Monday, 3 April 2017

Go Zags! Remembering Dad on the 25th Anniversary of his Passing

Dad, second from left, Spokane WA, ca. 1953-6

As the 25th anniversary of Dad's passing was coming up, I was thinking of how to best mark the anniversary. While it sometimes feels like his passing was a lifetime ago, at other times, it feels like yesterday.

I can still remember that cold, silent and clear, 3 April 1992 evening when we left the hospital after he passed. We were exhausted and numb, headed home to start making the dreaded phone calls to family and friends. I still feel it in my body each year - an inexplicable sense of tiredness late March and early April - perhaps deep seated memories of two emotional weeks in the hospital with him before he slipped away.

Yet, in the time since his passing, there's been three grandchildren, new partners, homes, jobs, and challenges. In fact, it's been a generation since he passed. His grandchildren have only been able to know him through our stories, memories and photographs (and the odd-lopsided boot rack or bookshelf with L brackets in my mother's home. He fancied himself a master carpenter, but history has proven otherwise). I know that he's with us at every turn and for each new chapter of our lives, but it doesn't stop us missing him.

As this anniversary approached, Gonzaga University, his alma mater, progressed through the NCAA March Madness tournament and will play tonight in the Final Four Championship game against North Carolina. Dad won a sports scholarship to Gonzaga in 1952 and played basketball and baseball while earning his Bachelor of Business Administration degree.  While we cheer on the team, we can't help but think of him. He loved his time at Gonzaga and being part of those teams. Win or lose, this game is special in so many ways.

As Dad would say (and want us to say), Go Zags!

Cheers, K.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Kiss Me ... I'm Irish?

 Source: InspiredImages/Pixabay

My DNA results have arrived! The results are much what I expected - very European and British - as I have been finding with my genealogical research. I tested with Ancestry DNA and FamilyTreeDNA. In this post, I'll deal with the Ancestry results.  The results from both companies are generally the same, but there are few interesting twists. 

The caveat is that ethnicity estimates are just that - comparisons to the genetic profile of a representative sample of the native population. Despite, the warning about the generalized nature of ethnicity estimates, they are fun to take a look at and ponder.

This is what Ancestry DNA estimated for me:

European 99%  
  • Europe West 37%
  • Great Britain 30%
  • Ireland 25%
  • Trace Regions 7% (Scandinavian 4%, Iberian Peninsula 2%, European Jewish <1%)
African <1% (Trace Region: North Africa)

The interesting bit is that Ancestry pegged me at 25% Irish (theirs is a separate category). To my knowledge, I have no Irish ancestors or heritage. However, a cousin of my mother assures me that there is at least one Irish connection on the Brown side. Whether or not that accounts for a quarter of my ethnic makeup, remains to be seen. 

In digging a bit deeper into the Irish result, I did note that Ancestry includes in its definition of Irish, the locations of Ireland, Wales and Scotland (also found in France and England) - which might be taking into account my Welsh family and Scottish McPhee roots. I guess it's my Celtic heritage coming through. 

In any case, I've been thinking that I just might celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year to embrace my newly discovered Irish heritage - however defined or calculated. Any excuse for a party... especially in the dreary month of March! 

Cheers, K.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Well, I Did It... Genealogically Speaking

What exactly did I do? I have jumped into the genetic genealogy pool with the purchase of AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA testing kits. After a long break from doing any genealogy research of my own and a super-busy year of work, I decided that I needed to do something different to spark my interest and research.

I had the privilege of attending the Ontario Genealogical Society Annual Conference in Toronto in June for work and followed the genetic genealogy stream in the program as something that I wanted to learn more about for myself and my library patrons. I attended several sessions given by Cece Moore of the DNA Detectives - and while I won't confess to understanding everything about the ins and outs of DNA and genetic genealogy, I was hooked. Her stories, advice and information were captivating and intriguing, so I bought the AncestryDNA kit at the conference. I promptly took it home, left on holidays and left it untouched for the summer.

When FamilyTreeDNA advertised its summer sale, I bought their kit - knowing that the Devon DNA Project was affiliated with FamilyTree DNA.  I've hit the proverbial brick wall on my Ball line in North/South Molton, and am hoping that FamilyTreeDNA, with its large UK base, will help connect me to descendants of my Ball family that stayed behind in Devon.

Finally, in early September, I sat down one Wednesday morning, did my tests, and mailed them in on the way to work. Now, I am eagerly awaiting my test results.

I'll keep you posted when the results are in!

Cheers, Karen

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Honouring the "Action by a Farmer's Daughter"

After stumbling upon the Welsh Newspapers Online site a few years ago, I've become addicted to it - checking back often to see new editions, newspapers and content added. When I've hit roadblocks in my research or enter the research doldrums, it's a great diversion and often returns unanticipated treasures like the one I want to tell you about.

I've always wondered about the birth of William Spickett Ball, 1892-1982, the illegitimate son of Charlotte Ball, elder sister of my great-grandfather, Thomas Huxtable Ball. There also always seemed to be an air of mystery to him - at least for those of us in Canada - no name, no details. Late one night, on a whim, I entered the name of "Charlotte Ball" and hit enter and began scrolling through the list of entries.

Imagine my excitement when I came across this 15 July 1893 Cardiff Times article:

You can read the full article here.

Our Charlotte sued the father of her child for breach of promise and won in a Cardiff court in July 1893! And she was awarded a 350 GBP damages settlement, which in today's money amounted to nearly 34,600 GBP. Whether she ever received the settlement is another question and research query.

Charlotte had been living with her brother, John Ball, who farmed at Ty Gwyn in St. Andrew's Major, Glamorgan, when she met her suitor, William Howell Spickett of Cadoxton. On the 1891 census, she is shown living there with John and younger brother, Thomas.

On reading the article, I could not help but feel proud that she had taken Spickett to court. As a single mother in the late 19th century, there would have been some measure of public disapproval in her decision to keep her child. Despite the "fair damsel" description of her in court, she pursued Spickett for his breach of promise to marry her and to provide for their child.

Charlotte - you rock.

Cheers, K.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Welsh Newspapers Online - my new happy place

In searching around for information about South Wales, I happened to come across a great genealogy and history resource - Welsh Newspapers Online. Created by the National Library of Wales, the database is a free online resource. It contains over 1.1 million pages from over 120 newspapers, from 1804 to 1919. According to the introductory page on the site, it also includes the digitized content from The Welsh Experience of World War One Project.

The search page allows you to specify if you wish to search Welsh or English language content, specific newspapers, date ranges or article types.

If you like to browse, you can do so by title or by titles in a geographic region. I've found it interesting and informative to browse titles within a geographic region to get an idea of coverage, focus and publication dates. The helpful calendar of published issues makes searching for a specific event or occasion that much easier. For an example of the calendar and publication information for the Cambrian, click here.

Happy searching!
Cheers, K.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Final Day and Farewell

Our last day in Cardiff was bittersweet. I knew that our stay was coming to an end, but we were going to meet another third cousin that evening for a drink.

The clouds had cleared out and the sun was again shining. My daughter and I headed out to the Cardiff Library for a quick visit and to check out some of the shops in The Hayes, the pedestrian mall, which the Library anchors.

Cardiff Library
We had heard several stories about "Chippy Lane" and the late night adventures of my family in Cardiff in the wild days of their youths  We managed to find it - but, alas, we were there too early in the morning to sample any food. 

Still having the car, we decided to take a run out to Caerphilly to see the castle and for some lunch. Luckily for us, it is pretty much a straight drive north from downtown Cardiff, so we were able to find it.  We bought sandwiches, crisps and tea and sat underneath a canopy of trees near the castle and ate our lunch.
Caerphilly Castle
After a walk through town, we stopped by the tourism office and had a lovely chat with one of the staff members - who could tell by our accents that we were Canadian as she had family on the Prairies. She recommended stopping at Castle Coch on our return to Cardiff.

I am glad that we did take her advice as we had a wonderful afternoon exploring Lord Bute's medieval fantasy  - in another beautiful setting. The drive back to Cardiff was slow with traffic, but we didn't get lost!

