Tag: Winnipeg

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 https://store.bouquinbec.ca/reinventing-themselves-a-history-of-the-hamilton-and-forrester-families.html. 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.

The Wedding Trip

The itinerary of my grandparents’ 1906 honeymoon reads more like a business trip than a romantic vacation, nevertheless, they both seemed to enjoy their trip to Chicago, Toronto and Montreal.

My future grandfather was planning on running for election to the school board, so he wanted to research schools, and my grandmother wanted to shop for things she couldn’t find in stores at home. Meanwhile, both were interested in medicine, so several hospital tours were on the agenda.

The bride and groom were Dr. Thomas Glendinning Hamilton, 33, a Winnipeg physician, and Lillian May Forrester, 26, a nurse. Lillian had trained at the Winnipeg General Hospital and graduated in May, 1905 with the class prize for highest general proficiency. They met at the hospital and she resigned when they became engaged.

This photo, taken around 1932, is the only one I have of the couple alone together.

According to a newspaper account, the wedding took place at the Winnipeg home of the bride’s uncle, lawyer Donald Forrester, at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 26, 1906: “The bride, who wore a pretty gown of white net over taffeta and carried bride’s roses, was given away by her father, Mr. John Forrester, of Emerson…. There were no attendants, only the immediate relatives of the happy couple being present.” Following the brief Presbyterian service, the bride quickly changed into a red and grey travelling outfit and they left for their honeymoon on the 5:20 train.

Lillian kept a diary of the wedding trip, leaving out any romantic details, which is probably why that account is available for all to read at the archives of the University of Manitoba.

They spent their wedding night on the train to St. Paul and reached Chicago late the following evening.  Staying at the 16-story Great Northern Hotel, they visited the Marshall Field’s department store, viewed the impressive tower of the Montgomery Ward Building and attended a play. They also visited the 1,400-bed Cook County Hospital which, Lillian noted, treated 25,000 patients a year and did an average of 10 operations per day. They then headed by train to Detroit for a brief stopover, and to Toronto, where they began exploring the neighbourhood around Queen’s Park and the University of Toronto.

Niagara Falls was on their honeymoon bucket list. T.G. and Lillian spent a snowy day there, seeing both the Canadian and American falls. Dressed in waterproof clothing, they viewed the back of the falls, and they took a cable elevator car to see the Whirlpool Rapids and have photos taken. Back in Toronto, they stayed two nights with T.G.’s Aunt Lizzie Morgan, then boarded a train for Montreal.

Lillian noted some of the towns they passed on that leg of the journey, including Belleville and Shannonville. She did not add in her note book that her family lived in this region before moving to Manitoba in the early 1880s, and that she had been born near Belleville. It was now early December, and there was a heavy snowfall in Montreal, nevertheless they walked down St. Catherine Street and took the street car to Notre Dame Cathedral, which they found to be “as grand and beautiful as we anticipated.” Lillian ordered 50 visiting cards – she would need them in her new social role as the wife of a busy physician – and she visited several stores “and spent her first pin money.”  She described Morgan’s department store as “the most beautiful store we have ever seen. The art gallery, glass room, electrical room and furniture department are all exceedingly fine.” Meanwhile, T.G. interviewed the Superintendent of Schools in Montreal.

No visit to Montreal is complete without a trip up Mount Royal, and T.G. and Lillian went to the top “in a warm red sleigh, had a splendid view of city, canal, river and Victoria Bridge.” On the way back downtown, they visited the Royal Victoria Hospital, ”a beautiful, well equipped building” with 300 beds.  The next day they explored the Redpath Museum, had dinner at the Windsor Hotel (one of the city’s best) and took the overnight train back to Toronto. Again they stayed with Aunt Lizzie. It was a Sunday so, after church, T.G.’s cousin accompanied them to visit more relatives. The following day, T.G. met with the Superintendent of School Buildings in Toronto and with a former principal of Wellesley Public School, said to be the most handsome and modern school building in Toronto.

Over the next few days they visited more extended family members and went to see St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Scarborough, where T.G.’s father and grandparents were buried. They also visited the Scarborough farmhouse where T.G. had spent his childhood. They stayed downtown on their last two days in the city, and attended a lecture on new developments in vaccines. Finally, they headed west on the night train to Chicago and Minneapolis. When they arrived back in Winnipeg, Lillian’s brother picked them up at the station and they went to buy furniture.

The last entry of the wedding trip diary was dated three days before Christmas 1906, and almost one month had passed since their wedding: “Dec. 22. Had tea at 8 a.m. in our own house.”


Lillian Hamilton, “Wedding Trip,” University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections, Hamilton Family Fonds, Hamilton Family – Personal; Box 1, Folder 1.

Note: a slightly shorter version of this story is posted on the collaborative blog, https://genealogyensemble.com