Digging through the NY Public Library

I recently spent 2 weeks in NYC and discovered that they have an entire room devoted to Genealogy. There are many books, folders, and other items that can be accessed there. I don’t live in New York, so I got a free temporary (3-month) card and was off to the races.

Their research catalog is vast and I was able to call up files for various old NY families that my husband is a part of (Pinckneys, Vermilyeas, Tourneurs, Guions, Fourrestiers, etc) as well as books that referenced them. Some were on site and I could get them with a short wait. Some were offsite and I could order them up via the research catalog, and they would be there within a day, maybe two.

What a wonderful resource!

Of course, this is where the research becomes interesting…

The 1891 Census of Canada makes our little Calhoun family seem so normal, cohesive.  As I have seen on other Census data, the age noted for Robert is wrong.  It says he is 42, but depending on when the census was actually taken, he would be 43 or 44 and Eliza is listed as 38 but she is either 36 or 37.    The family patriarch, Robert, is 44 and an Agent (probably still for Rathbun Lumber Company).  Eliza is 37 and a housewife.  The family religion is said to be Methodist.  All the children are still listed in their household:  Charley is 19 (and listed as a YMCA Secretary, Grace is 17, Bertha is 15, Alex is 11, Marion is 7, Kathleen is 4, and Doug is 1.  Very tidy.

Research within the family (grandchildren of Charley’s) tells me that Charley and his father didn’t get along. In fact, Charley’s granddaughter, Diane, tells me that he had been beaten down (at least mentally) by his father.  He left the family home early and separated himself from his parents.   He wanted to go to college but never had the opportunity because there was not enough money.  Charley went out and got a job.  He was a very religious man and the YMCA would have been a great place for him.  The YMCA’s mission was to engage young men and promote Christian values.  Charley was a very religious man throughout his life.

I wonder if Charley’s father, Robert, had felt trapped by his wife’s pregnancy and took it out on Charley, though there is also evidence that he was not always kind to his wife.  This came out in letters between his daughters, Marion and Kathleen.

His mother, Eliza, on the other hand, was always written about and talked about as being a very kind woman.  Her children and her grandchildren adored her.

In 1891, daughter Grace had begun teaching.  She was teaching in Belleville and the rest of the family, save Charley, had moved to Ottawa about 2-3 years later…the family story is that Robert was looking for educational opportunities for his very bright children.

Charley moved to Montreal, Quebec with the YMCA and continued to excel in that organization.  He became a master fundraiser, and worked his way up to the International YMCA and worked in New York.  He married EFFIE MARGARET BUDGE, the boss’s daughter, and had a family of 4 girls and a boy (Margaret Calhoun Sedgewick, Robert Budge Calhoun, Kathleen Calhoun Leathem, Eileen Calhoun Russell, and Beatrice Calhoun Nancekevill).  He died at 86.

Grace first became a teacher, then went on to a professional course in Guelph.  She became a Supervisor, ended up making more money than her father, was the first woman to own a car in the province of Ontario, and was very prominent in Ottawa schools for her entire career. She never married and died at 77.

Bertha was the real mystery.  She appears to have been “simple”; I think that was the word that family at that time used to describe her.  She lived at home as a housekeeper to the family, then went to live in a hospital.  She died, unmarried, at age 99.  The family took good care of her all those years.

Alex was brilliant.  He earned a scholarship to go to university and became a high school teacher, then became a librarian.  He was the founding librarian of the Calgary, Alberta Library system.  He was an incredibly influential man in his community.  He was my husband’s grandfather.  He lived to be 99 years old.

Marion became a librarian at the Geological Survey of Canada, in Ottawa.  She became a VAC nurse in England at the end of WW2, after the death of her brother, Douglas.  She married Stewart Clifford McLean (called Mac), a Geologist.  They had 2 children, Donald Douglas McLean and Kathleen (Kay) McLean. She lived to be 84 years old.

Kathleen was the youngest daughter. She became a teacher first, then followed her brother, Alex, to Alberta and became a librarian. She had an affair with a prominent, married, Canadian artist and when that ended she headed to New York City to work in the library of J. P. Morgan.

Douglas, the baby of the family, became an engineer and eventually joined the army with classmates from university. He died at Passchendale in Belgium while working on building a road for the Allied Forces.



Writing the family book…

I am in the process of writing “the Book” on one part of the Calhoun Family.  ROBERT CHARLES CALHOUN and ELIZABETH ANN PARKE were my husband’s great-grandparents.

Calhoun Parke
Eliza Ann Parke and Robert Charles Calhoun

I have collected a 3-inch binder-full of material on them and on their children.  I have found so many interesting things that the documents have uncovered about this amazing group of people.  I am trying to decide how many documents I will include in the PDF-book that I am creating.  I am in the process of deciding the page layout…what will look aesthetically pleasing?  (I worked on my high school yearbook and was on the layout staff, so I know a little bit about this.)

This is actually less fun than collecting the data but it is the reason I collected all this data…to tell their story.

Their story started in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, Ireland.  Robert was a teacher in the Church of Ireland school.  Eliza was either a student or a teacher’s assistant.  Romance ensued.  They married in Feb 1872 and got on a ship for Canada.  They had 10 children (that I could find a record of), with 3 of those children dying in childhood.  I want to tell this story in the right way.  Can I do it?

The little Calhoun family gets bigger…

As you read yesterday, Robert and Eliza Calhoun seemed to be making a successful new life for themselves as they settled in to late 19th century Ontario (Canada West, at the time).  They now had 2 boys, Charley and Alexander William, and 2 girls, Grace and Bertha.  I just want to note that Robert had a brother named Alexander,  a sister named Bertha, and an uncle named William…just saying….

Robert had gone from being a “Bookkeeper” at the birth of Charley and Grace to a “Bookkeeper and Clerk” at the birth of Alexander William.  On 17 Nov 1879 another son, named ALEXANDER CALHOUN, was born.  This has been a tough puzzle to put together.  Did they lose Alexander William, then have a son named William?

In the 1881 census the family consisted of Robert C.  (Bookkeeper, age 33), Elizabeth A. (age 26), Charles (age 8), Grace (age 6), Bertha (age 4), William (age 2), and Alexander (age 1).  Shouldn’t Alexander William, born in 1877, have been age 3 or 4 in that census?

Alexander (who would become my husband’s grandfather) referred to an older brother named Willie.  But when Willie died, he was age 6, in 1883.  That means that Alexander William was Willie.  How odd that they named their next son Alexander!

I wrote about the next child, MYRA ISABELLA CALHOUN, in a post on 26 Jan 2016.  Myra was born 27 Feb 1882 and died of Consumption (Tuberculosis) at 8 months, 10 days old on 6 Nov 1882.  I believe Myra Isabella was named after Eliza’s two sisters, Maria and Isabella.

I don’t know if it was this last loss or if things were just not moving the way Robert wanted them to, but the Calhouns moved West to Gananoque, 165 miles away, early the next year.  Robert became a Wharfinger (the manager of a wharf, managing the ingoing and outgoing ships, etc.) there.  The lumber company that ran the wharf was the Rathbun Company.

Unfortunately, tragedy followed…in the drowning death of Willie.

newspaper drowning report
Gananoque Reporter, 1 Sep 1883 Drowning death of Willie Calhoun

Willie died on 28 Aug 1883.  He would have been 6 years old only 10 days later.  What a sad and tragic time for Eliza and Robert.  My heart breaks that they lost their daughter, Myra, the year before and now Willie.  And Eliza might even have known she was pregnant with their next child.  How sad and frightening.

On 9 Apr 1884, another daughter was born, MARION CALHOUN.  Marion was another form of Maria (her sister) and Myra (her last daughter).  On her birth record, it states that she was born in Gananoque.  Her father was a clerk in the lumber/coal business.  Robert was 37 and Eliza was just 30.  Was Robert a clerk or still a wharfinger?  Was a wharfinger a clerk?

On 20 Nov 1886, the family welcomed another daughter, KATHERINE CALHOUN.  Later in life, she was known as Kathleen.  She was probably named after Robert’s now long-dead mother, Catherine McCullough.  She was born in Gananoque.

In the next few years, the family moved East again, about 70 miles away to Belleville.  On 17 Jan 1890, DOUGLAS HANLEY CALHOUN was born.  Robert was listed as working as an Agent, Rathbun Co., here.

The family was now complete.  As the story goes on, you will see that there is still tragedy (and triumph) to come for them.

To be continued…




Robert Calhoun & Eliza Parke Family Story

I have told bits and pieces of this family’s story in this (poorly updated) blog over the past couple of years.  When there are pieces of the family history that I have already talked about, I will reference the dates of those posts.

In my 4 Nov 2015 post, I wrote about the genesis of this couple.  Eliza was a student or student-teacher and Robert was teaching in the same 2-room Church of Ireland school in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, Ireland, when they met, had an affair, and Eliza found herself pregnant.  Robert was eventually tracked down and they married when Eliza was 8 months pregnant in Feb 1872.  Go to that post for the rest of that story.

Some basics:  ROBERT CHARLES COLHOUN (27 Jul 1847 – 22 May 1925) was born in Gortin, County Tyrone, Ireland (now Northern Ireland) to SAMUEL COLHOUN and CATHERINE MCCULLOUGH.  Samuel and Catherine had 4 girls and then 4 boys.  The eldest boy was Robert.  Robert’s father, Samuel, was a Blacksmith.  Robert must have gotten some training (maybe even went to college) to become a teacher.  This gave Robert the chance to move up in the world, socially.  It also gave him the opportunity to leave Gortin.  He may have been assigned other places before going to Ballinamore in County Leitrim, but I have no record of that.

ELIZABETH ANN PARKE (15 May 1854 – 15 May 1944) was the first child of WILLIAM PARKE and ELIZABETH TAYLOR.  Both mother and daughter were called Eliza.  She was 16 when she met her handsome, older teacher, Robert.  Her father was a well-off farmer with 2 other daughters.

After the disgrace of their shotgun wedding, Robert and Eliza set sail for Canada…at least that’s what I think.  Their son, eldest child CHARLES KINGSLEY CALHOUN, was said to have been born in Canada, though I have never found a birth record for him.  He may have been born aboard ship.  His birthdate was 23 Feb 1872.  The little family settled in the small town of Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada.  Charles was employed as a Bookkeeper for one of the lumber companies there.

Fenelon Falls was incorporated as a village in 1874, just 2 years after the Calhouns (who had changed the spelling of their name from Colhoun, the Irish form) arrived.  It was a prosperous port town.  Robert was a smart, educated guy…in fact, he had a reputation in his family of being somewhat smug about his intellect.  He seems to have prospered in this little village.

Robert was said to have never been in touch with his family again after his hasty marriage, so he probably didn’t know that his mother, Catherine McCullough Colhoun, died a year after he emigrated, on 19 Apr 1873.  How sad for both of them.  As a mother, I imagine Catherine in Ireland, wondering where her oldest son was and how her only grandchild might be faring.  Did she even know if it was a grandson or a granddaughter?

On 15 Apr 1874, two years after the birth of their first child, Robert and Eliza had a second.  Their daughter, GRACE CALHOUN, arrived.  Robert was still listed as a bookkeeper in her birth record.

Just a month after Grace’s birth, Robert’s brother, WILLIAM JAMES COLHOUN, married SARAH EMILY ALEXANDER on 12 May 1874.  William and Sarah were both teachers in Gortin, the Colhoun’s hometown. They had a daughter, whose name I have not been able to find, on 9 Feb 1875.

Not only that but in Ballinamore, Eliza’s mother and father had another daughter, FANNY PARKE, on 11 Sep 1874.  Eliza never met her sister, who was the same age as her own daughter.  How strange was that!

Eighteen months after Grace’s birth Eliza and Robert had a second daughter, BERTHA ELIZABETH CALHOUN, was born on 3 Dec 1875. And 18 months after that, on 4 Sep 1877, another son was born…ALEXANDER WILLIAM CALHOUN.   The fast-growing family was certainly keeping them busy.

Back in Gortin, Robert’s brother, William, died of consumption on 6 May 1877.  William’s wife, Sarah, was pregnant with their son, another WILLIAM JAMES COLHOUN, who was born a month later on 9 Jun 1877.

To be continued, tomorrow…




Teaching life on the Canadian prairie…


My husband’s Great-Aunt KATHLEEN CALHOUN (20 Nov 1886 – 23 Nov 1970) has always interested me enormously.  She was very close to her brother, my husband’s grandfather, ALEXANDER CALHOUN, and so the family has photos and momentos of hers.

Kathleen struck out on her own at age 24 and went out (Alone!!!) to the Canadian prairie to teach.  She was in Saskatchewan…a place most Americans and many Canadians have barely heard of, much less traveled to.  And in 1911, Saskatchewan was a very remote place…a pioneer’s place.  First in Elbow and then in Saltcoats, Kathleen showed her grit and her gumption as a young woman, solitary and smart, out in the hinterlands.  There are some wonderful photos that are still in the family.  Just look at these:

CALHOUN KATHLEEN 1911 Prairie School
Kathleen Calhoun at her schoolhouse door.

Just another prairie school and Kathleen Calhoun, teacher.

CALHOUN KATHLEEN 1911 Prairie Oxcart
Postcard home: Kathleen is on the left.


And just how did Kathleen get there?  She was a woman with a college degree.  In 1911!  Here is a bit more of her story.

Kathleen was the youngest girl.  Her older surviving sisters were GRACE, BERTHA, and MARION CALHOUN.  There was an older sister, MYRA ISABELLA CALHOUN, who had died of consumption at 9 months old.

Kathleen was seemingly incredibly bright and won the Silver Prize (the highest honor) in Mathematics at her secondary school, Ottawa Collegiate Institute.*  This made way for her to win a scholarship to college.  She followed her brother, Alex, to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, from which he had graduated in Spring 1902 with a Gold Medal in Classics, his major.

Kathleen graduated in Spring 1904 with her Mathematics Medal and Queen’s University Chancellor’s Scholarship in hand (worth $200 per year). She had won a French and German Scholarship as well, according to the Ottawa Journal (12 Aug 1904 and 18 Aug 1904).

After two years at Queen’s, she spent a summer teaching in Manotick, Ontario, of which she noted:  Earned $70, paid $20 board…brought home $50.  Kathleen switched schools to Ontario Normal College in Hamilton, Ontario in the Fall of 1906.  This was a school to train secondary school teachers.  She only went there for one year; the college closed in 1907 when teacher training went into the University system.  She must have switched from Queen’s because she decided to be a teacher.  Hamilton was 300 miles from Ottawa, on Lake Ontario, not far from Niagara Falls.

In June 1907, Kathleen traveled by boat and train to Calgary.  She went to Red Deer, Springbank, and Carstairs to apply for teaching positions.  She accepted a position in Carstairs in a 4-room school and taught there till December, when she returned home to Ottawa.  She was ill with thyroid problems, which would plague her for the rest of her life.

In April of 1908, Kathleen began teaching in Ottawa at First Avenue School, Grade 1.   After a year and a half of teaching, Kathleen returned to Queen’s University, where she graduated in April 1911.  She left Kingston and headed back West to teach at a school on the prairie near Elbow, Saskatchewan.

On 30 June, she left Elbow and taught at a new school at Saltcoats on the prairie, slightly southeast of Yorkton near the Manitoba border (just north of North Dakota).  By Christmas, she had returned to Ottawa.

The 1911 Census found Kathleen in the area of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  She must have been living alone as she is listed as head of household, and there was no one else in her household.  She was a Teacher, living on her own means, worked 22 hours per week and earned $325.

What an adventure!  Could I have been as brave?


*Brief description:  The Ottawa Collegiate Institute is another notable school in Ottawa’s history, still open under the name of the Lisgar Collegiate Institute. Established in 1843, this originally all-boys school began admitting girls in 1859. In 1874, the collegiate relocated to its current spot downtown at 29 Lisgar Street (known as Biddy Street at the time).


Uncle Charlie and Constitution Day 1919

Maybe I’m not a ‘good American’ but I had never heard of Constitution Day till doing some genealogical research on my husband’s great-uncle CHARLES KINGSLEY CALHOUN. I came across an article, dated Sunday, Sept 7, 1919, in the New York Times listing C. K. Calhoun, Associate General Secretary of the Y.M.C.A., as requesting all of the 2100 branch secretaries in the U.S. to assist in making Constitution Day (Sept 17th) a success.


CALHOUN CHARLES K 1919 NY Times Constitution Day
7 Sept 1919, The New York Times

In this particular year, the drive was to provide “an antidote for the poisonous doctrines of present-day radicals” (i.e. Communists). That quote was from a second article, written in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, NY).

CALHOUN CHARLES K 1919 Brooklyn Eagle Constitution Day
8 Sept 1919: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Interesting. My husband’s grandfather, ALEXANDER CALHOUN, had become (around this time) a Socialist and his brother, Charlie, was waging an American-wide campaign against Socialism’s big brother, Communism. (For the differences between the two, look here: http://www.diffen.com/difference/Communism_vs_Socialism) THAT was very interesting, indeed. It goes a long way in explaining the two brothers living separate, and not very close, lives.

Uncle Charlie had a lifelong career at the YMCA. At age 19, (in the 1891 Canadian Census) he was living at his parents’ home in Ottawa and his occupation was YMCA Secretary. I had no idea what that meant. Was he a clerk? No, apparently not. The job of a YMCA Secretary was the running of an actual YMCA. Now…he may have been an Assistant Secretary, given his age. The YMCA, at that time, was not an athletic club, as my local Y was…before it shut down altogether…but a place for Christian fellowship and an early social service organization that helped all sorts of people get a foothold in their communities and provided all kinds of services to help them do so.

By 1901, Charlie had moved to Montreal and was (according to the 1901 Canadian Census) again working as a Secretary, YMCA. He was earning a whopping $1200 a year, while his father, ROBERT CHARLES CALHOUN, working as a Manager and age 51, was earning $1000/yr. His sister, GRACE CALHOUN, a teacher, was earning only $325/yr. He was obviously a man of some consequence already. That same year, he married the boss’s daughter, EFFIE MARGARET BUDGE.

In 1908, Charlie was named Canadian Field Secretary of the International YMCA, another step up…he was responsible for all of Canada. He was a good fundraiser and traveled Canada, helping Associations with their building campaigns. His earnings, according to the 1911 Canadian Census was a whopping $3000/year, three times what his father was earning (still listed as $1000/yr).

In 1917, Charlie had been moved up to the really big leagues, New York City.   World War One was on and Charlie was the New York City Secretary of the YMCA War Work Council. Charlie must have been a top-notch fundraiser. Here is a description of the work that was done by the YMCA through the War Work Council:

  • Throughout World War I, the YMCA provided morale and welfare services for the military. By war’s end, the YMCA, through the United War Work Council, had operated 1,500 canteens in the United States and France; set up 4,000 YMCA huts for recreation and religious services; and raised more than $235 million—equivalent to $4.3 billion today—for relief work.

After the War ended, Charlie was the Associate General Secretary of the YMCA New York City, and I found him organizing Constitution Day. Charlie had come from humble beginnings in Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada…son of Irish immigrants and the eldest of a big family. Without a college degree but with a great intellect and a great work ethic, he worked his way up to a really powerful and socially important job with the then-powerful YMCA. Bravo, Uncle Charlie!


Little Lies and Manipulations…

In 19th Century Canada, there were rules for reporting events such as births, marriages, and deaths.  The father of a child was required to register that child’s birth within 30 days.  If the father was unable to, the mother was then required.  Well, that didn’t always happen…as anyone who is doing Canadian genealogy can tell you.

In the case of great-aunt KATHLEEN CALHOUN, her parents registered some of her siblings births, but not all.  And they didn’t register hers at the time.  For whatever reason, Kathleen must have needed a record of her birth and her mother, ELIZA ANN PARKE, filled out the necessary form.  Here it is:

Birth document for Kathleen Calhoun

Well, maybe Eliza wasn’t quite telling the whole truth when she signed this document.  She listed the date of her marriage as 8 February 1871.  That wasn’t quite right.  She was, in fact, married on 8 February 1872.  Was this just a mistake?  Probably not.  Eliza was heavily pregnant with Kathleen’s brother, Charlie, at the time of her marriage.  He was, in fact, born a mere 3 weeks later.

Here’s the record of their marriage in Dublin.

