Tuesday 29 December 2020

Legacy Family Tree Webinars 2021


The Legacy Family Tree Webinars program for 2021 is now open for registration. See details at the Legacy Family Tree Blog. This is another great lineup of talks and expert speakers.

You can register for any or all webinars at one time using the form listing the Upcoming Webinars.

Watch the Legacy blog for more news about an event to be held in April.

Monday 28 December 2020

A Zoom Christmas

As was the case with most families this year, our family was split up in many parts of the world: Linda and I in Calgary; a daughter and grandsons in Vancouver, BC; a son in Chilliwack, BC; and a son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The timing was a bit awkward, but we managed to visit via zoom.

At our home in Calgary, we were determined to have Christmas dinner anyway, with turkey and trimmings. We all shared the cooking of Christmas dinners at the various family homes on WeChat and Facebook. That was different!

For this holiday I put together a slide show of Memories of Shepheard Christmases Past. I went through 51 years of photos taken during Christmas dinners, mornings, trees and decorations, and especially family gatherings.

In pictures we could watch children and grandchildren growing up, always a treat.

And we could relive times when our own parents were still with us. It was a tear-jerker!

Of course, the Zoom get-together was itself recorded for posterity, so we can revisit how we shared the 2020 celebration any time.

It was fun, but I don’t want to do it like that again. I would really rather have everyone together in person.

I hope all of you who are seeing this post had a great Christmas, even if, like us, with family members absent but present in spirit.

All the best in the New Year!

Monday 14 December 2020

Baby Books

 Baby Books have been popular with new parents for decades. The earliest versions were used not just to record the event and the particulars of the newborn’s size, weight, hair colour and other distinguishing characteristics. They were also an important place to record diseases, immunizations and, of course, growth.

The first baby books, at least in terms of mass production of them, were marketed in the 1910s. Some were plain, some were fancy. Over time, they got more elaborate in terms of how they were bound and what information could be recorded.

They were almost always filled out by mothers who diligently kept track of developmental milestones: weight gains, first word spoken, first step taken. And that first haircut. The books usually listed the first people to visit the new mother and her baby and the first gifts that were given to them.

When cameras came to be commonly available to families (Who didn’t have a Kodak Brownie?) photographs were added. In recent times some parents have included copies of ultrasound images of their babies, obviously from before they even came into the world. These days blogs and social media sites have taken over somewhat. There is nothing quite like having a real book, though, with important events recorded in Mom’s hand and containing that precious lock of baby’s hair.

Many notable people have had them. A few have been preserved in publications such as that for Robert Louis Stevenson which can be looked at on the Internet Archive website

My parents filled them out for my siblings. I still have mine and remember pulling it out to look at over the years, especially after my wife and I had our children. It is fun to compare your own growth with that of your children.

One special book I have was for my little brother, who died at the age of two. Besides the photos of him in our family albums, and the formal birth and death record, it is the only record of him as a person. 

James Edwin Shepheard (he was named for his two grandfathers) came into the world on 23 February 1948. I first wrote about him in a blog post, My Brother Jimmy…, on 24 February 2015. That post was more about the loss of children like him among some of our ancestral families.

What few photos and home movies we have of Jimmy show him as a quiet, happy and contented baby and toddler. That’s how my older sisters and I remember him. 

Jimmy in front with brother Wayne and sisters Sharon and Lynn

The pages in the baby book record his entry into the world and his record of growth. It tells us when he talked and when he walked. When he got his first teeth and when he got his first haircut. 

Jimmy’s baby book brings him to life for us, as short as that life was. We lost him at the age of two years, two months and nineteen days. The book now is a valuable and important record for us even though entries stop way too soon. 

In looking for information on new family members, researchers might keep in mind that baby books can contain some important information about an infant and their family members.

Monday 23 November 2020

The Officers’ Mess in Calgary

 We live in an area in Calgary, called Currie. It is named after the barracks that were built in 1933 in the area to house members of the Canadian military.

During World War II members of the army and air force gathered for training and eventual posting to the theatres of battle around the world. Each service had their own area. The old map below shows the location of Currie Barracks in relation to adjacent communities in the 1940s and today from a Google satellite view. For reference the Officers’ Mess is labelled.

Left – Google satellite view of Currie area of southwest Calgary; right – portion of a street map of Calgary from 1946 with an insert of an air photo of Currie Barracks and a part of the Lincoln Park airfield, taken in 1949

My father was initially stationed here after he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943. My father-in-law enlisted in the Canadian Army here in 1941. A fuller version of the air photo taken in 1949 and other old photos, below, illustrate the style and extent of the military installations.

Left – LAC Bill Shepheard, 1942; Centre - air photo of Currie Barracks (top) and Currie Field, taken in 1948, RCAF Station Lincoln Park is at bottom right; Right – Sapper Bill McKay, 1942

Some of the barracks buildings adjacent to the parade square in 1941

Oblique air photo of Currie Field looking southeast toward the Glenmore Reservoir

This is how the Officers’ Mess building looks today.

