Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ My Smiths...Not To Be Confused With Your Smiths

I imagine most family historians dread the research into their lines with common surnames, like Smith and Jones. So it was when I began my research into my Smith line. I really lucked out, though, because my Smiths descend from one of the most famous Canadian settler families.

My Smith research really began fifteen years ago, during my last visit to Canada. The year 2000 marked the 225th anniversary of the Yorkshire Migration, when, between 1772 and 1775, over 1000 settlers immigrated from Yorkshire, England to the Chignecto Region of Nova Scotia.

My fifth great grandparents, Nathaniel and Elizabeth (Duck) Smith, with their family, sailed out of Hull, England, aboard The Albion in March of 1774. The ship arrived at Fort Cumberland at the head of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia during the third week of May after first making port in Halifax. Their oldest son, Benjamin, had emigrated a year earlier and purchased a 1500 acre farm with a house and livestock in Cumberland County on his family's behalf. Nathaniel was 54 years old when he and his family left the village of Upsall, Yorkshire, to join Benjamin in the New World.

The first instance of the Smith surname in my family tree is my grandmother, Harriet Cheney Smith.

There are many great source materials on the Yorkshire Migration. In 2000, I was able to purchase a thick, spiral-bound paperback, entitled "The Descendants of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Smith," compiled by Philip and Joan (Smith) Brides. I refer to it often in my Smith research.

For specific background on Nathaniel Smith, I recommend "Nathaniel Smith : Stranger in a Strange Land," published by the Tantramar Heritage Trust, in conjunction with the anniversary.

There is an excellent bibliography at the website Yorkshire Immigration To Nova Scotia, 1772-1775.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ Bella MacKay Hamilton and the Moose Chair

Peter Suther "PS" Hamilton and Isabella "Bella" MacKay Hamilton, my 2nd great grandparents, lived in Burnside, Upper Stewiacke, Colchester County, Nova Scotia, their whole married lives. They raised nine children, one of whom was my great grandmother, Melvina Jane "Vina" Hamilton Bustin, from whom I inherited a wonderful treasure trove of photographs.

I came across two pictures that piqued my interest. The first shows my great grandmother's mother, Bella, in front of the "old home" in Burnside, posing beside what appears to be a wooden sculpture of some kind.  It looks like antlers to me.

The second, more yellowing, photo provides another clue.  It was a chair, made out of, presumedly, moose antlers. The handwriting on the front is my great grandmother's, and the back states the same, The Moose Chair, in Bella's handwriting.

Was this some kind of trophy chair made from antlers of hunted moose, or was it a household curio, with no particular connection to family lore?

I have learned that my great grand uncle and aunt, unmarried brother and sister Bert and Stella Hamilton, were the last two family members to live at the old place, so I have to wonder whatever became of the "Moose Chair."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ Jane Soley Hamilton's 776 Babies

When Jane Soley married Robert Hamilton (my 3rd great grand uncle) in Lower Truro, Nova Scotia, in 1825, she never envisioned the local legend she would become. The daughter of  William and Mary Soley, she and Squire Robert, welcomed seven children into the world. Two of these children died in infancy, but it wasn't until her youngest, Baxter, was in his 10th year, and she in her 42nd, that her life would take on an expanded role in her community, and future generations still honor her selfless fortitude and courage.

It wasn't until July of 1851 that Jane was called upon to help a woman deliver a child. The mother was Elizabeth Hamilton (probably a relative) and she bore a son. Jane's presence and assistance as a midwife began a long and remarkable career.

In a small, care-worn, "birth book," Jane recorded every birth she attended, with the date, name of mother, and sex of the child. In 1852, she delivered 8 babies, and her path was determined. She averaged 20 entries each year for the next few years, with her busiest year being 1867, when she helped deliver 32 infants. There is no recording on any compensation for her work, although she may have received some small change that the family could spare.

Jane delivered many babies in Brookfield, where she lived, but also attended at births in Hilden, Pleasant Valley, Alton, and even as far away as Middle Stewiacke.

The surrounding cemeteries and graveyards contain many small unmarked stones in family plots, standing sentinel to the early deaths of children who perished too young. Brookfield and Pleasant Valley cemeteries hold at least nineteen of Jane's babies, documenting the epidemics and hardships families faced in those days. Scarlet fever, cholera, croup, dysentery, whooping cough, and diphtheria all took their toll.

"Aunt Jennie's" midwifery career spanned 42 years, and brought 776 children into the world, including 4 sets of twins. By the age of 80, she slackened her practice considerably. Several of her last patients were Hamiltons, probably related to her. In 1893, at the age of 88, Jane delivered Mrs. Sinclair Hamilton of a daughter. The little girl, named Mabel, who only lived four years, was Jane's great granddaughter.

Jane retired from this life's work at 88. Her career spanned 42 years and brought 776 children in this world. She passed away on October 2, 1897, aged 92 years and 8 months. Obituaries appeared in four newspapers,* but perhaps this unidentified newspaper clipping says it best:

"This venerable lady was one of the best known and most respected women in the place .... Ever ready to respond to the call of duty, she faced the most inclement weather at all hours and braved dangers that well might have tried the courage of strong men .... wherever sickness and trouble were, she was ever ready to lend a helping hand and in her quiet, cheerful way, did all that lay in her power to soothe the suffering. Hers was a truly unselfish, Christian life, entirely devoted to the welfare of other." **

Jane is buried next to her husband, Robert, in Brookfield Eastside Cemetery, in Colchester County, Nova Scotia.

*Colchester Sun (Truro), 6 October 1897
  Novascotian and Weekly Chronicle (Halifax), 16 October 1897
  Presbyterian Witness (Halifax), 9 October 1897, p.328
  Truro Daily News (Truro), 6 October 1897

** This obituary was found in an unidentified newspaper clipping in a scrapbook belonging to Mrs. Prudence Parker, North River, Colchester County, Nova Scotia. As of 1982, the scrapbook was still in her possession.

Photo Credit:

"Public Member Trees," database,, "MacIntosh," for Jane Soley (d.. 2  Oct 1897), with linked images.


"Colchester Women" by the Colchester Historical Society.

"Jane Soley Hamilton, Midwife," by Joan E. Kennedy, Nova Scotia Historical Review, Vol. 2, #1 (1982), pp.6-29. [Contains Record of Children Delivered by Jane Soley Hamilton, 1851-1893]

Miller, Thomas, Historical and genealogical record of the first settlers of Colchester county (Halifax, 1873), pp.357-358.

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Canadian Branches ~ The Inventive William H. Bustin of Saint John, New Brunswick and Watertown, Massachusetts

William Hermon Bustin began making harnesses for horses at 15 in Saint John. The second oldest son out of the ten children born to William H. Bustin, Sr. and Agnes "Nancy" Wilson, he left his apprenticeship after only two years and ran away in 1831.

He landed in Boston, Massachusetts, and began working for William Bell, whose shop was on Bromfield Street, near the Granary Burying Ground.

There is evidence to suggest that William at first traveled back and forth from Saint John to Massachusetts, but at age 33 he married a young lady 14 years his junior from Watertown, Massachusetts, Margaret McMaster. It was Watertown where they raised their sizable family and where he would live out his days.

1869 Boston City Directory for William H. Bustin
Father and Son

In 1881, near the end of his working life, he applied for and was granted a patent, No. 236,547, for a "Shaper for Horse-Collars":

William H. Bustin, another one of my 2nd great grand Bustin uncles, died in 1904, probably at his home on Franklin Street in Watertown, Massachusetts, and is buried in Common Street Cemetery there.

Photo Credit:

Harness Makers

Pointed Collar


1850 US Census; Census Place: Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

1880 US Census; Census Place: Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: 542; Family History Film: 1254542; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 420; Image: 0465.

1900 US Census; Census Place: Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts; Roll: 667; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 0987; FHL microfilm: 1240667. Boston, 1821-1850 Passenger and Immigration Lists [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2003. Massachusetts, State Census, 1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed  6 July 2015), memorial page for William H Bustin (1814-1904), Find A Grave Memorial no. 120784177, citing Common Street Cemetery, Watertown, Massachusetts.

"Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1820-1891," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 July 2015), Bustin, 1845; citing p. 1968, Ship , NARA microfilm publication (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll ; FHL microfilm 419,914.

"Massachusetts, State Census, 1855," Database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 July 2015), Wm H Bustin, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 953,952.

The Daily Sun (Saint John) 1 Jan 1895, via Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, PANB (

"United States Census, 1860," Database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 July 2015), Margret Bustin in household of Wm H Bustin, Watertown, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; from "1860 U.S. Federal Census - Population," database, ( : n.d.); citing p. 52, household ID 349, NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 803,510.

U.S. Patent No. 236,547 (