Monday, 23 April 2018

Join Us on a Celtic Cruise!

There is still space available on the Celtic  Genealogy Cruise. I am working with service providers to get people the opportunity to go to their ancestor’s churches, graves or homes that might be near any of the ports we dock in. These will be personalized tours. I am hoping these will be available in Dublin, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh. This would be in place of research time since we are only in port for a day. Watch this space for updates in that regard. 

The cruise gives you a chance to visit your ancestral homeland by sea, much like your ancestors did. Pre-cruise training is available now to help you be prepared for your time in the research centres. For those not interested in genealogy, but interested in the cruise and visiting the ports we dock at, we would love to have you along with us as well. There will be lots of history, lots of scenery and loads of fun. 

If you are interested in the Cruise but not quite sure, you may want to join the Celtic Genealogy Cruise Interest group in Facebook: 

To book your cabin, the down payment is 20% of the cabin fees. Fees include taxes. The balance is due in April 2019. Terri can work with you on a payment plan to help your budget. Here's the link to book:

It's Almost Time!

I will be heading to Scotland in just over a week to meet with my two tour groups, one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow. Ahead of both tours, I will be in spending the weekend in Inverary.

As always, I will be blogging daily while I am in Scotland. You can follow my time there through this blog and enjoy a virtual visit to your ancestral homeland.

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Friday, 6 April 2018


One of the most exciting parts of coming to Fairfax was knowing I was going to have the opportunity to reconnect with five of my past tour participants. Four of these women were with me last spring and met one another in Glasgow. 

Sitting in the corner of the restaurant was not unlike sitting at our corner table in the hotel restaurant in Glasgow. Lots of chatter and lots of laughter. 

Patricia brought the photo book she had created of our time in the highlands. It really was a fabulous way to wander back through our days together. 

Before long, two hours had passed. Thank you. ladies for sharing your lives, your family history stories and most of all your friendship. 

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Time in the Capital

Since I had a full day free, I decided to head into the Capital. The hotel provides a free shuttle to the Metro line and from there it was a 20 minute ride into the city. 

Signs of spring were evident in the newly tended gardens, and of course in the blossoms on the trees. 

Passing historic and important buildings, I was soon standing in front of the Capital Building. So often we see politicians on the steps of the Capital Building but most don't realize just how many steps there are! 

Around the back and down the stairs I was in a security line. The lines moved quickly, efficiently getting people safely into the building. Down the stairs and into throngs of people lined up for timed tours. The staff in the hall asked where I was from and when I told him "Canada" he sent me over to a reception desk to get a pass to visit the House and Senate. Over I wandered to learn that the house was closed for another 45 minutes. No problem, I went to have a bite to eat and wandered around the statues and plaques. 

Back to the desk to learn it was to be another half hour. I decided I was going to leave when the woman behind the desk decided to take me on a mini tour. Although we saw some of the same things as those on the timed tours, I was also introduced to a great many people who worked in the Capital Building. 

Finally it was time to visit the House and Senate. However, after learning that there was going to be a minimum of 90 minutes waiting in lines, I decided I wasn't interested enough to deal with crowds and was fed up standing. 

Another walk along the National Mall to the Metro Station. While I hadn't planned to spend time in the Capital Building, it was a new experience and for me. 

In many ways, Washington is like any big city. And in so many ways, it isn't. Here are some of the things I learned about Washington:
  1. It sounds just like New York. Screaming sirens and honking horns are continuous. And interestingly no one is fazed by them. 
  2. In reality, getting from Point A to Point B is always a minimum of three times further/longer than it looks.
  3. There are more police on Capital Hill than Brantford has in its entire fleet. 
  4. Some of the most impatient drivers on the planet drive here. 
  5. Regardless of the number of times you visit, there is always something new to see.

Blown Away

April is finally here and with it comes the Fairfax Genealogical Society Spring Conference. Fairfax is one of my favourties. A great group of people and a chance to get caught up with some of my genealogy peeps. This year is made all the more special because the night before the conference starts, I will be meeting up with five of my past tour participants. A mini reunion of our time in Scotland. These women have lived with me for a brief time as we have toured or researched in Scotland. They have seen me at my best. They have seen me when there have been more glitches than rewards. And they are still excited about meeting up. It's a bond few genealogists share with their consumers.

I decided to fly in a couple of days early so that I could spend a day playing tourist in the Nation's Capital. The trip to the airport was fairly uneventful. Apart from arguing with Google Maps about where exactly Park and Fly was located. 

I managed to get checked in, through security and decided food was next on the agenda. I made a valiant attempt at getting a bagel from the Great Canadian Bagel but after 10 minutes of what might have been a comedy of errors had I not been hangry, I packed in the idea and headed to the beer truck instead. 

The boarding call came, we all boarded the plane. After a few rounds of musical chairs to allow people traveling together to sit together, we were ready for our safety story. The plane was absolutely rocking on the tarmac thanks to the gale force winds. And I mean rocking. The plane backed up. Waited. Then returned to the gate. The flight deck came on to tell us we had returned because Washington had grounded all of their flights and we couldn't land due to the high winds. We were going to deplane. Cell phone notifications came in like a cacophony as all of the passengers who had signed up for alerts received notice that the flight had been rescheduled to 4 pm. 90 minutes. Fortunately I didn't have connecting flights to worry about and could finally get some real grub. 

