Sentimental Saturday – Happy Birthday, Mom!

I am sharing photos from my collection along with a brief explanation about when and where the photos were taken, if known.

Tomorrow, October 4th would have been my mother’s 85th birthday had not cancer interfered and cut her life off at the much younger age of 63.

Anna (Anne) Margaret (O’Neill) Hadden was on October 4, 1930 in Detroit, Michigan, United States. My mother’s parents, J. Graham O’Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley with their first child Ed, had moved to Detroit from Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1929 as there was work available and waiting for my grandfather. My mother and her younger brother Bill as a result were both born in Detroit. The family moved back to Toronto in 1937 when my grandfather’s mother Margaret (Graham) O’Neill passed away.

My mother never did completely lose her ‘Michigan accent.’

Anne (O'Neill) Hadden with her granddaughter Lisa Hadden and her husband Lewis Hadden in 1991

Anne (O’Neill) Hadden with her granddaughter Lisa Hadden and her husband Lewis Hadden in 1991

The photo above was taken by Yours Truly following my daughter’s first communion. The photo was taken inside Holy Redeemer Church in Pickering, Ontario.

My mother never missed a milestone event in the lives of her grandchildren for whom, she once explained to me, she had the “God given right to spoil.”

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Sentimental Saturday – Happy 4th of July

I’m posting photos from my collection of family photographs on Saturdays with a brief explanation of what I know about each picture.

Ellen and I are both proudly Canadian. Ellen was born in London, Ontario and I was born in Toronto, Ontario.

But we both have family connections to the United States.

My mother, Anne Margaret (O’Neill) Hadden was born in Detroit, Michigan. Ellen’s maternal grandmother Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer was born in California.

Ellen’s American roots go much deeper though. Her 7X great grandfather was Edmond Faulkner, one of the founders of Andover, Massachusetts around 1645. One of Edmund’s great grandsons Col. Francis Faulkner, Ellen’s second cousin, 6 times removed, fought at the Battles of Lexington and Concord Bridge, initiating the Revolutionary War (or, War of Independence depending on perspective).

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden at the grave of her 7X Great Grandfather Edmond Faulkner

Ellen (Wagner) Hadden at the grave of her 7X Great Grandfather Edmond Faulkner

In 2013, Ellen and I took a road trip that included travelling through Massachusetts and I couldn’t resist attempting to find Edmond Faulkner’s grave. It meant a number of wrong turns along the way but eventually we were successful in locating the Old North Parish Burying Ground in what is now North Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts.

I took the photo above showing Ellen at her ancestor’s grave. The current gravestone was erected by some descendants of Edmond Faulkner just over 100 years ago, replacing what was likely an original, and no doubt very weathered, slate gravestone.

So we wish a Happy 4th of July, Independence Day, to all of our numerous American family members and friends. Enjoy your holiday and please be safe.

52 Ancestors: Gertrude Ellen (or Ellen Gertrude) O’Neill (nee Foley) 1898-1962

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

‘Gertie’ is my maternal grandmother. Gertie is the name my grandfather, her husband, J. Graham O’Neill called her. I just don’t really know if Gertie, short for Gertrude, was her first name or her middle name.

She was born on April 16, 1898 in Toronto, York County, Ontario, Canada. She was the third child and first daughter of John Foley, who listed his occupation as teamster on her birth registration and his wife Mary Jane Fitzgerald. 

Although he became a very successful businessman, John Foley could not read nor write but he did register the births of his children – and signed each birth registration (as he had been taught how to sign his name for business purposes). Because he couldn’t read, John Foley signed the registrations even when they had his children’s names recorded incorrectly. The family also had the habit of calling their children by their middle names. Eldest son Lewis Fitzgerald Foley was called Gerald, next son William Clarence was called Clarence but his birth was registered under the name William Dorsey!

So was my grandmother Gertrude Ellen or Ellen Gertrude? I don’t really know for certain and perhaps, it doesn’t really matter. Her birth registration states Gertrude Ellen and her baptismal record states Ellen Gertrude. Her death registration states Gertrude Ellen but my grandfather was the informant for the registration so he was likely stating what he commonly believed to be true. To add some confusion, the 1901 Census of Canada lists her as Ellen G. Foley. Most records including her marriage registration and newspaper announcements about the wedding say her name was Gertrude Ellen so I guess that is what I will go with.


