Tag Archives: 52 ancestors in 52 weeks.

Another language – don’t be afraid to ask!

My genealogy research so far is all in English but one side of my husband’s ancestry is Polish. One day we received a package in the mail from his uncle. We’d asked a few times for any information he had but hadn’t received anything so it was a surprise to get it. Enclosed were his grandparents Polish passports, a copy of his baptismal record and another record written in Cyrillic Russian. We didn’t know what it Cyrillic Russian is entirely foreign to us.

His grandfather’s passport is a great source of information. We were able to figure out where he came from and his birth date.  Passports always have a picture so we knew what he looked like when he was young.

Alexander Shymanski Passport

Passport photo of Alexander Szymanski

The baptism record is in Latin so it is fairly easy to figure out. The great thing about it is  it gives the names of his parents grandparents. What a genealogical find.

There is also a certificate excusing him from military service in Poland; written in Polish but once again my husband could figure it out with help from a Polish to English dictionary (google translate didn’t exist then).

So all we had to do now was decipher the Russian document. I believe we are blessed with what we need when we need it and sure enough when the documents arrived I was working with 2 Russian born people. Both of them looked at the document, frowned and said “I don’t read Cyrillic but let me try”. Each came back and said she couldn’t read it entirely but it looked like a a criminal record check. That made perfect sense. He was immigrating to Canada and needed proof he hadn’t committed any crimes.

The problem was solved because I wasn’t afraid to ask for help.  For years I sat in my office and hoarded my information. Now I share my information and ask for help when it’s needed. You can ask your local genealogy society, someone who might have knowledge of the area you are researching or you can even post your question on one of the many specialized Facebook groups. Let me know how it goes.


Cemeteries – 52 Weeks

It may be strange but I love wandering through old cemeteries. I wonder what illness went through the community when tombstones have death dates around the same time, and grieve when there is a mother and child with the same death date…possibly because of a bad pregnancy. You can learn so much about a community from the graveyard.

My sisters, however, don’t share the same love of cemeteries. One sister still complains about the time I dragged her around my hometown cemetery when she was young. Another one refuses to go to Ireland with me because she doesn’t want to spend her time going through graveyards. (I only wanted to see 2 of them).

My hometown of Fort Frances, Ontario has a big, old cemetery that fascinates me. Just knowing my ancestors are buried there draws me to it. It’s right beside the river and has lots of trees. Due to erosion, 2 family members, Harriet and Robert Jerry had to be moved to the newer cemetery.

But my favourite place is the Devlin/Lavallee Cemetery or the Devlin Cemetery or Lavallee Cemetery. It’s name depends on which village you lived it. It has the remains of my father’s granddad, Henry Miller and his wife Margaret McCall, some of their children, and Margaret’s siblings. It also has the ashes of my mother. Most people wouldn’t understand but it feels like home there, especially since I knew many of these people.

It’s in the country on a small hillock. It is here that I would like to be buried.

Storms in Life – 52 weeks

When I think about storms in my life the roughest period was when I was trying to conceive. Month to month was an emotional roller coaster. I always related to Mary Munro. She couldn’t have children either. At least that was what I had been told.

Imagine my surprise when I found Mary Jane and her husband Neil Munro listed with a child, Mary C. on the 1901 census. Mary C Munro was born November 22, 1887. She hadn’t appeared in the 1891 census so I was cautious and checked the 1911 census. She was in that census too but this one listed her as “adopted daughter”.

Mary and  Neil had adopted a little girl. My experience with adopted or foster children suggested she was somehow related. I knew from research that the relationship wasn’t on the Miller side so I started researching the siblings of Neil Munro. Since I knew Neil’s parents names from his marriage registration. I went to the Ontario Marriage Registrations on Ancestry and typed only the parents names in the search. Sure enough, the marriage of one sister, Rose Monroe and Arthur Robson showed up. A year later, on November 22, 1887, Mary Christina Robson was born to this couple.

I did more research and discovered that Rosina Robson died of consumption (tuberculosis) on June 16, 1891. Her father would not have been able to care for a 4 year old so the logical thing to do was give her to Mary and Neil to raise since they had no children of their own. This is a very humane way to deal with children.

Mary Christina lived with Mary and Neil until 1914 when she married Howard Stevens and in 1921 she had 3 children of her own.

Although Mary Jane Munro lived through the “storm” of not having children, at the age of 35 she was blessed with a little 4 year old girl to love and raise for 23 years. It’s not the same as giving birth but raising child whether biologically yours or not is a tremendous responsibility and joy, I’m sure.

5c_Tombstone_Mary Christina Robson

1901 Canada Census; Neil Munroe Household; Westminster Township; Middlesex South, Ontario; District 89, Subdistrict D2; page 1, family 3; accessed 24 August 2015; www.ancestry.ca; [database online]; Provo, Utah; Microfilm T-6482; ; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario.

1911 Canada Census; Neil Munroe Household; Westminster Township; East Middlesex, Ontario; District 95, Subdistrict 22; page 18, family 214; accessed 24 August 2015; www.ancestry.ca; [database online]; Provo, Utah; Microfilm T20384; ; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario.

Rose Robson

Ontario Marriage Registrations; Munro, Rose; Robson, Arthur; 1886; Lucknow, Bruce;  #1704; Microfilm Reel 1869960; accessed April 2006; Family History Library; Salt Lake City, Utah; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada.

Ontario Birth Registrations; Robson, Mary Christina; Colbourne Township, Huron; #13447; Microfilm MS 929 Reel 82; Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.

Ontario Death Registrations; Robson, Rosina; 1891; Westminster, Middlesex; #10025; accessed 24 August, 2015; www.ancestry.ca; [database online]; Provo, Utah; Microfilm MS 935 Reel 61; citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.

Ontario Marriage Registrations, 1869-1928; Westminster, Middlesex, Ontario; Ancestry.com [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010; citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

Howard Stevens Household: 1921 Canada Census; RG 31; Folder Number: 71; Census Place: Westminster (Township), Middlesex East, Ontario; Page Number: 9; Ancestry.com. [database on-line]; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Tombstone; Howard and Mary C Stevens (Robson); Pond Mills Cemetery, Middlesex Co, Ontario; Photos courtesy of Alison Mitchell-Reid [2008], Additions from Dot Sale [2015], Indexed by Alison Mitchell-Reid at CanadaGenWeb’s Cemetery Project. http://geneofun.on.ca/names/photo/1049650



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, http://www.ancestry.com (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; https://www.onland.ca/ui/48/books/search

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; http://ao.minisisinc.com/scripts/mwimain.dll/1522386813/1/0?SEARCH&ERRMSG=[IMG_WEB]includes\errors\img_simNo.htm

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


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 http://members.wap.org/lcharters/lykara/project/battles.html





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 (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FCJQ-KZL : 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.