Monday, March 28, 2011

What Did Your Ancestor Do For A Living?

I can remember reading and hearing talk shows announcing that 'my' generation was likely to be the last who would likely expect to have one employer for life. The next generations, it was said, would be comprised of workers and professionals who would expect to have multiple employers, including being self-employed. The challenge put out to employers at the time of this theorizing then was how do you instill loyalty in employees who expect to leave you?

What of our ancestors then - if they typically had but one employer to whom they remained loyal their whole work life, how easy would it be to research their occupation and perhaps even their employment history? I'm beginning to suspect that the answer to the question is, it depends on when you asked them. Here's a case in point, my wife Ellen's maternal grandfather, Edward Arthur Latimer (pictured to the right with his youngest daughter Tess on her wedding day in 1942).

Edward was born in 1877 in the village of Seaforth, Ontario. In November of 1899, he married Harriet Sooles and listed his occupation as tinsmith. The only records earlier than this marriage record that I have found with Edward listed were the census records for 1881 and 1891 when Edward was too young to be described as having an occupation. Although he was 14 years of age in 1891, he was not even listed as a student. Tragically, in February 1901 Harriet Sooles Latimer died as a result of complications from giving birth to her and Edward's daughter (the daughter also died later in 1901). On his wife's death registration, Edward is listed as a mechanic.

By 1907, Edward had traveled to California where he met and married Mattie Diona Knox, the daughter of a former Seaforth native and then prominent Livermore, California politician Thomas E. Knox. Edward and Mattie left California immediately after their wedding and settled in Orillia, Ontario, a town about a ninety minute drive north of Toronto. There, in 1907 Mattie gave birth to their first daughter, Albertine, followed by a second daughter Hazel in 1909. Edward listed his occupation as plumber on both his daughter's birth records. In 1911, the most recent of the available census records shows Edward as recording his occupation once again, having come full circle, as tinsmith.

According to family members, Edward was in the hardware business so may he did some of everything - some plumbing (supply) work, some tinsmithing, some mechanical work - all with the intention of helping the customers of his hardware business.

My paternal grandfather, John Gaull Hadden on the other hand, married and became a father just as the world entered the Great Depression era. As a result, it seems John worked at whatever he could find to scratch out a living. Whether it was working as a day labourer and eventually settling in to a career as a milk delivery man to being an apartment building superintendent later in life, he took on work as he found it. Out of necessity, it appears he was loyal to whomever was employing him at the time.

I have essentially had one employer for my entire working career. As for my children and their children - who knows?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Obituary of Edward Latimer Sr.

Thanks to Latimer cousin and co-researcher Robin for a copy of the obituary of Edward Latimer, my wife Ellen's great grandfather which appeared in the Seaforth (Ontario, Canada) News on August 7, 1932.

Edward (pictured to the right in 1923) was born around 1851 in County Fermanagh, Ireland. He immigrated to Canada with his mother, Mary Latimer (nee Beatty) and three of his five siblings (two of his sisters remained in Ireland). The family settled in the village of Seaforth, Ontario where Edward made his living as a shoemaker.

In 1872, Edward married Theresa Sparling (nee Delmage), a widow, and accepted her four children as his own. Edward and Theresa had five additional children together before they left Seaforth and moved to Brampton, Ontario, immediately northwest of the city of Toronto. In 1917, Theresa passed away and Edward went to live with his son Edward Arthur Latimer in Orillia, Ontario. It was in Orillia that Edward died suddenly in 1932.

His obituary reads as follows:

"News of the illness and death of Mr. Edward Latimer in his 82nd year came as a surprise and shock to many friends. Mr. Latimer was a shoemaker in the Richardson shoe store (now T. Dickson's seed and feed store) for many years. His son Mr. Ed Latimer carried on a ... business in the Princess ... site. The late Mr. Latimer took ill with pneumonia while at the summer cottage of his daughter, Mrs. Mullett. He was taken to Soldiers' Memorial hospital, Orillia, last Wednesday, at which time friends were notified. He passed away in the hospital on Monday, August 1st. The remains were brought to Seaforth and a service was held in Northside United Church on Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 o'clock, internment taking place in the Maitland Bank Cemetery. Mr. Latimer is survived by one son, Mr. Edward Latimer, Orillia; and four daughters, Mrs. Mullett (Lottie), Toronto; Mrs. John McIntosh (Margaret), Detroit; Tessie, who is married and living in Brampton and his step-daughter, Mrs. Baker (Rebecca), Toronto. It is almost thirty years since the Latimer family lived in Seaforth. They went to Brampton where Mrs. Latimer, who formerly was Mrs. Sparling of Seaforth, predeceased him about fifteen years ago. His mother and sister, Mrs. Webster of Wingham, also predeceased him here. While in Seaforth they resided on W. William st. for many years and also on North Main st. and James st. After Mrs. Latimer's death at Brampton, Mr. Latimer went to live at Orillia.

Below is a photo of the monument in Maitland Bank Cemetery erected on the grave of Edward and Theresa Latimer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Lovely Blog Award

I have to give a shout out and big thank you to Kay Sturgeon of the Gol Gol Girl blog from Australia who 'bestowed' on me the 'One Lovely Blog Award.' It's a terrific honour to be receive the recognition so thanks Kay for your kindness. I'm glad you enjoy stopping by my blog and reading the comments and stories that I love to share.

As Kay describes, the rules of this award are:

1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who granted the award and their blog link. [Done!]

2. Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you have discovered.

3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

In no particular order, here are the nine blogs that I have chosen to 'pay it forward' to and please note that not all of the blogs are genealogy related, although most fall into that category. There are additional deserving blogs that I also had in mind for this award however those blogs have recently received the award from some else. Please stop by these blogs and enjoy the contributions that their writers are making.

- Apple's Tree
- Auntie Cake's Shop
- Ontario Genealogist
- Random Relatives
- The Educated Genealogist
- The We Tree Genealogy Blog
- Veterans of Southwestern Ontario
- The Family Curator
- A Twig in My Tree

Friday, March 18, 2011

Don't Give Up On Mailing Lists and Message Boards

It must have been the luck of the Irish and all those smiling Irish eyes on March 17th that brought a new cousin connection! I began the course "Social Media for the Wise Genealogist," offered through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies affiliated with the University of Toronto, on March 15th (more on that in a future blog post). One of the course assignments involves reviewing and providing an analysis of mailing lists and messages boards.

I have subscribed to mailing lists for some of the family surnames that I am researching and I have from time to time perused genealogy message boards. Generally, these have not provided much benefit to me. While these forms of inquiry and attempts to connect with researchers of common families or locations were quite popular a few years ago, social media use for the genealogists, it seems to me, has moved beyond message board or mailing list postings.

While doing research for my assignment, I checked the Rootsweb Irish-Canadian list archives for the Latimer surname, the family name for my wife Ellen's maternal line. An advanced search brought me to a posting from 2003 by a researcher looking for information about Ellen's great grandfather's family (his parents and siblings). Ellen's great grandfather Edward Latimer is pictured below on the far left. The little girl in this 1923 photo is Edward's granddaughter and Ellen's mother, Olive Theresa Evelyn 'Tess' Wagner (nee Latimer). The Latimer family as I have
previously mentioned in this blog, immigrated from County Fermanagh, Ireland and settled in Seaforth, Huron County, Ontario, Canada. Depending on the information source used, the family immigrated between 1856 and 1868.

I thought it amazing that I had found a reference to a family I was also researching. More on a whim than anything, I decided to try to contact the inquirer using the email address that has been posted since 2003. Sure enough, the researcher is still interested in learning more about her Latimer family and a new cousin connection has been born! And not only have we connected via email but we have also been able to quickly connect on Facebook!

The lesson in this - don't underestimate or dismiss those mailing lists and message boards. There are obviously still some family gems to be mined.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Here's to the Irish!

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, presented here are photos of some of our Irish ancestors who have filled our families with smiles and laughter.

