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.

 

 

 

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