Sunday, May 10, 2009

I've moved

I have moved the contents of this blog to

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Gardner Breakthrough!

Well, it seems that any skill that I have at genealogy is limited to material that has been digitized and put online. Ha! (Not at all surprising if you know me). One of my most conspicuous dead ends in our family tree was the first wife of Samuel Hird, Catherine Jane Gardner. The genealogist who had done the Hird tree in the 1970s (Lawrence Burness) had clearly found Catherine's records as he had her birthday and the marriage date for Catherine and Sam. However, as Lawrence once explained to me, the women didn't matter if they weren't Hirds. (To be fair to Lawrence, he was from a different generation and he was doing the genealogy work for legal reasons). In any case, Lawrence therefore never entered any information about Catherine's family onto our tree.

Well, lucky us, all of the Quebec records were just indexed and digitized and in less than 24 hours, the Gardner family has emerged. The Gardners were a well-established Montreal manufacturing family. Robert Gardner, Catherine's father, owned "Robert Gardner & Son", a foundry which specialized in making biscuit-making equipment. Robert and his wife Helen McGregor were emigrants from Paisley, Scotland. They arrived in Canada in 1842 aboard the brig Favourite. Robert was a trained pattern-maker and worked in foundries in Montreal and New York before starting his own business in 1851. Robert and Helen had nine children (at least these are the ones I could find!):

Robert (1845-1927)
Daniel Campbell (1846-1852)
William Smith (1849-)
James (1851-1940)
Catherine Jane (1854-1914)
John David (1855-1857)
Helen Janet (1857-1923)
Mary Ann (1859-1923)
Harriet Abigail (1865-1929)

I found a nice biography of Robert Sr, which you can look at here.

Robert Jr. took over the business when his father died in 1890. (Robert Jr. was quite distinguished in his own right. He was a colonel of the Sixth Fusiliers and took part in the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870. See his biography here.)

You may also be interested in Edgar Samuel Hird's baptismal record and Edgar Maxwell Hird's baptismal record in which he is mistakenly called a daughter. I have also created an album with records for Samuel Hird & fam and EM Hird and fam.

Here is a slideshow of the Gardner family documents and photos to date:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

More Ormsbys

I'm working away at the Ormsby tree, mostly because I have pretty much exhausted all of my usual channels of research and it is time to wrap some things up.

I am, of course, playing with some of the new tools on the internet. (Sigh of love...)

You might want to check out the Ormsby tree I created on this wiki. I have been looking for a place to put all of my research and I think that I have decided on Here's the entry for James Ormsby.

I have also been working on Google maps (now the potential there is wild). Here is my Ormsby Family map, showing their farm and the route they travelled to arrive there:

View Larger Map

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Word about the Oro Ormsbys

One of the projects I got involved in as I started my genealogical adventures was looking at the family of my grandmother's sister/cousin, Pat. Pat's parents died of TB when Pat was young and she was raised by my great-grandparent who were also her uncle and aunt. Confusing, huh. Pat didn't know much about her mother's side of the family and when I started this and found some documents, I asked Pat's daughter if they would be interested in learning more. They were... And away I went.

Thus began my involvement in the researching the Ormsby family of Oro Township, Ontario.

Ormsby Family of Oro

(Click on photo to go to album).

Pat is a descendant of James Ormsby (1783-1873), an Irishman who settled in Oro Township, Simcoe County, Ontario. James was a soldier in the British Army and in 1830 in lieu of his pension, he took land in Canada. While James and his family succeeded in the Canadian wilderness, many of the soldiers who made the same deal did not.

James and his wife Elizabeth had two sons who survived: George Billings and James Jr. These two sons married two sisters: Jane and Eleanor Reid. And this is where things start to get complicated.

Genealogy is a very humbling adventure because you start to realize how easy it is to make mistakes. I'm sure that I have made many that have yet to be discovered. In any case, one of the things that I discovered in looking at the Ormsby family is that Pat's branch of the tree had disappeared over time for many of those doing research on this family.

