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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
23
Mon
7:30 pm The Spanish Flu
The Spanish Flu
Sep 23 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
The Spanish Flu @ Lansing United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
THE SPANISH FLU, TORONTO’S – CANADA’S FORGOTTEN PANDEMIC Speaker: Mike Clare The story of the Spanish Flu epidemic in Canada and Toronto is a forgotten one. Why? It has been called the most documented epidemic[...]

Courses starting & Workshops

Sep
24
Tue
6:30 pm Genealogy Resources in TPL’s Cat...
Genealogy Resources in TPL’s Cat...
Sep 24 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Genealogy Resources in TPL's Catalogue @ Toronto Reference Library, Learning Centre 1 | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
TUESDAY, September 24 Co-sponsored with the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at the Toronto Reference Library The Toronto Reference Library contains many excellent genealogy resources. This hands-on class will demonstrate how to use the Toronto[...]
Sep
26
Thu
4:00 pm Hands-On Criminal Justice Records
Hands-On Criminal Justice Records
Sep 26 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Hands-On Criminal Justice Records @ Archives of Ontario | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Hands-On Criminal Justice Records of 19th Century Ontario Family historians are always seeking records that will help us tell the story of our ancestors’ lives. We want more than just names, dates and places. But[...]
Oct
9
Wed
6:15 pm Library & Archives Canada: A Gol...
Library & Archives Canada: A Gol...
Oct 9 @ 6:15 pm – 8:15 pm
Library & Archives Canada: A Goldmine @ Toronto Reference Library
A GOLDMINE for FAMILY RESEARCHERS: LIBRARY & ARCHIVES CANADA Wednesdays, October 9, 16 and 23 (3 week course) Co-sponsored with the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at the Toronto Reference Library. Registration is required. Registration[...]
Oct
18
Fri
2:00 pm Try Your Hand at Genetic Genealogy
Try Your Hand at Genetic Genealogy
Oct 18 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Try Your Hand at Genetic Genealogy @ Lansing United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Intensive Hands-on Session:  Try Your Hand at Genetic Genealogy with Diahan Southard Working in pairs or small groups you will get a chance to take a DNA case step-by-step to learn how to explore your[...]
Oct
19
Sat
8:30 am Grow & Organize Your DNA Network
Grow & Organize Your DNA Network
Oct 19 @ 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Grow & Organize Your DNA Network @ Lansing United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
Workshop: Grow & Organize Your DNA Network with Diahan Southard – Your DNA Guide Join us for a full day with Diahan Southard “Your DNA Guide” the internationally known speaker who can help you organize[...]

Other Events

Aug
7
Wed
7:30 pm Toronto History Lecture
Toronto History Lecture
Aug 7 @ 7:30 pm
THE 2019 TORONTO HISTORY LECTURE Kicking the Cultural Traces: James McCarroll in Pre-Confederation Toronto Speaker: Michael Peterman The lecture is free, but registration is required. Click here for more information and to reserve your space[...]

Did you know?

That Toronto Branch OGS has more than 600 members? That members get a discount on publications, and course and workshop registration fees?