Christmas Traditions of Our Ancestors

St Nicholas

Christmas Traditions

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, 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 celebrate 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!

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!


Arlene Stafford-Wilson signing books

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists
Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society
Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”
books available at local stores or email:
About the author:

Finding Our WWI Ancestors

Harry Stafford & James Traill

Left to right:  Harry Stafford and Jimmy Traill,  Lanark, Ontario, 1916

“We are the Dead.
Short days ago we lived,
felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
loved and were loved,
and now we lie in Flanders Fields.”

— John McCrae

Over 600,000 men and women enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War, (1914-1918) as soldiers, nurses and chaplains. The CEF database is an index to those service files, which are held by Library and Archives Canada.

This free online searchable database includes over 600,000 men and women who participated in WWI (1914-1918) including soldiers as well as nurses and clergy:

WWI Canadian Forces Personnel Records

These service files contain the name, address, service number, name of the next of kin, their physical description , skin colour, eye colour and scars or identifiable markings, and the unit number and location where they signed up for service.

On this site you can find links to the soldier’s file, which contain medical and pay records, and encompass a more detailed personal history of the soldier, and includes the specific units where they served, after going overseas. The soldier’s full service records are not available online, however, they may be ordered for a fee from Library and Archives Canada.

Also available are links to the Canadian Virtual War Memorial if the soldier died while in service.

Canadian Virtual War Memorial

War Diaries – This is a link to the diaries of the unit, not to personal diaries, but of the records of day to day life in a particular unit. This will give you great insight to how your ancestor lived in times of war in their group as they trekked across Europe and participated in various battles – some successful and some not.

Canadian War Diaries

Using the resources and links mentioned in this article, I was able to search and locate cousin Harry Stafford’s enlistment papers, his detailed medical files, including x-ray images and comments from attending physicians, his pay statements, physical description, and name and address of his next of kin.

I was also able to find out about the specific battle where he was wounded and subsequent hospitals in Europe where he received treatment. The records also state his date and condition at discharge, and pay records of any amount owing.

Harry’s story begins with the 130th Battalion, Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment which was the ‘130th also known as the ‘overseas’ Battalion, based in Perth, Ontario.

They began recruiting in the fall of 1915, in Lanark and Renfrew Counties.

Harry’s Story

Nine-year old Harry stood by the shore, and watched in horror as his eldest brother Wilfred struggled to the surface again and again, until he finally slipped out of sight into the deep blue waters of the Mississippi River near Lanark.

Harry and his brothers often played near the water, although none of them could swim. The four brothers stood on the shore that fateful day in July, and skipped stones on the surface of the water, just as they had so many times before.

Wilfred, two days shy of his thirteenth birthday, was the eldest of the four. He took great pride in showing his younger brothers how to pick the longest flattest stones. He coached them on how to hold the stones on their flat side, and throw them parallel to the water, so they would skip farther along the waves. Dick, at age ten, was beginning to get the hang of it. Harry and his twin brother Frank had turned nine two months before and were doing their best to keep up with the older boys.

Harry, the stronger and more athletic of the twins was trying to help his brother Frank as he struggled with the task. Frank had kyphosis which meant that he had a severe curvature of the spine. People in those days referred to Frank as a ‘hunchback’, but he was still able to do most things; although it might take him a little longer.

One of the boys had thrown his prized pocket-knife into the water by mistake, and Wilfred had gone into the water to retrieve it, slipped on a rock and fell into a deep hole, unable to swim, and drowned. The younger boys had raced back into Lanark to get help, but it was too late. By the time they had met up with the first grown-up it was already after five. Mr. Baker, the local tailor in Lanark hurried back to the spot, and pulled Wilfred’s lifeless body from the river.

Mr. Baker laid the body gently on the shore, and headed back to the Stafford home to deliver the news. Harry’s mother Mary (Murphy) Stafford was pregnant with her next child Carmel at that time, and both she and Harry’s father Peter were overcome with grief.

