xmas1987In 1987 I stood in for a tree when my sisters and our parents celebrated Christmas together for the last time in their tiny apartment. In 1988 Father died of an aneurism, in 1990 Mother died in her sleep, in 2002 Tanis (necklace) died of a stroke and in 2016 Enid (bow) died from Alzheimer’s disease. We all have to go some time and I think of them with love. One thing I know for sure is that neither you nor I want to die of or see anyone else die of Alzheimer’s, like Enid. Here’s what I do to score little victories that bring back one memory at a time:

1. Don’t panic if you are out shopping and can’t remember where you parked you car, have just jumped into the driver’s seat and can’t remember where you are going, or have gone down the basement to get something but can’t remember what. Pause, take a deep breath, keep quiet and tell yourself everything is going to be OK. The information is still inside and you can get it back. Then go over in your mind what you can remember doing just before you got blocked. Wait patiently until the missing information pops back.

2. After having a scare like this, I spend time just taking extra care of my memory. It needs to be exercised just as much as any part of the body. I do regular basic home exercises, if nothing else such as swimming is available. They make blood flow to my head and nourish my brain cells.

3. Practice and rehearsing are the keys. Before education was reformed in the sixties, children were taught ‘by rote’ in school. They had to memorize and recite poems and lessons. Before the days of TV, people put on recitals and concerts where poems as well as music were performed. Anyone who has read Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi knows how the river captains had to stretch their minds to an amazing capacity to accommodate mounds of changing, life-saving information. I know a pianist who glows to talk about how her memory has grown with each long performance piece she commits to it.

4. On the scale of my life, I have at least learned to go grocery shopping without a list and not forget anything. It is a big satisfaction! I make the list at home and then use a mnemonic, such as memorizing the first letter of each item on my list and reciting it to myself a few times. If I forget something in the store, I pause and try to remember it — or else do without!

5. The memory game or puzzle I like best is Sudoku. My performance on it indicates what shape my memory and ability to focus are in. After not having done it for months, I unloaded it for free on my ipad and found I had relapsed to the ‘easy’ level whereas I used to be at ‘difficult.’ I’m doing a few puzzles each day to try to climb back up again. A bit of pigheadedness probably helps fight off the Alzheimer Scrooge too.

Happy Preparing for Your Memorable, Unforgettable Family Christmas Holiday Time!

http://www.cozybookbasics.com  www.margaretvirany.com  www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany



campfollower coverarmybrat


“You are not from anywhere in particular but you are all a part of the same community.”
“You might get itchy to move every couple of years, or, conversely, never want to move ever again.”
“You’re very patriotic. You cry at the national anthem anytime, anywhere…You probably touch, even fondle the tank now sitting as a monument in your town’s armoury square.”
“You have to catch up to the real world at some point but the adults we became carried this base-brat upbringing with us.”
“The moving on, excitement and anticipation was the best part of growing up military… Just the scale, geography and weather were different.”

