Category Archives: Blogging

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 was Charlie’s  specialty. I peeled two  potatoes and sliced them intothe 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 researched 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, my favourite authoress. I also got on a local bus and let it take me around the community. That is always an interesting way to see a place.

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 Sheba,  in a long train ride from Niagara Falls to Toronto with a group of Americans in  August 1978 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.

The Wagon Train Ride 1978
Copyright Norma Gillespie 2023

I was the outrider on the left side of the Canadian wagon that led the ride. The first day my mare, Sheba. saw her first cross-walk sign on the ground she balked,  refusing to keep moving. I urged her on strongly. She paused, head down,  then leaped over it, and nearly unseated me. She must have studied what the other animals did, cause she seemed to accept them after that. Here is the photo of the lead wagon. I was outrider for the left side of wagon as we travelled.

Lead wagon on trail ride
Copyright Norma Gillespie 2023

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.

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.

Train Ride Pause
Copyright Norma Gillespie 2023  That is Sheba and I front left,  in photo

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. From here the trip ended and folk left to head home. Yes, I am a cowgirl at heart. Here is a photo of Sheba  and I on the trip.

Norma & Banner on Wagon Train Ride
Copyright Norma Gillespie, 2023


Yes, memories can be precious, thinking of my little two-year-old granddaughter meeting my chickens for the first time. I added that video already on this website in an earlier year.

Hard times may 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.