Treasure Chest Thursday – Archives, Superintendents’ Reports, Seagulls!












I’ve made some progress in my search for my grandmother Velma’s early education in Colchester County, Nova Scotia in the first quarter of the 20th century. After much fruitless searching for specific school records on the one hand and more general histories of Canadian education on the other, I decided to try looking for a repository of digitized Canadian books. This took me to the Internet Archive, where I found The Annual Report of the Superintendent of Education on the Public Schools of Nova Scotia for the Year Ended 31st July 1900.  Velma was born in 1897, so this report wasn’t for an applicable year (c. 1902-1916), but a look at the table of contents revealed that it was the right resource because it listed the names of pupils who had received diplomas that year and the schools which had issued them. I’m still in the process of locating digitized copies for the applicable years. (And, boy, are my eyes tired.)

I’ve made better progress with Velma’s post-secondary education at Dalhousie University in Halifax.  Browsing the Dalhousie University Library Archives yielded a treasure trove of sources, including brief character sketches of Velma and her classmates; catalogs with the expected degree requirements, along with some unexpected university life requirements; and the 1918 graduation issue of the student newspaper, Dalhousie Gazette. (I’m being very disciplined in refraining from grabbing all of the Bright Shiny Objects beckoning to me. All in good time, my lovelies, all in good time.)

Now, for the Real Treasure . . .

This oil painting of seagulls wheeling against the sky is one of my most treasured possessions. The painting hung in every bedroom I slept in as a child, and it has hung in every home I’ve lived in as an adult. Velma painted it for me in 1957 after I became entranced by the seagulls when she looked after me at her Cape Elizabeth cottage the week my brother was born. The black-and-white photograph below was taken during that visit. The elderly woman next to me is my Great-Great Aunt Etta (ESTHER LEILA MOORE, 1875-1962) from Economy Point, Nova Scotia.


In Search of Velma Brown [Moore]’s Childhood: Economy, Nova Scotia, 2017

I’ve just returned from a week in Economy, Nova Scotia, continuing my search for the childhood of my maternal grandmother, VELMA BROWN [MOORE]. What I remember from the 2007 trip to Economy Point with my mother is that much of the landscape gave the sense of being largely unchanged since Velma was a child at the turn of the 20th century. Ten years later, this impression is unchanged. Economy Point Road, where the Moore homestead was located (2nd driveway on the left) is still unpaved. The marshland is still marsh, the meadows are still meadows, and Cove Road, the site of many Moore picnics and clamming expeditions, is still a vast wasteland of mud at low tide.

Yet Velma’s childhood was still nowhere to be found.

I’d brought my mother’s history of Velma’s life with me on the trip, and as I reread it in the evenings, still searching for clues, I began to realize that Velma’s story does not reside in her childhood in Economy Point. Velma’s story, where I will find what made her the woman she was, lies in her education. That being the case, I’m going to let my mother tell the story of Velma’s childhood, and I will develop a research plan to discover as much about Velma’s education as I can:

Velma Jane, the second child of GEORGE BAXTER and MARTHA [FAULKNER] MOORE, was born on 16 April 1897 at Economy Point, Colchester County, Province of Nova Scotia, Canada. She was named “Velma” after the heroine of a book that a neighbor was reading. Both parents are descended from some of the early settlers in Economy.

I am piecing together this narrative from Velma’s genealogy notes, Moore family trees copied from the genealogy of Eric Moore, a very distant cousin, History of Economy, N.S. by the Economy Historical Society, and other information I could find.

. . . .

Velma was the fifth Moore generation in Canada and was born in the Moore homestead. . . . [She] didn’t talk much about her childhood, but lessons learned in growing up on a farm stayed with her. She learned how to mend clothes and sheets to extend their lives and to recycle clothing by making new clothes from an old garment. She learned to work hard and preserve food for the winter.

Velma grew up surrounded by a large extended family. There were lots of aunts and uncles from Baxter’s five siblings and Martha’s eight. Velma mentioned Uncle Dan, who was DANIEL MOORE, Baxter’s uncle and son of ROBERT NOBLE MOORE. Uncle Dan made furniture, including my bed stand/sewing cabinet . . . .

. . . .

Velma grew up near the water in Minas Basin and Cobequid Bay. She liked marsh greens and always had some when we spent summers in Economy. The greens turned her teeth green. She helped [my sister] and me acquire a taste for dulse (seaweed),1 which is now too salty for me. The Point road goes out to the Cove where the family went clamming and had picnics. . . .

Velma started her schooling in the one-room school house in the Point Section of Economy. At that time, there were five schools, one in each section of Economy. I don’t know the age for starting school or the number of grades offered. Education was very important to the family. They observed what happened to girls who didn’t get additional education. They married young, had lots of babies and and lost their teeth and figures. Thus, Velma continued her schooling in Truro, which is about 34 miles from Economy. I don’t know when she went there or or how many grades she attended. I know she was there in October 1915 when her brother, Fred, wrote her from England where he was stationed in World War I. She lived with Aunt Addie during the school year and went back to Economy for the summer.2

1My mother carried on the dulse tradition when we spent vacations at my grandparents’ summer cottage in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

2Katharine Brown Gauffreau, The Ancestry and Life of Velma Jane Moore Brown (unpublished manuscript, 2013), 3.

In Search of Economy, Nova Scotia: 2007

Economy Point, Nova Scotia

Economy River, Nova Scotia, 1916

Economy, Nova Scotia Farmland

Photo Back (Handwriting appears to be that of Martha Moore, Velma’s mother) “our house + Melissa’s, rail by the bridge; Tide is above bridge”



In my previous post, “In Search of VELMA BROWN [MOORE] (1897-1975),” I introduced my maternal grandmother and expressed my desire to learn more about her childhood in Economy, Nova Scotia. When I became keeper of The Family Archives in 2014, I discovered a number of photographs of both Economy and Velma’s family.  Looking back to the day I asked her about her childhood, I find it odd that she didn’t just take out the photographs and show them to me.

The photographs of Economy posted above are circa 1910-1920, with the last one dated 1935. They do nothing to dispel my sense that Economy at that time was a pretty grim place.

On the other hand, my impression of Velma and her family from other photographs is that they spent most of their time sitting on the porch, going for picnics, and digging for clams–all sepia-toned, wistful, and redolent of a bygone era.

A Meal on the Porch, Economy, Nova Scotia, 1912

Picnic, Economy, Nova Scotia, c. 1912 (Velma Moore; unidentified woman; Etta Moore, Velma’s aunt; Martha Moore, Velma’s mother; George Baxter Moore, Velma’s father; kneeling woman unidentified)

Picnic at Cove, Economy, Nova Scotia, 1908 (Velma standing in front)

Setting Off for a Picnic, Economy, Nova Scotia (Etta Moore standing third from left, Martha Moore sitting in left chair)

Clamming, Economy, Nova Scotia

Wading in the Bay of Fundy, Economy, Nova Scotia (Velma Moore, age 2; Fred Moore, age 5; Mary Ellis, age 5)

In 2007, I drove my mother to Economy from Presque Isle, Maine so that she could show me where Velma had been born and grown up. Here are some pictures taken from that trip. As you can see, not particularly grim:

The other reason for the trip was so that we could pick up a packet of Moore genealogy from Eric Moore, a very distant cousin. When we met Eric, the family tree showed that we shared a common set of grandparents:

WILLIAM JAMES MOORE, Born 1741 in Colraine, Ireland, Died 1820 in Economy, Nova Scotia

REBECCA NICKOLSON, Born 1753 in Ireland, Died 1829 in Economy, Nova Scotia.

I didn’t know what to think. It was just confounding to me that here was this person to whom I was related, and not only did I not know him, I hadn’t previously known he even existed. How could this be? How could I share bloodlines with all these people in the world whose existence I’m completely oblivious to and always will be?

Is this the genealogist’s impulse, I wonder?

In Search of Velma Brown [Moore] (1897-1975)

Ronald & Velma Brown, Hannaford Cove, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

VELMA JANE MOORE joined the Brown family when she married RONALD DALRYMPLE BROWN on June 30, 1926 in Economy, Nova Scotia. Ronald was the last male descendant of JOHN BROWN (~1595-1686) through his son BENJAMIN BROWN (1647-1736).

Ronald and Velma were my maternal grandparents, and although we had family visits on a regular basis, I never really knew either one of them. Unlike my parents, whom I knew had once been children, college students, and newlyweds, Ronald and Velma had never been anything other than grandparents, more specifically, my grandparents.