Review of Camp Follower: One Army Brat’s Story

“Life happens everywhere. We all get there in the end. It’s the stories that we live and share along the way that make things interesting.” So writes Canadian author Michele Sabad in the introduction to her first book Camp Follower: One Army Brat’s Story. The first sixty years of her life happened in Calgary, Edmonton and Cold Lake, AB; Dortmund, Germany; Goose Bay, NL; Yorkton, SK; Kingston, Brantford and Petawawa, ON; and Aylmer, QC. In her 194-page, four-part, big-print book we journey with her as army brat, air force wife, hockey mom
and retiree. She lived in rented quarters on military bases, sometimes beside a runway, with her young mother, sergeant/recreation director father and three younger brothers. With an easy style, detailed descriptions and sense of joy in her craft she shares more than 40 short stories of her memories of moments along the way. One I love is, “The moon landing happened when we were in Goose Bay. July 20, 1969. Of course we didn’t watch it on TV but I remember it vividly. On such a pure black cloudless night in Labrador, the moon was brilliant. Although only in waxing crescent phase that night, we could still see the outline of the whole moon against its fluorescent quarter. My brothers and I imagined the men walking on it at that exact moment. We jumped up and down and said we could see them.” By age 18, Sabad was engaged to be married, worked four nights a week as a swimming instructor and graduated from high school in the town of Petawawa as top student and
valedictorian. She tackled the problems of adjusting to the real world, finishing her education, helping her air force husband get a degree, earning a living and raising a family. She had a long, successful IT career as a systems analyst with the Canadian government and then as a consultant. Thanks were due to a calculus course she toughed out to “keep my options open,” although the guidance counselor had advised her to drop it. Upon retirement she and her husband acquired something she had never had before: a hometown! At last, she lives amid a variety of people who may include the elderly, those with special needs, relatives perhaps and, some day, grandchildren. One of their two grown sons with his wife has also bought a home in Aylmer, QC. Sabad likens her careful observations, faithful recording and perceptive comments on her army-brat upbringing to “inventing anthropology.” The reader is enriched by the inside information, critical analysis and points of identification the book contains. Camp followers have existed ever since humanity has sent people — historically men — off to fight wars  on behalf of the societies, cultures or countries they represent. This way of life is pursued by about 10 million Americans (fewer Canadians) today. Yet, because of changes in society and the military, Sabad’s unique experiences cannot ever be repeated.  Her book is far too good for you to deny yourself the pleasure of reading it. Whatever your age, you will have a delightful growing-up experience all over again as the author generously and skillfully shares her own journey.

Amazon.com Review written by Margaret Kell Virany
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Happy Reading and Writing from Cozy Book Basics!

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As a UK diplomat to Canada’s capital in the fifties, author Nicholas Monsarrat (The Cruel Sea, etc.) lived in a heritage chateau with leaded windows high on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Our Club de Voile Grande Rivière (aka the Aylmer Sailing Club) sits farther upriver on a widened bend called Lac/Lake Deschênes and we held our end-of-season party at the chateau on Nov. 11. I wore a Remembrance Day poppy but forlorn sentiments were chased out by the Christmas spirits crashing the party. Yachters chatted like happy heralds as we sipped cocktails and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres passed around daintily. The party was free and crowded, since members had already paid for it in their club dues last Spring.

Marcel and Joanne, who have reached retirement age, had tidings of good will and great joy to broadcast. They had just got married after living together for forty years. The ceremony took place at their home, with the wedding banns posted on the front door and their two grown children as witnesses. As a joke, the wedding was kept secret until they arrived from Europe. At first their son thought the white paper on the front door was a construction permit for renovations but when he read it he blurted out, “What the ……. is this?” Instead of buying a home and settling down, the newlyweds will sell their house but keep their sailboat, make lots more friends and have new adventures.
David, a physicist and lawyer, looked contented and cheerful as a cherub even though he is 75 and sick. He uses a cane to get on and off his boat and loves his crew of family and friends who handle the ropes and sails. Ten years of treatment for cancer have not prevented him from travelling to academic conferences as a guest speaker and foremost expert on cold fusion. He doesn’t expect to live very much longer but is always more concerned about other people and advised us to travel while we are still in good health. One of the things he did right years ago was his divorce. Instead of hiring lawyers and going to court, he and his wife agreed they no longer wished to live together and parted with a handshake. The only quarrel they had was over the refrigerator. Due to their continuing friendship, she recently helped him resettle in a very convenient condo. We were inspired by David’s way of solving problems and facing death with equanimity. He enjoys his grandchildren and babysits when needed. He is a very wise man.

I held back to peek into the coffee room and get a preview of the desserts when the  sailors started flowing from the bar down the hall to the dining room to eat entrées being cooked at several stations. How startled I was to see a pair of wide-open baby eyes staring at me from the sofa! Lavioletta’s mother Maria had found a quiet corner with a sofa where she could cuddle and feed her precious gift from god. Stunningly beautiful in a gray-and-white three-piece outfit with matching polka dot hair bow, she was just learning to focus. Maria held her up so she could zoom in on me at close range and try to grab my little finger. I was thrilled and she was amazed to discover this ‘something’ so close and so big. We few in the room formed a semi-circle of adoration around her and cooed in the universal language of baby babble. Maria and Jean had two boats in the marina when they met but now they have one. It was overwhelming to see their love, pride, joy, optimism and readiness to be parents responsible for their little family’s future.

The party in its mystifying setting was a prelude to Christmas as well as the end to a season delayed by a big flood. Joy to all in celebrating the best of human kind!

Happy Reading, Writing and Living from Cozy Book Basics!

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Guest post by Thomas Virany, B.ASc., P.Eng.

Some fifty years ago we moved to the west end of Ottawa from Toronto. After many years as mostly a journalist at Canadian Press, Maclean-Hunter and CBC Television News, my wife decided that I should get a secure job. The reason was that we had three children by then. Since I was a graduate in mechanical engineering from the University of Toronto, I managed to get a job in the Canadian Patent Office. It was a different life, but a good one. I took the bus to the Office in the morning, examined patent applications all day and took the bus back home at about 5 p.m. No overtime, no work at home. It was not allowed.  Off and on, however, I drove. One snowy day I drove, like so many others, on Ottawa’s main road, the Queensway. It was and is a beautiful limited-access superhighway crossing the City east-to-west. But it had one fault. The strip between the eastbound and westbound lanes was very modest and in snowy or icy weather cars slipped off into the middle and with traffic as dense as it was, there were frequent head-on collisions, often resulting in fatalities. One day there was one, right in front of me. Canada’s provinces had not built many such roads with an adequately wide median and the Queensway, in spite of its heavy traffic with a speed limit of 60 miles an hour was one of these. As an engineer, I knew exactly what should have been done to prevent the fatal collisions. There were many ways to prevent them although they all cost money. And as an investigative journalist I was furious. At home I sat down and wrote a letter to the Globe and Mail. Next day I walked around the Office with the letter and collected 12 professional engineers to support me. All signed, happily. Then I mailed it and the Globe printed it as you can see. unnamedThe issue came up in the Ontario Legislature and the Government started building fences where there was too modest a median. download (4)Only a couple of weeks ago we drove back from Toronto and at times were delayed by construction. Guess what! A new and improved concrete cement barrier was being built to prevent collisions on the median. For the first time, we enjoyed the delays. They served a good cause. Frankly, I think that letter to the Globe is what I regard as my greatest achievement. It saved a lot of lives in Ontario and in other provinces, all of which have been following Ontario’s lead.

Grandpa&GrannyWard 1250

  • I never met my grandfather, Walter Ward of Portsmouth, UK but I know he doodled and had twinkling eyes. His obituary said he was “a Peter Pan of a man who never grew old,” “a genius of friendship,” and “one who walked with both princes and paupers.”
  • My grandmother, Elizabeth, on my fourth birthday in 1937, sat beside me on the back stoop to do a jigsaw puzzle and shell peas. Then she served a princess-pink dessert called ‘blamonge’ (blanc mange ) for dinner, since I said I didn’t like cake.
  • My father Jack Kell of Cookstown, ON joined the Royal Navy Canadian Volunteer Reserve with two high school buddies in 1917, arrived at Portsmouth barracks and saw a sign on a telephone pole. It invited colonial servicemen to come to the Methodist Chapel Young Men’s Sunday Morning Bible Class.
  • When the buddies went the next Sunday the teacher, Mr. Ward, invited them also for Sunday tea at his home with his family. That consisted of his wife, his eldest daughter Kathleen (my mother) and the twins Enid and Eric.
  • The ‘Chapel’ was four stories high, had four indoor bathrooms and was on land where John Wesley had preached two centuries before. The Ward tea party also attended the Sunday evening service.
  • The J.B. (‘Jolly Baker’) Ward & Sons Bakery stood on a busy corner. My great grandfather, Jabez Burt Ward, had founded the business on the miracle of baking powder and taken his four sons into it. Walter was the accountant.
  • J. B.’s office was linked by a secret door and passageway to his bedroom in the first in a row of three brick houses. He was a widower who lived with his four unmarried children, Frank, Clara, John and Alice. The second house was for Walter and his family and the third house was occupied by J.B.’s son, James, and his wife Lottie.
  • As a councillor for the City of Portsmouth, Walter sat on committees to provide better housing for the poor and combat the spread of venereal disease.
  • He became founding President of the Portsmouth Brotherhood in 1919, an organization to help returning servicemen adapt to civilian life. He was a sought-after guest speaker across the country.
  • In early  December, 1925 Aunt Enid married an Australian sailor, Joseph Burnett. He had come for tea during the war and now his ship was being refitted in the Portsmouth dockyards.
  • When they got back from their honeymoon in Switzerland Joe found out he would be in command of the crew of 25 who were on duty on Christmas day. The question was, how would he round the sailors up and get them back on board after spending their leave wallowing in the debauchery of the harbor? They would all be drunk.
  • Elizabeth and Walter promptly invited the whole crew to come and eat, drink and be merry on Christmas at their place. They got all the food ready in J.B.’s house, while a raucous party complete with J.B.’s stories of South Africa, Eric’s conjuring tricks, ukuleles, cocked hats, raunchy Australian songs and recitations rocked Walter’s house next door.
  • If we must have wars, thank goodness we also have kind human beings on the home front who don’t let us lose. Elizabeth and Walter knew how to live. They found husbands for their two daughters even though 50,000 Englishmen were killed in the war. They provided lonely sailors in a far-off port with a temporary home. They paid half fare so that their children and grandchildren in Australia, Canada and England could meet at a family reunion and bond for life.

Without a war I would never have been born.  My solemn efforts to remember turn up moments of love and joy.

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Brazenly, I decided to call my ordinary family’s history A Book of Kells after Ireland’s finest, famous relic of western civilization The Book of Kells. My sister, Tanis, agreed it should be “a story for all people of all time.” Our father (John Kell of a farming family) and mother deserved no less. Like the ninth century monks behind ‘The’ illuminated Gospel vellum, our parents practiced selfless Christian tenets, taking no credit themselves but leaving a record behind for the after life.

