Sunday, July 25, 2010

the uncle we didn’t know (about) and the aunt who never was …

As time went on and finding additional information from afar became more difficult, I hired a researcher in Scotland to locate and transcribe birth, marriage & death records from the ledgers. This involves finding an event in the master index and then looking at the full entry, so you do have to have at least an idea of the year. Transcription by an accredited person is inherently less expensive than ordering actual certificates on top of research fees for people who may or may not be yours, therefore a lot do this, especially for family members who are not in their direct line. One should also record the indexed location for backup. A transcription will sometimes provide more information than the certificate itself.

OOPS – sorry – wandered off there ...

Along with the death record of our g-grandad Alex came a surprise – it was witnessed by his son George – of whom we had never heard one whisper in our entire lives. You may recall that at the start of this endeavour I stated that Grandpop had had three sisters; he had alternated vacation visits to them, Ella and her husband Jack Chivas in Victoria BC one year, Lizzie and her husband Bill Moon as well as Jean in Dundee the other – but no brother.

The researcher looked into it ~ lo & behold she found George’s birth – he was indeed Grandpop’s brother. Total incomprehension on my part.

I distinctly remember calling Dan and asking if he had ever heard that Grandpop had a brother ~ there was a pause and then a noooo that went up at the end with question mark. Called Maggie too – nope. It is always a good thing to check with both brother and sister because there is a considerable difference in our ages and Dan & I recall some things while Maggie remembers others. I resorted to the bits and pieces in the albums and found some photographs from Grandpop’s trips, those in which I did not recognize the folks. Lizzie & her husband Bill were well-known to us as were Ella & Jack, so it was by process of elimination that I chose which pictures to remove from the horrid sticky pages – on the back of one Dad had written “George & Jean”. Amazing.

Revelation though he may have been, poor George ended up on the back burner for a couple of years, until I made a trip to the UK and went to visit Betty, Alex’ (Ottawa) sister. I had been named after Nanny (Helen) and Grandpop’s sister Jean (or so I thought) , who was rarely if ever mentioned ~ we knew more of Ella & Lizzie and our Mum had been of the opinion that Jean was ‘frail’ and in hospital a good bit of the time.

Auntie Lizzie was still with us then, although very elderly and in hospital. We contacted her daughter Irene - she did not think it would be wise to visit her Mum who had become both blind and deaf, so we chatted instead. Irene was the first person I heard refer to Dad as young Harry in general conversation – as a young person her older cousin Harry had spent many a summer in Dundee J.

Yes, according to Irene there was an Uncle George, married with children and visited by Grandpop every second year when he visited her Mum Lizzie. Nope, no sister Jean but George’s wife was Jane so perhaps I was named after her ?? – another thing we will never really know. Irene was not terribly interested in the family history, but she did help as best she could.

Several years later I exchanged phone calls and emails with George’s daughter Evelyn who had run across my (now defunct) web page. She supplied me with information on her brothers George (yup, another one) and Douglas as well as her own life with her husband Joe and their boys Ian and Brian.

Funny how versions of events differ from person to person – when I wondered aloud why Grandpop had never mentioned George, Irene had recounted a story of him (George) as a baby being dropped by Grandpop and ending up with a limp and perhaps Grandpop felt guilty?? Evelyn however was very aware that her Dad had had a congenital disease that caused his limp. She could not think why I might have been named after her Mum ~ frankly, neither could I ~ and not a one of us could fathom why our branch of the family did not know of her parents …….. she said her Dad always looked forward to Grandad’s visits.

Here we were, having had lived our lives until now thinking that Dad, an only child, had just one cousin in Irene, also an only child, when he actually had three more in George’s children … his family had just ‘lost’ Jean but gained a bunch ~ tripled or quadrupled or something like that … math is not my strong suit .

So, to be clear ~ Grandpop (Harry Bruce D’All) married Helen (Nell) King; they, with our Dad Harry King D’All, ended up in Montréal ~ Auntie Lizzie married William (Bill) Moncur Moon, they lived in Dundee and had a daughter Irene ~ Ella married John (Jack) Watson Chivas and emigrated to Victoria, British Columbia; they had no children ~ George married Jane Alexander Fenton Ramsay; they had three children in Scotland, George, Douglas & Evelyn ~ oh, and there was no Jean.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

insatiable reader am I .....

Homage to Stephen King, master weaver

No power loom with flying shuttle for this man.

He sets up the strong threads of the warp for each masterpiece by hand, thread by thread, - the static elements, the basic colours, the story line, all established with infinite care and aforethought. They are the constants, the frame within which the characters collide, split, disappear, or go on.

The weft - hues and shades galore .. perhaps even he does not know at the beginning whether the bright blue weft will blaze throughout, break with no warning or just fade away. Does he call the other-than-humans the woof, or are they all, bright or subdued, the weft? Will the inimitable scarlet get past the selvage?? I picture Mr. King with a fistful of many-coloured threads, each thread an intricate blend of love, angst, anger, greed, curiousity, determination, premonition, fatalism.

Threads of like hues make up the background characters, those not central to the tale but needed to provide the ‘mood’, the everyday man, the sheep. A few of these have a hint of bright yellow, they are those who realize what is happening is wrong, but feel helpless (or too afraid) to change it … and they will likely perish. Still others have more of the bright yellow, entangled with an even brighter green – these are the wefts who try to alter the conditions and may, by one act of bravery (or foolishness depending upon one’s point of view) do just that.

The purple of the power seekers blended with the black of non-conscience and orange of anger is evident from the start and along with the lighter coloured hangers-on will last until almost the conclusion. Unlikely heroes, heroines – kids, men, women, dogs … all have a warm red base embedded with the grey of despair, the bright white of hope, the glorious gold of conviction …. yet even some of these are truncated … and in them all, the glittery silver of the unknown.

In and out, up and down, weft to warp, he creates. Everything comes together in an incredible blend of colours, a tapestry of the first order crated by the master weaver.

Thank you Mr. King
(written after reading Under the Dome)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

where are Nanny & Grandpop??

The living room is a disaster. As it becomes more and more cluttered with photographs in various stages of order, euphemistically speaking of course, I for the first time am missing my separate office and large desk of the old house. That being said, it is a mess I can live with temporarily – well, it’s not really a mess, just an upset. The end will justify the means…

where are Nanny & Grandpop?

The short answer is “Believe it or not, we don’t know”.

Nanny passed away in Montreal in the spring of 1951. She was Helen King D’All, King was her maiden name.

The death of his mother brought our Dad back to Canada and later that same year, Mum, Dan & I followed. There is only a very dim recollection of Nanny in the back of my mind … of our first foray to Montréal after the war when I became Red Riding Hood for Hallowe’en (scared witless of ghosties and ghoulies) –and of a baby doll all dressed in pale green knits that she sent with a friend who was on a trip to England.

Nanny was Past-President of the now-defunct Scottish Clans in Montréal and there are lots of condolence letters – it is a strange feeling indeed to see your name preceded by “the Late” when you are living and breathing (I am named after her). Not much was ever said about Nanny except that she was very ill and bedridden for the last few years of life and that she was young, only 50 when she died. Going by the surgery we know she had, I would opine colon cancer – but cancer was a word uttered in hushed tones in the 1950s, if it was uttered at all.

Fast forward to 1969 – in December we lost Grandpop. Fast forward again to 1997 and the devastating loss of our Mum, whom the world knew and loved as Annie ~ well, at least the Canadian world, at home in the UK she is forever ‘our Gertie’.

Mum had expressed the wish to be cremated and when I made the arrangements I was informed that in order for her to have her own marker, as opposed to her name simply being inscribed on a central column, I would have to purchase a double plot, which of course I did.

The thought then occurred that no-one had ever mentioned Grandpop’s interment , so after a discussion with Dan & Maggie, we agreed that I would retrieve his ashes and have him buried with Mum. The best of intentions sometimes go awry ~ there were no ashes at the crematorium and according to the funeral home, Dad had signed for and taken Grandad’s ashes. Uh oh?? We asked Mum’s family, neighbours, anyone we could think of and nobody knew what had been done with Grandpop.

The next solution (hopefully) was to find the disposition of Nanny’s ashes and there would be Grandpop, right? No eureka here either ~ history had simply repeated itself albeit with a casting change when Grandpop died, it seems he had signed for and taken Nanny’s ashes just as Dad had with his.

I remain convinced that Grandpop took Nanny back to Scotland on one of his many trips, but I have no proof. It has always been my impression however, that she would have been happier in Dundee and if my conviction is true, it makes me feel that he knew it and made sure she got home. There is a family suspicion that Dad may have scattered Grandpop’s ashes over the St. Lawrence ~ in reality ~ we have no clue whatsoever ………..

Sunday, July 11, 2010

around the next corner

I am committed ~ since mid-afternoon a box has been sitting in my kitchen, in that box are about two dozen photograph albums ~ empty. Several lifetimes worth of photographs now reside in my living room waiting to be identified, sorted into logical groups, scanned and recorded onto cds for the family. A few of the albums were the horrible “sticky” kind and a good many of those pages will have to be scanned as a whole, then separated into individual pictures using PS. Once that is done, all the originals will go into proper archival albums. Somewhere in there I have to choose a suitable software for storage & publication.

As a child, I received a Brownie Hawkeye camera for Christmas and began to take many, many pictures. Soon I realized that they were disappearing, being sent “home” by Mum. To counteract that I created albums, labeled the pictures, captioned them , even dedicated the albums – today as I emptied those same books there were many vacant spaces, even in the captioned ones – or there were completely unrelated shots in place bearing my original captions. Later on I began to take slides and continued to do so when I graduated to a 35mm. The consequence of that last move is the need to print all those slides in order to include them in the project. Mum would have been flummoxed by digital cameras, God love her.

There is no target date because I have absolutely no idea how long this will take will let you know how it goes


around the next corner

Sometimes you get desperate.

A family name containing an apostrophe can be a problem,search engines may ignore or reject it and a plain old “google”will dredge up Latin languages posts ad infinitum containing “d’a”. On an evening when it seemed that all leads were exhausted I idly punched our name into the Canadian telephone database, expecting only one result (mine) – there were five.

And the feather arrived to knock me over.

Mine of course, two in the Ottawa area and two out west. Naturally I wrote to all of them (snailmail) and one more time, a phone call did it, this time a gentleman who knew EXACTLY how to pronounce our name –ie family.

Alex lives in Ottawa with his wife Mary, the other listings were their sons Alex, Billy and Graeme and they also have a daughter Mary.Here is more proof of the wrongness of the “we were the only immigrants” theory – Alex himself is an immigrant!

Hierarchically, Alex is second cousin to Dad, his daughter and two of his sons between them have seven children(and counting, hence our generation had gained another gaggle of 3rds, most of whom we met when invited to Alex & Mary’s 50th wedding anniversary party. Alex also has a brother Graeme & sister Betty in Scotland; Betty had done some family research and I stayed with her on a subsequent trip to the UK, first time I had been in Scotland – ever.


In talking family with Alex we untangled the relationship – Alexander (1853) D’All & Mary Jane McDowell had three sons :

George, born in Dundee in 1875 was Mary’s father, shown here with his wife Jessie Gow Robertson:

Samuel, born in 1876 was Alex’ (Ottawa) Grandad, shown with his wife Agnes Dryden Scrimgeour.

Alexander, born 1878 was our great-grandfather, with his wife Isabella Bruce.

Betty knew of a family grave and some history in Dundee and I made tentative plans to visit –my first time in Scotland. We were off!

Now that I think of it, had I been at all interested in extended family right out of high school , an incident on a short-lived job at an insurance company might have been more significant and most definitely would have blown the “only immigrant” theory right out of the water. Filing client cards I happened upon one with our family name; that night I asked Dad and his answer was “must be one of Alex’s boys, I heard one had come over” . He brushed it off as their being distantly related to Grandpop. I let it go – stupid. When I think of all the times our name was remarked upon as not having been seen before and our explaining that we were the only ones over here - grrr.

Unfortunately the mystery of why the three branches of the family failed to connect before this is one that will never be solved, anyone who knew why is no longer with us.

A plethora of Alexanders

Before this goes any further and everyone including me becomes thoroughly confused, we have a lot of Alexanders and a fair number of Georges in Dad’s family, just as we have a lot of Thomas’ and Williams in Mum’s Stockwoods (whole ‘nuther story  or two) .

. the earliest Alexander (so far ) in our direct line is our gg-grandfather born 1853;
. our g-grandfather’s eldest brother George 1839 had a son Alexander 1881;
. our Alexander 1853 had a son Alexander 1878 (g-grandfather and father of our Grandpop)
. that Alexander’s 1878 brother Samuel (one of the triumvirate) had a son Alexander 1900 who also had a son Alexander 1927 (the cousin in Ottawa) who also had, you guessed it, a son Alexander 1956 ………

…….sort of like the begats isn’t it??

The reason for our G-Grandfather being called “old Alex” had become apparent early on. There are probably others, mais trop c’est trop

Thursday, July 8, 2010

a guest blogger .......... and robins ...

We have a guest blogger: When Maggie saw the robin she sent me her full story about the wingèd creatures which I felt had to appear here.

Our family is by birth Celtic ~ Irish, Scots, Welsh …. we have by default inherited a love of music, a sense of destiny, a belief in the otherworld of fae and elf as well as a healthy respect for the unknown. I firmly believe in Maggie’s robins – Mum instilled a love of family in all of us and I cannot imagine her not watching over her brood.

Thank you Mag …


I remember when I was a
child; my mum would often say that when she died she wanted to come back as a bird so she could fly over all of us to watch us. Just one of those childhood things that sticks with you. In the few weeks following the terrible loss of our dear mum, when sitting in the livin
g room at the cottage I noticed that whenever I looked out the door, there was a robin sitting on the fence “looking” straight towards me. Then I found at home, in the back yard again on the fence, there was a robin “looking” at me. One morning as I walked the dogs before work, there was one hopping along the grass, jumping to each lawn as we went down the street. That’s when I knew, Mum was watching.

Four years ago we went to Wales to visit my mum’s sister. I was telling her about my robin and she, too believed it was her sister. She said they never had robins in her part of the country, but wished she would see one. A couple of months later, she called to say she was standing at the sink looking out at the beautiful old tree in the yard and what did she see…yes, a robin.

I continued to see my robin. Though obviously not the same one every time, there was just always one there… the city, the country, no matter where.

Then quite suddenly my darling aunt passed way. We were so sad; it was like losing Mum all over again. Her daughter called me a few weeks after and said that she and her dad were sitting chattin
g in the solarium, when they heard some rustling in the bushes outside She turn to look and not one, but two robins hopped from the brush!!

After that when I looked to the fence, or watched while walking there were two.

I guess one could say that if you are looking for them you are going to find them - that they are always around, but you just don’t notice them. It is probably true, but I like to believe Mum and Peggy are with me.

Then, last year Uncle Dennis, Mum and Peg’s older brother died. Poor old man, must have been so sad having lost his baby sisters and was gone fairly soon. No, I’m not going to say there were now three robins everywhere, but within days of his death, I was at the park with the boys. It is quite a large area and often there are flocks of seagulls, or Canada Geese landing and grazing on the soccer field. I was just standing as the boys sniffed every blade of grass, when I realized there were a lot of much smaller birds on the field. I walked over to find they were of course, robins. I am going to say 20 or 30, grazing. They stayed until we got quite close, then they flew off.

Since that day I have to
say that I don’t always feel like I am being followed by the robin.

Sometimes, of course, but not as frequently. To me, the large gathering was Mum and her family telling me that they were alright now, and she and her siblings were back with their beloved Mum and Dad who they had missed for so many years and they were happy. She still pops into check once in awhile, and I always say “Hi Mum” and then remind Sammy he can’t chase them!

These beautiful boys are a huge part of Maggie’s life, and were it not for her, heaven only knows where they would be. Maggie rescued Joe from an horrendous experience as a stray which left him scarred, blind in one eye and with shotgun pellets in his scalp.We will never know what actually happened, but he has come sailing through it all, sweet and gentle. Sam, poor Sam was in foster care, not because of mistreatment but because his owners were no longer able to care for him. Maggie took Joe to meet him, to see if they would be a “fit” – well, when they curled up together in the back seat of the car – he “fit”.

My sister and many like her save animals from fates they do not deserve.If you have room in your heart and in your home, think about rescuing one – two ???

Saturday, July 3, 2010

family around the corner ....

After having spent a fair amount of time on this earth, I have reached the conclusion that in the grand scheme of things, the only thing that actually matters is family. There may have been times way back when my thinking kind of skittered away from that fact, but I always came home. If you think about it, one works to support a family, votes to protect (hopefully) your family’s way of life, espouses causes to prolong or bring the planet back to what it once was – to save it for your family. Sooooo, pretty much everything you do ~ or at least I do, since I won’t speak for others ~ is essentially for family. We are eventually forgiven the lapses that occur in our late teens and twenties when we quite naturally became me-firsters.

Even though Mum’s family were in England and we were in Canada, there was a close relationship. Her sister Peg had one daughter and brother Den had seven children, and of the eight, only Den’s first son John is older than me. During the war, Mum and her sister-in-law lived with Gran ~ John and I were put to bed each night under the dining-room table to protect us from bombs if we could not be taken to the shelter in time. I once spent a holiday with his family before we came to Canada when I was nine. The next time I saw my cousins I was sixteen, then twenty-seven, then fifty-something – but –we were always in touch.

Which is why it is so difficult to understand that we knew nothing of Dad’s family in Canada.

Dad was an only child, so there were no aunts and uncles for us there. His Mum Nell had a brother Jim who flitted in and out of our lives as children. Jim had a daughter who was (rightfully I think) estranged from her father, so we never knew her. Grandpop of course had his three sisters, Ella in Vancouver who visited Montréal once, Lizzie in Dundee whose daughter Irene was mentioned occasionally and Jean, also in Dundee.

One of the first things I was to discover was that there are many, many more and not very far away …

family around the corner ….

Fifteen years ago give or take, an article of mine was published in our daily newspaper. There were several congratulatory calls, none of which prepared me for the one that opened with “are you young Harry’s daughter?” .. I am she, however only family would use the term - the few times I had heard it was when Grandad read us letters from Scotland – the gentleman went on to say that being young Harry’s daughter, I was then related to his wife.

He was Gordon and his wife was Anita, daughter of Mary – Mary proved to be first cousin to our Late Grandpop, Dad’s father and although Mum was aware that there was a connection she had no idea what it actually was. Mary’s name had been mentioned often when Dan & I were children, always in the context of one or the other of our parents or Grandpop having “run into Mary”, but never once was it said that she was family. Even more shattering to me was that Gordon & Anita had called from within walking distance of our home!

We got to know Anita and her family over the next few years. Mary had three children, one son Albert had gone to the Maritimes, another, Tommy to BC and Anita stayed here. At Mary’s 100th birthday party in 1995 we met relatives from both ends of Canada and from the USA . To think that we had grown up in this city, at times even on the same street, with family out there of whom we never knew just floored me. Anita’s children Donald and Maureen are of an age with Dan and myself ~ it might have been nice to have been friends with cousins in the neighbourhood as well as with cousins overseas.

Mary, whose story as I have come to know it I will tell you later, lived to the grand old age of 110. Anita, whose Gordon is also gone, is in her 90s now, very “with it”!! ~ I love her company J

We had been told all our lives that we were the only family to have emigrated – how wrong that impression was.

It was not until three or four years after this that I seriously dug into the family history. Mum had passed away after a lengthy illness, I had a hand-me-up computer from Liam and to be completely frank, I needed something to occupy my mind – this was it. So it was that I set off with absolutely no idea of how to proceed and funnily enough, it may have helped J Joined a genealogy message board mostly concerned with American ancestors and through the members learned what was out there and how to proceed. One of those “members” in Iowa remains a friend to this day, although we have never actually met.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Have you ever wondered where you came from??

Not the location so much, but the family? I had not until about 15 years ago when events led to the discovery of previously-unknown-to-me family living in my own city. Strange, but it happens more often that you imagine. Many people, although certainly not all, know where they were born and who their parents were, and a lot have had the pleasure of having known and loved their grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. I thought I knew of all mine, but as it turns out, I did not.

The task of compiling one’s family history can be at times ~ exciting ~ joyous ~ frustrating ~ surprising ~ satisfying ~ sad ~ a whole welter of emotions come into play. Our family story has been my preoccupation since that day and I thought it might be interesting and perhaps illuminating to describe events of all emotional bents, not the mechanics of the research, but the unexpected.

It continues to amaze me each time I uncover something new or realize that the family “stories” I have heard all my life are either simply not true or have become slightly warped over time.

When I began, all that I knew of outside our immediate family were the names of Dad’s grandparents, his aunts and his mother’s brother; as for Mum I had little more, even though I knew her great-grandmother’s name, being a Davies in Wales is akin to being a Smith elsewhere. Not to mention being a Linehan in Ireland. Dad had passed away in 1988, Mum was to follow in 1997 after I had developed my interest. Were I to offer one piece of advice to anyone embarking on a study, it would be to talk to the oldest member of the family before they are no longer there with their wealth of knowledge to impart.

Over these years down the research road I have accumulated data back to 1850 or so for Dad’s family and to the early 1700s for Mum’s. Oh, by the way, if you get the urge to travel this same road J live by the Boy Scout motto ~ BE PREPARED ~ you will amass reams of paper, if you do not have a spare room to use as an office, stay away from the dining room at the risk of losing it!!!

For clarity’s sake, ‘we’ are the three surviving offspring of Annie Linehan & Harry D’All; Dan & I were born in England as was our late sister Teresa, who died in infancy. Dan now lives in the USA and I am in Montréal as is my son Liam. Our baby sister Maggie was born in Westmount, Québec; she lives in Pickering , Ontario with her sons Tim and Tyler as well as her “Golden” boys Joe and Sam.

Our Dad’s family is of Scots (Dundee,Angus) & Irish (Cavan/Antrim) descent and Mum’s of Welsh (Glamorgan) & Irish (Cork).

I need to say this, the people I have “met” in the genealogy community, particularly Nancy in Iowa and the marvelous inhabitants of the Glamorgan mailing list, are amongst the most generous with their time, knowledge and expertise that it has been and continues to be my pleasure to know.

When recounting family history, the word “tree” comes into play with great regularity. This is a picture of my absolute favourite arbre which resides in the garden of our Late Aunt Peggy’s beloved Bryn Awel in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Behold my very own Faraway tree …