You May be Irish if…

Irish pub

The Top Ten Ways to tell if you’re Irish:

1. You have the ‘gift of gab’. There is an ancient rock near Cork, Ireland at Blarney Castle and they say that anyone who kisses the stone will have the gift of gab. If you are truly of Irish descent, then there’s likely no pressing need to make the journey, as you surely already possess the talent of talking rings around most other people.

2. You are musical. Maybe you play an instrument or perhaps you just sing in the shower, but the gift of music is in your Irish blood and you will not be able to resist tapping your toe or strumming your fingers on the table when someone gets their fiddle out and plays a tune.

3. You have strong convictions. Whether the topic is religion, politics or your favourite sports team there will be no point in challenging your beliefs which you hold dearly, and you will argue about these beliefs passionately and convincingly.

4. You have a gift for writing and story-telling. You will be the one at the pub or social gathering that will keep the crowd entertained with your vivid and colourful tales. There may even be a bit of exaggeration thrown in for good measure, but it just makes your story all the more interesting.

5. You’ve got lovely skin and pleasing features. You may have porcelain, pale skin, or you may have freckles that outnumber the days of the year, but your features will be pleasantly proportioned and your eyes bright, with a genuine smile that lights up your face.

6. Your dinner is not complete without some spuds at the table. Whether it’s home-fries for breakfast, French fries for lunch, or baked, mashed or boiled for supper, the humble potato is a regular, healthy staple in your diet and you wouldn’t think of going a day without it.

7. You will likely have a few Irish names in your family tree because people of Irish descent are proud of their heritage and often pass down the names of their ancestors: Sean, Shane, Annie, Maggie, Michael, Patrick, Francis, Kelly, Bridget, Daniel, Aiden, Liam, Eileen, Irene, Brian, Barry, Collin, Ryan, Katie, Thomas, Matthew, Molly, William, Robert, Mark, Elizabeth, Peter, Sinead, Eva, Fay, Julia and so on…

8. You are better at swearing than most people. Partly because of your natural gift of gab and partly because of your quick wit, the swear-words seem to roll freely off of your tongue. You have even been known to make up your own, or stick a word in the middle for good measure, like “abso-bleedin’-lutely”.

9. Nothing brings out your poetic nature, natural ability to talk non-stop, or your talent for swearing like a few pints at the pub. A drink or two or three tends to make your exaggerations a bit more colourful, your storytelling even more fascinating, and your talent for music and dancing shines even brighter.

10. You are loyal. Your strong convictions and unshakeable beliefs are the most visible when it comes to your family and friends. If someone insults your friend then they’ve likely got a fight on their hands that they won’t win. If someone says something unkind about your family then they will have a nasty surprise coming to them that they didn’t bargain for. You are fiercely loyal to all you hold dear.

So, what are the Irish really like? Perhaps the best description comes from the popular historian, Carl Wittke:

“The so-called Irish temperament is a mixture of flaming ego, hot temper, stubbornness, great personal charm and warmth, and a wit that shines through adversity. An irrepressible buoyancy, a vivacious spirit, a kindliness and tolerance for the common frailties of man and a feeling that ‘it is time enough to bid the devil good morning when you meet him’ are character traits which North Americans have associated with their Irish neighbors for more than a century.”

Whether you are of Irish descent or merely admire this nation known for its great writers, poets and story-tellers, I will leave you with a traditional Irish blessing and hope that you have the ‘luck o’ the Irish’ wherever life takes you! Sláinte (cheers!)

An Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Free Online Searchable Family History Forums

Canterbury Meat Co

A genealogy ‘forum’ is a website where you can research in a safe, friendly and helpful environment. On most of these sites registration is free, and there are members who are dedicated to assisting all genealogists, whether they are beginners or experienced researchers.

On genealogy forums members may ask for advice or offer helpful tips to other researchers. To post your query on forums you have to be a registered member, although the questions and answers posted by others can be read by non members.

You will have access to the surnames database and most searches are possible using any combination of First Name, Surname, Place of Birth or Year of Birth. Some forums are even specific to regions and surnames.

Many family history forums have very active online communities where members can share research tips, show off family photographs or discuss new methods for working on their family trees.