"When Irish eyes are smiling,
'Tis like a morn in spring.
With a lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing."
~Author Unknown
Anne Margaret Hadden (nee O'Neill) (1930 - 1994)
Olive Theresa Evelyn Wagner (nee Latimer) (1920 - 1997)
Edward Arthur Latimer (1877 - 1951)
Edward Latimer (Sr.) on far left (1851 - 1932)
J. (John) Graham O'Neill (1895 - 1979)

Gertrude Ellen O'Neill (nee Foley) (1898 - 1962)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Citing Sources for Your Blog Posts

There has been some debate over the past few years about the need to cite sources. I think it safe to say, from my perspective, that it is now accepted that citing sources is important, maybe even required, for our family history databases. But what about our blog posts? Does the same apply? Should bloggers be required to cite the sources they used for each blog post?

These questions arose following my recent series of posts about my mother's family and the different experiences that the Irish Catholic branches had when immigrating to Canada. One branch, the Fitzgeralds, had immigrated in 1825 to Cape Vincent in New York State and then made their way to Toronto around 1843. The Foley branch on the other hand appears to have been one of thousands that escaped Ireland around the time of the famine in the late 1840's.

A blog reader, Jennifer, questioned some of the facts stated in one of my posts, specifically the stated fact that of the 100,000 Irish who were traveling to Canada, 30,000 died enroute. I did not cite a source for this and I admit that although I had a source, I have been unable to find it again and provide a citation. I had also stated that "almost 6,000 Irish immigrants died and were buried in a mass grave" on Grosse Ile. Jennifer tells me that a maximum of 5,424 were buried in 1847 on Grosse Ile, although the exact number of burials varies according to different sources. Not being able to locate my information source admittedly is not good on my part. But it also does not make it incorrect. Estimates that I have since found suggest that perhaps the number ought to be 20,000 that died "from disease and malnutrition", lower by a third than my original information source stated.

The point in all of this is that the Irish fleeing the ravages of their homeland caused by the potato famine traveled in extremely poor circumstances and conditions. Arguably these conditions were worse for those destined for Canada as American ships operated at higher standards for passengers than did British ships. I have seen nothing to strongly suggest to me that my Foley ancestors came directly to Canada but then the Foley name is not unique enough to allow me to definitively identify the ancestors on ship's lists who immigrated from Ireland during this terrible time.

I try to describe the general type of record, if one exists, that I rely on for my family's history in blog posts or in the alternative, state that no record exists save a family story. I haven't done the same for all of the general history facts contained in every blog post, nor have I seen that as a practise in other genealogy blogs that I read on a regular basis. While I can see some merit to citing blog sources I tend to think it unnecessary with the caveat that I remain open to providing those sources if a reader requests them. It's more work I suppose to also keep track of general history sources but perhaps it provides a more scholarly approach to genealogy blogging.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Historic Scenes in Family Photos

So often I have looked through family photo albums and not really noticed the historic scenery that the album's photographs contain. The photos and their scenes perhaps have been viewed many times and there is then a tendency to skip past something that is telling and important.

This came to mind when I noticed a photo depicting the 1932 city of Toronto's skyline in an old Hadden album. I have seen the photo many times when scanning all the photos, at times even pausing to remark at how changed the city skyline is compared to the time in the photo taken by my grandparents.

Below is the Toronto skyline in a photo taken August 8, 1932. Having grown up in the city, I can recognize that the photo appears to have been taken from a point on the Toronto islands, a small group of naturally occurring islands that form a harbour on Lake Ontario.

The two prominent buildings in the photo are the Royal York Hotel on Front Street and to the right of the hotel building is the Bank of Commerce Building, then the tallest building in the city and a tourist destination with it's observation deck styled like that of the Empire State Building in New York City.

Below is the Toronto skyline as it looks today (photo from from about the same island location. The CN Tower, for a long time, the world's tallest free standing structure joined the skyline in 1976 and the Rogers Centre domed stadium (originally named the Toronto Skydome) joined the grouping in 1989.

The lesson for me is to slow down a bit and take a good look at all of the photos. The photographer, family member or professional, was wanting to capture a moment, a particular memory. We only appreciate that memory when we take the time to see it and feel it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coming to Canada - An Irish Family Experience, Part 3

In my last couple of blog posts I have tried to capture a taste of the Irish Catholic immigration and settlement experience in Ontario, Canada (then Canada West) as they escaped the Irish famine of the late 1840's. In doing so, I have shared the stories of my Irish Catholic roots. In this post, I will pass along the story of a young, married John Foley, my great grandfather.

On Thursday, April 26, 1894 a small announcement appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper. Under the heading of "A Wedding" it read, "Mr. John Foley and Miss Fitzgerald were quietly married yesterday evening in St. Joseph's church, Leslie street, by Father Fagan. After the ceremony an adjournment was made to the residence of the bride's parents, Brooklin [sic] avenue, where supper was served and the happy couple received the congratulations of their friends." As I recounted in my last post, John and Mary Jane had three children, two boys and a girl, over the next five years before Mary Jane died suddenly of septic poisoning.

At the time of Mary Jane's death, John and his children were living at 25 Blong Avenue in Toronto's east end. In 1901, John and his children were still at the same address but had been joined by Mrs. O'Sullivan, an Irish Catholic widow, and her two children. Mrs. O'Sullivan served as the housekeeper and 1901 version of a 'nanny' for the Foley children. Living next door on Blong Avenue was John's brother Thomas, his wife Kate and their children. Thomas worked for his younger brother as a teamster while John by this point in time had begun building his contracting business.

The next few years brought about significant change for the family. In October 1903, John Foley re-married. His new bride was Annie Teresa McElroy, the daughter of an Irish Catholic family. Annie had been born north of the city of Toronto in the then village of Thornhill, Ontario to Henry McElroy and Mary McTague. At the time of her marriage to John Foley, Annie has been a resident of the village of East Toronto, an area that was eventually amalgamated with the city in 1908. It was in East Toronto that John and Annie decided to live and raise their children. John moved the family to a large house on what was originally named Catharine Avenue. Later, during the amalgamation process when the city recognized there already existed a Toronto street named Catharine, the city proposed to re-name the street in East Toronto as Foley Avenue. A humble John Foley refused the honour of having a street named after him and the street was named Pickering Street.

John and Annie can be found living at 96 Pickering Street in the 1911 Canada Census with the three children from John's marriage to Mary Jane and with the addition of a new son John Joseph Foley, born in 1905. My mother was the daughter of the one Foley girl (Gertrude Ellen Foley O'Neill pictured above right) and she often spoke of her Foley uncles: Gerald, Clarence, and John. Unfortunately Uncle John Foley passed away in 1949 and so was not part of a favourite Foley anecdote concerning my parent's wedding. Following the church ceremony, the wedding party was receiving the well wishes of guests on the sidewalk in front of the church prior to their departure to a formal wedding reception. My father was approached by Uncle Gerald and Uncle Clarence who were both sobbing, tears running down their cheeks. They grabbed my father, hugged him tightly and said "You poor b&#@&." (I'll let you fill in the blank) We all still laugh about the incident and perhaps only my father knows of which they were speaking!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Coming to Canada - An Irish Family Experience, Part 2

In my last post, I concluded with the Foley family escaping much of the Irish ghetto environment that grew in parts of the city of Toronto during the 1850's. Readers Eileen and Joan wanted to read more so here is some more!

William and Bridget Foley along with their six children: Mary Anne, Thomas, William, James, John (my great grandfather), and Catherine, can be found living in Barrie, Ontario in the 1871 Canada Census. William was listed as a 'Labourer' while James and John are listed as 'going to school.'

The unsubstantiated family story I grew up with holds that William and Bridget died when John was about 12 years of age or around 1876. Although civil registration was mandatory in Ontario as of 1869, there is no death registration for either William or Bridget that I have found. The same family story suggests that John fended for himself, living off the land, spending time in the bush, only to emerge to try his hand at some business initiative. When these initiatives failed, John is said to have returned to the country alone to start over.

Eventually it is known that John saved enough money to buy a horse which he teamed with a horse he rented. He became the equivalent of today's truck driver, using his team of horses to pull a wagon or sleigh to deliver goods for manufacturers and retailers. The photo to the left (from the Ontario Archives collection) shows a group of teamsters around 1900 delivering to and picking up from the Paterson Bros. store on Danforth Road near Dawes Road in Toronto's east end. Perhaps an unidentified John Foley is amongst the group?

