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;

Remembrance Day



My grandfather, even though he had a wife and 3 very young children, enlisted in World War 2. He joined the war effort on August 20, 1940,”because every body else was.” Clifford Francis Miller enlisted with the Canadian Forestry Corps, Company 17 and did his basic training in Valcartier, Quebec. Then on April 4, 1941 was shipped out to Scotland where the Canadian soldiers were asked to be lumbermen.

The Canadian Forestry Corps provided lumber for the Allied war effort by cutting and preparing timber in the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe in both the First World War and the Second World War. Forestry units also cleared terrain for the construction of installations such as airfields and runway, prepared railway ties, as well as lumber for the creation of barracks, road surfaces, ammunition crates, trench construction, etc.

There’s a British promo video about what they did that’s kind of fun to watch.
Canadian Forestry Corps

In 1943, Cliff was transferred to the 30th company and was sent to France. He was employed mainly as a driver mechanic throughout his service. A daughter said one of his jobs was hauling the bodies of dead soldiers; a job he didn’t like much.

Cliff served in the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany for a total of 52 1/3 months of overseas service. He was awarded the 1939-45 Star, the France and Germany Star, the War Medal 1939-45 and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and Clasp.

In one of the army forms he is described as “an alert, cheerful young man”. At the Canadian Repatriation Depot, 16 August 1945 Lieutenant E.R.Bruce says “Miller appears to be a good steady sort of man”.



Another relative, Cliff’s brother, my Great-uncle Holmes Andrew Miller also enlisted. Growing up I knew him, but was never told he was a soldier in the war. He met and married his wife, Edna Richardson, while at Petawawa so he enlisted before July 1940.

While going to university, my summer job was working at an historical site and one day he and my aunt showed up on a reunion tour with his regiment. That’s how I learned Uncle Holmes fought in the war. Later, when I was a bicycle courier he commented to me that he was a bicycle courier in the war. I imagine that it was lonely and scary  bicycling through the countryside delivering messages.  If only I’d asked more questions.

The leader of the reunion tour was so excited I was related to someone in his regiment that he gave me a pin-on copy of the regimental insignia that I still have. That’s how I know Uncle Holmes was in the 17 Canadian Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery.

After much training in Canada and Britain, the regiment fought first in Italy and then France, Belgium, Holland and fi­nally in Germany  If you are interested in reading more about the regiment’s history there is an on-line history.   Uncle Holme’s regiment fought in several famous battles, including Monte Cassino in Italy.



My Great-Uncle Bud also fought in World War 2. I don’t know anything about his war experience but his sister, Aunt Jo says,

Bud went to Kiska (island between Alaska and Japan).  He was the second best shot in his army.  He said it always rained out west.  He was glad to get off the island because it was forever rumbling with earthquakes.

According to Aunt Jo, Uncle Bud didn’t enlist until he was 21, because their mother, who got upset easily, was nervous about his going to war. She also mentions that no one would hire Uncle Bud because he hadn’t gone to war. Uncle Bud wouldn’t have joined the army until about 1943.

Kiska Island Video
The pictures of him are from relatives in Essex County, Ontario who he kept contact with,



Not all the war effort was outside the country. My Great-Aunt Jo and her cousin left the small community of Crozier in Northwestern Ontario to work in the War Plant in Toronto making Bren guns. Aunt Jo was on the row that made triggers. She did this job for a year before starting at the Toronto Bible College.

She was in Toronto the day the war ended. She says,

One day as I walked downtown, everything had stopped.  All the army vehicles were left right on Spadina Road.  The soldiers were gone, the war was over.



On Remembrance Day, we think of family members who fought and the huge impact it had on their lives. Alcoholism and chain-smoking were the manifestations my relatives. One relative eventually died from shell shock. I can’t imagine it was easy for the women left behind to care for children alone and look after everything else.


War Records; Clifford Francis Miller, my aunt requested the war records for her dad. The records are quite detailed and give some details about my grand-dad that I didn’t know.


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; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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;

1871 Canada Census; Reuben Taylor Household; Census Place: Tilbury West, Essex, Ontario; Roll: C-9890; Page: 11; Family No: 40; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1871 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1881 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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; 1891 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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; 1901 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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; 1911 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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 ( : 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.