It About Collaboration

Jigsaw Pieces Being Joined Shows Teamwork And Collaboration

I think that genealogy really is about collaboration. When you start your genealogy you start with yourself. Then the next step is to ask the older generation what they know about your grandparents, aunties and uncles and so on.  At the time I didn’t think of it as collaboration. I was just asking the people who I was close to,  to provide missing pieces to the puzzle. But it really was the beginning of the collaboration.

Then as time went on I started making contact with others who were either distant relatives or had members of my family in their tree. It was at this point that I felt I was collaborating and so much good has come out of doing this. Over time I’ve met numerous cousins. Some, where there has been no family connect for over 100 years . I’ve met cousins that have done DNA testing for me to help prove a family line. I met one cousin who was the president of a genealogy society in Ontario and some that have no interest in genealogy at all. But in each case, this collaboration has extended my tree and often provided me with photos. Something that I have always cherished. When I collaborate it’s not a one-way street, as I try to give as much as I can back.

Over time I’ve met numerous cousins. Some, where there has been no family connect for over 100 years . I’ve met cousins that have done DNA testing for me to help prove a family line. I met one cousin who was the president of a genealogy society in Ontario and some that have no interest in genealogy at all. But in each case, this collaboration has extended my tree and often provided me with photos. Something that I have always cherished. When I collaborate it’s not a one-way street, as I try to give as much as I can back.

This week I made a connection that I felt really good about. In the past, I have written about Willie Beaton, my maternal great-grandfather, and the Beaton/Batten Mystery. Willie’s story has taken me across Canada and has led to learning more historical, geographical and general knowledge than most of my other ancestors. He is one of  two great grandparents that I cannot research past. My proverbial brickwalls.

amy-phillips-and-burt-hone

(Burt Hone and Mrs. Phillips. Photo from the collection of Lori S with permission)

The Story

I’ve always said that it’s my parent’s stories that reeled me into this hobby. One story my mom use to tell me was about a lady she called; Mrs. Phillips and how she had saved my grandmother and her siblings from an evil auntie. The story I heard was that when Willie went to fight in WWI the children were to be looked after by his sister-in-law . My grandmother; Mary had told my mom that she and her siblings had not been treated well. The aunt had made them eat in the kitchen when the rest of family ate in the dining room and how their beds were thrown out in the yard each day. I’m sure there were other terrible stories but these are the ones that I remember. I know it was bad because I’ve seen a letter written by my grandmother’s cousin where she apologizes for what her mother had done.

The story I heard was that when Willie went to fight in WWI the children were to be looked after by his sister-in-law . My grandmother; Mary had told my mom that she and her siblings had not been treated well. The aunt had made them eat in the kitchen when the rest of family ate in the dining room and how their beds were thrown out in the yard each day. I’m sure there were other terrible stories but these are the ones that I remember. I know it was bad because I’ve seen a letter written by my grandmother’s cousin where she apologizes for what her mother had done.

It was at this point that Mrs. Phillips must have reported the goings on to some authority and it was for this reason that my grandmother and her siblings had been put into the; “Next of Kin Home”. The Next of Kin Home is a home for children whose parent was away at war.

Over the years, I’ve learned so much more about Mrs. Phillips. Her name was Amy Gertrude Reeves and she married John Stuart Phillips. I learned that she had met her husband in Kingston, Ontario where Willie had been born. I learned that she was my grandmother’s and her brother’s, godmother. I learned she was listed as my great-grandfather’s next of kin on his WWI registration with the word friend in brackets. I learned she had been born in England and learned she was a British Home Child.

I realized that she and her husband had traveled across Canada with Willie Beaton. From Kingston to Lethbridge and then to Edmonton. Perhaps not together but surely at his encouragement. I have found records that show clearly they were the best of friends.

It was this realization of their close connection that I began to wonder if they might be related. Amy was a Home Child and one of Annie Batten’s grandchildren (Annie is Willie’s sister who is also adopted)  had suggested that Annie was a Home Child. Could that be the connection? Or was the connection to Amy’s husband?

The Connection

Recently I looked at a tree on Ancestry.com that included Amy Reeves. When I contacted the lady, I asked what her connection to Amy was and if she was closely related, had she  done DNA testing? Her name was Janice and as it turns out she is Amy’s great-granddaughter, and no, she hadn’t done DNA. I told her of my research into Amy’s family tree and how Amy had been a Home Child. I suggested a couple of Facebook groups that were about Home Children that she might want to join. I told her how my mom had held Amy Phillps in very high regard and I shared a photo that I had in my collection.  I also told her that she could make contact with the agency that Amy had been transported with and perhaps she could get Amy’s file and be able to extend her own tree.

I told her that I wondered if the close connection between the two families was more than just being friends. Had they been related? I gave her access to the Phillips tree I had created so she could extend her own tree.

Janice had no idea that her great-grandmother was a Home Child . But after reading what I had to say she wanted to learn more and she told me that she’d ordered a DNA kit. Something she had thought about but my story had really perked her interest to know more about that side of the family. So we will see if there is a family connection.

The most important thing that came of this was, collaboration because I was able to provide information to someone else that they were unaware of and she will reciprocate and do a DNA test and she promised to tell me how it goes.

She may not have to, because if we are related AncestryDNA will tell me; “you have a new cousin” and you know me…. I’m always looking for cousins.

Would you like to find out more about British Home Children? Then please click HERE.

 

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