Author Archives: Claire Lindell

Dad’s Favourite Christmas Story


My Dad always took great delight in regaling us with his favourite Christmas story. It was a story from my mother’s youth, and he had not yet met my mother when it happened, but he enjoyed recounting it every year and we never tired of hearing it.

My Mom came from a family of nine children. She grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, and the story took place in her family home on Christmas Eve of 1924, when she was 15 years old.

Her older brother, my Uncle Eugene, had come home safely from World War I and had married a young widow, Della Sinnett, from Arnprior, Ontario. When their son, Frankie, was born at the end of 1921, there was great joy.

Unfortunately, the happy occasion was short-lived. In spring of 1923, when Della was expecting their second child, she succumbed to septicemia.

Who would take care of young Frankie?

Frankie stayed with his grandparents. My grandmother was a warm, loving lady and she took care of the young toddler, with the help of her daughters still living at home.

On Christmas Eve of 1924, the family gathered and made their way to St. Anne’s Catholic Church for Midnight Mass, but Frankie did not go. Someone stayed home to take care of him. Who it was we never knew. That person must have dropped off to sleep but Frankie woke up. The little three-year-old, mesmerized and filled with curiosity, he made his way in to the parlour where all the presents were under the Christmas tree.


I like to imagine him as, with great  gusto, he proceeded to open each one of them, scattering paper, ribbons, bows and boxes all over the room! You can imagine the chaos when the family returned from church expecting to sit at the large dining room table and enjoy a traditional French Canadian Réveillons, when families gathered after Midnight Mass. Tourtiére, the famous French Canadian meat pies were freshly baked for this special occasion, along with many other favourite dishes.


All the family could do was to laugh and try to sort out the presents while some of the family members prepared the traditional Reveillons feast, one that our family kept for many years.

Eventually, Frankie’s father, Uncle Eugene, moved to Kirkland Lake, Ontario and remarried. He died in 1969 and is buried there. Frankie died at the age of 61 and is buried in Lasalle Cemetery in Sudbury, Ontario beside his mother, Della Sinnett and close to his Granny and Granpa Jodouin.


You might want to visit the following website. Although they focus on Quebec, the Reveillons is traditional among French Canadians throughout the country,




The Hometown Tourist

Summer is slowly waning, days are getting shorter, the sun is slipping below the horizon earlier each day and at times there seems to be  a slight chill in the wind. The playgrounds are silent. Schools are back in session.

Where did the summer go? How did you spend your summer? Did you travel to faraway places, relax on a beach, or stay right here in the city and enjoy some of the festivities while celebrating our 375th Anniversary?

The island of Montreal has been my home since the mid-60’s. This summer I became a tourist in my hometown. Several organized guided day tours were a pleasant way of seeing and learning about the many hidden gems tucked away in unusual places.

Did you know that there is a large piece of the Berlin wall in the International Trade Center in Old Montreal, or that there were guided tours of the Seminary?

Recently on a   Saturday afternoon, after a lengthy detour and a drive between orange construction cones another genealogist and I arrived   late   for a guided tour of the Seminary in Old Montreal. We joined the group in the courtyard adjacent to Notre Dame Basilica where the Sulpician Priests during this anniversary year have opened their doors to the public. The last time that happened was during Expo 67, fifty years ago.

The young guide, Gabriel, was describing the French clock, (from France) noting how the original mechanisms were made of wood. Over the years there were many changes and today it runs on electricity. The bells ring every fifteen minutes, although they are often drowned out by the bells of the Basilica.  French clock tower IMG_0884.jpg

The Priests of Saint Sulpice arrived in Montreal in 1657. From 1663 until 1840 were the owners of the island of Montreal. They were the Seigneurs. They began building the Seminary in 1685 and today it is the second oldest building on the island of Montreal and the oldest building standing that has retained its original purpose.

As you walk by the courtyard on Notre Dame Street it is possible to see where the restoration of the building is ongoing, beginning with the upper third floor which is currently vacant. The restoration team has done their utmost to retain the same look as the lower levels.

