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ENGLISH & WELSH ROOTS - Do You Remember? English and Welsh Roots & Remembrance Day
Article posted: November 19, 1999
By: Fawne Stratford-Devai Biography & Archived Articles
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month silence spread across Canada as we paused to remember those who had given their lives in the service of their country. Veterans of this century's war and peace keeping missions marched in cities and towns across Canada on Remembrance Day. Flags were flown, medals were polished, bag pipes and bands set the march for parades. In Ottawa, proud veterans marched on parliament hill with tears in their eyes as thousands of people stood in the cold November air and cheered.
We do remember - Don't we?
Often when researching our family history we find ourselves buried in the records of past centuries. Yet today we stand in the waning months of the 20th century and we will soon find ourselves at the dawn of not only a new century, but a new millennium. Have we carefully documented the life, love and laughter of this century's families?
Even now, decades after the end of the second world war, the positive and negative consequences of this century's wars remain with families.
Tens of thousands of Canadians rest in graves far from home, in cemeteries in foreign lands maintained by the http://www.cwgc.org Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They fought along-side their friends, family and Commonwealth counterparts in some of the bloodiest warfare of this century. They did not return home. Families were devastated. Generations still living carry the memories and scares of these wars.
During the twentieth century the service of Canadians during both world wars saw tens of thousands of men stationed in many areas of England. The passion of this tumultuous time led many to relationships with local English girls. Tens of thousands of these young women would find themselves immigrating to Canada as war brides following the end of hostilities. Yet other "partnerships" resulted simply in offspring and no marriage. Today there are estimated to be thousands of children of Canadian soldiers who are actively searching for their fathers. These stories are told in such books as The Aldershot Canadians: In Love and War 1939-45 by Mark Maclay. They are reflected in the practical work of Project Roots and the Canadian War Children of WW II. Project Roots is a volunteer detective agency that is working to find the long-lost Canadian fathers of British and European War Children who were born to single, unwed mothers in the aftermath of World War Two. To date, Project Roots and the Canadian War Children of WWII http://www.project-roots.com/index.html has successfully reunited 2500 war children with the Canadian fathers who left them behind.
In my own family history my aunt came to Canada as a war bride at the end of World War II. Many years later her younger sister (my mother) came to Canada to live with her sister and fell in love with my father. Had my aunt not come to Canada as a war bride would my mother have followed?
On a the other hand, the English and Welsh roots of those who served in Canada's Forces overseas are evident in their military records. While searching the Canadian Expeditionary Force website I came across the enlistment papers (attestation papers) of Canadians who served in World War I. It is quite amazing to find so many whose place of birth was listed as a town or village in England or Wales, Ireland or Scotland.
Often when researching our English and Welsh roots we fail to search Canadian military records for information about our ancestors. Aside from place of residence and birth, attestation papers document the physical description of the person enlisting. Information about Canadian military records can be found at the National Archives of Canada website http://www.archives.ca.
Records of the Canadian Expeditionary Force: http://www.archives.ca/exec/naweb.dll?fs&020106&e&top&0 Over 600,000 Canadian enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War One. This database is a searchable index to the personnel files of those who enlisted. A growing number of actual attestation papers are being put online and linked to the index over time.
Books of Remembrance: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/books/ These books record the names of Canadians who fought and died in the wars of this century.
Department of National Defence: http://www.dnd.ca/ The official website of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces.
The Canadian Air force: http://www.airforce.dnd.ca/ Includes information on the history of the Air force as well as links to other Air force related websites.
Canadian Army homepage: http://army.cipherlogic.on.ca/ The unofficial Canadian Army homepage.
Canadian Genealogy and History Links - Military: Links to more Canadian military information than you can imagine. National and Provincial breakdowns. http://www.islandnet.com/~jveinot/cghl/military.html
The Canadian Military Heritage Project: http://www.rootsweb.com/~canmil/index.html The website is dedicated to presenting Canadian military history ~ the wars, uprisings and conflicts in which Canadians participated.
Canadian Peace Keeping Veterans Association: http://www.islandnet.com/~duke/cpva.htm Website includes a Roll of Honour of Canadian Peacekeepers who have given lives in the Service Of Peace, poems from those who have served and links to international peace keeping sites.
Canadian War Museum: http://www.cmcc.muse.digital.ca/cwm/cwmeng/cwmeng.html Canada's national institution which is dedicated to both education and remembrance.
Lost Celtic Connections: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Lane/4398/ A website dedicated to families from the United Kingdom who were torn apart by World War II. Includes database of families and many other links.
Canadian Military Genealogical FAQ: http://www.ott.igs.net/~donpark/canmilfaq.htm. Although somewhat dated, this website offers a number of sources to be considered when searching for Canadian Military information.
Veterans Affairs Canada: The Canadian Government department charged with recognizing and honouring the sacrifices of Canada's veterans and all Canadian citizens during war. Includes information about Canadian Military Medals and Decorations, the departments Mission and Mandate with related links.
