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February 28, 2009

DNA Genealogy - The Kit Arrives

The big day had finally come. The Family Tree DNA kit arrived first (probably because I ordered it a few weeks before my husband ordered his DNA kit). I was ready to have my brother come up and take the test so we could have our McGinnis Y DNA tested.

The kit was very user-friendly, instructions for use were easy to understand but we hadn't realized that my brother would need to collect 3 samples. As well, the instruction sheet (DNA COLLECTION METHOD) stated that scraping of the cheek for sample cells had to be done before eating or an hour AFTER eating and drinking. Each sample had to be collected 3 to 4 hours apart.

That was tricky logistically as my brother had only come up for the day and somehow we had to get those 3 samples taken before he had to head back home (an hour and a half drive). For anyone who has the collection kit in their own home it is not a big deal.

Family Tree DNA kindly provided 4 simple drawings showing opening the kit, scraping one's cheek, inserting the sample into the collection tube and sealing it. The instruction leaflet was 8 easy to understand steps.

My brother vigourously began scraping the inside of his cheeks for the required 60 seconds. Since the leaflet stated "A great scape gives us a great sample" he scraped quite forcefully to the point where his cheeks bled! That was overkill.

The next scrape was 3 hours later and unfortunately I forgot to start a timer for 60 seconds. So my poor brother scraped for almost 3 minutes (it's amazing how one's sense of the passage of time can be so wrong!) before we realized it was well past the 60 seconds required.

After all our little goofs, we were set. We had all the tubes inside the provided plastic bag with our kit number. We sealed it, my brother signed the release form and we put everything in the self-addressed envelope to be mailed.

Then we sat back and waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed to take forever but of course DNA testing, like good cooking, requires time and patience! It can't be rushed. Approximately 5 to 6 weeks later we got our first email from FamilyTreeDNA saying our first set of markers was complete. That was pretty exciting!

I had, after a lot of reading, decided on what DNA project(s) to sign up for on FamilyTreeDNA so I'll talk about that process in my next post.

February 27, 2009

DNA Genealogy - Friend or Foe?

Last year I decided to jump on the DNA Genealogy bandwagon. I wanted to find my McGinnis Family origins in Ireland and my years of slogging through microfilm and contacting others had not turned up any new clues. Even the county they originated from eluded me!

So I started reading about DNA, DNA testing for genealogy purposes, which companies were selling DNA kits, which DNA studies were considered the best and so on. It was extremely confusing! I didn't understand enough to know if I was comparing apples to oranges.

What was the difference between the number of markers being compared? Did it matter which test I purchased or what company I bought it from? The only thing I was sure of was that I wanted a Y-Chromosone test and that one of my male relatives (with the McGinnis surname) would have to take it on my behalf.


Paternal DNA tests give you information from your father's side of the family. It can provide close family connections and likely ancestors. Only males can have a Paternal DNA test done, and if you are searching a specific surname, the male being tested must carry that surname. Basically this is the DNA passed down from father to son through the generations

Maternal DNA tests follow your mother's line, back on through female ancestors only. So a Maternal DNA test will follow the path from your mother to her mother, to her mother's mother, and so on.


After a great deal of research, I narrowed my choices to DNA testing and Family Tree DNA.

HOW MANY MARKERS? DNA testing offers a 33 marker Paternal Lineage Test (Y-Chromosome 33) or a 46 marker Advanced Paternal Lineage Test (Y-Chromosome 46).

FamilyTreeDNA has a 12 marker, 37 marker and 67 marker test kit.

FamilyTreeDNA was much more money than DNA testing

Both companies DNA tests included analysis of the markers of a man's Y-DNA as well as predictions of the haplogroup of the paternal lineage. Your haplogroup identifies the general area where your ancestors migrated tens of thousands of years ago.


Eventually I decided to go with the FamilyTreeDNA 37 marker Paternal Y-Chromosome - DNA Test which is $250.00. My husband ordered the DNA testing 33 Marker Paternal Lineage Test (Y-Chromosome 33) which is $79.00. We wanted to try them both to see what the differences were between them.

Then came the wait for the kits to arrive. In my case I also had to work out the logistics of either getting the kit to my brother or getting my brother to drive to my house after the kit arrived.

At least the wait gave me more time to do more reading on the subject! I'll talk about taking the test samples and also the results of the DNA tests in a later post.

February 26, 2009

1916 Canadian Census online has the 1916 Canadian Census for the Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to their online Canadian Census Records databases

This database is an every name index to individuals enumerated in the 1916 Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta and also includes images of the original census documents. Information listed includes: name of each person in the househould, gender, age, birthplace, relationship to head of household, year of immigration to canada, military service, and religion.

This adds to the existing Canadian census records for

* 1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia
* 1891 Census of Canada
* 1901 Census of Canada
* 1906 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta
* 1911 Census of Canada
* Ontario, Canada Census Index, 1871 - Free Index

February 25, 2009

2009 Declared Year of the British Home Child

Between 1869 and the early 1930s, over 100,000 impoverished or orphaned children were sent to Canada from Great Britain during the child emigration movement. These children were known as British Home Children.

They came as young as babies to age 18. An estimated 12 per cent, or four million, of Canadians are descended from a British Home Child.

New Brunswick is the first province in Canada to recognize the contribution of the British boys and girls brought to Canada a century ago by declaring 2009 the Year of the British Home Child.
"The Great Britain of the late 19th century was marred by poverty, pollution and social imbalance," Justice Minister T.J. Burke told the Legislative Assembly after tabling his motion of the declaration on Dec. 16, for which he received unanimous support of the house

As a result of the devastation in Great Britain, a number of charitable organizations emerged to create the British Child Immigration Movement. Both the Canadian and British governments supported the program, which reduced the cost to British taxpayers and provided Canada with workers and young children for adoption.

But once here, the children who came along with their unusual accents, faced the pain of separation from their families, ridicule from communities and even their new families, abuse and often horrendous working conditions as labourers and domestic helpers on farms across the province. [Source:]

You can search theBritish Home Children ships passenger lists from 1865 to 1935 on Library & Archives Canada website.

If you find a name of interest, and if the child was a part of the Dr. Barnardo's homes, you can contact Barnardo's for the records. They can be reached at

My husband has a British Home Child in his ancestry and sending to Barnardo's for his records provided a wealth of informative genealogical detail plus photographs of the child when he was admitted to Barnardo's Homes in 1897.

Marj Kholi's Young Immigrants to Canada website is another must for those seeking a British Home Child ancestor. Descendants can also check the British Home Children Registry for a name of interest.

Another website of interest will be the British Home Children Descendants site.

February 24, 2009

Graveyard Rabbits - Sisters killed on board Galway Castle in WW1

The new Graveyard Rabbits Carnival is starting! The topic for the premier edition of this carnival is "exceptional finds." Share with us those rare and unique cemeteries, gravestones, monuments, memorials, inscriptions, etc.

This is a Funeral or Memorial Card for two sisters who were killed on the same day in 1918 on board The Galway Castle

In Loving Memory of
Ivy and Freda
The dearly loved children of Howard and Frances Reeves of Johannesburg, who were lost in the Galway Castle which was torpedoed by a German submarine when returning home from England

On Sept 12, 1918
Aged 9 and 7 years

"An Enemy Hath Done This"

February 23, 2009

Problems with Cook County,Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988?

Richard Carruthers wrote to with a very informative and interesting study he has undertaken.

Because Richard's email is quite long I have edited it for publication here on It will be useful for thos searching in Cook County Illinois Death Records on

In 1886, Edmond Henry ROBERTS) married Illinois-native, Minnie C.
SMITH. They had four daughters and one son all born in Illinois between 1887 and 1903. I have located all but the youngest daughter in on-line Cook County birth indexes on the new LDS prototype page.

I checked the "Cook County,Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988" which is online at Ancestry.comand found no relevant entries. I have tried
several ways to search for them, and have had some very curious results about which I thought you might like to know and consider.

First, in the search box provided by, I put in the surname ROBERTS. That yielded a total of 2,058 results for the entire span of the collection, but no Edmond/Edmund ROBERTS entries at all. There were 5 records for a Minnie ROBERTS, but the likeliest who died in 1943 when our Minnie (SMITH) ROBERTS would have been about 75 years old, turned out to be for a Minnie Spencer ROBERTS

Then I looked more carefully through my old files, and found that years ago (on 30 May 2000!), I had copied from LDS microfiche number 6016533, records from the actual index produced by Cook county, which covers much of Chicago. Labelled "Cook County Illinois Bureau of Vital Statistics 1877-1916", and had found the following entries which looked promising:

on MFC 53/70 (all bearing the number 6016533)

Name Date of Death Age Place Certificate Number
ROBERTS, Edmund H.; Dec 14 1911; 50 YR; Chicago; 0000016378
ROBERTS, Minnie; Feb 7 1911; ?40 YR; Chicago; 0000016096
ROBERTS, Minnie; Dec 3 1915; 30; Chicago; 0000017450

Armed with this information, I returned to the database 1908-1988 decided to leave all fields except the one for the year blank in the search box. It turned out that no death records are indexed for anyone dying in Cook county, Illinois in 1911 appear in the index. Then I tried a bunch of other years, and finally did a systematic search of records using only the year in the box provided
for that. The results that yielded were very interesting and rather disappointing.

First off, the database actually contains death records starting as early as 1897, but missing for 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, and 1914 entirely. For the rest of the years to 1916 I got the following results:

1897-1 record
1898-10,858 records
1899-8,513 records
1900-14,040 records
1901-7,964 records
1902-5,872 records
1903-4,903 records
1904-3,393 records
1905-2,335 records
1906-4,234 records
1907-6,487 records
1908-14,918 records
1909-287 records
1910-1914 no records at all!
1915-35,402 records
1916-39,673 records

These are records for a database that supposedly covers the period 1908-1988 and contains 2.7 million records according to's own on-line information!

Examining the entries over the foregoing period, I discovered that from 1897-1915 all the records appear to cover only names where the first name is made up of two letters and the last name is made of four letters! Most of these names appear to be entirely nonsensical. I suppose that some of them may include the deceased person's initial and the first four letters of their surname, but this is by no means clear. There is no explanation of this shortcoming in the explanatory information that provides about this database. It is surely relevant, too, that only in 1916 do real names as we use them appear in the index. At least I can report that this happens most of the time. Some records still appear in the 2-4 letter format of the earlier years.

Clearly there are problems with this database. I know from the microfiche that the real records indexed by Cook County, Illinois's Bureau of Vital Statistics exist for the period 1871-1916 in an entirely comprehensible, standard format. What then is the online database purporting to cover the period 1908-1988? For one thing, it
doesn't cover all the years from 1908 to 1988 as advertised, and in fact contains records from at least a decade earlier. The coverage, however, only appears to begin to be accurate from 1916, though it still has some of the problem material over the earlier years I've already outlined. It's really misleading to a researcher not to be
alerted to these deficiencies in the version of the index.

February 21, 2009

Smile For the Camera - I'll Stand By You

Step 8 (Genealogy Research Papers) of creating a Genealogy and Family Hope Chest is not quite finished so today I'm submitting another entry for Smile For the Camera: Brothers & Sisters.
The word prompt for the 11th Edition of Smile For The Camera is brothers & sisters?

I collect CDVs (Cartes de Visite) which basically are photographs taken between 1854 and the 1880s. I'm particulary interested in Civil War era photographs. I love the formality of these early photos, the elaborate gowns the women wore, the hairstyles and accessories (hats, gloves, jewellery, books, etc) and the stiff poses of individuals. Each CDV is a moment in time, captured on film forever.

Yesterday I posted Smile for the Camera - Little Beauty and her brother which is a CDV taken ca 1858 of little Cornelia Fowler and her big brother Smith.

Today I want to contrast that 1858 photo with a recent photo of two siblings. This photo was not posed in a studio, it was taken outdoors in 2007 on the first day of school. Because it is recent I'm not going to reveal the subjects' names.

The clothes obviously are quite different from 1858! But what strikes me is their little faces. Little sister leans her head spontaneously on big brother's shoulder and gives a loving smile. Look at big brother's half-smirk, slightly embarrassed, as if saying "Ho-hum.... Here we go again....".

He is protective big brother, she is adoring little sister. It's one of my favourite modern photographs of all.

Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 8: Genealogy Research

Well here we are at Step 8. We are ready to tackle the Genealogy Research we've done over the past 10, 20, 30 or more years. That's a lot of paper!

Everyone works differently. Some researchers use binders to store their research. I use filing cabinets.

I have 2 cabinets with 3 drawers each - the kind that sit sideways, each cabinet is 3 ft wide. I also have a regular filing cabinet with 2 drawers and 3 sets of loose hanging file folders on top of furniture in my office.

And let's not forget the piles of research papers defying the laws of gravity sitting on my desk!

It's not feasible to think that any family member, no matter how passionate they are about genealogy, will take all my filing cabinets and papers home with them after my demise.

No library, archives or musuem will want them either. Many genealogists mistakenly believe that their research will be welcomed by these institutions but for 99% of us it will be a "thanks but no thanks". (If you happen to be famous, I'm sure your papers would be gladly accepted!) These institutions simply haven't got room for storage of such items, nor do they have the staff it would take to go through personal research papers and organize and archive them.

So - what to do? We've dedicated a great deal of time, energy and money into this consuming hobby of ours, and we don't want our research findings to be lost forever.

My personal solution is to create booklets on each family name. These booklets can be printed, coil bound and donated to a library or local archive. Here are 3 examples of pages from a booklet I am creating for my King & McGinnis families of the Guelph area of Ontario

Example 1

Share them with as many family members as you can. I plan to donate a copy to the archive and library in the area where my furthest back ancestor first settled.

Example 2

So for example my booklet on my King family who settled near Guelph Ontario circa 1847 will be donated to the Wellington County Museum & Archives, and to the Guelph Public Library.

Your booklet does not have to be complete! Don't wait until you have found that last piece of the puzzle, print up what you have NOW and share it. You can always send an update or addendum or print an entirely new copy for Libraries or Archives

Example 3

Your booklet can be a few pages or hundreds. You can concentrate just on your direct ancestry or you can do all the siblings and their branches. There is no right or wrong. It is whatever suits YOU.

Make sure you put copies of your original records in with your booklets. Make copies of microfilm copies of the various records you found over the years. Put them all in the booklet. That way even if your filing cabinet(s) full of paper and records are lost, you have preserved your research in booklet form.

My husband prefers the scrapbook type method. He makes one digital scrapbook per family and only for his own direct ancestors. He likes to have more graphics than text and he draws little borders around the different items he chooses for each individual.

For example he might put a newspaper clipping on the same page as a census report and a church record for one individual. Each item has its own unique border to help set it apart. One short paragraph for each ancestor is added. He ends up with a very nice (and easy to read!) scrapbook on his ancestors.

Whatever method you choose, just do it. Don't fuss too much, don't wait until you are "finished" because we are never finished our genealogy research! Create your booklet and have fun.

February 20, 2009

Coming Home - The Story of Dad's Ashes

My father came home yesterday. Forty-nine years ago at the age of 47, he died. After being cremated, his ashes were interred in an unmarked grave somewhere in a cemetery in a very large city.

I knew what Cemetery he was in but when I went there to visit him on my 20th birthday, I was told that there was no way to find him as he was in a type of pauper's field. Since he had no marker, the cemetery staff said it would be impossible to find his resting spot. That news was quite upsetting to me but I accepted it and went on my way.

Seven years ago a very kind and generous individual heard my story and took it on himself to investigate further. My father's resting place was found, duly recorded in the cemetery books. I don't know why staff didn't look that up for me when I was 20...

I was thrilled but didn't want him there without some kind of marker. But what to do? Move him to another spot in the cemetery? I didn't like that idea as all his family is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Guelph Ontario.

This month my mother passed away and the decision was made. Since Dad was born and raised in Guelph, and married my mother there, and since his parents, brothers and several sets of grandparents and great-grandparents are all buried in Woodlawn, that is where he would go.

The cemetery arranged to disinter my father and ship his ashes to me for re-interment later in Woodlawn Cemetery (now called Woodlawn Memorial Gardens) It was a very happy day for me yesterday when I picked up my father's ashes at our local post office.

49 years later, his journey is almost complete. In the spring we will have a little ceremony to welcome Dad and Mother to their resting places in Woodlawn.

February 19, 2009

Smile for the Camera - Little Beauty and her brother

Another short break from my posts about how to begin a Genealogy and Family Hope Chest to submit an entry for Smile for The Camera.

The word prompt for the 11th Edition of Smile For The Camera is brothers & sisters? Were they battling brothers, shy little sisters, or was it brother & sister against the world? Our ancestors often had only their siblings for company. Were they best friends or not?

This is one of my favourite pictures from my collection of over 3,000 CDVs (Cartes de Visite). It was taken ca 1858 of Cornelia and Smith Fowler, children of Dewitt Fowler.

Look at the tenderness in little Cornelia's hand lying on top of her brother's. I love her little basket purse with the flowers and her hair so carefully done in ringlets. Little Cornelia is dressed as a miniature adult as was the custom for that time period. Smith is sitting upright in his chair looking very serious as befits an older brother.

Sadly little Cornelia died shortly after this photo was taken. She is buried in Waites Corners Cemetery in Cambridge New York. Her big brother Smith is buried there too. He lived until age 54, dying in 1903.

February 18, 2009

Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 7: Memories & Stories

Can you believe there is still more to talk about in our plan for creating a Genealogy and Family Hope Chest?

Your memories and family stories are invaluable. The story your grandmother told you of riding in her dad's Model T in the rumble seat may be lost forever unless you preserve it. What about the stories your mother told you of her dad's love of practical jokes? And Grandma telling you about how much she loved her mother's dumplings. These are precious memories that deserve to be passed on to future generations.

Any family lore about your ancestors' origins or personalities may also disappear with the next generation. That story of your Great grandpa Sam making dandelion wine and getting drunk on it is priceless! The family lore that Great Grandma Lizzie was considered the blacksheep of the family and eloped with your great grandfather against her parents' wishes - it's all you have to make her come alive as more than a name and some dates.

Maybe your family never told you any stories but that's okay because you have your own memories of them! What do you remember of your grandmother? Your grandfather? There must be something and your memories are worth sharing.

The first step is to share those stories and your memories verbally. Tell your family, your children and your grand-children. If they roll their eyes you know they've heard the stories before but that's good! It might be fun to pick a traditional time of year, such as Christmas. Go around the table and have everyone tell their favourite story of an ancestor or family member at the table.

The next step is to write your stories and memories down. That doesn't mean write them in your genealogy progam and you're done. That doesn't mean write them down and file them in your overstuffed filing cabinet and you're done. Nope, you have to write those stories and memories down in such a way that they will be saved and carried on.

There are different ways to accomplish this - you can write them as part of your own Memoirs. They can be inserted gradually into a daily journal or diary that you keep. They can be written as part of the notes about an ancestor and a Genealogy Booklet created to be shared with other family members.

But here's a few tips - if you are writing your memoirs or keeping a journal, choose a book to write in that looks important, expensive or old. It's all pyschological but if you write on scraps of paper or in a cheap Daily Planner, the odds are those writings will be tossed out.

I use handcrafted leather books that have handmade paper from Iona Handcrafted Books - they look like something that should be kept, not discarded. My handmade leather bound journals also make me feel like writing in them! I talked about these journals in an earlier post called Keeping a Journal for History & Genealogy The idea is to make your journals look important and worthwhile so that the next family member is reluctant to throw them away.

If you are creating a Memory Booklet to share with other family members, be creative in its title. Pyschologically people will save something called "Memoirs" even if not interested but will probably toss "My Story".

Think about it - most of us are reluctant to throw out a Bible even if we are not interested in the Family Register pages within. But if we are not interested in such genealogical items we would not hesitate to toss out individual pages titled "Family Register". I like to think about my audience and not all my descendants will be as passionate about genealogy and the preservation of family stories and data as I am.

Subconsciously, something handwritten is considered more worthwhile and important than something typed. Handwritten is unique. Typed may be mass produced.

We tend to save items that we deem important, thus the handcrafted leather journal with handmade paper filled with my messy handwriting has a better chance of surviving through several generations then something I type on 8 1/2 x 11 paper, coil bound. So why not do it all? Type it up and share it. Write it out by hand and keep it in your journal box.

I talked about storing documents and original papers in an earlier post Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 5: Original Documents.

I love antiques so I have a collection of various size boxes and trunks. I use them for my document and journal boxes. This little set of three assorted boxes has come in very handy for me. The bottom one is my Journal Box, the middle one is for my mother's journals and the top one stores CDs right now. That will change as I think of more family genealogy items I want to preserve and store.

My Document Box is full so I have a separate Antique Box where I store my journals. I like to keep them separate anyway. You can see that my earlier journals weren't always these nice leather-bound books! What a hodge-podge. But since I have them all together in one nice antique box, I think there's a good chance they'll be kept and preserved by future generations.

February 17, 2009

Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 6: Treasures

We're making good progress in the plan for a Genealogy and Family Hope Chest. We've organized and identified old photographs, and stored them safely after making copies for other family members.

We've separated original documents from photocopies and stored those documents in a document box.

An interesting thing has been happening since I started writing these posts. I've taken a second and third look at my own cherished family items - and realized I have a great deal more work to do in organizing and preparing them for others to have one day. Last night my I created (by hand) a fan chart showing 5 generations of my ancestry. These were added to my document box that I talked about in Step 5: Original Documents.

Now it's time to move on to actual physical objects - the family treasures we have inherited and cherished over the years. Objects such as jewellery, china, family silver, a book that belonged to an ancestor, etc. go into this category. Maybe you have Uncle Henry's College ring, Grandpa's clock that sat on the mantle, Great-grandma's bride basket, your Grandmother's bible. Some objects will be huge, others small.

To Keep or Not To Keep, That is the Question

The first thing you must do is decide whether you are going to KEEP all your cherished objects (they will eventually be passed on in the family) or give some (or all) away to chosen family members. Do you want to safeguard the items and hope they are passed on to interested family members after your demise? Or would you prefer to hand-select family now to take over the guardianship? It isn't an all or nothing choice, you might want to keep some of the family treasures while passing other items on. But you do need to make that decision.

Your basic choice is KEEP or PASS ON. When you pass an item on be sure you have labelled it if possible or that you give information about it to whoever is getting the treasure.

Show & Tell

My grandmother told me endless stories of her family and family heirlooms she had. She showed me the items repeatedly - my grandfather's engraved gold pocket watch given to him by his parents on his 21st birthday, his watch fob and chain, her wedding ring, his signet ring, her grandmother's Prattware pot lids, her mother's special knives and forks, a toast rack her mother used ... and so on.

With each item she told me the story behind it. I knew more about Grandma's precious family objects than I did my subjects in school! Hearing the same story so many times really stuck in my mind. When I was a teenager, Grandma passed on almost all her treasured and cherished family items to me for safekeeping. I am so glad she did because they would almost certainly have been lost otherwise! I was not around when she passed away and no one would have known the stories behind these objects.

Keeping Your Family Heirlooms

Let's assume you are keeping some or all of your family heirlooms. What next? Now you have to decide

1. Do you want the items out where you can see and enjoy them?

2. Do you want to store the items safely until you have decided who gets them or you have passed on and someone else has to make that decision?

Your basic choice is DISPLAY or STORAGE

Displaying your Family Heirlooms

This choice is fairly easy to accomplish - just choose where and how you want to place your treasures in your home. I talked about ideas for displaying family mementoes such as medals and other small objects in an earlier series of posts on Displaying Family Heirlooms

Before you display your items take a good look at each one and see if you can safely label it on the back or the bottom. You want to label each item if possible with a brief description - what the item is, who owned it, who gave it to you and when.

If you can't safely attach a label, this would be a good time to take a photo and label the photo. Hopefully you already did this if you were following along in Step 1 making a list and taking photographs.

If you already have certain family members in mind for some of your treasured items, this would be a good time to add that information to the label or photograph.

Storing Your Family Heirlooms

Perhaps you don't want to display your family mementoes but prefer to store them safely until you are ready to give them away to others or your executors are carrying out your wishes. All you need do is pack them safely and carefully in a clearly labelled plastic storage tub or wooden blanket box or some other container.

It's a Personal Choice

My personal preference is to display my family treasures. Some, like Grandma and Great-Grandma's teacups, I use. I don't want the items packed away where I can't see them, I want to enjoy them and think about the ancestors who once owned them.

When my grandchildren visit, I show them some of the items that I think will interest them. I talk about who owned them, when and where they lived, and how the items were passed on down to me. I tell them that they might one day in the future be responsible for cherishing and guarding some of the objects I'm showing them. My hope is that I can instill a sense of pride and family responsibility as well as eagerness to own and cherish these items too.

Of course I am also trying to do a bit of brainwashing and watching to see which of the grandchildren might be "The One" who will carry on. With any luck there will be more than one! I have my eye on my 11 year old grandson as a future guardian for he is the one who asks for the family stories and who refers to himself as my "history-loving grandson" But I'm not ready to make any decisions right now, I'm still enjoying the wonderful memories and treasures that have been given to me to cherish by others long gone.

February 16, 2009

Baa baa blacksheep, have you any cows?

I'm going to take a one day break from my posts about my plans for a Genealogy and Family Hope Chest and write my first entry for the Canadian Genealogy Carnival 4th Edition: Black Sheep Canadian Ancestors

The topic is Black Sheep Canadian Ancestors. The prompt states
Do you have a blacksheep ancestor in your family tree? Maybe one of your ancestors was a rogue, a scoundrel, a cad or just someone who done Grandma wrong...

Did great-grandma spend time in prison? Was Grandpa a bigamist? Did Great-Uncle Harry try to set fire to his neighbour's house? Most of us have one or two rebellious ancestors who didn't quite fit the mold. Even if you haven't got a blacksheep Canadian ancestor, tell us about any blacksheep Canadian.

While I have a fair number of blacksheep ancestors, none of them are Canadian! But I remembered today that I have a Canadian blacksheep relative. Two of my great-grand uncles qualify for this title.

They didn't do anything too horrific by today's standards, but they did end up spending 18 months in jail so I think that qualifies them as blacksheep! Here's the story directly from the newspaper of the day:

The Elmvale Lance, Dec. 5, 1901


Albert and Herman Vollick and Gabriel French who were accused of stealing a heifer from James Johnston of Flos were found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in Central Prison.

Judge Ardagh characterized the offence as a very grave and serious one, and punishable by 14 years in the penetentiary: though the Vollicks may have been led into it by French, he did not consider they were entitled to any leniency.

Albert and Herman Vollick were the brothers of my great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Vollick who I have written about before on this blog in Putting Flesh on the Genealogy Bones. Albert Nelson Vollick was born 1869 in Hay Tp Huron Co., his brother David Herman (Herman) Vollick was born 1879 in Wentworth Co. They moved to Simcoe County Ontario with their parents and siblings some time after 1881.

Can you believe the punishment could have been 14 years in the Kingston Penetentiary? Wow, just for stealing a cow.

I have another Blacksheep person in mind to write about in a future post, she wasn't my ancestor but she was an ancestor of my daughter-in-law. I think you'll find her extremely fascinating!

February 15, 2009

Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 5: Original Documents

We've taken care of all your wonderful family photos, now let's move on to those original documents in your possession!

An original document is something that is unique, one-of-a-kind. It isn't a copy of a record found in an archive or library and once it is lost, it's gone forever.

Examples of Original Documents

Your original documents might include Great Grandpa's land deed from the 1800s, Grandma's Family Bible, Great-great grandma's journal she kept while taking a Conestoga Wagon across Pennsylvania to Upper Canada, letters written by your father to your mother from WW2 or WW1, Certificates, Receipts for Funeral Expenses for Great Grandma's sister, School Report Cards, original military papers of your great-uncle, the passport issued to your grandmother in the 1920s, etc.

There's always exceptions to the "rule" and it is true that some of these family documents can be found again. The military papers may be held in an archive, a vital statistics registration may be available to researchers, but they are not the original document saved by the family. You can set your own "rules" of course! These are just my definitions/rules for the plan I came up with for my personal Genealogy Family Hope Chest.

Don't Forget About YOU

Don't forget that your own items are important, and one day your descendants will be thrilled that you thought to preserve them. So toss in your Report Card from Grade 2, your Certificate of Good Citizenship from Grade 4, your old diaries, your will, legal papers, Marriage Certificate and whatever else you have that will become of historical or genealogical interest in the future.

Yes, you too may be part of history one day. Did you write about 911 in your journal? About Obama becoming the first African American President of the USA? Perhaps you wrote about a family death and funeral or a family reunion or a birth or marriage. Even if you simply made a one line notation of these events it becomes historically or genealogically interesting. So don't discount your own importance in the Genealogy Family Hope Chest.

The Hope Chest

I think choosing the right container for your treasured documents is very important. You want to maximize the chances that the chest you choose will be kept by one of your descendants. So you need to pick one that conveys importance and that would look good in someone else's home. It should also be small enough to be easily carried by one person, so something like a blanket box is not the best idea.

Why do I call it a Hope Chest? Because I hope it will be cherished and passed on down many more generations!

This is one of the boxes I use for keeping my family documents, letters, papers and journals in. I chose it because it's an antique, it looks great, and it looks like something that should be kept.

Having the documents in a box like this makes it almost certain that at some point in the future one of my descendants will pick it up and take it home. I doubt they'll throw out anything that is inside, because it has an implied importance by virtue of being in the box in the first place! This box is about 21"x14"x6" and I haven't filled it yet.

Start a Hope Chest for your Children

One of the things I did for each of my sons was to gather together their baby books, their little bracelets worn when they were first born, school certificates, report cards, trophies won, and other memorabilia from their childhood. Then I placed these treasures in WW2 Ammo boxes with rope handles that I won at an antique auction. I stencilled their full name on each box to personalize it. Each was given his box when he left home and set up a house of his own.

My sons tell me that they have added their own mementoes since that day, and I feel pretty confident they will pass those boxes on to one of their own children. I don't have a photo of the boxes I bought for my sons but here is an ammo box that looks similar. I wanted something masculine and durable for them. If I were doing this for a daughter I'd choose something more feminine

The next generation to take care of my Genealogy Family Hope Chest might not ever look through it. But I'm willing to bet they keep it and tell one of their children that it belonged to Grandma or Great-Grandma Lorine, and that it should be kept and passed on to the next generation.

February 14, 2009

Canadian Genealogy Carnival 4th Edition: Black Sheep Canadian Ancestors

The next topic for the Canadian Genealogy Carnival is Black Sheep Canadian Ancestors

Do you have a blacksheep ancestor in your family tree? Maybe one of your ancestors was a rogue, a scoundrel, a cad or just someone who done Grandma wrong...

Did great-grandma spend time in prison? Was Grandpa a bigamist? Did Great-Uncle Harry try to set fire to his neighbour's house? Most of us have one or two rebellious ancestors who didn't quite fit the mold. Even if you haven't got a blacksheep Canadian ancestor, tell us about any blacksheep Canadian.

Share the story of your Black Sheep Canadian ancestor in the 4th Edition of the Canadian Genealogy Carnival.

The deadline for submissions is April 26 at midnight EST. Submissions will be posted on April 30.

How To Submit

After you write your story on your blog, you can write to me at Be sure to mark the Subject of your email as "Canadian Genealogy Carnival" Include the title of your post, the permalink URL, your name, the name of your blog and a brief introduction to your story.

If you prefer, you can submit using the form provided at

If you aren't sure if you have a blacksheep ancestor, see the list of Blacksheep individuals in Canada at Maybe one of those listed is yours! I'm looking forward to reading about your Blacksheep Ancestor!

February 13, 2009

Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 4: Share those Photos!

Photos are fairly easy to share and pass on. There are many methods but here's a few I have used:

* Scan your original photographs, then print them on good quality photographic paper. Label them on the back (using a proper pen for writing on photos) Mail to family

* Scan your original photographs, then create a collage (Picassa does a nice one) or Memory Book, with text describing each photo. Mail the bound Memory Book to family members.

* Take your favourite family photos to a photography store. Have them enlarged and then choose a nice mat and frame for each one. Give them as gifts at Birthdays or Christmas.

On the left you can see a few of the family photos I have enlarged and framed for myself.

Once you have framed a photo, be sure to print neatly on the back with pen! Put the date you framed it, your name and a brief biography of the subject. I have dozens of framed, labelled ancestor photos on the walls of my house (over 75 at last count) and while I have made copies to send to family, no one else has the huge antique frames I have. Some day my framed photos will be passed on and I want to be sure that whoever gets them next will know exactly who each person is and how they are related to that person.

My advice is to never frame your original photographs. Make good quality copies and frame those instead. You honestly can't tell them from the original! Put your originals (identified on the back of course) in a small, convenient container, and label it. Use several containers if necessary, depending how many originals you have.

I have all my pre-1950 photographs sorted by family (McGinnis, Peer, Vollick, Fuller, Simpson and so on) and I have one small clear storage tub for each. Labelled of course!

For duplicates or photos that I know I want to pass on to certain individuals (such as my grandchildren or children) I bought larger tubs labelled with the name of whoever I want to have the photos. So for example I have a large tub labelled with the names of two of my grandchildren and in it are the photos I already know I want them to have.

My older CDVs, Cabinet Cards and tintypes are in archival folders and binders. You can also buy a lovely container that looks like something anyone would want to have, and put your photos in that.

Choose whatever method suits you best but remember -- the idea is to make it EASY for your Executor to go through your home and carry out your wishes. If your photos are in file folders or dozens of photo albums, they are less apt to be saved or to be passed on to others.

You don't know who will be clearing out your belongings - a spouse, a child, a grandchild... but whoever it is will presumably be grieving and exhausted. They may have limited time or energy to carry out the task! So make it easier for them. Sort, organize and label.

February 12, 2009

Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 3: Categorize!

Okay you have made a list of all your family treasures and heirlooms. You've taken photos of each one. You've added a description of each item. And you've started your own Show & Tell - showing each item to children, grandchildren or other family members and telling them the story behind it.

Step 3 of my plan to make sure family treasures are cherished, preserved and passed on, is to do some categorization. We need to categorize what type of heirlooms we have. We need to figure out HOW we are going to preserve and share our treasured items but each one has its own unique challenges to overcome.

Not every item can be shared and preserved in the same way. I have a method of sharing and preserving my family treasures which is unique to each category. I want to share these ideas with you in separate posts (one for each category).

It's important to get an idea of what you have, where it fits (what category) and then take steps to follow a unique plan for each category. In my plan there are 5 categories of items I want to share with other family, as well as pass down to future generations.

1. Family photographs. Are you the keeper of the family photos? I am, and I believe it's my responsibility to preserve and share these with other family members.

2. Original Paper Items such as documents, letters and journals. This does not mean photocopies! An original document is one that can't be found somewhere else. Once it is lost, it's gone forever. But a photocopy of an entry in a church register, for example, can be obtained by someone else at some point in time. So if you have great-grandpa's letters written to great-grandman, or grandma's daily journals, or your own journals, or Uncle Fred's Enlistment Papers for WW1, they would go in this category.

3. Objects such as jewellery, china, family silver, a book that belonged to an ancestor, any physical object goes into this category.

4. Memories & Stories. These are not tangible. These are the stories that Grandma told you about her childhood or her father. Your own memories count too. Your memory of your mother ironing while singing a song to you goes in this category. You've probably already figured out that these memories and stories need to be written down but I want to talk more about that in a separate blog post

5. Genealogy Research. Yes you are going to want to see your research preserved and I've got some ideas on how to make that happen.

For now, take a little time, check your list of treasured family items and see if you want to add anything to that list. Then start thinking about what categories things fit into. You might want to consider how you think you can best preserve and share those items, before my next blog post.

February 11, 2009

Genealogy and Family Hope Chest Step 2: Let's Talk!

Step 2 of my plan to preserve and pass on cherished family heirlooms and documents involves starting with your children and grand-children at as young an age as possible.

This part is fun. The idea is for you to brainwash your family! Entice them with stories of each treasured object - who it belonged to, where they lived, how you ended up with it and what you want to see happen to it.

Keep talking to your children, grand children and anyone else who will listen. Tell them the stories until their eyes glaze. Your hope is that someone at some point in the future will actually remember something you said.

You could even tie this in to the Ancestor Cards I made for my grandchildren, and talked about in a previous blog post. Why not create a card for each treasured object and write a description of it explaining who owned it, when, and where and how it came into your possession. Play games with your grandchildren using the cards. if you have a photo of the person who owned the object put the photo on the Ancestor Card and on the reverse put the item photo plus description. Anything that gets your children or grandchildren's attention is good.

My own grandmother told me endless stories of her family. She repeated them several times a year. She showed me objects - her husband's gold pocket watch, his watch fob and chain, her wedding ring, his signet ring, her grandmother's Prattware pot lids, her mother's special knives and forks, a toast rack her mother used ... and so on.

With each item she told me the story behind it. I knew more about Grandma's precious family objects than I did my subjects in school! Hearing the same story so many times really stuck in my mind. Yes I forgot a few, for example I have several teacups Grandma gave me but I can't for the life of me recall whose they were.

The point is to maximize the odds in favour of your family heirlooms being remembered and cherished by at least one member of your family. To do that you need to talk and show and be enthused about each item. I've done this with my sons and my grandchildren since they were little. Now my grandchildren ask to see the items, and they love the stories I tell them of their ancestors.

You'll also have a wonderful opportunity to spend some one on one time with your children or grand-children. You'll also begin to see who might be a potential candidate to carry on the torch. If you are lucky there will be one child who is intrigued and wants to know more, who asks to hear your stories.

That will bring you to other decisions later - such as who will you pass your family heirlooms to - but we'll talk about that in a later post.

For now, start talking!

February 10, 2009

An Older Woman in Her Glory

This is my entry for Smile for the Camera: Costume
The word prompt for the 10th Edition of Smile For The Camera is Costume? No, not as in Halloween. Costume as in dress in general; especially the distinctive style of dress of a people, class, or period. Show us that picture that you found with your family collection or purchased that shows the costumes of the rich to the not so rich, from the civil war to the psychedelic sixties.

You can't get much more typical Civil War era than this older woman in fashionable gown. Her bonnet is a bit old-fashioned but that was very common with older women. They often stuck to a hair style or bonnet they had worn in their younger years.

Starting a Genealogy and Family Hope Chest

Going through my mother's boxes from her apartment, and re-examing Doris' Genealogy Box has made me stop and think. Have I made sure that the genealogy and family treasures in my care are going to be passed on to others for safe-keeping?

I am sure that many of us have such treasured items. Even if we have no family heirlooms we have our genealogy research and papers. I've learned that when a loved one dies, it is not always easy, or possible, to preserve precious documents or heirlooms. Even if saved, how and when does one pass them on to others?

It should be easy. You save everything you think is worth saving, and immediately decide you are passing everything on. Done - not your problem anymore. But wait! Who says the folks you want to pass these treasures on to are prepared to accept them. I'm learning it's not as easy as you might think.

Will Others Treasure Your Treasures?

Another scenario - you have family treasures that you enjoy so you don't want to pass them on to others now, but you want to be sure they go to other family members when you are gone. That's even more difficult to guarantee.

There are logistics involved in passing on family heirlooms and genealogy papers. If you expect your journals to be kept for the next hundred years or more, you should be thinking ahead to the problems future generations might encounter. People move. Families split up. Your great-grandson might treasure your journals but his wife may think they are just taking up space and getting musty and dirty. You might have so many journals that they become scattered and lost.

What about Great grandma's wedding ring? How will you ensure that is passed on and its history known and shared?

Your great-uncle's Military Medals and papers - is it really logical to think that a jumbled mass of documents with some tarnished medals is still going to be kept all together by one descendant and its provenance still remembered?

Who Wants Your Masses of Genealogy Papers!

And your genealogy papers and records that take up 4 filing cabinet drawers or 10 binders. Who on earth is going to want to store those? Even if you have a son or daughter ready and willing, what are the chances that the next generation will accept those 4 filing cabinets of papers and store them safely?

Who Will Carry the Torch?

I've been giving this a lot of thought over the past year and even more so since my mother passed away. As the unofficial keeper of the family photos and treasures in my family, I need to make sure that everything I love and hold dear will go on to the people I think most apt to pick up the torch and continue to cherish them.

I thank my lucky stars that my grandmother passed on most of her cherished heirlooms to me when I was a teenager. She saw an interest from me and she leapt at the opportunity to tell me the stories of who owned each item and what it meant to her.

It must have been difficult for her to let them go in her lifetime but it was a very wise step on her part. Had she waited, it is unlikely many would have been saved when she died, as no one but me knew their significance. And I was many miles away with no say over who in the family was given any mementoes.

Develop a Plan

So I have developed a plan - a Genealogy & Family Hope Chest - for helping to ensure that treasured family items and genealogy papers do get passed on and cherished by others. I call it a Genealogy & Family Hope Chest because you cannot of course guarantee that what you consider important to pass on will be preserved and passed on by others. All you can do is hope. But along with that hope you can take steps to maximize the possibility that what you want will happen!

Step 1

Let's start with Step 1 of the Genealogy & Family Hope Chest

First, make a list. Yes, sit down today and make a list of all the family treasures and heirlooms that you have in your possession.

Beside each item, write a brief description of its provenance - who owned it and how old it is, and how and when it came into your possession. Take a photograph of it or scan it. Do this for each cherished item you have.

Print the photos. You can print 4 to a page or 6 to a page, or print each separately. It's up to you. Make sure you clearly label each photo with the name and brief description of what it is. Yes, you're duplicating your list you just created, but in a visual format.

You now have a written or printed list of family heirlooms with a description of each. You also have a photo of each family heirloom clearly labelled and described.

Put one copy of the list and photos in your Safety Deposit Box (if you have one) This is just to safeguard against losing the other copy!

The other copy (list plus photos) should go in a manilla envelope marked "FOR MY EXECUTORS" and placed where your Executor(s) will remember to go to first. You have written a will and appointed executor(s) haven't you? Phone your executor(s) and tell them where you are putting this envelope and what is in it. (You should already have such an envelope which contains instructions on what you want done with your remains, where your safety deposit box is, a list of bank accounts, lawyer's name etc but that's a topic for another blog post)

This is the Family part of your Hope Chest, don't worry about your Genealogy papers just now. We'll get to those later. You can have a break now and relax. I'll talk about Step 2 of a Genealogy & Family Hope Chest in my next blog post. I think you will find Step 2 is a lot of fun!

February 9, 2009

Military Records: Looking Under a Stone, not just peeking behind it...

This is a photo of my Grandmother's brother Sydney Simpson. Sydney was born in Ramsgate Kent England in 1897.
I knew Uncle Syd, as we called him, for he lived in Toronto and came to visit our family fairly often. But Until I saw this photo in Doris' Genealogy Box, I had no idea he had been in WW1.

A search of the online CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force) records of soldiers in the First World War brought up the front and back of his Attestation Papers.

This was terrific to have but something that is often overlooked by researchers is that Library & Archives Canada has a nice little link called "How to consult a file on-site or order a copy of the complete file" This should not be overlooked when you find an ancestor's WW1 Attestation Papers online!

The Attestation Papers are simply the record of the soldier's signup - the date he/she enlisted, where it occured, some vital information about the individual and whether or not they were accepted and so on. But what is not online is the full file on that soldier! That file can be 2 pages. It can be 100. Most Canadian Expeditionary Force service files contain an average of 25 to 75 pages. You have no way of knowing until you order it. The cost is very reasonable and it is well worth taking the time to fill out the order form online.

I have ordered dozens of WW1 CEF files for individuals. Items included are often a list of promotions or demotions, major movements (events) such as being wounded, disciplinary action, arrival in England, to the front lines, hospitalization, leave and so on. You can also see what unit the soldier was in, and if he was transferred, when he was discharged or if he died, etc.

So remember, don't overlook the value of military records in your genealogy research but more importantly be careful to ensure you have obtained the full records and not just a small portion of them!

For Canadian military records, there is much more available online than just WW1

February 8, 2009

The Joy of Genealogy

As I continue my unpacking of my mother's 11 boxes of documents, photos and miscellaneous items from her apartment, I find myself becoming easily distracted.

Each item makes me pause and reflect. What did this mean to mother? When and where did she get it? Why did she keep it?

Mother was the story-teller in the family and she often told me stories of her childhood and what she recalled of her grandparents. But she was never interested in the family history until later in life.

Her parents were both born in England and I would send her my findings on her family whenever I searched out something new. Then the genealogy bug hit her. She became fascinated at finding new ancestors and in 1997 at the age of 81 went with me on her first research trip -- to Salt Lake City, the mecca of genealogists!

When we found her Fuller family origins in Lenham Kent England in the 1860s but could not research further back because those records had not been microfilmed, she would not give up. Within a few months she had made arrangements with the vicar to fly over from Canada and research in the local church parish book.

She spent several days in the dark and damp church poring over the old church books that went back to the 1600s. Her journal reflects the difficulties she had reading the old script and staying warm. Of course with no photocopier she had to copy and write everything out by hand - a monumental task!

Now I find that her genealogy files are overflowing. How much of it is data I sent her? How much of it did she find and share with me? How much is new to me? It's wonderful that she was so enthralled with research and genealogy. But I have a huge task ahead to go through all her notes and hopefully make some new discoveries along the way. Wish me luck!

February 7, 2009

Genealogy Jewellery

When I packed up my mother's belongings after her death two weeks ago, I didn't have time to sort or scrutinize items before packing them. Everything had to go quickly into boxes, to be sorted at my leisure when I returned home.

Because mother wasn't a very organized person, her belongings were jumbled together and that is how they were packed - as we found them. So I am finding the most intriguing items mixed in with very ordinary papers and ephemera.

One of the items I found as I unpacked was an old tarnished silver charm bracelet. It was very black with age but I could see that there were 8 small hearts and 3 tiny heads (2 girls, 1 boy). It looked vaguely familiar but it wasn't until we cleaned a few of the hearts that I realized the significance and remembered when mother wore it!

It was a charm bracelet with a heart or head for each of her grandchildren! On each charm was engraved the grandchild's name and date of birth. The first charm was for her first grandchild born in 1958. The last charm on the bracelet represented my son born in 1973. Two grandchldren are missing, both were born after 1973.

I am going to find out if I can have 2 more charms made up for the last two grandchildren who are missing from the bracelet. If it is kept with a note to indicate its significance and the owner, it will be an amazing genealogy treasure trove for future generations.

February 6, 2009

1891 Canadian Census online at LAC

Library and Archives Canada now has the 1891 Canadian Census online

Genealogists can access digitized images of original census returns which list the name, age, country or province of birth, nationality, religion, and occupation of Canada's residents at the time of the 1891 Census.

For more Canadian Census records see

February 5, 2009

The Value of Military Records

Having found the photos of Ern and Cordelia Simpson sailing on board SS Canada from Liverpool to Canada in 1923 in my mother's papers, I was distracted from unpacking my mother's 11 boxes and now intrigued by what else might be in Doris' Genealogy Box!

I continue looking through Doris' Genealogy Box. For those who have not been following this story, Doris was my mother's cousin (my grandmother and Doris' father were brother and sister) and on their deaths all their papers, documents and photographs came to me for safe-keeping and sharing.

I hadn't realized how many documents there were about Uncle Ern. This is an early photo of him taken in Ramsgate England. I'd looked at his papers, skimmed through them, but never sat down to put the pieces together or think about them in any depth. The number and variety of his military records was astounding.

I soon discovered that Uncle Ern was in the 1st Battalion Kent Buffs in Ramsgate England. The Kent Buffs have an impressive military history going back hundreds of years.

But the real value in a genealogical sense was the discovery of Ern's Military Book which listed his wife's name (including her maiden name), his parents and his siblings, and their places of residence! Wow. There was his sister (my Grandmother) by name - Ruth. Had I not already known my grandmother's parents' names what a find this would have been. It just goes to prove that searching a sibling in depth can often turn up details that relate to your own direct ancestor.

Organizing a timeline of the military documents relating to the Kent Buffs in my possession helped me to understand Uncle Ern's time with that outfit:

1903. Age 19 years 6 months. Joined the East Kent Regiment "The Buffs" in the 1st Battalion. His character is noted as "very good, a thoroughly sober and well conducted man" He is 5' 4.5" with tattoos on both arms.

December 1904 - February 1905 - in the Mounted Infantry

1906. Age 22 years 6 months. There are two military documents concerning Ernie's transdfer to Army Reserve from 1st Battalion, The Buffs. There is a Certificate of Transfer dated 10 July 1906, a certificate for being in the Army Rserve dated Dover 10 July 1906.

1908. Age 24 years 6 months. Dominion of Canada Certificate of Identity of an Army Reserve Man Permitted to Reside in the Dominion. It is dated 22 June 1908 and expires on 10 July 1915

This certificate allwed Ernie to live in Canada. This paper indicates that Ern's military service to date consisted of 3 years in the Army (1905-1908) and 11 years 82 days in the Reserves. This means that he joined the Army Reserves or the Kent Buffs in 1895 at the age of 13, however I found no papers or records before 1902 in Doris' Genealogy Box

1914 Next I found a Certificate of Discharge for Ernie dated July 30, 1914. It states that he attested to the Buffs in Ramsgate on 11 July 1903, was transferred to the Reserve Army on July 1906 and is no longer fit for service. His character is once again noted as "very good, a thoroughly sober and well conducted man"

Ern's military career did not end with the Kent Buffs or his immigration to Toronto Ontario Canada. During WW1 he was posted to the historical Stanley Barracks in Toronto Ontario as a Guard, then the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps after WW1.

I will write more on those two stints in these historical units plus his court-martial for letting a prisoner escape from Stanley Barracks, in a later posting.

February 4, 2009

Another Genealogical Mystery Solved

This photo was taken in Ramsgate Kent England in April 1906. It is one my grandmother Fuller gave me many years ago, of her brother Frank at age 16.

Grandma always told me that her little brother drowned in Ramsgate Harbour at the age of 18 and that was why she herself was terrified of the ocean and never swam. In fact when I was a little girl and went to stay with her one summer, she would only let me have about 1 inch of water in the bathtub!

I never thought to question Grandma's story.... but on looking through Doris' Genealogy Box I spotted a receipt in the name of Ernie Simpson.
It was dated August 1, 1908 from F. W. Matthews, Funeral Director in Toronto Ontario (Canada) and showed a $40.00 bill paid for "Funeral Furnishings and Services" for the "late Frank W. Simpson" This was Grandma's brother Frank!

Further searching turned up an earlier receipt dated July 24, 1908 from St. James Cemetery in Toronto for $4.00 paid for "...the ground of North Grave Lot 134, Block C, Ravine" in the cemetery.

Realizing this must be for Frank's burial I searched Vital Statistics for Ontario and found Frank's death certificate.

Grandma's brother Frank Simpson died of appendicitis in St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto Ontario on 22 July 1908 at the age of 18, he did not drown in Ramsgate Harbour. I think now that Grandma made up the death by drowing story to cover her own fear of the water and to keep her grandchildren cautious when around water.

A search of Ships Passenger Lists revealed that Frank arrived in Quebec Canada in May 1907 on board the ship Southwark. 14 months later he was dead.

When I was a teenager Grandma gave me a book The Blacksmith of Boniface Lane that Frank had won for perfect attendance in the Cavendish Baptist Sunday School in Ramsgate in October 1902.

Frank was 13 years old and I don't think he ever read the book as it is in perfect condition.

But I treasure it as a memento of the brother who meant so much to my grandmother. I would never have known the true story of Frank's death nor where he is buried, had it not been for different preservers saving documents. And if it were not for my Grandmother giving me Frank's book and photograph, I would not have been able to piece together a little visual tribute to Frank's memory.