Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Came Early To My Genealogy Land

Christmas in Hadden genealogy land came a bit early this year thanks to a new cousin connection and a two-year old blog post. The gift that I received was a whole new branch of Ellen's family including approximately 200 new ancestors found so far.

The story of how this came about is quite simple and straight forward. In August 2010, I posted A Canadian Senator in the Family describing Ellen's connection to the Hon. Samuel Merner who was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1887 on the advice of Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada's first Prime Minister. Samuel Merner served as a Senator until his death in 1908.

In October of this year, a comment was left on the blog post about Samuel Merner by Fraser Laschinger who indicated that he was also descended from the same Merner family line. Fraser is an historian and serves on his local historical society board and as turns out, he is Ellen's fourth cousin. In emails subsequent to receiving his comment, he indicated that he had some genealogical information, compiled over the years by some family members, which he has graciously sent to me. One of his documents stated that Anna Merner (the name can also be found spelled Muerner, likely it's original Swiss spelling) "married a Staebler" but offered no other reference to who the identity of the Staebler nor anything further about that family. 

Anna Merner is Ellen's 2X great grandmother and she was one of Samuel's younger sisters. Fraser 2X great grandmother, Mary, was another of Samuel's younger sisters. All were the children of Jacob Emanuel Muerner and Susanna Schluchter. Anna (Muerner) Merner married Jacob Staebler around 1840. Jacob and Anna Staebler youngest daughter Mary is Ellen's great grandmother.

The key to unlocking the new branch of Ellen's family tree was the information that Fraser offered in his posted comment, "Mary [Merner] married Joseph Laschinger ...." I didn't have that information and although I have yet to find a marriage record for Joseph and Mary, I have found many records listing them as living together and being the parents of a dozen children. 

Exploring the Merner - Laschinger branch has added, as stated earlier, about 200 more individuals to my genealogy database, and all sources have been cited. The 'new to me' Laschinger family line has discovering connections with Edmund H. Laschinger, a prominent Canadian government figure in the early 20th century, along with Russell Howard Laschinger, a prominent newspaper publisher in Gilmer, Texas along with his daughter, Sarah Jane (Laschinger) Greene who, in 2010, was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame.

A great early Christmas gift for a genealogist. Now if Santa could only find a photo of my great grandfather John Foley!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Wedding of My Maternal Grandparents - J. Graham O'Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley

I have many fond memories of my maternal grandparents, John Graham O'Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley. I was their first grandchild and grew up living just two doors away from their home. My grandmother, Nana as I referred to her, spoiled me, not that I'm complaining.  My maternal grandmother died when I was seven years old and my grandfather when I was 24 years old. I therefore only knew them in their twilight years. It is hard for me to picture them as children, teenagers or even young adults for to me as a child, they were old.

I'm certain that photos exist somewhere, held by someone, of my grandparents' wedding but I have never seen one. So it was especially helpful when I was finally able to discover a small article contained in the Toronto Star newspaper (June 25, 1926 edition, page 24) that described the marriage of my grandparents, J. Graham O'Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley. 

I have searched for newspaper articles about family members for many years, typically relying on a surname as the search term in the local newspaper database. This approach can lead to long and tedious hours of examining multiple search term hits that are not related to my family members. I was successful this time however for two reasons: one, I used the surname Foley for my search rather than the O'Neill surname I had previously been using. As it turned out the article about my grandparents wedding consistently misspells the O'Neill surname as "O'Niel" so my prior searches for the surname skipped over this article. Two,   knowing their date of marriage, I was able to narrow the timeframe for my search, allowing me to search all sections of the newspaper without worrying about receiving an overwhelming number of results.

So here is my transcription of the small article that details my grandparents' wedding:


St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church was the scene of a smart June wedding on Wednesday when Miss Gertrude Ellen Foley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Foley, became the bride of Mr. John Graham O'Niel, son of the late N. J. O'Niel. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Father Armstrong, while during the signing of the register Mrs. Summerfell sang 'O Salutaris' and an Ave Maria. The bride wore an attractive frock of peach georget with hat to match, while her bridesmaid, Miss Mary McCormack, was in powder blue georget with hat to match. The bride carried a shower of Ophelin roses, while her attendant carried Columbia roses. The groom was supported by Mr. John Hammall. Following the ceremony a reception was held at the home of the bride's parents on Queensdale boulevard, where Mrs. Foley and Mrs. O'Niel received with the bridal party. The former wore a becoming gown of cocoa brown crepe, while Mrs. O'Niel was in black crepe. The groom's gift to his bride was a white gold wrist watch, to the bridesmaid a silver mesh bag, to the best man monogrammed green gold cuff links. Following the reception Mr. and Mrs. O'Niel left on a honeymoon trip to Rochester, Cleveland and Detroit. Upon their return they will establish their home at 189 Pickering street, the house being the gift of the bride's father.

Some final observations: I'm uncertain as to who authored the article. I doubt that it was submitted by a family member due to the O'Neill surname misspelling. Also, my grandfather's father was not N. J. O'Niel (or O'Neill) but rather William Emmett O'Neill, who had died two years before this wedding. The term 'georget' was also misspelled  as it should have been 'georgette.' And finally, the last line of the article confirmed a family story that the house at 189 Pickering Street in Toronto was a wedding gift to my grandparents from my great grandfather John Foley. It was also the house that I lived in with my parents for the first nine and one half years of my life.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Autosomal DNA Test Results Included A Surprise!

On November 18th, 2012, I shared the the results that I received from Family Tree DNA for my Hadden Y-DNA test, including my Haplogroup. I have now received the results for my autosomal DNA test, called Family Finder by Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA states "Family Finder uses autosomal DNA (inherited from both the mother and father, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.) to provide you a breakdown of your ethnic percentages and connect you with relatives descended from any of your ancestral lines within approximately the last 5 generations." Autosomal DNA is from the 22 chromosome pairs beyond the gender determining X and Y chromosomes.

The first thing I wanted to review was the breakdown of my ethnic percentages. Having a paternal ancestry firmly rooted in Scotland and a maternal ancestry similarly rooted in Ireland, I saw little room for surprises.

My ethnic breakdown, by percentage, is 96.64% Western Europe (Orcadian), that is from the Orkney Islands, and 3.36% South Asia (Southeast Indian, North Indian). Huh? Where did that come from? The genealogy paper trails have led me to Ireland, Scotland (and from there to England) but nothing has suggested India but it seems like there might be an intriguing story somewhere in my ancestral past. The Orkney Island might also contain a great Viking warrior ancestry.

Family Tree DNA has also provided me with a list of individuals who have also been tested and who share DNA segments, measured in centiMorgans (cM), with me. A quick review of the list and the ancestral surnames associated with each of the matches doesn't immediately reveal any 'hits' to me. There are a couple of individuals who may likely be cousins, second to fourth cousins, but I need to take a closer look at how we match up before I can really understand how I can best utilize this new information.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

British Columbia, Canada Showing The Way With Free Online Records

Searching for many of my Canadian ancestors has been facilitated by them having lived for many generations in the province of Ontario. Records in Ontario for births, marriages, and deaths have been available through the Ancestry site. The Ontario records are indexed and there are digital images available of the records that can be saved on a personal computer. But, it is not free. Access to these records requires a subscription to the Ancestry site.

There are some means that can be used to obtain the same records for free but none of those opportunities mean staying at home. You could visit the Archives of Ontario or a Family History Centre to search through microfilm reels and print copies of the records you want, or perhaps your local public library has an institutional subscription to Ancestry, allowing you to find the records and save them to a USB key. Those research trips can be fun but still are not free with the cost of transportation and most importantly, time.

The province of British Columbia (B.C.) however, is leading the way by becoming the first Canadian jurisdiction I am aware of to post their vital records online and for FREE! As was reported by Dick Eastman on December 2nd, B.C. has posted more than 700,000 digital images attached to their fully indexed vital records.

My research has been halted, or at least slowed at times by what seems to be the inevitable migration of families to the west. So for example, a family living in Ontario during the latter half of the 19th century is attracted to and leaves Ontario for the chance at greater prosperity, often with free land awaiting, in the Canadian prairies. Eventually, family members venture a little further west into Alberta and B.C. That is certainly the migration pattern that I have seen with my wife Ellen's family.

I'll use Ellen's paternal grandfather, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner (pictured to the right) to illustrate this point. Louis was born in Ontario in 1886 but by the early part of the 20th century, Louis had moved to Saskatchewan where he married Ellen's grandmother, Charlotte ('Lottie') Faulkner in 1912. By the end of his life, Louis was in B.C., living near his son Gordon in Comox on Vancouver Island, where he died in 1968.

BC has made available their records for births (1854 - 1903), marriages (1872 - 1936), deaths (1872 - 1991), colonial marriages (1859 - 1872), and baptisms (1836 - 1888). The records, as stated, are indexed and can be searched using a basic search or advanced search screen.

Here is what the search result looked like when I searched for Louis Wagner's death record.

In addition to basic data being provided in the listing such as gender, age, date and location of event, the listing includes a link to the digital image of Louis' death certificate. Louis' death certificate is typed so it is easy to read with the exception of the attending doctor's certification as to cause of death which is hand written and may be difficult to decipher.

With this record (and several others for other family members in both my family and Ellen's), I was able to enter additional facts with source citations included in my RootsMagic database and attach the record digital images to the events that each supported.

I'm hoping more Canadian provinces follow the lead of BC in making these records available and easy to access. As a Canadian researcher, life would be so much better.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Can You Help Identify Minnie?

Minnie (seen below) seems to have been a friend of my paternal grandmother, Agnes Hadden (nee Little). The original photo is printed on postcard type stock by a company named "Jerome." On the back of the photo is the simple wording, written in pencil, "To Agnes from Minnie with Love." There also appears a date - January 1, 1931 - that has been rubber stamped on the back of the photo card.

My grandmother, Agnes Little immigrated to Canada in 1928. My great uncle, Alec Hadden, her brother-in-law, told me she had come to Canada with a friend. Was Minnie that friend?

Agnes sailed from Greenock, Scotland as a third class passenger on June 16, 1928 aboard the S.S. 'Regina' and landed at Quebec City, Province of Quebec on June 23, 1928 according to the ship's passenger list that records her journey. Unfortunately, there is no Minnie listed on the passenger list not anyone whose name might get derived to the nickname of Minnie. The ship's passenger list reveals that Agnes was destined for Salvation Army Hostel in Toronto, Ontario as part of a British Empire settlement scheme in the 1920's. 

Do you recognize Minnie? Do you have any suggestions for identifying Minnie? If so, leave a comment or contact me at Thanks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My First Look and Feel of the Upgraded RootsMagic 6 Software

I suppose it is the 'geek' in me that caused me to upgrade my RootsMagic genealogy software from version 5 to version 6 within minutes of the newest version being announced. I also felt that for the upgrade price of only $19.95, there was little risk of my being disappointed. And, RootsMagic 6 does not disappoint. 

The download and installation of RootsMagic 6 was completed very smoothly and to only 5 - 10 minutes. All of my various family files held in RootsMagic 5 were converted to the new version at the same time, without any data or media links being lost.

I use multiple genealogy database software products - Family Tree Maker, Legacy and my mainstay, RootsMagic. There is something about each of the products that I particularly like. Family Tree Maker allows me to automatically synchronize my database information with my 'public' family tree on the Ancestry website. Legacy has an interface that I find really helpful, especially for someone visually oriented like myself. RootsMagic however offers, for me, the best overall product especially with the emphasis I have learned to place on source citations. I find citing sources in RootsMagic easier which means I don't skip completing them and I save time that can be spent on other activities (read 'research').

In a 'nutshell', here is a summary highlighting some of the improved features or new features offered in RootsMagic 6:

  • County Check Explorer allows the user to check for historically correct geographic location descriptions covering the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, and includes links for further information about the locations. Location information is  linked to the FamilySearch wiki and historical maps checking is linked to the Newberry Library. As an example, for some family historians differentiating between Upper Canada, Canada West, or as it is known today, Ontario is important when describing where an event took place. This feature provides linked access to the information to get the historical place names correct.
  • Webtags allows the user to link a web page to a person, place, source, or research log item. For example, you could link a Find-A-Grave memorial page to a death or burial place for a person in the database. A useful tool although I really doubt that I will go back and 'webtag' all of the thousands of facts I have entered and cited sources for in my database.
  • Timeline View Edit was the feature that I was most excited about when I upgraded to RootsMagic 6. In version 5, I could view the timeline for a person that included their personal events and the events of their family. Now in version 6, I can edit and add to those facts while working within the timeline view and without having to go back to the 'edit person' screen. A gazetteer function has also been added that I know will be useful.
  • Find Everywhere is a feature that allows you to search throughout the database for any references to words or phrases. RootsMagic 5 had a similar feature but it was really restricted to people only. In RootsMagic 6, this feature has been expanded to included people, places, sources, citations, research logs and notes, as well as media. This is definitely an improvement I will use to filter my information when trying to assist those from whom I receive inquiries.
  • Online Publishing has been available previously. RootsMagic software has offered the ability to create static web pages that could be used to put a family tree online as a big or small part of a personal website. RootsMagic 6 takes this to a whole new level by offering free website space to registered RootsMagic 6 users through The web pages created in RootsMagic 6 are no longer quite so static and most importantly, for those of us (okay, me) who do not yet speak HTML, it is easy to use. These RootsMagic user sites are not currently indexable by search engines such as Google or Bing but that is a likely option sometime in the future. The family tree information currently will only be available to people with whom you share the website URL. 

These are great benefits for RootsMagic fans and for only $19.95 for the upgrade, well worth it. If you haven't used RootsMagic, the full version price for RootsMagic is only $29.95 or, even better, take the free RoosMagic Essentials for a test drive before making any financial commitment. I doubt that you will be disappointed. 

For a more completion demonstration of RootsMagic 6 watch the free webinar conducted by Bruce Buzbee at

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Hadden Y-DNA Results

I have been wanting to have my DNA tested for a long time, but frankly it is not a cheap test to have completed. Fortunately, Family Tree DNA recently had a sale that I decided to take advantage of in order to see what the results might uncover for me.

Genetics can be another powerful tool in genealogy, allowing for a deep look at your ancestral origins. Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) is passed along the male or patrilineal line, that is, father to son, generation after generation, and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is transmitted through the matrilinieal line, that is, from mothers to children of both sexes.

While my DNA test was not going give me any names of ancestors, it was going to provide me with my haplogroup, that group to which I belonged, sharing an ancient ancestor.

Well, the Y-DNA test results are in and my Hadden Y-DNA haplogroup is R1b1a2.

I really am a novice with this level of genetic research but so far I have learned that I probably shouldn't be surprised with this haplogroup result. R1b1a2 is the most common group, given ancient population migration patterns, in western Europe. It is most predominant in Ireland, Scotland, and England as well as Germany and Belgium. Today, there is also a strong presence of this haplogroup predominantly in the eastern United States, not surprising considering migration over the past two to three hundred years.

There are more results yet to be received and I have a lot of studying to complete in order to understand the power that genetic tests offer. Good thing I'm now retired as this is going to require a fair amount of time.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

We Remember

Most were just boys, really. They enlisted with the enthusiasm of youth, proud and invincible in their new uniforms. Their parents likely were frightened enough for them but proud of the young men they had raised. They were off to conquer a faceless enemy and save the world.

The training was tough and the discipline sometimes a difficult adjustment. Both were hopefully thorough in the manufacturing of these young soldiers. For the most part, none had chosen this profession, rather they were farmers, students, apprentices at a trade who would soon enough experience the terror of war.

On May 17, 1916 young Jimmy Gammie left his farm to enlist in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. Maybe he had seen the posters stating, "Your Chums are Fighting, Why Aren't You?" All of 5 feet, 8 inches in height, Jimmy, who joined with his brother Peter, would fight in France with the 46th Battalion. He would know what it was like to hear bullets whistle as they closely passed, he would know the sound and vibrations of bombs exploding, he would know the pain of being wounded, and after recovering, he would know the fear of returning to the front lines. He would know what it feels like to die for his country. 

Jimmy never returned to his farm, there was no repatriation ceremony for him. Jimmy is buried in France, with too many of his comrades, not far from the bridge he was fighting to gain. His grave, pictured above right, marked for all to remember him.

James Little Triggs was even younger, only 15 years of age and just under 5 feet in height, when he and his twin brother Phillip, followed in their father's footsteps and joined the Royal Navy as cabin boys. On May 31, 1916, James toiled away below deck so likely would not have seen the shells coming that would sink his mighty battleship and end his young life.

Today at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember them, along with those who did survive but who have had lives filled with memories of the terrors of war. And we remember those still fighting and sacrificing their lives in the name of freedom.

The Hadden family motto is 'n'oublie' - never forget. I, for one, will not.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Witch in the Family?

Happy Halloween! What better way to enjoy the day but to remember the family witch. Well, at least, the ancestor that was accused and convicted of witchcraft.

Abigail Faulkner (nee Dane) is my wife's sixth great grandaunt, having married Lt. Francis Faulkner in 1675. Francis was the eldest son of my wife's seventh great grandfather, Edmond Faulkner. 

In 1692, Abigail was arraigned and indicted, on the basis of the 'evidence' of a few local Andover, Massachusetts women, "for the crime of felony by witchcraft." The women who accused Abigail of giving them 'the evil eye' were Sarah Phelps, Martha Sprague, and Hannah Bixbe (Bixby). Each testified that Abigail had "afflicted" them. Their evidence made that much more dramatic as a result of their falling to the floor, I suppose due to their affliction, when Abigail entered the courtroom.

So convincing was their evidence that the jury found "Abigail Faulkner wife of Francis Faulkner of Andover guilty of ye fellony by witchcraft comited on ye body of Martha Sprague allsoe on ye body of Sarrah Phelps." The court passed a sentence of death on Abigail, a sentence that was not carried out as a result of petitions from townsfolk and family members,and the fact that Abigail was pregnant at the time.

I've not encountered any evidence that the witchcraft trait has been passed on to my wife but on a day like today, it's wise to be on my best behaviour, just in case! 

Images of the trial documents can be found at:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Memories Enjoyed With Canada Voters Lists, 1935 - 1980

An email from Ancestry caught my attention this morning. announced the release of a new 'Canada, Voters Lists, 1935 - 1980' database. The database is fully indexed with images from the fifteen Canadian federal elections that are occurred between 1935 - 1980.

As Ancestry's email announcement points out, the voters lists provide a valuable substitute to census records (that, frankly under Canadian laws, I may not live long enough to see many released). The voters lists contain the names, addresses and occupations of all those who were enumerated prior to each election.

I couldn't resist searching for myself in the latter years of the available voters lists. There I was listed on the 1974 voters list, the first federal election in which I was eligible to vote with the election being held on July 8, 1974, living at my parental home, with the occupation of 'student' beside my name. As the voters lists are based on address, it is a real trip down memory lane as I recalled the families who lived in the neighbourhood around my parent's home. Some I had gone to school with, others were hockey teammates; all brought back memories of a time that seems so long ago.

While searching for the 'Hadden' surname in the database, I was able to track the residences of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a few cousins. 

Of special interest was the 1945 voters list showing my mother's parents living at 189 Pickering Street in Toronto. This house became my parent's home and it is where I was raised until the age of nine. What made this special though was seeing who the neighbours were. Right next door to my mother's family was the Doody family at 187 Pickering Street, as can be seen in the snippet view below. Mr. and Mrs. Leo Doody are the grandparent's of my sister's husband. My mother had always told us, to our amazement, that the grandchildren of next door neighbours would marry many years later. Now I have the record showing it to be true.

As a side note, on that same 1945 voters list, living at 205 Pickering Street were Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Perkins. What is notable about this is that Mr. and Mrs. Perkins had two sons whom attended St. Michael's Choir School in Toronto. Johnny and Ray Perkins, childhood and young adult friends of my parents, joined with two other choir school friends to form a singing group that gained fame as 'The Crewcuts,' recording chart topping hits like "Sh-Boom." 

I now have find the many other members of my family in these records and then, of course, it will be necessary to start tracking the whereabouts of Ellen's many family members across the country.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Murder in The Church - The Death of Dr. James Wright Markoe

My wife's North American roots are deep. I can trace her ancestors in what is the United States and Canada back to about 1628, just a few years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. My family, in contrast, immigrated to North America in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. It is likely for this reason that most of the MyHeritage record matches with Find-A-Grave memorial pages involved Ellen's ancestors.

One of the several bits of information that I discovered about Ellen's ancestors through their memorial pages involved a fifth cousin, twice removed: Dr. James Wright Markoe (right, as he was pictured in the New York Times in 1920). James and Ellen share great grandparents, John Faulkner and his wife, Sarah Abbott. John and Sarah are the 4th great grandparents to Dr. Markoe and the 6th great grandparents to Ellen.

On Dr. Markoe's Find-A-Grave memorial page is a biographical note stating that he died after being shot at church. I couldn't resist exploring that story and found that it was, in fact, true.

Dr. James Wright Markoe was the personal physician to J. P. Morgan, the very wealthy financier and industrialist. It was this friendly relationship that lead J. P. Morgan to financing New York City's Lying In Hospital which Dr. Markoe founded and oversaw for a number of years.

The New York Times reported that on Sunday, April 18, 1920, Dr. Markoe was one of a number of ushers who were taking up the collection during Sunday services at St. George's Episcopal Church, near Stuyvesant Square in New York City. As Dr. Markoe proceeded with the collection task "a lunatic, recently escaped from an asylum, arose from a seat towards the rear of the church, fired a revolver and mortally wounded" Dr. Markoe. Some reports have suggested that the murderer had misidentified Dr. Markoe with his real target, J. P. Morgan, Jr.

The 'lunatic', as the newspaper referred to him, was apprehended by men who were also attending the church service and turned over to the police. He was later identified as Thomas Simpkin of Duluth, Minnesota. Simpkin's version of events is that he had no particular target but rather he was dismayed because the "preacher in his sermon at the church told them to be good to strangers but no one spoke to me, and I resented it." Simpkin as it turns out had moved his family from England to Canada about seven years earlier. He told police that he had joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force to fight in World War 1. According to Simpkin, just prior to departing Canada for the war, he learned that his wife was again pregnant and when his request to be stationed closer to his family was denied, he deserted and moved the family to the United States. The attestation papers for Thomas Simpkin indicate that he lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada when he was inducted into the military in 1916.

Dr. Markoe's murder prompted a flurry of calls for changes in the way the U.S. courts dealt with those who at the time were considered to be 'insane.'

As for Dr. Markoe, he was laid to rest in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery following a funeral service that took place in the chapel of the very church in which he had been killed. The New York Times described  the funeral as a "quiet, simple service except the dismal beating of the rain on the tin roof which at times almost muffled the droning of the prayers for the dead." The funeral was held under police guard with admittance controlled by admission tickets. Among the mourners were Dr. Markoe's widow, Annette, as well as family and friends including J. P. Morgan, Jr. as well as a police honour guard provided in recognition of the work Dr. Markoe had done for the police of New York City over the years.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Tip From Randy Leads to Interesting Ancestral Stories

I read with great interest Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings post on September 20th about how MyHeritage's new record match feature was assisting him in locating the Find-A-Grave memorial pages for many of the people he has listed in his genealogy database. Please read Randy's post for the details on how he successfully used the records match process.

Like Randy and many genealogy colleagues, I have used Find-A-Grave frequently over the years to find burial information about ancestors. But, having about 12,700 ancestors in my genealogy database covering both my family and my wife Ellen's family, searching individually for every ancestor on Find-A-Grave was too exhaustive a process to undertake. However, having taken advantage of a recent MyHeritage subscription offer (which for disclosure purposes I paid for myself), I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of Find-A-Grave records matches My Heritage could offer me.

MyHeritage indicated that it had found 201 records matches in Find-A-Grave with individuals in my family tree. MyHeritage based this on a older version that I had uploaded to the site last year. I have since uploaded a more current version of my family tree information, one in which some branches have been pruned while other branches have grown. 

All but a very few, likely less than five, were valid matches that I confirmed after first extracting information from the Find-A-Grave memorial pages.

What interested me the most though was some of the biographical information about a number of our family ancestors that I wasn't aware of. Over the years of conducting family history research, I have always felt that every person in our family tree has a story to tell and one of my chief goals was to discover and hopefully tell the ancestor's story. 

I take pride in our family ancestor's as it is through their efforts, trials and tribulations, successes and achievements that my family is enjoying our current comforts. Not all of my ancestors made the right decisions all of the time, some made huge mistakes but they sure seem to have done what they thought was the absolute best for themselves and their families at the time. Their decisions, sometimes difficult to understand in a current context, were right for them in their current context. Those decisions ultimately guided the family, and me, to where we are today.

In the next few posts, I will share some of the stories of these ancestors that I found to be particularly interesting when I found out about them through their Find-A-Grave memorial pages.  Often, these are ancestors that are on family tree branches that are not close to my more direct ancestors whom I tend to focus on, but they are still family.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Edwin Cyprian Mcrae - Corrected Information

On April 28, 2011, I posted a story about my maternal second cousin, Edwin Cyprian McRae.

Edwin was quite the smart fellow: an engineer (according to his Michigan marriage registration in 1924; the company attorney for a Detroit auto company; and, an inventor who was granted 28 patents on everything from an anti-skid braking control system to a vehicle torque converter to a ball cock valve.

In my post however, I indicated that Edwin passed away in 1983. I have been contacted by Edwin's granddaughter who corrected me, stating he died in 1993. I checked my database and sure enough, I have his year of death listed as 1993. I can only assume that the error was a result of my clumsy typing skills.

My thanks to Edwin's granddaughter, also a cousin to me, for pointing out this date error. The details count!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Wagner - Faulkner 50th Wedding Anniversary

When my wife Ellen's grandparents celebrated the significant milestone of their 50th wedding anniversary in 1962, as is often the case for these events, a party was held.

Unfortunately, Ellen's parents were unable to attend due to business commitments but Louis Jacob Gordon and Charlotte 'Lottie' (nee Faulkner) Wagner's three other children and their spouses were present to celebrate the occasion.

Pictured below are the Wagner children with their parents: seated are Charlotte 'Lottie' (Faulkner) Wagner, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner; and, standing left to right, Ralph and Phyllis (nee Wagner) Moore, Ivy (nee Harvey) and Gordon Wagner, and Bernice (nee Wagner) and Albert Sexsmith.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to meet any of these family members but that is changing. Taking advantage of recently being in the western part of Canada, I've now had the opportunity to meet with Ellen's only surviving aunt and uncle, Ralph and Phyllis Moore. This year, Ralph and Phyllis celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary, a milestone that I have a tough time 'wrapping' my head around as it is an achievement of longevity and commitment so seldom enjoyed by couples.

Congratulations to both of them!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Cousin Was A Hero! (Re-Post)

In honour of the 9/11remembrances and memorials taking place today marking that tragic day 11 years ago, I am re-posting the story of one of my family's heroes, Lt. Michael Warchola of the New York Fire Department who gave his life in the World Trade Centre while rescuing building occupants.


Until this past week when I was contacted through a "new cousin connection" who had read about our family in this blog, I didn't know that I had a cousin, a second cousin once removed to be exact, who had died a hero! In my last couple of posts, I have recounted the new 'cousin' connection. One of the many bits of new information passed on to me was about another cousin, Lt. Michael Warchola (pictured to the right) of the New York City Fire Department. Michael's great grandmother was Agnes (nee Sweeney) Mitchell Branchfield, my second great grandmother.

Michael, or 'Mike' as he was known, was born, raised, and lived his life in New York City. Like his older brother, Dennis, Michael joined the NYFD. Just two shifts before his retirement, the paperwork completed, Michael died saving the lives of others on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Centre.

The events of that horrific day are indelibly marked in my mind as is the case with most of us. Yet, from the relative safety of my office in Canada, it was too easy to feel somewhat distant and removed, after all, I really didn't know anyone in New York City. Now, learning that a cousin, one of my cousins, was there and that he died saving the lives of others in his role as a 'first responder', a role he undoubtedly loved and worked hard at, makes the tragedy of the day hit 'home' that much harder.

I never met Michael but wish I had had the chance. I have learned from a number of tributes posted about Michael that he enjoyed history, especially stories of the strange and bizarre, a passion reputed to have developed from reading British tabloid newspapers at his grandmother's house. Michael was a Golden Gloves boxing champion who went to university in Buffalo around the same time I was in university in Toronto, just a 90-minute drive away. Mike and I both graduated from university in 1976 and, in 1977, after years spent on the waiting list, Mike joined the New York Fire Department.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Lt. Michael Warchola led his crew from Ladder Company 5 into the 'B' stairwell of the North Tower at the World Trade Centre. On the 12th floor, he stopped to help a young woman who was experiencing chest pains. When the call went out to the emergency responders to evacuate the building, Michael was seen by other firefighters still tending to the woman, promising that he would soon also evacuate.

After the collapse of the building around him, Michael was heard over the radio, "Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is Ladder Company 5, mayday. We're in the B stairwell, 12th floor. I'm trapped, and I'm hurt bad." Michael was able to call out two additional maydays but his would-be rescuers were unable to reach him due to impassable debris.

Michael's body was recovered on Friday, September 14, 2001 and was carried out of the rubble by surviving members of Ladder Company 5. The world had lost a hero!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Johnny Burke - Canada's Newest Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee

Last night, our great friend, Johnny Burke became the newest inductee into Canada's Country Music Hall of Fame. Just the 52nd artist, joining the likes of Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, Hank Snow, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, and Ronnie Prophet so honoured in a country deep with country music traditions.

Below is a photo I took of Johnny at his 2005 induction into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame.

Johnny is a man of great class and great talent who has entertained for well more than fifty years. And, I'll not forgot that he and his wife Teresa drove an hour and half for just a fifteen minute visit and to wish me well when I was in the hospital's ICU a couple of years ago.

So proud are we of our good friend that we had to drive the 2880 kilometres (about 1800 miles) to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to witness Johnny receiving his extremely well deserved, but overdue, honour.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Louis Henry Wagner's Second Family

Just over a year ago, I wrote about the diaries kept by my wife's great grandfather, Rev. Louis Henry Wagner.

Louis was born in 1857 in Grove, Alleghany, New York state to Rev. Jacob Wagner and his wife Margaret (nee Hailer). By the time, Louis was a year old, his father had decided to end his career as a minister and he entered into a business partnership with his brother-in-law, Louis Breithaupt. Sadly the partnership in a tanning business located in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario ended abruptly when Jacob died in 1858. The tannery that he and Louis Breithaupt established went on to prosper as one of Berlin's major companies with the Eagle Tannery building still a part of Kitchener's downtown core.

While Louis Henry Wagner worked in the family tannery, he eventually became a minister in the Evangelical Association and married Mary Staebler. In a series of diary entries, Louis described his wife's death of typhoid fever in 1887, on the first birthday of their son, Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner, my wife's grandfather. Just over two years following the death of his wife Mary, Louis married for a second time. His second wife was Sarah Lodema Moyer (whose family is the subject of voluminous 'genealogical record' compiled by Rev. A. J. Fretz in 1895).

Louis and Sarah appear to have lived a good and stable family life until their deaths in 1945 and 1941, respectively. Below is a family photo, taken around 1908 - 1910 of Sarah (far left) and Louis (far right) with their children, from left to right: Ida (born in 1893), Margaret Florence (born 1898), Louis Jacob Gordon (from Louis' first marriage, born 1886), and Carl Henry (born 1897).

Louis and Sarah Wagner are buried together in the Mount Hope Cemetery located in Kitchener, Ontario.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why I Attach Media To Events

Back in January of this year, I wrote about my experience with RootsMagic 5 software. Several new features had been added to the new version of the product and I especially liked the media 'tagging' feature. I was asked by a reader if I thought it was necessary to attach media items (electronic files usually in JPEG format like photos or documents) to the events about which the media contains information. I think my reply at the time may not have been as helpful or fulsome as it should have been.

I was reminded of the media attaching and 'tagging' when genealogy blogger extraordinaire, Randy Seaver asked for some help with media attachments in RootsMagic 5 through his Genea-Musings blog. I saw Randy's request and link to his blog on Facebook and quickly replied with a description of the process I use to attach media. To my delight, Bruce Buzbee, the developer of the RootsMagic 5 software, read my reply, clicked the 'like' button and then he posted essentially the same process, although more succinctly stated, in a comment on Randy's blog. Timing is everything and I had provided a solution that met with the software developer's approval before he had a chance to the same!

Below is a partial screen shot of the 'edit person' page for my second great grandfather, Lewis Fitzgerald. You can see that there are numerous events about him and a column indicating whether there are sources cited for the stated event beside a column indicating whether there is media attached to that event. In this example, the birth event is highlighted showing that there is a note about the event, fifteen sources cited, and media attached that 'speaks' to the event. (You didn't really think I was going to post a screen shot showing no source citations or media, did you?)

I got me to thinking about that initial question posed to me. Why do I take the time to attach media items to the facts or 'events' that I have entered for an individual in my genealogy software database?

First, I should offer up that I think attaching media to events in the database is a best practice but it is not a requirement to meet some kind of genealogy standard. I have three primary reasons for attaching the media items.

1. Organization

Perhaps like you, I have accumulated at least hundreds, maybe thousands of electronic records about the ancestors in my database. Photographs, birth, marriage and death registrations, census pages, etc. I have also developed a workable (for me) electronic filing system where all of these electronic records are stored. As the collection of record files grow, it becomes ever more difficult and time consuming to find the one record file that I want to view. Record filing is all about finding what you want, when you want it. Although I use a 'filing' system and a personal standard file labeling system, and I admit that I hate filing, locating the right file can take time - and that's time away from something else, like research. Having the appropriate media or electronic file attached to the event saves time in the long run and I'm all for saving time.

2. Data Manipulation

My experience in using databases, gained primarily when I was working prior to my recent retirement, taught me that a good database allowed me to manipulate the data to provide me with a variety of ways of looking at the results. We see this in our genealogy research for example, when we plot out events from a list about a person or family onto a geographic timeline. It is another way to take the same data but see it in another way. Having the records attached to the events assists me to visually see additional clues for further leads in my research and there are many times when I need all the clues I can possibly find.

3. Reports

In most current genealogy software programs, and certainly in RootsMagic 5, I can generate reports that include the records or media attached to a person and the events in their life that I have attached to them. This is a great aid when sharing information with other researchers and with family members. Genealogy is a collaborative pursuit and the ability to share good, complete information can only help in that collaboration.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Kids often throw out the question "Are we there yet?" from the back seat of the family car soon after they bore of staring out the window at the blur of passing landscape. I must confess that I probably tormented my parents with this question many times.

