Bill's Genealogy Blog

Bill Buchanan is a long-time genealogy enthusiast, living in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada. This blog will describe my experiences as I research my family history and help others.

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Location: Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada

I am a retired online school teacher. I love family history. Since 2007, I have spent much of my time providing part-time support for the world's largest free family history site This is very rewarding. I have helped others with the Family Tree and related FamilySearch products.
Since April 2010, I have served in the Edmonton Riverbend Family History Centre. I have a FHC blog at Bill's Family History Center Blog For information the Latter-day Saints and family history click

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One of my favorite love stories from our Buchanan family history

I wrote this for another purpose and then decided to include it in my blog.

In 1903 William Andrew Buchanan was 29 years old, single, and owned a blacksmith shop in Neepawa, Manitoba. 

The family of George Watson stopped for a few months to visit relatives in the area, while George went on west looking for opportunities in the Northwest Territories in the vicinity of Edmonton. Bill Buchanan was totally smitten by the 22-year old daughter Elizabeth Jane Watson. 

Bill sold his business, and when the George Watson family moved west to Leduc, he followed them and on 3 May 1905, Bill & Lizzie were married in Edmonton. They had 4 children, my father was the oldest.

Lizzie suffered from asthma, and in 1920 they moved to Tacoma, Washington, perhaps in the hope that she would benefit from a change in climate. Unfortunately, she died there of kidney failure in 1923, and Bill brought the family back to Alberta. 

Bill was only 49 years old and in good health and owned his own business. His youngest child was only 11 years old. Most men in his circumstances would have remarried but he never did.

Apparently no woman could replace Lizzie, who was the love of his life.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Wonderful Visit with My Mother

My mother, aged 97, has lived in an extended care facility for about 5 years.
This morning I had the best visit with her that I have had for the past year or so.

We arrived about 10 am and stayed until 11 am. She was in the cafeteria when we arrived, so we moved her to the visiting area. Mom knew who we were and was perfectly alert.  I read her some of my early memories and we were able to talk about old times. We were able to ask her about things and she was able to us about things. It was like old times.

Our visits with her before Christmas were not so good. We were uncertain whether she recognized us.

But our visit when we came with Laurel's family on January 2nd went much better. We arrived about 10:15 and we stayed for about a half hour. She recognized us, and we explained that Tananda and Nathan are expecting their baby in late February, which will be Mom's first great-great grandchild. We took some "4.8" generation photos.

Apparently, my brother Ed and his wife visited her at Christmas, and she did not recognize them and told them to go away.

James and Karin visited her on January 4th, and had a good visit, although Mom couldn't remember who was pregnant.

Those of you who have loved ones suffering from dementia, know what this is like. Sometimes, there are good days and there are bad days. We have found that visits early in the day work best, before she gets tired. And during our best recent visits I have read written accounts of my early life, which trigger her memories.

I love my mother and I am grateful for the wonderful example she has been throughout my life. In recent months we have felt that she is slipping away from us. It is a real blessing to have a visit like the one today.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas for 2017

This has been a very good year for us. Judy and I are slowing down, but continue to enjoy good health. Bill has continued to serve in FamilySearch Support, and we serve together in the Edmonton Riverbend Family History Centre on Thursday evenings and in the Edmonton Alberta Temple on Saturdays. And during the summer, we have enjoyed our garden. Our potato harvest was less remarkable than last year, but the other vegetables made up for it. We enjoy fresh home-grown food. We had harvesting activities where family members helped us harvest and returned home with bags of fresh vegetables.

But it has been a hard year for my mother, with the death of her sister Vi, and her own declining health. A year ago, we could have a good conversation with her. Sometimes now she doesn’t recognize us.

Rob and Rachel’s baby Lillyanna is a welcome addition to our family. She is beautiful! Rachel’s parents came from Vietnam and stayed to help her for 6 months.

Evelyn remarried, this summer. She and Gary had been dating for over a year, so we were hopeful! Gary is a wonderful guy. We got to know him as we worked together on some upgrade projects on Evelyn’s home. Gary has two grown daughters and a teen-aged son. Evelyn’s family are in St Albert now, and her home in Spruce Grove is up for sale. It is now one of the nicest homes in its neighborhood. Good work Evelyn!

We finally had new family photos taken. Yes, it had been a while, and the old photos are missing some of the newer members.      

Family history research has found some ancestors we had not been aware of, including Judy's Constable line in Yorkshire, and Bill's Ings in Buckinghamshire.

Tananda and Nathan are expecting a baby, Charlotte, in February. This will be our first GREAT grandchild, although we think that each of the grandchildren is great in their own way!

The grandchildren are all growing so fast. There has been so much progress in the past year. We have enjoyed numerous Christmas concerts, band concerts, competitions, school plays and performances. 

On the evening of Dec 22, some of our family members will participate in the 28th annual Spruce Grove outdoor Nativity pageant. This helps us remember the reason for the season, the promise by the angel of peace through “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  Let us remember Him as we celebrate Christmas this year. May God bless you and your loved ones throughout the coming year!
– Bill & Judy Buchanan

Saturday, November 11, 2017

And What About Ben Wright in Cousin Jessie's Chart?

It is interesting to me how things that should be random, sometimes form a pattern. I was contacted in the last few days by a cousin who is a descendant of Benjamin Wright, the brother of Alexander "James" Wright, the subject of my previous post. She was able to give me the name of the child shown on the chart, and Benjamin Wright's two wives.

In Chelsea, London, on 26 September 1896, Benjamin Wright married Mary Ann Eliza Webb, who already had a daughter Janet, born in 1893. In 1897, Ben and Mary had a daughter Annie Wright, who would be the child mentioned on Jessie's chart. She may be the Annie Wright who died in Chelsea in 1925.

Here they are in the 1901 England Census
Household               Role     Sex   Age   Birthplace
Benjamin Wright Head M 42 Norfolk
Mary A Wright Wife F 43 Lambeth, London
Janet Wright     Daughter F 8 Chelsea, London
Annie Wright   Daughter F 4 Chelsea, London

Here is Benjamin in the 1911 England Census in the Chelsea Workhouse.
Name: Benjamin Wright
Age in 1911: 48
Birth Place: Norfolk, Norfolk, England
Street address: Chelsea Workhouse, Britten Street, Chelsea
Marital Status: Widowed

But Benjamin's life did not stop at this point. In 1912, he married Madge Jermy, who already had three children.
Madge (Bradley) 5 (b. 23 March 1906 in Chelsea)
John (Bradley) 4 (b. 1907 in Chelsea as Johnnie Henry Charles Bradley)
Henry (Bradley) 2 (b. February 1909 in Chelsea)
GRO lists the mother's maiden name as Jermy for all 3.
I do not know what became of John and Henry, as I did not find their deaths. Perhaps they were given to other families to raise. But Janet lived with Ben and Madge and their children.

In Benjamin's military pension record in 1915, he lists Madge as his wife and  three children:
Madge Bradley b. 23 March 1906
Janet Wright (yes, a different daughter by that name) b. 4 March 1912
Samuel Wright b. 3 April 1914
GRO gives the mother's name as Jermy in all three cases.
Pension record on

Mom's cousin Jessie, who made the Wright genealogy chart for me in 1963 seems to have missed the second marriage and additional children.

These were tough times for these poor people. Apparently Ben's military pension was inadequate because this particular family had frequent stays in the Chelsea Workhouse. 

Friday, October 06, 2017

Will the Real James Wright Please Stand up?

Here is part of a genealogy chart given to me by my mother's first cousin Jessie Evans Wright in 1963.

The Mr & Mrs Wright are Charles Wright and Mary Ann Grant from Carleton Rode, Norfolk, England. Samuel is my great grandfather, who married Charlotte Harriet Eley, and gave her the brooch that has been passed down in our family and worn by 5 successive generations of brides.

The problem is Jim or James. He appears nowhere in the official records. He was never born, registered, or appeared as a member of the family in any census. 

But Jessie's chart is missing Alexander Wright, who appears in all the public records.

An email message this week from a descendant of Benjamin Wright ("Ben" in Jessie's chart), brought me back to this puzzle. Looking closely at James and Alexander, I noticed that James' children had the same names as some of Alexander's children.

