March 24, 2017

March Update WW1 Service Files Canadian Soldiers

Sample from PDF file for James Cecil Sandercock, KIA
Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of March 2017

The following press release came into Olive Tree Genealogy's mailbox:

As of March 15, 416,749 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:
  • Latest box digitized: Box 7059 and last name McLelland.

March 22, 2017

Mother's Adventures Part 1 Australia at Age 80

As mentioned in a previous blog post, my mother was an adventurer. At the age of 80 she made a decision to backpack through Australia. On her own. I had set her up on a computer when she was in her late 70s, and showed her how to email and look around on websites for genealogy information. She enjoyed doing this and often spoke to me about how much fun it was to "smurf" the 'net. Yes that's what she called it - smurfing the 'net.

Mother (3rd from right) in Australia waiting for her hot air balloon ride
We had relatives in Australia and Mother met new people through her mailing lists and genealogy forums. This spurred her to wanting to go to Australia to meet some of them. Her final push to go was when she asked me to book a hot air balloon ride for her for her 80th birthday. I wasn't able to do that and so she decided her gift to herself would be the trip to Australia where she'd find that hot air balloon ride she wanted.

To get ready for the trip, mother purchased a pink Barbie backpack - one made for children. She was only 5'1" tall so a child's pack fit her perfectly. Next came Tilly clothing - 2 sets, plus a Tilly hat. Adding socks and underwear, a few toiletries, and an extra pair of shoes, mother declared herself ready. She fit everything she needed into that backpack and booked her trip.

Here are her own words from her trip journal with some editing for brevity:

As my 80th birthday was only a year away I thought it wise to go somewhere that I knew for the first trip alone.  I could then branch out with confidence. My first trip was on a tour for 20 days to Australia and New Zealand.  I flew from Toronto to Vancouver then to Hawaii, then to New Zealand.  I had been in touch with a cousin who lived  near Wellington and she and her husband were going to come to the hotel on the evening of our return from the North end of the island to compare our notes on our Family Tree.  It was a lovely visit and we each found things to add to our respective family trees. It was exciting  to finally meet the family I had found through research in New Zealand. 

I had no idea when I started researching  the Stead family that some of them had emigrated to New Zealand as well as Australia.  I had been in touch with the ones in Australia for some years as one of the relatives had made a trip to Canada sometime in 1950.  I only met him once for a few minutes and did not remember him.  One of my mother’s brothers emigrated to Australia and the rest  of the family came to Canada.

I enjoyed New Zealand the only thing that I didn’t enjoy was the rain, it rained 10 out of the 21 days we spent there.  If you are going on a tour by yourself you can ask to be teamed up with another  person who is alone and hope you get a partner who is compatible.  This time I was not very lucky as she was discontented and surly.  This lady had only booked for two weeks instead of three so I had a week by myself.  I was glad because we did not get along.  It was the only time I had a problem with partners  on my trips. It could have spoilt [sic] the last two weeks as she did not speak to me unless she had to.  

After we saw all the sights on the north island we boarded the boat for the south island which was completely different to the north  even the climate was different.  It was colder and there were mountains which we did not see in the other part. We went right down to the end and the mountains were quite high there.  There was snow on the top of them and the last night there was quite cold.  I really did not expect it to be so cold.   I was sick and had to call the leader about 10:00 at night and get a doctor to come out and see me.  This was the only time in all my travels that this happened.  I ended up with a throat infection and had to keep by myself as much as possible.  No one else got sick thank goodness and in a day or two I was fine.

We went back up to Wellington and took the flight to Sydney to finish this tour. By the time we got to Sydney I was fine.  We had a tour of Sydneys water front, saw the new opera house and other things of interest  there. .  My cousin met me there and took me home with him.  I added some more time to my trip and changed my flight to come back home as I wanted to ride the train across country to Perth on the Pacific Ocean.

