Happy 108th Birthday, Thelma Miller Gorley!

Thelma Miller 1910

Thelma Mae Miller was born September 24, 1909 to Frederick William Miller and Henrietta Newton at Indian Head, Saskatchewan.  Thelma was the fourth child of five for Fred and Henrietta.  She had two brothers (Norman and Bill), and two sisters, Luella and Lauretta.

Thelma Miller on left with teacher and friends

Her family was in Saskatchewan until sometime between 1916 and 1921, when census records show them in Alberta.  Thelma’s family settled in the Hardisty / Hughenden / Amisk area of Alberta, not far from where George and Ethel Gorley lived with their two sons, Harold and Arthur.

On January 8, 1929 nineteen-year-old Thelma married Harold McDougal Gorley at the home of Dr. McBride in Hardisty.  The newlyweds spent the first year of married life with Harold’s parents, Ethel and George Gorley in Hughenden.  Harold and his father, George, farmed a piece of land near Rosyth.  It was there that their first child, Orval, was born, delivered by his grandmother because the doctor could not make it in time.

Thelma with Orval and Wilma 1931.

Harold acquired a nearby plot of farmland where they established their own homestead, and had four more children there – Wilma, Delbert, Gwen, and Donella.  Harold continued to work with his father farming their lands.

Thelma was active in community life as a member of the Literary Society and the Farm Women’s Union of Alberta.  The FWUA made a quilt with each member’s name stitched into it, and apparently that quilt is still in the area, stitching intact!

The 1930s were a challenge in many ways and farming was not easy.  They endured hail storms, grasshopper infestations, and drought.  Thelma’s brother, Bill Miller, was working on the Federal Government Experimental Farm near Smithers, BC and suggested they come west.  He arranged for Harold to work on the Experimental Farm for a year to see if they liked it.  Harold was impressed and brought Thelma out for a month to see if the Bulkley Valley suited her.

Harold and Thelma Gorley.

Thelma fell in love with the country so in November 1942 Harold, Thelma, and their five children moved to BC and settled in the Telkwa area.  Three more sons were born in BC – Fred, Mervin, and Melvin, completing the family of five boys and three girls.

Sadly, Thelma died suddenly and much too young on September 19, 1954, only five days before her 45th birthday.  Her youngest child was only eighteen months old.

We don’t know much about Thelma’s personality but photos of her convey a sense of fun and friendliness.  As a young mom, she has a sparkle in her eye that suggests she loves nurturing and raising her children.

Happy birthday, Thelma.  I wish I could have known you.


Their Lives Mattered.

Not everyone is interested in their family history and I understand that.  I’ve heard the question “Why do people want to know anything about their ancestors anyway?”

Well, their lives mattered, that’s why. They lived, they loved, they rejoiced, and they feared. They were real people, and they deserve to be remembered.  They did small and great things.  They raised families and went about day-to-day life.  They nurtured communities and they belonged.

They passed down stories, knowledge, culture, rituals, and traditions.  That’s important to our sense of who we are, even if we don’t acknowledge it.

They connect us to our heritage, to our collective history.  By doing that, they are actually connecting us to the future by situating us in ‘future history’.

A friend’s granddaughter said she would keep her grandfather “in the land of the remembered instead of letting him go to the land of the forgotten.”  That’s reason enough to know about our ancestors and family history.


Happy 134th Birthday to William (Papa) Hudson!

William Arthur Hudson1883-1963

This handsome young man is William Arthur Hudson (1883-1963), my husband’s grandfather. This was taken around the turn of the century before he became the father of seven daughters and (finally) one son!

William was born May 23, 1883 in Moncton, New Brunswick to Thomas Hudson and Sarah Jane McDonald.  He was the 3rd generation of Hudsons to be born in Canada and the 3rd child of seven born to Tom and Sarah.

In the early 1900s William and his brother Tom came to BC with plans to travel to the west coast.  They worked odd jobs along the way, and were checking out some work opportunities in the Shuswap area when fate stepped in.

William Arthur Hudson

William met Dora Munger at a dance at Prichard, BC and decided to stick around.   Before long they married and raised a family of eight children – seven girls between 1911 and 1926 before a son was born in 1927.  They lived in Anglemont, Chase, Salmon Arm, and Kamloops.

The Chase House – Will Hudson and his brother Tom

William and Tom were the first white settlers in the Anglemont, BC area.  William and Tom built this house in Chase, which is still standing, and to which William and his wife, Dora returned to in 1960, 50 years after they built it!

William possessed many skills and wore many different hats during his working life.  He built houses, he had a vet certificate, he had a blacksmith shop, he farmed, and he logged.  He was also the Justice of the Peace and the first postmaster at the Anglemont Post Office when it opened in 1914 as a lean-to off the front room of his house.

His adult children talked about him often, testifying to his devotion to his family.  They had many stories that reflected happy childhoods and a loving home life.

Happy 134th Birthday, Papa Hudson!




Happy 91st Birthday, Lorna! 1926-2008

Just when I thought I’d gathered all the documents, and had a pretty comprehensive picture of the life events of Lorna Gorley (nee Hudson) I learned something surprising.

Dora Hudson (nee Munger) and her 7 daughters

Lorna was born the 7th daughter to Will and Dora (nee Munger) Hudson.  They already had Evelyn, Dorothy, Bessie, Mary, Hazel, and Mildred (Toody).  This large group of girls ranged in age from 3 to 15, so Will and Dora were well acquainted with the challenges of raising girls.

Lorna was born May 11, 1926.  Nine days later she was baptised.  I am imagining a busy household with a new baby doesn’t afford the parents much time to pay attention to the details.  Recently I was going through some documents I hadn’t seen before and noticed something interesting.  On May 20, 1926, this nine-day-old baby was baptised as “Grace Lorna Hudson”.  Again, I can imagine that when Will and Dora noticed this they might have said “What?!  That’s not what we named her!”  So, back to the church for another baptism.  Ten days later she was baptised again as “Lorna Grace Hudson.”  Not everyone can claim to be baptised twice with two different names!

Lorna in the 1990s

While that information was new, there were some things that I knew well and were constant in Lorna’s life.  She had style!  She worked in a women’s wear store in Prince George so had access to all the latest trends and brought quite a few pieces home with her.  A girl has to look good!  She even modelled some of the clothes for newspaper ads.

She was unwavering in her love and commitment to her family and when her grandchildren were around, they had her full attention.  If she had lived to see her great-grandchildren, they would have received the same love and undivided attention from her.  I often think how she would enjoy time with Genevieve, Hudson, Lily, Campbell, and the ones yet to come.  She spent as much time as she could at the cabin, and was quite at home preparing meals without all the conveniences … like running water.

Lorna, Graham, Doug 1986

Lorna at the Cabin 1990s






In the past I have commemorated Lorna in Facebook posts, so now some of those posts will eventually find their way to this blog.

From Russian Poland to Canada in 1903

In my last post I introduced my grandmother, Anna Garbe, who arrived in Canada at the age of 13 with her family.  One week later, on the 21st of April, 1903, my grandfather, Rudolph Bierwagen (age 19) and his father, Ferdinand boarded the Adria at Hamberg, Germany and made their way to Canada.  It was not uncommon for the menfolk to make the trip first, secure housing, then send for the rest of the family.  In fact, family folklore has it that Rudolph was in danger of being drafted into the    PrussiaBierwagen Family about 1906n army, so he and his father decided the time had come. We don’t know if it is true or not, but it makes a good story.   Rudolph is at the far right in the back row in this photo taken around 1906.  His outfit is interesting.  I’m curious about the gloves.

Rudolph and Ferdinand arrived in Halifax on May 5, 1903 and made their way west.  Ferdinand’s wife, Henrietta (nee Schmitke) and four children followed in August of that year, with the last daughter making her way to North America in 1910.

Distance from Janiewice to Kurowek

Map data @2017 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (@2009), Google

What is interesting is that Anna Garbe and Rudolph Bierwagen both arrived in Canada with weeks of each other.  Anna came from the northern part of what is now Poland and our current information tells us that Rudolph’s family lived in Kurowek, which in those days was considered Russian Poland.  It’s unlikely they knew each other because the distance is almost 500 miles from the two communities.

They were married in Canada in 1907, settled in the  Saltcoats area of Saskatchewan and had 14 children!  Ten of those 14 lived and most lived well into their 90s!


Google. (n.d.). [Google Maps directions for driving from Kurowek, Poland to Janiewice Poland]. Retrieved April 20, 2017,
from https://www.google.ca/maps/dir/Janiewice,+Poland/Kur%C3%B3wek,+Poland/@52.8460405,15.9266381,7z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x4701e08bebe4c5d9:0xf1628bb4852b2527!2m2!1d16.7693554!2d54.2708313!1m5!1m1!1s0x471a6aa598b10b17:0xa6cd821e35ce1493!2m2!1d19.1451101!2d51.4654226

SS Kaiser Wilhelm II. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from

From German Poland to Canada in 1903


Jannowitz map

Map data @2017 Google

April 14, 1903.  The time of year when buds appear on branches and bulbs emerge from the cool wet soil and open to the sun.  The temperature warms, and the sun and gentle showers whisper a promise of new growth and new beginnings.



With the spring sunshine on their shoulders, a family from Jannowitz, Germany (now Janiewice, Poland) stands on the dock at Bremen, waiting to board the ship Kaiser Wilhelm II, sail the Weser River to the North Sea, and embark on their new beginning across the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo and ship information found here

In the late 1800s and early 1900s many families were making the decision to leave their homeland and seek a different life.  I have the impression that there was oppression and loss of freedoms we take for granted.  The population was increasing, there were many unemployed people, and the future didn’t look very promising.  Young men were subject to being drafted into service in the Russian army and could be expected to serve for 20 to 25 years!  Ferdinand’s mother, Emilia (nee Rosin), his step- father, Wilhelm Dietrich, and his five siblings had already immigrated to North America, so one can image that the family was excited to join them there.

(Johann) Ferdinand Garbe Bertha ZilskeMy great-grandparents, Johann Ferdinand Garbe, a commissioned officer recently discharged from the army, his wife Bertha (nee Zilske) and their children Emil, Anna (my grandmother, age 13), Gustave, Ferdinand, Elsa, Willi, and Ewald prepare for a 12-day sail to their new life.  Bertha was, in fact, carrying new life, with another son Julius, born three months after their arrival in Canada.


After landing in New York on April 22, 1903, they made their way to Churchbridge, Saskatchewan on April 28.  They stayed with Ferdinand’s brother, Gustave in a small two-room house.  Gustave had 6 children of his own, so there were 13 kids and 4 adults living in two rooms!

001Decades later remnants of the sod house remained on the property, with the wallpaper still attached to chunks of the sod walls.  It was well built, with walls three feet thick, laid like interlocking layers of bricks.  It was cozy and warm, and housed a hard-working family.

From there Ferdinand walked to his allotted homestead, 60 miles west of Churchbridge and 5 miles from Melville, where he built a sod hut for his family.  When it was ready the family traveled to the homestead on a wagon drawn by two oxen and a cow.  Then he walked 300 miles to the US and worked as a farmhand to earn an income to feed the family.

Ferdinand was industrious and by 1908 he had built a modern home (for that time), complete with running water!  He was a farmer, rancher, veterinarian, carpenter, bricklayer, decorator, dentist, and general practitioner (Source: The Ties That Bind: A History of Melville, 1984, p. 412, 413) and he invented many gadgets for use on the farm.

