07 February 2017

Hostages to Fortune ~ not a book review ~

Peter C. Newman. Hostages to Fortune, the United Empire Loyalists and the Making of Canada. Toronto: Simon & Schuster Canada, 2016.

Peter C. Newman is not an academic historian, he is a "popular" historian. His treatments of history are frequently infused with dramatic and verbose flourishes; this one lacks the footnote references of a more academic historian, relying largely on other authors as sources. No revelations here in previously well-examined material. Newman is successful because as a good storyteller he knows how to stir sentiment and appreciation for his subject. How will Loyalist family researchers view his new book? (In that vein, please ... save me from summaries of the book's contents masquerading as reviews.)

Rather than attempt a real book review myself, not being a true historian nor qualified to speak to the military aspects of the conflict, I recall an interview with Newman almost two years ago that raised some questions or issues for me (in the second half of the post).[1] Would they appear and/or perhaps be resolved in this long-awaited book? Some of the issues seemed to tinge the Loyalists with wimpyness. Was I defensively over-reacting? The quotes below are from that interview. Here's how those concerns go down now:

Quote: "Newman said that hundreds of books have been written on the Loyalists but almost all of them focus on genealogy – who begat whom – and not the adventure of their exploits."
My prior comment: What has Newman read, or not read, amongst the Loyalist literature? "Almost all of them" are genealogical in nature? Whoa. Numerous historians (and genealogists) may disagree.
New comment. Ironic, isn't it, that Newman chose to use a Jarvis family as his main device to tell the Loyalist saga? And it works, insofar as it goes.

Quote: "The Loyalists were tortured and killed during the American War of Independence when the Americans turned on anyone loyal to the King. Tarring and feathering was the torture of choice, Newman said."
My prior comment: "Loyalists were tortured and killed" — but hey, they did fight back and returned the favours.
New comment: That, and other comments, had given me an impression that Newman would somehow dwell on a portrayal of shamed, saintly folks who crept away, unresisting, to another land. No. In the book, he plays quite evenly with action and atrocities on both sides. And possibly read my mind: "Strong in spirit and dedicated to the concept and reality of duty, the Loyalists were brave in the face of long odds, clearly demonstrating that they were anything but wimps." (225)

Quote: "A religious, self-effacing people, the Loyalists spurned the chest-thumping bravo of the Americans and developed styles and attitudes that are very much like the Canadian personality of today, he said."
My prior comment: "Religious" and "self-effacing" are extremely broad, sweeping adjectives. No doubt many of them were perhaps one or the other, perhaps sometimes both at once. Were they more "religious" than their foe? What connotation does "self-effacing" conjure?
New comment: Were those two descriptors implying something the Patriots were not? Let's be real and remember that all ranks of society, all manner of faiths, native-born in the colonies or immigrants, both sides had every human virtue and failing. As for self-effacing, it's true we Canadians today are not known for chest-thumping. Apparently we are known for a widespread penchant of saying "Sorry." Should I even ask if that characteristic is inherited from the Loyalists? Oops, sorry ...

"Instead of settling disputes with guns and violence, the Loyalists preferred to argue things out and reach a consensus, he said."
My prior comment: As for "guns and violence," ask military historian Gavin Watt. Did the Loyalist corps not strive to give as good as they got? Or is Newman time-shifting several years down the road to political issues?

New comment: Picky me. But when did the Loyalists do that amongst themselves, in matters that would incite impulsive others to weapons? During the war? In their refugee camps? On the evacuation ships? What kind of disputes is he referring to? Okay, okay, I will stop.

Well, let's face it. An interview is not a book. The book. Newman succeeds again, in my opinion ... in a lightweight way, covering ground related many times before (familiar to Loyalist descendants). Although he extends his mandate to the War of 1812 and beyond, he includes little on Aboriginal resettlement apart from the expected Brant family mentions. And curiously, in a very large bibliography, how could merely one of Gavin Watt's books be present?

He gets the job done, the tales told; his easily digestible manner will capture popular imagination, much like Historica Canada's Heritage Minutes. I look forward to potential book reviews by perhaps Mary Beacock Fryer UE or Peter Johnson UE.

[1] Wayne Lowrie, "Literary Lion Has Den in Gananoque," 6 April 2015, Gananoque Reporter (http://www.gananoquereporter.com/2015/04/06/literary-lion-has-den-in-gananoque : accessed 31 May 2015).

© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman 

23 January 2017

McFadyens in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

This post is based on my article "From Isle of Coll to Cape Breton" in Vol. 33, No. 3 (2015) of Nova Scotia Genealogist. That issue of the journal was published last month (December 2016) in a catch-up project after an editorial hiatus.

The presence of several McFADYEN families in nineteenth-century Cape Breton does not indicate the Scotland origins of most. Curiosity led me to explore whether the others have kinship to my Donald "the soldier" McFadyen, or indeed if any also came from the Isle of Coll in the inner Hebrides of Argyllshire. Genealogical sources in both regions are limited or incomplete; alternative influences are authored works, local history, and customary naming patterns. I use the generic spelling McFadyen unless I am citing or referring to a document.

Basically, what I know about my Donald "the soldier": He was born about 1773 on Coll[1] and emigrated to Cape Breton in 1828 with wife Flory McLean and some children,[2] settling at River Denys. His parents are not verified since three Coll families in 1776 had an underage Donald.[3] For reasons beyond the discussion here, the most viable candidates are the couples Lachlan McFadyen and Flora McLean or Angus McFadyen and Mary McLean.
A page from the "1776 List"; NAS, CH2/70/1
As for "the others": Two single men came to Cape Breton sooner than my Donald. Alexander McPhaden aged twenty-two arrived in 1821.[4] Early on he is described as a tailor.[5] MacDougall says Alexander was the brother of Donald McFaden who was aged twenty-eight in 1825.[6] In his petition for a land grant, that Donald McFaden refers to his brother but does not name him. When that Donald died at Malagawatch without recording a specific birthplace in Scotland, his parents were said to be Lauchlin and Catherine.[7] Searching in Coll sources yields no appropriate baptisms and matching parents for the two men, based on their given ages, but the recorded events are not comprehensive.

Donald McFaden married Mary Ann Calder and settled at Militia Point near Malagawatch; Alexander married Margaret McQuarrie and settled at Lexington near Port Hastings.[8] Both men named their eldest sons Lachlan; both had daughters called Catherine. MacDougall’s History outlines at least the first generation of their descendants.
River Denys area, Cape Breton
 A third man, a Laughlin McPhaden applied for Cape Breton Crown land in 1821, having arrived that year, aged twenty-four and married.[9] Further records show that Laughlin and his wife Mary McLean had a son Archibald baptized in 1829 by a visiting cleric at Malagawatch.[10] It's unknown if this was their first son, i.e. possibly named after the paternal grandfather. A marriage for the couple has not been found 1795-1822 in any Old Parochial Registers on ScotlandsPeople and I find no later information about him.

I wrote a post regarding a Neil McFadyen whose father and family allegedly came to Cape Breton in 1827.[11] Neil was convicted of, and hanged for, a murder in Pictou County in 1848. However, the inquest revealed the family was from Coll's sister island, Tiree.

Finally, a Roderick MacFadyen settled, date unknown, in Cape Breton’s River Denys area. His death record in 1877 shows he was born Island of Coll and his parents were Lauchlin and Catharine.[12] His reported age at death infers a birth year of 1804-05 but his 1871 census age implies 1807.[13] Roderick/Rory married another Mary McLean and apparently did not apply for Crown land, purchasing someone else’s grant.[14] Describing him as a tailor, MacDougall says, “So far as we know, Rory had no relatives in this country.”[15] And yet, his location was a mere three lots away from my own ancestor Donald “the soldier.”[16]
Crown Lands Map Cape Breton; Donald the soldier's son Hector is shown upper left, Roderick's son Neil is lower across the river
The memoir of a Collach relocated in Australia says that two McPhaiden brothers from Totamore on Coll "went to America" in 1822.[17] Perhaps they sailed on Commerce of Greenock, as some historians assert it sailed that year (among other years).[18] Does this make a connection between these two brothers, Donald and Alexander, to the Cape Breton McFadyen brothers whose birthplace is unknown? Here, I am omitting research done in several directions but their ages do not necessarily match and all else is unsubstantiated indirect evidence.

Also in my (lengthier) article, I showed a correction to Roderick's parents. Coll historian and editor Nicholas Maclean-Bristol believes that the Roderick who died in Cape Breton in 1877 was born to Lachlan McPhaiden and wife Catherine Macdonald in Totamore, Coll.[19] However, the parents of the child Roderick baptized on Coll in 1804 were Lachlan McPhaiden of Grimsary and wife Catherine McKinnon.[20] The same couple had another son Roderick baptized 25 May 1807 — possibly indicating the first child so named had died. Either way, there seems to be no other Roderick from Coll to match the man who died in 1877.

