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Article posted: December 15, 1998

Are you Whimsical?
By: Ryan Taylor, Biography and Archived Articles

Sir Anthony Wagner once said that the idea of tracing all one’s various family lines was ‘whimsical.’ According to him, the only really useful study was your one male line in the name that you bore.

Wagner was the Garter King at Arms, head of the College of Arms in England and so one of the foremost genealogists in the English speaking world. He made this remark forty years ago, before genealogy became such a fervent world-wide hobby.

He was probably wrong even then, too.

Kindergarten at 105?

An official letter from the board of education reached a Swiss family recently. It had identified a boy in the family who was now of school age but who had not registered for kindergarten. The parents were advised of the penalties coming their way if the boy did not attend school as the law required.

Oops! That old devil computer date has struck again. The 'boy' involved has recently turned 105. His parents are not here to respond to the board's warning.

Early Immigrants - Why Did They Come?

During Michael Gandy's visit to Ottawa in September, he talked about common genealogical legends and why they don't apply. One interesting point concerned the one about how somebody's ancestor was the younger son of the aristocracy sent out to make his fortune.

Gandy told us that the aristocracy had plenty of money even for its younger sons and that they didn't need to come to North America to try to make a pile. The ones that did were usually looking for adventure, not money.

In my own recent work on pioneer life 1820-1850 I found that many single young men chose to emigrate because they thought a life of "huntin', shootin' and fishin' in the wilderness was more fun than staying at home". While many of them did come, a great many also went home again when the cold and mosquitoes became too much. Numbers also succumbed to boredom, which was usually alleviated by smoking and drinking too much.


One of the reason for doing genealogy is to see how our ancestors lived. The most dramatic experience was emigrating across the ocean, but how much do we know about what it was like? It would be terrific to hear an actual emigrant describe the trip.

Clearing A Road In Early Upper Canada Across the Waters: Ontario Immigrants' Experiences, 1820-1850
by Frances Hoffman and Ryan Taylor gathers together selections from firsthand accounts so that today's readers can discover what it meant to be a pioneer in Ontario. From the day they decided to strike off across the Atlantic to the first harvest in their own clearing, the settlers will tell you about the seasickness, the quarantine station, the mosquitoes--the fish you could scoop out of streams with your bare hands, the pride of owning your own land and the joys of helping one another build a house.

Hoffman's and Taylor's previous book, Much to be Done, gave diarists from the Victorian era the chance to tell us about their lives. Their new book offers the same opportunity to those diarists' parents and grandparents.

Across the Waters: Ontario Immigrants' Experiences, 1820-1850 will be published in March 1999 ( originally planned for May '99) by Global Heritage Press in softcover and hard cover (library binding) versions. Reserve your copy today!.

Books By Ryan Taylor

Across The Waters, Ontario Immigrants Experiences 1820 - 1850 - by Frances Hoffman & Ryan Taylor, 1999. Riveting first-hand accounts of the immigration and settlement experience, taken from the diaries and letters of 150 immigrants.

Routes To Roots, The Best of Ryan Taylor's columns from the Kitchener Waterloo Record, by Ryan Taylor 1997

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Norway Bay United & Anglican Cemetery
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The Merivale Cemeteries
(Protestant - Ottawa area)