19 December 2014

Christmas 2014

Thank you, Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches ... posted some time ago on Facebook.

06 December 2014

Boleskine and Stratherrick Frasers: One Study

Herewith a study that demonstrates the underlying shortcomings of Scottish highland research. It's John Fraser again, my Argenteuil, Quebec, farmer. The long-term research goal has had multiple parts:
▪ find John's first marriage in Scotland to Ann (possibly Nancy) Fraser;
▪ find the baptisms of his two oldest children (Alexander, James) born to such a couple;
▪ find John's own baptism (range 1768-1776) and the names of his parents.

Research parameters included assumptions (assumptions can be dangerous, we know; but sometimes they are the only potential clues we have):
▪ that the local history saying John was a native of Inverness-shire is fairly accurate;
▪ that he was born ca.1776 (age at second marriage) OR ca.1768 (age on 1851/2 census);
▪ that his father was called Alexander or James (name of John's first and second sons);
that his mother was called Elisabeth, Ann, or Mary (names of his daughters).

From Scotland's parish registers (OPRs): utter fail in anything resembling solid information, mainly because sad excuse Scottish OPRs for so many highland parishes are missing erratic years of baptisms and marriages. Great periodic chunks of nothing. The serving minister in the 1790s parish account of Boleskine and Abertarf, states:
 For what reason we cannot assign, but we do not find that there has been any regular baptismal register, kept in this parish, for many years past.”[1]

Also, kirk session minutes often only survive from the nineteenth century when we need eighteenth century and earlier! Potentially helpful are monumental inscriptions (MIs) and the Old Statistical Accounts and sometimes local histories, but other sources such as estate papers, sheriff courts, tax lists, militia rolls, and so on, are usually available only in distant regional or private collections.
Boleskine Burial Ground; photo: WJ Millar, geograph,org.uk
Enter an unsourced reference to Boleskine, shire of Inverness, from an online "tree" (that unfortunately conflated three or four JohnFrasers of Quebec into one man). It was worth deeper investigation.

Combing the published Inverness-shire MIs produced any number of family possibilities that may ultimately be irrelevant. Parts of the surviving old stones are frequently illegible. In my case, each mention of an Alexander or a James on a stone had to be examined to see if my John Fraser would fit in their families. Example from Boleskine burial ground:
Flat Stone, erected by James Fraser, tacksman, Glindomore, died _[illegible]_, wife Elisabeth Fraser died 12 September 1789 age 67 years, son Hugh Fraser died 18 June 1797 age 22 years [2]

What analysis can I make of this, as applying to my John the farmer?

Names: The forenames are relevant although imperfect Highland custom, since James was the name of my John's second son, and Elizabeth was the name of his first daughter. Hugh is a compatible name as a possible brother for our John who used that name for his fifth son. All three names recur in John's descendants. If this was my John's family, the loss of parents and a brother may have influenced his decision to emigrate.

Place: Glindomore or Glendomore, sometimes Glendomere, has all but disappeared as a place name, but would have been a farm within the Lovat Fraser estates (one of which comprised the entire parish of Boleskine/Abertarff). The geographic location along the southeast area of Loch Ness is also known as Stratherrick.
From A Country Called Stratherrick
Status: In general, tacksman meant James was in charge of Glendomore land, beholden to Lord Lovat, with very likely an intermediary principal tacksman or wadsetter to whom he paid rent. In turn, a tacksman would have sub-tenants renting smaller holdings. Rent in former days largely involved agricultural produce and loyalty as a clan soldier. The complaisant system deteriorated when the English enforced draconian tax and proscription measures after “the ’45.”

James was the tacksman at Glendomore when he had the stone made ― one would guess when his wife was buried. We don’t know the year he died; there would have been a succession of tacksmen after him. The significance of "erected by" does not necessarily imply James was living when his son Hugh died in 1797. Perhaps his death shortly followed that of his wife and someone else added the inscription for Hugh. I can’t glean anything useful from neighbouring stones (the SGS publications provide a diagram of each burial ground).

Dates: Since his wife was born ca.1722, James’ birth year would be similar or earlier. He could easily have had a son born in 1768 or in 1776, but what about wife Elisabeth? At the age of forty-six (1768, the earlier suggested date for my John's birth) she would definitely be nearing the end of the conventionally accepted fertility span. Bearing a child at the age of fifty-four (1776) is not impossible but unlikely. Which brings us to the dates for their son Hugh, ca.1775–1797. The same questions apply regarding mother Elisabeth. Were dates on the stone carving deciphered accurately? Was Hugh actually a grandson? Birthing two children within two years is not in dispute; it's a matter of the mother's age.

Without access to particular regional or local sources, default to the Internet produced a great find regarding Glendomore: a horse tax list in 1797 for Boleskine/Abertarf parish.[3] It shows four Fraser men at Glendomore in two separate clusters: John and Hugh Fraser (taxed for one horse and two horses respectively); Malcolm and James Fraser (two horses and one horse). Because the two groups are separated by some MacDonalds, they appear to be two different households. We don't know if the groupings are fathers and sons, or brothers, or some other family configuration. Malcolm is a problematic name, not occurring in my family.
1797 Horse Tax List, Boleskine; NAS, E326/10/9/213
 "Date of assessment" is September 1797 which seems to eliminate this Hugh from being the man in the cemetery information unless the list had been compiled over many months. "Masters and Mistresses" seems to imply heads of, or adults, in households. One of these Fraser men would be the Glendomore tacksman because the right generally descended in one family line.[4] It would be merely a guess that John here fills that role simply because he is the first Fraser listed at the location. Could James in the second group be the erstwhile tacksman of the burial ground? Doubtful? — He would be eighty-five years old or more in 1797.

Back to the OPRs. Is there evidence of a James Fraser marriage to an Elisabeth in or near Boleskine parish between 1740 and 1775? ― “No matches” on ScotlandsPeople. A son Hugh born ca.1775 to such a couple? ― Not in the available baptisms. A son John born/baptized to such a couple 1767 to 1779? ― No. I can't even find a Malcolm born in Boleskine 1725-1782.

All I can say is it's possible that John in September 1797 was my ancestor who emigrated ca.1805 or that he belonged to the family of tacksman James. I can't support either hypothesis but I can't reject them altogether. There's simply not enough information or evidence for meaningful correlation. Is it a worthwhile exercise? Yes, but I am no farther ahead. Guesses, possibilities, probabilities; the spreadsheet is growing.

That's just one stone of dozens being examined. Why ever did I say my draft was ready for the big edit??

[1] Sir John Sinclair, digital images, The Statistical Accounts of Scotland (http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/link/1791-99/Inverness/Boleskine%20and%20Abertarff/ : accessed 3 October 2014), Vol. 20, County of Inverness (1791-99), Boleskine and Abertarf, p. 37.
[2] Alastair G. Beattie and Margaret H. Beattie, eds., Inverness District East, Monumental Inscriptions pre-1855 (Edinburgh: Scottish Genealogy Society, 1996; "Boleskine Old Churchyard," Boleskine parish, County of Inverness, no. 48, James Fraser et al.
[3] “Historical Tax Rolls,” digital images, ScotlandsPeople (http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/historical-tax-rolls/ : accessed 2 October 2014), Farm horse tax rolls 1797-1798, Volume 09 [includes Inverness-shire], sheet 213, September 1797; citing National Records of Scotland, E326/10/9/213.
[4] Sir John Sinclair, Statistical Accounts of Scotland ... Boleskine and Abertarf, pp. 21-22.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved. 

28 November 2014

The Book of Me (18)

Easing myself back into the blogging groove but way way way behind. Sorry about that, but Life has to happen sometime, somewhere, amidst the bevies of research and writing. Good question ... what is Life anyway. Some of the latest prompts are looking at that.

Chapters (Prompt 57)
Is your life divided into some? Can you easily reflect where one chapter ends and another begins? No problem, Julie. We were just speaking of Life, weren't we. Except each chapter is a book in itself, innit?
One: Schooling and Dance; Two: Wife and Mother; Three: Professional Genealogist. If I have a definable life I'm living Chapter Four now: Writer and wannabe world traveller. Lottery winner would be good too.

I'm tempted to add Chapter Last: she died. She gave up the ghost and went to join her ancestors (family historians' new favourite). Really? How do we think they will feel as we join their dusty group? We who scrounged and scrabbled into every possible private aspect of their lives. Do we think they will unilaterally embrace us? Some will, being the kindly and tolerant sort. I fully expect others may be as aloof and opaque as they are while I'm still corpus vivus. If there's any moral to the paragraph: do not miss the opportunity to write your own obituary.

What Do You See? (Prompt 58)
Uh huh, it's Life again, right? Is anyone saying the image of the glass is half-empty? Don't think so, no-one I know! Pass.

Task Reflections (Prompt 59)
Absolutely no. I am not describing each of my daily tasks. Too wretchedly boring. Comparing each task to a similar one undertaken by my ancestors? Feh. Consider the morning stumble to the bathroom. I'm grateful mine is a navigable path to a warm room even if it has a hideous fluorescent light. Trust me, I have experienced the ancestors' path to the outhouse and the world has made some excellent progress in certain household amenities.

Family Traits (Prompt 60)
Now this has some interest. Physical and other family traits exist; they can be surprising and uncanny. I often see a certain facial expression of my mother's cross my daughter's features. I marvel when I see my grandpa peering from my brother's eyes. I laugh when a nephew shifts into a particular pose common to the Dougall men. It's continuity, it's reassuring, the genes have tumbled around and slid into a new working order. Magic.

How Do You Measure Success? (Prompt 61)
Probably I view success and real achievement as satisfaction for a life well-lived. A life that sensibly maximizes personal skills, talent, growth. A life that gives good moments to the nearest and dearest and does as little damage as possible to anyone else. Awards are lovely, but it seems to me that maintaining a healthy inner balance is as important as the striving for goals. Maybe that will make sense when I re-read it. As for how others view us, concern about that at any stage of the journey should never be allowed to overpower us. The liberation of seniority: at my age the die is cast.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

17 October 2014

Book: The Lost Ancestor

Something a little different ...
The Lost Ancestor. By Nathan Dylan Goodwin. http://www.nathangoodwin.co.uk/, 2014.

Since I regularly critique mystery and crime fiction novels, I agreed to review―with a tiny bit of apprehension―Nathan Goodwin's The Lost Ancestor after receiving his direct marketing appeal.

I'm aware that the occasional genealogical colleague ventures into writing mystery fiction starring a genealogist as the detective. While I've not sought out examples, the few I've seen were not what I considered successful. No doubt most of us can come up with numerous juicy plot ideas from exposure to myriad ancestral problems that we've been asked to solve over the course of a career. But not only does a genealogist as protagonist need adequate knowledge of the subject and credible work habits; the novel itself requires good writing and structure. Readers with historical and genealogical experience also look for value-added, telling details.
Goodwin's novel is a dilly that sucked me right in (it's the second in a planned series after Hiding the Past). That's not an easy thing to do with my predilection for Scottish noir and Swedish perverse. Based in East Sussex, England, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier gets a dream job: find out what happened to the missing sister of an ancestor one hundred years ago. Mary Mercer was learning the ropes as third housemaid in an upper-class mansion (Downton Abbey fans will love the minutiae of Edwardian service life); she suddenly disappeared, leaving a hole in a family tree.

