The other day I wrote about a particular treasure that we have here at my house; a long (32-page) letter my husband's grandmother wrote about her life growning up in small-town Mason, Ohio. She called it Those Were the Days. Well, with my father-in-law's blessing, I'm making it a long-term amanuensis project. I've only got a few "chapters" up so far, but hope to add some every Monday until it is done.
So that the story makes sense in the blogging format, I've decided to link it off the main toolbar up top (see the new link?). I'm positive it will be helpful to someone and interesting to anyone who would like to read it.
I love this picture. The kids are adorable, they are obviously siblings (look at those little faces: identical, even if one is a little grumpy), and can you see those sweet little toes? I feel a bit sad that I will most likely never know who they are. But I do have children in my tree (obviously); I wonder if I can narrow these two down at all. I think she can't be more than three and he no more than five or maybe six. Again, I am not an expert, but I'm going to walk through what I do know, and see if it gets me anywhere. Please take it with a grain of salt and feel free to point out flaws in my reasoning or interpretation!
Ok. This photograph was tucked inside Ruth Elizabeth Bentley's album, so it could be connected with the Bentley family, the Tupper family (which she married in to), or the deaf community of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was pasted in a scrapbook at one time, however (see all that black paper, below), and I wonder if Lizzie used a scrapbook before she was given the album in 1872.
As for the type of picture: this is unquestionably a carte de visite. What jumps out first to me is that this card has two gold borders around the edge, one thicker and one thin, and PhotoTree says that that border was popular between 1864 and 1869. That is just lovely from my point of view; it narrows everything down considerably. However, I'd feel better with a bit more confirmation than that; isn't it possible some of those gold-bordered cards were lying around a little bit longer?
Other features that seem to support a date within the 1860s:
Luckily there's photographer information on the back, although it's partially obscured. Luckily, I recognize the street name as being from downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. Even better: I have another photo that reveals all his details.
James Ross, Photographer. (See front of the photo.)
To the city directories! Library and Archives Canada has a selection of directories from all over the country available (and searchable) online at Canadian Directories: Who Was Where. It's certainly not complete, but the Halifax coverage is pretty good: I was able to find James Ross, photographer, at 197 Hollis Street continuously for twenty years from 1868 until 1888.* Excellent.
Now the clothing. It has been more difficult for me to date the children's clothing; there aren't as many examples out there and the styles seem to change more slowly. There is, however, one picture in Dressed for the Photographer by Joan L. Severa that shows a little girl in a ca 1862 dress trimmed with dark soutache braid that looks very similar to the trim on my girl's dress (pg 217). Popular throughout the 1860s, Severa says, "little girls' dresses were not ruffled or excessively fluffy at this time, and most had the soutache braid trim" (pg 210). She goes on to say, however, that this style continued to be popular into the first three years of the 1870s, when dresses had a "trimming of soutache braid patterns and usually a back bow or belt set rather low" (pg 315). Lovely.
The little boy, on the other hand, is wearing a Zouave-style jacket tied at the neck with a little white stand-up collar. A tiny bit of waistcoat peeks out underneath. He wears long trousers tucked in to knee-high boots. In the 1860s, "littler boys were also often dressed in suits consisting of a full white shirt with trousers and a short jacket, the latter usually fastened at the top only and curving away at the front edges; the Zouave and the bolero style of jacket were both featured" (pg 211). There is a photo of a young boy at PhotoTree dated 1871 with a similar style jacket, long pants, and tall boots (third row down, third from left).
Knowing the earliest date for the photo is 1868, thanks to James Ross and his photography studio, I'm going to plant a guess that this picture was taken between 1868 and 1873. That gives me a tentative range of birth dates for these children of about 1862-1868 for the boy and 1865-1870 for the little girl. Unfortunately, that eliminates my nothing-but-a-hunch that these two were Frank and Maria Tait, Lizzie Bentley's niece and nephew, who lived in Halifax. But they were born ca 1860 and 1862, respectively. Even if we take the earliest date of 1868, that little boy would have to be about eight, and the girl six--just a smidge too old to be these two, I think. So...who else has a boy first, then a girl....
*More about James Ross: James Ross, photographer, was born 12 Feb 1836 in Scotland, the son of Donald and Janet Ross. I first find him in Halifax listed in the 1866/7 directory as a photographer, but with only a home address listed (Garrish Street). I wonder if he was employed at the time. But on 14 May 1867 he married Hannah Richardson of Halifax; they then found a family home at 9 Moran Street and promptly began having children. The next year he set up shop for the first time at 197 Hollis Street.
In the 1881 census, James Ross's son (named James A. Ross) was working as a photographer as well. I imagine they were working together, the father teaching the son the photography business, as only one James Ross is listed in the directories at that time. By the 1891 census, James Ross Sr. is working in Photo Stock, while his son has become the photographer. At any rate, the 1889-90 directory shows that James Ross of 9 Moran Street has moved his photography business to 161 Barrington Street, a location right in the middle of downtown and considerably closer to his home. James Sr. died in Halifax 26 August 1906.
If there's a genealogy gene, my husband's grandmother had it. On February 20, 1974, she sat down at a typewriter and composed a letter to all her young grandchildren called "Those Were the Days." It's a memoir, really, and it's utterly fascinating. The letter itself is thirty-five pages long, put in a binder and, at the end, has a family tree. The first time I saw it, my heart beat faster, I swear. Honestly, the whole thing is fabulous and such an act of love (says the genealogist).
Here's an excerpt. Typos and spelling recreated faithfully - I have added the photos from my father-in-law's extensive collection.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
February 20, 1974
My Dear Grandchildren:
As I sit here in the family room of our new home basking in the sunshine of a winter's afternoon, I am thinking about all of you. Even wishing we could be living closer together so we might really know one another better - you, Grandpa, and I, and in turn each of you, to have a closer relationship one with the other. Wishing does not make it so; so what can this grandmother do to span the miles and the years in such a way that you will have an insight into your heritage? Of course, I know! write you a letter telling you of "Those Days".
As they say in the story books, once upon a time a chubby blonde Olive Vandever Hendricks arrived at the home of John and Julia Hendricks, December 13, 1910. Their modest home was located on a farm owned by your great, great Grandfather Herman Hendricks and his wife, Mary Lau Hendricks, and was approximately 1 1/2-2 miles out along the road between Mason and Kings Mills [Ohio] - only knowledgeable to you because it now leads to the site of the popular amusement complex known as Kings Island (fashioned after the Disney attractions).
Both of these grandparents had migrated to America from northern Germany (Herman-17 years old from Treptow and Mary-15 years old from Ganchon, Mecklenberg, Strelitz) Nov. 13, 1872, along with other Lau, Hinrichs, and Weisman families. A half-brother of my grandfather, Will Hendricks, eventually owned the farm adjoining grandpa's; this man had 3 sons - Bill Jr, George and Albert (Nick) and one daughter, Minnie. One Fritz Lau had come to the Mason area first, gave such glowing reports that the others decided to follow, especially to help Karl Lau, brother of my grandmother, avoid the military draft. I have heard my parents tell many times what an overly ambitious person my grandmother Hendricks was, i.e. she would go out to work in the field with a baby strapped on her back. At the time of this writing I have a tablecloth of her's; for this she, at the age of 16, raised the flax, spun the linen thread, then wove the cloth! Do you wonder it is such a treasured keepsake?
My first recollection of life on the farm is of an experience with one of our fellow occupants, a beautiful and quite large rooster of questionable disposition. On this particular summer day three-year-old Olive had been shadowing her daddy in the barnyard. And then, attempting to respond to my mother's summons to come to the house, my path crossed that of the cock-of-the-walk. In no time at all he pounced, putting all the strength he had into flopping me, but good, with his wings. At all the screeches for which females, large and small, are known, my father came to the rescue and lost no time in impressing Mr. Rooster with the fact he was off limits. Wonder why a meal soon thereafter was graced by roast chicken?
I have to admit, my approach to research has been a little squirrelly lately. I've been away from the hobby for a while, and the fantastic thing about that is there has been tons of data scanned and put online while I was gone. Heck, the whole 1911 Canadian census was released and indexed while I was off doing other things. And Nova Scotia has been putting up vital records like they are going out of style. I've been racing from discovery to discovery and the results have been thrilling, but also kind of messy. And by messy I mean that I'm probably not squeezing every bit of possible information out of each source before I dash off to something else. That is bad. And that leads me to goal...
#1. Tidy up sources. Glean every detail. Since most of everything I have is scanned, link images to sources.
The other messy part is that I started using a Mac a few years ago and that meant a switch to Reunion software. I really like the program (and, for that price, thank goodness), but not everything transferred beautifully from Family Tree Maker. I come across odd things here and there that still need fixing, like events called "*New [OCCU]" that mean occupation. That's all kinds of wrong.
#2. Find those weird things. Put them where they really belong. Get all my pictures relinked.
Next, find everybody in every census. Of course I haven't found everybody in even one census (I'm looking at you, Ida Frances Pike), and I need to make a list and figure out where the heck these people went.
#3. Do a census survey of my tree and develop a plan for finding the missing.
Sheesh. It's all straightforward stuff, but it is large. And some of it is tedious. To keep from going crazy, I've adjusted my flags and added some check boxes to help me keep track of where I've cleaned up already.
The trick will be to balance some forward progress with the fun stuff so I don't get burnt out: Photos! Context! Stories! Maps! Love it.
I'm starting with a letter from a young man named Bamford, perhaps from Belmont, Nova Scotia, who is in training with the Canadian Active Service Force (CASF) during the second world war. At the time he wrote this letter, he's only been gone from Nova Scotia for four months and is training in Ontario. Sounds like Elmer and Donnie might be his brothers. If you know who Bamford is, please tell me! I like Bamford. He seems like the kind of man who could talk to anyone and his letter is chatty, sweet, and sad.
Mrs. Conroy is Bertha Evelyn (Tupper) Conroy, my great-grandmother, who lived from 19 Feb 1882 until 21 Dec 1980, mostly in Middle Stewiacke (Colchester), Nova Scotia. Bamford refers to three of her children in the letter: Gerald, who was 19 at the time; Dot, who was about 22; and John, who was almost 30. Billy is William Daniel Conroy, Bertha's husband and my great-grandfather. I think Grandma is Ruth Elizabeth (Bentley) Tupper, Bertha's mother, who was almost 90 and living with them at the time.
I'm preserving Bamford's spelling and punctuation and I'll do my best to be accurate. Here goes:
Dear Mrs. Conroy and Family: --
Well, it has just been 4 months today since I enlisted but it hasn't seemed very long, time goes awfully fast in the army. Well I still havent any real kick against army life. There is'nt much to it, it teaches a man to be lazy I think, I know if I done a day's work now I would be killed. Well I guess I have a lot of training to do yet before I'm a soldier. This is supposed to be the technical unit of the army. They are taking a 3 yr. course and trying to get us to get it in 6 months. We have been learning the morse code on the buzzer, signal flag and lamp. I've got up to about 3 words a minute, which is pretty slow. I joined this outfit in order to do some work at linework or electrician work but I haven't seen any of that work yet. I've been feeling good every since I joined the army. I've gained a few pounds in weight and I haven't been sick a day. There are a lot of colds on the go though and a lot of guys are in hospital with it. There are also measles in the camp and a bunch of the fellows are quarantined in an isolation hut. The weather is getting winterish up here now. We had our first snow Thursday night and it snowed and blowed all last night then turned to rain this morning. The air seems awfully cold and damp up here, it chills a fellow right to the bone. We had firing practice on the range a week ago Thursday and I shivered so much I could hardly hold the rifle steady but I made a 60 out of a possible 95. I like the shooting part great, I wish we had a shooting practice every week.
Well it will soon be Xmas, I don't expect to be home for Xmas although I would like to very much, more than any other time of year. All C.A.S.F. men are getting a 6 day special Xmas leave without travelling time, which would mean 2 or 3 days at home. My furlough is due January 17 so I think I would be better off to wait for it, as I will get 14 days leave besides travelling time, and it would cost me too much to go home both times. The ticket costs $22 or $23 and a person has to have that and 50% more for expense money before the Xmas leave is granted.
There was a bad accident on the pavement here just above the camp gate last Thursday night. A young soldier from P.E.I. (he was just 20 yrs. old) was struck by a car and killed. Three of them were returning from Kingston from skating on the rink. It happened about 12:30 at night. I was walking out from town on the sidewalk and these three were just ahead of me and stepped off onto the pavement at our camp gate. I had walked toward the camp a couple of hundred feet when I heard a car coming and heard the crash. I don't think the poor fellow knew what hit him. I and 2 more fellows ran to him before the Barriefield camp doctor got to him. He was a bad looking sight, I guess his head was crushed, for part of his brains were mixed into the blood. The car that struck him took him to the Kingston hospital but I guess life was all gone before he was picked up off the ground. I guess his body was shipped home this morning, he belonged to Charlottetown. I feel sorry for his family. It would be bad enough to have him killed overseas, where it is expected, but to have him killed here like that makes it seems worse.
Well how are things in middle Stewiacke now? I suppose it is beginning to look like winter. I wrote a couple of letters to Scotty and heard back from him once. I suppose he has went away and enlisted too. How is Gerald getting along now, how does he like his outfit. I see by the paper where he was taking a course at Ottawa and Petawawa. There are fellows in this outfit from all over the Dominion, all the way from Vancouver to Sydney. I've got to know an awful lot of fellows since I've been here. One thing I miss up here is going to the woods to hunt, although I never got much I used to like to be in the woods. Earl Davis from Stewiacke (he is in my company) was down home on a few days leave a week or so ago, he was telling me that the deer are awful thick in N.S. I suppose so many have enlisted and gone away and the rest are busy working that the deer are getting a rest. Donnie has got back from Los Angeles, he is working at electrician work on the new camp at Debert. Elmer is working there too at plumbing work and so is father. Mother has 4 boarders besides so she must be pretty busy. I guess Belmont is a boom town now, its a good thing that its getting a boom sometime in its history. I guess I wouldn't know the place now, according to the letters I get from home. I guess Donnie didn't like Los Angeles very much, I imagine it would be better than our climate in winter. Elmer took his 30 days N.P.A.M. [Non-Permanent Active Militia?] at Yarmouth, I guess he didn't think much of soldering, he said it was too monotonous.
One thing about this soldering there isnt any money to it. If I was in civil life I should be making pretty good money. I just get $19 a month I send the other $20 home and mother puts it into Life Insurance. Its a good thing I send it home, if I had it I would likely spent it along with the rest. I guess the soldiers being at Debert has made a different town at Truro. I hear the people are kind of getting sick of soldiers. I can understand that if there are any of those Highland Battalions there, some of them are nice fellows but some of them are outlaws in their actions.
I guess the climate is pretty severe up here in winter, I will likely mind it quite a bit, although I thought I was cold enough at times last winter when I was working in the mill. I see where Geo. Dickie had an appendicutus operation. How is Ernie getting along with his air-force training, I suppose he has done some piloting by now. I've been having quite a bit of dental work done since I came up here. I've had 8 teeth out, some filled and some more filling to do then I'm having a partial plate made. There is a dental clinic right here in camp, 5 dentists at work all the time, and they are sure good, they can pull teeth so a person doesn't know it. All this dental work is free gratis to us, so I suppose that makes up in a way for the money we don't earn like we were in civil life. I don't pay as much attention to the war news as I did since I enlisted, but I generally hear the news every night at 11 oclock. The Greeks are sure going to town on those Italians and making a mess of them, and the British have sure broke up their fleet, so old mussalini hasn't made much of a showing so far. I imagine Hitler will be feeling the pinch pretty quick, but it will be a long war yet. We had a man that lectured to us in the Y.M.C.A. he was a Y.M.C.A. organiser in Poland for 18 years, and was at the seige of Warsaw. He said that the war would end in the fall of 1941 on the plains of Eastern Europe, but I dont think anybody knows where or just when it will end. Britain will come out on top but there is a lot of hard scrapping yet. Well it will likely be quite awhile before I'm in middle Stewiacke again, but I'm home in January on furlough. I'll try to drop in to see you. What is Dot doing now? Is she married yet or is she working away someplace.
I've written her 3 letters but havent gotten an answer to any of them. I wish you would ask her to write to me if you are writing to her or if she comes home to visit. I was just wondering to night how you were getting along. Your place was kind of a second home to me I guess, for I sure was there a lot of the time. How is Grandma these times. How is John getting along? Is he still in the West Indies? I'm not much on writing letters myself. I write home every week and I write a few other letters besides. Most of the soldiers seem to be good at writing letters, for there is some pile of letters sent out of here in a day. Donnie brought me back a 1 lb. can of Pince Albert tobacco from the States and sent it up, so I wont have to spend any for tobacco for awhile. Well I guess I'll quit pretty quick and take a bath and go to bed. We get up here at 6:30, have breakfast at 7:30 and go on parade at 8:45. But it is getting almost too cold for drilling and parading outdoors, so we will likely start lectures now. There is room for 68 men in each hut, so there is a lot of snoring going on when a guy comes in late at night. We have a great bunch of officers though, they are real nice and get along with the men good. Twelve of them were officals with the Bell Telephone Co. before enlisting.
