Monday, July 19, 2010


I worked for JP Morgan Chase a couple of years ago and spent the better part of two years in Bournemouth, England and Hong Kong. While I was in the UK, I drove all over England and Wales (including the Isle of Anglesey) but did not make it north to Scotland. So beautiful. It's all so beautiful. Scotland is next on the agenda, but I'd like to find my ancestor family first and so more research.

Today's post will be short and I will leave with a funny story: in November 1997 I decided on a whim to visit northern Wales and so bought an airline ticket, rented a car and leased a self-catered cottage about .5 km from the ocean in Llyngwril (just south of Fairborn). The first thing I found upon arriving at the cottage (which was a renovated dairy barn on a beautiful farm) was that almost everyone in that part of Wales takes vacation in November: northern Wales was pretty much deserted. Which was okay with me anyway. Llyngwril is a very small town with no real market; just a sundry store combined with the post office. The propriator was a very nice woman who quickly took me under her wing and ensured that I had a "vocabulary" lesson each day (bore da, nos da, diolch, and dim diolch). Each morning, I'd pickup bread, cheese and some meat or vegetable for the day and bring my Ordnance Survey for Wales & the West Midlands and she'd send me packing to a new destination. One morning I announced that I'd like to hike across the foothills of Cadair Idris to "Doog-eh-loo" and then take the bus home. "Where?" she asked. "Doog-eh-loo" I replied and pointed to the spot on the map. "Oh child, that's Dol-geth-cley" and laughed. (I was looking for Dolgellau). Thereafter, I packed my Ordnance Survey in my rook sack and simply pointed when asking directions.

The reason, of course, for sharing this story is a reminder to use all available resources when researching; sometimes the most helpful are right in front of us.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Showing Honor

Yesterday, I was invited to give a short presentation at the local Family History Center's training session. Although I'm not a member of the church, the members have always made me feel like part of the community.

The director of the program asked me to talk a bit about this blog site, which I did, but not from a techinical perspective. The LDS church members are compelled to "seal" family members, be that in this lifetime, or by researching deceased family members and then sealing them as a family in heaven. I'm not sure how to address that concept as I tend to be more pragmatic about the afterlife, but I do think it a wonderful concept and simply the act of researching one's ancestors with that in mind is born out of love and respect.

Each time I uncover another family member, I'm humbled by the lives they've lead. In my search for Ellen, I turned toward her husband Alfred's family for clues. Alfred's father, Abner Barrie, married Elizabeth Joiner (or Joyner)from Panbride, Forfarshire (Angus) Scotland in 1878. She and Abner immigrated to Ontario, and later to Paterson, New Jersey. My guess is that Ellen's step-brother, John Gordon, who is listed in the 1900 census as a machinist...and Alfred worked together. Interestingly enough, they only lived about 2.5 miles from one another. Alfred was a machinist at the time, working at the Magnus Metal Company. More about Alfred and Ellen later.

By the way, thanks to my first cousin Barry Howard and to my first cousin 4 times removed Lou Smith for sharing their research. Today, I thought I'd write about our common ancestor, Abner Joiner.

Abner was born the 24th of July 1783 in Pennyculk, Midlothian, Scotland; I don't yet know who his parents were. Abner married Isobel Aitchinson the 30th of September 1803. At the time, he was a Private in the 51st Edinburgh Militia. What makes Abner so interesting is that he was a career soldier:

25 July 1794 -- 24 July 1802 Private, Clan Alpine Fencibles
28 January 1803 -- 25 February 1813, Private, Corporal, Sergeant, 51st Edinburgh Militia
26 December 1813 -- 9 January 1816, Private Corporal, Sergeant, 93rd Regiment of Foot
1 April 1817 -- 21 December 1826, Private, Corporal, 51st Edinburgh Militia

He was retired at age 45 at Blinking, North of Aylesbury, Norfolk with a good conduct record due to ill health, ague, dropsy, rheumatism and asthma. The notes state that his health issues originated in camp at Sutton Coldfield in 1812 after exposure to cold and damp, and that he'd been recommended to Chelsea Hospital for Pension. Abner was 5' 5.2" tall, with brown hair, grey eyes, and a pale complextion.

This evening, I've changed both the color and the black print cartridges and have had to reload my printer's paper supply twice. There's so much that I don't know about early European history. So much to read. But as I close for the evening, I'm reminded that at some point during the spring of 1812, two of my ancestors may have been standing on opposite ends of a field in Ontario. My mother's ancestor: Joseph Roi--a French Canadian fur trader, and my father's ancestor: Abner Joiner. Both men of honor.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blog Fade

Walt reminds me daily to write, least my site suffer from "blog fade." Rather than summarize the past two months of research, I thought I'd post a couple of paragraphs from a letter from my great Aunt Margaret about her mother and father's family.

"I was born Margaret Joiner Barrie on December 23, 1915 to Alfred Barrie and Ellen Hold Barrie in West haven, Conneticut. My father was a machinist who was born in Patterson, New Jersey, but had moved to Canada for a while where he went to trade school two or three years. I did not know my grandfather Barrie, but I do vaguely remember my grandmother, who spoke with a real Scottish "brogue" -- I could hardly understand her. My father came from a large family -- four sisters and four brothers. One of her sisters, Margaret, was a teaher of special education children and had lost her arm as a young girl climbing under a train. She never married, nor did her sister Anna May, who was also a teacher. These two sisters were very good to their mother and I remember that they bought her a house in later life.

My mother had four brothers (Harry, Tom, Bill and Donald) and two sisters (Lillian and Mildred). Lillian was married and had two children: one son (Billy) and one daughter (Anna). Mildred was my mother's twin sister and was married but never had any children.

My mother was born in Coventry, England and her father came to America to work and then sent money for his wife and seven children to come to America. My mother (Ellen) was only about seven or nine when she made the trip across the Atlantic. They all lived in a very crowded five-room flat in Paterson, New Jersey. One day, her mother was cooking with a frying pan and the pan and stove caught fire. Somehow, she threw the pan down the stairs and the fire spread quickly through the house and she was trapped and died. Her father married again a few years late, but most of the kids had to be taken in by other families. My mother had to leave school in the fifth or sixth grade and went to work as a maid in an ice cream parlor. The family was very good to her and helped raise her."

This letter arrived on the heals of my finding a 1900 census for "Nellie" Barrie, her father William and stepmother of one year, Lizzie. On a hunch, I sent a copy of the record to my cousin Barrie Lee who responded yes, that could very well be Ellen. Yesterday, he called and said that he'd run across Aunt Marg's letter.

Yesterday, I also met a cousin in Australia. Alfred's (Ellen's husband) grandmother is also my cousin Lou's 5th grandmother. I'll write more about the Joiners in my next post.