Below is the lineage of the Earls of Grantham. The family name is Crawley, and their home is Downton Abbey in Yorkshire.
It is a fictional family in a television series I have never watched. I found family trees online, read summaries of the show and characters, and mapped out connections. Could I use only the internet to figure out a family history, I wondered. I think I did, and it made me want to get to know them better.
I will meet the Crawleys on DVD. Those watching on television will end their acquaintance with them in 2016. The sixth, and final, season on PBS begins January 3rd. The series is set between April 1912 and December 1925.
The Crawley family was given the Earldom of Grantham around 1772 for deeds unspecified. A subsidiary title is Viscount Downton. The earl’s heir may use this as a courtesy title. The title and estate are entailed, meaning inheritance can be passed only through the legitimate male line.
Grantham Family Tree
The house and lands of Downton Abbey came into possession of the Crawley family through the unnamed daughter-in-law of the 3rd Earl, great-grandmother of the ‘present’ earl, Robert Crawley. Presumably, she inherited her family home or received it through the will of a previous husband.
Jessica Fellowes, author of companion books to the series, refers to Robert Crawley as the 7th Earl of Grantham. Other sources call him the 6th. Observant viewers noted a publicity shot of the gravestone of Sybil, Robert’s daughter. Carved on it is “daughter of the 5th Earl of Grantham”. The series does not fully explain the line of inheritance.
Robert had no son and no brother so after he inherited the title, his heir presumptive became his first cousin James, the son of his father’s unnamed brother. James had a son Patrick, who would inherit in turn. However, both men died on the Titanic in 1912. The male next closest in the family line was Matthew Crawley, Robert’s 3rd cousin once removed. The presumably deceased Reginald was Matthew’s father.
While daughters could not inherit, strategic marriage could keep it in the immediate family. Robert and his mother Violet had sought marriage between Robert’s daughter Mary and Patrick, son of then heir presumptive 1st cousin James Crawley. After their deaths, Mary wed the new heir Matthew and they had a son, George. Matthew soon after died, making George heir.
Through the marriage of his daughter to the heir, Robert’s grandson will be earl after him. Mary, daughter of one earl and mother of the next, will never be countess. She would have held that title only through her husband had he lived to become the next earl.
It puts faces to names. That is what makes it so valuable to Mi’kmaq genealogy researchers. Even more, Ms. Whitehead’s descriptions set those people and places in a historical and cultural context.
It is a picture book: Mi’kmaq rock carvings and paintings, sketches and photographs from European contact to the 1980s. The photograph on the cover is of Molly Muise of Annapolis Royal NS. A tintype from the mid-19th century, the full image is described in the preface:
“Molly’s photograph may be the earliest surviving photographic portrait of any of the Mi’kmaq. (Her name was originally French ‘Mius,’ and is now spelled Meuse.) She is wearing a peaked cap with double-curve beadwork, a dark shirt, and a short jacket with darker cuffs, over which she apparently has draped a second short jacket with its sleeves pulled inside, as a short capelet. Her traditional dress with the large fold at the top is held up by suspenders with ornamental tabs. In her hands she may be clutching a white handkerchief.”
Mi’kmaq Images and Information
Descriptions of clothing styles, as in this picture, or surrounding landscape or structures or implements – anything that might contribute to knowledge of who and where people were, and how they lived. Documents that give further insights are quoted in whole or relevant part in the description or endnotes.
Dates of birth and death, family members, name variations, and historical references are given. She also gives conjectures about who someone may be, making the basis for her conjecture clear. If conflicting information is in records or recent research, that is mentioned.
Descriptions of two photographs of Frank Joe and wife and their home in Bay St. George show this preciseness and detail of information. Ms. Whitehead remarks on a sled and the type of cabin construction shown in the photo of their home. On the other photo (shown here), she discusses in detail the family history of Frank Joe and his wife Caroline.
When your eyes are tired from looking at family groups on your computer screen or deciphering old documents, you can take a break with this book. You may also find a new piece of your puzzle or a new avenue to search. Even if you don’t, you’ll see a beautiful record of the past.
In James Lee Burke’s novel Cadillac Jukebox, a New Orleans mob guy brings a gift to Detective Dave Robichaux. A jukebox filled with 45s of classic Cajun recordings from the 1940s and ’50s.
‘There were two recordings of “La Jolie Blon” in the half-moon rack, one by Harry Choates and the other by Iry LeJeune. I had never thought about it before, but both men’s lives seemed to be always associated with that haunting, beautiful song, one that was so pure in its sense of loss you didn’t have to understand French to comprehend what the singer felt. “La Jolie Blon” wasn’t about a lost love. It was about the end of an era.’ (p. 198)
I wondered who Iry LeJeune was. With Professor Google’s help, I found his musical significance and traced his family tree. His 5th great-grandparents are Jean-Baptiste LeJeune dit Briard and Marguerite Trahan of Cape Breton. In the 1750s deportation, they went to North Carolina, then Maryland, finally settling in Louisiana.
