Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Hogmanay!

Greeting the New Year with friends and spirits is customary in many parts of the world. Residents of Scotland and those of Scottish Descent mark the arrival of the New Year with particular passion in what is called Hogmanay. It draws on their history of Viking invasions, superstition, and ancient pagan rituals. For many centuries in Scotland, Hogmanay was a far more important holiday than Christmas. Historians suggest this may have been a result of the Protestant Reformation after which Christmas, and its close ties to the Roman Catholic Church, was seen as "too Papist." Others point to the grueling work schedules of laborers during the Industrial Revolution which didn’t provide time off for the Christmas holiday. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that Christmas became a popular holiday. But, New Year's still reigns supreme.

My step-father was from Scottish and English descent and my mother was from Scotland, so Hogmanay was celebrated quite heartily in our home. Although Christmas was a big thing growing up, I think my mom looked forward to New Year’s more. She had always said that that was the bigger holiday “back home”. As we got older and started our own families, it was New Year’s where the whole family got together.

There are many interesting Hogmanay traditions/customs found in private homes and in the Scottish Highlands and islands. A few of them followed my mother from Scotland to Canada.

One custom is to clean the house thoroughly (including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common) and burn juniper to rid the house of evil spirits in the coming year. There is also the superstition to clear all your debts before "the bells" at midnight. Although I don’t recall her burning juniper, I remember my mom scrambling to get the house in order before the New Year (of course that could also be because she was getting ready for the New Year’s Eve party!) My Aunt Nell (my mom’s sister) used to always say to make sure you have an uncluttered kitchen table when the New Year arrived – a cluttered kitchen table meant a cluttered year in your life. To this day, I always make sure my home is tidy and my kitchen table is uncluttered. I even have a bit of incense burning to replace the juniper (away evil spirits, away!)

Another tradition is First Footing. First footing is central to Hogmanay celebrations. It is the first person to step foot into a home after midnight - that person is thought to determine the fortune for that home in the coming year, be it good or bad. This person can't be just anyone, they have to fulfill certain requirements. Traditionally the person should be a stranger, though this is generally not the case anymore and a friend is usually used. The person MUST be a man (it's considered a very bad omen if the person first entering the home is female), MUST have dark hair (this is believed to date back to the Viking invasion as they were said to be light haired and very unlucky to have entering your home), be tall and fair of face. The first footer should also bring items to ensure good fortune. Traditionally these would be a lump of coal, black bun (rich fruit cake), salt and a 'hawf bottle' (half bottle of whiskey). These represented respectively warmth, food, wealth and good cheer. Once all the criteria were met, the First Footer would be led through the home, placing the coal on the fire and then they would offer a toast to the house and all within it, using the all important whiskey! The first footer is permitted to kiss every woman in the home, hence the desire for the first footer to be handsome.

My step-father, being 6’4” with black hair was always designated the First Footer is our home (if memory serves me right, some of the neighbours asked him to be the First Footer at their home too). We had a lump of coal that was kept specifically for Hogmanay. My mom would usher him out the front door (weather be damned!) with his first footing “`kit”, where he would patiently wait for the signal that the New Year had arrived (usually my mom flicking the outdoor light). He would then ring the bell and be welcomed into the home, hopefully bringing luck with him. He had the “sacred” lump of coal which he placed in the fireplace (the fire wasn’t actually lit as we didn’t want anything to happen to that piece of coal), some of my mom’s shortbread (to replace the black bun), and of course a bottle of whiskey. After making a toast to the house, we would all join in singing "For Auld Lang Syne". My step-dad continued being the First Footer right up until the New Year before he passed away.

Another tradition is to make lots of noise when the New Year arrives, again to keep the evil spirits away. So to keep up with this tradition, we always had a New Year’s Eve party. We would alternate where the party was held – one year at our house, the next at the home of friends. On the years that we were at the friend’s house, my step-dad was required to bring his first footing “kit” with him. As we all got older, these parties seemed to get smaller and quieter, eventually stopping all together when my step-dad became ill.

From my house to yours, I wish you all a Happy Hogmanay!

A guid New Year to ane an` a` and mony may ye see!

©2011, copyright Alana Farrell

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

QFHS - Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors

This Saturday (Nov. 26th)  the Quebec Family History Society will be hosting a seminar called Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors.  I learned of this seminar from Chris Paton via his blog Scottish GENES and got quite excited because 1)  most of my ancestors (and step-family) are from Scotland, and 2) the QFHS is only about a 20 minute drive from where I live.

I don't belong to this society, yet, since I don't have any roots here in Quebec, having only moved here when I was 2 yrs. old.  My family is still fairly new to this country, only arriving after the first World War.  Although my step-grandparents were married in Quebec and my step-father and his sister were both born here, their roots are in Scotland and England and my mother's and father's family are all from Scotland and Northern Ireland.  For this reason, I've been reluctant to pay the $65 membership fee.  That being said, I do keep an eye out on QFHS's website for any interesting lectures or seminars (although I did manage to miss this one!)

