Category Archives: Uncategorized

More DNA success

 DNA has connected me with a few distant relatives who have generously shared documents, and photos of relatives I knew. It’s so exciting to receive this information. In my last post I mentioned meeting a descendant of my great-grandfather Searle’s oldest sister, Bessie. This week I received pictures from her of my Great Grandparents and my Gramma Dunn when they were younger. How cool is that!

 The upper left picture is my great grandfather and great grandmother, William Searles and Elizabeth Searles (nee John); Edward John Drake and Elizabeth “Bessie” Drake (nee Searles), she is Grandad Searles oldest sister; my grandmother Gwen Dunn (nee Searles)

The lower left picture is another one of my Grandma Dunn when she was younger, with Reg Drake. Reg is Bessie’s youngest son and Grandma Dunn with Ken McLeod, son of Bessie’s daughter.

Thank you Joan for sending the pictures to me. I love seeing pictures of my grandmother when she was a child.

Alberta Genealogy Society Conference

I spent last weekend at a conference in Edmonton hosted by the Alberta Genealogy Society. What fun it was. I reconnected with Lesley Anderson. She and I met in Qualicum Beach last April and then again in Kelowna. As the ancestry representative for Canada she speaks everywhere. Her enthusiasm and passion for genealogy are evident when she speaks. I also had the fun of hearing Kristy Grey whose presentations will have you laughing as well as learning and Sylvia Valentine whose knowledge of English records is incredible.The latter two are from England and I was envious of their ability zip into the records offices in various counties and see the actual documents. Another speaker I listened to was Ruth Blair, whose depth of knowledge in incredible and of course Lynn Palermo who is passionate bout writing her family history and is currently working on creative non-fiction. Talk to her about it. She has me convinced that it’s one way to tell the story of your family. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hear all the speakers as I was busy.

I’ve said this before but genealogy conferences are a great way to learn how to do all things related to family history. They are also an amazing place to meet people, learn their stories and what they know. Who knows, by talking to someone you may discover a record or method that will help you get back one more generation. Kudos to the organizing committee. They worked hard to host an educational opportunity for us to enjoy.

Speaking of finding people…! I met two more DNA cousins. Both are descendants of my great great grandfather Samuel Searles and his wife Elizabeth Atkins. How great is that!

Special thanks to Kimberly, who volunteered to take pictures of me.

The Statue

There is a statue in downtown Edmonton, Alberta of a railway worker lounging on a bench. Beside him is a lunch pail and open thermos. Each time I glimpse it, a memory startles me; it’s my Granddad Dunn! It must be the overalls and cap that remind me of him. It’s not him, of course. It’s a statue, sculpted and forged by American artist, Seward Johnson, called “Lunchbreak”.

Photo by Michael Kuby for Avenue Magazine, July 4, 2017

David Walter Dunn was born the 18 June 1906 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was the third child of John Dunn and Christina Clayton. His older sister, Jessie was born in 1902 and Clayton was born in 1904 both in Hamilton, Ontario.

In the fall of 1907, when Granddad was just a year old, his parents moved to a remote area of British Columbia near Procter, a small village on Kootenay Lake. The BC Archives has a picture of Procter in 1911. The family lived in the area less than year when his father, John Edward Dunn, drowned. Christina, with 3 children under the age of 6, moved back home to Hamilton.

Walter Dunn with his older brother, Clayton

After their dad’s death it was decided that Walter and his older brother Clayton would live in Hamilton with their mother, Grandmother Clayton, Aunt Jane and Uncle Edward Cutriss while Jessie was sent to Hudson Township, just north of New Liskeard, Ontario to live with the Dunn side of the family.

His mother, Christina, remarried 10 years after the death of her husband to a widower, James Richardson. The 1921 census has Walter and Clay living with their mother and step-father in Hudson Township, Ontario. Jessie is a teacher, lodging with a family, in the same township.

Granddad Dunn’s obituary says he started working for the railway in 1924. He would have been 18 years old. He started in Porcupine (now part of Timmins), Ontario. He was promoted to foreman in 1940. Voter’s lists, 1945 in Cochrane, 1957 in Timmins, and 1962 in Cannaught all list his occupation as section foreman.

“Baldy and his Buick” is written on first picture. Granddad looks quite dapper. The second picture could be of Granddad at work. It looks like he is the second from the right.

After his retirement from the railway in 1966, he and Grandma moved to Yellowknife, North West Territories where he worked in one of the mines. In 1972 they were back in Cochrane. They then moved to Moosonee, Ontario, a community on James Bay, where Grandma Dunn worked as a teacher.

I don’t have many memories of my grandfather. When they lived in Northern Ontario we visited my grandparents once a year at the most. One summer they were living in Cobourg, Ontario. I must have been older because I remember him teaching my brother how to make a rose out of a deck of cards.

Walter ended up in the nursing home in Cochrane where he died in November 1987.


Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Voters Lists, Federal Elections, 1935–1980. R1003-6-3-E (RG113-B). Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

1911 Canada Census; Emily Clayton Household; Hamilton, Ontario; District 78 West Hamilton; Subdistrict 14, Ward 4; page 13; Microfilm T20376; Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

1911 Canada Census; David Dunn Household; Hudson and Lundy, Ontario; District 99; Subdistrict 65; page 5; Microfilm T-20386; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario.

1921 Canada Census; James Richardson Household; Hudson, Temiskaming, Ontario; District 129; Subdistrict 24; Ancestry,com [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:
Original data: Library and Archives Canada. Sixth Census of Canada, 1921. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Library and Archives Canada.

1921 Canada Census; Andrew Young Household; Dymond Township; Temiskaming, Ontario; District 129; Subdistrict 25; Ancestry,com [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:
Original data: Library and Archives Canada. Sixth Census of Canada, 1921. Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada: Library and Archives Canada.

Family Tree of D. Roger Timms; Temiskaming Speaker Newspaper; May 8, 1908, page 1;; accessed 1 October 2013; article on death of John Edward Dunn

Obituary; David Walter Dunn; Joan Miller Collection; probably from the Cochrane newspaper shortly after November 8, 1987

Images through Time

AGS Genealogy Conference
April 26-28, 2019

I listened to a webinar with Sylvia Valentine, one of the speakers at the AGS conference. She is terrific! She has a great depth of knowledge about English records and so good at presenting it in a logical way. She’s going to be in Edmonton speaking at the Alberta Genealogy Conference. I highly recommend you come to hear her.

They came for land

A new tractor to work the land

I love land records! I’m not sure why; maybe because most of my ancestors came to Canada for the land, or maybe because when I was young my dad advised me to buy land as an investment. “You can’t go wrong with land”, he said.

Many people immigrated to Canada for the land. The Canadian government advertised the dream of owning land in many countries. Much of the advertising took place in the late 1800’s. However, in the late 1700’s, many settlers who were persecuted for remaining loyal to the British cause during the American Revolution, fled to Upper Canada. They were promised land and were quite persistent in their requests for that land. Some of my favourite documents are from the Upper Canada Land Petitions found on the Library and Archives Canada website.

Thomas Pettit, my 5 great-grandfather, was born in 1770, probably in New York or New Jersey. He came with his father, John, and brother, Charles, and other Pettit relatives in 1788.  The area they moved to was the Nassau District of the Province of Quebec. Soon after, it was called Saltfleet Township an area very close to Hamilton, Ontario. By 1807, Thomas had 7 children. The oldest  was nearly 13 years old.

I learned these facts about Thomas from the Upper Canada Land Petitions. People who came to Canada wanted land and to get it they had to petition the government. Many of the petitions contain personal information about the petitioner and his family.

Thomas Pettit Land Petition  page 1

Thomas petitioned for land twice. The first time was in 1791. Since he had to be 21 to acquire his 200 acres, it is inferred that he was born around 1770.  In 1791 he was granted land in the 1 and 2 Concessions on Lot 20 and a broken front lot. The land he received fronted on Lake Ontario for a bit and then went away from the lake.

Thomas petitioned for more land in 1807. It is from this petition I learned that his father is John Pettit of Saltfleet, a United Empire Loyalist. An affidavit signed by Mr. Swazey who “knows the petitioner” stated the number of children he had and the age of the eldest child. From the oldest child’s age we can extrapolate that Thomas married around 1795.

Another petition was submitted by Charles Pettit who also states his father is John Pettit of Saltfleet. so Thomas had at least 1 brother, named Charles.

Early settlers had to prove to government officials that they met the criteria for receiving the land and, because the rules were modified over time, they had to prove who their fathers were. This resulted in petitions with genealogical information. It isn’t precise but can lead you to where and when they were born, who their father was, and how many children they had. The latter was to prove their need for more land.

Finding the petitions isn’t difficult but it can take a bit of time. It’s a 2 step process. First go to the Database of Land Petitions of Upper Canada to see if your ancestor has a petition(s). Take down all the information, the microfilm number, year, volume, bundle, petition, and reference. The second step is to go under the digitized microforms at the same url as above and find the Upper Canada Land Petitions. Once you have correct microfilm number, you have to manually search the microfilm, looking for the year, volume, bundle, petition, and reference numbers to help you find your ancestor

I highly recommend using the Land Petitions of Upper Canada to search for your family. The records go from 1763 – 1865. You can also check out the records for Lower Canada that are also digitized; although many of them are in French.

Sources or where I got the information

Upper Canada Land Petitions; Thomas Pettit; 1807; “P” Bundle 8, 1806-1808; RG 1, L3, Vol. 402; microfilm C2490; Image 112 – 115; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Township Papers (ca 1783 – 1870); Thomas Pettit; 1791; Land Certificate; MS 658 Reel 430; Series RG 1 – 58; Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Upper Canada Land Petitions; Charles Pettit; 1819; “P” Bundle 12, 1819 -1808; RG 1, L3, Vol. 404; microfilm C2491; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.




I finally decided to challenge myself and start researching my Irish families. AncestryDNA says that I am 20% Irish and Scottish which seems reasonable since I have a few ancestors from Ireland with Scottish sounding surnames; the surnames I’m aware of are McCall, Ross, Macham,and Cranston. I’ll include the Miller, Young, and Smeltzer surnames. Even though my DNA from them is Western Europe, they did live in Ireland for about 125 years.

The first step in researching is to figure out exactly what I know about each of the families. This will help determine what information I”m missing, making it easier to decide what my research goal will be. I decided to start with the McCall, Ross lines. Robert McCall married Ann Ross in Ireland and they had at least 1 child, probably 2, before immigrating to Canada West.

In 1972, one of the McCall families in Michigan hired a researcher in Ireland. I have a copy of the report and will log all the information in it onto a spreadsheet so I don’t duplicate the research.

My ultimate goal is to take a research trip to Ireland next year.


I’ve been researching William Elbourne Atkins who is the father of Kate Atkins. Kate is the mother of my biological grandfather, the one I never knew. William was born in Chesham, Buckingham. An Ancestry tree had his mother’s name, Hannah Atkins, but nothing on his father. So I ordered the birth registration in from General Records Office in England to find out who William’s father is. Well, the birth registration lists his mother but not a father. William was illegitimate! My first time researching a child born out of wedlock. That’s exciting, now I get to try to find his father.

Since William was born in June 1861, my first step is to find more information on Hannah by checking out the 1861 census. This census was taken about 2 months before William is born. In this census, Hannah is listed as the head of household; she has an 11 year old daughter, and get this, there is a 31 year old male lodger living with her and his name is Thomas Elbourne. Does his last name not suggest that William “Elbourne” Atkins is his son?

An expert in English genealogy confirmed my theory. She said it was common to give an illegitimate child the last name of the father as a middle name. However, since the couple wasn’t married when William was born, he would always have his mother’s maiden name as a surname. Hannah and Thomas Elbourne eventually married 6 months after William was born. But since Hannah wasn’t married when her son was born, he would always be William Atkins.

Hannah Atkins lived in Duck Alley, a row house in Chesham

William is not Hannah’s first child born out of wedlock. In 1851, she is unmarried and has a one year old daughter named Sarah. She is living with her elderly parents, William and Sarah, at 20 Duck Alley in Chesham, Buckingham, England. Her father had been a farm labourer but at the age of 81 he can’t do much work so is on parish relief. Hannah works as a straw plaiter. In this occupation women and children prepared straw to be made into hats and ornaments.

My first experience researching the father of an illegitimate child was exceptionally easy. It’s not always this straight forward. I think it’s going to be harder to discover who is the father of Hannah’s daughter, Sarah.


1851 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005[ Registration district: Amersham; ED 1b;Piece: 1717;Folio: 119; Page Number: 19; Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1851

1861 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005; Registration district: Amersham; Sub-registration district: Chesham; ED 2e; Piece: 845; Folio: 26; Page Number: 15; Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1861. Data imaged from The National Archives, London, England

For information on Straw Plaiting see;

Photo from Chesham Heritage Facebook Page;