This would be Harry’s first, though not his last encounter with death at a young age. Two years later in the spring, his mother once again gave birth to twins – this time a boy and a girl – Rose Marie and Martin Wilfred, named for his late brother. The twins were born in the spring, and Harry’s parents were delighted to welcome the new babies into their growing family. Sadly, tragedy struck once again, and Harry’s new little brother Martin Wilfred, the weaker of the two passed away quietly, just seven weeks after his birth.

A few short years after the second tragic event in Harry’s family, war was declared in Europe. Canada was still under British rule at the time and as such would be expected to join in the war efforts overseas.

Within the next couple of years tales of the excitement and adventure on the front lines travelled back to Perth, and acts of heroism and valour were recounted in the local papers. Life on the farm, and the daily chores seemed mundane, compared with the glorified life of a soldier fighting for freedom.

The 130th Battalion, Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment which was the ‘130th “Overseas” Battalion, CEF’ Based in Perth, Ontario, began recruiting in the fall of 1915 in Lanark and Renfrew Counties. When a recruitment officer arrived in the village of Lanark one winter, young Harry, just sixteen at the time lied about his age and signed up on the spot.

The Canadian Expeditionary Forces, as they were known, specifically recruited men between the ages of 18 and 45, so Harry claimed that he was born the same year as his brother Dick and was actually eighteen years old. They took him at his word, and Harry became an enlisted man on January 9th, 1916.

Harry, along with some local lads, was sent for basic training in Valcartier, Quebec and returned home for a brief visit before going overseas.

August 4 1916  – ‘The Perth Courier’

“Corporals Ronald Scott, William Strang and Jack Scott (McDonald’s Corners) and Privates Lance Affleck, Ralph Craig, John Kingston, Harry Stafford, Henry Barrie (Watson’s Corners), and Joseph Bennett (Fallbrook) of the 130th Batt., Valcartier, are home on a week’s furlough – their farewell visit before going overseas.” (Harry was 17 by then)

The 130th Battalion left the Halifax harbour and sailed for Britain on 23 September 1916. After two weeks at sea, arriving in Liverpool, England on October 6th, Harry and the other members of the unit were absorbed by the ’12th Reserve Battalion, CEF. Their prime function was to provide reinforcements for the Canadian Corps that were already fighting in the field.

After fighting bravely in both England and France, Harry found himself participating in one of the most significant campaigns in WWI. Known as the Third Battle of Ypres (or Passchendaele) this battle was remembered both for its tremendous loss of life and casualties and because of the horrendous conditions of the battlefield.

The siege of Passchendaele went on for over three months from July through November 1917. More than 4,000 Canadians died and over 12,000 were wounded. The battlefield consisted of flat, swampy lowlands, and when heavy rainfall pounded the fields that autumn, the ground became a sea of mud. The men had to struggle through the thick mud with very little cover, while German soldiers tore them to pieces with their machine guns.

By November the Canadians were finally beginning to win the battle and began to push the Germans back from their stronghold. It was on the 6th day of November 1917 that 18 year old Harry was wounded in the leg by German gunfire at Passchendaele.

Harry was dragged out of the line of fire, received basic care from one of the medics to stop the bleeding and was sent to a hospital in England. He was admitted two days later on November 8th.

Word of Harry’s injuries was sent to his parents, back on the farm, in Lanark:

” Mr. and Mrs. Peter Stafford received a telegraph from the Director of Records, Ottawa, on Friday, informing them that their son, Pte. Harry Stafford, 787104, had been wounded by gunshot in thigh and leg on Nov 6th, and admitted to No. 6 Field Ambulance Depot. Harry went overseas with the 130th Batt. in September, 1916, was transferred to another battalion for service in France, and has been through some severe engagements since crossing the channel. His many friends hope that Harry’s wounds are not serious.”

—-21 November, 1917, “The Lanark Era”

The medical care during WWI was a very complex set of institutions, which cared for wounded soldiers from the battlefield, as soon after injury as possible. The soldier was evacuated as quickly as possible for treatment, and provided care.