Life in Canada was very different from the life they left behind.  Two good resources if you are interested in learning more about immigration from Eastern Europe to Canada are:

Writing Home: Immigrants in Brazil and the United States  This work is a compilation of letters written to families left behind in Poland.  The letters had been confiscated by Russian soldiers and were found decades later in a warehouse during WWII.

Settling the West: Immigration to the Prairies from 1867 to 1914  This document talks about the different ethnic groups that arrived on the Prairies and their settling in.


Google. (n.d.). [Google Maps for Janiewice Poland]. Retrieved April 10, 2017,
from https://goo.gl/maps/FGLpSGYrMst

Wedding Day, April 1, 1876

Joshua Thompson and Sarah Mattinson photo

Joshua & Sarah Thompson

April 1st may seem like an odd day to get married, but for Joshua Thompson and SarahMattinson in 1876, it was the perfect day for an English wedding.

Joshua, the son of Charles Thompson and Mary Atkinson, was a 21 year old bachelor living in Frizington, a small village in the Cumbria (or Cumberland as it was known then) area.  Sarah was just 19 years old when she said “I do”.  She was the daughter of Robert Mattinson and Sarah Mitchinson, and also hailed from the Frizington area.

Thompson Mattinson marriage snip

The next few years were busy ones for this young couple.  Their first child, Charles, was born in 1877, followed by Mary in 1878, Joshua in 1881, and Robert in 1883.  These four children were all born in the Cleator region of England.  Census records for that area in 1881 document their growing family.  They were living with Joshua’s widowed mother, Mary, his brothers, Anthony and Thomas, and his sister-in-law, Sarah Ormandy (nee Thompson).

Many people were making decisions to move to Canada, and Joshua and Sarah were among those imagining a future in a new country.  Sometime in late 1882, it seems that Joshua did some scouting.  There is a record of a young man who fits the description of Joshua on a passenger list 1882 and my Uncle Don recalled “I now remember a story when I was a boy that my grand father Joshua Thompson left England by himself. He went to California, got malaria, and so decided it was not the place to be. He then went to Ontario and the rest of the family came out and met him there.” (Source:  Donald Thompson, Joshua’s grandson.  Email April 5, 2010).

Joshua may have sailed on the Lake Huron, the same ship that Sarah and her four young children boarded in Liverpool on August 28, 1884.  There’s a note next to Sarah’s name that she is traveling to her husband at Curry Hill, which is in Ontario.

Lake Huron Sarah Mattinson

They settled in nearby Lancaster and had four more children.  John Frederick Ruben in 1886, Cuthbert in 1890, William in 1892 and my grandfather, Hedley Redvest Stuart in 1900.  The family appears on the 1891, 1901, and 1911 census records for that area.

Happy 141st Wedding Anniversary, Joshua and Sarah!

Welcome to My Blog!

001 (2) I became interested in genealogy a few years ago when my Uncle Don shared some of his research with me.  He has since passed on but I will be forever grateful for the gift of family history and the interest he instilled in me for researching family history.  Two of the reasons I am passionate about learning and sharing what I’ve learned about my ancestral history are my grandchildren.  I consider what I gather and document to be my legacy to them, and hopefully their grandchildren.

I love to connect with others who enjoy genealogy, especially those who are researching the same family lines as I am.  I have learned and gained so much from my ‘new’ relatives and friends through documents and stories.  As a result of these connections I’ve received information and photos that I never would have found on my own.  I’ve learned research techniques, I’ve heard about resources, and I’ve made connections.  Those are invaluable gifts.

Ancestor Wall 001

My Ancestor Wall

Sharing information and photos not only enriches those who receive this bounty, it also preserves it.  If an image exists in only one place and through some disaster is destroyed, it is gone forever.  If many of us have the image, it will be preserved.

I’ll be blogging about my ancestors and my husband’s ancestors as a way to share and preserve the information and images related to our family lines.  I may share resources, and recount my genealogy experiences and invite you to comment and participate in this conversations.

Welcome to Charlotte’s Web of Kindred Connections.  I hope you enjoy it.