Visiting Granny

It has felt like we have hit a period of time when Ellen and I have attended more funerals than at any other time I can remember. We have even had funeral times conflicting with other funerals that we also wanted to attend. These are funerals for friends and former work colleagues who we have lost.

Last week, we attended the funeral of one of Ellen’s friends, a woman who died at the very young age of 46, leaving her husband and young sons grieving her loss. 

The funeral was held at the Pine Hills Cemetery visitation centre in Scarborough (now part of Toronto), Ontario. This is also the cemetery in which my paternal grandmother is buried.

Agnes Little was born in Greenock, Scotland and immigrated to Toronto in 1928 with the grand sum of $10 in her pocket. I still shake my head in amazement when I think of the courage she had as a 20-year old young woman leaving the only home she had known to travel “half way around the world” in search of a brighter opportunity.

As her eldest grandchild, I had the chance to know ‘Granny.’ Maybe not all that well as I was only just approaching my fourth birthday when she lost her battle with cancer, but I do vividly and fondly remember her.

Granny was buried in Pine Hills Cemetery so, after the funeral, I took advantage of escorting Ellen to Granny’s grave in order to make ‘proper introductions.’

Granny possessed a beautifully thick Scottish brogue that she referred to as her passport. She was only four feet, ten inches tall but she was a force in the family. She was only 50 years of age when she left us but she is not forgotten and legacy lives on.

Can You Help Identify Minnie?

Minnie (seen below) seems to have been a friend of my paternal grandmother, Agnes Hadden (nee Little). The original photo is printed on postcard type stock by a company named “Jerome.” On the back of the photo is the simple wording, written in pencil, “To Agnes from Minnie with Love.” There also appears a date – January 1, 1931 – that has been rubber stamped on the back of the photo card.

My grandmother, Agnes Little immigrated to Canada in 1928. My great uncle, Alec Hadden, her brother-in-law, told me she had come to Canada with a friend. Was Minnie that friend?

Agnes sailed from Greenock, Scotland as a third class passenger on June 16, 1928 aboard the S.S. ‘Regina’ and landed at Quebec City, Province of Quebec on June 23, 1928 according to the ship’s passenger list that records her journey. Unfortunately, there is no Minnie listed on the passenger list not anyone whose name might get derived to the nickname of Minnie. The ship’s passenger list reveals that Agnes was destined for Salvation Army Hostel in Toronto, Ontario as part of a British Empire settlement scheme in the 1920’s. 

Do you recognize Minnie? Do you have any suggestions for identifying Minnie? If so, leave a comment or contact me at Thanks.

Dividing the Family Along Religious Lines

My family was easy for me to understand when I began researching it’s history. My mother’s family was Irish and Roman Catholic. My father’s family was Scottish and non-Catholic, aligned to no particular Protestant denomination. These distinct differences made it easy for me and helped point me to the correct research areas and repositories of information.

My father’s conversion to Catholicism prior to his marriage to my mother was not warmly received by his family. So you can imagine my astonishment while checking, re-checking really, facts about my Sweeney ancestors to input source information into my genealogy database. I am directly descended from the Sweeney family through my paternal grandmother, Agnes Little. While examining the 1871 marriage registration of Edward Sweeney to Helen Dickson, my third great grandparents, I found all the usual information I would expect to find: name of bride and groom, their parent’s names, the date and place of the marriage, their addresses at the time of the marriage, their occupations, names of the witnesses and the clergyman or official who performed the wedding ceremony. But there was another piece of information that I suppose I typically have glossed over – the notation of the banns.

In the case of Edward and Helen, their marriage registration clearly indicates their marriage took place “After Banns according to the Forms of the Roman Catholic Church.” So my paternal grandmother’s great grandfather, and grandmother for that matter, were Roman Catholic. A little more searching revealed not only the religious difference but that they were from Ireland!

Edward Sweeney’s parents, my fourth great grandparents, were George and Mary (nee McMurray) Sweeney. Edward, like his parents, was born in Ireland. The family first appears in Scotland in the 1851 Census. Edward was 2 years old meaning that sometime between his birth in 1849 and the March 30, 1851 Scottish Census, the Sweeney family immigrated to Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Given the timeframe involved, it is easy to surmise it to be most likely that they were escaping from the Irish potato famine.

The tie to the Roman Catholic church in this family line appears to have been broken when Edward’s daughter Agnes, my second great grandmother, married William Mitchell in 1886 “according to the forms of the Scottish Episcopal church.”