Category Archives: Genealogy

The Widow Bremble (Ancestor # 2, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, 2015)

Sarah Bremble Darby… I have no idea what her maiden name was. She is a complete mystery.

Somewhere along the way, likely in New York City about 1782 or 1783, she married Benjamin Darby … I think … though I could be wrong … maybe they never actually married…who knows. She travelled with him and their blended family of 5 daughters, Elizabeth Darby, (born c1773) and Mary Darby (born 2 Apr 1774), Mary Bremble, Ann Bremble (b. c. 1776) and Frances Bremble (b. c. 1781) to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada in 1784, spent a year at Grimross (now Gagetown), then moved to PEI in 1785, where they settled and produced 9 more children.

Her first husband was likely a loyalist but I have no idea who he was and searches for the surname Bremble turn up very few individuals. The name could actually be Brimble, Bramble, Brumble … this is one brick wall I doubt I will ever solve.


My genealogy goal for 2015

Get all my sources and citations in order…

That’s all, no big deal … unless you are a 20 year researcher with heaps of sources and many times more than that of citations.  It’s a daunting thought. I was taught to use sources and citations right from the beginning, but my skills weren’t what they are today and I have known for a long time that many of those early sources need to be reworked and that will mean editing thousands of citations to get everything in line.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t record enough information from a source so that they might go back and review it again, if needs be, never mind sharing the data and sources with another researcher. I volunteer at the Family History Centre where I live. I recently had a man come in wanting to review films that he had ordered years previously. He said he had extended them to permanent loan. He didn’t have the film numbers. The software to track the films has changed over the years and a lot of the films on permanent loan from years past are not connected to the names of the patron who ordered them. I suggested that surely he must have the film numbers in his records at home. No, apparently he didn’t record the film numbers in his notes. Seriously???

I guess I am lucky that I don’t have to go back to the beginning of my research (or even worse, my mom’s research) and find sources for all those facts. Mom was very organized and taught me her easy numeric filing system right from the beginning. With few exceptions, I can go into the records and pull out the desired documents within a few minutes. I have the research log she started in 1972 with the entry about her interview with my paternal Grandfather. I have since scanned all of it and am in the process of scanning all her research notes as well.

The best bit of advice I can give a genealogist just starting out is to document your sources meticulously right from the get go. You may think that you won’t be sharing information with others, but eventually you will, and they will want to know where you got the data. Do yourself a favour and save a lot of time and energy later…do it now!



Robert Ellis, the myth becomes a man (Ancestor # 3, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, 2015)

medium_15005040436 (1)photo credit: reCreate texture via photopin cc

We had a long standing brick wall, Robert Ellis, my 3rd great-grandfather. We knew lots about him after 1819, very little before. My mother actually wrote an article for the North Devon Heritage Journal in 1996 called “Robert Ellis, Man or Myth?”

Shortly before this, she had found a “genie buddy” online, through the early genealogy message boards. John lived in North Devon, he took a big interest in the mystery of Robert ELLIS and helped my mother with a fair bit of local research. Through their combined efforts my mother came up with a theory of who Robert ELLIS was. After she died in 1998 it was up to me to prove her theory.

 Robert Ellis

 Thought to be Robert Ellis, col. Dawn Ellis

From his tombstone, his birth year is estimated as 1797. Family tradition says that he was from Bideford, Devon, but his tombstone says he was “a native of London, England”. He was apparently the cousin of William ELLIS, shipbuilder who emigrated to Prince Edward Island around 1818. William was from Monkleigh, Devon, only a short distance from Bideford.

From his daybooks, that were discovered in my grandfather’s attic in the 1981, we learned that Robert emigrated to Prince Edward Island in 1819. Family tradition states that he was a young cabinet maker who just finished his apprenticeship and came to PEI to do the fine work in the ships built at Green’s Shore (now Summerside).

Robert married Hannah DARBY, daughter of Loyalist Benjamin DARBY (see Ancestor # 1) in 1823. A son, John, was born on 15 April 1824 and became a Master Mariner. A second son, Forbes Alexander was born 4 December 1826 at Miramichi, New Brunswick, where Hannah’s sister Deborah resided with her husband Alexander FORBES.

Some time between 12 February 1827 and 12 January 1830, the family removed to Bideford, Devon, England. George Alfred was born there 12 December 1830 and died 29 August 1833. Two more children came while the family lived in Bideford. Elizabeth Caroline, born 10 June 1832, and William Henry Rawle, born 3 July 1836. (who later emigrated to New Zealand). In William Henry’s baptism Robert is described as a “joiner”. Forbes Alexander died there on 8 May 1839.

The names of the last two children gave us some clues as to where to look for connections in Bideford. Mom found a woman named Margaret ELLIS who married a William RAWLE on 25 October 1799. William and Margaret had two daughters, Elizabeth Margaret, baptised in 1800, and Caroline, baptised in 1802, both in Bideford. We speculated that Margaret ELLIS might be an aunt or some other close relative of Robert’s.

Robert’s daybooks give the impression that he was operating an inn or a pub with multiple entries for beer and the settling of various people’s accounts. He appears to have been a treasurer of a “Club” with entries concerning a Club Dinner at the Bell Inn at Parkham, Christmas 1839. The daybooks also contain descriptions of work to be done on ships, including lengthy contracts and three pages headed “List of Goods for Exportation…” followed several pages later by the following:

Bideford April 1st. 2nd. &c 1840. MrChas. Andrew Caddy Dr. [debit] to Robt. Ellis – To Six Days packing, superintending and putting on board goods … To 32 Days on board the Minerva took care of goods. May 16th Charlottetown P.E. Island looking round for Store to Sell goods &c.S# 436, Doc # 281_00024 (2)

This entry gives a pretty good estimate at the date that Robert, Hannah and the three surviving children returned to Prince Edward Island and the Royal Gazette of Tuesday 19 May 1840 reports the entry of the Brig Minerva to the port of Charlottetown, with “Goods to Mr Ellis'” and lists the family as passengers.

Volume two of the daybook begins on 18 May 1840 and list lists accounts of a number of individuals and debts to C. A. Caddy for such things as duty, postage and printing and continues until 12 August 1840. On 17 August a new set of accounts begins in Murray Harbour and ends 4 May 1841. We speculate that Robert was in the employ of Charles Andrew Caddy up to this time. During this time Robert bought 90 acres of land on Lot 17 (Summerside), Prince County for the sum of £170 PEI currency. He and his family settled on this property in May 1841 and it became known as “Woodland”. In Roads to Summerside, p. 27 it is recorded that “Older citizens can still recall the moss-covered roofs and walls of their homestead, which stood in the midst of ancient willows, just east of Mr. Ronald Campbells.” His daybooks continue in Bedeque (Summerside) on 9 May 1841.

After settling once again near Hannah’s family, Robert secured the contract to finish the interior of St. John’s Anglican Church (pictures and story at the link). There are other various contracts, including individuals purchasing pews in the church. Robert seems to have continued acting as a merchant and, along with his farming endeavors, he was also a “Fence Viewer”, and owned a part interest in a ship called the “British Queen”. The books record the various comings and goings of the family including the arrival of son, John’s wife, Maggie from Scotland and Robert going to Charlottetown to have a cancerous growth removed from his cheek. One of the earlier but slightly curious entries notes that Caroline cut off Henry’s finger. On 28 August 1872 there is an entry, probably made by Hannah, that Robert had died of cancer.

After Robert’s death we have a letter Hannah received, dated 3 October 1876, from Edward Dingle with the rents on some houses in Bideford.

All this information and nothing  about his life before 1819! All we had to go on was speculations about the names of two children, some houses he owned in Bideford, and some deeds that a Robert Ellis with a son named John Ellis, who was born in 1824, signed along with a William Ellis back in Bideford. These were found by Mom’s buddy John and concerned an inn called The Peacock in Bideford. They dated 1819, 1828 and 1839. These documents helped form my mother’s theory. If I could prove it I would have his family back to Johan ELLIS born in 1549 in Northam, a town close to Bideford.

From the deeds:

“…and rented additional ground from the Bridge Trust (?), i.e., “Indenture between Samuel Rooker of Bideford Minister of the Gospel, Walter Bowen Postmaster, Richard Easby Rawle Lieutenant in HM Navy of the second part, Sarah King spinster of the third part, William Ellis the Younger and Robert Ellis both of Bideford, Joiners” of the fourth part, by indenture of lease bearing the date of 16th Dec 1774 made between William Houndle Mayor of Bideford and the seven other persons herein named of the first part and William Rawle, Maltster, …”

“… all that dwelling house 2 courtaliges & Premises with the Apportments [sic] thereunto belonging, situate lying & being on the North Side of the Markt [sic] Place in Bideford aforesaid containing from N to S 100 feet & from E to W 34 ft or thereabouts bounded with the lands of said feoffees lease to Wm. E. [Ellis] & R. E. [Robert Ellis] their executors administrators & assignees as tenant in common & not as joint tenants for & during the term of 99 years fully to be complete & ended if John Ellis aged 4 years or thereabouts son of the said Robert …”

“Mr. R. E. [Robert Ellis] to Mr. Wm. E. [William Ellis] assignment of amoiety of an inn called The Peacock in the Market Place for 3 several terms of 99 years etc …”

