Mining the Local Newspaper

I have searched through many pages of local newspapers before. This time, I wanted to see if there was anything I had missed.

Fortunately, my family, both my maternal and paternal sides, lived in Toronto, Ontario and the ‘local’ paper, The Toronto Star has digitized 116 years of it’s editions, back to 1894, through it’s Pages of the Past feature. In addition, using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, all pages of the newspaper are searchable using keywords, exact phrase or Boolean Query. My experience with the OCR technology indicates that it is not perfect but it is good and getting better. Searching 116 years of newspaper pages, even for an exact ‘phrase’ such as a family surname can be time consuming and not everything found was connected to my family. For example, someone named Lorraine Hadden played a lot of bridge when the newspaper was publishing bridge tournament results through the 1950’s and 1960’s. There were also a lot of stories about Dave Hadden, a player for the Toronto Argonaut professional football team through the 1970’s – and I got to view all of them!
But hidden within all of the ‘misses’ were some great gems about my family (including a story about me from 1995 that I will save for another time). When I first used newspapers as a genealogy source, I tended to focus on defined dates of known events. I knew my birth date so was there a birth announcement, for example. Conducting a broader search with the resulting large number of ‘hits’ tested my patience. I wanted more immediate gratification than hours and hours of viewing seemed to offer.
I now search more patiently and I have gleaned some great results that I can share. My great grandparents, Alexander Shand Hadden and his wife Jessie (nee Gaull) died in 1945, within months of each other. I have now found both of their obituaries.

On March 22, 1945, the death notice for Jessie Gaull Hadden appeared on page 26 of the Toronto Star. The obituary related that Jessie passed away in Toronto East General Hospital on Tuesday, March 20, 1945 in her 64th year. Her funeral was held in the chapel of the William Sherrin Funeral Home at 873 Kingston Road on Friday, March 23rd at 2:00 p.m. Internment was at St. John’s Norway Cemetery.

Alexander Shand Hadden’s obituary appeared on page 17 of the July 27, 1945 Toronto Star newspaper. The obituary stated that Alexander died on Thursday, July 26th, 1945 at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. In addition his current and former residences are given. His next of kin included his children: Edith, Alex, and John, all of Toronto and “Company Sergeant-Major Andrew Hadden, C.I.T.C.” (Note to self – some research is needed to understand Uncle Andy’s previously unheard of military role!) Like his wife a few months earlier, Alexander’s funeral was held in the chapel of the Sherrin Funeral Home on Saturday, July 28, 1945 at 11:00 a.m. and internment followed at St. John’s Norway Cemetery in Toronto.

The real surprise was finding a memorial published in the Toronto Star on March 20, 1946. The memorial reads as follows:

“HADDEN – In loving memory of my dear mother, Jessie Gaull Hadden, who passed away March 20, 1945.
Peacefully sleeping, resting at last
The world’s weary troubles and trials are past.
I silence she suffered, in patience she bore
Till God called her home to suffer no more.
— Lovingly remembered by her son Alex and daughter-in-law Hilda, grandchildren Robert and David.

One thought on “Mining the Local Newspaper

  1. Thank you so much for this posting Ian. I have often wondered about Jessie/Janet. I see she only lived to be 63. I thought she might have reached a ripe old age as she looks so strong and upright in her photos and I admire her for that after the hard life in Saskatchewen especially. Mind you she had a terribly hard life – one that I wouldn't have survived at all. I have copied this blog to add to what I have on the Gaulls already.

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