McFadyen house, River Denys
Roderick McFadyen’s potential relationship to my Donald the soldier or other McFadyens in Cape Breton remains a mystery. Roderick is clearly a generation younger than my Donald who did not have a known connection to Grimsary (or Totamore, for that matter) on Coll. The household-heads-only 1861 census tells us Roderick had five males and four females in his household, i.e. probably four sons at that time.[21] MacDougall mentions just four sons, adding that only Neil survived at the time of the book’s publication (1922).[22] In 1871, Lauchlin age twenty-four and Roderick age twenty-three were at home with sister Katy age twenty-six and two younger girls.[23] The names Lauchlin and Katy (Catherine) accord with Highland naming practice especially if Lauchlin was the oldest son. The family stone at Malagawatch cemetery shows the fourth son Allan of about the same age as Lauchlin.[24]

While oral tradition, written or spoken, may be a useful source in the absence of much original documentation, its probability as facts ranks lower on the credibility scale. Reliance on compilations and accounts of secondary information demands critical examination and caution about conclusions. I would be more than pleased to hear from any relevant McFadyens.

[1] The National Archives (TNA, Kew, England), WO25/527, Regimental Description and Succession Books, 91st Foot, 2nd Battalion, Pvt. Donald McFadden; Family History Library microfilm 0859630. Additional information came from Gerald Hamilton-Edwards, letter to author 11 October 1976, citing TNA, WO12/9319, General Muster Books and Pay Lists, 91st Foot, 2nd Battalion.
[2 “List of passengers in the Ship ‘Saint Lawrence’ ...,” J.L. MacDougall, History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia (1922; reprint Belleville, ON: Mika Publishing, 1972), 126-131.
[3] “1776 List of the Inhabitants in the Island of Coll Decr 2nd 1776” is found in Coll Kirk Sessions, National Records of Scotland (NRS), CH2/70/1/. The new Presbyterian incumbent that year compiled a list of every resident and their locations on the island to test catechism knowledge. Children under the age of seven were considered too young to be tested but they were listed. Both couples mentioned had an underage son Donald.
[4] “Cape Breton Island Petitions 1787-1843,” database, Nova Scotia Archives (http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/virtual/land/ : accessed May 2008), Alexander McPhaden, no. 2754; citing Nova Scotia Archives (NSA) microfilm 15798.
[5] Nova Scotia census 1838, Inverness County, Canso Township, 19th page, Alexander McFadden; Library and Archives Canada (LAC) microfilm M-5220.
J.L. MacDougall, History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia (1922; reprint Belleville, ON: Mika Publishing, 1972), 177.
[6] “Cape Breton Island Petitions 1787-1843,” database, Nova Scotia Archives, Donald McFaden, no. 3053; citing NSA microfilm 15799.
[7] “Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics, Deaths 1864-1877,” digital image, Nova Scotia Archives (https://www.novascotiagenealogy.com/ : accessed May 2008); Donald McFadyen, 10 June 1869, Inverness County, register no. 1810, p. 36, no. 132.
[8] MacDougall, 177.
[9] “Cape Breton Island Petitions 1787-1843,” database, Nova Scotia Archives, Laughlin McPhaden, no. 2755; citing NSA microfilm 15798.
[10] St. John's Presbyterian (Belfast, Prince Edward Island) baptisms, 1823-1849, Archibald, son of Laughlan McFadden and Mary McLean “basin of River Denny,” born 13 February 1829, baptized 3 September 1829; LAC microfilm C-3028.
[11] http://brendadougallmerriman.blogspot.ca/2010/09/mcfadyen-part-13-murder-circumstantial.html.
[12] “Nova Scotia ... Deaths 1864-1877,” digital image, Nova Scotia Archives (https://www.novascotiagenealogy.com/ : accessed May 2008); Roderick McFadyen, 28 February 1877, Inverness County, register no. 1810, p. 142, no. 44.
[13] 1871 Census Nova Scotia, district 203, Inverness, subdistrict D14, River Dennis, division 1, p. 21, Rory Mcfaden (age 64) household; LAC microfilm C-10565.
[14] MacDougall, 497.
[15] MacDougall, 496.
[16] MacDougall, 497. Also “1861 Census Nova Scotia,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 9 January 2016), Inverness County, polling district 14, abstract no. 2, line 31, Roderick McPhaden.
[17] “Donald Mackinnon, 'An Account of the Island of Coll and Its People',” West Highland Notes and Queries, Series 3, No. 17 (November 2011), newsletter of the West Highland and Island Society for Historical Research (HebrideanHistory.com).
[18] Colin S. MacDonald, “Early Highland Emigration to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island,” Collections of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. 23 (1936).
[19] Maclean-Bristol's Note 25 attached to Mackinnon, 'An Account of the Island of Coll and Its People',” West Highland Notes and Queries, Series 3, No. 17 (November 2011).
[20] Roderick McPhaden, baptism 24 August 1804; Coll Kirk Sessions, NAS, CH2/70/1/. The session minutes are mixed with baptisms and marriages beginning 1776. Marriages 1776-1819 and Baptisms 1776-1820 have also been transcribed by Ian Scott on Isle of Coll Genealogy (www.collgenealogy.com).
[21] “1861 Census Nova Scotia,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 9 January 2016), Inverness County, polling district 14, abstract no. 2, line 31, Roderick McPhaden.
[22] MacDougall, 496-7.
[23] See Note 14.
[24] Nancy MacDonnell, transcriber, Malagawatch Cemetery, Inverness County, Cape Breton GenWeb (http://www.capebretongenweb.com/Cemeteries/cem105.html : accessed 10 January 2016).

© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman

21 December 2016

Another McIntyre

In the prior McIntyre post regarding a search for the family and origins of my great-great-grandmother, Margery McIntyre (born ca. 1786), I neglected to mention a further candidate. What I did mention then was that a James and an Ann McIntyre on the River Rouge Road near St. Andrews East, Quebec, were the likeliest suspects ― if not old enough to be Margery's parents, then potentially close relations. Another man seemingly of Margery's age also came into focus.

On 7 September 1802 Laughlan McIntyre, a ship carpenter, married Margaret McIntyre at the Anglican Church in Quebec City.[1] He signed the register before witnesses Angus McIntyre and James McDonald. He stated his age as twenty-nine years (born ca.1773). Note the witness Angus, a name that occurs in the children of John Cameron and wife Catherine McIntyre (but not among Margery McIntyre Fraser’s). One of my questions: was Laughlin a carpenter on a ship, or a carpenter at the port engaged in building ships?

Then Laughlan McIntyre was a witness at the 30 October 1807 baptism of Allan, son of John and Catherine (McIntyre) Cameron from “Carrion” [Carillon], Quebec.[2] We don’t know if the event took place in Montreal or St. Andrews East (the St. Gabriel minister did visit St. Andrews sometimes). Laughlin's signature at both times looks identical to me.

Born within a few years of each other, Laughlan’s connection to Catherine McIntyre seems evident but he became quite elusive after that. I could not find him in Lower Canada (Quebec) census returns 1825, 1831, and in the two Canadas 1842 and 1851 (trusting the indexing) but his age made it debatable whether he lived until 1851. Thinking of carpenters and ships, where was the flourishing shipyard of the era? — Kingston, Upper Canada.

The Governor Simcoe built 1793 at Kingston as a merchant schooner. By C.H.J. Snider, Toronto Public Library reference PICTURES-R-486. Retrieved from Ship the "Governor Simcoe" (PICTURES-R-486), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28133956
Yes. A search revealed children of Loughlin/Lauchlin/Laughlin and Margaret McIntire being baptized in Kingston: John, 7 August 1803; Donald, 5 August 1804; Mary, 31 August 1806.[3]

The couple was still there in March 1810 when they were sponsors, along with a Margaret Cameron, at the baptism of Abraham Greely’s son. At Laughlan’s first appearance on record there, in 1803, an author’s note says he “became a member of Lodge no. 6 A.F. & A.M. in 1806.” Therefore it’s fairly clear he was living in Kingston in the first decade of the nineteenth century and probably later. His presence at the 1807 baptism in Quebec seems to have been a family visit rather than his own residence.

Nothing further has been found to date. If this is the same Laughlan, he is not in the index to Kingston’s Cataraqui Cemetery transcript, nor did he leave a will or estate file there. A Captain John McIntyre of Portsmouth (just west of Kingston) died 24 July 1849 age forty-two[4] and his wife Isabella Fraser died 27 July 1874 age sixty-seven;[5] possibly John was Laughlan’s son. A Donald Malcolm McIntyre is apparently also in Cataraqui Cemetery but details are absent. Transfer records for Masonic Lodge members at that early date do not seem to be available, in case Laughlan had again moved.

The cluster of McIntyres in Pittsburgh Township (just east of Kingston) does not show any likely points of connection; the oldest family members there in 1851 are Hugh (ca.1791) and Archibald (ca.1801).[6] 1842 census returns for Pittsburgh have not survived.

The search for Laughlan stalled. And what about Margaret McIntyre, his wife? Did any of their children take to carpentry or a marine life? What about their marriage witness, Angus McIntyre? Then Christmas happened. Great excuse for a break ...

[1] “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621-1967, digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 17 March 2015), McIntyre-McIntyre marriage 1802; Anglican registers (Quebec City).
[2] “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621-1967,” digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 5 March 2012), baptism Allan Cameron, 1807; St Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church (Montreal, Quebec).
[3] A.H. Young, The Parish Register of Kingston, Upper Canada, 1785-1811 (1921. Reprint Global Heritage Press, 2003), 107, 110, 118, 132.
[4] Thomas B. Wilson, ed., The Ontario Register, Vol. 5 (1981), p. 170; citing Globe (Toronto) 31 July 1849. Further details about Captain John are not forthcoming in Cataraqui (Kingston) cemetery or burial records.
[5] Cataraqui Cemetery Comprehensive Index, (Kingston, ON; Kingston Branch OGS, c1996) shows Capt. John McIntyre and Isabella (Fraser) in Cataraqui Cemetery Section 17E; the transcription gives death information for Isabella. Cataraqui Burial Registervolume 1, 1853-1875 (Kingston, ON; Kingston Branch OGS, c1987) p. 66 #2793, Isabella (Fraser) McIntyre age 67, b. Scot, res. Portsmouth, buried 28 July 1874, minister Dr. Snodgrass, Cataraqui Cemetery E.
[6] 1851 Canada Census, District 9, Frontenac County, Subdistrict 73, Pittsburgh Township, p 93, Hugh McIntyre household and p 47, Archibald McIntyre household; Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-11721.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

17 November 2016

Freedom, Latvia

Latvia has a number of commemorative days to mark its historical struggle for freedom, but November 18th is the most important of all. Ninety-eight years ago, the country proclaimed itself an independent republic despite ongoing military action. After the dark days of Soviet occupation, full independence was once again established in 1991. The Proclamation of 1918 remains the proudest national holiday.

Each part of the small country plans special joyful activities. In Riga various parades and festive events take place, notably focused on the Freedom monument. Evening torchlight processions and fireworks complete the celebrations.

Pray that Putin keeps his hands off this prospering, vibrant land on the Baltic Sea.

Photos: BDM 2013
© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

09 November 2016

Remembrance 2016

In 2015 I was privileged to visit another of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries ― Groesbeek in the Netherlands. In years past, I had spent a day at El Alamein in Egypt.

Groesbeek is located near the German border in a lovely, hilly section of Gelderland province. Most burials here are of Canadian soldiers and airmen who died in the Battle of the Rhineland (1945). The Dutch have a special, continuing affinity with Canadians; my visit was shortly after the celebrations of their annual May 5th Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag).

On the memorial wall: Pro amicis mortui amicis vivimus (We live in the hearts of friends for whom we died). Part of the memorial wall:
"These walls bear the names of the soldiers of the British Commonwealth and Empire who fell in the advance from the River Seine through the Low Countries and into Germany, but to whom the fortune of war denied a known and honoured grave. 30th August, 1944 - 5th May, 1945."

We spent a long time in the rows of white markers, paying tribute to the dead. Most were identified but some were not. Many graves had touching messages from Dutch school children. Sometimes the family of the man provided an inscription. One stood out for me (see below the cross):

"Some day we'll understand"

Do we – yet? Will we ever understand such carnage? Will we ever understand how to avoid destroying each other?

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

19 October 2016

Book: The Spyglass File

Nathan Dylan Goodwin. The Spyglass File. UK: CreateSpace, 2016.
With his most recent book, Goodwin has more than surpassed himself in the Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist, series. In fact, Spyglass was so absorbing, so well-crafted ― and I don't say that frequently about any crime book ― I'm convinced it's an equally compelling read for a non-genealogist. Morton's new client Barbara is an adoptee who tracked down her now-deceased biological mother, Elsie, but wants to fill in the missing war years around her birth. Our hero dives into an impressive number of record sources with ease ― some familiar, some esoteric, including many relating to the Second World War. He's putting together pieces of Elsie's wartime life but the larger picture eludes him.

Goodwin uses cleverly paced flashbacks for Elsie to tell her own story that never quite answers the consuming questions: who is Barbara's father and what happened to him? Elsie's soldier husband Laurie is a prisoner of war. She joins the WAAF to work in the Wireless Service because of her German language skills ― long days and nights listening to aircraft transmissions, translating, reporting. The daily grind of service women and pilots, the bombing raids, the contemporary clothing, habits, entertainment, and real-life locales are meticulously brought alive. But it's much more complicated than that.

