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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spies and intrigue

Posted by Dawn-Ann on January 8, 2013

Dusting my bookshelves this morning I came across a book I have been packing around with me since I was 8 years old. Untold decades, in other words.

It was given to me by my grandmother, but that’s not the reason I’ve been keeping it. Grandma gave me a lot of things I have managed to let go over the years.

For some reason, though, this book has always carried an aura of importance. I had a vague recollection of her impressing this upon me, but I could not recall what its import was, aside from the fact that the author herself had autographed it.

Handwritten text, including the author's autograph, inside my First Edition book, "Upside Down in the Magnolia Tree." (Click to see larger image.)

Today, I decided to find out. If it was nothing special I was going to recycle it and haul it around no more. Gramma, I love you dearly but sometimes you just have to guard against hoarding!

I carefully read the inside cover. The author, Mary Bancroft, had signed it, “To Mrs. Helen Biggar [not sure of this name], with kindest regards, Mary Bancroft. Zurich, December 1952.”

Under that was noted, “To dear Milly from Auntie Alice, Xmas 1961.”

Under that was noted, “To Dawn from Grandma Milly, July 1966.” (If you are paying attention, you now can calculate my age, but that’s beside the point.)

So, who was this Mary Bancroft? Who was Helen Biggar? Who was Aunt Alice? I had no record in my genealogical database of an Aunt Alice in Grandma’s family.

The first thing I did was Google Mary Bancroft and I clicked on the very first link that came up. The words I read at the top of the page were, “Author and intelligence analyst Mary Bancroft (1903–1997) had a colorful career as a journalist and spy for the United States in Switzerland during World War II.”

Whoa! Seriously?

Now I was REALLY interested! The signature in the book did say Zurich – could this be the same Mary? I scrolled through the article and found that yes, she did indeed write an autobiographical novel called Upside Down in the Magnolia Tree, which is the title of my book. Now I was really intrigued. I cracked it open and started reading immediately.

Unfortunately, the book was quaint but boring. It was the life of the little girl growing up but there were no real “grabbers” in there to keep you hooked. I got halfway through, then skimmed to the back and cheated my way across the finish line. I think it would have been more interesting if she had used real names and written it as non-fiction. But I’m keeping the book for interest’s sake, anyway. You just never know what will become valuable someday.

I did find out who Aunt Alice is, though. She was my Great Grand-Aunt by marriage. Here is where she fits into my tree:

Edward D. “Irish” Mellon married Elizabeth M. Flitten McGraff (he was born in Co. Antrim, Ireland, and she was born in Hong Kong!).

Irish and Elizabeth had 9 children, one of whom was my great-grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Mellon and one of whom was the man who married “Aunt Alice,” Edward Mellon. I know nothing more about Edward and Alice, except for Edward’s birth and death dates.

Great-grandma Sarah married Anthony George Charlton and they had six children, one of whom was my grandma, Mildred Bertha “Milly” Charlton.

Grandma Milly married Jozef Reichert (aka Joe Richards) and they had two daughters, one of whom was my recently-departed mama, Sheila Rose Richards.

Mom married my daddy and they had four girls – me and my sisters!

A Kirkpatrick / Hunter connection

Posted by Dawn-Ann on April 16, 2012

I was digging through my gravestone images looking for a particular one for a distant cousin. She has a Kirkpatrick in her tree that married a Hunter and she was wondering if I had anything I could share. Turns out I don’t (yet) but I thought I’d share this headstone anyway. The more information we get out there, the more we help each other, right?

Thomas Kirkpatrick, Catherine Hunter, Dumfries

Thomas Kirkpatrick, Robert Kirkpatrick, Catherine Hunter (click image to view larger)

The stone reads:

In Memory of
THOMAS KIRKPATRICK,
who died at Closeburn Village 13th Dec’r 1873,
aged 84 years. Also
ROBERT KIRKPATRICK his son who died
at Cottage Closeburn 29 Dec’r 1863
aged 5 years & 4 months.
Also CATHERINE HUNTER, wife of
the above THOMAS KIRKPATRICK,
who died at 1 Gordon St. Dumfries,
27th March 1892, aged 72 years.
CATHERINE JOHNSTONE KIRKPATRICK,
daughter of the above THOMAS
KIRKPATRICK, who died at
1 Gordon St. Dumfries,
on 3rd March 1927, aged 65 years.

Digging into the past again after quite some time!

Posted by Dawn-Ann on April 12, 2012

Ghosts of distant past
Whisper through the years to me
“Please tell our story.”

More on Kirkpatrick names!

Posted by Dawn-Ann on December 11, 2010

Again from Records of the Closeburn Kirkpatricks by Charles Kirkpatrick,  this fun little tid-bit:

“Amongst the Kirkpatricks, from earliest times, ‘Roger’ and ‘Ivone’ were favourite and common names. In our family there were only two ‘Johns’; one lost amidst the mists of the past, though figuring in the Ragman’s Roll.

“In later generations, few of the eldest sons escaped being called ‘Thomas’, thereby causing confusion amongst their descendants when trying to distinguish them.

“These ancestors of ours not only married two or three times, but in those days of large families, there were often two of a name, where one child having died, the parents christened a later arrival with the same name.

“In Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe’s family, there were two Isabellas, one John William and one William John!

“He has pointed out that a ‘nephew’ was frequently alluded to as a ‘grandson.’

“All these complications seem designed to tease antiquarians.”

New genealogy site unveiled

Posted by Dawn-Ann on July 11, 2010

Well, not exactly new, but it’s a new template designed by moi.

It’s the refreshed Alberta Family Histories Society website and it’s been a long time coming. I’ve been working on it in my “spare time,” tweaking and refining until it was good enough to go live.

I can already see some things I’d do differently but what the hey? It was a learning experience! :)

Changes in the Canada census impact genealogical research

Posted by Dawn-Ann on July 1, 2010

Time to start keeping our own records for future generations of family researchers

The genealogical community is abuzz with news that the long form of the Canada census has been tossed. As of next year’s census, 2011, everyone will receive just the short form to fill out. A voluntary “survey” will be sent out to about a third of households.

Folks who are not involved in genealogy are celebrating.  Many found the long form, which only one in five households were asked to fill out in any given year, were onerous and intrusive.  As a matter of fact, one Saskatchewan woman is doing battle in court over her refusal to fill out the long form.

But genealogists are less than pleased. For years, census data has offered important clues in family history research. An Edmonton Journal article says, “A door to Canada’s past has slammed shut, leaving future Canadians with little information about their own families and the country’s history, in a move the government says was prompted by privacy concerns.” This is exactly the kind of discussion I’m hearing in the genealogical circle.

Canadian census records are released to the public after 92 years for privacy reasons. The results of the voluntary “survey” will never be released to the public.

I have found some very valuable family information in census records. They brought my ancestors to life – I could see all the brothers and sisters, their ages, their neighbors, their father’s occupation. It’s sad that future researchers will come up against a brick wall on similar research.

I suppose that’s all the more reason for us to be writing out our own histories and gathering information together for future generations. Thank goodness for those of us who are the family “archivists” and story gatherers!

The Kilpatrick connection to the Kirkpatricks

Posted by Dawn-Ann on March 11, 2010

I’ve know for some time that the Kilpatricks were kin, their name being a variation of Kirkpatrick. Tonight I stumbled upon an interesting explanation for the difference. The source is an old Kirkpatrick Newsletter dated Oct-Nov-Dec 1989. It was published by Nathan L. Barlow of Rison, Arizona, whom I have not been able to locate online. If anyone knows of him, please contact me!

Anyway, the article was written by George M. Kirkpatrick of North Syracuse, NY.

While there were many with the surname Kirkpatrick in America prior to 1800, it is difficult to find documentation to establish family lines. A further difficulty is found in the use of various surname spellings, particularly prior to 1800. Kirkpatrick and Kilpatrick are used almost interchangeably (and also Killpatrick). It seems likely that Kilpatrick is closer to the original surname spelling and that Kirkpatrick is the anglicized version… The Kilpatrick spelling is still found near Glasgow, Scotland as in the towns of ‘Old Kilpatrick’ and ‘New Kilpatrick’ while the Kirkpatrick spelling is common near the English border, e.g. near Closeburn and Dumfries. All three versions are still in use, however.

Proving (or disproving) family legends

Posted by Dawn-Ann on February 11, 2010

Ira Cram, family ancestor

I stumbled upon an excellent blog post about how to deal with those “family legends” – some of which are true, some not; some of which are good, some not-so-good. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of tact and diplomacy.

Katrina at Kick-Ass Genealogy says this:

When you interview your family, sooner or later you will encounter a pretty tall tale. The novice researcher gets excited at the possibility of belonging to an exotic ethnicity; the more jaded historian dismisses the stories of war-time heroics out of hand. Neither approach is particularly constructive. In this article, we’re going to walk through how to prove (or disprove) a family legend.

Read the rest of her excellent article here.