Sunday, July 31, 2011

Breaking through genealogical walls: my great-grandfather Walter Gear.

I've had very little sleep the past couple of nights. Idly searching through, I came upon some information that may have broken through a genealogical brick wall in an unexpected way, and it's been keepig me at the computer until the wee hours of the morning.

My grandfather, Walter Gear, was a British Home Child. He emigrated to Canada with a group of children under the auspices of Miss Annie McPherson. He left Liverpool on September 7, 1871 at age 14 and sailed on the SS Prussian (Source.)  They arrived in Quebec City on the 17th of September and were taken by train to Belleville where there was a distribution home for such children. I knew nothing about his time over the next 16 years but in May 2011, I requested his file from Barnardo's in England and there is a 6-8 month waiting period to receive any records they have about his birth family and the reasons why he was sent to Canada. 

Skipping forward in time:

There is also an arrival for a W Gear in 1887.  The passenger list for the SS Lake Ontario, leaving Bristol, England on October 6, 1887 and arriving in Quebec on Oct 17th shows a group of nine men, identified as Cattlemen. This leads me to believe that Walter may have returned to England at some point and then come back to Canada, although I have not been able to find his name on a passenger list corresponding to his return trip.

On the 12th of October 1899, Walter marries my grandmother Janet Forbes Morren (Source: Calgary Tribune). He and Janet have three children in Calgary: William (1900, my grandfather), Barbara (1903), and Mary (1905). On William's birth certificate, Walter's occupation is listed as "Drayman", which would seem to accord with the occupation of cattleman on the 1887 passenger list. 

In the 1911 Census of Canada, Walter is living in Calgary at a lumber yard, working as a foreman in a stable. He has a roomer, George Dunkby. He is working 70 hours per week and earned $720 the previous year.Janet and the children are not living with him.That is tale for another post.

I had wondered about the years between his first trip over as a Home Child at age 14, and his second as a cattleman at age 30. It is my understanding that the Home Children would have been in service until age 18 or so, which suggests that there was a period of a dozen years when he would have been on his own.

Which brings me to my discovery. 

I found a marriage listed for a Walter Gear to an Elizabeth Miller in Sophiasburgh (now Picton, Ontario) on February 28, 1878. The registration lists Walter as 24 and Miss MIller as 18. 

Further searches yielded a birth (and death) certificate for a still born female child two years later in April 1880 and a daughter Lewella (later known as Ella) born in 1884. I am unable to locate either Walter or Elizabeth (now called Louisa) in the 1891 census, but in 1901, Louisa and Ella are living with Louisa's mother Margaret, now widowed, and her brother Lewis MIller, a farmer, in Picton. Louisa is listed as married, but there is no husband in the household.

So the timeline looks like this:

1857 - Walter Gear born in England

1871 - Walter arrives in Ontario with group of home children (age 14)

1878 - Walter marries Elizabeth (age 24, per marriage cert)

1880, 1884 - Daughters born.  Only second one (Lewella) survives

18?? - Walter returns to England. His sister Alice gets married in 1886. Is it possible that he returned for that?

1887 - Walter returns to Canada as a cattleman, destined for Calgary.

1899 - Walter marrries Janet Morren, my grandmother, and has three children with her in Calgary.

1901 - Eliabeth is living with her mother, brother, and daughter in Picton, Ontario.

1911 - Walter living alone in Calgary, working as a teamster.

There is more. The certicate of Walter's first marriage lists his parenta as Edward and Sarah Gear, in England.  I was able to track down his birth record in East Grinstead, Sussex and find out about his birth family.  But I'll leave the details for another post.  Like many home children, the family appears to have been quite destitute. When Walter left at age 14, he was the oldest of 5 children.  His father died in 1867 when Walter was 10, and so choosing to come to Canada might have been the only way out for him. In 1871, the year Walter leaves, the family is living with their uncle Thomas Gear who is a carter. In 1881, his mother is working as a pew opener in a mission church. 

Walter travels back and forth between Canada and England a couple more times in the early 20th century and dies in Hamilton, Ontario in 1922.

The information that I've collected is somewhat circumstantial.  Could there be two different Walter Gear's with the same approximate birth year who both emigrated to Canada? I have some research trips planned to the public library and Ontario Archives to try to dig up some more. 

And it's not just Americans...


I live a block away from a SB outlet. Spend a lot of time narrowly avoiding bumping into the illegal parkers, jay-walkers, and spaced-out coffee drinkers, not to mention the litter. Simply cannot understand the allure when excellent coffee is your own home.

(If you've never been introduced to Post Secrets, check out the link.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Moleskine Reporter Bag


My sweetie got me this as a belated birthday present. Am thrilled! Will become my go-to bag, I'm sure.

The Simple Woman's Daybook - Black Dog Edition


FOR TODAY, July 26th, 2011...

Outside my window... .'s grey, but cool. The oppressive heat and humidity of the past weeks seems to be subsiding and I hope to spend more time outside.

I am thinking...

Churchill's black dog has returned.  I've had a couple of periods of depression over the past ten years and I seem to be in the middle of another. For this reason, I have backed out of the trip to Stockholm that Z and I were planning and he will go alone, to be with his family, on the anniversary of his mother's death. This was not easy for me to do, and I know that it was a significant disappointment to him, but the thought of being away from home for 10 days was simply overwhelming. I need to make some calls and get some advice and counsel. Adjust my meds. More exercise. Keep off alcohol (as I've been doing for a few weeks now) and improve my diet.


I am thankful...

for my supportive family, for a husband who understands as best he can, for a sense that my life is valuable.


In the kitchen...

...I made Pioneer Woman's delicious meat loaf last night, with potatoes and carrots in the roasting pan. Michael made a meatloaf sandwich for his lunch today, and we had a discussion about why I'd never made meat loaf when he was younger, and how he probably would't have liked it back then!


I am wearing... pyjamas. 'Nuff said.

I am creating...

...not a lot these days. Creative projects have fallen by the wayside.


I am going... take a long walk with Wilson at Sherwood Park today, in the off-leash area.


I am wondering...

...if I will ever lose the habit of putting two spaces after a period when I'm typing. Apparetly, it REALLY annoys some people.


I am reading...

...The Untold Story by Monica Ali.  It's a kind of thought-experiment, wherein the author imagines an alternate world where Princess Diana did not die but rather escapes anonymously to the American Midwest and assumes another identity. Riveting! I've loved Ali's previous novels and this one is no exeption. I'm also listening to an audiobook by Elizabeth Peters called Devil-May-Care.  A young woman housesits a haunted mansion belonging to her elderly aunt.  I"ve read a couple of Peter's Egyptian mysteries, and this one seems enjoyable so far.


I am hoping...

I am hopeful.


I am looking forward to...

...checking things off my to-do list.


I am hearing...

...the hum of the air conditioner and the tapping of a mason working on a driveway down the street.


Around the house...

 ...I have  few projects on the go. I need to choose a paint colour for the exterior of our stucco and wood trim house and I have some Behr samples to try out.  I need to get a roof repair person in to work on our leaky skylight. And the decluttering continues.


I am pondering... to move forward.


One of my favorite things...

...eating a popsicle while reading a book.


A few plans for the rest of the week:

Getting Michael through his summer school exam (Physics)
Getting Z off on his trip to Stockholm
Getting appointments with my doctor and other helpers.


Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

The world lost the great painter Lucian Freud this week.
Requiescat in pacem.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

From Love and Trash - Dumpster Find of the Week: (living) onions!

I love the idea of reclaiming trash, and this is from one of my favorite blogs, Love and Trash. While the writer found the "dead" onions at her food co-op, I can usually score some right at home.

I love onions. I love ‘em raw, and I love ‘em cooked, so much so that I have one tattooed on my leg. Mmmm. Full of vitamins and super powers, I say. And this e-mail was about dumpster diving some of that juicy yellow, white, and green gold.

This week’s dumpster find is from a reader from… well, she didn’t actually say. What she did have to say was this:

“The co-op is usually a bastion of reduce reuse recycle but I still occasionally, as a volunteer, find myself breaking down boxes for the recycle dumpster or throwing an odd bit of trash away. Possibly by accident it was that I found an unopened bag of what looked to be dead onions. They were the expensive organic kind.”

“Experiments I have done with scallions have shown that onions are very hardy. I have found that even the deadest-looking onions can revive when put back in dirt. It’s like they’re magical! See what I mean? The attached photo shows that all the onions in the bag came back to life within a week of planting. Hooray! ”

“Oh and if it’s not obvious what I will do with my find, I will harvest and eat them!”

Good call. Seems to me the only thing better than getting food out of the dumpster is getting a plant or a plant start that will continue to feed you long after the dumpsters have gone. I’ve never planted the onions I’ve dumpstered (need to get on that someday, then again it all depends on the time of year when you find ‘em), but I have found tulip bulbs and more spice and herb plants (usually basil) than I could carry home.


I have to admit that it never occurred to me to actually PLANT the onions that sprout in my cupboard. I'll let you know how it goes, 'cos with this hot weather, I'll be getting some sprouts soon! Potatoes too... apparently one eye is all you need to start a plant.

No more trashing my old produce. At least, not during the growing season. Click on the link above for more.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Books on the road

As many of you know, I'm a huge library fan and make use of the wonderful Toronto Public Library's excellent hold system for most of my reading needs.  I don't, however, like to take library books with me when I travel, and an upcoming ten-day jaunt to Stockholm has me starting to think about what I'll take with me.

I scanned my Summer Reading Challenge reading list for potential candidates...books that either I own or can buy used, and that would be enjoyable to read while travelling.  I already have a few on my Kindle:

  1. A Connecticul Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (I'm about a third of the way in to this).
  2. Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
  3. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (I don't currently have this assigned to a Challenge Task)

Other books that I had on hold at the library that I thought would be suitable are:

  1. Ann of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I decided to reread this during the recent Royal Visit, which included a stop at Green Gables in PEI.
  2. Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson.  It's the next up (for me) in the Inspector Banks series.
  3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry in Values by Robert Pirsig.  I read this long ago as a teen, but it's the group read for the challenge and I'd love to give it another read.

