Archive for the ‘General Genealogy’ Category

So I attended a lecture I didn’t think interested me…

In Deacon, General Genealogy, My Genealogy on May 2, 2010 at 5:50 AM

at the NGS (National Genealogical Society) Conference yesterday.  You see, I don’t have an Illegitimate births in my family tree.  Or so I thought.

My brick wall, my great-grandmother, Miss Elusive herself, well, I had two expert opinions on her case this week.  Yup, looks like she’s illegitimate.  This they got from the fact that her Father’s name and profession or left blank on her marriage certificate (this is in Wales).  So suddenly, a session I had completely discounted as of interest to me, became very interesting indeed!  Funny how quickly we family historians can change our minds and find ourselves learning a subject we never thought we would.  Love it!!


Woo hoo! Off to the NGS Conference opening session.

In General Genealogy on April 28, 2010 at 5:15 AM

Yes, I’m in Salt Lake City, the genealogical Disneyland.

Yesterday I found a micorfilmed copy of my great-grandparent’s marriage certificate from 1909 Wales.  And a book about some Antrim relatives.  All within about 45 minutes, at the Family History Library.

Today, it’s the start of the conference and learning, learning, learning!  😀

On finding a Confederate soldier in my tree

In Painter, US Civil War on March 28, 2010 at 8:05 AM

I admit I know very little about the US Civil War other than that it involved emancipation of the black slaves and Abraham Lincoln.  So when I searched, and surprisingly found, for my great-great-grandfather in the Civil War soldier database I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d found.  He was listed as a Prisoner of War, so it listed where he was captured (not far from his home in Missouri) as well as when, and how/when he was discharged.  I dutifully took notes.

Then I thought I should figure out this Confederate-Union thing.  I was assuming that my ancestors felt the same way I do, that slavery is bad.  I was wrong.

Samuel was a confederate soldier.  As was his brother William.  And many of their neighbours.  And for the first time in 30 years of family research, I was a little disappointed in my ancestors.

I thought I should find out more about his regiment, “Porter’s Regiment”.  Most of what I found seems to be based on a regimental history by Mr. Mudd (I wonder if he was any relation to the Dr. Mudd who fixed up Abraham Lincoln’s assinator, John Wilkes Booth, which gave rise to the saying “his name is mud”?).  While Colonel Porter’s regiment was officially part of the army, they were at times, by some, considered Bushwackers as they employed guerilla warfare.  Colonel Porter was killed in Jan/Feb 1863–both Samuel and William were captured in 1862.

None of this information made me feel any better about my ancestors and I, who pride myself on being open-minded, find myself with quite a challenge.  How do I reconcile my ancestor’s beliefs with who I am (and are they rolling over in their graves with the knowledge of me as their descendant)?  I suspect I will have to do quite a bit more research on the US Civil War, in particular Missouri’s role in it, to help with that reconciliation.  What a difference 150 years and 4 generations can make!

Wordless Wednesday–Housewife

In General Genealogy on February 24, 2010 at 5:34 PM

Men working “on the road” will get up to some crazy things.  Anyone know what year this car would be?

For some reason, this pic makes me think of the little kitchen kits all the men carried in WWI, nicknamed “housewives”.

Wordless Wednesday–Feystown

In General Genealogy, Places on February 3, 2010 at 8:37 AM

Yet another great blog topic suggested by Geneablogger.

Feystown’s Old School

Feystown Church (St. Patrick’s, Roman Catholic)

Feystown is just outside (southwest) of Glenarm, in County Antrim, in Northern Ireland.

My Painter Soldiers in WWI

In General Genealogy, My Genealogy, Painter, WWI on January 25, 2010 at 3:06 PM

I”m not sure how I ended up there, but yesterday I found myself  knee-deep in World War I research.  In particular I was reading up on the Canadian Railway Troops (CRT) and the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) to which grandpa and his brother (my granduncle) belonged respectively.

Going over my granduncle’s military file (search Attestation Forms at CollectionsCanada, then order a copy of the entire file for around $30),  I found that while it was true he belonged to the 16th Battalion when he died, he had only belonged to them for a month before he was killed.  His short career in the army saw him transferred between four different battalions.

Grandpa on the othe other hand, being older, enlisted earlier in January 1915 and was transferred only once, from his enlisted battalion (58th) to the 1st Canadian Pioneers, which later became known as the 9th CRT.  His paybook and file paysheets list him as a Steam Tractor Engineer & Repairs.

For an interesting description of what it was like in France, and in  particular being part of a CRT company, download and read France & Flanders: four years experience told in poem & story (1919) by W. Brindle, a Sapper (roughly the engineer equivalent of a Private).   What a promising source InternetArchive (, Canadian version) is!

Another wonderful source of information I found was the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force) Study Group.  Try searching on your ancestor’s battalion to begin with, or just browse..  The amount of accumulated knowledge on this site is formidable.

Finding out what happened on a specific day in the war in a particular battalion is actually quite easy–search on the battalion and read the War Diaries.  Almost everyday entries were made describing what the battalion did on that day.  Although very few names are specifically mentioned, it can give you a very good overview of what things your ancestor did on a day-to-day basis, and show what happened the day, as in my granduncle’s case, your ancestor died.

There are many many books out there written on specific battalions and battles.  If you are researching the 16th Battalion as I am, I highly recommend Brave Battalion by Mark Zuehlke (Chapters, Amazon).  Last night I read 4 pages detailing what happened October 1st, 1918, giving me a pretty good idea exactly what my granduncle’s last morning was like, and how and where (and why) he was likely killed.  Thank you to my sister for giving me this book for Christmas!

New Year’s Genealogical Goals

In Deacon, General Genealogy, Thompson on December 31, 2009 at 10:50 AM

I’m not usually one to do New Year’s resolutions–as my dad would say, I once made a resolution to never make resolutions and have kept it to this day.  However, goals are always a good idea.

I will finally order my grand-aunty Fran’s birth registration this year to see if it will shed any light on my secretive (aka brick wall) great-grandmother Deacon.  “Grandma Deac” has woven a pretty intricate trail, even if she didn’t mean to, and I have been on it for a decade or so now.  If nothing new comes up on said birth registration, then I shall let grandma Deac keep her secrets.  For now.

About two years ago I started getting copies of all the required documentation to prove my research.  I will continue this, as well as scanning (join Miriam over at AnceStories the last Sunday of every month for ScanFest) and transcribing it all into my program (Rootsmagic).

I would like to find out what ever became of my aunts Annie (nurse)  & Mary (music teacher) Thompson after World War I.  That will mean learning a few new research techniques, as I have not needed to do much research in the more modern era (what do you do when there are no censues?!).

I hope you and yours have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Findmypast frenzy

In General Genealogy on December 29, 2009 at 2:46 PM

…is about to begin.  My subscription ends January 2nd, and I just don’t have the $250 to renew (and that’s with the 20% loyalty discount!).  So over the next few days I’ll be going over my English families again to ensure I’ve done all I can for them with this particular subscription.  It’s actually forcing me to organize myself a bit better which is always a good thing.  I’ll also go down some of the collatoral lines as well and pick up what I can.

I know the arguments for the prices of these subscription sites–it is without a doubt much cheaper than flying there to do the research.  However given a budget and a choice, I’d much rather do the trip!  Who wouldn’t want to visit the old country, the stomping grounds of some of the names we’ve added to our tree, getting a flavour of the people and places.  Given a tight budget, however, I am very happy that my local library at least has a subscription to  Sure, not quite the same as sitting in your pjs and bunny slippers as you search from morning ’til night, taking nary a bathroom break as you hunt them down, but definitely easier on the pocket book.  Maybe I should look into becoming a professional Genealogist, then I could write off all these online database subscriptions as tax deductions!

Christmas Cards–Advent Calendar

In Christmas, General Genealogy on December 4, 2009 at 9:57 AM

Cards we received would be displayed set upon the top of the piano or along the mantel piece generally.  Grandma and grandpa Akeson received a large number of cards, and would have them hung on a string up high on the wall, sometimes going around a corner even.

I don’t really remember mom or dad sitting down to write Christmas Cards to all and sundry.  I do recall, however, mom would buy special Christmas Cards for both their parents.  By special, I mean cards like from Hallmark or Carlton, “To our parents” sorta thing, as opposed to the box of more anonymous cards one usually buys and sends out.

Dad talks about memories of cards on the Christmas Tree as he was growing up, something we have done in miniature (ie 2 or 3 cards only) from time to time, usually when it’s “gift” card.

Below are three “old” Christmas Cards I’m lucky enough to have possession of as family historian.  The Santa card dates from 1917 and was sent to my grandma Painter her first Christmas from an uncle and aunt.  The other two cards were sent from grandpa Painter to his parents and family during World War One (one from 1916 and the other probably from 1917).  You may have spotted that grandma Painter was just born and grandpa was old enough to be fighting overseas in 1917–there was a 24 year gap in their ages, grandpa being 49 when he finally married.  I can’t help but think that WWI left some large scars on grandpa, perhaps contributing to his long bachelorhood.  Which is rather getting off the topic of christmas cards.

The ideas for these Christmas postings come from the Advent Calendar of Memories ( topics suggested at — thank you geneabloggers for helping guide me down memory lane!

Spinster and Bachelors, not just lifeless limbs in our family trees

In General Genealogy on November 21, 2009 at 5:11 PM

As genealogists our main goal is to go another generation back or out, so when we come to ancestors who did not marry, and/or did not have children, we rarely want to spend much time on them.  We dutifully enter their vitals in our trees, and move on.
The importance of these aunts and uncles becomes clearer when we reach the stage of adding flesh to the family tree, becoming family historians and putting our ancestors in context, trying to find out more than just their vitals.  Often they will be the ones with the most exciting stories to add, as they had the the extra time and energy perhaps to accomplish more that was out-of-the-ordinary for the time.  It seems, in my family at least, that they also come down in the one-line family lore: Aunt Annie was a nurse in the war, uncle Barnie was a Sapper in Egypt, aunt Kit was like a second mother to grandma, uncle Hervey was a practicle jokster who was killed in WWI, uncle William headed to the California Gold Rush but never made it and so on.  These are women who worked, even had careers, before it was a societal norm and men who sought out a little more adventure.
Not all did, of course.  There will likely be many a spinster who stayed at home to look after the family, a dutiful daughter who cared for her widowed father.  I have one instance where a childless married uncle basically raised three of his brothers children when the brother and his wife died in a cholera epidemic.  Nearly 150 years later, the names of aunt Annie and uncle Robert are still uttered with an endearment passed on through generations.  “Hugh and Winnie” travelled and raced greyhounds and their feats may be found in newspaper clippings and postcards, but not in the family tree as they had no children. “Fran and Bill” had no children either, yet they were like second parents to my own mother who, as a child, called Bill da-Bill (daddy-Bill) and was very close to  her aunt Fran.  Some family money came from uncle Charlie and aunt Norah.  So they were important, and are important.  They did not live ostersized lives, sitting on the sidelines, watching our ancestors live.  They lived, and influenced those around them.
Theirs may also be the Will and Testament that helps you knock down a brick wall, for who did they have to leave anything to but slightly more distant relatives–brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews.  They may also be the keepers of family heirlooms and legend–I am not the first spinster in my family tree to be genealogically inclined.  Family is arguably more important to us precisely because we haven’t got children of our own.  I myself keep in touch with as many cousins, and cousins-once-removed, as possible as often as possible.  I may be able to tell you more about their lives than their own parents our children could.

I have to admit I hold a personal stake in this for I am just such a lifeless limb, not at all what I planned.  And as I hit 40 this year I am trying to make sense of my own contribution to life and to my family.  It’s not so easy to see so close up, so I have begun to re-examine from farther afield, studying my fellow spinster and bachelor family-gone-before.  It has been heartening to me to see that they have indeed contributed and many still live on in the family lore.

Aunt Annie & Uncle Robert Williamson with Elizabeth & Louise Smith

Nurse Aunt Annie (Hannah) Thompson

Uncle (Perl) Hervey Painter