Saturday, 30 July 2011

Research and Field Trips

At first it was fairly easy to acquire information. Dad would read out data to me from notes he had compiled, and from charts he had painstakingly written out. From there, we turned to the Mormon family history centre in Calgary and their website, and were often excited to find new data to add to our tree. We were occasionally disappointed to realize the information was not accurate, but for the most part it was encouraging. We joined the Alberta Family Histories Society, and attended a few meetings, and even a convention one year. Who knew there were so many people who were interested in researching their family history?!

We asked others in the family to help us by providing the data for their extended families, and we filled in more gaps. Dad made copies of our tree to pass around to a few in the family, and we hoped others would catch the bug, but as much as people seemed kind of interested, nobody really jumped on the bandwagon. We did connect with a few people in the extended family who had stories and pictures, etc., such as Aunt Marion and Aunt Alice, and that was really great. For me, anyhow, the stories and pictures made the project even more interesting. Dad, being a true engineeer, was happy enough to see the pictures and hear the stories, but he was more interested in the hard facts. Really, he wanted certificates, etc. to be able to prove what we had in our files. The time came to pursue "sources" in a serious way, and I realized that most of what we had in our tree was from what others had told us, and we had not collected the "proof" along the way. Oh dear!!

Now we began to mail away for various certificates, and occasionally we were fortunate enough to receive them. Often, however, we were told that we would not be able to access the information online or by mail, and we would need to visit the county clerk's office, or the archives in the various cities. Seriously? Yes!

Our first "field trip" was to Swift Current, Saskatchewan. We drove there in 2001, and met up with some of the Waite family who still live in the area. I will write a separate blog entry about that soon.

Our second trip was to Ottawa, Ontario, where we stayed for about a week. We worked at the archives and also rented a car to drive around as much of Ontario as we could manage. Again, I will write about that trip in a separate blog entry.

Our third trip was to North Dakota and Minnesota, to research the families who migrated through those states on their way to Saskatchewan. We drove many miles and met many people along the way. I returned to the area around Fargo a few months later with Doug and the boys to tie up a few loose ends, and I would welcome the opportunity to go back someday.

This year (2011), Dad and I plan to go to Philadelphia to find out more about John Smith. We will need the help of a professional, for sure! Plans for that trip are underway, and I will continue to post as we make progress.

Family Names

With a name like Smith, you have to know that it was encouraging to realize we had more unique names in our tree, as it was not easy, and still is very challenging, to deal with the Smith name. We do have many Smiths in our tree, for sure, and it is kind of good fun for me to tease that part of the family about the fact that Smith is quite likely not our/their real name. John Smith, from Switzerland, has been a brick wall from day one, and it is my keen desire to someday find out enough about him to determine what the "real" family name is. Whether he was Johannes Schmid or any other name remains to be proven, but it gives us a significant challenge, and those who know me know that I am quite up to most challenges, so I truly hope we solve this mystery someday soon.

The other names in our tree?

On Dad's Smith side: Waite (or Wait), Sundell (which was Andersson before they came from Sweden), Arnold (you bet, we are the descendants of Benedict's illegitimate son), Peterson, Hay, Mason, and Manhard.

On Mom's Lockerbie side: May, MacHarg, Stevenson, Steele (or Steel), Davidson, Lytle (or Little), Bell, Seaman, and Cameron.

Where did they come from?
Smith -- supposedly Switzerland, and perhaps Germany or Wurtenburg.
Sundell -- Sund, Sweden -- they were named Andersson, but changed their name when they emigrated
Arnold -- England, Connecticut, New Brunswick, Ontario, North Dakota, Saskatchewan
Peterson -- Sweden, Minnesota
Hay -- Scotland, Pennsylvania (Pottsville & Philadelphia)
Waite (Wait) -- Ireland?, Quebec, Ontario, North Dakota, Saskatchewan
Mason -- Ontario, Saskatchewan
Manhard -- Germany? or Holland?, New York, Ontario

Lockerbie -- Scotland, New Jersey, Saskatchewan
May -- Ireland, Ontario
MacHarg -- Scotland, Philadelphia, Saskatchewan
Stevenson -- Scotland, Ontario
Steele (Steel) -- Scotland
Davidson -- Scotland, New York
Lytle (Little) -- County Mayo Ireland, Ontario
Cameron -- Scotland, Ontario
Bell -- Scotland, Ontario
Seaman -- New York, Ontario

In the Beginning ...

Dad started researching our family history in the early 1990's, after he retired. As a gift one year, Doug and I gave him an old computer of ours, and we gave him a software program, Generations, to use to compile his data. That was all good, but Dad was not much of a typist, and it was a little frustrating for him to input the data he had on hand. He asked if I would like to help him with that part, and I agreed. Soon afterward, my son Braedon started preschool, and I would go over to help Dad for a couple of hours each week, typing in whatever he asked me to, and helping to generate reports. I heard many stories about my grandparents and others in the family, and it was great to spend time learning about the "old days" while we worked away.  Little did I know how addicting this work would become! Soon I was hooked, too, and the rest is history ...