Sunday, November 9, 2014

Charles Joseph Briscoe: The Illegitimate son of King George IV?

While scanning through an old microfilm copy of the St. Andrews Beacon newspaper for 16 November 1905, I stumbled upon an interesting article entitled "Royal Secret Revealed" which told the story of a possible illegitimate son of King George IV that once lived in St. Andrews, Charlotte Co., New Brunswick. I have posted the story with a transcription of the newspaper article on the website at

The Old Loyalist Burial Ground in St. Andrews.... 
burial place of the illegitimate son of King George IV?

Friday, September 26, 2014

On The Book Shelf...

For the last number of years, I have been researching Charlotte County's involvement in the First World War so imagine my delight when I was put on the trail of a memoir of a former Charlotte County resident retelling his days as a soldier in the war. So a special thanks to former Mayor of St. Andrews, John Craig, for putting this book on my radar and into my library.

"As It Was Then: Recollections 1896-1930" is a short, 106 page book written by Prof. Dr. Arthur O. Hickson, and besides telling an interesting story of his life, it provides details into life on Campobello in the early 1900s but more so, it offers insight into life as a solider in the First World War. The book was written in 1984 and published in 1988 by Acadia University.

Dr. Hickson was born on Campobello Island on 22 January, 1896, the son of Arthur Wellsley Hickson and Alice Blanche Taylor. In 1912 a young Arthur Hickson moved with his family to Saint John, as his father accepted a teaching position there. Prior to start of the First World War, Hickson joined the Militia in Saint John. Most of the book is focused on Dr. Hickson's war experience; from the training camps in Canada and England, to the front lines of Vimy and Passchendaele.

After the war, Arthur Hickson enrolled at Acadia University. After graduation, Hickson then onto teach at Brown, receiving his PhD there. Soon after he went on to teach at Duke Universi88ty, retiring in 1965. Dr. Hickson died on 14 October 1989 and is buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Durham, North Carolina, with his second wife.

As It Was Then: Recollections 1896-1930
Hickson, Arthur Owen. 1988, Acadia University Press. ISBN: 0-921476-01-9

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lecture: Charlotte County and the First World War

The following was prepared for a lecture that I gave on August 24, 2014 at Anglican Church Hall, 77 King Street, St. Andrews, NB, entitled: "County at War: Charlotte County & the First World War"...

During the first decade of the 1900s, Charlotte County was a prosperous and influential corner of country. Its population steadily increased with a variety of expanding industries in the area. In Milltown, the Cotton Mill was just over 20 years old, and continued to attract new residents with the promise of steady work and fair wages. In the adjacent town of St. Stephen, at Ganongs Bros., Gilbert Ganong, one of the founders of the firm, was still in charge and would soon start selling the first chocolate bars. Both residents of these communities, as well as the town of Calais, Maine, were connected not only through family lines and a common river, but also via a network of street cars that moved citizens around. Towards the east of the county, in St. George, granite was king. There were six firms employing many local men in the numerous quarries in the area. Its principal product was red granite which found its way to not only local and regional markets but also across the country and parts of the US. Also in St. George, the power mill was just constructed. Over in Blacks Harbour, the Connors brothers and their fishing business was growing. Here as well, good employment attracted the attention of workers from around the region but would be a while yet before it attracted the attention of some business men from Saint John. In the Saint Croix Courier, there was plenty of chatter around the development of a major port in the area and news articles gave great praise of the latest product, the automobile.

In the back pages of the Beacon and the Courier, few snippets make mention of the tension growing Eastern Europe. Locals learned of areas such as the “Balkans” and learned of people such as the “Prussians” and “Serbians”. The also learned of a place called “Sarajevo” and of a person called “Franz Ferdinand”. The Archduke’s assassination on June 28, 1914 can be, and should be, viewed as one of the most important events of the world’s history however its mention in the back pages of the Courier likely did not gain the attention of locals who were more interested in what the development of a sea port in the county would mean for the local economy.

