On Genealogy: My Genetic Ancestry DNA Results Are In!

maxresdefaultI know I already posted a blog today.  But, as I was walking out the door, I got an email from Ancestry that my DNA results were in and I had to check them stat!

If you’ve been a regular visitor to my blog, you’ll likely know that I’ve been working hard on my family tree and tracing my roots.  I’ve come across some interesting finds along the way, some of which I have posted, others whose blogs I continue to work on and others which I continue to dig into the past to verify facts.

About DNA Testing:

genealogical DNA test is a DNA-based test which looks at specific locations of a person’s genome in order to determine ancestral ethnicity and genealogical relationships.  AncestryDNA utilizes some of the latest autosomal testing technology to revolutionize the way you discover your family history. This service utilizes advanced DNA science to predict your genetic ethnicity and help you find new family connections. It maps ethnicity going back multiple generations and provides insight

I chose to use AncestryDNA since I already use their services for my family tree.  The AncestryDNA test analyzes your entire genome—all 23 pairs of chromosomes—as opposed to only looking at the Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA (which makes other types of tests gender specific). Your autosomal chromosomes carry genetic information from both your parents that’s passed down through the generations.

Genealogical DNA tests do not give information about medical conditions or diseases.

The Process:

Taking a genealogical DNA test requires the submission of a DNA sample. The process of DNA testing is fairly simple and relatively inexpensive, I paid $129.00.  The DNA kit was sent to me via Ancestry, at which time I did a spit test (accumulated my saliva into a tube, to the fill line).  Once that was completed, I put everything back into the self-addressed stamped box and mailed it to Ireland for processing.

On May 10 2017, they acknowledged receiving my sample, and that they were sent to the processing lab on June 13 2017.

Today, I was finally notified that my results are in … I have been waiting a little over two months for this!   I haven’t looked at the results on my Ancestry.ca account yet.  I have a pretty good idea of what to expect because of all of the work I’ve been doing on my family tree lately, but, I’m going to take a gander here and see how close I am when I read the results.

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My Presumptions:

British and French: I know that we have roots dating back the to the 1500/1600’s coming from France and Britain, so I am expecting to see some of those genes appear in the results.

I also know that we have some Scot, Irish and perhaps Nordic blood.  The Norman DNA may show up as Scandinavian of some sort.  I am assuming this because the line I am tracing at the moment indicates that there was some land purchases made by one of my ancestors from William the Conquerors half brother, and Nord, British mixing was common at the time.

I also know that we are Native American because I have posted on that already.

The percentages and other lines however, that I am unsure – so I am very curious about this.

The Results:

Ok, let’s see how close I was.  And, the results are …. Drum Roll PLEASE …..

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My ethnicity estimate shows where my ancestors came from hundreds to thousands of years ago.  Ancestry.ca calculates it by comparing my DNA to the DNA of a reference panel of people with deep roots to specific places around the world.


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Genetic Communities show where my family probably lived in the past few hundred years. Ancestry created these by identifying groups of AncestryDNA members who are genetically connected to each other.

Overall Thoughts: 

On ethnicity estimate:  Very surprised that it did not pick up an First Nations, since I have lineage to prove it and I have my Algonquin status 🤷🏻‍♀️

Also, surprised that I am as much Irish and Scandinavian as I am, but at least that tells me I’m on the right path as I’m doing my research.  I did see reference of a few of my family members immigrating from Ireland including my great grandfather – so maybe there are a few more?

I’ve found no traces of Italian, Greek, Spanish or Portuguese in my tree as of yet.  I’m shocked by the only 9% French, as I have been able to trace my tree to Quebec and then back to France.

On genetic communities:  It was bang on!  The French settlement in Beauce and Montmorency are accurate with the ‘very likely’ as is the English in Yorkshire – that’s where my Gramma Sally was born before moving to Canada as a WWII War Bride in 1946.  My whole on the LEE side is from Yorkshire.

Well this was an interesting little genome experience that I am sure will help on the further discovery of my roots.


T xo







On Genealogy: My Quaker Connection; Descendant of John Milk, British Colonial America, 1662

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On Genealogy: My Quaker Connection; Descendant of John Milk, British Colonial America, 1662.

Today’s blog on genealogy #5 is on the lineage of the Milk family.  This surname has long been associated with the county of Norfolk, England, where it appears about twenty-two times in proportion to each 10,000 of the population of that county.  There, throughout history, it has been associated with small landowners.

This is was interesting line to research and write about as I never imagined having anyone in my lineage trace back to Colonial America, never mind some who resided in Salem, Massachusetts during the Witch Trials.


The surname MILK first appeared on record in America in 1662 with the mention of John Milk of Salem, Massachusetts in the town vital records where he was appointed as Cowherd for the town of Salem and then was chosen to chimney sweep.  Screen Shot 2017-06-04 at 6.19.18 PM.png

In Colonial America in 1662, The Massachusetts Bay Colony’s charter was accepted by England as long as they extended the vote to all landowners and allowed for freedom of worship for Anglicans.

The home of John Milk was listed in “(Rambles in Old Boston, by Rev, Edward G. Porter, 1887, p.288.) It was built some fifty years earlier than the Paul Revere home some 300 feet away across a little Square from the corner of Sun Court and Moon Street, just south of the Old North Church and North of Faneuil Hall “the Cradle of Liberty” near Milk Street.


John Milk I  (B: 1640 Norfolk, England, D: Nov 26 1689 – Salem, Massachusetts) m. Sarah Weston (Wesson) (B: 1656 – Salem, Massachusetts, D: 1685 – Salem, Massachusetts) on m. 3 APR 1665

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From the Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988

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John Milk I died on Nov 26 1689.  The following is his Last Will & Testament:

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FIRST Generation

John Milk II: (B: Jan 8 1668 – Salem, Massachusetts, D: 1720 Boston, Massachusetts), shipwright, married:

(1) Elizabeth Hempfield (1670 – 1707), daughter of Edmund Hempfield of Salem, on 20 Aug. 1689.

Children of first marriage

  • John Milk, b. abt. 1690, died young
  • Job Milk

(2)  Mary Scolly (Scolby) at Boston, 30 Oct. 1707, who subsequently married Francis Hudson abt ****

Children of second marriage:

  • John Milk III, b. 23 June 1708/09, m. Jane Marvin (Marvel)
  • James Milk, b. 31 Jan. 1710/11, m. (1)Sarah Brown ; (2) Mrs. Mollie Peering
  • Mary Jane Milk, b. abt. 1713

My lineage follows the marriage to Elizabeth Hempfield (B:  Jan 8 1668 – Salem, Massachusetts, D: 1707 – Salem, Massachusetts).

The below excerpt talks about their homestead and surrounding buildings.


Close-up of 1700 map showing John Milk lot in yellow (located on current day Washington St somewhere around Federal or Bridge Streets)

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SECOND Generation

Job Milk I (B: 1695 – Salem, Massachusetts, D: 1778 in Little Compton, Newport County, Province of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations) m.  Abigail Devol (B: 1695 – Newport, Rhode Island, D: 12 Jul 1719 – Dartmouth, Massachusetts) on July 12 1719 in Little Compton, RI.  Abigail was the daughter of Johnathan + Hannah (née Audley).

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Note: The association and acceptance by the Quakers of the time, imply that Job Milk and his family were probably Quakers. Although there are no known records of this, it is recorded that Phineas Chase, who lived close to Job Milk, and was father to two of Job’s sons-in-law was a Quaker.

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Footnote:  Some information has been borrowed in part from: History And Genealogy Of The Milk-Milks Family – October 15, 2011 by Grace CroftLee MilkGrace Irene Barnhart.  This information was only borrowed for the sake of completing an accurate family portrait of my lineage to the Milk family as early settlers and not for any wage or profit.

THIRD Generation

Job Milk II (B: April 17 1725 – Dartmouth, Massachusetts, D: 1804 – Dartmouth, Massachusetts) m. Amy Fish (B: Oct 29 1729 – Dartmouth, Massachusetts, D: Belkshire, Massachusetts).  He married Amy Fish 2 Nov 1746 at Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island.  Amy Fish was born at Dartmouth, Bristol, Massachusetts 29 Oct 1729 daughter of Thomas Fish and Mercy Mary Coggeshall .

They were the parents of 9 children:
Benjamin Milk born 1747.
Sarah Milk born 1749. 
Job Milk born 1751.
Mary Milk born 1752.
Jonathan Milk born 1755.
David Milk born 1757.
Cabel Milk born 1759.
Thomas Ambrose Milk born 1761.
Amy Milk born 1763.

FOURTH Generation

Sarah Milk (B: 1749 – D: Eardley,) m. Dudley Moore (B: 1747 – Nine Partners, Duchess, New York,  D: 1815: Eardley, (Hull) Québec). They married at Saratoga, New York .

Dudley Moore’s parents were Jedediah Moore and Dorothy Begnell (I’ll get more into the “Bicknell” story in another blog).

They were the parents of 9 children:
Sarah Moore born Abt 1769.
Jedediah Moore born Abt 1771.
Dudley Moore born 8 Aug 1773.
Roger Moore born Abt 1774. 
Benjamin Moore born Abt 1776.
Martin Moore born Abt 1779.
Job Moore born Abt 1781.
David Moore born Abt 1783.
Rebecca Moore born Abt 1785.

FIFTH Generation

Roger Moore (B: 1775 – Rutland, Vermont, D: 1860 – Napean, Ontario) m.  Sarah Hicks (B: 1775 – New York,  D: Nov 27 1872 – Québec)

SIXTH Generation

Olive Moore (B: Sept 10 1821 – Napean, Ontario, D: 1871 – Eardley, Québec) m.  Ambrose Richards (B: Feb 27 1816 – Quebec,  D: Jan 9 1864 – Eardley, Québec)

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SEVENTH Generation

George Richards (B: July 26 1859 – Eardley Quebec, D: April 16 1942 – Mattawa Ontario) m.  Cecelia McKenzie (B: Dec 9 1851 – Renfrew Ontario, D: Sept 13 1921 – Mattawa Ontario)

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EIGHTH Generation 

Ambrose Richards (B: Dec 12 1887 – Mattawa Ontario, D: 1957 – Mattawa Ontario) m. Bridget Angelina Mullen (B: Jan 3 1887 – Vinton, Québec, D: April 10 1976 – Témiscaming, Québec)

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NINTH Generation

Benjamin Richards (B: Feb 10 1916 – Sturgeon Falls Ontario, D: June 17 1977 – Montréal, Québec) m.  Sarah Ann Lee (B: Dec 7 1922 – Meltham Mills, Yorkshire England, D: March 1993 – Montréal, Quebec)

TENTH Generation

Patrick James Richards (B: Jan 15 1954 – Témiscaming Québec, D: Nov 18 2014 – Témiscaming, Québec) m.  Mona Lamothe (B: Jan 20 1956 – Bonfield, Ontario, D: —-)

ELEVENTH Generation

MOI – Tina Rose Richards

I found this helpful when trying to better understand the difference between the Quakers, the Pilgrims and the Puritans.

Pilgrims: A small group of people arrived in the New World from England on a ship named the Mayflower. They landed at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. Back in England, everyone had to belong to the Church of England. The Pilgrims did not want to belong to the Church of England. They were seeking religious freedom from the Church of England. 

