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Archived Articles
Formerly published by

Article Published July 31, 2000

Sandra Devlin EAST COAST KIN (Canada)
By: Sandra Devlin, Biography & Archived Articles

Finders, keepers!
Resources For Finding Your Strays

When you were five years old a stray was that scrawny black kitten that followed you home and your mother insisted, “No, you can not keep it!”

But you have put away childish things and taken up genealogy. Now, a stray is a whole different kind of cat.

Genealogically speaking, a stray is a person described in a record as being from, or connected with, a place outside the area in which an event took place. For example, someone dies in one place, but was born in another. The obituary in the local newspaper notes the place of birth. That person “strayed” from his place of origin, and people “back home” want to know what happened to him. Over the years and for a variety of reasons, our Maritime families were scattered, hither, thither and yon. Everyone has uncles, aunts and cousins whose whereabouts and fates are a mystery.

Enter stray projects, the systematic collection of this data to help us relocate our lost kin.

Strays are frequently collected from marriage and census records. Some are found through death and burial records, newspaper clippings, grave stone inscriptions and baptisms. The list of potential sources is endless. Browsing can become addictive!

On Prince Edward Island, a formal stray project is led by Norma Jean MacDonald, 59 Lakeview Dr., Cornwall RR 4, C0A 1H0; e-mail: In addition, The Island Register on the web has begun a stray book:

New Brunswick strays in the 1881 Canadian census are being compiled at: A less complete 1871 census project is also on line, simply replace 1871 in address above.

Mary Rosevear, editor of Generations has been regularly publishing N.B. strays as they come to her attention. Contact: New Brunswick Genealogical Society, Generations, PO Box 3235, Station B., Fredericton, N.,B., E3A 5G9.

The Ontario Genealogical Society has under taken to collect British strays in Canada and Ontario strays anywhere. (There are five volumes published, each costs $10, plus tax and shipping, and are available from at 1 800 361-5168 or inquire by email)

Contact: OGS Stray co-ordinator, Shirley Lancaster, Suite 102, 40 orchard View Blvd., Toronto, M4R 1B9.

New submissions to stray projects must include full name, birth place or residence, type of event (death, marriage, etc.), date of event, place of event and full reference. The reference must be accessible to other researchers, such as archives, libraries, vital statistic, newspapers, census, etc. (Private family Bibles, for example, would not qualify)

I have not found any active stray projects from Nova Scotia. What am I missing? Let me know.

Following are some Maritime“strays” found at The Commonwealth War Graves Commission searchable database:
  • In Memory of John Chesley Steeves, Sergeant, R/64740, W. Op/Air Gnr, Royal Canadian Air force who died Monday 7th July 1941. Age 20. Son of Chesley Weldon Steeves and Greta Evangeline Steeves of Elgin, Albert Co., New Brunswick. Buried at: Dyce Old Churchyard, Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom, Grave 26.

    Dyce Old Churchyard contains the ruins of the former Parish Church. It stands on the right bank of the Don, 22 miles from Dyce railway station and 1 mile from the Parish Church. Dyce airport was a Royal Air Force station during the 1939-1945 War, and an extension on the western side of the old churchyard was chosen by the authorities for the burial of casualties from the air station. Only airmen are buried in this reserved plot. There is one 1914-1918 war grave in the churchyard.
  • In Memory of James Oscar Steeves, Private G/23068, Carleton and York Regiment, RCIC, who died on Thursday, 7th September, 1944. Age 20. Son of Edward Steeves and Bridget Steeves of Legere Corner, New Brunswick Thursday, 7th September 1944. Buried at: Ancona War Cemetery, Italy, IF 19.
    The War Cemetery lies in the rural locality of Tavernelle, in the Commune and Province of Ancona, 3 kilometres south of the town of Ancona. Leave the Autostrada A14 at Ancona Sud and take the SS16 towards Ancona. After approximately 3 kilometres (via Pietro Filonze) turn right to pass in front of the wholesale fruit market and under a railway line. Then at the next junction turn left and the War Cemetery is found after several kilometres on the left shortly after a FINA petrol filling station, on the Strada di Passo Varano. The cemetery is permanently open and may be visited anytime.
    The cemetery site was chosen by the Army in September 1944, and burials were brought in from a wide area round about, extending from Pescara, 80 kilometres farther south, to Pesaro, over 48 kilometres north of Ancona. They include casualties from the first attacks on the eastern sector of the Gothic Line, near Fano and Pesaro, at the end of August and early in September 1944. Ancona itself had been taken by the Poles on 18th July, 1944, and being little touched by the war, served as the main port for supplies for the attack on the Gothic Line and for the final break-through the following spring at Argenta. There are now over 1,000, 1939-45 war casualties commemorated in this site.
  • In Memory of Ernest Ewart Horsman, Private 709223, 26th Bn., Canadian Infantry (New Brunswick Regt.) who died on Sunday, 9th December 1917. Age 19. Son of Calvin and Rebecca Horsman, of Moncton, New Brunswick. Buried at: Aubigny Communal Cemetry, Par de Calais, France, III F47. Aubigny-en-Artois is a village approximately 15 kilometres north-west of Arras on the road to St. Pol (N39). From the N39 turn onto the D75 towards the village of Aubigny-en-Artois. The Cemetery lies south on a road leading from the centre of the village, and the Extension is behind it.
    Aubigny was, before March, 1916, in the area of the French Tenth Army, and 327 French soldiers were buried in the Extension to the West of what is now Plot IV. From March, 1916, to the Armistice, Aubigny was held by British troops, and the Extension became a large British Cemetery, in use until September, 1918. The 42nd Casualty Clearing Station buried in it during the whole period, the 30th in 1916 and 1917, the 24th and 1st Canadian in 1917 (during the capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Corps), and the 57th in 1918. There are now nearly 3,000, 1914-18 and a small number of 1939-45, war casualties commemorated in this site. The Cemetery Extension covers an area of 6,545 square metres.
  • In Memory of Edgar Henry Horsman, Private 832035, 10th Bn., Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regt.) who died on Saturday, 28th April 1917. Age 26. Son of Crandall Horsman, and Annie Horsman, of Cherryfield, Moncton, New Brunswick. Buried at Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.
    Canada's most impressive tribute overseas to those Canadians who fought and gave their lives in the First World War is the majestic and inspiring Vimy Memorial, which overlooks the Douai Plain from the highest point of Vimy Ridge, about eight kilometres northeast of Arras on the N17 towards Lens. The Memorial is signposted from this road to the left, just before you enter the village of Vimy from the south. The Memorial itself is someway inside the memorial park, but again it is well signposted. The Memorial does more than mark the site of the engagement which Canadians were to remember with more pride than any other operation of the First World War. It stands as a tribute to all who served their country in battle in that four-year struggle, and particularly to those who gave their lives. At the base of the Memorial, these words appear in French and in English: TO THE VALOUR OF THEIR COUNTRYMEN IN THE GREAT WAR AND IN MEMORY OF THEIR SIXTY THOUSAND DEAD THIS MONUMENT IS RAISED BY THE PEOPLE OF CANADA Inscribed on the ramparts of the Memorial are the names of over 11,000 Canadian soldiers who were posted as "missing, presumed dead" in France. The land for the battlefield park, 91.18 hectares in extent, was (as stated on a plaque at the entrance to the Memorial) "the free gift in perpetuity of the French nation to the people of Canada". Eleven thousand tonnes of concrete and masonry were required for the base of the Memorial: and 5,500 tonnes of "trau" stone were brought from Yugoslavia for the pylons and the sculptured figures. Construction of the massive work began in 1925, and 11 years later, on July 26, 1936, the monument was unveiled by King Edward VIII. The park surrounding the Memorial was created by
    horticultural experts. Canadian trees and shrubs were planted in great masses to resemble the woods and forests of Canada. Around the Memorial, beyond the grassy slopes of the approaches, are wooded parklands. Trenches and tunnels have been restored and preserved and the visitor can picture the magnitude of the task that faced the Canadian Corps on that distant dawn when history was made.
  • In Memory of Laird Weldon Blakney, Lieutenant, Calgary Highlanders, RCIC who died on Tuesday, 1st August, 1944. Age 23. Son of Lorne a. and Lottie V. Blakney of Newcastle, New Brunswick. Buried at: Bretteville-sur-Laize, Canadian War Cemetery, Calvados, France, IV B7. This cemetery lies on the west side of the main road from Caen to Falaise (route N158) about 14 kilometres south of Caen and just north of the village of Cintheaux. The village of Bretteville lies 3 kilometres south-west of the cemetery. Buried here are those who died during the later stages of the battle of Normandy, the capture of Caen and the thrust southwards (led initially by the 4th Canadian and 1st Polish Armoured Divisions), to close the Falaise Gap, and thus seal off the German divisions fighting desperately to escape being trapped west of the Seine. Almost every unit of Canadian 2nd Corps is represented in the Cemetery. There are now nearly 3,000, 1939-45 war casualties commemorated in this site.
  • In Memory of Donald Keans Blakney, Leading Aircraftman, R/13746, Royal Canadian Air Force who died on Sunday, 13th January 1946. Age 22. Son of Donald M. Blakney and Ruth M. Blakney, of Hubbards, Nova Scotia. Buried at: Hubbard’s (Pine Hill) Cemetery, Nova Scotia, Canada. Block B, Row 3, Lot 5.
  • In Memory of Louis Mortimer Trites, Private 73695, 16th Bn., Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regt.) who died on Thursday, 8th August 1918. Age 35. Son of Edward T. and Susie K. Trites, of 149 St. George St., Moncton, New Brunswick. Buried at: Demuin British Cemetery, Somme, France. A 22.
    Demuin is a village 5 kilometres from Villers Bretonneux. From Villers-Bretonneux take the D23 in the direction of Demuin and Moreuil, heading south. Drive on until the exit of Villers, and then carry straight on to Demuin. The cemetery is on the right hand side just before entering Demuin.
    Demuin was lost and recaptured on the 30th March, 1918, and lost again on the 31st, but on the 8th August, 1918, it was retaken by the 58th Canadian Battalion. The British Cemetery was made by the 3rd Canadian Battalion in August, 1918. There are now over 40, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, a small number are unidentified. The British Cemetery covers an area of 213 square metres and is enclosed by a low flint wall.
  • In Memory of Ronald Murray Trites, Flight Lieutenant, J/7919, 464 (R.A.A.F.) Sqdn, Royal Canadian Air Force who died on Thursday, 18th January 1945. Age 25. Son of Raleigh and Isobel Isla Trites, of Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. Buried at: Merville Communal Cemetery, Nord, France. Plot 1. Row B. Grave 28A.
    Merville is a town 15 kilometres north of Bethune and 20 kilometres south-east of Armentieres. The Communal Cemetery is on the north-east side of the town to the north side of the road to Neuf-Berquin. The Extension is now surrounded by the Communal Cemetery.
    Merville was the scene of fighting early in October, 1914, between French and British Cavalry and the Germans, but from the 9th of that month to the 11th April, 1918, it remained in British hands. In October, 1914, and in the autumn of 1915, it was the Headquarters of the Indian Corps. It was a railhead until May, 1915, and a billeting and hospital centre from 1915 to 1918. The 6th and Lahore Casualty Clearing Stations were there from the autumn of 1914 to the autumn of 1915; the 7th from December, 1914, to April, 1917; the 54th (1st/2nd London) from August, 1915, to March, 1918; and the 51st (Highland) from May, 1917, to April, 1918; and practically all the British burials were those of men who died in these hospitals. On the evening of the 11th April, 1918, in the Battles of the Lys, the Germans forced their way into Merville; and the place was not retaken until the 19th August. During the 1939-45 War the river Lys was the southern end of a deep but narrow area held by British forces at the end of May 1940. Merville is on the territory over which were fought desperate rearguard actions during the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Forces to the coast, for evacuation from Dunkirk. Merville Communal Cemetery Extension was opened in August, 1916, and used by British and Portuguese hospitals until April, 1918. It was enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from the battlefields immediately North and East of Merville and from Caudescure Halte Cemetery, Morbecque. The 1939-45 burials occurred mostly during the fighting in May 1940. They are interspersed among the 1914-18 graves. There are now over 1,000, 1914-18 and nearly 100, 1939-45 war casualties commemorated in this site. The cemetery covers
    an area of 4,343 square metres. The Extension is enclosed by a brick wall, except on the West side where it adjoins the Communal Cemetery. The War Stone is on the grass terrace running the entire lenght of the Eastern side, and the Cross at the entrance on the Western side.

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