Showing posts with label Genealogy Mysteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genealogy Mysteries. Show all posts

October 19, 2014

Buried Secrets: Who Is this Little Girl?

Recently a small box  containing what appear to be cremation ashes and a photo of a child was found in the backyard of a Washington City Utah home.

Buried Secrets: Who Is this Little Girl?
  Photo by Corbin Wade, St. George News and KCSG Television
The name Arline Fisher was penciled on the back of the photo. The owner of the home is attempting to find out who Arline is and are the cremated remains hers. The owner would also like to return the box to any next-of-kin or descendants.

Anyone with information that might help identify the appropriate recipient of this treasure, is asked to email

Continue reading this story at Buried secrets: Cremated remains found in backyard; finder seeks next of kin

October 17, 2014

My Top 10 Genealogy Mysteries

My Top 10 Genealogy Mysteries

A Facebook friend recently posted her top 10 Genealogy Mysteries.  They aren't brick walls because there is probably an answer somewhere, just waiting to be found.

I thought this was a great idea and I am following suit with my Top 10 Genealogy Mysteries. Of course any help or suggestions for further research are welcome. 

Here is my Number 1 of 10 Genealogy Mysteries:

Elizabeth Jamieson nee Shuart born ca 1801-1805 in New York or New Jersey

Elizabeth Shuart was born circa 1801-1805 in New York or New Jersey. At some time before 1835 she settled in Upper Canada (present day Ontario) and married James Jamieson from Ireland. Evidence and clues point to her being the daughter of  Henry Shuart and Rachel De Graw.

The only confirmed census records I have found for Elizabeth is the 1851 census for Flamboro West, Wentworth County Ontario. The family consisted then of

* James Jameson, 65, b Ireland, cooper
* Elizabeth 50 b United States
* James 16 b Ontario
* Lydia 14 b Ontario (my ancestor)
* George 10 b Ontario
 James disappears after 1851.  I found their sons James and  George in Michigan in 1870 and George in 1861.

George Henry Jamieson

In 1870 George Jamieson is in Austin, Sanilac, Michigan and next door is his brother James Jamieson

In 1880 George is Boone, Wexford, Michigan

In 1900 and 1910 George is found in Peninsula, Grand Traverse, Michigan. In both these census records he states that his mother (Elizabeth Shuart ) was born in New Jersey. In 1920 in the same location he says she was born in England which is not correct, so quite likely someone else in the household provided the information to the census taker.

George states in census records that he immigrated to USA from Canada in 1863 or 1864 which means he should be somewhere in the 1861 census in Ontario and fits with my findings. 

George's death record shows the following:

George Henry Jamieson
Birth: 17 Mar 1843 - Canada
Death: 18 Sep 1929 - Peninsula, Grand Traverse, Michigan
Spouse: Emily Squire
Father James Jamieson
Mother Elizabeth Shuirit [sic]

James Jamieson Jr.

Now for the contradictions: In 1880 James Jamieson (brother of George above) is found in Chase, Lake, Michigan. He says his mother (Elizabeth Shuart Jamieson) was born in Pennsylvania.

In 1900 James is found in Amber, Mason, Michigan. Here he claims his mother's place of birth was New York.

In 1910 and 1920 James is in Ludington Ward 1, Mason, Michigan and again states that his mother was born in Pennsylvania.

James gives his year of immigration as 1860 and 1861 in various census records but I have not found him in any census for those years in either USA or Canada. I believe I have found him enlisting in the Civil War in a Michigan regiment as a Private on 14 September 1864 at the age of 26.

Lydia Jamieson Vollick

George and James' sister Lydia is my direct ancestor and she married Isaac Vollick sometime before 1858. She is found with Isaac in the 1861 census for East Flamborough Tp Wentworth County and I have a good record of their lives up to their deaths near Hillsdale, Simcoe County Ontario in 1917 (Lydia) and 1904 (Isaac)


Rumour has it that Elizabeth Shuart Jamieson remarried twice after her husband James Jamieson's death. One marriage was said to be to a man named Decker, another to a man named Hunt.
I  found an intriguing 1861 census entry for 1861 Beverley Twp, Wentworth County Ontario

Decker, Richard, local preacher, 80 married 1806, b NY, Methodist
Elizabeth, 53 b Canada West
One name above is George Jamieson, age 18 b Canada West, labourer. This fits with James Jamieson and Elizabeth Shuart's son George's year of birth. 
Richard Decker appears to have died in 1868. See his gravestone. My next find was a marriage record in Beverley Twp, Wentworth Co. Ontario on 14 Oct 1869

Robert Hunt, 71, widower, farmer, born Ireland, Waterloo s/o John Hunt & Ann m Elizabeth Decker, 64, widow, born USA, living in Beverly, d/o Henry & Rachel ( no last name given). wtn. R.E. & S.A. Jameson of Beverley on 14 October 1869 in Beverly

Could this be my Elizabeth Jamieson? Henry and Rachel were the names of her parents.

Two more records in Grey County Ontario were found which add to the mystery and may or may not be for my Elizabeth.

Firsr is the death of Robert Hunt, farmer, 88, born Ireland died on April 4, 1887. Second is the death of Elizabeth Hunt, farmer's wife, 82,  died on April 11, 1887. Rev. Husband of Holstein was the informant in both these deaths and Dr. Brown was the doctor for both.  I believe these could very well be my Elizabeth Jamieson and husband Robert Hunt.

The Genealogy Mystery

Is this my Elizabeth Jamieson? Did she marry secondly Richard Decker and thirdly Robert Hunt? Did she die in 1887 in Grey Co. Ontario?

Summary of my findings for Elizabeth Shuart

  • 1801-1806 born in USA to Henry Shuart & Rachel DeGraw
  • 1851 census Flamborough West, Wentworth Co. Ontario with husband James Jamieson and children George, Lydia and James
  • 1851-1861 probable death of James Jamieson
  • 1861 census Beverly Twp, Wentworth Co. Ontario with husband Richard Decker and son George Jamieson nearby 
  • 1868 Death of Richard Decker
  • 1869 Marriage of Elizabeth Decker, widow, to Robert Hunt
  • 1871 census  Elizabeth and Robert Hunt are  found in Egremont, Grey Co.
  • 1881 census Elizabeth (born USA) and Robert Hunt are in Egremont, Grey Co.
  • 1887 Deaths of Robert Hunt and Elizabeth Hunt in Egremont, Grey Co. Ontario
What do I want to know?
  1. I want proof that my theories of Elizbeth marriages and deaths are correct OR proof that they are wrong!
  2. I want to know when James Jamieson died and where he is buried.
Miscellaneous Information

Children of Henry and Rachel (DeGraw) Shuart are
  • Joseph Shuart born ca 1790  married Christina
  • Lydia Shuart born ca 1794 NY or Pennsylvania m1 Job Skinner and m2 James McGarry
  • Margaret (Peggy) Shuart born ca 1798 NY or Pennsylvania  married Adonijah Taylor
  • Mary (Polly) Shuart born ca 1798 possbily in Pennsylvania married Joseph Mellick
  • Ellizabeth Shuart born ca 1801-1805 New York or New Jersey m1 James Jamieson m2 Richard Decker? m3 Robert Hunt?
  • Hiram Shuart born ca 1810 possibly in Pennsylvania  married Catherine Alice Skinner.
  • possibly Leah Shuart

All of these individuals settled in Ontario. It is believed that their mother Rachel (De Graw) Shuart also settled in Ontario as a widow.

September 29, 2014

WWI Canadian soldiers' remains identified

After almost 100 years these WW1 Canadian soldiers' remains have been identified. The Department of National Defence released the names of four men who died during the Battle of Amiens in August 1918.

WWI Canadian soldiers' remains identified
Wounded at Battle of Amiens
from Collections Canada
Their bodies were found  in 2006  in a back garden in Hallu, France, 120 kilometres north of Paris, by by 14-year-old Fabien Demeusere. Eight soldiers' bodies were uncovered but so far only 4 hav been identified. The remains of the eight soldiers will be buried next to each other near the graves of other soldiers from the 78th Battalion at a ceremony set for May 2015 at Caix cemetery in France.

  • Clifford Neelands
Neelands was born in Barrie, Ontario, and moved with his family to Winnipeg. He worked as a real estate agent before joining the 78th Battalion. Lt. Neelands was one of six officers in the 78th who died in the Battle of Amiens.
  • Lachlan McKinnon
McKinnon grew up in Scotland, arriving in Canada in 1913. He had worked as a butcher. After he enlisted, he was back in the U.K. by 1915. Before going to fight on the continent, he married a woman from Glasgow. Pte. McKinnon was seriously wounded in his left leg while serving as a rifleman on the Somme front in 1916.
  • William Simms
Pte. William Simms of Canada's 78th Battalion died in the Battle of Amiens in France on Aug. 11, 1918. (Archives/Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum) Simms was from a large farm family in Russell, Man. Pte. Simms took part in all the major Canadian offensives of 1917. One of his brothers also died in the war.
  • John Oscar Lindell
Lindell was born in Sweden in 1884, came to Canada when he was about 20 and ended up in Winnipeg. Lance Sgt. Lindell worked as a railroad foreman before he joined the 78th battalion in 1915.

Continue reading this  story at WWI Canadian soldiers' remains identified

September 28, 2014

Mystery Marker Found in Wagoner Oklahoma Cemetery

Mystery Marker Found in Wagoner Oklahoma Cemetery
The Three Forks Genealogy Society recently unearthed a mystery marker at Elmwood Cemetery  in Wagoner Oklahoma. The marker, found buried in the earth, read

 "The Year of Our Lord 1919, Bethel Hill A.M.E. Church." It listed the pastor as William J. Stanley and the church trustees as A.J. Foster, A.L. Rollins, R.A. Montague, J.L. Rollins, and J.H. Montague. 

Members of the Society have so far been unable to find out exactly who these individuals were and are asking for help from the public.

Continue reading this story at Group asking for public's help to identify mystery marker found in historic Wagoner cemetery

Credits: "Research" by jscreationzs on

September 21, 2014

Welcome Home Mable! Lost but now Found

A few days ago I posted about looking for Mable Savage

Welcome Home Mable! Lost but now Found
Mable Salvadge ca 1890s
When my husband bought lovely self-portrait (not a selfie, an actual painting done ca 1890s by Mable herself) , we were told that Mable (Mabel) Savage was a teacher in Stratford Ontario. But we've never been able to find Mable. Until yesterday.

Many of my wonderful readers tried to help find Mable. Several Facebook friends also tried to find her. We didn't have much to go on, just her name, place of residence, occupation and that she was thought to have never married.

One of my Facebook friends and reader of this Olive Tree Genealogy blog spotted my post and went on a hunt. Diligent and creative searching on led him to Mable Salvage (Salvadge), an unmarried teacher in Stratford Ontario. Further research on my part led to the conclusion that this is indeed "our" Mable! 

16 year old Mable is found living with her younger siblings and her widowed mother Fannie Salvage in Stratford, Perth County Ontario in 1891. Her grandfather William Ruff, 80, is living with the family. William and his daughter Fanny were born in England and Fanny was working as a carpet weaver to support the family.

Ten years later Mable is found living in the town of Mitchell which is just outside of Stratford. Her occupation is recorded as teacher and her date of birth 9 August 1874.

Going back to 1881 provides her father's name - Robert Salvadge age 42 and sadly the deaths of her father Robert and older brother Charles in October 1882 of Typhoid Fever.

Mable and her younger sister Louisa lived together for many years at 176 Hibernia Street in Stratford and are found together as early as 1935.  By the 1957 Voter's List, Louisa was not with Mable.

I also found Mable Salvadge on a list of school teachers in Ontario as of November 1932 and she was recorded as teaching at the Avon School. 

So now we have a bit of detail to type up and tape to the back of the beautiful painting that Mable created of herself as a young woman. This is what I love about collecting - finding the stories of the individual or individuals who once owned the item, and giving them a voice after many years of silence.

Welcome home Mable!

September 19, 2014

Looking For Mable

Several years ago, my husband bought a portrait of a beautiful woman. According to the antique dealer who owned the store,  the painting was done by Mable (or Mabel) Savage and was her self-portrait. Mable was said to be a teacher in Stratford Ontario Canada.

For years we have searched for Mabel to no avail. We do not know if she was a Savage by birth or by marriage. We estimate her date of birth to be ca 1870-1880 and this painting done ca 1890-1900.

Do you recognize Mable?  This is not the original frame. You can see from the shadowing that the portrait was originally in an oval frame that was not with the portrait. My husband bought the portrait loose and chose the mount and frame you see below.

September 15, 2014

DNA Gave My Husband a Completely Different Great Grandfather

A few months back I wrote about a surprising DNA match with my husband in a post called DNA Results Leave us Gob-Smacked! 
DNA Gave My Husband a Completely Different Great Grandfather
Comparison of hubs' mother's DNA with Alice
Hubs and another man were a .64% match with a predicted relationship of 2nd or 3rd cousin. I don't have permission to use his name so I'll call him John. John's family tree showed no surnames that matched hubs. Emails to John revealed that he was born in the same small town as hubs and his ancestors had settled there many generations prior, just as hubs' ancestors had done. 

A 2nd cousin match meant that John and hubs probably shared a great-grandfather, while a 3rd cousin match meant they shared a 2nd great-grandparent.

I was puzzled, as we had researched hubs' genealogy several generations back without seeing any link to John and his lines. John also had done extensive research on his lines several generations back. We knew who hubs' and John's great and 2nd great grandparents were - and they were not the same. 

John was as intrigued as we were, so our next step was to have John's mother and hubs' mother tested. We also tested hubs' father just in case the match was on his side. The DNA results were in - hubs matched John's mother (let's call her Alice) with 3.00% shared. Because we had also tested hubs' mother and father, we knew if matches were on his maternal or paternal side. It was conclusive - it was on his maternal side. 

A look at the matches for hubs' mother showed that she matched Alice (John's mother) with 6.9% shared and was estimated as a 1st or 2nd cousin. First cousins share grandparents, while 2nd cousins share great-grandparents. 

Comparison of hubs' mother's DNA with John

Since DNA doesn't lie, I had a closer look at John's family names, especially the names of his great-grandparents on his mother's side. John's great-grandparents were George Cooper & Sarah Jane Jickling. Suddenly I remembered a little tidbit of family lore that had passed on from hubs' grandmother on his mom's side. His grandmother had always claimed that hubs' grandfather Bert Holden was not really the son of Bristol Holden because Bert's mother Elsie Phyllis Markham had been "fooling around with the hired man named Cooper" If this were true it meant that hubs' great grandpa (his mother's grandfather ) was not Bristol Holden but someone named Cooper. 

Bingo! It looked like that family rumour might be true. I began researching the Cooper family in and around St. Mary's and found lots of supporting evidence for the rumoured parentage of Bert Holden. 

At the time Elsie became pregnant with Bert (August 1917) one of George and Sarah Cooper's sons lived beside Elsie Markham's brother Albert. One of George and Sarah's sons and a nephew lived beside Bristol Holden on his farm just outside of town. Who better to be "a hired hand" on the farm of Bristol Holden than either the son or the nephew?

Elsie married Bristol Holden 7 months before Bert was born.  She was 19 years old and had only arrived in Canada from England 4 years earlier. Her only family was two brothers one of who was killed 10 days before Bert was born.  Elsie was orphaned at 6 months of age and passed from relatives to strangers until her oldest brother (who was a Home Child sent to Canada at the age of 11) saved enough money to send for her in 1913. 

It seems very likely that poor Elsie found herself pregnant, either from the married son of George and Sarah Cooper or (more likely) the unmarried nephew, who according to John's mother Alice, was a known "rogue". Given her situation she no doubt was happy to marry Bristol. Did he know the baby was not his? We will never know. Elsie may have told him. Or she may have initiated some intimate moments with him, then told him she was pregnant. He would of course assume the baby was his. 

In the end it doesn't matter what the details are. We cannot blame Elsie. It was 1917 and she was a  pregnant unmarried girl. She had few choices. By all accounts she and Bristol had a happy marriage and she was a good mother. In the end that is what matters.

But back to the nephew. If he was Bert Holden's biological father, then Alice and hubs' mother are 1st cousins twice removed. Allice's grandparents were George Cooper and Sarah Jickling and this same couple would be hubs' mother's 2nd great-grandparents. 

The line of descent would then be:
  • George Cooper (1843-1922) & Sarah Jickling
  • George's son Herman Cooper (1873-1958) & Caroline Martin
  • Herman's son Gordon Alfred Cooper (1899-1970)
  • Bert Holden
  • Hubs' mother
  • Hubs
 Our theory is that Gordon Alfred Cooper was the biological father of Bert Holden. We are continuing our research to try to prove or disprove this theory. We may never find out whether it was George or one of his uncles or his father but we do know that George & Sarah are direct ancestors of hubs' mother.  We have eliminated some sons and grandsons of George & Sarah as being too young or too old. We have narrowed the suspect list to those with the closest proximity and who might have been "the hired hand" on the Holden farm in 1917.

One last item is that we have seen a photo of Gordon Alfred Cooper's legitimate daughter and there is a striking resemblance to hubs' mother at the same age. Just one little tantalizing bit more to add to the puzzle.

I would love to find some descendants of Caroline Martin's parents George King Martin & Hannah Robinson, have their DNA tested and see if they match hubs' mother. That should tell us if Bert's biological father is indeed Gordon Cooper or if we need to eliminate him and look at his uncles again.

September 2, 2014

More Questions Than Answers: The Fun of Genealogy Research

Yesterday I posted about my re-evaluation of an old record I obtained several years ago.  It can be read at In-depth Review of a Record Leads to a Genealogy Solution!
Carrying on with my new theory that my  ancestor Joseph McGinnis with wife Fanny, their baby daughter Bridget and Fanny's sister Margaret Downey, arrived in Quebec from Ireland sometime in late June or early July 1846.

My good friend Sue Swiggum of TheShipsList website, explained that the trip took on average 42 days then  new emigrants were encouraged to move out of Quebec city, and out of Montreal pretty quickly. Since Joseph was sent on from Montreal to Hamilton on July 9, 1846 I might expect him to have arrived by ship end of June or 1st of July.

Since I know the family came from Belfast and area, I decided to check British newspapers for notices of ship departures from that port to Quebec. I found several arriving on July 3rd but that would almost certainly be too late. Then I found a notice which looked like a possibility.

Friday 05 June 1846
Armagh Union. Monday 22 paupers left this place for Belfast to embark on the Belinda for Quebec  sent by the board of guardians by this Union. The emigrants were very comfortably clad, and otherwise equipped for their journey, and were accompanied by the efficient clerk to the Baord, Mr. M. McNeal Johnston and Mr. McCall, master of the house 

However Sue informed me that the Belinda didn't arrive in Quebec until July 20th so that ship is out of the running. She found two ships sailing from Belfast that seemed like good possibilities:

Arrival 24th June, ship MILTIADES left Belfast 14th May, with 391 passengers. Sue checked the Quebec papers and there were no more Belfast arrivals in later June issues. Checking the  9th July issue there were  no more ships arriving from Belfast.

There was an earlier arrival, on June 18th of the bark CHIEFTAIN, McEwine, from Belfast on May 1st with 182 passengers. 

The Miltiades looked like the best bet given it's arrival date just 15 days before Joseph and family were sent on at the expense of the government. I also checked Marj Kohl's Immigrants to Canada and found this reference to the Militiades:

Miltiades  from   Belfast     arrived 24 June.  21 people were sent on with assistance 

Since Joseph's name is on the list of those who could not afford to continue their journey and were transported out of Montreal to other settlement areas, things are looking pretty good for my Joseph McGinnis to be one of those 21 people sent on with assistance. 

There's a very nice transcribed ad for this sailing on the Irish Emigration Database

          THE Splendid First-class Coppered Ship,
             MILTIADES, of Belfast,

             674 Tons Register, 1,000 Tons Burthen,
                  WM. [William ?] GROOM, Commander,

To Sail, direct from Belfast, on TUESDAY, the 12th day
of May, on which day Passengers will require to be on board.
   This Ship's well-known superior accommodations, and
Captain Groom's kindess and attention to Passengers,
together with his great experience as a navigator, render
this conveyance most desirable for persons about to
   As the "Miltiades" is filling up fast, to prevent
disappointment, immediate application is recommended to
                    DAVID GRAINGER, Dunbar's-Dock.
   Belfast, 20th April, 1846.
A search of British and Irish newspapers provided me with the advertisement for the Militades in the Belfast Newsletter

The Irish Emigration Database also had this transcript for the Miltiades just prior to her sailing



          ALL persons who have engaged
      Passages in the Ship "MILTIADES,"
     are requested to be in Belfast, to go
     on board on TUESDAY, the 12th May, as
     she goes to sea the first fair [wind]
              DAVID GRAINGER, Dunbar's-Dock.

  Belfast, 4th May, 1846.

 The Miltiades will be succeeded by the splendid
new Ship "BELINDA," WM. [William?] KELLY, MASTER,
1,200 Tons Burthen, to sail for QUEBEC about the
25th of May; due Notice will be given of the exact
day of sailing.
 June 1846 saw the arrival of the Miltiades in this notice. No day was given.

 Arrived out at Quebec, the ship Miltiades, of
Belfast, Groom, master, after a quick passage
of 35 days-all well.

My search in British and Irish newspapers also brought up some interesting details of the Miltiades and her journey. The Belfast Newsletter of June 19, 1846 had a notice that the ship, having left Belfast on the 25th of May had been spotted by the Ruby Castle at Latitude 48 and Longitude 23

A check reveals its position was about 1/3 of the way on its voyage. It was about 630 miles from the coast of Ireland and about 1400 miles from Newfoundland. Interestingly, another notice in the May 16th edition of the London Standard indicates that the Miltiades left Belfast for Quebec on May 14. This sail date seems more in line with the advertised date of May 12th. Ships often left later than they hoped but a sail date of the 25th is almost 2 weeks late.

From Montreal, Joseph and family would have been given passage (paid for by the Government for indigent immigrants) on a steamer to Hamilton. According to Marj Khol's website:

The actual cost to the Department of an adult passage, with an allowance of 1 cwt. [Lorine's note: 1 cwt.=100 pounds] of luggage, from Quebec to Hamilton, a distance of 571 miles, is 20s. 9d., = 16s. 4½d. sterling. The time required is 72 to 80 hours.
I can imagine Joseph, Fanny, Margaret and the baby struggling on board a steamer with their trunks packed full of belongings - no doubt that included bedding, cookware, china, utensils, candles if they had any, perhaps pillows, items for the baby, and as much clothing as they could fit in to their trunks. They were very poor so may have had even less than I have listed here.

Once they reached Hamilton, Joseph and his family would have found life even more difficult. It was not until the summer of 1847 that the city discussed erecting a platform or gangway running into the water of Burlington Bay with a shed over it for use of immigrants. The Council also contemplated procuring a building to be used as a hospital and the erecting of sheds in case of sick immigrants arriving.  But I find no evidence that any kind of sheltering or assistance was in place in 1846.

The population of Hamilton in 1846 was under 10,000 and the large influx of impoverished Irish immigrants must have been overwhelming. Luckily Joseph had family members in Puslinch Township near Guelph so he had a few options for finishing the journey.

He might have had enough money, or been able to earn enough, to hire a cart or wagon to head up to the Guelph area. It is far more likely though that he and his family either hitched a ride with a returning farmer or sent for one of their McGinnis relatives to come down and get them.  It was another 30 miles to Guelph and Joseph's relatives lived in Puslinch which was on the way to Guelph. The road was rough and July is prime time for mosquitoes, so the journey must have been horrendous. It might have taken the family another 3 or 4 days to reach their final destination, depending how long they had to spend in Hamilton before continuing on.

In summary, I don't have proof of these suppositions. But they are my working theory based on what evidence and clues I have been able to find.  Thhe details, based on certain facts and best possibilities, help me to bring my ancestors to life. My great-great-grandparents are more alive for me today than ever before.

I will keep searching in hopes of finding facts to support my theory or disprove it. Meantime I treat my story above with caution, and advise any descendants to remember - it is just a story based on what few facts are available.

September 1, 2014

In-depth Review of a Record Leads to a Genealogy Solution!

Several years ago I sent for a transcribed record. It was for a Joseph McGinnis who was being sent from Montreal to Hamilton in July 1846. I hoped it was my ancestor who I knew had arrived from Ireland in Upper Canada (Ontario) between January 1846 and  September 1847. Since ships passenger lists to Canada did not have to be kept before 1865, trying to find an ancestor's arrival is challenging. 

However I was disappointed because the abstract recorded Joseph with two adult females and no children. Since I knew that Joseph and his wife Fanny came during the Irish famine with a daughter under the age of 1, this record could not be the right family.

I didn't have access to the original record so I set the record aside but didn't discard the idea completely that somehow it might be my Joseph. Perhaps the record was in error and should have read Joseph and 1 adult female and 1 child? That was my rather vague hope. With the record tucked away I moved on to other research but it was always in the back of my mind. 

This year I had a chance to view the actual image of the record set that contained Joseph's name. To my disappoinment, the page definitely showed Joseph and 2 Adult women being sent on to Hamilton at the Government's expense. 

I decided to study the document carefully. My first puzzle was the ditto marks (") in several of the columns. If I followed up to where the ditto marks began on Joseph's page, it seemed to indicate that the numbers in the 4 columns were: 1, 2, 2, 4. There were no column headings on the page with Joseph's name but the most logical thing would be if those columns showed Adult males, adult females and perhaps male and female children.if so, this was most definitely not my Joseph.

So off I went to find the first page of this record set. What I found confused me even more because the 4 column headings were: Adults M (male), Adults F (female), Male Adults, Female Adults.

Why would the clerk record adults twice? That made no sense. Because it made no sense I knew that there had to be a logical explanation. Perhaps the description of this record set would help. 

Before I tried to find the description I had another puzzle to solve. Some of the numbers were written in the first set of 2 columns, but some were in the second set. They were never in both.

I knew I need to scroll back through the microfilm until I found page 1. 

And there it was - the answer to my question. Reading very carefully and thinking about this description, the answer became clear. It was in the phrase  "shewing [showing] the adult persons single or in families..." Aha! The clerk needed to differentiate between married and single individuals. The columns were obviously for married adult men, married adult women, single men and single women! 

That also explained why some individuals were marked in Column 1 or 2 (they were married!) and others in Column 3 or 4 (they were single) 

But what about those ditto marks? A careful look at  the whole page showed that they could not be ditto marks because the totals added at the bottom would not work out. Those totals only worked by adding the actual numbers in each column and ignoring the ditto marks. 

It was pretty obvious now that what I thought were ditto marks (") were something else. And in fact a better look at the very last column for destination showed that the clerk used "do" for "ditto". Those marks (") meant zero, that is, no number in that column. 

And then came the biggest AHA! moment of all! This record set only recorded the numbers of adults traveling westward! It did not record numbers of children in the family. 

Going back to Joseph McGinnis and his record I took another look. A theory was popping into my head and I wanted to be sure I understood his record before formulating it aloud.

The original abstracted transcript I had received several years before was correct. Joseph McGinnis and 2 adult females were being sent on from Montreal to Hamilton on July 9th 1846. But the very important fact that had not been sent with the transcript was that the number of children in families were not recorded! 

This could easily be my Joseph with his wife Fanny and baby daughter Bridget. As for the second adult female, I have a very good possibility for that woman. Joseph's brother Daniel married a woman named Margaret Downey in Upper Canada in late 1846 or early 1847. My Joseph McGinnis' wife was Fanny Downey. I have always theorized that Margaret and Fanny were sisters but have not yet been able to prove or disprove this theory. 

If I go with this theory then  there is a very good possibility that the adult female travelling with them was Fanny's sister Margaret.

The last clincher is the fact that my McGinnis family had strong ties with the Hamilton community. As well that would be the only way to get to the Guelph area in 1846 - by taking a steamer west to Hamilton or going by land, and then taking the only road north which was between Hamilton and Guelph.

Thus it makes sense that Joseph would be sent to Hamilton and from there he would have to arrange a cart or coach to continue on to the Guelph area. 

I believe this is quite likely a record of my Irish ancestor's arrival from Ireland at the height of the Irish Famine. I will of course continue to research my theory by  looking for other records to support or disprove it. 

What did I learn from this? 

1. Always try to find the original, unaltered record
2. Study the original record. Analyze it. Question it. 
3. Study the record again. Make sure you completely understand how it was recorded and why it was recorded.
4. Develop a theory based on that record and seek evidence to prove or disprove your theory
5. Never give up - pull out records you found years ago and go through them again.

August 29, 2014

Death of a Stranger Solves a Family Mystery 103 Years Later

The stranger checked his pocket watch. Almost 9:15 pm. The train from Milwaukee should pull in to the Missoula train station any minute now. He began to gather his belongings - two large suitcases full of his wallpapering and painting tools. In 1911 it didn't do to leave your luggage out of your sight so he tried to keep it by his feet whenever possible.

When the train stopped, the man picked up his luggage, ignoring the twinge of pain across his chest. He was a short man, only 5' 8" and heavy, weighing almost 215 lbs. At 55 years old he figured he wasn't in as good shape anymore and wasn't surprised that his chest and arm ached.

Carrying these suitcases as he went door to door looking for odd jobs was enough to make anyone have aches and pains! He was a drifter and went from town to town in the Western states, barely making enough to pay for his travel expenses. But that was how he had chosen to live.

He liked being alone and going places where no one knew who he was and the cries of "There goes Nigger Joe!" FN no longer rang in his ears. For that was what the townspeople called him in the town where he grew up. His grandfather, a free man of colour from Pennsylvania, married an Irish woman and his father married a German woman so he could, and did, pass for white among those who had not known his family.

It was growing dark and was drizzling a bit, so he picked up his pace. Even though it was a comfortable 67' he was sweating as he hurried towards the stairs to the Higgins Avenue Bridge.  Trudging up the stairs he noticed he was out of breath and his chest was tingling with bursts of sharp pain. He hoped he'd find a room to rent fairly close by once he crossed the bridge into town.

The bridge was crowded with townspeople but he barely noticed as the pain in his chest increased. Halfway across the bridge, he stopped and set down his heavy cases, gasping for breath as a lightning jolt of pain hit. He leaned against the railing and then suddenly fell and lay there, not moving. A woman screamed and a few men rushed to him to see if they could help him up. But the stranger lay dead. One of the men shook his head and told his friend to run and get Doc Walsh or the town police.

The body was taken to the Undertaker where Doc Walsh went through the man's belongings. Letters revealed that his name was Joseph E. Butler and he had relatives in Grafton North Dakota. A telegram was sent to the local police in Grafton and a brother came forward. Jake Butler provided the police with Joseph's wife's name and address in Seaforth Ontario Canada and a telegram was sent to her. While we do not have that telegram we can imagine what it said

Regret to inform you of passing of your husband Joseph E. Butler. Please advise what to do with body.
It must have been a shock to Carrie Butler, his wife. Joseph had deserted the family about 10 years earlier and had not been heard from since.  He left behind his wife and 6 children ages 7 to 20. There was no love lost between Carrie and Joseph and in later years she would not talk about him or his disappearance, only saying "he went out west" when asked by her granddaughter Mary. Nothing more was said and no one had the nerve to ask Carrie for details. Again, while we don't have the telegram Carrie sent back to Missoula, we can imagine her terse words

Bury him in Missoula
And so Joseph E. Butler, my husband's great-great grandfather, was buried alone in the Missoula Cemetery in Missoula Montana. It took me over 15 years to find his death but last night was my genealogy breakthrough. I followed a hunch I had that he had ended up in North Dakota near his brother Jake, and finding a grave online for a J. E. Butler prompted me to look for records of this J. E. Butler. None were found, it was as if he had come out of nowhere. No census, no marriage, no sign that he had ever lived in or near Missoula Montana. So why was he buried there and with an actual marker?

A phone call by my husband's cousin Judy to the Cemetery and to the Funeral Home that handled his autopsy and death provided us with the following information:

Name Joseph E. Butler. Died May 17, 1911. Place of death Missoula Bridge. Coroner said Heart Disease. No name of coroner. Buried May 27, 1911. Paid cash but no name of who paid. 

The Daily Missoulian, May 18, 1911, p12
With that I went on a hunt for a death certificate or newspaper notice, something that would give us a place of birth or spouse's name. I still was not sure this was "our" Joseph at this point. At that is where luck and friends came into play. I found an index entry to a newspaper death notice placed in The Missoulian on May 18th and put out a request on Facebook for anyone with access to this edition to copy and send it to me. 

At the same time I began a search online and found that the Missoulian was available for free at Chronicling America. As I was pulling up that date, a Facebook friend sent me the article.  I eventually found 3 articles about Joseph and his lonely death in Missoula on the Higgins Avenue Bridge. 

Our cousin Judy mentioned how said it was that he died alone, but I don't think it was the saddest part of this story, for he chose the life of a drifter. 

For me the sad part was that his granddaughter Mary (my husband's grandmother) is not with us to learn what happened to her grandfather. It was a mystery she longed to solve and I would have loved to share this with her.

And so the story ends. 103 years later, Joseph has been found. Perhaps one day we may be able to visit his grave in Missoula and pay our respects.

FN This description of the nickname the townspeople had for Joseph came from the grandson of a man who knew Joseph personally. 

The Daily Missoulian., May 19, 1911, Morning, Page 10
The Daily Missoulian., May 23, 1911, Morning, Page 10,

July 4, 2014

52 Ancestors: Joseph McGinnis - A Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma

Joseph McGinnis - a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma
1871 Census Guelph Ontario Canada Joseph McGinnis & Family
I'm writing about my 2nd great grandfather Joseph McGinnis as part of Amy Crow's Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 

Joseph McGinnis came to Ontario Canada from Ireland in 1847 with a wife (Fanny Downey) and a toddler (Bridget aka Delia). He was about 20 years old and a general labourer. After the 1871 census was taken in Guelph, Joseph disappeared. What happened to him? 

There are two possibilities. Many of Joseph's family (either siblings or cousins, that relationship has not been worked out yet) left Guelph area after 1861 with their families. John and Daniel left after 1871 for Michigan. Constantine and Frank left shortly after 1861 - Francis for Ohio and Constantine for Michigan. Mary Jane left for Ohio after 1851 and Sarah left after 1864 for Iowa. It seems very possible that my Joseph could have left with John and Daniel, perhaps for the same area. Did he die there? 

Joseph is not found in the 1880 U.S. census, nor in the 1881 Canadian census. So did he leave Ontario after that 1880 census was taken but before the 1881 Canadian? My Fanny is found in the 1881 census for Guelph as a widow but with another puzzle added. More on that later in this blog post!

However there is another possibility - and another "wrinkle" thrown in to add to the mystery. For there was another couple in the same location, around the same ages, also named Joseph and Fanny McGinnis. Or was there? In 1877 a Joseph McGinnis died in Guelph. For years descendants, including me, believed this was our Joseph. But a search by me of the Catholic church burial records revealed that *this* Joseph was married to a Fanny Foster, not Fanny Downey! The thought that perhaps my Fanny Downey had been married more than once occurred. 

But in 1890 Fanny (Foster) McGinnis also died. Since Fanny (Downey) McGinnis was alive and kicking in 1891 and in fact did not die until 1904, the two women were not the same individual. 

But what about Joseph? Could he have been married to both women? Is he in fact the Joseph who died in 1877?  Is that why he disappeared after 1871 and no record of his death or his residence has been found? 

There is no trace of Joseph and Fanny (Foster) McGinnis in any census records. There is one Fanny McGinnis, a widow in the 1881 Guelph census. A second Fanny appears in that 1881 census for Guelph, also listed as a widow and with her 15 year old son Joseph. Given the errors that creep into census records the age difference (Joseph should have been 17) isn't enough to say that this one isn't my Fanny. But certainly one of the women must be mine.

But because there is no trace of Joseph #2 (married to Fanny Foster) it leads to suspicion that indeed there may only be ONE Joseph McGinnis - married to two different women.

It is possible that my Joseph did indeed die in 1877 and that Fanny Downey left Ontario with her youngest children - perhaps to live with a sibling or other relative. Another intriguing fact is that Daniel McGinnis, who was either the brother or cousin of my Joseph McGinnis, and the man who moved to Michigan with his family after 1871, was married to a Margaret Downey. Was she my Fanny Downey's sister? Could my Fanny have left Ontario to live near her sister, then moved back to Ontario by 1881? Or did she never leave Guelph? There is not much to go on other than the census every 10 years. Catholic records for Guelph are not open to the public so I am unable to search to see if she happened to be a baptismal sponsor for grandchildren during those crucial years 1871 to 1881.

That brings me to trying to decide which is the most likely scenario - that my Joseph packed up his family and left Ontario for parts unknown, died there, and his widow Fanny Downey moved back to Ontario to be with her eldest daughter OR that my Joseph was married to both Fanny Foster and Fanny Downey and that he died in Guelph in 1877? 

I don't know. I waffle between one scenario and the other. I have spent years going over and analyzing the clues and the documents I've found on the family. Sometimes I feel I'm going in circles, hoping for that one clue that will provide me with an "aha!" moment.

June 24, 2013

Help Solve the Mystery: Who Was This Woman?

Help Solve the mystery: Who Was This Woman?
The Seattle Times
Recently a fascinating yet sad story was posted in The Seattle Times. It's about Lori (Kennedy) Ruff who killed herself in 2010. 

"The death of a wife and mother in Texas revealed a case of stolen identity with a connection to the Northwest. Now a Seattle investigator is trying to figure out who this mystery woman really was."

After her death her husband opened a locked box which Lori had kept hidden. It it he found scribbled notes, birth certificates, death certificates, driver's licenses with his wife's photograph but under different names and in different states.

Eventually Ruff and a Social Security investigator realized they had uncovered a case of a woman who ran from her past and hid under a dead girl's identity. This Tuesday you can join Times reporter Maureen O'Hagan and Joe Velling, Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle investigations office of the SSA, for a live chat and updates about the case at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Read the full story and see all the documentation and clues at She stole another’s identity, and took her secret to the grave. Who was she?