Vallay: ruined houses and a tidal island

Originally posted on Flora Johnston:

IMG_2471I spent last week on the beautiful island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Top of the list of things to do this time was walking across the strand to the tidal island of Vallay. When we were on Uist last year the tide times were all wrong, but this year they were perfect, and the weather on the day we crossed was perfect too.

There’s something very special about a tidal island. I remember spending a few days on Lindisfarne when I was researching St Cuthbert, and being so struck by the rhythms of the place – the way the visitors empty out just before the incoming tide spills over the causeway, offering precious breathing space to those who live there and to the landscape itself.

IMG_2462There’s no causeway to Vallay – just a vast expanse of wet sand – and there’s no one living there permanently…

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70th Anniversary of D-Day

Originally posted on Stephen Liddell:

This time 70 years ago on 6th June 1944, the world held its breath as the largest amphibious military operation even seen was under way.  Operation Overlord was the long-awaited Allied invasion of Nazi held Europe that would lead to the liberation of mainland Europe and 70 years of freedom and democracy.

D-Day was never going to be easy.  Germany had spent years fortifying defences along the coast from the Spanish border in the south to the top of Norway in the north.   The defences were lined with artillery and machine gun nests and most of the beaches were either mined or covered with row after row of barbed wire and anti-ship and anti-tank defences.

At various times the American President thought it was madness, Churchill that it was crazy and better to invade from Portugal and Eisenhower so unconvinced that he had already written a letter explaining its failure.

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Latest batch of British WWI unit diaries now online

Originally posted on Genealogy à la carte:

National Archives WWI diariesThe National Archives announced a couple of days ago that it has made a third batch of WWI unit war diaries from France and Flanders available online through its First World War 100 portal.

The unit war diaries provide accounts of battles, events, and daily routines of British troops on the Western Front.

William Spencer, author and principal military records specialist at The National Archives, said: “Now that this latest batch of unit war diaries is online, people all around the world can read the official army accounts to discover more about the troops on the Western Front. The diaries note successful battles, such as 46th Division breaking the Hindenburg Line, as well as failures and casualties in key battles such as those on the Somme in 1916. They also provide rare insights into how the troops maintained the environment in the trenches as well as the sports days…

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Mother’s Day Homage: The Wilcox Family Gravestones

Originally posted on O' Canada:


 Base of Gravestone of Susan Wilcox (1834-1918), “Mother”


The sorrows of motherhood and the difficulty of raising children to adulthood more than a century ago were poignantly brought to mind by a grouping of gravestones I came across last Fall in the cemetery of the old Pembroke Chapel (originally Methodist and later a United Church) of Pembroke, Nova Scotia.

Situated immediately to the left of the gravestones for Susan Wilcox (1834-1918) — prominently marked “Mother” — and her husband, Nathan (1827 -1899), are markers for five of their children, each of whom predeceased their parents:  Cyrus Wilcox, who it’s noted “Drowned At Sea”, aged 27 years, 1887;  Norman F., aged 2 yrs. 7 mos., 1861; Annie E., aged 13 mos., 1871; Frederick W., aged 1 yr., 1873; and Cora M., aged 1 day, 1877.

A search of old genealogical records here

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Column: Using Birth Dates to Uncover Missing Family

Between today and Saturday, my genealogy column, Roots to the Past, is available in the following Atlantic Canada newspapers:

Tuesday: The Kings County Record (Sussex)

Wednesday: The Lunenburg County Progress Bulletin

Saturday: The Citizen (Amherst)

Saturday: Times & Transcript (Moncton)

Title: Using Birth Dates to Uncover Missing Family

Snippet: There are many averages in life. On average, the number of individuals in a family has shrunk drastically in the past century. You won’t find many parents raising ten kids these days. During the Baby Boom years (1946–1965), Canada’s birthrate skyrocketed, sending previous averages into space. In 1961, with the birth rate declining, on average couples gave birth to 2.7 children. That dropped to 1.9 children in 2011.

One average that remains relative constant through the centuries is the average number of years between children. On average, siblings are born one to three years apart. There are exceptions. I know a family that had five and then six years between their three children. There are also families that have ‘one together’ when divorced parents marry another partner and decide to blend their families with a baby. This can create ten years or more between siblings.

. . . To read more, pick up one of the above noted newspapers.

South Shore Genealogical Society call for help

Posted to a few Nova Scotia Genealogy Lists today, Sunday April 27, 2014


Please join the South Shore Genealogical Society on Monday, 12 May at 7 pm at the Courthouse in the Lunenburg Town Hall (Townsend Street entrance) for a discussion of The Future of the South Shore Genealogical Society.

We need to ensure there is a place for the thousands of Lunenburg County genealogical records we possess to reside and for visitors and locals alike to visit and do their genealogical research. We have invited community leaders to come and help us with this challenge, but we also need the input of members, as well as the public.


Column: So Young and So Far Away from Home

Between today and Saturday, my genealogy column, Roots to the Past, is available in the following Atlantic Canada newspapers:

Tuesday: The Kings County Record (Sussex)

Wednesday: The Lunenburg County Progress Bulletin

Saturday: The Citizen (Amherst)

Saturday: Times & Transcript (Moncton)

Title: So Young and So Far Away from Home


The world a hundred and fifty years ago was a very different place. Today we couldn’t imagine shipping boat loads of children to a new world without specific safeguards to protect them, monitor them and reunite them with family as quickly as possible. For several decades though, separating children from their family and sending them far away was not only common practise, but in many associations and societies, it was acceptable and encouraged.

The more than 100,000 children and young women who arrived in Canada in the 1800s and early 1900s may have come under difficult circumstances, but many endured to leave a lasting legacy for their descendants. Researching these individuals who had little say in where they were sent and what their roles in society would be used to be difficult. Increased interest in the young immigrants in the past dozen years, however, has brought their history to the forefront. Countless databases, records, websites and organisations have sprung up to answer the call for information, making it easier for researchers to locate their ancestors and to learn their incredible stories.

. . . To read more, pick up one of the above noted newspapers.