Saturday, July 23, 2016

Timothy Soper

For a long time I have wondered how it would feel to find an ancestor who had fought against my country in a war. Every veteran of WWI or WWII thus uncovered in my family fought either for the U.S. or one of its allies, and my Civil War ancestors have all been on the side of the Union. There are even a few Revolutionary War patriots hidden in the branches of my family tree. But now I have finally stumbled across an ancestor—a direct ancestor, too—who fought against the United States.

The line goes like this: my Grandpa Jack’s father was Francis Albert Hoyt, Sr.; his mother was Parmelia “Minnie” Nelson; her mother was Maria Dianna Soper (who surprised me as the first Canadian in my direct line); her father was Harley Soper; and his father was Timothy Soper, the subject of this post.

Timothy Soper may have been born in Vermont; more research will be necessary to untangle all the various Sopers. At this point, the earliest period I can confidently identify Timothy, he was living in Kitley, Leeds county, Ontario. Thad. W. H. Leavitt’s History of Leeds and Grenville Ontario recounts this anecdote:

For a long time Mr. Soper acted as a general agent for the settlers, in bringing in supplies, doing to milling, etc. Upon one occasion he had taken a grist to Merrickville for Thomas Connor. Returning with it in the night, he left it beside the main road, at a point where the path leading to Mr. Connor’s house diverged. Having a piece of chalk in his pocket, he wrote upon the sack:--

Here I lie upon my back,
My name it is an Irish sack;
Touch me not, upon your honor,
For I belong to Tommy Connor” (Leavitt 117).

I must say that is one of my favorite extracts regarding an ancestor I have yet come across, illustrative as it is of his playfulness and sense of humor, even if not, perhaps, of his diligence.

In June of 1812, America declared war on the British. The Americans expected to be welcomed by their neighbors to the north, but the Canadian colonists saw the Americans as an invaders. By September of that year, Timothy Soper had joined up with the Militia of Leeds county, to be specific, Captain John Howard’s Company in the 1st Regiment Leeds Militia. Although this company does not appear by name in Officers of the British forces in Canada during the war of 1812-15, the volume does state that the 1st Regiment of Leeds Militia fought against the American raid on Elizabethtown/Brockville (the village was in the process of being renamed in honor of a commander in the war) and it took part in the attack on Ogdensburg (Irving 50). Both locations are less than 40 miles from Timothy’s hometown of Kitley.

After the war, Canada headed (though not necessarily intentionally) toward independence of British rule. An early agitator, if that is the word for it, was Robert F. Gourlay. When Gourlay held a meeting in Kitley in 1818, Timothy Soper was a member of the committee (Leavitt 43).

Timothy Soper died on 12 Dec 1847 and was buried in Soper’s Cemetery in Kitley. As you can see, there is still much research to be done to flesh out Timothy’s life. And this will be my first serious foray into Canadian genealogical resources, so there is much to learn!

Selected Sources:

CanadaGenWeb's database and images, Canada GenWeb's Cemetery Project (accessed 13 Jun 2016); entry for Timothy Soper, buried in Soper's Cemetery, Ontario.

Christine Beek, OntarioGenWeb, War of 1812 Paylist Rolls  (accessed 17 Jul 2016), Timothy Soper included in a list of Capt. John Howard's Co, citing Folios 349-351, microfilm T-10381, North York Public Library, Yonge St., Toronto.

Irving, L. Homfray and Canadian Military Institute, Officers of the British Forces in Canada During the War of 1812-15 (Welland Tribune Print, 1908).

Friday, March 4, 2016

Voyage on the Mauretania

By TWAM - Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (Mauretania - Full speed ahead  Uploaded by Fæ) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Recently I took advantage of a sale on the price of an annual subscription to the British Newspaper Archive, and for the past month or so have been making the most of it. I have made many discoveries and been able to nail down the dates of some events for which I previously had only approximations. And then it occurred to me to search for the ships on which some of my ancestors traveled, figuring I could find notices of the arrivals and departures in the shipping news. Though it would supply little to no new information, it would be pretty cool. And for some of the trips, that is exactly what I found. But for my great-grandmother Mary Craig’s trip with her father aboard the Mauretania, there was so much more!

First, there was the not unusual statement of delivery dates of overseas mail:


Letters mailed in Dundee before

1.00 a.m. Sat. 4.30 p.m.

2.50 p.m. Wed. Via Queenstown. Via So hampton.

Per str. Per str. (if specially

addressed). Due in

Date of Posting. New York.

Mar. 2, _____ K. Auguste Victoria. Mar. 10

Mar. 4, Mauretania _____ Mar. 10
(Please forgive the formatting; I could not get it to format properly for the webpage.)

By Snapshots Of The Past (Queenstown. Co. Cork Ireland) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Then, there was some extra news in the customary notice of stopping in the port of Queenstown. (Queenstown, now known as Cobh, was a frequent port of call for ships traveling between Liverpool and the United States.)

The Mauretania, which left Queenstown yesterday for New York, took from Queenstown 1312 sacks of mail matter, which included several thousand boxes of shamrock sent by persons in various parts of Ireland to their relatives in the United States and Canada to be worn by the recipients on St Patrick’s Day.

Another article told of a few of the famous personalities that my ancestors were traveling with. It is doubtful they would have met each other, as the celebrities were in first class and my ancestors were in steerage, but perhaps there was some stretching of necks to catch a glimpse.

The Cunard liner “Mauretania,” sailed from the Mersey on Saturday for New York, among her passengers being Sir Edward Tennant, who has just been created a baron of the United Kingdom; Count Leo Tolstoi, son of the famous Russian; and Dr. W. T. Grenfell, the Labrador missionary who was received in audience by the King at Buckingham Palace on Friday. Dr. Grenfell, who was accompanied by his wife, will make an American tour before returning to his work in Labrador.

I must admit that the only one of these notable persons whose name is recognizable to me is Leo Tolstoi, and even his name is familiar only because he shares it with his famous father, but it is probably safe to assume that all of these names were familiar to my ancestors.

The newspapers are necessarily silent on the Mauretania for the next couple days, but when it finally docks in New York, it has a story to tell!

The Mauretania arrived at New York yesterday twelve hours late, after one of the roughest passages she has ever experienced.

The great liner encountered mountainous seas on Monday midnight, and her boat deck bulwarks were bent and twisted, and fifty feet of the forward promenade rail was destroyed by eighty-foot waves. The wheelhouse windows were smashed, and passengers flung from their berths.

Fortunately, however, beyond a few bruises, there were no casualties, and the Cunarder was able to plough her way safely through the storm.

The Shields Daily Gazette told the story in nearly the same words:

Mauretania Badly Damaged.

The Mauretania, says a “Yorkshire Post” New York telegram, arrived there yesterday morning twelve hours late, after one of the roughest passages she has ever experienced. The great liner encountered mountainous seas on Monday midnight, and her boat deck bulwarks were bent and twisted, and fifty feet of the forward promenade rail was destroyed by 80-foot waves. The wheel-house windows were smashed, and passengers flung from their berths. Fortunately, however, beyond a few bruises, there were no casualties, and the Cunarder was able to plough her way safely through the storm.

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph found other words, and supplied a little more information:

(From Our Own Correspondent.)
NEW YORK, Friday.
The Mauretania, which left Liverpool on the 4th inst., and was due here under normal conditions last night in time to discharge her passengers, did not pass Sandy Hook until this morning—12 hours behind her usual time.

The giant liner ran into a heavy westerly gale on Monday, which increased so that by Monday midnight enormous waves were reaching higher than the bridge.

The gale not only delayed the liner, but caused considerable damage.

On Monday the whole fierceness of the storm seemed turned against the ship, and frequently waves 80 feet in height swept over the weather bow and dashed up to the bridge, falling with thousands of tons weight of water on the deck.

One of the great waves caused the steel boat deck to buckle on the weather side, smashed a portion of the bulwark, and destroyed quite 50 feet of the rail on the forward promenade deck.

It seems that the voyage back to American aboard the Mauretania was much more exciting than Mary and her father John Stephen Craig had bargained for!

Citations (in order cited):

Outgoing American Mails,” Dundee Courier, 2 Mar 1911, p. 2, col. 3; digital images, The British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 3 Mar 2016), Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Shamrock for Overseas Irishmen,” Dundee Courier, 6 Mar 1911, p. 5, col. 2; digital images, The British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 3 Mar 2016), Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Departures for America,” Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 6 Mar 1911, p. 9, col. 3; digital images, The British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 3 Mar 2016), Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Mauretania’s Rough Passage,” Nottingham Evening Post, 11 Mar 1911, p. 5, col. 3; digital images, The British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 3 Mar 2016), Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Atlantic Storm,” Shields Daily Gazette, 11 Mar 1911, p. 3, col. 1; digital images, The British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 3 Mar 2016), With thanks to South Tyneside Libraries and Information. Digitised by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited. All rights reserved.

Terrific Gale,” Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 11 Mar 1911, p. 9, col. 3; digital images, The British History Archive ( : accessed 3 Mar 2016), Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

George Amos’ death certificate

A little over a dozen or so years ago, my younger self received a letter. It had come airmail—“par avion” read a sticker on the envelope—all the way from England. The letter had been written by a cousin, who, in reply to my inquiry, had jotted down what she knew of the family tree. For many years; until the advent of internet genealogy, that is, this letter was my main source for information on the Amos family. The more I matured in genealogical matters, the more I realized that the letter was merely a starting place, and the facts would have to be supported by more reliable documentation.

Fortunately, the facts outlined in that letter have, for the most part, stood up to examination. The names have occasionally required spelling correction, but the people have generally turned out to be properly placed within the tree. There have been two or three whom she named that I couldn’t trace, but that’s not bad percentage-wise.

Though she sent me a great many names and relationships, she sent me very few dates. Among the few dates she did send were that my great-great-grandparents George and Elizabeth Amos died in 1928 and 1942 respectively. Without any other evidence, I tentatively inputted those dates into my genealogy software and my various online family trees, waiting for the day I would finally have substantiative proof. The years passed by, and I located most of their children in the General Register Office’s birth, marriage, and death indices, but the deaths of the parents remained elusive. The longer the passage of time, the less secure I grew of the accuracy of the dates.

If you have any English ancestors, doubtless you are familiar with the GRO’s indices. They provide a name, registration district, year, and quarter for each event. And that’s it. No actual date—just a three month span. Obviously it can be very difficult to pick out the correct entry if you don’t know the death date in a case of multiple people with the same name. And to consult the actual document is currently £9.25 (depending on the exchange rates, about $15) a pop. Not being independently wealthy, I have not been terribly inclined to take a gamble like that without being pretty sure of my odds.

Finally, at the beginning of this month, all the circumstances aligned. I found an entry—and only one—which I felt reasonably certain was the right George Amos, the exchange rates were comparatively favorable, and I had a little spare cash. It was time to make my first purchase from the GRO.

It took over two weeks, but yesterday a brown envelope marked “Royal Mail” arrived.

I carefully slit it open, and looked inside. A cover letter detailed the facts of the order. Behind the cover letter was a delicately tinted certificate, which I couldn’t help but scan with my eyes before sitting down and seriously studying it. The word “Ferryman” jumped out at me. Ferryman! I was on the right track.

The rest of the information bore this out. The address given was the same address as on the 1911 census, and the informant was M. Bines: his daughter Minnie Bines.

So now I have a legitimate death date for George Amos: 3 May 1931. Now I just need to work on his wife...


Letter from cousin, since misplaced.

England and Wales, death certificate for George Amos, died 3 May 1931; citing 4a/624/13, Apr-May-Jun quarter 1931, Rochford registration district, Rochford sub-district; General Register Office, Southport.

1911 census of England, Essex, 27 St. Thomas Road, South Fambridge, Essex, household of George Amos; digital images, Ancestry, Ancestry ( : accessed 16 Sep 2012); citing RG 78, RG 14 PN 10108, enumeration district (ED) 14, schedule number (SN) 91.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Happy (Belated) Halloween!

Usually I go all out for Halloween: I set up a cemetery in my front yard, carve pumpkins with scary faces on the front and reversed words on the back so that they will cast wavering messages on the walls or gravestones behind them when lit, and come up with an elaborate costume. Then I watch the old Universal classic horror movies incessantly until the season is past.

But this year I just wasn’t feeling it. I never got around to setting up the cemetery. I bought only one pumpkin and never got around to carving it. The party I was going to attend was cancelled, so my costume had barely been begun before I set it aside. I did buy candy to hand out to the seven trick-or-treaters who braved the torrential rain to come knocking at my door, but instead of passing the evening with Dracula or the Wolfman, I stared at reruns of Batman and Wonder Woman.

Halloween was over before I really began to feel the spirit (pun intended). Now that I should be preparing for Thanksgiving, I am finally watching those old Universal films. If it didn’t seem silly to put them up so late, I would be out in the rain erecting my collection of foam tombstones. And I’m considering going back to work on that costume so it will be ready for next year.

And it was in this mood, with the Wolfman snarling onscreen, that I revisited a page of the Sedan Lance in order to create a better source citation for a couple articles about John and Cora Brosius. It was a February edition, but a most Halloweenish statement caught my eye:

A ghost was seen in East Sedan last week, one dark night. It passed along the street dressed in a gown, and never said a word.

Of course I realize that the idea of ghosts was taken more seriously in the past than it is today, but to see such an item stuck casually in among the local news, and at a time (1893) that seems to me not so very long ago, was startling. And in February, when one’s thoughts don’t quite so naturally turn to ghosts...

Happy Halloween!


Local News,” Sedan Lance, 8 Feb 1893, p. 3, col. 1; digital images, America’s GenealogyBank ( : accessed 22 Sept 2011), Historical Newspapers.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Recent Discovery or Two

Perhaps you have noticed that I have been doing very little blogging lately. That does not mean that I have been neglecting genealogy. Well, perhaps I did neglect it a little (only a little) during the summer, but that is the time for less sedentary pursuits. But with the close of summer I have again been busily digging through records and revisiting sources. My lunch breaks are again devoted to poring over faded scrawls courtesy of FamilySearch, and only this week I had occasion to exclaim to every passing coworker “I just learned the names of two sets of my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents!” counting the greats on my fingers.

The aforesaid 6great-grandparents were found on the 2 Feb 1779 marriage record of, naturally, my 5great-grandparents. They are, in fact, the grandparents of Heinrich Mertz, whose own marriage record to Catharina Odrimong revealed so much information in my post “Luxembourg Records: A Little Practical Advice.” Their names, incidentally, are Nicolai Mertens and Theresia Hoffman of Keispelt, and Michael Trausch and Margaretha Niles of Dondelange. And on Halloween day I located the death record of Michael Trausch. It seems somehow appropriate to find a death record on Halloween.
These records will eventually be transcribed and translated in my Luxembourgish record project; for now this simple announcement of the discovery will suffice.


Parochia de Kehlen (Kehlen, Luxembourg), Luxembourg registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948, “Sépultures 1760-1797,” Michael Trausch's death record; digital image #111 of 129, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 Oct 2015).

Parochia de Kehlen (Kehlen, Luxembourg), Luxembourg registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948, “Tables des mariages, mariages 1756-1793,” marriage record of Theodorus Mertens and Susanna Trausch; digital image #27 of 88, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 Oct 2015).

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wedding Wednesday: Harold Frank Amos & Florence Fisher

Here’s another article about a wedding on the Amos side of my family. This time the groom is a son of my great-grandmother Flora (Amos) Underwood’s brother Arthur.

The wedding, somewhat to my surprise, took place at the local Baptist church. I had believed the Amos family to be members of the Church of England. Perhaps the bride was a Baptist?

The Baptist Church in Burnham-on-Crouch
Dr Neil Clifton [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The wedding of Mr. Harold Frank Amos, third son of Mr. and Mrs. A. Amos, of Silver Road, Burnham, with Miss Florence Fisher, of Chapel Road, took place at the Baptist Church. The Rev. C. J. Soar officiated, and Miss Nellie Cole was at the organ. The bride was in white satin, and carried a bouquet of white carnations. The bridesmaids were the Misses Maud and Rose Amos, in green silk, with bouquets of bronze chrysanthemums. There were two little pages, Ross and Bobbie Amos, also in green. Mr. Thomas Amos was best man. As the bridal party left the church, fellow watermen of the bridegroom formed an archway of oars.

The entire party named, with the exception of the Rev. C. J. Soar and Nellie Cole the organist, is made up of members of the groom’s family. The bridesmaids, Maud and Rose Amos, are his sisters; the “little pages,” Ross and Bobbie Amos, are his nephews by his brother Walter; and the best man, Thomas Amos, is his brother.

I like the idea of the fellow watermen forming an archway of oars. I managed to find a few images online of the practice, though they all appeared to be under copyright. If you would like to see my favorite of the images, click here. It differs from Harold Frank Amos’ wedding in that the holders of the oars are all women, but it appears to take place much nearer the date of that wedding than any of the other pictures I found, although it is still about twenty years later.


Archway of Oars at a Burnham Wedding,” The Chelmsford Chronicle, 21 Nov 1930, p. 11, col. 5; digital images, British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 26 Dec 2012), Brightsolid in partnership with the British Library.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday’s Obituary: Sarah (Rix) Filby

Previously we looked at the obituary of William Filby, my great-great-grandmother’s brother. Today we will take a look at the much briefer obituary of his wife, Sarah.

FILBY.—On Sept. 29, at 60 Wantz Road, Maldon, Sarah, the beloved wife of William Filby, and eldest daughter of the late Robert Rix, of Heybridge Basin, in her 79th year.

Heybridge Basin, where “the late Robert Rix” lived, and William and Sarah Filby themselves lived for a while. In the background of this shot can be seen the Old Ship Inn, previously known as the Chelmer Brig, which they ran for a period of years.
John Winfield [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons



“Deaths,” The Essex Newsman, 12 Oct 1918, p. 4, col. 5; digital images, British Newspaper Archives ( : accessed 26 Dec 2012), Brightsolid in partnership with the British Library.