Traitors, Spies & Heroes – Jennifer DeBruin

Last night I attended the Smith’s Falls and District Historical Society monthly lecture held at the Smith’s Falls Heritage House Museum, where Jennifer DeBruin gave her talk entitled “Traitors, Spies & Heroes – Loyalist Espionage During the American Revolution“.

Jennifer’s talk was an entertaining evening of story telling about some key members of the Smith family that founded Smith’s Falls, along with several other notable characters that founded some of the other communities along the Rideau corridor.

This talk was especially exciting for me since I have St. Lawrence Region Loyalist ancestors that I am researching, and now need to find out if they also might have done spy work for the Crown! I’ll be poking around some more in the Haldimand Papers at Library and Archives Canada

It was a great talk for anyone interested in learning about the spy network that existed during the Revolutionary War, citizen life in the colonies of New York and New Hampshire/Vermont, Loyalist movements during the war and settlement afterward.  As anyone who has studied the Revolutionary War knows, it was a civil war where hard choices had to be made, almost a century before the American Civil War, and no one was allowed to remain neutral.

Jennifer will be presenting this talk at the The American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley Conference June 7-10 2018 hosted by the Fort Plain Museum.  Check out Jennifer’s upcoming events and past publications.

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Canada’s Boy Soldiers in WWI & WWII

At the November 2017 meeting for the Leeds-Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS), former editor of “Legion Magazine: Canada’s Military History Magazine“, Mr. Dan Black gave a very interesting talk about under-age soldiers from all across Canada who served during the WWI and WWII.

 

Some of the young men came home after their tour of duty, but many that didn’t. He read excerpts from two of the books he co-authored with John Boileau, describing their time in the field, and also read from some of the soldier’s letters home to their families and loved ones. For a few of those boys, their mother’s went through great effort to try to persuade the authorities to release their sons from service and send them home.

A great deal of research went into detailing the lives of these under-age soldiers, and Mr. Black shared information about the resources he accessed in order to do it – one of the main repositories accessed was Library and Archives Canada (LAC). He also spoke about some of the more challenging aspects of targeting his subjects due to the fact that their enlistment papers usually had false dates of birth. Many of these boys enlisted at the young ages of 15 and 16, there were some that were even younger. He told one particular story about a young man who enlisted not only under age, but under his elder brother’s name, which cause some difficulties when the family received a telegram expressing the regrets of the loss of their son.

The first book “Old Enough to Fight: Canada’s Boy Soldiers in the First World War” has a forward written by Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire. And the second book “Too Young to Die: Canada’s Boy Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen in the Second World War” had its forward  written by General John de Chastelain.

These books are an incredible resource for researchers of Canada’s Military History during the two World Wars, and for those that have general interest in newly researched and published aspects of those two conflicts.

I thought one of the most poignant aspects of the talk was when he was describing the Estate Forms that had to be filled out by the families of the deceased soldiers – usually by their mothers. Reading each of the files diligently filled out in their hand must have been a very intimate and moving part of the research.

Mr. Black spoke briefly on the next book currently in the research phase which will also be focused on a little known aspect of the First World War, to be written and publication expected for 2019.

Author – Jean Rae Baxter

I recently attended the 49th Charter Meeting of the Colonel Edward Jessup Branch of the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada, in Grenville County, Ontario.

The Guest Speaker for the meeting was Author Jean Rae Baxter, a former teacher and Loyalist descendant.

Her topic was supposed to be about major Canadian historical figure Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, but due to the lack of a projector, she had to improvise and instead, gave a wonderful talk about her Loyalist themed book series.

Ms. Baxter spoke about having to teach historical literature during the 1970’s to a population of students of which about 85% were descended of United Empire Loyalists, and a bus load more of students attended from the nearby First Nations Reserve. She recalled that at the time, she was given ‘classic’ books written about the early time period by American authors with a clear disdain for the Loyalist population and First Nations People during the American War of Independence.

So, she set out to fix this particular problem.

Jean wrote ‘The Way Lies North’ (2007) in response to the need for responsible historical fiction to tell the story of the Loyalists from a Canadian point of view.

This was the first book in the “Forging a Nation” series, for which a sixth book is being written.  The series examines the stories of White Loyalists, Black Loyalists and the First Nations Peoples who were all affected by the violence and uprooting of the American Revolution.

During her talk, she read excerpts from each of the 5 novels currently published in the series. And each one, beautifully written, gave a very clear sense of what the Loyalist populations were experiencing, embodied in the main character of the story. The series is written in teen-aged perspectives for Young Adults, but should be enjoyed by a broader audience.

Ms. Baxter has also written a literary murder mystery novel, and many short stories.

Story Life

I love stories that explore the history of humanity through the art of writing.

All forms of story telling, from film, print, visuals – all of it.  It’s all part of who we are as human beings and our evolution and exploration of self on this beautiful planet.

Who knows if there are more of us in this Universe, but for now, this is our home and our story.

I intend this blog to be a repository of all things that represent the life of story to me.  My three main interests are Writing, History and Genealogy, which to me, all tie back to Story.