Archive for the ‘Genealogy’ category

Family History – Part Eight

October 15, 2013

Hard bound 21st century printed edition of the Family History.


For the 21st century edition of Joshua’s Family History, we decided to do a limited run off a high speed laser printer, and primarily in black and white, given the extreme cost of full colour digital printing.

The text was spooled into Adobe InDesign, composed in Garamond BE with titles in Centaur. I chose Garamond BE because it was quite readable, and came complete with old style figures and small capitals and titling figures. Designing a book is like building a house:you start at the foundation and work your way up to the roof. Likewise in a book, you begin with the style of the type, amending typographic issues, factoring in footnotes and superscript figures etc. In many cases special fonts, italics and old style figures can be fixed using mass Find/Replace. Before any work begins, style sheets are created so that if a style change is made in one part of the book, it will automatically change in all the other parts, saving a massive amount of work. Photos and illustrations were scanned at a high resolution, then edited in Photoshop for clarity, sharpness and to correct lightness and darkness issues that happen in the scanning process. The end goal is to have a book that possesses the qualities one expects from a professionally designed book, and I’m satisfied with the result, although, as always, I would do some things differently had I the chance.

The printed edition is $45 plus gst & shipping.

It was printed at Impression Printing in Smiths Falls, Ontario.

Bound at Smiths Falls Bookbinding.


Page spread: body text in 12 pt Garamond BE, titles in Centaur with appropriate leading and generous margins.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Seven

October 15, 2013

The Family History – typeset, printed and bound.


Part Seven

As mentioned earlier, Joshua’s Family History has been transcribed, printed and bound into a new edition, with a limited run of 20 copies.

I should emphasize that this effort was strictly a transcription of Joshua’s work, as opposed to a revision, rewritten or heavily edited version, done with as few editorial intrusions as possible, with changes made only for blatant errors that, presumably, Joshua would have been grateful to see eliminated. Regrettably, in the process of typesetting and laying out the text, other typographical errors have come into being. Most historical spelling and usage has been preserved. In many cases, large blocks of text have been broken into paragraphs to make it easier to read. I have also corrected some archaic misspellings and usage and very occasionally rearranged somewhat arbitrary headings and sub-headings into a more consistent and coherent order.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Six

October 15, 2013

Family portrait of Dr. Charles Walden Thompson, Joshua’s son.


Part Six

Joshua confesses some of his own faults – his quick temper, for example, apparently a family trait; others can be deduced through his writings – pride perhaps. Still, his tone is reflective and contemplative – that of a man looking back on his own and his family’s life in the hope of creating a legacy. His zealous pen cannot conceal the deeply felt grief for parents, siblings and children long dead, or his obvious pride in his surviving children and grandchildren. In undertaking this great task, Joshua’s motivation must have been love; indeed, he loved his family so much that he dedicated years of his life revisiting a great deal of loss and sorrow by creating a written record to preserve their legacy for them, and for their descendants. Some brief updates and notes appear in the manuscript, made by Joshua, and later by his son Dr. C. W. Thompson. They end around 1920.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Five

October 15, 2013

Long exposures in early photography made it nigh on impossible to pull off group portraits, so sitters were shot individually and a then grouped as a composite.


Part Five

Joshua enriched his work with rare photos of his family. As with many vintage photographs, these have an eerie sense of time long past and yet preserve the dignity of the sitters. Best of all, these faces have a name and a story, unlike so many vintage photographs of anonymous faces found in abundance at flea markets and auctions.

Occasionally, Joshua will make an allusion to some past dispute or scandal in the Thompson family, but as a rule he is averse to gossip. This leaves some intriguing silences in the text:  tantalizing hints of untold stories. Conversely, he is often quite courageous in recording events that might daunt other chroniclers: the devastating mental illness of his father, for example, or the final moments of his brother’s gruesome death from tuberculosis. Having lived long and suffered much, Joshua found it easy to dwell on darker subject matters. That, and Joshua’s strict moral rectitude hardly makes the Family History a vehicle for wanton humour – at least, not humour intended deliberately.

No contemporary reader can overlook Joshua’s own strong religious bias. The entire work is steeped in fundamentalist Methodism and a fiery sense of Christian righteousness, complete with the intolerance one might expect from this kind of fervor. Readers are treated to regular spasms of zealous outburst, usually sparked by some emotional event, ending with biblical quotations, allusions and sermons. He records that the Family History is not his first writing project of substance. Apparently, a hefty manuscript of religious writing and opinion had earlier been sent off to the authorities in the Methodist Church (these were included in the copy of the Family History given to daughter Gertrude). Without doubt, Joshua had a heart inclined toward the pulpit. His feverish digressions may distract the reader, but they also hint at the rigorous faith and emotion behind his need to record facets of his life and those of his family.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Four

October 15, 2013
Photo of Joshua placed near the end of the History.

Photo of Joshua placed near the end of the History.


Part Four

Joshua progresses very methodically though his family’s history, beginning with his own scant knowledge of his grandparents, stepping through parents, brothers and sisters, his own autobiography, children from two marriages and finishing with several addenda concerning his grandchildren. He writes sections based on the length of the blank journal page, beginning with a heading and subheading followed by a single page of text, whereupon he breaks the narrative flow and begins a new page with a new heading.

Joshua tells the story of an Old World working class Anglo-Irish family beginning anew in North America. He never fully explains why the Thompson family decided to make the arduous trek in 1819 from Mountrath, a village near Dublin, across a great ocean and vast tracts of wilderness to arrive, finally, in a farming community a few miles west of Kingston, Ontario. They hoped “to make a home and a fortune for their family,” Joshua writes, as he tells the remarkable tale of the challenges endured and chances taken by these settlers in the New World.

In his own words:

Ice In St. Lawrence Brakes Up – A Disappointment
Purchased a Farm

My Father did not find Canada as inviting a place for a home as he expected and consulted with my mother and they both concluded it was best to return to the states. I think he was at Mr. Baker’s two weeks. So he engaged two other teams to take them back to Cambridge [NY]. When they reached Kingston, a distance of thirty miles, they heard that the ice in the river St. Lawrence had broken up and it could not be crossed with teams so they did not proceed any further. He soon got a house for the family and unloaded the sleighs, settled with the teamsters and got the house arranged for the family.

He then searched and got employment in a shoeshop in town conducted by a man the name of William Carroll. My Father worked for him about a year and cleared some more than his expenses and began to think he could make a home for himself and his family in Upper Canada. He kept inquiring of those customers who got work done in the shop for a suitable place for his business and a home for the family and himself. He heard of fifty acres of land that could be bought cheap with a frame house and log barn on it and in a good neighborhood that needed a shoemaker. This place was twenty four miles north-west of Kingston and ten miles from John Baker’s in Richmond. My Father at once went to see it and the owner who lived in the same neighborhood. His name was Thomas Empey, Esquire, called “Squire Empey.” They soon made a bargain for the land. I think the price was $250, and my Father soon left Kingston and moved to his farm and new home in Ernestown in the spring of 1823. This was a good purchase (five dollars per acre) and was a good Christian society, but a poor farm to till. JT

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Three

October 9, 2013



Part Three

Here’s a sample of Joshua’s writing, taken from his Preface:

About seven years ago, I started to write sketches of my Father’s family history (including my brothers and sisters) and short biographies of each of his children. As I was the only surviving child of a large family of eleven children, it seemed to me that God had lengthened out my life and health for a purpose and had given me a family to train up in the way they should go, both by example and precept, and the six children who are living might prize a work of this kind from the brain and pen of their aged Father as one of his last acts of kindness that would remain with his children when his body is laid to rest in the silent grave.

I have to write under some disadvantages as some of the events I shall narrate took place many years before I was born and I got the facts orally from my Parents more than sixty years ago and stored them in my memory. My parents are dead over fifty years. As to the age of my grandparents, I had to suppose or guess their ages. I had my parents’ age in a family record and that of all their children. I left my first family home at the age of twenty-nine years. My parents had died and I left in the year 1852 [leaving] three brothers and four sisters all in good health and in 1882 the last one died leaving me the only living child in my Father’s family. It is wonderful how well the memory retains what it gained in childhood or youth. I cannot trace our Family history in the past further back than Grandfather.

As a strong inducement for me to undertake such a task now in my old age, my children have given me tangible proof of their sincerity in supplying me with blank books for me to write a copy for each of them (providing the task was not too much for my strength) as they would preserve it carefully as a lasting souvenir of my many acts of paternal kindness to my family. I make no promises as the future is all hid from me. My life and times are in the hands of my Heavenly Father. I have four blank books to fill; not a bad year’s work for me to do. “I may die in the harness” and some of my children may complete the task. I feel better to be employed at something that may benefit those I shall leave behind. If I have blank pages to spare, I will give a short sketch of my mother’s family (the Langfords) and the mothers of my children (the Walden and the Stewart families). They well deserve a page in this book of chronicles.

If these biographies and narratives and reviews give my children or grandchildren or reader of these pages the pleasure they have given the writer, I will be amply rewarded. I pray that God may preserve me in health to finish this volume which I will cheerfully present to my son Dr. C. W. Thompson of Clinton and his family to improve on a new edition.

I have written this introduction on Saturday the Sixth day of May, 1905. May Almighty God bless this last effort of your aged Father and Grandfather! Amen!

Joshua Thompson
St. Marys
[Updated September 10, 1910]

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Joshua’s Book (Family History Part Two)

October 4, 2013
Photograph of Joshua Thompson that is the frontispiece (opposite the title page).

Photograph of Joshua Thompson that serves as the frontispiece (opposite the title page).


Part Two

Over a century has passed since Joshua Thompson placed his pen to page to compose A Family History and Biographical Sketch of My Father’s Family. He initiated his labours in May of 1905; the cover page records that he presented the 300-page manuscript book to his son, Dr. Charles Walden Thompson, at a family reunion in Clinton, Ontario on January 1st, 1907.

The opening lines of his book suggest that he had been working on “short biographies” of his immediate family since the late 1890s. However, Joshua notes that he intended to supply an identical hand written copy to each of his surviving children; aside from two other copies (for his son Allen and daughter Gertrude), it is not known how many of these other versions survived the subsequent century. This one passed through inheritance from Charles Walden to his son, Dr. Fred Greene Thompson, and from him to his son, Charles Wilson Thompson.

Joshua commences work on the Family History at 82 years of age. His own mortality is very much on his mind, prompting, if not exactly a sense of urgency, then at least a notion of timely responsibility. “The future is all hid from me,” he writes, with no inkling that he will endure for more than another decade, during which time he will tip-in additional pages to the original book and append marginal notations.  In the grand tradition of classic literature, he makes a brief apology for the fault of his memory regarding events recalled from the dim recesses of the past and then launches into his work. One can only admire his command of his faculties, his dedication, his elegant penmanship, the sweeping biblical style of his writing, and his concentration. The family Joshua documents lived in a turbulent century, but the book contains little historical context, outside of a brief reference to his uncles having died in service during the War of 1812, a sidelong reference to Fenian Raids and other snippets. His literary lens is focused sharply on family.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part One

October 2, 2013


My next several blogs will cover a personal book project that has been in the works now for about fifteen years. Over a hundred years ago, my great-great grandfather, Joshua,  wrote down his family’s history from their arrival in Canada in 1821 until 1907. He was 81 years old. The hand-written manuscript is 240 pages long, and he likely did as many as four copies, one for each of his living sons.

I remember seeing the old manuscript book under the side table that stood beside my grandfather’s armchair; I remember turning the pages, marveling a the delicate handwriting, and the ancient photographs of relatives now distant in time. Then, as now, it seemed extraordinary to me that anyone would undertake such a project.

The book had been handed down from son to son, then ultimately to my father. In the mid 1990s, during one of the periodic bouts of unemployment that the self-employed seem to experience, I pitched the idea to my father that we transcribe the History into text on the computer, then replicate it either as files or print-outs for the benefit of family and relatives who would undoubtedly be interested in their genealogy. Time passed and I revisited the project now and then. My interest in book design meant that, inevitably, the project would evolved from a mere transcription into a printed and bound edition, ultimately completed this fall.

The next few posts will be dedicated to the History, the man who wrote it, some of the information in it and a bit about the production of the new edition and the restoration of the original manuscript.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

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