genealogy research

Niagara Falls: Not Just for Honeymooners—Also, for Genealogists!

Our recent trip to Niagara Falls was not for “the honeymoon we never had,” but to learn more about my only Canadian ancestor—GGG Grandfather Captain Robert Henry Dee, Esquire—who immigrated to Upper Canada (now Ontario) c. 1819. Robert Henry was born c. 1788 to Thomas and Anne Dee, He was baptized on 2 April 1788 in Weyhill, Hampshire County on the southern coast of England.[1]


Capt. Robert H. Dee Commissariat Uniform

Captain Dee served as the Deputy Commissariat in the Napoleonic Wars for fourteen years. “As Commissariat, Captain Dee was in charge of military supplies,” responsible for overseeing military food and equipment.”[2] He was also aide-de-Camp, or personal assistant, to General Sir Peregrine Maitland. They served together in the Peninsular War and possibly at the Battle of Waterloo.[3] Captain Dee married Elizabeth Ottley (1796-1876) on 31 March 1819 at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Thetford, Norfolk, England.[4] She was the daughter of Matthew and Elisabeth (Hill) Ottley.[5] One year later they followed Maitland to Upper Canada, now Ontario.







In 1818 General Maitland was summoned to Stamford, Upper Canada to serve as lieutenant governor until 1828.[6] As aide-de-camp to Maitland, Captain Dee joined him about 1819. On 2 November 1824 he purchased the 100-acre lot no. 56 on the Portage Road “that was part of one of John Burch’s Crown Grants.”[7] He then donated 3.5 acres off “the western extremity of the Dee farm” for the Stamford Green, the only village green in Canada. The Dee family kept this land open “for the benefit and enjoyment of the public,” from 1821 until 1909. Stamford Green is now controlled by a Board of Trustees.[8]

Stamford Green
Church of St. John the Evangelist

On 20 September 1820 Mr. R. H. Dee also donated the land for the construction of the Old St. John’s Anglican Church. Building began in 1821, and it was consecrated in 1825.[9] In 1827 he donated more land to the church for  a church yard and burial ground.[10] Because of the donations of land, an additional 25 pounds, and a “wooden armchair used in the vestries,” a window was dedicated to “commemorate the liberality of Robert Henry Dee and Elizabeth Dee to this Church.”[11] An historical marker also commemorates his “additional financial support and gifts of land and furnishings” to the church.[12]


Board of Health Order
Order to Create a General Board of Health

After his military career, Robert Henry Dee Esquire remained involved in the community. On 23 September 1822, Robert and six others joined the Dalhousie [Masonic] Lodge in Niagara.[13] According to an 1824 document signed by four of the members, including R. H. Dee, the lodge closed “from want of funds till more advantageous circumstances arise.”[14] On 25 June 1832, Robert Henry Dee was present at a Special Session that created a General Board of Health in the Town of Niagara. This Order “coincided with the cholera epidemic of 1832 and was likely created in an attempt to control the spread of the disease.”[15]





Robert Henry was possibly in poor health, as he also wrote his will three days later on 28 June 1832.[16] In October 1833, he also wrote that he was not well.[17] He died at the young age of 46 on 11 November 1833 at Stamford. Robert left seven children under age fourteen with his wife, Elizabeth, who was two months pregnant. He was buried in the family plot at the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Also buried there are Elizabeth (d. 1876), father-in-law, Matthew Ottley (d. 1845), and children Frances Ann, Harriet Martha, and John Matthew, MD.[18]

Dee Cemetery Plot, Front Left in Church Yard & Burial Ground

The house which Captain Dee built c. 1824, now 3252 Portage Road, was later enlarged.[19] All eight of Robert and Elizabeth’s children were likely born in Stamford: William Hornblow (c. 1820-1875), my GG grandfather; Francis Ottley (1821-1892); Henry Ontario (1823-1904); Thomas Wicken (1825-1897), who married Julia Hamilton from Niagara on the Lake and likely introduced William to his future wife in Wisconsin; Frances Ann (1828-1900); Robert Hill (1829-1908); Harriet Martha (1832-1909); and John Matthew, MD (1834-1913), born just seven months after his father’s death.