Puritans: About 10 years later, a large group of people called the Puritans arrived in the New World, also from England. They believed everyone should belong to the Church of England or be punished. They left England and came to the New World because they believed the Church of England needed to be purified. In their opinion, the Church was embracing too many Catholic beliefs. They settled in Boston. They practiced religious intolerance. They wanted to be part of the Church of England, but they wanted the church’s beliefs purified. 

Alike: Both groups spoke English. Both groups arrived from England at about the same time. Both groups thought of themselves as Englishmen and were loyal to the King. Both groups came to the New World because of their disagreement with the Church of England.

Quakers: There was another religious group in the colonies called the Quakers. They also disagreed with the Church of England. Many Quakers left England for the New World. They settled in Pennsylvania in the 1600s. There, they practiced religious freedom for everyone. People were free to believe what they wanted and talk to God in their own way. People from all over Europe poured into their communities, seeking religious freedom. The Quakers believed that violence was not the way to solve problems. The Quakers were known as “The Friends”.


T xo

Featured Image Photo Cred: Map of Salem Village in 1692 physical features, and the dwellings of prominent and important residents in Salem during 1692.

‘Napalm Girl’: The Day I Met Kim Phúc

The photograph is one of the most well known photographs of this era.  That of a little girl fleeing the horror –  she is running naked on a road after being severely burned by the South Vietnamese napalm attack.On June 8, 1972, Kim’s village of Trang Bang came under attack by South Vietnamese planes, which mistakenly dropped napalm on a Buddhist pagoda in an area where the North Vietnamese were infiltrating. It was featured on the front page of The New York Times the next day. (Feature image credit: AP Photographer Nick Ut

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Kim Phúc, after an aerial napalm attack on June 8, 1972. 

I  got to hear the girl in Associated Press photographer Nick Ut’s Pulitzer Prize winning photograph at a speaking engagement. Kim Phúc whose name I never knew when I saw those photos as a teen, but whose life touched so many, came to speak at my daughter’s high school, Père-René-de-Galinée in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.

Phan Thi Kim Phúc stood on stage, at the front of the audience, near a projection screen and spoke to an intimate group of high schoolers and parents who came to hear her story of survival, tragedy, strength and perseverance.  After hearing her saga and story, I was so impressed by her courage and determination.  She talked of her struggle, her physical and emotional pain and that of forgiveness.

She spoke of how she was told that her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive; third degree burns covered half of her body. After a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgical procedures including skin grafts, she was able to return home. It was only after treatment at a renown special clinic in Ludwigshafen, Germany, in 1982, that Kim was able to properly move again.

She tells us that the other children in the photo running with her are her brothers and cousins.  Phan Thanh Tam her younger brother, lost an eye.  Phan Thanh Phúc, her youngest brother and Kim’s cousins Ho Van Bon, and Ho Thi Ting. Behind them are soldiers of the Vietnam Army 25th Division.

She also tells us that they were burning and that she thought her clothes were hanging off of her only to realize that it was her flesh falling and bouncing off her back, arms and legs as she ran.  She spoke of the tremendous amount of pain.  “The pain was unbelievable. I would pass out”.  Napalm burns at eight hundred to twelve hundred Celsius and it burns deep under the skin.

She talked about her skin being so tight on her body and that she found some relief in the shower. She talked about how she wanted to wear short sleeve blouses like other girls and that she thought she would never have a boyfriend.

I recall her talking about being accepted to medical school in Saigon.  Her government thought she should be a war symbol for the State and said that they tried to control her.  She went to Cuba in 1986 to study and where she remained for 6 years, all the while being watched by the government, she was never free and compared herself to a bird in a cage who longed for freedom.

Having known war I know the value of peace. Having lived under government control I know the value of freedom. Having lived with hatred, terror and corruption I know the value of faith and forgiveness ~ Kim Phuc

While studying in Cuba, she met Bui Huy Toan (Tom). In 1992 they married.  They honeymooned in Moscow.  They made a secret plan to defect. Friends said it was possible to defect on the return flight to Cuba from Moscow in Gander, Newfoundland. They hid in the bathroom during a routine refuelling stop in Gander, and were granted political asylum to remain in Canada.  They had nothing, all of their luggage continued on the plane to Cuba, she only had a purse and camera, but she was free.

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She spoke of forgiveness and of releasing the anger/emotional pain.  In the article The Story Of Kim Phuc, Napalm and Vietnam by Roy Berger, October 25 2015, she is quoted as saying “ … before you can have hope you have to forgive. Love your enemies. Bless them” and “I cannot hold hatred in my heart. Free from hatred. I forgive. I do not forget”. That is very much what she expressed at her speaking engagement to us, in Cambridge.

With this the crowd comes to its feet in applause.  What an amazing story, and what an amazing woman! I am so happy that I got to hear and meet this most courageous woman, her story was truly inspiring!

Kim started the Kim Foundation International as a way for her to give something back in return for all the help she received. It also provides a means for her to promote peace and forgiveness.


Photo of Kim’s WELCOME to PRDG (sorry, it cut off)

I Was In An Earthquake: Dominican Republic 2003

In September of 2003, we decided to take a family vacation to the Dominican Republic.  It was our 1st destination family trip ever.   I was excited for a week of relaxing, switching off from work, and enjoying the sand and sun.  The kids were extra excited as they had never been anywhere except for Quebec to camp at my dad’s trailer.   We stayed at the Occidental Allegro Playa Dorada in Puerto Plata.  The week long, all inclusive, vacation was from September 21 to September 28, 2003.

