Category Archives: family history

New Year 2015: Projects

I’m not making resolutions per se this year, but I’ve started a few projects that will put some discipline in my life.

On the health front, I’m starting the 100 days of real food program. It’s 14 weeks of “mini-pledges” that (hopefully) turn into habits. This week I’ve pledged to eat two servings of fruit/veg with each meal which is only an issue for me at breakfast. I mean, not an issue, but it’s not a habit (yet.) I also have a few minor health issues that I should deal with in the new year.

On the reading front, I’m participating in a few online challenges and read-alongs. I’m a member of the Roundtable group at Goodreads, a newly formed group rising from the ashes of Bookish that was recently closed. Like Bookish, they do a bi-annual reading challenge and so I’ve made my plans for the next four months. (I won’t get them all read, but I’ve lined up a book for most of the challenges.). They’re also doing a year-long group read of The Novel: A Biography by Michael Schmidt (along with various novels discussed therein); and a two-month discussion of The Brothers Karamazov. We’ve got our next four books lined up for my IRL book club: Us Conductors (Sean Michaels), Chez l’arabe: Stories (Mireille Silcoff), All My Puny Sorrows (Miriam Toews), and Bad Feminist: Essays (Roxane Gay).

On the social front, I am committing to meeting some online friends/relatives in real life! Last year, it was wonderful to finally meet Zouheir’s (and now my) friend Jean-Paul Audouy, high school friend Judson Stone who I saw in Paris for the first time since high school, as well as sheep-farming cousin Tom Goddard. This has spurred me on to get together with a cousin on my father’s side, Lillian Orloff Spencer, in Arizona in February and another on my mother’s side, Audrey Groff, close to me here in the GTA later this month. I also commit to be better about keeping in touch with those closer to me but with whom I can go for weeks or months without seeing.

With JP at Volos in Toronto
With the Temiskaming Goddards in Barrie
With Judson in Paris

And finally, on the home front, I will be continuing the decluttering with Rosalind from Fresh Start Solutions and getting some renovations done. December was a great month for that, with a huge purge of our main floor, new fridge and wall oven, as well as a good start on the basement (which is currently the home of things to be consigned/sold in the next little while.) The biggest win for me here will be the creation of my study/studio with all my creative endeavours organized and ready to go.

What do you see looking forward this year? Any projects/resolutions?

Mining (a document) for genealogical gold.

I started my family history journey 30 years ago, specifically when I became interested in the Jewish side of my ancestry. I knew very little. My father (Franklin) was an only child, and both he and his mother (Vera Elstein) had died by then. Plus, his parents (David and Vera) had divorced when he was quite young and no information about his biological father was ever forthcoming. I knew from David’s marriage certificate that his father’s name was Myer Berkman (b. Minsk) and that his mother’s name was Adela. Her surname was not particularly legible but my best guess is Vaskoboynik.

At some point, I requested death information from the Province of Ontario and got a computer generated extract with the basics: name, date of death, parent’s names (no maiden name for mother). At the time, I’m not sure that one could request a photocopy of the actual death certificate and that it contained much more information of interest to genealogists.

Death Extract, David Berkman
Death Extract, David Berkman

Note the typos (“BERKHAN”, “BECKMAN”), the place of death as Cornwall, and undetermined marital status.

A few weeks ago, I submitted an online request and received the full statement of death.

Statement of Death for David Berkman
Statement of Death for David Berkman

It sent me off on a research journey and I seem to have discovered a branch of my family of which I was not aware.

The first thing I noticed was that David didn’t die in Cornwall as per the extract, but rather in Hawkesbury Ontario, and that his place of permanent residence was the (now demolished) Manitonna Hotel in Brockville. Originally a furrier, he had also been a merchant in ladies wear and millinery. So I supposed that he might have had a store in Brockville. While I was driving through the town on my way home from Montreal, I dropped by the Brockville Public Library and perused their business directories from the 1950s but couldn’t find him there.

Manitonna Hotel. Brockville Ontario
Manitonna Hotel. Brockville Ontario

The marital status field was not filled in, but the name of his ex-wife Vera (my grandmother) was there. I also noticed that the informant on the certificate was described as a nephew. This would imply that he had at least one sibling. Unfortunately, the signature of the informant is illegible.

I noticed from the certificate that he had been in Hawkesbury for a month when he died, and that he hadn’t worked for much of the previous year. So maybe he was living with this nephew. I did a Google search for [berkman hawkesbury] and the first hit was a Sadie (Berkman) Rubenstein (born Russia), who gave birth to a number of children in Hawkesbury after marrying Samuel Rubenstein in Montreal. And then I remember the legal matter.

In going through my father’s papers with my mother a number of years ago, I found an agreement dated 1957 between my father (Franklin Berkman) and a Frank Rubenstein (living in Kingston), regarding David’s estate. There seems to have been some issue with the settlement of the estate and my father would have been his father’s next of kin.

Back to Ancestry.ca and I find Samuel and Sadie Rubenstein’s first child was named Frank. The place of death address on David’s certificate was their home in Hawkesbury.

Sadie had (I believe) nine children. I spent some time finding marriages for (some of) them, births of children, death dates, etc. And it would appear that I have some second cousins living in Montreal. I used a couple of newspaper sites to search for marriages and obituaries. Here’s an example of one for one of Sadie’s children, Helena.

Helena Rubenstein wedding

This experience underscores the importance of locating original documents when doing genealogical research. I was able to discover an entire clan based on a couple of addresses and names, and the word “nephew”.

A parish statistician (1770)

I’ve been searching the terrific database of parish records for Cheshire and for each set of records that are uploaded, there are  notes from those doing the transcribing.

St. Mary’s Church Tilston – geograph.org.uk – 510742 (Tower from 15th century.)
In the parish of Tilston St Mary, I came across this one:

Since I have been Rector of Tilston there have been
Burials 737
Christenings 829
Weddings 209
May 16th 1770
(Signed) James Richardson Rector
More Christenings than burials 107
Ten Christenings for nine burials
Five out of nine live to be merries [marrried?]
17 females born for 10 males
About one in forty die in a year.

James Richardson MA was rector of this parish from 1719-1773.

If you’v got ancestors from Cheshire, have a look at the Cheshire Parish Register Database. The user-interface is not gorgeous, but once you get there, click on Database on the left hand nav-bar and then you can search by event (Baptism, Marriage, Burial)

Family Recipe Friday Redux

Last week, I posted some Christmas cake recipes from my grandmother, her mother, and her mother-in-law. I got messages from my mom as well as two of her sisters with more information about the traditions around these dishes.

My mom wrote (in the comments):

The dark fruitcake was used for birthdays – it had two eggs. However we had another fruit cake that called for a “pound of eggs”, about 10, and this was made only for Christmas and New Year and Lillian’s birthday, December 28!

Your e-mail brought back a lot of memories – of the whole family sitting around the kitchen table late November or early December making mincemeat!

Aunts Joyce, Edith, and Lilian at Edith's graduation from University of Toronto, 1956.
Aunts Joyce, Edith, and Lilian at Edith’s graduation from University of Toronto, 1956.

My Aunt Edith emailed me to say “When we were kids, the Christmas cake was made in 3 graduated tins – like wedding cake tins.  The largest cake was for Christmas, the middle-sized one for New Year’s (Lillian’s b’day?[December 28])  and when Joyce arrived the third one, for a few years, was her birthday cake. 

My Aunt Lillian wrote that the two larger fruitcakes were for Christmas and New Year and that she got the smaller one for her birthday, perhaps until my Aunt Joyce came along some years later in mid-January.

All three sisters remembered, as my Aunt Lillian put it, “the cheap fruit cake”.  Aunt Edith wrote “[The] other siblings’ birthday cakes were the much cheaper and less fruity (i.e. no peel, almonds, pecans, cherries, etc.) fruit cakes, the ‘fruit’ being basically raisins.”  My mother remembered that the cheap fruit cake had no eggs.

Of the mincemeat: My mother wrote that it was “not at all like the one you get in cans. We liked grandmas although we also liked the other. My father got a hamper from the place where he worked [Canada Packers] at Christmas and it included mince meat in a can.” Aunt Lillian noted that 1/2 the mincemeat recipe is enough to make 2 pies.

My uncle, James Ross Gear. (1934-1957)
My uncle, James Ross Gear. (1934-1957)

Aunt Edith also commented on the handwriting of the second and third recipes, which I did not recognize: I’m not sure who printed out the other two recipes, although my guess is that it was [my Uncle] Ross.  When he was at home with nephritis, he did a variety of things like knitting at least one scarf, hooking a rug, and so on.  I think he also began to copy  some of mother’s recipes on cards to fit into a recipe box.  However, the asterisk and ‘2 1/2 tbsp’ on the pudding recipe is my addition!  

My Uncle Ross died in 1957 of kidney failure at the age of 22, and so I never got to meet him. It feels nice to have something that he wrote, if that is in fact the case.

My grandparents William Gear, Daisy Goddard, and sons Ross and Bill.
My grandparents William Gear, Daisy Goddard, and sons Ross and Bill.

 

Workday Wednesday

I’ve recently been responding to some hints on Ancestry.com, those little green leaves that tell you that there are records in their database that may contain information about ancestors in your tree. In particular, I’ve been looking at the Rycroft family, my maternal great-grandmother’s mother Eliza Rycroft.

Eliza was born in 1842 and baptised in St. Oswald’s Parish, Chester in Cheshire, England in 1842. This parish was associated with the south transept of Chester Cathedral, inside the ancient walls of the city. Her family lived on Princess Street where her father Thomas was a pawnbroker. Her mother was Sarah Purslow. Eliza married James Dobb Price (also a pawnbroker) in 1866 and they lived next door to her parents. Eliza is noted as a grocer in the 1871 census. They had four children, the second of which was my great grandmother Emily Minnie Price.

Stephen Robert Goddard and Emily Minnie Price
Stephen Robert Goddard and Emily Minnie Price

Eliza died in her late 30s and the children were split up: the elder two lived with their grandmother next door and the younger two went to live with their father’s mother and her second husband, Thomas and Mary Ruscoe, in Toxteth Park (now Liverpool), about 30 miles away. A few years later, Minnie emigrated to Canada where she met and married my great-grandfather, Stephen Robert Goddard.

What interested me yesterday morning was that it became apparent that another Rycroft family member also came to Canada, specifically, the Toronto area.

Anne Rowe (1849-1904)
Anne Rowe (1849-1904)

Eliza was the first of five children born to Thomas and Sarah. Thomas William was born in 1848; Sarah Jane was born in 1850; John Stanley Ford was born in 1851; and Annie Eliza was born in 1854. Thomas is listed as a carpenter in the 1871 census. (Sarah and Annie work with their parents as “pawn brokers assistants”. John heads off to Lancashire to be an “assistant master” in a school.) Thomas sails for Canada on the Nestorian in the summer of 1872 and six years later, marries Ann Rowe in Toronto.

By 1881, they have a toddler (Annie) who dies shortly thereafter and an infant (Stanley) and are living in St. Patrick’s Ward where Thomas continues to work as a carpenter. By 1891, they have three growing sons (Stanley, Percy, and Jamie) and Thomas is now listed as a clerk. Jamie dies the following year at age 4 of diphtheria.

In 1901, Thomas is working as a clerk in a store and making $500 per year, well above others who live on his street. Stanley is a piano maker, making $200 per year, and Percy is a machinist, $200 per year. They are now living at 261 Church St (currently in the middle of Ryerson University) and Thomas is a warden at Holy Trinity (Anglican) Church. In 1904, Ann dies of general peritonitis.

Holy Trinity Church on Trinity Square, Toronto, c 1870-5.
Holy Trinity Church on Trinity Square, Toronto, c 1870-5.

I have been unable to Thomas Sr. in the 1911 census. But death records show that he died in 1912 of heart disease. He was living at 425 Wellesley Street.

In 1904, Percy marries Jean MacPherson and they have two children in the following two years, Dorothy and John. Then they move to Watertown NY where he is a collar-maker in the harness industry. I believe that they return to Canada but I haven’t verified this yet.

Stanley Rycroft (b.1881)
Stanley Rycroft (b.1881)

Stanley marries Frances Mabel Riches in 1907 and by 1921, they are living in Parkdale at 31 Prince Rupert Ave. Stanley works at Gourlay Winter and Leeming, a piano factory and makes $1560 per year. They have two children, Frances and James. I kwow that Gourlay Winter and Leeming go out of business in the 20s, so I’m not sure where Stanley ends up (yet.)

I haven’t taken this story much further, but I know that there are lots of references to Rycrofts in the local paper from those years that I haven’t begun to explore. Even better, I likely have some Rycroft cousins on this side of the Atlantic that I haven’t met yet. If you know or are related to any of these people’s descendants, please get in touch.

 

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Family Recipe Friday: Christmas Edition

When we cleared out my mother’s condo, I grabbed her recipe boxes with the intent of uploading the family favorites to share with my siblings.

I knew that there were a few cards in my grandmother’s handwriting that I wanted to save and possibly make. I’m one of the increasingly rare breed who love fruitcake and today share three Christmassy recipes.

The first is for Dark Christmas Cake. I recall these cakes arriving by mail (?) in Ottawa from my mother’s mom, Daisy Goddard, who lived in Toronto.

My Grandma Gear (Eva Daisy Goddard) in her kitchen on Nairn Ave, Toronto.

One day, I came home from school to find a syringe in the sink and the cake on the counter. My mother (a physician) had been injecting some kind of alcohol into it well in advance of Christmas so that it would have time to absorb the goodness. The recipe is in my grandmother’s handwiting.

Family Christmas recipes_0001

Next up is a recipe for Mince Meat from Daisy’s mother, Emily Minnie Price. Minnie was born in 1869 in Chester, England, the second of four children of James Dobb Price (bookkeeper) and his wife Eliza Rycroft (a grocer).

Emily Minnie Price
Emily Minnie Price

Minnie’s mother died in 1881 when she was twelve and she and her sister went to live with her maternal grandmother, Sarah Rycroft, and three of Sarah’s unmarried children, then in their 20s. Sarah was a pawnbroker with a shop at 26 Princess Street. The younger two children went to live with their paternal grandmother mother.

Minnie emigrated to Toronto in 1889 a couple of years after Sarah died and, two years later, married my grandfather, Stephen Robert Goddard. Here is her Mince Meat recipe: it has no instructions, just the ingredients, which was probably pretty common in those days.

A Christmas Pudding recipe labelled “Grandma Gear’s” was from my great grandmother Janet Forbes Morren. She was from Aberdeen and emigrated to Canada in 1899 where she married a Walter Gear in Calgary. Janet’s father, WIlliam Morren, was an engineer and was away a good bit of the time on steam ships. (The census regularly showed his civil parish as “Vessels”.) Janet’s mother, Barbara Gordon, died in 1886 when Janet was just eight years old, and she and her sister Margaret went to live with her older sister Williamina (who was 15 years her senior) in Edinburgh (then Leith North.) She ended up in Toronto (a long story for another time) and lived close by my grandmother and family.

Her Christmas Pudding recipe. Again, no instructions.

Family Christmas recipes_0002

Would love to hear from relatives who have stories or anecdotes about these recipes or these three women. The second and third recipe are in the same handwriting. Can anyone identify it? I hope to take a crack at the recipes in about six months.

Wednesday’s Child: Carole Orloff

Lillian Elstein was my grandmother Vera’s sister. Lally (as she was known) was born in Winnipeg in 1909. She married Conrad Orloff, an actuary, at the age of 20 and had two children, Warren and Carole.

Lally, Carole, and Warren Visiting family in Winnipeg, Aug 1937. (Winnipeg Free Press)
Lally, Carole, and Warren, Aug 1937. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Sadly, Lally and Carole were killed in a car accident in 1940 outside of Kansas City. The following item appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press shortly after the funeral service.

Winnipeg Free Press - June 13 1940
Winnipeg Free Press – June 13 1940

Mother and daughter were buried side by side in the Shaarey Zedek Cemetery, Winnipeg.

Grave of Lilian and Carole Orloff, Shaarey Zedek Cemetery, Winnipeg
Grave of Lilian and Carole Orloff, Shaarey Zedek Cemetery, Winnipeg

On a happier note, I have recently connected with Lillian Orloff Spencer, Warren’s daughter, and I very much look forward to meeting her in person some day.

Goddard Meet-Up

After connecting on Facebook a few weeks ago, I headed up to Barrie to meet a cousin in my Goddard line. Tom’s great-grandfather John and my great-great-grandfather William were brothers who emigrated to Canada from Kent, UK around 1870. They settled in Vespra Township near Craighurst (north of Barrie). Tom’s ancestors moved north to Temiskaming and mine moved south to Toronto. He and his wife Joy just spent some time in the UK, including Kent, visiting some of our ancestral towns, and since they were returning home through Toronto, it was a great time to meet up without the 6 hour drive! We arranged to get together at the residence of Lillian, widow of Ernest Goddard, another descendent of John, and Tom’s second cousin. She lives in Barrie in a retirement residence built on the site of the Royal Victoria Hospital where she was born.

I know….it’s complicated.

Family relationships
Family relationships

Tom came with his wife Joy and son Jon (who lives in Collingwood), and there were murmurs about maybe a Goddard family reunion sometime in the future.

The gathering.
The gathering. L to R: Tom, Lillian, Janet, Jon, Joy

waging-heavy-peace-coverFor my driving time today, I queued up my current audiobook, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young. When I first started listening to it, I was a little annoyed by what seemed like a lot of plugs for his various projects including Pure Tone (now Pono) and LincVolt. But as I continued into the book, I began to realise how passionate he is about these initiatives. The memoir is a kind of stream-of-consciousness thing, like he’s sitting next to you and reminiscing about his life. But it’s strangely compelling, and was the perfect antidote to the huge traffic mess that greeted me on my way home.

There was a terrible accident on the 400 today just south of Barrie. All traffic in both directions was diverted off the highway and what should have taken me twenty minutes (Barrie to Cookstown) took an hour and a half. Luckily, I had Neil chatting with me in the car and that kept me alert and interested. (The audiobook is read by Keith Carradine, who sounds great although not like Neil, and pronounces Sault Ste. Marie with the “l” sound in it.) But more about the book once I’ve finished it.

I’ll probably associate Tom and Neil and the scent of the lavender hand cream I bought on my way home in the same space in my brain.  And in honour of Tom (he’s a sheep farmer), I share something that I spotted in my Facebook feed tonight:

dog in sheeps clothing

 

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Onward to the past


For a variety of reasons, I haven’t been very active in the genealogy community here in Toronto for the past year and a half. But things are calming down and I made it out to the local branch meeting last night, spurred on by the change to hear Carolyn Abraham speak. She’s the author of The Juggler’s Children: A Journey into Family, Legend and the Genes that Bind Us that was recommended to me by a friend who is also researching her family history. She spoke compellingly of the advantages of using DNA sequencing in researching one’s family history and I’m excited to start reading her book. Abraham is a freelance journalist and in her role as a science writer, came face to face with the potential of genetic research while writing about the Human Genome Project. Her book will hit my reading list very soon.

The second half of the meeting was a mini-presentation about researching your family history through books. With vast numbers of volumes being digitised, there are a lot of resources online for finding and ordering or downloading books of family histories. In particular she mentioned the following sources:

The Internet Archive and their Open Library
Google Books
Pickering-Ajax Digital Archive

One of the attendees also mentioned Our Roots / Nos Racines as being an excellent source of local histories, and another recommended the Books collection at Family Search. I have also used Early Canadiana Online and Peel’s Prairie Provinces with great success.

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Seven Quick Takes – Who loves ya’?

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. I have to admit that after 30 years of marriage, Valentine’s Day has something of a been-there-done-that feel to it. We love each other madly, but really don’t need a day to revel in it more than we normally do. But here’s a shot from a year or so after we were married and spent six weeks in France and England. On the left is Zouheir’s younger brother.

    Jacques, me, Zouheir. Christmas 1984. Villeneuve-le-Roi, France
    Jacques, me, Zouheir. Christmas 1984. Villeneuve-le-Roi, France
  2. I’ve successfully found a home for the memorial cards I blogged about a few weeks ago. The contact I made through ancestry.ca resulted in a referral to a granddaughter of Samuel, one of the younger siblings of the deceased children. He moved with his wife to Winnipeg MB in 1915 and his granddaughter lives on the west coast. I’ve popped the cards into the mail for her.
  3. Last week, I booked a table at a downtown resto for tonight through the Opentable system. Earlier this week, I got a message from them saying that we were seated in the bar, there were no more spots in the dining room, and that we were limited to an hour and a half as they needed the table. I cancelled. And tweeted about it. The restaurant replied to my tweet saying “sorry for the confusion, it’s just an estimate for 2ppl that we try to communicate. You can take as long as you want.” Sorry. Too little too late. Sadly, i’m sure they’ll be fully booked tonight and really don’t care.
  4. We’re seeing Heartbeat of Home, part of the Mirvish subscription series, tomorrow night. This is not something I would buy single tickets for, but Richard Ouzounian gave it 4/4 stars so we’ll see what all the fuss is about. We’ve booked a table at Portico before, a new restaurant (to us).
  5. I’ve made contact with another branch of my ancestry! My maternal grandmother was a Goddard, and thanks to the intrepid work of members of the Goddard Association of Europe, I have connected with a third cousin who is a sheep farmer in northern Ontario (near New Liskeard.) My second great grandfather William and his great-grandfather John both emigrated to Ontario from Kent in the UK around 1870. The children of Willam came south to Toronto and his grandfather John Jr. went north to Temiskaming. Very exciting! We’re hoping to meet up sometime in March when he’s passing through Toronto.

    Great-grandmother Minnie, Grandmother Daisy, Great Uncle Percy, Great Grandfather Stephen
    My Goddard ancestors: Great-grandmother Minnie (Price), Grandmother Daisy, Great Uncle Percy, Great Grandfather Stephen
  6. House of Cards season 2 is now available on Netflix. This may be our Valentine’s Day watching tonight. Yesterday, President Obama tweeted

    Here’s the trailer for the new season:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBabKoHSErI

  7. I’m still loving my Bulletproof Coffee every morning. Check it out if you’re looking for a way to feel energized and productive. I’m gonna post more on this topic soon.

Lots more Seven Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!