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.

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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!

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