Hometown Histories – Vancouver, BC – George Bordewick & Merle Jones

Both of my maternal grandparents were born in Vancouver, BC. Merle Tydfil Jones in 1915, and George Robert Bordewick in 1918.

Vancouver is a seaport on the west coast of mainland British Columbia, Canada. It is set on the mouth of the Frasier River. It currently encompasses a land area of around 114 square kilometres. In 1911, when my grandmother's parents married, the population was 164,020. By 1921, three years after my grandfather was born, it had risen to 232,597 people. By 1920, Vancouver replaced Winnipeg as the leading city in western Canada. As of 2011, the population was more than 2.3 million people. It is the most populous city in Western Canada.

The city is located in the areas that include the ancestral territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tseil-Waututh peoples of the Coast Salish Native Tribes. They had villages in many parts of present-day Vancouver. The area is called S'ólh Téméxw by the First Nations of the area. The Musqueam have been living in the area for 4,000 years. The Squamish and Teleil-Waututh are much newer to the area, but living in the area by the time European mapping took place. The Musqueam and Squamish tribes still live in the area today.

George Vancouver, NPG
The city's name was taken from one of the early explorers to the area, a naval Captain named George Vancouver. He explored the area in 1792. His was the second European scouting party to explore the area. The first was a Spanish Captain by the name Jose Maria Narvaez. Vancouver's party surveyed the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and they were there to map the entire west coast all the way up to Alaska. This work was accomplished in small oar and sail-propelled boats so that they could get into the smaller and shallower inlets without difficulty.

The major river of the area is the Fraser River, named for Simon Fraser, who was the first European to reach the area by land. He travelled to the area along the river now named for him, in 1808. The river became one of the leading routes for those who came into the area for the Frasier Canyon Gold Rush in the 1860s. It was not as successful as the San Francisco or Yukon Gold Rushes, but it brought many Europeans into the area. Because of the Gold Rush, the Province of British Columbia was formed from the unincorporated western area at the time.

The first non-native settlement in the Vancouver area was about 1862, in the Southlands area. The original main settlement, Gastown, was started on the west edge of the Hastings Logging Mill. It started with a tavern created by the millworkers in 1867, which was soon joined by other stores and hotels. Eventually it became a townsite that was named Granville, BI. Shortly after the railroad was started in the area, it was renamed Vancouver, and was incorporated as a City in 1886.

City of Vancouver, 1898
The railroad caused quick growth to the city, and provided easy travel to the eastern provinces of Canada. Immigration from eastern Canada and Europe increased greatly, and also many Chinese immigrants chose to settle there.

Vancouver's port quickly became significant as a link in Britain's global trade network. After the Panama Canal's completion in 1914, it became even more important. The city was then able to compete with the major international trade ports around the world, giving another alternate route to Europe from Asia.

This would have been the year before my Grandmother, Merle was born. Which means she grew up in a flourishing, global city. And it showed in the family she married into. Merle's parents, Daniel and Eliza Jones, had both come to Canada from Wales. Daniel in the nineteen-teens, and Eliza in the late 1800s. George, on the other hand, was born to a much more multi-cultural household. George's father, Bjarne, was from a Norwegian family who had immigrated from first Amsterdam, then settled for a time in Hull, England before immigrating to Vancouver, BC. His mother, Mary, was born in Philadelphia, PA to Irish immigrants. The family moved to Ireland for a year when Mary was in her late teens, then to the Vancouver area in the early nineteen-teens.

In 1919, the Canadian National Railway station was completed. My great grandfather Daniel worked for the Railway, even making a point of asking the railway workers along the way to look after his daughter when she went to join my grandfather while he was training in the east. It was named Pacific Central Station, and provided links down into the US to Seattle and Portland, and via those down to California, and also the most direct route across Canada.

Robert and Lizzie Park with friend, at Mary's wedding, 1911
British Columbia was the second-most populous state for Irish immigrants according to the 2006 Canadian Census. Many came to Canada during the potato famine in the mid-to-late 1800s. My grandfather's mother's family, the Parks, were northern Irish. They left before the country was partitioned. They were protestant, which was true of many northern Irish, and I think coming to the US was their way of trying to escape the growing tensions at home. When things became difficult in Philadelphia for Irish immigrants in the early 1900s, they returned to Ireland. It was only the fact that Vancouver was a growing mecca for many immigrant groups that drew them to the city; along with a letter from one of their children touting the beauty of the area. As citizens of the UK (at least, I believe they were at the time), they were automatically naturalized as Canadian citizens when they arrived. It made the move quite easy, despite being halfway around the world from home.

