Beyond the Cenotaph: a 21st century commemoration


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An exploration of records from the First World War in relation to the Ontario town of Deseronto.

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  • Military, religious and patriotic themes in the order of service
  • Boy scouts, with Deseronto’s Post Office and the (current) Town Hall in the background.
  • Townspeople at the ceremony.
  • The Memorial was the gift of Thomas Carson Brown. He was born near Deseronto on 21 April 1870 and was a contractor who later lived in Schenectady, New York, and served as a Senator in the New York State Senate from 1925-1930. He died in 1952.
  • The memorial as it appears today (we can’t have any more wars: no room for them!). A personal as well as a community memorial.
  • Division is between non-Mohawk and Mohawk men. Except for Joseph Bernard Hill who gets listed among the non-Mohawk men (perhaps because he reached the rank of corporal?)
  • Felt it important to commemorate other men who signed up but weren’t killed in the war.
  • The first of the RFC men to die in Deseronto
  • The way this death was registered – the first time Dr Vandervoort had to certify this type of death. This is a postcard of Dr Vandervoort at the site of a crash.
  • From being a novelty, these accidents become more and more frequent, to the point where the death registers start to be dominated by the deaths of trainee pilots. This page is a good example, with three cadets’ deaths – one at Camp Mohawk, one drowning in the Bay of Quinte and one at Camp Rathbun. Indeed, in the last section on the registration form, where the immediate cause of death and its duration is recorded, one suspects that the writer is getting fed up of writing the word ‘same’ under each entry.
  • To access these public records without knowing how useful they are going to be. I only have a $500 budget for supplies – cant spend 2/5 of that on these records.

    I decided against using them – instead will provide a link to the records where I’ve been able to identify them.
  • Not quite the same as the list on the war memorial
  • I had three Mohawk men who weren’t on this list – sent those on to the MBQ
  • Colour-coded by year, chronologically arranged.
  • Research notes
  • Burial places in Europe
  • One Deseronto man buried yards from the house I grew up in!
  • Google calendar maps the dates of the various events: enlistments, conscriptions and deaths
  • In February 2014 I started compiling the data into an Excel spreadsheet, thinking about gathering some overall statistics from it.

    So I carried on with my Excel spreadsheet, but then in early April, when I started to do some simple calculations on the ages of the men who signed up, I discovered that Excel can’t deal with dates from before 1900. Which is a bit of a problem when pretty much every man on my list was born in the nineteenth century.
  • So I tried the data in a Google spreadsheet and that can cope fine with earlier dates. It also has the advantage of being something that is easy to share online and it comes with some pretty nifty mapping tools, too.
  • I wanted a picture to represent work. But actually the hard work was really compiling the data in the first place. Analyzing it is pretty straightforward.
  • The ‘Deserontonian Diaspora’.
  • The red section should read ‘drafted man’, really, as there was only one man who was drafted and who died during the war. And by now you won’t be surprised when I tell you that he was Mohawk man. His name was Harry Douglas Barnhardt, a 29 year-old steelworker.
  • You either died because you flew or you had flu (apologies!)
  • Actually the numbers will be a bit lower, because there’ll only be one post per day and sometimes men signed up on the same day.
  • Initially thought this project sounded promising – but tightly coupled with genealogy site – not sure how easy it will be to add information gleaned from other paywalled sites like Ancestry. Problem with hiding archival data behind paywalls.
  • Have to subscribe to get access to genealogical data and to create ‘communities’. Not really an option for Deseronto.
  • QR code suggestion
  • These were my particular intentions for the project: to pay respect those individuals who gave up their time and sometimes their lives to the war; to remind people about the War to end all Wars and the importance of recordkeeping in that process; and, most importantly, to directly relate this distant, European war, to the experiences of people in and from our small town.

    I will freely admit that the scope of this project did get a bit out of hand at times, but I hope the end result will be worth it!
  • Beyond the Cenotaph: a 21st century commemoration

