March 2, 2015

Women's History Month: Who's Your Heroine?

March is Women's History Month so let's talk about the heroines in our family trees. Do you have a female ancestor who inspires you or who achieved success in the face of hardships? Or perhaps one of your ancestors was the first female to do something quite amazing or unheard of in her time.

Women's History Month: Who's Your Heroine?
My Grandmother Ruth Simpson 1894-1985
I have several female ancestors whom I admire. One is my maternal grandmother. Ruth Simpson was born in 1894 in Kent, Ramsgate England. She was a pampered and somewhat sickly child who was called Dolly by her family because she looked like a little china doll. A timid woman, Grandma Ruth was not one to take risks or seek adventure. 

But at the age of 19 she left the comfort of her home, left her friends and family, to follow her fiance to Canada. Grandma was terrified of water so this was a very brave and large step for her to take. She was also used to being cared for and pampered but starting a new life in a new land required her to be strong. 

Soon after their marriage in Toronto Ontario in 1914, she and her husband moved to Guelph where they began family life. Grandma had two daughters in quick succession and settled down to be a homemaker. After her third daughter was born in 1923, Grandfather bought Grandma a small store so that she would not be bored. Grandma ran the tiny Tobacco Shop for several years then decided she wanted to have fewer headaches than being a female business owner in 1925 gave her. She applied for, and got, a job selling high-fashion women's dresses in a large department store. Sadly her husband (my grandfather) died when Grandma was only 45 years old. She had to survive on her own.

My mother, aunt and Grandmother in the 1970s
That terrified her but she did it. That's what I admire the most - that as frightened as she was, she drew a reserve of strength from somewhere and did what had to be done. It was WW2 and she soon met Sam R.,  married him and moved to Ajax where she got a job in the Munitions Factory in that town. 

When  Sam died some 10 years later, Grandma moved back to Guelph and got her old job back in the dress department. And yep, you guessed it - she met and married Fred B. She was 62 years old at the time of her third marriage. 

After Fred died Grandma moved in with her two eldest daughters. After a few years in an apartment they sold all their possessions and started traveling around N. America in a Winnebago. She and my mother and aunt were written up in two driving/touring magazines where they were featured as "The Merry Widows" who took a Mechanics Course and did their own repairs as well as driving all over N. America and into Mexico. 

My Grandmother Ruth is my heroine. Who is yours?

March 1, 2015

Nursing Sister Phillips WW1 Album 6V

This Photo Archive consists of a small autograph album (6.5" by 5.25") kept by Constance (Connie) Philips as a memento of her time serving as a nurse during World War One.  

The majority of the photos and items are from 1915, when she served as a nurse in France and Britain. 

Nursing Sister Phillips WW1 Album 6V

The album and all photographs, postcards, and other ephemera contained in the album belong to Karin Armstrong and may not be copied or republished without her written permission. The images will be published on Olive Tree Genealogy with permission. 

Each image has been designated an "R" for Recto or a "V" for Verso plus an album page number. Recto is the right-hand side page of a bound book while Verso is the left-hand side page. 

I will be posting the entire album and my additional research on the individuals identified in Connie's album over the coming months so please check back frequently to view these historic photos. The easiest way to see what has been published is to click on the topic "Nursing Sister WW1 Photos" in the vertical menu bar on the right side of your screen. You can also click on that phrase at the bottom of this post.

February 28, 2015

Get Ready! Who Do You Think You Are Starts March 8

Get Ready! Who Do You Think You Are Starts March 8
WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? returns this spring to give eight new celebrities a unique opportunity to dig into their roots and learn more about their family history. The two-time Emmy nominated series is Executive Produced by Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky. New episodes begin Sunday, March 8 at 10/9c.

 TLC announces the additional featured contributors for the upcoming episodes:

* Melissa Etheridge, who heads to Quebec to trace the history of her paternal side, learns about the scandalous marriage of her 6x great-grandparents.

* America Ferrera, who brings the series to Honduras for the first time ever, learns about the father she barely knew, and unravels her great-grandfather’s role in the violent Central American political system.

* Tony Goldwyn, who is familiar with his prestigious paternal Hollywood lineage, but knows little about his mother’s side of the family. In his episode, he comes to learn about his 3x great-grandparents, who fought for women’s rights and westward expansion.

* Josh Groban, who discovers his 8x great-grandfather was a highly educated and renowned scientist that studied astronomy, and was quoted by Isaac Newton himself.

Previously announced celebrity contributors include Julie Chen, Angie Harmon, Bill Paxton and Sean Hayes. The episodic air order is currently scheduled as:

March 8           Julie Chen
March 15         Josh Groban
March 22         Angie Harmon
March 29         Sean Hayes
April 5             Tony Goldwyn
April 12            America Ferrera
April 19            Bill Paxton
April 26            Melissa Etheridge, the world’s largest online family history resource, is teaming up again with TLC as a sponsor of the upcoming season. As part of the show sponsorship, Ancestry provides exhaustive family history research on each of the featured celebrities, which is used to build out the story of each episode.

Take a look at a Sneak Peek

February 27, 2015

WooHoo! 19 Years and Counting for Olive Tree Genealogy Website!

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to Olive Tree Genealogy...... Happy 19th Birthday to me. 

Olive Tree Genealogy began sometime in the winter of 1995 but it wasn't until February 1996 that it was given space on the old Rootsweb site.

That site is still online at and it holds all the "extra" free databases and goodies that I don't have room for on Olive Tree Genealogy at

Eventually I purchased my own domain name "Olive Tree Genealogy" and set up another site as a companion to my "Ote" site.  

I am often asked why I created Olive Tree Genealogy. After my husband died in 1993 and I was injured at school by a student, my enforced inactivity and loneliness was pretty tough to take. A friend suggested I learn how to set up a website on this new phenonemon called "the internet". 

Many of the big sites we use today did not exist when I set up Olive Tree Genealogy. CyndisList came online right after me. Rootsweb started up around the same time. didn't exist. Hard to imagine, isn't it?  Olive Tree Genealogy is a senior in Internet days. Back then the few genealogy sites online were, as all sites were, battleship grey with no fancy bells and whistles like search engines!

I started with one ships passenger list and some historical articles I wrote about Huguenots, Walloons, Loyalists and Palatines. That  ship's list was so popular and I received so many requests for more that I began hunting for others. Now Olive Tree Genealogy has over 1,500 ships lists online. And they're all free.

What am I up to now? Well I'm busy with writing my books and maintaining my blogs and websites as well as my personal genealogy research of course. Here's a list of my main blogs and websites.


Olive Tree Genealogy
Ask Olive Tree
Ancestors At Rest
Past Voices: Letters Home
The Paper Trail
Antique Hunter
Ollie's Yummy in Your Tummy
 Olive Tree Genealogy
Naturalization Records
Ancestors At Rest
All Census Records
The Genealogy Spot
Olive Tree Extras
Past Voices
The Great War
Canadian Military Heritage Project

Writing genealogy and history books also keeps me pretty busy!  You can read a bit more about me if you are interested, or see some of the early versions of Olive Tree Genealogy at

February 26, 2015

Rare Inscribed Roman Tombstone with Skeleton Found

Rare Inscribed Roman Tombstone with Skeleton Found
I find these stories fascinating and love to share them with my readers. An ancient and rare Roman tombstone with a skeleton under it has been found in a Roman cemetery in Cirencester

The carved tombstone reads  D.M. BODICACIA CONIUNX VIXIT ANNO S XXVII which translates to read In memory of Bodicia. Wife. Lived 27 years

Cotswold archaeologists believe that the skull found under the stone is that of Bodica.

Continue reading, and see the photographs at  'Incredibly rare' Roman tombstone found complete with human remains of a woman named 'Bodica'

Credits: Image from
In memory of Bodicia. Wife. Lived 27 years

February 25, 2015

Introducing Ken McKinlay, Professional Genealogist

Introducing Ken McKinlay, Professional Genealogist
Ken McKinlay is an Ottawa Ontario based genealogist. Olive Tree Genealogy recently interviewed Ken so that I could introduce him to my readers. 

I've seen Ken's meticulous research on various Facebook groups and am very impressed with his research skills and citing of his sources. Read on for my questions and Ken's responses:

How and when did you become involved in the field of genealogy?

I first became involved in genealogy and family history due to my curiosity. I had always heard stories that a branch of the family was descended from Loyalists, another branch came to North America on the Mayflower, and yet another branch came to Scotland from Ireland. I wanted to find the truth behind each of these family tales. Amazingly enough those stories have all turned out to be true. I have been able to document that I am a descendant of Lt. Caleb Howe of the Queen’s Rangers (I have three or four other Loyalist lines I’m working on too), I can trace one of my lines to Elizabeth Tilley of the Mayflower (I’m also looking at a possible Brewster connection), and the McKinlay family that settled in Thornliebank, Scotland did come from Londonderry, Ireland around the late 1830s.

What is your main genealogical focus?