From the clock tower in the courtyard our group moved through a narrow passage between buildings and in to the garden, a large spacious area where for many years it provided produce for the Seminary. Today it is a quiet, serene wide expanse of grass, walkways and large trees, several that are over one hundred years old. Recently they planted almost two dozen young trees at the far end of the garden.

garden IMG_0893.jpg

The tour ended in the garden. However, because we arrived late and missed the visit to the museum we were permitted to go in and view the numerous artifacts found within. The main theme focused on the founding of the Sulpician priests and their mission in New France. One of the items that caught my eye was a hand drawn map of the island of Montreal dating back to 1702 that showed all the different settlements on the island.

Perhaps the most important part of the event was when several people asked about the archives and the possibility of visiting them. The response was surprising as it had always been noted that it was next to impossible to access the archives. The guide noted that there are two permanent archivists and two students working during the summer months. If someone wishes to visit the archives they must have a specific purpose, along with names and dates. The archivist will give your request consideration and inform you if they are able to assist you in your request or they may recommend where you might find answers. He also noted that there is much work to be done in the organizing of all the data they have.

Being a tourist in one’s hometown has been an interesting experience. A cruise on the St. Lawrence gave us a bird’s eye view of the port of Montreal.  A full day bus tour with six different stops along the way covered most of the prominent areas of the city, Old Montreal, up the mountain along Camillian Houde Parkway, a drive up to Mile End area, a brief stop in Welinsky’s and a visit to Fairmont Bagel, just to name a few.

Each of the day trips were rewarding. Although it was strange at first to be a tourist in one’s hometown there were many other Montrealers with the same idea.






A Dedicated Life

We were sitting on a bench at a short par three at our local golf course, waiting for the green to be free. Louise and I struck up a conversation that turned out to be serendipitous. We had known each other for more than seven years. The name of Soeur St. Emile had never been mentioned. She began talking about her great aunt, Tante Soeur St. Emile, a Grey Nun of the Cross in Ottawa., also known as the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. Hearing this, my curiosity was piqued.  My mother often talked about her aunt, Soeur St. Emile, a grey nun who was the Superior of the boarding school in Alymer where she had been a student. Could it possibly be the same person? What were the chances of that?

Louise and I chatted and came to the conclusion that her grandmother and my grandfather were brother and sister!  Soeur St. Emile was their sister.  Indeed it was the same person and we were related.

Marie Louise Jodoin  (Soeur St. Emile) was born November 16th, 1862 in Montebello, Quebec, a community on the Ottawa River not far from Hull. As a youngster she attended the local convent school where the Grey nuns taught. Her family moved to Hull and she remained in Montebello as a boarder until the new school in Hull was completed in 1870.

Louise was eight and a half years old when her mother died and a year later her father remarried. No doubt this must have had a strong impact on the little  girl. Music became her passion at this very young age.  She took piano and singing lessons and had a talent for both. At the age of sixteen she entered religious life through the doors of the Mother House of the Grey Sisters of Ottawa  on Bruyère  Street  and for the next 75 years she lead a  life of prayer and dedication along with  an active life devoted to teaching piano and singing lessons. She was also called upon to serve as a Superior during 37 of those years in various schools and hospitals under the jurisdiction of the community.

Mother House

Mother House –  Bruyère Street, Ottawa

August 15th, 1940 after 62 years of active service to the community she walked through the same door as day the she had  entered the convent. She had come full circle. She was coming home. On April 14th 1942 the community rejoiced as they celebrated her Diamond Jubilee.

Through out her latter years, Soeur St. Emile devoted much of her time to prayer, however, she continued to maintain contact through correspondence with many of the people whose lives she had touched. “La petite Estelle”, my Mom, was one of those people and even after all those years she would always ask her about the children.

She was truly an intelligent and  remarkable women who excelled at everything she did. She died in her 91st year and in her 75th year of religious life.