After I read on Chris Paton's blog about the seminar, I quickly popped over to their website for further details.  Per the description on their site, "The focus of this seminar will be to examine the major Genealogical sources for Scottish Family History Research. How do I discover information on my Scottish ancestor when the church records are missing? How should you prepare if you are planning a Genealogical research trip to Scotland? There will be a case study of an average family who lived in Kirkcudbright and Wigtown area. You will be meeting the descendants of King Malcolm III of Scotland. There is more Scottish genealogical research sources than the excellent Scotlands People website."

I called up today to see if they still had room and I was in luck - they still had a few places left.

As I mentioned above, I'm quite excited.  This will be the first time I've been to a seminar/class hosted by a family history society.

Any advise on how I should prepare for this, what I should bring (i.e. family group records, research notes, etc.)?

©2011, copyright Alana Farrell

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Face of Genealogy

LA Weekly posted a very offensive and tasteless picture to accompagny an article about the upcoming 42nd Annual Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree in California, taking place this month.  Needless to say, the genealogy community was in an uproar over this picture and flooded LA Weekly with their comments.  Within a very short time, the offensive picture was removed.

In response to a post on Geneabloggers on June 5th, I am posting the Face of My Genealogy.

This is a picture of my Great Grandfather, John Burnett, taken in 1889 - a highly respected police detective in Dundee, Scotland.  If it wasn't for genealogy, I would never have known what he looked like.

For more Faces of Genealogy on Facebook, click here.

©2011, copyright Alana Farrell

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Easy Rider!

This is my uncle, William Henry Crossman (1919-1999).  I'm not sure when exactly it was taken (or even where), but since he is wearing his army uniform, I'm guessing sometime during the 1940's.

©2011, copyright Alana Farrell

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - David Hume Marshall (1917 - 1978)

In Loving Memory Of
My Dear Husband
And Our Father
David H. Marshall
Died 18th July 1978 Aged 60

David is my mother's oldest brother.  He is the 2nd child of Robert Burn Marshall and Eliza Hamilton Burnett and husband to Elizabeth Dowling.  He is buried in Dundee, Scotland however I don't know which cemetery.

©2011, copyright Alana Farrell

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - William Henry Weir and May A. Findlay

I have run out of my own family tombstones (for now) so I will be posting those that I have taken photos of last summer.

In Loving Memory Of
William Henry Weir
Born July 9, 1850
Died Nov. 29, 1906
His Wife
May A. Findlay
Born July 15, 1850
Died Nov. 9, 1925

William and May are buried at Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Surname Saturday - MAZE

Now that I have completed the four main family names, I'm now going to start in Ahnentafel order. The information in these posts will be brief (i.e. mostly names and dates only) as I plan to write future posts hightlighting couples, that will be more descriptive.

This weeks surname is MAZE and is on my paternal side of the tree.

1. Alana FARRELL

2. Robert Allan FARRELL (1927 - 1962)
3. Rhona MacDonald MARSHALL (1933 - 2003)

4. Robert FARRELL (1896 - 1965)
5. Helen "Nellie" DEVLIN (1892 - 1980)

8. William Forbes FARRELL (1869 - 1927)
9. Elizabeth Jane MAZE, born 17 Oct. 1870 in Drumoris, Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland. Have not found her exact date of death yet, but she was still living in 1944.

18. James MAZE, born about 1835 in Drumoris, Brookborough, Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland and died 25 Aug. 1878 in Ballyreagh, Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland. He is buried in the Aghavea Parish Church Cemetery in Brookeborough. He married Catherine Fair in 1868 in Drumoris.
19. Catherine FAIR, born about 1843 in Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland and died 14 July, 1916 in Ballyreagh, Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland. She is buried in the Aghavea Parish Church Cemetery in Brookeborough.

36. James MAZE
37. Unknown

Unfortunately, this is as far as I have gotten on the MAZE family. If there are any Maze cousins out there, please feel free to contact me at

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Three Generations

Everyone says that I look like my mother and that my daughter looks like me. Below are three pictures of my mother, myself and my daughter. Each were taken when we were a year old.

My Mother
Rhona MacDonald Marshall
Taken about 1934

Taken Nov. 1962. The dress was a birthday present. It didn't fit too well, and was taken back to the store right after this picture was taken!

My daughter, Briana
Taken May 1982. This was taken a week before her 1st birthday. You would never know from her expression, but she had just cut her first tooth that morning!

I think I can see a resemblance. Do you?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Annie Constance Pelley (1860 - 1862)

I have run out of my own family's tombstones (for now), so I will be posting those that I have taken photos of last summer.

To the memory of
Annie Constance Pelly
Who died 2 May 1862
Aged 1 year
and 8 months

She Sleeps In Jesus

Little Annie is buried in the churchyard at St. Stephen's Anglican Church in Lachine, Quebec, Canada.

St. Stephen's is a beautiful small church and is the oldest Anglican church on the Island of Montreal. Quite a few of the older gravemarkers are flat on the ground, like Annie's. They are starting to sink into the earth and many already have new grass or moss starting to cover them. It's a shame that the caretaker of the church can't try to keep them clear.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Year – New Plans

I have been out of the blogging scene for a few months due to other priorities. Although I haven’t been blogging, I did still manage to get some research done – just not as much as I had hoped. I hope to change this in the coming year.

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions as I never seem to keep them. What I want to do this year is set myself some goals.

1) Last year I wanted to complete the Saskatchewan Pioneer Certificate. It is a Certificate of Recognition that is given to descendants of original and/or early pioneers in the districts and territories that make up present day Saskatchewan. I got as far as printing out the application and filing out a draft to see what I was missing. Turns out I’m still missing quite a bit of information. I plan to continue with this project so that, hopefully, by the end of this year I will be able to send in the application.

2) Work on entering my sources in my database. I had started to do this in Legacy Family Tree but then I switched to Roots Magic. When copying the GEDCOM file, the sources that I had entered didn’t copy properly. Fortunately I hadn’t done that many so it’s not too big of a deal. I’m hoping to get at least 1/2 of my sources entered (I have a lot!)

3) Write mini “Bios” of my ancestors, including relevant documentation. I want to try to write at least one a week.

4) Write a Monthly Progress Report.

5) Post at least twice a week on this blog.

6) Sort and scan my mother’s old pictures, as well as those that belonged to my step-father.

Hopefully this list will be achievable – time will tell. Wish me luck.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Surname Saturday - DEVLIN

Each Saturday I will be posting one of my surnames. I will be starting with the 4 main lines – my paternal line of FARRELL and DEVLIN and my maternal line of MARSHALL and BURNETT, after which I will post most likely in alphabetical order using the Ahnentafel numbering system.

This week’s surname is DEVLIN, my Paternal grandmother's paternal line.

1. Me (Alana Farrell)

2. Robert Allan FARRELL (1927-1962)
3. Rhona MacDonald MARSHALL (1933-2003)

4. Robert FARRELL was born 15 Dec 1896 in Ballyreagh, Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland; he married Helen DEVLIN abt 1921 in Govan, Saskatchewan, Canada; died 27 Mar 1965 in Balcarres, Saskatchewan, Canada.
5. Helen DEVLIN (known throughout her life as Nellie) was born 2 Apr 1892 in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland and died 22 May 1980 in Balcarres, Saskatchewan, Canada and is buried in Regina Memorial Gardens in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

10. Peter DEVLIN was born 18 Mar 1864 in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland; he married Janet Anderson on 9 Dec 1887 in Gilmilnscroft Colliery, Sorn, Ayrshire, Scotland; died 24 Nov 1924 in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland.
11. Janet ANDERSON was born 10 Mar 1867 in Hulford, District of Riccarton, Ayrshire, Scotland; died 25 Jan 1939 in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Peter Devlin and Janet Anderson had the following children:

Jane DEVLIN (b. 18 Nov 1887 – d. 15 Nov 1969)
Arthur DEVLIN (b. 29 Jan 1889 – d. 14 Nov 1954)
Annie DEVLIN (b. 28 Nov 1890 – d. ?)
* Helen DEVLIN (b. 2 Apr 1892 – d. May 1980)
Catherine DEVLIN (b. 6 Feb 1894 – d. ?)
Margaret DEVLIN (b. 3 Oct 1895 – d. 1945)
Alexander DEVLIN (b. 20 Jul 1897 – d. 1962)
Mary Findley DEVLIN (b. 30 Nov 1901 – d. ?)

20. Arthur DEVLIN was born about 1840 in New Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland. He died on 2 Sep 1902 in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland. Married Ann Audrey ANDREW on 12 Nov 1858 in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland.
21. Ann Audrey ANDREW was born on 28 Feb 1829 in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland. She died on 23 Oct 1902.

Arthur DEVLIN and Ann Audrey ANDREW had the following children:

Catherine Dow DEVLIN (b. about 1859 – d. ?)
William Andrew DEVLIN (b. about 1860 – d. ?)
Jessie DEVLIN (b. 1861 – d. ?)
* Peter DEVLIN (b. 18 Mar 1864 – d. 24 Nov 1924).
Ann DEVLIN (b. about 1866 – d. ?)
Agnes DEVLIN (b. about 1869 – d. ?)

40. Peter DEVLIN was born about 1801 in Scotland. He died before 1851 in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland. Peter married Catherine Dow McConnell
41. Catherine Dow MCCONNELL was born about 1803 in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. She died on 13 Dec 1880.

Peter DEVLIN and Catherine Dow MCCONNELL had the following children:

Agnes DEVLIN (b. about 1825 – d. 26 Mar 1902)
James DEVLIN (b. about 1827 – d. ?)
Peter DEVLIN (b. about 1830 – d. ?)
Charles DEVLIN (b. 11 Dec 1832 - d. ?)
William Bryan DEVLIN (b. about 1835 – d. 23 Jul 1886).
Henry DEVLIN (b. about 1839 - d. ?)
* Arthur DEVLIN (b. about 1840 – d. 2 Sep 1902)
John DEVLIN (b. about 1843 – d. ?)
Edward DEVLIN (b. about 1846 – d. ?)

If you think we may be related, please contact me either at alana dot farrell at sympatico dot ca or by using the "contact" button.