Morton would not be Morton if he were not attracting a sinister element. Someone does not want him delving into Elsie's life. His mind is partly occupied by his impending wedding to police officer Juliette as he labours over the often strange or surprising documents he uncovers. And he's painfully aware of his own unsolved adoption secrets; sensitive information hidden by family members is much harder to come by.

Readers will seldom find a better or more challenging plot. Only one small paragraph appeared corny to me (to use the 1940s vernacular), out of place in the overall feeling. Just as his protagonist did, the author undertook a huge amount of research preparation. In particular, it was a fascinating treat to learn so much about special WAAF contributions to the war effort.

My apologies to the author for a delayed review; delighted to see colleagues reviewing and fans being acquired. Please bring Morton and Juliette back again!
See nathandylangoodwin.com;

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman 

11 October 2016


REMEMBRANCE DAY 2016 is coming. A month away.

What better way to prepare and commemorate than by joining the Royal Canadian Legion? Or a veterans' organization of your choice?

Whether you are a member or not, you can POPPY shop by simply creating a sign-in account:

Disclaimer: I have no monetary or ulterior motive for promoting a worthy cause.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

17 September 2016

Will George Porter Get His Due?

Giving birth to another post about George Porter has been protracted and painful. The "former sergeant of militia" and Town of York carpenter has long been a pet research peeve for me. Various research avenues were explored on this blog (see "George Porter" on the Labels list at the right hand side of this blog) for his mysterious origin and disappearance. Details about the man do not have to be repeated here.

Foundations; The Globe and Mail
When excavations on King Street East, Toronto, revealed "Toronto's first house" George came to haunt me yet again. That was 2013, uncovering the foundations of Berkeley House, once-grand residence of the Small family. The media picked up on it with glee over John Small's social prominence and his infamous duel in 1800.[1] Yes, John Small ― clerk of Governor John G. Simcoe's executive council ― constructed the home; but little was made of remains of the log "fishing cabin" within its walls.

The log house was built by George Porter who sold it to Small on 31 August 1795.[2] As construction continued for a new seventeen-storey building where The Globe and Mail will be the major tenant, my unease grew that John Small would get credit for "Toronto's first house." In 2015 I contacted the Globe with information about George and my hope that the historical artifacts would have public space. I was assured by the editor that "something related to the history of the site" would be displayed in the building lobby. That answer did not quell my fear that George would be ignored.
D.W. Smith Papers, see Note 2

I was beginning to feel like an advocate for a forgotten man, not necessarily even an upstanding citizen: one who apparently abandoned his wife and four children by 1800. Then again, John Small was not entirely a paragon of virtue in his work habits.[3]

351 King Street East design; First Gulf
Only recently did I locate the Stage 1 Archaeology Resource Assessment about the property, prepared for the developer by Archaeological Services Inc. (ASI).[4] It has a most excellent summary of how the Town of York was created and detailed discussion of the particular property's subsequent history. With some relief, I learned that their researchers had indeed found the documentary references to George.

What they didn't say or emphasize was that Small was more or less forced to live in the purchased log house for some years; surely it was a bit more comfortable than a fishing hut or cabin. Title to the property was delayed while the government sorted out its overlapping reserve where the parliament building was to be built.
It was discovered that, by accident, Porter had been granted land that had been intended for use as part of the Government Reserve. The house was allowed to remain standing, partly on account of Porter's "improvements," but also on account of the fact that the premises had been purchased by Small who was such an influential member of the government. [italics added][5]
Small clearly chose to expand around the log house as the "central core" rather than build a separate home. For unknown reasons his son Charles Coxwell Small in the 1840s again preserved the basic log structure when making additions.
Berkeley House; attributed to Owen Staples circa1912, based on a drawing circa1888, based on a sketch by Mrs CC Small 1830; Toronto Public Library

Questions remain, of course. I ask myself why George? On his 1793 plan of York, why did deputy surveyor Alexander Aitken choose to put carpenter George Porter, of all people, in possession of Lot 1 Block 1? Were the men friends? It almost smacks of a kind of favouritism. After all, more important figures would expect prime town lots along this main street, men figuring in Upper Canada's administration and commerce.

Also, should I take issue with the "fishing cabin" moniker? The phrase "as a fishing hut" in the Report is in quotation marks.[6] I cannot find a specific reference to whom might have said it, other than the AIS Report. George Porter consistently called it "my Log House."[7] So did John Small refer to a house.[8] The AIS report cites four sources for the paragraph in which "fishing hut" is used. None of them ― the published Simcoe Papers, Peter Russell's edited letters, Firth, Mosser ― use that term.
See Note 2.
John Small, Upper Canada Land Book F, pp. 359-361 (1805); Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-102. 

The log house certainly predated 1795, possibly back to York's founding in the summer of 1793, and is what the ASI Report calls "unquestionably the oldest dwelling house within the Old Town of York."[9] Are they referring to Berkeley House or the "fishing hut"?

Altogether, George was in York for a relatively short time in a modest occupation, whereas John Small was a firmly planted member of the establishment ... whose name does history remember? Who will get credit for "Toronto's first house"?

[1] John Allemang, 7 October 2013, "Archaeologists find link to 200-year-old scandal under new Globe home," The Globe and Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/archeologists-find-link-to-200-year-old-scandal-under-new-globe-home/article14719339/).
[2] A true copy of the sale document is in the D.W. Smith Papers, S126, B6, p. 229, Baldwin Room, Toronto Reference Library. Edith Firth in The Town of York 1793-1815 (Toronto: Champlain Society/University of Toronto Press, 1962), 223, cites the Ridout Papers at Archives of Ontario (AO) for the same information.
[3] "John Small," S.R. Mealing, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online (http://www.biographi.ca/en/index.php).
[4] Archaeological Services Inc., Stage 1 Archaeology Resource Assessment of 333 King Street East (https://www1.toronto.ca/city_of_toronto/city_planning/community_planning/files/pdf/333king_archaeological.pdf). Hereafter ASI Report. "333 King Street East" refers to two buildings including the relevant property at 351 King East.
[5] ASI Report, 14.
[6] ASI Report, 13. The paragraph in which "as a fishing hut" is quoted cites Cruikshank 1931:241, Cruikshank 1935:100-101, Firth 1962:223, and Mosser 1984: 5, 13 without a footnote to the specific phrase. Neither Firth nor Mosser (York, Upper Canada, Minutes of Town Meetings and Lists of Inhabitants 1797-1823) use the term. The first two are collections of papers and letters of Governors Simcoe and Russell edited by A.E. Cruikshank for the Ontario Historical Society and the references to Porter do not mention the structure.
[7] D.W. Smith Papers, S126, B6, p. 229, Baldwin Room, Toronto Reference Library.
[8] See Note 2, and Land Book F image above.
[9] ASI Report, 13.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

16 August 2016

Exposing More of the Famdamily

Have you ever tracked family characteristics? Meaning significant physical traits such as hair colour, specific features of facial bone structure, height, mannerisms, and so on. It can also mean health considerations and illnesses. Hereditary patterns. Realistically, we can only do this for about three generations including our own. Sometimes we might have second- or third-hand health information about earlier ancestors.

In that vein, cause of death is of great interest for the family historian; it's a bonus when the certifying authority required the recording of "contributing factors," which can indicate longer-term illness or disease.

 Genograms, similar to genealogy charts, are not merely a sub-interest of family history or an exercise of mild curiosity. Medical consultants find them useful among other diagnostic tools. Haven't we all heard: "Do you have a history of heart disease in your family?" (... insert diabetes, glaucoma, cancer, etc.) That knowledge clearly could help with potential future symptoms. 

A more difficult characteristic to (attempt to) trace through a family is recurring mental illness.
Archaic euphemisms abound, historically speaking, for what was considered abnormal behaviour. Samples lunatic, insane, hysteric, idiot, imbecile, maniac, the list seems endless. (One general reference is Old Disease Names, http://www.homeoint.org/cazalet/oldnames.htm.) Even today we have dozens of colloquial words to describe someone of odd demeanour or speech. Of course not everyone who was consigned to an old lunatic asylum was off-the-wall batshit crazy. Conditions such as post-partum depression and dementia and autism were not understood and went untreated. In darker times, a family member could be involuntarily admitted, virtually imprisoned, simply for being an unwanted nuisance.

It's not until the twentieth century that psychiatric diagnostics began to more precisely label different disorders. An imprecise science, some might say, as the "disorders" seem to multiply annually. But psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists and so on do find genograms useful. Family historians will likely find this type of chart more difficult to construct with only anecdotal data for earlier generations besides combing family papers and memorabilia, it calls for sensitive interviewing. In addition to any hereditary factor, "life events" during an ancestor's lifetime can also be contributing factors to illness and/or poor health.



Genogram symbols can vary depending on the purpose under study. Many examples of charts can be found online; http://genograms.org/ is one place to explore.

What about our DNA? It can carry evidence of medical conditions in inherited chromosomes but that is not the purview of genealogical companies that test only for relationship factors. Genetic counselling clinics are available for potentially serious health risks and family planning concerns.

