Monthly Archives: July 2015

I Wish I Had a Time Machine

digital rendering of an airship

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought that. Not that I’m a big sci-fi nut and I can’t lie I’ve never read the novel by H. G. Wells nor have I watched Dr. Who.  But I do know that if I were to have a time machine I’d have a lot of fun.

I know that I’d have to make a list of questions for all the ancestors that I’d like to go back in time to visit. Can you imagine; “Hi, you don’t know me but I’m your great-granddaughter from the future. Can you tell me the name of your son’s father?” Or ok; let me get this straight…..

Even to just to back and see what it was like to live in that time period. When you look at photos of places in the past,  it’s not the same as walking the streets, smelling the smells and just to generally get a feel for what people thought was important.

Take this picture from Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada;  1906. This isn’t what we would consider grid lock today.  edmonton


But it would be fun to walk those street and see what the people were doing, where they were going and to see how complicated or uncomplicated your ancestors lives were.

Can you imagine your ancestors surprise when they realized that the secret that they thought they had hidden and got away with all those years wasn’t really a secret after all and that you were hot on the trail and in some cases using DNA (of course you’d have to explain what that was) to try to figure out the answer to the secret. <sigh they could have been just, honest>… but those were different times.

So I ask you…. “if you had a time machine, who would you visit  and what would you ask them?”




DNA Test The Elders in Your Family


Back view of serene senior couple taking a walk in the park in summer


My children know, or at least they should know, that they won’t be getting some large inheritance because I’m spending all my money on DNA testing.  Well that might be a slight exaggeration but I’ve spent a lot and I plan to spend more.

Out of all that spending has come a greater visual understanding of how from one generation to the next you lose matches, at least with autosomal testing . What do I mean when I say that?  First of all let me tell you who I’ve tested.  I’ve tested both my sons, my parents, two uncles on my mom’s side of the family and one of my cousins on my mom side as well as a second cousin on my mom’s side of the family. On my dad’s side of the family I’ve tested two of my dad’s  second cousins and a third cousin and a second cousin once removed.  So what does that all tell me?

What I’ve found most interesting is the matches that my mom and her brothers get and how some of those are connected to one of my son and not to the other. I do understand that you get half of your chromosomes from each of your parents and that you don’t get the same half as your siblings. But I guess it didn’t really hit home until I saw who matched to who and who didn’t.

My mom was 78 when she passed away this year and my uncles are of a similar ages. When you start looking at who are their matches outside of the known  immediate family and to which members of the younger generation they connect to you realize that by not testing the older generation when you are able you may lose valuable information that will help you understand your family connection to your matches.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that with each generation you lose  a bit of how you connect to someone elses tree, so you shouldn’t wait … you should test your oldest generation as their DNA has much to tell you.

It Really is in the Mail

Mail On Mailbox Shows Mail Post And Sent Messages

One thing I recall as a child, was that it was neat when you got something in the mail. Now it seems like that doesn’t happen very often now, except for flyers and bills and even then you can have those come to your email.

So one of the cool thing about being a genealogist or family history nut is that you “do” get things in the mail. Right now I’m waiting for a death certificate and another certificate that I’m ashamed to say I don’t recall what it was, but they are coming from Britain. I always log my certificate purchases in my genealogy program but for some reason I missed this one so it’s going to be a surprise.  I’m also waiting for some probates to arrive from the B.C. Archives, after my recent trip to Victoria. All of these items will provide, hopefully; more clue to get my research farther back or at least to fill in those gaps. Meat to the bone so to speak.

Family history can be an expensive hobby. As I mentioned; I’m waiting for some certificates from the UK that cost 9.25 pounds each and the three wills that should arrive on Monday cost about $35.00 Canadian. But I guess there could be worse things that I could spend my money on.  I don’t have any vices so family history is mine.

Sometimes you can find the same information in other ways,  such as on-line databases or genealogy websites but sometime you just need to look at the document to get the details that you want. For instance;  with regard to the death record I’m waiting for. My 3x great-grandfather; William Middlebrough was born in Kingston on Hull, Yorkshire, England in 1839 or 1841 . Pretty straight forward until you get his birth record and it lists, not  Jane Brook which all the other Middlebrough researchers say is his mother, but Jane Carr.  I’ve done some research on Jane Carr and I can find a Jane Carr but no record of her and John Middlebrough as a couple. I can find John Middlebrough married to Jane Brook though.