The Royal Canadian Legion: http://www.legion.ca/ Learn about the Legion, their work in the community, and various programs they offer. Good educational kits for teachers and students.
War, Peace and Security Guide: http://www.cfcsc.dnd.ca/links/milhist/index.html from the Information Resource Centre, Canadian Forces College. Time lines of Military history with information for specific wars and links to biographies, museums and military websites.
Field Diaries of the First World War: http://www3.ns.sympatico.ca/mackay4/pop1.htm The website includes the actual field diaries of Andrew Cecil Meredith Thomson which cover the period June 18,1915 to May 20, 1917.
Somewhere in France, Letters from the Great War: http://www.escape.ca/~stothers/ Includes the letters of John Cannon Stothers to family in Southern Ontario. John Cannon served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Pier 21, Halifax Nova Scotia: http://www.pier21.ns.ca/ Pier 21 was the gateway for 1.5 million immigrants to Canada from 1928 to 1971. Located on the Halifax waterfront, it was recently restored as a museum and tribute. "During World War II, 3,000 British evacuee children, 50,000 war brides and their 22,000 children, over 100,000 refugees and 368,000 Canadian troops bound for Europe passed through Pier 21."
War Brides of WW II: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Meadows/9710/WarBrides.html Dedicated to those women who left home, family, friends and country to be with the men they loved.
UK War Brides Registry: http://uk-pages.net/warbrides/warbrides.html
War Brides and the Lennox and Addington County Museum:
http://fox.nstn.ca/~museum/form.html in preparation for an exhibit sponsored in partnership with Lennox and Addington Historical Society.
War Brides - from Parks Canada: http://parkscanada.pch.gc.ca/library/background/25_e.htm Did you know? : Military Headquarters in London established a Canadian Wives Bureau whose job was to register war brides, then assign them a priority for transportation to Canada. In effect, immigration approval occurred before marriage was permitted. After the wedding, war brides became Canada's responsibility. Special War Brides' Clubs gave lectures to acquaint soldiers' wives with Canadian life.
Sources for Genealogical Research in Canada: http://www.king.igs.net/~bdmlhm/cangenealogy.html Includes links to many military related resources and websites.
Canadiana: The Canadian Resource Page: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/Unofficial/Canadiana/ With links to all things Canadian.
There are many published resources about the Canadian Military experience, Canadian War Brides and similar themes discussed in this article. One of the best starting points for such published works is the National Library of Canada's searchable database at: http://www.amicus.nlc-bnc.ca/wapp/resanet/searche.htm
Newspapers at the National Library of Canada: http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/services/enews.htm
DO YOU REMEMBER?
Have you recorded the memories of your families during this century? Family history research is about more than just names on paper, it is about your family - real people. For this reason it is critical that we understand the context of our family member's lives. Before dashing off in search of more distant research links, stop and ask yourself about the context in which this century's family members live(d). Sit down and try and answer a few questions about your family. The answers will not only bring your family stories to life but will also begin to record the history of this century ~ for future generations. Below are listed a few questions to help you to begin to place your family within the context of a living story:
Understand every day life. What kind of clothing did family members wear? Did they buy the clothes or make them at home? Did they order them from store catalogues? What kind of food did they eat? Was there a traditional meal served on Sundays? How was the food prepared? Did they use a fireplace, or a woodstove, or a modern electrical or gas stove? Where did they get their food? Did they buy their food or raise it at home?
What was the medical experience. What diseases were prevalent? What names were used to describe them? Who treated family members when they were ill? Did a doctor come to the home? Where were children born (at home, in modern hospitals)? Who attended the birth of children?
Know the community: What kind of community did your family live in? A large urban city? A small Town? A rural outpost? Who governed the community? Where were local records kept (tax and assessment records). How did you family fit in the community? Did they own land? Did family members participate in local groups or fraternal clubs and similar associations?
Who were their nearest neighbours? How far away did they live? Did they travel by road or water, by car or wagon to visit?
Understand their education. Were children educated at home or in a school? Was there a school near the house? How far away? What kind of school (one room schoolhouse, modern schools for different grades)? What was the name of the school(s)? Did all the children go to school? What age did a child's education end? What classes and subjects were taught? Who was the teacher?
Mobility: The 20th century has been one of the greatest centuries for mobility. How did your family end up in Canada? Did they immigrate to Canada this century? Did they choose to come to Canada? How did they travel here - by boat, by plane?
How long did your family live in one house? In one town? In the same province? How often did they move? What address did they live at? Did they move for employment? How did your ancestor get around? Was it by road or by water, on horse or foot, by rail or steamer? How far was the family from "civilization" such as stores, churches and schools? How far did they have to walk on a regular basis?
