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A soldier found… and a family mystery solved

Thanks to two determined Toronto Branch members, a Scottish family’s long search for a lost relative has come to an end… and a First World War gunner has been honoured with a military headstone at an east-end Toronto cemetery, nearly 100 years after his death.

In January 2016, a query arrived on the desk of Sue Henderson, who manages the Genealogy Room of the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries, from a Reverend Harold Steven, of Bearsden, Scotland. For decades, Reverend Steven had known only that his father’s older brother Ian Hector Steven had gone to Canada, had been wounded in the war, had married and had died shortly afterwards. Reverend Steven had recently confirmed that his uncle had died in Toronto in 1918 and he wanted to find out where he was buried. Sue checked the Mount Pleasant Group records, and he wasn’t there, so she reached out to her fellow Branch member Heather Ioannou for help, and together they took up the challenge. It wasn’t long before their search led them to an unmarked grave at St John’s Norway Cemetery, where Ian Hector was interred along with his wife Evie.

But Sue and Heather didn’t stop there. They continued to fill in the gaps in Ian Hector’s story, using their genealogical skills to scour vital and military records and war diaries for evidence. They learned that he had emigrated to Canada from Scotland in May 1913, and had been barely in his 20s when war broke out. He had been among the first to enlist with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In early 1915, he had been severely wounded and had been shipped home to military hospital In Toronto. He and Evie had married in August 1916, but had both died, childless, within days of each other, just two years later. The immediate cause was the Spanish Flu, but Sue and Heather were able to gather enough documentation to satisfy the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that Ian Hector’s war wounds had contributed to his death. This meant that he was entitled to be officially recognized as a casualty of the Great War.

Wreaths and Canadian flag at headstone

Headstone for gunner Ian Hector Steven in St John’s Norway Cemetery

The final chapter in this story was written on Sunday 7 May 2017, when Reverend Steven, Sue, Heather and other representatives of Toronto Branch gathered at the site of Ian Hector’s grave for a military ceremony, the consecration of a CWGC headstone engraved with his name, and a celebration of his life.

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Toronto Branch Meetings

Sep
28
Mon
7:30 pm Debt, Drunk & Disorderly: Ontari...
Debt, Drunk & Disorderly: Ontari...
Sep 28 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Debt, Drunk & Disorderly: Ontario Jail Records @ WEBINAR | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Debt, Drunk & Disorderly, Vagrancy, Prostitution, Theft, Assault, Insanity: Are You Sure Your Ancestors Were Never in Jail? No one wants a criminal at the dinner table, but finding one in your family tree can[...]
Oct
26
Mon
7:30 pm Researching Imperial Soldiers
Researching Imperial Soldiers
Oct 26 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Researching Imperial Soldiers @ WEBINAR | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Researching Imperial Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the First World War When the First World War broke out in August 1914, Canada was immediately involved as a Dominion of the British Empire. Tracing the history[...]
Nov
23
Mon
7:30 pm Great Moments in Genealogy
Great Moments in Genealogy
Nov 23 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Great Moments in Genealogy @ WEBINAR | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
In keeping with tradition, a number Toronto Branch members will be sharing “great moments” in their family history research in a series of short presentations. This year because of the global pandemic we are reaching[...]

Courses starting & Workshops

Oct
15
Thu
2:00 pm Understanding Ontario Land Regis...
Understanding Ontario Land Regis...
Oct 15 @ 2:00 pm – Oct 29 @ 3:30 pm
Understanding Ontario Land Registry Records @ THREE-SESSION ONLINE COURSE | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Three-session online course: October 15, 22 and 29. $30 OGS members / $35 non-members Despite the impending closure of Land Registry Offices, Ontario land registry records are becoming more available than ever before—particularly for researchers[...]
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That Toronto Branch OGS has more than 500 members? That members get a discount on course and workshop registration fees?