Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Almost-Forgotten Cemetery

On Route 105 in the community of White's Cove New Brunswick is a tiny cemetery, encompassing less than half an acre, that looks quite out of place in the surrounding fields.  I noticed it by accident the first time my brother was showing off his nearby cottage on Grand Lake, and decided to do some spur-of-the-moment exploration.  To my surprise I discovered the grave of a distant cousin, Isabelle June Sansom, and her husband Andrew Skead.

The cemetery itself is officially known as White's Cove United Church Cemetery in Cambridge Parish.  There was a church on the grounds once, but it was closed in 1967 along with several other area churches when the congregations were amalgamated.  The building was subsequently demolished and no trace remains.  The cemetery however has been lovingly maintained: grass mowed, flower displays on the graves, and such.

Isabelle June Sansom was the daughter of Theodore Sansom, an office worker, and his wife Dorothy Forbes.  Born in 1920 in Moncton, she with her family moved to Fredericton in about 1930, where she finished her education and became employed as a stenographer.  In 1947 she married Andrew William Skead, a game technician from Winnipeg.  This occupation had nothing to do with computers; rather, it was more like a game warden, where he saw to the health and protection of wildlife.

The two lived in Fredericton for many years and were longtime members of St. Paul's United Church in Fredericton.  They had four children.

Even after tracking down all this information I'm left wondering why they chose to be buried in such a small cemetery in cottage country.  Both her parents and her brother Reginald are buried in the larger St. John's Anglican Cemetery a few kilometers east.

However an essay in the June 17th 2013 edition of the Globe and Mail about her youngest brother Theodore mentions an "annual gathering of the clan on White's Cove" and "memories of the cottage and seafood cooking on the shore abound".  After visiting my brother's cottage and being warmly welcomed by several of his neighbours, I realized: perhaps that's why.  Families and friends in rural neighbourhoods tend to be closer and happier.

So whoever maintains that cemetery must have roots in the area and hasn't forgotten.

*This is a re-post from the blog A Writer's Workbench which has been removed by the author.

Friday, 6 November 2015

A Father's Youth

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world." -- Philip Pullman

I really enjoy my father's stories.  Too many people don't think to listen to what their elders have to say until it's too late, and wonderful memories can be forgotten.

Dad grew up in Cornwall, Ontario: a small city of about 46,000 and one of the first incorporated communities in Upper Canada.  Until the late 1990s the main industries were cotton processing and paper manufacturing.  He and his parents lived on a dead-end street in the east end; their house was the only one on the street with a telephone because the previous owner of the house had been a company executive and could afford to install a phone.  The residents of the street had a mixture of French and English names: Rowe, Boisvenue, Marlowe.

One of the clearest things that Dad remembers about his early childhood was staying with his 17-year-old sister Joy.  When he was five, his elder brother Billy was dying of leukemia (there was no treatment then).  To enable his parents to better care for Billy, Dad went to stay with Joy at her house in Toronto and he attended Kindergarten there for most of the school year.  One of his favourite activities while in Toronto was buying a ticket for the streetcar and riding all around the city by himself - something unheard of today.  After his brother passed away he returned to Cornwall for the remainder of Kindergarten.

By then the Second World War had broken out and making a living became difficult for some.  Fortunately Dad's father had a good job at the Cortaulds chemical plant.  However Dad's uncle Alfred, who worked a farm in what is now Surrey, British Columbia, was having trouble getting help because all of the able young men were serving in the military.  Dad and his mother went to the farm for the summer, where they helped grow and harvest strawberries, beans, and various other crops.  One day they went to a local fair, where Alfred purchased as a present for Dad a tiny totem pole carved out of bone that was made by a Native American artisan.  That totem remains on Dad's bureau to this day.

My grandparents made a smart decision to enroll Dad in a French school for Grade One.  At the time, the laws governing education were still based upon those that had been set down in the BNA Act of 1867.  French-speaking people had been given many freedoms under the Act, but education was limited to Grades 1 to 12 only.  Plus French-speaking people were only permitted to attend French schools, and the English speakers could only attend English schools.  However, my grandmother happened to know someone high up in the French school - there was only one in Cornwall, known as College Classique and run by clergy - and arranged for him to go to the French school until Grade 8.  As a result he became perfectly bilingual.

The stories continue.

