September 1, 2014

In-depth Review of a Record Leads to a Genealogy Solution!

Several years ago I sent for a transcribed record. It was for a Joseph McGinnis who was being sent from Montreal to Hamilton in July 1846. I hoped it was my ancestor who I knew had arrived from Ireland in Upper Canada (Ontario) between January 1846 and  September 1847. Since ships passenger lists to Canada did not have to be kept before 1865, trying to find an ancestor's arrival is challenging. 

However I was disappointed because the abstract recorded Joseph with two adult females and no children. Since I knew that Joseph and his wife Fanny came during the Irish famine with a daughter under the age of 1, this record could not be the right family.

I didn't have access to the original record so I set the record aside but didn't discard the idea completely that somehow it might be my Joseph. Perhaps the record was in error and should have read Joseph and 1 adult female and 1 child? That was my rather vague hope. With the record tucked away I moved on to other research but it was always in the back of my mind. 

This year I had a chance to view the actual image of the record set that contained Joseph's name. To my disappoinment, the page definitely showed Joseph and 2 Adult women being sent on to Hamilton at the Government's expense. 

I decided to study the document carefully. My first puzzle was the ditto marks (") in several of the columns. If I followed up to where the ditto marks began on Joseph's page, it seemed to indicate that the numbers in the 4 columns were: 1, 2, 2, 4. There were no column headings on the page with Joseph's name but the most logical thing would be if those columns showed Adult males, adult females and perhaps male and female children.if so, this was most definitely not my Joseph.

So off I went to find the first page of this record set. What I found confused me even more because the 4 column headings were: Adults M (male), Adults F (female), Male Adults, Female Adults.

Why would the clerk record adults twice? That made no sense. Because it made no sense I knew that there had to be a logical explanation. Perhaps the description of this record set would help. 

Before I tried to find the description I had another puzzle to solve. Some of the numbers were written in the first set of 2 columns, but some were in the second set. They were never in both.

I knew I need to scroll back through the microfilm until I found page 1. 

And there it was - the answer to my question. Reading very carefully and thinking about this description, the answer became clear. It was in the phrase  "shewing [showing] the adult persons single or in families..." Aha! The clerk needed to differentiate between married and single individuals. The columns were obviously for married adult men, married adult women, single men and single women! 

That also explained why some individuals were marked in Column 1 or 2 (they were married!) and others in Column 3 or 4 (they were single) 

But what about those ditto marks? A careful look at  the whole page showed that they could not be ditto marks because the totals added at the bottom would not work out. Those totals only worked by adding the actual numbers in each column and ignoring the ditto marks. 

It was pretty obvious now that what I thought were ditto marks (") were something else. And in fact a better look at the very last column for destination showed that the clerk used "do" for "ditto". Those marks (") meant zero, that is, no number in that column. 

And then came the biggest AHA! moment of all! This record set only recorded the numbers of adults traveling westward! It did not record numbers of children in the family. 

Going back to Joseph McGinnis and his record I took another look. A theory was popping into my head and I wanted to be sure I understood his record before formulating it aloud.

The original abstracted transcript I had received several years before was correct. Joseph McGinnis and 2 adult females were being sent on from Montreal to Hamilton on July 9th 1846. But the very important fact that had not been sent with the transcript was that the number of children in families were not recorded! 

This could easily be my Joseph with his wife Fanny and baby daughter Bridget. As for the second adult female, I have a very good possibility for that woman. Joseph's brother Daniel married a woman named Margaret Downey in Upper Canada in late 1846 or early 1847. My Joseph McGinnis' wife was Fanny Downey. I have always theorized that Margaret and Fanny were sisters but have not yet been able to prove or disprove this theory. 

If I go with this theory then  there is a very good possibility that the adult female travelling with them was Fanny's sister Margaret.

The last clincher is the fact that my McGinnis family had strong ties with the Hamilton community. As well that would be the only way to get to the Guelph area in 1846 - by taking a steamer west to Hamilton or going by land, and then taking the only road north which was between Hamilton and Guelph.

Thus it makes sense that Joseph would be sent to Hamilton and from there he would have to arrange a cart or coach to continue on to the Guelph area. 

I believe this is quite likely a record of my Irish ancestor's arrival from Ireland at the height of the Irish Famine. I will of course continue to research my theory by  looking for other records to support or disprove it. 

What did I learn from this? 

1. Always try to find the original, unaltered record
2. Study the original record. Analyze it. Question it. 
3. Study the record again. Make sure you completely understand how it was recorded and why it was recorded.
4. Develop a theory based on that record and seek evidence to prove or disprove your theory
5. Never give up - pull out records you found years ago and go through them again.

August 31, 2014

Sharing Memories Week 35: Back to School

Sharing Memories Week 35: Back to School
Here is a Challenge for all genealogy bloggers. Keep a weekly journal called Sharing Memories. Some of you may recall that in 2010, 2011 and 2012 I provided weekly prompts to help with recording our memories of ancestors and our own childhood.

If you missed this weekly series called Sharing Memories you might want to have a look and see if any of the prompts are helpful to you.

This week's prompt is Back to School

What was it like for you the week or weekend before school started up again after summer holidays? Did you get lots of cool notebooks, pencils and pencil crayons? Did your mom buy you that backpack you wanted?

We didn't have anything special for back-to-school like they have now. All I ever got was new binders, 3 ring lined paper and a few pencils and pens. But I was happy. Remember those little adhesive white rings with the hole in the middle that you put to reinforce your 3 ringed notepaper? I loved those silly things!

I was wishing I had some of them today when a Recipe binder I use lost its first page because the holes ripped from use.

August 30, 2014

Nursing Sister Philips WW1 Photo Album p. 10

This Photo Archive consists of a small autograph album (6.5" by 5.25") kept by Constance (Connie) Philips as a memento of her time serving as a nurse during World War One.  

The majority of the photos and items are from 1915, when she served as a nurse in France and Britain. 

The album and all photographs, postcards, and other ephemera contained in the album belong to Karin Armstrong and may not be copied or republished without her written permission. The images will be published on Olive Tree Genealogy with permission. 

Each image has been designated an "R" for Recto or a "V" for Verso plus an album page number. Recto is the right-hand side page of a bound book while Verso is the left-hand side page. 

I will be posting the entire album and my additional research on the individuals identified in Connie's album over the coming months so please check back frequently to view these historic photos. The easiest way to see what has been published is to click on the topic "Nursing Sister WW1 Photos" in the vertical menu bar on the right side of your screen. You can also click on that phrase at the bottom of this post.

Nursing Sister Philips WW1 Photo Album p. 10
10R Ward Inspection

10V Group outside a hut

August 29, 2014

Death of a Stranger Solves a Family Mystery 103 Years Later

The stranger checked his pocket watch. Almost 9:15 pm. The train from Milwaukee should pull in to the Missoula train station any minute now. He began to gather his belongings - two large suitcases full of his wallpapering and painting tools. In 1911 it didn't do to leave your luggage out of your sight so he tried to keep it by his feet whenever possible.

When the train stopped, the man picked up his luggage, ignoring the twinge of pain across his chest. He was a short man, only 5' 8" and heavy, weighing almost 215 lbs. At 55 years old he figured he wasn't in as good shape anymore and wasn't surprised that his chest and arm ached.

Carrying these suitcases as he went door to door looking for odd jobs was enough to make anyone have aches and pains! He was a drifter and went from town to town in the Western states, barely making enough to pay for his travel expenses. But that was how he had chosen to live.

He liked being alone and going places where no one knew who he was and the cries of "There goes Nigger Joe!" FN no longer rang in his ears. For that was what the townspeople called him in the town where he grew up. His grandfather, a free man of colour from Pennsylvania, married an Irish woman and his father married a German woman so he could, and did, pass for white among those who had not known his family.

It was growing dark and was drizzling a bit, so he picked up his pace. Even though it was a comfortable 67' he was sweating as he hurried towards the stairs to the Higgins Avenue Bridge.  Trudging up the stairs he noticed he was out of breath and his chest was tingling with bursts of sharp pain. He hoped he'd find a room to rent fairly close by once he crossed the bridge into town.

The bridge was crowded with townspeople but he barely noticed as the pain in his chest increased. Halfway across the bridge, he stopped and set down his heavy cases, gasping for breath as a lightning jolt of pain hit. He leaned against the railing and then suddenly fell and lay there, not moving. A woman screamed and a few men rushed to him to see if they could help him up. But the stranger lay dead. One of the men shook his head and told his friend to run and get Doc Walsh or the town police.

The body was taken to the Undertaker where Doc Walsh went through the man's belongings. Letters revealed that his name was Joseph E. Butler and he had relatives in Grafton North Dakota. A telegram was sent to the local police in Grafton and a brother came forward. Jake Butler provided the police with Joseph's wife's name and address in Seaforth Ontario Canada and a telegram was sent to her. While we do not have that telegram we can imagine what it said

Regret to inform you of passing of your husband Joseph E. Butler. Please advise what to do with body.
It must have been a shock to Carrie Butler, his wife. Joseph had deserted the family about 10 years earlier and had not been heard from since.  He left behind his wife and 6 children ages 7 to 20. There was no love lost between Carrie and Joseph and in later years she would not talk about him or his disappearance, only saying "he went out west" when asked by her granddaughter Mary. Nothing more was said and no one had the nerve to ask Carrie for details. Again, while we don't have the telegram Carrie sent back to Missoula, we can imagine her terse words

Bury him in Missoula
And so Joseph E. Butler, my husband's great-great grandfather, was buried alone in the Missoula Cemetery in Missoula Montana. It took me over 15 years to find his death but last night was my genealogy breakthrough. I followed a hunch I had that he had ended up in North Dakota near his brother Jake, and finding a grave online for a J. E. Butler prompted me to look for records of this J. E. Butler. None were found, it was as if he had come out of nowhere. No census, no marriage, no sign that he had ever lived in or near Missoula Montana. So why was he buried there and with an actual marker?

A phone call by my husband's cousin Judy to the Cemetery and to the Funeral Home that handled his autopsy and death provided us with the following information:

Name Joseph E. Butler. Died May 17, 1911. Place of death Missoula Bridge. Coroner said Heart Disease. No name of coroner. Buried May 27, 1911. Paid cash but no name of who paid. 

The Daily Missoulian, May 18, 1911, p12
With that I went on a hunt for a death certificate or newspaper notice, something that would give us a place of birth or spouse's name. I still was not sure this was "our" Joseph at this point. At that is where luck and friends came into play. I found an index entry to a newspaper death notice placed in The Missoulian on May 18th and put out a request on Facebook for anyone with access to this edition to copy and send it to me. 

At the same time I began a search online and found that the Missoulian was available for free at Chronicling America. As I was pulling up that date, a Facebook friend sent me the article.  I eventually found 3 articles about Joseph and his lonely death in Missoula on the Higgins Avenue Bridge. 

Our cousin Judy mentioned how said it was that he died alone, but I don't think it was the saddest part of this story, for he chose the life of a drifter. 

For me the sad part was that his granddaughter Mary (my husband's grandmother) is not with us to learn what happened to her grandfather. It was a mystery she longed to solve and I would have loved to share this with her.

And so the story ends. 103 years later, Joseph has been found. Perhaps one day we may be able to visit his grave in Missoula and pay our respects.

FN This description of the nickname the townspeople had for Joseph came from the grandson of a man who knew Joseph personally. 

The Daily Missoulian., May 19, 1911, Morning, Page 10
The Daily Missoulian., May 23, 1911, Morning, Page 10,

August 27, 2014

Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old

Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old
A Typical Archeology Dig
This is fascinating. Archeologists  uncovered a  circular structure near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, which dates back to the Stone Age 8,500 years BC. It was found next to a former lake and predates the dwelling previously thought to be Britain's oldest, at Howick, Northumberland, by at least 500 years.

The team said they are also excavating a large wooden platform made of timbers which have been split and hewn. It is thought to be the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe.

It's fun to think about the possibility that one of your ancestors lived in this house! If you have ancestors from Scarborough Yorkshire this is certainly a possibility. My daughter-in-law has roots that go back to that area so it's interesting to speculate.

Have you researched the history of your house? Two years ago I researched the land where we built our home 16 years ago and that was fun. It used to be a large farm piece of property which was severed over the past 100 years. It was fun to look up the previous owners in census records.  Next I want to research the old homes I lived in when I was in town, especially the house that was haunted!

Read more at Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old

August 26, 2014

Sneak Peek at Season Finale of Who Do You Think You Are?

Image Credit: TLC
The season finale of Who Do You Think You Are? Airs Wednesday August 27 at 9/8c

Who Do You Think You Are? is a TLC TV series sponsored by

Lorine's Note:
I  watched a Screener Video of this episode which TCL kindly sent me and although I cannot divulge much of what is in it, I can tell you that the Season Finale is going to be mind-blowing! I'm going to watch it again when it airs tomorrow night.  For now, here's a little summary of some of the happenings:

Minnie Driver sets out to learn more about her secretive father and traces the highs and lows of his career in the Royal Air Force during World War II. 

Through military documents, she comes to understand why her father was the way he was, and how his combat experience impacted the rest of his life. 

Since Minnie never met her paternal grandparents, she follows the trail in England until she comes face-to-face with the very first relative she’s ever met on her father’s side, and finds a kindred spirit in a family member she never knew about.

August 25, 2014

What's Your Mix?

What's Your Mix?
My English great grandfather David Simpson
It occurred to me a few days ago that I don't know my mix. By "mix" I mean the % of my ethnic ancestors I have in my bloodline. 

I know I have Irish, English, Dutch, American and Canadian but as to percentage of each group, I've never bothered to figure it out. So here goes!

I'm only going to go back 5 generations because that way every branch of my ancestors is known to me. I can go back 15-20 generations on some lines but not my Irish McGinnis family. I don't want to assume they are Irish going back from my 2nd great grandfather Joseph McGinnis. 

So - if I take my lineage back to my 2nd great grandparents, who's in the mix? And where were they born?

Paternal Ancestors:
3 born in Ireland, 2 in England and 3 in Canada
Joseph McGinnis & Fanny Downey - both born Ireland
David King & Mary Bell - both born England
Levi Peer & Jane Greenlees - Levi born Upper Canada (Ontario). Jane born Ireland
Isaac Vollick & Lydia Jamieson - both born Ontario. Isaac and Lydia's lineage is Dutch

Maternal Ancestors: 
8 born in England!
Charles Fuller & Georgiana Golding - both born Kent England
John Caspall & Mary Ann Williams - John born Kent, Mary Ann born Devon
Charles Simpson & Sarah Jane Page - both born Kent England
William Stead & Sarah Elvery - both born Kent England

Of my 8 great grandparents, 4 were born in Ontario and 4 in England
Of my 4 grandparents, 2 were born in Ontario and 2 in England
My mom and dad were both born in Ontario

Ireland = 3
England = 16
Canada = 11

I'd need to go futrher back to bring in my Dutch, German and Native American ancestors. 

The total is 30 so I can calculate what % of 30 each of those numbers is.  I do it with Algebra: 

We know that Ireland is 3 out of 30
So X % = 3/30
Therefore X/100 = 3/30
Next step is X= 3x100 / 30
Thus X=300/30

It looks like I am 53% English, 37% Canadian and 10% Irish. What's your mix?