Story Time 


Knock. Knock. Who's there?

What's in a name? Quite a lot if it brings your ancestral search to a screeching halt because the name was never etched on the gravestone. While there could be any number of reasons for the omission, it's most likely due to a cost factor, especially during depression years. Certainly, it's cheaper to re-open a grave than to buy a new plot and stone. Plus, with no existing law about stone markings even more money was saved by leaving it blank. 

In the grave featured above, several more people are buried here than indicated on the stone. Also resting here is a one year old boy that the researcher had no idea existed since he was too young to be captured on a census. It was the search for his father's missing burial site that lead to the discovery of little Alexander.  What does it all mean? It means that gravestone transcribers, who rely on stone markings, have nothing to write down. No data to digitize. Empty databases means no online search results.

So that's a heads up for you if your search hits a brick wall.  To find your answer, try selecting a known grave of a near-relative to the elusive deceased, say spouse or parents then ask the cemetery administrator to look up the original grave ledger which lists all of the names of the interred and dates buried. Many grave listings are now online.  In Toronto, The Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries has a great app called - Find A Grave.  It's mapped and will guide you to the the plot. 

You never know. Perhaps you'll find a lost soul now happy to be reunited with family or a small child that time forgot.

Horribly painful death as told by his gravestone

John Francis died painful death from liver ailment

John Francis, born Kent, England died "after a painful illness" in Toronto April 29 1837 age 38.

It's unusual to find so much detail on a monument. A stone this size would have cost some serious coin but in this case it was likely donated by his employer, Burr Mill Stone. I found the grave heavily grown over and it was quite thrilling to painstakingly uncover one letter at a time wondering what on earth could all this 'chatter' be? But when the word 'painful' became clear, it was very sad. So many people died far too young back then but to have this word actually carved into the stone was unusual. I imagine Burr did it so eternity would know how much this young man suffered. Curious, I looked up his death record and found 'liver complaint'. Cancer perhaps?
*Burr Mill Stone Manufacturers was a factory located in Toronto near the steamboat wharves. It's gone now.
John Francis was originally buried in Potter's Field. When it closed, his remains were re-interred in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

And the dish ran away with the spoon!

Robert Maxwell Mitchell 1811-1878

Cinderella Marries Her Prince Charming 

Once upon a time there lived a dashing coachman who fell in love with his Lord's daughter.
Robert Mitchell Sr. (b. abt 1792) was in the employ of Lord Maxwell of County Down when he fell in love with the Lord's daughter, Elizabeth Beatty Maxwell. The feeling was reciprocated and the lovers eloped sometime before their first child was born in 1809.
The fairy tale marriage produced three strapping boys, Henry, Robert, John, all born in County Down, Ireland.
When the boys were older, around 1830, Daddy brought them to Canada and settled them each on newly purchased homesteads in Cayuga, Mono and Markham. Robert Sr. then returned to his wife in Ireland where he remained until her death at an unknown date.
Robert Jr., pictured above, married Eliza Lilly in 1834 in Toronto. They had 2 children, Elizabeth Ann (Eliza) and John but sadly, Eliza died in 1840, age 30, cause unknown. He married again and had six more children.
A skilled cabinet maker by trade, Robert Jr. built fine furniture and later branched out into houses. He also took part in the 1837 Rebellion.
So far, nothing has popped up in the search for more information in Lord Maxwell's family and Robert's parents, including the death of his mother.

Is There A Doctor In The House?

Clitoris Massage by Doctors 1800s

Were men really this clueless?

Back in the day, being a woman was a tough gig what with all that breeding and baking. So, if hubby was a bad lover - and most were, with no clue or care about a woman's sexual needs - there was nothing to look forward to at the end of a long day of toil. Luckily, relief was only a horse ride away!
Dr. Swift had a popular cure for 'lady ailments' such as headaches, bloating, listlessness, emotional outbursts. If you find this totally hysterical, that's exactly what it was called during the Victorian age. Today we would just call her a 'frustrated bitch' but "Hysterical Passion" was considered a very real disease in medical circles treated only by massaging the gentiles by hand or with a water and hose!
And many a proper lady was grateful a cure existed. Funnier still, husbands did not care and were happy to pay for the service since sex wasn't considered sex without a penetrating penis. Foreplay had not yet been invented! Between the constant demands of running a house and keeping her husband happy, the lady of the house could finally sigh with relief at the "magical power of fine gentle massage". Sadly, the medical profession caught on to the scam and you won't find Dr Swift on speed dial today.

Genealogy Road Trip
Ireland Old Road

Imagine standing on the front stoop of your ancestral  'thatchie'.  Or perhaps they lived in a castle. Envision yourself walking through the crumbling ruins of  the churchyard where your great-great-great-great grandmother is buried.  If you're from Ireland, fancy finishing off the day with a pint of Guinness and some foot-stomping fiddle and banjo music in the same untouched-by-time local pub where your ancestors socialized!

Solid planning makes for a successful  better holiday. These sites offer a treasure trove of research advice, travel tips and lots of interesting information on being Irish. There's a message board you check out. Perhaps unknown distant family members are looking for you!

So get your genealogy on and start planning!

On The Wagon
1800s young people in a wagon

I'm lost. Can you help me find my family?

Is their anything sadder than finding a stash of old family photos with no clue as to who they are?  And everyone who could unlock the secrets is long gone?

Don't let your ancestors end up in an orphan bin at the flea market.  Host a Family Photo night before it's too late. Invite your parents, grandparents and any other 'elders' who can tell you about the pictures and family history stories.  Tell them to bring their pictures and have your Smart Phone or scanner at the ready!  Pick their brains before it's too late.

If you have orphan pictures you'd like posted to our Lost Souls page on our site, email them to us with any details you have.  Who knows?  Maybe someone will recognize it.

If you're happy and you know it crack a smile

Woamn Dressed Up 1800s Photograph

Why so glum?

Did you ever look at old family pictures and wonder if these people were dull as dishwater completely devoid of personality? You see these dour faces staring back at you and wonder, "Why so gloomy?" Apparently, back in the day, it took at least a minute of posing for the camera to capture an image. That's an agonizingly long time to hold a pose let alone a smile! A photographer expert said they used clamps for the head and shoulders to help people maintain their pose. Can you imagine? No wonder few bothered (expensive too!) and of course, candid shots were near impossible. It's also said that early photography followed the same protocols as portrait painting which took so long, a smiling pose was simply out of the question.
And what about the impact of religion? Not to hard to imagine smiling might have been considered vulgar in those socially conservative times. Whatever the reason, it's a shame because we can learn so much about one's personality by the twinkles and wrinkles of a happy, laughing face. Our descendants will know us so much better, than we do our ancestors, because of the great strides in technology that allow wonderful candid shots that capture our very soul instantly.