I managed to find these at The Handy Book Exchange, my local used bookstore just around the corner on Avenue Road.  (They're dog friendly which means I can pop in for a look when I'm walking Wilson, and they give him treats while I'm there.)  I'll take off the library holds on these three and plan to leave them in Sweden with a BookCrossing sticker once I've finished them.

There are also a few books that I own that I'll consider taking with me:

  1. Trader by Charles de Lint.  I've never read any of his work before, and I picked this up some time ago at Value Village. I'm becoming more open to the fantasy genre so we'll see how this goes.
  2. Open Secrets by Alice Munroe.  Another one that I read some time ago and would like to re-read, and then give away.

Six paperbacks and a Kindle?  Maybe that's excessive.  Maybe I'll have already devoured one or more of these before I go.  Either way, I feel prepared!


Seven Quick Takes Friday: Iris Murdoch Edition.


  1. It's the late Iris Murdoch's 92nd birthday, and I happen to be reading her novel The Nice and The Good.  First published in 1968, it's a tale of a complex household in Dorset that includes a married couple (Octavian and Kate), their two children, an elderly uncle, a divorced friend of the wife whose ex-husband works for Octavian and her twins, a widow (friend of Kate) and her son, a housekeeper, a refugee scholar who lives in a cottage on the property, a cat and a dog.  Also in the cast of characters is a friend of Octavians who is in love with Kate, said friend's girlfriend who he is trying to break up with, his manservant, and an ex-lover of the divorced friend. There is also a suicide (murder?) victim who works for Octavian. I had to make a little cheat sheet about 50 pages in to the novel to keep track of who everyone is.  But it's a good read and I'm about halfway through.
  2. Our 18-year-old nephew, Marc, from France has been here for three weeks.  He did two weeks of English language lessons at a terrific school here in Toronto, had done the requisite trip to Niagara Falls, spent a weekend at our cottage, and has hung out with our boys in the evenings when they're at home.  He's really easy-going and has been a pleasure to host.This weekend will include the new Harry Potter movie and a day at Canada's Wonderland with Alex.  He heads home on Tuesday with (I hope) great memories.  We've been encouraging him to consider University of Waterloo for graduate studies (he's in Computer Engineering) and I know he'd love to return to Canada at some point. (Photo is Marc and Z at....guess where?)
  3. We've finally hired a cleaner to deal with our house as I have simply not been up to the task. The "deep" clean was thie past Monday and apparently we had a remarkable amount of dust throughout our house (she feigns surprise). Gleaming Glenn will be back each Monday to keep us sparkling and it will let me focus on decluttering.  
  4. Z was a witness before the CRTC earlier this week at the Usage Based Billing (UBB) consultation.  He'll be back next week for more. It brings back my old days at Bell when I was involved in a number of regulatory proceedings, responding to interrogatories and preparing witness testimony and backup. I loved that work and have enjoyed discussing the current hearings. I've been following the twitter feed with much interest (#ubb for any geeks out there.) We're such romantics!
  5. I've started a family history wiki, private to family members at the moment, where I am trying to compile data, photos, stories, etc about my ancestors.  If you're in my family and would like an invite, drop me a line. It's still in a fairly preliminary stage and it's my first time creating a wiki (I'm using the free version of PBworks) but I think it has great potential to become a repository of multiple types of information and a way to pass on the family history after I'm gone.
  6. Michael is taking Grade 11 Physics at summer school to free up a period in his schedule next year to permit more practice time.  He's half-way through the course and it's going very well. A tiring exercise (five days a week, 8:45-3:30), he gets a full year credit in less than a month and, frankly, keeps him occupied through the summer.  The teacher is excellent and he seems very focussed on doing a great job. He'll have three weeks break, and then two weeks of music camp to top off his summer, a week of jazz with his trombone and a week of band/classical with his tuba.
  7. One of the big results of our visit from Gleaming Glenn was his tidying of the boys rooms. Michael was so happy, that he did a whole bunch of additional decluttering and has decided to move all his instruments upstairs, along with the digital piano. He asked for a smaller desk so that this could be accomodated, and we found one at Value Village for $14.99 (less 20% student discount):
    It is basically particleboard with an ugly faux wood-grain base.  Two cans of RustOleum Universal spray paint (black) yielded this:
    Another few hours to cure and it'll grace his room.

Read more Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Worth turning the oven on for!


I don't do much baking in the summer, but I might make an exception for these: an Oreo cooked baked inside chocolate chip cookie dough.


Follow the link.

Cottage Hill: My Vintage Camper - How much do I LOVE these???!


Go to the link and look at the possibilities for one of these babies! If I had space on my property, I'd get one and make it into my hideaway!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

When Fenelon Falls by Dorothy Palmer - A review.

When Fenelon FallsWhen Fenelon Falls by Dorothy Palmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Remarkable, funny, heart-breaking and completely original. A must read for children of the Ontario 60s, adoptees, and those with a passion for children. It takes a few pages to get into the rhythm of Palmer's voice, her brilliant use of language, but it is well worth persevering. This is a novel that I will not soon forget.

View all my reviews