Class photo of Grade II, Garfield School, Toppenish, Washington circa 1910


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Whilst hunting for something I lost the other day, I rediscovered an undated school photograph of my Great Grandfather, Charles Edwin Dews. Seeing as the photograph is of the 2nd Grade class of Garfield School in Toppenish, Washington, I figure it was taken circa 1910 as Charles was born 28 May 1902. There is no inscription on the reverse, but luckily my Grammy was very fond of marking family members on the front of the photo leaving no doubt as to which one is Charles!

Image of Garfield School

Grade II, Garfield School, Toppenish, Washington circa 1910. (click to enlarge)

If anyone can tell me anything more about the people in the photograph I would love to hear from them.

Genealogy Resolutions for 2014


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Last year I read Andrew Martin’s blog post My Top 5 Genealogy ‘to-dos’ for 2013 which suggested choosing five areas of family tree research where you hope to make progress in 2013 and thought it was such an excellent idea that I chose my own five Genealogy Resolutions for 2013

How did I get on with my genealogy resolutions for 2013?

Not too bad, but not that good either! :-(

School report for Walter Wheeler

School report for Walter Wheeler

  1. Break down my Beckwith brick wall - I didn’t break it down as I got a little side-tracked by Fred’s son! (See Oh What A Tangled Web – of Lies, Deceit, Sex and …… Murder?)
  2. Scan more family correspondence – Scanned quite a bit, but could take another year or two to finish.
  3. Write up what I have discovered about my Quack Doctor – Failed on this one.
  4. Keep a diary – Only lasted until April, so failed on this too.
  5. Do some more India research – Managed to do quite a bit of research on my Henry Holdway in the Bengal Horse Artillery.

My Genealogy Resolutions for 2014

Hopefully I will do better with these five.

  1. Scan more family correspondence – I have a couple of briefcases and several boxes full of family correspondence and photographs dating from the 1880’s to 1980’s, so this will take some time. I made a good start on it last year, but it is rather tedious.
  2. Try and fit in some more India research – I would like to at finish working my way through Henry Holdway’s muster rolls and hopefully write up my findings as he had a fascinating career in the Bengal Horse Artillery.
  3. Start writing up my own life story – 2013 was a bit of an emotional year. I am the eldest of four children and within the space of a year my eldest brother had emergency heart surgery to replace his heart valves, followed my youngest brother having a stroke in April. My sister also hen a stroke a few months later and I had a cancer scare.  In the weeks that I had very stupidly convinced myself that I had left it too late before seeing a doctor, and I was probably going to die, I made a start on my life story. I wanted my two sons to know something about my life and why I have such a crazy family! I also hoped it might help them understand why I made some of the unusual but important decisions I have made in the past! Funnily enough my youngest son asked me to write my life story a few days ago as he’s realised how little he knows and he would like to know more, so I will. It’s really hard to know where exactly to start and what to include. It’s not going to be easy!
  4. Make some photo books – I plan on making some photo books of the old photos I am scanning. They also make great gifts. I experimented making a couple with Snapfish when they had a sale on over Christmas and was very pleased with the results and quality.
  5. Attend a workshop – In all the years I have been manning the FIBIS stands at exhibitions I have never managed to make it to a workshop or talk. I quite like the look of “Tales from the Tombstones with Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones” at this years Who Do You Think You Are – live show. Hopefully it won’t clash with my time manning the stand. If I do miss it then I hope I will be able to attend one of Gill Blanchard’s talks or workshops on ‘Writing your family history’ at the FIBIS Conference  in May. It my help me with resolution 3!

Let’s hope I am more successful this year! Andrew has already posted his Top 5 New Year Genealogy Resolutions for 2014. Good luck Andrew! :-)

Oh What A Tangled Web – of Lies, Deceit, Sex and …… Murder?


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One of the bits I enjoy most about researching family history is proving, or disproving, family rumours, stories and scandals.  As the stories are passed down from one generation to the next they tend to get altered slightly. Sometimes the alteration is intentional, but more often than not it is unintentional; like Chinese whispers. When the truth is eventually discovered it is nearly always more interesting or exciting than the version you were originally told.

Meet the Beckwith’s

The story I heard – Adultery

This post is about a bit of family scandal my Grandad told me many years ago. Grandad’s mother, Ada Beckwith (1890-1972), was born and raised in Forest Gate, London. She had two younger brothers Fred (1898-1950) and Bob (1903-1956). Apparently one day Ada heard Fred and Bob having a fight in the street and she went outside to break the fight up. It turned out that the fight was due to Fred finding out that Bob was having an affair with his wife Alice (nee Haslar). The story goes that Alice and Bob then ran off to Canada together and had a baby, but Alice and the baby drowned in a boating accident so Bob came back to England.

