Abide With Me – The Funeral Records of the Knox Family

A singer named Marshall sang two hymns.

Marshall was accompanied by ‘Mrs. McC’ on the organ while singing Abide With Me and Sometime We’ll Understand.

So says the funeral records that I have received describing the final arrangements for Thomas Elliott Knox, his wife Amy Squires Knox, and a grandson Arthur Knox.

I have come to know a lot about Thomas E. ‘Tom” Knox, my wife’s great grandfather, from years of researching his life. Most of the records about Tom describe his life of public service. He served as Postmaster and then Mayor of Livermore, California. He served as an Alameda County Supervisor and was active in his community. Politically, he was a Republican and through his political activity was at minimum an acquaintance of future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. In business, Tom was a contractor and one of the early proprietors of a California vineyard.

Thomas Elliott Knox (photo taken abt. 1923 during visit to orillia, Ontario, Canada)

Thomas Elliott Knox (photo taken abt. 1923 during visit to Orillia, Ontario, Canada)

Tom was a thin, sharp featured man who was born in Seaforth, Huron County, Canada West (now Ontario) about 1854. It’s likely through the following of employment opportunities that found Tom arriving in California around 1875 where a few years later he would marry Amy Squires, a native of England who had immigrated to California with her parents and siblings in 1873.

Recently I came across an announcement of Tom’s death in a newspaper that the years of research had not previously found. The San Francisco Chronicle reported his death on January 30, 1938 in a page 14 article entitled “Knox, Alameda County Civic Leader, Expires.” On January 31st the Oakland Tribune ran a similar article and on February 1st, the San Francisco Chronicle followed up with an article about the funeral arrangements. The articles gave the name of the funeral home where the arrangements had been made – “the Grant D. Miller chapel, 2850 Telegraph avenue, Oakland.”

A Google search found that the funeral company was still in existence, now as the Grant Miller Mortuary, and operating from the same address in Oakland. The mortuary’s website provided an email address and following a quick exchange of messages, the mortuary sent me the family funeral records (for a small fee, well, actually not quite so small once the currency exchange rate was factored in).

When Tom died in 1938, his widow Amy made the arrangements with the mortuary. The funeral record provides Tom’s date and place of birth, date, place and cause of death in addition to his occupation and the address of the family residence. In addition to the organist and singing of the two hymns, the record details that the funeral was held on February 1st, 1938 at 3:30 p.m. A car was to pick up the family at their 300 Elwood Avenue residence at 3:00 p.m. The cost of the funeral, including the size 6/3, model number 17 casket, was $132.41 (about $2,250 in today’s dollars).

When Amy Knox subsequently passed away five years later in 1943, the arrangements were again made through the Grant Miller Mortuary. There was no singer hired for the funeral service however Mrs. McClusky, whom I believe to be the same organist from Tom’s funeral then identified as ‘Mrs. McC’, played the organ. A limo was dispatched to pick up the family from their 300 Elwood Avenue home at 2:00 p.m. on November 23rd, 1943, the day of the funeral. The service began at 3:00 p.m. An interesting note in the funeral record for Amy is that no hearse was available to transport the casket after the funeral service so an ambulance was used. Cost for this funeral was $249.91 (or about $3,450 in today’s dollars).

Although funeral records may not contain a lot of new genealogical details, they do provide an additional layer of family history allowing us to observe how our ancestors dealt with one of life’s more troubling and difficult occasions, saying farewell to a loved one. And these records may be available for the asking (and the paying of that small (?) fee).

Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer – Seeing The Fullness Of Her Life Through Newspapers

To some, she was Granny; to others, she was Mom; to all, she was known as Mattie.

Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer

Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer

Mattie’s grandchildren knew that she was from California but as she didn’t talk very much about herself not much was known about her early life. Newspapers, the social media of 100 years ago, filled in the blanks, painting the picture of an outgoing, independent and spirited young woman, one who lived within the acceptable social boundaries of her times but who wasn’t afraid to push those boundaries.

Mattie was born in 1884, the first child of Thomas ‘Tom’ Elliott Knox and his wife of two years Amy Jane Squires. Both Tom and Amy were immigrants to California. Tom hailed from the village of Seaforth, in southwest Ontario, Canada and Amy had moved as a child with her family to California from her native England.

