buried in what cemetery and then you can contact the family history society or other society that holds the original information. There is a British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid as well.

The second week will look at the cemetery records for Ireland. Belfast has an online search facility for burial records. Read the description of what records are available. The first cemetery starts in 1869 and the other two in 1954 and 1905.

Brian J Cantwell’s Memorials of the Dead is a well known Irish resource. You can get a description of the resource here and can search the records at the pay per view website Irish Origins.

Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin has put their cemetery records online which date from 1828 to the present day. It is a pay per view website. You can do a standard burial/cremation search for 3 credits; an extended burials by grave search (all others in same grave) for 8 credits and if a book extract is available it is an additional 2 credits. One credit costs 1 Euro.

They let you know if others are buried in the grave with a green check mark next to the entry in the search results. You get digital copies of the actual records.

Another option is Irish Graveyards where you can search “a number of Irish graveyards to locate a specific grave” there is also the option to browse. Not every county or graveyard is represented. This is a work in progress. You get an image of the church if it is a church graveyard and a map which downloads as a PDF file. The graves are numbered and it corresponds with the number in the search results. The results also provide a photograph of the grave. This is a free service.

The local authorities of County Kerry have gotten together and created a website dedicated to the 140 cemeteries under their control. They have scanned 168 books which includes 70,000 indexed burial records.

In week three let’s look at Scotland. In Glasgow there is a website dedicated to the South Necropolis “Gorbals City of the Dead”. Their main purpose is to promote the “historical and educational assets” of the cemetery. It opened in 1840. There is no full searchable database online for the cemetery but there are a small number of interment transcriptions. The website is run by Colin Mackie who was part of the Southern Necropolis Research Project which ended in 1993. You can find microfilms of some of the original records through the FamilySearch library catalogue.

The Mearns Kirkyard Project in Renfrewshire has a searchable database for names. When you get your results it provides a brief synopsis and you have an option to view more information. This can provide a photograph of the monument, a transcription of the inscription, information from the burial records, condition and size of monument and the names and dates of death for others found in the grave. At the bottom of the page you can find a family history which provides more information on the family remembered by the monument. If you have someone from Mearns in Renfrewshire this is a little treasure.

In week four we will look at some suggestions that are useful when researching cemeteries in any of the above countries.

Deceased Online has records for the UK and the Republic of Ireland. This is a work in progress so keep checking back to see if your area of interest has been added. It is a pay per view site but you can do the search for free. The pricing schedule runs from 15 credits to 50 with one option being “individually priced according to size”. Individual credit costs were not found but as of 27 May 2011 they said that when purchasing the minimum 30 credits a search for 15 credits costs 1.50 GBP which is about $2.50 CDN with today’s exchange rate.

FamilySearch is a place to look for cemetery records. The records for Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin can be found through the library catalogue.

Another way to find cemetery records for any country is to contact the local family history/genealogy/historical society to see if they can help. Some have printed books relating to cemetery transcriptions.

If you can not find your ancestor in the cemetery that is closest to their place of residence when they died then take a look at when the cemetery started operation. It may be that it was after the time your ancestor died.

If you come across a ghost when you are out trick or treating this Halloween do not be afraid they could be an ancestor who can help you break down a brick wall.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved