Tag Archives: 52 ancestors in 52 weeks.

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.



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.