Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Hello All -

Just a quick note to wish everyone a great Christmas and a happy New Year to come.
We will be back again after the new year. Until then keep researching.

Carolyn of MGS

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Are You Sure It's Spelled Like That?

Hello All -

One of the things that I am always concerned with when doing my research for clients is the spelling of surnames. So, this is what I thought I would discuss this time around - the spelling of names when doing research.

When I work with the indexes in the Scottish GRO I notice that surnames are not always spelled as they are now. For example, take the surname McNeil - I have seen this name spelled as McNeal, McNiel, McNeel, McNeill, etc. I have even seen when the "mc" has been taken off. These spelling variants can all be within the same family - it all depended on the registrar or census enumerator, etc. who was writting the name down. It should be said that not everyone knew how to spell their name as they couldn't read or right so the person would say their name and the registrar would right it down how it sounded to them.

When doing family history research, always check the various spelling of a surname. This can sometimes be the problem if a name doesn't come up on an index - the person is there, but the surname was spelled differently then what is expected. I have located a great website that discusses this in better detail - and this one too

Until Next Time -

Carolyn of MGS

Friday, July 27, 2007

Donating Family History

Hello All -

I once read an article about a woman who passed away and when her family went through her belongings aftwards they found numerous boxes of family history research that she had done throughout her life. Needless to say, her family felt that these things were worthless and proceeded to throw out everything she had worked on - years of work in the dumpster in a matter of minutes.

My posting this time is the importance of donating family history research. My family had a couple of old county history books from other states that did not pretain to anyone in our family, but were received as samples from the company. We didn't have any use for them and they were just collecting dust. I went to my local library and donated the books to them for their genealogy department. These books would be useful to someone even though we had no use for them ourselves.

In my opinion it is such a good thing to donate unwanted items such as this to local libraries or state archives or even the local family history society. I am sure that there are tons of documents, manuscripts, etc. that get thrown out by others everyday and they are not aware how useful they are to others. A person doesn't have to keep these things for themselves, but these items can simply be given as a donation - it is a much better option than things getting dumped and lost forever. You can even get a tax deduction for the donation too - the library will gladly write out a receipt for you for such a purpose.

Even if a person doesn't go down the donation route - at least the items can be put up for sale in the paper, one of the genealogy magazines, or on Ebay - someone will want it. Perhaps there is a person researching the same family or same surname and would like to have the information. It is just a shame to see family history research simply thrown away - years of research gone to waste because someone isn't interested in it.

Perhaps before one's death, it would be a good idea to make your wishes known regarding your family history research - let the family know that they should donate it or give it to someone else who is interested in it. Or even donate your work yourself to the local library or other repository. But, the bottom line is don't let it get dumped in the trash.

Until Next Time -

Carolyn of MGS

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Scotland is Family History Friendly

Hello All -

I thought I would discuss how friendly Scotland is towards the family history and genealogical researcher. What I mean by this is how Scotland is very good about giving access and availability of their records to the general public for their own personal research.

I thought I would mention the construction of the new Scottish Family History Centre. It is not yet completed, but it looks like it might be fairly close. The last time I was in Edinburgh, construction was getting well underway (especially at the archives building). The front entrance is not accessable at this time at the archives building, but it can be entered into at the side of the building on the right-side if one was looking straight at the front of the archives building itself. So, don't worry if it looks like it is closed as it is not.

For those who are not aware of the SFHC, it is to be a one-stop research facility that basically connects the General Register Office, the Court of Lord Lyon, and the Scottish National Archives. There is a website discussing this project in more detail listed here:

This should be a great research facility once it is completed - having the availability of having all the major Scottish family history resources under one roof. This will help to create one of the best research facilities in the United Kingdom for genealogy.

Furthermore, there is the Scottish GRO online database - scotlandspeople.... This is probably the best thing that could have been done. It is a subscription based service giving page credits. Not only does this site give the indexes of birth, marriages, deaths, but it also gives an index to wills and estate documents, and the 1841-1901 censuses. Even better is that this website also gives the user the ability to download the actual documents themselves. I don't think that there is any other country that is doing this, but Scotland. I think that there are some steps for other countries to do this as well, but not too sure at this time. The only closest thing could be the Ancestry UK website, the various Origins websites, and the 1837 website (English/Welsh vital records).

It seems that Scotland really gets it when it comes to the family historian and genealogist. They have done so much to help those who want to research their Scottish ancestors - it is clear that they know and understand how there are so many Scottish immigrants from the past and even the present that want to trace their roots back to the "homeland." Many of us are greatly thankful for what the Scottish government has done to get this accomplished, and we hope for more in the future.

Until Next Time -
Carolyn of MGS

Monday, April 30, 2007

Genealogy Software

Hello All -

I thought I would talk about genealogy software programs this time around. I have several that I have tried myself, as well as using them in my work for clients. There are numerous programs out there on the market now. The main one usually found in stores is Family Tree Maker, which was the first program I ever tried and used. It is an ideal program for beginners. For the more experienced software user, The Master Genealogist is a good one to use. And then there are all those in between.

All these programs vary in their abilities - input of information and output of charts, reports, etc. There are ones that allow a person to create a family webpage easily from their program. All of them will create GEDCOMS. It is really a matter of taste and ease of use as to which one is the right one for you. It also is a choice of what you wish to do with the program - create a family history book, create a family webpage, etc.

There are also software utility programs too - ones that will create pdf files, ones that will create maps (Animap is a good one for US genealogy), ones that will help you keep track on what sources you have found and what ones you need to look at (GenSmarts), ones that will help publish your family photos and fix any damage electronically with the on screen image (Paint Shop Pro, among several others), and many more out on the market - too many to list here.

