Tag: Shearman

Six Years and Shifting Gears

It is hard to believe that it is six years since I started this family history blog. My first post, Help from the Grave, was dated mid-October, 2013. Since then, I have tried to post an article every two weeks (except during the summers) about my ancestors. This is post number 148.

Over these six years, I made a lot of progress with my research. I broke through several brick walls facing the Shearman family, who immigrated to North America from Waterford, Ireland (Breaking Down My Shearman Brick Wall); I tracked down the elusive Lucie Bagg, half-sister to Stanley Bagg (Lucie Bagg: Her Story); and I unraveled some of the mysteries surrounding my great-grandmother Samantha Rixon’s family (The Ancestor Who Did Not Exist). Writing the blog has helped me to focus on important questions about these people, explain my conclusions and back them up with notes and footnotes.

Samantha (Rixon) Forrester

I knew nothing about my great-grandmother Samantha (Rixon) Forrester until a few years ago, and my research revealed that some of the family stories about her were untrue.

This research has given my husband and me a great excuse to travel to Scotland, Ireland, northern England and London. We’ve also been to Winnipeg, Toronto, rural Ontario, New York State, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. In Montreal, we have become familiar with people and places in Mile End, a neighbourhood that is far from our house but was familiar territory to my ancestors.

I have been very lucky to be a member of a family history writing group. Calling ourselves Genealogy Ensemble, nine ladies meet monthly to share our discoveries and improve our writing skills. Every few months, I simultaneously publish my stories to both Writing Up the Ancestors and to that group’s collaborative blog, https://genealogyensemble.com. Two years ago, we collected our favourite articles and published them in a book we called Beads in a Necklace: Family Stories from Genealogy Ensemble.

I’ve also become involved with a similar blogging project in the small community on the coast of Maine where I spend my summers, encouraging people to write about their own families and summer memories.

Now it is time to shift gears. The new posts will continue, but at a slightly slower pace as I am starting to pull together the articles from my blog, revise and update them where necessary, and collect them into a self-published book. Actually, two books, one for my father’s side of the family in Upper Canada and the western provinces, the other for my mother’s Montreal ancestors and their colonial New England ancestors. These two families’ stories are very different, so two separate books will make everything more manageable. Still, it will involve a lot of work.

As for Writing Up the Ancestors, in the coming year, I will focus again on my Montreal roots, especially the Bagg family. They were well known in Montreal’s 19th-century English-language community and, believe it or not, there is still a lot to learn about them.

Help from the grave?

I have been lucky in that a few members of previous generations of my family jotted notes on the backs of photographs, saved letters or personal documents, or wrote to the appropriate parish in England, inquiring about the births, deaths and marriages of earlier generations. My genealogy research has been fairly easy, thanks entirely to their efforts.

But sometimes I wonder whether my ancestors are helping me in more direct ways. We were wandering around a cemetery in Durham, England after a long day of sightseeing, and it was cold and wet. We really just wanted to go back to our hotel. Suddenly our guide said, “What did you say your family’s name was?” He had spotted the name Mitcheson on a gravestone that we had all walked past just a few minutes before. It was so worn that it was almost illegible. I joked at the time that the ancestors were standing next to the grave, yelling and waving to get our attention.

It was the grave of my four-times and five-times great grandparents, Joseph Mitcheson and Margaret Philipson. Two of their children later left England, Mary coming to Montreal and Robert emigrating to Philadelphia. Mary’s grandson and Robert’s daughter got married, which is why Joseph and Margaret do double-duty in my family tree.

The Mitcheson-Philipson headstone in Whickham Parish Cemetery, Durham County

Most of my ancestors left the U.K. around the the beginning of the 19th century, although the colonial  families all arrived in New England in the 1600s. Here are some of the families I am researching:   

  • Hamilton (Lesmahagow, Scotland; Scarborough, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, Manitoba)
  • Forrester (Forfar, Scotland; Melrose, Ontario and Emerson, Manitoba)
  • Drummond (Inverarity, Scotland and Melrose, Ontario)
  • MacFarlane (near Dunkeld, Scotland and Melrose, Ontario)
  • Bagg (Springfield, Westfield and Pittsfield, Massachusetts and Montreal, Quebec) 
  • Moseley (Westfield, Massachusetts)
  • Stanley (Hartford, Connecticut)
  • Phelps (Westfield, Massachusetts)
  • Burt (Springfield, Massachusetts) Mitcheson (Durham, England and Philadelphia)
  • Smithers (London, England, Montreal and Brooklyn)
  • Workman (Ballymachash, Ireland and Montreal)
  • Mulholland (Ireland and Montreal)
  • Smith (MacDuff, Scotland, Toronto and Montreal)

Of course, I have several brick walls — people of special interest, for one reason or another, about whom I am having difficulty finding information. They include:

  • Martha Bagnall Shearman (1826-1897, Waterford, Ireland, Brooklyn and Montreal)
  • Pamela Stanley (1760-c1793, Litchfield, Connecticut and Pittsfield, Massachusetts)
  • John Clark (1767-1827, Durham, England and Montreal)
  • Mary Frances McGregor (c1792-1862, Port of Menteith, Scotland and Philadelphia)