September 2, 2014

More Questions Than Answers: The Fun of Genealogy Research

Yesterday I posted about my re-evaluation of an old record I obtained several years ago.  It can be read at In-depth Review of a Record Leads to a Genealogy Solution!
Carrying on with my new theory that my  ancestor Joseph McGinnis with wife Fanny, their baby daughter Bridget and Fanny's sister Margaret Downey, arrived in Quebec from Ireland sometime in late June or early July 1846.

My good friend Sue Swiggum of TheShipsList website, explained that the trip took on average 42 days then  new emigrants were encouraged to move out of Quebec city, and out of Montreal pretty quickly. Since Joseph was sent on from Montreal to Hamilton on July 9, 1846 I might expect him to have arrived by ship end of June or 1st of July.

Since I know the family came from Belfast and area, I decided to check British newspapers for notices of ship departures from that port to Quebec. I found several arriving on July 3rd but that would almost certainly be too late. Then I found a notice which looked like a possibility.

Friday 05 June 1846
Armagh Union. Monday 22 paupers left this place for Belfast to embark on the Belinda for Quebec  sent by the board of guardians by this Union. The emigrants were very comfortably clad, and otherwise equipped for their journey, and were accompanied by the efficient clerk to the Baord, Mr. M. McNeal Johnston and Mr. McCall, master of the house 

However Sue informed me that the Belinda didn't arrive in Quebec until July 20th so that ship is out of the running. She found two ships sailing from Belfast that seemed like good possibilities:

Arrival 24th June, ship MILTIADES left Belfast 14th May, with 391 passengers. Sue checked the Quebec papers and there were no more Belfast arrivals in later June issues. Checking the  9th July issue there were  no more ships arriving from Belfast.

There was an earlier arrival, on June 18th of the bark CHIEFTAIN, McEwine, from Belfast on May 1st with 182 passengers. 

The Miltiades looked like the best bet given it's arrival date just 15 days before Joseph and family were sent on at the expense of the government. I also checked Marj Kohl's Immigrants to Canada and found this reference to the Militiades:

Miltiades  from   Belfast     arrived 24 June.  21 people were sent on with assistance 

Since Joseph's name is on the list of those who could not afford to continue their journey and were transported out of Montreal to other settlement areas, things are looking pretty good for my Joseph McGinnis to be one of those 21 people sent on with assistance. 

There's a very nice transcribed ad for this sailing on the Irish Emigration Database

          THE Splendid First-class Coppered Ship,
             MILTIADES, of Belfast,

             674 Tons Register, 1,000 Tons Burthen,
                  WM. [William ?] GROOM, Commander,

To Sail, direct from Belfast, on TUESDAY, the 12th day
of May, on which day Passengers will require to be on board.
   This Ship's well-known superior accommodations, and
Captain Groom's kindess and attention to Passengers,
together with his great experience as a navigator, render
this conveyance most desirable for persons about to
   As the "Miltiades" is filling up fast, to prevent
disappointment, immediate application is recommended to
                    DAVID GRAINGER, Dunbar's-Dock.
   Belfast, 20th April, 1846.
A search of British and Irish newspapers provided me with the advertisement for the Militades in the Belfast Newsletter

The Irish Emigration Database also had this transcript for the Miltiades just prior to her sailing



          ALL persons who have engaged
      Passages in the Ship "MILTIADES,"
     are requested to be in Belfast, to go
     on board on TUESDAY, the 12th May, as
     she goes to sea the first fair [wind]
              DAVID GRAINGER, Dunbar's-Dock.

  Belfast, 4th May, 1846.

 The Miltiades will be succeeded by the splendid
new Ship "BELINDA," WM. [William?] KELLY, MASTER,
1,200 Tons Burthen, to sail for QUEBEC about the
25th of May; due Notice will be given of the exact
day of sailing.
 June 1846 saw the arrival of the Miltiades in this notice. No day was given.

 Arrived out at Quebec, the ship Miltiades, of
Belfast, Groom, master, after a quick passage
of 35 days-all well.

My search in British and Irish newspapers also brought up some interesting details of the Miltiades and her journey. The Belfast Newsletter of June 19, 1846 had a notice that the ship, having left Belfast on the 25th of May had been spotted by the Ruby Castle at Latitude 48 and Longitude 23

A check reveals its position was about 1/3 of the way on its voyage. It was about 630 miles from the coast of Ireland and about 1400 miles from Newfoundland. Interestingly, another notice in the May 16th edition of the London Standard indicates that the Miltiades left Belfast for Quebec on May 14. This sail date seems more in line with the advertised date of May 12th. Ships often left later than they hoped but a sail date of the 25th is almost 2 weeks late.

From Montreal, Joseph and family would have been given passage (paid for by the Government for indigent immigrants) on a steamer to Hamilton. According to Marj Khol's website:

The actual cost to the Department of an adult passage, with an allowance of 1 cwt. [Lorine's note: 1 cwt.=100 pounds] of luggage, from Quebec to Hamilton, a distance of 571 miles, is 20s. 9d., = 16s. 4½d. sterling. The time required is 72 to 80 hours.
I can imagine Joseph, Fanny, Margaret and the baby struggling on board a steamer with their trunks packed full of belongings - no doubt that included bedding, cookware, china, utensils, candles if they had any, perhaps pillows, items for the baby, and as much clothing as they could fit in to their trunks. They were very poor so may have had even less than I have listed here.

Once they reached Hamilton, Joseph and his family would have found life even more difficult. It was not until the summer of 1847 that the city discussed erecting a platform or gangway running into the water of Burlington Bay with a shed over it for use of immigrants. The Council also contemplated procuring a building to be used as a hospital and the erecting of sheds in case of sick immigrants arriving.  But I find no evidence that any kind of sheltering or assistance was in place in 1846.

The population of Hamilton in 1846 was under 10,000 and the large influx of impoverished Irish immigrants must have been overwhelming. Luckily Joseph had family members in Puslinch Township near Guelph so he had a few options for finishing the journey.

He might have had enough money, or been able to earn enough, to hire a cart or wagon to head up to the Guelph area. It is far more likely though that he and his family either hitched a ride with a returning farmer or sent for one of their McGinnis relatives to come down and get them.  It was another 30 miles to Guelph and Joseph's relatives lived in Puslinch which was on the way to Guelph. The road was rough and July is prime time for mosquitoes, so the journey must have been horrendous. It might have taken the family another 3 or 4 days to reach their final destination, depending how long they had to spend in Hamilton before continuing on.

In summary, I don't have proof of these suppositions. But they are my working theory based on what evidence and clues I have been able to find.  Thhe details, based on certain facts and best possibilities, help me to bring my ancestors to life. My great-great-grandparents are more alive for me today than ever before.

I will keep searching in hopes of finding facts to support my theory or disprove it. Meantime I treat my story above with caution, and advise any descendants to remember - it is just a story based on what few facts are available.

September 1, 2014

In-depth Review of a Record Leads to a Genealogy Solution!

Several years ago I sent for a transcribed record. It was for a Joseph McGinnis who was being sent from Montreal to Hamilton in July 1846. I hoped it was my ancestor who I knew had arrived from Ireland in Upper Canada (Ontario) between January 1846 and  September 1847. Since ships passenger lists to Canada did not have to be kept before 1865, trying to find an ancestor's arrival is challenging. 

However I was disappointed because the abstract recorded Joseph with two adult females and no children. Since I knew that Joseph and his wife Fanny came during the Irish famine with a daughter under the age of 1, this record could not be the right family.

I didn't have access to the original record so I set the record aside but didn't discard the idea completely that somehow it might be my Joseph. Perhaps the record was in error and should have read Joseph and 1 adult female and 1 child? That was my rather vague hope. With the record tucked away I moved on to other research but it was always in the back of my mind. 

This year I had a chance to view the actual image of the record set that contained Joseph's name. To my disappoinment, the page definitely showed Joseph and 2 Adult women being sent on to Hamilton at the Government's expense. 

I decided to study the document carefully. My first puzzle was the ditto marks (") in several of the columns. If I followed up to where the ditto marks began on Joseph's page, it seemed to indicate that the numbers in the 4 columns were: 1, 2, 2, 4. There were no column headings on the page with Joseph's name but the most logical thing would be if those columns showed Adult males, adult females and perhaps male and female children.if so, this was most definitely not my Joseph.

So off I went to find the first page of this record set. What I found confused me even more because the 4 column headings were: Adults M (male), Adults F (female), Male Adults, Female Adults.

Why would the clerk record adults twice? That made no sense. Because it made no sense I knew that there had to be a logical explanation. Perhaps the description of this record set would help. 

Before I tried to find the description I had another puzzle to solve. Some of the numbers were written in the first set of 2 columns, but some were in the second set. They were never in both.

I knew I need to scroll back through the microfilm until I found page 1. 

And there it was - the answer to my question. Reading very carefully and thinking about this description, the answer became clear. It was in the phrase  "shewing [showing] the adult persons single or in families..." Aha! The clerk needed to differentiate between married and single individuals. The columns were obviously for married adult men, married adult women, single men and single women! 

That also explained why some individuals were marked in Column 1 or 2 (they were married!) and others in Column 3 or 4 (they were single) 

But what about those ditto marks? A careful look at  the whole page showed that they could not be ditto marks because the totals added at the bottom would not work out. Those totals only worked by adding the actual numbers in each column and ignoring the ditto marks. 

It was pretty obvious now that what I thought were ditto marks (") were something else. And in fact a better look at the very last column for destination showed that the clerk used "do" for "ditto". Those marks (") meant zero, that is, no number in that column. 

And then came the biggest AHA! moment of all! This record set only recorded the numbers of adults traveling westward! It did not record numbers of children in the family. 

Going back to Joseph McGinnis and his record I took another look. A theory was popping into my head and I wanted to be sure I understood his record before formulating it aloud.

The original abstracted transcript I had received several years before was correct. Joseph McGinnis and 2 adult females were being sent on from Montreal to Hamilton on July 9th 1846. But the very important fact that had not been sent with the transcript was that the number of children in families were not recorded! 

This could easily be my Joseph with his wife Fanny and baby daughter Bridget. As for the second adult female, I have a very good possibility for that woman. Joseph's brother Daniel married a woman named Margaret Downey in Upper Canada in late 1846 or early 1847. My Joseph McGinnis' wife was Fanny Downey. I have always theorized that Margaret and Fanny were sisters but have not yet been able to prove or disprove this theory. 

If I go with this theory then  there is a very good possibility that the adult female travelling with them was Fanny's sister Margaret.

The last clincher is the fact that my McGinnis family had strong ties with the Hamilton community. As well that would be the only way to get to the Guelph area in 1846 - by taking a steamer west to Hamilton or going by land, and then taking the only road north which was between Hamilton and Guelph.

Thus it makes sense that Joseph would be sent to Hamilton and from there he would have to arrange a cart or coach to continue on to the Guelph area. 

I believe this is quite likely a record of my Irish ancestor's arrival from Ireland at the height of the Irish Famine. I will of course continue to research my theory by  looking for other records to support or disprove it. 

What did I learn from this? 

1. Always try to find the original, unaltered record
2. Study the original record. Analyze it. Question it. 
3. Study the record again. Make sure you completely understand how it was recorded and why it was recorded.
4. Develop a theory based on that record and seek evidence to prove or disprove your theory
5. Never give up - pull out records you found years ago and go through them again.

August 31, 2014

Sharing Memories Week 35: Back to School

Sharing Memories Week 35: Back to School
Here is a Challenge for all genealogy bloggers. Keep a weekly journal called Sharing Memories. Some of you may recall that in 2010, 2011 and 2012 I provided weekly prompts to help with recording our memories of ancestors and our own childhood.

If you missed this weekly series called Sharing Memories you might want to have a look and see if any of the prompts are helpful to you.

This week's prompt is Back to School

What was it like for you the week or weekend before school started up again after summer holidays? Did you get lots of cool notebooks, pencils and pencil crayons? Did your mom buy you that backpack you wanted?

We didn't have anything special for back-to-school like they have now. All I ever got was new binders, 3 ring lined paper and a few pencils and pens. But I was happy. Remember those little adhesive white rings with the hole in the middle that you put to reinforce your 3 ringed notepaper? I loved those silly things!

I was wishing I had some of them today when a Recipe binder I use lost its first page because the holes ripped from use.

August 30, 2014

Nursing Sister Philips WW1 Photo Album p. 10

This Photo Archive consists of a small autograph album (6.5" by 5.25") kept by Constance (Connie) Philips as a memento of her time serving as a nurse during World War One.  

The majority of the photos and items are from 1915, when she served as a nurse in France and Britain. 

The album and all photographs, postcards, and other ephemera contained in the album belong to Karin Armstrong and may not be copied or republished without her written permission. The images will be published on Olive Tree Genealogy with permission. 

Each image has been designated an "R" for Recto or a "V" for Verso plus an album page number. Recto is the right-hand side page of a bound book while Verso is the left-hand side page. 

I will be posting the entire album and my additional research on the individuals identified in Connie's album over the coming months so please check back frequently to view these historic photos. The easiest way to see what has been published is to click on the topic "Nursing Sister WW1 Photos" in the vertical menu bar on the right side of your screen. You can also click on that phrase at the bottom of this post.

Nursing Sister Philips WW1 Photo Album p. 10
10R Ward Inspection

10V Group outside a hut

August 29, 2014

Death of a Stranger Solves a Family Mystery 103 Years Later

The stranger checked his pocket watch. Almost 9:15 pm. The train from Milwaukee should pull in to the Missoula train station any minute now. He began to gather his belongings - two large suitcases full of his wallpapering and painting tools. In 1911 it didn't do to leave your luggage out of your sight so he tried to keep it by his feet whenever possible.

When the train stopped, the man picked up his luggage, ignoring the twinge of pain across his chest. He was a short man, only 5' 8" and heavy, weighing almost 215 lbs. At 55 years old he figured he wasn't in as good shape anymore and wasn't surprised that his chest and arm ached.

Carrying these suitcases as he went door to door looking for odd jobs was enough to make anyone have aches and pains! He was a drifter and went from town to town in the Western states, barely making enough to pay for his travel expenses. But that was how he had chosen to live.

He liked being alone and going places where no one knew who he was and the cries of "There goes Nigger Joe!" FN no longer rang in his ears. For that was what the townspeople called him in the town where he grew up. His grandfather, a free man of colour from Pennsylvania, married an Irish woman and his father married a German woman so he could, and did, pass for white among those who had not known his family.

It was growing dark and was drizzling a bit, so he picked up his pace. Even though it was a comfortable 67' he was sweating as he hurried towards the stairs to the Higgins Avenue Bridge.  Trudging up the stairs he noticed he was out of breath and his chest was tingling with bursts of sharp pain. He hoped he'd find a room to rent fairly close by once he crossed the bridge into town.

The bridge was crowded with townspeople but he barely noticed as the pain in his chest increased. Halfway across the bridge, he stopped and set down his heavy cases, gasping for breath as a lightning jolt of pain hit. He leaned against the railing and then suddenly fell and lay there, not moving. A woman screamed and a few men rushed to him to see if they could help him up. But the stranger lay dead. One of the men shook his head and told his friend to run and get Doc Walsh or the town police.

The body was taken to the Undertaker where Doc Walsh went through the man's belongings. Letters revealed that his name was Joseph E. Butler and he had relatives in Grafton North Dakota. A telegram was sent to the local police in Grafton and a brother came forward. Jake Butler provided the police with Joseph's wife's name and address in Seaforth Ontario Canada and a telegram was sent to her. While we do not have that telegram we can imagine what it said

Regret to inform you of passing of your husband Joseph E. Butler. Please advise what to do with body.
It must have been a shock to Carrie Butler, his wife. Joseph had deserted the family about 10 years earlier and had not been heard from since.  He left behind his wife and 6 children ages 7 to 20. There was no love lost between Carrie and Joseph and in later years she would not talk about him or his disappearance, only saying "he went out west" when asked by her granddaughter Mary. Nothing more was said and no one had the nerve to ask Carrie for details. Again, while we don't have the telegram Carrie sent back to Missoula, we can imagine her terse words

Bury him in Missoula
And so Joseph E. Butler, my husband's great-great grandfather, was buried alone in the Missoula Cemetery in Missoula Montana. It took me over 15 years to find his death but last night was my genealogy breakthrough. I followed a hunch I had that he had ended up in North Dakota near his brother Jake, and finding a grave online for a J. E. Butler prompted me to look for records of this J. E. Butler. None were found, it was as if he had come out of nowhere. No census, no marriage, no sign that he had ever lived in or near Missoula Montana. So why was he buried there and with an actual marker?

A phone call by my husband's cousin Judy to the Cemetery and to the Funeral Home that handled his autopsy and death provided us with the following information:

Name Joseph E. Butler. Died May 17, 1911. Place of death Missoula Bridge. Coroner said Heart Disease. No name of coroner. Buried May 27, 1911. Paid cash but no name of who paid. 

The Daily Missoulian, May 18, 1911, p12
With that I went on a hunt for a death certificate or newspaper notice, something that would give us a place of birth or spouse's name. I still was not sure this was "our" Joseph at this point. At that is where luck and friends came into play. I found an index entry to a newspaper death notice placed in The Missoulian on May 18th and put out a request on Facebook for anyone with access to this edition to copy and send it to me. 

At the same time I began a search online and found that the Missoulian was available for free at Chronicling America. As I was pulling up that date, a Facebook friend sent me the article.  I eventually found 3 articles about Joseph and his lonely death in Missoula on the Higgins Avenue Bridge. 

Our cousin Judy mentioned how said it was that he died alone, but I don't think it was the saddest part of this story, for he chose the life of a drifter. 

For me the sad part was that his granddaughter Mary (my husband's grandmother) is not with us to learn what happened to her grandfather. It was a mystery she longed to solve and I would have loved to share this with her.

And so the story ends. 103 years later, Joseph has been found. Perhaps one day we may be able to visit his grave in Missoula and pay our respects.

FN This description of the nickname the townspeople had for Joseph came from the grandson of a man who knew Joseph personally. 

The Daily Missoulian., May 19, 1911, Morning, Page 10
The Daily Missoulian., May 23, 1911, Morning, Page 10,

August 27, 2014

Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old

Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old
A Typical Archeology Dig
This is fascinating. Archeologists  uncovered a  circular structure near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, which dates back to the Stone Age 8,500 years BC. It was found next to a former lake and predates the dwelling previously thought to be Britain's oldest, at Howick, Northumberland, by at least 500 years.

The team said they are also excavating a large wooden platform made of timbers which have been split and hewn. It is thought to be the earliest evidence of carpentry in Europe.

It's fun to think about the possibility that one of your ancestors lived in this house! If you have ancestors from Scarborough Yorkshire this is certainly a possibility. My daughter-in-law has roots that go back to that area so it's interesting to speculate.

Have you researched the history of your house? Two years ago I researched the land where we built our home 16 years ago and that was fun. It used to be a large farm piece of property which was severed over the past 100 years. It was fun to look up the previous owners in census records.  Next I want to research the old homes I lived in when I was in town, especially the house that was haunted!

Read more at Oldest house in Britain discovered to be 11,500 years old

August 26, 2014

Sneak Peek at Season Finale of Who Do You Think You Are?

Image Credit: TLC
The season finale of Who Do You Think You Are? Airs Wednesday August 27 at 9/8c

Who Do You Think You Are? is a TLC TV series sponsored by

Lorine's Note:
I  watched a Screener Video of this episode which TCL kindly sent me and although I cannot divulge much of what is in it, I can tell you that the Season Finale is going to be mind-blowing! I'm going to watch it again when it airs tomorrow night.  For now, here's a little summary of some of the happenings:

Minnie Driver sets out to learn more about her secretive father and traces the highs and lows of his career in the Royal Air Force during World War II. 

Through military documents, she comes to understand why her father was the way he was, and how his combat experience impacted the rest of his life. 

Since Minnie never met her paternal grandparents, she follows the trail in England until she comes face-to-face with the very first relative she’s ever met on her father’s side, and finds a kindred spirit in a family member she never knew about.