Category Archives: Blogging

Publishing Your Family History

Early in 2021, my two brothers and I collaborated in writing personal stories of our childhood and young adulthood,  growing up in a village in Ontario. Canada.  It became a book, professionally printed, bound and published in a volume called, The Gillespie Family of Coe Hill, Ontario. This history preserves our memories from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s.

Even though I had already produced several booklets over the years, those were printed and combo-bound in my office (spiral spine). It had been about 10 years since I last published something.  This new effort was using a professional,  printing firm for the first time.  Although I am happy with the results, and so are others involved, it would have really helped if I had studied the publishing business of today before I began. Let me provide a bit of new knowledge I learned.

  1.  Purpose:  Each of us wants to be remembered, to find some significance in a world that is rapidly changing,  Preserving a history of the past has been mine for some time, after I retired from a medical and teaching career.  What is your purpose in what you want to create?  Will it bless someone, teach, remember the past, encourage? Those are the most valuable works to embrace. Finding your focus is important.

My own children and those of my siblings have limited or no knowledge of what we experienced growing up. Coe Hill was a farming community and people used agricultural methods that no longer exist,  except being mentioned in a few  books and the odd website.  When I suggested writing the stories of our childhood and youth,  both my brothers agreed. Suddenly we were busy sharing emails back and forth, and I started writing my own story.

We learned a lot about each other’s experiences,  some of which were a surprise.  Even though we lived in the same home, had the same parents, went to the same schools, we had different experiences and social contacts. Oh how the mind forgets as one ages,  which can be very frustrating.  What was the name of that woman who had the hair salon beside Sprackett’s Store?  Who lived in that house across the road from the Fairgrounds?   I  made a chart of our village and got help  to remember who lived where in all those buildings back then,  as a prompt.  I now wish I had added that village chart to the book. Of course most of it has now changed. Each of my siblings and I moved away at different times.

We all wanted to honour Mom, who suffered so deeply, but was a kind,  gentle woman and never got the recognition she deserved. The Dedication will preserve her memory,  with its photos of her life and a brief summary. This isn’t her story, but her influence was a positive one. Thank you, Mom. Since Dad died when I was a child, and this website honours him, he is only briefly mentioned in this project.

Mabel Miller Gillespie

My brothers and I each have our own section and chapters in the book, each section ending with a personal photo album.  I then added more general family photos, an intro and ending, and brief genealogy charts for both our parents,  as far back  has I have traced our history.  77 printed pages in the finished volume. Now we chat how we wished we had added even more memories.

There is a deep satisfaction knowing our family will be remembered in our small village a bit longer after we are gone. So, know what matters to you,  as you begin your own creation. Take time to think that through.

2. Method:

I started typing my memories in a new MS Word document on my laptop, and retyping the drafts arriving from my brothers. When it came time to send the finished computer files (one text; one photos) to the publisher, I discovered they wanted it in a completely different format.  This was a shock and upsetting. I knew very little about the new format and how to convert my document without having to retype it again. It had taken hours and hours of work, well over a month of serious typing and lining up photos on pages and trying to get the editing just perfect.  I even printed out a copy of the book for reference,  so the printing firm would know which picture went where on the pages. Although it helped, the files still had to be changed to pdf, page number deleted, margins changed and so on.  Who knows what they will want when you start your own work.

So before you begin, several things I would suggest. Look at what others have done, even what  publishers were chosen. That is found on the copyright page just inside the front pages of any volume. That will also help you visualize how to set up that  page in your own book. Do you want to use a local publishing firm, or should you explore other options? Will this be a commercial volume to sell to recover your initial costs and make a bit of profit, or is it just a record in a nice format to share with family and friends, as we did?   I would suggest you find a publisher to consult with staff for guidelines,  as you begin the process.

If you want a smaller volume in finished book size,  as I did, you’d better check the cost. That became the deciding point for me  and why I changed its size. It was very disappointing initially, but a strong awareness  now of how my own perceptions and budget had influenced that final decision.

Consider if you will self publish,  or hire someone else to that for you. Businesses like Amazon publish books, but take a  cut of the selling price. I know someone who used Amazon and did an excellent job. I now know there are many companies who do this.  I should have investigated this before I began, but I didn’t. I  think I might consider this route to save all the hassles involved until one learns the steps involved for future efforts. That is the reality of the changes in the publication business over even the last 10 years.

I felt confident of how I wanted the book to look, its divisions, its finished size and a full colour on all the photos.  My brothers left all those details to me. I got a quote from a local printing office which was fine, until the final bill,  which was something quite different and a bit upsetting. Those increased costs came from extra work they had to do and other factors.  I must share some of that adjustment, but not all.  People have to make a profit to run a business, but even this is a learning curve. You might want to consider getting several quotes,  because this is a competitive business,  meaning use that to your advantage. There shouldn’t be much difference in those quotes, but learn in what way you can juggle giving up one feature in order to have another that you  really want to keep.

Do have a budget.  Keep a sharp watch on costs,  cause they add up so fast. Don’t forget about taxes, even postage and packaging, even gas costs for travel to distribute the books,  once you have them. Prices will keep climbing, so have a thousand dollars as a starting baseline for a small production.

I was about to suggest a number of volumes for that count,  but realize the expense will change all the time. Have a good idea how many volumes you want published and if the publisher will give a discount for higher volume. They need your business. Know the core cost per finished volume before you set the final selling price. If the volume sales are low for awhile,  you may need to adjust that  selling price over time, but that can go either way, up or down.  So consider adding advertising to your budget,  even management fees if you hire someone to market your book for you. That is what Amazon and others offer.

Perhaps ask friends to review your book before it is printed, to give their input, even editing advice.   The printing company will send you the final computer copy before printing so you can make minor adjustments, if needed.

Both my brothers told me how many volumes they wanted. I added my own count, and added a few more for the total number of volumes I wanted printed. This was a  fairly accurate count, when most were later distributed.  The publisher actually gave me two more volumes than I ordered.  There are probably details here that I never explored that you might find helpful in choosing the final production volume and details.

3. Reasons & Lessons Learned:

We did not do this to make a profit. Several people offered to pay for their volume, but in the end,  that was not important to me, meaning please enjoy the gift. A copy has gone out to our families and  friends who are still living from that period.  It was fun exchanging a personal history book with some authors I know. I even got a request for a volume from a major historical society, and still have a few more copies for future needs.

I will, however, be far more cautious in future publications and find an easier way if I do another book. Our purpose has been fulfilled. Thank you Wollaston (Coe Hill) Public Library,  who welcomed a copy and has it in their circulation library for older local families in the area to enjoy.

It feels good to leave behind something  personal of our life in that village,   other than words on my Mom’s tombstone. Not gone yet, as each day is welcomed in this journey of life.

Norma at her Mom’s grave in Coe Hill.

4. More Considerations: 

Consider who owns the copyright, the publisher or you?    Not realizing the significance of that, I did not know you can obtain your own ISBN numbers from the government website for free. The publisher was planning to charge me $30  for this, and offered to reduce this cost in our final financial arrangement.  I definitely wanted the ISBN number on the back of the book for later scanning by libraries, etc, wherever the book might be found. ISBN is very important on publications in Canada. I have reserved several numbers on the government copyright website to self publish in the future. Each county has its own rules and system in this regard.

Book cover I wanted green for my Dad’s Irish background on five lines of our family history.  I no longer like the colour red, but our Scottish Gillespie roots are also not forgotten in that background colour palette. Red for Scotland. Colour matters to some of us, as my whole library was colour-coordinated.  No, I wanted to no photo on the cover, but others often do. It’s a nice place to provide a glimpse of the book’s purpose, advertising. Even the spine can have the title across it. Want a glossy look to the cover? Just realize that all of these things cost more, as another alert.

The title was so simple. It fulfilled its purpose. I never considered another. The most important thing about this publication was that it brought my two brothers and I much closer as siblings. It promoted healing between us and opened up a channel of communication we never had before this publication and remains to this day.

5. Personal memories

I miss those days so much sometimes.  I would  be sent up the  ladder in the barn and on top of the mow. With a hay fork, I grabbed  the arriving loose hay and struggled to shove it around me, stomping on it to tramp it down. I had to keep the sides built up a bit and the top level. On the wagon below, the two men shoved their forks into the piles of hay  on the wagon, as the team of horses rested. Sometimes  as the men lifted together,  they threw that dried grass all over me in fun. I would shake it off,  sputtering and dusty,  and frustrated,  as I tried to keep up, not at all pleased.

The mow grew higher and higher,  as more wagon loads were brought into the barn from the fields. Someone would drive the team,  while another walked along beside it and forked the mounds of hay up onto the wagon as it paused. Backing the team into the barn to unload again.  No baler back then. No tractor.  They would all come much later.

That barn has fallen down now and those men are gone. The farm sold,  and land broken up.   I can remember the Holstein calves in the horse stalls;  the time that Albert built the machine shed;  and when he installed the first milking machine in the lower stable. There was a great big vegetable garden on the way to the house, cause I helped weed it.

Learning to milk a cow by hand as a little girl sitting on a stool. But getting punished by a stubborn one,  who slapped her tail against my face and kicked out. Albert put the  metal clamps with a chain  on her back legs to stop that, and took over, while I moved to a gentler cow.  I can almost hear the sounds and smell of that stable in my mind,  as I pen these words.  Each cow had it own place in that long line up on a long raised platform. They would walk in,  sometimes pushing between others to find their spot. I would help tie the metal chains around their necks,  while they enjoyed their grain.

Years later I worked for a modern dairy with purebred Holsteins in Prince Edward County. It hosted Japanese tours and had top of the line  machinery,  printouts on each cow’s performance,  and a completely different milking system. It  was never as enjoyable as the fun I had on this old farm, and growing up in a village where you knew most people.

Many times I walked through our woods and across those fields to get to and from the farm I loved.  I often looked for cow tracks on the ground,  as I hunted for the cattle at night,  to drive them to Albert’s barn. Usually I would  meet him with his border collie, who quickly nipped a heel of a slow poke. That herd  roamed in many directions over our property that Albert rented. Yes, I have loved rural living all my life,  but listen now to a city awakening  in the background. Our memories give us comfort,  sometimes. Takes a lifetime to learn to block the ones that don’t. This book is a testimony of a history that gave me some of my happiest memories in  my life.

Perhaps I will begin to scan more stories from the book for you to enjoy.  The time I drove a team of horses to the field to rake hay, when I was 12 years old. The team walked along quietly until I turned them, and suddenly they would trot off,  trying to run back to the barn. My feet didn’t touch the floor boards to brace and stop them.  I just hung on to the reins, and yanked the chord as fast as I could to lift those banging tines to release the hay,  until the horses stopped at the fence and I gained control again. So glad I was still okay as I bounced around quite a bit. Back and forth, up and down the field. No photo back then,  but here is one I found online that looks just like my experience.

One barefoot child is sitting on a hay rake behind two horses. The other child is standing directly behind the hay rake which is in a field.

A year later, I wish now I had prepared a CD or DVD to add in a sleeve on the back cover of each volume.  The book in  different format,  so it can be viewed easily on a computer screen. I wish my brothers and I had read our own chapters out loud on the tape, as many seniors cannot read any more, eyesight failing,  just as mine is.  It would preserve our voice even after we are long gone.  Thoughts to record us live from a Zoom session never occurred to me until now, but my brothers may have balked at that.  Here it is, a simple volume to preserve memories of the past, and how it came to be.

I wish you well in your own publications.  Here are a few others from my collection from the past.

My Mom’s family history I prepared for her sister’s family.

One of three Gillespie volumes of the indexes with microfilm codings including Births and Deaths arranged in three ways, by date, by location and by first names. Handy volumes. Now all transcribed to this website. More records now in public domain,  as a new year of records is released each spring.

It was fun preparing this volume for my girl of family recipes. Both she and I still refer to it occasionally.  It represents volumes of other interests I prepared, besides genealogy.   Below is another

An in depth Biblical study from Adam to Jesus, with multiple time period charts showing listing of family linked people,  events, prophets, world history, ending with notes. Investigating the mystery of the different genealogy accounts from King David to Joseph, earthly father of Jesus. Related archaeology researched. Satisfied my own belief about  these difficulties for a Biblical scholar, but not including them in the notes provided.

Creating A Memory Garden


I am very nostalgic about the past,  especially relating to my childhood. Recently,  I was discussing some of those happy memories and how the creation of a memory garden is so soothing and comforting. As a gardener, it is delightful to choose a quiet spot, and turn it into a special place to honour those who have meant a lot to me over the years.

I’ve done this before,  when I owned the home farm in Wollaston Township, Hastings County, on the outskirts of the Village of Coe Hill. I wanted some trees planted along the fence across from the front yard, so encouraged an old man, Archie Hannah, who lived with us, to plant one he chose.

Archie was a pioneer, having been raised in an isolated farm miles away on the South Road. Gradually over the years he had moved to town and lived at the opposite end of the village as I was growing up.  But he came to live next door,  when my neighbour, Harold Crosby’s wife died.

I wanted to go to Toronto to take nurse’s training but needed someone to look after some livestock I owned.  Turned out it was perfect timing,  as Archie needed a new home.  He became a Grampa I didn’t have, and was at my wedding, then later kept an eye on my toddler, a little girl who kept falling down as she learned how to walk. Sadly, Archie died in Bancroft Hospital,  age 89 after suffering a stroke. But I have happy memories together,  riding to many horsey events in his old half ton truck, with my Morgan gelding, Banner, in the back. Archie also raised pigs. In the photo, this is George, a purebred Yorkshire boar that we bought together so long ago.

Archie had built some racks for that truck.  Banner was used to standing in there, eating from a hay net tied inside, as he was. My last horse ride with him was in the fall before we moved to Alberta. My eight year old daughter sat on her pony, and I on my bigger horse,   as we quietly rode along together enjoying a country road,   then coming down the lane to the barn.  I never knew we would never do this again. My girl  is now an adult with her own daughter, and I have a tack box of my girl’s  pony saddle and other tack, just waiting for munchin to enjoy, too.

I cannot forget Harold Crosby,  who lived across the road as I was growing up. He and his wife, Gladys, and their daughter, Nola, meant a lot to me. The mother taught me how to knit, as we sat together in their living room. Nola and I loved to open an old trunk in the attic and pull out some ancient dresses and hats. Down the stairs  we would come,  all decked out with long beads of jewelry, even adding a bit of lipstick, our first makeup, which I had to scrub off before going home.

I can remember learning to dance,  as Harold showed me how to waltz around the room. Oh how we kids screamed in fun one Halloween when he wore a white sheet and chased us around outside. Naturally I would never tell anyone how scared I was at first at the shock of this ‘thing’ coming at us, with a banshie yell and wavy arms.  Yes,  Harold has a special tree in the farm’s front yard,  that he planted himself.

I passed by the Coe Hill farm not long ago, some 65 or so years after these events,  and was so happy to see those special trees still there. Both men are long dead. But the memories are as fresh as when they first happened.

My last memory garden is a tiny spot between my grave plot and Mom’s tombstone in the Coe Hill Anglican Cemetery.   I just added a fragrant, pink shrub rose for her, Mom’s favourite colour, and some more bulbs,  which will bloom every spring, long after I am gone. I love their yellow/blue combination. I discovered a black mulch made out of rubber this spring, and spread it thickly,  hoping it would last a long time. There is no one to  care for my special place, so each visit get more meaningful now.  I’ve made a few mistakes, like not using Dwarf Alberta Spruce. Even a simple spirea bush I carefully pruned can grow into a large sized plant.

I needed help this time with planting things and scrubbing Mom’s stone to remove the algae growing on it this spring.  Not too happy with the wreath this year, but it, too will soon be gone. and who really cares but me. I do care, a lot. So make your special place the way YOU want it. These tips just give you ideas and alerts from the mistakes I have made.

What about a plaque?  Could be a simple sign hanging by a chain around a tree.  Something more long lasting might be one prepared by a tombstone company. As a genealogist, it is important to me for future visitors, that the basics of a person’s life be preserved, like full name, and dates for birth, marriage and death, and names of children. Maybe you can provide a hint as to the person’s interests in the sign design, just as one does on a tombstone.

Now for more serious gardening tips I have learned over the years. Begin with the location, and pay attention to the soil and moisture–the key things that makes or breaks success in any gardening project. You need sprinkler lines and electrical power lines in tubes installed before planting an area, especially if you want sockets for outdoor  lighting to the garden, or to run a pond pump.  If you forget, there are soaker hoses that can be laid on top partly hidden by the vegetation, but do you have source of pressure water to use with them?  What if there is no water source at all? Add a lot of compost to help hold moisture in the soil,  if it is naturally sandy.  There is a wide range of soils across Ontario, and across North America.  Your local Agricultural representative can help you identify your soil type and ways to improve it.

May I suggest you do a plan on paper first, and study it carefully to rule out problems before they become permanent. You can do it on graph paper,  or buy a computer program for gardening that lets you design the whole thing and see it in its full dimension on the screen. That program lets you shift things, choose the plants and see if you like their placing, and even add  accessories, like benches, music speakers, even statues, if you like them as I do.

I tend to get excited,  wanting to get started, so never did this for the cemetery, but used it when planning a garden for others.  Some of us are just more fussy about details than others, and I am a list maker. These are just hints that I found helpful.  Studying the layout may mean looking at below ground factors like:  where is it safe to dig, and should I call in the hydro to check all lines coming into the property?

The other factors are of course above ground,  like the movement of the sun and wind over the area.   Know your Agriculture Zone, so when you choose plants for the ground, you will know which ones are hardy for your area. I loved the gardens at Disney World in Florida, but none of those plants would survive here.   Zones refers to temperatures for different locations in  the layers of coldness at maximum temperature. It is coldest at the North Pole, and gets warmer as one moves south. The zones indicate that. The Coe Hill farm in Ontario, Canada  is in Zone 5, on the border with Zone 4, and has a nice range of plants for that region.

I have lost plants from winter kill because it takes time to understand annuals, bi-annuals and perennials, and their growth. I like growing new plants each year. You may have more than one Zone in your garden around the house. Areas close to the house may be warmer than those further away,  where the air currents can hit them. So if a plant is struggling in one area, try a new location, one slightly different and warmer. Now why didn’t I  think of this sooner?   Of course you can add a greenhouse to protect everything but for most of us, our memory place will be simple, relaxing, and peaceful.

