Genealogists' Forum - We have branches everywhere!



Go Back   Genealogists' Forum - We have branches everywhere! > Research > Family History Stories

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 09-04-16, 17:51
James18's Avatar
James18 James18 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: North Lincolnshire
Posts: 1,306
Thumbs up Tracing my grandmother's long-lost cousin

Note to moderators: any details posted below are of deceased individuals.

I had originally started this post several months ago, just after the incident in question, but I lost track of time and eventually lost the draft I'd written, and so with that I'll give it another go -- with the benefit of hindsight, and the passing of the lady in question. I've never written anything like this before, so please bear with me and forgive any narrative gaps! Finally, the post has been split in two due to the character limit.

Part I

When I first joined this forum, one of the families I had been trying to connect the dots for were the Hendrys of Ballymena (and later Glasgow), my maternal great-grandmother's side. Originally, all I had to work from was a sheet of A4 with some vague notes from about twenty years ago, and a single family photograph of people I neither recognized or knew anything about, and so at that time it was not possible to put any faces to names or put together any form of remotely accurate family tree. Also adding to the complications were that of my great-grandmother's siblings, several were born in Ireland, several in Scotland, and most seemed to use the surnames Henry, Hendry and Brown Hendry interchangeably. So, for a complete novice such as I, this made for an 'interesting' attempt at a family tree, as researching these names - very common in both countries - across several online resources is both tedious and potentially very expensive. However, thanks to some of you here (I won't embarrass anyone!) I got there in the end.

The reason I wanted to write this post is because of one of the people I managed to get in touch with, as it was not something I'd ever considered likely at the time and because that person passed away in December at the not unreasonable age of 94. Her name was Nan, and her mother, my great-grandmother's sister, died in childbirth with her. Initially, that was all I knew about her, and actually my notes had her name down as Annie (her mother's name), which led to a number of false leads!

I had initially wanted to search for Nan simply to see when she died - so I could have accurate information for my tree - and whether she'd had any children of her own; it simply never occurred to me that she may still be alive. I know you shouldn't, and I know that people can live to a ripe old age nowadays, but when I'm looking at relatives born in the 1920s my head just automatically registers as 'they're obviously dead'. I know, I'm terrible.

Again, being the novice I am, I was not then aware that Canadian BMD records are patchy, vary greatly between provinces, and are not exactly fantastic in terms of public availability. Also, as the Hendrys were traditionally Plymouth Brethren, Nan's details may well be excluded from the primarily Roman Catholic 'Drouin Collection' (something else I knew nothing about). So, I had no birth, no marriage, no death, no full name... I didn't even know her father's name, only - from my uncle's notes - that he was an engineer, and that Nan's mother died in childbirth in Montreal. That was it.

So, what then? Well, giving in to temptation, I scoured Ancestry's public trees for a match. I knew Nan's mother's name, and I had a vague idea what several of her mother's siblings were called, so I thought that would be enough to go by. Luckily, I did find a single match -- a chap researching Nan's father's second wife's family, which gave me his name, as well as Nan's (incorrect) full name and the name of her late husband. Using this information, I was then able to find a copy of Nan's parents' marriage certificate from ScotlandsPeople, which confirmed I had the right couple. And of course, having Nan's married name, I then Googled her, which led me first to a link to her husband's 2006 obituary, and secondly to an online birthday e-card, signed by various members of the Rosemount Bible Church in Montreal. I saw Nan's name on the obituary, I looked at the date on the e-card (2011?), and then I looked at the RBC's website - 'RBC is a Christian congregation of about 345 adults and children, associated with similar congregations under the name of Christian Brethren Churches in Quebec (CBCQ)...' - and I thought... could she still be alive?

Well, it couldn't hurt to e-mail the RBC and ask, could it? So, I contacted a chap named Nick, one of the church elders, who informed me that yes, he knew Nan, and that he would forward my query to a woman named Laura, a long-time friend of Nan's who would be better able to help me. A few days later, Laura duly replied:

'Hello James

Your request for information about Nan Price has been forwarded to us.

Nan is 95 and living in a nursing home where she is well cared for. She is frail, doesn’t talk much, but is able to answer simple questions requiring short one or two word replies on good days.

Her parents were Annie Hendry and Robert Binning.