How is Billy now? Is he still scaling logs. I suppose lumbering is booming in N.S. now, as the dept. of national defence is doing so much building. They are working on 15 new huts here at this camp, besides two big drill halls. Well I guess this is about all the news I can think of for now. I hope you write and tell me how you are all getting along or get Dot to write if she will, I suppose you are pretty busy, but try and find time to write. In case I dont hear from you I wish you all a Very Merry Xmas and a nice New Year. I dont know how I'll spend Xmas up here but it wont be as nice as my last Xmas. Well remember me to everybody in middle and try and write to me. Hope you are all well and getting along fine
Meet Alexander Macdonald. He was the fourth child of my GG grandparents, Alexander R. Macdonald and Elizabeth Jane MacLeod of Westville (Pictou), Nova Scotia. According to his brother's obituary of 1950, Alexander served in the military and achieved rank of Major. Of course it doesn't say that his career had a rather interesting start.
According to his birth registration, Alexander was born on 16 Mar 1900 in Westville, Nova Scotia. Alexander's birth registration was delayed. Quite delayed, actually, since he didn't get to it until Feb 1954. By then, both parents and his doctor were dead, so an older cousin by the name Laura (MacLeod) McKay swore to his birthdate. As a backup, Alexander provided a certificate of baptism that confimed the 16 Mar 1900 date and also showed he was baptized on 20 Jul 1900.
We next see Alexander on the 1901 Canadian Census. He's living in Westville with his parents, his brothers Daniel L. and James W., and his sister Marion. This time his birthdate is given as 23 Mar 1899 and he's listed as being fourteen months old. Oops; that doesn't quite work since the census was taken on 26 or 27 Apr 1901. I wonder if the census-taker did the math himself? Anyway, in 1911 Alex has a March 1900 birthdate again.
Why all this fuss about Alexander's birthdate? Well, behold Alexander's next record:
Alexander's enlistment papers, signed on 30 Mar 1916. But wait, that makes Alexander....sixteen years old, doesn't it? Not quite old enough to be doing this. But lookie there: his birthdate here is 16 Mar 1898. Eighteen years old. And whoever filled out the back of the form (doctor? enlistement officer?) attested that Alexander appeared to be eighteen. Heh. Way to go, Alexander.
I've looked at many of these enlistment papers, looking for people on all over my tree, and I've never before seen two sets attached to one person (see here). Looks like Alexander got found out! (I wonder if his mother told them. I would have told them.)
13 Apr 2011 UPDATE: My Nana--Alexander's neice--read this post and answered my question. Her father, Alexander's brother, turned him in! My aunt typed up and emailed me Nana's update: "Nana’s father (Jim) was the one who reported Alec as being too young to have enlisted. Jim was injured and transferred to England to recover before being sent home. His injuries included the lost in the sight of both eyes (probably mustard gas). He had a 'batman' assigned to him as an escort. The two were in a pub and Jim heard his brother’s voice and reported him straight away. Nana feels that there was no resentment felt by Alec toward his brother for having the truth be told. According to Jim he felt that Alec had responsibilities at home and was wrong to have enlisted for that reason...seeing his brother blind was likely the overriding factor in Alec’s compliance with his brother’s wishes....Fortunately Jim’s sight returned in one of his eyes. His damaged eye required daily care which [his wife] provided for many years until he was provided the opportunity to have his eye removed. He went to Ottawa for the procedure. An artist was assigned to sketch his good eye (which was beautifully deep brown in color).The result was very successful. The new eye was attached to the muscles so it moved properly you couldn’t tell it was a false.
Now, back to the original post. (I love this stuff!)
Here is Alexander's second enlistment paper, dated 27 Oct 1917. Looks like he was discharged in March of 1917--a year later--for being underage, after serving with the 193rd batallion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. I wonder if he saw any action? Anyway, he's still not eighteen, and he's still lying about his age: his birthdate is now 16 Mar 1899. Oh, Alexander. But I guess it worked this time, because there is not a third set of documents!
Alexander was found out eventually. Look at the top right corner; someone wrote in the summer of 1918 (when Alexander really was eighteen), "Correct Date of Birth 16th March 1900."
That's all I know about Alexander's military career, save for that one little detail in his brother James' obituary of 1950. Alexander is referred to as "Major Alex Macdonald." I suppose that means his stint didn't go too badly in the end. And he also served long enough to have a handsome portrait taken!