Friday, 23 November 2018

A Mystery Aunt - Jeannie Sinclair Oliver

A recent look through Aunt Lizzie (Sinclair) Morcom's photos and papers turned up a mystery Aunt that I must have passed over before.  How appropriate that on American Thanksgiving weekend, I was able to discover a whole new Yankee branch of the family tree! Luckily, the Christmas card below was saved and started the investigation. 
Address 85 Summit
Hastings on Hudson N Y
My Dear Niece Elizabeth,
I am sending a few Xmas cards and want to send you one as it has been some time since I heard from you all but hope you are all very well.  I have been very poorly since I wrote to you last but I'll try to write you a long letter very soon.  Hoping this finds you all very well.  I hope your Father - Mother is all right and all your Folks.
With love from your Aunt Jeannie Oliver

The address helped me search her name and I came across the Find a Grave entry which also included an obituary from her death in 1944.  It tells that Jeannie was born in Kirkwall, Orkney Islands, Scotland, October 15, 1857. On my tree, I had a Jane Kennedy Sinclair as a sister to my great grandfather James but Orkney documents give her birth year as 1853.  They were 2 of the 4 children of  William Sinclair and Jane Garrioch of  Eastside on South Ronaldsay in the Orknys. She married William Oliver perhaps in Scotland and later arrived in the U.S.  For many years they lived in Ansonia, Connecticut and also resided just south of there in Derby for a time.  The 1880 Census has them at 65 Elizabeth Street in Derby and William is listed as a millwright.
The obituary lists her children as the daughter with whom she made her home Jean Lyon, Mrs. Laura Evans of Syracuse, N. Y. and two sons, William E. Oliver and Robert S. Oliver, both of Rome, N. Y.; three grandchildren and one great grandchild.  She was buried in Ansonia beside a daughter Edith who died as a toddler in 1887 and her husband William who had died in 1929.  Jeannie made her home with her daughter and son-in-law at Riverview Manor in Hastings on Hudson after the death of her husband according to census documents on Ancestry. It was during these years she wrote the Christmas letter to Lizzie. Ancestry user koliver53 had posted these pictures of Jeannie and William.

The group photo from around 1916 was described as : Three generations. Children at bottom from left, William Jr, and his cousin Jeanne Evans. Seated middle are Jeanne Sinclair Oliver and William Oliver.  Also seated are Laura Oliver Evans and her husband Ernest. Standing from left are Marguerite Bence Oliver and her husband William E. Oliver, Sr., Robert Oliver, Jeanne Oliver Lyons, and her husband George Lyons.

After going through more old papers and pictures I found the postcard collections below.  The ones from Maine are postmarked 1945 from J.O.L. (Jeanne Oliver Lyon) and The New York collection predates Lizzie's marriage in 1930 and is also signed from Jeanne.

The photo on the left has "Your cousin Laura and her daughter Jean E. Evans 1952" on the back.  The profile picture has no name but seems to bear a resemblance and was stamped with a photography company's stamp in White Plains, NY.

I am guessing the picture below with the writing copied from the back is of Jeanne Lyon in 1963.  

Happy Thanksgiving to my Oliver cousins and I hope to hear from you soon!

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Maybe You Can Go Home Again

Saturday, November 3 was a wonderful day when my cousins Karen and Rea planned a tour of the former home of Frances and Frank Kinnaird.  Their two daughters Margaret and Marjorie and Margaret's husband Don and I met to take a stroll down memory lane and admire the farm yard and home of the current owners Trevis and Heather.  Margaret and Marjorie grew up in the farm house and us grandchildren had our own memories that were rekindled. It had been built at W1-11-27 for James and Elizabeth Lane who lived there until they left in 1920. The house was built by Ralph Rolston in 1907 and the plaster was done by Tom Edsell according to a Myrtle Lane.  The home was rented out until Grandpa Frank Kinnaird moved in after purchasing the half section in 1925.  Grandma and Grandpa raised 3 kids there and lived in it until he had a stroke in 1962 and needed to have personal care until his death in 1967. Grandma continued to live there until her death in 1974. 

It seems to have been a labour of love for Trevis and Heather to restore the home they raised their 2 boys in.  Original doors and handles as well as door and window trim and baseboards were painstakingly refinished and reused wherever possible. The room that I called the piano room at the bottom of the stairs is the master bedroom now and Aunt Marge remembered that it was the same for them during the winters when the family of 5 slept downstairs to conserve heat. She slept in a crib at the end of a bed where Margaret slept with her parents and Uncle Keith was on a couch in the living room. The wallboard around the stairs had been removed to reveal how beautifully the spindles had been restored.  The same creeeeak, creeeeak as we made our way up the stairs brought smiles and good memories all around.
Looking east out her bedroom window, Grandma used to be able to see the Lenore Hill.  We thought it was ironic that now the house sits just a few miles south and east of that familiar landmark and that she would be pleased.

The upstairs hall brought Aunt Marge backin time, using the long wall as a chalkboard and the trunk that sat below the window as a desk as she role played being a teacher.  Part way down the stairs was where her pupils, cut from the pages of Eatons catalogs, would sit as she patiently delivered their lessons.  She recalls her mom and dad being okay with her writing on the wall with chalk as it was recovered with light green muresco (plaster) every year.

Heather shared her photo album with us that chronicled the transformation of the house starting with the move to their site in the fall of 1984.  It has had many updates and modernizations over the years but the bones have remained the same.

We were also interested to find pictures of the coloured glass window and the original archway between the kitchen and living area. We posed for a picture on the way out in front of the beautifully varnished original siding that greets visitors at the door. What an incredible opportunity to take a step back in time and revisit our childhoods.  May it stand proudly for more generations of feet racing up and down those stairs!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Recollections and Memories of the Grandchildren of Frances Milne Kinnaird

 My memories of Gram are all very positive as she was a rock for our family and a true pioneer. She influenced me in a very positive ways. She gave me a wall plaque when I was about 13 which I still have hanging in my shop and stated “Watch out for ambition, it will get you into a lot of work”. I think she was amazing.
Grama Frances was a very traditional and hard-working woman! She never liked fuss but was always looking out for others, especially her family. Grama would meet us in the yard when we got off the bus with warm cinnamon buns on baking day! After Grampa was in the hospital, I would go for supper with Grama once a week. We would eat pancakes or actual Kraft dinner – just the two of us! For the Hargrave fall supper, besides cooking turkeys and baking pies Grama would be the main dishwasher for the whole night! Hargrave bonspiel kitchen was also a busy place for her. She would make soup, cook turkeys and bake a few pies for the week! Grama and Mom and Dad milked a few cows by hand. She separated the cream and sold it be the quart or sometimes the pint to customers in Hargrave and Virden. I would help by delivering it to the door and exchanging it for an empty jar with money in it. The bulk of the cream she would take to the creamery in big cream cans – too heavy for me but ok for her. I was 10 and probably talker than her already. I loved her house! The cupboards were much shorter than at my house so I could get stuff when I was little. I liked to lounge on top of her freezer (which was in the kitchen) and enjoy an ice cream cone – she would have tea and we would talk! Her piano room was always full of red geraniums. If flour or sugar were on sale, Grama would buy extra and store in the trunk of her car. I bought her car so it came with a bag of  sugar but no radio!

Rea & Lyle:
The memory of Grandpa seeing Rea and Lyle throwing stones (at each other?) out the window and him yelling at them to stop it!

Special times with Grandma Kinnaird included the following: Going to her place for sleepovers; Eating watermelon on the front step with the Kinnaird cousins; Grandma would get ready to go and milk the cows in the morning usually at around 5 am and coming back to the house through the porch with her big rubber boots; Going out to the pasture to watch her start a smudge for the cows to keep away the mosquitoes; Getting water from the kitchen sink because of the different style of faucet; Going to the garden beside the house with a cat or two cunning around; Being reluctant to go into the basement where the coal was kept; Going to sleep in her bed with a bottle of hot water that was placed in a sock to keep our feet warm. Then graduating to be able to sleep in Aunty Margaret s room; Picking Saskatoon berries with Grandma, Aunty Aida and Karen , then checking for wood ticks; Watching Grandma read the Brandon Sun while she stood at the deep freeze in the kitchen; Smelling the wood burn in the stove before she got the electric stove; Delivering eggs and cream in Hargrave and in Virden on Saturday mornings, along with the Kinnaird cousins; How happy she was when the new linoleum was laid in the house; How Grandma would play the hymns for Sunday church service so she would know them ahead of time and occasionally going to church on Sunday with the Kinnaird cousins; She would often look through her binoculars to see what was going on down the road or to see who was coming to pick up Judy (was it Sheldon?); Grandma would call neighbors to collect the weekly news to report the Hargrave news for the Virden Empire Advance and then watching as she would write on the special paper from the Advance for the news for the next week paper; Looking out the coloured panes of glass in the window upstairs to see how things looking in either yellow or red; Saturday night was often (more that often) spent getting ready to go to Virden to play BINGO. On the way there might be a stop to pick up Mattie Lifeso; On Sundays often we would phone and ask if she would like guest for supper. Supper would often consist of a tin of ham or sometimes a jar of preserved chicken, mashed potatoes with cream and green onions added in for taste, some type of vegetables fresh or frozen from the garden, always homemade bread or buns and often Virden ice cream or fruit cocktail for dessert. It was always fun to get in a game or two of euchre. She wold often send home with us eggs, homemade bread, and if we were lucky scones; If Charlie and Bella Gardiner were coming for a visit and supper Grandma would be invited too. You could tell what good friends they were. Usually there would be a card game after having supper; We would go to see the Simms at Oak River. Grandma would come to our house or we would pick her up. In the summer Karen and I would accompany her and have a sleepover so we could play with our cousins. One trip Judy came with us and she got to drive the blue car; When Grandpa Kinnaird was in Brandon at the Assiniboine Centre we would visit, pack a lunch (usually egg salad sandwiches on homemade bread) and spend time at the paddling pool in the summer. We would go to Brandon regularly to visit but unfortunately times were different and children were not allowed to visit as they are today. We celebrated one Christmas visiting in a large waiting room, often though it was looking through his room’s window and waving as we were held up high enough by Dad.;  About 2 am on August 19, 1967 Grandpa passed away. We were on a sleep over as mum and dad were working in the valley. I remember on the Friday, Grandma and Uncle Keith went to Brandon to see Grandpa and knowing things were not too good. The phone rang early in the morning and I heard grandma go downstairs to answer it. She and Uncle Keith who was also in on the call (party line) spoke for a while. As she came back upstairs I remember her saying “poor dad”; Mum would often cut and would give Grandma s hair a perm. I think the one she liked was a Quick perm; When Grandma was ill, she spent a lot of time at our house. She would spend hours hooking rugs and would watch her favourite soap “The Edge of Night” at 3:30 pm. Sometimes she would talk to Aunt Nan. Our dog Lucky would always be on the lookout for some food scraps dropping conveniently onto the floor. During this time I was a candy striper at the Virden hospital. When Grandma was a patient I would get extra visiting time, Thelma Penner RN in particular would always make sure of that. I would make sure she was ready for the meal tray and help get her hair combed and freshened up ready for visitors. There were so many wonderful times spent with Grandma.

My memories of Grandma are very special. Going to Grandma’s was always anticipated with excitement. We also got to play with our Kinnaird cousins, a bonus! Dolores and I had many sleepovers at Grandma’s and even sometimes we went there on the bus after school with Judy, Rea and Lyle. Many times we slept with Grandma in her bed with a warm bottle on the feet. I was always in the middle (not much room) but remember being put to sleep by the sound of the ticking of her clock. I hear Rea has that clock now, working or not! Grandma would get us to look out her east bedroom window to see the Lenore hill.  Going to light the smudge in the pasture at night was a ritual with Grandma before bed. Grandma made wonderful cinnamon buns, butter tarts, and her famous macaroni and tomato. TV was watched in the living room, mainly The Edge of Night and on Saturday night Wrestling her favourites, and caramels and cheese puffs close by. Dolores and I would go to Bingo with her in Virden often learning the different games. I loved going to deliver eggs, butter and cream to customers in Hargrave (a cookie from Bessie Carruthers) and to Virden (a visit and a treat from Esther Greig among others) ending up at the creamery to buy ice cream. Chicken and turkey killing days at the Kinnaird’s were busy days, and Mom and Dad, Dolores and I were there too. But the canned chicken was the reaped benefit.  I remember Grandma putting in wood to the stove and the open oven door, always so warm in the kitchen! Trips to Oak River with Grandma to see the Simms were usually on rainy days so Grandma did not have to worry about milking cows as Uncle Keith was not as busy. There were many wonderful get- togethers for birthdays, Christmas and New Year’s that were spent together. Charlie and Bella Gardiner were often part of these gatherings, very good friends, just part of the family. Grandma was not one for pictures of herself so the rare ones we have are treasured. Grandma always remembered your birthday with a card signed “Love Gram”. Grandma loved to play the piano and taught me on the black keys my first piano piece. I remember going to church with her and she was in the choir. We would go to many events at Hargrave and Grandma was always involved whether the church, school or rink. I remember Grandpa Kinnaird having multi colored chicklets in his pocket and giving them to me! When he was in hospital in Brandon only remember a few visits, but once by his bedside and Mom cleaning his glasses and once in a large room at Christmas time and getting a tight hug. I always thought it was so terrific that both of my grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Kinnaird and Grandma and Grandpa Tapp had so many of the same friends. So many great memories!

My memories of Grandma include sleeping over and getting up early when the cows were milked. Grandma told me just to sleep in but I wanted to get up and see what went on in the barn. Tippy was very excited that I was up too, jumping up on me which probably added to the commotion of the cows seeing a stranger in the barn! Helping collect the eggs was another novelty we did not have at home. Visiting at Grandmas was always something that I looked forward to.

My memories of Grandma include All Star “Wrassling” on Saturday night on TV, The Irish Rovers on the record player, chicken canned in jelly, her calling the cows – Cow Boss, Cow Boss, the little dolly she had dressed in a kilt. We were allowed to use markers in her colouring books!  I remember when I came in the house to tell her and Mom that I drove the Kinnaird skidoo right in to the shed. (Those dear cousins showed me how to squeeze the throttle to make it go but never said to let go to make it stop!) Her only concern was that I was okay and anything that happened was their fault, not mine! Ha. I remember Grandma at our house and she tripped coming down from upstairs and Dad ran to her and said "Frances!"  I was so mad at him because her name was Grandma, why was he calling her that! That north bedroom in our house was called Grandmas Room for many years until I moved into it with the dresser and wardrobe from her house after she died.  Her dresser followed me to my current home and I remember her fondly.

My memories of Grandma were lemon drop candies and Nilla wafer cookies.


Friday, 5 October 2018

The Manitoba Trails of The Milnes

As a follow up to my last Milne blog post, this one follows my great grandparents' footsteps around the Hargrave/Virden area.  This tour was a highlight for many during the Reunion of the Milnes in the summer of 2018 at Hargrave.  Alex's great grandson Rea Kinnaird capably led the tour of the former farm homes of Alexander and Jeannie.  The numbered red dots on the map below are these locations.  (The stars indicate homes of the next generation of Milnes.) 
  1. In 1904,  Alexander, a 28 year old husband and father of 3 young boys, came alone to Canada from Scotland.  The southwest quarter of 23-10-36 W1  was the first home where he was employed by Mr. Steven. This location is on the service road along the Trans Canada highway just east of Virden.  Alex’s youngest daughter Nan ended up living with her husband Stewart and raising her family very near this spot from 1949 until 1992 when the highway was double laned and their farm yard was needed to make room for the service road.

2.    SW  4-11-27 was the next location where Alex lived for the winter of 1904, looking after cattle belonging to T. A. ( Art) Carscadden.  This secluded spot southwest of Hargrave has an amazing stone house built into the hill. The bedroom loft is accessed by outside stairs up behind the house. Of course, we are not sure that Alex would have lived in that house but it was an incredible thing to find up the hill hidden in the bush!  Rea said this house was built by a man named Bilton in 1904.  Barkley’s were later inhabitants.

The barn pictured below is built into a hill as well to allow grain and feed to be driven into the loft. Being up on that hill reminded Aunt Marjorie about riding her horse Darby up a hill to watch the brightly coloured circus train cars go by on the railway.  Darby is carrying Violet Gardiner and Margaret Kinnaird in the picture below. 

3. The property at red dot #3 is just west of Virden on #257. SW 20-10-26 was home for a five year period from 1905-1910. Jeannie and the boys joined him here from Scotland and Frances and Margaret were born during this time.

4.  NW  26-11-27 was home from 1910 until the family left to take up ranching in BC about 1914. Charlie and Jim were born here. There is no sign of a house or yard there today but we guessed that the knoll or bluff of trees might have been the former house yard. 

5.  The south half of  17-11-26 was their next farm when they returned from the west in 1917.  The picture below was taken at this home at this home.  Notice the plant in the south window of the house and Jeannie in her apron with a basket in her hand.  Alex with the team and dressed up  is ready to go somewhere when they posed for the picture.  Although the lane is north and south now, at one time  there was an east approach to the house that connected the children to the Montgomery school and the family to their community in that direction. It was later the home of Charlie and Bella Gardner and now their great grandson Lyle Kinnaird and his wife Shannon.

6.  The east half of 14-11-27 was purchased in 1924 and was Alex and Jeannie’s final move.  It was farmed by Milne’s until 1959.  The lane up to the house from the main road was east of where it is now. When they lived there, Number One highway was 1 mile north of its present location.  The barn was built in 1947 by their son Alex.  This farm is remembered for its hollyhocks and productive garden.   

Thanks to Rea and Aunt Marge for the encore guided tour for Karen and I later in the summer after the Reunion.  It is easier to imagine what Alex and Jeannie saw in the beautiful Manitoba countryside and why they made it their home. We feel so lucky that they did and that we could walk in their footsteps together. 💓  

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Stories of Alexander Milne and his family

During a recent tour around Virden (a blog post in the works), a few of the present day descendants of Alexander and Jeannie Milne were pondering the circumstances that may have led to them leaving their Scottish homeland for Canada just after the turn of the century.  It was indeed a pleasant surprise to open up my email and find these memories from cousin Greg, as told to him many years ago.  I've added online links and a wonderful picture of Alexander (courtesy of Greg and Donna-Marie) taken around this same time at 30 Union Road in Macduff, Scotland.

 It has come to my attention that I should take some time to write what I know or have been told about my family history.  I can not say that the following is absolutely true, because much of it is third hand.  That is to say, much of the story is what I remember my father telling me, and much of what he told me is what he was told by his mother.  While oral traditions are not always letter perfect, they nevertheless do usually offer the best recollections, though they may be tinted by love or sorrow.

This then is the story of Alexander and Jane (Jeanie) Milne, and their emigration to Canada from Scotland in 1904 and 1905, as made known to me by my father, John Milne, their oldest child.

Alec and Jeanie both grew up in the Banffshire area of Scotland which is now the county of Morayshire.  Alex was born in Dufftown, in 1875, and Jeanie was born in Auchterless in 1876.  I have no idea how they met or of their social life, but they were married in a Manor House just outside of Rothiemay on Christmas Eve in 1897. 
Alec’s father John, was a farm labourer, who apparently had certain skills as an untrained veterinarian and often attended the difficult births of large animals.  On one occasion a land owner asked him to attend a breech-birth of a prized mare.  He managed to save the mare, but the resulting foal was not expected to survive.  The owner told John that the foal was his if it should live.  The story is that John and young Alec, and his sisters, spent days tending the youngster and it did indeed not only survive, but grew into a prized stallion.  The Stallion was later traded for two fine mares. 
At about that time, before he got married, Alec moved away from his parents to set himself up in business as a carter in Charlestown of Aberlour, a distillery town on the banks of the Spey River. and he started with these two Clydesdale mares, which he purchased from his father.  It must have been about 1895 when Alec was just nineteen years old.  It seems that he became a bit of an entrepreneur, as in a fairly short time he had two wagons.  Dad said that one was a “dirty wagon,” and the other was a “clean wagon.”  The former for hauling manure, or gravel, and the second for transporting whiskey casks to the railhead in Craigelachie, six miles north of Aberlour.  My father and his next two brothers Alexander Jr, and William were born in Aberlour.  Dad was born on 6 December 1898.  Business must have been pretty good, because before long Alec also came into ownership of a fine Clydesdale Stallion, and he began his career as a breeder by offering his Stallion to “cover” local mares for the princely sum of £5.00.  That amount of money was close to a year’s wages for a labourer in those days. 
Grandfather had grown up within the Free Presbyterian Church of the day.  He was happy enough there, I suppose, until a certain incident took place.  It seems that the treasurer of the local congregation had “borrowed” some of the funds for his own purpose, and this was discovered just after he paid back the funds into the treasury.  The local Session called him to judgement for his sins and decided to expel him from the congregation.  Alec took issue with the judgement declaring that the man should be forgiven, as he had paid back the funds.  While forgiveness was possible, continuing membership in that congregation was not, so the man had to go.  Alec decided then and there that he would leave that congregation also, and he then joined the local Church of Scotland (auld Kirk) congregation.  This would have happened some time after their marriage, and perhaps after some of the boys were born.  Probably not all that long before Alec left Scotland. 
His move into the Kirk was a sure sign that he had joined the upwardly mobile.  He was happy with that decision until one day a certain member of the upper echelon, who probably also hired him to do certain work, asked him to bring his stallion to his farm to cover a couple of mares there.  Grandpa said, “certainly, that will be £5.00 per mare.”“No, no, you don’t understand young man,” said the gentleman, “since I am your superior, and some-time employer, you must give me this service free.”When Grandpa indicated that was not going to happen, he was made aware that his position in the local community depended upon his obedience.  According to Dad, Grandma was even more angry about this than Grandpa. 
Later, while commiserating with his local buddies at the pub, they all greed that life in Scotland was becoming untenable, and they should emigrate to the “new world.”   In the end the others all backed out, but Grandpa had made up his mind. 
Over the next several months, he sold his wagons, bought three more mares, and managed to get them with foal before loading them on board an empty cattle boat that was returning to Halifax, Canada.  He had also somehow secured a job in Manitoba, where he would be looking after cattle and would be able to breed his horses, and sell stud services to others. 
He got off the boat in Halifax, and put the horses on a train for Manitoba in 1904.  I had no idea of all the places he lived during the next years, tending cattle and breeding horses, but he must have done quite well, as he was able to purchase passage on another returning cattle boat in 1905 for his wife and three small sons, who disembarked in Montreal.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

News from the McAllister Branch

Since beginning my genealogy journey, I had very little family information about my Dad’s paternal grandmother - Agnes McAllister Simms.  I knew she was born April 1859 in Ireland,married William Simms in March of 1880 in Antrim and left for Canada with him shortly after.  William and Agnes were farmers in South Mountain, Ontario just south of Ottawa.  Recently, to my delight, more details about Agnes' family has emerged.

First, I had a message from an Ancestry contact Jimsummers54 who was able to tell me the names of  her parents.  They were Alexander McAllister (1830-1901) and Mary Ann McIlwaine (1831 - 1908).  This couple were married at Inver, Antrim on January 19, 1853 and farmed at Duffs Hill northwest of  Carrickfergus.  His father’s name was Ephraim (1794-1860) as well.  Another generation back was also revealed from the same source, Arthur McAllister (1770-1846) and his wife Mary Templeton (1772-1841).

Then I had another message from a researcher who was looking for Agnes' brother Ephriam.  I had researched him before but she gave me the more specific locale of Penhold, AB and that Google search gave an amazing result  here!

 Ephraim (pictured left) married Mary Jane Niblock (below) and went on to have a family of nine. One son Arthur died in WW1 and is buried in Lapugnoy Military Cemetery in France.  His service file has been digitized and is online here.  Ephraim’s descendants continue to farm his original homestead, Antler Valley Farm.

I had been told that my grandfather Alexander Simms  made a trip to Alberta when he left home in Ontario about 1903.  Now I wonder if he was visiting his Uncle Ephraim and Aunt Mary at Penhold?  I do not yet have a picture of Agnes McAllister Simms but this latest success makes me keep searching.   Thanks to those fellow genealogists and my McAllister cousins for their help!