06 November 2015


Photo: J. McVittie, 2015
John McCrae, In Flanders Fields (1915)
"If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep ..."

In Flanders Fields: 100 Years Centenary exhibition at John McCrae House, Guelph, Ontario.

In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper, Belgium ― http://www.inflandersfields.be/en

Webcast 11 November 2015 at Canadian War Museum: http://www.warmuseum.ca/remember

29 October 2015

Death Becomes Us

Such modern fuss is made regarding Halloween, the eve of All Hallows Day, otherwise known as All Saints Day in the liturgical calendar. Candy and costumes and zombies have taken over. However inclined you feel about the hereafter, the following more inclusive day receives less attention in most quarters: November 2nd ― All Souls Day. I leave you to your own theological convictions or research.

All Souls is a day when I remember, among others, the stars that flashed across the genealogy world's northern firmament. A few were passing acquaintances; most were friends. All had my deepest respect for their contributions to our educational growth, and above all, their warmth and enthusiasm for sharing.

Just some of our Canadian losses since the millennium; spare a thought and/or a prayer?

René Jetté 3 May 1944‒18 May 2003

Danny Johnson 25 August 1953‒22 February 2005

Sandra Devlin 28 November 1946‒1 February 2006

Ryan Taylor 18 June 195025 September 2006

Ken Aitken 1947‒21 April 2007

Paul McGrath 1959‒23 October 2008

Clifford Collier 1929‒21 February 2011

Joan Miller 7 March 1953‒4 January 2013

Brian Gilchrist 7 April 1956‒1 May 2014

Elizabeth Hancocks 1928‒13 February 2015

Otherworldly as they are now, may they be free of age and illness and sorrow. A healthy sense of humour goes hand in hand with the best genealogical minds. They won't mind if I josh a little:
At my age, I'm often asked if I am frightened of death and my reply is always, I can't remember being frightened of birth.
~ Peter Ustinov

Or wax sentimental:
And I believe my voice will sound / Upon the whispering wind / So long as even one remains / Among those I call "friend." ~ Johnny Hathcock

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman

26 October 2015

Book: The America Ground

Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The America Ground. 2015 [Orders: nathandylangoodwin.com]

Goodwin has settled with mature polish into his lead character, this being the third book in the "Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist" series. For an earlier review, see here. The author chose a little-known (to North Americans) historical Sussex setting for the background of Morton's latest case. Hired by a flamboyant antiques dealer, his job is to uncover the story behind the painting of a woman who was murdered in 1827. Dual narratives follow events in Eliza Lovekin's life and Morton's own search for his biological father. For good reason Morton must keep secrets from his fiancée Juliette, the police constable; as Eliza's story unfolds, present-day danger rears its ugly head. Our hero needs to learn ‒ fast ‒ who is threatening him and why.

Be prepared for a vivid stay in the 1820s Hastings area; the injustices of nineteenth-century poverty are deftly portrayed. Nonetheless, it's thoroughly engaging from start to finish, replete with a twisting genealogical trail and well-calculated (sometimes sinister) surprises. The research methodology is true to life, albeit Juliette often finds him with a bandage on his head. I do find the pages very dense with long paragraphs and normally no half-space between them. The only thing the insatiable sleuth-reader might request would have been a local map. Attractive covers, excellent pacing between narratives; all in all, a very fine job. The fan club is growing!

Self-published, the book is available in paper or e-book editions. Goodwin does fairly aggressive marketing for his works, so I may be preaching to the choir.

Juliette flashed awake and shot a disbelieving look at him. "Here? Hastings? This is where you've brought me for two nights away?" 
"Nice, isn't it?" Morton said, drawing into a parking space at the rear of the hotel."Are you actually joking?" she asked. 
Morton shook his head. 
"Why here?" 
"I just wanted to get away, plus I've got a ton of research to do in town so I just thought it would be nice to have a couple of nights in a hotel." 
He made more of a meal parking her car than was strictly necessary, so that he could avoid her penetrating gaze as she attempted to work him out. 
"Why didn't we just stay at your dad's house, then?" 
He turned and gave her an I can't believe you just said that look. 
She sighed. "And why's she coming with us?" Juliette asked, turning behind her to face Eliza Lovekin's portrait. 
"She fancied a break, too," he quipped. (188)

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman

22 September 2015

Latvian Families in Revision (3)

NEW! What a relief. My Latvian Ancestors updated, ordered, arrived.

  It expanded:
- from 72 pages to 104 pages;
- with many more photographs;
- including the Estonian RIIS family of legend;*
- with a brand-new cover, thanks to the talented Jane.

I have been fortunate over the years to meet three of my mother's first cousins: two live in the U.S.A. and one in Latvia. Two years ago in Latvia, Cousin Rasma greeted us Canadians at the Freibergs' ancestral farm, Kalna Koneni, ushering us to a table loaded with traditional Latvian goodies, the most wonderful feast. Hospitality knew no bounds as we were given a basket overflowing with more of the same for our next journey.


Family, I have words for you. BACON BUNS. I repeat, bacon buns. Are you listening, nephews and nieces? Proof absolute of your DNA inheritance, though it be one-quarter of your makeup. A revered Latvian food item, bacon buns (pīrāgi) are part and parcel of any respectable Latvian meal. Thus our bacon craving is legitimately and irredeemably lodged in our cells along with the cholesterol.

We discovered another proud Latvian product in our takeaway basket. Balzams is ... an acquired taste. It's a herbal liqueur in a vodka base, famously known as Riga Black Balsam. Personally I find the acquiring is hard work. It's that word balsam that reeks of evergreen needles, right? And reminds you of swiping some gummy sap off a pine tree to chew when you were a kid to see what it tastes like, right?

The twenty-four herbs that go into it are supposed to be very healthy for you ― Lord knows the Latvians are a health-conscious lot ― and if that doesn't cure whatever ails you, then the 90 proof will ensure you don't care any more. Now I'm thinking that balzams should follow a bacon buns binge just to clear the bloodstream. I sort of cheated because the bottle I brought home had an extra dose of currants in it, rendering it slightly more palatable.

The two foodie photographs are not in my book. A bonus for reading this. You're welcome.

Time soon for a little rest and ocean air until the next project starts clamouring.

* Previously posted about at length; see "Estonia" in the sidebar at right.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman


08 September 2015

Long May She Reign

                          She did and does.
                          A Queen for the ages.
                          A Queen for all ages.
                          A Queen for all time.
                          Coolest Queen ever.

23 August 2015

Latvian Families in Revision (2)

Limbaži Orthodox Cemetery
The thing about the cemeteries I saw: individual grave markers are rare except in modern times. "Modern times" seems to mean post-Second World War, from what I could gather. Descendants living in the same region care for the graves. They know who is buried there. It's not like they are in a foreign place seeking elusive family history.

Because of that, a cemetery in Latvia is not necessarily a good source for finding or verifying older generations. The earliest man of a certain surname in that graveyard might have a marker, or perhaps simply the family name itself is commemorated.

Example: the family of my great-grandmother Katrina Tukkums: TYKKYMA FAMILIA. At least seven graves are visible in this family plot. No specific bits of information. I know from her 1868 marriage record that her father was Feodor and they farmed on the Roperbecki estate, Umurga parish. I know from her grandson that she died 24 December 1938. Her parents likely lie here, silent.

But Katrina would have been buried with her husband Janis Jurikas. It is the parish registers we depend on for vital information. There ‒ as with the occasional grave marker ‒ a strange language, confusing declensions in personal nouns, and often German or Russian script, make it a slow process.

Epitaphs for the deceased have become more common. One: "Memories of you will blossom like white apple trees." Another: "All my ties are broken, so dear to my heart." My cousins tell me that choosing an epitaph can lead to vigorous family discussion! As in many countries, Latvian communities set aside an annual Sunday to honour the dead. It's a summer ritual for extended family to gather at the cemetery, clean the area and tend the plantings, tell stories, and socialize with their grave-site/grave-side neighbours.

Mālpils Cemetery
We are still trying to decipher this one, archaic Latvian, and German script. My great-great-grandfather Ans Freibergs (ca.1810- October 1891) ... and numerous descendants surrounding him.

So many photographs to fit into the family history update! But who's complaining.

06 August 2015

Latvian Families in Revision (1)

Four years since I self-published My Latvian Families.

Two years since I visited the cousins and the family farms.

Time to update the family history, don't you think? One of the happenings to add:

This photo (1937) was my only clue to finding the family home of grandmother Marija Jurikas.

I knew the name of the parish and the former manor estate and the closest town, Limbaži. But this was driving in unfamiliar country where Latvian place names have replaced nineteenth century Germanic names. I'd had no contact with any living relatives if indeed there were some. Finding Limbaži was not a problem but finding a farmhouse on a country road was a different matter. One of the maps cluttering our car actually had rural houses marked on it, with no names of course. We would simply explore the local roads, right?

The local roads are bad. Bad, as in sometimes covered with pools of water disguising potholes the size of tectonic shifts. And we'd been at it most of the day, hunting up churches and cemeteries. Luckily there aren't many choices from Limbaži. North, south, east, west. Let's go south, I said, a speck on the map called Lāde beckons. It was slow going, peering hard at each house we saw, trying not to be distracted by getting the best stork nest photos. Around about the time my driver was fed up with the damage to his shock absorbers, I yelled STOP THE CAR!!

Yes, there it was. The house. Much altered but with the same tree (minus the pole) by the driveway. Most of all, the name on the mailbox, Krastina, confirmed that descendants of my grandmother's brother still lived there. Ķrūmiņi farm. Still in operation.

I would like to say we had an impromptu family reunion. But it didn't happen. The man working on his tractor was not Mr. Krastinš nor did he show much interest in strangers jabbering in a foreign language. Nevertheless, we rejoiced in our discovery. It was not the only serendipitous event of the day.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman

25 July 2015

Dougall Ephemera

Thunder Bay Airport, one I can claim:
First World War pilot and aviation pioneer
A scattering of DOUGALL place names from my "Other Families" collection ― lore that I randomly, sporadically track. Optimistically, pursuing them might lead to clues about pre-1750 origins for my own Scottish Lothian ancestors.

Dougall Avenue, Windsor, Ontario 
A main thoroughfare in Windsor was named for James Dougall (1810-1888) an early merchant and public official when the town was still called Sandwich. Purportedly he chose the name of Windsor in 1836. James married into the old prestigious Baby family; his brother John was the founder of the Montreal Witness newspaper among other ventures. Both were born in Paisley, Scotland, sons of John Dougall (died 1836 Montreal) and Margaret Yuill, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Their origins west of Glasgow probably preclude any known connection to my ancestry I'm aware of different Dougall lines in/near Glasgow.

Dougall Park in Gibsons, BC
I'd come across several references to this park in the former Gibson's Landing. Research led to the widow Louisa Bryson Dougall who originally donated the park land to the Anglican church there. Louisa was a large property owner and social force in the town's formative days. Her husband was George M. Dougall, a journalist in the 1911 census; both were born in Montreal. But all my (born) nineteenth century Georges are accounted for. Thanks to the Drouin Collection on Ancestry.com, I know George Matile Dougall was born 1 March 1866, son of James Duncan Dougall, merchant in Montreal, and Laure Emily Matile on 27 June 1888; a John Dougall was a witness at the June baptism, Zion Congregational church. I believe he is connected to what I call the Montreal Witness Dougalls.

Dougall Road in Kelowna, BC
Also out west, peripheral reference from a British Columbia newspaper article, unknown yet when or why this street naming was done. Dougalls are alive and well in Kelowna today.

Dougall Canal in Orillia, Ontario
I once met a Toronto resident from this family and we could establish no connection. Bruce Dougall's family began spending summers on Lake Couchiching in the late 1800s. Bruce "designed, financed and constructed" the canal over fifty years ago to open up Orillia's development. Clearly the family has been in Ontario well over one hundred years ― I've found nothing about their origins but haven't looked very hard. In 2015 the town re-named the canal to honour him.

Bench, Linlithgow, Scotland
A 2012 news item in the Linlithgow Gazette: a bench at Linlithgow Loch named for him is a tribute to local man Andrew Dougall. Nicknamed "Bushy," he was an avid fly-fisher, founding member of local fly-fishing clubs. Mr. Dougall died in 2008 at the age of 50. The locale where he loved to spend his time is among my family parishes. And the fishing gene runs strong in my family's Y-DNA!
Andrew Dougall's kin; I spy some red hair

A scenic group of places, if not exactly genealogically rewarding.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

10 July 2015

DONE: Independent Small Print Publishing

... As "done" as any modest family history ever is. The dead ends and brick walls are obvious points for pulling together what you have and starting to write. In my case, that began about seven years ago. More sub-title: John Fraser from Inverness-shire, Scotland and John Fraser from Perthshire, Scotland.
Then, as so often happens in the evolving access to sources, more information surfaced as I applied myself to the narrative task. The research continued irresistibly as I wrote.

It's difficult for the genealogist to call a research halt; it's difficult for the writer to stop editing the manuscript. But the moral is you have to start writing sometime, and you have to stop somewhere.

The print-on-demand publisher I'd used before ‒ Belgium-based ShopMyBooks, formerly known as UniBook ‒ decided to go all "new and improved" and oh by the way, we are deleting your previous books with us unless you re-format them from scratch, imposing a fast-looming deadline. Following our three easy steps. Trust me, the steps were not easy and SMB was not responding to email. One friend complied, with difficulty, and had dreadfully frustrating delivery problems.

Originally the SMB process was easy for the technology-challenged. The search for something similar yielded websites like Lulu, CreateSpace, and Blurb. My manuscript was created long ago in 8.5 x 11 size to match my earlier family histories. Not every company would accept that size with the options I wanted and I was not going through 110 pages to re-format to say 8 x 10 with the headaches of re-sizing photos, placement of 243 footnotes, odd-page alignment for new chapters, etc. I chose CreateSpace (CS). So check out finished-size availability before you start formatting your manuscript in a certain size!

Uploading with CS is the easy part. And they will assign you an ISBN number if you wish. Because it's an American company, they want tax information which amounts to nothing if you are a non-US citizen, but still, some pertinent forms to go through. Also, because CS is an Amazon company they pay a lot of attention to marketing, sales, and distribution. You can set your own price, including a royalty if that turns you on. Since my only "market" is my extended family, I am not going into high gear over those aspects.

Cover design is important and has technical specifications that were over my beleaguered head. They would not be beyond your average, clear-thinking genealogist. I believe the three-mentioned companies have similar requirements, some providing a template to follow ~ but if I see the word bleed again in the next ten years it will be too soon ~ Instead I sought a knowledgeable colleague, for whom I am extremely grateful, to manage that feature. (CS does provide helpful services for a fee.)

I am pleased with the finished product and even more pleased with the discounted cost for my own purchases. Once I reviewed and approved the proof copy they provided, and sent in my own order, the delivery from South Carolina to Toronto was made in an astonishing forty-eight hours. Oopsy, did I mention? - customs duty on the shipment, not onerous.

Now I feel I can update the former family histories with some faith and familiarity in the procedure.

Without a doubt, further relevant genealogical sources and information and evidence will appear, with or without me. Let's hope My Fraser Families will inspire the millennial generation to carry on.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman

10 June 2015

Rights and Wrongs

This blog post began in anticipation of Canada's National Aboriginal Day, before the Truth and Reconciliation Report was made public on 2 June 2015. I ruminate as a student of the American Revolution and as a retired professional genealogist, long recognizing the contribution of indigenous allies to "our" eighteenth century cause, their modern struggles for identity, and moreover, their original presence everywhere in "our" land. Consider this post as random, naive pondering on our prejudices.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Where did we go off the rails since Champlain's day? That still-enigmatic man, regarded as a father of our country, is described as culturally and religiously tolerant in an age not known for tolerance in his Europe.[1] From colonial recognition of aboriginal rights in 1763, much seems downhill from there.

What would Champlain think of the imposition of the 1857 Gradual Civilization Act? And the consolidation in the 1876 Indian Act of previous measures that ultimately meant a choice between two loaded sets of "rights"?[2]
The Act deals with such things as the legal definition of who may claim Indian status in Canada, the rights and duties which accompany that status, the structure of Canada’s reserve system and the nature of Aboriginal self-government.[3]

Our historically devolving and increasingly paternal attitudes toward aboriginal peoples profoundly affected their living standards. Of course there are many other factors that led to the sad situation today, not only on numerous native reservations but among "enfranchised" people. Treaty rights and political scenarios have yet to be resolved; I decline to discuss them, being unqualified to do so. And yet, a few historical nuggets make me wonder how and where we went wrong.

If we go back to the founding of Upper Canada, the Simcoes received many kindnesses from the local Indians ‒ as they had much earlier been mis-named (but the generic name stuck). With due respect for the unintended irony in her quote:
Mrs. Simcoe was impressed with the tall muscular men of the Mohawk tribe. She related in her diary, "Jacob, the Mohawk, was there. He danced Scottish Reels with more ease and grace than any person I ever saw, and had the air of a prince ... I never saw so handsome a figure."[4]

And Indians were described:

One contemporary writer said they were truthful and never forgot a kindness. There were no words of blasphemy in their language. They had a great affection for their children and respect for the aged. Indians seldom quarrelled with whites unless insulted by them but were very quarrelsome among themselves. ... It is interesting to note that in 1810 a great number of these Christianized Indians did not use intoxicants at all whereas practically all whites drank to some extent.[5]

A conditional creeps in: One notices the phrase Christianized Indians. Shades of oppression to come. We should remember that many of the "all whites" drank to an exceeding extent if we read contemporary accounts. When did public perception begin changing? Derogatory accounts soon began, with little or no thought amongst the invasive newcomers of the radical disruption they caused and the corruption they spread.

A century later, a privately condescending splitting of hairs ― referring to the Six Nations that provided so much support to the British during the Revolution. A member of the newly formed United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada wrote, when voting franchise was a hot issue:
These Indians by their loyalty, by their intelligence, are on an entirely different plane from some of our other tribal Indians, and it seems to me that Canada would make no mistake in granting them the franchise (but not to the other Indians) merely as an encouragement to the other Indians to rise to the high plane that they have arisen.[6]

Ah. Differentiating "Loyalist Indians" as superior to other tribes ... is it human nature to make such distinctions at a time when assimilation and status were the overpowering government words?

From the late nineteenth century, laws and legal classifications in Canada were developed to prohibit the sale of liquor to "known drunkards" and Indians. "Known drunkards" could comprise any member of the human race but that phrase sank under the radar as the strictures quickly became colloquially called the Indian List. It reinforced the notion that aboriginals were racially incapable of handling alcohol.[7] It resulted in prototypical native classification and identification, effectively contributing to their social marginalization. "Carding" is not a recent concept.

Most of us didn't get their nomenclature right. Especially we did not understand their world view and inherent wisdom. From the beginning, what promises were made or expectations met? Removal has been a dominant historical theme.

Nothing about today's revelations is simple. Cultures that almost disappeared are slowly reviving. Will general public perception change? Our ancestors all but removed aboriginal self-determination and freedom. How soon can we make it right?

[1] See David Hackett Fischer, Champlain's Dream (Knopf Canada/Random House, 2008).
[2] "Legislation Concerning Canada's First Peoples," Canada's First Peoples (http://firstpeoplesofcanada.com/fp_treaties/john_fp33_indianact.html : accessed 6 June 2015). This is a good website for basic information.
[3] Jay Makarenko, "Aboriginal Legislation Prior to the Indian Act, 1867," in "The Indian Act, A Historical Overview," Mapleleafweb (www.mapleleafweb.com : accessed 30 June 2014). Another very informative website.
[4] Eric Hounsom, Toronto in 1810 (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1970), 182.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Frank H. Keefer to [President of United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada] Dr Sterling Ryerson, 30 June 1914, letter, File 19, accession 944.005.1, Toronto Branch UELAC.
[7] Scott Thompson and Gary Genosko, Punched Drunk: Alcohol, Surveillance, and the LCBO 1927-1975 (http://www.puncheddrunk.ca/firstnations.html : accessed 24 June 2014).

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.  

04 June 2015

Loyalist Sympathies

"Noblesse Oblige" ©1972 Charles Pachter; 
postcard reproduction by Charles Pachter
This is a year of seeing at least two Canadian icons expressing their appreciation of Loyalist history. An invitation to two UELAC Branches from artist Charles Pachter drew a full-house crowd in Toronto. And what a house! An architectural gem in a quiet old neighbourhood, it encompasses his Moose Gallery studio. The artist was a lively raconteur, entertaining us with stories of his artistic growth. Pachter's love for Canada and his impish humour are familiar to many in this country. 

Photo: CBM, January 2015
Finding some historical items related to the life and times of John Graves Simcoe ‒ Upper Canada's first lieutenant-governor ‒ turned into a fascination extending to the entire Loyalist founding era of the province, informing and influencing his art. We saw numerous renderings of the Simcoes and other pieces evoking the period. A delightful experience altogether, with so many of Pachter's paintings, artifacts, and books on display. You can see his own photos and historical essay at www.cpachter.com.

