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November 14, 2018

1877 Letter from Adeline Atkins p 2

Olive Tree Genealogy is pleased to publish 4 pages of a letter written in 1877 by Adeline Atkins to her Aunt and Uncle informing them that her grandfather has just died.

 Pages 3 and 4 to follow

Submitter: Peggy S. who sends the following information on the family

I found this letter in the old Atkins Family Bible. There wasn't much there in the way of births, deaths, in the first pages, sadly. There were many Atkins' in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Sarah's Father was Robert Atkins and her mother was Anne Teskey. The family was from Ireland I have Anne's mother as Sarah Bowen. I don't know if any of her relatives moved to the Sault. Sarah Anne Atkins came with my Great Grandfather, William Shunk.The letter must have been sent to Sarah since it was in her Bible. I don't see a niece named Adeline in Canada and I have no children listed that would show great aunt names.

November 12, 2018

1877 Letter from Adeline Atkins p 1

Olive Tree Genealogy is pleased to publish 4 pages of a letter written in 1877 by Adeline Atkins to her Aunt and Uncle informing them that her grandfather has just died.
Pages 2,3 and 4 to follow

Submitter: Peggy S. who sends the following information on the family

I found this letter in the old Atkins Family Bible. There wasn't much there in the way of births, deaths, in the first pages, sadly. There were many Atkins' in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Sarah's Father was Robert Atkins and her mother was Anne Teskey. The family was from Ireland I have Anne's mother as Sarah Bowen. I don't know if any of her relatives moved to the Sault. Sarah Anne Atkins came with my Great Grandfather, William Shunk.The letter must have been sent to Sarah since it was in her Bible. I don't see a niece named Adeline in Canada and I have no children listed that would show great aunt names.

November 11, 2018

Honoring Ancestors on Remembrance Day

I have many military ancestors. Here are some of those who gave their lives during war:

My 3rd great-grandfather Levi Peer's brother Stephen Peer fell at the Battle of Chippewa during the War of 1812, leaving behind a pregnant wife and young son.

Philip Edgar Peer
All of my grandmother's brothers fought in WW1. Her youngest brother, Philip Edgar Peer (called Edgar by family), died in France in 1918 just days short of his 21st birthday.
Cecil Sandercock
My husband's great uncles Bill and Cecil Sandercock also fought in WW1 along with their father Samuel. Both Bill and Cecil were killed, one year apart. Bill was killed Aug. 23, 1917, his brother Cecil was at his side. One year later almost to the day, on Aug. 28, 1918, Cecil was killed.  
Bill Sandercock

WW2 saw the death of my Uncle, James Nevin (aka Nev) Bonar. He died October 23, 1944 in Belgium at the age of 27.

Please take a few moments today to remember those brave men and women who fought and died, and those who are still fighting in Wars around the world.

November 9, 2018

A Canadian Case Study Part 3

Continued from Parts 1 and Part 2 of A Canadian Case Study

 Further Research Avenues

William should be found in 1861 Ontario census or in 1861 England. Many of the 1861 census returns for Ontario are missing so we can't conclusively say he was not in Ontario that year. A search of English records for 1841 and 1851 may find him with his parents. I would search under his parents' names, but realize that Delia can be a nickname for Bridget and that Bridget may be an Irish name.

Of course there's always the chance that William's parents also came to Ontario. If so, they might be found in the online records.

I'll continue sharing my research into William pre 1868, and William's parents, John and Bridget Stephens,  in Part 3

Develop a Working Theory

Looking for John & Bridget in 1851

After I said that there was always the chance that William came to Canada with his parents I decided to search Essex County for John and Bridget Stephens in the 1861 and 1851 census. I believe I may have found them in Malden Township in 1851. That makes good sense as William probably met his first wife Elmira close to her home. She's two pages away from the Stevens family that year.

They are listed as John Stevens [sic] born England, aged either 54 or 34, a Pensioner and his wife Bridget, born England, age 52 or 32. She is Roman Catholic, he is Episcopalian. This clue about their religion might help you to locate church records for the family.

