Friday, November 27, 2020

Ask The Questions – While You Can

Hindsight is 20/20. Never was a truer statement ever spoken. I wish that I’d asked my parents and grandparents more about our family histories. I really regret not doing that while I had the opportunity.

Charles Ash as an infant
So much knowledge has been lost because of that, knowledge that I will never be able to obtain. However, during my family research, I have learned a few things that I did not know before.

My grandfather, Charles Ash, always told me that the family was of German origin. I’d raised an eyebrow at the time, but did not argue with his claim. He seemed quite certain of his facts. To me, the surname Ash seemed very English sounding, not German at all. But that little bit of information was stored away in the back of my mind until I needed it years later when I started to investigate and record the family history.

Charles Ash as a

I discovered that my three times great grandparents, Johann and Rosina, immigrated to Canada sometime between 1843 and 1845 from Alsace, France with two (possibly three) small children. They settled in York County in the area today known as the City of Vaughan. Wait a minute, did I say France? Isn’t that interesting?

By doing further research into the history of Alsace, I found that the territory has long been disputed over by France and Germany and ‘possession’ of it went back and forth many times over the centuries. 

Charles Ash as a
young man
Now the pieces are starting to fall together. Apparently, the surname was originally spelled Esch, as well.. It also explains the first names that parents chose for their children, some very French and some very German sounding. 

During World War 1, there was a lot of anti-German sentiment around the world and many families with German sounding names Anglicized them to avoid persecution. Hence, Esch became Ash

So it turns out that my grandfather was right all along. The family does have German origins.

NOTE: You used to be able to attach a document to your blog but that does not seem to be an option anymore. If anyone in the family would like a copy of the file containing the Esch/Ash genealogy back to the 18th century, let me know and I will send it to you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Family Ties

David and Sebbie, 1901
My great-grandparents, David Franklin Middleton and Sebbie Rowntree were married on September 26, 1901 in York County, ON. The official records do not specify the exact location. There are some interesting facts that do appear there, however, but I will get to that.

I was not aware that David and Sebbie were so closely related. They were first cousins, once removed. Robert and Ann Middleton had two children (perhaps more) Robert and Elizabeth. The younger Robert married Nancy Ann Emerson in 1867 in Pickering. Among their children was David. Elizabeth married George Topper and one of their daughters was Sarah Jane Topper who went on to marry Robert William Rowntree in 1878. Sebbie was their daughter. Hence, David was the grandson of Robert and Ann, while Sebbie was the great-granddaughter of Robert and Ann.

Now we go back to the official records, pictured here, with a close up of the entry about the marriage of David and Sebbie. You will see that Sebbie’s name is entered as Sylva. Her name was unusual and clerks filling out these official forms were unclear how to spell it. I’ve seen it written in various records as Bebbie, Libbie, Jebbie, Zebeah, Sophie, Zebbie, Sebbia and even Zebra. I also notice that their places of birth were ‘not given’ which seemed odd to me. Every other entry on the page has birth places entered. David and Sebbie certainly knew where they were born, so why did they not give them to the clerk to record?

Then I came to the column where their parents were listed.  For Sebbie, on the lines for both her mother and father was written ‘not given’. For David, his father is listed as Robert Middleton which is correct but his mothers’ name is listed as Sarah Jane Topper. That is Sebbie’s mother though, and the first cousin of David. I’m just speculating here but were they trying to hide the fact that they were cousins? Was it legal at the time to marry someone so closely related to you? I’m not sure.

David and Sebbie
in their later years
On top of that, I imagine it was a hastily arranged marriage when they discovered that Sebbie was pregnant, three months along. How do I know this? Let’s do the math together. David and Sebbie were married on September 26, 1901. Their first child, Robert (Bert) Edwin was born on March 26, 1902 which by my calculation was exactly six months after the nuptials. I’m not judging anyone, don’t get me wrong, just bringing the facts to light.

There is more of the story to tell, but I will leave that for future posts. Let me just say, that by all accounts their union was a happy one. And at the end of the day, that is all that really matters, isn't it?

Saturday, July 4, 2020

In The Year 1905

My grandmother, Myra,
on the right with her
siblings, Sadie and Bert.
My grandmother, Myra Middleton, was born on August 21, 1905 in Thistletown (now Etobicoke, part of the amalgamated City of Toronto), Ontario. She was the third child of David Middleton and his wife, Sebbie Rowntree. She had two older siblings, Robert (called Bert) born in 1902 and Sarah (called Sadie) born in 1903.

Canada looked much different than it does now. Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec were much smaller, and Newfoundland & Labrador were other countries. Alberta joined Confederation along with Saskatchewan in 1905, when the two new provinces were created out of a section of the Northwest Territories. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was Prime Minister, the 8th Prime Minister of Canada and first French Canadian to have that office (1896-1911) He was elected for a  third time elected in 1904.

The first Toronto Santa Claus Parade took place on December 2, 1905, sponsored by the Eaton's chain of department stores. It was a publicity stunt to encourage people to shop at their store. The first parade wasn’t really a parade at all though. It consisted only of Santa arriving at Union Station and walking with the Eaton family to their main store on Yonge Street. As we all know, as the years passed, the parade grew into a major extravaganza much anticipated by children all year long.

I always wondered why my grandmother’s siblings had middle names (Robert Edwin and Sarah Hazel) but she did not. Apparently, Great-Grandma Sebbie had chosen a middle name for her but Great-Grandpa David did not like it. So, when he went to the city to register her birth in November, he ‘conveniently’ forgot what it was and simply registered her as Myra. Unfortunately, there is no one left who knows what her middle name was supposed to be but a cousin once recalled the her father had told her it began with the letter ‘M’. That is one family mystery that will never be solved.

Have you ever researched what was happening the year you were born? 

*The type of doll shown above was used as the Eaton Beauty in 1905-1906 and was made by Armand Marseille in Germany. She had a bisque head, model #390, with a fully jointed composition body.*

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

House Plant Challenge

You would think that coming from old farming roots, I would be able to grow plants and keep them alive. But as I have discovered, not everyone is born with a green thumb. I seem to have more success at killing house plants then keeping them alive.

My biggest ‘problem’ is finding a place to put them where they will get enough sunlight AND are inaccessible to the cats, who like to nibble on plants. And I 'try' to remember to water them on a regular basis but, quite clearly, I do not manage to accomplish that. I don’t want to make excuses for myself because they would all sound quite lame.

The first one was an orchid that was sent to the funeral home when my mother passed away by the ladies at the flower shop she used to work at. It was a lovely purple & white orchid. I went online and read about how to take care of orchids as I’d never had one before. I thought I was doing everything right. Sadly, it did not last long.

The second one was a spider plant given to me by a friend. It never really thrived in my house though. It was in my bedroom, high on top of a shelf with no direct sunlight coming in the window. It did last longer than the orchid but over this past winter, it declined rapidly and died. Big sigh.

The last one was a lovely white lily, dropped off at my front door by a local church group at Easter this year. I had planned to plant it outside when the weather got better but it snowed even in May here and the lily did not make it. The living room smelled so glorious when it was in full bloom. I’m not sure if the bulb can still be planted outside at this point. I may have to investigate that possibility.

I think that I’m going to have to stick to artificial flowers and plants inside my home from now on. They always look fabulous. They don’t require sunlight to thrive. They never need watering. They can survive any level of neglect. All you have to do is take them outside once in a while to shake off the dust. And the cats ignore them too.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Garden of Love - A Wall Hanging

A couple of years ago, while perusing through all the treasures at a local thrift store, I found this lovely quilted wall hanging. I was quite surprised to find such a marvelously, hand-crafted piece there. And it was only $2.50! Of course, it went straight into my cart and I purchased it along with a few other goodies I found that day.

Upon closer examination when I got home, I saw a hand written dedication. ' Garden of Love, machine created & quilted, by Jean E. Pracuta, 2013, to Cathy, thanks & 💗, from N.H. to Nfld.'

How did this get from New Hampshire or Newfoundland to a thrift store in Ontario? I bet this little wall hanging has a story to tell. Did it ever get to its intended recipient? And if it did, who would let let go of such a heart-felt gift? Did the recipient pass away and it got donated with the rest of the stuff her family did not want? Was there an irreparable rift between the friends, so bad that all reminders of the other were discarded? I will likely never know.

Close up of the pieced heart
I'm so glad that I found it that day, and brought it home. It now hangs on my bedroom wall above my bed. I thoroughly enjoy looking at it each day. A lot of care and effort went into making this and it is now in a place of honour where it is loved and appreciated.