Sentimental Saturday – The Wine And White Formal

The year was 1975.

In February of that year, at least that’s my recollection, I was privileged to be the date of a very pretty 18-year old young woman named Karen when we went to her Notre Dame High School’s annual ‘Wine and White’ formal dance in Toronto, Ontario.

Four months later, I had the honour of escorting Karen to her graduation prom.

In April of 1976, on Easter Sunday, she said ‘yes’ when I asked her to marry me and in June 1977, we became husband and wife.

Today, January 23rd is Karen’s birthday. She would have turned 59-years old but for the cruelty of life that took her from us when she was only 45 years of age. Yes, cancer sucks and it affects the whole family in devastating ways.

Happy Birthday, Karen! I know that you know you are loved and remembered.

BENEDETTO Karen Ann - high school wine and white formal 1975

Karen Ann Benedetto, 1975

 

Given Names (or A Mini-Case Study Of Where I Got My ‘Ian Gerald’)

Given names, or if you prefer, first names. We all have them.

You know, the names that our parents ‘gave’ to us either at birth or some time shortly afterwards. These ‘given’ names appear on our birth records and are attached to us for life.

If you are like me, we want to know just how our parents chose our names. Were our names chosen by means of a heritage-based naming convention or as the result of a family tradition? Were we named after a celebrity or, as it might be today, were we named after compass directions?

My ‘given’ names are Ian Gerald.

My mother provided me many years ago with the explanation of how she and my father chose my names.

Ian was an easy choice. My father, a first generation Canadian, is incredibly proud of his Scottish ancestry so a Scottish name was preferred. Second, my father wanted a name that could not, in his estimation, be shortened or altered in the way for example James becomes Jim or Donald becomes Don. The name ‘Ian’ met his criteria. That is, until he noticed that my friends had shortened my name and began to call me “E.” Eventually, my father conceded to the shortened first name and joined my friends and other family members in calling me ‘E.’

My ‘middle’ or second name of Gerald was easily explained, but as you will see difficult to verify.

The easy part is that I was given the name Gerald in honour of my mother’s favourite uncle Gerald Foley, a brother of my mother’s mother Gertrude Ellen Foley. My mother thought the world of her Uncle Gerald and so naming her first child after him was an obvious decision. Just as easy as asking a favourite cousin, one of Uncle Gerald’s daughters, Mary Foley to be my godmother.

In the early days of researching my genealogy, locating the birth registrations of my maternal grandmother and her siblings, including Uncle Gerald, was one of my first goals.

Gertrude Ellen Foley was born on 16 April 1898 in Toronto, York County, Ontario, Canada according to her birth and baptismal records. Less than a year after her birth, on 9 April, 1899, her mother Mary Jane Fitzgerald died in Toronto leaving my great grandfather John Foley with an infant daughter and two young sons, known to me through often repeated family stories as Uncle Gerald and Uncle Clarence.

A search for the birth registrations of Gerald and Clarence provided a nil result. There was no Gerald Foley and no Clarence Foley born in Ontario in the 1890’s, nor the 1880’s for that matter.

I decided to search for all children born to Mary Jane Fitzgerald in Ontario in the 1890’s. As it turns out, there were in fact two sons born to Mary Jane Fitzgerald and her husband John Foley. Their birth registrations record that Lewis Fitzgerald Foley was born 17 February 1895; and, William Dorsey Foley was born 28 September 1896. A very puzzled expression on my face was the best I could muster.

FOLEY Gerald birth 1895

Birth registration for Lewis Fitzgerald ‘Gerald’ Foley, 1895

FOLEY William Dorsey  birth registration 1896

Birth registration for William Dorsey ‘Clarence’ Foley, 1896

The family story that I had heard was that my great grandfather John Foley was a brilliant, successful businessman. And the multitude of records about his life that I have found verify this to be true. However, John Foley was also illiterate, at least according to family story. He was a man who had been taught how to sign his name for business reasons but who was unable to read the documents he signed. Perhaps the baptismal records for these two boys would clear up the name dilemma. After all, their baptisms were events at which John’s wife, and the boy’s mother, Mary Jane Fitzgerald was present at and, there is no indication that Mary was unable to read and write.