Castle Coch

My cousin met us at our hotel. She was a descendant of Elizabeth (Ball) Edwards, an elder sister to my great grandfather, Thomas. We headed down to a nearby pub for a drink and spent some time sharing stories of our childhoods and families.  Again, it felt as if we knew each other for years - despite the fact that we had only recently found each other doing family history research online.  I loved her laugh and she made me think of my Dad - who had the same infectious laugh and attitude. 

As we boarded the train at the Central Station for Bath, I was so happy that we had come to Wales. I been able to meet the descendants of John, Henry and Elizabeth Ball - making the connection with my Thomas who left Penarth in the late 1890s, never to return again. As our train disappeared into the Severn tunnel, I couldn't help but think that I would return as there was so much research to be done, so many things to see and do.

Our trip continued onto Bath, London and Paris and many new adventures and memories. However, for me, Wales was the highlight of the trip.

Cheers, K.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Dinner, Driving and Discovery

After our visit to Dinas Powys, we braved the roads and returned to Cardiff  - mind you, not by the route that we had intended to take. We never seemed to take the same road twice - driving on the opposite side of the road completely turned around my sense of direction and orientation. After a few missed turns and exits, we made a hasty retreat to our hotel to change and to meet another set of my cousins and their mother for dinner in Cardiff Bay.

Luckily, we chose to walk - so my map skills were back on track.  It was a lovely, warm and sunny evening, perfect for a walk and another adventure. When we reached the forecourt of the Millenium Centre, we stood for a moment scanning the crowd milling about.
Wales Millenium Centre - Cardiff Bay
Much to my delight, I saw my cousin waving to us. We had been found! After hugs and introductions, we walked over to a  wonderful Italian restaurant  and ate dinner on a balcony overlooking Cardiff Bay. We talked like old friends and it really felt like being 'at home' again. The meal, like the company and conversation, was perfect. To this day, my husband still talks about the spaghetti carbonara that he had that night. After a drink at a nearby pub, we said our good-byes and headed back to the hotel.

Originally, we had planned on driving to South Molton and Filleigh to visit the home of my Ball ancestors in Devon as a day trip. I soon realized that there was so much to see in Wales and decided to go to the Gower for the day to explore the area where my great-grandfather had been born.  The day started out rainy and wet, but after a stop in Mumbles, the sky started to clear. I loved the windy narrow roads, but always jumped when we rounded a corner and passed vehicles going in the opposite direction. We landed at Rhossili just after lunch as the sun was coming out.

The area was, in a word, breathtaking. The view of the bay and Worm's Head was spectacular. It truly is an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty".
Worm's Head, Rhossili
We walked along the promontory taking it all in - we even got to some sheep grazing on the cliffs and hills in the park.

On the way home, we stopped in Scurlage, the birthplace of Thomas, my great-grandfather (1875-1941) and I had a quick walk around, trying to imagine what life would have been like in the late 19th century Gower.
We also passed the road to Reynoldston, the home of William James Ball (1858-1922), the eldest son of William Huxtable (1837-1927), whose life had a tragic end in the Brigend Asylum.  Every bend in the road told a story and the place names seemed all very familiar.

As we neared Swansea, we managed to get lost in rush-hour traffic, but eventually made it back to Penarth. We dropped by the home of my cousin (with whom we had dinner the night before) and he gave us a fascinating tour of the town where our family lived. The clouds had rolled in again, lending a perfect sombre backdrop to St. Augustine's Church where my 2x great-grandparents, William and Charlotte Ball are buried.

St. Augustine's Church, Penarth

We walked along the beautiful Penarth pier (which was still under renovation) and saw many more sight where family lived, worked and played. Knowing my fascination with the BBC series, Gavin & Stacey, my cousin happily pointed out several exteriors and landmarks which appeared in the show, including a church hall in which his mother's aunt had been married. Our evening ended with a quick visit with my cousin and his family and yet another unknown route back to Cardiff.
Penarth Pier

All in all, another perfect day.

Cheers, K.