Genealogical Journeys – Introduction

This is the first in a planned series of posts about my researches over the past few years into my family history.

Although I’d always had a mild interest in genealogy going back to my childhood years, it wasn’t until about 2010 that I really delved into it.  Like many people, my renewed interest in genealogy was stoked by recent advances in technology – specifically, vastly improved access to historical records over the internet via such sites as    Not that long ago, pursuing genealogical research as a hobby required trips to libraries and cemeteries, and writing letters to other researchers.  Today, it’s something that one can do sitting on the couch, and with far greater efficiency!

By the middle of 2011, after several months of weekends and evenings, I’d been able to trace all of my ancestors back to at least the point of immigration to the New World, with the trail often running cold at that point.   Three of my eight great-grandparents were relatively recent immigrants from England & Wales to Canada, arriving in the first two decades of the 20th century.  I learned that the remaining five great-grandparents were each descended primarily or entirely from people who immigrated from Ireland & England to Canada in the period 1825-1850.  The New World wasn’t that much of a melting pot, in my case! In total, by my reckoning I am about 48% Irish, 34% English, 13% Welsh, and 5% Dutch.  I’ve not yet taken a home DNA ancestry test, but it would be interesting to see how closely its results would match my research conclusions.

I’d set the genealogical research aside for a few years, but recently decided to come back to it and see what loose ends I might be able to tie up.  In this new technologically-enhanced world, the process of drawing inferences about long-dead individuals from records is something I find intrinsically fascinating.  Sorting through data to identify potentially relevant information, evaluating that information’s reliability, drawing conclusions from contradictory indicators – these are skills I draw on in my day job as an actuary, and it’s nice to have a hobby that is interesting in its own rights while leveraging the same skills.

My tentative gameplan for this series of blog posts is to write one post for each of my eight great-grandparents (all of whom have been dead for at least two decades), discussing what I believe I’ve learned about their ancestors, and the limitations and uncertainties inherent in my conclusions.  But before I launch into that, in my next post I’ll provide a couple of interesting case studies, illustrating the ambiguities one faces in this type of endeavor.


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