Bob returned to Forest Gate, but the family wanted nothing to do with him. Ada was a very stubborn woman, and very fond of her brother Fred, so she refused to forgive or talk to Bob even when he asked to see her on his death-bed. Just before he died she did eventually see him, but still couldn’t bring herself to forgive him for what he had done.

I had attempted to research this story six or seven years ago and had found Bob going over to Canada on the passenger lists, but no sign of Alice with him, so assumed the story was not completely true or I had got the information wrong. Grandad passed away in 1992 so I couldn’t ask him to repeat the story. With the passenger lists now more easily searchable on Ancestry and Ontario BMD’s on Familysearch, I decided it was time to try and research the story again.

From Adultery to incest!

This time I started my search with Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947 index on FamilySearch and immediately found the death entry for Bob and Alice’s baby. (

Name: Robert Edwin Beckwith
Event Type: Death
Event Date: 29 Jul 1929
Event Place: Lake Ontario Oshawa
Gender: Male
Age: 0
Birth Date: 14 Feb 1929
Birthplace: Oshawa Ont
Father’s Name: Robert H Beckwith
Mother’s Name: Alice Maude Goome
Reference ID: 27094
GS Film number: 2210922
Digital Folder Number: 4000421
Image Number: 00220

I was puzzled as to why Alice had the surname Goome though. I searched for Alice’s death entry to see if that would shed some light onto the puzzle and found the following entry.

Ontario Deaths,1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947 index FamilySearch (

Name: Alice Goome
Event Type: Death
Event Date: 29 Jul 1929
Event Place: Lake Ontario Oshawa
Gender: Female
Age: 59
Birthplace: England
Birth Year (Estimated): 1870
Father’s Name: Fred Wooef (sic)
Reference ID: 27093
GS Film number: 2210922
Digital Folder Number: 4000421
Image Number: 00220

My reaction at this point was “Ah! She’s a Woolf!” Ada’s mother was a Woolf, so maybe the story had suffered from the effect of Chinese whispers and Bob had run off with a cousin and not his brothers wife. That’s not as bad is it? :-) I went through my list of Woolf family members looking for an Alice born 1870 and bingo! There she was! Alice Woolf born 21 July 1870 at Mile End …… OMG! That’s his mother’s youngest sister! His Aunt! He ran off to Canada with his Aunt and had a baby! No wonder Ada wouldn’t forgive him! This is awful news! Grandma’s not going to like this! How could he?! He looks like such a sweet man in his photo. This must be a mistake! :-(

I decided I should now try and disprove my findings somehow. After all, Alice would have had to be aged 59 when she gave birth to baby Robert Edwin. How likely would that be?  Plus the surname Goome was still a puzzle too, so hopefully my assumptions are wrong. I searched around on-line and saw that there were several cases where a woman of Alice’s age, and even older, had given birth to healthy children and survived. It wasn’t common, but it could happen.

My next step was to try and find somewhere where I could access local newspapers hoping it might have an obituary or even an article on the boating accident. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found the Oshawa Newspaper index on the website. A quick search showed they had a death notice for Alice Goome and Robert Edwin Beckwith in the Oshawa Times, 31 July 1929 (Local identifier: Ontario.BMD.299116). I noticed the time and decided to go to bed and look into how to order a copy in the morning as my eyesight was getting fuzzy from spending too long staring at the monitor!

The next day, whilst drinking my early morning cuppa, I emailed Oshawa Library with the details and asked how I could get a copy of the obituary. Later that same day I received a reply from a very nice Librarian who not only sent me copies of the obituaries, but three days worth of newspaper articles covering the tragedy! It was front page news and the articles also contained photographs of all the people involved in the tragedy and the houses they lived in.

The story was way more complicated than I expected and started long before Bob and Alice had an affair. Understanding the story was also complicated by lies and deceit by all the characters involved in the tragedy, false names, there being two different Alice’s involved and the newspaper getting the surname wrong on the first day of the three day coverage!

What the newspapers say

After several failed attempts at trying to type up what each article said, explaining who was really who and filling in the gaps with what the newspapers didn’t know, I decided it would be easier and less confusing just to summarise what the newspapers said followed by what really happened.

