Lest We Forget

Some of you may know that I work with a variety of people tutoring English. Some are very young.  One of them is from worn-torn Cambodia. He knows little of the war having come over so young but his mother remembers. We have been working on C.S. Lewis’s  “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and were talking about how the children in the story had to evacuate London during WWII.  Of course, the subject came up of another global war happening  and I found myself thrown into the same conversation I have had with my own children. There would be no war because nuclear armament has advanced so much we would simply be gone. What do we tell our children, to vote the right people in ? Disarmament must happen. Who will do it?

Today, I remember the soldiers in my family, my great-uncle Robert Smith lying in Flanders in an unmarked grave and his brothers, James and Samuel Smith from Glasgow. All the brothers of the Fraser family of Dublin, Ireland  and all the boys in my fathers family, Rene, Leo, and Paul Beauchamp of St. Boniface, Manitoba. My father Edmond who had been crippled by polio served at home. My aunts Margaret and Evelyn Phillips who served in the Womens Army Corps.

Thank you for your service.

Who Are You ?

I have collected the updates for my DNA autosomal test. I still find it screamingly hilarious that I have 1% Andean DNA, from South America. The other 5% North American Indian not too surprising since my grandmother’s family was Metis. It is also great fun to compare with other members of your family. In my case that would be my brother who is a year and a half younger than I. For part of the year we are only 1 year apart. The initial test showed us to have about 5 nationalities in common but now it has been refined down to only 3. He has more English DNA, more native and less French than I and no Scandinavian. So, in effect we are getting to know each other even better than before .

I recently reunited with a long lost cousin. We found that we had much more in common than one would have thought. She was from my father’s side of the family and it was a great comfort to at last find someone who had so much in common with me. You can imagine a childhood where one side of the family is from the opposite culture, French and British. Thank heavens people are more culturally aware now. When I was a child, I was constantly pushed between the standards of the two, particularly where religion was concerned. I believe I am among the many people who were glad when there parents finally separated, just to escape their families!

I have had some communication with people who have DNA matches with me but we don’t seem to be able to find the common ancestor. Hopefully one of them will do that because I don’t really have the interest in it. I just like to read and write history.

I am still thinking about my family and the American War of Independence and whether any were involved in it. I listened to the podcast on Maple Stars and Stripes about finding that out but didn’t find it too helpful. One could just go through to find out where your ancestors were living at the time.

I enjoyed the series “Turn” about Washington’s Spies but found the book quite dull so I decided to watch “John Adams” , the story of the second president of the United States. Paul Giamatti was absolutely amazing in his portrayal of the man who would eventually become president after Washington. It is one of the few movies in which the trials and disappointments of a person were so palpable.

It is sad that two neighbouring countries know so little about each other and even perhaps share a certain animosity bred out of that ignorance. I suppose Canada maintaining close ties with Britain did not help. We are still a young country after all.


No one can understand the horrors of war without having been there. That is why the old men remain silent, the old widows and mothers remain silent. I cannot imagine losing my sons in battle and I cannot imagine the evil that unleashed itself during the war. Today, I would like to remember all the people in my family who fought for our freedom.

Lance Corporal Robert G. Smith who died May 09, 1915 and is buried among the white crosses in Flanders.



His brothers James,John and Samuel Smith.

Robert, James and Sam Smith 1914

Robert, James and Sam Smith 1914

Members of the Fraser family. Alex, Robert, James and John.

Members of the Beauchamp family. Rene, Leo, Paul and my father Edmond who although his upper right arm was crippled by polio, donned a uniform.

 Ed Beauchamp 1940

Ed Beauchamp 1940


Paul and Ed Beauchamp 1942

My aunts, Margaret and Eveline Phillips who also served. My aunt reminding me that things were still tough for military people when they got home and found no jobs.

There are others of course, but this is my chance to say thank you for helping to preserve our freedom.

Addend:  Lieutenant(N) Nikita Alexander Forsyth Kovaloff of the Canadian Armed Forces, grandson of the above Eveline Forsyth who has served in Afghanistan and the Caribbean (drug smuggling). A new second cousin!


Violet was the second last daughter of Agnes and Alexander Fraser born July 3, 1899 at Garden Hill like the rest of the children.  Like her other two sisters, she was an accomplished pianist. The family moved to 42 Westfield Road in Dublin along with “Uncle” Charlie Waugh who lodged there for about 20 years. Agnes Fraser had decided to call the house “Feldberg” after the place in Germany where she had met Alex.

Sophie, the youngest Fraser child was born August 20, 1901. Like her sister Violet, she had aspirations to go on stage. She took a job in the engineering department at Guiness Brewery where she spent her working life.  Around 1956, Alex inherited 50 acres of land near Harlockstown in County Meath and the family moved there. Sophie died in Canada in 1989. As stated in another post Alex died at Meath in 1964 the year after his mother.

I have actually been contacted by a couple who now have the house at 42 Westfield Road. People are always so excited to find information like this and I so enjoy hearing from them.

No Time for Grieving

Agnes finding herself suddenly bereft, also found that she was out of a place to live. The conditions of employment were that if one partner died the other had to go. She was not one to lay down and confronted the Board of Guardians but to no avail.

