Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sepia Saturday~ Best Buddies

 The Freckled face little boy on the right is my Great Uncle James Mason Jr., the doe eyed young man on the left is Freddie Burchett. From the way Freddie has his armed draped over my uncle's shoulder and that look on his face that says " I'll protect you, no matter What", It makes me think that Little Freddie must have been my Uncle's best friend at this point in his young life. The photo was taken sometime in the 1930's in Ontario Canada.

Friday, January 28, 2011

On This Day~ January 28 1927

 On this day in Toronto Canada Melville Daniel Smith was born. The first child of five born to my maternal grandparents Alice Margaret Cocklin and Melville Morrison Smith. Sadly I didn't know my Uncle very well even though for the first 34 years of my life we lived in the same town or just a few towns away from each other.

My Uncle came to United States sometime in the 1950's.  In 1961 he became a US citizen, something I did not know until I found his naturalization record on

U.S. Naturalization Record

 He was married to my Aunt Marge for over 50 years and together they raised 3 children,Barbara, Jack and Jimmy. He passed away on the 31st of January 2007 at the age of 80.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mystery Monday~Will The Real James Watson please stand up

                            © Copyright Jim Bain and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

On January 07, 2011  I posted about my Great Grandmother Mary Bella Watson and that one of my hopes of posting about her birth was to help solve the mystery of who her father was and why had James Watson not married Mary Imlah. After doing the post  I did  some more searching and while there is no hard evidence that what I have come up with is correct, it does seem possible that this is what might have happened .

 I  did a search for James Watson on "Scotland's People" using Aberdeen as my starting place and the date range of 1840 to 1850 (Mary Imlah's birth year is 1844) This gave me 21 people with the correct name. I used Google maps to help give me the distance from New Deer where Mary lived to the places of birth for the 21 James Watson's using walking to determine the time it would take, since horse or walking would of been the mode of transportation in 1866 for most farmers. I made note of  the names that seemed like possibilities and then moved on to check the census records of Aberdeen.
The 1861 census  photo #3 shows this James Watson living at Middle Ironside.  Mary Imlah was living at Ironside,the map below shows  the distance from Middle Ironside to Ironside. Of the 21 James Watson's that I found, the one residing in Middle Ironside was the only one who lived in New Deer.   There were no cars or phones and farmers worked for dawn till dusk leaving little time for long distance travel or romance. They both were born in the  same place they were residing at in 1861 which would mean they would have known each other since birth (or so you would think). So back to Scotland's People to search for more records.  I found the following death record for James Watson son of William and Helen Watson of the above census.
 James Watson  was a farmers son, single and he died at the age of 21 from Consumption on July 4th 1866, according to his death record he had been suffering for 3 months. That would mean sometime in April James Watson was ill enough to seek medical attention from a doctor. My  great grandmother was born  January 07,1866, Had he been feeling ill before April? Could this be why they had not married or why he had not gone With Mary Imlah to have his name added to my great Grandmothers birth record ?

 I  feel out of the 21 names on the list this James Watson is the one to continue searching.  What do you think?

Friday, January 07, 2011

On This Day in Scotland~January 07,1866

Portrait of Mary Bella

   On This day 145 years ago my Great Grandmother  Mary Isabella (Bella) Watson was born in New Deer, Aberdeenshire Scotland . Her Parents were Mary Imlay and James Watson. She was raised in the home of her grandparents Peter Imlah and Mary Wilson. 

 It took me awhile to find my great grandmothers birth record because I was searching with the name she used on her marriage record  "Mary Bella Watson", which gave her fathers names as "James Watson" both the 1871 and 1881 census show her as Mary Watson as well. I finally tried searching the birth records using just one parents name at a time. When I used just the mothers name I was able to find the birth record at last. The birth record  above  shows  that her name is actually "Mary Isabella Imlay" and under her name is the word Illegitimate . The following article from The University of Glasgow helps explain why the name Watson does not appear on her birth record.

"The mother was responsible for reporting the birth of an illegitimate baby, and the father's name could not be recorded unless he accompanied her to the registrar's office and declared himself willing to have his name on the register, or a court had already decided that he was the father and liable to maintain the baby.  The word 'illegitimate' was firmly recorded against these entries in the register, .Scots law, unlike English law, made a child born out of wedlock legitimate if the parents married after the birth.  The registrar had to make a note of this beside the original entry in the birth register, together with the date of the marriage.     But the law was strict about adultery.  Children born of an adulterous relationship could not become legitimate, even if their parents married when free to do so"

  With the above information in mind we can rule out that Mary Bella's father took responsibility since his name is not on the record or that he and Mary Imlay later married not only are the words "Legitimate" missing from under the word illegitimate but Mary Imlay mother of  Mary Bella married someone else 1871.  The discovery of  her birth record  started me asking a thousand questions, "Why did Mary and James not Marry? was he married to someone else? Did something happen to James before they could marry? When Mary Imlay married Cumming Smith why did great-grandma not go to live with them? Did James Watson ever play a part in is daughters life?  I hope someday to have answers to at least a few of my "whys"~ maybe if I'm lucky another family member will stumble upon this blog and have the answers I seek.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Talented Tuesday~Wall Of Death Rider

Photo Courtesy of Dick Dykes "The Balloon Man"
My Maternal Grandfather, Melville Morrison Smith was a dispatch rider during WWI and developed a love and great skill for riding motorcycles during that time.
After WWI ended my grandfather who was 18 years old joined the Johnny J. Jones Exposition in 1920. He was part of the Motordrome riders act, also known as "The Wall of Death". Grandpa toured with the Expo from 1920 to 1928. In August of 1928 he crashed  while performing his stunts, fracturing his skull and ending his career as a Stunt rider.

Female Motordrome rider with Lion
The Wall of Death or motordrome is a carnival Side show  featuring a drum- or barrel-shaped wooden cylinder, ranging from 20 to 36-feet in diameter, in which stunt motorcyclists ride and carry out tricks. The very first carnival motordrome appeared at Coney Island amusement park (New York) in 1911. The following year portable tracks began to appear on traveling carnivals and in 1915, the first "silodromes" with perpendicular walls were seen. These motordromes with perfectly straight walls were soon dubbed the "Wall of Death."  In 2004, six or seven of these motorcycle shows were still touring the US. From the Wikipedia