Back to the gate and back out on the tarmac. The winds had definitely increased in their speed. As I lifted my computer bag, the wind caught it and it very nearly landed in Washington without me. I had visions of standing on a cliff in Caithness in September. Literally digging my toes into the ground so as not to land in the sea. 

Back on board. Away from the gate. Onto the runway....well, almost. We parked on the shoulder and the flight deck came on once again to say we still didn't have permission to land in Washington but she hoped to have that in fifteen minutes or so. Twenty minutes later and we were on our way down the runway. 

Have you ever stood and watched a hawk play in the wind? Up, down, left, down, up, right, down. That's what take off was like. In fairly short order we were above the worst of it and on our way to Washington. 

In what felt like no time, the recording came on to tell us to prepare our seat backs and trays for landing. Again we were through the winds. We hit a pocket of turbulence that sent us into a fairly quick drop. Our stomachs didn't follow quite as quickly. The kids on the flight broke into hysterics. Suddenly the landing had become a rollercoaster ride! 

Why do landing always take hours longer than we expect? Finally we were on the ground, at the gate and off the plane. 

And now to get ready to play tourist. 

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Join Us For a Celtic Cruise

Visit your ancestral homeland by sea, just like your ancestors did. Join us May 4 - 16, 2019 to sail around your Celtic homeland. 

Ports of Call:
Dublin (research and consultation opportunities)
Belfast (consultation opportunities)
Glasgow (research at the Mitchell)
Inverness (research at the Highland Archives)
Edinburgh (research at the National Records of Scotland)

Sunday, 18 February 2018

When Is An Ancestral Tour NOT An Ancestral Tour?

Everyone seems to be jumping on the Ancestral Tour train these days. For the most part, I think that’s great. The more countries we can provide access to to connect people to their ancestral homeland the better. There is no greater, more profound experience. And when genealogists can help make that connection, it is a humbling and rewarding experience that defies description.

But like anything else, some people are jumping on the bandwagon without really understanding the concept. Without really knowing what they are doing. Sure, we all have to start somewhere, I get that. But let’s keep in mind that those we provide our services to have expectations and we have an obligation to them to provide a once in a lifetime experience. For the person we provide service to, it has become a strong case for Caveat Emptor.

When is an ancestral tour NOT an ancestral tour?

1.       When it is a sightseeing tour disguised as an ancestral tour. Everyone should visit the country their ancestors came from. Without question. But unless the tour takes you to research facilities where you can find your ancestors in the documents, or takes you to the home, church, or grave of your ancestor, it is not an ancestral tour. It is a sightseeing tour. Don’t be fooled and don’t pay for something you aren’t going to get.

2.       When it is a conference disguised as an ancestral tour. Conferences are a fantastic way to learn. Truly fantastic. They energize us. The teach us new strategies and they expose us to information and people that we would never have known otherwise. But if you are learning on a ship or on a bus then you aren’t taking part in an ancestral tour. You are attending a conference. Be sure you know what you are getting when you sign up.

3.       When the tour is linked to your DNA results. DNA has opened a whole new world in connecting people. And in some instances, a whole can of worms. DNA is a great tool for genealogy, but when you are going to a country based on your DNA results, results that don’t connect you to actual people in your family tree, you are not on an ancestral tour. I’m not really sure what you are on, but I think it’s likely similar to a sightseeing tour.

4.       When a genealogist’s dream holiday is disguised as an ancestral tour. Just because the person leading your tour is a genealogist does not mean you are on an ancestral tour! You are only on an ancestral tour if the genealogist has knowledge of the country you are going to – likely because of their own heritage. And an intimate knowledge at that. Go to Ireland with an genealogist who is Irish or has Irish ancestry. Go to Germany with a genealogist that is German or has German ancestry. Make sure they know other genealogist in the country you are visiting, that they know of where you can access records that will lead you to your grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents etc. You want to be assured that the genealogist has an understanding of the history of the country you are going to and a sense of what led to people leaving their homeland in the first place. They should understand the culture, the language and the customs as well. And of course, they need to know the geography so they know, realistically, what can and can’t be accomplished in the time frame you are going to be in your ancestral homeland.

5.       When it is all done on a wing and a prayer it is not an ancestral tour. Planning ahead is crucial to a successful ancestral tour. Make sure the genealogist you hire is going to prepare you for your time in your homeland. They should either assist you in getting your research to a certain level before you travel, or they should be doing the research for you so that they can then give you that once in a lifetime experience. Look at their history, their reputation. How long have they been providing ancestral tours? Have they evolved over time? Do they have a blog where you can see for yourself what a tour with them will be like? Are there testimonials from past tour participants that will give you a sense of whether you are making a good investment? Don’t be afraid to ask them if they have repeat customers.

I love ancestral tourism. It has become a passion for me. Not for me, but for the experiences I get the joy of sharing in when others feel that deep connection to their homeland. When the tour completes their sense of who they are. When they feel more grounded in their heritage. I fully believe that the sandbox is a big one and lots of opportunities exist for others to provide ancestral tours. But I balk at people disguising other pieces of genealogy or travel as ancestral tours.