Straightforward assignment? Where would you look for her?

Family historians will recognize many of the sources Morton uses but some may surprise you. You might say certain unusual documents coincide rather conveniently to drive the plot, but Goodwin skillfully builds credibility. Check out Morton's elaborate mindmapping! Identity is only one issue as a strange, twisting scenario unfolds. 

I doubt that the research elements are intrusive for a non-genealogist reader, quite the contrary. Even better is how the author carefully paralleled Morton's progress with Mary's own story, a challenging device handled admirably. Dialogue and characters integrate naturally―a pet peeve of mine when it fails―with just the right touch of our hero's domestic life and a sense of his own family problems. There's more: someone is prepared to kill Morton to stop his meddling research.

Morton's methodology can scarcely be faulted although a few quibbles arise in sources or editing. A reference is made to a street address in Ontario as if Ontario (a province over four times the size of Great Britain) were a town. A passport was unnecessary for a British citizen to travel to Canada (but let's not kvetch on a minor point). Overly-long paragraphs can be a drag. Nevertheless, The Lost Ancestor is a winner in my books ... more, please!

Goodwin has found an engaging, lively "voice" in Morton Farrier. See if you agree with me. I'd love to receive some comments here.

[The Lost Ancestor was self-published on CreateSpace, an Amazon "independent publishing" unit. Paperback copies can be ordered on Goodwin's website; the Kindle version is currently only available in the UK and the US.]

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

10 October 2014

Giving Thanks

Monday, 13 October 2014. Second Monday of October. Thanksgiving Day in Canada.

An important thing for a genealogist to be celebrating with profound thanks is the discovery of new cousins. And yes, the growing list includes DNA matches being studied. This post is partly so my own extended family gets an inkling of the networks that develop, to which we all ultimately belong.

Yours truly has been blessed by the exchange of information with people I've never met. Another strange manifestation of the family history syndrome―probably bemusing to those with quite different preoccupations. All in a day's work for family historians (sounds good, but usually years of work).

Fellow bloggers know what I'm talking about, the "cousin bait" aspect of blog posting. Although some of my un-met cousins waaay precede the advent of blogging and most of them live waaay far away from me. Sometimes we grapple with finding a common language to communicate. Some of the shyer ones I still can't put a face on.

Not only am I delighted to share ancestral connections and research but the experience can go deeper. We discover that we share similar attitudes or values. We become penpals, friends. We attach family photographs. We discuss life. We worry when we don't hear from each other.

Cousins―some of you come with a whole support group of researchers, past and present. Not each and every one is even necessarily related but the enthusiasm is infectious. All I can say is WOW, the thrill continues.

So this is for you, my networking kin living all over the world―in Latvia, Estonia, Sweden; Scotland, Australia, Netherlands, England; the USA and Canada. A heartfelt thanks for your contact, your information, your encouragement, your friendship. May we continue to clear the ancient pathways and keep our roots strong.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

06 October 2014

The Book of Me (17)

Bring it on, Julie (founder of The Book of Me and our weekly prompter). I'm awash in prompts, embracing them. So how many prompts can I superficially seamlessly mess up collate this time.

School Trips (Prompt 54)
Easy. None. Some kind of underprivileged urchins we must have been. Sunday crocodile lines don't count, I suppose; the lines went two by two to church on Sundays ― รก la Ronald Searle's St. Trinian girls ― Westminster (United) for half of us and St Lukes (Anglican) for the other half. The second half had a much more interesting time in my opinion because they got to cross a bridge on their walk and the church interior was much more appealing to daydream in.

Movies (Prompt 55) 
I could go to town on this, but couldn't we all? I lost track of how many times I've seen The Red Shoes after counting twelve or thirteen (-serious-). Vicky Page was my fantasy alter ego.

On the Waterfront was a distant second with about six times but the childish crush on a once-magnetic Marlon Brando died a natural death. I haven't counted how many times viewing Jesus Christ Superstar but suffice to say I and my children can sing and act out every word of the entire film. Speaking of prompts (should unlikely circumstances arise), that could be me you hear, emoting "Everything's Alright" or "I Don't Know How to Loooove Him."

Obviously I'm a sucker for musicals. All of 'em. My brilliant dentist and I recently had a marvellous hour's exchange on the subject while he expounded on his Lincoln Centre subscription, Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly's notorious temper, and whether revivals of The King and I and Flower Drum Song are still dated. I of course offered grunts here and there with several appliances in my mouth. We did agree on some things. 

The Sound of Music doesn't count at all because it's everywhere and sorry I can't say the same for Oliver! ... You must know Fagin's (actor Ron Moody) brilliant "Reviewing the Situation" and "You've Got To Pick a Pocket or Two" but most underrated are the heartbreakers "Where is Love?" and "As Long as He Needs Me."

This is not to disparage any other movie genre because of course I am into thrillers and harried cops and louche detectives and courtroom drama. If only I could remember titles. And the names of each new crop of actors.

Clubs and Societies (Prompt 56)
Aahhh, good thing this came along, breaking away from movie world. Okay, I'm thinking. Well, The Health and Study Club was a loosely defined organization of my teenage years, given its title by the guy who could do the best Finland accent. Members of this fine club shall be nameless and faceless lest their grandchildren suffer grievous disenchantment with an image of staid, comforting, grandparently figures (it's a cover-up, kids).

Health? We drank a lot of beer and purple jeesus and partied every summer. We raced around in boats and cars. Nutritional snacks like trail mix and pizza and sushi weren't invented then. Or craft beer. Study? We made fun of our jobs or university programs or the business world and hardly ever got into trouble except with our parents. Some of us engaged with our future partners right then and there. Others experienced the cutting angst of teenage love.

One time we had an Opening of Navigation party which was a big deal at the Lakehead ― the opening, not the party ― but it did not become an annual event because it turned into an Al Capone-era party, the correlation or significance of which is entirely lost now, of course, and that was the night I discovered a guy hiding in my closet who scared me half to death, so we couldn't encourage more of that. (Sorry, practising for the run-on sentence competition.)

Other societies and clubs, later, were quite grownup. A list of professional organizations (genealogical, historical) would bore the pants off you. Somewhere in there I remember a poetry-writing club, a Russian movie club, a Winnipeg ex-pats club, a wine club, book-of-the-month club (ha ha), oh, and very briefly, the Temple Reef Yacht Club. Finishing number last in every race was frowned upon.

What am I forgetting? ... The Thunder Bay Autosport Club, I suppose. Rallies were okay but fiercely competitive; the logic of winter ice racing escaped me as the damage mounted. Then the hillclimbs and omg, the car I'd just sold was fit for the fibre-glass scrap heap. The driver ever after chose to wear a beard to hide the scar on his face. 

It looked like this. The car, not the scar.

On that note, ending this episode of the Book of Wretched Me.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved. 

23 September 2014

Seeking GORDONs

It's worth a try. Conventional genealogical wisdom (or plain general family wisdom?) says women are usually the "keepers" of family tradition, stories, souvenirs, photographs, heirlooms, and whatnot. Convention has proven true in many instances of my own families.

I've posted several times about my missing John Fraser the blacksmith; my lack of cousins has been a yawning black hole. The blacksmith had just four children. Aside from my direct ancestor, probably only one other has descendants who could hold potential keys. Maybe among them is the keeper of my missing stories.

The younger sister of my great-grandmother Catherine, Elizabeth (Eliza) Fraser married Alexander Gordon in Renfrew, Ontario on 30 October 1860.[1] Alexander was a lumber merchant in Pakenham Township, Lanark County, where the family lived in the 1861 and 1871 censuses. By 1881 they had moved slightly north to the town of Pembroke in Renfrew County and there they spent the rest of their days. Eliza died in 1891[2] but Alexander outlived her by many years. Both are buried in Calvin United Church and First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Pembroke.[3]

From Pembroke Observer 1 November 1916:

Gleaned from Alexander's obituary, the cemetery stones, census returns, and some superficial marriage searches, their children were:

i. ISABELLA M. GORDON born ca.1862, married at Pembroke 22 September 1886 Robert Booth, lumber merchant of Ottawa.[4]
ii. ANNIE FRASER GORDON born 1863, “at home” in 1916, died in 1933.
iii. ELIZABETH GORDON born ca.1864, “at home” in 1916.
iv. GEORGE GORDON born ca.1865 was a Canadian Senator from 1912 to 1942.[5] He married Alice Emma Parry in Dunnville, Ontario on 30 August 1894.[6] His North Bay home is heritage-designated; after being sold in 1985, his grandson Gordon Taylor donated many artifacts to the North Bay Museum.  
v. ROBERT W. GORDON born 19 April 1868, died 30 September 1911, buried in Pembroke;[7] married Jane R. Sparling 19 June 1895 in Pembroke.[8]
vi. ALEXANDER GORDON born May 1870 (1871 census).
vii. PETER GORDON born ca.1873; John Peter Gordon, civil engineer of Le Pas, married Mary Agnes Barr at Pembroke on 12 November 1913.[9]
viii. JAMES GORDON born ca.1875, perhaps the “ J.B.” of Toronto, overseas in 1916.
ix. KATE LILLIAN GORDON born ca.1879, married Douglas W. Gray, a physician in Kingston, on 20 April 1905.[10]

Now, wouldn't you think there would be a family historian among that crew?

If you recognize any of these families please run, don't walk, to your nearest computer and email me, brendadougallmerriman at gmail.com.

[1] “Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1928,” database, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 17 September 2011), Gordon-Fraser marriage (1860); citing Archives of Ontario microfilm MS 248 reel 14.
[2] “Ontario, Canada Deaths 1869-1938,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 17 September 2011), Elizabeth Gordon, no. 014427 (1891); Archives of Ontario, MS 935.
[3] Canadian Gravemarker Gallery, digital image (www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cangmg/ : accessed 30 September 2011), Eastern Ontario, Renfrew County, Pembroke and Satellite Communities, Calvin United Church and First Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Alexander Gordon family gravestones.
[4] “Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928,” digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 August 2014), Booth-Gordon, no. 010363 (1886); citing AO, MS 932.
[5] “Historical Buildings,” North Bay (http://www.cityofnorthbay.ca/living/history/buildings : accessed 21 August 2014).
[6] “Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928,” digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 August 2014), Gordon-Parry, no. 001697 (1894); citing AO, MS 932.
[7] Canadian Gravemarker Gallery, digital image (www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cangmg/ : accessed 30 September 2011), Eastern Ontario, Renfrew County, Pembroke and Satellite Communities, Calvin United Church and First Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Robert W. Gordon gravestone.
[8] “Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928,” digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2014), Gordon-Sparling, no. 010817 (1895); citing AO, MS 932.
[9] “Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928,” digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 August 2014), Gordon-Barr, no. 013289 (1913); citing AO, MS 932.
[10] “Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928,” digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 August 2014), Gray-Gordon, no. n/a (1905); citing AO, MS 932. The registrations at this time stretched across two pages; the second page of the folio was not filmed.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

18 September 2014

Je suis [presque] prest

First draft of my FRASER family history is almost ready for an editing round ... that semi-satisfied feeling when you've drawn a line and said no more flailing around on the unsolved bits and write down what you know. We are not talking opus magnum here: a modest couple hundred pages max. Editing can be a pleasurable experience as you try to stand back and examine whether you actually said what you meant to say.  

But editing is an onerous procedure when you work with a "camera ready" manuscript for print on demand. Adding a paragraph or a new sentence (sometimes even a word!) can throw the whole works out of kilter. Ditto for changing or reducing text. Each photograph or an illustration could need minor or major adjusting to keep its placement relevant to what it describes.

Now I find I must add a paragraph of specific caution about something we in the genealogy world know, but my family very likely does not. A paragraph to acknowledge and warn that "family trees" online ― that I rarely search ― can have serious flaws. And there you have the reason that I seldom search them. The corollary is that my family and descendants may not trust what a batty old lady has to say, preferring the graphic ease of online offerings.

As luck would have it, this week in an idle moment I threw care to the winds and entered a search engine. Lo and behold. Two contributors have conflated three or four Quebec JOHN FRASERs into one man. It's quite a stupendous achievement, especially with regard to the man born in 1776 who had a granddaughter born the same year. Two of the men are recognizably my John Frasers and one is likely a downriver (Saint Lawrence) stray from the 78th (Fraser) Highlanders. They have sourced a valid marriage, no question, but then turned the Argenteuil farmer into his son-in-law the blacksmith, awarded him three wives, and gave him a mega-passel of French-Canadian grandchildren. Both have given my female ancestor the spurious middle name of Marie.

I can't tell which, but one contributor probably followed the other's lead. Fellow bloggers and other genealogists regularly locate similar misappropriations and misattributions. It could be a full time job to keep up. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the errors haven't been compounded in even more trees.

However. Deep breath. One of the "trees" has given me two pieces of new (but let's say third-hand) information. First is the name of a birthplace for this hybrid John Fraser. The other is the alleged marriage of a John Fraser to an Ann McDonell; while it's very much out of place, if the record exists, it could be useful in eliminating other John Frasers.
Clan Fraser of Lovat hangouts, from the 16th century; Wikipedia.org
Learning the parish of Scottish origin for my Inverness-shire farmer John Fraser has been the canyon wall I beat my head on. While I've been slightly favouring Kiltarlity as the birthplace, I'm willing to give this "new" parish information a shot ― a foothold in the rock? ― once again hauling out the dog-eared OPR sheets from ScotlandsPeople and the equally tattered copies of Inverness-shire Monumental Inscriptions (Scottish Genealogy Society) for the parent-who-ought-to-be-named Alexander or James.

Meanwhile, peer wisdom calls for contacting the contributors with a thoughtfully composed message. Will the source of the parish info be revealed? Will it have creds? Hopefully we will exchange pleasantries and further information on all sides. Corrections will ensue and possibly mutual discoveries will unfold. Right?

Almost ready, mais oui. Another line to be drawn.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman

08 September 2014

The Book of Me (16)

Yes ... been a while, I know. I was about to throw in the mythological towel until I heard from someone who actually follows this. Therefore I felt encouraged to collect a few of my aimless wits and plug away in pathetically disorganized fashion doing little some justice to a constructive meme. But, you know, scatter care to the winds and all that.

You do understand it can be boring and embarrassing to bafflegab* about one's self.

My missing prompts for The Book of Me range from numbers 43 to 52. They call for a massive burst of energy and lightning-like speed to play the catchup game. Or unobtrusively integrate as I would prefer to say.


I have indeed enjoyed childhood books, comic books, and hairstyles. Who could forget the archaic, beautifully illustrated Greek myths or Wonder Woman (in real life she morphed into Lynda Carter: so perfect) or "the Afro" (horrors, I may still have it, modified to about 1999). Yes, my ancestors did emigrate to this continent, as did all of ours, over whom I'm still labouring in several family histories. Luckily I've had more than my share of perfect days (and nights) out and a couple too many "first" homes. 

The occasional award came my way (runnerups don't count). Also I must report I cringe at the sound of my own voice on those old lecture tapes (remember cassettes?), not that I listen to any of them.

Yes, we actually had to wear those shorts for the sports curriculum.

That takes care of Prompts 43 to 49, and 51. ~~Doesn't it?~~ 

About the godparents (Prompt 50), I have an engraved christening mug so I must have 'em but can't truly report they ― whoever they be ― were monitoring the formative years of my education, religious or otherwise. Baptism certificate, where are you?

Plunging on to inherited items (Prompt 52), AH! - I could go to town here, pages of provenance for assorted treasures and mementos, but I already did that, ensuring my children will fall asleep reading a memo to my will and then argue over things like Dickensian street urchins. I will be dead and not have to listen.

But here is a favourite: a beloved chaise longue, pre- its fourth recovering, hauled and battered from one home to another, dog-chewed, cat-clawed, and all. It looks MUCH nicer now. Nature being what it is, the dog and cats have predeceased me.

My home town (Prompt 53) doesn't exist any more; gone, something like Brigadoon but not exactly. Merged into the ominous-sounding Thunder Bay. I guess we're used to it now, but damn, it's still The Lakehead.

The end. For a while.

* Credit where credit is due: I do believe the word was invented by Allan Fotheringham, one-time columnist for Maclean's and of other renown as a humourist.  

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

17 August 2014

Vengeance Served Cold (Over My Dead Body ...)

Sources for reconstructing a colonial life can be intermittent and frustrating. The personal touch is so often missing in the "factual" records we employ. How seldom we encounter the expressed feelings and thoughts of an ancestor. When we do, the thrill may quickly raise more questions than answers. Case in point reasonably exhaustive research rather than a solved research problem.

A prominent citizen in the London District of Upper Canada, Roswell Mount (ca.1797-1834) shockingly excoriated his wife Eliza in his will.[1] He lived in Caradoc township across the Thames River from Delaware township and a fledgling village. His premature death on 19 January 1834 was attributed to overwork and family stress.[2] An early surveyor in the district, an agent for the Crown lands department, and member of the legislative assembly for his home riding of Middlesex, Roswell had overextended himself physically and financially in re-settling a flood of recent immigrants.[3] Clearly a hard worker, the only local issue seemed to be controversy over his township surveys until at least 1856.[4]

Roswell's will was written and witnessed the day before he died in the town of York where the legislature was sitting. It was at the peak of a cholera epidemic and I wonder if the disease did him in. St. James Church in York was the setting for his solemn funeral and burial (along with a conjunctive service for Chief Justice William Campbell).[5] Newspaper reports do not mention if the widow was present, although his young son attended.

But why the rancour against Eliza?

... Because she, the wicked thing, had run away from him.

"Whereas my wife Elizabeth or Eliza has by her infidelity to my bed embittered a great part of my life, and caused me much unhappiness both on my own account and that of my dear and innocent children, and whereas not being willing to abandon and leave her destitute I did provide for her a suitable residence, and was willing and desirous notwithstanding her past unhappy and wicked conduct have allowed her a decent and respectable maintenance according to her degree separate and apart from me, and whereas she without any provocation from me departed from such residence and now lives with another, in open defiance of common propriety and decency, and whereas I have reason to be well assured that the second son born of the said Elizabeth or Eliza my said wife was conceived in adultery and is not my child, and whereas I am desirous that my dear children Charles and Eliza Amelia shall as much as possible be protected from the consequences of bad conduct and example of their mother, I therefore bequeathe to my said wife Elizabeth or Eliza my forgiveness and no more."[6]

Eliza had not run far. The object of her affections was a nearby man of considerable means: Simeon Bullen of Delaware. A man about twenty-five years her senior. How did the neighbourhood ― a very small population at the time ― react? Shunning? Or sympathy? Was Eliza's flight motivated by mad passion or desperate consolation? Did Roswell's financial pressures turn him into a domestic tyrant difficult to live with? Was Eliza a wanton woman, or simply neglected and vulnerable? Was the public scandal of adultery less onerous to bear than her marriage?

Illustrated Historical Atlas of the County of Middlesex, Ont. Toronto : H.R. Page & Co., 1878; McGill University Library, The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project (http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/countyatlas/)
Roswell was the son of Moses Mount and Jane Burtch, Loyalists who came to the Grand River area. Roswell's wife Eliza was the daughter of Gideon Tiffany who came to Upper Canada from America in 1794 as the King's Printer.[7]

Eliza left her husband well before the execution of his will. Yes, by then she had already borne Bullen a son named after her father.[8] Her two Mount children were then in schools at York.[9] The "bastardous" son Gideon Bullen was baptized several years after his mother remarried.[10] The day before their wedding, Simeon paid his bride £300 to buy her village lot in Delaware; perhaps it was a gesture to ensure her future security. Several Tiffany-Bullen-Mount transactions were registered on the same day.[11]

It seems the unusual circumstances preceding the belated marriage did not cause Eliza’s family to hold Bullen in disregard. Her father Gideon Tiffany was also a leading community figure. Property sales and exchanges continued among the Bullen and Tiffany families. Eliza and Simeon went on to have additional children and were ultimately buried together.[12]

The few later records of Roswell and Eliza's two Mount children — Charles (born 1821) and Elizabeth Amelia (born 1827)[13] — do not demonstrate any particular "protection from the consequences" of their mother's actions. They were perhaps even mentored by Bullen. Elizabeth Amelia married Orlo M. Mabee about 1847 and lived in Middlesex County until at least 1871.[14] Charles Mount disappeared from sight after reaching the age of majority when he signed over to Simeon Bullen his claim to his father's remaining properties.[15] Roswell's bones might have been spinning if he knew that. The son Gideon Bullen apparently vanished without being recorded in the 1851 and later census returns. The 1851 returns for London, capital of the district, are unfortunately missing; Delaware returns may be incomplete as men certainly living there at the time are also "absent."

Eliza Bullen lost her father Gideon Tiffany in August 1854.[16] His modest estate was valued at £10. In July 1855 the administration was granted to Frederick Tiffany of Delaware, one of his known sons. Another son, Dean Tiffany, was one of the sureties. Somewhat murky circumstances followed. About the same time, Gideon D. Bullen of Delaware tried to claim administration as a creditor, saying the estate was worth £50 and he was owed £10.[17] To substantiate his claim, he said — inexplicably — the deceased had "no next of kin within [the] province" but only a brother and sister in the U.S.A. (which was hogswallop: for one thing, deceased's daughter Eliza and two sons were demonstrably nearby). However, Gideon "D" withdrew his petition at the end of December 1855. The paucity of preserved papers in estate files at that time precludes further enlightenment.

Then Eliza's husband Simeon Bullen died in April 1855.[18] Though a fairly wealthy man, Simeon had failed to make a will that might have told us more about his family and heirs. Widow Eliza duly became administrator of his £1,200 estate on 11 May 1855. Gideon D. Bullen of Caradoc along with Ira Allan ensured her bond with the court. A note on one document: "The said Gideon Bullen further saieth that the letter 'D' is only an [initial] letter in his name."

Extended (negative) searches for further information leave peripheral questions still unanswered: Who is Gideon D. Bullen? Is he the illegitimate son distinguishing himself from an older Gideon Bullen who married in 1844?[19] The older man, too, does not appear in 1851 and subsequent census returns. What happened to Charles Mount and his half-brother Gideon Bullen? Would descendants ever know who precipitated the marital crisis? Does it matter?

Roswell left us an emotional record that tells part of a story. How much can we infer from existing sources to "balance" Eliza's part in it? Family historians struggle in cases like this to present a narrative as realistic as possible, including the unanswered questions.
An early dwelling in Delaware, from Illustrated Historical Atlas of the County of Middlesex
This is an updated version of "Roswell Mount: The Untold Story," in Ontario Genealogical Society Families, Vol. 45, No 3 (August 2006).

[1] Middlesex County Copybook of Deeds, Vol. E, memorial no. 2096, will of Roswell Mount, 18 January 1834; Archives of Ontario (AO) microfilm GS 204.
[2] Canadian Emigrant (Sandwich, Upper Canada), 1 February 1834.
[3] Wendy Cameron, "Roswell Mount," Vol. VI (1821-1835), Dictionary of Canadian Biography (www.biographi.ca/en/mount_roswell_6E.html : accessed 10 June 2006).
[4] "Disputed Titles to Land," London Free Press (London, Canada West), 8 May 1856, p. 2, c 6.
[5] Canadian Correspondent (York, Upper Canada), 25 January 1834.
[6] Middlesex County Copybook, Vol. E, memorial no. 2096, will of Roswell Mount.
[7] Middlesex County Copybook, Vol. E, memorial no. 2461, Oliver Tiffany to Eliza Mount, 5 November 1834; AO, GS 204. Eliza is identified as the niece of Dr. Oliver Tiffany, brother of Gideon Tiffany. For Gideon Tiffany, see also Dictionary of Canadian Biography (http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tiffany_gideon_8E.html).
[8] Middlesex County Copybook, Vol. E, memorial no. 2096, will of Roswell Mount. Gideon Bullen is identified in Roswell's will as Eliza's son. The Bullen "Trees" I see on Ancestry.com have missed this child. So has the 1901 tome The Tiffanys of America (https://archive-org/stream/tiffanysofamerica00tiff : accessed 26 October 2013), p. 43 (person no. 553 is Eliza Tiffany married to Simeon Bullen).
[9] Letter Mahlon Burwell to Peter Robinson, 13 March 1834, RG 1-2-4, Correspondence and memoranda relating to lands administration received by the Surveyor General, p. 11724; AO, MS 7533.
[10] Anglican register (Delaware, Ekfrid, and Caradoc Townships), Baptisms-Marriages-Burials, 1834-1851, baptism April 1838, Gideon Bullen, "bastardous" son of Simeon and Eliza Bullen. Bullen-Mount marriage 24 December 1834; AO, MS 881, reel 5, item 37.
[11] Middlesex County Copybook E: memorial no. 2461 Oliver Tiffany to Eliza Mount, 3 November 1834; memorial no. 2462 Oliver Tiffany to Simeon Bullen, 1 December 1829; memorial no. 2464 Eliza Mount to Simeon Bullen, 23 December 1834; AO, GS 204. The three transactions were all registered on the same day in early 1835.
[12] Christ Church Anglican cemetery (Delaware Township); London-Middlesex Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society transcription.
[13] St. Philip’s (Etobicoke, Ontario) parish registers, Baptisms 1831-1845, Mount baptisms 11 September 1833; Anglican Diocese of Toronto Archives.
[14] 1871 Census Ontario, District 9, East Riding Middlesex, subdistrict b, North Dorchester Township, division 2, p. 26, Orlow Mabee household; Library and Archives Canada (LAC) microfilm C-9904. Only one of the anomalies in this research is a Charles Mount age 18 living in this household; I believe he is their son with his middle name inadvertently inserted as surname. Lindsay S. Reeks in Ontario Loyalist Ancestors (p. 87) says Orlo and Eliza married on 9 March 1847 in London but this is not confirmed.
[15] Middlesex County Copybook N, memorial no. 6193, Charles Mount "of Delaware" to Simeon Bullen, 20 March 1843; AO, GS 212.
[16] Middlesex County Surrogate Court, estate file no. 56, Gideon Tiffany; AO, GS1-9.
[17] Middlesex Surrogate Court, estate file no. 56, petition affidavit of Gideon D. Bullen, 13 July 1855; AO, GS1-9.
[18] Middlesex County Surrogate Court, estate file no. 14, Simeon Bullen; AO, GS1-9.
[19] Anglican register (Delaware, Ekfrid, Caradoc), Bullen-Brigham marriage, 1844; AO, MS 881, reel 5, item 37.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

04 August 2014

August 4th, 1914

Canada went to war on the fourth of August 1914. When Great Britain declared war on Germany on that day, Canada was automatically included as a Dominion of the British Empire. Immediately, Canada offered to send military support; the Canadian Expeditionary Force was formed.

Canada then a nation of under eight million people sent 620,000 enlistments over the duration. Our country lost 60,000 during the war, not including those who died later of wounds.

To quote historian Tim Cook in Macleans ("Could we do it again?" 11 August 2014), "If you put that death toll into the equivalent of today's population, it comes out to something like 250,000 dead in four years."

Our Second World War losses were a comparative fraction. More Canadian soldiers died in the First World War trenches than in all other wars we participated in.

Let us not forget the sacrifices!

24 July 2014

"Fell about a thousand feet"


I have to thank Bill of West in New England for proposing a GeneaBloggers Challenge along the lines of ... what was your ancestor doing in 1914? (I take the liberty of extending that further into the Great War period.) Otherwise I likely would not have spent days re-living second-hand the chilling experiences of my father. Another world. Yet modern versions of war and suffering continue today in many places.
Family photo: This seems to be his army uniform

... Or First World War, as we say in the Commonwealth.
Warning: some disturbing content.

The only son in a Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada family, Hector Fraser Dougall signed up in March of 1916 for the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He was nineteen years old and had already been part of the Winnipeg Highland Cadet Battalion, associated with The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada. He had clearly waited some time after the death of his beloved grandfather, John McFadyen, in July 1915 ― time for his family to bear the grief; somehow I doubt John McFadyen would have approved of the enlistment.

Notice that he signed the attestation as Horace Fraser Dougall. I've no idea if that can be attributed to high spirits or what he had in mind. Later in some medical papers he named himself Hector Fraser Victor Francis Dougall.

Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Box 2627-7, no. 288132
We have no surviving "letters home" to tell us of Hector's fourteen-month service with the 221st Battalion. The story is that his brief experience in the trenches was more than enough. He wanted a fighting chance to shoot back. In order to transfer to the fledgling Royal Flying Corps (RFC), procedure dictated a discharge from the army first. On May 5th, 1917 he was back in Canada re-enlisting. Air training commenced from then until the end of August at Deseronto, then Camp Borden, then Camp Rathbun (Deseronto). Hector's "wings" were granted August 19th and he was finally sent overseas again in September, posted to 10 Squadron RFC.
British Royal Air Force, Airmen's Service Records 1917, service no. 70260; Find My Past (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbm%2fair79%2f650%2f00098&parentid=gbm%2fair79%2f406840&highlights=%22%22 : accessed 10 May 2014)
How do we know the details? Because besides the official records, Hector kept a diary beginning at the end of November 1917. What we don't know are his activities from September through most of November that year. On December 1st he reported to 46 Squadron RFC at Candas, France. After flying for a week, there's a gap until ―

17 December 1917: "Admitted to #3 Can. Gen. Con. Hospital[,] wounds dressed and put to bed. Sick Dog. ... Willing in the spirit but not in the flesh[,] attack of pleurisy – head wound nothing but shock and exposure pretty bad." He was transferred by train to hospital in Boulogne. The wound must have been more than "nothing" because in January, "Doctor Gunn thinks me foolish to not take convalescent leave." During this time, he heard that his best buddy and fellow flier Bobby Cowan went missing in action; he fretted often about his friend.[1]

"Soon the RFC was known as 'the suicide club'. New pilots lasted on average just 11 days from arrival on the front, to death. ... By early 1917, the Royal Flying Corp was losing 12 aircraft and 20 crew every day."[2] [emphasis added]

Hector discharged himself on January 15th and was posted to 54 Squadron RFC based then at Guizancourt airfield west of Amiens. Six weeks later, his Sopwith Camel crashed behind enemy lines, February 26th.

Flying inside left of bottom formation with instructions to strafe any "kite" ... cut across to Laon where I saw two "kites"[,] went down on one as they started to pull it down and just as I got one end in flames zonk a "Archie" caught me square under the engine blowing off one cylinder and tearing the fabric. One piece entering my leg below the knee the cowling flew off my machine hitting me on the head. In a few seconds I came to[,] my machine was out of control and my eyes were full of blood from my cut face and nose. Fell about a thousand feet and tried to straighten out again[.] Just as I got flat[,] fainted again and that's all I remember until I woke up in the Citadel in Laon.  
Sopwith Camel

With a dreadfully sore head, eyes swollen almost shut, and a queasy stomach, Hector found himself in German custody. Medical attention was withheld the next few days during several interrogations for information ― not forthcoming ― and he was threatened with losing the sight of both eyes and a court-martial if he didn't cooperate. It was a very rough few days, the least of which was when his prison-mate "got the shrapnel out of my leg with his knife and bathed my eyes."

On March 2nd finally an officer came to take Hector for medical treatment, where he painfully had "a bit of glass extracted" from his eyes.
I went along with him and a guard of four soldiers, down at the hospital I was put on a table where a Hun was having his leg taken off, talk about sawing and hacking[.] There was about twelve tables in the room with men on some "stiffs"[,] others going to be and others not, the blood was ankle deep[,] limbs lying around the floor ... .  

March 4th began a long journey from one jail or prison to another, deeper and deeper into enemy territory with always the thought of escaping: Mount Cornet camp; Karlsruhe; Landshut; and Holzminden. 

Mount Cornet was particularly loathsome, "a filthy hole" of rats, fleas, and lice, where Russians were the majority of POWs. "They had no clothes, no food, they would fight in the mud for scraps of biscuits and dig potato peelings out of the garbage just to eat. Believe me it was pitiful to see men, human beings reduced to such a level."

A number of escape attempts were made along the way, related after the fact in Hector's diary or by a companion's letter to his family. Stories of prison camp experiences were described in blog posts here, in 2008 and in 2013.  

[1] To his heartfelt relief and surprise, Hector discovered his buddy alive when he reached Holzminden POW Camp.
[2] Jane Fryer, "Bravery of British WWI 'suicide club' whose fighter pilots took on Germany and the Red Baron with only 15 hours' training and lasted on average just 11 days," Mail Online (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1283972/Bravery-British-WWI-suicide-club-fighter-pilots-took-Germany-Red-Baron-15-hours-training-lasted-average-just-11-days.html : accessed 20 July 2014).

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.