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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Sympathy Saturday ~ John McGinnis

Obituary of John McGinnis (Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin 14 Oct 1937)

Obituary of John McGinnis (Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin 14 Oct 1937)

John McGinnis was the 3rd Great Grandfather of my husband.  Son of Irish immigrants and born in Flos, Ontario, Canada on 3 Aug 1857. John was a fisherman much of his life.  He moved to Collingwood, Ontario with his parents at the age of 8.  He married his French Canadian wife Mary Jane Burgie 28 Dec 1877 and proceeded to have 8 children, one of whom became a ship’s captain.  John was obviously well-loved and respected and his fellow fisherman nicknamed him “Daytime” due to his early rising!  He was a member of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic church in Collingwood and it is in the St. Mary’s Cemetery he was laid to rest joined two years later by his wife Mary Jane.  He died in Oct of 1937 at the age of 80 years.

Headstone of John McGinnis, his wife Mary Jane, and his son Chares. St. Mary's Cemetery, Collingwood, Ontario

Headstone of John McGinnis, his wife Mary Jane, and his son Chares. St. Mary’s Cemetery, Collingwood, Ontario

I have yet to determine the name of John McGinnis’ mother and to trace his ancestors into Ireland.  His father’s name was also John McGinnis (born abt.. 1818).  Ah yes…another Irish brick wall!

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!

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!

Surname Saturday ~ Bryant? Butler? …Overton?

Kinver, Staffordshire Postcard

Kinver, Staffordshire Postcard

It becomes terribly frustrating when you are researching an individual whose surname is entirely baffling!  One often expects to be puzzling over unknown maiden names but there are so many reasons a surname can be a mystery.  I’ve discussed the confusion of the French-Canadian “dit” name, and the anglo-sizing of German names in my family in previous posts but what about the bazaar and unexplained which cause shifts in surnames?

I have been chasing a brick wall ancestor for some time in my husband’s tree with little success.  James Enoch Butler Bryant was my husband’s 2nd Great Grandfather.  Assuming his last name was indeed Bryant and that his father was Joseph Barnett Bryant–the father with which he lived after arriving in Canada–I spent countless hours in search of this Bryant family in England.  But what happens when the Bryant I am in search of turns out to be a Butler?

After fruitless searching I decided that James Enoch Butler Bryant was a terribly unusual name.  It seemed a double surname, Butler and Bryant.  Of course, my first instinct was that perhaps Butler was the maiden name of his mother, or even of a grandmother; Often such names are carried through the generations in this way. I started to search for James and his mother Hannah as Butlers rather than Bryants in the England Census. It took some crazy further searching but I found a James Enoch Butler living with his mother Hannah Butler, grandmother, Alice Sheldon, and  his uncle Edwin Sheldon in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England.  Well, it was a lead so I ran with it!

1881 England Census (unfortunately on two pages)

1881 England Census (unfortunately on two pages)

census 1881 (2)

It is funny how the more genealogical research one does the more instinctual it becomes.  I sometimes imagine it is the hand of an ancestor pulling us along, curling a pointer finger in a come hither motion, visible only to one’s psyche. Regardless of what triggers that sense of correct direction, it’s there!  It is this instinct which aids us to pick up signs, clues, and cues in tracking down the individual or individuals we are hunting.  I felt this lead tugging me onward.  The 1881 England Census indicated that Hannah Butler was married and because she was the daughter of the “head of household” Alice Sheldon I knew the likelihood was her maiden name had been Sheldon but where was her husband?  Beyond having the common last name Butler I had no idea who he was.  There were many Butlers in West Bromwich, as well can be imagined, and I could not find a marriage nor a birth record to indicate the Butler-Sheldon connection so a brick wall was soon laid, each resultless search adding one more solid brick.

It is never futile to try searching various sites in a variety of ways.  I finally did find a marriage record for Hannah Sheldon and a John Thomas James Butler in Neighbouring Dudley, Staffordshire, England in 1876 (James Enoch was born the following year in 1877).  Knowing now I likely had the correct family, I found Hannah Butler’s second marriage in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada to Joseph Barnett Bryant in 1882.  Most poingiant is the fact that, like Hannah, Joseph was also a single parent of a young boy about the same age as James Enoch.  Both were from West Bromwich originally so, while they married in North America, it is likely they met in England.  Five year old James Enoch Butler Bryant was obviously raised by Joseph Bryant as his own kin.

St. Peter's Church, Kinver.

St. Peter’s Church, Kinver.

The mystery now is: What happened to John Thomas James Butler?  Did he die between 1877, the year his son was born, and 1881, when he does not appear with his wife in the census?  Did he desert his family?  I have yet to track his death but this weekend’s free records access on Find My Past has produced one more document which both helps and complicates things further.  I thank John Thomas James Butler’s parents for naming him so prolifically for I found a parish baptismal record for John Thomas James Butler born 23 May 1858 in Kinver, Staffordshire, England to James and Jane (and yes, James was stricken out just as I have here).  More name confusion!  If Jane was his mother and no father was meant to be listed is Butler Jane’s maiden name or the father’s name? And although we know James was not meant to be written was that truly his father’s name but accidentally recorded or was it a complete error?

Baptismal Record of John Thomas James Butler 1858

Baptismal Record of John Thomas James Butler 1858

What I have learned is that John Thomas James Butler at the age of three can be found in the 1861 England Census in Kinver, Staffordshire living with 53 year old John Overton and his 52 year old wife Sarah.  My first instinct is that these are his grandparents but ironically the relationship field for John Thomas James Butler was left blank!  If these are truly John  Thomas James Butler’s grandparents was his mother’s maiden name Overton? Or perhaps Overton was indeed his father’s last name.  I think I must continue seeking the pieces to this puzzle! What else might I discover before the weekend comes to a close?

1861 England Census showing John living with the Overtons

1861 England Census showing John living with the Overtons

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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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New CBC Series X Company Reveals Canada’s Exciting WWII Spy Secrets

Ian Fleming Creator of James Bond

Ian Fleming Creator of James Bond (Image by Paul Baack)

I am a history buff and as a Canadian I challenge myself to constantly increase my knowledge of Canada’s amazingly under- rated history.  Admittedly, I am still pitifully uninformed regarding so many subjects and thankfully popular culture can occasionally bring a subject to light of which I was previously unaware.  Thus was the case with the new CBC television series “X Company” which aired Wednesday night!  Now I never rely on popular culture and television historical dramas to be completely accurate nor representational but I do take the true life subject matter and run off to the usual research tools like Google!

Sir William Stephenson 1942

Sir William Stephenson 1942

The subject of this series is that of Camp X which was located in Whitby, Ontario and existed as a training school for spies during WWII. Opened in 1941 this camp had British, Canadian, and American connections.  It was established by the British Security Coordination and a Canadian, Sir William Stevenson.  The US was not yet involved officially but Stevenson was a link between the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US president Franklin Roosevelt. US agents were trained at this facility after the US, as were allied agents from Britain and Canada.

Camp X  1943

Camp X

Famous names associated with Camp X included the children’s writer Roald Dahl, and it is rumoured that Camp X inspired Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.  Probably one of the most interesting features of Camp X was a telecommunications system known as “Hydra”.  It was a sophisticated system used to code and decode transmissions and provided a perfect location for safe and direct communications top and from the UK and the US.

Trained in silent killing, weaponry, explosives use, recruitment of people to the resistance, morse code, map reading and the like agents were dispatched to perform various special tasks and missions based on their skill levels.

The Camp X Official Website has amazing information and if you had a relative involved in Special Ops during WWII it may be worth contacting the website providers for further information!  You may discover your ancestor was a WWII spy trained at this very camp!  There are some amazing anecdotes on this site from a former spy and photographs.  A quote from the website suggests most of the documents regarding the activities of Camp X and their WWII agents were destroyed but the website author, Lynn Philip Hodgson, has written a book “Inside Camp X” from research compiled from numerous interview!

Other books by Lynn Philip Hodgson are listed on the official Camp X website but also try reading “The Man Called Intrepid” by William Stevenson.  My son also enjoyed the novel for young adults “Camp X” by Eric Walters.
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Just can’t keep silent on Wordless Wednesday!

Grandpa, Harold Carter and his brother, Merrill Carter.

Grandpa, Harold Carter and his brother, Merrill Carter.

Wordless Wednesdays compel me to  sit on my hands, hands that are burning to speak through a dance across the keyboard!  I usually fight the desire to write, I  battle my yearning to indulge myself but tonight I just couldn’t contain the words.  I will refrain from giving more however than a brief historical snippet related to my Wordless Wednesday photo (which I am here to re-posting)!

I am sure there are a few curious individuals who viewed the photo of my grandfather and his brother as an error.  Why she has mistaken a photo of two little girls as a photograph of her grandfather and Great-uncle.  How very humourous!  This is not the case and I am sure there are many others who have viewed this photo with an experienced understanding of the fashion trends of the 1890s and early 1900s.

While this photo always raised a giggle from my mother, my aunts, my sister, and myself it was not uncommon at all to find lttle boys dressed in dresses during this period in history.  Though children’s clothing at the turn of the century had become more functional and comfortable, a little boy’s “Sunday Best” could include dresses–a popular fashion with mothers who felt their boys were too young yet for knee pants and tunics.  These garments were often worn with short knickers and long stockings in the winter, and in warmer weather worn– as in this photograph–with short white socks and strapped shoes or even barefoot when playing! The changing century did however give rise to new and changing fashion making this traditional dress rather antiquated! I absolutely love this photo!
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