Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22, 1917 to February 22, 2017: Rest in Peace, dear William.

100 years ago on February 22, 1917,
my great uncle, William Joseph Williams
gave his life in WWI, age 24, in Salonika, Greece. 
He fell in a skirmish against the Germans, and was
hit at close range in one of his legs. The newspaper clipping below gives a good description. His leg had to be amputated, and William didn't survive.

William was born in Blaenau Ffestiniog,
North Wales in 1893. I haven't yet sent away for his birth certificate, so I don't know the date of birth.
He joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers in Wrexham, Wales and on Sept 5, 1915 was sent to France.

I only have 2 photos of William, so I did a bit of photo-shopping and added William's head to this lovely Royal Welsh Fusiliers head shot of another soldier!

I had thought maybe this year, 2017, I would visit William's grave but I don't feel like that part of the world is safe at the moment.

William was part of the Machine Gun Corps during the last few months of his life.

The above clipping states William passed away 
"on the 6th day at the Casualty Clearing Hospital", so this means he would have been injured on Feb 17, which was his older brother's birthday.
(my Grandpa John Griffith Williams)
It also states that Miss Ellen Roberts, William's aunt, was the only person that the sender of the news had an address for, although the person knew that
"your nephew used to write to his girl very faithfully".
The clipping is cut off at this point. I'd love to know who wrote the letter, but I haven't yet been able to find it online. That sentence makes me cry every time I read it.

The above is the UK army register of Soldier's Effects, for William Williams. His brother is the one who received them, Robert David Williams, who was on the HMS Violet. 

Henry Hargreaves (should have initial C not E) was the chaplain and wrote this lovely letter.

I recently was given a link to the Welsh newspapers online which shows the above, "Williams, 14842,
W. (Blaenau Festiniog)" under
No wonder I couldn't locate an obituary without any help! This was found in The North Wales Chronicle.

And this is where William is buried.
His plot is in section D, #828.

I'm so thankful I purchased the photo of his
grave, from the War Graves Photographic
Project online.

William's medal index card, showing his enlistment and his date of death.

I created a collage for my Facebook page, to remember great uncle William.
I've done my best to learn all I could about you, dear William. One day I hope to meet you in Heaven.

By Loretta (Williams) Houben

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Our visit to Florence May Palmer's grave in Humboldt SK.

To date, this is the crowning achievement of all my genealogy research!
This past June I began to consider, "What if I asked family members to contribute to purchasing a grave marker for my great grandmother?" This is Florence May (Bellamy) PALMER, who is buried in Humboldt Public Cemetery in Saskatchewan. I had asked Robert if he would drive to SK on our upcoming trip in July to Calgary, AB. Florence is my great grandmother; my Dad's grandmother.
I'd joined a FaceBook SK group which was very helpful, and Gord Neish who works at the Naicam Museum had posted a price list and a contact for Forever Memorials for those of us who wished to have our loved ones remembered in this way.

Florence had died 85 years ago, on June 20, 1931.
I felt it would be fitting, provided others helped pay the cost.
I'm not sure why Florence's children didn't rally together and do this years ago; it would have been much cheaper. I know to begin with they had a rough life, but in later years some of them were well off. I guess she was out of sight and so out of mind, although I know that my great Uncle Syd Palmer and his wife Joan visited the cemetery in the 1980's.

Here are a list of the donators: 

My parents, Jack & Susie Williams
My uncle Harry & aunt Lil Williams
Denise Surowski (Harry & Lil's daughter)
My uncle Bob & aunt Marilyn Williams
Heidi Wallace (Bob & Marilyn's daughter)
Jacqueline Vesterinen (great uncle Syd Palmer's daughter)
My aunt Audrey & Fred Town (John & Alma May Williams daughter)
Robert & Loretta Houben (Florence Palmer's great granddaughter)

It's thrilling what a group of people can accomplish!
Thanks to Jennifer Flasko of Forever Memorials, I arranged everything by email!
First I had to find out if Florence's grave could be found, so I contacted the city of Humboldt to see who was in charge of the cemetery. It turns out the city is. They sent me a form by email for me to sign, so that Jennifer would be able to install the marker. I sent it back by email after signing it and scanning the form. Next everyone very quickly sent me paper cheques, which Robert scanned into his cell phone and deposited to our account. I had already mailed the amount owing to Jennifer, as I was very anxious to have the marker installed before I reached Humboldt at the beginning of August!
I trusted everyone to send in their cheques and they promptly did so. 

