Saturday, 28 February 2015

Ford Ross Carruthers (1922 - 1942)

The above picture was one found in a collection of old photos belonging to my grandparents, Frances and Frank Kinnaird.  There was no name on it, only the photography studio's stamp (Paul Horsdal, Ottawa) in the corner.  I had wondered who it might be and his story but never really thought I'd know.

Last night, my online subscription to was coming to an end so I decided to see what I could find in the Ottawa newspapers for "Carruthers".  What a surprise to open up the Ottawa Journal (exactly 73 years ago today) and see the photos and read the following clip about Carl Carruthers and his brother Ford's adventures overseas during the Second World War.  They were sons of Orrin Victor Carruthers, Grandpa's first cousin and his wife Beulah Jessie Ford. Our mutual ancestors were his great grandparents Andrew William Carruthers and Jean Steven.  I am sure the photo that was in the trunk is Ford.

The tone of this article is all victory and adventure and that the boys are having the time of their lives.  Carl wonders how he will ever go back to his office job as a Government Tax Collector again after the thrills of being a wireless operator in a German bombing squadron.

Found on

It all changes a little more than one week after this article appeared in the paper.  Further searching turned up horrible news with the clipping below about the disappearance and later presumed death of Carl.  It was a sad twist that he was never to return to that boring office job again.  Carl Stuart Carruthers is memorialized at the Apeldoorn Cemetery in the Netherlands. 

Found on

I am so sad to relay that the story became even more tragic with the death not six months later of younger brother Ford at the tender age of 20.  Ford  Ross Carruthers is memorialized at Runneymede Cemetery in Surrey, England.

Found on

Young Ford had earlier survived an incredible brush with death at age 11 as is told in the clipping below. His name appears in other Ottawa Journals connected to his exploits at local hockey games so the bone must have healed well.

Found on

Not surprisingly after suffering such great loss not once but twice,  their father Orrin died young at age 54 in 1950.  His widow Beulah died at age 92 in 1989.  They are buried at Pinecrest Cemetery in Ottawa.  

Friday, 20 February 2015

Janet McKenzie Sparling (1892-1922)

This blog post tells the sad and gruesome details of the deaths of Janet and Hubert Sparling.  Janet was the sixth child of Janet Henry and William McKenzie and the granddaughter of our mutual ancestor, Mary Tait Henry.  The daughter Janet was born on her parents' farm north of Oak River and went on to marry a neighbour, Hubert Sparling in 1914. The Rootsweb site was the source for the following newspaper articles: 

>From the Oak River Post, Oak River, MB OBITUARY MRS. HUBERT A. SPARLING 
Early on Monday morning, August 7th, Mrs. Hubert A. SPARLING passed away a few hours after giving birth to a little daughter. The late Mrs. SPARLING was the daughter (Janet) of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. R. MC KENZIE of this district, having been born here on October 2nd, 1892. She was married on July 22nd, 1914, and in addition to her husband and the daughter born on the day of her death, is survived by a little daughter, Leila, seven years old, her parents, four brothers, John, William Eddie and Russell, all of Oak River, and three sisters, Mrs. T. DAVIES of Brandon, and Mrs. T. HAYHURST and Miss Bessie, of Oak River. The funeral was held on Tuesday afternoon to the White Bank Lea cemetery, following a service at the house at one o'clock. Rev. D. B. KENNEDY officiated. The pall-bearers were W. K. DELAMATER, Robt. DELAMATER, F. D. MC DONALD, Frank MILLER, T. PAXTON and W. F. SHORT. A large number of friends and neighbors were in attendance, and many beautiful floral offerings adorned the casket. The late Mrs. SPARLING will be sadly missed by her husband and relatives, and the memory of one who in bringing a new life into the world sacrificed her own will long be cherished by her many friends. The sympathy of the community is extended to the stricken family in their sad bereavement.

This was not the end of grief and sadness that year for the McKenzie and Sparling families.

>From the Oak River Post, Oak River, MB HUBERT A. SPARLING TAKES OWN LIFE 
Unable to Live Without Deceased Wife, Respected young Man Ends Life with Shotgun TRAGEDY SHOCKS COMMUNITY The community was shocked beyond expression on Sunday evening last to learn of the self-inflicted death of Hubert A. SPARLING, a well known and highly respected young widower, living three miles northeast of Oak River. The late Mr. SPARLING married Miss Janet MC KENZIE on July 22nd, 1914. She predeceased him on August 7th of this year, following the birth of their second child. They had always been particularly fond of each other and spent all the time possible in each other's company, nightfall rarely finding them apart. When his wife died, Mr. SPARLING was broken-hearted and he never became fully reconcilled to his fate.
Particularly graphic details (by our present day standards)  of Hubert's suicide were printed in the Oak River Post and can be found online here, should you wish to read them.   

 He left a message addressed to relatives directing the disposal of his estate and stating that he could not stand the strain of being separated from his wife. Dr. J. S. STEWART, coroner, viewed the remains shortly after the discovery. He pronounced the cause of death as suicide, and decided no inquest necessary, the posture of the body, the position of the weapon and other circumstances, precluding any other theory. In his opinion the fatality occurred at about 5 p.m. The funeral was held on Tuesday afternoon to the White Bank Lea cemetery, where deceased was laid beside his wife. Rev. D. B. KENNEDY conducted services at the house and the grave. The Oak River Odd Fellow Lodge, of which deceased was a member, attended in a body, and read their burial service at the grave. The bearers were R. DELAMATER, W. K. DELAMATER, Frank MC DONALD, W. F. SHORT, F. MILLER and T. PAXTON. A large number of people were present. The late Mr. SPARLING was born at Austin, Man., on November 19, 1888. He leaves to mourn him two little daughters, an aged mother, and several brothers and sisters including Mrs. W. K. DELAMATER and C. G. SPARLING of Oak River.

Janet was only 30 years old and Hubert was 33 when they died.  A sad story indeed to go with their elegant white gravestone at Whitebank Lea Cemetery .

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Jean Simms Rensta (1887 - 1968)


Jean was the sister of my grandfather Alexander Simms.  Her parents were Irish immigrants William Simms and Agnes McAllister and her grandfather was Henry Simms. Her older sister Mary Simms Bryan was previously featured on this blog.  The online birth registration at from 1887 says her given name is Jennie.  She was born in a farming family of 3 boys and 5 girls at Mountain in Dundas County near Ottawa.

An online copy of Volume VII of the Canadian Nurse Journal from September 1911 (page 417) records the graduation of Miss Jennie Simms from Mountain, Ont from the Lady Stanley Institute of the Protestant Hospital in Ottawa. This nursing school operated on Rideau Street from 1890 to 1924 under the direction of the wife of the Governor General and originator of the famous NHL trophy, Lord Stanley.  Jennie was one of a class of 12 nurses that graduated from a course of study on May 30, 1911 and would have received a pin as pictured below. 

The photo at the top of this blog post was shared by my cousin Marilee but I have had no luck finding Jennie as having served overseas as a nurse in WW1. The Veterans Affairs website says 3141 Nursing Sisters in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps had roles in the conflict and 2504 of these were sent overseas.  Forty-five of these women died in service to our country.  It would be most interesting to find out more about this time in her life.

In 1932, at 45 years of age, Jean married Gustav Rensta in as the clipping below from from the Ottawa Journal dated Tuesday, November 15 tells:

Bror Gustaf Benjamin Rensta is found on an immigration document on as born in Brunskog, Sweden and arriving in Canada on September 27, 1924.  Documents he filled in say he intends to take up forestry when he arrived in Canada for the Wayayamack Pulp and Paper Company in Three Rivers, Quebec.  