Calhoun Parke marriage document

Poor Eliza was probably still worried what her children would think of her if she told the whole truth about the marriage and the move to Canada.  I find this sad, but very much of the time.  I just found it fascinating that Eliza was willing to lie in a government document, though what would they have done to her…really?

Thank God for Genealogical Hoarders

My mother-in-law, JEAN MARY FETTES CALHOUN, was a woman who loved her family, held on to old photos and letters, and kept contact (by letter) with all sorts of relatives.  The relatives she kept contact with were both hers and her husband’s.  She was not one to throw away old photos, but she actually kept a notation on them of who they were.  This is very lucky for me, as I try to collect, sort, and keep the stories of all these assorted folks.

Jean’s aunt, HELEN JANE ISAAC (1872-1955), married twice…once to the gentleman in the photo below, RICHARD JOSHUA DIXON (1876-1904) and secondly to DONALD MCFADYEN RAY (1864-1936).  Helen married her first husband, who seems to have gone by his middle name, on 4 June 1902 and he died only two years later on 21 Aug 1904 of Appendicitis.  How tragic!  Apparently, he had been studying for the ministry when he became ill.  She must have truly loved him because she kept this photo till the end of her life and she was buried next to him, not her second husband.  Helen’s second husband, Donald, was buried beside his first wife, WALTRENA WEIR.

Josh Dixon’s gravestone has a very touching memorial inscribed on it:

A loving husband, Kind and True, Was called to higher services than here.  In Love he lived, In Peace he died, His life was asked but denied.

When Helen married Josh, she was 29 and he was 25!  They had no children.  By the time she married her second husband, Don, Helen was 49 and Don was 64.  He had 3 children from his first marriage, they had none in common.  They were married for 15 years.


Richard Joshua Dixon

The tombstone of Helen Jane Isaac and her first husband, Richard Joshua Dixon.

The gravestone of Donald Ray and his first wife, Waltrena Weir.

Getting back to the luck of being related to a Genealogical Hoarder…there are many treasures that Jean left for me.  There are all sorts of breadcrumbs that she left for me to follow and to add to the family history.  I feel incredibly lucky.

The duty of recording births and deaths…

My husband’s great-grandfather, ROBERT CHARLES CALHOUN, emigrated to Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada, following his hasty marriage in Dublin in 1872 (as I wrote about in an earlier post).  In the frontier lumber town of Fenelon Falls, he got a job as a clerk…I understand he was working for one of the three lumber businesses operating in the area at the time.

After several years, his name also appears in the public records of Fenelon Falls.  He had become a recording clerk for the area.  I found his name and handwriting (which was quite easy to read and beautiful, actually) in the record books for births and deaths.  Recording the birth of his own daughter, MYRA ISABELLA CALHOUN, on 27 February 1882 must have brought him a great deal of joy.  Not only were the name and date of birth recorded but also such details as the names of the father and mother, the rank or profession of the father, the name and address of the informant, the date of the registration, and the name of the attending physician (in this case, Dr. A. Wilson, M. D.).

I am not sure if he did this work to bring in a little extra income, whether he was having trouble with his other employment, or what.  It certainly allowed Robert to come in contact with his neighbors and get to know them a bit better, whether they were reporting something joyous like a birth, or something tragic like a death.

Unfortunately, Robert had the awful job of recording his youngest child, Myra Isabella, at her death at the untimely age of 8 months, 10 days.  Again, his careful and beautiful writing is clear.  Myra died on 6 November 1882 of Tuberculosis/Consumption after an illness of 3 months.  Again, the attending physician was Dr. A. Wilson, M. D., who was also listed as the informant.  The date of the record was 23 December 1882.  For some reason, the religion of deceased was also listed (Methodist).



Robert finished out the year 1882 with that said record of his own daughter’s death and then resigned as Clerk.  He and his little family moved to Gananoque, Ontario, to begin anew.  Myra wasn’t the only child Robert had lost in Fenelon Falls in his decade there.  He had lost an infant son, Alexander William, in 1877.  Maybe the losses were too much for him and his wife, ELIZABETH ANNE PARKE, and they decided to move on to a place without the sad memories.  My heart breaks for them both.