Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Elizabeth Caroline 'Lizzie' Masters Ascher

Posting Member: Jenn
Topic: Heroes
Family Name Associations: Unrelated - Masters and Ascher, also spelled Asher

While we were in Niagara on the Lake we managed to get a fair amount of graves photographed in Saint Mark's Cemetery.  It's a beautiful old example of Ontario Church cemeteries just thriving with history.  In the back of the cemetery we came across a memorial with a wreath, which was rather odd because a lot of those memorials were so old.  The wreath was from the Polish Chambers of Congress, and we made a mental note to search up this woman when we got back home.

Research was the easy part, Elizabeth was a remarkable woman.  Writing a biography that reflected her works was a little more complex, but I think we've done it justice.  I'm including a copy of what we wrote here, because this woman was an amazing example of love and compassion, a true hero.


Elizabeth was the daughter of Margaret Clench and Joseph Masters, born at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. She had 4 brothers and two sisters, her family memorials are located in St. Mark's cemetery. In 1894 she was married to Frank Ascher, the pair had one daughter, Eleanor Frances Ascher who did not survive infancy. Frank Ascher was an American, he left Canada during the Spanish American War and never returned.

Elizabeth became devoted to public works. She was one of the founding members of the local Historical Association and served as Regent for 14 years. She co-founded and was Regent for 12 years of the Newark Chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire. She was Director of the Niagara Agricultural Society, of Board Member of the local Red Cross and co-founder of the Women's Hospital Aid. She was a board member of the Boy Scouts and Niagara High School Alumni. Beginning in 1904 she became a correspondent for the St. Catherine's Standard, she served as such for 37 years. Her articles appeared in Canadian and American Newspapers and the Niagara Historical Society's publications. She staged a press campaign on behalf of the Polish Army and Polish Nation when she became aware of the people's suffering during the First World War.


After the First World War an effort to set up the Polish Army Mobilization Camp in Niagara brought an influx of 5000 men who's goal was to help liberate Poland from oppression. The soldiers were outfitted and educated in the area and the area quickly took to their culture and dedication to their battle against the oppression of their home country.
Elizabeth quickly stood out, her dedication as a nurse during an outbreak of Spanish Flu in 1918-1919 endeared her to the Polish Soldiers, they called her the Godmother of their people and an Angel of Mercy. She established a Polish military cemetery for the victims of the outbreak at St. Vincent de Paul's Cemetery, across the street from where she would be buried in the Anglican St. Mark's Cemetery decades later. She was caretaker of the cemetery for her entire life, catering to the memories of those lost.


Elizabeth began organizing foreign aid for Polish children by 1918, one of the first checks written was by Elizabeth's niece, Margaret Masters. Goods and funds were collected for the Polish White Cross, which later became the Polish Red Cross, organized by Helena Paderewska. She was made a member of the Polish White Cross Society for life due to these efforts. She was awarded the Chevalier's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (Restored Poland) on 22 Oct 1922. She was granted the Haller Medal on 27 Nov 1923. In May 1923 she was awarded the Order of Miecze Hallerowskie, and in May 1926 she received the Cross of Merit. These decorations were the first of their kind to be awarded to a Canadian, and as of 1991 were the only to ever be awarded to a Canadian Woman.
Elizabeth continued to support the Soldiers and Children in Poland until her death in 1941 at 72 years of age.

We've managed to link Elizabeth to her family, her mother Margaret Anderson Clench Masters and father Joseph Masters on FindAGrave.com
Sources: Essay by Roman Baraniecki, Article by Karen Gibson published in the St. Catherines Standard 3 May 1991 and research completed by CSGS. Online resources and additional information available at Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library: www.notlpubliclibrary.org
Images from http://search.ourontario.ca/search

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Matriarchal Mystery

Posting Member: Jenn
Topic: The never ending mystery of Sage Tancke and DNA
Family Name Associations: Allen, Allan, Allyn, FitzAllan, Scott, Kimball, Tancke, & Lewen
Location: My very pretty office.
Mood: Festive.  I know it's early, but we've started decorating for the holidays already!

Female DNA testing has never been as exciting for me as Men's can be.  Finding your mtDNA might be interesting, but a male's Y-DNA is so likely traceable.  As far as learning more about your genealogy with DNA testing, I really feel like testing your male line is worth the money.
It's all based on Surnames.  Surnames follow through the man in most historic relationships, so for women there's often a huge lack of information leading to surname and parentage.  The fact that we have as much on my matriarchal line is purely due to diligence of seeking them out and a whole lot of luck - A lot of genealogy comes down to luck and good timing!  But not being able to really follow your female ancestors can be frustrating, and if you simply don't have a male in your line to test, well, extra frustrating.

We've had several conversations now about who exactly should be tested before the information in their cells is lost.  These tests are at least good $200 a pop, they go up to $400 for a complete marker analysis, so it's not like we can just test everyone.  Actually, finding descendants who want to pay their own way would be sweet!
Who would we like tested?

A McKenna Male, definitely, if we can find one who's willing.  There's only one male descendant left that I know of from Gran's line.  And O'Neill male would be equally as valuable to our research for the line of Mary O'Kane and James O'Neill - Actually, that might be our only way of confirming who that line of our O'Neills are.  I've got more than one line of O'Neill blood in me, so even comparing our Chicago based cousins to me hasn't been a huge help, beyond confirming what we already know.

Walker.  A Male Walker test would be like a Christmas present any day of the year.  Simply put, the line has died out except for one male descendant who was adopted.  He's about my age, but might not know he even has cousins.  The Walker line in our families has been blessed with amazing women, but women can't track or Y-DNA test.
If you're new to DNA - Women's mtDNA tests find their Mother's Mother's Mother's Mothers.  And all the way back, woman to woman.  Men's test allow pinpointing of the origins of the Surname and go back to Father's, Father's Fathers.  A Walker male's DNA would be able to confirm or deny Scottish heritage.  We'd finally know if the claims linking us to Stewarts of Appin were true.

We probably also need to test as direct of a descendant of Annie Stone's as possible.  The first time I viewed the mtDNA test as valuable was realizing it would be capable of proving links in England to relatives there.

A Male from the line of George Grant Gill...  That might be our only way of getting further back with that branch.  He's supposed to be from the Isle of Man originally, but we've never had luck with confirming it and we keep hitting brick walls at every turn.

There are other lines that might be able to benefit from it all.  We're really going to have to consider using this as a more viable tool.
Even so, once a DNA test is complete I'd still like the paperwork and the generation chart of traditional genealogy.

In my maternal line we've been stuck for ages now on the family of Margaret Lewen, daughter of Sage Tancke and Henry Lewen.  Admittedly, once you're back in 1607 you should just be grateful you can get that far back!  Even so, we still try and poke around seeking out any further information about the mysterious Sage.  A part of this struggle is an attempt to sort out exactly who these founding Americans were, as Royal Blood claims abound, proof would be nice.

The one actual document we have recording her name from 7 Feb 1607, Sage Tancke is married to Henry Lewens at St. Giles Cripplegate Church in London, England.

We confirmed 'Sage' by comparing the writer's 'S' to the other names on the page, including Alice Sheeres and Priscilla Sames.  Although we've been told that Sage's name is often reversed as Tancke Sage, we've been going on the presumption that her marriage record was correct.  Meaning, my oldest confirmed Matriarchal surname is Tancke.  We've also seen people write her name as Saye, but the 'g' of her name compares to the name 'Page' in the same document.  Above Sage's name you can see an example of the writer's 'y', his g and y letters are actually clearly different.

Tancke is coming up as a Germanic or Nordic name in most of my searchers.  Nothing has been forthcoming on who Sage is, how she got her lovely name, or who her parents were.  Such interesting puzzles and curiosities!

We'll be around working on the site for the next few weeks, and then uploading documents should being after the holidays.  Hope you're all doing well :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A beautiful day for Wreath Bearing.

Posting Member: Jenn
Topic: Remembrance Day Wreath for the British Home Children
Location: Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario

We had the most beautiful day for Remembrance Day this year, everything came together to make it such a special event.  I'll probably cherish the honour of being the British Home Children's wreath bearer for the rest of my life.  It's been a very busy, very challenging year in a lot of ways.  The project came to a point of completion, but it won't ever truly be complete.  Every few days we're taking a look at one file or another, trying constantly to go back over what we know, or locating shipping files to confirm another boy.

I'm going to repost a section of something I wrote this past weekend.

"I had to put as much work into these boys being recognized as I possibly could. I felt we, as a nation, had let them down by not remembering their stories, by not knowing their names. I refused to let the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the war pass without knowing who these boys were. I struggled with every file I had to set aside incomplete.

Some information I've forgotten, and some I can’t manage to forget.
Private John Henry Jones will never be far from my mind for every 11th of November for the rest of my life. Reading his physical description was a single, defining moment in my research. It explained in one line, everything that was wrong with child migration schemes. On the back page of this boy’s attestation papers it reads under a list of scars “Deformed ears from Frost Bite”.

British Home Children Soldiers were just boys. Some signed up too young. Some had wives, children or siblings. Some had absolutely nothing, not even their native land.
What all of these boys did was something so outrageously courageous that I stand in awe of them all the time, every day. They strapped on Canadian uniforms and they went back to the country that had sent them away. Then went home to defend the land and the freedom of the very people that used them as slaves. They gave everything when they were given nothing. They had no reason to fight, and yet they stood for us. They died for us."

I hope all of you managed to find the time yesterday to take a moment, to pay your respects to those who sacrificed so much for us in the past, who continue to do so today.
We will Remember them.