Wednesday, 26 April 2017

DNA brings more Nelson connections

When I returned from my offline and out of the country vacation a week ago, I was intent upon resuming posts to this blog with gusto. But then I found a message with the subject line "how are we related?" waiting in my Ancestry message box. We are AncestryDNA matches, but the person didn't at that point have a family tree. She wondered if we are linked either through her mother's midwest Scandinavian families or her father's New England families.

Since I have no American midwest relatives of Scandinavian ancestry, we soon determined that we're related through our fathers. Her father was a Nelson, and because his parents' marriage was an old fashioned shotgun wedding in the Boston area, she knew absolutely nothing about his family. My latest cousin had her paternal grandparents and great grandparents' names and knew that her great grandfather, Arthur Hamilton Nelson (1874-1952) had been born in Nova Scotia, but not much more.

You know what happened next. Rather than getting back to blogging, I instead spent several hours over three days unravelling this latest DNA cousin's ancestry and her link to me. I love nothing more than a good genealogy mystery.

I was able to tell this latest DNA cousin more of her Colchester, Nova Scotia and New England Planter roots, and she has now begun baby steps to populating her tree. We are 5th cousins once removed. We both descend from my 4th great grandparents Alexander Nelson (abt 1737-1803) and Margaret Robinson (1735-1823), but my new cousin descends twice from them, through two of their sons, Charles Nelson (1771-1847) and Robinson Nelson (1774-1850), who are older brothers to my 3rd great grandfather, Elias Nelson (1783-1871). with Alexander and Margaret my cousin's 4th great grandparents.

My new cousin now know that there are thousands of Nelson cousins across North America (at least),and has much work ahead of her, learning more about genealogy and populating her family tree. But I don't want to scare her off from experiencing the passion of genealogy, so I'm trying very hard not to bombard her with information.

Like for instance, not all Nelsons descend from our great grandparents. Like there's are separate Nelson lines that originated on Prince Edward Island via Philadelphia in the early 19th century that is probably originally from England, whereas the Nova Scotia Nelsons are Scots in origin.

The never ending story continues....

© Margaret Dougherty 2016-2017 All rights reserved

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Railway lines and trains for the Battle of Vimy Ridge

Here in Canada, we're preparing for the 100th anniversary of the Battle at Vimy Ridge on April 9. This battle, that is regarded as the turning point in Canadian history, paved the way to Allied victory in the Great War. The Vimy Ridge Foundation has this about the importance of this battle. The upcoming anniversary got me to wondering again about any part my grandfather may have played in it.

My grandfather, John Matheson (1884-1964), was a sapper in the Canadian Railway Construction Corps (RCC) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His full personnel file was digitized last year by Library and Archives Canada. I wrote about his file and him here, for Remembrance Day 2016.

John Matheson service record
Honestly? I'm disappointed that his personnel didn't reveal more information about where he was posted--much of the file deals with pay and medical and is silent on which RCC battalions he served in or where, more specifically, he served. So I got to researching and was rewarded to find a 1919 nine-page government report summarizing the RCC's activities.

A key statement caught my eye:

"…the Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps proceeded to France in August, 1915. This Unit was made up of 500 picked men from the construction forces of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Each man before enlisting was required to pass a test as to his technical ability before he joined the unit which was the pioneer Canadian Railway Construction Unit in France."

This corresponds with what I know. My grandfather signed his attestation papers in March 1915, and spent three months training in Canada before shipping out to England in June 1915. Within days of my grandparents' London marriage, he was shipped out to France on 25 August. He spent the next two years there and in Belgium, with short annual leaves back to my grandmother in England.

There were ten Railway Construction Troop batallions on the British Western Front by 1917, and according to the report I found, they played a key supporting part in the Battle at Vimy Ridge. During the German retreat after the Battle at Somme in late 2016, government report referenced above notes that the railway construction troops "were able to push forward standard gauge and railway lines with surprising rapidity in spite of the obstacles and difficulties imposed by atrocious weather and the thoroughness of the destruction left by the enemy in the wake of his retreat......the Canadian Railway Troops had laid steel to within a short distance to the front line" at Vimy.

I found more specific details about the work of the RCC in this 1993 Canadian Rail article.

Today, the Battle at Vimy Ridge is memorialized in a stunning monument unveiled and dedicated in July 1934. Remarkably, it was untouched during the Second World War despite ferocious bombing and fighting all around it. Over the years though, wear and tear and a patchwork of repairs occurred. The memorial was restored and rededicated in 2007, on the 90th anniversary of the Battle.

I could not end this post especially without a link to one of Historica Canada's iconic Heritage Minutes about Vimy Ridge.

I am so thankful that my grandfather survived the war, and am happy to learn about his contributions towards Canada's success at Vimy Ridge.

The never ending story continues....

© Margaret Dougherty 2016-2017 All rights reserved