Just before I left on our trip to Calgary AB on July 22, I emailed Jennifer one last time.
Unfortunately, Saskatchewan had so much rain this summer, she hadn't been able to install the marker because of 7" of rain! But she promised she would have it done in time, and she did.
On August 1 we traveled from Calgary to Humboldt. That's one long drive!
After checking into our hotel, we hurried to the cemetery before supper.
I was so anxious to see it!
(In the photo above, I'm talking with my Dad, Jack Williams, and describing his grandmother's grave to him.)

Alas. I didn't even know where it was.
My heart fell. I told Robert to start at the back, and I'd start looking at the front.
Before long the awful brutes of mosquitoes had found me. Ack! I tried looking for a new marker, but was being eaten alive. I waved to Robert, and he came running as he thought I'd found it.
He didn't say a word, but I told him we'd have to come back in the morning as I was being bitten too much. He said "Well, I didn't find Nellie's grave, but I did spot a new one that said Florence May Palmer." 
I just stared at him, and then I shrieked. 
For some reason he thought I was looking for Nellie Williams grave. (buried in Spalding)
So the whole point of this story is this:
When your spouse helps you on a long trip like this, please make sure you understand the full NAME of the person you are seeking, and much time will be saved!
Anyhow, all's well that ends well.
Florence Palmer's grave marker is in a plot of un-marked graves, so Jennifer made sure her stone was elevated so the grass mower wouldn't run over it. 
This was a very thrilling moment for me.

By Loretta (Williams) Houben

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Visiting your ancestors in cemeteries.

There are a few graves I haven't visited yet, and hope to remedy it soon.
One is the un-marked grave of my great grandmother, FLORENCE MAY (BELLAMY) PALMER.
She is buried in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, many miles from here.
Recently I had asked my Williams/Palmer Facebook group members if they would consider making a money contribution towards getting a grave marker installed on Florence's grave.
Many agreed, and so they sent me generous cheques for $50 each and I quickly had enough to send to  Forever Memorials in St. Front, SK, who have made a monument and will be installing it later in July. I think it's thrilling that Florence will have a name and date at last!
The marker will be black granite and state:
Nov 20, 1883 - Jun 20, 1931
When I visit her grave I will put the vase and roses on it, along with her framed photo, and take many pictures. She is the only one of our family in Humboldt Cemetery.

Another grave I haven't yet seen is in Bigstone Cemetery in Spalding SK.
That belongs to my paternal grandpa's first wife, ELLEN (EGERTON) WILLIAMS, known as Nellie. She was buried with many other people with one large grave stone.
Her name is "Mrs. John Williams" with the date 1926 on the grave.
I blogged about discovering her grave online, HERE. I've learned so much more about here since that time! I'd love to write a book about her and her adventures in Canada.
Although it's sad she died, I'm so glad she did, as I wouldn't be here if she had lived.
Just think about it....

By Loretta (Williams) Houben

Friday, June 17, 2016

Florence Bellamy Palmer, my great grandmother.

My great grandmother, Florence Bellamy, born on November 20, 1883, in Roath, Cardiff, South Wales, to William and Elizabeth Bellamy. Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Vesterinen.

Here is the register of birth, so that I could order her birth certificate.

Here is the first census on which Florence appears, living at #396 Zinc Street in the parish of Roath, Cardiff, South Wales. Her father, William, works in coal but I can't make out his profession. She has 3 brothers; Joseph, William and Edward, and 2 sisters; Deborah and Elizabeth.

In 1901, Florence is 17 and a servant at #10 Preswyfla Street in Cardiff, South Wales.
Her employer is George B Newton and his wife Kate. The census has the family split on two pages, which is something you have to watch for when searching for your family!

The 1911 Welsh census which shows Florence married to Herbert Palmer, with three children; Herbert, May and Norman. (May is my grandma) Here she is age 25, but it should read age 27. Maybe she didn't wish to appear as two years older than her husband, who was born August 11, 1885 and was age 25.