*This is a re-post from the original Cinquefoil Heritage blog on Blogster which has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

From Unwanted to Prosperous

"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." -- Mother Teresa

Between 1869 and the 1950s, over 100,000 children were sent to Canada from Great Britain during the child emigration movement. The purpose of this program was mainly to give war orphans a better life in a country far removed from conflict. However there was a dark side: many children were in fact not orphans but had been deemed unwanted by their families and society in general. The child care organizations profited when they essentially sold these children to farmers in Canada and other Commonwealth countries. Siblings in foster care were separated from their families and each other, in many cases never seeing them again.

My grandmother's elder brother Alfred Stride came to Canada under this program at the age of sixteen. He was not an orphan; although his father had been killed in 1914, his mother was still alive. However for as yet unknown reasons he was shipped off to Canada, arriving on the steamship Metagama in the spring of 1916.

After working on a farm in the town of Macklin Saskatchewan for the summer, he lied about his age to enlist in the Canadian army. En route to his deployment he made a brief stop in England to see his family (which inspired his younger sister Dorothy to come to Canada seven years later) and then continued on to Europe where he served in France and Belgium.

After the war he returned to Canada, this time to British Columbia where he signed onto the ship Makura as a steward and sailed several tours to Honolulu Hawaii and Sydney Australia. At last he settled down in New Westminster (now part of Vancouver), where he married Maud Black in 1925 and ran a farm where they raised chickens. In the early 1940s he tracked down his sister Dorothy, who subsequently spent several summers helping out on the farm.

Alfred Stride and his wife unfortunately had no children, and remained in the Vancouver area until their deaths. He is buried in the Surrey Centre Cemetery.

*This is a re-post from the original Cinquefoil Heritage blog on Blogster which has been removed by the author.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Seeking Security

"We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure." -- Karl Popper

People emigrate for many reasons: war, famine, the promise of land, a job, or a better life in general. The Archibald family of Londonderry Ireland went first to the United States, and then to Nova Scotia, becoming one of the largest and most well-known families in that province's history.

John Archibald was born in 1671 to Robert Archibald and Ann Boyd in Maghera, a small town in what is now Northern Ireland. He married Margaret Wilson of Londonderry in 1716. The family left Ireland not long afterward, most likely to escape the burgeoning violence of the first Jacobite Rebellion and persecution of non-Catholics. They settled in Nutfield, New Hampshire, later known as Londonderry.

There are conflicting accounts as to how many of their nine children were born in Ireland and how many in New Hampshire. Several sources, including Miller's Historical And Genealogical Record of the First Settlers of Colchester County (pub. 1873) state that all were born in Ireland. However much of the information therein was gleaned by oral family tradition, so it's quite possible that the stories were misinterpreted. The Vital Records of Londonderry New Hampshire (pub. 1914) clearly shows that the seven younger children of John and Margaret Archibald were in fact born in New Hampshire.

John Archibald's name appears on the list of proprietors in the Londonderry NH Grant of 1722. His farm was located about 3 miles east-southeast of the first church building, and was designated in the records as "John Archibald North" to distinguish him from another settler of the same name who had been granted land in the community two years earlier. By 1728 he had amassed 257 acres of farmland and he was doing well.

Both John and his wife Margaret died in 1751, within months of each other, and are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Derry, New Hampshire. But that's not the end of the Archibald story.

In the early 1760s things were changing. The Archibald children were grown and most of them had married and started families of their own. But difficulties soon emerged on the horizon. Britain had declared war on France and Spain, and the consequences were spilling over into colonial America. Perhaps in an effort to preserve the clan from more violence, the Archibalds decided to leave for a safer place. So in December of 1762, seven siblings and their families packed up and left for Nova Scotia. Only two brothers with their families remained in New Hampshire.

Once resettled in Truro, Nova Scotia, several members of the family became leading citizens in the community. The eldest, David, was the first Justice of the Peace and also was the first who represented Truro Township in Parliament. His brother Samuel became one of the first elders of the Presbyterian congregation.

The many Archibald descendants (estimated at over 20,000) are spread throughout the Maritime provinces and New England to this day. They included doctors, politicians, lawyers, scholars, tradespeople, and at least one prominent historical figure: a great-great grandson of John Archibald was Sir Adams George Archibald, Solicitor General of Nova Scotia, later the first Governor of Manitoba, and a father of Confederation.

*This is a re-post from the original Cinquefoil Heritage blog on Blogster which has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Calling of the Church

"If there is anything that keeps the mind open to angel visits, and repels the ministry of evil, it is pure human love." -- N. P. Willis

"Rev. John Waddell was born in Scotland, April 10th 1771, and obtained his education in Glasgow." This line from Chapter 17 of Thomas Miller's Historical and Genealogical Record of Colchester County Down To The Present Time (pub. 1873) was one of the first hard facts that we knew about this ancestor who became an influential man in the fledgling Presbyterian Church of Canada.

For many years we only had the bare numbers such as birth and death dates, marriage date, birth dates of his children, etc. But these really didn't tell much about the man himself. Where exactly was he from? Where did he live and go to school? Why did he make the harsh trip across the ocean to follow his calling?

New records are becoming available all the time, so recently I decided to take a more in-depth look at this man to see what I could find out, and discovered a wealth of information.

Born in the small town of Shotts, located approximately halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, John Waddell obtained a Master of Arts degree at Glasgow College and followed up with theology studies under the famous Rev. George Lawson at the Associate Synod Hall in Selkirk. Shortly after being ordained in 1798 he was posted to Nova Scotia. En route he made a brief stop in New York, and although a number of opportunities were presented to him, he chose to continue on to Nova Scotia to preside over the congregations of Truro and several adjacent communities.

In 1802 he married Nancy Blanchard, daughter of Jotham Blanchard. They had seven children, several of whom went on to have distinguished careers themselves - one son was also a Presbyterian minister and another son became a medical doctor.

The family was joined by John Waddell's older brother James in 1813. James had also studied for the ministry, but upon completion of his studies he balked at some of the rules and regulations he was told he must affirm to, and being rather strong minded he would not accept them. By the time he arrived in Nova Scotia he was a skilled finish carpenter and cabinet maker.

Rev. Waddell was well-known and loved in all the communities where he preached; as described in History of the Presbyterian Church in the Dominion of Canada by William Gregg (pub. 1885) he was a "plain, practical preacher ... indefatigable, kind, and sympathetic." He was forced to retire in 1836 as the result of injuries from a fall when the wagon in which he was riding overturned, but he remained keenly interested in the affairs of the community until his death in 1842. He and his wife are buried at the Robie Street Cemetery in Truro.

*This is a re-post from the original Cinquefoil Heritage blog on Blogster which has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

The American Connection

"It is a revered thing to see an ancient castle not in decay, but how much more it is to behold an ancient family which has stood against the waves and weathers of time." --Francis Bacon

The Blanchards are a well-known New England family. Originating in France, some fled to England to escape the Huguenot (French Protestant) persecution, and arrived in Boston from England in the 1600s. Their descendants settled throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. However the chaotic period following the Revolution prompted one illustrious member of the family to depart for Canada, thus forging connections that resonate to this day.

Jotham Blanchard was born in Dunstable NH in 1745, the ninth of 12 children. Both his father and grandfather had served in the military, and therefore it seemed right for him to also serve. He rose through the ranks quickly, eventually becoming a Colonel; however he wasn't an active combatant.

He married Elizabeth Treadwell and not long afterward he moved his growing family to Peterborough NH. During and after the war he was active in municipal politics, being at various times a town moderator, selectman (one of a board of town officers chosen annually to manage local affairs), and a member of the Committee of Safety.

In 1776 he signed an Association List in which he pledged property and life in support of the Revolution. Near the end of the war he sat on a committee to decide what action should be taken against those who had been on the British side. The final report recommended that Loyalists should have their property confiscated, while no action should be taken against neutral parties.

However post-war acts of retaliation and greed displayed by the victorious colonists disillusioned him, and so he immigrated to Nova Scotia with his family in 1785. It was this move that has caused a number of historians to postulate that Jotham was a Loyalist himself but there is little direct evidence of such. The family settled in Truro Nova Scotia, where in 1796 Jotham obtained a grant of 23,000 acres of land in Sydney County. Jotham and his wife Elizabeth had ten children.

The Blanchards are inextricably linked to two other large and influential Nova Scotia families: Archibald and Waddell. Legend has it that the reason there was so much intermarriage among the three families was that no one else was good enough. (The fifth daughter of Jotham and Elizabeth married into the Waddell clan, from whom my maternal grandmother Lucy is descended. I will be discussing Lucy in an upcoming post.)

It's interesting to note that one of Jotham's grandsons, Hiram Blanchard, became the first Premier of Nova Scotia following Confederation.

*This is a re-post from the original Cinquefoil Heritage blog on Blogster which has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Bugle's Echo

It is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag. -- Father Dennis Edward O'Brien, USMC

I had a sense of my family's military history from when I was quite young. Summer visits to my maternal grandfather's house in New Brunswick always prompted me to ask questions about the various fascinating objects that I saw there.

Ernest Sansom was born into a family of millers and woodsmen. When he was a young man his father left to take a lucrative job in British Columbia and sent money back for the family to join him. However Ernest's mother refused to go, and his father never came back. To help support the family, he lied about his age to join the military. He saw action in both World Wars, ultimately becoming a high-ranking officer.

He was proud to serve but he never spoke openly about his experiences, and my mother told me to not ask because it upset him to remember. The one story he would tell me was a poem that he recited at bedtime to lull me to sleep:

It was a grey stormy night on the coast,
The brigands great and brigands small,
We gathered around our campfire.
"Alfonso," said our captain, "tell us a story."
And Alfonso began.
It was a grey stormy night on the coast... repeat ad infinitum.

Military memorabilia of all kinds was visible in his house, from a large portrait of him wearing his uniform that hung in the great room, to a collection of ribbons and patches in an unobtrusive brass box. Just about every item had a story attached to it. For example, a stiff piece of cloth embroidered with a crown set above a crossed sword and baton was his rank insignia. Or a table lamp created from a mortar shell casing was a gift from one of the regiments he had served with.

Over time I learned that many members of his family had also served, including two of his brothers. There is a display in the military museum in Fredericton that commemorates his grandfather, and the war memorial in his hometown of Stanley shows the names of several relatives. The family military tradition continues: my brother was active in the militia, and his youngest son has been following in his footsteps.

Today his medals, dress sword, and certificates of achievement are on display at my parents' house - proud examples as well as sad reminders of the courage and sacrifice that many people made for this country.
To most people around him, he was "the General". But to me he was just "Granddad".

*This is a re-post from the original Cinquefoil Heritage blog on Blogster which has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Trans-Atlantic Journey

My genealogical journey begins with my grandmother, an immigrant from England who faced hardship before settling in Canada.

Dorothy Ethel Stride was born in 1905 in Islington, London. Her father was a member of the Metropolitan Police Force, and was a good provider. Unfortunately when World War I broke out her father was called to military service, and he was killed in 1914 shortly after arriving in Europe. Thereafter her home life became difficult and her relationship with her mother deteriorated. Near the end of the war she was visited several times by an elder brother who had moved to Canada prior to the war and joined the Canadian Army. It was these visits that we believe inspired her to come to Canada herself.

In her mid-teen years she was working as a housekeeper for a family in south London, and she secretly made plans to escape. She left England aboard the SS Pittsburgh on July 7th 1923, her passage having been paid for Mrs. Clarence Webster who had hired her to be a servant. She arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 16th 1923 and took a train to the Webster farm in Shediac, New Brunswick, where she worked for a year to pay off her passage. Early in the summer of 1924 she travelled to Toronto Ontario to join her future husband, whom she had met on the ship.

Many of her official documents from this time give her name as Dorothy Barbara Stride. This name doesn't appear on her official birth certificate, but it's possible she chose the name when she was inducted into the Baptist church at age 21 in Toronto.

The Depression years were relatively kind to the family, as her husband had found a job at the Cortaulds chemical plant in Cornwall. She moved to Cornwall in 1930 with her young children, and studied to become a Registered Nurse's Assistant. Later she took a job at the St. Lawrence Sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, where she worked until her retirement in 1982.

For many years Dorothy had denied the existence of her family in England because of the hatred she bore for her mother, whom she would refer to only as 'that woman'. She also covered up the circumstances of her departure. Her story was that at age 14-1/2 her aunt Rose and several other relations conspired to help her leave England in 1920, providing money and alternate addresses for mail. She was registered in a war-orphans program which put young people on ships to other Commonwealth countries, where they had to work for a year to pay for their passage. Children put into this program had to be orphans and over the age of 16 but Dorothy lied about her status and age. She could have ended up in N.Z. or Australia, but the ship to Canada happened to be leaving on a day when her mother and younger siblings were on a holiday.

She never changed this assertion, even though she reluctantly had to admit to her other siblings when her brother tracked her down and visited her home in Cornwall. She made at least two visits back to London only to be rebuffed by her mother, and so she stayed with one of her sisters.

Dorothy lived in Cornwall for the rest of her life, known as a kind-hearted person who donated money and hand-knit clothes to various families and childrens' groups.

*This is a re-post from the original Cinquefoil Heritage blog on Blogster which has been removed by the author.