Tracing Your Ancestry – Start with an old family photo

In my opinion, Egypt consisted of nothing but a whole lot of dirty sand. I'm looking over the sand dunes, 1951.

In my opinion, Egypt consisted of nothing but a whole lot of dirty sand. I’m looking over the sand dunes, 1951.

How exciting to have strangers check us out online!  It’s even more exciting when they write to us out of the blue, assuming that we might be able to give them some guidance on a subject that drew them to us and that is of interest to them. Ian received such an email this week because he has written in his memoir “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada,” about his time serving in the British Royal Air Force in pre-Suez Canal Egypt, 1951-1953. We’d like to share some of this correspondence in case others are thinking about searching out their family history and are wondering where they might start.  Luckily, Ian and I both have cousins who have done considerable research on some of our family histories – in both cases, those of our mothers’ families. We are grateful for all the work these cousins have put into answering a lot of questions about our heritage. Here is the gist of this most recent correspondence:

From ‘A.’ in West Kelowna, British Columbia:

“Hi Ian. I just happened upon your site and book title in the beginning of my search for my family history – all generated by finding a 3.5×5″ photo of my Great Grandmother immigrating to Vancouver, Canada from Aberdeen, Scotland in 1925. On the back of the photo, is written that she came (along with her husband and two small children) aboard the Montcalm freighter ship through the Suez Canal.

 “I’m wondering if by chance you could advise or direct on where I might find more information on the Montcalm. Also, where am I able to purchase your book? I would like to be able to put this photo into some sort of context, though I realize she came to Canada 40 years before you did. .…

 “Thank you for your time and I love the photo of you and your wife on your profile page. 🙂

 Sincerely, ‘A.’”

And, here is our answer:

“Dear ‘A.’

“This is Ian’s wife, Gayle answering. Ian is 81 years old and not in the best of health, so I do most of the work on editing his yet-to-be-published books, negotiating with the publishers, publicizing and marketing and also maintain our blog at www.http://ianmooremorrans.com.  You can order any of his books by going to that listed blog and being directed to the proper site for ordering. You could also take a drive north to Vernon to visit us and buy the book from us, signed by the author – your choice. The cost from us is $20 (no postage, if you pick it up). Thanks for your interest.

“What a pleasant surprise your email was! It sounds like the photo you found has opened up a whole new world of discovery of your family history. I’d recommend you google the Library & Archives Canada site and then go to the passenger lists for ships arriving in Vancouver in 1925. They are on microfilm and you can access them right on the internet.      

“For information on travel on the Suez Canal, google something like “travel through the Suez Canal in the 1920s” or even “British travel through Suez Canal to Canada.”

“I think you’d find Ian’s memoir “From Poverty to Poverty: a Scotsman Encounters Canada” quite interesting and maybe enlightening on the period when Britain was controlling the canal. Ian was there while serving in the Royal Air Force from 1950-1953, just before the Suez Crisis when the canal was seized by the Egyptians under Nassar. There, Ian had a unique view of the tensions involved with the Brits controlling the canal in someone else’s country. He also has quite a few photos in the book connected with his time in Egypt – and a few rather wild stories!

“All the best for your research on your family history. Perhaps we will have an opportunity to meet you sometime in the future. Feel free to write again if you wish.

 “Regards, Gayle Moore-Morrans”

 

Now, if you are interested in researching your family story and if you are lucky enough to have access to photos of, letters by or documents concerning those ancestors who might have been immigrants to the country you live in, dig those photos, letters and documents out of their resting places and have a go at the internet. The quest can be quite enlightening, satisfying and addictive. Your local genealogy society is a good source of guidance as well.

2 thoughts on “Tracing Your Ancestry – Start with an old family photo

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