We must Name them to truly Remember!

Armistice Day

Canadian actor and artist R.H. Thomson embarked on a Remembrance Day art installation to Commemorate and name those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War.  His belief, we cannot truly remember if we see the dead as an unnamed collective.  I must concur!  As Canadians we have yearly sat through somber school and community ceremonies but it seems only now a more recent trend to actually acquaint youth with the individuals who gave their lives.  Through the study of wartime letters, the biographies of individual soldiers, visits to European monuments and battlegrounds, and the recreation of World War trenches, students are being immersed in the lives and experiences of soldiers.  It is an admirable educational evolution!

619 636 Canadian soldiers enlisted during the First World War, 59 544 lost their lives and in World War II 1.1 million Canadians served.  The numbers are astounding and few family genealogies are untouched by these all encompassing wars meant to end all wars!  Over a decade ago when I began my personal family history journey delving into the lives of my WWI CEF ancestors was costly and time consuming.  While the Library and Archives of Canada provided an online index, one still had to send in a records request, wait for the requests to be processed, and pay substantial amounts of money for files to be copied and mailed, or later scanned and emailed. 

Thomas Carter WWI crop

My Maternal Great Grandfather Thomas Carter


The fantastic news has been that for the last five years a Library and Archives Canada project has digitized Canada’s First World War service files in their entirety and made them available online!  You can read about the digitization process on the LAC blog.

Most genealogist will be familiar with the information I am presenting in this article however I think the interest in this family research may extend beyond those regularly involved in genealogical pursuits.  My hope was that in spreading awareness regarding the increasing accessibility of these records the general public will learn how easy it can be to become acquainted with their ancestors.


One can access the Personnel Records of the First World War database and search by surname and first name and/or your ancestor’s regimental number.

WWI search

You will be presented with a listing of those entries matching your search from which you may select.

WWI listing

The entry for your selected soldier will include some indexed details, a digital image of the soldier’s initial Attestation Papers, and a link to a PDF of the soldier’s complete service file.

WWI Entry

(As an aside, the example I have used is that of my great great uncle, a casualty of the gas attack at the Battle of Ypres in 1915.)

These records may provide one with an initial introduction to one’s ancestor, or perhaps fill in the missing pieces regarding his service.  I will write further articles expanding on this path of discovery later this week.

Not one Canadian veteran remains from the First World War.  As time plods on fewer and fewer remain from the Second World War, and perhaps it is those ancestors who fought during WWII with which one is intrigued.  Many soldiers returned with stories to tell, while trauma prevented others from telling the tales of their experiences.  Many Canadians may have known their parents, grandparents, or great grandparents who fought in the second world war but may have known little of their wartime experiences, the battles they fought,  and the places they were stationed.  The privacy act in Canada is quite stringent and perhaps the idea of these restrictions has deterred people from thoughts of requesting this more recent information.


My Uncle Wilfred Crown in Italy during WWII

An online database index exists for those killed in action during World War II.  Copies of these records may be ordered traditionally through the “how to obtain copies” link on the main database homepage.  These are open records and anyone can request these with only the archival reference information.

All other WWII service files are classified as restricted.  This only means they are not accessible to all.  If the veteran is living he or she is the only one with access to his/her personal file.  The file could then only be released with the written consent of the veteran.

If however the veteran has passed less than 20 years ago limited personal information may be released to immediate family members with proof of relationship and proof of death.  Immediate family can include spouse, parent, sibling, child, or grandchild.

The files of veterans who passed more than 20 years ago can be requested by anyone with proof of death.  This can include the photo of a headstone or an obituary which are often easy to obtain.  All it takes is the completion of a simple application form.

Again, it can take a great deal of time for WWII service file requests to be processed and filled.  The application for may be mailed or faxed and Library and Archives Canada send a confirmation letter.

LAC letter

The copies of the service records follow within 6-12 months’ time.  This may seem a long wait however the records are provided free of charge which is an amazing public service in my estimation!

This Remembrance Day do something different.  Though we continue to thank the collective of veterans and military personnel, stop and take a moment to look at the individuals who comprise that collective. Discover their unique experiences and personalities, and bring them to life for yourselves, your families, and your children!

Being remembered is living forever!


Browsing the 1666 Quebec Census


If you, as I, have sprung from the earliest of French-Canadian roots you may be overwhelmed by the vast expanse of records.  While it is always heartening to see that research sources abound it can also be daunting wading through the piles of paper, the websites, the book stacks, to piece together the stories of our ancestors and decipher the validity of sources.