I booked the train ride and Frank, my cousin, drove me to Sydney when the time came to leave for the West Coast.  He  got  on and was very impressed by the accommodation.  I had a room by myself with a bed and a cabinet holding a toilet and wash basin so that I could get a wash in the morning if I did not want to go out to the shower room in the morning.  There was also a little seat so I did not have to go out of my room unless I wanted to. 

I was sitting on the stool the first morning and a lady came walking along and asked if I was alone.  I said I was and she came in and sat down and we introduced ourselves and decided to go to breakfast together.  She was wonderful company and we spent the rest of the journey together..  We had a wonderful trip and we still correspond.  

We got to a little place called Kilgori just on the edge of the last state which to find that the railway employees were on strike and we could go no further until it was settled.  We had two days  in this little backwater of a town before we could go on.  People who booked trips on the west coast were put on buses and rode all  night to catch their tours and the rest of us stayed on the train until the strike was over.  We had a great time on the train waiting to go on.  We really got to know each other and the train personnel very well. be continued

March 20, 2017

A Lost Village of Freed Slaves

In the late 1800s a small village of freed slaves began on the outskirts of Cambridge Massachusetts. Not much is known of this community which apparently was called Lewisville. The authors of a new book on the history and settlement of Cambridge discovered records of the village accidentally when studying an 1870 map.

Typical slave cabin
According to the authors, Lewisville was an "African-American settlement that dispersed before the Civil War, where many members went to Africa in the African immigration movement. But it really disappeared in the 1880s."

Read more at In tracing Cambridge history, researchers uncover lost village of freed slaves

Because I was curious about who had lived there, I searched the 1870 census and found 201 black individuals listed as living in Ward 2 of Cambridge. I cannot say with certainty that these were families in Lewisville but I plan on doing more research to see what I can find out.

The Summer 2013 Newsletter of the Cambridge Historical Society has this small excerpt which may provide some clues as to the origin of the community's name:

Just east of Observatory Hill was a free, self-sufficient African American community, known as Lewisville, from the beginning of the 19th century. This settlement was roughly between Concord Avenue, Garden Street, and Shepard Street. Some of the residents were the descendants of slaves of the Vassall family, and by the middle of the 19th century, some had become political. In the early 1850s, Adam Lewis joined the abolitionist colony at Dawn, Ontario, and in 1858 Enoch Lewis led a group of 23 members of the Cambridge Liberian Emigrant Association to settle in St. Paul’s River in Liberia.
In 1850 and 1855 he is found in Ward 1 with other black famiies.

The Dawn Settlement, founded in 1841, was a rural community where Blacks could pool their labour, resources and skills to help each other and incoming settlers. It contained farm land, a saw mill, gristmill, brick yard, rope manufactory and school.  Adam Lewis, age 31, is found in this settlement in the 1851 census of Upper Canada (present day Ontario) with his wife Mary and 6 year old daughter Frances.

Adam's death certificate of 1900 indicates his place of birth as Missouri and it is possible that more information could be found if anyone were interested.

March 18, 2017

Rescued Photo Album 1930s Carillon Quebec

Old family photo albums are such precious items. Often they can be found lying neglected and in sad shape in flea markets and antique stores. When I can afford them, I rescue them and put the photos online in hopes a descendant will spot the treasure.

Recently I stumbled on this 11x7 inch photo album from the 1930s. It is chock full of family photos of individuals, of tombstones and even a photo of students in a school classroom from 1934.

Almost every page is dated and has the location noted, but there are very few names. However the tombstone photos provided wonderful clues and I was able to solve the mystery of what family is represented in this album. I won't make you wait - the family is the Flynn family of Carillon (near Montreal) Quebec. This album also reveals the intermarriage of the Bradley family and others.

Here is page 1 of the Flynn family album. 

This tombstone reads:

In Memory of William Flynn
died 29 December 1905
age 57 years 5 months

Agnes B. Flynn
died March 16 1899 
age 21 years

Jane Dundon
wife of John Flynn
died 18 June 1899
a Native of Co. [Limerick?] Ireland 

The tombstone photo is labelled 1928. There are two missing photos, each labelled with dates but no other information.