The Field Ambulance was a mobile unit equipped with horse-drawn ambulances. They brought soldiers from the battlefields to an Advanced Dressing Station located at the rear of the siege out of harm’s way.

After Harry was shot, the first day he was sent to the #6 Field Ambulance Nov 6 1917, and after a month’s time was transferred to the Pavilion General Hospital Brighton Nov 23 1917, for three weeks.

Harry’s condition was not improving, and he suffered infection after infection. He was transferred to the Military Convalescent Hospital at Woodcote Park, Epsom, England on Dec 22, 1917 and he remained there receiving treatment for four and a half months.

In March 1918 he was transferred to Bramshott Military Hospital, where he was treated for one month, with still no sign of improvement.

It was during this time that Harry received word from his parents at home that his brother Carl had enlisted in a month earlier, and like Harry had lied about his age in order to join the service.

On July 8th, 1918 Harry was admitted to the Granville Canadian Special Hospital in Buxton, Derbyshire, England.

In November of 1918 WW1 finally ended. Losses of human life by Canadians and the allies were in the thousands.

After six months of unsuccessful treatment at the Granville Hospital in England Harry was finally discharged on December 3rd, 1918.

His condition continued to deteriorate, and on December 23 1918 Harry embarked for Canada sailing on the S.S. Tunisian.

Due to his medical condition, Harry was discharged from the military at Ottawa, on February 5, 1919.

Jan 10 1919 Perth Courier:

“Pte. Harry Stafford, son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Stafford, Lanark, returned home Monday from overseas. He went overseas with the 130th Batt. In November 1917 he was wounded in the leg and latterly has been receiving hospital treatment in England.”

Harry Stafford newscliping

Harry’s condition never improved, and once again he was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital in Ottawa on February 4th, 1920. He developed a cold two days after being admitted, and his operation was postponed until Feb 9th. Pneumonia developed 12 hours following operation, and Harry died two days later. There was speculation at the time that he may have contracted the flu while in the hospital, and that it turned to pneumonia in his already weakened state.

The influenza pandemic of 1917-1920 was a global disaster, and was actually responsible for killing more people than WWI. It has been said that it was the most devastating flu epidemic in recorded world history.

Because of the close quarters and huge troop movements during the war it is possible that these two factors hastened the pandemic and likely increased transmission of the virus. Many soldiers’ immune systems were weakened by lack of proper nutrition, the stresses of combat and chemical warfare, increasing their susceptibility to any illness.

Feb 20 1920  –

“Died:  In St. Luke’s Hospital, Ottawa on Thursday February 12th, Harry Alphonsus Stafford, son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Stafford of Lanark, aged 20 years and 9 months.”

Because he died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Ottawa, Harry’s death was registered in the County of Carleton, Division of Ottawa. His official cause of death was listed as pneumonia.

After a quick search on, I found Harry’s death certificate:

Harry Stafford death certificate

Harry is buried at the Sacred Heart Cemetery, Lanark, Ontario

Harry's grave stone

“Rest in Peace  Harry.   Our nation thanks you for your service.”

They died that we might live


War Memorial, Ottawa, Canada

War memorial Ottawa

Are you researching a Canadian Soldier who fought in WWI?

There are several resources listed below to help with your search.


(the above is an excerpt from a book on the life and military service of  Pte. Harry Stafford. The hard-cover book is available for research purposes at the Lanark Museum, 80 George Street, Lanark Ontario, and at Archives Lanark, 1920 Concession 7 Road, Drummond Centre, Perth, Ontario

Harry Stafford book

(photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada, Harry Stafford and Jimmy Traill, both of Lanark, Ontario)

poppy         Lest We Forget


Link to: Canadian Soldiers of WWI

Link to Commonwealth War Graves

Link to Personnel Records WWI

Link to Names in Book of Remembrance


Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists
Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society
Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”
available at local stores or email:

Genealogy Tip: Record and Share Family Stories

Family Stories

We each have our own recollections of past events, our personal memories of family members, and these are the building blocks for creating and recording our own stories to preserve in our family histories.

