How Has Past Pandemics Affected People in Your Family Tree?

The spread of illnesses is not a new thing for Canada or the world for that matter. When I think of it in reference to my own genealogy there are two instances that I recall reading about an ancestor experiencing an pandemic.

John Tipper who was living in Montreal in 1832 was killed by Cholera. John was a blind, retired soldier from the Royal Artillery, here is the brief mention I have of his passing.

John Tipper cholera Christ Church Montreal 17 June 1832

John Tipper of Montreal, pensioner, died on the seventeenth day of June one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two aged sixty-two years and will be buried on the eighteenth following. Christ Church Montreal 17 June 1832

The other link to the Cholera was the reference to an outbreak in the obituary John’s granddaughter Hannah (Jeffery) Norton.

She [Hannah] was of a very charitable disposition, and was always foremost in alleviating suffering and distress. During the period that Quebec was visited with the terrible scourge of cholera, the late Mrs. Norton took a noble and active part in tending to those who were so unfortunate as to be smitten with the dreaded disease, and notwithstanding her unremitting attention to the sufferers, she was fortunate enough to escape it….

Norton, Hannah P Quebec Chronicle Ja 22 1917

Quebec Chronicle Jan 22, 1917

As Hannah was born in 1832 her involvement in treating Cholera patients must have happened in one of the subsequent outbreaks, likely 1851, 1852 or 1854.

A couple of sites where you can read more information is Heritage Passages or the Canadian Encylopedia for more information on the Cholera that hit Quebec.

Have you found connections to family members surviving past pandemics? Maybe now is the time to document our experiences as we live through this unique time.

For me, my journal entry reads, “…who would have thought that in hearing of Covid-19 and its implications, people ran out en masse and bought… toilet paper?”

*featured image free from Pixaby

IT’S ALL THERE IN BLACK & WHITE Sorry, still doesn’t mean it’s true

Digging into the family tree often leads to more questions than answers. This time I found the answer.

Long before Library and Archives Canada started adding their WWI soldier files online I was systematically ordering the records of family members. (On a side note these records are a treasure and the fact that they are going online for free is is a true gift to family historians).

My family was a very patriotic bunch and I have an archival box dedicated to the 30 plus military files I have collected on my relatives.

Back to the subject at hand. After having collected the service files for my close relatives I started on cousins. George Norton was on the list, having located his service file I proceeded to order the record. After weeks of waiting it arrived in a large envelope in the mail. Dissecting WWI service files is a little tricky but Glenn Wright’s book – Canadians at War 1914-1919, A Research Guide to World War One Service Records is endlessly helpful for gleaning all you can from these records.

What caught my eye other than the fact that George was working as a bartender was a form I had not come across in other service files – Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 7.38.47 PM

George stated that he was his mother’s sole support and that he had two other brothers serving in the military.

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The last line states that he has two other brothers in active service. What? Two brothers? I knew of one brother but not a second. I went back to my tree to try and see what I had missed. George did have two brothers Ernest, whose WWI file I already had and a brother Robert who was born in 1906. Robert would have been too young to serve, so did I miss a child in my research? A look through the records I had collected and I didn’t think so. Maybe George was telling tales? I left it alone, not sure I could solve it.

Newspapers to the rescue. I found this article in The Gazette for Montreal and it mentions George and TWO brothers!

Norton clipping WWI

The Gazette, 14 March 1917

How did I miss Alfred? Well, Alfred was not their brother! He was their cousin, but obviously, he was raised and thought of like a brother.

Alfred does have a sad story. Four of his siblings died in infancy, his mother died when he was 10 years old, and he and his remaining siblings were farmed out to different households.

It seems Alfred was raised by his uncle George R. Norton and wife Sarah Arnold and raised in Montreal. He obviously was one of the family.

Another news clipping recently located in The Gazette tells of a tragic end for his father Thomas Norton’s life. Thomas was working in lumber camps and ended up with frostbite, losing one foot, and gangrene attacking the other one in 1926. Alfred had to make a statement to the police upon Thomas’ death, this statement, as well as the coroner’s report, was published in the paper.

And although Alfred was a fantastic soldier earning the Miltary Cross his life came to a quick and tragic end. He was working as a doorman at the Montreal Athletic Association when he was found one morning by members. Alfred was just 48 years old, his cause of death was syncope, which is in definition is fainting so not likely his actual cause of death, but sufficient in 1930. Alfred left a widow Elizabeth Johnston and no children.


The Gazette, April 5 1930

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The Gazette, April 8, 1930

What have I learned?

Really many things, family sticks together, Alfred was taken in by his Uncle and grew up with his cousins, which led them to consider themselves, brothers. I am comforted knowing that without his real parents, Alfred was in a loving home and well thought of and embraced by his cousins. Most importantly as a family historian, I have learned to take all the information I find and butt it up against what the records are telling me. Any discrepancies could be a clue to a hidden gem.

Yup, even in our families you will find FAKE NEWS!

Alfred Lee Norton 1900 8 yrs old Quebec Canada 2.

The only photograph I have of Alfred c1900

Quebec TipTypes

A photograph is a glimpse into the past

Amy Johnson Crow and her #52ancestor challenge have us picking a favorite image this week.

This is not an easy task because I have a wide range of photographs from various family lines. I decided to pick from the pictures I have of unknown people.

This image is a tintype, without a doubt I believe it was taken in Quebec because of the clothing. I have calculated the date of the image to be anywhere from 1870-1900. I cannot attribute it to any family members, but believe it is from the Norton or Jeffery families who lived in Montreal and Quebec City. The children are absolutely adorable.


Unknown family members, likely the Norton/Jeffery family who lived in Quebec City and Montreal.


I couldn’t help but add this picture, also a tintype. I believe it to be the same boy as in the above picture.

If you have a clue about who these children are or the dates of the tintypes I would love to hear from you.

Death Notices – Check Multiple Dates

I would like to encourage you when researching death notices in newspapers to check multiple dates.

Yesterday I was browsing through the Quebec Chronicle newspaper, the focus was the date of the death of Hannah Pozer (Jeffery) Norton my 2x great grandmother.

Hannah died in Montreal, having had lived most of her life in Quebec City a check through those newspapers is vital.

I was very pleased to find a notice of her death which was on the 4th page in the Jan 22 newspaper.


Norton, Hannah P Quebec Chronicle Jan 22 1917

Quebec Chronicle Jan.22, 1917 p.4


A glance through the paper and I was beyond thrilled to find a more thorough obituary for Hannah

Norton, Hannah P Quebec Chronicle Ja 22 1917

Quebec Chronicle Jan.22, 1917

I also was able to discover that a blizzard struck Quebec City on the day her body was brought home. The article also mentions the blizzard affected travel by rail, which no doubt would have created confusion and concern for her mourners.


Jan 23, 1917 p4 Blizzard

Quebec Chronicle Jan 23, 1917


Looking at subsequent papers I also found mention of Hannah in the newspaper for Jan, 23 & again on Jan. 24 –

Norton, Hannah P Quebec Chronicle Jan 23 1917

Quebec Chronicle Jan 23, 1917

Norton, hanna P Quebec Chronicle Jan 24,1917

Quebec Chronicle Jan 24, 1917

I cannot emphasize enough that when looking for an obituary make sure you check the days following the funeral in case it too is reported on.

Newspaper research at its finest!

As the mention of Hannah’s service during the Cholera outbreaks in Quebec City I found more about the years that Cholera was at its worst on the site Historica Canada.

My Military Ancestor – Alfred Lee Norton

Day 5 of the 11-day Military Challenge

Alfred was born in Sorel, Quebec in 1888 to parents Thomas Lee Norton, a baker and his wife Esther Douglas, joining siblings Thomas Lee and Alyce May. Four more children were born after Alfred but only one of his younger siblings survived.

When Alfred was ten he lost two family members, his newborn brother Arthur died in February and six days later their mother Esther died as well. After losing their mother things became tough for the Norton children, the 1901 census reveals Alfred’s sisters living in an orphanage while Alfred is nowhere to be found.

Alfred Lee Norton 1900 8 yrs old Quebec Canada 2.

The only photograph I have of Alfred.

At the age of 26, Alfred signed up for WWI on 26th September 1914 at Valcartier, Quebec. It wasn’t his first military foray, he had previously served for three years in the 8th Royal Rifles and two years with the QOCH (Queens Own Cameron Highlanders). At the time of enlisting Alfred had hazel eyes, brown hair and was standing a tall 5’7″, his occupation is a clerk.

Alfred sailed out on the S.S. Andania and served in England and France.

It was during the battle at Ypres that Alfred earned the Military Medal with the 14th Infantry Ballalion when he showed –

persistent devotion to duty at all times since the Regiment arrived in France. This man has shown good ability and has several times carried up ammunition under heavy fire. His conduct under fire in the Ypres Salient has been splendid especially on May 25, 1916, in tending wounded under shell fire



Military Medal

After the war, Alfred returned to Montreal where he went back to working as a clerk. He married Elizabeth Walker Johnson in 1930 at the St. Giles Presbyterian Church.

Alfred’s heath may have suffered from his war service as he died suddenly at the age of 42 with no children.

Alfred is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, Quebec.

Alfred Norton headstone


Resources –

Veterans Affairs Canada – Medals and Decorations

LAC – Military Medals, Honours and Awards, 1812-1969

Featured image –  S.S. Ardania from the Wreck Site 


Someone’s Military Ancestor – The Jay Brothers

Day 4 of the 11-day Military Challenge

A tattered old newspaper clipping, tucked in amoung a stack of papers that are the remanents of my grandparent’s lives. Carefully unfolding the yellowed paper to see what will be revealed, three brothers off fighting for Canada in WWI, sons of Minnie Jay of 863 Cadieux Street in Montreal.

Minnie their mother tells the newspaper that all three of her boys are wounded –

Jay boys in Khaki

The clipping saved by my grandfather

 Mrs. Jay, of 863 Cadieux street, has given her three sons to the Empire’s service, all of whom have appeared in the casualty lists. Reading from left to right they are: Pte George Arthur Jay of the 3rd Canadian Divisional Signalling Company, who has just been admitted to hospital suffering from gas poisoning; Pte. John Jay, of the R.H.A. now in hospital at Bonscombe and Segt. William A. Jay, who went over with the First Contingent, now the convalescent hospital at Epson, England. The latter has been wounded four times since going to the front.

With no obvious connection to my family, I sit down to research the Jays of Montreal. William James Jay and his wife Minnie had more children than the three sons in the clipping, besides George Arthur, John and William A, they also had Edward, Mildred, Elizabeth, Minnie, and Sally.

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1921 Canadian Census Reference Number: RG 31; Folder Number: 117; Census Place: St Louis Ward, Montreal, Georges-Étienne Cartier, Quebec; Page Number: 14

I found the service files for all three of the Jay men on the Library and Archives website (which is in the process of digitizing all the service files for WWI soldiers). I am happy to report that all three recovered from their wounds and returned to Canada.

The connection to my family is still a question but I believe that one of the Jay brothers was likely a friend of my grandfather, John M. Dever. John was not only a fellow soldier but also hailed from Montreal, maybe they knew each other before serving or perhaps they were in the same Signaling unit.

I may never know how my grandfather knew the Jay men but I thought it fitting that I remember their service.

#someonesmilitaryancestor knew #mymilitaryancestor

A Family Court Dispute Found in Google Books

Covering all your bases when doing a search for your family should also include a great resource that Google has called Google Books. How to find this treasure trove of information is by using the Google search bar and either typing in ‘Books’ or on the Google toolbar is a More button which creates a drop-down menu, pictured below.Screen_Shot_2017-09-24_at_11_05_45_AMEither search will bring you to another search bar that will just search Google Books . I have tried numerous combinations to see what can be found about my family. One search I did was the maiden as well the married name and location of my great-grandmother to see what if anything would appear.

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.02.31 PMAnd the results were a little shocking –

Jordan_Norton_Google_books_search_resultThe first three results all were about my family and a court case that had taken place in Chicago…WHAT? What was I seeing, I quickly clicked on the links to see what more I could find out about this case. Not much more information was available

Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.01.51 PMI was not able to access the full entry, but it was enough information for me to hire a researcher to dig into the records held in Chicago.

What was found was over 50 pages of depositions from my great grandmother Carrie Jordan, her husband and daughter as well as from her brother James Norton and his family. It seems that after James & Carrie’s aunt Harriet (Laprise) Milligan had died and there was a dispute about her will as she had incorrectly named James Norton as Richard Norton.

The depositions describe numerous visits by aunt Harriet to Quebec City and Montreal where the Jordan and Norton families were living. I was able to get a feel for the relationships between family members, Peter Jordan describes taking the train with Harriet and how they talked about her sister Hannah Pozer Jeffery. I wish I had been in on that conversation, but sadly the person asking Peter the questions didn’t ask as much about the family as I would have liked! The focus of the questioning wasn’t about family history per say, more about names in the family and confirming that James and Richard were the same person and just an error made by Harriet in her will.

Really this is one of THE best finds I have had and it was all thanks to Google Books.

I would like to encourage you to give Google Books a try and use many combinations in your searches, you may discover something unexpected about your own family!

Jordan, Carrie w:friend

Harriet Milligan(?) with Caroline (Norton) Jordan c.1920



When Grandma Became President of the Rebekahs

Today is the day of my grandmother Beatrice Mary Victoria Jordan’s birth in Quebec City. In wanting to mark the day I also realized it is also the 60th anniversary (one day late) of her becoming the International President of the Rebekahs at their Annual Session in Miami, Florida.


Beatrice had worked hard in the organization serving in the past as president of the Quebec Assembly and later as the Treasurer and the Vice President of the International branch.

Her year as President had her traveling all over Canada, the States, to Denmark and Cuba. From the looks of things, it was a busy year.



Arriving in Cuba


Here she is seated at an event given in her honour at the Sheraton Mount-Royal Hotel.


Dever head table 001 - Bea resized

Beatrice 6th from right with her husband Jack Dever by her side


A pretty impressive year and what a birthday present!





The Gazette, Montreal B/M/D – Oct 12, 1957

Here is another installment of birth, marriages, and deaths from newspapers kept by my grandparents, John & Beatrice Dever.

Indexed names –

The Gazette Oct 12, 1957
















































The Gazette Oct 12 1957004The Gazette Oct 12 1957005


The Normandie Roof in Montreal

Here is a great picture of a men’s social gathering on the Normandie Roof in Montreal. A Google search tells me that the Normadie Roof was located in the Royal Hotel in Montreal.

My grandfather John Melody Dever is a part of this group of men. Grandpa appears to be in his late thirties so I am guessing the date of the photograph to be in the 1930s.

If you have a better guess on the date or recognize the people he was chumming with please let me know!

Normandie Roof Montreal

John (Jack) Dever 2nd from right