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Lately, I have been interested in finding more about my ancestors. So far, I know everyone in my tree going back to very early 1600s. But, the interesting find was that I have “celebrities” as (very) distant cousins in there and that was a surprise to me.
Like:
Celine Dion (8th generation)
Madonna (10th Gen)
Angelina Jolie (11th Gen)

Dig far enough and almost anyone has a well known person in their heritage. Kind of neat!
 

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Meaning.....?

Meaning that the majority of people lack the skills to do this type of research properly, and websites such as ancestry.ca are a crock.

I am a historian. I am trained in doing historical research, and I know not only how difficult it is but also how scarce the source materials are the further back you go. I can't count how many times I have been in archives and have heard amateurs doing family genealogy arguing with professional archivists that they are right and the archivist is wrong.
 

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Though my surname goes back to at least the time of William The Conqueror, my own branch of the lineage is only traced back to the 1700s and even that might be a little sketchy. It is believed that the name appears in Plymouth Colony but not on The Mayflower, but I haven't a link between that and myself...yet.

On my mother's side, we have a family tree going back to the mid 1600s, but from her mother's side. I don't know yet much about her father.

I haven't noticed celebrities but there appears to be a weak distant connection to the Earls of Spencer. My childrens' first names appear in one ancestor's name, same spellings too, which we didn't know about until recently.

I want a time machine.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Meaning that the majority of people lack the skills to do this type of research properly, and websites such as ancestry.ca are a crock.

I am a historian. I am trained in doing historical research, and I know not only how difficult it is but also how scarce the source materials are the further back you go. I can't count how many times I have been in archives and have heard amateurs doing family genealogy arguing with professional archivists that they are right and the archivist is wrong.
I don't use Ancestry so I don't know how good (or bad) it is. Your success in searching depends on who you are and where you are from. My research is solely based on the records of the RC Church in Quebec which took detailed records for such things as births, deaths, marriages since day 1 (i.e. late 1500s/early 1600s) and as a Historian yourself, I'm sure you are aware of this.

In my case, and in most French Canadian's case, it is actually rather straight forward and relatively easy to find things out. My wife, otoh, is from Irish and English descent and her search has yielded minimal to no info (although she has yet to dig deeper).

In any case, searching for one's ancestry is, or can be, very rewarding.
 

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@adcandour well played.

My grandmother's relative compiled a search through a few different place (no idea which ones) and she has a print-out for information on someone from the 1600's. Pretty wild.
 

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Since one of my ancestors was a mayor (or whatever they were called back then), we can trace our history back to 1050. There is some interesting stuff in our family tree book. There are lots of them around the area as several people in our line worked on it over the years and have kept it very up-to-date. One of my relatives by the name of Elizabeth was beheaded by King Henry VIII. It doesn't say what for, unfortunately but since he was apparently going crazy in the latter years of his life, it could have been anything.
 

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Since one of my ancestors was a mayor (or whatever they were called back then), we can trace our history back to 1050. There is some interesting stuff in our family tree book. There are lots of them around the area as several people in our line worked on it over the years and have kept it very up-to-date. One of my relatives by the name of Elizabeth was beheaded by King Henry VIII. It doesn't say what for, unfortunately but since he was apparently going crazy in the latter years of his life, it could have been anything.
She probably kept telling him to import his guillotines to the border and then send his Royal guards on a 4 day horse trip to pick it, to save a piece of silver. :p
 

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My brother and I used the Canadian Census search which is available online.
My father assisted us with names that he could remember and the locations of properties (farms) near the town of Listowel, Ontario.
I was able to go back with certainty to about 1850 or so. we then hit a wall and had nothing that we could be sure of.
 

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Meaning.....?
Well, I have a reserved skepticism of some of these services.
Meaning I think a lot of companies in this business, oversell these kinds of fantasies.
It’s always beautiful famous people that they’re related to...never hear of anyone saying “I did a genealogy search and found out I’m related to a convicted pedophile as well as his cousin who was run out of their town for sodomizing everyone’s sheep....neat!”.
It’s the same reason I’m dubious of people with claims of having been reincarnated....in a previous life they were always Hannibal, or Julius Caesar, not the village idiot. Statistically there are more village idiots than military greats.

Listen if you’re having fun, go for it....but I think ppl need to be realistic and not just expecting to find a weak thread between their mundane lives and the rich and famous. If they need that kind of ego crutch, they might get more bang for their buck by buying their way in to a “Who’s who”publication ;) Fwiw, I might be jaded because im distantly related to a former NBA star who I’ve actually met a few times....it hasn’t done me shit so I can’t get excited by name dropping someone who probably wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire. ;)
 

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Meaning that the majority of people lack the skills to do this type of research properly, and websites such as ancestry.ca are a crock.
Yes, ancestry.ca was a major WTF when I tried it. Besides having little accurate information of use, it was slow as molasses.