Gabriel Howells and family ca 1885
Welsh immigrants, on the other hand, are far more populous in Alberta and Saskatchewan, though they are all over Canada. My great-great grandparents, Gabriel and Selina Howells moved to Saskatchewan to live on Gabriel's brother's farm. They moved soon after, settling in Winnipeg, but their children soon began to move west, all settling in BC, and most in and around the city of Vancouver. My great-grandfather, Daniel, came to Canada from Wales as a young man for a trip with friends. Though he meant to come only for a visit, upon meeting my great-grandmother Eliza, he chose to stay, and only returned home to Wales for visits. Again, as citizens of the UK, Daniel, Eliza and her family were all automatically naturalized citizens of Canada.

My Norwegian roots are a little murkier to me, as I am uncertain whether my great-great grandparents, Henrik and Leonharde (Henry and Harde) Bordewick, became Naturalized UK citizens while they were living in Hull, England, or whether they did not become Commonwealth citizens until they settled in Vancouver. I do know that as a fisherman, the West coast provided a great opportunity for Henry, and the community here was very much the home they had been looking for over a number of years, after several stops from their original home in the Lofoten Islands.

McGill University College of British Columbia, the oldest university in BC, changed its name to the University of British Columbia the year my grandmother Merle was born. The population of the campus was greatly diminished by the call to arms during World War I. By the end of the war, almost 700 members of the university had enlisted. In 1920, two years later, the university had only three faculties: Arts, Applied Science, and Agriculture, and only awarded the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Applied Science, or Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. At that time, there were 576 male students and 386 female students, with only 64 academic staff, only six of which were women. In 1922, the student body had risen to the number of more than twelve hundred, and they marched to push the local government into expanding the campus. Their cause was successful, and the campus was moved to Point Grey, with the first lectures there starting in 1925. Unfortunately, the depression had a bad effect on the campus, and their funds were cut drastically, to the point where many staff posts remained vacant, and several of the faculty lost their jobs. In addition, most graduate courses were dropped. Things were beginning to improve just as World War II broke out. At the close of the war, the numbers in the university increased dramatically, growing almost exponentially, and causing great expansion of both classes and campus.

In 1918, the year my grandfather George was born, the Vancouver General strike happened. It was the first general strike in Canadian history, protesting the killing of a draft dodger named Albert Goodwin. He had called for a general strike in the event any worker was drafted against their will. In response, a group of returned soldiers stormed the offices of the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council. They attacked the Council secretary, Victor Midgely and forced him and another man to kiss the union Jack. One of the women in the offices also received minor injuries when she prevented them from throwing Midgely from the window. The city's reaction against the strike was strong, and the leaders resigned due to the backlash. However, they were nearly all re-elected shortly after, showing that within the union their support had been strong, and not influenced by outside forces. Vancouver was the only city in BC that took part in the strike. Many other strikes also took place in the city that year. It was an important point in the Canadian labour revolt that peaked with the Winnipeg General strike the next year. Another Vancouver strike in sympathy with Winnipeg became the longest general strike in Canadian History.

George and Merle on their wedding day ca 1939 with his grandmothers Harde and Lizzie
This was the liberal, growing, thriving city my grandparents grew up in. Both grew up in protestant households, attending regular services on Sunday, and both got involved in youth groups in their churches. It was this that led to their meeting as teens, and the two quickly became an item, dating until the late 1930s, when George joined the Canadian Armed Forces. George asked Merle to marry him, and she said yes. The two were married at her parents' house in 1939, and then Merle and George headed for the east where George was trained. She stayed with him there until he was sent to the front, and then returned home, where she gave birth to the first of their four children.

He returned from the war and settled into civilian life, becoming an accountant. He and Merle had four children there together before George began to search for a new job in the late 50s. He eventually found the family a new home in Bellevue, Washington and they moved in 1960. However, even after their move, the family visited their fair home city quite often, and still do even today.

Bordewick Family History

Hometown Histories – Cleveland – Margaret Hansen

My paternal grandmother, Margaret Hansen Hillinger, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, US, in 1919.