Mattie lived with her parents in Livermore, California where her father provided a comfortable lifestyle through his work as a plasterer, mason, and eventually contractor. She had no Knox relatives nearby but her mother’s family, the Squires lived in Berkeley, California.

Mattie first appears in the newspapers at the age of five, listed as guest, along with her parents, at the wedding of her aunt Emily Squires to Charles Wiggin on August 20, 1890. The wedding took place in the home of her maternal grandparents in Berkeley.

The newspapers report that Mattie visited her Squires grandparents at least annually, with references to such visits appearing in 1897 and 1898. In August of 1898, Mattie was in Berkeley again but to attend the 10th birthday party for her cousin Hazel Foy, the daughter of Amy’s sister Emma. A number of Mattie’s aunts supervised the picnic party that was highlighted by each child receiving a flag button, something considered to be a big deal at the time.

On March 11, 1901, the Oakland Tribune reported that Mattie and her friend Annie Wagoner were the only two graduating students to make the elementary school honour roll. It is not yet known what role academics may have played in Mattie’s high school experience but it is known that she made the high school girl’s basketball team as a starter along with elementary school friend Annie Wagoner. Mattie’s best friend Albertine Bernal made the team as a substitute.

Mattie’s family was doing well through this time. On February 11, 1903, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt nominated Mattie’s father as Postmaster for Livermore. The appointment became official on February 16, 1903. Thomas Knox would later be elected as Mayor of Livermore and subsequently he served as a Supervisor for Alameda County.

According to published reports, Mattie continued her visits to Berkeley through trips in July 1903, March 1904 when uncle Harry Squires was ill, and July 1904. Mattie also is reported to have won the prize for the “most original design of decoration” in the annual Livermore 4th of July parade. Mattie’s design involved “a gigantic California poppy with a lady seated in the center.”

As Mattie entered her twenties, she was experiencing a world beginning to rumble with change, especially for women. The suffragette movement was taking hold and fashions for women were changing. While Mattie continued to visit her Squires relatives in Berkeley, a shift can be seen in her activities. She was entertaining her friends at her parental home in Livermore and not just travelling to visit relatives.

In June 1905, on the same page that Oakland Tribune reports Mattie entertaining her friend Lillian Symmes, the newspaper also reports the U.S. government ordering the destruction of hundreds of pictures of President Theodore Roosevelt taken while the President was on a hunting trip in Colorado because of the objectionable dress of a correspondent who was present in the photos named Gertrude Dunn. Miss Dunn’s objectionable attire, specifically was “where the skirt should have been was a pair of very pretty ankles.”

June of 1905 also saw Mattie venturing further away from home and travelling with a friend to Canada. It is not reported but it is likely that Mattie ventured into Ontario, possibly to visit with members of her father’s Knox family.

No sooner had Mattie returned from her trip to Canada then she was off again, this time travelling to Berkeley with her school days friend Annie Wagoner but now doing the approximately 40 mile trip on horseback through the mountainous terrain.

The year 1906 was pivotal for Mattie. She continued her civic activities through attending meetings of the Native Daughters of the Golden West and she continued to travel to Berkeley to visit her relatives. On June 9, 1906 Mattie went camping for a few days with friends, including best friend Albertine Bernal, a trip highlighted by an earthquake. Also, during the summer of 1906, Mattie’s engagement to Edward Arthur Latimer was announced.

In September 1906 a surprise linen bridal shower was held “when a large number of friends assembled at the residence of Miss Emma Smith and went in a body to the home of the bride-to-be and literally showered her with gifts.” According to the newspaper report, Mattie “soon recovered her equanimity and entertained her friends royally.”

On November 9, 1906, the Oakland Tribune reported that a marriage license had been issued for Edward A. Latimer, 28, of Orillia (Ontario, Canada) and Martha D. Knox, 21, of Livermore. The same newspaper provided a report of the wedding in its November 18, 1906 edition:

Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer as pictured in the Oakland Tribune alongside the report of her wedding to Edward Latimer

Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer as pictured in the Oakland Tribune alongside the report of her wedding to Edward Latimer in 1906

“On Saturday evening, November 10, Edwin [Edward] Arthur Latimer and Mattie Diona Knox were united in marriage at the home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas E. Knox on L street in the pretty town of Livermore, by the Rev. Mr. J. B. Stone, of the Presbyterian church.”

As Miss Dollie McKown played Lohengrin’s wedding march, Mattie entered her parent’s living room wearing a white messaline gown trimmed in lace and carrying a bouquet of roses. Mattie was accompanied by her long-time best friend and maid of honour Albertine Bernal. About fifty guests, including all of Mattie’s Squires grandparents, aunts and uncles traveled from Berkeley to Livermore to attend the wedding.

While she may not have been perceived as a young, attractive, outgoing socialite in her twilight years, the newspapers tell the story of a Granny Mattie that she never told.

In The Newspapers For All The Wrong Reasons: Snippets From The Life Of John Gaull

Today, we might refer to it as his ’15-minutes of fame.’ But for John Gaull, his mentions in the media tended to be for all the wrong reasons or at the least for reasons he likely would not have asked for.

Genealogists have long known that newspapers can be a great source of rich information and stories about the lives of our ancestors. It is for this reason that I try to spend as much time as I can searching through newspaper archives to find the stories of those in my family who laid the foundation for who I am.

In the case of John Gaull, archived copies of the Aberdeen Journal from the 19th century provide me with three stories: he was a victim of fraud; he was accused of fraud; and, when he died he funeral procession took two hours and covered a distance of about eight miles.

John Gaull is my 4X great grandfather and as I remind myself, he is not to be confused with his grandson, my 2X great grandfather also a John Gaull.

The records I have found tell me that John (the elder) was born in 1806 in Inverurie, Aberdeen, Scotland, one of at least six children born to Alexander Gauld and Elspet Harper. Early newspaper mentions confirm what later census records report, that John was employed as the farm overseer at Whitehaugh, an estate owned by Lewis Xavier Leslie of Old Aberdeen, in Chapel of Garioch. In that capacity, John can be found listed in newspaper advertisements as the contact person when the estate had land available for prospective tenant farmers or when livestock and farm equipment was being offered for sale.

In December of 1850 however, John along with several other men of Aberdeenshire fell victim to a fraud perpetrated by a man named James Forbes. Forbes forged John’s signature as well as the signatures of two other men on a bill in the amount of 400 pounds. Forbes had committed a similar fraud on two other occasions with different victims, each time passing off the forged notes as legitimate obligations. When his fraudulent activities were uncovered, Forbes is reported to have ‘escaped’ to America only to be tracked down by constable John Scott and returned to Scotland to face justice. 

On Monday, December 16, 1850, Forbes was brought before the High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh where he plead guilty to the three frauds. He was sentenced to 21 years transportation. No mention is given as to where Forbes was sent but I’m guessing it was likely Australia.

In November of 1877 the newspapers report that a horse dealer named Alex Smith brought a lawsuit against John Gaull, accusing John of selling him a mare on July 31, 1877 that was sick and subsequently died. Smith alleged that John knew the horse was unwell so completed the sale in order to avoid the loss himself. John told the court that he believed the horse to have been in good health at the time of the sale, that he had offered Smith no warranty and, that Smith had subsequently re-sold the horse to a John Mackie who later returned the horse to Smith. John alleged that Smith had brought the lawsuit to recoup losses that Smith was solely responsible for. Following an adjournment of one month, the case returned to court on December 26, 1877 where Smith gave up the case and the court found in John’s favour including granting him expenses.

Finally, confirming the information on John’s death registration, a death notice was published in the Aberdeen People’s Journal newspaper on August 20, 1892 (page 6). But there was also a separate funeral notice for John published on August 13, 1892 in the Aberdeen Journal (page 6), two days after John died. 

The funeral notice states that his funeral procession would be proceeding from Skene and travelling to his burial site at the churchyard in Kintore, a distance of about eight miles. In 1892, that funeral procession was take an estimated two hours to complete.

The Wedding of My Maternal Grandparents – J. Graham O’Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley

I have many fond memories of my maternal grandparents, John Graham O’Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley. I was their first grandchild and grew up living just two doors away from their home. My grandmother, Nana as I referred to her, spoiled me, not that I’m complaining.  My maternal grandmother died when I was seven years old and my grandfather when I was 24 years old. I therefore only knew them in their twilight years. It is hard for me to picture them as children, teenagers or even young adults for to me as a child, they were old.

I’m certain that photos exist somewhere, held by someone, of my grandparents’ wedding but I have never seen one. So it was especially helpful when I was finally able to discover a small article contained in the Toronto Star newspaper (June 25, 1926 edition, page 24) that described the marriage of my grandparents, J. Graham O’Neill and Gertrude Ellen Foley. 

I have searched for newspaper articles about family members for many years, typically relying on a surname as the search term in the local newspaper database. This approach can lead to long and tedious hours of examining multiple search term hits that are not related to my family members. I was successful this time however for two reasons: one, I used the surname Foley for my search rather than the O’Neill surname I had previously been using. As it turned out the article about my grandparents wedding consistently misspells the O’Neill surname as “O’Niel” so my prior searches for the surname skipped over this article. Two,   knowing their date of marriage, I was able to narrow the timeframe for my search, allowing me to search all sections of the newspaper without worrying about receiving an overwhelming number of results.

So here is my transcription of the small article that details my grandparents’ wedding:


St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church was the scene of a smart June wedding on Wednesday when Miss Gertrude Ellen Foley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Foley, became the bride of Mr. John Graham O’Niel, son of the late N. J. O’Niel. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Father Armstrong, while during the signing of the register Mrs. Summerfell sang ‘O Salutaris’ and an Ave Maria. The bride wore an attractive frock of peach georget with hat to match, while her bridesmaid, Miss Mary McCormack, was in powder blue georget with hat to match. The bride carried a shower of Ophelin roses, while her attendant carried Columbia roses. The groom was supported by Mr. John Hammall. Following the ceremony a reception was held at the home of the bride’s parents on Queensdale boulevard, where Mrs. Foley and Mrs. O’Niel received with the bridal party. The former wore a becoming gown of cocoa brown crepe, while Mrs. O’Niel was in black crepe. The groom’s gift to his bride was a white gold wrist watch, to the bridesmaid a silver mesh bag, to the best man monogrammed green gold cuff links. Following the reception Mr. and Mrs. O’Niel left on a honeymoon trip to Rochester, Cleveland and Detroit. Upon their return they will establish their home at 189 Pickering street, the house being the gift of the bride’s father.

Some final observations: I’m uncertain as to who authored the article. I doubt that it was submitted by a family member due to the O’Neill surname misspelling. Also, my grandfather’s father was not N. J. O’Niel (or O’Neill) but rather William Emmett O’Neill, who had died two years before this wedding. The term ‘georget’ was also misspelled  as it should have been ‘georgette.’ And finally, the last line of the article confirmed a family story that the house at 189 Pickering Street in Toronto was a wedding gift to my grandparents from my great grandfather John Foley. It was also the house that I lived in with my parents for the first nine and one half years of my life.

Checking The Whole Page

In my last post, I shared how I was discovering new bits and pieces of my family’s history through a more thorough search of local newspapers. The newspaper, the Toronto Star in this case, has digitized every page of every edition from 1894, spanning about 116 years. The newspaper is important to my family because Toronto is the city in which several generations of both my maternal and paternal families lived.

The digital copies of newspapers are in PDF format and they are searchable by keyword, exact phrase or Boolean query (like a Google search). The pages on which I have found articles, birth, marriage or death notices about family members, I save in PDF on my computer and then I attach the file to the person and event or fact in my genealogy software program. Overall, it’s a labour intensive process to go through the hundreds of pages of ‘hits’ in the various search results I receive but well worth it.

One of the search features is the highlighting in yellow of the search term on a viewed newspaper page. For example, if I was searching for “Hadden,” the search engine would, or should, provide me with all pages in the time period (a maximum of five years) containing my search term. I’ve come to learn that my tendency to quickly find and examine the highlighted reference and make a determination of it’s connection to my family and then move on limits the potential for results.

The best example I can offer occurred when I was searching for “O’Neill” (my maternal family) references. In the Saturday, August 24, 1957 edition of the newspaper, the search engine provided me with an O’Neill ‘hit.’ The search term O’Neill was highlighted in an obituary for a person that is not connected at all to my family but the deceased person’s funeral was being held in the chapel of the “L.E. O’Neill” funeral home.

If I had quickly moved to examine the next search result, I would not have noticed elsewhere on the page an article about the death of Herbert Caskey, the father-in-law of my wife’s cousin, Louis Orville Breithaupt. The headline for the article “Herbert Caskey, 94 Dies At U.S. Home” takes up almost as much space as the short two paragraphs that followed.

Dated August 24 at Asheville, North Carolina, the article states: “Herbert K. Caskey, father-in-law of Ontario’s lieutenant-governor, Louis O. Breithaupt, died at his home here today. He was 94. Mr. Caskey, who lived in Toronto in his early years, had spent many years of retirement here. His wife died here a year ago. Besides Mrs. Breithaupt, he is survived by a son, Paul, of Rockport, Ill.”

Experience tells me that OCR, the optical character recognition technology used in this sort of newspaper database, is not yet perfect but neither is the quality of scanned images that are included for searching. Only by examining the whole of pages can I really determine if it contains information that is of importance to me. Lesson learned – so no more short cuts!

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.

Family Items in Nearly Old Newspapers

Newspapers have long been known to be a treasure trove of information about family. The use of old newspapers is a common topic at genealogy conferences, is the subject of informative webinars, and is a selling feature of subscription-based genealogy websites.

Typically, when I have used old newspapers to search for items about my family, I have sought out archives of newspapers published in the vicinity of my ancestor’s home, hoping to find an announcement about a wedding or perhaps an obituary. I have had modest success locating small newspaper articles and sometimes, I have been lucky enough to find newsworthy items about their social life, their political views or events in their community in which they may have been involved.

I recently re-discovered Our Ontario, described as a digital portal, part of Knowledge Ontario, a not-for-profit ‘collaborative’ of library, cultural, heritage and community organizations. Our Ontario provides hosting and user interface tools for these organization’s digital collections. Using just my surname as the search term, Our Ontario returned 634 matching items. When I found that one of the items on the first page of search results was a reference to the obituary for my granduncle Alexander Gaull Hadden from 1997, even though the newspaper image wasn’t available, I knew there was cause to keeping looking.

Among the digital newspaper images that I subsequently found were multiple news stories about the sons of Alexander (Uncle Alec to me) and his wife Hilda, Robert (Bob) and David. Almost all of these newspaper articles appeared in the Stouffville Tribune (now the Stouffville Sun-Tribune). Stouffville is a small town to the north-east of Toronto, small enough that the hiring of David (my first cousin, once removed) as a town police officer (pictured right from a 1967 article) in September 1963 was front page news. Stories of David’s crime fighting and that of older brother Bob, also a police officer at the time but in neighbouring towns, often found there way into newspaper.

My favourite story being about a 23 year-old man who David pulled over for a routine traffic stop. When David recognized the man from a wanted poster, the culprit took off with David “in hot pursuit.” A short time later, when the suspect’s vehicle blew a rear tire, the ‘fugitive’ “jumped from the car, pulling the [steering] wheel sharply to the left. He fell and the auto ran over his legs and hit a hydro pole. The suspect was arrested at the rear of a nearby house.”

Fortunately, more than the real crime dramas of Stouffville were included in the local newspaper. Through the social column, “Stouffville Scene, What’s going on,” I learned that my Uncle Alec and Aunt Hilda spent a week visiting David, his wife Joan, and their children Penny and Gordon in December 1973, including having Christmas dinner together with members of Joan’s family.

Of course, there are the more traditional sources of genealogy information from newspapers also available. I found the wedding announcement for my cousin Bob Hadden and his wife Marilyn from May 1958, complete with descriptions of the bride’s dress and corsage as well as the maid of honour’s dress. Somehow, my invitation to the wedding (as I’m certain Bob would not have forgotten his then 3 year-old cousin) must have been lost in the mail so these descriptions are all the more valuable to me now!

If you have some Ontario, Canada roots, perhaps Our Ontario may prove to be a goldmine for you as well!