Last week, I had the opportunity to join my brother and his wife along with other members of the Ottawa Miata Club as they toured the Lost Villages of the St. lawrence River. Ruth and I were allowed to tag along behind the popular sports car touring group with my less than top form “tintop” Mazda 3. We left early in the morning to meet the group at the rendezvous point at the Lost Villages Museum at Ault Park near Long Sault, Ontario and arrived just in time to see the group assemble at the village.
Our guides, Tim Gault (left) and Mary Lynn (Johnston) Alguire (below left) described for us what it was like for them as children anticipating the inundation of their homes by the purposeful flooding caused by the massive St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project. While they were excited by the prospect of moving to new communities and going to new schools, they were also aware of the upset being displaced was causing their parents, grandparents and neighbours. In all, over 6500 people were forced to move for the greater public good.
The villages of Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales, Dickinson’s Landing, Farran’s Point, and Aultsville; as well as the hamlets of Maple Grove, Santa Cruz and Woodlands; and the farming community of Sheik’s/Sheek’s Island all disappeared beneath the expanded waters of the St. lawrence.
As Mary Lynn pointed out, for the kids it was a time of great excitement. For years the project had loomed large over their communities. For their parents these were tough times. Everything they had grown to love was soon to be lost. With lives invested in places that would soon vanish under rising water, it is hard to imagine what went through their minds. Mary Lynn recounted being led to the back door of their old house by her mother who wanted her to see the effect these events were having on her father. There he sat, quietly weeping on the back steps anticipating the changes ahead of them.
Especially shocking to her was the day crews of men showed up to cut down all of the mature trees in their neighbourhood. The homes and businesses that weren’t moved were pulled down or set ablaze. As the day approached, the reality of what was happening to them struck them hard. When the big “inundation” day arrived on July 1, 1958, their world changed forever.
Map of area before flooding:
A River Lost – Part 1
A River Lost – Part 2
By the late 70′s, former residents of the Lost Villages began to worry that the memories of their former lives had begun to fade from public knowledge and that steps were required to preserve these memories for successive generations who would otherwise have little knowledge of these lost places. The Lost Villages Society was formed to preserve the records that were still available.
While most of the buildings that make up the Lost Villages Museum site at Ault Park did not come from the Lost Villages, a few of the structures did and all have been lovingly transformed into repositories for the large collection of artifacts that remain.
A honey container from the apiary of D.H.C. Smith of Wales, Ontario sits beside a tin container featuring a bust of Queen Victoria.
My Family Connection to The Lost Villages
Courtesy Gary Bushaw / Floyd Chio
While I was only 2 years old at the time of the flooding, I was well aware growing up in St. Lambert Quebec of the importance of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the role the river had played in the development of North America. As a family, we went for picnics at Long Sault both before and after the flooding. Little did I know then that one of my ancestral lines had called this place home long before the ancient rapids were tamed.
According to a letter written by Gary Bushaw in 2000, Levis Kio was born in France about 1832. He came to Canada about age 4 and moved to Barnhardt Island from Mille Roche about age 10. Levis married Ellen Fountain. The Fountains and Kios were both early settler families to the area. Part of the Kio family went to Ogdensburg (Chios) part to Ohio (Kios) and part to Leeds County, Ontario (Keoghs – my relatives). There are more spellings than that and there are exceptions to the geographic variations, but Levis was the brother of Margaret Keogh who married my ancestor Reuben Peer Sr.
Further Reading & Viewing
For more information about The Lost Villages please visit:
Please note that I am not an expert with regards to this topic and only wish to state what I understand to be true in the hopes that others will consider it when embarking on their own DNA research.
The structure of part of a DNA double helix
There has been a huge amount of interest in the past few years in using DNA testing to help genealogists expand their family trees.
Recently, Ancestry has been encouraging large numbers of people to jump on the DNA bandwagon by offering very low prices for genealogically oriented DNA testing.
As with most things related to Ancestry these days, the results of these tests will lead participants to connect with each other in hopes of combining their research efforts. Participants are encouraged to compare “Haplogroups” to point to probable connections.
Only 2 Blood Lines Need Apply
There are only two lines within our family trees that can be illuminated through DNA testing. These are our direct paternal and direct maternal lines. By that I mean my father’s, father’s, father’s, father, etc… and my mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, mother, etc…
A further complication related to DNA testing is that while men can test both patrilineal and matrilineal lines because we have both the X- and Y-chromosomes, woman can only test for their matrilineal line using samples from their own DNA because they do not carry the Y-chromosome of their fathers which contains the information they need. To get around this problem, women may enlist male members of their immediate family to test for their common patrilineal lines. The obvious choice for testing would be a woman’s father, brothers, or paternal grandfather. Other candidates would include a woman’s father’s brothers or father’s brothers’ sons.
But what about the others?
Beyond the two specific blood lines mentioned above, DNA testing reveals nothing. For instance, you cannot learn anything about your father’s mother’s line or your mother’s father’s line. In a standard pedigree chart with ourselves set as the first entry on the far left of the chart, these two lines are usually represented by the very top and very bottom lines extending away from us. All other lines fall outside of the story our DNA carries. No exceptions. It is important to understand this limitation to DNA testing as no matter who does the testing or how, these limitations are standard to all.
The Seven Daughters of Eve
I first became aware of mitochondrial DNA testing reading the book, The Seven Daughter’s of Eve by Brian Sykes, Chairman and Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford.
I would encourage anyone interested in the science behind DNA testing to seek out this book and read it from cover to cover.
Sykes has a unique perspective, as much of what is know and used today in the field of DNA testing is based on and/or is a direct result of his team’s pioneering efforts which are reviewed in detail in the book. To his credit, he takes an extremely complex subject and makes it understandable to the average lay person. Hey, even I got it!
95% of all Europeans can trace their ancestry to just seven women who lived between 10,000 and 45,000 years ago. Sykes has assigned each of these seven women names; Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine and Jasmine. These are the seven daughters of Eve.
Since the time of the book’s publication in 2000, much more research has been done and there are now about 36 daughters that have been identified world-wide. Everyone alive today (Over 7 Billion of us) is related to and is a direct descendant of one of these 36 women. The proof lies in every cell of our bodies.
Of course, these women did not exist on the planet alone. Each of them had a mother and a father, but to be the head of a clan, (Sykes also refers to these daughters as Clan Mothers) each of these women had to have at least two daughters. No one before them met this criteria, so these 36 women represent the longest continuous lines of matrilineal DNA that has been carried from generation to generation all the way through to the present. In turn, each of the 36 Clan Mothers can be traced back to their own Clan Mother which is a single woman that Sykes call “Mitochondrial Eve” who lived some 150 to 200,000 years ago in Africa.
Using DNA Testing for Genealogical Research
Genealogical DNA tests generally involve comparing the results of living individuals to historic populations, but how easy is it to compare DNA test results within the context of written history?
My understanding is that DNA testing has limited value in genealogical research, particularly as it relates to mitochondrial DNA which is characterized by mutations that occur only rarely over vast periods of time. While DNA testing is great for reaching far into the past to discover which of the 36 “Clan Mothers” or “Daughters of Eve” we are related to, testing is not so good at examining short term changes that have occurred within recorded history. This means much of the testing for mitochondrial DNA will be of little use for people working within the past several hundred years.
As mutations occur much more frequently in Y-chromosome DNA, there is more value in comparing Y-chromosome DNA with others particularly of the same surname as DNA can prove or disprove what surnames can only suggest. After all, DNA doesn’t lie, but sometimes our ancestors did. As such, genealogically oriented DNA testing works best when comparing results with others who claim the same patrilineal line.
More Markers for Better Results?
To offset the problem of limited changes in the recent history of our DNA, most genealogically oriented DNA testing uses more markers than Sykes Oxford team uses for their “deep ancestry” research. The claim is that this offers better results by examining a larger sequence with the opportunity to discover more variations. Sykes cautions however that increasing the number of markers reduces the acuity of the tests and makes the results harder to draw conclusions from. That’s not to say that there is no value in genealogical DNA testing, but that this type of testing should be viewed with caution as probabilities for errors are much higher when used to examine and compare recent generations.
Suddenly, without warning or provocation, the room was filled with men dressed in strange costumes who began to dance around the room bashing each other with sticks and waving white hankies in the air in some sort of choreographed madness. At first we thought it must be an attack of sugar plum fairies as each of the men was attired in short pants with white leggings, pumpkin coloured vests, hats with ribbons, and footwear adorned in jingly bells that rang out with every step they took. Doubling the occupancy of the room in seconds, they began and were quite literally dancing between the tables. Here is one of several videos I shot from our table. (Note: The first ten seconds of the video are black as I struggled to get my camera out of its bag and onto the unfolding scene.)
The group provided their own musical accompaniment and it was clear above the turmoil of the presentation, that this strange act was based on some sort of long established tradition. Turns out we had stumbled upon the Benfieldside Morris and Sword Dancers (perhaps it is more accurate to say that they stumbled upon us) and were about to meet Keith Gregson, one of the members of the group.
After the men had finished their first set and had sat down to enjoy some of the fantastic fare on offer, Keith told us that in addition to being a Morris dancer, he was an educator, historian and author and was in the process of preparing a book of “Interesting Ancestors”.
I told him about a couple of mine and was later contacted by him to give him details of my relationship with Mary Dyer, “The Quaker Martyr”. This appears in Chapter 35 entitled, “Hanged For Being A Quaker”.
This entry is just one of 47 tales which make up this compendium of off beat and colourful characters found by family researchers upon the branches of their own family trees. Each story in the book is followed by Gregson’s comments about what the story has to teach us as family historians about the records, the methodologies used, and the pitfalls of family research. I quite enjoyed the book and would recommend it for anyone who has an interest in family research.
The book provides encouragement to the family historian by illustrating stories of research that worked and the various paths people took to discover their interesting family roots.
The book is available from Amazon.ca and Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Search for Keith Gregson as the title alternates between Interesting Ancestors and A Viking in the Family depending on the website location.
The transcription below “A Very Pretty Home Wedding” was created by me from a type-written note given to me by Renae Grubb. She says of the document and the attached images:
I thought everyone might enjoy these photos of Ethel McLeod Good Deakin. For those of you who were at the family reunion, it’s Steve Scott’s grandmother. Ethel was my Grandma’s (Gretta Good Elder) sister.
click to view larger
We went to the Kings Co. Museum in Hampton, NB on Mon. Aug. 22. The lady at the museum was able to pull out Ethel’s wedding dress for us to see. Lois Deakin Scott, Steve’s mother had donated this dress many years ago. I also sent this information to the museum providing some history to go with the dress. The pictures show the dress in 1908 (Ethel) and in 2011 (Renae)! Although I’m sure Ethel wore much more dainty shoes than what I wore!
2nd paragraph: Miss Helen Good played the piano at the wedding = John Charlton’s Grandmother
4th paragraph: Mrs. E.A. Banbury & Mrs. Levi Thomson, daughters of Senator Perley late of Sunbury Co., attended the wedding = Phoebe Banbury’s relatives.
A Very Pretty Home Wedding
Ethel McLeod Good Deakin in wedding dress 1908
A very pretty home wedding took place at the residence of Mr. & Mrs. Jas. E. Good of Fillmore, Sask. on the afternoon of Thursday the 4th inst. when their daughter, Ethel McLeod Good, was married to Oscar Frederick Deakin of the C.P.R. The bride, who was one of the most highly esteemed young ladies of Fillmore, looked charming in a princess dress of white silk mull elaborately trimmed in Valenciennes lace and insertion and carrying a shower bouquet of carnations and sweet peas. Miss Gertrude Good, sister of the bride who acted as maid of honor, was prettily attired in spotted Swiss muslin.
The bridal party entered the drawing room to the music of the Bridal Chourus from Lohengrin played by Miss Helen Good. The ceremony which took place under a bridal arch of lilacs and maiden hair fern was performed by the Rev. Arthur Smith. After the wedding ceremony the guests partook of a recherche* luncheon and then drove to the depot whence the happy couple departed for an extensive trip to Calgary, Banff and points west intending to return by way of Toronto and Niagra Falls to their future home in Benton, N.B.
The bride’s gong away dress was of striped brown broadcloth with hat to match. The presents which were beautiful and expensive consisted of cut glass, silver, linen and cutlery besides several substantial cheques. The groom’s present to the bride was a handsome brooch of pearls.
This photo shows “Cousin Ralph Slipp, son of John G. Slipp & Annie M. Sharp, lived in Trochu, Alberta with Ethel & Oscar.
The noticeable feature of the company was the large number of Maritime Provinces people who were present including Mr. W. Dell Hartt and Miss Hartt formerly of Fredericton Jct., Mr. & Mrs. W. M. Black of Sackville and Moncton, Mr. and Mrs. Geo. E. Stopford and Aire Stopford of Fredricton, Mr. and Mrs. B. D. Branscomb of Baltimore, Mrs. Kinnear (nee McLeod) of Millstream N.B., Mrs E. A. Bambury and Mrs. Levi Thomson daughters of Senator Perley late of Sunbury Co., Guy McLeod of Saint John, Mr. & Mrs. Mr. and Mrs. Trueman Brundage of Amherst, besides Mr. and Mrs. Good and family, late of Millstream, Kings Co. All these are now residents of Saskatchewan yet have fond memories of Atlantic sea breezes and old N. B.
*recherche – Sought out with care; choice; of rare quality or elegance. (Webster’s dictionary)
About 60 descendants of Leonard and Elizabeth Slipp congregated on August 20th to 22nd, 2011 in Kings County, New Brunswick. The weekend included a riverboat cruise following the trail of our ancestors as they arrived in the region, a visit to the Gagetown Court House Museum where family artifacts on loan from the New Brunswick Museum were on display, a stop at the Merritt-Slipp Cemetery in Queenstown, and a BBQ at descendant Larry Slipp’s organic farm. Those who were able to stay till Monday had the opportunity to also visit the home of George Leonard Slipp in Sussex, N.B.
Here are a couple of shots from the gathering: (click images to view larger)
We know from his death certificate that my Great Great Grandfather Richard Richards was “killed by horses running away instantly” in 1874. According to a gravestone at Bell’s Cemetery, this was the same year as the death of his daughter Etta and only a short time after the death of his wife Eliza – nee Hinton.
Delbert Connell & wife Ethel May (Richards) with daughter Della Jean Connell (my mother age 14) in front of the Richards House. Family photo taken on Sept 1, 1930.
The gravestone at Bell’s Cemetery is situated almost directly across from the family’s home at Lot 15 Con 10 in Elizabethtown Township.
This is just a stones throw west of the Peer Homestead we visited recently at Bells Crossing, where Lucy Adeline Peer (Ethel May Richard’s mother) grew up. Lucy married William Henry Richards, the Richards’ eldest son who inherited the property twenty years after his father’s death.
Land Record (Lot 15 Con 10 Elizabethtown)
Thanks to the land records for Lot 15 Con 10, we now know quite a few details of this inheritance. Because the children were all so young when their father died, William had to wait until he was of age before he could legally inherit the property on behalf of his younger siblings. This was complicated by the fact that the children’s mother Eliza had died, perhaps in childbirth to youngest son Edward in 1872 and that Richard had died intestate (without a will).
What surprised me was that the land transaction took place with the help of Richard’s brother John and with Richard’s “second wife” Caroline who I knew nothing about prior to examining this record as the grantor.
Instrument 23-2346 (B&S) dated Feb 13, 1874 and registered Dec 24, 1874 lists grantors “Caroline Richards (widow of Richard Richards) (William H. Richards, Margaret E. Richards, & Edward Richards infant children heirs & heiress at law of Richard Richards) (Names ruled thru in red are grantees only W.J.E.) to grantees William H. Richards, Margaret E. Richards & Edward Richards, infant children, heirs to Richard Richards”. The transaction was subject to the “condition for payment of $400 by one John Richards”.
As far as I know, John was Richard’s brother (a Pump Maker, age 51 in the 1881 Canada census living with the Widow Mary Richards and Edward Richards age 9) who I take it paid Caroline the $400 on behalf of the children.
A second instrument, 25-4686 (Grant) dated and registered Feb 10, 1894 exists between grantors “Margaret E. Garvin & husband & Edward Richards (unmarried) two of the three only lawful children & heirs of Richard Richards (an intestate) to grantee William H. Richards (the other of such children & heirs) for $800. Could this be William taking full ownership of the land and re-paying his uncle John for his part in the transaction? It seems likely.
But who was Caroline Richards, I wondered? I had never heard her mentioned by the family before, but then this generation was a little beyond the living memory of my immediate family growing up and the story has so many tragic elements to it that it is not surprising that it was forgotten in the mists of time.
Richards – Gorland Marriage – 1873
Ruth and I searched on Ancestry for a marriage between Caroline and Richard and found it with no trouble. They were married at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Smith Falls on August 6th, 1873 (co-incidentally today’s date) . Her name is listed as Caroline Gorland age 32, spinster of Wolford. Her parents were Thomas Gorland and Eliza Impey. He is listed as Richard Richards age 35, widower and yeoman of Elizabethtown. His parents are listed as Edward Richards and Mary Tackaberry. This is the first piece of paper that I personally have found that identifies Richard’s mother Mary (aka The Widow Richards) as being a Tackaberry, and confirms everything we had heard from other Tackaberry researchers.
Garvin – Richards Marriage – 1892
The other genealogical gem that comes out of this land record is the inferred marriage of Margaret E to someone named Garvin. Sure enough, we find the marriage and discover James Garvin, a 27 year old Spinner from Almonte, Born North Elmsley of parents George Garvin and Catherine McKay has married Margaret Eliza Richards, a 22 years old spinster from Rockspring, Born Elizabethtown of parents Richard Richards and Eliza Hinton. Witnesses were Addie Reynolds and George Reynolds. May 24, 1892 in Merrickville by Licence.
So far so good. Time for so more searching:
Death Certificate for Etta
It occurred to me that there might also be a death certificate for Etta, the child listed on the gravestone above. Sure enough, it too was easy to find. Contrary to the headstone which says she died in 1874, Etta’s death certificate says she died at 6 1/2 years of age on April 23, 1873, less than 4 months before Richard’s marriage to Caroline. Her full name was Charetta Jane Richards. Cause of death was listed as consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis) after 18 days of illness. It is likely that Etta was named after her maternal grandmother Charetta Shaw (aka Charity Hinton) and Aunt Jane Hinton. Perhaps this also references another Jane back in Ireland.
The gravestone above is also from Bells Cemetery across the road from the Richards House and next door to the old school house where my Grandfather Delbert Connell told me he went to school. Him, and many other relatives I would imagine.
Edward Richards Family – 1911
Edward Richards, the youngest child of Richard and Eliza can be found on the 1911 Canada Census at Lot 19 Con 11, Elizabethtown as the owner of a cheese factory born in 1872, the year his mother Eliza died. While I could not find a death record for Eliza, it seems plausible that she died in childbirth or from complications related to the birth of Edward. In 1911, Edward age 39 is living with his wife Mary A. age 26, daughters Stella age 14, Eva S. age 3, and nephew Howard Richards, also age 26 and a cheese maker in Edward’s factory.
The House Today
Taken during our recent field trip to Bells Crossing. I tried to shoot this from the same angle as the photo above with just my memory to go on. Click on this to enlarge and then click on photo again (left hand side only) to move back to the old shot.
On July 16, 2011 a number of descendants and their relatives gathered on Rocksprings Road near Bells Crossing at the rear of Elizabethtown Township. We were looking for the home of Reuben and Margaret Peer.
Direct descendants of Reuben and Margaret Peer standing in front of the old Peer House (from left to right): John Charlton, Pamela Vittorio, Miranda Beninger, Betty Britschgi, Julie Hinton, Gary Bushaw.
We had a couple of pieces of information to go on.
This is confirmed in the land record for Lot 12 Con 10 Elizabethtown which shows the passing of the property from Reuben Sr. to his son William J. Peer in Instrument #6148 Probate, “that part of lot west of C.P.R. 30 acres +/- w.o.l. subject to provision of his three daughters while single with revisions for them if W. J. Peer die intestate & childless“.
2. A hand drawn map that Joy MacGregor had sent me (thanks Joy). The map states: Peer stone house and farm left to Will Peer, the big farm. Stone house had two fireplaces across from Mabel & Will Rosom.
Ruth and I arrived at the property first and had a great chat with the current owner before having to leave to get the rest of the gang who were waiting for us nearby in Rocksprings. Having had a quick look inside and seeing the two original fireplaces, we were convinced we had found the place we were looking for.
When we returned everyone had a chance to tour the home courtesy of the present day owners Doug & Laurie Symons who were the most gracious of hosts especially given the impromptu nature of our visit.
More before and after photos of Julie Hinton’s and Pamela Vittorio’s efforts to save family gravestones from ongoing destruction from lichen. These photos were taken by Julie at the North Watertown Cemetery in Watertown, New York.
What is lichen?
Lichen (pronounced liken) is a simple slow-growing plant that typically forms a low crustlike, leaflike, or branching growth on rocks, walls, and trees. Lichens are composite plants consisting of a fungus that contains photosynthetic algal cells. Their classification is based upon that of the fungal partner, which in most cases belongs to the subdivision Ascomycotina, and the algal partners are either green algae or cyanobacteria. Lichens obtain their water and nutrients from the atmosphere and can be sensitive indicators of atmospheric pollution.
Pamela Vittorio, Julie Hinton, Ruth & John Charlton
This past week, three descendants of Reuben Peer Sr. and his wife Margaret Keough (Chio) met in Ogdensburg, New York to visit the Ogdensburg cemetery and the graves of the Chio family, related to Margaret. Pamela is descended from Reuben Peer Jr, Julie from Clarissa Lovina Peer and myself from Lucy Adelaine Peer. Ruth shares our interest in genealogy and has done research with me on the Peer family.
This was the first time we had met Pamela who had put two and two together and proved the connection between Margaret Keough of Elizabethtown Township in Ontario and the Chio family of Ogdensburg. She did this using census records and the information from Clarissa’s Lost But is Found journal entry.
Julie and Pamela had already been to Watertown, New York visiting Pamela’s Peer connections there. Now we were converging on Ogdensburg and the Chio family. Pamela also has Cady family, closely related to the Chios and buried in adjacent graves.
The day was hot and dry, with the sun beating down on us as we searched the graveyard for the stones which we knew were there to be found. The first stones discovered were those of Alex and Esther Chio. Pamela and Julie were intent on not only visiting the graves but cleaning them up as best they could. They had been hard at this in other graveyards in Watertown and Ogdensburg for a couple of days previous to our arrival and were now quick to attack the buildup of lichens growing upon Alex and Esther’s stone. Their technique had been developing with each stone visited and they made quick work of the first location shown below in before and after shots.
Click on an image to view it larger
Chio Before Cleaning - Covered by Lichen
Chio After Cleaning - Lichen Removed
Cleaning the Stones
Cleaning gravestones is a delicate business. Care must be taken not to damage the stones. And yet, the lichen will eventually destroy the stone so removal is important to preserve the marker.
Pamela Cleaning Grave Stones
As Pamela and Julie worked they speculated on what a business that cleaned stones would be called and how it would be marketed. Focused on the task at hand “No Liking Lichens” was one phrase that kept coming up. Business or not, these stones were getting some much needed TLC. No solvents are used to clean the stones. Just water and a soft brush.
Julie and Pam Cleaning Gravestones
The stone above belongs to another of Pamela’s Cady relatives. We turned it over carefully, cleaned it just enough to get a good reading and then placed it back face down in the earth as we had found it. Stones that fall face down may be hard to read, but are protected from the elements and should last for many years to come.
Using Shaving Cream to Reveal Grave Inscriptions
This is a neat trick that Julie and Pam showed us at Ogdensburg Cemetery. If you can’t quite read a grave inscription, sometimes spraying shaving cream on the stone and removing the excess can reveal what otherwise may be hidden from view. A small window squeegee works well for this purpose. Here is an example. The first photo shows a hard to read stone. The second photo shows shaving cream being applied to the stone. In the third, the excess foam has been removed making the inscription much more readable.
Baby Oil to Polish the Granite
As a final touch, each of the stones that Pam and Julie worked on was polished with a soft cloth and some baby oil. This helps bring the luster back to the stone.
Other Monuments in Ogdensburg Cemetery
I spent some time wandering around Ogdensburg Cemetery while we there. I find cemeteries great places to photograph and appreciate the stonecutter’s art. Here are a few shots from that day not related to my ancestors or their families.
This family plot towards the south end of the cemetery was nothing short of fantastic. A stone pergola is held up by the monuments of departed family members. A bench at one end provides visitors with a place to sit and reflect.
Frances Ford Seymour - Jane and Peter Fonda's Mother
During our recent trip to England we spent our first day in Durham searching through St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard trying to do what my Grandfather had failed to do when he visited the site in 1953. He had returned from Canada to the city of his youth for one last time, trying to locate and pay respect to his first wife’s grave. She had died suddenly while they were visiting his parents at 26 Western Hill. It was a blow that neither my grandfather nor my father who was only six years old ever fully recovered from.
The churchyard today is in pretty rough shape. It is largely overgrown with many stinging nettles but was dominated during our visit with these pretty little yellow buttercup type flowers. The ground is very uneven with many of the graves fallen in upon themselves. Many of the stones are damaged, leaning badly or knocked over so we knew our work was cut out for us. What chance had we of finding a marker for Helen Charlton?
All we had to go on was a photo I once saw of the burial site. I remembered from the photo that has long since disappeared that the grave was beside a wrought iron fence. Still, so much time had past. The burial and the photo were from 1920. There was no guarantee that the fence would still be there, or the stone for that matter. The only thing to do was comb the entire churchyard. We knew it would take some time.
We were also looking out for My great grandparents who we knew were also buried in the churchyard.
The steps from the north road lead directly into the churchyard and a short pathway up to the church entrance in the next photo.
This was not my great grandparents church, but this is where they came when they died. They were Wesleyan Methodists but the Parish Church was the official burying ground for all.
An excerpt from my great grandfather’s obit:
TRIBUTE BY WESLEYAN MINISTER
The internment took place on Wednesday at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Durham where there was a large gathering representative of the varied trade union activities in the coalfield. Kindred bodies of mine workers were all numerously represented as well as City Council and the Magistracy and Wesleyan Methodism.
It was a great tribute to one who in many ways played a notable part in the life of the county in which he had spent the whole of his life. Three gentlemen present — Mr William Willis, Mr William Green (Langley Moor) and Mr S. Galbraith (Durham) — were associated with him in the first meeting of Brandon Urban Council.
Prior to the internment an impressive service took place in the Old Elvet Wesleyan Methodist Church, with which Mr Charlton had long been associated. The church was completely filled. Mr W. H. B. Harrison presented at the organ and played “O Rest in the Lord” as the coffin was borne into the sacred edifice.
The Rev. R. H. Ashley, superintendent minister, officiated, and the Rev. T. Harrison Burnett, now of Newcastle, gave an address in which he referred to the life’s work of Mr Charlton. The Rev. J.T. Waddy and the Rev. H. V. Sproson also took part. The cortege was preceded by a posse of police under the direction of Inspector Derry.
Mr. Ashby read the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and the hymns were “O Worship the King,” When I Survey” and “For all the Saints.”
St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard is in Rough Shape
The general state of the churchyard at St. Cuthberts is quite poor. Few stones stand fully upright, many have been knocked over and everywhere there is long grass and stinging nettles interspersed with buttercups and daisies. Many of the graves have collapsed and the ground is so uneven that walking about is at times treacherous. Still, it is a place of great peace and tranquility not far from the modern bustle of Durham city. We took our time and searched the entire graveyard before Ruth found my ancestors stones at the lower left of the view in this photo.
While I checked around the perimenter of the churchyard, Ruth looked around the middle searching for dates close to the ones of my ancestors. When my grandfather returned to England in 1953 a few years before his death, he was frustrated at being unable to locate his wife’s and parents graves. We decided that we would give it a try.
After considerable searching, Ruth discovered an area that had stones of the right age in an area which seemed to be set off from the rest of the churchyard. Likely this is where the Methodists were buried. We felt we were getting close.
I had seen a photo of the gravesite taken at the time and remembered a wrought iron fence beside a walkway. A walkway did run alongside these gravestones although the wrought iron fence was no longer there.
Again, the search was narrowed down by the dates on the stones until finally, Ruth called me over to see one stone in particular.
Digging away at vegetation which was hiding the stone from view, we uncovered the first stone. It was Mary Charlton, my great gandmother.
The stone seemed to be split in two and while I continued to uncover Mary’s stone, Ruth turned her attention to a stone of a similar colour that lay close by, face down in the grass. She turned the stone over. It was my grandmother Helen Charlton who had died earlier that same year.
We had done it. We had found Robert Charlton’s first wife’s stone along with his mothers.
We both found this an incredibly moving experience and it was a few tears in our eyes, that we turned Helen’s stone upright and returned it to its proper place.
Whatever else our vacation to England held for us, the trip could now be deemed successful. For two people with lifelong interests in genealogy, this was a huge moment.
We continued our search for W. B. Charlton but to no avail. This is not entirley surprissing as the fortunes of the Enginemen’s Association had wained and the glory days of the Union had passed. W. B. Charlton it seemed was not to have a stone but is likely buried alongside his wife and daughter-in-law.
Dearly Beloved Wife Of
Rev Robert Charlton
Of Lemberg, Sask.
Died 15 Mar 1920
Aged 30 Years
In Loving Memory Of
Dearly Beloved Wife Of
W. B. Charlton
Died 3rd June 1920
Aged 64 Years