Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mining the Local Newspaper

I have searched through many pages of local newspapers before. This time, I wanted to see if there was anything I had missed.

Fortunately, my family, both my maternal and paternal sides, lived in Toronto, Ontario and the 'local' paper, The Toronto Star has digitized 116 years of it's editions, back to 1894, through it's Pages of the Past feature. In addition, using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, all pages of the newspaper are searchable using keywords, exact phrase or Boolean Query. My experience with the OCR technology indicates that it is not perfect but it is good and getting better. Searching 116 years of newspaper pages, even for an exact 'phrase' such as a family surname can be time consuming and not everything found was connected to my family. For example, someone named Lorraine Hadden played a lot of bridge when the newspaper was publishing bridge tournament results through the 1950's and 1960's. There were also a lot of stories about Dave Hadden, a player for the Toronto Argonaut professional football team through the 1970's - and I got to view all of them!

But hidden within all of the 'misses' were some great gems about my family (including a story about me from 1995 that I will save for another time). When I first used newspapers as a genealogy source, I tended to focus on defined dates of known events. I knew my birth date so was there a birth announcement, for example. Conducting a broader search with the resulting large number of 'hits' tested my patience. I wanted more immediate gratification than hours and hours of viewing seemed to offer.

I now search more patiently and I have gleaned some great results that I can share. My great grandparents, Alexander Shand Hadden and his wife Jessie (nee Gaull) died in 1945, within months of each other. I have now found both of their obituaries.

On March 22, 1945, the death notice for Jessie Gaull Hadden appeared on page 26 of the Toronto Star. The obituary related that Jessie passed away in Toronto East General Hospital on Tuesday, March 20, 1945 in her 64th year. Her funeral was held in the chapel of the William Sherrin Funeral Home at 873 Kingston Road on Friday, March 23rd at 2:00 p.m. Internment was at St. John's Norway Cemetery.

Alexander Shand Hadden's obituary appeared on page 17 of the July 27, 1945 Toronto Star newspaper. The obituary stated that Alexander died on Thursday, July 26th, 1945 at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. In addition his current and former residences are given. His next of kin included his children: Edith, Alex, and John, all of Toronto and "Company Sergeant-Major Andrew Hadden, C.I.T.C." (Note to self - some research is needed to understand Uncle Andy's previously unheard of military role!) Like his wife a few months earlier, Alexander's funeral was held in the chapel of the Sherrin Funeral Home on Saturday, July 28, 1945 at 11:00 a.m. and internment followed at St. John's Norway Cemetery in Toronto.

The real surprise was finding a memorial published in the Toronto Star on March 20, 1946. The memorial reads as follows:

"HADDEN - In loving memory of my dear mother, Jessie Gaull Hadden, who passed away March 20, 1945.
Peacefully sleeping, resting at last
The world's weary troubles and trials are past.
I silence she suffered, in patience she bore
Till God called her home to suffer no more.
-- Lovingly remembered by her son Alex and daughter-in-law Hilda, grandchildren Robert and David.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

William and Catherine Shaughnessy

It sometimes takes me a little while but eventually I get around to tracking down the siblings of my more direct ancestors. Such is the case with Catherine Foley, the sister of my great grandfather John Foley.

Like her older brother John, Catherine was born in Barrie, Ontario, Canada in 1865, the daughter of William Foley and Bridget McTague. On November 28, 1883, in Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Roman Catholic Church in Barrie, at the age of 18, Catherine married William Shaughnessy, also a native of Barrie, Ontario, the son of Michael Shaughnessy and Catherine Miller. The record of their marriage appears both in the Ontario marriage registrations and in the church register. Finding these records was made all the more difficult due to the frequent misspelling of the Shaughnessy surname - in the records the name is spelled as 'Shanacy.'

Not long after their marriage, William and Catherine headed south for the 'big' city of Toronto where William found employment as a brick maker. In 1887, when their third child was born, the Shaughnessy's were living on Verral Avenue in Toronto's east end. By 1911, Catherine and William had taken up residence at 10 Brighton Avenue, just one block away from the Blong Avenue homes of where Catherine's older brothers, John and Thomas had lived. Below is an image, captured from Google street view, of the house at 10 Brighton Ave. as it looks today. I suspect it didn't look too much different 100 years ago.

By the time they lived in this house, William Shaughnessy had left the brick-making industry and became a teamster, then a contractor. A pattern of employment identical to Catherine's brother, John. It just seems too coincidental that William would work for some years years as a teamster and then work as a contractor.

Although I have never heard it suggested and have no family stories to base it on, I suspect John Foley was the head of a 'family' business that employed Thomas Foley and brother-in-law William Shaughnessy. It will be interesting to see if records exist that might corroborate my suspicions.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Stamp Club As A Genealogy Source

I have found some things pertaining to my genealogy research in unexpected but I never imagined that a stamp club, more properly, a philatelic society newsletter, would be a source for genealogy information.

While working through one of my assignments for a National Institute for Genealogical Studies course, I found a newsletter for the British North America Philatelic Society's Postal Stationery Study Group. Specifically in the group's September 2002 newsletter (Volume 18, No. 2), there was an article about the postal stationery cards, more commonly post cards, used by The Breithaupt Leather Company of Berlin, Ontario. This is the tannery and leather goods company formed through a partnership between my wife, Ellen's second great grandfather Jacob Wagner and his friend and brother-in-law Louis Breithaupt.

Following Jacob's unexpected and early death in 1858, Breithaupt continued the company under his name. The tannery, known in Kitchener, Ontario as the Eagle Tannery, once one of the largest tanneries in Canada, perhaps North America, closed in 1950. Below is an image of the used post cards from the Breithaupt Leather Company that the philatelic society posted in it's newsletter.

The newsletter contained more importantly an excellent article written by Chris Ellis that details the history of the leather company, including Jacob Wagner's involvement. The article also as a bonus cites the source of much of its information including a PhD dissertation.

Lesson learned - expect the unexpected! Findings additional sources of family history information may turn up in the most unusual places.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Attending N.I.G.S.

At long last, I can finally say that I am attending N.I.G.S. - The National Institute for Genealogical Studies, affiliated with the Continuing Education Division of the University of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto. I have chosen to work towards a Canadian Records certification as most of the ancestors I am researching spent at least a good part of their lives in Canada. N.I.G.S. offers certificate programs in six countries (United States, Canada, Australia, Scotland, Ireland, England and Germany) and the program of study allows me to take courses specific to those country's records in addition to the Canadian records on which I will have a special focus.

I have written previously ("My Continuing Genealogy Education" - July 2010 and "Ontario Genealogical Society Conference 2010" - May 2010) that podcaster extraordinaire, Lisa Louise Cooke of the Genealogy Gems podcast recommended that as genealogists, we should be spending thirty percent of our time furthering our genealogy education. I noted that Lisa has updated this recommendation at the recent Rootstech 2012 conference to twenty percent! (Oh, what shall I do with all the free time that provides me?) In past, I have used podcasts, webinars and the occasional conference as much of the source of my genealogy education. These helped me learn knew techniques and approaches in addition to helping me stay current with the genealogy industry. But as I approach retirement and the additional time it affords, I needed to decide to stop talking about genealogy education and 'jump in.'

I chose N.I.G.S. for a few reasons. One reason is personal - I am a graduate of the University of Toronto so I already have a soft spot in my heart for the institution. Sentiment aside, I like the flexibility in the program that allows you to take courses at your own pace and the fact that it is online make the courses very accessible. N.I.G.S. also has an impressive list of instructors such as Kory Meyerink, Gena Philibert-Ortega, George G. Morgan, Lisa Alzo, and Michael Hait to name a few. My one reservation was not knowing if the program would meet my learning expectations after thirty plus years of doing genealogy research.

I'm happy to say that although I have to this point been only completing the required basic level mandatory courses in Canadian records, I am learning - and that is what it is all about! The basic level courses have thus far been easy for me but I know that as I progress the courses will become more challenging and I will learn more. I have been very impressed with the quality of the course materials. For example, the course materials for Canadian Vital Statistics Records - Part 1 is 189 pages long. That is a lot of great information about the history and one component of the records of Canada.

The point of this is to echo Lisa Louise Cooke's education recommendation. Find a program that works for you, that meets your time and funding availability and pursue it! The option is learning by osmosis which will work but will likely take much longer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Opening Up Canada's West

One of the challenges that I have faced researching both my family lines as well as those of my wife, Ellen, is the relative young age of Canada. This is especially problematic due to the involvement of our family branches in Canada's western, specifically the prairie provinces.

My Hadden family ancestors first immigrated from Scotland to Saskatchewan around 1907 when Helen 'Nellie' Shand and her husband Andrew Gammie took up a homestead near Aneroid, Saskatchewan. I have recounted previously, how in 1923, my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden answered his mother's call for some help and he left Scotland with his wife and children and put down Canadian roots that I can now call my own.

I have not yet found Helen and Andrew in the 1911 census records but they appear in the 1916 census records of the Canadian prairie provinces.

Saskatchewan only became a province on Sept. 1, 1905, meaning that are only three publicly available set of census records - 1906, 1911, and 1916. As my family was still in Scotland in 1906, I'm limited to the two remaining record sets.

But (!) thanks to a stalwart group of volunteers, additional Saskatchewan information for genealogists is becoming available - one plot at a time! I have found through the Saskatchewan Cemeteries Project website a small treasure trove of burial locations, date information and numerous gravestone photos of many Latimer ancestors (Ellen's family). A special thanks to volunteer Val Thomas who photographed and indexed the Benson Cemetery, the final resting place for several of Ellen's relatives.

The Saskatchewan cemeteries site contains the transcriptions of more than 1,000 of the province's more than 3,300 cemeteries so while there is still lots of work to do before the 'project' is complete, great work has already been done and made available. The site provides a listing of the transcribed cemeteries along with the municipality to which they are associated.

More than just cemetery transcriptions, the site also includes an obituary index with links to the obituary text that unfortunately does not seem to allow the 'copy and paste' function. This technological aspect is in my opinion not helpful. However, the obituaries, if you find one connected to your family as I did with Ellen's Latimer relatives, are typically full of great information about family members but also about the deceased and their life in the community.

Keep up the good work Saskatchewan Cemeteries Project volunteers!