Plants that prefer the shade may wilt a bit when the sun beams down on them all day. Tuck a few trilliums in a shady area to bring nature into your garden. They will spread gradually. Add lots of  other woodsy plants, such as ferns, and bulbs of various kinds.  The sun lovers won’t appreciate being hidden away in dimmer areas. Even shade has various depths, and I  am amazed at the resilience of many plants who beam at us from less perfect conditions.

So like life, taking our circumstances and not letting them dictate our attitude, our mood. One of the most moving books I have read in the memory garden (don’t forget a bench or chair), is a very old one, Hinds Feet In High Places, which is an allegory about a scared individual travelling to the mountains. The person passes through the Misty Flats, and later shelters from a storm in a cave. The wanderer feels so alone and forgotten, but  sees a tiny flower in the darkness of the cave. The flower said its name is:  Acceptance With Joy.

There can be beauty from the ashes in our life. Not all of life is success,  as we learn far more from our failures. Wood ash contains fertilizer,  produced by the furnace’s heat. All plants need fertilizer,  as their roots deplete the soil each season. What about us? No one reaches the end without having gone through some tough times. Let’s put down deep roots,  hold steady and calm, and smile at the world in thanksgiving for life itself, the beauty around us, and most of all for the Maker, who is revealed in it all.

Listen and feel the wind, its direction and strength, which needs to be filtered for your chosen spot. Trees will do that, especially evergreen ones. Shrubs can be added for their colour leaves and beautiful flowers. I happen to love colour themes in the garden, like purple leaves on Smoke Tree shrub, Ninebark or the smaller ones, which I set in a long triangle across the yard to draw the attention of one’s eye.

A winding path is delightful to some of us, but too slow for others and how you design it helps set that mood. Some want a vista in the distance, while I like a closed- in, private feel to the site. Privacy helps me relax, and think and shuts out a noisy world.

Seasons area important to remember, because you will want a variety of shrubs and plants that flower at different times over the summer. The yellow stems of Forsythia announce Spring in late April.                                                           

Heavily scented Lilacs in deep purple or white open in May; Bridlewreath Spirea, with long shoots of white, arch towards the ground in June.

The big blossoms of Hydrangeas begin in July and extend into August, with many varieties adding colour and texture.

I love the tall grasses that leap over my head by fall.  They also move in the breeze, swaying back and forth on a windy day.

Scatter shrubs a bit,  rather than planting in straight rows. I’ve seen a marvellous berm used to create levels of greenery. A berm is a pile of good soil of some substance, both in depth and length and height. I once designed one for a friend in Nevada and added a dry rock waterbed and curved the river out of sight.

Make it real, if you want, but think of winter and how you will drain water without damaging the line. A pond is delightful, but if you include fish, be prepared for the visit by coons and herons, and even creatures one does not want.  You can add some narrow tunnels in which fish can hide,  install water plants which bloom and cover the surface. A netting above helps protect those living below.  I love the gentle sound of moving water, especially as it cascades over rocks and edges in the planting. Feel the moisture in the air after a rainy day or the drifting spray of the waterfall.

Any structure, be it a  solid fence, or band of trees, will affect a current as the wind arrives. It hits the wall, lifts to go up and over, then comes crashing down hard on the other side, all based on the height of that resistance. So,  give some thought how to soften that current, or redirect it. Slats between fence boards do that, as an example.

Remember the five senses when designing and creating your Memory Garden.  A lovely fragrance is important to me, especially with roses. It also means you won’t find skunk cabbage in my garden  Colour affects mood. Hospitals and medical setting use colour on walls to calm people. So pinks, silver, blues and greens are quieting, Dominant reds and strong yellows and oranges stimulate. They are fine around a tennis court, and often are in the back yard where the kids play. Keep the quieter colours in the entrance way, and where you prefer to sit and relax.

Sight,  and how to control where the eye goes in the garden,  is affected by a lot of things, some already mentioned. One can guide a person around a garden through creating openings and then blocking other areas. Each garden room can be different than an earlier one, but the transition between them can also change, or remain the same as a unifying link. Develop mystery in a garden this way, and give a reward at the end of a path, such a sit down place to see something beautiful. Imagine discovering the Memory Garden after a casual walk.  The path can be your memory garden, or an outdoor room by itself, or just a stop somewhere where you like to rest, like a patio chair.

The Memory Garden will probably be an outdoor room, but it can be several with perhaps a sitting area in the far corner, with a pond at another end with its little water fall. You don’t want to sit too close to moving water unless there is bathroom nearby.  Just the reality of life for the gardener.

Do you want a hedge around it, which can be any height to create a boundary?  I love yew hedges, but there is a danger from its seeds, which are poisonous, as are some other common plants. Keep them out of your memory garden in case a child visits. An old shed makes a lovely garden addition. At a garden show one creator had people walk through the simple shed to get to a special little garden. Lovely. Hide mirrors in certain spots to deepen the look of a small space.

You can hide an area with grasses, or create a very formal look with perfectly  lined up plants in a bed in a single colour. Or the typical English garden with its mossaic of garden perennials in multiple colours.  Each person will have their own sense of what they like, but may not know how to create that look.  Hire a garden professional to help you with that, or simply study or explore in your own gardening work.

What will happen to your special spot when you are gone and no one in the family wants to care for it?  Plan for that, if you can. All trees, all plants have a lifespan, just as we do, so consider that also as you plan and work on your Memory Garden.  It really is for you and your memories, to have a place of peace, tranquility and safety. Should you fence the area, to keep out livestock or rodents, or will you welcome some of them,  like little bunnies who hop by?

It takes time for nature to take over your spot dusting it with leaves .  Find a gardener to take over your garden when you are gone, if you can. This will help prolong the memories we want to preserve. We see this in cemeteries around the countryside.  Forget any negatives, just embrace this moment, and the pleasure it brings you.  Welcome the birds and butterflies into your garden maybe feeding them, and think of their long journey spring in fall…..they need a rest, too.

I find that too many blended colours upset me a bit, as they jar rather than soothe. So I prefer a quiet, soft palette with not many colours in one place.  I also look at gardening books and  videos in my collection, such as Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island.  A gorgeous, public garden build out of rock quarry. I learned a lot during my visit years ago.

What other things bring you peace,  satisfaction,  enjoyment?  My six year old granddaughter collects rocks from the places she visits and then paints them at home.  I gather fridge magnets from my travels. What do you have that will remind others of you in your Memory Garden?  You are also important, and what you create will reflect your interests, as well as those you are remembering.

In my travels, I have been delighted to find a little book case at the edge of a street or park, where someone puts in a few volumes for passing travellers. No charge; help yourself, or leave one in return.

What things can we offer others from our Memory  Garden? Apples from a tree: grapes from a vine; fruit from a bush or a bouquet of flowers for someone who need a lift?  Maybe a stop at a garden shed with gift items to sell, books that one writes, all passing through the Memory Garden to slow the person down, and introduce a quiet,  tranquil place.  ‘Smell the roses, sit in an old swing and watch the antics of a chickadee at the water fall. 

What a special place for the favourite things of the person you loved, Should one consider sprinkling the ashes of that person in this Memory Garden, instead of at a local cemetery? Their simple plaque may be all that is left of the person after you are gone.  What about a sign in the garden pointing to the places you loved, or indicating the movement you want people to take through your garden?

Set of 5 1 FREE Tiki Bar Decor Directional Signs Holiday image 1

I used to think about adding a foot path of stepping stones engraved with the names of Gillespies of the past,  or even a pet garden to remember our four-legged friends.  People could buy a stone to have it engraved,  or a tree with a name plate, to extend the memory   of  someone they cared about. Not every person has land in which to do this themselves.

We help each other remember the past, while making a bit of history  ourselves in the meantime.


Understanding Libraries


As one walks into any pubic library, it can be a daunting task to figure out where to spend one’s limited time in family history research. A few libraries may have a section dedicated to genealogy and put all their volumes and tapes into that area, but many do not. There are private libraries of course, even genealogy ones, which will prove of great worth, but this is an introduction to understanding the  resources,  and location of family history related subjects.

Although there may be an occasional Gillespie author on various subjects, the author’s subject may not relate to your study.. This is not the time to enjoy the fiction section, which is usually in an area by itself with books arranged by the name of the author.

Time is often a factor regarding free subscriptions that libraries may offer on their computers for  access to big genealogy websites.   During the pandemic,  my local library only allowed half an hour visits in total. So, where might one look to access material to help in one’s ongoing search for information?

History books are listed under the wall plaque number 900, and is in the non fiction area of a library. That area uses a different coding system than in the fiction section. Most books for genealogy will be located here, not all, but a good selection. Others may be in Travel for example, or even Biographies

Hopefully, any births, marriages,  deaths and census records will be in print and indexed, There may be guides in print as  free handouts that will help you skim the library’s collection to see what is available in this location for this type of thing.  Land records, school records, area histories in book form will be of great interest, but smaller public libraries may not have those.  Look for the biggest libraries in an area for your main visit simply because they probably offer more services and content. Many delightful discoveries have been made in simple, rural libraries, so never discount them.

I once spent a week going through very early, Irish parish records  without any index while at the Mormon library in Salt Lake City.  Exhausting,  and my eyes blurred and the effort tired me. I learned a great deal the week I spent in daily visits to this huge building. It had floors for various countries of the world and all the records from there.  Many volunteers help continue the work of copying records to the main Mormon website at The best family history library in the world, in my opinion, and certainly the largest. On their website homepage, use search to bypass the introductory wizard and pull up a world map, with links of all records to those areas.  You can also inter-loan microfilm of records from this Mormon library to their church libraries around the world, but you do not have to be a Mormon to use that service. I have found them very helpful and do not hesitate about entering a Mormon church to go to their library. Times of library hours should be on a website, or sometimes posted on the front door of the church. I am not a Mormon.

Many libraries maintain an online presence, so that you do not always have to visit a library physically to obtain an understanding as to what it’s catalogue contains.  I found many records while visiting the online access to the New York Public Library from my computer. Staff hired in libraries often includes  a technician to maintain the library website.  I have had some excellent conversations with their technicians to learn more about the systems used in that location. Systems also include the cataloguing service, which most patrons never think about.  These have changed over the years and will do so again, with constant upgrades.  If interested staff will explain the current ones being used.

I commend Cobourg Library in Ontario for developing its very own genealogy database,  which saved me hours of work looking through card catalogues. There are still some libraries maintaining records on file cards. I copied most of them in my travels over the years,  all Gillespie ones that is. But they take up so much physical space, they are are being phased out for computer usage.

May I suggest that you first chat with a Librarian as she may give you some directions and suggestions, even bring you books or videos relating to your research.  That saves a lot of time figuring things out in a strange place.  Ask her about the printer and if you need a card, which you may have to buy and add funds  to. Do the copies go behind the staff desk for later pickup?  Cash payments are rare now for printed copies. You can use only black ink printouts to save money.

A few people may bring their own handheld scanner with them, and others may prefer to use a USB stick to save files. I like the records in print, and usually found  it cheaper to print them at the library rather than doing so at home in my office until I got a bigger laser one.  It was only five cents a copy at the Mormon library but would have cost me 25 cents per page at home.  I often find information on those printed pages long after my visit, sometimes years later. So,  I always print out a whole page of information in cemetery records, instead of only the line about a Gillespie contact.

Forget hand copying records unless you have perfect script.  I did that for awhile,  until I later couldn’t read what I had sprawled.  So frustrating, cause even if  you have a copied page, old handwriting is so difficult to interpret. Always identify the source of the information you are copying. Years later you may want to revisit that record,  or someone asks you for it.

If your focus is in looking at microfilm,   the librarian can explain how the volumes in the area are arranged in the drawers, and show you how to operate their microfilm reader, if needed.

Microfilm reader - Stock Image - C018/3674 - Science Photo Library

All the books on shelves are arranged in a specific way, and there is usually a computer available that will pull up the location of any subject, author, even book title you request. Write the number down on a slip of paper, then head to the shelves under the main coding numbers, Then look more closely to the labels on the spine of each volume.  Just as 1, 2, 3 is easy to understand, so is 1.1, 1.2.  1.3 etc is also. There is a numbering order consistent throughout the library. 900, 901, 902 and sub categories for example, and volumes for history will be higher in number, especially in the 970s.

Also remember that there will be a bar code sticker somewhere on each volume, which will sound an alarm if you try to walk out of the library without checking out a book at the staff area. R on the label means reference, and these books remain in the library for viewing.

Many public libraries use the Dewey Decimal System for cataloguing their volumes, to make it easy to add more books without disturbing the others.  This numbering system gives a title for subjects.

  • 000 – Computer science, information and general works
  • 100 – Philosophy and psychology
  • 200 – Religion
  • 300 – Social sciences
  • 400 – Language
  • 500 – Pure Science
  • 600 – Technology
  • 700 – Arts and recreation
  • 800 – Literature
  • 900 – History and geography

Printed maps are normally in a place of their own but near the main tables where people sit to work.  Same with city directories and telephone books, all of which can be helpful.  City directories gave names and residences long before telephones came into being. I have many maps of Gillespie properties yet to be added to this website. Early maps indicated routes that were taken in earlier times, but these trails may no longer exist.  I have walked farms and woods trying to trace one across Western Ontario to Barrie. Remember the waterways played a vital role in early travel. So think of the pleasure paddling these waterways, retracing the steps of those who came before us, even famous explorers.  You will probably find the map of the route in the the library.

If wanting to find the route taken by ancestors, ask a librarian who may have deeper local knowledge that will direct you to the appropriate volume, video  or even web page. I was especially helped in my early beginnings of research when I didn’t really know what was available,  and felt a bit lost in far away libraries.

My local library provided photography training and the equipment needed,  then sent me out filming old buildings, cemeteries and even filming World War II vets. That was a very special time, as those people are now dead. I commend those libraries that are preserving the history in their region. We brought in local people to film who could  expand the story of the early years in our local area and tell their own family history. They also provided old photographs,  with permission to copy them. Hence,  there may be events going on linked to a library that are unknown to you in a strange place, but may prove both fascinating and fulfilling. So another reason to talk with staff.

Historical volumes from the 1800s are wonderful treasures as they often include a history of each county and a listing of every land owner on their lot and concession ID.  These volumes for Ontario are now online for viewing. Maps in print from other countries are worth while viewing as well, and a search engine on your computer should find them for you if they have been published online. Ireland maps are important in this regard if you want to locate your ancestor’s property.

Select  a desk and chair to sit down and begin reading or writing, and take a moment to glance over nearby tables because other people may have finished with a publication that might interest you. I once discovered the earliest records for Ireland this way and would have missed them otherwise.

Usually people have learned that there is a section, often a whole floor,  that is dedicated to children and youth.   Remember that children’s books can also have wonderful stories of long ago, thinking of both Ann of Green Gables in Prince Edward Island series and the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House On the Prairie stories of her pioneering family in the Dakotas.  She lived 1867 to 1957.  Family history is telling a story about the past. We are the story tellers of our generation.

Washrooms are clearly marked, and because of the pandemic some people may still wear masks for protection. Some Canadian libraries have been very helpful in helping people with obtaining vaccination record cards, even laminating mine. I know of a library that has begun an equipment rental service for tools, all in efforts to raise funds to support their work. There are knitted hats, gloves, mitts and scarves to give away for those in need, I love the magazine racks to enjoy at leisure,  which usually has at least one genealogy and history magazines. Tables and comfortable chairs are available to rest and snack times. A television may provide the latest news.

Snacks may be available in vending machines, and some big city libraries offer cafeterias for meals while you are visiting.  But eating is frowned upon in the stacks area, although water bottles are not anymore.

If handling very fragile newspaper or other articles, you may be required to wear cloth white gloves. It is tragic to see pages crumble from age, so these items are usually withdrawn from public view and kept in carefully controlled environmental rooms to help preserve them.  They have been copied before doing that, so that the record is not lost. The best example I had of this was in Dublin at the University Library when I went to see the famous  Book of Kells and there was even a security guard to watch over visitors passing through.

In some situations, you may have to request that staff bring you material that is not available in the open research area. You submit at a service desk a request on a slip of paper to identify it, and wait for it to be delivered to you. You have to be very careful with this material, that nothing is lost or damaged.

Used books and videos are sometimes marked down for sale, if there is limited demand for them. They usually appear on a cart near the entrance, or even outside, with payment by donation, which helps buy new material.

Libraries are changing slowly, trying to stay abreast of current events and society. But controverses are challenging their right even to exist.  I want to thank management and staff of all the libraries I have enjoyed over the years as they have helped me uncover a world of knowledge and solved many mysteries for me.

This website represents the change from a physical place to a digital footprint in space.  There is much to learn about that change, May you enjoy the protection and preservation of records about family history for Gillespies and their families from across the world. We work together to do that, and as another generation disappears, who will stand forth to keep it going?

For a wider exploration of libraries than just genealogy for the layperson, here are some important links of interest.

World Digital Library of Congress

For those wanting to have a career as a Librarian, Library Science degrees are mostly at the graduate level, but several schools offer a Bachelor’s degree. The most common will be a Bachelor of Science in Library Science or Information Science.  A Master’s Degree continues the development of leaders in this profession.
The US offers several online Library Science programs so you can study from home.  These courses are also available in other countries, including Canada , but this is just information presented in a broader approach.  

The Mysteries in Cemeteries

I find cemeteries fascinating. Yes, there is a  history of the people laying here, but at first it may not be known to you. Some communities or the cemetery may have produced publications about that history. Others have not. But cemeteries contain people who were community members sharing a period of time, a generation or so, often grouped together, with sons and daughters marrying their neighbours.

Remember this as you walk around wondering the connections. Notice the main names of other families. Occasionally  the maiden name of the wife, a Gillespie, might be given on the stone, but it was not a common practice.  A tremendous joy occurs when that stone lists the exact origin of the person buried.  Yes, Ireland or Scotland helps, but I mean, the county, parish, the townland or village from where the person immigrated.

In Lindsay, I walked a cemetery with the gardener/staff who knew many of the Gillespies I had come to find.  He told me stories that a tombstone could not.

I think of that moment on Wolfe Island after filming all the Gillespie tombstones, when I found Ann Gillespie Gillow’s white gravestone,  stating she was from Co Armagh and her life dates:  1826 – 1868. This record fined tuned my research and bridged a gap I longed to know. A researcher of this family history later contacted me and we shared our knowledge together.

I was returning by ferry from Wolfe Island puzzled as where someone was buried I could not find. I chatted with the pilot, and he had worked with Robert Gillespie Jr, who lived on another nearby island with his family. This pilot knew the family well. I didn’t know Robert had been a ferry pilot. As the wind whipped my face and we crossed that open stretch of water, this man told me about Willowbank Cemetery in Gananogue, where other Gillespies were buried. Guess where I went as soon as I landed?

I even discovered that a Gillespie daughter, Elizabeth,  had moved with her family to Northumberland County.  I walked her farm one day, so far from the home turf in Frontenac County,  and even further away across the ocean to  Co Armagh, Ireland, which I  visited in 2014.

What an honour to stand over a grave of a pioneer here in North America and then retrace their steps to the homeland and see the places they once loved, standing over the graves of their relatives.   I was in awe in Scotland as I walked amongst the graves of those who were buried in the 1600s. The tombstones are still readable, standing proudly in white against the ravages of time.

In larger cemeteries one may find several generations buried here, sometimes interspersed, but frequently another community group, is located apart from another, but easily identified by colour of the tombstone.

Black tombstones have been common for some time now in Ontario cemeteries. This couple were my next door neighbours when I was growing up and represents that era of the early 1900 births. My Mom’s tombstone, in a nearby cemetery,  is a black one as well as she was born in the early 1900s. Black stones belong to today. But they spread across a wide time-frame,  especially of the 2000s.

Sometimes the stone is laid flat on the ground, less costly, but frequently seen with sod and  grass creeping as a cover over the plate. It is hard to read an older flat stone for this reason. I never seem to remember to bring a tool with me to remove the sod. Wish cemetery staff would do that, but they usually are too busy. With the increase of cremations, there are now vaults in some cemeteries to provide a collection of people’s ashes with a frontal plate,  to honour the dead.

Red tombstones usually represent an earlier generation, often deaths in the late 1800s to early 1900s.  Here is Gilbert Gillespie in the Beaverton Old Stone Church Cemetery with its many Isle of Islay Scottish settlers.  Gilbert was a descendant. You may find some reddish coloured stone mingled with black stones today, since people can choose almost any colour they want, but it was not the situation in earlier times. Many of these reddish coloured stones had a tall spiral, and people used all sides of the stone to list names of people buried here. That is a less common practice today.

Not all names on the tombstone are necessarily buried here, as families did honour the memory of those who died far away. This is noted in both in Teeswater, Bruce County and in the cemeteries of Cannington. The family of Squire Malcolm Gillespie,  a key Islay Scot, remembered his son,  Dr Paul Gillespie, on the family tombstone. Paul had died in South Africa as a young man,  having just married in 1916 and become a Justice of the Peace. In helping others he contacted and died of the dreaded plague.

White stones are being erased by the winds of time. They are priceless treasures of the past. This is the tombstone of Duncan Gillespie in Beaverton Stone Cemetery, another Islay Scot. Although difficult to read from this photo, there are four sides that have been transcribed with details included elsewhere on this website under Ontario Deaths. Sometimes these white stones had no base, and are leaning as they weaken. But here is one with two bases, before the main tombstone placed on top.  Size of tombstones in any era sometimes reflected the wealth of the family and were at times were flamboyant in display. An early collection of family burials might be surrounded by a metal fence, or put in a building, notably a Gillespie one in Huron County.

When you walk into a cemetery, pause and look around. See how the stones are grouped, and usually the oldest, white ones will stand out. Since they were the first graves in the cemetery, they may be close to the church or cemetery office. But that depends if it is the original building, or came much later in time.

Special markings on tombstones indicated membership in secret societies, such as the FreeMasons.

MASONIC GRAVESTONES | Gravestone, Headstones, Grave marker

“Approximately 40-50% of all Americans belonged to fraternal organizations in the early 1900’s, and fraternal emblems are frequently included on monuments.  Most common are Masonic and Order of the  Eastern Star symbols. Others include the Odd Fellows Grand Army of the Republic, the Improved Order of Red Men (an offshoot of the Sons of Liberty) and numerous now-defunct, ethnic organizations such as German musical societies.”

Here is the most common Mason sign on a tombstone


Even today, people want to express their Christian faith and do so with the addition of a cross, angels or even a fish on the tombstone.

Some cemeteries gather all the old tombstones and present them in a circle or row for easy reading, and maybe grass cutting. Perhaps individually they were crumbling, and this way preserved them longer. These stones are no longer are on top of the grave of the person so named.  It is so easy to drive by rapidly and miss the significance of a cemetery like this.  I did myself,  until I realized my great maternal grandparents were buried there in Simcoe County,

Some people have been buried in one cemetery, then interred and moved to another. I discovered this in Southern Ontario while hunting for a Gillespie cemetery that no longer exists except in name. I was trying to find the burials of the Gillespies who had fled the American Revolution. I left here and stopped in Niagara on the Lake to discover a very, very old Irish Gillespie burial near an oldest church in this historic town. This led to deeper research into the early military history of the area, and a visit to historic Queenston Heights in Hamilton. One visit so often propels one forward to other cemeteries and historic sites.

May I recommend that before going to any cemetery, first take a look on Find A Grave because not all burials have tombstones. Ask for information about the gravesite, because a listing from the office may reveal many others not yet known.  Some cemeteries are less accommodating if they are busy with a funeral arrangement, so consider calling ahead to make an appointment. I usually try to give staff time to gather the information I have requested. But for many years I would just walk into the grounds,  and try to figure things out for myself, and missed so much doing that. Often I would drive around in the car trying to spot a Gillespie tombstone The enjoyment is the mysteries yet to be solved in our search and the wonder of those that have been uncovered.

Sometimes a grave is just a grassy spot in a cemetery.  That was all I saw when  I first found my Dad’s grave finally. I dug up some corner stones that said “Gillespie.” Those foot stones mean a lot, as he died when I was nine years old. It is because of my love for my Dad that this website came into being, to honour him.  Just a name on a stone and a gassy spot beside the cemetery road, but precious to me,

Secondly,  see if the cemetery office will give you a listing of all burials of the people of your interest (I do it for all Gillespies and variant spellings of that name). Some may already be online, which you can print off before you arrive. The cemetery listing will normally include the grave identification, but you have to figure that out, as it is different for every place. So get a map of the cemetery to go with the listing of names,  so you can walk through the grounds and discover so much.

Some cemeteries have special burial locations for the military war dead or tragic events.   In my home cemetery is the lovely tombstone for a little girl who died in the 1950s from a tornado that came through our area.  Who was she, I wondered. There were also markers for babies of the family next door, hinting of an early tragedy in their lives that I knew nothing of, Part of their family history and suffering of long ago.

I have already mentioned elsewhere my fascination  with the Titanic burials that I visited in the Maritimes. Just like many of them who remain unknown, so many people in graves will never be identified. Think of the suffering of their families.  I hold Ireland’s government gravely responsible for letting many of its cemetery staff bury its residents without full identification.  What about those in war-torn situation, like Ukraine, where bodies are dumped in unmarked mass burials to hide them. There may be millions of people whose families today cannot find them because their grave is not identified.

Thankfully, here in Canada, that is not so. One can get an emotional response when visiting a cemetery, It may or may not be personal grief. It can be for the suffering of others. Usually for me it is a sense of tranquility. I have even enjoyed watching deer grazing among the tombs, who were startled to see me, or maybe a rabbit hops by.  In a world of strife, I have found cemeteries to be a calming influence on my own emotions. A place for tears sometimes, or quiet contemplation. Here is a poem to help express those feelings.

by Patricia A Fleming

I took a walk this morning
Just as the sun began to rise,
And the inky clouds encompassed her
And cluttered up the skies.

In the gloom I stood among
Those worn and weathered stones.
Stretched out upon the greenest grass
Each standing quite alone.

A morning bird was singing
Such a sweet and mournful song,
A tribute to those dearest souls
Who long ago moved on.

Ancient trees stood towering
Like loyal sentries standing guard,
Witnesses to all those laid to rest
And those surviving broken hearts.

The respectful silence floated
On a chilly morning breeze,
And the peacefulness embraced me
Like a blanket warming me.

Outside the gates, life carried on,
A siren pierced the hallowed air.
I thought perhaps another soul
Would soon be buried there.

I strolled around quite aimlessly
Entranced by all those words in stone,
And I realized that behind those words
Each had a story of their own.

I was glad I came to visit them
On this dark and dreary day,
And shared my story with them too
As I wandered on my way.

And as I reached the gates to leave,
Rain fell lightly from the sky,
And I swear I heard the softest voice
Bidding me a sweet good-bye.





Memories of the Past

I just enjoyed a delicious fish and chips supper in memory of happy times in my youth.  I sometimes would have breakfast as a child with Charlie, an Englishman who kept geese on his rural property beside a river near our house. He was our guardian after my Daddy died when I was  nine. Charlie was a terrific cook.

Tonight,  thinking of those times, I put a piece of frozen battered halibut on a greased pan in the oven set at 400F for 30 minutes. I  used fish I bought instead of doing the whole recipe from scratch.  Cause that wasn’t tonight memory.

fried fries

It was the French fries that were Charlie’s  specialty. I peeled two  potatoes and sliced them into usual long, thin shape,  and then dried them thoroughly in a clean tea towel. Meanwhile, I put about two cups of  canola oil  in a small pan to warm up.

When I thought the oil was hot enough, I tested things with one chip, then dropped the remaining potatoes into the hot oil. Did they sizzle. They remained at the bottom of the pot until each formed a crust, and started to brown. I stirred them once in a while. Suddenly all floated to the top of the hot oil and I knew my French fries were done. Took about 10 minutes cause I wanted a lovely golden colour on the chips. The longer they stay in the hot oil, the darker they will become.

Meanwhile I had prepared a container lined with brown paper (lunch bags came in handy), and dumped the fries into it to drain off some of the grease. Charlies taught me how to do all this, about 60 years ago or so. I  haven’t made any in a long time, thanks to cholesterol.

Just about then the fish was ready, and I added it to my plate and a bit of Diana Sauce for dipping, as I prefer that to regular ketchup. I also had to have a bit of salt, cause without it the taste just isn’t as good .  Horrible for my diet, but hey, this was a one-time dish in memory of a happy period of my life.

On my trip to the British Isles in 2014, I had done Charlie’s family history and hunted for his family’s graves in Torquay, England where he was raised. He had died in Ontario when I was about 17.   Torquay was also the summer home of Agatha Christie and family.

Memories become more and more important as you age, I discovered.  I was challenged recently to think, What gives me joy?

I am recreating some of the things from my youth that do that.  Without really intending to, but due to covid restriction on hair salons, I am growing out my hair again, so I can wear it in a pigtail down the left side of my neck. A pigtail at your age? Don’t you want to be fashionable?  Not particularly.  Anyway, long hair can be swirled up into many lovely styles. Last time I had a pigtail I was in my twenties and had just walked out of the church where I had  sat in Abraham Lincoln’s pew in Washington, DC. This was a very moving moment.

Lincoln’ suffering and all the soldiers, their families,  and slaves during the Civil War touched me deeply. He struggled to find a leader to win the war, and discovered it in an insignificant person in  Grant, whose great leadership brought it to an end. Then Lincoln’s own tragic death, and Grant’s  dying in poverty after being the President of the United States,  speaks to life’s greatest challenges.  Sometimes it takes a certain event for someone to find their greatest moment in life.  Many great leaders have suffered terrible humiliation in their careers.  I think anyone who rises above the agony of that, or any betrayal and still goes  on, develops a depth of knowledge of humanity that can propel them to greater strength.

Some memories of the past can pain us too much, so let go of all that deliberately, and replace the pain through the joys of better moments.  Each day is a brand new day offering new beginnings, fresh starts to find our destiny in this life.

Lincoln, Grant, and the 1864 Election - Lincoln Home National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)

Lincoln & Grant

I enjoyed that  Washington trip,  including a tour of the White House.   I’d love to visit some Civil War battlefields even today.  reopening.

Have you asked yourself  what brings you joy?

Guilt flared up in me briefly cause aren’t we being selfish to think like that? No, not at all.  It is probably left over from days when my focus was the needs of others.  Many mothers struggle with that. Fathers have their strains, too. I believe there is balance for everyone so we can walk guilt free, enjoying every day life.  Your idea of joy may be completely different than mine, so reach deep into your memory and see if recreating some of them might bring pleasure into today. Make sure they don’t hurt anyone. Does that statement ever define the present day crisis around the world.

This memory adventure is fun. Life isn’t all about genealogy, but one of my favourite past-times is filming tombstones in cemeteries. I also still have three boxes of tack from my horse training and showing days. My tack reminds me of that great trip riding Banner, my Morgan, in a long train ride from Niagara Falls to Toronto with a group of Americans in  1973 to celebrate the USA Bicentennial. We actually drove right up the hill to the US border to start our trip before swinging back to cross the Niagara region on back roads.

I was the outrider on the left side of the Canadian wagon that led the ride. The first day my horse, Banner saw his first cross-walk sign on the ground he balked,  refusing to keep moving. I urged him on strongly. He paused, head down,  then leaped over it, and nearly unseated me. He must have studied what the other animals did, cause he seemed to accept them after that.

I especially remember the tension coming down the escarpment hill into Hamilton. I expect we had ropes wrapped around our saddle horns from the wagon to help control that steep descent. Glad mine is a roping saddle with a double cinch.

Circle the Wagons in the Badlands of Alberta, Canada - TravelWorld International Magazine

There was about a mile of horse-drawn heavy wagons behind me, and ours was the first one to attempt it.  Each wagon had at least two outriders. I had a lot of fun chatting with the guys behind me. I remember being jerked awake more than once overnight while sleeping under the wagon on the ground. The two horses tied to it would rub  their faces against it,  and shake the wagon above my head.  We were at Centennial Park on the shores of  Lake Ontario for that overnight.

Most Americans travelled with a RV and the comforts of home,  and those vehicles moved ahead of us every day. When our approaching trail ride finally saw those vehicles at night fall, the horses would begin to nicker a greeting, looking for their welcoming oats.

A few days later, I had to calm myself and my horse at all the yells and honking horns from vehicles on the QEW passing us by, on the lane next to us on on the highway. The noise increased as we came along  the Lakeshore Blvd and more people spotted us. Then there was a big swing into the CNE grounds in Toronto to meet dignitaries. My photos are packed away in old albums somewhere, but I especially remember the pioneer costumes people wore in the evenings when we had visitors at our many stops. Someone even carried a Confederate flag.

Memories can be precious, thinking of my little two year old granddaughter meeting my chickens for the first time.

Hard times do come upon us,  and we have to wait out the winter of our lives as we near the end. But life isn’t over yet, and spring is almost here. Oh, I want to be out and doing so much.  A few limitations to overcome yet. When trials come, remember that is the period for inner growth. Just as I ask myself, consider the hard question: Is life making me bitter or better?  Then choose to look for the good around you.

Create new happy memories, especially with children and grandchildren. What about a scrap booklet to celebrate their lives,  or one for them of your history? Preserving old, precious memories while having a few new ones is my focus just now.  Let’s go riding again.  I would need a step ladder to get on a horse now I expect, but I’m willing.

Just remember that spring inside of us, bubbling up in joy,  is just as important as seeing its arrival outwardly.  The birds are singing, the sun is shining,  and hope and love are the wonderful messages of spring.


Geese Aloft: Flock Voices of March | BirdNote





Planning A Trip To Ireland


This is a reprint from an article in the Gillespie Family History Newsletter, used with permission by American authors Jim & Alice Byrnes.  Written some years ago before the Pandemic, some information may have changed slightly, but should easily be checked using a search engine. To see any place in 3D, use Google Earth.

After making five trips to Ireland and with number six already in the planning stage, where does one start in describing previous travels? Who knows what the future will bring? Alice thinks that unspoiled Donegal is the place to retire, but I think I would prefer Naas in the horse country. What follows may help a first time traveller.

First things first. The weather. According to Fodor’s travel guide, the temperature in Ireland varies 43F in winter to 68F in summer. Check the Internet for current weather temperatures. During the winter months, plan to dress in layers: a sweater and jacket, or a coat with removable lining (rain and shine preferred)

Travel in off-peak months, if possible. Each of the airlines, Aer Lingus, Delta, Northwest and American all have some unique advantages, but you can’t beat the flavour of Aer Lingus.  You are already in a bit of Ireland, even when you first board the aircraft.

We have travelled to Ireland in January, February, May, November and December, and on each trip we have packed less and less, leaving  space for our purchases on the return.

At Irish Fest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the largest Irish festival in the United States, you can visit the Aer Lingus counter in the travel pavilion and maybe get some special deals. One year it was two round trip tickets for the price of one provided that you travelled between certain dates, and that we did.  The plane was loaded with families taking their children on holiday, at prices they could afford.

Escorted tours may appeal to some travellers, if they include the sites that you want to visit. However the route does not change, and does not normally visit Northern Ireland.  Self drive vacations take imagination, left hand driving, narrow roads, and age limits, but they do allow flexibility to go to the sites that you personally select. The roads are generally well marked, and the rental companies provide good maps for driving. Most of the major rental agencies like Hertz and Avis are available, but do consider National, Alamo and Dan Dooley for lower rates. Cars rented in either the Republic or Northern Ireland can travel anywhere on the island, although rentals in the north appear to be a little more expensive.

If you fly into  Dublin and plan to do research in the city and don’t need a car right away, you might take the Flyer (bus) into the city and save a few euros. Some car rental agencies have local offices downtown.

Rail and bus service is very good, but you have to follow their schedule. A good suggestion for Dublin is to take the sightseeing bus from O’Connell Street, and if you see something on the tour that you like, you can always return and visit the site separately.


Lodging can be either in Hotels, or in Bed and Breakfast Hotels and Homes, and in Guesthouses. Hotels in Ireland are just like hotels in the US or Canada, but in homes and guesthouses there is more interaction with the host. Quality of the facilities can be assured by using  lodgings approved by the Irish Tourist Board or the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. In all our Ireland travels, we were only really disappointed once.

Our trips generally included some sight seeing, as well as genealogy research. When in Dublin, we stay at Buswells on Molesworth Street. Buswells is a little pricey, but its within a half block of the National LIbrary (Church records and Census), and the National Museum, and an easy walk to the General Register Office (Birth, marriage and deaths), Evaluation Office (land records), and the Pearse railway station.

In Northern Ireland, we stay at Clandeboye Lodge near Bangor in County Down. It’s about halfway between Belfast and Carrowdore, and allows us to attend church in both Belfast and Carrowdore. My great grandparents were married in Carrowdore Church over 150 years ago.  We had our pictures take in front of the portrait of the clergy that married them.

When staying in Belfast, we have stayed at Jury’s Hotel, right near the Grand Opera House, Crown Liquor Saloon, and just a short walk to the new Convention Centre. We have walked about three miles from the hotels down past the Convention Centre and through the dock area to attend church. If your taste is Queen’s University, you might try Wellington Park Hotel.

Just as we are careful when in some area of Chicago or Miami, etc, it is prudent to be careful in certain areas in Belfast. A good recommendation is not to drive an auto rented in the North into Republican areas, or a car rented in the south into Loyalist areas.

After a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and tomatoes (I don’t take the black and white pudding or mushrooms), a fruit scone and tea at noon should hold you until you get your evening meal. Our favourite restaurant is Ahern’s in Youghal, where the steaks are tender and juicy, and the plates kept hot until the last bite.

When in Dublin, we like to visit Foley’s Restaurant above Riley’s Pub on Marion Row, just around the corner from Buswell’s Hotel. And when doing research in the National Library, we go across the street and into the National Museum for a cafeteria lunch.

In addition to many tourist traps already described in the brochures, you might want to consider a few others in the Republic: Durty Nelly’s (Bunratty), Cobh, Avoca (Ballykissangel), Newgrange, Connamara Celtic Crystal, and just to say you’ve been there, try Tipperary and Tralee towns.

In the second month of your visit try Northern Ireland for the Ballycopeland Windmill, Sinclair Seaman’s Church, Belfast’s Leaning Clock Tower, Culliver in Armagh, Inishowen, Carrickfergus Castle, Triona Weavers and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Did I forget to mention all the round towers, forts, dolmans and high crosses?

There are a total of thirty-two counties on the Island, twenty-six in the Republic and six in Northern Ireland. The border between the Republic and Northern Ireland is not very well defined, except that currency in the Republic is the Euro (about 87 euro for $1.00 US dollar).  In the North they use Pound Sterling ($1.00 US Dollar is about 73 British pounds).

When making purchases, consider using your credit card. The company gets a very good exchange rate, and it is reflected in the credit card billings.

Before you think about doing your family research in Ireland, it is best to search all available sources for information before you leave home. Most of the counties have a Family History Centre (check and for $25 they will do a preliminary search for you. That is a lot cheaper than a trip to Ireland with the wrong information. I checked Ulster and found where my grandparents were married, and then visited that church on our next trip.

As a general rule, the civil and church records start about 1835, unless an ancestor was of the landed gentry or had landed in jail, and then they could be earlier. Also remember that the division between the Republic and Northern Ireland was made in 1922; records for Northern Ireland after 1922 should be found in Belfast.

The first place I would start to do research is in Dublin at the National Library on Kildare Street. Always take the orientation and discuss things with a research assistant. There may be new information since your last trip.

National Library of Ireland 2011.JPG

If you know the country, town and religious affiliation, or if you know the parish or church name they will provide a microfilm number (if copied) and direct you upstairs to the reading room. Provide the tape number to the clerk, and the tape will be delivered to you at the reader. If you have an approximate date of birth, christening or marriage, you can skim right through the tape, or alternatively read each entry (sometimes not very legible) in hopes of making a connection. Remember that some names may be written in Latin or Gaelic. Try Jacobi for James and try Patritus for Patrick.

If you find a church microfilm entry that fits an ancestor, you can always visit the church and if ask politely, you may be able to see and feel the actual entry in their book. A certified record of the event may also be available. Remember that digging out the record books and providing certified copies does take someone’s tie, and you should be prepared to pay the scheduled fee or make a donation.

With an accurate date of an event (birth, marriage, death), you might take a short stroll from the Library over to the General Register’s Office on Lombard Street East, where the indexes are kept and see if there is a civil record of the event. You rent an index book (one Euro per volume) and you may be lucky to find the very volume you want on a desk where some else has left it.  If you want an entry copied, you simply fill out a short form.

Check Griffith Primary Evaluation books (a typed index) at the National Library or online before going to the Registration Office.  The Primary Evaluation books with changes are available for viewing at the Valuation Office at the Irish Life Centre on Lower Abbey Street. If your ancestor acquired or rented property after the original evaluation date, the change should be entered in the book. Different colours are used for different years, and the office now has a colour copier for a small fee.

A property may consist of several acres and there will possibly be other names of members listed on the same property. Maybe Frank Jones married Anna Smith and the families were next door neighbours. The basis for the property evaluation is shown, and will tell the acreage, type of house, sheds and other particulars.

If you are fortunate to locate a property  in Griffiths Evaluation, you can request a copy of the Ordnance Survey showing the property boundaries and even house location.

Ordnance Survey Ireland - Discovery Map 35 - Cavan, Louth, Meath, Monaghan

We found my Great Great Grandfather’s property listing, obtained a map, drove to the area, and climbed the hills to find the spot. While sitting there on a barricade, I looked at the mountains above Enniskerry and Powerscourt and Alice said, “Just think, this must have been the same view that your people looked at nearly 150 years ago.”  A coloured change in Griffiths indicated that the house was down in 1864.

The 1920 Federal Census for Chicago said my Great Grandmother had 12 children and through our research we have actually obtained records for 11 of them. The children were found in County Wicklow, in Enniskerry Parish in the townlands of Kilmacanouge, Ballanagee, and Ballinteskin, and finally Milltown, Dublin County.  Great Grandmother was having children for twenty-two years.

If you are lucky enough to have a grandparent born in the Republic, and can prove a paper trail, you may be eligible to become a dual citizen. Application papers are available at any Irish Consulate, who have an online presence as well.  As a foreign born Irish citizen, you can obtain your own Irish passport. Once that happens, your non Irish spouse can apply after a period of time.

(Note:   British citizenship is also available for Northern Ireland foreign-born applicants with Irish ancestors)

Gillespie History Quiz


  1. Where did the earliest Gillespies to Canada settle, what Province?

16 of the Best Things to do in St. John's, Newfoundland (Tips + More!) - Taylor's Tracks

  1. In what years did the Potato Famine in Ireland rage, and to what main country did a million Irish flee?

The Great Irish Famine

  1. Who was the Gillespie General who fought on the Plains of Abraham (Quebec City) in the battle between the British and the French for control of Canada? He later brought his family to Renfrew County in Upper Canada to settle.

Battle of the Plains of Abraham - Wikipedia

  1. British soldiers, fleeing the American Colonies with its anti British feeling after the American Revolution, were called Loyalists. What Gillespie family from New Jersey was part of the movement and became some of earliest settlers to Norfolk County in today’s Southern Ontario near Lake Erie.

British grenadiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill, painting by Edward Percy Moran, 1909.

  1. Who was the Gillespie soldier who guarded Napoleon on the Isle of Elba where he was marooned, and who (the soldier) later came to settle in Upper Canada (Ontario)?

Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo—here's why

  1. Irish peasants who were jailed for crimes in the 1700s were sent far away to what country in punishment?

  1. Name two Gillespie Captains who were in charge on ships that travelled the world seas during the 1700 and 1800s.
  1. There was a flood of young Gillespies 18 to 25 year olds, who left Ireland just before World War I. From what Irish country did they originate,  and where did they all go? Hint, they boarded ships at Londonderry.
  1. During the American Civil War and the fight for black emancipation, Gillespie served on both sides of this conflict, with brothers from the same family sometimes on opposite sides. Name two Gillespie Leaders in this conflict, one from the South and one from the North.

George Lewis Gillespie cph.3b07732.jpg

  1. Who was the famous poet, a young fighter pilot of World War I who was born in China, but was with the Canadians in England. He was killed in an accident when another training plane hit his plane? He wrote, O, I have slipped the surley bonds of earth… 
  1. In World War II, a Canadian Gillespie family lost husband and two sons on opposite sides of the world. Where are the men buried?
  1. During the British rule in India, what famous Gillespie General was killed when leading an attack in the North? A statue of him is found in County Down, Ireland.

Unknown Person - Major-General Robert Rollo Gillespie (1830-90)

  1. What Gillespie rose through the ranks to lead the Australian Army for many years?

Ken Gillespie - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

  1. What Gillespie was the US Ambassador that spoke directly with Saddam Hussein?

Glaspie hussein.jpg

  1. Where in Scotland did most of the Scottish settlers to the Province of Ontario come from in its earliest years, then called Upper Canada, or Canada West? Another Scottish group from same area went to the American Colonies, to what state?
  1. Does the Gillespie Name originate with one individual and from him all the rest of us are descendants?

Score out of 20: ________________________

P.S. Whoops. Did I  just made a mistake with one item in adding these photos? For an additional 10 points, can you spot it? Who has the sharpest eyes?  Just a touch of fun.






  1. Newfoundland – came for the fishing
  2. 1843 to 1848 with peak 1845 – all came on ships to Canada
  3. General James Gillespie from Scotland
  4. William Gillespie 1747-1835, wife Ann Everingim and families
  5. Thomas Gillespie later died in Canada. A Roger Gillespie from Co Antrim, Ireland fought at the battle of Waterloo in Belgium in 1815, led by British Commander, The Duke of Wellington. Roger died in Suffolk, England (this last info from NZ researcher, Sue) 
  6. Australia
  7. Daniel, James
  8. Co Donegal, Ireland to New York, USA
  9. South: George Lewis Gillespie from Tennessee; also 2 Colonels from Texas, another Colonel from Tennessee, 1 from Alabama. North – none specifically found yet.
  10. John Gillespie Magee – parents Anglican missionaries.
  11. Two boys are buried in France; father buried in Philippines
  12. Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie
  13. Army Chief Ken Gillespie
  14. Ambassador April Glaspie
  15. Isle of Islay, Argyllshire, Scotland. North Carolina
  16. No one individual began us all for last name.

Whoops  No 12- that is Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie all right, but not the one that was killed in India and whose statue is in Co Down. That famous man was a generation earlier. Here, below is his photo and dates of his life.

Robert Home | A portrait of Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie (1766-1814) wearing military uniform, Three quarter length, standing in a landscape, a hill-fort in the background | MutualArt

21 January 1766 – 31 October 1814

He is buried in Meerut Cantonment Cemetery, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India.  His full history is found on this website , and many other places.


Hey! Who was the other soldier in the photo? That was another British soldier:

Major-General Robert Rollo Gillespie (1830-90) c.1882

He served in the Anglo-Egyptian war.  From the collection of Queen Victoria.












Road Blocks To Genealogy


Road Block High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

Sooner or later a researcher in family history will hit a road block. No record can be found to extend one’s study.  It happened to me when I was tracing the roots of my paternal Atkinson relatives from Canada to Ireland,  especially in County Sligo. I was  confident I had the correct family in Canada, as I had proven  that my great grandfather, William Gillespie  had arrived from overseas and was working on the Rideau Canal in February 1829. I found the name of his wife,   Eliza Atkinson,  on another record, so was taking a hard look at all the Atkinsons in the Ottawa area in that time period. The McCabe List is a wonderful document listing all the workers on the canal and provided the origins of each Irish worker: County, Parish, Townland.

Just as there were only two Gillespies on that list,  that also matched an immigration document and land records in the area, there was only one Atkinson on records, so I began thinking he could well be related to Eliza.  So I was enjoying trying to find the locations listed for Robert Atkinson’s origin in Sligo.

An early map showed me that this  man came from near the sea just north of the main town in the county. Then I found a listing in Ireland records of two other Atkinson families who had lived in that same area in the correct time period.  However, both men had the same first name, and that brought my study to a halt rather abruptly.  I could not distinguish between them, probably father and son I thought to myself. I  twisted and turned many ways to try to get past this blockade to no avail.  So I laid it aside.

Sometimes one can find a new path and sometimes one cannot.  The problem in Ireland is that so many early records were destroyed by rebels when they burned down the main document repository in the 1920s. Since then a lot has been done to find alternative ones in replacement,  and some of these are now on the Internet. So time is a huge factor,  so we continue learning new skills, and hopefully find other avenues of search as they are developed. So, sometimes laying aside your study for awhile, and then picking it back up will refresh your own look at it.

The Naming Pattern is  a great encouragement as one tries to uncover the names of earlier generations. The Scots in particular named their children according to their birth order in a specific way to honour themselves and previous generations.  This lasted hundreds of years, but finally watered down around 1850 to today. The Irish did the same but were not as strict about it, and made a few slight changes. Both patterns are discussed on the Internet on several sites.    If one can get a full listing of a family’s children in birth order, one can  recognize the first names of the grandparents of an earlier generation, and other family members.

Scots often named children by following a simple set of rules:
  • 1st son named after father’s father.
  • 2nd son named after mother’s father.
  • 3rd son named after father.
  • 1st daughter named after mother’s mother.
  • 2nd daughter named after father’s mother.
  • 3rd daughter named after mother.
It was the naming pattern that showed me the high probability that my William Gillespie’s father would be Samuel Gillespie.  In checking Ireland records I found a person with this name in the exact location and time frame I was investigating. Certainly it isn’t enough, but a clue is a wonderful thing. No other Samuel Gillespie nearby either I discovered. It immediately told me that William’s brother (unconfirmed but seriously considered) , who travelled with him to Canada would have been the third born son of the family,  using the naming pattern. It also would mean that William’s father was still living when he departed for Canada. What grief for the parents knowing they might never see him again. Unless they planned to join him overseas at some point once he was established. This was a common practice.  Just a hint of history, but that is what we are seeking.
What else might one try?   Discuss it with others on posts to places like Genforum, or start a new column on this subject at Reddit Genealogy.  Draw on the expertise of others. No one knows it all, and we just looking for clues.
four women looking down
Make sure you have the facts correctly documented on the right people, as I once trailed a family for two  years when I finally realized I was in the wrong location.  That is very true in Canada, which repeats  many locations of Irish and Scottish  names,  as people remembered their homeland.   I have often found three or four locations with the same name, and that holds true as I tried to sift  Irish locations, and other countries   Rethink this carefully.
Use the big genealogy giants for ideas. Just this morning I watched a video about Scottish genealogy on Find My Past, and the speaker gave some information I had never heard of before. He mentioned that people tended to follow water ways in the earliest period, and so moved up and down either the east or  west coasts of Scotland but less so internally or to opposite sides.
Who are these big giants if you are a beginning in researching your family tree?  There are quite a few. The Mormons have an excellent website of records at  By pass the introductory wizard by using search, which will pull up a world map. Click on the area of your interest, and all the records for that area will be listed with links to those records.  The Mormons have the best genealogy library in the world, in my opinion and I am not a Mormon. Their records are free, and can be loaned to Mormon church libraries across the world, which are open to anyone.
Although I rarely use it, is a big giant who has taken over other business, such as Rootweb. It provides records and I have used its DNA portal to find cousins across the world. Some public library pay for it and let patrons have access with their library card. At certain times in the year Ancestry will open its records to the general public for free for a trial which gives one an opportunity to see if its content fits your style of researching.
Find My Past and Fold 3 are a couple of others most people visit from time to time.  Countries like Ireland and Scotland have central websites of records free to access.
There are many more, and in time you learn about these, especially if you use She offers links to thousands of websites across the world for family history research.






In thinking of someone just beginning their research of family history, a few suggestions to consider. What kind of person are you? Detailed, precise, thorough? Or laid back, taking life as it comes and hating the tediousness of too much detail?  Basic attitudes and abilities mesh differently in people, and there is no one perfect way to do family history. Each person finds their own way in time. Most people welcome helpful hints.

Here are the important things I want to share  after a life-time of researching records.

  1. Get organized in your office as you gather records, so you have a system of recording them so they don’t get lost. Maybe type records into a computer genealogy program you can buy. I used Family Tree Maker for years and can recommend it, but there may be better ones,  but I no longer keep up on that. However, one might  use one offered free by the big genealogy giants. Be very careful with these giants, as I had my own work stolen by one who produced it as though I was a willing participant,  and then wants to charge me to access my own information.

As a visual learner, I like things in print, so prefer to store records  in two-inch binders, sometimes using plastic sleeves for protection of important pages. My own family history is stored this way,  with a backup on the computer and on discs.   I’ve also published one book about my family history. I’ve tried using file cards, file folders with loose papers; hand writing on family group sheets and pedigree charts. Now I use Access databases and MS Word Documents and prefer transferring all records to a website so others can share in my discoveries. Having someone protect and manage that website and extend it beyond my own life matters to me.  Also protecting the work of others shared with me.

Who will prolong and protect your own family history? Give careful thought to that, and even update your will so your work will not be lost.  Updating your records in this library’s archives would be helpful. I also recommend sending it to the Mormons in Salt Lake City, which I consider the best genealogy library in the world. I am not a Mormon. Make sure your records are stored safely, possibly in several locations where they will not be destroyed by fire, flood, or the aging of the passing of time. Having them stored in several media types will help with that.

2. Begin with yourself by gathering documents to prove who you are. Do the same as you expand your search outward to your own siblings, and then your parents. Don’t just assume from personal knowledge. There may be secrets to uncover. Oh did that happen to me.   Family members may not want to share information, such as birth certificates, marriage records and so on. Always guard private information about anyone who is still living. Remember this if you choose to post your family history over the Internet or want to tell others. There are hackers who are stealing confidential information for their own illicit purposes.

3.  In time you will find it helpful if you focus on one side of your family, be it the father’s line (paternal) or mother’s (maternal) line in research. Always try to find a document to prove every step of your research, but be aware that not all information will be accurate on those records. It depended on the person providing the information and sometimes that recorder made mistakes. I am remembering a travelling minister who performed a marriage but later recorded the witness as the groom and groom as witness.  Also,  questions asked on records may have changed from year to year,  so watch for that on census studies in particular. Finding more than one record to prove something helps clarify things. On this site, I have done that with official government records taking precedence over others.

4. It may be your family history has already been researched by someone else.  Have you checked with this office?  Be sure to look at for its databases. In particular,  many Gillespie family trees have been  researched yet I see people inquiring about them as a newcomer without realizing that.  However,  the other person’s research may not  completely agree with what you find in your own studies. That is true of my own family history. Don’t be upset; Just use it for ongoing deeper research, a challenge to ensure greater accuracy and understanding.  Figuring out the genealogy puzzles of life, and having greater appreciation for the history of the past bring great satisfaction.

5.  Finally, family history research can provide some of the happiest moments in life. Visiting cemeteries, communicating with others across the world,  and travelling to Scotland and Ireland to visit the land of my great grandparents,  who arrived in Canada as early as 1828,  are the highlights for me,  as well as the work on this website.