Friday, June 26, 2009

Free Credits on Scotlands People

In a message from the Angus Mailing List, a gentleman posted that the Glasgow Herald made reference that Scotlands People is giving away 20 free, I repeat free, credits in celebration of Homecoming Scotland 2009.

Log into as usual and go to the section "need more" in the upper right hand corner. Scroll down past the normal "select number of units" box and in the voucher box type in: heraldmag

You must register by 1:00 p.m. (Scotland time) on Saturday, June 27th, and the credits are valid for 90 days.

This is not a scam, I just did it and got an extra 20 free credits.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Puckerbrush Award

June has been very busy at work so I have gotten behind in blogging. When I wasn't looking, I was awarded the The Puckerbrush Award - not once but 3 times! I want to thank Linda over at Flipside, Harriet at Genealogy Fun and Jessica at Jessica's Genejournal. I'm not sure how deserving I am of this prestigious award, but am truly honoured to receive it. Thank you.

Because I am so late in posting this, everyone that I can think of to give this to has already received it. I've learned at lot about researching through reading everyone's blogs. Without all of you, I wouldn't have known where to start.

Happy Father’s Day – Douglas Sinclair Kay

When I was 2 yrs. old, my mother married my Aunt Helen’s brother, Douglas Sinclair Kay. My mom first met my step-dad when she was still married to my father, Allan Farrell. My father’s brother, Forbes and his wife Helen Kay lived on a neighbouring farm in Balcarres, Saskatchewan. Doug (as he was always known) lived in Montreal and worked for Canadian Pacific Railway, working on the cross-country train. He would get off the train at Indian Head and go and visit his sister and her family. He became very good friends with my mom and dad. When my father passed away in 1962, it seemed inevitable that my mom and Doug would get married. They were married on December 21, 1963 and after a couple of days honeymoon, we all boarded a train for Montreal.

Douglas Sinclair Kay was born on October 31, 1927 in Lachine, Quebec to Adam Sinclair Kay and Clarice Salmon, the younger of two children. When he was 8 years old the family moved to the South Shore of Montreal, to St. Lambert.

While growing up, Doug was very active with the local sports clubs as well as Scouting, becoming a Scout Master for the St. Lambert Storer Troop. In 1957, he played hooky from work and took his troop to the Jubilee Jamboree in England. After he married my mom, he gave up scouting. He would say that 3 little girls were much harder to handle than 35 boys! Even after he gave up his scouting, he still kept in touch with “his boys”, many of who invited him to their weddings. One of his boys even named a son after him.

Although Doug never legally adopted my sisters and I, he always considered us as his own. Because I was so young when he married my mom, to this day he is my daddy.

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but we never wanted for anything. If he could afford it, we usually got what we wanted, and he always paid in cash. Nothing was put on credit. He always said that if you don’t have the cash for something, then you can’t afford it and you really don’t need it – something I still follow today. He was never burdened with a mortgage because he had been saving for many years to buy a house (plus he got a really sweet deal on a house when the previous owner died!). We lived in that same house until I graduated from High School, when he sold the house and bought a duplex.

Because he was always careful with his money (but by all means not stingy), he was able to finally take my mom on a long overdue honeymoon back to Scotland in 1970. Three years later we all went to Scotland. My middle sister, Heather, was going with her school on an exchange so he decided we should all go (I even got to miss a month of school).

When I started school, I was enrolled in the newly established French Immersion program. Because my step-dad grew up in Quebec, he already knew French (albeit street French) so we would always have these secret conversations together, which would drive my mom and sisters crazy because they couldn’t understand us!

Having three girls to raise, you could say that my-step dad was a little over protective. Although he never spanked us (and believe me, we deserved it sometimes), just one look from him and we knew we were in trouble. When I was about 15 yrs old, I asked him what he would do if one of us came home pregnant (I think I was trying to see how far I could push him). He would say, “you’d see the fastest shot gun wedding you ever saw”! Needless to say, when at 18 yrs old I did come home pregnant, I was petrified to tell him. Well, there were no shut guns and thankfully no wedding! He told me that if I didn’t want to keep the child, he would adopt it. This child was a part of his family and was not going anywhere else! When the time came for my daughter to be born, he was the one that was with me in the delivery room. After she was born, he would do everything a father would have done, from feeding her, to changing her and taking her for walks. The two of them were inseparable. And when I went back to school, I had the best babysitter.

My daughter and I lived with my mom and step-dad until my daughter was about 7 yrs. old, when I could finally afford to get a place of our own, even if it was in the upper part of the duplex.

When my step-dad was 58 yrs. he was diagnosed with a severe case of Parkinson’s disease causing him to take an early retirement. The next 3 years were extremely hard as the disease got worse. He was a big man, standing 6’4” and 250 lbs., and was always in the best of health, so it was heartbreaking to see this disease take from him what it did. His Parkinson’s had progressed very quickly, even quicker than the doctors had anticipated, and within 3 years of being diagnosed he passed away in 1989 at the age of 61.

Although Douglas Sinclair Kay was not my father, he was and always will be my Dad. Happy Father’s Day daddy – we miss you.

Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a DADDY!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Madness Monday – Family Secrets!

Warning: This is going to be a long post!

I am currently reading the book Annie’s Ghosts by Steve Luxemberg. He writes about the shock of learning that his mother had a secret sister and his search to find out all he can about her (I highly recommend this book). As I’m reading it, I’m thinking, “how would I react in this situation?” Well, I have since found out!

When I first began my family research, I didn’t have much on my father’s side. I received a few names from my cousin on my paternal grandfather’s family – the Farrell’s – that have proven very fruitful. However, my paternal grandmother seemed to have just appeared out of thin air, that my grandfather wished for a bride and there she was! Actually, I did have a couple of tidbits – I always knew that she was called “Nellie” and she was born on April Fool’s Day. I never got to spend too much time with her because I lived clear across the country and we only visited maybe every 3-5 years. When she passed away in 1980, I was sent a copy of her funeral card, which gave her full name as well as her birth and death dates and where she was born (Ellen Devylin, b. April 1, 1892 in Euckenleck, Ayrshire, Scotland, d. May 22, 1980).

I tried searching on Ancestry for Ellen Devylin born on April 1, 1892 in Euckenleck. I soon found that her last name is Devlin and it’s Auchinleck (so much for accuracy on funeral cards!). I revised my search and still came up empty. I decided to try something way off base and used her nickname, Nellie, and the first entry that showed up was the 1901 Scottish Census showing a Nellie Devlin born about 1892 in Auchinleck, daughter of William Devlin and living in Auchinleck. O.K. that’s a possibility. I scroll down a little further and find another Nellie Devlin born about 1892 in Auchinleck but living in Sorn, Ayrshire (which is not too far from Auchinleck). O.K. now I’m beginning to think that someone is just playing with my mind – how can this same person be on the same census report living in two different places. I look at the file and see that this Nellie Devlin is the daughter of Peter Devlin. Turns out that Peter and William are brothers and they both had a daughter named Nellie born about 1892. By now I’m pulling my hair out. How can two brothers have a daughter born the same year and call them both the same name? Why are they doing this to me!! How am I supposed to know which one is my grandmother and why hasn’t my Aunt answered my letter of two months ago where I asked her for this information! I decided to give up for now and go concentrate on my mom’s side of the family – they were a lot easier to find!

I have a little tree up on Ancestry of my Farrell family and a couple of weeks ago I noticed a little green leaf next to my grandmother’s name. I clicked on it to see the “hint”. Someone is also researching the Devlin line and has a Helen Nellie Devlin born April 2, 1892 in Auchinleck. Well, that’s pretty darn close, especially the “Nellie”. I do know that Nellie is a nickname for Helen so my grandmother’s name could have been Helen instead of Ellen. The birth date is also nearly bang on. The Helen Devlin posted on Ancestry has a father named Peter (maybe I’m getting somewhere here, I think), but, and that’s a big BUT, this Helen had a child named Peter Gibb Devlin who died at 4 months old, father unknown (I kind of figured that with the same last name that the child was illegitimate). Frustration has fallen in my lap once again because “I know” that my grandmother only got married and had a family AFTER she immigrated to Canada.

I decided to continue to search, this time on Rootsweb and found someone else searching the Devlin line. He also had a Helen Devlin born April 2, 1892 in Auchinleck, whose father was Peter Devlin, with a child named Peter Gibb Devlin that died at 4 months old (father unknown). This was getting way too coincidental. But I just “knew” this couldn’t be my grandmother because she didn’t have kids until she came to Canada – or so I thought!!!

The time had come to pick up the phone and call my procrastinating Aunt! Here is how the conversation went:

Ring, Ring

Aunt Lily: Hello?
Me: Is this Lily?
Lily: Yes.
Me: Hi Auntie Lily, it’s Alana.
Lily: From Montreal? (I think I shocked her that I was calling because I haven’t spoken to her in 3 years)
Me: Ya, how are you doing?
Lily: I’m doing great (which was good to hear since she had a 7 by-pass operation 2 years ago). I bet you’re calling to find out when I’m going to answer your letter.
Me: Kinda!
Lily: I don’t know how much I can help, I think you have everything.
Me: Any little bit would help. What I was wondering, though, was if you remember what your mother’s parents names were.
Lily: Her parent’s names – no I don’t. (crap!). Your granny and her parents didn’t get along very well and she didn’t speak of her life before coming to Canada. I don’t know if you know this, but she had two little girls before coming here.
Me: What? (after picking myself up off the floor) Really?
Lily: Yes – and she left them behind when she immigrated.
Me: What? (picking myself up for the second time) Was Granny married before she came to Canada.
Lily: Oh no, but she did have a boyfriend and they were planning on getting married. See, you never know what you're going to find when you start searching (no kidding!)

By now I’m so stunned I’m speechless. I was hoping for her to maybe mention a little boy, but two little girls? She never did mention a little boy and I was too stunned to ask.

Apparently my grandmother had two illegitimate girls while still living in Scotland. She and her boyfriend were planning on getting married but this caused a problem with her mother. Because my grandmother was still living at home, with the little girls, her mother was getting money, my Aunt thinks possibly from the government. If my grandmother married or moved away and took the girls with her, her mother would no longer receive this money. This caused such a rift between my grandmother and her mother that my grandmother got so upset that she up and left. Not just the house, or the town, but the country – and left her two little girls behind. That must have torn her apart.

I asked my Aunt if my grandfather knew about this and she said no, that my grandmother kept this a secret during their 45 years of marriage. I assumed that she decided that she was going to start fresh in this new country and forget what was past. Not so - my grandmother kept in contact with her sister who updated my grandmother on the little girls and how they were doing, but destroyed the letters before my grandfather saw them. She carried this secret with her to her grave. My Aunt only found this out by accident in 1990 – 10 years after my grandmother died. On her way home from a visit in Montreal, she made a stop over in Winnipeg to visit her cousin, Nettie. While there, Nettie says to my Aunt “I don’t know if you know this, but I’m really not your cousin – I’m your niece!” Nettie is the child of one of these little girls that my grandmother left behind. She has been living in Canada for a long time and has been “posing” as my Aunt’s cousin to protect my grandmother’s secret (she would really be my cousin). All that time my grandmother knew that Nettie was her granddaughter but couldn’t acknowledge it for fear that her secret would come out.

My Aunt has promised to send me the stuff I requested as well as Nettie’s address so I can write to her to get the whole truth.

Since speaking with my Aunt I have managed to find my grandmother’s birth record, which lists her father as Peter Devlin (one mystery solved). Just out of curiosity, I searched for the death record of this Peter Gibb Devlin and I found it on ScotlandPeople. He is listed as illegitimate, mother’s name is “Nellie” Devlin, and grandfather is Peter Devlin. So, did my grandmother actually have 3 children before coming to Canada. Who are these little girls, how old were they when my grandmother left and who is the father (or fathers)? The questions are just coming from everywhere. Now the wait is on again for my Aunt to send Nettie’s address.

I just hope I don’t have to wait another two months. I don't think I could take it!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mailing Lists and How They Helped Me

I have seen recommendations from other GeneaBloggers about joining mailing lists to help in their research. I decided to check them out so I went over to RootsWeb to see what they had. I found one pertaining to one of my areas of research, the Scotland-Angus list so I decided to join. I haven’t posted anything as yet and so far the messages received, although very interesting, don’t pertain to any of my family. However, I did check out the archived messages and there was a very interesting post regarding the Dundee police force saying that if you had an ancestor who was a member of the force you can contact the Tayside Police force’s museum and they might have your ancestor’s work records.

The Tayside Police was formed on the 16th of May 1975 and is made up of a number of smaller City, Burgh and County Constabularies (namely Angus, Dundee City and Perth and Kinross), which over the course of more than 150 years have successfully merged together to form the present Tayside Police Force.

My great grandfather, Robert Burnett (my mother’s maternal grandfather), was a member of the Dundee Police force in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. The 1891 Scottish Census lists him as a Police Constable and according to his death record he retired as a Detective Inspector. Unfortunately, I don’t have any record of when he joined the force.

Fortunately, the person who posted the message on the mailing list also gave the website to the Tayside Police Force. I logged on and found their History and Museum section, which gives a brief history. You can contact the museum by filling out an online form with your request. There is a warning on the site that the email is not monitored 24 hours a day. The form is only for contacting the Force Museum and comments will be sent directly to museum staff. I filled out the form with the details that I knew of John Burnett and hoped for the best. That was on May 23rd.

On May 30th I received a reply from the website co-ordinator saying that they had received my email and that it had been forwarded to the Museum Curator who may be able to help. So far so good – at least I got a response! The same day I got another email from the curator himself, Mr. Willie MacFarlane, saying that with the information I had provided he was fairly sure that they should have some record of my great grandfather and unless it had been removed from the file, there should be a black and white photograph of him when he joined the Force. He mentioned that he would attend to the matter on his next visit to the Museum. I was very excited to learn that there might be a picture of him as I don’t have any pictures at all of any of my great grandparents.

Today, not two weeks since my original request, I received a very exciting email from Mr. MacFarlane. He found my great grandfathers work record – a very detailed one at that. Here is what he provided:

Dear Alana:- Further to our emails to each other I now have some information on your great grandfather.

John Burnett PC No. 128 was 22 years of age when he joined the former Dundee City Police on 24th November 1884. Formerly he had been employed as a warehouseman. He was single and lived at 37, Stirling Street, Dundee. He stood at 5ft 9 and1/2 inches in height and was born in Kincardine-shire.

On 19th May 1898 he was promoted to Sergeant, and then on 3rd June 1908 he was promoted to Det Officer and then on 16th May 1914 he was promoted to Det. Inspector. On 24th November 1920 he resigned from the Force on medical grounds and was awarded a pension of £198 3/- pa. He died at Dundee Royal Infirmary on 2nd March 1923. His widow Helen Marshall or Burnett received a widow's pension of £40 pa.

John Burnett was clearly well thought of and in fact he received a reward of 5/- for his part in the arrest of a Sarah Milne who had stolen jewellery on 13th February 1896.

You will be pleased to know that we do have a photograph of John Burnett in uniform and once this has been developed I will sent it to you by land mail.

Best wishes

Willie MacFarlane Hon. Museum Curator.1

How exciting is that! I can’t wait to get the picture and will post it as soon as it arrives.

According to the 1891 Scottish Census Robert Burnett and his family were living at 5 Stirling St. and in 1901 were living at 36 Carmichael. However, they must have moved back to 37 Stirling Street, as that was his residence at the time of his death.

So, I’m going to join those other GeneaBloggers and recommend joining a mailing list. 95% of the time the messages may be irrelevant, but that 5% could just be the missing link you are looking for.

Source 1: Willie MacFarlane , " Constable John Burnett". e-mail to Alana Farrell, sent 04 June 2009.