It was a long day, we were up at 3:00 A.M. to get to Pearson International Airport in Toronto for our 6:00 A.M departure.  After arriving in the DR, spending the day exploring the grounds, having dinner and enjoying the nightly entertainment, we decided it was time to call it a day. We were officially zonked after an exciting first day of fun in the sun!

Quoting from my scrapbook of 14 years ago:

“I went to bed around 11:15 PM, after all it was a long 1st day and we were up at 3:00 A.M. At around 12:45 A.M. I heard what sounded like a huge jetliner coming toward the hotel.  It was a loud unforgettable roar/rumble.  As I was getting up to look out the patio doors (to my left), the hotel began shaking.  Items in the bathroom, and on the counter were falling to the ground, the toilet slammed shut, the bed was rolling away from the wall.  While the earth was shaking, the power went out … it was pitch black”.

I was in bed reading for a while and had just taken off my glasses and set them on the floor beside the bed and shut my eyes.  It hadn’t been more than 10 minutes or so when I heard the rumble, it was like nothing I had heard before, all I can do to describe it is liken it to the loud thunder of an airplane that is really close ….  like right overhead.  I actually thought that a plane could have been ditching into the Atlantic because we were close to the airport and it was THAT LOUD!  That’s why I got up to look out the patio doors.  The shaking went on for a whole 40 seconds!  The floor shook hard as I tried to stand. A surge threw me backward. I was the only one awake before the quake hit.  Everyone else was sleeping.  They eventually woke with all of the ruckus.  I couldn’t work out in my mind what was happening at first, but, eventually I knew we had to get to a doorway.  By that time, the ferocious shaking had stopped and all of the noise and movement was replaced by an eerie silence.

I ran to the door of the room to see what was going on, I opened it … blackness.  Eventually the emergency lighting came on.  I called the front desk, and in my broken Spanish asked “tierra tiembla?” (it’s a good thing French is very similar to Spanish), the front desk clerk’s only response was “si”.

Shaken (because the last thing you expect to be in while you’re on vacation is to be in an earthquake),  we got out of our jammies, locked up our valuables (I have to admit, we did grab the bottle of rum though) and headed toward the front lobby.  Some people stayed in their rooms, but my gut instinct was to go down to get off the second floor and out of the room because we didn’t know the extent of the damage to the hotel or how big the initial aftershock would be.  Some people were gathered by the “action” pool (not to be confused with the “quiet” pool because there is one)  so we went there, grabbed some chairs and made our way to the lobby exit.

It was a strange atmosphere; everyone crowded there at 1:00 in the morning’ish, nervously chatting and laughing. The 1st aftershock hit at around 1:06 A.M.  The 2nd one, which felt a bit stronger, hit at 1:30 A.M.  We were sitting in our plastic chairs which we borrowed from the pool deck.  They swayed as the earth rumbled, pieces of the clay tile fell from the roof, the awning crumpled and frightened tourists and hotel staff ooooh’ed as the ground moved under our feet.  I have to admit, it’s a really, really, really weird feeling when the earth rumbles below you; all I could imagine was a crack opening up beneath us and being swallowed.

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We weren’t given much information other than most of the Northern Coast was without power.  No one knew the magnitude nor where the epicentre was at this point.   To me being me, these were vital statistics – I’m thinking “I NEED to know where the epicentre is”.  Is it in the mountain range behind me or in front of me in the ocean?  It matters!”  I don’t think anyone other than myself was worried about the possibility of a tsunami!  I don’t know if watching too much National Geographic is a blessing or a curse.

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Poor Cassandra, all of the rocking and rolling made her sick to her stomach.  Meanwhile, Emma proudly shows off a 5 cent peso she found during all of the ruckus!

I made a call back home to Canada and spoke with my best friend, Miranda.  I explained what transpired and asked her to look online for any information she could locate and that I’d call her back, because truthfully, I thought she’d probably get information faster back home than we would there in the DR.

After waiting a while for instructions and as the aftershocks continued throughout the night (although milder),  we were told that we’d have to spend the night outside, because the hotel had to be cleared for re-entry by the military to ensure it was safe for we tourists. So, we gathered up some chaise lounges and some blankets and slept under the stars. That wouldn’t have been half bad save for the thousands of mosquitoes and mosquito bites we endured!   The poor kids were covered head to toe in bites!  At around 7:30 A.M. we decided to go back to our room and tried to get a bit more rest before starting our 1st full day.

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The epicentre was near this mountain range, behind the hotel, about 6 miles south of Puerto Plata

Later that morning, I asked our Air Transat Rep, Freddie, what the scoop was.  He explained that the quake had caused an extensive amount of damage in town to homes, structures and roads.  He explained that the epicentre was near a mountain range, behind the hotel, about 6 miles south of Puerto Plata.  The mountain range is the biggest mountain system in the DR and connects all of the Caribbean islands, including the lesser Antilles. There are two major fault lines that run through the island – The North Hispaniola Trench and The Septentrional Fault Zone, both of which are active.

The damage to the hotel was minimal; some cracks in the walls, broken roof and floor tiles but otherwise not too much else.  They obviously build them sturdy since they’re ocean front and are susceptible to hurricanes.  The water that day was dark and murky from being churned the night before.

I had asked our Air Transat Rep if he wouldn’t mind getting me a local paper to bring home.

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I asked Freddie how his home made out, not good.  It had all but nearly collapsed and his belongings ruined.  It was much the same for most of the staff at the hotel that we had befriended.  To think that they had endured all of that just a few hours earlier and still came to work in the morning.

Turns out the earthquake was a strong 6.5 on the Richter Scale and was felt over most of the country and caused significant damage in the cities of Puerto Plata and Santiago.  It was felt as far as Port-au-Prince, Haiti and even Puerto Rico some 220 miles east.  The first aftershock we felt measured 4.1 and the second which I said felt stronger, it was, it measured 5.1.

The Richter scale:   Average effect of a 6.0 – 6.9 magnitude earthquake:   Damage to a moderate number of well-built structures in populated areas. Earthquake-resistant structures survive with slight to moderate damage. Poorly designed structures receive moderate to severe damage. Felt in wider areas; up to hundreds of miles/kilometres from the epicentre. Strong to violent shaking in epicentral area.

The first signs of damage that the quake had caused was the first time we left the resort to go horseback riding on the mountain.

Other than the odd aftershock or 20 (actually I just verified online that there were over 200 aftershocks in the days following this quake!), the rest of the week was awesome.  The sun was out, the weather was gorgeous and the water was warm.  The kids had a blast horse back riding, participating in Kids Club, mini disco, swimming in the ocean and making new friends.

Here are the last 2 pages of my scrapbook, (I was big into scrapbooking back then), which documents our departure day.

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Some people have asked me “what does it feel like to be in an earthquake?”.  If you’ve never experienced one, it’s hard to imagine the ground moving, and you moving along with it.  It’s a very unusual sensation that isn’t easy to describe.    

Looking back, now that we are safe obviously, it’s a cool experience that we get to share.  I can also now take in, the extent of the damage that this quake actually caused.

Take in the entry in the graph below “09/22/2003 – Puerto Plata, Santiago, magnitude 6.4, 36 km, deaths 3” – but look at the total damage graph!  The most damage caused by an earthquake to date in the DR.  Also, I note that for some reason it was downgraded to a 6.4 from a 6.5.

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I’ll chop that one up for the books that’s for sure!

Up Close and Personal with The Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull


Looking back at events in your life now you can gain a whole new appreciation and sense of awe of things that you didn’t truly understand back in the day.

We had a split class when I was in the 7th grade, our class was made up of grades 7/8.  I went to a French elementary school in Kitchener, Ontario.  We were tasked with a project and presentation. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what my project was on to be honest, nor can I tell you anything about any others , but, ONE stood out.  I never forgot about it and it’s something to this day that fascinates me!

Now my memory may be a bit sketchy because that would have been in about 1987, 30 years ago, so I am going to back up my story with some facts.  For her presentation, Geneviève Lambert, who was in grade 8, I was in Grade 7, brought in a guest.  This lady with whitish hair stood there and told of the day she found a crystal skull in Belize while on an expedition with her father.  In our classroom, the crystal skull stood alone, on a desk, in front of her, on a black velour type blanket as she explained the day she found it, what meaning it is said to have as well as its powers.   This is another one of those “I wish I could go back in time moments”.  This is the kind of stuff that fascinates me … history, exploration, mysterious artifacts which are believed to possess mystical powers.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 12.19.09 PM.pngOf all of the crystal skulls, the Mitchell-Hedges skull is probably the most famous and beautiful. The skull was allegedly discovered in the 1924 (or 1925/1926/1927 her account of dates vary), by Anna, who was the adopted daughter of a British adventurer and traveler Frederick Mitchell-Hedges. Anna claims that she found the skull beneath the altar of a Mayan temple in Lubaantun, a ruined city in Belize, on her 17th birthday.  The city was rediscovered in 1924 by her father, Frederick,  who is said to have inspired the well known character, Indiana Jones.

The skull is one of 13 such crystal skulls apparently discovered in Mayan and Aztec ruins. The Lubaantun skull, however, is remarkable for the clarity of the crystal and the skill and detail of the carving. Many believe the skulls have special abilities, such as aiding psychic abilities, healing the sick or even power over death. The skull was rumoured to have supernatural powers and many who had spent time alone with it described a glowing aura and said bizarre filmic images appeared inside it.

Anna inherited the skull from her father upon his death in 1959. She toured with it and Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 6.25.38 PM.pnggave many talks/interviews. Now deceased, Anna Mitchell-Hedges had the skull to her death, though it was mostly kept locked away in a bank vault. Anna moved away from her Kitchener home and stayed with friends in the United States until she passed away.

After Anna’s presentation to our classroom, we were given the opportunity to get up close up and touch it – it was so pretty!  It looked anatomically correct, pure, clean, clear – like a  beautiful skull of glass or ice.  In reality the skull is made of solid crystal quartz.  

I’m sure Genevieve got an A+ on that project, and the years went on.  I hadn’t thought much of the crystal skull, then in about 2014 I was binging on some National Geographic (Ep: Crystal Skulls) and on came the Mitchell-Hedges skull!  Naturally I watched it and reminisced about my little encounter with it.  “How cool” I thought to myself “I actually got to see it in real life”. 

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Anna Mitchell-Hedges, pictured in 2005, claims to have found this crystal skull in Belize during her father’s 1924 search for the lost city of Atlantis.  (MATHEW MCCARTHY / KITCHENER-WATERLOO RECORD FILE PHOTO)  

Then, just yesterday, I was watching an episode of Portal to the Unknown (S1: Ep 10, Mysteries From the Past), up comes a segment on …. you guessed it, the Mitchell-Hedges crystal skull.

Perhaps because of its popularity, the authenticity of Mitchell-Hedges Crystal Skull is often challenged. There are two sides of the coin.  To crystal skull devotees they are real and hold powers and then there are others who believe that this whole find was just an elaborate hoax.  People claimed that the skulls possessed supernatural powers. Science has debunked these claims, but they still persist.

Either way you choose to believe, you have to admit, it still has a degree of intrigue.  In fact, it got a boost in 2008 with the release of the action-adventure sequel Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – the 4th instalment in the action/adventure franchise, revolving around a fictional story on crystal skulls, specifically mentioning the Mitchell-Hedges skull.

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Anna Mitchell-Hedges died on April 11, 2007 at the age of 100.  To her death, she never once denied the story of how she found the skull.  As for me, I’m just happy to have seen my little piece of history;  when she came to a little Franco-Ontarian elementary school in Kitchener, Ontario and showed her skull to 20 or so students.

PS: I have sent a message to Geneviève to see if she has any photos from the day Anna came to school.  If she responds and she has some, I’ll add them.  Update: 2021 – I did hear back from Geneviève, she does not have any photos from her school presentation.

The Crystal Skull and Anna MItchell-Hedges – One Minute History

On Genealogy: Story of WWII Pte. Benjamin Richards

Hello and welcome to blog #3 on genealogy!   This story features my Grampa – Benjamin George Richards.

I was able to obtain a copy of Grampa’s war records from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (Canadian Armed Forces) a few years ago, when I wrote out for them.  WWII records are still not available online.

Military records are such a wealth of information!  You can see their enlistment details, their pay, when they took on strength (TOS) or were struck off strength (SOS), when they were AWOL/AWL, their discharge information and so much more!  Grampa’s records are in hard copy and some of the handwriting is a wee bit difficult to read and the acronyms are insane, I had to go online just to find a summary of WWII military acronyms to make sense of 1/2 of them!

When Benjamin George Richards was born on February 10, 1916, in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, his father, Ambrose, was 28 and his mother, Bridget (née Mullen), was 29.

His military records indicated that he completed grade VIII, and was bilingual in English in French.  From 1933 to the date of his military enlistment he was employed at Canadian International Paper (CIP) Company as a Machine Tender in Témiscaming, Québec – working his way up from a General Labourer.

His records also noted that his hobbies and past times to be skiing, skating, playing 1st base in baseball/softball and playing the banjo, guitar & mandolin.


Photo: Benny playing the guitar (left).  Date unknown – the photo was just labelled that it was in the 1940’s, assumedly it was after he was discharged from the military in 1945.

He enlisted in the military on September 11 1939 at North Bay, Ontario citing “patriotic reasons”, he wanted to be in the Carrier Platoon.  Capt. R. Robillard noted that he was of “average intelligence – should be ok for Carriers” .  He was appointed as a Private to The Royal Regiment of Canada.  Regimental Number B-66965.

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Now, as I mentioned the record of all appointments, transfers, postings, forfeitures of pay, accidents, hospital admissions etc are difficult to read and are FILLED with acronyms to the point where some entries are barely even understandable  – one website I was using had over 7500 unique abbreviations listed!  Grampa Benny has 5 years worth of military records here to detail, so I am just going to note the most salient points in chronological order.  Most of the records document when he was SOS or when he was TOS.  There are some notations albeit them difficult to make out when he was transferred to different platoons.

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Chronological Record of Service

The Royal Regiment of Canada, C.A.S.F. was mobilized on September 1 1939, when the Second World War broke out.

Sept 11 1939:  Enlisted at North Bay, Ontario citing “patriotic reasons”.  Private, Infantry,  The Royal Regiment of Canada.

June 10 1940:  Embarked from Halifax for garrison duty in Iceland with “Z” Force.  Now this is actually an interesting story and part of history.   As I was going through Grampa’s personnel file, I noticed something beside ONE entry as he embarked for the United Kingdom,  all it said was “SOS Z Force”,  it had me wondering “what the heck was this Z Force?”.  So I did a Google search and found that it was a British-Canadian garrison force in Iceland.  I was pointed to a really interesting document which was declassified on March 17 1987 entitled “Z Force in Iceland:  An Account of the despatch of Canadian Troops to Iceland and their subsequent operations there”.  The document deals with the activities of Z force Canadian Army from the time it was dispatched to Iceland June 10 1940 to its departure on April 28 1941.

Canada was an occupying military power in one of the smallest and most isolated countries in the world.  How?  Why?  Turns out when war broke out in September 1939, Denmark and Iceland jointly declared their neutrality (Iceland was granted status as an autonomous state from Denmark after WWI).  The Nazis had shown an interest in Iceland throughout the 1930s, sending trade missions and flying instructors to the island. Several teams of German “anthropologists” also roamed Iceland in the late 1930s.   As quickly as possible Canada put together a military expedition mysteriously dubbed “Z Force.”  So Canada was in Iceland to defend it against a possible German attack!

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This snippet from the report indicates that as part of the Royal Regiment of Canada he was part of the initial Z Force commanded by Lt-Col G. Headley Basher.

The force boarded the Empress of Australia on June 9, and departed on June 10 at 1:00 pm.  It was the only infantry battalion, and was armed with 12 Lewis machine guns.

June 16 1940:  Disembarked Reykjavík, Iceland

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The Royals were ferried ashore and marched through silent streets to set up tents (followed 4 months later by Metal Nissen huts) near the local airfield that British engineers had begun expanding. Within days of the Canadians arrival, the British brigades packed up and sailed back to join the war.

I was able to find out that while in Iceland, Benny was a member of C Coy (Company)  – I almost missed it, it was mentioned on only 1 page – under Current Service “R.R.C. Rgmt C Coy”

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The Empress of Australia, meanwhile, sailed back to Hailfax where the rest of Z Force had been assembled.  That secondary force consisted of two more battalions — the Cameron Highlanders and les Fusiliers Mont-Royal who arrived in Iceland on July 9, 1940.

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The report indicates the supply and maintenance problems while they occupied Iceland.

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Another issue was transportation.  Apparently only the R. Regt C brought its own transportation.  The second flight Z Force which arrived on July 7 was not so fortunate, no vehicles were sent with them.  This happened movement of the troops because the only troop to have vehicles was on the other side of the island, so they had to hire civilian trucks.  This was an issue until the arrival of the S.S. Tregarthen on July 27 – which took 16 days to unload.

