Researching old family friends
During my regular reading of online genealogy columns, newsletters and blogs, I came across an interesting read by genealogist and author Lorine McGinnis Schulze. She is the host for the Olive Tree Genealogy blog, and she recently wrote, “Owning a Piece of Someone’s Life” (http://olivetreegenealogy. blogspot.ca/2017/05/owningpiece-of-someones-life.html).
In her post, she talked about several articles she possessed that were once owned by Millicent Lynn and Millicent’s husband George. They included a book with a hand-written genealogy for Millicent’s family, an antique cupboard, a First World War helmet and a top hat.
“With all these connections and treasured objects in our home, I began to feel that we owned a little piece of Millicent and George’s lives, and that to complete the circle we needed to find out more about their lives and ancestors,” Schulze wrote. She went on to write that she discovered Millicent had arrived in Saint John, N.B., from England on Feb. 17, 1919, on her way to Penetanguishene, Ont., where her mother-in-law lived. She also found information on the couple through census and military records.
This reminded me of research I had completed last year on a couple that lived in our small community when I was young. My family had moved to the property in 1963 and, shortly afterward, they discovered the well was contaminated. When our neighbour learned of this, he offered water from his well. At this time, it was only him and his wife, a horse, a dog and a few chickens.
He didn’t have a huge demand for water, yet he had an abundance because he chose an excellent site with a natural underground spring.
Our families became great friends and through the years, as I occasionally helped out with the horse, returned their dog when it got lost and shared my pickings of blueberries, they gave me things they no longer desired. One was a 45mm camera from the ’60s because they knew I loved photography. Portable radios and Christmas ornaments dating back to the ’50s were a few other items gifted.
Time passed and age overran both of them, and they’ve been gone for decades. I was told many stories about them but as a child growing up in the ’70s, I didn’t pay much attention. I had never done any research to discover where they came from. I knew only their names (Lillian and Carl Hoffman), including maiden name (Philips) and their ethnic origin (German and Mi’kmaq). I wondered if I could learn more, armed with only this scant information.
To my surprise, I was able to construct their families back to when they were born. Coincidentally, Lillian May Philips (1905–1991) was born only five minutes from where I live now. She married Carl Edward Hoffman (1903–1981) on Jan. 19, 1928, at Scarsdale, N.Y. From their marriage record, I learned Carl had not come directly from Germany as I had thought. He was born in Appleton, Wis., where his father was also born.
I was able to find extensive information on the couple through birth, marriage and census records. Since they lived in New York for a few years before moving to Canada, I also learned their only child was born in 1929, as he was one year old in the 1930 census.
Although these individuals are not related, it’s an interesting piece of history I can add to my family’s story.