Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Well, Almost)

This week's photo is of the shop at Bainshole, Aberdeenshire, Scotland that was operated by my third great grandfather Alexander Bean Hadden, assisted by his son and my second great grandfather, John Hadden. The photo was taken a few years after the Hadden family had moved out but still offers a great picture of what the shop would have looked like in 1883 when my great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden was born. (Photo courtesy of Hadden family co-researcher Alan Cope).

Monday, March 29, 2010

James Gammie Homestead File

One of the important documents that I have been able to obtain is the homestead file for James Gammie. James, a half brother of my great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden, had been killed in action in France in 1918 during the First World War. In his will, completed as part of his Canadian Expeditionary Force induction, James had named his mother, Helen (nee Shand) Gammie as his next of kin.

Born on April 26, 1895 at St. Nicholas, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, James was 12 years old when his parents moved the family from Scotland to Saskatchewan, Canada. A few months past his 16th birthday, James completed a Form No. 1, Application for Entry for a Homestead, a Pre-emption or a Purchased Homestead which was assigned file number 26986. His application was subsequently registered on August 30, 1911 at the Dominion Lands Office in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and James was granted the north-west quarter section of Section number 9 in Township 8, Range 10 of the 3rd Meridian.

The homestead file for this piece of property not only contains the registered application that James submitted but also his army will and Department of Militia and Defence written confirmation of his death in France due to wounds received in action in addition to the Surrogate Court order conveying the land to his mother, Helen, in accordance with his last wishes. Interestingly, the order had the following clause attached to it.

This Grant is made upon the condition that no portion of the assets shall be distributed or paid during the war to any beneficiary or creditor who is a German, Austro-Hungarian, Turkisk or Bulgarian subject wherever resident, or to anyone on his behalf, or to or on behalf of any person resident in Germany, Austria Hungary, Turkey, or Bulgaria, or whatever nationality, without the express sanction of the Crown acting through the Attorney General of the Province, and if any distribution or payment is made contrary to this condition the grant of Letters of Administration with Will annexed will be forthwith revoked.

The court order with the attached clause was signed and issued by the Surrogate Court on April 6, 1920, a little more than nine months after the Treaty of Versailles had officially ended the war. It appears that perhaps, there were still some lingering hard feelings!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are? - The Matthew Broderick Episode

The U.S. version of Who Do You Think You Are? continues to improve in the ratings and has placed consistently high, holding down second place in it's Friday night time slot. This week's episode traced the ancestry of Tony Award winning and movie actor Matthew Broderick.

I've posted before that the show, in my opinion, is succeeding in raising awareness of family connections, perhaps in a way that no other North American show has been able, with the possible exception of Alex Haley's Roots in the 1970's. The Matthew Broderick episode revealed an ancestry with strong military roots - a grandfather who was a decorated World War 1 hero and the somewhat graphically described in records death of a US Civil War great-great grandfather.

This was an episode to which I could easily relate, much more than the previous episodes. As interesting as Sarah Jessica Parker's connections to the California Gold Rush and the Salem Witch Hunt, Emmitt Smith's connections to the slave trade, and Lisa Kudrow's connection to the Holocaust and Eastern Europe were to watch, Matthew Broderick's military connection and his reactions to this past resonated with me.

I remember a time when I considered Remembrance Day (in Canada) or Veteran's Day (in the U.S.) to be important but not personal and then, I discovered through family history research that I had ancestors who fought and died in war. I had ancestors whose passion provoked them to enlist even if they never made into battle. Suddenly, the war events moved from the academic to take on new meaning. There were heroes in my family like young Jimmy Gammie, who at the age of only 23, made the ultimate sacrifice, a sacrifice that dramatically shaped the future of my family.

I've come to learn through all of the family research that every family and every family member has a story to tell. Who Do You Think You Are? is telling some of those stories, and perhaps fortunately not as a genealogical instruction video but rather in a way that touches the summation that we are of our ancestors.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Annie Hadden

I must confess to having a certain fascination with my great-great grandaunt Ann Mathieson 'Annie' Hadden (pictured to the right in a photo provided by and used with the permission of Hadden family co-researcher Alan Cope).

I suspect the source of my fascination comes from both the name Ann itself (my mother's married name was Anne Hadden) but predominantly, I think it's because Annie Hadden represents for me as close a tie to my great great grandfather, and Annie's brother, John, as I have found to date.

John and Ann's parents, Alexander Bean Hadden and Jane Mathieson, had ten children between 1857 and 1873. John and Ann were children number 6 and 7, born in 1866 and 1867, respectively. When Ann was 21 years old, she married William Gordon, a dignified looking man, in Botriphnie, Banffshire, Scotland. Between 1890 and 1908, Ann and William welcomed thirteen children into their family.

Two of their children, Mary Jane Mathieson 'Jeanie' Gordon and Donald Gordon, would eventually immigrated to the United States. Their eldest son, Alexander Garrow Duncan Gordon, married, fathered two children, but tragically died in World War 1. (For more on Alexander G. D. Gordon, click here). Annie was 68 years old when she passed away in 1936.

When I view her photo and see the strength and character in her features, I wonder how far different would my great great grandfather John look? Perhaps one day, a family member will share a surviving photo of him with me. Until then, Annie is as close as I can come.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Well, Almost)

How Canadian is this, eh? I'm not certain what possessed my mother to dress me as a Mountie and pose me on my really great rocking horse but she clearly forgot to include my saddle bags filled with maple syrup (of course) and to have my pet beaver following me along the happy trails.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner - Part 2

So how does a man, born in New York state, educated in Ontario, Canada, who apprenticed as a tanner and leather belt maker and, who was educated as a land surveyor at Northwestern College in Napierville, Illinois, wind up as a minister of the Evangelical Association? This was a question that didn't seem to have a direct answer until I found a historical sketch about my wife's great grandfather, Louis Henry Wagner, in Rev. A. J. Fretz' 1895 book, A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Christian and Hans Meyer and other pioneers: Together with Historical and Biographical Sketches.

As Rev. Fretz recounted:

"Quite early in life impressions of a higher calling, that to which his sainted father sacrificed his energies and life, made themselves felt, but not until the Winter and Spring of 1882 would he consent to give it any attention.... Being fond of business and not desiring the staid realities of an itinerant preacher's life, he would, for the time being, drown these inner promptings in the interests of his employments and at times even in actual folly. But now the thought would not leave him, and after many prayers and consultations, he decided to apply to his class for recommendation to preach, which was freely given him. At this time he was holding the important offices of Sunday school superintendent and exhorter in the Evangelical church at Berlin. A few weeks later the Canada Conference of the Evangelical Association met at St. Jacobs, Ont., who unanimously granted him his license, received him into the itineracy and appointed him assistant to his former pastor, Rev. J. J. Klipphardt, at Sebringville.... At the conference session of 1886 he passed all the examinations and completed the full course of study creditably, was ordained an elder and admitted into full connection in the conference. In 1887 he was assigned to Blenheim Circuit...."

Rev. Fretz concluded his biographical sketch of Louis with this: "Mr. Wagner has for eight years held the office of conference missionary treasurer. He is in the prime of life, having just passed his 38th birthday. His future is full of prospects, bright and encouraging."

Rev. Fretz' words suggest a strong friendship between the two men. His words were also somewhat prophetic as Louis lived for 50 years after Rev. Fretz wrote his book, passing away in January 1945 at the age of 87. He was buried in Kitchener (formerly Berlin), Ontario's Mount Hope Cemetery, close to the Breithaupt aunt and uncle who had taken a keen interest in him when he was a young man.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rev. Louis Henry Wagner - Part 1

I have previously posted information about my wife, Ellen's great grandfather, the Rev. Louis Henry Wagner. Louis' father, the Rev. Jacob Wagner died a week after Louis had celebrated his first birthday in 1858. Margaret (nee Hailer) Wagner was left a young widow with two small children - Louis and his older sister Catherine. Census records indicated that Margaret first returned to her parental home in Berlin, Ontario (her parents were the first German born settlers in Berlin, now Kitchener, Ontario, an area now famous for its German heritage). Four years after her husband's death, Margaret married again, this time to Daniel Bean, a country school teacher who lived in Blandford, Ontario, some distance from Berlin.

Although Louis Wagner initially went with his mother and his step-father Daniel, he returned to Berlin a few years later to live with his aunt and uncle, Phillip Ludwig 'Louis' and Catherine Breithaupt. The book,written in 1895 by the Rev. A. J. Fretz and published in 1896 by News Printing House, entitled A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Christian and Hans Meyer and other pioneers: Together with Historical and Biographical Sketches, referred to in yesterday post, helps fill in the blanks on what happened next in Louis' life.

"An uncle after whom he was named, and his grandfather Jacob Hailer, of Berlin, took quite an interest in the lad, and with a view of giving him a better education offered him a home in their families, which he accepted, and when 13 years old left his mother's home to attend the Central school at Berlin.Three years later he passed the examination and attended the High school, continuing several years. An idea to get into business life possessed him so he entered the employ of his uncle, Louis Breithaupt, as an apprentice tanner, remaining with him two years, also learning the trade of leather belt making during that time. The desire for for still better educational attainments now again made themselves strongly felt, and he received permission to attend Northwestern College, an institution of the Evangelical Association at Napierville, Ill., where he remained three years, after which, in the Summer of 1878, he again entered the employ of his uncle as clerk in the leather and shoe findings department, and later as bookkeeper and traveling salesman."

Although Rev. Fretz referred to Louis' college years, he didn't mention that Louis graduated from Northwestern as a land surveyor. In an upcoming post, I will share Rev. Fretz' account of Louis' calling to the ministry.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Genealogy Books - A Goldmine of Information

Somehow between family social events, work, and blogging, I found time this past week to actually do some research on our family history. Whatever the inspiration, I decided to try an extract phrase Google search for my wife's paternal great grandfather, the Rev. Louis Henry Wagner.

The Google search techniques that I used are simple enough but not 'advertised' by Google. For a thorough understanding of how Google can enhance your genealogy research, I would encourage you to check out Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems Podcast. Lisa offers both free podcasts and a premium, 'members only' area that contains video instructions on how the maximize the benefit of Google. While there is an annual fee for Premium membership, it is a very small amount for a very large benefit.

Under the Google 'Books' tab, I found a snippet view of a book that referenced Louis Wagner. With the book title, I was then able to search through and found the complete book, written in 1895 by the Rev. A. J. Fretz and published in 1896 by News Printing House, entitled A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Christian and Hans Meyer and other pioneers: Together with Historical and Biographical Sketches. Apparently, short, catchy book titles were not as fashionable in the late 19th century!

This is no small book - it is over 700 pages long, containing the genealogy of one branch of Ellen's family and as importantly, sketches of many of the family members written based on information that the subjects of the sketches, or then contemporaries of the subjects, provided. It's going to take me some time to fully explore and mine all of the information contained in the book. But not only does the book provide a wealth of detailed genealogy information, the historical sketches offer a remarkable glimpse into the lives of ancestors that by today's standards and conveniences are hard to relate to. The section on Louis Henry Wagner, I will share in parts in upcoming posts.

One sketch about Samuel Meyer (the family used both Meyer and Moyer) in particular caught my attention. Samuel was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on 4 March 1767. Before he was 10 years old, both of Samuel's parents had died of yellow fever and although the next years of his life are somewhat cloudy,  by the age of 16, Samuel was a school teacher. On 15 November 1789, Samuel married 19-year-old Anna Bechtel and they made their home in Blooming Glen, Pennsylvania. In 1800, Samuel decided to move his family north to what was then Canada West and specifically to the area of present day St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls, where he purchased 200 acres of land.

In the summer of 1820, Samuel, accompanied by two friends, returned to Blooming Glen to conduct business. "His next trip to Pennsylvania, a few years later, he made on foot, getting some chance rides, and completed the journey in nine days.He was a rapid walker and more than once covered 6 miles in an hour." He walked the almost 650 kilometres or about 400 miles - and without the aid of nicely paved roads and interstate highways. I had really not given a lot of thought to the day-to-day mobility challenges that were faced almost 200 years ago and the fitness levels that ancestors likely maintained.

I guess I won't be able to complain as much the next time I can't find a parking spot close to a shopping mall entrance!

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Who Do You Think You Are?

Among genealogists, across North America at least, NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? is scoring as a hit. In a recent, admittedly unscientific Facebook poll, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak reported that 82% of the respondents rated the show an "A." The television ratings numbers seem to be suggesting something similar - week #1's 6.9 million viewers was surpassed by week #2's 7.15 million viewers.

In week #1, Sarah Jessica Parker's family story was featured including the historical highlights of the California Gold Rush and the Salem witch hunt. Week #2 offered an extraordinary glimpse into African American genealogy and the dark times of the slave trade as NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith's family history was featured. Tonight's third episode features Lisa Kudrow who is also a producer of the show. Following the airing of each episode, the genealogy blog world and social networking sites like Facebook have been filled with various comments and critiques on the positive genealogical elements of the show and areas where improvement was suggested.

There is merit in much of the commentary that has been offered but I think there is something that is missing or has been forgotten. Ultimately, Who Do You Think You Are? is entertainment and in this, it succeeds. Each of our ancestors has a story to tell - the achievements, the failures, the good and not so good decisions made, the joy and the heartbreaks of their lives. Who Do You Think They Are? is capturing that essence and doing it in a one-hour network timeslot.

There are moments in each show when I hope that a particular family line or document search will be explored further but I remind myself that the show is not a genealogy instructional video even though, it has thus far captured the basics quite well. Each of the two episodes has started with the guest celebrity speaking with their older family members and developing the hints and clues that allow them to begin their family history quest.

The discovery of their family history affects each celebrity subject just as the continuing discovery of mine affects me. The show is, and I suspect will continue to be, about raising awareness. The increased traffic on the Ancestry site since the show's premiere isn't a coincidence - awareness of genealogy and history in general is quite apparently the result being achieved. I hope that continues for the show's success can be a driver to making life as a genealogist that much easier (well, except for the slower response times on the Ancestry site following each episode!).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Well, Almost)

Pictured below are brother and sister, Robert Reid (Bob) and Elizabeth Fraser (Lizzie) Gaull. The portrait was likely taken in Aberdeen, Scotland between 1915 - 1920 although it is undated. I was fortunate to have had them identified by an elderly family member many years ago.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm An Ancestor!

I don't know when the moment of enlightenment occurred. Perhaps it was a combination of realities converging. Maybe it was meeting my son's future in-laws. Or, maybe it was emailing a photo of my grandson to my daughter, now Auntie Lisa. Perhaps it's all of the above but after 30 years of ancestor hunting, I realized that I am an ancestor!

I found it odd not long ago, and as I recall I mentioned this in a blog post, to learn that others, usually distant family relations had me listed in their form of a family history or 'tree.' In that case, it was an elderly, now deceased cousin who had passed on to a nephew her 'family file' containing notes about various generations and locations of family members, myself included. The nephew tracked me down through the magic of the Internet. After years of being the tracker or hunter, it felt odd to discover I was also being hunted - good, but odd.

Now I realize that their are two generations alive after me  I am an ancestor! And, even if I feel much too young to wear that mantle! The benefit of this discovery is that I now know that there are things I can do to assist my descendants that my, and their, ancestors neglected to do.

1. I can identify the family members, and any others, that appear in family photos. I have far too many old family photo albums containing pictures of people I don't know because my parents and grandparents didn't write names and dates on the back of the photos. I can at least do that for the many photos for which I have that information.

2. I can organize all of the hundreds of family documents that I have acquired over the years so that they make sense to some one other than me. I have no trouble with 'my' filing system finding a document that I need to refer to but I'm not certain it would be easy for anyone else and, if I'm really honest with myself, as I continue to find more documents through my ever deepening research, it's becoming tough for me too!

3. I can, and this one is perhaps the most important, finish citing all of the sources for the facts in my genealogy database. These are the citations that I didn't complete at the time of entering the database information but promised myself that I would get to someday. I think its time for someday to become today - before I'm too old to remember the source myself!

There are other things that I'm sure I could also do but I think if I make the list too long, I won't get started. I need to begin and complete the most important tasks first before their is another generation added to the two already following me!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Elizabeth Fraser 'Lizzie' Gaull

I can't say that I could ever explain the connection that I felt while growing up with Lizzie Gaull and, I can't explain it now. I never met my great grandaunt, whose full name was Elizabeth Fraser Gaull, but when looking through old family photo albums as a child, she and her husband were identified to me as Eddie and Lizzie Christie. 

Lizzie was born in June 1899 at Cairnley, Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She was a younger sister to my great grandmother, Jessie McKenzie Gaull - in fact, she was 17 years younger. Their father, John Gaull and his wife Harriet McKenzie, had their first child in 1879 and their last, number thirteen,  in 1904, a span of 25 years. My great grandmother Jessie was number two and Lizzie was number eleven.

After Jessie, her husband Alexander Shand Hadden and their children, including my grandfather John Gaull Hadden, left Scotland in 1923 for Canada, the only real opportunity for sharing family events and occasions was through letters and photos. Although I know of no letters that survived, fortunately many of the photos did find their way into albums that are still in the family today. In February 1928, Lizzie married Edward 'Eddie' Christie and when later that same year, Lizzie gave birth to the her and Eddie's first child, a son named Edward Alexander Christie, the event of the baby's christening was shared with the family in Canada. The photo above is one of the photos from that occasion, showing Eddie and Lizzie Christie with their son.

Oddly, there was another photo that I later realized was from the same happy occasion showing an infant 'laid out' on the seat of a chair. For many years when I was young, I thought it was the picture of a child's funeral. It was a bit of a relief when I realized it was cousin Edward Alexander Christie as an infant sleeping during his christening party!

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Blog Design

Just a quick post to highlight the new blog design. I hope that you find this design a bit easier to read. I'd invite your comments and feedback. Thanks!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Military Record of James Gammie

James 'Jimmy' Gammie was born April 26, 1895 in St. Nicholas, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He was a younger half-brother of my great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden. In 1907, Jimmy's parents, Andrew and Helen (Shand) Gammie moved the family, that included Jimmy, his older brothers Andrew and Peter and younger sisters, Helen and Williamina, to Saskatchewan, Canada where they acquired a homestead and began a new frontier life.

On May 17th, 1916, Jimmy and his brother, Peter, enlisted in the 46th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Pictured above, in 1917 when in France, is the 46th Battalion's Pipes and Drums Band whose music Jimmy would have no doubt marched to. Peter Gammie was discharged just over a year later in June 1917 for medical reasons but Jimmy remained to fight, and die, in France. His military records, obtained from Library and Archives Canada, offer a glimpse into Jimmy's brief military career.

When Jimmy Gammie enlisted, he completed and signed his Attestation Paper which listed his mother "Mrs. Helen Gammie" of Quimper, Saskatchewan as his next of kin. Jimmy, standing 5 feet 8 inches in height, was described as having a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He was certified as being medically fit for duty.

According to his military record, Jimmy went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) on October 3, 1916 for just one day. He was docked one day's pay for this apparent youthful misadventure. On October 30th, 1916 Jimmy was diagnosed with pneumonia and for about 3 weeks was under medical care before being 'discharged' for duty. Jimmy first was 'shipped' to Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 17, 1917 and twelve days later, on April 29, 1917, he debarked from the S. S. Northland at Liverpool, England and was sent straight into training at Bramshott Military Camp in Surrey, England. On September 12, 1917, Jimmy "proceeded overseas for service" with his 46th Battalion.

Jimmy Gammie saw lots of action once in France and on March 24th, 1918, he suffered gun shot wounds to the left side of his body, arm and ankle. As a result he was moved to different Casualty Clearing Stations, first, #6 station, then a day later, #2 station, and finally on May 1st, to #1 station from which he was discharged for duty on May 2nd and sent back to the front to take up the fight once more. Sadly, on September 27th, 1918 he suffered severe shrapnel wounds to his back and was listed as "Dangerously Ill" at #22 Casualty Clearing Station where he died the next day.

Jimmy was paid $1.10 per day to fight in France for King and country. Like all soldiers, he was paid monthly with his pay credited on a ledger that also recorded the amounts spent each month. In Jimmy's case, he was frugal and spent only an average of 10% of his wages so that when he died, a credit balance of $398.34 was left to his next of kin, his mother Helen.

On November 3, 1920, the Memorial Plaque and Scroll was issued to Andrew Gammie to commemorate his son's sacrifice along with the Memorial Cross for Jimmy's mother, Helen.

The name of Private James Gammie, 46th Battalion, can still be seen today inscribed on page 412 of the World War 1 Book of Remembrance so that his sacrifice is not forgotten.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Well, Almost)

James "Uncle Jim" Hadden was born in 1935, the second child of my paternal grandparents John and Agnes (Little) Hadden and the younger brother of my father. Jim apparently developed a reputation in his younger days for lighting fires, so as expected, he spent his professional years as a Toronto firefighter. Sadly, Uncle Jim passed away suddenly in 2005. He is pictured above with a very much younger 'me.'

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Real McCoys

Why am I searching for McCoys? Well, my youngest daughter's fiance is a McCoy with a keen interest in tracing his Canadian roots. And, despite much being written about ways and means to encourage younger people to take the art of genealogy, I must admit watching my future son-in-law's frustrations and struggles has demonstrated to me just how tough it can be for young people to get off to a good start.

Without the 'luxury' of yet having a sufficient disposable income, membership in a society may not seem affordable for the benefits provided and attendance at a conference may be completely out of the question. Attending a course is unfortunately not usually free so again some key potential resources can feel like they are out of reach. Subscription sites like Ancestry are expensive if you are a student or just starting out in your 'professional' career so these end up falling into the 'some day' category of financial plans.

I've taken the McCoy research on as a project that combines sharing tips and techniques with my future son-in-law as well as helps me learn a bit more about Canadian jurisdictions, for unlike my ancestors who settled in Ontario, the McCoys were long time residents in the province of New Brunswick, on Canada's east coast. This meant that I could not happily rely on fully indexed civil registration images through Ancestry.

I focused my research on Thomas McCoy, the 3rd great grandfather of my future son-in-law, Mark. This allowed me to track the family more easily through the decennial Canadian Census records. The starting information that I had allowed me to quickly find the family in 1891 living in Canning Parish, Sunbury and Queens County, New Brunswick. Thomas was a farmer who was born around 1845 in New Brunswick. He married Silena Clark, also a native of New Brunswick, probably around 1867. From about 1868 to 1892, Thomas and Silena had 11 children: 8 boys and 3 girls.

Interestingly, in 1891, Thomas was listed as being of Irish descendant. In 1881, he was of Scottish descent, and just to confuse us, in 1871, he was listed as being of English descent. While I suspect the Irish descent is likely correct, this is an example of how census information can sometimes be unreliable.

Fortunately, the New Brunswick Provincial Archives provides a search engine to more than 800,000 vital records, some with digitized images and all with source and ordering information. While finding family members with common names like John and Thomas isn't easy, other family names like Seymour and Horace provide an opportunity to obtain valuable information and clues to keep moving deeper into the family history.

Having fully 'mined' the vital records database (I think), it's time to move on to other sources like land records, again many fully indexed and available free on-line. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More Family 'Six Degrees of Separation'

The world seems to keep getting a little smaller and the connections between families, no matter how disparate, keep showing themselves.

Last November, I wrote about one of my uncles, the Rev. Ernest Royle or as I knew him, Uncle Ernie. Born in 1935, Ernie Royle graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto at the Spring convocation of 1959 and was subsequently ordained a minister with the United Church of Canada. He was always Uncle Ernie to me and I had a tough time 'seeing' him as a church minister preaching each Sunday. But when my wife, Ellen and I decided to get married, it seemed only natural to ask Uncle Ernie if he would be so kind as to do the honours and officiate at our wedding. He immediately, and without any hesitation, agreed and so one of our great memories is of Uncle Ernie 'hitching' us.

While researching Ellen's family history, as I have recounted in earlier posts, I found that her second cousin twice removed, Louis Orville Breithaupt had been the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1952 until 1957. Following his vice regal term, Louis had been appointed as the Chancellor of Victoria College. I also learned through my aunt, Carol (Hadden) Royle, that one of Uncle Ernie's classmates at university had also been a Breithaupt - a Herb Breithaupt as she recalled. Mere coincidence or could there be a connection?

Well, as it turns out there absolutely is a connection as Herbert C. Breithaupt is third cousin to Ellen, Herb being the son of Louis Orville Breithaupt (as mentioned Ellen's second cousin). Small world, indeed! But it became even a bit smaller when I found that as Chancellor, Ellen's cousin Louis conferred the Bachelor of Divinity degree not only on his son, Herbert, but also on Herb's classmate, Ernest Royle! Above is a photo from Sara (Caskey) Breithaupt's memoir showing Louis conferring the Bachelor of Divinity degree on his son Herb. The second person seated to the right of Louis is the late Hon. Lester B. Pearson who not long after this photo was taken became the Prime Minister of Canada.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Episode 1 - Who Do You Think You Are?

Last night, I watched the first episode of the new, American version of Who Do You Think You Are?, the long awaited weekly television series that traces the family history of celebrities. Episode 1 featured Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City fame (although she certainly has more than that on her resume).

Here are impressions of the show:

  • Sarah Jessica Parker genuinely seemed to be engaged and earnest in her desire to seek out the connections that her ancestors had to history like the California Gold Rush and the Salem Witch Hunt.
  • Some elements of research were glossed over without any real explanation like a great grandfather reported in a newspaper to have died in 1849 appearing in the census of 1850 without something verifying that they were in fact dealing with the 'right' individual. If only my family research was that simple.
  • The use of historical documents, some like an original Salem Witch Hunt warrant, showed the tremendous variety of records that might be available to assist in research efforts. It's not just vital records for births, marriages, and deaths along with census records that fill in all the blanks.
  • It's hard to believe that anyone would be touching a 1690's document without wearing gloves. I almost shuddered thinking of the risk that the document faced as bare fingers, admittedly gently, flipped it over and I'm sure I let out an audible gasp as I watched it happen.
  • The hour long format gave sufficient time to tell the story well and I guess all the 'coming up' and 'recap' sections before and after commercial breaks are necessary - I just don't enjoy them. I'd prefer that the time be used in a more instructive manner but maybe that just means I wouldn't do well as a television show producer.
  • I liked seeing the interaction with a number of genealogists and historians rather than having a single 'staff' genealogist portrayed as the researcher. This makes the research element real . I've certainly been helped by many people with a variety of expertise over the years.
  • Following the show, I noticed a delay in getting on to the Ancestry site. I'm going to assume this is directly related to the show's airing and higher than usual traffic on the site. If I'm correct, that's okay as it means the show is having the effect of raising interest and awareness in genealogy and there's nothing wrong with 'going mainstream.'
Episode 2 is a week away but my PVR is already set!

George Irvine Gaull

George Irvine Gaull was the brother of my paternal great grandmother, Jessie McKenzie (Gaull) Hadden. He, like his older sister Jessie, was one of 13 children born to John Gaull and his wife, Harriett McKenzie. George was born at the Gaull family farm on July 8, 1892 in Cairnley, Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, Scotland and was rather interestingly named by his father, John, after John's twin brother George who had gone by the surname of Irvine almost from birth (George had been raised by an Inverurie family named Houey from infancy whereas John was raised by his mother Mary Jane Gaull - see "An Unsolved Mystery" from August 31, 2009).

When George was 18 years old, likely as with most young men of that age feeling invincible, he left Scotland for Canada. Carrying ticket number 121150 and $25.00, George boarded the Empress of Ireland (pictured above) at Liverpool and sailed into Quebec City, Quebec on June 9, 1910. George then made his way west to Toronto by train where, according to the ship's passenger list, he planned to carry on the work he knew from home - he was going to be a farm labourer. Maybe it was because he found that there weren't a lot of farms in the city of Toronto in 1910 that lead George into another field of employment, that of being a grocer. George changed careers and found a room living in the former Village of East Toronto with the Coulson family. Three years later, on July 1, 1913 George married his landlord's daughter, Mary Elizabeth Coulson.

On May 25, 1917, George, then 25 years of age and standing at just over 5 feet and 4 inches in height, left his house at 67 Pickering Street and enlisted with the Royal Canadian Dragoons in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. George returned to Toronto, Ontario, Canada on October 31, 1920, again sailing from Liverpool, England to Quebec City, this time aboard the ship 'Melita' and took up his occupation as a grocer. In 1926, George and Mary were living at 98 Lyall Avenue, a city block or two away from his former Pickering Street home. At the time he was working for Lawlor's Bread Company but by 1929, George had opened his own grocery store at 87 Pickering Street and according to the Toronto City Directory for that year, he could be reached by telephone at HOward 0280.

The little grocery store started by 'Georgie' Gaull, as he was known in the family, continued to operate well into my early childhood days. I passed by the store daily on my way to school knowing that it was part of my family history.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is Genealogy Ready for Primetime?

Well, this is the week that has been all the buzz for quite some time. When would NBC finally include Who Do You Think You Are? in their broadcast schedule? After numerous false alarms and 'any day now' promises, the American version based on the British hit takes to the airwaves (I guess that depends on whether you use cable or satellite dish) on Friday, March 5th at 8:00 PM EST. In hour long episodes, the show will follow the journey of seven celebrities as they discover their family roots.

This show, not really new to North America but certainly to mainstream USA, is following quickly on the heels of the popular Faces of America series that concludes tomorrow evening, March 3rd, on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Hosted by Harvard's Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the show explores the immigrant impact and experience in America through the roots of twelve well-known American (including one transplanted Canadian) celebrities. Extremely well-produced, the hour long episodes truly show the historical impacts of events on families. The first three episodes are available for viewing on-line so you don't need to 'receive' a PBS station in order to see this terrific program.

In the United Kingdom, the show Who Do You Think You Are? has become such a 'hit' that a whole secondary industry associated with the show and genealogy has bloomed. More than 50 episodes over the past six years have regularly drawn more than six million viewers.

So then, what if Producer Lisa Kudrow's American version of the show becomes as popular? Is the genealogy community ready for the onslaught? I suspect that many think they are and, in fact, hope that they get to test their state of preparedness. I have heard and read in some blogs and articles that a few local genealogy societies have readied themselves by having their 'beginner' level classes dusted off and ready to be delivered.

As an individual, here are a few tips that I think might help you make a difference within your community or sphere of influence:

1. Be ready to answer lots of questions! Remember back to all the questions you had starting out, and maybe you still have in many areas.

2. Be ready with printed charts - pedigree charts and family group sheets can really help someone understand how family information can be easily organized.

3. Be ready with some software recommendations - unlike even a few years ago, there are some great free downloadable versions of the more popular genealogy software products (like RootsMagic Essentials and Legacy) that can help new genealogists get a running start.

4. Be ready to suggest a membership in your local genealogy society and don't forget to point out the classes that are offered.

5. Be ready to share recommendations for favourite Internet sites including message boards and subscriptions sites, like, that you use and are familiar with.

6. Be ready to share your favourite podcasts by directing new genealogists to sites like the Genealogy Gems podcast and the Genealogy Guys podcast.

My experience has been that many friends and family are interested in knowing something about those from whom they are descended but aren't certain about where or how to start the exploration. As Meryl Streep points out in the Faces of America series, "We are the sum of all the people who lived before us." Many are likely going to want to know who they are the 'sum of so, be ready to help - maybe by adding to my list!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Women's History Month - Anne Margaret (O'Neill) Hadden

My last blog post concluded with a reference to the Canada versus USA gold medal hockey game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. I cannot deny that as a Canadian 'kid' who breathed 'hockey, hockey, hockey' growing up, I was cheering on the home side to their dramatic overtime win - a win that resulted in a explosion of patriotic joy across the country. But I also have an American connection that lies just below the surface as my mother was born in Detroit, Michigan.

Like many family events, my maternal grandparents, J. Graham and Gertrude (Foley) O'Neill moved to Detroit in 1929 as there was a job waiting for Graham at the Kelvin Cooling Company, manufacturers of the Kelvinator refrigerator. The Great Depression was gripping their world and work was not something you turned down. The 1930 US Census records show the family on April 3rd, 1930 living in a home at 5205 Linsdale Street in Detroit. In addition to Graham and Gertrude was their son, Edwin, who was born in Toronto, Ontario, the year before the family move.

In October 1930, a daughter, Anne Margaret O'Neill, my mother, joined the family. Another son, William Emmett would join them in 1935. Life for my mother and her parental family in Detroit ended however in 1937 when Graham's mother, Margaret (Graham) O'Neill passed away in Toronto, Ontario. Graham, as his parent's only son, returned to Toronto immediately to take care of the arrangements for his mother's funeral and estate. Graham inherited the family home at 189 Pickering Street and moved his family from Detroit to their 'new' home in Toronto's east end.

With the strong Irish Catholic influences of a Foley maternal line and O'Neill paternal line, my mother attended the local Catholic elementary school and eventually, the neighbouring all-girls Notre Dame Catholic High School. Following high school graduation, Anne enrolled in the nursing program at St. Michael's Hospital in downtown Toronto, graduating as a registered nurse in 1952. The following year, Anne married my father, Lewis, who was one of the neighbourhood boys before they started dating when they were 16 years old.

Following the births of her children, Anne returned to the practise of nursing at St. Michael's Hospital. Later, she would 'transfer' to a hospital closer to home where she would conclude her professional career as a nursing manager. As kids, my brother, sister, and I would marvel at our mother's ability and expertise in treating and caring for others, especially when our injuries were typically somehow minimized and treated with the 'magic' tensor bandage (later in life, I discovered I had broken bones that had been treated with the 'magic' tensor bandage - though apparently, not that successfully).

Anne doted on her eight grandchildren and believed, I think firmly, that it was her "God given right" to spoil them any way she saw fit. Eventually, Anne became a Canadian citizen though she never felt there was a need for such a process in her case. Although diagnosed with cancer around 1984 and undergoing chemotherapy, she still enjoyed life through travel and shopping - lots of shopping. Her battle with cancer concluded in January 1994, leaving us with many memories of her eventual love of hockey, especially her beloved Toronto Maple Leafs whose games she watched in the comfort of her 'nest' as her TV room was appropriately dubbed.