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: 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

Should you Subscribe to a Genealogy Resource?

Have you been considering a subscription on an online genealogy resource but aren’t sure if it’s going to be worth it?  Check out my first vlog post to get some insight into why it might be a great idea:

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

John Dowding, The Dowding Family
When I was 8, my parent’s and Grandma (my mom’s mom) took me on a trip to Ohio to meet relatives of my grandmother’s, her 1st cousin, Dick, and his wife, Millie. I fell in love with them both instantly. They were friendly and hospitable and I felt they treated me like a grown up so they were definitely all right in my book. Their last name was Dowding. That was when I remember Dowding solidifying in my mind as a branch to my family tree.

Richard Dowding, Mildred Dowding

Upon asking for more information on that family as I grew older, there wasn’t much to gain. My grandmother’s “Grandma Dowding” was an orphan and there was never any talk of her husband or a “Grandpa Dowding”. Many years of my life were spent with the understanding that my family tree would always be limited because no one had information beyond the orphaned “Grandma Dowding” and that seem to include her husband as well (I wrote about her last September in a post entitled “Alice Stone – Mystery“).  My involvement and passion in family research came to the attention of a distant cousin of mine.  She contacted me and offered to share information on the Dowding family.  What she gave me was “fascinating” as all new genealogical information is to me.  There was a new picture of Grandma Dowding with her husband, John James Dowding, and their two children, Richard and Mary Dowding.  Along with the picture was a notation that read: “Little is known of John Dowding, he was a member of Christian Science Church.  He was in poor health and developed an ailment that was treatable but because of his religion would not see a doctor, and consequently John succumbed to his ailment at the age of 40, leaving Elizabeth to raise their children.”

Dowdings

John and Elizabeth Dowding (nee Stone) with Richard and Mary

John Dowding, John James Dowding, Woodstock, ON

After plugging this information into my online genealogy database, it wasn’t long before a death certificate was produced.  This document revealed that John James Dowding died of pneumonia.  Sadly, he was only 40 years of age.  Learning that he was a part of the Christian Science Church was absolute new information to me and most members of my family.  Exploring further, it is a faith that embraces healing through spirituality and prayer over medicine.  It was a new concept in the time of John Dowding and I’m trying to find out how he may have learned about it and where he may have attended gatherings.  That may provide new insight to how my Dowding ancestors may have lived.  There is no wonder anymore why there was so little known about Great Grandpa Dowding.  He wasn’t around long for his children or his grandchildren to get to know him.  But at least I now have a picture and a story that may help to open a door to find out more about my Dowding line.

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

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

Sometimes, You Don’t Have to be Searching to Make a Fascinating Family Find

Family Tree

I work at an educational institution and my department hires student tour guides. Because many students take 2 year programs, we will usually have guides for about a year and then they move on.

One guide in particular, Andrew Leaman, took several programs in a row so he was with us for a few years.  In the beginning, assuming he would be with us a short time, I only made small talk with him and smiled when I saw him since I didn’t expect to know him long.  As he became more of a familiar face sticking around over the course of his various programs, conversations lasted longer and my team got to know him a bit more.  Come to find out, he was a graduate of the same high school as me and came from my home town. That, of course, led to chat about what we had in common from old haunts to people we knew.  He brought in treats once in a while and we all developed a respect for him as he grew as a tour guide.  Later, he became a student ambassador speaking on panels to prospective students of his pathway to success.

As I was thinking about a gravestone discovery for my husband’s great aunt one day in my office, Andrew stopped by to say “hello”.  The great aunt’s name of my stone discovery was Cora Leaman and it occurred to me that Andrew’s last name was Leaman also.  I knew since I first met him that his name was Leaman but at that moment it was like I heard it in my head for the first time.

Andrew Leaman, branch on the Cornish tree

“Andrew!”  I said.  “You’re a Leaman!”  He responded with “Last time I checked”.

“My husband’s great aunt was a Leaman.  Any chance there might be a connection since you are from my area?”

He said it was possible since he knew of there being Cornishes in his family line.  I pulled up my  online family tree and instantly he pointed out “Hey, that’s my grandfather!” and from there we had quite the conversation filling in the gaps of our shared family tree. His great grandmother, Cora (Cornish) Leaman, was the same Cora whose grave stone I was looking for the week prior; my husband’s great aunt.  She was a sister to my husband’s great grandfather Ken Cornish (the same Kenneth Verne Cornish I mentioned in last month’s Crestleaf’s entry).   That makes Andrew a 3rd cousin through marriage. Incredible!

I’m always amazed at how small the world is sometimes but it seemed to be even smaller that day.   The fact that the woman, whose stone I was in search of, was the great grandmother of this student, who I worked alongside for almost 2 years without making the connection, astounded me.  And the timing of the two discoveries was equally astounding.  Synchronicity at its best.  Sometimes, you don’t have to be actively searching for something to make a fascinating find.  Sometimes, you discover something fascinating right there in front of you and you didn’t even realize it was there the whole time.

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds

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

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…