 When I was twelve, Velma took me into her bedroom and gave me an amethyst ring she had received as a gift on her twelfth birthday. She made a point of telling me  that she had waited to give it to me until I was the same age she was when the ring was given to her.

What makes the memory of that day so clear is that not only did she give me something that had been hers from that far-away time in Nova Scotia, it was the first and only time I had been allowed to cross the threshold of my grandparents’ bedroom at 27 Edgewood Road while they were alive.

From that time forward, I have been searching for Velma Brown.

The bare facts are that she was born in Economy Point, Nova Scotia in 1897, and she grew up on a farm. She then attended Dalhousie University in Halifax so that she wouldn’t have to remain in Economy, Nova Scotia and live on a farm. In her family history of the Moores, my mother writes of Economy:

I think Economy was at its peak at the time Velma was born and during her growing up years. The census of 1901 shows 805 people in 175 households. There were five schools at the time. Those who weren’t farming found work in saw mills and the woods, in shipbuilding yards with other men being in the crews for the ships, and fishing. . . . Many men fished for shad, which was very plentiful at that time but is no longer. (I remember Ronald going to Parrsboro for shad right off the boat for our dinner. Shad is the boniest fish I have ever eaten.)1

Not long after Velma gave me the amethyst ring, I mustered the courage to ask her what her childhood had been like. What I remember of her response was that life on the farm lacked modern conveniences, they churned their own butter, and, unlike the children of today (which would have been 1968 or thereabouts), she had only one doll, which had a painted porcelain head.

There was something about Economy, Nova Scotia, then.

When I was growing up, my notion of Economy was formed by a single photograph, which hung in one of the bedrooms of Velma and Ronald’s summer cottage in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. There was something about this picture–the small, white house with its four blank windows, the narrow dirt road–that just seemed so desolate, almost as if it were a road to nowhere. Years later, when the picture resurfaced in The Family Archives, it conveyed such a sense of sadness.


1Katharine Brown Gauffreau, The Ancestry and Life of Velma Jane Moore Brown (unpublished manuscript, 2013), 3.

OK, Time to Get Serious


Brown and Moore Genealogy

Both sides of my mother’s family, the Browns and the Moores, did extensive genealogical research on their respective lineages over the years; however, no one on either side was able to take the next step to organize and compile the information in a way that would make sense to future generations of the family. (Never mind making sense to future generations, much of it wouldn’t even be legible to them!)

In 2012, my mother, Katharine Gauffreau [Brown] decided to finish the task her family had started by organizing the information they had taken so much time and care to research into a book for the current members of our family, as well as future generations. Her additional contribution to the family history was to do the research necessary to place each generation into its historical context.

The Progenitors

The progenitor of the line of Browns from whom I am descended was John Brown. This particular John Brown was born around 1595 in London, England. He emigrated to New England in 1635. He and his wife Sarah Brown [Walker] (1618-1672) moved to Hampton, New Hampshire in 1639, where he died on February 27, 1686.

The progenitor of the line of Moores from whom I am descended was William James Moore, who was born in 1741 in Colraine, Ireland.  He emigrated to Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1769 and subsequently bought a farm in Economy, where he died on June 14, 1820. He married Rebecca Nicholson (1753-1829) in 1772.

Sources for Brown and Moore Genealogy

My mother meticulously documented all of the sources she consulted when she wrote the history of her ancestors. When I began planning this blog, she asked me if I wanted her source documentation. Of course I said yes, merrily disregarding the fact that The Family Archives themselves were already taking up most of my small study.



I was surprised to discover just how extensive the documentation was, and I have begun to compile a bibliography. Each source will have its own post with Comments turned on so that others researching the Browns and the Moores will be able to comment on the usefulness of the source for their own research.

Great Expectations1

You can expect to see a new post every week with genealogy, family stories, or whatever ephemera from The Family Archives happens to strike my fancy.

As the materials in The Family Archives aren’t lending themselves easily to being organized in a logical chronological and relational way, I am categorizing each post I write. That way, if I find additional information on a person I’ve written about previously, I can add another post, and the category will allow for all of the posts about that person to be grouped together.

1On my part, that is.