25 April 2015

Scotland's Urban Allure

After much deliberation and brain strain, it's decided that a mini-trip to Scotland is going to be pure pleasure and not research stress (deadlines of open hours, running from NRS to NLS or SGS involving steep hills, having enough £1 coins, etc). Pleasure means immersion in fabulous Edinburgh where I'm fairly sure some of my yet unproven Dougalls trod. Canongate Kirk (not St. Cuthbert which I had had my eye on) saw a goodly number of them coming and going.

I anticipate visiting places I missed the time before. Possibly running across a favourite author like Ian Rankin (it's his birthday next week!) or Kate Atkinson whom, the interweebs tell me, live in a cosy cluster with Alexander McCall Smith and JK Rowling.

Rankin, in his The Beat Goes On:
As a subject, the city seems inexhaustible. This is, after all, a city of words.

As I walk through the streets of my adopted home, I can feel that Edinburgh is holding something back from me. After more than 15 Rebus novels, there are still so many things I don’t know about the place, so many secrets and mysteries lying just behind its fabric, stories waiting to be told.[1]

Smith, about his A Work of Beauty:
"I love this city, and always shall. I write about it. I dream about it. I walk its streets and see something new each day – traces of faded lettering on the stone, still legible, but just; some facade that I have walked past before and not noticed; an unregarded doorway with the names, in brass, of those who lived there sixty years ago, the bell-pulls sometimes still in place, as if one might summon long-departed residents from their slumbers.” Edinburgh is a city of stories – a place that has witnessed everything from great historical upheavals, to the individual lives of a remarkable cast of characters. Every spire, cobblestone, bridge, close and avenue has a tale to tell. [2]

A city of words. A city of stories.

Then what of Glasgow, the nation's largest, perhaps less glamourous but more vibrant city? Neglected on previous excursions, Glasgow will speak to me in its own words and stories thanks to a friendly guide.

Oh wait. Let's not forget I'm supposed to be a genealogist. With a historical/literary agenda, what could possibly go wrong?

[1] Encyclopaedia Britannica Blog (http://blogs.britannica.com/2011/04/happy-birthday-ian-rankin-teller-edinburghs-stories/ : accessed 20 April 2015).
[2] A Work of Beauty: Alexander McCall Smith's Edinburgh (http://www.alexandermccallsmith.co.uk/books/other-titles/a-work-of-beauty-alexander-mccall-smiths-edinburgh/ : accessed 20 April 2015).

05 April 2015

Fashion Statement

Time to get your kilt on again!

Tartan Day: April 6th.

It's an official day of observance in Canada (but not a national holiday), thanks to Nova Scotia's advocacy in the 1980s.
At the very least, get out that Maple Leaf tartan cap / scarf / shirt.
And please don't call it plaid that's a garment.

The 6th of April, 1320, was the date of the Declaration of Arbroath, affirming Scotland's sovereign independence and reinstating Robert Bruce as its king. The Declaration was in the form of a statement sent to Pope John XXII to refute England's power claims. The Pope agreed temporarily but we know how well that worked out the past seven hundred years.

Nevertheless, Scottish (Highland) identity is one of the strongest and most distinct cultures in the world. 
So ...
Find a parade.
Follow a pipe band.
Sip a whisky (rehearsing for Whisky Month in May).
Sing "Flower of Scotland."
And get your tartan on.

Just do it!

20 March 2015


Rumours of my dropout, disappearance, or death have probably been gravely overestimated. After all, the blog name is right there in your face should you actually look for it. The name was hastily chosen with no forethought whatsoever when a techno-terrific offspring created it for me upon departure for the airport never to be seen again. And ~ woe ~ leaving moi to my own meagre devices.

Just think, if I'd had more techno-smarts I wouldn't be stuck with boring eponymous blogger me. I could have called it DyingfromBirth.com© (... It's taken. By me). Or changed it to BalticandCelticConnections. So many bloggers have created clever blog titles. After eight years, it's a little late to change, I'm thinking. Eight years of scribbling, hard to believe because it seems like forever. Didn't blogging always exist? So why does everything takes twice as long to do now.

A blogiversary is a customary time for review. The past year, blog-wise, was interesting, as always. I persevered with The Book of Me until me felt boringly over-exposed absolutely no reflection on Julie's series and all who stayed the course into a new year. My blog is primarily a record of research tales. If my experience in researching, methodology, problem analysis, or the occasional whimsy benefits anyone in the broad genealogical community, all the better.

Ongoing problems encountered in my FRASER family history were painfully articulated and aired, only to spawn further problems, similar to the way fruit flies breed. Not only that, I lack a firm grip on autosomal DNA (why does it have to have all those SNP numbers - stop snickering) never mind the forthcoming Y-DNA results about to scare the pants off me.

End of blog review, especially since I've used the word boring twice already. Otherwise:

Leaving comments on a blog post has become pretty well passé (therefore all the more appreciated). The trend is to notify a thousand friends on social media when a new post is up to collect likes and Internet-generated statistics. Numbers again, eh? The process reminds me of how many of my old real friends have the gall discipline to avoid Facebook and Google+ altogether.

On a different tack, disaster of sorts struck in the late fall. The print-on-demand outfit I used for several family history books had a kind of mid-life crisis, reverting to its Belgian origins as best as I and my equally-impacted friend Elayne can figure. It's complicated; but bottom line, we have to take time from the writing and editing to shop around (trying not to despair over complex formatting issues.)

This genealogy blog is not the only one I write, as some know. I've reviewed countless books for three years, mainly crime novels but also notable new fiction, on an inappropriately-named blog (one senses rightly I have a blog-naming disorder.) My personal Famdamily failed to produce the expected fodder for satire, although luckily other surroundings did.

But my favourite pet is CamelDabbleTravelBabble, a title I managed to nail. It consumes pleasant time when I am in this country reminding me of other parts of the world. I know ~ it's hit and miss sometimes ~ but more fun than (and relief from) genealogical proof arguments. It is my sincere hope that I never run out of topics there.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman

28 February 2015

McIntyre Hunt / Study, an inch of progress

Still beating my McIntyre drum in the former St. Andrews East parish (Saint-André d'Argenteuil), Seigneurie and County of Argenteuil, Quebec. Research findings show that three men in a close community were all married to McIntyre women of unknown origin in Scotland: 
John Cameron (before 1803); 
John Fraser (in 1808); and 
Walter Graham (in 1818).
River Rouge, 1889
(1) John Fraser, my Argenteuil, Quebec, farmer from Inverness-shire, was a widower when he married spinster Margery McIntyre age twenty-two on 17 August 1808 at St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church in Montreal.[1] John was described as “farmer of Rivière Rouge” and Margery was “of the same place.” John signed the register and Margery made her mark. The witnesses were Robert McNabb and William Cameron. Margery was therefore born about 1786. John Fraser arrived in Canada with his first wife after the birth of his second child James in Scotland ca.1804 and before his next child Elizabeth in 1806.

Finding a family for Margery is the ongoing goal.

(2) Catherine McIntyre was married to a John Cameron as per the 1851 census.[2] Her age was then said to be seventy-five, making a birth year of ca.1777 (census taken mainly in January 1852: age at next birthday). Catherine is further identified as his wife in numerous baptismal entries for their children and in John's will.[3] We don't know when he (or the couple?) arrived in Canada, but he purchased his original property on the Rivière Rouge Road in 1802.[4] I believe he died in 1853 but his actual burial place has not been found.[5]

John Cameron and John Fraser were witnessing for each other at some baptismal events. John Cameron was illiterate (“ ... the said Testator having persisted therein had made his mark having declared that he could not write his name ...”) as also evidenced in land and church records[6] clearly distinguishing him from an older John Cameron ("l'âiné") whose homestead was at Cote du Midi very close by. We don't know the age difference between the two John Camerons or if or how they were related.

(3) Walter Graham, gentleman of Montreal, married Jane McIntyre of the same place 26 September 1818; witnesses were Allan Cameron and Hugh McMillan.[7] This is a third early McIntyre marriage ― is Jane possibly related to our Margery and also Catherine McIntyre? Despite Walter's residence in 1818, he was living at Cote du Midi in 1825 and apparently remained there.[8] In 1842 he is among a cluster of Camerons and related families; Walter said he had been in the province for twenty-five years.[9] An emigration date of about 1817 means he arrived in Quebec only shortly before his 1818 marriage.

The couple were still living at Cote du Midi in 1851.[10] Jane's age was shown as fifty. A birth year of ca.1800 in Scotland makes her approximately a generation younger than the other two McIntyre women. The census ages all may well be approximate; "rounding off" was suspected at times. Walter Graham is another name frequently appearing in conjunction with Fraser church witnessing.

Is there another McIntyre in or near St. Andrews in the first decades of the nineteenth century? In other words, as potential family or relatives of Margery? In a survey of the few available early sources, the most likely name in the specific area is a James McIntire who witnessed a Robertson baptism in 1818 (some ten years after Margery's marriage).[11]

While I am not reproducing here a list of all McIntyre occurrences in early days, the information that stands out is:
The (unnamed) widow of James McIntire in 1825 is a chef de famille located on west side Rivière Rouge, across the river from my Frasers.[12] The minimal information required on this enumeration reveals a total of five people in the home. No other McIntyre appears in St. Andrews parish.

Ann Mcintyre was a household head in 1842 in “part of Argenteuil”; she was in the “single female 45 and upwards” age category.[13] The enumerator did not specify the "part" of Argenteuil but it appears to be St. Andrews. Ann's number of years living in Canada was not filled in. Her home also contained two single males between 21 and 30 and a single female aged 14-45. Of the total, two were natives of Canada, two of Scotland. She does not appear again in 1851.

A female household head is often a widow but if so, it’s uncertain whether her surname is her husband’s or that of her birth family. If the three young members are her children and everyone was accurate with their information and recording, then likely the oldest of them was born in Scotland ― always a clue to the family's emigration date. Possibly even older children had left home by then. Perhaps Jane (McIntyre) Graham was one of them.

Was James McIntire Ann's husband? Were James and Ann old enough to be Margery's parents? My sense is James would more likely have been her contemporary, possibly a brother. Could be, this is as close as I can get to potential kin although autosomal DNA results show my connection to a descendant of Catherine (McIntyre) Cameron. When I figure that one out, happy day. 

The difference in census citations indicates whether I was viewing them on microfilm or online. 

[1] St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church (Montreal, Quebec), 1808 register, p. 47, Fraser-McIntyre marriage; Archives of Ontario (AO) microfilm MS 351 reel 1. Also, “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca/ : accessed 19 April 2008) where he is indexed as John Francer.
[2] John Cameron household, 1851 Census Canada East, District 33, Deux Montagnes, enumeration district 11, parish of St. Andrews, sheet 21, stamped p. 41, line 28; Library and Archives Canada (LAC) microfilm C-1147.
[3] Cour supérieure, District judiciaire de Terrebonne, Répertoire du notaire Michel-Gaspard Thibaudière de LaRonde (1825-1882), (Saint-André Avellin, Québec), document no. 3211, 20 September 1836 and codicil 13 August 1840, will of John Cameron; Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Quebec (BAnQ) at Montreal, CN606, S5.
[4] Terrebonne Actes notariés compiled by Marney MacDonald, email Brian Anderson to Brenda Merriman 10 October 2014; Répertoire du notaire Peter Lukin [Sr.] no. 2629, 12 November 1802, John Cameron, farmer residing at Argenteuil, bought lot 29 south side Rivière Rouge from Elon Lee; signed X his mark; Notary Peter Lukin [Sr.] no. 2625, 12 November 1802, John Cameron l’ainé [Senior] habitant living at Argenteuil bought lots 19 and 20 Cote du Midi from Seigneur Patrick Murray; signature included. Citing Actes notariés, BAnQ Montreal, microfilm M620.1214.
[5] "Quebec, Non-Catholic Parish Registers, 1763-1967," digital image, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 March 2012), burial John Cameron, 8 March 1853; citing St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (St-André Est, Quebec).
[6] “Quebec Vital and Church Records, 1621-1967 (Drouin Collection), digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 5 March 2012), baptism Allan Cameron, 30 October 1807, “parents don't write”; citing St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church (Montreal, Quebec).
[7] “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621-1967,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 28 May 2012), Graham-McIntyre marriage, 1818 register; citing St. Gabriel Street Church (Montreal). Jane's surname was misspelled as McTeer by the minister then corrected on her signature line.
[8] "Canada, Lower Canada Census 1825," digital image, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 21 February 2015), York County, Argenteuil, Cote du Midi, sheet 4, stamped p. 1277, 3rd line, Walter Graham; citing LAC microfilm C-718.
[9] Walter Graham, 1842 Census Lower Canada, County Deux-Montagnes, Argenteuil seigneurie, Cote du Midi, sheet 22, stamped p. 1225, line 6; LAC microfilm C-728.
[10] “1851 Census Canada East,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 12 August 2012), District 33, Deux-Montagnes, ED 11, parish of St. Andrews, sheet 2, stamped p. 3, line 1, Walter Graham; citing LAC microfilm C-1147.
[11] “Quebec, Non-Catholic Parish Registers, 1763-1967,” digital image, Family Search (www.familysearch.org : accessed 28 May 2012), baptism George Robertson, 23 August 1818; citing St. Andrews Presbyterian Church register (Saint-André-Est , Quebec).
[12] "Canada, Lower Canada Census 1825," digital image, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 21 February 2015), District York, Argenteuil ..., sheet 6, stamped p. 1279, 5th line, Widow James McIntire; citing LAC microfilm C-718.
[13] "Canada, Lower Canada Census 1842," digital image, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org : accessed 21 February 2015), County Deux-Montagnes, Argenteuil seigneurie, sheet 15, stamped p. 1218, line 15, Ann Mcintire; LAC microfilm C-728.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

16 February 2015

King Edward Lives On

In the things-we-rarely-do department: take a tour of a historic site in our own backyard. The King Edward Hotel in Toronto is a well-aged institution, Built in 1903, it was financed by George Gooderham of the local distillery fortune. The plan was to name it the Palace Hotel in honour of Queen Victoria whose death, alas, occurred before its completion so her son became the honouré. I only know that because my friend Bruce of Bruce Bell Tours was leading the group.

Bruce has developed a uniquely entertaining flair as a story-teller, immersing himself in a love of Toronto architecture and its historical characters. No, sad to say I am not getting a kickback or a discount.

King Edward VII
The King Edward was a landmark for turn-of-the-century times when travellers' hotels were decidedly pragmatic. As well as an elegant venue for travellers, the hotel also represented the height of fine dining and socializing for the local elite. The intention was to eclipse all other inns and hotels in the city, and it succeeded. Little expense was spared in the best of materials. Craftsmen and artists were employed to create opulent features.
Postcard; City of Toronto Archives
The main floor and mezzanine had the expected grand public rooms and dining rooms. Originally, of course, women did not enter the main foyer; there was a side door to their own reception area. If they were wives waiting for husbands to check in, or solo travellers, they could order tea in the women-only parlour upstairs. The Royal Suite has accommodated many royals including Queen Elizabeth and celebrities like Richard Burton and Liz Taylor in one of their kiss-and-make-up periods. Hemingway lived here in his early journalism days. Caruso, Valentino, Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain; Bruce bubbles over with such stories.

The King Eddy has undergone numerous changes in over a hundred years, but sumptuous teas are a permanent fixture. Naturally, the hotel had to become modernized in many ways, for instance the change from gas lighting to electricity was one major update. Interior changes, restorations, or adaptations for modern functions have been at the discretion of a series of owners since.
Vanity Fair Ballroom; bestoftoronto.net
I learned new things. The arch above the Vanity Fair ballroom has a magnificent glass skylight once-commissioned to Tiffany that never saw the light of day, so to speak. Unresolved business negotiations kept it from being finished or displayed; what a sad case of obscurity! Outside on Colborne Street, back of the hotel, Bruce pointed out a glimpse of the skylight and its position. Our chattering collective awakened an interest in a brand-new resident of the condos into which much of the old addition have been transformed. He hailed us from a sixth floor window and much lively dialogue was exchanged.

I was gobsmacked to hear that Gooderham planned an underground station to receive out-of-town arrivals. From the train station, prestigious guests would be able to continue on to the King Edward by carriage below ground. Presumably this would be to avoid mingling with the hoi-polloi on the street. The unfinished tunnel still lies beneath Scott Street to the west; access to it is blocked (but I suspect Bruce has wangled a way to see it).

Although the hotel at first contained several ballrooms still in use today, the 1921 higher addition included the new Crystal Ballroom. The lofty top venue, named for its massive crystal chandeliers, became renowned for parties of grandeur. Now empty and almost derelict, it nonetheless gives a superb view of my 'hood from three sides. I see my home! I see the homes of my friends and neighbours! ... Ahhhh. Thank you, Bruce.

For history lovers, see the lovely blog I discovered: History of the KingEdward Hotel.

© Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

02 February 2015

The Johnson Burial Vault

Last August, a longstanding, worthy project came to completion in the Eastern Townships (l'Estrie) of Quebec. Interested parties gathered to re-consecrate the last resting place of a Canadian hero, Sir John Johnson, Bt, UE. The Société de restauration du patrimoine Johnson had every right to feel proud of their accomplishment. Formed by members of the Sir John Johnson Centennial Branch of the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada (UELAC) and Société d'histoire du Haut-Richelieu, with the cooperation of Quebec's Ministère de la Culture et des Communications (MCCQ) and archaeologists, the Société had restored the long derelict burial place.

Why was this necessary?
 Sir John died in 1830; he and other family members were buried at Mount Johnson (now known as Mont Saint-Grégoire) near the rural residence he favoured in his last years. The location is east of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. This 1940s photo taken by the 6th Baronet shows how the stone vault became forgotten and deteriorated as the Johnson property changed hands; nature and local farming took its course. Vandalism ensured that the inscribed stones were scattered. It seems bizarre, but the site was so rundown in the 1950s it was bulldozed into a pit in the belief that it was no more than a pile of old rubble.

Years later it was difficult to identify the original site but bones were recovered among the stones, thanks to the dedicated persistence of the Société, a team of archaeologists, and many individuals. The nineteenth-century painting likely helped in the reconstruction process. Details of the restoration story can be seen on the Sir John Johnson Centennial Branch website. 
Painting of the vault by Henry Richard Bunnett, 1885; McCord Museum, Montreal
Among the surviving inscriptions were:
Sir John Johnson, second baronet, born in 1742 at Fort Johnson, New York, died in Montreal on January 4, 1830 in his 88th year;
Lady Mary "Polly" Johnson nee Watts, wife of Sir John Johnson, died on August 7, 1815.
Sir John's gravestone had been found earlier and is mounted at the Mississquoi Museum, Stanbridge East, Quebec. Researchers used newspaper notices among other records to estimate there were at least a half-dozen burials in the old vault.
Sir John Johnson in the 1790s,
McCord Museum, Montreal

Briefly, John Johnson was born in 1741, son of Mohawk Valley entrepreneur and colonial Superintendent of Northern Indians William Johnson (later Sir William, 1st Baronet of New York) and Catherine Weissenberg. Sir John was knighted by King George III during an extended visit to the British Isles 1765-1767, then succeeded to the baronetcy on his father's death.  
Gavin Watt's 2006 edition is
available from Global Genealogy

He is best known as the Loyalist leader who, as the American Revolutionary War began, escaped to Quebec to form the King's Royal Regiment of New York in 1776. The KRRNY (aka Royal Yorkers) was the foremost Loyalist Corps in the Northern Command throughout the conflict. 

Sir John was also esteemed for his commitment to native allies as Inspector General of the Six Nations and later, as head of the Indian Department. Post-war, Sir John acquired extensive real estate in Lower and Upper Canada with several homes finer than that at Mount Johnson ― including his Montreal residence and manor homes at St. Andrews, Quebec, and Williamstown, Ontario (the former burned; the latter is preserved as a museum). Much more detail is in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

In a solemn service the excavated remains were carried in two funeral urns to their restored resting place accompanied by members of the recreated King's Royal Yorkers among other dignitaries. It's unfortunate that media coverage of the event is hard to come by; see the Sir John Johnson Centennial Branch Fall 2014 Newsletter for photographs and more of the re-consecration.

An important figure in eighteenth-century Canadian history gets some overdue respect.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman 

22 January 2015

The Book of Me (20)

This is the virtual end of virtual me. Julie Goucher's inspired series of The Book of Me Written by You will continue in 2015 without me. It's been challenging, it's been fun, sometimes serious. It prompted, reminded, encouraged so many of us to record our own memories and biographical bits. I will continue to add to my Memoirs file.

What are your priorities? (Prompt 67)
What are your priorities? American author, Kathleen Winsor owns this quote: "Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, they never get around to do what they want to do."

How much of life is necessary routine and how much is left for "what you want to do"? A lot of adult prime time is naturally consumed with working to earn shelter and food, then transforming the food into meals and keeping the shelter maintained to some minimum standards of hygiene and respectability (unless you're a rabid genealogist). Also to mention the care and feeding and counselling of pop-up junior human beans. Attending to social relationships and obligations take up more time.

Genealogists have been known to abandon all such normal human activities, living in bunkers with crates of paper and a figurative umbilical cord to the Internet with all its technological manifestations. Ergo, a resemblance to decent humanity may be accidental.
But ...
Any genealogist will tell you s/he is doing what they want to do. Lucky us who find or make the time! The way the world works, this generally happens when you reach Seniorhood, that affirmative age of bucket lists and wishful self-indulgence.
I do love those tartans, don't I?
It is resolved that the FRASERS Family History must be completed this year!
Secondarily, Brenda must work on revisions to the DOUGALL and LATVIAN ancestors!

Memory Tree (Prompt 68)
Julie showed us this image to illustrate the prompt. Think of those who will not be with us for the festive / holiday season. Who would you put on your memory tree and why? friends and family, former pets and colleagues.

My parents are up there for many reasons, a strong one being that my children never knew them. I'd put my kids there too, cuz they're not around most any time of the year. Plus a host of other relatives I knew, who left us too soon.

What is your most treasured possession? (Prompt 69)
This could be something that you have bought from an inheritance, a gift from a family member, or an item from a friend. How do you plan to secure its survival with future generations?

Over the years we collect so many things. And we have favourites. Then a lot of us find that we have to downsize at a certain point of life. Maybe more than once. De-cluttering is like a preliminary step. Sentiment must be governed by stern practicalities. Give away or sell. Wedding gifts of a million years ago are useless if they only gather dust. What is the one thing I won't be parted from? My mother's engagement ring, I guess. Or ... And ... Oh my, I seem to be merging this with Prompt 66. Well, literary licence and all that. 

My children may or may not respect and love my treasures after I am gone. If anyone figures out how to spy on them from the afterlife and threaten the disobedient with unholy disasters, do please let me know before it's too late.

What have you learnt about yourself and your family? (Final Prompt, No. 70)
Think back to the question we asked in Prompt One - Who am I? Before you review the answers you wrote then, answer the question again. Now compare: Are there similarities? Is it the same, or have any answers changed? In the wider, original question, what have you learnt about yourself and your family? Anything you still want to write / explore?

Memory being what it is, I can't for the life of me recall if the original question was more extensive, i.e. more details to the prompt? I do believe many people answered with bullet points. One of my thoughts is that the question ― who am I ― would definitely be answered somewhat differently at each stage of a long life. But we are where we are, so let's see; it's still a mystery where this is going until I check back with Prompt 1:
I am a writer, a family historian, a genealogist, a mother, a grandmother, a camel chaser, allergy survivor, and always an optimist, solitary dancer, defender of redheads, and part-time hermit.
I see what I did was cheat. I ticked off everything Julie had listed for herself, which I can't find now (good excuse) with a few amendments including camel chaser. Doubting that I've changed a bit over the length of the series.

The wider view: Myself is the same writer of irreverent tendency but I still have much to learn about my family, living and dead. And the cosmos is endless for writing and exploring. As my Free Thinker Grandpa would say: So long, see you in the Land of Imagination.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

14 January 2015

Ahnentafel, Ponder and Provenance

While I am waiting for DNA revelation to strike me as a lightning bolt whereby all comprehension and analysis of results become crystal clear, bwahahahaha ...
... I decided to have another look at the ahnentafel printout a cousin sent me quite a while ago. Because it purported to take some of my Scottish lines back to the 1200s, I set it aside here in the hope that exposing it to a generally inviting atmosphere would self-generate a few clues about its sources.

Didn't happen. Osmosis does not work in all areas of the universe.

So what is an ahnentafel and what does it tell you? The German word means a list of ancestors; it's one type of reference tool used by family historians. Each person in the direct lineage is assigned a number in ascending order. We start with a base person, usually oneself. The father's assigned number will always be twice that of the child, and the mother's twice that of the child plus one. E.g. If I am No. 1, my father is No. 2, my mother is No. 3; their parents are Nos. 4, 5, 6, and 7.
Click to enlarge

The numbers multiply exponentially as each generation doubles the number of ancestors. Each woman numerically following a man will be his wife, that is, mother of a child. Typically, each one-line entry would have dates and places of birth and death. Sources for the information are not normally cited. See The Encyclopaedia of Genealogy.

After reviewing the chart, I decided to re-format it manually with my father as No. 1 instead of myself. That way, the ancestors would be entirely Scottish, and really, that was the focus of the chart anyway. The process was similar to transcribing a document in that I had to think about each entry. For about five or six generations I knew the correlated "paper trail" of research I had done myself.

Once beyond the realm of my own research experience, it was much heavier going than I expected. For one thing, I had thought having about three FRASER lines was complicated but intriguing. The ahnentafel assigns me no less than nine different MACKAY lines. As the names ascend farther and farther back, birth and death information become sparse. Many lines disappear when a dead end/brick wall was reached. The Mackays and a few allied others persisted. And wouldn't you know it ― they frequently married Mackays.
Clan Mackay, Wikipedia
Shall I tell you some of the notable ancestors? ― Eoin Macdonald Lord of the Isles 1321-1387 and his predecessors; Robert II Stewart, King of Scotland, ca.1316-1390; Walter Stewart, Lord High Steward of Scotland, ca.1280; Robert I (VIII) Bruce, King of Scotland, 1272-1329; an unnamed sister of King Malcolm IV ca.1137. It's all lovely and thrilling. I couldn't possibly be more Scottish.

But uppermost I was asking myself, where is this information coming from? Provenance! Contact with my cousin has been lost but she was not a mediaeval scholar nor a specialist in Scottish archival records. It had the ring of arcane genealogies published by Scottish historians in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. My feeling was that someone, some descendant at some time, had copied bits and pieces from those old recorded genealogies ― genealogies with roots in the honourable Highland oral tradition of reciting one's ancestors for generations. A tradition not immune to its own transmission lapses.

I was noticing what seemed to be discrepancies in naming practice, in the period before the early 1700s when surnames per se were unknown. Highlanders were then customarily identified by patronymics, adding father's name and often grandfather's name to their own. A great deal of historical context is necessary to assign such a man to what we now think of as a surname. Idiosyncrasies appear in my ahnentafel such as "Iye Roy (Alexander or Hugh) Mackay ca.1463" and "Iye (Ymar, Ivor) Mackay ca.1305" or "Angus Dow (Duff) Mackay" or "Mac Eth," begging elucidation. Some parentheses may indicate alternate occurrences or spellings of names but the form is inconsistent (and who or what is an "Eth," please? I do know that Iye ‒ pronounced "eye" – was the early name that became the clan name). "Neil Williamson Mackay" for a man born about 1606 strikes an odd note. To my simple mind, would not "Neil MacWilliam Mackay" or "Neil son of William son of Iye" be closer and truer to the Gaelic?

In today's world, we would expect the person's Gaelic identification with a translation in parentheses. Or vice versa. But hand in hand with capturing the oral tradition in writing and familiarity with cultural custom is the issue of spelling the Gaelic pronunciations, firstly in Gaelic. I've no idea if modern scholarly consensus has reached a consistency in that respect, but the resurgence of Gaelic language and literature is surely addressing it. Am I expecting too much information from an ahnentafel? I'm no Gaelic scholar, in case that wasn't clear!

Without belabouring the above points, I found identical forms of address and spellings published in narrative form in The Book of Mackay in 1906[1] and harking back to History of Clan Mackay in 1826.[2] Both have some basis in earlier works, primarily Gordon's Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland, a manuscript of 1630 that was not published until 1813.[3] These were historians who knew their Gaelic. As well as reference to documents, accounts of oral history were also a likely original source of any Scottish genealogy that reaches back so far. It certainly helps that there are heritors (landowners) in the ahnentafel since land inheritance was a most serious matter. Documentation of land and title charters exist for some of the people.

The ahnentafel is littered with place names, the majority referring to what we know as the county of Sutherland, although county delineation came later. Here I found some geographical errors. Strathnaver of enduring northern setting ("Homeland of Mackay") was oddly put in distant Kirkcudbright in 1232. Fowlis was placed in Ross and Cromarty in 1420 although it seems to be firmly planted in Perthshire. Gigha parish was properly in Argyll in 1315 but was suddenly bumped to Ayrshire in 1280. Carrick (as in Earls of ...) was placed in Argyll whereas it was a lordship in southwest Scotland. And so on. 
Those are not cases of evolving name changes nor are they relevant to spelling variation over a long historical period; learned compilers were highly unlikely to have committed such obvious gaffes. Perhaps each new borrowing, personalized by family historians, repeats or adds such pitfalls. However! I am glad to say that the earliest narratives are more explanatory about names and places than an ahnentafel.

Did I mention pedigree collapse? Oh yes: It is visible six times on my particular chart but likely happened more often in the "unknowns." Basically it refers to an ancestor who occupies more than just one entry on a pedigree. The most common example is when cousins marry. They share two mutual grandparents instead of what would ordinarily be four, reducing the expected, purely mathematical, total of ancestors. See "Pedigree collapse" at International Society of Genetic Genealogy.

So how did my cousin find the appropriate link to attach to our mutual heritage? Or did she? I don't think I'll find a DNA match to Robert the Bruce any time soon.

[1] Angus Mackay, The Book of Mackay (Edinburgh: N. Macleod, 1906); available on Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/bookofmackay00mack.
[2] Robert Mackay, History of the Clan Mackay [with lengthy subtitle] (Edinburgh: Andrew Jack & Co., 1829); available on Google books.
[3] Sir Robert Gordon, Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland (Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1813); available on Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/genealogicalhist00gord.

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

30 December 2014

The Book of Me (19)

As usual, with great skill and stealth I am manipulating both Julie's prompts and my succinct half-witted comments.

Is Blood Thicker Than Water? (Prompt 62)
Julie teased with an image from the UK's NHS "Be a Blood Donor" poster here in the UK: blood doesn't grow on trees. Family or friends: what matters? Who comes first?

Good one. I belong to the school of You Can Choose Your friends but You're Stuck with Your Family ... (so make the best of it). Not that I have any complaints about my exceptionally beautiful, talented, highly intelligent, and harmonious family. "Coming first" implies a choice between family or friends? I can't think of an example. Like, if they both want to borrow money at the same time? If they both lie wounded on the street, whom would I rescue first? Or, if a friend and a family member were at loggerheads and you had to take sides? Ouch. Guys, let's talk!!

Addresses & Locations (Prompt 63)

From your childhood can you recall your next door neighbours?

Judge McComber on one side and the Emersons on the other. This could be our house or Mr. Emerson's house, debate ongoing; the two were very similar in style except ours was red brick. Our houses were on a hill on North Court Street, Port Arthur. (Did I say somewhere else that Mr. Emerson kept chickens in his large back yard? He did. Weird-seeming to us then). I've no idea if there was a Mrs. Emerson but there were no kids.
All I remember about the Judge was he died and I, a small child, was taken to the "viewing" in his home. The casket was open to his waist and I thought his legs had been cut off. That's what they do when you die and get stuffed into a box. That piece of creepiness lingered way too long. Luckily, on the other side of Mr. Emerson was the Crooks family where my best friend lived. When his tongue got stuck one winter to the iron railing on our back steps, my mother poured water on him/it (disappointingly) instead of grabbing the camera.

Colleges & Universities (Prompt 65)
Did you go to college/university? What did you study? Was your studying vocational or a step on the ladder to another profession? Photos?
Did anyone notice I switched places with No. 64? It seemed a more natural progression. Undergrad, I studied my socialist friends, musical theatre, and parties. Majoring in French was ultimately (faintly) useful only when trying to buy shoes in Paris (il faut cultiver notre jardin). By the way, it doesn't work in Québec. The accent.

Post-grad, I studied mediaeval philosophy and the Yorkville club scene.
My car was constantly pilfered by junkies in the lane behind Gerrard Street where I lived; I'm sure I mentioned that before. Photos? There's a certain amount of PHOTO FAIL here. Cameras were not a common piece of equipment ... ergo, not employed in the heat of animated debate over Gilson's interpretation of de esse et essentia or rarely during random acts of Vat 69 madness.

None of this tomfoolery or scholastic application was the slightest preparation at all for the career job of wifery and motherhood. But occasionally it was good before some of the finer points escaped me as a conversation dead end, for encouraging boring people to move on as quickly as possible in another direction.
Jobs & Careers (Prompt 64)
Job or career; is it the same? Did you enjoy what you did? Was it a passion or a means to an end? Did you stay at home? Or did you want to? Did you have employment hopes and dreams? Regrets?

"Stay at home" sounds so dull. 'Twas rarely thus. And even the domestic scene was fodder for the creative juices. I have mentioned before (Prompt 38), I found my inner writer. Maybe I didn't mention the magazine articles about farm life or the community newspaper my friend Judy and I founded. Somehow along the way it coalesced into a passion for family history ... research! detective work! clients! and yes, writing about it! At last, a career as a genealogist. 

No regrets whatsoever. Good times, all. It just gets better and better.

What Do You Treasure? (Prompt 66)
You choose what you treasure, the things, the people, things that are not seen, things that are seen yet not obviously treated as a treasure.

Northern Cree girl; by Susan Ross
Wide, wide scope here. Many people, many "things." It's too easy to say (but still true) what everyone treasures  family, friends, health, safe living in a great country, a full life. I'd like to add enjoyment of genealogical sleuthing, and all the creative arts especially music and dance; the variety of lifelong learning is never boring. The memory collection, of course, is high on the list and just what this Book of Me encourages.
In a more literal way, I treasure mementos and photographs of my parents and their ancestors; bits of precious jewellery; pieces of art; and souvenirs of my travels. What I don't take for granted and treasure: access to the Internet and all its ramifications! 

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.

19 December 2014

Christmas 2014

Thank you, Twisted Twigs on Gnarled Branches ... posted some time ago on Facebook.

06 December 2014

Boleskine and Stratherrick Frasers: One Study

Herewith a study that demonstrates the underlying shortcomings of Scottish highland research. It's John Fraser again, my Argenteuil, Quebec, farmer. The long-term research goal has had multiple parts:
▪ find John's first marriage in Scotland to Ann (possibly Nancy) Fraser;
▪ find the baptisms of his two oldest children (Alexander, James) born to such a couple;
▪ find John's own baptism (range 1768-1776) and the names of his parents.

Research parameters included assumptions (assumptions can be dangerous, we know; but sometimes they are the only potential clues we have):
▪ that the local history saying John was a native of Inverness-shire is fairly accurate;
▪ that he was born ca.1776 (age at second marriage) OR ca.1768 (age on 1851/2 census);
▪ that his father was called Alexander or James (name of John's first and second sons);
that his mother was called Elisabeth, Ann, or Mary (names of his daughters).

From Scotland's parish registers (OPRs): utter fail in anything resembling solid information, mainly because sad excuse Scottish OPRs for so many highland parishes are missing erratic years of baptisms and marriages. Great periodic chunks of nothing. The serving minister in the 1790s parish account of Boleskine and Abertarf, states:
 For what reason we cannot assign, but we do not find that there has been any regular baptismal register, kept in this parish, for many years past.”[1]

Also, kirk session minutes often only survive from the nineteenth century when we need eighteenth century and earlier! Potentially helpful are monumental inscriptions (MIs) and the Old Statistical Accounts and sometimes local histories, but other sources such as estate papers, sheriff courts, tax lists, militia rolls, and so on, are usually available only in distant regional or private collections.
Boleskine Burial Ground; photo: WJ Millar, geograph,org.uk
Enter an unsourced reference to Boleskine, shire of Inverness, from an online "tree" (that unfortunately conflated three or four JohnFrasers of Quebec into one man). It was worth deeper investigation.

Combing the published Inverness-shire MIs produced any number of family possibilities that may ultimately be irrelevant. Parts of the surviving old stones are frequently illegible. In my case, each mention of an Alexander or a James on a stone had to be examined to see if my John Fraser would fit in their families. Example from Boleskine burial ground:
Flat Stone, erected by James Fraser, tacksman, Glindomore, died _[illegible]_, wife Elisabeth Fraser died 12 September 1789 age 67 years, son Hugh Fraser died 18 June 1797 age 22 years [2]

What analysis can I make of this, as applying to my John the farmer?

Names: The forenames are relevant although imperfect Highland custom, since James was the name of my John's second son, and Elizabeth was the name of his first daughter. Hugh is a compatible name as a possible brother for our John who used that name for his fifth son. All three names recur in John's descendants. If this was my John's family, the loss of parents and a brother may have influenced his decision to emigrate.

Place: Glindomore or Glendomore, sometimes Glendomere, has all but disappeared as a place name, but would have been a farm within the Lovat Fraser estates (one of which comprised the entire parish of Boleskine/Abertarff). The geographic location along the southeast area of Loch Ness is also known as Stratherrick.
From A Country Called Stratherrick
Status: In general, tacksman meant James was in charge of Glendomore land, beholden to Lord Lovat, with very likely an intermediary principal tacksman or wadsetter to whom he paid rent. In turn, a tacksman would have sub-tenants renting smaller holdings. Rent in former days largely involved agricultural produce and loyalty as a clan soldier. The complaisant system deteriorated when the English enforced draconian tax and proscription measures after “the ’45.”

James was the tacksman at Glendomore when he had the stone made ― one would guess when his wife was buried. We don’t know the year he died; there would have been a succession of tacksmen after him. The significance of "erected by" does not necessarily imply James was living when his son Hugh died in 1797. Perhaps his death shortly followed that of his wife and someone else added the inscription for Hugh. I can’t glean anything useful from neighbouring stones (the SGS publications provide a diagram of each burial ground).

Dates: Since his wife was born ca.1722, James’ birth year would be similar or earlier. He could easily have had a son born in 1768 or in 1776, but what about wife Elisabeth? At the age of forty-six (1768, the earlier suggested date for my John's birth) she would definitely be nearing the end of the conventionally accepted fertility span. Bearing a child at the age of fifty-four (1776) is not impossible but unlikely. Which brings us to the dates for their son Hugh, ca.1775–1797. The same questions apply regarding mother Elisabeth. Were dates on the stone carving deciphered accurately? Was Hugh actually a grandson? Birthing two children within two years is not in dispute; it's a matter of the mother's age.

Without access to particular regional or local sources, default to the Internet produced a great find regarding Glendomore: a horse tax list in 1797 for Boleskine/Abertarf parish.[3] It shows four Fraser men at Glendomore in two separate clusters: John and Hugh Fraser (taxed for one horse and two horses respectively); Malcolm and James Fraser (two horses and one horse). Because the two groups are separated by some MacDonalds, they appear to be two different households. We don't know if the groupings are fathers and sons, or brothers, or some other family configuration. Malcolm is a problematic name, not occurring in my family.
1797 Horse Tax List, Boleskine; NAS, E326/10/9/213
 "Date of assessment" is September 1797 which seems to eliminate this Hugh from being the man in the cemetery information unless the list had been compiled over many months. "Masters and Mistresses" seems to imply heads of, or adults, in households. One of these Fraser men would be the Glendomore tacksman because the right generally descended in one family line.[4] It would be merely a guess that John here fills that role simply because he is the first Fraser listed at the location. Could James in the second group be the erstwhile tacksman of the burial ground? Doubtful? — He would be eighty-five years old or more in 1797.

Back to the OPRs. Is there evidence of a James Fraser marriage to an Elisabeth in or near Boleskine parish between 1740 and 1775? ― “No matches” on ScotlandsPeople. A son Hugh born ca.1775 to such a couple? ― Not in the available baptisms. A son John born/baptized to such a couple 1767 to 1779? ― No. I can't even find a Malcolm born in Boleskine 1725-1782.

All I can say is it's possible that John in September 1797 was my ancestor who emigrated ca.1805 or that he belonged to the family of tacksman James. I can't support either hypothesis but I can't reject them altogether. There's simply not enough information or evidence for meaningful correlation. Is it a worthwhile exercise? Yes, but I am no farther ahead. Guesses, possibilities, probabilities; the spreadsheet is growing.

That's just one stone of dozens being examined. Why ever did I say my draft was ready for the big edit??

[1] Sir John Sinclair, digital images, The Statistical Accounts of Scotland (http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/link/1791-99/Inverness/Boleskine%20and%20Abertarff/ : accessed 3 October 2014), Vol. 20, County of Inverness (1791-99), Boleskine and Abertarf, p. 37.
[2] Alastair G. Beattie and Margaret H. Beattie, eds., Inverness District East, Monumental Inscriptions pre-1855 (Edinburgh: Scottish Genealogy Society, 1996; "Boleskine Old Churchyard," Boleskine parish, County of Inverness, no. 48, James Fraser et al.
[3] “Historical Tax Rolls,” digital images, ScotlandsPeople (http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/historical-tax-rolls/ : accessed 2 October 2014), Farm horse tax rolls 1797-1798, Volume 09 [includes Inverness-shire], sheet 213, September 1797; citing National Records of Scotland, E326/10/9/213.
[4] Sir John Sinclair, Statistical Accounts of Scotland ... Boleskine and Abertarf, pp. 21-22.

© 2014 Brenda Dougall Merriman. All rights reserved.