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.

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Remembering those that Served in WWI & WWII

Many Canadian families have at least one ancestral relative that served in the First and Second World Wars. Through my family research, I have discovered that my family has many soldiers that served with either the Canadian Forces, or the British Forces.

With the release of all the WWI files at Library and Archives Canada, researching your First World War Veterans has become incredibly facilitated. The first part of the project had images of Attestation records uploaded, and the bulk of the remainder of the individual Canadian Soldier Personnel Records have been scanned and added to the collection. The UK Archives have also been scanning and uploading their records to their Archives website as well.

From the UK Archives, I downloaded the service record of my Great Grandfather Matthew Connor who served with as a Trumpeter and Gunner with the ‘A’ Battery (Forfarshire) of the 256th Brigade, 2nd Highland (51st) Division out of Dundee Scotland. After reading through his military record, I went back to the UK Archive site, and ordered a copy of the War Diary for his Division. The detail of the Division’s activities is incredibly useful for understanding the movements of my ancestor throughout his time in service. I was also able to find information and photographs for his Division on the Forces War Records website.

LAC has mainly uploaded service files for the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF). Home Defense was not included. For another of my other Great Grandfathers James J Mahaffey who served as Home Guard (and was also a Trumpeter), patrolling the St. Lawrence River (From Prescott to Cornwall), much of the file has been lost for the ‘D’ Squadron of the 4th Hussars, and little is known about the unit during the First World War. A partial pay list and receipts collection has survived. [There is a small blog post about the Squadron on the Cornwall Community Museum site].

There are many other websites available that have histories of military Divisions where a researcher can learn at least a rudimentary amount about their Relative’s placements, or have dedicated lists of those that lost their lives during the conflict.

World War II records are still protected under privacy laws, and but are available if requested to direct descendants of soldiers that served.

This is a short list of the individuals that I have found to date. I still have an enormous amount of research to do for each one, but for most, I have at least the basics, thanks to information available on-line.

WWI –

  • CONNOR, Matthew ~RFA – 2nd Highland Bde/51st Div, ‘A’ bty. (635077)
  • CORDES, Herman ~CEF – 257th Btn. (1102317)
  • CORDIS, William ~CEF – 257th Btn. (644573)
  • CURRAN, David G ~BA – Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers/1st Btn. (44264) *KIA
  • CURRAN, Samuel J ~BA – Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers/1st Btn. (24193) *KIA
  • GERARD, Hubert D ~CF – 94th Regt. (2700323)
  • GERARD, Joseph W ~CF – 94th Regt. (2700322)
  • LALONDE, Arthur J ~HD/CEF – 59th Btn, 253Rd Btn., C.A.M.C (1090063/455819)
  • MAHAFFEY, James J ~HD – 4th Hussars, ‘D’ Squadron (NPAM)
  • McNAUGHTON, John ~CEF – 48th Highlanders, 15th Btn (27376) *KIA

WWII

  • CAWKER, Thomas R ~RCN
  • FOUNTAIN, Joseph R ~CF
  • LALONDE, Alexander J ~CEF
  • LALONDE, Arthur J ~CAF
  • McHAFFIE, James JF ~CF
  • McHAFFIE, Robert JJ ~CF

 

I hope to add further posts for these individuals once I have more detailed research to flesh out their stories.

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.

CAN*CON 2017

This year’s CAN*CON returned to the Sheraton Hotel location in Ottawa’s downtown business core, 13-15 October 2017.

As always – the programming was fantastic with at least 5 tracks to choose from, plus signings, readings, Blue Pencil Cafe and Kaffeeklatsches! Author overload!

Friday afternoon kicked off with 4 workshops on offer, of which I attended 2: “Policing 101: How to Get The Law Right In Your Story” with Sgt. Pat Poitevin recently of the RCMP, and “Weather that Works: Worldbuilding for the Serious Writer” with The Weather Network’s Mark Robinson. Both presenters were informative, charismatic, and energetic!  Although, the suggested interpretive dance performance by Sgt. Poitevin would have been highly entertaining!

Some of my favourite panels of the weekend include:

Dealers’ Room:  This year I purchased books from Karen Dales Shadow of Death” and “Thanatos” from The Chosen series, the first of which – Changeling and Angel of Death I had bought at last year’s CAN*CON. I picked up a copy of Editor Dominic Parisien’s The Starlit Wood” anthology for my daughter.  Bundoran Press had a table set up where attendees could chose a complementary book to take home – I chose “Disintegrate” by Neil Godbout.

The panels cut a wide swath of topics from Writing Mechanics and Business to Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction and all inter-related sub-genre topics, preparing for NaNoWriMo through on to Diversity and Inclusivity.  Aside from the great programming, CAN*CON’s other strength is the effort  organizers put into making sure the Convention is welcoming and comfortable to everyone.

As always, I’m already looking forward to CAN*CON 2018! 😀

RTC 2017

I’m way late in blogging post-conference about RTC 2017, which was August 3-5th 2017 at the Kanata Inn & Suites, Kanata Ontario.

It was a great time as usual, I enjoyed the writer workshops Thursday afternoon and the Author readings that evening. Some of my favourite panels involved Barbara Devlin, Debra Cooke and Anna Markland discussing Historical content, which is my real passion. But, again this year, there were so many wonderful authors in attendance, generously giving out books, and bracelet charms and loads of swag – Thanks for all the cool earrings Deb Cooke!.

