Saturday, 31 December 2016

Moving on from 2016 into 2017

Well that's the end of the year 2016, and to be blunt, I think I'll be glad to see the back of it, although there were some spectacular highs amidst the lows!

On the one hand I have had some truly amazing experiences as a genealogist - a talks tour in British Columbia and Vancouver Island, as well as a superb trip to a conference in Springfield, Illinois, and I have also had three more guide books published (Discover Scottish Church Records, 2nd ed, A Decade of Centenaries: Researching Ireland 1912-1923, and A Beginner's Guide to British and Irish Genealogy), which I am pleased to say have been selling well. In addition, I have taught four more Pharos courses, and had a lot of fun along the way, so thanks to those who signed up and participated, and have also carried out some extraordinary case work as a genealogist, including the two biggest commissions I have ever been asked to work on since I started over a decade ago, which have taken several months to work through. On top of that, various articles of mine have been published, and I've given a few talks locally - including a great Irish day down in Lancashire recently - an immense amount of fun.

On a personal front, I've continued to make progress on my own family history, including some exciting connections and progress made through AncestryDNA - and in the last two weeks have even managed to tidy my office out, which tends to happen as often as the census. Miracles do happen....!

Elsewhere, away from the genealogy sphere, I was one of many who as a team helped our local MSP Kenny Gibson to win his election campaign in May here in North Ayrshire, Scotland, and just for good measure, I started to work for Kenny in August as a parliamentary researcher, for one day a week, which has been a fascinating experience. I've also been out campaigning a lot this year, to try to amend plans for a commercial forest that is being imposed quite literally on our doorstep in Largs, to try to help save the Ardrossan ferry service to Arran, and to help raise awareness of the WASPI women's pensions campaign in North Ayrshire. So I've been juggling a heck of a lot this year, and have been all the more enthused for it - variety is most definitely the spice of life.

My wife also set herself the goal of running two half marathons in Manchester and Glasgow, which she successfully achieved - a huge thanks to GENES Blog readers who helped her to raise just under £700 for two local causes here in Largs. And most importantly, my eldest son Calum got some great results in his National 5 exams, although was stunned to initially get a C for History, which is his favourite subject. We appealed the mark, and were delighted when they agreed that they had got it wrong, and upgraded him to a B for the subject. He put his heart and soul into the exams, and it paid off - well done wee man!

There have been some major down sides, however. Brexit was something I campaigned hard against, and although we were more than successful on that front here in Scotland (62% voted to remain in the EU), I now find myself, and my kids, on the point of having our EU citizenship and rights stripped from us because we lost on a UK level.

Or at least I would have done, if the result hadn't prompted me at long last to apply for Irish passports for the three of us (my wife already has one), allowing us all to now have dual nationality. I should add that there was actually a lot more to this decision than Brexit, which merely acted as a final catalyst - I had already been thinking about it quite seriously for a couple of years purely from an identity perspective, something that was most definitely the product of fifteen years of genealogy research. Ultimately though, the fact that my kids have two Irish parents, and have been EU citizens since birth, is not something I intend to have them deprived of.

My boys actually travelled to Ireland this week for the first time on their Irish passports, and took great pleasure in sharing their new status with their cousins over in Kilkenny! If there has been a benefit from Brexit, it has ironically been the collapse in the value of Sterling, meaning that if you live overseas and wish to employ the services of a genealogist here in the UK, or even to visit yourself, your money will go quite a bit further than it would have six months ago, a situation I suspect will continue for a while.

The other major kick in the teeth, and I say this as someone who does not do the concept of celebrity, was the death of Carrie Fisher. She was an exception. I was that seven year old boy who fell in love with Princess Leia whilst at school in Plymouth in 1977, and to see such a beloved character come back to our screens after all this time, only to have her removed from us again so quickly forever, was gut wrenching, not least because of the death of her mother just a day later. It was quite a downer to end the year on, but New Year's Day is the big reset button, time to move on to the next chapter of our collective existence!

So to Don and Gerald, Donna and Ed, to Pattie, Pat and Al, Marjorie, Eunice and all in BC; to Paul, Cyndi and cohort in the US, to the Unlock the Past Team in Oz, to all my genie chums and colleagues in Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales, and to all my fellow Europeans, a resounding

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr / Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise Daoibh 
Happy New Year!

Here's a few more pics from throughout the year!


For details on my genealogy guide books, including A Beginner's Guide to British and Irish Genealogy, 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


  1. Just to say Thank you for all the News and updatesyou collate and bring to the British Genealogy community.