Nan was born in Montreal on March 20, 1921, and her mother died in childbirth. (Her father remarried and had 4 sons, none of whom are still living.)

She married Wylam Price on April 10, 1948. He died on Sept. 16, 2006.

They had no children.

I will see Nan on Oct. 26 and if you have any specific questions you would me to ask her I would be glad to do that and see if she remembers any information you might need.

Bye for now.

Laura'


I was absolutely amazed. Not only had I managed to trace this long-lost cousin of my grandmother's, but she was still alive and I was in a position to pass on information and questions to her. I wondered what - and who - she would be able to remember. She had seemingly outlived all of her younger half-brothers, and, as I later discovered, had not been in contact with anyone from her mother's family in over 80 years.

I began by replying to Laura's e-mail, attaching the very patchy family tree I had at that point, scans of the few photographs and travel records I had, and an explanation as to exactly who I was and how Nan and I were related. To her great credit, Laura printed off all of these documents and took them with her to show Nan on her next visit:

'Hi James

Sorry that I didn't get back to you sooner.

The day I saw Nan she was very tired. I showed her the family tree first and she was interested in it but didn't have any info to add to it. She said she remembered her Aunts and Uncles. Then while I was asking some questions about where she lived in Scotland she fell asleep.

After Nan's Mother died in childbirth in Montreal, her Dad sent her to Scotland to live with her Grandparents. When Nan was five, her Dad remarried and then he and his wife and baby boy went to Scotland about a year later and brought her back to live here with them. So Nan only lived in Scotland for about 6 years. She grew up in Montreal and married here.

Nan said she lived with her Mother's parents, not her Father's in Scotland. The address for her on the ship listing was in Glasgow. Do you know if it was the Hendry's who lived there or the Binning's?

I noticed from the ship records you sent she came back for a visit before returning to live here. When I asked Nan about that she said she came with her Aunt Margaret but on the ship listing it was a Binning travelling with her.

I am going to see her the beginning of December and will bring the papers and try again to ask her some questions then.

Will let you know how I make out.

Laura'


Fantastic, I thought. I wondered whether Nan had seen any of these photographs before, or whether she knew of all these relatives. From what Laura had told me, Nan had only met her mother's younger sister Margaret, and of course she never knew her mother at all. Her only relatives had been her father's family in Glasgow (as a small child) and later her step-mother and half-brothers in Montreal. As far as I know, Nan never returned to Scotland after her (second, I believe) trip to visit her grandparents in 1928.

Unfortunately, Laura's next visit did not go ahead...
__________________
Eighteen -- Hadleigh, Suffolk; Reading, Berkshire
Hendry -- Ballymena, Antrim; Glasgow, Lanarkshire
Wylie -- Ballymena, Antrim; Glasgow, Lanarkshire
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 09-04-16, 17:51
James18's Avatar
James18 James18 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: North Lincolnshire
Posts: 1,306
Default

Part II

After a brief e-mail exchange during late November and early December, I received another reply from Laura:

'Hello James

It is with a sad heart that I am writing that Nan went to be with her Lord last night. I was with her at that time. She was a very dear friend, more like family. She will be missed but we know for her it is so much better.

On Saturday a friend of Nan's, Audrey, and I had driven to Sherbrooke for the annual Christmas dinner at the Residence where Nan lived. Nan had enjoyed her dinner, walked back to her room with her walker and the nurse got her ready for bed as she was tired after such a busy time. The next morning Audrey and I stopped in for a short visit before heading back to Montreal where I was getting the train back to Toronto where I live. We just arrived in Montreal when I got a call saying that at lunch Nan had choked on some food and couldn't get her breath and was on oxygen. We immediately turned around and went back to see her. By the next night she was in heaven. As you know she was 95 and frail and could only communicate with single words. But It was quite a shock as so unexpected at that particular time.

When I had first arrived on Saturday morning I had showed her your pictures which I had printed out and she studied them so carefully. I was so glad she had seen them. Thank you for sending them. She couldn't add any information for you but was interested in seeing them. She didn't know if she had met your grandmother as as she was only in Scotland as a very young child (ages 1- 6).

I have found out from the Binning side of the family that Nan stayed with her grandparents on her father's side in Scotland, not her mother's. The address on Kent Street was the Binning home. I have received a little information on Annie Hendry at the time she married and came to Canada from a great nephew of Nan on the Binning side of family. Would you like me to ask him if I could forward it to you? He is doing a Binning family tree.

I will be glad to keep in touch and help in any way I can.

Laura'


I was of course very sad to hear of Nan's death, as although I'd never met her I was so happy to have found her against seemingly impossible odds. When I set out to trace Nan, I didn't know her name, when or where she was born, or what happened to her after her mother died. At the time I remember feeling amazed at having finally tracked her down, and then getting in touch with her friend Laura - who was absolutely wonderful in relaying details to Nan and printing off photographs and documents to show her - was a real godsend.

I knew that at such an advanced age Nan would not be able to help me to any great extent, but when Laura told me that Nan did not know she had any family on her mother's side or how she could get in touch with them - her father died in 1953 and communication with his family in Scotland seems to have dried up - I was so happy to have been able to at least reassure her that yes, she did, and we were thinking of her. I later contacted two of Nan's surviving Hendry first cousins and explained to them what had happened, and the message I received from both amounted to 'that's incredible, we had no idea Annie's daughter was still alive!'

Nan died on December 7th, 2015 at her nursing home in Sherbrooke. She would have been 95 years old last month.

Laura sent me a photo of Nan as a baby, and a scan of the cut-out of the obituary she'd had published:



Laura and I are still in touch - she has even scanned me Nan's birth, marriage & death certificates - and I am also in touch with a great-nephew on the Binning side, and we have been sharing information about Nan's family.

I thought this story may have been of interest to some of you, as I think it does go someway to proving that if you really try digging hard enough you can find people you genuinely never expected to, and in this case, just in time!

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who helped me on this journey.

James
__________________
Eighteen -- Hadleigh, Suffolk; Reading, Berkshire
Hendry -- Ballymena, Antrim; Glasgow, Lanarkshire
Wylie -- Ballymena, Antrim; Glasgow, Lanarkshire
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 09-04-16, 20:10
Mary from Italy's Avatar
Mary from Italy Mary from Italy is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: N. Italy
Posts: 3,342
Default

That's a lovely story, James!
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 10-04-16, 08:24
Merry's Avatar
Merry Merry is online now
Administrator
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Near Christchurch, Dorset
Posts: 19,444
Default

A lovely story, James. what a nice woman Laura is to have gone to so much trouble and not to have left things until it was too late, which so easily might have happened.
__________________
Merry

"Something has been filled in that I didn't know was blank" Matthew Broderick WDYTYA? March 2010
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 10-04-16, 09:11
Nell's Avatar
Nell Nell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 3,060
Default

Thank you for sharing, James. Sometimes all the digging pays off!
__________________
Love from Nell
researching
Chowns in Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire
Brewer, Broad, Eplett & Pope in Cornwall
Smoothy & Willsher/Wiltshire in Essex & Surrey
Emms, Mealing + variants, Purvey & Williams in Gloucestershire
Barnes, Dunt, Gray, Massingham, Saul/Seals/Sales in Norfolk
Matthews & Nash in Warwickshire
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 11-04-16, 01:40
Janet's Avatar
Janet Janet is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Niagara County
Posts: 2,185
Default

What a beautiful baby she was, a beautiful person all round it seems, and that's a really beautiful story, James.
__________________

Janet (Niagara)

MY TIME AND DATE
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 14-04-16, 09:56
James18's Avatar
James18 James18 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: North Lincolnshire
Posts: 1,306
Default

Hi all,

Thanks a lot for the lovely feedback, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I was very wary about writing it (I'm not normally that sentimental!) but it did strike me as being an interesting story, so thought some of you may appreciate it.
__________________
Eighteen -- Hadleigh, Suffolk; Reading, Berkshire
Hendry -- Ballymena, Antrim; Glasgow, Lanarkshire
Wylie -- Ballymena, Antrim; Glasgow, Lanarkshire
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-02-17, 12:39
anne fraser's Avatar
anne fraser anne fraser is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 555
Default

I loved your story James. I am glad you found her before it was too late and were able to tie up some loose ends.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 29-06-17, 06:24
Kit's Avatar
Kit Kit is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 3,914
Default

I've just read this James. I bet you made an old lady very happy that you cared to find her. The picture is wonderful too. Laura sounds like a lovely lady.
__________________
Toni
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 07:58.


Hosted by Photon IT

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 PL3
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.