Monday, 5 September 2011

Ottawa, Ontario 2003: The Archives & beyond!

After mailing away for various certificates and having some success with most branches of the family, we realized that we could access more information if we visited the National Archives, which are located in Ottawa. We talked a little about it in the spring, and husband made sure it happened by giving me the gift of a trip to Ottawa for my birthday.

Dad and I gathered our notes and sorted out what we needed in order to make the best of our research time. We found a great suite hotel, about 2 blocks from the archives, and then realized the Anglican Church archives were in the same area, which was a great bonus. A few families in our tree migrated through Ontario, so there were many records to search for: the Waites, Stevensons, Mays, Manhards, Masons, and Arnolds, to name a few.

This was our first major trip, and we had a lot to learn about this type of research. First, some places were closed on the days we visited. We didn't anticipate that, but such is life. We did well, however, as the hotel was near to the archives, and had a kitchen, so we could rest whenever we needed to, and there was plenty of room to spread out our notes in the living room. We rented a vehicle, and drove for many hours through various towns, checking municipal records and visiting cemeteries.

The staff at the archives were very helpful, and were always patient with us. We found a few new bits of information, and although some of it was not really great “source” info, it was quite interesting at times. For example, we found some correspondence between Benedict Arnold and his sister, Hannah, a spinster who raised the children from his first marriage as well as his illegitimate son, John Sage Arnold. His second wife apparently wanted nothing to do with these children, and it sounded as though Hannah was quite happy to have them. We were hoping to find some evidence of who John's mother was, but no such luck. There were some theories, however, such as the possibility that she was the daughter of a wealthy ship captain who was based in New Brunswick for awhile. We will likely never know for sure.

We also found a helpful fellow at the Anglican archives, who helped us search for more of the Waite family, although we came up empty handed. I purchased a copy of a photo of the original church where Joseph Waite and Isabella Mason were married, as the church had burned down years ago. We knew where they were married, had their parents' names, and the names of the witnesses, and now could better visualize the event.

We also visited Smiths Falls, and were sorry to find that we could not access any source records there, but pleased to find a cemetery where a few of the Arnolds were buried. We also happened to find Thomas Foster and the infant Foster son, Willie, who were the “other” family of Mary Manhard. Who knew she had been married twice?! We learned that John Sage Arnold was buried at Leheigh Cemetery, in Kitley, Leeds County, but we did not have enough time to go there. I hope to find someone through RAOGK to take a photo for me some day.

Another day we drove to Cornwall, and again were disappointed, as the one place we thought we could possibly find out some information about the Waite family was closed. We drove around and noticed the Catholic church, which was near the historical society, but again, nobody was available to talk to us. A lesson learned! A few years later, when I visited the area while driving across Canada with my family, we stopped in while they were open, but still found no helpful information. Our only hope now is the church, which was not open either time I was there.

From there, we drove towards Quebec, and up around the eastern part of Ontario (Glengarry, Prescott, Vankleek Hill, and Alfred), checking out the occasional cemetery and chatting to people along the way. We found a historical society which was mainly concerned with the King's Royal Regiment of New York (KRRNY), a military lead which we hoped would give us the proof we needed to link our Waite ancestors to the “old” Waites, but we were not able to get what we were after. It was a nice day for a drive, at least, and although it was a bit frustrating to come away empty-handed, we enjoyed the journey.

We took a day to explore Mom's side of the family, the Stevensons and the Mays, and went to visit the family members who still live in the Ottawa Valley. Noreen & Steve McGregor live at Glenroy Farm, a fabulous Bed & Breakfast, which is also home to McGregor's Produce. A few years later, when Doug and I drove across Canada with the boys, we ran across some of the family at the farmer's market in Ottawa. Very cool encounter!

When Dad and I went to meet the family, they were so hospitable. We met up at Bonnie Jane's Scone & Bookshop in Arnprior, which was owned by the McGregors' daughter, Janie Birkens. After a bite of lunch and some tea, Noreen took us around to see many of the sights, including, of course, a cemetery, where we took photos of the stones for Elizabeth Lytle, and many of the Mays and Stevensons. She also took us back to their farm, which was so beautiful, and decorated for the autumn season with many pumpkins, etc. That part of the family tree is quite solid, as there are still family members living in the area, and they shared many wonderful stories with us.

Overall, it was a super trip, as we were able to cover so much ground. It may be some time before we are able to tie the “old Waites” to the new ones, but hopefully it happens some day.We realized at some point that many of the records we sought were only available in Toronto, at the provincial archives. That trip is one we hope to make in 2012.

One day when the archives were closed, we took off in our rental vehicle, a Toyota Highlander, and covered as much ground as possible. We drove south to Brockville, which was called Elizabethtown many years ago, and stumbled upon the Manhard Cemetery. Across the street was the Manhard United Church, too. We spent a lot of time there, taking pictures and wishing we had better supplies to clean off the gravestones, as many were discoloured and partially covered with moss. Some were illegible, and others were in good shape. We didn't know how some of the names fit into our tree, so I took as many notes as possible, and snapped many photos.

1 comment:

  1. Who are these Waites you are looking for from this area? I'm looking as well. My 3rd great grandfather is William Waite and he had a brother named Andrew. They were born in West Hawkesbury, Prescott. I have ordered both of their death certificates and gained no new insight. From other sources, I have found that their father was named William and I think their mother was named Rachael. They were both born in Massachusetts, from what I have found. Is this the same family you're looking for?