Captain Robert Henry, Esquire & Elizabeth (Ottley) Dee House, Portage Road

While walking around this property and photographing the house, I was lucky enough to meet Bev, the home’s current owner. Because she was leaving, we exchanged business cards and promised to email each other. Three days later, I received an email from her husband, Steven, sorry that we missed each other. He also invited us back to help celebrate the 200th “birthday” of the Dee house this summer. As they have also been researching this family, I sent him my Robert Henry Dee family research. Although not blood relatives, we share a family, and are now house relatives.

[1] “England, Hampshire Bishop’s Transcripts 1680-1892,” database, FamilySearch, Robert Henry Dee, son of Thomas and Anne Dee, Weyhill.

[2] Also, “3227 Portage Rd. Originally Built by Captain Robert H. Dee,” Historic Niagara Collections, photograph and description. For fourteen years, see Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865, Robert Henry Dee, Stanford, 1829, vol. 159, Bundle D-16, Petition no. 20, RG1 L3, microfilm C-1876, digital images 152-155; Library and Archives of Canada.

[3] “Commissariat Uniform of Captain Robert Henry Dee, c 1819,” sign describing Dee-Maitland relationship, Niagara Falls Museum, Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.

[4] “England Select Marriages, 1538-1973,” digital images, Ancestry, Norfolk Church of England Registers, Dee-Ottley, 31 March 1819; Norfolk Record Office, Norwich, Norfolk, England.

[5] “England Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” transcript, Ancestry, Elisabeth Ottley, b. 5 Oct 1796, bap. 30 Oct 1796, parents Matthew and Elisabeth Ottley.

[6] George A. Seibel, “Stamford Green,” The Niagara Portage Road: A History of the Portage on the West Bank of the Niagara River (City of Niagara Falls, Canada: 1990), 265.

[7] George A. Seibel, “Stamford Green,” The Niagara Portage Road: A History of the Portage on the West Bank of the Niagara River (City of Niagara Falls, Canada: 1990), 265. Also, “3227 Portage Rd. Originally Built by Captain Robert H. Dee,” Historic Niagara Collections, photograph and description. Also, Stamford Twp., Welland Co. Deeds, Old Series, 1796-1832, A:332-33, no. 6643, microfilm GS2893; Archives of Ontario, Toronto.

[8] George A. Seibel, “Stamford Green,” The Niagara Portage Road: A History of the Portage on the West Bank of the Niagara River (City of Niagara Falls, Canada: 1990), 265.

[9] Frank Goulding, 150 Years of Christian Witness, 1820-1970: Church of St. John The Evangelist (Stamford, 1970), 22-23, deed p. 26. Also, Donna M. Campbell, Church of St. John the Evangelist (Stamford) (Ontario, Canada: Ontario Genealogical society, undated), 1.

[10] Stamford, Niagara District, instrument no. 7353, Robert Henry Dee to Sir Peregrin Maitland for the Church of England church yard and burial ground, FHL microfilm GS 2893. Also, Stamford Twp., Welland Co., Old Series, 1796-1832, A: pp cut off, no. 7353, microfilm GS2893; Archives of Ontario, Toronto.

[11] Frank Goulding, 150 Years of Christian Witness, 1820-1970: Church of St. John The Evangelist (Stamford, 1970), 22, 28, 34.

[12] Ontario Heritage Foundation Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, “Church of St. John the Evangelist” marker, Portage Road, Stamford.

[13] “England, United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Registers, 1751-1921,” registry image, Ancestry, Robert Henry Dee, Esquire, joined 23 Sep 1822, p. 20. These members were “Erased by Grand Lodge 3 Sep 1864.”

[14] Janet Carnochan, “Freemasons,” History of Niagara (In Part) (Toronto: William Briggs, 1914), 123.

[15] “Order to Create a General Board of Health I the Town of Niagara, June 25, 1832: Brock University Special Collections & Archives,” digital image, Our Ontario, Present—Robert Henry Dee.

