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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

7:30 pm Records of Migration at the AO
Records of Migration at the AO
Mar 23 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Records of Migration at the AO @ Lansing United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
RECORDS OF MIGRATION AND SETTLEMENT AT THE ARCHIVES OF ONTARIO: Speaker: Jane E. MacNamara Since its founding, Ontario has been involved in supporting and promoting settlement. This lecture will look at the major groups of[...]
7:30 pm Closing the Loop
Closing the Loop
Apr 27 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Closing the Loop @ Lansing United Church | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
CLOSING THE LOOP: THE LONG JOURNEY TO RECONNECT WITH A UKRAINIAN FAMILY Speaker: Terry Maurice Researching Eastern European genealogy presents many daunting challenges to the family historian. Unfamiliarity with the languages, history and geography of[...]

Courses starting & Workshops

6:30 pm Genealogy Resources in TPL’s Cat...
Genealogy Resources in TPL’s Cat...
Mar 25 @ 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Genealogy Resources in TPL's Catalogue @ Toronto Reference Library, Learning Centre 1 | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
WEDNESDAY, March 25, 2020 Co-sponsored by Toronto Public Library. The Toronto Reference Library contains many excellent genealogy resources. This hands-on class will demonstrate how to use the Toronto Public Library’s online catalog to find items[...]
10:00 am TRL Genealogy Collection Tour
TRL Genealogy Collection Tour
Apr 23 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
TRL Genealogy Collection Tour @ Toronto Reference Library, 2nd Floor | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
This tour is now full.  Please email us at to be put on the waiting list. TOUR OF THE GENEALOGY COLLECTION AT THE TORONTO REFERENCE LIBRARY Co-sponsored with the Humanities and Social Sciences Department[...]

OGS Conference & Family History Show, June 5 to 7, Hamilton

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Did you know?

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