Pat is a descendent of Maud McKenzie (1870-1953) and William Ormsby (1862-1906), son of James Jr. However, most of the Ormsby trees online (there are many) overlooked this branch or get it wrong.

But there was some good reasons why this mistake got made:

1) Maud McKenzie and William Ormsby's marriage certificate has a big mistake on it and lists James Ormsby as the groom. I have plenty of proof that she actually married William (birth certificates of their children, obits, local history documents, etc.). I can only assume that the marriage certificate is incorrect. But I had the advantage of going backwards through the documents. Other researchers have married Maud to:

  • William's older brother named James. Not too sure what happened to him.
  • Alfred James Ormsby. In other trees online, Maud is often also linked to Alfred James Ormsby who is actually the son of George and Jane Ormsby. He died in 1893.
  • Arthur William Ormsby. Maud's William is also sometimes mistaken for George and Jane's son Arthur William who was born in 1869 and moved to Edmonton, Alberta. I checked Arthur William's marriage certificate at the Alberta archives and confirmed that he is George and Jane's son.

2) The fact that the Ormsby brothers married the Reid sisters and the families lived side-by-side seemed to cause lots of confusion not only for genealogists but also for the families themselves. One of the most thorough histories of Oro Township (Kith n'Kin) lists many of the Ormsby children as having the wrong parents. It was hard to keep track of all of those children!

It didn't help that both families had a son named Robert (James and Eleanor's son Robert survived; George and Jane's didn't).

3) No one from Pat's branch of the family was doing any genealogical research. William and Maud McKenzie's family has a tragic history. William died young of cancer in 1906, and the town of Severn Bridge where they lived burnt down that same year. Two daughters died of TB (Evelyn and Norma) and a third of myocarditis (Wilma) by 1922. Another daughter married because she was pregnant (Olive Ormsby Williams) and their son Osborne joined the Canadian army in 1917 at the age of 13 (he lied on his application form). His lie was discovered in time and he never saw the war, but I think that it is another piece of evidence that the family was undergoing some turbulent times. Their eldest daughter Edrie's only child, John Stewart, died in WW2 in Europe.

I have not had any luck tracing other descendants of William and Maud Ormsby, and I am slowly coming to the conclusion that I might not find any of them. My last hope is to find descendants of Olive Ormsby Williams or Osborne Ormsby aka Fred. (If you think you are related, please let me know at!)

These are the children of William and Maud:
My entire Ormsby tree is here if you are interested:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Player Family of Coventry

Almost immediately after beginning my adventures in genealogy, I regretted not having done this research while my grandmother was alive. For one, her side of the family is particularly interesting. Her father, Richard Morgan Player, emigrated to Canada at the end of the 19th century and there are plenty of records in both England and Canada from his life. But more importantly, I wish I had done this while she was alive because I managed to find her relations in England. It turns out that our cousin Simon, a descendant of RM Player's brother Joseph William , has been working hard at collecting family materials as well. Most of the exciting information that I have about the Coventry Players comes from Simon and I am grateful that I was able to find him.

Joseph Player Family of Coventry

(Click on photo to go to full photo album)

RM's father Joseph Player owned a watch-making factory in Coventry, England. The family and all of their ancestors were well-established middle class citizens, could perhaps even be called upper class industrialists. I remember my grandmother telling me that my g-grandfather had taken my g-grandmother Jessie on a trip to meet the Coventry family and she had complained that they had treated her like a second class citizen. I have to say, however, that this was hardly fair to Jessie as she was the daughter of one of Ontario's big fish: RE Truax (I'll get to him at some point).

Joseph Player and his wife Eliza Newsome Steane Player had 13 children as follows:
  1. Joseph William (1865-1956)
  2. Isaac Steane (~1867-~1950)
  3. Samuel Newsome. Born in Dec 1869 in Coventry, Warwickshire, England. Samuel Newsome died in 1941; he was 71.
  4. Eliza Lomax. Born abt 1872 in Coventry. Eliza Lomax died in Meriden, Warwickshire, England, in Mar 1900; she was 28.
  5. Percy Morgan. Born abt 1874 in Coventry. Percy Morgan died in Coventry abt 1884; he was 10.
  6. Frances Gertrude. Born abt 1876 in Coventry. Frances Gertrude died in 1955; she was 79.
  7. Richard Morgan (1877-1950)
  8. Alfred Septimus. Born in Mar 1879 in Coventry, England. Alfred Septimus died in South Africa, on 25 Mar 1902; he was 23.
  9. Agnes Elizabeth. Born abt 1881 in Allesley, Warwickshire, England. Agnes Elizabeth died abt 1950; she was 69.
  10. May Jessie Byard. Born abt 1883 in Allesley, Warwickshire, England. May Jessie Byard died in 1950; she was 67.
  11. Miriam Janet. Born abt 1885 in Allesley, Warwickshire, England. Miriam Janet died in 1938; she was 53.
  12. John Byard (1886-1925)
  13. Francis Edward (1887-)
Simon and I were surprised to discover that we both had the beautiful family portrait which appears above in the photo album. We have taken to calling it the "penny farthing" photo. When we discovered another more distant Player cousin in Ottawa, we were again surprised to learn that his aunt had been sent a copy of the photo from Simon's grandmother several years ago. It is easy to understand why this photo has not been lost over the ages. My grandmother had it hanging above her bed for years.

Joseph and Eliza Player also had the helpful habit of naming their children with family names. Almost all of the children have middle names of closely related families. For those of you who are descendants of (Lo)max and Bernice, you may be interested to know that the name Lomax comes from RM's great aunt, Elizabeth Newsome Lomax. She married a Mr. Lomax, who must have died young as she lived with her brother Samuel Newsome for many years. RM's sister Lilla's proper name was Eliza Lomax Player and she died young in 1900. It was possibly for this reason that RM decided to name his son Lomax.

The penny farthing photo led to another discovery. At one point, my aunt wrote to me and told me that she had one of the chairs from the penny farthing photos. I mentioned this to Simon and he was able to tell me that his grandfather had the other seven from the set. My aunt took her chair to the Antiques Roadshow and the interviewer became quite excited to hear that the chair had belonged to a Richard "Morgan" as there was a furniture company in England circa 1820 called Morgan and Sanders. While it is very clear that we are related to a Morgan family (Joseph Player's mother was Elizabeth Morgan), it is not at all clear that there is relationship between this Morgan family and Morgan and Sanders. This one will take more work to figure out.

All of the photos I have from Joseph and Eliza's family can be found here:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

About this blog

About a year ago, when my grandmother died, I started to look some genealogical information on the internet in order to put together a photo/family album of my grandmother's life. One google search later and I had at least five sites that referred to my great-great-great-grandfather. Yikes! The internet had radically changed genealogy since my last abortive attempts to put together our family history at the age of twelve. Suddenly, the hunt involved clever google searches, insanely rich online archives and the distinctly real possibility of discovering more about my family's past than is probably healthy. I was hooked and a year later I have amassed some pretty cool stories, photos and information.

With this blog, I would like to share all of my research with anyone who cares. Ultimately, I will put together hard cover copies of my research into the important families in my life, however, right now, I would like to share the progress of my research and get feedback on what I am collecting.

Here's a couple of disclaimers. As I have learned, it is incredibly easy to make mistakes in genealogy research, so beware. There are mistakes living here! However, bring them to my attention and I will do my best to correct them.

Feel free to copy and pass on anything that you find here, but share alike and let me know if you have information that might be of interest to me. There is a non-commercial creative-commons licence for this site which means that you can't use any of my research to make money.

I have done my best to ensure that the privacy of the living members of my family is maintained.

You can contact me at if you have any questions about my research. I look forward to hearing from you!