Monday, August 31, 2009

An Unsolved Mystery

On a cold February day in 1860, twin boys were born to Mary Jane Gaull. The first she named George. The second, born about one hour later, she named John after her father. The birth registration does not list the father's name but if Scottish naming convention was followed, George was likely named after his paternal grandfather.

The next year, in 1861, a census was taken in Scotland. John Gaull (pictured to the left in a 1928 photo) can be found living with his mother and her parents, John Gaull and Mary Christie, on the family farm in Whitehaugh, Chapel-of-Garioch, a small Aberdeenshire village. George on the other hand was living several miles away in Inverurie, listed as a "boarder" with the family of James and Isabella Hoey. What brought about this circumstance is unknown. George seems to have gone through life using only the Irvine surname whereas his twin brother, John continued to use the Gaull surname that he was registered with at birth.

By 1881, George had moved away from Aberdeenshire to Airdrie, just west of Glasgow where he boarded with Mrs. Janet Watt, a widow, at 48 High Street. George married Mrs. Watt's daughter Isabel in December 1883.

There has been a lot of research on the connection between twins - feeling each other's pain, sharing the same thoughts, etc. There is no evidence that I've found that George and John had much interaction, no family stories about them and no family photos of the two of them together. But - each named a son after the other. John named his son George Irvine Gaull and George named his son, John Gaull Irvine. It seems clear that they knew of their close fraternal relationship and as fitting tribute, they honoured it through the naming of their sons.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Familiy Left Behind

For many of us, Canada is "our home and native land." But our ancestors, whether it be two, three, or more generations ago, were immigrants to this land. When they left their country of birth, Scotland or Ireland in the case of my ancestry, they also left their families. This often meant little or no future contact with the loved ones who remained. Without the modern opportunity for instant messaging, emailing photos, or free Skype calls, months or years could pass between letters and news from 'back home.'

Technology and electronic media have made this an exciting time to research family history. Not only has the digital age made records available through the Internet but it has provided new opportunities for collaboration and reconnection with long lost family members. I have been amazed with the number of cousins with whom I have been able to give and receive family updates. In some cases, these 'found' cousins have explained that they had heard of the family members that left for Canada many years ago but assumed that family branch had 'died out.'

For example, I have 'met' Margaret Shand, my third cousin twice removed. I was able to 'connect' with Margaret when I saw, as typically occurs, that the family members she was researching, I was also researching. As we discovered, her father Alexander Shand was the second cousin of my grandfather, John Gauld Hadden. Due to a number of factors, I don't believe that Alexander and John ever met and perhaps likely never knew of each other and their relationship. When Margaret and I shared family photos, we were struck by the family resemblance between Alexander and John. Both are pictured above and perhaps might be taken more as brothers than cousins who didn't know one another.

The lesson for genealogists, both novice and experienced, is to reach out to other genealogists as I have found they are always willing to share and, often you will find your family circle getting just a little bit larger.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

When Tragedy Strikes

I have noted that one of the great influences of our ancestor's lives was tragedy. Such seems to be the case for Ellen's grandfather, Edward Arthur Latimer (pictured on the right). His father, also an Edward, had immigrated to Canada from his native Ireland in 1864, landing in Quebec City from where he made his way to the village of Seaforth in south-west Ontario. Edward (Sr.) was a shoemaker by trade and he quickly established himself at that business in the farming community. In 1872, he married Theresa Delmage, the widow of Richard Sparling. Theresa entered her new marriage with four children and all indications are that Edward raised them as if they were his own. As the years went by, Edward and Theresa welcomed five more children into the world, the third of their children being Edward Arthur born in 1877.

In November 1899, Edward Arthur Latimer married nineteen year old Harriet Elisabeth Sooles who like Edward had be born and raised in Seaforth. They quickly settled into a house on John Street near the centre of the village and on February 1, 1901, Harriet gave birth to their first born, a daughter who they named Harriet Sooles Latimer. All did not go well however and on the same day that she gave birth to her daughter, Harriet died as a result of eclampsia and complications from the birth. One can only imagine the bitter sweet shattering of Edward's world that would only be compounded seven months later when baby Harriet died from what was referred to at the time as dentitis - complications from teething. Edward soon left Seaforth and headed west, eventually finding his way to Livermore, California, now part of the city of Oakland.

Livermore's mayor at the time was a tall, distinguished looking man named Thomas Elliott Knox who like Edward, had been born and raised in Huron County, Ontario. Thomas was married to Amy Jane Squires. Due to their place of prominence in the community, their family activities were often recorded in the local Oakland Tribune newspaper. Their daughter, Mattie Diona Knox in particular seemed to be a favourite subject of the society page where even her weekend camping trips with girlfriends were found to be newsworthy. Edward noticed Mattie as well and on November 10, 1906 Mattie and Edward were married. Following their wedding, they moved back to Canada and settled in Orillia, Ontario where they raised their son and three daughters. A happy ending born out of tragedy.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Deep Political Roots

Earlier this week, I recounted how the Wagner and Breithaupt families have been connected for more than 150 years. It was Rev. Jacob Wagner who introduced Louis Breithaupt to his sister-in -law Catherine Hailer, the woman Louis would marry in 1853. The Breithaupt family became prominent and politically served Waterloo County and the Berlin (now Kitchener) for several generations. The Hon. Louis Orville Breithaupt in fact served in the House of Commons for many years before becoming the 18th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1952 (see "A Ghost of a Chance - August 23, 2009). Well, it turns out that the political roots of the Breithaupt-Wagner connection run even deeper.

In 1901, Albert Liborius Breithaupt, a son of Louis and Catherine, married Miss Lydia Louise Anthes. The prominence of the Breithaupt family made this wedding one of the more significant social events of the year. The Toronto Star newspaper devoted a large column in their social pages, the section referred to by the newspaper as "Of Interest to Women." Described as a"brilliant society event" the wedding featured an orchestra that played during the ceremony as the bridal party stood beneath a "bell of roses and smilax." The bride's wedding gown and those of her maid of honour and bridesmaids was described in minute detail. The wedding was officiated by the Rev. Louis Henry Wagner, Ellen's great grandfather and the son of Rev. Jacob Wagner. The kinship and bonds between the two families clearly remaining strong in the next generation.

Interestingly, the best man at the wedding was the groom's life-long friend, William Lyon Mackenzie King (pictured above) who was the grandson of William Lyon Mackenzie, leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion, and who at the time was a civil servant but in a few years would become first the Minister of Labour in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier and later the longest serving Prime Minister in Canadian history.

Following the wedding, the new Mr. and Mrs. Breithaupt left for a two month honeymoon in the United States, returning to live in Berlin, Ontario at the Breithaupt estate called "Waldeck."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Old Age

An important goal for every genealogist and family historian should be to take a scholarly approach to documenting the facts about ancestors with solid evidence. Family history is more than 'collecting names' or seeing how far 'back' in time you can go. I prefer an approach that allows me to know something about the character and lifestyles of the individuals and their families.

The research means seeking out documents that validate the assertions about my family members. Some of the obvious records that are helpful include civil registrations like birth, marriage and death registrations. Census records help you see the family as a group in a particular place at a particular moment in time. Local histories and newspaper articles can provide a window into an ancestor's adventures and activities.

The cause of death recorded on death registrations for ancestral family members can be particularly useful in helping to see trends and patterns. Modern medical research tells us, after all, that we are at a higher risk for many diseases and ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. if there is a family history.

One ancestor that I hope to follow in medical condition is Catherine Graham (nee McRae), my maternal great-great grandmother. Catherine was born on December 20, 1822 in Glengarry County, Ontario (then Upper Canada). Catherine married Patrick Graham and together they had four children. The youngest, Margaret was the mother of my maternal grandfather, J. Graham O'Neill. Catherine died at the age of 84 on March 22, 1907 in her daughter Margaret's home on Claremont Street in Toronto. The cause of death was clearly stated by the attending physician as "old age" which she had suffered from "for a few days." So I hope to also die of old age and hope to so inflicted for only a few days!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Making Assumptions

One of the many perils that 'modern' family historians face is assuming that the world in which our ancestors lived is the same as or at least similar to the world today. There can be an easy tendency to not put their lives, and decision making, into its proper historical context. I have certainly found myself caught in that trap.

When I was young, my mother often recounted tales of her grandfather, John Foley, a man she never knew as he died suddenly in 1927 before she was born. The family story that she would pass along was of a man from Barrie, Ontario who was orphaned at a young age, forced into a harsh world far too young but who overcame this early obstacle to become a teamster only to lose everything when his horses fell through the ice on the Don River in Toronto. Eventually, he was said to have become a very wealthy contractor. My view of 'teamsters' was an image of Jimmy Hoffa and U.S. union scandals alleging corruption and ties to organized crime. Why, I would question, would connecting my great-grandfather to teamsters be something in which to take pride? I also couldn't fathom why anyone would think it possible to cross the Don River in winter with horses for the river never seemed from my observation to freeze over, and certainly not sufficiently to consider a crossing.

My research into John Foley is incomplete and there are many facets of his life that I have yet to discover but some things have become clear. What I do know is that John Foley was born around 1859 in the United States according the 1861 Canadian Census (although subsequent census reports list different years and the headstone on his grave lists his date of birth as February 16, 1864). John is listed in the 1861 census along with his parents William and Bridget (nee McTague), a sister, Mary and two brothers, William and Thomas, living in Pickering Township. A younger brother, James, was born in Pickering Township before the family did move to Barrie. Later records indicate that John did become a teamster and a contractor and, in fact, his will indicates that he died the equivalent of a millionaire by today's standards.

But what of the 'walk' across the Don River with horses? I have found no accounts (yet!) of the river tragedy. However, to set the proper historical context, in the 1880's and 1890's, teams of horses were used for hauling and delivering various goods - in the summer by wagon and in the winter by sled. Those who 'ran' the teams of horses were referred to as 'teamsters.' It also seems that the Don River of my experience is not at all like the Don River that my great-grandfather knew. The photo above (from the Archives of Ontario collection) shows teamsters cutting ice on the Don River in the 1890's. The ice would later be sold in appropriate sizes for use in "ice boxes," the ancestors of our modern refrigerators. So John Foley likely was out on the Don River in the winter - making a living with his horses!

Monday, August 24, 2009


Yesterday, I mentioned that Jacob Wagner had married Margaret Hailer in 1849 and that four years later, in 1853, Phillip Ludwig 'Louis' Breithaupt (pictured to the right) had married Margaret's sister, Catharine. I thought that I should pass along a little more information about Jacob Wagner, rather the Rev. Jacob Wagner who was an Evangelical Association minister.

In the first half of the 19th century, preachers rode circuits of small towns and villages across what was then Canada West as the small population centres were typically unable to support a full-time church and minister. Along their circuits, ministers would preach at "missions", perform baptisms, marriages and when called upon, funerals. The Evangelical Association to which Jacob belonged was founded in 1800 by the Rev. Jacob Albright (thus the association was sometimes referred to as the Albright Brethren) as a Christian church chiefly made up of those of German descent. While Jacob farmed, he was also a preacher of some note within the Evangelical Association. The Evangelical Association grew in Waterloo County and in 1848, Rev. Wagner was appointed as Preacher-in-Charge of the Berlin Church.

According to William Velores 'Ben' Uttley in his 1937 book, A History of Kitchener, Ontario, "through two marriages Berlin obtained another industry. First, the Rev. Jacob Wagner, an Evangelical Minister, married Margaret, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Hailer. Pastor Wagner was later stationed in Buffalo, New York, where he formed a friendship with Louis Breithaupt, who was associated with his father, Liborius Breithaupt, in a tannery. Periodically the son came to Upper Canada to buy hides. Secondly, through the Rev. Wagner he was introduced to the Hailer family and in 1853 espoused Miss Catharine Hailer. After their marriage the young couple resided in Buffalo.

Mr. Breithaupt was energetic and desired a business of his own. In 1857 he founded a tannery in Berlin, at the head of Margaret Avenue, but continued to live in Buffalo. After the outbreak of the American Civil War, Mr. and Mrs. Breithaupt and their sons Louis J., William H. and John C., removed to Berlin. Until the founder's death in 1880 his life was one of unremitting activity. He built up a large industry, shared in public life, became an extensive land-owner, and when deceased was Mayor of Berlin.

By his example, Mr. Breithaupt increased the Berliners faith in their town. Soon after his arrival, he purchased the southeast corner of King and Queen Streets, then covered with frame shacks, and in 1862 built the American block." The Breithaupt Leather Co. remained in the family through four generations, producing leather soles for shoes and work gloves, before being purchased around 1967 by A. R. Clarke and Co. Limited.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Ghost of a Chance

Global Television Queen's Park reporter, Sean Mallen provided an entertaining behind the scenes look at the Ontario Legislative Building in his August 22, 2009 "Focus Ontario" show (available online at He also provided me with the potential to meet one of Ellen's long deceased cousins! Part of the show focussed on the Lieutenant Governor's suite and included present day Lieutenant Governor David Onley (a classmate and friend of mine from university days) talking of the history of the suite's rooms and the reported ghosts, the most recent sighting being reported by a cleaning woman who claimed the apparition bore a striking resemblance to Ellen's second cousin twice removed, the late Hon. Louis Orville Breithaupt, Leiutenant Governor of Ontario from 1952 - 1957.

The story of Ellen's connection to the Lieutenenant Governor of Ontario starts in the 1840's when Liborius and Catherine Breithaupt moved with their children from their home in Germany to join the large German community in Buffalo, New York. A few years later, they would move again but this time north to the join the large German community in Berlin (now Kitchener), Waterloo County, Ontario. Already residing in the community was Jacob Hailer, a wheelwright, and his family as well as Jacob Wagner, a Wilmot farmer.

These three families became connecetd when Jacob Wagner married Jacob Hailer's daughter, Margaret, in 1849 and Liborius' son, Phillip Ludwig, married another Hailer daughter, Catharine, in 1853. While Jacob and Margaret Wagner (Ellen's great-great grandparents) prospered and raised thier family, Phillip (who went by Louis) and Catharine prospered through the success of thier large leather goods factory. Their success in business lead the family to community prominience and eventually to politics.

Louis Orville Breithaupt was educated at my alma mater, the University of Toronto, before becoming head of his family's leather company. He later served as a Kitchener, Ontario alderman before being elected the youngest mayor of Kitchener in 1923. In 1940, Louis was elected to represent the riding of Waterloo North in the Canadian Parliament. He served as Member of Parliament for 12 years before resigning his seat to become the 18th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1952. Louis Orville Breithaupt passed away in 1960 and rests in Kitchener, Ontario's Mount Hope Cemetery or, based on Mallen's report, does he?

Saturday, August 22, 2009


On January 1, 1998, the cities and boroughs that formed Metropolitan Toronto amalgamated to form what was commonly referred to as a "megacity." As controversial as this was for many politicians and citizens, Toronto's history is filled with growth through the amalgamation of small villages, many neighbourhoods to this day being referenced to by the original village name. Such was the case for the area that Alexander Shand Hadden moved his family to in the 1920's. The Hadden's moved into 96 Lawlor Avenue in 1929 and a year later settled into 109A Pickering Street ( pictured as it is today). Pickering Street, originally called Catharine Avenue until the 'village' of East Toronto was amalgamated into the city of Toronto around 1908, was filled with the small, brick detached and semi-detached homes commonly built in the first decades of twentieth century Toronto.

Down the street, south towards Kingston Road lived Clarence Foley at number 17. Clarence's sister, Gertrude had also lived on the street with her husband Graham O'Neill until an opportunity for work in the advent of the Great Depression took them to Detroit, Michigan. North from the Haddens, lived Mrs. Margaret (nee Graham) O'Neill, Graham's mother, at number 189. The economic times made things hard but Alexander found work as a watchman first at McFarlane Manufacturing and later at Gendron Manufacturing. His sons, Alexander and John finding employment as salesmen for Brown's Bread (a third son, Andrew, had remained in Saskatchewan to homestead).

The convergence of events over the next quarter century connected to this neighbourhood resulted in, well, me! For as the 1920's were drawing to a close, Alexander's son, John met and married a young woman named Agnes Little in 1929. Agnes had left her family and Greenock, Scotland home with $10 in search of a new life in Toronto, Canada. Not only was she barely out of her teens and without much money but she bravely sailed to her new home aboard a ship operated by the White Star Line, owner of the infamous 'Titanic.' The year after their marriage, Agnes gave birth at 109A Pickering Street to a son, Lewis - my father. Meanwhile, later that same year, a couple of hundred miles away in Detroit, Graham and Gertrude O'Neill welcomed a daughter into the family and named her Anne Margaret - my mother.

Early in 1937, Mrs. O'Neill at 189 Pickering Street died in her house. Her oldest child and only son, Graham, returned to Toronto from Detroit with his wife and children to finalize his mother's worldly affairs. They settled into the family home at 189 Pickering Street. A few years later, after the end of World War 2, as teenagers, Lewis and Anne would start dating. The dating lead to marriage in 1953 and a couple of years later the birth of their first child, all through the convergence of families and events focused on one small east end Toronto neighbourhood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scottish Cowboys?

When Andrew and Helen Gammie arrived on their homestead in 1907, Saskatchewan had only been a province of Canada for two years. They arrived late in the year and family lore held that they spent their first prairie winter living in a cave! Not entirely what anyone would consider today to be a welcoming circumstance. Stewart Gammie of British Columbia has informed me that it really was more likely a sod hut built into the ground that they would have constructed, typical for new arrivals in that time, although the imagery of the 'cave' is understandable. As the provincial population grew, new rail lines were established although the primary means of transportation remained the horse. Many of the 'pioneer' settlers used a walking plough or sulky to begin their farming practise and typically cleared a 'fire guard' around where they built their homes for, as beneficial as the arrival of the train was to communities, the train traffic was the cause of many prairie fires such as a huge 75 mile long fire in 1909.

By the time Alexander Hadden and his family arrived in 1923 to join his mother Helen Gammie and her family, Saskatchewan was prospering. Cattle ranching had given way to agriculture and although the horse was still the main mode of transportation, a few Model T automobiles were being seen. My great-uncle Alec Hadden who was not quite 20 years of age when he arrived in Saskatchewan, enjoyed talking about his time on the prairies. He especially enjoyed recounting stories of the local North-West Mounted Police sergeant, who sixty years later he still remembered by name, who would burn haystacks on many of the farms looking for booze stills - and having success finding them! Uncle Alec also described his grandmother, Helen (Shand) Gammie as being the strongest woman he ever knew - able to carry heavy loads over long distances between homesteads farms.

It was also Uncle Alec who held onto his 'cowboy' paraphernalia - his six-gun and sheep skin chaps. The attached undated photo has been identified as Alec Hadden proudly modelling his western wear.

When the Hadden family left Saskatchewan is not completely clear. I am in possession of several older family photos, dated in 1927, that appear to have been taken in a Toronto east-end backyard. The first appearance that I have found of the family in the Toronto city directories is in 1929 when the family lived on Lawlor Avenue. What does seem to be clear is that Jessie (Gaull) Hadden liked Toronto a lot more than prairie life. Jessie's younger brother, George Gaull immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1910 and established "Lawlors Bread," a small grocery store on Pickering Street, at the intersection with Lyall Avenue. When Jessie and the Hadden family visited George in Toronto's east end, they never left. Pickering Street was to become the 'home' to the next generations of Haddens!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Little House on the Prairie?

When I started researching my family history around 1980, when 'hi-tech' meant microfilm and file cards, I followed the path that is still recommended for those starting out. I began with the most important person - me! I knew when I was born, where I lived, where I went to school. I knew who my parents were, when they married and when they were born. I was even fortunate enough to have known all four of my grandparents. What I was missing was the reason my Hadden grandparents left Scotland and, as I ask on many cold January mornings waiting for a train to take me to work, why did they choose Canada when many locations with warmer climates were available?

It was explained to me that my great-great-grandmother, Helen Shand, had "re-married" to a man named Gammie and had moved to Saskatchewan in the early 1900's, leaving her grown son Alexander Shand Hadden in Scotland. Gammie, as the story went, eventually went off and fought in World War 1. Tragically not long after his arrival back home following the war, he was said to have died of pneumonia. Helen needing help with the Saskatchewan homestead was able to re-connect with Alexander after seeing his name published as a survivor of a World War 1 shipwreck. Alexander answered his mother's call and the Haddens came to Canada.

Well, that's close to the truth. Alexander Shand Hadden was born in September 1883, in Auchterless, Aberdeenshire, the son of John Hadden and Helen Shand. Alexander's birth registration clearly records that his parents were not married and that he was "illegitimate." While some might suggest that the Scots were obsessed with the issue of legitimacy, it is clear that it was seen, along with education levels and causes and numbers of deaths, as measures pointing to the health of the nation. In his first annual report published in 1861, Scottish Registrar General, W. P. Dundas, points out the less educated seemed quicker to jump into potentially poor marriages than the higher educated like those in Aberdeenshire. Dundas also points out though that for the higher educated "unfortunately, the moral training had not been carried so far as to enable them to master their natural passions."

In 1890, Helen did marry Andrew Gammie and according to census records, Alexander lived with them before venturing out on his own. In 1907, Helen and Andrew left Scotland with their three sons and two daughters to claim the free homestead lands being offered in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, two of their sons, Peter and James Gammie went off to war, both enlisting on the same day in 1916 but only Peter returned. James died on 28 September 1918 of wounds sustained in battle. He left his homestead property in Aneroid, Saskatchewan to his mother and it was that piece of land that Helen beckoned her son Alexander to help maintain. In August 1923, Alexander left the Port of Glasgow accompanied by his middle son Andrew aboard the "Marloch" bound for Canada. In November of the same year, Alexander's wife, Jessie Gaull Hadden and his sons Alec, John and daughter Edith made the same voyage aboard the "Metagama."

Next time - Scottish Cowboys?

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Start But Not A Beginning ...

It's been said that you must know where you have been to know where you are going. My family history is a mosaic of people and families, influenced by the events and environment of their times, that provides a start to the telling of what my family is today. I'm still working on finding the beginning - a quest that I hope to share with you through this blog.

The history of my family has always fascinated me - what was true, what was to be polite 'embellished', and how did our various relationships as well as those of ancestors contribute to the family we belong to today? What are the blends of primarily Scottish, Irish, and German roots - Haddens, Littles, Gaulls, Foleys, O'Neills, Wagners, Latimers, Kimmerlys, Fitzgeralds and McRaes to name a few - that converged to become our 'modern' Canadian family?

My goal is to use this space to regularly share stories from our family history, including a few of the 'skeletons in the closet', and to report on what is new in genealogy and the family history quest. I welcome your ideas, contributions and most assuredly your corrections to any facts as I may know them.

Until next time ...