Guest blogger and Ancestry Canada Advisory Board Member: Dwayne Meisner
My grandmother got me interested in our family history at a very early age. Every time I visited, she was always telling stories about her family. When I grew up and she was in her mid 70s, she decided it was time to sell her home, and move in with family to make things easier for her. I spent six weeks with her, cleaning, packing and painting. Every night we would relax and talk. She told me so many family stories and knew so many names and dates, and I decided to put pen to paper and start recording them for posterity. One story she liked to tell was about her brother and his wife and how they got together, and I was able to uncover more of his story through Ancestry’s records.
The Noonan Family
Her older brother, Norman, was born in 1899, in Hastings, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia. The family home was built by their father, Albert Noonan, and is still standing to this day. It was still lived in by family members until the late 1990’s.
Albert and his wife, Dollie Crandall, raised seven children in this home – my grandmother was the youngest. Albert was a descendant of Irish immigrants who came to New Brunswick to escape the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840’s. Albert was studying to be a Catholic Priest at the seminary in Sackville, New Brunswick. Dollie was of Baptist faith. He abandoned the idea of being a priest once he met Dollie and he would walk the nine miles (about 14.5km) from Sackville to Hastings to court her. They married in July, 1897. Albert worked as a farmer, engineer, and as a sawyer at the local sawmills in the area.
Dollie’s older sister, Frances Belle, married Isaac Oran Atkinson and they emigrated to the United States in 1905, according to the 1920 US census. The 1910 US census lists Oran as an alien. His wife’s status is not given.
Oran & Francis had a daughter, Etta Maude, who was born in Aberdeen, Chehalis County, Washington, on December 11, 1906. In the 1910 US census, the family is still living in Aberdeen, and Albert Noonan is living with them and working as a laborer in a saw mill. He arrived in January 1909. Albert had returned home to Canada before the 1911 City Directory was printed and before the 1911 census of Canada was taken. By the 1920 US census, the Atkinson family had moved to Oregon and were living in The Dalles, Wasco County. Albert never returned to the US and by the 1921 census, Albert, his son, Norman, and his brother-in-law, Albert Skov, were living and working at a sawmill in Oxford Junction, Cumberland County. Albert’s occupation is listed as a millwright, and Norman as a sawyer.
A Fateful Journey
In October 1923, Norman travelled to visit the Atkinson family. He took the Canadian Pacific Railways train from Amherst to Yahk, British Columbia, and entered the US via the Eastport, Idaho border crossing. He arrived on October 23 and His final destination was Sands Valley, Oregon. He listed his Aunt, Mrs. Oran Atkinson as his contact and he planned to stay for four months. He worked in the woods throughout the winter, harvesting logs.
By this time, Etta was a grown woman of 17 years and Norman was 24. Love blossomed between them, and when it was time for Norman to go home to Hastings, he brought Etta with him. He bought an old Ford Model “T” and drove from Oregon to Nova Scotia. It took six weeks! Back then there were no Interstate Highways in the US, and definitely no Trans-Canada Highway. It is uncertain which route they took, because there are no records on Ancestry showing where they crossed the border into Canada. This may be because they used one of the many border crossings that were not monitored at that time. Ancestry lists crossings from the US to Canada, but they do not appear.
Life in Nova Scotia
Norman and Etta were married November 18, 1925. They raised five children in Hastings, in a home he and his father built just down the road from the family home above. He was a well-known farmer and delivered the mail on Rural Route 5 for about 35 years, retiring in 1969. He was the Liberal Candidate in the 1964 Provincial Election and he represented the area on county council for 12 years, serving for a period as deputy warden and on the school and hospital boards. He was involved in obtaining the former Hastings Telephone Co. for the area and was a member of Amherst Co-op. He was an avid outdoorsman, hunter, and fisherman and was a gunsmith. Norman died on January 5, 1991. Etta died January 18, 1990, so they were married for 65 years.
Searching Ancestry for the above records proved to be a bit of a challenge in some cases. You simply have to remember that not all the names may be spelled correctly, so you may need to use the wild cards, such as “?” and “*” to help find the records. When you do find the correct record, always be sure to submit a correction to help others. The corrections will allow these records to appear in the search results.
Dwayne has lived in Halifax County all his life, and spent 30 years of his career as an electronics technician, which led him into computers. He became interested in genealogy 40 years ago after spending some time helping his grandmother painting and cleaning her home – and listening to her stories about her family in the evenings. He plotted her stories into a family tree (on a piece of butcher’s paper!) and years later, using archives and online resources such as Ancestry, was able to validate them. Taking an AncestryDNAⓇ test, he was also able to prove that she was right about having “Spanish Blood” somewhere in her family line. Dwayne has had his own genealogy website since 2003 and also administers/co-admins several genealogy groups on Facebook. He lives with his wife Francine on the Eastern side of Halifax Harbour with their four cats and a budgie.