Google image looking southeast of Officers’ Mess today in Currie; building has been renovated and is now called The Inn on Officers’ Garden

We have a personal connection with the Officers’ Mess, not because our fathers were officers. It is doubtful that either of them was ever in the building. During WWII, my mother-in-law, Jessie McKay, was the chief cook at the mess. It was a job she was very proud of and, from all reports, very good at. Certainly, in later life she was an excellent cook, one who brooked no nonsense in her kitchen and rarely asked for help in preparing meals.

In our family album there is one photo of Jessie taken with some of her staff in 1943. Unfortunately, the names of those pictured with her are not known.

Photo of some of the serving staff at the Officers’ Mess in Calgary, taken in 1943. Jessie McKay is at the right end.

In order to get to work every day, Jessie had to take a Calgary Municipal Railway streetcar from her home across the Bow River, in an area known as Hillhurst. The trip to work would have taken a considerable amount of time.

Jessie would have caught a streetcar on Kensington Road (#1 East and West Calgary line) near her home on the north side of the Bow River. That would have taken her across the Louise Bridge at 10th Street NW into downtown where she would have transferred to another car to get to south Calgary and the barracks area. She may have taken the #6 Killarney or the #7 South Calgary line. Either route would have left her with several blocks to walk to get to and across the barracks lands to the Officers’ Mess.

At the time, Jessie and husband, Bill, had three young children at home who were cared for during the day by very generous neighbours. Will Bill overseas, it meant that Jessie had double-duty – cooking for the officers during the day and taking care of children at night.

Top – streetcar at intersection of Kensington Rd and 10th Street NW; bottom same intersection today

Busses along either of these routes today can take up to 30 minutes. From the last stop on the “Marda Loop” at 34th Avenue and 24th Street SW, Jessie would likely have walked the remaining 12 blocks or so to the Officers’ Mess building. A similar walk from the end of the Killarney line would have been comparable.

Streetcar on South Calgary route #7 near Marda Loop

The whole daily commute must have been at least an hour in duration. And often she would have been carrying some groceries or other foodstuffs with her. Her days were long, and she frequently rode home at night in the dark, especially during the winter months.

Today the Officers’ Mess has been renovated and converted to a boutique hotel and eating establishment called The Inn on Officers’ Garden. Below are some views of some of the facilities (Sorry to sound like a travel review log).

This past weekend we celebrated my 75th birthday with a very nice dinner in the Pub at The Inn on Officers’ Garden. I am sure Jessie would have been pleased with the fare, prepared in her old kitchen.

One thing left to do is to try to find out who were pictured with Jessie in that 1943 photo, and perhaps who else worked at the Officers’ Mess.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Remembrance in the Nuclear Age

 I am among the first group of people that were born in the nuclear Age. One of millions, of course, but a time like no other in the history of man.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. We have seen and read countless articles and news reports about the end of that conflict, and about the toll it took on societies and human life. We have seen the celebrations of not just its end but of the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in causes to protect the freedoms we now enjoy.

I came into the world 106 days after a nuclear device had been deployed. That one single bomb, dropped by the US on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, killed over 140,000 people directly; thousands more died later from their injuries and from radiation-related illness. Three days after the Hiroshima blast, another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing 80,000 more people.

That was a lot of people but only a very small proportion of those who died during the entire conflict. According to the History of Western Civilization II website, “World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history in terms of total dead, with some 75 million people casualties including military and civilians, or around 3% of the world’s population at the time.” Other estimates put the casualties at over 85 million people.

Past generations have witnessed wholesale destruction of human life with the introduction of what were sophisticated weapons for their times. Hand-held arms such as spears were in use 400,000 years ago; the bow and arrow dates back 20,000 years; swords and daggers made from metal were produced 5,000 years ago. A major invention that changed the way wars were fought was gunpowder – between the 9th and 14th centuries – and that led to the use of firearms, cannons, rockets and bombs. From then on, the weapons just got more advanced and deadly until we finally ended up with technologies that could destroy the world.

Conflict, it seems, has been a characteristic of the human family. According to a summary on the Wikipedia website, wars have taken the lives of over 540 million people just since the turn of the first century AD. Almost 40% of those were during the 20th century. I am sure the list is not complete. No doubt millions more perished in prior centuries.

Battles between local tribes and larger civilizations have always been part of our makeup. What is amazing is that so many were killed before the introduction of weapons of mass destruction.

As genealogists, we spend a lot of time looking for our dead ancestors. Among them, we specifically search out records of members of the armed forces of their countries. While we can unravel the lives of many of those who fought, marvel at their bravery and honour those who died, we rarely can appreciate the vast numbers of people who died in and as a result of armed conflicts.

Rachel Bronson, President and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stated clearly in an article written in 2015 what the Manhattan Project and work on atomic energy was about:

“. . . on July 16, 1945, scientists saw ‘the end of the world’—how one of those scientists’ descendants described to me the first ever-nuclear blast. Code-named Trinity, the blast occurred in a remote part of the New Mexico desert outside of Los Alamos National Laboratory. . . The goal for some of the scientists was to create a weapon so monstrous it would end major-power wars. And, in this, they accomplished their goal. For others the goal was to beat the Germans, an end that was reached independent of the creation of an atomic bomb. And for others still, the goal was to take science to its logical conclusion, releasing the enormous potential of nuclear power to achieve amazing advancements while controlling its dangers. . . Exactly three weeks after the Trinity test, Little Boy and Fat Man, the first and only two nuclear bombs to be dropped during wartime, were loaded into planes and dispatched not for Germany but for Japan to put an end to World War Two. . . Almost immediately, the scientists who had seen the end of the world began educating the public and policy leaders about the unprecedented destructiveness of nuclear weapons.”

We will still honour our soldier ancestors and remember their contributions to the freedoms we enjoy today. And hope that what began 75 years ago, in ending one of the most destructive wars ever experienced, will not result in the end of civilization.

Being part of the first generation of people born into the Nuclear Age is sobering. It is probably the most unique of all ages, when we realize that Armageddon could actually be achieved if we were not careful.

On this Remembrance Day, remember the past but have hope for the future.

If you cannot get out to buy a poppy this year, consider a donation to the Legion online. https://legion.ca/donations  

Sunday 8 November 2020

Virtual Genelaogical Assocaiton 2020 conference

 Don't forget the VGA conference coming up next weekend. To find out more details and register, go the VGA website. https://virtualgenealogy.org/annual-conference/

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Unique Wedding “Portraits”

 I have an unusual set of “portraits” of my 2nd great-grandparents done for their wedding in 1851.

On one wall of our living room are photos taken of the brides and grooms from five generations of Shepheard men, from my great-grandfather, James, to my son, also James. In between are my grandfather, father and me. These are all what we would call “normal” wedding pictures, all taken in studios by professional photographers.

But for my 2nd great-grandparents, the portraits are actually black paper cut-outs, glued down on a background with some pencil sketches, and now yellowed with age.

I am not sure how the originals were mounted. My sister had them for many years and gave them to me as a Christmas present. Along with the cut-outs was a description of them:

Everyone has seen these types of cut-outs before. Many show silhouettes of people and family scenes like these. Some are very intricate works of art. Just do an Internet search for Black and white paper cutting art to see some real masterpieces.

These are very special to me because they apparently represent two of my direct ancestors and were done before photography really caught on. If we can believe that the artist did a good representation of the people, then perhaps we can get a glimpse of what they looked like in real life.

I have many wedding photos in my family albums. The oldest goes back to 1877, a picture of a great-granduncle and his new wife on their wedding day. In my direct line, the oldest is one of those that hangs on my wall – my great-grandparents, James & Mary Elizabeth (Pearson) Shepheard, taken on 17 June 1890. The cut-outs are of her parents.

The oldest photo I have is of my great-grandfather’s mother, Mary Crispin (Carpenter) Shepheard. I believe it was taken about 1875.

All my old family photos are prized possessions, but these cut-outs are unique and irreplaceable. They have a special spot all to themselves.

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Bridal Wreath: A book for the bride

 In some ways, I am like my mother. I keep stuff.

In a post published here on 29 July 2014 (My Mother’s Scrapbook), I wrote about a scrapbook my mother assembled as part of a project she did for a course at Normal School in 1936. It is an amazing thing to have in my memorabilia, mainly because it was something she personally created. She kept it until her death in 1974. And now I am keeping it.

I also wrote about My Parents’ Wedding Anniversary (7 October 2014). One of my current projects is to identify all the people that appear in the group photo taken at their reception. So far, I have put names to about 2/3 of the guests in the picture.

Mom assembled another book as well. This one is The Bridal Wreath, a book for the bride. It contains cards, notes and photos from friends and relatives that she received at bridal showers and that both she and Dad got with wedding presents.

The basic book cost $0.50 and according to instructions that came with it, was available “at your jewelers or free with the purchase of a Bridal Wreath Engagement or Wedding Ring.” I don’t know which acquisition method she chose to get it.

The book was formatted with pages for Prelude (events that happened before the wedding), Showers and Entertainments, My Trousseau, The Wedding, The Reception, The Bridal Party, The Guests, The Gifts, Newspaper Clippings, The Bridal Bouquet, Wedding Anniversaries (a list of future occasions) and a two-page summary of Questions of Wedding Etiquette (in case a new couple did not know all the rules when organizing their wedding).

The book lists all the people that attended the showers and the wedding reception., along with an itemized list of the gifts they gave the new couple. Mom included some photos taken at the showers.

There are newspaper clippings concerning the bride. There is even a sprig remaining from the bouquet she carried.

Mom filled in many of the blanks for names and dates. For instance, we know she received her engagement ring on 7 April 1939 as she wrote that date in the spot dedicated to that event.

Some pages she did not use as intended but glued in photos and cards they received instead. Each card was included in the envelope it came in and the envelopes glued to the pages of the book so they would not get lost. Cards could then be taken out and looked at intact.

Napkins used at the showers and reception are also attached. One she kept was signed by (I think all) the participants.

The book is a wonderful collection of memories of my parents that we all can now enjoy, written in mother’s own hand. And a tangible look into an important event in our family’s history.