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Other issues included the fact that the British coats were better, as they Canadian sheepskin coats were almost in a state of constant wetness.  And, they needed to be sent steel tent pegs 3 ft long because the ground was always frozen and the winds were nearly gale force.

We know that he was in C Coy but not which platoon in that company he was in, but we do have an idea of what training looked like.

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So it turns out the biggest threats to the Canadians were the cold – it snowed in August 1940 — and the local moonshine, known as “Black Death.”

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In total, Z Force ended up amounting to 2,659 Canadian soldiers stationed in Iceland.

The order was given that the bulk of Z Force was to leave for Britain.  They settled down and awaited their British relief force. They were relived by the 70 British Infantry Brigade.

Oct 26 1940:  Embarked on the Empress of Australia and on Oct 31 1940 at 10:30 a.m. the ships weighed anchor and put out for the UK, leaving Iceland behind. A small force was left behind (Cameron Highlanders).

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The graves of 41 Canadian soldiers, seamen and airmen who died in Iceland during the war are still tended carefully in a cemetery near the airport they defended.

The Report ends saying that ” …. the morale of the Canadian Forces in Iceland remained satisfactory throughout their tour in that northern outpost”.

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Nov 3 1940:  Disembarked in the United Kingdom/Great Britain- no notation as to where.

Nov 7 1940: The unit was re-designated as the 1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Canada, CASF, when a 2nd Battalion was formed to provide reinforcements to the Regiment in Europe.

Dec 9 1940: Admitted to CMC Bordon and was discharged Dec 16 1940.

Jan 17 1941:  Awarded 4 days CB (confined to barracks) for AA (Army Act) Sec. 19 – Drunkeness, 1st offence.

Feb 10 1941: SOS (struck off strength) – admitted to hospital.  Discharged on Feb 18 1941.

April 1 1941:  Forfeits 5 days pay for AWL (absent without leave) 1 hr 36 mins.

Feb 25 1942: Admitted to hospital, discharged March 4 1942.

From Feb 27 1942 to Aug 26 1942 – We know that he was part of the 2nd Canadian Divisional Infantry Reinforcement Unit (2 CDIRU) – On Carrier, the Carrier Instructor C –— Now during this time the 2 CDIRU were involved in The Dieppe Raid During on 19 August 1942 where the Allies launched a major raid on the small French coast port of Dieppe.  In the early morning hours, Major-General J.H. Roberts’ 2nd Canadian Infantry Division assaulted the Dieppe beach at four designated sections. 2nd Canadian Infantry Division assaulted the Dieppe beach at four designated sections. At Blue Beach, at the village of Puys (1.6 km east of Dieppe), troops of The Royal Regiment of Canada and The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada arrived late in their bid to take out enemy artillery and machine guns guarding the Dieppe beaches. From the start the enemy pinned down and shot them up until the raid was over.

I have to keep scouring the records to see if I can find out exactly where Grampa was during this time.  Again, his  Troops War Diaries will be helpful once I obtain them — UPDATE:  I found a notation that he attended a Carrier Course (Class A) with 2 CDIRU from March 18/42 to April 18/42 and a Motorcycle course with 2 CDIRU from Aug 8/42 to Aug 22/42.

Aug 27 1942 to Oct 9 1942: He was with the RRC Regt HQ Company “as a Carrier Driver – H (20 days)”. 

Oct 10 1942 to —- He was back again with the 2 CDIRU in general fatigues

March 17 1943: Granted daily rate of $1.50.

Dec 28 1943: Awarded 8 days CB and 8 days pay under Sec 40 of AA – I had to do some research here.  The Gov’t of Canada, Library and Archives Canada website has S.40 under Miscellaneous Military Offences – “Acting to the Prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline”.  Unfortunately the records don’t actually mention for what specifically.

UPDATE: What I’ve been able to ascertain is that it may have been for: Falsely obtaining or prolonging leave aka he was AWOL.

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Jan 15 1944:  Awarded The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (CVSM), The CVSM is 757d98c3-5c61-4304-846a-86aac299c914-1granted to persons of any rank in the Naval, Military or Air Forces of Canada who voluntarily served on Active Service and honourably completed eighteen months total voluntary service from 3 September 1939 to 1 March 1947.  A silver clasp, a maple leaf at its centre, was awarded for 60 days service outside Canada.

May 30 1945:  Granted permission to marry Miss Sally Anne Lee on or after (but not before) June 14 1945.

June 20 1945:  Married with permission to Miss Sarah Ann Lee in Agbrigg, Yorkshire, England.  Changed next of kin to Mrs. Sarah Ann Richards (wife) of 14 Pick Hiss Rd, Meltham Yorkshire, England.

Aug 18 1945:  Granted 30 days disembarkment leave from Aug 18 to Sept 16 1945 and was authorized to draw $0.50 per diem

Sept 2 1945:  WWII ends

Sept 21 1945:  SOS on discharge.  Clothing allowance and Rehab paid.

On December 31 1945, after the Second World War had come to an end, the Royal Regiment of Canada was disbanded and reverted back to Reserve status.

Now , we know with certainty that Grampa was a Driver Mechanic and Instructor in a Carrier Platoon.  There is some discussion online about what these roles actually entail.

It was my impression that Driver/Mechanics typically did field maintenance on the Bren/Universal carriers mostly in Support Company.  But, now I’m confused, because I’ve also read that each Universal Carrier (tank) had a crew of four, an NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer), driver-mechanic and two riflemen  (see below)

The unique concept of the Universal Carrier Platoon was to provide every Infantry Battalion with the ability to move a small portion of its establishment under armoured protection.