Alexander Wright (c.1849)
sp: Emma Elizabeth York (b.1850)
 Charles William Wright (b.1870)
 Alexander John Wright (b.1872)
 Samuel Wright (b.1873)
 Emma Elizabeth Wright (b.1875)
 Thomas Wright (b.1877)
 George Wright (b.1879)
 Louis Wright (b.1885)
 Albert Wright (b.1887)
 Alice Wright (b.1890)

I checked the military records of Alexander's son Charles William Wright, a military career that spanned 30 years, retiring with the rank of Company Quarter Master Sergeant. His record included service in India, Mauritius, and South Africa. He had a bullet wound in the thigh. A handful of medals are listed in his record, maybe not a VC (Victoria Cross), but a YC ... whatever that is. This Charles certainly fits the profile of "James" Wright's son Charles.

In one place he lists his father's given names as Alexander Wm, and in another as Alexandera James!

I think I have the answer. Alexander may be the name used on all of his official records, but maybe he sometimes used James as a nickname with family and close friends.

I wonder where I could find official documentation of Albert Wright catching "a well known German spy in the west end of London during 1st World War". It seems like an interesting story!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Burns Family

On September 25, 2017 I received this email message:

Hello Bill,
I am Arthur Morton Burns' granddaughter and I was wondering if you have any information on him or perhaps any pictures. I just found out that he was my grandfather and would love all the information that you could send me please and thank you. 

I immediately recognized the name of the first husband of Dad's first cousin, Emily Jane Sheffield. In fact, Dad (William "George" Buchanan) and Emily's brother Carl Sheffield, owned a farm together north of my grandfather's blacksmith shop, at the "10 Mile Corner" west of the town of Millet, Alberta.

I was able to give Carol the birth information for Arthur ("Shorty") Burns:

Canada Births and Baptisms, 1661-1959
Name: Arthur Morton Burns
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 14 Jul 1887
Birthplace: South Norwich Township, Oxford, Ontario
Father's Name: Charles Burns
Mother's Name: Harriet Avy
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: C01608-8
System Origin: Canada-EASy
Source Film Number: 1845886  Reference Number: cn 25406

And a record that includes his parents and siblings:
Burns, Charles
    * b. ABT 1846
          o England
    * e. Occupation
          o 1881
          o Butcher
    * e. Residence
          o 1881
          o Burford, Brant South, Ontario
    * m. Avey, Harriette
          o 22 Dec 1868
          o Oxford County, Ontario, Canada
Burns, William C.      * b.  ABT 1871            o Ontario, Canada
Burns, Nellie Marie    * b.  ABT 1876           o Ontario, Canada
Burns, Edith M.         * b.  16 Jul 1884          o Ontario, Canada
Burns, Arthur Morton  * b.  14 Jul 1887        o Ontario, Canada

Shorty was a businessman, owning stores in various rural communities: Millet, Patience, Pipestone
Emily and Shorty had two daughters, Marion and Dorothy, before they divorced and went their separate ways. I was unaware that he had another family. 

References to the families of William Buchanan and George Watson in “Tales and Trails of Millet”, v.2
Porto Bello School Division 3146; Tales and Trails of Millet, p.507
The 10 Mile Corner is 10 miles west of Millet. Buchanan's "Blacksmith Shop/Shoe Repair Shop" was on the NE corner (SW35-47-R25-W4) (bought from Carl Sheffield), Pydde's "Farmers Trading Store" was on the SE corner (NW26-47-R26-W4), Cameron's dairy was on the NW corner and Millet Seventh Day Adventist Church was on the SW corner. (NE27-47-R26-W4)
Porto Bello School was on NE22-47-R26-W4.
St. Peters Lutheran School was on SW27-47-R26-W4.
Wm. Buchanan farm NE34-47-25-W4
WATSON, George Allan; Tales and Trails of Millet II, page 556; Wetaskiwin
The Watson Family
Mr. and Mrs. [George] Watson, his two sons. Dick and Allan [George Allan], and two daughters, came to the Porto Bello and Telford districts to homestead, in the early 1900's.
The mother enjoyed smoking a corn cob pipe,
Daughter Margret moved to Michigan as a young girl and married Arthur Sheffield, and in 1911 moved back to Millet. They had two children, one son, Carl, who married Leona Hagen, and one daughter, Emilia [Emily], who married Shorty Burns. Arthur passed away in 1923 and Margret in 1941.
The second daughter married Bill Buchanan, the blacksmith. They had four children: George, Jack, Maggie and Inez. Inez is the only surviving member of that family.
Allan married and had seven children.
Brother Dick was a bachelor and he and his nephew Ralph retired and lived in Millet.
Tales and Trails of Millet, v.2
Telford School District 1355 (west of Millet, Alberta)
SE2-48-26 R.J. Watson bought this farm from C. Brinker
NE2-48-26 bought by SW & RJ Watson from K&D Sidor [Who is S.W. Watson?] -p.620
Telford District... On Section 2 there was the Watson family: Dick, George and Allan and their sister Mrs. E. Sheffield, with her children Carl and Emily, as well as her nephews, Jack and George Buchanan, and niece Inez. p. 622
Telford boasted a baseball team for many years with Ray and John Brennan; Ben and Edward Glassman; Joe and Fred Coles; Bud Scott; Bill, Bob and Benny Arnholtz; Henry and Jim Deans; Norval Atkinson; Jack Buchanan; Carl Sheffield; Joe Benedetto, as some of the players. The girl's softball team was coached by Mr. Howard Fulcher (now retired in Millet). It comprised of Tracy (Krossa) Hougestol; Frances (Benedetto) Meaver; Jean (Benedetto) Cassidy; Kay Fulcher; Nora (Fulcher) Hall; Mary (Halat) Coles; Linda (Glassman) Heine; Pat Brennan; Jessie (Jackson) Rath; Irene (Jackson) Soper; and Inez Buchanan.
- p.622
Shorty Burns [Arthur Morton Burns] had a butcher shop on Main street [of Millet about 1913]- p.656

Emily had a daughter, Gloria, with Franklin William Knight.
She later married Harold Milligan Rogers and had a fourth daughter, who is still living.
According to Dad, Harold Rogers was murdered in his home by an intruder in 1949.

I really regret that I did not take photos of Marion and Gloria when Judy and I visited them in 2002, so I have no photos of either of them. Marion was able to fill me in on a few details on the Sheffield family. Gloria invited us to stay for supper, and we had a really nice visit with her too.
"Thanks very much for the pictures. I do remember Dick [Watson] as we lived with him [about 1926] before moving to Washington [Tacoma, then Benge, Coeur d'Elene, Winona - where Harold died]. I also remember Buchanan's visiting at Dick's place, particularly a Geordie who told us ghost stories around a camp fire and scared us to death. He was GOOD. Was he your father - brother to Jack and Inez? Oh yes - I see on the back page you sent that he probably was."

What a delightful incident. My Dad was remembered 75 years later for telling ghost stories?! Who could have guessed that?  😉

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Saga of My Mysterious Steele Family

I love it when I receive an email from someone I have never heard of, but whom I can easily identify as a cousin. 

The Steele family were a mystery to me for a long time. Dad and his brother and sister knew very little about this aunt and uncle of theirs. Their information was basically:

"Frank died in a mill explosion, and Minnie died giving birth to twins." 

Since the rest of the George Watson family moved from Michigan to Alberta in 1903, I searched Alberta fruitlessly for years. Then when the internet became available, I found the George Watson family in the 1881 Canada census and I discovered that her name was actually Mary E. (Mary Elizabeth according to her birth record.)

1881 Census Place: Turnberry, Huron North, Ontario, Canada  April 1881
Source: FHL Film 1375909  NAC C-13273  Dist 175  SubDist B  Div 2  Page 17  Family 67
Sex Marr Age Origin Birthplace
George WATSON M M 39 Scottish O  Occ: Farmer       Religion:Weslyan Methodist
Jane WATSON F M 38 Scottish O Religion: Congregational
George A. WATSON M 10 Scottish O Religion:Congregational
Mary E. WATSON F 7 Scottish O Religion: Congregational
Margaret A. WATSON F 5 Scottish O Religion: Congregational
Richd.Joe. WATSON M 2 Scottish O Religion:Congregational
Eliza Jane WATSON F <1 span="" style="white-space: pre;">
Scottish O Religion:Congregational[Some years are off slightly, and Richd.Joe should be Richd.Jas, but plainly it is the correct family.]

This information helped me to find the marriage of Frank and Minnie in Michigan about 15 years earlier than I originally expected. 