The dinners were fantastic – the food is always really tasty! My table-mates were author Carey Decevito and her close friend, and some fellow Ottawa writers that are close friends with author Angela Stone who also sat with us when she wasn’t flitting around the dining hall socializing! (If you ever need a sex educator – Angela is the woman for you!  She’s incredibly knowledgeable)

This year, my take home of free books included books from: Zoe York, Katie Ruggle, Eliza Gayle, Anna Markland, Coreene Callahan, and an anthology edited by Jerry L. Wheeler. I missed out on Barbara Devlin’s “Black Morass” give-away, due to the crushing crowd, and my inability to actually find her table in time to get a copy.

I bought 3 books – another by Claire Delacroix, “The Crusader’s Bride” which is the first book of the Templar series, “Triad Blood” by Nathan Burgoine, and an Anthology compiled and signed by all the members of Anna Markland’s writing group for ‘Canada 150’ called “Dreams and Promises”.

 

Ticket purchase for RTC 2018 has already opened and most of the dinner tickets have sold out, but there is still event space. I finally had the foresight to get in early with ticket purchase and room booking, so I’m excited that for RTC 2018 I’ll be settling in with my closest girlfriends for this awesome event! It’s always a great time –  ORWA member  Eve Langlais and her crew always put so much effort into making sure everyone has a blast!

Check out the RTC facebook page for regular updates.

BIFHSGO 2017 (September Meeting & Conference)

 

Tomorrow morning, Saturday September 9 2017, BIFHSGO (British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa) will have their first meeting of the Fall session after summer break. Speaker John McConkey’s topic will be “The Sinking of the SS Portsdown” from 10am to 11:30am at the Ben Franklin Place, Ottawa Ontario. There will be a SIG (Special Interest Group) – BIFHSGO Writing Group following the lecture. The Scottish Genealogy Group will be meeting Saturday September 23. Times and locations are on the Meetings page of their website, as well as a listing of other SIGs affiliated with BIFHSGO.

Annual Conference! –

Also coming up this month is the Annual BIFHSGO Conference from 29 September to 1 October, also at the Ben Franklin Center, Ottawa Ontario.

“Learn about English and Welsh family history and genealogy research methodology. Our Marketplace will be open to visitors”

This will be my first time attending and I’m pretty excited about this conference, especially the seminars leading into the conference itself.  Friday will feature a City of Ottawa Archives Tour.

The speakers include: Celia Heritage, David Jeanes, Gillian Leitch, Marnie McCall, Ken McKinlay, Paul Milner, James. F.S. Thomson and Glenn Wright. I’m really looking forward to visiting the Marketplace!

 

OGS Conference Day 3-5

So much to learn!

Day 3 – Lectures Pt.1

The Opening Keynote Lecture was delivered by Danielle Manning from the Archives of Ontario, where she talked about their special Exhibit ‘Family Ties’ about four different families living in Ontario at the time of Confederation.

D. Joshua Taylor spoke about the movement of families along the border of New York and Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries. The shifts of the borders between the countries, and even between the New England states were very dynamic creating varying government districts in which to consider when seeking resources. This was best shown with the state of Vermont shifting territorial claims during that time period its.

Dr. Blaine Bettinger gave a fantastic talk about the Future of Genetic Genealogy. There is already so much happening now in this field, that the future as he predicts certainly looks exciting in terms of Ancestral Reconstruction using DNA sharing among descendants.

Linda Reid gave a very concise lecture using her family as case studies to illustrate how Genetic Genealogists can trace their families back to the 18th century (Scotland) with Autosomal DNA. It was complex, but very well done and the information is incredibly useful to understand how to apply DNA as a tool alongside the paper research.

The Banquet was fabulous with another lecture from Joshua Taylor about “Family History in Prime Time” which was entertaining with all the fun pop-culture pedigrees presented – from Disney characters to The Simpsons, and Star Wars Families.

Day 4 – Lectures Pt.2

I started the day with Marian Press explaining how to properly use ‘Search’ while mining databases. – Incredibly useful, I picked up a lot more tips, hopefully now I’ll find more results. And I’ll read the HELP page instructing proper search functions for particular databases. 😉

Kathryn Lake Hogan’s lecture was packed full of information on just how many resources there really are – if you know where to find them – to research United Empire Loyalist era ancestors. So many places to check out!

Joshua Taylor spoke this time about 19th & 20th century Border crossing between US and Canada. So many more places to check out!

Dr. Blaine Bettinger’s lecture was about solving 18th & 19th Century mysteries using DNA. It was similar in nature to the lecture Linda Reid gave, but there was much more focus of the science involved to explain how the DNA connects relatives.

The Final Keynote Lecture was Joshua Taylor’s talk about what the Future holds for genealogists.

The OGS 2017 Conference was wrapped up with many ‘Thank Yous’ and door prizes and –

 The Grand Announcement : OGS Conference 2018 in Guelph Ontario at Guelph University Campus.

 

Day 5 – “Using Ancestry Day”

All about using Ancestry and AncestryDNA.

 

Wrap-up:

The Title of the Conference was “Our Canada – Your Family: Building a Nation 2017”.

This was my first Genealogical conference. I met a lot of people, and during the “First Timers” gathering, I saw a large room full of other people sharing the experience right along with me. I met people who’ve been attending OGS conferences for a few years, and I also met a few people how have been going for decades. Everyone I spoke to was warm and welcoming and happy to be at the event.  It was interesting to see all of the major Genealogy related companies well represented and fully engaged with conference attendees.

I went to as many lectures as I could – every time slot available (I’ll probably be sleeping most of Tuesday away!). And yet, for the workshops – there were 6 concurrent topics being taught in the morning, and again in the afternoon. For every lecture hour scheduled, there were 3 other topics going on at the same time. Hermione’s Time Turner would have been awesome! My head is spinning with all that I’ve learned over the 3 days of workshops and lectures, and yet, there is still so much that I missed.

Maybe next year? I hope so!

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