Saturday, November 22, 2014

Listening for Your Immigrants in Gaelic

The end of term and the holidays are fast approaching which leaves all of us with a little less time to search for immigrants. However, if the immigrants you are researching, like those of Scotch Settlement, were Gaelic speaking, you can listen to Gaelic via podcasts and streamed radio. If they weren't Gaelic speaking - and my actual Scottish ancestors were from Ayrshire, so probably hadn't spoken Gaelic for centuries before they came to America - it is still worth a listen.

Here is a program from the BBC World Service, broadcast on the eve of the Referendum, which investigates the state of Gaelic in present-day Scotland.

You can live stream BBC Radio nan Gaidheal here when they are on air. Underneath the main section of the page in blue you will see the word "English." Click on it and most of the page, like the directions and program descriptions, will translate into English. If you just want to hear the language, click on any of the program episodes to stream them. If you are a Gaelic-learner or want to be try Beag air Bheag (Little by Little).

The BBC produces three podcasts in Gaelic: The Little Letter for Gaelic LearnersLetter To Gaelic Learners, and Spòrs Na Seachdain (Sports). Visit the home page of each podcast to learn more.

I hope that listening to these Gaelic resources will help you feel as if you have been doing something akin to research during this holiday season.

Happy Listening!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Using Migration Theory to find Ancestors and Immigrants

Birmingham, Alabama: An Attractive Destination for Migrants

A common complaint amongst genealogists is an individual who is “missing” in a census or other document in which they “should” appear. And it doesn't help that America is a really, really big place – these people, theoretically, could be anywhere.

Michael P. Conzen, a geography professor, provides strategies for finding "missing" ancestors in his article “Local Migration Systems in Nineteenth-Century Iowa.” In this piece, Conzen explores the migration fields in Iowa using the 1895 Iowa State census. A migration field is simply the area from which a destination draws its migrants. Since ancestors and immigrants move, learning about migration fields can help you find the people whom you seek.

What Conzen uncovered in Iowa is that many people moved along the rivers and later west along the railroad lines. In fact the connection between westward movement and the railroad was so strong, he basically said it wasn’t worth talking about. He also found that the larger the city, the larger the migration field.

On the ground, this means smaller cities in Eastern Iowa, like Keokuk, sent plenty of migrants westward and only pulled in-migrants from a few surrounding counties. The two largest cities, Sioux City and Dubuque, pulled people from all over the state. In Ohio, where I do much research, Wellsville, on the Ohio River, would only pull from a small surrounding area. On the other hand, Cincinnati and later Cleveland, would draw people from a larger area. Similar patterns are seen in Great Britain.

How might Conzen’s study help you find your missing ancestor or immigrant? For starters if you're trying to figure out where someone was before look eastwards. If you are looking for where they went next, always look westwards. Yes, Americans did move move in both directions, but the general trend was an east-west migration. 

Follow the major transportation networks: rivers, turnpikes, canals, and eventually, the railroads. I suppose migrants could have gone orienteering with a map and a compass to reach their destination, but it’s not very likely. 

If your ancestor or immigrant is located in a small town in one census but not in the previous one, check all the surrounding counties in an expanding radius. If they are in a large town, follow the same procedure, but with bigger radiating circles. Basically, it is more likely that your ancestor would have moved, for example, from Brush Creek Township in Jefferson County, Ohio to either of the sizable towns of Wellsville or Steubenville than to have moved from Cleveland to Brush Creek Township.

Conzen, Michael P. “Local Migration Systems in Nineteenth-Century Iowa,” Geographical Review, vol. 64, no. 3, (Jul 1974), pp. 339-361. Stable URL from JSTOR is here, which provides access to the first page unless you have subscription to JSTOR. You may be able to access JSTOR through your local library.

nb. An earlier version of this post first appeared on the Historian's Family in March 2012 as "Have Your American Ancestors Done a Disappearing Act?"

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA) ~ Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland ~ A Revisit

I first wrote about Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland) a few years ago here, and thought it was time to check out the site again. I happy to say it till exists and seems to be much improved since my last visit. However, it is still a little buggy and performed better in Internet Explorer than it did in Chrome.

On the right side of the home page is a search box. Just enter in the place you are looking for, like Glasgow or Inverness. The search results will include any and all places in the database associated with a location. So for Glasgow search returns included, in addition to Glasgow, Anniesland, Byres Road, and Dowanhill Street in English and Gaelic. Click on details to learn more about the place name's meaning, location and how it appeared in historic sources. You can also hear how the Gaelic is pronounced.

There are Gaelic versions of many places in Scotland, which is not surprising as much more of the country was Gaelic-speaking in times past. Furthermore, Gaelic speakers would have talked about places outwith their region. That being said, some places I tried, like Cowie and Riccarton, did not appear in the database. But as the AÀA is an on-going project, you can check back or email them and ask for details.

Investigating place names is a great way to study history and linguistics. You will likely find this site a useful resource for learning about Gaelic place names, especially if the immigrants you seek were Gaelic speakers.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Taking a Break with Eighteenth-Century Scottish Music

If, like me, you are tired of looking for Scottish emigrants and ancestors but still feel the need to something historical and research-y, then listen to Keeping it "Reel". This podcast from Harmonia Early Music features the compositions of  James Oswald, Robert Mackintosh, and Thomas Erskine, 6th Earl of Kellie. A list of the tunes performed and their cds are included with the podcast notes.  

If you want to listen to more Scottish and Celtic early music, scroll about halfway down the page to the box that searches Harmonia Early Music (as opposed to the search box at the top of the page with searches all of Indiana Public Media). Enter Scotland in the search box, hit enter, and many results will appear including a program on Robert Mackintosh and another on Music for Celtic Saints.

Happy Listening!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Crafting Your Heritage: Knit a Plaid Collar from

Let your favorite tartan inspire your color section

If you need an amazing Christmas present you might like to make the Princess Franklin Plaid Collar from designer Franklin Habit at The top portion of the article relates his inspiration and process for selecting the colors; the pattern and photos are at the end.

He took his inspiration from the "Princess Mary" plaid scarf pattern he found in a vintage knitting book. I must confess that I have not tried this pattern myself, I only tripped across it on Pinterest. It doesn't look hard, but it definitely looks "fiddly."

If you have access to Tartans. Their Art and History (or a similar source) that lists tartan setts, you can adjust the colors in the Princess Franklin collar to reflect your favorite tartan.

Happy Knitting!


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