    1. 1. Deseronto Archives: War memorial file
    2. 2. Major General Sir Archibald Cameron Macdonell Deseronto Archives: DESHIS-09-07.1
    3. 3. Order of Service
    4. 4. Deseronto Archives: YCLB-06-02
    5. 5. Deseronto Archives: DESHIS-06-07
    6. 6. Deseronto Archives: War memorial file
    7. 7. 34 men listed
    8. 8. 34 men commemorated on 1923 memorial • Starting point for 2013 research • Main resources used: • Canadian Great War Project: • Canadian Virtual War Memorial: virtual-war-memorial • Commonwealth War Graves Commission: • Library and Archives Canada – Soldiers of the First World War: war/first-world-war-1914-1918-cef/
    9. 9. Scope starts to expand… • Men who signed up in Deseronto but were not killed • Around 34 additional names • an important resource for finding out more about these men • Where they were after the war • Who they married • When they died
    10. 10. James Alex Kitchen • Only three Deseronto Post newspapers survive from the First World War • One had a photograph of a Deseronto man who had signed up… • …in Detroit…
    11. 11. Scope expands again… • To include men who gave Deseronto as their place of birth • Or Beseronto, Deseronte, Dessonto, Desnonto, Drseronto, Desesonento, Desoronto, Deseranto, Deseront, Deserontom, Destronto, Dezerento, Deserente and Dusmonts, Deserouto, Deseconto, Desertonto, Dserento, Desaronto, Doserento (according to Ancestry’s transcribers) • Around 160 additional names
    12. 12. …and again • With the pilots from 42 Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (based in Deseronto) who died in training • 53 additional men
    13. 13. More sources for locating RFC men • Canada, War Graves Registers (Circumstances of Casualty) • Searchable by unit (42 Wing, Deseronto) • Local newspaper reports • Local death registration records • Hastings County • Lennox & Addington County
    14. 14. The Daily Intelligencer [Belleville] 13 July 1917
    15. 15. Death registration entry Robert Charles Teasdall of Toronto, aged 19, Cadet in the Royal Flying Corps “Fracture of skull by fall from height with aeroplane”
    16. 16. Royal Flying Corps service records • UK National Archives • AIR 76 - Air Ministry: Department of the Master-General of Personnel: Officers' Service Records • All digitized and online • But…
    17. 17. • 53 Royal Flying Corps officers and men • 35 officers’ service records identified at TNA • 35 x £3.30 = £115.50 = $211.85
    18. 18. Another source of names
    19. 19. Yet another list of names… From the Deseronto Post, 20 September 1919 Of the 45 names, only six had already been identified. Some service records were not traceable, but another 24 names were added from this list
    20. 20. …and a few more… May 2014 MBQ Newsletter Another 35 Mohawk men added to the list
    21. 21. In total (so far…) • 294 individuals with a connection to Deseronto or the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory signed up or enlisted • 53 RFC men who lost their lives while attached to 42nd Wing • …ten times as many as are listed on the cenotaph!
    22. 22. Vague 2013 plan • To create a blog post on the 100th anniversary of the day each Deseronto man signed up or died • With links out to other online resources, including LAC’s CEF service files as they become available. • Encourage relatives of the men to contribute any information they might want to share • Not many photos, so use signatures from attestation papers as illustrations • To make a map of where the men are buried or commemorated in Europe
    23. 23. Research initially compiled in a Word document…
    24. 24. Associated files saved in Dropbox
    25. 25. Geographic context
    26. 26. A personal aside…
    27. 27. Planning blog posts
    28. 28. Example blog posts
    29. 29. Additional plans in 2014 • Gather the data together in a more useful form than the giant chronological Word document • Do some basic data analysis on it • Share the findings online and in local events
    30. 30. From Excel spreadsheet…
    31. 31. To Google Drive spreadsheet
    32. 32. Data wrangling Deseronto Archives: Floyd Marlin Collection
    33. 33. Deseronto cohort: 294 Fatalities: 42
    34. 34. Deseronto cohort: 294 Mohawks: 97
    35. 35. Total fatalities: 42 Mohawk fatalities: 22
    36. 36. 86% 90% 77%
    37. 37. Enlistment location Number of men Toronto, Ontario 43 Deseronto, Ontario 39 Kingston, Ontario 37 Belleville, Ontario 27 Camp Barriefield (Kingston), Ontario 20 Ottawa, Ontario 9 Valcartier, Quebec 9 Montreal, Quebec 8 Winnipeg, Manitoba 7 Vancouver, BC 6 Picton, Ontario 5 Barton, Ontario 4 Hamilton, Ontario 4 Midland, Ontario 4 Napanee, Ontario 4 Oshawa, Ontario 4 Brantford, Ontario 3 Niagara, Ontario 3
    38. 38. Enlistment locations for Deseronto men Year Population of Deseronto 1891 3,338 1901 3,534 1911 1,646
    39. 39. Occupations on signing up
    40. 40. First names
    41. 41. Surnames
    42. 42. Enlistment over the duration
    43. 43. Deaths over the duration Total non-RFC war deaths: 42 Total RFC war deaths: 53
    44. 44. RFC casualties’ birthplaces Canada 32 England 8 USA 7 Scotland 2 Unknown 4
    45. 45. Task ahead: blog all Deseronto WW1 enlistments, conscriptions and deaths Number of blog posts 2014 13 2015 68 2016 127 2017 60 2018 113 2019 1 2020 1 
    46. 46. Sharing… • Aside from the forthcoming blog posts, all data and findings are already shared online via Google Drive • Anyone can comment • Aggregation of similar data from other communities?
    47. 47. Lives of the First World War •
    48. 48. Summary of 1923 commemoration • Funded by wealthy former resident • Focused on those who died • Created a physical memorial • Had a narrative rooted in patriotism and religion • Featured the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery band • And a high-ranking army officer • Brought the community together
    49. 49. Still hope to bring the community together! 1923 2014-2018 Funded by wealthy former resident Mostly a volunteer effort Focused on those who died Focused on all who were affected Created a physical memorial Will create an online memorial Had a narrative rooted in patriotism and religion Will have a narrative based on personal experiences Featured the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery band And a Major General Probably won’t have a soundtrack  Or a high-ranking army officer
    50. 50. In summary • Freely-accessible online archival resources for Canadians’ First World War experiences are FABULOUS and getting better all the time: • Library & Archives Canada’s digitization of service records • Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ project [?] • Determine intention and scope of your project • If you don’t want it to get out of hand!
    51. 51. See the stories unfold at: Blog: Twitter: @DeserontoArch Facebook: