The Lamps are going out all over Europe

Originally posted on Stephen Liddell:

It is now 100 years since this famous phrase was first uttered by Sir Edward Grey to describe the ominous feeling that Europe and perhaps the world was about to slip into a war more bloody than most could ever imagine.

His remarks were made on the evening of the 3rd August whilst looking out at the lamps coming on in St. James Park in London on a balmy summer evening.

The world had been heading to war for some time but only a few realised just how big it would be.  Germany had already fought France in the late 19th century and was eager to gain an empire of its own.  It had been a loose conglomeration of states for centuries and like Italy only had become recently unified. The German Kaiser suffered from a disability and being descended from the British Queen Victoria suffered in Germany for not…

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Column: Every Plant has a Story

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

Saturday: Times & Transcript (Moncton)

Tuesday: The Kings County Record (Sussex)

Wednesday: The Lunenburg County Progress Bulletin

Saturday: The Citizen (Amherst)

Title: Every Plant has a Story

Snippet: When I was around twelve years old, Dad led me away from our camp that was located in the small community in which he was born and raised. He carried a small shovel and a plastic bag. When I asked him where we were going, he hushed me until we were out of earshot of the camp and Mom. Then he whispered, “We’re bringing home lupins.”

I recall the secrecy surrounding the digging up, bringing home and planting of this flower in the backyard of our permanent residence with innocent sneakiness. We didn’t tell Mom because she didn’t like the perennial and swore she’d never have it on her property. My father, on the other hand, adored the brightly-coloured, elongated flowers so much, he was willing to risk facing the wrath of the woman he loved to have it near.

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

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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