My cousin was a Dumbell during the First World War

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One. Given the amount of military research I do, my husband believes I have a battalion of ancestors who served. Several of my ancestors did enlist, most out of Montreal, including my grandfather Frederick William Dever. All have an interesting story to tell, but my cousin Leonard Young’s story is perhaps the most colourful. He was my grandmother Lucie (Haire) Dever’s first cousin.

Leonard Young, The Duchess, 1921.

Leonard Young, The Duchess, 1921.

Leonard Young was an artist, a pianist, and a veteran of World War I. He was also a duchess and a Dumbell. Leonard was a member of one of Canada’s greatest vaudeville troupes, the Dumbells, a group of soldiers brought together during WWI to entertain the troops in France. Composed entirely of men, with several wearing women’s clothing, the Dumbells sang songs and performed skits that made fun of army life. Leonard’s most famous role was The Duchess, a grand lady who played the piano while wearing a ball gown, pearls, and long white gloves.

Born David Leonard Young on March 9, 1886 in Montreal, Leonard was the second child of Harry Young, a painter, decorator, and professional pianist, and May Watson.

Well known in Montreal’s theatrical circles
Leonard demonstrated his artistic talent at an early age. When he was 20 years old, he helped found the Trinity Players, an amateur theatre troupe, and soon became well known in Montreal’s theatrical circles. To earn a living, he worked as an artist for a local newspaper.

Leonard Young, c1916.

Leonard Young, c1916.

By the time Leonard was 29 years old, the war against Germany had been raging for 18 months. No longer able to ignore the call to enlist, he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in January 1916.

After three months of training, Leonard was shipped to France and assigned to the 9th Field Ambulance unit. There, Leonard soon began performing with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Comedy Company. After fourteen months in France, Leonard’s unit was posted to the front line at Vimy Ridge where two months earlier Canadian troops had fought one of our country’s greatest battles. Soon after arriving at Vimy, Leonard’s life changed forever.

On June 2, 1917, as Leonard was going to the relief of a stretcher squad, he was hit by a fragment of a German shell that tore through the back of his left knee, severing an artery. Two days later, his leg was amputated.

After convalescing for a year in England and being fitted with an artificial leg, Leonard was assigned to the YMCA where he met Captain Merton Plunkett, a member of the 3rd Division and director of a year-old comedy troupe, called the Dumbells. Leonard joined the troupe and spent the duration of the war entertaining Canadian soldiers.

After the war, the Dumbells performed across Canada and in New York, London and Belgium. Leonard continued to appear on stage and worked as stage manager and costume designer.

In 1921, the Dumbells’ show, Biff! Bing! Bang!, became the first Canadian musical revue to appear on Broadway. Unfortunately, financial difficulties brought on by the Depression and the introduction of talkies forced the Dumbells to disband in 1932.

Leonard Young_Duchess_Dumbells_revA few years earlier, in 1926, Leonard had moved permanently to New York, but he spent his summers in Cushing, Quebec where he hosted family and friends from the theatre, including James Cagney. He never married.

Leonard died at the age of 74 in New York on June 14, 1960, survived by his father and younger sister. He is buried with his parents and older brother in Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery. The headstone inscription is simple, providing only his name and the years he was born and died. There is no mention about the musical talent that lies beneath.

Wilson, James, Soldiers of Song: The Dumbells and other Canadian Concert Parties of the First World War, Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012.
The Dumbells, Part One: The Canadian Army Third Division Concert Party, 1917-1919, The Virtual Gramaphone, Library and Archives Canada, online : (
The Dumbells, Part Two: The North American Tour, 1919-1932, The Virtual Gramaphone, Library and Archives Canada, online : (
You can listen to some of the Dumbells’ recordings on The Virtual Gramaphone.


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Canada AM’s WWI series to feature Library and Archives Canada

Beginning Monday, July 28, Canada AM on CTV will air a week-long series on the 100th anniversary of the First World War. The series begins with a look at what Library and Archives Canada is doing to preserve the personnel records of the more than 600,000 Canadians who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. The first episode will air tomorrow at 7:40 am Eastern time.

