September 18, 2014

WW 1 Photo Album Archive page 25

Continuing on with my WW1 Photo Album archive here is the 25th page in my mother's cousin Doris Simpson's album.

WW 1 Photo Album Archive page 25
Simpson Photo Album Toronto Ontario Canada ca 1920s
There are only 2 photos on this page. In the photo on the left I am fairly confident that is my Grandmother Ruth (Simpson) Fuller Richardson Bates (the taller woman). The photo on the right is Doris herself (with the tie at her neck) and I think that is her mom Cordelia (Cook) Simpson standing beside her.

September 17, 2014

Crowdsourcing for Genealogy - What Does the Record Say?

Today I am crowdsourcing from other genealogists. An 1805 record for my ancestor John Greenlees has me stumped. There is one word I cannot figure out. My husband and I have spent hours going over it and comparing it to other words on the record page in hopes of understanding the clerk's letter formations.

Now it's time to ask for help. Here is the cropped image. My ancestor is John Greenlees from Fermangh Ireland. The word I cannot read is the top line. It is the word after Fermangh and it is in the column heading "Where Born: Parish"

Crowdsourcing for Genealogy - What Does the Record Say?
I have looked at the parishes and townlands in Fermanagh - and there are a lot! I still cannot figure out what that word says.  We think, after much deliberation, that the first letter might be "A".

To compare the letter formations, here is the complete record page. I hope someone more familiar with the places in Fermanagh or with a better eye than I have, will be able to help. You can also view  a larger image here. You can enlarge it with the magnifier when it loads. Thank you for any ideas!

September 16, 2014

Scanning Family Photos to Reveal Genetic Disorders

There's an interesting article on Newsweek called Scanning Family Photos Can Reveal Rare Genetic Disorders

Scanning Family Photos to Reveal Genetic Disorders
Software for Scanning Faces for Genetic Disorders
According to the article, research led by Dr. Nellaker and Prof. Zisserman at the University of Oxford has have developed software that can detect the risk for genetic disorders in children, such as Down and Treacher Collins syndromes, just by scanning old photographs of their family members.

30 to 40 percent of genetic disorders involve detectable abnormalities in the cranium and face. The Oxford project, called Clinical Face Phenotype Space scans family photos and cross-references them with a database built from images of people with known genetic disorders. 

The algorithms and other details are explained in the Newsweek article. It's an intriguing concept and  I'll be watching this project to see what new developments, if any, occur.

September 15, 2014

DNA Gave My Husband a Completely Different Great Grandfather

A few months back I wrote about a surprising DNA match with my husband in a post called DNA Results Leave us Gob-Smacked! 
DNA Gave My Husband a Completely Different Great Grandfather
Comparison of hubs' mother's DNA with Alice
Hubs and another man were a .64% match with a predicted relationship of 2nd or 3rd cousin. I don't have permission to use his name so I'll call him John. John's family tree showed no surnames that matched hubs. Emails to John revealed that he was born in the same small town as hubs and his ancestors had settled there many generations prior, just as hubs' ancestors had done. 

A 2nd cousin match meant that John and hubs probably shared a great-grandfather, while a 3rd cousin match meant they shared a 2nd great-grandparent.

I was puzzled, as we had researched hubs' genealogy several generations back without seeing any link to John and his lines. John also had done extensive research on his lines several generations back. We knew who hubs' and John's great and 2nd great grandparents were - and they were not the same. 

John was as intrigued as we were, so our next step was to have John's mother and hubs' mother tested. We also tested hubs' father just in case the match was on his side. The DNA results were in - hubs matched John's mother (let's call her Alice) with 3.00% shared. Because we had also tested hubs' mother and father, we knew if matches were on his maternal or paternal side. It was conclusive - it was on his maternal side. 

A look at the matches for hubs' mother showed that she matched Alice (John's mother) with 6.9% shared and was estimated as a 1st or 2nd cousin. First cousins share grandparents, while 2nd cousins share great-grandparents. 

Comparison of hubs' mother's DNA with John

Since DNA doesn't lie, I had a closer look at John's family names, especially the names of his great-grandparents on his mother's side. John's great-grandparents were George Cooper & Sarah Jane Jickling. Suddenly I remembered a little tidbit of family lore that had passed on from hubs' grandmother on his mom's side. His grandmother had always claimed that hubs' grandfather Bert Holden was not really the son of Bristol Holden because Bert's mother Elsie Phyllis Markham had been "fooling around with the hired man named Cooper" If this were true it meant that hubs' great grandpa (his mother's grandfather ) was not Bristol Holden but someone named Cooper. 

Bingo! It looked like that family rumour might be true. I began researching the Cooper family in and around St. Mary's and found lots of supporting evidence for the rumoured parentage of Bert Holden. 

At the time Elsie became pregnant with Bert (August 1917) one of George and Sarah Cooper's sons lived beside Elsie Markham's brother Albert. One of George and Sarah's sons and a nephew lived beside Bristol Holden on his farm just outside of town. Who better to be "a hired hand" on the farm of Bristol Holden than either the son or the nephew?

Elsie married Bristol Holden 7 months before Bert was born.  She was 19 years old and had only arrived in Canada from England 4 years earlier. Her only family was two brothers one of who was killed 10 days before Bert was born.  Elsie was orphaned at 6 months of age and passed from relatives to strangers until her oldest brother (who was a Home Child sent to Canada at the age of 11) saved enough money to send for her in 1913. 

It seems very likely that poor Elsie found herself pregnant, either from the married son of George and Sarah Cooper or (more likely) the unmarried nephew, who according to John's mother Alice, was a known "rogue". Given her situation she no doubt was happy to marry Bristol. Did he know the baby was not his? We will never know. Elsie may have told him. Or she may have initiated some intimate moments with him, then told him she was pregnant. He would of course assume the baby was his. 

In the end it doesn't matter what the details are. We cannot blame Elsie. It was 1917 and she was a  pregnant unmarried girl. She had few choices. By all accounts she and Bristol had a happy marriage and she was a good mother. In the end that is what matters.

But back to the nephew. If he was Bert Holden's biological father, then Alice and hubs' mother are 1st cousins twice removed. Allice's grandparents were George Cooper and Sarah Jickling and this same couple would be hubs' mother's 2nd great-grandparents. 

The line of descent would then be:
  • George Cooper (1843-1922) & Sarah Jickling
  • George's son Herman Cooper (1873-1958) & Caroline Martin
  • Herman's son Gordon Alfred Cooper (1899-1970)
  • Bert Holden
  • Hubs' mother
  • Hubs
 Our theory is that Gordon Alfred Cooper was the biological father of Bert Holden. We are continuing our research to try to prove or disprove this theory. We may never find out whether it was George or one of his uncles or his father but we do know that George & Sarah are direct ancestors of hubs' mother.  We have eliminated some sons and grandsons of George & Sarah as being too young or too old. We have narrowed the suspect list to those with the closest proximity and who might have been "the hired hand" on the Holden farm in 1917.

One last item is that we have seen a photo of Gordon Alfred Cooper's legitimate daughter and there is a striking resemblance to hubs' mother at the same age. Just one little tantalizing bit more to add to the puzzle.

I would love to find some descendants of Caroline Martin's parents George King Martin & Hannah Robinson, have their DNA tested and see if they match hubs' mother. That should tell us if Bert's biological father is indeed Gordon Cooper or if we need to eliminate him and look at his uncles again.

September 14, 2014

Certificate Frederick Swindells, a Power Loom Overlooker Found

 This lovely print was discovered in a local antique shop yesterday and I wanted to share it in case a descendant wishes to purchase it.

The handwritten label, signed by 3 men, reads:

This is to certify that Fred W. Swindells was admitted a member of the above General Union in the Leigh District on the 5th of July 1907

The bottom of the certificate reads  

"Campbell & Tudhope  Chromo Lith  Glasgow"

The Union is the General Union Associations of Power Loom Overlookers. The seller is asking $250.00 and the Antique Store is the Barrie Antiques Centre in Barrie Ontario Canada.

Being the curious sort I couldn't resist looking for Fred W Swindell on To my delight I found him in the 1911 census with his wife Emily.

He is listed as a Silk & Cotton Weaving Overlooker, age 25 and born Macclesfield, Cheshire, England but living in the Leigh District of Lancashire England.  His full name is recorded as Frederick William Swindell.

Wondering how his certificate ended up in Ontario Canada I checked immigration records on and found him visiting England in various years - and listed as a citizen of Canada. So it appears he settled in Canada at some point in time.

Update: I just found Emily Swindells arriving in Canada in 1921, heading to join her husband in Guelph Ontario. That is where both my parents were born and my roots there go back to the 1840s.

September 13, 2014

500 Child Skeletons from Irish Famine found in Workhouse Grave

500 child skeletons from Irish famine found in grave
Seven years ago the skeletons of 500 children buried in a mass grave in what was once the Kilkenny Union Workhouse.

545 children were buried within the grounds of the Kilkenny Union Workhouse between 1847 and 1851, two thirds of whom were under age six when they died. Studies on the teeth revealed that scurvy was rampant among the children

Skeletal studies found that all of the infants between six and twelve months – and three quarters of the children between one and twelve years of age – had been affected by stunted growth.

Read more at 500 child skeletons found in workhouse mass grave tell of struggles during the Great Hunger

Image credit: wikimedia commons Irish Famine

September 12, 2014

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice: The Saddest Place in London England

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice: The Saddest Place in London England 

Recently I stumbled on a fascinating and moving blog post called The Saddest Place in London: A Story of Self-Sacrifice

The article on is about a little corner of London England called Postman’s Park, where, to quote from the blog post:
On a stone wall, underneath a makeshift overhang, are a series of ceramic plaques, each one painted beautifully with the names of people who died while trying to save the lives of others.
Take a moment to see the plaques and read the stories.  

Image of plaque for Solomon Galaman in Postman's Park, London England on

September 11, 2014

Franklin Expedition Ship Found After 169 Years!

Franklin Expedition Ship Found After 169 Years!
HMS Terror
Queen Elizabeth sent her congratulations to all Canadians a few days ago. Why? Because we found one of the lost ships from the Franklin Expedition after 169 years! Searchers are not yet sure if they have found HMS Erebus or HMS Terror.

The two ships of the Franklin Expedition and their crews disappeared during an 1845 quest for the Northwest Passage.  They were the subject of many searches throughout the 19th century, but the mystery of exactly what happened to Franklin and his men has never been solved. All 128 members of the Expedition died when their ships became locked in ice while exploring the Arctic in a search for the Northwest Passage.

Inuit testimony in the late 1840s  claimed that one ship sank in deep water west of King William Island, and one ship went perhaps as far south as Queen Maud Gulf or into Wilmot and Crampton Bay. The location of this wreck backs up that testimony which was widely discounted previously.

Earlier searches had discovered the bodies of a dozen or so men from the Franklin Expedition on King William Island. Watch a video about the discovery of the wonderfully preserved mummies at Franklin Expedition Mummies

A search team made up of a partnership between Parks Canada, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Arctic Research Foundation, the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy and the government of Nunavut made the discovery.  They confirmed it on Sunday using a remotely operated underwater vehicle recently acquired by Parks Canada. They found the wreck 11 metres below the water’s surface.

Since 2008, Parks Canada has led six major searches for the lost Franklin ships. Four vessels — the Canadian Coast Guard ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Royal Canadian Navy’s HMCS Kingston and vessels from the Arctic Research Foundation and the One Ocean Expedition — led the search this summer.

Read more and watch videos at Long-lost ship from Franklin expedition found and at Lost Franklin expedition ship found in the Arctic