More Family Obituaries

As I continue to probe the details of old editions of the Toronto Star newspaper, I have been focusing on finding family obituaries. Two obituaries I found are of particular interest to me.

The first is for ‘Gerald’ Foley, my mother’s favourite uncle and my namesake. I have posted previously about how difficult it was to find Uncle Gerald’s birth record. He was born February 17, 1895 so there should have been no reason to have a difficulty finding his public birth vital record. Eventually, the birth registration record was found as was his baptismal record. In the civil registration, he was named as Louis Fitzgerald Foley, Fitzgerald being his mother’s maiden name. He was baptized at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, Ontario on March 3, 1895 and his name is listed as Louis Fitzgerald Foley, son of John Foley and Mary Jane Fitzgerald. Throughout his life however he went by the name Gerald.

When Uncle Gerald passed away, his was the first funeral I attended. I remember the trip to the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home, the ‘family’ funeral home as my mother explained to me at the time and I remember the ‘wake’ after the burial at Mount Hope Cemetery. Although I remembered these events, I could only put an approximate date as to when they occurred, that is until I found Uncle Gerald’s obituary which appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper on February 7, 1968.

The obituary maintained the name confusion as it lists his name as “Foley, Gerald Lewis.” My transcription of the obituary is as follows:

“At the Toronto East General Hospital, on Tuesday, February 6, 1968. Gerald Foley, dearly loved husband of Catherine Helen Simons, dear father of Mrs. Al Sherman (Veronica), Mrs. A. Asselin (Mary), John, James, and Sister Catherine Foley of the Congregation of Notre Dame, Kingston. Friends may call at the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home, 467 Sherbourne St. (near Wellesley), until 8:30 a.m. Friday. Funeral mass at St. Brigid’s Church at 9:00 a.m. Internment at Mount Hope Cemetery. Parking adjacent to the funeral home.”

The second obituary of note that I found was for Mary Elizabeth Gaull, the wife of George Irvine Gaull (named after his father’s twin brother), a brother of my great grandmother, Jessie McKenzie Hadden (nee Gaull). My family’s oral tradition holds that Jessie (with her family) came to Toronto, Ontario from their home in Saskatchewan around 1926 or 1927 to visit her brother George and that Jessie liked Toronto much more than the farm life of Saskatchewan so they decided to stay.

George Gaull had left Scotland for Toronto, Ontario in 1910 and the 1911 Canada Census shows George, listed as a “Lodger,” in the home of the Coulson family. On July 1, 1913, George married the youngest daughter of the Coulson’s, Mary Elizabeth. Although the 1911 census record indicates their Mary was seven years older than George, their marriage record states that Mary was only two years older. Mary’s birth record has not yet been found. Many records confirm the family’s oral tradition that George operated a small neighbourhood grocery store at 87 Pickering Street in the east end of Toronto, Ontario.

Mary’s obituary appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper on July 20, 1961 and read as follows:

GAULL, MARY ELIZABETH – At St. Michael’s hospital, Toronto, on Wednesday, July 19, 1961, Mary Elizabeth Coulson, late of 98 Lyall Ave., Toronto and dear mother of Leonard Gaull. Resting at the Sherrin funeral home, 873 Kingston Rd. (at Birch Ave.), Toronto. Service in the chapel on Saturday at 11 a.m. Internment St. John’s cemetery, Norway.”

Based on these ‘new to me’ obituaries, some cemetery visits need to be planned as especially as I was struck by the fact that George’s relationship to Mary is not mentioned. As a young boy, I walked past the Gaull store many, many times but don’t recall ever meeting either George or Mary and I have no idea as to what happened to George, but intend to find out.

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.