I would like to share some tips and tricks for a successful and memorable interview with family members, and how to gather those special family stories that make each of our individual histories so unique.

Family stories help to round out the dates and facts in a family genealogy. A good genealogist will be able to tell you the birth, marriage and death dates for a given ancestor, but a wonderful way to enrich those necessary facts is a family story.

The story may be an account of a family event such as a special anniversary or occasion or may just be a simple recollection of the family member’s childhood, or their days at school.

School Days

When interviewing an older relative ask about their teachers, the name of their school(s), and ask them to recall the names of their classmates.

Roger's class from S.S. 4

Military Service

Your family members who served in the military may have some fascinating stories to share of their days in service and historical events that they may have witnessed. These are the stories that enhance and personalize our genealogical dates and documents.

Do you have a family member who served in the war?  Ask them to tell you some of their stories and the places that they may have travelled to.  What do they recall about the war years? What were the highlights of their days in the military?


Holiday Season

The holiday season is just around the corner and it will be a time when extended families get together to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. Let these occasions be your opportunity to record some of your family stories by conducting interviews with your relatives.

christmas dinner

Before the Interview/Event

• Who are your oldest family members? Begin with them.
• Will it be formal or informal?
• One on one, or a group?
• A group will give many different perspectives on the same subject

Prepare for the Interview

• Pen and paper
• Camera / video camera
• a device to record audio
• Bring ‘memory-joggers’ – old photos
• Bring old news clippings
• What local, national or world events happened during their lifetimes?

Canadian troops lead raid

At the Interview:

• Ask for permission to record/film
• Let them know what you are planning to do with the information
• Are there times during the day when older relatives are more alert?
• Take regular breaks

Skeletons in the Closet

• Every family has them
• Be sensitive about family skeletons
• Move on if a topic makes your relatives uncomfortable
• You may learn something new
• Make sure that you have permission to share the story

skeletons in closet

A Successful Family Interview
• Have a list of questions prepared but don’t follow it exactly, let the ideas flow
• If your relative is telling a story let them lead the conversation
• Let your relatives share their memories
• Ask if you can follow up with additional questions after the interview

After the Interview
• If you have taken photos or made an audio recording – make copies
• Don’t store the copies in one place. Share one with a relative in case the original is lost.
• While your memory is fresh extract the information and add it to your family tree
• Send a thank-you note and a copy of the updated family history

Get Organized!

In closing – a little organization before and during the interview will help to ensure a successful and enjoyable time for both yourself and your relative.

Remember – What the next generation will value most is not what we owned, but the stories of who we were and the tales of how we lived!

reading to child

Write your stories and pass them on!


Arlene Stafford-Wilson


1896 photo:  from the family collection.   My grandfather – Michael ‘Vincent’ Stafford seated on the floor, and my Great-grandfather Thomas Stafford with the white beard, seated across from my Great-grandmother Mary (Carroll) Stafford.   Thomas was the youngest son of pioneer settler Tobias Stafford who came from Kilanerin, County Wexford, Ireland and settled on the 11th concession of Drummond Township in 1816.   Mary Carroll’s father Patrick Carroll came from County Limerick, Ireland and was killed by a falling tree at age 34.  He is buried in Mt. St. Patrick cemetery, Renfrew County.


S.S. 4 Bathurst 1964 softball champions – FRONT ROW David Scott and Bill Cavanagh  MIDDLE ROW Earl Conboy and Ronnie Brown  BACK ROW; Arthur Perkins, Roger Stafford Norman Kerr Arnold Perkins Connie Conboy and Mrs Mary Jordan


photo of Corporal Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, R.C.A.F. WD, taken in 1943, near her parents’ home in Edmonton, Alberta.

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 unshakable 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.

book cover edited resized LC Comfort (1)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

(My ancestor, Tobias Stafford, left County Wexford, Ireland, in 1816, aboard the ship, Maria, and settled in Drummond Township, Lanark County. He married Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ McGarry, of Mullingar Parish, County Westmeath, Ireland at St. John’s Church, Perth, Ontario, on Feb. 10, 1824)

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:

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.

