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How It All Began

This is where our life together officially began. We didn’t create the families that came before us and contributed to who we are, but we have a responsibility to our children and theirs and theirs, etc., to share what we know. To this end, I have posted photos and anecdotes about various family members from both our pasts.          for Kristin and     for Rob. The page will grow, so please visit again.

Kristin & Rob

August 15th, 1970

Victoria, BC

Clara Burton Lines Nunn

1862 - 1929

Clara with her daughters, Ethel, Hilda, Dora, and Clara junior (the young girl), who is a child by her mother’s second husband, Henry Nunn. The other daughters are from Clara's first marriage to George Solly Lines. Missing is Elsie Mary Lines, who had probably already immigrated to Canada, meaning this photo must have been shot sometime after 1910. Considering Clara Nunn was born in 1901, that would fit. The photographer’s mark in the bottom right corner indicates the photo was taken in Ipswich. (Clara Burton was my paternal great grandmother.)

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William Philip Martin

1897 - 1964

Annie Franko

1901 - 1987 

William (Billy) Emo Martin 1921 - 1961.

In the early days of their marriage, Bill and Annie were happy. But it didn’t last. By the time they split in 1939, their relationship had turned ugly. My mom (Nickela Martin) said her mother was extremely bitter, destroying or trashing anything and everything that was Bill’s.

That included a photo of his mother, who died when he was 11. Consequently, there is now no way of knowing what Alice Maria Hopkins looked like.

A genealogist’s nightmare.

Some Ancestral Occupations

      A few years ago I wrote a book called Pharaohs and Foot Soldiers (Annick Press) about 100 jobs people did in Ancient Egypt. It was mind-boggling to learn about the various ways people earned a living. Certainly there were the usual fisherman, dentists, and bakers, but there were also unique occupations such as sandal bearer, grinder girl and mourner.

      So it is that as I work on my family tree, I take particular notice of the occupations and professions of my ancestors. Over the years, my family has seen many farmers and carpenters, a few weavers, a doctor, pharmacist, photographers, butcher, and a few seamstresses -- as I would have expected -- but there are several more obscure jobs as well, including some that have become obsolete.

      My great-grandmother (Alice Marie Hopkins) worked in a London factory as a button maker in the late 19th century. Using dies, male workers cut the buttons from sheets of metal. It was the job of the female employees to file smooth and polish them. Employees toiled in dark factories 12 - 16 hours a day, 6 days a week for a pittance. 

      In the 1850s, my 2nd great-grandfather (John Enoch Burton) worked in a Suffolk factory as a stationary engineer. He was likely responsible for greasing machinery and keeping it operating -- a position similar to today's mechanic. Another relative (George Solly) held two jobs simultaneously. He was a publican, which meant he ran a public house/pub/inn. But he also worked as a chandler -- he made candles and soap. Another relative from the same time (William Lines) was an ostler/hostler, which meant he took care of the horses of people staying at an inn. (I wonder if William worked for George. Hmmm ...)

      In the late 1700s, my 5th great uncle (Michael Martin) was a cow-keeper and gardener. Today we would call him a farmer. But he didn't own the land he farmed, and when he died in 1801, his entire farming operation, including a wagon, livestock, assorted farm implements, and even the crop in the field were auctioned off. 

     My ancestors also included a whitesmith, which is similar to a blacksmith, except a whitesmith works with tin. There are also several generations of confectioners. How great it must have been to be the child of a candy-maker!

      Two of the most interesting occupations belonged to my 4th great-grandfather (Edward Kilsby), who was born in 1777. In his youth, he worked as a shipbreaker, which means he demolished ships for disposal and parts. But it was a dangerous line of work, so it is no wonder he soon abandoned it and undertook a 7-year apprenticeship to become a skinner instead -- someone who prepares hides for clothing, leather goods, etc. He became a master craftsman at his trade, and his sons and grandsons followed in his footsteps.

      If you're interested in finding out more about obsolete jobs, check out the website -- Obscure Old English Census Occupations.


William James Hood

1799 - 1874

In the early days of the 18th century, there was a mighty wave of emigration from Scotland to Canada. One group taking advantage of offers of cheap land was the Lanark Society Settlers, led by James Hood, brother of Dr. William Hood, from whom Rob is descended.

William, son of James Hood, was one of the settlers arriving from Greenock, Scotland aboard the "Prompt" in 1820. William became the school teacher for the community known as Hood Corners.

William Jack

1789 - 1860

Among the Lanark Society Settlers, who emigrated from Scotland to Ontario in 1820, William Jack and his wife, Mary Hood, are best remembered for taking in Mary’s 5 orphaned nieces and nephews following the 1832 cholera epidemic in Scotland.

The first land they were given in Ontario was mostly rock, so William and Mary, as well as many of the other settlers moved on to Innisfil and started again. Those determined pioneers are buried in the Sixth Line Cemetery, dedicated especially to them for settling the area in 1832.

Mary Hood

1782 - 1867

Sister to Dr. William Hood, who perished in the Scottish cholera epidemic of 1832, and wife of William Jack, weaver. Mary was part of the Lanark Settlers Society that sailed to Canada aboard the Prompt in 1820. In addition to making a new life in a new, untamed country, Mary took in her brother’s 5 orphaned children and raised them as her own.

She is Rob’s 3rd great grandmother and his 4th great aunt. (Figure that one out!)

Joseph Gemmell Hood 1823 - 1906

Joseph was one of the 5 Hood children sent to Canada to be raised by their aunt after their parents died in a cholera epidemic in Scotland in 1832. Joseph married his cousin, Isabella Jack in 1843, and together they had 9 children. Isabella died in 1862, and in 1864 Joseph married Maryann Black, with whom he had 4 more children. Busy man.

Rob’s two-times great grandfather.

Hannah Graham Hood 1825 - 1908

In 1832, there was a cholera epidemic in Scotland, killing thousands, including Dr. William Hood and his wife, Jean Graham. Their 5 children survived, but now were orphaned and shortly thereafter were sent to Ontario, Canada to be raised by William’s sister, Mary and her husband, William Jack. Hannah was one of those children. She liked her new family so much that she married her cousin, William Jack Jr. They had 9 children together. At some point they moved to Manitoba, where they lived the rest of their lives.

She was Rob’s 3rd great aunt on his mother’s side.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Graham Hood 1831 - 1921

The youngest child of Dr. William Hood and Jean Graham, Betsy was just a baby when her parents perished in the Scottish cholera epidemic of 1832. Shipped off to Canada with her siblings, she was raised by Mary Hood (her father’s sister) and Mary’s husband, William Jack. Like her sister, Hannah Graham Hood and her brother, Joseph Gemmell Hood, Betsy married one of her cousins, Thomas Jack (1822-1905). They had 9 children.

Betsy is Rob’s 3rd great aunt on his maternal side, and she bears an uncanny resemblance to Rob’s mother, Alice in her later years.

My parents, grandparents, great grandparents & great-great-grandparents

Rob's parents, grandparents, great grandparents, & great-great grandparents

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Kristin Nickela Dann


I’m guessing I’m about two here, and as I understand it, I could have given workshops in terrible twos behaviour. Apparently I had cannibalistic leanings. I didn’t actually eat anyone, but I did a lot of biting. (I’m over it now.) I was 3 when my brother was born, and because of the ‘biting’, my mother was terrified to bring home the new baby, lest I relieve him of a finger or two. But I must have understood I was meant to protect him, because after he arrived, I never bit again.

This photo was taken at 578 Hetherington Avenue in Winnipeg.

William James Hood

1878 - 1954

(with Rob)

Will was born in Simcoe County, Ontario, but moved west to Saskatchewan with his brother, Joe, around the turn of the century. They had neighbouring farms. Will married Margaret Ethel Jane Thompson in 1906. Over the following 15 years they had 7 children together, though after Ethel’s admittance to Weyburn Mental Hospital in 1922, Will was left to raise them on his own. Around 1950, he moved to Victoria, BC and lived with his daughter, Alice, and her family. Ethel died in Weyburn in 1953. Will passed away the following year. They are buried together in Lang Cemetery, Saskatchewan.

