Christmas Past

At my age, Christmas is often when you remember past Christmases.

This year I was reminded that after a family get-together on December 23, 2006, I sat down and worked on my family research until the early morning of the 24th. I was searching for my father’s grandmother’s family… The Shannon’s. (See, I told you I work on my genealogy every waking hour, even at Christmas) At this time, I was looking for more information about 2x great-grandmother Caroline Shannon.

That evening I found a website, the OCFA (Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid), that referenced a grave in Elizabethtown, Ontario, for Caroline A Shannon. I knew the family lived in or around Elizabethtown, so I contacted the Leeds and Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society to see if I could learn more about the cemetery. Their site showed the name of the President at the time, Fraser Carr. So I sent him a quick message at 1:57 a.m.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up the following day and had a reply from Fraser telling me that he was forwarding my email to Ron Shannon.

On December 25th, I got a special Christmas gift in the way of a reply from Ron, who turned out to be my 2nd cousin 2x removed. He told me that John and Caroline Shannon (my 2x great-grandparents) were his great aunt and uncle. He gave me his phone number, and I called him on Boxing Day.

Since then, I can say that Ron and I have become friends and cousins. I visited him when I was in Ontario, and he stayed at my house while researching in Alberta. He helped me in the early years of my Beaton/Batten Mystery, gathering information about Willie Beaton and his sister Annie Batten. I helped him by gathering info on the Shannons that came to Western Canada.

One of the treasured items he gave me was back in 2006 when he sent me his research on John and Caroline Shannon and their eleven children. Why it was such a treasure was when I was about seventeen, I had taken one of my grandparent’s photos of a woman sitting on a chair holding a bible. I’d had it for so many years, and somehow I knew that even if I didn’t know her name, I couldn’t bear to part with the photo because I knew it had to be family. When I received Ron’s research, I saw that same photo, and it was my great-grandmother Lily’s sister, Sarah Jane Shannon.

I often tell this story when I meet someone who tells me they have inherited photos and don’t know who they are, and they want to throw them away. You never know when you will meet that special person that can provide information about a photo you’ve kept for thirty-four years.

If you have these types of photos and feel you need to get rid of them, I encourage you to at least take a scan of them so you can show them to new cousins you meet while doing genealogy. You never know when you’ll find that person with the answers. I have an album in my FOREVER account called “Mystery Photos,” and the originals are in an archival box.

Have a Merry Christmas.


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  • Marcy Belles says:

    BAck in the early 1970’s when we were clearing out my grandfather’s house, we discovered a box full of photos with no names or dates. They got tossed. When my aunt & I started doing the family research in the 1980’s, we wished we hadn’t done that as we learned that most of those photos were probably family from Iowa.

  • Ronald Shannon says:

    Merry Christmas Ellen,
    Pictures put a face to all relatives and they become more alive to you even if they have long ago passed away. On December 23, 2022 I sent two pictures to another cousin and today she replied with “Wow, thank you, Mom is going to love this.” They were pictures of her Mom’s mother. And I benefited as I received back the only picture of her that they had. Keep up your good work.

  • Lynne Duigou says:

    Interesting story. Perhaps consider sharing it or other stories with Relatively Speaking. Always need interesting stories.
    Merry Christmas.
    Lynne Duigou

  • Phil Bartlow says:

    Would you still have the name of a contact person at the cemetery? My 2xGreat Grandfather was born in Brockville in 1836, as well as 3 of his siblings. I don’t know if his parents died in Canda or if any of his siblings might have died there also. Also searching for any birth records that might exist.

    • Phil, Tell us the names that you are speaking about. Some researchers can help you. In fact my cousin Ron has worked extensively in this and many other cemeteries in this area.