Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Update on my Brick Wall

One brick from the wall has has been knocked out. I have found out where my great grandfather is buried. I had his death date from his military file, someone had written "5-12-43 deceased" across the file. Given the way dates were written in Canada, I knew that the date was December 5th 1943.  I contacted a group in Canada called National Field of Honour. They were able to locate his grave in Mount Royal Cemetery outside Montreal. Unfortunately, Montreal is just a little to far to go to get a photo of the grave. I'm not if sure there is a headstone, but I'm working on finding that out. I did find out that if there isn't a headstone, the National Field of Honour will provide one since he was a military veteran.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Brick Wall

Brick walls are great when building a house, but not for genealogists. For those of you who aren't genealogists, the term typically refers to an ancestor who has become "difficult". They almost seem to have vanished into thin air, records are missing, or rather your ancestor seems to have vanished from the records. I, like most of us searching for our ancestors, have one that has been and still is a brick wall.
My previous blogs have been about my maternal line, and those ancestors came to the US a long time ago. My paternal line is quite different. My father is a first generation American, his mother came to the US from Ireland and his father came from England. It is the English line that is giving me problems. Thomas Henry Trevelyan NICHOLAS, my great grandfather, seems to have disappeared after he was released from the military in Canada in 1919. Thomas was born in Wales to James and Christianna, but as far as I can determine, spent most of his early life in St. Ives, Cornwall. For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of England, Cornwall is the western most part of England. I have a copy of Thomas' military file from the National Archives of Canada, in this file Thomas lists his birth as St. Ives, but in the 1901 England census, his birth place is listed as S. Wales Bridgend. My guess is that he lived there for so long and from such a young age, that he just "presumed" that was where he was born. So, we believe he was born in Wales and lived in Cornwall and later outside London. I know about London thanks to my grandfather's (Thomas Docton Trevelyan NICHOLAS) birth certificate. But none of that explains how or why he was in the service of the Canadian military. That requires a bit of a history lesson.
Not only did the British Empire have control of the American Colonies at one time, they also had control of the northern territories of North American, which would later become known as Canada. Canada was actually a group of separate British Colonies until Confederation in 1867. Confederation means some of  British Colonies were formed into 4 Canadian provinces, Newfoundland and British Columbia remained out of the initial Confederation. The colonies that became the Confederation were a federal dominion and remained a part of the British Empire and subject to imperial rule until 1931 and was answerable to the British Parliament until 1982. When England declared war on Germany, Canada as a dominion, automatically was also at war with Germany. The Canadian Expeditionary Forces was made mostly volunteers and became their overseas unit. Initially, 2/3s of the CEF consisted of men from the UK and by the end of the war half of the CEF was made up of men from the UK. Based on all of that, it would not be unusual to find and English born man living in Canada and the enlisting in the CEF. It really does pay to know history!!
I have these military papers which have told me some things, but not enough. I know that his wife and son, my grandfather, went back to England. Their address is listed in the paperwork, in his will and for his pay dispersal. I know that sometime before Feb of 1916 he had his appendix removed. Just to remind you, there was no penicillin and if they used anesthesia, it was probably ether. I can't imagine what that would have been like and how long the recovery would have been.
He was discharged from service on Dec 1, 1919 and deemed medically unfit. According to his medical history sheet he had neuritis in his left arm caused by active service conditions. He lists his proposed residence after discharge as G.P.O. Montreal. I believe this to mean general post office in Montreal. He can't have lived there, but most likely had his mail sent there. Another notation in the file suggests he may have gone to live in the Prince of Wales Hotel, St. Joseph St, Lachine. As I mentioned earlier, he had a wife and son who lived in England. They eventually immigrated to the US sometime in 1926. It appears that my grandfather had no contact with his father after he and his mother returned to England in 1914. My grandfather and his mother appear in the 1930 US census living in New Jersey and his mother lists herself as widowed. I believe that is not true, however, given the time period it would make sense she listed herself this way. It would save her from answering a lot of questions about her husband and where he was.
Thomas Henry Trevelyan NICHOLAS is my brick wall, but I hope he won't remain one forever. If you're ever searching records in Canada and come across any information about my Thomas, please remember me and help me break down my brick wall.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

