Report on the 2011 November Reunion

Well, look what I found among my drafts for posts …

Haha .. Never managed to post it! But as with most things genealogy .. “Better late than never!”

Our reunion was a great success! With all that has been going on since, I haven’t had a chance to talk about the day.

It was a great chance to meet relatives who didn’t know one another! And we did bring together quite a crew of descendants of Matthew O’Connor and Mary Doyle. And yes, we had a birthday cake in their honor, thanks to cousin Sharon!

My sister Margo (who was unable to come) was hoping that we could find some relatives from the Cadieux side. And we did! Our cousin Neal (his grandmother was Belle Cadieux) joined us and we were thrilled that he brought along some photos to share too.

I had been doing some research at the Arnprior & McNab Braeside archives and came upon a host of photos from our Frood ancestors. Maybe our 2012 reunion will have someone representing the Frood or Watt families.

Turns out that we still have some cousins from my father’s generation in the Ottawa area, which was a great and happy surprise  Matthew O’Connor and Mary Doyle’s next to last child was Emmett (my grandfather’s brother). His daughter Marion, who coincidentally lives not far from the site of the reunion, joined us! What a thrill to catch up with her and that part of the family. Her sister Rita lives in Oklahoma and brother Desmond in the Ottawa area. When I visited with her on the Sunday following, she showed me a letter to our grand uncle Msgr. O’Connor from FDR, asking his advice.

Family of another of my grandfather’s brothers, Stephen, were represented, too! Richard wasn’t able to join us, but his brother stopped by, and was interested in the details of the tree. He got to meet some new cousins, too!

Connie, representing the Delaney branch, was also with us. Her grandmother was Mary “Minnie” O’Connor (my grandfather’s sister; daughter of Matthew & Mary) who married George Delaney.

Gary Allen has been doing research on the Irish in the Ottawa Valley. He joined us for the family names, and discovered a connection to the family through Isidore Cadieux, brother of my great grandfather David!

Cousin John is very knowledgeable on the O’Connor tree, having done most of his research before we had internet sources, so he knows the original sources and details well. He was a great resource for those with questions about the O’Connor and Dolan lines.

Cousin Sharon is also well versed in the O’Connors and Dolans. She too was a go-to person for questions. …and she helped with the cake and refreshments.

We had a really great morning together. It was a great chance to connect to family we had only seen as names on the family tree, but have now had a chance to meet and enjoy. So many commented that it would be nice to do this each year, that we are working on the dates for 2012.

I’m hoping to find some representatives of the Wilson and McEwan lines who could join us.

The Value of Obituaries

WilliamWilsonObitSometimes, when you’re wondering where that ancestor disappeared, an obituary will provide the answer. But not their obituary!

Relatives doing family history have asked why I have spent time researching branches of the family tree that are not my direct ancestors.

The answer is a bit convoluted .. just like the route to finding my direct ancestors.

Sometimes the trail for my family tree goes nowhere. But tracking the siblings of my ancestors may be a route around the roadblock that will lead right to my ancestor .. or to a cousin who may know other details I’m looking for about our common ancestors.

Case in point: the Wilsons of Aylwin, QC.

That’s the family of my great grandmother, Eliza Wilson. They are from Scotland, all the earliest records show this. But where in Scotland?

Her father, Robert Wilson, first appears in Huntley (near Carp, where Eliza is born), then Nepean, and finally Aylwin QC. Robert was a tanner, the likely reason for his early death.

When his wife, Annie Graham, remarries and ends up in Gloucester with her younger children and new husband, Eliza meets a next door neighbour .. and eventually marries John ‘Jake’ McEwan.

Some of her siblings seems to disappear. An obituary finally puts her brother William Wilson in Eastview (Ottawa). And her brother Robert?

Listed among the survivors is Robert .. of “Hokim, Wash.” That would explain why Robert disappeared completely. He was among those who headed to the United States during the logging boom of the early 1900s. US Census records subsequently show him first living in Wisconsin (where he marries) and then in Washington State, near Seattle. Thanks to a Google search, it was easy to find that he had lived in Hoquiam, Washington.

Obituaries prove the point that much of what appears in historic newspapers was really hearsay .. it was what the reporter heard them say! Important then not to get hung up on the mistakes, like Eliza McEwan becoming L (for Liza) McEwan .. but at the right address!

Are we a little closer to finding someone who knows the family origins in Scotland? Hopefully! I’m working on a Hoquiam Family Reunion for the Wilson descendants of Robert in May 2016 .. along with another group of Wilsons in the Hoquiam area .. possibly Robert’s uncle’s family?

To be continued.

McEwan Shortbread

Grandpa McEwan was a baker. Since he was 16!

While I love food, I’ve never put a recipe on this blog … until now!

Part of family history is the smell, the taste, the experience of what it means to be family. Baking was a big part of that for me. Though Grandpa died before I was born, there was one recipe that was a part of every holiday season, Christmas and Easter: the McEwan shortbread.

My mom baked them every year, for as long as I can remember. Only when she left her own apartment did that tradition end. And on her last Christmas season, we used the assisted living facility’s common kitchen to bake cookies, to be packed as gifts for her friends at the residence.

You could tell these were home made. The final touch was the use of the fork to make a special mark this way, then that, on the top. It was something Mom had picked up from Grandpa.

At age 19, Grandpa became a baker at Fenton’s bakery on Bank Street. Years later, shortly before his death in 1956, he retired from Fenton’s.

He had a stint in the Air Force in World War II .. as a man in his late forties! ..  as — of course — a cook, at a training base in Canada.

Since I’m not a cook, I will give the details as I understand them to read. I notice I don’t have a “yields” amount. (I believe the yield is 24 cookies.) If you try it, let me know if I’ve written it understandably.

McEwan Shortbread

3 1/4 cup white flour

1/2 cup sugar – confectioners’

1 cup butter

Sift flour and sugar together 4-5 times. Stand butter at room temperature 15-20 minutes, then cut into dry ingredients with two knives or a pastry cutter until perfectly blended. Mold on wax paper with your hands. Roll into small balls and flatten with a fork so cookie is about 3/4 inch thick.

Bake about 15 minutes at 300-325 degrees F

[=150-160C; original is in F].

Must be almost white when done. If baked too long, it will become hard.

Great War Death Toll Underestimated By 1 Million?

The statistics for the Allied Powers of the Great War, now often called World War I, from 1914-1918, are staggering:

Military dead: 5,525,000
Military wounded: 12,831,500
Military missing: 4,121,000
Total: 22,477,500 KIA, WIA or MIA

Canada’s share was overwhelming: military dead (64,976) as a percentage of Canada’s 1914 population of 7.2 million was 1%, with and additional 2% of the population returning as wounded (149,732). [Newfoundland, a separate colony, had similar figures — .7% deaths, 1.1% wounded.]

The 100th anniversary of the war has led to quite a flurry of research of its various aspects. A new collection of essays, The Cambridge History of The First World War, is a 3 volume massive work of 2,352 pages, covering the Global War (v. 1), The State (v.2) and Civil Society (v.3).

It has broken some new ground in looking at the toll in human lives lost. Antoine Prost, emertius Professor of History at the  University of Paris, writes in his essay The Dead, in v. 3 (Civil Society), argues that a combination of errors, confusion, and an inclination to publish low figures, led to an underestimation of the death toll. It could be off by anywhere from 1/2 to 1 million. In analyzing casualty lists of the warring parties, Prof. Prost noted that there is considerable confusion “concerning places whose borders had shifted; there is inconsistency in recording the deaths of soldiers from sickness, and prisoners of war who died in captivity; and there is uncertainty surrounding the number of soldiers reported missing.”

It is not surprising that — regarding the mental health of those soldiers not returning with physical wounds — the numbers for those psychologically damaged by the experiencbc8e88f-c11d-422b-b035-baf6eae78fbeces of the Great War is likely also considerably underestimated. For a physician to diagnose a returning soldier as suffering from “shell-shock” was to make it less likely that he would receive a pension.

This might well have been the situation of my grandfather’s brother, Ernest McEwan, a Great War soldier, who in 1935 died from an “overdose of aspirin” following a cancer operation. He not only endured the incredible stress of the War on the ground, but after the War was a guard on the trains that took Chinese men of the Chinese Labour Corps, drafted to fight in the War, from Halifax, Nova Scotia to ships in Vancouver, British Columbia as part of a “forced deportation” back to China and Hong Kong. (The British did not want the Chinese labourers to settle in United Kingdom or any of the Colonies.)

As background on the Great War, the 3-volume work is a fascinating resource, but the price is also amazing: The 3 volumes purchased together are $380 (Amazon $361);  individual volumes are $150 each (Amazon about $130). You can preview the Table of Contents for volume 3 here.

To consult it, it’s probably easiest to find it at a good University library. Search worldcat to find a copy near you.


The Frood family and the 100th Anniversary of World War I

As the commemorations of World War I approach, I think about the family members who lost their lives in the Great War. Many, many of my ancestors were among the 690,000 soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF); a number were among the 67,000 killed and 173,000 wounded — almost 39% of those mobilised.

I was particularly touched by the story of Peter Frood (1865-1934), his wife Naomi McEwen (1857-1950), and their family. Peter was my great grandmother Barbara Watt Frood’s brother, my great grand uncle.

Even before the War, they had seen tragedy. In 1912, their daughter Iva Ray, a school teacher, had committed suicide.

cbfroodIt is hard to fathom their sorrow when, in 1915, they learned that their son Lorne Vine Frood, of H Company, CEF, died in the trenches somewhere near St. Julien, France. It was soon to be compounded, when news reached them in 1916 of the death, at age 19, of (Clarence) Boyd Frood, 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles, CEF, near Mount Sorrel, France.

Their bodies were never recovered, but they are remembered in the ceremony that takes place daily at 8pm, at the Memorial at the Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, where their names are inscribed. Sons of Renfrew, their names are also inscribed on the cenotaph outside town hall in Renfrew.

One of the plans to commemorate those who died in the Great War is to nightly project the names onto the War Memorials in Ottawa and several other cities across Canada.

In the run up to the celebrations of the 100th anniversary, many are reflecting on the meaning of the Great War. I find it hard to think about 10 million soldiers’ and 6 million civilian deaths.

Seeing it one family at a time begins to give some sense of the devastation that took place on both sides of the Atlantic.


The McEwans and Gloucester ON history

The search for my great great grandfather, John McEwan’s father, led me to Gloucester, a township that in the middle 1800s was in the countryside outside of Ottawa. (In the Ottawa of 2013, it’s part of Ottawa.)

John — Jake — listed his residence, at the time of his marriage to Eliza Wilson, as Gloucester. His father, William, lived in Gloucester, too.

Places to go to research such a question always include the usual resources: the Ottawa History Room at the main branch of the Ottawa Public Library downtown, and the Library and Archives Canada on Wellington, and the Ottawa Archives at their new home, 100 Tallwood Dr. (corner of Woodroffe).

But for Gloucester history, a fine little gem of a research spot is the Gloucester Historical Society’s research room, tucked away on the lower level of 4550 Bank Street in Gloucester (intersection Bank and Leitrim Rd. — see directions here.)

Last September, I had a chance to work there and found — as one always does in local history centers and museums — original documents that just aren’t available anywhere else.

And, as always, the most valuable resource is the local volunteers, who both know their resources, and have a wealth of information to share themselves!

GloucesterLogoI made an appointment, and was fortunate enough to have, as my guide and helper, Robert Serré, current president of the historical society — and the author and compiler of a number of books and booklets on the families and histories of various communities in the Ottawa area. He was most gracious and helped me locate a number of resources and pointed me to some online items as well.

It is always a boon to have someone who knows those things that you don’t know that you don’t know!

A nice round of applause for Robert Serré, and all of the volunteers at the Gloucester history room, and the host of volunteers at local history societies, local museums and local archives everywhere! They are making history even as they save it for the rest of us!

Needless to say, the research goes on. I have not, as yet, been able to connect William to a plot of land in Gloucester, or to the Gloucester families of McEwans.

MacEwans of Scotland!

Alistair Moffat has an interesting little book, published by Thames & Hudson, titled The Highland Clans. A nice historical summary, and then a listing of the various clans with some notes on each. The MacEwan notes give a good chuckle. Some things don’t change across the centuries — they must be genetic ? !


Settled around Loch Fyne, the clan has a name-father in the early 12th century. By 1602 they were listed as a broken clan, living outside the law, and the Campbells were made responsible for their good behaviour. They failed.