To follow this project as I scan and place the photos online, just choose "Flynn Photo Album" in the right side bar. If you are related to this family, and would like to own the album, email me at for details.

March 17, 2017

Elsie Markham, A Courageous Woman Whose Secrets Were Revealed with DNA

Elsie on her way to Canada 1913
Elsie Phyllis Markham had no idea of the tragedies she would experience when she was born 27 February 1898 in London England. On October 19 when she was just 8 months old, her 32 year old father Albert died. Her mother Edith (nee Finch) was 28 years old, a widow with three children under the age of 8. Sadly, Edith too died just one month later on November 27, 1898.

The orphans were then separated. For a brief time a neighbour tried to care for them but soon found it too much. An aunt took the children in but her husband objected so little Albert, 8 years old, was admitted to Barnardos Homes in February 1899. Although Albert Markham was not his biological father, the name and whereabouts of his actual father were not known. He had no one to care for him.

His younger brother Frederick, 4 years old, was sent to Miller's Orphanage and Elsie, not quite one year old, was taken in by an older Scottish couple.

Albert, Elsie's half-brother, was sent to Canada as a Home Child when he was 11 where he was very unhappy. He was treated like an indentured servant in his placement with an older couple on a farm. He ran away many times but was always found and sent back. Eventually he was sent to live with a family in St. Mary's Ontario - and there he was treated as a son.  With hard work and by saving every penny he made, he was eventually able to save enough to send for his two siblings. Young 15 year old Elsie arrived in Canada in September 1913 and several months later, Albert was able to be pay for Frederick's passage. Frederick arrived in May 1914.

Albert, illegitimate son of Edith Finch before her marriage, in Barnardo's Homes England
Elsie soon found work as a servant in a local home and four years after her arrival she found herself pregnant and unmarried. A few months later she married a local farmer Bristol Holden. But there was more sorrow for Elsie. On 7 April 1918 her brother Frederick was killed in action in France during WW1. 10 days after her brother was killed a boy was born to Elsie and named Herbert. Herbert, aka Bert, was my husband's maternal grandfather.

Frederick Markham in WW1
We had no idea that Bert's father was not Bristol Holden until my husband and his mother had their DNA tested.  It was then that we learned Bert's biological father was another man. Then the pieces began to fall into place. There had been a persistent family rumour that Elsie had been "fooling around with the handyman Cooper". Sure enough the DNA match that showed Bert's dad was not Bristol Holden matched a man named Cooper. His ancestry was also from St. Mary's.

After several months of intensive research, and matching DNA to another Cooper descendant, we were able to narrow the search for "the handyman Cooper" to one of two men - with the likely culprit being Gordon Alfred Cooper who lived next door to Elsie's brother. He was remembered by those whose parents knew him as a bit of a scoundrel. And that fit very well with poor Elsie getting pregnant and perhaps being deserted by her lover. In fact records indicate that Gordon did leave St. Mary's for several years. In fairness to Gordon however we don't know the facts - perhaps Elsie never told him she was pregnant.

Whether or not Bristol knew that Bert was not his son is not known. Did Elsie tell him or did she trick him into believing Bert was his? We will never know and it really doesn't matter because there is no judgement on Elsie no matter what the story was. Elsie and Bristol had, by all accounts, a happy life, and Bristol and Elsie went on to have five children - one son and four daughters.

The past is the past and the only thing I find a bit sad is that poor Elsie probably never wanted anyone else to know about her circumstances. But genealogy research is all about the truth, whatever it may be. 

March 16, 2017

Who Do You Think You Are? Jennifer Grey

On this Sunday’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? at 10/9c on TLC, actress Jennifer Grey uncovers the truth about the emigrant grandfather she thought she knew, learning how he survived adversity to become a beacon of his community.

Jennifer also uncovers the devastating tragedy that stopped her great-grandmother from ever making it to America.

Catch a sneak peek of the episode here:

Next week’s episode follows actor Noah Wyle.

Photos (credit: TLC)