French-Canadian genealogical research can be hampered also by one’s lack of French language knowledge and the fear of accessing records and documents one cannot comprehend.  I would like to encourage researchers to move beyond this fear and discover a world of exciting documents brimming with rich genealogical details.

fah_canadianIn genealogy, as in many disciplines, it is important to be systematic, bearing this in mind I have decided to produce a series of blog posts introducing novice genealogists to specific French-Canadian document-sets, databases, and resources available online.  The hobbiest must understand that genealogical research should venture beyond sites such as Ancestry and Family Search.  Seasoned researchers, especially those who began their research prior to the onslaught of the internet, focus much of their research deep within the stacks of the archives.  Visiting an archive in person is always preferable but today we are lucky to find more and more archives are updating their websites with digital databases, many including images of original documents.

I am planning a series of blog posts regarding specific French-Canadian records and collections available online for those who are newly venturing into French-Canadian research.  Today I will focus on the early Quebec census records which should represent a wonderful starting point for those struggling with the other language-rich French-Canadian sources we will later explore.

The Library and Archives of Canada website is just one place you can access some wonderful online digital databases.  A particular favourite of mine is that of the 1666 Quebec Census which is not indexed but is a collection of browse-able images.  While they may be rather difficult at times to decipher there are some decent online transcriptions which can be used to help you as you work through the originals.  One of these transcriptions can be found on Hugh Armstrong’s Genealogy Site.  The transcriptions are divided by region so you must be sure to match up the correct region to the correct portion of the original census.


Sample page from the 1666 Quebec Census

You will also find the 1667  and 1681 Quebec Census record images.  All these early census records include the names of all household members and ages.  The 1666 census also includes occupations or descriptors.  These records as you should expect are in French however the nature of the census as a listing of names and ages makes them easily comprehensible to even those with little experience of the French language.  They are a fabulous starting point for those breaking into the realm of French-Canadian research.

Some helpful vocabulary you may encounter in the 1666 Census:

travaillant ~ labourer                         Cordonnier ~ shoemaker   macon ~ builder                           charpentier  ~ carpenter                   menuisier ~ carpenter        fils ~ son                                      Sa femme ~ wife                                  habittant ~ settler                boulanger ~ baker       chapellier ~ bricklayer                      fille ~ daughter                      briquetier ~ bricklayer           Domestique Engaigé ~ Domestic    notaire ~ notary

These are just a few words you may encounter.  Use Google translate or go “old school” as I often do and invest in a French-English dictionary.

I look forward to delving further into the topic of French-Canadian online resources, including collections from Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec (BANQ), in future blog posts!


Exploring the lives of First Nations’ Ancestors Through Investigations of Social History!


If, like me, you have been lucky enough to discover you have First Nations’ ancestry you may soon after feel somewhat unlucky when you find that the records we rely on as Genealogists quickly dry up!  As we start to wall up that family line one brick at a time we should step back and rethink.  Is there no way to combat this scarcity of documentation?  How do we as Genealogists and Family Historians handle cultures which thrived on oral tradition rather than written records?

As an archaeologist and history researcher I can assure you that the scarcity of records proving the life events of your individual ancestors does not have to represent a research wall but rather a unique research opportunity.  Once the usual records dry up remove that first brick by discovering what other post-contact documents may exist.

huron-missionsMy 8th Great Grandmother was Huron or Wendat (Wyandot).  The Wendat people no longer exist as a nation.  They were drastically reduced as a result of European introduced disease, and Iroquoian attacks.  Those who survived were often assimilated into the other Iroquoian nations.  I encountered my 8th Great Grandmother through the Roman Catholic Church parish records (Drouin collection).  She had married my French Canadian 8th Great Grandfather and was described as a “Huron”.  Her parents were named as was her birth place in a Huron mission in the “land of the Huron” now part of Ontario.  While these parish records would seemingly represent the end of the research road they were not.

The Huron missions were the purview of the Jesuits who were prolific writers, journaling and writing letters detailing their experiences.  The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents provide an amazing source of documentation and social history.  Though written from a European perspective a picture of life can be painted.  An interesting aside to always consider is regarding the perspective and worldview of documents created during colonization and their pitfalls.  Dr. Sarah Nickel has touched on this problem in an interesting presentation entitled, Revealing Indigenous Histories Through Oral Interviews.

le_grand_voyage_du_pays_des_hurons_1632_gabriel_sagard Can one turn to Indigenous oral history interviews to discover the social histories of our ancestors?  It is possible, though the value of these oral histories may fade the further you venture into the past.  If ones researching First Nations ancestors in more recent generations the options are more varied and available.