Cleveland, Ohio skyline, wikimedia commons
Cleveland is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. As of the 2013 Census Estimate, the city itself has a total population of over 390,000. It is the 48th largest city in the US, and the second largest in Ohio. In 1920, a year after my grandmother was born, the population was more than double that size, at 796,841. It was not the largest the city has been, though. In 1950, it reached over 914,000 people. The year after Margaret was born, it became the fifth largest city in the nation.

The city is situated on the southern shore of Lake Erie, and currently covers an area of about 82 ½ square miles. It was founded in 1796, and incorporated as a city in 1836. It became a manufacturing center because of its location on the lake shore, which gave it easy access for transporting goods. These days, the city has quite a diversified economy, which includes manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, and biomedical. Cleveland is also home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and several sports teams, including the Indians and the Browns.

Before the Europeans arrived in the area, several native tribes lived in the area, including the Erie, Wyandot and Ottawa tribes, until at least the mid-seventeen hundreds. It is believed most of the tribes in the area were transient ones, coming and going, or settling only seasonally in the area.

The city got its name from the leader of the group who surveyed the land that would become Cleveland, General Moses Cleveland. He oversaw the plan for the core of the city before going home, and never returned to the area.

Though the city had voted only marginally in favor of Lincoln, when the South began to succeed from the Union, they were quick to rally to Lincoln's war efforts, though there were still some that opposed it. The Civil War was a boom time for Cleveland. Manufacture of railroad iron and gun-carriage axles brought in a great deal of money. By 1863, almost a quarter of all US Naval craft for use on the Great Lakes were built in Cleveland. In 1865, that number had increased to nearly half. The fact that all supplies from the South were cut off caused Cleveland to build its first tobacco factory. And its garment industry also began to flourish due to the German Woolen Factory, which was the first company in the area to manufacture the cloth.

At the end of the war, there was much rejoicing and celebrating, though even then, some still felt that the former slave population did not deserve citizenship, which had been granted to them by Lincoln. It took many more years for the black population of Cleveland to arrive. Most did not start arriving until after 1900. At that time, the Census Bureau estimated the Black population of Cleveland at just over 4000. By 1930, it had risen to over 70 thousand, most of whom had arrived during the twenties.

The May Day riots happened the year my grandmother was born. These were a series of violent demonstrations all over Cleveland on May first of that year. Eugene V Debs, a Union leader, was arrested for denouncing US participation in World War I. He was convicted under the Espionage Act of 1917, and served until his sentence was commuted in 1921. Charles Ruthenberg, head of the US Communist Party at that time, organized a series of protests that quickly broke into violent clashes with other groups. When things calmed, two people were dead, and forty injured. 116 people, including Ruthenberg, had been arrested. The city government quickly passed laws that restricted parades and specifically red flags, which had been one of the inciting points of the riots. It is seen as the most violent of the civil disorders that happened at the time, a result of the first Red Scare.

My great-grandmother, Oline, would have been about halfway through her pregnancy then. She and her husband, Holger were both Danish immigrants who had not yet even been naturalized. I can only imagine how they must have felt about all this. I'm sure they kept well away from the worst, but even living in the city would have made it quite alarming.

Margaret with her parents ca 1921
Oline and Holger immigrated to America in the early 1900s. He settled in New York, and she in Chicago. They met on a trip back to Denmark to visit family. They married a few years later, settling in Cleveland. By 1930, there were about seven hundred Danes in Cleveland. Margaret and her siblings grew up in a very strong Danish community; one which included many of their extended family members. Her father, Holger, built houses with the help of many of his Danish friends and family from the old country; many of which still exist today in Cleveland.

The family flourished in Cleveland, and in 1923, Margaret had a sister, and in 1925, a brother. Holger's homes sold well in the increasing population, and Oline sewed and cooked and took care of their family. Unfortunately, in early 1929, Oline fell ill, and soon died of pneumonia. Holger was devastated. He packed his kids off to live with his brother and sister-in-law, who lived nearby, then began to work on a new home for the family. He couldn't bear to live in the same house where she had died.
ca 1929 - back: Helga; middle: Margaret, Marilyn, Torben; front: Else
He soon remarried, and Maggie found she did not get along with her new stepmother. When the opportunity came to go to boarding school, she jumped at the chance, and never looked back. Andrews Academy (now Andrews Osborn Academy) was located just outside of Cleveland in a small town called Willoughby. She lived there during the school year, and only returned home on breaks and for the summer. The school taught her basic secretarial skills, and when she finished her schooling, it helped her find a secretarial job in Cleveland.

