The Robert Spencers of Canajoharie and Stamford, Upper Canada

Happy May!  The past few weeks have been really busy, and it seems like forever since I’ve had a chance to sit down and write. However, I’m seizing the day, and taking this opportunity to share a little bit more about my Canadian Loyalist ancestor, Robert Spencer (Sr.). Robert Spencer is a reasonably prominent individual in early Canadian history, being a Loyalist and all, and he has quite a number of proud descendants. So in sharing these records, I don’t mean to suggest that any of these discoveries are new — just that I find old documents like this to be especially cool.

As noted previously, Robert’s grandson, Adam Spencer, wrote his memoirs concerning his grandfather, and these recollections provide some wonderfully fertile ground for record-seeking. Adam recalled that his grandparents “settled on a farm of 200 acres at Schoharie beside the Mohawk,”and that

 “….grandfather joined the British standard, as a member of a volunteer corps, which company were noted for their daring bravery. Robert’s action in joining the British incensed his neighbors, many of whom were in sympathy with the Rebels (as they were called), that in his absence the family was robbed, and sadly dispoiled of their goods….his farm at Schoharie was confiscated to the state….” 1

This particular bit of the story can be documented with a manuscript recently digitized by the New York Public Library, entitled, List of loyalists against whom judgments were given under the Confiscation Act, 1783 which was first compiled in 1802.2 This manuscript contains two references to Robert Spencer (Figure 1)

Robert Spencer indictment & judgment closeup page marked
Figure 1:  Entries for Robert Spencer in the List of Loyalists against whom judgements were given under the Confiscation Act, 1783.2

In both entries, Robert Spencer is reported to be from Canajohary (sic) in Tryon County. In the first entry at the top, he is reported to be a farmer, whereas in the second entry, he is recorded as a yeoman. The date of indictment, located in the next column, is recorded as “10th October 6th Indepen,” which is a reference to the 6th year of American independence, i.e. 1780. The judgement was signed on 15 July 1783 (Figure 2).2

judgement
Figure 2: Excerpt from manuscript showing indictment and judgement dates for Robert Spencer, farmer (line 1).2

The second entry for Robert Spencer, yeoman, indicates a different date of indictment, “14 June 5th Indepen” but with the same date of judgement, 15 July 1783 (Figure 3).2

Judgement 2
Figure 3:  Excerpt from manuscript showing indictment and judgement dates for Robert Spencer, yeoman (blocked out in red).2

How do we interpret these two different entries? That’s a good question. Robert Spencer was known to have a son, also named Robert Spencer, whose birth circa 1772 was recorded in the Dutch Reformed Church in Fonda, New York (Figure 3).3

Robert Spencer Jr birth 1772
Figure 3:  Birth record for Robert Spencer, son of Robert Spenser (sic) and Catrina Sternberg, born 10 August 1772 baptized 30 August 1772.3

The reason I say “circa” with reference to Robert’s birth is that the original record book seems to have been falling apart, so the original pages were apparently taped into a new notebook (shown above), but also recopied into yet another notebook (Figure 4), such that Ancestry offers three different “original” sources — with different dates —  for the same event (Figures 4 and 5).4,5

Robert Spencer Jr birth 2
Figure 4: Birth record for Robert Spenser (sic) son of Robert Spenser and Catrina Sternberg, born 10 August 1770, baptized 30 August 1772.4
Robert Spencer Jr birth 3
Figure 5:  Birth record for Robert Spenser (sic), son of Robert Spencer and Catrina Sternberg, born 10 August 1773, baptized 30 August 1773.5

In fact, if you’ll notice, Figures 5 and 3 are both clearly images of the same original, although the image in Figure 3 is a little nicer and more legible. However, Figure 3 was from “The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Reformed Church of Fonda, Baptisms, Marriages, Members, Consistory Minutes, 1758-1839,” whereas Figure 5 was from a collection with a slightly different title, “The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Fonda Church, Baptisms, Marriages, 1797-1872,” all of which just goes to show you how important it is to understand the original source and its history as much as possible.

In any case, these “different” sources make it clear that Robert Spencer, Jr., was born circa 1772, which would have made him about 8 years old in 1780 at the time of the first indictment, or 7 years old in 1779 at the time of the second indictment. Could it be, then, that Robert Spencer, farmer, and Robert Spencer, yeoman, are father and son? Might a boy have had property in his name, and thus be subject to having the property confiscated due to his family’s Loyalist sentiments? Might the two indictments be referring to two different parcels of land, both owned by the same Robert Spencer, presumably the father? Could this be evidence of two different adult Robert Spencers, both Loyalists and both living in Canajoharie? Evidence from later Canadian sources does not seem to favor this last theory, but clearly, I’m going to have to dig deeper into the social and legal history of that time and place in order to understand this document.

The next part of Robert Spencer Sr.’s land story, as told to us by his grandson Adam, is that,

“….at the close of the war, the British government gave to the sufferers land in Canada in lieu of their losses as well as a reward for their services. When Robert got his discharge from the army, he went direct to Niagara and wrote this family to join him there…. In a short time he drew 200 acres of land, situated at the summit of the Whirlpool, where the united family settled, and soon succeeded in making a comfortable home.” 6

Loyalist Land Petitions are available online via the Library and Archives of Canada site. There are several databases in which these records might be found, based on date and location. Robert Spencer’s land petition was found in the database, “Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” which can be searched here. Robert’s petition (Figure 6) supports many of Adam’s recollections about his grandfather.

Robert Spencer Land Petition page 3 cropped
Figure 6: First page of Robert Spencer, Sr.’s petition for land, dated 1797.7

As the document states, the petitioner, Robert Spencer Sr.,

“Respectfully Shews —

That your petitioner served His Majesty last War in Colonel Butler’s late Corps of Rangers, and as only received 100 acres of land, which he has cultivated and improved — That your Petitioner brought in his family from the States in the Year 1785, which then consisted of a Wife and Six Children — That your Petitioner lost his wife four years ago, but hopes your Honor will be pleased to consider him as having served His Majesty during the late War, and having a large family to provide for will be pleased to grant him his residue as a reduced soldier, and such further grant for himself his family, as your Honor may think proper, and your petitioner will as in duty bound ever pray —  Robert [his mark, X] Spencer

Niagara, 27th Jany ’97”

This wonderful document verifies Robert’s service in Butler’s Rangers, which was the “volunteer corps” alluded to by Adam Spencer. It also verifies the year of the family’s arrival in Upper Canada, the number of his children, the date of his wife Catherine’s death, and their place of residence in the Niagara district.

The file also contains evidence that Robert’s petition was successful.  A second page states that,

“The Petition of Robert Spencer — 143 [was] rec’d 27th Jany 1797 [at the Executive Council Office] Read [in Council] on 11 Mar 1797. Ordered 200 acres to complete his Military Lands and 350 acres family lands if not granted before.” 7

Robert Spencer Land Petition page 2 crop
Figure 7:  Second page of Robert Spencer, Sr.’s petition for land, dated 1797.7

Although a period map showing Robert Spencer’s land grants is not available online, the Niagara Settlers site offers a database in which one can search for settlers’ names on early maps. According to their database, Robert Spencer’s land grants are shown on two maps:

On an undated map of Township No. 2—Stamford (Mount Dorchester) in the Surveyor General’s Office, probably drawn in the mid to late 1780’s, Robert Spencer was named on Lots 16 and 17 Concession 2 from the Niagara River a short distance north of Niagara Falls. The lot was later renumbered.

On a map of the Township of Stamford by Surveyor Thos. Ridout, dated December 22, 1813, Robert Spencer was named on Lots 74 and 119 Stamford Twp.”

The site offers links to versions of these two maps, which were redrawn in 1983 by Maggie Parnall from her publication, The Mini Atlas of Early Settlers in the District of Niagara, which is currently out of print. The undated Stamford map is found here, and the 1813 map is found here.

As you can see from those maps, the location of Robert Spencer’s land is consistent with Adam Spencer’s recollection that his grandfather’s lands were “situated at the summit of the Whirlpool.”  Note that these particular maps are oriented “upside down” with South at the top of the compass rose, but it’s clear that Robert’s lands were pretty much opposite the bend in the river where the whirlpool is located. If you examine the modern map at that location, you can see that this land is more or less where the Whirlpool Golf Course is located now (Figure 8).

Whirlpool golf course
Figure 8: Whirlpool Golf Course, Niagara Falls, Ontario, courtesy of Google Maps.

Someday I look forward to tracing the property records more thoroughly so I can understand how the lands granted to my ancestor from the British Crown became a golf course, but that’s another research project for another day.

 

Sources:

Spencer, Adam.  “OId Time Experiences In the Bush and On the Farm”.  Canadian Friends Historical Association 19 (March 1977):  p. 5-6, transcribed from “At Rest:  Adam Spencer Called Home,” Norwich Gazette, 29 August 1889, p. 3, col. 5.

2 List of loyalists against whom judgments were given under the Confiscation Act, 1783, compiled 1802; Image 25, entries for Robert Spencer, farmer, of Canajohary, Tryon County, and Robert Spencer, yeoman, of Canajohary, Tryon County, accessed on 10 May 2017; Thomas Addis Emmet collection; Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, New York, NY.

Ancestry.com, U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), Ancestry.com, The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Reformed Church of Fonda, Baptisms, Marriages, Members, Consistory Minutes, 1758-1839, record for Robert Spenser, accessed on 10 May 2017.

Ancestry.com, U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), Ancestry.com, The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Fonda Church, Baptisms, Marriages, 1797-1872. Record for Robert Spenser, accessed on 10 May 2017.

Ancestry.com, U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), Ancestry.com, The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Fonda Church, Baptisms, Marriages, 1797-1872. Record for Robert Spencer, accessed on 10 May 2017.

Spencer, Adam, “OId Time Experiences In the Bush and On the Farm,”  Canadian Friends Historical Association 19 (March 1977):  p. 6, transcribed from “At Rest:  Adam Spencer Called Home,” Norwich Gazette, 29 August 1889, p. 3, col. 5.

7“Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865)”, Government of Canada, Library and Archives of Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx), Niagara, 1797, Land Petition for Robert Spencer, Volume 449, Bundle S-2, Petition 143, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2806, digital images 994- 997.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

Niagara River Stories

Rivers seem to run through my blood.  I was born in Western New York, and my first home was on Grand Island, in the middle of the Niagara River.  I have no memory of living there, because we moved to Omaha, Nebraska before I turned three, and then to Cincinnati, Ohio when I was four, but we would often return to Buffalo to visit family, and eventually moved back to Western New York when I was ten.  Even as a child I was impressed by how the narrow, muddy Ohio River just couldn’t compare to the blue depths of the mighty Niagara.

My Dad grew up on the Island, surrounded by the River.  His family moved there from Buffalo when he was about eight. As a teenager, he and his brother Peter played the dangerous game of going down to the water’s edge in winter and jumping from ice floe to ice floe to see how far out they could get, away from the shore.  As a young man, he would borrow Peter’s boat to court my mother, who lived on the other side of the river in North Tonawanda.  And at the age of forty-three, he survived a plane crash into the Niagara, when the water was only thirty-eight degrees and he had to save the pilot’s life and start swimming to shore while hypothermia was setting in.  But that’s another story for another day.

The Niagara River has been a part of my family history since the late 1700s, when my Loyalist ancestors, Robert and Catherine (née Sternberg) Spencer were granted land overlooking the Niagara River in what is now Niagara Falls, Ontario, in gratitude for Robert’s service in Butler’s Rangers during the American Revolutionary War. Before the war, another river featured prominently in their lives — the Mohawk River in what is now Central New York State.  How do I know this? I’m blessed to know a surprising amount about the lives of these ancestors, thanks to the memoirs written by their grandson, Adam Spencer, which were published after his death as a series of newspaper articles in the Norwich Gazette in 1889.  At present, I have a transcript of these articles published in 1977 in the newsletter of the Canadian Friends Historical Association (Adam Spencer was a member of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers.)1 A transcript isn’t as good as the actual newspaper articles on microfilm, of course, so that’s on my to-do list for needed documents, but this is what I’ve got right now.

canadian-quakers-newsletter1

Most of these memoirs concern the life of Adam Spencer himself, not surprisingly, and my direct line goes through his aunt, Sarah Spencer, who married John Hodgkinson, rather than through him.  So the parts that are most interesting to me are the parts about his grandparents, Robert and Catherine Spencer.  I’ll let Adam tell their story in his own words:

adam-spencer-memoirs-p-1

adam-spencer-memoirs-p-22

I have my doubts about the historical accuracy of certain parts of Adam’s story, particularly regarding Robert Spencer’s birth in Ireland, but that, too, is another story for another day.  Today what impresses me is all the lush detail presented in this passage — so many glimpses into the lives of these ancestors who lived so long ago. I like the image (historically accurate?) of Catherine as a girl of about 10, maybe, rowing across the Mohawk to travel to different parts of her parents’ farm in an era when many girls her age might be stitching samplers.  I can picture her and her young husband Robert as newlyweds, hosting the log-rolling bee to clear the land of timber as they set up their new farm near her parents along the Mohawk.  I honor her courage in packing up her six children and traveling to Montreal to wait out the war, hoping and praying for her husband’s safety. I imagine her affectionate smile as she bundled the child up in warm clothing before climbing into the rowboat on that fateful day as they attempted to cross the river to Fort Niagara.  I like to think that maybe she was watching over her 5x-great-grandsons, my Dad and his brother, keeping them safe when they were jumping from floe to floe in the river in the 1950s.  And maybe she was watching over Dad again on the day his plane crashed, when he was  rescued from the frigid waters of the Niagara before he lost consciousness.

It’s just one river, but it has so many stories to tell.

Sources:

1Spencer, Adam.  “OId Time Experiences In the Bush and On the Farm”.  Canadian Friends Historical Association 19 (March 1977):  p. 1.

2Ibid, p. 7-8.

Cover photo:  Sailboat on the Niagara River in front of Old Fort Niagara, courtesy of MaxPixel.FreeGreatPicture.com, is in the public domain.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

On Research Distractions and Why a Good Archivist Can Be Your Best Friend

I’ve never been one of those family historians who likes to stick to researching just one family line until it’s “complete” and then start another line.  For one thing, in our hobby, each answer (i.e. a person’s name) leads to two more questions (his or her parents’ names).  Sometimes a new bit of data can turn up unexpectedly, which prompts me to drop the research I’d been working on and follow the new trail for a while to see where it leads.  This tendency toward distraction is sometimes referred to as “genealogical ADD,” and there are plenty of internet memes which suggest that this is a good way to waste a lot of time with little to show for it in the end.  However, I often find that taking a break from a line and coming back to it later helps me to see the research with fresh eyes, allowing me to make new connections in the data that I’d missed previously.

I’ve discovered that the secret to making progress while jumping around in my research is to keep good research notes.  I use Family Tree Maker, which currently offers options for both “person notes” and “research notes.”  I use this section to keep a research journal, where I analyze my data, brainstorm hypotheses, plan my next steps, and keep track of phone calls and correspondence with archives, collaborators, churches, cemetery offices, etc.  Sometimes it takes time before a reply is received, so rather than sitting by the phone with bated breath, I move on to other research tasks.

The other day, something prompted me to take a look at where I’d left things with my Dodds line from St. Catharines, Ontario.  Robert Dodds was one of my great-great-great-grandfathers on my Dad’s side of the family, born in England on 28 January 1817, according to the 1901 Census of Canada.  He died on 16 August 1906, according to his civil death certificate, and is buried in St. Catharines in Victoria Lawn Cemetery, Section G.  Unfortunately, this civil death certificate does not reveal Robert’s parents’ names, which I need to know in order to further my research.  His marriage record might also mention his parents’ names, but unfortunately, that’s been difficult to locate as well.

Robert married Catherine, whose maiden name has been variously reported as Irving1 or Grant.2  Most sources agree that Catherine was born in Ontario of Scottish parents, rather than having herself been born in Scotland, as suggested by the death record of her daughter (my great-great-grandmother), Martha Agnes (née Dodds) Walsh.1  Robert and Catherine probably married circa 1839-1840, since their oldest daughter, Hannah Dodds, was born 20 January 1841. However, early records for Upper Canada/Canada West are very spotty, as many did not survive, and it’s not clear exactly where Robert and Catherine married, or even in what faith.

Robert Dodds reported his faith as Methodist in 1861, Church of England in 1871,  Methodist in 1881, and Church of England again in 1891 and 1901.  Catherine Dodds reported her faith as Methodist in 1861, Presbyterian in 1871, and she died in 1872.  Rather conveniently, the Methodist and most of the Presbyterian churches in Canada merged with some other Protestant faiths in 1925 to become the United Church of Canada, so their archive is an obvious place to check for the marriage record.  About 30% of the Presbyterian churches in Canada chose not to participate in this merger, and these non-concurring or continuing Presbyterian churches became the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  Again, their archive is another obvious place to check.  However, many congregations have retained their own records instead of sending them to the archives, so it’s important to know where the marriage took place.

This brings me to the second problem, determining where they married.  It’s common to use census records to track the movement of families and individuals, but unfortunately, the first time we see Robert and Catherine in the census is in 1861, when they are living in Grantham and are already the parents of seven children.  As mentioned previously, it’s likely that Robert and Catherine were married circa 1840, so the 1842 Census for Canada West would be an obvious place to search for the young family to see if they were already in Grantham at that point, or if they were elsewhere in the province.  Unfortunately, most of the returns for this census did not survive, including those for Lincoln, Elgin, and Glengarry Counties, which are the three counties associated with this family based on other records. The situation is not much better with the 1851 Census. As luck would have it, and despite the fact that many returns for the Lincoln District did survive, the returns for the Township of Grantham and the City of St. Catharines did not.

By 1871, the family had moved to Yarmouth Township in Elgin County, where Catherine died in 1872 and is buried in Union Cemetery.  Her grave transcription reads, “DODDS /  In Memory of /  Catharine /  wife of /  Robert DODDS /  died /  June 12, 1872 /  aged 54 yrs. 1 month & 22 days.  /  My children dear assemble here  /  A mother’s grave to see  /  Not long age I dwell with you  /  But soon you’l dwell with me.”  (I find that transcription especially compelling in a morbid sort of way.)  Catherine’s death certificate states that she was born in “Martin Town,” that she was Presbyterian, and that she died at the age of 53, which would suggest a birth year of 1819.  Her grave marker suggests a birth date of 20 April 1818.  “Martin Town” points clearly to Martintown, Glengarry County, Ontario, a place settled by immigrants from the Scottish Highlands, which is consistent with what we know of Catherine’s Scottish parentage.

The original Presbyterian Church that served Martintown was St. Andrew’s in Williamstown.  Marriage records for this church are indexed here for the time period from 1779 to 1914 “with a couple of gaps.”3  However, closer inspection reveals that there are no marriage records past 1815.  In fact, this index seems to correspond to the collection of St. Andrew’s church records available on microfilm from the LDS, which exhibits the same gap from 1818 until 1855.  And as luck would have it, that gap neatly encompasses both Catherine’s birth record, circa 1818, as well as the record of her marriage, if it took place in this parish, circa 1840.  So at this point, we can’t say whether the negative result is because the record no longer exists, or because Robert and Catherine Dodds did not marry in this parish.  For kicks, I checked all the indexed births, marriages and deaths for the surnames Grant and Irving, even though the particular range of years I need is not available.   Interestingly, I discovered that the surname Irving does not exist anywhere in these indexed records, although the surname Grant is quite common in the parish.

So where does that leave us?  Well, at this point, I still don’t know where Catherine and Robert might have met and married.  It might have been at St. Andrew’s in Williamstown, but if that’s the case, then the record may no longer exist.  I still don’t know Catherine’s parents’ names, although the data seem to point toward Grant as a more likely candidate for her maiden name than Irving.  But even in the absence of birth and marriage records, it occurred to me that I could still try to find church burial records for both Catherine and Robert, and perhaps by some miracle, these might contain their parents’ names, even though the civil death records did not.

I struck out fast with Catherine’s death record.  I contacted Union United Church, which is the descendant of the original Union Wesleyan Methodist Church which operates the cemetery in which Catherine was buried, to inquire about burial records.  Unfortunately, I was told that they, “have no records that date that far back any longer either.”4  Robert’s church death record seemed a bit more promising, as there were a number of Anglican churches in St. Catherines by the time of his death in 1906.  To help me determine which one might have his death record, I telephoned Victoria Lawn Cemetery, where he is buried.  The secretary was very helpful.  She informed me that Robert Dodds’ interment was handled by MacIntyre Funeral Home, and “Rev. R. Kerr” was the pastor who performed the services.  A quick Google search shows that Rev. Robert Kerr (or Ker) was the rector of St. George Anglican Church in St. Catharines.  A bit more digging revealed that burial records from St. George have been microfilmed and are available from the archive at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.  I contacted them immediately to inquire about obtaining a look-up.

And that was when “real life” and other research pulled me away, and I put my Dodds line on the back burner again.  I wrote that e-mail to the archivists at McMaster University back on 4 September 2014, almost two years ago.  Almost immediately, I received one of those standard, “thank you for your inquiry, one of our archivists will be in touch with you shortly,” e-mails, and then nothing further.  I didn’t think about it again (obviously!) until just recently.  Flash forward to earlier this week, when something made me look back at my Dodds research.  In reviewing my notes, I realized that I’d never received a reply from the archivist at McMaster.  So I wrote to them again, mentioning my previous e-mail from September of 2014.

Lo, and behold!  I received a reply from a library assistant, informing me that one of the archivists, Bridget Whittle, had replied to me back in 2014, but the e-mail was sent accidentally to the Research Help department. She forwarded Bridget’s old e-mail to me:

“Your email was forwarded to us here in the Archives. Thank you for your inquiry. I’ve had a look at St. George’s Church in St. Catharine’s and there was no burial record for Robert Dodds in 1905 or the surrounding years. Is it possible it was a different church in St. Catharine’s?”5

How about that?  She’d actually taken the time to review the microfilm for me, no charge!

I wrote back to her to explain the conversation with the cemetery office at Victoria Lawn, and wondered if perhaps Rev. Robert Kerr ministered at more than one parish in St. Catharines, which might account for the lack of burial record at St. George.  Bridget replied,

“Given the information you received from Victoria Lawn Cemetery, it really does sound like it should be St. George’s to me. I checked again, just to be certain that I hadn’t missed it somehow, but he’s definitely not there.

I checked all the other churches in St. Catharines that had burial records for that time and didn’t see Robert Dodds in any of them (or records suggesting that Robert Kerr was performing services there). I’m not certain whether this means that for some reason the entry was never made or if there is some other place it might be. I have checked the vestry records for the time as well as a miscellaneous file in the hopes that there would be something, but again, came up short.

While all this is unfortunate, I’m afraid that for the names of his parents, you wouldn’t be likely to get it from the burial record anyway. I know you said you were having a hard time tracking down his marriage record, but that would be more likely to have the information.

Do you know if he was married in St. Catharines? Around 1840 is pretty sparse record wise, but I would be happy to have a look if you know the city he was married in.5

Wow!  It just makes my day to encounter someone so wonderfully helpful.  Of course I replied with more information regarding my search for their marriage record.  Bridget’s response was both thoughtful and on-point:

Thanks for going through all of those details. I can see why you’re running out of options. Based on your information I checked a few of the other churches (namely the one in Grantham and a few that are now part of St. Catharines, but were not at the time). Frustratingly, I’ve still come up with nothing new. I was hoping I might catch a baptismal record for Hannah, at least so that we knew we were on the right track, but still nothing.

I have put a call into the Archivist for the Niagara Diocese, Archdeacon Rathbone, to see if we can figure out how it is that all of that information about Robert Dodds can be recorded at the cemetery and then not show up in the burial register. He’s away today, but I’ll let you know what I come up with.

The records we have here don’t go as far east as Yarmouth, East Elgin. That falls under the Diocese of Huron. If you haven’t been in touch with them already, you can reach them here:  http://diohuron.org/what/HR/archives.php

You probably know this already, but the Methodist church in Canada merged with a few others to become the United Church. If you go hunting for the Dodds’ under the Methodist connections, you’ll want to get in touch with them:  http://www.united-church.ca/leadership/church-administration/united-church-canada-archives

And good grief! I see what you mean about that 1901 census. I’m inclined to agree that it’s Jany [the month of Robert Dodds’ birth], but it’s a shame that it is so difficult to read (and that the UK census doesn’t go back that far).  I will let you know what the Archdeacon has to say. Hopefully he’ll have some other lead.5

 

So what are the take-home messages in all of this?

 1. Keep good research notes.

You never know when life is going to intervene and you might have to put down your research for a while.  As long as you have good notes, it should be easy to pick up again when you’re ready.

2. Follow up with all your leads (even if it’s two years later).

E-mails do get lost sometimes.  If you don’t hear from someone for a while, don’t assume he or she was ignoring you.

3.  Be sure to reach out to the librarians and archivists in the geographic areas in which you’re searching.

They are a fantastic resource — typically knowledgeable about the history of the area in addition to knowing what records, maps, finding aids, and reference works are available, and where to look for them.  Nothing beats local knowledge.  The search may continue for my elusive Robert and Catherine Dodds, but at least it’s nice to know that I’ve got some allies in my quest.

Sources:

  1.  New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, 1935, #4549, Death Certificate for Martha Dodds Walsh.
  2. Death record for Hannah Dodds Carty, eldest daughter of Robert and Catherine Dodds (click link for details and image).
  3. Per information at the parent website (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onglenga/), this index was created from, “‘St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church,’ (aka the Rev. John Bethune records); Williamstown, Charlottenburgh Twp., Glengarry, Ontario. Transcript by Dr. K. A. Taylor Registers of births, marriages and burials: 1779-1914 (original and typescript versions). MS 107 Reel 1.  File contains transcriptions from 1779 up to 1839 with a couple of gaps.”
  4. Whitehead, Karen.  “RE:  [Cemetery] Availability of Church Records.” Message to the author from unioncemetery.uucc@gmail.com.  4 Sept. 2014.  Email.
  5.  Whittle, Bridget.  “RE:  Question submitted through Ask a Librarian chat.”  Message to the author from archives@mcmaster.ca. 3 Aug. 2016.  Email.
  6.  Featured image:  Gordon, Bruce. Photo of St. Andrews United Church Cemetery. Digital image.Find A Grave. Find A Grave, Inc., 1 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.

 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016