Um. Wait. WHAT.

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve heard from the gentleman from Florida – whose name is Leslie – who’d contacted me about a possible family link.

On Thursday, curiosity gets the best of me, and I drop him a line.

Leslie responds Thursday evening. Turns out he’s actually been in Jamaica for several days, and has been helping his uncle (with whom he’s staying) with some things, so he hasn’t had any time to look into any family tree-related stuff as of yet.

I tell him I completely understand, and fill him in on what (little) is happening on my end.

And that’s where we leave things.

Or, so I think.

Fast-forward some two and a half hours later. I’m firmly wedged into my couch, watching The Night Manager and gazing away at Tom Hiddleston, minding my own business, when my phone buzzes.

I glance sleepily at my phone. It’s another message from my possible relative in Jamaica.

But based on what he’s written, he’s telling me we ARE related.

Leslie’s uncle knows all about the Campbells in Hanover – in fact, he grew up with them.

That’s not all.

Leslie’s uncle knew my great-uncle Collin, who lived in Wolverhampton. He went to his funeral. He’s friends with my uncle Egton.

He KNOWS knows my great-aunt Milda.

 photo tumblr_lh9khy0pBv1qcnr7w.gif




Leslie says he actually wasn’t ready for the vast number of names his uncle was just rattling off – he didn’t have a pen and paper handy – and it’s left his head swimming.
(No kidding.)

He says he’s going to visit my uncle Egton and great-aunt in a few days’ time.

I’ve asked him if he could ask some questions on my behalf. I don’t know how far he’ll get, or how much she’ll remember. But this could be a chance to take a second crack at uncovering what happened to Ellen.

Worst case scenario, she won’t tell Leslie any more than what she told me. Keep in mind, she’s 100 now. But I have to get him to try.

Perhaps along the way, I’ll learn about more names to add to the family tree.

Fingers crossed!

Update: FamilySearch & Jamaican Records

Hey again,

It’s been a busy week, but a short update:

So, just as inexplicably as Jamaican records were suddenly made unavailable to non-Mormon FamilySearch users, they were restored as of Monday (May 9)!

I can only hope that the emails and phone calls were a contributing factor to the action being reversed. But we still don’t know and may never know.

At this point, no one really knows how long they’ll be available for. But it’s all the more reason to take advantage of the opportunity, if you’re researching your Jamaican ancestors.

Yay, us!

Head’s Up: FamilySearch & Jamaican Records

Hey there,

I hadn’t planned to post again so soon BUT, if you’ve been researching Jamaican ancestors/family members — and you’ve used the free ancestry Web site FamilySearch (which is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [the LDS Church]) — I just wanted to give you the head’s up, in case you’re not aware:

Since Thursday (April 28), new restrictions have been implemented which prevent users from viewing Jamaican vital records – birth, marriage, and death records, and so on.

In fact, if you try to click on a record, you might get the following message:

“This image is available:

– When using the site at a FamilySearch Center

To signed-in members of supporting organizations.”

In other words, if you want to see the image of a Jamaican record which might hold key information for your research, you either have to go to a LDS Family History Centre, OR you have to be a member of a “supporting organization” — in this case, the LDS Church.

If you’re Mormon or live in a city or town that has a Family History Centre, then no sweat.

Except for one small thing … Not every city or country has a Family History Centre. And if there is one, their hours of operation may not necessarily be convenient for folks with busy work and family schedules.

So novice genealogists who have relied on FamilySearch (because they might not have the money to pour into paid sites or travelling to their ancestral homelands to do their research) are effectively cut off from this information.

I only learned about this because I stumbled across conversations about this issue in a number of volunteer Jamaican genealogy groups on Facebook. There was no online announcement on the FamilySearch Web site, nor were there any notifications sent to users who have accounts on the site.

From what I can gather, one of my fellow group members sent a note to FamilySearch and was told that the decision to restrict records seems to have come from the Jamaican government – specifically, the Registrar General’s Department (RGD), which oversees registration for vital events.

Genealogical research – and the keeping of archived records – also falls under the jurisdiction of the RGD.

Right now, none of us really know why this decision was made. There’s been informal speculation as to what it could be.

Could the government be doing this because they have an concern that  Mormons are “baptizing” the deceased? Perhaps the RGD has seen the increase in demand from Jamaicans for genealogical research, and is trying to capitalize on the interest?

In any case, the result has been frustrating.

Some members of the genealogy groups (myself included) have emailed FamilySearch for answers, and are also emailing the Registrar General, in hopes someone can explain why this has happened, and perhaps open up a dialogue to find a solution to the issue.

If you’re researching Jamaican ancestors and would like to help, you can email the Registrar General’s Department to voice your disappointment with the decision and ask for an explanation.

The email address is (also CC when you do) – address your email to the attention of Deidre English Gosse (who is the Registrar General).