There is a John Stevens age 7 or 1, as well as a William Stevens age 12 on the same page. Just to throw a twist, they are both listed as being born in "Canada". Both boys are listed as Roman Catholic which does make sense if their mother is Bridget. It is very difficult to know if they are living in the same house as John and Bridget because the census page entries are a bit different.

Usually on the second sheet of 1851 you see how many are in each family by checking for an entry for type of house - log, brick, shanty..... whenever there is a new type of house listed, that's a new family unit. On this particular sheet, there is no entry for type of home until the 25th person. So I am not sure who the two boys are living with.

I did find a William Stevens in Malden in 1861. He is age 17, labourer born England living with a family that is not his. He was probably a farm labourer living with a local farmer. He is listed as Roman Catholic. The change in religion from 1861 to 1871 doesn't concern me greatly as that was not uncommon. Perhaps his mother raised him as Catholic but once he married he switched. My own Irish McGinnis ancestor did the same thing.

It may be quite challenging to prove that the John and Bridget I found in 1851 are your William's parents but I would use my find as a working theory. A working genealogy theory simply means you must set about to find evidence that will prove or disprove your  theory.

I suggest you continue researching this John and Bridget and see what you can discover about them. There may be a piece of the puzzle hiding in the records that will link your William to them or put them out of the picture entirely.

You might also consider hunting for the birth of William in English records. You can use FreeBMD to search the indexes for a birth for the period 1837-1983. 

This has been a fun and challenging query to work on and I hope you can continue to research and find new information. 

November 7, 2018

A Canadian Case Study Part 2

Wildcards are Your Friend! 

Continued from Part 1 of A Canadian Case Study

Elmira's Death

Using I searched first for Elmira's death. Using wildcards for both first and last name, I typed *lmira Ste*en* into the search engine, with keyword "Essex" and date of death 1873 +/-2

*lm*ra allows for variant spellings of Almira, Almyra and Elmira, Elmyra
Ste*en* allows for variations in the surname such as Stephens, Stephen, Stevens and Steven

And there she was. Almira died 12 Mar 1872 of consumption which she had for 9 months. The informant was William Stephens of Anderdon, so we know it is the right person. I'm already suspecting that little Annie may also have died of the same disease as it was very contagious. But back to Almira. She is listed as having died at age 23 years and 7 months and was born in Malden Township Essex.

Clues: We can look for Almira in the 1861 and 1851 census for Malden Township. But I want to hunt for Elmira's marriage to William first.

Elmira's Marriage to William James Stephens

 When I found Elmira's death record, very nicely gave me some "Suggested Records" for individuals they believed might be Elmira. I've learned not to ignore these but to check them out. The first thing I noticed was that there was an Almira Lane listed in 1851, 1861 census and the Ontario Marriage Records. I've shown you this in the image below.
Suggested Records for Almira
And bingo, what appears to be her marriage to William. He's been transcribed incorrectly as Shephard instead of Stephens but we can be 99.9% certain it is him. There's no image attached so if I were you I would get the original image from the Archives of Ontario or a local FamilySearch centre to verify.

But here is what the transcription showed: William James Shepherd [sic] age 25 born England s/o John and Bridget, Willliam living Anderdon married Almira Lane, age 23 d/o Levi and Patience, living Colchester. They married 10 Nov. 1868 in Amherstburg Township in Essex

To learn more about Elmira you can look at the 1851 and 1861 census for Almira Lane in Malden Township. 

Little Annie's Death?

I may have found little Annie's death. She is recorded in Ontario Death records as Sarah Almeda Stephens but after her first name Sarah, it appears the name Ann has been written and then crossed out with one line. The reason I believe this may be little Annie is because she died of consumption at age 3 years, 6 months in October 1873,  she was born in Anderdon and the informant was William Stephens, farmer

To be absolutely sure this is the correct individual we could hunt for her birth registration under Ann or Sarah or even Almeda. You do need to verify that this is not a different child and a diffferent William Stephens


So what have we learned from these records?