In my own research, I have found that genealogy forums are a great resource when I’ve hit the ‘brick wall’. While working on my maternal grandmother’s tree I was trying to determine the location of a butcher shop that my great-grandfather had owned and operated in the city of Huddersfield, England. Through a genealogy forum with researchers in the U.K., I connected with ‘Pete’ who lived in Huddersfield and he kindly volunteered to stop by the local library and have a look in the city directories from the turn of the century. True to his word, Pete was able to find the listing for the Canterbury Meat Company at 34 Market Street, William Woolsey, proprietor. This is just one example of how forums can connect us with our past and help us to overcome obstacles in expanding our family trees.

I invite you to share the genealogy forums that you have found helpful in your family history research.

As always, good luck with your search!


Genealogy Specialists



My Heritage

Surnames from Around the World

Family Workings

Family Tree Circles

Looking for Kin

Ancestor Explorer

Free Online Searchable World Census Records – Find Your Ancestor

Mary Rutherford 1940 census 2

Mary Rutherford census 1940

Census records give a snapshot of who your ancestors were and how your ancestor lived. Census records are a government sponsored enumeration or counting of the population of a given area. These records will contain names of the heads of household or often all household members, their ages, citizenship status, and ethnic background. Some census records will state the religion of the individual and may also list their country of origin. In some countries a census will also contain agricultural records, so if your ancestor was a farmer it may list the type and number of farm animals as well as the type and number of bushels of crops produced on their farm during the year.

There are a vast number of online records available from around the world. Many are free, some offer free searches with the option to pay a small fee to view and download the original record. If you are confident that the person in the record is your ancestor, it may be worth the small fee to see the entire record. It will certainly cost less than a trip back to your ancestor’s homeland! Regardless of whether you choose the free census websites, or choose the pay-per-download, you can still gather a wealth of information from around the world with the records available today online.

Shown, in the images above this article are partial census listings from the 1940 U.S. census. In the first image is Mary Rutherford, my great-grandmother, born in 1853, age 87 in 1940 living in Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, New York. Mary’s listing was at the bottom of the page. At the top of the next page, the next image above shows her youngest daughter, Nellie Rutherford, age 42, born 1898, and on the line below Avis Exelby, age 21, their servant.

I invite you to click on the ‘Comment’ field at the end of the article and share your successes and online census records not listed that you have found helpful.

As always, good luck with your search!
Arlene Stafford-Wilson


This 1901 Census of Canada features over 5,000,000 lines transcribed by volunteers.
This contains an index to every name in the 1901 Census of Canada including personal data , links to images of the original census pages, and other links including census records from other years, birth, marriage, death, and other related records.

1911 Census of Canada
Includes over 7,000,000 lines transcribed of every member of the household with links to images of original records.

United States

U.S. searchable census records – 1790-1940

U.S. census tips and records:

Online, searchable – 1940 Census U.S

African Americans census tips and records:

Native Americans census tips and records:



Another excellent Irish database website, however there are fees to view records:

England and Wales 1841 – 1911






South Africa


New Zealand








South America




For more Genealogy tips and tricks:

Christmas Traditions of Our Ancestors

St Nicholas

Ever wonder why we bring a tree into our homes or why we adorn it with lights and tinsel? Why do we hang a stocking? How did egg nog become a beverage associated with the festive season? When did a white haired man in a red suit begin to deliver gifts to children? Why do we eat turkey and stuffing? Why do we buy gifts for each other?

There are countless traditions and customs practised throughout the world at this time of year. Most of these rituals have been passed down to us from our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. We do these things each year without thinking. Our ancestors brought their traditions with them to the new world, and their annual rites of the Christmas season became entrenched in North American culture.

What about our ancestors who did not leave their homelands, but remained in their countries of origin? How are their traditions different than the ones who came to the new world? Below, are some Christmas traditions throughout the world so we can discover where these customs originated, and how they are still practised today in your ancestral homelands, and in your own home today.


Midnight Mass

Many Irish attend a church service on Christmas Eve at 12:00, known as the ‘Midnight Mass’.  This tradition goes back many generations, and is often followed by a gathering at a local pub to chat with neighbours and friends, before heading home, and waiting for ‘Santy’, as Santa Claus is known to many Irish.

midnight mass

Christmas Morning

After the gifts are open, many families eat a full Irish breakfast, fried bacon, sausages, eggs, black and white pudding, mushrooms and tomatoes.

Irish breakfast

Christmas Day is often spent visiting family and friends, lots of eating, a bit of drinking, and sometimes attending a church service on Christmas morning.

Black and Tan

A popular festive drink is the Black and Tan – half Guiness and half beer.

black and tan

Christmas Dinner

Irish Christmas dinner

A traditional Christmas dinner in Ireland consists of roast turkey and stuffing, clove-studded baked ham, crispy goose fat potatoes, steamed Brussels sprouts, buttery sweet carrots, crispy parsnips, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, gravy.



The celebration of Christmas in Scotland has always been secondary to the festivals held in January such as Hogmanay and Robbie Burns Day, featuring the Burns Supper and the eating of the Haggis.

Around 3 p.m. each Christmas Day, many in Scotland gather around their televisions and watch the Queen’s Christmas message.

Christmas Dinner

The traditional Scottish Christmas Dinner is usually roasted turkey, served with roasted potatoes, roasted parsnips, stuffing (either force-meat and/or chestnut), bacon rolls and sausages, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and peas.  This is usually served with gravy, bread, sauce and cranberry jelly.  Other popular main courses may include – Roast Angus Beef, Roast Pork, Roast Goose, Venison, Salmon, Chicken, Pheasant or steak pie.

Traditional Scottish Dessert – The Clootie Dumpling

clootie dumpling on plate

A clootie dumpling is a spiced pudding with dried fruits that is wrapped in a cloth and simmered in water. It is usually sliced and served with custard.



Christmas crackers are a traditional Christmas favourite in England. They were first made in about 1845-1850 by a London sweet maker  – Tom Smith. He had seen the French ‘bon bon’ sweets on a visit to Paris  (almonds wrapped in pretty paper).

When he returned to London, he decided to expand on the idea, and began to create the paper rolls including a small motto or riddle in with a sweet.  Many today include a paper hat, or crown, and a small toy.

Christmas cracker

Christmas Cards

The tradition of sending Christmas cards began in England in 1843.  Sir Henry Cole was a senior civil servant and he had the idea of exchanging Christmas Cards with family and friends. He asked his friend John Horsley, an artist to help. They designed the first card, and sold them for 1 shilling each.

Christmas cards became much more popular when printing methods improved, and were produced in large numbers from about 1860.

The first cards usually had pictures of the Nativity scene on them. In late Victorian times, birds and snow-scenes became popular.

Christmas cards


As early as the 13th century, medieval monks in Britain were known to drink posset, a warm ale punch with eggs and figs.  A 17th century English recipe uses a heated mixture of cream, whole cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, eighteen egg yolks, eight egg whites, and one pint of wine. Eggnog is typically made from milk, eggs, sugar and flavourings, and served with  cinnamon or nutmeg. While eggnog is often served chilled, it may be warmed, to serve on cold days.

egg nog


Christmas Trees

Sometime in the 16th century devout Christians began the custom of bringing decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles. It is said that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Legend says he was walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. In order to recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room, and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Christmas tree

The tradition of the Christmas Tree was brought to North America by German immigrants.

Christmas tree brought to NA



In Venezuela, a predominantly Catholic country, the nativity scene is far more popular than decorating with a Christmas tree or other ornaments.  These may include not only the Holy Family and manger but the entire landscape of Bethlehem. There are often competitions within a town or city for the more elaborate  nativity scene.  It is a strict rule in Venezuela not to place the baby Jesus in the manger until midnight.

Venezuala nativity

It is a tradition for the entire city of Caracas, Venezuela to roller-skate to mass on Christmas morning, the young and the old alike.

Venezuela roller skating

Traditional Venezuelan Christmas foods include ‘Hallacas’ – a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, capers, raisins, and olives that is wrapped in maize and plantain leaves and tied up with string into a parcel and then boiled or steamed afterwards.

Venezuela food


Santa Claus – Sinter Klaas  (Sint Nikolaas)

The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas.  Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in  modern-day Turkey. He was admired for his piety and kindness and St. Nicholas became the subject of many stories. Legends say that he gave away all of his inherited wealth, and travelled the countryside helping the poor and sick.

