- Written by: Roberta Rivett
As age takes its toll, I find myself increasingly spending time making lists. Today's task will be to make lists of my family history projects: those completed - a happy and lengthening list! those in process which are in my hands; those in process which are in the hands of others. Hmm. Even writing this plan makes me feel slightly more in control! This is good.
I need the list of the completed projects (with dates of completion) because of the ongoing need to cross-reference one project with others, and the challenge of simply FINDING my copy of the finished work to check the date. You don't imagine I would REMEMBER the date, do you? So I will get out all the finished volumes, sort out the extra copies (and perhaps figure out what to do with the extra copies) and make a master list of the books, their completion dates and the number of copies on hand, perhaps adding thoughts on those extra copies. (There aren't many of them, and most are incomplete in some way. Perhaps they are destined to be recycled, but that is PAINFUL to contemplate.)
The list of the unfinished projects which are in my hands is short. I realized why with David's and my completion of the "Receipt Book" project last week. When there is a lot of text in a project there is a dire need for other eyes to do the proofreading, and with the most recent project there were only two pages of text. I trust I caught all the errors myself. Longer pieces - not so much.
The list of the unfinished projects in the hands of others - aye, there's the rub. The "others" are my close kin, and I love them dearly, but the reality is their priorities and mine are not compatible.
Two weeks since I started this blog. The "Receipt Book" project, at least the "commercial art" part of it is finished and copies have been mailed out. The "receipt" part remains to be worked on. This is the fastest completion time I have had for any family history project; a few weeks, as opposed to something like two decades for my father's book, the first project I worked on. Maybe it went swiftly because the lion's share of the work was David's. His thing is images, mine is words. This book was about 98% image.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Yesterday a package came in the mail from Borden, Saskatchewan, the village near which I was born. It contained a large hard-cover receipt book with the carbon copies of receipts from a machinery business operating in the early 1900s in Borden. The names on the receipts are the early pioneers of the area who did business with the shop. The descendants of many of those people still live in the Borden district.
This component of the book is fascinating in itself, but this is not the reason the book was lent to me. In about a third of the book, drawn on onion-skin and tipped in are tiny exquisite pencil drawings.
Edward McCheane, a member of one of the five Quaker families which immigrated to Canada in the early years of the last century, had trained as a commercial artist in England, and later in the United States. The drawings are mostly accompanied by color notes, information about estimates given, where the original was submitted and when. Most of the pages of this one-third of the book are dated in the early and middle 1920s.
Edward McCheane was my uncle by marriage. Several years ago I put together a book about him and his journal and his art; at that time I did not know of the existence of the present book.
He had homesteaded in the early years of the last century, then had participated in the machinery business in Borden, then had taken up his intended vocation as a commercial artist. He also grew into a landscape artist in oils and other media. He had married my father's older sister Edith in 1920 when he was 37, and while they lived in the Borden area for a time after they married, they soon moved to Saskatoon where he established himself in his commercial art business, Globe Signs. From the best of my analysis, the sketch-record of his commercial art found in the receipt book comes from his early days of establishing himself as a commercial artist.
I had put together the earlier book about him when his journal recording his coming to Canada and the early days of homesteading came into my hands. At that time I collected everything I could find about him to include in the book, incorporating material from his son and other family sources, and from the Saskatchewan Archives Board. Now, it seems, I have the material for another book.
The Borden artist, my second cousin once removed Nancy Penner Henn who lent me the book tells me she doesn't need to have it back, as long as she gets a copy of the book I will make of Ed McCheane's drawings. She feels that the original should ultimately go to the Saskatchewan Archives Board. This decision relieves me of the pressure to get the book copied and returned promptly, but does not relieve the pressure of working on the book itself. And much of the labour will fall on David, with his skill at extracting the best images from a faded, discolored and fragile source.
It is now three weeks later, and David has nearly finished scanning and fixing those hundreds of images. From pages in the original in which the pencil image was barely discernible, he produces pages showing the sketches clearly. I am left with collating the sets of copies and writing explanatory material.
The challenge of what to do with the names of the pioneers in the receipt book remains. That will be another project.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Never should I wonder why my list of incomplete family projects grows no shorter in spite of completing projects at a reasonable pace. It has happened again that as I completed one project, two more rose up and demanded my attention.
This is what happened: Almost five years ago, the daughter of my recently-departed first cousin lent me big box of family memorabilia, which we scanned or photocopied or investigated in the local military museum. That which was scanned went into David's downstairs computer which I don't use; in the ensuing years I forgot about all those images. Earlier this week at my request, David copied all the graphic images he had on his computer, to mine, into Picassa. Reviewing the thumbnails, I found the material that had been scanned, and it stood up on its hind legs and demanded that I turn it into a book. I wasn't terribly surprised that it demanded my attention in this fashion; it has happened before.
The material was scanned images of the pages of four autograph books, the earliest entries dated 1911.
To make a start on what will clearly become a PROJECT, I emailed a friend in Toronto - we talk almost every day and he is accustomed to hearing strange things from me - to ask if he had ever had an autograph book. His reply said he had not, that he wouldn't cross the street to get a look at a famous person much less demand their autograph. THAT kind of autograph book was NOT what I had been talking about. I feel that way about the famous as well. No, my scanned autograph books are little notebooks with blank pages in pastel colors in which friends and relatives write messages, quote poetry, draw pictures and sometimes just sign their names. In these four, the level of artistic merit of some of the drawings and paintings approached professional standards. Naturally the clincher for me was that most of the signatures in the entries were my kin and connections. Reproducing these autograph books and making the content accessible within the family is going to be a pleasure. I see each little page being somewhat enlarged (the original size was about three by five inches) and accompanied by text expanding on the identity of the contributor, his or her relationship to the owner of the diary and his or her connection to the wider family.
Given that the first entries in the two oldest autograph books are dated 1911, I am going to give myself until 2011 to complete this project. It is nearly 2009; I shall use this blog entry to remind myself of this plan. Meantime I should get on with the three OTHER projects currently on the front burner: David Stark, David's grandfather, Deirdre Crane Heagy, my niece who died in 1991 and my father.
I started this entry a few days ago. Since then, YET ANOTHER project has raised its head. David's cousin Marilyn was executor for their uncle's estate; Marilyn sent me, the self-appointed family archivist, a package of the documents, letters and photographs she found in the course of her executor responsibilities. So now Uncle Stan's book is calling to me too. Today I am feeling daunted. But I know that tomorrow I will feel excited and energized - and get on with it.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
I have been thinking about why it has taken me so long to write about my father's book, since it was the first one I worked on. Possibly it is because at various times and in various forms, it was completed in some sense.
Perhaps my first comments may be my own preface to Dad's book.
In 1957 at the age of sixty-two Joseph Edward Hinde, called Bob, suffered a cerebrovascular accident which came close to killing him. He survived the stroke, and found himself largely paralyzed on the right side of his body. Walking was difficult, speech was severely impaired and he was unable to use his right hand for any fine motor-manipulative skills such as writing. His mind, however, like his optimistic philosophy, was unimpaired. He discovered this was the case when he began to write of his life. With the continuing support of his wife, he learned to type one-fingered with his left hand. While the process was slow and difficult, his writings about pioneering in Saskatchewan and his thoughts about opening up the land in the wider context of prairie, Canada and world events are valuable as part of Canadian history.
Bob Hinde's story is most important, however, as family history. It is the documentation of the experience of an English family that chose to uproot itself from a working class district of Birmingham to make a new life in the vast empty plains of central Saskatchewan. The transformation for the family was from urban poverty to rural landowners. Initially they were landowners in poverty but later there was comfort if not the affluence that came with the next generations. This story is of great interest to those succeeding generations. The manner in which the writing reveals the man allows his descendants to know him not only as a revered and somewhat mythical ancestor, but also as a person. That he chose to spend a part of his retired years in writing this story of a family can never be sufficiently appreciated by those descendants.
In 1976, in Victoria, Bob Hinde joined a creative writing class. In that class he began a process of selecting from his memories, some already written into his long narrative, some original. These he formed into self-contained short incidents and anecdotes. Some of them he wrote in a number of versions, for different purposes. To the extent possible, the content of these short stories has been woven back into the long narrative in chronological order. The reader may notice some duplication, and should regard the chapters as essentially independent.
Bob Hinde wrote the long narrative over the course of almost two decades, from 1957 to 1974. The short stories, reproduced for the family in five binders, were written between 1975 and 1978.
The occasional explanatory note has been provided at the end of chapters to clarify terms or events which might prove unfamiliar to readers of more recent generations. Authorship is given for most notes; those unauthored were written by the editor.
That preface was written about a decade ago when preparing the compilation of all of Dad's stories into a book. That book - several hundred pages of it - was then put into a three-ring binder. Over the next several years, many of Bob's family read and annotated it, with corrections being made in the computer draft. That volume was read aloud to Bob's widow Susanna by her grandson, my son Jeffrey, in visits to his grandmother over several years. Because the volume was already in an accessible form, work on finalizing it and printing it in many copies did not seem urgent, and other projects occupied my time.
It is startling to realize that I have been working on Dad's book for about twenty years. I began by copying all of the stories in his duo-tang binders into my computer - now many generations obsolete - several years before I retired. Shortly after retirement I spent many hours with my sister working on getting those stories into date order. At the same time we considered what illustrations should be included, and, having decided that ten copies of the book would be made, made ten copies of each of the chosen illustrations for later inclusion. The whole was typed into the computer, with chapter end-notes because I had not yet figured out how to do footnotes - and I did not figure out how to include illustrations with text until very recently. So this book is a product of both primitive technology, and primitive understanding of the capabilities of the computer.
In April 2008 I completed Aunt Elsie's Diary, described earlier, and along with the original diaries at the behest of her son, sent a copy to the Saskatchewean Archives Board. They telephoned back in great excitement about the import of this donation, and I was moved to tell them there would be more coming - my father's book - and that it would be coming before the end of 2008. Sometimes making a commitment like that can drive action, and it has done so in this case. Last week my son organized the chapter headings and index - an insuperable task for me - and yesterday I printed off a copy. Remaining to be done is organization of the illustrations into groups and writing the captions for the illustrations. I anticipate that will be done within two weeks; then I will print off the many copies, assemble them with the illustrations, bind them and send them off to family members and the Saskatchewan Archives Board.
Dad got me started with this business of making family history accessible by writing copiously and well about his life and the life of his family. My mother carried on with encouragement and with her own writing which was compiled and printed sooner than Dad's. I had not understood when I retired that this was to be the work of the rest of my life. Then, I thought that would be working with a local literacy group in the cause of adult literacy. I did that for ten years, but by then the full force of the charm of making family books had had its impact, and now my life centers around family stories, family genealogy, family reunions, family letters and emails. This occupies me fully and happily. I believe it will do so for the rest of my life.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Half a century ago, my Uncle Walter wrote a book, an autobiography. I acquired a copy of a late draft in the course of helping my cousin, Uncle Walter's son Rawd, to organize his family archives. There were many drafts; we tried to discern which was the most complete. Aunt Mary had typed the drafts, and then retyped them to incorporate each successive round of revisions. The draft I transcribed also had many revisions, and I did what I could to include them in my transcription.
Family stories of whatever nature - oral histories, anecdotes, songs, poetry, family trees - can be lost if they are not put into some accessible form and made available to the immediate and extended family in some manner. It has been my task in my retirement to search out these family stories and work on making them accessible. The task is self-assigned, yet somehow there seems to be an external force pulling me into doing this - sometimes the stories seem to be calling out to me. Surely this is my imagination, yet I continue to respond to the calls, and I continue to see the need for family stories to be made accessible.
This is all the more important - and at the same time more difficult - when the people who might help me to interpret the words before me are no longer here, and I am left with the necessity of making decisions about explanations, inclusions and exclusions on my own. Uncle Walter was a thoughtful man, living much in his head. He saw himself as an inadequate wretch - his own words - and yet he became a respected lawyer and Queen's Counsel, and in the later part of his legal career, mayor for several terms of a town in Saskatchewan. His book stops before these events occur, so what he would have written of his successes we cannot know but it seems to me that he was haunted by the impostor syndrome, a condition in which the highly successful sufferer thinks, "If they all knew what I REALLY am, they would not respect and admire me."
It is going to be an interesting process, going back to the book I transcribed several years ago and preparing it for printing - proofreading, formatting, indexing. I had thought that I would do this with the help of my cousins, his children, Marianne and Rawd, but within the last year both have died, in their fifties, of cancer. They "should have died hereafter." Shakespeare always has a relevant phrase.
I will probably write of it again as I return to the work on Uncle Walter's book. It seems to me there will be a lot to say.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Several years ago, when I started spending time every summer in Regina with my first cousin John Rawdon Bieber to work on his family archives, one of the items we filed was a collection of letters his mother and father had exchanged in the two years leading up to their marriage in September 1948. More recently I transcribed and footnoted the letters, with input from Rawd himself, and also from his sister Marianne, who, like myself, are descendants of the Aron Niebuhr line. The letters present a remarkable picture of the time now six decades past in which my mother's sister conversed by mail with her intended.
I quote here the introduction of this book, which I printed off in draft for the first time yesterday:
The correspondence between Mary Rempel and Walter Bieber in the summers of 1947 and 1948 when they were apart due to Walter's summer work between years of law school, and their letters after their marriage during short periods apart, present a fascinating story not only of the central personalities but also of the times and the attitudes of sixty years ago.
As in all good stories, the protagonists grow and change from the beginning to the end of the story. Walter changes in his attitudes and opinions more than Mary, but perhaps this seems to be the case because a whole summer's worth of letters from Mary to Walter are unavailable. At the beginning of their correspondence Walter struggled to find anything to write about, and found it hard to articulate how he felt about Mary. By the end of the following summer there was no lack of content, with his feelings for Mary being expressed freely and even poetically. Mary in turn became more articulate about her feelings and opinions. They grew and changed together.
Added in date order are a few letters from Walter's friends and relatives, and one from the University. These letters complement those of the central personalities and flesh out the narrative of this period of their lives.
In 1947, Mary Rempel and Walter Bieber were engaged and planning to marry. As they lived at some distance from each other, they wrote frequently. Mary's letters to Walter the first summer they were apart - 1947 - have not been preserved. It is speculated that Walter had no private place to keep them while he was working at his brother's farm near Wolseley, Saskatchewan the summer between first and second years at law school. Mary did preserve Walter's letters for both the summer of 1947 and the summer of 1948. These have been preserved by their son Rawdon, and are here transcribed. The originals were photocopied in Regina in June 2005 and June 2007 by Mary Crane. In some instances the photocopied words are unclear and might be clarified by checking against the originals, now November 2008 in the hands of Graeme Mitchell.
Information for footnotes was provided by Marianne Bieber Daigneault and John Rawdon Bieber, Mary and Walter's daughter and son, and by the editor. In some instances notations were made by Mary Bieber on the letters; these are transcribed as footnotes.
Mary Rempel Bieber's memoirs, As I Remember, were printed in 1999. Walter's 1951 diary and his memoirs have been transcribed and are to be privately printed in the future.
Rawd died in October 2007. Marianne died in September 2008. Rawd's many family stories are reproduced in the Rempel Cousins book, printed in September 2008. Marianne didn't live long enough to write anything for that book; the only writing I have of hers is in a handful of emails, and in the detailed footnotes she provided on some questions I had about her parents' letters. Reviewing the Mary and Walter Letters draft yesterday, I realized that I have more of her writing than I had recalled. I am grateful to have it.
My ability to detect my typographical and other errors being notoriously poor, I will have to ask one of my long-suffering siblings or cousins to proofread this draft. Then I will send it to all of Mary and Walter's descendants and to any of their nieces and nephews who might be interested...
But before I do that, I must first decide on whether I should include in the book Uncle Walter's 1951 journal,written at the time of the birth of Marianne. (His poetry I included in The Rempel Stories, I just recalled.) It never fails. Every time I think I am getting close to completing a project, along comes another conundrum crying out for resolution before I can say "FINISHED."
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Have I referred in previous entries to how stories - and the assembly of stories into books - keep coming at me? I must have done. The phenomenon is most peculiar. I see a piece of family history and it starts calling me, telling me that it wants me to make it accessible to the extended family. This is why my list of family history projects seems never to shorten: for every project I finish, two more pop up.
I know I have mentioned arranging with the Saskatchewan Archives Board to have copies made of many of the Hinde Family memorabilia, documents and pictures which were donated to it by my father's sister and sister-in-law. My sister Mary and I did this several years ago, and while I made immediate use of some of the material in the books I was working on, or the material itself demanded its own book, several other items were simply put aside. And now the put-aside items are surfacing, making their own demands. One of them is a little notebook given to my uncle Leonard by his grandfather, my great-grandfather, in 1900 when my uncle was seven years old. This is the great-grandfather, Henry Thomas Wake, whose book I completed, printed and bound only weeks ago...
Clearly, from its content, that little notebook was used by several people over the course of a number of years, starting with Uncle Leonard who in a childish hand entered the names of all the flowers he knew, or saw, or identified. A younger, scrbbling hand overlies some of the entries, with "Harry" in rough block letters. Leonard's brother Harry was born in 1902, so this puts his "entries" at perhaps 1905. On the last pages there is a list in the same childish hand of birds, this time very heavily scribbled over by a much younger hand. There is a list in an adult hand of chores, tasks to be done. When he was about eight, Uncle Leonard was at boarding school; this list seems to have come from that time. There are pages of the English addresses of several of Uncle Leonard's relatives, evidently written in 1911, shortly before Uncle Leonard and his older sister Edith came to Canada,a year ahead of the rest of the family. There are lists of expenditures made by Leonard's younger sister Elsie when in 1923 she visited her sister Winnie, travelling from Saskatchewan to Iowa, and lists of gifts for the family when she was heading home a year later.
And there is more. Every page speaks of the life of a family a century ago. Every page requires footnotes to interpret what is written. When I started transcribing the notebook I thought merely how nice it was to have this evidence of Uncle Leonard's childhood. Now I see that it is a document of family history in its own right, filled with intriguing evidences of that family's life.
And so it is that an innocuous child's notebook becomes yet another project. Last week I exchanged emails with a granddaughter of Uncle Leonard, my first cousin once removed. She keeps a Treasure Chest of her parents' and grandparents' memorabilia, and asked for an attachment copy of the Henry Thomas Wake book which I send her yesterday. Now I will tell her that in due course there will be more to come - her grandfather's notebook, first written more than a century ago.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
"Family Tree" can have so many meanings. I don't propose to offer a definition, but rather to reflect on my travels in amateur genealogy.
In an earlier blog I commented on the need to discover how many first cousins I had as the starting point for my interest in the family tree. Had I known then that I was standing on the event horizon of a black hole and about to be sucked in, I might have hesitated, but counting up first cousins on my mother's side seemed an innocuous enough activity, and I did not hesitate.
I tracked down addresses (a task in itself as I had not kept in contact with most of them) and sent off to my first cousins a little form, asking them to fill in the information, which was quite simple and quite limited. Full name, date and place of birth, marriage. Same details about their parents, children and grandchildren. This activity generated a lot of names, and two surprises. One surprise was that some people are not so much uninterested in family history as actively rejecting of it. I had thought that everyone would be at least MILDLY interested. The other is that the apparently pleasant virtual meadow I was strolling through was in fact a minefield. With these surprises I came to understand that collecting family information was NOT an innocuous pastime.
The stack of completed questionnaires - and everyone did in the end send me their information and that of their families - started to look unmanageable, and I recalled the comment of an amateur genealogist on my father's side, who said that if it weren't for the fact that many of the lines he was tracing were "without issue," he would have required a three-dimensional approach to writing up my paternal grandfather's family tree.
At this point, I saw family tree software in a local Office Depot, and purchased it. Within weeks, with information continuing to flow in, I had outgrown it, and was trying out another program, Brother's Keeper, which offered a free trial of a limited version of the program, with the full program plus documentation to be purchased if satisfied. I was indeed satisfied, and this - with several no-cost updates and several helpful responses to queries from their customer service people - is what I have used ever since. Comparisons of the multitude of genealogy software offerings are available by googling "Comparisons of Genealogy Software." Suffice to say that I am satisfied with my choice and don't propose to change. Brother's Keeper has a unique advantage in that it is the same software used by the GRANDMA Project, of which more later.
About a year after I started collecting cousin information I realized I might profit from some professional instruction, so I took a short genealogy course which was offered by a local community centre. It helped, in that I learned a few things about documenting people which required that I go back to the beginning and change everybody's entry: All women are entered under their maiden names, and all surnames are capitalized. This entailed changes in only a few hundred people. A dozen years later - now - it would have been over 23,000. And all those people are connected to me - that's a basic idea I stayed with. The connection may be distant but all are connected.
One of the many printouts of the family history data is an ancestry tree which shows minimal information on an individual and that individual's parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents - 33 people in a tree-like graphic. After more than a dozen years of doing this, I have perhaps 40 (out of 23,000-plus) individual family trees complete to the great-greats. This has been done essentially without recourse to direct research myself.
Early on, I told myself that when the flow of family information from others ceased, I would then address myself to learning how to do online reaearch, and spend time at the local Family History Centre looking up kin on birth, marriage and death records and census records. I am still, after these years, waiting for that cessation of information flow. At least weekly I receive new information which has to be entered into the data base, with printouts of the resulting family trees needing to be sent to the source of the information. I have begun to think that doing my own research isn't in the cards. People I have connected with in the course of my genealogical interest have travelled to England and Poland and the Ukraine for the specific purpose of tracking their roots at the source; others have delved into the resources of the Internet, or visited that icon of genealogy, Salt Lake City. Not I. I just sit here like a spider in the middle of her web, waiting for prey - that is, family data - to come to me.
Isn't it odd how someone else's passion looks a lot like work? It doesn't look like that to the person driven by that passion! Family Tree Part II will explore the fun of genealogy.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Yesterday morning I finished binding 11 copies of "Henry Thomas Wake: The Notebooks and Memorabilia of A Victorian Antiquarian." Finishing it so quickly on the heels of the Rempel Cousins book as I did, it seems strange that this is possibe, the HTW book being complex and of nearly 300 pages. Here's the story: picture if you will an old-fashioned kitchen range, complete with warming cupboard. These ranges are - when of the vast and chrome-embellished kind - now collector's items. In their heyday - not so many decades ago - this stove had an advantage that present cookstoves do not. A dozen food items in preparation could be placed on or within it - all at different temperatures, all heated be one source - the firebox. I'm the firebox; my projects sit on the stove, or in the oven, or in the warming cupboard, all at different temperatures. Some of them take years to cook; some of them take only weeks. While one of them is coming to a boil, the others wait, at temperatures from a gentle simmer to barely warm. But sometimes several come to a boil simultaneously, or close to it. That is what happened with the Rempel Cousins book. It had been on the stove for several years, while the HTW book had been cooking for close to a decade.
The stages of book preparation are simple in outline but complex in implementation. The major complexity is the necessity to involve other people in the process. Other people do not necessarily share my time frame and priorities, and if I am asking them, for example, to undertake the tedious but necessary task of proofreading, I cannot put pressure on them to complete the task. They are, after all, doing me a favor. The best I can do is incorporate them so closely in the process of preparing a book that they feel ownership and come to share my time framework. This is the lot of my close kin, may they be forever thanked.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
The Rempel Cousins Stories book was #3 of my blog entries under Family Projects. It's done. Copies have been collated, indexed, printed, bound and sent off to those who asked for them. DONE.
But maybe not. In fact, although the feeling of actually completing a project is great, I hope that the cousins who are now seeing how their contributions appear in the book and reading what others have written will feel motivated to write more. And if they do, there will be another edition, I expect.
At the Rempel Reunion in Borden in August, thought was given to assembling a book of the memories of the Rempel cousins of their parents' generation. Cousin Margaret has undertaken to coordinate that project, and already I have forwarded to her my collection of memories. A part of my August visit with cousin Gordon, whose obituary appears on this site, was occupied with listening to his memories of the aunts and uncles - and taking notes. I am hopeful that not only the writing bug, which has clearly bitten Margaret, will lead to a further infection - the book-producing bug - and that as time goes on she will produce not only this memories book but others.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Deirdre Margaret Lauranne Crane was born in 1965 and died in 1991 of breast cancer. She was the second daughter of my sister Mary Crane and like me, Derry was a registered nurse.
With a life that short, there can be no significant accumulation of memorabilia or letters or writings, but there can, in the present era, be pictures. Unlike the story of Dennis Rivett, Derry's story could be illustrated with pictures from every year, nearly every MONTH of her life. The pictures could not only show the evolution of the baby to the child to the young woman; they could also show in some small measure her personality.
I gathered pictures of Derry from parents and siblings and the extended family, and sorted them into years, looking for representative pictures for all the years of her life. Her mother Mary Hinde Crane and her sister Shauna Crane drafted short paragraphs about each chosen picture - perhaps a hundred of them - to help the pictures to bring her personality into view.
This process generated many memories, often far beyond what was needed to explain the pictures. It was a sad time, and yet a happy time, remembering Derry.
When we think about and talk about our lost ones, we keep their memory alive.
Status: the pictures have been chosen, the paragraphs drafted. Time and effort and skill are needed to get the pictures and stories into the appropriate juxtaposition ready to be printed. The assistance of family members with the necessary skills will be called on to bring this project to fruition. It is unlikely that this project will be completed in 2008. I am hoping for mid-2009.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Every project I have undertaken teaches me something about making family history accessible. My father-in-law's book taught me the extent to which pictures with extensive captions can tell a story. Dennis Rivett died in 1995; about eight years later I began with the help of his widow and sons to assemble pictures of his life, and to draft the captions. Other members of the family wrote about their memories of Dad. His widow, my beloved mother-in-law Evelyn Rivett, provided the name for the book: "Kind, Loving, Faithful." These are the words she had had inscribed on his tombstone.
The book is simplicity itself - about seventy pictures enlarged to full page size, each preceded by the story of the picture. The first is Dennis at three, on the bank of the South Saskatchewan River in 1909; the last is his gravestone in Woodlawn Cemetery in Saskatoon.
This was probably the easiest family project in the sense that it proceeded from planning to execution without any lengthy hiatus. My projects are not usually like that!
The learning from this project was applied to the previously described project, Derry's Book, which is still in process. Pictures CAN tell a story!
Status: Dennis Rivett's book was completed in September 2005, and copies were distributed to the immediate family.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Edward McCheane was brother to John McCheane, who married the Mary Saunders of the previous project. Edward married my father's older sister, and like some of the others of my older generations he left evidences of his life for those who followed him. He was a trained commercial artist who for much of his life made his living operating Globe Signs in Saskatoon; his creativity was exercised in painting landscapes in oil, watercolor and pastel. Many of us have examples of his art; we particularly treasure those which show scenes of the area which we define as our home country - the area around Borden, Saskatchewan.
Uncle Edward's book includes examples of his art, provided by his son and several other family members, and by the Saskatchewan Archives Board. After he died his widow, my Aunt Edith, moved from Saskatoon with her young son back to the home place, Valley Springs Ranch, After she died years later, his memorabilila were included in the donation made to the Saskatchewan Archives Board by his two sisters-in-law.
Uncle Edward's book contains a transcription of the journal he kept of his immigration to Canada from England, and of the first months of homesteading near Borden, Saskatchewan, more than a century ago. This homesteading is a different matter than that of my father's family and my mother's family. THEY travelled steerage on their immigration ships; they arrived in Saskatchewan with only their own energy and commitment to making a new life. Family legend is that my Grandfather Hinde had $48.00 in his pocket when the train with his family on it pulled into Borden, Saskatchewan. Edward and HIS family travelled first class and dined on the ship at the captain's table. That family's first years of homesteading were not leisured, certainly, but they were quite different from that of my father's family. Edward's journal of this time describes the transplanted English family as raising hawk chicks, after shooting the parents, in the attempt to train them to kill gophers, and then finding that much time needed to be spent in killing gophers to feed the insatiable chicks.
Edward didn't remain a homesteader. Soon he was in Borden, taking up his career as commercial artist. Old photographs of Borden show the signs he painted on buildings; some of these are preserved on buildings which now form the museum of the Village of Borden. Moving to Saskatoon, he established Globe Signs, and in 1939 at the request of the City of Saskatoon he produced an illuminated scroll for the City to present to Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of their visit. A reproduction of this scroll is included in Uncle Edward's book.
Status: this family history project was completed in 2004.
- Written by: Roberta Rivett
Mary Saunders McCheane is related to me three ways, none of them by blood. One of her brothers married my aunt, another brother married my father's cousin, and her daughter married my cousin.The Saunders family and the McCheane family were two of the five Quaker families which immigrated to Saskatchewan in the early years of the last century, the others being the Crabbs, the Wakes and the Hindes. The families had known each other in England but were unrelated except through their faith. A century later their descendants are all related.
Mary Saunders started a journal when she was twelve years old, as a child in a Quaker boarding school in Fritchley, Derbyshire. Her widowed father and older brother had come to Canada earlier to homestead and establish themselves in the new land. When she was sixteen, Mary joined them. Her childhood journal, written in a small notebook, was replaced by a large bound volume, which was filled in 1915, shortly before her marriage.
Mary Saunders McCheane resumed diary-keeping after her marriage, and continued, using the five-year diary format, for the rest of her life, which ended in 1992 when she was nearly 102 years old. Her daughter Ruth kept her diaries. Ruth lent me the two early journals, which I transcribed, completing the project in 2003.
Style in diary-writing and indeed journal-keeping exists on a continuum, with a record of purely physical events on one end of the continuum and a record of the events of the writer's mental landscape on the other. Mary's journal is of the first kind, like that of Elsie Hinde Ingram, and on the opposite end from that of Walter Bieber, of whom more later. Mary recorded what was going on in the world around her with virtually no reference to her opinions or her feelings. These had to be inferred from what she wrote about the facts of her life.
Lack of that personalizing of her writing is a loss in one respect, but in another it makes the story she tells of her early years homesteading much more widely relevant. In consideration of this I sent a copy of the transcription to the Saskatchewan Archives Board, where anyone wishing to research the pioneer years in Saskatchewan could have access to it.
As with Elsie Hinde Ingram's diary of decades later, I provided footnotes to the transcribed text wherever I felt that my urban children and grandchildren would be baffled by references to people, farming activities, social events, organizations and even patent medicines. The Internet was of considerable help in this effort; for example I now know the meaning of the term, "bile beans."
In addition to binding and distributing printed volumes of the book, I sent the text as an email attachment to several people. One of them, widow of my first cousin and first cousin also to Mary's daughter Ruth, put the text of the book on her web site.
Status: Project was completed in 2003, and the text can be seen online: http://chamness.org/Rachel/
Checking on this, I found that my cousin-by-marriage Rachel Chamness has also entered the text of the Elsie Hinde Ingram diaries which I recently sent her, into her web site.
The two volumes between them provide not only family history - my primary interest - but also Saskatchewan history - the one of the early pioneering period of the first decades of the 20th century, and the other of the depression and World War II.