May 292015

Having now acclimatised in terms of time-zone and language to the Canadian culture, today is the start of the OGS Conference and I can half pass myself off as a native. OK, so not really…. but I have retaught myself a few of the key terms which are different from UK speak, so I don’t sound quite so ‘different’ from the locals. My morning kicked off early with my workshop on surname studies. You never know the level of expertise and interest when you present a workshop and so, it’s a little like flying off into an unknown land. This morning’s group had some really fascinating surnames and also stories about their names with many hints and tips passed on, even to experienced surname studier and fellow conference attendee, Dr Maurice Gleeson.

My previous visits to Canada have clearly been memorable to others as well as myself, with many people remarking on seeing me present in 2014. This weekend sure seems to be a busy one for me with seven presentations of various sorts from Fast Tracks to lectures, workshops and the keynote conference opening speech this evening. All written (of course) and I took the opportunity last night to check with the Conference Chair that my keynote presentation was what she was hoping for…. Thank heaven it was, otherwise this 24 hour period would have been a little hectic!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have met with so many new genea-mates and reconnected with previous contacts already – the weekend has barely even started. The geneaworld is such a friendly one.

The auditorium and stage look empty right now but the room looks vast, so I am hoping that all runs smoothly for ‘If I Could Turn Back Time‘ this evening! I won’t be doing a Cher number on the attire and I sure as heck am not going to be singing or dancing. With the theme of ‘Tracks Through Time’, we will quite literally be tracking through time in my own family history…. with some stories that attendees can relate to and linking many of the different tracks of lectures planned for the weekend.

So, wish me luck folks…. report and photographs to follow later I am sure, though not in the usual Kirsty attire, sadly.

May 282015

Unless you have completely missed my blog posts this week, you will probably have realised by now that I (MD@FWL) am far from the office and have left the team to get on without me. Today is my final day in Toronto before heading to the OGS Conference in Barrie where I will be headlining no less! Eek….! It’s amazing how what starts off being ‘just a couple of lectures and a workshop’, turns into a whole heap of lectures, two ‘Fast Tracks’ (20 minute lectures to promote societies) and three ‘Ask The Expert‘ sessions – who came up with that mad hat idea?!

TracksThroughTimeSocial media is whirling up a storm with lots of genies looking forward to ‘feeling at home’, talking about our obsession in family history with fellow attendees ALL WEEKEND! I wonder though, what is the collective noun for a gathering of genealogists?

A bunch? Sounds more like something to do with fruit – a bunch of coconuts or bananas or similar! A herd is more suited to animals as is a nest…. none of these quite befit a group of genealogists. A bevy of genealogists perhaps (like swans), a family of genealogists (like otters), or a rabble of genealogists (like butterflies)? A good discussion point for the weekend ahead I feel!

No more sitting in archives with dusty old documents, no more online meetings, emails etc. this weekend – we are properly meeting up! All nearly 500 registrants, speakers and market place vendors from around the world! Oooeee – exciting! Blog scheduling might be slightly off-kilter as a result though – you have been warned!

Some of the lectures are being streamed out from the conference via Live Stream so take a look and see if there are any you would like to watch, even if you are not in Barrie this weekend! Enjoy a fun-packed genealogical weekend, folks!

May 272015

And today, I remain in Toronto though changing residency in a short while. A few final tweaks to the OGS presentations and they’ll be ready to deliver in less than 48 hours time! It seems so long in the planning, I cannot quite believe that it’s nearly here – or should that be that I am nearly there, here…. who knows?!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday, I found out a few historical facts I never knew on my merry boat tour around Toronto Harbour. Did you know that Toronto hasn’t always been called Toronto? Well, if you are Canadian, I am guessing you probably did. But fellow non-Canadians, was I the only one not to know this before yesterday?

The name Toronto started with the Mohawk word Tkaronto, meaning “where there are trees standing in the water” and was used to describe The Narrows near today’s Orillia. By the 1720s, a French fort called Fort Toronto stood where the present city is located. According to Wikipedia, “John Graves Simcoe identified the area as a strategic location to base a new capital for Upper Canada, believing Newark to be susceptible to American invasion. A garrison was established at Garrison Creek, on the western entrance to the docks of Toronto Harbour, in 1793; this later became Fort York. The settlement it defended was renamed York on 26 August 1793, as Simcoe favoured English names over those of First Nations languages, in honour of Prince Frederick, Duke of York. Residents petitioned to change the name back to Toronto, and in 1834 the city was incorporated with its original name.”

The history of this city is simply fascinating – a place you must add to your bucket list! I have been lucky enough to be staying right down on the Harbourfront where the industrial area once was. It has now been completely revitalised with a posh Harbourfront Centre which has developed connections with over 450 community organisations, and hosts more than 4,000 events a year from theatre to dance, literature to music, and much more.

Onward to OGS Conference in Barrie tomorrow…. see you soon at Georgian College!

May 262015

Well, in order to post a blog today (UK-time), this is more like ‘half a day in Toronto‘ actually! Being five hours behind BST, I awoke to several messages from clients via my wonderful PA back in the UK. It was certainly time to get cracking early here! Coffee on and at my desk by 7am (a rare occurrence back home!) but that was midday back in England. I can’t complain too much as I have a fantastic residence for the next two days with a harbour view and so, before I got too deep into work, I booked my harbour boat tour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter coffee number 2 and a brief alarm issue – apparently caused by a problem in one of the lift shafts (!!) – the fire department allowed us to exit the apartments and I descended from Floor 16 to the Lobby. Not too far to walk – the boat tour departs right outside the apartment block (see the two towers on the right of the picture on the left)! Another beautifully sunny day in Canada and so, I was more than a little surprised to only be sharing the boat with two other people (aside from the crew) – from near Bristol, no less.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The history of Toronto is fascinating with Billy Bishop Airport being the only island in the harbour which was man-made. The other islands are inhabited by around 700 people we were told by the tour guide – pretty isolated in the winter I shouldn’t wonder! There is a school on the islands as well as a nature reserve which is off limits to boats and people – ‘no anchoring’ allowed – a yacht club, marina, church, golf course, fire station…. everything!

We managed a closer view of the airport but there is (understandably) a ‘no-go’ zone at the end of the runway and the fines for boats entering this area are exorbitant, as well as potentially losing your captain’s licence. Worth staying outside the zone, I’d say!

Onward to some more sightseeing this afternoon, after catching up on a few pieces of work – no peace for the wicked (and I must surely have been very wicked once upon a time!). Not long until the OGS Conference in Barrie now – three days and it will be well underway!

May 252015

My genea-journey continues …. and I am now a Toronto resident for several days. After a minor travel delay en route (leaving Niagara Falls 75 minutes later than scheduled), I arrived at Grand Union Station at 9pm. Shattered and not really feeling 100% fighting fit (I won’t go into the detail here), I decided to opt for the taxi route despite knowing that HarbourSquareHarbour Square – my new home – was within walking distance. Well, walking distance without nigh on 40 kilograms of luggage, that is. However, my plans were scuppered as it would appear that my journey was too short for the taxi drivers to want to perform. So, I walked. It actually wasn’t an epic journey and we arrived in one piece in no time at all. Keys collected and collapsed for the night.

Billy-Bishop-300x168My apartment has an amazing view of the harbour and also of the incoming planes. I had no idea that there was a City airport as well as the International one where I had landed. Billy Bishop Airport is right in the heart of downtown Toronto and clearly built for convenience. “Offering service to over 20 cities in Canada and the United States, with connections to more than 80 international destinations, Billy Bishop Airport is the only airport located entirely within Toronto’s boundaries,” so says the Ports Toronto website. It is the ninth busiest Canadian airport so maybe I will manage to snap a photograph of an incoming or outgoing plane while I am here.

In Toronto, I have no particular sightseeing plans hatched but I have been here a number of times now and seen very little for one reason or another. So, tomorrow I hope to be hitting the roads. A visit to St James’ Cemetery seems potentially unnecessary as there are no Sillifant/Silliphants listed on Find A Grave (though this doesn’t list every grave, so who knows). A bit of time over coffee this afternoon with a map might be a good plan, I think! Any suggestions folks?

[I know you are all dying to know why it’s called Billy Bishop Airport? It was named after Air Marshal Billy Bishop who was a flying ace in World War 1.]

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