Aside from medical value, creating genograms of our family traits, both physical and mental, from our own research and knowledge, is a way to deepen family history insight.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

29 July 2016

Where a Photograph Leads

A FABULOUS photograph in all senses.
Total misappropriation on my part. But who could possibly ignore this couple?! What could I extrapolate from a family (not mine) anecdote?

I cannot make out the Cyrillic script at the bottom left but on the right it says Krasnoyarsk.

Ancestry .. family history .. the ingredients that fall into place each time a child is conceived .. are not of interest to everyone. Which random segments of DNA contributed characteristics from a crowd of those who came before us ― inherited from which parent or which family line ― is of consuming interest to the self-actualized keepers of life's continuum. These days, certain aspects of social media are expanding such interest.

My friend's mother Paule was born about 1913 in Siberia and raised there. The family may have been of Lithuanian origin; the story is fuzzy on when-why-how they were in Siberia at the turn of the twentieth century (deportation by the czarist regime? Voluntary opportunity for land ownership or improved status?). But it seems her father married a native Siberian and had several children. The couple in the photo seem to be Paule's parents.

We know Paule's father was some kind of provincial official in Krasnoyarsk. As part of his job he travelled regionally on a regular basis. The rather suspect aspect of the family story says Paule's mother would occasionally stray away to the steppes in her husband's absence and once had a fling with an enigmatic wandering Russian. Paule's son insisted his mother looked very different from her siblings.

From that, beyond the lifetime of the original storyteller, some of us have extrapolated yurodivy ― the "holy fool" of Orthodoxy, a "crazy for God" ascetic. Less rigorously now, meaning someone outside of and rejecting conventional social norms. An eccentric who marches to an altogether different drum with often deliberately provocative behaviour.

Paule's parents moved from Siberia to Lithuania, probably in the 1930s. She, Paule, became a teacher with several languages to her credit. Her story ended in Canada after tremendous trials during the Second World War. Some friends believe that Paule's only son inherited the yurodivy genes. Now deceased, his often erratic or bizarre behaviour was given the more convenient modern label of atypical bipolar disorder.

Despite the above gentleman bearing a superficial resemblance to Rasputin ― who by many accounts was a yurodivy ― he is clearly a married man of some comfortable significance.

Without the photo, the anecdote is the stuff of exotic daydreaming. With it ... a bit of mysterious substance, if not genealogical evidence.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

15 May 2016

Loyalist Research Library - A Conference Extra

The Loyalist Flag (the Queen Anne Union of 1707)
Do you have Loyalist ancestors? Or suspected Loyalist ancestors? A research library dedicated to exactly that special type of lineage genealogy is a gem tucked away in downtown Toronto.

I mention this because family historians are already filling up registrations for the Ontario Genealogical Society’s Conference: June 3-5 in Toronto. This year’s venue is the International Plaza Hotel. If you haven’t registered, there is still room for more! See http://www.ogs.on.ca/conference/

On June 2nd (yes, the Conference really starts on June 2nd for the keen) OGS offers excursions to three destinations among Toronto’s great resource centres, and one of them is the library of the Toronto Branch, United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada (UELAC). The UELAC is Canada’s only lineage society; our province was founded by Loyalist refugees in the 1780s.

Take a look at this page on the Branch website: http://www.ueltoronto.ca/library.htm
It gives a small taste of a collection that was begun in the 1880s. Concentrating on the pre-Revolution colonies and Upper Canada up to the mid-nineteenth century, it holds published and unpublished family histories, military rolls and battle accounts, transcriptions of church records, maps, early lineage connections, copies of important government archival sources, microforms, many series of genealogical journals, and more. A volunteer will help you navigate the collection and/or discuss the requirements for proving the lineage steps. May I recommend United Empire Loyalists: Tracing Your Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada as one of the how-to books? *

The Toronto Branch UELAC Library is located in Suite 300 at 40 Scollard Street. Normally the library is open on Thursdays, staffed by volunteers, and that will be the case for the excursion on June 2nd. 

But ... they can accommodate you sooner that week (e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) if you call ahead to make an appointment (416-489-1783) ... as soon as possible!

The first week in June is a golden time for family historians at Canada’s largest genealogy gathering. Thousands upon thousands of our ancestors came to or through the province of Ontario to spread to all corners of the continent — and “Genealogy on the Cutting Edge” promises exciting workshops, speakers, market place, pop-up talks, and of course the irreplaceable camaraderie.

Savvy family historians do arrive early for a few extra research days, before the crowds and the discovering of potential new cousins. Just remember, call ahead to the Toronto Branch UELAC Library if you want to visit ... that week in June or any other time. 

* Available from Global Genealogy online or at their tables at OGS Conference 2016.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman