A Friendly Visit

One thing I enjoy is putting together small quotes using images from Pixabay.com and adding text with Paint 3D. Thought I could post a few here, just for your interest.

Image by Steve Buissinne – Pixabay
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Researching Census Records

Census records are another good source of information for genealogists. However, I’ve observed that ages are often the census taker’s guess rather than accurate fact. I suppose it wasn’t polite to ask ladies their ages, so a woman may be 50 in the 1861 census and 55 in the 1871 census.

But family listings can yield precious data. For example, Gr-gr-grandmother Ruth Dobson married Gr-gr-grandfather John Smith, but I can find no marriage records for them. Small town church records were damaged in various ways back in the day and maybe not all marriages were registered.

Making records even harder to obtain: during some of those years in Ontario, a marriage had to be performed by a Church of England Minister to be legal.

When I began searching for RUTH DOBSON, I pulled up the following census record from the 1851 Census of Blenheim Township, Oxford County, Ontario:

John………….Age 51
Ruth……………… 50
And their children:
Mary C……..Age 30
Jonathan D………21
Robert W…………14
Mary Ann W…….12
John W…………….7

But was our ancestor Ruth the daughter in this family?

Ah! I find a clue in the John Smith family list in the 1861 census of Grey, Huron County:

John…………….Age 35
W Dobson………….21
Emma Dobson……17

What would W (initials smudged 😦 ) and Emma be doing staying with Ruth and John if they weren’t family? So I’ve concluded that our Ruth is indeed the daughter listed in the John Dobson family above.

Further clues: Later John & Ruth are listed in the 1871 Census of Grey, Huron County, Ontario, with Emma: 27 and (very likely her daughter) Margaret age 10. John Wesley D must have settled there as well, as his son was born at Molesworth, Grey Township, Huron County – just like our Grandfather Allen Vance and his brother Will.

I herd from a very elderly Smith relative that one of the Dobson sons – John W ? – became a well known preacher in the Methodist Church.

And now for an interesting “relative of a relative of a relative” connection:
According to Wikki, William Aberhart, who became the Premier of British Columbia 1935-1943, was born in Kippen, Ontario to William and Louisa (née Pepper) Aberhart. William Aberhart Sr. had immigrated to Canada from Germany with his family at the age of seven, while Louisa Pepper was born in Perth County, Ontario.
Louisa’s father, John Pepper, left a widower with seven children in 1857, married Ruth Dobson’s sister Rebecca on Feb 1, 1858. He was 44; she was 24. They had four more children: George, Lucy Elizabeth, Ruth and Anne.

What really intrigues me is that this couple was listed as living in Fullarton, a small hamlet of about two dozen homes in Perth County, Ontario. That’s where we lived for ten years. Had I only known, I might have searched for a property deed with their name on it. It would have been so interesting to idenify the place gr-gr-aunt Rebecca made her home!

Something happened to this family, though. According to Pepper family records, John Pepper died in 1893 – and was buried in Mitchell beside his first wife, Elizabeth – but the 1871 census of Mitchell district lists Rebecca as “Head of household” and a “Tailoress” with three children: George 11; Lucy Elizabeth, 9; and Annie, 4. Where was John, and what happened to little Ruth?

Even with Census records, you can’t make assumptions. There’s another John Pepper family listed in the 1881 Census of Logan township, Perth County:

John 65
Mary 53
Phyllis 8
Luther J 6
Alice 3
Mabel 1

One researcher has tacked this family onto the John + Rebecca Pepper family, indicatig that john left Rebecca and found a third partner. But this other John, if he really was 65, would have been born in 1816. And that Mary, if she really was 53, wouldn’t have had those last three children. 🙂

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Family Name Repeats

Joseph the son of Joseph the son of Joseph

One of the challenges of tracing a family tree can be the repetition of names. Collecting and sorting data can lead you into a maze of repeated names, as every couple named their children after grandparents, uncles and aunts. And back in the day there were no second names to help sort out this tangle.

On the other hand, the oldest children being named after the grandparents sometimes did help me get a handle on who belonged in which family. For example, back in Scotland our great-great-great-grandparents, David Vance and Agnes Jones (Johns, some records say) named their children Robert, Joseph, James, George, David, and Mary. Some genealogists have added a Jennet and Alexander, but I hae me doubts on these.

MAP - Scotland - Wigtownshire

Wigtownshire, or the County of Wigtown

David and Agnes’s daughter Mary married David Nicholson and their oldest children are Elizabeth, James, Agnes, and David. Likely named after her husband’s parents and then hers.Four of their sons left Scotland for Canada. Their second son, our gr-gr-grandfather Joseph, came as a widower with his young son, John, and married Sarah Allen en route to Ontario. Sarah was the daughter of Samuel & Sarah (Sally) Allen of New York state.

Their children John, Robert, Joseph, Sarah, James, George, David, Samuel and William, mostly followed the naming plan:

John’s oldest children were Joseph, Sarah, Mary.

Robert’s oldest were Joseph, Sarah Jane and John B.

Joseph’s oldest children were Catherine, Joseph, Sarah, Mary, John.

James’ oldest children were Joseph, Sarah, John, James.

George’s oldest son was Joseph. If he had a Sarah, she didn’t live.

David’s oldest were Joseph, Charlotte, and Sarah.

Sarah married John Savage and their children were Joseph, John, William, Samuel, Henry, James, Sarah Ann, and David.

Our great-grandpa Sam named his oldest son Allen. Maybe he thought there were enough Josephs? His second son was William James, likely after his brothers. James being the brother he & Allen stayed with when they came to homestead in Saskatchewan.

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Hello Family & Friends

It’s been several years since our last post on this blog. Cousin Linda B and I started it with bright hopes, but life intervened, with its various health issues for both of us. Lately, though, some in my family have expressed interest in our history so I decided to post the data I’ve been collecting over the last several years. Among all the facts and dates, I hope I can write some interesting details about our roots.

Rather than overwhelm you with a huge smorgasbord of information about Watchorns, Turners, Allens, Smiths, Vances and a few Harmons, I’ll dish this out in small bites. Some of the info is already here but I’m going to repeat it for newcomers.

It came to pass about fifteen years ago or so that my Dad Vance’s cousin Irene (Will Vance’s daughter) gave me the Vance family Bible. It’s a thick, hefty tome — one of those “for show” Bibles meant to sit on the mantle and be seen by all, but handled by few.

Presented to Mrs Vance by Mr Vance in 1883
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A Cup of Tea, Heavenly Comfort

A Cup of Tea, Heavenly Comfort
By Phena Catherine Taylor

When you’re weary and you’re fagged,
And life scarcely seems worthwhile,
When you have become discouraged,
You hardly dare to smile.
When things are set against you,
And you’re blue as blue can be,
There’s a heavenly bit of comfort,
In a good hot cup of tea.

When the ice man breaks the ice box,
And the water man is cross.
The grocer sends you vegetables,
That are a total loss,
And the butcher has a jag on.
Sends you meat tough as can be,
There’s a heavenly bit of comfort,
In a good hot cup of tea.

When the hens scratch up my garden,
The pup gets in the paint,
When the wind blows down my woodpile,
And I am feeling faint.
When I take a sudden notion,
That the world is down on me,
I hike off to the kitchen,
For a good hot cup of tea.


From “The Gateway of the North”, Phena Catherine Taylor
Capital Printers, Vancouver BC. No date of publication but probably during the war years (1939-45) as the book was dedicated to her son overseas in the RCAF. The poetry suggests that she lived in Northern Manitoba.

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Eaton’s Catalog

The introduction of catalog shopping allowed isolated farmers to make purchases without travelling to town, but some prairie stores did not welcome the competition.

Barry Broadfoot in “The Pioneer Years 1895-1914” tells of his father’s situation when the catalog was first introduced. This is a summary:

Dad had stores in Manitoba at Morris, Carman and Portage and when the settlers moved into Saskatchewan, he headed west with them. I was old enough to help around the store and when Dad ordered bags of salt, soap flakes, dried fruit and other groceries, I’d make them up into one-, two-, and five-pound packages.

The post office was in the back of the store and when Eaton’s came to Winnipeg about 1905, they sent catalogs to the post office for the people in the district. Dad was annoyed that every catalog was distributed through the post office in his store but the contract for the post office was a sacred trust and he was honor-bound to deliver them.

Eaton’s sold every type of dry goods. They had a one-price system with no bartering, and that price was always less than Dad could sell for. Eaton’s bought in quantity and sold cheap.

Dad thought that the new mail order system would be the end of his store career and expected the competition to put him out of business. He had learned storekeeping from his father in the Ottawa Valley, and now at age 50 he did not expect his business to survive.

Farmers loved the new shopping as they could stay in their shacks on the prairies and look at the catalog. While the wind blew, they could shop. Eaton’s did not accept cash, so people came into the post office to buy money orders. It was most frustrating for Dad to see his old customers walk by his higher-priced merchandise.

Groceries continued to sell. We used the barter system and farmers came in with crocks of butter and eggs which were shipped to a wholesale house. These people still spent their credit in the store. Plus, Dad allowed customers to charge their orders, something that mail order sales couldn’t do. Also, if people needed something in a hurry, they came into the store. The store was a social center and people met to chat or to check out the magazines and papers left for them to read.

All country stores had the smell of kerosene, paraffin, raisins, dried prunes, the oil on the wooden floor, and the smell of people who didn’t bathe often and who had manure and straw on their boots. It was the smell of home and a mail order could not replace that.
© Linda C Butler, 2019


“The Pioneer Years 1895-1914” © 1976 Barry Broadfoot Publ: Doubleday Canada Limited p. 277


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By Linda C Butler
Told by Doris Jacobson (Bryenton)

My dad, Ralph Bryenton, operated a boat service on Wekusko Lake, Manitoba, ferrying passengers from the village of Herb Lake to Hale’s Landing, the stopping-off place on the way to the train station at Wekusko. George Cann also operated a passenger service to Hale’s Landing, and on one occasion, when Dad was not able to take us, we traveled with Mr. Cann.

I was with my mother and there was one other passenger making the trip outside. Mr. Cann’s boat was powered by a wood-fired steam engine, so in addition to the usual cargo, he carried firewood for fuel. Mom took a seat in the small enclosed cabin which provided some protection from the elements, and I curled up beside her and went to sleep.

It was a long boat ride as the town of Herb Lake was eleven miles from the landing and the boat didn’t travel fast. It was late afternoon and Mr. Cann had worked all day and was tired. After a bit, with the rocking motion of the waves, he accidentally fell asleep while steering the boat. My mother and the other passenger also slept. When Mr. Cann woke, it was dark, with only the outline of the south shore visible. He was lost and Hale’s Landing was somewhere behind us.

Our situation was critical because Mr. Cann only carried enough firewood to run the steam engine from Herb Lake to Hale’s Landing, and without wood, there was no way to power the engine. Once the other passenger realized the situation, he helped Mr. Cann rip any unnecessary pieces of wood from the boat to burn and I was awaken by the noise of ripping wood as a portion of the cabin was torn away.

Fortunately, this passenger knew how to navigate by the stars and he provided direction to Mr. Cann, who steered the boat towards Hale’s Landing from our southern position.

I said my prayers silently, while the men continued their conversation about the boat’s path. My mother held me tightly and said nothing. We all knew how precarious our position was on the water; clouds could roll in and blanket the sky, leaving us in pitch darkness. If we couldn’t keep the engine running, we would drift and the boat could be lost on the rocky outcrops or reefs.

Somehow we arrived safely at the entrance to the bay leading to Hale’s Landing, and in the distance we saw a moving light. Mr. Hale was on the dock waving a lantern to guide us to harbor. He was concerned because we were so long overdue and had stood on the dock for hours waving the lantern, hoping we would see the light.

The boat was secured to the dock, and Mr. Hale reached down at the same time as my mother held me up. He pulled me out of the boat, gave me a hug and said: “You’re safe now girl.”

My mother was the next person to disembark. We now were both on the dock, grateful to be out of the boat. Mom took my hand and guided me up the pathway to the lodge. Mrs. Hale, having been alerted that we had arrived, offered us hot chocolate. I was glad to warm up and was soon given a cozy bed to sleep, while the adults enjoyed a hot meal and a strong drink.
© Linda C Butler, 2019



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Herb Lake Foragers

Herb Lake Foragers
By Linda Butler

Euell Gbbons (1911-1975) a writer who encouraged his readers to harvest wild edible plants, said that foraging is harvesting where you did not sow. My first experience with foragers was when I was a little girl in the now ghost town of Herb Lake in Northern Manitoba. Jobs were scarce after the mine closure, the community was isolated and many families struggled. Foraging and gardening were the lifestyle.

My parents were storekeepers and we originally lived in the back section of the store, but when Bill Marshall, the blacksmith, moved to Wekusko Falls, we rented his house. He was an avid gardener and grew mostly vegetables but a few poppies popped up to brighten the landscape.

The last summer I was at Herb Lake, when I was four, some girls asked Mom if they could collect the flower seeds from the poppies. She agreed and the girls tied paper bags to the flower heads. When the seeds ripened and had fallen into the bags, the girls returned and broke off the flower heads and took the bags home. I wanted to know what the girls were doing with the seeds and Mom told me that they were saving seeds to plant their own flowers the following year.

Years have passed and I recently read the book, The Deerholme Foraging Book, by Bill Jones, who describes collecting wild seeds for baking: Wild seeds are packed with nutrition and flavor. I particularly like to save onion, dock, and mustard seeds along with abundant poppy seeds from the garden to make thin and delicious crackers. Sesame seeds are also a nice addition to the mix.

After reading this passage I thought of the girls in Bill Marshall’s garden and now realize that they were gathering poppy seeds for baking, not for planting. I am grateful to these girls as they inspired me to be a gardener and forager all my life. I have always loved plants and part of my fascination goes back to those times.

Herb Lake is gone, the mine failed, the people scattered and the buildings collapsed. The land has returned to bush, but poppies seed themselves year after year, and there is still a chance that there are poppies blowing in the weeds where Bill Marshall’s garden once grew.

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Against His Inclination

Dad tried his best when I was young
to fix it in my mind
that “as the tiny twig is bent,
so is the tree inclined”
And when he’d lay me ‘cross his knee
on punishment intent,
I used to cry, “Say, Dad, look out,
or I’ll grow up all bent!”

And when he’d say, “Come on, young man,
and weed the onion bed,”
just when I’d planned a fishing trip
with Johnny Jones instead,
I used to scowl until my face
was black as black could be,
and mutter then, “When I grow up
I’ll be humpbacked–you’ll see!”

But years have come and years have gone,
with many a care and trouble,
with many a load that for a time
has bent me nearly double;
But always I’ve sprung back again
before it was too late–
For though he made me bend a bit,
‘Twas Dad who made me straight.

Author Unknown — But a Wise Man Indeed!

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Generational Wisdom

“I don’t know who my grandfather was. I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”
—Abraham Lincoln

“Parental advice is passed from generation to generation—
each hope the next will heed it.”
—Frank Clark

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