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May 29, 2020

C is for Circus Performer

Olive Tree Genealogy is continuing a new Alphabet Genealogy series of blog posts. I'm not following the usual way of going A-Z surnames. Instead I will create a one word "tag". Then I will share an ancestor (mine, my husband's, an inlaw's or one of my children's) who fits the tag.

Today's letter is C and the tag is Circus Performer.

Albert George Marriott and his twin brother were my 3rd cousins, twice removed. Both were born in Guelph Ontario in June 1882. The winning of a baton contest in the old Guelph skating rink gave the Marriott twins their start for 60 years in show business. They started off in Downie Brothers Circus as jugglers on bicycles but in later years developed an arial act, and gained international fame.

 ANDREW DOWNIE'S CIRCUS made several successful visits around the turn of the century. For a one-ring show hauled overland by wagons, Downie achieved maximum results from 50 performers and a profusion of animals

In 1896 the twins joined the Harry Lindley Dramatic Company, playing in Canada up to Dawson City in the Yukon. Engagements with other companies included the Andrew Downie Company of Vancouver.

 It was with the Downie circus that the Marriotts orignated their bicycle juggling act which they repeated at the opening of Tony Pastor's Theatre in New York.

"We played with the Orrin Circus in Mexico for three years then going to the Million Dollar Theatre in Buenos Aires, Argentina for six months." [letter from Al Marriott] ..."My research found Albert and his wife Maud as passengers on board the SS Verdi from Buenos Aires to New York. They are listed as "theatrical artists"

"Next came several months at theatres in Havana Cuba. On five occasions we played return engagements in front of the grandstand at Toronto Exhibition and making appearances before the Prince of Wales" [letter from Al Marriott] Using Ancestry, I found Albert and his twin brother (whose name is uncertain, in various records it appears as Menard, Murray and Manet) sailing back to New York from Havana Cuba in 1907.

The Marriott Twins were booked for a world tour and played the large cities of Europe and other continents. Following this was a booking to represent the USA at th ePan-Pacific Peace Exposition at Nagoya Japan for six months.  Albert and Maud's names appear on the passenger list of the Kongo Maru sailing from Nagoya to New York

Among the engagements was one with President Truman at a county fair in Missouri and the following week at Washington DC. There followed references in Al Marriott's letter to numerous other engagements including seven years at the Hippodrome in New York.

In later years with the coming of the aeroplane their act took the form of a large plane mounted on a high tower. The players performed on a trapeze hanging from the plane, as well as being fastened to the propeller. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Al Marriott is now Georgia [Guelph Mercury Sept 21, 1939: The Marriott Twins Scored World Fame]

May 27, 2020

B is for Blacksheep Ancestor, Do You Have One?

Kingston Penitentiary
Olive Tree Genealogy is continuing a new Alphabet Genealogy series of blog posts. I'm not following the usual way of going A-Z surnames. Instead I will create a one word "tag". Then I will share an ancestor (mine, my husband's, an inlaw's or one of my children's) who fits the tag.

Today's tag for the letter B is Blacksheep. We all want a Blacksheep ancestor! Let me share the story of  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.

May 25, 2020

A is for Adventurer

Today Olive Tree Genealogy is starting a new Alphabet Genealogy series of blog posts. I'm not following the usual way of going A-Z surnames. Instead I will create a one word "tag" such as this one for A - Adventurer. Then I will share an ancestor (mine, my husband's, an inlaw's or one of my children's) who fits the tag.

So today I want to tell you about my very adventurous 2nd cousin 3x removed, Stephen Peer the Tightrope Walker of Niagara Falls. I've talked about Stephen before on this blog but he gets another spot. He is the only tightrope walker to be killed on the wire. He was killed in 1887 and to this day there are rumours of murder.

Here are some of his adventures as noted in various newspapers of the day.

