Tuesday, October 9, 2018

My First Research Visit to an Archive

The second full day of our recent visit to Quebec was spent at the archives of the Eastern Townships Resource Centre housed at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec. Before you move on to another post because you have no ancestry in Canada or Quebec or the Townships, if you've never researched in an archive before, my experience may still be helpful to you.

I first learned about the Eastern Townships Resource Centre (ETRC) a few years ago while doing online research. Most of my Canadian family settled in the Eastern Townships area of Quebec so this was very interesting to me. A real eye-opener was seeing digital copies of my grandfather's photos on their website. It turns out that in the 1970s he had loaned some of his personal photo albums dating from about 1912 to an organization that took photographs of his photographs. Those images then ended up in the hands of the ETRC.

The main focus of my research lately has been one of my grandmother's lines, though, so I when we decided to visit North Hatley, in addition to my cemetery visits, I started searching for a place to visit to see original records. On the ETRC site, I did some searches by surnames, town names, county names, etc. and found some interesting looking fonds. This one really intrigued me because my ancestors were both students and teachers in this district and I had seen some images from the school census in a local history.

Thanks to the ever-generous genealogy community, I knew that it is important to search out the rules of the archive you are planning to visit well in advance. You need to know their hours of operation, if there are set times for record retrieval, or, as was the case here, if the records need to be pulled in advance. You also need to know if you will be allowed to scan, photograph or copy records or if you will have to pay to have them do it.

So, once I made a list of the files and collections that I wanted to see, I used the contact form on the ETRC website to contact the archivist with my requests and the expected date of our visit.

Archivist Jody Robinson could not have been more helpful. She let us know which of the two days would be best to visit, made sure all of the records we wanted could be pulled and provided me an "advance" copy of the rules regarding digital photography and scanning. She also sent an email with a campus map, suggested which parking lots would be best and let us know the fees. My mother is actually a graduate of Bishop's and was very familiar with the hall that holds the Old Library, but even she was grateful for all the help.

Two of the general rules of the archive that are part of the digital camera use policy are also great rules-of-tumb for doing research anywhere:

1. Researchers are responsible for keeping records of the source of the image, including fonds/collection name, file call number, and repository name. It is not the responsibility of the archives staff to track these down after the fact.
2. We insist that researchers photograph the item with the folder title as part of the image to facilitate future retrieval requests and for citation purposes.

With all of the prep work done ahead of time, Jodi was able to very quickly show us to the boxes she had retrieved for us, review procedures, have me sign her copy of the digital camera rules and let us get to work.

Some of the records that we got to see were old newspapers, ledger books for a local general store and a butcher where my ancestors were customers, school census and administrative records, church meeting notes (including some in my great-grandfather's hand!) and old survey maps which contain lot and range numbers that appear in other documents regarding property my ancestors owned.

It was a really wonderful day, aided by advanced planning and a very helpful and knowledgeable archivist! If you do have ancestry in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, do check out the ETRC website, including Jody's blog, to see if there is anything of interest. Even if you have no plans to visit the area anytime soon, they can provide copies of many of their holdings for a fee. You just never know what you might find.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tombstone Tuesday - A Lesson in Patience & Persistence

Patience is not exactly my middle name, but photographing one ancestral headstone, in particular, taught me that it will pay off when paired with persistence.

In November of 2014, my mother and I set off for a few days at our cousin's farm in North Hatley, Quebec over American Thanksgiving weekend. I was armed with a list of four cemeteries that I wanted to visit and headstones to photograph. The night before we left, North Hatley and the surrounding area were blessed with six-inches of snow on bare ground. We did visit two cemeteries, but there were no good photos to be had, although I did give it a shot with North Hatley being an eight-hour drive from home.

Among the headstones that I wanted to photograph was the shiny, pink granite headstone of my 3rd great-grandmother, Elizabeth Louden, and my 2nd-great-grandparents, Elizabeth Nimmo and John Dean. This side, with the names and dates, faces east-ish. This was about the best shot of the day.

Legible? Mostly. Ideal? Certainly not. I also cannot tell you what time of day we were there, but if I had to guess, I would say late morning or early afternoon.

Last summer, in early August, we were back in North Hatley for a family reunion. Although we had planned for a day of visiting cemeteries, we decided to spend more time with family while we could. My instincts were telling me that this shiny and very reflective headstone would be best photographed at noon, but we could only get there in the mid- to late-afternoon. I thought it was still worth a try because the sun would be somewhat behind the stone, reducing glare. What I didn't count on was the easterly-facing side would be very dark.

I thought we might be able to get here about noon the next day, but we didn't make it back at all until just this week.

We started a day of cemetery visits just after 9 am and decided to make this cemetery our first stop, although I had a feeling morning would not work for this stone.

The morning light did not create the reflections I had anticipated, but the writing was still difficult to read. I decided we would head to other cemeteries and try to be back here at noon.

These were the results at just about 12 noon. Still not the most legible stone, but I do believe this is as good as it will ever get and I have been able to play with the contrast a bit in Photoshop without really changing the photo.

This stone really gave me fits, but I learned a lot along the way about the importance of good light for good headstone photos. We returned to the cemetery again in the late afternoon for photos of our west-facing headstones and saw improvement in those results, too. It was a hard day on my back but I was able to photograph all of the headstones I wanted and fulfill some requests for Find A Grave.

Reedsville Cemetery is large and the engraving on many of the older stones will soon be lost to time.

I hope that I can return soon to save the images of these stones before that happens. And if anyone in the area has stumbled on this post because of references to Reedsville or North Hatley, I beg you, please consider giving some time to the genealogical community and to history, grab your camera and get out to this or any old cemetery in your area to make lasting images of these stones and then share them wherever you prefer.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - On the Farm

Well isn't this a fitting theme for this week since I have just returned from North Hatley, Quebec and the farm I've written so much about.

I wrote a long post about the farm and farmhouse for The Old Homestead theme in April. Missing from that post were photos of the aftermath of the tornado that hit the farm in 1926. The photos themselves are in a magnetic album that belongs to my cousin. This week I was finally able to scan them with my Flip-Pal scanner.

These photos show what was left of the barn after the tornado hit.

And these show the construction of the new barn.

I'm about 99% certain that the man standing on the viewer's left in the photo below is my great-grandfather, James Louden Dean. Notice the bushy mustache and the empty-looking right sleeve. You may remember that he lost his arm in a farming accident in 1912. I believe the boy is Lawrence, the youngest child of his first marriage, who was killed in WWII. He would have been twelve here. The last person I was able to identify is seated in front of Lawrence and is my great-uncle Ken who took over the farm after his father's death in 1935 and would have been 20 in 1926.

And here is the finished barn.

It still stands today.

Friday, September 28, 2018

War Memorial - North Hatley, Quebec

I have been visiting North Hatley, Quebec since I was very little. I have no idea how many times I have been to the farm that my 2nd great-grandfather founded 150 years ago and where my maternal grandmother was born. I've been to and through the village of North Hatley on the beautiful and picturesque Lake Massawippi just as many times, and yet I had to ask the location of the North Hatley war memorial last year in order to take photos. Even more ridiculous, the memorial is located right across the road from LeBaron's General Store which I have also visited many times.

Last year's photos weren't good enough for transcription, but I finally visited again this week and can now transcribe the names here.

Unlike most memorials I have seen, probably due to the small population of the area, this one commemorates the service of all who served, with a cross or star next to the names of the men who were killed. I also just noticed that there are names on the WWI plaque with U.S. next to them. My mother thinks perhaps those men came to Canada to fight between 1914 and 1917 before the strongly isolationist United States entered the conflict. I think she's probably right, but I will have to contact a local veteran's group and or the historical society to see if they have a definitive answer. Also, to see if they have the full names of the men who served in WWII and Korea; they are listed on the monument with only first initials.

World War I
    Hamilton F. Armstrong - U.S.
    T. Gardner Aspinwall - U.S.
✚ Henry M. Atkinson, Jr. - U.S.
    Cyril G. Ballin - U.S.
    Harold R. Ballin - U.S.
    Ernest W. Bamping
✚ Alfred Beach
✚ Adelbert Bean
    Charles W. Bennett
✚ Fred A. Bennett
    Octave Blake - U.S.
    Henry Breckenridge - U.S.
    Lucien Breckenridge - U.S.
    R. A. Brock
    Frank Daves Brown - U.S.
    Charles D.F. Brune - U.S.
    Emmons Bryant - U.S.
    Ervine L. Burns
    Andrew L. Cinnamon
    Earl H. Cinnamon
    Charles. S. Clark
    Humphry Cobb
    Eli Copeland
    Donald Dick
    Jackson P. Dick - U.S.
    William J. Dick
    Albert B.C. Dooley
    Arthur N. Dutton
    Charles J. Edgar
    Clifford E. Force
    William J. Gagnon
    Reginald Gallagher
    George Gardner
    Ambrose Gordon - U.S.
    Frank Gosnell , Jr. - U.S.
    H. Allen Gosnell - U.S.
    Dalby M. Grainger
    A. E. Wilson Harrison - U.S.
    Randolph C. Harrison - U.S.
    Charles A. Hawes
    James Hopkins
✚ Kenneth D'O Husband
    William Husband
    Herbert Jacques, Jr. - U.S.
    James Jardine
    H. Holman Ketcham - U.S.
    John B. Ketcham - U.S.
    Simon R. Kezar
    Wilfred J. Kezar
    Oscar M. Kilby - U.S.
✚ Adelbert LeBaron
    Grant A. LeBaron
    Joseph A. Leduc
    John G. Livingston - U.S.
✚ Gordon Lockwood
    Patrick Lynch
    Arnold C. Mayo
    Ashley W. Mayo
    Clifford W. Mayo
    Albert Matthews
    Harry B. Moss
    Herbert A. McCrea
    A. Lee McKay
    John R. McKay
    Robert McVittie
    Thomas C. Parker
    E. Willing Peters - U.S.
    Thomas Phillips
    Sherwood Picking - U.S.
    James R. Pond
    Harford W.H. Powel - U.S.
    Howard H. Powel - U.S.
    Chilton L. Powell - U.S.
    Paul R. Powell - U.S.
    Verner H. Putney
✚ John Ramsdell
    Frank McN Ransom - U.S.
    Warren A. Ransom - U.S.
    James S. Robertson
    Harry Robinson
✚ Arthur E. Seguin
    Augustus Seguin
    J. Adolph Seguin
    Alphonse Sigard
    Fred Sprigings
    T. Ellis Stebbins - U.S.
    E. Vail Stebbins - U.S.
    Sidney M. Taylor
    Clinton E. Woodward
    Andrew Wylie - U.S.
✚ Alton Young
    Clarence F. Young

World War II
G. Agon
D. Allen
L. Allen
N. Allen
A. Bachand
J. Bachand
A. Bampton
J. Bampton
J. Barrow
K. Bassett
L. Bean
C. Bennett
M. Bowen
R. Bryant
R. Carmen
W. Carroll
C. Cate
M. Cliche
R. Deacon
L. (Lawrence) Dean ★
N. Ditchburn
R. Ditchburn
A. Doyon
O. Fidler ★
P. Gagnon
W. Gagnon
P. Gauthier
M. Gokey
S. Gomes
R. Gordon
C. Guild
J. Guild
L. Guild
W. Guild ★
C. Hartwell
C. Hawes
G. Hawes
E. Humphrey
D. Johnson
R. Jones
D. Kezar
D. Kezar
J. Kezar
R. Kezar ★
R. Kezar
W. Kezar
C. Ladouceur
G. Ladouceur ★
S. Lavoi
L. LeBaron

R. LeBaron
J. Lennon
A. Lusty
C.  Lusty
D. Martin
A. Marlowe
G. Mayo
E. McCrea
F. McCrea
J. McCrea ★
W. McCrea
D. McKnight ★
G. Meigs
R. Merrill
A. Moore
G. Penwill
W. Penwill
W. Raymond
S. Reed
W. Ride
R. Riley
F. Rudd
J. Sampson ★
A. Seguin
G. Seguin
L. Seguin
R. Seguin
H. Sharman
W. Sharman
G. Smith
E. Stiles
F. Stone
G. Sprigings
H. Taylor
K. Taylor
R. Taylor
S. Taylor
P. Trusell
H. Thwaites
J. Voisard
R. Voisard
H. Wheeler
A. Woodward
W. Woodward
H. Wort ★
J. Wort
J. Young

Korean War
E. Bampton
G. Ditchburn
R. Hughes
D. LeBaron
J. Rasmussen
H. Wheeler

All gave some, some gave all.

I will be sending this link to the Honor Roll Project so that family history researchers might find family members listed here.

Please consider adding your local war memorial to the project so that other genealogists can find their ancestor.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Getting Ready to Share Some History

It's been a rough few months for my genealogy research and education. There just hasn't been time. Now I am forcing myself to make time, though, because my mother and I will be heading to Canada in a few weeks for a family visit, research trip, and conference (BIFHSGO).

Our first stop will be the family farm in North Hatley, Quebec that we visited for a reunion last summer. Our second stop will be Ottawa, Ontario where will be staying with my Godmother and second cousin. Her father was my grandfather's baby brother, William John White "Pin" Smith.

Always on the lookout for ways to share my love of family history with my family, I created this collage print on Snapfish (no affiliation) from my grandfather's photo albums and will frame four copies for my Godmother and her three children.

Uncle Pin is the youngest youngster in all of the group photos. Also pictured here are my great-grandparents and all of their other six children who lived to adulthood.

I'll also be bringing unframed prints of the "official" Smith family portrait.

I'm a bit on the fence about which version of this portrait to share. I prefer the cropped version, but I know the other would be more helpful for those who aren't family historians and need help identifying all the siblings. I don't like the yellowing on that border and don't have the Photoshop skills to make it white, but Donald has me 90% convinced to include it anyway.

I'll also be taking prints of this photo of another generation of the family, my 2nd great-grandparents, and their adult children.

You know I love my photos but they generally don't help you get to know anyone. In order to share a little bit of who Uncle Pin was, I've also made color copies of this letter that he wrote to my grandmother when her youngest brother was killed in the last weeks of World War II.

I hope that all of my cousins will be as touched by this letter as I always am and that they will be interested in getting to know their grandfather and great-grandfather just a bit.

As I make more preparations and have time to share them, I will let you know.

Here is a transcription of the above letter.

13 Apr 45
Capt. W.J.W. Smith Capt.
2 Cdn. Night Vision Tng. & Testing Unit CAO

Dearest Marj:

     I received official notification from Army Records of Lawrence being killed in action, only yesterday, and I cannot tell you just how sorry I was to read the letter. Please accept my sincere sympathy. Time alone can heal the wound of sorrow you must feel. I trust you will have some consolation in the knowledge that his death like that of so many others, is for the salvation of millions.
     Shortly after receiving this letter, Emmy's nephew Ronald, walked in my office, looking remarkably well, if somewhat weak. This, too, was a bit of a shock to me, as I had just received a letter from Canada saying he had been severely wounded for the second time, and that he was not expected to recover. Apparently penicillin & God had worked a miracle, and although he's now short of some important internal parts, he should live to a reasonable age. He'll be returning home before very long.


Two fine boys. I couldn't help but thinking of the oft quoted, "One shall be taken, and the other...". I guess faith in God, and the knowledge that Christ, too, gave his life that others might live, can do more to calm the troubled heart than anything.


I hear from George most regularly, and he seems to be getting along very well. He asked me to forward a gift he got for you, which I shall do early next week as I will have a suitable box and wrappings by then. Please extend my condolences to your family. A kiss to Janet for her last card, and love, Pin.

1. Smith family including Smith, William John White "Pin". Collection of photos scanned from albums created by George W. Smith of Thetford Mines, Quebec ca. 1910-1917. Collage photo created by the author, photo albums now held privately by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Rockville Centre, NY and digitized in 2018. The album was passed from George W. Smith to his wife Marjorie E. Dean to their daughter to their granddaughter.

2. Smith, George Robert family photo taken on Christmas Day abt. 1914, privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Rockville Centre, NY and digitized in 2018. This copy was part of a manuscript about the Smith family that passed from George W. Smith to his wife Marjorie E. Dean to their daughter to their granddaughter.

3. Smith, Benjamin family photo, privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Rockville Centre, NY and digitized in 2018. The original came to the author from her mother, a great-granddaughter of Benjamin Smith.

4. William John White Smith, Canadian Army Overseas, to Marjorie Elizabeth Dean, letter, 13 April 1945; Smith Family; privately held by the author [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Rockville Centre, New York.

Monday, May 28, 2018

L/Cpl Lawrence Nimmo Dean

I only have one known ancestor who died serving his country in war, my Grand Uncle, L/Cpl. Lawrence Nimmo Dean, youngest brother of my maternal grandmother, Marjorie Elizabeth Dean. In each post about him, I try to introduce new material and thanks to my mother I do have something new to share again this year, his service medals.

Uncle Lawrence served in WWII, enlisting in Stratford, Ontario on September 28, 1939. His service record told me that he earned six campaign medals: the 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, France and Germany Star, War Medal, C.V.S.M. & Clasp, and the Defence Medal. Earlier this year I learned that my mother's cousin had entrusted these medals to my mother, and now she has entrusted them to me.

According to Wikipedia, these were campaign medals "instituted by the United Kingdom...to subjects of the British Commonwealth for service in the Second World War."

The 1939-45 Star was issued to those who served at least one day between September 2, 1939, and May 8, 1945, the duration of the war in Europe.

The Italy Star was issued to those who served at least one day in Sicily or Italy between June 11, 1943, and May 8, 1945.

The France and Germany Star was issued to those who served at least one day in France, Belgium, Holland or Germany between June 6, 1944 - D-Day - and May 8, 1945.

The War Medal was awarded to full-time personnel of the Armed forces or Merchant Marines who served at least twenty-eight days between September 3, 1939, and May 8, 1945.

The C.V.S.M. (Canadian Volunteer Service Medal) was awarded to members of the Naval, Air and Military Forces of Canada who served honorably for at least 18 months or 540 days from September 3, 1939, to March 1, 1947. Those who served at least 60 days outside of Canada were also awarded a clasp, a silver bar with a maple leaf at the center.

The Defense Medal was awarded for non-operational service, but I'll refer you to the Libary and Archives Canada site for a detailed description here.

Two years ago, I wrote about a letter that my grandfather's brother wrote to my grandmother after hearing the news of Uncle Lawrence's death. In it, he wrote, "I trust you will have some consolation in the knowledge that his death like that of so many others, is for the salvation of millions."

That thought is comforting, but I am still sad today looking these medals. How many other families have similar artifacts; service medals still in their original boxes because their recipients would never wear them, symbols of unfinished lives, some barely begun.

The medals honor Uncle Lawrence's service, but the boxes illustrate his sacrifice and that of the loved ones that he left behind.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

Six years ago today, I published my first post. I thought it would be cute to illustrate this post with a picture from my 6th birthday party but I took out the appropriate photo album today to look for one and there was nothing! The pictures go right from September to Christmas, which is two weeks after my birthday. So much for the spoiled only child myth. Looks like that Christmas Baby thing is real after all. Ah, well.

Instead of a cute photo of six-year-old me, I've illustrated this post with the same image that I used on my post six years ago, an obituary of my 2nd great-grandfather, Benjamin Smith, whose parents are as elusive today as they were then. I haven't worked on this puzzle in quite some time, but I'm planning a visit to the NYC Municipal Archives next month to look at some Brooklyn City Directories for clues so we'll see what happens then.

I'll find your family someday, Benjamin!

I'm sorry that I don't have time to write an appreciative post and reminisce about the last six years. Suffice it to say that your visits and comments mean a lot to me and I appreciate your encouragement to keep on blogging in spite of the GDPR. I hope to be back to regular length posts soon.