Genealogy Tips for the New Year

New Year genealogy goals

It’s the New Year, and that means time for reflecting on the past, and also time for setting our family history goals for the year ahead. The world seems to spin by faster each season, and while this may be frustrating at times, each year also brings some new and positive changes for genealogists.

It didn’t seem all that long ago that my own genealogy involved a great deal of letter writing in order to make connections with long lost cousins and fellow researchers, some as far away as England.  Weeks would pass by as we exchanged photos and family histories by ‘snail-mail’. It definitely wasn’t a very speedy process, but in many instances, it was all we had.

Long days were spent at libraries and archives, hunched over dusty old documents, and sitting in dimly lit rooms, scanning reel after reel of sometimes out-of-focus microfilms, only to find after a day’s work that nothing pertained to our own family research.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, and now we have access to countless genealogical resources at our fingertips; including the ability to connect with our fellow researchers at a distance through Facebook and email. What once took weeks, even months of letter writing, is now reduced to a few quick strokes on a keyboard. The next generation may look back on our era and the incredible advancements in our ability to communicate, and say that in the late 1990s we entered the ‘space age’ of genealogical research.

Setting Genealogical Goals & Using New Tools

  1.  Write down your genealogical goals
  2.  Choose your top 3 goals, and set a definite time frame for yourself to accomplish these
  3.  Look at your tree, and evaluate what you’ve already found.  Which area of the tree needs the most work?
  4. Once you’ve chosen a branch to work on, focus on one aspect at a time – like digitizing all the photos you have from this branch of the family, then move to the next.
  5. Set a specific date for a research trip – perhaps a visit to a cemetery where you’d like to take some photographs
  6. Make a list of ancestors that you’d like to research, and specific records that you’re looking for, like birth, or marriage, and stroke them off the list once you’ve finished
  7. Review your DNA matches.  If you’ve uploaded your DNA, check on the site once a month for new cousin matches, contact them, and add them to your tree
  8. Spend 15 minutes each week organizing papers and records
  9. Share at least one story about your parents or grandparents with your nieces and nephews
  10. Learn how to use one new research tool this year

With technology evolving so quickly as the years pass by, one of our most important genealogical goals should be to take advantage of some of these new research tools.

Family History Online Databases

While online family history databases like and are by no means perfect, they do offer us access to a tremendous number of records from all over the world. They provide us with the ability not only to view digitized images of documents like original census records, but to print them as well, or save them for future use.

Now, instead of sitting for hours documenting our research in pencil as we did in the past, we can use our smart phones to instantly capture and store images from archives, libraries and field trips to cemeteries.


Another research technique that has evolved is the essential task of preserving family stories. Interviewing older relatives used to be a bit awkward, and involved either hastily scribbling notes or using a bulky cassette recorder. We can use a smart-phone or tablet to record our conversations, and provide instant playback. This is ideal for recording family stories, or memories from people who may have been put off by the presence of a tape recorder.


Lugging around heavy books and stacks of binders has also become a thing of the past.  Laptops are becoming lighter, easy to carry, and have increasingly large storage capacities, perfect for replacing all of those bulky binders.

DNA Testing

Perhaps one of the most exciting new enhancements to genealogical research is the way science can now compare our DNA to thousands of other samples in the database to determine kinship. The Wall Street Journal says “DNA Testing, the hottest tool in genealogy, is helping more people open doors to their past.” DNA Test Kits may be obtained from many DNA Testing companies like ’23 and Me’, ‘Ancestry’, ‘Living Heritage’, or ‘My Heritage’ to name a few. Many will provide a free analysis, so that you can find out the percentages of ethnicity that you have from each country.  Others will even match you from a database, and connect you with cousins around the world.  Perhaps you’ll trace your roots back to an interesting historical figure, a Hollywood star, or even British royalty!