  • Brazenly, I thought of my genre as ‘true novel’ which defies the Oxford dictionary’s definition of the novel as being “fictitious prose.” Professor Northop Frye loved to tell his students that the Greek word “myth” simply means “story” and the English word “fictitious” is from the Latin word for “something made”. I wanted to relate as accurately and excitedly as possible what really happened in my parents’ lives so people would enjoy reading about it. That would make the book authentic and launch a voyage of self-discovery and learning as I wrote.
  • Brazenly, I decided all the names of people and places in my book would be real. My parents had been dead for over six years when I started to write it in 1996 but some names linked them to ongoing connections. I disciplined myself to do careful research and record my sources. If it was going to be a classic, it had to be able to stand up to scrutiny. If anyone objected or threatened to sue, my defence would be that I wrote the truth and could substantiate it. 
  • Brazenly, I bet myself I could find a beginning, middle, climax and ending in the appropriate places if I studied my parents’ diaries, letters, etc. thoroughly enough. I would not have to write fantasy, which I can’t. In fact, the bones of a novel were there and so was a theme: selfless love and redemption. I added the subtitle Growing Up in an Ego Void. Making myself my parents’ foil kept up the pace of the post-honeymoon story. Frye taught his students that the Bible (“the grammar of western civilization”) had two types of continuity. One was the chronological continuity of the Hebrew people’s history and the other was a cyclical continuity on the theme of redemption.
  • Brazenly, I took a chance on having BookSurge, a pioneer in the technology of print-on-demand digital publishing, publish my book in 2002. It cost only $299 so I still had $500 burning a hole in my pocket. I took advantage of an offer BookSurge made to hire New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Tanner Marsh, to review my manuscript prior to publication. She wrote a good, honest, favorable review from which I lifted a blurb to print on the back cover above her name and credentials.
  • Brazenly, I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany in 2003 and dropped by the exhibit booths of the Canadian publishers to try to interest them in my book. BookSurge had invited its authors and we accepted because we were already planning a trip to Hungary. The publishers gave me the curt nods and surprised looks a self-publishing interloper on these hallowed premises might have expected. One publisher told me my book “reeked of self-publishing” although he felt BookSurge had done an excellent job. He pointed out that I had used “by” before my name on the cover, had no logo on the spine, did not have a page for chapter titles and did not refer back to my sub-title inside the book. When I came home I fixed these deficiencies. Two publishers called me later in Canada; Saint Paul University seriously considered publishing it but chose a competing book instead. They said mine fell between target audiences; they suggested I look for a publisher on the basis of location.
  • Stubbornly, I have persisted as an independent author, selling everywhere possible, but have now decided to be more selective and financially savvy. Aiming to write a classic is not the same thing as aiming to write a bestseller. At the recent conference of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa I was able to peddle editing services as well as books. I got a booming endorsement from a past president, Glen Wright, who said, “This is a marvellous book. I just read it. I hope you sell all the copies you brought with you.” Other good places for me to sell in are seniors’ residences where nostalgic, romantic, true books like mine are popular. I’m optimistic about returning to Galeries Aylmer’s Foire Artisanale on Nov. 25th along with Santa Claus. I’ll share a table with Stevie Szabad who is launching her book about being an army brat. For the first time I will have a Square register with me so I can accept credit cards. 
  • Brazenly, if someone asks who my role model author and favorite book are I reply, “Anonymous, who wrote The Summoning of Everyman. This morality play is the first play Frye mentions in his course on Modern Drama. It was written in fifteenth century England and is still being performed today. I saw it performed by Ottawa’s Third Wall Theatre in the National Art Gallery outdoor amphitheatre in 2005. It is being performed in the Pershing Square Theatre in New York City this year. 
  • Modestly, I do not plan to leave instructions in my will to have a copy of my book stolen and buried under the sod for two months and twenty nights before it is retrieved and presented to a university to be displayed, similarly to The Book of Kells. I’m very content to keep on trying to share the story and hearing from wonderful readers from all over who comment and say they enjoyed it. Writing a family history is memory’s classic way to create a link to loved ones and times that have passed on to the after life.

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  • “Our school is older than Confederation! Come back for the 160th Reunion!,” said the email from the Weston Collegiate Alumni Foundation, and I was impressed. I  hadn’t been there since the school’s Centennial in 1957. I thought they had forgotten me in return.
  • Orlando Martini, a 1952 graduate, past-president and founder of the WCAF, was the mysterious link. He said he would meet us in the Tea Room if we went. That sounded perfect. A classmate living in New York State had loaned him her copy of my book containing memories of Weston Collegiate. He had been a year behind my husband Tom in engineering at the University of Toronto, so he knew him by name.
  • Two old classmates had contacted me recently so Fate too was urging me to reconnect. Unfortunately, I lost Ann West Hudec’s phone number and didn’t know her whereabouts so couldn’t reach her. As for Nancy Mackay Cunningham, she would be away on a trip this month. When I googled for Peter W. Barker and his wife Anne Coleman Barker from our gang I found his obituary. Sadly, I left a memory message on the funeral home website.
  • My hitherto unread copy of “One Hundred Years. A Retrospect 1857-1957. Weston Grammar School to Weston Collegiate & Vocational School” by Dora E. Wattie, M.A. verifies I was there. The book reminds us how big and complicated a job is the educating of our young. It lists the names of slews of dedicated people — caretakers, students, volunteers, teachers, board members, trustees, donors, etc.– who pulled together to give the school its spirit of friendship, co-operation and community. How hard our teachers worked to help their students mature and succeed! Dozens of activities were enabled by staff who volunteered countless extra hours. Ms Wattie gives others credit but never mentions her own role.
  • Suddenly my name appears at the top of page 101 and I burst out laughing. (Be careful what you wish for when you think you want to be remembered or  famous!) It reads, “Frequently it is the accidents that make a student play memorable … “Margaret Kell will remember the authentic blow she struck at the station window as the “Ghost Train” roared through the station, so authentic that splintered glass sent blood streaming down her arm.” Now I recalled why I liked Ms Wattie; she was the producer of the Drama Club’s annual play, as well as being our history teacher.
  • When we arrived for the reunion on Oct. 14 I felt thrilled to step out of the car onto the sod where the Schomberg/Kleinburg/Woodbridge/Thistletown bus stopped during 1947-50. I was dismayed to see no sign of Anne Coleman’s parents’ bungalow across the street where our gang partied and played pool after Saturday night movies. The vocational wing and original school have been replaced by a  structure 100 years younger, a big improvement.
  • Inside the entrance, the odor of chlorine from a swimming pool was new but the corridor walls were crammed as ever. An honor guard of class pictures, lists of Ontario Scholarship winners’ names, photos of governors general awarding Orders of Canada to outstanding alumni, and glassed cabinets full of sports trophies and cups, with colorful pennants above, ushered us all the way along to the registration desk. The school still brags about Weston Ironmen’s Toronto District football championship victory over East York Seniors in 1950.
  • The student band blared out the finale of its stirring welcome as we entered the Memory Hall/Pub (auditorium.) A long central buffet table amid hundreds of people buzzing over colorful snacks and drinks made the atmosphere festive. We got right into the nitty gritty of “Hi”, “When did you graduate?” and “Who did you know?” At the mere mention of a name one alumnus feinted a faint. The pile of pictures on the memorabilia table grew. I found Charles Snider, a gymnast from my year
  • Tom and I retreated to a round table in the adjoining Tea Room (staff room) to wait for the kettle to boil and  Orlando to come.  Meanwhile we looked at the new history book,  “The Past Fifty Years 1957 to 2007. The Tradition Continues. Weston Grammar School to Weston Collegiate Institute 1857-2007” edited by Dr. Wesley Turner. Orlando had been inspired to organize this project after he interviewed Dora Wattie 20 years ago.
  • By now I was feeling very much at home, like being with family. Books are my passion; I soaked up fascinating local history, biographies of pioneers in mining, medicine, water treatment and other fields and pictures of young people doing what I once did. I made discoveries and got to know my old self and environment better. What great luck to have gone to a school so extraordinary at preserving its traditions!
  • Alumni and former teachers who dropped by our table after Orlando came were a fairly homogenous-looking group with surnames we’d heard before. It didn’t take long to find connections around the people we knew and experiences we shared.
  • Today’s students at WCI were born in 80 different countries of the world. Enrollment now is 850 instead of 1100. No one has to be bussed in because more high schools have been builtThe hosts and servers poured our cups and served yummy baking were neat, pleasant, helpful and friendly. They didn’t carry cellphones; the school doesn’t provide WiFi for them. In my day girls had to wear white shirt blouses with black tunics and stockings. Now they seemed to wear a casual assortment of black skirts or pants, white or beige tops and loose gray cardigans.
  • Prachi Dalai, Aryana Singh and Miduran Murugathasan received 2016 WCAF Orlando Martini awards for leadership, citizenship and extracurricular activities. Debbie Dada has been admitted to Yale University to major in global affairs.
  • In the WCAF’s 160th Anniversary issue some bright grade 12 and 13 students answer questions from a peer about their high school experience and what advice they’d give other students. They show self-confidence and a broad view far beyond what we had before the ‘Me-Generation’ came along. I’m sure  recent migrations and upheavals have them mature earlier.
  • They appreciate how older students befriended and welcomed when they started. They passionately believe they and every other person is unique, with great potential.  They say that if  you have a problem, such as depression or physical health, take care of it first. Don’t worry so much about others’ think. Getting top marks can wait if you feel you’re not at  your best. Participating in extracurricular clubs helped them change and reach goals. One student remembered a moment of just standing around outside the school door with friends looking at the sunset, feeling they had nothing to fear. All was well.
  • “How could Weston possibly get better? With you!”  writes Joshua Brooke in the current issue of “West Press”, the student newspaper. He was rallying his fellow students to take part in Hallowe’en and other Fall activities. My only question is, “Are we oldies ready to absorb these students into a truly multicultural society and let them take the lead?”
  • After coming home from the reunion, I phoned Squibb’s, the bookstore in Weston where I bought textbooks, to inquire about a book signing. The proprietor said they did not have space but if a book interested them they might co-operate in a presentation about it organized by the Weston Historical Society. The key person to contact would be Mary Lou Caskey Ashbourne, and she gave me her email address and phone number.
  • You guessed it! Mary Lou sat in front of me in grade 12 in 1948, although it seems like yesterday. We began to get caught up over the phone and will be getting together soon. You’ll be first to know if there’s to be a presentation.

A school reunion can be rejuvenating, even if you go only once in a lifetime.


Family history and genealogy can be your hobby and passion no matter what your walk of life. You encounter soulmates from all centuries and locate your spot on the human map. Technology has just given your searching a huge boost. Selling my books in the atrium at the three-day 23rd annual conference of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa, I got glimpses into this world. You too may wake up one day wanting to find out more about where you came from and who you are:

1. DNA testing is an increasingly common tool. More than one type exists, beginning with a mouth swab done while you sit in a chair. It costs upwards of $100. You may also find out an ancestor’s DNA. Author Jane Simpson was next to me selling her book entitled Sailor, Settler, Sinner. She used DNA testing to trace the multiracial offspring of her womanizing great grandfather.

2. Old family bibles, diaries and documents need not be thrown out. They can be restored to perfection. Kyla Ubbink, sitting at the table on my other side, says paper (especially the old kind) is very permanent. As an expert, she can bring what is still there back to life and even fix tears. Musty-smelling books need not be thrown out. You can clean them up yourself by buying a fairly soft-bristled brush, with hair about 3/4″ long, and sit in the sunlight going through it page by page. You must be careful to get into the spine where dust, tiny particles of food remnants, etc. have collected. When it is clean and fresh the book can go proudly back on display.

3. Old newspapers, court documents and church records not formerly available have now been digitized and are accessible online.

4. Writing things down and taking pictures will be appreciated forever by your descendants. They will no longer be able to complain, “I wish somebody had told me about that before.”

5. Spelling is not all that big a deal. The way a name is pronounced is far more important in indicating family lineage. I talked to Heather Boucher Ashe of the Ontario Genealogical Society whose husband’s name is pronounced “Bow-cher”. They are not related in any way to any Boucher pronounced “Boo-shay”. Terry Finley, who publishes a beautiful glossy genealogical magazine with his wife, is related to Finlays, Findlays, Finlys, etc. etc.

6. Location and physical characteristics are very important. I spoke to a Mr. Parker whose people were farmers from Yorkshire, England. He was very interested to discover that’s where my Kell family also came from in 1850. He said we might discover in old church records that our relatives had intermarried. I must confess he looked a lot like some of my male cousins. One wonders about what spelling changes and marriages took place over the centuries.

7. Perils often accompany passions and I felt sorry for the curly-white-haired woman who told me her bathtub was full of her great grandmother’s letters. She looked exhausted from tracking four family names, one of them Smith, all at once.