Both of the boys were baptized at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto. The records show that Lewis (spelled as Louis in the church register) Fitzgerald Foley was baptized on 3 March 1895. William Clarence Foley was baptized on 4 Oct 1896.

FOLEY Louis Fitzgerald baptismal record 1895

Lewis Fitzgerald ‘Gerald’ Foley, baptismal registration, St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Toronto, 1895

It was becoming clear that the family commonly referred to the boys by their ‘middle’ names. Lewis was called or referred to as Gerald and William was referred to as Clarence.

In the 1901 Census of Canada, Gerald was recorded as “Jerald,” the 5-year old son of a widowed John Foley. Clarence was recorded as “William C.” The 1911 Census of Canada records them as Gerald and Clarence. The 1921 Census of Canada makes things a bit interesting again by recording, in an apparent error, Gerald as Clarence in the John Foley household. Clarence by the time of the 1921 census was married and was living with his wife Elizabeth (Blunt) Foley and 3-year old daughter Margaret in another house on the same street.

When Uncle Gerald enlisted for service in World War I, he did so as Gerald Foley, giving his date of birth as 16 February 1895. He was described as a five foot, five-inch tall teamster with dark brown hair and blue eyes.

On 12 November 1917, Gerald Foley of 96 Pickering Street in Toronto served as best man to his brother Clarence when the latter married Elizabeth Blunt.

When he passed away on 6 February 1968, his obituary in the Toronto Star newspaper listed his name as Gerald Lewis Foley. Similarly, the burial record card from Mount Hope Cemetery in Toronto, the final resting place for most members of the Foley family, recorded his name as Gerald Lewis.

So, in the end, I am named after a man who was known as Gerald but whom, ironically, had the same first name as my father, Lewis. Uncle Gerald as it turns out was named after his maternal grandfather Lewis Fitzgerald.

I could have been named Ian Lewis Hadden or perhaps Ian Fitzgerald Hadden. But no, I proudly can say I was named after Uncle Gerald, and the records provide me with a slightly twisted tale to tell about the name.

Sentimental Saturday – Milk Delivery 1938 Style

This is one of my favourite photos.

It shows my paternal grandfather, John Gaull Hadden wearing his work uniform and standing in front of his horse-drawn Silverwood’s Dairy milk delivery wagon.

The photo is dated as being taken in 1938 and appears to have been taken on a street somewhere in the east part of Toronto, Ontario, Canada where my grandfather had his milk route.

Although motorized cars and trucks were available at the time, the dairy continued to have their delivery salesmen use the horse-drawn wagons and even maintained their own livery stables for the care of the horses.

HADDEN John Gaull Silverwoods Dairy delivery 1938

John Gaull Hadden, Silverwood’s Dairy Milk Deliveryman, 1938

The Last Christmas Card From J. Graham O’Neill

We all have memories and stories to share about our family members and ancestors.

Some of these, over time, get embellished and grow to mythical proportion.

For me, however, I didn’t really need embellishment nor mythology to view my grandfather John Graham O’Neill as legend.

My grandfather was known throughout his life as Graham. As a child, I knew the initial of his first name was ‘J.’ It was ever present as he signed things off ‘J. Graham O’Neill.’

a9585-johngrahamo27neill

John Graham O’Neill a.k.a. J. Graham O’Neill

I wondered how awful a name that ‘J’ must have stood for that he would consider ‘Graham’ the better choice to be known by.

I called him ‘Granddad.’ He was my mother’s father and in my earliest years, he and my grandmother, his wife Gertrude Ellen Foley, lived just two doors away from my family home.

Granddad was born June 26, 1895 in Toronto, Ontario. He married my grandmother ‘Nanna’ in 1926. Together, they would have five children, four boys and one girl. The eldest and youngest sons, John William and Michael did not survive infancy, dying from hydrocephalus, the same condition that took the lives of my brothers a generation later. The only girl in the family was my mother.

I did a lot with Granddad. He and I shared a love of sports. So we frequently attended Toronto Maple Leaf baseball games (a ‘AAA’ International League team that operated prior to a major league franchised starting play in Toronto). I watched Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night in Granddad’s living room because my parents were not hockey fans so not interested in having the game on the television at our house. He would shout the scores of day games in progress as I played road hockey in front of his house with my friends.

Most of the time, I just listened to Granddad and the stories he told. He was a master storyteller, though sometimes he was dismissed as having too active an imagination. My subsequent research has provided evidence that everything he told me was true.

On December 3, 1979, my late wife Karen and I found out that we were going to be parents for the first time. Our excitement at the prospect of having a baby was palpable. When should we tell our families? How should we tell them? And, what names for the baby should we be considering?

I wanted to call Granddad and let him know that he was going to be a great grandfather. I had heard the names of my great grandfathers but they had all died many years before I was born. But my child was going to know his great grandfather.

Then, on December 10th, 1979, just a week later and 36 years ago today, I got a call from my mother. Granddad had died that morning. He died suddenly. The people my grandfather lived with heard his alarm clock come on, they heard the alarm clock being turned off, and then … silence.

I’m not ashamed to recount that I shed many tears that cold December day.

In the days that followed, we gathered for Granddad’s funeral; we laughed at how somehow appropriate it was that the hearse bearing his body got lost and left the funeral procession enroute from the church to the cemetery. Another great story he would love to tell.

HADDEN Ian last Christmas card from grandfath J Graham O'Neill

When I returned home from the funeral and checked the mail, there was his last message to me. “Best wishes for a Joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year.”

Granddad’s Christmas card had arrived (a card I have kept safely stored ever since it’s arrival).

The following summer, Karen and I welcomed our son into our family, the great grandson that Granddad would never meet. His great grandson John Graham Hadden.

 

Sentimental Saturday – My Sister’s Christening

I am posting photos each week from my collection and offering an explanation of what I know about the picture.

Well, my sister is having a birthday in the upcoming week so I thought I would share a photo from a (much) earlier time in her life.

Yours Truly with my parents Anne (O'Neill) and Lewis Hadden and my sister Lou-Anne on the day of Lou-Anne's christening

Yours Truly with my parents Anne (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden and my sister Lou-Anne on the day of Lou-Anne’s christening

This photo is from the day of my sister Lou-Anne’s christening but I don’t know if it was taken before or after the trip to the church. The gown she was wearing gives away the occasion and it was the christening gown we all wore.

In the photo, Yours Truly is seated, and smiling, beside my parents Anne (O’Neill) and Lewis Hadden. My mother is holding my sister Lou-Anne, who doesn’t seem to be having a good time. The photo was taken by an unknown person in the living room of our family home at 189 Pickering Street in Toronto, Ontario.

It was a happy occasion for my parents who had experienced the death of a son, my brother Brian, the year before Lou-Anne was born. My brother Stephen died when Lou-Anne was just three months old and he is not in the family photo. I suspect that Stephen may have been too ill to be included. Based on those observations, I think this photo was taken in late November or early December 1958.

In the large mirror behind us, on the right, you can see image of a guest smiling. The person’s face is partially blocked by a decidedly 1950s lampshade but I think it is my aunt Mary (Raponi) O’Neill who was married to my mother’s brother.

I like this photo as it shows just how 1950s our house decor was and because I can’t stop thinking about how valuable some of the furnishing might be today, cherished by decorators looking for that retro look.

Sentimental Saturday – John and Agnes Hadden’s 25th Anniversary

I know … I know … this posting is a day late. My only excuse – stuff happens.

Today, I am sharing a glimpse back in time to October 1954 and the 25th Wedding Anniversary of my paternal grandparents.

On October 10, 1929, John Gaull Hadden married Agnes Little in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Both John and Agnes were born in Scotland (John in Woodside, now part of Aberdeen and Agnes in Greenock). John immigrated to Canada with his parental family in 1923 while Agnes immigrated to Canada in 1928 on her own. They met in Toronto.

In October 1954, my parents hosted a 25th wedding anniversary party. I know that my parent’s house was not large so I suspect that it was a fairly small party.

In the photo below, likely taken by my father, my grandparents can be seen cutting the anniversary cake. Standing behind them was the party hostess, my mother Anne (O’Neill) Hadden who at the time was pregnant with her first child and first grandchild for her in-laws. I suppose that in a sense that technically means this is also the first photo of Yours Truly.

Agnes and John Hadden cutting their 25th wedding anniversary cake

Agnes and John Hadden cutting their 25th wedding anniversary cake

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!