Dead Man’s Penny – Memorial Death Plaque

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director, and Jennifer Weymark, Archivist
This article was been edited from what originally appeared in the AGS Quarterly

 

The Government of Canada has designated the period 2014-2020 as the official commemoration period of the World Wars and of the brave men and women who served and sacrificed on behalf of their country. One of the most enduring examples of war commemoration  is the bronze “Dead Man’s Penny” seen on many gravestones in cemeteries across Canada. The plaques, resembling a large penny (hence their nickname), were given to families who had lost a loved one as a result of WWI.

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Garrow headstone in Oshawa’s Union Cemetery

Canada entered WWI on August 4, 1914 when the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. During the course of the war over 619 000 Canadians enlisted and almost 60 000 lost their lives.

In 1916, as the Great War waged on, the British Government felt there was a need to create a memorial to be given to the families of the war dead which would acknowledge their sacrifice. A committee was created and given the task of deciding what form this memorial would take; a bronze plaque officially known as the Next of Kin Memorial Plaque and a memorial scroll signed by the King was their decision.

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Memorial Scroll for Private Wilfred Lawrence Bancroft. Courtesy of the Whitby Archives

In 1917, a competition, open to any British born person, was held to find a design for the plaque. Instructions for the competition were published in The Times newspaper on August 13, 1917.  For example, any design had to include a symbolic figure, meaningful to British citizens.  Potential designs must also include the inscription “He died for freedom and honour” and provide space to include the name, initials and military unit of the deceased.

There were more than 800 entries submitted and Mr. Edward  Preston was the successful winner. His design, a 12 centimetre disk cast in bronze gunmetal, featured the figure of Britannia holding a laurel wreath beneath which was a rectangular tablet where the deceased individual’s name was cast into the plaque. No rank was included as it was intended to show equality in their sacrifice.  The required inscription “He died for freedom and honour” was inscribed along the outer edge of the disk. In front of Britannia stands a lion and, two dolphins representing Britain’s sea power.  A smaller lion is depicted biting into an eagle, the emblem of Imperial Germany.  With the conclusion of the war, over 1.3 million plaques were sent to grieving families throughout the British Empire. Plaques were sent to the next of kin for all soldiers, sailors, airmen and women sailors, airmen and women serving who died as a direct consequence of their service. Plaques were also sent to the next of kin of those who died between August 4, 1914 and April 30, 1919 as a result of sickness, suicide or accidents, or as a result of wounds sustained during their time of service.

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An example of the Next of Kin Memorial Plaque or Dead Man’s Penny. Photo courtesy of the Ontario Regiment Museum

The plaques soon became popularly known as “the Dead Man’s Penny”, or “Widow’s Penny” for their resemblance to the penny coin. There was no formalized etiquette for displaying the plaques.  According to Sam Richardson, assistant curator at the Ontario Regiment Museum, some families chose to do very little with the plaques, the memorial scrolls and King’s messages that came with them. Often these plaques would be hidden away in drawers or chests so as not to be reminders of their loved ones.  Others, however, went to great lengths to display it, with many families adding them to war memorials as they were built, or framed and mounted on walls in the family home or in a local community establishment the soldier was a part of, such as a church parish.  As time passed and military museums began to be established and grow, many descendants would also choose to donate the plaques to them.

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William James Garrow Jr., from the Oshawa Museum Archival Collection

The family of Oshawa resident William Garrow Jr.  decided a permanent home for his memorial plaque was most fitting and they chose to have it mounted into a gravestone.  Garrow was born on May 15, 1894 to William and Mary Garrow., the youngest of four children and the only surviving son.

At the time he enlisted, Garrow had been working as an upholsterer and living with his parents and two sisters in the family home on Albert Street. He enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in Montreal on August 30, 1915 at the age of 21. He saw action overseas  in both France and Belgium.  Garrow joined up with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry as a replacement on the front lines in December 1915.  He was fighting with the Princess Pats at that Battle of Mount Sorrell when he lost his life sometime between June 2–4, 1916. The family received official word of his death through a telegram. Although the final resting place of Pvt. William Garrow is unknown, he is memorialized as one of the missing on the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

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The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque received by William Garrow’s family remains today  embedded in his tombstone in Oshawa’s Union Cemetery. It remains as a testament, over a hundred years later,  to a young man’s supreme sacrifice  and the depth of pride his family felt in his service to King and country.