Online Learning Sites

Yet another way that people are able to share their knowledge and experience with millions are through sites on the internet like While the younger folks tend to use this site to listen to the music or watch movies, genealogists can use the site to educate themselves and enhance their research skills.  There are some fantastic instructional videos on estimating the dates of old photographs, or researching ancestors in other parts of the world, or new records and resources that are available to Canadian researchers.

scottish genealogy

Community Forums

There are many sites available where you can post a message that will be seen by thousands of other genealogists, and also view some interesting discussions among people researching the same family surname, like Genforum –

community forums

Researching Cemeteries and Memorials

You can search, browse, and find cemetery records of your ancestors, and many  have photos as well. There are millions of records from all over the world.  Just type in your ancestor’s surname to begin the search: , another similar site is Billion Graves –

Cemetery search

Clearing the Genealogical Roadblocks

As time goes by, more and more genealogical roadblocks have been removed, and some types of research that once seemed almost impossible are now within our grasp. For those of us who remember Alex Haley’s book ‘Roots’ which documented the search for Haley’s African ancestors, we learned that many records were either destroyed or non-existent. The Mormon Church has released a database of 72,000 bank accounts opened by former slaves, after the Civil War, and these records could potentially help millions of their descendants trace their families back to Africa. These particular sets of bank records are significant not just because they date back to 1865, but because of the scarcity of detailed records of black families that are available from that era. To begin your search of these records:

Alex Haley Roots.jpg

Photo Enhancing

There are several sites available where vintage family photos may be uploaded and enhanced.  One of these is MyHeritage:

My Heritage

Some of the photo-enhancing sites, like MyHeritage require a paid subscription, but there are many others that are free of charge:   Fotor – and PicMonkey –

Ireland Reaching Out

Of all the new research tools available to genealogists, I must admit that the one that I find the most exciting is a project called Ireland Reaching Out. It was founded in south-east Galway by tech entrepreneur Mike Feerick. The idea is that instead of waiting for people to trace their roots back to Ireland, local communities, largely through volunteer efforts, are trying to find descendants of those who emigrated. Ireland Reaching Out, also called Ireland XO has promised to help with genealogical research at no cost. Volunteer community teams, who are trained in local genealogy, are also prepared to meet with you and guide returning migrants to places of genealogical interest specific to their family. To contact Ireland Reaching Out with your queries:


Online Translators

Did your ancestor come from a non-English-speaking country? You’ll likely need to research some foreign-language records and websites, and may even need to communicate in that language with library or archive staff. In the past it was necessary to learn at least the basics of the language and spend time looking up phrases in a foreign-language dictionary or if the budget allowed, hire someone to translate for you.

Now, you can get a basic translation instantly with free online tools. These automated translations aren’t perfect, but most are good enough to provide basic communication. Type ‘Google Translate’ into your web browser, and then enter the phrase you’d like to translate.

Date of birth

Some New Tools in the New Year

So, now that the New Year is upon us, perhaps we can kick our research up a notch and take it to the next level with some of the cutting edge tools available today. With all of the technology on hand, surely we can streamline some of our old fact-finding techniques, and expedite our research a bit.

As for myself, I may not have tried all of the new gadgets yet, but I’d sure like to see if the Ireland XO project can help me with my research. I’ve been trying to locate my ancestor Tobias Stafford’s family in County Wexford for longer than I’d care to admit. Tobias traveled to Canada in 1816, and settled in Lanark County; but who did he leave behind in the old country?

With the help of Ireland Reaching Out, and a few new high tech gadgets – maybe THIS will be the year that I make that connection!


To help with researching your Lanark County roots – contact Lanark County Genealogical Society  or  Archives Lanark and they can help point you in the right direction.

Good luck with your family history research and Happy New Year!


book cover edited resized LC Comfort (1)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Association of Professional Genealogists
Lanark County Genealogical Society, member since 1998

8 books Arlene Stafford-Wilson

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:




England and Wales 1841 – 1911






South Africa


New Zealand




For more Genealogy tips and tricks:

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

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:

(the link on the Library Archives Canada website is temporarily down)

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!