Text of above letter written to my grandmother, Mary upon the death of Alex in December of 1941:

207A Woodlands West 
Woodlands P. Quebec
Dec. 6th/41
Dear Mary,
I had a letter from Eleda a couple of days ago telling me about your great loss.  It was quite a shock + surprise to hear of it as I thought Alex was having better health lately.  I would be glad to hear from you a little later when you feel better telling me the cause of his death.You have my sincere sympathy for the children and yourself.  I am only very sorry we were unable to be with you.  I hope you are in good health + the children well.  It must be so very hard on you all.  It will be a comfort to have Robert + the older children who are grown up to help you.  I understand your parents live near you too.I'm sure Alex + you must have had it pretty hard in the past sometimes.  Bad luck with crops, sickness etc.  It is all trying on one's health.I would have liked to have heard from him sometime both of us neglected our correspondence which is too bad.Eleda said Mother was feeling pretty badly.  She is not very strong now and can't stand so much.  She was eighty-one last April + usually is in pretty good health.  I know she would like so very much to be near you at this time.It was very hard on us when we lost Edith + Ethel.  They were so young to pass away.  Even father was only sixty-five when we lost him.I will be glad to hear from you often and I will promise to answer your letters.  Again I extend my deepest sympathy.
Your loving sister.
Jennie. (Mrs. G. Rensta)  

She and Gustav lived along the St Lawrence River in Montreal in 1945 when my Aunts Dodie and Gwen made a trip there to visit relatives.  The photos below were taken then, of Gustav and Jean and below that Dodie, Jean and Gwen at the Rensta home in Woodlands, Quebec near Montreal.

Aunt Dodie's address book from the 60's lists Jean and Gustav at 817-5 th N.E. Deerfield Beach in Florida as well as 6506 Denbigh Avenue in South Burnaby, B.C.

Lois Jane kindly took this picture and submitted it to Find-a- Grave.  Jean and Gustav are buried in the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery at 1991 Bernard Avenue in British Columbia at plots at C 2 -87- 46 and 47.  Jean died on June 5, 1968 (on the same day that Bobby Kennedy was shot) and her husband Gustav on May 11, 1976.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Simms' 25th Anniversary Party 1940

A 25th Anniversary Celebration for my grandparents was held at their farm on July, 1940.  There were several photos taken that day seventy-five years ago and are a wonderful snapshot of that moment in time.  Guests are listed below with links to their previous blog posts, if I wrote one on them.

My Aunt Dorothy #15 recalls that they made 3 flavours of ice cream for the celebration.  Her twin, my Dad #7 remembers being made to wear shorts, which he hated and hasn't worn since!  They are standing in front of the Simms home on SE 15-14-22 where my parents live today.  The little building to the left of the house was the summer kitchen and there was no porch on the house as there is now.

  1. Olive Henry nee Biccum (widow of James Henry)
  2. Bill Sinclair
  3. Nellie Sinclair
  4.  John Paul (Scotty)
  5. Jean Fortune nee Sinclair
  6. Bob Simms
  7. Donald Simms
  8. Lizzie Morcom nee Sinclair
  9. Mary Simms nee Sinclair
  10. Joyce Fortune later Biccum
  11. Stan Fortune
  12. Jack Morcom
  13. Ken Fortune
  14. Alex Simms
  15. Dorothy Simms later Taylor
  16. Gwen Simms later Milliken
  17. Art Baldwin
  18. Arnold Fortune
  19. Irene Fortune later Parker
  20. Bert Baldwin
  21. Sam Henry
  22. Doris Simms later Henry 
The Photo must have been taken by Jessie Sinclair nee Henry as she is the only one below not in this photo. 
(Thanks Jan for numbering the people in the photo!  So much easier to sort out who is who!)

The Mary and Alex Simms family 
Back - Bob, Mary, Alex
Middle -Doris and Gwen
Front - Donald and Dorothy
The young people - mostly cousins
Sisters and sister-in-laws
Back - Olive Henry, Nellie Sinclair, Mary Simms
Front - Lizzie Morcom, Jean Fortune, Jessie Sinclair

Place cards saved from July 28, 1940 

Front of card from Sam to Alex and Mary 
(The inside is scanned above in bottom left corner)