Thursday, 1 May 2014

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

: Louisa May Alcott (A Story of Experience)

 I love books. I love browsing in used book stores much more than browsing at the mall. Today books are not just on the WalMart shelves between the electronics and the party supplies. The internet is packed with books, pamphlets, collections of court proceedings, reports and essays that have been digitized and are waiting for us to discover a mention of our ancestors in them.

Did you ever Google yourself? Come on, I know you did. I never found myself, but I did find some ancestors. For example, I typed in the search box "john porter ulverton", and one of the results that came up surprised me. I knew from my grandmother that her grandfather was a carpenter and, like most carpenters in small communities, was also the local coffin maker. In one of the results I found a website about Ulverton, Quebec which stated the following:
"Among these buildings is the Blanchette Mill (1850-1945), now the Ulverton Woolen Mill, with its turbine, energy transmission system, and still-functioning machines from yesteryear! Close by, one can find a perfect reconstruction of the covered bridge that John Porter built at the turn of the century." Well, how about that? Builder of coffins and bridges! I also discovered that the road that goes across the bridge and to the Mill is called Porter Road.
One search I tried was for "clement king Loddiswell" (which is in Devon, UK) and in the Google menu (web, images, news etc) I clicked on More and choose Books. One of the results was a " of the Commissioners concerning charities" mentioning my ancestor and a part of his land called Harvey Marsh in Loddiswell. Another Report came up detailing a nearby grocer/baker that went bankrupt and owed money to my ancestor's son John Clement King, the mill owner.

Many Societies and Government Agencies wrote reports that sometimes contain the names of our ancestors. One such is a Report of the Treasurer of Quebec that contains names of owners of companies and individuals who were paid money by the government.

Local Histories are also a great place to look for our ancestors. Most libraries keep books written about their community on their shelves. My favourite online place to go for Canada is Our Roots / Nos Racines, which is searchable within the book. After I discovered that my great grandfather's brother moved west to Daysland, AB I did a search at Our Roots for Daysland and I found 2 books on the history of the area that tell about the early settlers there.  So I learned that my ancestor called his ranch Hatley (after the town in Quebec where he married his wife) and all about their life there.
I also searched the place where my children's ancestor lived, Cap St-Ignace, and there is a book there about the history, including a list of names of the churchwardens of which he was one, and that another in the family was given the contract to build the pews for the church.

Try any of the above searches for your ancestor. Use different search parameters - "surname AND town name", "my village history", "History of my village", - be creative. Also try the ancestor and his occupation. Another good place to search is at the Internet Archive Digital Library.

At Jstor they have a huge journal and pamphlet collection and have now added books. Enter a keyword and results will give you a book and the chapter of the book it is in.

Update: Mar 3/15:  added a link to new book website

Relevant Links:

HathiTrust Digital Library

Ourroots/Nos Racines

Monographie de St-Ignace duCap St-Ignace depuis 1672 à 1903

Report of the Treasurer of Quebec 1890-91

Early records of Ontario- judicial

BuriedTreasures. The History of Elnora, Pine-Lake and Huxley

A list of Genealogy Books online - Quebec

Open Library - borrow, read, upload

Digital Public Library of America

Jstor - Journals, pamphlets, books

Genealogy Gophers - search books from various websites at one place


  1. As if I didn't have enough to do throughout the summer you have just added more to it :D Looking forward to using some of the information you so willingly share in this latest blog :D Excellent addition to your blog Dianne

    1. Thanks Cathern. I'm glad you are enjoying my articles and I hope you find your ancestors in the pages of a book.
      I know you have a busy summer coming up, and you can always come back to these articles, here and on Facebook, when you have more time.
      Thanks for supporting me :-)

    2. Not so much in the pages of a book (although there is that too for me but wanted to share this one as it was fresh on my mind today for some reason today,

      To bring some of my roots to life, Google is often used to search for history or to find out more about an ancestor. A couple of years ago a search lead me to the paper mill my 2nd great grandfather William Joseph Abbott, grandfather to my maternal grandfather Edward George Songhurst Abbott. owned between 1882 and 1887.
      A John List had owned the Playford Mills in Pilton, Barnstaple Devon England, in 1878. Where did he go to? Had William Joseph worked at the mill before he bought it?

      It was a known fact in our family that the Abbott Family had been paper people and we had been given the impression that there was money in the family. If that was so why did my grandfather’s family immigrant to Ontario Canada in 1907 and work in the Cornwall paper mill. By the time they left England it was not from Barnstaple where my grandfather his oldest brother and his sister were born, why was that? What were they doing in London in 1896 when they youngest son was born? When I found they had been living in London, check Ancestory school records and found the eldest child was registered in a school in London in 1998 so they were there at least three years Why was the family then living in Snodland Kent on the 1901 census? And apparently where they lived when they immigrated to Canada

      Through searching found answers to some of my questions
      William Joseph or ‘Abbott and Company’ went bankrupt in 1887 which was finally settled in the summer of 1890.
      Not sure when my grandfather’s family moved to London but they ended up in Kent in Snodland where Austin my great grandfather worked at the paper mill. There is a possibility one of William’s sisters, an aunt to Austin, lived there and her husband was somehow connected to the paper mill. However, the paper mill burned down in 1905 and that is likely why my Great father Austin Abbott moved to Ontario to work in yet another paper mill – He came over in late February before the family and they left England in June..

      There are some in the family that thought Austin owned the mill or at least was in the upper management of the company; have yet to find anything related to that. Nor did they own the big house my mother told us stories about, it was rented from a Dr Harrison. Now there’s a Small World thing, my mother marriage a Harrison, no relationship between my father and the doctor has been found :D
      [A BIT OFF TRACK HERE: My paternal grandparents and their toddler daughter also immigrated from England to Canada in March 1907 just days after Austin Abbott. My grandmother was pregnant with my father at the time. Dad was the first Harrison born in Canada, in a sod house in Saskatchewan. Actually was was my mother the first born Abbott in Quebec Canada]

      Searching also find societies, other information sites and folks interested in Genealogy. Which is what happened with my Abbott roots.
      I was sent through a kind fellow in the Snodland Historical Society some pictures of where my grandfather’s family lived in Snodland. (from the 1905 Censes) When I found the Snodland paper mill fire story and a web page with a post card photo contacted the owner and she kindly shared what she could with me as well.

      This morning another search instigated by Dianne’s blog, found out that the Playford Mill is a 5 bedroom home and was up for sale in 2012. It is a beauty yet pricey. Not sure if it is the original building Abbott and Company paper mills were in or when there was a fire but there, think around 1838. This morning also found out the Playford Paper Mill operated from 1816 to 1906 so regardless of when the fire was the building was rebuilt as it had bunt to the ground.
      Somewhere along the line read that my 2nd great grandfather had updated to a bigger, better machine - possibly that was his fall into bankruptcy.

    3. Funny how one small question gives you answers that lead to other questions and you get on a roll. This is not the case of a rolling stone gathering no moss, but more like a snowball that grows bigger and bigger, gathering information and snippets of what went on in the lives of your ancestors.
      Wonderful story Cathern, thanks for sharing. Hopefully it will inspire others to ask more questions and dig deeper to find stories about the lives of their ancestors.


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