Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Daughters Fight Back Against Cancer

How can you not be proud of daughters who have raised thousands of dollars for cancer research and who refuse to quit in their efforts until a cure is found!

Last year, my daughters, Lisa and Jenna formed a team to participate in the Princess Margaret Walk To End Breast Cancer - a 60 kilometre (over 37 miles) walk through the streets of Toronto over 2 days. Pictured below is my wife Ellen congratulating Lisa (on the left) and Jenna as they arrive at the finish of the walk. The walk and this fundraiser is special as their mother, Karen, lost her battle to the terrible disease in 2002. Karen particularly loved butterflies so the team is appropriately named "Karen's Wings." Both Lisa and Jenna sport T-shirts with Karen's photo - and, as you can see in the photo, Lisa's shirt announces "Now You Have Your Wings!"

Both Lisa and Jenna will again be participating in the 2010 walk and have already begun their fundraising to raise a team goal of $10,000 (the team raised over $8,000 last year).

The fundraising and awareness raising for cancer doesn't end there. Lisa, a manager with Mark's Work Wearhouse clothing stores, recently organized on behalf of her company, a fundraiser held at Toronto's central Yonge-Dundas Square. The fundraiser was for North York General Hospital's research for "cancers below the waste" which includes prostate, cervical and colorectal cancers. Named the "Underwear Affair," this event involved teams of two donning size 100 underwear/briefs (or perhaps there are a few boats at the Toronto Yacht Club missing their sails) to participate in races through the busy downtown square. Lisa and her best friend Sherri were featured in Toronto newspapers in the photo below.

In addition to the newspaper coverage, a video of the event is available on YouTube and even made a spot on CNN!

Donations can be made on-line to support these great young women, Lisa and Jenna, as they continue in their efforts to see cancer eradicated!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

I married the flower girl! My wife Ellen as a 5 year-old flower girl at her cousin Jule's wedding.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

The O'Neill family plot headstone in Mount Hope Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The Inscription reads as follows:


In Memory Of

William E. O'Neill
1849 - 1924

His Wife Margaret
Died 1937

Avila O'Neill [a daughter]
Died 1949

Gertrude O'Neill [a daughter-in-law]
Died 1962

John William
Infant Son of Graham & Gertrude O'Neill

R. I. P.

Also buried in the family plot is J. Graham O'Neill although he is not listed on the stone.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are? - Susan Sarandon

The sixth of seven premiere season episodes of NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? featured Susan Sarandon, with a focus on her search to uncover information about her maternal grandmother, Anita, who mysteriously disappeared when Susan's mother was very young. This episode, perhaps in my opinion the most compelling of the series thus far, finished first in its Friday night rating timeslot with 6.8 million viewers, well ahead of its competition.

There are likely few families that don't have a mystery (or two?) that keep family historians scratching their heads trying to uncover the clues necessary to uncover the 'true' story. Interestingly, it was work completed by Susan, with assistance provided by her son Miles Robbins, as opposed to a professional genealogist, that lead to finding her grandmother had lived most of her life only about an hour away.

A rich Tuscan heritage was but a back drop to the more compelling tale of Anita - married at age 13, showgirl, Sinatra connection, and finally, 'happily' (?) ever after when Anita remarries and lives what appears to be a blissful 35 years of marriage in the suburbs. There remain unanswered questions - but aren't there always unanswered questions? Isn't there always a bit more to uncover?

It was a pleasure seeing the subject celebrity doing more of her own research (and okay, I'm getting over the no gloves being used when examining old documents) but it was also the variety of sources that was refreshing, especially when moving forward to current time when city directories provided an exact location and eventual connection to those who knew her grandmother.

Next week is the final seventh episode of Season 1 featuring Spike Lee! If the series stays true to form, it is likely to be the best of the seven!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

"In memory of James Sparling, Died Aug. 30, 1880, Aged 61 years & 8 mos., Native of Tiperary, Ireland." Stone located at the Maitlandbank Cemetery in Seaforth, Ontario.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gaull Great Great Grandchildren Connect

One of my paternal great grandmothers was Jessie McKenzie Gaull, daughter of John Gaull and Harriet McKenzie. John and Harriet raised a family of 13 children, at least 9 of whom married and produced many descendants for John and Harriet. In the photo above, taken around 1928, John Gaull is seated centre with some of his children and grandchildren.

Until a week ago, I had two things in common with Fiona T. and June M. - all three of us are among the great great grandchildren of John and Harriet and we had never met or connected in any way.

Fiona found the Gaull family information that I have over the past several months posted in this blog and contacted me. She then introduced me to another cousin, June, who as it turns out lives just over one mile away from my house! June and I have spoken by phone and hopefully soon will get together over coffee.

A couple of valuable lessons learned: a) genealogy blogs help you share your family stories but also help make important family connections and, b) don't assume all family live a great distance away from you, sometimes you need look no further than your own 'backyard.'

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Well, Almost)

Alexander Shand Hadden with his dog, fresh from the Saskatchewan, Canada homestead, which accounts for the hat!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

The headstone for my wife Ellen's great grandparents in Seaforth, Huron County, Ontario.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Some News and Views

Vimy Ridge

Today, across Canada, memorials were held in honour of Canada's victory at Vimy Ridge during World War 1. Many consider this battle, that started on April 9th, 1917, as a defining moment in Canada's nationhood, when Canada transformed from colony to country. Although other allied forces had tried vainly to take the ridge, it was the Canadian troops who finally succeeded. The battle marked the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force had joined and participated in a battle together. As far as I can tell, my great grand-uncle, James Gammie was one of the Canadian soldiers who participated in and survived this fierce battle, only to be killed over a year later in another battle. It was just a couple of months ago that Canada mourned the passing of its last surviving World War 1 veteran, John Henry Foster 'Jack' Babcock, of Kingston, Ontario.


I thought I should share some 'techie' advice from my office about scareware, or sometimes referred to as rogueware. If you have had pop-ups saying things like "You have been infected!" or "Malware Infections Found" then you have likely been exposed to scareware, one of the latest technology scams. Essentially, scareware is fake security software. Here's the advice our IT department has offered: 1. Remain calm! Things usually can get worse if you try to click your way out of the pop-up. Clicking on 'yes', 'no', or 'cancel' might even likely cause run the scareware software to run on your computer, no matter what you click and no matter how many times you click. 2. If you are running the Windows operating system, go to your task manager (simultaneously press "ctrl+alt+delete" to open the task manager) and end the Internet browser program you are using. You may lose the page you are working on but you can go back later. Remember also to keep your anti-virus software up to date.

Who Do You Think You Are? Renewed

The new genealogy based series, Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC has been renewed for a second season, much to the delight of genealogist across North America (and beyond). No news yet on what season will cover but the series 'won' its timeslot last week to earn the renewal!

OGS Conference 2010 Just Weeks Away

The Ontario Genealogical Society's annual conference is being held from Friday, May 14th until Sunday, May 16th. This year's conference, hosted by the Toronto Branch of the OGS, will be held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel near Toronto's Pearson International Airport. The conference features more than 25 speakers and includes focused streams on Dutch and Italian ancestry. My wife, Ellen, and I will be attending and are looking forward to meeting among others, Lisa Louise Cooke of the Genealogy Gems Podcast who will be making her first 'north of the 49th' appearance! On-line registration for any of the six registration packages is still available along with registration for the two pre-conference programs being held on Thursday, May 13th. Hope to see you there as well.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday (Well, Almost)

Pictured below (seated) is my paternal grandfather, John Gaull Hadden, with two unidentified friends. The photo is undated but believed to have been taken 1928-1929. I hope someone might recognize the two 'friends.'

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

Below is a photo of my maternal great grandfather's (John Foley) headstone, located in Mount Hope Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario. As I have noted in previous posts, I have found no evidence for the date of birth for John Foley as listed on the stone.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are? - Brooke Shields

The excitement of discovery - I think that sums it up! I have certainly felt that excitement as I have broken through to a new generation of ancestors and all the associated family discoveries that may promise.

This week, Who Do You Think You Are?, NBC's genealogy based hit (I don't think based on the ratings so far that it is premature to call it a 'hit') took actress/model Brooke Shields back to her royal ancestral roots. While I may not be able to fully relate to the royal discovery of a direct line ancestral connection to French aristocracy, with the historical close ties between France and Scotland, who knows? Maybe, one day? Maybe not, but I'm happy enough to settle for many of the discoveries I have made to date, especially on my wife's side with a direct United Empire Loyalist connection, a connection to the Paul Revere ride, a vice-regal appointment in Ontario, Canada and connections between her family and mine that date back more than fifty years ago but which were totally unknown to us.

I've discovered Scottish ancestors with Irish roots and Irish ancestors with Scottish roots and for me, most importantly, come to appreciate the sacrifices of my ancestors that landed me where I am today.

Perhaps I could get back more than 400 years in my family history with the aid of a team of professional genealogists and historians but I would have missed the voyage of self-discovery that so fascinates me. My team is made up of fellow researchers who work collaboratively, sharing tidbits and clues that can be woven into the fabric of the family. Like Brooke Shields' family, my family history contains stories of tragedy that help explain family decisions made long before I was a 'twinkle' in anyone's eyes! War heroes making the ultimate sacrifice, a family drowning - these events have shaped my family, have given my family texture and character.

I cannot yet relate to a royal mansion in Europe but would easily settle for an ancient castle in the Scottish highlands!

To view episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? on-line, click here, and enjoy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Meet the Mitchells of Greenock

My paternal grandmother, Agnes Little was born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland in 1908. Twenty years later, she left Scotland for Canada where she met and married my grandfather, John Gaull Hadden, in 1929.

Agnes' parents were James Little and Margaret Mitchell, both also natives of Greenock and both born in 1889. Margaret was one month shy of her seventeenth birthday when she married James. The 1901 Scottish Census perhaps casts some light on her early-in-life nuptials.

Margaret was the second of five children born to William Mitchell and Agnes Sweeney, likely my grandmother's namesake under the Scottish naming convention. Margaret's father, William was a shipyard labourer. Margaret was born at 3 West Quay Lane in Greenock, the address associated with the Greenock Poorhouse, serving not only as a sanctuary for the indigent poor but also as the lunatic asylum. An 1868 report on the conditions of the poorhouse indicates that it was generally kept in good condition but that "there are no means of regular amusement or occupation." The same report indicates that "lunatics' were annually sent to both England and Ireland!

In 1901, Margaret is found living with her grandmother Helen (noted in the census as 'Ellen') Sweeney (nee Dickson). Helen was operating a boarding house at 3 Shannons Close. 12 year-old Margaret was there with her four siblings. Her older sister, Ellen was working at the time as a 'Message Girl' for a local fish shop. Her parents were not present but there were nine lodgers, eight of whom were men, labourers from likely from the shipyards.

I can only guess that the boarding house environment was rough and uncomfortable for a young lady. Was marriage a few years later an escape from that environment? More research is required to unlock the answer.

This past week has brought about a new cousin connection, with the granddaughter of Margaret's youngest brother James. Kathy Holmes lives with her husband and their three sons in Loughborough, Leicestshire, England and we have begun sharing information on our Mitchell family common ancestors via email. More cousins that I didn't know I had!