Category Archives: family history

Rycroft – Price Memorial Cards

Further to yesterday’s post about the Pritchard family In Memoriam cards, I thought I’d write about the other two cards that were found along-side them, those of my ancestors.

In Memory of John Stanley Ford Rycroft.
In Memory of John Stanley Ford Rycroft.

John Stanley Ford Rycroft was my maternal great-grandmother’s uncle. He was born in 1851 in Chester, England, the son of Thomas Rycroft, a pawnbroker. He appears to have lived much of his life on Princess Street, taking up his father’s profession, with a brief appearance on the 1871 census as an assistant master at Grammar School House in Farnworth.

Farnworth Grammar School

The record of probate shows that he left an estate of £4032 to his widow, Elizabeth Rose. He does not appear to have had children and his sister Annie Eliza lived with he and his wife, and worked as his assistant.

The other memorial card was for Arthur Rycroft Roscoe Price, my great-grandmother’s brother.

In Memory of Arthur Rycroft Roscoe Price
In Memory of Arthur Rycroft Roscoe Price

My great-grandmother’s mother died sometime before 1881, and the two younger children (Arthur and Edith) went to live with their maternal grandmother’s second husband in Toxteth Park, now Liverpool. (Yeah, it gets complicated.) The eldest two, Frances Amy and Emily Minnie, remained on Princess Street in Chester. Frances was a teacher and eventually became an Anglican nun. My great-grandmother Emily Minnie emigrated to Canada in 1889 where she met and married my great-grandfather, Stephen Robert Goddard, two years later.

Edith remained in Lancashire and worked for a baker (1901).

Wilson's Homemade Bread& Cakes, Garston
Site of Confectioner at 81 St. Mary’s Rd, Liverpool where Edith worked for owner Joseph Helsby.

Arthur married and is listed in various censuses as a tobacconist and a cycle-maker’s clerk. He had two daughters, Amy and Florence. He died relatively young at age 50 in 1922, leaving an estate of £440 pounds to his widow, Hannah Jane Mitchell.

If you are related to any of the above, then you’re related to me! Please leave a comment or contact me to share information.

Seeking descendants of William and Emily Pritchard, of Chester.

After yesterday’s heartening results of reaching out through social media with the letters from Barnardo’s, I’m going to try this again.

Some months (years?) ago, I was given four death announcements by one of my aunts who had found them in my grandmother’s trunk. Two were for relatives and two were for unknown (to me) persons, a brother and sister. I wondered why my grandmother had these, but as it turns out, they were neighbours of her maternal grandparents in Chester, England. These latter two are reproduced here:



William and Emily (Hewitt) Pritchard of Chester, England, lost two children 6 months apart. On 19 Nov 1884, their daughter Annie Eliza died at age 9 years and 6 months. On 17 May 1885, their son Charles Norton drowned in the River Dee. Both were interred in Chester Cemetery.

I tried to make contact with someone on who appeared to be descendants of this family, to no avail. I will try again, linking to this post.

Their story as I can understand it through some research:

William Pritchard was a 32 year old bricklayer in Chester on the 1871 census and lived with his wife Emily (aged 28) and their 1-year-old son Charles at 4 Albion Street. On the 1881 census his son is now 11 and his daughter Annie appears (aged 6). They live at 20 Princess Street, next door to my Rycroft ancestors who are at number 22. Both Charles and Annie die between census years 1881 and 1891. On the 1891 census, William and Emily have three children living with them: Joseph (19), Samuel (10), and Minnie (6). They are living at 25 Raymond Street. So Joseph, identified as an Assistant Ironmonger,  appears to have been missing from the 1881 census. In fact, I found him listed as a visitor with Sarah and Samuel Hewitt, sister and brother, and probably his aunt and uncle as his mother’s maiden name was Hewitt. They lived at 5 Volunteer Street.

In 1901, William (62), Emily (56), and Minnie (16) are living at 35 Raymond Street and William is “living on his own means”.

William dies on 23 April 1910, leaving an estate of £2138 to his widow Emily and to David Lythall Hewitt, shoe manufacturer, likely a relative of Emily’s. William’s address is noted as 5 Volunteer Street.

In the census of 1911, Emily is noted as widowed and still living with Samuel and Minnie, now at 7 Volunteer Street. Emily is noted as having “Private Means” and Samuel is a Draper’s Assistant.

Of personal interest are the names in this story. My great-grandmother’s name was Emily Minnie Price (b. 1870). She would have been the same age as Charles, and a next-door neighbour, so likely a playmate. (My) Emily’s father was a bookkeeper and her mother was a grocer.  her mother Eliza Rycroft dies in 1881 and Emily and her siblings continue to live on Princess street with her widowed grandmother, Sarah Rycroft, a pawnbroker.

Emily Minnie Price
Emily Minnie Price, my maternal great grandmother.

This is a cup that has been passed down to me.

Cup reads Emily Minnie Price, 24 Princes (sic) Street, Chester

If you are related to this Pritchard family and would like the In Memoriam cards, please get in touch!

Letters to a Home Child – Genealogy Karma

Wow. Within moments of submitting yesterday’s post to the Families of British Home Children Facebook group, I had genealogists searching for more information about home child Violet Turner.

I worked well in to the night on a timeline of Violet’s life, mainly using to search for vital statistics and immigration information.

Then, early this morning, I had a reply from a gentleman who is related to the man Violet married, Gordon Bancroft, also a home child. The letters will go to him.

In brief, this is what I was able to learn about her. [The links below are to documents in and I’m not certain that they are available unless you have an ancestry account.]

SS Dominion (postcard)

Violet Turner was born in 1895 in England. She arrived in Canada on the SS Dominion with a large party of Barnardo children on 12 August 1905. Her name is on the Hazelbrae Memorial in Peterborough in the “1905 Girls” section.

She married Gordon Bancroft on 2 April 1915, using the name May Turner. The marriage certificate identifies them both as Baptist and they are married at the Methodist parsonage in Appin, Middlesex County, Ontario. The first letter to Violet from Barnardos in response to her inquiry about her parentage arrives 18 Dec 1916. Attestation papers show that Gordon enlists in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on 26 Dec 1916 and is identified as Roman Catholic. The 1921 census shows Violet living in Springfield Village, Elgin County, with three children: James R (5), Annie M (3), and Everet G (1), but I cannot find birth registration information for any of them.  Gordon dies on 26 Aug 1923 in the Queen Alexandra Sanatorium after a number of years with tuberculosis due to his service.

Queen Alexandra Sanatorium, London Ontario, 1910.

Violet marries George Jones (b. 1892) in London Ontario on 29 Nov 1923. The certificate lists her as Susie Turner, a widow and housekeeper. Her parents are listed as Albert Turner and Emily Smith and her birthplace as Scotland. This may have been information that she was able to get from Barnardos.

Sadly, Everet dies on 17 July 1938 from accidental drowning at the age of 18. He was buried at Bonfield in a Roman Catholic cemetery. From his death certificate, we learn that he was born on 21 Jan 1920 in Aylmer, Ontario.

I have not been able to find information on Violet’s death or burial, but this has been an interesting twenty-four hours, researching someone who is not part of my ancestry, but who has become a figure of interest, simply from unexpectedly finding those two letters. I look forward to being able to get these letters to a new home where they will become part of someone’s family legacy.

Mystery solved!

Thanks to the good folks at e-transcriptum, I got my postcard translated, at no charge!

As I posted a couple of days ago, I have a card with a photograph on one side and Russian handwriting on the other. While googling around for translation services, I found a link to e-transciptum on Cyndi’s List, a popular genealogy portal. I filled out a form and attached scans of the card mid-afternoon. A couple of hours later, I had a response.

Here’s the text again:


A translator named Evgeniya Vasilenko sent me the following reply:

The translation is: For me dear brother Konstantin Ilshtein (Elshtien) for a good memory. A. Ilshtein (Elshtein)
Leningrad, 20th of June, 1926

I also enquired about the embossed stamp in the corner.

Stamp: The word in the center is Leningrad, the date below is 1925, October, 18 (or 28)
First line is not clear, starts with A  ends with TER. It’s name of photo studio I guess. If you need exact name I can ask some specialists.

I am absolutely thrilled to get these details. The image in the photo is my great great uncle Abraham, the brother of my great-grandfather Konstantine Elstein.

Abraham Elstein, brother of my great-grandfather Konstantine.

Could this be an ancestor?

I found this postcard amongst my late grandmother’s things, and I’ve had it around for 20 years or so, wondering if it might be her father or uncle.

SCAN0339The reverse of the card has Russian writing that I have not had translated yet.


If any of my readers can help me out, I’d be much obliged.

