Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Library And Archives Canada Reply

It appears that LAC has felt a need to reply to critics of their operations. LAC‘s reply can be seen here. It appears that the battle has been joined. It remains to be seen what the fall out will be..

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Writer's Take On Library And Archives Canada

Writer and historian Susan Crean writes a point of view that highlights some of the differences between historians, and genealogists, about the operation of Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Genealogists should pay attention. Both genealogists, and historians, share a stake in the operation of the LAC. I’ve noticed that sometimes we work at cross purposes to each other. We agree that the LAC should be more responsive (which it is not); however, we disagree on what it's priorities should be.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Tunnels of Vimy Ridge

A team of Londoner’s are studying the inscriptions and carvings left by Canadian soldiers in the tunnels at Vimy Ridge. For a more complete look go to this link

Their results should be fascinating .

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some Of The Memorials In Southwest Ontario

Memorials to the war dead come in all shapes and sizes. Some are old - some new. Cities, towns, and villages who do not have them are few and far between. Here are just a few (out of hundreds - remarkable for a country that prides itself on being unmilitaristic.) with what little information that I have on them.


Erected and dedicated 25 November 1928

Essex County

Essex County War Memorial constructed in 1924.


Ingersoll Honour Roll erected in 1999.

London's monuments I have mentioned in previous posts.


War Memorial in Coronation Park erected in 1928.

Point Pelee

Unveiled in 1985 in Memory of Canada's fallen warriors.


Dedecated to Boer War Veterans. Thought to be the oldest in the country.


Erected in 1936.

Constructed in 1924.

Friday, May 13, 2011

William George Kerr and William Stewart McKeough

Both William George Kerr and William Stewart McKeough were at the time Lieutenants in the 18th. Battalion.

William George Kerr was born 13 December 1894 in Chatham, Ontario. (1) He survived the war.

Library and Archives Canada.
In a letter published in the “London Free Press”, November 1, 1915, he discusses the state of the Battalion in France.

“Speaking of the Ross rifle. “It’s all right. The men like it since we have had the chamber bored out a bit, and one of our snipers picked off two Germans at 650 yards, so you could not kick much at that.

We were bombarded on our first day by high explosive shells, coal boxes and 8-inch shells. I can’t say that I felt very brave when the first one lit about 25 feet from me on our wire.

The form of trench here is narrow and irregular. As regards traverses they are almost wholly built above ground of sandbags, the parapets and parados being about the same height.

They were quite dry, too, in wet weather. We used no loopholes. Periscopes are utilized by day and by night a man puts his head up between two loose sandbags. The dugouts were fine, and I guess the men had a pretty good time. I could stand up easily in my dugout, and it was about eight feet square. This is a terrible country for mud, and when it rains it is almost impossible.”

William Stewart McKeough (1) was born 2 September 1893 in Chatham, Ontario, and died 15 September 1916.

Canadian Virtual War Memorial, Veterans' Affairs, Ottawa.
Library and Archives Canada
In a letter also published in the “London Free Press” , November 1, 1915 he wrote:

“We have been in the game over here almost a month and having lost little time after our arrival in France in gaining experience or instruction. We have been kept busy. You may have heard by this time of our narrow escape in crossing this channel, when our transport was rammed amidships by a torpedo boat steaming 22 knots per hour and for several long and dreary hours we were truly a shipwrecked crew in distress, on a cold black night and a choppy sea.

The next few wet days were occupied in heavy marches over cobblestone roads across France. By the end of the week we had taken over our trenches and had received our baptism of fire in good order. We have since then been in and out or just behind the line in, support or reserve.

The Canadians to date have not been utilized as a driving force, but, of course, have had our part to play in other ways, connecting with the move on the 25th of last month.(3) On that day we surely realized that we were in the midst of a terrific bombardment by our artillery, which, however, was carried on more particularly and incessantly some distance south of us. Last week, after enjoying a few days and a bath, etc, two miles behind, we turned over our line, which was composed of exceptionally good trenches, and moved a few miles north, taking over a new frontage. Our former trenches were splendid, but these I believe are in a class by themselves - a hot corner where the wind and water of Flanders, large quantities of which we have already encountered, are at their best.

For the past two days we have been occupying dugouts just a year old, which, having been hurriedly and very poorly constructed, are now rotting and falling to pieces. Damp, musty and filthy, with the grass and weeds and moss sprouting in patches over the sand bagged walls, we have been kept busy cleaning up and making them habitable, as well as building new quarters.

Altogether this is quite a life out here, everyone making the best of matters and all getting along in good style. I am enclosing you clipping from one of the London papers, which gives a rather elaborate account of the billeting system in France and Belgium. Well, we have put up in every kind of quarters, in fields, in barns, in sheds and stables, in tents, in live beds, on marble floors and in dugouts, etc.

I was fortunate one night in locating a grand Louis quatorge canopied feather bed, while the following night caught a good four hours’ sleep on a bundle of straw in a manger with a noisy young calf, having to pull out at 2:30 a.m. in the pouring rain to go into the trenches. Such is this life.”

(1) He was born to John Garner Kerr and Louisa McLean in Chatham, Ontario. Archives of Ontario, Registrations of Births and Stillbirths - 1869-1911. John Garner Kerr was a lawyer, businessman, and a judge.

(2) His father was William Edward McKeough ( 12 February 1860-3 December 1929). He was mayor of Chatham, Ontario in 1904. Family papers are held by the Ontario Archives as the William Edward McKeough Family fonds ( F 2131). William Stewart’s nephew William Darcy McKeough became a member of the Provincial Legislature for West Kent in 1963, and later the Minister of Municipal Affairs (1967, 1972), Minister of Energy (1973-1975), and Treasurer and Minister of Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs (1975-1978).

(3) Although not stated I think that the letters were written sometime in October so that the reference may well be to the Battle of Loos, September 1915.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Review - Time Traveller’s Handbook

Althea Douglas, “Time Traveller’s Handbook: A Guide to the Past”, Dundurn Press, 2011, ISBN 978-1-55488-784-2 (soft cover) $19.99

Althea Douglas’s new book is an excellent addition to the reference library of both genealogists, and historians. Althea maintains that family historians are essentially time travellers; but then again so are historians. Many of the references, and terminology, used a hundred years ago that we often turn up in documents are not relevant for us today. A handy book that can remind us (those of us past forty that is) what a quart, mile, or acre were is a useful reference.

The book deals with deciphering documents, family traditions, money and its value, trades, how people lived, and seafaring and military traditions. An appendix of important dates, notes that are chock full of references, deciphering Latin references, and a strong bibliography are for me very useful. As a boy I had British measures such as quarts, peck, mile, and inches pounded into me to the point I can not seem to shake them even now. Younger people should find these tables useful.

Unfortunately, I am now old enough to remember many of the life style references. When I was 6 and 7 my family lived on a small street in the village of Byron (now part of London), and I still remember the horse drawn Silverwood’s milk wagon. I do not remember the milkman ever sitting in the driver’s seat. The old horse probably knew the milk route better than the milkman. Right up until the end of the 1950’s my maternal grandmother kept her coal furnace. My paternal grandmother finally got electricity to the farm house when her sons returned from the war. With electricity, and a septic tank, my father bought her her first refrigerator. Much of the lifestyle we wonder about today was not that far in the past. Either that or I am getting old.

I highly recommend “Time Traveller’s Handbook” for any genealogist or historian’s reference library.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Posters Of The Great War

Distracted from my primary research again !

Prior to 1916 production of posters was up to the local authorities. Someone would create, and finance, the poster as advertising vehicles for recruitment, victory bonds, or just plain propaganda. What I love about them is that you just can not judge our grandfathers, or great grandfathers, by our 21st. Century morality.
Recruitment poster for the 142nd. Battalion (London's Own) recruited in 1915, and broken up for reinforcements in 1916. Library and Archives Canada.
Here's one that would not fly today. All she needs now is some white feathers to hand out. Library and Archives Canada.
 In this instance the Germans handed the allies a propaganda goldmine. Library and Archives Canada.
A reference to the sinking of the hospital ship 'The Landovery Castle' where nursing sisters lost their lives. Library and Archives Canada.

If the little tyke held on to her Victory Bond it might actually be worth something in forty to fifty years. Library and Archives Canada.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Ross Rifle Question

Ed Hardy from Vernon, British Columbia sent me an e-mail recently asking me to identify a Ross rifle that he had acquired.

“I am a collector of Canadian arms from the 1700’s to 1945. I have a Ross M1910 Mk III which has a Home Guard serial number, and is stamped on the wood ECHG. I am wondering if this might be Elgin County. The Ross M10 Mk III rifles were the ones which went overseas with the CEF in 1914/15, but they failed in the trenches d/t issues with ammunition and dirt fouling. They were replaced with the Lee Enfields, but many were contracted by the Canadian government for Home Guard use. Most are stamped B of M for Bank of Montreal, but some were issued to other units. I have appended a couple of photos. I know (from your website among others) that Elgin County has a history of Home Guard dating back to Fenian times, and wonder if this might be what the EC stands for? It would have to be somewhere in Ontario, or possibly Quebec.....…”

I am not an expert on the arms carried by the First World War infantryman ( my expertise only goes as far as looking at the rifle, and saying: “Yep that’s a Ross“). So I could not positively answer Ed’s question. Does anyone out there in blogland have an answer for Ed ?