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?

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).


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.


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.


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