Yesterday, June 16, 2016, I had the delightful thrill of discovering my first family member in the newspapers! The Naicam Progress newspapers are online at this link.
Some of the years have been digitized. I knew Florence had died on June 20, 1931 which was 85 years ago, so I looked at the newspaper closest to her date of death and her obituary was on the first page! I was quite thrilled to find her.
By Loretta (Williams) Houben

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 31, 1916.....100 years ago: The Battle of Jutland

The Battle of Jutland happened 100 years ago on this day.
6,097 British lives were lost. Over 2,000 Germans died.
I had never given much thought to this battle until I recently discovered that an ancestor perished on board one of those ships. I've blogged about Alfred George Palmer before, so I won't repeat all the details here. Please CLICK HERE to read that story.

If I ever return to England I'll try to look up this memorial.
I think it would be thrilling to visit it and pay my respects.
I found a battle fleet chart online, and you can see the Broke ship in the 4th Flotilla:

Here is a LIST of men killed on board HMS Broke.

By Loretta (Williams) Houben

Monday, May 16, 2016

Childhood Memories

I finally scanned in the old black and white photos in my parent's small brown photo album.
I've been meaning to do this for a while. 
I tweaked the photos and added photo corners and a description.
These were taken 50 years ago, at our home at 3382 Monmouth Avenue in Vancouver BC.
I loved playing in the living room with our toys. My Mom didn't mind as long as we cleaned the room up by supper time. Sometimes that didn't happen, and if company knocked on the door, we would rush to throw all our toys behind the couch!

My aunt Frieda, Mom's older sister, made my dress and I believe she also made Leona's too. She was an excellent seamstress. I loved all the things she made me. My dress had a red yoke, and purple and red plaid and was very comfortable. Leona's dress is a very stylish 1960's type Mondrian (designed originally by Yves St. Laurent which were inspired by the paintings of Mondrian).

I believe the dolls were given to us by aunt Frieda but I'm not positive. We received them as gifts when we were in Oregon in the summer. An online friend suggested that the dolls look like Madame Alexander "Little Shaver" dolls. I haven't located mine yet (in storage) to see if there's a mark on the back or not. Leona and I loved these dolls. I named mine Flossie and she named hers Nan, after the famous Bobbsey Twin characters.

This is a photo by Eric Koch from Wikipedia, showing an original Mondrian painting, and dresses by Yves St. Laurent. For some reason, I just love this style. To me it embodies the glorious 1960 decade.

By Loretta (Williams) Houben

Monday, May 9, 2016

Alma May Palmer/Williams Memoirs

I'm re-reading my Grandma Alma May's memoirs which she wrote in a lined notebook in 1977. 
I remember her telling me she was working on them, a little each day. I was 17 at that time, and hoped to read them soon. I wasn't able to get my hands on them until she passed away in 2004! Then my Dad gave the notebook to me.
In 2007, thirty years after they were written, I edited them and typed them into my computer. I printed the pages and had them bound at Staples and gave them to my Dad.

Now I'm going through them again. They are very interesting and well written.
They give a glimpse into my Grandma's life so long ago.
Here is a portion about Alma's life in Saskatchewan, near Spalding:
(see excerpt below)

I looked up Fred and found him on the 1921 Canadian Census, which you can see at the top of this post. Someone has added the correct spelling of his surname. So my Grandma remembered his name very well! I wonder what Fred looked like. If Alma had married him, I wouldn't be here!

"I went to work for Mrs. Collop, 14 miles from home. It was hard work so different from what I did in London. I learned to cook, wash clothes on a wash board for five people; Mr. and Mrs. Collop and Lorraine, Bill the hired man and myself for fifteen dollars a month. While there I met Fred Shlondorff, a young German. He was nice, he took me to a box social party. That is, I had to take a shoe box dressed up outside and put sandwiches and cookies, so we put the pretty boxes all together. Nobody knows whose they are. Then a man puts them up for bidding. Fred didn’t know my box. So an older man bid on mine and got it and then we both ate out of my box. (poor Fred) It’s very exciting, though. We did enjoy ourselves. Fred wanted to marry me, but I met Jack Williams, he being a Welsh man, I wanted him instead, so Jack and I got married August 11th, 1928." (page torn in half, bottom is missing)

By Loretta (Williams) Houben