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A wee bit of info to help you in your journey to discover your Scottish Ancestors and maybe even crack a brick wall or two!

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Friday, 21 October 2016

Family History Month - Selkirk Settlers

In July 1803, three ships, the Dykes, the Polly, and the Oughton sailed to Canada with eight hundred former highland crofters and headed to Prince Edward Island. The Polly arrived in the harbour of Orwell Bay, Prince Edward Island on Sunday, August 7th, 1803, carrying 250 adults and 150 children. Most of these passengers were from Skye. The Dykes, which also brought Lord Selkirk, arrived in Charlottetown two days after the Polly. Most of the passengers on the Polly were from Mull. The Oughton arrived on August 27th, 1803, carrying another 40 or 50 passengers, this time from Uist.

The land given to these new settlers consisted primarily of evergreen forest. Each family was given between 50 and 150 acres for a nominal fee. The lots were laid out so that four or five families were grouped together. The new immigrants quickly cleared their lands, built their houses, and settled into their new lives. Being able to working the land once again became somewhat of a tonic for them. They were a self sufficient community within a year of the first settlers arriving. Later generations moved to the Bruce County area of Ontario, setting up communities along the Saugeen River near Paisley as well as along the coast of Lake Huron from Southampton to Kincardine.  Yet others moved to Assiniboia, Saskatchewan and founded settlements in that area.

Having used his land on the southwest shore of PEI for the initial settlers, Selkirk was eager to continue to pursue his original desire to find land in Upper Canada. He was eventually able to purchase land in Southern Ontario, near the junction of Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, in what is now Wallaceburg.

Selkirk was able to purchase 116,000 square miles in the Red River Valley and along the Assiniboine River in Manitoba and what is now Northern Dakota – an area five times the size of the whole of Scotland. Selkirk purchased this land at a cost of 10/s ($26.50 in today’s currency).

If you have ancestors who were Selkirk Settlers, here are some resources to assist you in your genealogy research:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Polly:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Dykes:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Oughton:

Passenger List reconstruction for ship Spencer:

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Brick Wall Busters for Scottish Genealogy Research
Mon, Nov 7, 2016 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM EST

Scottish documents contain a wealth of information and can make researching so much easier when you really take a look at what the documents are telling you. It becomes important to really pay attention to the key words on the documents so that you know what records you need to look at next in order to break through brick walls and learn as much as you can about your Scottish ancestors.

Family History Month - Scottish Highland Soldiers

As North America was still forming, Highland men were specifically recruited to assist with keeping the new settlements safe.

The first such recruitment in 1734 was a group of Highlanders from Inverness and surrounding areas who were recruited by General James Edward Oglethorpe to protect the settlement of Savannah, Georgia. They traveled on the Prince of Wales and the passenger list has been transcribed by the Immigrant Ship's Transcription Guild. The list is available at:

From 1775-1784, 2000 Scots highlanders were recruited to the 84th Regiment of Foot  which defended the lands in the 13 colonies and then fought on the side of the British government in the American Revolutionary War. These men had military experience in the Seven Years War. The 84th Regiment of Foot was divided into two companies. The muster and pay lists for both companies can be found here:

After the Revolutionary War, the 84th Regiment of Foot disbanded and the men settled in Nova Scotia as United Empire Loyalists. They were given land grants of between 100 acres (for privates) and 500 acres (for Officers).  To search the indexes for these early land grants, consult: http://novascotia.ca/archives/virtual/?Search=THlan&List=all

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


GUELPH ONTARIO -  Clans and Scottish Societies of Canada (CASSOC) is pleased to announce that they will be hosting the Scottish North American Leadership Conference in 2017 to commemorate the 150th birthday of both Canada and Ontario.

The Conference will be held August 10—12, 2017 at the University of Guelph and will tie into the Fergus Scottish Festival,  one of the largest and oldest Scottish Festivals in Canada.

This three-day event in Ontario will celebrate the long history and rich heritage of the Scots who shaped the fabric of our great nations.

The goal of this celebratory event will be to bring together the Scottish Diaspora to jointly explore the nature of Scottish History and Heritage in North America, to
examine the value of the diverse contributions of these groups, and to develop ways to pass this rich history, culture, and these traditions onto our youth.

The event is open to all persons with an interest in Scottish heritage, history or
culture regardless of age, gender or ability.

We look forward to having you join us in Ontario in 2017!

Family History Month - The Spelling of Scottish Surnames

It is important to note that spelling was not consistent until dictionaries made it standard in the 1800s. Until this time, spelling was quite fluid and tended to be according to the enumerator or registrar. Often this was done in a manner similar to phonetic spelling. It is not uncommon, then, to find that your ancestor's surname changed from Clerke, to Clarke and then to Clark. All sound the same in Scotland (clark) and yet the spelling has evolved over time. This becomes important, too, to ensure you don't rule out people who might be your ancestor, but who you have ignored based on the (mis)spelling of the surname.

As a standard, surnames in Scotland weren't adopted by the common man until about the 1600s. Prior to that, people were known by patrynomics (Donald, son of John or Donald John's son), by physical trait (John the Red - Red John - for someone who might have been a redhead, by location (Thomas by the burn or Thomas Burn) or by occupation (David the miller or David Miller). Once surnames became common practice, many of these former descriptors were adopted as surnames. Others, particularly the Highlanders or border clans, took on the surname of the clan chief or landowner for the estate they lived or worked on. For this reason, not everyone named Wallace, for example, is related to William Wallace. Nor is every Mc/MacDonald related to the clan chief.

People often have questions about the Mc vs Mac surnames. Some understand that one is Irish and the other is Scottish, while others understand that one is Catholic while the other is Protestant. In reality, they are interchangeable. Both Mc and Mac are the anglicanized spelling of the Gaelic M' or M'hic. M'hic or M' for short, means "son of" in Gaelic. This has been transcribed over the centuries as Mc or Mac, depending on the transcriber and their understanding of how the prefix is spelled. In Irish, the common prefix is O' which is the translation from the Irish Gaelic, again meaning "son of" So whether your ancestors were Mc or Mac, don't discount the other spelling in the event you might also be discounting your ancestor and his/her documents!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Family History Month - The Value of Old Money

In old documents we often read about the wages of our ancestors, or how much they paid for their rent, home, funeral etc. Have you ever wondered what the equivalent of that would be today? Here's a website that will help you to gain a better understanding of the value "back then" to the equivalent value today:

Or there is this link that shows old UK money in new money values:

Monday, 17 October 2016

Family History Month - Old Diseases

Often as we read old documents, we find words that are unfamiliar to us. Old occupations and old diseases are likely the two most common. But that doesn't need to stump us or stop us in understanding more about our ancestor.

A common cause of death for women in the 1800s was Milk Fever - an infection following childbirth but one that people thought was associated with nursing women. Milk Leg was another complication of childbirth - today we know this to be caused by clotting in the legs following childbirth, but in the 1800s this again was associated with nursing mothers.

There were a myriad of illnesses commonly listed on death records but that are unfamiliar to us in the 21st century. Here's a list to some of the more common causes of death in the 1800s: http://rmhh.co.uk/illness.html