On August 4, 1914, Britain, and her Commonwealth, declared war on Germany and its allies. On August 6, 1914, the front page of the Saint Croix Courier read “Britain and Germany at War”. Without a doubt, many locals now pondered what this meant for them, as members of the great Commonwealth and servants to the King. For many of the young men of the county, the possibilities of an adventure, versus a tedious life in the industries of Charlotte County, certainly would have seemed appealing for most; a great experience!

Enlistment of the County’s young men got under way almost immediate. London has requested a Canadian contingent of 25,000 and the Canadian Minister of Militia and Defense, Sam Hughes, was keen to deliver the requested men. By the end of September 1914, over 30 men of this area were in Valcartier, Quebec, which had been established as the primary training center for the First Canadian Contingent. They were only a few of the 32,000 volunteers that Hughes now had gathered at Valcartier Camp, not far from Quebec City. In October, the first Canadian soldiers were sailing from Halifax and by the end of the Fall and into the winter, Canadian soldiers were continuing their training in the rain and mud of southern England.

While enlistments in Charlotte County continued to grow, essentially 125, 250 and 350 over the first three years of the war. However in 1917, only 100 recruits enlisted from the county. This situation was a common across Canada.  Conscription debate occupied the government in Ottawa and was the topic of many articles in the Courier. The Military Service Act became law on August 29, 1917 but it wasn’t until January 1918 that call-ups starting arriving at recruitment offices. As a result, 400 men from Charlotte County “dawn the khaki” in 1918. One of them was my great-grandfather, James McGarrigle. While only less than 32% of those conscripted were added to the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and of those, only 20% made it to the France/Belguim. He was one of the lucky few. But perhaps his luck ran out when he was struck by a truck while in Belgium and spent the remainder of the war in hospital.

Many of the first enlistment from Charlotte County were members of the 12th Battalion, 1st Division but by mid November 1914, most of the new recruits were enlisted via the newly formed 26th Battalion, the New Brunswick Regiment. The “Fighting 26th" formed part of the 2nd Division and was a front line Regiment. The 26th participated in all of the major battles in which the Canadian Corps was involved. Hundred of men from the county served in the 26th.

The 115th Battalion was another principal recruiter of the men from the county. For much of 1916, the battalion recruited in the area. While this battalion was more of a reinforcement or reserve battalion, most of its soldiers would eventually end up being taken on strength with the 26th. Over 230 county men were on strength with the 115th at various points in their soldiering career.
In April 1915, the 55th Battalion, under the local direction of Capt. Smith, was busy recruiting the men in St. Stephen. Many of these men also found their ways to other Battalion, primarily the 14th Battalion, the Quebec Regiment. In total, just over 100 men served in the 55th.

The 104th Battalion, which mobilized out of Sussex, also recruited fairly heavily in the county. Like the 115th, it was a reinforcement battalion and many of its men found their way to the 5th Battalion, the Canadian Mounted Rifles. Over 60 men served with the 104th.

Another well know regiment of local soldiers was the Fredericton based 236th Battalion, the “New Brunswick Kilties”. While the Kilties, also known as “McLean’s Highlanders” or “Sam’s Own”, did sail a group to England in November 1917, many soldiers of the Kilties remained in Canada and served as guards for government installations or key assets of infrastructure. The The Kiltes’ dress was inspired by the Scottish Highlanders. It consisted of a McLean family kilt and distinguishable Balmoral headdress with turkey feather. Its uniform is one of the most recognizable Canadian uniforms of the First World War and very easy to point out in old family photos. Not only did the Kilties recruit in Atlantic Canada, but also in New England, prior to the US entry into the war. Over 1,300 applications were received in Boston alone and one of the Battalion commanders even made a speech at Fenway Park.

While not everyone was able to “dawn the khakis”, either due to age, gender or physical deficiencies, the majority of the residents of Charlotte County wanted to contribute to the war effort in other ways.
In the first month of the war, the “Canadian Patriotic Fund” was established. This fund received monetary donations from the public. List of donors were regularly printed in the Courier, perhaps itself to show resident who was truly “patriotic”. The average contribution was $1-$2 per person with some of the more prosperous residence giving more, such as the Honorable Senator Dan Gilmore who donated $250. By January 1915, the county collected over $8,000 and by March 1917, the national fund collected nearly $23 million dollars from Canadians in every corner of the country. The fund was organized by Montreal businessman and politician Sir Herbert Brown Ames and was established to give financial aid to soldiers’ families.

