Friday, March 6, 2015

It's Moving Day ... For Ian Hadden's Family History Blog

After several years on the Blogger platform, I have decided to move my blog over to WordPress.

All of my posts are moving along and the migration appears to have been successful. 

The new address for Ian Hadden's Family History blog is my 'custom' URL:


New posts will be coming although I suspect I will need to ask for some patience on your part as I get accustomed and comfortable with the new blog platform environment.

See you in my new 'digs.'

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Registration Now Open For The Ontario Genealogical Society Scottish Special Interest Group Symposium

The Scottish Special Interest Group of the Ontario Genealogical Society is hosting a Symposium to be held on Friday, August 21, 2015. Registration for the day long event is now open.

The day will feature a line-up of speakers and a marketplace. For those arriving early, a piper will enhance your marketplace browsing. The event is being at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Brampton, Ontario and the registration fee including a continental breakfast and lunch.

Click here to register or contact for further information.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Look At Crestleaf

Creastleaf is a free online resource that provides tools that allow you to build a family tree. It provides free space of up to 1 GB for family photos (more space is available for a fee) and also allows you to share the tree with other family members so they can add to it.

Really, from my view, Crestleaf is about capturing family stories. This is accomplished, presumably, by different family members adding their own perspectives to family events and their photos of the events.

My experience is that family photos get passed along, sometimes divided among siblings, when parents pass away. Often, these photos may end up collecting dust in a forgotten box. Consequently, one family branch may not know of nor ever have seen photos of great grandparents and past special family occasions. Using a online resource tool like Creastleaf might allow for better family sharing.

Creastleaf boasts in providing access to almost 90 million genealogy records. This is a reference to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and Crestleaf uses the June 22, 2011 version of the index containing almost 90 million names. Crestleaf is not a site to conduct a "reasonably exhaustive search" of records. Other than the SSDI, there are no other records available.

Crestleaf recently published a family relationship chart which they have kindly provided to me and gave me permission to share. The chart is available for printing on the Crestleaf blog.

The Crestleaf site is free and easy to use. I was able to set-up a free account and get started on a basic family tree in just a couple of minutes. If you are looking for a way to tell and share the stories of your family, presumably with other family members who may live some distance from you, using Crestleaf just might be a good means of connecting. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In The Newspapers For All The Wrong Reasons: Snippets From The Life Of John Gaull

Today, we might refer to it as his '15-minutes of fame.' But for John Gaull, his mentions in the media tended to be for all the wrong reasons or at the least for reasons he likely would not have asked for.

Genealogists have long known that newspapers can be a great source of rich information and stories about the lives of our ancestors. It is for this reason that I try to spend as much time as I can searching through newspaper archives to find the stories of those in my family who laid the foundation for who I am.

In the case of John Gaull, archived copies of the Aberdeen Journal from the 19th century provide me with three stories: he was a victim of fraud; he was accused of fraud; and, when he died he funeral procession took two hours and covered a distance of about eight miles.

John Gaull is my 4X great grandfather and as I remind myself, he is not to be confused with his grandson, my 2X great grandfather also a John Gaull.

The records I have found tell me that John (the elder) was born in 1806 in Inverurie, Aberdeen, Scotland, one of at least six children born to Alexander Gauld and Elspet Harper. Early newspaper mentions confirm what later census records report, that John was employed as the farm overseer at Whitehaugh, an estate owned by Lewis Xavier Leslie of Old Aberdeen, in Chapel of Garioch. In that capacity, John can be found listed in newspaper advertisements as the contact person when the estate had land available for prospective tenant farmers or when livestock and farm equipment was being offered for sale.

In December of 1850 however, John along with several other men of Aberdeenshire fell victim to a fraud perpetrated by a man named James Forbes. Forbes forged John's signature as well as the signatures of two other men on a bill in the amount of 400 pounds. Forbes had committed a similar fraud on two other occasions with different victims, each time passing off the forged notes as legitimate obligations. When his fraudulent activities were uncovered, Forbes is reported to have 'escaped' to America only to be tracked down by constable John Scott and returned to Scotland to face justice. 

On Monday, December 16, 1850, Forbes was brought before the High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh where he plead guilty to the three frauds. He was sentenced to 21 years transportation. No mention is given as to where Forbes was sent but I'm guessing it was likely Australia.

In November of 1877 the newspapers report that a horse dealer named Alex Smith brought a lawsuit against John Gaull, accusing John of selling him a mare on July 31, 1877 that was sick and subsequently died. Smith alleged that John knew the horse was unwell so completed the sale in order to avoid the loss himself. John told the court that he believed the horse to have been in good health at the time of the sale, that he had offered Smith no warranty and, that Smith had subsequently re-sold the horse to a John Mackie who later returned the horse to Smith. John alleged that Smith had brought the lawsuit to recoup losses that Smith was solely responsible for. Following an adjournment of one month, the case returned to court on December 26, 1877 where Smith gave up the case and the court found in John's favour including granting him expenses.

Finally, confirming the information on John's death registration, a death notice was published in the Aberdeen People's Journal newspaper on August 20, 1892 (page 6). But there was also a separate funeral notice for John published on August 13, 1892 in the Aberdeen Journal (page 6), two days after John died. 

The funeral notice states that his funeral procession would be proceeding from Skene and travelling to his burial site at the churchyard in Kintore, a distance of about eight miles. In 1892, that funeral procession was take an estimated two hours to complete.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ontario Genealogical Society 2015 Annual Conference Registration Now Open

The following announcement has been released by the Ontario Genealogical Society about this year's conference:

"Online registration is now open for this year's Ontario Genealogical Society annual conference, "Tracks through Time" from May 29-31, 2015, at Georgian College Campus, Barrie, ON, Canada.

The conference theme "Tracks through Time" originates from the 130th Anniversary of the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway across Canada. Many family historians have their roots in the immigrant laborers who built this railway across our vast country. Other ancestors were tempted by the transportation routes and migration opportunities allowed by its completion. Still others worked for the railway company itself over the years to follow. As researchers, we "track" our family history through time in many ways, always attempting to ensure we are "tracking" the right people from the right line. The variations on "Tracks through Time" are endless.

View program and registration details to join hundreds of other family historians seeking new methods and record groups for "Tracking their Families though Time."

Follow updates on the OGS website, Facebook and Twitter and watch for video interviews with some of the Conference Speakers on the OGS YouTube channel."

The addition of the short videos on the Society's YouTube channel are a great innovation allowing participants the chance of getting to know some of the conference speakers in advance. So far, two such videos have been posted; one featuring Janet Few and a second featuring Thomas MacEntee.

The program has much to offer genealogists, from beginner to advanced.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The 2015 Merner Family Reunion Announced

'Cousin Marg' has notified me by email that the 2015 Merner Family Reunion is set to be held on Saturday, July 11th. 

In addition to not being held as it has been typically on a Sunday, there is also a change of venue. In past years, the reunion has been held at the Seaforth (Ontario) Golf Club but this year the family gathering will take place at the farm of Larry and Louise Merner.

The Merner Family Reunion is a gathering of the descendants of Jacob Emanuel Merner (1789-1869) and his wife Susanna Schluchter (1787-1875). Jacob and Susanna were both natives of Switzerland who immigrated to what is now southern Ontario, Canada with eleven of their twelve known children. They are the 3X great grandparents of my wife through their daughter, Anna and her husband Jacob Staebler.

An incredibly accurate, though incomplete, genealogy of the Merner family was published in 1976 by the late Ruth Merner Connell. This Merner genealogy is available on

'Cousin Marg' promises more information and details on the 2015 Merner Family Reunion later but for now, those interested can hold the date. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Genealogy Do-Over: To Do Or Not To Do, That Is The Question

In December 2014, noted genealogist Thomas MacEntee announced that he would be leading a genealogy do-over, a chance to set aside your genealogy database and start again, hopefully not making the same mistakes that most, if not all of us, have made particularly when starting out with research into our family's histories.

At first blush, it sounded to me like thoughts I have had about the things I would change if I could live my life over again. "If I only knew then what I know now!" 

I even thought that I could see traces of a genealogy '12-step- program': admit your obsession, recognize your past name collecting habits, learn to research your genealogy within acceptable genealogical standards.

Starting over is very tempting! In May 2012 I indicated that I was going to give it a try - and I did - with mixed results. After decades of genealogy research and education, the 'new' database that I started looked good. All facts about my ancestors were properly entered and documented with primary sources. But I stopped out of frustration.

The more I have thought about the current genealogy do-over initiative, one that admittedly thousands are following, the more I see as a good skill building opportunity. Thomas has laid out a sound genealogy research plan for the 'do-over' group. He has built in sufficient flexibility to allow participants to personalize their plans and share innovations.

I have decided to follow the initiative but not actively participate. My reasoning for this decision is simple: it is in my estimation not good use of my time. 

The database of my ancestors (and for clarity, the database includes my wife's family) contains 16,788 individuals today. I freely admit that because of past genealogy 'sins' there are errors in the data and not all sources are cited. There are in too many instances, sources cited but very poorly.

I'm working on fixing those errors, little by little, each and every day when I find the time to work on my own family research. I also enjoy that every day I can find something to fix which usually leads to new research clues and greater depth in understanding the lives of 'those upon whose shoulders I stand.'

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Happy Robbie Burns Day!

Today is the day that Scots around the world commemorate the birth of Scotland's favourite son, poet Robert Burns (25 January 1759 - 21 July 1796).

It is a day that was celebrated in my family most notably following my father joining the Highland Creek Pipes and Drums. A couple of years after my father joined the band as a piper, I joined the band as a drummer.

Ian Hadden, member of the Highland Creek Pipes and Drums, 
with his son John abt. 1984

Each year the band organized and held a large Robbie Burns night that included dancing, a buffet dinner including haggis, a performance by the band and, of course, Burns' Address To A Haggis performed incredibly well by a band member. 

The Burns dinner and dance served as one of the band's chief fundraisers each year. Funds raised were used to purchase new uniform items and band supplies.

Wherever you celebrate and however you celebrate Robbie Burns Day, be safe and have fun!