Category Archives: Uncategorized

Maiden Aunt – 52 Weeks

Out of 7 children born to Reuben Clarence Taylor and Leah Jane Titchworth (married December 3 1863 in Paris, Brant County, Ontario), only 3 married. Nancy Emily married Hamilton Cranston; Jane Electa married James Barclay; and William John Brown married Ida Johnson. Their other son, Thomas, was born with an “unsound mind”.

That left 3 daughters, Olivia Huberta (Bertie), Margaret Amelia, and Josephine who were maiden aunts (great-great-great aunts to be precise). According to family members, all three had a trade. Bertie was a milliner in Detroit, Michigan, Margaret worked in well-to-do homes and painted china, and Josephine ran a grocery store in Bethune, Saskatchewan.

Josephine Taylor_Bethune Sask

Josephine Taylor in Bethune, Saskatchewan

How did Josephine end up running a store. Well, sometime between 1906 and 1911 Reuben, Leah, and Josephine along with William and his wife Ida moved to Saskatchewan. They ended up in Bethune, where William purchased a store and Josephine was supposed to run it and look after her aging parents. Something went wrong and by 1911 Reuben and Leah were living with William and his family. Reuben died in 1912 and at some point Leah moved back to Comber. But Josephine and William remained in Saskatchewan. Josephine continued to run the store until 1938 when she had to close it down.

I always wondered why she stayed in Saskatchewan even after everyone else left. From letters she wrote to her Aunt Phoebe and cousins in BC it sounds like she had a social life and many friends in Bethune. She went to dances, helped sew quilts for “the boys overseas, and sewed. Apparently she didn’t like curling though.

Of her mother’s funeral she says,

“The masons looked after everything for me. The minister, the funeral director, and pall bearers were all masons.There was lots of lovely flowers sent in…” (Her mother died in Detroit while visiting Bertie but was buried in Bethune beside her husband)

A year later she wrote about helping a friend whose mother just died.

Josephine, started out as a seamstress in Ontario, but as an unmarried woman, she learned many new skills in Saskatchewan.

“I am quite a carpenter. I can repair locks on doors, make egg crates and anything like that. I was out Saturday and this morning changing the hen yard. I have six hens…”

She still missed her siblings; many of her letters talk about family (a great find for a family historian) and how she feels ignored by them. My favourite complaint was how she thought Will would stay and visit after the funeral but he stayed only for the funeral, catching the train as soon as it was over.

She had no desire to go “back east” but eventually had no choice. With a poor economy and little money she was forced to return sometime after 1941. Josephine died in Chatham, Ontario in 1961.

Tombstone_Josephine Taylor 1874 - 1961

Tombstone of 4 unmarried children of Reuben and Leah Taylor at McDowell Cemetery near Comber, Essex, Ontario

Ontario County Marriage Registers; Paris, Brantford, Ontario; p 127; LDS Microfilm 1,030, 055; citing Archives of Ontario

1911 Canada Census; Village of Bethune, Regina, Saskatchewan; Page: 12; Family No: 139, (database online); citing Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

Kay Corbett Collection; Letters from Josephine Taylor to Pheobe Field (nee Titchworth)






Homestead – 52 Ancestors

I’ve never thought of any piece of land as the “old homestead” but members of our family did homestead. William Titchworth traveled to Kansas to homestead in 1863; the James Cranston homestead has been in the Cranston family since 1846; members of the Miller and Jerry families homestead in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Jerry, Herbert with gun and brothers Ed, Bert, Bill and parents

Robert and Sarah sitting, Herb holding gun, Ed, Bert, and Bill on the homestead in Crozier

The Jerry family also homesteaded in Crozier, Rainy River, Ontario. Dad says their property was the land across from  the current golf course in Crozier. The land documents say that Robert Jerry received land from the Rainy River Free Grant and Homestead Act. This act gave land to settlers as long as they made improvements. Robert and Sarah Harriet Jerry homesteaded on 162 acres on the North East of Section 29. He was given title to the land in October 1907. I found an older map of Crozier . For easy finding I drew a box around the land Robert, Edward, and James Herbert (granddad Jerry) owned.

By 1902, Robert and Harriet and 4 sons, William, Herbert, Edward, and Albert were living in Crozier. They built a log cabin and eventually the sons received homesteads in the area. In August 1917, Robert Jerry died leaving a widow and 5 heirs at law. There was no will but 2 witnesses stated that before passing away, Robert had said  Albert was to receive the homestead. Albert and his wife, Clara, lived with, tended the farm, and cared for Robert and Harriet as they aged. None of the siblings contest the verbal will. Albert had the farm until he sold it in 1943 to John George Bragg and Lucy Bragg. An interesting side note is that Norbert Bragg the man who drove most of us to school also owned this piece of land for a while.

Our Great-grandfather, James Herbert Jerry homesteaded the SE1/2 of Section 29. The family moved there permanently in 1929 after a stint in Saskatchewan and Southern Ontario. According to our Great-Aunt Jo, his daughter,

James Herbert Jerry home in CrozierThe homestead had a two room building with a garage on one side and a bachelor’s room on the other.  Dad had logged the land to build a bigger house but when he came back from the south the logs were gone.  He figured the neighbour had sold them.  So we lived in the little building with Dad turning the garage into a kitchen.

Descendants of the Jerry family still live in the Rainy River District.


Ontario Land Registry Access; Historical Documents; Rainy River, Crozier, Parcel 18 – 3849, image 160-162;

1901 Canada Census; Robert Jerry Household; Alberton, Algoma, Ontario; District 44; Subdistrict H-1; Household 30; Page 3; Microfilm T6458; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario.

Land Patent Maps; Archives of Ontario; Crozier;[IMG_WEB]includes\errors\img_simNo.htm

“Stories from Aunt Jo”; written memories from Josephine Beaton.


Tragedy – 52 Ancestors

Photo_Elizabeth John

Elizabeth John(s)

This week’s prompt is misfortune but I’m changing it to tragedy. I want to tell you about Grandma Searles, our great-grandmother and the tragedies in her life.  Her maiden name is Elizabeth John(s). Grandma was born in August 31 1882 in Walwyn Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Her parents are Charles John and Sarah Nicholas. She had 3 sisters, Ann, Sarah (Lala), and Jennie; and 3 brothers, James, Thomas and William. Her dad was a farm labourer. The family lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales but moved from small town to small town.

Sometime between 1891 and 1901 she left home and started working. My mother says this is when she met her future husband, William Henry Searles. I’ve told this story before, but when the Searles family decided to move to Canada, they forced their 19-year-old son, William, to come with them even though he wanted to stay and marry Elizabeth John.  William, his mom, and sister Lilian arrived in Canada on 2 August 1907 and made their way to Toronto (Scarborough) where the rest of the family was living.

Almost a year later, on 29 May 1908, Elizabeth John left her family and friends to travel to Canada to meet her beloved William.  She arrived in Toronto sometime in June of 1908 and on October 24, 1908 she married William Henry Searles, 6 months after he turned 21.

The newly married couple moved close to her in-laws, Samuel and Elizabeth Searles. Elizabeth became pregnant almost immediately and Mary, her first child, was born about July 21, 1909.  It was a difficult delivery and 2 days later, the infant died from “convulsions following severe labour”. Except for her husband, Grandma Searles had no close family to comfort and console her at this tragic time. She must have felt grief and loneliness.

Following Mary’s death, they had another daughter, Winnifred Phyllis, in March 1911 and a son, Harold in 1913. After Harold’s birth, they moved to a farm near Cochrane. This is when the next tragedy occurred. According to my mother, they were visiting at the station house when 4-year-old Winnifred walked too close to the fire and her dress caught fire. She died in her mother’s arms. As any mother would, Elizabeth did what ever she could to save Winnifred but it didn’t work. The death registration says she died from accident (burned) but lived for 2 hours afterwards. Once again, Elizabeth was in a new place, remote from her family and had to deal with the death of a child.

The family still had Harold, their only son, and then went on to have 3 more daughters, Muriel, Gwen, and Marjorie. William and Elizabeth lived long lives. They were married 65 years when William died in 1974. Elizabeth died in 1978.7b_Searles, William_60 Wedding Anniversary


1891 England and Wales Census; St. Brides, Haverford, Pembrokeshire; page 5 Enumeration; accessed December 23, 2015;; [database online]; citing

1901 England and Wales Census; St. Bride, Haverford, Pembrokeshire; Enumeration District 14; page 6; accessed December 23, 2015;; [database online]; citing

Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935; Searle, Wm viewed 28 November 2014;; [ database on-line]; Provo, Utah; citing; Passenger Lists, 1865-1935; Series: RG 76-C; Roll: T-489; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario

UK Passenger Lists; Elizabeth Johns; UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]. Operations, Inc., 2012 citing Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Outwards Passenger Lists. BT27. Records of the Commercial, Companies, Labour, Railways and Statistics Departments. Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies. The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England

Ontario Marriage Registrations; Searles, William; John, Elizabeth; East Toronto, York; #21560; Microfilm MS 932 Reel 138; [database online]; Provo, Utah; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada.

Ontario Death Registrations; Searles, Mary; Toronto, York; #3337; Microfilm MS 935 Reel 141; LDS Film 004,135,109; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada

Ontario Death Registrations; Searles, Winnifred; Cochrane, Temiskaming; #38870; Microfilm MS 935 Reel 216; Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada.

1911 Canada Census; William Searles Household; Scarborough, York, Ontario; District 136; Subdistrict 26; page 3, family 22; ; viewed 28 November 2014; [database online]; Provo, Utah; citing Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

Ontario Birth Registrations; Searles, Harold; Toronto, York; # 12387; Microfilm MS 929 Reel 238; viewed 28 November 2014; [database online]; Provo, Utah; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada.

Ontario Death Registrations; Searles, Winnifred; Cochrane, Temiskaming;#38870; viewed 28 November 2014; [database online]; Provo, Utah; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada.

Tara Shymanski Collection; 60th Wedding Anniversary [copy]; undated clipping from newspaper; probably Cochrane newspaper; handwritten date 1968; in possession of Tara Shymanski, Calgary, Alberta

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