Ira LeJeune, called Iry, was born in Acadia Parish October 1928 to Agness and Lucy (Bellard) LeJeune. Agness’ parents, Ernest and Alicia, both had the surname LeJeune.
Iry LeJeune Family Tree
When a young boy, Iry learned to play the accordion from his cousin, uncle or great-uncle Angélas LeJeune, a well-known musician. I could find nothing on Angélas’ parents, but I think he may have been a great-uncle on Iry’s grandmother’s side.
In an interview, fiddler Milton Vanicor and his daughter explain their kinship with Iry. Milton’s wife Odile and Iry were double first cousins – a LeJeune sister and brother married a Bellard brother and sister.
Linda, M. Vanicor’s daughter, says Angélas was Iry’s great-uncle but doesn’t mention the same connection with her mother. When I saw Iry’s father’s mother was a LeJeune by birth, I wondered if Angélas might be her brother.
Milton Vanicor died June 5, 2015 at the age of 96. He was one of the last surviving Lacassine Playboys, the band he, his brothers and Iry formed in the 1940s. M. Vanicor was a veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima. He played fiddle at festivals throughout the United States right up to his death.
Iry died in October 1955 age 28. Driving home after a gig, he was changing a flat when a passing car hit him. He left a wife and five children. His other legacy was reviving the popularity of Cajun music and making the accordion central to it again.
The first British royal Charlotte was George III’s queen. She is best known as the founder of London’s Kew Gardens and for perhaps having black ancestry. Born in Germany in 1744, fifteen generations back in her family tree is King Alfonso III of Portugal and his mistress Madragana of Faro in Algarve, described as a “Moor”.
Charlotte and George III had fifteen children. Their fourth child was Charlotte Augusta Matilda, Princess Royal. She married Prince Frederick of Württemberg and in 1806 became Queen of Württemberg.
Their eldest, and heir, was George. At age 23, he secretly married a Catholic widow, Maria Fitzherbert. The marriage was not legal. He had children with her and other women, but none could be his heir.
Princess Charlotte, heir to the throne
A “suitable” wife, Caroline of Brunswick, was chosen for him. An heir, Princess Charlotte Augusta, was born in 1796. George and Caroline separated soon after. George became Prince Regent in 1810, taking over from his father whose mental illness had incapacitated him.
Seven years later, at the age of 21, Princess Charlotte died in childbirth.* George III and Queen Charlotte had many other grandchildren but all were illegitimate. With the Prince Regent unable to divorce and unwilling to share a bed with wife Caroline, he would have no more legitimate heirs. His brothers were hurriedly married off so there might be an heir and some spares.
George, Prince Regent became George IV in 1820. Next in line was his brother William, Duke of Clarence. But William lived with an actress Dorothy Jordan and their ten children. In return for his debts being paid and the promise of the throne, however, William agreed to leave his Fitzclarence kids and their mother.
He married Adelaide of Saxe-Meingenen. Their first daughter, Charlotte Augusta, lived only one day. A second daughter lived four days. William IV reigned seven years, until 1837. His heir was Princess Victoria, daughter of the next eldest brother, the late Edward Duke of Kent, and his wife Victoria of Saxe-Coburg.
When Victoria was born in 1819, the Prince Regent said no to the names Charlotte, Augusta and Georgiana, all closely associated with the crown. He agreed to Alexandrina, after her godfather Tsar Alexander I, and Victoria, after her mother.
Victoria became queen one month after turning 18. After three kings in three decades, she reigned for 63 years. She named one of her five daughters Augusta, but none Charlotte.
Victoria’s younger cousin got all the royal names, however. Princess Augusta Caroline Charlotte Elizabeth Mary Sophia Louisa of Cambridge was the daughter of George III’s seventh son Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. The title passed to Augusta’s brother George, the last to hold it until the present Prince William. Princess Augusta died in 1916 aged 94. During preparations for Edward VII’s coronation in 1902, she was called upon for advice. She was the only person in royal circles who could remember not only Queen Victoria’s coronation but also King William IV’s.
*Charlotte’s widower, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, later married Louise-Marie, daughter of the future King Louis-Phillippe of France. They named their first daughter Charlotte in honour of Leopold’s first wife. She became Empress Carlota, married to Maximillian of Mexico. Her brother became Leopold II of Belgium, inheriting the throne from his father.
With the expected Royal baby, there will be a kinship situation that hasn’t existed since Queen Victoria reigned.
There will be 3 generations of direct heirs apparent to the throne: the Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince William’s child. Like Victoria, Queen Elizabeth’s children have become grandparents while she is still on the throne.
In December 2012 the line of succession was changed in law to simply the firstborn of the heir. It had previously been the eldest son. If the first child was a girl, she was heir only if she never had a brother. That is easy enough to grasp. It’s a second change made by the Queen to titles that’s less well known. When I saw headlines that William and Kate’s baby, if a girl, would be a Princess, I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t be already.
Until now, only the eldest son of the Prince of Wales’ eldest son had the title Prince. His sisters and younger brothers were known as Lady or Lord. William and Kate’s baby will be in that position, great-grandchild of the Queen, from the Prince of Wale’s eldest son. By the change in succession rules made in December, that child, whether a boy or girl, will be in line for the throne after William. The title change means she will be HRH Princess Baby, not The Lady Baby. So too will her siblings, for this applies to all the children of the Prince of Wales’ direct heir.
British Royal Titles
All children of a monarch are Prince or Princess. The children of the monarch’s sons are also Prince or Princess, but daughters’ children take their titles from their fathers. For the great-grandchildren, only the eldest son of the 3rd in line for the throne was called Prince. Titles follow the male line, with the exception of the children of a regnant Queen. I made this simplified chart (above) of who would have what title. The chart below shows the current Royal Family with their primary titles.
Birth and bestowed titles
The good thing about being Queen is you can give people titles. So, for example, the Queen made Antony Armstrong-Jones an Earl before he married her sister Princess Margaret. Margaret’s children inherited their titles from him. Mark Phillips, when he married Princess Anne, chose not to receive a title. Therefore their children, while in the line of succession, have no titles. Also, if you have several titles, you can choose which you wish to use and pass on. So the Queen and her son Prince Edward decided on Earl of Wessex for him when he married, instead of the customary dukedom. He then chose that lesser title to use in giving his children titles. So, although technically they are prince and princess, they are known as Lord and Lady.
A Princess born into the royal family continues to be called Princess and takes her husband’s titles. A Prince’s wife, if a commoner, becomes princess but the title is not put before her own name. Diana was never ‘Princess Diana’, she was ‘Diana, Princess of Wales’ for example. She can also go by another title of his, as Kate did with Duchess of Cambridge. If her husband has no other titles, she is known as Princess his name, as with Princess Michael of Kent (the Queen’s cousin by marriage).
Eldest royal baby girl
Down the road, another matter will need to be addressed if the royal baby is a girl. The monarch’s eldest daughter may be named Princess Royal. Unlike Prince of Wales that is a temporary title, Princess Royal is given for life. Anne is the Princess Royal, and will remain so until her death. The previous Princess Royal was Mary, daughter of George V. As it stands, William’s heir eventually could be both Prince of Wales and Princess Royal.
I hope the baby is a girl. I’d like to see these historic changes play out. I read that they may include Elizabeth and Diana as middle names for a girl, but nothing on her first name. My money is on Victoria. It’s a “queenly” name and it would give us a Victoria II.
A while back, I was looking online for a family in response to a query. I found them. A note on their kinship chart said the wife was sister of Otto Kelland, maker of the model fishing boats displayed at the Fisheries College in St. John’s and composer of the song Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s. I sat back, stared at the screen and said “Wow!”
Instantly I was back in the Newfoundland Museum, the old one on Duckworth Street, about 1982. I worked as a weekend attendant and we tried to have a staff person on each floor, to keep an eye on things and be available to visitors who had questions. One Saturday, I was on the 3rd floor, the Newfoundland history display.
Two men stopped for a long time at the display case of model fishing boats. The older man would point a finger to something on one of them while talking. Their conversation looked interesting, so I wandered over close enough that I could eavesdrop. I had spent a lot of time studying those models. I loved the workmanship and I would compare all the little parts, seeing what made one type of vessel different from another.
Father and son, as it turned out they were, noticed me nearby and included me in their discussion. After knowledgeably talking about the models, the elder man explained to me: “I built these, y’see.” I thought, sure you did, just after you finished the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We had a lot of rather odd people who spent time in the museum. But the more he talked, the more likely it seemed that he really had built these model ships.
Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s
The son decided introductions were in order so he told me his name and “this is my father, Otto Kelland.” I sneaked a peak at the cards propped beside the model ships just to verify what I already knew: made by Otto Kelland. Then another realization hit me: Otto Kelland also was the name of the man who wrote the most beautiful Newfoundland song I’d ever heard. I said “Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s?” “Oh yes my dear, that was me,” he laughed.
My eyes filled up as I stared at him, open-mouthed. I felt like a fool, but I was totally awestruck. The beautiful models that I had spent so many hours looking at, the song that moved me to tears every time I heard it – and the maker of both smiling at me.
Then we reversed roles up there on the 3rd floor. The museum attendant was given a tour by the museum patron. Mr. Kelland explained the design and equipment of the fishing vessels using his models as illustration. Then he took me and his son around the other displays of fishing stages and stores, industrial equipment and household items. I learned more that day about my museum and about Newfoundland than I ever had before.
I’ve never forgotten the thrill of meeting him that day. And seeing that note about him on a genealogy page brought it all back fresh as the day it happened. So I’m proud to say that Mr. Otto P. Kelland is now entered in my database.
*If you’ve never heard the song, here’s a beautiful version by The Irish Descendants. Also here’s a book written by Otto Kelland on Amazon:Dories and Dorymen
Thirty-three years ago I started doing Newfoundland Mi’kmaq genealogies. Over the years, I’ve added and corrected information and marked changes in families. This weekend, I sadly updated the database with the death date for Tony John of Glenwood.
FNI President and Vice-President Tony John and Calvin White hired me to do family history research in central Newfoundland. Tony’s parents, Greg and Mary, became my “Glenwood parents.” Tony never needed help tracing his own Mi’kmaq roots; he knew his family ancestry through his father’s side and his mother’s, the Francis family of Clarke’s Head.
Tony was instrumental in establishing a political voice in the 1970s and in getting recognition and rights for all Newfoundland Mi’kmaq. Thank you, Tony, you will be missed. (Here’s more from the Gander Beacon.)
For those of you searching for information and documents about your Newfoundland Mi’kmaq ancestry, it can be difficult and time-consuming but doable. Start with the internet if you don’t have family or neighbours to ask. (I have links for family trees that I found good, and also books that give Newfoundland family or community history.)
Google a name or a pair of names, husband and wife or parent and child. I add Newfoundland in my search phrase to weed out those of the same name(s) from elsewhere. Same thing with community names or regions: without adding Newfoundland, you also may get material from elsewhere. For example, “Bay of Islands” alone will give you New Zealand sources as well as Newfoundland.
To find a husband and wife, I try their first names and his surname. You’ll have better luck getting records for their children that may not have the mother’s maiden name on them. You might also luck into their marriage record that likely will have her birth name.
You’ll find other people’s ancestry pages and discussion forums. With large genealogy sites, see if there is an index of names or use an internal search box. With genforums, people’s questions often can provide answers to your own questions. If someone says “X’s wife’s name might be Y,” search for X and Y together and see if you find more.
If they’re available, look at sources in online genealogies. They usually are numbered endnotes that say where the information came from. You need this information if you want to get the actual record itself.
Church Records and Archives
If you’re looking for church records, don’t just assume that if your family is of a particular religion now, that your ancestors were all married within that Church. Many people were married by whatever minister was handy. Sometimes you’ll find different marriage dates. This discrepancy may be explained by Church and unofficial marriage. If clergy were not available, people may be married “by the custom of the country”, by a layreader or someone who presumably said “time you two got married.”
For documents, the Provincial Archives is your best bet. There is a fee, of course, for their service. You can contact the Church itself for parish records. Some have their records and others have sent them to the Archives. Again there is a fee and, whether Church or archives, the more information you provide, the faster will be their search.
Few records actually have anything indicating ethnic ancestry on them. Your best bet for that is some census years that included it. Newfoundland census information is online but ethnic identification was not included in the transcription. The Archives have the originals. Reliability of information varies between census district and year.
And spelling variations of surnames! There are some well-known ones, like LeBlanc/White and LeJeune/Young but others you might not think of. Swyers might be Swyer, Swoir(s) or even Squires. Sometimes the difference in spelling means they are from different families and sometimes it’s just different spellings for the same people. You have to judge each one as you encounter it. If you can’t find someone under one name, type in variations. In long lists like Church records, if I’m not sure, I just type the first few letters in my search box and see what comes up.
Names like Young, White and Bennett may have been anglicized but also might not have been. You might think, good, I’ve found a Young, must be the Acadien/Mi’kmaq ones, but not necessarily. They may be different and unrelated families.
First names also vary significantly. Samuel and Lemuel for instance – likely same person. Some Church records have the Latin forms of first names, so Jacobi was probably known as James; Joannes, and variations, as John. There are also a lot of people with the same name married to people with the same name in the same region. So the John White married to Mary Young you find may not be the ones you are looking for. Look for corroborating information – place of birth, baptism date, name of a parent, sibling or child to be sure you’ve got the right ones.
Question marks and sources are your new BFFs. Note where you got a piece of information. You won’t remember later. And if you or your source is unsure of anything, note that too because you’ll forget that uncertainty later.
I have switched to Family Tree Maker 2012 and am still learning how to use it. Quite different than my favourite 2006 version. You’ll see I am slowly going through your queries but please be patient. Learning a new system means it takes me even longer than usual to find anything relevant for you. If I don’t reply to your comment, it means I have nothing useful. While I would like to tell you that directly, I don’t want to clog up the comments section with “sorry, got nothing.”
These are the gravestones of Nancy Mabee Ostrander and her family at Jackson Cemetery near Courtland. Len Fluhrer, a London local history writer, sent me the photos. He took them while at the cemetery with Kate Ford who is part of the Canada GenWeb Cemetery Project.
Jackson Cemetery is just outside Courtland. Nearby, on the Otter River, is the site of the Middleton Hotel. It was owned by James Clark(e) Ostrander with his first wife Nancy Mabee and then his second wife Louisa Maria Haney. About 1910, the hotel was washed away in a river flood.
If you’d like to see these places on an old map, follow Mr. Fluhrer’s directions:
“Go to the Historical Atlas from 1878 online free from McGill University. Select Middleton Township from the map. Click on to view a large version and wait – the map is huge.
Follow the Goshen Road into Courtland the cemeteries are on the line of the old road I believe. The name Goshen itself has a hidden meaning to the Quakers, Methodists and Baptists and it connects the faiths to Genessee Conference which dates back to the early Calvinists in the 1600s.
Follow Talbot Street back out of Courtland to the left of the map. Near the bottom you will see Little Otter Creek. John Ostrander’s place is on the right of the map at the river. Go to the very bottom left corner. Follow Col. Bostwicks Road to Lot 8. At the first cross-roads, that is the Jas. Clark(e) Ostrander hotel.
Mabee’s Corners is still marked on Google Maps. It’s south of Tillsonburg on 38 Talbot Road leading out of Courtland. On the old map Mabee’s Corners would be almost directly above the Ostrander Hotel on the Talbot Road.”
Mr. Fluhrer, a local history writer, is also looking for information on the career of Dr. George Haney, a relative and noted physician of London Ontario. Dr. Haney’s gravestone is in the nearby Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery (853 Colonel Talbot Road, Middleton Township, Norfolk County). If you wish to contact Mr. Fluhrer, please comment on this page and I will send the information on to him.
Howard Blackburn and Thomas Welch – A Tale of the Sea
By The Right Hon. Sir Edward Morris, P.C, Prime Minister
It is just twenty-five years since I first visited Little River, twenty-one miles east of Burgeo, on the South Coast. It was the Jubilee Year of Her late Majesty, Queen Victoria. We were on the good ship Leopard, Captain Feild, with the late Mr. Justice Pinsent presiding. We had a goodly company, plenty of law work at the points touched, glorious weather, and good fishing. Only a few remain of those who were on that Circuit. Judge Pinsent, D. J. Greene, I. R. McNeily, T. Walsh, James Milley, M. H. Carty, Captain Field, John Burke the Crier of the Court, and the late R. H. Parsons, Photographer — have all passed away.
We put into St. Pierre on the way, and were the guests of the Anglo American Telegraph Company at the Jubilee Ball, and were also entertained at dinner by the Governor of St. Pierre. We stopped at Little River for some fishing and were not disappointed in the result. Little River is a long, deep inlet, about 130 yards wide, extending about five or six miles, where it branches out into the North-East and South-East Arms. The shores are steep and bold, falling precipitously from a height of a thousand feet. The scenery is not unlike that of Bonne Bay, Placentia and Bay of Islands, perpendicular hills, through which the tide rushes with great velocity at ebb and flow. On the evening of the second day at Little River, returning from fishing, I first learned from my guide, the astounding story of Howard Blackburn, his marvellous escape from death, as well as the sad fate of his dory-mate, Thomas Welch.
This summer, when at Burgeo, I went over the incident again with my friend, Magistrate Small, from whom I obtained further particulars. The story aptly illustrates the time worn adage that “truth is stranger than fiction.” A three volume novel might be written from the facts which make up this story; the tragedy of the cruel sea, the romance of quiet lives, and the heroism of those who go down to the sea in ships. At the present time I shall have to content myself with the barest outline.
Christmas Eve, 1834
The first streaks of dawn on Christmas Eve 1834 were just perceptible when William Lishman with his little son, aged eight, left his home at Little River, his wife, two sons and three daughters, never to return. His course lay through the trackless woods between Little River and Burgeo. Arriving there he put up for the night, and on Christmas moming, with several inches of snow on the ground, he and the boy started for LaPoile. There he boarded an American fishing schooner, bound for Marblehead, Mass., on board of which he was taken and given a passage. That was the last ever seen or heard of William Lishman and his boy, either by his family at Little River, or by his aquaintances at Burgeo or La Poile; and it is probable that if it had not been for the casting away of Howard Blackburn, and Michael [sic] Welch on the Burgeo Banks fifty years later we should never more have heard of them.
Christmas Eve, 1882
With flags flying, in good trim, with fresh bait, iced down, and everything promising for a successful halibut voyage, the schr. Grace L. Fears sailed out of Gloucester Harbour, bound for the Burgeo Banks. After fishing there for three weeks, and with fair success, on the morning of the 25th January, 1883, shortly after dawn, the crew left the schooner’s side in eight dories, to overhaul their trawls, the position of the vessel being then about thirty miles from the Newfoundland coast.
In one of the dories was Howard Blackburn, by birth a Nova Scotian, from Port Medway, then a citizen of the United States, and Thomas Welch, a native of Newfoundland. The weather was not stormy, but it had been threatening snow. They had only been a short while from the side of the vessel, when the wind started to blow, the snow falling thicker and thicker. The hauling of the trawls half-filled the dory with halibut, and the boat continued to ride with safety the sea which the freshening breeze had made. As the day wore on, the wind veered from south-east to north-west. The effect of this was to alter their position with regard to their vessel, placing them to leeward. On realizing this both men started to pull towards the schooner, but owing to the strong wind and the buffetting waves, they were forced to anchor.
Shortly after dark the weather cleared, and they could discern the schooner’s riding light, as well as the flare-up which their shipmates maintained on board to indicate their whereabouts. On seeing their ship, they pulled up anchor and bent all their energies in an effort to reach her, but, owing to the wind which by this time had increased to almost a gale, no headway could be made. An attempt was then made to again anchor but they had evidently drifted over the shoal ground and were now in deep water, and could get no anchorage. Accordingly their dory drifted away to leeward. Their first night was spent in the open boat, with the weather bitterly cold and a piercing wind, with no food or water, both men being occupied pretty well the whole time in keeping the dory free. At that season of the year there is not much daylight before seven o’clock, and dawn brought them no sight of their ship.
Giving up all hope of reaching the schooner, they set to work to lighten their boat by throwing overboard their trawls and fish, and by the aid of their oars helped their frail craft to drift towards the land. The wind increasing towards noon, it was not deemed safe to continue running before the heavy sea and accordingly they “hove to” by improvising a drag made by attaching a trawl keg to a small winch. Whilst rigging this drag or floating anchor, Blackburn had the misfortune to lose his mittens overboard, a mishap which largely increased his after sufferings. Shortly afterwards, both his hands became frozen. On realizing this, he saw that there was nothing left for him but to grasp the oars, so that his hands might freeze around them, and thus, stiff in that position, when he required to row, all he would have to do would be to slip his hands over the oars.
During the whole of that day and the following night the boat lay to the drag, the two men continually bailing out the water. At five o’clock the following morning Welch succumbed to the cold, hunger and exposure, and died. The weather conditions that day were much the same as the preceding one, Blackburn’s time being fully occupied in bailing the boat. Another night passed, and another day dawned, and rowing again all that day he again anchored with his drag for the night, and early the next morning, resuming rowing, he saw the first sign of land. Pulling on all that day until the night, he again threw out his drag and on the following day, Sunday, reached the mouth of Little River, just inside the headlands where he saw a house. The house was unoccupied, but served as a shelter for Blackburn. He had the misfortune, however, of having his dory stove at the stage head during the night. In order to repair her next morning, he had to lift the body of Welch out, and in endeavouring to get it up the stage head it fell into twelve feet of water.
Having repaired the dory he headed her west, and after a few hours rowing up the river, was gladdened by the sight of the people who lived there. Notwithstanding his terrible condition, having been practically without food for five days and five nights, except portions of the frozen raw halibut, with hands and feet frozen, he refused any assistance for himself until the men went and recovered the body of his dory mate.
Within a few minutes after landing, Blackburn was comfortably housed in the home of Francis Lishman [sic], where cod-oil and flour, the local remedy, were applied to draw the frost from his feet and hands. In this process, he must have suffered excruciating pain. There was no doctor available, nearer than Burgeo. The fingers and thumbs of both his hands had been worn away in the work of rowing, and during the days that followed, gangrene set in and nothing being left in the end except two stumps. For over fifty days the process of decay went on. The heel and three toes of the right foot were completely destroyed, as well as some of the toes of the left foot.
For over a month the poor but hospitable people did everything in their power for him, and contributed to his comfort from their own small and meagre store. Fortunately the s.s. Nimrod that year was frozen in on the Burgeo coast, and, being boarded by the inhabitants, some few delicacies were obtained for the unfortunate man.
On May 3rd Blackburn left Burgeo, where he had gone a few days earlier, for treatment, and proceeded to Gloucester. The body of Welch which had been brought to Burgeo at the same time that Blackburn came there, was buried in the Church of England cemetery. The people of Gloucester subscribed $500 for Blackburn, and started him in business. It must be recorded to his credit that, having once established himself in business, he returned the whole amount, unsought, to the citizens, and it was transferred to the Fishermen’s Widows and Orphans Fund.
“Truth is always strange, stranger than fiction,” and there are more vagaries of romance in real life than would be admitted into any well-written novel.
Upon the first authentic story of the casting away of Howard Blackburn and Thomas Welch having reached Burgeo, Mr. J. P. Small now Magistrate wrote an account of it for the Gloucester Times with particulars of his rescue and whereabouts, pointing out that he had been cared for by one Francis Lishman of Little River.
It so happened that a copy of the Times containing the story fell into the hands of the Editor of the Essex City Statesman of Marblehead, Mass., whose name was Litchman. On reading the account he remembered to have heard his father say that his name had been Lushman, and that he had changed it, that he was born in Newfoundland, and that he had left that country when only a lad, with his father, who had carried him on his back and had conveyed him to Marblehead in a fishing vessel from LaPoile. Handing the paper to his father he said “It looks as if you had some relations living in Newfoundland.” The father, William Litchman, the boy that had left Little River fifty years before, on the, to him, memorable Christmas Eve morning, exclaimed – “This Francis Lishman must be my – brother. I remember him quite well, although I was very young when I left.” Communicating with Francis Lishman led to the identification of their being brothers.
William Litchman, with his father, having come to Marblehead. had there been apprenticed to the shoemaking trade, his father for several years continuing to fish out of Gloucester, seeing the boy from time to time. In the year 1838 he saw his father for the last time, and from then until 1883 had never heard of him and supposed he was dead. In 1845 young Litchman married, and had no idea that he had any relations whatever in the world. At the time of his marriage he altered his name to “Litchman.” Though, from the year 1838 he had never heard from his father, it afterwards transpired that it was through no fault of the latter. In 1874, thirty years after the death of one Mason, to whom the boy had been apprenticed as a shoemaker, on examination of his papers a letter was found written thirty-two years before, addressed to Mason by Thomas Lishman, as follows:
Franklin, Louisiana, March 27th, 1842.
Having located myself in Louisiana, St. Mary’s Parish, and wishing to get some information of my son, that I left with you, I take this liberty to write this letter, and wish you to answer me and state where he is. In so doing you will much oblige me, as I wish him to come to this country. I expect to continue here for some time, and if he will come I will be able to do something for him. Direct your letter to me, Franklin, Louisiana.
Mr. Litchman was unaware of the existence of this letter until it was handed to him in 1874. Writing to his brother, after reading the article in the Gloucester Times, he received the following letter from Little River in reply:
Little River, Nfld., Nov. 21[or 28], 1883
My Dear Sir, — Your valued favour of June 5th received, and read with great interest. I will now give you a brief history of our family. It is as follows; — My father’s name was Thomas Lishman, a native of England. He married Susanna McDonald, a native of Hermitage Bay where he resided for some time, moving afterwards to Little River. My mother is now dead nine years. I am married and have eight children. My brother Thomas is living near me with a wife and three children. We both get a living by fishing, but as a rule we do not do well. My sister Bridget is dead six years. My father and brother William left Little River forty-seven years ago, and I have heard they resided at Marblehead, Mass., U.S.A. I have heard my father died four years ago; and I think it is likely that you are my brother. If so, you are minus a part of one of your fingers, as I remember a man named Organ cut it off by accident making kindling. I am fifty years of age, and my brother Thomas is fifty-three. If you are a brother, you should be between fifty-seven and fifty-eight. On reading the above, you will certainly be able to decide on the relationship, if any, between us. My brother and I will be much pleased to hear from you on receipt of this. With kind regards,
I remain, yours very truly, Francis Lishman
The Essex City Statesman published in its columns an account of the discovery by Mr. Litchman of his relatives in Newfoundland. This Item being copied into a Minneapolis paper, was read by a Mr. Smith, a lawyer of that city, who had formerly lived in Massachusetts. His wife was a Miss Lishman, born in the State of Louisiana. She was an adopted daughter of wealthy people, her father and mother being dead. She had informed her husband that her father had told her that he had come from Newfoundland. On Mr. Smith taking to his home the paper containing the article referred to, his wife was convinced that the Lishmans of Little River were half brothers and sisters of herself, and she then learned for the first time that her father had been married before he had come to Louisiana.
Mrs. Smith then opened correspondence with Mr. Litchman of Marblehead, and the proofs being enquired into, the relationship was firmly established. Mr. and Mrs. Smith also communicated with the Lishmans at Little River. In the following June, Mr. Litchman left Marblehead and proceeded to Burgeo where he was the guest of the Magistrate, Mr. Small. His two sisters, Susanna and Jane, had previously arrived from Little River, and the two brothers Francis and Thomas had also come up from there with their sons. Mr. Litchman remained eight or ten days with his relations in Burgeo. Whilst there he met one of the old fishermen, Charles Collier, the last man to whom he and his father had spoken on the memorable Christmas Morning, fifty years before, when they had left Burgeo for LaPoile.
On his return to the United States, Mr. Litchman visited Minneapolis, and saw his half-sister Mrs. Smith, who was undoubtedly a Lishman, she having every feature of the family. Believing her husband to be dead, Mrs. Lishman had married one Stiles in 1846, just fourteen years after her husband had left Little River. Since then the Lishmans of Little River and those of Marblehead and the Smiths of Minneapolis have been in communication, and no year passes without a tangible proof of the relationship from the wealthy relatives abroad to the kindly hospitable fisher-folk at Little River.
• • • • • • • •
If the tale were to stop here it would be in itself remarkable, as illustrating a most extraordinary adventure, involving the casting away from his ship, imminent peril, fearful exposure and ultimate rescue of Howard Blackburn, but this would seem to be only the beginning of the venturesome career of this most wonderful man.
One would think that after having been in such peril, and in the presence of death, and having by almost a miracle escaped, he would have been content to live at home in quiet and comfort, in his maimed condition, for the rest of his life. But no, his escape seems only to have fired him with a desire for further adventure.
In 1889, in a small thirty-foot sloop called the Great Western, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean alone, having sailed from Gloucester, Mass. on June 17th and arrived in Gloucester, England on August 18th, after a voyage of sixty-two days.
On October 18th, 1897, in company with some friends, he sailed for the Klondike in the schooner Hattie J. Phillips.
On June 9th, 1901, he again crossed the Atlantic alone, in the twenty-five-foot sloop Great Republic, having left Gloucester. Mass., on June 9th, arriving at Lisbon, Portugal, on July 18th, just thirty-nine days.
In 1905 he made an unsuccessful attempt to again cross the Atlantic in the seventeen-foot dory America sailing from Gloucester Mass. on June 17th. On Sunday. July 5th, when 160 miles South-East of Cape Canso, Nova Scotia, he had his little craft stove by a heavy sea, abandoned the voyage, was picked up and returned to Sydney, Cape Breton.
He is now a settled-down citizen in Gloucester, Mass., running a Tobacco Store at 289 Main Street.
If you have a drop of Acadien blood in your veins or if you just enjoy the distinctive sound of an Acadien fiddle, a place for you to go is the Musée Acadien in Miscouche, near Summerside.
A library full of binders of historical records, drawers of documents and compilations of genealogical research. I was there with only a few hours to spend, and a broad interest in all Acadian families with any connection to Newfoundland Mi’kmaq. That’s a pretty tall order for assistance from archivists. I figured I’d just poke around and get a feel for what was there. Instead, files and books were pulled out and stacked on a table for me. “Here, these might help you,” museum director Cécile Gallant said.
The emphasis is on Acadian family history. But there are some church records from the nearby Lennox Island Mi’kmaq First Nation. I started there, recording information as fast as I could. I flipped through other files, recording names and dates that seemed relevant to “my” people. I looked at two huge published volumes of Acadien genealogy by Jean Bernard. Vol. 1 was “A”: in PEI, for Arsenault. It was also in the gift shop. I bought it. It seemed likely that everyone in PEI is somehow connected to the Arsenault family.I also bought Earle Lockerby’s Deportation of the Prince Edward Island Acadians. If I could read French, the gift shop has many books on Acadien history that I would love to have.
Museum exhibit rooms
A quick tour of the exhibit rooms. A whole room with a permanent exhibit of paintings by Claude Picard, depicting the creation and official adoption of the Acadien flag in the 1880s. In another room, a temporary display of the lives and work of Acadien women. Exquisite photographs, both professional and family snapshots. Spinning wheels and kitchen tools, knitted and sewn goods, the implements and products of women’s hands.
St. John the Baptist Church cemetery beside the museum. Names so familiar to me from Newfoundland west coast families. I’d see these same names if I went to a graveyard in Louisiana. Same families, but their move wasn’t voluntary. In the 1750s, when Britain took control of North America, the expulsion of the Acadiens began. Many were sent to what’s now the US, especially Louisiana where they became Cajuns, adding their heritage and language to the cultures already there. Others were “returned” to France on ships, to a homeland they’d never seen before. Acadiens escaped to Quebec and Newfoundland or hid out and were missed by the British. Some stayed in their new homes. Some returned to their homeland when it was safe.
In the museum and the cemetery, you get a sense of how vast Acadian history is in time and geography, and how strongly rooted it is in this small island.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.