Finding my past relatives – 1. The Crinklaw’s

My exploration into the diary of my great grandfather, Peter Porterfield, got me looking further back into my family ancestry.  Using a combination of links that I found on Ancestry.ca,  some hints from newly discovered 4th to 8th cousins using the Ancestry DNA analysis and a book that my Dad had left me called The Crinklaw Families in the United States and Canada, compiled in 1972 by a fellow named George Mason Fraser,  I was able to learn more about that side of the family.

Peter Porterfield, whose diary of his journey to Canada in 1855,  I shared last month, married Mary Stevenson on January 25, 1863 in a little hamlet called Belgrave Ontario. Belgrave is where my father was born. Periodically we would drive through this little town and he would point out the house where he was born.  My parents and Geddes grandparents are buried in the Brandon Cemetery just north of town and about half a mile from where Dad was born.

Belgrave 1910 1

My Grandfather,  Ernest, was a blacksmith in Belgrave for some time and four of the Lanark County Geddes boys moved to that district in the  early 1850’s.  But I digress.

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My great great grandmother,                    Betsy Crinklaw  1807 – 1893

Mary Stevenson’s mother was Elizabeth Betsy Crinklaw.   I have long had a photo of this woman when she was quite elderly,  taken in Neligh, Nebraska.   In fact, I blew this photo up to poster size and gave it to my son-in-law when he married my daughter so he could brace himself for old age with one of Betsy’s great great great grandchildren.  For some time Kate and Dave had that poster hung in their kitchen.

Betsy was born a Crinklaw in Minto Scotland in 1807 to James Crinklaw and Elizabeth Watson.  James had two wives and scads of children by the time he was done and his issue now includes thousands of descendants.

Rumor had it that the family lived across the river Tweed from Sir Walter Scott and that James Crinklaw and Sir Walter were “friends” on some level.  Sir Walter Scott was the early 17th century equivalent of J. K. Rowling,  turning out books of poems and novels ( e.g. Ivanhoe, Rob Roy).  Apparently James Crinklaw was a farmer or gardener and Sir Walter loved the garden in his Abbotsford castle, across the river from where James and Elizabeth lived.   Scott died in 1832 and James moved the family to Canada in 1833. Conjecture has been that he was jobless when Walter Scott died and this precipitated his move to London Ontario.

But this is probably just a Crinklaw legend.  In 1972 James C Corson, honorary librarian for Abbotsford sent a letter to George Fraser basically bunking the idea that James Crinklaw ever knew Walter Scott because the famed Sir Walter wrote voluminously and journaled and never mentioned a Crinklaw.   Nevertheless, James did live across the river when Walter Scott was at Abbotsford and in those days the region was not heavily populated so there must have been some neighbourly acknowledgement or recognition.

James Crinklaw

My 3rd great grandfather James Crinklaw and his second wife, Janet Smith

A visit to Abbotsford castle will have to be on my bucket list since it has been restored to its original grandeur and even if James Crinklaw was not sipping scotch with Sir Walter, he was, at least living in the neighbourhood when this castle was at it’s peak and Sir Walter was cranking out books by the dozens

James Crinklaw (my 3rd great grandfather) died in 1864 at the age of 87 and is buried along with his two wives in Pond Mills Cemetery in London, Ontario. ( at the eastern end of Southdale Road near Highbury Ave).   I grew up just a few kilometres from there about 100 years later, not knowing anything about this ancestry.

Next up- James Stevenson,  Betsy Crinklaw’s husband and my Great Great Grandfather.

 

Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 2 – Out to sea.

Excerpts from my great grandfather’s diary as he immigrated to Canada on a sailing ship in the spring of 1855 – continued.  If you missed the start of this voyage it commences here.

April 23

We are going at the rate of seven miles an hour.  The Captain says we are not about 500 miles from Glasgow.  I am about 700 miles from Ardmeallie.  Our “Home” is dancing beautifully across the waters sometimes mounting on a high wave and then down again till i sometimes think she will be engulfed in the might deep. It is now about 7 o’clock , the rest all bedded a while ago and I am the only sound one amongst the steerage passengers.  The only company we have now is a few seagulls.

April 24

Wind still very high…sea was very rough betimes throughout the night, a terrible swing on the ship which makes some of our gear tumble about. We have great difficulty in keeping on our feet above or below. Toward sunset the wind still increased and the spray was splashing in over upon the deck terrible betimes.

April 25

Wind very high throughout the night, it has shifted a point farther west, now right ahead of us. We are coming very little speed today, about 4 miles an hour.  The sailors tell me that it matters little whether we go or stand today as the wind is driving us too far North we are going the wrong way.

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Going the wrong way!

So there they are, a week at sea, God knows where in the North Atlantic,  the wind blowing against them and driving them north  off their course. Nothing but sea around them.  How did they navigate?  Nothing but the stars to guide them on the open ocean.

Water sloshing over the deck and “the ship rocking fearfully betimes.” Trouble staying on their feet.  Gear being bounced around in the hold. No other ships in sight.  “We are very lonely.”  I wonder what the passengers were thinking. 

Lonely.jpgApril 28

It blew a complete hurricane throughout the night, making our water cans tumble about and making a terrible noise, the water dashing in over the deck sometimes with a fearful noise in the silence of the night, driving sleep away from the most of us…This morning I got an awful tumble, the deck being wet and slippery,  but did not hurt myself…much. 

April 29

I was told by one of the sailors that if I had been up half an hour earlier I would have seen a whale.  I have spent this day in reading my Bible and other religious books when not engaged in works of necessity. We are now nearly half way across the Atlantic and have been blessed with a beautiful Sabbath, a foretaste, I hope of that eternal rest which remaineth for those who love and serve God in this world below.  Truly God has been mindful of us all aboard this ship, we are blessed with good health, all of us.”Oh that men would praise the lord for his goodness and for his wonderful words to the Children of Men”  Psalm 107.

Peter does seem to like Psalm 107!

May 1

The captain says if we continue all day (24 hours) we will make 160 miles or thereby. We are going at the rate of 6 1/2 miles per hour.  I heard the first mate say today that we have had a very quick passage so far, but the most difficult part of our passage is yet before us especially when we come to the River of St Lawrence.

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Although Peter does mention water in barrels rolling around in the hold, there is no mention of food at any point in this diary.  He does say that most of the people were ill during the first part of the journey.  What did it smell like below deck?  Don’t dwell too long on that thought.

They would have to bring along enough food and fresh water for 150 people for 6 weeks with no place to replenish supplies.  Can you imaging making those plans, in a time without refrigeration or power?    

I have read that most of the time the passengers had to bring along their own food.  Here is a list I found of what might be necessary to bring for one adult on a ten week sailing trip in 1870.  The meat would have to be salted or dried or pickled somehow.   And what about fresh water?  It was likely rationed.  They had to presume that they would be at least six weeks crossing the Atlantic and Peter has mentioned that there were 96 passengers on board.  I am not sure if this included the crew.

The following is a list of provisions printed by Det Norske Udvandringsselskap in Christiania (later Oslo) in the 1870s. These provisions were intended to be adequate for an adult for up to ten weeks:

– 70 pounds hard bread (or the equivalent in soft bread or flatbread)
– 8 pounds butter
– 24 pounds meat
– 10 pounds sidepork
– 1 small keg of herring
– 8/3 Td. potatoes
– 20 pounds rye and barley flour
– ½ bushel dried peas
– ½ bushel pearl barley
– 3 pounds coffee
– 3 pounds sugar
– 2½ pounds syrup
– Quantities of salt, pepper, vinegar and onions
Of course, each passenger may take along the type of provisions desired as long as they are adequate for 10 weeks. [Pound = 454 grams, Td. = tønne = keg]

 

Here is a notation made by Ole Ellingsen Strand,  a Norwegian lad of 11 when he crossed the Atlantic from Drammen, Norway to New York in 1851 on a ship similar to the “Home” 

“The first week out their appetites did not require much of any cooking, and the lunch baskets that people brought with them from home lasted several days. But they finally had to get on with it. Then every morning at a certain hour one from each family had to go down into the bottom room or hold of the vessel where the food and water was dealt out to each family for the day. The wood had to be split very fine before they could use it to any advantage, and the water had to be put into jugs or something similar to prevent it from spilling.

And now for the kitchen. Early in the morning you could see the women coming up from below with a little bundle of fine split wood in one hand and a little kettle of some kind or a coffee pot in the other, heading for the kitchen, eager to find a vacant place somewhere on this bed of sand large enough to set their kettle on and build a fire under it. But it would not be very late in the day, if the weather was favorable, till every place in the kitchen was occupied, and there would be a large crowd outside waiting for vacant places, which were generally engaged already. And if you sat outside watching the kitchen door you could in 18 minutes time see perhaps half dozen women come out with their aprons over their faces, wiping tears, coughing and almost strangled with smoke. They would stay outside long enough to get their lungs filled with fresh air and the tears wiped out of their eyes, then they would crowd themselves back in again. Perhaps to find the fire and wood removed from their kettle under somebody else’s. Then, of course, broad hints and sharp words would be exchanged, and the loser would have to watch the opportunity when her next neighbor would have to go outside for fresh air to get her wood and fire back again. And these were not the only adversities and troubles in the kitchen because it was hardly ever so stormy but that somebody tried to cook something, and if it was too stormy for the women to be on deck the men would generally volunteer to steep tea, cook coffee, or even make a kettle of soup. They would start their fire, put their kettles on, and in a little while the cook shanty would be chock full of men. Some would be on their knees, some sitting flat on the floor while others would be standing outside peering in. Then imagine an oncoming big wave striking the vessel and almost setting it on end, and in a wink of an eye every kettle, coffee pot, and teapot is upset and spilled in the fire and hot ashes. This of course made them scramble for the door and you could see that coming out like swirling bees from a beehive. Some would swear, some could laugh, while others would say they might have known better than to try to cook anything this stormy day, but in less than an hour the shanty would be full again and perhaps going through the whole performance. This was how we came to America in an early day. And thus we worried and suffered for nearly 8 weeks until we finally arrived in the City of New York about the 11th of July and everybody soon forgot the troubles and trials they had on the voyage by seeing the beautiful green fields being thawed out by the warm rays of the sun after they had been a constant target for the cold and raw winds of the Atlantic.”

Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 1 – leaving home.

One hundred and sixty two years ago today,  my great grandfather, Peter Porterfield set out from Scotland to come to Canada.   I am trying to imagine this trip, made across the North Atlantic in a clipper ship.  The voyage took five weeks.  Today we do it in a plane in 6 hours.

Fortunately,  20 year-old Peter wrote a diary along the way and it is still in the family.  I plan to follow him along over the next five weeks to reflect on this ancestral voyage and hope you will join me.  I will copy some of Peter’s notes (italics)  as these weeks unfolded for him. I will mainly let him speak for himself.  I will post a few daily journal entries every few days until Peter arrives back on dry land in May 21. Come along on this journey with us.

April 16, 1855

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I bade farewell to Ardmellie*, Parish of Marnoch, this day about 11 o’clock.  Was in Huntley about two o’clock and took the 3 o’clock train and was in Aberdeen about half past 5.

April 17

Left Aberdeen this morning on the 6 o’clock train for Glasgow.  Arrived there about 20 minutes past 3 in the afternoon, got my trunk on board the “Home”** which was to sail next day if things could get ready.

April 18

Went on board the “Home” about 2 in the afternoon.   Slept on her that night for the first time.

April 19

Gloomy…we set sail about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, being pulled down the Clyde by two steam tugs….There are about 96 passengers on board, likewise 3 dogs and more poultry.  Mr Jas. Poole, commander.

April 20

Fine morning…we were lying before Greenock this morning. Must wait until the wind goes around… A chaplain came from Greenock in the forenoon in a boat and distributed books among us, wishing us good passage. The wind still continuing contrary we were again obliged to get a steam tug with came to our assistance about have past 3, led us down the channel a good distance and left us about half past 5.   Between 7 and 8 o’clock the first mate found a bottle of whiskey about some of the sailor’s hammocks.  He gave the owner a good scolding and then threw it overboard into the sea and bade him to get it now if he could.

April 21

Fine morning…now paling between Scotland and Ireland and the land fast disappearing from our view.  Good-Bye Bonnie Scotland –It may never to be seen any more by some of us. In the morning, some of us began to get sick for the fist time and by 9 o’clock we were, with the exception of a few, al on the sick list…There was a strong wind and the ship was heaving a good deal…The sea was very rough throughout the night making the ship tumble about like a cradle, the water betimes coming across the deck. The only land in sight before going to bed was the north west coast of Ireland.

Now, imagine being on this sailing ship with about 100 other people, most of them sick and watching the land disappear into the distance,  heading out to sea for the next few weeks.  What kind of navigation would they use? They had no power but sail.   It was spring in the North Atlantic.

April 22

Sunday.  Slept sound last night.  No land in sight.  Sea very rough.  Our only element now is water, water in whatever direction we turned our eyes.  I have this day seen something of the Mighty Deep like what is described in the 107th Psalm, verses 23-28.

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Most of the passengers are very sick today. I have as yet not been very sick myself.  i have been able to step about today and read a little betimes, though debarred from attending the House of Prayer.  I have been won’t to do in times bast from my infancy till now. Yet I hop my Meditation this day on the Mighty ocean will be blest to me for good.

*Ardmeallie is in Northern Scotland near the Marnoch Bridge over the Deveron River.  The only reference I can find to it now is Ardmeallie House, a privately-owned estate with a lovely walled garden.  The house was built around 1750.  I found a Google maps image of the house (below) and its location relative to the river.  Peter must have lived very near there but his father farmed 42 acres, not the lord of the manor.Ardmellie House, Marnoch.png

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It intrigued me, as well, that train trains were so efficient in 1855.  Peter was able to travel from Aberdeen to Glasgow by train in a few hours.  The railways in this district were relatively new, most being completed in the 1840’s.  It must have been remarkable to get from one city to another so conveniently and quickly.

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**The “Home” was a bark ship – one with three large masts and under wind/sail power only.  Imagine setting out from Glasgow to Canada across the north Atlantic in April on a boat that had no other power but sail.

 

 

Discovering my inner Mormon through my DNA

Several months ago I spit in a test tube and sent the my saliva off to have over 700,000 of my DNA markers analyzed to find out what my genetic heritage is.

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This is where my DNA comes from. The darker circles make up 80%.

Six weeks later I got an analysis that showed me to be about 42% West European,  36 % Irish (this component includes northern Scotland as well), 10% British and a 10% smattering of other several other ethnic extractions ranging from Scandinavia to Spain to the Middle East.

At first I was not surprised by this – maybe a little disappointed not to see some African genes in there.  I have been able to trace most of my relatives on both my parents’ sides back several generations and they all seem to cluster in Britain or Scotland as far as 1600.

Screenshot 2016-09-05 11.34.23On further reflection, I  started to wonder why I had such a strong component (42%) of Western European genes. According to this analysis, my DNA distribution is almost the same as people who currently live in Western Europe, and not as compatible with natives of Britain or Ireland. Maybe it was because many of my UK relatives originated way back in Western Europe.  Certainly migration has happened over the centuries. But still, Western European DNA markers making up the major contribution of my genetic material seemed a bit strange.

 

Ancestry has identified me as a distant relative of over 100 people scattered over North America that I have never met.  For some of them who have their family tree posted online, I can see the common relative – usually a third great grandparent on either my Dad’s or Mother’s side of the family.   David and Agnes Geddes seemed to produce lots of kids and scatter their genes widely as did Robert Riddell, my mom’s great great grandfather.

Someone contacted me by email last week, a woman I don’t know who shares enough to DNA markers with me to indicate we are probably fourth cousins.   None of the names in her tree were familiar to me except Dixon, the family name of my third great grandmother on my mom’s side.  After a couple of email chats we determined that her third grandmother and mine were sisters.  So our common contribution of genetic material must have come from our common fourth great grandfather, born in 1786 in Northumberland, England or his wife, my fourth great grandmother, Martha Moore.

It astounds me – and would likely amaze these ancestors.to think that a determinable part of me is a remnant from this couple who lived 200 years ago.  And that some of my genes will be detectable in fourth degree offspring in 2300.  This is  how I imagine life after death.

Screenshot 2016-09-05 11.41.01Then, Ancestry told me that there is a strong possibility that I am related to Sarah Jane Busenbark since I share many genetic markers with several people in her family.  Where on earth did this come from?  Well, Busenbark is a modification of Busenberg, a German name – fits with my Western European genetic make-up.  And I have one great grandfather whose identity remains a mystery.  I could have received an eighth of my genetic material, or even more from this unknown donor to my gene pool.

So I started to look into Sarah Jane Busenbark a bit more.  It turns out she was born in Romulus New York in 1825 – upstate New York – about 25 km from Manchester NY where, in 1823,  Joseph Smith  found the “plates” that started the Mormon religion.

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Sarah Jane Busenbark was part of this trek across North America in 1856.  Was she a distant relative of mine?  Ancestry says yes.

At age 18, Sarah Jane married  Newton Hall and in the mid 1850’s they moved west, presumably part of  incredible migration of  Latter Day Saints who drew handcarts across the country to Utah. They ended up in Salt Lake City region.  Sarah’s husband became an associate of Brigham Young in the establishing Mormon Church and they had nine children.

 

Immediately, I started reflecting on the story of the Mormon Church as told in the hilariously irreverent Broadway show – Book of Mormon.   Although I had never heard of Sarah Jane Busenbark, I certainly knew, from the score of Book of Mormon, about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.    I am very much amused and almost a little excited to think that one of my probable relatives, perhaps a great great grandmother or great great aunt was part of this story.

This whole connection may not be altogether accurate but Ancestry says there is a very strong probably that I have a genetic connection to Sarah Jane Busenbark.  And I choose to believe that  because it fills in the only gap in my great-grandparent line, explains my strong Western European genetic make up and, dang it,  Mormon’s just believe.