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

Kenneth Verne Cornish – Not Just a Set of Dates

Genealogy essentially comes down to dates.  The date a person is born and the date a person dies.  Baptism dates, immigration dates, marriage dates, divorce dates.  Dates, dates and more dates.

Kenneth Verne Cornish

Kenneth Verne Cornish, my husband’s great grandfather, was only a set of dates;  April 11, 1903 to June 16, 1950.  That made him 47 years old.  It seemed young for a man to die at this age in the 20th century but one can never tell when there are just dates.  Perhaps he was a smoker in a time when little was known about the detriments of smoking.  Perhaps he passed away peacefully in his sleep from a brain aneurysm that no one could explain.   Or perhaps he died of heart failure that was characteristic of his family line, something that perhaps, my husband should consider since he is a descendant.  Dates, a grave stone and a few pictures.  That was all Kenneth Verne Cornish was to us.  Until…

Kenneth Verne Cornish, Gas Poisoning Inquest
Kenneth Verne Cornish’s Obituary and Inquest Coloumn

About two months ago my husband came home with a photocopy of an obituary and a newspaper story.  Two newspaper columns photocopied on a white piece of paper.  There wasn’t any date or any mention of the newspaper it was clipped from but the words painted a picture that suddenly added humanness to an otherwise anonymous ghost.  “My Aunt wanted you to have this since you are the family ‘genealogist,'” he said.  The story read:

An inquest will be held in the council chamber of the town hall at eight o’clock this evening in the death of Kenneth V. Cornish of Ostrander, who died late Friday night in the Tillsonburg Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, believed to be a victim of methyl chloride poisoning.

A preliminary inquest was held at the G.A. Barrie Funeral Home on Saturday afternoon, when Coronoer Dr. R. E. Weston and the inquest jury viewed the body.  The jury empaneled by Chief Constable T. I. Corbett includes W. A. Anderson, foreman, H.C. Armstrong, Clarence Ronson, Fred Yager and I. H. Crosby.

Later Saturday afternoon, a post-mortem was performed by Dr. F. W. Luney of London, provincial pathologist.

Mr. Cornish, who was in his 48th year, suffered the gas poisoning while making repairs to the refrigeration unit at the Massecar Locker Service plant at Glen Meyer, early last Wednesday evening.  He returned to his home late in the evening, feeling rather ill.  He suffered a convulsion shortly after one o’ clock the following morning, and was rushed to the hospital.  He suffered a series of convulsions after admittance to the hospital, and never regained consciousness.

Dr. C. A.Richards, who attended Mr. Cornish, hospital authorities, and local pharmacists contacted several laboratories in an effort to find something to counteract the deadly poison.  Finally Professor M. E. Watson of the University of Western Ontario suggested that molar sodium lactate might be of some assistance and a supply was rushed from Victoria Hospital, London by the Tillsonburg Police Department.  A quantity of blood was also brought from London and transfusions were given.

Doctors say that there is no known antidote for the deadly methyl chloride poisoning.

Kenneth’s obituary further provided details to his life.  It mentioned he was a well-known refrigeration expert and electrician, he was married to Marion Watcher, had a son Allan and a daughter, Mary who were both married and had children of their own.  He was also a member of the Otter Lodge and the Canadian Legion.  He didn’t die of lung cancer, aneurysm or heart attack.  He died a terrible, premature death and left a wife, 2 children and 3 grandchildren behind.  He was a husband, a father, a grandfather.  My father-in-law was only 2 when he passed and has no recollection of his grandfather and namesake.  With these 2 columns clipped from an old newspaper, we got a glimpse of who this man was.

Kenneth Verne Cornish – no longer just a set of dates.

Kenneth Verne Cornish, Kenneth William Cornish
Kenneth Verne with Kenneth William, his grandson

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

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

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

I’m very intrigued and excited about Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds Challenge.  During my family research journey, I’ve discovered lots of great stories and uncovered interesting personas that I want to share with other genealogy enthusiasts.  The problem is that I don’t always get my stories together in a timely fashion due to a full-time workload, mommy to 2 busy boys and being an active community member.  This just might be the right challenge to motivate me to get these tales posted.

Norfolk County “Cowan’s”

For my first month challenge, I dug into my paternal grandmother’s lineage to discover The Cowans were amongst the first settlers to Norfolk County in Ontario.  I hadn’t spent much time on my father’s side of the genealogy tree because he had cousins who had done quite a bit of research.  Why reinvent the wheel and redo something that had already been done?  When I finally joined Ancestry.ca and had my eyes opened to the wealth of information available, I soon realized that my dad’s cousins had only revealed the tip of the ancestral ice berg.  In fact, I only had detailed information about my dad’s father’s line and nothing about my dad’s mother.  She was Marjory Cowan.  I grew up with several Cowan’s around where I am from.  Some of them related, some of them not, but not really knowing the Cowan connection.

Cowan Ancestry
Marjory (Cowan) Noels

Through my membership, I was able to go back through my father’s mother, Marjory (Cowan) Noels (1926 – 1993) her father, William Burton Cowan (1900 – 1962), to his father, William Henry Cowan (1873 – 1948) to his father, David Cowan (1843 – 1923) to his father John Cowan (1813 – 1894) and it ended there.  I was content with that for a time and jumped over to other branches for a while.  I came back to John Cowan and explored deeper.  Where was he from besides Norfolk County, Ontario?  The census records indicated he was “born in Scotland”.  I wanted to know where in Scotland.  I spent months searching Cowan records trying to find the right connection but nothing added up.  I was able to find a cemetery through the Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid that had a David Cowan buried in it.  There were John Cowan’s listed also, but they didn’t meet the criteria I needed for “my John”.  So, I loaded the van up one Sunday afternoon with my parents and my sons (who were 5 and 9 – not too enthused to be “cemetery-hopping” – ice cream helped) and sought to find the cemetery of this “David Cowan” that was buried there.  I was  hopeful of finding clues to other Cowan’s that might make the connection over the sea.  I did, in fact, find David’s grave and it was indeed my 3X great-grandfather.  Buried beside him was his wife Anna Eliza Garnet.  The stone was barely legible but he was buried in the North Middleton Baptist / Acacia Cemetery.  Their daughter, Mary Catherine Cowan, was buried with them also.  She died at 42 years of age of Typhoid fever according to her death certificate (Ancestry.ca).  Although the trip made for an adventurous afternoon, I did not learn anything new about David Cowan or his lineage.

Colquhoun, Cowan
Colquhoun Tartan – Cowan is a sept of

Back to the research I went.  I searched the internet again and again.  I found reference to a John C. Cowan on “The Long Point Settlers” site.  His life dates, however, 1747 – 1826, didn’t match the dates of my John Cowan.  The short description, however, on this site did indicate that he had 4 sons, James, John,William and Alexander.  This could possibly mean that the John listed here was who I was searching to connect but I couldn’t prove it without further cross referencing.  I did finally find a missing piece to this whole puzzle.  John, the son of John was not the John I was looking for.  There was a piece in between.  A 1841 document found on Ancestry.ca indicated a James Cowan from Scotland (John C. Cowan’s son) settled in Charlotteville Township in Norfolk County.   This James came from Scotland with a family.  His wife, Elizabeth and 3 children, Elizabeth, James and John.  Other children followed upon arrival to Canada, but this information was enough for me to see my John’s place in this family line.  James Cowan came to Canada in 1817 with his father, John C. Cowan (of the “The Long Point Settlers“),and family from Scotland, England.  His son, John, my John, was 4 years old, born in 1813.  This was the piece I needed.  Further exploration allowed me to cross-reference this information with that of John’s wives, Catherine Pettit and Charlotte Gibbons.  My mystery was solved.  My John Cowan, according to research, came from Glasgow, Scotland.

Another Scottish branch on my family tree.  Cowan’s belonged to the Colquhoun clan.  And a new search begins…

What’s in a Family Name?

(Revised March 16, 2015 – see notes after post)

N-O-E-L-S. I automatically start spelling my last name before anyone starts to spell it because 99.5 % of the time, people will spell it incorrectly. Most people want to spell it like Beyoncé, K-N-O-W-L-E-S. The story passed down to me as to why our spelling was different from the one most commonly used, was that our original name was Noel and my great-grandmother felt it was easier to say “Noels” with an “s” than the original Noel without the “s”. When you are young you don’t question things much so that was the story that I went with.

Noels
Stephen, Amanda and Beecher Noel

Upon exploring my family ancestry, I soon found that the chance of that story being true was highly unlikely.  My late cousin, Hazel Noels, a genealogy enthusiast like myself, put together a Family Tree compilation titled “Noels Pressey Connections” and noted three different spellings of our family name: “Noel”, “Noels” and “Noles”.  According to Hazel, my great grandparents, Beecher and Ella May Noels, each had their own preference for registering their offspring.  Beecher’s parents, Stephen and Amanda, were registered as “Noel” upon their marriage in 1871.  Therefore, Ella May registered new arrivals as “Noel”.  Beecher, on the other hand, always registered his new children as “Noels”.  Hence, with 11 births in all, some of the family are registered one way and some another.  Later, when various members needed to apply for birth certificates, some were returned with the spelling of “Noles”.

Noels
Beecher and Ella May Noels

Exploring further into Beecher’s father, Stephen’s records, “Noel” was not the only spelling that he is registered with.   On the first census that he shows up in, 1851 at 2 years of age, he is Stephen “Knowls”.  In the 1871 census he is Stephen “Knowles”, 1881: “Noles”, 1891, “Noel” and finally “Noels” on his death certificate in 1921.  Stephen’s father, James, has much the same history with his last name only he has an added “Noal” which shows up on the 1881 census.  This dilemma has made it difficult to go back further into the history of my name.  Based on several census records, I know that James Noels originated from England as it is indicated as his place of birth.  What I can’t find, is when he married Mary Ann Tomlin, when he arrived in Canada and did he arrive already married with children?  Because there are so many different spellings, who did he come over as?  James Noels, James Noel, James Noal, James Noles, James Knowls or perhaps he came over as James Knowles?  In which case, perhaps my name’s origins are, in fact, that K-N-O-W-L-E-S that I have spent my life correcting people from spelling.

The exploration continues…

 

 

March 16, 2015

A Facebook conversation started with a couple members of my “Noels”-bearing family.  It went as follows:

Heather Noel: … I have no idea how Dennis and I became Noel and the 3 in the middle Noels when dad (Wilf) didn’t know he was a Noel until he got his birth certificate in the 70’s.

Vicki Noels Cornish: Hi Heather, I have Hazel’s research and I also have William listed as James’ father but I can”t find any documents to verify it. That’s why I’m trying to find out when James arrived and whether he was married or not. Then, hopefully, I can start linking everything. And as of right now, I am not a 100% certain we are truly “Noels” as opposed to “Knowles”. It’s looking like perhaps James wasn’t able to spell and therefore left the spelling up to whoever was in charge of the paperwork at any given point. Six different spellings for one person in federal records over a lifetime makes it difficult to verify which is the true one.

Christine Noels: For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s any one true spelling. It’s only recently that people care if surnames are consistent. Back in Tudor times for example, even literate people would spell their own names in a variety of ways – and the further back you go the more you can see that names continue to evolve. I don’t think there’s a right way to spell it – although I’d pull a lot less hair out if there was!

Vicki Noels Cornish: Hear! Hear! Chris. It would just help me in figuring out which damn James is ours. I’ve gone back into the 1500’s with several family lines but I can only go back as far as 1816 with Noels. I want to know exactly what part of England we come from.  I enjoy the pursuit though. I will get it eventually.

Christine Noels: Me too and no matter which way I spell it I find too many men with the same name and a wife with the same name. I found one or two that could have come from England via the States too.

Mayflower Descendent – Me?

Mayflower
Mayflower

Researching my family history has become a supreme passion of mine.  It has opened my mind to exploring history to which I never fostered an interest in growing up, and it has shed light onto my being and identity.

Recently, I discovered my 11 X great-grandparents were John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley.  So what? Unless you know a bit about American History, these are probably just another set of names.  They were to me … at first.

As a subscriber to Ancestry.com, I’ve created a family tree by inputting individuals and information. From those entries, connections get made by linking my data to records that Ancestry.com has in its database.  As new records are added to the database, “hints” are issued for individuals that I have posted in my family tree who are connected to those records .  Because my tree is quite large (from several hours of inputting and exploring) I get many “hints” a day on various ancestors.  When I got a hint for Desire Gorham, a 9 X great-grandmother, I reviewed it and added her to my tree without much thought.  When one goes that far back in a line, records become rare and many hints are just other genealogy enthusiasts who have your ancestor on their trees also.  So, when all of a sudden there were about 16 “hints” for Desire Gorham, I thought I’d better do some investigating because individuals born in 1644 didn’t generate that kind of record data because of the lack good record keeping that far back.

When I went back to have a closer look at Desire Gorham, I noticed her place of birth was listed as Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Although American History is not my forte, I do remember learning about the Mayflower coming from England to Plymouth with some of the first colonists to come to the “New World”.  I thought it was worth investigating because if I knew if I were to travel there for ancestry research there would be lots to see and do because of the history of the place.

Reviewing more of the hints for Desire, there were connections to her parents who were listed as Desire Howland and Captain John Gorham.  With them, pictures were given as “hints”.  As a visual learner, I was quick to open them.  Low and behold it was a picture of a headstone listing the children of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, Pilgrims of the Mayflower.  Desire (Howland) Gorham was one of them.  WHAAAA…????

I couldn’t believe it.  There in front of me was evidence that I was a descendant of the Pilgrims that came on the Mayflower.  Of course, I have started to delve into who John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley were and what their significance was to this prominent point in history.  Apparently, John fell overboard during the voyage and was rescued.  There is a painting that depicts the dramatic rescue of John Howland.  His name is also on the “Mayflower Compact” which served as the first governing document of the pilgrims.  It is so exciting to learn that I am a descendant of those who left such a legacy.  What would these ancestors say if they could see the world that they helped start?  Fascinating.

This now opens up questions for how did a Mayflower descendant end up way over here in Southwestern Ontario when the original landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts?  More research to do!  More stories to explore!  More to come…

 

Bibliography:

“Mayflower.”  Wikimedia Commons.  Last modified August 20, 2011.  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mayflower#mediaviewer/File:MayflowerHarbor.jpg . (photo: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Halsall, 1882)

“Mayflower.”  Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia.  Last modified October 6, 2014.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayflower .

“Noels-Cornish Family Tree.”  Ancestry.com. Last modified October 11, 2014.  http://home.ancestry.ca/ .