While mom was alive we had researched a little of all the ELLIS families in Bideford. I knew who was living there. I knew there was one other Robert (the son of William the shipbuilder, who was often mixed up with my Robert), and a William, born about 1787, son of William ELLIS, Sr. and Mary GALSWORTHY. Looking at the wills in this family it appeared that William and Mary also had a son named Robert. When William Sr. died, in June of 1841, he left some houses to his son Robert, to his widow, and the remainder of his property to his son William. These houses were identified by location and tenant. In 1843 a John ELLIS (thought to be the nephew of William Sr. and first cousin of Robert and William Jr.) died and left some houses to a Robert, “son of William Ellis the elder”. These houses were also identified. He also left property to Elizabeth Margaret Rawle, his niece, and so we were able to tie Margaret Ellis who married William RAWLE into the family in Bideford. From all this, and handwriting samples, mom speculated that my Robert ELLIS and William ELLIS Jr. were brothers.

The first thing I did was a y-dna test on my father and on a descendant of William ELLIS, the shipbuilder, who was supposed to be his cousin. I wasn’t about to spend heaps of money researching a bunch of houses, that I didn’t have addresses for, in Bideford, until I had proof that Bideford was likely where his family was from. Remember that tombstone that said he was a native of London? Turns out they match. Robert and William, the shipbuilder, do share a common ancestor!

Then as I was debating about how to go about researching the houses …do I hire someone or make a trip to England myself,  I was searching through the Family History Catalog when I came across some voter registrations that my mother had not looked at. I can’t imagine she missed anything, so I think they had not been filmed when she had been researching this family.

I collected all the Ellis entries in Bideford. I found my Robert and a William:

1836 – 1840

Robert – Market Place (the Peacock Inn was in Market Place)
William Jr. – Allhalland Street


Robert – Prince Edward Island and part lease hold of houses in Allhalland Street
William Jr. – Allhalland Street (but in the 1841 census he is listed in Market Place as an Inn Keeper)

Yes, It really said Robert was in Prince Edward Island. I let out a whoop just as my friend Ben came in. I couldn’t believe it. Finally after all these years, Robert is with his family AND I may have found his birth in London … but that’s a whole different story!



Benjamin Darby, Loyalist (Ancestor # 1, 52 ancestors in 52 weeks, 2015)

The theme this week is “A fresh start”. Many of my ancestors started over, but Ben Darby is one who started over several times.

Benjamin Darby, my 4th great-grandfather is said to have been born in Devon in 1744. Family lore says that he came over as a young soldier (age 16 or so) during the 7 years war (1754-1763). That would have made him 10-19 years old. Supposedly, he landed in Rhode Island with the army and marched to Montreal. During the Revolutionary War he served as scout in Roger’s Rangers and was “carrying dispatches from General Howe to Sir Guy Carleton, from New York to Montreal.”

Another story states that Mrs. Darby was routed from her bed, after giving birth, as Washington’s soldiers marched on Newburgh, NY, where they lived. She and the baby supposedly died en route to Saint John and were buried at sea.

The problem with all this “Family Lore” and compiled information is that I can’t prove it…any of it.

It is definitely true that Ben was a Loyalist (received land in Canada for being loyal) but no one seems to have found him on a pay list or muster roll for Roger’s Rangers,  and I have looked.

So what do I really know about Ben and his family?

I have found Ben in a number of records in and around Newburgh, He signed a pledge “of Association” for the committee of safety in 1775, and a pledge “of non-importation” in 1776. He was jailed for being a “Tory” in 1777. He worked on board the sloop “Return” for Captain C/Golden. He obtained permission for his wife, Lois, his two daughters Mary and Elizabeth and his son, Daniel, age 2, to sail on the same sloop to New York City in November of 1779. He was evacuated from NYC on “the Spring Fleet” in 1783,  sailing to Saint John, New Brunswick. In 1785 his property in Newburgh was confiscated.

Concerning the information about Ben’s wife and child dying en route to PEI, I am fairly sure this is not true. I found Ben and family in a list in  Early Loyalist Saint John, by D.G. Bell. Benjamin is recorded as being on the “Spring Fleet”. Bell says,”Not all civilians arriving at Saint John, either in public transports or in private vessels, were attached to one of the numbered companies [civilian militia companies]. The major exception was the Spring Fleet of May 1783, which came before the Militia Company system was adopted by the Bay of Fundy Adventurers.” Bell records a comparison of the family make-up leaving NYC, arriving in Saint John and the following spring. Benjamin’s family unit while at New York and on arrival at Saint John seems to have been consistent: one adult male, one adult female, two children ten and over, and three children under ten. There is no record of the family the following spring but he went directly to Grimross on arrival and wasn’t in the Saint John area. Family lore has said that Benjamin’s wife and infant daughter died en route to Saint John. It seems that is not the case. Is it possible that they may have died earlier, and Benjamin quickly remarried at New York? This would explain not finding any trace of his marriage to the “Widow Bremble” in New Brunswick or on Prince Edward Island. It would also explain the five children he came to Saint John with. We know that he came with Elizabeth, (born c1773) and Mary (born 2 Apr 1774) and that Sarah Bremble came with three daughters, Mary, Ann and Frances. This makes a family of husband, wife and five children!

They spent a year at Grimross (now Gagetown, New Brunswick) and along with several other settlers petitioned the Governor to complain about the land they received. The Saint John River is notorious for flooding and if he lived near the river he would have learned after only one season that this wasn’t the best location. He moved to Green’s Shore (now Summerside) the following year and settled there, finding the conditions much more to his liking.

Once settled on Prince Edward Island, Benjamin and his second wife Sarah settled down and raised 9 More children. He was a member of the legislature, and it was noted that he was often late. Ben died there on 3 March 1844. This is likely the only fact about Ben that I can say I have definite primary source documentation. Ben’s son-in-law Robert Ellis (my 3rd g-grandfather) note in his day book, “Old Mr. Benm. Darby died this morning Sunday 5 o’clock aged 99 years 9 months”.

I am still working on the challenges of proving the family lore and the sometimes bigger challenge of spreading the information that I have found.



(Sources available on request)

52 Ancestors in 52 weeks

I found this cool series on Roberta Estes blog, DNAeXplained, 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. Such a cool idea. I went looking for the origin …

This led me to the No Story too Small blog where I was happy to find the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series. So for 2015 … 52ancestors-2015

My goal is to do this throughout 2015. No promises, no guarantees…if you know me you will know I notoriously bad with deadlines. I will ENDEAVOR to have a blog post about an ancestor once a week posted by Tuesday evening. My first deadline is the 6th of January. Some weeks I will stick to the proposed theme for the week, some not…the first post I am thinking will conform to the “New Beginnings” theme.

wish me luck … and enjoy,



A Revolution in Genealogy

I’m a genealogist. I’m a gardener and a nurse too (Happy Nurses week!), but yesterday was all about genealogy. I spent the day adding ancestors to my database. All of a sudden it seems there are so many more free searchable databases online and there are more everyday. has a huge indexing project going on that will take years to complete ( Yesterday I found this one, , and it is incredible! The amount of work these volunteers have put into this is amazing.

Now, I don’t want people to get the idea you can simply go online and find a completed family tree (there is no such thing). I volunteer at the Family History Center, and believe me, I get people all the time who think they can walk in and I will go online and produce a pedigree on their ancestor named Smith or Jones or whatever!!!  It doesn’t work that way. I suppose shows like “Who do you think you are” don’t help… well they do help in that more people are interested in genealogy, but they don’t show all the hard work that goes into putting together a good, sound pedigree. Hours pouring over microfilm of parish registers, land records, probate records and (in the past) census schedules!

Which brings me to my point. While I spent a good part of the day going through the indexed baptisms, marriages and burials on the lan-OPC  site, I will spend MANY more hours going through the parish registers verifying the info I found yesterday! The reason I love all these new databases online is that it is soooooo much easier to go through the actual parish registers when I know what I am looking for, but you can’t take the info you find online in these databases as fact until you check out the actual records yourself.  I will take this list and verify each entry:

I love computer technology!!!

More NYC

This is the view from my window. It was not much to look at, but the nice thing was that there was no street noise… could have been worse.image

The red brick building with the scaffolding in front is “The Mansfield”. I would stay there again.


The front of the New York Public Library … see I really was researching!



The Zoo in Central Park.


Huge bubbles!


My friend Ana.


Central Park in the rain.




The soldiers and sailors memorial in Riverside Park.


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Today I flew off the NYC. It’s supposed to be a research trip… but I had to go out to eat.



And this hotel room is as cute as a button. Perfect price for me… but the room is so small you can’t swing a cat in here. But it’s nicely done and clean.




Tomorrow the library.

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Note to self…

I don’t know how it happened, but I was accessing a file on my laptop through my desktop file sharing…when I closed the file, SOMEHOW it was deleted! I can’t find it anywhere on either computer! I’m going to have to start from the beginning of the microfilm. Maybe not a huge disaster since I was wishing I had used a different format anyway, but still I don’t like not knowing what happened to it.

SO, NOTE TO SELF (think I would have learned this when I lost everything any had to pay $450.00 to have it all retrieved from the dead hard drive…) ALWAYS back it up as soon as you get home!!!!!!

Lately, consumed with genealogy and I haven’t hooked a thing, but my new hook arrived and maybe tomorrow I’ll get a bit done. Trip to NYC booked for first week of May. YAY…must get ready…and thinking about Scotland in the fall!

Oh, this is BAD!!!

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