Picture the house. Was the house built of bricks, boards, logs, or even sod? How did your family protect their home from the weather? What was the roof made of (tin, cedar shingles, sod)? What was the foundation made of? Was there a basement? How many rooms were there? How big were the rooms? What was each room used for? Was there a porch, a sitting room or parlour? Was there any out-buildings - a barn, a garage, an outhouse? What material was the floor made of - dirt, wood, tiles? How was the house decorated? Were the walls wallpapered, painted, news papered? Were there any decorations? Were there any windows? How many? Did they have glass? Did they open? What was the finest possession in the house?
Understand the work. What type of work did your family do? Were they professional business people? Did they run a small store? Were they farmers? What crops did they grow? How big were their fields? How much did the crops yield? What farm machinery or implements did they use? Did they plow with a horse, an ox, a tractor or combine? What types of farm animals did they raise? Did they have cows for milk and chickens for eggs? Did the head of the household work one job or two? How did the wife and children contribute to the family funds? Did the children work as hired hands or servants in neighbours homes? What chores did the family do - each day, each week, annually?
Know the lay of the land. What was the land like where the family lived? Hilly, flat, wooded, fronting a lake? Was there a river nearby? What kinds of trees were in the area? What about birds and wildlife? What was the weather like? When did the first frost occur? How did the weather and seasons affect the way the house was built? Were there any major environmental events during your family's life--the ice storm of ‘98, the plague of grasBookstorers, a prairie fire, a flood? How was the family affected?
Faith, Devotion and Religion. Was your family deeply religious? Quietly pious? What local church did they attend? How many members were in the congregation? Was the family active in the church and its various social and outreach activities? Who was the minister? Was the minister educated and ordained or simply a local person called to preach? What was the church service like? Were hymns sung? What did it mean to the family to belong to a particular religious community? How did the religion affect family life, their clothing, marriage rites and customs, burial customs, their outlook on life and the afterlife? Is the cemetery connected with the church? Does your family member have a gravestone? Is there a symbol on the stone that signifies a connection to the church, to a faith, to a fraternal group? Are other family members buried nearby?
Understand the Family Structure. How big were families? How far apart were children born? How old were family members when they married? Was the age different for a man and a woman? Did many children die (the child mortality rate)? Was their more than one wife because women died in childbirth? What was the average life span of men and women? Did the younger family members care for elderly family members? Who were the children named for? Were they family names or just popular names of the time? Were nicknames used? Did the wife cope for long stretches without the aid of the husband? How much did the husband participate in family routines?
History and events. How did war and conflict, peace and politics affect your family? How did the family learn of current and world events? Through a local newspaper? Could someone in the family read the newspaper? Did any famous or historical people or events touch the lives of your family members? Were sons forced to enlist when war was declared or did they volunteer? Were women in the family forced to work in factories or on the farm during the war? How did they cope when their family members died far from home? Did they erect memorials? How did they serve the cause? How did the experience of war affect them at home? Did they rush to bomb shelters when air raid sirens sounded? Did they fear for their lives?
Understanding the Laws and Record Keeping. What age did young people have to be before they could marry? At what age could a child choose his or her own guardian? What happened when a family member died without a will? Who inherited the land and household belongings? Did the widow have any rights such as dower rights? What were those rights? What could people do if they wanted a divorce? Did your family vote?
What kind of record was created when a child was born or a family member died? Could someone in the family write? Who kept the family Bible? Were the entries written by a man, a woman or a young child? Did the church keeps records of your family's participation? If so, what kind of records were kept? Is the family listed in the city or rural directory? In a business directory?
As you begin to answer some of the questions listed above, many others will come to mind. The answers to many of these questions will also lead you to records that document your family. Perhaps one of these records will tell you the exact place of origin in England or Wales that your family originated from!
More importantly: Have you preserved the records and stories of your family in this century? Will your stories and records teach others to remember?
Whether your task is one of documenting the modern century or your immediate family, please keep in mind that your research is the legacy you leave to others - verify the records and stories you discover!
New at the LDS Family Search Website
The LDS FamilySearch Internet Site has added new features and improved its search capabilities:
The LDS FamilySearch website site improvements mean that visitors to the site can now search by:
Postcards From The Front
Postcards from the Front: http://mckague.com/photographs/collections/postcards/
The postcards on this web site were sent to three small children by their father, Captain James Nelson Richards, during World War I while serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In them, Capt. Richards tries to explain to his daughters what is happening in Europe and why he cannot be with them.
In Flanders Fields
A Canadian of Scottish descent penned one of the most famous poems associated with war:
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below,
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch - be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
More English & Welsh Resources
About Fawne Stratford-Devai
Fawne Stratford-Devai's work on Land Records and early Ontario records is well known in the genealogy community. A published author of several Canadian and UK research books, she has also contributed articles to the Ontario Genealogical Society's newsletter "Families" as well as writing for the online family history newsletter the "Global Gazette". Biography