Christine Woodcock is a genealogy educator with an expertise in the Scottish records. A lecturer, writer and blogger on Genealogy, Using Online Resources and of course, Scottish ancestry, Woodcock runs Genealogy Tours of Scotland, which offers 10 day trips to the Scottish Archives in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.
What is your own heritage/ethnic background?
I was born in Lanarkshire Scotland and raised in Hamilton Ontario. While I am a Canadian citizen, I see myself as a Scot through and through. More so I think since my parents passed away. Perhaps the deepening bond to my heritage is my way of preserving theirs.
What inspired you to get involved with genealogy?
My grandfather fathered 21 children. My mother and grandmother were the storytellers of the family. They passed away within 9 months of each other and I felt an overwhelming need to record my grandfather’s ancestry and to write down and preserve some of the family stories. In doing so, I created a family book for all of my grandfather’s children and this has become a treasured heirloom to be passed on to future generations.
What inspired you to start your own business?
Those of us with Scots ancestry are so fortunate. The Registrar General has been making records available online for a very long time. The Scottish Archives are dedicated to preserving the national memory. However, by Scottish law, the Archives are limited to what they can make available online. So many people that I have talked to want to go to Scotland to do their family history research, but they don’t know where to begin. And many of them have never been to Scotland before, so they are at a disadvantage that way as well. Different genealogical information is available in different respositories and many of them are not well known by people who do not travel to Scotland. I decided that more people would have better success rounding out the social history and missing pieces of information on their Scottish ancestors if they were able to spend time in the Scottish Archives in an organized way. This also allows them to get the help they need from the different Archivists because the Archivists are anticipating their arrival and generally make sure they have additional staff on hand to assist the group.
Are these all the same reasons that you keep doing what you do?
I love helping others to learn ways to find their Scottish ancestors. My interest isn’t so much in doing their genealogy for them as it is in giving them a nudge in a different direction so that they can find their ancestors on their own. When I am not running tours, I am lecturing or blogging and that too is incentive to keep digging for information on our Scottish ancestry.
What are the challenges of your profession?
Actually making the decision to go to Scotland is a big commitment for people – both in terms of time and finances. Sometimes it takes a long time for people to commit and that can make the planning a challenge.
What are the rewards?
Taking groups to the Archives and then hearing the stories at the end of the day about who they found or what they learned about their ancestors is so rewarding to me.
Who is your typical client?
Baby Boomers are now at a stage where they are retiring, many before the age of 65. Many are also empty-nesters. They find that they now have the time to dedicate to their family history. One man recently told me he thought it was going to be a one year project. That project started 10 years ago! Boomers have a deep need to know where they came from. They are the first generation to be mobile and not to have their family of origin close by who could share the family stories and traditions and hand them down orally.
Who are your potential clients?
I would love to tap into groups of Scots – those who may be involved with a Scots-Canadian or Scots- American Society, or a Clan Society where they gather to carry on the traditions of their heritage but really have a curiosity about their ancestors as well. Perhaps they don’t know where to start. I can help them get there and make it interesting in the process. It would be great to have a group already known to each other who would travel to Scotland together to research their Scots ancestry. I offer group discounts, but so far, I haven’t had a group take up the challenge!
What can your clients expect on a tour?
The simple answer is that they can expect to find their ancestors. But they can also learn more about the records that are available. They can make connections that they can tap into on their own later by e-mail or regular mail. We have two Scottish evenings where the clients can really enjoy their heritage and get to know where they came from. As well, the weekend is free so that those who want to can travel to where their ancestors actually lived; Inverness, the Borders, the Islands and the Highlands. They come away with a deeper sense of the rich culture and heritage to which they belong.
In your opinion, are young people still interested in Celtic genealogy?
Younger people are still interested in their Celtic genealogy. When I was younger, the only thing we had to relate to, in terms of the importance of knowing who we were, was the TV series or the book “Roots” Now, of course, there are other programs which show the audience that it CAN be done and that it is necessary to go to the location where you ancestors were – to spend time in the various archives, in order to find your family and your history back through the generations.
Are we doing enough to promote Celtic culture in general?
This too is on the rise. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are taking the lead in promoting Celtic Culture. Now we need the rest of Canada to follow along. I love that there is an entire magazine dedicated to promoting Celtic Culture and I hope that will be one way to get the rest of Canada onboard.
What can we be doing better?
I think it is important especially for the younger Celts, that we have an online presence. Websites like this and the New Brunswick Scottish Cultural Association will provide the younger generations a better understanding of their heritage.