Some of the volunteers who contribute to Genealogy Ensemble got together this week to plan the blog’s schedule for the coming months. We’ll be posting our stories on Wednesdays and Jacques Gagné’s compilations will go up on Sundays, as they become available. We also hope to eventually welcome new contributors. Pictured here, left to right, are Mary Sutherland, Sandra McHugh, Claire Lindell, Janice Hamilton, Marian Bulford, Lucy Anglin and Tracey Arial.
Between 1798 and 1812, American circuit riders, or saddlebag preachers, travelled to Quebec’s Eastern Townships to serve the religious needs of the area’s settlers. Many of those settlers were Loyalists from New England, Pennsylvania and other states who had come to Canada following the American Revolution.
Most of the saddlebag preachers were Baptist, Wesleyan Methodist or Congregationalist ministers. During the summer months, they would criss-cross the villages and hamlets of Compton, Sherbrooke, Richmond, Shefford, Brome and Missisquoi counties, as well as the Upper Richelieu River Valley (St. John’s County, or St-Jean-sur-Richelieu) and the Chateauguay-Huntingdon region.
In September or October, they would go back to their own churches in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and Massachusetts. There, they deposited the books in which they had record marriages and baptisms during their travels. Today, however, these books seem to have vanished.
In the following compilation, Montreal researcher Jacques Gagné has put together whatever information he could find about the circuit riders and their home churches. Claire Lindell has edited this compilation.
If you know anything about any of the missing records, please leave a comment or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Genealogy has taken me many places including Scotland, Philadelphia and Winnipeg. Last week my husband and I visited New York State to research my three-times great-grandmother’s family, the Thompsons. I wanted to find out whether there was a link between the 18th century Thompson family of Goshen, Orange County, New York and the John Thompson family of Sophiasburg Township, Ontario, Canada.
Orange County is located in the Hudson Valley, about 60 miles (100 km) north of New York City. It has gentle hills, historic villages and rich agricultural soil. The area was first acquired from the Munsee Indians in 1703.
New York State is not an easy place to do genealogy research, especially for this early period before there were vital records or detailed censuses. My ancestors were Presbyterians and I did not expect to find a neatly microfilmed database of church records. But the Orange County Genealogical Society (OCGS) has a research library in Goshen, staffed by a handful of knowledgeable volunteers, and an expert on the Thompson family lives nearby.
The trip was worth the effort and I came home with enough information to show that these families are related. (I’ll explain in another post.) With that link established, I can now take the male Thompson line to Ireland in 1729.
The Thompsons are confusing because there were several families of that name in Orange County during the 18th century, including individuals in every generation named John, George, William and James Thompson. There were even two George Thompsons, both born in 1719, both married to women named Elizabeth, and both died in 1782. One was a soldier in the American Revolution, the other was not, and more than one descendant has confused them.
I tried to prepare thoroughly before I left home. First, I researched my three-times great-grandmother Elizabeth “Betsey” Thompson’s siblings and children in Ontario. Their death certificates were particularly helpful since some indicated place of birth. I should have spent more time on Betsey’s father, John Thompson, his siblings, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews. It would have been easier to sort out Goshen’s Thompson families if I had known more about them.
When we got to the OCGS, I looked through several excellent collections of research done by now-deceased Orange County genealogists. There were also several family histories of the Thompsons and four large file folders full of query letters and family group sheets submitted by members. Unfortunately, the documents in the file folders were mixed up. I suspect that, when it came to filing, the society’s volunteers had as much trouble sorting out the Thompsons as I did. I photographed all the documents I thought were relevant and brought them home for a closer look.
After lunch, we visited the person who knows the most about this family in her big old house in the countryside. Elmire Conklin’s husband was a Thompson descendant and she has been researching them for more than 35 years. She has a degree in botany, and that scientific training helped make her an excellent genealogist. In an article she wrote for the OCGS Quarterly (May, 1991), and in her correspondence with other researchers, she zeroed in on inconsistencies and proposed logical answers to some of the questions that arise about this family.
The whole experience reminded me of three things. First, we cannot just do genealogy research online. Second, we have to be grateful for the generosity and hard work of genealogists who have preceded us. Third, we have to question their work: when family stories and genealogies contain errors, those mistakes are easily passed down through the generations and they are difficult to correct.
This article has also been posted on writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca
The Orange County Genealogy Society website is at www.ocgsny.org/. The society does not have an e-mail address; if you want to contact them, you have to do so by snail mail. If you intend to visit, take note of the hours: the research library is only open two mornings and one full day a week.
I have several other ancestral families in New York State, so I recently joined the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, www.ocgsny.org/. It now partners with Findmypast.com to make its records available, and The New York Researcher magazine it publishes is extremely helpful in explaining where and how to find New York records. In addition, the society recently published the must-have New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer.
The current-day province of Quebec was called New France until British soldiers defeated the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham near Quebec City in 1759. The French permanently surrendered their Canadian colony to the British a few years later in the treaty that concluded the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War.)
Following their victory on the battlefield, British soldiers stayed in Quebec City to defend the territory and British bureaucrats arrived to manage the colony. Soon British merchants, shipbuilders and their families joined them. Although the population of Quebec remained primarily French-speaking and Catholic, there was now a significant English-speaking population too.
Most of these people were members of the Church of England or Church of Scotland, or they were Methodists. Protestant church services were introduced to serve their religious needs, with the first Anglican church in Quebec City established in 1760. Eventually, new Protestant churches were erected in the communities surrounding the capital.
If your ancestors were among these settlers, you’ll appreciate a new compilation from Montreal genealogist Jacques Gagné. This compilation will help you find the baptismal, marriage and death records of your Anglican ancestors in Quebec City. Jacques has listed the repositories where these records are held if they are somewhere in North America, although some early records may be stored in England.
This article is a follow-up to a recent blog entitled “Harbour Lights”.
It was noted that Alpo Hjalmar Lindell had died in the Bowery in New York City and was buried on Hart Island, a Potter’s field. Here is a brief summary of Hart Island.
A 101 acre potter’s field
Under the jurisdiction of New York City
Largest tax-funded cemetery in the world
Records are found on microfilms in the Municipal Archives in Manhattan
More than one million dead are buried there
Approximately 1,500 burials a year
One third of the burials are infants
Dead are buried in pine boxes in trenches
Babies are placed in various sized coffins and stacked five coffins high
Adults are stacked three coffins high in two rows and 25 across
Trenches were used to facilitate disinterment
Ceremonies have not been conducted at the burial site since 1950
No individual markers are set
Currently historic buildings are being torn down to make room for new Mass burials that are conducted by Riker’s Island inmates who are paid 50 cents an hour
Burials are of those people who could not afford private burials
Those unclaimed within a two week period by relatives were also buried there
Burial records are currently kept within the prison system
New York City Department of Corrections created a searchable database starting in 1977
It is not possible to visit the actual grave where a loved one may be buried
There is one ferry to the island every month, other than the ferry used to transport prisoners from Riker’s Island who work at Hart Island
April 30, 2012 jurisdiction of Hart Island was transferred to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation from the Department of Corrections
In 2008 a Freedom of Information Act request for 50,000 burial records was granted to the Hart Island Project.
“Since 1994, The Hart Island Project has independently assisted families in obtaining copies of public burial records. The group also helps people track down loved ones and negotiate visits. An ecumenical group named the Interfaith Friends of Potter’s Field has intermittently conducted memorial services on the island.”
Visit the following websites :
https://www.hartisland.net/ a video clip
Source for the above information:
Hart Island, New York From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Visiting the Island of the Dead A Rare Visit to New York’s Potter’s Field on Hart Island
By COREY KILGANNONNOV. 15, 2013 The New York Times
- Is your family member buried on Hart Island, off the coast of New York? Sorry, you can’t visit
PRI’s The World February 17, 2015 · 1:45 PM EST
Reporter Alina Simone
Today, most of the people who live along the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence River east of Quebec City and in the Gaspé Peninsula are French-speaking. But in the late 1700s and early 1800s, after the British took New France and began to govern it as Lower Canada, they encouraged English-speaking colonists to come to these regions of Quebec. The settlers included British, Scottish and Irish Protestant immigrants, as well as Loyalists from the United States. Many of these people were Presbyterians, and the records of their births, marriages and deaths can be found in Presbyterian church archives and various other repositories.
This compilation lists the towns and villages where these people lived and identifies the churches or missions that served their spiritual needs. These communities were located in the territories of Cornwallis, Devon, Dorchester, Hertford and Northumberland. Today, these counties are known as Bellechasse, Bonaventure, Charlevoix, Gaspé, Kamouraska, L’Islet, Matane, Montmagny, Rimouski, Rivière du Loup and Témiscouata. Most of these areas were, and still are, rural, but they include towns such as La Malbaie (formerly Murray Bay), Métis, Gaspé and Tadoussac.
Eventually, many of these people left their farms and villages and moved to Montreal, to Upper Canada (Ontario), western Canada or the United States. This compilation is designed to help their descendants track these family roots in Quebec. Thanks to Jacques Gagne for preparing it, and to Claire Lindell for editing.
Gertrude Thorpe Davidson (Mrs. James P. Hanington) – 1852-1950
The local newspaper in Saint John, New Brunswick, hit the jackpot when they interviewed 96-year old Mrs. James Peter Hanington in July 1948. “”I always said I would not be old till I was 90’ said the charming silver-haired lady, with the sparkling dark eyes who was recalling her girlhood days in Saint John”. From a remarkable retentive memory, Mrs. Hanington described events of many decades ago as though they were only yesterday, but was fully aware of and concerned about today’s issues.
One of her fondest memories included waltzing on skates to a live band with a gong sounding every half hour signalling the skaters to reverse direction. She also recalled attending not-so-very interesting lectures at the Mechanics’ Institute with her girlfriends enabling them to meet the boys at those gatherings.
Entertaining was done in the home and was a simple matter due to the availability of affordable domestic help. A cook’s wages were only $6 a month! The great expanse of her memories included a small playmate telling her of Lincoln’s death, the street lamplighter with his ladder going from lamp to lamp and the thrill of her first ride on a passenger train from Moncton to Saint John.
Gertrude Davidson (my great grandmother), born in Saint John, NB, in April 1852, was the daughter of William and Mary Ann (Thorpe) Davidson. Her father was a prominent lumber merchant and the grandson of the first settler on the Miramichi, who came out from Scotland at the age of 20. Gertrude’s earliest memories of her native city of Saint John were centered about the Davidson home at 98 Germain Street, the fine brick building her father erected for his family and to which she moved at the age of five.
Her father had been confident when the Great Fire of 1877 was at its height that the slate roof and brick walls of his home would be ample protection. He was wrong.
When forced to leave, her father had locked the door to keep out the thieves. But fire proved a more thorough villain and all treasures were lost.
Gertrude saw the spire of Trinity Church fall that terrible day and was very anxious about the safety of the people. However, blessed with a wonderful sense of humour, Gertrude commented on the strange attire of the people who attended a church service in the Victoria rink after the fire. They had obviously escaped without their Sunday best!
As much as she loved Saint John, she moved her family to Montreal in 1890, when her husband, a successful local pharmacist, decided to go to McGill University Medical School at the age of 44. Her seventh daughter (my grandmother) was born in Montreal in 1895, when Gertrude was already 42 years old. While in Montreal, she raised her family, supported her husband’s new medical career, entertained frequently in her home and was an active member of St. John the Evangelist Church. She was very well respected in the community and enjoyed a large circle of friends.
During her long life, Gertrude had had her full share of illnesses and ailments but her knitting needles were always busy…and without the need of eyeglasses! Perhaps being married to a Pharmacist turned Doctor had its fringe benefits!
 The Evening Times-Globe, Saint John, New Brunswick – July 7, 1948.
 The Evening Times-Globe, Saint John, New Brunswick – July 7, 1948.
 The Evening Times-Globe, Saint John, New Brunswick – July 7, 1948
This compilation, prepared by Montreal genealogist Jacques Gagné, covers communities south of Quebec City (on the St. Lawrence River) to the Maine border, and east of Sherbrooke. Hundreds of Presbyterian immigrants from Scotland, as well as from Ireland and England, settled in this area in the early 1800s, attracted by its fertile land for farming, its valuable forests, rolling hills and abundant rivers.
The area includes the present-day counties of Arthabaska, Beauce, Buckingham, Compton, Dorchester, Drummond, Frontenac, Lotbinière, Mégantic, Nicolet, Richmond and Wolfe, and communities such as Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, Drummondville and Thetford Mines.
Jacques briefly describes the settlement of these towns and villages and names the churches and missions that met the spiritual needs of the Presbyterians. Name changes are noted where relevant.
The compilation lists Presbyterian cemeteries, local historical societies, books that discuss the histories of these areas and websites of interest. It also identifies repositories, such as church archives and local resource centres, where the birth, marriage and death records of these Presbyterian communities can be found.
Charles Vincent Massey served as High Commissioner for Canada in London from 1935 until 1946. His wife Alice (formerly Parkin) served by his side fulfilling formal niceties, such as presenting Canadians to the King and Queen and writing letters to the families of fallen soldiers and those who went missing, like my uncle.
The letter she sent to John Mathieu the day his son went missing reads in part:
Dear Mr. Mathieu, This is meant to tell you how deeply my husband and I feel for you since we heard that your son is missing. – we know what these days of anxiety and doubt will mean to you.
Do know with what understanding and sympathy we are both thinking of you.
The note remained within the keepsakes the Mathieu family retained long after the war.
Since then, I’ve discovered that Vincent Massey was one of the key people behind Canada’s participation in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). The scheme brought 136,849 people to Canada during World War II to train as aircrew and enabled Canada to become a leader in the aviation industry.
Massey was not officially considered a founder to the plan after the fact; but he was the first person to propose the idea in writing. In a 1936 report to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, he credits the idea to British Air Minister Lord Swinton.
After Swinton’s proposal was turned down, proposals about the same idea came from other players.
During a 1937 trip to London, for instance, Canadian Minister of National Defence Ian Mackenzie received a memorandum in favour of airmen trained in Canada from RAF Group Captain Robert Lekie.
That memo led to King agreeing to train 15 RAF soldiers within Canada. Proposed trainees increased to 50, then 120, then 135, before King backed out in 1938.
The following September, Massey joined Australian High Commissioner Stanley Bruce to meet with officials in the British Air Ministry and Treasury. The month is described in detail by F.J. Hatch in a Department of National Defence publication called “The Aerodrome of Democracy.”
Hatch questions why Massey didn’t attend the last crucial meeting in which Bruce proposed the project to Harold Balfour, Britain’s Under Secretary of State for Air. As Hatch wrote:
Why Massey was not at this meeting is not clear, but his absence has led Bruce’s biographer, and Balfour himself, to give Bruce the full credit for originating the BCATP concept.
If Massey backed off to ensure that there was no hint of his promotion of the idea to King, his methodology worked.
Over the next three months, King’s government negotiated an agreement with the Australian, British and New Zealand governments to create the (BCATP), which was signed in December 1939.
Implementation in Canada began with the Royal Air Force renting out space for schools across Canada to train recruits before they went to Britain.
I believe my uncle Charles Mathieu was probably one of 5,296 people who trained at one of these. A manuscript passed to me by him begins in 1940:
That same night I was an AC2 on the Midnight train to St. Thomas along with twenty other lads from Montreal. We were assigned as G.D.’s [general duties] to help open up the Technical Training School for Air and Engine Mechanics … I spent six months at St. Thomas doing guard duty and being General Duty Joe, however, my last month spent there was decidedly my best.
There is a question about the status of St. Thomas because it doesn’t appear in a list of 152 installations outlined by Dunmore nor in similar lists detailed by Hatch. It does appear on a bigger list of 231 BCATP facilities found on Wikipedia.
 Mathieu, John Charles, personal documents, letters and keepsakes.
 The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 1939-1945: An Historical Sketch and Record of the Ceremony at R.C.A.F. Station Trenton. Ottawa: Edmond Cloutier, 1949.
 Dunmore, Spencer. Wings for Victory: The Remarkable Story of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada. Toronto, Ont.: McClelland & Stewart, 1994, pp24.
 Hatch, F. J. The Aerodrome of Democracy: Canada and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 1939-1945. Ottawa: Directorate of History, Dept. of National Defence, 1983, pp13-14.
 Hatch, p14 quoting three sources: Edwards, Cecil, Bruce of Melbourne, Man of Two Worlds, London: Heinemann, 1965, p 279; Air Ministry, Notes on the History of RAF Training, 1939-44 (London, 1945), p 126; Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force, p 79; Balfour, Harold, Wings Over Westminster, London: Hutchinson, 1973, pp 113-114.
 Mathieu, John Charles, personal documents, “All of This Heaven Almost” manuscript, 1947-1950, p1.
 Dunmore, Spencer. Wings for Victory: The Remarkable Story of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada. Toronto, Ont.: McClelland & Stewart, 1994, pp349-360.
 Hatch, F. J. The Aerodrome of Democracy: Canada and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 1939-1945. Ottawa: Directorate of History, Dept. of National Defence, 1983, pp207-212.
 List of British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Facilities in Canada, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_Commonwealth_Air_Training_Plan_facilities_in_Canada,” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 12 July 2015, accessed July 23, 2015