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Publishing the Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection

By Caitlan M., Research & Publication Co-ordinator

In 2013 the museum received a box of jumbled up letters, receipts, and other pieces of papers which turned out to be a truly amazing donation as these papers were either written by or sent to a Henry family member. This became known as the Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection. Since receiving this collection, the idea of using the collection to help further understand the lives of the Henry family was always there but the time and resources were not available then.

Jump forward to a few months ago, a grant was received to hire a person to go through and create an annotated book. However, this book will only focus on the letters from a family member to family member. The idea is to go through and give the letters context; explaining the other names throughout the letter, the location from where it was sent from, any business ventures and all the other details.

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Thomas Simon (TS) Henry (A983.41.5)

For example there is a letter written from Thomas Simon (T.S.) and John Henry to their father, Thomas Henry. It was written in September of 1879, the sons mention they were not able to attend the Toronto Exhibition and later in the letter make a point of saying Thomas was there “to enjoy the Old Pioneer conflab.” This is all really interesting as the Canadian National Exhibition or CNE was originally called the Toronto Industrial Exhibition and its opening year was in 1879. Although his sons mention that Thomas was only at the exhibition to enjoy a conversation with the York Pioneers; a group of men formed to preserve York County’s early history, a history Thomas would have been a part of since he was a substitute in the War of 1812. The York Pioneers were at the Toronto Exhibition as they were moving a log cabin – the Scadding Cabin (originally known as Simcoe Cabin,) to its now permanent home.

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A001.7.6; letter to Thomas Henry from his sons George and TS.

I have also been making a point at looking at census records to see how the family continued to move around. Take George Guy, grandson to Thomas Henry, we have two letters written by him – from 1878 and 1879, both are written from Winnipeg. George was born in East Whitby, he headed west to find work sometime around 1878 and was able to purchase land in Morris, Manitoba. What’s interesting about him is two things happen in most of the census records; his location changes and his occupation changes.

  • 1881 Census: Location: Morris, Manitoba. Occupation: Cultivator
  • 1891 Census: Location: Morris, Manitoba. Occupation: Gram Buyer
  • 1905 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 25, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Carpenter
  • 1910 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 17, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Watchman – public school
  • 1920 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 12, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Engineer – public school
  • 1925 Census: Location: Buffalo Ward 12, Erie, N.Y. Occupation: Janitor
  • 1935 George dies, buried in Buffalo.

Although I am unsure why George moved around so much, I can’t help but wonder if it was to move closer to his new occupations.

The book will be published sometime in 2018 with the transcriptions of each of the letters and all of the annotations.


Transcription of above letter:

A001.7.6

Postcard sent to Thomas Henry from T.S.  and J. Henry (punctuation added during transcription)

Georgetown Sept. 8th 79

Dear Father

I am here today with Thomas. We are both well and healthy. We hope you are awe well as could be expected considering your age. I did attend the Toronto exhibition but expected to go to Ottawa the week after next. No doubt you was at Toronto to enjoy the Old Pioneer conflab to see Lawrence and the Princess and you could look ? on the Bay and imaginette great chougesuce(?) 1812 when you was a big boy in tall muddy York as you called it an you have a log cabin in the ? city. Did you see it?  I understood it is well put ?

 

*If you can add to this transcription or note any corrections, please leave a comment.

The Month That Was – August 1902

Ontario Reformer
Bullets in Their Brain
Edition 01 August 1902

PEOPLE WHO CARRY THEM AND FEEL NO ILL EFFECTS
Many Strange Things Found in the Brain – Some Curious Cases

The idea that the human brain is an organ so extremely delicate in its structure that it cannot bear the slightest physical hurt sometimes appears to receive a contradiction in the experience of people who have been met with peculiar injuries to the head. The history of brain surgery presents some remarkable facts in regard to the extent to which the thinking organ will sometimes resist the effects of external injury. It has been shown that in some cases quantities of its substance may be removed without appreciably diminishing the normal intelligence of the patient; while some have been known to carry the most extraordinary foreign substance embedded in their skulls for years.

Finds of the most singular kind have been made in the interior substances of the living human brain. The strangest things have been known to find entry there through accident or design. In one case it was the blade of a penknife that was carried about in the brain for half a lifetime without the patient being in the least aware of it: in another it was a penholder that had somehow found its way there and remained in its living hiding-place without apparently interfering with the thinking power of the organ: while only a week or so ago a piece of slate pencil was recovered from a boy’s brain after it had been hidden there for several years.

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Ontario Reformer
The McLaughlin Carriage Co.’s Employes [SIC] Excursion
Edition 22 August 1902

Saturday morning last the sun rose upon a cloudless sky, for the weather clerk had notice that on that day the employees of the McLaughlin Carriage Company were to run their excursion to Orillia. A special train had been chartered for the occasion and the extremely low rate of $1.95 was secured for the excursionists. Long before the hour set for departure the street corners along Simcoe and King streets were crowded with people waiting for cars to carry them to the station. About eight o’clock the train of eleven coaches drawn by two engines, started from Oshawa. The train was tastily decorated for the occasion by the Committes [SIC]. The service rendered by the railway was highly satisfactory, for the run was made in about three hours and a half, which was passed by the excursionists in pleasant conversation and in viewing the varied scenery of river, lake, hill, and harvest.

The Oshawa Citizen’s Band was in attendance to furnish music for the day and the baseball and lacrosse teams went along to play games.

When Orillia was reached part of people got off the train and formed a procession, headed by the band, which proceeded to the park, while the train carried the remainder direct to the Park. Here dinner was partaken of by those who had carried their blankets, the rest going to the hotels. In the afternoon a baseball game was played between the Oshawa team and a team from the employees of the Tudhope Carriage Co., of Orillia. The Oshawa players were to fast for Orillia and succeeded in scoring 22 runs to Orillia’s 6.  There was no programme of games as the lacrosse game on the oval called for 3 o’clock. Those who did not attend the lacrosse game spent the balance of the afternoon taking in the town or quietly resting in the park, which is beautifully situated on the shore of Lake Couchiching … The whole day was pleasantly spent by employer and employee and showed the harmony that exists in this great Oshawa industry. The return journey was commenced about 7 o’clock and by 11 o’clock all were safely at home save for a few who remained over Sunday. The Committee of Management carried out the whole program successfully and it is due to their untiring efforts that the 700 people who went to Orillia enjoyed as ideal holiday…

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Ontario Reformer
Oshawa-On-The-Lake
Edition 01 August 1902

A very severe thunderstorm, accompanied by rain and lightning stuck this camp on Saturday afternoon and raised great havoc. The large dining tent was blown down and the centre poles broken. The headquarters tent was also blown down and part of the contents of the canteen destroyed. One of the small tents was broken down and most of the bedding in the others was very wet afterwards. The occupants of the other tents, had to hang on to their tents for about half an hour or all would have been blown down. On Sunday afternoon another sudden storm came up, but as the officers had timely warning very little damage was done, excepting in the cook house where a large amount of bread was destroyed, almost depriving the boys of their next morning’s breakfast; no order could be got uptown, as the telephone lines were destroyed. However, the younger boys did not suffer any as Mr. Carey kindly offered them shelter in his barn, which was gratefully accepted. However, the younger boys did not suffer any as Mr. Carey kindly offered them shelter in his barn, which was gratefully accepted.