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Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France in Quebec City

New France Festival_2014For a few days every summer, Old Quebec City transforms itself into New France where residents and visitors can experience what life was like during the 17th and 18th centuries. This year, the 18th annual Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France (New France Festival) takes place August 6 to 10. The streets will be filled with local food products, and more than 400 activities, including parades, concerts, re-enactments, street entertainers, and the arrival of the Filles du roi.

To gain access to the activities, you must purchase the 2014 Medallion New France Festival pass. The pre-July 31 online price is $10. The on-site price is $12. Children 12 and under can attend for free.

The program and other information is available on Les Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France website.

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Fact du jour — This day in history

On July 26, 1874, Alexander Graham Bell first described his idea for the telephone to his father at the family home in Brantford, Ontario. He then built the first telephone in Boston, Massachusetts in 1875, and in 1876, he made the first long distance call over telegraph wires from Brantford to Mount Pleasant, Ontario, three kilometres away.

Mr. Bell’s invention made it possible for people to speak to each other over long distances.

What would he think if he knew we now prefer to write, i.e., text?

The Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers are at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The collection contains more than 145,000 items. A small portion is available online.

Source: Today in Canadian History.
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This week’s crème de la crème — July 26, 2014

The bijoux I discovered this week.


350th anniversary of the Notre-Dame de Québec parish / Le 350e anniversaire de la paroisse de Notre-Dame de Québec on the Library and Archives Canada Blog.

Sand Hill — Franco-Americans in Augusta and Gagne-Bellavance Rassemblement: Gatherine in Wells & Ogunquit by Juliana L’Heureux on The Franco-American Blog.

Overview of Canadian On-line Civil Vital Records (BMDs) and War Office files at Library and Archives Canada by Ken McKinlay on Family Tree Knots.

FYI: Genealogy Priorities Survey From Canadiana on the OGS Blog.

Finding Your Ancestor in the Roman Catholic Parish Registers by Nicola Morris on The Wild Geese.

How original Sin, according to Catholic Church, tore my family apart by Charles R. Hare, IrishCentral.

Genealogy Tips From the “Who Do You Think You Are?” Premiere With Cynthia Nixon by Diane Haddad on Genealogy Insider.

Book Review: Tracing your Army Ancestors. Second Edition. By Simon Fowler by Paul Milner on Paul Milner Genealogy.

Newspaper Research Tip — Hyphens Are Your Friend by Kenneth R. Marks on The Ancestor Hunt.

20 Apps for the Family History Traveler by Lynn Palermo on The Armchair Genealogist.


A New Look at the Initial Acadian Settlement Location in the Attakapas by Donald J. Arceneaux, The Attakapas Historical Association.

L’Acadie célébrée à Saint-Grégoire by Myriam Lortie, La Presse, Montréal.

Treason and hindsight: 200 years after Ancaster’s Bloody Assize by Jeff Green, CBC News, Hamilton, Ontario.

TV show may reveal a Rachel McAdams family connection to Ottawa by Andrew Nguyen, Ottawa Citizen.

Historic ‘La Pointe’ by Deborah Gardner Walker, Wicked Local, Salem, Massachusetts.

Quebec’s conscription crisis divided French and English Canada by Marian Scott, Montreal Gazette.

Genealogical society’s records at risk by Beverley Ware, ChornicleHerald, Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Welcome to the Ontario Genealogical Society.

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Re-investigating resources from another direction

Upside down_MicrosoftSometimes, you have to look at resources from a different perspective. For example, I often search on Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) website by “walking” through the Genealogy and Family History door. I end up re-tracing my steps from previous visits. Doing so means that the sections and resources tend to always look the same.

That is why I like a post on the Ontario Genealogical Society Quinte Branch’s Facebook page that reminds us to look at a list of LAC’s databases by Product Type. Browsing this list provides us with another way to look in the same place, but from another point of view. There may be databases we had not even thought of looking for. From the same page, also browse the databases by Topic and A-Z.

Browse the list of LAC databases here.

Visit Quinte Branch’s Facebook page here where you will discover they post often about Ontario and Canadian resources.

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Survey results: The comments provide additional insight

Keyboard02_MicrosoftFurther to yesterday’s post about the results of the survey, What are the most important factors that make you decide to join a genealogy society?, here are some of the comments respondents wrote in the Other box, comments written on the blog post about the survey, and comments posted on Facebook.

  1. To connect with other members who share the same ancestry back to early America and the colonies.
  2. The ability to communicate with like-minded individuals who share a passion for genealogical research.
  3. “Addicted” to genealogy.
  4. Because it’s FUN!
  5. Common regional or family interests.
  6. I think the main reason people join is to find out how to start researching.
  7. To pass on information to my descendants.
  8. Conduit for general information.
  9. Actual support and access to genealogical files.
  10. User friendly Facebook page and website.
  11. Contact with potential clients.
  12. In Connecticut you need a researcher card for access to recent vital records
  13. Knowing that reference materials are available to peruse.
  14. Off-site access to paid sites (Fold3,
  15. As a thank you for the records they maintain, research they do because they are in my “hometown” and I am far away.
  16. Family folders (records).
  17. I love to be a part of where my ancestors lived. Also to share what I have found and to learn from others in the same area.
  18. Chance to meet distant cousins.
  19. A window into the broader genealogy community.
  20. Stories even if they are not related to my ancestors.
  21. “Face time” vs exclusive online research.
  22. Ongoing training provided to new and established members.
  23. Mostly habit, but makes less sense now with internet providing resources and community.
  24. I want to support the preservation of history and honour my ancestors.
  25. I am not joining one near me – when I went to a meeting, it felt clique and unwelcoming. I have been a member of organizations, not just genealogy and find it interesting that people complain new people do not join, when all they do is chat with their friends at meetings and do not include a new person that is standing by themselves. Why would they join?
  26. One thing that you don’t examine is different types of groups. I belong to several very different kinds. One is a small group that meets at our local library where we take turns presenting our current research and help each other with research and use of our computer programs. I’ve belonged to four different regional/subject groups over the years. I attended the meetings of only one of them, large group meetings with interesting speakers who presented very well. I currently belong to one regional group but it’s too far away for attending meetings, but I want to financially support their work, and I enjoy their webinars. I also think of my family associations as genealogy groups.
  27. Most societies have a discount membership when more than half the year is gone, and that is a good way to “try them on for size.” I did that with one I joined. I had a few questions, not only about possible ancestors but also about the area. Not one of my questions was ever answered. I got “sorry I don’t know” not even a referral to someone who may help. You can guess I never renewed.
  28. I find that most people do not join because they can find (or think they can find) everything on the internet (even if it is wrong). People post basic research questions on Facebook and other genie sites. Sometimes they get good responses, other times the bare minimum and still other times it is the blind leading the blind. I don’t understand why people don’t read some of the great helpful books that have been written.
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Fact du jour — Today in history

On July 24, 1534, Jacques Cartier landed at rocky Penouille Point on the Gaspé coast and erected a 10-metre high cross, bearing the fleur-de-lys and motto “Vive le Roy de France,” taking possession of the mainland of Canada in the name of King François I.

Source: Today in Canadian History.
Jacques Cartier at Gaspé, 1534. Charles W. Simpson, 1929. Library and Archives Canada collection, Online MIKAN no. 2837262.

Jacques Cartier at Gaspé, 1534. Charles W. Simpson, 1929. Library and Archives Canada collection, Online MIKAN no. 2837262.

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Survey results indicate genealogists join societies for camaraderie

Listening_MicrosoftAre you listening, genealogical societies? Here are the results to last week’s survey question: What are the most important factors that make you decide to join a genealogy society? 

Due to publicity on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, 490 people participated in the survey that provided 37 multiple-choice answers. More than 40 people checked the Other box and provided additional responses.

Many thanks to all who participated and to those who promoted the survey.

Focus on camaraderie, resources, and newsletter – at an affordable price
According to the results of this survey, if your society wants to increase membership, it should focus efforts to build camaraderie, encourage members to share and learn from each other, develop the library’s resources, maintain/increase the content and quality of its newsletter, provide lectures, and offer an affordable membership fee.

Most important factors
The top two reasons people join a society are for the people. While genealogists often do much of their research alone, it perhaps comes as no surprise that close to a majority of respondents — about 60 percent — join societies for the opportunity to meet people and learn from others. Forty-five percent also said “research assistance and guidance” is an important factor and 40 percent join because members are friendly and helpful.

The number three reason genealogists join societies is to “improve my research skills” (54%).  As for organized opportunities to learn, only lectures appear in the top ten. Is this because lectures are often free for members? Is it the frequency of lectures that encourage people to join?

Cost is also an important factor, suggested by 45 percent of respondents who selected “affordable membership fee.”

Other top ten factors are the library’s resources (47%), newsletter (46%), and remote access to members only databases (40%).

1. Opportunity to network with people passionate about genealogy – 61%

2. Opportunity to meet knowledgeable members to help me – 59%

3. I want to improve my research skills – 54%

4. Society focused on area where my ancestors lived – 48%.

5. Library’s resources (books, computers, microfilm) – 47%

6. Informative newsletter/journal/magazine – 46%

7. Research assistance and guidance – 45%

8. Affordable membership fee – 44%

9. Lectures – 43%

10. Members are friendly and helpful – 40%

10. Remote access to “members only” online databases – 40%


Learning opportunities not a huge factor
Other learning opportunities, such as conferences (36%), workshops (34%), and webinars (24%), appear in the top 20, however, they are not among the top factors one may expect, given the amount of work and cost required from a society.

While only one if five respondents chose message boards (21%) and free queries (20%), significantly more people (31%) prefer the ability to post to a surname research database.

Member discounts and advocacy attract few
Way down the list are member discounts, ranging from 10 to 18 percent. Although many respondents indicated they join societies to network with other genealogists, they appear much less interested in field trips (15%) and social events (11%). Very few respondents join a society for its advocacy program, partnerships, or board of directors.

11. I want to help fellow genealogists – 36%

11. Conferences – 36%

12. Workshops – 34%

13. Ability to post to surname research database – 31%

14. Email communication with members bout activities, resources, and news – 25%

15. Webinars – 24%


16. I live near the society – 23%

17. Message board for members – 21%

18. Variety of special interest groups – 20%

18. Free queries – 20%

19. Member discounts on lecturers, seminars, and workshops – 18%

19. Volunteer opportunities – 18%

20. Society is a leader in the field of genealogy – 17%


21. Field trips – 15%

21. Member discounts on conferences – 15%

22. Member discounts on commercial databases – 13%

22. Society partners with other organizations – 13%

23. Member discounts on books and magazines – 12%

24. Recommendation from a friend – 11%

24. Social activities – 11%

24. Society recognizes volunteers’ contributions – 11%


25. Member discounts on research – 10%

26. Other (these factors will be listed tomorrow) – 9%

27. Useful new member packages – 8%

27. I want to provide financial support – 8%

28. Society has an advocacy program – 7%

29. Society’s board of directors – 2%


Tomorrow, I will list the Other factors respondents provided in Survey results: The comments provide insight.

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Savoir faire — Online “This Day in History” calendar

The Centre d’archives de la région de Thetford in Quebec has created a low-cost, online This Day in History-type calendar that genealogical and historical societies may want to consider producing for their website. Called Une histoire au quotidien (Daily History), the calendar is a collection of historical events that took place in the town of Thetford Mines since asbestos was first discovered in the region. Many of the events are illustrated with a photo that can be enlarged by clicking on it.

Even if you do not read French, you can easily figure out how the calendar works. For example, click on today’s date, July 23, and you will discover that on this day in 1939 Benson James Bennett, the first mayor of Thetford Mines, died.  He was the son of Samuel James Bennett and Elizabeth Mary Fair. He is buried in Saint-Alphonse Cemetery in Thetford Mines. As you can see below, his photo appears next to this information, and there are two other dates in history.

Image of July 23.

Image of July 23.

The calendar contains 1,050 events and more than 350 photos. The Archival Centre intends to regularly update the calendar with future events and new discoveries. They hope that anyone with historical information and/or photos will contact them at:

The calendar was produced in collaboration with the Société de généalogie et d’histoire de la région de Thetford Mines and the Town of  Thetford Mines.

You can see the online calendar here.

Savoir faire posts are about genealogical societies’ good ideas. These posts are about organizations that know how to do it. 

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