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February 28, 2014

1919 Letter from Canada Surfaces in Old Trunk in Australia

1919 Letter from Canada Surfaces in  Old Trunk in Australia
An old trunk in Australia held a small treasure - a letter written November 15, 1919 in Vulcan Alberta Canada. Victoria Collier wrote the letter on stationary of the Vulcan Supply Co. and addressed it to a Miss Scholz. 

The letterhead provides 3 names in its business header, one being G. C. Collier. In the first paragraph the writer talks about welcoming the boys home [back from the war] and adds "Geoff has his four brothers home now. One was killed and one sent to Siberia."

The letter gives a fascinating peek into post-war times in the small town. It also provides terrific clues to the families, providing tiny entries such as these:

"My sister Mabel is well and talks of coming out to see me..."
"Aunt Julia in England... is 85 next birthday..."

A genealogist can't let those clues go, can they? You guessed it, I had to investigate to see if I could turn up anything more on the families!

In 1911 the Collier family was living in Medicine Hat, Alberta. They are recorded as:
  • Goffrey, 22, harness maker born England
  • Violet, 21
  • Walter, brother, 20, salesman for stoves, born England
The 1916 census for Alberta reveals that Guthrie [sic] Collier, 27, his wife Violet, 26 and two sons Russell (4) and Albert (10 months) were living in Lethbridge Alberta. Guthrie was born in England and shows his immigration year as 1907. Violet was born in Tasmania and gives her immigration year as 1910.[ ]

By 1921 the family was living in Bow River Alberta and were listed as:
  • Joseph [sic], 33 born England, harness maker, owns his own shop, immigrated 1907
  • Violet, 31 born Tasmania, immigrated 1911
  • Russell, 9, born Alberta
  • Albert, 5, born Alberta
  • Ruby, 3, born Alberta 

The Lethbridge Herald of July 04, 1940 - Page 8 reveals that Godfrey's mother was visiting the family. I found evidence that she died in 1943 and is buried in Lethbridge Alberta

Searching in U.K. records found Godfrey as a young man in 1901 with his family in Dorset. His parents were William, born Buckland Newton, Dorset, and Emily Collier born
Piddletrenthide, Dorset. Their children were Charles E. 16, Harry J. 14, Godfrey C. 12, Walter G. 10, Horace A. 7, Sydney L 4 and William W. 2 [ ]

British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920
According to online ships passenger lists on , 19 year old Godfrey arrived in Canada on
25 Mar 1908 on board the Empress of Ireland

Godfrey's brother Horace enlisted in the British Army in WW1 and was killed 13 October 1914. He was a Lance Corporal in the Dorsetshire Regiment.

Further research found Violet and Geoff's graves in Vulcan Cemetery, Vulcan Alberta.

Violet Nora Collier

Godfrey Cyril Collier

Finding Violet's middle name on her grave marker allowed me to find her and her sister Mabel (mentioned in Violet's letter) and their parents. Violet was born in 1890 in Frankford Tasmania to Alfred Boucher Welch and Albertina Bugg. Her sisters Mabel Dora were born in 1884 and Florence Kate in 1886. []

Violet's father Alfred Welch was from Surrey England. He and Albertina applied for land in Tasmania in 1882.  The record states that Alfred was 21 and Albertina was 25 and they had recently arrived on the SS. Garanne or Garonne [Tasmania, Australia, Land Applications and Warrants, 1868-1887] The Garonne arrived in Sydney from London England on 10 November 1882.

20 year old Violet arrived in British Columbia Canada from Sydney Australia on 21 September 1910 on board the Marama. [Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935]
Read Newly found First World War-era letter from Alberta woman a window through time to early 20th century for the complete story. You can also download the entire letter in .PDF format

February 27, 2014

52 Ancestors: Great-Grandpa's Horse Saves the Day!

52 Ancestors: Great-Grandpa's Horse Saves the Day!
1882 Wedding
David George Simpson & Sarah Stead
Amy Johnson Crow has a new challenge for geneabloggers called Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Amy challenges genealogists to write about one ancestor once a week. I'm having fun with this and I hope you are too! 

My great-grandfather David George Simpson (1861-1921) was a coal dealer in Ramsgate England. My grandmother, his daughter Ruth, used to tell me stories about her dad. I loved hearing them! 

One I remember most was how her dad made his daily rounds with a cart and his horse to deliver coal to his customers. Great-grandpa had epilepsy and so frequently he suffered seizures on his route. Apparently his horse, knowing the route well, simply carried on without any guidance from David.  

At each house on the route, the horse would stop and the customer would come out, check on Great-grandpa, take their allotment of coal and send the horse on its way. Then the horse would take Great-grandpa home when the route was done.

Grandma Ruth also told me that her father had what she called "a withered left arm". I don't know exactly what she meant by that but she said he had no use of it, and when I look at photos I have of David George it does seem that he hides one of his hands. 

My Great-grandpa had a sad childhood. When he was 13 his father died suddenly of pneumonia. David's mother was pregnant with her 5th child and David was her oldest. Two months after the father's death, David's youngest sibling was born but sadly that child died at the age of one month. David's mother had to take in laundry to support her family. After David married his widowed mother came to live with the family.

David George died of an epileptic seizure at the age of 59 at his home in Ramsgate. 

Simpson Family Ramsgate, Kent England ca 1900
Standing Left-Right: Ruth (my grandmother), Albert, Lillian, Ernest (Uncle Ern), Frank
Seated: David George & wife Sarah Stead. In front is Uncle Syd. Syd, Ern, Frank and Ruth emigrated to Canada while Albert settled in Australia.

February 26, 2014

Update: FamilySearch Adds More Than 4.5 Million Indexed Records

FamilySearch Adds More Than 4.5 Million Indexed Records and Images to Collections from Brazil, China, Ghana, Italy, Netherlands, Philippines, and the United States
FamilySearch has added more than 4.5 million indexed records and images to collections from Brazil, China, Colombia, Ghana, Italy, Netherlands, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, and the United States. Notable collection updates include the 1,165,725 indexed records from the U.S.,West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, collection; the 469,903 images from the GhanaCensus, 1984; and the 415,997 indexed records from the UnitedStates Census, 1860

 Search these diverse collections and more than 3.5 billion other records for free at

February 25, 2014

Such a Great Idea - Father Gives Daughter Priceless Gift

Such a Great Idea - Father Gives Daughter Priceless Gift
This is an inspiring story about a loving and creative dad! What a wonderful gift he gave his daughter the day she graduated from High School. 

He started with the Dr. Seuss book "Oh The Places You'll Go" which he took to her teachers and coaches at the end of every school year. As he put it

"Every year, for the past 13 years, since the day you started kindergarten I’ve gotten every teacher, coach, and principal to write a little something about you inside this book."

Such a great idea! Please take a moment and read the whole story Father Gives Graduating Daughter a Priceless Gift

February 24, 2014

WW1 Photo Album Archive page 14

Continuing on with my WW1 Photo Album archive here is the 14th page in my mother's cousin Doris Simpson's album.

3 of the 4 photos here were taken in Toronto Ontario. One was in Ramsgate England
 Uncle Ern Simpson on the right, unknown man on left

Front Left to Right: Auntie Cordie (Cook) Simpson, Uncle Ern Simpson, unknown woman. Unknown man in back (Same man as in photo above)
A very unusual photograph of a woman in a WW1 uniform! Is it a joke? It looks like Auntie Cordie and if so, she must have been playing around and dressed in Uncle Ern's uniform
Grandma's sister Lilly Simpson and their father David George Simpson. Taken in England

February 23, 2014

Sharing Memories: Grades 5 & 6 - What do you Remember?

Grade 5 Report Card
Sharing Memories is a series of weekly prompts to help all genealogists (including me!) with writing up memories of our ancestors and our childhood. 

We all love to find a diary or letters written by great grandma or grandpa where they talk about their lives and share their memories. Think how excited one of your descendants will be to read about your memories and your stories! These stories will be lost after a few generations unless we preserve them. And what better way than in a weekly themed post. 

At the end of the year you will have 52 stories written about your childhood, your parents, grandparents and who knows what else.

If you write your own blog please use the hashtag #52SharingMemories if you are posting on Twitter or Google+  You can also  post your stories as comments on this blog post or in a private journal. It's your choice! The important thing is to write those memories down now! 

Grade 6 Report Card
Another week of school memories - this time Grades 5 and 6. I goofed last week and repeated Grade 3 as a topic along with Grade 4 so hopefully those following the prompts weren't too confused. 

Grades 5 and 6 are pretty much a blur for me. I was still in Lord Elgin Public School but Grade 6 was my last year there as that was the highest grade the school had. For Grades 7 and 8 all the kids in Ajax went to St. Andrew's school. So for Grades 5 and 6 were were still isolated - kids from the old area (north of HIghway 401 and the Railway tracks) at Lord Elgin and kids from the new area (south of the Highway and the tracks) elsewhere.

I do remember my dad getting mad at my teacher, Mrs. Wood, in Grade 6. When I got my report card every subject was an "A" but in the "Effort" column I got "B" in every one. My dad went to my teacher to find out what the heck that meant. Her response was that yes I got all A's but I didn't try very hard!  Therefore my effort was a B in everything. 

On my report card the Effort Column is whited out because my dad freaked and insisted she change them. He pointed out it wasn't possible to get anything higher than an A for the actual mark so he didn't see how I could try any harder!  

Grade 6 was also where I first realized that my name got misspelled. Yep, Mrs. Wood had to white out my first name because she spelled it wrong on my report card. 

Love the Habits and Attitudes part of those early report cards!

February 22, 2014

Sometimes the Walls of a House Can Speak

Sometimes the Walls of a House Can Speak
Have you ever hidden photos, objects or notes in a wall of your house? I have. When I was living in my last house, my husband renovated the living room. The project called for tearing out part of one wall. So I had each of my children write a letter telling something about themselves. We included photographs and a printed family tree. Each of us added a few mementos that we thought might interest whoever might find our treasures in the future.

In our current house which we built, there were many opportunities to put treasures into wall spaces! One that made us chuckle was hiding a beautiful 24 inch porcelain doll in its original packaging in the wall behind a built-in cupboard. We wrote our names on the package but nothing else. Weird? Maybe but we enjoy thinking about someone someday finding that doll and scratching their heads in puzzlement. Plus they've got a pretty cool collector's item if they are into antiques.

Recently I read a fascinating blog post about letters and postcards found behind the baseboard in an older home. I'd love to find something like that. How about you?

February 21, 2014

52 Ancestors: Were Thomas and Lewis King Illegitimate?

Amy Johnson Crow has a new challenge for geneabloggers called Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Amy challenges genealogists to write about one ancestor once a week. I'm having fun with this and I hope you are too!

My 3rd great grandfather was Thomas King born 1796 in Wenhaston, Suffolk County England to James King and Hannah Blanden (Blandon aka Blanding). In 1831 Thomas and his brother Lewis joined a small group of Englishmen and set sail for Canada. They were the first settlers in what is now Arkell Ontario. 

in my research on this family I found that Thomas' parents had undergone a Bastardy Examination in 1791 over the birth of their illegitimate daughter. 

Because parishes did not want to be responsible for the care of an illegitimate child, a pregnant woman or one who had just given birth, would be questioned by a midwife or other authority and the name of the child's father recorded. The father would then be ordered to provide financial support, either as a lump sum payment to the parish for the child until he/she reached the age of majority, or as a monthly sum (also payable to the parish for the child's welfare). In many cases the mother too would be ordered to make payments. This ensured that the child did not become a burden on the parish. 

Bastardy Examination of Hannah Blandon 6 July 1791. Under Oath Hannah states that on Thursday 14 October 1790 she gave birth to female bastard child at Ephraim Lockwood’s house in Holton Parish, Blything Hundred, Suffolk Co. James King was the father.

52 Ancestors: Were Thomas and Lewis King Illegitimate?

Bastardy Order James King & Hannah Blandon 6 July 1791. Justices of Peace Eloazar Davy and Charles Purvis in Parish of Holton, Hundred of Blything, County of Sufoolk hear the case brought by Robert Smith, Guardian of the Poor in Blything. James to pay 1 shilling per week to John Robinson of Southwald or to Treasurer of the Poor, for maintenance of child as long as living in the parish. Hannah to pay 6 pence weekly. 

At some point after the birth of their daughter James and Hannah may have married because they had at least two sons - Lewis in 1793 and Thomas in 1796. I have not found a marriage record for them so it is possible they never formalized their union. The sister born earlier has been elusive and I've not yet found her name or what happened to her.

Lewis and Thomas made a new life for themselves in Ontario Canada and helped carve out a settlement in what was then the wilderness. If you descend from either of these brothers you may be interested in the book I wrote "From England to Arkell: The story of two pioneer settlers, Lewis & Thomas King who left Suffolk England for the Wilds of Upper Canada in 1831 A Genealogy to 4 Generations following their descendants in Ontario, Alberta, Australia & Michigan." 

It's always fun and extremely interesting to research an ancestor who was a pioneer in some field, and then write their story.  

February 20, 2014

Tweets From Beyond the Grave: Olive's Diary

"Olive Higgins was a 16-year-old English girl who began writing her diary as she set off to school in Paris in January 1914. Tragically, eight weeks later she died. Her last words echo here exactly a century on..." [Source: Tweets From Beyond the Grave - Olive's Diary]

To follow Olive's tweets see 

Out of curiousity I had a brief look for Olive's family and found her grave. She is buried with other family members in Ladywell and Brockley Cemeteries in London England. You can see a photo of her gravestone on

The inscription on the stone reads
In Loving Memory of Victor Thomas beloved child of Thomas R. and Martha Higgins Aged 6 weeks 
Camelia Jones wife of the above aged 73 

Also Martha Emma wife of Thomas R. Higgins Aged ?? ?? of 

Olive Hilda daughter of above who died ?? school in Paris Aged ?6 [Lorine's note: the stone should read aged 16]

Elizabeth Vivian Higgins 

Thomas Richard Higgins Died at ?ourne?? Aged 88 years
The burial information allowed me to find Olive with her family in census records. In 1911 the family lived in Margate where her fatther owned a hotel

Olive's birth was recorded in the Parish registers of Deptford St. Mark in London. 

Further research indicates that Olive's parents were Thomas Richard Higgins son of Henry Jeremiah Higgins and Martha Emma Jones daughter of Samuel Jones. Thomas and Martha were married 17 Oct 1888 in Lewisham

Credits: The 1911 census, birth record and marriage record were all found on

February 19, 2014

Black History Month: Fisk Jubilee Singer Mable Lewis Imes

The New York Age Aug. 10, 1935

In 1873 Mabel joined the rest of the Jubilee Singers headed for a tour of England and Europe. Her passport states she was 19 years old and born in Louisiana New Orleans

Mabel married Martin Imes on April 22,1885, in Cleveland, Ohio. The 1900 census finds her in Ohio with her husband who was born in 1850 in Pennsylvania and adopted daughter Florence age 14. Mabel's mother is listed as being born in Louisiana but her father's birth place is blank. 

It has been challenging to find many records about Mabel but I did find her daughter Florence marrying Charles Thompson in Ohio in 1907.

The 1870 census for Jackson Louisiana shows an "M" Lewis, female, black, age 15 with family consisting of father "H" Lewis, 65, born Alabama and mother "M" Lewis, 55, born Alabama and several siblings. I cannot say with certainty that this is Mabel. 

Finding information on Martin was slightly easier. The 1860 and 1870 census records for Juniata Pennsylvania found on show him as the son of Samuel Himes [sic] and wife Sarah.

Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953,
Martin Imes died in Cuyahoga Ohio in December 1915. His death certificate says he was born 4 May 1854 in Pennsylvania. His father's name is recorded as Samuel Imes born Maryland and mother Sallie Moore born Pennsylvania. 

Sally or Sallie is a common nickname for Sarah. His occupation is given as janitor and race is colored

Mabel died August 1, 1935 in Cleveland Ohio. Her daughter Florence Thompson was the informant but unfortunately for Mabel's mother's and father's names, the clerk recorded "unknown"
Her obituary states she was buried in Nashville Tennessee and that she was the second last surviving original Jubilee Singer. 

Her tombstone in Nashville City Cemetery reads: 

Fisk University
Mable Lewis Imes
1858 – 1936

Interment Book: 8-8-1935 Mabel L. Imes
Mabel Imes grave on Fisk University Lot
Jubilee Singer Original


February 18, 2014

Black History Month: Fisk Jubilee Singer Maggie Porter Cole

There is a biography of Maggie Porter online which comes from Andrew Ward's book Dark Midnight When I Rise: The Story of the Jubilee Singers Who Introduced the World to the Music of Black America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)

Rather than duplicate that information I will provide some sources and a bit of new information I found on Maggie during my research.

A newspaper report of 1875 indicates Maggie was touring with the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

Collection: African American Newspapers
Date: April 15, 1875
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia has once again been enraptured with the strains of these famous singers; and never before did they appear in better trim, and consequently to better advantage. At the farewell Matinee of March 10th, they really seemed to outdo themselves. Although we have often heard them; yet never did they sing so sweetly. F.J. Loudin in such songs as Rock me in the Cradle of the Deep , and his celebrated Laughing Solo, proved himself to be a very prince of song. So pleased, especially, was our eminent citizen, George T. Stuart, who occupied a seat on the Platform, with one of Mr. Loudin's performances that unpinning a beautiful rosebud from his own caller, he proceeded amidst the plaudits of the vast company to adorn the successful basso. Having hazarded the individual mention of Mr. Loudin we cannot possibly fail to recur to the singing of Hope Beyond by Misses Jennie Jackson and Maggie Porter. It was absolutely bewitching, as the audience enthusiastically testified. Indeed it may be said, that, without an exception they all are superb singers. That their audiences are of the same opinion, is evidenced by the almost unreasonable demand made for repetitions. One thing is noticeable to him who keeps his eyes open, - the students themselves are fast outgrowing these songs of their grief-stricken parents, and in singing not a few of them they themselves seem to enter into the spirit of the audience, and are constrained to smile at the weirdness of their own music. While this detracts somewhat from the entertainment, it is certainly no more than what ought to be expected. Freedom has its fruits as well as slavery. Let the Jubilees return to Philadelphia, when they will, and if we are to judge of the past, a glad welcome will be sure to greet them.

Source: Accessible Archives
The 1880 census for Davidson Tennessee finds Maggie with her 74 year old mother Ellen Porter born North Carolina and older sister Sarah. In this census Maggie's occupation is given as "Jubilee Singer" and sister Sarah's is "works at Jubilee Hall"

As Maggie L Porter Cole she applied for a passport in 1897 and gave her date of birth as 24 February 1855 in Lebanon Tennessee. Her occupation was a concert singer. 

She also applied for a passport to England in 1895. 

Maggie Porter Cole. Digital ID: 1238280. New York Public LibraryI next found her as a 43 year old in the 1900 census for Detroit Michigan with her husband Daniel Cole 46 and children Imogene 17, Daniel 16 & Singleton 14. 

Maggie says her father was born in Kentucky and her mother in North Carolina. She is also found with husband Daniel in Detroit in 1910. 

The 1930 Detroit Census records her as a widow living as a boarder. 


February 17, 2014

18 Years Online for Olive Tree Genealogy!

18 Years Online for Olive Tree Genealogy!
Yes you read that number correctly. 18 years ago I started my website Olive Tree Genealogy.

Olive Tree Genealogy actually began sometime in the winter of 1995 but it wasn't until February 1996 that it was given space on the old Rootsweb site. 

That site is still online at and it holds all the "extra" free databases and goodies that I don't have room for on Olive Tree Genealogy at
Many of the big sites we use today did not exist when I set up Olive Tree Genealogy. CyndisList came online right after me. Rootsweb started up around the same time. didn't exist.
I am often asked why I created Olive Tree Genealogy. After my husband died in 1993 and I was injured at school by a student, my enforced inactivity allowed me to begin creating Olive Tree Genealogy site.

I started with one ships list and articles I wrote about Huguenots, Walloons, Loyalists and Palatines. The  ships list was so popular and I received so many requests for more that I began hunting for more. Now Olive Tree Genealogy has over 1,500 ships lists online. 

Look at me now! I am officially a dinosaur in Internet terms. Eighteen years is a very long life on the Internet.  

What am I up to now? Well I'm busy with my blogs and websites as well as my genealogy research of course. Here's the list of my blogs and websites.


Olive Tree Genealogy
Ask Olive Tree
Ancestors At Rest
Past Voices: Letters Home
The Paper Trail
Antique Hunter
Ollie's Yummy in Your Tummy
Family Bibles
Tea For Two
Chicken Chat

Olive Tree Genealogy
Naturalization Records
Ancestors At Rest
All Census Records
The Genealogy Spot
Olive Tree Extras
Past Voices
All English Records
The Great War
Canadian Military Heritage Project

Writing genealogy and history books also keeps me pretty busy!  You can read a bit more about me if you are interested, or see some of the early versions of Olive Tree Genealogy at

Who knows, maybe Olive Tree Genealogy will still be around for its 25th Anniversary! 

February 16, 2014

Sharing Memories Week 7: Do You Remember Grades 3 and 4?

Sharing Memories Week 7: Do You Remember Grades 3 and 4?
Sharing Memories is a series of weekly prompts to help all genealogists (including me!) with writing up memories of our ancestors and our childhood. 

We all love to find a diary or letters written by great grandma or grandpa where they talk about their lives and share their memories. Think how excited one of your descendants will be to read about your memories and your stories! These stories will be lost after a few generations unless we preserve them. And what better way than in a weekly themed post. 

At the end of the year you will have 52 stories written about your childhood, your parents, grandparents and who knows what else.

If you write your own blog please use the hashtag #52SharingMemories if you are posting on Twitter or Google+  You can also  post your stories as comments on this blog post or in a private journal. It's your choice! The important thing is to write those memories down now! 

Week 7 of Sharing Memories takes us back to school. We are in Grades 3 and 4 - what do you remember best about those years? Do you have any report cards from those grades? Who was your best friend? Who was your teacher? What was your classroom like? How big was your school and how far from home? Did you walk or bus to school?

I was 8 years old when I started Grade 3 but turned 9 in November of that year. I remember I had my first male teacher that year but I forget his name. He was terrific and one of the most fun things was that we got to learn Square Dancing! I loved it even though I was the tallest girl in the class so I felt stupid with a pipsqueak boy at my side. 

My best friend showed up on the scene that year. She had been a year behind me so I didn't know her but then she was put in my class and we bonded instantly. Her name was Janie Armstrong and we remained best friends until her death last year. That was 50+ years of friendship. 

Grade 4 is mostly a blur. That might have been when my sister insisted I come with her over the frozen creek in the winter. She had to walk me to school and it was quite a long cold walk during January and February. Out of curiousity I looked it up on Google Maps and it appears it is only an 8 minute walk! It seemed quite a bit longer than that as a kid.

We kids were forbidden by parents and teachers to use the shortcut - the iced over creek. They said it was too dangerous but of course a lot of us did it anyway! My sister never did but one day we were going to be late so she grabbed my wrist and started across. Of course being the klutz that I was I slipped and fell. 

A huge goose egg started up on my forehead and I cried all the way to school. My poor sister knew she was going to get caught and she urged me to not tell any adults that we were on the creek ice when I fell. But of course I did. The school called my mom and sent me home. I don't remember any sympathy from my mother, she was pretty ticked that she had to leave work to stay home with me! 

The photo with this post is me at age 10 with my family at Christmas. I'm the one holding the doll. I don't have any school photos to share. 


February 15, 2014

52 Ancestors: A Fishy Story about William Peer and William Learn

52 Ancestors: A Fishy Story about William Peer and William Learn
Amy Johnson Crow has a new challenge for geneabloggers called Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Amy challenges genealogists to write about one ancestor once a week. I'm having fun with this and I hope you are too!

Today I'm going to share a fish story with you - well, really it's two fish stories - about two of my relatives.

First up is the sad story of my 3rd cousin twice removed, William Edward Learn

A bit of family lore from a family bible concerning Edward had always intrigued me.  

William Edward Learn (1885-1908) died tragically while fishing in the Niagara River. He had a rope tied around his waist while he was fishing and hooked a sturgeon which pulled him in and under. It was a month before his body was found with the rope and sturgeon still attached.
I wondered how accurate it was. Another cousin sent this to me several years ago, copied directly from the Learn Family Bible. When the Ontario Death Records went online on in 2008 I decided to see what William's death registration gave for his cause of death. I expected to see "Drowning" as the cause of death.

Much to my surprise the cause of death was given as pneumonia! It seems a rather fanciful story for someone to dream up and record in a Family Bible. 

How did poor William's death from pneumonia end up being passed down in the family as William being killed by a fish?

Next up is the true story of another 3rd cousin twice removed, William Peer. William drowned in 1937 while fishing for sturgeon. His death is fact and the details given in a newspaper account (on the left). While attempting to spear a sturgeon in the Niagara River, William Peer slipped and fell in. He drowned and several days later his body was recovered. 

The tale of his death is very similar to that given in the family bible for William Learn. Perhaps the two men were confused by whoever entered the information in the bible? I may never know, but these are fish stories to be remembered.

February 14, 2014

A Valentine's Day Love Story: 50 Years Apart

A Valentine's Day Love Story: 50 Years Apart
Happy Valentine's Day to all my wonderful readers! In honour of today being all about love, I want to share a love story with you. 

First, take a look at the 1916 photo on the left. It is a picture of my mom (in my grandmother's arms), my grandmother Fuller, my aunt Lily (in my grandpa's arms), my grandpa Fuller and standing in front, a little 2 year old boy named Godfrey Harwood.

Godfrey's parents were best friends with my grandparents. My grandparents lived in Guelph Ontario and Godfrey's parents lived in Toronto Ontario but the two families visited frequently. 

Mother's First Winnebago parked in my driveway 1973
When Godfrey was a teenager he went to live with my grandparents and during his stay he fell in love with my mother. He did not say a word to her, as his old-fashioned values prevented him from declaring his love when he did not have a job or money. So he left their Guelph home when mother was 18 and he was 20 years old, determined to work and save money to come back and ask my mother to marry him.

What he didn't know was that my mother had feelings for him too but of course being a woman in those days she could not tell him. She in turn had no idea he felt the same way about her. Godfrey did return when mother was 19 but she had just gotten engaged to my father, so he kept quiet and never spoke to her of his feelings or why he went away. 

They drifted apart and never saw or heard of each other again. My mother and dad married, had 4 children and lived out their lives until my father died 24 years after they were married. Mom was alone after that and eventually she went to live with her widowed mother and sister. 

In 1971 the 3 widows sold their belongings and bought a Winnebago. They traveled around N. America for many years. In fact they were written about in several articles in RV magazines. Eventually they decided to settle down more permanently. Sometime around 1984 when they bought two trailers, one to park in Florida, the other to park in Ontario. 

They chose a trailer park in Lettuce Lake Florida and settled in. As they were unpacking, who should step out of the next-door trailer but Godfrey! It was the first time mother and Godfrey had seen each other since 1934 - some 50 years earlier. 

Mother & Godfrey buld their own Ultra-Light
I'm sure you can figure out where my story is going so I will cut to the ending. Godfrey was married but his wife was gravely ill. A few years later she died and Godfrey felt free to tell mother about his feelings. Yes, he still loved her and much to his surprise (and I'm sure delight!) she returned the feelings. 

Mother and Godfrey never married but they lived together until his death in 1995. And so they came full circle and had several years of happiness together. 

During their time together they had many adventures. They built their own ultra-light airplane. Mother took flying lessons towards getting her pilot's licence. They went out for coffee one morning in British Columbia and decided to leave the coffee shop and drive to California to see the Rose Bowl Parade in person. They did not stop at their trailer, deciding they could buy what they needed on the way. 

Another year they decided to pack up their pup tent and go camping in Alaska. Mother was in her 70s at this time. They were gone for several weeks on that little jaunt. 

After Godfrey's death mother sold everything, packed what little she had left in her car and drove over 2,500 miles alone back to Ontario. She was 79 years old at the time. She continued her life of adventure, starting with her decision to back pack across Australia for her 80th birthday. But her next 10 years of adventures galore is best left for a different blog post.

February 13, 2014

Black History Month: Fisk Jubilee Singer Ella Sheppard Moore

Ella Sheppard. Digital ID: 1259574. New York Public Library Ella Sheppard was one of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers. in March 1873 she is found applying for a passport as the Jubilee Singers prepare for a tour of Europe. Her description reads as follows:

22 years old, 5' 1/4" tall, high forehead, brown eyes, proportionate nose, regular mouth, round chin, dark hair, oval face and colored (yellow) complexion [Source: U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 on]

Ella is found in the 1880 census for Nashville with her widowed mother Sarah Sheppard age 53. Sarah gives her birth place as Tennessee, and her father as Alabama and mother as being born in Tennessee. 

I was able to find 85 year old Sarah Hannah Sheppard's death certificate in August 1912 in Nashville Tennessee. Her parent's names (and thus Ella's grandparents) are given as James and Rebecca Sheppard.

