Harvest your Family Tree

Kelowna and District Genealogy Society hosted a conference and marketplace September 28-30. It was filled with wonderful speakers, activities, and vendors. There were a vast amount of door prizes. The lineup for winners never seemed to end. The foyer of the Okanagan College was filled with displays and vendors. There were lots of chances to purchase genealogy items.

It was a privilege for me to speak alongside Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi’s List, Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist, Lesley Anderson of Ancestry Canada, Dave Obee a renowned Canadian speaker, and other local and regional speakers.

Kelowna hosts this conference every two years. It’s well-organized and filled with learning opportunities for all genealogists. I had a great time.

Me speaking in Kelowna



An unusual source – bibliographies

What is an unusual source that I have used? I love land records and am always thrilled when I find genealogy information in them. Although many people don’t use them, they really aren’t all that unusual. I decided my unusual source was a bibliography.

I have been researching my Miller line for years. It all started with a “Miller Family Genealogy” written by Roy Miller of Edmonton Alberta. He interviewed family members who said the first Miller to come to Canada from Ireland on our line was Jacob Miller. Jacob was said to be the father of Thomas Miller who is my 2 great grandfather. Thomas was born in Ireland but I didn’t know where. The other thing the family said is that Thomas was a Palatine. His family came from the Palatine region of Europe, part of what we would call Germany today.


For years I read everything I could on the Palatines, and looked at as many documents as I could find. One of the articles I read listed a book by Carolyn Heald called “The Irish Palatines in Ontario: Religion, Ethnicity, and Rural Migration”.  Unfortunately this book does not research my family but in the appendix of the first edition the families living in Kilcooley are listed.  The interesting thing is that families with the same surnames lived in Goderich, Huron County, Ontario which is where my Millers moved to. I learned so much from this book. It’s well researched and includes all the sources. I even lent it to my dad to read it (yes, it was so good I purchased a copy for myself).

I always check out the bibliography in books and articles. They lead me to new sources, books, and sometimes documents. Now, I didn’t discover any genealogical information by reading this book but found out more about the lives of my ancestors. I learned about the experience of the Palatines in Ireland and Ontario. All this because I looked at a bibliography.



I didn’t write down the original article that mentioned the Carolyn Heald book

Heald, Carolyn, The Irish Palatines in Ontario:  Religion, Ethnicity, and Rural Migration, second edition, Global Genealogy \press, 2009, Milton, Ontario.


Reuben Clarence Taylor, teacher, farmer, merchant

Reuben Clarence Taylor, my 3 great Grandfather, was a teacher, farmer, and merchant. According to his marriage record he was born about 1831 in Saltfleet Township, Wentworth County, Ontario, Canada. Later census records say he was born in the United States. His marriage record also says his parents are Jeremiah and Olivia Taylor.  I discovered Olivia’s maiden name was Pettit from her tombstone and the will of her father, Thomas Pettit. Olivia died April 28, 1860 so Reuben would have been 30 years old.

The earliest  record I have of Reuben is the 1861 census where he is living in Binbrook Township with his 51 year old father and his 21 year old step mother. In this census he is a teacher. There was a rumor that Reuben married a young student so I checked the Annual Reports of Local Superintendents but found no proof of this. Reuben shows up in some of these reports. He purchased land in Tilbury West, Essex County, Ontario in 1859 and in 1863 he is teaching there. After his marriage, the superintendent records show he taught in Trudell, Essex County in 1865 where he was paid 264 dollars without room and board with 83 students. He taught again in 1866 then in 1868. The records only go up to 1871 so I can’t tell if he continued to teach.

At the same time he was teaching, he was farming. He purchased 3 lots of land in Essex County but it looks like he eventually sold 2 and kept only Lot 11 in the 5th Concession. This is where he lived and farmed until after 1901.

Reuben Taylor and Leah Titchworth

Reuben Taylor with his wife Leah Jane Titchworth

Reuben married Leah Jane Titchworth December 3, 1863. He continued as a teacher for a few years after he married. They had a 7 children. It’s interesting that only 3 of them married. Thomas, the youngest, was “slow” so he did not marry. The other 3 children, all girls, did not marry; instead each of them had a trade and was able to provide for herself.

Sometime after 1901 but before 1911 Reuben, Leah, their son Will and daughter Josephine moved to Bethune, Saskatchewan and purchased a store. Reuben became a merchant in his old age. He was over 70 when they moved. My grandmother said that Josephine was supposed to take care of her aging father and mother but she couldn’t get along with them so Will had to have them in his home.

Reuben died in Bethune in 1912 and is buried in the Bethune Cemetery. His wife was buried beside him when she passed away. At a time when most people were farmers, Reuben tried a couple of careers that were outside the box. I have to admire this.


I’d love to hear from you if you know any more about this family.



1861 Canada Census; J Taylor Household; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1085; 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.

Records of the Department of Education, Annual Reports of Local Superintendents and Local Boards of Trustees, 1850- 1870; MS 3545 Reel 30; Archives of Ontario

Marriage; Ontario County Marriage Records; p127; LDS Microfilm 1030055; citing RG 8 Series I-6; Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

Ontario Land Records, Wentworth County, Tilbury West Township; Lot 9 and 11 Concession 5; Lot 6 Concession 9; https://www.onland.ca

1871 Canada Census; Reuben Taylor Household; Census Place: Tilbury West, Essex, Ontario; Roll: C-9890; Page: 11; Family No: 40; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1871 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009; citing Library and Archives Canada Microfilm 9890

1881 Canada Census; Reuben Taylor Household; Census Place: Tilbury West, Essex, Ontario; Roll: C_13281; Page: 22; Family No: 96; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1881 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009; Original data: Canada. “Census of Canada, 1881.” Statistics Canada Fonds, Record Group 31-C-1. LAC microfilm C-13162 to C-13286. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa

1891 Canada Census; Reuben Taylor Household; Census Place: Tilbury West, Essex North, Ontario; Roll: T-6335; Family No: 218; Ancestry.com. 1891 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008; Original data: Library and Archives Canada. Census of Canada, 1891. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: 2009. Series RG31-C-1. Statistics Canada Fonds. Microfilm reels: T-6290 to T-6427.

1901 Canada Census; Reuben Taylor Household; Census Place: Tilbury (West/Ouest), Essex (north/nord), Ontario; Page: 1; Family No: 1; Ancestry.com. 1901 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006; Original data: Library and Archives Canada. Census of Canada, 1901. Ottawa, Ontario, Series RG31-C-1. Statistics Canada Fonds. Microfilm reels: T-6428 to T-6556

1911 Canada Census; William Taylor Household; Census Place: 21 – Village of Bethune, Regina, Saskatchewan; Page: 12; Family No: 139; Ancestry.com. 1911 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: Library and Archives Canada. Census of Canada, 1911. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Library and Archives Canada, 2007. Series RG31-C-1. Statistics Canada Fonds. Microfilm reels T-20326 to T-20460.

Tombstone; Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 September 2018), memorial page for Reuben Clarence Taylor (1831–1912), Find A Grave Memorial no. 113979149, citing Bethune Cemetery, Bethune, Regina Census Division, Saskatchewan, Canada ; Maintained by mrbloggins (contributor 47005505) .


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.





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.

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.



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

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