Church and social groups gathered in various halls in the county to collect items for the boys overseas. These parcels from home contain a wide assortment of items. One article in the Courier, dated July 8, 1915 listed the following items being collected by the ladies of the Women’s Canadian Club: Pound Cake, Candy, Molasses Kisses, Chewing gum, Dental Buds, Chocolate, Cocoa, Combs, Cold Cream, Foot Ease, Handkerchiefs, Headache Tablets, Lead Pencils, Marmalade, Matches, Nuts, Olives, Paper, Envelopes, Writing pads, Safety pins, Shirts, Shoe laces, Soap, Socks, Suspenders, Towels, Tooth powder, Tobacco, Cigars, Cigarettes, Pipes, Vaseline, and Wash cloths.
But it was socks that became the rally item in the county. Women from towns and ridges made sock for the men overseas. Stories of wet and muddy trenches had now reached home and the women of the county were going to see that their boys’ feet stayed dry while fighting the Kaiser’s men. The Courier even ran a number of articles on the proper method to knit soldier socks. As one woman wrote to Courier regarding another woman’s knitting skill: “I hope a poor chap over there will not attempt to wear her well-meant pudding bags. Perhaps he will put them inside of his jacket, next to his heart, a love token from home, and escape pneumonia that way.”

In June 1916, one soldier, Pte. Walter E. Worrell of Dumbarton, writes a letter home to his mother: “My Dear Mother; Received a letter from you this morning and also both parcels, but am sorry to say that some of the pies were a little spoiled.” It wasn’t long before many Canadians understood what they could and could not send via the postal service. Pte. Worrell would be killed in action on August 30, 1918.

Letters homes often contained an update from the soldier that he was “still alive”.  Soldiers asked how family members were and made request for specific items from home. Some asked about the status of friends and whether they have enlisted. But all are wonderfully worded, enough to make them appear as scholars when compared to the grammar skill of today’s young men.
Soldiers also enjoyed copies of the Courier… or so said the articles in the Courier. Yes, the business world realized that marketing a product with a patriot twist was a profitable, yet apparent noble, scheme. From chewing gum to motor oil, from tobacco to soap, companies were getting onboard the war effort for all the reasons.

Regular list of soldiers that “Dawned the Khaki” were published in the newspapers as were numerous “Letters from the Front” which at first were only lightly censored compared to letters towards the end of the war.

There was also rhetoric of the young men that had not enlisted in the service. Letters from the War Department were given to local newspapers to publish. These letters often blasted the “cowardly” men that have not enlisted and questioned their morals around patriotic duty and protecting their family. Yet today, we cannot confirm the origins of these letters since soldiers named in these letters do not connect with any soldier records.

On April 23, 1915, Charlotte County had its first casualty of the war when Private Hector Cameron, of Lepreau, was killed in action in Belgium, at the First Battle of Ypres. Enlisting in September 1914, Pte. Cameron was serving in the 14th Battalion.  In late July 1915, Pte. Cameron’s parents received a letter from a Sergeant who served with him:  “While resting in billets on Thursday 22nd April, (we having just come out from a five day spell in the trenches) the shells started to come thick and heavy. We at once stood to find that the Germans had broken through the French lines on our immediate left. We then went forward to endeavour to check the enemy’s advance and in this we were successful, driving them back a thousand yards or more, in which your son, Hector, played no small part. By this time it was quite dark, so we proceeded to entrench ourselves to await the coming of daylight and supports. Friday (23rd) morning dawned bright and clear and the fire soon started. In a spirited exchange which followed, your son Hector was most unfortunately hit in the head, passing away instantly, therefore, suffering no pain. During one of the lulls in the firing, some of his chums carried him out and gave him proper burial. It gives me great pleasure to say that during the three months or more that Hector was in my section, he proved himself a most efficient and reliable soldier and his loss is sorely felt. Extending to you in your great loss our sincere sympathy. I am Sir, very sincerely Yours, Sgt. L. E. Lock”. Pte. Cameron is buried in Belgium. Yet there is more to consider: Pte. Cameron was only 15 years old, having celebrated his 15th birthday while wearing a soldier’s uniform only 4 months prior to his death.
We were truly losing our “boys”.

The first letters came home regarding the conditions during training and of the poor weather in England. Then letters came home which only hinted at the conditions in the trenches. But when veterans return, mangled and worn, and casualties list include boys from next door, if not your own blood, the public opinion of the war begun to sway.

Some families lost a son while several county families lost multiple boys to the war; the Bradford family of Blacks Harbour lost two boys as did the McQuoid family of St. Andrews. The family of Charles and Mary Fisher of Dumbarton sent two of their sons to the war, neither returned. Of the four Thompson boys of the Blacks Harbour, only two returned. And of the 21 McLaughlin men that served, 4 were lost. No corner of the county was spared, no ridge, no island and no town.
In total, Charlotte County lost 168 of its own in the First World War. 168 out of 1,245 known to have served.  With the population of the county at just over 21,500, that meant that 17% of the population served in the war.

When the war official ended on November 11, 1918, over 9 million combatants had died and over 7 million civilians had perished. For Canada, 66,655 gave their lives and another 172,950 being wounded.

When the county rang in the new year of 1919, it was a much different place than it was five year previous. Canada itself was different. From wartime central control came the desire for Canada to self-govern itself better and efficiently. Canada came out of the war with an identity. Power shifted towards Ottawa and many will say that the glory days of power and prosperity for Charlotte County went with it.

But what of the men that served and came home? Quietly, those veterans tried to resume their lives. They went back work in the still growing industries of the area. These boys were now men. They went on to raise families and saw their own families grow. But it’s what they did not say that we must attempt to understand and respect. Today, we are just understanding, and accepting, terms such as PTSD or “post-traumatic stress disorder”. From the numerous letters home, the hundreds of books written and from the few veterans that were willing to speak on the subject, we learn of the horrors of war. We learn of life in the trenches and of the pain felt by war’s victims and its witnesses, on both sides of “No Man’s Land”. What did we gain? We know our losses. If it was a horrible experience that was gained, should it not have been the “War to End All Wars”.

Many families now have tales of how great-grandfather grew quiet when questioned by grandchildren on his war time experiences. Perhaps somewhere in that tenured body remained a young man that bore witness to violence and death, experiences that changed him forever, and experiences he wished to keep from his innocent grandchildren. He could never forget, and it is Lest We Forget.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Is Your Family Tree Safe Online?

Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking: “what if your favorite genealogy website went offline?”. This is a very plausible event given that websites are often entities of companies and are susceptible victims of corporate take-overs, mergers or budget cutting. And in the case of smaller, private websites? Well, perhaps the website owner simply walks away from their website, or, what is a reality, passes away. Those websites will not continue on forever. Usually after one year, the web hosting company (the company which the website owner rents space from) will simply shuts the website down. The “offline” concern came to light for hundreds of thousands of people this month (June 2014) when, and its family of websites such as, and the user controlled hosting site Rootsweb, went offline due to a distributed denial-of-service or simply known as a “DDoS” to those tech nerds out there (here’s a link to what DDoS is - Click Here (via  While, in all of its corporate might, dispatched its technicians to fix the problem, damage was already done, especially with folks such as myself would are skeptical of putting all of your eggs in one nest of your family tree. With over a week having lapsed since the attack on Ancestry, many aspects of its service are still not available, including Rootsweb remaining completely in accessible. With Rootsweb offline, so are the countless pages of CanadaGenWeb Project and a few of my own favorite “trees” (see My Favorite Online Genealogy Databases). There are some users of the service suggesting that data was lost however it may be still too early to determine the long term lost to Ancestry and its data. Will it happen again?

But apart from web attacks and web virus outbreaks, how safe is your favorite genealogy website or web source in terms of the folks behind the website? itself has gone through number changes to its administration and even ownership. It’s become a billion dollar operation, powered by people so far removed from the grass-roots of genealogy that they have no interest in your local genealogy group or your family tree database unless it means something to the bottom line. This situation has people, such as myself, concerned about the future of in particularly. has already pulled the pin on and that website’s free hosting which will come to an end in September 2014. Rootsweb is very similar in its service… mainly that it offers “free” hosting for genealogy or history based webpage. And we all know that “free” doesn't translate well to a revenue document for a corporation.

Sure, the internet can be a great method of getting your research out to others but be cautious, don’t use it as your primary means for storage and record keeping. It is an ugly truth, in fact, I know of several researchers that use their website as their primary means of record keeping. One researcher enters all of his data into an online database which is stored and offered on his website. To make matters worse, this system does not allow full extraction of the data and what information that can be extracted from his database, it is not compatible with other database program such Microsoft Excel or Access. Another researcher spends countless hours updating a local history website but this work is at the mercy of should they decide to discontinue Rootsweb. Then there is the whole argument of ownership of the material once it is upload to websites such Ancestry or Rootsweb! Another route would be to create your own website to avoid being at the mercy of big corporations. Annual cost is approx. $100 for domain name registration and hosting. Then you would need to design and upload content which could be an additional cost if you not able to do it yourself due to lack of knowledge or understanding of website development. But even this route is not without its limits; perhaps you become sick or pass-away, who would continue to maintain or pay from your website? What about backing up your online files since even web hosting companies can fold up and disappear!

 In the end, nothing beats the old medium of the printed word. Having your data printed up and pushed out to local libraries and archives is the best option for the longevity of your research. There are many companies (most of which are online themselves) that offer low-cost self-publishing. In some cases, all you need to do is upload a single file to their website, choose the format of print and cover, and viola!... a freshly printer book, of which you are the author of, arrives in a few short weeks. To add to this, in Canada, you can request ISBN numbers for free and have your book catalogued in national libraries! Just the other day I found a genealogy book on local families at a used book shop. The book was printed in 1974 and offered plenty of great data. Now, where will your online website be in 40 years?

Friday, May 16, 2014

On The Book Shelf...

New Brunswick is dotted with many small communities, far off the main highways and biways. Charlotte County is no exception, for a short drive off of Highway 1, heading north toward the “Ridges”, you will no doubt pass a number of small communities, many of which have long, complex histories. Not all settlers took up areas along the bays or rivers. Some settlers went inland, to work in woods and clear the lands. One of those such areas is the community of Moore’s Mills. Today, a walk through the local cemetery at Moore’s Mills one will notice large, well-decorated headstones, a statement usually reserved for affluent, prominent citizens and not typical of small rural “backwoods” communities. So it is easy to jump to the thought: “this community must have been a happening spot at one time”. To dig deeper on the story of Moore’s Mills, one might need to scour through countless microfilm reels to pick-up the few news items on the area. Or perhaps seek out insight from a few of the area’s “old timers”. So it was a very pleasant surprise to find that all of that work has already been done! Graydon Mitchell grew up in Moore’s Mills but now calls Kinsport-by-the-Sea, Nova Scotia “home”. The transplanted “Millieon” knew that his home village had a wonderful story to share with the world and he was the guy to get it done. Mr. Mitchell has put together a wonderful piece of work in his book “Life in a New Brunswick Village: Moore’s Mills, Voices from the 1890s”. Published in 2008, this book offers the reader a superb insight into this little community. And based on the book’s 200+ pages, one would believe this community is more of a modern town today versus the small rural area that Moore’s Mills actually is. The book is packed full of old photos of its past citizens, a lineage report on the settler William Moore and background on the landmarks of the area. As a local historian, I learned so much on the history of Moore’s Mills… thank you Graydon!! This book serves as a point that every community, no matter how big or small, has a history that is rich and vibrant, and that history should be brought together and preserved for the future generations.

Life in a New Brunswick Village: Moore’s Mills, Voices from the 1890s
Mitchell, Graydon. 2008, Mitchell Consulting. ISBN: 978-0-9810925-0-8

Sunday, April 27, 2014

On The Book Shelf...