Luckily, my aunt had done decades of work, pre-internet, and before most of the previous generation had died, so she was able to actually talk to relatives and friends born as early as the 1870s. She was still at it after the internet happened. Fascinating stuff, census, church records, land titles, military, legal and criminal records, burials, births, baptisms, confirmations, schools and education, businesses...and she did much of it by mail and in person.
 

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One thing to keep in mind if you are doing a search is that most people had very little education when they moved to North America so spelling was non-existent for many. .The spelling of family names, therefore, was not always correct. A close relation such as a great grandfather, etc, may have a different spelling of their last name than yours because names were often registered as the clerk thought it should be spelled.
 
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The more interesting aspect of this, at least to me, is not how famous a distant ancestor might have been, but rather what they experienced. If they survived a famine, or lived during a period where their region changed hands several times, or perhaps they migrated across linguistic zones, or whatnot. THAT sort of stuff is interesting. Whether they had any great achievements is nice, but secondary. Most people will lead simple lives with no great deeds that stand out. But they will frequently lead them in interesting times and places.

I was once chatting with my grandmother, some 30-odd years back. She was in her mid-90s, stone blind from glaucoma, and consigned to bed with a broken hip. For some reason, the topic of knowing other languages came up. Knowing that she had come from Russia, I said "If I knew Russian, I could read Tolstoy in the original Russian. Do you know who Tolstoy was?". Given that she was a farmer's wife who had been blind over half her life at that point, and had raised 8 children, I fully expected that she would not. Instead, she said "Sure. We lived near him in St. Petersburg. He was a baron, but he worked in the fields just like everyone else, even though he was a baron." She proceeds to tell me how he dressed, the length of his beard, details of his funeral, and the general sadness at his passing. Some years later, what she told me was confirmed in the historical drama "The Last Station", that recounted Tolstoy's final days. So, a not especially significant woman, who lived a life of no particular note, but she lived it in an interesting place and time.
 

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The spelling of family names, therefore, was not always correct.
This is an example from 1881 Census where our last name (spelled Gray ...and often misspelled as Grey) appears to be spelled Greay (that covers both spellings at once....LOL)

The other fun thing to track is ages. Some people would age 4-5 years between the 10 years census and others would age a healthy 12-15 years. I am named after "William" (great, great grandfather) who is 15 (give or take...LOL) at the time of this census. He died when I was 2 years old (1952).
1881 Census Greay spelling ages wrong also .png
 

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This is an example from 1881 Census where our last name (spelled Gray ...and often misspelled as Grey) appears to be spelled Greay (that covers both spellings at once....LOL)

The other fun thing to track is ages. Some people would age 4-5 years between the 10 years census and others would age a healthy 12-15 years. I am named after "William" (great, great grandfather) who is 15 (give or take...LOL) at the time of this census. He died when I was 2 years old (1952).
View attachment 187721
That's a great example.
 

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I did some research on one of those on-line sites and it turns out I'm the offspring of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. And yet, I can't rhyme worth a shit, and I don't think my ass is that big.

Maybe I just used it wrong? Maybe it's 'cause I said I was from a west and not the west? I dunno.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Well, I have a reserved skepticism of some of these services.
Meaning I think a lot of companies in this business, oversell these kinds of fantasies.
It’s always beautiful famous people that they’re related to...never hear of anyone saying “I did a genealogy search and found out I’m related to a convicted pedophile as well as his cousin who was run out of their town for sodomizing everyone’s sheep....neat!”.
It’s the same reason I’m dubious of people with claims of having been reincarnated....in a previous life they were always Hannibal, or Julius Caesar, not the village idiot. Statistically there are more village idiots than military greats.

Listen if you’re having fun, go for it....but I think ppl need to be realistic and not just expecting to find a weak thread between their mundane lives and the rich and famous. If they need that kind of ego crutch, they might get more bang for their buck by buying their way in to a “Who’s who”publication ;) Fwiw, I might be jaded because im distantly related to a former NBA star who I’ve actually met a few times....it hasn’t done me shit so I can’t get excited by name dropping someone who probably wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire. ;)
You might have missed the intent of my post, Diablo. It is not to “drop names” so much as to confirm, in a way, that searching you ancestry can yield something “interesting”. Frankly, I am actually not a fan of any of these ladies - cousin or not and they, no doubt, could not possibly care less about me (but I do think they would spit on me if I was on fire).

It also happens that I am related to a couple people that I am very proud to be associated with in this minimal way. Felix Leclerc was a respected and wonderful folk singer in Quebec, and, Louis Hebert was the first apothecary in New Fance and one of Champlain’s “main man”. No doubt, too, there were loser, thieves and crooks in my lineage but they records would not likely say that.

Peace out.
 

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Someone on my dad's side did research long before 'ancestry.ca' and stuff. I am fairly sure about everything from 1792 on. They came up from America as Empire Loyalists and settled in Brighton, Ont. Before that, it is a bit tenuous - possibly landed in Cape Fear in 1680s. Not a good time in Scotland during that time I believe, a lot of religious crap going down.
 
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