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).

MyraIsabellaCalhoun_birthMyraIsabellaCalhoun_death

 

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.

 

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Tracking down family stories…

My mother-in-law, JEAN MARY FETTES, told me the story of her cousins, JAMES PATON ISAAC and MARGARET AGNES ISAAC.  She told me that James was a professor and his sister was his travel and research partner…that they traveled the world together, exploring, researching, and writing.  Neither of them ever married.  I thought I would try to try track them down.

James (1895-1964) and Margaret Isaac  (1902-1995) were the only two children of Jean’s maternal uncle and aunt, ROBERT HENDERSON ISAAC (1867-1928) and MARY SPIERS PATON (1867-1941).  James was 7 years older than he sister.  He graduated from University of Toronto in 1917 with his Bachelor’s degree and in 1918 with his Master’s degree.  He went on to Harvard University and got his Ph.D. in Ancient History there.  Pretty impressive intellect, cousin!

After Harvard, James taught at the University of Colorado for a time and then at Oklahoma State University till he retired.  He went back to Toronto and lived there for his last 20 years.

According to James’ U.S. Naturalization paperwork, he was 5’11” tall, weighed 160 lbs., had dark brown hair and blue eyes, and wore glasses.

Margaret was listed in the Voter Directories of 1935 and later as a Stenographer.  This would be a plus when she and her brother did their travel/research.

Margaret published her brother’s best-known work, “Factors in the Ruin of Antiquity”in 1972.  I haven’t found any evidence of her collaboration with her brother but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.  Neither of them ever married.  It would make sense that she and her brother could have spent this time together, traveling and working together.

James Paton Isaac’s archives are kept at University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.   He was described as such:

James Paton Isaac (1895-1964), educator and author, was born in and educated in Toronto and at Harvard University where he received the PhD. He later taught Ancient History at the University of Colorado and at Oklahoma State University. Isaac was the author of ‘Factors in the ruin of antiquity; a criticism of ancient civilization,’ (1971).

So, the family story wasn’t proved but I found some interesting material about this sibling pair.  And I can imagine their collaboration, and I hope it was true.  I’d like to believe that Margaret had an interesting intellectual life, as her brother did.  James died at age 68 and Margaret died at the grand old age of 93!

Social Media and Genealogy

Social Media has been an amazing force in the world of Genealogy, especially for amateur Genealogists like me.   I hadn’t thought of FaceBook and Twitter being sources of knowledge in this field, but they are.  On FaceBook, I am a member of several Closed Groups including Ontario and Upper Canada Genealogy, Irish Genealogy,  and the Omagh (N. Ireland) Family History Society, as well as some public groups.  In a Closed Group one must ask for membership to the group and then follow the group rules or risk being thrown out.  On Twitter, there are many genealogical organizations tweeting, as well as individuals who have genealogy blogs or who just are Genea-fanatics like me.  It’s amazing how much information is shared on these forums.

On the Ontario and Upper Canada Genealogy FaceBook page, I recently read a post about Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865 – Library and Archives Canada.  Now, my husband’s paternal grandmother was descended from some early pioneers, who were rumored to be United Empire Loyalists…so, of course, I thought this could be a good source for me.  Following the instructions of one of the site members, I found the original petitions for land for a pair of those ancestors.

My husband’s great-grandmother was SARAH ANN VERMILYEA.  Sarah’s father was SOLOMON VERMILYEA and her mother was ELIZABETH JONES.  I knew that Solomon’s father was PETER VERMILYEA (who was married to MARY JEWELL) and that they had come from New York state (probably in the Catskill Mountains) and had arrived sometime after Solomon’s birth.  I looked in the Land Petitions and found Peter Vermilyea’s petition, dated 11th July 1808.

VERMILYEA PETER 1808 Land petition snippet

Unlike many of the Land Petitions, Peter wasn’t requesting land outright, as a Loyalist.  He was requesting the Lease of Land that was in the Crown Reserve.  This was granted in December of that year.

What did I learn from the record?  Peter Vermilyea and his family were in Upper Canada by 1808.  He never said he was a Loyalist, so that may not have been the reason for his move from New York.  It could have been that land was plentiful in Upper Canada and that it was good, fertile farm land.  He had no other Land Petitions, so it was not likely that he was a Loyalist, given that Loyalists were rewarded with outright grants of land.  Peter Ruttan was named as his guarantor in the Lease.  Later, Peter Vermilyea’s son, WILLIAM VERMILYEA, would marry Peter Ruttan’s daughter RACHEL RUTTAN.  From other research, I found that Peter Ruttan and Peter Vermilyea were neighbors.

All that (and more) I discovered just because someone posted the information about the Land Petition site on FaceBook.  Who knows how long it would have taken to me figure out that the site existed?