The Scots in me

misterfarmer / Pixabay

The last week has been interesting for me. Firstly our twitterchat was about Scottish ancestors. I mentioned two that I have found on dad’s side of the tree.

  • Catherine McKay tried in Edinburgh in 1848 and came to Van Diemens Land as a convict
  • Her future husband William Dawson tried in Edinburgh in 1847 and sent to VDL as well.

I have not researched these two people yet, as I am trying to write biographies of each grandparent and then great grandparents etc. I know more about mum’s side of the tree so normally look for the information for their stories first.

But after our twitterchat on Scottish ancestors, I learned about so many resources, I think I might have to quickly get onto that work. Then I got an email from One Place Studies about a presentation by Chris Paton who is well known for his Scottish research. So I watched this and found out so much more about resources to use prior to 1800.

One of the participants in the chat was Scottish Indexes which has been holding regular conferences since April 2020 and all free. The website also has a fantastic learning zone to help you research your ancestors in Scotland.

They mentioned there was a lot of information on Scottish convicts so, of course, I went to the indexes and put in the names of my two convicts.

WOW, information on both of them.

Both had been convicted with other people but not all had been transported. Apparently you can buy the records for the High Court – Crown Office  precognitions and High Court of Justiciary Trial Papers. These will detail the trial and evidence from both sides.

I think I might make October my Scotland month and get onto those Scottish ancestors. According to my Ancestry DNA test I am 34% Scottish this being inherited from mum with 27% and dad with 27% mainly from the highlands and islands and in particular South Sutherland.  My brother also inherited 35% from our parents.

Now I wonder who these Scottish ancestors are from mum’s side of the tree? I do have one convict from County Donegal near Londonderry so maybe her parents came over from Scotland at some time before the 1830s when she was born.

Oh well, I need to start researching more!!

Readers: Do you have Scottish ancestors? What resources did you find useful for researching them?

Family history and social media

LoboStudioHamburg / Pixabay

ANZAncestryTime this week was looking at the use of social media for family history.

1. Which format(s) of social media do you use in your #familyhistory research and communication?

Most participants use Facebook, Twitter and blogging. Some use LinkedIn and others Instagram and Pinterest. But all agree networking is important to keep up with webinars and seminars and general genealogical information. A new group similar to Facebook is Ancestorian – see link below.

Fran: The main ones I can share things I find and my own research via sharing blog links. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Each has a different use. Also use messenger a lot for discussions, chat, etc

Pauleen: when I question the time I spend on FB it’s because it’s my go-to place to discover new info these days or clues about places or, for example, DNA.

ANZ: Facebook groups can be very helpful resources. Especially those with photos of ancestral places

Caitie: I’m part of so many genealogy groups on Facebook for learning – DNA based, locality based – family groups for sharing etc. I love Twitter chats when I am free to participate!

Jane: I have used Facebook in the past but am using more and more

Carmel: forgot to mention Flickr for sharing family albums and Google photos for the same. Email – for elderly rellies and society members some of who are frightened of FB

Karen: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I have found a lot of incredibly useful information on Twitter, through feeds such as: @TroveAustralia @nlagovau @slqld @statelibrarynsw @naagovau

Caitie: I forgot to mention YT!! Those who know, know I did genealogy videos back in 2014-2015 ish. I have many ideas for videos and should get back to it but you know, time.

Alex: I am probably using that increasingly and think that we should use it more as a Society. We’ve posted some good stuff lately.…

Sue: I created a video and put on YouTube about how to use a blog for your family history when helping with Intro at UTAS Diploma

Shauna: I only use YouTube for learning about genealogy resources – must try doing some videos. I liked @caitieamanda when she was doing them- sigh another thing on the to do list

Maggie: I’m loving Twitter at the moment, to keep up to date and to interact with other family historians. FB has been good for niche interests, but I’m not as active on there. WhatsApp for family/colleague chat. I don’t like it much, give me a decent mailing list anyday, but that’s where some friends and fam hang out, so gotta go where they are

Liz: I use Twitter, Facebook and email lists and forums mainly but also have a small blog with the names I research and starting to write small articles about some of my ancestors

Sue: Used to use rootsweb and rootschat but now use the io group – member of a Tas Convict group and Tas general group

Carmel: Deleted LinkedIn account when I retired in a digital clean up. Now try to not take out too many new subscriptions, need to limit Social media time compared to real time

Claire: Facebook business page, my own blog (, newsletter approx monthly. I use Twitter for general chat & also @boards for our genealogy forum for longer queries there

Hilary: I use Discord for interacting with others on WikiTree with common interests a more immediate way of interacting

Helen: Another source that has been helpful for me is the ‘Knitting Genealogists’ group within @ravelry – incredibly helpful if you are a ravelry user!

Alex: ooh I did not know this. (Goes off to join group on Ravelry). I’m bookluvvie on Ravelry.

Helen: knitsontrains – not that I do that anymore! Not so much for Aus stuff (I could reciprocate if folks were interested) but other ravelers have been very generous looking up stuff in Canadian newspapers for me!

Margaret: I’m on a lot of the DNA matching Facebook groups – but have not had much luck in making connections.

WCH: Social media was focused on just Twitter for a long time, as I didn’t want to deal with potential racism on Facebook. The Facebook page I eventually set up gets less interesting interaction than the Twitter account, generally. I just started using LinkedIn.

Pauleen: I was just debating whether blogging is social media or not. Personally I’d include it because the comments and interactions are what built up my genea-network. I also draw lots of people interested in a person or topic. For me that makes it “social”.

Alex: I think Instagram is very visual so have only participated in photo memes. I am contemplating recording interviews for our Society because I think that might get more takeup on Insta.

geralt / Pixabay

2. Which social media do you prefer for your own family history? Why?

Again Facebook got the highest amount of positive comments.

Karen: Twitter – can reach out to like-minded researchers. Facebook – longer posts Instagram – can be good for telling stories. E.g. Am thinking of doing some ANZAC Day posts this year about soldiers in my extended family who died in the wars.

Shauna: for my own genealogy I have a database and I have been downsizing my binders to a Word text document with scanned images. I think this will be more useful than heavy binders going forward.

Helen: Twitter for me so far (thanks @MsFrugalone!) but this may show my age – my students have told me they get answers to EVERYTHING on Reddit! Haven’t checked it out for family history though

Alex: I think ALIA (Librarians Professional Association) uses Discord for Trivia competitions 🙂 Perhaps we could have Trivia for Genealogists on Discord 🙂

Sue: When doing the Diploma of Family History UTAS in 2014 I started private Facebook groups when each subject began, I still run those groups

Alex: and I thank you from the bottom of my heart dear Sue. They were so valuable and important in terms of keeping me on track and abreast of glitches or hiccups.

Sharn: Alex I learned more about how to do things via those social media UTAS groups than from the Uni. They were amazing!

Alex: yes we set up a Facebook group for graduates from our Beginners course at QFHS so they could keep in touch and keep learning together. They were also invaluable doing the UTAS course.

Greg: Greg posting under Ancestorian account. I used Facebook a LOT but found many groups impersonal, often with admins who bordered on outright abusive. I didn’t like how Facebook takes control over how groups operate. Never saw how to use Pinterest or Insta.

Alex: hmmm. I think it’s Blogger for me because I just love the ability to record research. I like the interaction on blogs as well. I’ve been burned on Twitter (not this group obviously) and Facebook can be all consuming. Not being able to search it is a pain.

Caitie: Facebook and blogging. It reaches more people and is in a friendlier format for those I’m sharing directly with like my family.

Dara: I love Facebook groups and pages for following local history, so many old pics and stories shared, even found some of my dad and granda.

Sue: Definitely blog and Facebook which I actually started when I went travelling around USA Canada so a way of family knowing how and where I was

Fiona: Facebook Messenger group as its a great way to share news and get discussion going on images and family stories. It’s more direct rather than a page or group page that can get lost in a feed. For a wider family group a fb group works.

GDJ / Pixabay

3. Which social media do you prefer for family history societies or groups? Why?

Linda: recently heard of a new website called Ancestorian, think of Facebook but for genealogists/researchers only, has loads of different groups, have joined many groups but rarely used it as yet

Jane: works really well for groups. … built just for family history (doesn’t collect and sell your data like some other sm sites do). Lots of groups already and any member can start a new group if their particular interest isn’t covered.

Carmel: FB for societies but must admit it annoys me that a refresh of personal page, as often happens when one navigates away to follow a link, loses the order in which one was reading hence often need to search for a post again from a group or society

Fran: I prefer Facebook Groups for the society members only, where I’m the social media person. A Facebook page for general society sharing of our own and others content.

Sue: if a society has a facebook group with lots of members then when it comes time for membership payment, just putting a notice on there about how to pay easily will build members

Karen: Many of the “new” cousins I have met have shared images and stories that I had no idea about. While this has mostly been done via email, FB groups have also been helpful. However, I love the library and archival feeds on Twitter! Have learnt SO much.

Fran: I use @feedly to find material to share online that hopefully is useful to society members and family historians

Sharn: I definitely prefer Facebook for Societies and Groups because I can visit and catch up more easily than on Twitter. But Twitter chats are great for learning especially #HouseHistoryHr and #ANZAncestryTime and #AncestryHour

Sue: I’m a member of Sorell Historical Society FB group and often mention what I am going to write about in my @OnePlaceStudies and get ideas from members including images

Alex: I think most of our demographic are flat out getting on Facebook let alone any of the other social media platforms.There’s a healthy disrespect for social media. I do think people need to be digitally literate i.e. understand where info is from.

Caitie: Very true! My mum joined Facebook for a month and couldn’t understand it but she loves Twitter & has her own twitter account. She will probably see this tweet 🤣

Pauleen: Which I suppose shows we need to share our info on different platforms if we want yo maximise the impact.

Pauleen: And to understand privacy settings. I check out how tightly people control that and only accept people I know in person or who I’ve followed in genealogy for a long time. It’s great for keeping international connections too.

Fran: I find Facebook messenger groups are great. You can have a real conversation with a select bunch. It’s easy to go back and check out previous discussions as it is not in a pile of other non related posts.

Hilary: I use Google Group and Discord for interacting with groups on @wikitree as well as their forum

Linda:  I prefer Facebook Groups, I’m in numerous one’s for surnames, places, English Counties, DNA, and just general groups for queries, would like to use Twitter more for genealogy but don’t find it as user friendly as a Facebook group, Instagram I don’t use at all

Fiona: I keep up with many groups via their blogs or fb pages as they give timely info. But like Greg (@ancestorian) I don’t like how you have little control over what is picked for you fb feed.

Pauleen: We have an ANZ FB group for fans of local and family history blogs and another for the bloggers to get advice or swap notes. Very handy to meet new bloggers and promote our own blog posts. Do you share yours in a private FB group Tara?

Fran: Groups are great that you can restrict membership to people. Great advantage for families and societies or topics that you wish to focus on.

geralt / Pixabay

4. Can you recommend any tech apps or techniques to manage your social media?

Fiona: No social media before lunchtime.

Fran: I love apps that integrate. For example I use Co-Schedule, @buffer or @hootsuite to post on most of my work, society and personal social media posts. I like being able to schedule. Integrate with my apple products, WordPress blog, IFTTT and more.

Paul: Bit late to the party but I use the app buffer for scheduling tweets and posts it’s a great tool

Karen: While I do not like the way Adobe does business (e.g. huge fees for cancelling a monthly subscription), I do like their Adobe Spark software which can be used to create posts with the right specs for different social media sites.

Sue: I used to use flipboard to collate great posts from students in the blogging challenge I ran worldwide from 2007 – 2017

Carmel: Used IFTTT and Zapier for a while but really don’t post enough to bother with them.

Tara: Excellent reminder that Tweetdeck is a great way to keep on top of Twitter feeds.

Alex: I inherited an amazing Excel calendar from the former Facebook coordinator at QFHS. I spend about a morning once a month scheduling posts for our events. The rest I do ad hoc from browsing. But I probably need to use something like Loomly.

Shauna: I like TweetDeck for Twitter as I can see multiple streams at the same time. Using hashtags is also very useful for bringing information together

Caitie: This is what I need help with. I don’t really have a posting schedule either so to speak. If I think of something to share, I just share it.

Wellington Chinese History (WCH): I use Google calendar for important events and dates, and “zaps” to automatically send out tweets and post to Facebook and LinkedIn.

geralt / Pixabay

Blog posts:

Fiona: creating a Feedly account to collate posts you want to read

General comments:

Sharn: I’m grateful that Social Media and Zoom have allowed me to stay in touch with and meet new people!

Helen: Was disappointed when they killed the forums on @TroveAustralia & the ability to contact other members. When you were able to work out who might have textcorrected/tagged things of interest you could contact them. I had a great family connection success this way

ANZ: Sometimes we have to restrict notifications so we manage social media, not the other way round.

Readers: What social media do you prefer for your family history? Why and how?

Have a brickwall? Some hints for solving …

Many genealogists are on Twitter and recently a new twitter chat has started called ANZAncestryTime  As you might assume, this is for those of us in Australia and New Zealand, but we have had others from around the world join us in our two chats that have been run so far. We also have a website relating to the chat.

This week, the topic was

jernastyle / Pixabay


Here are the questions and some of the replies that might help you in solving brickwalls in your family history.

Q1 Do you have any Brickwall Ancestors?

Virtually everyone on the chat could mention at least one ancestor who is a brickwall from parents through to ggggrandparents. Many were Irish brickwalls, or not being able to find how the ancestor got to Australia/New Zealand. Others were relating to illegitimacy in generations or incorrect paper trail or oral histories. Changes of name to get away from a situation or bigamous marriages.

But Fran @travelgenee said

I don’t usually think of any ancestors as brick walls. Just that I have not got around to exhausting the research possibilities yet.

Then Sandra @Samellco21 said

All my ancestors are from Prussia, Germany Poland so they all feel like brick walls at times

Mandy @sciencegirl_NZ said

I have one major brick wall that I’ve not been able to push through for 20 years. An ancestor born around 1750, perhaps in USA/Canada/Scotland/Ireland. Possibly John/Jean/Johann. McLean or possibly McNeil. I’ve run down so many possibilities.

Jane @chapja said

Yes a number of brick walls largely because of lack of available documentary evidence … gradually making some headway drawing on DNA evidence

Q2 What are some of the causes of Brickwalls in family history?

  • Bad research habits probably do not help. Going down rabbit holes, not using a research log, not planning the research – from Fran
  • Duplication of names in an area, making it hard to distinguish who you are looking for. Lack of records. Brick-wall is too far back for DNA to be useful – Fiona @fiona_memories
  • Poor handwriting leading to not so good indexing – Shauna @HicksShauna
  • Researcher inadequacy – I have it in full measure – Jill @geniaus
  • In my cases it’s either names missing from records, or common names in a big city – Alona @LoneTester
  • Getting locked into a thought process and not jumping the wall. Records which cease at a relatively early stage – Pauleen @cassmob
  • Not being able to verify if records actually relate to your person, incorrect oral history leading down the wrong trail(s) – Sue @tasteach
  • Thinking you have the correct person but you don’t. 2 people with the same name and birth date. Also illegitimacy and deciphering handwriting – Sandra
  • We do need to beware of falling into the name and place trap as if there might only have been one person possible. Good tip! – Pauleen
  • Lack of record availability, mistranscription,  lies. Some records just got destroyed years ago or have deteriorated – Hilary @Genemeet
  • sometimes unexpected behaviour gives you a brickwall that isn’t really there as you don’t have the substantive evidence to verify families moving across countries or the globe – and then you find they did – Ruth @ruthjots
  • My brickwall is gg grandfather, Conrad Deihl arrived NZ c1842. Of German origins. Where to start? No clues on any BDMs – Catherine @CathyClarke77
  • There are even a few ancestors I believe are taking steps to hide from me – I find the record but the key section is illegible or is missing completely – Dara @DaraMcgivern

There was quite a bit of discussion about rabbit holes – information that leads you astray. But often these can help with the social history of the area where your brickwall might live, or lead you to maps and perhaps employment opportunities in the town giving clues as to why someone may have left the area.

But Fran said

Problem with the rabbit holes for me is that I find something interesting in my Ipad and are not all set up to document and source. Then I can’t find it later.

Then a great discussion from this comment by Maggie @iwikiwichick

My ancestors’ complete disregard for their descendants… They could have left me more hints. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Jill then mentioned

We need to seek help to overcome our inadequacies – learn, learn, learn.

Q3 What strategies do you use to break down Brickwalls?

  • Put them aside for another day when I can look at them with a fresh eye. Revisit, revisit, revisit – Jill
  • Timelines to see what is missing and whether some record could actually fit in the timeline – Sue
  • Timelines… lots of timelines showing the interactions between multiple family members as they may give clues to your brick-walls. I even wrote a guide to creating them – Fiona
  • Still waiting to knock down those brickwalls. But patience and coffee are both a necessity – Alona
  • Planning, for me is probably the best way to actually advance my research. Problem is that it is so enjoyable to do random google searches to see what you can find – Fran
  • Increasingly sharing the problem amongst expert colleagues as used to be putting into a drawer for years… – Ruth
  • Checking out lateral lines to gain more clues eg witnesses at marriages of siblings – Sue
  • Researching siblings can often open up a lead to knocking down a brickwall – Jennifer @Jennifer_Jones0
  • My main strategy now is genetic genealogy, and the more matches I identify the more successful the strategy becomes. So, I’m making some progress on my mother’s line, but my Dad’s, where no known cousins will test, is falling behind – Dara
  • Leave it and come back later when new records become available online – Hilary
  • Also making sure that you have checked every piece of documentation that you have or could have.. ie buy the birth certificates of siblings etc. Look for potential wider family in the area. Who else was on the ship from the area/country – Fiona
  • Try thinking outside the box how would it have sounded given any local accent – Hilary
  • Searching across states, looking at all branches/descendants of the family, DNA testing. Using Grenham’s surname distribution maps for Ireland – Pauleen
  • Process of elimination, tracking all possibilities, thinking laterally, looking at the wider community (FAN network) – Maggie (Family, Associates, Neighbours =FAN)
  • Making a surname variant list can help and when you find a newspaper article check how the OCR-ing has transcribed the typed name, to add to your variant list – Fiona
  • Recheck regularly the information you already have. I always seem to miss some little vital detail. Also researching extended family and neighbours can help – Sandra
  • With DNA matches for brickwall person, make connections to them via email, Facebook, blog etc and work together, your brickwall might be a known person to them – Sue
  • Writing a blog post about the brick wall can help and others make useful suggestions too – Shauna
  • Trove has been a major source of info helping me to trace ancestors movements within Australia – Jo @jobee_71
  • Providing a solid base for building backwards by building across and forwards to connect DNA matches and include collateral lines – Jane
  • Think who is the best person to do a DNA test to help with your research – Hilary
  • Test all the senior citizens in your family before it’s too late – Jill
  • DNA has helped me confirm my Aus and NZ connections when used in conjunction with traditional research methods – Sylvia @Historylady2013

Final word from Jill on this question

Strut your stuff – don’t hide your ancestors in the closet – make them visible so cousins can find you

Q4 Has DNA ever helped you to knock down Brickwalls?

  • Without DNA we probably would have never found Stephen’s father. Descendants in USA helped us track back to Ireland and locate the family member that migrated to NZ – Fran
  • DNA has found new cousins and reunited lost ones. It has proved my aboriginal line – Jill
  • Lots of connections made using DNA and disproving paper trails and oral history on my dad’s side, on mum’s side DNA=paper trail – Sue
  • DNA helped me find out who my g grandfather was – Sharn @SharnWhite
  • Yes. I now know who my paternal grandfather was. No more missing branch – Sandra
  • Not as yet but hope to reveal more about a GG Grandfather – an English line of my family with few known relations – Ruth
  • My mother has a DNA match to a bunch of siblings whose family is limited to Wexford, and it’s a decent match, not down to tiny fragments. But the documents run out and we haven’t yet made the link despite years of trying – Pauleen
  • Not so much a brick wall, but it proved a relationship that some people certainly questioned – Alona
  • DNA has helped identify an ancestor’s missing siblings. Hoping it will identify some wayward fathers (and a mother) – Maggie
  • Yes, led me to the right Andrew Thomson in Lanarkshire. Now if I could just work out if he died in Australia or went back to Scotland (or let’s face it, just about anywhere else in the world) – Fiona
  • Not at all but that’s my fault. I really haven’t done anything with my DNA results. Also my family won’t get tested as they’re suspicious of DNA, even the younger ones – Jennifer
  • Just last month I confirmed the maiden name of my GGG-grandmother through DNA matches, and an Australian marriage and death cert. – Dara
  • Yes DNA has helped me too. I’ve broken through a couple of big walls by combining with paper trail – Sally @SallyBloomfiel7

A few hints about DNA tools to use

My favourite DNA tools are clusters, and chromosome mapping to see who matches who – Seonaid @genebrarian

I build my DNA matches trees on my computer. I mark each link so I can see who goes back to whom. Make sure the trees are correct – Margaret @MargLBailey

I like creating those quick and dirty trees using DNA matches and their trees, then using Jonny Perl’s WATO tool to hypothesize where dad fits – Sue

We need to start a campaign so everyone who did an Ancestry DNA test uploads to a site that will allow to do our chromosome mapping – so powerful – Jill

I’m using DNA tools like DNA painter and Ancestry’s colour coding to help knock down brick walls – Sharn

Not done enough testing yet but hoping to get 2 uncles to do Y DNA to help with missing father and uncertainty – Hilary

my new DNA match helped me find an error today – Hilary

The last five minutes of the chat related to a lot of tips about brickwalls

  • I found a missing ancestor through a google book search – Sharn
  • My tip is never give up – keep reviewing it every so often – Shauna
  • Local histories often contain information about families – Sharn
  • Chill. Don’t get too worked up. Put them aside for another day – there is plenty more research you can do – Jill
  • Persevere, keep records of research, think around the brickwall, get tested for DNA, connect with other relatives – Sue
  • Blogging is a great way to find information when people contact you. And social media – Sharn
  • Ask the hard question? We all talk about how great interviewing collecting from older relatives. Once they are comfortable then ask the hard questions. You will be surprised how much they will spill the beans – Fran
  • Don’t forget you can always share your Brick Wall with BrickWallBusters on Brick Wall Hour @BWBHour run by @DanielGenealogy

Final word is from Carmel @crgalvin

Don’t become a brick wall for your descendants, write, film and record.

Readers: What are some of your hints for breaking down brickwalls?