Gertrude Ellen (Foley) O’Neill with her husband J. Graham O’Neill and their first grandchild, Ian Hadden



Gertrude was born at 25 Blong Avenue in an area of the city now referred to as Leslieville. Soon after her birth, she was baptized in St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, the same church in which her parents had married four years earlier. One week before her first birthday however, the family was turned upside down when her mother Mary Foley died of “septic poisoning.” 

For the next four years, Gertrude and her older brothers were cared for by housekeepers that her father hired. For example, in 1901, it was Mrs. O’Sullivan, an Irish widow who, along with her two teenage children, came to live with the Foleys and kept house. The family circumstance changed in October 1903 when John Foley married Annie McElroy. Life seems to have not only stabilized a bit but also got more comfortable for Gertrude as her father’s business became more and more successful and the family’s wealth grew.

On June 23, 1926, wearing a peach coloured georgette gown with matching peach coloured hat, Gertrude Foley married John Graham O’Neill at St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church, both signing the church marriage register as a soloist sang Ave Maria. At the wedding reception, held at her parent’s home on Queensdale Avenue, Gertrude was presented with a white gold wristwatch by the groom. Her father gave the newlyweds a house at 189 Pickering Street as a wedding gift.

They would not live in that house however until sometime in 1937 when they returned to Toronto following the death of Graham’s mother. It had been a tough economic time, the Depression era had set in and they had moved with their eldest child to Detroit in 1929 where Graham had been offered a job. Over the eight years they lived in Detroit, Gertrude had given birth to two additional children, a daughter (my mother) and then a second son.

Back in Toronto, Gertrude and Graham settled into life raising their children, seeing each of them marry, and then welcoming grandchildren.

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother Gertrude O’Neill or ‘Nanna’ as I called her because we lived just two houses away from her. I was her first grandchild and I admit that she put a lot of effort into spoiling me. I can still feel the devastation of July 13th, 1962 when I heard my mother calling across the street to a neighbour and telling the neighbour about my grandmother’s death that afternoon. My mother didn’t know at the time that I was in that neighbour’s kitchen, building model airplanes with the neighbour’s son.



Following a funeral at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, Gertrude Ellen Foley O’Neill was interred in the O’Neill family plot at Mount Hope Cemetery where she would be joined years later, to forever rest in peace, by her husband Graham.

52 Ancestors: Anne Margaret (O’Neill) Hadden (1930-1994)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

It is Mother’s Day! A day on which for years we have paid tribute to the women who have worked, sweated and sacrificed to make certain our lives were better than their own. Our mothers. I could see no better way to celebrate today than to honour my own mother by re-posting the following the tribute I wrote that marked the 20th anniversary of her leaving us earlier this year. 

I can offer an update to the post however, as I was recently startled while researching through archived pages of the Toronto Star newspaper, to find a small wedding announcement for my parents that appeared in the 16 September 1953 edition. The ‘article’ was essentially two or three rows of small photos of Fall brides and there among the lot was my mother wearing her nurse’s cap. It is likely that her nursing school graduation photo was used.

Anne Margaret Hadden (nee O’Neill), ‘Mom’ to me, left us 20 years ago today, on January 8, 1994, a victim of cancer. She left behind a husband, her children, and perhaps most important to her, her beloved grandchildren.


Anne (also known as ‘Anna’, ‘Mom’, and ‘Granny’) was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Her parents had moved to Detroit from their home in Toronto, Ontario because work was available for my grandfather – and finding work in the Depression era of the 1930’s was important. My mother’s older brother, Edwin (‘Ed’) had been born in Toronto a couple of years prior to the family move and a couple of years after my mother’s birth, the family expanded again in Detroit with the birth of William (‘Bill’) O’Neill.


Following the 1937 death of my mother’s paternal grandmother in Toronto, the family moved back to the Toronto east end house my grandfather had inherited. The same house became my parent’s home after they married in 1953 and was the house that I was raised in through my early childhood years.

My mother graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1948 and entered nursing school as it was referred to then at St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto. She graduated as a Registered Nurse in 1952. My mother loved nursing but took a hiatus from her work from the mid-1950’s through the early 1960’s during which time she gave birth to five children in six years, only three of whom survived to adulthood. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I could even fathom the anguish my parents must have experienced at the deaths of my brothers Brian (1956-1957) and Stephen (1957-1959).

My mother often displayed an off-beat, quirky sense of humour. While in high school, she and a friend would pass a local funeral parlour while walking home from school. They started making it a habit to stop in and visit the funeral parlour each day – just to see who was there! The anecdotes from her professional life working in a hospital ranged from technical medical procedures to the bizarre. Her favourite however was always ‘The Chocolate Cake’ story.

St. Michael’s Hospital, or St. Mike’s as it is locally known, operated in an older part of the city not known for glitz and glamour. As such my mother’s patients were often those that suffered from alcoholism and mental illnesses. My mother worked on “1D”, a first floor unit that was close to the street and all that the rundown neighbourhood had to offer. She worked with a close-knit team of nurses and they used any occasion to brighten otherwise tough days.

One such occasion was the birthday of a colleague unit nurse. Mom’s best fiend, Marie (known in our house as ‘the tall blonde’) baked the birthday cake and spread far more chocolate icing on it than was required. As Marie was carrying the cake into work for the birthday celebration, the cake fell out of it’s box, landing on the floor of the hospital’s first floor lobby. My mother and Marie quickly assessed that with the excess icing, the cake could easily be salvaged by re-spreading the icing that remained.

A short time later as my mother was walking through the lobby, she encountered two nuns dressed in their full black habits (the hospital was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph religious order). The nuns, thinking that someone had defecated on the floor, called to my mother and pointed out the brown lump. Without missing a beat, my mother told the nuns not to worry and promptly put her finger into the ‘lump’ then put her finger bearing the brown goo into her mouth, proclaiming “Ummmm, it’s wonderful!” The shocked nuns hastily left to report that a nurse was having some kind of breakdown.

In her retirement years, my mother shopped, a lot. She explained to me that she was simply exercising her “God given right to spoil” her grandchildren.

My mother died at home, just as she wished. My father arranged for a hospital bed to be installed in her room, affectionately referred to as ‘The Nest.’ As an experienced and knowledgeable nurse, she knew that her body was failing. So, a few weeks before her death, she asked me, as I was a church musician, if I would sing at her funeral. When I agreed to her request, she asked if I thought I would be able to given the emotion of the time. I told her that I didn’t know how I would do as I had never sang at her funeral before. She smiled and asked me what song I would sing. I quickly replied that the first thing to come to mind was Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead from the Wizard of Oz. Our laughter at that moment is still a precious memory and I won’t repeat the name she called me.


Her death came quietly, as it is said, ‘like a thief in the night.’ Our whole family had been gathered around Mom throughout the day on January 7th. We all left the house late at night to put our own children to bed in their respective homes. Within two hours of leaving, my father called to summon us back to our parental home. I drove my sister to our parents’ home that night through a raging blizzard and when we entered the house, our father looked at me and with the slightest shake of his head, I knew we were too late. Hours later, my father and I stood in the doorway to the house as Mom left her house for the final time, now in the care of the funeral directors.

                                         Anne (O’Neill) Hadden with 5-month old Ian Hadden



Our rather large church was filled to capacity for her funeral on January 11, 1994. A fitting tribute to a wonderful woman who gave so much of herself to those she loved and cared for. And, I sang!

Anne Margaret (O’Neill) Hadden – In Memoriam – She Left Us 20 Years Ago Today

Anne Margaret Hadden (nee O’Neill), ‘Mom’ to me, left us 20 years ago today, on January 8, 1994, a victim of cancer. She left behind a husband, her children, and perhaps most important to her, her beloved grandchildren.

Anne (also known as ‘Anna’, ‘Mom’, and ‘Granny’) was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Her parents had moved to Detroit from their home in Toronto, Ontario because work was available for my grandfather – and finding work in the Depression era of the 1930’s was important. My mother’s older brother, Edwin (‘Ed’) had been born in Toronto a couple of years prior to the family move and a couple of years after my mother’s birth, the family expanded again in Detroit with the birth of William (‘Bill’) O’Neill.


Following the 1937 death of my mother’s paternal grandmother in Toronto, the family moved back to the Toronto east end house my grandfather had inherited. The same house became my parent’s home after they married in 1953 and was the house that I was raised in through my early childhood years.

My mother graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1948 and entered nursing school as it was referred to then at St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto. She graduated as a Registered Nurse in 1952. My mother loved nursing but took a hiatus from her work from the mid-1950’s through the early 1960’s during which time she gave birth to five children in six years, only three of whom survived to adulthood. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I could even fathom the anguish my parents must have experienced at the deaths of my brothers Brian (1956-1957) and Stephen (1957-1959).

My mother often displayed an off-beat, quirky sense of humour. While in high school, she and a friend would pass a local funeral parlour while walking home from school. They started making it a habit to stop in and visit the funeral parlour each day – just to see who was there! The anecdotes from her professional life working in a hospital ranged from technical medical procedures to the bizarre. Her favourite however was always ‘The Chocolate Cake’ story.

St. Michael’s Hospital, or St. Mike’s as it is locally known, operated in an older part of the city not known for glitz and glamour. As such my mother’s patients were often those that suffered from alcoholism and mental illnesses. My mother worked on “1D”, a first floor unit that was close to the street and all that the rundown neighbourhood had to offer. She worked with a close-knit team of nurses and they used any occasion to brighten otherwise tough days.

One such occasion was the birthday of a colleague unit nurse. Mom’s best fiend, Marie (known in our house as ‘the tall blonde’) baked the birthday cake and spread far more chocolate icing on it than was required. As Marie was carrying the cake into work for the birthday celebration, the cake fell out of it’s box, landing on the floor of the hospital’s first floor lobby. My mother and Marie quickly assessed that with the excess icing, the cake could easily be salvaged by re-spreading the icing that remained.

A short time later as my mother was walking through the lobby, she encountered two nuns dressed in their full black habits (the hospital was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph religious order). The nuns, thinking that someone had defecated on the floor, called to my mother and pointed out the brown lump. Without missing a beat, my mother told the nuns not to worry and promptly put her finger into the ‘lump’ then put her finger bearing the brown goo into her mouth, proclaiming “Ummmm, it’s wonderful!” The shocked nuns hastily left to report that a nurse was having some kind of breakdown.

In her retirement years, my mother shopped, a lot. She explained to me that she was simply exercising her “God given right to spoil” her grandchildren.

My mother died at home, just as she wished. My father arranged for a hospital bed to be installed in her room, affectionately referred to as ‘The Nest.’ As an experienced and knowledgeable nurse, she knew that her body was failing. So, a few weeks before her death, she asked me, as I was a church musician, if I would sing at her funeral. When I agreed to her request, she asked if I thought I would be able to given the emotion of the time. I told her that I didn’t know how I would do as I had never sang at her funeral before. She smiled and asked me what song I would sing. I quickly replied that the first thing to come to mind was Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead from the Wizard of Oz. Our laughter at that moment is still a precious memory and I won’t repeat the name she called me.


Her death came quietly, as it is said, ‘like a thief in the night.’ Our whole family had been gathered around Mom throughout the day on January 7th. We all left the house late at night to put our own children to bed in their respective homes. Within two hours of leaving, my father called to summon us back to our parental home. I drove my sister to our parents’ home that night through a raging blizzard and when we entered the house, our father looked at me and with the slightest shake of his head, I knew we were too late. Hours later, my father and I stood in the doorway to the house as Mom left her house for the final time, now in the care of the funeral directors.

                                         Anne (O’Neill) Hadden with 5-month old Ian Hadden



Our rather large church was filled to capacity for her funeral on January 11, 1994. A fitting tribute to a wonderful woman who gave so much of herself to those she loved and cared for. And, I sang!