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.

 

DIXON RICHARD JOSHUA_0001
Richard Joshua Dixon
DIXON RICHARD JOSHUA ISAAC HELEN JANE tombstone
The tombstone of Helen Jane Isaac and her first husband, Richard Joshua Dixon.
RAY DONALD MCFADYEN gravestone
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).

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.

 

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?

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