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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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7:00 pm Annual General Meeting
Annual General Meeting
May 31 @ 7:00 pm
TORONTO BRANCH OGS ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING Access to the meeting is limited to current Toronto Branch members. If you are a member, please refer to the AGM package you will receive either by email or[...]
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Pearson’s Opinions
May 31 @ 8:00 pm
Pearson's Opinions @ WEBINAR | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
WHAT ONE MAN’S PREOCCUPATION WITH DEATH CAN TELL US ABOUT EARLY TORONTO On 15 December 1853, William Henry Pearson took up a new and oddly macabre hobby. In a new notebook, he wrote out the[...]
Jun
28
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7:30 pm Hiding Out in the Open
Hiding Out in the Open
Jun 28 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Hiding Out in the Open @ WEBINAR | Toronto | Ontario | Canada
HIDING OUT IN THE OPEN: DISCOVERING LGBT FAMILY HISTORY You may have heard family stories about an relative who was “different” or perhaps you’ve discovered someone who simply “disappeared.” Have you considered the possibility that[...]

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7:30 pm Uncovering Unusual Lives
Uncovering Unusual Lives
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UNCOVERING UNUSUAL LIVES: FOUR CASE HISTORIES This June, we invite you to join us for a special four-session lecture series. In Uncovering Unusual Lives, four seasoned researchers explore the stories of intriguing and uncooperative subjects.[...]
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