27 October 2014

Awesome Finds, Big Ships, and the Great War

Lester Edgar Ince Sr is one of those ancestors I have on the back burner. I've had him there for some time, but it always amazes me the way breakthroughs can still happen in ways you didn't expect.

HMS Ariadne, provided by Wikimedia Commons
According to the 1911 Canadian census, he immigrated from Barbados (then the British West Indies) to Canada some time around 1900. I have not yet located him on the 1901 census, which could be because he immigrated after the census was taken. The absence of proof makes me question when exactly he immigrated to Canada, and how I can prove it.

To answer that question, I need to understand more of how he spent his life before moving to Canada, as well as the policies controlling immigration between the British West Indies and Canada. 

One new find has given me what I need to begin painting the picture of his life before immigration. He served in the Royal Navy aboard the ship HMS Ariadne, and his service record provides me with some crucial missing information.

Discovery, digital images, The National Archives - Kew, (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D6795093 : 27 October 2014), Entry for Lester Ince, citing ADM 188/551/362251

Check out that Place of Birth. Lester was born in the parish of Saint Peter!

Barbados is divided into regions called parishes, and all local records in Barbados are organized according to parish. Anyone who does research in the Caribbean knows that if you don't have a parish, you are out of luck. No parish = No happy dance!

Gettin' that parish!

And I can tell you from personal experience, these Royal Navy records do not always include parish information. This was pure luck. Finding someone's parish usually is.

I also find it interesting that Lester was a jeweler, especially since his father's occupation on his marriage record was given as a cooper. How does the son of a barrel maker become a jeweler? You know there's an interesting story at the other end of that question.

As for policies limiting immigration between the British West Indies and Canada, both countries were territories of the United Kingdom. From what I can tell, they all held British citizenship. There was no legal requirement for British subjects to be naturalized upon immigration to other British territories. This makes tracing his or anyone else's entrance from the Caribbean into Canada a unique challenge.

Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics, digital images, Nova Scotia Archvies, (https://www.novascotiagenealogy.com/ItemView.aspx?ImageFile=1821-16&Event=marriage&ID=69164 : 27 October 2014), Entry for marriage of Lester Ince and Ethel May Pinheiro, citing Halifax County, Nova Scotia, "Registration Year 1909, Book 1821," p. 16, line 228.

In 1909, Lester Ince married Ethel May Pinheiro. They lived with her parents, and gave birth to five children in the harbor area of Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

Soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918, digital images, Library and Archives Canada, (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/first-world-war-1914-1918-cef/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=487849 : 27 October 2014), Attestation papers for Lester Edgar Ince, citing RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4688 - 18 [Page 1 of 2.]

After the outbreak of World War I, Lester Ince Sr. enlisted for military service. He was not the only black man to do so, but was one of the few who were chosen. He was assigned to the 60th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. Colored regiments were formed after he enlisted, and there is no record to suggest he served in a colored regiment.

The records that would shed more light on his military service are available at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. All of the World War I service records are in the process of being digitized and published online. They anticipate finishing with the project some time in 2015.

But thanks to Ancestry.com, I recently discovered a passenger list that is shedding some light on the end of Lester's military service in World War I.

Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, digital images, Ancestry.com, (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1263 : 27 October 2014), Entry for L. E. Ince entering Halifax, Nova Scotia on 14 November 1917, citing Library and Archives Canada RG 76-C, T-4756

Note that L. E. Ince's number (458117) matches the number on his attestation papers. This is the same man married to Ethel May Ince, of 54 Gerrish Street in Halifax. Although the list title says it's of medically unfit men, that's an oversimplification. Browsing through the list reveals men being sent to Canada for non-medical reasons. The reason for discharge given for Lester Ince is "Dis. of A.G." I have been searching for over an hour for some clue as to what that is, or 1Que Reserve unit, or Military district 6, or classification 3.

Ancestry.com gives the arrival date of the Olympic in Halifax, Nova Scotia as 14 November 1917. One notable fact about the Olympic is that it was a massive ocean liner, a sister ship to the Titanic.

29 olympic 1922
RMS Olympic, image provided by Wikimedia Commons

I think it is safe to assume Lester Ince arrived in Canada alive, given that no note is given on the passenger list of his death. So the question becomes, what happened to him between November 1917, and when the 1921 census was taken? Why didn't he return to his family? And if he did return and left, why and where did he go?

I have a feeling that I won't have all of the answers until I see his full service file. But of course, you never know. I said that before, and I have this much more information without it. Sometimes patience done properly has its rewards.

27 September 2014

Lynchburg: A City Directory, A Pair of Shoes, and the Great Depression

After a long hiatus from working on my genealogy, sometimes the hardest question for me to answer is where to start again. But if time and experience have taught me anything, it's that you can't really go wrong. Start anywhere. No matter how much you think you know about anyone, there is always more you can learn.

