The Last Will and Testament of John Hodgkinson, Sr.

I am positively giddy with excitement over here, after a huge breakthrough with my Hodgkinson research! Over the past several months, I’ve been researching and blogging about the family of my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Hodgkinson (c. 1750–1832), a United Empire Loyalist who served with Butler’s Rangers and settled in Grantham Township, Upper Canada (present-day Ontario). I summarized known data on his family here, and discovered a baptismal record for Ellender Hodgkinson, a daughter whom I’ve not seen mentioned in any online Hodgkinson trees to date. I discussed some theories about the family’s origins here, and warmed up to the hypothesis that John, William, and Mary Hodgkinson might all be children of John and Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England, although further evidence is needed in order to be confident in that assertion. I began searching for records relating to Ellender’s godmother, Mary Hodgkinson, and discovered evidence that she was married in New York in 1772 to Ralph Miller/Meller, a Loyalist who served in Jessup’s Rangers, and settled with him in Dunham, Quebec. I suspected that Mary was a sister to John and William Hodgkinson, but had no evidence to prove that.

Until now.

I’ve been doing further searches in indexed databases on Ancestry to turn up additional records for Mary (Hodgkinson) Miller/Meller. The other day, a search result came up that left me speechless (which is hard to do). It’s shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Ancestry search result for Mary Miller in the database, “Vermont, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1749–1999.” Click image to view larger.

Mary Miller—Mary Hodgkinson Miller—was named as the daughter of John Hodgkinson in a probate file from Vermont, with John and William Hodgkinson both named as sons, and Samuel Hodgkinson named as a grandson?! No. Freaking. Way. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather!

I, and many other Hodgkinson researchers, have been looking for traces of this family in historical records for decades. How could this document have remained hidden until now? Clicking over to the “Source” tab indicates that this database was copyrighted by Ancestry relatively recently, in 2015. Nonetheless, for more than six years, despite all my countless searches for John Hodgkinson and William Hodgkinson, employing every search technique in the book, this document failed to turn up. Prior to 2015, one would have had to search those probate records the old-fashioned way, browsing through microfilm from the Family History Library, and I can certainly excuse previous generations of researchers for not guessing that the Hodgkinsons were originally from Vermont! Who knew, or who would have suspected, especially in light of the red-herring evidence that caused many to believe they were from Burlington, New Jersey? Maybe we’re all victims of tunnel vision. As I’ve said before, what we see depends on where we look.

At the end of the day, it was only by searching for Mary Miller that the curtain parted and the document was exposed. Mary Miller—a name which you’d think would be so much more common, that it would produce all kinds of irrelevant search hits and very few relevant ones. I’m still scratching my head to know how the search algorithms could’ve missed this one. “Hodgkinson” isn’t even misspelled here! How did this record not turn up before now?

In any case, here it is, so let’s dig in!

Clicking the document shown in the Ancestry search result takes you to a page in the middle of the will (where Mary Miller was mentioned), so I had to scroll back a few pages in order to begin at the beginning. The whole thing consists of four images, chock-full of rich genealogical detail. These pages must have been recopied at some point, because the dates in the various records appear out of sequence relative to the original page numbers. That’s a shame, because having original signatures would have been the icing on the cake, but I’ll take what I can get, and I’ll discuss the pages in chronological order.

The will itself starts on pages 191–192, shown in Figure 2a, and continues on pages 193–194 (Figure 2b).1

Figure 2a: First two pages of the will of John Hodgkinson, Sr. Click to view larger.
Figure 2b: Continuation of the will of John Hodgkinson, Sr. Click image to view larger.

The transcription is as follows, retaining original capitalization, spelling, and punctuation, but converting all the instances of the old “long s’” into standard modern forms.

“In the Name of God Amen. I, John Hogkinson of Pownall and State of Vermont, Yeoman, being very weak in body, but of perfect mind and memory, Thanks be given to God, calling to mind the Mortality of my Body, and knowing that is appointed to all Men once to Die: Do make and ordain this, my last Will and Testament; That is to say,

Principally and first of all, I give and recommend my Soul into the hand of Almighty God that gave it, and my Body I recommend to the Earth to be buried in a decent, Christian Burial, at the discretion of my Executors herein after mentioned, nothing doubting but at the general Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty Power of God. And as touching such worldly Estate wherewith it hath Pleased God to Bless me with in this world. I give, demise, and dispose of the same in the following manner and form.

First, I give and Bequeath unto Mary, my dearly and well beloved Wife the Houseroom in my dwelling House with a Sufficient Garden Spot to raise necessary Garden Fruit for her:

Also,

p. 192

Also, seven pounds, ten shillings Lawful Money to be raised out of my Estate and paid to her Yearly in Grain or such other necessaries as she may stand in need of for her natural subsistence. Also the keeping of a Cow, Winter and Summer (if she has one to keep): Also her firewood to be drawn to her door, all which shall be done out of my Estate during the time she remains my Widow: Also I give to my well beloved Wife, one certain Grey Mare that is called here Mare, and all the Household Goods she brought with her when she came to me to dispose of at her own Will and Pleasure, all which I give to my said Wife in lieu of her Right of Dower.

Also I give to my well beloved Son, John Hodgkison Junior, that part of my Homestead Farm lying in Pownall aforesaid that lies west of the Brook that Runs thro. The Farm (if he can be at Liberty to come and Freely enjoy the same) and if the circumstances of my s. [said?] son John Hodgkisson should be such that he can never enjoy the same by any means whatsoever, then I give it to my well beloved GrandSon Samuel Hodgkisson.

Also I give unto my Well beloved Son William Hodgkisson all that part of my said Homestead lying Eastwardly of the S. Brook (if he can come and freely enjoy the same himself). But if neither of my two Sons abovesaid can come and enjoy The Lands or Estate above given or bequeathed to them, or either of them, and the other Son above dis???? [?] cannot come to enjoy his part: then I give the whole of my Homestead Farm to that Son that can enjoy the same: My true intent and meaning is, that ^if either of my two sons cannot enjoy The Farm as aforesaid or otherwise they Choose not to Live upon it, that it be sold, and each one of them or either of them so ??? [choosing?] not to live upon it to have his equal part of what it shall sell for: And that part of the Farm lying westward of the Brook be made equal as to the improvement with the East Side of The Farm.

                                                                                                         And

p. 193

               And if either of my two Sons or both of them can never enjoy my said Homestead Farm as hath been before described by any circumstances whatever, by Death or otherwise; then I give the same to my well beloved Grand-Son Samuel Hodgkisson to be delivered to him when he arrives to the full age of Twenty One Years, and the Profits arising from the Rents and Profits of my said Homestead Farm to be equally divided between all my Grand-Children both Male and Female.

               Also I give to my well beloved Daughter, Dorothy Deal, three pounds fifteen shillings Lawful Money, to be raised out of my personal Estate, and paid to her by my said Executors herein after Mentioned.

               Also I give to my well beloved Daughter, Ann McKenna, seven pounds, ten shillings L[awful] Money to be raised out of my Personal Estate, and to be paid to her by my said Executors.

               Also I give to my well beloved Grand Son Thomas Miller three pounds, ten shillings Lawful Money to be raised out of my Personal Estate and paid to him, or his Lawful Guardian, by my said Executors.

               Also I give to my aforesaid GrandSon, Samuel Hodkgisson, that certain Lot or Farm of Land Lying in Bennington containing Fifty Acres of Land that I purchased of Col. Samuel Robinson to be delivered to him by my said Executors or their Successors in Administratorship, when he arrives to the age of Twenty one Years; and the Profits arising from T. Farm, until that time is expired, after paying the Legacy to my said Wife and other Necessary Charges, to be equally divided between my said Grand Children.

                                                                                                         Also

p. 194

Also I give unto my beloved Wife, one certain two year old Heifer, and to her Daughter Ann, GrandDaughter Gardner, a certain Yearling Heifer and keeping for it, on my said Farm until it becomes a Cow (if it Lives).

Also I give to my aforesaid Sons, John and William Hodgkinson, the use of all my moveable effects that hath not herein before been disposed of, after my just Debts and Funeral Charges be paid, until my aforesaid GrandSon Samuel Hodgkisson comes to the age of Twenty one Years with their paying unto my well beloved Daughters, Mary Miller and Martha Pember, five shillings each, and when the term aforesaid is expired, to pay the value of these moveables to be divided equally amongst all my Grand Children.

Likewise, I make, Ordain and Constitute David Goff and Basteyon [sic] Deal, both of Pownall aforesaid the Sole Executors jointly and severally of this my last Will and Testament, and I do hereby utterly disavow, revoke, and disannul all every other former Testament, Legacies, Bequests, and Executors by me in any wise named Willed and bequeathed. Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last Will and Testament.

               In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and Seal this nineteenth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty Two. [signed] John Hodgkinson

Signed, Sealed, Published, Pronounced, and declared by the said John Hodgkinson as his Last Will and Testament In presence of us, who in his presence, and in the presence of each other, have hereunto Subscribed our names

[signed] Paul Gardner

              Abraham Bowdish

              Joseph Briggs”

John Hodgkinson of Pownall, Vermont

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Hodgkinson family described in this will is the same family as the Loyalist Hodgkinsons. This will offers evidence that the father, John Hodgkinson Sr., also immigrated, and this fact alone is significant, because I’ve never seen it asserted or referenced in any other Hodgkinson resource. Moreover, the fact that the father’s name was John is consistent with the hypothesis that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons were children of John and Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson of Mansfield. We have no idea how long John Sr. lived in Vermont, and this document alone offers no indication that John was born in Colonial America. So, this piece of evidence does not necessarily contradict the existing hypothesis that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons were born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.

According to this document, we have John Hodgkinson, Sr., making his last will and testament in Pownal, in the State of Vermont, on 19 August 1782, during the final year of the American Revolutionary War, which would end with the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783. Pownal is a small town situated about 27 miles southeast of Schaghticoke, where Samuel and Ellender Hodgkinson were baptized in 1776 and 1778, respectively (Figure 3). The “State of Vermont” mentioned in the will is not a U.S. state, but rather a reference to the Vermont Republic, which was an independent state that existed from 1777–1791.2 Prior to that, between 1764 and 1777, “Vermont” did not exist: the land west of the Connecticut River was declared by King George III to belong to New York, while New Hampshire lay to the east of that river.3 So, if John settled in Pownal prior to 1777, and his children were living in the vicinity of Albany, then they all would have been residents of the Province of New York.

While I know nothing about John (Sr.)’s personal politics, all of his children discovered to date were Loyalists, so John Sr. may have been one as well. Were they all living in Schaghticoke originally, and then John Sr. moved to the independent State of Vermont after the British lost at Saratoga, while his sons continued to serve with Butler’s Rangers until they disbanded in 1784? Certainly it would not have been possible for him to continue living in New York State as a known Loyalist after the New York Act of Attainder, or Confiscation Act, was passed on 22 October 1779.4 This Act identified 59 prominent Loyalists by name, confiscated their land and personal property, banished them from the state, and gave them death sentences, without benefit of clergy, should they ever be found within the State of New York. It made further provisions for indicting additional Loyalists—such as the Hodgkinsons—besides those 59 named individually. John Sr.’s death in 1784 came seven years before Vermont was admitted to the union as the fourteenth of the United States, yet perhaps it was uncertainty over Vermont’s future that led John to word his bequest of his land to his sons so carefully, declaring that each son would inherit his portion of the farm, “if he can be at Liberty to come and Freely enjoy the same.

Figure 3: Map showing locations of Schaghticoke, New York, where John Hodgkinson (Jr.)’s oldest children were baptized, and Pownal, Vermont, where John Hodgkinson (Sr.) wrote his last will. Image courtesy of Google Maps; click to view larger.

His Dearly Beloved Wife, Mary

John’s wife was named as Mary in this document, not Sarah, but she appears to have been a second wife. This hypothesis is supported by the statement, “I give unto my beloved Wife, one certain two year old Heifer, and to her [emphasis mine] Daughter Ann Gardner, a certain Yearling Heifer…” This suggests that Ann Gardner was Mary’s daughter by a previous spouse. It’s unclear whether Gardner was Ann’s maiden name, or her married surname. If the former, then it would also have been Mary’s surname from her first husband. I’ll have to look for a death record for Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson in records from Vermont or Mansfield (England), as well as a marriage record for John and Mary in Vermont. One of the witnesses to the will, Paul Gardner, is likely to be another relative, and research into this family is also on my to-do list.

The current value of the money that John bequeathed to Mary—seven pounds, ten shillings, paid annually—is estimated at £645.78 using the currency calculator here, but the estimate ranges from £898.60 to £87,520.00 using the more nuanced currency value calculators at MeasuringWorth. This was not all that he left her, however, since there was also the matter of the houseroom, the garden, the “keeping of a Cow, Winter and Summer (if she has one to keep),” the firewood brought to her door, and the gray mare “that is called here Mare.” (My ancestors were perhaps not the most creative folk in naming their livestock, but I find this phrasing charming nonetheless!) Later in the will, he also bequeathed to her a two-year-old heifer—so she clearly does have a cow—and all the household goods that she brought with her into their marriage.

His Sons, John Jr. and William, and Grandson Samuel

John Hodgkinson bequeathed his farm to his sons, John Jr. and William, with John getting the western half of the farm and William receiving the eastern half, based on the location of a brook that divided the farm. The phrasing in the will suggests that John Sr. truly hoped that one or the other of his sons might be able to use and enjoy the farm, which was undoubtedly the fruit of much of John Sr.’s labor. On reading this, my first thought was that I need to find land records to locate this farm in Pownal and view the title history, to see who eventually owned it. Both John Jr. and William ended up in Grantham Township on the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, as did John Jr.’s son, Samuel, so it may be that all the heirs to the farm elected to sell it. Samuel Hodgkinson would have been six years old at the time his grandfather wrote his will in 1782, and when he turned twenty-one, he was to receive an additional 50 acres of land in Bennington.

His Daughters, Mary, Martha, Dorothy, and Ann

Although the bequests and descriptions of John’s assets are fascinating, what’s really jaw-dropping about this document is the list of previously-unknown daughters. The will names his daughters as Dorothy Deal, Ann McKenna, Mary Miller, and Martha Pember, and identifies Thomas Miller as another grandson. This information provides further confirmation that the Hodgkinson family described in this document is the same as the Loyalist Hodgkinsons of Grantham. The records of St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake show that, on 14 May 1815, a number of children of William and Mary (Jones) Hodgkinson were baptized, including “William, Thomas, Dorothy, John Pember, Rockaway, Martha, Eleazer Alexr [sic], and George.”5 It seems obvious now that William’s daughters, Dorothy and Martha, were named after his sisters, Dorothy (Hodgkinson) Deal and Martha (Hodgkinson) Pember, and that his son John Pember’s middle name was inspired by Martha’s married surname. All of this is fertile ground for growing the Hodgkinson family tree. The executors, David Goff and Basteyon Deal, are also worthy research subjects, as are Abraham Bowdish and Joseph Briggs, who were the other witnesses to the will in addition to Paul Gardner. In particular, “Basteyon” (Sebastian?) Deal is most probably a relative by marriage of Dorothy (Hodgkinson) Deal.

The Plot Thickens

Immediately following the last page of the will (page 194), there is a pair of entries on page 195 in the court records, shown in Figure 3.6

Figure 3: Decisions and Orders of Judge Jonas Fay, Bennington Probate Court, 7 April 1783 (top), and 24 March 1785 (bottom). Click to view larger.

These decisions and orders by Judge Jonas Fay, Judge of Probate Court, are transcribed as follows:

“195

At the Probate Court holden in in Bennington in the Probate District of Bennington on the 7th day of April AD. 1783 by Virtue of a Legal Citatation [sic], Personally appeared the within named Mary Hodgkinson, and alledged [sic] that the within Will does not make such Provision for her, as the Law in such Cases Allows, and therefore pray, the Court to disapprove the same, the several persons named in the Citation being present and having nothing to offer (in the opinion of the Court) sufficient to approve the Will, the Court does therefore disapprove thereof, that Administration to be taken out, and that the same be Recorded.  [Signed] Jonas Fay Judge Probt.

At a Probate Court holden at Bennington in the Probate District of Bennington on the 24th day of March AD. 1785 Mary Hodgkinson Widow of the within Testator being personally present, and relinquishing her former objection to Probating the within Will, and John Hodgkinson one of the Legatees named in said Will being Likewise present in behalf of himself, and Peter McKenna, Adam Deal, Ralph Miller, William Hodgkinson and Philip Pember as appears by writing under their ^names and Seals, and Registered in this office, and praying in their several capacities that the within Will may be Probated, the same is hereby approved and allowed. By Jonas Fay, Judg. Probt.”

So, John wrote his will on 17 August 1782, and on 7 April 1783, while her husband was still alive, Mary Hodgkinson petitioned the court to disapprove of the will. But then, after John was deceased, she turned around and relinquished her objection to probating the will on 24 March 1785. I’m still trying to figure out what to make of that situation, and determine the implications. I might be able to gain some insight through deeper investigation of these probate records, as there are other entries in this same probate book that are relevant (i.e. page 190). However, I won’t make a long blog post even longer by discussing them today.

What’s exciting about these two decisions and orders by Judge Fay, though, is that John Hodgkinson’s sons-in-law are identified by name. Now we know that Dorothy (Hodgkinson) Deal was married to Adam Deal, Ann (Hodgkinson) McKenna was married to Peter McKenna, and Martha (Hodgkinson) Pember was married to Phillip Pember—information which will facilitate research into these families.

Coming full circle now, back to Mary (Hodgkinson) Miller, one final question occurred to me. If she was married to Ralph Miller in 1772, and this same Mary was godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson in 1778, then she should have been recorded in the baptismal record as Mary Miller, not Mary Hodgkinson. So might the godmother have been the other Mary Hodgkinson, John Sr.’s second wife. and Ellender’s stepgrandmother? Maybe so. Nonetheless, a precedent exists for referring to Mary Miller by her maiden name after her marriage, in that she was recorded as “Mary Hotchkisson, widow of the late Ralph Miller of Dunham” in her death record.7 So, it’s still possible that the intended Mary Hodgkinson was Ellender’s aunt, and the truth of the matter may be lost in the mists of time. However, when it comes to knowing the truth about the origins of the Loyalist Hodgkinson family, the mists of time were just blown away by the discovery of John Hodgkinson’s will.

I’m blown away, too.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Selected Sources:

1 “Vermont, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 14 January 2022), John Hodgkinson, Last Will and Testament, 19 Aug 1782, probated 15 June 1784, Bennington, Vermont; citing Vermont Probate Court (Bennington District), Probate Records, Vol 1-5, 1778-1812, Vol. 1, pp 191-194. The featured image for this blog post is a detail from p 191.

2 “Vermont Republic,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermont_v._New_Hampshire : 14 January 2022).

3 “Vermont v. New Hampshire,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermont_v._New_Hampshire : 14 January 2022).

4 “The New York Act of Attainder, or Confiscation Act,” Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (https://archives.gnb.ca/exhibits/forthavoc/html/NY-Attainder.aspx?culture=en-CA : 14 January 2022).

5 Ontario Genealogical Society Niagara Peninsula Branch, Paul Hutchinson, editor, St. Marks’ Anglican Church Baptisms, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1792–1856 (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1998), p 22, “14 May 1815, All (the following) were baptized at the 12-mile creek on the same day…William HODGKINSON, Thomas/Dorothy/John Pember/Rockaway/Martha/Eleazer Alexr/George }of William and Mary”.

6 Vermont Probate Court (Bennington District), Vol. 1, 1778–1792, p 195, Decision and Order of Judge Jonas Fay, 7 April 1783; Decision and Order of Judge Jonas Fay, 24 March 1785, imaged in “Vermont, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 14 January 2022), path: Bennington > Probate Records, Vol 1-5, 1778-1812 > image 107 of 909.

7 “Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968,” database and images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 14 January 2022), burial record for Mary Hotchkisson, died 15 June 1832; citing records of the Anglican Church, Holy Trinity, in Frelighsburg from Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection; Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp.

Whatever Happened to Mary Hodgkinson?

Recently, I wrote about some new discoveries into the history of my Hodgkinson ancestors—Loyalists who settled in Grantham Township, Upper Canada, after the American Revolutionary War. Both John Hodgkinson and his brother, William, were privates in Butler’s Rangers, and there is ample evidence for both of them in historical records from Upper Canada (what is now Ontario). However, the Hodgkinson brothers are commonly reported to have a sister, Mary, based on baptismal records from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England, who is absent from the narrative in Upper Canada. Some believe that Mary never emigrated, pointing to a marriage record for Mary Hodgkinson to Samuel Holehouse in Mansfield in 1774.1 However, this marriage record does not include parents’ names, so further evidence is needed before concluding that this is the same Mary Hodgkinson who was the sister of the Loyalist Hodgkinsons.

Even if Mary never emigrated, that mystery godmother remains, Mary “Huskinson,” godmother to Ellender “Huskinson,” daughter of John “Huskinson” and Mary “More.”2 If you believe, as I do, that the family described here is likely to be the family of John Hodgkinson of Grantham, then we have evidence of some female relative named Mary who was named as godmother in 1778. Does her role as godmother necessitate her physical presence at the baptism in Schaghticoke, New York? That’s unclear. While it’s possible in some faiths and circumstances to have proxy godparents, who stand in when the godparents are unable to be present at the baptism, I have no idea what rules might apply to an 18th-century Dutch Reformed baptism of the child of an Anglican father and a mother whose religious faith is unknown. But if we admit the possibility that Mary Hodgkinson was present at the baptism of Ellender Hodgkinson, and if we agree that she was almost certainly a relative and quite probably a sister, then it begs the question: what happened to Mary Hodgkinson, and why did she not end up in Grantham with her brothers?

The Search for Mary Begins

If Mary Hodgkinson was personally present at the baptism of Ellender in 1778, then there should be some evidence of her existence in historical documents from New York. A quick search of indexed records at Ancestry produced a marriage record from the “New York, Marriage Index, 1600–1784,” for Mary “Hodkisson” and Ralph Mellor on 29 January 1772 (Figure 1).3

Figure 1: Index entry for marriage record of Mary Hodkisson and Ralph Mellor from Ancestry.

Clicking over from the “Detail” to the “Source” page provides additional information about the original records from the New York State Archives from which the index information was taken, and includes a caveat that they “are limited in availability and additional informational value” due to the New York State Capitol fire of 1911 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Source information from Ancestry regarding original records used in the creation of their “New York, U.S., Marriage Index, 1600–1784” database.

Hope dies last, so I emailed the New York State Archives anyway, just to see if there was any chance for more information. Their reply stated,

“Thank you for contacting the New York State Archives with your inquiry. I’ve checked A1893, marriage bonds executed by persons obtaining marriage licenses, and the corresponding book regarding these documents, New York Marriage Bonds (947.7 S427n) but neither the name Mary Hodkisson or Ralph Mellor were found. Both this series and the book are about those documents that did survive the 1911 Albany fire, but it appears this marriage record did not. I would suggest you check the local newspaper at the time or a local church for an announcement of this marriage. This may be the only record you will find now.” 4

Finding a newspaper announcement of the marriage is a long shot, given the extremely limited number of newspapers that were in publication in New York in January 1772. A church record might be found in time; although this record does not state precisely where in New York the couple was married, we can perhaps assume that it was in the vicinity of Schaghticoke, since that’s where Ellender Hodgkinson was baptized in 1778. (A marriage record for Ralph and Mary is not found in that same collection of Dutch Reformed Church records which contained Ellender’s baptismal record, because that would be too easy.) Even in the absence of any detailed information, this marriage record is still an important discovery, because it offers further evidence for the existence of a Mary Hodkisson/Hodgkinson/Huskinson living in Colonial New York, and it provides her married name.

A further search at Ancestry turned up a death record for Mary “Hotchkisson” Miller from the Drouin Collection (Figure 3).5

Figure 3: Death record for Mary Hotchkisson Miller (blocked in red) from Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Frelighsburg, Quebec.

The record states,

“Mary Hotchkisson, widow of the late Ralph Miller of Dunham, deceased in the eighty fourth year of her age, died on the fifteenth day of June one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, and was buried on the seventeenth day of the same, in the presence of the subscribing witnesses by, James Reid, Min’r [Minister], [Witnesses] Robert Aitken, John Pickering.”

Mary’s age at the time of her death—84 years—suggests a birth year of 1748. For reference, Mary Hodgkinson, daughter of John and Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was baptized on 6 April 1755. Now, it could be that her age at the time of death was reported inaccurately, and it’s also possible that the Hodgkinsons were a bit lax in baptizing their children promptly. In fact, this discrepancy between Mary’s suggested year of birth and her documented date of baptism fits the pattern I noted previously with John and William Hodgkinson, since existing data for John indicate that he was born in 1750 but baptized in 1753, and that William was born in 1751, but baptized in 1759. If you think it’s also possible that I’m way off base, and these aren’t necessarily the same family at all, I don’t blame you, because I’m not convinced yet, either.

But wait, there’s more.

A search at Find A Grave produced memorials for both Ralph Miller/Mellor/Meller and Mary (Hotchkisson/Hodkisson/Hodgkinson) Meller. They were laid to rest in Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery in Frelighsburg, Quebec. Ralph’s memorial indicates that he died 8 March 1822 at the age of 81 years, suggesting a birth circa 1741.6 Mary’s memorial states that she died 12 June 1832 at the age of 83 years, which is sufficiently consistent with the death record from Holy Trinity Anglican Church as to leave no doubt that these records pertain to the same person.7 What’s interesting is that, in that same cemetery, one John Pickering was also laid to rest.8 You may recall that name because John Pickering was a witness to the death of Mary Hodgkinson Miller—he was a member of the Hodgkinsons’ FAN club (Friends, Associates and Neighbors). The memorial states that John was born 29 March 1797 and that he died on 6 May 1844, which makes this John Pickering of an appropriate age to be the same John Pickering mentioned in that burial record. Moreover, the memorial includes a photo of his grave marker, which states specifically that John Pickering was born in Collingham, Nottinghamshire, England, and that he died in Dunham—the same village in Quebec mentioned in the death record as the home of the Miller family. The village of Collingham is only 25 miles from the town of Mansfield, where the Hodgkinsons were said to originate, lending credence to the hypothesis that Mary Hodgkinson Miller was also from Nottinghamshire.

Ralph Miller, Loyalist

So who was Mary Hodgkinson’s husband, Ralph Miller? A little digging into historical records suggests that he, too, was a Loyalist, which tracks well with the the Hodgkinson family tradition. A search in the database, “Land Petitions of Lower Canada, 1764–1841,” turned up land petition no. 346, “Alex. Taylor and many other Loyalists, praying for land,” which was filed about 1783 (Figure 4).9

Figure 4: Detail from Lower Canada Land Papers showing petition 346, filed by Alex. Taylor “and many other Loyalists.”

The petition includes a list of claimants’ names, their present place of abode, the Loyalist corps in which they served, and their time of residence (i.e. date of arrival) in Canada. Ralph Miller is included in this list (Figure 5).10

Figure 5: Ralph Miller in Lower Canada Land Petitions, no. 346, filed jointly by Alex. Taylor “and many other Loyalists.”

Circa 1783, when the petition was filed, Ralph Miller was noted to be living in “Caldwells M.,” which is a reference to Caldwell Manor, an early Loyalist settlement located in present-day Noyan, Quebec.11 The notation regarding his immigration to Canada states that he arrived in 1780, and was “now in Canada.” The document also states that he served “in Jessop’s Corps S. R.” It’s unclear to me what the “S.R.” stands for, but Edward Jessup’s Rangers were a Loyalist militia unit that functioned from 12 November 1781 until 24 December 1783.12 The corps was created from the remnants of smaller military formations, including the King’s Loyal Americans—a militia group led by Edward and his brother, Ebenezer, which took part in the battles of Saratoga in 1777.

Next Steps

I think at this point, we have some idea of what became of Mary Hodgkinson, godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson in 1778. She was married to Ralph Miller/Meller in New York, probably in the vicinity of Schaghticoke, in 1772, and was likely still living in that area at the start of the Revolutionary War. Her husband may have joined Edward Jessup as early as 1777, and been one of the participants in the Battles of Saratoga, but by 1780, the Mellers were living in Quebec. Ralph and Mary lived in Dunham, where he died in 1822, and she passed ten years later, in 1832. Both are buried in Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery in Frelighsburg, Quebec.

Additional research can still be done to discover more about their family. A quick search for other Meller graves in the same cemetery reveals a grave for a probable son, also named Ralph Meller, who died in 1871 at the age of 84 years, as well as a grave for his wife, Sarah (VanAntwerp) Meller.13 Broadening the search to Meller graves in the Monteregie Region of Quebec, where Frelighsburg is located, produces additional graves of probable relatives, and census records, vital records, and other genealogical documents can be used to help sort out the relationships. However, further evidence is still needed before we can be comfortable with the assertion that Mary Hodgkinson Meller was the sister of John Hodgkinson, U.E., and William Hodgkinson, U.E.

That said, I think I’m onto something, here. Stay tuned!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Sources:

1 “England and Wales Marriages, 1538–1988,” database, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 07 January 2022), Mary Hodgkinson and Samuel Holehouse, 14 February 1774, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.

2 “U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989,” database with images, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 07 January 2022), Ellender Huskinson, baptized 23 November 1778; citing Holland Society of New York; New York, New York; Deer Park, Vol II, Book 11. This document is the source of the featured image for this blog post.

3 “New York, U.S., Marriage Index, 1600-1784,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 07 January 2022), Mary Hodkisson and Ralph Mellor, 29 Jan 1772, citing New York State Archives, Names of Persons for whom Marriage Licenses were Issued by the Secretary of the Province of New York, Previous to 1784. State of New York, 1860, Record Number: M. B., Volume: XVIII, OSPage: 23.

4 New York State Archives Researcher Services, Albany, New York, to Julie Szczepankiewicz, e-mail dated 28 October 2021, “RE: Marriage record for Mary Hodkisson and Ralph Mellor.”

5“Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968,” database and images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 07 January 2022), burial record for Mary Hotchkisson, died 15 June 1832; citing records of the Anglican Church, Holy Trinity, in Frelighsburg from Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection; Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp.

6 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258423/ralph-meller : accessed 07 January 2022), memorial page for Ralph Meller (unknown-8 Mar 1822), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258423, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702).

7 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258431/mary-meller : accessed 07 January 2022), memorial page for Mary Meller (unknown-12 Jun 1832), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258431, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702).

8 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119277256/john-pickering : accessed 07 January 2022), memorial page for John Pickering (29 Mar 1797–6 May 1844), Find a Grave Memorial ID 119277256, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Stephen Payne (contributor 47327291) .

9 “Land Petitions of Lower Canada, 1764-1841,” no. 346, Alex. Taylor & many other Loyalists praying for Land, p. 91105; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng : 07 January 2022), item no. 61500, image 10 of 36, citing Lower Canada Land Papers, RG 1 L3L, Vol. 190, pp 90996-91013, Taylor, Alex – Taylor, James.

10 Ibid., p. 91106, line 8, Ralph Miller, image 11 of 36.

11 “Caldwell Manor Plaque,” United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada (https://uelac.ca/monuments/caldwell-manor-plaque// : 07 January 2022).

12 R. Arthur Bowler, “JESSUP, EDWARD,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, (http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jessup_edward_5E.html : 07 January 2022).

13 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258440/ralph-meller : 07 January 2022), memorial page for Ralph Meller (unknown–16 Aug 1871), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258440, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702); and

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258452/sarah-meller : 07 January 2022), memorial page for Sarah VanAntwerp Meller (unknown–7 Nov 1882), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258452, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702) .

14 1825 census of Canada, Bedford County, Lower Canada, population return, Dunham Sub-District, Vol. 2, page no. 843, Ralph Millar household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://bac-lac.gc.ca/ : 07 January 2022), Item no. 11282, image no. 004569586_00477, citing Reference MG 31 C1, Lower Canada/Canada East census returns, Microfilm C-717.

Should Auld Ancestors Be Forgot: The Year in Review

2021 is on its way out, and we’re about to get a fresh start with 2022. It’s traditional to reflect on the past year and consider our accomplishments, as well as our goals and resolutions for the new year, and this practice seems to be no less relevant to genealogical research. With that in mind, I’ve been taking stock of my genealogical triumphs and tribulations from 2021, and creating some research resolutions for the new year.

Connecting the Dodds

In 2021, I furthered my understanding of the history of my Dodds family. As of 2020, I had traced the family of Robert and Catherine (Grant) Dodds to 1871, when they were living in Yarmouth township in East Elgin, Ontario. I knew the fates of the parents, Robert and Catherine, after 1871, as well as the fates of their oldest three daughters, Hannah, Isabella, and Margaret. I also knew what became of their youngest two children, Martha Agnes (my great-great-grandmother), and Warner Howard. However, three of their sons—Alexander, John H., and Gilbert M.—disappeared from Canadian records after 1871. Thanks to clues gained from DNA matches, I was able to discover a second marriage which produced two children for Alexander Dodds, prior to his death in Buffalo in 1899. I was also able to discover the record for Gilbert’s death in Buffalo in 1898. Furthermore, DNA was instrumental once again in determining that John H. Dodds migrated to Pennsylvania, where he and Gilbert were working as day laborers in 1880. Although Gilbert eventually moved on to Buffalo, where other family members were also living, John remained in Pennsylvania, married Lena Frazier in 1892, and settled in Pike Township (Potter County) to raise a family.

Archival Acquisitions and Album Assembly

In the spring and early summer, researching my roots gave way to other demands on my time as I dealt with the task of cleaning out my parents’ home in preparation for sale. I’ve been slowly working my way through that pile of boxes in my basement, finding new homes for all their books and furnishings with sentimental value. However, I have yet to start scanning all the family photos and documents which I acquired. Similarly, I’m still chipping away at the process of filling my daughter’s baby album—never mind that she graduated from high school in June. I took a break when I realized that, having waited this long, it makes more sense to do the job right by organizing all the materials first, rather than grabbing the first box of photos from the time of her birth and hoping that additional photos from that era don’t turn up in other boxes. I think if I can get all the family photos and documents scanned and organized, with physical copies stored in archival boxes or albums, and digital images edited to include meta data, I will be satisfied. It may take the rest of my life to accomplish that, but it would mean that my kids could inherit a manageable, accessible family history collection.

DNA Discoveries

Autosomal DNA testing has been a consistent theme in my genealogy research in 2021. DNA Painter has allowed me to coordinate my research across test companies through ongoing development of my ancestral chromosome map. Over the summer, I was able to connect for the first time to living descendants of my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, Wojciech Słoński and Marianna Duras. I was thrilled to be able to add them as a new ancestral couple to my chromosome map, bringing the total to 16 ancestral couples from whom I can now verify my genetic descent. Of course, there are still some ancestral lines where DNA has not yet shed any light, due to a small number of “close” (3rd-5th cousin level) DNA matches. This is often because the families were small, with few living descendants, or because those descendants live in countries such as Poland, where DNA testing is relatively uncommon. Lack of available data on living individuals in Poland—for example, from newspaper obituaries, or public records databases such as we have in the U.S.—makes it difficult to identify living individuals for target testing, but perhaps this can be a focus of my research in 2022.

Honing in on the Hodgkinsons

In October, I spent some time researching my Hodgkinson ancestors, a well-researched family of Canadian Loyalists. I was especially excited to discover a baptismal record for Ellender “Huskinson,” whom I believe to be a previously-unknown daughter of John Hodgkinson and his first wife, Mary Moore. I examined a number of hypotheses regarding the origins of the Hodgkinson family, based on assertions made by family trees online, and discovered that these hypotheses ranged from “possibly true,” to “patently false.” I also started some research into the history of Mary Hodgkinson, who was named as godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson, and who was (I believe) a sister to John. I hope to write about this in another blog post early in 2022.

Caus(in) for Celebration

Of course, the biggest discovery of the year for me was the identification of the parents of my great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Magdalene (Causin) Roberts, and their place of origin in Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. This discovery was made through identification of the family’s FANs—specifically, a godmother named Anna Maria Hensy, who was mentioned in the baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ—combined with evidence from family trees of DNA matches who descend from that same godmother, Mary Ann/Anna Maria (Hanses/Hanzi/Heinze) Schneider. Even though my process was not perfect, this breakthrough has had a profound impact on my research. Although I haven’t blogged about all the individuals I’ve been able to add to my tree as a result, I can now state definitively that Mary Magdalene (Causin/Cossin) Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York on 14 August 1832 to Joseph Antoine Cossin (“Gosÿ”) and Marie Agathe Hentzÿ, who were married in the village of Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, on 8 September 1829. Marie Agathe was the daughter of Dionisÿ Hensÿ and Agnes Antony, while Joseph Antoine was the son of Jakob Cossin and Barbara Maker from the nearby village of Seppois-le-Bas (or Niedersept, in German). Figure 1 summarizes the ancestors in my direct line that I’ve been able to add to my tree as a result of this breakthrough.

Figure 1: Pedigree chart for Mary Magdalene (Causin) Roberts suggested by data gathered to date from the records of Pfetterhouse and Seppois-le-Bas. Click the chart to view a larger image. Research is ongoing and some of these conclusions remain tentative, pending discovery of additional evidence.

Everything Else

Rounding out the year, I was able to locate some ancestral signatures in Detroit probate records for my Roberts ancestors, Michael Roberts and Frank M. Roberts. I wrote about the Martin-Opitz-Bibliothek as a source for vital records, particularly for those with ancestors from the Warmia historical region. Finally, I analyzed Ancestry’s newest ethnicity estimates for a family group (mine!) consisting of four children, their parents, and both sets of grandparents. All in all, 2021 presented ample opportunities for me to do what I love to do: research my family tree using all the tools, technologies, and resources I can muster, discover the stories of my ancestors as told in historical documents, and share my findings.

A Look Ahead

As I think about what I’d like to accomplish in the new year, a few research projects stand out, listed below, in no particular order:

  1. I’d like to continue my research into the Hodgkinson family, both in North America and in England, to see if I can convince myself that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons of Grantham, Upper Canada were really born in Mansfield, England.
  2. I’d love to be able to leverage DNA and FAN research to identify the parents of Catherine (Grant) Dodds and their place of origin, in the same way that I was able to answer those questions in the case of Mary Magdalene Causin.
  3. I hope to further my research into the Causin/Cossin and Hentzy/Hensy families in records from Haut-Rhin, Alsace.
  4. On my mom’s side, I’d like to resume the search for the elusive Antonina (Naciążek) Zarzycka, my great-great-grandmother, in the hope of being able to find a birth, marriage or death record for her that would reveal her parents’ names. Failing that, I would like to explore alternative historical sources for evidence of her origins, such as Księgi Ludności Stałej (permanent population registers).
  5. I’d love to utilize that same magic combination of FAN plus DNA research to discover the origins of my Murre/Muri ancestors, who immigrated to Buffalo, New York in 1869 from somewhere in Bavaria.
  6. I’d like to invest more time in learning to decipher German handwriting, and gain proficiency in translating German records, so that I can independently research my German and Alsatian ancestors, as well as my husband’s ancestors who were Poles from the Prussian partition.

This is just a modest sample of my research aspirations. If I ever did manage to succeed in accomplishing each of these goals, I could try to discover the origins in Ireland for my Walsh ancestors, identify the maiden name of Christina Hodgkinson, and plan another trip to Poland for onsite research in the ancestral parish of my Zieliński ancestors. The supply of research questions is endless, as is the fascination that accompanies the search for answers, and the satisfaction when victory is attained. Nonetheless, these six items seem like a good place to start, and I’m itching to get started. So, how about you? What are your genealogical goals, hopes, and dreams for the new year? Whatever they may be, I wish you success, prosperity, and joy in the journey.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

A New Comparison of Ancestry’s Ethnicity Estimates for Three Generations of My Family

Back in March 2019, I wrote about the most recent ethnicity estimates from Ancestry DNA for three generations of my family: myself, my husband, all four of our parents, and our four children. Since this is a rather unique data set, I thought it would be interesting to see what insights such analysis might offer about DNA inheritance, and also about the limitations inherent to these estimates.

Ancestry DNA has updated their ethnicity estimates several times since that first blog post, adding new reference groups and Genetic Communities™ for increased granularity. Last month, they released another update, bringing the total number of Genetic Communities™ to 61 for Poland. So, this seems like a good time to revisit that concept and compare the newest ethnicity estimates for my family members to each other and to those previous estimates, to see how they have changed over time.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, Ancestry’s Genetic Communities™ are the result of Ancestry’s effort to identify more precisely the regions from which each DNA tester’s ancestors originated. They’re assigned automatically, so if Ancestry is able to place you into one of their Communities, they will, without any requirement to opt-in. Ancestry’s algorithm takes into consideration the family trees of clusters of DNA testers who all match each other, and uses the locations mentioned in those family trees to identify birthplaces or migration destinations common to the group. Theoretically, if a majority of the family trees incorrectly identified a place of origin for a group of people, the algorithm might be thrown off, but I suspect that this risk is minimized due to the size of Ancestry’s database.

With this most recent update, Ancestry correctly assigned me to a Genetic Community of those with ancestry from Southeast Poland, and further refined that to Northeastern Lesser Poland (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Map of the region identified as the geographic place of origin for members of the Northeastern Lesser Poland Genetic Community, courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

I’ve traced my Klaus and Liguz ancestors to villages in that region between Szczucin and Mielec, so Ancestry nailed that one. Moreover, they were able to be even more precise with my mother’s estimate, specifying Dąbrowa County as one of her ancestral places of origin (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Map of the region identified as the geographic place of origin for members of the Dąbrowa County Genetic Community, courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

I was also assigned to the Genetic Community of Northeast Poland, indicated by the larger yellow area on the map in Figure 3, with a further assignment to the Łódź Province and Surrounding Area Community.

Figure 3: Map of the region identified as the geographic place of origin for members of the Northeast Poland Genetic Community, (pear-shaped light yellow area), with the region identified as Łódź Province & Surrounding Area defined in dark yellow. Image courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

Zooming in on that map reveals that the “Łódź” area is defined rather broadly, so I’m not surprised that their map encompasses my ancestry from parishes that are in the Mazowieckie province, but are only a few kilometers east of the border with Łódź province. However, I am a little surprised by the extent to which these Genetic Communities overlap, and by the fact that I was not assigned to all of the Genetic Communities that cover a particular geographic area. For example, the geographic region identified as “Łódź Province and Surrounding Area” encompasses my ancestry from parishes in Słupca County, Wielkopolska, nearly 150 km west of Łódź. However, Ancestry has identified other Genetic Communities (e.g. West Central Poland Community, Greater Poland Community, and Central Poland Community) which also cover this region. The map in Figure 4 defines the geographic region identified as the place of origin of those in the definition of the Central Poland Community, so one might expect that someone with roots in Słupca County—located west of Konin and east of Poznań—would be assigned to this community, but that was not the case for me. My mother-in-law was assigned to this area, however, so the map shown in Figure 4 comes from her ethnicity estimate.

Figure 4: Map of the region identified as the geographic place of origin for members of the Central Poland Genetic Community, courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

Of course, these estimates and Genetic Community assignments are still a work in progress, and we have every reason to expect that the accuracy will continue to improve over time. With that in mind, here is the table which compares the ethnicity estimates for my family, consisting of a group of four siblings, their parents, and all four grandparents (Figure 5). For each ethnicity component, the reported value is given in bold, with the range indicated in the line below. Check marks indicate the Genetic Communities that were assigned to each tester. A dash indicates that a person was not assigned to a particular ethnic group or Genetic Community. Ancestry tests for over 1500 ethnicities, but only the ten groups shown were reported in ethnicity estimates for members of my family.

Figure 5: Comparison of Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimates among four siblings, their parents, and grandparents using current data from the November 2021 update. Click on the table to view a larger version.

As with my previous post, it’ll be helpful to discuss the ethnicities in my family based on pedigree. The ancestors of my father-in-law (“Paternal Grandpa” in the chart) were ethnic Poles from the Russian and Prussian partitions as far back as I’ve been able to discover. (A brief discussion of the partitions of Poland and subsequent border changes is found here.) My mother-in-law’s (“Paternal Grandma’s”) ancestors were also ethnic Poles, from the Prussian partition. My mother’s (“Maternal Grandma’s”) family were ethnic Poles from the Russian and Austrian partitions. My father’s (“Maternal Grandpa’s”) ancestry is more mixed. His mother’s family was entirely German, and his father’s family was half German/Alsatian, half English/Irish/Scottish.

Based on those pedigrees, “Paternal Grandpa, “Paternal Grandma,” “Dad,” and “Maternal Grandma” should all be 100% Polish ethnicity, since all of their ancestors were Poles, living in Polish lands, as far back as I have traced thus far. I’m half Polish, since all my ancestors on my Mom’s side were Polish and none of my Dad’s ancestors were, and my kids, then, are 75% Polish.

For comparison, the summary chart for the data from March 2019 is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Original comparison of Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimates among four siblings, their parents, and grandparents based on ethnicity estimate from March 2019. Click on the table to view a larger version.

In comparison with these earlier data, the November 2021 ethnicity estimates for each person have not changed significantly. My father-in-law (“Paternal Grandpa”), for example, was previously reported to be 83% Eastern Europe & Russia,16% Baltic States, and 2% Finland; in this current estimate, 84% of his ethnicity was Eastern Europe & Russia, with 11% Baltic, and 5% Sweden & Denmark. The Baltic and Sweden & Denmark components may or may not be real, since the reported ranges indicate 0% at the low end. It may happen that these components eventually disappear, just as the “Finland” component did, as the ethnicity estimates are continually refined. However, it’s also possible that these components are real, and reflect retained traces of more ancient ancestry. Time will tell.

My father-in-law was also assigned to some Genetic Communities™, specifically, the Northeast Poland community, with additional sub-assignments of Central & Northeast Poland, Central Poland, and Łódź Province and Surrounding Area. Given the degree of overlap between those communities, I think this is, at best, a modest improvement over the simple statement that his ethnicity is Polish, but it’s a step in the right direction, at least.

Figure 7: Ethnicity estimate for my father-in-law (“Paternal Grandpa”), showing extent of geographic overlap among the Genetic Communities™ of Central & Northeast Poland, Central Poland, and Łódź Province & Surrounding Area. Each smaller orange area in the image corresponds to a sub-community within the parent Genetic Community, Northeast Poland. Image courtesy of Ancestry DNA.

Another interesting difference between the 2019 ethnicity estimate and the current estimate is the increase in my Dad’s (“Maternal Grandpa’s”) reported Scottish ethnicity. This is due to Ancestry’s attempt in 2020 to differentiate between the closely-related ethnic groups in the United Kingdom. As explained in this blog post by Barry Starr, Ph.D., Director of Scientific Communications at Ancestry, earlier reference panels included only two groups for this region, an Irish/Celtic/Gaelic group and an Anglo-Saxon/British/English group. In 2020, Ancestry added additional reference panels in an attempt to offer increased granularity, so testers with U.K. ancestry could now be assigned to one or more of four ethnic groups for this region: England & Northwestern Europe, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Unfortunately, this particular change to the algorithm led to inflated estimates of Scottish ancestry for many of us. In 2019, my Dad’s combined “Ireland & Scotland” component represented 4% of his ethnicity (range = 0–5%). For comparison, we can calculate Dad’s ethnicity by pedigree. His most recent Irish ancestor was his great-great-grandfather, Robert Walsh, from whom Dad would have received, on average, 6.25% of his DNA. Another great-great-grandmother, Catherine (Grant) Dodds, was the source of Dad’s Scottish ancestry, but her family’s origins are unclear, as she herself was most likely born in Canada of parents or grandparents who were Scottish immigrants. If we assume that Catherine’s ancestry was purely Scottish, then Dad would be expected to inherit 6.25% Scottish ethnicity from her, for a total of 12.5% “Ireland & Scotland.” So, the 4% “Ireland & Scotland” reported in 2019 falls short of that, partly due to the random nature of DNA inheritance through recombination—Dad may simply have inherited less than the average amount of DNA from each of those two ancestors—and partly due to the inexact science of generating ethnicity estimates.

However, in Dad’s current ethnicity estimate, his Scottish component is inflated to a whopping 31% (range = 12–33%), while his Irish estimate is 3% (range = 0–7%), and his England & Northwest Europe component comes in at 18% (range = 0–51%). These changes are the result of that attempt in 2020 to distinguish between Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English/Northwestern European ethnicities, and they effectively double his total U.K. ancestry, which should be about 25% since all of his English/Irish/Scottish roots are through one grandmother, Katherine (Walsh) Roberts. (Dad’s other three grandparents were all German or Alsatian.) I suspect that this over-estimate of Scottish ancestry will be resolved in a future ethnicity estimate update.

I think the rest of the data in the charts largely speak for themselves, so an exhaustive analysis of each person’s results is unnecessary. However, a few observations can be made:

  1. Both Child 1 and Child 4 both had ethnicities reported that were not detected in the tests of either their parents or their grandparents. Child 1 was reported to have 1% DNA (range = 0–4%) from Sardinia, and Child 4 was reported to have 6% (range = 0–12%) DNA from Norway. Since DNA cannot “skip a generation,” these results cannot reflect any true ethnic origins in those areas. Since we only recognize that that these results are spurious by comparing them with data from both parents, this illustrates the need for caution in interpreting ethnicities reported at values less than about 10%.
  2. Even if a reported ethnicity matches the known pedigree, checking the range of values is recommended; anything that dwindles down to 0% should be taken with a grain of salt, in the most conservative interpretation.
  3. Ancestry’s Genetic Communities™, identified in conjunction with place data from family trees, track well across generations. There were no Communities assigned to children which were not also assigned to their parents, and in one case, a parent’s data exhibited a higher degree of accuracy and precision ((Northeastern Lesser Poland > Dąbrowa County) than was detected in the child.
  4. Identification of Genetic Communities™ did not always line up with known data about ancestral origins, even when those origins are confirmed through DNA matches. Despite having a grandmother born in Greater Poland and having deep ancestry in that region confirmed by DNA matches, my mother was not assigned to this Community. Despite having no evidence of ancestry from places further south than Greater Poland, my mother-in-law was assigned to the Southeast Poland Genetic Community. Go figure.

At the end of the day, these are only estimates of one’s ethnicity, and they are liable to change, modestly or significantly, as additional testers enter the data pool and new reference populations are added for comparison. DNA match lists are ultimately more useful than ethnicity estimates in answering genealogical research questions, but it’s nonetheless fascinating to see how these estimates play out within a family group.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Myth-Busting: What We Don’t Know About John Hodgkinson

In my last post, I summarized the basic vital data about John Hodgkinson, United Empire Loyalist (U.E.), that I believe is supported by evidence from the historical record. However, there are quite a few family trees out there that make some unusual claims and connections to this family, and offer no evidence to support those assertions. Today, I’d like to discuss a few of the common claims regarding the origins and immediate family of John Hodgkinson.

Let’s begin with a few of the most popular statements found in family trees pertaining to John Hodgkinson, U.E.:

  1. John Hodgkinson was born 29 November 1750 in London, England.
  2. John Hodgkinson was born 29 December 1753 in Mansfield, Nottingham, England to John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley.
  3. John Hodgkinson was married to Sarah Carey Marle on 6 June 1781 in St. Leonards, Shoreditch, London, England.
  4. John Hodgkinson died on 26 October 1826.
  5. John Hodgkinson had other children besides the ones discussed previously (namely, Samuel, Ellender, Francis, and Robert).

Let’s examine these individually.

Statement 1: John Hodgkinson was born 29 November 1750 in London, England

Records from the Hodgkinson Family Burying Ground indicate that John Hodgkinson, U.E., was born in 1750 and died in 1832,1 but there is no specific birth date suggested by Canadian records, nor do we have any definitive evidence for where he might have been born. Certainly, as a Loyalist, he was living in the American Colonies prior to the start of the Revolutionary War, but that’s about all we know for sure. The lack of promising matches for John’s birth or baptism in indexed collections of American Colonial records suggests that there might be some merit to the hypothesis of a birth in England, however. Moreover, the Greater London area was something of a hotspot for this surname in 1881, based on the surname distribution map shown in Figure 1.2 Unfortunately, data for years prior to 1881 are not available, but assuming it’s safe (?) to extrapolate these data to the previous century, then we can infer that the Hodgkinson surname was also quite prevalent in Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, and Staffordshire at the time of John Hodgkinson’s birth. (The popularity within those counties varies based on the the specific parameter in consideration—incidence, frequency, or rank within the area.)

Figure 1: Geographic distribution of the Hodgkinson surname by counties in England in 1881. Darker colors represent higher surname densities.

Unfortunately, geographic surname distributions are not especially helpful at predicting a family’s origins when it comes to relatively popular surnames. It doesn’t matter if there were only nine Hodgkinsons living in Northumberland in 1881; if you can definitively trace your ancestry back to them, then you don’t care that the surname is relatively rare in Northumberland. So, while it’s entirely possible that John Hodgkinson, U.E., was born in London on 29 November 1750—and plenty of people seem to believe this to be true, based on all those online trees out there—there needs to be some evidence for this assertion, because that’s certainly not the only place he could have been born. In fact, a quick search of indexed records on FamilySearch for “John Hodgkinson” born in London, England in 1750, produces a slew of possible vital records from all over England. “Hodgkinson” is just not an especially unique surname, so it’s not clear to me how a certain percentage of the Genealogical Community at Large decided that this information was reliable.

Statement 2: John Hodgkinson was born 29 December 1753 in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England to John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley

This second hypothesis is perhaps even more popular than the first, and what makes it so intriguing is that some evidence is offered for this assertion. Several Hodgkinson trees online cite birth records for John Hodgkinson, William Hodgkinson, and a purported sister, Mary Hodgkinson, all baptized in Mansfield, and all of whom were recorded as children of John and Sarah Hodgkinson.3 Moreover, there’s a marriage record for John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley, who are assumed to be the parents of these children.4 John’s “birth record” is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: John Hodgkinson in Ancestry’s database, “England and Wales Christening Index, 1530–1980.”

On the surface, these data fit the research problem nicely, and it’s very appealing to hope that this hypothesis might be true. Mansfield in Nottinghamshire lies squarely within that “Hodgkinson surname hot zone” shown in Figure 1. Although no maiden name was reported for the mother on the baptismal records of John (baptized 29 December 1753), Mary (baptized 6 April 1755), and William (baptized 10 April 1759), it’s logical to suppose that they might be siblings since the parents’ names are the same in all cases, and they were all baptized in the same place. The marriage of John Hodgkinson “Senior” and Sarah Godley in Mansfield England on 25 June 1752 would fit nicely with the timing of the children’s births, suggesting that this groom and bride might be the same John and Sarah Hodgkinson that were identified in the baptismal records. But how does this family group compare with existing data for the Loyalist Hodgkinsons?

Well, John’s baptism in 1753 is sufficiently close to his documented birth date of 1750 as to make this plausible, especially since the birth date recorded in the Hodgkinson Burying Ground records may have been calculated from his supposed age at the time of death, which may have been “off” by a few years. The structure of this family group is consistent with Canadian evidence indicating that John Hodgkinson was older than his brother, William, as well. It’s also possible that the Mary Hodgkinson identified in the baptismal record could be the “Mary Huskinson” who was recorded as the godmother to Ellender “Huskinson” in the records of the Dutch Reformed Church in Schaghticoke.5 However, if this hypothesis is correct, then William was baptized quite a long time after his birth on 12 August 1751, which is the date cited by the transcript of grave markers from the Hodgkinson Family Burying Ground.6 Could it be that he was actually born in 1751, but baptized as late as 1759? That seems unlikely, in light of existing evidence that the vast majority of babies were baptized within a week after birth in 16th- and 17th-century England.7 Nonetheless, exceptions did exist, and some families were more lax than others in baptizing their children soon after birth. Furthermore, if this were true for the Hodgkinson family of Mansfield, it would also help to reconcile that discrepancy between John’s date of birth according to his grave marker (1750) and his date of baptism.

Any time we find an “index only” record, such as these records for the baptisms of the Hodgkinson siblings and the marriage record for John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley, it’s useful to go to the source and view the original documents from which the indexed information was taken. John Hodgkinson’s birth record was found in Ancestry’s “England and Wales Christening Index, 1530–1980” database, and the marriage record for John Hodgkinson (“Senior”) and Sarah Godley was similarly found in Ancestry’s “England and Wales Marriages, 1538–1988” database. As the source for the information in both these databases, Ancestry cites the British Isles Vital Records Index, 2nd Edition, published by the Genealogical Society of Utah (the progenitor of FamilySearch) as the source. So in this case, the source of the information is an index citing another index.

A similar situation occurs when searching for these individuals at FamilySearch. William’s and Mary’s birth records can be found in the database, “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” and I suspect that John must be in there as well, although he was curiously absent in searches of the database, both broad and narrow. Mary’s search result is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Search result for Mary Hodgkinson, born 1755, in the “England Births and Christenings, 1538–1975” database at FamilySearch.

This particular database is one of FamilySearch‘s “Legacy” databases. Unlike collections of indexed historical records from one particular place, FamilySearch‘s Legacy collections are compilations of records obtained from a variety of sources, including user-contributed (i.e. unverified) data previously published in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). As FamilySearch cautions on their Wiki article about this database, “As this is an index of records compiled from various sources, it is strongly recommended that you verify any information you find with original records.

Where to find those original records? An easy way to do that is to click on the drop-down arrow for “Document Information.” This displays important information about the original source, as shown in Figure 4, including the digital folder number and the microfilm number.

Figure 4: Document information, boxed in red, for the baptismal record of Mary Hodgkinson, indexed in “England Births and Christenings, 1538–1975.”

FamilySearch has recently made some updates to their website, and that may be why some of the search features and links seem “glitchy” to me. You’d think, for example, that clicking on the microfilm number shown in Figure 4 would take you to the catalog entry for that film number. Unfortunately, it links instead to a “No Results Found” page in the Records search. That means we have to take matters into our own hands and navigate to the FamilySearch Catalog, and from there, choose “Search for Film/Fiche Number,” and then paste in (or retype) the film number, 503789. That brings up the page shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Result of the search for Film/Fiche Number 503789 in the FamilySearch Catalog.

This tells us that Film number 503789 contains Bishop’s transcripts from two different parishes in Nottinghamshire, Linby and Mansfield. Since the indexed entry stated that the Hodgkinsons were from Mansfield, we can assume it’s that second collection, “Items 2–3: Bishop’s transcripts, Mansfield (Nottingham), 1598–1903” that must contain the images of the baptismal records for John, William and Mary Hodgkinson. (In fact, as an alternative to looking up the film number contained in the Document Information, we could also search according to Place [Mansfield] in the FamilySearch Catalog and find the original images that way.)

Following through with either one of those methods will bring us to the page shown in Figure 6, which contains details on the available Bishop’s transcripts from the parish of Mansfield.

Figure 6: Detailed description and film/digital notes for the FamilySearch collection, “Bishop’s transcripts, Mansfield (Nottingham), 1598–1903.”

At last, our efforts are rewarded with the information that items 2–3 on film 503789 contain “Baptisms, marriages, burials, 1598–1760,” which is right where we would expect to find the three Hodgkinson baptismal records and the parents’ marriage record. Since the images are not available for home viewing, I had to visit my local FamilySearch Affiliate Library in order to obtain copies. Unfortunately, the original images contain no additional information beyond what was indexed. William Hodgkinson’s birth is shown in Figure 7 as an example.8

Figure 7: Baptismal record for William Hodgkinson from the Bishop’s transcripts of the parish church in Mansfield, 10 April 1759.

So what does this do for us in evaluating the hypothesis that John Hodgkinson, U.E., was baptized in Mansfield on 29 December 1753 and was the son of John Hodgkinson and Sarah, whose maiden name was probably Godley? As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out. Reasonably exhaustive research is one of the criteria required by the Genealogical Proof Standard before we can consider this hypothesis to be proven. While evidence from Canadian records may well have been exhausted, there may still be some insight that can be gained from deeper research in British records. Do John, William and Mary Hodgkinson “disappear” from British records, or can potentially relevant marriage or death records be found, which might imply that these individuals did not emigrate? Do the original parish vital records (not bishop’s transcripts) contain any information not found in the copies? Can evidence for the departure of John, William and Mary Hodgkinson be found in parish chest records from Mansfield? Can probate records be discovered for John Senior or Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson, which mention children living in the American Colonies? Until answers are found to these questions, I think it can only be said that this is an interesting—and plausible—hypothesis in need of further research.

Statement 3: John Hodgkinson was married to Sarah Carey Marle on 6 June 1781 in St. Leonards, Shoreditch, London, England.

Moving right along, there are a number of family trees that contain the claim that the Sarah Hodgkinson who was married to John Hodgkinson, U.E., was in fact, Sarah Carey Marle (1782–1854). According to these trees, Sarah was the mother of Samuel, Robert, and Francis Hodgkinson of Grantham, Upper Canada. These claims originate with this marriage record for John Hodgkinson and Sarah Carey from St. Leonard’s Church (also known as Shoreditch Church) in London (Figure 8).9

Figure 8: Marriage record from Shoreditch Church, London, for John Hodgkinson and Sarah Carey, 6 June 1781.

This marriage record can be considered as solid evidence that a John Hodgkinson, widower, married Sarah Carey on 6 June 1781 in the presence of Mary Stoneley and William Burgess at Shoreditch Church, but it’s an obvious case of mistaken identity to assume that this record has anything at all to do with John Hodgkinson, U.E.. Sarah Spencer was clearly identified as the wife of John Hodgkinson in his land petition, and in 1781, John was presumably in active service with Butler’s Rangers, since they did not disband until 1784.10 It’s unlikely that he took a quick jaunt back to England to enter a bigamous marriage with Sarah Carey. Sorry, folks, you’ve got the wrong John Hodgkinson.

Statement 4: John Hodgkinson died on 26 October 1826.

John’s grave marker stated that he died in 1832, with no specific date given.11 He does not appear in the index of wills for Lincoln County, Ontario (1796-1918), which is good evidence that he did not leave a will, which might have been helpful in narrowing down a date of death.12 Barring the discovery of any previously-unknown church death records or newspaper obituaries, the date on that grave marker seems to provide the best estimate for John Hodgkinson’s date of death. So where does the date of 26 October 1826 come from? I suspect that this error stems from confusion with the date of death of John’s wife, Sarah Hodgkinson. There’s good evidence that she died in 1826; her death notice was published in the Farmer’s Journal and Welland Canal Intelligencer on Wednesday, 1 November 1826, stating, “Died…In Grantham, on Tuesday last, of dropsy, Mrs. Sarah Hodgkinson, wife of Mr. John Hodgkinson, at an advanced age. The funeral will take place at his residence tomorrow, at 12 o’clock, at noon.”13 Although “Tuesday last” seems to suggest the previous day, 31 October 1826, it could be argued that perhaps the previous Tuesday, 24 October, was meant. Regardless of which date you prefer, it was clearly Sarah Hodgkinson who died in October 1826, and not John, since the wording of the death notice strongly suggests that he was still alive and would be present at his wife’s funeral on 2 November.

Statement 5: John Hodgkinson had other children besides the ones discussed previously (namely, Samuel, Ellender, Francis, and Robert).

There are quite a few family trees out there that attach additional children to John Hodgkinson, U.E., and either of the two wives, Mary Moore and Sarah Spencer, who are supported by evidence from historical documents. Some assert that John had a son, William James Hodgkinson, or a son, Spencer Hodgkinson. Others claim that he had a daughter, Rebecca, or a daughter, Sarah. No sources are cited for these claims, and I believe that’s because there aren’t any to cite. Let’s remember that there was an important monetary advantage to being the son or daughter of a Loyalist in Upper Canada in the late 18th- and early 19th centuries, since each son or daughter of a Loyalist was entitled to a free land grant (typically 200 acres) from the British Crown. It would be unusual for any children of John Hodgkinson who survived to adulthood to neglect this opportunity for free land, and no other land petitions exist for children of John Hodgkinson except for those already cited, for Samuel, Francis and Robert. You don’t have to take my word for that; consider evidence from William D. Reid’s book, The Loyalists in Ontario: The Sons and Daughters of the American Loyalists of Upper Canada, in which he, too, identifies only these children of John Hodgkinson (Figure 9).14

Figure 9: William D. Reid’s list of children of John Hodgkinson, U.E., who were granted land by Orders-in-Council (O.C.)

Of course, one could argue that William James, Spencer, Sarah, or Rebecca were nonetheless children of John Hodgkinson, but that they died before reaching an age at which they could petition for a land grant. After all, there is no land petition for Ellender Hodgkinson, yet I’m of the opinion that she was a child of John Hodgkinson and his first wife, Mary Moore. However, the difference is that there is a baptismal record identifying Ellender as a child of John and Mary “Huskinson,” as discussed in my last post, whereas I can find no evidence that these other putative children actually do belong in this family group. It’s not enough to say, “Hmm… I’ve got a Rebecca Hodkginson who was supposed to have been born in Canada in the right time frame for her to be the daughter of John Hodgkinson, U.E… I guess she must be his daughter!” Essentially, that is proposing a hypothesis, and it’s perfectly okay to do that, as long as your online tree indicates in some way that this is your own, unproven, pet theory. To avoid confusing newbies, however, it’s probably more prudent to keep those trees private, so that you can provide appropriate cautions about the hypothetical relationships in your tree when curious people write to you for more information.

Although the Hodgkinson family presents just one example, the issue of hasty, careless, or poorly-reasoned research is pervasive in the world of genealogy. I want to emphasize that I’m not trying to “name and shame” anyone. In fact, I deliberately avoided citing specific online trees where these errors are found. Instead, my hope is to encourage family historians to be a bit more critical and discerning when evaluating evidence from historical sources, rather than jumping on the “same name” bandwagon. We all make mistakes, and in our enthusiasm for pushing back just one generation further, it can be easy to overlook pesky facts that don’t fit our hypotheses very well. However, we owe it to ourselves and to our ancestors to get their stories right, to the best of our ability.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Sources:

1 Maggie Parnell, Hodgkinson Family Burying Ground, (St. Catharines, Ontario: Niagara Peninsula Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society, 1998), p 2.

2 “Hodgkinson Surname Distribution Map,” Forebears (https://forebears.io/surnames/hodgkinson#place-tab-1881 : 10 October 2021), showing distribution for England in 1881.

3 “England and Wales Christening Index, 1530–1980,” database, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com/ : 10 October 2021), John Hodgkinson, baptized 29 December 1753, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England; and

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NVHB-VVZ : 10 October 2021), William Hodgkinson, baptized 10 April 1759; and

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JSF3-JJ2 : 10 October 2021), Mary Hodgkinson, baptized 6 April 1755.

4 “England and Wales Marriages, 1538–1988,” database, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com/ : 10 October 2021), John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley, 25 June 1752, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.

5 “U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989,” database with images, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 10 October 2021), Ellender Huskinson, baptized 23 November 1778; citing Holland Society of New York; New York, New York; Deer Park, Vol II, Book 11.

6 Parnell, p. 2.

7 Sally Brush, “Research Note: When Were Babies Baptized? Some Welsh Evidence,” Local Population Studies (http://www.localpopulationstudies.org.uk/PDF/LPS72/Article_Note_Brush_pp83-87.pdf : 10 October 2021); and

Stuart Basten, “Birth-Baptism Intervals for Family Historians,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Birth-Baptism_Intervals_for_Family_Historians : 10 October 2021).

8 “Bishop’s transcripts, Mansfield (Nottingham), 1598-1903,” Baptisms, marriages, burials, 1598-1760, 1759, Baptisms, William Hodgkinson, son of John and Sarah Hodgkinson, 10 April 1759; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 7 October 2021), FHL film no. 503789/DGS no. 7565515, image 551 of 566.

9 “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 10 October 2021), John Hodgkinson and Sarah Carey, 6 June 1781; citing London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P91/LEN/A/01/MS 7498/12.

10 Government of Canada, “Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” 1797, no. 32, Land Petition of John Hodgkinson, Vol. 224, Bundle H-3, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2043; browsable images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=29&interval=50&sk=0&PHPSESSID=rgi7t06a60or2jdheocn6v65f4 : 10 October 2021), Microfilm C-2043 > images 766 and 767 out of 990; and

Ernest Cruikshank, The Story of Butler’s Rangers and the Settlement of Niagara (Welland, Ontario: Tribune Printing House, 1893), p. 113; ebook, Project Gutenburg Canada (https://gutenberg.ca/: 10 October 2021).

11 Parnell, p 2.

12 Lincoln County (Ontario) Registrar of Deeds, “Will Index, 1796–1918;” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 10 October 2021), surnames beginning with “H,” images 55–68 of 160.

13 Farmers’ Journal and Welland Canal Intelligencer (St. Catharines, Upper Canada), 1 November 1826 (Wednesday), p 3, col 4, death notice for Sarah Hodgkinson; online images, Google News (https://news.google.com/ : 10 October 2021).

14 William D. Reid, The Loyalists in Ontario: The Sons and Daughters of the American Loyalists of Upper Canada (Lambertville, NJ, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1973), p 150, Hodgkinson, John of Grantham; ebook, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 10 October 2021).

A New Look at the Old Hodgkinsons

Lately, I’ve been exploring some DNA matches on my Dad’s side of the family that have me pondering the murky origins of my Hodgkinson ancestry. In comparison with my maternal Polish ancestors, the Hodgkinsons have been very well-researched, as they were United Empire Loyalists and early settlers of Upper Canada (what is now Ontario). Yet despite this fact, there are a number of basic genealogical research questions which remain unanswered, due to the general difficulty of research in relatively sparse early Canadian records. Of course, difficult research problems inspire all sorts of speculation and theories, and that’s not a bad thing. Proposing hypotheses, and then testing them against evidence from the historical record, is an integral part of genealogy. However, some of the assertions made about this family seem to be so unfounded, that I wonder if there isn’t more data out there that isn’t cited in these family trees, and that I’m somehow overlooking. So today, I’d like to explore some of the evidence for John Hodgkinson, U.E.—my 5x-great-grandfather—that is found in historical documents.

What We Know About John Hodgkinson, U.E.

The most basic version of the narrative asserts that he was born circa 1750 and died circa 1832, and that he was a United Empire Loyalist (U.E.) who served during the American Revolutionary War as a private in Butler’s Rangers, and was married first to Mary Moore, with whom he had his oldest son, Samuel Hodgkinson. At some point she died, and he remarried Sarah Spencer. Sarah was the daughter of Robert Spencer, U.E., who had served alongside John in Butler’s Rangers. The date of Mary’s death is unknown. One can speculate that she may have died as a result of harsh conditions in the Loyalist refugee camps,1 but it’s also possible that she died after 1784, when the Hodgkinsons and other Rangers’ families were settled on land grants from the Crown in Grantham township on the Niagara Peninsula. John had two additional sons besides Samuel, Francis and Robert, who are generally believed to be from his second wife since they were born circa 1790 and 1792, respectively.

I believe all of these facts to be true. John Hodgkinson’s original grave marker provided a birth date of 1750 and a death date of 1832, although this marker no longer exists, as the original Hodgkinson Family Burying Ground was moved in November 1913 to make way for the Welland Ship Canal, and all human remains were relocated to Victoria Lawn Cemetery in St. Catharines.2 There is good evidence that both John Hodgkinson and his brother, William, served in Butler’s Rangers.3 Evidence for John’s marriage to Sarah Spencer includes the fact that his land petition stated that he was “married to Sarah the daughter of Robert Spencer, a Loyalist U.E.,”4 and Sarah’s death notice further identifies her as “Mrs. Sarah Hodgkinson, wife of Mr. John Hodgkinson” of Grantham (Figure 1).5

Figure 1: Newspaper death notice for Sarah Hodgkinson, published Wednesday, 1 November 1826.

John Hodgkinson’s sons were all identified as such in their land petitions. Samuel’s petition stated that he “… is the Son of John Hodgkinson of Grantham/is on the U.E. List…” (Figure 2).6 The phrasing used here could possibly be construed to mean that Samuel Hodgkinson himself was on the U.E. List, not just his father, which is perhaps a hint at his birth in the U.S., although Samuel would have been a child and not a Loyalist per se at the time of his family’s arrival in Upper Canada.

Figure 2: Detail from land petition of Saml Hodgkinson, dated 16 August 1806.

Francis’s petition from 26 November 1815 similarly stated that “your Petitioner is the son of John Hodgkinson of the Township of Grantham in the District of Niagara, a U.E. Loyalist….” and that “he is of the age of Twenty-five Years,”7 which suggests a birth year circa 1790. Last, but not least, Robert’s petition, dated 24 November 1815, two days earlier than his brother’s, uses the same wording, stating that he “is the son of John Hodgkinson of the Township of Grantham in the District of Niagara, a U.E. Loyalist….” and that “he is of the age of Twenty-three Years.”8 This implies that he was born circa 1792, which is consistent with other evidence.

“Schaghticoke Samuel” or “Burlington Samuel”?

The statement that John Hodgkinson’s first wife was Mary Moore, who was the mother of his oldest son, Samuel, is where things start to get interesting. There is only one piece of evidence that is commonly cited for this assertion, which is a baptismal record for Samuel “Hadgkinsson” found in the records of the Reformed Dutch Church of Schaghticoke (New York), 1750–1866, which were recopied by Rev. Abraham H. Meyers between 3 December 1878 and 4 March 1879 (Figure 3).9

Figure 3: Baptismal record for Samuel Hadgkisson, son of John Hadgkisson and Mary Moore, 22 February 1776.

It’s entirely plausible to me that the Samuel “Hadgkisson” described in this record is the same Samuel Hodgkinson described in that land petition. Schaghticoke, New York, is a small town located in the Hudson River Valley near Albany, and a number of Loyalists from Butler’s Rangers originated in that area. The sponsors were Wm. Hadgkisson and Mary Moore, consistent with the fact that John Hodgkinson, U.E., had a brother named William. So far, so good.

However, there’s another birth record for a Samuel Hodgkinson that is often referenced to substantiate claims that the Hodgkinson family was originally from New Jersey, and that is the record shown in Figure 4 from the register of St. Mary’s (Episcopal) Church in Burlington, New Jersey, which was published by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania back in 1903 (Figure 4).10

Figure 4: Baptismal record for Samuel Hodgkinson from the register of St. Mary’s Church, Burlington, New Jersey.

According to this record, Samuel, son of John and Mary Hodgkinson, was born 22 September 1775 and baptized 12 November 1775 in Burlington, New Jersey. Mary’s maiden name is not specified. Since the birth dates of “Schaghticoke Samuel” and “Burlington Samuel” are reasonably close in time, either one of them could be the Samuel Hodgkinson of Grantham, Upper Canada. More evidence is needed before anything could be stated definitively about the place of birth of Samuel Hodgkinson, U.E. However, one theory that I do not subscribe to, is that these records represent the same Samuel Hodgkinson, whose baptism was recorded twice, first in New Jersey and then in New York. It’s also not possible that “Schaghticoke Samuel” was a second son of the same John and Mary Hodgkinson, named after “Burlington Samuel” died in infancy, because “Burlington Samuel” was still alive in November 1775 and “Schaghticoke Samuel” was already born and baptized only three months later, in February.

As crazy as this may sound, I think it’s much more plausible that there were actually two distinct couples named John and Mary Hodgkinson, who lived concurrently in the American Colonies and had sons named Samuel. The records from St. Mary’s Church in Burlington contain multiple references to Hodgkinsons, including a baptismal record for another son of John and Mary Hodgkinson named Peter Aris Hodgkinson, who was born 2 June 1769, as well as a burial record for a Mary Hodgkinson on 26 March 1808, and a burial record for John Hodgkinson on 19 April 1814.11 While there’s no guarantee that the John and Mary from the burial records are the same John and Mary who were the parents of Peter and Samuel, it’s certainly possible that this is true, and this would imply that the Burlington Hodgkinsons were still living in New Jersey long after the Loyalist Hodgkinsons had settled in Upper Canada. Furthermore, there’s a marriage record for a Samuel Hodgkinson and Elizabeth Frankfort on 30 November 1803 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is just 21 miles from Burlington, New Jersey,12 and also a death record for a Samuel Hodgkinson who died 28 November 1841 in Philadelphia at the age of 68, suggesting a birth circa 1773.13 Although further evidence is needed before we could conclude definitively that it was “Burlington Samuel” who first married Elizabeth Frankfort and then died in Philadelphia in 1841, the existence of any evidence for a Samuel Hodgkinson who continued to live in this vicinity after 1784 (when the families of Butler’s Rangers had settled in Upper Canada), argues against the hypothesis that “Burlington Samuel” is Samuel Hodgkinson, U.E.

Enter Ellender Hodgkinson

Although it’s difficult to imagine that there could be any “new” discoveries with a family so well-researched as the Hodgkinsons, there is one additional family member that I have never seen mentioned. The records from the Dutch Reformed Church in Schaghticoke contain a record which seems likely to pertain to this same John and Mary Hodgkinson: the baptism of Ellender “Huskinson” on 23 November 1778 (Figure 5).14

Figure 5: Baptismal record for Ellender Hodgkinson, 23 November 1778.

Between the fact that these records were recopied, and the usual lack of consistent surname spellings in documents from this era, I’m not too bothered by the fact that John’s surname was recorded as “Huskinson” rather than “Hodgkinson,” and Mary’s was recorded as “More” instead of “Moore.” The sponsors were noted to be Mary Stephenson and Mary Huskinson, and it’s possible that “Mary” Stephenson’s given name was recorded in error. The typical custom was to have a godfather and a godmother, rather than two godmothers, and that pattern is noted in this book as well, with the godfather’s name recorded first in all the other entries. For that reason, I suspect that a man’s name should have been recorded in place of “Mary” for the Stephenson godparent. The child’s unusual given name, Ellender, is supposedly derived from a German word meaning “foreigner” or “stranger.”15 No further references to John and Mary Hodgkinson/Huskinson appear in the records of the Dutch Reformed Church in Schaghticoke, which is consistent with the hypothesis that they were Loyalists and would probably have left New York at some point after the British defeat at the Battle of Saratoga.

The name Ellender (or Elender) is not a name I’ve encountered much in my research, but I’ve seen it exactly twice before. In the 1881 census, there is an “Elender M. Walsh” (indexed as “Elenden”), age 24, living with the family of Robert and Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh (Figure 6).16

Figure 6: Detail from 1881 census showing Elender M. Walsh, age 24, and Elender Walsh, age 6 months, in the family of Robert and Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh.

“Elender’s” age makes it clear that she is Robert and Elizabeth’s daughter, more commonly recorded as Ellen or Nellie (née Walsh) DeVere (1856–1906). Ellender Hodgkinson would have been Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh’s grandaunt (or great-aunt, if you prefer that terminology), so it’s possible that Ellen/Nellie/Elender was intended to be the namesake of Ellender Hodgkinson. This theory may be a bit of a reach since this 1881 census was the only time Nellie was recorded as Elender. In 1861 and 1871, for example, she was Ellen;17 she was baptized as Eleanor Margaret,18 and she was married and buried as Nellie.19

And yet, this family contains not one, but two Elenders, in a census for which there were only 13 examples in the entire country of given names beginning with “Elend-.” Who is the second Elender? By 1881, Robert and Elizabeth’s second son, Henry (my great-great-grandfather) was married to Martha Agnes Dodds, and they were the parents of two daughters, Marion and Clara Ellen. Marion (or Marian) was born 8 October 1878,20 which corresponds well with the two-and-a-half-year-old “Mary Ann” recorded on the census, and Clara’s birth on 19 September 1880 makes her an obvious match for 6-month-old “Elender.”21 Perhaps I’m guilty of attaching too much significance to what may have been two simple errors on the part of the census-taker. Nonetheless, I’m inclined to interpret the duplication of this unusual given name as evidence that the Ellender “Huskinson” who was baptized in Schaghticoke in 1778, was in fact a daughter of John Hodgkinson, U.E., and that his granddaughter, Elizabeth Walsh, was aware of Ellender’s existence, and that Ellender’s name was deliberately preserved in the Walsh family. (It may have been that the “honorees” themselves, Nellie and Clara, were not especially thrilled with the name, and that’s why we only see this one reference to it.)

Returning now to John Hodgkinson, the next time his family is mentioned in historical records is in the “Return of distressed unincorporated Loyalists that are Victualed by the bounty of Government in the Province of Quebec, Agreeable to His Excellency the Commander in Chief’s orders, 24th March 1783,” contained within the collection known as the Haldimand Papers. These returns documented families of Loyalists who lived in refugee camps in Quebec and received public assistance from the Crown. I’ve discussed this refugee list previously, along with the one dated 24 July 1783, in which the family of John Hodgkinson was also enumerated.22 In both of those refugee lists, the Hodgkinson family was said to consist of one woman, no men or male children, one female child over age six and one female child under age six, for a total of three persons. John himself seems to be absent from this tally since no men were recorded with the family, but perhaps this is explained by the fact that Butler’s Rangers did not disband until June 1784, so John was not yet reunited with his family. The two children who have thus far been identified as having been born to John and Mary (Moore) Hodgkinson, Samuel and Ellender, would have been about ages seven and four, respectively, if we assume that the baptismal dates reported in the church records from Schaghticoke were roughly equivalent to their birth dates. Those ages line up with those of the children described in the refugee lists, although one inconsistency is that Samuel was misrecorded as female.

Although some additional documents exist (e.g. land records) which mention John Hodgkinson, U.E., beyond those mentioned here, they only serve to confirm these basic facts, or to enrich our understanding of his life in Upper Canada. I have yet to discover additional historical records that shed light on John’s early life. Nonetheless, some speculation exists about the identities of John’s parents, siblings, and even additional children beyond the ones mentioned here. In my next post, I’ll discuss them.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Sources:

Featured image: Extract from Smyth, David William. “A Map of the Province of Upper Canada, describing all the new settlements, townships, &c. with the countries adjacent, from Quebec to Lake Huron. (1st ed.) Compiled, at the request of His Excellency Major General John G. Simcoe, First Lieutenant Governor, by David William Smyth Esqr., Surveyor General. London, published by W. Faden, Geographer to His Majesty and to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, Charing Cross, April 12th 1800. Accompanied with a topographical Description. Price 10s. & 6d,” David Rumsey Map Collectionhttp://www.davidrumsey.com/maps3638.html : 5 October 2021), Licensed for reuse under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

1 Alexander Cain, “The Loyalist Refugee Experience in Canada,” Journal of the American Revolution, 26 January 2015; (https://allthingsliberty.com/2015/01/the-loyalist-refugee-experience-in-canada/ : 5 October 2021).

2 Maggie Parnell, Hodgkinson Family Burying Ground, (St. Catharines, Ontario: Niagara Peninsula Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society, 1998), p 2.

3 A.H. Van Deusen, “Butler’s Rangers,” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 31(1900); online archives, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSVT-6RJM?cat=161380 : 5 October 2021), image 375 of 690. Names were recorded as “Hodgekins,” rather than “Hodgkinson.”

4 Government of Canada, “Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” 1797, no. 32, Land Petition of John Hodgkinson, Vol. 224, Bundle H-3, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2043; browsable images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=29&interval=50&sk=0&PHPSESSID=rgi7t06a60or2jdheocn6v65f4 : 5 October 2021), Microfilm C-2043 > images 766 and 767 out of 990.

5 Farmers’ Journal and Welland Canal Intelligencer (St. Catharines, Upper Canada), 1 November 1826 (Wednesday), p 3, col 4, death notice for Sarah Hodgkinson; online images, Google News (https://news.google.com/ : 5 October 2021).

6 Government of Canada, “Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” 1806, no. 18, Land Petition of Samuel Hodgkinson, Vol. 226, Bundle H-9, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2046; browsable images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=29&interval=50&sk=0&PHPSESSID=rgi7t06a60or2jdheocn6v65f4 : 5 October 2021), Microfilm C-2046 > image 330 out of 1042.

7 Government of Canada, “Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” 1815, no. 77, Land Petition of Francis Hodgkinson, Vol. 227, Bundle H-10, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2046; browsable images, Library and Archives of Canada (https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=29&interval=50&sk=0&PHPSESSID=rgi7t06a60or2jdheocn6v65f4 : 5 October 2021), Microfilm C-2046 > image 1009 out of 1042.

8 Government of Canada, “Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” 1815, no. 78, Petition for Robert Hodgkinson; Microfilm C-2046, Bundle H-10, (RG 1 L 3 Vol. 227), digital images, Library and Archives of Canada ((https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=29&interval=50&sk=0&PHPSESSID=rgi7t06a60or2jdheocn6v65f4 : 5 October 2021), image 1012 of 1042.

9 “U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989,” database with images, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 5 October 2021), Samuel Hadgkisson, baptized 22 February 1776; citing Holland Society of New York; New York, New York; Deer Park, Vol II, Book 11.

10 Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, “Register of St. Mary’s Church, Burlington, N.J.: The Register of the Church C. of St. Ann’s at Burlington,” Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania (2)3, 1903, pp 241-302; p 278, baptismal record for Samuel Hodgkinson, born 22 September 1775 June 1769; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 5 October 2021), image 262 of 444.

11 Ibid., p 262, baptismal record for Peter Aris Hodgkinson, 13 August 1769; p 286, burial record for Mary Hodgkinson, 26 March 1808; and p 288, burial record for John Hodgkinson, 19 April 1814.

12 “Pennsylvania, U.S., Compiled Marriage Records, 1700-1821,” database with images, Ancestry ((https://ancestry.com : 5 October 2021), Samuel Hodgkinson and Elizabeth Frankfort, 30 November 1803, citing records from Second Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, 1763-1812, found in Pennsylvania Marriage Records. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Archives Printed Series, 1876. Series 2, Series 6.

13 “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., Death Certificates Index, 1803–1915,” database, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 5 October 2021), Samuel Hodgkinson, born c. 1773, died 28 November 1841.

14 “U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989,” database with images, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 5 October 2021), Ellender Huskinson, baptized 23 November 1778; citing Holland Society of New York; New York, New York; Deer Park, Vol II, Book 11.

15 “Ellender,” Nameberry (https://nameberry.com/babyname/Ellender/girl : 5 October 2021).

16 1881 census of Canada, schedule no. 1 — Nominal Return of the Living, Ontario, Lincoln District no. 145, St. Catharines Sub-District A, Division no. 2, Family no. 140, p 26, Robt. Welsh family; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca : 5 October 2021), item no. 3790055, image no. e008188289; citing Microfilm: C-13254 Reference: RG31 – Statistics Canada.

17 1861 census of Canada, population schedule, Canada West (Ontario), Lincoln District, St. Catharines Sub-District, p 96, lines 37–47, Robert Walsh household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada, (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/ : 5 October 2021), item no. 2721097, image no. 4391560_00231; citing microfilm C-1049; and

1871 census of Canada, Schedule 1 — Nominal Return of the Living, Ontario, Lincoln District no. 21, St. Catharines Sub-District B, Division no. 2, p 64, Family no. 225, Robert Walsh household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/ : 5 October 2021), Item no. 2782126, image no. 4396294_00191; citing microfilm C-9922, RG31 – Statistics Canada.

18 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, 1857, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, “Baptism Ellenor Walsh,” accessed as “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: 5 October 2021), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines, > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 > image 72 of 104. Principal’s name was recorded as “Ellenor” in the margin and “Eleanor Margaret” within the body of the record.

19 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, Marriages 1858-1910, 1883, unnumbered entries in chronological order, Charles Dolfin and Nellie Welsh, 26 May 1883; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: 5 October 2021), path: “Canada, Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” > Lincoln County > St Catharines, > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Marriages 1858-1910 > image 30 of 48; and

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/148014987/nellie-m-de_vere : accessed 05 October 2021), memorial page for Nellie M Welch De Vere (1857-1906), Find a Grave Memorial ID 148014987, citing Victoria Lawn Cemetery, St. Catharines, Niagara Regional Municipality, Ontario, Canada ; Maintained by C (contributor 48635147).

20 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, 1878, baptismal record for Marian Walsh, born 8 October 1878; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 5 October 2021), path: “Canada, Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” > Lincoln County > St Catharines, > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms 1860-1906 > image 98 of 177.

21 “Ontario Births, 1869-1911,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 5 October 2021), Clara Ellen Welch, 19 Sep 1880; citing Birth, St. Catharines, Lincoln, Ontario, Canada, citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,845,399.

22 “British Library, formerly British Museum, Additional Manuscripts 21804-21834, Haldimand Paper,” citing John Hodgkinson in, “Return of distressed unincorporated Loyalists that are Victualed by the bounty of Government in the Province of Quebec, Agreeable to His Excellency the Commander in Chief’s orders, 24th March 1783,” LAC reel H-1654, Returns of Loyalists in Canada, n.d., 1778-1787, MG 21, 21826, B-166, accessed as browsable images, Héritage (http://heritage.canadiana.ca : 5 October 2021), images 730-748 out of 1240, Image 745; and

Ibid., refugee list from 24 July 1783, images 749-764 out of 1240, Image 762.

A Trio of Death Certificates

For a genealogist, any day that brings three new death certificates in the mail is a good day.

Back at the end of April, I wrote about my discovery of my great-great-granduncle, Alexander Dodds, who disappeared from documentary evidence in Canadian records after the 1881 census. Thanks to clues provided by DNA matches, I was able to determine that Alexander migrated to Buffalo, New York where he married Hazel Jean (or Jennie Hazel) McCarroll and had two children, Della and Spencer, prior to his death in 1899. While searching for his death record in the Buffalo, New York Death Index, I serendipitously came across the entry for the death certificate of his brother, Gilbert M. Dodds, who died in 1898. Then, since I was already writing to the Buffalo City Clerk to request those records, I decided to add in a request for the death certificate of their older sister, Isabella (née Dodds) Smith. I’d known previously that Isabella died in Buffalo, but I’d never gotten around to requesting a copy of the record, so this seemed to be a good time to do it. After a long wait, those death certificates finally arrived, so let’s analyze them here, in the context of my existing research into my Dodds family.

Isabella Smith

My burning questions regarding my Dodds family concern the origins of my great-great-great-grandparents, Robert and Catherine Dodds, whom I’ve written about previously. Evidence points pretty consistently to a birth circa 1817 in England for Robert, and possibly a specific date of 28 January 1817 as was reported (probably by Robert himself) in the 1901 census.1 Less is known about Catherine’s place of birth, however, and there’s even some doubt about her maiden name, since it has been reported as both Irving2 and Grant.3 In that regard, the death certificate for Isabella (née Dodds) Smith was most informative, since it was the only one of the three death certificates to mention a maiden name for Catherine. (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Death certificate for Isabell [sic] H. Smith.4

Unpacking the other details from the certificate first, we can see that Isabell [sic] H. Smith of 381 Rhode Island Street in Buffalo, died on 22 September 1917 due to a cerebral hemorrhage which she suffered about 6 weeks previously. A contributing cause of death was chronic myocarditis. Isabella was noted to be a widow, born 4 November 1844 in Canada, and she lived in the U.S. for 24 years prior to her death, spending all of that time in Buffalo. That suggests an arrival in 1893, which is a few years off from the arrival in 1897 which she reported in the 1910 census, but still in the same ballpark.5 No immigration record can be sought to confirm her arrival date since the U.S. did not begin documenting Canadian-born immigrants until 1 October 1906.6 Isabella was laid to rest in the Buffalo Cemetery on 25 September 1917, and the informant on the death certificate was her oldest daughter, Margaret (née Smith) Moorhouse, who lived with her. Margaret reported that Isabella’s parents were Robert Dodds and Catherine Grant, which lends further support to the hypothesis that Catherine’s maiden name was Grant and not Irving. However, Margaret identified both Robert and Catherine as having been born in Canada, and this is almost certainly incorrect in Robert’s case, in light of the substantial body of evidence supporting the assertion that he was born in England.

Alexander Dodds

Next up, we have the death certificate for Alexander Dodds (Figure 2). The image I received is of rather low quality due to faded ink and darkened paper, but it’s nevertheless possible to read that Alexander Dodds died on 13 April 1899 due to pulmonary phthisis, which is more commonly known as tuberculosis. He was buried at Lakeside Cemetery on a date in April that’s difficult to make out, possibly the 23rd. Alexander was reported to be age 49 years, 1 month, and 25 days at the time of his death. Running that information through a date calculator points to a birth date of 19 February 1850, consistent with the expectation that he was born circa 1849-1850 based on his age reported in census records. He was a married laborer, born in Canada, who had been a resident in the U.S. for 15 years, and living in Buffalo for that entire time period. This suggests that he arrived in the U.S. circa 1884. Alexander’s parents’ names were reported to be Robert and Catherine, but no maiden name was given for his mother. Moreover, both parents were reported to have been born in England—a statement which is unlikely to be true in Catherine’s case. Alexander’s last place of residence was decipherable as Auburn Avenue, although the house number (212, perhaps?) is harder to read.

Figure 2: Death certificate for Alexander Dodds.7

The fact that Alexander was buried at Lakeside Cemetery is new information for me. Lakeside is an old, historic cemetery located in Hamburg, New York, about 10 miles south of Buffalo. Lakeside is managed by the Forest Lawn group of cemeteries, and they happen to have a fantastic website where one can search burials and even download cemetery records, such as this burial card for my great-great-grandmother, Martha Dodds Walsh, another sibling of Alexander, Isabella and Gilbert. Unfortunately, the information for Alexander which is offered on the website is much more limited. The service card (Figure 3) barely confirms the information on the death certificate, inasmuch as there is a burial record for an Alexander Dodds, but it offers no details about date of death, or parents’ names.

Figure 3: Service card for Alexander Dodds from Lakeside Cemetery, Hamburg, New York.8

Alexander’s age at the time of death, 40, is also in conflict with the information on the death certificate, which stated that he was 49 years old at the time of death. However, it may have been a transcription error, and in any case, the funeral director, “Geo. J. Altman,” is a match to the George J. Altman who was reported on Alexander’s death certificate as the undertaker.

Gilbert M. Dodds

Last, but not least, we have the death certificate for Gilbert M. Dodds (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Death certificate for Gilbert M. Dodds.9

The image quality here is only slightly better than that for Alexander’s death certificate, but the record states that Gilbert died on 4 January 1898 of pernicious anemia, a form of anemia caused by a deficiency in vitamin B12, with which he had been diagnosed five years previously. He was buried that same month in St. Catharines, Ontario, but the name of the cemetery was not provided, nor is the exact date of burial legible. Gilbert was reported to be age 42 years, 3 months and 25 days at the time of his death, suggesting a birth date of 11 September 1855. Estimates for his year of birth as suggested by census records and other documents ranged between 1855–1860, but the earliest records (e.g. the 1861 census)10 pointed to a birth year of 1855, so this certificate is in excellent agreement. He was married at the time of his death, and employed as a driver. As expected, Gilbert was born in Canada, but had been living in Buffalo for five years prior to his death, which implies an arrival in the U.S. circa 1893, so his arrival coincided with that of his sister, Isabella Smith. His last residence was at 408 Massachusetts Avenue, in close proximity to the final residences reported by his siblings (Figure 5). Finally, the certificate identifies Gilbert’s parents as Robert Dodds, born in England, and Catherine Dodds, born in Canada.

Figure 5: Map showing last residences of Dodds siblings Alexander, Gilbert, and Isabella Smith on Buffalo’s West Side. Google Maps.

Conclusions

Experienced genealogists know how valuable death records can be, especially when they identify the parents of the deceased. They’re also relatively easy to obtain, with just a letter and a check in the mail, so I’m always amazed by the fact that so many family historians only mention them in their trees when the scans are available online. The most significant drawback is that the information on a death certificate was not provided by the individual himself or herself, but rather by a family member or some other individual who was more or less acquainted with the deceased. Thanks to these death certificates, I was able to discover exact dates of birth for Dodds siblings Alexander, Gilbert, and Isabella Smith, as well as an exact date of death for Alexander. I identified Alexander’s final resting place as Lakeview Cemetery, which opens up the possibility of further research in cemetery records, in case they might have anything that’s not online. I obtained corroborating evidence for a number of previously-known facts in my family tree. And, although these certificates did nothing to dispel the confusion over Catherine Dodds’ place of birth, the certificate for Isabella Smith added to the growing body of evidence in support of the hypothesis that Catherine was a Grant by birth. All in all, that was a pretty good day, indeed.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Sources:

11901 Census of Canada, Ontario population schedule, Lincoln and Niagara district no. 85, St. Catharines sub-district K, division no. 6, household no. 117, James Carty household; database with images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/ : 17 August 2021), item no. 2026840, image no. z000079820, citing microfilm T-6480, RG31.

2 New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, 1935, vol. 820, no. 4549, Martha Dodds Walsh, 11 August 1935; Buffalo, New York, City Clerk, 1302 City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York.

3 “Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database, FamilySearch, (https://familysearch.org/ : 8 May 2021), Hannah Carty, 3 June 1914; Deaths > 1914 > no 19125-22410 > image 370 of 1638; citing Registrar General. Archives of Ontario, Toronto.

4 New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, 1917, vol. 273, no. 6001, Isabell H. Smith, 22 September 1917, Buffalo, New York, City Clerk, 1302 City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York.

5 1910 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 21, Enumeration District 206, Sheet 7A, house no. 18 1/2, family no. 27, William Smith household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 18 August 2021), citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 947 of 1,178 rolls, FHL microfilm 1374960.

6 Marian L. Smith, “By Way of Canada,” Prologue Magazine, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Fall 2000), National Archives (https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2000/fall/us-canada-immigration-records-1.html : 18 August 2021).

7 New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, 1899, Vol. 34, no. 258, Alexander Dodds, 13 April 1899; Buffalo, New York, City Clerk, 1302 City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo NY 14202.

8 Forest Lawn Cemetery Group, burial records database, Forest Lawn (https://forest-lawn.com/ : 18 August 2021), service card for Alexander Dodds, buried Lakeside Cemetery, block one, grave 142.

9 New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, 1898, vol. 21, no. 71, Gilbert M. Dodds, 4 January 1898; Buffalo, New York, City Clerk, 1302 City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo NY 14202.

10 1861 Census of Canada, population schedule, Canada West, Lincoln, Grantham, Enumeration District 4, p 80, lines 1-9, Robert Dodds household; digital images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx : 19 April 2021 ), Item no. 1884852, citing Microfilm C-1048-1049.

New Discoveries for John Dodds

Discoveries on my Dodds line are coming thick and fast these days, thanks to hints found in my paternal aunt’s DNA match list. This past week, I discovered the fate of one John H. Dodds, the fifth child of my great-great-great-grandparents, Robert and Catherine (Grant or Irving?) Dodds. I’ve written about my Dodds family recently, and the question of Catherine’s parentage is one of the brick walls in my research, which was summarized here.

Introducing John Dodds

Like his brother, Alexander, who was the subject of my last blog post, John Dodds was first found to be living with his family in St. Catharines, Ontario, in 1861 (Figure 1). John was seven years old, suggesting a birth year circa 1854. His father, Robert Dodds, was a laborer, born circa 1822 in England, and a W[esleyan] Methodist. His mother, Katherine [sic] Dodds, was born in Upper Canada circa 1830, according to this document, but that year is suspect since their oldest child, Hannah, was recorded as being 19 years of age, which would imply that Catherine gave birth to her at the age of 12.

Figure 1: Detail of 1861 Census of Canada showing John Dodds.1

By 1871, the family had moved to Yarmouth Township in Elgin County (Figure 2). John H. Dodds was reported to be 18 years of age, which suggests a birth year circa 1853. He was born in Ontario, was employed as a laborer, and was reported to be of English origin through his father, but of the Presbyterian faith, along with his Scottish mother. Despite the family’s varying religious practices, the names and ages of the family members confirm that this is the same Dodds family found in 1861. This census also suggests a more reasonable birth year of 1820 for John’s mother, Catherine Dodds, since she and her husband were both noted to be 51 years of age.

Figure 2: Detail of 1871 Census of Canada showing John H. Dodds.2

After this census, however, John H. Dodds seemed to disappear. There were no good matches for him living anywhere near other members of his family, and his name was sufficiently common that chasing down each John Dodds living in North America after 1871 seemed like a thankless task. As was the case with Alexander, the trail grew cold in absence of better clues.

DNA Shows the Way, Again

However, buoyed by my recent success with tracking down Alexander Dodds, I went back to Ancestry DNA to see if I could use my paternal grand-aunt’s match list to find any additional clues to illuminate my Dodds research. Although I most often use the “shared matches” feature for this, this time around I did a search of the match list for any matches which mentioned the surname Dodds in their family tree. A match came up to a woman whom I’ll call B.Y. (again, not her real initials) whose public, linked tree featured a great-great-grandfather named John Dodds. Although the parents of this John Dodds were not known, there was some promising evidence in the tree that suggested that this might be “my” John Dodds, son of Robert and Catherine. For starters, the 1900 census showed that John Dodds was born in February 1860 in English Canada, i.e. Ontario (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Detail of 1900 U.S. census showing John Dodds household.

A birth year of 1860 would make him a few years younger than “my” John Dodds ought to be, given previous evidence that suggested a birth year circa 1853-1854. However, this census also notes that his wife, Lena Dodds, was born in January 1874, so it may have been that John was fudging a bit to minimize the 20-year age difference between him and his wife. The Dodds family was living in Pike township, Potter County, Pennsylvania—a rural area about 125 miles due south of Rochester, New York. Without this clue from DNA evidence, it’s safe to say I never would have thought to look for “my” John Dodds there, nor would I necessarily have recognized him as the same John Dodds, even if he did turn up in a search of this census. According to this census, John Dodds’ father was born in Canada and his mother was born in England, while the reverse is true for “my” John Dodds. Between that, and the discrepancy in his age, it would have been easy to dismiss any connection, based solely on this one document. But just wait.

By 1900, John had been married to his wife, Lena, for eight years, suggesting that they married circa 1892. John was employed as a farmer who owned his own farm. He was further reported to be an alien who had been living in the U.S. for 19 years, following his arrival in 1881. The year of arrival would explain his absence from the 1881 census of Canada. Lena Dodds was born in Pennsylvania, as were both of her parents. She was noted to be the mother of two children, both of whom were living at that time and appear in this census. Those children were Flossie H. Dodds, born February 1895, and Robert L. Dodds, born August 1897.

The death certificate for John and Lena’s son, Robert L. Dodds, confirmed the information in B.Y.’s linked tree, that Lena Dodds’ maiden name was Frazier (Figure 4).4

Figure 4: Detail of Robert L. Dodds death certificate showing parents’ names.4

We can be certain that the Robert L. Dodds described in this death certificate is the same Robert L. Dodds as the son who appeared in the 1900 census because the date and place of birth, 20 August 1897 in [West] Pike, Pennsylvania, are a match.

John Dodds’ own death certificate confirmed that his father’s name was Robert Dodds (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Death certificate for John Dodds, 24 June 1941.5

According to this document, John Dodds died on 24 June 1941 in Ulysses, Pennsylvania—a borough in Potter County, the same county in which John was living in 1900. He was married, and his wife’s name was given only as Lena M. Dodds, no maiden name indicated. He was reported to have been born on 24 February 1860 in Canada, a data consistent with the date of February 1860 reported on the 1900 census. The day and month of birth may well be correct, even if the year is off. His father was identified as Robert Dodds, born in England, and his mother’s place of birth was identified as Canada, although her name was not known by the informant, Mrs. William Straitz of Coudersport, Pennsylvania.

So far, so good. Based on the preliminary evidence from these three documents, we can hypothesize that John Dodds of Potter County, Pennsylvania, who was the husband of Lena Frazier Dodds and was born in Canada circa 1860 to Robert Dodds and an unknown mother, is the same as the John H. Dodds in my family tree. If this hypothesis is correct, then B.Y. would be a second cousin twice removed (2C2R) to my Dad’s aunt. The amount of DNA shared between them, 51 centimorgans (cM), is consistent with this relationship, although other relationships are also possible, including 1/2 2C2R, which is statistically more probable than 2C2R. (That’s another question for another day.) At this point, I figured we could really use a marriage record for John Dodds and Lena Frazier, indicating parents’ names, to tie all this together.

Midnight Madness

You know those late-night research sessions where you’re on a roll, and things are moving fast, and in the heady excitement of the moment, you’re not making notes about the process as carefully as you should? If you’re reading this, of course you do. Well, that happened to me when I made the breakthrough discovery on my John Dodds research, and for the life of me, I can no longer recall exactly what it was that inspired me to look for the record of his marriage to Lena Frazier in New York, rather than in Pennsylvania. But for some reason, I did just that: I checked the Allegany County, New York pages of the New York GenWeb project. If you’re unfamiliar with the USA GenWeb Project, you should definitely check it out, drilling down to your particular counties of interest, because it’s a fantastic resource that has been a favorite of mine since its inception in the late 1990s. In this case, the Allegany County page offers vital records transcriptions, including a page of marriage transcriptions from the town of Willing, New York, covering 1849-1920 (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Detail of “Willing, Allegany Co., New York, Marriages, 1849-1920,” showing record of marriage of John Dodd and Lina Frazier.6

And there it is! Smoking-gun evidence that John Dodd [sic], the 34-year-old farmer residing in Potter County, Pennsylvania, who married Lina [sic] Frazier, was the son of Robert Dodd [sic] and Catherine Grant. John’s age suggests a birth year of 1857, a bit closer to the probable reality of 1853-1854, and he was born in Canada, as expected. One wonders if this was perhaps a second marriage for him, since a “1” was recorded in the “No. of marriage” column for Lena (indicating this was her first marriage) but there is no notation in the corresponding column for the groom. Of course, it may be that this information was merely omitted from the transcription. In a column on the far right, which does not appear in this image, it states that the marriage took place on 20 April 1891, which is an approximate match to the information from the 1900 census that they were married in 1892. In fact, when I wrote to the Willing town clerk to request a copy of the actual marriage record, she informed me that the marriage date according to their records was 20 April 1892, not 1891, so mistakes do happen. It may be that the original record is exceptionally faded or illegible, which impacted the indexer’s ability to read both the marriage date, and any information that may have been recorded in the “no. of marriage” column for the groom.

Tag-Team Genealogy

Of course, there’s quite a bit more research that can, and should, be done to tell this family’s story. Nonetheless, by this point I was so excited that I emailed my Aunt Carol to tell her I’d found our John Dodds, after which a busy week ensued with little time for additional research. However, Aunt Carol took up the cause and was able to fill out the family tree quite nicely with loads of additional documents. Among her discoveries were two documents that I found to be especially noteworthy. The first was an entry in the 1880 census from Foster Township in McKean County, Pennsylvania, for the household of Gilford [sic] and Jno. [sic] Dodd [sic], two laborers who were lodgers at a boarding house run by David and Caroline White (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Detail of 1880 census showing Gilford [sic] and Jno. Dodd [sic].7

The township of Foster is located just south of the New York-Pennsylvania border, and about 50 miles west of Willing, New York, where John Dodds would eventually marry Lena Frazier. “Jno” is an old-fashioned abbreviation for “John” commonly found in genealogical documents. John was reported to be single, and age 24, which suggests a birth year circa 1856. We’re inching ever closer to the years 1853-1854 reported in the earliest documents, which are likely to be the most accurate. He was born in Canada, to Canadian-born parents. A residence within the U.S. in 1880 would be fairly consistent with the immigration year of 1881 which John Dodds reported in the 1900 census.

John and “Gilford” Dodd were enumerated as their own household, separate from the household of the boarding-house owner and the other tenants, which might be construed as evidence for a family relationship, rather than John and “Gilford” being two random boarders who happened to share a surname. In fact, “Gilford” is likely to be Gilbert M. Dodds, John’s brother, who was age 15 in the 1871 census, suggesting a birth year circa 1856. Gilbert does not appear in the 1881 census of Canada, and this record does a nice job of explaining why that might be. According to this census, “Gilford” was single and age 22, which points to a birth year circa 1858. He, too, was said to have been born in Canada of Canadian-born parents. Gilbert would eventually marry Annie Mann on 11 November 1885 in Port Stanley, Elgin County, Ontario8 and I’m pretty sure he died in Buffalo, New York,9 but that’s another story for another day. (I’m still waiting for his death certificate to arrive in the mail!)

The second neat bit of evidence that Aunt Carol found was the World War I draft registration card for John’s son, Robert Lawrence Dodds—the same Robert L. Dodds whose death certificate is shown in Figure 4. The subject of the draft card (Figure 8) resided at 504 Sullivan Street in Elmira, New York. He was born on 20 August 1897 in West Pike, Pennsylvania—information which matches that found on the death certificate for Robert L. Dodds exactly. His nearest relative was noted to be Lena Dodds, living in Ulysses, Pennsylvania, and a further identification of “mother” was written to the right of her name. Although his father’s name was not mentioned on this document, the form included a space for the father’s birthplace, and here it was noted that Robert Lawrence Dodds’ father was born in Port Stanley, Canada.

Figure 9: Front side of World War I draft registration card for Robert Lawrence Dodds.10

Port Stanley, Ontario, no longer exists as an independent municipality today. It’s a small place that was amalgamated with the village of Belmont and with Yarmouth Township—where the Dodds family was known to be living in 1871—to form the municipality of Central Elgin in 1998.11 Since the earliest document found to date for John Dodds was that 1861 census in which the family was living in St. Catharines, Ontario, the information from this draft card, if accurate, suggests a different timeline for the family of Robert and Catherine Dodds than the one I’ve been envisioning for them. If the family were living in Port Stanley circa 1853 when their son John was born, then perhaps Robert and Catherine started their marriage in Elgin County and then moved to St. Catherines, rather than the reverse. Of course, this is all speculative, and there are still many questions which have yet to be answered about the early life of the Dodds family, their migrations, and about the identities of Robert’s and Catherine’s parents. But little discoveries like the ones I’ve made this week give me hope that maybe, if I keep chipping away at it, those brick walls will eventually crumble.

Sources:

1 Census of Canada, 1861, population schedule, Canada West, Lincoln, Grantham, E.D. 4, p 80, lines 1–9, Robert Dodds household, accessed as digital images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx : 28 April 2021 ), Item no. 1884852, citing Microfilm C-1048-1049.

Census of Canada, 1871, population schedule, Ontario, East Elgin, Yarmouth, David Parish, division no. 2, p 73, lines 2–8, Robert Dodds household, accessed as digital images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx : 28 April 2021 ), item no. 454129, citing Microfilm: C-9898, Reference: RG31.

3 1900 United States Federal Census, Potter, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pike Township, enumeration district (ED) 107, sheet no. 2B, dwelling 35, family 38, John H. Dodds household; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 8 May 2021); citing NARA microfilmT623, 1854 rolls, no roll specified.

4 “Pennsylvania, U.S., Death Certificates, 1906-1967,” database, Robert L. Dodds, 13 April 1968, certificate no. 040689-68; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 8 May 2021), certificate no. range 039901-042750, image 804 of 2909; citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906-1968. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

5 “Pennsylvania, U.S., Death Certificates, 1906-1967,” database, John Dodds, 24 June 1941, certificate no. 7817, digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 8 May 2021), certificate no. range 005251-008250, image 3142 of 3654; citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906-1968. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

6 Charlie Barrett, “Historic Records – Willing, Allegany Co., New York, Marriages, 1849-1920,” database, John Dodd and Lina Frazier, 20 April 1891, “Allegany County, New York,” NYGenWeb (http://allegany.nygenweb.net/index.html : 8 May 2021).

7 1880 United States Federal Census, McKean County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Foster Township, Enumeration District (E.D.) 77, Sheet 51A, household no. 787, Gilford and Jno. Dodd, digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 8 May 2021), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1153 of 1,454 rolls.

8 “Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,” database, 1885, no. 2663, marriage record for Gilbert M. Dodds and Annie Mann; digital image, Family Search (https://familysearch.org : 8 May 2021); citing Registrar General of Ontario, Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

9 Buffalo, Erie, New York, Death Index, 1897-1902, p. 206, Gilbert M. Dodds, Vol. 21, no. 71, 1898, and Alexander Dodds, Vol. 34, no. 258, 1899, digital images, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/ : 17 April 2021), image 225 of 1140, citing Index to Deaths, in Buffalo, New York, 1852-1944, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York.

10 “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch, (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 8 May 2021), Robert Lawrence Dodds; Pennsylvania > Potter County; A-R > image 1017 of 3424; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

11 “Place: Yarmouth, Elgin, Ontario, Canada,” WeRelate (https://www.werelate.org/ : 8 May 2021).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Hazel Grand or Jane Boland? Identifying the Mother of Spencer Alexander Dodds

In the days before direct-to-consumer autosomal DNA testing, my Dad used to joke, “Maternity is a fact; paternity is an opinion.” Despite this assertion, we sometimes find conflicting evidence in historical documents that raises questions about the identity of an individual’s mother. Recently, I was able to resolve such a conflict, identify the great-grandparents of a DNA match, and discover how that DNA match was related to my family.

An Unknown Cousin

The DNA match, whom I’ll call S.C., was not known to our family, yet we share a significant amount of DNA in common. With my Dad’s paternal aunt, S.C. shares 158 centimorgans (cM, a unit of genetic linkage) across 4 segments, and he shares even more DNA with my Dad—172 cM across 7 segments. He also shares DNA with a number of documented cousins who are also descendants of Dad’s great-great-grandparents, Robert and Catherine (__) Dodds. S.C. has an online tree which indicates that his grandfather was named Spencer Alexander Dodds, so this seemed to be a promising start. Spencer’s Canadian Expeditionary Forces personnel card is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Canadian Expeditionary Forces personnel card for Spencer Alexander Dodds.1

The card states that Spencer Alexander Dodds was born in Buffalo, New York, on 7 September 1895, a fact which was immediately intriguing. Although my great-great-great-grandparents, Robert and Catherine Dodds, lived in St. Catharines, Ontario, and Yarmouth township, Ontario, several of their children were known to have migrated to Buffalo, including my great-great-grandmother, Martha Agnes (née Dodds) Walsh. The name Alexander was also familiar to me, as one of Martha’s brothers was named Alexander Dodds.

Alexander/Abraham Dodds

The first documentary appearance of Alexander Dodds is in the 1861 Canadian Census, where he was found to be living with his parents, Robert and Catherine Dodds, in St. Catharines. He was their fourth child, and first son, born in Upper Canada about 1850 (Figure 2). His family’s religion was noted to be Methodist.

Figure 2: Detail of 1861 Census of Canada showing Alex’r Dodds.2

By 1871, the family had moved to Yarmouth Township in Elgin County (Figure 3). By this time, the older daughters had married, and Alexander was reported to be 21 years of age, which again suggests a birth year circa 1850. He was born in Ontario, was employed as a baker, and was reported to be of English origin through his father, but of the Presbyterian faith, along with his Scottish mother. Despite the family’s varying religious practices, the names and ages of the family members confirm that this is the same Dodds family found in 1861.

Figure 3: Detail of 1871 Census of Canada showing Alexander Dodds.3

Later that same year, Alexander married Elizabeth Ostrander, daughter of Ebenezer and Elizabeth Ostrander (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Marriage record for Abraham [sic] Dodds and Elizabeth Ostrander, 28 December 1871.4

At first glance, this might not appear to be the correct marriage record for Alexander Dodds, since his given name was recorded as Abraham, not Alexander. However, “Abraham” was noted to be a resident of Aylmer, which is only 7 miles from Yarmouth Centre, where the Dodds family was living when the 1871 census was enumerated. His age, 21 years, points to a birth year of 1850, which is the consistent with the year of birth of Alexander Dodds. The parents’ names, Robert and Catherine, are the same; he was born in Ontario, and he was a Methodist. Check, check, and check. However, Abraham was noted to be employed as a a teamster, rather than a baker. Taken together with the different name, this might be construed as evidence that Abraham and Alexander Dodds were two different individuals. However, if that were true, then we should be able to find an 11-year-old Abraham Dodds in the 1861 census, living with parents Robert and Catherine. A search of the entire 1861 census for Ab* Dod* at the Library and Archives Canada site results in a negative find—no good matches. Of course, one could argue that Abraham might have been missed by the census taker, or was living outside of Canada in 1861; there’s still room for doubt.

The 1881 census helps to resolve that doubt, however. Back in St. Catharines, where many of the Dodds children returned following the death of their mother in 1872, Alexander Dodds was found to be living with his wife, Elizabeth (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Detail of 1881 Census of Canada, showing Alexander and Elizabeth Dodds.5

Alexander’s age points to a birth year of 1849 in Ontario. His religion, Church of England, falls under the broad umbrella of Protestantism that would be consistent with the Dodds’ religious practices. Alexander was employed as a teamster, his wife’s name was Elizabeth, and her ethnic origins were noted to be Dutch— consistent with a maiden name of Ostrander. In light of the entire body of evidence, it seems clear that Alexander and Abraham are the same individual, and that “Abraham” was recorded on the marriage record either by mistake, or because it was a middle name which he used occasionally.

The 1881 census was the last time that Alexander/Abraham appeared in a census of Canada. Searches for either Alex* or Ab* Dod* in the 1891 census produced no unequivocal matches for “my” Alexander Dodds anywhere in Canada. Neither were there any unequivocal matches for him in databases of U.S. or Canadian death records, or U.S. census records. The name is sufficiently common that the trail grew cold, in absence of better clues.

Until now.

Connecting the Dodds

In light of this DNA match to S.C., a new hypothesis began to emerge. What if Spencer Alexander Dodds were the son of Alexander Abraham Dodds? The timeline works—Alexander would have been 45 years old when Spencer was born, not too old to father a child. If this proposed relationship is correct, it would mean that S.C. and my Dad’s paternal aunt would be second cousins once removed (2C1R). According to the Shared Centimorgan Project Tool, the amount of DNA shared between “Aunt Betty” and S.C., 158 cM, is extremely typical for a 2C1R relationship. The amount of DNA shared between S.C. and my Dad (172 cM) would also fit their proposed relationship (3C), according to this hypothesis, although it is on the high side. However, this hypothesis required some additional documentary research before it could be accepted. S.C.’s tree did not offer any clues about the father of Spencer Alexander Dodds. There was only that Canadian Expeditionary Forces personnel card that stated his mother’s name as Hazel Grand. Who was she, and what happened to Elizabeth (née Ostrander) Dodds?

To solve this mystery, I turned to the paper trail for Spencer Alexander Dodds. Since Spencer was born in Buffalo in 1895, I first sought him in the 1900 U.S. Federal census. He was not there. However, there was exactly one search result for Spencer Dodds in the 1901 census of Canada, living in the village of Lucknow, Bruce County, Ontario (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Detail of 1901 Census of Canada showing Spencer A. Dodds in the Boland household.6

In this document, Spencer A. Dodds’ date of birth was reported as 27 August 1895, and it was noted that he was born in the U.S. Both of these facts are reasonably consistent with the information found on the military personnel card, which stated that he was born 7 September 1895 in Buffalo. Combined with the fact that there were no individuals named Spencer Dodds who were found to be living in the U.S. in 1900, it is very likely that this is the same Spencer Dodds who was described in that personnel card. The census further identifies Spencer as the son of 28-year-old Jane Dodds, born 21 March 1873 in Ontario. Significantly, Jane was noted to be a widow, and (less significantly) a Presbyterian of Irish extraction. In addition to her son, Spencer, Jane Dodds had a daughter, Della Dodds, born 8 October 1892 in the U.S. Both Della and Spencer were noted to be of Scottish extraction, which must have been a reference to their late father’s heritage.

Jane Dodds and her children were identified as the daughter and grandchildren of head-of-household Christiana Boland, a single, 47-year-old woman who was a Presbyterian of Irish extraction, born 15 July 1853 in Ontario. One suspects that the census-taker may have intended to record her as a widow since it would have been unusual in those days for a single woman to have four children living with her. However, there may have been some communication difficulties between Christiana and the census-taker, since Christiana’s native language was reported to be Gaelic, rather than English. (This fact is noted on the second column from the right in the census record, not shown in Figure 6.) The family group included Christiana’s sons, Alex, David, and Charles, as well as her 45-year-old brother, Michal [sic].

Jane, Hazel, and Elizabeth

From this information, we can infer that Jane and her husband, the putative Alexander Dodds, lived in Buffalo circa 1892–1895 when their children were born; that Alexander passed away some time between 1895 and 1901, and that Jane took her children back to Ontario to live with her family of origin after her husband’s death. However, the names are a problem. If Jane Dodds was the daughter of Christiana Boland, then her maiden name should have been Jane Boland, not Jane Grand. So then, if this theory is correct, how do we go from Jane Boland to Hazel Grand, and what happened to Elizabeth Ostrander?

A search of the 1900 U.S. Federal census produced a likely match for Jane Dodds (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Detail of 1900 U.S. Census showing Jane Dodds.7

She was living as a boarder in Buffalo, New York, at 145 East Ferry Street, in the household of William and Anna Watson. William Watson was reported to be a 45-year-old Scottish immigrant, born in September 1854, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1883. He was working as an electrician, and had only been married to his wife, Anna, for 2 years. Anna was William’s junior by 10 years, born in New York in May 1865, and the couple had no children. Their boarder was Jennie Dodds, a 28-year-old widow, born in “Canada Eng[lish],” i.e. Ontario, in March 1872—a date which agrees well with Jane Dodds’ date of birth as reported in the 1901 census. Jennie was the mother of 2 children, both of whom were still living, although neither one of them was living with her at the time of the census. This implies that they must have been living with other family members elsewhere, and in light of the 1901 census, it seems probable that these two children were Della and Spencer, already living with their grandmother in Lucknow, Ontario. Jennie reported that she immigrated to the U.S. in 1889. If this date is accurate, and if we assume that she and Alexander were married for about a year before Della’s birth in October 1892, then it suggests that they were married in Buffalo, rather than Ontario. The fact that Jane was already a widow by 1900 narrows down the timeframe for Alexander’s death, so we can now assume that he died between 1895 and 1900.

Dodds in the Death Index

My next step was a search of the Index to Deaths in Buffalo, New York. A search of the volume that covers 1895–1896 produced only one match for Dodd (Lillian H. Dodd) and no matches for Dodds. The volume that covers 1897–1902 was also searched, browsing all the D’s, which covered pages 189–228; pages 197 and 211 were noted to be missing. I was pleasantly surprised to find the death record for Alexander Dodds’ brother, Gilbert M. Dodds, in 1898, since he was previously believed to have died somewhere in Canada. In addition to Gilbert, this volume contained index entries for five additional individuals with the Dodd or Dodds surname: Catherine Dodds and Clara F. Dodd, both of whom died in 1898; Mary Ethel Dodds and Charles V. Dodds, both of whom died in 1900; and—drumroll, please!—Alexander Dodds, who died in 1899.8 I have no idea if, or how, those other Dodds may be more distantly related to me, but the death certificates for Gilbert and Alexander were ordered from the City of Buffalo and I’m waiting with bated breath for their arrival in the mail.

Banishing the Elephant

Although this evidence of Alexander Dodds’ death in 1899 lends further support to my hypothesis about the relationship between S.C. and my family, it does nothing to banish the elephant in the room—the conflicting evidence for the name of Spencer’s mother, Hazel Grand/Jane Boland. Even if we assume that she was a second wife following the death of Elizabeth, it’s imperative that we obtain some sort of resolution to this discrepancy. Since the Canadian Expeditionary Forces personnel card noted that Spencer’s mother, Hazel Grand, was living in the town of Bracebridge in the Muskoka District in 1918, I sought evidence for her there. Lo, and behold! Her death certificate provided the key to this mystery (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Death certificate for Hazel Jean Grant, 7 December 1936.9

The death certificate states that Hazel Jean Grant died in Muskoka Township on 7 December 1936 at the age of 67. She was born in Ontario on 21 March 1869, consistent with prior evidence indicating a date of birth of 21 March 1872 or 1873. She was reported to have been living in the township where the death occurred (Muskoka) for 33 years, which suggests that she moved there circa 1903, two years after her residence in Lucknow in 1901. Her husband was Chas. [Charles] H. Grant. Her father’s name was recorded as “Robt. A. McCarrol,” born in Scotland, and her mother was Christina Borland, born in Canada. The informant was her husband, Charles H. Grant, of Bracebridge, Muskoka.

I just love this death certificate for the instant resolution it brings to the problem. Jane, Jennie and Jean are all versions of the same name,10 and she had an additional given name of Hazel. The surname Grant (i.e. “Grand”) became her surname upon her remarriage after the death of Alexander Dodds. Her mother’s maiden name was Christina Borland, which confirms that this document pertains to the Jennie Dodds described in the 1901 census. Possibly due to that same language barrier, noted previously, Christina gave the census-taker her maiden name and not her married name (McCarrol). Spencer Alexander Dodds’ mother, Hazel Grand, was really Hazel Jean (or perhaps Jane Hazel) McCarrol Dodds Grant.

But Wait, There’s More!

As if this weren’t enough, a search for Jane McCarrol turned up a delightfully informative birth record for Charles Grant, Jr. (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Birth record for Charles Grant, son of Charles Grant and Jennie H. McCarrol.11

This birth record reveals that Jennie H. McCarrol and Charles H. Grant had a son, Charles Grant, who was born in Bracebridge, Muskoka, on 26 October 1912. There was no house number available, but the family was living on Concession 13, Lots 7–8. The father, Charles H. Grant, was a farmer, and he and Jennie McCarrol were married on 7 January 1902 in Barrie (Simcoe County), Ontario. The birth record states that Jennie had been married previously, to Alexander Dodd [sic], and the birth was reported by the baby’s half-sister, Della Dodd—information which just wraps up the whole problem nicely with a big, shiny bow on top.

Of course, my research is not yet finished. (Is genealogy research ever finished?) There are still questions that need to be answered in order to have a more complete understanding of this family’s history, and there’s even some low-hanging fruit (such as baby Charles Grant’s death certificate) that I’m not going to take the time to harvest via analysis here. A death certificate for Elizabeth (Ostrander) Dodds, a marriage record for Alexander Dodds and Jennie McCarrol, and birth records for Della and Spencer Dodds, will provide further confirmation of the facts in this case, and those items have been added to my research plan. However, the DNA evidence, in combination with a growing body of documentary evidence, makes it clear that Alexander Dodds, son of Robert and Catherine (__) Dodds of St. Catherines and Elgin County, Ontario, is undoubtedly the same Alexander Dodds who married Jane/Jennie/Jean McCarrol and became the father of Della Dodds and Spencer Alexander Dodds before his death in Buffalo in 1899.

Now if only I could paint those shared DNA segments onto my ancestral chromosome map

Sources:

1 “Canada, World War I CEF Personnel Files, 1914-1918,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 28 April 2021), 12 M.D., 1st Depot Battalion, Saskatchewan Regiment, Regimental no. 3355666, Spencer Alexander Dodds, digital images, images 2157-2176 of 2726, citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; CEF Personnel Files; RG 150, Volume: Box 2558 – 44, Box 2558 (Dodds, Harry – Dods, Thomas Edward).

2 Census of Canada, 1861, population schedule, Canada West, Lincoln, Grantham, E.D. 4, p 80, lines 1–9, Robert Dodds household, accessed as digital images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx : 28 April 2021 ), Item no. 1884852, citing Microfilm C-1048-1049.

3 Census of Canada, 1871, population schedule, Ontario, East Elgin, Yarmouth, David Parish, division no. 2, p 73, lines 2–8, Robert Dodds household, accessed as digital images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx : 28 April 2021 ), item no. 454129, citing Microfilm: C-9898, Reference: RG31.

4 “Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,”, database and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 28 April 2021), Abraham Dodds and Elizabeth Ostrander, 28 December 1871, citing Marriages – registrations, 1869-1927; original index, 1869-1876; index, 1873-1927; and delayed registrations, 1892-1919, Vol. 15, Parry Sound District, Ontario, Perth, Bruce, Elgin, Grey, and Huron counties, p 265, image 270 of 399.

5 Census of Canada, 1881, population schedule, Ontario, Lincoln District no. 145, St. Catharines Sub-district A, Division no. 1, p 21, lines 6–7, Alexander Dodds household, accessed as digital images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx : 28 April 2021 ), item no. 3788256, citing Microfilm: C-13254, Reference: RG31.

6 1901 Census of Canada, population schedule, Ontario, Bruce West District no. 50, Lucknow Sub-district F, Division no. 1, p 9, lines 12–19, Christiana Boland household, accessed as digital images, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx : 28 April 2021 ), Item no. 2026868, citing Microfilm: T-6462, Reference: RG31.

7 1900 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 17, E.D. 129, Sheet no. 1B, house no. 145., family no. 23, Jennie Dodds in William Watson household; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 28 April 2021), citing NARA digital publication T623, roll 1029.

8 “Buffalo, Erie, New York, Death Index, 1897-1902,” p. 206, Gilbert M. Dodds, Vol. 21, no. 71, 1898, and Alexander Dodds, Vol. 34, no. 258, 1899; digital images, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/ : 28 April 2021), image 225 of 1140, citing Index to Deaths in Buffalo, New York, 1852-1944, City Clerk’s Office, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York.

9 “Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ : 28 April 2021), Hazel Jean Grant, 7 December 1936, Muskoka, Ontario, certificate no. 025223; FHL film no. 2426606/DGS no. 4530550, image 1105 of 1796.

10 “Jane,” Behind the Name (https://www.behindthename.com/name/jane : 28 April 2021).

11 “Ontario Births, 1869-1912,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 28 April 2021), Charles Grant, 26 October 1912, certificate no. 032677; digital images, FHL film no. 2434985/DGS no 4530279, Births, stillbirths, and delayed registration with indexes > Births, no. 31030-38905 (v. 14-17) 1912 > 358 of 1626.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Robert Hodgkinson’s Land

Genealogy and a love of old maps seem to go hand in hand, and I’m always excited to find new sites where I can find maps relevant to my geographic research areas. One site that’s especially nice for those researching Canadian ancestors is the Canadian County Atlas Digital Project site, hosted by McGill University. The site includes an impressive 43 atlases originally published between 1875–1881 from counties in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritime provinces, but the best part is that property owners’ names were marked on the township maps. The site permits searching by surname (Figure 1), or alternatively, individual township maps can be selected from an 1880 map of Ontario counties (Figure 2)

Figure 1: Search screen for surname searches of the Canadian County Atlas database.Personal name search

Figure 2: Search screen for selecting counties based on 1880 map.Map search screen

So for example, a surname search for “Hodgkinson” produces 8 matches, including two which pertain to land owned by my 4x-great-grandfather, Robert Hodgkinson (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Search results for Hodgkinson, with results for Robert Hodgkinson of Grantham boxed in red.Robert Hodgkinson in Canadian County Atlas Project

Clicking “Go” for the first result shown indicates that Robert Hodgkinson owned a parcel of 130 acres on Lot 8, Concession I (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Full record for first search result for Robert Hodgkinson.Robert Hodgkinson search result 1

In Upper Canada following the American Revolution, undeveloped land was divided into townships, which were then subdivided into concessions, which were typically rectangular parcels of land, 1 1/4 miles wide, with concession roads running between them. Concessions were then divided into 200-acre lots, which could be further divided as needed. Robert Hodgkinson’s parcel of land, located on Lot 8, Concession I, can be viewed by clicking “Locate on Map,  which produces a close crop of the parcel in question as well as a thumbnail image of the map on which the parcel appears (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Mapped location of first parcel of land noted to be owned by Robert Hodgkinson.Hodgkinson parcel 1

When the process is repeated for the second search result in Figure 3, we can see that Robert Hodgkinson owned a second parcel of land immediately south of the first parcel, located on Lot 8 on Concession II.

To view these parcels in a broader geographic context, we can find the map on which they appear by returning to the map search page shown in Figure 2. Lincoln County is number 9 on the map index, and clicking on it produces a map from which individual townships can be selected (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Map of Lincoln County with individual township maps. Map of Lincoln county

Clicking on Grantham township produces a map of Grantham from 1876 (Figure 7) with an option to click to a closer view.

Figure 7: 1876 map of Grantham township.

Zooming in really allows us to see the lay of the land, so to speak, and both parcels of  Robert Hodgkinson’s land on Lot 8, Concession I and Lot 8, Concession II are clearly indicated (Figure 8). It’s evident that lots were numbered from east to west, starting at the border of Grantham Township and Niagara Township to the east, and concessions were numbered from north to south, starting at Lake Ontario.

Figure 8: Robert Hodgkinson’s land, Lot 8, Concession I and Lot 8, Concession II.Robert Hodgkinson's land close crop

What’s interesting here is that Robert Hodgkinson’s name was associated with these parcels of land as late as 1876, when the map was created, although he died in 1861, as his grave marker asserts (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Grave marker for Robert Hodgkinson, Victoria Lawn Cemetery, St. Catharines, Ontario. Photo credit Carol Roberts Fischer.robert-hodgkinson-grave-marker-rotated.jpg

As it happens, an earlier map of the area can be found thanks to a similar mapping project, the Ontario Historical County Maps Project, hosted by the University of Toronto. This project includes maps of 54 counties, produced between 1856 and 1888, and new maps continue to be added to the database. The main search page is shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10: Search portal for Ontario Historical County Maps Project.Ontario Historical County Maps Project

The map can be explored in several ways. Clicking on a county of interest, such as Lincoln County, reveals the source maps that were used for the site, and offers an option to download the scanned images (Figure 11). In the case of Lincoln County, the source map is from 1862, the year after Robert Hodgkinson died, and 14 years earlier than the map available from the Canadian County Atlas Digital Project.

Figure 11: Options for viewing maps of Lincoln County.Lincoln County map options

To quickly locate a particular land owner, one can search the Land Occupants Database by clicking the magnifying glass icon located near the upper right corner of the page (Figure 12). The database offers the capability to search by first and last name, and an option to generate a list of all the names found in a particular township, as well as an advanced search option which permits searching by lot number and concession number.

Figure 12: Land Occupants Database search portal.Land Occupants Database search option

A search for all land occupants with the surname Hodgkinson in this database returns three results, two of whom were land owners in Grantham:  F.A. Hodgkinson, on Concession II, Lot 11, and Hodgkinson with no given name specified, on Concession I, Lot 8. Selecting that second option pinpoints it on the map (Figure 13).

Figure 13: Search result for Hodgkinson on Concession I, Lot 8 in Grantham.Hodgkinson Plot 1862 map

Zooming in reveals that the indicated plot is actually one of two plots owned by the estate of R. Hodgkinson (Figure 14). This is consistent with the information obtained from the 1876 map, which indicated that Robert Hodgkinson owned part of Lot 8 on Concession I, in addition to owning all of Lot 8 on Concession II, and with the fact that Robert Hodgkinson himself died in 1861, so the land would have been in the possession of his heirs by 1862 when the map was created.

Having two maps created 14 years apart also enables us to note changes in ownership. According to the 1876 map, the lakefront portion of Lot 8 on Concession I was owned by Joseph Johnson (Figure 8), which suggests that Robert Hodgkinson’s estate must have sold that portion of the land some time between 1862 and 1876 when the second map was created.

Figure 14: Close-up view of parcel owned by the estate of R. Hodgkinson, boxed in red.Estate of R Hodgkinson

Zooming in still further converts the historical map to the current road map, and Robert Hodgkinson’s land is shown to be bordered by Read Road to the west, with Lakeshore Road running between Concessions 1 and 2, and Church Road bordering the Hodgkinson parcel to the south (Figure 15). Thomas Bate’s land lay in between the Hodgkinson land and Stewart Road, so the eastern border of the Hodgkinson land lies approximately halfway between Read Road and Stewart Road. The map also reveals that Read Road forms the present-day border between St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake, so the former Hodgkinson property lies right at the western end of present-day Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Figure 15: Contemporary road map indicating location of Robert Hodgkinson’s land.Hodgkinson Modern Map

Of course, it’s always fun to check the satellite view to see what lies on one’s ancestral lands today. In this case (Figure 16), it looks like Lakeview Vineyard Equipment is located on Robert Hodgkinson’s land, along with a number of other homes and businesses with addresses along Read, Lakeshore, and Church Roads. There’s also quite a nice luxury home on a 21-acre estate that is most definitely located on land that once belonged to Robert Hodgkinson.

Figure 16: Satellite view of Robert Hodgkinson’s land today, with the approximate location of Lot 8 on Concession 1 boxed in red.Satellite map view

Anyone with ancestors who were landowners in Ontario in the mid-to-late 19th century can easily lose a few hours playing with these maps. They offer a fascinating glimpse into the past, as well as a bridge to the present. Inspired by these maps, I think I’ll plan a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake this summer, and include a drive down Read Road, turning onto Lakeshore. I’ll park the car someplace where I can look out across the fields, feel the sunlight on my skin and the breeze in my hair. And I’ll remember that, once upon a time, Robert Hodgkinson, whose DNA I carry, probably looked out across those same fields more than a century before I was born.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020