Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday - Lucy Hamilton Smith and Frederick Albert Sawer

I recently posted photos from our trip to Quebec and the two cemeteries that we were able to visit, including Elmwood Cemetery in Sherbrooke, Quebec. What you can't see in those photos, because I forgot to take a picture of the entire plot, is that my great-grandparents are buried in a large plot for 12 people.

Buried with George and Isabelle are three of their children, the spouses of two of those children and the two sons of their eldest son, both with their wives, leaving one spot empty.

Lucy Hamilton Smith was the oldest of George and Isabella's children and named for her maternal grandmother, Lucy A.B. Hamilton, who had passed away in 1881. Lucy was born when the family lived in Buckingham, with her maternal grandfather, George Lakin Parker.

Lucy married Frederick Albert Sawer on December 4, 1918 in Thetford Mines, Quebec. They had no children but doted on their nieces and nephews.

Unfortunately for me, I never knew Aunt Lucy and Uncle Fred who died in early and late 1964 before I was born. I wish I had known them though, just from pictures I sense that Aunt Lucy was a very interesting person!

Friday, August 25, 2017

City Directories at BAnQ and the short life of Norman Parker Smith

Finding the burial record of my great-uncle, Norman Parker Smith, brought the events of his short life into focus for me.

Quebec church records don't seem to have any consistency in terms of content. This one is a gift because in a time well before civil death records, the Minister chose to include Norman Parker's cause of death, which is very unusual in my experience. Norman Parker died of infantile debility, his little body was not absorbing the nutrients from his food and he wasted away.

Still perplexed by his baptism in Montreal just eight days before his death and the fact that the witnesses did not include his father, I began to wonder if his illness could explain it. Unlike an illness such as influenza which would strike quickly, infantile debility could have given Norman's family time to seek medical help; specialists, perhaps hospitalization.

But there was one more question to answer, and for that I would need help from city directories. I knew that there was a time that the Smiths were living both in Montreal and Thetford Mines and they were enumerated in Montreal in the 1911 census, so that could have explained the Montreal baptism, but were they there as early as 1903?  Luckily, as I pointed out in my previous post , the digital online collections at BAnQ include the Lovell directories from 1848-2010.

I began my search for George Robert Smith, my great-grandfather, in the 1902 directory but this entry from the 1910-1911 edition was the earliest I could find for him, so the family was very likely not here yet in 1903.

That timeline matched with my current theory which is this: That Norman Parker Smith was born at home in Thetford Mines, Quebec on July 26, 1903 into a growing family of two sisters, and three brothers. At some point it became apparent that he was not physically well and the local doctor was unable to either pinpoint a cause or to offer treatment.

I don't know of any photos of Norman Parker.
Shown here are George Robert Smith and Isabella Frances Parker with their youngest child, William John White Smith.
It may have been on the doctor's recommendation that my great-grandmother boarded the train for Montreal with her baby to seek the help of a specialist. The death of another son, Benjamin, in 1889 could not have been far from her mind.

Whether they were in Montreal for weeks or days I don't know, but at some point the reality of Norman Parker's condition and the probable outcome must have set in. My great-grandmother took him to be baptized at St. Gabriel's Presbyterian church on November 10, 1903 without even her husband by her side and only eight days later, at the age of three months, twenty-two days, little Norman Parker was gone.

Then Isabella Frances, and for some reason I see this as her decision, made the difficult choice to send her baby 250 miles away so that he could be buried, not all alone in a local cemetery, but with his brother Benjamin and their grandmother, Lucy Hamilton Parker.

At the burial service only Norman's father and grandfather, George Lakin Parker, signed the church book. Perhaps Isabella was there, or perhaps she was too grief-stricken to make the long trip and bury another son. She did have a household to run and five other children from 16-4 years old. Maybe it was just time to turn her attention back to them and find comfort in their company and love.

There are still more records to be found to verify Benjamin's birth and burial, but I can't see my great-grandmother burying Norman in Buckingham if Benjamin weren't there already.

Whether or not Benjamin and Norman Parker ever had headstones I don't yet know but I am definitely looking forward to my next trip to Ottawa, and making my way to Buckingham, now Gatineau, to pay my respects to the Parkers and Smiths at St. Andrew's Cemetery. On our recent trip to Quebec, we were able to pay our respects to George and Isabella.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

BMS2000 and BAnQ-Finding Norman Parker Smith Online - Pt II

BMS2000 is a website originally started by five Quebec genealogical societies, for their private use, to make a database of birth, marriage, and burial (Bapteme, Marriage et Sepulture) records. The site has since been made public and now includes contributions from 24 member societies.

