Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a healthy and very prosperous Happy New Year!

The year 2013 has been surprisingly busy, especially considering my retirement status, but it has also been filled with exciting new adventures, new genealogy discoveries, and most gratifying a number of new connections with previously unknown and unmet cousins.

May 2014 bring on more of the same.

Stay safe.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Christening Tradition - Or Ted's Great Christening Adventure

Recently, while attempting to organize old family photos, well, at least get them all together and safely stored in one place, I was simultaneously taking the time to scan photos that I knew I had not converted into an electronic format.

I love family photos. They capture moments, usually important moments, of family gathering and celebrations like birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc. 

A few of the photos that I scanned really caught my attention as one of the main subjects in the photos was my wife's father, Carl Wagner, wearing his army uniform and holding an infant. On the reverse side of the photos, notes about the photos had been written by Ellen's mother, Tess (Olive Theresa Evelyn (nee Latimer) Wagner). The photos were from Ellen's oldest brother Ted's christening. That Ted (formally Carl Edward Wagner) was christened came as no surprise but rather it was the generations of family members who attended the christening that fascinated me.

In the photo above, Ted as an infant is being held by his great grandfather, Rev. Louis Henry Wagner in front of the church in which the christening took place. Unfortunately the name of the church is not identified. 

Tess' note on the reverse of the photo offers much to the family history. She wrote, "Baby Carl 15 weeks old! Great Grandfather Wagner christened him this Day! This is the church too. Grandfather 86 years old and he had christened wee Carl, his father Carl and Grandfather Louis Wagner! Grandfather Wagner was so proud to do this!"

Grandfather Louis Wagner, referred to in the note is not present in any of the christening photos. It is probable that he was unable to attend the christening as he lived in Saskatchewan, Canada at the time and the christening took place likely in London, Ontario.

Two additional photos from the same family celebration were of special interest but needed a bit of research to identify the family members depicted. In the photo below, the reverse side of the photo noted that 'Baby Carl' or Ted was with "Great Great Aunt Alma and Adolph."

Well, following some digging I learned that Great Grandaunt Alma was Margarette Otilla Alma Bean, the half-sister of Great Grandfather Rev. Louis Henry Wagner. Their mother, Margaret Hailer had married Daniel Bean (Biehn) following the death of her first husband Rev. Jacob Wagner. Adolph was Alma's son Paul Adolph Bender, making him Ted's first cousin twice removed. Alma's husband and Adolph's father, Alfred C. Bender is also in the photo, standing on the left.

Finally, here is a photo which is described by Tess Wagner as "4 Generations - Grandfather, Father, Great Aunt Florence, Baby Carl."

It was the Great Aunt Florence reference that had me puzzled. After some digging, I learned that 'Great Aunt Florence" was Margaret Florence Wagner who married Norval Laverne Knetchel. 'Florence' was Rev. Louis Henry Wagner's daughter from his second marriage. Louis had married Sarah Lodema Moyer in 1889 following the death of his first wife Mary Staebler in 1887.

I do love old family photos and the moments they capture!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lest We Forget - The Hadden - Wagner Families Wall Of Honour

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we pause to reflect and remember those who went before us, bravely sacrificing their youth and in too many cases their lives, for our freedom.

The following is the list of those known brave ancestors, some from my family and some from Ellen's, who gave so much. Today especially, we remember them. They shall not be forgotten.

World War I

GAMMIE, James (1895-1918), Private, Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, killed in action

GAMMIE, Peter (1893-1984), Private, Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force

GORDON, Alexander Garrow Duncan (1891-1917), Private, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, killed in action

MERNER, Albert Edward 'Herbert' (1897-1917), killed in action

TRIGGS, James Little (1899-1916), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy, killed in action

TRIGGS, Phillip (1899-1967), Cabin Boy, Royal Navy

FINDLATER, William (1880-1918), British Army, died at home from wounds

World War II

SENATO, Nicola F. (1913-1945), U.S. Army, killed in action, Japan

NUSBICKEL, Thomas Raymond (1923-2002), U.S. Army

GAULL, George Leonard 'Lenny' (1920-2013), Canadian Armed Forces

MORGAN, Bruce Evan, M.D. (1924-2007), Navigator, Canadian Air Force

WAGNER, Carl Francis (1917-1993), Canadian Armed Forces

WAGNER, Gordon Gilbert Henry (1914-1994), Canadian Armed Forces 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Great Grandaunt Emily Visits The Latimer Family In Canada

It was the Spring of 1933 when Emily (Squires) Wiggin set off on a trip around the continental United States and Canada. A year earlier, Emily became a widow when her husband Charles died in their home state of California. This trip would take her from the Pacific to the Atlantic and then north through Canada on her return home. The trip would also include a two-day visit in Orillia, Ontario to see how her niece, Mattie (Knox) Latimer was getting along.

(from left to right, Knox Latimer, Emily (Squires) Wiggin, Mattie (Knox) Latimer, and Albertine Latimer)

Mattie was the oldest child and only daughter of Emily's older sister Amy (Squires) Knox. Amy and her husband Thomas were solid fixtures in California where Thomas had served for many years as Postmaster and Mayor of Livermore and then as a County Supervisor.  Mattie had not remained in California however, moving to Canada soon after marrying Edward Latimer in 1906.

Fortunately, Emily kept a diary of her trip and so we learn directly from her that on Saturday, May 6, 1933, she arrived in Toronto at 7:45 a.m. to a downpour where she was welcomed and greeted by Charlotte (Latimer) Mullett, the sister of Edward Latimer, Charlotte's daughter Doris Mullett, and Albertine 'Abby' Latimer, Edward and Mattie's eldest child who would accompany Aunt Emily to Orillia for her visit.

(left to right, Tess Latimer, Albertine 'Abby' Latimer, Emily (Squires) Wiggin, and Mattie (Knox) Latimer)

After a breakfast of coffee and toast, Aunt Emily and Abby reached Orillia by train around noon where they were met by Abby's brother Knox Latimer. As Emily described the visit, "After dinner with Mattie and family, who all gave me a warm welcome, we went through a nearby hospital, then Knox took us, Mattie, Tess [Tess was Ellen's mother Olive Theresa Evelyn (Latimer) Wagner] and me for a ride in a truck to a Park and Statue of Champlain...Hazel and Jack also came over to see me. Had a most enjoyable day."

(Edward Knox Latimer, May 1933, Orillia, Ontario)

It sounds like it was also a tiring day, for in her entry for Sunday, May 7th, Emily starts off with, "Everybody slept late, but all were on hand for dinner. Ed [referring to Mattie's husband Edward Latimer] not so hilarious today as yesterday."  Following a Sunday afternoon drive around the town of Orillia to see the sites, Emily caught the 7:10 p.m. train back to Toronto where she purchased some post cards and her train ticket to Vancouver. After commenting in her diary that "Albertine was lovely and invaluable," she "went to bed right away on the train and slept well."

(Olive Theresa Evelyn 'Tess' Latimer, aged 13, May 1933, Orillia, Ontario)

Finally, my sincere thanks to Ellen's cousin Pam Marino of Jamestown, California for the previously unseen by us photos and diary pages for which she granted permission for me to share with other family members through this post!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I don't 'celebrate' Halloween as I once did. It is a day for the kids. I'm older and my children have all left the nest. I don't remember ever attending an adult Halloween party, the gatherings of adults harkening back their fun times as children dressing up but now with candy typically replaced with adult beverages and costumes developed mindfully for an unspoken contest of creativity and provocation. 

But I do have great memories of Halloweens gone by, both as a kid myself and then, years later, with my own children.

There were the pumpkins to carve, an opportunity to show your children your knife skills, or at least pretend that you possessed those skills. The carving challenge for me was to try an replicate what I watched my own father do with a pumpkin annually. I never possessed the artistic talent of my father so my carved pumpkins had faces that were simplified versions of those that adorned my parental home. For my late wife, Karen, the carving meant there were pumpkin seeds to roast, a tasty treat I never could quite appreciate as she, and I think the kids, did.

And of course, the kids needed costumes. In our house, we stayed away from the plastic store bought variety, opting to make our own. Well, at least my late wife Karen did the making of costumes, knowing that fashion was never one of my strong suits. In 1988, it was a giraffe, a princess and an ewok that left our house in search of treats.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Work Life Chronicled In A Novel

A friend and former work colleague, now author, Stephen Lonsdale informed me through Facebook that his newest novel Inside Looking Out was now available on (It's currently on sale for only $9.96, a bit cheaper than the low price I paid a couple of weeks ago).

While I have posted a lot of information about ancestors, I have shied away from posting the story of me. As a genealogist, I have trained myself to look for and analyze records left by and about family members. A fictional novel is not the place to seek out information. 

But now, Stephen's novel Inside Looking Out tells the stories of the early years of my professional career with the provincial government in Ontario, Canada. Inside Looking Out is the author's semi-autobiographical account of his entry into the world of Corrections, the significant impacts that world had on his life, and the winding journey that brought him to where he is today. Inside Looking Out chronicles the first few years of my public service career as I shared many parts of Stephen's journey and was present for some of the frightening, even traumatic, events that are recounted.

I began my career as a correctional officer. It wasn't my first choice of jobs and I knew it was a disappointment to my parents. Having been the first of my family to graduate from university, my parents had much higher expectations than to brag about their son the jail guard. But I needed a job as the one I had at the time was winding down. I had my sights set on becoming a probation officer, a position that required the university credential. In order to access the probation jobs, I needed to get a position, any position, in the Corrections department. My late wife Karen and I had only been married two years but had purchased our first house and I needed a secure job to make the mortgage payments. The position paid $6.67 per hour plus benefits to start. Karen and I were thrilled with our good fortune. What I didn't know is that I got the job as a Correctional Officer in one of the most dangerous institutions in Canada! And that is where I met Stephen Lonsdale.

Although the names of the people have been changed in Inside Looking Out, I recognized many of the characters. I know the real names. For example, David Evans, the novel's protagonist, was hired to be a Correctional Officer by the institution's administrator Iain Wallace, accurately described as a bombastic, old Scotsman. That same administrator hired me after first confirming that based on my name, I was also Scottish. You can see how family history played a key role in my life.

I was present and witnessed many of the events that the author writes about in Inside Looking Out. Those of us who shared in those incidents and worked in that institution at that time know the true identities of the novel's characters and we can attest to the accuracy of the stories told. It was a tough work life and one that I wasn't permitted to speak about at home because it frightened my wife to know about the environment I left our happy home to work in each day.

I worked hard in my Corrections career and over the course of time, I was eventually promoted to the position of Superintendent - the equivalent of a Warden in the United States or a Governor in the United Kingdom. I left Corrections many years ago for family reasons and thoroughly enjoyed working in other areas of the provincial government. But, I am most proud of leading the redesign and introduction of a new (and still current) uniform worn by the province's Correctional Officers. I was also the first to wear a Superintendent's uniform in the history of the province (as far as I know).

If you are looking for a really good book to read, I recommend going over to and doing a search for Stephen Lonsdale to purchase Inside Looking Out or one of Stephen's other books like Badon. You may also want to look differently at novels in the future when you are researching your family history. I know I will. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

School Photos Document Part of the Journey

For the past several decades many of us were lined up at school to have an annual 'school' photo taken. Sometime later, the photo packages with an assortment of different sized photos were handed out along with the instructions to take the photos home, show our parents, and if the photos were wanted, parents could pay to keep them.

If you're like me, and my children after me, the photos were considered to be somewhat of an embarrassment but to my Mom, they were delightful and of course, they were paid for, kept and then stored in a nondescript cardboard box tucked on a shelf in my parent's bedroom.

I don't have the 'full collection' of my school photos but managed to retain a few, and make digital copies of them , covering several years. 

Recently, many genealogists on Facebook shared their high school graduation photos. It got me to thinking about how these school photos over the years document the journey of our growing years. They also speak volumes about the times we grew up in particularly, I think in my case, the hairstyle, or lack thereof.

Here is how those school photos documented me:

Elementary School - probably around 1962 or 1963

High School - Grade 10 in 1969 (the cut back area on the left side of my hair was caused by doctors who cut my hair in order to stitch a cut caused by stopping a hockey puck during a game. I was the goalie on the team.)

 High School Graduation from Grade 13 (Ontario, Canada) in 1971

Graduation from the University of Toronto in 1976

While this is not a school photo, it is part of the journey. My wedding day photo in 1977, for which I tried to clean myself up a bit, when I married my late wife Karen Benedetto.

What about you? Do you still have your school photos? Are you happy with them or do you still think they are a bit of an embarrassment?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

PBS' Genealogy Roadshow - Good Format But What's The Back Story

PBS launched it's new genealogy based show yesterday called "Genealogy Roadshow." As an avid and interested genealogist with more than 30 years of experience plus a bunch of courses and conferences under my belt, I considered this to be 'must see' viewing for me.

The 'Roadshow' title immediately suggested to me the lines of folks seen on The Antiques Roadshow, each hauling an old family treasure in the hope that an expert would provide good news about the treasure's remarkable value and place in history. The Genealogy Roadshow doesn't disappoint - there are the long lines of folks seen outside the show's venue but, rather than carrying family antique treasures, they come with family stories and questions about relationships and connections.

D. Joshua Taylor and Kenyatta Berry serve as the experts who present the genealogical findings that answer the family history questions on the show. I think they both do an admirable job of presenting and explaining the genealogy evidence found through what had to be an exhausting amount of research. Both Josh and Kenyatta also do, in my opinion, a even better job in representing the genealogical community. They are not just clever but they also have a sense of humour and an ability to communicate a lot of information concisely, perhaps too concisely.

On the critical side, the show covers a lot of stories in it's fast paced format. Perhaps a few less stories and more depth would work better? 

While viewing the show, I was left puzzled as to how the guests were selected. It was clear that there had been some preliminary event when potential guests would have offered their family history queries however if I didn't know what I know about genealogy, I might have been left with the impression that the census records, city directories, archived letters would just appear on online.

That certainly seemed to be the impression of New York Times television reviewer Neil Genzlinger whose tepid review of the show appeared on September 22, 2013. In his review, Genzlinger states, "No frequent-flier miles are racked up by the guests on "Genealogy Roadshow." Mostly, its experts just show them computer screens full of census pages and such (research they could have done themselves with a little search-engine savvy)."

Now I know where I've gone wrong. I just need a little search engine savvy. I'm sorry to disappoint Neil but I think I have more than a little search engine savvy in addition to a pretty good idea of the type of records to look for and how to read them but still I can't find all the answers to some of my family's questions and mysteries.

"Genealogy Roadshow" might benefit from spending a little bit of time looking at the back story, that is the research process used to uncover the answers to the puzzles being solved for the on-air guests. For example, how did an unknown first cousin of a woman inquiring about the father she didn't know, just happen to be in Tennessee in order to step out from a group of onlookers with a two inch thick album of photos and mementos specially prepared for the occasion. 

"Genealogy Roadshow" succeeds in showing that answers are possible but I think the show needs to do more to explain how to make possible a reality.

What were your first impressions of the show?

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Faulkner Lineage - from Ellen to Edmond

In my last post, I included the photo below of Ellen standing beside the gravestone of her 7X great grandfather Edmond Faulkner, the earliest of Ellen's ancestors to leave Europe and settle in the New World.

Edmond left England around 1639 and settled in Massachusetts. He co-founded Andover, Massachusetts and was a founding member of the first church in Andover. Edmond died in Andover in 1687.

The following is Ellen's ancestral line back to Edmond:

1. Ellen Louise Wagner m. Ian Hadden

2. Carl Francis Wagner (1917-1994) m. Olive Theresa Evelyn Latimer (1920-1997)
3. Charlotte Marion 'Lottie' Faulkner (1890-1977) m. Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner (1886-1968)
4. Gilbert Wellington Faulkner (1856-1932) m. Sarah Blair (1864-1898)
5. Francis Dwight Faulkner (1811-1872) m. Eleanor Ann Kimmerly (1821-1896)
6. Sylvester Faulkner (1780-1863) m. Mary 'Polly' Cram (1781-1858)
7. Peter Faulkner (1743-1829) m. Chloe Cram (1750-1840)
8. Timothy Faulkner (1704- abt. 1746) m. Deborah Farnum (1702-?)
9. John Faulkner (1654-1706) m. Sarah Abbott (1660-1723)
10. Edmond Faulkner (1624-1687) m. Dorothy Raymond (abt. 1624-1668)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Family History Sneaks Into Our Vacation Trip

My wife knows that somehow, in some way, I will find a family history angle to pursue whenever and wherever we go away on a trip.

For the second year in a row, Ellen and I have traveled by car to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. These 'vacation' trips have been for the primary purpose of attending the annual open house at the Hope for Wildlife animal rescue and rehabilitation centre. We became aware of Hope for Wildlife through a television series about the efforts of it's founder Hope Swinimer and the many volunteers working to rescue, rehabilitate and release Nova Scotia wildlife. We certainly appreciate the great efforts made by these folks to return injured and orphaned animals back to the wild.

This year, we changed our travel plans by choosing a route for the journey that took us through the United States. In past, we have traveled to the Canadian maritime provinces using an all-Canada route.  This year's route allowed us to change the scenery and allowed me the opportunity to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, achieving a tick mark on my 'bucket' list.

Typically, we have driven for two long days to arrive at our maritime destination but now, since both Ellen and I are retired and can take the time, we slowed down and allowed ourselves four or five shorter days of travel by car. This year, the route we selected took us from our starting point in Ontario through New York state, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, back into Canada through New Brunswick and finally Nova Scotia.

On the second night of our trip, we stayed in Lexington, Massachusetts. I noticed on our drive there that many of the names of the towns we passed were connected in some way to Ellen's ancestors, her roots running deep in the New England states. At our hotel that night I used our iPad with the RootsMagic database app along with the Google maps application to locate the cemetery in North Andover, Massachusetts where Ellen's 7X great grandfather, Edmond Faulkner, is buried.

Using the location information, I programmed my GPS unit to direct us the next morning to about where the cemetery ought to be. So there we were, at the start of our third day on the road, standing in the Old North Parish Burying Ground.

There was only one way to find the grave of Edmond Faulkner - walk the cemetery, checking the headstone inscriptions as we went. Fortunately, this cemetery is not too large and within about ten or fifteen minutes, I found the gravestone for Edmond. 

Edmond Faulkner died in 1687. The headstone that now marks his grave was erected in 1905, I'm assuming as a replacement for a thinner, likely weather faded stone that was originally in place. The current gravestone is thick and heavy, bearing a bronze plaque that reads (my transcription):

To The Memory Of
Who was born in Kingsclear, England.
He came to America and settled 
in Andover.
He was one of the founders of the
first church in Andover in 1645.
Died January 18, 1687.
Erected by descendants of the
seventh generation.
In 1905 (this latter date is chiseled into the stone below the bronze plaque).

I still don't know the names of my 7X great grandparents but Ellen is more fortunate. Here she is at the grave of her 7X great grandfather Edmond Faulkner.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Visiting Granny

It has felt like we have hit a period of time when Ellen and I have attended more funerals than at any other time I can remember. We have even had funeral times conflicting with other funerals that we also wanted to attend. These are funerals for friends and former work colleagues who we have lost.

Last week, we attended the funeral of one of Ellen's friends, a woman who died at the very young age of 46, leaving her husband and young sons grieving her loss. 

The funeral was held at the Pine Hills Cemetery visitation centre in Scarborough (now part of Toronto), Ontario. This is also the cemetery in which my paternal grandmother is buried.

Agnes Little was born in Greenock, Scotland and immigrated to Toronto in 1928 with the grand sum of $10 in her pocket. I still shake my head in amazement when I think of the courage she had as a 20-year old young woman leaving the only home she had known to travel "half way around the world" in search of a brighter opportunity.

As her eldest grandchild, I had the chance to know 'Granny.' Maybe not all that well as I was only just approaching my fourth birthday when she lost her battle with cancer, but I do vividly and fondly remember her.

Granny was buried in Pine Hills Cemetery so, after the funeral, I took advantage of escorting Ellen to Granny's grave in order to make 'proper introductions.'

Granny possessed a beautifully thick Scottish brogue that she referred to as her passport. She was only four feet, ten inches tall but she was a force in the family. She was only 50 years of age when she left us but she is not forgotten and legacy lives on.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Don't Blink, You Might Miss It! - Lingelbach Cemetery

If you blink, you just might miss the Lingelbach Cemetery, a small cemetery located just east of the village of Shakespeare, Ontario.

Last month, while en route to the Merner family reunion, I almost missed it. Of course, I wasn't expecting to see it either.

When planning our trip to the family reunion, I knew that our route would take us through one of Ellen's ancestral towns, New Hamburg, Ontario, and so, I allowed time for us to visit the Riverside Cemetery there (I documented this stop in a previous post). After leaving Riverside Cemetery and new Hamburg, we journeyed along; Ellen likely happy that my cemetery roving was finished and me, well, I was happy to have finally turned Riverside Cemetery into something more than a name on a record.

My "Oh My God!" exclamation caught Ellen off guard as we traveled down Highway 7/8 towards Stratford, Ontario and our eventual destination of the reunion location in Seaforth, Ontario. No, I explained, nothing was wrong but I had just seen the sign for Lingelbach Cemetery, something we definitely had to stop and explore on our trip home.

Lingelbach Cemetery is small, well maintained and is located on the corner of the highway and regional road 104, just outside the eastern boundary of Shakespeare. Like Riverside Cemetery is was just a name, albeit a bit of a strange name, that I had seen many times contained in death and burial records for some of Ellen's ancestors. Now it was real and I had a chance to walk it's few rows of graves, occasionally stopping to photograph the grave of a known ancestor and pay my respects to them.

Below is one of the ancestral graves found, that of Israel Eby (1850 - 1903) and his wife Mary Anne Witwer (1854 - 1932), Ellen's first cousin, three times removed.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fun With the 1921 Census of Canada?? Finding the Foley and Gaull Families

Well, the day finally arrived. The images of the 1921 Census of Canada became available through yesterday at 2:00 p.m. EDT and I immediately began the process of searching for family members.

Ancestry is working on a nominal index for the census records but that searchable index is estimated to not be available for about two or three months. In the interim, the 1921 Census of Canada images are available indexed on a geographic basis. Ancestry describes this geographic index this way, "For the 1921 census, each province was divided into census districts. These districts were divided into sub-districts. Districts were roughly equivalent to electoral districts, cities, and counties. Sub-districts were typically towns, townships, and city wards."

As my paternal Hadden family members did not arrive in Canada until 1923, I focused on finding my maternal Foley ancestors. I knew that one of my maternal great grandfathers, John Foley and his family lived on Pickering Street in the east end of Toronto.

I chose the Province of Ontario and the Toronto East district. This provided me with a list of 70 sub-districts to choose between, including the inmates of the Toronto 'Don' Jail. Some of the sub-districts had geographic boundary descriptions, in rather fine print, that assisted me in eliminating them from my search. I also grew up on Pickering Street so I know all the various street names in the neighborhood. Nothing seemed to match; nothing seemed to be even remotely close geographically. 

Convincing myself that I was simply misreading or misunderstanding the sub-district listing, I began browsing through the images of the Toronto East sub-districts. No, I had been correct. The enumerated streets were in Toronto's east end but still quite a distance from Pickering Street.

A moment before I was about to inform Ancestry that they had forgotten to upload my great grandparent's sub-district, I took a moment of forced calm to again review the available district list. At the bottom of the list I found York East  and scrolling the the sub-district listing I saw street names attached to sub-district 37 that were from my old neighborhood.

Finally, in sub-district 39, I found Pickering Street!

Listed on page 17 of the sub-district census record, living at 96 Pickering Street, was my great grandfather John Foley, his second wife Annie (nee McElroy), and three of his children - Gerald (my namesake misidentified in the census record as Clarence (Clarence was married and was found living in his own home at 9 Pickering Street), my then 23-year old grandmother Gertrude, and John Joseph Foley.

All of the frustration in locating known family members dissolved  But who else was living in the area?

Scanning through the census pages, I found George Gaull, my paternal Hadden great grandmother's brother. George was a driving influence in my family's decision to settle in Toronto's east end after their immigration from Scotland and a few years of farming in Saskatchewan. George and his wife Mary (nee Coulson) can be found living at 67 Pickering Street, a house from which he operated his grocery store. With them was their one-year old son George Leonard 'Lenny' Gaull as well as George senior's sister Elsie Findlater and brother William Fowler Gaull. I knew that Elsie had lived in Toronto for some time before returning 'home' to Scotland but I was unaware that William Gaull had joined his siblings in Canada. According to the record, William arrived in Canada in 1920 and in 1921, he was working as a labourer at a lumber yard, perhaps the lumber yard that was located just a few blocks away from their house.

Patience, something I don't possess a lot of at times, ruled the day. If you are going to search images that are not yet indexed, it can handy to pack a little extra patience in your tool box.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Riverside Cemetery, New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada

Earlier this month, Ellen and I attended the Merner Family reunion, held in Seaforth, Ontario. You can read more about the reunion and our participation by clicking here.

After having researched Ellen's family history for several years, there are certain places that I just feel compelled to visit. Perhaps it's because I have entered the same village or town name into my genealogy database or maybe it's an intriguing family event that I hope a visit might allow me to feel like I am experiencing the event in its proper context.

Riverside Cemetery is one of those places. For many years, as I have 'found' more of Ellen's Merner ancestors, typically they have been buried in New Hamburg's Riverside Cemetery. Even many of those ancestors who had moved away from the New Hamburg community, were returned to their ancestral town for burial.

The trip to the reunion location took us right through New Hamburg so I couldn't resist the temptation to locate the cemetery and try to find the graves of Ellen's ancestors whom I have come to know so well.

Riverside Cemetery is located in the south end of the town, away from the business section located north of the highway. It is a large, well maintained cemetery which, with some pre-trip Google map planning and a GPS unit, was very easy to find. Unfortunately, we visited on a Sunday so there was no office staff available to provide directions on where to locate the graves I wanted to find. Even though it was possibly the hottest day of the year, I was okay with that as I am like a 'kid in a candy store' when it comes to walking around an ancestral cemetery searching for family members; and, I found Merners, lots and lots of Merners.

It is important to note, if you are planning a trip to this cemetery, that the east side of the cemetery is also known as Holy Family Cemetery; the eastern part serving as the Roman Catholic section. Although the Merner family as well as the other main branches of Ellen's family tree were predominantly Methodists or Lutherans, there were many Roman Catholic Merner family members. The graves of these family members were eventually located in the eastern Holy Family section.

Below is a photo of Ellen at the grave of her 3X great-grandparents, Jacob Emanuel Merner (Muerner) and his wife Susannah Schluchter. Jacob died in 1869 and Susannah in 1875. Their gravestone is well worn and the inscription is not in English but their names, dates of birth and death, as well as their ages at death are clearly legible.

Perhaps the most touching family gravestone was found at the graves of Jacob Ernst and his wife Clarissa Merner. Jacob and Clarissa are buried together in Riverside Cemetery along with their son Walter who died in 1901 of appendicitis at the age of just 14. Below is a photo of the statute erected as a memorial to Walter. The base of the memorial statue is inscribed "Our Darling Boy."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Earl Burchatzki's Hole-in-One History

Recently, I was in New Hamburg, Ontario and specifically I was visiting Riverside Cemetery. 

While I have seen photos of Riverside Cemetery through websites such as Find-A-Grave, this was my first time visiting and searching for the gravestones of Ellen's ancestors who had lived and died in the area.

While wandering through the cemetery (on one of the hottest days of the year!), I came across the gravestone for Earl W. Burchatzki and his wife Grace A. Irvine. Neither Earl nor Grace have any family connection to Ellen or I but their gravestone gave more information about them than most. In addition to providing Earl and Grace's years of birth and death, their gravestone provided their date of marriage - September 29, 1945, likely I'm assuming soon after Earl returned home from military service in World War 2.

Okay, maybe that's not so remarkable in and of itself but the inscription on the reverse side of the gravestone shows the pride and love Earl (again I'm assuming) had for the love of golf. 

On the reverse side of the gravestone, neatly chiseled and preserved for future generations to see are the dates and lengths of the two holes on which Earl achieved a hole-in-one at the Foxwood Golf Course in nearby Baden, Ontario.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Merner Family Reunion - July 14, 2013

For several decades, a Merner family reunion has been held in southwest Ontario. Typically, about 50 descendants of Jacob Emanuel Merner and his wife Susannah Schluchter, gather to catch up on family news, spend fun time together, and share a meal. A few years ago, on the reunion's 50th anniversary, between 200 - 300 Merner descendants attended. This year, the reunion gathering was held on Sunday, July 14th in Seaforth, Ontario. Ironically, Ellen and I have been to the town of Seaforth previously on a genealogy quest as her direct maternal family line, the Latimer family settled in Seaforth following their immigration from Ireland. The Merner family is one of Ellen's paternal ancestral lines.

One set of my wife Ellen's 3X great grandparents are Jacob Emanuel Merner and his wife Susannah Schluchter. The descendants of Jacob and Susannah Merner have been documented in Ruth Merner Connell's book on the Merner family genealogyAs I mentioned in previous posts, Ellen's family was not documented in the book because, well, simply put, whomever in her family might have been contacted by Ruth Connell in the early 1970's didn't reply to the inquiry.

Fortunately that changed this year. One of the reunion organizers, Marg (Merner) Nicholson decided to search out some information about Senator Samuel Merner, one of Jacob and Susannah's children. Ellen is descended from Samuel's sister Anna Merner, whereas most of the reunion participants are descended from a younger brother, Gottlieb Merner. As a result of her information search, Marg found my blog post about Samuel and his connection to Ellen. Emails were subsequently exchanged between Marg and I and the invitation to the family reunion was extended and accepted. 

The reunion was held at the Seaforth Golf and Country Club where family members were able to enjoy a round of golf together while their children participated in various games at a nearby park. The event was capped off with a barbecue dinner. Below is a photo of Ellen (centre) with her new found cousins and family reunion organizers Liz Bartliff (left) and Marg Nicholson (right).

What a great experience to find and meet so many family members who warmly welcomed their long 'lost' cousin!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Finally! My Journey Through Ruth Connell's Merner Genealogy Is Complete

Back in mid-April, I happened upon a book compiled by the late Ruth Merner Connell on the Merner family genealogy. Ruth's effort to produce the book must have been enormous. 

The book, published in 1976, is about 600 pages long, all hand typed (no computer word processing software available in those days) and includes old family photos and an index of the 2000 Merner family members that Ruth was able to document.

Ruth Merner Connell is my wife Ellen's third cousin, once removed. Their common ancestors are Ellen's 3X great grandparents, Jacob Emanuel Merner and Susanna Schluchter. It is these common ancestors that Ruth Merner Connell used as the focal point of her family research, essentially setting out to identify and document all of the descendants of Jacob and Susanna.

Ruth did not enjoy modern social media opportunities, no Facebook page, no Tweets, and no email. She completed her project through 'snail' mail and numerous trips to cemeteries and archives.

When I found Ruth's book, I undertook to enter the information she had compiled into my genealogy software database. Now, some two and one half months later, I have finished the task. Entering all of the information into my database is not without risks. It's a bit like copying someone's public family tree, like those found and much maligned, on the site. I not only entered Ruth's genealogy information but ran the risk of entering all of her mistakes and fact errors as well.

In order to mitigate this very real risk, I checked her facts as I entered the information by taking advantage of using online databases and record collections. Certainly I found some errors in dates, for example a birth or death date being incorrect by a day, but for the most part Ruth's information is accurate. She received the information she published directly from the family members that she was documenting. Ruth also cited her sources although certainly not in the citation form that would be preferred today. On each page Ruth listed where she obtained her information; from family members, family bibles, cemetery records, etc.

As a result of completing my task of entering the Merner family information, my database has swollen to 15,763 people in 5105 families. And, perhaps most importantly, I have entered the source of the information for each and every fact that was entered. I have uploaded this updated family tree to as a public member tree.

The sad note on the Merner genealogy that Ruth published is that on page 272 of her book, Ruth lists Ellen's great great grandparents, Anna Merner and Jacob Staebler. There is also a note from Ruth on the page: "No contact has been made on this family." The result is that Ellen's family is not included in the book beyond the information about her great great grandparents.

This may be remedied though as there are efforts underway to update Ruth's book. I hope to do my part in assisting in those efforts in any way that I can or may be asked.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Are My DNA Results Propelling Me Into A Whole New Direction Of Research?

Last year I decided to venture into the unknown, at least to me, realm of genetic genealogy by completing a DNA test. I completed both a Y-DNA and autosomal test using the services of Family Tree DNA. I shared an overview of the Y-DNA test results in November and the autosomal test results in December.

I really had low expectations about the test results connecting me with a lot of new cousins. Rather, I was just plain and simple curious. What haplogroup did I belong to? What would my DNA test results indicate about my deep ancestral past? I found the results to be useful and perhaps even mildly amusing.

All of that seems to be changing now. I have been contacted by researchers who are very seriously examining the possible, maybe likely, connection between the Hadden family in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and the Hadden family of County Tyrone, Ireland.

A connection between the two families has been at least anecdotal  based on references in old family letters written by the Irish Haddens to visiting the home of their 'old ancestors' in Aberdeen. As it appears likely that the 'Irish Haddens' may have left Scotland about 400 years ago, there are no written records found to date that can confirm the family connection.

That's where my DNA comes in and may prove it's worth. I can confirm my Hadden ancestral roots in Aberdeenshire. My grandfather left Aberdeen with his parental family in 1923. Many generations of my Hadden ancestors lived in or around Aberdeen, Scotland and there are fortunately plenty of paper records that verify these facts. 

Family Tree Finder test results indicate that there are 978 matches of my Y-chromosome DNA with the Y-DNA of others in their database. Only six of the 978 are an exact Y-DNA match and bear the Hadden surname. Interestingly, three of these six individuals can trace their roots to County Tyrone, Ireland in the early 18th century. Of the remaining three exact Hadden matches, two do not list their most distant Hadden ancestor and one has traced his Hadden ancestry to  mid-18th century Pennsylvania in the United States.

So did one of my Hadden ancestors move himself and possibly his family from Aberdeenshire, Scotland to County Tyrone, Ireland sometime around 1600 - 1650? I don't know right now but working with other researchers, who fortunately are much more knowledgeable in the field of genetic genealogy than I am, I may find out, and soon!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From Tragedy To Dare - The Doerr Family Connection

As I shared in my last post, I have been carefully examining the excellent work of the late Ruth Merner Connell who self-published a genealogy of Ellen's ancestral Merner family in 1976. The book has been an excellent resource helping me to add on to the Merner family information I had already discovered. As I have entered each fact into my genealogy database from the Merner genealogy book, I am careful to ensure that nothing is entered without a source citation. 

In addition  I have been 'auditing' the contents of the book to ensure that the facts it presents can be verified with primary source documents, something that Ruth Connell used when available but didn't always have easy access to. I am about half way through the book and have been impressed to find that about 98% of the facts it contains are accurate. Small errors occur likely due to typographical errors (the book is about 600 pages long and each paged was typed on one of those old-fashioned things called typewriters).

Among the stories that I have uncovered was that of Irene Nelda Merner, Ellen's second cousin twice removed. Irene was a great granddaughter of Ellen's 3X great grandparents Jacob Emanuel Merner (Muerner) and Susanna Schluchter. 

Irene's father Ammon Merner was a hard working machinist/moulder who worked in the town of Waterloo, Waterloo County, Ontario where Irene was born in 1890. At the age of 26, in 1916, Irene married a young man from Berlin, now Kitchener, Ontario, named Weybourne Doerr. The newlyweds settled into married life in Kitchener and in July of 1917, their little family expanded when their first child, a son they named Carl Merner Doerr, was born.

The year 1918 however brought tragedy to the family as both Irene and her husband Weybourne died, within two days of each other, as a result of the 'Spanish grippe' or pandemic flu. Carl was orphaned at just fourteen months of age and would be raised by his paternal grandparents, Charles Henry Doerr and his wife Susannah Wagner.

Grandfather Charles Doerr had established and operated a small 'grocery' store and biscuit bakery in Berlin, Ontario. Charles brought his grandson Carl into the business and began teaching him the ways of business world. In 1941, when he was just 24 years of age, Carl was forced to take over the business when his beloved grandfather died.

Carl, Ellen's third cousin once removed, continued to grow the business and in 1945, he changed the family and company name to Dare. The company is now one of the largest food companies in North America, known for Melba Toast, Viva Puffs, Bear Claws, Real Fruit Gummies, Wagon Wheels (one of my favourites as a kid), and a large variety of cookies. Carl's Dare Foods company was the first to introduce the resealable tin tie bag in 1954. Not only was Carl a great entrepreneur but he also demonstrated great philanthropy through contributions to the local symphony, hospital, conservation authority and through his foundational work in establishing the University of Waterloo.

Carl Dare/Doerr was inducted into to Waterloo Region Hall of Fame in 2008.