Category: Hamilton

Eight Years and Still Going Strong

It has been eight years this month since I started posting articles about my ancestors on this blog. In that time, I have learned a lot, focusing primarily on my direct ancestors and a few of their colourful cousins. Now it is time to reassess and decide where to take the blog in the future.

I have been thinking of abandoning Writing Up the Ancestors altogether and just post on, the collaborative blog I share with eight other genealogists/writers. Many of my articles already appear on both blogs. We are each scheduled to post on GE once every nine weeks, and that is about all I have been able to manage lately. In June, I published a history of my father’s family – Reinventing Themselves a History of the Hamilton and Forrester Families ( — and it was impossible to create new content for the blog while also working on the book.

Blogger, the interface on which Writing Up the Ancestors appears, introduced major changes about a year ago, and I was so busy with the book that I didn’t take the time to learn how to use the new version. It was extremely frustrating to see a blog that once was so easy to handle become quite cumbersome, especially when it comes to separating paragraphs. But I will give Blogger a try for a while longer. Meanwhile, my last two posts, both about my headstrong and unflappable world travelling great-great aunt Helen (Bagg) Lewis, appear only on Genealogy Ensemble.

Truth be told, Genealogy Ensemble has a much wider readership than Writing Up the Ancestors, however, people still contact me about various people I have written about on Writing Up the Ancestors. Furthermore, my articles about the Bagg and Clark families appear in footnotes in several recent books about the history of the Montreal neighbourhood where they once lived. Hopefully, my online collection of stories won’t be going anywhere.

Robert Mitcheson, Philadelphia

Now that my father’s family is “done” (although all genealogists know the research is never finished) my attention is turning to my mother’s family, all of them Montrealers since the late 1700s or mid-1800s. Wherever my future posts appear, they will focus on my mother’s side: the Bagg, Mitcheson, Clark, MacGregor, Smithers, Smith, Workman, Mulholland and Shearman families. In the coming months the focus will be on the family of Robert Mitcheson (1779-1859), pictured here.

In the years since I first started my research, many new resources have been digitized, so I’m hoping to make new discoveries, then pull them together into another book.

Meanwhile, before getting started on all that new research, it is time to reorganize. I am putting a lot of stray notes and articles into Evernote in the hopes of being able to find them when I need them, and sorting through the piles of documents related to the Hamiltons and Forresters, giving whatever is of value to an archive and throwing out all the duplicates and references I can easily find again online.

Is this overly optimistic? Perhaps, but winter is coming and the pandemic is not going away anytime soon. I have to do something to keep busy!

Reinventing Themselves Has Been Launched

It has been almost 200 years since my paternal ancestors came to Upper Canada from Scotland and took up farming here. It has been about 12 years since I started researching and writing about them. Now that I have pulled all their stories together into the pages of a book, it is time to celebrate.

Earlier this week, relatives and friends helped me launch Reinventing Themselves: A History of the Hamilton and Forrester Families. We got together on Zoom, a solution that was perfect considering that the descendants of this family are spread from Montreal to Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and across the United States.

This collection of short articles traces the descendants of weaver Robert Hamilton and carpenter David Forrester. The two Scottish immigrants and their families came to Upper Canada in the 1830s and became part of strong farming communities. Fifty years later, both families moved west. The Hamiltons were founding settlers of a temperance community that eventually became Saskatoon. The Forresters took up prairie farming in southern Manitoba. The following generations continued to reinvent themselves, with several pursuing careers in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Among them were physician Thomas Glendenning Hamilton and his wife, nurse Lillian Forrester – my grandparents. After their young son died in the 1919 influenza pandemic, the couple began holding seances, and their research into psychical phenomena brought them international fame.

Many of the articles about the Hamilton family have previously appeared on my blog, Writing Up the Ancestors, but pulling them together into a cohesive thread makes the ancestors’ story easier to follow. Much of the material about my grandmother’s family, the Forresters, will be new to most readers.

Reinventing Themselves is available from the online bookstore at It is $20.00 Canadian for the paperback version, or you can download the e-book for $10.00. Shipping is $6.50 shipping to Canada and $15 to the United States. Most of the books for sale on that site are in French, but the order form is in English.

The process of reinvention is continuing, as the book has inspired two videos. Tracey Arial interviewed me for her podcast Unapologetically Canadian and Frank Opolko, a friend who recently retired from the CBC, also interviewed me.

Interviewing Janice

I learned a great deal while doing this project. Best of all, I discovered several living cousins who were previously unknown to me. One new cousin instantly felt like an old friend, and the mystery person who is my closest match on Family Tree DNA has turned out to be a Forrester descendant from Michigan.

This project reminded me how challenging it is to write about genealogy. All I know about many distant ancestors is their dates and places of birth, marriage and death. While this is essential information, such lists can make for boring reading. The family stories are the good stuff, and they have been the focus of the articles on my blog. Of course, there are two types of family stories: anecdotes that may or may not be true, and well-documented facts.

I was also reminded how much discipline it takes to complete a project of this magnitude. I recently overheard my husband tell someone that he didn’t dare come near my office while I was working on the book because I would chase him away. There are so many distractions, especially on the Internet, that it really takes discipline to stay focused, and a project this size inevitably takes longer than expected.

Now it is time to take a break from family history, catch up on reading novels and enjoying summer before turning my attention to my mother’s family.