Story Time | Savegraves


We hope you enjoy our genealogical journey stories.

What's in a name?


Quite a lot if it brings your genealogy research 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 and more money was saved by omitting the details enirely. 

In the grave featured above, manymore people are buried there than listed on the stone. Toddler Alexander was too young to be captured by census-taking and cemetery transcribers can't record what they can't see. Result is the little  boy did not pop using common research tools.  Visiting the actual grave office for information on another missing person 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 steer you to the plot. You never know. Perhaps one day you'll find a lost soul that time forgot, happy to be reunited with family. 

Talking Gravestone 


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 John 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.

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

Why so sad?


Did you ever look at old family pictures and wonder if these people were dull as dishwater?  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 a bit 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.


Is there a doctor in the house?

Were men really this clueless?


Back in the day, being a woman was a tough gig what with all the 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 but there's always the big girl toy store when you're feeling 'hysterical' and in need of a little 'mid quarters' relief...

And the dish ran away wth the spoon

Robert Maxwell 1792-1878

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 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.  

Robert 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.   

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