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Typical Carrier Platoon

A Carrier Platoon existed in each battalion as part of Support Company. The platoon provided the battalion commander with a relatively mobile force, armed with automatic weapons, and relatively safe from small arms’ fire. The platoon carried out a variety of missions, such as the re-supply of food, ammunition, water and other necessities; casualty evacuation, reconnaissance and even in rare cases assaults on enemy position.

The hard thing with writing about war is that those who have served don’t generally come home and talk about their experiences.  The fact is that many veterans did indeed take their stories to the grave, for a variety of reasons. Some came home from up to six years of continuous overseas service and simply wished to forget the whole thing, to pick up their lives as best they could. Others saw no point in reliving the horrors safely buried away under iron-hard layers of protective silence. Still others learned very quickly upon their return to Canada that the civilian populace had no understanding of, and little interest in, the hardships they endured. For thousands of their children, this meant growing up with little other than a vague notion that ‘dad was in the war’.

Through the internet, a legion of veterans’ descendants (myself included) have taken it upon themselves to research their ancestors pasts, if for no other reason than to gain a better understanding of ‘what he went through’ and to ensure their legacy lives on for generations – so that their sacrifices don’t ever get forgotten.

To that very point, I asked my uncle Kenny if he knew what Grampa did in the war – “I’m not 100% sure he never spoke much about what he did”.  But keeping things to themselves also detracts from their personal history as well (but I totally get why they don’t talk about it).  Uncle Kenny said he was pretty sure that Grampa  ” … was a driver but not in tanks, more truck/troop carriers.  Seems I remember hearing somewhere that he may of driven ambulances too”.  

So what did Grampa actually do in the war?  At this point, I don’t really know and it’s hard for me to even make a logical deduction because I can hardly make sense of where he was in the UK – again due to the cryptic records and not yet having access to his Troops War Diaries.

Of the 20+ pages of material I have in my possession, I can only pinpoint 3 military camps he was at, all of the other entries all just say  “UK” – He was noted as being in camps at Witley, Aldershot and Bordon.

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Photo: Witley Camp Canteen

a) Witley Military Camp was a temporary army camp set up on Witley Common, Surrey, England during both the First and Second World Wars.  Camp Witley was one of three facilities in the Aldershot Command area established by the Canadian Army; the others being Bordon and Bramshott.

b) Camp Bordon has a long association with the Canadian Army, providing a base for them in both world wars.

c) Camp Aldershot –  some 330,000 Canadians passed through Aldershot, doing there training before taking up the defence of the UK while most of the British soldiers were away.

I’ve mapped out the 3 places I was able to place him.  Surrey, Aldershot and Bordon.

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Benjamin Richards was oversees (Iceland and UK)  for a total of 62 months and was discharged from the military on September 21, 1945, in Toronto, Ontario, when he was 29 years old.

According to his Discharge Certificate and his Record of Service, he is “to return to civil life – on demobilization”.  His physical description at the time of discharge from service was “brown eyes and brown hair. Fair complexion. Burn scar on right axillae; scar 1.5″ x 1″ on inside of lip”.

His CONFIDENTIAL Discharge Papers note his future plans “I am returning to my former job as a machine tender”.  

The military’s recommendation on discharge were as follows:

“A recently married man, 29 years of age, medium build, average appearance.  Seems pleasant, steady, reliable labour type”.

” … Richards states that his mother and sister are living in Temiskaming; father has been confined to hospital for about four years.  Richards married in England and expects his wife to join him in a few months.  They can live with his mother until they secure a house through the paper company, who are building homes for returning service personnel.

In view of physical fitness and experience, Richards seems well advised to return to his former employment”.  

If he was unable to return as a Machine Tender, he planned to seek employment as a Truck Driver.

He and Sally had seven children during their marriage.  In connecting with my uncle Kenny and my aunt Gwen (I wish my dad was still alive so I could ask him some if this) –  they moved in to 102 Anvik Avenue in or about 1955.

At that time Témiscaming was a company (CIP) town and the company owned everything including the homes. The Company sold the houses in or about 1972, Sally and Benny bought theirs. The row house was tiny.  4 rooms total (living room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, 1 washroom). It was only 2 stories, no basement. Aunty Gwen remembers them digging out the basement until they hit a big rock … but, they were able to move the furnace down there.  Only the front bedroom had closet space … Grampa built one in the back room for the 3 girls … that and a double bed.  The bathroom had a toilet and bathtub … no sink.  They were 9 living there – 7 kids,  2 adults.  There was also an enclosed, unheated back porch.  The whole space was about 600 sq ft.  The address was originally 502 Elm Ave, but the Dutch Elm disease killed all the Elm trees ands the town renamed it Anvik Ave and renumbered the houses….. the number became 102 instead of 502.

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Photo: 102 Anvik Ave is the row house with the brown door on the right side (circa 2014)

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Benjamin Richards died on June 17, 1977, in Montréal, Quebec, at the age of 61. He suffered a coronary thrombosis while visiting his daughter Gwen and son-in-law Serge and grandson Marc.

I was only 3 years old at the time grampa passed away, so unfortunately I really don’t have any memories of him. I have a few a pictures of us but that’s it – again I wish you were here dad, to share this stuff with me 😭.

Gramma Sally ending up selling the house to Lucien Bernard for $6,000 in 1978 and moved to Verdun, Quebec to live with her daughter Gwen, son-in-law Serge and her grandkids Marc and Caroline.

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One of the most rewarding challenges I have accomplished in my genealogy journey is writing about these family stories and legacies so they don’t get lost.

I plan on making these blogs into a family history book. I am extremely passionate about recording family stories and encourage you to at every opportunity.

As I continue to investigate Benny’s time in WWII, I will update the blog.


T xo