“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.

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.