Crista Cowan on the blog lamented about those who proclaim that their genealogy is "all done" either completed by themselves or some distant relative who worked it all out and offered one possible way to measure 'completeness.' Randy Seaver of the ever popular Genea-Musings blog picked up on this challenge for his most recent Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post.

Crista suggested the metric for how complete a family history is by reviewing the numbers associated with ten generations of direct relationships. The number of direct ancestors doubles each generation so tracing my direct ancestry ten generations to my 7th great grandparents, a period of about 300 years based on Crista's reasonable assumptions, will involve identifying 1023 individuals, starting with me.

I currently have 12,671 individuals in my genealogy database. This comprises both my family (Hadden) and my wife's family (Wagner). By completing the simple chart below, I can see how many of our direct ancestors I have been able to identify. I found the numbers to be startling!

In the Hadden family, while I start out strong, by the time I reach the seventh generation, the number of direct ancestors I have been able to identify really begins to dwindle. In total, I have identified 129 direct ancestors out of a possible 1023, or only 12.6% of my great grandparents at the tenth generation mark. It gets much worse when I look at generations eleven through fifteen, and remember at the fifteenth generation I have 16,384 12X great grandparents. How tough can it be to find at least one or two people out of more than 16,000. Tough enough that I haven't yet succeeded.

Things are marginally better in my wife's family where I have identified a total of 161 of her direct ancestors or 15.7% of the 1023 individuals. My wife has much deeper North American roots than I which might account for better numbers in generations ten through fifteen. In her case, I have identified sixteen of her 16,384 12X great grandparents. The remaining 16,368 should be easy.

Oh, how I wish someone had completed my genealogy too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blogoversary Number Three

Three years ago today, I nervously set out to share some family stories. Following years of researching my family roots, I saw a blog as the best vehicle available to share what I came to learn and value with others in my family.

A link to this blog was sent to the twenty-five family members for whom I had an email address. I never imagined that many thousands of page loads would be made by folks from literally around the world. But ultimately genealogy is a collaborative endeavour and the world is small with family histories and anecdotes overlapping one another.

The experiences of my ancestors were also experienced by the ancestors of many other families. It is a tie that continues to bind us.

Thanks for your continued support and thanks for stopping by to see what is new.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Oscar August Brehler

Oscar August Brehler was my wife's first cousin, three times removed. Oscar was the son, and youngest child, of Jacob Brehler and Harriet Hailer. Harriet was the sister of my wife's second great grandmother, Margaret Hailer, and the daughter of Johann Jacob Hailer, a Kitchener, Waterloo pioneer.

Jacob and Harriet Brehler married in Canada West (now Ontario, Canada) likely around 1855, but moved to Michigan in the United States in 1864. Oscar was born in Royal Oak, Oakland, Michigan on 3 June 1880. At the age of 24, Oscar graduated from the Detroit School of Medicine as a pharmacist and set off on his own. His first stop was at Prescott in the then Arizona Territory. After a short stay there, estimated to be only a year or two, Oscar headed for California.

In 1905, Oscar purchased a drug store in Sanger, Fresno, California. For the next forty years, Oscar operated what was described as the "County's First Drug Store." Oscar was prominent in the community serving as a leader of the local and district Kiwanis clubs among many civic undertakings. When Oscar sold his drug store in January 1945 to Roger F. Taylor, it was reported on page 4 of the Fresno Bee Republican newspaper (January 7th edition). When Sanger City celebrated it's Diamond Jubilee in 1963, a commemorative book published to mark the occasion stated, "Oscar arrived a scant 17 years after Sanger dates it's founding, and throughout all these years his reputation for square dealing, dependability and integrity has been known and respected throughout this entire area."

There's seems little doubt that Oscar was a good down-to-earth kind of guy but what makes Oscar unique was his basket collection!

It seems that in the early years of his store, many Yokut Indians from the foothills around Sanger came to town and Oscar bought several of their hand-woven baskets from them. It is reported that Oscar purchased the baskets from the natives as he knew they needed the money to purchase supplies. Eventually his basket collection grew to be about 200 baskets in total.

Oscar died in 1966 and his basket collection formed the centre piece of a new Sanger museum, housed in the original Sanger railway station building - the Sanger Depot Museum.

Quite the legacy for a pharmacist from Michigan with deep Ontario roots.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

The Importance of Being Lewis

There are some names in families that are carried on generation after generation. Following some of my more recent posts about Lewis Fitzgerald, one of my maternal second great grandfathers, I was reminded by my cousin, and author, Pamela Gaull, that Lewis is also an important name in my paternal family.

So I decided to check my genealogy database on the number of individuals named Lewis and their relation to me. Currently, I have 12,660 individuals in my database covering both my ancestral family and that of my wife. Using the custom report feature in RootsMagic 5, I found 36 men who were named Lewis. Interestingly enough, I found that there is an even split of the Lewis name between my wife's family and mine; eighteen men named Lewis in my Hadden family tree and eighteen men named Lewis in Ellen's Wagner family tree.

There are different versions of the origin of the name Lewis offered on the Internet. Two of the more popular origin versions indicate that the name derives from a Scandinavian word meaning 'famous warrior' or 'glorious ruler.' I suspect my father, who is a Lewis, would be happy enough with that, particularly as the alternate origin suggested is that the name is from a Norwegian word, Ljodhhus, apparently meaning 'sounding house,' a place where men who took the depth of the sea were housed.

As stated previously, Lewis was an important name in my ancestral family. My father is a Lewis, named after an uncle named Lewis. I was named after a Lewis in my mother's family, Lewis Fitzgerald Foley, although you won't find Lewis in my name. Lewis Fitzgerald Foley was commonly known as Gerald Foley, so I was given the Gerald name.

My third great grandfather was Lewis McKenzie, a crofter in 19th century Cluny, Aberdeen, Scotland. His father, my fourth great grandfather, was also named Lewis McKenzie, an inn keeper and farmer at Old Mill, Coull, Aberdeen, Scotland. In fact, my family tree contains six men named Lewis McKenzie. I am directly descended from three men named Lewis while the remaining fifteen men are uncles or cousins.

It seems that until you really look at the popularity of a name in your family, it can easily go unnoticed, possibly due to the spread of time and generations.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Interrupt This Family History for a Comment on Cuts to Library and Archives Canada

Warning: This post contains personal opinion.

There has been a lot of effort by Canadian librarian associations and genealogical societies protesting the budget cuts at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Understandably these organizations have a vested interest in the debate. Librarians and archivists, represented by their associations, will fight to save their jobs. Genealogical societies will fight to maintain current service levels and urge expansion and ease of accessibility to record collections.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, they are missing the some of the important elements of a solid argument against the way in which the budget cuts are implemented. While I agree with these various groups that the cuts don't make much sense, the rhetoric being used doesn't make much sense. The Canadian Association of University Teachers website states that the cuts will be "devastating for preservation of Canada's history" while the Ontario Genealogical Society has urged clear change in legislation pertaining the LAC's mandate, the restoration of services, and exploration of funding models to support LAC.

I want to be clear that I do not support the manner in which the budget cuts at LAC are being implemented. Government budget cuts in this era of austerity have become the norm. I am not an economist so I won't offer any Keynesian-like opinion on the benefits on austerity measures in recessionary times but as a career public servant (now retired), I can see through some of the 'bafflegab' language that the government and LAC have been using.

First, archives are not held in high place in most government circles. No one seems to know where they fit. Are the archives a cultural entity or are they simply an administrative body, tasked with preserving government documents. This 'debate' is central in my view to the Canadian federal government relationship with LAC and plays out in a similar manner in Canadian provinces. Would I like to see LAC expand it's collection of the documented memory of Canada? Absolutely. Is it likely to ever happen? No, it's just not really feasible due to both cost and space limitations. The exploration of alternate funding models has been occurring for years at LAC and at other government agencies and departments who find themselves in a catch-22 when faced with ongoing budget pressures. New revenue sources can be found but the funds necessary for the infrastructure to establish those revenues is never available.

My concern for LAC is the manner in which the budget cuts are being implemented. Plain and simple, they don't make much sense to me. For example, Daniel Caron, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, essentially the head of LAC, has been quoted as noting that LAC is moving forward with a greater digital presence, pointing to LAC's new Facebook and Twitter presence. Mr. Caron however likely cannot explain how 899 Twitter followers and an meager 283 Facebook followers gives LAC real bragging rights. This all falls under the bureaucratic umbrella of something called 'modernization.'

LAC has noted that in-person visits have been declining while website visits have been escalating. It would seem obvious then that the future lies in greater accessibility to the records of LAC through it's website. I can fully support such a direction. Not everyone can travel to Ottawa, Ontario to make an in-person visit. Online records access makes sense and many private companies (such as Ancestry) are showing that it can be profitable. Mr. Caron and LAC have not explained to me how cutting 50% of the digitization staff is going to achieve this end result. The LAC website states that LAC provides "Democratic access to your nation’s records – at the speed of light. Any time of day or night" following an explanation that LAC holds 20 million books, periodicals, microfilms in addition to 3 million maps, 24 million photographs and 350,000 hours of film, portraits and musical items.

I don't have access to all of that material "any time of day or night" but I would love to enjoy it. The cuts this year to the LAC budget are likely not the end of budget cuts but nor are they likely the first budget cuts that LAC has experienced. With each passing year, the LAC collection deteriorates and the "democratic access" to my nation's records goes unfilled. The secret to a successful business for LAC lies in that reality.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Gertrude Ellen (Foley) O'Neill

Exactly 50 years ago today, on Friday, July 13, 1962, Gertrude Ellen O'Neill (nee Foley), my grandmother, passed away in Toronto, Ontario.

'Gertie', as her husband J. Graham O'Neill always called her, was born in 1898. The exact date of her birth is somewhat of a mystery. The baptismal register for St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, signed by a Father McEntee, does not list a date of birth but rather lists her date of baptism as March 16th. The civil registration (available through, signed by her father John Foley , lists the date of birth as April 16th but the genealogical extract, prepared by the Office of the Registrar-General in Ontario for me in 1985, again lists March 16th. Her marriage registration, death registration, obituary and gravestone do not list a date of birth at all. John Foley was reputed to be illiterate, but had been taught to sign his name for business purposes, and may not have fully recognized the error in the information he was attesting.

Gertrude's mother, Mary Jane (nee Fitzgerald) Foley, died a few days after Gertrude, or "Nana" as I knew her, turned one year of age. Four years later, John Foley re-married, this time to Annie McElroy. It appears that life was good for Gertrude and her brothers Gerald and Clarence as their father's contracting business flourished. They lived in the largest house on their street and when Gertrude married my grandfather in 1926, the wedding gift from her father was a house that she actually turned down, convincing her father to provide the house instead to her new in-laws, William and Margaret O'Neill. Later, after the deaths of both William and Margaret, the house came back to Gertrude and her husband Graham. It then became my parent's home and thus the house in which I was raised.

Gertrude had numerous medical problems including diabetes, a heart condition, and near the end, likely cancer. Conveniently, my mother was a registered nurse and we lived two doors away, which in Toronto's east end meant our front door was about forty feet away from Gertrude and Graham's front door so my mother made at least daily visits to administer her mother's insulin injections. It was very convenient as well for me as Gertrude's first and eldest grandchild and therefore the 'one who could do no wrong.'

On Friday, July 13, 1962, I was in the kitchen of my best friend Bob Dobson's house, directly across the street from my house, when my mother returned from the hospital. My friend Bob heard the news first. He stopped, looked at me and asked if I had heard. I hadn't heard anything but then immediately heard my mother calling across the street, explaining to Bob's parents, Eunice and Jack Dobson who sat on their front porch, that 'Nana' had died.

Some family memories are indelible.

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