Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Musings of Gordon Gilbert Wagner

I have posted previously about my wife's uncle, Gordon Gilbert Henry Wagner (1914 - 1994), pictured left from October 1980, who by profession was a land surveyor in British Columbia, Canada but was also a published author and genealogist. The pedigree charts and family group sheets that Gordon compiled in the 1970's and early 1980's have been invaluable in helping me further my research into Ellen's fascinating family roots.

Gordon's research into the family was laborious, as any involved in pre-computer and Internet research will recall. The family group sheets he left behind provide various notations but offer little to explain some of his findings.

So, I was thrilled to receive copies of some of Gordon's writings - short stories and poems - believed to have been compiled in the early 1980's while Gordon was taking some creative writing classes. The connection to genealogy? Gordon used his family history as a setting for many short stories needed to complete class assignments and in these stories, Gordon is able to offer his narrative explanation and sources on family history questions.

One such story offers his explanation for the date of birth of Ellen's second great grandmother - Eleanor Ann (Ellen) Kimmerly - predating the marriage date of her parents. Gordon's short story in which he 'meets' and 'speaks' with his second great grandfather Sylvester Faulkner, in part, reads as follows:

"Sylvester's [Faulkner] son, Francis Dwight, had married Ellen Kimmerly, the daughter of Andrew Kimmerly and Huldah Ostrum. I had a copy of Andrew Kimmerly's will. He died in 1828. Ellen, her mother Huldah and her two brothers, George and Allen, were beneficiaries.

Lottie (Faulkner) Fuller, my mother's cousin and family historian, showed that Ellen had been born on July 11, 1821. This agreed with the Belleville Intelligencer article reporting her death May 29, 1896, in her seventy-sixth year. Records on file in the Belleville Public Library showed Andrew and Huldah married May 14, 1822 by Reverend McDowell of Kingston, Ontario. [Note: This record is found on page 29 of Rev. McDowell's register]. I had confirmed this in the archives of the United Church in Toronto.

Sylvester listened patiently as I told the story, his shaggy eyebrows frowned over his deep-set blue eyes; I could fell them boring through me. The rocker had stopped. He stood up and slowly and deliberately added wood to the fire.

He settled back in the rocker. "You're right about the dates, and that happened quite often. In those early days Reverend McDowell was the only ordained minister between Kingston and the shores of Lake Huron. Used to come through once a year, and if you missed him you'd have to wait until his next trip. The Kimmerlys were Lutheran, had a church at Big Creek, usually had a lay preacher. Andrew and Ellen must have been married there then had a proper service the first time Reverend McDowell came by. That sort of thing happened all the time, same with christenings."

Creative writing class assignments as a genealogy source - who knew?

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