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September 26, 2021

Don’t Make Genealogy Assumptions

Steve asked Olive Tree Genealogy a very good question about making an assumption from a census record.

How can one determine the relationship of individuals on the 1860 census. On the 1860 Hardy County Virginia census, my great grandfather Thomas Wilson is placed below a Pamelia Wilson, and above that a Judy Wilson. Can I safely assume that Thomas is Pamelia's son born out of wedlock? 

My answer to Steve was “This is an important question in genealogy. The short answer is Absolutely not!"

Don't Assume! 

The meaning of "assume" is to suppose without any proof.  

You should never assume anything in genealogy research. You can however create a Working Theory, based on the facts you have found.

List the Possible Scenarios 

In the example you gave, you don't know how Thomas is related, or even if he's related at all. Let's look at some possible scenarios (with the caveat that you have not told me the ages of the individuals and that's an important consideration when developing theories). 

1. Thomas might be Pamelia's son.

2. Thomas might be Pamelia's nephew.

3. Thomas might be Pamelia's cousin. 

4. Thomas might be adopted

5. Thomas might be from a completely unrelated Wilson family 

There are other possibilities depending on the ages of Thomas and the other individuals in the census.

Develop Your Working Theory

A simple definition of "theory" is a supposition, or an idea that might be true but are not yet proven. 

You think that Thomas might be Pamelia's son. That's a good working theory

Prove or Disprove Your Theory

 Your next step would be to search for records that PROVE or DISPROVE your theory. 

* Can you find Thomas or Pamelia in 1850 or 1870 census?
* Look for Thomas' birth record
* Look for Thomas' marriage record
* Look for Thomas' death or obit

Continue researching Pamelia. Find out what you can about her. Is her father named Thomas? That might add a little more weight to your working theory (although that still would not be proof of a mother-son relationship). Perhaps Pamelia has an obit that mentions a son Thomas.

The bottom line is that unless you find proof, it's only guesswork or assumptions. And genealogy is about facts and truth, not guesses. Guesses based on a record you found are important to aid you in developing a working theory but you still must prove (or disprove) that theory. 

September 20, 2021

After 1/4 of a Century, What’s Next For Olive Tree Genealogy?


Life is about change.

When I first had the idea to create my Olive Tree Genealogy website back in 1996, the internet was a brand new thing. There were very few online genealogy sites. The big sites like Rootsweb and Ancestry did not yet exist. It was a new frontier.

It never occurred to me that a quarter of a century later the Olive Tree Genealogy site would still be going strong.  And over the last 25 years Olive Tree Genealogy has grown into an entire family of websites –,, and several more.

Then there are my blogs. 18 years ago I jumped on the blog bandwagon with my Olive Tree Genealogy blog. I’m never happy with just one toe in the waters, and several more blogs followed, all part of the Olive Tree Genealogy family.

Then came the Social Media explosion and this created many new avenues for Olive Tree Genealogy to explore and grow, including Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. 

The last 25 years have been busy, exciting, rewarding and yes, like all endeavours, sometimes frustrating. I have always believed in giving more than I take from the Genealogy community but now it’s time to slow down. Since it’s only a slow down, not a goodbye, I am calling it semi-retirement! 

I will still be offering free and unique content on Olive Tree Genealogy (It is not going anywhere), and participating in genealogy events. My other websites will remain online but they won’t be my primary focus after December 1st .

For now I plan to get back to my roots (pun intended). I  will be scaling back my blog posts and my time on Social Media. I may even be able to carve out some time for my own genealogy research! 

I’ll be focusing most of my time on my Olive Tree Genealoy website but I’ll also be writing more Genealogy books, including my Janie Riley genealogy mysteries. 

New horizons await and I am eager to start this new journey.


September 13, 2021

The Things Family Don’t Know Astound Me!

Before the Pandemic hit I joined my brother and nephew and families for a dinner out. During the evening I showed them a booklet I was creating for our McGinnis family ancestry.

My nephew expressed surprise that my mother and father (his grandparents) had been married in a double wedding ceremony with my mother's sister. This was news to him!

This may seem like a small thing but I was startled. That double wedding was something I heard about as a young child. I have the actual wedding invitation. I have newspaper articles about the two sisters in Guelph who were to be married in a double ceremony. 

I have articles about their showers, their trousseau teas, their wedding and their honeymoon plans. I have a photo of my mom and dad standing on the steps of the church on their Wedding Day. I have a group photo of the Wedding party. 

For me, this is old news and something I know as if it happened to me. I assumed everyone in the family knew. It never occured to me that my nieces or nephews might never have heard of it.

Didn't my brother ever mention it? Did he know? I suddenly feel quite a bit of pressure to spread the word! To share the stories and the facts I've known for so many years. 

Maybe I'm the only one who knows and boy that worries me. I made an error by assuming everyone in the family knew of this special day. What else don't they know (that I do). 

I grew up hearing stories. My mother, grandmother and aunt all told me stories of their childhood and their lives. I asked for the stories over and over again. They showed me clippings from newspapers. My mom had a scrapbook (which may actually have been my grandmother's, my memory is fuzzy on that) which she eventually gave me and that is where all the newspaper clippings, the wedding invitation, etc were. 

Maybe that's why I am a genealogist. I love hearing the stories, learning about the people living their daily lives. It's not about the names or dates or going back the furthest in time. For me it's all about the people - who were they, what events did they experience, what emotions did they feel, how did they live their lives... these are important to me and finding the answers to those questions make my ancestors alive for me. 

What’s important to you as the keeper of the family genealogy?

September 9, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Ames Moulton Webb 1919

 Agnes Isabell Moulton Webb, wife of Alfred Webb, 26 years old, died February 11, 1919.

 A death registration for Agnes, found on Ancestry, indicates she died of influenza, so no doubt the Spanish Flu. Her marriage to Alfred in March 1915 provides her parents' names as Herbert Foster Moulton and Sarah Pattison

September 7, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary.Mary Sophia Webb Thompson 1938

 Mary Sophia Webb, wife of Calvin Thompson died in Hagersville, January 27, 1938

Her certificate of death was found on Ancestry showing she had a cerebral thrombosis causing death.


September 5, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary William Winter 1917

 William Winter died in South Cayuga February 25, 1917, age 85

According to his death registration found on Ancestry William was born in England. He is recorded with the surname Winters. I will leave it to interested descendants to figure out the cause of death. It appears to say hypoplaste Puen which I believe has something to do with the heart.

September 3, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary John William West 1917

 John Wm. (William) West died in Dunnville April 16, 1917.

His death registration was found on Ancestry indicating he died of heart failure in the House of Refuge (poorhouse). He was a widower, born in Ancaster Township, age 82 (as per death registration) and was buried in Cayuga. No information was known of his parents' names. 

September 1, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Gordon Elwood Whaley 1935

 Gordon Elwood Whaley accidentally killed September 9, 1935, age 37. Funeral in Seneca, interment Unity Church.

His death registration was found on Ancestry and has some horrific details of his death in an automobile accident in Brant, Onondaga. 

A newspaper article about his accident was found in The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]11 Sep 1935: 3. 


August 30, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Henry Westley 1928

 Henry Westley, age 77, died September 21, 1925 in Hamilton.

His death registration found on Ancestry provides more details. Henry, born in USA, was hit by a falling tree and died of a skull fracture. 

August 28, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Mary Whitcher 1918

Mary Ella Kelley, wife of James Whicher died in Seneca September 15, 1918, age 50

Her death registration, found on Ancestry , lists her cause of death as Systaminia. Her burial in Caledonia Cemetery is on FindAGrave

August 26, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Margaret Mary Pharo 1913

 In Dunnville August 24, 1913, Margaret Mary, infant daughter of Mrs. Walter Pharo late of Surrey England, age x months and 10 days. Interment Riverside Cemetery

Her death registration found on Ancestry indicates she died of Marasmus which is a form of malnutrition.

She was born in Welland on 14 June 1913 so was only 2 months old. Her parents according to  Ancestry were Walter Pharo and Ann Hardy.

August 25, 2021

More Hayhow Family Bible Items

 Who are these dashing gentlemen? These tintypes were in the Hayhow Family Bible I obtained

To see my first post about the Hayhow family Bible and photos I have. Go to  Recently a dilapidated family bible for the Hayhow family of Ontario Canada came into Olive Tree Genealogy’s hands. Inside were two pages of family births and deaths, tintype photos from the second half of the 19th century, and a few assorted documents

August 24, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Charles Wilson Mellick 1897

 In the Dunnville Gazette July 16. 1897

At Moote Settlement on the 9th inst. Charles Wilson, infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Mellick of Dunnville, age 3

Little Charles death registration was found on Ancestry but provides little detail other than his death was from Diptheria. 

A funeral card exists with more information.


August 23, 2021

Births Page From Hayhow Family Bible

 Is anyone looking for the Hayhow family?

To see my first post about the Hayhow family Bible and photos I have. Go to  Recently a dilapidated family bible for the Hayhow family of Ontario Canada came into Olive Tree Genealogy’s hands. Inside were two pages of family births and deaths, tintype photos from the second half of the 19th century, and a few assorted documents.

August 22, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary James Moisley 1911

 In Moulton Township February 23, 1911, James Moisley, 73. Funeral from home of Carl Van Keuren of Moulton. Interment Riverside Cemetery

According to his death registration found on Ancestry James was born in England December 3, 1838. Only his mother's name was provided. The informant was Mrs. Karl Van Keuren.

August 20, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Archibald Russell 1917

 In Oneida on July 17, 1917, Archibald Russell, 81

His death registration found on Ancestry indicates he died of hepatitis on the Six Nations Reserve. His place of birth is listed as Brantford.

 There is much information to be found on Ancestry about Archibald and his native ancestry.

August 18, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Rebecca Mellick

 In Canboro on April 17, 1906, Rebecca, relict of the late Elias Mellick, in her 78th year

Marriages of some of her children, found on Ancestry  reveal her maiden name of Betts

August 17, 2021

The Hayhow Family Bible

Recently a dilapidated family bible for the Hayhow family of Ontario Canada came into Olive Tree Genealogy’s hands. Inside were two pages of family births and deaths, tintype photos from the second half of the 19th century, and a few assorted documents.

 Over the next few weeks I will feature a half of the items individually, along with some research into the family.  I’ve done a bit already, enough to know that this Bible belonged to Charles and Ann (Higgins) Hayhow who married in 1863 in Ontario. 

August 16, 2021

Haldimand County Obituaries Mary Jane Modeland 1906

From the Dunnville Gazette, Fridat June 22, 1906: 

Mary Jane Modeland, relict of the late Isaac Modeland, died in Dunnvile June 18, 1906 in her 74th year

Her death registration on Ancestry says she was born in Toronto Ontario and died of old age 

 Mary Jane Bell Parker married Isaac Modeland on 23 Jan 1856 in the Home District.

August 14, 2021

Haldimand Obituary Mrs. John Ryan 1917

 There were two obits for Mrs. John Ryan. It's a sad reminder of how women were considered second-class citizens. She did not even get her own first name in her obituaries. 

She died April 20, 1917, age 76 in Caledonia, Norfolk County


The death registration on Ancestry provides her name as Nancy and states she died of senility  

A marriage took place in Norfolk County for Nancy Trimmer (daughter of Daniel and Jane) and John Ryan (parents John and Mary) on 3 April 1860

August 12, 2021

Haldimand Obituary William Perkins 1885

 At Waterford on the 14th, William Perkins, age 100 years and 5 months. March 19, 1885

Find A Grave has his tombstone as:

Name:     William Perkins Sr
Birth Date:     1784
Death Date:     1885
Cemetery:     Greenwood Cemetery
Burial or Cremation Place:     Waterford, Norfolk County, Ontario, Canada

Children:     William Perkins

I did not find a death registration on Ancestry

August 10, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Albert B Ryan 1917

 At the Hamilton Hospital, Albert B. Ryan, age 46, died July 23, 1917. Buried Caledonia Cemetery


 His Death registration shows he died of Obstruction of Bowel

Found on Ancestry in the 1911 Census for Caledonia, Haldimand County with his wife and family.

Albert B Ryan     40, head
Anna Bell Ryan     34, wife
Willie Ryan     14, son
Beatrice Ryan     11, daughter
Eliza Harris     59, mother

August 8, 2021

Haldimand Obituaries Beatrice Pendrich 1992

 Mrs.Beatrice Pendrich age 73 died in Oneida February 28, 1902

Her death registration on Ancestry states the cause of death was Angina Pectoris and she was born in Scotland

The 1891 census, also found on Ancestry shows her husband as James Pendrich born Scotland

August 6, 2021

Haldimand Obituaries Mary Martha Putman 1922

 Another Haldimand County obituary is for Mary Martha Putman, wife of Samuel Putman, age 68. She died in Moulton Township on May 7, 1922 and was buried in Zion Cemetery.

Her death registration, found on Ancestry shows cause of death as Brights Disease

According to marriage records found on Ancestry, Samuel Putman married Mary Martha Cosby in Pelham Township 16 October 1873

August 4, 2021

Haldimand County Obituary Martha A. Walton 1928

 This obituary is for Mrs. Martha A. Wlaton, 76, who died May 27, 1928 in North Cayuga.

I checked  on Ancestry and found she died of bronchial pneumonia and her maiden name was McClung

Martha Anne McClung was married to Cuthbert Walton per the  marriages of several of their children.

August 2, 2021

Haldimand County Obituaries Fanny WIlliams 1913

Continuing with Haldimand County obituaries, we have Mrs. Fanny Williams in her 74th year. Death July 22, 1913 in Dunnville. 

I was able to find her death registration on Ancestry showing she died of an Asthmatic Attack With Cerebral Haemorrhage 

She is in the 1911 census for Dunnville living in the home of  Charles May as his housekeeper. Her occupation is shown as dressmaker

July 31, 2021

Haldimand Obituaries Robert Waite 1898

 Continuing with Haldimand County Ontario obituaries, is an Obit for Robert Waite, age 47 who died February 27, 1898 in Dunnville.

I found a record of Robert's death on Ancestry

Name:     Robert Waite
Gender:     Male
Age:     47
Birth Date:     abt 1851
Birth Place:     St Catharines, Ontario
Death Date:     27 Feb 1898
Death Place:     Haldimand, Ontario, Canada
Religion:     Episcopal
Cause of Death:     Exposure To Cold 

This seems a mystery in the making! Exposure to cold? What happened? There are no further details on the image other than his occupation of carpenter.


July 29, 2021

Haldimand Obituary Mary Wallace 1906

 Continuing with Haldimand County Ontario obituaries, I have Mary Wallace, 64 years old wife of George, death February 16, 1906

Her marriage to George is found in 1861 as

    Name:     George A. Wallace
Age:     25
Birth Place:     At sea
Residence:     Dunnville
Spouse Name:     Mary Rowe
Spouse Age:     20
Spouse Birth Place:     Wales
Spouse Residence:     Dunn Township
Marriage Date:     26 Sep 1861
Father Name:     Mathew
Mother Name:     Martha
Spouse Father Name:     John
Spouse Mother Name:     Hannah
County:     Haldimand
Microfilm Roll:     1030057

They are found in the 1891 census for Dunnville on Ancestry

July 27, 2021

New Project Obituaries Haldimand County Ontario Canada

 Olive Tree Genealogy has been given a large collection of obituaries from Haldimand County Ontario.  Many are from the Dunnville area. I will be posting these obituaries as individual blog posts and hope that descendants will find an ancestor or two. I will also add other documents as I find them 

The first obit I am posting is for Isaac Modeland who died at the residence of L H Weaver on March 26, 1906; in Dunnville

Obituary 1906

Death Registration1906

 Marriage Certificate 1856