Sunday, 22 May 2016

FIVE FERRIES and SIX COUSINS in SEVEN DAYS Part I





I found some on Facebook.  Some of them Googled their surname and found me through this family history blog. I found out more about them in my Grandmother's photos, diaries and poems. I knew some of them as children but we lost touch for decades.  I thought of them as my “lost cousins”.

Unfortunately my grandmother and her siblings sometimes held grudges and played their family members against each other.  These rifts rippled across the family, up and down the generations.

When I started connecting with my family members online, I had a strong desire to see them again and after a cousin from British Columbia visited me in Toronto, we started planning an old fashioned road trip to see our West Coast cousins.

I found so much more than I had lost, and am so happy that they agreed to meet me and share their stories, art and photos!

We were able to put aside the battles of our parents and grandparents – it felt like our family feuds could finally be put to rest.  I am sad for those who went before us but hopefully we will change the future of our families.


I have been fortunate and happy to have re-connected with my Canadian West Coast cousins.

It began with a visit to my Aunt Eileen with my mother and sister Betty about six years ago. During those few days we were able to spend time with her as well as her husband Ernie and two of her children, Gayle and Colin. We also had a brief visit with my mother`s cousin Patricia and some of her family. I had previously connected with my cousin Roger and his wife Mavis over the internet while working on a family history project.

While Gayle was visiting me in 2014, we had some time to talk about all the lost connections in our family stories. When I told her I was interested in visiting her and others, she suggested she would lead a road trip that would include visits to Salt Spring Island, Nanaimo, Powell River, Sechelt and Surrey. My sister Betty planned to join us and after contacting all the cousins we planned a very ambitious itinerary. We could not be away too long as our mother was 98 years of age and in declining health.

Unfortunately just two days before we were scheduled to leave for Victoria, our mother had a medical issue that would likely require a hospital stay. We could not be sure until after our scheduled flight because we could not get test results back in time being as it was a three day holiday weekend. Generously Betty decided to stay back and be with Mom while I went ahead with our plans.

Gayle met me at the Victoria BC airport then we drove to the first ferry to travel to Salt Spring Island. After we docked it was a lovely scenic drive to her home in Ganges with Gayle telling me about the size and culture of the Island.

On arriving at Gayle`s I was impressed with the amount of her needlework she had decorating her home. It is beautiful with very intricate and detailed designs. At first glance from the doorway I thought they were paintings. It was my first look at the large amount of family art I would see throughout my visit.

I soon noticed the large numbers of deer everywhere on the Island – from roadside to backyards. Also for the first time, I saw a family of Quail walking down the road in front of Gayle`s kitchen window as we had breakfast.

As we toured the Island I was surprised by the amount of mountainous terrain as well as the narrow and winding roads. Many of the homes were difficult to reach which I suppose is what their owners like about them. I was a somewhat disappointed by the lack of sea views due to the very tall tree growth as well as the tall fences and hedges, however we did get a close up view at the north end of the island.

In the evening we walked to town and had a lovely dinner outside the Treehouse. As shown in the photo it is quite small with a tree growing up through the middle. It was a warm night with a great meal of Pacific Salmon and live entertainment. We also enjoyed watching the people wandering through the town. It was so relaxing and I enjoyed seeing ``hippies`` of all ages.


On our return we found a telephone message from another cousin Jennifer who lived along our route up the coast to suggest that we meet her in Ladywood for a coffee on Friday morning. Jenny was not sure just how we were related to her but she had heard about our trip, from her brother Roger. 

After enjoying blueberry muffins kindly sent over by Gayle`s neighbour we were soon on the second ferry ride, leaving Salt Spring Island for Vancouver Island.

With Jennifer and Gayle in Ladywood
We had a very enjoyable coffee break in Ladywood sharing some family history and our regrets that we hadn`t known each other before. We took a couple of photos and traded phone numbers and the family blog site information before driving on to Nanaimo where we had lunch with a childhood friend of mine. 

Later in the day we took our third ferry -  to Powell River and found the beautiful resort where we spent two nights.

The next day we were warmly greeted by Roger & Mavis at their beautiful glass and wood home in the forest. They explained they had built it themselves over the preceding five years reminding me that our grandparents and my parents did the same in the 1940s. The house is surrounded by many trees which Roger uses in his building and wood carvings. 

Mavis is also a wood carver and both paint. I knew Roger`s mother painted but did not know that his father had as well. There is a long list of artists in our families past and present. We were excited to see some of Roger and Mavis`s work. As well as the work displayed in their home, Mavis showed us her large beautiful carved boxes and Roger took us down to his workshop to see a magnificent, very large door he has carved. It is wonderful work.

We enjoyed a delightful lunch in their garden. They explained the fence surrounding the living area of their property was to keep out the bears, deer and cougars that had previously destroyed their plants and trees.

We shared our family history research and talked about the numerous artists in our families. Roger had not seen many of the photos in my Grandmother’s album and I agreed to send him a scanned version along with the details of a couple of books written about our artist ancestor, Walter Langley. We shared warm goodbye hugs and agreed to keep in touch. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them and hope to see them again.

After a very comfortable sleep and a good breakfast we set off down the Sunshine Coast to our fourth ferry. This one would take us to Sechelt and the next cousin, Gayle`s brother Colin and his family.

After lunch in town we visited Colin`s home, yet another house high up above the water. It was down a steep driveway to the house and the house overlooked a very deep-down backyard and a great water view. I was happy to meet Colin`s wife Melanie, their son Sebastian and daughter Amelie.

Exciting ride with Colin and Gayle
In the afternoon Colin and Melanie took us on a cruise along the shore and many inlets of their neighbourhood. We were able to see their house and some others high up and almost hidden by the high trees.  We also saw an abandoned oyster farm and cabin built by a friend of theirs. We stopped there for a cold drink, a tour of the cabin and great conversation.


On the way back we stopped to check Colin`s lobster trap and later we had a great meal of lobster claws, lobster cakes, all the trimmings and dessert, which we enjoyed along with the kids.

We spent some time looking at all our old photos, sharing stories and promising to share copies. I had made a small family history book for Colin`s family which I left for them. They live a very interesting, close to nature, lifestyle and it suits them. After dark we sat out on the deck talking and star gazing. I was delighted to see the Milky Way as well as many other stars. In the absence of city light, they seemed almost within reach.

We enjoyed breakfast together before Melanie left for work. We talked a little more with Colin while he showed us some of his photos of camping with his children on one of their many adventures. Another artist in the family, Colin is a professional photographer. He then advised us what time to leave in order to catch our fifth ferry suggesting we allow enough time to visit a small park on the way to see the salmon run. Sometimes the bears come to feed as well. We had a wonderful visit.

Salmon fishing 
We did stop at the park and as we started down the trail we met a man returning with his small child who was crying because he was afraid of the bear. Well, I could not resist going on, so very slowly, quietly and carefully I walked down the winding trail watching around each curve. I was rewarded with a close encounter with a bear eating salmon, albeit a small bear. It was exciting as I snapped my photo and returned quietly to Gayle who was beginning to worry about where I was. 

That photo topped off my list of wildlife I had seen on the trip, deer, quail, rabbits, seals, salmon spawning, and a glimpse of a whale from a ferry then finally a bear.

To be continued.................


Saturday, 29 August 2015

ON TO ONTARIO


Looking like they are going somewhere about 1927-1928
When we left Harry, Bess and the children it was 1926 and they were living not very happily in the duplex at 106 Pacific Avenue in Verdun. Bess had recovered from her appendicitis illness the prior year, but work was hard to find if you did not speak French and Harry was not well so Bess was the sole source of income. They were thinking of moving to Toronto, Ontario.

It is often the case that people move to places where friends or relatives live. This is true of Harry & Bess as they continue their journey from sea to sea.

They are not shown in the 1927 Montreal, Quebec directory but show up in Brantford, Ontario in 1928. Perhaps the directory publishing dates account for the gap or perhaps they were staying with someone else and didn’t get into the 1927 directories. Brantford is about 400 miles from Montreal, likely a full day driving or even seven  or eight hours by train. It is about 60 miles west of Toronto, Ontario.

The  twenties were the good old days in Ontario as well as the rest of  Canada. With the world’s fastest growing economy, unemployment was low, earnings for individuals and companies were high. 

In 1927 Brantford celebrated the 50th anniversary of its becoming a city and it was also 100 years since the then village chose its name.

