M.C. Moran

Death of Alexander Michael Moran

The Ottawa Journal, 1 February 1939.

The Ottawa Journal, 1 February 1939.

Newspaper obituaries often supply loads of genealogically useful information, along with interesting forename and surname spellings.

Here, for example, is the obituary for my paternal great-grandfather Alexander Michael Moran (1871-1939). A fairly standard obituary, which informs readers of the death of A.M. Moran, and supplies practical information about the arrangements for his funeral and burial. But from the perspective of a genealogical researcher, this obituary offers a good deal more.

In addition to listing his birthplace (Huntley, Ontario) and his place of death (231 Armstrong St., Ottawa), it also supplies information about his former employment. (He worked for the Grand Trunk Railway, and then for the Canadian Pacific. My father always told me he was a machinist for the GTR.)

And it names 12 other people:

There is also a reference to seven grandchildren, but these grandchildren are not named. My father was one of these seven.

There is one obvious typo-type error in the list of names: “Annie N. Benton” should be “Annie M. Benton” (for Anna Maria Benton). And there is also a surname spelling variation (I hesitate to call it an error, since I’m always insisting that spelling doesn’t count in genealogy, and that you mustn’t cling to the notion of a “correct” surname spelling if you want to find your ancestors’ records) which might prove misleading, if I didn’t already know the name. The obituary names the mother of my great-grandfather as “Mary Levoy, of Pakenham.” If I didn’t already know that she was the Irish-born Mary Leavy [Levi/Levy], originally of Co. Longford, Ireland, I might go looking for a French/French-Canadian Marie Levoy.

For me, it is somewhat poignant to read that “the death of Alexander Michael Moran occurred at his residence, 231 Armstrong street, suddenly on Tuesday” (31 January 1939). Poignant because it makes me think of my now-deceased father (who died 14 March 2013), who once told me about the death of his grandfather, some of the details of which he could still recall so many years after the event.

231 Armstrong Street was also the home of my father at the time of his grandfather’s death: my dad, with his parents and his older sister Rosemary, lived upstairs at 231 Armstrong St., while his grandparents, Alec and Annie (Alexander Michael Moran and Anna Maria Benton), lived downstairs and ran a small grocery store out of the front of the house. My father recollected that he used to love to go for car rides with his grandfather, to go with him to deliver groceries from the shop or to make deliveries for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He also recalled that his grandfather played the fiddle, and that he loved to drink buttermilk. “He was a quiet man,” said my father, “and very kind.”

My father (born September 1934) was four years and four months old in January 1939, and was at home when his grandfather died. Some seventy-odd years after the death, he still had a vivid memory of seeing his beloved grandfather lying dead. Apparently my great-grandfather had been outside shovelling snow, and, feeling unwell, had gone inside, where he suffered a massive, and fatal, heart attack.

How much of my father’s memory of his grandfather’s death can be attributed to a direct recollection of a dramatic and traumatic event? and how much of it had been mediated by later retellings of the story over the years? This I do not, and cannot, know. But I’m pretty sure that my dad did remember something of the awful drama surrounding his grandfather’s death, even though my father was only about four and half years old at the time. In the world of my father’s childhood (and it really was a different world, in so many respects), adults didn’t try to hide the reality of death from even very young children, the way we now do.

Anyway, to return to the main idea of this post:

Newspaper obituaries can be extremely useful genealogical sources, but are often riddled with errors and inaccuracies. Follow up on all possible clues (and a close and careful reading of an obituary will often yield important clues), but never, ever assume that because it was printed in the papers, it must therefore be officially, and incontrovertibly, true.

  1. Two other brothers had predeceased him. John Moran, born 1854, died at Rochester, Minnesota in 1921. James Moran, born about 1858, died at Nepean Township in 1899.
  2. One other sister had predeceased him. Margaret Jane Moran, born about 1856, died at Huntley in May 1873, at about sixteen years of age.

Link

As if Ireland hasn’t already lost enough invaluable and irreplaceable genealogical records, John Grenham sounds the alarm over the state of the original Roman Catholic parish registers — which are “still sitting in the sacristies and presbyteries around the country where they have been for the past two centuries,” with no preservation plan in place, and “no archival programme to ensure their survival.”

Apologies for slow replies

I’ve been ignoring this blog lately while I attend to other commitments (teaching a couple of history classes; helping to run a local history museum; doing that “parental involvement” thing…).

If you’ve emailed me in the past month or so and I haven’t yet replied: I apologize. I haven’t forgotten you! I’m just a little bit overwhelmed by end-of-semester grading, and by the need to, for example, bake pumpkin bread for “Colonial Days” at my son’s school.

I hope to return to the blog (and to the emails sent by blog readers) within the next couple of weeks.

Ancestry removes ‘Old Search’

I’ve used Ancestry for years, and have never had any major complaints about the service. Oh, the odd gripe here or there, sure, but nothing major, nothing serious. Mostly, I’ve been a satisfied customer. A highly satisfied customer, even.

But I’ve always relied on ‘Old Search’ to search the Ancestry databases. Because any time I’ve tried ‘New Search,’ I’ve found it clunky, overly broad (way too many false positives), and just basically dumbed-down (hey! here’s another 25 to 50 to 100 search results that have nothing to do with the parameters you’re trying to delimit, you hapless researcher; but more means better! so here they are!…well, you did say “John,” right? and look at this lengthy list with first name “John”! … so many possibilities, and more is better!: you’re sure to find something in there somewhere! …).

I hate Ancestry’s ‘New Search.’ I’m sorry, I hate to sound so negative, but I just hate it. And I am not a happy camper, not a satisfied customer, when it comes to Ancestry’s decision to turn off ‘Old Search.’ And judging by the comments to this entry (A Fond Farewell to ‘Old Search’), I strongly suspect that I am not alone.

Eh, not every change is an improvement.

John Alexander Moran, 1934-2013

John Alexander, Sir John A, John, Johnny, Dad, Da, Daddy. The Big Guy, Ye Big Hoser.

My father, John Alexander Moran (6 September 1934-14 March 2013), in an early-1960s, “Mad Men”-era photograph. He’s the tall, dark, and handsome young rogue at the far left: 

John Alexander Moran, far left, early 1960s.

John Alexander Moran, far left, early 1960s.

Lahey cousin in the background. As always, and of course.

Google News Archive is back

Google News Archive was first launched about four years ago (in 2010, I think?), only to disappear at some point in 2011. Much to the disappointment of those whose idea of a good time is to google their grandparents, and perform deep and detailed searches of online, digitized copies of old newspapers from the comfort of their own homes. Yes, I was quite disappointed, and I was not alone in my sense of loss and dismay. Not that all (or most, or any?) of the content of the archive had ever completely disappeared (I am not sure about this), but certainly the nifty and easy-to-use Google News Archive search interface was gone by August 2011.

In any case, Google News Archive is back, and I think the search interface is better than ever.

Google your grandparents! And your parents, and your great-grandparents too.

Google News Archive.

 

Ottawa Teacher’s College, ca. 1961

After moving from Perth to Ottawa when she was about 16 years old, my mother attended two Ottawa schools: 1). Notre Dame Convent School (south side of Gloucester Street,near Metcalfe), where she completed high school; and 2). The Ottawa Teacher’s College (northeast corner of Elgin and Lisgar Streets).

This is my mother’s class at The Ottawa Teacher’s College. I believe it was taken in 1960 or 1961. My mother (Catherine Frances McGlade, 1939-2012) is in the back row, first from the left.

Ottawa Teacher's College, ca. 1961

Ottawa Teacher’s College, ca. 1961

Note the variations in skirt length in the above photo. This looks like the transition from the 1950s to the 1960s!

On the back of the photograph are some autographs of her fellow students:

mcglade catherine teacherscollege signatures

Newsworthy

Nowadays, you pretty much have to be famous (or perhaps infamous) to have a notice of your travel or holiday plans published in the newspaper.

Not so in 1913!

The Ottawa Journal, 9 August 1913.

The Ottawa Journal, 9 August 1913.

My great-grandparents Alexander Michael Moran and Anna (“Annie”) Maria Benton certainly had no claims to local, much less national, celebrity: they were neither famous nor infamous. But here is a notice of their trip to Swift Current, Saskatchewan, published in The Ottawa Journal on 9 August 1913. They presumably made this trip with their two sons Allan Jerome Moran (my grandfather) and Orville Alexander Moran. And they must have gone out west to visit my great-grandmother’s sister Margaret (“Maggie”) Anne Benton (my grandfather’s maternal aunt, who was also his godmother).

Maggie Benton had married the widowed Con Hazelton (originally of Eganville, Renfrew Co., whose first wife was a Mary McCourt) in Ottawa on 16 April 1912, and had then gone out to Swift Current, Saskatchewan with her husband, where, according to my father, Con Hazelton had a lumber store (this bit of oral history can be verified through written records, by the way).

Obituary/death notice for Margaret Anne Benton, The Ottawa Journal, 9 July 1952

Obituary/death notice for Margaret Anne Benton, The Ottawa Journal, 9 July 1952

I don’t know when exactly Margaret (Benton) Hazelton returned from Swift Current, Saskatchewan to Ottawa. On this point, her obituary/death notice (The Ottawa Journal, 9 July 1952) is not much help: apparently she had lived in Saskatchewan for “several years” before returning to Ottawa. Did she return to Ottawa with her husband Con Hazelton? or did she return to Ottawa as a widow? From her obituary, this is not made clear: we only learn that, as of July 1952, Constantine Hazelton had “died some time ago” (in Ottawa? in Swift Current? this information is not supplied). But note the genealogically useful information about Maggie (Benton) Hazelton’s stepdaughters (the children of Con Hazelton and his first wife Mary McCourt): as of July 1952, Cora (Elizabeth Cora Irene) Hazleton is now a Mrs. Cora Beauchamp of Vancouver, B.C., while Nellie (Ellen Mary) Hazelton is now a Mrs. Johnston of Cannuck, Saskatchewan. One individual’s newspaper obituary can supply so many hints and leads about siblings, children, stepchildren, and other extended family.

In any case, certainly Margaret (“Maggie”) Anne (Benton) Hazelton died in Ottawa (at an Ottawa nursing home) on 8 July 1952 at the age of 83, and is buried at Notre Dame Cemtery/Cimetière Notre Dame, Ottawa.

To return to the theme of travel:

My great-grandfather Alexander Michael Moran worked as a machinist for the GTR (Grand Trunk Railway). And according to my father, as an employee of the railway, my great-grandfather was entitled to free (or perhaps vastly discounted?) rail passes that would take he and his family to points all across Canada and the US. Of which perk he seldom took advantage; though apparently my grandfather, with his parents, did take a trip by rail to North Dakota to visit some Moran relations there. This would have been about 1910 to 1915, and perhaps this trip, too, was mentioned in the newspaper? I should try and look it up.

The Perth Courier (Canada’s second-oldest weekly newspaper) is great for notices of local travel. I’ve seen notices where So-and-So of Perth is visiting a sister in Almonte for a few days, or perhaps a cousin in Renfrew. And yes, this merits column space. Newsworthy.