Newest – I didn’t know any better

The topic for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “youngest” but I decided to change it to “newest” and tell you about the newest records I viewed. It was all because I didn’t know any better.

As a newcomer to genealogy, I convinced my mom, who hates the idea of family history but loves me, to drive me to Devlin, Ontario, about 10 miles away from Fort Frances. Devlin was where my dad’s aunts and uncles were born from 1906 to 1921 and that is where I was sure the registration of their births would be. I didn’t know any better.

Devlin is a farming community in the Rainy River District in Northwestern Ontario.  The Rainy River divides Canada and United States along the 49th parallel. The other side of the river is Minnesota. This part of Northwestern Ontario is about 4 hours from Winnipeg, Manitoba and is quite isolated. The community now has almost 1000 people living in it’s boundaries.

At the Devlin Municipal Office, I went to the counter and asked to look at the birth, marriage and death registrations. You’ll never guess what happened! The woman went into a closet, pulled out a cardboard box that contained the registration books and I got to look at the original documents.

I did a lot of things wrong that day. I didn’t have a camera to take pictures. It would be awesome to have pictures now. I didn’t make a note on which records I found so am really not sure what information came from those books.  The one thing right I did was to go there.

Miller, Holmes & Edna_close up

My Great-Uncle Holmes Miller with his new wife Edna Richardson.

I found an interesting detail that day. According to the records, my great-uncle Holmes was born on April 29. It struck me because that’s my birthday. But he told me his birthday was May 6. When I asked about it he told me that  his parents knew he was born on April 29 but the government issued a birth certificate with May 6 as his birthday. The family decided it wasn’t worth fighting about and just started celebrating his birthday on May 6. Even government documents contain errors.

Sometimes, seasoned genealogists don’t even think to look in the obvious places because we assume it can’t be there.  Thinking about this experience, I realize that often I’m so plugged into finding it on-line that I don’t think to look at the originating source, those small or big entities where the documents came from and may still be there.

After writing this post I’ve decided to go back to the Devlin Municipal Office to see if the records are still there or maybe one of my sisters or brother will go there for me (hint, hint). No pressure though, guys.

 

 

 

Oldest

This week our prompt for 52 ancestors in 52 weeks is “Oldest”. I’m going to tell you about Robert McCall, who I knew as Uncle Bobby. Uncle Bobby lived to the grand old age of 101 years old. I remember celebrating his 100th birthday at Rainycrest (what we called the old folks home) in Fort Frances, Ontario. My great-aunt Edna made him a strawberry shortcake because it was his favourite. Below is an article from the Fort Frances Times newspaper about his birthday. The article states he even received congratulations from the queen for reaching 100 years old. I have never been able to find a birth registration for him but the family celebrated his birthday on July 21 and said he was born in 1880. In the 1881 Census he is 1 year old.

 

McCall, Robert_100 Birthday Picture

Uncle Bobby is my dad’s grandmother’s (Margaret Miller nee McCall) brother so that makes him my great-great uncle. I remember visiting him at his home in LaVallee, Ontario when we were kids.

He was born in Huron, Bruce County, Ontario. Bobby had 4 siblings; Andrew, born about 1874, Elizabeth (Auntie Ganton), born about 1877, Billy born about 1881, and my great-grandmother, Maggie, born about 1882. The family moved to the Rainy River District about 1904.

While living in Eastern Ontario, he lost his left arm on a thrashing machine.The story goes he was engaged at the time but his fiancee wouldn’t marry him because she didn’t think he could support her. Bobby never did married.

The family stories tells us that he was very creative in managing with one arm. It’s written,

“It’s amazing what Bobby could do with only one arm. He was able to use a shovel and a ptichfork as well as someone with two arms. In order to use a scythe, he designed a harness which made it possible for him to cut hay and grain .In the winter he cut and sold firewood…Tamarack had to be cut…while green; otherwise, it became so hard that it dulled the saw blades. He mounted a stationary engine on a horse drawn wagon to run a circular saw. This system allowed Bobby to save labour and increase productivity.”

His resourcefulness made it possible for him to provide for himself.

Uncle Bobby died on April 26, 1981 in Fort Frances, Ontario and is buried in the Devlin/LaVallee Cemetery.


Sources
1881; Census Place: Huron, Bruce South, Ontario; Roll: C_13274; Page: 35; Family No: 154;
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1881 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Citing
“Census of Canada, 1881.” Statistics Canada Fonds, Record Group 31-C-1. LAC microfilm C-13162 to C-13286. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

Tara Shymanski Collection; undated clipping from the Fort Frances Times (probably July 1880.

Tara Shymanski Collection; “The Millers of LaVallee”; undated stories, unknown author.

Colourful Story from Wales

This story was repeated by Olwen who is the is the daughter of James (Jimmie) John. Jimmie is the brother of my great grandmother, Elizabeth Searles. It was written down by Olwen and a copy was given to my mother.  It tells us a bit of the culture of our Welsh ancestors.

Just a few memories

To: Dear Muriel (a daughter of Elizabeth and William Searles)
From: Olwen/XX
August 1973

Milford Haven is birthplace of 3g grandfather

Cottage in Milford Haven. In 1901 the family lived in Pearson Cottages in Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire, Wales. By 1911 they moved to Pil Miford Haven in the same area.

Only one story I ever recall my father [Jim John] telling us of his family. Your mother [Elizabeth Searles nee John] was working at a farm called “The Windmill Park”, and had come home to Pearston Cottage on her half day off work to see her parents. Apparently, the time slipped by, and she had left it a bit late in returning to her job, so it was arranged that my Dad [Jim John] was going to go along with her for company. The 2 1/2 miles were covered, I suppose, for it was a mistake to keep the gentry waiting! Your mother got into the house just in time.

Now Dad was left to come home alone, he must have been about 14 years old – for he had began his trade of a blacksmith anyway, and he started that when he was a boy of 13 with Arthur Oliver of Pearston.  The ruins of that shop is still there today.

Being a clever kid he reckon he could cut off easily a mile of that walk home by going across the fields. So up and over the hedge goes Jimmy and started off. He walked and walked and walked! And no nearer did he get to Pearston. The moon came out and the stars. Then he stood, and looked for the stars called The Plough. He followed the Plough and managed to get to the stile somewhere close to home and he was delighted, for by now he was afraid.

Dad said he was pisken led.

I can’t find that word in any of our dictionaries, it may be a local word but it meant that he was going round and round that same field in the same ring all the time. He walked miles that night. Pisken led

Uncle Bill – a DNA story

Miller kids

Uncle Bill and his siblings. Back row Robbie and Lydia Front row left to right Holmes, Cliff, Jimmy, Bill

As researchers we can find dates and places but we treasure those interesting items that give us insight into the people our ancestors were. DNA testing can match us with distant relatives who sometimes have quirky stories or information that we don’t have. It’s great when they share them with us.

William “Bill” Albert Miller is my great uncle. He was born on 28 April 1917 in Devlin, Rainy River, Ontario, Canada. His parents are Harry Miller and Margaret McCall. Bill grew up on the farm. His father worked hard hauling wood and doing labour for other people so Bill and his brothers and sisters worked hard on the farm along with their mother. Uncle Bill and his brother, Uncle Robbie, took over the farm when their father died. Bill had a dairy farm and his cows won red ribbons at the Emo fair.

Uncle Bill was quiet and gentle. My father remembers helping him out at the farm one winter. Dad was struggling with a high school math problem but Uncle Bill looked at the problem and gave him the correct answer. Unfortunately, the teacher didn’t accept the answer, because Dad hadn’t shown how he worked it out.

One time Uncle Bill taught us how to milk cows. I remember being really bad at it. He also repaired my bicycle before I went on a big trip. Another thing I remember about him is his interest in genealogy. I went to him when I started looking for stories about the family. He had a box of information and correspondence with a McCall family in Michigan.

For years Uncle Bill was a confirmed bachelor but in 1974, at the age of 57, he married Myrtle Ivy Brown.

Miller family

back row left to right – James Miller, Holmes Miller, Robbie Miller, Bill and Mytle Miller front row left to right Bethel Miller, Lydia Link, Bernice Miller, Edna Miller, kneeling in front is Margaret Miller

Now you’re wondering how DNA fits into all this. A DNA match of mine was someone Uncle Bill had written to years ago. This person sent me documents that included a copy of a letter Bill wrote about his marriage.

He says, “Yes I did get married, on the 29 of June….I now have a family of 3 daughters, 2 sons and 3 grandsons.

We are very happy, I should have made this move long ago. Why didn’t some of you old married folks tell me it could be this good?”

This letter is an amazing find. It gives me a better understanding of my Uncle Bill’s married life. He embraced family life and his new family embraced him. The kids, who were almost in their teens or older, called him Pops.

Our DNA matches may have information we don’t. It’s especially gratifying when they have personal items and stories relating to our ancestors.

 


Sources

William Miller Birth; Original Birth Registrations; Devlin Municipal Office, Devlin, Ontario

Collection of documents and letters from a DNA match; copies of originals.

A Black Sheep

These pictures have written on the back (left to right) Ira Titchworth, Nancy Mulholland, and William Titchworth. I’m not sure the names are correct.

We have a true scoundrel or black sheep in the family, Ira Titchworth. Ira, the son of William Titchworth and Nancy Mulholland, was born about 1840 most likely in or around Paris, Brant, Ontario, Canada. In 1861 he is working as a clerk in Beverly, Wentworth, Ontario. However, he changes careers and in 1864 he obtains a Second Class Certificate as a Common School Teacher and is able to teach for 1 year. He redoes the certification in 1866 and once again receives a Second Class Certificate.

When his mother dies, 2 of his younger sisters move to Norfolk County to live with relatives. It’s here that Ira meets his wife, Marilla Woodward. Marilla and Ira are married by a Free Baptist minister in Walsingham, Norfolk, Ontario on 27 June 1865. His sister, Pheobe Titchworth is the witness. Ira and Marilla are in the 1871 Canada Census, living in Townsend, North Norfolk with a 5 year old daughter, Mathilda.

Everything appears to be perfectly normal so far. He has a good job, he’s married and has a child. Now let’s get to the juicy bits. The next document I find for Ira he is a marriage to Ida Howard in Mariposa, California. He is 37 and she is 18 years old. It get’s better. Marilla is still alive. Marilla dies in 1922. On her gravestone it says “Marilla, wife of Ira Titchworth”.  They were never divorced. Ira is a bigamist! I know this is the correct Ira Titchworth because his father’s will states, “I will  my oldest son Ira Cyrus Titchworth (100$) one hundred dollars Maraposy California.”

My grandmother always said that her great grandfather married a student but I haven’t found proof of this. The age difference between Reuben Taylor and Leah Jane Titchworth isn’t that great and I searched the superintendent records listing teachers and Reuben didn’t teach where Leah lived. I think that it is Ira who married his student.

Ira marries Ida Howard on November 2, 1878 but by 1881 he is working as a teacher in Port Townsend, Washington State. His his married but is not with his wife. Did he leave his 2nd wife too?

So here’s where things start to get elusive. I’m not able to find any records of Ira after the 1881 census. Family stories say that Ira died in 1930. I have two letters, one written in 1923 from Silas Titchworth (Ira’s brother) to Pheobe Field (his sister). In this letter Silas says he is going to write Ira and hopes he hasn’t moved. This proves Ira was alive in 1923.

The other letter fascinates me because it suggests so much. This letter, from San Francisco is written to Pheobe Field, dated April 2 but no year is given. It’s written in pencil. I believe that the letter is written by Casper Titchworth’s wife. Whoever it is, Ira has obviously has her on his side. She makes excuses for his smoking,

“I think you are rather hard on Ira.  Remember we are not all constituted alike.  Ira did not commence to use tobacco because he liked it…. he studied so hard he could not sleep – and a doctor told him he should have to smoke.  I did talk to him and so did  [Casper] and he only smoked 3 times a day instead of 14 when we went away and he said he felt better for it.”

She also makes excuses for him leaving his wife and child (I assume it is his first wife),

“it seems a sin when one is blessed with such a child to leave them to struggle along as [he did] although he  was without his friends or [anyone ] to help him when he married so young if he had a hard time alone a wife and baby I would not he a half surely that is the way I look at it.”

Then she goes on to complain about how “uncle” (William Titchworth) left Ira so little in his will,

“I cannot see what ever possessed uncle to have cut him off in the manner he did.  I think it was dreadful and the other heirs should make it equal and do it willingly …to uncle knew just how he was situated I would never have tried to study medicine with the means he had or at his time of life.”

There’s more along that vein. Basically, she’s writing Phoebe to ask for money for Ira.
The line that convinces me that Ira has hoodwinked her is “I never met a man so good and pure as he”. I think that Ira had a way with women.

Now I have an unproved theory about where Ira disappears to. In the 1920 Census a man by the name of James C Titchworth appears. He was born about 1841 in Canada the same as Ira. His father was born in New York – Ira’s father was born in New York; his mother was born in Canada – Ira’s mother was born in Canada AND he’s a physician. The letter from the unknown woman to Phoebe states Ira is studying medicine. A directory of deceased physicians gives us the information that James was licensed as a physician in 1898 and that he died in 1926 of lung cancer. As I said this theory is completely without proof but maybe Ira changed his name and became a physician.

I do believe that Ira truly was a black sheep. Black sheep make family history research stimulating and sometimes have our brains running in circles trying to figure them out. I’m sure that Ira’s wives didn’t appreciate it though.

I’m hoping someone out there has more concrete evidence on Ira Titchworth and where he ended up. Please contact me if you do.


Sources

Ira Titchworth

1851 Canada Census; William Titchworth Household; Paris, Brant, Canada West; District 2; page 33, line 42; Microfilm C-11714; accessed 20 December 2015; http://www.ancestry.com ; [database online]; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario

1861 Canada Census; William Titchworth Household; Paris, Brant, Canada West; page 25; Microfilm C1109; accessed 20 December 2015; http://www.ancestry.com ; [database online]; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario

1861 Canada Census; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1086

Ontario County Marriage Registers, 1857 – 1924; Norfolk County, page 129; Microfilm Reel 1030061; Family History Library; Salt Lake City, Utah; original source; Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada

Sessional Papers, second session of the eighth session of Parliament of the Province of Canada, session 1864; from Early Canadiana Online; original source, Library and Archives Canada.

Sessional Papers, second session of the eighth session of Parliament of the Province of Canada, session 1866; from Early Canadiana Online; original source, Library and Archives Canada.

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 01 July 2018), memorial page for Marilla Titchworth (1848–1922), Find A Grave Memorial no. 129816581, citing Johnson Cemetery, Saint-Williams, Norfolk County, Ontario, Canada ; Maintained by 4ever Nanny (contributor 47345810) .

William Titchworth Will; Kay Corbett Collection, Esquimault, BC.

Ancestry.com. Washington State and Territorial Censuses, 1857-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.; Original data: Olympia, Washington: Washington State Archives. M1, 20 rolls.

James C Titchworth

United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R6S-LP7?cc=1488411&wc=QZJG-NPD%3A1036469601%2C1038729301%2C1038803701%2C1589334637 : 15 December 2015), California > San Francisco > San Francisco Assembly District 30 > ED 222 > image 13 of 24; citing NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929 [database on-line].Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc

Same name #52 ancestors

Margaret Jerry with class she taught

Margaret Electa Cranston is the teacher, in white at the back.

My great grandmother’s name is Margaret Electa Jerry (nee Cranston) and she has an aunt called Jane Electa Barclay (nee Taylor). I always wondered if this odd name was passed down from a long ago ancestor.

For some reason I thought the name Electa came from the Mulholland side of my tree. I did some research and found a 3 year old Electa Mulholland in the 1861 Census in Beverley Township, Wentworth County, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were George and Jennet Mulholland. She was a twin and her sister was called Celesta. Electa Mulholland  married John Morris Peregine on May 19, 1883. She died in 1899.

Further research uncovered an Electa Mulholland born in New York about 1826
She was living in Pennsylvania in the 1880 Federal United States Census. Turns out maiden name was Whitman. Then I found the tombstone Electa Mulholland born about 1800. Her maiden name was Trowbridge. Obviously, it wasn’t just the Mulholland family calling their daughters Electa.

That’s when I decided to google the name Electa. There is a lot of conflicting information surrounding this name. It either comes from Latin and means “selected” or “chosen one” or it is  a Greek term meaning “ceaseless” or “amber”. I tried using Google Translate but it wasn’t recognized in Greek and the Latin translation came up as “picks”

It turns the name “Electa” was quite  popular in the early years of the New England States which explains why I found it in my loyalist families. I’m quite glad it’s use has been discontinued. It’s a name I don’t like. Thankfully, my ancestors chose it as a middle name.

 

Sources

1861 Census
Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1086; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.

Ontario Marriage Registrations; Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1936 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Book Title: George Wightman of Quidnessett, R I , 1632-1721/2, and descendants : Waitman, Weightman, Whiteman; Ancestry.com. North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012; Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi.

The DNA Solution!

me and my 1st cousin 1 removed

I’m still not comfortable taking selfies. This is me and my 1st cousin 1x removed. We found each other through DNA!

Once in a while I get the “feeling” that an ancestor wants me to find him/her. This was the case with my biological grandfather, John Edward “Buster” Harrison. All I knew about him was his name; I had his obituary, and a picture of him in his WW2 uniform.  When my Grandmother Dunn divorced him and remarried, he gave up his rights to their 3 children so her 2nd husband could adopt them. That was the extent of my knowledge.

To find more information, I called my mom’s cousin to ask if she had any names or phone numbers for the Harrison family. Her response was, “Dean might to talk to you”. Dean is Buster’s younger brother. When I called he was delighted to hear from me. He eventually sent pictures and information about his parents and siblings.

Researching the family was my next step. I found Canadian records for Buster’s father, John Henry Harrison, and mother, Kate Atkins. The marriage record said John Henry Harrison was from Abthorpe, Northampton, England. His father’s name was James Harrison and mother was Mary Ann Winmill. Then I hit a roadblock. Yes, already! I couldn’t find anyone with his birth date in that location. His parents were just as elusive. That was it for researching for awhile. I set everything aside and started doing something else.

What does this have to do with DNA. Well, ancestors have ways of making you find them. I won a DNA test and eventually sent it in. The result was astounding!  My top match was a man whose last name was “Harrison”. It was my mom’s cousin.  Needless to say I contacted him immediately. He  has a large, sourced family tree. I love it when this happens.One of the documents he has is an affidavit stating John Henry Harrison had changed his name. His birth name was Henry Green. At the age of 17 he wanted to join the army but his father refused to grant him permission.  In order to enlist, he changed his name to John Henry Harrison and lied about his age. All his war and Canadian documents list him as John Henry Harrison. No wonder I couldn’t find him.  

This is my DNA solution . Not only did I find John Harrison’s birth name, my cousin already had a large tree for the Harrison and Atkins families. (Please note this doesn’t always happen.) I  met 5 female cousins on the Harrison side and of course the Harrison I matched DNA with. Who would have thought a DNA test would add so many living and dead relatives to my family?