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?

Exploring Germantown

I am visiting my son in Philadelphia and took the opportunity to do some more legwork, hunting down Calhoun ancestors who lived in the area.  I made an appointment with the Archivist at the Germantown Historical Society.

Germantown, Pennsylvania is now part of Philadelphia.  In the 1860’s, many wealthy Philadelphians built ‘summer homes’ (which were very large, beautiful estates) there.  They were helping their families escape the cholera outbreaks that were occurring in Philadelphia itself. Germantown wasn’t as wet and swampy and mosquitoes were not the problem they were down in town.

A pair of ancestors (a great-uncle and a great-aunt) were servants of a couple of those wealthy families and are recorded as such in the  1870 and 1880 censuses.  Unfortunately, the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire and I cannot track what happened to these folks at that time.

Germantown Early Map Great-grandfather, ROBERT CHARLES COLHOUN (or CALHOUN, once he immigrated to Canada), was part of a large family.  His older sister, MARY CALHOUN, immigrated from Gortin, County Tyrone, Ireland to Philadelphia by 1870.  I found her in the 1870 census, living in Germantown, with the William Wynne Wister family as a domestic.

Here are the family members and domestics listed:

William W Wister 63
Hannah Wister 62
Wm Wynne Wister 32
Hannah Wister 28
Mary W Wister 23
Emily Wister 21
Mary Cavanagh 30
Mary Calhoun 24

Now, Mary Colhoun/Calhoun (the Colhouns seemed to all understand that once they hit the New World, they HAD to change the spelling of their names) was born on 21 March 1841, so she was 29 years old not 24, as stated in the census.  Of course, one never knows who was giving the census-taker the information and there was possibly a fair amount of guessing-of-ages going on, especially in terms of the servants.   Hey, maybe Mary looked younger than her years…or told her employers that she was younger than she was.

William Wynne Wister was part of a very prominent Philadelphia family.  William, himself, was the president of the Germantown Bank.  He was a mover and a shaker in the community and did business with all the other wealthy men in the area.  He was born in 1807 and died in 1898; he went into the Bank till a few weeks before his death.  He was an amateur Botanist and was known as the Grand Old Man of Germantown.

Mary was still working for him in 1880.  The census says that Mary Calhoun was still a domestic (and age 30!), while the other live-in servant was a C. McLoughlin, 23, who was the Cook.  The house was large, so Mary must have had quite a time keeping that big house clean, unless there were other servants that lived outside the house.  Doubtful.

I have a hunch that Mary got her job through a relation.  In the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses, a certain Bridget McCullough was living as a servant right next door, at the Isaiah Hacker home.(Isaiah Hacker was a very successful merchant.  His house still stands.)  McCullough was the last name of Mary Calhoun’s mother.  There were no other McCulloughs listed in Germantown, either.  I suspect that Bridget McCullough helped her niece/cousin get a place when she immigrated.

In the 1880 census, Mary’s younger brother shows up in Germantown.  ALEXANDER CALHOUN was twelve years younger than his sister Mary; he was born in 1853.  In 1880, he was 27 years old, though he was listed as 24 in the census.  He was listed in that census as working as the only male live-in servant of Harry Ingersoll, Farmer. SARAH CRAWFORD, who would later become Alexander Calhoun’s wife, was also listed as a servant for the same family. There were 5 live-in servants.

Harry Ingersoll was much, much more than a Farmer.  His family had deep roots in the country. His grandfather was a personal friend of George Washington and he himself was a personal friend of Charles Dickens and James Fenimore Cooper.  He was very wealthy…his wife brought a considerable fortune to their marriage.  Their estate, called Medary, was known for its’ incredibly beautiful garden.

I suspect that Mary helped her brother get his position at Medary, through the connections that William Wynne Wister, her employer, had.

Doing research on servants in 19th century America, I read that Irish servants were often suspected of trying to convert the children of their employers and there was much prejudice.  Alexander and Mary were Protestants and Protestant servants were hard to come by, and very much in demand.

Germantown is no longer a place where the wealthy live and play.  The area has become a victim of white-flight and is noticeably poor.  There is still some fine architecture there and one day it will probably turn back to being a fashionable place to live.  I did get a sense of the area that Mary and Alexander lived and worked, though, and it was a worthwhile visit.

 

The beginning of the Calhoun/Colhoun and Parke story…

Robert Charles Colhoun married Elizabeth Ann Parke in Dublin on the 8th of February 1872. This is the story of their marriage and their family.

Eliza Parke
Eliza Ann Parke, at around age 16

We don’t have any pictures of Robert in his youth, but since he was a good looking man well into his older age, he must have been quite a handsome young man. Eliza was a lovely young woman with brown hair and brown eyes.

Robert was a teacher at the Church of Ireland school in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, Ireland and 7 years Eliza’s senior. According to a note written by her son, Alex, the school is where they met. Given that it was very unusual for someone 16 (the age that Eliza was when she met Robert), she may well have been a teacher’s assistant.

There was some sort of romance between the two, and Eliza found herself pregnant. It appears that Robert had left Ballinamore around this time, and was teaching in Ballyshannon, County Donegal. How frightened Eliza must have been to find herself pregnant and unmarried. According to A Social History of Ireland, 1870-1970:

Within the farming community, the plight of an unmarried girl who became pregnant was critical. With the emphasis on agreed or ‘matched’ marriages amongst those with land in post-Famine Ireland, the increased importance of female virtue was stressed, as ‘an unvirtuous daughter could be the ruination of an otherwise thrifty and farseeing man.’

Frequently girls were cast out by their families and forced to become vagrants, many resorting to the workhouse or prostitution. Women for whom a marriage partner could be found never fully redeemed the disgrace caused to themselves or their families.

We don’t know if Robert knew that Eliza was pregnant when he left Ballinamore, nor do we know when he came to find out. All we know is that at the time of her marriage, Eliza was listed as living in Dublin at 44 Lower Ormond Quay…which at the time was Glynn’s Hotel. Had her parents put her there to remove her from the eyes of the small village they lived in? Probably.

Robert was listed on his wedding documents as living on Church Avenue, Ballyshannon, County Donegal. The only thing on the tiny spur of a road that is Church Avenue is the Church of Ireland church and the accompanying C of I school.

Eliza was said to have a very sweet, accommodating personality. She was the eldest of 3 sisters. Her father, William Parke (age 55), was a prosperous farmer. Her mother, Elizabeth (also called Eliza) Taylor Parke, was about 37 when her 17-year-old daughter got pregnant and then married the schoolteacher, Robert Charles Colhoun.

No matter what he thought of the marriage, or of his daughter and Robert Colhoun, William Parke went to Dublin and witnessed their marriage. He was one of the two witnesses on their marriage document. The other was Sarah Haddock. We don’t know who she was. It is possible that she was the companion to Eliza. She needed some sort of chaperone in Dublin.

Robert was 24 and Eliza was 17 at the time of the wedding. Robert was listed as a Bachelor of ‘full age’; Eliza was listed as a Spinster and a Minor.

Did Eliza’s mother or sisters attend her wedding? We don’t know. What we do know is that Eliza never saw her family again. Either did Robert. They seem to have set sail for Canada immediately after the wedding. Their son, Charles Kingsley Calhoun, was born 16 days after their wedding, on 23 February 1872. He may have been born on the ship or he may have been born when they reached Canada. I have yet to find a record of his birth.

Remembering our WW1 Ancestors

I found, via Out of my Tree Genealogy, a wonderful site called Lives of the First World War.  This site aims to have stories for all of those who were involved in the war.  From my family, that means great-aunt MARION CALHOUN who was in the VAC and was nursing in England for a time during the war.  Also there is grandfather ALEXANDER CALHOUN, who was in the Siberian Expeditionary Force.  And the reason that both of those relatives joined was the death of their brother, great-uncle DOUGLAS HANLEY CALHOUN.  Doug was an engineer and died in Belgium in 1917.  His siblings were so very devastated by his death that they put their regular lives on hold to join the war effort.

This is a truly wonderful site, please go look at it and help, if you can.

I will end with a few pictures of Marion in her VAC uniform…over there!

Marion Calhoun VAC uniform
Marion Calhoun in her official VAC photo.
Marion in uniform, Englad
Marion, ready to go.
Marion Calhoun VAC
Marion and a friend, in England, as part of the VAC

Irish Constabulary…

When I went to Ireland last month, I was really excited to spend some time at the National Archives in Dublin.  One of the things I wanted to do was find a certain Constable (who had married a great-great-aunt).  I had read that one could find RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) records there, records that would tell where a constable was posted and when, their record of advancement, and when (and if) they were pensioned.

ROBERT HANLEY had married CATHERINE COLHOUN in Gortin, County Tyrone, 30 April 1867. He was listed as Constable on the marriage record…lucky for me because it gave me a place to look.  I wanted to know how long Robert had lived in Gortin, how long he lived there after his marriage, where he might have moved, if he stayed with the RIC…all these things I hoped would help me to find out if they had children.  These children might have had children and I was hoping there might actually be living descendants.

I did find Robert Hanley’s service records and there were some surprises.  First off, Robert was a LOT older than Catherine.  He was originally appointed to the Constabulary on 9 May 1848 when he was 23 years old.  That means he was born in 1825 and was 42 at the time of his marriage.  Catherine would have been 24 at the time of their marriage.

According to the record, Robert’s native county was Meath.

Robert’s first posting in 1848 was in County Clare.  He was there until  20 Feb 1855, when he went into the Reserve Force.  From what I understand, the Reserve Force  was formed to help the Constabulary in any part of the country, fighting rebellion.  That meant that Robert, as a young man, would have traveled a bit around Ireland…sounds like he had a pretty tough job.  By 1 Aug 1857, Robert began doing Revenue Duty.  He was made an A.C.,  Assistant Constable on 1 Aug 1859.  He was moved to County Tyrone on 8 May 1856.  He rose to the rank of Constable on 1 Sept 1860.

When Robert married Catherine, it provoked a relocation.  The Irish Constabulary (which became the Royal Irish Constabulary in that same year, 1867, in recognition of its help in the suppression of the Fenian Rising in that year) had a rule that a man could not serve in his home county, that of his wife, or in any where he or his wife had relatives.  So, on 1 Sept 1867, he was transferred to County Monaghan.  He began receiving extra pay on 1 Oct 1871.

The record shows that after 31 years and 1 month, on 16 June 1879, Robert retired and started receiving his pension of 75 pounds.

That was a lot of information to find. I know a lot more than I did.  I haven’t found any children for Robert and Catherine yet, but I will keep digging.

Sharing…

I love collecting information on our ancestors, but I also love to share that information.  First of all, people get really excited when you tell them you have a photo of their great-grandmother, someone that they have some vague idea about.  It makes them want to share back.  This is what makes genealogy so fun for me.  I give things to various newly-found relatives, and they give amazing gems to me.

Today, I called the Grey Roots Museum & Archive.  This is the historical society for Grey’s County, Ontario, Canada.  Many of my husband’s ancestors came from there.  I have a wonderful group photo, circa 1894, that I found in one of my mother-in-law’s albums.  This photo has about 75 people in it and she wrote on the reverse side of it:

        In back row of those seated — Aunt Helen (Isaac), a man standing behind her has his right hand on her left shoulder (Richard Dixon).  To her left, a man then three (all seated) ladies and then my mother (Sarah Jane Isaac), in a white dress and sailor hat.
        Cousin James Snell is behind lady leaning over with an umbrella on her lap – black dress.  
         First row standing – Great Aunt Mary Henderson Geddes and husband William Geddes – near left side of picture.  She is in black dress and bonnet.
1894?  Dromore Ontario
I was interested in finding out if they could tell me anything more about the photo, but I also wanted to give them a digital copy of it.  I want other folks who might have ancestors in this wonderful photo to have the opportunity of seeing it (and possessing it), too.
I don’t know the reason for all these people in the photo to come together.  I wonder if it was a church event or a town event.  Everyone is dressed to the nines; it’s impressive.  This photo gave me a first look at HELEN ISAAC’s first husband, RICHARD DIXON.  I got to see my husband’s grandmother, SARAH JANE ISAAC, as a very young woman.  I had never even heard of JAMES SNELL before I saw this.  And then there are Great Aunt MARY HENDERSON GEDDES and Great Uncle WILLIAM GEDDES…wow.
This photo will help me put together the story of these ancestors.  I have some faces to put behind the words that I will write.  And I hope someone out there will recognize some of the other faces here, and maybe tell me something about them.
So, here I go, sharing this photo with you.  You’re welcome.
Helen Isaac, Richard Dixon, Sarah Jane Isaac, James Snell, Mary Henderson Geddes, William Geddes
Helen Isaac, Richard Dixon, Sarah Jane Isaac, James Snell, Mary Henderson Geddes, William Geddes

It’s in the eyes…

I am always interested in seeing traits repeated in families.  In this case, I am referring to physical traits.  I came across these pictures the other day and, BAM!  It smacked me right in the face.  My husband, JOHN CALHOUN, has the same eyes as his great-aunt, KATHLEEN CALHOUN.  John was about 39 years old when this photo was taken, but I am not sure exactly how old Kathleen was.  But those eyes…they are the same.

Family history is so interesting, and I will tell Kathleen’s story in this blog…wait, wait, I will get to it and it is worth the wait.

I am not sure I see those same eyes in any of my kids, but I will look for them in photos from now on.  In the meantime, John was born in 1944 and Kathleen was born in 1886.  Fifty-eight years may separate their births, but those genes are strong.  I am not sure if they came down the Calhoun or Parke side, but again, I will keep looking at the old photos I have to see if I can trace them.

This is a fun new avenue of research for me to go down.   Yippee!John Calhoun, Kathleen Calhoun