"Daredevils of the Falls".
It was unusually windy on June 22, 1887, but Peer gave his performance as scheduled. His five-eighths inch cable was a mere thread compared to the heavier ropes of his prdecessors, and the wire was held steady by 20-30 guy wires and weighted down between them with 12-20 sandbags, each weighing about 35 lbs. His walk was a complete success, and he returned to Canada in a carriage via the suspension bridge, welcomed by thousand sof applauding spectators. Three days later he was dead, discovered on the gorge bank below his cable. The reason for his death remains a mystery, but stories suggest murder.

Peer performed under his own billing for the first time on June 22, 1887. His performance was free, but a collection box was passed through the crowd. Somewhere along the way, Peer had gained the title of Professor and added an extra "e" to his surname for effect. [Prof. Steve Peere] HIs first 'official' ropewalk took place between the Great Western's suspension bridge and the Michigan Central's cantilever bridge. These bridges were replaced by the present Whirlpool Rapids Bridge and the Penn Central Bridge, in 1897 and 1925 respectively.

From "History of Welland County"
"On Wed. June 22 [1887] Stephen Peer of Niagara Falls outdid Blondin by walking across the Niagara River between the cantilever and suspension bridges on a wire rope only 5/8ths of an inch in diameter. This is the first occassion on which Niagara River was ever crossed on so slender a rope. The elevation was about 200 ft from the water. Peer carried a balancing pole twenty-one feet in length and of forty-five pound weight. He got a collection of $35.00 for his daring, but reckless deed. On the Sat. evening following, Peer either fell or jumped over the bank or off his cable. He had been drinking heavily, went out from the hotel and was last seen alive near his rope. Not returning soon, a search was made and his body was found down the bank under the cable dying from the effects of the fall. And thus was added another but not unexpected victim to Niagara."

Funeral Card in possession of Learn Family:
At Niagara Falls, Ont. on Saturday June 25th 1887
Aged 47 years
Friends and acquaintances are requested to attend the Funeral from the Elgin House on Tuesday, 28th inst., at 2 o'clock p.m. to Fairview Cemetery

NIAGARA FALLS TIGHT ROPE WALKER The Hamilton Daily Spectator, Hamilton Wed. June, 1887, pg. 1 Col 7

Niagara Falls Ont. June 22 Steve Peer, a local tight rope walker, crossed the Niagara River on a 5/8 inch cable stretched from the Canadian to the American side between the Cantilever and Suspension bridges at 4 oíclock this afternoon successfully. A stiff breeze was blowing during the time, and the cable was not properly guyed and he says that several times he very nearly lost his balance from its vibrations. Several thousand people witnessed the daring performance. Peer will repeat his performance several times during the season.

Peer the Rope-Walker Suicide The Hamilton Daily Spectator Hamilton, Canada, Monday June 27, 1887

Niagara Falls, June 25 Steve Peer, the local celebrity who outdid Blondin in daring feats around Niagara and recently crossed the rapids on a 5/8 inch cable is dead. Ever since he did the daring act he has been drinking very heavily, and Wm. Leary proprietor of the Elgin House where Peer has been stopping, has been watching him closely. This evening about 7:30 pm Peer went out unobserved with John Gillespie and a stranger, and later was seen with 2 men near his rope. As he did not show up by 8:30 and no trace of him could be found elsewhere, it was suposed that he had attempted to walk his rope and had fallen from it or stumbled over the bank, and ropes and lanterns were procured and Peerís brother, with John Connolly was lowered down. Near the bottom of the incline they found his lifeless body, badly cut around the head. There was a large gash leading from his nose over the top of his head so that his brains protruded, and death must have been instantaneous. His body was raised to the top of the precipice by means of ropes, and taken to the Elgin House, where it now lies awaiting the coroner. A good many rumors are afloat regarding how he met his death, amongst them one that he suicided, there being, it is said some trouble between himself and his wife. The general belief is that he attempted to walk out on the cable when recovering from his drunk and lost his footing and fell into the abyse below.

May 22, 2020

Don't Overlook Facebook Genealogy Groups

It recently came to my attention that there was a glitch preventing members from posting in some of my Facebook Genealogy groups. I've fixed the problem so if you are a member of any of the groups below, please go back and share your genealogy with us!

If you're not a member, follow the links to join us. Let's share our genealogy.

Van Alstyne Genealogy
Jan Martense de Wever [the weaver] was the immigrant ancestor of the Van  Alstyne family in America. He and his wife, Dircken Hermanse Boertgen and at least two children came to New York area from Drenthe Province, Netherlands prior to 1655. 

Descendants of Adriaen Crijnen Post
The Dutchman Adriaen Crijnen Post and his wife Claartje (Clara) Moockers are found in Recife Brazil in 1646. By the time Brazil fell to the Portuguese in 1654 Adriaen and his femily had left for the Netherlands. From there they sailed to New Netherland.

Goeway Genealogy
This group focuses on Ancestors & Descendants of Salomon Abbelse & Barber Philippse. The story of the Goeway family in New Netherland begins with Salomon Abelse who was baptised in Amsterdam Holland in 1617, and his wife Barber (Barbara) Phillipse who was baptised in 1619 in Amsterdam. Salomon and Barber left Holland for New Netherland with their children circa 1652, settling in New Amsterdam (present day New York City) 

Van Slyke Genealogy
For anyone interested in the genealogy of Cornelis Antonissen Van Slyke and his nephew Willem Pieterse Van Slyke aka Neef. Both settled in New Netherland (New York) in the 1600s. 

Straetsman Genealogy
The Straetsman sisters Barentje and Teuntje were from Culemborg Netherlands. In 1630 the West India Company conquered part of Brazil and the colony of New Holland (now present-day Recife) was founded. Dutch troops were sent to Recife and Olinda in Pernambuco Brazil and no doubt Barentje and Teuntje’s first husbands were among those sent to maintain order. They settled first in Brazil before 1637 and then New Netherland circa 1657.

Pioneers of Arkell, Wellington County Ontario Canada
In May 1831 a group of Englishmen set out from New York for what would become Arkell Ontario. A list of men in the party includes Thomas and John Arkell, for whom the settlement was named, Lewis King, Thomas King, James Hewer, Frederick Stone, Thomas Stone, John Outin, James Carter, Joseph Dory, Charles Willoughby and Peter Bell.

May 20, 2020

Jonas Larroway Loyalist

Jonas Larroway 1792 Land Certificate
Jonas Larroway, United Empire Loyalist, born 1731 Schoharie Co. New York, was descended from the LeRoy dit Audy family who settled in New France (now Quebec) from France in 1668. The LeRoy surname underwent great changes, becoming LeRoy dit Audy or Ody in New France, and Laraway or LeRoy in the United States.

Simeon LeRoy dit Audy was born in Creances Normandy. Simeon settled first in the fief or seigneurie of St.-Joseph or L'espinay, Charlesbourg, near the Charles River which belonged to the Hebert- Couillard de L'espinay family in Quebec, Canada in 1668

Jonas Larroway was my 5th great-grandfather and he married in 1754 in Schoharie NY, Elizabeth (Betsy) Muller, daughter of Johannes Nicholas Muller and Maria Dorothea Wuest, a Palatine line.

Jonas fought in Butler's Rangers during the American Revolution and settled at Niagara, Ontario in 1783.

Continue reading at

May 18, 2020

Butler's Rangers in the American Revolution

Soldier in Butler's Rangers
In June 1776 Sir John Johnson led 200 of his friends, his tenants and some Mohawks and left the Mohawk Valley of New York. After 19 days of near-starvation they arrived at St. Regis. Continuing on to Chambly he was given permission to raise the 1st. Batallion of the Kings Royal Regiment of New York, also known as the King's Royal Yorkers; Johnson's Greens; the Royal Greens and Sir John's Corps.

On Aug. 6 1777 at Oriskany, forces under Sir John Johnson's command including 150 KKRNY, 40 Indian Department Rangers commanded by Major John Butler (later reorganized as Butler's Rangers), 50 German riflemen and many Mohawks and Senecas ambushed 800 militia on their way to Fort Stanwix. 400 rebels were killed.

Three of my ancestors fought in Butler's Rangers - Isaac Vollick, his son Cornelius Vollick, and Cornelius' father-in-law Jonas Larroway.

In September 1777, Butler's Rangers was formally organized with eight companies, several of them doing special duty with the natives. They began their raids of the Mohawk Valley, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other areas.
Butler's Rangers Roster rolls are incomplete. In 1778 only half the corps had been recruited. By war's end (1783) the Ranger corps was at full strength with about 519 men on the roster.

See the list of Men formerly in Sir John Johnson's Brigade

May 15, 2020

Pandemic Brain - Does it Affect You?

Lockdown during this Pandemic can be tough. Some people thrive. They complete a book they're writing. They tackle projects that were set aside for months. They start new projects. They learn new skills or do more cooking.

Others do not fare as well. Many have trouble focusing or concentrating. They have no motivation, no urge to tackle any of the work piling up. Some are suffering severe financial pressures.

How are you doing? My husband and I have always believed in and lived, an emergency preparedness lifestyle so food-wise we are fine. Items that are hard to come by where we live are: Yeast, flour, disinfectant wipes, and some fresh vegetables. Meat is also starting to be in shorter supply but nothing extreme.

The "I Can't Focus" Camp

But we are both in the "I can't focus" camp. Every day I think about my second Janie Riley mystery I have been working on for a few years. I think about opening it and writing. But I can't.

I look at the Genealogy project I started with some excitement back in December. Now it seems a waste of time and energy so there it sits.

I have a gazillion ideas for projects I want to tackle but all I do is look at the binders I set up or the notes I jotted down. I sigh and close it all up with a shake of my head.

My Pandemic Brain

My mind is suffering what I call "Pandemic Brain" I can't focus. I can't remember what I did a few minutes ago. My mind is a jumble of thoughts. My sleep is disturbed with disjointed extreme dreams.

But I'm finally coming out of that fog a bit. Two weeks ago I decided I had to set myself one daily task and one fun item. The daily tasks I started setting and completing were small and simple. One day I made 3 loaves of pumpkin bread, another day I made a spreadsheet of all the wills I found for ancestors. That's not a lot compared to my pre-Pandemic work ethic! But I found completing the tasks not only made me feel good, it made me settle down and concentrate on what needed to be done, then making a choice.

I started expanding my tasks by making and canning dozens of jars of homemade Chili Sauce.  That was a huge job and my husband spent hours helping me. Once I did that I felt much better about things. I was taking some control again, and not giving in to feelings of helplessness.

I still have Pandemic Brain. I'm much more forgetful than pre-Pandemic. I'm not inspired or excited to start on any of the ideas I have rolling around in my mind but I am doing things. I am completing one task daily (sometimes more), I am setting up one fun thing each day, and I am walking a bit ever day.

Coping With Pandemic Brain

Many of my readers know I have physical challenges and auto-immune disorders and cannot walk more than 20 minutes on a good day. So I do what I can by walking on the cement surrounding our in-ground pool. It makes a good track for my rollator and allows me to walk more easily.

We live in a rural area and are forced to use a mobile capped connection to the internet, thus we cannot get Netflix or use Zoom or participate in any online meets, nor can we stream movies or podcasts.

So we have to make our own fun with jigsaw puzzles, card and board games, etc. I also created different areas inside and outside our home for sitting for tea or a snack. I gave them names - for instance our sunroom is the Poolside Bistro. I made a menu on a white board and we enjoy sitting there and "ordering" our food. It may sound silly but we enjoy the change of routine.

I hope all of you are coping and staying safe. What are your suggestions for coping during this lockdown?

May 13, 2020

Are You a Peer Descendant?

The Peer family were loyal to the British Crown, and suffered from persecution in New Jersey throughout the American Revolution. Jacob and his family left Sussex County New Jersey for Upper Canada in the summer of 1796. Four of Jacob’s sons – Jacob Jr., Edward, John and Philip Peer petitioned for land one year later. They settled in the Hamilton area of what was then the wilderness of Upper Canada.

This series of 6 books discusses the lives of Jacob, his wife and their sons Levi, Edward, Philip, Stephen, and Jacob Jr. Each book is fully sourced with footnotes. Descendants will enjoy seeing images of early documents such as land petitions and wills.

The Peer Family in North America: V.1 Jacob & Anne Peer, Immigrants from New Jersey to Upper Canada in 1796. Revised Edition

Available at or Also available as an E-book

The Peer Family in North America: V.2 Levi Peer & Elizabeth Marical and their Descendants to 3 Generations

Available at or or Also available as an E-book Note for the book on his parents you also need to purchase V. 1 Jacob & Anne Peer available at or

The Peer Family in North America: V.3 Edward Peer & His Two Wives and their Descendants to 3 Generations

Available at or Also available as an E-book
Note for the book on his parents you also need to purchase V. 1 Jacob & Anne Peer available at or  

The Peer Family in North America: V.4 Philip Peer & his two Wives Ester Dunn and Susan Griniaus and their Descendants to 3 Generations 

Available at or or Note for the book on his parents you also need to purchase V. 1 Jacob & Anne Peer available at or

The Peer Family in North America: V. 5 Stephen Peer & His Wife Lydia Skinner and their Descendants to 3 Generations

Available on or
Note for the book on his parents you also need to purchase V. 1 Jacob & Anne Peer available at or

The Peer Family in North America: V6 Jacob Peer Jr. and his wife Lucy Powers and their Descendants to 2 Generations

152 pages, full color Available on or
Note for the book on his parents you also need to purchase V. 1 Jacob & Anne Peer available at

May 11, 2020

Don't Miss Free Downloads on UK National Archives

I've been enjoying searching Discovery on the UK National Archives and enjoying the free downloads. In case you missed the announcement, while KEW is closed, signed in users can download digitized records for free.

Registered users will be able to order and download up to ten items at a time, to a maximum of 50 items over 30 days. Normally these records must be purchased so this is a wonderful thing that the Archives is doing!

So far I have found 18 wills of ancestors and have happily downloaded them all. Of course I still have to try to transcribe them but since it looks like lockdown in Ontario Canada will be going on for some time, I have the time.

I've made a list of what I have found so that I don't get confused. My mother's lines go back in Kent UK for hundreds of years so I have many ancestors to hunt for. There are more than wills available for download such as:
  • First and Second World War records, including medal index cards
  • Military records, including unit war diaries
  • Royal and Merchant Navy records, including Royal Marine service records
  • Wills from the jurisdiction of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
  • Migration records, including aliens’ registration cards and naturalisation case papers
  • 20th century Cabinet Papers and Security Service files
  • Domesday Book
My focus has been exclusively on wills such as the ones I already found for:

1657 George Longe
1752 Roger Hooper
1816 Philip Hubbard (see my book The Hubbard Family of Kent England )
1619 John Person/Peerson
1534 Richard Best
1666 Dorothy Ferrall
1659 John Virill aka Ferrall
1593 Richard Saxby
1778 Jane Hooper
1799 Isaac Hubbard (see my book The Hubbard Family of Kent England )
1733 William Laming (See my book The Laming Family of Kent England)
1810 William Laming (See my book The Laming Family of Kent England)

plus three for my youngest son's father's ancestors in Yorkshire, two for my daughter-in-law's ancestors in Norfolk and one for my husband's ancestor in Cornwall.

I have my work cut out for me! If you have English ancestors, you may want to jump over to The National Archives UK and have some fun.

May 8, 2020

Learning to Read Old Handwriting

Sometimes we are lucky enough to find a very old document concerning an ancestor. I don't know about you but I'm so excited when I do find an old will or inventory from the 17th or even 16th century!

So I have studied hard over the many years I've been researching family, and can read very basic Dutch or English documents from those early years. In fact I created a few tutorials and wrote a few articles to help others with some of those early letter formations.

Reading 16th Century English Records

How to Read 16th & 17th Century Handwriting

Tricks to Deciphering Old Handwriting

Palaeography: reading old handwriting 1500 - 1800 A practical online tutorial

Help Reading 17th Century Dutch Church Records

But still I struggle with these old documents and find myself floundering, unsure as to what I am reading. That's why, when I found out this booklet on Reading Tudor and Stuart handwriting existed but was out of print, I went on a hunt for it.

Just before the Pandemic began I received 17 wills of ancestors ranging from the earliest will of my 13th great-grandfather Alexander Cullmer dated 1551 to the 1748 will of my 8th great-grandfather Thomas Hinds. I haven't had much time to go through them carefully but I've skimmed them. Now I'm anxious to use my new book and start going through them very slowly.

Some are inventories, not wills, and those are the most fun as I feel like I am walking through their homes as I read about the belongings in each room.

I hope you are finding time to work on your genealogy during this Stay At Home era.

May 6, 2020

Murder Most Foul - George Greenlees

August 5, 1895 in Buffalo, New York was a typically hot summer day. George Greenless, my 1st cousin 3 times removed, was estranged at this time from his wife, Ella 'Nellie' Misener. Hoping to find her at home with her parents, he entered their home and a shouting match ensued.

George then pulled a pistol and shot and killed his mother-in-law. Next he shot and wounded his sister-in-law's fiance Walter Flewell. Flewell later died of his injuries.

George's story is a convoluted one. He was sentenced to life in prison for second degree murder in 1898 and sent to Auburn Prison in New York.

During his trial he became friendly with the warden of the jail where he was held. Later George's Canadian relatives came to New York to testify, and more lurid stories of George's erratic behaviour and mis-treatment of his wife came out. At one point a witness stated that there was a great deal of insanity in the Greenlees family.

In 1909 he was sent to Sing-Sing Prison but was released on parole and married Rachel Roach in 1918 in Buffalo. In 1924 the courts granted George a parden. He and Rachel had six children before his death in 1928.

His widow Rachel married another Sing-Sing inmate in 1932. William Leonard, her new husband, was sent to prison in 1903, served a short term before release but was back in Sing-Sing in 1904. Another short term resulted but once again he returned to Sing-Sing in 1908 sentenced to 2 to 4 years. I cannot read his crime in the records as the writing is challenging.

Newspapers are amazing, full of genealogy gold! I found dozens of newspaper articles about George on a Free Trial Newspaper Site

May 4, 2020

SPECIAL: Free Genealogy Records on Ancestry

The 75th anniversary of VE Day is this week. From May 4th - 8th, Ancestry Canada will be providing free access to all 10M Canadian military records on the site.

In addition, Canadians can access for free all content on online newspaper archive, as well as all records on Fold3 – a site that provides access to military records, stories and photos.

May 2, 2020

Reform School Records are Genealogy Gold

John Wormald born 1880 in Yorkshire England, was sent to Calder Farm Reform School in 1892 at the age of 11. He was not discharge until 1897 at the age of 17.

Here are his records

Source: West Yorkshire, England, Reformatory School Records, 1856-1914 on

Notes in his record state he spent 5 days in the House of Corrections and 5 years in Reform School for stealing a purse from his uncle's house.  His parents, George and Annie Wormald, my son's great-grandparents, had administered several previous punishments for his misbehaviour. The record shows 2 previous thefts and punishments of a birch rod whipping for each:

John was said to not be a vagrant but he was from a large family and had friends who his parents thought led him astray. In some desperation they sent him to live with an uncle but as you see below, that was not helpful.

 While I feel sad for John and his family, the wonderful thing about this set of records is not only the photo of John and details but at the very bottom of the record is a list of several relatives - an aunt, three uncles and his grandfather. This is genealogy gold. 

I've tried over the years to find out what happened to little John after he was discharged but with no luck.