Dave's Genealogy and Family History

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Thoms wedding photo
My great grandfather, Daniel Tohm and his wife Caroline Bittner of Poland, dressed in their wedding attire.
The main street in Saffron Waldon
We visited this street in Saffron Walden, England in 2001.  My grandmother's mother, Ellen Parkin,  was born here and worked as a house maid. 
The First Church established in the village of Norway, Ontario.

This is the original St. John the Baptist, Anglican Church in Toronto set up about 1855 with the help of my great, great grandfather, Thomas Smith.  The modern church still exists on the same site.
First church in Norway village
The Smiths
   About November of 1999, I began pestering my mother, Carrie Smith, about her early recollections.  She had reached her 85th year.  Soon after, Murray Creighton became a major collaborator via email.  Leslie Smith, also in his 80s, provided many details and served to keep his sister honest.  Carrie, Leslie and Murray were the last remaining “Smiths” who had migrated across the country from Manitoba to settle at Sahtlam in the Cowichan Valley of Vancouver Island.  Eighty years had passed since the family had arrived on the farm, but the stories  I collected soon kindled my imagination and made me thirst for more. I discovered the people and the farm were only the beginning of a long and interesting family history.
    Several other common descendants have emerged since my investigations began.   Judy Smith (Gilchrist) of Winnipeg, Jan Gilchrist of British Columbia and Mary Crandall of Toronto all share our common ancestors, William Loane and Sarah Winnett. 
Susan Miller of Alberta and Matthew Winnett of Australia have emerged as descendants of  the Winnett family of Killaloe, Ireland.  Charles McIntosh discovered these web pages and learned he was a Creighton.
     I visited the town of Killaloe, Ireland, home of the Winnett family and Bandon where the Loane family originated.  We also did research at the National Library of Ireland and the County Clare Library.
Carting away the dead in Ireland
Carting Away the Dead

The great Irish famine is part of my family history.  In the village of Cork about 1846, bodies of the starved are being hauled away.

The Tohms
My great, grandfather, Daniel Tohm, came to Canada about 1888.  Daniel Tohm and his wife Caroline Bittner were Polish born, but emigrated when the people of German descent in Volynia suffered descrimination under Russian rule.  My early investigations led me to Carol Hart (Winder), daughter of Hilda Bittner (Hart), all common descendants of Gotlieb Bittner.  In the early days of their immigration, the Tohms and Bittners farmed near each other in Alberta and then Saskatchewan where Carol Winder continues to live.  Two children, Lena and John Ohlson, were adopted by the Tohms in 1898 and one of Lena's children,  Hazel Nazerden (Wilkinson), currently of Peachland, British Columbia, also  provided many details about the early days.  (Hazel moved to Chilliwack in 2007)
     In 2008, I visited Poland and Ukraine and made a train journey across Europe by the same route Daniel Tohm and his family used. 

The Fosters
I was shocked to discover how little was known about the Foster family.  I had never shown any interest.  As kids, my sister and I always resisted when my father wanted us to visit Grannie and the “old maid” sisters.  We never really knew them and my father had died when I was 17.  My mother was little help. We knew they were from England and Grandpa had been a tailor; end of story. My father had a brother, Jimmy and one sister, Bessie, still alive but our families hadn’t spoken for 40 years.  There had only been Christmas cards.  My quest for answers finally pushed me to visit Uncle Jimmy, who at the age of 90 still lived with Hazel, his wife of 60 years. It was a fine reunion which has led to many subsequent visits. I was very fortunate. A search through his shoe boxes stuffed with old momentos, turned up a Christmas card from the 70s with an address in England.  He explained that his sisters, Rhoda, and Elsie (both deceased) had visited some “English relatives” about that time.  I visited Aunt Bessie and heard the second-hand stories of the visit. Without great expectations, but with no other options, I wrote a letter to the English address, addressing it  “To the Occupant”.  It gave instructions to pass the letter on to a member of the Foster family if they knew one.  Again I was very lucky. Thank goodness English families don’t move every 5 years like we do.  In her reply Sarah Tattoo began “Two days ago I received the letter you sent to my parents’ old address and which was kindly forwarded to me by their former neighbour.” Her parents had moved away in 1988.  Sarah and I are third cousins, sharing great, grand parents. 
    Margaret Foster, a lady in her 80s and youngest daughter of John, my grandfather’s brother, also wrote me several letters. She died in the year 2000.  She was the last remaining family member to have lived at the Sheffield house.  Thanks to her and Sarah, I have been able to collect considerable data on the family.
     In 2001, I did research at the Pubic Records Office in London and also the County Records Office in Cambridge. 

The Chapmans
    My grandmother, Esther Chapman, came to Canada from Cambridge, England in 1905.  She followed her  future husband, Richard, who had arrived in Winnipeg a few months earlier.  The couple soon moved to Victoria where the family has lived ever since. 
    I've been unsuccessful in finding descendants of the Chapman family.  Our visit to Cambridge in 2001 unravelled several mysteries but created  many more.  Josiah Chapman, the earliest ancestor I've discovered, was an agricultural worker (ie. he worked on a large estate) but probably didn't read or write.