Sunday, February 27, 2011

Music Memories - John Denver

In 1973, I taught myself to play the guitar. Two reasons inspired this effort: one, I really liked the sweet melodies of John Denver songs; and two, I saw the guitar as a 'babe magnet' and I figured any help was good help. It wasn't easy but I persevered and have been playing my guitars ever since (in addition to the 6-string Gibson guitar I started out on, I quickly acquired a 12-string Yamaha because, well, John Denver sometimes used a 12-string).

Both of my reasons for starting to play worked out. I played John Denver songs over and over, in fact to this day his song
My Sweet Lady is the tune I use to warm up. In 1974 the second reason was fulfilled when I began dating a young lady who in all good fortune also appreciated the music of John Denver. When it was announced in early 1975 that John Denver was coming to Toronto to perform in a concert at Maple Leaf Gardens, we had to be there. I was assigned the job of getting the tickets.

Unlike today when to get tickets you need to be fast on the keyboard so your online purchase request goes through before everyone else jams a server, in 1975 I needed to stand in line outside one of two locations selling tickets. I arrived early to get a good spot in line but my idea of early was apparently considered late by ticket purchase standards in those days. By the time I was about 20 people away from the ticket booth, the horrible words "Sold Out" were broadcast. Somewhat forlorn, I walked the downtown Toronto streets eventually heading to the second ticket outlet location. I decided to check with the location just to be able to say "I tried."

On approaching the ticket window, where only one person waited in line ahead of me, I could not help but notice the "John Denver Tickets Sold Out" sign in the window. Asking for a miracle was free so I waited and within a couple of minutes had my chance to approach the ticket seller. "Any John Denver tickets available?" To my astonishment the reply was not a swift "No, can't you read" but rather a "Well, the person in front of you just turned two tickets back in." I took those tickets (see the stubs pictured below) and the young lady I was dating recognized me as a hero for getting second row seats, at least for a short while.

On April 23rd, 1975, John Denver sang twenty songs to us at the Maple Leaf Gardens concert in Toronto. He instructed us to sing along with him on the song choruses but to leave the verses to him. He sang all his hits, Sunshine on My Shoulders, Annie's Song, Thank God I'm a Country Boy, Back Home Again, Take Me Home Country Roads and finished his concert as he always did with This Old Guitar. I noticed on the ticket stubs that the price, including 68 cents retail sales tax, was $7.50. Having seen two daughters through several Backstreet Boys concerts, those two tickets were the best $15.00 investment I ever made. I had a magical concert night, great memories to reflect on, and the young lady, well, she married me two years later.

Who Do You Think You Are? Rosie O'Donnell and Kim Cattrall

We are now four episodes into Season 2 of the American version of Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA)? The genealogy-based show is seen on Friday evenings on NBC in the United States and Canada as well as the City-TV network in Canada.

The ratings thus far have been okay - good enough in fact that NBC has already renewed the show for a third season. WDYTYA has not won it's time slot yet this season but it has held a steady and consistently solid second place even though the number of viewers has dropped off since the season premier episode featuring Vanessa Williams attracted 7.32 million viewers. The second episode featuring country singer and actor Tim McGraw drew 6.6 million while Rosie O'Donnell drew only 5.88 million. Kim Cattrall's episode that aired on Feb 25th drew marginally more at 6.15 million.

The drop in viewers is obviously not worrying to NBC who has shown confidence in the show's concept and production. There are a number of possible reasons for the viewing numbers to fluctuate. Numbers can be up, or for that matter down, depending on the attraction of competing shows and specials in the time slot. I suspect that the Rosie O'Donnell episode viewing numbers were down simply because some people don't like her political views or lifestyle preferences. They weren't going to watch because it was Rosie and they just don't watch Rosie, in principle. Similarly, there may have been some who chose not to watch the Kim Cattrall episode because there was no U.S. connection. It was an episode about a woman who was born in England and raised in Canada.

Irrespective of the reasons, if television's first obligation is to entertain then WDYTYA succeeded with both Rosie and Kim.

Here are some general comments and observations concerning the episodes:

  • Rosie's episode gave a good overview of the research techniques and varieties of records that are often used in the pursuit of family history
  • Rosie's episode also gave a stirring and emotional overview of the plight of the Irish who struggled through the famine of the mid-19th century. Like Rosie's ancestors, my maternal line ancestors also were affected and escaped the famine through immigration to Canada
  • Kim Cattrall's episode, essentially a re-edited version of the BBC WDYTYA Cattrall episode, demonstrated the challenges of searching for information on ancestors whose records are not yet readily available to us. We are compelled to seek out newspaper stories or the living, whether family, friends, neighbours or acquaintances to find clues about family events.
  • Much has been noted about Kim Cattrall's search of an family tree. Well, the tree does exist. I found it shortly after the program aired by searching Ancestry's Public Member Trees for Kim's grandfather George Baugh, married in 1939 in England, and died in 1974 in Australia. I even mentioned this find in the GeneaBloggers Radio Show chat room Friday evening. Unfortunately, on checking for the family tree on Saturday, February 26th, I was able to find the tree listed but access was denied by Ancestry! Why Ancestry would deny access to a public member tree I do not understand but that is perhaps a subject for a different dialogue.
  • Both episodes demonstrated that not all genealogy finds lead to 'happy dances' but sometimes might be very uncomfortable and emotionally stressful for family members.
With a few more episodes to be shown this season and a third season to be produced, there is much to look forward to as the product continues to improve. If the show's producers are running out of subjects willing to participate, I will happily put my name forward and allow a highly qualified team of researchers to help me deepen my roots.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pete and Jimmie Gammie Go To War

On May 17, 1916, at Aneroid, Saskatchewan, Canada, two young men decided to do their part in the war effort. Peter or 'Pete' was 23 years old and his younger brother James or 'Jimmie' was just 21 years old. Both had been born to Andrew and Helen Gammie (see Seeing Helen Shand) in their native Scotland. They had accompanied their parents to the far off land of Saskatchewan, Canada where free land and a new life, full of promise and opportunity awaited. I don't think anybody told them about the depth of cold during a prairie winter.

Pete was the largest of the two brothers. Standing 5 feet, 9 inches in height, he had piercing blue eyes and light hair (pictured below). Jimmie was a bit shorter at 5 feet, 8 inches and had brown eyes and black hair (pictured below). Both listed Quimper, Saskatchewan as their current home and the home of their next of kin, their mother Helen Gammie. Pete and Jimmie were found, probably not surprisingly, to be medically fit when examined by the army doctor.

James 'Jimmie' Gammie in Saskatchewan in an undated photograph

Peter 'Pete' Gammie

It is unclear as to what occurred but in June 1917, Pete Gammie was sent home as unfit for medical reasons, possibly due to battle injuries. His younger brother, Jimmie stayed in France to fight but sadly became one of the war casualties on September 28, 1918 and was buried in France.

The family photo of Jimmie Gammie was identified for me by Alexander Gaull Hadden, Jimmie's nephew, who lived on the homestead in Saskatchewan from 1923 - 1927. The Pete Gammie photo is from the local commemorative book Ponteix Yesterday and Today, page 831.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seeing Helen Shand

For Canadian researchers, there is a great Canadian website called Our Roots that describes itself as "a library, archive, museum and school all in one." On the site you can "check the collection to find Canadian local histories in French and English." Our Roots is "a national network of libraries, universities, colleges, archives, historical associations, businesses and individuals [that] have generously donated time and copyright permission to have their materials digitized" lead by the Universities of Calgary and Laval. The site operates a bit like the Internet Archive site, allowing users to search its digital book collection through a series of search boxes.

I used the site often and as Ellen's family has far deeper Canadian roots than my own, I have usually had success in finding important documentation about the Wagner and Breithaupt families in particular. My family's Canadian experience is 20th century, dating back to 1907 when Helen Gammie (nee Shand), my great-great grandmother immigrated from Scotland to the prairies of Saskatchewan in order to homestead. My searches of Our Roots for information or references to my ancestors that might be contained in a local history have been fruitless. Until now!

I recently tried one more time, this time using the term/surname "Gammie" to search the text of the full Our Roots collection. There were some 'hits' that the database provided me although I had very low expectations that I would find anything of any use until I stumbled on to a local commemorative history written by a committee to celebrate Ponteix, Saskatchewan. I recognized the town name as one that my ancestors had a connection to. There, on page 831 of Ponteix Yesterday and Today: Ponteix and District Volume 2, was a photograph of Helen (Shand) Gammie (below) as well as her husband Andrew Gammie, their son Peter and his wife Elva.

Helen Gammie (nee Shand) (1864 - 1951)

Andrew Gammie (1861 - 1926)

The book claims the photos were taken when Andrew and Helen were 19 years of age. I frankly doubt this to be accurate as it seems more likely to me based on the formal clothing they are wearing that the photos were taken around the time of their marriage in 1890 when Andrew was 29 years old and Helen was 25 years of age. The ages of 29 and 25 also seem to more accurately reflect the maturity of the subjects in the photos.

Helen gave birth to my great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden in 1883, shortly before her 19th birthday. Alexander's father was John Hadden, himself only 17 years old at the time of his son's birth. Helen and John did not marry but Andrew Gammie appears to have helped Helen take care of Alexander, listing Alexander as his step-son in the 1891 Scottish Census.

What a treasure it is to finally see my great-great grandmother - after more than 30 years of searching for her!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Chance to Win A Copy of RootsMagic 4 from We Tree Genealogy

If you don't already use RootsMagic 4 but would like a chance to win a free copy of the software program along with the companion book Getting the Most Out of RootsMagic 4, please head on over to The We Tree Genealogy Blog where Amy Coffin is giving away, through a draw, a copy of RootsMagic that she received at the recent RootsTech conference.

As Amy says, "The fairest way I can think of to give everyone an equal chance is a random drawing. Send me an email at amybean2 at gmail dot com with RootsMagic in the subject line. You can enter now through 11:59PM Central Time on Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Each email will be numbered in the order in which they landed in the email box. On Wednesday, March 2, I will randomly draw and announce the winner.

This little event is open to blog readers in the U.S. and Canada only. Sorry, but postage rates make it so.

Anyone who does not already own a copy of RootsMagic 4 is eligible. Owners of earlier editions of RootsMagic are welcome to enter the drawing, as RootsMagic 4 is completely different than what you own."

RootsMagic 4 is the genealogy software that I use as it not only provides easy to use, great source citation templates but also provides the RootsMagic-To-Go feature that allows the software to be run off a USB memory stick/thumb drive. My 8GB USB thumb drive not only allows me to run the software with my full database but allows sufficient room for me to carry all my birth, marriage, death and census records, family photos, and digital books in my pocket. The thumb drive can be plugged into any computer to allow access to your database without the need to first install the software.

The chance to win great free software for the price of an email. Great deal!

Naming Babies

Most parents struggle with choosing the perfect name for their baby. I know that my late wife Karen and I did each time we were expecting an addition to the family. Each of our three children have names that were chosen very deliberately. Books are written to help expectant parents with this task and, in many jurisdictions, governments release annual lists of the most popular names given to babies derived from birth registrations.

In my parental family, the task of naming the babies was completed on a more ad hoc basis. There are no other 'Ian's in the family that I have found so clearly the Scottish naming convention was abandoned early in the name selection process. No, my father settled on Ian because he wanted to choose a name from which a shorter or derived form could not be made. He wanted the name to stand alone unlike for example Donald becoming Don or James becomes Jim or Jimmy - Ian is simply Ian - or so he thought. He was mortified when I was a young kid to hear my friends call me 'E', their short form for Ian. Shockingly, my family, including my father, picked up on the shorter 'form' and 'E' became my name around the house. My maternal Irish grandmother had a tough time with the name 'Ian,' apparently exclaiming "Glory be to God, he's calling him Isaac." (Not that there's anything wrong with Isaac!).

My middle name is Gerald. This name was selected because my mother's favourite uncle was her mother's brother, Gerald Foley. Little did my parents know that Gerald was not his name. No, I believe in order to later confuse family historians, my mother's family made it their habit to use their middle names, in whole or sometimes in part. Gerald Foley, the uncle I was named after, was in reality Louis Fitzgerald Foley - Louis after a grandfather and Fitzgerald was his mother's maiden name. He shortened his middle name and went by Gerald. His brother was even more inventive when he chose to go by Clarence rather than his given names of William Dorsey. Where the name Clarence came from is still a mystery.

My brother Bob owes his name to me, not our parents. Bob was the fourth son born into our family. My parents had named their sons Ian, Brian, and Stephen and Bob, the 4th son, was to be Donald. I was 5, almost 6, years old when Bob was born and can still recall answering the phone at my maternal grandmother's house when my father called to tell me I had a new baby brother named Donald. I explained, apparently emphatically, to my father that he and Mom could call the baby Donald all they wanted but I was calling him Bob - after my best friend, Bob Dobson who lived across the street from us. After a bit of back and forth about the name of the baby ("No Ian, the baby's name is Donald" "You call him what you want, I'm calling him Bob") , my parents apparently gave in and my brother was named Robert - just as I had instructed. A very empowering experience for a 5 year old!

While I enjoy the predictability of the Scottish naming convention while searching out my paternal ancestors, I have come to realize that there are potentially great family stories to be told about the naming of babies. So, how have you decided on baby names and how did your parents decide on your name? Perhaps it's time to document the stories before they become lost memories.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Special Family Relationships - A Post Script

Yesterday, I shared the special relationship that I had with my 'Aunt' Alice Leblanc. Today, while getting in some very early spring cleaning, I found a letter from 'Aunt' Alice to my mother, which I will confess was improperly stored in a 1970's gum-glue, plastic sheet covered page photo album. Mea culpa to all the cringing family archivists!

The letter is dated on my birthday in 1962 (the writing of the date appears to be something that my mother did after she received the letter and decided to keep it). It reads:

"Dear Anna,

I hope you will forgive Allan for not going to the party [this refers to my birthday party]. I can't talk him into it. I know he would like to go, he likes to be with Ian but he doesn't like party's (sic) or a crowd. I said to Ian, do you mind if Allan don't (sic) go, he said, oh no, I'll still get eleven present (sic) anyway, ha ha. It was so funny I laughed my head off. He's really enjoying himself here today. He's watching Allan work at his investment down the basement (sic). And he's waring (sic) the gas mask in case something will explode. He says when he first came in this morning, he says I'm seven today but I'm not big. I'm not as big as I thought I'd be. He sounded so dissapointed (sic). Well Anna excuse the writing and I hope you will excuse Allan and the small gift. We'll see you sometimes.

So long, Alice"

While I can't say that I remember the visit that day, I do remember so much of the time that I spent with Aunt Alice.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Special Family Relationships

In my last post, I introduced 'Doc' and 'Momsy' Morgan who 'adopted' my wife Ellen into their family and very clearly treated her as their own daughter. This type of special family relationship steps outside the blood lines that we will follow with our genealogy yet they are, I suspect, very common place.

In my family, a special relationship existed with 'Aunt' Alice and 'Uncle' Alban Leblanc. Alice was, and for that matter always will be, Aunt Alice. There is no blood relationship nor relationship through marriage between Alice and I. It turned out that Alice was the best friend of my maternal grandmother, Gertrude O'Neill (nee Foley). As a child it mattered not to me what the relationship involved. I only needed to know that in my 6 or 7 block walk home at lunch time or after school that I first had to pass Aunt Alice's house (pictured below in a photo captured from Google Earth) and then my grandmother's house before I was home. That provided a lot of spoiling opportunity for me!

Alice and Alban had a tragic family tale. They were from New Brunswick and as Acadians, their 'mother' tongue was French. They married in New Brunswick, settled down and in time, they had three children. My mother told me that a fire swept through their house and the three children were killed. Perhaps because it was too painful to remain, they relocated to Toronto where Alice became my grandmother's best friend and eventually my 'aunt.' They did have another child, a son they named Allan. Allan was about eight years older than me and in some ways felt like a big brother. Allan had a troubled marriage and so one day he disappeared and literally was not heard from again. Alban believed that Allan was hurt or had died because he couldn't believe that Allan would 'do that to his mother.'

Unfortunately, genealogy database software doesn't seem to have an easy way to record these types of relationships. Most will allow additional parents to be recorded so, for example, I could include the Morgan's relationship to Ellen. But there is no place for my Aunt Alice, other than perhaps a note and frankly that does not do the relationship justice. Similarly, genealogy software doesn't really allow for non-traditional relationships. Not all families have a Mom and a Dad - sometimes it's a single Mom or perhaps two Moms or two Dads. In Ontario, Canada where I live and increasingly in more and more jurisdictions, you can marry whomever you love but in my genealogy software someone has to be recorded as 'husband' and someone as 'wife'.

Facebook, a popular social networking tool especially so for genealogists, now allows relationship status to be set as a 'domestic partnership' or a 'civil union.' Hopefully my genealogy software will catch up and provide me with the same options for the special family relationships that exist in my family.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

'Doc' and 'Momsy' Morgan - A True Love Story

I first met Dr. Bruce Evan 'Doc' Morgan in 2002. I had started dating Ellen and she took me to visit 'Doc' and his wife, Agnes Jean 'Momsy' Morgan (nee Barry) (pictured to the right together in 1992). 'Doc'' was a patient at the Parkwood Hospital in London, Ontario. 'Doc' had been confined to the hospital's veterans program area as the result of a serious stroke that took away his ability to practice as a surgeon and forced him into retirement. 'Doc' and 'Momsy' were like second parents to Ellen having 'adopted' her into their family many years earlier. I will never forget 'Doc's' first words to me - "You better take good care of her. She's part Morgan you know." It was all I could do to refrain from jumping to attention, saluting, and belting out "Yes, sir!"

'Doc' was a veteran of World War II having served as a 19 year-old navigator on bombers in the Royal Canadian Air Force, flying missions deep into German territory. Following the war, he took advantage of a government program for returning war veterans and agreed to serve in the army who in turn agreed to fund his enrollment in medical school. 'Doc' was a large, imposing man and there is no doubt in my mind that everyone knew who was in charge when 'Doc' Morgan was in the operating room.

'Doc' was born in Hamilton, Ontario, the son of a doctor, on January 30, 1924 and while in his teens became smitten with Agnes, who preferred to go by 'Nan', also a Hamilton, Ontario native. 'Momsy' enjoyed telling me of their courtship and I enjoyed seeing the twinkle in her eyes as she recalled those early years with Bruce. It seems that a dance was scheduled to be held at the local youth club and Nan had accepted the invitation of a young man to attend the dance when Bruce asked her to go to the dance with him. She explained to Bruce, gently I'm sure, that she already had a date for the dance. Bruce did not accept no for an answer and found a solution - he went to the young man and asked him if he could take Nan to the dance instead. Whoever that young man was, he agreed to Bruce's request, perhaps out of fear. Thus began a courtship that included, according to Nan, a lot of walks through their Hamilton neighbourhood, talking about the styles and decor of the different homes they passed.

'Doc' and 'Momsy' were married on December 27, 1943 and passed away one year apart, each two days away from Valentine's Day. 'Momsy' passed away peacefully holding on to 'Doc's' favourite sweater, looking forward to dancing with her Bruce again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Surviving Childhood

The other day, I decided to get busy and sort through a drawer full of photos and documents that I had been neglecting for far too long. Amongst the photographs were souvenirs from graduations, school photos (the kind your kids wish you hadn't saved because they didn't like the way they looked in grade 10), and documents that I had long forgotten.

Two in particular spoke to my infant years and made me wonder how I had survived.
Below is the card the hospital used to label my bassinet. I was born at St. Michael's Hospital in downtown Toronto, Ontario. It was the hospital where my mother trained and worked as a registered nurse so it was only natural that she went there when it was time to welcome me into the world. The cards had been donated to the hospital by the Carnation food company and my card shows that my mother was in Room 6AS ('S' for south). I was born on March 3rd at 11:52 a.m. and weighted in at 8 pounds and 11 ounces (or as fishermen would say - "a keeper"). I was also 23 and one half inches in length.

The doctor who delivered me was Dr. Solmes (my mother spoke often about her friend Dr. Gerry Solmes) and he used "low forceps" for my birth, a procedure my mother told me about quite often as it apparently caused bruising on my temples (which some have suggested might explain a lot).

While it is not a birth certificate, it is a birth record that is a little out of the ordinary!

My mother had me seen in childhood by another doctor friend, Dr. Hoare, the pediatrician. I remember Dr. Hoare making house calls to check in on my brother Stephen (see "I Remember Stephen" from November 2009). Dr. Hoare was a stern looking man who provided my mother with the prescribed baby routine pictured below. Dr. Hoare's 'prescribed' routine was given to my mother on August 6, 1955, apparently a short time after his office was changed from a 6 digit to a 7 digit telephone number (just to make me feel really old).

It seems that Dr. Hoare thought strained meats and vegetables would be exciting to me. They are not and never have been. The thought of strained beef liver or heart simply does not excite me but, here in writing were the instructions my mother was provided ostensibly to promote my health. Even the so-called deserts leave much to be desired: mashed ripe banana, strained stewed prunes and junket - according to Wikipedia, junket was the a preferred food for ill children during most of the 20th century. Notice it says ill children, not healthy children.

Another fascinating document to have that speaks to a past era of child rearing and makes me wonder how I survived childhood!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are? - Season 2 So Far

During the first season of Who Do You Think You Are?, I wrote an episode by episode review of the shows, just like many others in the genealogy community. I thought that this season I would resist the temptation. Okay, so I lasted a week before breaking down and wading into some of the current dialogue.

Who Do You Think You Are?, the NBC network's genealogy related television show (shown in Canada on the City TV network of stations), tells the story of a celebrity in each episode as they trace their family history. It appears that the producers of the show heard the collective voice of the show-supporting genealogy community loud and clear on two matters. Unlike season 1 episodes, the two episodes of season 2 to air so far have not been slowed by recaps following each commercial break. In addition, genealogists and historians appearing on the season 2 episodes have been careful in their handling of delicate, original documents by wearing gloves or using similar techniques to avoid hand touching the records.

Episode one of season 2 featured the ancestry quest of Vanessa Williams while episode 2 featured the story of country singer Tim McGraw's family. Both episodes can legitimately be criticized for making genealogy look a lot easier than it is for us mere mortals. The shows seem to lack an acknowledgment that it took hours of research by a team of experts, assembled just to research the celebrity's family, for a document of interest to be found.

Vanessa Williams was generally thought to be more engaged than Tim McGraw in the family history process and discoveries. I'm not convinced that Vanessa's note-taking meant she more engaged in the process. I've seen
The Blind Side and Tim McGraw seems to be a natural displaying a muted persona. My friend and terrific genealogy blogger Marian Pierre-Louis, author of Marian's Roots and Rambles in her blog post In Defense of Tim McGraw, makes the case that while the Tim McGraw episode may not have been as good as the Vanessa Williams episode, it was still still really good. The McGraw episode perhaps would appeal more to men than the Vanessa Williams episode that might appeal more to women.

My conclusion: both episodes achieve the result they set out to achieve, that is, they are entertaining. They are certainly not technically correct in their presentation. In the Tim McGraw episode, it is fair as genealogy 'technicians' to criticize an eight generation jump that happened with a single brushstroke. It is even easier to criticize the broad sweeping assertion that McGraw's ancestors were connected to Elvis Presley's because both sets of ancestors were Palatines who came to what is now the USA around the same time. If it were that easy, I would have my fully sourced research completed back to Adam and Eve including connections to 45th great Grampa Hadden who liked to paint things on the walls of caves and from whom cousin Michelangelo got his artistic flair.

I try as best I can to recognize that these television shows are about engaging the viewing audience and providing an hour of entertainment. On that level, they succeed. They are not instructional videos. Whether or not they should be more instructional is a different debate, perhaps for a different time. For now, I'm content to sit back and be entertained by the family histories.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Latimer Line Opens Up

It's a sad story that seems to have a happy ending. It's the story of Catherine Isabella Latimer or, as she was named at birth, Louisa Orolong Latimer.

Louisa was born 25 May 1877 in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada, a small community located on the Ottawa River along the Quebec - Ontario provincial border. Louisa's parents were John 'Jack' Latimer and Margaret Eliza Sills who were married in 1871 at Seaforth in Huron County, Ontario. The Latimers, including John's younger brother and my wife Ellen's great grandfather Edward, had moved to the southwest Ontario village from County Fermanagh in Ireland around 1864. Records exist that verify each of the above facts and here is where the story takes a decided twist.

