Lucky – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

This week’s prompt is “lucky”. I haven’t found ancestors who were particularly lucky. As I thought about the topic I realized I am lucky; lucky to live in a country that has so many freedoms and offers us so much. The more I pondered it the more I realized I’m lucky my ancestors moved here.


Hessian soldiers during the revolution.

I’m going to talk about one ancestor who probably didn’t feel in the least bit lucky to be here. His name was Heinrich Schmidt (Henry Smith) and he was one of the Hessian Auxiliaries who fought with the British against the revolutionaries in the American Revolution.

There are many stories about this man and it’s is often hard to prove the stories with facts. W.L Smith in his book Pioneers of Old Ontario and quoting Henry Smith says,
“The troop-ship, on which my grandfather (Heinrich Schmidt) sailed to America, was eighteen weeks in crossing from Germany…. So long was the voyage, that the officer in command of the troops asked the admiral of the fleet if he was quite sure that he had not passed America in the night.”

After the revolution, the German Auxiliary troops were given the option of going home or remaining in the new world. Heinrich Schmidt decides to stay and is given land in Marysburgh, Prince Edward County, Ontario (near Kingston, Ontario). On 15 June 1791, Heinrich Schmidt petitions for another 300 acres of land stating he was given 200 but was promised 500 acres. His petition mentions he has a wife and 5 children.

According to his grandson, Alexander Smith,
“The family of Henry Smith consisted (in order of their ages) of the following children: Charles, William, Benjamin, John, Ernest, Bernard and two daughters.” 

John, who we descend from is said to have been baptized at the Cedres, Quebec in 1783. The two daughters are Frederica and possibly Mary Ann or Anna Carolina.

Heinrich and the other German Auxiliary families may not have felt lucky in their decision to remain. In a letter dated 20 September 1784, Lieutenant Archibald McDonnell states: “The British Disbanded Troops…will, in cold weather, be reduced to the greatest distress for want of clothing; some have not even a blanket to cover them from heavy rains…”  I’m sure at this point that Heinrich didn’t feel lucky at all.

There isn’t much else I know about this man. We believe he had 2 wives, Maria Christina Karshin and then Mary Elizabeth Benedict. Some of his children stayed in Prince Edward County, others moved away. Our ancestor John Joseph moved first Grey County where he had a store in Meaford, and then when he was older to Simcoe County to live with his son, Alexander.

Heinrich died about 1832 in Marysburgh and lthough he struggled settling in the new land, it is his sons, daughters, grandchildren who reaped the benefits of his decision to stay.

Smith, Alexander, “Some Hessians of the U.E.L. Settlement in Marysburgh”, Ontario Historical Society, Vol XX, pp 259-261.

Smith, W.L., Pioneers of Old Ontario, ”Rafting on the St. Lawrence” pp86-88, George N. Morang, Toronto, 1923

“The Settlement of Marysburg – 1784” Brochure courtesy of the Regional Tourist Association and Marysburgh Museum Board, compiled by Mrs. Malcolm Love, Picton, Ontario about 1988

Caniff, William, History of the Settlement of Ontario, p 463, Dudley & Burns, 1869.

Upper Canada Land Records; “S”, Bundle 3, 1797, Petition 199 (RG 1, L3, Vol 450(a)), Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

Ontario Land Records, Vespra County, Simcoe, LDS Microfilm 178905, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, citing Archives of Ontario.

Hessian Soldiers Photograph, from





Strong women

This week’s post for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks talks about strong women to honour International Day of the Woman.

A much loved brother-in-law once said about our family, “A matriarchal family….ya think” suggesting that we were raised by a society of strong women. It’s true, my mother, Joan Miller (nee Dunn) was raised in an dysfunctional family but choose to be strong and raise her 8 children with all her heart and soul. My grandmother, Bethel Miller (nee Jerry) had an alcoholic husband who she divorced in the early 1960’s. She also had 8 children that she reared while working and striving to make ends meet.

But the strong woman I’d like to talk about today is Hannah Cranston (nee Rhodes). I don’t know a lot about Hannah. Family lore says she came to America in the 1830’s with her parents. Her mother was supposed to have died on board the ship. The family ended up in Detroit, Michigan. When Hannah was 22 she married 39 year old James Cranston who had land across the river from Detroit in Canada West[1]. James purchased land in the Talbot Settlement and had completed the required duties on the 9 March 1847[2]. Hannah and James went on to have 3 sons and a daughter.

Pic_James Cranston_Hannah Rhodes_Mary

James Cranston with wife Hannah Rhodes and daughter Jane. Jane was born 1863 so this picture might have been taken around 1870ish.

I had no idea of how strong Hannah was until I found a copy of her husband’s obituary. James died 26 October 1890. His obituary states,

“In the winter seasons he cleared his farm and in the summer sailed upon the lakes in order to provide provisions for the following winter.”[3]

Do you know what that means? While he was off making money, Hannah was left to do all the farm work. That meant she took care of 4 children, 3 horses, 2 oxen, 2 milk cows, 5 head of cattle, 7 sheep and 12 pigs, not to mention 10 bushels of fall wheat, 20 bushels of buckwheat, 15 bushels of corn, and 20 bushels of potatoes.[4] Can you imagine picking potato tugs off 20 bushels of them? Oh, and make 50 pounds of butter too. Her children would have helped but she was responsible for making sure it all got done.

Hannah Cranston was a strong woman to get all that work done. Some of it was hard physical labour but it really was a matter of survival. The work had to be done so she did it.

[1] Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1940″, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 25 April 2016), James Cranston and Hannah Rhodes, 1850.

[2] Ontario Land Records; Fiat 5144; Microfilm 1,318,224; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[3] Death; Obituary; James Cranston; The Amherstburg Echo, November 7, 1890 – pg. 6; viewed May 15, 2016;

[4] 1871 Agricultural Census; ; Tilbury West, Essex, Ontario; Microfilm C_9890; image 423; Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and 1871 Livestock Census; Tilbury West, Essex, Ontario; Microfilm C_9890; image 430; Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.



Traditionally, heirlooms are tangible items handed down from generation to generation. Using that definition, I don’t really have many heirlooms because most of the items I have were given to me because I do family history. I do however have many items that I treasure because of who gave them to me. Most of these items are displayed in my living room where I can view them easily.



I have this lovely cabinet that my Grandmother gave me. It’s so beautiful I figured it must be an heirloom, but no, Gramma’s ex-husband’s wife, gave it to her. An interesting story but not much history in it.





As a youth, I collected china dolls. My great-grandmother finally gave me two china dolls that I adored. I had to promise they would be safer before she gave them to me.  But I didn’t ask her where she got them or why they were precious to her. My mother gave me the bigger ones for my birthday.



I also have this jaunty cup from my grandmother, it’s a Royal Doulton something I always wanted but couldn’t afford. It’s not an elegant doll but precious all the same.




Lastly I have a cream and sugar bowl from the same great-grandmother. As you can see, the sugar bowl is VERY large. It’s from England or Wales. My mom told me that many teaspoons of sugar went into each cup of tea and she and her siblings got to eat the tea flavoured sugar dregs once the tea was gone.

I will pass these items down to my nieces and/or nephews if any of them wants to keep the tradition of passing down heirlooms.

My favourite name – 52 Weeks

Searles, William 1

William Henry Searles

The name I chose to talk about is not my favourite, but my mother’s. When she was young, she decided her first son would be named William Henry, after her grandfather, William Henry Searles, who she adored. She spent some of her early years living with her grandfather and grandmother on a farm in Nahma, Ontario, Canada.

William Henry Searles was born on 27 March 1887 according to my great-aunt Muriel. The son of Samuel Searle(s) and Elizabeth Atkins, he was baptized in the Parish of Canton, Glamorgan, Wales on May 10 1888. He was the only son of 8 children.

There is a very romantic story that goes with his marriage. He met Elizabeth John(s) who was almost 5 years older than him in Wales. When his family decided to move to Canada he had to go because he wasn’t of age yet (21 years old). He didn’t want to leave Elizabeth behind but had no choice. A year later she came to Canada and they married in East Toronto on 24 October 1908.  They were married 67 years when Granddad Searles died.

Searles, William & Elizabeth

Grandfather and Grandmother Searles

William and Elizabeth had a tough life. Their first daughter, Mary, died 2 days after her birth. Their second daughter, Winnifred also died. When she was 4, her dress caught fire while walking by some burning wood. She died in her mother’s arms.  They had 4 children who survived, Harold, the only son, Muriel, Gwen, and Marjory.

The family moved up to a farm near Cochrane, Ontario sometime between 1911 and 1914. For those of you who don’t know, Cochrane is an isolated area in Northeastern Ontario. Can you imagine these British born settlers surviving freezing in the winter and mosquito bites in the summer. And they had no indoor toilets even when we visited them in the 1960 and 70.

In the summers we would visit Grandmother  and Grandfather Searles. He was old when I knew him but so big and Gramma was a small, almost delicate woman. We were so young and I don’t remember much about them. They managed to fit all 8 of us kids in their house. I got to sleep on bedding on floor and was quite excited to tell my mom about the mouse I saw running across the floor. The next night I had to sleep on the bed, so disappointing.

Joan with Grandma Searles-cropped

Mom with Grandma Searles

Back to favourite names. My mom loved her grandparents and as kids we often heard stories about them. Coincidentally, Mom married a man named Henry so I always thought my oldest brother was given his name. When a mentioned this to my mom a few years ago she corrected me and told me where he really got his name from. I have no pictures of my mother with her Grandfather but do have this wonderful picture of her with Grandma Searles

Gingersnaps made by Bethel Miller

I loved my Grandmother’s cooking. She made great perogies (no she wasn’t Polish or Ukrainian), creamed peas on toast and ginger snaps, my favourite cookie. Her food wasn’t fancy, but it was Gramma made, in other words delicious.  One thing she couldn’t make was pie crust which, much to my disappointment, is a gene I have inherited.

Gramma and Tara

Me with my Grandmother Miller

My Grandmother, Bethel Miller (nee Jerry) was born in Hawarden, Saskatchewan on 15 March 1917.  She lived through the depression and an alcoholic husband. With 8 children she had to learn how to cook cheap and filling  meals and she excelled at making them.

Gramma taught me to bake alongside her youngest daughter. Gingersnaps was one of the things we learned to make. I remember her telling us to mix the flour and lard so the lard was pea size and wondering if she meant big or little peas.

When I married and moved away, Gramma would mail me gingersnaps because she knew how much I loved them. When she found out my husband didn’t like them she sent thumbprint cookies for him.

My sisters carry on the tradition and make gingersnaps. But unlike Gramma, they don’t mail me any (hint, hint). I am including the recipe if you would like to try them. The recipe comes from a church fundraising cookbook, that is known as The Bluebook in our family. As you can see the recipe is well used.

Gingersnap recipe

52 Ancestors – Longevity

Leah Jane Taylor nee Titchworth 1843 – 1935

My father’s mother, Bethel Miller nee Jerry,  lived to age 89. Her mother, Margaret Electa Jerry nee Cranston was 84 when she passed away and her mother, Nancy Emily (Emma) Cranston (nee Taylor) died at the young age of 78. But the person I want to talk about today is Leah Jane Taylor (nee Titchworth). It is believed she was 92 years old when she died. (The only proof that lists her birth date is  the 1901 Canada Census).

Leah Jane Titchworth was born the 2 February 1843 in Paris, Ontario to William Titchworth and Nancy Mulholland. She married Reuben Clarence Taylor, son of Jeremiah Taylor and Olivia Pettit, on 3 December 1863 in Paris. She died in Detroit, Michigan on the 5 November 1935.

In a four generation picture Leah is matriarch with her daughter, Nancy Cranston, granddaughter, Margaret Jerry, and two year old great-granddaughter, Bethel Jerry, beside her. It was said of her that “When she was pleased she smiled. When she was not pleased she looked like a thundercloud.” However, her life was hard and she may not have had a lot to smile about.

4 generations

Left to Right; Leah Taylor, Margaret Jerry holding Bethel Jerry, and Emma Cranston

The earliest record of Jane is in the 1851 Canada West Census of Paris, Brant, Ontario. At that time, Paris was a flourishing town with a population of 1,500.  In 1851, the household consists of William, Nancy, and their children; Ira, Leah, Hugh, Emily, Phoebe, and Walter. Leah’s mother,  Nancy, died sometime between the 1851 and 1861 census. In 1861, only Ira and Hugh lived with their father. Leah worked as a servant for the 86 year old Timothy O’Brien and his two sons.  At Nancy’s death Emily and Phoebe, the younger children, were sent to live with relatives. In 1861 they were with Hugh and Flora Aker in Norfolk County, Ontario.

Even though the family was split up after their mother’s death, the brothers and sisters remained in contact with each other.  Phoebe was a witness at Ira’s marriage and Emily reported that Leah was her nearest living relative in a border crossing record.  It is possible that Emily stopped to see Leah in Saskatchewan as she traveled to Seattle, Washington to visit her son.  And for the last year of her life Emily lived with Phoebe in British Columbia.

Leah married at the same time her father and sister, Phoebe, were preparing to move to Kansas, where free land grants were available. Leah’s husband, Reuben Clarence Taylor, a teacher and farmer, was twelve years her senior. Family stories say that Leah was one of his pupils and they fell in love however, records do not indicate that he taught in Paris. Reuben and Leah moved to a farm outside of Comber, Essex, Ontario and raised their children there. Between 1864 and 1875 they had seven children; Nancy Emily (Emma), Olivia Huberta (Bertie), Margaret Amelia, Jane Electa [Jennie], William John Brown, Josephine, and Thomas Aaron. The youngest child, Thomas, was mentally handicapped.

Leah expected her children to pull their weight. Thomas helped around the house as did the other children. All of her children, even the boys, were taught to knit.  Leah raised her children to be independent. The three unmarried girls all had a trade. Bertie was a milliner in Detroit, Josephine ran a store in Bethune, Saskatchewan, and Margaret worked in well-to-do homes in Essex County.

The family experienced periods of poverty. Bethel Miller was told by her Grandma Taylor [Leah] that “she should be very glad to get good food [a cold pork fat sandwich with hot homemade mustard on it] because there were times when all she had to feed her family was flour porridge and milk.”  Another indication of their poverty was that although they farmed fertile land, Reuben periodically taught nearby to earn extra money.

During the late 1800’s in Ontario Leah was busy. She raised the children, prepared meals, sewed clothes, made butter, and put up food for the winter.  With so few sons, she may have helped with the farm too.  In spite of all the work she had time to crochet and tat items which she entered into competitions at area fairs. Her handiwork was of such high quality she was often asked to judge at these fairs. She was quite proud of her work. Bethel Jerry, a great-granddaughter, was told that when someone tried to pass one of Leah’s doilies off as their own, Leah was quite indignant saying, “I guess I knew my own work when I saw it.”

In 1906 Reuben and Leah moved to Bethune, Saskatchewan with William, Josephine and Thomas. In 1912 Reuben died and was buried in the Bethune Cemetery. Leah remained in Bethune until 1920 when she and her son, Thomas, moved back to Comber, Ontario to live with Emma. The family all agreed to help out. Jennie sent raisins from her fruit farm in California.

In 1924 Margaret Jerry, Leah’s granddaughter, suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in a Saskatchewan psychiatric hospital. For five years her three children were cared for by their grandmother Cranston and great-grandmother Taylor.  Bethel Jerry remembered her great-grandmother Taylor from that time, “In 1924 when I went east, I met Grandma Taylor. She must have been 81 years. She sat and pieced quilts and knit sox and mitts at the window where the light was good. She usually had a dish of daffodils growing in a flat dish with stones and water in winter. She was a chubby and short person.”

Leah died on while visiting Bertie in Detroit and was buried beside her husband in Bethune. She was survived by seven children, eight grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. Although she had a hard life, Leah was a strong matriarch who taught her children independence and the value of hard work.

Memories of Bethel Miller, (no date), privately held by Tara Shymanski, Calgary, Canada, 2008. These five handwritten pages contain information about Reuben & Leah Jane Taylor and their family. As a child Bethel (Jerry) Miller spent from 1924 to 1929 with her relatives. All of the quotations, personal anecdotes and personal information come from these notes; Inherited in 2006 by Tara Shymanski, from her grandmother Bethel Miller.

1851 Census of Canada West, Paris, Brant County, District 2, Subdistrict 11, page 33 line 42, Microfilm Reel C-11714, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

Ontario Registrar of Deeds, Brant County, Paris 1859-1868, Instrument 1053; Archives of Ontario; FHL microfilm 170,352.

1861 Census of Canada West, Paris, Brant County, Page 25 Line 28. Microfilm Reel C-1009, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

1861 Census of Canada West, Paris, Brant County, Page 49 Line 13. Microfilm Reel C-1009, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

1861 Census of Canada West, Walshingham, Norfolk County, District 4, Line 33. microfilm reel C-1053, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

1901 Census of Canada, Tilbury West, Essex County, District 59, Subdistrict J, page 1, line 1; microfilm reel T-6466, Library and Archives Canada. Ottawa.

Ontario County Marriage Registers, 1858-1869, Brant County, p. 127, Archives of Ontario, FHL microfilm 1,030,055 [the marriage registration lists Jane’s parents as William and Nancy Titchworth

“Mrs. Leah Taylor”, obituary clipping with handwritten year, date is in text of clipping, probably from the Comber Herald, privately held by Tara Shymanski, Calgary, Alberta, 2008; Inherited in 2006 by Tara Shymanski, from her grandmother Bethel Miller.

Ontario County Marriage Registers, 1858-1869, Norfolk County, p. 129, Archives of Ontario, FHL microfilm 1,030,061

Border Crossings from Canada to U.S., 1895-1956, Sumas Washington, November 1911, digital image,  (  :  accessed 4 November 2007) citing National Archives and Records Administration Micropublication M1464, 639 rolls); Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Emily Coleman Obituary, The Victoria Daily Times, 24 October 1930, page 15, microfilm reel NJ FM 776, reel 121, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

Ontario Registrar of Deeds, Brant County, Paris 1859-1868, Instrument 1053; Archives of Ontario; FHL microfilm 170,352.

1880 United States Census, Windsor Twp., Cowley, Kansas, Enumeration District 185, p 20, line 16, digital image, Ancestry, com (http;// : accessed 3 April 2008) citing National Archives and Records Administration; National Archives, Washington, D.C.  [William Titchworth is listed with wife, Frances E.; in the 1885 Harvey, Cowley, Kansas Census William is alone but it stated he came from Canada.  As well, in the obituary of Edward Field, husband of Pheobe, we find that this family lived in Kansas prior to moving to British Columbia. Mr. Edward Field Obituary, The Victoria Daily Times, 14 July 1917, page unknown, microfilm reel 121, NJ FM 776, reel 200, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

Records of Department of Education, Annual Reports of Local Superintendents and Local Boards of Trustees, 1850 – 1870 Series RG2-17, Microfilm Reel MS 3539, Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada [These records do not list Reuben Taylor as a teacher in Paris for the time period 1855 – 1870.  In 1861 he is teaching while living with his father in Binbrook Twp. 1861 Canada West Census, Binbrook Twp., Wentworth, p 3, household 10, Microfilm Reel C-1085, Library and Archives Canada; Toronto, Ontario]


My favourite photograph

Henry, Joan pregnant with Tara, Willie as baby

My first thought when I saw this picture was “where am I”. There’s Mom and Dad, Gramma and Granddad Dunn and my older brother Willie. Then I realized Mom was wearing one of her maternity smocks (that’s what they wore when they were pregnant in the 1960’s). She was expecting! Over the next 11 years this would be a very normal state for her. The picture was developed in June 1960 so she’s pregnant with ME. This is the earliest picture my parents have of me. Tee hee.