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Finding the “Black Battalion” aka No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)

I am late posting this item because the site was unavailable for a few days. Apologies.

Two weeks ago, I went with my wife to a hairdressing salon. Lois was to have a perm and I waited for a haircut (much needed). It turns out that the hairdresser was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, and grew up in Africville, Halifax County, Nova Scotia. Serendipity can bring unexpected opportunities to give back. In this case, my interest in genealogy and family history kicked in and I asked about her experience. Like me, the lady has a grandfather who served Canada in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during World War I. Unlike the experience of my grandfathers Grant and Bennett, “my hairdresser’s” grandfather was not permitted to join a combat battalion. With an earnest heart and a desire to serve, George Richard Dixon joined the now-well-known No. 2 Construction Battalion at Truro, Nova Scotia on 1 December 1916. My grandfather Grant had joined a year earlier in December 1915 and was in France by the early autumn of 1916 – he served in the 25th Nova Scotia Battalion until the end of the war. Grandfather Grant, married, a farmer, “signed” his Attestation Papers with an X, witnessed by an officer of the militia. George Dixon was a single seaman and signed his name with a clear, cursive hand. My grandfather Grant served with Caucasian men under Caucasian officers. George Dixon served with men of African descent under Caucasian officers. He was discharged from the CEF in April 1919 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Eunice once had a copy of the book, The Black Battalion, noted in the source summary below, but it was borrowed and not returned by a “friend.” When Lois and I returned home, I set up a new research project: To summarize the wartime experience of George Dixon and provide as much new information as possible to Eunice – surprise! While gardening and pleasant Ottawa weather has taken me away from my desk for much of the day, I have managed to find a significant cache of research material for the summary. You’ll be able to read some of it here once I gift the document to Eunice.

For those of you interested in Canadian World War I personnel files and unit war diaries, see https://library-archives.canada.ca/eng/collection/Pages/collection.aspx; or visit https://archives.novascotia.ca/virtual/ where you can find information about No 2 Construction Battalion, including a nominal roll and a link to individual service records at Library and Archives Canada; at Internet Archive you can borrow the book “The black battalion: 1916-1920: Canada’s best kept military secret” by Calvin W. Ruck (Calvin Woodrow), 1925-2004; if you are interested in a copy of the book, it can be purchased at amazon.ca for 26.64CAD. Finally, a Google search will lead you to many other sources of information about this historic unit.

… The above draft of this post was written on 13 May. I followed my instructions and purchased a softcover version of the book mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Alas, two days later, Amazon refunded my payment without comment. Following the clues in the website link, I landed in Dublin, Ireland at a bookstore that features this book – they were out of stock, as is Chapters Indigo, a Canadian online and storefront bookseller. Undeterred, I have traced the granddaughter of Calvin Ruck, a journalist and author living in Halifax. More about that later.

It is time to wake my supervisor and prepare for a day refreshing our flowerbeds and shrubbery. Have a blessed weekend! Allen.

Miscellaneous Gems

If you are researching your Celtic roots in the British Isles two websites may interest you. One is a blog called Anglo-Celtic Connections by genealogist John Reid at https://www.anglocelticconnections.ca/. The author is a working genealogist who provides pointers to database updates and new tools at the major genealogy research sites, announcements about webinars taking place in Ontario (mainly), the United States, and sometimes in Europe (the British Isles), among others.

One “gem” found in Mr. Reid’s blog today is a reference to the Irish Family History Centre (IFHC), Dublin. The IFHC hosts a variety of free and paid services. You will find blogs, podcasts, an informative magazine (https://www.irishfamilyhistorycentre.com/product/irish-lives-remembered-issue-61/), and a portal to research services. The current magazine has at least two articles of interest to me: 1) “Gaels Who Sail: The Irish in the Caribbean, Pacific and Antarctic” and 2) “Unlocking Secrets with DNA: My Unexpected Result.” The first article adds to my general knowledge of the Age of Sail during which many of my Grant cousins and extended family sailed from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as sailors, mariners, and master mariners. The second article speaks to my own happy DNA surprise, mentioned in my book’s last chapter (seek and you will find).

Why mention an Irish genealogy website? My mother Mary Frances Grant (1930 – 2022), was born Mary Frances Bennett, the daughter of William Bennett (1884 – 1966) of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Alice Ramsay (1897 – 1981), of Clementsport, Nova Scotia. My 2nd great-grandfather was Arthur John Bennett, born about 1798 in Davidstown, County Wexford, and died in August 1872 at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Arthur Bennett was a carpenter who emigrated to Halifax sometime after his marriage in 1825 to Mary Kelly (died 1875 in Halifax). Arthur and Mary arrived in Halifax when the city was undergoing a period of growth. The call must have gone out to carpenters and other tradesmen, some of whom came from Ireland to ply their skills in Nova Scotia. Thus my interest in the IFHC.

If you have found my web address you will not need to use the attached link to access my book (unless you prefer to purchase it through Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.) The Bookmad Magazine website will introduce you to other books in various fiction and non-fiction categories. It is worth reviewing from time to time.

Link to my book in Bookmad Magazine

Immigrant and Emigration References (2)

My intent is to post at least two items each month. The first few items or articles will summarize the research material I’m collecting online to support future writing projects. Today, I want to introduce you to an outstanding resource called canadiana.ca. The site is packed with books, journals, newspaper, government texts of all kinds, and letters from settlers to their families in the “Old Country” wherever that might have been. The returns using search terms like “Irish immigrants” “Irish immigration (or emigration)” “Irish in Nova Scotia” are enormous, in one case reaching 1978 pages with ten items per page. Not all are useful, as one might guess. But, if the search engine prioritizes the most significant texts, then it should be easy to pick out several useful resources. I vary my note taking between MS Word and a fountain pen (really!). In this case, I stopped writing when I reached eight looseleaf pages.

The earlies sources are from 1820 “America and the British Colonies: an Abstract of all the Most Useful Information” by William Kingdom, published in London. A second text was published in 1822 in Dublin, called “The Emigrants’ Guide to the Canadas” by William Watson. Twenty years later, Thomas Rolph published in London “Comparative Advantages Between the United States and Canada, for British Settlers.” There are many useful Guides – I intend to examine each one based on a timeline from earliest to latest and note the changes, perhaps culminating in a study of immigration to Canada by William George Smith, published in Toronto in 1920 and titled “A Study in Canadian Immigration.”

Canadiana.ca contains pre-Confederation documents by the various British government commissions established to monitor out-migration from Great Britain. Some of the documents I have skimmed provide information about ports of departure, number of registered emigrants, sickness and death reports, length of the crossing and port of arrival. If you are a family researcher you will already know that passenger lists were scanty during the nineteenth century. Yet, the statistical information will be useful to provide context to your research.

I used a basic key word search for this project. Canadiana also allows for a boolean search for those of you who have more experience with that feature. You can limit search results with a date range, a language feature (English preferred? but also French, Spanish, Russian, among others), and the ability to select newspapers, journals, letters, or monographs, for example.

May you have success in your research. Don’t forget to share new information about your discoveries with family and friends! This is genealogy, family history, social history, contextual history …


Internal and external migration references

One of the projects I intend to pursue deals with migration issues. I want to identify the internal migration patterns for my direct ancestors, beginning in 1755 at Annapolis Royal, Annapolis County, Nova Scotia. This will be relatively “easy” because I can draw on previous research using land records and census returns. Grand-uncles, grand-aunts, and their children moved from Weymouth to other parts of southwestern Nova Scotia, mainly within Digby County, and from there to Annapolis, Lunenburg, and Yarmouth counties. These, I can follow with land records and census returns. For both of these categories, local histories may prove useful. Thirdly, there is the question of out-migration, which receives serious, but inconsistent, academic attention, yet enough to produce some useful source material. In this case, I want to focus on movements from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Boston. Sources that come to mind are passenger manifests and immigration documents.

As I compile my source list for this project I will add new material to this blog title. My intent is to provide us with a guide that represents my research process, concluding with timelines, maps, and written material.

What sources can I rely on to document the movements of my direct Grant ancestors within Nova Scotia?

1) Nova Scotian and Canadian census returns: 1768, 1770, 1827, 1838, 1851, 1861, and 1871 through 1931.
2) Nova Scotia Archives: Land Grant Memorials, basically requests for land from individuals or groups of men.
3) FamilySearch: land records and probate files on microfilm which can be browsed online.
4) Local histories for Annapolis and Digby counties.

Using Google Scholar, I have found a few books and articles that will give context to my research:

1) The “Boston States”: Region, Gender, and Maritime Out-Migration, 1870–1930 From the book New England and the Maritime Provinces by Betsy Beattie.
2) Immigration to Atlantic Canada: Historical Reflections Reid, John G Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society Halifax Vol. 19, (2016): 38-53.
3) Loyalists and layabouts: the rapid rise and faster fall of Shelburne, Nova Scotia, 1783-1792 S Kimber Anchor Canada – 2010.
4) Settlement and ethnicity in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, 1753-1800: a history of the foreign-protestant community KS Paulsen – 1996 – search.proquest.com.
5) Population and settlement in Nova Scotia Peggie M. Hobson Pages 49-63 | Published online: 27 Feb 2008; Taylor Francis online; from “The Scottish Geographical Magazine” vol 70 No 2 Sep 1954.
6) Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society Volume 25, 2022, pp. 1-107: Emigration and the Limits of Public Policy in Quebec and Nova Scotia, 1867–1900″ Patrick Lacroix Read before the society October 21, 2020.

Many of you will know about the enormous free database developed by Internet Archive (www.archive.org). There are literally thousands of books and media sources available to read online, borrow, or download in a variety of formats. If I feel like browsing the database, I search using a single term, such as migration, immigration, Nova Scotia, or census, among others. There is an advanced search format that allows the user to enter more discrete terms, for example in line one, enter migration, and in line two enter Nova Scotia. That will bring up more than twenty books about migration to Nova Scotia. Note that some of the titles are repeated with different covers! Until a few days ago, I would annotate a search log to keep track of the books I use for my research. However, I have discovered a method of saving the title in a form provided by Internet Archive. Select the title and open the information page; find a series of choices opposite the title of the book (Add to List, Favorite, Share, Flag); choose “Add to List” and save the title, or create a subject folder, e.g. Nova Scotia – Education, or Nova Scotia – Immigration; and save the title. I now have about thirty categories, each with several titles saved in them. There are too many to enumerate here, but a future blog will cite those I found most useful.

The Ottawa Public Library in Ottawa, Ontario provides a multitude of books, journals, newspapers, and music and video sources. There are two Library Editions of genealogy websites, Ancestry (available for in-library use only) and MyHeritage (in-library and remote use). For my purposes, the Gale Academic OneFile has provided relatively few book references and journal articles to support my interest in migration studies. At the same time, a surprising number of articles about Acadians and African Nova Scotians were included in search results. A few of the migration results follow:

1) Calculated Kindness: Global Restructuring, Immigration and Settlement in Canada. Rose Baaba Folson, ed. Halifax: Fernwood, 2004. 172 pp. $17.95 US sc.

2) The Fault Lines of Empire: Political Differentiation in Massachusetts and Nova Scotia, ca. 1760-1830. By Elizabeth Mancke. (New York: Routledge, 2005. Pp. xi, 214. Cloth, $85.00; Paper, $27.95.)

3) Planters, paupers, and pioneers: English settlers in Atlantic Canada. By Lucille h. Campey. Toronto: Dundurn press, 2010. 470 pages. $35.00. Lucille Campey’s study of English emigration.

4) Cummins, Jim. “The Emigrant’s Guide to North America.” Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal 32, no. 2 (2000): 144+. Gale Academic OneFile (accessed April 15, 2024). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A82883518/AONE?u=otta35732&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=536142a0.

5) Royle, Stephen A., and Caitriona Ni Laoire. “‘Dare the boist’rous main’: the role of the Belfast News Letter in the process of emigration from Ulster to North America, 1760-1800.” The Canadian Geographer 50, no. 1 (2006): 56+. Gale Academic OneFile (accessed April 15, 2024). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A147200462/AONE?u=otta35732&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=01e5ea3d.

6) The Atlantic Region to Confederation. A History, ed. Phillip A. Buckner and John G. Reid (Toronto/Buffalo: U. of Toronto P./Acadiensis P., 1994; pp. xviii + 491).

7) Mainville, Curtis. “‘Our isolation is almost unbearable’: a case study in New Brunswick out-migration, 1901-1914.” Journal of New Brunswick Studies/Revue d’etudes sur le Nouveau-Brunswick [JNBS/RENB] 6, no. 2 (2015): 26+. Gale Academic OneFile (accessed April 15, 2024). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A439107338/AONE?u=otta35732&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=b8d3c21e.



Welcome to my first blog post!

This blog is associated with my author website www.georgeallengrant.com. If you read the page “About the Author” you will see that I am an “active septuagenarian”. I’m in my mid-seventies and entering a more precarious stage of life in terms of social, mental, and physical health. Of course, my posts will seldom be about those issues. They will share my thoughts about genealogy, family history, and the Grant families of southwestern Nova Scotia. Extend that range to New England and you will have an idea of the geographical extent of my research playground. Imagine the year 1755, ominous for my Acadian ancestors, memorable as the year my 5th great-grandfather (John Grant) was born in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, and historically opaque concerning the involvement of my 6th great-grandfather (David Grant) in the deportation of the Acadians.

I’ll be using this blog to interact with you about The Descendants of John Grant and Mary Sabean, expanding on some of the topics in the book and posting about some of the ideas and themes that occur to me as I continue my research. This is a great place for you to get to know me, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you, too. What did you think of The Descendants of John Grant and Mary Sabean? What questions do you have for me?

I have prepared a tentative list of projects to develop over the next few years. The following summaries will give you a general idea of what I will write about.

My Direct Family Line.

  1.  An Illustrated History of the Family of David and Susanna Grant. In this document, already in outline form, I will present the direct line of descent from David and Susanna to my father’s generation; by “illustrated” I mean maps, homes, crops, draft animals, and farm equipment. Those men and their spouses were farmers, adhered to the Baptist faith, and were often woodsmen, sometimes soldiers, but never sailors.
  2.  Religion in the Life of the Grant Family. This family of subsistence farmers and their families became part of the “wave” of Baptist churchgoers in Annapolis and Digby counties, Nova Scotia. During the time of John Grant and Mary Sabean, they were intimately connected to the rooting of the Baptist Church in Digby County.
  3. The Burial Locations of the Grants of Southwestern Nova Scotia. Boring, you say! An example of what I will profile here can be seen on FaceBook. Look at the Riverside Baptist Cemetery in Weymouth, Nova Scotia. Before I became entangled in the completion, editing, publishing, and marketing of my book, I wrote summaries of family members who are resting in this cemetery. For those of us with Grant family connections, this is the home cemetery of the family in Nova Scotia. For the cemeteries in Port Lorne, Nictaux, South Williamston, Paradise, and Bridgetown, I will outline their histories, family burials and biographical sketches, and current status (open or closed). When time permits, I would like to examine some of the cemeteries where distant cousins are buried in New England.
  4. My Military Heritage: Sketches of the military activities of the last four generations of my family.
  5. The Letters of Patrick Nowlan. An Irish immigrant from County Wexford, Patrick Nowland married my 5th grand-aunt, Susan Grant, the oldest daughter of John Grant and Mary Sabean. My interest in grand-uncle Patrick is to study the papers contained in the Library and Archives Canada Nowlan fonds, a series of letters written to and received from his family in Ireland. Basic research, social history, delving in archives!

Other Grants of Southwestern Nova Scotia.

  1. The Life and Legacy of Alexander and Sarah Grant. My intent with this project is to fill in some of the gaps in the history of this family. Alexander Grant was a Scottish soldier, farmer, and Loyalist – killed early in the Revolutionary War. Sarah Grant endured several years on Long Island, then removed to Annapolis Royal for a brief time. Although she died of exposure while en route to Saint John, New Brunswick to submit a claim for losses incurred, the Crown granted land near Weymouth, NS to her heirs. And there is more …
  2. The Loyalist Grants of Port Roseway (Shelburne), NS. They were part of a large group of Loyalists who settled around the promising harbour of Shelburne. The promise was unfulfilled. The Grants were among the many who moved on to less isolated areas of the Province and even returned to New England.
  3. The African Grants of Shelburne County. These families appear briefly in census returns in the late 1800s. I will explore their origins and history in southwestern Nova Scotia.
  4. The Grants of Granville Ferry. While doing research for my book, I came across a family of Grants who seem to have lived in British Columbia before going to Annapolis County. They were involved in shipping fruit from the small port of Annapolis Royal, built a warehouse near the single pier in town, and contributed to a railway spur line to the pier.
  5.  The Grant Families of Yarmouth, Yarmouth County. I have some relatives who moved from Weymouth to Yarmouth, a once-vibrant shipping centre during the Age of Sail. There are probably two other Grant families who settled in the town and surrounding area. I will explore their antecedents and history in the town.
  6.  Who was Mrs. Penuel Grant, Loyalist of Annapolis Royal? A “small” research project.

I will try not to stray from this project list. These eleven topics will keep me engaged for a number of years – count on it! As I research and learn, I will share this new knowledge with you. At the same time, I will share aspects of my genealogy experience, including research and educational sites, interesting Facebook groups and family history sites, and my successes and failures.

Stay with me! Stand fast! Allen

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome. My name is George Allen Grant, M.A., author of The Descendants of John Grant and Mary Sabean . I’m so happy to have you as a visitor to my blog about The Descendants of John Grant and Mary Sabean. This project is very special to me, and I hope to share some of that excitement with you here.

I’ll be using this blog to interact with you about The Descendants of John Grant and Mary Sabean, expanding on some of the topics in it and posting on some of the ideas related to my book. This is a great place for you to get to know me, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you, too. What did you think of The Descendants of John Grant and Mary Sabean What questions do you have for me? How do you relate to my book?

I’ll be returning here frequently with new posts and responses to feedback from you. Until next time, tell me a little bit about yourself.