8. Libraries as well as incidental encounters produce good contacts. One woman told me she had found a curator at the Glenbow museum in Winnipeg who dug out a newspaper article in which her great-grandfather was quoted. She also has found a woman in B.C. who keeps records on world war one war brides — something the Government of Canada did not do.

Researching family history is the least lonely and most personally gratifying of all hobbies. No wonder people are attracted to it in droves. You can always find a relative who lived at the same time as, and even rubbed shoulders with, someone famous, like Napoleon. A good place to start is by joining one of the many heritage societies that exist, such as BIFHSGO. It has monthly meetings, as well as special interest groups (e.g. ‘DNA testing’, ‘Scottish’ and ‘Family History Writing’) that also meet separately. Look for more information online at www.bifhsgo.ca.

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My father started as a cadet in high school and became a gunner in WW I. The only weapon of mass destruction we had in our home was a fly swatter.

I’m thankful this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend that I grew up in a home where the only weapon of mass destruction was a fly swatter, and the only guns seen were in news photos or Hollywood films. A far greater threat was depression or addiction which were in the family and would get us if we didn’t watch out. So we got enough sleep, ate mother’s home-cooked meals, went to church on Sunday, seldom got sick and did well at school.

  • Our recipe for civilization, security and freedom boiled down to these simple behaviors.
  • What bothers me about the debate over guns in the United States is that it never gets connected to the debate over the care of the mentally ill. There is no coming together.
  • I am no statistician, economist or politician, but on behalf of thousands of bullet-ridden corpses, one named “Jesus” to use the Christian metaphor for love, I am a mourner and protester enraged by the prospect of another ‘high-noon’ confrontation between us survivors.
  • Some believe protecting their second amendment rights comes first.
  • Some believe protecting their democratic human rights has priority.
  • Corpses can’t help. 
  • Mentally ill people can’t either, as long as they’re in prison, on the streets or at home without professional treatment.
  • Call me naive, but I see restoring mental institutions as the lone shred of hope. It is a disgrace that they were abolished. People who are mentally ill can be treated and even be cured.

Here’s my remedy:

1.The NRA has a heart somewhere and should do itself justice by showing it by raising funds to pay for mental institutions as a noble cause. It would be good PR for them. It’s a better place for their money than bribes to politicians or increasing gun sales. Democrats might even learn to love them for it and contribute generously.

2. Gun owners should pay a tax for mental institutions on the purchase of guns and attachments. If they don’t like it, they might have to forego an addition of one or two to their collection of arms.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving weekend!

  • Let’s stop creating “crazies,” the product of a badly behaved, uncaring society.
  • Let’s make the NRA and the ‘Abolishers’ and the restored mentally ill all part of the solution, not the problem.
  • Let’s all fight the battle against mental illness by looking after those in our own families and then looking for ways to help those we see around us who may be vulnerable to it.

http://www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com  www.margaretvirany.com



 Here’s an event to stimulate finding about your old roots in the British Isles.
“Walk in for online registration to join in the 23rd Annual British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa’s Family History Conference. It starts at 5 p.m. on Sept. 29 at Ben Franklin Place in Ottawa and runs until Sunday, Sept. 31 at 3:30 p.m. Simply drop by 501 Centrepointe Drive, Nepean, Ottawa to register and pay.
The  conference brochure describes program details and rates and says, “Come for one or two seminars, one day, two days – or all three days.
“Learn about English and Welsh family history and genealogy research methodology. Read about our speakers, seminars, lectures, and activities.
Browse, shop, and chat with vendors in our Marketplace that is open to the public with no admission fee.”
I’m proud to take part as a vendor and will be launching a new editing service especially for writers of family history manuscripts who have submitted them to traditional publishers but been rejected.

BIFHSGO is a wonderful network with over 600 members from all over. I’m looking forward to chatting with many congenial people and hope to see you among them. I’ll be there from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
http://www.margaretvirany.com  www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany