Friday, March 18, 2011

The Snow Has Melted

Hick's Bible Christian Cemetery (Abandoned), Stephen, Huron, Ontario

A lot of snow melted this week, so I decided to visit some of the cemeteries near Exeter, Ontario, and hopefully cross some gravestones off my "to be photographed" list. It was quite blustery and not as sunny as had been forecast, but it was warm for mid-March. Most of the snow had melted, and there was some puddles and mud to avoid, but I did find most of the gravestones I was looking for.

One cemetery I had not visited before was the Hick's Bible Christian Cemetery in the southeast corner of Stephen Township. While the cemetery was quite easy to find, I was less than impressed with what I found.

Abandoned pioneer cemeteries in Ontario have suffered a number of different fates. Many have been subjected to "restoration." Sometimes the stones are set closely in a row. Sometimes a cairn is built and the stones placed in the cairn. If done carefully the stones are still readable if no longer in situ. At the Hick's Bible Christian Cemetery a concrete pad was poured and the stones placed so as to take up the smallest area possible. Makes it easier to mow the grass I suppose, but it certainly does not make the stones easy to read and photograph. The cemetery has also been subjected to some vandalism with several of the outer stones damaged.

Fortunately, the two stones of interest to me were still intact and fairly accessable. As well a transcription made by the Huron Country Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society was done before much of the vandalism occured. Still, I will attempt later this year to photograph all the remaining stones for the CanadaGenWeb Cemetery Project.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Waiting for the Snow to Melt

Woodlawn Cemetery, Guelph, Wellington, Ontario

A Canadian cemetery in winter is a special place, especially after a recent snowfall. Of course, finding a gravestone while wading through a foot of snow can be an interesting challenge. Transcribing an inscription while avoiding frostbite is also quite the thrill.

A cemetery visit in winter can be aesthetically rewarding, but for genealogical research it's probably best to wait for spring. Early spring is an excellent time for cemetery visits. Gravestones do not yet lie in the deep shadow of trees. The sun is still low in the sky for most of the day, creating better contrast for reading inscriptions and photography. Flowers, shrubs and grass which can obscure gravestones in summer have yet to make an appearance.

The gravestone of my ggg-grandmother Elizabeth LEWIS née STEVENS (1815-1885) is an excellent example of the advantage of cemetery visits in the early spring. I first visited her gravestone at Exeter Cemetery near Exeter, Ontario, several years ago at the end of June. Her gravestone and that of two of her children, was completely surrounded by a mass of orange day lilies. Quite picturesque, but I don't think anyone would have appreciated my stomping of the lilies to get close to the stone. A few months later, I did wade through the decaying remains and was able to take some adequate photographs. But it wasn't until a visit two years ago this month that I finally got the photograph I wanted — the complete stone, every carved word and symbol cleanly and clearly detailed.

As usual, research during the winter months has generated a long list of gravestones to photograph, but here in Ontario we're still waiting for the snow to melt.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Researching SMITH

Inevitably, anyone with English ancestors will discover that one of their ancestors bore the name of SMITH. In my case I have two great-grandmothers named SMITH: Rose Broom SMITH (1866-1934), whose photo is to the right, and Edith SMITH (1868-1953).

Rose Broom SMITH was born in Greenwich, Kent, England, the daughter of William Broom SMITH (1834-1908) and Elizabeth Ann WALL (1837-1909). According to census data, William Broom SMITH was born in Lambeth, Middlesex. William joined the Royal Navy and was an engineer serving aboard HMS Ajax when he married Elizabeth Ann WALL in 1857 in Stoke Damerel, Devon. According to his daughter's obituary, William later served aboard the cable-laying ship SS Great Eastern. Three of their six children were born in Stoke Dameral and the other three in Kent. According to his marriage certificate, William Broom SMITH's father was also named William Broom SMITH, but I haven't been able to trace this line back any further.

On the other hand, Edith SMITH's father, Henry SMITH, was born in Dolton, Devon in December of 1834. He was the son of Thomas SMITH (1807-1841) , a cooper, and Mary Field BULLEID (1809-1894). After Thomas SMITH died, Mary Field BULLEID married William HALLS (1813-1893), a builder from Merton, Devon. In 1873, Henry SMITH, his wife Elizabeth Tucker BUDD and four small daughters left Devon for Ontario, Canada and settled in the hamlet of Elimville in Usborne Township, Huron County.

But why did Henry SMITH choose Elimville?

Henry SMITH's father was baptised in Merton, Devon in 1807. As I researched the SMITH's of Merton, I made an interesting discovery. It appears that Mary Field BULLEID second husband was the cousin of her first.

Thomas SMITH was the son of Thomas SMITH (1779- ?), a cooper, and Elizabeth SCRIGGINS (1779- ?). Both Thomas and Elizabeth outlived their son. Thomas was the second youngest of the five children of John SMITH (1744-1815) and Mary FRAINE (1743-1810). The youngest child was Jenny SMITH (1787-1846), who married Philip HALLS (1791-1846) in 1810. Of their six sons, only the second oldest, William HALLS, stayed in Devon. The rest emigrated to Canada during the 1840s. Three of them settled near Elimville in Usborne Township, Huron County, to be joined many years later by their step-nephew, my gg-grandfather, Henry SMITH.

Sixteen years after arriving in Canada, Henry and family headed west to Manitoba. By that time the family had grown to nine children — eight girls and one boy. Three of the four oldest girls stayed behind in Ontario. Eight of Henry SMITH's children married and produced 27 grandchildren. Most, however, never knew their grandfather, as Henry SMITH died in Hamiota in 1903.