She remained in the Cleveland area until 1942, shortly after the US joined World War II. As soon as the call went out for women to be able to enlist, she joined up, as did both her sister and brother. She spent the years of the war in different locations in the US, eventually landing the rank of First Lieutenant, the highest rank a woman could get at that time. When the war is over, she and her sister signed up to help with the cleanup over in Europe. She was stationed in Frankfurt, where she met and married my grandfather. After the war, they had to choose where to settle their family. He was not particularly attached to Chicago, where his family had moved only a few years before he was drafted into the army. She did not particularly want to go back to Cleveland, either. After some debate, the couple settled on Seattle, and settled there happily, living there and raising four children. Maggie returned to Cleveland for visits, but she never lived there again.

Hillinger Family Tree
Margaret Hillinger Interview, 2001
May Day Riots of 1919

Hometown Histories - Frankfurt - Sam Hillinger

Here's my new series, Hometown Histories. This first post covers my paternal grandfather's birthplace, Frankfurt, Germany.

Frankfurt--by Pedelecs at wikivoyag

My paternal grandfather, Sam Hillinger, was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in 1922.

Frankfurt straddles the Main River, south of the Taunus mountain range. It is the largest city in the state of Hesse in southwest Germany. In 2014, the population was 708,543. The city covers at total area of 248.3 kilometers. It is the fifth largest city in the country, and contains a large immigrant population from countries all over the world.

The oldest part of the city is the Cathedral Hill. There is archeological evidence that the area may date back to the Paleolithic, but the first proof of its existence dates back to the Roman era. The city itself first appears in written record in 794. Charlemagne presided over an imperial church assembly mentioning the place, then referred to as Franconofurd. The name is believed to be derived from the Germanic tribe of the Franks, with the addition of the word furt, meaning ford where one could wade across.

It played major roles in both the Roman and Germanic empires. From 855, German kings and emperors were elected there, and from 1562, were also crowned there. The city has been a major trade center since 1150, when the Frankfurter Messe (Frankfurt Trade Fair) was first mentioned. A special system of exchange rates was established there for the various forms of currencies circulating in the city at the time to prevent cheating on either side of a trade. The Frankfurt Stock Exchange (Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse) was founded in 1585, and is the tenth largest stock exchange in the world.

Though Frankfurt was invaded and attacked several times during the Napoleonic wars, it remained a free city through the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire. After Napoleon's final defeat, it became part of the German Confederation, and was eventually the home to the first German Parliament. It was only after the Austro-Prussian war that Frankfurt became part of the Prussian providence of Hesse-Nassau, losing its independence as a Free City.

The Jewish community was part of Frankfurt from before the Reformation. The earliest documented mention of Jews there was in the middle of the 12th century. Like most Jewish communities in Europe and much of the rest of the world, they faced discrimination in the form of extra taxes, laws and other restrictions on what they could own, how they could make a living, and even where they could live.

A map showing the Ghetto--the curved lane. The doors at each end were closed at night
After several hundred years as part of the Frankfurt community, a Jewish ghetto was established outside the city wall: the Judengasse. It has the dubious distinction of being one of the first Jewish Ghettos in Europe. Frankfurt has the even more dubious honor of being one of the last to allow Jews to leave the ghetto. For four centuries, this was the only place Jews in Frankfurt could live, the doors at either end of the street wall closing the residents in at night and on Sundays and holidays. In addition there were many legal and economic restrictions. This lasted until the French occupation after their revolution, when part of the wall separating the area from the city was destroyed in 1796. This led to a loosening of the restrictions on Jews, culminating in 1811 in the granting of civic rights for all Jews that gave them equality with all other citizens.

After this, the Jewish population of Frankfurt flourished, becoming a center for both Reform and Neo-Orthodoxy Judaism. Jews came to the city from all over the German Empire. After the Great War, this was even more true, and it was this lively, growing, progressive culture that drew my great-grandparents Alex and Dora to the city. They met and married there in 1919, and all six of their children were born the city.

Shortly after my grandfather Sam, their third child, was born, Frankfurt elected a Jewish mayor, Dr. Ludwig Landmann. He was in power from 1924 to 1933, when the Nazi party came into power. Coincidentally, that was the same year my great grandfather chose to leave the city forever. Dr. Landmann was hounded by the Nazis from that point on until his death from malnutrition in hiding in 1945.

Die Philanthropin, by Eva Kröcher
One of the many centers of Jewish learning in the city was de Philanthropin, which was founded in 1804. My grandfather and his siblings attended the school until their family had to flee from the Nazis. The Nazis shut it down in 1942, but after the war, it was reopened as an administrative center and community center for the re-born post-war Jewish community. In 2006, it was reopened as a school, the IE Lichtigfelt School, which is still in operation today.

With the growing discord after the Great War, the German Workers' Party grew to prominence. It was renamed the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, in 1920. It was abbreviated NSDAP, but is commonly known now as the Nazi Party. Though they touted themselves as a socialist people's movement, racism was always a core component of the group, and Jews were a major focus. They believed in racial purity and eugenics, and sought to exterminate any non-Aryan citizens. As the party's leader since 1921, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933. Shortly after, he established the Third Reich, and the true war against the Jewish and other non-Aryan cultures began.

My grandfather, born at the beginning of their rise to power, was affected quite heavily by their hatred. His father was a small business man, always opening new businesses, most of which eventually failed in the end. In 1933, when one of his last businesses failed, Alex decided to take his family and flee the country rather than sticking around and hoping it would get better. The family fled to Paris, staying there for about a year until Alex was able to get a visa to go to the US. Shortly after their arrival, Alex suffered a stroke, and was never able to work again. He survived 14 more years in the US.

The Hillingers ca 1932, shortly before they left Frankfurt--Sam is the boy on the left corner of the picture
Sam was drafted into the army in 1943, and naturalized at Camp Crowder before his training began. As a former German, they chose to keep him away from the front lines, so though he was sent to Europe, he said he spent much of his time during the war pushing papers. After the war was over, he stayed in Europe to help clean up, working as an interpreter. He ended up stationed in his own home city of Frankfurt, and it was there he met and married my grandmother. They started their family there in Frankfurt, my father born on the base there before they were able to return to the US.

My grandfather never talked much about his childhood in Germany, though he often mentioned proudly his time as a paper-seller in the Paris streets. He was always a strong, determined, successful man, and I think he owed that to his parents' determination to keep their family safe and together.

Email letter from Sam Hillinger to Sharon Hillinger
Hillinger Family photos
Hillinger Family tree
Die Philanthropin (in German)

Brick Wall People – Part 22 – John Blair

No Photo

Name: John Blair
Birth: unknown
Death: unknown
Marriage: unknown
Location(s): Ireland?
Relation to me: John Blair was my mother's father's mother's mother's mother's father. Which makes him 7th generation before me.
Alias(es): none known
Parents: unknown
Spouse(s): unknown
Children: 1 known – Jane Blair
Other Family: none known

Details: Like Francis Curran, I only found John Blair by finding their childrens' wedding record, but unlike Francis, I have absolutely nothing else about him. He and Jane are the only two I have in this family, and I am not even certain he was in Ireland. The Blair name is a very well-known Scots name, and while I know the two shared a number of names, it is possible this branch might have origins in Scotland.

1)      The only record of John is his daughter's marriage record to Thomas Curran.

Again, I have no BMD info, and really no dates at all for this man. I'd also love to know the names of any other family members aside from his daughter, Jennie, particularly his parents, wife, and children. And I'd love to know for certain where John was born, and learn for certain if he is Irish or Scottish.

As always, if my family or anyone out there has any more information on this family, I'd love to talk to you about them. I'd love to learn more on any of them, if at all possible.

And for now, that's as far as I'm going to take this. Most of the rest of my dead ends are Danish and Norwegian now, and I think 7 generations is enough to be researching. Still, if you know anything about any of the people in this series, I'd love to talk to you about them and what you have. And for everyone who's read these, thank you for following.

About this blog

This blog is maintained by two sisters who have had a life long interest in geneology.
Mika writes here mostly about our family (Hansen, Hillinger, Bordewick, Park, etc), and her search for more information.
Shannon mostly uses this space as a place to make the many stories written about and by her husband's family (Holly, Walker, Walpole, etc) available to the rest of the family, present and future.

Our blog is named Oh Spusch! mostly because Shannon is bad at naming things. The first post I put up includes a story about the time Walker's great grandfather took his whole family out to see a play and the littlest kept saying "Oh! Spusch!" No one ever figured out what she meant by that.