Extracted marriage record for locality listed in the record.
Search performed using PAF Insight on 16 Oct 2006
Mary E. Watson; Female; Birth: , , Canada; Father: George Watson; Mother: Jane Watson; Spouse: Frank Steele; Marriage: 16 JUL 1891 Sault Sainte Marie, Chippewa, Michigan; Batch No.: M018016 Dates: Source Call No.: Type: Printout Call No.: Type: Film Sheet:

This led to finding older children that my family never mentioned. Some of them are listed in the 1910 census.

1910 US Census
name: Frank Steele birthplace: Wisconsin relationship to head of household: Self
residence: Raber, Chippewa, Michigan marital status: Married race : White
gender: Male immigration year: father's birthplace: Scotland
mother's birthplace: United States
family number: 76 page number: 4
  Household Gender Age Birthplace
self Frank Steele M 39y Wisconsin
wife Mary E Steele F 36y Canada
son William G Steele M 16y Michigan
son Robert G Steele M 14y Michigan
dau Lucy M Steele F 9y Michigan
dau Marth A Steele F 7y Michigan [Myrtle]
son Eal T Steele M 2y Michigan [Earl T.]
"United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Dec 2012), Frank Steele, Raber, Chippewa, Michigan; citing sheet 4B, family 76, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1374654.

By the 1920 census the parents are both tragically dead.
United States Census, 1920 Residence , Chippewa, Michigan
Household Gender Age
 William J Steele  M 26y
 Lacy M Steele  F 18y [Lucy M.]
 Myrtle A Steele  F 16y
 Carl F Steele  M 11y [Earl T.]
 Frank A Steele  M 9y7m

My family said "They had Nate, Nellie, and Jeanie, who were adopted by Uncle George Allan Watson and his wife Carrie. Then Carrie left and moved to Ohio with all of the kids but Ralph who was rather slow and could only do farm work."

In the Alberta Provincial Archives I found the parish register for the Millett Methodist Church. Well! Nate was the biological child of Allan and Carrie! He was not the child of Frank and Minnie. 

The pieces were starting to come together. But who were the twins? Obviously they were not Nate and Nellie, so they must have been Nellie and Jeannie. This document helped:

Border Crossing, July 31, 1913
Watson  George 70 Farmer      Canada     USA Mich  Raber Mich  Millet Alta  $100
Watson  Jane     71 housewife Canada     USA Mich  Raber Mich  Millet Alta
- to join son Richard
Steel     Mary       4 mos          USA Mich  USA Mich  Raber Mich  Millet Alta  
Steel     Elizabeth 4 mos          USA Mich  USA Mich  Raber Mich  Millet Alta  
- wards of grandparents Mr & Mrs Geo Watson
calls Nellie Elizabeth, so Jeannie is Mary.

Nellie died in Toledo of polio. 
Name: Nellie Watson Titles: Death date: 13 Dec 1926
Death place: Toledo, Lucas, Ohio Birth date: Estimated birth year: 1913
Birth place: Age at death: 13 years 7 months 27 days
Gender: Female Marital status: Race or color:
Street address: Occupation: Residence:
Burial date: Burial place: Cemetery name:
Spouse name:
Father name: Frank Steele Father titles: Father birth place:
Mother name: Elizabeth Watson Mother titles: Mother birth place:
GSU film number: 1984618 Digital GS number: 4024345
Image number: 332 Reference number: fn 75959
Collection: Ohio Deaths 1908-1953

Image requires sign-in:

Jeannie died some time prior to Nellie, and she probably died at Millet, Alberta, Canada as I cannot find her death in the Toledo Blade obit index or other Ohio records. 

What a sad story! Minnie died on 22 Jun 1913 of heart failure, apparently triggered by the birth of the twins. Frank died on 02 Jun 1918 in a massive boiler explosion in Bartlett's sawmill, at Shelldrake, Whitefish Twp, Chippewa, Michigan. They were both young. Frank was only 47. They had a large family, and some of the children were very young. The twins, baby girls that my family knew as Jeannie and Nellie, both died young. Nellie was only 13 at the time of her death and Jeannie would have been even younger. 

I have been helped by Watson and Steele cousins to fill in the gaps . Most recently, by the cousin who contacted me last week and was able to give me the names of Earl's descendants. In return I sent her a PDF copy of a Watson Family Tree book I created in 2007, where there is minimal information about the Steele family, but good information on most of the other Watson descendants. 

I invite any further information or corrections.