Category Archives: Genealogy
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 distance 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,
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.
Quebec’s Church Registers are a happy fact for anyone researching ancestors in that Canadian province.
From the early days of New France in the 17th century, a record was kept for every Catholic birth, marriage and death with a register. Priests kept a religious copy of the register at the parish and filed another state copy with the tribunal serving the relevant territory.
After the British Conquest in 1760, the right to keep registers of civil status was gradually extended – over the next century – to non-Catholics. At present, BANQ’s Church Register collection contains the digitized records of births, marriages and deaths for Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Evangelical, Jewish and Lutheran churches.*
Today, these records can be accessed through the Drouin Institute, Ancestry.com,
as well as through BAnQ (the National Library and Archives of Quebec) http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/ecivil/as
and familysearch.org: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1321742
The BANQ website is available in French but the above link will take you directly the Church Registry page. Records can be accessed in three ways: by the place where the act was established (parish, congregation, synagogue, etc); by the judicial district, according to the list established by the Territorial Division Act (L.R.Q., chapter D-11);or by region.
To consult the registers, select one of the headings on the left side of the screen. To display the pages in large format (PDF format, image mode) click on the headings for the desired pages. *
(*Information translated from the French on BAnQ website.)
What will you find at the BANQ Online Church Registers 1768-1912
Protestant churches – English – 686 churches
Jewish Synagogues – 20 synagogues
Protestant churches – French – 28 churches
Catholic parishes – French & English – 1,027 churches
Catholic parishes – Italian & others – 15 churches
Catholic missions – French & English – 8 missions
Catholic Religious Communities – 18 convents
Hospitals (French & English) – 12 medical centers
Hospices – (French & English) – 5 institutions
Psychiatric hospitals (Asylums) –3 institutions
BAnQ and Family Search
Civil Registers (Parish Registers)
Catholic & Protestant Churches
Civil Registers (Parish Registers)
1621 to 1916
Births (baptisms), marriages, deaths
© Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
BAnQ Catholic & Protestant Church Registers & Jewish Synagogue Registers
By Churches (Catholic or Protestant) or Synagogues
A to F
The night before three-year-old Arthur Hamilton became ill, he was reciting a rhyme and joking about lisps and kisses and mistletoe with a family friend who was helping put the children to bed. Someone – his mother or the friend – recorded those words in his baby book.
The following day, Arthur came down influenza. In fact, everyone in the house – his parents, his twin brother and his two older siblings – got sick. The others recovered, but Arthur did not.
When the influenza pandemic reached the Hamiltons’ Winnipeg home in January 1919, it was at its deadly peak. Arthur was among more than 1,200 Winnipeg residents and 50,000 Canadians killed by the pandemic, which was brought to Canada by troops returning from the trenches of World War I.1 Some 21 million people died from the virus worldwide.
Today, Arthur’s baby book, and that of his twin (my father) is in the University of Manitoba Archives as part of the Hamilton Family collection. These cheerfully illustrated booklets include important milestones, such as the twins’ first steps. Arthur’s book is especially moving because of the entry about the jokes he made just before he became ill.2
Archivist Shelley Sweeney has used Arthur’s baby book in the classroom many times. For example, she took it to a religious studies class that was exploring how people react to death by expressing regret and memorializing the person who has passed.
“It strikes people as so unbearably sad,” she says. “There are always sympathetic expressions and murmurs when I talk about it.”3
The death of a young child like Arthur seems especially sad, but the influenza pandemic traumatized whole communities. Some people lost family members to the flu after having already lost sons and brothers in the war. Many of those who died were between 20 and 40 years old, in the prime of their lives. Children were left without parents, families without income earners, businesses without customers, and manufacturers without workers. Poor neighbourhoods had the highest death rates.
Some people compared the pandemic to the Black Death of medieval times. The government banned large public gatherings to try to control the spread of the virus. Hospitals and physicians were overwhelmed.
My grandfather was a physician and my grandmother had trained as a nurse, but they couldn’t save their son. They tried everything they knew, but there were no effective treatments in 1919.
Their older son, Glen, a future a physician himself, later recalled being taken in to see Arthur’s body. He said, “I can remember on the floor beside his crib there was an enamel basin with boiling water in it – Friars Balsam [eucalyptus oil] – that aromatic stuff you put into body rub, and a little tank of oxygen. And those were the weapons to fight the flu. That was all!”4
My grandfather, Thomas Glendenning (T.G.) Hamilton, was devastated by his son’s death. Not only had he failed as a physician, but, as Glen Hamilton suggested in an interview, T.G. may have felt that he had been too attached to Arthur. “Dad was a very strict Calvinist Presbyterian and he felt that in some way, because he was so fond Arthur …. that he was being punished by the Lord ….”5
Arthur’s death was a pivotal event for the Hamiltons in a way that seems surprising today, but was typical for the time. Many people were deeply religious and believed in personal survival after death. Grieving families wanted to communicate with loved ones who had passed, so they turned to mediums and séances. Between the two world wars, a strong spiritualist movement developed in Canada and elsewhere.6 Glen suggested that Arthur’s death stimulated his parents’ interest in the psychic field.
What made the Hamiltons unusual was the effort they put into exploring psychic phenomena. For more than 10 years, until T.G.’s death in 1935, they held almost weekly séances with a small group of regular participants.7 T.G. became known across Canada, the United States and England for his psychic research, while Lillian played a key organizing role in the background. T.G. emphasized the “scientific” nature of his enquiry, but his grief must have coloured these experiences.
Around 1980, Margaret (Hamilton) Bach donated her parents’ research notes, speeches and photographs to the University of Manitoba Archives, and a few years ago I added a few items, including the twins’ baby books. Today, many people consult the Hamilton Family fonds. Some are interested in psychics, several have used the collection as inspiration for plays and visual art, and other researchers are using the collection to explore how people cope with trauma.
Although many people, including myself, are skeptical about the authenticity of their experiments, it is wonderful to see that T.G.’s and Lillian’s passion is still contagious in so many different ways.
(This article is also posted on http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca.)
Notes and Sources
T.G. Hamilton and Lillian (Forrrester) Hamilton had four children: Margaret Lillian (1909-1986), Glen Forrester (1911-1988), and twins James Drummond (1915-1980) – my father — and Arthur Lamont (1915-1919).
To read more about the Hamilton Family fonds, see http://umanitoba.ca/libraries/units/archives/digital/hamilton/index.html
1 Janice Dickin, Patricia G. Bailey, “Influenza”, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Canada, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/influenza/ (accessed March 20, 2017)
2. Baby book of Arthur Lamont Hamilton. University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections (UMASC), Hamilton Family fond, A10-01, Winnipeg.
3. Personal email communication with Shelley Sweeney, March 23, 2017.
4. James B. Nickels. “Psychic Research in a Winnipeg Family: Reminiscences of Dr. Glen F. Hamilton”, Manitoba History, June 2007, p. 5.
6. Esyllt Jones, “Spectral Influenza: Winnipeg’s Hamilton Family, Interwar Spiritualism and Pandemic Disease,” in Magda Fahrni and Esyllt W. Jones, editors, Epidemic Encounters: Influenza, Society and Culture in Canada, 1918-20, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012, p. 195.
7. Janice Hamilton “Bring on Your Ghosts!” Paranormal Review, winter 2016, p. 6. This edition of the magazine, published by The Society for Psychical Research in England, is entirely devoted to the psychic research carried out by the Hamiltons.
Elizabeth Mowat is my great great grandmother. I didn’t even know her name before I began my genealogy quest. I still don’t know much about her but I now have a photograph, a portrait of her in her “go to church clothes” with the requisite black bonnet.
There were no pictures of her in the box that started my family history search, although there was a family photograph of her husband William, her son Donald, his wife Alice and three of their children, William, Mary and James Dickson. I originally thought Elizabeth was alive at the time, so why on such an occasion was she not with them at the photographers? It later turned out she died in 1883 and not the assumed 1888.
It was through the internet and RootsWeb that I finally saw her face. Robert Harkness, from her daughter-in-law Alice’s line, said his family had lost all their old photos and information in a house fire but his uncle might know some family history. I wrote to his uncle, Bruce Harkness but did not hear anything. Then a couple of months later I received a letter from a George Dickson with photos and stories. He was also a relative of Alice’s and lived in the same apartment building as Bruce, in Belmore, Ontario. Bruce had shared my letter and it was George who responded. In the package was a picture of Elizabeth.
She was born in 1829 in Pulteneytown, Caithness, Scotland. Her parents were James Mowat and Isabelle Houston. It doesn’t appear that she had any siblings or at least any that survived to the 1841 census.
She married William Sutherland a shoemaker and 13 years her senior, May 1845, in Pulteneytown and they set out for Canada soon after. They sailed with two of William’s nephews and their wives so he had some family with him, but Elizabeth left her family and her life, never to see them again. There are Sutherland letters that have survived which reported on all the neighbours and friends so I assume the Mowats also heard about their daughter’s new life and family.
Elizabeth and William had seven children, William, James, Donald, Christina, Isabella, George, and John. They moved from Toronto to West Gwillimbury and finally to their own land in Carrick, Bruce County Ontario. After clearing the land and farming for a number of years they gave up the hard work and moved back to Toronto.
Elizabeth died in 1883 and William died in 1887. My sister Jeannie and I visited Mount Pleasant Cemetery and found their tombstone. The names were readable but not the inscription. As Jeannie went to the car to get some paper to try a rubbing, the sun came out and it’s angle made the inscription jump out,“The dead in Christ shall rise first”.
Ancestry.com. Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.Original data: Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013
Extracts of entries in an Old Parochial Register. Proclamations of Banns and marriages Parish of Wick, County of Caithnes general register Office, New Register House Edinburch on 26 September 2000.
Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 36 Source InformationAncestry.com. Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938, 1943-1944, and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947 Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Cert.
“The dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16
Writing stories about your ancestors can seem a bit self-indulgent. Who wants to hear about your long dead aunties and uncles? Your own relatives may roll their eyes when you pull out your tablet and talk about the blood, sweat and tears that went into a year-long investigation into an-all-but-forgotten life.
Sure, the genealogy writing exercise may start out as a purely personal exploration (as in Why am I here?) but with careful attention to detail and a sense of humility on your part, the practice can become so much more than that.
Exploring ancestry through prose provides you with a versatile platform to inform and delight your readers. Your stories even may inspire others to take the plunge and explore their own roots while polishing their writing skills.
Genealogy writing is often personal in nature, as in “My great grandmother, Lydia Tittle, was born in 1897 in the poorest part of Ulster,” and it sometimes it comes in the form of the personal essay, as in “When I was a little girl growing up in rural Georgia, I was very close to my Ma Tante Mathilde, my father’s French sister.”
It may sound counter-intuitive, but my top tip to avoid sounding self-indulgent when writing about yourself and/or your ancestors is to use your own natural voice.
What is ‘voice’? Well, storytelling was once a sacred art. The storyteller invoked a muse to tell a certain tale to an enraptured audience. I like to think of ‘the writing voice’ as something similar. Before I get down to writing a first draft, I invoke a piece of my personality to tell the story. For me, it’s a feeling I conjure up, much like I’m told a method actor does before walking onto the stage, and sometimes, as with acting, it can be a bit unsettling to bring up this feeling/personality, even scary. It certainly doesn’t feel self-indulgent. Enveloped in this character/feeling, it’s easier for me to choose the appropriate words and expressions while writing and to maintain a consistent tone for the piece.
The biggest mistake any beginning writer can do is to try to imitate someone else’s voice because readers will pick up quickly on the deception, but if you write stories in your own voice, even if you are still developing your style and technical skills (and what writer isn’t?) your readers will be inclined to be generous with you because they will sense you are ‘opening up’ to them, taking a risk, giving them a little piece of your heart, as it were.
Ask yourself these questions before you embark on the personal essay writing journey:
- Are you using your own unique voice?
- Is your essay and the information contained within worthy of the time the reader will spend on it?
- Does your story have substance? Is it useful, as in informative; diverting as in surprising or funny; or moving, as in sentimental or touching?
- Does your story have universal human appeal so that all readers can relate, or is it aimed at a specific reader with a specific interest?
- Does your story have a take-away, a gift that keeps on giving such as a fascinating fact or two, a broader insight, or some useful research tips that the reader can call upon later?
Genealogists tend to visit a lot of cemeteries, so if those are beautiful places, the experience can be a pleasure. Anyone with Montreal ancestors in either Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (Catholic) Cemetery or in the non-denominational Mount Royal Cemetery can consider themselves lucky: both cemeteries are located on the slopes of Mount Royal, both are filled with trees and wildlife, and both have services to assist genealogists find their relatives.
These cemeteries were opened in the middle of the 19th century after the city’s population expanded, putting earlier burial grounds too close to residential areas. Hygienic concerns became particularly important when cholera epidemics swept the continent.
In fact, because of epidemics, poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water, many of the city’s dead were children.
Since Mount Royal Cemetery opened in 1852, more than 300,000 people have been buried there. To check the location of a grave in Mount Royal Cemetery, go to https://mountroyalcem.com/index.php/en/our-services/genealogy-menu.html. The Quebec Family History Society (QFHS) sells a book of 4600 monument inscriptions from Hawthorn-Dale, Montreal’s second-largest Protestant Cemetery and an affiliate of Mount Royal Cemetery. See http://www.qfhs.ca/forsale.php.
Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery, the largest graveyard in Canada, has been in operation since 1874. To find a grave there go to http://www.notredamedesneigescemetery.ca/en/research/locate.htm and click on locate deceased.
When the older cemeteries were closed, people were told they could move the remains of their relatives, but that did not always happen. Every now and then, human remains turn up when repairs are done to Dorchester Square, a former cemetery that is now a park in the heart of downtown. And in addition to proper cemeteries, there are some unusual burial places in the city. Priests and nuns were buried in the crypts of Catholic churches and other religious buildings. Some 6000 Irish immigrants who died of ship fever in 1847 are buried in a mass grave, marked with a commemorative stone, near the Victoria Bridge.
Because so many of the city’s old cemeteries were closed and eventually built upon or used for other purposes, anyone who comes to the city looking to find the grave of an ancestor who died before the mid-1800s will probably be disappointed.
For a list of 110 Montreal cemeteries, current and closed, including crypts and military cemeteries, see http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/ListerCims.asp?MP=E3&TY=M&SS=52
To find out about Jewish burials, see the following article posted on the Jewish Genealogy Society of Montreal website: http://jgs-montreal.org/burials.html
The QFHS has a number of publications related to cemetery histories and monument inscriptions in its library. Go to http://www.qfhs.ca/libraryRecords.php and put cemetery in the keyword space.
Following is a list of old cemeteries primarily used by the city’s English-speaking community. Most of them no longer exist. The links will tell you their locations and other information.
Montreal General Old Cemetery http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=2148
Montreal Old Negro Cemetery – St-Jacques Street at St-Pierre Street in Old Montreal http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=826
Dufferin Square Cemetery – Dorchester Boulevard at St. Laurent Boulevard http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=828
Montreal Old Military Cemetery – Papineau Street at Lafontaine Street in Southeast Montreal http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=831
St. Mary’s Anglican Burial Ground – Malo Street and Bordeaux Street in Southeast Montreal http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=837
St-Hélène Island Old Military Cemetery http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=846
St. Stephen’s Old Anglican Cemetery Lachine http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=2081
Goose Village Ancient Irish Cemetery http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=2717
Field of Honor Military Cemetery Pointe Claire http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=858
Lakeview Memorial Gardens Pointe Claire http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=861
Research: Jacques Gagné
Additional writing: Janice Hamilton
There’s a mystery behind the sampler I inherited from my great, great grandmother.
The sampler itself is quite lovely and very detailed, most of the colours still vibrant today. It is edged with a border of stylized red roses. Inside are the traditional bands of letters and numbers in various stitches, along with a large two-storied house, trees, birds, animals, two baskets of flowers and a verse about the challenges of life. The creator’s name is written clearly: Jane Jamieson, Her Sampler, Quebec and a date. 1819? 1844? The numbers are unclear and therein lies the mystery.
Jane Jamieson was born in 1818 in Drum, Ireland to Samuel Jamieson and Jane Stewart. A sampler date of 1819 is therefore not possible, Jane would have been an infant.
Jane’s father was a tenant farmer and according to family legend, had at one time belonged to the Irish Constabulary. He was also a Protestant and a Loyalist. After suffering a series of irritating incidents at the hands of his Irish landlord, Samuel decided to quit Ireland and take his family to where he could farm his own land. In 1836 he, his wife, and their six children immigrated to Canada.
The Jamiesons, along with twenty-six other families, settled in the “highlands” of Megantic County south of Quebec City. Samuel was given Lot 5 S.W. on the First Range of Inverness Township in what was to become known as South Ireland (now Saint-Jean-de-Brebeuf). Their first home was an old cabin that an earlier squatter had left behind.
The land grants were part of a complex government scheme, beginning in 1791 and now known to be largely unworkable, to settle the vast wilderness between Quebec City and the American border. It took until 1869 before Samuel’s 100-acre grant was finally legalized in his name.
Life in Inverness was not easy. The settlers were expected to cut down the forest and unearth rocks to build their homes and to farm. The winters were long and brutal.
They were also very isolated. Craig’s Road, the dirt road to and from Quebec City, was mountainous, narrow, and heavily rutted with the only means of transportation being by foot, by ox cart or, in winter, by sleigh. It could take three days to reach Quebec or up to a full week when hauling a load of wood or charcoal to sell.
Two of Samuel’s daughters eventually left Inverness to find employment in the city. Both Jane and Sarah went into service. Jane worked two jobs, house maid and parlour maid, for a cash total of $3.00 a month.
In 1846 Jane married William Kelly, a wealthy coal merchant from Quebec City, and became mistress of her own home. There is no record of how they met and courted. Perhaps Jane worked in his family home. Jane and William had five children: James, Eliza, Samuel, Annie and Emma, my great grandmother.
If the date on the sampler is actually 1844, then Jane made the sampler as an adult, two years before her marriage, and not as a child as was the norm at the time. She perhaps learned the various stitches from a fellow domestic, or even her mistress, and created the sampler in her free time, likely something to be tucked away in her hope chest until the day she married. The large house in the sampler may have been the one in which she was employed. One might even suggest that the trees, the birds and the animals were reminiscent of her earlier life in Inverness. So too might have been the reference to the challenges that she “would overcome in the by and by”.
Jamieson Harper, Helen. The Jamieson Family, 1995 (part of a research project by Gwen Barry Rawlings)
Barry Rawlings, Gwen. The English 180 years in rural Quebec-Megantic. The Canadian Genealogist, Vol. 3, No.2, 1981
The Kelly Family Bible – now owned by the writer