Archive for the ‘General Posts’ Category

The Ins and Outs of Obituary and Death Notice Research

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Obituaries and death notices can be an excellent source of genealogical information for a researcher. There are some caveats though. These can be illustrated in part by mining data from the obituary for Mary Sloane [sic] Campbell one of my great aunts:
Mary, widow of Frederick Pratt Campbell, born at Forest, Canada West, died at Vancouver 8 October 1941
Her maiden name Sloan had an e attached to it.
She was survived by:
Elizabeth Sloane [sic], a sister
William, a brother
David, a son, 898 East 37th Ave, Vancouver
William, a son, 898 East 37th Ave, Vancouver
Gordon, a son, 898 East 37th Ave, Vancouver
Mrs. J.F. MacKenzie, a daughter, Vancouver
Mrs. E. Dias, a daughter, Winnipeg1

What I knew because of prior research was that a son, John Pratt Campbell, still living, was not mentioned in the obituary. Family lore suggests that he was a difficult child/teenager and was left behind when the family moved to Vancouver. Don’t assume that all children have been mentioned in an obituary.

What I didn’t know was the incorrect spelling of one daughter’s married name. It was not Dias but Diss. I wasted some research time trying to find her under the name Dias. Could I have prevented the wasted research time created by this incorrect spelling? In hindsight, my question could have been, “What are the chances that a woman born in Brandon, Manitoba, and living in Vancouver would marry someone with a Spanish sounding name in that era?”

Chronological Order?
Don’t rely on an obituary to provide the names of children in a chronological order. In Mary’s obituary her male offspring were separated from her female offspring.

Are the children who are listed step-children? Not all obituaries define this connection. A comparison of the husband’s obituary to that of the wife will sometimes reveal the actual connection. Freda Waters, wife of Alvin Waters, died 9 November 1969. She was noted as the “dear mother of Mrs. R. Pettitt (Marion) of London.”2 It is her husband’s obituary, of 13 October 1971, which notes that Marion is his step-daughter.3 This technique is valuable if you are doing descendant research and don’t know the people in the line you are following to the present.

More Than One Source?
Getting all of the information available is important as well. If there is more than one newspaper that covered an geographical area, check them all to see if the obituaries differ in content. Sarah Salter, widow of John Damp, died 30 March 1919 at her residence in Toronto. The Evening Telegram reported the basics of her death.4 It was the Toronto Daily Star obituary that added the line “Cowes, Isle of Wight [England] papers please copy.”5 If you had not known Sarah’s connections back to the Isle of Wight, this would be a plus. You may also want to the check the papers in the geographical area where the deceased grew up.

There are many online sources for both indexes and images of newspapers. Since I actively made use of the Guelph Mercury because of a Sims family who lived in Wellington County, I appreciated the members only newspaper indexes that the Wellington County Branch of OGS compiled. I have also made use of the Toronto Star Archives [$] with success. Monitor The Ontario Genealogical Society Facebook groups and pages or ask questions about access to particular newspapers through one of them.

1. Obituary for Mary Sloane [sic] Campbell, Vancouver Sun, 8 October 1941. P. 17.
2. Obituary for Freda (Thomas) Walters, The Guelph Daily Mercury, 10 November 1963.
3. Obituary for Alvin Waters, The Daily Mercury, Wednesday, 13 October 1971, p.28.
4. Death Notice for Sarah Salter, The Evening Telegram, Toronto, Monday, 31 March 1919, p.7.
5. Death Notice for Sarah Salter, The Toronto Daily Star, Monday, 31 March 1919, p. 15.

Alan Campbell
Past President
The Ontario Genealogical Society
© 2017

Introduction to Genetic Genealogy

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

This post is courtesy of Amber Brown of Legacy Tree Genealogists
Genetic testing is becoming an increasingly integral part of the family history and genealogy industry, and is often considered necessary as part of the reasonably exhaustive search required for the genealogical proof standard.

In this introduction to DNA testing for family history purposes, we’ll outline the basics—the different types of DNA, reasons to take a DNA test, and real-life applications and successes.
DNA Types and Tests
yDNA tests have been in use for genealogical purposes for over 10 years. yDNA tests get their name from the Y-chromosome. The Y-chromosome is only carried by males and is inherited in a line of direct paternal descent. A male receives his Y-chromosome from his father who inherited it from his father, and on and on. Occasional mutations help to distinguish different Y-chromosome lineages. Because surnames are often inherited in a similar pattern in many cultures, two individuals with the same surname and similar Y-chromosome signatures share a common direct line paternal ancestor. Likewise, two individuals with different surnames but who share the same Y-chromosome signature share a common direct line paternal ancestor. This situation may be indicative of a “non-paternal event (NPE),” which could include an undocumented adoption, illegitimacy, a surname change, or any number of other situations which might result in the paternal surname not being passed to both lines of descent.

The mtDNA test is similar in many ways to a yDNA test. “mt” is short for mitochondrial, which identifies where in the cell this type of DNA is located, which is in the mitochondria. All other DNA is located in the nucleus of the cell. Mitochondrial DNA is carried by both males and females, but it is only passed on by females. Therefore, mitochondrial DNA is inherited along the direct maternal line. An individual receives her mitochondrial DNA from her mother who received it from her mother. Occasional mutations help to distinguish different mitochondrial DNA lineages. If two individuals share a mitochondrial DNA signature it may be indicative of shared maternal ancestry. Because mitochondrial DNA is much smaller than any other type of DNA, and because it undergoes fewer mutations over time, it is harder to make genealogical discoveries with this type of test. It is best used to offer support for genealogical hypotheses.

atDNA or autosomal DNA tests are designed to look at over 700,000 DNA markers that can be found on a person’s “autosomes,” which are the 22 pairs of non-sex chromosomes found inside the nucleus of a cell. Autosomal DNA tests analyze portions of the DNA that are inherited both paternally and maternally. Each person receives half of their autosomal DNA from their mother and half from their father. Autosomal DNA undergoes a process called recombination, which shuffles the maternally and paternally inherited copies of DNA before passing them on to the next generation. Each person receives exactly half of their autosomal DNA from each parent, but only approximate percentages can be applied to more distant generations of ancestors due to the random nature of recombination. Each individual shares about 25 percent of their DNA with each grandparent and half that amount for each subsequent generation. Individuals who share large identical segments of autosomal DNA most likely share a recent common ancestor. Autosomal DNA testing has become very popular over the last few years and most ancestral DNA tests are autosomal tests.

The X-chromosome is one other type of DNA that has a unique inheritance pattern. Males have one X-chromosome from their mother. Females have two X-chromosomes: one from their mother and one from their father. The X-chromosome undergoes recombination in females, but not in males. Though the X-chromosome cannot be assigned to a specific line of descent, it can be used to eliminate individuals from a person’s tree as possible common ancestors to their matches. The X-chromosome is tested as part of an autosomal DNA test.

Reasons to Test
We recommend that there be a specific genealogical objective or research question in mind prior to completing a DNA test, just as there should be a specific objective in mind when undertaking traditional research. Once this question or objective is determined, then advice regarding which test to take and whom to test can be given.

In some cases, good, old-fashioned genealogical research may provide the best answers to the questions being asked. In other cases, DNA may provide the only evidence or proof of suspected relationships and answers to questions. In most cases, both genealogical research and analysis of DNA testing results are combined to provide solid proof arguments regarding genealogical research questions.
DNA testing can be useful for answering questions regarding adoption, illegitimacy, unknown or mis-attributed parentage, name changes, immigration, and many other instances of difficult-to-trace ancestry.

While DNA tests have the ability to help investigation in these difficult situations, they also have the ability to reveal well-kept family secrets. Whenever a DNA test is taken, the subject should recognize the possibility of discovering previously unexpected relationships through undocumented adoptions and illegitimacies. Many times the discovery of these events can be surprising and may drastically change the way you view and approach your family history. Testing companies and private researchers do not claim responsibility for these discoveries and the impact that they may have on individuals and families.

Genetic Genealogy Success
Many adoptees have successfully identified their birth parents through genetic testing and other available resources. However, genetic testing can also be helpful for genealogical questions. Many have successfully used yDNA testing in conjunction with autosomal DNA and the historical record to identify fathers of illegitimate ancestors. Others have used autosomal testing to overcome recent genealogical brick walls. Yet others have used mitochondrial DNA to support descent from common maternal ancestors and to confirm or refute family legends regarding African or Native American ancestry.

In one recent case, we were able to reveal the identity of a client’s 2nd great-grandfather through autosomal testing. A concealed illegitimacy had prevented previous contact with this part of the client’s family and as a result of DNA testing, we were able to extend the client’s ancestry several generations. Though we were able to answer the client’s research question, this research also opened new avenues of investigation since no member of the family has yet been able to determine the origin and parentage of their common 2nd great-grandfather who was born in the early 1850s in Missouri. DNA testing and collaboration with these newfound cousins may help to reveal this individual’s ancestry through future research.

Applications of DNA testing to genealogical investigation are many and varied, and they are also frequently successful. However, even when tests do not yield immediate results, as more people test and more matches are identified, genetic genealogy tests become sources that keep giving.

Legacy Tree Genealogists provides full-service genealogical research for clients worldwide, helping them discover their roots and personal history through records, narratives, and DNA. Based near the world’s largest family history library in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, Legacy Tree has developed a network of professional researchers and archives around the globe. For additional information on services visit our website

Exclusive Offer for Ontario Genealogy Society readers : Receive $100 off a 20-hour research project using code SAVE100, valid through June 30th, 2017
(c) June 2017

The Ontario Genealogical Society supports the use of professional genealogists but does not endorse specific individuals or firms.

Where are you Simon and Anne? – Finding French-Canadian Ancestors

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Guest blog post by Roger Robineau
Roger is member of the Ontario Genealogical Society and has been researching his family history since 2010. He is presently serving on the Board of the Ontario Genealogical Society as Vice-President of Finance. Roger maintains a blog in French and English.

The saga starts with a marriage contract dated February 1710. One of my early genealogical finds was the marriage contract between Michel Robineau dit Desmoulins and Louise Baron. I was able to find the contract at the “Bibliotheque et Archives Nationals du Quebec” (BanQ) and ordered a copy. After receiving it, my request to be able to share this document freely was approved. When I read the contract I noticed that it was written in early 18th century French making it very difficult to read. After consulting a paleographer (an expert in ancient, and not so ancient, writing systems), I received a copy that was easier to read. In the contract, Michel tells us that his parents are Simon Robineau and Anne Robineau (Larcher) and that he was baptized at St. Roch church in Paris in 1683.

St Roch, Paris

The interesting point is that “all” family trees I have found in my Robineau line end at Anne and Simon as Michel’s parents. I suspect that all the researchers read the same marriage contract. There is no genealogical proof that Simon and Anne were Michel’s parents and no evidence they even existed. That was until my visit to a Genealogical Society in Montreal.

I visited the Societe Canadienne Francaise de Genealogie (SGCF) in Montreal and learned another genealogical lesson. Go back and visit websites you have visited in the past. Sometimes, new information is added. The very helpful researcher at SGCF suggested we check the site “Fichier Origine” and I found reference to a document prepared in 1684 documenting a commercial transaction. A diligent researcher has started looking into Paris notary records and transcribing material he finds that is related to people who came to Nouvelle France. The commercial transaction provides some evidence that someone named Simon Robineau and Anne Robineau (Larche) actually existed and lived close to St Roch church where Michel Robineau says he was baptized.

The document indicates the following: I have included my initial analysis of the facts as well as suggesting next steps in my research.
1. Michel Robineau is the son of Simon Robineau and Anne Robineau (Larcher);
This document does not constitute genealogical proof that Anne and Simon are Michel’s parents.

2. the date of the transaction is 13 August 1684 and relates to a leasing transaction. The notaries’ names are Claude Lefebvre and Nicolas Boindin;
A Notary is a trained, qualified lawyer who does everything but plead in court.
Some genealogical records, including notarial records from Paris, are available online so that enables research to be done remotely. However, I suspect that many more records are not online and may require a genealogical field trip to Paris.

3. The transaction was conducted with Denis Francois another fruit merchant.
Maybe they had several deals over the years and that may lead to further findings.

4. Simon Robineau is a fruit merchant.
This is a valuable piece of information that may lead to other areas of research. Actually, all these “key words”, including the names of the notary or the parish can be searched on the site called Gallica.
Gallica includes millions of documents that can be viewed and downloaded for free. It includes such items as manuscripts, maps, and photographs. Many of these documents date back hundreds of years. For instance, Gallica has a copy of the “Royal Almanach” from 1706 that mentions the notary Claude Lefebvre.
A search on Gallica for “Montreal” includes 70 matches for articles or maps on Montreal.

5. Simon and his wife live in Fauxbourg St. Denis a la Croix Depardieu in St. Laurent parish. This parish is very close to St. Roch church where Michel says he was baptized in 1683.
This information provides more keywords for a Gallica search.

6. The cost of the transaction was 29 L 10 sols for each term;
What does that sum of money represent? Does it tell me anything about their social standing that they were able to rent out a location for fruit selling to others?

7. No one signed the document, as they could not write.
It is interesting that they could not write, but Michel Robineau apparently signed his marriage contract in 1710. Did his parents raise their social status via the business to the point that they could afford education for Michel? Is there any later record that also indicates that Michel can read and write? This piece of added research found on a visit to the SGCF in Montreal was enlightening, however, it raises other questions and avenues of research.

A genealogist’s work is never done!

Roger Robineau
(c) 2017

Forlorn Hope – Ancestors Who Served in the Canadian Militia to Fight the Fenian Invasions

Friday, May 26th, 2017

My great grandfather, John Pratt Campbell, claimed in a letter to T. M. Daly, Minister of the Interior, Ottawa, Canada, that he “…met the Fenians at Ridge Way…”1 I had not been able to find a record to prove this statement, so I was excited when news of a new database, Canada, Fenian Raids Bounty Applications, 1866 to 1871, was released. This database gives researchers a chance to see documents that were formerly only accessible on-site. These applications for bounty land grants came from veterans who had served in militia units during the Fenian raids from 1866 to 1871.

Who were these Fenians? They were Irish- American veterans of the American Civil War who banded together as a Fenian Brotherhood with the intent to invade Canada to persuade England to give the Irish independence. The Fenian invasions occurred at Campobello Island, New Brunswick [1866], Ridgeway, Ontario [1866], Eccles Hill, Lower Canada [1870]; Huntingdon, Lower Canada [1866] and Manitoba [1871]. You can access more information about the Fenian raids at the Canadian War Museum website
or the Canadian Encyclopedia website.

My hope of finding an application for John Pratt Campbell was not short lived. Since my personal research hopes were squashed, I decided to see if there were any militia men who had served in Lambton County [my place of residence] or were living there at the time of their application.

I found a William Campbell who had enrolled in the 27th (Lambton) Battalion and served with it at Sarnia for twelve days in June of 1870. He applied for the bounty 17 April 1912 from his home in the Village of Thedford, Lambton County, Ontario. The above information came from his Application for Grant form. A notation written vertically on the left hand side of the application states “not on Active S. P. List, comrade is.”

A Comrade’s Declaration form is part of the online documents. Richard Wilson, also living in the Village of Thedford, added the information that William’s rank at the time of service was private. A hand written declaration by William Campbell noted that he had served with Company 3 of the 27th Battalion. This declaration carries the note “708 Disallowed.” A second hand written letter, dated 5 August 1912 and notarized at the Village of Thedford, signed by the above mentioned Richard Wilson and a James Kemp, notes that they both received one hundred dollars ($100) from the government and that William is entitled to the Grant for services rendered as well.

The next item in this online collection is a letter from the Secretary, Militia Department, to William Campbell to inform him that the Board of Officers requires information from Richard Wilson and James Kemp referencing “distinct and positive” memories of his service with the 27th Battalion. A letter written by the Secretary, Militia Department, dated 5 May 1914, notes that the application of William Campbell was approved by the Board of Officers.

Apparently William’s original application could not be supported by records held by the Militia Department. Richard and James must have been able to provide incidents from William’s time of service that helped to sway the Board of Officers. Unfortunately, the record of those incidents is not in the online file.

Although this database is in the Canadian Military Records list found via the Card Catalogue on, I have had hit and miss success in accessing it. By the time that you read this post, I hope that it is securely in place for you to access.

Now I am off to search in the Canada, Nominal Rolls and Paylists for the Volunteer Militia, 1857-1922 database [] for more information about William Campbell’s service in 1870. It can be accessed in same manner as the Fenian grant requests via the Canada Military Records search page. The Nominal Rolls and Paylists database is a free index and can be accessed by creating a free account. You do have to have a paid subscription to see the images.  Another option is to make use of the Ancestry Library edition at Family History Centers run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [LDS].

1. J.P. Campbell to T.M. Daly, Minister of the Interior, Ottawa, a letter dated 2 January 1893, item no. 317395, homestead file for N 1/2 Section 24, Township 21, Range 2, West of the 2nd Meridian, Saskatchewan Archives Board, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Alan Campbell
Past President
The Ontario Genealogical Society
© 2017

What Do I Include in a Genealogical Timeline For an Ancestor?

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Spring jobs, family responsibilities and volunteer work for other organizations grabbed my time in the last two weeks. On Thursday, I suddenly realized that my blog posting was due today. What a great opportunity for writer’s block to rear its ugly head.

Fortunately writer’s block has not been an issue of late. In response to Robb Gorr’s challenge to write about where my ancestors were in 1867 I compiled an article and submitted it to Families.1 I had created “vertical” timelines before but this was the first time that I compiled a “horizontal” timeline which included ancestors from all of my lines at the same time. I hadn’t paid any attention prior to this writing exercise to the fact that I lost two 2x great grandfathers around the time of Confederation; William Bolton in the United States in 1867 and James Atkey in Canada in 1868.

Fresh from this exercise, I went back to my previously created William Bolton timeline and added as many events and dates as I could. I put in the speculative items that I had and the other events that seemed to support my premise that they belonged in the timeline for now. I included a potential second marriage as well as various places that a William Bolton leased or purchased land. Note that I based these possibilities on what appeared to be relatives taking up land at same time as he did and did not just pick them “out of the air.”

One obvious issue was the two 1870 US Federal Census enumeration possibilities for William’s daughter, Ellen. When I examined these two census records closely, I found that one was completed on 1 July 1870 and the other on 20 July 1870. This difference of 19 days between household enumerations meant that I could not immediately rule out either of these records. Ellen could have gone from living and working in her sister’s household to paid work as a servant with another family in that time span.

I am not sure if William left for the United States at the same time as his father, James Bolton, fled there to escape possible hanging or imprisonment as a Mackenzie rebel in 1837. William later returned to Canada West because he married Mary Brett, daughter of Thomas and Martha Mary (Hampton) Brett, circa 1847 probably in Albion Township. Their four children were born at Bolton, Albion Township, Peel County.

William returned to the United States at some time prior to his death 2 August 1867 at Peotone, Will County, Illinois. Family lore provided dates for his return to the US so I turned to US censuses. Now I have included in my timeline the US Censuses in which, to date, I have not found him. Records that don’t record him are as valuable as those which do record him in terms of completing a timeline. The earliest known date that I have him back in the USA is found on a promissory note from his probate papers which placed him there in 1866.

I am now tracking land records in Albion Township, Peel County; Wallace Township, Perth County; and Usborne Township, Huron County. I am delving into the microfilmed Township Papers and the microfilmed Canada Company lease and sales records. If you are unfamiliar with these records see the guide, Using the Ontario Land Records Index ca. 1780-1920 at the Archives of Ontario.

At some point in time I will have to challenge the land records of Will County in Illinois. Perhaps I should also be looking at assessment records?

Wish me luck!

Alan Campbell
Past President
OGS No. 712978
© 2017

1. See Robb’s article “Where Were My Ancestors at Confederation?”, Families, February 2017, Vol. 56, Number 1, pp. 3-5

Your Local Genealogy Society- To Join or Not To Join?

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Disclaimer: I have been a member of The Ontario Genealogical Society for some 35 years and a long term member of the Wellington County Branch of The Ontario Genealogical Society [with a short term hiatus between two membership periods in the Branch]. The following blog post is written from the perspective of being a long term member of The Society and does not reflect the opinions of the Board of Directors of which I am Past President.

Recently I was pleased to be able to attend an educational program event, on the topic of DNA driven genealogical research, hosted by the Wellington County Branch of The Ontario Genealogical Society. While sitting with my fellow members, I reflected upon the rationale for being a member as opposed to being a non–member privileged to attend the session at no cost. There are some obvious benefits to being a member beyond access to genealogical material in the members-only section of the Branch’s website and the receipt of a newsletter.

When I first joined Wellington County Branch, I was actively researching the family of Andrew and Elizabeth (Bell) Sims who had arrived in Eramosa Township, Wellington County circa 1838. I had an article published in Families, in which I tried to prove my hypothesis that the Andrew Sims who died 6 March 1888 and was buried in Harriston Cemetery, Harriston, Ontario,1 [Andrew and Elizabeth’s son] was the spouse of Annie (Lush) Sims and father of Israel, George and Leonard Sims who were living in Hamilton, Ontario, as early as 1894.2 Stephen Bowley editor of Traces and Tracks, newsletter of the Wellington County Branch, at the time, read my article. In a “Honing Your Genealogical Skills” column he described off-line sources that could be found at the Wellington County Museum and Archives, the University of Guelph Library, the Wellington County Land Registry Office and the Wellington County Branch’s collection at Guelph Public Library.3 I was delighted that he had taken the time to point out potential records that I had not yet accessed like assessment records. I made two on-site visits to The Guelph Public Library, a visit to the University of Guelph Library to access its extensive collection of microfilms of the Guelph Mercury [local newspaper] and initiated email contact with the Wellington County Museum and Archives to access the collection there. The Museum and Archives were forward thinking at that time and would accept a credit card for payment so you could receive the requested research materials in a timely fashion. The “bottom line” was that my membership with the Wellington County Branch paid big dividends.

In the midst of a cost reduction mode a number of years later, when my attention had shifted to a different line of my family, I stopped being a member of Wellington County Branch. I don’t remember how long I was not a member but I did come to my senses at renewal time a few years ago. The key to my renewal was knowing the need to support Branch volunteers who were working hard to index and scan items of genealogical interest to researchers. This support was not totally altruistic as in the process of doing those two tasks it would be possible that the volunteers would identify more items related to my Sims family research interests.

Some researchers do not realize is that there is considerable cost involved in purchasing and operating scanning equipment and paying for storage for all of the digitized files that result. Scanning equipment wears out or needs maintenance. The Branch requires continued injections of cash in order to continue this work.

The other rewards of becoming a member AND getting into the action as a volunteer are the fun of the collegial activities, the potential to become more knowledgeable about local records and genealogical research in general, and the potential to learn how to use electronic equipment. Distance members, even though they might live in California, can get into the action as well as there are numerous situations where volunteers are indexing materials that have been uploaded to Dropbox.

Oh, by the way, Terry Maurice, the presenter at the meeting that I just attended, is a new member of the Branch. He is already seeking interest in a DNA Special Interest Group for the Wellington County Branch. Judging by the response at the meeting, the group will be formed in the near future. That is what it takes to make the Branch experience worthwhile, member volunteers who give of their time and expertise.

The answer to my question “To join or not to join?” Get that credit card out, go online to The Ontario Genealogical Society website, join The Society, join your local Branch and volunteer to help continue the good work that they are doing.

1. Andrew Sims death registration, Ontario Vital Statistics,series MS 935, reel 52, no. 18377.

2. Alan Campbell, “When Things Are Not Simple – Matching Family Members in Different Locations,” Families, The Ontario Genealogical Society, Vol. 44, No. 3, 2005, pp. 170-173. Members of The Ontario Genealogical Society can access this issue of Families in the member-only section of the website.

3. Stephen Bowley, “Honing Our Genealogical Skills,” Traces and Tracks, Wellington County Branch of The Ontario Genealogical Society, Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2006, pp. 8-11.

Alan Campbell
OGS Member
No. 512978

Copyright 2017

Do You Want to Know? – Researching “Black Sheep” Ancestors

Friday, April 14th, 2017

I have to confess openly that I concealed information from a fellow researcher a number of years ago. What circumstances would have caused me, a researcher who usually freely shares research information, to make a decision like that? The story begins with my great aunt Eliza Bell ______ who lived variously in Bruce County, Fort William [now Thunder Bay] and Guelph, Ontario. At the request of a fellow researcher, a third cousin who is much closer to this story, I am leaving out surnames.

Bell married David Edward _____ in 1896. The couple had three children, Fairlene, Viola and Rhoda. David left the family circa 1910 and Fairlene told her daughter Margaret that she did not see her father again.

Margaret found me via my researcher information left at the Grey Roots Archive, which was a bonus for me as her father’s surname was so common that searching for them had been fruitless. She was interested in finding out what had happened to her grandfather. Family lore suggested that with the illness of Viola and her subsequent death in 1909, David might have turned to drinking. Bell, a strict Methodist, would not have been able to tolerate the drinking. This story had David and Bell separating, with the encouragement of her sister Jennie and a lack of support from her sister Maud. Maud firmly believed that you stayed with your husband no matter what the situation.

After contact with Margaret, I checked the Canadian OverSeas Expeditionary Force [World War I] database on the Library and Archives Canada website. I was unable to find a David Edward through the search function so I brought up all the soldiers with his surname, and went through them one by one. He had enlisted using the given names Theodore David. I passed his registration number on to Margaret and she ordered the file. Important to note at this point in time is that Margaret served with the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service for the last 19 months of World War II. As well, her Aunt Rhoda’s son, Peter, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in Bosnia and the Gulf War. Imagine their shock to discover that David had enlisted 30 January 1915 and was discharged in April of the same year for repeated incidents of drunk and disorderly conduct. Margaret noted to her family and me that she ”…was ashamed of what he did yet sad for him as a man.” She went on to say that “… we probably wouldn’t want to know what happened to him [after his discharge]” I did not continue looking for more records her David for some time after receiving Margaret’s email.

After I had searched the 1911 Canada Census for all my other ancestors to the extent that I could, I went back to trying to find additional records for David. I was delighted when I found him in the 1911 Canada Census for Manitoba until I looked at the sixth column, Relationship to head of household or family, and found “convict” written there for him. Manitoba Penitentiary was handwritten vertically on the left hand side of the sheet.1 Did I have the right man? As soon as I read his place of habitation, Wiarton [Bruce County, Ontario],  I knew that I had my man.

I conducted an Internet search for Manitoba penitentiaries and found references to Stony Mountain Institution, Stony Mountain, Manitoba, which had opened in 1877. I was able to access the Inmate Admittance Book for Stony Mountain Institution via Library and Archives Canada. David had been incarcerated for nearly two years from 24 September 1909 until 16 June 1911 for the crime of theft. The entry for him indicates that he was transferred to the Provincial Authorities on 4 July 1911 to “…undergo the unexpired period of his original sentence.” A “ticket of Leave from Central Prison, Toronto” is noted in the entry as well.2 It was at this point that I decided that I did not want to add to Margaret’s anguish by passing this record on to her.

After Margaret’s death, Diana, her daughter, made contact with me because she was interested in continuing the search for David. Once we had shared some information, I decided to share the incarceration record with her. She understood my reluctance to share it with her mother and agreed that it was just as well that I had acted the way that I did. Diana went a step further and was able to find a reference to David’s sentencing in the Winnipeg Tribune:
“David E. _______ , who was found guilty of theft from John Roberts to the amount of $85, was sentenced to two years in the penitentiary. He has spent considerable time in Toronto prison.”3
Diana now plans to seek records from the prison system in Toronto in order to place the information from prison records into the context of the family stories.

Was David’s incarceration the crux of the separation? Did he spend brief times in jail in Toronto that could be explained away as him seeking work away from home? I am looking forward to seeing what Diana finds.

Will I conceal information from a researcher again in the future? That will depend on the situation.

1. David E. ______ entry, 1911 Census for Manitoba, District 22, Selkirk, Sub-district No. 36, township 13, Range 2 East of the Ist Meridian.

2. Stony Mountain Penitentiary, Inmate Admittance Registers, 1871-1921 (RG 73-C-7, W87-88/365
Microfilm reel no. T-11095, 1885-1913, Register 24, 157 pages, Winnipeg Office, Library and Archives Canada, Central Canada Regional Service Centre, 1700 Inkster Boulevard, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R2X 2T1, Telephone: 204-984-1469,Fax: 204-984-4074, Email:
Correctional Services Canada records are archived in this centre.

3. Winnipeg Tribune, 24 September 1909.

Alan Campbell
Past President
The Ontario Genealogical Society
Copyright 2017

Coming to Canada – Immigration and Emigration Records

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Being on a sea voyage from Santiago, Chile, to Buenos Aires, caused me to reflect upon the record sets created when immigrants left the shores of their native country and when they arrived at Canada’s shores. I also reflected upon the richness of my voyage compared to those made by our ancestors.

Lists of passengers who were aboard ships bringing immigrants to Canada prior to 1865 are a hit and miss proposition. There are a number of websites where you can find information about or transcriptions of some of these ships’ passenger lists. Olive Tree Genealogy, a website maintained by Lorine McGinnis Schulze, has links to both ships’ lists and naturalization information. Marjorie P. Kohli, and S. Swiggum have an Immigrants to Canada website which includes links to ships’ lists.

Library and Archives Canada has a database, Passenger Lists for the Port of Quebec City and other Ports, 1865-1922, that can be searched by surname, given name(s), name of the ship, year of arrival and date of arrival. I was able to find Millicent Atkey, a cousin, and her brother Richmond who came to Canada in August of 1907. Since both are age 21, the record hints that they are single. Richmond is a dentist but no trade is mentioned for Millicent. They came from the Isle of Wight, England, via the ship, Empress of Britain. Most of the columns are readable but unfortunately the column that sometimes gives information about where they are going in Canada is unreadable. The original passenger lists were destroyed after microfilming so there is no recourse for a difficult to decipher digital image of the microfilm. Note as well, that a card index file, created by library personnel, for the port of Quebec from 1865 to 1869 is included in the database. No images are attached to these names.


Passenger list showing Millicent and Richmond Atkey courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

A link to a database of naturalization records, Naturalization Records, 1915-1951, for those immigrants not from the United Kingdom [England, Ireland and Scotland], is another way of tracking immigration to Canada. You can search by name or date. The resulting image is a pdf of the specific page in The Canadian Gazette where the names of aliens to whom certificates of naturalization were given were published. I was able to find the page which listed Oskar Spangsberg Nordland from Denmark who married Rhoda Bell Best, one of my cousins. His certificate was dated 26 July 1933. Also noted was his occupation, veterinary doctor, and his residence, Brantford, Ontario.

There are a number of other databases on the Library and Archives Canada website, plus unindexed microforms as well as links to other sources of information. There are too many too mention here but this site would be a good one to investigate thoroughly.

Some pay sites provide immigration information. FindMyPast has Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960 . has a database, All Canada, Ocean Arrivals (Form 30A), 1919-1924, that picks up some immigrants to Canada. This database also contains forms for passengers in transit who are not immigrants.

I have only touched the surface of what is available; don’t hesitate to Google the topic and see what other websites you can find.

Listening to one of Lambton County Branch’s members, Janet Kelch, talk at the March 2017 Branch meeting about the terrible voyage that her ancestor, Casper Sherk, made on board the Love and Unity, reminded me that published records or newspaper accounts exist for some voyages. In this case the name of the ship did not match the avarice and hardheartedness of the captain of the vessel.
A book was written about the crossing, Voyage of the Love and Unity, by Nancy E. Sigmund Schanes. A copy is held by

Hopefully you do not suffer the same affliction as I do, Irish ancestors who had all left Ireland by the mid 1830s and English ancestors who came to Canada West in the mid 1850s.

Alan Campbell
Past President
The Ontario Genealogical Society
Copyright 2017

The Other Women in my Life – Recording the Lives of Our Female Ancestors

Friday, March 10th, 2017

Rather than celebrate the International Day of Women on March 8th and then feel we have done our part, I encourage you begin recording the stories of your female ancestors if you are not or have not already done so. In writing these stories, we can provide “pictures” of them for future generations. How often have you read a story about the trials and tribulations of someone else and then realized that your life was not so difficult after all? Many of the stories of our female ancestors contain those trials and tribulations.

I just finished reading The Winter Years by James Gray.1 This is a book about the Depression from a Western Canada perspective. The author lived on the relief program for a few years of the depression before finding employment as a journalist. He brought firsthand experience to a description of what it was like to be a woman on relief. For a wife and mother, trying to stretch the food vouchers, mending clothing until there was nothing left to mend, and accepting hand me downs from family were all part of survival. Add to this living in a one room apartment often in a house that had been broken into rooms in order to maximize the number of lodgers it could accommodate.

My mother, born in Saskatchewan in 1910, was affected by the depression. For the rest of her life she “valued the pennies” and patched clothing as long as she could as opposed to purchasing new items. With a husband who worked from spring thaw until winter freeze up as a gravel crusher operator, she learned how to grocery shop carefully. She was scrupulous about paying bills and was allowed to run a tab at the local grocery store over the winter that would be paid off when my father went back to work in the spring. I remember seventy five dollar used cars that we drove until they “died”. If I remember correctly, Dad would buy our vehicles but my mother was the salesperson when they had outlived their usefulness to us.

In writing an article about my great grandmother Martha Rachel (Bolton) Atkey for the book, Women Pioneers of Saskatchewan, the second paragraph tells part of the tale about the life of a woman and mother in the 1880s:
“Martha, in her seventh month of pregnancy, arrived at the Crescent City settlement, North West Territories, in August of 1883 with her two young children Mary Louise age seven and Ellen Trafalgar [my grandmother] age four. Her husband, John Atkey, had walked into the area in May of the same year to homestead on the NE Section 06, Township 23, Range 03 West of the 2nd Meridian. Martha’s first thoughts upon sighting the tents and log shack that made up the “city” were probably not positive ones. These first thoughts would have been tempered by her knowledge of the difficulties of homesteading since she was no stranger to hardship and sorrow. Previously she and her husband had attempted to eke out an existence on the Canadian Shield in Stisted Township, Muskoka District of Ontario. Stisted Township would harbour sad memories as well because Martha and John left two babies, Thomas and William John, buried there.”2

Sadness runs through many women’s lives. I collected a story about a collateral line female ancestor, Gertrude, who fell seriously ill. Her husband thought she was going to die and could not face raising their four children by himself so he committed suicide. Gertrude recovered, married his brother and went on to raise the four children and two more from the new marriage. She died at the age of 82 leaving behind her six children, 21 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

Please consider recording your female ancestors’ stories especially this year, the 150th anniversary of Canada as a country.
Alan Campbell
Past President
The Ontario Genealogical Society

Copyright 2017

1. James H. Gray, The Winter Years (Toronto, Ontario: Macmillan of Canada, 1966).

2. Celeste Rider, Editor, Women Pioneers of Saskatchewan (Regina, Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Genealogical Society, 2009), p. 25.

Free or Almost Free Genealogical Education

Friday, February 24th, 2017

One of the sources of free or almost free genealogical education is the proliferation of blogs that exist today. Signing up to have the blog postings come to your inbox is an easy way to learn from the experiences and expertise of others in the field of genealogical research. The risk in doing this too often is information overload. At some point in time you want to stop reading and actually do some research and recording related to your own family.

Choosing Which Blogger to Follow
Whose blog postings you follow is a personal choice. The factors for me are:
Does the blogger post topics relevant to my current research? Although I may be researching in English records next year, I may not want to read multiple postings on the topic this year. I have enough difficulty staying on task now!
Does the blogger post topics of interest to me because of a special interest that I have?

Direct Emailed Blog Posts
I receive direct emails from four genealogy bloggers:
Genealogy à la carte by Gail Dever. I follow Gail’s blog because it is a general one with many references to Canadian sources. I do like her “This week’s crème de la crème” as it brings me into contact with good posts from other bloggers that I would have otherwise been blissfully ignorant about.

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter by Dick Eastman. I have subscribed to the Plus Edition of this blog for years primarily because Dick checks out new electronic equipment and reports on the value he sees in it. This tends to save me money because he often does not recommend items that I think sound interesting.

The Newsletter by Amy Johnson Crow. I like Amy’s posts because we think alike in a lot of ways. Her posts are my connections to general and specific information about researching in the United States.

Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. I started following Lisa after I purchased her first book about mobile genealogy. I have a copy of the latest edition Mobile Genealogy-How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research. Her blog posts have value and her podcasts are interesting and informative.

Using the Feedly App on a Tablet
I have a number of blogs coming through the Feedly App on my iPad such as:
Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections by John D. Reid. John blogs about things Canadian.

The Armchair Genealogist by Lynn Palermo. I feel strongly about writing stories of my ancestors so they are not forgotten and Lynn helps researchers do just that.

The Genetic Genealogist by Blaine Bettinger. Since DNA testing is the “thing” now, I thought I should be hearing from an expert about it.

The Legal Genealogist by Judy G. Russel. I have always been interested in copyright and researcher ethics. Although Judy writes from an American perspective, her comments are well worth reading and considering.

The Passionate Genealogist by Ruth Blair. I must admit some loyalty here since Ruth gave me my blogger’s beads at the 2016 Ontario Genealogical Society Conference in Toronto.

Where the Story Takes Me by Jane E. Macnamara. Jane writes the stories of family members or people who interest her. I like to read about how she found the information.

There is a whole world of genealogy bloggers out there. Check out who is blogging at Geneabloggers and Cangenealogy.

Happy reading!

Alan Campbell
Past President
The Ontario Genealogical Society
Copyright 2017