Though published in 1975, Passamaquoddy: Genealogies of West Isles Families still represents the most recent cumulation of family genealogies for the Parish of West Isles of Charlotte County, New Brunswick. Author Martha Ford Barto has compiled a comprehensive report on over 70 surnames from the areas of Deer Island, Campobello Island and various other smaller islands, as well as points along the mainland of both Canada and the state of Maine. However the 348 page books does not jump immediately into a genealogy report; Barto first offers the reader a wonderful reflection on the history of the Passamaquoddy area, from the early settlements of the Passamaquoddy People and Champlain’s settlement at St. Croix Island to the establishment of island communities by early settlers. From reading Barto’s sources, it is easy to see that she put many years of research into this single, soft bound book. Not only does she utilize several local history books that have been long forgotten or simply lost with time but also incorporates the rarities of family bibles from local families and church records, something that not every researcher would have access to. Overall, Passamaquoddy: Genealogies of West Isles Families is an asset for anyone interested in families from the Fundy Isles or general history of New Brunswick. However good luck in acquiring a copy as this book has been out of print for several decades and is quickly become one of those long lost books that Barto herself used as reference.

Passamaquoddy: Genealogies of West Isles Families
Barto, Martha Ford. 1975, Lingley Printing Co. Ltd. 348 pages

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What's Going on at the LAC

If I had a dream job, it would be working at the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC). However, this national institution has been through allot changes over the last decade. It has been the target of countless budget cuts which have affected everything from staffing numbers to conservation projects. For more on cuts to the LAC, I found this insightful read, The Wrecking of Canada's Library and Archives by Myron Groover. So it came as no surprise that, based on a 2011 Public Service Employee survey, the LAC ranked at the bottom of the list of "Best Departments to Work in the Federal Public Service". That means below departments such as Corrections Services of Canada and even in economics and finance departments!! Shouldn't Canada's heritage be exciting!?

To make matters worse, along comes a new Code of Conduct to help "muzzle" staff of the LAC. On March 24, I received this statement from The Canadian Association of University Teachers in response to this latest action: "Political pressure sometimes works.  In a victory for staff, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has withdrawn its controversial Code of Conduct put into effect in early 2013. The code contained severe restrictions on staff behavior, both in their public and personal lives. The restrictions on LAC employees garnered media and public scrutiny and, in the wake of intense public pressure, LAC administrators placed the code under review. In December 2013, a revised Code was introduced. This new code represents a significant improvement. Employees are still encouraged to report on their colleagues for any failure to comply with the code, a shameful policy that contributes to an unhealthy workplace. However, restrictions on employees’ professional development activities have been substantially reduced and references to discipline for personal opinions expressed in limited access forums have been removed. At a time when Canadian culture institutions are being decimated, it is easy to become overwhelmed and forget to celebrate our victories, however small. The changes to the LAC code of conduct were only made because we spoke out collectively, an example of how we can make a difference. Our current government may be attempting to rewrite the past, but together we are in control of the future." More details on this subject can be found at National Post Article - March 15, 2013 (Margaret Munro)

What is going at the LAC is very unfortunate. The LAC are the keepers of our countries history, our heritage. It is not just a place that stores old documents and photos but also our National Library. So maybe I should adjust my dream job (at least until there is a change of government in Ottawa)... perhaps the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick is hiring?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

On The Book Shelf...

Over the last three months, I have acquired two books dealing with a topic that is perhaps somewhat uncomfortable for many... death. While these books may deal with aspects of death such as the customs surround the inevitable event, as a genealogist, my interest in the subject as grown likely due to the time that I spend in cemeteries. From outside, looking in, we can learn much from cemeteries as they relate to the quest in our family history. Headstones can provide vital information such as dates of birth and death, but many more in recent decades provide date of marriage. However be warned: the data on headstones can be incorrect as it is often provided to the headstone company by the family and they may have provided the incorrect date of birth for your great-grandmother.

So as I explored cemeteries from Ireland to New Mexico, from Germany to Cuba, I found it very interesting how different cultures buried and memorialised their dead. While there is not a large collection on the subject, I was able to add to my own collection two new additions:

Corpses, Coffins and Crypts: A History of Burial by Penny Colman (1997, Henry Holt and Company) was written with a target audience of young adults. Eight chapters voyage through subjects on dealing with death, cremations, cemeteries and what happens to corpses. The book looks at aspects of death and dealing with dead by various cultures and throughout history. This book may be a good option for those of you looking for a little (not a lot) of insight into subject. Colman has crammed a fair amount of research in this 205 page book but avoids information overload.

The History of Death: Burial Customs and Funeral Rites, From the Ancient World to Modern Times by Michael Kerrigan (2007, The Lyons Press) may read more like a text book for those looking for an easy read on a difficult subject. And since it is formatted in such as way, the expectation may be a little higher. Therefore, I would have like to read more on the history of cemeteries, particularly those in North America.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Soldiers of the First World War

Since 2006, I’ve been compiling a list of First World War Soldiers from Charlotte County, New Brunswick. Early in the project’s life, I gathered the names of soldiers from local memorials and church honor rolls. War Memorials are a common sight in many Canadian communities, and much like honor rolls which tend to be commonly found in churches, often list names of those that made the ultimate sacrifice but seldom do they list those that served and survived. Then there are the local Royal Canadian Legions. With the dwindling numbers of its members along with Legion Hall closures in recent years, the RCL is truly a source that is becoming more and more scarce. But apart from the few list that local Legions can provide on former First World War members, their information is just as limited as the stone memorials in the nearby park. In many cases, it was the local Legion that erected such memorials. However these sources of information are not without errors. In the case of three local war memorials erected by local Legions, each contained names of 2-3 soldiers that I was unable to confirm. Those names had no official military record or listed with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (which list war causalities).

Another source has been local newspapers of that time period. In my case, the Saint Croix Courier newspaper of St. Stephen did an exceptional job during the period of the war to deliver news articles that, apart from its local perceptive and attitude towards the war, included list of recruits as well as publish letters from the “Soldier Boys” overseas. But even this source can provide names of soldiers that one is unable to confirmed through official sources. Next for sources is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Their website can assist in providing details on casualties of the war. One can obtain dates of death, service numbers, regiment/battalion that the soldier served and the burial location of soldiers who died during the period of the war.

Undoubtedly the best source for information on Soldiers of the First World War is no doubt the Canadian government. The government enlisted/drafted, paid, trained and transported (and buried) our soldiers. One source within the government that is commonly overlooked is the Department of Veteran Affairs. Veteran Affairs maintains a “Remembrance” section on its website but more specifically, its “Canadian Virtual War Memorial” section can provide similar data found with CWGC though this database is specific to Canadians and may contain additional data and if lucky, a photograph of the soldier. However, it is the Canada government’s archives, the Library and Archives of Canada, located in Ottawa which can provide the best source of information. The LAC can certain be considered one of those “official” sources. Its holds the records pertaining to Soldiers of the First World War. The vast majority of those that served in the First World War have a military file with national archives. Those files can contain between 25 to 75 pages, and those pages may include enlisted documents, payroll, health records, soldier movement data and in many case, a Last Will and Testament of the soldier.

Keep in mind the task of tracking down soldiers for a specific area can not be easily obtained from the sources above. Even in the case of the records at the Library and Archives of Canada, a name or service number is required to search for a specific soldier and searching by location (place of birth or residence) is not an option. Therefore, understanding the primary regiment(s) or battalion(s) that were active in the region is extremely beneficial. For Charlotte County, New Brunswick, the 26th (New Brunswick) Battalion, the 55th Battalion, the 115th Battalion and the 236th Battalion (New Brunswick Kilties) were among the most active in recruiting and engaging the young men of Charlotte County. Each of these battalions had their own series of regimental/service numbers. For example, regimental numbers from 69001 to 71000 were those of the 26th Battalion (aka “The Fighting 26th”). So since many Charlotte County men fought with the 26th, would it be best to look at each soldier in this series of regimental numbers? Yes. Of course, that easier said then done. Or is it? Perhaps prior to the age of the internet, a researcher would need to travel to Ottawa and request each soldier record in the series. Well, I am sure the staff at the Archives weren't very excited with such a request. Thankfully, the LAC has placed the enlistment document (Attestation Paper) for most soldiers on its website so this process is somewhat more effective and can be completed in the comfort of your own home.

For a period of time, fellow researcher and computer expert Marc Leroux developed an extremely helpful computer program that made the process of searching LAC’s record even more efficient. Marc’s “CEF Soldiers from the Great War” utility, which came on the scene back in 2006, was a god send and made the process of searching soldier by soldier/regimental number by regimental number very quick. Unfortunately, the program was not update to work on newer computers operating on systems above Windows XP. And to make matters worse, the LAC changed its website recently so that even those of us using older systems were not able to use the Utility to navigate directly to soldier records. It was tremendously helpful while it lasted and I certain give thanks to Marc Leroux for his gift which saved me months of work. Maybe one day another program will be developed or the LAC itself will deliver a more effective search platform. With the way LAC has operate in recent years, my hopes are the arrival of another Marc Leroux to save the day!

Marc Leroux's "CEF Soldiers from the Great War"

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Swastika Trademark in 1915

During a recent visit to the library, where I was scanning through the 1915 Saint Croix Courier newspaper on microfilm in hopes of adding to Charlotte County Soldiers of the First World War project, I came across something that really caught my eye. While my mind was calibrated to an era of the early stages of the First World War and the opinions and views of that war in small town New Brunswick, I was suddenly propelled forward to another time, another war. From the back pages, amongst the numerous ads, I found a symbol jumping off the page; a symbol that no one in that time would have known was to be attached to the enemy of our next world war. There it was, the swastika. Only at this point in time, the symbol was not attached to an evil regime and its ruthless leader, but it was the trademark for a brand of automobile lubricants. In 1915, the automobile was a relatively new thing. While it was only in 1908 that the Ford Motor Company was established and it wasn't until 1914, a year previous, that Henry Ford's company revolutionized the automobile manufacturing industry with its assembly line process. By 1916, there were 3,000 automobiles registered in New Brunswick. And with this new form of transportation came a new set of newspaper ads aimed at owners. Some advertised tires and gasoline, while the McLean-Jones Oil & Supply Co. advertised its newest brand: "Swastika Auto Lubricant". The fact that they choose a "swastika" creates a number of questions and certainly an interest in the history of the symbol. Somewhere, someone had to come up with a marketing plan and those the swastika would be a good idea. The company was based out of Boston, Massachusetts but employed the assistance of local sales agents to help push the product. For Charlotte County, the sales agent was Mr. Charles Alden Ryder. Born in September 24, 1886 at St. Stephen, he was the son of John and Martha (Blaney) Ryder. He would marry the former Ms. Ina Carlow. around the same time as he was selling auto oil, he and his wife had a daughter, Alden Winfred Ryder, on March 19, 1915. Ryder died on April 25, 1970 and is buried in the St. Stephen Rural Cemetery. However Mr. Ryder would not avoid the war entirely, in 1916 he signed his attestation papers and became an officer with the 45th Divisional Signal Company. And it is worth mentioning that his cousin, G. Stewart Ryder, was a recruitment officer for the area. As I mentioned, no one at this time would have foreseen that this symbol would become forever attached to one of the worst group of people in the history of mankind: the Nazis. However I was left thinking about Mr. Ryder during the early 1940s, when the symbol was prevalent. Did he think back to his early years as a salesman and think: "Why would those Nazis use the trademark for a brand of auto lubricant?"

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Historic New Brunswick Newspapers Online

The good folks at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio) have been busy putting historic newspapers online for all to glance through. Currently, there are 30 papers in the collection. My own favorite is the St. Andrews Bay Pilot which features publications from 1861 and 1878-1889. It appears that, like Bay Pilot, all other newspapers are no longer in circulation and the publishers long been out of business. All newspapers are freely available for viewing and accessible via Google Books platform. To visit the collection, visit BGSU Libraries Website. I will still keep my fingers cross that one day one publications of the Saint Croix Courier will be available online! For information on past (and current) newspapers from Charlotte County, New Brunswick, check out Charlotte County Newspapers & Publications (via Heritage Charlotte).