I have found a couple of good websites that give a review and comparison of the various genealogy programs on the market today. They are:,, and

Really, in trying to choose a genealogy software program it is just a matter of what a person likes in a program, as well as how user friendly it is, and what purposes the program is to be used for (create a book, family webpage, store data, etc.). There could be an issue with cost too, but most of the programs are not too damaging to the budget - it will be worth the money to get all your information in one place and be able to do all sorts of thing with it fast and easy.

Until Next Time -
Carolyn of MGS

Friday, March 16, 2007

Using Maps in Family History Research

Hello All -

I am a big map person, and I really like to include them in my family history research and in creating research reports for my clients. When it comes to Scottish genealogical research there are at least three good sites to use. One of the best ones is Old Maps website:

Another one is the National Library of Scotland collection on their website:

The third map collection is the parish maps of Scotland:

Using parish maps are good in that you can see all the surrounding parishes as well as the bordering counties that surround an ancestors home. The Old Maps website is really good in that they use the old ordnance survey maps of the late 1800s, and alot of the time it will show the old places that are mentioned in a family's history that may not be there at the present time or it is called something else (old farms, old buildings, etc.).

Also what is good about these websites is that you can print out the map sections. These can be incorporated into the family history book that one day may be written. Most people find it more interesting to have a map included in a family history book so to see exactly where their ancestors lived and what was around them at the time. It can also be helpful in the case of one day going to see the location at the present time to see what it is like in the present day. If you're fortunate enough there will not be a shopping centre or loads of new homes built on the location.

Maps help in making a family history become more alive. It gives more than just names and places, but shows a person where the place is and what was around it. In a way, it sort of helps shape a social history of a family. Using maps can also be helpful in your research work - if a person is a little stuck on an ancestor a map can be used to try to pinpoint a location if possible (did the family come from that parish or did they migrate from elsewhere nearby). Using maps can help track a family's migration patterns and locations. Most of the time families had to move to other places for survival or the need to change occupations - i.e. if the family farm was not working any longer or they were forced off the land, alot of the times families went into the larger towns and cities to work in the mills or factories, etc., or to work on someone elses farm that was more profitable if they were brought up in farm labour. Normally, it is what the social history was like at the time - the industrial revolution, the highland clearances, etc.

Maps shouldn't be overlooked, they are such a great tool to use in doing family history research as well as being a nice addition to a written family history book or manuscript.

Until Next Time -
Carolyn of MGS

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Genealogical Evidence

Hello All -

What I thought I would discuss this time around is how to evaluate your family history evidence (i.e. where did you get your facts from, is it reliable, what is your source, etc.). One of the main responsibilities in family history research is to cite sources and make sure that the facts put out are as accurate as possible (in the back of a genealogical researcher's mind there should always be the possibility that someone will use their research information).

The evaluation of evidence is also called "proof." How do you know that? Where did you get that from? Do you have documentation for that? There are lots of questions you should ask yourself when doing your research to make sure that things are right. If there is any doubt or uncertainty about a fact or statement about an ancestor it should be stated as a possibility. For example, if you are not sure of a person's parents but there is a strong possibility it is a particular couple then it should be written down as a notation and not put in your pedigree. This is just to be on the safe side just in case you may be wrong - you don't want to lead any other researchers astray.

There are a number of informative websites that discuss this in greater detail listed below. Some good ones that I have found are:

To be a good family historian it is the researcher's responsibility to make sure that the facts (births, marriages, deaths, parentage, etc.) are on a solid foundation. It makes the research more rewarding as well - you can feel good that you have created a sound family history for yourself, your family, and others.

Until Next Time -

Carolyn of MGS

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Genealogical Research Mistakes

Hello All -

Here is the start of a new blog for the new year. I thought that what would be a good thing to discuss this time around is the common mistakes or pitfalls of family history research. There is probably no one that has not fallen into one of these at one time or another as a beginner - it is all about the learning process of performing genealogical/family history research.

One of the best books to read on this topic is called "Pitfalls in Genealogical Research" by Milton Rubincam. It discusses just about any pitfall or mistake you can think of that one can come across. It can still be purchased in various bookshops and online stores such as Amazon. However, you can normally find it in a public library to read if you don't want to shell out the money for it.

Here is a list of the Ten Common Mistakes Made compiled by Terry & Jim Willard:

1. Failing to record information on standard genealogical forms
2. Ignoring the siblings of the ancestors you are researching
3. Overlooking the maiden names of female ancestors
4. Assuming you are related to a famous person who shares the same surname
5. Skipping a generation
6. Assuming a family name is only spelled one way
7. Jumping to conclusions based on insufficient evidence
8. Researching the wrong family
9. Relying on online data found in a family tree
10. Failing to document your sources

Another mistake that is made that is not mentioned in the above list is the use of heraldry. This pitfall is mentioned in Rubincam's book. There are so many companies that want us to buy family crests and coat of arms for our family surname. Also there are the "history of a surname" with the coat of arms on it type of document that is usually found being sold at highland games and festivals everywhere. Normally, these are just a very generic history of a surname and may not be accurate for your particular family. For those who are studying heraldry they would most likely tell you that coats of arms were meant for a particular person or family, and unless a person can trace their ancestors back to this particular family or individual it is not really meant to be used as a sort of "general coat of arms for everyone with this surname." But, unfortunately this is how it has become to be used and sold by numerous companies who sell heraldic goods.

Hope that this has been helpful to you. As always, if anyone has any questions or comments please feel free to contact us.

Until Next Time -
Carolyn of MGS