Sunday, July 14, 2013


My father's surname was GILLESPIE, and I knew very little about his parents' ancestors when I started trying to research our family tree about 8 years ago.  All direct grandparents and parents were deceased by then, and I wasn't very close to my much-older first cousins on that side.

Dad was born in Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire, Scotland  on Sunday April 7, 1907, coming over to Canada with his Mom and 4 siblings in November 1914, following his father who had arrived in Canada in 1911.  Thank heavens for passenger lists with all their details!   remember both his parents having an accent of some sort - maybe it was Scottish, or English - I wasn't even sure! My Dad was nicknamed "Scottie" when he was younger because of his accent - which disappeared in his teens. My grandparents never talked about the old country that I remember.

I assumed we were Scottish, because of his birthplace, and the tossed-off comment that his older siblings remembered playing on Hadrian's Wall.  But I also knew they lived in Barrow in Furness, Lancashire, England, before coming to Canada.  Hmmmm.  Odd that we never questioned them - or maybe it isn't very odd at all.  Children are rather narcissistic by nature and development, so by the time I thought to ask questions, my grandparents and their older children were deceased.

Research now shows that my grandfather GILLESPIE - Jack (William John) - was born in Augher, County Tyrone, Ireland, 23 August 1876.  And I have the birth registration to prove it, showing his father, his mother and her maiden name (ARMSTRONG), the village, and the belated registration of his name in October 1876.  Yeah!! And the person "present at the birth" had the same surname as Grandpa's mother's maiden name: a Margerie Armstrong, living in the same village of Augher. Possibly her mother? A sister? Aunt? Clues galore! Grandpa's younger brother, Jim (James Robert), was born a few miles further north in Omagh, County Tyrone, Ireland.  Page-by-page-turns through a Family History film found me his birth registration, with same parents' names.  Excellent confirmation.  The entire family - Grandpa, his brother Jim, his parents, and his grandparents with aunt and uncles - all moved from Ireland to Barrow in Furness between 1879-1881, as they are all listed on the England Census 1881.

A few years ago, I finally reached out to a few of my elderly first cousins on my dad's side.  He was the 2nd youngest in the family, and his elder siblings were already married and with teenaged children when he finally got married in 1941. Our first cousins ranged from 15-25 or more years older than us, the youngest grandchildren. June had a lovely large photograph of my Grandpa's siblings and parents, in the mid-1890s (incorrectly labelled as 1890). Grandpa is the young man on the left. What a glorious find! I have also had wonderful conversations with another cousin, Catherine, who is now 87 years old, about our mutual grandparents and stories she remembers.

Now I'm searching diligently through Northern Ireland records, and maintaining a relationship with Catherine, enjoying reminiscing with her, teasing out more possible clues to follow, and enjoying her stories.  She has photographs my parents didn't - which I've scanned, and is also able to give me relatives' names in England, early history of our grandparents in Canada, explanations, and more!

If you have more information on our GILLESPIE-ARMSTRONG family, do please contact me at calewis at telus dot net and I'll be happy to correspond.  Or, leave a comment below.

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Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis