Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver


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Family tree tips for digging further

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

Genealogy is one of my hobbies that has evolved into a passion over the past few years. I thought I had learned everything about research online, but recently I discovered something quite exciting that I’d like to share.

My great uncle William Joseph Williams died in World War I in Salonika, Greece, at age 24. Through the internet I was able to acquire a copy of his date of death, his Royal Welsh Fusilier badge number, the date he enlisted and went to France, and even a photo of his grave in Greece in the Karasouli Military Cemetery. I also tracked down his death notice in a Welsh newspaper, which was no mean feat!

I’d wondered for some time if his name had been included on a memorial in his hometown of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales. My husband and I visited the town in May 2017 and checked out the only WWI memorial there but were met with disappointment. I nearly gave up in defeat, but a true genealogy detective is like a dog with a bone; you just can’t let go.

I enjoy a subscription to Family Tree UK Magazine in digital format. While checking out the latest edition a few months ago, I noticed that hovering my computer mouse over the links included in the articles and clicking would take me to the websites listed. I began poking around and I discovered a list of WWI memorials in Wales.

One thing led to another, and I double checked other things using Google and found photos of a WWI list of soldiers from Blaenau Ffestiniog in the local hospital. My great uncle’s name is on it! I nearly fell off my chair with this discovery.

Williams-Memorial-Plaque

Memorial plaque for WWI, parish of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales. Taken by MHS June 2013 from http://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk

According to the website, three large wooden boards were placed in the hospital’s main corridor at the Blaenau Memorial Hospital on Wynne Road. I checked it out on Google maps and it’s located very close to where we stayed when we visited last year. If only we had known then, we might have been able to see the memorial in person.

However, the hospital is now closed permanently so I don’t know what will become of the memorial. My next mission is to somehow contact the hospital and make inquiries.

Don’t give up if you have a mystery in your family research. Remember that online technology has improved by leaps and bounds, and there are many helpful experts to assist you in your hunt, along with amazing tools.

Loretta Houben enjoys genealogy full time and subscribes to the Ancestry website. However, she often finds many clues for her family research by diligently using Google search and Google maps.

Copyright 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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Family tree tips for visiting your ancestor’s homeland

BY LORETTA HOUBEN

Loretta Houben beside her great- grandmother’s grave in Saskatchewan.

Loretta Houben beside her great- grandmother’s grave in Saskatchewan.

I have a curious mind and an adventurous spirit, so this summer when I knew I’d be attending a genealogy conference in Calgary, Alberta, I begged my husband to drive me to three places fairly close by where I knew my ancestors had once lived and worked. He kindly obliged and is now my hero! We travelled over 4,000 km by car to Three Hills, Alberta, and to Saskatchewan.

I’ve never experienced the vast prairie landscape before and it was spectacular. I had done my research ahead of time, but wasn’t exactly sure where my paternal grandpa had actually worked in Three Hills.

Our first stop was to consult the local museum in the town. Staff were very helpful and supplied us with a map to find the ranch. They also gave me a phone number for the owner, who was the great grandson of the man my grandpa worked for 100 years ago in 1916!

Loretta Houben at the Alberta ranch.

Loretta Houben at the Alberta ranch.

The original barn was still standing, and the house. It was fascinating to see the place and get a feel for the area in which he lived until he moved to Spalding, Saskatchewan.

We had booked all our hotels ahead of time. We used our GPS often so we never got lost. After the conference we headed to Humboldt in Saskatchewan. That’s a very long drive, but it was the highlight of my whole trip.

Earlier in 2016 I had joined a Facebook group for Saskatchewan and the members gave very helpful advice. One of them provided me with contact information for a local memorial business, and to make a long story short, the owner made a wonderful marker for my great-grandmother’s grave which had been unmarked for 85 years. Kind family members contributed money to help pay for the cost.

It was quite an experience to see my great-grandmother’s grave no longer lost but with a beautiful marker that included her name, full date of birth and death, and an epitaph which reads “Forever in our hearts.” The process of finding the grave and having the marker made and installed was all managed by email! I was quite impressed.

The next day we headed to Spalding, where my father was born. I had no idea where the farm was located, but thanks once again to Facebook groups, Garth Ulrich, who lived some distance away, said he would take us to all the places we wished to see.

It was a gorgeous day and we followed at 110 km per hour down dusty country roads as he showed us the various farms where my dad had grown up and also the school ground now overgrown with bush but which had a nice plaque to mark the spot where my dad had gone to school.

Another highlight was seeing the cemetery in the middle of wheat fields where my grandpa’s first wife is buried. Garth even provided a map of the cemetery so I could locate where her grave is, as there is one monument for everyone and no individual markers.

I’ll never forget my amazing genealogy adventure!

Loretta Houben is a long-time resident in the Collingwood area and enjoys making her family past come alive.

Copyright (c) 2016 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News