 

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Ontario Reformer
Excursion to Toronto
Edition 01 August 1902

Durham Old Boy’s Association of Toronto has invited all former and present residents of Durham County to be their guests in Yoronto [SIC], on Monday next, as a grand reunion picnic to e held on the beautiful grounds of Dr. John Hoskin, K.C. The Dale, Howard Street of Bloor. A free dinner will be served at12 o’clock, and a splendid program will follow. Cheap rates have been obtained on the Grand Trunk Railway, going by local train only, and returning by any train same day as follows: –

Darlington –   7:00 a.m.                  $1.25
Oshawa et. –  8:00 “                        $1.10
Whitby –         8:00 “                           $ 1.10
Pickering –      8:00 “                          $1.10

 

Ontario Reformer
Kawartha Lakes
Edition 01 August 1902

A Place to Spend a Happy Holiday

Before deciding on a place at which to spend the vacation this summer, it is well to take into consideration the many advantages of the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario, Canada. As a place for camping the region has no superior. For the most part, the shores of the lakes are untouched by man. Nature is seen in all her grand disorder, there being nowhere that artificially, which to the true lover of nature, often spoils landscape. Pure air and water, each of which in a factor in choosing a summering place are assured in that region. Transportation on the lakes is also amply provided by a steamboat line plying between Lakefield and Coboconk, a distance of 70 miles. There is an additional attraction for the angler, as the fishing in the lakes is very good. The gamey [muskellunge] and black basses are here to reward the sportsman.

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Ontario Reformer
Canadian Prosperity
Edition 01 August, 1902

Canada’s prosperity, at present, is unprecedented. The trade returns for the final year ending June 30th, 1902, exceeded four hundred million dollars – the exact figures being $414, 517, 368, while those of last year were $377, 689, 653, being an increase of $36, 826, 653 or 72 per cent over and above the trade of 1893, which was the last year during the life of the late government.

……..

In proportion to population, the trade of Canada is not considerable more than double the relative volume of trade of the United States. In 1901 the latter, with its seventy millions of people, had a total volume of exports and imports aggregating $2, 301, 937, 156, which proportionately, is not on half of Canada’s trade last year.

This is not due to any epidemic growth in any one line of progress, but the progress along all the avenues of trade. The agricultural increase last year was very remarkable, and the exports exceeded those of the year previous more than 50 per cent. Nor did the manufacturers’ exports fall off, but were ahead of the times in every [way].

 

Ontario Reformer
Ontario Malleable Iron Co. Employees Annual Picnic
Edition 01 August 1902

The employees of the Ontario Malleable Iron Co., with their families and friends, held their annual picnic at Oshawa-on-the-Lake last Saturday. The affair was a success and a day of delight to all who took part in it. When all had assembled the number was computed at between two and three thousand. The event was highly creditable to all concerned, evincing thorough and hearty harmony between employers and employees. The large crowd were accommodated to the utmost by the Street Railway Co. and Mr. Arthur Henry. An excellent program of sports and attractions was provided for the entertainments of all present. The weather, in the morning and afternoon was fine and warm, but towards evening a severe thunder and rain storm was disappointing to many who were just at supper the lawns.

The music furnished by the Oshawa Citizen’s Band afforded delight to listeners on the grounds in the afternoon, and during the evening in the pavilion where dancing was pleasantly indulged in.

Month That Was – March 1926

Don’t forget! You can discover more about the Month That Was March 1926 by viewing the newspapers online at Canadian Community Digital Archives. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada for this project.


The Ontario Daily Reformer
Bus Enters Ditch to Avoid Auto
Edition 04 March, 1926

Bus Owner Lays Charge Against C. H. Read for Recklessness

A Whitby-Oshawa bus ran into the ditch on the Kingston Road at Gibbons street shortly after seven o’clock this morning, when Harold Dalton, the driver, attempted to avoid striking a car driven by C. H. Read, 96 Gibbons street, when it turned on to the Kingston road off Gibbons street. The bus went on its side in the ditch. There were about 18 passengers in the bubs at the time, but none suffered injuries, outside of one man who sustained a scratched hand.

A charge of reckless driving has been laid against C. H. Read.

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The Ontario Daily Reformer
At Local Theatres
Edition 04 March, 1926

Meighen in “Irish Luck” Opens at Regent Tonight

The famous Blarney Stone – heralded for many years in song, poem and Irish tale – has been kissed by Thomas Meighen, the Paramount star who went to Erin to make “Irish Luck,” the Emerald Isle romance which opens a three-day engagement at the Regent this evening.

Such an event in of sufficient importance as to have the exact time of its accomplishment recorded. Hence be it noted that the kissing took place at five minutes after two o’clock on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 1925.

The Blarney Stone is located, as everyone should know, at Blarney Castle. T isn’t particularly difficult to kiss, but according to Irish Icre, its effect is very hard to get rid of. It is supposed to fill the kissee with a wonderful abundance of the stuff young girls are supposed to hear just as the love-sick age.

“Irish Luck,” a romantic-drama against a background of modern Erin, has a swift-moving plot, suspense, thrills and heart-interest – and more – it has Tom Meighan in a duel role. Tom Geraghty adapted the story from Norman Venner’s Saturday Evening Post serial, “An Imperfect Imposter.” Victor Heerman directed the production, which features Lois Wilson at the head of a strong supporting cast.

Arthur Stone in a rollicking comedy creation and “Call of the Game,” a short sports film will be added attractions as will Sam Collis and his Regent orchestra. 

 

The Ontario Daily Reformer
Second Annual High School Play
Edition 04 March, 1926

Those Taking Part Are Working Hard To Make It A Great Success

On Friday evening of this week the students of the Oshawa High School are presenting their second annual play and concert in the auditorium of the school. The first part of the entertainment will consist of selections by the Glee Club of the school. The club have been practicing faithfully and well since early fall and under the able tuition of Mr. Lyonde of the Hambourg Conservatory of Music have developed wonderfully. This part of the programme will be made up of solos, duets, quartets, and choruses and should be highly entertaining.

The second part of the evening’s entertainment will take the form of a play put on by students of the school. In the presenting of plays the local students have won themselves a place in the hearts of Oshawa people by their stellar work in the comedy “Mr. Bob,” which was put on last year. Probably no play given by amateur talent in Oshawa has attracted more favorable criticism and well-deserved applause than this play and on their reputation won last year the students should have a large audience on Friday night.

…The play is being directed by Ms. Adams who was in charge of last year’s production and o whom much of the credit for the excellent showing of the students last year was due. The details regarding costumes and setting are in the hands of Miss Tuttle, Miss Armstrong and Mr. Holme, all members of the High School staff who had charge of this work in the presenting of “Mr. Bob.”

The principal parts are being taken as follows: Mr. Pickwick, Maurice Hutchinson; Mrs. Bardell, Miss M. Hart; Mrs. Cluppins, Miss M. Anderson; Mrs. Sanders, Miss L. Mundy; Mr Winkle, Donald Crothers; Sergent Buzzfuzz, Manning Swartz; Sergeant Snubbins, Hartland Callaghan; the Judge, Irwin Deyman, and the Clerk, James Kinnear.

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The Ontario Daily Reformer
Grape Market Has Not Been Injured
Canadian Press
Edition 04 March, 1926

Despite Fears Following the Adoption of Prohibition

San Francisco, Mar. 4. – Six years of grape growing in California under national prohibition have proven unfounded fears of vineyard owners that abolition of the saloon would injure the market for their product.

Shipments of grapes from this state have increased from 21,605 cars in 1919 to 72,116 last year.

Statistics of the Agricultural Economics bureau of the department of agriculture do not distinguish between so-called “wine” and “table” grapes. Therefore, they do not show whether it is hunger or thirst that caused the more than 300 percent increase in the demand of other states for the product of California vineyards.

…As the California grapegrower takes stock of his last year’s business and looks to the coming season with inquisitive eye “Winehaven” before prohibition referred to as the world’s largest storage centre for wine, is being dismantled. It was built immediately after the San Franscisco fire of 1906 on a seven-acre tract on Point San Pablo at a cost of $3,5000,000 including cottages for 200 employees. The winery had vats and cellars with a total capacity of 9,500,000 gallons. When filled, its stock had a value of $10,000,000.

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The Oshawa Junior Reformer
Children Help Children
A.S.
Edition 06, March, 1926

We wish to call the attention of all our readers to the special article (on the front page of this issue by Mr. George Speedie of Toronto, Superintendent of the Missionary Department of the Upper Canada Tracts Society’s Mission to Soldiers, Sailors, and Lighthouse Keepers etc.

I am sure all of young Oshawa feel proud to have had the chance to bring happiness to so many people and to merit the hearty thanks of Mr. Speedie.

Everyone of us knows the pleasure to be gotten from the reading of books. Living, as we do, with well-stocked libraries at hand we cannot realize what it is like to be without books and magazines to read.

To my mind, the most pleasing feature of this donation of books by the girls and boys of Oshawa is that a great many of the books have been given by girls and boys to girls and boys.

This readiness to help others is what we admire. A.S.

 

The Oshawa Junior Reformer
St. Gregory’s School Rink
Edition 06, March, 1926

The boys of St. Gregory’s School made a fine little rink which was enjoyed by not only by our own school but also by others. There were many hockey games played on it. In some of the games, the players looked like professionals. But some of the smartest games were those played by the Primary Classes; in one game the latter won by a close score, after a hard fought game.

The girls also enjoyed the rink. They held a skating party on Feb. 8, and skated until they were tired. Then they went to the hall where they were served a lunch. At last, they returned home tired but happy after their outing.

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The Oshawa Junior Reformer
Games to Play and Tricks to Preform
Edition 06, March, 1926

A Magic Trick

This clever mathematical trick, by which you can tell the month and the year of a person’s birth, will startle many of your friends says “The American Boy Magazine” Tell your friend to put down the number of the month in which he was born, multiply it by two, then add five, multiply by fifty, add his age, subtract 365, and then add 115. The two figures on the right will tell you his age, the REMAINDER will be the number of the month of his birth. For example, if the total is 615, he is fifteen years old and was born in June.

What is History?

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

In 1876 John J. Anderson, author of A Manual of General History, defined history as:

“the narration of the events which have happened among mankind, including an account of the rise and fall of nations, as well as of other great changes which have affected the political and social condition of the human race.”

While this definition is over 135 years old, it still stands true today.

Simply put the study of history can be divided into two parts: prehistory and history.  Prehistory refers to a time before the written word. In order to study prehistory, we rely on the information gathered through a systematic archaeological excavation.  These excavations can shed light on many different aspects of culture from what they ate, how they constructed their buildings and how long they lived in a particular area.  Artifacts that are found can help us to better understand the daily lives of these cultures.

The MacLeod Site, Rossland & Thornton Roads, 1968-1970 From the Oshawa Community Archives

The MacLeod Site, Rossland & Thornton Roads, 1968-1970
From the Oshawa Community Archives

It was through two different archaeological excavations that we have been able to learn more about at least one of the First Nations groups that called Oshawa home before it was Oshawa.  Items unearthed during excavations at the MacLeod Site and the Grandview Site indicates that the Lake Ontario Iroquois called this area home from between 1400 to 1500 AD.  Analysis of the artifacts found suggests that the group relied on farming and hunting of small game to survive.  They constructed villages with communal long houses and various outbuildings. The group also made beautiful pottery that was covered in a sort of glaze to make it even more durable.

Without these excavations, we would not know about this culture.

Henry House

Henry House

The study of history certainly makes use of the information gathered through archaeological excavations but is also works from the documents left behind.  When it comes to studying history in Canada, we rely on written documents such as land deeds, diaries, personal and official correspondence to better understand events of the past.  When researching the history of Henry House for the book published in 2012, we made use of land deeds and records from the land registry to document the history of the lot itself.  We then shifted to personal correspondence, census records and genealogical sources such as death notices to learn more about the family and the home.  We also made use of second hand accounts that were published closer to the time the Henry family resided in the home. A great example of this is the memoir written about Elder Thomas Henry by his daughter-in-law Polly Ann Henry.  The book was published in 1880, just one year after the death of Thomas. It seems reasonable to assume that Polly Ann worked with Thomas and the rest of the family to compile the information and to write the book.

The study of history is ongoing.  As new documents become available our understanding of certain people, places or events can change to fit this new information.  This is what we at the Oshawa Community Museum every day.