According to the family story both Jack and Margaret Latimer died around 1884 or 1885 leaving their four young children orphaned. Louisa, as the story holds, was adopted into an Irish family in the Province of Quebec by the name of Buchanan and it was this family who changed her name from Louisa Orolong to Catherine Isabella. In 1894, Catherine Isabella Latimer (pictured above right) married John Andrew Scott in Montreal, Quebec. In 1908, John moved Catherine and their then five children to Yakima County in the State of Washington where they settled and the six feet, one inch tall John took up farming to provide for his family.
In Washington State, Catherine and John Scott welcomed an additional three children into their family and eventually all became US citizens in 1914. Seven of their eight children lived into adulthood and five of the seven remained in the United States, although they did go their separate ways - to Arizona, California, and Illinois - while three remained in Washington. Two of their children eventually returned to their native Canada. Their first child, Ethel was the last of their children to pass away in 1990 at the age of 94. Records exist to verify the life of John and Catherine Scott and their family.
The challenge is finding records that will verify Louisa/Catherine's being orphaned at a young age and then of her being adopted by the Buchanan family. There does not appear to be a death registration for John 'Jack' Latimer in the province of Ontario records. Further digging is certainly warranted for this compelling tale.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Margaret Avenue, Kitchener, Ontario

In my last post, I reviewed Lisa Louise Cooke's new book The Genealogist's Google Toolbox. The book is filled with easy to follow and well illustrated tips and techniques for using Google's powerful search capacity. One of the results I have achieved thus far in applying some of the techniques is to uncover the naming of Margaret Avenue in Kitchener (formerly Berlin), Ontario.

Margaret Avenue is an arterial type street that runs from the centre of downtown Kitchener north through the neighbouring city of Waterloo. It turns out that the street was named after Margaret Wagner Bean (or with the alternate spelling of Biehn) (nee Hailer), my wife Ellen's great great grandmother. The Google search I used involved using ever more refined search keywords and operatives which lead to among other things, like a lot of my past blog postings, to a newspaper article from the Kitchener Record that included the 1958 photo to the left of a train approaching the Margaret Avenue bridge. Below is a photo, captured from Google Earth, looking north along Margaret Avenue over the same bridge.

I have posted a number of stories previously about Margaret Hailer Wagner Bean who was born in 1831, a 'stone throw' away from the Canadian Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls, Ontario. Earlier posts have included among other references, excerpts from her will, newspaper reports of her last birthday party. The Record story by Jon Fear states that "Margaret Avenue was named for the sister-in-law of Philip Louis Breithaupt, an industrialist who moved from Buffalo to Berlin (now Kitchener) after launching a tannery business here in 1857.

Breithaupt, a future Berlin mayor, married Catherine Hailer, daughter of a prominent early Berlin woodworker named Jacob Hailer. She had a sister, Margaret, born in 1831, who married one of Breithaupt's close friends, Rev. Jacob Wagner. They had a son together.

When Wagner died young, Margaret remarried. Her second husband was Daniel Biehn, a school instructor, and they had six children together while living in different parts of southwestern Ontario. When Biehn died in 1885, Margaret returned to Berlin, where she died in 1918."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Book Review - The Genealogist's Google Toolbox

Unlike some, I don't buy many genealogy related books. My bookshelves do have some of the required texts, many of which are now somewhat dated. The Genealogist's Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke seemed to be a natural for my collection. The author, Lisa Louise Cooke is a nationally known speaker and is the producer and host of The Genealogy Gems podcast, Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast, and the Family Tree Magazine podcast.

Lisa, with the editing assistance of two of her daughters, has assembled more than 200 pages of amply illustrated tips and techniques for getting the best out of the powerful Google search engine. As a nationally recognized speaker, Lisa has offered 'classes' in the use of Google for genealogy research as well as producing two very popular Google Earth for Genealogy DVD series. This book, her latest offering, pulls all of that previous work into one easy to follow text book. Topics covered over the nineteen chapters include: basic and advanced search techniques, image search, Google alerts, Google books and timelines, Google translate, YouTube, and, of course, Google Earth.

I was familiar with many Google features before reading the book and in past, I have benefited from the use of many tips and techniques picked up through listening to Lisa's podcasts. The book offered a full, well organized reference manual, something I could access that would offer suggested methods for improving my results. This allows me to focus on using the tool or tools best suited for my needs. As Lisa promises in the introduction to her book, "In this book you will learn how to fill your genealogy toolbox with free state-of-the-art online tools that are built to search, translate, message, and span the globe."

As someone who is more visually inclined, at least from a learning perspective, The Genealogist's Google Toolbox is filled with screenshots and illustrations that explain the words. In addition, links for YouTube instructional videos are provided that offer further explanation or context for a topic.

So what didn't I know before reading the book that I know now? I now know about Google Translate. Maybe I'm one of the few who didn't know that Google offered this feature but as my wife has a German ancestry, I am certain that I will be able to put this new knowledge to good and practical use. I knew some of the basics of Google Earth - I had dabbled a bit but putting the techniques outlined in the book to use, I saw for the first time, the house at 6 Pirie's Lane, Woodside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland (below) that my paternal grandfather was born in just over 100 years ago and learned how to save an image of the "street view."

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox is available through the Genealogy Gems store at for $24.95 in print or $14.99 in a PDF format download. I chose the download version because 1) my ancestry is Scottish and I was going to save some money and, 2) the download is easy and instantaneous - no waiting for the mailman. One other feature that impressed me with the download version of the book - all of the links to featured instructional videos or sites with additional resource information are 'live' in the book, just point and click to see the video. The downside of the PDF version is that if I want a copy of the wonderful reference book on my shelf, I have to print it myself, in whole or in part.

As I mentioned previously, I don't buy that many genealogy books. This is one that not only caught my attention but also met and exceeded all of my expectations. As Lisa acknowledges in the book, with time, technology and Google with it will change. The book will likely become 'out of date' but until that occurs, I expect to be able to put in many hours of improved quality Google search time and to benefit from the results.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Google, Lisa Louise Cooke or the Genealogy Gems in any way. I also received no remuneration for this book review and I purchased the book myself, with my own funds.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Old Letters

As I was growing up, my favourite Hadden relatives, hands down, were my Granduncle and aunt Alexander (Uncle Alec) Gaull Hadden and Hilda (Aunt Hilda) Edith Smith. In the city of Toronto phone book at the time, there were probably only 5 or 6 Hadden families and we were related to all of them. We naively believed the rest of the Hadden clan to be in Scotland.

Uncle Alec (pictured on the far right in 1937, alongside his brother and my grandfather John Gaull Hadden) and Aunt Hilda (pictured below left holding my father in 1930) were incredibly kind and generous. Uncle Alec told me that his mother, Jessie McKenzie (nee Gaull) Hadden, was not happy that he was dating Hilda as she was not at all Scottish enough for Jessie's oldest son. Uncle Alec stood his ground with his mother and in 1929, they married.

Uncle Alec and Aunt Hilda were also my early sources for Hadden family history information when I heeded the advice to interview your eldest relatives. They were able to identify people in photographs that no one else knew and share information and anecdotes of the family time in Saskatchewan and depression era Toronto that otherwise would have been lost.

I recently found three Christmas letters that I received from Uncle Alec and Aunt Hilda. The letters were of course tucked away in a place so safe and secure that I had forgotten about it. Aunt Hilda actually was the one who did the writing, just as she was the one you spoke to on the phone - Uncle Alec might have answered the phone on occasion but he was quick to pass it to Aunt Hilda. I don't think he was ever comfortable with the invention.

1980 (from their winter home in Sarasota, Florida): "Alex got permission from the heart specialist to drive down, if we took it easy. I am feeling much better and we sure took our time and enjoyed the trip. It was good weather all the way and the colors [she was writing from the USA so didn't use the Canadian spelling] in the mountains were really lovely. We were lucky to find good places to stay too."

1986 (from their winter home in Sarasota, Florida): "Sorry I could not reply before, but I had so much Christmas mail and cards to send to my cousins and my sight is going and I have very painful hands with arthritis. It's no fun getting old. We enjoy being here away from the cold and snow. But how much longer we will be able will depend on our health. Although we both keep pretty good and can both look after ourselves, we are both over 80 and I think we do very well."

1990 (from Bancroft, Ontario): "We will not be going to Florida any more. We have our place up for sale. We have been going down 12 years - 6 months there and 6 up here. Alex driving all the time. We are not young anymore and 1990 has not been a very good year for our health."

Aunt Hilda passed away in 1994 at the age of 88. Uncle Alec passed away in 1997, a week shy of his 93rd birthday. Neither forgotten, both forever in my heart!