William was in Ontario at least by November 1868 when he married Elmira/Almyra Lane in Essex County.

Elmira died in March 1872.

William & Elmira had one daughter known who was born in 1870 probably in April and who died in October 1873.

William remarried in 1875. At both of his marriages he gave his parents' names as John and Bridget.

William was a farmer and thus a search of land records is warranted. Finding out when/if he purchased land in Essex Co. will provide a better timeline for immigration

Continued in Part 3

November 5, 2018

National Heritage Digitization Projects

The National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) is providing $1 million to support 21 projects by archives, libraries and documentary heritage institutions throughout Canada. 

This is wonderful news. The following 21 projects will be funded by the NHDS:
  • Colony, Confederation and Country: Accessing the National Story Through the Lens of Prince Edward Island’s Historical Newspapers (Robertson Library, University of Prince Edward Island), Charlottetown, Prince Eward Island ($45,685)
  • The Robin Collection: Digitization, Access and Preservation (Musée de la Gaspésie), Gaspé, Quebec ($43,742)
  • Early Photographs of the Innu and Atikamekw Peoples (Université Laval Library), Québec, Quebec ($28,742)
  • Forging Fur-ways: the North West Company Fur Trade Collection (McGill University Library) Montréal, Quebec ($15,963)
  • Set of 146 Early Books in Indigenous Languages (1556-1900) (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec), Montréal, Quebec ($22,511)
  • Digitizing Past Issues of Bulletin d’histoire politique (Association québécoise d’histoire politique), Montréal, Quebec ($6,525)
  • Le Son des Français d’Amérique : Mixed Traces and Memories of Continents (Cinémathèque québécoise), Montréal, Quebec ($86,812)
  • Digitizing and Publishing Heritage Collections on Canadian History (Document Management and Archives Division, Université de Montréal), Montréal, Quebec ($81,141)
  • Discovering the Heritage of the Association canadienne-française de l’Ontario (1910–1990): A Living Memory! (Centre for Research on French Canadian Culture, University of Ottawa), Ottawa, Ontario ($86,805)
  • Digital John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir (Queen’s University Library), Kingston, Ontario ($65,033)
  • The MacGregor Collection (The Canadian Canoe Museum), Peterborough, Ontario ($9,925)
  • Digitizing Inuit Artistic Heritage (Inuit Art Foundation), Toronto, Ontario ($80,786)
  • Healing and Education Through Digital Access (Algoma University), Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario ($86,890)
  • First Nations and Métis Oral History Digitization Project (Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan), Regina, Saskatchewan ($8,700)
  • Indian History Film Project Digitization (First Nations University of Canada), Regina, Saskatchewan ($19,414)
  • The Idea of the North: Exploring Evidence of Resilience and Change (University of Saskatchewan), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan ($83,058)
  • Smoke Signals, Satellites and Servers: Digitizing the ANCS Television Archive (Sound Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta), Edmonton, Alberta ($36,744)
  • Chambermaids to Whistle Punks: The Labour and Lives of B.C. Women, 1890–1970 (Satellite Video Exchange Society), Vancouver, British Columbia ($16,098)
  • BC Gay and Lesbian Archives Audiovisual and Graphic Material Digitization Project (City of Vancouver Archives), Vancouver, British Columbia ($71,015)
  • What Becomes Canada: Digitizing Narratives of Exploration, Settlement, and Contact (Vancouver Island University Library), Nanaimo, British Columbia ($17,015)
  • Native Communications Society Digitization Project (Northwest Territories Archives), Yellowknife, Northwest Territories ($86,796)

November 2, 2018

A Canadian Case Study Part 1

Mixups & MisTranscribed Records, Oh My!