My grandmother, Vera Elstein, was born in 1903 in the town of Alexandrovsk, Yekaterinoslav region, Russia, now Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. She was born to a Jewish father (Konstantine Elstein) and a Russian mother (Alexandra Meznekoff) and though she was raised as a Jew, she was baptised three days after she was born at Saint Nicholas Church. She was the first of ten siblings. Two years later, possibly because of the rise of anti-semitism, Vera and her parents emigrated to Canada. A sister Nadia was born onboard ship and died during the voyage. The remaining eight siblings were born in Winnipeg, Manitoba where Konstantine worked as a teamster and cattle dealer.

Vera Elstein and her mother Sarah Meznekoff, Ottawa, 1950s.
Vera Elstein and her mother Sarah Meznekoff, Ottawa, 1950s.

Konstantine’s sister Anna married a Michael Jampolsky and they emigrated to Canada around the same time, settling in Lipton, Saskatchewan. Jampolsky was a farmer, as was his brother Kostea (short for Konstantine….). Both Anna and Alexandra (known as Sarah) named children Vera.

I have a large box of photos, and would really like to identify some of the people from my past. If someone can help me with the translation above, it would get me started.

My favourite babysitter

My favourite babysitter.

My mother met Lucille Boyer when she was asked to teach Sunday School at a Baptist mission at Preston and Carling in Ottawa. She taught from the Fall of 1949 to June of 1951, when she was interning at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. Lucille was one of her pupils, apparently something of a wild child, and they have remained friends to today.

Ottawa Civic Hospital Interns. Spring 1950
Ottawa Civic Hospital Interns. Spring 1950 – Mom is left-most in front row (seated).

Lucille often babysat us when we were young. In this photo, she and her fiancé at the time, Don Campbell, had likely taken us out one Saturday afternoon while my parents got some shopping done. In the photograph,  taken in 1962, we’re parked on the Ottawa River Parkway in front of Don’s 1958 Pontiac. Lucille is holding my sister Frances and I’m standing. She and her soon-to-be-growing family spent Christmas Day with us through much of my childhood, and she’s in the Christmas photo I posted a couple of weeks ago.

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Postcard from the past

I’m in Ottawa this week helping my mom get settled in her new apartment and helping her sort through the stuff in her condo. One of the objectives that I have for myself this week is to go through a lot of the old photos and have her help me annotate them.

Central Park and Fifth Avenue Hotels, New York City
Central Park and Fifth Avenue Hotels, New York City

A couple of weeks ago when we were preparing for her move, I filled three shoeboxes with photos and cards that had been in her desk so that it could be moved. I opened up one of them this evening and right at the top was this postcard dated July 24, 1960, just two weeks after I was born. It was to my mother from her life-long friend Ruth. I had dinner with both of them earlier today. The card reads:

Dear Emily,
I hear Janet is just a pet. Mother was so enthused about meeting her, she must be a darling. I can hardly wait to see her. So nice that your Mother is with you for a bit. Any word of a housekeeper for the fall?
Went to see “The Best Man” yesterday – good play.
Love to all

Here is a photo from Christmas of 1963. By then, my sister Frances was born, and the three of us are at the left. Ruth, her husband Peter, and their eldest Jane are at the front. Ruth’s parents, known as Mr and Mrs WP are standing at the left. Family friends Don and Lucille are standing at the right. The picture is taken in our living room, my father (likely) behind the camera.

Christmas 1963.
Christmas 1963.

We had Christmas with this group through most of my childhood. My mother must have been very pregnant in this picture as my brother was born in late January, 1964. Ruth and Peter had another daughter, and Don and Lucille had a daughter and a son. Christmas dinners were at different homes each year, and we enjoyed spending these evenings eating a traditional meal and then playing games.

(The play Ruth mentioned in her postcard, “The Best Man” was a Tony-winning production written by Gore Vidal.)

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My father and the Ozark Rambler

I’ve been browsing through a box of old photos from my father’s mother. I’ve been through them many times before, but these caught my eye and I’m trying to follow up on them.

The first is of my father, Franklin Berkman, who would have been six years old.  


The second has some writing on it.  It says “Bunny’s girl Gloria Jane and the Ozark Rambler of KMBC Radio on the roof of Pickwick Nov 8/30.” Bunny was the name that my grandmother called my father all his life. I have no idea who Gloria Jane is.


I did some online searching and determined that KMBC (now KMBZ) joined CBS in 1928 and moved to the 11th floor of Kansas City, Missouri’s Pickwick Hotel in 1930 (Reference)

Union Bus Terminal and Pickwick Hotel Kansas City Missouri

[Image courtesy of]

All I’ve been able to find out about the Ozark Rambler is from some photos on the site of the Kansas City Public Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections. I haven’t received permission to reproduce images here, but you can go to the links to check them out.

Ozark Rambler (second from left) with touring cast of Happy Hollow Gang outside Pickwick Hotel. The Happy Hollow gang performed a radio show that was a precursor to the Beverly Hillbillies. 

Informal group portrait of “Ozark Rambler” (left), Brookings Montgomery, and others.on roof of Pickwick Hotel.

I’m not sure what my father was doing in Kansas City. He was born in Regina Saskatchewan in 1924 and by 1934 he was living in Ottawa. His father David had a fur shop in Regina until 1930 and then owned dress and hat shops in Ottawa where his mother Vera worked. His parents eventually divorced and I never met David, but Vera married Maurice Winer and they were known as Grandma and Grandpa Winer.

[Update Aug 18: A check of my family history records reminded me that one of Vera’s younger sisters, Lally, had married a KC man named Conrad Orloff in1929 and so Vera was very likely visiting her.]

Anyway, I’d love to hear from anyone who knows anything about the Ozark Rambler in 1930s Missouri. Or recognizes Gloria Jane.


Breaking through genealogical walls: my great-grandfather Walter Gear.

I’ve had very little sleep the past couple of nights. Idly searching through, I came upon some information that may have broken through a genealogical brick wall in an unexpected way, and it’s been keepig me at the computer until the wee hours of the morning.

My grandfather, Walter Gear, was a British Home Child. He emigrated to Canada with a group of children under the auspices of Miss Annie McPherson. He left Liverpool on September 7, 1871 at age 14 and sailed on the SS Prussian (Source.)  They arrived in Quebec City on the 17th of September and were taken by train to Belleville where there was a distribution home for such children. I knew nothing about his time over the next 16 years but in May 2011, I requested his file from Barnardo’s in England and there is a 6-8 month waiting period to receive any records they have about his birth family and the reasons why he was sent to Canada. 

Skipping forward in time:

There is also an arrival for a W Gear in 1887.  The passenger list for the SS Lake Ontario, leaving Bristol, England on October 6, 1887 and arriving in Quebec on Oct 17th shows a group of nine men, identified as Cattlemen. This leads me to believe that Walter may have returned to England at some point and then come back to Canada, although I have not been able to find his name on a passenger list corresponding to his return trip.

On the 12th of October 1899, Walter marries my grandmother Janet Forbes Morren (Source: Calgary Tribune). He and Janet have three children in Calgary: William (1900, my grandfather), Barbara (1903), and Mary (1905). On William’s birth certificate, Walter’s occupation is listed as “Drayman”, which would seem to accord with the occupation of cattleman on the 1887 passenger list. 

In the 1911 Census of Canada, Walter is living in Calgary at a lumber yard, working as a foreman in a stable. He has a roomer, George Dunkby. He is working 70 hours per week and earned $720 the previous year.Janet and the children are not living with him.That is tale for another post.

I had wondered about the years between his first trip over as a Home Child at age 14, and his second as a cattleman at age 30. It is my understanding that the Home Children would have been in service until age 18 or so, which suggests that there was a period of a dozen years when he would have been on his own.

Which brings me to my discovery. 

I found a marriage listed for a Walter Gear to an Elizabeth Miller in Sophiasburgh (now Picton, Ontario) on February 28, 1878. The registration lists Walter as 24 and Miss MIller as 18. 


Further searches yielded a birth (and death) certificate for a still born female child two years later in April 1880 and a daughter Lewella (later known as Ella) born in 1884. I am unable to locate either Walter or Elizabeth (now called Louisa) in the 1891 census, but in 1901, Louisa and Ella are living with Louisa’s mother Margaret, now widowed, and her brother Lewis MIller, a farmer, in Picton. Louisa is listed as married, but there is no husband in the household.

So the timeline looks like this:

1857 – Walter Gear born in England

1871 – Walter arrives in Ontario with group of home children (age 14)

1878 – Walter marries Elizabeth (age 24, per marriage cert)

1880, 1884 – Daughters born.  Only second one (Lewella) survives

18?? – Walter returns to England. His sister Alice gets married in 1886. Is it possible that he returned for that?

1887 – Walter returns to Canada as a cattleman, destined for Calgary.

1899 – Walter marrries Janet Morren, my grandmother, and has three children with her in Calgary.

1901 – Eliabeth is living with her mother, brother, and daughter in Picton, Ontario.

1911 – Walter living alone in Calgary, working as a teamster.

There is more. The certicate of Walter’s first marriage lists his parenta as Edward and Sarah Gear, in England.  I was able to track down his birth record in East Grinstead, Sussex and find out about his birth family.  But I’ll leave the details for another post.  Like many home children, the family appears to have been quite destitute. When Walter left at age 14, he was the oldest of 5 children.  His father died in 1867 when Walter was 10, and so choosing to come to Canada might have been the only way out for him. In 1871, the year Walter leaves, the family is living with their uncle Thomas Gear who is a carter. In 1881, his mother is working as a pew opener in a mission church. 

Walter travels back and forth between Canada and England a couple more times in the early 20th century and dies in Hamilton, Ontario in 1922.

The information that I’ve collected is somewhat circumstantial.  Could there be two different Walter Gear’s with the same approximate birth year who both emigrated to Canada? I have some research trips planned to the public library and Ontario Archives to try to dig up some more. 

Seven Quick Takes Friday: Iris Murdoch Edition.


  1. It’s the late Iris Murdoch’s 92nd birthday, and I happen to be reading her novel The Nice and The Good.  First published in 1968, it’s a tale of a complex household in Dorset that includes a married couple (Octavian and Kate), their two children, an elderly uncle, a divorced friend of the wife whose ex-husband works for Octavian and her twins, a widow (friend of Kate) and her son, a housekeeper, a refugee scholar who lives in a cottage on the property, a cat and a dog.  Also in the cast of characters is a friend of Octavians who is in love with Kate, said friend’s girlfriend who he is trying to break up with, his manservant, and an ex-lover of the divorced friend. There is also a suicide (murder?) victim who works for Octavian. I had to make a little cheat sheet about 50 pages in to the novel to keep track of who everyone is.  But it’s a good read and I’m about halfway through.
  2. Our 18-year-old nephew, Marc, from France has been here for three weeks.  He did two weeks of English language lessons at a terrific school here in Toronto, had done the requisite trip to Niagara Falls, spent a weekend at our cottage, and has hung out with our boys in the evenings when they’re at home.  He’s really easy-going and has been a pleasure to host.This weekend will include the new Harry Potter movie and a day at Canada’s Wonderland with Alex.  He heads home on Tuesday with (I hope) great memories.  We’ve been encouraging him to consider University of Waterloo for graduate studies (he’s in Computer Engineering) and I know he’d love to return to Canada at some point. (Photo is Marc and Z at….guess where?)
  3. We’ve finally hired a cleaner to deal with our house as I have simply not been up to the task. The “deep” clean was thie past Monday and apparently we had a remarkable amount of dust throughout our house (she feigns surprise). Gleaming Glenn will be back each Monday to keep us sparkling and it will let me focus on decluttering.  
  4. Z was a witness before the CRTC earlier this week at the Usage Based Billing (UBB) consultation.  He’ll be back next week for more. It brings back my old days at Bell when I was involved in a number of regulatory proceedings, responding to interrogatories and preparing witness testimony and backup. I loved that work and have enjoyed discussing the current hearings. I’ve been following the twitter feed with much interest (#ubb for any geeks out there.) We’re such romantics!
  5. I’ve started a family history wiki, private to family members at the moment, where I am trying to compile data, photos, stories, etc about my ancestors.  If you’re in my family and would like an invite, drop me a line. It’s still in a fairly preliminary stage and it’s my first time creating a wiki (I’m using the free version of PBworks) but I think it has great potential to become a repository of multiple types of information and a way to pass on the family history after I’m gone.
  6. Michael is taking Grade 11 Physics at summer school to free up a period in his schedule next year to permit more practice time.  He’s half-way through the course and it’s going very well. A tiring exercise (five days a week, 8:45-3:30), he gets a full year credit in less than a month and, frankly, keeps him occupied through the summer.  The teacher is excellent and he seems very focussed on doing a great job. He’ll have three weeks break, and then two weeks of music camp to top off his summer, a week of jazz with his trombone and a week of band/classical with his tuba.
  7. One of the big results of our visit from Gleaming Glenn was his tidying of the boys rooms. Michael was so happy, that he did a whole bunch of additional decluttering and has decided to move all his instruments upstairs, along with the digital piano. He asked for a smaller desk so that this could be accomodated, and we found one at Value Village for $14.99 (less 20% student discount):

    It is basically particleboard with an ugly faux wood-grain base.  Two cans of RustOleum Universal spray paint (black) yielded this:


    Another few hours to cure and it’ll grace his room.

Read more Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary.