bcholmes: (meshes in the afternoon)

Some time ago, I was pinged on Ancestry by a distant relative who was happy to have come across portions of my family tree that overlapped with her family. I try to always respond to folks on Ancestry; I’ve almost-always had good experiences there. My correspondent was much newer to genealogy than I was, and was therefore able to quickly learn a great deal about at least one line of her family.

She was a descendant of my great-grandmother’s brother. It’s a line of the family that I don’t have very deep records about. My info basically ended at her grandparents. But it was still helpful to her.

So, that’s cool. But because of that recent interaction, I found myself poking that part of the tree again. I located a picture of her great-grandfather, Alton Carol “Al” Kehoe (with my great-grandmother, Mary Ann “Mae” Houle), as well as an obituary, and uploaded them, then sent her a note with links.

But that’s when, all of a sudden, I noticed an unexpected hint that Ancestry was suggesting that I look at. The hint was a marriage record from Ohio, and I was originally inclined to dismiss it because this family lived in Port Lambton, Ontario. It’s not uncommon for my ancestors to get married in Michigan, but Ohio? On the other hand, Alton Carol Kehoe is a pretty unusual name, and I couldn’t overlook that.

According to the marriage record, Alton Carol Kehoe was marrying Rose Skeens on 10 Dec, 1927, in Ohio. Who was Rose Skeens? I’d never heard of her before.

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Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: (meshes in the afternoon)

I continue to enjoy filling in some of the gaps in F.M. Emerson Holmes’ genealogy of the Holmes family. Recently, I’ve dug a bit deeper into the Stratton family.

Margaret Holmes was the second child of Andrew and Susannah Holmes and she travelled to Canada with her husband, a man named Stratton. F.M. Emerson’s genealogy for the Stratton family is threadbare in a lot of place. He knew very little about Margaret’s husband (only that his last name was Stratton) but he did have a pretty good picture of the eldest Stratton child, Mary Ann. The other two children, Joseph and Elizabeth were pretty sparse on details.

It was pretty easy to determine that Margaret’s husband was named John Stratton; they appear in several of the Lambton County censuses, living in Oil Springs. They disappeared after the 1881 census, but a few weeks ago, I found a record of a Margaret and John Stratten (note the ‘e’) buried in the cemetery in Strathroy, Lambton County. According to the cemetery transcription website that I found this data on, they died within a few months of each other in 1883. There’s no photo of the headstone, so I’m not sure if the transcriber spelled the last name incorrectly, or if the headstone is incorrect. (It’s also possible that this headstone is a completely different family). It’s also true that the Strathroy cemetery hasn’t been fully transcribed on other cemetery transcription websites, so I haven’t been able to cross-reference.

Strathroy is a bit of a hike from Oil Springs, but not unreasonably so. It’s also worth nothing that, at the time of their deaths, their eldest daughter, Mary Ann, appears to have been living in London, Ontario, which is closer to Strathroy than to Oil Springs. That might have something to do with the decision to bury the parents in Strathroy.

Elizabeth Stratton’s details were pretty easy to track down on Ancestry. Elizabeth Stratton married Samuel Wright, and they also went off to live in London. There are, in fact, a few extra children that F.M. Emerson didn’t know about: Margaret, Andrew and Fanny. Andrew and Fanny appear to have died young. Margaret disappears; perhaps she also dies young.

For a long time, I hadn’t been able to make any headway on Joseph Stratton. F.M. Emerson’s birthdate for Joseph (circa 1844) looks like a guess to me. Mary Ann was born in 1842, so I think he guessed the the next two kids arrived every other year. I can find the family in the 1861 and 1871 censuses, and Joseph’s birthdate looks like it should be closer to 1852 or 1853.

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Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: (meshes in the afternoon)

I’ve made my first real progress with the Irish roots of my Holmes ancestors. It’s not much progress, mind you, but it’s not nothing.

I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that the Holmes family will be a perpetual brick wall (a term that genealogists use to describe families that one can find no further data about, thus acting as a barrier to any further knowledge about ancestors). To some extent, this isn’t shocking: pursuing Irish genealogy frequently stumbles on the problem of the destroyed records. In 1922, the Public Records Office burned in a civil war battle, and most of the censuses (and many other records) were lost. I’ve seen a number of Irish genealogy presenters talk, encouragingly, about how it’s wrong to think that all records have been destroyed. Ireland had plenty of records, still, and you shouldn’t write off the possibility that there are some records to be found. But it’s increasingly looking like the records for my Holmes ancestors have not survived.

I’ve certainly had no luck with any of the searches I’ve tried in various online databases. But I decided to hire a professional genealogist to see if anything could be discovered. Several days ago, I received their report. And while they have also failed to find any definitive records, they did uncover some clues that might tell us a thing or two. But it’s in the realm of speculation, rather than “clear record.”

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Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: (beret)

Are these two Violas the same Viola?

There’s a distant bunch of Bantam relatives who went off to live in Kansas. It starts with the family of John Sylvester Bantam, who moved from the Bantam homestead in Port Rowan, Ontario to Norton County, Kansas. John has a son Gilbert (“Gilley”) and Gilley has a son, Harold John Bantam, born 21 Apr 1907. According to Don’s notes, Harold married a woman named Viola. Don doesn’t know Viola’s maiden name.

(I’ve just reviewed his notes, now, and noticed something that I had recorded incorrectly: I had Harold listed as the father of Viola’s two children, Jerome and Carolyn, but Don is clear that the two children were from an earlier marriage).

So I went spelunking on Ancestry to find out more information about Viola. The suggested hints that I’ve found aren’t entirely clear on the topic, but there are two dominant stories. The first is that, according to some sources, Viola’s name is Viola C. Lamb. The primary sources for this are some other folks’ Ancestry records, and a reference to a headstone-recording website. That website is telling me that Viola’s name was Lamb (but that doesn’t appear to be data on the actual headstone). I’m guessing that the other Ancestry users picked up that name from that website. Many of these websites are transcribed and maintained by genealogy societies, and they may bring other sources to bear to flesh out the data, but it’s not clear where the name “Lamb” originates. Her headstone says that she was born on 16 Sep, 1910. Her headstone is shared with Harold, so this is clearly “my” Viola.

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Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: (meshes in the afternoon)

More learnings: Marion and Milton had just been married. Marion was 35 in December 1937, when she married Milton McVicar. On Jan 3, Marion’s younger brother Beverly died (he’d had poor health for all of his life). The following month, Milton died.

Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: (meshes in the afternoon)

I’m putting together details about some of my Smith relatives. The Smiths were the oil family, and many of them became involved in local politics.

My great-grandfather’s sister, Marion Gertrude Smith married a man named Milton Duncan McVicar, who was a member of the Enniskillen Council, and later Reeve, and Lambton County Warden, but in 1934, he was elected to the Ontario legislature as a Liberal-Progressive.

As an M.L.A. (although in Ontario, these days, we tend to say M.P.P.), he had a number of successes which made him popular back in Lambton County, but in 1938, he caught a serious cold/influenza/pneumonia and died on Feb 3rd, 1938.

2000 people attended his funeral, “representing every walk of life in the country.” Newspaper write-ups described it as the largest funeral in town in years. The Premier, Hon. Mitchell F. Hepburn sent provincial secretary, Hon. Harry C. Nixon to represent him at the funeral (probably because McVicar died while in office).

Here’s the connection that really jumped out at me: one newspaper write-up includes this tidbit: “It was largely through his [McVicar’s] efforts that the Government established a park at Ipperwash Beach.”

Ipperwash Provincial Park, of course, is the site of the Ipperwash Crisis and the death of Dudley George.

Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: (meshes in the afternoon)

One day in the late 80s, I was back at my parents’ house, between semesters at University. “I think you look like my father,” my mother said, rather matter-of-factly, and somewhat out of the blue. She went off to another room of the house and came back with a cardboard stationery box that I had never seen before. Inside the box, she produced a large head shot photo of her father, Walter Dynes, for comparison purposes.

I’m pretty sure that I was in my early twenties. Until that moment, I had never her say a word about her father. I don’t think that she ever mentioned him again.

At some point in my life, I’d come to understand that her father had died quite a long time ago, and that the person I considered to be my grandfather was, in fact, her step-father. Certainly, by the time of the great grade 7 family tree homework assignment, the details provided by my grandfather clearly spelled out the three maternal grandparents. But my bio-grandad’s figure seemed to cast no shadow over my family: he wasn’t talked about, no photos were out, and no stories about him were ever told. When I refer to him, I often call him my “biological grandfather” — a term that feels distant and removed. But it also feels apt because he seems distant and removed.

My father’s father, Vidal Holmes, was also dead. He died shortly before I turned two. But I was aware of his absence in a way that I was never aware of Walter’s absence.

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Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: (meshes in the afternoon)

Many months ago, I was looking over some old family photos with my aunt, Janey. There was a woman I didn’t recognize in a few pictures, and on the back of the photo, she was identified as “Beatrice”. “Who was Beatrice?” I asked Janey.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Oh, wait. Maybe she was Ralph’s first wife?”

“Ralph’s first wife?” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “We never talk about it.” My family seems to have a lot of stuff that we never talk about.

My father has a brother named Ralph. That’s not who we’re talking about. The Ralph we’re talking about would be my grandfather’s brother, James Ralph Holmes. My grandfather was the youngest of three children. Abbie Estella Holmes was the oldest, but she died at the age of 20, due to complications from pregnancy. Ralph was the middle child, closer in age to Stella. When Ralph came of age in the midst of the great depression, he moved to Detroit to find work. My grandfather, Vidal, ultimately took over the family farm and raised his own children there. Ralph and Vidal both died about a month apart in 1968, shortly before my second birthday.

Beatrice is not, in fact, Ralph’s first wife. I still have no idea who she is. One possibility is that she was a nanny that briefly helped out with child-rearing duties.

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Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: (being dead like me)

I’m having an email correspondence with a genealogist in Ireland. I’m looking to hire her to find records on my Holmes ancestors before they came to Canada. It’s been a slow conversation, with a number of delays, but I’m hoping that something will come of it.

But today we were talking about a particular part of the tree, and while looking at my records for that part of the tree, I realized that I’d failed to transcribe some data.

Here’s the story. I’ve mentioned before that the first of my family to come to Canada are Andrew and Susan (Susannah) Holmes, who emigrated here in 1845. I’ve also mentioned that Andrew died in quarantine at Grosse Île, Quebec. But they brought with them six of their seven children, who spread out and several of those kids end up in Lambton County, where I grew up.

So I’m interested in the one that stayed behind, Mary Ann Holmes, born around 1811. She was the oldest of the seven children and she was already married at the time the family moved to Canada (the second oldest, Margaret Holmes, was also married, but she brought her husband along to Canada with her). Some time before 1861, Mary Ann joined the rest of the family in Canada. Her husband, James Dowler, remained in Ireland. The author of Those Irish Holmes’ writes, “‘Tis said he loved the Emerald Isle, the thrill of its strife, and another woman.”

Mary Ann went to Lambton County and moved in with her brother, John Holmes and his wife, Mary Wilkinson. John and Mary only had one kid, but Mary Ann brought five with her. The youngest of those five might have been born in Canada, if the censuses are to be believed. If so, either Mary Ann was pregnant on the ride over, or James Dowler wasn’t the kid’s father. Or the censuses are wrong. This line of the family doesn’t have it easy. Mary Ann’s daughter, Ann Dowler, died in the London Insane Asylum. Her older brother, Thomas, might have also spent some time there.

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bcholmes: (meshes in the afternoon)

I’ve written, before, about the booklet I had as a teenager: Those Irish Holmes’, by F. M. Emerson Holmes. The booklet was a family tree of all the descendants of Andrew and Susan (Susannah) Holmes, who came to Canada from Cavan County, Ireland, in 1845.

A few weeks ago, I got hit with a bit of a genealogy bug after letting it sit for a while and I started finishing up my revision to that booklet. Basically, I’ve tracked down almost all of the original names in the book and updated them with the latest information. Unsurprisingly, in the 35 years since the book was first published a large number of the people documented have since died, including F. M. Emerson himself.

Newer generations are harder to find the details about. Sites like Ancestry don’t share details on anyone marked as still living although you can occasionally find a name in the most recent census (the Canadian 1921 census is the most recent census that’s publicly-available).

As an aside: I feel like there’s been an up-tick in quality on how people have been using Ancestry. Just a few years ago, it felt like a bit of a slog to pick and choose the good quality records from other people’s trees; recently, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much good-quality information people have been adding. One area that’s really been helpful is in regards to photos. When I started adding photos to my family tree a few years ago, it seemed at the time like photos were rare. Now I’m fascinated by the number of distant family members I find with really good-quality photos attached to them.

Also in the last few days, I’ve learned a few more details about a bit of a family mystery.

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Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: I’m covered in bees! (bee sea)

Dear friends who have children, or spend a lot of time in their presence (without cowering in fear, like I do): I’m looking for some help identifying the age of these kids. How old do you think the kids are in this picture?

John and Matilda Holmes

I know who the three older kids are, but I’m trying to identify the baby. It’s either my father, or my father’s older sister, Elizabeth, who died as an infant. If it’s the latter, then this might be the only picture of her that I know of.

Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: I’m covered in bees! (bee sea)

I’m tackling more of the Holmes family. I left civilization, today, to visit my aunt in Mississauga (I kid! I kid! Mississauga’s not that bad, especially for someone who grew up in Sarnia). My aunt loaned me a metric buttload of old photos that I’m busily scanning, and we talked about family history.

Doris and Vidal Holmes - small

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bcholmes: (meshes in the afternoon)

Those Irish Holmes (Cover)It’s like a blast from the past, man. I have a copy in my hot little… Documents folder.

Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: I’m covered in bees! (bee sea)

I’ve lost a few more hours of my life looking up Houles. Here are the descendants of Pierre Houle (who is, I believe, the first Houle to arrive in Dover Township). The chart’s not complete, by any means, but there are a coupl’a interesting aspects to it.

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Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: I’m covered in bees! (bee sea)

I’m not exactly sure, but I think I was in high school when I was given a copy of a family-tree-filled booklet called Those Irish Holmes. I’ve only found a few references to it online, and those references suggest that it was published in 1987 (but with a question mark after the date) — I would have been in university in ’87, and I’m sure I had my copy before that. My parents moved during my first year of university, and I never saw the book after that move.

I’ve never really known how the Holmeses arrived in Ireland, but I’ve always known that my Holmes ancestors were Irish. My father strongly identified as Irish; my mother didn’t express any particular affinity with any national origin, although she has a lot of Irish in her with a French streak as well, based on the family tree.

I’ve found enough information from that original book, online, that I can reassemble the fragments I recall about how the Holmeses came to Canada. It starts with the family of Andrew Holmes and his wife Susan/Susannah. In 1845-49, the Great Irish Famine was in full swing. Compounding the problems of the famine was Irish fever — a typhus epidemic that took hold in Ireland, and moved to England.

It appears that Andrew and Susan packed up with 6 of their 7 children (the eldest, Mary Ann, stayed in Ireland with her husband) and sailed off to Canada. I have conflicting information about whether this took place in 1845 or 1847. New York had enacted some legislation with the goal of keeping Irish immigrants out in an attempt to prevent the epidemic from arriving and Canada knew full well that it was going to see a dramatic rise in possibly sick Irish arrivals. The arrival station at Grosse Île, Quebec, ramped up its quarantine procedures and prepared for the influx. Today, there’s a monument on Grosse Île which reads, “In this secluded spot lie the mortal remains of 5,294 persons, who, flying from pestilence and famine in Ireland in the year 1847, found in America but a grave.” One of the names recorded on the memorial is Andrew Holmes, who died in 1845.

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bcholmes: I’m covered in bees! (bee sea)

Genealogy things:

  1. It’s interesting to be able to finally say, “Oh, so that’s where Aunt Bonnie fits in the overall family!” There are all these relatives that I finally understand in context.
  2. Because old records are more available than recent records I have, in some ways, a clearer picture of great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents than I have of aunts and uncles.
  3. I have a few memories of my father’s father. He died in 1968, when I was just under two years old. That kinda boggles my mind.
  4. Every time I encounter a never-married relative, I wonder if they were queer. I’m sure that most of them probably weren’t, but I see the world through queer-coloured glasses, and I wonder what kind of evidence I’d ever find to confirm one way or the other.
  5. Don’s mother (whom I remember as “Grandma Smith”) had a brother, William Bantam, who married a woman named Hattie (Harriet) Rose. According to Don’s notes, family legend has it that Hattie ran off with an American fisherman/boater and no one in the family ever heard from her again. I, of course, read too much true crime and can’t help but wonder if she’s buried in a back yard somewhere. It doesn’t help that I can find five other family trees in Ancestry.ca, and none of those trees have any details about what happens to Hattie. No date of death. No records of any kind. Just gone.

Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: I’m covered in bees! (bee sea)

On the weekend, I started to suspect that one of the key family tree connections in the Houle line was based on extremely weak evidence. At this point, I’m pretty sure that connection is wrong.

This whole process feels, in odd ways, like programming. I’m reading a document that I didn’t produce, and I’m having to glean from it what the original author was thinking. It’s a lot like reading someone else’s code. “Why did you put that there? What made you think it was important?”

The problem goes back, again, to Pierre Houle. It’s pretty crucial to understand who his parents are. Once he arrives in Dover Township, he and his family are fairly well documented. There are certain circumstantial hints about his parentage available in the documentation:

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bcholmes: (bacon)

I think I’ve reached the point of needing an Ancestry.ca subscription. All the good data is in there.

Mirrored from Under the Beret.

bcholmes: I’m covered in bees! (bee sea)

Gervais Houde. Oh, how I hate you. All of you.

My grandmother is a Houle — a name variation of Houde, which happens to be a particularly old family name in Quebec. Apparently Houde is in the top 50 most-common surnames in Quebec, and there’s a particular ancestor, Louis Houde, who came over to New France (aka Lower Canada, aka Quebec) in 1647. (Interesting aside: Wikipedia says that in 1653, the population of New France was 2000, so he was an early settler) He’s a mason by trade and in 1655 he married Madeleine Boucher. Let’s not talk about the fact that he was 37 and she was 13. No good can come of dwelling.

Louis Houde has a son named Gervais Houde (born in 1664) who married Anne Catherine Denevers (that name might derive from a noble title — the Count de Nevers/Count of Nevers. w00t! I might secretly be all noble or something!)

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bcholmes: lifeclocks are a lie!  Carousel is a lie!  There is no renewal! (old)

I’ve found the section of Don’s material that has all the old photos of me throughout the years. Eeep. It was a whole other gender ago!

Also some news clippings from when I was in school. There are two newspaper articles from my high school days. It’s funny; I remember the days when the photos were taken, but I couldn’t quite remember the events that precipitated them. They’re both from 1983.

In the first case, there’s a photo of 17 students from grades 9, 10, and 11. I’m one of the grade 11 students. This article related to the University of Waterloo-sponsored math contests: these, I think, would be the Pascal, Cayley, and Fermat math contests (our high school did a lot of math contests). Apparently our scores placed our high school first in south-western Ontario. I, of course, recognized a number of the faces from that photo, including my high school friend and Canadian math prodigy Eric Veach (who’s been at Google for a good while now).

The second photo had to do with a set of computer contests run by the American Computer Science League. If they’re the ones I’m thinking about, they involved a number of exercises (something like six to ten), each done on a different day, where you’d code a program to a spec and the instructor would test your program against some pre-defined test data to see if you got the right output. According to the article, Northern came in 33rd against 346 schools, and 1st in Canada. Interestingly, I remember almost everyone in this photo — even the ones I had little interaction with. Eric’s there, again, and my other close high school friend, Chris Irie, is hanging out in the back row. I think Eric and I are the only grade 11 students — all the others were a year ahead of us.

All this to say, hey, I was there! I kicked ass! I took names! And then I promptly forgot most of those names over the years. Humf.

Mirrored from Under the Beret.

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