It did not help that Alex’s plan for retirement at Delaford, on a large farm, had fallen through. There had been some misunderstanding about a lease on the property and before he could buy it, the land returned back to its original owner. He had also lent money “on a handshake” and Agnes was only able to get half of it back. One who refused to pay was her own brother-in-law.

Agnes lived a full life and met challenges head on. She died in 1963 at the age of 102 years and is at rest with her husband in Mount Jerome cemetery, Dublin. The rather plain headstone says “Till He Comes”.

Obituary for Agnes McDowell Fraser

Obituary for Agnes McDowell Fraser

Till He Comes

Till He Comes


Life at Garden Hill

Garden Hill was part of the South Dublin Union where Alex became master. Below a map of the Union in 1907, the year before Alex’s death. You can see Garden Hill on the left.

. Picture from the website The Workhouse” The Story of an Institution by Peter Higginbotham. It is an interesting and informative website. If you are interested in the duties of the Master and Matron of the workhouse you can see them here. http://www.workhouses.org.uk/admin/index.shtml#master.

If Agnes was Matron, she would be responsible for the care and welfare of the female inmates.  She would also be having her own family which in the end, came to a total of 8. When her sister Sarah died, she took in her three children. Her last pregnancy was difficult. She was carrying twins but miscarried one at 6 months.

Alex spent most of his life trying to improve conditions at the Union. Things had certainly improved since the idea of “the Union” had been implemented but money was always the bottom line. In 1895, the workhouse was visited by a “commission” from the British Medical Journal investigating conditions in Irish workhouse infirmaries. Their report noted that South Dublin had separate infirmaries for Roman Catholic and Protestant patients, staffed respectively by nuns (Sisters of Mercy) and deaconesses, with a large number of pauper inmates acting as nursing assistants. Although some of the deaconesses had been trained at Tottenham Hospital, the nuns lacked any formal nursing training. The nuns also only worked during the daytime, and acted only in a supervisory role in the male wards. A total of thirteen nuns and around half a dozen deaconesses had charge of more than a thousand patients, with some wards being “distinctly overcrowded”. Further details are available in the full report. The BMJ’s revelations contributed to the introduction of significant improvements in the standard of Irish workhouse nursing, with the employment of pauper inmates as nurses ending ending after the passing of 1898 Local Government Act.” (From the Workhouse website) It may very well be that Alex called for this inspection. As time went by and the unions were disbanded, the workhouse was converted into St. James Hospital where they discovered a part of it in the Trinity College additon in 2002. .http://www.istructe.ie/2002/11/health-sciences-faculty-at-st-james-hospital-no-14-nov-02/. In 1908, Alex fell while getting out of a car and broke his knee. The ensuing pneumonia killed him. He was only 57.

Two Obituaries for Alex Fraser:

Fraser Alex Obit Irish Times

Fraser Alex Obit Freemans Journ

Both obituaries show that Alex was held in “high esteem” in Dublin, the Irish Times commenting on his business ability and “unvarying courtesy”. The Freeman’s Journal shows us what family was in attendance (the woman didn’t attend, we don’t know why), church officiates, including John Holmes, his former teacher and the man who performed his wedding ceremony. Other attendees included the Board of Guardians and clerics for the Union, the Medical staff, even members of the public. It is a veritable who’s who of the city.


After their marriage in 1883, “Ebby” followed George up to Parsonstown, Kings County where my great-aunt Sophie, was born. It is interesting that she did not go home to have her children but perhaps her youngest sister Sophie came to help her, hence the naming of the baby. I am quite certain that George was a bookkeeper for the estates. His son’s ship’s record states that he is a bookkeeper. Parsonstown, now Birr, was an elegant market town known for it’s Georgian architecture.

The birth of Sophie was followed in 1896 by that of William Henry, in 1888 by George Holmes Jr., who was born at Woodlands, Parsonstown. There were reports of William dying of typhus when he was young but I have not found an appropriate death record for him. Then the family moved to Ollatrim, down the road from Dublin, where Richard Walker, my grandfather was born at Carraway, in 1890. In 1893, Ebby had a little boy, Evan who died within a year.  In the previous year, her mother had died, and in the same year her sister Sarah died of puerperal fever right after Evan .

Shortly after that Ebby had a little girl, Evelyn baptized in May 1894. Then in 1896 Ebby  died from an embolism (blood clot), commonly occurring during pregnancy. The duration of illness was 4 hours so one wonders if she didn’t die during childbirth. The family story is that she was buried with twins in her arms. She died at Curraghaneety, Toomevara in Tipperary. Below is her obituary from the Nenagh Guardian.
Nenagh Guardian, Weds Aug 2nd 1896.
Deaths :On the 31st July, at Curraghaneety, Elizabeth (Ebby) the dearly beloved wife of George Phillips, aged 35 years. Deceased was interred in Ballycormack (now Borrisnafarney Church of Ireland) churchyard on Sunday last, the funeral being attended by a large number of the gentry and farmers of the district.

 A few years later, in 1899, George, died of typhus in Moneygall.