Hood Family Bible

Entries are made by Rob’s mother, Alice, and her father, William James Hood. Interestingly enough, his birthdate is recorded as September 17th, 1879. On his headstone, the family has also recorded his birthdate as 1879, but the date on his birth record (which is written in impeccable script by the officiate) clearly states his date of birth as September 12th, 1878. Both day and year are different. The wonderful thing about the family Bible is that a multitude of newspaper clippings and family documents are stored inside. The one time I’m glad my mother-in-law was a ‘saver’.

George William Dann

1857 - 1943 

Elsie Mary Lines

1887 - 1970

Elsie was hired as a nurse/companion for George's first wife, Annie Rebecca, when the family immigrated to Canada. It was agreed that when Annie either recovered or died, George would pay Elsie's fare back to England. However, when Annie died in 1915, George didn't have the money, and since he deemed it improper for he and Elsie to be living together, he decided they should marry, which they did. Though George was 30 years Elsie's senior, they still had four children together. The last one, my father Frank, was born when George was 70.

Alice Louella Myrtle Hood 1913 - 2003

 Ernest Wilson Butcher 1909 - 1966

 Donna May Butcher 

This photo of Rob’s parents and sister was probably taken around 1942, long before Rob was born. Ernie and Alice married in Hudson Bay Junction, Saskatchewan in 1932 and moved to Vancouver Island shortly thereafter.

Alice explained that she and Ernie had been dating a brother and sister in Hudson Bay, but when that family moved away, taking their love interests with it, Alice and Ernie began dating each other.

Rose Marie (Nickela) Martin

1930 - 2014

This is my mother on her wedding day. The wedding was planned within a week, while my dad was on leave from the navy. My mother was 16; my father 19. Mom wore a borrowed dress and, though appearance was always very important to her, she wore no makeup. She always said she was born without makeup, she would marry without makeup, and she would die without makeup. And so she did.

Frank Dann

1927 - 2007

(& his dog, Butch)

The story goes that Butch appeared out of nowhere one day around 1943, and he became instantly devoted to Frank (my dad). Frank’s mother ran a boarding house, so there were always people coming and going, but Butch fit right in, even when Frank did his stint in the navy and when his bride, Nickela moved in. But the day Nickela came home from the hospital with a new baby, Butch disappeared and was never seen again.

Marriage certificate for William James Hood

1878 - 1954 

Margaret Ethel Jane Thompson

1885 - 1953

Date: Sept. 21, 1904    Place: Yellow Grass, Sk.

Marriage certificate for Rob’s maternal grandparents. When I discovered this in the Hood family Bible, I was gobsmacked. It is such a beautiful document. And big! It’s about 15” X 12”. Why don’t they make marriage certificates like this nowadays? Unfortunately, it is in several pieces, having succumbed to many foldings and unfoldings. For the time being, I have placed it inside a protective plastic sleeve, but at some point I may try to have it restored.

My Grandfather Was a Home Child

      Between the 1860s and1940s, more than 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. They were known as home children, often poor and orphaned waifs, who had landed on the doorstep of such organizations as the Salvation Army, Dr. Bernardo’s, and Quarriers. The children coming to Canada arrived by ship and were transferred to receiving homes across the country, where they were collected by farmers. There were at least seven applicants for each child. The premise was that the children would be cared for, and in exchange farmers would receive the benefit of cheap labor. Though this child migration programme was well-intended, the children were not always well-treated.

      My grandfather, William Philip Martin, was a home child. He was born in one of the poorest parts of East London, and he was illegitimate. On April 6, 1908, his mother Alice Maria Hopkins, pregnant with her ninth child—only four of whom lived past infancy and early childhood—fell down a flight of stairs. As a result, she went into labour, and both she and the baby died. She was 38 years old. At the time of her death, she’d been living with a man named Thomas Chambers. Unable to care for four youngsters on a part-time carman’s wages, and probably since my grandfather and his sister were not his biological children, on October 19, 1908, Chambers put William and Ada into Dr. Barnardo’s Home in Stepney Causway. During the next 3 months, William was transferred to a hospital and two other Barnardo homes, ending up at Leopold House, where he stayed for the next 9 months.

      On Oct. 2, 1909, William sailed on the SS Sicilian to Canada, arriving in Quebec on Oct. 19. In 1911 Ada was also sent to Canada, though she ended up in a different province. It wasn’t until 1935 that William and Ada again found each other.

      Though I know little of his time as a home child, the documentation I have seen indicates the farmer who took William in had little regard for him, and his interest was primarily in having him work. Needless to say, William left as soon as he could and enlisted in the army, preferring to take his chances in the war.

      Dr. Barnardo’s has been most helpful in tracing my grandfather’s roots. The organization has kept in-depth records, and as a result, I have been able to pick up other threads of my grandfather’s life.

P.S. -- My other grandfather, George William Dann, was much older than William Philip Martin, and during his life he worked at many different jobs. It just so happens that when William Philip was an orphan at Dr. Bernardo's Homes, George William was an employee there. Talk about coincidence!

This photo of William Philip Martin was taken the day he was admitted to Dr. Barnardo’s Home. It bears a strong resemblance to a mug shot. Note the surname is Green. That was the name of his grandmother (she married several times), and as she was the one who delivered  William and his sister, Ada to Dr. Barnardo’s, the children were registered with that name.

William Philip Martin

1897 - 1961

In the 1930s, Bill worked as a chef at Childs Restaurant in Winnipeg, having taken up cooking during his stint in the army in WWI. Family stories indicate he was fired from Childs around 1939 for stealing a pound of butter. He and his wife, Annie, separated shortly afterwards. It was not an amicable split. Though he never remarried, Bill eventually found another partner. He died in St. Hubert, Quebec at age 64.

Mario (May) Franko

1911 - ? 

Noelia (Rose) Franko

1908 - ?

Anna (Annie/Amy) Franko 1901 - 1987

This picture of my mother’s mother and two of her sisters was taken sometime during the 1920s, probably in Winnipeg. The Franko family emigrated from the Ukraine in 1900, but all the sisters were born in Sundown (Stuartburn), Manitoba. There was a fourth sister, Helen, but she was quite a bit younger. Anna named my mother Rose Marie after her sisters, but Mom always went by Nickela. She had thought her name was Jean Rose Marie Nickela her whole life. She didn’t find out the truth until she applied for her old age pension. So I’m named Nickela after my mother, except Nickela was never her name.

Thomas Reginald Martin 

1925 - 2000 

John Irving Martin

1925 to 2007

The twins were inseparable, and according to my mother, often carried on silent conversations. They were excellent golfers—Tom especially, so it was fitting that he should die on the golf course. His daughter said bogeying the 13th hole is what killed him. Both twins married—Tommy twice. Even so, at the end, he was a bachelor. In his early 30s, he moved to California; naturally John followed shortly thereafter. Tom was an accountant; John a salesman. They were brothers, but more importantly, they were best friends, so it’s no surprise Tom’s daughter and John’s son also are.

Charles Herbert Butcher 1867 - 1942

Ernest Wilson Butcher 1909 - 1967

Alice Louella Myrtle Hood 1913 - 2003

Bessie Llewellyn Wilson 1868 - 1952,

Donna May Butcher (baby)

This photo was probably taken in Nanaimo, BC in late 1936 or early 1937. Charles and Bessie are Rob's and Donna’s paternal grandparents. Ernie and Alice are their parents. Charles and Bessie met and married in St. Thomas, Ontario, but gradually moved west through Manitoba, Minnesota, and Saskatchewan as they grew their family. In the early 1930s, they moved for the last time to Nanaimo.

Annie Franko

1901 - 1987

William Emo (Billy) Martin

1921 - 1961

Thomas Reginald Martin

1925 - 2000

John Irving Martin

1925 - 2007

Rose Marie Martin

1930 - 2014

My guess would be a family outing at Winnipeg Beach -- circa 1934. Nickela looks about five, so Annie and Bill would still be married. Perhaps Bill is the one taking the picture.

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

       The dictionary defines an heirloom as a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations. Of course, its value need not be interpreted strictly in monetary terms. Your great-great grandmother's rolling pin could be an heirloom, because it has sentimental value.

          Most families have many heirlooms, and there is a reason they have been kept and passed along. Unfortunately, family members don't always know what that reason is. Somewhere along the way, stories get lost or warped, until eventually an heirloom may simply become something that has been in the family for years.

            The thing is you don't usually know what will become an heirloom, until it is one. How does something that was once new and useful or beautiful or valuable become an heirloom, while other things merely fade away?

            Here is one possibility—bizarre as it is.

         A couple of years ago, my husband and I visited the dentist for our cleaning and checkup, and I was told I needed two old fillings replaced with crowns. I was asked if I wanted gold. I said that I did not. Having white fillings and crowns allows me to pretend my teeth are as perfect as when they first sprouted in my mouth.

          Upon relating this story to my husband, I learned that he has two gold crowns. (How could I be married to the man for almost half a century and not know this?) Anyway, I didn't, and he does.

        Laughing, he said that perhaps he should leave one to each of our children. I told him that was gross, which only encouraged him to start thinking about the idea more seriously. So he texted the kids and asked them if they were interested. The replies came back almost immediately.

           “Um ... okay.”

           And, “Hell, yeah!”

          Clearly, they are their father's children. I'm not sure how they're going to go about getting the teeth. All I know is that I won't be having any part of it.               Still, a hundred years from now, when these teeth are passed along to our great-great grandchildren, the accompanying stories will definitely be worth hearing.

Elsie Mary Lines

1887 - 1970

Elsie Clara Dann

1924 to 2009

Frank Dann

1927 - 2007

My grandmother, my dad, and my aunt. This photo was likely taken at their home in Winnipeg. It looks like spring, so it’s probably just before Frank’s 1st birthday. Elsie Mary was a tiny woman, as were her two daughters. They topped out at 4’ 10” if they were lucky. Frank didn’t end up being a big man either — a slight 5’ 10” maybe. But he was a whopping 10 pounds at birth!


Frank Dann

1927 - 2007

The Navy recruiting officer said it was impossible that my dad had no middle name. Dad explained that his father wanted him to be Henry, but his mother was against it, so he ended up simply Frank. He appears as Frank Canadian Dann on his enlistment papers. Years later, as a joke, Mom gave him a dressing gown with the monogram FCD. Before he died, he decided he really did want a middle name and decided on Hayes, after his grandfather, but Frank died before he could legally adopt the name. Knowing this story, my daughter named her 4th child -- and only daughter, Elle Hayes, in his honour.

Frank Dann

1927 - 2007

Here's my dad building the family home at 4599 Blenkinsop Road in Victoria. It’s probably 1957. My mother always hated this house. In 1956, she was a happy wife and mother, living in her brand new dream home at 49 Parkville Drive in Winnipeg. Dad worked for the CNR railroad in the dining car. One day while on a run to the West Coast, he called Mom from Vancouver, saying they were moving to Victoria, and she was to sell the house and get on a plane. Mom was stunned. She followed his instructions, but she never got over it.

NB: That’s me in the foreground.

Francis Hayes Dann

1818 - 1901

George William Dann

1857 - 1943

My grandfather and great-grandfather on my dad’s side. This photo was taken by  Frances Howlett Dann, professional photographer and wife and mother to the sitters. It can be assumed that the photo was taken in her studio at 35 Broad Street in Reading, England, which was also where the family lived. George looks to be about 3 or 4 here (he’s still dressed like a girl), so the photo was likely snapped in the very early 1860s.


