Ellen Maki, Ph.D.

Three Thousand Families

Four Mile Creek, Cross Roads, Lawrenceville, Virgil. These were the names given to the small community on the Niagara peninsula, first settled about 1783, that my paternal grandparents came to call home in the mid-1920s. Today it’s part of the very chic little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Hugh James Clarke, Sr, and his wife, Mary Rowe, were 52 and 46 years of age, respectively, when they arrived in Niagara from Palgrave, Suffolk to begin farming. Hugh had been a market gardener in Palgrave, and intended to do the same in Virgil. Not much of their new property had been cleared prior to their arrival, though, and getting their farm up and running involved hard, physical labour.

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The Guardians’ minutes books make for a fascinating read, and although their primary purpose was to record the business of the poor law union guardians’ meetings, they also capture genealogically useful information as well.

I have been reading the guardians’ minutes books for the Aylsham poor law union in Norfolk, England, and have extracted the details of intended marriages that were read out at the meetings, all of which were to take place at either non-conformist churches or registrars’ offices. These were read out at 3 consecutive meetings in much the same way that banns would be read out in the parish church for Church of England parishioners.

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Irish Petty Sessions Records

Interesting use for turnips, but that’s the charge that was levelled at John and Michael Surdival of Ballinlassa by farmer Michael Molloy at the petty sessions of 28 November 1890 for County Mayo in Ireland. My great-grandfather Patrick Surdival (aka Patrick Sullivan) had younger brothers named John and Michael living at Ballinlassa, so perhaps it was his siblings who had peppered farmer Molloy’s door with turnips.

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A Village Built by Glass: Windle Village, Thorold

Note: This post first appeared on my old blog site “Who’s your auntie?” on 9 January 2014.

Glass flattener. That was the occupation given by my maternal grandfather, George Owen, on his marriage certificate in 1912 in St. Helens, Lancashire, England. I discovered that in the manufacture of plate glass, large cylinders of glass were created, then slit open and smoothed to form flat sheets of glass. It was the latter part of this process that George was employed in. Further research revealed that George was an employee of Pilkington Brothers in St. Helens, Lancashire, England, a leading manufacturer of window glass.

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Impressed Sailors: What were they?

Do you have a British ancestor who suddenly seems to have vanished? If he worked on the seas, or perhaps even if he did not, he may have been pressed into service by the Royal Navy. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Royal Navy used press gangs, as they were commonly known, to forcibly seize sailors, both from other vessels while at sea, and from docks, pubs, and homes while ashore.

Why did the navy’s impress service employ such tactics? During times of war, there was a need for greater recruitment for the navy. Legislation allowed for both voluntary enlistment and forcible service.

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First World War Resources at Archive.org

Not all service records from WWI survive. Of those that do survive, some are available for free. For example, those for Canada are currently being digitised and placed online by Library and Archives Canada. Fire destroyed some of the service records for the United Kingdom; those that remain are available through subscription websites such as Ancestry and findmypast. Fire was also responsible for the loss of many service records in the United States.

Fortunately, many towns, counties, schools, and companies created biographical directories to honour those who served in WWI. Local libraries often hold some of these in their collections.

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Domestic Service & The Girls' Friendly Society

Between 1919 and 1930, more than 120,000 female domestic servants arrived at Canadian ocean ports, and of those, nearly 75,000 were from the British Isles. My aunt, Florence Clarke, was one of them. She was a young woman of twenty-five when she disembarked, alone, at the port of Quebec on 30 July 1926. Like many women of her age, Flo had grown up in rural England and had made her way to the city, in her case, Liverpool, to seek work as a domestic servant. By the time she left England in 1926, Flo had been in domestic service for 12 years, having obtained a labour certificate to leave school at the age of 13.

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