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"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday
Dec062011

Tombstone Tuesday: A Trip to Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, Scotland

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I last posted! Things get so crazy around the holidays. But don't worry, I'm still desperate to learn and share with lots of stories and adventures!

Last year I watched a 2 hour special on the History Channel, Afraid of the Dark. I really enjoyed the scary stories and history of our innate fear of the dark. Several areas of the world are covered and one of my favorites  was about Edinburgh, Scotland. Not only was I obsessed with the accent of the Scottish guide, but the the creepy scarey stories of the haunted Greyfriars Kirkyard and the underground moors fascinated me. I can be big baby and get scared easy, but for whatever reason I love creepy cemeteries!

When I had the amazing opportunity to visit Scotland this past September I just had to get to Edinburgh to see these sights for myself. I visited Greyfriars during the day, it was beautiful! The crypts and tombstones were very elaborate. This graveyard is supposedly haunted, but since I visited during the day I don't have any spooky stories to share of my own. They have nighttime tours, but there were just too many to chose from and I read that some people felt that the tours were not always respectful of the graveyard. They left garbage and disrupted the area. Not wanting to take part I decided not to take a nighttime tour. 

  

The ornate tombstones in on the western side of the graveyard sit right up against the back of the buildings. Can you imagine having this veiw literally right outside your window? You could almost touch the stones from the windows! I don't know if I could do it...

 

I just couldn't stop taking pictures of all the intricate details in stone...lots of skulls and cross bones!

 

To the right is a picture of the Covenanter's Prison, where thousands of Presbyterian's supporting the National Covenant were imprisoned. Hundreds died and were buried here. This area is behind a locked gate so I couldn't walk down the land to view to areas, but from what I could see, you wouldn't want to stay there.

 

 

Edinburgh is a great city for sightseeing, eating, and shopping. After the graveyard we had wee pint of local Scottish ale at the Greyfriars Bobby's Bar just around the corner. Another spot I recommend is Lebowskis Bar. We are huge fans of "The Dude" from the movie The Big Lebowski and this bar is an ode to all things dude, most importantly to his favorite drink, the white russian. They have many different variations of white russians, we loved them.

I really enjoyed my visit and recommend you take a trip to Greyfriars next time you're in Edinburgh, Scotland. If you have gone on a haunted tour I'd LOVE to hear about your experience!

Saturday
Nov122011

NYC Veterans Day Parade 2011

The NYC Veterans Day Parade is the largest celebration in the country, with 20,000 veterans, supporters, bands, and other entertainment marching in the parade. It was a beautiful fall day. I had the great opportunity to chat with some sweet WWII Veterans, thanking them for their courage.

 

Click the picture to start the slideshow. Then click the square and arrow icon in the lower right hand corner to view the pictures full screen.

Wednesday
Nov092011

Ancestry.com DNA Testing- What Can DNA Tell Me About My Ancestors? 

Last week I received an email from Ancestry.com with a great freebie offer- a free DNA test kit! I didn't have a particularly strong interest in DNA testing and to be completely honest, I wasn't quite sure what I could learn or why I would want to explore this method of research. But genealogy isn't cheap and a freebie is hard to pass by! I just got the kit in the mail yesterday so I figured it's time to see what this is all about.

On the Ancestry.com DNA Testing website I see there are 3 different DNA tests you can choose from, Paternal Lineage, Maternal Lineage, and a combined test for both Paternal and Maternal DNA testing. Pricing ranges from $149-$358.  From reading the FAQ section I learned that a female can only test the maternal lineage, whereas a male can take both the maternal and paternal. If I submit the DNA sample for the maternal test I will find out the ancient ancestry of my mothers side, but it won't help me find living family matches. From the site: "The Maternal Lineage test differs from the Paternal test in that it cannot validate a family relationship -- so even if your maternal DNA is an identical match with another participant it can only prove that you may have been related thousands of years ago." With the paternal test you can find matching genetic cousins, levels of relatedness with other DNA groups, and learn the ancient ancestry of my paternal line from up to 100,000 years.

When I activated my test online I indicated that I will be providing the DNA. In hindsight it might have been better if I asked my dad to provide the test sample for the paternal test. I might try contacting them to see if I can change this, it seems like the paternal test would provide me with better information for growing my family tree. My maiden name is Wright and it's been difficult sifting through this popular surname for relations!

The kit looks very simple, cheek swabs for collecting the DNA sample and instructions for collecting and getting your sample processed. 

Find out more about Genetic Genealogy: Ancestry.com webinar: Genetic Genealogy Made Easy

A book I found, DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-First Century by Debbie Kennett looks like a good resource for learning more about DNA and it's relevance in genealogy research.

Stay tuned for an update after my (or my dads) sample is processed. I'll be exploring the DNA groups and services from Ancestry.com and other DNA projects out there. Have you done any DNA testing for your genealogy research? What did you find out? I'd love to hear about your experiences!

* I am not being paid by ancestry.com for this review or for sharing my experience. I received the free test kit because I am a subscriber of Ancestry.com. I am sharing my experience and thoughts on my blog to help others learn about genealogy research and DNA testing.

Tuesday
Nov012011

Tombstone Tuesday: The Shaw Plot in Castlewellan, County Down, Ireland

The Shaw branch of my family tree was one of my strongest limbs to hang on when I first started my genealogy journey. My great grandmother Edith Shaw Middleton passed tons of their pictures and documents down to my grandmother and luckily they found their way to me. Edith's parents, Samuel Shaw and Ann Robinson, were both born in Ireland. I have a lot of information on their family, Samuel and Ann had 10 children, but only a little information about their family in Ireland. 

After some research, I learned that my ggg grandparents (Samuel's parents) Samuel Shaw (1818-1906) and Agnes Wallace (1819-1892) are buried in St. Paul's Church Cemetery in Castlewellan, County Down, Ireland. One of the researchers I connected with through ancestry.com was from New Zealand! What a small world! She sent me Samuel Shaw Sr.'s will, found through the searchable Will Calendar database from the Public Records of Northern Ireland (PRONI). In his will, Samuel asks that his children take care of his and their mothers grave. After reading that I knew I had a definite responsibility to get eyes on that grave!

I was so excited when I learned my mother and father in law, Carol and Rob, were planning a trip to Northern Ireland. It was Carol who first inspired my passion for genealogy and family history. She has done extensive research for her and Rob's family. Her stories and excitement were contagious. So having this shared passion, I hoped she wouldn't mind taking a trip through Castlewellan to do some investigating for me. They found St. Paul's Church Cemetery and their grave! (pictured left)

Carol and Rob called me while they were standing at the Shaw grave, it was such an amazing moment! I wonder if my ggg grandparents ever thought their ggg granddaughter from America would ask her in laws to take a picture of their grave 106 years after they were laid to rest?! Hopefully someday I will be able to personally visit and share this special place with my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren...

St. Pauls Church Cemetery                                                    Shaw Plot - My GGG Grandparents

Thank you so much Carol and Rob for these wonderful pictures!!