If you can do so by Monday, May 2, it would be extremely helpful to the volunteers who are trying to get some answers from the RGD on the matter, and perhaps find a compromise that all parties would be happy with.

If you know of anyone else who’s been doing Jamaican family research, feel free to let them know about this post and encourage them to send an email as well.

Hopefully something good will emerge from this. It would be a shame to know that for thousands of people in the Jamaican disapora, this decision would put family research financially out of reach.


Family Tree Briefs …

Yes, yes, yes. I know I’m supposed to be writing about my trip to Cuba …

I’ve been sidetracked, and I was sick. Those entries are coming.

In the meantime, here’s some briefs for the old family tree blotter:

Mid-March …

It’s late at night. I’m sleepily TV-watching and internet-surfing on my couch, when I get an email message from 23andMe, one of the ancestry testing sites I’ve used.

Someone – who, genetically, might be a super-distant relative – has sent me a message.

He and his mother have found my name on the list of distant relatives and wonders if we were somehow related.

(The last time I got a message, it was from someone who wasn’t even in the same maternal haplogroup, calling me “cousin”. By the way, that was months ago, and I haven’t heard from them since.)

Long story short, we start exchanging messages, and share what we know. It isn’t much, but we’ve been sporadically keeping in touch in hopes that one or both of us will stumble onto something.


IMG-20160318-WA0002Also in March …

Turns out, my great-aunt Milda’s 100th birthday did not go unnoticed.

My uncle and a couple of people went to the nursing home to visit.

And, apparently, some other relatives stopped by after that and took her some birthday cake.

I’ve been told, “She is happy and her mind is as sharp as ever.”

I’m sure she was happy for the company — and the cake.

Last week …

I get an email from a gentleman who found me through Family Tree DNA, one of the other companies I’ve done ancestral/autosomal DNA tests with.

He asks if it was all right for him to contact me through Facebook.

(He’s the third or fourth person who’s contacted me in the last year or so. The others were fairly certain that we have family connections, but couldn’t provide any evidence or common ancestral links to back up their hunches.)

I say sure … taking it with a grain of salt, but waiting to see what he has to say.

A couple of days later, we start corresponding on Facebook. Turns out he might be on to something.

Despite a completely different last name (not surprising), he mentions that he has Campbells in his family tree. From the same part of Jamaica as my maternal grandfather’s family. Which means we may actually be distant relations.

The question is: how?

We toss some names of ancestors back and forth, to see if they were familiar. Nothing. Yet.

He’ll be leaving soon for Jamaica, where he’s spending about four or five weeks. He’s a retiree living in Florida, so he has the luxury of time.

But, it would be interesting to see what he turns up, and if he does find a link between our families, along with any new information.



Coming Soon …

imag0681.jpgHey, kids!

Sorry for the lack of posts. But this time, I have a reeeally good reason.

See the photo?

YEP. Thaaat’s riiiight. I went to Cuba!

When I originally wrote this post in January, I had said I’d like to visit. To be honest, though? The idea was already firmly wedged in my mind. It wasn’t until the morning of my birthday that I decided to stop thinking and start doing.

And I had to move fast.

So many other people had the same idea — to get there before things changed drastically — that nearly all the dates for tours I was interested in, were already booked.

I snagged the very last spot on a G Adventures tour that started over Easter long weekend (a fact I didn’t realize until I booked the trip). It was a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I thought it’d be worth it.

And, in the end, it was. *smiles*

I only returned to Toronto a few days ago, so I’m re-adjusting to the god-awful weather I thought would’ve been gone by now (what the backside, April), and sort out the reflections and observations I didn’t have the chance to write down along the way.

But when I do, I’ll be blogging like a fiend. Hopefully I can entertain, inform and perhaps encourage you to consider adding Cuba to your travel plans, if you haven’t already.

So keep watching this space — I hope to have the first installment up here within the next week.

Ciao for now!



Shopping While Brown, Sizeism and … Downton Abbey?

Hey kids!

Just a brief check-in to let you know I’m still alive …

But ALSO … to let you know about the new episode of Sip & Bitch, the podcast I make with my friends bi-weekly.

Here, my friend Renée talks about what happened when she visited the perfume department at Saks Fifth Avenue’s Toronto location; our frustrations with finding clothes that fit (the never-ending struggle for women the world over), and Kath’s fond farewell to Downton Abbey (which aired its last episode March 6).

It’ll be up on iTunes for downloading on Wednesday night, but if you can stream, you can find it here:


Happy listening, y’all!


Whoops. Again.

So I was on a roll with on those blog posts a couple of months ago, hey?

And then – as usual – I stopped.

Sorry about that. Part of it was due to my lack of topics to blog about.

Part of it was that mid-winter lack of motivation that sets in – like clockwork.

And part of it was due to my busy schedule trying to record and edit Sip & Bitch – the podcast I do with my friends.

On top of which, I’m getting ready to take a short trip at the end of March (which I will happily blog about in April).

In the meantime, if you have a chance this weekend, feel free to have a listen to the most recent episode of Sip & Bitch, where Kath, Renée (and me, but not much) interview YA novelist Leah Bobet!

There will be a brand-new episode up on SoundCloud next Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (and on iTunes a little bit after that).

If you have a SoundCloud account, please feel free to leave comments on our recordings. And iTunes listeners, we’d love some reviews, please and thanks!

Give It. A SECOND.

Times are changing. And so, it elevatorwould seem, are people’s manners.

From sidewalks to subways, it’s as if the unsaid rules of courtesy towards strangers are evaporating.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still people out there who hold the door for others, wait for people to pass if there’s a small bottleneck on a pathway, or help people with carts or strollers off buses and up or down stairways. I have no quarrel with them.

It’s the others. Specifically, those who apparently have forgotten basic elevator etiquette. You may have encountered them yourself.

Imagine this: You’re at work, and decide to go downstairs for lunch or a snack break.

Perhaps you’re the only person in the elevator car, so you have half a moment of peace and quiet to yourself.

The elevator reaches the ground floor. As you prepare to exit and the doors open, someone waiting on the outside bursts in before you even have a chance to set foot outside. Maybe they’re paying more attention to their phone than to what’s in front of them. Or maybe they’re not.

And although they don’t say anything as you try to get around them, sometimes they just look at you – or through you – as if you’re the one who committed the faux pas.

This is something I’ve been noticing more and more.

Once in a while, it might be because I’m tucked away from the entrance and the person just doesn’t see me. But in other cases, it’s someone (in my experience, it’s usually been a man) who just charges onto the elevator.

Once, while waiting for an elevator at work, I was almost knocked over by a dude rushing out … wearing a hot dog costume. (Long story. Insert obnoxious joke here.)

Usually, by the time I want to say something, the elevator’s gone, and the moment has passed.

But since I don’t have the powers to stop or suspend time, I’ve got a little public service announcement to those repeat offenders:

Hey. YOU.

What’s goin’ on?

Someone chasin’ you?

Are you secretly a super-hero who needs to change into your costume?

Are your feet literally on fire?



Who exactly are you?

How long do you think it takes for one or two people to exit an otherwise empty elevator? (Answer: Maybe a few seconds.)

And, question number nine: Why, when people try to get around you to leave said elevator, do you give them dirty looks?


Look, I know how annoying and inconvenient it must be for you. I knooow. So here’s a couple of tips to making the experience much less so:

(1) When the elevator doors open (and it’s obvious there’s someone inside), STAND TO THE SIDE.

(2) Wait for people to leave the elevator before boarding it yourself.


Seem clear enough?

If not, repeat steps (1) through (2a) until it sinks in. I assure you, once it does, it will make things more pleasant and efficient for everyone involved.



Haggis, Anyone?

Scotland_HaggisThe first time I heard the name “Robbie Burns”, I was eight years old, and my parents were signing me up for piano lessons at a local music school.

I guess it came up when the head of the school – testing my aptitude – was chatting with my folks, and they mentioned when I was born.

“Oh!” he said. “Do you know who else shares your birthday? Robbie Burns!”

As a little black girl growing up in the 1980s, the only Burns I’d heard of was George. I can only imagine what facial expression I wore as this man told me about this guy I was clearly supposed to recognize.

Through the years, I came to learn bits and pieces about the man whose birthday I happened to share, and the little nerd in me found it interesting.

So to simply say Robert Burns is A Big Deal for people of Scottish descent, is a wee bit of an understatement.

In several days’ time, dinners (all over Canada and abroad) will be held in honour of the Scottish bard, filled with music and poetry. There will be scotch, even whiskey tastings. But it won’t be a Rabbie Burns night without one signature dish served:


Yep, that most Scottish of dishes, consisting of lamb or sheep parts, oats, and spices, mixed together in a type of pudding (not the dessert kind), and encased in a sheep’s stomach.

(There are even vegetarian and vegan versions out there, for a different spin. And these lovely folks are hosting a vegan Robbie Burns Day here in Toronto – they’re just about sold out!)

For people like me who’ve never had haggis (the meat-filled version, at least), that doesn’t sound — or look — all that appetizing.

But yesterday, I came across this article by writer Andrea Chiu, in defence of the dish.

She makes a valid point:

“We will pay high prices to taste rich and creamy foie gras, but wrap some lamb liver and hearts with a sheep’s stomach and diners of all ages are finding ways to politely decline the dish.”

I mean, if I can try a camel burger or freshly-caught-and-prepared conch salad (with comically terrible results, in the case of the latter), surely I should give haggis a try?

It’s probably too late this time ’round, but maybe I can give haggis a go at a later date, or perhaps on one of my future birthdays.

It’s the least I could do for Robbie.