Tuesday, 5 August 2014

100th Anniversary of the start of WW I

Aug 4, 2014
         Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of WW I when Great Britain declared war on Germany, which automatically brought Canada into the war, because of Canada's legal status as a British dominion which left foreign policy decisions in the hands of the UK parliament. However, the Canadian government had the freedom to determine the country's level of involvement in the war. On August 5, 1914, the Governor General declared a war between Canada and Germany.
         This war, which was to be known as the war to end all wars, resulted in a total number of  over 37 million casualties. There were over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. Canada's total casualties stood at the end of the war at 67,000 killed and 250,000 wounded, out of an expeditionary force of 620,000 people mobilized (39% of mobilized were casualties).
         Over the last two days, my wife and I had the great fortune to witness the official ceremonies held to recognize and honour Canada's only flying Avro Lancaster bomber as it departed from the Hamilton airport on a 6 week tour of the United Kingdom. There, it will join the only other operational Lancaster bomber and the two will participate together in various UK ceremonies to commemorate UK's and Canada's activities during the WW's.
        If you wish to follow the Lancaster's itinerary while in the UK, please visit the following website:  http://www.warplane.com/lancaster-2014-uk-tour.aspx

  Pictures from personal collection

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Researching Your Family Tree This Summer?

Greetings from the Kent County Branch OGS,

As we do not run any monthly meetings during the summer, we would like to submit a reminder to folks that our research library is still open and invite them out. We would appreciate if you would run the below ad in your community calendar.

Thank you as always for your continued support.

Researching Your Family Tree This Summer?
Don't forget that the Kent Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society is open over the summer and has a fantastic collection of resources, open to the public, on the 2nd floor of the Chatham Public Library (adjoining the McKeough Room)   Hours: Tuesday - Saturday  1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Friday, 11 April 2014

Genealogy (Family History) Researching Tip

Thanks to Donna Dickson, I bring you this tip.

When searching internet websites (e.g. Ancestry and others), you will mostly likely come across posted family trees that contain members of your family. Make sure you do not take these trees as absolute truths but rather clues to which you need to investigate further.  Many of these trees contain errors and your task is to make sure they do not get put into your own tree and worse, passed onto others by perpetuating these mistakes. Personally, I use these trees to contact their authors and learn how they arrived at conclusions and assist in getting them corrected if needed. Remember some of these trees might be correct but use your own investigative talents to learn the truth. One the main benefits of making contact with the authors is discovering cousins who also share your own interest in genealogy research.

I draw your attention to Danny Klein's article ( http://blog.nj.com/tracing_your_roots/2014/04/post_6.html
) titled:

"Ancestry is an Excellent Genealogy Resource, but its Member Trees? Not So Much"

Danny Klein is a librarian at the Jersey City Free Public Library's New Jersey Room, a past president of the Hudson County Genealogical and Historical Society and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter ( http://blog.eogn.com/ ) makes reference to the above article as well at the following website:

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tundra Swans - 2014 Spring Migration

You are probably asking yourself tight now, what has the migration of the Tundra swans to do with genealogy. Well to me genealogy means the researching, documenting and sharing of one's family history. It is quite easy to become so involved by the reams and reams of data which we collect in our quest to uncover the hidden treasures of our family's many branches that we often forget to sit back remember and document our own personal life's memories.

One such memory that returns for me, in the Spring of each year, is the time spent with my father searching the fields and waterways of the Wallaceburg area, where I grew up, for the beautiful white Tundra swans. For my entire youth, the two of us would know that Spring had arrived when we finally saw the swans. Although my father is no longer here to share in this our annual tradition, I am most fortunate to have a wife who also enjoys welcoming Spring's arrival by viewing the Tundras arrival in the fields of South Western Ontario during their brief stop over on their annual migration northward to the Arctic Circle, where they spend the summer starting their own new families.

I usually return home in early Spring, to the Wallaceburg area to track through the same fields that my father and I did,, but this year's unusually cold and snowy weather seemed to be against me doing so. This year my wife and I went to the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area in Elgin County.


Our visit there was spectacular as we got to see over 2000 Tundra's resting and eating before their long trek north. The viewing stations located at the Wildlife Area provided an excellent opportunity to not only see the birds in the their natural environment but  to photograph them as well, which just happens to be another hobby of ours. I have attached a few pictures which we took while in Aylmer. I would highly recommend this Wildlife area to anyone who enjoys birding. Kent County offers many such viewing opportunities as well, which I have had the fortune to enjoy all my life as well.

So in summary, genealogy is not limited to something to read about but also live. Get out there; make, live and document your own memories for yourself and future generations to enjoy and remember.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Municipality of Chatham-Kent (formerly Kent County)

In 1998 the County of Kent and the city of Chatham were amalgamated to form the single-tier Municipality of Chatham–Kent. Chatham-Kent (2011 population 103,671), which is mostly rural is located in Southwestern corner of the Province of Ontario, Canada.
The Municipality of Chatham-Kent currently consists of the communities of Appledore, Arkwood, Bagnall, Baldoon, Bates Subdivision, Bearline, Beechwood, Blenheim, Botany, Bothwell, Bothwell Station, Bradley, Briarwood Estates, Cedar Springs, Charing Cross, Chatham, Clearville, Coatsworth, Croton, Darrell, Dawn Mills, Dealtown, Dover Centre, Doyles, Dresden, Duart, Eatonville, Eberts, Electric, Erie Beach, Erieau, Fargo Station, Fletcher, Florence, Glenwood, Grande Pointe, Guilds, Highgate, Holiday Harbour, Huffman Corners, Jeannette, Jeannette's Creek, Kent Bridge, Kent Centre, Lake Morningstar, Louisville, McKay's Corners, Merlin, Mitchell's Bay, Morpeth, Muirkirk, Mull, New Scotland, North Buxton, North Thamesville, Northwood, Oldfield, Oungah, Ouvry, Pain Court, Palmyra, Pardoville, Pinehurst, Port Alma, Port Crewe, Prairie Siding, Quinn, Raglan, Renwick, Rhodes, Ridgetown, Ringold, Rondeau, Rondeau Bay Estates, Selton, Shrewsbury, Sleepy Hollow, South Buxton, Stevenson, Stewart, Thamesville, Thornecliffe, Tilbury, Troy, Tupperville, Turin, Turnerville, Valetta, Van Horne, Vosburg, Wabash, Wallaceburg, Wheatley, Whitebread and Wilson's Bush.
At 2,458 square kilometres, Chatham-Kent is the 12th largest municipality by area in Canada and the largest in southwestern Ontario. Over 42,000 of the 107,000 residents live in the former City of Chatham. Other population centres in the municipality include Wallaceburg, Blenheim and Tilbury, Ridgetown and Dresden.
The Lower Thames River runs through Chatham–Kent to Lake St. Clair in the west, while the Sydenham River flows through Wallaceburg and Dresden. The municipality has approximately 88 kilometres of shoreline along lake Erie and 24 kilometres along lake St. Clair.
The Indian reserve of Bkejwanong (commonly referred to as Walpole Island) borders on Chatham–Kent, whereas the Indian reserve of Moravian 47 is an enclave within the city and is part of the Chatham–Kent census agglomeration and census division.
Description of the flag
The flag of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent consists of municipal crest on a blue background. Here is the story about the municipal symbols:
"With amalgamation on January 1, 1998 of the former 23 municipalities that now make up the Corporation of the Municipality Chatham-Kent, it was necessary for the new municipality to have a crest and a flag. These new symbols were unveiled in a ceremony by the Honourable Hilary M. Weston, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. The Restructuring Order, as passed by the Ontario Provincial Parliament, gave Chatham-Kent its name and its standing as a municipality.

The centrepiece of the crest is that of the White Horse of Kent, which has been positioned at the centre of the shield of the Kent Regiment since its inception in 1792. This same upright and courageous beast was also the centrepiece of the Coat of Arms of the former County of Kent. The White Horse is mounted on the red Maple Leaf, as the maple leaf is the pre-eminent symbol of distinction denoting Canada around the world. Surrounding the Maple Leaf and White Horse of Kent is a navy blue ring with the inscription "Corporation of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent."

Atop the ring is the Crown of Her Majesty the Queen. Surrounding the ring are symbols that depict what Chatham-Kent is. With wheat to the ¾ mark on the ring and two ears of corn at the base, we clearly depict our rich agricultural heritage and future in agriculture. Beneath all of these symbols is a banner with two Latin words inscribed 'Invicta' and 'Progressus.' The Latin word 'Invicta' translates into 'unconquerable' and 'Progressus' means 'progressive' - unconquerable and economically and socially progressive."

Information and photo of the flag thanks to Brian Worrall, Communications Officer, Chief Administrative Office.

The former city of Chatham which began as a naval dockyard in the 1790s, straddles the Thames River. The town was named after the Earl of Chatham, William Pitt (the Elder). It was built as a naval dockyard, a characteristic shared by Chatham, Kent, England. In England, the name Chatham came from the British root ceto and the Old English ham thus meaning a forest settlement. Following the American Revolution and the Gnadenhutten Massacre, a group of Christian Munsee Indians settled in what is now Moraviantown.
In the War of 1812, the Battle of the Thames took place between Moraviantown and Thamesville on October 5, 1813.
During the 19th century, the area was part of the Underground Railroad. As a result, Chatham-Kent is now part of the African-Canadian Heritage Tour. Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site is a museum of the Dawn Settlement, established in 1841 by Josiah Henson near Dresden as refuge for the many slaves who escaped to Canada from the United States. John Brown, the abolitionist, planned his raid on the Harpers Ferry Virginia Arsenal in Chatham and recruited local men to participate in the raid. The small village of North Buxton, part of the African Canadian Heritage Tour, also played an important role in the Underground Railroad. Chatham Kent was a major part of the Underground Railroad and as such hosts the Buxton Homecoming each September. This celebrates the areas black culture and the roots laid by early black settlers in the Buxton area.
Kent County consisted of the townships of Camden, Chatham, Dover, Harwich, Howard, Orford, Raleigh, Romney, Tilbury East and Zone. In some of Canada's earliest post-Confederation censuses, some residences in Kent County were incorrectly reported as being in Bothwell "County", which was a separate electoral district comprising parts of Kent and Lambton counties but not a distinct county in its own right.

The above information was found in Wikipedia:

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Great Escape Stalag Luft III, Sagan March 24/25th, 1944 - 70th Anniversary

Chatham native, Wally Floody, played a pivotal role in the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the famous escape of Allied Airmen from the German POW camp known as Stalag Luft III. The camp was the vast POW camp for Allied Airmen cut out of a thick forest in Upper Silesia, then in the East of Germany, now located in Poland. 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Berlin. The site was selected because it would be difficult to escape by tunneling. The camp is best known for two famous prisoner escapes that took place there by tunneling, which were depicted in the films The Great Escape (1963) and The Wooden Horse (1950), and the books by former prisoners Paul Brickhill and Eric Williams from which these films were adapted.

The prison camp had a number of design features that made escape extremely difficult. The digging of escape tunnels, in particular, was discouraged by several factors. First, the barracks housing the prisoners were raised approximately 60 cm. off the ground to make it easier for guards to detect any tunneling activity. Second, the camp itself had been constructed on land that had a very sandy subsoil. The sand was bright yellow, so it could easily be detected if anyone dumped it on the surface (which consisted of grey dust), or even just had some of it on their clothing. In addition, the loose, collapsible sand meant the structural integrity of a tunnel would be very poor. A third defence against tunneling was the placement of seismograph microphones around the perimeter of the camp, which were expected to detect any sounds of digging just below the surface.

Building the tunnel involved digging nine metres down through stove shafts in barracks, using bedboards to shore it up and prisoners hiding excavated sand in their pants to discreetly spread around the compound.

One snowy night in March 1944 saw the culmination of the efforts of hundreds of POWs – the tunnel they had been preparing for many months was finally ready. That events of that night were to become known as “The Great Escape”: an attempt to break 200 prisoners out in one go.

Clarke Wallace “Wally” Chant Floody (the Tunnel King):

Wally, a Flight Lieutenant OBE (April 28, 1918 – September 25, 1989) was instrumental in organizing and implementing the "Great Escape" from the German Stalag Luft III (POW) camp.

He was born in Chatham, Ontario, and attended Northern Vocational School. In 1936 he headed north to work at the Preston East Dome Mines in Timmins, Ontario, as a mucker—shovelling the rock and mud into carts to be hauled up to the surface.

At the onset of the war, Floody was working on a ranch in Alberta when he decided to return home to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). He financed his trip back east by shovelling coal into the boiler of the locomotive for the entire trip back to Toronto. After learning that the RCAF was not quite ready for the huge influx of personnel, Wally and Betty married on May 24, 1940, and moved to Kirkland Lake, where Wally could go back to work in the mines.

Operating from RAF Biggin Hill in England, his Spitfire was shot down in October 1941 over Saint=Omer, France, where he was met by two German soldiers. He was imprisoned at the POW camp Stalag Luft III at Sagan (now Zagan, Polan). There he joined an organization named the X-Organization, the head of the organization named Roger Bushell, or Big-X put Wally in charge of digging tunnels and their camouflage, for the upcoming escape attempts by Commonwealth and European prisoners.

However, in March 1944, the German guards, always suspicious of escapes, caught the telltale sign of sand being dropped by one of the 'penguins' out the bottom of his pant legs and immediately rounded up Wally and 19 others and transferred them to another camp in Belaria.

The escape of 76 men went ahead on the moonless night of March 24, 1944. Eventually the Germans caught all but three prisoners, and to make an example of them to all the other prisoners, Hitler ordered the execution of 50 of the recaptured Allied officers under the excuse that they were shot while attempting escape. At the end of the war Floody gave evidence about conditions in POW camps at the Nuremberg Trials.

On September 22, 1946, two days after Betty's and Wally's first son Brian was born, they received news that Wally had been awarded the honour Officer of the Order of th British Empire by King George VI; the citation reading, in part,

“Flight Lieutenant (F/L) Floody made a thorough study of tunnelling work and devised many different methods & techniques. He became one of the leading organizers and indefatigable workers in the tunnels themselves. Besides being arduous, his work was frequently dangerous....F/L Floody was buried under heavy falls of sand.....but, despite all dangers and difficulties, F/L Floody persisted, showing a marked degree of courage and devotion to duty.”

Returning to civilian life he became a businessman and co-founder of the Royal Canadian Air Force Prisoners of War Association. He died on September 25, 1989 from chronic lung isease.
In 1963 Wally was hired as the Technical advisor for John Sturges's Motion Picture version of Paul Brickhill's Novel "The Great Escape". He returned to Germany where he worked full time for a whole year making sure the film was authentic to the actual escape.

Wally Floody is seen walking with Steve McQueen, while working on the film “The Great Escape” as a technical advisor to the film.

Wally Floody is seen chatting with James Coburn Charles Bronson on the movie set of The Great Escape, built near Munich, in 1962.
Photo courtesy Cathernie Heron, sister of the late Wally Floody.