Remembrance: James Allen Mason

Lest We Forget
Lest We Forget

I made a significant find a couple of weeks ago. In my pursuit to find more about my Mason ancestry, I noticed a gap. My second great grand-uncle, Charles Mason, had 3 sons, John, David, Walter and James. I had extensively searched the older brothers but never pursued James up to that point. To anyone new to ancestry research, one does not simply uncover an ancestor’s story in a couple of clicks on the computer (although sometimes, one might get lucky and that does end up being the case). It’s like solving a logic puzzle, you go over the clues you have and read, reread and reread them as your brain searches frantically for a lead. It’s the ultimate in detective investigation. When you get that lead, you go to your resources, search and cross-examine your search until you can verify your lead as fact. Then, you add it to your tree. This is at least, how I have tackled my ancestry. When you uncover something, it’s like unearthing treasure. I find it exhilarating.

It took me a while to find anything on the James Mason I was looking for until one day, a record showed up on  It was his Attestation Papers for joining the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force for the First World War.  He enrolled in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada on July 13th 1915.  His actual signature shows up on the scanned copy of the document.  There is something I can’t describe, that I feel when I look at the actual physical signature of James Allen Mason, the then, 17-year-old youth.  It’s a force that almost makes the hairs on my arm stand up knowing that his young hand would have made that signature in the flesh almost 100 years ago.

A part of the 45th Canadian Battalion, he set sail across the Atlantic in March 1916 to arrive in Liverpool on March 25.  On July 7, 1916, the Battalion was absorbed into the 11th Reserve Battalion which reinforced the 52nd Canadian Battalion serving in France.  Sadly, serving with the 52nd Battalion brought James to serve the ultimate sacrifice.  It was during the Battle of the Somme that he lost his life.  Only 19 years old.  I was hopeful that James would have returned to Manitoba to live a new adventure, one that I would continue to trace, but alas, it ended abruptly in the trenches of France.

Vimy Canadian Memorial, Pas-de-Calais, France
Vimy Canadian Memorial, Pas-de-Calais, France

Exploring further, however, I learned that James has left the most honourable legacy.  He is buried amongst his fellow soldiers, who also gave their lives for our treasured freedom, at the magnificent Vimy Memorial in  Pas-de-Calais, France.  I’ve heard about the Vimy Memorial and felt proud to be a part of a nation that provided such support to both World Wars but now, I have so much more to identify with.  I have a first cousin, 3 times removed, who gave his life so that his family, his nation and his descendents could live free. Thank you to James and all the others that gave so much.  #IRemember!





“45th Battalion (Manitoba), CEF”.  Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.  Last modified July 8, 2014.,_CEF.

“52nd Battalion War Diary”.  Library and Archives Canada.  October 6 – 13, 1916.

“Canadian National Vimy Memorial”.  Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.  Last modified November 2, 2014.

“Historic Sites of Manitoba”.  The Manitoba Historical Society.  Accessed November 9, 2014.

“In Memory of Private James Allen Mason”.  Veterans Affairs Canada.  Accessed November 9, 2014.

Laughton, Richard.  “11th Reserve Battalion”.  Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group: “The Matrix Project”. 2006-2013.

“Mason, James Allen”.  Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Accessed November 9, 2014.,%20JAMES%20ALLEN.

“Private James Allen Mason”.  Canadian Great War Project.  Accessed November 9, 2014. .

“Red Poppy Clip Art”.  flickr.  Accessed November 10, 2014.

“Vimy Ridge Canadian Memorial nr Vimy France”.  National Education Network Gallery.  Accessed November 10, 2014.



A special thank you to Christian Cassidy for providing some valuable resources for discovering more about Private James Mason and Cardale, Manitoba where he was born and raised.  You can learn more about Manitoba and its history on Christian’s Blog: West End Dumplings.




Is Charles Mason a Genealogical Connection?

John Mason and Mary Hislop's Headstone in Donegal Cemetery
John Mason and Mary Hislop’s Headstone in Donegal Cemetery

It was a gorgeous fall day here in Southwestern Ontario. I was spending time with my parents and we thought it would be a perfect day to roam the countryside visiting cemeteries for genealogical pleasure. We had always talked about going to Donegal to visit the graves of the Mason’s that brought my mother’s family from Scotland to Canada.  Today we were going to do it.

John Mason is a dead-end for me.  I know he was born in Scotland but I have no record or mention of parents or siblings.  I know he had 4 children but have only ties to the line that is mine directly.  Where are the other Masons’?  For a long time, I couldn’t find Charles, John’s oldest son.  There was a Charles Mason buried in Donegal, ON but dates didn’t match up.  I did eventually find Charles in Manitoba.  He had started his own adventure, a story for another time.

At Donegal today, I got to see John’s and his wife, Mary’s, grave stone.  I could read it.  The original picture I have of the stone is taken too far away for me to make out the inscription.  Standing in front of it in person though, I could see that it read “John Mason – a Native of Co of Haddington, Scotland”.  I knew that already from the records I had gathered.  Stepping back to the next row, I could read the stone for Charles Mason.  This would be the Charles Mason that I had already ruled out as a connection because the dates didn’t match.  Interesting though, he was also listed as a native to Haddington County, Scotland.  This got me thinking.  Could he still be a connection?  He was the only other Mason in close proximity to John and Mary in the cemetery and his stone was with their’s.  The dates would suggest perhaps John and Charles were brothers.  I pondered this because in the extensive search that I had done for John Mason in Haddington (or East Lothian), Scotland only yielded a few results for any Mason in that area at that time so for there to be a Charles “Mason” coming from the same county in the same time period was striking.

Charles Mason's Headstone in Donegal Cemetery
Charles Mason’s Headstone in Donegal Cemetery

Not wanting to let this go and not sure where to go for answers at the current time (my normal work life leaves little time for extracurricular research in the fall), I thought I would plug this new connection into to see if it might generate hints that could confirm the connection.  Being so I am only inferring my own hypothesis on how Charles Mason may fit into the picture, I included the following disclaimer to anyone who may find it in my online family tree:

“The relation indicated for this Charles Mason is not 100% confirmed.  There are not any documents that I have found to show a definitive sibling relationship between Charles and John Mason.  The relationship is inferred based on the fact that they both come from Haddington in Scotland, they show up separately in Ancrum, Roxburghshire, Scotland at the same time and Charles is listed with John’s family in the 1861 Canadian census.  I am suggesting that perhaps they are brothers but because they are 10 years apart, they do not show up together in the same establishment but did live in proximity to each other.  Both boys show up as farm labourers at 15 years of age.  I’ve imputed Charles into my family tree to see if there might be hints generated that might shed more light onto either Mason that might connect them definitively”.

I shall report any updates should I unveil more.  Stay tuned…