Jann Arden is having a moment. Adding a hit TV show to her roster of growing talents, she has given Canadians yet another reason to be proud that she is a fellow Canuck. And this Canada Day, genealogy research has revealed that her ties to this country go deep. Ancestry family history researchers have combed through historical records to discover that not only does Arden have musical roots, but also familial ties to the founding of our great nation.

Jann’s paternal great-grandfather Joseph H. Ellison as one of the early pioneers of Cardston, Alberta. One of twelve children, Joseph was born in Utah in 1864, before emigrating to Canada with his wife Lavinia, two children and other families in 1889. The hard, overland journey took three months, detailed in a historic Lethbridge Herald article from 1953 celebrating Joseph’s 89th birthday: ‘the women drove covered wagons and the men drove cattle’.


Joseph H. Ellison (featured top right) in article published in
Lethbridge Herald, 6 May 1953; accessed via newspapers.com

The Ellison family took up a homestead just south of Cardston, and Joseph went on to become a foreman at the Knight Ranching Company, ‘doing a lot of riding’, before going on to carve out a path as a successful ‘farmer, rancher and sheepman (sic)’ and earning a reputation as an ‘esteemed pioneer of Cardston and district.’

As well as describing Joseph’s life story, the article, accessed via newspapers.com includes a photo of him (surrounded by four generations of his family. At the time of the article (1953) he had eleven children, 48 grandchildren, 60 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. Jann is one of Joseph’s great-grandchildren, but not one of the two mentioned – she had not yet been born in 1953.


Music in the genes:

In addition to her strong Canadian roots, Ancestry also uncovered strong musical ties in Arden’s family tree suggesting that her love for singing may descend from her Welsh roots. Hyrum E. Richards, Arden’s paternal great-grandfather, was born in Swansea, Wales in 1853 and according to his obituary from December 1929, ‘The Welsh talent for singing has been show in the lives of nearly all his family, particularly the girls, who have been prominent members of the Aetna choir and have helped this choir win several trophies.’


Obituary of Hyrum E. Richards, published in Calgary Herald, 19 Dec 1929; accessed via newspapers.com

Carrying the performing arts mantle further through the branches of the Arden family tree, the singer’s maternal grandmother Clara Grace Albers wrote a letter to “Uncle Tom” (published in a 1921 Edmonton newspaper) at the age of eight –  sharing with pride how she participated in her school’s Christmas concert, and was gifted a string of pearls during the Holiday season. Uncle Tom’s reply? ‘Here Aunt Polly has just lost [a string of pearls] and says I have to buy her another, what do you think of that?’.

Clara’s letter to Uncle Tom, published in the
Edmonton Bulletin, 12 Feb 1921; accessed via newspapers.com




Bryony Partridge

Bryony is the International PR Manager for Ancestry where she implements strategic communications and social media programs that bring increased media awareness for the company.