Sunday, September 27, 2009

Finding Aunt Edith

I had the pleasure a week ago of spending a Saturday afternoon, complete with lunch at a local pub, visiting my aunt Carol Royle (nee Hadden), my father's sister. During our several hours of conversation she mused, "I wonder what ever happened to Aunt Edith?" I wondered as well and so this past week tried to find out.

Edith Hadden (pictured on the left) was born in Scotland in 1918 and was adopted by Alexander Shand Hadden and his wife Jessie McKenzie Gaull. Alexander and Jessie had four children already: Alexander, Andrew, John (my grandfather), and the youngest a daughter Hilda Evelyn. Hilda was born in 1914 but died at the age of 3 on May 21, 1917 of tubercular meningitis. It has been speculated that adopting a baby girl perhaps made the family complete again.

Edith was only 5 years of age when the family moved to Canada and by all accounts, she was a great deal of fun to be with. The story of Edith teaching her eldest nephew, my father, the Lord's Prayer still evokes laughter for rather the ending the prayer with the words "...and deliver me from evil", my father's version concluded "... and deliver me from Edith."

Edith didn't know of her adopted status until later in life. Unlike today, where openness and explanation are encouraged, Edith had not been told. The news was disturbing to her, perhaps even somewhat devastating. It may have been a result of this that contact was lost with 'Aunt Edith.' The last known contact I could determine was in the late 1970's, about 30 years ago and so my quest was to see what genealogical sources might help in finding her.

Edith had married George Groves and they had lived for many years on Lawlor Avenue, one block east of Pickering Street, close to the rest of the family in Toronto's east end. Not knowing if she was still alive, I first scanned the obituary notices of the largest Toronto daily newspaper, The Star (the newspaper offers a fee-based "Pages of the Past" database search tool that uses PDF scanned images of all pages of past newspaper editions and optical character recognition (OCR) software). While it took many hours to search out and review all the Groves death notices over the past 30 years, there was nothing connected to Edith or for that matter, her husband George. Another usual source,, the Canadian version of the genealogy portal to literally millions of historic and vital record documents also offered nothing from its Canadian Obituary Collection database.

When all else fails, I turn to Google. Initially, I conducted a search for "Edith Groves," including the quotation marks but the results were many and unrelated. I next searched for "Edith Groves (nee Hadden)," again complete with the quotation marks. In the results, I found Aunt Edith's obituary notice listed on the website.

Edith Groves (nee Hadden) passed away peacefully on Thursday, December 13, 2001 in her 83rd year in Oshawa, Ontario. Her husband George had predeceased her. Aunt Edith is at last, sadly, found.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Embarrassing Moments

When we talk to family members about our family's history, we typically ask questions about the facts - who were our ancestors, how are we connected to them, when were they born or married, when did they pass away, where did they live, etc. This is without doubt important information but there is more that can be asked that can really add colour and texture to our family member's life stories. What about life's embarrassing moments?

I was reminded of this recently when I watched a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) special called "Magic Moments: The Best of 50's Pop." Filmed at Trump's Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, this special was produced for use as a fundraising vehicle for the public broadcaster and involved a large number of artists from the 1950's performing their greatest hits. One of the acts was the Canadian vocal quartet, The Crew Cuts performing their hit "Sh-Boom."

The members of The Crew Cuts - Rudi Maugeri, Pat Barrett, along with brothers John and Ray Perkins - had all attended St. Michael's Choir School, a Catholic elementary and high school located in downtown Toronto that provided a music focus as a core element of its curriculum. The Four Lads who had 50's hits like "Standing on the Corner" had also attended the same school. Following high school, The Crew Cuts performed in a string of small night clubs searching for their big break. While they performed a number of original songs, including some they wrote themselves, they excelled in 'covering' or performing hits already made popular by other artists. In 1954 they recorded "Sh-Boom," which had originally been as a rhythm and blues song recorded by The Chords. "Sh-Boom" by The Crew Cuts hit number one in the charts and other hits would follow.

Now to the embarrassing moment. John and Ray Perkins had grown up and still lived on Pickering Street in Toronto when their number one hit brought them fame. As such, they had been life-long friends of my father who by 1954 was married and living in his own house on Pickering Street. Unfortunately for my father, his youngest sibling, sister Carol was only 12 years old and very much a 'Crew Cuts' fan and so he was 'made' by his mother to take Carol, by the hand, to the front door of his friends' home to ask them for an autograph! A moment still not forgotten!

I had the pleasure of spending time with Pat Barrett, another of the group's members, many years ago. When I recounted this story for him, he had a good chuckle imagining the grief his fellow Crew Cuts would have imposed on my father. Pat Barrett at the end of our meeting gave me his autograph - a momento that I still have.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Re-checking Old Notes

I've passed along previously that I started researching my ancestors in the early 1980's prior to genealogy software and Internet databases being conceived, let alone readily available. I recently came across the notes that I made (but hadn't really filed properly) when I interviewed Alexander Gauld Hadden (pictured to the left) - to me, Uncle Alec.

Uncle Alec, my great uncle, was the oldest of the three sons of Alexander Shand Hadden and Jessie McKenzie Gaull. I was lucky enough to have enjoyed a close relationship and to have spent a great of time throughout my life with him. He was the family member I naturally gravitated to when I wanted to know more about my family. Fortunately, I made copious notes of the stories and anecdotes he told me. He was the source of most of what I know about the family's time in Saskatchewan (see Scottish Cowboys? - August 19, 2009).

I recently came across those early family history notes while searching for other documents and was reminded when I reviewed them of gaps in the story. Uncle Alec recounted how he met his future wife, Hilda Edith Smith when the Hadden family left Aneroid and moved to Dahinda, Saskatchewan. Hilda lived in nearby Ogema where her father owned the Ogema Times. Dahinda was described as "wild" town where the North-West Mounted Police (the predecessor of today's RCMP) Sergeant Alexander burned the haystacks to fins 'stills' being operated by bootleggers.

Of course, the Hadden family, primarily at the insistence of Jessie Gaull Hadden, left Saskatchewan for the urban environment of Toronto, Ontario where Jessie's younger brother George Irvine Gaull operated a grocery store on Pickering Street. Fortunately for Uncle Alec, Hilda came to Toronto as escort for her sister who wanted to visit the Canadian National Exhibition, an annual end of summer fair. When Hilda and her sister came to Toronto, they stayed with the Hadden family, that is according to Uncle Alec, until Hilda's sister told Jessie, Alec's mother, that Hilda was pregnant and looking for a husband. Jessie promptly 'threw' Hilda out of the house.

Hilda, undaunted, found work as a receptionist for a Toronto doctor and a place to live on Carleton Street in downtown Toronto. Her father eventually came from Saskatchewan to take her home but she refused to go. She stayed and married the love of her life, Alexander Gauld Hadden. Uncle Alec and Aunt Hilda set the bar high for the rest of family as models of compassion, care, and husband and wife.

And, the lesson for me, file the notes better and don't forget to review them from time to time as there will always seem to be information that you hadn't noticed before that jumps off the page.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Wills Tell Us About Our Ancestors

Vital records - birth, marriage, and death certificates or registrations - provide us with valuable information and confirmation of information about our ancestors. Often these records will contain information that may provide a glimpse into the type of life our ancestors lead. For example, if the occupation of an ancestor is listed such as farm servant, we can logically surmise that they were not land owners but labourers on someone else's land.

I've always wanted to see more of my ancestors lifestyle than the bare 'bones' that I usually encounter with vital records and so I discovered the importance of wills. This has been important not only in getting a better look at an ancestral family's probable lifestyle but it has helped in determining the validity of family stories about individuals.

Finding a will was crucial in determining the validity of stories about my great grandfather, John Foley.

There are a number of documents that offer various birth dates for John - the 1861 Canada Census record indicates he was born around 1859 in the United States, the 1901 Canada Census record states he was born in April 1865 in Ontario, Canada, and finally the headstone on his grave gives his date of birth as February 16, 1864. Primary documentation confirming his actual date of birth has not yet been found - but I haven't given up the search. What is known is that John married Mary Jane Fitzgerald on April 25, 1894 and that together they had three children - Louis Fitzgerald Foley, William Dorsey Foley and Gertrude Ellen Foley. Mary Jane died in 1899 and in 1903, John married Annie McElroy and they had one child, John Foley.

Stories in the family held that John, through many personal and professional ups and downs (see "Making Assumptions", August 26, 2009), eventually acquired significant wealth. He was described as a man who couldn't read nor write - other than having been taught to sign his name. In city directories, his occupation was originally listed as teamster and then after some time, as a sand and gravel contractor. While this is good information, on its own it does not confirm any wealth. This is where his will make a significant contribution to his life story.

Letters of probate for John Foley's will were issued by the York County Surrogate Court on March 17th, 1927, about two months after his death. His estate was valued at $98,283 or the equivalent of about $1.2 million today. Clearly he died a wealthy man and his will confirms the family stories about this aspect of his life. But the will also shows a deeply religious side to John Foley. Rather than being an afterthought, he first directed that $1,800 be given to two Toronto east-end Catholic churches along with the Catholic Church Extension Society and the Community of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Eventually, he directed a gold watch be given to a son, that his wife be taken care from the proceeds of his estate and, that on his wife's passing that his estate be distributed amongst his children. John Foley's will provides a wonderful look into the life lived by my great grandfather and as such is a treasured document to possess.

Now, if only he had left something to his eldest great grandson!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tragedy at Sea

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month each year, we stop and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in answering our country's call to arms. The more insulated world in which I was raised did not require me to answer that call and I knew of no one in my family who had served in war. Discovering that my great grandfather's half brother James Gammie had fought and died in World War 1 made the war and the loss of so many lives real in a new way for me. Suddenly, there was a relative of mine, a member of my own family who died serving his country and his death certainly impacted the course of my family's history (see "Little House on the Prairie? - August 18, 2009).

The 'Great War' also touched another branch of my family and with equally tragic consequences. James Little Triggs was my fist cousin twice removed. James and his twin brother Phillip were born on August 28, 1899 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, the sons of John William Triggs, a Royal Navy seaman, and his wife Janet Little. Janet was the aunt of my grandmother Agnes Hadden (nee Little) and the sister of my great grandfather James Little. The Little family were for several generations, residents of Sir Michael Street in the core of Greenock.

In January 1915, James and Phillip, both 15 years of age at the time, decided to follow in their father's footsteps and managed to enlist in the Royal Navy where they were assigned as cabin boys. Their training lasted about a month at the HMS Ganges shore training establishment before they were assigned to the HMS Impregnable and their ranks upgraded from Cabin Boy Class 2 to Class 1.

James and Phillip served together until August 27th, 1915 when James, all 4 feet, 11 inches of him with light brown hair and blue eyes, was transferred to the HMS Queen Mary, a then modern battlecruiser. On May 31, 1916, young James was on board the Queen Mary when she engaged in the largest naval battle of World War 1 - the Battle of Jutland. The Queen Mary, equipped with more modern rangefinders, fired off about 150 shells and did significant damage to the German vessels she faced but she soon became the target of the powerful SMS Seyditz. The Queen Mary's turrets were hit in quick succession by 12 inch shells which caused explosions in the Queens Mary's magazines. She listed to her port side and sank (see photo above right of the sinking of the HMS Queen Mary).

James Little Triggs was one of 1,266 men on board when the Queen Mary went down. Only 21 survivors were picked up after the ship sank. Sadly, one of those survivors, Humphrey Durrant, died shortly afterward of wounds he had suffered during the battle. Humphrey was the only casualty of the Queen Mary to be buried in a grave.

Today, the wreck of the Queen Mary, discovered in 1991, rests partially upside down on the sand of the ocean floor at a depth of about 60 metres. Debris and and equipment lies quietly in the sand all around. Her little Cabin Boy, Class 1, James Little Triggs though lost, is not forgotten.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Connection Results

I've described previously how important I think it is to be connected through the Internet and the sites offering collaboration opportunities. Well, this week I experienced the benefits of this - again!

I have contacted by a Hadden cousin - a third cousin to be exact - that I had no knowledge of and to the best of my knowledge, no one else knew. Branches of families spread quickly and often go in separate directions particularly over multiple generations. My 'new' cousin, Mary and I share Alexander Bean Hadden and his wife, Jane Mathieson as our common ancestor.

Alexander was born in September 1836 in Udny, Aberdeenshire, the son of James Hadden and Mary Smart. He married Jane Mathieson in May 1857 in Monquhitter, Aberdeenshire and together they had ten children. Their sixth child, a son John is my great great grandfather. The seventh child, a daughter and John's sister Mary is my 'new' cousin Mary's great grandmother.

Mary and her husband live in Melbourne, Australia but despite the distance between us we are able to share family information. We are able to share family stories, photos, and documents that have benefited both of us in our knowledge and understanding of the Haddens and related families. I have helped unravel some mysteries for them and they have provided me with a glimpse of Hadden ancestors I had not previously seen.

So the lesson is reach out to those who are searching for information about your family surnames and lines. Not everyone will be related to you but when you do connect with someone that is subsequently confirmed as a cousin, it makes the effort well worth it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Social Networking

Websites like Facebook and Twitter have become huge successes in allowing people to connect with friends and family. Using free accounts, you can build a profile of yourself, sharing as much or as little about yourself as you wish. These sites allow people to maintain contact with new and old friends, share stories, daily activities, photos, and more. Because the accounts are free, all that is necessary to be in contact with family and friends anywhere in the world is an Internet connection - also free at most local public libraries.

Family historians have been taking advantage of the connection opportunity through these websites for some time although recently there have been new sites that have become available specifically for genealogists of all levels. for instance might best be described as "Facebook for Genealogists." It offers a profile and photo sharing features and like Facebook, you can add friends and join groups - the groups are related to specific areas of interest and research.

What is remarkable about many of these sites is the ability to collaborate, like sharing and finding matches in family trees. I have listed some or much of my family tree information on a couple of sites and have been amazed at the result. I have located or have been located by cousins of mine or my wife, Ellen that I didn't know we had and, from all around the world. These cousins live some distances away from us, ranging from a two-hour drive from our house, to Scotland, Luxembourg, and most recently, Australia. While its usually true that the relationships might typically be second, third or even fifth cousin in nature, they share the same amazement as I in finding someone, previously unknown who shares a common ancestor.

Genealogists have long understood the value of social networking, using message boards and discussion forums for years to make enquiries, share information and discuss problem solving tips and techniques. The true benefit of using one of the newer social networking sites for genealogists is the focus on family history. While your Facebook page may be busy with friends and family activity, your genealogy social network page filters out everything but your family history interests.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Carl Francis Wagner (pictured left) was born in November 1917 in Regina, Saskatchewan - the third child in four years born to Louis and Lottie (nee Faulkner) Wagner. (A fourth child, daughter Phyllis would be born eight years after Carl). Carl's father, Louis, had been born and raised in the predominantly German community around Berlin, Ontario but headed west to Saskatchewan in 1907 as the prairie provinces began to boom.

Life on the prairies wasn't always easy for young Carl. Just as he was entering his teen years, the Great Depression hit and it hard the prairies particularly hard. His father had moved the family to Markinch in 1919 where he opened a garage and implement business. The Depression brought about the collapse of the business and the loss of the family home. As a young man, Carl, like his older brother Gordon, enlisted to serve with Canadian troops in World War 2. Carl served his country in a medical unit. In 1942, Carl married a young nurse named Teresa 'Tess' Latimer and together they would raise four children.

It was the game of golf though that brought notoriety to Carl. Through the 1950's and most of the 1960's, Carl was the renowned Superintendent of the Lambton Golf and Country Club which had been founded in 1902 and to this day serves as the oldest 18 hole golf course in the city of Toronto. Such was Carl's reputation that when he was hired by the Bigwin Island Resort to manage their golf course in 1968, the resort took out a quarter page ad in the front news section of the Toronto Star newspaper featuring Carl to draw in new members. But Carl's crown jewel was still to follow.

In 1969, Carl answered the call to build and manage a new golf course in Prince Edward Island. Carl and Tess subsequently established their home in Montague, Prince Edward Island. The Brudenell River Golf Course, designed by Robbie Robinson, was built by Carl on a peninsula of land that separated the Brudenell and Montague Rivers. Carl enhanced the natural beauty of the Prince Edward Island landscape by including gardens throughout the course in addition to the manicured fairways and greens that were his trademark.

Both the Bigwin Island and the Brudenell River golf courses remain ranked in the top 100 golf courses in Canada to this day!

It's All in the Name ... Or Is It?

Societies and cultures, at least as far back as the Romans, have used conventions when naming their children. In searching my Scottish ancestry, this comes in handy as the Scots for many generations followed a naming convention. The first son was named after the father's father; the second son after the mother's father; and, the third son after the father. Girls in Scotland were similarly named: the first daughter after the mother's mother; the second daughter after the father's mother; and, the third daughter after the mother, and so on with subsequent children being named, in order, after aunts and uncles.

Knowing the naming convention can often help direct your family history research. For example, if your great grandparents named their first son John, you would know that John was quite probably the name of the father's father. Today, these naming conventions are not as frequently used, having given way to pop culture. Miley, for example, did not appear in the top 1000 girl's names until Miley Cyrus became a pop star and the name surged up to be the 127th most popular name in 2008. My own name of Ian was the 948th most popular boy's name in 1935 and today it is the 80th most popular name (based on U. S. statistics).

As I have suggested in earlier posts, finding ancestors can also be difficult because the name they were commonly known by might not have been their formal or registered name. My grandfather John Graham O'Neill used his middle name as his common name throughout his life. His brother-in-law Gerald Foley, from whom I receive my middle name, was not a Gerald at all which caused me many long hours of frustrating research before I discovered that he was born Louis Fitzgerald Foley. His name appears to be from his mother's father, Lewis Fitzgerald. Researching Uncle "Gerald's" brother Clarence Foley was even harder for Clarence was born William Dorsey Foley. Where he or his family derived Clarence I still don't know but he used that name rather than his given names throughout his life and is listed on many official documents, including his marriage registration, as Clarence.

Given names are important in researching family members as they point to your ancestral culture or the honouring of family members through namesakes but you need to be prepared for the mysteries as well. "A rose by any other name..."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some Genealogical Humour

To ensure that no one begins to think that family history is all work and 'no play,' I thought I would share a few humorous genealogy related items that you sometimes come across through the pursuit of new family history information.

This from my aunt, Carol Royle (nee Hadden): A little girl asked her mother, "How did the human race appear?" The mother answered, "God made Adam and Eve and they had children and so all mankind was made." Two days later the girl asked her father the same question. The father answered, "Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved." The confused girl returned to her mother and said, "Mom, how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they were evolved from monkeys?" The mother answered, "Well, dear, it is very simple. I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his."

One of the places, amongst others like libraries and archives, that genealogists can be found is cemeteries. While you will find most headstones that mark the graves provide the name and perhaps dates of birth and death of the deceased, there are always some creative and humorous individuals or family members that offer their own slant on their mortality.

In Key West, Florida, the headstone of Elmer Hodges states, "I told you I was sick." In a Thurmont, Maryland cemetery, a headstone reads, "Here lies an Atheist, All dressed up, and no place to go." When Harry Edsel Smith passed away in 1942 in Albany, New York, his family inscribed his headstone "Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car was on the way down. It was." More recently and reflecting our electronic age, one family inscribed a young man's headstone "He came, he saw, he logged out."

Finally, on a different note, I want to thank all of you who have been visiting my blog. Almost 350 visits have been made to this site in the just over three weeks that I have been sharing my family history and genealogy tips and techniques. Please continue to visit often and if you have any questions, comments or additional information, stories and photos that you would like to share, please contact me at

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Devil's In The Detail

Alexander Shand Hadden (pictured to the right) was born at 3:20 p.m. on the 6th of September, 1883 in Cushnie, Auchterless, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. His birth registration, which was one of the first documents I acquired in my family history research, was signed by his parents, John Hadden and Helen Shand, who registered his birth on September 22, 1883 with the Auchterless Assistant Registrar.

As some would describe, my receipt of this document (in pre-Internet days of 'snail' mail) gave me just cause to do the genealogy 'happy dance.' I knew of Alexander and I had his mother's name but the document provided me, at long last, with the identity of his father and my great-great grandfather. As time passed and the Internet allowed access to the records of the General Registrar Office for Scotland (, I was able to search for Alexander's father, John Hadden. In my haste and exuberance, I assumed the search would be easy. I was looking for a John Hadden living in Aberdeenshire and I found one.

The John Hadden that I found was the son of a master baker in Aberdeen. The family appeared to be living quite comfortably and was able to afford a live-in domestic servant. Knowing that Helen Shand had worked as a domestic servant, I surmised that Helen and John must have met when she worked for the master baker and his family. Although the proof and for that matter, the logic, was thin, I pursued further research of this Hadden family. Over time, the connection to this family didn't feel right. The geography of Alexander's birth and the residence of the Hadden master baker didn't seem to make sense and this could not be ignored. In time, I recognized the need to retrace my steps to see what, if anything, I had missed. By re-checking the records, I made my breakthrough.

There on Alexander's birth registration, clearly stated (although apparently invisible to me during my first review of the document), below his father John Hadden's name, was his father's occupation and residence. He was an assistant shopkeeper living at Bainshole, Insch, Aberdeenshire. I quickly checked the 1881 Scottish Census for that area and there he was - John Hadden, assistant shop keeper, the son of Alexander Hadden and Jane Mathieson. At last, I was through what genealogists refer to as a 'brickwall,' and all because I had at last paid attention to the details, to all of the information that the birth registration document had provided. Learning that "the devil's in the detail" subsequently has allowed me to trace back through an additional three generations of my direct Hadden ancestors - something very worthy of a 'happy dance.'

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

If Only

When we look back over the course of our lives, we might often think of times when we would like to have the opportunity for a 'do over.' Perhaps its a career or financial decision, or maybe a relationship choice that would be different with the benefit of hindsight. From a family history perspective, my wish is based on "if only" - if only I had spent more time talking to and appreciating family relatives who are no longer with us. Those who are starting out working on and researching a family history should ensure that they take the time to 'interview' elderly relatives who can share stories and experiences. If they are comfortable with the arrangement, record the conversations so you can later refer back to some of the details they shared.

While there are quite a few ancestors with whom I would like the opportunity to speak for help in solving family mysteries that I struggle with, I would particularly enjoy the chance to spend some more time with my maternal grandfather, John Graham O'Neill (pictured above left).

John Graham O'Neill was born on June 26, 1895 in Toronto, Ontario. His middle name was taken from his mother's maiden name and it was also the name he commonly used. He was the eldest child and only son of William Emmett O'Neill and his wife Margaret Graham who also had two daughters - Kathleen, born in 1896 and Avila who was born in 1898. Graham married Ellen Gertrude Foley (who also was commonly called by her middle name) on June 23, 1926. Gertrude passed away in July 1962 and Graham passed away in December 1979.

Graham O'Neill, over the course of 84 years, saw the world into which he was born change more dramatically than arguably any other similar period in history. The light bulb and the distribution of electricity were still relatively new when he was born and, in his lifetime he saw the introduction and development of the automobile, air travel, two World Wars, the devastation of the Great Depression, movies, radio and then television become forms of entertainment, the suffrage and civil rights movements and, men walking on the moon.

In his lifetime, Graham worked as a grocer both in Toronto, Ontario and, during the Depression years, in Detroit, Michigan. He also was an on-air 'personality' on the CBC's 'Man Alive' program and a published poet ("The Trees of Kew" that paid homage to Kew Beach in Toronto's east end).

Although I did get to spend a lot of time with my grandfather, sharing our love of sports through the watching of televised hockey games and attending baseball games, it is one of his anecdotes that I remember most. In his retirement years, he had decided to attend some college classes that were offered free to 'senior citizens.' One of the courses he attended dealt with the history of the City of Toronto. During one class, the lecturer spoke about the Great Toronto Fire of 1904 that destroyed a large section of the downtown area. When the lecturer told the class that not a lot of details were available about the fire, Graham stood and explained where the different fire trucks had been located, the number of firefighters being used and the results of their efforts. When asked by the lecturer how he knew all of this, his answer was simple, "I was there." If only I had a 'do over.'

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Genealogy Basics

Many people have expressed an interest in tracing their family histories but don't know where to begin. For those interested in starting their family history research, typically the best place to start is with yourself and work backwards from there. Write down all that you know about yourself – your date of birth, dates of other significant events like graduations, marriage, and children’s birth dates. Continue back in time to your parents and your grandparents, again writing down all that you know about them and leaving room for the information that you will want to find later. Don’t forget to start including your siblings, your parents siblings, your aunts and uncles, and if you know any, the siblings of your grandparents. Also, don't forget to write down any of the family stories you heard growing up - they may contain embellishments but there will be nuggets of truth to be mined at a later date.

You can imagine that by the time you get to your great-grandparents, you are beginning to accumulate a lot of information and you will want to find a way to organize it. Using paper forms is one way (many free forms can be found on the Internet) but today, computer software is the best choice.

I have used a number of genealogy software products over the years and have found that each of the products currently available offer good value. The final selection really comes down to personal preference. You need to find something that works best for you. In particular, I have used three of the more popular products - Family Tree Maker, Legacy, and RootsMagic. Each of the software products allow you to input all of the events and information and record the sources of your information. Here's my review of these programs:

Family Tree Maker has changed dramatically over the years and provides an exceptionally good interface with, one of the largest, subscription based collection of family history related historical documents available. The disadvantages are that the program doesn't provide a book publishing component that would allow you to easily share your family's history. Some genealogists have also found the data entry screens to be difficult to use.

Legacy has a good screen layout that is large and easy to use. Its built in relationship calculator, automated report and web page design features make this a good choice for many. Another advantage, particularly if you are starting out is that Legacy offers a free down loadable, standard edition (you can pay for a premium version later if you want). Although Legacy has a good source citation feature, it is not the easiest to use.

RootsMagic has recently undergone a complete makeover. The current version (Version 4) offers all of the ease of use that the other programs have but there are two features that I find to be outstanding. One, recording the sources of family history information is simple and quick with most major database sources already set up in easy to complete templates. Second, and perhaps most significant, is that the software has now been written using a computer language (Unicode) that economizes the software's file size. This has permitted RootsMagic to include a 'To Go" version. Now you can have your family history software and your full family history database stored on a USB key (also referred to as memory sticks, flash drives, etc.) that allows you to run your program on any computer by simply plugging the key into one of the computer's USB slots. I use an 8 gigabyte USB key that provides enough memory for the RootsMagic program, my full family history database of more than 10,000 individuals plus all the family photos and documents that I have gathered over the years (and still leaves room to add more).

My recommendation is to try each of them as there are free trial versions available from the manufacturers. This will allow you find the one that is right for you and will allow you to start building and organizing your family 'tree.'

United Empire Loyalist

Most of us know that the United States celebrates its Independence Day on July 4th each year, recognizing July 4th, 1776 as the day on which the original thirteen American colonies declared independence from Britain. The War of Independence however extended for years until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. While there are many popular tales of heroism from that time, there also exist the histories of those colonists who remained loyal to Britain, known as the United Empire Loyalists.

The Loyalists were from a wide variety of occupations and trades, and likely had an equally various number of reasons for remaining loyal. Some felt that their future was simply more secure being tied to the British Empire. One Loyalist, the Rev. Matthew Byles wrote, "Which is better - to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?" In any regard, those who remained loyal were dispossessed of their lands and belongings (and in some cases publicly tarred and feathered) as punishment and exiled,primarily to British North America, now Canada. Some settled in Nova Scotia and some in Quebec (in the Canada Act of 1791, Quebec was split into Upper and Lower Canada).

On November 9, 1879, the Governor of Quebec, Lord Dorchester declared "that it was his wish to put the mark of honour upon the families who had adhered to the unity of the empire." Subsequently the militia rolls noted, "Those Loyalists who have adhered to the Unity of the Empire, and joined the Royal Standard before the Treaty of Separation in the year 1783, and all their Children and their Descendants by either sex, are to be distinguished by the following Capitals, affixed to their names: U.E. Alluding to their great principle The Unity of the Empire."

Through this royal declaration, successive generations of Canadians have been permitted to bear the initials U.E. behind their surname (sometimes this is seen albeit incorrectly as U.E.L.). My wife, Ellen is of direct Loyalist descent as her 4th great grandfather, Andrew Kimmerly was a loyalist who re-settled in the Bay of Quinte colony following the War of Independence. We have set out collecting the genealogical 'poofs' that document that relationship and ties her to a time that changed the course of Canadian history.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Check The Neighnours

Countries like Canada, the United States and Scotland have been taking a census of their population usually every ten years for the last 150 years or longer. The information contained in the census allowed the country, amongst other things, to have a snapshot of the population's growth or decline, to identify the number of elected representatives each area should have, and sometimes to determine taxation levels. The census records are a gold mine of information for genealogists.

You can see how your family grew, where the family moved over time and the records also provide a glimpse of the family's lifestyle. For example, it was not unusual for early census records to list the type of home that a family lived in - a shanty, a log home, or a more opulent frame house. Many of these census records also might record the number of rooms and windows that were in a house. The information in the census was recorded by a census taker who would go 'door-to-door', often being paid by the number of names recorded, asking all of the various questions of whomever was at the house when they made their call. Because much of the information in a census record was self reported by an occupant of the household, there can be much debate on the reliability of the information - proper names might be substituted with common names, for instance Katherine might be listed as Kate, and ages might be more approximate than accurate.

For more than 25 years, I searched for my great grandfather John Foley and his family. John's parents were William Foley and Bridget McTague. The family's oral history claimed that they lived in Barrie, Simcoe County, Ontario and suggested that John had been born in Barrie, unfortunately prior to civil registration so no birth registration was available. Repeated searching through the census records for Barrie and Simcoe County provided me with what I thought were possibilities but never a family that matched the one I was looking for. I finally found the family in 1861 - living in Pickering Township, literally just down the road from where I have been living while conducting my searches over all those years.

William and Bridget were found as tenant farmers on land that is now part of the 'downtown' core of Ajax, Ontario. They had moved to the area around 1859, apparently from the United States. William has also been found listed as a founding member of St. Francis de Sales (then St. Wilfrid's) Church in Pickering Village in 1860. John is listed along with his sister, Mary, and brothers, William and Thomas. In later life, John's daughter Ellen Gertrude married John Graham O'Neill and, their daughter Anne Margaret, my mother, would marry my father, Lewis John Hadden.

As it is an important practise to check the neighbours of your family in all census records (often families lived near other family members), I examined the 1861 records further. To my surprise, William and Bridget Foley lived beside an O'Neill family and a few farms over lived a Hadden family. More than 90 years before I was born, those three surnames were mysteriously connected!

Friday, September 4, 2009

American Politics

My wife Ellen's political roots have not only been significant in Ontario, Canada but also in the State of California, USA. In an earlier posting (see 'When Tragedy Strikes', August 29, 2009), I recounted how Edward Latimer had travelled to California following a personal tragedy and there met and married Mattie Diona Knox. Mattie's father, Thomas Elliott Knox (pictured on the left) was at the time the Mayor of Livermore, California.

Thomas was born on March 13, 1855 in Huron County, located in south-west Ontario. By the age of 15, he had ventured out on his own, first working on the lumber industry of neighbouring Michigan followed by taking up the bricklaying and plastering trades. Eventually, he made his to California and the town of Berkely in Alameda County. While working there at his trade, his political leadership skills quickly came to the fore when he assisted in organizing the town. In 1879, Thomas was elected as the Town Marshal, a position he held for two terms. By 1880, Thomas was able to purchase 150 acres of land in nearby Livermore where he started a vineyard. Also through his political connections, he met, and in 1881, married Amy Squires, the daughter of Berkeley's Treasurer, John Squires. By the early 1890's, Thomas was employed in the County Assessor's office. But politics was 'in his blood' so in 1899, Thomas, a staunch Republican, was successful in his bid for a Livermore Trustee seat.

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Thomas as the Livermore Postmaster, in addition to his other town duties. Thomas was said to be "acquiring a comfortable competence for his family." Eventually, as Livermore grew and the political structures changed, Thomas ran successfully for the position of County Supervisor, which he held for many terms in spite of mud slinging episodes and allegations, later proven to be false, of election fraud.

Thomas' community spirit even lead him to participate, along with other county supervisors, in a Vaudeville-style show in 1922, although the program doesn't specifically list his 'talent' nor the role he was to play. As a community leader, he also befriended other local leaders including the then District Attorney Earl Warren who would later become Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court and 'author' of what is now known, and often maligned, as the Warren Commission Report that examined the circumstances surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Thomas Knox died in January 1938 but his influence and contributions to the history of California and the city of Oakland in particular continue to be the source of tributes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Soccer in the Family

Soccer has deep traditions around the world. Many fanatics ‘religiously’ follow their favourite soccer, or perhaps more properly, football clubs. Last night, my son, John and I took in a match featuring the fabled Scottish side Glasgow Celtic. Although raised in the Canadian tradition of hockey, John has developed a soccer expertise, complete with favourite teams in various leagues. So how did a young man, raised in the hockey mad culture of Canada, develop a passion for soccer? Could this be an inherited trait?

I don’t think my inheritance theory can truly be substantiated but I can, with some certainty, state that my son didn’t develop his passion for soccer as a result of any influence from me or, for that matter, his paternal grandfather. Could there have been some influence of this trait from his paternal great-grandfather? I knew that his great-grandfather (my grandfather) John Gaull Hadden played soccer. I had his worn, but bronzed soccer shoes, complete with tacked-on strips of leather that replaced long lost cleats. But to what extent was he really involved in the game?

It's easy to imagine that as a boy growing up in Aberdeen, he learned to love and play the game but could he continue to play in Canada? The shoes suggested he did but I needed further evidence. Two items have confirmed his continued involvement in the game. First, in the photo above, John Gaull Hadden is seen on the right with an unidentified teammate while playing for Parkvale F. C. (Football Club). The photo was taken in June 1935 when John was 25 years old. The second "proof" was found in a Toronto Star newspaper article! On July 30, 1942 the newspaper reported the outcome of a game between the 'Toronto Shipbuilders' and 'Lancastershire' clubs played on a rain soaked field at Toronto's Riverdale Park.

With the 'Shipbuilders' up by by a score of 3 - 1 midway through the second half of the game, "Lancs got back into the game when John Hadden rifled home a penalty kick, but that was as close as they got." Unlike some of today's sold-out stadium matches, only 20 spectators were on hand to witness John Hadden's goal.

I've heard some claims that family traits could be observed through up to five generations. Could a love for the 'beautiful game' be such a trait in the Hadden lineage?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An Artistic Flare

I have previously shared the political involvement of the Breithaupt family in the province of Ontario (see "A Ghost of a Chance", August 23rd and "Deep Political Roots", August 28th). Well, it turns out the Breithaupt family also offered a significant contribution to Canada's artistic community.

In 1917, Rosa Melvina Breithaupt, the sister of future Ontario Lieutenant Governor Louis Orville Breithaupt, married Alfred Russell Hewetson. Alfred's listed occupation on their marriage registration of "manufacturer" didn't tell the full story of his success for Alfred managed the Hewetson Shoe Company in Brampton, Ontario, one of the leading shoe manufacturing companies in Canada. Sadly, Alfred died of pneumonia in 1928 leaving Rosa a widow with four children and heiress to company wealth. But she also had to manage a company that her heart wasn't into for Rosa was an accomplished and award winning pianist with a passion for the arts.

In 1932, Rosa purchased a mansion in Scarborough, Ontario, located on the Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario. The estate home, referred to originally as 'Ranelagh Park', had been built in 1914 for retired Brigadier General Harold Bickford. Shortly after purchasing the estate, Rosa remarried, this time to Herbert Spencer Clark, an engineer who had taken over as President of the Hewetson Shoe Company. Fortunately, Herbert, or Spencer as he preferred to be called, shared Rosa's passion for art, particularly enjoying fine architectural structures.

It was, of course, the height of the Great Depression and Rosa and Spencer decided to allow artists to stay on their estate where they could pursue their various arts, sell their work and teach art classes. Rosa and Spencer (pictured above) called their home the "Guild of all Arts," later to become more broadly and famously known as the Guild Inn. Eventually, the Clarks would sell their estate to the City of Metropolitan Toronto but not before Rosa convinced another cousin, Alexander Young Jackson to vacation with them at the Breithaupt family vacation retreat on Georgian Bay. Alexander, who had been born and raised in Montreal, had never been to Georgian Bay but soon fell in love with it and began painting scenes of the area. We know Alexander better as A. Y. Jackson of Canadian 'Group of Seven' fame.

Rosa passed away in 1981 and Spencer joined her five years later. Their impact on the Canadian arts and culture community is still felt today.