About Us

Researching Family Roots is all about genealogy & family history.

Genealogy Guide: A step-by-step genealogy guide. New to Genealogy? Start Here

Research Resources: Links to favourite genealogy websites. Some are generic sites, most are specific to my genealogy work. All have regularly reviewed “Top” sites in each category to help fast-track your research.

Clues and Conversations: Our interactive blog, discussing many different elements of genealogy. Find what you’re interested in with the ‘search bar’ at the top right side of the home page, or scroll through the categories on the right side of the page. Join any conversation with your comments.

Family Stories: My family stories and the journeys in writing them.

Mary’s Family: Take a look at the families I’m researching and writing about. I still need to find many missing family members and bits of information, and of course that elusive earlier ancestor. If you’re a part of any of these, I would really love to hear from you! If you are actively recording genealogy or family stories, your participation in this website is welcome!


Video | Posted on by

Mary’s Genealogy Cave v 2.0

Mary’s Genealogy Cave version 2.0

It’s spring housecleaning time again, and this year it included the re-organization of my genealogy/office/quilting/photography room. I spent the last two weeks working so diligently on this re-organization that I didn’t stop to make the usual posts on the family history page. I’m showing the before and after results for everyone out there to give you an idea of where I’m at with our genealogy, and why it was important to organize it.

Until three years ago, I somehow managed to do these hobbies without any dedicated space at all, but I worked out of a corner of one room or another with them.  After our youngest daughter grew up and moved out of the house, we did a major renovation  to our house and  Voila! My Cave was created.

I began to file and organize the papers and pictures that had been packed up in boxes before this. I found documents and tidbits that I had either forgotten I had, or couldn’t find when I needed them. Here’s what things looked like before:

Genealogy Stored in Boxes

Genealogy Stored in Boxes






And here’s what they look like now:


Mary's Pedigree Chart showing pedigree numbers

Mary’s Pedigree Chart showing pedigree numbers


Mary's Pedigree Files Sorted

Mary’s Pedigree Files Sorted







I organized EVERYTHING – documents, papers, photographs, heirlooms – according to family branch, with color-coded files for each family following a Pedigree Chart (see below), which gave me the ability to use both Names and the pedigree Numbers for the filing system. The standard pedigree numbering system sorted out all the John & William Cockerill’s, James, Edward & Patrick Lynn’s, and Thomas Angus’s, which is well worthwhile by itself. Then, I created a guide to help others navigate it all. These now fill a large 4-drawer lateral file cabinet for my genealogy and a 4-drawer regular cabinet for Jason’s genealogy.

The pictures above shows how documents are arranged, and the picture below shows photograph arrangement.

Genealogy Photos Sorted

Genealogy Photos Sorted

The safe in the middle of these archive photo storage boxes has thumb drives and external hard drives of all the photos and information. Copies are also stored in a safe deposit box and on ‘cloud’ storage.




During the renovation of our house, we replaced the small window in what was being transformed from a spare bedroom into my workroom with a large window, so that I could enjoy the prairie and lake scenes outside the front of our house.

This panoramic picture shows the room I’ve been working from the last three years:

Mary's Genealogy Cave 2013

Mary’s Genealogy Cave 2013




With an expansion needed to the genealogy, to my office space to keep track of our farm and business, to my newly-acquired photography hobby and to quilting, I purchased one more desk for the quilting and rearranged the room to look like this today:

Mary's Genealogy Cave Panoramic May 2016

Mary’s Genealogy Cave Panoramic May 2016




And so ends my genealogy spring housecleaning, which gave me the extra shelf and drawer space I needed to continue.


Posted in Get Organized | Leave a comment

Picture This Paradox

I have 1000’s of photographs everywhere – In my phone, on my computers and cameras.

Facebook, Pinterest, Text Messaging, and Instagram: pictures are everywhere. We are all flooded with photographs. And we’re taking more pictures now than ever before because digital is cheap, and pictures are everywhere. In the past five years, it’s estimated that more photos were taken than all the previous years combined. I know that I certainly have!

Sadly enough though, almost none of these photographs will survive beyond even this year because recent pictures are only good for the moment. The moment a baby sits, or crawls or walks for the first time, the moment when parents capture every single thing their new baby does so that others can share in those moments too.  These moments when we want to show off anything new, so we take out our phone, and we take another picture. Then, in a week none of these pictures of past moments have any real meaning, and so they get deleted to make space for other pictures that also have little meaning the following week.

So what will become of all these pictures that are being taken?

99% of the photographs taken today are very soon going to be completely lost to us because digital images are no longer important enough to most people to keep them in a printed form.

I used to live in a film only world. I bought a roll of film and took our family photographs. I had them developed and printed.  I put them in photo albums or photo boxes. We looked at them, and we treasured those memories. They were a sliver of our lives and for many of us, if some catastrophe hit us, those very photographs were the one thing we would run to save first. The wedding albums and photographs that represented our lives this far, and we salvaged all of them that we could.


It is estimated that only .00001% – 1 out of every 100,000 photographs – taken today ends up being a printed photograph! The digital world means we can look at them on a computer screen, and if we don’t have that particular screen, we have no picture. Each of us probably has countless pictures randomly stored, with no organization or way to locate them. Maybe we have made some effort to organize them in the past, but it seems like such an overwhelming task.

Another relatively new problem with photographs is that over the years, the technology has changed so quickly that many photographs taken only five or ten years ago was stored on media that is no longer supported. How many of us have boxes of floppy discs tucked away somewhere, with no computer capable of looking at them any longer? Or shelves of home movies with no way to watch them? In less than five years, our current formats are going to be obsolete because they will change. USB drives and DVD’s will become the floppy disks of today. The technology of tomorrow won’t support the older file formats that are in use today.

The photographs we shared on social media or uploaded to photo storage websites are only temporarily saved, but none of these are permanent solutions to being able to look at our photographs. So sadly, many of the memories that we captured today just won’t be available tomorrow.

So where are our old pictures today?  In a drawer or box someplace, we’re not sure where, but we know they’re around somewhere!

Add to these the many memory cards filled with photographs. Each of those represent a small slice of us or of something that was once an important part of our lives. Some are in formats so old that we have very few options if any to look at them because technology has changed so much to be able to see them. Technology has made them obsolete, and technology will continue to make them obsolete in the future.

Even when we go to a professional photographer to have our pictures taken, they give us a disc where we can take them to a print shop to get prints made.  No film, no prints from the lab needed to ‘see’ them. So where are those discs today? In the same drawer or box, but not in an album or on the wall? When we remember a childhood photograph of our now adult son or daughter and we have to say: “I do remember that photograph, but I have to look for it. It’s on a disc or a card, or maybe on a memory stick I think….maybe I still have it… where did I put that again?”.

My winter project this year has been to get all those photographs gathered up and organized, labelled, printed, digitalized and backed up. All the family photographs of the past, all of the genealogy pictures I’ve collected over the years – everything organized and saved, once and for all. It has been more difficult to do than I expected – but am I ever glad I did it! If I’d have waited any longer, I shudder to think of what I may have lost.

So, in my house, I now have photographs. Printed out on paper AND saved in the latest format. Most of them are just plain 4 x 6 photographs of our family on special occasions and vacations, or doing something silly or especially just doing everyday things. These are the little pieces of our lives where we can open a photo case and the memories of our lives spread out before us. They make us happy or sad, and we tease each other with the old styles of our hair and our clothes. Our lives right in front of us in a printed image that anyone can see. There is no more wondering “is this file type still supported?” – I know that I’ve done far too much of that in my lifetime already. We can see the photographs and feel the emotions of that time in our lives as if it just happened. These are the photographs that we protect however we can when some disaster strikes and they are the ones we start looking for first when it does. The big screen TV with all the bells and whistles; the leather furniture; all our latest gadgets – these are not the things we think of to save. It’s always the memories of our lives that become the thing we search for first.


So being a part of this digital revolution, where are YOUR photographs?  Are they are stuck on a disc somewhere or stored out in the cloud somewhere? Why didn’t you purchase that $500 canvas to display in your home that a professional photographer created for you? That is a “one of a kind” work of art and a heirloom for your family to have, to remember that little part of their lives. It is something that will pass from generation to generation, and the only visual way your family in the future will see what you looked like and the love and emotions you expressed when that image was made.

Eryn & KaleighThis photograph is one of those pieces that I had done of my daughters, now finally hanging in my living room:

Let’s all look around our homes now and dig out those DVD’s, memory cards and USB sticks. Let’s go and get them printed and re-formatted into something where we can see them right now. Let’s replace the labels on them from things like “img0732” with something meaningful, like the names of the people in the photograph, the date and the event pictured in them.

One day our grandchildren will ask to see pictures of their parents. If all we have to show them is an obsolete storage device that no longer works, they will have no visual family history.

Digital photography is making us the “most photographed generation without a photograph in 10 years”. That makes those photographs unimportant because digital is cheap, and cameras are everywhere. If it just doesn’t seem that important right now, think again.

Get those photographs printed out, backed up and labelled because lost memories are the most expensive thing that we can lose.

Posted in Dressing Family Skeletons | Leave a comment

The Old Tin Pots

Teapot ( Joseph & Mary Cockerill); Kettle (John & Eliza Cockerill)For three decades, an old teapot and kettle stand on display on a shelf in my dining room.  Few people who see them fail to ask: What is with those old pots?   I suppose they must stand out in their eyes, although I’m sure I don’t know why – I chose everything else in the room with them in mind.

When my husband and I married 32 years ago, my grand-aunt Stella from England wrote me and asked: What would you like for a wedding present?  I answered that I loved brass and copper.  Soon after, a package arrived from England, accompanied by a card from Stella telling us: “I have the perfect thing for you, and when I received your reply I immediately thought of these!  I climbed a ladder up to my attic and found my parents’ teapot and my grandparents’ teakettle that I had put up there years ago”.  Stella was 90 years old at that time! The teapot is copper, and the kettle is brass. She went on to tell me: “I used these through the years while I was growing up but packed them up and have had them in storage since I moved to my new house.” That was in 1953. “I never thought about them again, until I received your letter when I remembered them in an instant.” She added a lucky shilling to the pot, a good luck charm from her.

Through the years as my family have moved to new homes, the teapot and kettle always find their place in our dining room.  On our children’s visits home, when we gather for coffee and tea together, it is sometimes still served from these old pots.

I have been amazed at the life stories that accompany the teapot and kettle. The first owners of the brass kettle since about 1845 were my great-great-grandparents – Eliza Jetson Cave and John Cockerill, who were Stella’s grandparents. John and Eliza gave the kettle to their youngest daughter, Catherine in 1892 and then in 1953, Catherine gave it to her niece, Stella.  The first owners of the copper kettle since about 1890 were my great-grandparents – Mary Kendrick  and Joseph Cockerill, who were Stella’s parents.

Over the years, I’ve often wondered: Should I polish them up? Is it the patina of over a hundred years that makes them unusual? Goodness knows; they have seen their share of polishing. The raised portions of the flowers embossed into the kettle are worn right through from polishings of the past.  In the end, my husband and I always agree: No, we’ll leave them as they are. We like them like that.

I have traveled to almost every home the various owners over time – and, so also the pots – have lived.  Amazingly, many of these homes still stand and are in use today. I have even enjoyed a cup of tea in some of them with cousins who happen to live there still.

We are lucky indeed to have been brought together, despite great time and distance,  by something as unlikely as two old tin teapots.


Posted in Dressing Family Skeletons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Are We Related?

This video is a great explanation of family relationships!

Posted in About Genealogy | Tagged | Leave a comment

Why Genealogy?

Why Genealogy?

By Mary Angus-Yanke

When I began to think about genealogy, I had known only one grandparent – My grandma ‘Doll’.  Doll passed away when I was four years old, and the stories of my ancestors with her. All my other ancestors had all either lived in Europe at a time when long distance communication was very limited, or they had already long-since passed away.

All of this got me to thinking about how fascinating the concept of genealogy is: In the last five generations, I had known only four of the 31 ancestors in my family tree – myself, my parents, and my grandmother – and yet through their genes, every one of them are still a part of who I am now. In fact, I was to learn that many of them had made huge changes in their lives for the sake of the futures of their family – including me.  How absurd is it that someone I knew nothing about considered their biggest life accomplishments the things they did to contribute to the lifestyle I have now? And that some of their qualities and physical appearance are still alive in me now? They all lived only about 100 years before me, so it follows that someone who follows five generations  – about 100 years – after me will also know very little about me.  And yet, some of my qualities and appearance will still be alive in them and that of his/her other ancestors who are alive with me today, I have no idea who those other people are. Yet one day, some descendant of ours will be one and the same person. These are some of the absurd things about genealogy.

Who were my ancestors, and where did they live and work? What are second & third cousins – and who are mine?  Where do those cousins live now and what are they like? Do they know anything about me or the family we all came from?

Eventually, I was to learn that among my ancestors were many builders, some soldiers, farmers, and grocery store owners. Among my husband’s ancestors were many farmers and a few soldiers.

As far as I can tell, the soldiers were mostly unwilling ones. Between us, our ancestors fought against one another in the many European wars of the last few centuries, with different grandfathers, uncles or cousins being in the Canadian, American, British, Fenian/IRA, Russian, German , Polish, Prussian and Romanian armies. Some ended up prisoners of war, in  so-called ‘work camps’, or as war heroes. Some family branches ended then  – killed in one war or another.

Grandmothers, aunts and cousins were left at home, and carried on their own with family life, despite that being dead-center of a war zone where they took part as members of resistance movements made necessary by the occupation of the others. And, how my mother’s version of being ‘liberated’ meant freedom, whereas for my husband’s aunt in Germany this meant the end of her family’s life as they knew it.

They were all just happy to get through it alive, and left Europe as soon as they could to try to get away from all the war. Which is how we all ended up neighbours in Canada or the United States where we made communities and families together.

I would learn that in one family branch,  there are no second cousins at all as  my grandfathers siblings died together in a tragic accident, whereas in a different family branch are 260 second cousins! All of these cousins have extraordinary life stories of their own, with soaring successes, devastating failures and hardships, including one who survived a brutal attack by one of Canada’s mass murderers, and a great many really inspiring people who share my gene pool. I would also learn that in another family branch, an ancestor was banished to Canada after serving a prison term in Australia – and after 190 years I’m still working to re-connect with the family he left behind – if they even exist.

How different families can become in a few generations! And how they stay remarkably the same over many.

I’ve since met cousins in every part of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and throughout Europe. Together,  we have one thing in common: Our fascination with who our family is and where we all came from. This  fascination with genealogy grows in me with each new discovery .

What will you discover about your own family as you begin to work through your genealogy?

There is only one way to find it all out for yourself: Start looking! You just never know what you’ll learn.

Posted in About Genealogy, Genealogy | Leave a comment

Start With Yourself

Clue Clue: Those beginning genealogy often ask: Where do I start? The answer is with Yourself: Start with what  you know and work back.
Posted in Clues | Tagged ,

Source Everything

Clue Clue: When adding any fact or story to your family tree or book,  it’s as important to source the information  as it is to state it at all. Without sources, the validity of the information is unreliable because it can’t be  verified so no one can know if the information is correct. Genealogists must be able to prove facts: source  everything.

Posted in Clues | Tagged | Leave a comment


We’ll explore some general genealogy issues on this website, including help to get organized and started, and then advancing with it. I’ll share what I’ve found to be useful tricks and tools of the trade, and we’ll problem-solve issues like brick walls and staying focused so that research shows progressive results. We’ll write some family stories together! And, we’ll talk about some of the things that round those stories out, such as family photographs, documents and heirlooms, and how to avoid making common errors with all of these.
We’ll also explore some very specific genealogy which I’ve discovered in my own family research and will be valuable to those with similar family roots. These specifics include research in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, the Yorkshire and Black Country areas in England, Ireland, with Australian Transportation ancestors, and with Germans from Russia ancestors. I also have a special interest in Military ancestors, and the women who were ‘War Brides’.
I’ve been interested in family history all my life which led me to collect family historical artifacts like letters, photographs and diaries throughout the years. In 2005 – nine years ago at this writing – I began recording genealogy in earnest. This began by buying a computer and learning a genealogy software program which helped me to organize what I’d gathered to date and map out what was still needed. I’m still working on what’s still needed, which will never end. I’ve travelled to the areas I research several times in my quest for information I wasn’t able to find on the computer, and I’ve met some wonderful people along the way including cousins and complete strangers who have become friends through our common interest.
I’m excited about the genealogical journey we’ll be taking together here, so let’s get started!
Posted in About Genealogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome To My Genealogy Website

I love researching family history and talking to other people who share this passion. My conversations with others about genealogy have been so beneficial to whatever I’m working on, and I’ve been able to offer others many insights and ideas to the problems they’re working on.  One problem with all this however is that most people in my life have only a passing interest in genealogy, and I find myself getting much more into the conversation about it than they are, so I’ve become the annoying relative/friend/co-worker. Blerg.

As a result of all this, I discovered the wonderful world of genealogy blogs: An online community of passionate genealogists who love to talk about what they’re working on, and to offer their insights and ideas to the problems I’m working on. My interactions with them have saved the relationships close to me, and my husband, children, friends and co-workers now enjoy my company again. Yay!

Join me in my genealogy travels where we will discover and write the fascinating stories of our families together.

Posted in About Genealogy | Leave a comment