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

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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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There is More to Port Dover than Great Fish

Port Dover, hot dog, Norfolk County


Whether you live in Southwestern Ontario or are just visiting, a great place to hang out is Port Dover. Many come for fish at the popular Erie Beach Hotel or for a swim at the beach but I like to go for a footlong hot dog at The Arbor. It’s been close to 100 years (since 1919) serving its famous Schneiders footlongs. They are able to serve many people quickly because of their unique serving set-up. Hotdogs and burgers are ordered at one station, fresh-cut fries at another and ice cream cones at yet another. I usually go with my family and parents and we split up so that one group gets the hot dogs and the other, the fries. We get our food fast and we are eating before you know it even though the serving booths are packed with people. It’s great.  And of course, we don’t leave until we’ve had our amazing soft serve or hard ice cream cone to round out the meal.

They are also unique in the toppings available for hotdogs (or hamburgers if you’re not a “dog” person). There are hot peppers, cole slaw, pickles, radishes and I think, even pickled beets. I always joke with my mom: “Did you get a hot dog to go with your salad?” I’m a bit boring, only “ketchup” for me.

Footlong, The Arbor, Port Dover ON

I almost forgot to mention their Golden Glo. These are special fruit beverages that are only available at The Arbor. Even if you are just in the mood for something to quench your thirst, The Arbor is a place to be sought.

Playoff Time for the Norwich Merchants – A Special Team


The Norwich Merchants


It’s hockey play-off time in Canada and it’s Friday night.  You know what that means … (or maybe you don’t if you’re not from around these parts) there will be a hockey game somewhere to watch either live or on television.  My family can be a stereotypical Southwestern Ontario family in that we love our hockey.  And in our Oxford County community, our Merchants are in a “do-or-die” playoff situation tonight against New Hamburg.

The Merchants and I have a special relationship.  At several points in my life’s journey, I have been connected to this Junior “C” hockey team.  Here’s how:

1.  As one of  the few female ice resurfacing machine operators (The Olympia) in the Township of Norwich, I used to clean the ice for the Merchant games.  This was one of my favourite jobs of all time.  I loved waving at the kids in the crowd, being a part of the hockey experience and having the community all together in one place showing their community spirit.  And just driving the machine itself felt very empowering.  That’s a lot of machinery to be trusted to one small person.  It was fantastic.  Not-to-mention, it makes for some great interview ice breakers since this fact is on my resume.

2.  I met the man I married working for the Township of Norwich at the Community Centre/Arena.  In fact, he trained me to operate The Olympia for the prestigious Merchant games.  I regret that I never got a picture of myself driving it.  I do, however, have this picture with my husband and I on it.  We were only dating at the time. #SickeningSweet

Myself and The Boyfriend (currently husband)

Myself and The Boyfriend (currently husband)

3.  The Merchants trainer, Mark, was my boss while I worked at the Community Centre/Arena.  He could tell you some scary stories about some of the mistakes I made learning to drive the Olympia.  He’s part of the reason I’ve been able to move forward in my career.  He must have told a few good lies as a reference, to a few of my employers along the way; to which I am very grateful. (front row, second from left)

2013-2014 Norwich Merchants

2013-2014 Norwich Merchants

4.  My brother-in-law, Jason, was a former Assistant Coach for the Merchants. (in above: front row 3rd from right) Those were some exciting times to be cheering on the team with a relative on the bench.  It became a regular night out for the family since my parents, my sister’s family and me and my family, would have a reason to go out together.

5.  My nephew, Sawyer, was selected to be a “Mini-Merchant” for a game.  This meant he got to put on the jersey, skate to the centre of the ice and hold the flag for the National Anthem.  Another reason for the families to come together.

Sawyer as the Mini-Merchant

Sawyer as the Mini-Merchant

6.  My son’s, Noah, and Sawyer’s rookie minor hockey team, got to play an exhibition game during an intermission for a Merchant game.  This meant that they not only played, but, got to hang out with the “Big Boys” in their dressing room before they went out.  They each felt very special to be buddied up with a Merchant of their own.  My son even made sure he got a hat signed by all the players afterwards.  He just took the hat for show-and-tell this week.  He is still feeling very proud of those moments.  Those guys made some significant impressions that night.  I hope they know the magnitude of their influence.  #SmallTownHeroes

The Big Bro's and Lil Bro's

The Big Bro’s and Lil Bro’s

 

As you can see, the Merchants show up in a few key spots of my life’s journey.  So here’s a little shout out to this special team!   #GoMerchantsGo!!

 

 

Valentine’s at The Barrel

The Barrel

The Barrel

Hands-down, my favourite restaurant is “The Barrel” in Simcoe, Ontario. First and foremost because since I can remember, my favourite food has been spaghetti and it is an Italian restaurant. Secondly, I have been going there since I was a teenager and the service has always been great.

For Valentine’s Day, my husband made reservations for there and it was the best choice he could have made. They had a special Valentine’s menu but I never like to stray from my spaghetti. And so, I ordered my 1/2 order of Spaghetti Bolognese. That’s right, a 1/2 order. I don’t know of too many places that offer that option. I’m not a big eater and I find that I eat more than I’m comfortable at most restaurants.  The added bonus with The Barrel, is that even though it’s a “half” order, you still get the soup or salad course. I always opt for the salad because the house “Balsamic” dressing is fantastic.

And I have to say that I have always had amazing service at The Barrel. Whether it is their hiring of great people or incredible training, or both, I have never been disappointed with the impeccable service. They were running a little behind on Valentine’s Day as they had a full complement of patrons. I had no complaints, however, the staff was so courteous and pleasant that I couldn’t possibly be upset. Besides, we’re only human and sometimes you just have to accept that good things come to those who wait.

By the way, they don’t just have spaghetti, they do a mean pizza and many other excellent Italian dishes.  I’m often stealing bites off my husband’s or kids’ plates.

These Little Piggies …

These little piggies stayed home…

 

Do these little guys not make your face squish up with delight?

Piggy Brothers

Piggy Brothers

Meet Levi and Olaf, the newest members of Frog Hollow Animal Sanctuary.

How Cute Am I?

How Cute Am I?

 

They were just born a few weeks ago to Mya, the Pot-bellied pig. There were 3 to begin but sadly, the first female of the litter, was not able to grasp life.

Cute Piggy Bums

Cute Piggy Bums

Her two brothers, however, took hold and have been having amazing adventures as they explore what this world has to offer.

I am Loved

I am Loved

After plenty of suggestions and lots of thoughts, Frog Hollow has settled on the names Olaf and Levi for the newest little piggies.

How can you stay mad at that face?

Please visit the Frog Hollow Sanctuary Facebook page. I can’t speak for everyone but I know my days certainly get an injection of sunshine when I see these cuties come across my screen.

Little Piggy

Little Piggy

WARNING: May be too cute for some who can only handle cuteness in small doses. Viewer discretion is advised. 🙂

Great Canadian Backyard Skating

Skating Fun

Skating Fun

Many of you reading this post are Canadian (based on site stats). Skating and many other winter sports are familiar to you. When I mention skating on the backyard rink, the majority of you fellow Canucks will smile and nod as you remember times growing up spending countless hours outside in the bitter cold, skating around a pond or homemade rink, playing hockey or just perfecting your triple salchow.

Some of you though, will explore this post with wonder. “Skating?” you might think, “On your own backyard rink?  That’s interesting. I can imagine it though. You put on skates, get dressed in your warm attire and skate”.

Not that easy I’m afraid. Did you know there is a whole, “behind-the-scenes” world that happens before you even think about hitting that ice?

Getting Dressed for Winter

Getting Dressed for Winter

First, you must put on the long underwear. On its own, it’s amazing. It is form-fitting, soft, warm and comfortable. Then, you have to add the outerwear; usually jeans but maybe sweats. With this addition, you may feel a bit stiff but still ready to go. You should have an undershirt, T-shirt and sweatshirt on by this point and feeling very warm. Now you can head for the door because you are ready for the outside gear. Put on the snow pants and winter coat. This is where the feeling of claustrophobia sets in and you might feel like Gingy from Shrek with no hope of bending limbs in order to move with any kind of grace.  With the understanding of the Canadian winter, you cannot leave the house without a hat and perhaps facial gear if it’s a particularly cold day with temperatures lower than -10.  Gloves or mittens are necessary for the hands or you will most likely lose feeling to the digits within minutes.  After all this, you may be inclined to shout “YES” because you have equipped yourself with the paraphernalia necessary for conquering the Canadian winter.  You grab the doorknob with both mitten-clad hands and with all your strength you manage to turn and release it so that the door opens to the magnificent, jewel-sparkled, refreshing, white outdoors.  “Canadian ice, here I come”, you think.  But before you take the first step past the threshold you realize, “Dang it!  I haven’t got my skates on”.

Almost Ready

Almost Ready

This is where the real work begins.  Skates typically come with freakishly long laces that criss-cross, then cross and criss-cross again about a thousand times.   This means you have to pull each criss-cross loose to release the tongue in order to fit your sock-swollen foot into the boot of the skate.  Keep in mind, unless you have skate guards over the blades, you cannot just put your skate-clad foot on to any surface for risk of cutting through the floor if it’s hardwood or laminate, or dulling the blades if it’s concrete or asphalt.  You must choose an appropriate surface or have a towel/mat to put down to protect both blades and surface-material.

Don't Forget the Skates

Don’t Forget the Skates

Don’t forget you are bulked up beyond belief to combat the low outdoor temperatures so bending over to do all this lace-up work is next to impossible.  Sometimes, you have to bring in reinforcements to help with the job.

Help! I can't get my skates on!

Help! I can’t get my skates on!

When that’s all done though, you are pretty much ready.

Ready to Go!

Ready to Go!

Grab your hat, balaclava, scarf, mitts and anything else you need to ensure defence against the elements.  Again, if you don’t have skate guards you’ll need a path of mats, towels, cardboard or other “safe” material to get to the rink but you’re ready for the fun.  The only thing to worry about once you hit the ice is staying upright.  ENJOY!

 

Hockey on the Outdoor Rink

Hockey on the Outdoor Rink