Sentimental Sunday ~ The Sentiment of Stitchery

"1791 sampler" by Polly Bedford, born 1779 - Art Institute of Chicago. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“1791 sampler” by Polly Bedford, born 1779 – Art Institute of Chicago. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

One of the childhood memories I cherish is that of the sampler my mother helped me to create for the purpose of learning embroidery.  Yes, I did learn to embroider! And while this was once common place, even in my day it had become a very uncommon pastime to teach children the art of stitchery.  My mom held to the tradition perhaps because she knew I had an interest in crafts and art and had recalled her childhood experiences…a form of reminiscence I suppose.  Regardless of her motivation I still dabble at needlework and find it a truly soothing occupation.

The tradition of embroidery and sampler creation can actually be traced back far into the distant past.  The” sampler” has appeared as an art form in primitive cultures as the Nazca of Peru in ca. 200 BC –300 AD and has been found in Egypt in the form of silk samplers from around 400 -500 AD.  Europeans were making samplers at the very least by the 16th century.

Grandma's Needlepoint

Grandma’s Needlepoint

Why talk about stitchery and samplers on a genealogy related blog you may ask?  As you know I like to discuss how I incorporate family keepsakes and artifacts into my daily family life and my home decor. While dusting my occasionally forgotten upstairs shelves I came across a framed needlepoint my grandmother had created which I so hated to stuff in a box.  I lovingly placed it atop a bookshelf and let it fade into the background of the landscape of my home environment.  I thought of grandma, placed it back on the shelf and it set off a chain of events in my mind!  My memories of grandma came flooding back her hands stitching this and then the linens which now adorn my daughters’ dressers; The quilt she made me as an infant–I have a photo of her stitching it as I stood beside her–which has now been passed on to my eldest daughter; The “God Bless..” sampler my mother made which bears my birth date; The wedding samplers my husband and I received from an aunt and family friend bearing our wedding date; And then there are the cross stitched quilts I made for my children when they were born. All these examples of family stitchery, hold memories and many of special life events.  They often bear dates and places, mottos, and family motifs.  It occurred to me that many could be considered documents and sources– I’ll be it secondary ones–not only keepsakes.

Grandma quilting with me looking on in 1975

Grandma quilting with me looking on in 1975

I’ve decided to photograph these items and attach them to my tree as well as include them in a catalogue of family keepsakes and heirlooms.  I’ve also continued my own stitching and have been teaching my children, to maintain tradition and to be sure that my home is not just a house of store bought trinkets but continues to be filled with the beauty and loving touch of family handicrafts and artifacts. “A stitch in time…” can take on an entirely new connotation!

A sampler made by my mother when I was born.

A sampler made by my mother when I was born.

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Thriller Thursday ~ The Coroner’s Inquest

A Coroners Inquest

Previous Installments of this Series:

~ Accident or Murder

~The Vanishing

~Dear John

~The Fate of Rhoda

The suspect, John Carter, arrested–housed at Faringdon Gaol– and the body found, a coroner’s Inquest was held in the Schoolhouse at Watchfield.  In Constable Charles Sparkes’ own words the horror of the scene unfolds:

I got an iron bar and with it I probed the floor of an outbuilding adjoining the house of the husband used as a stable–it was covered with litter.  I tested it all over until I came to one corner where there was a large wheelbarrow stood on its end and propped up against the wall in a corner.  I moved the wheelbarrow and found a tub which I also removed.  I then grubbed the floor and at about the third time I put the bar down I found I was on something.  As I pulled the bar out I smelt a deathly smell.  I at once called to Sgt. Benning who was in an adjoining shed and he brought a four grained fork with him but the earth was shallow and I knelt down and pulled the earth off with my hands.  I then found the body of the deceased with only a chemise on her body, there were only about three inches of earth covering the body.  Sgt. Benning and I then took the body out of the hole and placed i where the jury have seen it.  This morning I examined the hole and found it to be about two feet square and about 18 inches deep.  The body of the deceased was doubled up when we found it and being a small person it took up very little room.  I searched the house but saw no traces of blood and there were no marks of a struggle having taken place.  When I found the body it presented the same appearance as it does now, except that it has become more discoloured.  I saw a black mark round the throttle of the neck of the deceased about four or five inches in length and about three quarters of an inch wide, it appeared to be larger on the left side of the neck than on the right…

From the Coroner’s Report

John’s brother James testifies at the inquest explaining that the had met John in a field as he was returning from a milk run to Shrivenham Station.  John had confessed to his brother that he “did kill his wife”.  He claimed she had died directly after he had hit her and knocked her down.  He then proceeded to drag her into the blacksmith shop to be buried.  He had requested that James return to Watchfield to determine what the gossip might be about his wife Rhoda.  James had instead gone to the police.

James Carter

The testimony of several neighbours recounted the events of the days surrounding Rhoda’s murder but it was the testimony of Faringdon surgeon Coniston Spackman, ordered by the coroner to make a superficial examination of the body, which detailed the truly heinous violence Rhoda had endured and her corpse had been submitted to:

I found the whole of the body was very much discoloured particularly the head and face and the right side of the body–the hair of the head was very nearly off–it was hanging loose, the features were so much discoloured and swollen that they were almost beyond recognition.  On examining the throat I found three distinct marks, one on the right corresponding to the impression of a thumb and two on the left corresponding to the impression of two fingers.  I also found the thyroid cartilage discoloured, it was quite moveable,there was no fracture of the skull but the nose was broken.  The appearance of the head and face would lead to the supposition that it had been beaten severely or trodden upon.  I should say after death.  I found the skin of the whole body was easily removeable–that I attribute to decomposition but it might have been by scorching and there was a distinct smell as though the body had been scorched.  From all the appearances of the body, I am of the opinion that death was caused by strangulation.  The hair of the deceased smelt of fire.  I cannot give any opinion as to the time which has elapsed since the death but I should say about a week…

From The Coroner’s Report

Watchfield School where the inquest took place

Watchfield School where the inquest took place

The inquest results were clear and there was little question John Carter would be stand trial for the murder of his third wife Rhoda Ann!

…that the cause of her death was that she was strangled and killed by her husband John Carter on or about the twenty first of July in the year aforesaid at Watchfield aforesaid and so do further say that he said John Carter did feloniously, wilfully and of malice aforethought murder the said Rhoda Ann Carter

Busy Making Memories!


When I commenced this blog I told myself I would write daily.  And I have been faithful to this for the most part but I also have a family with which I wish to make memories and create family history.  I have promised myself family would come before, and blog after!  This is my explanation for gaps and breaks in my writing!

Sympathy Saturday ~ Uncle Jean-Marie

Jean-Marie Loranger 1947-1963

Jean-Marie Loranger 1947-1963

My father was one of twelve children.  A typical French Canadian family of Northern Ontario, prolific and poor!  What I always found humorous was the symmetry of the family’s composition: a tidy six boys and six girls.  My dad would tell stories of his childhood home.  A room for the boys and one for the girls, children sleeping like match sticks tightly packed in a bed with one or two sleeping perpendicular at their feet.  But that perfect symmetry was disrupted in January of 1963!

It is not enough to say with a dozen who misses just one?  Each child has unique value and as parents it is the greatest of losses losing a child regardless of how many there are “to spare”.  I would venture to say the loss of her son, Jean-Marie, was probably the most difficult trial of my grandmere’s life.

The Loranger Family before the birth of their youngest child.

The Loranger Family before the birth of their youngest child. Jean-Marie appears to the far left (my dad just behind him peeking over his head).

Jean-Marie Loranger, born 31 May 1947, was walking home when he was hit by a car and killed 19 January 1963 in Larder Lake, Ontario.  He was 15 years old! Only two years younger than my father, I think my dad felt the loss in a very real way for it was through him that I learned of Jean-Marie as I was growing up.  Dad had a photo of his brother and had told us of the accident. Similar in age and the eldest of the boys, I imagine they were not just brothers but friends!   My son will be 15 this summer and the thought of such a family tragedy is truly unbearable!

Though I was born over a decade after my uncle’s death and I did not know him I feel a connection.  Perhaps it is  through the stories of my father, perhaps it is the effect of a photograph on an impressionable mind, but I remember Jean-Marie in my soul.  I picture him in my mind’s eye–traipsing through the bush with my dad, skipping rocks in the water, teasing and taunting his sisters.  There is possibly a chemical or biological connection to our ancestors that allows us to know and sense things about them regardless of having never met them!

Jean-Marie's Headstone, Kirkland Lake, Ontario

Jean-Marie’s Headstone, Kirkland Lake, Ontario

Jean-Marie is buried in the cemetery in Kirkland Lake, Ontario.  I am hoping to find a newspaper article detailing the accident from the Temiskaming newspapers in the future.
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Thriller Thursday ~ The Fate of Rhoda

Rhoda Ann Carter (Nee Titcombe)

Rhoda Ann Carter (Nee Titcombe)

Previous posts for this serial:
~ Accident or Murder?

~ The Vanishing

~ Dear John

The community of Watchfield was fraught in suspicion and both relations and neighbours were concerned by the mysterious disappearance of Rhoda Ann Carter (formerly Rhoda Ann Titcombe).  The answers to questions of Rhoda’s whereabouts and the events of the past few days, provided by her husband John Carter were unfathomably bizarre and certifiably untrue. Police Constable Charles Sparkes, of Shrivenham, was called to seek satisfaction in this case!

That Saturday evening, Constable Sparkes called on John Carter to inquire after Rhoda.  John insisted that his wife had left for her sister’s home in Eastleach Friday morning.  He explained that he and Rhoda had argued the evening before.  She had planned to fetch her sister and bring her back to stay with them during her confinement.  “I had told her, you won’t.  I married you to look after my children.  I says to her if you go you stop there; don’t you come back here again!”, Carter claimed. Constable Sparkes had known Rhoda for many years and knew her to be short-tempered, perhaps this explanation bore a resemblance to the truth.  When asked if Carter expected his wife to return, he replied that she was expected to return by carrier on Tuesday.

Map of the Watchfield  area showing East Leach

Map of the Watchfield area showing East Leach

Rhoda’s mother, still concerned, accompanied Cst. Sparkes into the Carter cottage and indicated that her daughter’s belongings were all accounted for beyond one set of clothing.  Rhoda had left with nothing but the clothes on her back!  Cst. Sparkes felt the need to investigate further as Rhoda’s mother accused Carter of “doing her daughter in”!

A trip to East leach revealed that Rhoda’s sister Jane Weatley and her husband David had not been visited by Rhoda. Carter’s story, an obvious concoction, while Sparkes was away, Carter bolted. Found in a meadow outside Watchfield, Carter is arrested.   It was thanks to John Carter’s brother James that the police were able to track him.  James, on a milk run, had encountered his brother John. and upon inquiring what he had been up to was told, “I did kill my wife and bury her in the blacksmith shop.” This statement from James and his direction made John’s arrest possible but it was the gruesome evidence, later discovered by Cst. Sparkes and Sergeant Benning from Uffington, which would soon seal the fate of John Carter and resolve the mystery of Rhoda Ann Carter’s disappearance…the body buried under the out building used as a stable!  This evidence would be detailed at the coroner’s inquest!

John Carter's arrest.

John Carter’s arrest.

The case continued next Thursday!
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St. Patty’s Day ~ My Irish Brick Walls


The journey overseas is always fraught with troubled waters.  Genealogical research can so easily stall once one tries to cross the ocean to discover roots in the old country.  When this research takes one back to Ireland the pitfalls can be numerous.  In my personal genealogy and that of my husband I have crashed into many Irish brick walls.  One issue which I cannot seem to get passed is the lack of information regarding these individuals’ home towns and even counties.  On a Canadian census one encounters only the country of origin Ireland, and because Canadian’s were considered British subjects until 1947 those immigrants from Britain and Commonwealth countries (such as Ireland) did not require naturalization.  No naturalization equals less documentation! Without an Irish place name to pinpoint and with such common names…feels like a mission impossible!


Our Brick Wall Irish ancestors:

John  McGinnis (my husband’s 4th Great Grandfather)  ~ Born 1 May 1818 in Ireland.  ~His Immigration year according to the 1901 Canada Census 1832  but could have been anytime between 1832-1857.  Immigrated to Township of Flos, Simcoe  ~Wife Margaret (Maiden Name unknown)

James Sloan(e) (my 3rd Great Grandfather)~Born abt 1811 in Ireland   ~Died 12 May 1871 in Oxford County, Ontario, Canada (in poor house)  ~1851 Canada Census – Living in Brantford, ON, Labourer, religion Church of England  ~Immigration year sometime between 1811 and 1847 (when oldest child was born in Canada)  ~Wife Margaret (maiden name unknown) also born in Ireland; Children: William, Mary Ann, James, Margaret, and George all born in Canada.

Henry Rutledge (my 4th Great Grandfather)~Born abt 1796 in Ireland  ~Immigration year had to have been before 1823                                  ~Wife Ann (Maiden name Unknown). She was born in New Brunswick and died sometime bet 1842 and 1851.   ~1851 Canada Census – Living in Norwich, Ontario, W. Methodist, farme  ~1861 Canada Census – Living in Derham, Ontario, W. Methodist, labourer, Living with his daughter and her family  ~Children: Margaret Ann (born in New Brunswick, Canada), Christopher, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Isabella (all born in Ontario, Canada)

Because of their early immigration years even looking for their immigration to Canada has been challenging.

A few Early Irish Record Sets I’ve searched thus far:

~All Irish Canadian Emigration Records, 1823-1849

~New Brunswick, Canada Passenger Lists, 1834

~Irish Emigration Lists 1833-1839

Find My Past (Currently $1 for the month special)

(**Link to the Irish research Guide)

~Griffith Valuation (1847-64)

~Poverty Relief Loan Fund Records (1824-)

~Newspaper Collection (1740-)

~Farrar’s Index of Marriages 1771-1812 and Baptisms 1771-1812

So far little success but I will continue to chip away at those Irish Brick Walls, maybe the Luck o’ the Irish will find me and I will find the gold at the end of the research rainbow!

Tuesday Tips ~ Evernote and My Future Research


I must admit, though I have stated that I am a traditional paper and pencil girl, I also tend to scribble notes down on scraps of paper which often end up helter skelter.  I use notebooks but find in order to properly organize myself I need numerous notebooks for various things—different family branches, research on various locations, to do lists and so forth.  While I have made this work I find carting so much paper can be a bit cumbersome, especially when travelling.  Although I don’t think I will ever entirely give up my physical notebook tendency, I do think I am ready to supplement it with the newly available technology of Evernote.

Several weeks ago I decided to take my recipe card” Brick Wall Ancestors File” and add it to Evernote.  I created an Evernote notebook for my brick wall individuals and then one for those on my husband’s tree.  It was not only an organizational endeavour but it actually turned out to be a review of those Brick Walls.  As I transferred the information from card to computer I had several eureka moments. It is amazing how, what seems a simple sort can lead to new finds.  Review, review, review!  (That is my bonus tip).

I was so impressed with how my Brick Wall File developed and how easy it was to navigate that I was determined to further utilize Evernote by creating “A Future Research Notebook”.  It began with a few key references I wished to order or look up in future for my Great-Great Grandfather, and became a well-organized guide or to do list for things I could not immediately accomplish.  Most of these tasks are those which must be done at repositories too distant for me to access currently or for documents which must be ordered but I presently do not wish to spend funds on.  I know if I do not take note of these I may not remember.  I do record this information under the notes of individuals on my family tree but with so many individuals it can be easy  to overlook.

I began organizing my Future Research Notebook by individual but then thought it might be even better to organize it by repository or organization.  For example: I am looking for Assize Court records for my Great-Great Grandfather.  These are housed at the British National Archives.  Also at the British National Archives are various other records I require for research on other ancestors.  The title therefore of one of the notes in my “Future Research Notebook” could be “The British National Archives” and under that title appears an ancestor’s name and the reference numbers for the documents I wish copies of.  I could also effectively have titled my note by individual:John Carter, or by record type; Assize Records, or a combination there of. My notebook is a combination of notes for individuals, and individual repositories but you could choose one or the other if you find this more organized.

Individual example

Individual example

Example by repository.

Example by repository.

Another example by repository

Another example by repository

I like that I can alphabetize my notes with the click of a button and know that new notes I add will also be alphabetized–this can be done far easier than with writing in traditional notebooks! I also love that I can use check boxes in front of each document reference or task.  I can simply tick them off as I go or ultimately just delete them.  I can also edit notes and add new tasks or documents I may learn about on repository visits or in online searches, to deal with once again at a later date!

Data and information collected can also be added to notes in Evernote if I have notebooks dedicated to research trip note taking or create research log templates to fill in.  I have yet to learn how to create such research log templates but when I do find a day to sit and learn I believe Colleen Greene has a blog article I can refer to for assistance!

Remember, you can teach an old dog new tricks…it may just take a little longer! Oh, and life-long learning keeps one from stagnating!

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Monday Madness ~ Little Bouts of Insanity

A photo of the devastation from the Hailybury fire of 1922 "Haileybury 1922" by Russell Photo - Haileybury Heritage Museum (Virtual Museum Canada (online source)).

A photo of the devastation from the Hailybury fire of 1922
“Haileybury 1922” by Russell Photo – Haileybury Heritage Museum (Virtual Museum Canada (online source)).

I think we all have a little story of madness…either we have experienced our own bouts of temporary “insanity”, or we have had encounters with others experiencing their own madness.  While reading a local history book article written by my father’s cousin regarding my Grandmother’s family I had to chuckle about a horrible story of madness.  Yes, I did chuckle but only because the outcome of the story was a happy ending and the story seemed so unbelievable.

Having lost everything in a great fire which had engulfed their community, my Grandmother’s family went to stay with a neighbour.  It was there that the neighbour lady who was suffering a mental illness took my Great-uncle Anicet and tried to stuff him into the wood stove! I have included the quote of this tale  which I have translated from the original French:

Joseph Beland and Dorilda Boulay, my grandparents, left their home town (village of birth) Ste-Ursule in the county of Maskinonge, in 1917. They came to establish themselves with their four children in the promised land of Nedelec, in the Temiskaming. Their children: Dorilda age 5, Francoise age 4, Arthur age 3, and Paul-Emile age 1. They were not rich and they settled the land and, as most of us know, the farm land of Nedelec is rich in stones (full of stones). But grandpa had the heart to overcome this challenge and give his offspring a good life in this rather wild area called Temiscaming. The 22nd of August 1918 Gerald was born, followed by Bernadette in 1920. The 8th of August 1922 Anicet was born; this was the year of the great fire in Hailybury. The family lived peaceful days in their humble dwelling, when a neighbour arrived running to tell them to get out of the house quickly as the fire was heading their way and was close. It must be said that literally the fire ran the fields and, as it was a very dry autumn, it burned everything in its path. Grandma picked up her small children and ran to the neighbours who gave them a place to stay. The neighbour lady (the lady that lived there) suffered from a mental illness and at one point she seized baby Anicet, to put him in the wood stove. But because of her watchful eye and maternal instinct, grandma saved her youngest. The great fire proved to be a terrible ordeal for the Beland family. They lost everything but the clothes on their backs. The neighbours were generous, but they too were suffering from the disaster. In 1934 they moved onto a farm in Belle-Vallee, To situate you it was the land of Phillipe Goudreault.

An excerpt from an article written by Diane Beland printed in “Raconte-moi ton histoire: Belle-Vallee et Judge 1909-2009”

Having read this vignette what touched me was that my dad’s cousin knew this story only through narrative tales told by her grandparents.  Her father Anicet had only been a baby at the time of the event.  I called my dad to talk about this story and he reiterated the tale.  He had heard this story too from his grandparents and from his mother, Bernadette (my grandmere).  It is often those little bouts of madness which live on in a family’s oral history!
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Church Record Sunday ~ Quebec Church Records a Great Start if you Have French-Canadian Heritage!

St. Anne 85One of the most amazing advantages of being French Canadian is the wealth of records available.  The majority of these records are courtesy of the Roman Catholic Church.  These are essential to my genealogical research, so much so that I use them daily and have links to the collections on my Ancestry home page.  As a genealogist you know how trying it is to be confronted with a shortage of records but in French-Canadian research it is almost overwhelming, dates and names swirling endlessly in my head.  It may take years to sift through each church record thoroughly!

Sample page of baptisms.  My 5th Great Grandfather's baptism is listed at the top, Pierre Cote, Jan 1724

Sample page of baptisms. My 5th Great Grandfather’s baptism is listed at the top, Pierre Cote, Jan 1724

The Droin Collection is a collection of French-Canadian vital records and genealogical information collected by the Institut Généalogique Drouin.  There are six databases within the collection:  Quebec, Vital and Church Records, 1921-1967, Acadia French Catholic Church Records, 1670-1946, Ontario French Catholic Church Records, 1747-1967Quebec Notarial Records, 1647-1942Miscellaneous French Records, 1651-1941 and even Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954, These are available with a paid subscription on Ancestry.

Marriage Record Sample Page (Marriage of my 5th Great Grandfather Pierre Cote and Barbe Riopel his second wife is on this page).

Marriage Record Sample Page (Marriage of my 5th Great Grandfather Pierre Cote and Barbe Riopel his second wife is on this page).

Though most of these records are church records two copies of each of these records were made at the time of the event one for the civil government and one for the parish. The Droin Collection is made up of the Civil government copies.

Death and burial record Page . (Again Pierre Cote's entry is on this page from 1803 L'Ange Gardien, Montmorency, Quebec).

Death and burial record Page . (Again Pierre Cote’s entry is on this page from 1803 L’Ange Gardien, Montmorency, Quebec).

Another collection which stems from Quebec church records which I use daily is the Quebec, Genealogical Dictionary of Canadian Families (Tanguay Collection), 1608-1890 (Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes (Collection Tanguay), Québec, 1608 à 1890). Though this is a genealogical dictionary which lists early French-Canadian families it was written by a priest, and genealogist in his own right, Cyprien Tanguay based primarily on parochial records but also other archival records.  His seven volume work contained several errors and some gaps or omissions but ultimately it is one of the greatest French genealogical publications and projects–I’d venture–ever produced by one individual!  His life’s devotion to this genealogical work has continued to provide a fabulous foundation or starting point for French-Canadian genealogists such as myself!  There are also many later supplements available which have made corrections to Tanguay’s original work and additions.  I have found the majority of my work from Tanguay has been quite accurate as I back it up with other documents, so I do tend to find it a reliable and verifiable source but just as any “copied” work you must bear in mind the possibility of error!

An excerpt from a page in Tanguay.  Notice it is alphabetical and then by marriage date.  A few of my Beland ancestors appear in this excerpt.

An excerpt from a page in Tanguay. Notice it is alphabetical and then by marriage date. A few of my Beland ancestors appear in this excerpt.

Looking for the parishes in Quebec? I have recently stumbled upon a wonderful clickable map of Quebec’s Catholic parishes at Genealogie Quebec.  This is free to use, though the site Genealogie Quebec is a subscription site.

You must also remember that the majority of these church records will be in French.  As a Canadian I have a decent command of the language and as a French-Canadian I have relatives like my dad, aunts, uncles, and grandmother who can always aid in any difficult translations.  If you are struggling with the French I would recommend using Google translate to find key terms and dates in French that may assist you or join a French genealogy group like a Facebook page for French-Canadian Genealogy or Quebec Genealogy and ask for assistance. Contact me, maybe I can help!

I am admittedly no expert in French-Canadian genealogy but I have however gained a great deal of experience during my years of research and I am always learning more.  There are a wealth of record sources, but always consider the importance of church records for those vital facts: vital dates (births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials), names of parents, spouses, and sometimes family members as witnesses.

Dive into your French-Canadian gene-pool today!