Some Obituaries Can Tell us Much About our Family Tree

I recently found this Obituary for, not a blood relative, but the sister of my dad’s brother’s wife. I never knew my Aunt Rhoda Johnston because she died very young, but I think I would have liked to have met her sister! I don’t know if anyone else in Dad’s family ever knew her.

BYERS, Bettina (Clarissa Elizabeth) December 18, 1909 September 8, 2006 Passed away in Victoria on September 8th in her 97th year. Daughter of Julia and James Byers of Chatham, Ontario, and sister of the late Ellis Stephen (Ted) Byers and Rhoda Johnston. She is survived by her nieces, Nancy and Barbara Byers and the family of her late nephew, David Byers. Bettina began to study ballet in 1932 with the Toronto Conservatory and in the summers with the Royal Academy of Dancing in London, England. In 1937 she moved to London for fulltime study and won a R.A.D. choreography scholarship that enabled her to study with Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton. She returned to Toronto in 1939 and founded the Academy of Ballet, where she taught until she retired in 1966. That same year she moved to Victoria with her teaching partner and dear companion, Marjorie Haskins, who predeceased her. In 1975, Bettina became the first Canadian recipient of a fellowship with the Royal Academy of Dancing. Bettina was a keen gardener, and enjoyed many crafts in association with the Victoria Lapidary and Mineral Society. Thanks to the help of kind and devoted friends and caregivers, she was able to remain in her home until July of this year. The staff of Glenwarren Lodge gave her exceptional care and kindness in her final days. If you wish to remember Bettina with a donation, please consider an organization devoted to the welfare of wild animals and birds, which she passionately loved. 

In an article about the Canadian Dance Company, I also learned that Rhoda Byers was a Mezza-saprano and Bettina accompanied her on the piano in their younger years, before Bettina decided to pursue dance. I’m hoping to track down some photos to add to this.

When Rhoda died, my uncle Forrest moved to Africa, before I was born and where he stayed until I was a teenager. I knew  when I met him that he was the “odd” child of his family. He was very much into the Arts, especially enthusiastic about Opera. As far as I can recall, no one else in my Dad’s family shared these interests with him, but pictures I’ve found of their younger days seem to indicate that he was very close to his mother. Perhaps he learned about them from her.

Leave a comment

Filed under Family Trees, Genealogy, Research, Uncategorized

Amazing Stories From Scotland

Just last week I sent the Memoirs of my uncle, Nelson Craig, who is a retired RCMP officer, to the printer. Uncle Nelson was unsure about some distant ancestors on his father’s side, believing that they had arrived in Canada via Ireland and Scotland; he knew nothing about his maternal grandmother’s background, other than the fact that she was born in India and her maiden name was Sladen. So I started a Family Tree for him to see what I could find. Very slowly, the tree began to grow, but only the Canadian branches, so when I included the tree in the book, that’s all that I had.

Then, a few days after the book was printed, I received an email from David in Scotland who had noticed that I’d acquired a few facts from his Ancestry.com family tree – a tree that had come up as a “hint” with regard to Nelson’s maternal grandfather Thirlwall. Well, David had a little more to tell me about the Thirlwalls, and lots to tell me about the Sladens! It turns out that David is a second cousin, twice removed to Uncle Nelson, being a descendant from the brother of Nelson’s grandmother. He not only gave me the missing dates and places of births and deaths, but he had stories to tell about wealth and poverty and royal ancestors! My uncle is thrilled to hear these stories, and I’m excited to add these new pieces to the puzzle.

David says there are lots of Craigs in Scotland. Perhaps I should take a trip there to see what’s to be discovered. Wouldn’t that be exciting! Think of the stories I’d have for both this blog and my travel blog!

Book Cover

Book Cover

Leave a comment

Filed under Family Trees, Genealogy, Research

Who’s in Your Tree?

If you love to solve puzzles, if you’re curious about what makes you who you are, start a family tree. You’ll be amazed at what you find. Here is one  example:

There has been a history of heart disease in my immediate family. My mother suffered a mild heart attack when she was in her seventies, and my older sister experienced two major heart attacks and various other heart problems for many years until she passed away in 2012, at the age of 75. My other sister and I have both been diagnosed with irregular heart rates. This past week I received in the mail a stack of information about the second  family of my long lost maternal great-grandfather. This material included several death certificates that indicated that many of the people,  mostly the women, had died from “heart troubles”. Now that’s an interesting fact for my own health records!

How did I find all of this? Well it took a few years, and a lot of research. I started with Ancestry.ca where I entered all the information that I had from family records and stories. Then I used the search tool to search available records. I also searched and posted on some genealogy forums, such as Genealogy.com where I found someone in Cincinnati looking for relatives of his grandfather, who just happened to be my great-grandfather. Unfortunately, by the time I found his posting he no longer had the same contact information, but I used what information he had provided to once again do an Ancestry.ca search. This is how I found my great-grandfather’s second family.

Recently I was contacted through Ancestry by another person who was researching a family tree, looking for these same people. She was from the US too.  She asked how I’d found my information and I told her about the post on the Genealogy.com forum. To make a long story short, she eventually tracked that man down, he sent her copies of the papers he had, and she sent copies to me. WOW

So what discoveries have you found in your tree?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Family Trees, Genealogy, Research