The Beginning of the Varnum’s in Canada: Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: April

Mary Ann Varnum, Mary Ann Cornish

My brother-in-law asked if I knew anything about the Varnum branch of his and my husband’s family tree.  I knew that when Thomas Cornish  came from Cornwall, England, he married Mary Ann Varnum. On their gravestone, it indicates that Mary Ann was a “native of Quebec”.  That was the extent of my knowledge of the Varnum side of things.  He sent over some print-outs of family history and I glanced at them.  Of course, with my love of family and history connections, I took to the internet to research more.

American Flag, American Revolution, Patriots

When I ran a search on the name Varnum, there was a wealth of information about countless Varnums with significant contributions to American History.  George Varnum, my husband and brother-in-law’s 9 X great-grandfather, came from England around 1635, with his son Samuel.  They were early settlers of Ipswich and Dracut, Massachusetts.  Samuel’s son, Colonel Joseph Bradley Varnum, and himself, had involvement in King Philip’s War, a last effort of Native American’s to drive the British settlers out.

There was also another Joseph Bradley Varnum, Colonel Joseph’s grandson, who served in the Revolutionary War and later became a Senator and Speaker of the House.  And then there was General James Mitchell Varnum, Joseph’s older brother.  He was one of Brown University’s (then Rhode Island College) first graduates and practiced law.  Besides serving in the Revolutionary War he was a member of Continental Congress.  Joseph and James were 2nd cousins 7 X removed from my husband and brother-in-law.  The list of Varnums with a place in American history went on.  Many of them were influential Patriots during the American Revolution.  Which leads to the question, how did the Varnums end up in Canada to which Mary Ann would be a “native of Quebec”?

United Empire Loyalist

With significant sleuthing, I found a record for Benjamin Varnum on the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada’s (UELAC) website.  Going back to the family tree, Benjamin was a great-grandson of the Samuel Varnum that originally came with his father, George, from England.  In his biography on the UELAC site, it states: “[Benjamin] was a UEL [United Empire Loyalist] who was disowned by his family and expunged from its records”.  In other words, he was on the opposing side to most of his relations during the Revolution.  He was disowned and according to the UELAC, his American Verification of Death states he died in infancy.  Imagine a family going so far as to have another member completely removed from records.

Thomas and Mary Ann (Varnum) Cornish

Thomas and Mary Ann (Varnum) Cornish

Benjamin Varnum, who went against the grain of his prominent American kin, began the Varnum legacy in Canada when he moved to Sutton, Quebec in 1770.  He was grandfather to Mary Ann who married Thomas Cornish, and 5 X great-grandfather to my husband and his brother. Digging into the past to discover more about the Varnum family has only piqued my interest which will, no doubt, lead to further research.  The question that is resting foremost in my mind now is, why did Benjamin choose to be a Loyalist?  What is the story for his venture to Quebec and his descendants to head West to Upper Canada where Mary Ann met her husband.  And the family history search obsession continues…

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

Notes

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.  “Barnum, Joseph Bradley, (1750/1751 – 1821).”  Accessed April 29, 2016.  http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/bodisplay.pl?index=V000074.

Brown Daily Herald, The.  “The Revolutionary War: Hosting rebellion by Drew Williams.”  Accessed April 30, 2016.  http://250.browndailyherald.com/the-revolutionary-war-hosting-rebellion/.

Brown University Office of the Curator.  “Varnum, James Mitchell (1748 – 1789).”  Accessed April 29, 2016.  http://library.brown.edu/cds/portraits/display.php?idno=93.

Ginger Genie Blog, The.  https://thegingergenie.com/12/14/28/cornish-comes-to-canada/.

Google Books.  “Crossing to Freedom by Elizabeth Wells Bardwell.”  Accessed April 30, 2016.  http://bit.ly/103u8kp.

Google Books.  “The Prominent Families of the United States of America by Arthur Meredyth Burke.”  Accessed April 30, 2016.  http://bit.ly/SAYTTz.

History.com.  “American Revolution History.”  Accessed April 30, 2016.  http://www.history.com/american-revolution/american-revolution-history.

History.com.  “King Philip’s War.”  Accessed April 30, 2016.  http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/king-philips-war.

United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada.  “Loyalist Directory: Benjamin Varnum.”  Accessed April 29, 2016.  http://uelac.org/Loyalist-Info/detail.php?letter=v&line=110.

 

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Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: March – Piecing Together the History of George Alexander Brown

George Alexander Brown, Brown Family of Woodstock, ONIsn’t it fascinating how sometimes you know so little about someone who you have to piece together a story on the bare minimum of details that you do find?  That is how it is for my great-grandfather George Alexander Brown on my Mom’s side.  The only thing I knew about him, other than he was a slight man with a thick dark moustache, was that he was supposedly killed in front of the Snow Countess in Woodstock, Ontario while riding his bike when he was struck by a car.   I wasn’t sure about that – the story seemed a bit sensational to me but that was all I had.

Woodstock, Snow Countess, Dairy Capital

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, obtaining the subscription to a genealogical site was such a fantastic investment for me.  All the documents and connections helped to fill in so many blanks.  When I plugged George Alexander Brown into the database, I was finally able to get some dates.  He was born in 1874 and died in 1937.  He was 62 when he died.  That meant that my grandmother was 17 when he died, a young girl.   This also meant that he died long before my mother was born.   Because I was only 8 when my grandmother died, I was too young to form the questions that I now wish I could have asked her about her father.

I was able to see census records that showed my great-grandfather was born in England and spent part of his young life in Sevenoaks, Kent.  He came to Canada approximately in 1877 with his father, Joseph Alexander Brown, mother, Jane Elizabeth Beaumont and his 7 brothers and sisters.  They settled in Woodstock, Ontario.  I know from the English censuses that Joseph was a shoemaker but there isn’t much else that I’ve found about George’s parents.

In an old Woodstock directory document from 1893, I managed to find George listed with his brother James living at 38 Hincks Street.  According to the directory, they both worked at D.K. Karn pianos.  They were also living with their mother, Jane but she was listed as a widow.  Two of the sisters were listed as well, but as “domestics” with Woodstock College.  The little I was piecing together of my family was also opening up a treasure trove full of local history.  D. W. Karn Pianos were one of the largest and most prestigious piano companies in the world.  Woodstock College also had a rich history that was the humble beginnings of the now McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

George Alexander Brown, Brown Family History, Woodstock Ontario

George’s marriage to my great-grandmother, Mary Louise Dowding, was evident on the marriage certificate where he was listed as a “machine-hand”.  My guess was that this was his position with D. W. Karn Pianos.  They were married in Woodstock.  The latest document that I had to review was George’s death notice.   He died on September 29, 1937.  On the far right side of the document it stated the cause of death: “Cerebral haemorrhage due to injury of the brain due to thrown off bicycle by motor car”.  It gave me a sense of satisfaction to read that.  It was as though I needed to see it in writing in order to bring belief and closure to the story that my great-grandfather did die in a bicycle accident.  The last thing to verify is if it truly did happen in front of the Snow Countess.  Stay tuned for updates as I continue the quest to learn more about George Alexander Brown.

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: January

The Legend of the Shipwrecked Baby

Legend of the Shipwrecked Baby, Seburn Family History, Niagara History

Legend has it that the Seburn name in my family, originated several generations ago when a small child was found as the only survivor of a raided Loyalist camp during the early part of the American Revolution.  Because the child was too young to identify himself and was found close to the ocean, he was given the name “Sea born” to indicate “Born of the Sea” with unknown lineage.  That name, according to legend, morphed into Seburn, which is the name more commonly heard among today’s Seburn generations.

When I heard this story as a young teenager, I was fascinated.  At that point in my life, my family history didn’t have much essence so this story injected some drama into my otherwise, dull past.  I held on to the story for years, hoping that someday I would have time and resources to explore its origins.

With the development of the internet, I began to research my “Sea-born” story to see if there might be any truth to this tale.   To my amazement, an identity in cyber-world reached out and indicated a similar story in her “Seburn” past.  Tara Browner, who I now know as a 4th cousin, published a post on a genealogy message board, suggesting she had Seburn lineage which included a Stephen Seburn who was the sole survivor of a shipwreck or Indian attack.  I immediately responded to the post for I couldn’t believe that there was another person, from another side of the continent, reporting the same story I heard as a teenager.  As luck would have it, Tara was planning a trip up my way for genealogical research and I arranged to meet her.

Tara Browner, Seburn Family History, Niagara History, Legend of the Shipwrecked Baby

Tara Browner

Since she was coming to Southwestern Ontario, I offered to drive if she would share what she knew about the Seburn line.  She was a wealth of information.  She brought pictures, showed me grave sites and she passed along stories of the war and property and introduced me to Tim Seburn, a 5th cousin 1 time removed.  He also knew the legend of the shipwrecked baby.

We all discussed “The Legend” and each had our own spin on it.  There was my version, of course and there was Tara’s version of a French/Acadian boy who was “somehow left behind during the expulsions in the 1750s and adopted by a British soldier”.  Tim’s rendition was that Stephen, or perhaps an earlier Seburn , was an unidentified babe from a lost Dutch ship and later adopted by an English family in Kent. Whichever story you chose to explore, the bottom line was that there was a child  who was an orphan around the time of the American Revolution and who grew up with the name Seaborne or Seburn and is the beginning of Seburn lineage in the Niagara region and beyond.

Tim Seburn, Seburn Family History, Niagara History, Legend of the Shipwrecked Baby

Tim Seburn

And it doesn’t end there.  Several years passed since then.  I had to put family research on hold as I completed more education, married, had a family and established a career.  I fell out of touch with Tara and Tim and my new-found adventurous history, until recently.  Rekindling my love of genealogy, I thought about my long-lost distant relatives and wondered if they might be on Facebook and they were! Reconnected again, Tara directed me to Tim and he mentioned there could be more to the Seburn legend than we thought and that he’d keep me posted.

Of course there was more to the story.  On January 4th, 2016, Tim sent an attachment with just the words, “Let me know what you think”.  When I opened the attachment, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  It was an image of the original adoption papers for Stephen Seburn and it was dated 1758. Talk about a Fascinating Family Find.

Seburn Family History, Stephen Seburn, Niagara History

Original Apprenticeship papers for Stephen Seburn

I was curious how Tim came about finding this document.  In an email he sent to me he wrote:

“…no question that this is the original document Stephen brought with him to Canada. It was in a box of stuff that was in the original homestead on Beechwood Rd, and was taken to BC by … the last owner of the homestead. It took me 5 years to track him down. His mother’s transcript of the document was found in … files at the Mayholme Foundation in 2011, so, even if his mother didn’t possess the document, I knew she had certainly one time saw it. When I finally got [the gentleman] on the phone he assured me he had a lot of stuff, but not the adoption document. But he was curious enough to open his mother’s boxes which had remained sealed for decades, and there it was!”

Tim indicated that:  “I now anticipate that the Seburn legend was a lie told to a little boy to create the impression that his ‘adopters’ were wonderful to have taken young Stephen in”.   Were they indeed wonderful for taking him in?  We may never know.  What we do know, is that Stephen was an orphan, he came to Canada and has left a legacy and a lineage that is very much entrenched in our family history.

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

 

Notes

  1.  Tara Browner, December 30, 2000 (5:00 a.m. GMT), comment on the original Seburn, “Niagara Area Family,”  Ancestry.com, on December 30, 2000, http://boards.ancestry.co.uk/localities.northam.canada.ontario.lincoln/125.300.301/mb.ashx
  2. Tim Seburn, email message, January 4, 2016.

Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: December 2015

From Downton to CanadaDownton, Wiltshire, Pressey

My family is descended from Downton.  Impressive isn’t it?  When I hear “Downton”, of course, I immediately think Downton Abbey.  Being a fan of the television series, I conjure up images of large estates, beautiful gowns, tea and servants.  Exciting right?  Digging deeper, it didn’t take long to learn that this illusion was far from the truth.  In fact, it is more ironic than anything, for the family I am speaking of, were paupers.

Pressey, Ella May Pressey, Noels, Ella May Pressey

Ella May (Pressey) Noels

This family is the Pressey’s.  My great-grandmother on my father’s side was Ella May Pressey.   Her great-grandfather, George came from Downton, Wiltshire, England.  Times were grim in Downton during his life.  There was an agricultural depression during the 1830’s and many were out of work.  According to a fascinating find I discovered on the internet:  The Downton Story, it explained that the answer to this overwhelming poverty in the Wiltshire parish of Downton,  was to send its poor to Canada.  John Pracey (Pressey – George’s brother) and his wife and family, were amongst the first group of Downton folk to head over the Atlantic ocean, on the ship the Louisa, to Quebec, Canada.  From there, they made their way down the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes and eventually landed at Port Talbot, south of London, Ontario; a community that was once at the centre of a booming new world settlement.  Words of favour were passed back to Downton and more enthusiastic villagers set sail for the new, and better, world.

Port Burwell, Talbot Settlement, Pressey,

Port Burwell, Ontario Today

The next group to arrive included George,my 4th great-grandfather, his wife, Mary and 5 children: Henry, Phineas, Frederick, Ann and George.  They started their life in Canada at Port Burwell, Ontario as one of the first settlers to the area on what was part of the Talbot Settlement.  To this day, many descendants of John and George Pressey still live in the area of Port Burwell having established a new history for the family name and a new history for this land we call Canada.

 

Notes:

  1.  “The Downton Story,”  accessed Dec. 22, 2015, http://www.thedowntonstory.com/index.html.
  2. “PRESSEY FAMILY_DESCENDANTS OF PINEAS PRESSEY (1246) & RUTH BAILEY (1247),” accessed December 22, 2015,http://presseyfamily.tripod.com.
  3. “Port Talbot, Ontario,” accessed December 22, 2015,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Talbot,_Ontario.

 

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: July

Elijah Vincent: “A terror to all those who opposed the crown”

United Empire Loyalist

From my genealogical researching, I’ve discovered many of my ancestors were farmers.   They seemed to live uneventful lives, at least when you only have census records and family lists as data to go by. Farmer John married Jane Farmer’s Daughter and they had 8 children. Those eight children married farmers and farmers’ daughters and they had 8 children and so on.

Every once in a while, you hit something solid in your proverbial digging.  Through another of my Dad’s lines, I uncovered Elijah Vincent, a United Empire Loyalist, who came from the United States after the American Revolution.  Elijah, himself, was a 6th generation American when he was born in Eastchester, New York on Christmas Eve 1759.  He was the oldest of 6 children born to Lewis Vincent and Abigail Fowler.  His 4 X great-grandfather, Adrian Vincent, came from Belgium to America in 1633 but it was Elijah who brought this line to Canada.

That isn’t the interesting part.  In July 1781, during the Revolutionary War, Elijah’s brother, Gilbert, a blacksmith, refused to shoe a French officer’s horse because it was a Sunday.  A conflict ensued and the officer killed Gilbert.  When Elijah heard of his brother’s death, he sought vengeance.  As an ensign for James DeLancey’s Westchester Refugees, he laid hiding in some bushes and when a French group of hussars passed, he fatally shot their captain.  According to Commemorative Discourse Delivered at the Centennial Anniversary of the Erection and Sixtieth of the Consecration of St. Paul’s Church, East Chester, Elijah “throughout this whole region became a terror to all those who opposed the crown”.

Isn’t this the stuff that Revolutionary War movies are made of?  In fact, wasn’t it already a movie?  Oh no, I’m thinking of “The Patriot” and clearly that wasn’t about a “Loyalist”.  It was an intriguing research project to say the least.  There do seem to be some details that show up differently in sources.  For example, some sources indicate the officer in need of the blacksmith was French and others say American.  Some stories say that Gilbert Vincent was shot and killed and others say he was sliced apart by a sword and lived.  The heart of the story remains consistent, Gilbert Vincent, a Blacksmith, was killed or critically injured and Elijah sought vengeance and killed a captain opposed to the Loyalists.

He married Abigail Bayeux in 1791 and brought his family officially to Canada in 1796.  He settled in Willoughby Township which is now a part of the Region of Niagara Falls.  Of his four children, his oldest daughter, Abigail, my 5 x great-grandmother, married John Amerman and settled in Bayham Township close to modern-day Straffordville, ON.  Many of her descendants remain close to Bayham Township to this day, myself included.  It’s an area rich with my family history. What else might I unearth in this Vincent line?

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

1.  Wilkerson, Lyn. Historical Cities-New York City. (USA: Caddo, 2010) Google Books, accessed July 9, 2015.

2.   “America Meets France Outside New York City,” accessed July 9, 2015, http://web.ncf.ca/dc253/Adams%20Ground/America%20Meets%20France%20Outside%20New%20York.pdf.

3.   Coffey, Rev. William Samuel.  Commemorative Discourse Delivered at the Centennial Anniversary of the Erection and Sixtieth of the Consecration of St. Paul’s Church, East Chester.  (New York: Perris and Browne, 1866)  Google Books, accessed July 9, 2010.

4.  Scharf, John Thomas.  History of Westchester County: New York, Including Morrisania, Kings Bridge and West Farms: Volume 1.  (Philedelphia: L. E. Preston & Co., 1886)  Google Books, accessed July 9, 2015.

5.  “Elijah Vincent,” accessed July 9, 2015, http://trees.ancestry.ca/tree/45656741/person/6889121046.

 

 

In My Own Backyard

Ode to be Canadian…

The Ginger Genie

I was born, raised and live in Southwestern Ontario. You would think, with that much time spent in one area (over 40 years but under 42 years), I would be able to explain everything about it, right?.  And being Canadian, I could define the Canadian experience – right?  I’ll tell you, one can certainly have a Canadian foundation but really not know, nor understand, anything about what it is to a be a Canadian.  It wasn’t until I spent 4 months of my life living and travelling abroad, that I began to realize I needed to explore my roots and embrace my nationality.

View from the Glass Ceiling atop the CN Tower View from the Glass Ceiling atop the CN Tower

During university, I spent 4 months living, studying and travelling abroad.  I was based in London, England, but being in such close proximity to so many other countries, I used my weekends, school breaks and summer, to travel the UK and…

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Bye-Bye To Bill’s Pizza of Tillsonburg

Bill's Pizza, Tillsonburg, Cheese PizzaAt the far south end of Tillsonburg, amongst the tumbleweeds where activity once abounded, lies a treasure hidden within a small hole-in-the-wall shop between the old “Royal Hotel” and the bowling alley.  A treasure now buried but to be remembered fondly.  A treasure of amazing pizza and people: Bill’s.

I just read The Tillsonburg News page that Bill’s Pizza in Tillsonburg is done. I’m in shock and disappointment.  Without question, the best pizza around as far as I’m concerned. So great, in fact, I had intended to write a blog post about it as one of the best things about living in Southwestern Ontario: convenient access to Bill’s pizza.  It was one of those “best kept secret” kind of places I would recommend to someone spending time in the area. Not just for the pizza but the staff and the joint also.

The crust was thin and homemade. According to End of an era: Saying goodbye to Bill’s Pizza posted in the Tillsonburg News, Bill’s went through 4 homemade batches a day. The sauce was just the right amount of spice and sweetness with a deep rich, red colour. My usual order was an extra large cheese pizza for my fussy family.  Once in a while I got a deluxe or a meat-lovers if the occasion warranted. The bacon was always real pieces of deli bacon, not bacon bits as many contemporary chain pizzas offer, and the deluxe would have fresh vegetables.  And the cheese, I can’t forget the cheese. There was always a tonne of cheese. So much, that when it melted there was a shimmery coating of grease that would sit on top. I know that may not sound appealing and your arteries may constrict just thinking about it but that was what made it a taste phenomenon. Before even taking a bite my taste buds would do sommersaults in anticipation of what was coming at them.

Bill’s Pizza quickly became the favourtie of my and my sister’s, out-of-town significant others and we have passed on the tradition to our children as well.  This was our go-to pizza growing up in Tillsonburg and a must-have when we are back visiting.  There is simply no other pizza like it.  It’s what I imagine a New York pizza to be like if I ever the opportunity to try it.

Bill’s has survived many years on their incredible reputation for great pizza and customer service.  It even managed to be one of the only businesses (that I’ve patronized) that never succumb to the use of electronic fees transfer.  If you wanted to purchase a pizza from Bill’s you had to do it “old-school”.  No debit or credit.  Cash only.  Luckily, the bowling alley next door was equipped with a bank machine or there would have been several nights of disappointment for me.  It was part of the charm of Bill’s.  It stayed constant and authentic through all the 43 years in business.

It was always a marvel as well, to see Irene or Don every time I would go in to pick up the pizza. I wondered if they ever took a holiday. According to the Tillsonburg news, I guess they didn’t. Obviously they loved what they did. They were always chatty and congenial. Every pizza passed over that counter was delivered with a smile and a thank you.  43 years of dedication and commitment to getting the best pizza out to generations of hungry patrons.  With retirement already underway, I wish them the best and happiest wishes for an amazing life from the other side of the counter.  And may they sense the biggest smile and sincere thank you from one grateful and satisfied customer.