Michelle (Stephens) Hutchinson sent Olive Tree Genealogy a great puzzler from her family tree. Here is Michelle's email which I've edited slightly for length.
I've hit a bit of a brick wall in my search for my 2nd Great Grandfather William James Stephens, and I was hoping you'd be able to provide some direction. 
 I've told that he may have immigrated from England to Canada due to a scandal with a scullery maid, or that he was hanged as a horse thief.

Over the years, I've been able track down some information about him, but have never been able to get any details about his life before Canada.

William James Stephens, at 28 years old, first shows up in the 1871 census in Essex County Ontario, along with a woman who is most likely his first wife, Elmira at 23 years old.  William's age here is most likely a miscopy, and should have been 26 years instead, as all further records point to a birthday in 1839 or 1840.  I have not been able to track down the marriage certificate for this.

Next, he appears in a marriage record as a Widower in 1875, marrying my 2nd Great Grandmother Annie McLean.  They spent the rest of their lives together in Essex county.  In this marriage record, his parents are listed as John and Bridget Stephens, and his birthplace was England.

I've been able to prove that he was not, in fact, hanged as a horse-thief through his death certificate from 1906 in Essex county.

I haven't been able to find any details about his first wife (Elmira) other than her appearance on the 1871 census... and can't confirm if she came over with him or if she met him in Canada

So the questions I'm trying to answer are:

1) Who was Elmira?

2) Where was William James Stephens living in England before his immigration to Canada?

3) Was there in fact any controversy in his life?

Could you offer any suggestions on how to answer these three questions?
Olive Tree Genealogy Answers:

Thank you for outlining what you have found and what you want to know. That's a great help when posting a query. I can answer question #1 as I've found the marriage record of Elmira and your great grandfather William James Stephens and several other records concerning her. I believe I may also have found William's parents but that find needs to be verified.

Finding Clues and Figuring Out Where to Look Next

First I had a look at that 1871 census you mentioned. I wanted to see if there were clues that might have been overlooked. My first step was to head to to view the census image for myself.

You are right to not worry too much about age variations. Sometimes it is a simple misunderstanding of the census taker's question, sometimes it is not the individual giving the answer and sometimes an individual did not know his/her exact age or birth year!

Elmira's birth location is given as Ontario so that's an indication that she and William met and married in that province. I made a note to hunt for their marriage certificate.

But I wanted to keep studying the 1871 census first - and there's another clue for future research - the fact that William is noted as a farmer. Most farmers owned land. And an immigrant from England wanting to being farming would almost certainly purchase land shortly after arrival.

Land Records - A Valuable Resource
So a search of land records would be in order. It's probably too late for him to be entered in the CLRI (Computerized land record index) but I'd start there anyway. That would give you a precise land location if he's the first time owner of the land. From there you'd get the Abstract Indexes to Deeds to find out when his name first appears as being on the land.

This would help narrow the timeline for his immigration.


Unfortunately there are no comprehensive ships passenger lists of immigrants arriving in Canada prior to 1865. Until that year, shipping companies were not required by the government to keep their passenger manifests.  There are however lists that survived and other records which replace those passenger manifests. You can view a complete list of what is available and where it can be found, both online and off, at Filling in the Gaps

These alternate records include Shipping Company records, Immigration Agent records, Steamships on the St. Laurence records and more.

More Clues

A third clue is the birth of his daughter Annie who is shown as age 1 in the 1871 census. Finding her birth registration (if it was recorded) might give you more details for William and Elmira. Sometimes birth registrations have exact residence (land) locations of the father.

Little Annie provides us with more places to research. Since she doesn't appear in the 1881 census with her father and his second wife, it is probable that she died between 1871 and 1881. Finding her death certificate may provide new details on your family. 

Another clue, not found in the 1871 census, but which you gave me in your email, was that William was listed as a widower when he remarried in 1875. This means that Elmira died between the taking of the census in 1871 and his second marriage in 1875. So the next step would be to look for her death registration on

Looking for Elmira and William

Now we have several clues and ideas of where to look next in the online records. Let me walk you through what I did to find more on the family. I'll share my steps and the outcome in Part 2 of this Case Study.