Category Archives: Genealogy

Three sisters: three flu pandemics

As we go through the current pandemic, I wondered how my ancestors coped with similar pandemics. After all, including this one, Canadians have faced six flu pandemics since Confederation.1 Looking at their lives might help with what we’re dealing with now.

Turns out they faced much worse, particularly during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. No one in Canada knew to limit contact until most people saw someone die.

The Spanish Flu killed almost as many Canadians as World War I in a shorter time.

It took four years of war to kill 51,000 Canadian soldiers and nurses.2

In less than a year, during the fall of 1918 and the spring and summer of 1919, 50,000 people in Canada died of the flu. They included ny great great grandmother’s sister-in-law, Marie Amanda Gauthier Gourdinne.

Oulletteville in 1918

Mrs. Gourdinne lived in a close-knit francophone community called Ouelletteville, near Cluny, Alberta. The village began when 32 families set up farms there in 1910.

A great many homesteaders from Ontario and Quebec joined them over the next decade, including my great grandmother Marie-Berthe (Martha) Charette, her two sisters, Ida and Eva, their husbands and their brother Ernest.

Ernest, Ida, Martha, Eva

 

Flu Symptoms

The three sisters probably heard stories about the 1890 Russian flu pandemic from their parents, especially since their little sister Dora was born that year.

Still, nothing could match living through the fear and then reality of someone you love suffering from the disease.

At the beginning of his comprehensive tome about the Spanish Flu in Canada, researcher Mark Osborne Humphries describes the death of an 18-year-old soldier named George William F.

It wasn’t pretty.

“[George William F.] fought his symptoms for two days as he drilled, marched and played sports in the chilly autumn rain. By the 29th [of September], he had grown considerably worse and was forced into a hospital. There his condition quickly deteriorated. Within a couple of days, his breathing grew shallow and more infrequent as his pulse quickened to 112 beats per minute. His temperature climbed above 103 degrees. Blood dripped from his nose. On 4 October, doctors noted that his lips, and earlobes were beginning to turn blue from lack of oxygen. His once slight cough became ‘considerable,’ and he began to complain of chest pain. A mild flu was rapidly progressing into a severe case of pneumonia. Although his doctors still hoped for recovery, his temperature remained high. On the night of 16 October, almost three weeks after entering hospital, his breathing quickened still more, rising above fifty shallow breaths per minute. The young soldier was gasping for air but his lungs were incapable of absorbing oxygen. At five the following morning, Gunner George William F. died from complications of Spanish flu. There was little doctors could do but watch him perish.”3

It didn’t start in Spain

The Spanish Flu got its name from the newspaper reports coming out of that country, which was one of the few places that didn’t censor news reports due to the war.

That fact initially led people to blame immigrants for the virus spread.

Military Outbreaks

Historical research eventually found multiple trigger events in military bases.

One strain began with a flu outbreak at a military base in Haskell, Kansas, for example. Researchers traced the transmission through American military camps until Polish troops brought it to Niagara-on-the-Lake in October 1918. It then spread throughout Ontario during the fall of 1918 and from there to new recruits who carried it across the country as they travelled to British Columbia to leave for Russia.4

The Spanish Flu hit Ouellettesville, Alberta on its way west.

Everyone knew everyone else in the town, and they were family, so the three sisters knew the 51-year-old Mrs. Gourdinne. Her suffering and later death must have been a shock.

I have notes from my grandmother saying “1918 was a hard year for the Gourdinne family due to the flu epidemic. Beloved grandmama died.”

Still, the three sisters out west and their family members living near Ottawa all escaped harm.

Limited Mortality from Russian Flu Exposure?

In retrospect, we know that their little sister Dora, who turned 28 in 1918, made the luckiest escape.

A study conducted by researchers in 2013 showed unusually heavy Spanish flu mortality among 28-year-olds.

“We posit that in specific instances, development of immunological memory to an influenza virus strain in early life may lead to a dysregulated immune response to antigenically novel strains encountered in later life, thereby increasing the risk of death. Exposure during critical periods of development could also create holes in the T cell repertoire and impair fetal maturation in general, thereby increasing mortality from infectious diseases later in life.”5

That process may have contributed to all the sisters’ dying. None of them lived long beyond the next pandemic.

Ida died of cancer in 1922.

Asian, Hong Kong and H1N1 flu pandemics

Martha and Dora were among 7,000 Canadians who succumbed to the Asian flu in 1957. My great grandmother Martha died in Edmonton on June 6. Her sister Dora died in Ottawa on October 23.

Eva moved back east to join her family in Ottawa. She survived the Asian flu to die a mere two years later.

The following pandemic, known as the Hong Kong flu, killed 4,000 Canadians, including my grandmother on my mother’s side. Agnes Maria Himphen died on October 13, 1968.

Luckily, no one I know died in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, although the outbreak killed 428 Canadians.

With all the research efforts underway across the country, I certainly hope that we’ll discover a vaccine for the current Covid-19 soon.

I’m praying that there won’t be any more deaths.

Sources

1Dickin, Janice, Patricia G. Bailey and Erin James-Abra. “Flu” in The Canadian Encyclopedia. Published September 29, 2009; edited May 1, 2017. Accessed on March 24, 2020, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/influenza/.

2Spanish Flu information kit for students, Ontario Archives, http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/education/pdf/Spanish_Flu_in_Ontario_Lesson_Kit.pdf, accessed on March 24, 2020.

3Humphries, Mark Osborne. The Last Plague: Spanish Influenza and the Politics of Public Health in Canada. University of Toronto Press, 2013, p 3.

4Mitchell, Alanna. The outbreak and its aftermath, Canadian Geographic, August 23, 2018, https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/outbreak-and-its-aftermath, accessed March 25, 2020.

5Gagnon, Alain, et al. “Age-Specific Mortality During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Unravelling the Mystery of High Young Adult Mortality.” PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 5 Aug. 2013, p. e69586, 10.1371/journal.pone.0069586. Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.

My Grandfather, North Yorkshire and Discobulus

VenusandAdonis

Venus and Adonis by Titian. This Renaissance painting is now at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles but it once graced the Hall of Duncombe Park in Helmsley, North Yorkshire. I know this because of a precious little volume from 1829 I found on archive.org, A Description of Duncombe Park, Rivalx Abbey and Helmsley Castle.

As it happens, my father’s  paternal ancestors are from Helmsley, today a picturesque market and tourist town on the River Pye in the Ryedale District.

helmsley

Duncombe Park  was once an imposing structure in the Doric style built in 1718 overlooking Helmsley Castle not far from Thirsk where the vet who inspired All Creatures Great and Small worked. It was the seat of the Earls of Feversham.

My grandfather, Robert Nixon (1890-1967), was born to Robert Nixon Sr. and Mary-Ellen Richardson.

helmsleynixonhouse

This stretch of very unimposing row houses is where the Nixons lived in 1911, according to the UK Census.

abbott'swellcottge

Mary-Ellen was from nearby Rievaulx, a village famous for its cathedral ruins. She was born in this quaint cottage, Abbot’s Well. Her dad was a tailor.

RobertCENSUS

According to this census, Robert Nixon Sr. was a delver in a quarry in Rievaulx in 1911.

The same census page says my grandfather, Robert Jr.  21,  was a footman, likely at Duncombe Park. Robert was a strapping 6 foot 4 inches tall. The gentry liked their footmen to be fine physical specimens, but this was not always a good thing if Nixon family lore can be counted upon.

According to an English ‘auntie’ of my  father’s, the daughter of ‘the local earl’ went ga-ga for young Robert back in the day, so the love-struck girl’s powerful father sent him away, far away to Malaya.

I have no picture of Robert, but I recall seeing one decades ago and he looked like my dad, Peter.  So here’s a picture of Peter in 1958 holding our new puppy, Spotty, a coonhound. My father was also 6 foot four inches tall.

father

This myth might be true, as employment in Malaya was only offered to young men from well-off families, not delver’s sons.

I see that the sitting Earl of Feversham had four daughters, but they were much too old for Robert. Maybe it was Feversham’s granddaughter who fell in love with my strapping grandfather. I hope so, because I like this family myth. This is a Vanity Fair pic of the Earl from Wikipedia.

Lord Feversham 1829-1915

According to travel records, my grandfather, Robert took a boat to Malaya (willingly or unwillingly) in 1912 to work at Batu Caves Estate in Selangor, just outside of Kuala Lumpur.

He returned to England after WWI to marry my grandmother, Dorothy Forster, from County Durham, whose father was an itinerant Primitive Methodist preacher posted in Helmsley between 1912 and 1914.

MRsDOROTHYNIXON

Dorothy followed him to Malaya in December, 1921 and my dad was born ten months later on October 24.  Robert later became Manager of the estate. Both my grandfather and grandmother were interned at Changi Prison during WWII.

According to the 1829 book, Duncombe Park was  home to a treasure trove of classical paintings, among them the Titian shown at top, but also a Da Vinci, a Reubens, a Rembrandt  as well as Discobulus, described as ‘the finest statue in England.’

My grandfather never did get to see these great works of art in person because most were burned in a fire in 1879.  Back then, some of these paintings were worth five thousand pounds.

The Discobulus and the DaVinci work were lost in the fire but Titian’s Venus and Adonis was saved to eventually find its way to California and the Getty Museum.

Duncombe was rebuilt in the Baroque Italianate style and used as a backdrop to the 2012 British mini-series Parade’s End, with Benedict Cumberbatch.  I love that mini-series, so it is all very appropriate.

Duncombe

Dunscombepark1

Allegiances

Allegiances were not among his strongest traits. In today’s world he might be recognized as the first great Canadian entrepreneur. He was named “a person of National Historic Significance by the Canadian Government”. 1 His remarkable achievements exploring New France, in the mid 1600s led to the growth and development of the fur trade. He was a co-founder and received the charter for the Hudson Bay Company from the King of England, Charles II in 1670. These were great accomplishments.

The title belongs to Pierre Esprit Radisson. He was born in France about 1640, the third child of Pierre Esprit Radisson, my ninth great grandfather and Madeleine Henault. At a young age, Pierre arrived in New France in 1651. He and his family, his parents, and sisters, Francoise and Elizabeth settled in Trois Rivieres.

I am proud to call him my eighth Great Uncle.

Radisson’s life was tumultuous. Early on he was captured by Indians and lived with them for two years. He escaped and was again captured. During captivity he learned their language and skills required to survive in the woods. His family thought they would never see him again.

Much has been written about Radisson and his brother-in-law, Medard Chouart Des Groseilliers and their explorations of the Great Lakes and later, the far north where they were trading furs. Very little is known about his personal life. He spent time in Three Rivers, his “home base” when he was not on one of his four lengthy journeys. From writings about Radisson it appears he married three times and fathered nine children.

Throughout his fur trading days, his various alliances with the French, the English and Indian tribes were a cause for concern.

He had one allegiance. Do what was in his best interest.

In researching and preparing for this story about this famous explorer there were many areas of interest. Two stood out. The first, the manuscript, the second his relationship with the Hudson Bay Company.

There is a manuscript entitled “Voyages of Peter Esprit Radisson that is in the Bodleian Library and the British Museum in London, England.2

The manuscript is written in English and is considered the first descriptive document of explorations beyond the St. Lawrence River. He wrote about the four journeys taken with his brother-in-law, Medard Chouart Des Groseilliers. For two hundred years his writing had not been seen. They were brought to light in 1885.

 

Archivists and Paleographers examined the manuscripts to establish their authenticity and to determine if Radisson was the author. The quality of the paper was examined, the handwriting was compared and examined to determine if the documents were written by one person or several. After considerable debate they were  found to be that the writings of Radisson, in rather fractured English.2

Below is an excerpt from the manuscript that gives the reader some insight into the manner these daring adventurous men were treated by the authorities.

“The Governor was greatly displeased at the disobedience of Radisson and his brother-in-law in going on their last voyage without his permission. On their return, the narrative states, “he made my brother prisoner for not having obeyed his orders; he fines us L. 4,000 to make a fort at the three rivers, telling us for all manner of satisfaction that he would give us leave to put our coat of armes upon it; and moreover L. 6,000 for the country, saying that wee should not take it so strangely and so bad, being wee were inhabitants and did intend to finish our days in the same country with our relations and friends…. Seeing ourselves so wronged, my brother did resolve to go and demand justice in France. “Failing to get restitution, they resolved to go over to the English. They went early in 1665 to Port Royal, Nova Scotia, and from thence to New England, where they engaged an English or New England ship for a trading adventure into Hudson’s Straits in 61 deg. north.”3

In the mid 1600’s in New France the fur trade was a highly competitive business and both the French, and the English were competing. Alliances were formed. It is with these alliances that Radisson had difficulty, especially after the French confiscated the furs and Des Groseilliers was imprisoned for a time. The men were fined by the French Governor. They decided to seek assistance from the British. They experienced success and were able to pursue their dream of reaching Hudson Bay.

In the manuscript excerpt below Radisson’s negotiating skills were of great importance in the success of their endeavours.

“To Des Groseilliers and Radisson must be given the credit of originating the idea of forming a settlement at Hudson’s Bay, out of which grew the profitable organization of the Hudson’s Bay Company. They obtained through the English Ambassador to France an interview with Prince Rupert, and laid before him their plans, which had been before presented to the leading merchants of Canada and the French Court. Prince Rupert at once foresaw the value of such an enterprise, and aided them in procuring the required assistance from several noblemen and gentlemen, to fit out in 1667 two ships from London, the “Eagle,”…., and the “Nonsuch,” ketch, ….”.4


With the financial assistance of Prince Rupert, the cousin of Charles II, King of England. They were given ships and supplies for the voyage. The ship “Nonsuch”, with Des Groseilliers’ on board completed the voyage, while Radisson’s ship was not as fortunate, and he was unable to reach Hudson Bay. The first ship returned laden with furs. This being a major success for both Radisson and DesGroseilliers. The accomplishment led to what was known as the establishment by the British as Rupert’s Land. A large area where these fur traders could hunt for the much-desired beaver pelts.

Charles II of England granted a charter to the Hudson Bay Company May 2nd, 1670 and Radisson and DesGroseilliers were named co-founders. 5

This year (2020) the Company the company is celebrating their 350th year.

The persistence and bravado of these two explorers were recognized long after their demise. Their names live on through the manuscripts and this famous company.

Pierre Esprit Radisson, my eighth great uncle’s contribution to the development of our country was worthy of the title bestowed upon him as a National Historic Significant figure.

Sources:

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persons_of_National_Historic_Significance.

2.https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/viewFile/12836/14054 Who Was the Scribe of the Radisson Manuscript?, GERMAINE WARKENTIN

3. www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6913/pg6913-images.html The Project Gutenberg EBook of Voyages of Peter Esprit Radisson by Peter Esprit Radisson
introduction by Gideon D. Scull, London England, Boston, The Prince Society, 1885, n

4. Ibid.

5. https://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/courses/lawdemo/DOCS/RC1670.htm The Royal Chyarter for incorporating The Hudson’s Bay Company, A.D. 1670.

References:
https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/pierre-esprit-radisson

https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/viewFile/12836/14054 Who Was the Scribe of the Radisson Manuscript?, GERMAINE WARKENTIN

https://www.cbc.ca/history/EPCONTENTSE1EP6CH1PA3LE.html
Videos – The Business of Fur- Radisson and Des Groseilliers, The Business of Fur- The Fashion of Fur, The Business of Fur -New Lands for Trade, The Business of Fur- Hudson’s Bay Company Beginning

https://www.encyclopedia.com/

https://www.historymuseum.ca/virtual-museum-of-new-france/the-explorers/pierre-esprit-radisson-1659-1660/

Note:
www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/6913/pg6913-images.html The Project Gutenberg EBook of Voyages of Peter Esprit Radisson by Peter Esprit Radisson
introduction by Gideon D. Scull, London England, Boston, The Prince Society, 1885,
Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook

Golf in Dunany

The Dunany Country Club will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2022. This nine-hole golf club, located north-west of Montreal in the lower Laurentians, near Lachute, has been of prime importance to my family and our history. My parents met in Dunany.

The Dunany area was settled in the mid-1800s by the Irish. These immigrants tried to farm the rocky Laurentian Shield carving small farms out of the forests. The area had already been logged but still, trees were everywhere. Small patches of land were cleared but it was subsistence farming at best. A post office was established in 1853 and it was called Dunany. The name came from a point of land in County Louth, on the east coast of Ireland. The four small lakes brought fishermen and cottagers to the area early in the 20th century.

My paternal grandparents, William and Minnie Sutherland first travelled to Dunany to visit friends, the McRobies. The long journey from Montreal, needed a car, train and horse and cart to complete, so one stayed a few days. Grandfather Sutherland enjoyed the country and so he bought some property and built a cottage on Boyd Lake. For them, it remained a long journey but he was said to be the first person to drive a car in from Lachute.

No one thought about golf until Katherine “Kit” McRobie challenged a friend to a game around the pastures and fields and so golf came to Dunany. A group of 20 people, including my grandfather, contributed money to buy land and in 1922 the Dunany Country Club was born.

IMG_0124
Wilson Sutherland putting on a sand green 1924
IMG_0130
Golf course equipment circa 1925
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Rocks and Rough Greens 1927

When my maternal grandfather Rene Raguin was interested in buying a country house in 1931, he too looked in Dunany. He knew of the area because his wife’s sister, lived in Lachute and she and her husband had a place at Lake Louisa, near Dunany. One evening, the Sutherlands visited the Raguins at their new cottage as Mrs Raguin and Mrs Sutherland knew each other from the United Church Women’s group. My mother was ten and she and her sister were sent to bed but spied on the visitors and their 15-year-old son Donald. With the age difference, Dorothy and Donald didn’t see much of each other until they met again after the war at a dance at the clubhouse. Two years later they married.

Everybody in the families at least tried golf. My grandmothers were not taken by the game but most other family members persevered. Some actually became very good players. The rough pastures and sand greens gradually evolved to smoother fairways and grass greens. The course grew from a couple of holes to a full nine. The layout of the course kept evolving. Then even sand traps were added. The trees have grown and some fixture trees have had to be cut down. The fairways are still not perfect but it is a country course played with preferred lies.

IMG_0123
The Golfer 1959

My father always lamented that he didn’t have proper lessons as his father taught him so he made sure we all had lessons with the visiting pro. My mother often took the four children over to the club so she could play. The well-behaved children could hit balls while those misbehaving had to sit on a bench and wait for the hole to be completed.

IMG_4908
The Sutherlands on the 1st green 1960

Four members of the family have had holes-in-one at Dunany. William Sutherland aced a hole that is no longer in play. He stationed his brother on a hill with a view of the green so he wouldn’t lose his ball and after he hit, all Wilson said was, “It’s in.” Isn’t that the point of the game! My mother Dorothy’s ball went into the hole after my father said, “Your mother just doesn’t hit the ball like she used to.” Her ball landed at the side of the green, bounced on and rolled in. My brother Don and I have also each aced a hole.

There are many trophies played for at the club. The Sutherlands have won a number. The Parkes Culross trophy is one that many family members have won. It is a low net competition played for on Labour Day weekend. Eight family members have their names engraved on this trophy.

The club continues to be the centre of the community. There are now plans for the log clubhouse to be renovated. Those who don’t play golf still attend the many functions, from dinners and bridge to music fests and art shows, sports nights and other junior activities. Mine isn’t the only family who found love in Dunany and so most people are related to somebody. Children who grew up and moved away have now returned and bought their own cottages. When you meet someone new you ask, “Whose house do you live in?” They think it is theirs but the spirit of all the old Dunanyites lives on.

IMG_3365
9th Green Grass & Sandtrap 2011

Notes:

Hammond Eleanor Hamilton, A History of Dunany. Printed in Canada by Zippy Print, Brockville, Ontario. 1990.

Eric Dauber, The Story of the Dunany Country Club, 1967.

Beth Sutherland Van Loben Sels, As I Remember Dunany.

Family winners of the Parkes Culross are Rene Raguin, Dorothy A. Sutherland, Donald W. Sutherland, Mary Sutherland, Donald J. Sutherland, Dorothy I. Sutherland, Sharon Leslie and Scott Ritchie.

how i came to write miss lindsay’s tale

“Our ancestors want their stories told” said my third cousin and fellow genealogy writer. We are both related to my great aunt, Miss Marguerite Lindsay, and we were both told the same story growing up: Poor Marguerite Lindsay died tragically in Labrador, in 1922, at age 25. Period.

We never questioned the statement nor begged for gory details. Little did we know that she did indeed have a story to tell and she finally got her wish almost 100 years later.

I wrote a story about Marguerite’s father, Robert Lindsay. Lindsay worked as a Montreal stockbroker in 1880 during booming and prosperous times. At the end of his story, I listed the names of his six children, including his youngest daughter Marguerite.

https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/06/27/a-montreal-stockbroker/

Shortly after the publication of his story on our website, I received an e-mail from a student at Memorial University in St John’s, Newfoundland. She wanted to know where Marguerite was buried. I found that to be a very strange question in response to a story about her father. I replied hesitantly and asked why she wanted to know. What a delightful surprise to hear that not only had she researched Miss Lindsay’s story but also offered to send me copies of her findings and the 1922 newspaper clippings!

The media covered the tragic tale in great detail over an 18-month period including the final coroner’s report. The official report concluded that her accidental death occurred from a shot by her own pistol when she tripped and fell.

I devoured the newspaper clippings and finally knew the whole story that no one spoke of so long ago.

Research is not my forte but it seems everyone that I contacted had something to tell me. Several websites produced other glimpses into Cartwright, Labrador and Grenfell himself. What a thrill to discover a great deal of information about the International Grenfell Association preserved on microfilm at The Rooms Provincial Archives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

That fateful summer in 1922, Marguerite worked as a volunteer school teacher with the Grenfell Mission in Cartwright, Labrador, under Reverend Henry Gordon. The local community named their school in Cartwright after him.

Miss Marguerite Lindsay Grenfell Mission Volunteer

When I contacted the assistant principal at Henry Gordon Academy, she seemed equally as excited as I to talk about Miss Lindsay. We decided to skip e-mails and speak directly over the phone instead.

Well, this is some of what she told me…They named the marsh where they found her body “Miss Lindsay’s Marsh”. An honorary plaque graces the local church and a memorial prayer said every Christmas. Some of the young students wrote her a poem and the new students are all told Miss Lindsay’s story. Miss Martin, a fellow teacher, recently retired from the Henry Gordon Academy and still has the sewing machine that her grandfather, John Martin, bought with his reward money for finding Miss Lindsay’s body that December back in 1922.

And just then…the music began to play over the phone, and I quietly listened to Harry Martin’s song “Somewhere Beyond the Hills” written for Marguerite.

“I can’t believe that I am talking to a descendant of Miss Lindsay!” said my new friend.

I could almost imagine Marguerite standing beside me soaking up all these loving tributes… her story finally told.

(Rumour has it that if I can make the 100th year anniversary of Miss Lindsay’s death in August 2022, there might be a potluck supper and memorial service at the church in her honour!)

Helen Frances Marguerite Lindsay 1896-1922

Notes: Miss Lindsay’s three part story can be found below:

https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/10/30/miss-lindsay-part-1/

https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/12/18/miss-lindsay-part-2/

https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/12/25/miss-lindsay-part-3/

1. A summary of Miss Lindsay’s story can be found on the Finding Grenfell website under the People of the Mission section: (https://www.findinggrenfell.ca/home/files/pg/panel-people-v4-large.jpg).

Beautiful hooked rug by Grenfell Mission artisans – courtesy of Janice Hamilton

2. The famous Grenfell hooked rugs: http://www.grenfellhookedmats.com/and also, they continue to make and sell rugs, clothing, books and other items, or you can buy a membership in the historical society

Far from Home

The news from home gave John Hunter, my great-grandfather, a jolt. Usually letters from home to the troops during WWI were full of the joys of everyday life, encouraging the soldiers that the war would end soon and that the family back home awaited their return with anticipation.

For many months now, John Hunter had been getting bad news. John knew that his wife, Mary Hynd, had become seriously ill. Then John got the news that she was in the hospital, and then that she had died.

Luckily for John, he at least received news regularly from home in Scotland.  All mail going to France, where John was stationed, first had to reach Regent’s Park in England. From Scotland, this would have taken a bit of time. Nevertheless, the government consistently delivered letters to the troops as they felt that the letters helped with the troops’ morale. Nineteen thousand mailbags crossed the Channel every day and arrived at one of three stations in France: Le Havre, Boulogne, or Calais.1

John, a sapper with the 326th Company of the Royal Engineers, worked as a miner by trade back in Scotland. Sappers, sometimes called quarrymen or tunnelers, mined the quarries and built the tunnels essential to the Allies in their battles against the Germans.

The 326th Company was formed at Buxton, England and it landed at Le Havre on May 23, 1917, consisting of four officers, 264 men, and two horses.2 They moved to Marquise on May 27, 1917.  By this time, Mary, back home in Scotland, had been diagnosed with liver and intestinal cancer. Mary died on October 14, 1917 and her death certificate states that her husband, John, was out of the country in Rinxent, France. Rinxent is about 3 km from Marquise. The significant quarrying operations in Rinxent provided the stones for the laying and maintenance of roads by the Allies.3

It was in a document on October 27, 1918 that the request was made to the war office in London to release Sapper John Hunter, 326th Company, Royal Engineers from his war duties and to transfer him to the reserve. Permission was granted:

“…. Provided he can be spared, you will issue the necessary instructions for him to be despatched to the Scottish Command Discharge Centre, East London Street Schools, Edinburgh, with a view to him being transferred to the reserve and returned to his home.”

This permission was based on “compassionate grounds” and “due to his domestic situation.” Mary had left behind two children, my grandmother, Grace, 17, and Thomas, 12.

The Deputy Adjutant General signed off on the transfer of John Hunter to his home. He was transferred to Calais and then shipped to England, and then transferred to Scotland.4

By the time he actually arrived back home in Scotland, the Armistice had been signed, essentially bringing the war to an end. Nevertheless, as part of a quarrying company, he would have still needed permission to return home as the companies continued to mine in France until late 1919.

 

  1. BBC, “How did 12 million letters reach WWI soldiers each week,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zqtmyrd, accessed April 21, 2019.
  2. https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/quarry-companies-of-the-royal-engineers/, The Long, Long Trail” or “The Long, Long Trail: the British Army in the Great War” or “Chris Baker’s site The Long, Long Trail” as title in addition to the URL, accessed April 21, 2019.
  3. https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battlefields/gazetteer-of-the-western-front/gazetteer-of-the-western-front-rinxent/, The Long, Long Trail” or “The Long, Long Trail: the British Army in the Great War” or “Chris Baker’s site The Long, Long Trail” as title in addition to the URL, accessed April 21, 2019.
  4. Document to the Commandant, Scottish Command Discharge Centre, Edinburgh, ref. Z1/B, signed December 13, 1918 by Lieutenant R.E. for Lieutenant Corporal, Troops Base Depot.

The Protestants of Alsace-Lorraine of the 16th and 17th centuries

From the birth of Protestantism, Calvinists, Lutherans, Anabaptists, Baptists and Mennonites were present with houses of prayer, chapels, temples and churches in the Alsace-Lorraine, otherwise known as the Grand-Est region of France, bordering both Germany and Switzerland.

It must have been confusing for the believers, since the Catholic Church also had a presence within this region, although with reduced power in comparaison to other regions of France.

At the British Conquest of 1759 at the Plains of Abraham, nearly 200 families of German ancestry resided in the St. Lawrence Valley. In the 2016 Canadian Census, 3,322,405 Canadians (nearly 10% of the population) reported German origin. A large proportion of these Canadians of Germanic anscestry lived in Ontario or Central Canada.

For people doing family lineage research in the modern-day départements of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges, one is struck with the Germanic influence in this region of Grand-Est in France. Germanic family names and place names date from the early 16th century.

The choice of authors of books, essays, theses and papers for this research guide was  difficult. International online retailers such as Amazon.fr have not to this point in time secured the best authors, historians, academics and archivists within this north-east region of France. On the other hand, great institutions of learning, historical societies, and publishing houses at various universities and colleges have published interesting dossiers which address Protestantism in the Grand Est region of France, from the birth of Protestantism in Europe.

Link to the PDF research guide: The Protestants of Alsace-Lorraine of the 16th and 17th centuries

Contents of the research guide: The region; Links to Protestant resources in the National Archives of France; Links to Protestant resources on Familysearch.org; Authors (books about Protestants of Alsace-Lorraine in the 16th and 17th centuries); Historical societies (France); Historical societies (Alsace-Lorraine); Online resources, including theses; Libraries and archives; Publishers; Genealogy resources; Relevant links on Genealogy Ensemble

Little Emigrants

Up until recently, I had a vague awareness of the history of child emigration from Great Britain to Canada, Home Children as they were called, but took little interest. I am not descended from a home child so it had nothing to do with my family.

Until I learned that it did.

Shortly after I sent my DNA sample to Ancestry.com, I heard from Shirley Joyce of Toronto. We share the same great, great grandparents, John Angus and his wife, Rachel Martin, from Tulliallan in Scotland and through them there is a home child connection.

John (b. 1813) and Rachel had three children: David (b.1842), Ann (b.1844) William (b.1847). The 1841 census documented John as a labourer and his wife as a homemaker 1.

David, their first born, became a shoemaker in Partick near Glasgow and married Anne Rankine. They had nine children, including my grandfather James Rankine Angus, who emigrated to Canada as an adult in 1901 2.

William, the youngest, became a rope and sail maker. I know little of him.

Shirley Joyce told me more about Ann, the middle child, who became a domestic servant. She had six children between the years 1865 and 1886 fathered by three different men. She only married the father of her last two children, Hugh Stein, in 1881, at age 37. Ann’s daughter Rachel, one of the twins born in Largs in 1876 to Ann and an unknown father, became Shirley’s grandmother. 3

Ann’s mother, Rachel Martin Angus, great, great grandmother to both Shirley and me, cared for the children while Ann worked. Not an uncommon practice. However, Rachel at age 36, found herself widowed in 1880 4 . One can only imagine Rachel’s financial and emotional situation at that point as she tried to raise four grandchildren on her own with little or no income. According to Shirley, in 1882 Rachel gave up on the youngest, the six-year old twins Rachel and James, abandoning them to an orphanage in Glasgow, the Glasgow Union Workhouse.5  Two months later they were put on a ship and sailed to Canada, destined for a home child distribution centre, Marchmont Home, in Belleville, Ontario. 6. 

Why did Rachel feel she must abandon her grandchildren? Why did the orphanage accept them so readily? Did Rachel receive counselling on possible options? Did she know they could be sent to Canada if she left them? Did the orphanage contact the mother of twins about the situation and ask her to take responsibility? Shirley tells me that, according to her grandmother’s records from Quarriers,  Ann’s new partner knew nothing of her previous children.7.

Did no one in the extended family step up to help?

In the defence of my great grandfather, the shoemaker, the twins’ uncle and the father of nine children himself, how could he take on two more mouths to feed. Did he even know of his mother’s and sister’s predicament?

Glasgow (and Par-tick), rough and dirty at the time, suffered particularly poor air quality from industrial pollution and coal fires.  Hundreds of multi-story tenement buildings had been erected to house the workers flooding into the city to feed the rapid expansion of the ship building industry. Overcrowding and primitive plumbing contributed to rampant disease. Life expectancy was low 8. It is understandable that the various agencies responsible for abandoned children would see Canadian farms as a healthier alternative to life in the Glasgow environment.

Between the years 1869 to 1939, an estimated 100,000 children were sent to Canada to be used as indentured farm workers and domestic servants. Believed by Canadians to be orphans, only two percent truly were. Most simply came from destitute and desperate families such as that of twins Rachel and James.

Some of the Home Children were welcomed into their Canadian placement homes and even adopted. Consequently, they thrived. Most lived outside the family circle in sheds or barns and were treated simply as hired labour. If they did not satisfyIMG_3791 the owner, they were returned to the distribution home and sent out again to another placement.

The children were often poorly clothed, overworked and under fed. Few received the education for which they were entitled under their contracts. The agencies responsible for them, such as Quarriers for Rachel and James, provided little or no oversight.

Public opinion too often shunned these children. Canadians needed their labour but they were seen as diseased urchins, riff-raff, even thieves. They grew up marginalised, lonely and ashamed. As they grew older, they hid their home child background and rarely, if ever, spoke of it. Yet for all of that, most became hard working Canadian citizens as did their descendants.

Today I look at two names on the British Home Child Registry: Rachel Ann Angus and Robert James Angus, twins age 6, and I am appalled. Yes, childhood was not seen then as it is today. Children were viewed as little adults and expected to work. But they were also expected to remain with their families. How frightened these two small children must have been as the ship pulled away from the dock taking them far from anything they had ever known. They were not even kept together in Canada but placed on separate farms.

IMG_3794IMG_3793

Footnotes:

  1. Angus family tree. Owner Barbara Angus (Tarrant). Ancestry .ca
  2. Ibid
  3. E-mail correspondence with Shirley Joyce
  4. Angus family tree. Owner Barbara Angus (Tarrant). Ancestry .ca
  5. E-mail correspondence with Shirley Joyce
  6. British Home Child Registry. https://www.britishhomechildrenregistry.com/
  7. E-mail correspondence with Shirley Joyce
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Partick

 

Background Information:

https://www.britishhomechildren.com/

https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle-2-15039/the-15-000-scots-children-shipped-to-canada-1-4616584

British Home Children: Their Stories. Global Heritage Press, 2010.

Joyce, Sandra. The Street Arab: the Story of a British Home Child. Welldone Pub., 2011

Pettit, Mary. Mary Janeway: the Legacy of a Home Child. Natural Heritage Books, 2009.

 

 

 

A Trip to England in 1842

When Stanley Clark Bagg (SCB) and his father, Stanley Bagg, of Montreal, visited England in 1842, they were combining business and pleasure. The business involved selling property that SCB’s maternal grandfather had owned in Durham, England, and the pleasure involved a whirlwind tour of London, Scotland, Ireland and France, as well as visits with various great-aunts and great-uncles who still lived in England.

It was a good time for a trip: SCB had just finished a four-year apprenticeship with a notary and could now practice as a notary himself. It made sense to travel before he opened his own office.

A few months after his return to Montreal, SCB wrote to his cousin in Philadelphia, outlining the trip. Unfortunately, he did not include any details or impressions of their adventures, but the list of places they visited sounds exhausting. Passenger rail services were expanding in England at the time, but much of their travel would have been done by horse-drawn coach.

Crossing the Atlantic, however, was fast. The age of the trans-Atlantic steamship had arrived in the 1830s, and SCB wrote, “We made the passage to Liverpool from Halifax in the incredible short space of nine days and six hours, which was I believe the shortest passage ever made across the Atlantic. From Liverpool we went to London, thence to Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, York Darlington, Durham, Stockton, Sunderland, Newcastle, Shields, Tynemouth, Otterburn …. ”1

As they moved north to Scotland, they passed though many small towns, including Lesmahagow, and they explored both Glasgow and Edinburgh. On the way back to London, they stopped in Carlisle, in the north of England.

After a few days in London, they crossed the Channel to France, where they visited Boulogne, Paris, Versailles, Le Havre and several other spots before returning to London. SCB wrote, “We left London shortly afterwards for Ireland, and having visited Kingstown, Dublin and Kilmainham, returned to Liverpool, where … we embarked on board a steamship and after a boisterous passage of 14 days arrived at Boston exceedingly gratified with our tour.”2

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral (jh photo)

Anchor-maker William Mitcheson, brother of SCB’s grandmother Mary Mitcheson Clark, lived in London, and the Baggs visited him there. While in County Durham, they visited more Mitcheson relations, including Mrs. Dodd (Mary Mitcheson’s sister Margaret) near Ryton, and Mrs. Maugham (Mary’s sister Elizabeth) at Sunderland.

It is clear that the visit to Durham was the highlight of the trip, but not because of the business they finalized there. In fact, SCB did not mention it at all in his letter. When SCB turned 21 in December, 1841, he gained control over the properties in Montreal and Durham that he had inherited from his grandfather John Clark (1767-1827). (He was just 14 when Clark died, so his father acted as executor of the estate until SCB became an adult. The property in Durham was generating rental income, but SCB wanted to sell it. In a notarized document dated after their return to Montreal, SCB’s father listed the sales of three properties in Durham.3

Meanwhile, SCB was interested in ancient legends, old coins, Norman castles and the like, and was enthralled with Durham. More than 20 years later, he presented a lecture to the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal on “The Antiquities and Legends of Durham.”4

He described the legend surrounding the founding of Durham city by 9th century monks. When Danes attacked England’s northeast coast, the monks fled their monastery on the Island of Lindisfarne with the miraculously well-preserved body of their former bishop. Eventually they built an abbey at the future site of Durham city and buried him there. Today, that bishop is remembered as Saint Cuthbert and pilgrims still visit the abbey church, Durham Cathedral.

In his 1866 lecture to the Numismatic Society, SCB opened up about his feelings on the trip. He recalled, “The first time I had the privilege of attending a divine service in Durham Abbey, I was enraptured with the sweet and masterly chanting, unsurpassed in the empire. My father and I obtained seats in the choir. The service was exceedingly impressive, so much so, that …. whenever the portion of the Psalter chanted upon that occasion recurs in the services of the church, it carries me back in imagination to the first service I attended in the venerable abbey of my mother’s native city.”4

This article was also published on Writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “A Freehold Estate in Durham,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 3, 2019 http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2019/05/a-freehold-estate-in-durham_92.html

Janice Hamilton, “Mary Mitcheson Clark,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 16, 2014, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/05/mary-mitcheson-clark.html

Janice Hamilton, “Mary Ann (Clark) Bagg,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Nov. 29, 2013,   http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2013/11/mary-ann-clark-bagg.html

Janice Hamilton, “The Mitcheson Family of Limehouse,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 21, 2015, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-mitcheson-family-of-limehouse.html

Janice Hamilton, “Stanley Bagg’s Difficulties,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 10, 2014  http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/01/stanley-baggs-difficulties.html

 Sources

  1. Letter from Stanley Clark Bagg to Rev. R. M. Mitcheson, Dec. 6, 1842, probably transcribed by Stanley Bagg Lindsay; Lindsay family collection.
  2. Record in a passenger list of Stanley Bagg and S.C. Bagg travelling from Liverpool to Boston aboard the Acadia. Boston Courier (Boston, Massachusetts, Monday, Sept. 19, 1842, issue 1921;) 19th Century Newspapers Collection, special interest databases, www.americanancestors.org (accessed April 18, 2019.)
  3. Joseph-Hilarion Jobin, “Account and mortgages from Stanley Bagg Esq to Stanley Clark Bagg,” 8 October 1842, notarial act #3537, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
  4. Stanley Clark Bagg, “The Antiquities and Legends of Durham: a Lecture before the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal,” p. 21, Montreal, 1866. https://archive.org/details/cihm_48731/page/n4 (accessed Dec. 27, 2019)

 

Lancaster Days in Gransden Lodge

Recently, as I read the history of the WWII era on the webpage of the Cambridge Gliding Centre, which operates out of the Gransden Lodge Airfield, I was reminded of my great uncle’s fun-loving spirit. The page read:

“Despite the grim business of the war being waged, there was also a lighter side to life at Gransden Lodge, with many sporting events, parties, concerts and film shows being organised, along with the inevitable pranks carried out by the boisterous Canadians.”1

I don’t know what pranks they were talking about, but its likely my uncle Charlie fell among the pranksters. He served at Gransden Lodge for six months in 1944.

Uncle Charlie, officially known as Sgt. John Charles Mathieu, worked three different jobs from the time he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force on January 8, 1940 until he went missing just before Christmas 1944.

Each job got closer to the action, with the first assisting officers, the second serving as a Spitfire flight mechanic and the third as a tail gunner in a Lancaster.

In many ways, his personal development matched the development of Canada’s Air Force.

Canadian Air Force Development

Canada founded its own Air Force in 1920, just after World War I ended. King George V gave it the Royal Canadian Air Force title four years after that. For a while, it controlled civil aviation in the country, but that ended in 1927. It then re-established recruitment and training in 1939, as part of the build-up to the British effort in World War II.

The Royal Canadian Air Force created Squadron 405 in Driffield, Yorkshire, on April 23, 1941. It became operational as part of Britain’s Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command a month and a half later.2

Canadian and British crews tried to hit German and French targets individually as best they could, but the bombs dispersed too widely.

Captain D. C. Bennett came up with a plan to send a small group of bombers ahead of the others. These Pathfinder bombers would drop green and red short-burning flares called “sky indicators” on targets so that a bigger group of bombers would know where to aim.

Just as this new strategy was developed, the Royal Canadian Air Force created its own Bomber Command. It assigned the 405 Squadron to the pathfinder role and moved it to Gransden Lodge. The squadrons originally based there researched the use of radar. As the use of that technology expanded, they had to be moved to larger, more secretive locations.

Uncle Charlie’s Path

Meanwhile, Charlie began training as a tail gunner just before Christmas 1943. His two-and-a-half month journey ended with a mark of 76.1%. I think this is a pretty good grade, but his course instructor P.W.H. Walker clearly expected better. Walker wrote in Mathieu’s log book that he was “a pupil who would have done better had he devoted more time to his work.”3

He worked harder after that, training from March until May in a Wellington in Wellesbourne Mountford and then from the 9th until the 24th of June in a Halifax. For that last training session, his instructor gave him a mark of 91% and assessed him as “average.”

Then it was off to the Navigational Training Unit, which used the new safer, faster bombers known as Lancasters. The Lancasters also marked a vast improvement in technology. After successfully prototyping by the A.V. Roe Company in Chadderton, the manufacture of some Lancasters moved to Canada. Charlie told me that plane saved him and his crew multiple times.

Charlie’s study habits by then had vastly improved; he and his rear gunner came in second and third in the class. Together, they got assigned to the elite squadron 405, something that shocked Charlie.

The rest of the crews were all experienced, some with two tours of ops to their credit; we didn’t even have one flight.4

Arrival at Gransden Lodge

Charlie arrived in Great Gransden, a tiny hamlet in Sandy, which was part of Bedfordshire in Huntingdonshire County, 11 miles west of Cambridge in early July 1944. He got a welcoming pamphlet from his predecessors that said in part:

“We old die-hards, some of whom you will have the pleasure of meeting later in this booklet, began our P.F.F. life just as you are, with few clues but a willingness to learn. We settled down and soon became enshrouded with the spirit, that we not only had a job to do well, but one which was to be done far better than was expected, no matter how small it proved to be. That spirit and responsibility is handed down to you by the older crews as they end their tours.”5

Charlie’s log shows eleven-and-a-half hours of day flying and two-and-a-quarter hours of night flying over a three-day period that ended on July 10, 1944.6

That same day, Charlie got a new “class A” driver’s license that gave him the right to drive “heavy locomotive, light locomotive, motor tractor, heavy motor car, motor car, or motor tricycle equipped with means for reversing”7 for a year.

He wouldn’t need the last six months.

For More about WWII

Read my other stories about WWII service at:

Last flight (this is more about Uncle Charlie)

Difficult holiday for two families (this story features the death of a crew member on Charlie’s last flight)

Sad death (this story features one of the women who served)

Kitty Freeman: WWII Heroine and Food Research Pioneer (another story about a woman who served)

Visit Picton for insight into military ancestors from WWII (Charlie trained in Dunville, but the site was similar to this one)

Sources

1https://www.camgliding.uk/about/airfield-history/, accessed January 29, 2020.

2 Skaarup, H. (n.d.). Canadian Wings: The History & Heritage of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Retrieved November 24, 2014, from http://www.canadianwings.com/Squadrons/squadronDetail.php?No.-405-Squadron-64.

3Flying Log book for Navigators, Air Gunners, Flight Engineers, Royal Air Force, Form 1767, Revised October 1943, December 12, 1943 to February 26, 1944.

4Mathieu, John Charlie. All this Heaven Almost, private manuscript.

5 No. 405 Squadron Operational Books, Library and Archives Canada, microfilm reproduction copy number C-12272.

6Log book, Personal documents, John, Charles Mathieu, Flying Log book for Navigators, Air Gunners, Flight Engineers, Royal Air Force, Form 1767, Revised October 1943.

7Huntingdonshire County Council Road Traffic Provisional Driving Licence No. A6430.