Brantford is picturesquely located on the Grand River in the Grand River Valley of Ontario. The city name recalls the famous Mohawk chief and warrior Joseph Brant who was a faithful friend of the British during the Seven Years War and subsequent wars. He was a renowned leader of his people.

Many brave men participated in WWI and those who lost their lives were well commemorated with monuments and parks.

The Bell homestead, where the Bell family lived and where Professor Graham Bell invented the telephone is located there and Lawren Stewart Harris (October 23, 1885 – January 29, 1970) the founder of the famous Group of Seven Canadian painters was born in Brantford. 

Present day luminaries include hockey playing giant Wayne Gretzky, David Hearn, golfer, author Thomas Costain and numerous other authors, politicians and sports figures.

In those fifty years Bradford steadily became a modern and progressive city of 32,000 residents with all the attractions needed to make it a desirable place to live. There was the General Hospital, a large fire department and police department, There were letter carriers, a public library, a theatre and a YMCA, a street railway as well as the Grand Trunk regular railway line connecting to Toronto and elsewhere.

The City Government employed a large workforce to deal with all the issues of a growing city and there were lots of automobile and commercial vehicles; 7000 driving licenses were held by the residents. 

Being an industrial city, there were lots of jobs in manufacturing. Some of the larger manufacturers were; Waterous Engine Works; Robinson & Myers, manufacturers of electric motors and fans; Happy Thought Foundry Co., makers  of stoves, furnaces and boilers;  Ruddy Manufacturing, makers of refrigeration products; Heintzman Piano Co. and Massey Harris, the largest manufacturer of farm implements in the British Empire.

27 Palmerston Ave
While Bess’ remembrances about Montreal told of an offer of cleaning work from a Toronto family that included free travel to that city, I expect they chose to go to Brantford instead for a couple of reasons.

Firstly Bess’s cousin Robert Albert (Abbe) Cheffins and his wife Mona Beatrice (Bunnie) Denovan were living in a house at 27 Palmerston Ave. in Brantford, Ontario, having moved there from Montreal.    

Abbe was working at Massey Harris and given that Brantford was a small city with lots of industry, they were likely hopeful there would be work for Harry as well. Cleaning work for Bess would probably be easily found in any city and Brantford did have a size-able population of prominent and successful families with large homes.

As the 1928 Brantford city directory shows, Harry, Bess and the children were living in Apartment 3 in the Davis Building, which contained seven apartments at 47 Dalhousie Street, in downtown Brantford. Dalhousie St. was and is a major thoroughfare leading through downtown to parks, the Grand River and the Armories.

Abbe & Bunnie with son Ronald

Harry’s occupation is shown as a “brass finisher” but it does not tell us where or even if he was employed.

I believe Abbe and Bunnie Cheffins left Brantford about 1928/29, returning to Montreal  where he later worked as a draughtsman for a number of years.  

They remained in Quebec until Abbe's retirement to British Columbia to be near his son in 1968. At that time he received an honorary lifetime membership to the Quebec Society of Medical Radiological Technicians “for outstanding service and devotion to duty.”


The Welch family’s time in Brantford was not long, as 1929 finds them in the Parkdale region of Toronto.

Friday, 31 July 2015

WRITINGS OF ELIZABETH BLANEY WELCH


I have added a new page to the blog site displaying some scanned copies of writings found in my grandmother Bess's journals. You can find a tab along the top of the site, labelled Bess's Writings.

As previously written Bess was pretty much self taught with respect to manners, music, art and language and she loved poetry.

She wrote some and read a great deal of it. Her first book of poetry was by English poet Percy Shelley (1792-1822) which she received 1914. Shelley, according to one biography I read,

Shelly has come to symbolize the free and soaring spirit of humankind. He is associated with the idea that one should not content oneself with the mundane but aspire to ever-loftier ideals of perfecting the self, and above all, with the idea of hope.” 

Shelly became popular in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Throughout her life she collected poetry books, magazines and newspaper clippings and she often received poetry books as gifts.

Bess copied many poems into her notebooks and journals and memorized hundreds of poems beginning in childhood and continuing over the years. It seemed to me that she had “total recall” until very late in life when her age, strokes and her solitary lifestyle began to erode her short term memory. Many stories, poems and songs were still there in her long term memory though.


The poems are usually about inspirational topics; striving to be a better person, overcoming adversity, religious themes and many of them are sad.

When my mother Joan read one a few years ago she could still recall her mother reciting it when she was a little girl.

When Harry made recordings to send overseas or she wrote letters to family, Bess often included a poem or song lyrics about her feelings for them. She corresponded regularly with my family from the time we left Vancouver in 1952. Later, she also wrote to my children, her great-great grandchildren.

I want to share with family, some of her poetry and writings. I have read all her journals and these are ones I think were her words, based on the subject matter or her signature attached. Her handwriting is quite legible but I would be happy to translate if necessary.

This selection includes memorials to her father, her husband, her brother Ted and notes to family members. I will continue to add to the page as I am able to find and scan others.





Perhaps some family members will find them of interest.


Saturday, 6 June 2015

THE MONTREAL YEARS PART II



Harry, Joan, Lewis, Bess & baby Eileen
In September of 1925, Bess was on her way to the shops one day and after crossing the triangle of land that separated two major streets in Point St. Charles; she suffered what she called “a broken appendix”. The pain caused her pass out and fall on to the street where luckily a car wheel caught only her hat and she subsequently woke up in the hospital.

When she awoke she asked the nurse “Where is my baby? Oh madam, you don’t have a baby” the nurse said. Bess replied indignantly “Yes I do, she has got to be fed. The nurse then went to fetch the doctor.” Sure enough the doctor arrived and confirmed that she had just come out of emergency surgery for a burst appendix saying, “Oh but you don’t have a baby Mrs. Welch, you didn’t have a child, you had an appendix”. At the time Eileen was about four months old.

Bess tells of her operation being called “frying pan” surgery and that she was in a hospital where the surgeon wanted to show and quiz his students on his work. She agreed and so he did. She explained it was called a frying pan surgery because you usually have one slice in a surgery but she had three (“a cut, a cut, a cut” she said) all of which created a frying pan shape. I expect this was medical slang as I have consulted a couple of medical history sources who can find no trace of this term. A librarian from the Osler Library of the History of Medicine suggested that perhaps it referred to the traditional one, the MacArthur/McBurney incision, involving multiple cuts that split three layers of the abdominal muscle. It is also referred to as a “Grid iron” incision. This incision was pioneered at the very end of the 19th century.

With the old familiar clock chiming an accompaniment, Bess continued her account of remaining in the hospital for a few days and then being sent directly from the hospital to a location high above Lac Chapleau for several weeks of convalescence. She described it as being a three-quarter day train journey from Montreal, “high up in Quebec”. 

It was a monastery; there were three big buildings one of which was used by recovering patients sent from the hospital, luckily, with no cost to the patient. It was a beautiful peaceful place especially in the fall, with a large veranda surrounding the building. From it you could look down and out over the lake while listening to someone playing the piano. “It was so beautiful” Bess said. Usually at this time of year the trees would still have some of their colourful autumn leaves and it would probably be cool but still warm in the sun. .

Bess told her niece about one day when a loud alarm went off. “It was a beautiful Sunday morning, the sky was beautiful, blue as a blue ribbon and the sun was shining – when suddenly the big bell rang - bong – bong – bong - bong. We had been warned to stand stock still if the bell rang and I did.  In two minutes I couldn’t see anything. You couldn’t see your face, you couldn’t see the lake, you couldn’t see the trees, you couldn’t see the sky; you couldn’t see anything!    

After a long dramatic pause ..."Fog!” she said. The building was high above the lake and it was very dangerous to move around the property in the fog.

Unfortunately my mother Joan now has no recollection of the time her mother Bess was in the hospital and her convalescence but we agreed that likely her father Harry got them ready for school in the morning and they went to Aunt Nellie’s until he came home from work.

We often heard the story of how Harry repaired, cleaned and polished the family’s shoes to a military shine every night and laid them outside the bedroom doors every morning. There were very few pairs of shoes so they were worth looking after well and of course the state of your shoes said something about you or your family. Run down shoes did not speak well of you.

Bess’s employer, the wife of the head of the Toronto Bank branch was involved in charities that helped a lot of children and when Bess did not turn up for work the day after her accident, her employer was immediately concerned for the baby (Eileen).

Harry, Eileen & Bess
She wrapped her in a shawl and took her” said Bess. She made an arrangement that Eileen be cared for at a children’s hospital for the duration of Bess’s full recovery - until she had regained her ability to care for her very young daughter.

Bess returned from the monastery and after three weeks recovery at home she went back to the hospital for a check up, then she found out where she could find Eileen.

On entering the children’s hospital she said “I have come to fetch my child, my little girl, Eileen Welch”.Huh, you haven’t got a chance of taking that child out of here, the doctor’s got it” the nurse replied. 

Bess said “I thought Harry had put her in the home for good, they wouldn’t tell me anything”. The nurse then phoned around to see where she was.

Finally a doctor came into the room with a child under his arm kicking her legs. He gave the baby to the nurse saying “you had better change her and I’ll take her out again” then left the room without even speaking to Bess. The nurse said nothing and left with the baby. “I was so bewildered” Bess said. 

However when the nurse returned, she said “you’re going to have an awful job, that doctor takes her everywhere he goes”. She finally gave Bess her daughter. “She was so spoiled – she was spoiled forever and forever” Bess dramatically declared.

Albert & Stan Blaney
Bess and Harry continued to live the duplex at 106 Pacific Ave, in Verdun, Quebec for a couple more years. They shared the family's small quarters and minimal food not only with her two brothers but also for some poor man they found freezing to death on a cold Montreal street. Bess's brothers Albert & Stanley came to Montreal to stay with Bess and her family while they looked for work.

A large forest fire near Rock Bay, British Columbia brought logging operations to a halt putting them both out of work and they had difficulty finding other work in the Vancouver area.


In a story co-written with his niece Patricia Blaney Koretchuk, Albert Blaney described the fire as follows:

This monstrous fire was forty miles square, easy. You could see it coming for a week before it arrived. We watched it creeping, creeping, and creeping up on us. On the edge of it you to stand three or four hundred feet away from it, it was so hot. The heat was so terrific that it took my cabin and my uncle’s cabin in twenty minutes.

The logging company had to send men quickly up to the heard of the railroad line and get the people out before the fire got them and destroyed the tracks. There were families, women and children up there. They put water barrels on the logging flat cars, and they put tarps over the top so that people could be under cover. There was some kind of hand pumps in the barrels so that people could squirt water on the tarps for protection as they passed through the hot areas.


After they got everybody out, it wasn’t very long before the fire had ruined all the bridges. The heat was so great that the tracks were bent into arcs, or bent down into the lay of the land. Miles and miles of timber were ruined, so it wasn’t worthwhile going in there logging any more. After the fire, I left Rock Bay for Vancouver because the logging company completely gave it up in that area”.

Albert with Clara & Mike at their cabin in Rock Bay British Columbia


For a time in Montreal, they worked as aides at the Montreal hospital where Bess worked in the kitchens. Stan also found a job at the Belding Corticelli Silk factory. They all found any work they could and Bess at age 91 wrote to a relative in England, about that time.

Harry suffered heart attacks at times, which made him lose his work so many times. So with 3 children after 2 years here, I had to find some work of any kind to help to keep the rent paid. I got a job cleaning taxis; washing them at night. Oh Boy!!”

“A British Officer, at whose home I washed & cleaned, and his wife gave me things to help with Joan's clothes; they had a girl the same age. He came to see Harry & wrote to army headquarters & tried to get us home but as Harry had no pension they would not help him, so on we go, what a life, yes I had no alternative.

Bess continued, "then I got a day job with a well to do family who came from England same time as we did & she could understand what we were up against here. Anyway after a short time she told me she had wished she could go back to England but he would not go. She said her brother was in Toronto with his wife & family and they would pay our way if I would go to work for them in Toronto”. 

So Bess, Harry and their three children moved again.  

Many thanks to my cousin Patricia Blaney Koretchuk as most of the quotes in the Montreal years Part I and Part II are from her recorded interview of Bess in 1988. Also thanks to my English cousin Jon Everett for sharing his correspondence from Bess, parts of which I have quoted above including the photo of Albert & Stan in Montreal and Albert's Aunt Clara Elcocks and Michael Murphy's cabin in Rock Bay.


A LITTLE SERENDIPITY



I have three photos that I have been unable to identify for many years. They were found among my Grandmother Bess’s photo collection which I received after she died in 1990.

Since almost all the ancestor photos were of her Blaney family, I tried asking every Blaney relative I came across over the years if they recognized him to no avail.  I also sent one to a member of the Langley family who didn’t recognize it either. 

 




I recently sent them to a professional photo detective who thought both photos of the standing man were the same person. She also believes he is the seated man with this photo taken years earlier as there is no grey in the mustache. 

She dated their clothing about mid 1920s and thought that while he was well dressed, the clothes were very conservative.The poses, ties, hats and collars are similar. Their angular faces, the shape of their noses and mustaches are seen in all the photos. 

The picture of the seated man is a tintype which were widely used in the 1870s but were still in use in the early 1900s by itinerant photographers.

During our conversation, we ruled out that these photos were of Edwin Blaney (Bess’s grandfather) due to them being twentieth century photos and he died prior to 1891. These would not have been the clothes of his time and the photos are not similar to those of his son, Harry Blaney. I will still have to search for photos of Great-Grandfather Edwin Blaney.

While I have been focusing on the Blaneys for some time due to writing the blog of my Grandmother’s story, I was also occasionally working on my Grandfather Harry Lewis Welch’s ancestors. The only photos I have of his parents are ones of his mother Mary Ann (Lewis) Welch and only a couple of those. As mentioned in past posts he did not keep in touch with his parents for years after leaving England.

While researching his only sibling, his sister Amy (Welch) Bullivant, I came across her will. In it I found the name of their cousin Olwen Hansen. I had heard the name Olwen many years ago in reference to a cousin of Amy’s. However I didn’t know if it was a surname or given name or even if it was a male or female cousin.

When I began to follow up on Olwen Hansen I happened across a family tree which mentioned the name and showed a connection to Harry Welch & Mary Ann Lewis – my Welch great-grandparents.
I sent a request to the owner of the family tree and was delighted when she replied from England that she was indeed the daughter of Olwen (Cousins) Hansen! 

She immediately offered to send some photos and we exchanged a few of Amy (Welch) Bullivant as she knew her quite well and I had a couple of photos of Amy and her husband Bill Bullivant from their visits to Canada.

While I was looking through my photos I came across the ones of the unidentified man and sent them along in case she might recognize them.

Happily she responded with a photo of Amy and Bill’s wedding day, which I had not seen before. In the back row were Amy’s mother Mary Ann (Lewis) Welch  which I immediately recognized and behind Amy was her father Harry Welch. We both agreed that the man in the back row was the same man as I had in two of my unidentified man photos. Olwen is the bridesmaid and Olwen’s mother Gwladys (Lewis) Cousins, sister of Mary Ann, is in the centre of the back row.   

                                                   
                                           
Harry Welch would have been about seventy-two when his daughter Amy married in the summer of 1942 in Birmingham and he died at about age seventy-five. His health seems to have deteriorated between the two standing photos as suggested by the walking stick. He looks quite thin in the wedding photo. I now think the standing photos were likely taken in the 1930s given the information available. Also Harry Welch was a brass worker and likely while well dressed, was not as up-to-date as some more prosperous or less conservative men might have been.

I realized that I had not considered him a Welch ancestor knowing the history of the lack of contact with Harry’s parents and the overwhelming number of Blaney photos present in the collection.

In summary, my grandfather Harry Lewis Welch’s father was Harry Welch, born in Birmingham in 1871, married Mary Ann Lewis in 1892 and died in Birmingham in 1946. I am so delighted to identify the unidentified man and have a photo of my Great Grandfather Welch to put together with his genealogy data. 

Several years ago I was in touch with a Blaney cousin in British Columbia who has a photo very much like mine and after hearing this story about mine being my Great Grandfather Harry Welch, he felt that his photo is likely the same man. 

Recently while showing my mother Joan Welch some scanned photos to help pass the time when visiting her at the nursing home, she suddenly pointed to the photo above and said "that's my grandfather!" Whenever I asked her in the past seven or eight years to help me identify the photo, she couldn't.

What a wonderful connection I have with my newly found cousin who has a generous sharing nature. She has a family tree and diary done by her Lewis Uncle and lots of photos and I have my Grandmother’s diaries and photos.

We continue to correspond and perhaps we will meet one day. Who knows what else we may discover about our shared ancestors.