St. Nicholas was said to help the poor anonymously, by hiding gold in their shoes or stockings, at night, while they were asleep.

Christmas stockings 2

St. Nicholas’s popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases, or to get married.

St. Nicholas

The name Santa Claus evolved from St. Nicholas’ Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas .

The Dutch celebrate the Feast of Sinterklaas honouring the life of St. Nicholas, and although St. Nicholas is always shown wearing his bishop’s attire, the Dutch tend to see him as a kindly old man, rather than as a Catholic saint. The result is that Sinterklaas is celebrated by Dutch people of all ages and beliefs, without any real religious connotations.

Santa Claus


Christmas traditions are taken very seriously in Iceland. The whole house is cleaned, everyone gets one new article of clothing to wear, people buy the best food they can afford, decorate the house inside and out, and bake dozens of cookies.

Iceland skating

Icelanders celebrate 13 days of Christmas. The festival begins on December 24 and ends on January 6, which is when all Christmas decorations are removed from streets and houses.

The people of Iceland enjoy a roasted pork dinner with caramelized potatoes and pickled red cabbage.

Iceland food

It is folklore in Iceland that there is a Yule Cat that stalks the towns and villages before Christmas and devours anyone who does not have at least one piece of new clothing.

Iceland yule cat


In Ukraine, people love to sing Christmas carols in the street, and they make their way through the towns and cities.

Ukraine carols

On Christmas Eve, people of Ukraine fast all day until the first star is seen in the sky, and then they begin to feast on cabbage rolls, perogies, sauerkraut, red ‘borsch’, dumplings, whitefish, ‘bigos’ (a meat and cabbage stew), cheese cake and bread.

Ukraine food

It is a tradition in Ukraine to decorate evergreen trees with glistening cobwebs.  This is a custom that began with the tale of a poor widow who couldn’t afford to decorate her tree  for Christmas, and the spiders in her home wanted to help, so they spun glistening cobwebs on Christmas Eve, so the children would have something pretty to see on Christmas morning.

Ukraine cobwebs


Christmas Panettone

The word “panettone ” comes from the Italian word “panetto“, a small loaf cake.

Italian legends tell about a banquet for the nobles organized by  the Duke of Milan. The dinner was delicious but the dessert was forgotten in the oven, and when the cook finally realized it was too late, and it was dry and charred black.

Toni, a little kitchen-helper boy, told the cook that he could use the sweet cake he had made for himself in the morning. It was made of flour, butter, eggs, raisins and lime zest. The cook decided to accept the help of the little boy and the nobles loved the cake. When the Duke asked the name of it, the cook answered “ L’è ‘l pan de Toni”, meaning “the bread of Toni”.

Italian cake

The Nativity Scene

Since the 1020s, the most important Christmas decoration in Italy is the Nativity Scene.  Naples is the home to the world’s largest nativity scene. It’s in the ‘Museo Nazionale di S. Martino’ and has 162 people, 80 animals, angels, and about 450 other smaller objects.

Italian nativity scene

Angola, Africa

Would you be surprised to learn that over 90% of the people in Angola, Africa are Christians?

Angola Christmas gift

Stores and homes in Angola are decorated brightly for the season, and in the cities neighbouring families sometimes try to out-do each other with their elaborate displays.

Angola Christmas tree

Along with traditional Christmas trees, the people of Angola sometimes decorate their homes with nativity scenes, along with strings of bright lights, angel figures, and star motifs.

Angola Christmas nativitiy

Bolo Rei, or ‘King Cake’ is a must at the Angolan Christmas dinner table.  It is donut-shaped, and filled with dried fruit. The shape of the cake represents the crowns of the Three Wise Men: and the fruit on the surface of the cake represents the jewels on the crown. Sometimes a gift is hidden inside, and the person who gets the piece of cake with the gift is supposed to be blessed with good luck in the New Year.

Angolan Christmas cake


The Réveillon

The Réveillon is the special feast shared with family on 24 December. It normally takes place leading up to Midnight Mass, and can even carry on after the church service is over.

The menu varies according to the region, but it is always an occasion for the family to sit down together and enjoy a variety of traditional dishes.

french reveillon

At the Reveillon the French indulge in luxury foods and treats. The Réveillon dinner can continue for up to six hours in some families, and it is a very sacred tradition to the French. Eating at the table for a long time is also a social custom in France, and is intended to be a magical and unforgettable moment for children too. This is the meal where everyone splurges on their normal food budgets and enjoys snails, frog’s legs, scallops, and truffles.

Typical beverages are champagne or sparkling wine, and desserts are typically a chocolate yule log – bûche de Noël

France yule log


Christmas mass is an important tradition celebrated in Lebanon, as is the traditional dance, the dabkeh, where people join hands to form a circle or and stamp along to native tunes of percussion. After the midnight mass, it is the rush home to open Christmas gifts.


Traditional Lebanese Christmas feasts include – kebbeh pie, Lebanon’s national dish made from minced meat and burghul, served in warmed yogourt sauce alongside turkey or chicken, nutty rice, tabouleh, hummus, nutty rice, beet and tahini salad, and lamb rotis.

Lebanese Christmas dinner

One of the most sacred Christmas traditions in Lebanon is building a crèche, or a nativity ‘Crib’. Nativity scenes include Joseph, Mary, Jesus, shepherds, and kings, just like Western ones, but there are some important differences in the Lebanese nativity. In Lebanon, the nativity ‘crib’ is modeled around a cave, not a manger, and is decorated with chickpeas, broad-beans, lentils, oats, and wheat seeds that grow and sprout from a damp cotton wool in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The nativity is an important part of the home and serves as a place for family members to pray and ask for blessings.

Lebanese creche


In China, most of the large Christmas celebrations take place in the cities, and sometimes crowds will gather in festive hats to usher in the season.  ‘Jingle Bells’ is a popular song, and may be heard quite often in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Chinese Christmas

A popular tradition on Christmas Eve in China, is giving the gift of apples. Many stores sell apples wrapped up in brightly colored paper. Friends and family members exchange apples on Christmas Eve because in Chinese Christmas Eve is called “Ping’an Ye” (平安夜), which means ‘peaceful evening’. The word for apple in Mandarin is “píngguǒ” (苹果) which sounds like the word for peace.

Chinese apples 1

Many of the school children participate in choirs, and sing traditional Christmas carols in the local malls, much to the delight of shoppers!

Chinese children at Christmas


Christmas is a huge celebration in many Latin American countries.  Most people go to a Midnight Mass service or Missa do Galo (Mass of the Roster). After the church service, which normally ends around 1 a.m. there are bright, loud displays of fireworks across the country in towns, cities, and villages.


It’s common in Brazil to get a ’13th salary’ on the last week of the year – so in December you get twice the normal amount of pay for that month! This tradition began as a way to  boost the economy around Christmas, and has been going on for decades.

Brazil Christmas food

Families gather together around the table and enjoy food and special Christmas treats. Christmas dinner menu includes turkey, ham, rice, vegetables and fruit dishes.
The feast may begin on Christmas Eve around 9 pm, and in some homes the meal starts at midnight, with the children being served first.

Brazilian dinner


Kalanda (carol) – in Greece, children go from house to house singing Christmas songs, while playing a variety of small instruments, such as triangles, drums, lyres, and guitars

It is a custom for the recipient of Kalanda to gift the children with small treats, like chocolates, pastries and candy, though this can also be small gifts of money.

Kalanda’s are also sung on the eve of both New Years and Epiphany.



Christopsoma, also known as Christ’s bread, has been made in Greece at Christmas for hundreds of years.   The bread is made in the shape of a circle, X, with a cross adorning it. Christopsoma is made Christmas Eve, and eaten Christmas Day.



Russian Orthodox Christmas takes place on January 7th ( or those following the Old Calendar it is held on the 25th of December).

Russian Christmas Moscow

It is a Russian tradition not to eat or drink on Christmas Eve until the first star appears in the sky. The star is symbolic of the great star that led the three wise men to baby Jesus. Once the first star has appeared in the sky, the festivities begin with a Lenten meal. No meat nor dairy products are consumed and this meal is called the Holy Supper.

Most families stay home on Christmas Eve and they gather around the table to honor the coming Christ Child. A white tablecloth is draped on the table to represent Christ’s swaddling clothes and hay is displayed as a reminder of the poverty of the place where Jesus was born.

The Holy Supper consists of 12 main foods – symbolizing the 12 apostles:

Mushroom soup, Flat bread ,Chopped garlic, Honey, Baked fish
Fresh Oranges, Figs and Dates, Nuts
Kidney beans seasoned with shredded potatoes,
Boiled Potatoes , Biscuits with poppy seeds.

Russian Holy Supper

Bethlehem, Israel

Perhaps of all the places in the world to be on Christmas Eve, Bethlehem would certainly be a special place to visit!  A festive dinner is held at Bethlehem’s Manger Square and a broadcast of the Midnight Mass can be heard throughout the downtown.  The streets are strung with Christmas lights, and Christmas music and plays are held throughout the evening.

Bethlehem plays

Traditional Christmas food in Bethlehem includes lamb kebabs, pork chops, lamb cutlets, chicken steaks, kubba, grape leaves filled with rice and meat, sfiha and a selection of sweet pastries.

Bethlehem food

It’s often been said that the people of Bethlehem likely have one of the biggest celebrations, with days and nights of feasting, singing, lights, nativity plays, and the sky lit brightly with spectacular fireworks.  With all of the excitement, celebrations, and festive fireworks it would be almost impossible for someone in Bethlehem to forget that it was Christmas!

Bethlehem fireworks


Your Family Traditions

Whatever customs you and your family celebrates during the Christmas season it’s a great time to think back to childhood days, and perhaps revive long-forgotten traditions. What better way for a family to remember its ancestors than by learning about their Christmas celebrations and customs!

Christmas dinner with family

If your Christmas includes a large family gathering this year, don’t forget to take this opportunity to speak with your parents, aunts, and uncles, and ask them about their own childhood Christmas traditions.


Share and Record  Christmas Memories and Traditions

Encourage the younger members of the family to spend time with their elders, and learn more about their family history, and customs that they experienced in their youth.  Make a video of some of the eldest family members, ask them questions about what Christmas was like when they were children.  How is it different now?

Grandfather with children

Talk to the younger generation about your own Christmas Memories

Be sure to spend time with the children and young people in your family, and share some stories with them about your own Christmas traditions and what it was like when you were a child!

christmas grandparents

Whether your ancestors came from Ireland, Iceland, or Israel, our customs passed down through the generations are an important part of the Christmas season.

Santa and reindeer

Wherever your family came from, and whatever special foods, music, decorations, and folklore are part of your celebrations this year, have a very Merry Christmas!

……and good health, happiness and prosperity in the New Year!



Genealogy Tip: Free Online Searchable Surname Origins & Meanings

Map of the world ancient

Have you ever wondered about the origin and meaning of your surname? Would you like to know the location in the world where your surname was first used?

Today, there are many free online searchable databases where you can find out more about your surname. With these helpful links below, you will find that family names may be derived from: nicknames, physical attributes, counties, trades, heraldic charges and many other sources.

Please note that some individuals and families have changed their names at some time in the past, so the surname that you use today, may be a variation of the original that was possibly written in another language.


History of Surnames:

Meaning and History of your Surname:

Surname Database: over 49,500 names:
(While this database offers products for sale, it’s still worth a look, as it provides a good description of the surname origin)

Origin and Meaning thousands of Surnames:

For more free Genealogy Tips and Links:

Free Online Lanark County Land Records 1763-1865

Tobias Stafford petition

Did your ancestors immigrate to North America between 1763-1865? This online database contains more than 82,000 individuals who arrived in present-day Ontario, Canada between 1783 and 1865. Keep in mind that may pioneers from America landed and settled first in this particular area of Canada before moving on to the United States.

Lanark County land record

To obtain a grant of free land, each pioneer settler was required to submit a written petition. He had to supply the necessary certificates from a local judge confirming his age, that he was of good character, and if available a discharge certificate from the military. Usually, the documents were returned, so they are not included with these land petitions.

The process of granting the land followed four essential steps:

• Assigning of specific lots to each settler;
• The land assigned was surveyed to establish exact boundaries
• Settlers were required to clear and cultivate a small section of the land
and build a dwelling house
• Finally, when all of these requirements were satisfied, the deed was issued

Click on the link below to search for your ancestor:

Index of Land Petitions of Upper Canada

Type your ancestor’s name into the search fields:

Land record search

Search land records

This link is an index to the petitions, with full details on where the actual petitions can be found for each individual listed. Remember to note the microfilm, volume, and page numbers, so you may easily find your ancestor’s land records using the next link:

To see the actual images of your ancestor’s land petition:

Digitized Image of Land Petition

land search results

The digitized images are presented in PDF, but there is also a link on the page to the JPG file if you would like to print the record, or save it to your computer’s hard drive.

Once you have the microfilm number, in my case it is C-2739 (see above), then click on the Land Record link below, and it will take you to the page with the digitized images.

Land Record


land record link to microfilm

Your record may be on the first page, or you can use the ‘Next’ button at the bottom of the page to move forward to the page where you’ll find the link to your ancestor’s record:


link to microfilm

Click on the link to your record, and look for the listing that matched the results in your first search:


(this shows you the Petition number, the Volume number, the Reference numbers, etc.)

land record search info

microfilm listing

Use the arrow to move to the pages that you are looking for.  In this case, for my record it is in Vol. 421, RG 1, L 3, and document 59f-59g:   (you may have to check the tops of the pages for the page number you are looking for.  Make sure that you are in the correct section according to your initial search results)

land record page number

….and here is the record for my ancestor, Tobias Stafford, on concession 11, lot 10 of Drummond Township:

land record Tobias Stafford


If you are researching your family history, a land record is a valuable addition to your genealogical records.

Finding the land records for your family can be fun to do with the kids or grand kids, and can teach them a bit about their own family history.



Lanark County also has an interactive map showing historic land ownership.

Click on the link to the site below, click on the township and concession where your ancestor lived, and you will see the listing for the land grant:

Historic Land Ownership for Lanark County

Lanark County historic Land ownership


genealogy image


The original records are available on microfilm at the Library and Archives Canada.

Contact the Library and Archives Canada

If you are not able to travel to Ottawa, you may email or call the LAC to find out if these microfilms may be loaned to your local library (NAC Series RG 1, L 3)

For more help in finding your Lanark County ancestors’ land records, contact the Archives Lanark:

Archives Lanark

(images of land records and search pages are from the Library and Archives, Canada, 395 Wellington St, Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4)


Good luck with your search!

Genealogy Tip: Free Searchable Online Passenger Lists

Dorothea Woolsey passenger list

Have you ever wondered how and when your ancestor crossed the ocean to Canada or the U.S.? For those who arrived in the 1800s and later, it wasn’t until the early 1920s that commercial flights were offered, and even then, only available to the very wealthy. In the 1930s and 1940s, many still travelled by passenger ship.

Anyone travelling by ship was recorded in a ‘passenger manifest’, and depending on the line, the information recorded could be either very basic or extremely detailed. At the very least, a passenger manifest will tell you the date that your ancestor set sail, the name of the city or port where the ship originated, and a list of the names of every passenger.

More detailed ship’s manifests will also list your ancestor’s nationality, age, their occupation, and their final destination. It may even list the name of the person and address where they will be visiting or where they intend to live.

The image above is the passenger manifest which lists my great-grandfather William Woolsey, with two of his daughters – Grace and my grandmother Dorothea Woolsey. The ship’s manifest shows that the year is 1909, they are travelling from England and their final destination is Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. It lists my g-grandfather’s occupation – a butcher and lists the occupations of my grandmother and her sister – housekeeper and shop girl. This is typical information that may be gathered from a ship’s manifest and adds another element to your genealogical research.

Listed below are three of the top free searchable online databases listing passengers immigrating to both Canada and the U.S. :

Collections Canada – also includes American records in the case where the port of entry was in the U.S. and the passengers either remained in the U.S. or continued on by train to Canada.
The databases include – Passenger Lists, Border Entry and Immigration records

The Ships List
Over 3,500 free passenger lists to Canada, U.S, and Australia

The Immigrant Ships website has over 14,000 records of passenger manifests

Good Luck with your search! Please leave any questions or comments below.