Monday, May 31, 2010

Major-General Malcolm Smith Mercer

Photo from Veteran Affairs Canada, The Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Major-General Malcolm Smith Mercer (17/9/1859-3/6/1916) was the highest ranking Canadian born officer to die in combat in either the First or Second World Wars. Compared to those generals who survived, and were able to write memoirs, very little has been written on Mercer. Two articles I came upon  were:

“Malcolm Mercer“, from Wikipedia (not entirely sure who contributed to this article)
Gordon MacKinnon, “Major-General Malcolm Smith Mercer: The Highest Ranking Canadian Officer Killed in the Great War by Friendly Fire”, Canadian Military Journal, Spring 2007.

Mercer was born just outside of Toronto in 1859 in what then was Upper Canada. He attended the University of Toronto in 1881 and was called to the bar in 1885.(a) While at university he enrolled in the Queen’s Own Rifles as a private, and by 1911 he became Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant of the regiment.(b) In 1913 Mercer was aide-de-camp to Defense Minister Sir Sam Hughes during a military tour of Europe where he inspected the German Army first hand.(c) In 1914 Mercer, probably because of his close association with Sir Sam Hughes , was one of those who was called upon to help in the establishment of the Canadian Expeditionary Force that was being organized for overseas. Within days he was promoted Brigadier-General in command of the First Brigade, and in January 1916 he was made a Major-General in command of the 3rd. Division. He was killed in action at Mount Sorrel June 3, 1916.(d)

Canadian Expeditionary Force, Attestation Papers.

Malcolm Smith Mercer’s ancestry looks like this:

        Malcolm Smith  Mercer (17Sept.1859 York, Upper Canada-3June1916 Mt. Sorel, France)              

Father  Thomas Mercer (1812 Etobicoke, Upper Canada- ?)
Mother  Mary Smith (1815 Upper Canada- ?)

Grandfather  Samuel Mercer (1780 Londonderry, Pennsylvania- 30June 1830 Etobicoke, Upper Canada)
Grandmother Nancy or Ann Anderson (Sept. 1792 York, Upper Canada-28 October 1882 York, Ontario)

Great Grandfather Thomas Mercer (1744 Of Hillsboro, Belfast, Ireland-1829 York, Upper Canada)
Great Grandmother Sussana Jordan (1754 Lincolnshire, England- 3June 1815 York Upper Canada)

Sources: Canada Census, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1911.
               Family Search
              “York, Upper Canada Minutes of Town Meetings and Lists of Inhabitants 1797-1823 ed. Christine Mosser 1984”. Lists Samuel Mercer as an inhabitant of York in 1800.

(a) Gordon MacKinnon, “Major-General Malcolm Smith Mercer: The Highest ranking Canadian Officer Killed in the Great War by Friendly Fire”, Canadian Military Journal, Spring 2007, p.75
(b) Gordon MacKinnon, p.76
(c) Malcolm Mercer, “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia”, p.2
(d) Gordon MacKinnon, p, 78-81: Wikipedia, p. 3

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

U.S. Born Veteran Given Funeral After 85 Years

In a story I found in the Montreal Gazette . The only question I have is why did it take years to find the information?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Official List Of Casualties 1915

The "Official List of Casualties to Members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force" was a publication of the Canadian Ministry of Militia from1915 to1918. It is now a rare find. The only copies I have been able to locate are in the Regional Room of the London, Ontario, Public Library. The Regional Room's collection unfortunately is not complete. They have volumes 1-8, 14, and 16-18.

As my interest is in the battalions that came from Southwestern Ontario I will try to scan for those battalions. The year 1915 for the 18th. Battalion is below. It will take a while to do the 1st. Battalion as there are over 30 sheets of casualties recorded through 1915 alone.

The first page is to June, 1915. The second page is from October 1 to December 31, 1915.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Did You Do In August 1914 Grandpa?

Or perhaps we should ask "What did you do in August 1914 great-grandpa?' (Gee where does the time go?)

Well your grandma (or great-grandma) and I went to the Grand Theater in London. I dressed up in my best sporty outfit.

Grandma dressed in her nifty little number that she made herself.

We went to the theater to see "The Beauty Shop" starring Raymond Hitchcock.

We traveled in style in our brand new Russell "Six-30" touring car.

Photos from "The London Free Press", September, 1914.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Circumstances of Death File for Great War Soldiers

The Circumstances of Death File is available from Library and  Archives Canada. It is not included in the Service Files that I blogged about earlier. Usually it is of one page in length. Go to the blog “Librarians Helping Genealogists Climb Family Trees”  for the details on what is available and how to order.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Automated Genealogy

A site that often goes unnoticed is Automated Genealogy. To quote from the site’s home page:

 “Automated Genealogy hosts several projects to index Canadian censuses. Over the last several years Library and Archives Canada has digitized their microfilms of the original census forms for several of the Canadian censuses and Automated Genealogy has organized volunteers to produce indices to the people enumerated in these censuses. Each project uses simple web forms to allow volunteers to transcribe census data from the images into a database, with the entered data being immediately available on the site. Following transcription further volunteers proofread and make corrections. Anyone with an internet connection can participate as a transcriber, proofreader, or just by submitting corrections as they use the site. The status of each census project varies depending on how long it has been active. There is a link to the LAC image of the original census page at the top of each transcribed census page.”

For our purposes this site is very useful when beginning research into an ancestor who was a veteran of the Great War. Lets take one example. I chose the surname Thomas mainly because two of my great uncles who went overseas were Thomas’s.

Scroll down the home page to “Linking Projects”, and click on “Soldier’s of the First World War Linking”. Various surname’s and christian name’s are listed. By no means does this represent even a fraction of the total; however you may get lucky. I chose C.E. Thomas or Charles Edward Thomas. So what we have is the 1901 & 1911 Canada Census, and at the bottom his attestation papers. Had he died in the war there would also be a link to the Canadian War Memorial.

This is yet another tool to use to begin your research, and I sincerely hope, that it is expanded and is continued. It is a boon to genealogists.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Civil War Veterans of Elgin County, Ontario

Here is an article on the Civil War veterans from Elgin County, Ontario. This article was written by Bruce Johnston and Bob Moore for the Elgin County Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, 13 December, 2008.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Boer War Ancestors In The Canadian Archives

As I have mentioned in an earlier post it takes time and effort to maneuver your way through the Library and Archives Canada website. There are gems to be found if you are persistent. A case in point is the Boer War. Soldiers of the South African War (1899-1902) is a case in point.

Click on the "South African War - thematic guide" link at the bottom and you have a list of the unpublished documents in the Library holdings. as well as government publications. These are not online, or I assume, on microfilm.

The gems are found in the search. Put in a name in the search box. I entered Captain D. Stuart who was in command of “B” Company of the 1st. Contingent. “B” Company was recruited from militia regiments from the Southwestern Ontario area. Click on the link “view image” and you get an image of the South African Medal Rolls.

A gold mine for genealogists. Note that not all of the veterans medal rolls appear; however, it looks as if you could build a complete series of the Medal Rolls. These really need to be organized. Maybe I will try!

Image from Library and Archives Canada.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Liberation of the Netherlands 65 Years Ago

Last Saturday the Dutch Canadian community celebrated the liberation of the Netherlands 65 years ago in London, Ontario.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Genealogy Challenge #19

I thought that I would include this post  in both blogs - Veterans Of Southwestern Ontario and The Hillman’s Of Elgin County.

The Geneabloggers’ “52 Weeks To  Better Genealogy Challenge #19” is to examine genealogy and military records that are available at the US National Archives. For non-U.S. folks (that’s me!) we can examine the military records at our own National Archives. The Canadian Archives! - Yikes now that’s a challenge- Eh!

The National Archives is based in Ottawa. Its taken me several years to get comfortable with a web site built by government bureaucrats . John D. Reid in his blog “Anglo-Celtic Connections” has been following the ongoing tale of what the Archives does and does not do. Mostly not do!

There are several data bases that are useful and free. “Faces of War” is an online collection of photographs of the men and women who served in the Second World War.

“Soldiers of The First World War” is a data base containing the attestation papers of over 800,000 Canadians who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. This data base duplicates what is on Ancestry.  You can access this by either surname (hopefully its not Smith), or if you know it, a service number. Regardless you will need that number to pursue your research any further. If you are lucky your ancestor’s battalion is also listed. Don’t get too excited as many of the battalions were broken up in England as reinforcements for the front.
“The Canadian Virtual War Memorial” contains information on the Canadians who are buried overseas. Canadians from the First and Second World Wars are included.

“War Diaries of the First World War” is a data base containing the battalion diaries. Now this data base is heavy going. If you know which battalion that your ancestor served in  (that is the trick) then these diaries can give you a feeling for their lives on the Western Front. But do not expect to find your man unless you are prepared to spend hours going through the diaries. Even so, lots of luck.

The Canadian National Film Board although not part of the National Archives, but nevertheless a government agency, has “Images of a Forgotten War” of photographs of the Western Front.

So you want to find information on your relative? The first place to start is with “Soldiers of the First World War” either by using the government data base or Ancestry.  If it is the government data base use the search option and enter Surname and Christian names or the regimental number if you know it. The results will give you the information that the individual answered on the form. Do not believe everything you read. Keep track of the regimental number as you will need it.

 If the individual died in Europe you can search The Virtual War Memorial by using the regimental number.

If it is one thing that the military is it is a bureaucracy - it produces a ton of paper work!. Service files are not online. For the First War these service files can come in several forms.

There is the Record of Service which can show you  the name of the ship that the serviceman arrived on in England or France, the battalion he was sent to, as well as promotions, transfers, injuries, etc.

If a casualty there is the Casualty Form.

If you are lucky pay sheets ( $1.50 a day). But not what they spent it on - that is another story.

There could be as many as 30 to 60 documents in a file. To order the file use the order form from Library and Archives Canada. The cost is $.40 per copy plus taxes if applicable, and could take as much as 4 weeks to arrive. If sent by Canada Post tack on another week. Be aware that not all of the records are available as there was some damage to some of them in the past.

On a personal note I ordered the service records of both my father and his younger brother who were in the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. Ordering these records are a little bit different as some of the servicemen are still alive. If not you need to provide proof of death or in my father’s case I was able to get him to sign for permission to access his files. Use the same order form as above. What I received 4 weeks later were two tomes. My father’s files (largely I think because he was a Prisoner of War for a year and a half) generated an amazing amount of paperwork. What I have is an incredible record of his service from 1940 to 1945. In an aside, I also found out that he was engaged while in England. Boy did I query him on that one!

The above images are all from Library and Archives Canada.