Family curse

Have you ever noticed that in some families it seems that one career or industry keeps appearing in the working lives of relatives or ancestors? It almost seems like predetermination, or a family curse.

In my case, that curse seems to revolve around transportation in all its various forms. My maternal grandfather’s brush with transportation came when he was a hard hat diver who worked on the building of the current Welland Canal. This is the most tenuous of the connections. He wasn’t directly involved in transportation, but in creating part of the infrastructure.

His son, my uncle, worked for a trucking company specializing in boat haulage.

From there, the family moved into the office aspects of transportation. My favourite uncle worked for a couple of motor transport companies in what is called the Traffic Department This job involved pricing shipments among other duties that varied with the company. In one, I succeeded him in his job (remark from the interview “so you’re Bobby’s kin. Let’s see if you’re as good.”) I was. In his second company, he tried to hire me. I declined on the basis that it would have meant working for family. His son and daughter, my cousins, also followed him into transportation.

Both my grandmother and my worked for a travel agent – again, arranging transportation for people this time.

As for me, my first part-time job was as delivery boy for a drug store. My first full-time job was as an accounts payable clerk for a motor transportation company. From there I moved into their traffic department for a couple of years, then I succeeded my uncle. Several other jobs followed, always in motor transportation and always with carriers serving different parts of the country. From there I moved to a company that forwarded goods by both boxcar and airfreight. Sticking with transportation, I moved to Toyota Canada’s National Parts Department, importing parts and sending those parts to dealers. At one point I became the “VOR” clerk, “VOR” stands for “vehicle off road”, the most urgent category of complaint. I described this job this way: When a customer is standing in the dealer’s showroom yelling and screaming because his car needs a part, my job was to find that part anywhere in the world. My finest moment in that post was the time a dealer from Montreal called me on a Wednesday because his customer’s car needed something but couldn’t wait for a normal order because he needed his car for his wedding on Saturday. I found it in a California parts depot, got it to the dealer and the customer had his car back on Friday afternoon in time for the wedding. His new wife sent a nice “thank you” note to me afterward.

I further moved into international transportation after Toyota, working for a major importer where I was in charge of all imports into Canada. Fleet manager for someone else followed. When the economic downturn of the ‘80’s hit, I found work as a courier – again, transportation – and still later drove a cab for 7 years.

Even my hobbies involved transportation in some way. I was involved with the group that did timing for all races at Mosport Park and I enjoyed rallying.

Each and every job I’ve held involved some contact with or participation in, transportation. As I said at the beginning, it seems transportation is either my family’s destiny or curse, I can’t decide which. And just to carry it on to the next generation, one of my sons is a bus driver. Who knows what my grandchildren will do, but I’ll wager it will involve some form of transportation.

Maybe your family tree will reveal a similar pattern of employment.

Enjoy your weekend, stay safe on the roads and remember to hug an artist – we need love (and the occasional ride) too.

Cat.

The 4,000 mile birth certificate

My computer has been down, so I’m just posting this now.

671 miles.  According to what I can see on Google, that is the shortest distance by road from Ajax, where I live, to the Registrar-General’s office in Thunder Bay Ontario.

On the Friday before Thanksgiving last October, the Ontario government quietly announced new requirements for changing the gender on one’s birth certificate. It took about a month for me to save the $97 fee, so it was late November before I sent off my application.   671 miles.

According to information on the form it would take about three months to process and sure enough, just about three months later, an envelope arrived from Thunder Bay. Unfortunately, it was a rejection since I had not included my original “long form” birth certificate. 1,342 miles.

As I wrote in “I don’t seem to exist” of June 10, there were certain documents still in the family home, which took until mid-May to get.  One of those documents had the title “Certificate of Birth”.  Made a copy for my files and sent the application back to T Bay. 2,013 miles.

This time it took about a week to be returned. It seems “Certificate of Birth” is not the same as “Birth Certificate”.  2,684 miles.

My son has been working on a family history and through his efforts, we were able to determine that apparently my father didn’t exist. I covered all this in “Whatever is left…” and how I found some information, not through the ancestry; government or newspaper sites, but by typing his name into Google.  That didn’t give me all the information I needed for the application for the long form birth certificate, such as his place of birth. Because I was also able to find the names, birth dates and dates of death for my paternal grandparents, my son was able to contact the Government of Nova Scotia and get the information we both needed – he for the history and me for the application.  I couldn’t find the information requested from the hospital as neither the hospital nor their records exist any longer. I wrote a letter explaining this, attached it to the application and mailed the whole package back to the Registrar-General’s office on August 9.  3,355 miles.

Friday October 4, the mail finally brought my new short form birth certificate legally identifying me as “female.” 4,026 miles.

The following Monday, I received yet another envelope from the Registrar-General.  This one contained a certified copy of the long form birth certificate.  Another 671 miles.

So, from my initial application until receipt of all documents at my address, paper of various kinds travelled a total of 4,697 miles. Total time, including finding information was just over 10 months.

A friend who has seen what I’ve gone through asked a very good question: If I’ve had this much trouble finding information on my father, what about people who were adopted and need the long form birth certificate?  Are they to be denied one because they have no idea who their birth parents were?

Cat.

Interesting family I have

My son has been helping me find information on my father, partly so I can complete a government form and partly for his own curiosity.

First, on the other side of the family, I knew my mother was born in the US, which apparently means I would have very little trouble getting American citizenship (I have no intention of so doing, not at my age), but I learned my maternal grandfather was also American.

Back to my father’s family.  In the past day my son turned up my grandparents’ marriage records.  They are very interesting.  I discovered both grandparents were born on Cape Breton Island and that he was 12 years older than her when they married.  I had known that my grandfather had worked on the building of one of the Welland Canals – I don’t know if it was the current one or the previous one.  It wasn’t until I saw the papers today that I learned he had been a diver, not the labourer I had been lead to believe.

But it is some of the other information on this form that I really find fascinating.  Being from Cape Breton Island, it is almost a given names are of Scottish origin, with lots of “Mc’s” and “Mac’s”.  Such is the case here.  What I find fascinating is that while my grandfather spelled his name “Mac”, my great-grandfather spelled his name “Mc”.  Equally fascinating is that both grandparents are shown as being Catholic.  Don’t know when that changed, for I am Anglican (Episcopalian in the US) and as far as I  know, nobody in the family is Catholic.

According to the document, both great-grandfathers were also born in Cape Breton.  The form only lists the names of my great-grandmothers, not their birthplaces.  My son is going to try to trace the family back even further, so who knows what may turn up.

If you’ve watched the television show “Who do you think you are?” you are aware that sometimes things happened in the past that changed our present.  That certainly seems to be the case here.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

“Whatever is left …”

As I have recently written in “I don’t seem to exist” of June 10 and Sunday’s “Curiouser and curiouser”, my eldest son and I have been trying to track down evidence of my father’s existence.  That is evidence other than the fact we are both here.

We’ve tried using various genealogical sites and could find nothing other than he seemed to have died in March of 1970.  Different government sites were equally unhelpful since most records of the kind we needed are sealed for 75 years.  As he lived in St Catharines Ontario, I thought the local paper, the St Catharines Standard, may have his obituary in their archives.  Not so.  The Standard (called by some residents “The Substandard”) has a huge hole in their online archives and don’t have copies on microfilm of any back editions.

We had exhausted just about every avenue we could think of where there might be information.  As I wrote, my doctor is also a coroner, so I thought to ask him where records from closed hospitals might be kept.  He suggested that they may have been destroyed by now, or available in the Ontario Archives.  Another government site meant we were looking at that 75 year blockage again.

As I said, we’ve tried genealogical sites as well as government and newspaper sites, all to no avail.  The one thing we hadn’t tried was the most obvious: Googling his name and location.  What makes this especially embarrassing for me is that I use Firefox as my browser.  And what do you see when you open Firefox, right in the middle of the screen?  Right.  A big Google search bar.

Typed the name and location into the search bar.  Up popped a listing, among which was one person with that name, but the dates showed this person had died at less than one year of age.  Thinking perhaps someone had made an error in dates, I clicked on the link and was taken to Victoria Lawn Cemetery in St Catharines.  Among the information on the page was the fact there were 44 graves with the same surname in that cemetery.  Unfortunately, the dates shown for the infant were correct.  I decided to check the listings for the other people.  Glad I did.  I came across my paternal grandmother’s grave, which my son needed for the family history.  Continuing to look, I found a name similar to my father’s, but with a different middle initial, although the year of death was correct.  Checked it out.  These pages have photos of the headstones with them and I noticed the initial on the stone wasn’t the same as the listing.  It was in fact the headstone of my father.

So I now have more of the information I need to complete the government form that started this whole mess.  My son will take the information I have given him and see if he can now find a place of birth, which I am still lacking.

What is the principle of Occam’s Razor – that the simplest solution is usually the correct one?  And what could be simpler than just Googling the name?

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Curiouser and curiouser

In “I don’t seem to exist” of June 10, I wrote of some of the problems I’m having trying to track my father.

As I wrote, the St Catharines Standard had a large hole in their online archives that neatly covered the period I’m interested in.  I contacted the Standard and was eventually told they don’t have any archives.  Excuse me?  You’re a newspaper and you don’t have copies of past issues?  They did suggest I try the St Catharines Public Library.   Contacted them and yes, they do indeed have copies of the Standard on microfilm.  So, in mid-July I’m making a trip to St Catharines.

While I was waiting to hear from various people in St Catharines, I decided to check the archives of the Hamilton Spectator, since Hamilton is not only where I was born but is the largest city on or near the Niagara Peninsula.  That was a wasted effort because when you try to check their birth and death records, they link you to Ancestry, which has so far not proven helpful.

The library did suggest I check the website for Victoria Lawn Cemetery in St Catharines, which is the largest cemetery in the city.  Again, they have no record of anyone with my father’s name being interred there.  Of course, if he was born in Nova Scotia, he may have been buried there as well.

I contacted the Salvation Army, since I’d been born in the Salvation Army hospital in Hamilton. Their reply was “I am sorry, but we do not have any records for the institution at all.”  I could probably ask them for a document signed by General Booth himself and get it no problem, but they don’t have records from 1944.

Earlier today, I had a thought.  My family doctor is also a coroner for the City of Oshawa.  Tuesday, after the long weekend, I’m going to contact him.  As coroner, he may have some insight on where records from closed hospitals might end up.

I’m not one to be paranoid, but with this amazing lack of information from any source either my son or myself can think of on my father, it kind of makes me wonder what the hell is going on?  Is it that he managed to keep himself hidden that well?  As I said to my neighbour, this makes me wonder just what my father was up to.  Her reply was “maybe you don’t want to know”.

Cat (at least I think that’s who I am)

I don’t seem to exist

Obviously I do or you wouldn’t be reading these words, and there are some semi-tasteless photos on Facebook, but I am having extreme difficulty proving the existence of my parents.

Before I go any further, as it says on my profile on WordPress, I am transgendered which should prevent your headaches when reading about my ex-wife.

Last October, acting on an order from the Ontario Human RightsTribunal, the government of Ontario changed the requirements to change gender on birth certificates.  The original requirement was gender re-assignment surgery, and someone took the gov’t to the Tribunal claiming this was discriminatory.  The Tribunal agreed and the requirements were changed.  Under the new requirements, I qualified, so applied for an amended birth certificate.

I sent off the application with all the documents and a $97 money order.  The application was returned with the explanation that the short form (wallet size) birth certificate wasn’t acceptable and they needed the long form.  Okay, fine.  Through my eldest son, my ex-wife said she had some documents of mine at the family home, among which was a birth certificate.  Great!  It took forever but I finally got that document and returned the application to the Registrar-General.   Ten days later it was again returned.  This time the reason given is that the document, clearly labelled “Certificate of Birth”, was not in fact a “Birth Certificate”.  They further advised me I would need to apply for this long form Certificate and included the application for that.

Among the information requested on this form, in addition to the names of my parents, was the date and place of their birth.  For my mother, this was no problem since I knew it.  But all I knew about my father was his name and that he may have been born in Nova Scotia.   I’m the oldest living member of my family and am an only child, so don’t have any siblings to ask about this.  My oldest son is trying to compile a family history, so I asked him.  All he had at the time I asked was my father’s name.  Some online searching revealed that he’d died in 1970, which I knew for that happened about two months before my wedding.  I knew when he died and also where he died, so I suggested to my son he check the obituaries in the archives of the St Catharines Standard.  There is about a 75 year gap in the online records of the Standard, and of course 1970 falls neatly in the middle of that gap.  I told him I’d visit St Catharines and see if I could find anything in the hard copy archives.  That will be early next month.  Finding birth records from Nova Scotia is also proving difficult.  Nova Scotia = New Scotland, so looking up a Scottish surname in their records is similar to finding one particular “John Smith” online.  You need more information than just a name and we simply don’t have more.

Thinking he was going about it the wrong way ‘round, he tried looking up marriage records for my mother.  Again, he came up against that black hole in the Standard’s archives.  He knew when and where she was born and when she died and where she’s buried, but I’d given him that information.  He also found one more piece of information that I had also told him earlier.

The application mentions that a letter from the hospital confirming my birth would constitute proof (as if my $97 money order isn’t enough) of my birth.  Back online.  It seems the hospital where I was born – the Salvation Army Hospital in Hamilton – doesn’t exist any longer.  Right now this seems a minor problem.  At one time I did volunteer work with the Sally Ann in Ajax and know some of the staff there, so later this week I will visit them and explain my problem to the Major.  Apparently the Salvation Army archives are maintained in Ottawa, so it should be a relatively easy job for her to contact them with my request.  I can’t see a problem since the Salvation Army probably still has letters and documents signed by General Booth himself somewhere in the archives.

So, there you have it.  Other than the fact my parents gave birth to me and died, very little is available online about them.  As I said, we’re finding it difficult to prove their existence.  We’ve tried ancestry (the Canadian site) as well as publicly available government and newspaper sites to no avail.

Actually, according to my son, there is very little available on me under my birth name or my current one either.  Maybe I don’t exist.

Anyone got any other ideas?  I’m open to suggestions.

Cat.