[16] Lincoln Co. Surrogate Court estate files, RG 22-234, alphabetically filed, Robert Henry Dee will, 28 Jun 1832; FHL microfilm MS 8409; Ontario Archives

[17] Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865, Robert Henry Dee, Stanford, 1829, vol. 160, Bundle D-18, Petition no. 50, RG1 L3, microfilm C-1877, digital images 188-190; Library and Archives of Canada.

[18] Donna M. Campbell, “Cemetery Transcriptions,” Church of St. John the Evangelist (Stamford) (Ontario, Canada: Ontario Genealogical society, undated), 2.

[19] “3227 Portage Rd. Originally Built by Captain Robert H. Dee,” Historic Niagara Collections, photograph and description.

My Dive into Proofing and Editing

This past spring, Lois Kleinhenn Lanier asked me to help proof and edit her new book, Descendants of Valentine Bohn (1793-1854) and His Wives Barbara Strickler (1796-1837) & Elizabeth Bastian Bostwick (1809-1851). I’ve proofread many reports, articles, and other written narratives, but this is the first time that I have been asked to proof an entire book. And I dove in headfirst to this amazing opportunity!

Lois and I partnered for about five months to bring this work to her publisher. My role was to make editorial suggestions, but credit for the final product goes to the author. Lois worked tirelessly for many years, researching her family and putting her findings in writing—in 384 pages of writing to be exact. Her Bohn family history begins in Pennsylvania, but quickly moves to many states west of the Mississippi. She has carefully researched eight generations of her family, documented by almost 3600 foot notes, using a variety of original sources, and including an extensive index of names.

Lois Lanier handed me an unexpected educational opportunity. She also wrote a kind recommendation: “Pam was editor for my book, Descendants of Valentine Bohn . . . . She provided invaluable assistance on appropriate genealogical formatting. She provided thorough feedback and constructive criticism. She was accessible and always met deadlines. I look forward to working with her again.”

The feeling is mutual, Lois!

Vacationing with Your Ancestors – With the Help of a Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA)

It’s that time of year when we all begin planning and looking forward to summer vacations. And if you’re like me, you try to schedule at least one trip around researching some of your ancestors in a really great place—and everyone in Franklin County, Pennsylvania hopes your ancestors lived here—and that you’ll be visiting us soon!

To help prepare for your trip, check out our Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program through the Franklin County Visitors Bureau (FCVB). This year, the FCVB invested in this nationwide program whose objective is “to increase regional tourism by inspiring front-line employees and volunteers to turn every visitor encounter into a positive experience.” So how does a CTA fit into a genealogy vacation?

Franklin County’s First CTA Training







My hope is that by becoming a CTA, I can make every researchers’ visit to Franklin County the most fulfilling it can be. I do this by studying all aspects of Franklin County, to be the go-to source for finding Pennsylvania ancestors. I’ve learned through experience that my most successful trips were those where I contacted area experts who helped guide my research. Rather than using the hit-and-miss method when I wasn’t familiar with county towns and townships, these knowledgeable people pointed me to the most important repositories and sights, such as:

  • Courthouses & Archives
  • Historical Societies & Libraries
  • Ancestral Homes & Farms
  • Schools
  • Businesses
  • Churches
  • Funeral Homes & Cemeteries

Besides giving directions, locals also know what records each repository may hold that will helpful when researching your family history. We also know the best and most convenient lodging, restaurants, and other non-genealogy things to do (for any family members who might not be into the research thing).

So when planning your “family” vacation, don’t forget to contact someone who will make sure you spend your time as efficiently and productively as possible. In Franklin County, it’s definitely a CTA—and it could be me!

Janet Pollard, Franklin County Visitor’s Bureau, and a new CTA


You Always Remember Your First Time. . . .

Your First Franklin County Genealogy Workshop, Of Course!

Yes, it’s over *sad face* but it was so much fun! A great group attended our first “Finding Family in Franklin County” genealogy workshop. Because of their honest feedback, I am calling this our Pilot Program. I especially enjoyed catching up with everyone at breakfast and dinner. My first question was always—hesitantly—“Did you find any new records?” And the answer from everyone was, “YES!” Someone even found a real live cousin!

The attendees from Virginia, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh checked into the Mercersburg Inn at noon on Wednesday. That afternoon, we presented three 45-minute sessions:

Wednesday night, we met for dinner at the James Buchanan Pub and Restaurant for great conversation and discussion of plans for Thursday—where people going and what they were looking for.

Justin McHenry with Bill & Nancy at the Franklin County Archives

On Thursday morning we met for breakfast to give everyone an encouraging send-off. Individuals went to the Conococheague Institute in Welsh Run, Fendrick Library in Mercersburg—actually 2 people went there Wednesday before and after dinner—the Franklin County Historical Society and of course, the much heralded Franklin County Archives. Coincidentally, everyone was researching in the south-western part of the county, so they could discuss where they were going and what resources they were looking for. As I checked in at the various repositories, it was evident that everyone was doing fine, and appreciated the time to research on their own. We met again for dinner and to share what everyone found. Justin McHenry at the Archives was clearly the star of the day, finding records that others were not aware existed.

Jean working at the Franklin County Historical Society

On Friday morning, at our final meal together, the group openly shared their thoughts on the workshop. This was a true debrief of what everyone liked and what could be improved for next time—and there WILL be a next time! Because of the great relationships we developed in three short days, we got excellent feedback on what to continue and what to add. Some of the suggestions were to include historic tours as an option, rotate the venue around the county, discuss more about cemeteries and church records, and include more “locals” from the genealogy community—all ideas that we will definitely look at incorporating into the next session.

But mostly there was praise for the workshop:

“This workshop would benefit beginning researchers as well as more experienced researchers because we could choose What and Where to research and go at our own pace. The discussions about the local repositories and what they offer was the jumping off point for us to explore what interested us. Pam was an excellent facilitator to point us in the most advantageous direction for our personal research goals.”

I couldn’t have worked with a better team. Thank you Janet and Justin—and my advisors!!

Me with my group of “Advisors”

After the group picture—it’s what we genealogists do—I thought everyone would head home, but I was wrong. After checking out, everyone went on another excursion, either to a repository or sight-seeing around the county. And I went home, satisfied that we did what we set out to do—help others Find Family in Franklin County.

Finding Family in Franklin County – June 2017 Workshop and Getaway!

In less than two months, I will be collaborating with several people who share an interest and expertise in Franklin County, Pennsylvania genealogy. We are joining forces to put together the first Franklin County Genealogy Workshop (and Retreat). We’ve added “Retreat” because of the beautiful home-base for this workshop – the amazing Mercersburg Inn in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. Jim and Lisa McCoy, owners of this magnificent bed and breakfast have given us special rates for this event and will serve up breakfast and dinner for two days!

The Mercersburg Inn

Besides meeting others researching ancestors in Franklin County, we will answer your questions such as:

  • When was Franklin County formed?
  • What if my ancestors were living in Franklin County before it was a County?
  • Why did people move here and why did they leave?
  • What original records are available and where are they?
  • What are Orphans’ Court Records and why should I look for them?
  • How do I find my ancestors’ cemeteries?
  • What research options are available to me after I return home?


Check out the details:

The Schedule:

Wednesday afternoon, June 21:

  • 1:00pm Check-in
  • Interactive Presentations:
    • 1:30 The Genealogical History of Franklin County – Janet Pollard, Franklin County Visitors Bureau
    • 2:30 Original Records, In and Around Franklin County – Justin McHenry, Franklin County Archives
    • 3:30 A Guide to Franklin County Repositories – Pam Anderson, Anderson CoGen
  • 6:00pm Dinner

Thursday, June 22:

  • 8:00am Breakfast
    • 9:00am-4:00pm Research and lunch on your own
  • 6:00pm Dinner

Friday morning, June 23:

  • 8:00 Breakfast
  • 10:00 Checkout (or choose to add another day)
  • Continuing researching your ancestors

Schedule individualized consultations with Pam Anderson on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.



Mercersburg Inn 

405 S. Main Street

Mercersburg, PA  17236


Cost:    Wednesday & Thursday – One-person Registration with Dinners – $355 per room

Add on Friday Night Stay for $110

*Additional person $110 – shared room occupancy


Contact me at (717) 597-1345 or [email protected] if you have any questions.

We hope you can join us!!


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