top of page
25. Uyea Sheep.jpeg
Peter's Typed Diary Photo (1).jpeg

I am drawn to family stories. As a teenager I found my great-grandfather’s diary in a box in our basement. Peter Russell Inkster had emigrated from the Shetland Islands of Scotland to Vancouver Island as a young man in 1901.

His diary shared childhood memories of crofting life in the small community of North Roe. Life was harsh – families were in debt to the landlord, and their livelihood relied on the North Sea fishing, a risky venture, and often the fishing was poor:

July 1948
“In retrospect, I still see Father coming home from the fishing, and us youngsters running to meet him, eager to know, “what luck?” Too often the answer would be in the negative, and everybody would feel more or less gloomy and downcast, but, not having time to bemoan our troubles, we just had to wait for the next low tide, get down among the rocks to pick more limpets and mussels, carry them home, bait the set lines with hundreds and hundreds of hooks and then start out all over again.

I imagine the worry that Peter’s father would have felt at being unable to provide for his family of ten children. I envision the family working together at the sea shore collecting the bait for his next fishing attempt. 


Peter found work away from home when he was a teenager. He left his native land, and his parents, for the coal mines of Vancouver Island when he was just 21.

Stories such as these connect me to my ancestors. I understand their sorrows and feel grateful for where I am today because of their sacrifices.

Family history is not just seeking out names and dates, but discovering, recording and sharing our own stories and those of our ancestors. My passion is to both preserve the stories of my own family history and help others do the same.


Karen Inkster Vance, MA, is an educator, family storyteller, researcher and writer who has documented her family history for over thirty years. She is the author of Voices from the Past: Stories of North Roe (2023), a social history of the Shetland Islands village where her great-grandfather was born. Karen uses historical context, photo analysis, and oral history interviewing to write compelling narrative non-fiction accounts. She is on a mission to preserve and share her ancestors' stories and regularly presents at genealogical societies to help other family historians do the same. Karen resides in Surrey, BC, Canada. For further information about Karen and her current projects, visit:

bottom of page