In the case of my Huron ancestors few records exist beyond those involving my 8th Great Grandmother.  While she can be found in parish and notary records her parents were only names appearing on her marriage record.  It was through the Jesuit Relations that I found one mention of her father.  A stroke of luck!  To fill in any further gaps I was reliant upon sources of social history to understand the Huron world of the 1600s and before, the world of my ancestors–context!

History books, ethnographies, dictionaries/linguistic studies, archaeological reports are all examples of pre and post contact sources of helpful contextual information.  Having worked on a pre-contact Huron archaeological site in Ontario I was already a step ahead in my understanding but here is a list of reading I discovered:

“From Mother to Son: The Selected Letters of Marie de l’Incarnation to Claude Martin” or “Word from New France: The Selected Letters of Marie de L’Incarnation to Claude Martin”Words of the Huron by John Steckley
The Children of Aataentsic by Bruce Trigger
An Ethnography of the Huron Indians, 1615-1649 by Elisabeth Tooker
The Death and Afterlife of the North American Martyrs by Emma Anderson
Huronia by Conrad Heidenreich
Huron Wendat: The Heritage of the Circle by Georges Sioui

Many of you who were previously unaware of your First Nations heritage will likely have Metis ancestors.  Compilations particularly of French-Canadian and First Nations marriages exist and can also prove useful.  If they have been sourced, all the better!

  • First Metis Families of Quebec Series by Gail Morin

Metis documentation is perhaps easier to find, most specifically in the prairies.  Metis are of mixed Aboriginal and European heritage.  The government wishing to expand in the west used scrip to extinguish the aboriginal land title of Metis peoples.  Métis Scrip Records can be found in the Library and Archives of Canada collection.  Other excellent prairie Metis record databases and collections can be found at Glenbow Library and Archives, The Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, and Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan.

perles_christi_belcourtWe must remember that First Nations is meant to indicate a multitude of indigenous nations.  As a first step attempt to determine which nation to which your ancestor belongs.  It is this knowledge which will provide a starting point when determining available sources.  What region of Canada might your ancestor have lived in? In what treaty area?  Consider the time frame.  Then begin!  Research the particular First Nation through history books and ethnographies to determine what was happening during the period of interest and perhaps what documentation might be relevant.

Library and Archives Canada has several collections which could be useful and provides a Guide to Researching your Aboriginal Genealogy at LAC.  Of particular interest to those researching more recent generations might be the registers which start around 1951, Treaty Annuity Pay Lists 1850-1982, and Residential school records.

Other wonderful sites which may provide you with valuable resources:

  • Our Legacy
  • Canadiana (which is unfortunately a subscription site but one can browse the collection titles before subscribing)

2_huron-villageLook to archaeology reports to gain a greater understanding of the life of your ancestors pre-contact.  Archaeological societies exist for most provinces and publish regular journals.   Here are two examples of archaeological reports from a Huron site I once worked on:

Finally, think outside the box by reading well researched fiction for a broad feel of the period and the culture.  Keep in mind it is fiction!  A wonderful example would be The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. Explore historic sites, cultural centres, and museums dedicated to First Nations history.

Remember, the end of the “usual” records we as Genealogists tend to rely on does not necessarily signal a brick wall.  If a wall exists perhaps we can, at the very least, build a window through which we can view the possibilities of the more distant past!


My Persistant Pursuance of a Passion

Dictionary Series - Miscellaneous: genealogy

If it has not already become apparent, I have a true passion for genealogical research.  I believe the appeal is not only in learning the unknown about my own ancestors but rather in the human stories, suspensefully revealed piece by piece, and uncovered through the dramatic building up of clues and information.  Who among us does not enjoy a detective story, a mystery which we have fulfillingly solved ourselves?

However, this preoccupation is less fulfilling without the skills required to obtain those story pieces and to puzzle them together.  Up until January I have been a self-taught magnifying glassgenealogist.  I had the aptitude and I was able to search out the resources to help me develop my abilities.  Webinars, my own trial and error, reading blogs, articles and books have all been my learning tools but in January I decided I wanted to pursue my passion more seriously.  I want to be taken seriously as a genealogist, I want to build credentials, and I want to be able to legitimately provide services and assistance to others in search of their family’s past.

This was the impetus for me to go in search of a Canadian genealogy education program and I was gratified to find exactly what I was looking for: an online certificate program through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. The National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS) has been offering genealogy courses for over 15 years.  Why I had not thought to pursue this new path of education years ago I cannot fathom.

NIGSThe Certificate in Genealogical Studies — Canadian Records is a 40 course program resulting in a certificate and post-nominals (PLCGS).  I have completed 7 of the 9 Basic Level courses and will be taking the final 2 basic courses this coming month.  Completely online, each course includes module readings, assignments,  an exam, and optional live stream chats.   The program includes required Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced level courses as well as elective courses which can be selected from a wide menu of choices.  Most courses are about two months long however you can work ahead if you wish.  You are allotted approximately 2 years for several of the culminating analysis courses which appear to be more intensive. I enjoy working at my own pace!

I am excelling thus far and more importantly enjoying my learning experience. The director of the program  has been very helpful and personable whenever I have had any questions.  Even if you are not interested in obtaining a certificate you may enroll in NIGS courses individually   or in groupings to further your knowledge and aid in your research endeavours.  Whether you wish to pursue Genealogy as a business professional/academic or you just want to gain quality skills to aid you in your personal genealogy the National Institute of Genealogical Studies could be what you are looking for just as it was for me!

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Research Travels with Evernote!


Moved but not yet settled, I nevertheless felt the urge to return once more to the comfort of my blog!  During the course of this trying relocation I have continued to find solace in my ongoing genealogical research. Rummaging through my belongings, discarding and reorganizing, I realized it was vital that I start to find better ways to organize the genealogical notes I was drowning in.  While digging through my hodge-podge of sticky notes, note paper, folded loose leaf, and–heaven forbid–even napkins upon which I had literally scrawled information, I began to formulate a plan of attack to battle my genealogical mess!

My first project goal was to find a solution to the problem of scattered notes regarding my future research.  As I have mentioned before, much of my research is conducted from a distance.  I do not live where my family history developed and I rarely have the opportunity to visit those locations vital to my research.  While more and more genealogically relevant documents and sources continue daily to become available online, so many of the most exciting and rich sources of family history remain only locally available.  An example of such genealogically lush resources include local newspapers, family files in libraries and archives, cemetery records, local history books, and even previously written family histories.  Though they may not appear online however we can be grateful that many archives, libraries, and local historical societies have at the very least been far more diligent over the last several years in providing online catalogues and indexes of their holdings.  These indexes are the perfect resource for directing future research and for planning genealogical research trips.

As I perused the internet seeking references to my ancestors and their descendants, jotting down notes on research leads was habitual but the habit became one of disgraceful disorganization.  I would make note of a research lead using my Ancestry.ca family tree but these notes would often be forgotten unless I revisited a particular individual on my tree; I would jot down notes traditionally in paper notebooks or on whatever paper happened to be handy at any given moment; Or I would try to create research log documents on my computer or in binders.  Most of these attempts at keeping track became futile, and inconsistent….enter Evernote!

I am still an Evernote novice, and I know I don’t use it to its full potential.  I find I have little time to tutor myself on it’s proper use.  Even with my limited skills however I have found it an invaluable organizational tool to direct my future research in genealogy and a wonderfully convenient, efficient, and effective way to carry my research notebooks with me wherever my genealogy adventure takes me.

My Evernote notebook is entitled Future Family Tree Research .  Within this notebook I have created documents for various repositories I wish to either visit or contact regarding specific records.  My log includes for example:  The Collingwood Library– Newspaper lookups, The Oxford County Library (Ingersoll) –Newspaper lookups, The Ontario Genealogical Society–Brantford Chapter, and The British National Archives.

Future Research notebook

Future Research notebook

Each time I come across a reference to a specific piece of research I need to either request from these repositories or need to acquire upon visiting these repositories I entire the information in the appropriate repository notebook.  I have formatted them as checklists so I may check off whether I have requested or received the information.  I indicate the record and include the relevant reference numbers.  It is so easy to edit the lists and I can do it from any device!

Note in a checklist format

Note in a checklist format

These cumulative lists make it easy for me to see what I am looking for when I find my way to an archive, or formulate requests to a local library via email.  I have chosen thus far to score items off my list rather than delete them once I have obtained them so I do not repeat a search.

Check off and score items off your list.

Check off and score items off your list.

Perhaps this is a very simplistic use of Evernote technology.  I am a very simple gal who leans towards traditionalist research methods.  I believe however that if I–with my low tech, paper-centered personality–can find this uncomplicated use of evernote valuable and efficient then others might also!  Others with far greater Evernote knowledge and experience would most definitely be able to improve upon my initial idea and as I personally
increase my skills with the app I know I will be tweaking and re-formulating.  But what I would like everyone to take away from this post is the sense of “Yes I can!” Yes I can use new technologies to aid in my genealogy adventure regardless of my level of technological knowledge or skill. If you don’t try new tools, if you let habit and fear control your techniques

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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Friday Follows ~ Diversions Can Be Practical!

Down the Rabbit Hole

Sorry this was posted late!  My internet went down yesterday.  This is when I realize that reliance of technology can be dangerous! Some great finds this week and the excitement of being interviewed for the Geneablogger series “May I Introduce…” It was a good exercise in self-reflection answering the interview questions.  It definitely gave me reason to contemplate my research and re-evaluate my goals!

The Practical Archivist: Tips and tricks to deal with your archival materials.

~ Family Oral History Using Digital Tools : Amazing articles on ways you can use new technology to record oral histories and also some great ways to prompt oral histories and conversations about family history!  Loved this one about the Census and talking to the blog author’s mother!

Opening Doors in Brick Walls: It was through this site that I discovered Colleen Greene but it also provides great information in its own right!  Lovely family stories which help guide you through the genealogical research process.

Colleen Greene: Colleen Greene is my favourite find this week! Not only is she a Genealogist she’s a librarian, and a web designer.  Because she has a knowledge base in web design and html she has provided fabulous articles on how to improve your blog and how to use my newest genealogy tool, Evernote!  I’m excited to work through her past posts to hopefully gain a better grasp of what this tool can do for me!

Ancestories: Always has great Friday Finds and Follows and she has some great series posts.  I think I will need to try the series of posts on Getting More Traffic to My Blog 😉

Being a Beginner Again from the blog “Life From The Roots” : Great little article that helps put things in perspective.  We all start over as genealogists each time we start a new area of research or delve into the history of a new ancestor…no one is alone!

~ Genealogy Tip of the Day and Genealogy Search Tip of the Day : Always looking for tips, advice, and reminders but it is often hard to find the time to scour the internet and read countless articles.  I like these quick tips!
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Friday Follow ~~ Following the White Rabbit…again!

Down the Rabbit Hole

This week I took a little tour and once again followed that white rabbit to distraction!

~ Kingston Penitentiary Inmates, 1913-1916 ~ This was too fun to resist!  I am unaware of any black sheep in my family who called the Kingston Penitentiary home but what a great resource for those who might!

~Family Tree Frog ~ What an enjoyable read!  I found myself chuckling as I read the delightful conversational style posts and I soaked up some great genealogy goal ideas for the year!

~ Find My Past ~ FREE weekend!  Take this opportunity to peruse this subscription website’s record collections free of charge.  I’ve already found some fabulous documents not available on Ancestry.com.

~ Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog ~ She has some fabulous Finds on Fridays….she even included me one Friday which is an indication of her good taste, of course! Some great resources listed there this Friday!!

~ Ginisology ~A lovely balanced mix of personal genealogy and valuable information for genealogists in general!  There is a true sense of geneablogger “community” in her posts as a whole!

~ Black Raven Genealogy ~ Enjoyable tales of Irish personal genealogy discover which is quaint and inspiring!

Now I’m off to explore Find My Past and navigate through Jana’s list of amazing new links! Look forward to the Weekend before it becomes the past!
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Amanuensis Monday ~ With Love…

Frederick and Hester Martin (Courtesy of:  "Reynolda House Museum of American Art Archives")

Frederick and Hester Martin (Courtesy of: “Reynolda House Museum of American Art Archives”)

I enjoy amanuensis when the writing is reasonably deciphered! It is a peevish problem when one’s head is tilted this way and that begins to swim with visions of ambiguous scrawling handwriting with no hope of decoding what appears to require a WWII code breaker from Bletchley Park!  The fulfillment however when the secret of the original records’ message is revealed is a kin to magic!  Journals, letters, legal documents, postcards, are personal and can often reveal intimate details of our ancestors’ emotional, internal lives!

Some of my absolute favourite transcriptions are of letters of wartime context.  The sense of longing and sorrow associated with a lost loved soldier or a distant love in dangerous circumstances can be heart wrenching.

Here are a couple of heart weighing tales discovered from a few simple transcriptions~

Frederick Martin, a cousin of my husband’s was a gardener of much prestige first in England and later at Reynolda House, a magnificent estate in Winston, North Carolina, USA.  Frederick sadly died in France on July 22, 1917 during the First World War.  His wife was devastated and her candid emotion in a letter to his employer, Mrs. Reynolds is truly breathtaking:

Dear Madam, It is just a week ago that I received the news of the overwhelming sorrow that has befallen me. There is not much to tell. He was killed in action on July 22nd. He had been wounded the day before but had been of great assistance to the officers in looking after those poor fellows who were more wounded than he was. Tho slightly wounded went into action next day to meet his death. It was a great shock to me for I had the day before received two letters from him. Letters full of hope, cheer and saying how he would make up to me when the war was over for the past years of separation and anxiety. If only a year could roll back how gladly I would brave the submarines to go with him, for in nearly every letter he was wishing I was with him but can only hope it is for the best. I cannot yet realize he has gone but I know when I go back to Philadelphia and England, I shall have some bad days to go through. I do not know yet what I shall do but am writing the British Consul for a passport to England, but of course they may not be able to let me go. His major writes me that his death was instantaneous and that he died a hero’s death, that is as it may be but I know that I have been called upon to give up a life that was very dear and precious to me. I hope that Mr. Reynolds is better for the visit to Atlantic City and that the children and yourself are well. Please tell Lizzie I will answer her kind letter soon. With best wishes Believe me yours sincerely H. Martin.

A second–I’ll be it happier–wartime correspondence is a telegram written to one Lance Corporal Knowles from Paris, Ontario, Canada 15 Nov 1916 announcing a joyous event which I’m sure he was disappointed to miss, the birth of his daughter Gwendolyn:

Western Union Cablegram From Paris, Ontario Number of words 22/23 Dated 15 Nov 1916 —

To L co. Lance Corporal Knowles 163232 Fourteenth Platoon D company seventy fifth Canadian Army Post Office London.

Daughter Gwendolyn both doing well. Knowles

The original Telegram

The original Telegram

Fred Knowles, a relation of my sister-in-law, was lucky enough to return home to meet his daughter. However, he was so badly wounded at the Somme that he was invalided home and lost his left arm.

Fred Knowles meets his daughter Gwendolyn in June of 1917.

Fred Knowles meets his daughter Gwendolyn in June of 1917.

These personal letters were truly sent With love and for love…
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Tombstone Tuesday ~ Just Because it is Written in Stone…

My Great-Grandparents' Headstone

My Great-Grandparents’ Headstone

It is hardly an elaborate, beautiful, or notable tombstone but tonight’s post is not meant to feature some lavish stone with intricate markings or ornate carving.  It is rather a cautionary tale in assuming that everything written in stone is true!  This headstone is a prime example of how inaccurate tombstone’s can be!

Newspaper article with the account of Thomas Carter's death. Woodstock Sentinel Review, May 1943.

Newspaper article with the account of Thomas Carter’s death. Woodstock Sentinel Review, May 1943.

My Great-Grandfather’s name was Thomas with a “Th”.  Though he had lied about his year of birth on occasion, including on his WWI attestation papers, he was more accurately born in 1885 in England. What is most remarkable however is the absolute incorrectness of his death year.  My Great Grandfather, Thomas Carter, died not in 1945 but rather 1943.  Not only had my grandmother recorded his death year as 1943 but his death was actually recorded in a local newspaper article in May of 1943.  His death had made the news because he had passed away at work.

Humorously, it is likely my Great-Grandmother, Margaret Sloan, was born in 1888 rather than 1889. Most documents indicate 1888 as her birth year though I suppose I have yet to find her birth record so I cannot be sure.

Though inaccuracy in a birth date on a gravestone is understandable it is very difficult to comprehend how someone can be confused as to the year of a person’s death while carving a tombstone unless perhaps it was not carved until years later.  It is possible my Great-Grandmother could not afford a stone or its carving initially and it was done years after the death of my Great-Grandfather.

Regardless, it is important to note that while tombstones are a great starting point for information but should never be relied upon as the final word on the vital events of an individual!
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