Sunday 8 May 2016

The conclusion of my British Columbia talks tour

Apologies for the silence on this blog in the last week - I returned from my two week talks tour in Canada on Monday, absolutely exhausted, and straight into a brief illness all day Tuesday, only to then get stuck straight into the final couple of days of campaigning for our Scottish Parliament elections. On Thursday I spent much of the day getting our SNP vote out here in North Ayrshire, in Largs and Skelmorlie, and then attended the count in Saltcoats until the very early hours of Friday morning, where our local candidate Kenny Gibson was thankfully returned as our MSP.  (If you are interested in how Scottish politics works, I have blogged about how the election count worked in Saltcoats on my other wee blog at!)

But what of the final part of my talks tour in British Columbia?! Having left Vernon on Thursday 29th April (see, I made my way to Vancouver city once more, where I was due to stay again with Don Davis and Gerald Maier. We had a fairly chilled evening at their flat on Thursday, and on Friday they then very kindly took me on a walking tour of the downtown area of the city. Despite its relative youth when compared to most British based cities, Vancouver still has one heck of a history, with many of the city's blocks quite different to each other in style and appearance. At the seafront by the exhibition centre are many panels recalling many key events from the city's past, some relating to the economic growth of the region, and others to the social development of the area, in times of both boom and bust.

At one point I was introduced to Vancouver's famous steam clock - a small clock that has chimes powered entirely by steam power (which play the same notes as Big Ben in England). Shortly after this we went for coffee, and whilst in the queue I realised there was a police officer behind me - cue me in shameless selfie mode again!

Don and I then took the opportunity to visit an extraordinary second hand book shop, and I spent a short while in the Scottish and Irish section, making some incredible finds which I lamented that I could not purchase, as my suitcase was already close to the maximum weight limit. In the end I opted to purchase a copy of a great book by Leah Leneman looking at marriage litigation from 1698-1830 as caused by our weird rules on irregular marriage prior to 1940, and another book looking at social life in Scotland prior to 1800.

On Saturday then it was my final event, a British Columbia Genealogy Society ( seminar hosted in the suburb of Richmond. The event venue was South Arm United Church, having been moved from the previous planned location due to high demand, so no pressure then! (I was later told it was the highest attended seminar they had ever held, with folks from Alberta and even Washington state in the US also in attendance.) On this day I gave the most number of talks on my two week tour, with five in total on both Irish and Scottish subjects. I had to fight my body's attempts to make me lose my voice on a couple of occasions, having been fighting a cold and irritating cough throughout my trip, but I hung in there! Whilst a great venue in terms of capacity, there was unfortunately a huge window that bled a lot of light onto the projector screen for the first couple of sessions, which was high up and could not be covered, and which made it difficult for some folk to see. Thankfully the good folks at BCGS had provided copies of my presentation notes to all attendees in advance, so this was hopefully easily compensated for.

As at Parksville, I was blown away by the interest in my books, with well over another hundred sold on the day, so thanks to all who purchased copies! If you were unable to do so, you can order copies from Global Genealogy in Ontario - full details on my Unlock the Past titles are available on its site at

The book shop organiser, Katherine, showed me a couple of documents that she had in her possession which I found of especial interest. The first noted a marriage by declaration in Scotland on 8 DEC 1915, registered on the authority of a warrant from a sheriff-substitute (as all irregular marriages in Scotland from 1855-1939 had to be), with the second written on 27 SEP 1916 by a minister claiming that the couple had married in Glasgow in a United Free Church ceremony on that day, they having been previously declared husband and wife by a sheriff's warrant. The groom was a soldier - had he married irregularly in a hurry, and then made the marriage 'good' subsequently through a church service? Certainly one to look into!

The day ended with lots of folk happy, and after we had finished several of us went for a meal to the Spaghetti Factory, with lots of chat and great craic. Amongst those present were two people who I had regularly been in touch with before on social media, Diane Rogers and Celia Lewis, it was great to meet them at last!

A huge thanks to Eunice Robinson and the team at BCGS for all their hospitality in Richmond, and also to Don and Gerald again in Vancouver for putting me up for a couple more days! And finally, another huge thanks to Donna Fraser in Qualicum Beach, without whom the whole trip would not have been possible in the first place.

After three hectic weeks, things should begin to get back to normal here for a bit - thanks once again Canada, you were brilliant...!


For details on my genealogy guide books, including A Decade of Irish Centenaries: Researching Ireland 1912-1923Discover Scottish Church Records (2nd edition), Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit My Pinterest account is at


  1. Definitely a marvellous seminar day, Chris. We learned so much, and with such humour from you, as well!! Merci, my buckets were very full. I've already been using several sites, digging deeper.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the day Celia, and good to meet at last!

  3. I've lost touch with Don Davis and Gerald Maier and would love to reach them. Since Gerald retired from ICBC his ICBC email doesn't work and his SHAW no longer works. If you have an email address for either of them or could email them and give them mine i would appreciate it. Thanks.

  4. If you would like to email me at, and identify yourself, I will happily forward it to Don. Regards, Chris