The idea for the first 2 posts came pretty easily, but I've been having a hard time deciding what or who to write about for the this one. I was going to write about my paternal great grandfather, but decided to write about a female in honor of Mother's Day. As I mentioned in my last post, Betsey HEALD married Noah SHEARER when she was 35 and he was 60. She had 4 children in 6 years, which means Noah was 66 when he fathered his last child, not 64 as I said in my last post. Either way, that's a rip old age to be getting someone pregnant.
I don't know a lot about Betsey, but she does make me think. When I'm researching my ancestors I'm not just thinking about when and where they lived, I'd like to know how they lived and what they thought about. For example, why did she wait until she was 35 to marry? Did she have a choice, in either marrying or waiting that long? Remember, we're talking about the early 1800's, most women were married in their early 20's, yet, Betsey was 35. Evidently having children at 35 wasn't a challenge for her. Oddly enough, her 3rd child had the same name as Noah's first wife. Was it a sign of respect for the first wife, did Noah suggest it or was it Betsey's idea? These are the things I'd love to find out. I may be a bit of a geek, but I actually think of questions I'd love to ask my dead ancestors if I could time travel. And of course, they would have to tell the truth!
Some of us in my family are "savers", not "hoarders", because you can move through our houses and we usually know where everything is. I'm glad I have ancestors that were savers, thanks to them we have something I've always called "Grandma's Trunk". It is an old, old trunk that contains lots of my family history. When talking about historical documents, original documents written at the time by people of the time are referred to as primary documents. Primary sources are the most important ones to use when writing or discovering history. The trunk holds many primary documents and I'm so lucky to have it in my family, even if it doesn't live with me. One of my aunts is taking good care of it. Some of my favorite things in the trunk are letters written to Betsey by her children. We don't have the letters Betsey wrote, but you can guess at some things she wrote based on the responses of her children. One of my favorites is a response she received after she must have written something about the time just prior to the Civil War. The person responding wrote that he didn't think the troubles would amount to much. I hope he wasn't a gambling man!
I think that is enough for now. In honor of Mother's Day, may all the women in my family have a great day. I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for you, all of you. Even if I didn't live with you like I did my mother and sisters, there is something in me that I got from all you, be it a lot or a little. Thank you all for being who you are.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Now you know (briefly) who Noah is and why he is important to me. He is truly the person that gave me Genealogy Fever. As I mentioned in my previous post, he was only 13 when he was involved in the American Revolution. Not only were Noah and his brothers involved in the American Revolution; remember the Battle of Bennington? But his father, John SHEARER was also involved in the war. John and one of his sons; William, answered the call to arms in Lexington on April 19, 1775, that was a mere 236 years ago. In addition to Noah and William, another SHEARER son was active in the Revolution. John SHEARER Jr. was in  the  Revolutionary War in 1779. Obviously my ancestors were rebels and revolutionary thinkers. I have sometimes been a rebel, but not to that extent. So, if you're a rebel and your ancestors came to America early on, you may come by it naturally, it's in your "genes".
You may be wondering how exactly I'm related to Noah, here goes. My mother is Priscilla, her mother was Kathryn, her father was Floyd, his mother was Clara and her father was Joseph and Noah was his father. That makes Noah my 4x great grandfather. In many families, there would be many more generations to span the time from Noah's birth to mine. I'll do the math for you.......almost 200 years, 198 to be exact. If a generation is presumed to be approximately 20 years, there should be 10 generation between me and Noah, but there aren't. I descend through Noah's 2nd wife, Betsey. He was 58 when he married Betsey, she was about 34 when they married. He was 60, when his son Joesph was born and he fathered his last child when he was 64. I feel confident saying he was a virile old man. Fathering a child at 60 certainly takes up a few generations. Noah is buried in the Oakwood cemetery in East Aurora, NY. If you ever get up that way, he and his family members in are the back of the cemetery. They pretty much take up the 2 back rows. Noah's grave has a American Revolutionary War marker by his grave that was placed there by the DAR. If I can find the photo of it that I have, I'll try to post it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Getting started

I have it again, Genealogy Fever. It's been some time since I've actively worked on my family history. It wasn't just watching Who Do You Think You Are? or getting involved in DAR again that rekindled the fever. I needed something else to occupy my mind and family history was the answer. The Genealogy Fever hadn't broken, it had just been in remission and now it's back.
The first ancestor to get me started was Noah SHEARER. I remember going to visit my maternal grandmother in Rochester, NY and hearing about Noah. He was only 13 when he fought in the American Revolution, the Battle of Bennington to be specific. The story goes that when Noah went with 2 of his brothers to Vermont, he was supposed to bring the horses back home. But he didn't. Sounds like a typical teenager to me. He stayed and fought, did I mention he was 13? I certainly don't know of many 13 year olds today, that would be trusted to bring horses from Vermont to Massachusetts, much less decide to stay and fight in a battle. I have a niece that is 13 and granted she is a girl, but I can't imagine her doing something like that even if she were a boy.
So, Noah is the one to blame for this hobby, some might call it an obsession, of mine. My grandmother was also partially responsible. She had this fascinating trunk with lots of letters, deeds and other bits of information. Most genealogists, amateur or professional, would have given their right arm for some of the things in that trunk. I came to the conclusion about 15 years ago, that thanks to my grandmother, I was one lucky girl.
That's a little about how I caught the fever, now about the blogging. This is my first attempt at blogging and I'm sure my initial attempts will look different from my future ones. My intent with the blog is to share with people (mainly my family and it branches) the stories of some of my ancestors, brickwalls I have, new information and records that I find. One of the first things I had to do was pick a name for my blog. When I was teaching, we teachers would often comment about students who were very much like their parents. We would say, "that apple didn't fall far from the tree". Since genealogy is about family trees, I thought "An Apple Falls" would be fitting.