The newspapers start out on 30th July 1929 with the front page headline of the Oshawa Daily Times saying:


The article tells of a terrible boating accident where a Grandmother, daughter and baby grandaughter from Oshawa go out in a row boat on Lake Ontario with a family friend and never return. The next morning the body of the Grandmother and baby are found close to the shore two miles east of Lake Park Beach. Police, Firemen, Life Guards and even a local farmer in his biplane searched for the other two bodies and never found them. The newspaper names the victims of the boating accident as Mrs Edward Gomme, her daughter Mrs Andrew Beswick and family friend Walter Stapley. The surname Gomme should have read Goome, Mrs Andrew Beswick should have read Mrs Robert Beckwith and the granddaughter was actually a Grandson!  This was corrected in later newspaper articles and I suspect the error was made in getting the story to press quickly.

The next day the story is still front page news in the Oshawa Daily Times, but includes the following photographs with attempts to explain the relationships of the victims.


Front Page of Oshawa Daily Times 31 July 1929.
(1) Mrs E. Gomme; (2) Baby Beswick, her grandchild; (3) Mrs Robert Beswick daughter of Mrs Gomme. (4) Walter Stapely. (5) Edward Gomme, husband of Mrs Gomme and father of Mrs Beswick.


Page 3 of Oshawa Daily Times 31 July 1929
1. The home of Walter Stapley at 18 Queen Street. 2. The home of Mrs Gomme and Mrs Beswick. 7 William Street east. 3. Mrs Robert. Beswick. 4. Mrs Edward Gomme. 5. Walter Stapely.

The newspaper paints the picture of the Beckwith’s and Goomes being a well respected family who moved to Oshawa six months ago and had made plenty of friends since their arrival. The whole community is very upset and said to be in mourning. Later articles state that Mr and Mrs Goomes had lived in Oshawa four years.

On 3 August 1929 the whole story takes a sudden twist and the front page headlines of the Oshawa Daily Times change to


Basically the coroner reports that Mrs Gomme and the baby didn’t drown, but he can’t say how they died. It also gets a mention in The Montreal Gazette 5 August 1929.

What really happened


Image of chart showing how people are related

Chart showing real names and relationships

Edwin William Goome Edward Gomme
Alice Greengrass (nee Woolf) Alice Gomme
Alice Maude Beckwith (nee Haslar) Alice Maude Gomme Alice Beswick
Robert (Bob) Beckwith
Robert Edwin Beckwith Baby Beswick

All the lies and deceit started long before Robert and Alice had an affair and ran off to Canada. It started some time before 1923 with a man called Edwin William Goome. Edwin was married with five children.

On 16 Aug 1923 Edwin abandons his wife and children sets sail from Southampton for Canada aboard the Canadian Pacific steamship Minnedosa. He lies on his  Declaration of Passenger to Canada form and says he is single. He states he plans to live in Canada permanently and is going to stay with his Uncle Edwin Seymour at 103 Ann Street, Toronto and that his Uncle paid for his passage out there.

I suspect Edwin had been having an affair with Fred and Bob Beckwith’s Aunt, Alice Greengrass (nee Woolf), as ten months after Edwin set sail for Canada Alice abandoned her husband and set sail for Canada from Southampton aboard Canadian Pacific steamship Minnedosa on 12 Jun 1924. On her declaration form on arriving in Canada she stated that she was married, but travelling to Canada unaccompanied, and going to live with her Uncle, who also paid for her passage. She gives the Uncles name and address as Edwin Seymour at 103 Ann Street, Toronto and says she plans to work as a housekeeper. (Note the same name and relationship that Edwin gives on his form!). She states that she is going to live in Canada permanently and that her next of kin is her son-in-law F. Beckwith of 42 Acacia Rd, Leytonstone.

I would love to know who this Edwin Seymour is as I can’t find any family connection to anyone of that name for Alice or anyone in our family!

Alice and her husband, James William Greengrass, never had children of their own, but they did have an adopted daughter who, just to complicate things, was also called Alice. To avoid confusion I will refer to young Alice as Alice Jnr and Alice Greengrass as Alice Snr from here on in.

A few months before Alice Snr set sail for Canada Alice Jnr married Alice Snr’s nephew Fred Beckwith. I’m not sure when Alice started having an affair with Fred’s brother Bob, but she sets from Liverpool to Canada and arrives 23 Sep 1927 and says on the passenger list that she is going to stay with her mother Mrs Alice Greengrass, 160 Athol Street East, Oshawa . There is also a note on the form that her husband, F.W. Beckwith of 42 Acacia Rd, Leytonstone is to follow. The reason given for him not travelling with her on the journey is that he had purchased his ticket from Pickfords 206 High Holborn, London and had not been told that he needed a permit.

Bob Beckwith followed Alice a couple of months later. He departed from Liverpool 4 Nov 1927 aboard the Canadian Pacific steamship Montcalm. He states in his declaration upon arriving in Canada that his Aunt paid for his passage to Canada and gave her name and address as  Mrs A Greengrass, 160 Athol Street East, Oshawa . He states he plans on residing in Canada permanently and he will work in the motor trade.

So now Edwin Gomme, Alice Greengrass, Alice Beckwith and Bob Beckwith are all in Canada.  When reporting the tragedy the Oshawa Daily Times dated 31 July 1929 states:

The late Mrs Gommes was in her 59th year and had resided in Oshawa with her husband for the past four years.

Around January/February 1929 they must have moved out of Athol Street East to William Street East as the Oshawa Daily Times also says:

Both families lived happily together in their comfortable home on William Street, but Monday’s terrible accident removed three from their midst. Although they have only resided in William Street these past six months, during this period they have made many friends and the keenest sympathy has been manifested by neighbours towards the stricken men.

Vernons City of Oshawa Directory 1929 also lists them as tenants at 7 William Street East and lists Bob and Edwin as working as mechanics at General Motors.

Then the awful trip out on Lake Ontario in the boat. I guess I will never know what really happened out there on the lake that day. All my Grandfather told me was that Alice Jnr and the baby drowned in a boating accident. He never mentioned who else was in the boat, and he probably didn’t know, so all I have is that and the newspaper stories. Was it all a tragic accident, as the newspapers originally thought, and Alice Jnr and Walter Stapely’s bodies are still at the bottom of Lake Ontario? Or was it something more sinister seeing as the Coroner reported that Alice Snr and baby Robert had not drowned and Alice Jnr and Walter were still missing?

One interesting bit of the article in the Oshawa Daily Times 31 July 1929 is at the very end. When referring to Alice Snr the newspaper said:

She was a woman of kindly character and was loved and respected by all who knew her. Beside her husband she is survived by four sons, William, Ted, Frederick and George all residing in England.

An effort has been made to communicate with the sons informing them of their mothers death

Those that knew Alice Snr might not have thought so highly of her if they knew the truth! The sons referred to aren’t actually Alice Snr’s sons at all! They are Edwin’s. Whether they knew about Alice Snr or not I don’t know. I don’t even know if they knew their father was in Canada seeing as he said on his Declaration form on arriving in Canada that he was single!

Whatever really happened it is still a very sad story. I can understand why Bob came back home to Forest Gate. It can’t have been an easy decision to make though. I can also understand why my Great Grandmother found it so hard to forgive Bob.

I wonder what happened to Edwin? I have been unable to find him on a passenger list returning to England, so he might have stayed on in Canada. I haven’t really looked that hard though.

Both Fred and Bob Beckwith remarried in the 1930’s. Fred married another Alice in 1932! Alice must have been a very popular name back then! And Bob married Isabel Scott in 1936.

If anyone is connected to any of the people involved in this story, or has any information they think I might be interested in, please contact me as I would love to hear what other family members may have heard or what became of Edwins family left behind in England, Edwin in Canada and even the Stapely’s. I would also love to know who this Uncle Edwin Seymour is too!

Valmay’s Family History(onics) blogiversary!


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I felt terribly guilty when I saw this tweet from @Geneabloggers on Twitter this morning and realised I hadn’t blogged on my blog for two months.

Unfortunately I don’t get to spend as much time as I would like on my own research at the moment due to family commitments. What spare time I do have tends to be spent on FIBIS webmaster/trustee related duties.

If you are interested on what I have been up to since I last blogged here is a list!

  • The Geoff Riggs Award – I was very excited when the FIBIS website won Best overall website in the Federation of Family History Societies Geoff Griggs Award. Read more about the award
  • I finished putting together and launched the FIBIS Image Gallery website. The FIBIS Gallery uses a web-based program designed to upload, organize and archive photographs. It supports tagging, categories, geo-referencing, timelines and practically every other on-line sorting tool you can think of!
  • Upgraded and redesigned the main FIBIS website. I won’t bore you with the details, but if you are interested you can read more in this FIBIS blog post.
  • Upgraded and redesigned the FIBIS Social Network website.
  • Along with other trustees I have been helping to organise the first ever FIBIS Conference for 2014 and put together a website devoted to the conference at

Admittedly most of this work was carried out over a long period of time and just happened to be finished since I last blogged, but hopefully you will be interested in what I have been up to anyhow!

Although I don’t get to blog here as often as I would like, I do post on the FIBIS blog regularly if you are interested.


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