Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tombstone Tuesday - Frank Denison Bean's Missing Headstone

Photo taken by Leslie Nutbrown in 2014. Used with permission.

No, it isn't a trick of the light or your eyes, this headstone was upsidedown when it was photographed in 2014. But even that is better than the condition of the stone now, which is missing!

Frank Denison Bean was a younger brother of my great-grandmother, Eva Maude Bean. I found information about his headstone on interment.net a few years ago and was anxious to visit this small churchyard to take photos and pay my respects. As far as we know, no other Beans are buried here.

What we discovered when we arrived at this cemetery in September was very sad and a little shocking; a cemetery in poor condition, barely maintained, small piles of broken stones and a fresh-looking can of Budweiser atop one of the monuments.

And we did not find Frank's stone, although the pieces of it may have been in one of the piles. We also failed to find two of the stones for which there were photo requests on Find-A-Grave and the two that we did find were in very poor condition. It was heartbreaking.

We know almost nothing about little Frank Bean. There was no civil registration in Quebec when he was born in 1876 and his parents were members of a Free Will Baptist church, so he was not baptized. He appears in the 1881 census, taken eight months before his death, and there is a church record of his burial but those are the only documents of his life that I have found so far or that I am likely to find.

The little church here was Anglican when it closed, but Frank's burial record from the same Baptist congregation where his parents were later baptized, does indicate that he was buried "here" which implies to me that this church may have housed the Baptist congregation in 1876. More research is required to confirm that, obviously, but if it is the case, I feel better about Frank being buried here alone; at least his family would have been able to visit him when they came to worship. I'm also even more curious about the location of their farm and its proximity to the church and cemetery but I do have some leads on figuring that out.

Additionally, my mother and I are trying to find out if the broken stones can be repaired and if there is any way to better protect the churchyard from trespassers.

In the meantime, I am very grateful to Mr. Nutbrown who, along with his wife, cataloged this cemetery in 2005, took this photo of the headstone in 2014, was willing to share it with me and for me to share it with you. I have to say that after finding no stone at all in 2018, I was very surprised to see the stone in such good condition (except for being separated from its base) in 2014.

The only difficulty was reading the epitaph, but with the help of the "Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness - RAOGK USA" group on Facebook, I think we have deciphered that as well.  It seems to say:

We've laid him here, the little boy
God lent to us, our pride and joy
Within that heavenly land so fair,
Then shall we meet and know him there.

And even if those aren't the exact words, the sentiment is clear; that this family of faith found comfort in the belief that they would find their little Frank again in Heaven and that they would all know each other no matter how much time had passed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wedding Wednesday - Frances Ruth Smith and J Philip Wiser

Frances Ruth Smith, known as Ruth, was my maternal grandfather's younger sister. She married J. Philip Wiser, known as Bud, on July 26, 1924, at her mother's home in Thetford Mines, Quebec. I recently found a description of their wedding from The Gazette (of Montreal, Quebec) on Newspapers.com.

It is wonderful to have the article to go along with this photo from their wedding that my mother gave to me years ago. I'm always grateful for any mention that I find of my ancestors in newspapers, but this one is really special to me because of the following description:

"Her veil, which was fastened at the sides with orange blossoms, formed a cap effect made of old lace worn by her mother on her wedding day."

Isn't that great?  It actually brought tears to my eyes just to read that. And to have the photo of her, to be able to see all that for myself, is so special.

Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bud adopted a daughter, Philippa who had four sons of her own. Ruth and Bud were divorced. Aunt Ruth died in 1974 and is buried in the family plot in Elmwood Cemetery, Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wedding Wednesday - John Dean and Elizabeth Nimmo

John Dean and Elizabeth Nimmo, two of my 2nd great-grandparents, were married 150 years ago this week, six months after John purchased the family farm that I have written so much about.

They were married at the Crescent Street Presbyterian Church in Montreal by the Rev. Mr. McVicar.

The Rev. Mr. McVioar
Family lore says that John and Elizabeth's three-day trip home to North Hatley was their honeymoon. I don't know for how long they lived alone in the log cabin on the farm, but it couldn't have been too long because Elizabeth's mother, Elizabeth Louden, does not appear in any Montreal directories after 1868 but is in their household in the 1871 census.

John and Elizabeth welcomed their first child, my great-grandfather James Louden Dean, in 1870. He was followed by three girls and another boy. Sadly, John died of pneumonia in 1888.

Elizabeth Nimmo and her five children.
Elizabeth lived to be 81-years-old, dying at the farm in 1924. She is buried with her husband and mother at Reedsville Cemetery in North Hatley.

My mother took this beautiful photo in 1990, the farm is still in the family today.

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.