I would be remiss if I did not tell you the following: When I saw my parents shortly after my conversation with Cousin Louise on the golf course that summer afternoon  of 1984, I asked them a few questions. My mother was a little perplexed and my father piped up and told me the story about meeting Soeur St. Emile in September of 1930 while he and my Mom were on their honeymoon. They had stopped in Hull to see her on their way to Quebec City. Dad pointed out that she was a  rather buxom lady who took him in her open arms and welcomed him in to the family. Needless to say, it was a very meaningful gesture he never forgot. He made a gesture of open arms and said, “ Elle ma embracé.”He then proceeded to tell me the names of all the relatives he had met during that visit and this was almost 50+ year later!

Soeur St. Emile left a lasting impression with him and most likely with many of the people she had met over the years.


Words to live by — Elizabeth Bruyère


With gratitude to my cousin, Louise Pinault for giving me a copy of a short biography that was written a year after the death of our Great Aunt. It was penned  by a member of the Grey Nuns of Ottawa on the 8th of August 1953.





Solving Brick Walls


Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and Dick Tracy were fictional detectives who most likely would have been great genealogists. These detectives solved crimes searching for clues. In the case of genealogists, they solve their problems by perusing through records pertaining to their ancestors. These records are available through church records, court record, land grants and  many other sources to answer their queries with the utmost accuracy and develop family trees. In today’s world  a wealth of computer programs are available to help the genealogists in their research

Researchers in genealogy often encounter what are referred to as “brick walls”, where they are unable to find the vital  information they need to verify a source in order to continue their research. Such was the following case.

Records showed that Moyse Hypolite Fortin was married to Henriette Bertrand. However, there were two separate records for the birth of an Henriette Bertrand. The first was born in Vaudreuil in 1811 while the second was born in Ile Perrot several kilometres away in 1813. Which of these might be his wife?

Over several months  searches of various records were done to find a possible answer, one that would  clarify which Henriette was his wife. Some of the records were hardly read-able making it that much more difficult. It was a major problem and a setback.

Finally a record was found that could possibly be the answer to our question?. To verify this find and  to be certain it was the correct person, a visit was made to Centre d’histoire La Presqu’ile in Vaudreuil where the young archivist  showed me the documents indicating that it was Henriette Bertrand, daughter of Joseph François Bertrand and Scholastique Sabourin,  born in Ile Perrot on March 7th 1813.

Finally, one more “brick wall” scaled. Persistence paid off!  On to the next one!


Sisu, Saunas and Ida Susanna


The Webster dictionary gives the following definitions of sauna:   A Finnish steam bath is a room in which steam is provided by water thrown on hot stones.   The sauna is a small room or hut heated to around 80 degrees Celsius.  It is used for bathing as well as for mental and physical relaxation.

There was a time, in the not too distant past when there were more saunas in Finland than there were cars.


On a bright sunny morning in southern California, the week before Christmas 1967  at the age of eighty-one, Ida Susanna decided to enjoy what had long ago become a ritual. The sauna had been heated. It was ready. She and several family members were enjoying the heat, steam, warmth and comfort of the sauna when suddenly Ida began feeling uneasy and within a short time she succumbed on the spot, right then and there. Her last breath was in her beloved sauna, a Finnish tradition she had enjoyed throughout her life. Now, she had come full circle.

Ida Susanna Karhu drew her first breath and saw the light of day in a sauna on a cold morning in the dead of winter, March 12, 1886, in the rural village of Isokyro, on the banks of the River Kyro, in Western Finland, the Ostrobothnia Region,  where St. Laurence Church built in 1304 still stands to this day, twenty minutes from Vaasa, Finland near the Gulf of Bothnia.

As a youngster,  she played with friends and watched her younger brother and sister. She went to school and dreamed of a new life in a far-away country where her father was waiting for the family. Johan had left for America several months earlier. At that time the United States was actively recruiting immigrants. He was up to the challenge.

The time had finally come for the family to be reunited. In early spring of 1896 Ida, her mother, Sanna, 42, her brother Jakko and sister Lisa Whilemena, had taken all the necessary steps toward making their way to ‘Amerika’. The Finnish passport containing all four names was in order, having undergone rigorous scrutiny prior to being issued. Four tickets were purchased at the cost of FIM 138 per passenger. The date for departure had been set for May 16, 1896.

It must have been a harrowing thirteen-day voyage for Sanna, with the responsibility of three young children although Ida was able to help with the little ones. They made their way to Hango, Finland on to Hull, England, aboard the SS Urania, then by train to Liverpool, England. The travellers then boarded the SS Lucania, a Cunard Liner, destination New York City with two thousand eager passengers. Some were either homesick or seasick or both.

They passed the Statue of Liberty as they approached Ellis Island on May 29, 1896, where the lengthy registration process began before they could go down the ‘stairway to freedom’.

There were new horizons for the ten year  Ida,  and her family as they  made their way to Ashtabula, Ohio. She went to school, was a diligent student who learned to read and write in English while maintaining her Finnish language and heritage.*

In 1903 at the age of sixteen, she married a fellow Finn, nine years her senior, had nine children. Johan (John) provided for the family for forty years until he was fatally struck in the spring of 1943 by a young fellow driving a forklift. After his passing Ida had several suitors. She remarried, however, her new husband, Herman Haapala died within the year.

Ida Susanna was a lady with sisu*, a Finnish word for perseverance, courage and determination. She married for the third time to a gentleman named Gust Gustafson and enjoyed several years living on a large farm in Cook, Minnesota. For almost ten years they travelled., One summer they visited her son in Canada, and wintered in Florida. However, he too passed away.

Getting on in years and not wanting to endure the harsh winters in the east, she made her way to southern California where she spent her remaining years close to several of her children and their families.

She lived life to the fullest throughout those many years in “Amerika” her adopted country and is buried beside her first love, her husband of forty years, Johan Hjalmar Lindell, in  Edgewood Cemetery in Ashtabula, Ohio.





*Sisu is a Finnish term and when loosely translated into English signifies strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. However, the word is widely considered to lack a proper translation into any other language. Sisu has been described as being integral to understanding Finnish culture. The literal meaning is equivalent in English to “having guts”, and the word derives from sisus, which means something inner or interior. However sisu is defined by a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain an action against the odds. Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is sisu.





My Finnish Grandfather

The Blacksmith of Bridge Street

The young Finnish merchant marine, Johan Hjalmar Lindell along with his mates went in to Boston while the ship was anchored. While ashore they were all encouraged to drink and they had more than a few pints. The drunken sailors were brought back on board ship. When Johan and another mate realized that they had been “shanghaied”, they decided to swim ashore. They had previously planned to remain in the United States, the land of opportunity! They were  successful. A decision neither ever regretted.

From all accounts Johan had a happy childhood. He was born in 1874 in Tampere, in  southern Finland. During his early years he received love, affection and caring from both parents. A tragic turn of events changed his life forever. His mother died. He was devastated. His father  was  a handsome, energetic man who before long began to seek a new companion. The step-mother was not very understanding toward the  young  lad and he would often find the cupboards locked. Unable to satisfy his appetite, he decided he could not live this way and made a decision to run away! He was twelve years old.

From the stories told over the years, he made his way to  St. Petersburg, Russia,  as a slender fellow, with nimble fingers he worked in a woolen mill, his dexterity and size being an asset. This work, however, would not last. It was time to move on. His adventurous spirit took him to far-away places. During his travels, he learned to be a blacksmith, a trade that would serve him well later in life. He made his way to the open seas and for several years he was a merchant marine who sailed the Seven Seas.

In the early 1880s after being shanghaied in Boston, Johan made his way to Pennsylvania. Upon learning there was a large Finnish community in Ashtabula Harbour, Ohio on Lake Erie. He headed north. His early years were spent working on the iron ore boats on the Great Lakes.

5In 1903 he married young Ida Susanna Karhu, born in the early spring of 1886 in Isokyro, Finland. She had immigrated in 1896 landing at Ellis Island with her mother, Sanna,  brother Jacko and his sister, Lisa Whilemena and were living in Ashtabula where the father had already established a home for them.

Johan and Ida had eight healthy children and lost a son at birth. They raised their family while Johan, or John or Herman, as he was sometimes known, worked at his blacksmith shop on Bridge Street in the Harbour. He had four forges and shod the horses that hauled the brewery wagons. He built wagons used for hauling coal. He also served as a court interpreter, an inventor, and banker.


The family lived above the shop. About a mile outside of town they also had a small farm. For many years the Lindell family thrived.

Times were changing and with the Ohio Dry Campaign of 1918 and the Women Christian Temperance Union’s actions, business at the blacksmith shop slowly dwindled. There were fewer horses to be shod and before long the large brewery companies pulled up stakes. They left town without paying their bills. There were young children at home. Kaarlo his oldest son worked as a cook on the iron ore boats on the Great Lakes. He loaned money to his father. Grandfather was grateful for his son’s assistance and he made it up to him as the economy improved. Grandfather continued to work as an interpreter, along with all his other various ‘irons in the fire’. He was a resourceful man. He even tried his hand working on automobiles.

The 1940 United States Census report indicated it was the first time Johan had made the necessary inquiries about obtaining citizenship, although he had been in the United States for close to fifty years. At that time, perhaps it was a requirement that he work outside his business in order qualify to receive Social Security benefits. It was war time and he was in his mid-sixties. He began work in a munitions factory. While working there to secure his benefits he was struck by a young worker driving a tow motor (fork-lift). He was hospitalized and died several days later in 1944. He was seventy years old. He was to retire from his work in six weeks. Ida Susanna received the benefits Johan had worked so hard to obtain.

Twists and turns throughout his lifetime made Johan Hjalmar Lindell a strong, vibrant man who lived life it to the fullest. He lived long enough to see his son, Kaarlo go to University and became a successful  engineer. His daughter, Helen a registered nurse.  All his children, except  Alpo, who was a merchant marine, raised their families and had children of their own. Some stayed in Ohio. Others headed for California. Kaarlo ( Karl) settled in Canada.

Johan is buried in Edgewood Cemetery in Ashtabula, Ohio. In December 1967  Ida Susanna  died  and is buried beside her first love.



Altonen, Karhu, Kuivinen, Lindell Family Reunion 1919

The older couple sitting in the center of the photo – Johan and Sanna Karhu,  grandparents, grandmother Ida’s parents. They are surrounded by their family.  Johan Hjalmar, Grandfather, Ida and their eight children are in the left side of the picture. Kaarlo is standing directly behind his grandfather, beside Ida who is holding baby brother Alpo


I  never knew my Grandfather, but, certainly wish I had! What I do know is from stories my father, Karl told me over the years. In 2010 I attended an  Altonen, Karhu, Kuivinen Lindell family reunion in Ashtabula and visited with cousins. This was my first visit to the area. It was a heartwarming experience to meet with relatives and see the sights my father had so often spoken of; the harbour, the lighthouse, Bridge Street where Grandfather’s blacksmith shop was and the famous Bridge Street bascule swing bridge that crosses the Ashtabula River not far from his shop.

During my grandfather’s time Ashtabula was a thriving port. Iron ore was being transported up and down the Great Lakes. The railroads were busy transporting goods. Today there is very little activity in the port. For many prosperity in the harbour is but a distant memory.
















What Could It Possibly Be?

by Claire Lindell.

In today’s world we can walk in to a grocery store and buy fruits, vegetables and all kinds of fresh produce from every country imaginable.  Grapes from Chile, shrimp from Thailand and raspberries from Mexico, to name a few. There was a time not too long ago when our choices were limited to what was available locally and in season.

In the summer of 1948 my Mom received a phone call from the Station Master in Danville telling her that a package had arrived  and would someone be available to pick it up.  Off we went on a four mile drive to the railway station. We were presented with  a large wooden handled basket with newspaper on the top to protect whatever was inside.

What could it possibly be? We were wondering and trying guess who it came from. What was inside this huge basket? It was heavy and the newspapers had protected the contents.

It didn’t take us very long to figure out what it was, once we knew where it came from and who had sent it. You see, it was blueberry season in northern Ontario and  Granny and Aunt Ted knew how much our family enjoyed blueberries. They also knew how much we missed the opportunity to pick them. They had picked a huge basket  full of this delicious little fruit and sent them by train from Sudbury, Ontario to our home in Asbestos, Quebec. We picked up the basket at the nearest railway station.

Can you imagine how this basket of blueberries must have been treated by the employees on the train? They must have known that there were folks eager to receive the package and they handled it with great care. The basket arrived safe and sound after such a long journey and several transfers from one train to another. There would have been a transfer in Montreal, then again in Sherbrooke and the last one in Richmond. We received it in perfect condition, almost as fresh as they day they were picked.

We drove home with visions of fresh blueberries and cream and of course, Mom’s famous blueberry pie dancing though our heads. Once home, Mom began baking pies. She was allergic to flour and often wore a mask, and when she didn’t wear her mask she would sneeze incessantly for  at least a dozen times. For her, that was a small inconvenience when it came to baking pies, especially blueberry pies.


The basket contained enough fruit for at least ten pies.  Some of the pies were placed in our huge Amana freezer, while we enjoyed several of those  freshly baked. At that time we were a family of seven, one pie really wasn’t enough, especially since they were right out of the oven!

In today’s world there are many different kinds of blueberries. There are the cultivated blueberries which are quite large that  can be purchased all year round. Wild blueberries from Lac St-Jean are very tiny and are available seasonally. Their tastes differ substantially from one to  another, however, being originally from northern Ontario you can guess  what my choice is when it comes to real blueberries with great flavour.



Not Once, But Twice

by       Claire Lindell

In the mid 1600s and for nearly one hundred years there was great unrest between “Nouvelle France” and New England. Many inhabitants were caught in the crossfire of the Indians and Canadian soldiers. Anne, a young girl from Dover, New Hampshire witnessed it all first hand, not once, but twice.

Anne was born in 1681 in Cocheco, (Dover) New Hampshire where her father, Benjamin Heard ( born February 20, 1644) was a shoemaker. He had come from England and married Elizabeth Roberts. There were nine children. Anne was the sixth.

In September of 1690 Anne Heard, aged nine, was captured for the first time and soon recovered by a Captain Church and returned to her family. On Sunday, January 25th 1692, Abenaki Indians, numbering 150 and soldiers from Sillery, near Quebec City  burned the homes and garrisons of the citizens near York and Dover. 73 citizens were taken prisoner and among them was Anne, captured for the second time. She spent a year living with the Indians and was eventually was brought to Montreal.

Between the years 1693 and 1700 Anne was raised by Pierre Prud’homme, a master gunsmith, and his wife, Anne Charles. It is thought that Pierre was able to purchase her freedom. She became a house servant. On April 10, 1694 she was baptized and confirmed in Notre Dame Basilica by the Bishop of Quebec City.

Several years passed and little is known about Anne during that time. Along the way she met Sebastien Cholet dit Laviolette, a young weaver from France. On the  October 17th 1705, two days before their marriage the future spouses met with the Notary Adhemar to clarify and sign their wedding contract according to the custom of Paris. Anne being from another country there were legal issues that needed to be addressed.

October 19, 1705, Sebastien and Anne were married by a Sulpician priest, Henri-Antoine Meriel in Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal.  The young couple moved in to a rented home on Saint Paul Street and within the year their first child, Marie Anne was born. Four more children were born while they lived in Montreal.


Sebastien had foresight and began buying property on the island outside the wall surrounding Montreal. In 1707 he purchased land bordering on Lake St. Louis in what is now know as Valois Bay ( Anse Sebastien Cholet between Point Charlebois and Point de Valois) in the city of Pointe-Claire. Although he owned the land he did not move with his family to the area until 1714. Once they settled in their new home, the family continued growing, but not without deep heartache for  Anne. Between 1711 and 1720  she had witnessed the death of seven of her children. Her eleventh child Jacques was born in 1723. The first three children and the last survived to adulthood.

st-joachim-pointe-claire-2Saint Joachim Church Pointe-Claire

April 14th, 1728 Sebastien died at the age of 49 leaving Anne in good hands financially. Three years later on the August 1, 1730 she married a widower, Claude Sansart Le Petit Picard,  in Saint Joachim Church in Pointe-Claire. He died December 25th 1739 and Anne spent her final days with her youngest son, Jacques. She died on January 2, 1750 and is buried in Pointe-Claire.

Anne experienced heartache and hardships throughout her lifetime. She was captured twice by Indians and lost seven of her eleven children. She possessed courage and perseverance. Many would have crumbled under the load.


Destination: Amerikka



Claire Lindell

Amidst the many tombstones in a shady corner of Edgewood Cemetery in Ashtabula, Ohio is a very simple thick slab of granite, about the size of one of those washboards our mothers and grandmothers used to hand wash items before washing machines were invented. Inscribed on this granite in very large letters, as simple as the stone itself is the word  “AITI”. which means mother in Finnish. It is the resting place of my great grandmother1, Susanna Karhu (Klemola) who had immigrated to the United States in 1896.


Susanna was born in Waara, Finland in 1854. In their home country in 1876 at the age of  twenty-two Sanna married Johan Karhu. Over time they raised a family of eight children.

In 1893 Johan seized the opportunity to immigrate to the United States. He left his family in Finland and made his way to Ashtabula, Ohio, a port city on Lake Erie, where he worked on the docks and lived in the area of Ashtabula Harbor. At that time the port was thriving with constant activity. Large flat boats and barges loaded with coal and iron ore were sailing up and down the Great Lakes. These were prosperous times. New immigrants were eager to earn a decent wage.

Once settled, Johan sent for his family. In 1896 Susanna ( Sanna), at the age of forty-two along with her three youngest children, Ida, Jaako, and Lisa set sail by way of Hanko, Finland.2. They boarded the S.S. Cunard ship ‘Lucania’ in Liverpool, England en route to America. Ellis Island was their port of destination in America arriving  there on the 30th of May 1896,  and continuing on  to Ohio.

Very little is known about Sanna. We do know that her two oldest children chose to remain  in Finland. It must have been heart wrenching to know that she would be leaving behind these children and  two of her babies’ graves.

She was a housewife and at the time of her death August 18th 1929. She was 75 years old and among the oldest of the Finnish residents of Ashtabula Harbor having lived there over 30 years. Johan died in 1948. Where he is buried is still a mystery?

GGR-Gram-GGR-Jake-Vic Karhu

Sanna, Ida Susanna, Johan, Jaako and Lisa. Photograph taken several years

after arriving in the United States. Ida, my grandmother appears to be about fifteen or sixteen.

GGR-GR Karhu 50thAn@ Laine Farm

In a photograph taken during a family gathering in 1919 Sanna and Johan

are surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great-grand children.



  1. 1. “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images,FamilySearch( : 8 December 2014), Sanna Karhu, 18 Aug 1929; citing Ashtabula, Ashtabula, Ohio, reference fn 50528; FHL microfilm 1,991,908.
  2. 2. Finnish Institute of Migration

George Spencer Pincott 1897-1975

by Claire Lindell

George was sitting at the dining room table where tiny boxes and huge albums were spread out, along with all the accoutrement he needed for the task at hand. The young girl watched intently as he methodically and meticulously placed each item in to its proper place in the album. He spoke very little, but, briefly explained what he was doing. It was  fascinating and inspiring to watch him as he worked.

     “I am the world’s greatest traveler. I have been transported by camel, dog sled, pony express,               bicycle, train, steamship, automobile, airplane, airship and rocket….. On my face are the                       portraits ………of  poets, aviators, dramatists, novelists, painters, athletes, cardinals, saints and          sinners.” 1                                

It was the summer of 1948. I was eight years old. This was my first and only encounter with my Uncle George. He made a lasting impression. One that left me wondering about why adults would spend their time collecting stamps. He specialized in mint stamps, pristine, never used stamps. Many stamp collectors specialize in specific areas of collecting. I wondered, perhaps these stamps were more valuable having never been cancelled.

George Spencer Pincott was born in Buffalo, New York on the 6thday of the shortest month of the year in 1897. He was the son of Emile Spencer Pincott whose family was originally from Cardiff, Wales and Susan Jane Woodring. At a young age  George’s family moved from Buffalo and immigrated to Canada and took up residence in Westmount.2

George Pincott WW1


At the age of twenty-one on May 13th, 1918 George was recruited to serve in the First World War. At the time he was an office clerk and joined the 1st Depot Battalion of the 1st Quebec Regiment. 3 With the war almost over when he was drafted, I have yet to find his records of service. Did he go overseas?

Four years later on May 5th 1922 George married Marie Aline Jodouin in St.Joseph’s Roman Catholic  Church in Sudbury, Ontario4 and for a time they settled in Iroquois  Falls, in northern Ontario near Temiskaming, where he had been working before their marriage.  Prior to their marriage an Affidavit was required by the province before issuing a Marriage license.George did this on the 25th of April 1922 in Iroquois Falls.5

Sometime between the late 1920s and 1932 the family moved to Twillingate, Newfoundland where their fourth child, Robert was indicated in the 1935 Newfoundland Census. They returned to Canada in the late 1930s. It is to be noted that Newfoundland joined the Dominion of Canada in 1949.

On the 6th of July 1946 George was named as an Officer of the British Empire6,  a Civilian award.



 “King George V created these honours during World War I to reward services to the war effort  by civilians at home and servicemen in support positions. The ranks are Commander (CBE), Officer (OBE) and Member (MBE).They are now awarded for prominent national or regional   roles and to those making distinguished or notable contributions in their own specific areas of   activity.” 7


The next time we find the Pincott family in any records such as a Voter’s List 1953, they were living in Senneville, Quebec. George worked for Woodpulp Montreal and commuted to the city by train every day where he worked as an Accountant.

George and Aline moved to the United States upon his retirement as a Management Business Executive in the pulp and paper industry. He died in Tryon, Polk, North Carolina,  April 18th, 1975.8 He is buried in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Aunt Aline came back to Canada and lived in Sutton, Quebec for many years close to her youngest son, Robert.

Uncle George was instrumental in inspiring me to collect stamps and as a youngster a group of friends formed a stamp club.  It has been a life-long hobby that allowed me to travel the world, learn history, geography, art and a multitude of other interesting subjects which are found on these little, somewhat insignificant pieces of paper that we call stamps.


For a number of years I specialized in First Day Covers.


Chinese Lunar Year of the Monkey 2016 One of Canada Post’s most recent  First Day Covers


       1   Soliloquy of a Postage Stamp   –       From the pen of Ernest W. Brady

  1., Library and Archives Canada,Canadian Census 1911. Ottawa, Ontario
  2.  Particulars of recruit
  3. Affidavit of Maarriage License

        5     Register of Marriages St Joseph Roman Catholic Church Sudbury Ontario

  1.  Family Search, Newfoundland Census 1935. Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador; FHL microfilm
  2. Canada, Military Honors and Awards Citation Cards 1900-1961 Ottawa , Canada: Library and Archives Canada
  3. North Carolina deaths 1931-1994 Family Search
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