Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Gilfedder Re-connection

Having been raised as an only child is quite likely the reason that I am fascinated with tracing my ancestral history. My father had one sibling and knew he had some aunts and uncles, but didn't know much about most of them. My mother, on the other hand, had 4 siblings and 17 aunts and uncles. It is the siblings of her mother that have provided the most interesting challenge.

Unlike most Irish immigrants, my Gilfedder family's emigration to North America began in the late 1890s. This was the period in Irish history during which "Home Rule" was enacted - a period of internal conflict among the Irish people. Most of the Emerald Isle wanted the right of self-determination, while those in Ulster wanted to retain ties with England. Whether or not this had any impact upon the decision to emigrate, eight of the Gilfedder siblings decided to leave their homeland for the calm across the sea.

The first to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to the Americas was Katherine in 1889. She was followed in successive years by seven of her siblings: Mary (1899), Rose (1911), Thaddeus (1911), John Joseph (1912), Patrick (1915), Theresa (1915) and, lastly, Felix (1921.)

Thaddeus, the 11th child of Patrick and Jane (Maguire) Gilfedder, did not emigrate to the United States, like most of his siblings, but chose Canada as his destination. In 1867, Canada had become an independent nation - the "Dominion of Canada." By the time of Thaddeus' immigration, the country had expanded westward and seen the addition of Manitoba, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta (and
Prince Edward Island) as provinces. The internal conflicts of the Red River Rebellion and the North-West Rebellion had been quelled and the Klondike Gold Rush had virtually ended. Unlike the atmosphere in his homeland, Canada was a peaceful place to live.

After landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the S.S. Hesperian in 1911, Thaddeus decided to settle in Montreal, Canada. There, he established a trucking company (Killfeather's Cartage), married and raised a family. Recently, I've reconnected with this Canadian branch of my Gilfedder family. I had been searching for source documentation on Ancestry and came across a reference to one of my grandmother's brothers (Thaddeus) in someone's family tree. Through Ancestry's site, I was able to email the owner of the family tree to see how we might be related. To my delight, I received a reply message!

The correspondence is still in the early stages, but has already provided valuable information about the family of Thaddeus Gilfedder and reconnected me to a family I have been seeking for many years.

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Monday, 26 May 2008

Fallen Leaves

Memorial Day (in the United States) is a time to celebrate the lives of those who have fallen in the service of their country. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it was instituted as a Federal Holiday following the American Civil War. Most Americans think of it as the kick-off for Summer and a time for partying, but my memories of this holiday are different than most.

As the child of two parents who served their country during World War II, I was raised to respect and remember the fallen. Each year, my father would go to his VFW Post (which I believe was Walter C. Campbell Post #544) in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to gather bundles of small flags and a list of gravesites on which to place them. He would drive from cemetery to cemetery in the Greater Boston Area, seeking out the headstones of those soldiers and sailors. At times, I would accompany him, marveling at the number of "stars and stripes" gently waving in the breeze. I was too young at the time to realize that under each flag lay the body of a victim of war.

Most of the ancestors in the Family Harvest tree who served their country in times of conflict survived. However, there are some who did not. In their memory, here are a few stories:

Caleb Harrington
American Revolution

When the word arrived in that the British Regulars were on their way to Lexington and Concord to destroy the ammunition supplies of the colonists, Caleb was among several of his kin to assemble on the Lexington parade grounds. He was also one of the first to die that fateful April morning.

There is much debate over who fired the first shot of the American Revolution. Whichever theory you may believe, of the known 77 colonists on the parade grounds of Lexington that day, eight colonists lost their lives: John Brown, Samuel Hadley, Caleb Harrington, Jonathan Harrington, Robert Munroe, Isaac Muzzey, Asahel Porter, and Jonas Parker.

According to the account of Joshua Simonds, who was in charge of the town's stock of ammunition which was kept in the upper gallery of the Meetinghouse, Caleb Harrington was shot and killed as he left after replenishing his supply of powder.

My 2nd cousin 6 times removed

Jonathan Harrington Jr.
American Revolution

Jonathan Harrington was also on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775. He was killed on the defense line during the second round of fire. He fell in front of his own house on the northerly end of the common. Although mortally wounded, he staggered towards his home, falling before reaching there. His wife saw him fall, then rise, the blood gushing from his breast. Stretching out his hands towards her, as if for assistance, he fell again. Rising once more on his hands and knees, he crawled across the road toward his home. His wife, Ruth (Fiske), ran to meet him at the door, only to watch as he expired at her feet.

My 2nd cousin 6 times removed

Theodore Francis Haviland Jr.
World War II

On January 19, 1942, Theodore Haviland was on his way home to his family in Savannah, Georgia. He recently had been transferred from another vessel (when that ship went into government service) to The City of Atlanta. The ship had sailed from Boston, January 9th, and from New York the following day.

At 9.09 in the morning, the unescorted and unarmed City of Atlanta (Master Lehman Chapman Urquhart) was torpedoed by U-123 about 12 miles south of the Wimble Shoals Buoy and about eight or ten miles off the coast of North Carolina.

The German torpedo hit the port side of the ship, forward of the #3 hold. When it struck, the ship listed sharply and quickly, making it difficult for the crew (eight officers and 38 crewmen) to abandon ship. It took about ten minutes for the force of the blow to cause the vessel to roll over - none of the four lifeboats could be lowered in time to save the crew. Only one officer and two crewmen survived, clinging to the wreckage of their ship. After six hours they were picked up by the American railway car carrier Seatrain Texas.

Theodore did not survive.

Although not an "official" casualty, Theodore did die during World War II, serving aboard a merchant vessel which was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. The United States had been at war for just 6 weeks when his vessel was torpedoed. In my eyes, he is as much a hero as the other members of the Family Harvest Genealogy who perished in defense of Liberty.

My 1st cousin once removed

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Sunday, 20 April 2008

Home From The Forest

During the long Winter of 2007/8, I have been occupied with the job of shoveling snow, so have not had the time (or energy!) to write anything for this blog. However, my quest for family did not get shoveled aside like the flakes which continually fell from the skies...I found three "new" cousins!

As an admirer of Gordon Lightfoot's music, my husband and I have been involved with the online community at the Corfid website. For fun, I decided to try to trace Gordon's lineage and post it on the forum. That little post lead to conversation with other members who wondered, as I, if we might be related.

It did not take very long to establish that we were indeed cousins! By tracing all three of the LeBlanc lines (mine and theirs), it was inevidable that a common ancestor would turn up. Wading through the lists of LeBlancs in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, I eventually uncovered the connections. Now I know that both of my correspondents are my 9th cousins once removed...and they are 6th cousins to each other!

Ironically, during one of my regular searches for ancestors at, I came across an entry in the Ancestry Family Trees which had a familiar name, John Tufts. When I looked at the owner of that tree, I realized that the line was that of another member of the Gordon Lightfoot forum! Confirming that it was indeed the same person, I began to establish our relationship. With several ancestors in common, we are 8th cousins!

The moral of this story is that you never know where you'll find family!

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