Even though his life improved with his success as a teamster, John experienced difficult times (see my post from August 2009 about John Foley's loss of his team). With his success as a teamster, John was able to look to adding additional responsibility and stability to his life. In 1894, John married Mary Jane Fitzgerald, who was born in Canada but of a proud Irish family.

Mary Jane's grandfather (and my third great grandfather), Daniel was born in Waterford, Ireland in 1804. According to 'History of Toronto and County of York, Ontario', volume 2, published in 1885, Daniel immigrated to New York State in 1825 and settled in Cape Vincent where he lived until 1843. He moved his family to what was then the town of York (now the city of Toronto) but died in 1844. Daniel's sons Joseph, the youngest, and Lewis (my second great grandfather) both owned land in what is now Toronto's east end on which they gardened and grew fruit. Their lands and homes can be seen clearly labeled and marked on period maps of the city of Toronto.

Both John Foley's and Mary Jane Fitzgerald's Irish families had arrived in Toronto but each had very different immigration experiences. John and Mary Jane had three children before tragedy struck yet again. In 1898, at the age of about 30 and after bringing two sons into the world, Mary Jane gave birth to a daughter, my grandmother Gertrude Ellen Foley. One year and one week later, on April 16, 1899, Mary Jane Foley died of septic poisoning.

Mary Jane was buried with her parents in Toronto's St. Michael's Cemetery, a Roman Catholic, ten acre cemetery opened in about 1855 to accommodate the Irish Catholics who survived the famine, survived the coffin ships, but who died after their arrival in Toronto due to illness. So great was the rate of death amongst the Irish famine survivors that St. Michael's Cemetery was 'closed' in 1900 when it reached capacity with about 29,000 people buried there, leaving Roman Catholics in the city of Toronto to find a new cemetery location.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Coming to Canada - An Irish Family Experience

While my paternal family line is decidedly Scottish, my maternal family line is equally Irish. The immigrant experience that each family line had is similarly different. My Scottish ancestors left their homeland under fair to good conditions in search of better conditions. My Irish ancestors on the other hand left abysmal circumstances in famine ravaged Ireland in search of the hope of survival.

It is difficult for me to be as definitive about the immigrant experience of my mother's family as I am of my father's family. There are far more records available to me concerning the paternal side. What I can put together based on historical and family records paints the following picture.

William Foley and Bridget McTague were both born in Ireland around 1831. It appears that they both were hard working Irish Catholics who emigrated from Ireland to North America around 1850 in order to escape the poverty and horrible conditions wrought on Ireland by the potato famine. It doesn't appear that they left Ireland in the first wave of famine 'refugees' who sailed to the USA and Canada (or British North America as it would have then be known) aboard overcrowded 'coffin ships.' In 1847, at the height of the famine, an estimated 100,000 people left Ireland for Canada and of that number 30,000 died on their way to a new life.

In Canada and the USA, those arriving from Ireland were subjected to health 'inspections' to ensure they did not have 'the fever.' These inspections were conducted at Grosse Ile in Canada and Staten Island in the USA. About 75% of the Irish immigrants to North America arrived at New York City. William and Bridget appear to have been among this large group of Irish. Any immigrants found to have 'the fever' were placed in a 30-day quarantine. On Grosse Ile, an island in the St. Lawrence River about 30 miles east of Quebec City, almost 6,000 Irish immigrants died and were buried in a mass grave.

William and Bridget fared better though and as they were likely people more rural than urban inclined, they made their way from New York City north to present day Ontario, then Canada West. On August 24, 1852 William Foley married Bridget McTague at the Roman Catholic Mission church located in Newmarket, then a small village north of Toronto. William and Bridget moved around southern Ontario, spending some time farming land in Pickering Township where William was listed as a founding member of St. Frances Catholic Church. Eventually, William and Bridget and their then four children (Mary Anne, William, Thomas, and James) moved to a farm north of Toronto in Barrie, Ontario. My great grandfather, John Foley joined the family in 1864 according to the headstone at his grave (pictured above right). Unfortunately, John was born five years before civil registration commenced in Ontario and I have yet to find a baptismal certificate for him to confirm the headstone information.

Many of the Irish immigrants escaping the famine who made it past Grosse Ile, traveled further upstream and settled in the Province of Quebec at Montreal (see the Rosie O'Donnell episode of
WDYTYA?), or in the province of Ontario at Kingston or Toronto. Almost 38,00 Irish survivors of the Gorta Mor or the "Great Hunger" arrived in Toronto, then a mainly Protestant town of about 20,000 in 1847. Without question the influx of the Irish immigrants strained Toronto's resources but this did lead to some benefits like the establishment of Toronto's first General Hospital, originally located at the north-west corner of King and John Streets. Many of the Irish who arrived dispersed at least for a time into the rural areas around Toronto. Sadly for many of those who remained in the town their existence seems to have been ghettoized in the squalor of St. Patrick's Ward (so named apparently due to the high number of Irish living in the area).

The Foleys were fortunate to not be caught in the Irish ghetto but like all families, still had to deal with hardships through the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Coming to Canada

Earlier this week, I shared the photo of Helen Gammie (nee Shand) my great great grandmother. My discovery of her photo in a Saskatchewan, Canada local history book allowed me to see Helen for the first time. It also got me thinking about her immigrant experience for it was Helen's immigration to Canada that resulted in five generations of Canadian families, including mine.

Helen and her husband Andrew, a photo of him is also shown in my recent post, lived at 76 Bedford Road, Old Machar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland in 1901, according to the Scottish Census of that year. With them were four of their children: Andrew, Peter, James, and Helen. My great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden (Helen's son and Andrew's step-son) had left home to find his own way in the world. In 1901 that meant working as a farm servant about 30 miles away from his parents in Gartly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The Gammie family would be joined by Williamina Alexander, a daughter that Andrew and Helen adopted in 1905.

On April 22, 1907, Andrew, Helen and their five children arrived at St. John, New Brunswick, Canada according to the ship's passenger list available through Ancestry's Canadian Passengers Lists, 1865 - 1935 database. The family had left Liverpool, England with, according to a passenger list margin note, $80.00 bound for Stoughton, Saskatchewan. They traveled aboard the Canadian Pacific Line's 'Lake Erie' (pictured below in a photo courtesy of the Norway Heritage site where more information on this and other ships can be found).

Once in Stoughton, Saskatchewan, the Gammies were met by friends from 'back home' and were able to settle on a farm that they rented. They submitted an application for a homestead described as W1/2 of 2-8-11-W3rd south in the Quimper district of Ponteix, Saskatchewan. I have a copy of the homestead file and the map provided with the file clearly shows the property's location but the surveyor's description still frankly confuses me.

The family arrived at their homestead in the spring of 1910. Family legend held that the Gammie family arrived on their homestead too late in the year to build a house so they spent their first winter living in a cave. Well, like many aspects of family legend, it was not true that they lived in a cave but they did build a sod hut or shack (that might have felt like a cave) and lived in that structure until they were able to build a two-story frame house (the frame house was moved to Vanguard, Saskatchewan in 1955 and was still being used by family members in the early 1990's). Stewart Gammie, a relation to the 'Aneroid' Gammies, explained to me in a family information sharing email, "a sod hut would have been dug into the ground a few feet and then built the walls with grass sods dug out of the ground, that were quite plentiful. This seemed to be the norm for families landing into Saskatchewan, at least for the first year."

An important lesson learned while investigating the Gammie family is that while most of us know that not everything found on the Internet is accurate so too I found with books and in particular the Gammie family history information contained in Ponteix Yesterday and Today: Ponteix and District Volume 2. The information provided in the book is that the Gammie family arrived at the port of St. John's, Newfoundland. Both St. John, New Brunswick and St. John's, Newfoundland are sea ports on Canada's Atlantic coast and although confusing, they are very much separate and geographically apart locations. It's easy then to see how the family story moved the location of their arrival a few hundred miles.