But the birth certificate I have shows John Middlebrough, Joiner (and that’s my John’s occupation) and the mother is listed as Jane Carr. So what the heck. Then there is the death record in 1839 which I have on order for William Middlebrough. Who is this William. So I’m purchasing it to see who is listed as the father and if he’s connected to the family. Were their two John Middlesbrough’s living in the same area? Did they have the same occupation? Did they both marry Jane’s?  I can hear the conversation now;  “Hey cuz, isn’t it  wild that we are both marrying Jane’s, why don’t we both name our sons William? Just to make it interesting one of us could register the birth and the other not? Oh, your didn’t register your marriage…that will fix those government types”.

So that’s why you buy certificates… sometimes they are a wild goose chases and sometimes they answer questions.

On the other hand purchasing a probate record can provide you with an abundance of information. Often you can find out who were the important people in your ancestors life and what their relationship was to your ancestors  and even where they lived , or at least that’s the hope.

So as I said earlier you could spend your money on worse things; after all purchasing some of these documents are a bit like gambling. You spend your money and you’re hoping  for a big return.

Jackpot Word With Fireworks Shows Gambling Or Winning

Distracted or Social Media Junky… Oh Look; Squirrel

A Brown squirrel eating nuts

Over the past couple of years I’ve wondered If I have  had a mild attention disorder or If social media has created this. Either way I seem to be on the go and doing so many things that sometimes it’s hard to “stay focused”.

Sometimes stayed focused can be easier said that done. So what can we do so that we stay on task so we get those jobs done and are able to get to the  fun stuff; like, genealogy?

1. Set a time limit for social media. Even if it has to be a timer on the stove.

2. Sometimes it’s not that we are distracted as much as the job we have to do isn’t the most exiting thing to do.  Sometimes you just have to “suck it up” and “just do it”. Perhaps you need to get up early before the rest of the family gets up or stay up later and do that nasty job after everyone is in bed.

3. Headphones. Whether you use them to play music or not, if you’re wearing them then people tend to leave you along.  This is a tried and true system that my husband; Kevin uses.

4. Don’t try to multi-task. I’ve read a few reports lately that tell us that multi-tasking doesn’t mean you’re doing more jobs better but rather more job mediocre. Pick one job and do it well.

Once you get your jobs done you’ll have more free time to work on your family history. Because you know that’s not distracting at all. “Hey look there’s a new website for sharing your tree”…….


Ready Set; Organize


Today we continue with organizing… Well at least I’m try to do that.  The book I was telling you about; The 1-week Self-Organization Challenge by Simon Wright tells us; you have to plan.  My plan is to methodically go through the stack of papers on my desk and deal with them. Not to shuffle them around and let them propagate a new stack of papers.

The book also suggests to set yourself a time limit … which I have done. It also talks about not letting yourself procrastinate. To late that’s how I got myself into this stack of paper. He talks about making sure that when you set a time frame that you make sure that it’s the appropriate amount of time. Not too much and no to little.  He says that if you give yourself too much time that often you take that whole amount of time even though it may  not have been necessary and of course don’t give yourself too little time as then you will feel like you have failed at the task.  I like that idea …

Note; that I have no affiliation with this book it’s just one of the many books that I read that I’d like to pass along.


I Need to Get Organized

close up of file folder

Often as with any hobby, it’s all about staying organized. This is something that I’m not terribly at but I’m far from perfect. Shhhh don’t tell my husband because he would have a different comment. He’s one of those people where everything has a place and everything is in its place. I’m more of a stack of papers here and there on my desk but I know where things are. Oh well they say that opposites attract lolol.

Organizing is something I’m interested in so I, from time to time,  I read up on the subject. Currently I’m reading; The One Week Self-Organization Challenge by Simon Wright.

I do know one thing that if you take the time to organize things, even a little bit it can be very mentally uplifting and almost feel like a weight is taken off your shoulders. Or maybe that’s just me.

I remember one of my bosses telling me that when people work through sorting  papers on their desk that typically they rotate in piles. Kinda like a clock and eventually they have completed a full circle on your desk.

My challenge this week is a stack of papers that have accumulated while we were away. Kinda a mish mash of personal stuff, genealogy stuff and business stuff. So I’m  going to work on that. The book tells me I need to identify the problem. Check

Next it tells me to increase my productivity. Well that must be talking about not looking at social media. I can’t tell you the number of time I start something and then….. Squirrel… Or something shiny gets in the way.

The book talks about learning a new skill. Often picking up a new skill such as this is well worth the time and money as you can use the information in other aspects of your life.

It also talks about delegation. I can’t do that with my stack of papers but perhaps I could do that with some other task that is weighing on my mind. How about you?

I’m saving some of the next steps for tomorrow’s blog so in the meantime think of the task you’d like to organize and then think about how you are going to tackle it. Don’t make it a huge task, sometime;  I think we make the job too big and that becomes overwhelming. Remember it’s about eating that elephant…. One bite at a time.

Note. I have no connection to the book. It’s just the book I’m reading. Perhaps you’d like to read it too; The One Week Self-Organization Challenge  by Simon Wright

Ancestor Trading Cards and Other Photo Ideas

Bing Crosby, Auntie Ronnie and Uncle Gordon
Bing Crosby, Auntie Ronnie and Uncle Gordon (copyright)

As I’ve mentioned before collecting family photos seem to be a by-product of family history.  I know I’ve gone to my aunt’s home; Flip Pal  (shameless plug) in hand and was able to scan photos from her albums and even photos from her wall.  She had this photograph of my great-aunt and uncle standing with Bing Crosby at the Jasper Park Lodge. I was able to scan it through the glass while it was still hanging on the wall.

My flip pal pictures (3)

Another useful tool is the Zcan+ (another shameless plug). The Zcan+ can be used to scan photographs and documents. What makes it different from the Flip Pal is that the Zcan+ has OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This means that it recognizes characters in documents,  in 199 languages,  and you can save to Word and then you can edit the document.  You can also save as Excel or PDF and that only a few of the types of files you can save.

Midnight Zcan+ Zcan+

Often I’m asked; which is better? But each has its own advantages. The Flip Pal because it’s a standalone product, no computer required. It weights just slightly more than 1 lbs and runs on double a batteries. The Zcan+ does require a computer to run. They come cordless and wired.   I love it for scanning at my desk and inputting family history documents into my genealogy program. But I’ll talk about that another day.

So depending on what you plan to do would depend on which scanning product would be right for you.

Now back to what other things I’ve seen done with family photos. At a recent genealogy conference I went to in British Columbia; there were two ladies that sold products to make a type of ancestor trading card. Not really for trading,  but that was the size of the cards. You could put a photo of your ancestor and then perhaps hand write or type out the information you wanted to capture on the card. The cards were then stored in a small drawer which could be set out on a side table or coffee table for display.

ancestor trading cards

Another great idea I saw was on one of the many Facebook pages that I follow. A lady named Susan, had created a table-cloth for the cake table for an upcoming wedding . So beautiful and so creative and what a great

So over the summer gather those photos at family reunions and family get together when you visit your relatives on vacation. Take along your Flip Pal or Zcan+, which you can purchase at Shop the Hound (last shameless plug) and you too can get those creative juices flowing.

Out of Power and a Blog to Write

It’s never a good idea to leave a post until the last-minute. Why? Well because you just might have someone hit a power pole in the area and not have your blog done.

But if you’re a genealogist and you have no power what do you do? Well you can make that telephone call to that older relative and ask those questions you’ve been meaning to ask. Or you can get out one of those many Genealogy books or magazine and catch up on you reading.
Or you can hop on a Harley and enjoy the great weather.

the harley

Family Photos – Get Out Your Creative Thinking Cap

When you have an interest in family history I think an off shoot  of that is that you try to find and preserve family photos.

I know for me, family photos are precious, as only one side of my family either took a lot of photos or maybe it was just that  the other line didn’t feel they were as important as I do and got rid of them over the years.

If your one of the lucky people and you do have family photos, sometimes it’s fun to use these photo in different ways so that you can interest your family in the things you have found.

I’ve done a couple of things with my family photos  and if you search around on the internet or Pinterest you’ll find many more.

A couple of years ago for Christmas I made a metal photo panel showing the many generations in the family.  I made one for each of my brothers which had a photo of their son, themselves, my father and my dad’s father.

Below is something I made for myself showing six generations of the women in my family.


Another was a project that I started before my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer ‘s. It was a heritage cookbook. I started collecting photographs of my mom’s six siblings (one from when they were younger and one as current as possible). I also asked for a copy of their favourite recipe. You know that recipe that they were famous for,  like my Auntie Faye’s;  Yorkshire Pudding.  As it turned out my mom’s sickness progressed really quickly and it was only a few months after she was diagnosed that she no longer recognized the family.  At one point I had thought about not completing the book. But after about a year I decided to go ahead with the project and I dedicated the book to my mom.  It turned out great and many of my cousins from my mom’s side of the family asked for copies.

Recipes from the HeartRecipes from the Heart 2

In fact we’ve talked about a volume two with recipes from all the cousins.

These are just a few ideas and you are only limited by your creativity.More ideas tomorrow, stay tuned.



In Search of Willie Beaton

Beaton Family
Beaton Family (Willie; small boy)

Today I  continue with what I call the “Beaton/Batten” Mystery. So as I told you; when I was in Victoria, British Columbia I had a chance to go to several of the local archives. On Friday before going to the B.C. Archives I made my way a few kilometres from our motel and found the  (CFB) Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum and Archives. The Archives is small and is run by Joseph, who was very helpful.

So as a back story; William (Willie) Beaton had a son; William Theodore Beaton Jr. who also had a son; Leonard K. Beaton.  William Beaton Jr. got divorced from his Leonard’s mom; Eleanor. Eleanor and Leonard, I was told,  left Alberta and went to British Columbia; Victoria to be exact. I was told that Leonard was a Dr. for the Navy.

Joseph quickly looked up Leonard’s name and wasn’t able to find him. So now we knew that Leonard wasn’t a Dr. Often family stories are just that…. stories. But I usually find that always have a grain of truth. I was sure Leonard was in the Navy, but Joseph said that if he didn’t have a rank then he wouldn’t be in the records. I’d been able to find Leonard in the Electoral Roll in 1962 living with his mom. I was trying to figure out if he ever got married and had any children.  Finally Joseph said he had a book that I should check. It was called; Operation Sick Bay and it was written by Lieut. Commander S.T. Richards. Sure enough; Leonard was in there.. So he was in the Navy, but he wasn’t a Dr. he was a Medical Assistant. Joseph showed me the building where he would have worked.

Joseph suggested that my next stop should be the Esquimalt Archives.  Located a short taxi ride away it was situated just below the MacDonald’s.  The curator; Greg was very helpful as well. I told him that the last known address for Leonard and his mom; Eleanor was 883 Admirals. He was able to provide me with some details on the house they lived in.

He suggested that my next stop should be the Victoria Genealogical Society.  So off I went in my Yellow Taxi. After paying my $5.00 to use the library I started looking at the Victoria City Directories.. They didn’t have a complete set but I was able to figure out that Leonard’s middle initial stood for Kenneth. (funny I’d dreamed that the night before).

Then it was off to the B.C. Archives across from the beautiful Empress Hotel.  Besides being able to listen to my uncle’s audio recording that I spoke about before.. I was able to look at all of the Victoria City Directories as the B. C. Archives had a complete set.  In 1968 I found out that Leonard had married Ann. That was all I found.. in just one of the directories .. but it ended up being such powerful information.

Armed with the new information I made a list of all the Ann Beaton’s and Leonard or L. Beaton’s on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver. On Saturday in the late afternoon; I made my first cold call to Ann Beaton. It went like this;

Hi my name is Ellen and I’m looking for Ann Beaton who was married to Leonard Beaton. Are you she?  I could no believe my luck when she said she was. I then said; is Leonard Beaton still alive and she replied; “Shouldn’t he be”…  I was dumb struck… I was so tongue-tied I didn’t know what to say. After I told her what I was trying to do she explained that Leonard had some memory issues and I explained that I understood. I asked a few more questions and then decided that I would call back the next day with a list and I hoped a bit of composure.

I ended up calling on the Monday evening when we were in Valemount, British Colombia on the way home. Armed with my list I asked the questions that I’d thought of.. Now was the time for the big explanation and the big question.

Leonard is the last of the Beaton line and I wondered if he would do a DNA kit for me. I had broached the subject during the last conversation and it didn’t seem hopeful. So I went on to say again that he was the last of the line and that I was trying to solve the mystery of his grandfather’s parents and who they really were. I told her that I would pay for the kit and all the postage and paperwork that would be required. I explained that it was only for genealogical purposes and the information would be for my use.  Lets be honest…. I begged.. and then I waited for the answer. The answer was no.

We spoke a bit more and I asked for her address; which she gave to me and I gave her my information and told her that her two daughters were welcome to call me and I would provide any information that they’d like.

I have to tell you that I sobbed that evening. It seemed silly that someone who I didn’t even think was alive a few days before had suddenly become so important. But there I was sobbing in the hotel swimming pool.

Later in the evening I got myself a glass of wine and thought of how I would try to win the family over and get Leonard to do a DNA kit.  After all he’d been estranged from the family for 65 years so why should he care about these people? So I have to talk to Ann and her family and tell them stories and show them photos.. and maybe just maybe …