Then there's Peter C. Newman, the incredibly prolific and irrepressibly-spirited author of popular historical and political books. Many of his bestsellers deal with families of corporate fortune and power. Publicity is warming up for Hostages to Fortune, How the Loyalists invented Canada to be published in the fall. Speaking about it at the UELAC Conference a year ago, Newman promised a fresh look at history. 

Photo: Intelligencer (Belleville)[1]
Something tells me Newman might be in for a bit of criticism and debate. Why? Because of quotes like the following:
"Newman said that hundreds of books have been written on the Loyalists but almost all of them focus on genealogy – who begat whom – and not the adventure of their exploits." 
"The Loyalists were tortured and killed during the American War of Independence when the Americans turned on anyone loyal to the King. Tarring and feathering was the torture of choice, Newman said." 
"A religious, self-effacing people, the Loyalists spurned the chest-thumping bravo of the Americans and developed styles and attitudes that are very much like the Canadian personality of today, he said." 
"Instead of settling disputes with guns and violence, the Loyalists preferred to argue things out and reach a consensus, he said."[2]

There's no question the Loyalists suffered persecution, losses, and displacement. But it's not as if we haven't heard from proficient historians on both sides. Granted, the quotes are from an interview and not the book itself, but they beg argument:

▪ What has Newman read, or not read, amongst the Loyalist literature? "Almost all of them" are genealogical in nature? Whoa. Numerous historians (and genealogists) may disagree.
▪ "Loyalists were tortured and killed" — but hey, they did fight back and returned the favours.
▪ "Religious" and "self-effacing" are extremely broad, sweeping adjectives. No doubt many of them were perhaps one or the other, perhaps sometimes both at once. Were they more "religious" than their foe? What connotation does "self-effacing" conjure?
▪ As for "guns and violence," ask military historian Gavin Watt. Did the Loyalist corps not strive to give as good as they got? Or is Newman time-shifting several years down the road to political issues?

Will the quotes hold true in the content of the book? We shall see.

[1] Luke Hendry, "Newman delves into UEL history," 19 July 2013, Intelligencer.ca (http://www.intelligencer.ca/2013/07/19/newman-delves-into-uel-history : accessed 2 June 2015).
[2] Wayne Lowrie, "Literary Lion Has Den in Gananoque," 6 April 2015, Gananoque Reporter (http://www.gananoquereporter.com/2015/04/06/literary-lion-has-den-in-gananoque : accessed 31 May 2015).

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman

25 April 2015

Scotland's Urban Allure

After much deliberation and brain strain, it's decided that a mini-trip to Scotland is going to be pure pleasure and not research stress (deadlines of open hours, running from NRS to NLS or SGS involving steep hills, having enough £1 coins, etc). Pleasure means immersion in fabulous Edinburgh where I'm fairly sure some of my yet unproven Dougalls trod. Canongate Kirk (not St. Cuthbert which I had had my eye on) saw a goodly number of them coming and going.

I anticipate visiting places I missed the time before. Possibly running across a favourite author like Ian Rankin (it's his birthday next week!) or Kate Atkinson whom, the interweebs tell me, live in a cosy cluster with Alexander McCall Smith and JK Rowling.

Rankin, in his The Beat Goes On:
As a subject, the city seems inexhaustible. This is, after all, a city of words.

As I walk through the streets of my adopted home, I can feel that Edinburgh is holding something back from me. After more than 15 Rebus novels, there are still so many things I don’t know about the place, so many secrets and mysteries lying just behind its fabric, stories waiting to be told.[1]

Smith, about his A Work of Beauty:
"I love this city, and always shall. I write about it. I dream about it. I walk its streets and see something new each day – traces of faded lettering on the stone, still legible, but just; some facade that I have walked past before and not noticed; an unregarded doorway with the names, in brass, of those who lived there sixty years ago, the bell-pulls sometimes still in place, as if one might summon long-departed residents from their slumbers.” Edinburgh is a city of stories – a place that has witnessed everything from great historical upheavals, to the individual lives of a remarkable cast of characters. Every spire, cobblestone, bridge, close and avenue has a tale to tell. [2]

A city of words. A city of stories.