There is an interesting biography of Ella online called "Dark Midnight When I Rise". I was disappointed that I was not able to confirm any of her ancestry as given in this biography. I did find a Sarah Sheppard in Chickasaw County Mississippi in the time period that this bio says she was there.

Fisk Jubilee Singer Ella Sheppard Moore
Ella Sheppard Moore Death Certificate
Ella died of appendicitis in June 1914 in Nashville Tennessee. Her date of birth was given as February 4, 1851 and her parents' names Simon and Sarah Sheppard.

She is buried with her husband in Nashville City Cemetery. Their tombstone reads:

Moore, Ella Sheppard
Moore, Geo. W.

Section 28.9

ID # 280007


Fisk Jubilee Singer

Ella Sheppard

Wife of

Geo. W. Moore

Feb. 4, 1851 – June 9, 1914


Geo. W. Moore

Nov. 9, 1854 – Mar. 14, 1920


February 12, 2014

Black History Month: Fisk Jubilee Singers from Tennessee

Black History Month: Fisk Jubilee Singers
Prints & Photographs Department, MSRC
I've talked about the Canadian Jubilee Singers and now I want to talk about the original Fisk Jubilee Singers from Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee. The Fisk Jubilee Singers' first tour was in small towns across America from October 1871 to March 1872. By 1873 the group consisted of eleven black singers and they were soon headed for Europe.
Black History Month: Fisk Jubilee Singers from Tennessee
Image courtesy of J.D. Thomas of Accessible Archives
Image courtesy of J.D. Thomas of Accessible Archives
The website for the current Fisk Jubilee Singers says that "The original Jubilee Singers introduced ‘slave songs’ to the world in 1871 and were instrumental in preserving this unique American musical tradition known today as Negro spirituals."

Prejudice existed and the Batavia published a small note about the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the early 1880s: 

We can also witness the discrimination and difficulties faced by the singers in their travels:

Collection: African American Newspapers
Date: March 2, 1882
Title: Certain hotels in Washington, D.C., refused last week to ac
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Certain hotels in Washington, D.C., refused last week to accommodate the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Some no doubt, truthfully basing their refusal on lack of room, and others squarely on the ground of color. It should not be understood, however, that the best hotels in Washington refuse to accommodate people on account of their color. It is not a fact, and such an impression would do harm. &#150 Indianapolis Leader . 

Collection: African American Newspapers
Date: January 6, 1881
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

MR. EDITOR.- As is perhaps wellknown to most of your readers, the national conference of colored man, held in the city of Nashville, Tenn., May 6th, 1879, resolved to prosecute the conductor of one of the Tennessee railways, for roughly seizing by the arm one of the lady members of the Jubilee Singers, and thrusting her from the platform of the ladies' coach to the smoking car. For the conducting of the case, the conference appointed a prosecuting committee consisting of J.H. Burrus, Rev. G.H. Shaffer, and W.H. Yardly, Esq., the first two of Nashville, and the last of Knoxville, Tenn. 

Even Canada was not immune to showing discrimination

Collection: African American Newspapers 
Date: November 10, 1881
Title: REFERRING TO THE recent insult offered the Jubilee Singers
Location: Philadelphia, PA

     REFERRING TO THE recent insult offered the Jubilee Singers by the Toronto hotel-keepers, The Citizen of that city, for a copy of which we are indebted to F.J. Louden, says:
      “Their recent visit to Canada has been most successful. The action of certain Toronto hotel-keepers in refusing them admission on account of their color, has caused a reaction in their favor, and the citizens, from the Mayor and ex-Vice Chancellor Blake down to the humblest of them, have vied with each other to do them honor. The Press, too, was aroused by the cowardly distinction. Globe, Mail, Telegram, World and News all championed the cause of the signers, and Canada's Cartoonist, Mr. Grip, employed his powerful pencil to the discomfiture of the hotel-keepers and the honor of the singers.”

In the next few weeks during Black History Month I will be publishing biographies based on research I've done on a few of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They deserve to be remembered.

Image: The Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1882. They are, from left to right, Patti Malone, George E. Barrett, Mattie L. Lawrence, C.W. Payne, Ella Shepard (seated), F.J. Loudin, Maggie L. Porter (seated), B.W. Thomas, and Mabel R. Lewis (seated).

Source for all newspaper accounts from The Christian Recorder from Accessible Archives