Over time my genealogical focus has gone from researching my own roots to doing research for clients and also helping out those that post to certain genealogy related groups on Facebook. What I enjoy most is sharing my knowledge. What I’ve found is that I enjoy teaching people how to do research, whether it be speaking at a society meeting (a little stressful for me but I do enjoy it), blogging, or telling someone where I found the information I had posted in response to their Facebook query. If I can educate someone as to how the information can be found that then means they can better learn how to do their own research.

What are your website(s) and blogs?

I do have a blog called Family Tree Knots found at There the focus is on the methodologies of genealogy research and where to find those oftentimes elusive records. When I’m dealing with my own research my blog becomes a “lessons learned” post plus a way to share the findings with family members.

Do you have a Social Media presence? 
I can be found on various social media sites including:




Do you believe a Social Media presence is important?
I find that a Social Media presence is important since it allows me to interact with a much larger audience than just that found in the Ottawa region. It may be that I have information that someone is looking for or, more often, someone else has the information I’m trying to find. A simple post or query using the applicable site can lead to the key answer or document to resolve an outstanding problem.

Are you a member of any genealogical societies or organizations?

I’m a member and director at large of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO), a member of the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS), a member of the United Empire Loyalists’ of Canada (UELAC), and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG).

What does genealogy mean to you? Why do you believe it is important?

Genealogy is not only a way of learning about where the family came from but also the impact that history and society has had on each of us. We all have heroes and villains in our tree and they make the research interesting. Yet it is the common person that has helped bring us to where we are today. Finding out the causes of why the family moved from Ireland to Scotland or from a village in Yorkshire to the industrial city of Glasgow can make the history that they teach in school much more interesting.

What do you believe is the most exciting development in genealogy today?

I think there have been two important and exciting developments in the past several years. The first is the increased amount of documents that are now available to researchers without the need to either visit an archive or library or to send away and way weeks or even months for a response. That isn’t to say that archives and libraries aren’t important. Those brick and mortar buildings are a vital component to our research. However, with more records available at relatively low costs or even free anyone can start research their family tree. The second is genetic genealogy. As an adjunct to tracing the various lines using the well-known paper records, DNA testing has helped make connections to possible distant cousins.

Do you have a prediction or hope for the field of genealogy in the future?

In the near future I think that with the continued digitization projects more “lost” clues on our families will be uncovered. However, I don’t think it will be a rosy future 50 to 100 years from now when it comes to future genealogists trying to figure out our lives. So much of what used to be recorded in newspapers or even in letters is now being done electronically. Yet we don’t know if that information will survive us.

February 24, 2015

Quebec Family History presents Roots 2015 Conference

Olive Tree Genealogy received the following announcement
Quebec Family History presents Roots 2015 Conference

The Quebec Family History Society presents Roots 2015 – An international conference on family history in Quebec from June 19-21, 2015 at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. It is the largest English language genealogical conference held in Quebec.

Some featured speakers are: Gary Schroder, President of the Quebec Family History Society; Lesley Anderson, Teacher and Consultant with; Edward Zapletal, Publisher, Family Chronicle, Internet Genealogy, and History Magazine; Ed McGuire, President of the Vermont French-Canadian Genealogy Society; Glen Wright, Author and Lecturer; Johanne Gervais, Computer Specialist and Genealogist; Deborah Robertson, Librarian and Genealogist; Lorraine Gosselin, Lecturer and Genealogist; Marilyn Gillespie, Professional Photographer; Luc Lepine, Author and Military Historian; and Denyse Beaugrand-Champagne, Historian and Archivist with Bibliothéque et Archives Nationales du Quebec.

For further information and to register go to

Sign up NOW for 13th New England Regional Genealogical Conference

Sign up NOW for 13th New England Regional Genealogical Conference
The 13th New England Regional Genealogical Conference Navigating the Past: Sailing into the Future will be held in Providence, Rhode Island on 15-18 April 2015. The conference will include more than 90 lectures by speakers including Judy G. Russell, Lisa Louise Cooke, and Genealogy Roadshow host Joshua Taylor, as well as Ancestors Roadshow, Special Interest Groups, workshops, and a bonus track of presentations in the exhibit hall.

Why pay full price? Save 20% by registering now! NERGC Early Bird registration deadline is February 28th. To register online or download the Program Brochure, go to

February 23, 2015

16th Century Plague Graffiti Found on Walls of Church

This fascinating yet sad story begins with 
"Heartbreaking" graffiti uncovered in a Cambridgeshire church has revealed how three sisters from one family died in a plague outbreak in 1515. The names Cateryn, Jane and Amee Maddyngley and the date were inscribed on stonework in Kingston parish church." (BBC News)
Continue reading this story and see the photos of the graffiti at Cambridgeshire church plague graffiti reveals 'heartbreaking' find