I've had some city directories for my great grandmother Callie Fenity Keats for a while. I went looking for them because I was trying to trace her migration from Pittyslvania County, Virginia up to Baltimore, Maryland where she spent the rest of her life. From 1936 to 1940 I have her documented going back and forth between Lynchburg and Roanoke, Virginia.

Once I had the dates and places, I didn't give the directories any more thought. But there is more to find from U.S. city directories, especially in terms of information about jobs.

U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989, digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469&enc=1), Callie M Finety, citing Hill’s Lynchburg (Campbell County, VA.) Directory 1936 (Richmond: Hill Directory Co., Inc., Publishers, 1936) p. 173.

An important element of these city directories is seeing past the abbreviations. The line of interest to me here is "Finety Callie M stitcher Craddock-Terry Co r1814 Park av."

What can we glean from that one line? Well, we know that the directory is for the city of Lynchburg, and everything after the letter "r" is to delineate a residence or a room, perhaps to suggest a rental. Note the distinction of "h" which is to represent householder, or we would say homeowner.

So we have an address for Callie M Fenity (note the spelling variation of her maiden name) while she was living in Lynchburg.We see that she is renting what was probably a room at 1814 Park Avenue.

The "emp" means employment. In this case, her job position is given first, then the place of her employment. She was a stitcher at Craddock-Terry Company. Through cross referencing with the other directories and a little bit of Google searching, I discovered that Craddock-Terry was a very large shoe company.

GENERAL VIEW, WITH NINTH ST. FACADE ON RIGHT - Craddock-Terry Shoe Company, Ninth and Jefferson Streets, Lynchburg, Lynchburg, VA HABS VA,16-LYNBU,57-1
Image available on Wikimedia Commons

How large? Try the first shoe factory south of the Mason Dixon line, and the fifth largest producer of shoes in the world in its time. Their factory has since gone on to become one of the premier historic hotels in the South, the Craddock-Terry Hotel. But according to their own description, they once produced everything "from baby shoes to combat boots." The motif of shoes still plays a prominent role in the upscale hotel design and experience. But no doubt the stark contrast would be an incredible stretch to the imagination of someone like my great grandmother if she could see it now.

How many long hours did she spend in that factory? What were her working conditions like? I see the statistic that at one time they produced 2,500 pairs of ladies shoes a day. In their prime they produced 100,000 pairs of shoes a day. But how does that translate into the life of a young woman trying to survive during the Great Depression?

Enormous success is always built on the backs of hundreds of seemingly nameless people. Only now, at least to our family, one of those women of the Great Depression is no longer nameless. Her name is Callie May Fenity Keats.

And if I'm lucky, some record of hers may have survived in the massive haul of Craddock-Terry Shoe Company records saved by the Virginia Historical Society. Here's to hoping!

Until then, the directories give us an indication of how long she worked there. She appears as an employee to the factory again in 1937, by which point she has married Giles Blanton Keats and has taken his surname. But notice that her address has changed...

U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989, digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469&enc=1), Callie R Keats, citing Hill’s Lynchburg (Campbell County, VA.) Directory 1937 (Richmond: Hill Directory Co., Inc., Publishers, 1937) p. 251.

And changes again in 1940...

U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989, digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469&enc=1), Callie F Keats, citing Hill’s Lynchburg (Campbell County, VA.) Directory 1940 (Richmond: Hill Directory Co., Inc., Publishers, 1940) p. 243.

But where was she the from 1938-1939? And even more interestingly, where is her husband? She was married on Christmas Eve in December of 1936. Why doesn't her husband appear with her in some of these directories?

U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989, digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469&enc=1), Callie Keith, citing Hill’s Roanoke (Roanoke County, VA.) Directory 1938 Including Salem and Vinton (Richmond: Hill Directory Co., Inc., Publishers, 1938) p. 808.

Apparently he's in Roanoke--the place they will both eventually end up and give birth to their first daughter. But for now they appear to be separated from each other.

They likely lived apart in order to maintain their jobs, Giles living in Roanoke and Callie living in Lynchburg. Given that the Great Depression was still in full swing during this time period, this actually isn't that unlikely of a scenario.

U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989, digital images, Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469&enc=1), Callie M Keats, citing Hill’s Roanoke (Roanoke County, VA.) Directory 1939 Including Salem and Vinton (Richmond: Hill Directory Co., Inc., Publishers, 1939) p. 288.

Because the economy did not fully recover from the Depression until 1939 with the beginning of World War II, no one turned their nose up at a job when they found one. Making sacrifices for a paycheck was the hallmark of that generation. If it meant dividing the family to make ends meat, I'm sure Giles and Callie were not the only ones to make that sacrifice.