F.H. Dann & Co. -- Photographers (Advertisement)

Though the business bore my great grandfather's name (Francis Hayes Dann), it was actually my great grandmother (Frances Howlett Dann) who was the photographer. My grandfather worked for the railroad, but because it wasn't legal for women to own businesses, the photography studio was registered to him. It was established in 1856. It seems to have been successful, for when Frances retired in 1901, it was taken over by her granddaughter and her granddaughter’s husband, under the name Dann-Lewis Photography. The business was eventually passed down to their son, Walter Lewis, who ran it until after WWII.                 An extensive collection of the business’s photos and plates can be found at the University of Reading. Find out more on their website. 

“Say Cheese!”

Except back in the day, people seldom did. When I was a kid, I used to think people were just  more serious in the olden days, but now I realize it was more a matter of the limitations of the photographic equipment. Lenses had to stay open longer to provide sufficient light, and that meant the subjects being photographed had to stay very still. Hence the photographs were much more posed and stilted-looking. It also meant that most photographs were taken in a studio with staged backdrops, such as this photo taken at my great grandmothers' photography shop in Reading, England.

The Stuff I Found That I Wasn't Looking For!

      Like everyone who takes up genealogy, my goal is to gather information about my ancestors. And I have done that. I haven't found everyone; nor have I unearthed everything about anyone – but I've made a good dent. The thing is my digging has broadened my knowledge in other ways too, in as much as it has made me aware of societal norms and practices of other times and places.

      While studying a street view of my great-grandmother's home/photography studio in Reading, England, I noticed that the houses were numbered consecutively, and so I set out to find out why. I learned that street numbering didn't begin until the mid 1700s, and in some places the numbering of one side was completed and then continued clockwise to the other side of the street, so that house #1 would be across the road from the highest numbered house. For instance, #10 Downing Street is next door to #11 Downing Street. In rural areas, numbering wasn't particularly helpful, so instead, houses were generally given names such as Downton Abbey or Rose Cottage.

  While searching for marriage documentation for my great-great-grandparents, I was puzzled to find not one -- but two records of their marriage (just a month apart) in two different parishes. That had me wondering if I was on the wrong trail, until a fellow genealogist told me that such situations weren't unusual in 19th century England. At that time, marriage was a church matter, and the banns had to be read in the participants' parish church three Sundays prior to the marriage. If the bride and groom hailed from different parishes, they would have their banns read 6 times. Because travel was expensive, the couple might then marry twice – once in each parish, so that friends and family of both could attend the nuptials.

      Because I am writing a book based on my great-grandmother, who lived her entire life in the slums of East London, I have been reading The People of the Abyss by Jack London to get a feel for the living conditions. His undercover research indicated that child deaths in the rookeries were commonplace and not just due to poverty-related health issues. Children often slept with their parents as there was nowhere else, and it wasn't unusual for a parent to roll on top of a child and suffocate it – apparently not always accidentally.

     At the same time, in a better part of England, my grandfather was a scholar. A scholar! So I'm thinking he must have been some sort of genius. Not quite. According to the censuses I've seen, scholar merely means he was a student. Still, his parents must have been fairly well-off and have valued education, since most schools at that time charged fees and boarded students. Since poor families needed their children to work, school wasn't a priority. It wasn't until attendance became mandatory in1899, that the situation changed.

      None of these bits of information is earth-shattering, but all have helped me to better understand the family data I have found.

Ethel Jessie Disney

1902 - 1933

Ethel was the first wife of Donald Leicester Wellington Hood (Rob’s mother's brother). Ethel hanged herself. Rob’s mother, who had lived with the family for a couple of years, said Ethel’s children were the ones who found her. Though she died in Hudson Bay Junction, Saskatchewan, Ethel was buried in Oxbow, where she'd been born.

Don, a successful entrepreneur and budding politician went on to remarry and have two more children. He was killed in a plane crash while campaigning for leadership of the Saskatchewan Liberal party in 1954.

Douglas Allen Hood

1921 - 1937

Doug was the youngest child of William James Hood and Margaret Ethel Jane Thompson. He was born the year before his mother was admitted to the Weyburn Mental Hospital, where she remained until her death in 1953. Doug’s sister, Alice said that Doug came down with pneumonia after a particularly cold and blustery sleigh ride home one evening, and it got the better of him. Doug was only 16 when he died. His grave is in Lang Cemetery, Lang, Saskatchewan, where he lived his whole life.

Charles Henry Butcher

1840 - 1908

Emily Holland

1844 - 1913

Rob’s paternal great-grandparents.

Charles and Emily both lived their early lives on the Isle of Wight but were married in London in 1864. Their first 3 children were born there. Then in 1870 they immigrated to Canada, settling first in the Waterloo area, then Oxford, and finally in St. Thomas, Ontario, where Charles worked as a house painter.

Charles is one of my current brick walls. Though I know his father was also Charles, I can’t pinpoint the exact family. I have a few theories, but they are yet to be verified.


John Smith Wilson

1842 - 1909 

Elizabeth Ann Laing

1840 - 1900 

John and Elizabeth Wilson were long-time respected residents of St. Thomas, Ontario. They had 3 children, who all died very young. They adopted Rob's paternal grandmother, Bessie,  as a child, sometime before 1881. She is the only one of the family not included on the headstone. She is buried in Nanaimo, where she died in 1952.

The stone was erected at the time of Elizabeth's death, and according to the cemetery manager, though the Wilson’s other children are named on the headstone, they are not actually buried here. The grave is a final resting place for John and Elizabeth only.

Stephen Frank Dann

1954 - 2002

Steve was so smart, it was scary. He was also a master cabinetmaker. He designed gorgeous chests (involving parabolas, whatever those are — I listened to him talk but didn’t really understand). And he created jigs so the chests could be recreated. He could be very funny, and like my father, he had an ear for dialects, and he never told a story without assuming the various voices. One of his big loves was music, whether he was listening, smashing on drums, or picking at a guitar. But he was also a troubled soul, and eventually life became too much.

I shall miss him always.

Getting Lost in Translation


      In elementary school, I remember the teacher lining the students up around the perimeter of the classroom one day. Then she took the boy at the front of the line into the hall – so no one could hear – and told him a sentence. When they returned, the boy whispered what the teacher had told him into the ear of the girl behind him. She then whispered it to the student behind her, and on it went around the room. When the last student had been whispered the sentence, he was asked to say it aloud. Then the first boy told the class what the teacher had told him. Needless to say, the two sentences were nothing alike, and so of course, everyone laughed. We played the game several times, and never was the end result the same as the original. In fact, sometimes the last sentence made no sense at all. The meaning had been lost in translation, so to speak.

      So it is with genealogy. Documents available online are usually accompanied by a transcription, and though the transcription may be easier to read than an old, faded, handwritten document, it may well be inaccurate or incomplete. After all, mistakes happen.

      I've been trying for some time to hunt down an adopted aunt, who vanished after 1916. On rereading the transcription of the 1911 census, I noted her mother's name was listed as Bessie Wallace. When I saw this, I got very excited, thinking it must be her biological mother's name, for it was not her adopted mother's name. So off I went to follow this lead. After days of fruitless searching, I returned to the census, but this time I studied the original document, and there was my aunt – listed as the daughter of my grandfather, just as she should have been, and in the house next door was Bessie Wallace. The transcriber must have erroneously copied the information from the entry above my aunt's. If I'd read the original document in the first place, I could have saved myself a boatload of work.

      Another common problem with transcriptions is misspelling. While searching for my husband's uncle, Charles Butcher, I came across a 1916 census. I quickly perused the transcription, even though the person listed was Charles Buleher. The mother's name was wrong too. She was listed as Berrie Buleher. Since her name was Bessie, I would have discarded the census, except the address rang a bell. So off I went to the original document. Granted, the penmanship wasn't the greatest, but I could see the names were Bessie and Butcher. Bessie's name was transcribed incorrectly in another census too. Her middle name was Llewellyn, but the transcription listed her as Helwellyer.

      Transcriptions don't always present all the information laid out in the original document. A marriage record for a set of great-great grandparents listed the occupation of the bride's father as greengrocer. This information was not on the transcription but proved a real boon in helping me identify the man in a business directory, where he was listed as a greengrocer. Likewise, I was able to identify one ancestor's second wife – through a census where she was shown as owning the farm next door.

      And on it goes. Documents are laden with clues that may be omitted or misrepresented in a transcription, so it's always a good idea to take a close look at those originals.

Margaret Wilhelmina Turnbull

1848 - 1923

She is pictured here with her youngest child, John Edward. Born in Scotland, she immigrated to Canada between 1856 and 1862 and married James Edward Hood in Collingwood, On. in 1876. Together they had 4 children, the second of whom was Rob’s grandfather William James Hood. Margaret died accidentally. Entertaining company in her home one evening, she took a lamp and went upstairs for her glasses. As she returned, she tripped and fell down the stairs. She was unconscious for almost 6 days before passing away. The newspaper said it was a miracle she didn’t burn down the house.

Wellington Twilight Softball Team Champs 1935

Rob’s dad, Ernest Wilson Butcher (1909 - 1966) is sitting on the ground, second from the right. Rob’s Uncle Harry Walsh, (Ernie’s sister Alice’s husband) is the fellow in the fedora, standing on the far right. I never met Ernie, but I understand he was a big baseball fan. He was one of the people who built Layritz Park, where Rob played his Little League ball. Rob says his dad got so heated up at a game one time, that the umpire ejected him from the ball park.

George Solly Lines

1861 - 1897

The second of 7 children, George Solly Lines was a resident of Ipswich, England most of his short life. He married in 1884 and earned his living as a butcher. He and wife, Clara Burton had 5 children and likely would have had more if George hadn’t perished during a typhoid epidemic.

He was my great grandfather on my father’s side.

George Solly Lines

1861 - 1897

Clara Burton

1862 - 1929

George Solly Lines died young. At 36, he was a victim of a typhoid epidemic. He shares a grave with his brother, William Sargent Lines, who also died before his time. Shortly after his own death, George's only son, George William Lines, also died. He was only 8 years old.

After George Solly’s death, his wife, Clara remarried and had another child. Family rumour has it that her second husband was abusive and generally not a nice person. At any rate, when Clara died, her body was interred with George Solly and his brother.

I have no idea where young George William was buried.

George William Dann

1857 - 1943

Elsie Mary Lines

1887 - 1970,

Annie Rebecca North

1857 - 1915

Irene Dann

1896 - 19??

This was taken when George was married to Annie Rebecca. Elsie Mary, his second wife and Annie Rebecca's nurse/companion at this time, is standing beside George. In the foreground is Irene (Reenie), George and Annie Rebecca's adopted daughter. The child beside Annie Rebecca is unknown.

Thanks to Warren Jansen for doing such a wonderful job of restoring the photograph.

Elsie Mary Lines

1887 - 1970

James Noon

1878 - 1958

My grandmother, Elsie, was widowed in 1943, but voter registration lists indicate she had married Jim Noon  by 1945. A policeman in Scotland, Jim worked as a watchman for the Wheat Board in Winnipeg. Since Elsie ran a boarding house at 558 Carlaw Avenue, it is likely he was a boarder. They ran the boarding house until at least 1952. By 1954, they were caretakers of the Montrose Apartments on Toronto Street, until Jim died in 1958.

Jim was the only grandfather I ever knew. Such a nice man, and he always had humbugs.

Marriage Certificate

Charles Henry Butcher 1840 - 1909

Emily Holland 1844 - 1913

Charles & Emily were married in Poplar, London in 1864. I seldom send for documents, but I needed this one to help me locate Charles’ family. I discovered Charles’ father—also Charles—was alive at the time of the marriage. I also learned that Emily’s father, an engine fitter had died. I knew Emily’s family had suddenly moved from a comfortable life to one that was less so, and this explained why. One of the witnesses to the marriage was James Butcher, who I suspect was Charles’ twin brother, but I have yet to prove it.

More stories coming soon, so please visit again.

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