BMS2000 is a pay site if you don't belong to a member society and want to see details about the records (though in most cases, not the records themselves), but it is very inexpensive. For me, it was cheap at twice the price.

Anyone can do a search on the site, and without vouchers you'll get a result like this (click to expand for detail):

Searching for Maggie Dean as the Child in a baptism in Waterville, Quebec with no year entered gave me the result above. To see more, I would have to pay. For $20 Canadian (current rate is about 80 cents on the US$ I believe), you get 200 vouchers, so basically ten cents per record viewed. I've searched for many records here now and am still on my first $20.

Once I paid and searched for Maggie again, I was able to see this:

So, could I get an actual record or record image? I think if you can identify the society who is responsible for the record (as circled above) you can contact them. The codes seem to correspond to the societies listed on the site's home page. Except for this one. I had to email twice to find out who that might be. So, in the meantime, I took another route. While I was looking at a search result for the marriage of my Smith great-grandparents in that elusive church in Buckingham, I saw something that wasn't on Maggie's record:

"Complete listing at the ANQ in Qc. The index of licenses on sale at the SGQ."

So what were the ANQ and SGQ? The more accurate acronym for the ANQ is BAnQ, Bibliotheque et Archives Nationals du Quebec, the National Library and Archives of Quebec. The SGQ is the Societe de genealogie de Quebec, the Quebec Genealogical Society. I chose to explore the former.

A few points about this site before we proceed:

Keep in mind that this index is being created by volunteers from twenty-four different local historical societies in Quebec. I think that is why there is more detail on one record, less on another. Just something to keep in mind in terms of accuracy.

Also, make sure to print or otherwise save your search results. If you want to print, from inside the pop-up with the record details, choose "Retain this record".  Then, from the left of your screen you can print individually, by retaining only one record at a time, or from everything you've retained during that session, by waiting to the end. The next time you log on, the records may not be there, so be sure to save your records before logging out. Otherwise you will have to pay again. I may have missed something, but I don't think I saw that spelled out clearly on the site.

So, as I said, my next step was to visit the BAnQ website. This website is in french as you would expect and their translate button won't work for everything, but it isn't too difficult to get past that.

After clicking on the English option in the upper right, the image above is what the BAnQ homepage looks like. From here, click on Explore Our Contents which will give you a large drop-down menu (that I couldn't capture). In the center column is an item "Digital Collection", choosing that will bring you to this page:

The third row has two collections, the "Lovell directories of Montreal and its suburbs" and "Quebec registers of civil status, from the beginnings to 1913" - these are the church records - images from the civil copies of the church books. Choosing that option will bring you here"

This screen illustrates why you may still need or want to visit BMS2000 before coming to BAnQ. There is no index for these records here. In order to use this site effectively you need to know the name of the church, or the region or district, or be willing to dig in for a longer search. I've had luck finding regions and districts for towns in my research on Wikipedia. Searching by parish (paroisse) can be tougher unless you know the name of the church.

Entering Maggie's information from BMS; Waterville Congregational Church and the year 1872, led me right to her record.

And next for the Smiths - would I find records here from St. Andrew's Presbyterian church in Buckingham? My heart was beating out of my chest and I swear I was hardly breathing.

It was disappointing to see that only records from 1900 - 1914 were available since most of the events in my family took place before that and one after, but, oh, Norman Parker, I thought to myself, and clicked on 1903. It seemed to take forever to scroll through to events in November, and then there he was:

I was so grateful to find this record and I'm looking forward to a visit to Montreal and BAnQ (who have suspended digitization efforts for the time being due to budget cuts) to find more records.

Next time, another record collection at BAnQ and my conclusions about Norman Parker's short life.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

How I Found Norman Parker Smith in Online Records - Pt I

Benjamin and Norman Parker Smith were two of my maternal grandfather's brothers. They died in infancy in 1889 and 1903 in Quebec. Finding their graves was an eight year search that began when I knew absolutely nothing about genealogical research.

When I first realized that, unlike my grandfather and the rest of his siblings, I could not locate Benjamin and Norman's graves, I had no online memberships. I stumbled on interment.net and later findagrave.com, there were free resources at Library and Archives Canada and, of course, there was Google.

Google led me to a cemetery where my great-grandmother's relatives were buried and I had hopes of finding records because the cemetery was associated with a church, but I had no luck. Once I had an Ancestry World membership I was able to search the records of the Insitut Genealogique Drouin who had filmed the civil copies of church books in all denominations in Quebec, but still I found nothing for the babies. The collection did not include the records of that church in Buckingham and somehow Norman Parker had no records that I could find even though he was born after the family had moved to Thetford Mines, about 250 miles to the east. I knew a Canadian research trip was needed but couldn't find the right time. I moved on to other research and genealogy activities.

One day, much to my surprise, Ancestry provided me with a hint about Norman Parker. It was his baptismal record from a church in Montreal, a place that was completely unexpected.

The names and dates in the record were a match, though, and sadly he was baptized only eight days before his death as recorded in the family Bible. I thought that meant his burial record would be in this same church book, but he was not buried from this church.

Years went by again, and it was Spring 2017. The Dean family (also of Quebec) reunion was coming fast. I began researching the children of my 2nd great-grandparents. My great-grandfather and three of his siblings were baptized at the same church, according to church records, but I couldn't find a record for the fifth. Further searches showed that the book for Maggie Dean's likely year of baptism was not in the collection on Ancestry. I knew I wasn't going to make it to Canada for research before the reunion but were there online resources that I was missing? Did someone else have these records online? It dawned on me how much of a beginner I was when I started researching Quebec ancestors and how many records come online every week now. I needed to approach my search like a beginner. I needed to start from scratch but with my eight years of experience behind me.

I remembered the DearMYRTLE Beginner's Series in 2015. Practically the first thing DearMYRTLE mentioned was the Family Search Wiki, which I had turned to since then when researching a new area. And so that is where I went, and the very first link I clicked showed me that it might be possible to find these records from my desk on Long Island. BMS2000 had indexed a baptismal record for Maggie Dean at the Waterville Congregational Church in 1872. I was on my way!

To be continued.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Case of the Vanishing Headstone

If I were playing Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from last month, I would now be able to go back in in an unbroken chain of headstones to my 4th great-grandparents, Moses Quimby Bean and Elizabeth Kezar (pronounced Kee-zer with the emphasis on the first syllable). This cemetery, as I wrote about last week, sits on property set aside by Moses for this purpose and was called the Bean Burial Ground in some church records.

Moses Bean
Oct. 19, 1825
Ae 52 yrs 8 mo

Betsey Kezar
Wife of
Moses Beane
Oct. 25, 1830
Ae 54 yrs 7 mo

I may also have another set of 4th-great-grandparents buried here, but more research is needed to verify that. Of course, I had planned to photograph their headstones anyway since this cemetery isn't exactly around the corner from me. But when we got here, there were no signs of any headstones for Isaac Gordon and Mariam Wells.

They were listed on interment.net but my mother and I walked the thankfully small cemetery twice and had no luck finding them. Once home I logged onto the site and saw that the compiler had last updated this cemetery in 2004, so it was certainly possible given the age of the stones and the condition of some of those in the cemetery where repairs, sinking and leaning were evident, that Isaac and Mariam's headstone(s) had been lost to time.

Next I contacted Leslie Nutbrown, who had transcribed this cemetery, because I knew that he sometimes transcribed from photos, and I was in luck, he had a photo and sent it to me right away.

Used with permission of the photographer,
Leslie Nutbrown, who transcribed the stones in this cemetery in 2004.

Isaac Gordon
Nov. 25, 1853
Aged 74 Yrs.
Mariam Wells
His Wife
Died Mar 19, 1862
Aged 74 Yrs.
6 Mo. 4 Dys.

I still look at this photo and shake my head that a monument this seemingly sturdy could just disappear. But the property does lie on a busy road. In the time that we were there, many trucks flew past us hauling lumber and other cargo towards the border. I would imagine that kind of activity produces a lot of vibration that could be damaging to these monuments, and if it had been leaning like a similar family monument here, I guess it could very well have toppled over and broken apart.

Contacting the local historical society is near the top of my genealogy to do list. I hope they can help me learn about the cemetery and tell me who maintains it now.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Best Laid Cemetery Plans

It looks like I accidentally deleted my pre-reunion post detailing my plans for visiting cemeteries in Quebec and the contents of my new cemetery kit, so I'll review it a bit here.

Before heading home from last week's reunion, Mum and I had hoped to visit six cemeteries to pay our respects to our ancestors and photograph their headstones. Our previous attempt three years ago had to be called for weather when the area was hit with six inches of snow the night before our arrival.


Well, you know about best laid plans, right? I still think we could have completed our mission, but we chose to spend some extra time with our cousins instead. There was also one cemetery we decided to skip on this trip because the cemetery didn't respond to my inquiries for plot numbers before we left, and it is a big cemetery.

As I packed my clothes and other necessities, I also assembled a cemetery kit in a large knapsack on wheels. Inside were:

First aid kit that included a whistle and compass
Bug spray (containing Deet due to a bad tick season in the area)
Lint rollers (to check ourselves for ticks, they can be very small)
Long dishwashing gloves (again, tick protection)
Gardening gloves
Exam gloves just because I had some
Pruning shears
Cardboard wrapped in foil for directing sunlight on hard to read stones (a large mirror would also work but I was trying to reduce weight)
Soft paint brush for removing dirt from lettering
Spray bottle filled with plain water which I had heard can sometimes enhance the lettering on stone if it is difficult to read/photograph.
Old throw pillow covered in plastic tarp for kneeling on while trimming any overgrowth around flat stones or foot stones.
Crate for sitting on to take photos at the level of the stone.
Extra memory card for camera.
Extra/rechargeable batteries for camera.
Directions because I didn't have cell service in Canada, printed lists of stones, extra paper and pen all on a clipboard.

I also had soft cleaning brushes with me from cleaning Donald's grandmother's headstone, something his parents wanted us to do. We hadn't planned to use them, but we did decide to remove some of the lichen from my great-grandparent's stone. It is a thick, sturdy stone and was practically illegible when we got there. I know that scrubbing stones is controversial and there are plenty of stones we saw and visited that we would not have touched, but this one in particular we thought would be okay. If both of us hadn't had sore backs that day, we probably would have gotten a better result.

George R. Smith M.L.C./Feb 17 1860-Feb 20,1922
Isabella F. Smith/Aug 12 1868-Feb 20 1940

I still had to spray the stone with plain water to get it this legible. I'm not sure if we're going to leave it at this point, or try again with the soft brushes and water on our next visit. I'm sure the stone can take it, but I don't want to damage the raised lettering.

Even though this plot is in the same cemetery as my grandparents, I only remember visiting my great-grandparents once before and had forgotten that George's foot stone included the Masonic symbol, or that he was even a Mason.

All three of these stones must have been something to see when they were new. I hope we can figure out a way to keep them legible and looking as my great-grandparents wanted without harming them.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Bean Burying Ground of North Hatley, Quebec

When I first saw "Bean Burying Ground" in one of my ancestors burial records, I thought I might have to make my my way there through a stand of maple trees or find it inaccessible due to growing crops. Thankfully though, the Bean Burying Ground is now Lakeview Cemetery and is accessible to anyone.

As its former name implies, Lakeview Cemetery started as a burial ground for the Bean family on the farm of Moses Quimby Bean, my 4th great-grandfather, an early settler in North Hatley, Quebec, who was born in New Hampshire. It was quite something to stand on this hallowed ground, taking in the beautiful scenery and the surrounding farmland and know that it was originally cleared and farmed by my ancestors.

Although it isn't quite the quiet spot it once was due to the fact that it now lies on a busy route through this countryside, it is still a beautiful place to farm or to spend one's eternal rest.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Funeral Card Friday - John Dean

Well, if you read my last blog post about my then upcoming trip to Quebec for a family reunion, I'll end the suspense for you now and let you know we did not make it to six cemeteries while we were there.

We did have a wonderful time, I did meet cousins I'd never met before and see others I hadn't seen in decades. I did get to share my research and photos to much appreciation and I don't regret a moment of how we spent our time, only that we couldn't have stayed longer.

And I wasn't the only one to bring goodies. One of my cousins made a foam board display covered in photos and ephemera that was absolutely wonderful! It included the funeral card (1) of my 2nd great-grandfather, John Dean, who died of pneumonia in February of 1888.

I cannot even describe my reaction to this piece of family history. I just about fell over when I saw it. I had no idea that Susan had such treasures. I am able to share this scan with you thanks to the treat that I bought myself a the week before we left, a Flip-Pal mobile scanner. It paid for itself the moment I was able to bring home all of Susan's treasures in digital form.

You may notice that the scan is cut off at the top. That is not the fault of the scanner. The Flip-Pal comes with instructions and software for stitching scans together when you scan something larger than the glass, but I didn't have time to learn that trick before I left. I have this image for now, though, and I can always ask Susan to take this out for me the next time we visit.

I still haven't found the burial record for John Dean, but I do have two newspaper notices with conflicting dates of death, so this is a nice addition to my documentation about his death.

(1) Funeral card for John Dean, Dean Family Collection, privately owned by Susan Dean [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], 2017. Inherited from Kenneth E. Dean, grandson of John Dean.