Then what of Glasgow, the nation's largest, perhaps less glamourous but more vibrant city? Neglected on previous excursions, Glasgow will speak to me in its own words and stories thanks to a friendly guide.

Oh wait. Let's not forget I'm supposed to be a genealogist. With a historical/literary agenda, what could possibly go wrong?

[1] Encyclopaedia Britannica Blog (http://blogs.britannica.com/2011/04/happy-birthday-ian-rankin-teller-edinburghs-stories/ : accessed 20 April 2015).
[2] A Work of Beauty: Alexander McCall Smith's Edinburgh (http://www.alexandermccallsmith.co.uk/books/other-titles/a-work-of-beauty-alexander-mccall-smiths-edinburgh/ : accessed 20 April 2015).

05 April 2015

Fashion Statement

Time to get your kilt on again!

Tartan Day: April 6th.

It's an official day of observance in Canada (but not a national holiday), thanks to Nova Scotia's advocacy in the 1980s.
At the very least, get out that Maple Leaf tartan cap / scarf / shirt.
And please don't call it plaid that's a garment.

The 6th of April, 1320, was the date of the Declaration of Arbroath, affirming Scotland's sovereign independence and reinstating Robert Bruce as its king. The Declaration was in the form of a statement sent to Pope John XXII to refute England's power claims. The Pope agreed temporarily but we know how well that worked out the past seven hundred years.

Nevertheless, Scottish (Highland) identity is one of the strongest and most distinct cultures in the world. 
So ...
Find a parade.
Follow a pipe band.
Sip a whisky (rehearsing for Whisky Month in May).
Sing "Flower of Scotland."
And get your tartan on.

Just do it!

20 March 2015


Rumours of my dropout, disappearance, or death have probably been gravely overestimated. After all, the blog name is right there in your face should you actually look for it. The name was hastily chosen with no forethought whatsoever when a techno-terrific offspring created it for me upon departure for the airport never to be seen again. And ~ woe ~ leaving moi to my own meagre devices.

Just think, if I'd had more techno-smarts I wouldn't be stuck with boring eponymous blogger me. I could have called it DyingfromBirth.com© (... It's taken. By me). Or changed it to BalticandCelticConnections. So many bloggers have created clever blog titles. After eight years, it's a little late to change, I'm thinking. Eight years of scribbling, hard to believe because it seems like forever. Didn't blogging always exist? So why does everything takes twice as long to do now.

A blogiversary is a customary time for review. The past year, blog-wise, was interesting, as always. I persevered with The Book of Me until me felt boringly over-exposed absolutely no reflection on Julie's series and all who stayed the course into a new year. My blog is primarily a record of research tales. If my experience in researching, methodology, problem analysis, or the occasional whimsy benefits anyone in the broad genealogical community, all the better.

Ongoing problems encountered in my FRASER family history were painfully articulated and aired, only to spawn further problems, similar to the way fruit flies breed. Not only that, I lack a firm grip on autosomal DNA (why does it have to have all those SNP numbers - stop snickering) never mind the forthcoming Y-DNA results about to scare the pants off me.

End of blog review, especially since I've used the word boring twice already. Otherwise:

Leaving comments on a blog post has become pretty well passé (therefore all the more appreciated). The trend is to notify a thousand friends on social media when a new post is up to collect likes and Internet-generated statistics. Numbers again, eh? The process reminds me of how many of my old real friends have the gall discipline to avoid Facebook and Google+ altogether.

On a different tack, disaster of sorts struck in the late fall. The print-on-demand outfit I used for several family history books had a kind of mid-life crisis, reverting to its Belgian origins as best as I and my equally-impacted friend Elayne can figure. It's complicated; but bottom line, we have to take time from the writing and editing to shop around (trying not to despair over complex formatting issues.)

This genealogy blog is not the only one I write, as some know. I've reviewed countless books for three years, mainly crime novels but also notable new fiction, on an inappropriately-named blog (one senses rightly I have a blog-naming disorder.) My personal Famdamily failed to produce the expected fodder for satire, although luckily other surroundings did.

But my favourite pet is CamelDabbleTravelBabble, a title I managed to nail. It consumes pleasant time when I am in this country reminding me of other parts of the world. I know ~ it's hit and miss sometimes ~ but more fun than (and relief from) genealogical proof arguments. It is my sincere hope that I never run out of topics there.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman