Sunday, February 8, 2009

How my journey began

Way back in high school (I think it was either Grade 8 or Grade 9), my history teacher, Mr. Holmes, made us students write a mini family history, going back at least to our Grand parents. I went looking through some old photo albums to find pictures of myself (which was a requirement for the assignment) and started writing a bit about myself. I then asked my mom about her life and that of my father. She told me stories of when she was a little girl living in war torn Scotland and her journey to Canada in 1946. As far as my grandparent’s information, she told me to write to my Aunt Nell who lives in Saskatchewan, which I did. Aunt Nell provided me with the names of my grandparents (both on her father’s side and mother’s side), their birth dates and marriage dates, all her siblings along with their birth dates and she even had the names of my Great Grandparents. As for my father’s side of the family, it was a little sketchy. My mom, of course knew my father’s information, along with his siblings and the names of my grandparents and that my grandfather came from Ireland, but that was all. I wasn’t able to ask my father himself as he died when I was only 9 months old and my mother re-married (that’s when we moved to Montreal). I put all this information together (even made my own charts) and handed it in at school, after which everything got put into a box to be forgotten! As like most teenagers in the mid ‘70’s, family history was not my top priority!

In 1987, when my daughter was 5 years, I took a long overdue trip to Saskatchewan to visit the family. While we were at my aunt Nell’s sister-in-laws house in Abernethy, I was shown a book called “Furrows In Time – The History of Balcarres”. As this was where my mom and dad lived and where my oldest sister was born, I found it quiet interesting. Along with the history of the district, there was also a history of all the local families. I looked up the Farrell Family and found a bunch of information about my father and his family that I never knew. As I was reading, I got the biggest surprise to see mine and my sister’s names in the book! Well, of course I had to buy this book (which now has an honoured place on my bookshelf). When I got home, I added all this new information to the stuff in the box, and then put it all away to be forgotten about again. Having a young child, working and going to school at night didn’t leave much time for family history.

In 2003 my mother passed away at the age of 70. It was then that I decided that it was time to do something with all this information that I had (it wasn’t a lot, but it was a start). My mom was the youngest of eight kids and I realized that sooner or later all those in my family, who were much older, that would have information or stories would soon be gone. Unfortunately, life once again got in the way. I belong to the Order of the Eastern Star and was elected, in 2003, to the highest position you can achieve in the province. This is a four-year commitment and very busy so needless to say the family history got put on hold once again.

In 2005 I made a trip back to Saskatchewan after an absence of 18 years. My Aunt Nell had just turned 90 and I thought (correctly too) that this might be the last time that I saw her. When I was there, she showed me a family book that my cousin had prepared for her. It was the story of our family in Scotland right back to 1795. What a treasure trove of information. I was able to make a copy to bring home and add to my collection, along with some old pictures that my aunt had. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time that visit to discuss much as I was only there for 10 days. It was Christmas and all my cousins were home for the holidays so I spent most of the time getting re-acquainted with them. As I assumed, that was the last time that I saw my aunt as she passed away the following year. I’m kicking myself now for not pinning her down and not quizzing her on everything. She had a memory like a sponge and I could have gotten so much from her. Fortunately, there is still one aunt left in Canada and one left in Scotland (both of them my mom’s older sisters) and you can bet that I will be contacting them real soon!!

Now that my life has slowed down a little I find that I finally have the time to devote to our family history. I have entered a lot of the information that I have in genealogy software. Although my cousin in Scotland had a lot of names and dates, I have found that some of the dates don’t jive. As I don’t have copies of any of his documents, I have a lot of work ahead of me to prove what he has found. I have an even bigger road ahead on my father’s side since I don’t even know what ship he came to Canada on. I’m hoping my dad’s sister can help with that side of the family.

I will be posting on how things are progressing as well as posting pictures and stories that I do know. I am looking forward to the journey ahead (or should I say behind me!).


  1. alana ...Kailey just did a huge report for gave her lots of info....alot was about her and dad but also lots about when they came over etc..i know mom would love to share...gail

  2. Welcome to the world of geneablogging Alana! If you have any questions or need anything let me know - or post your question over at the Discussion Topics board at Geneabloggers Group on Facebook!


    Thomas MacEntee

  3. Hope you enjoy genea-blogging - it's a great community with lots of helpful people. It's always interesting and exciting to hear how people get started in genealogy.

  4. Hi Alana,
    It's great to meet another new geneablogger, especially one who started and got delayed on genealogy as much as I did:-) I look forward to reading about your progress!

  5. Lovely Blog Alana, I've linked to it from my genealogy website. I grew up in Saskatchewan.

    Joan at Luxegen Genealogy and Family History

  6. Do you know where I can get a copy of "Furrows in Time"? Many of my grandmother's Boni family settled in the Balcarres area in the 1890s. I have little but census records. It would be great to find them in the family histories.

  7. Can you tell me where I can get a copy of "Furrows in Time"? My grandmother's Boni family settled in the Balcarres area in the 1890's. It would be great to see if they are in the family histories.

  8. Anonymous, The book "Furrows In Time, A History of Balcarres & District" was written in 1987 and was published by FOCUS Publishing, 1150 Eighth Avenue, Regina, Sask, S4R 1C9. It was put together by the Balcarres History Book Committee. The ISBN # is 0-919781-37-3. I don't know if the book is still in print, but maybe you can check with a book store to see if they can order by the ISBN number, or perhaps you can contact the publisher.