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Life at the Misericordia Hospital

3 Oct

PC006510Mom entered the Misericordia School of Nursing in 1928. She would have been 19 years old. The hospital at that time was operated by the Sisters of the Misericorde out of Montreal. The Sisters of Misericorde were a Religious Congregation founded by Marie Rosalie Cadron Jettre (1794 – 1864) in Montreal Quebec in 1848 and was dedicated to nursing the poor and unwed mothers. The congregation spread into Western Canada, establishing the Misericordia Hospital in 1900. The Sisters of Misericorde operated the hospital until the 1970s, when it became part of what is now Covenant Health, a Catholic health care provider operating 18 facilities across Alberta, in cooperation with AHS

The first permanent Misericordia Hospital opened on March 19,
1906. In contrast to the wood construction of the temporary structure,
the new building was a large brick edifice complete with mansard
roof, corner turret, and iron cresting on the rooftop. The main floor
contained the reception area and office space, and the third floor held
the wards for male patients. The obstetrical department occupied the
second floor, including its own kitchen and operating room.

A vital part of the new Misericordia Hospital was the School of
Nursing. The school graduated its first nurse in September 1909 and
produced 43 more nurses by 1922.

Renovations and Additions from 1906 to 1939
In the 16 years following its opening, the hospital remained much the
same except for the addition of sun rooms on the south side in 1914.
A further addition was made to the hospital tn 1922, raising the
number of beds to 175. With this addition, the
hospital almost doubled in size from the flrst
permanent structure.

The hospital continued to serve the people of
Edmonton throughout the depression, though not
$16,500. In the late 1930s, as the depression
showed signs of abating, plans for a new maternity
wing began in earnest.
Post-War Transformations
On January 20,1940 the new maternity wing was
opened. The fact that the first addition in nearly 20
years was devoted to maternity care reflected the
Sisters’ commitment to this type of care. This
wing was the first in a series of additions that
would radically transform both the appearance and
operation of the hospital.

Training Years under the Sisters of The Misericordia


She graduated in 1931 having won the Dr. Redmond Medal for Medical Nursing.


She continued working at the hospital until 1939 when she met her future husband while nursing his mother Sarah Jane Perkins.


I remember a trip we made by train to Montreal in the early 60’s to visit Sister St. Christine who ruled the roost at the Misericordia Hospital for many years. She had retired to the Mother House in Montreal.


Sister St. Christine and mom along with another sister who was our driver

She returned to her nursing career in 1958 after completing a nursing refresher course. She was head nurse on First Floor Maternity for 10 years until health issues forced her to retire in 1968.


Serendipitous Connections

14 Sep

Serendipitous Connections

What does a picture in a steamer trunk, a man named Mircea Eliade, a researcher in Bucharest, Romania and a house at 82 Rippon Street Calcutta, India have in common?

(This post has been updated from one I wrote in 2013)

This story has its beginning with a picture in a steamer trunk kept in our basement. Not only did the trunk store Christmas decorations, it held pictures from the past. I had seen these pictures each December when my mom got out her decorations. Mom said these pictures belonged to my grandmother Sarah Jane Sleath Perkins. Sarah Jane was the only grandparent I ever met and she died when I was only 7 years old.

Fifteen years ago when I first became interested in researching my family history, those pictures were the first things I decided to check out. Some faces I recognized, others I did not. I concentrated on the people I knew, did my research and moved on. It was only more recently when I became interested in telling the stories of individual ancestors that I returned to the unidentified pictures in the trunk. The whole point of this exercise was to see what I could discover about an ancestor and if it would be sufficient to develop a story. I chose the picture taken in the Punjab of a young man in an army uniform with the scribbled name “Dick”.

Richard Edward Sleath Punjab India 1893

Over time, I learned a great deal about my Great Uncle Richard Edward Sleath, his wife Gwyndon Ophelia Mathias and her second husband William Frederic Perris.  I did presentations on my ancestor’s life to both the England Wales and Postscripts Special Interest Groups during the winter of 2019.  To the latter, I was showing how even if you only had minimal in formation to start, it was possible to develop a story.

Since Spring 2019, the story itself has taken on a life of its own and recently put me in touch with a Romanian, Liviu Bordas in Bucharest, who just happened to be researching the Perris Family of Calcutta, India. I am getting ahead of myself though and must return to first telling you what I discovered about my ancestor, Richard Sleath. After that I will explain how his story morphed into a story for Relatively Speaking.

I knew my maternal grandmother, Sarah Jane Sleath, had a number of brothers and that one or more had served with the British Army. I had her 1901 wedding photo taken in Claybrooke, Leicestershire, England. The young man called Dick was not in the picture so it was possible, if indeed he was Sarah Jane’s brother, that he was stationed somewhere with the British Army in Punjab, India.

Wedding of John Thomas Perkins and Sarah Jane Sleath 1901 at Claybrooke Lei, England

Wedding was at St. Peter’s Claybrooke Parva. Sarah’s parents George and Abigail Seath and her brother’s George, Jack and Thomas are in the group. Richard Edward Sleath not in picture. 

I referred to a pedigree chart I had developed when I was researching the Sleath Family. Sarah Jane was born in 1869 and her brother Jack in 1866. These were the two Sleath siblings that had ended up in Alberta in the early 1900’s. There was one older brother and 4 younger brothers that remained in England.

As I have a number of paid genealogy sites, it was natural to access them to discoverer what information they might hold. I first went to Find My Past UK and located a baptism record for Richard Edward Sleath. He was christened at St. Mary’s Parish Church in Moreton, Staffordshire on Feb 25, 1872. This document confirmed his parents were George and Abigail Sleath, the same as Sarah Jane. On the 1881 Census on Ancestry, I found the family living in Streethay, Staffordshire. This document confirmed the names and ages of all the family. It appeared that George and Jack (John) were the older brothers while Richard, Joseph and the twins, Thomas and Samuel were the younger brothers. Sarah Jane was the only girl.

1881 Census on Ancestry

On Ancestry I was fortunate to find Service Documents from the UK Royal Hospital, Chelsea, Pensioner Soldier Service Records 1760 – 1920. I was referred to Fold3 (owned by Ancestry) for the original documents.  These records gave me a summary of Richard’s military career.

Service Record for Richard Sleath

Summary: Richard Sleath - Military Career

1889                –   joined the 4th Battalion Staffordshire Reg as a Militiaman​​

23Sept1889      -   joined King’s Royal Rifle Corp at Winchester (86267) ​​

08Aug1891      -   posted to Royal Horse Artillery  Dublin District formed in 1793 as distinct arm of the Royal

Regiment of  Artillery

26May1892      – appointed as a Bombardier, a military rank that has existed since the 16th century in artillery regiments                               of various armies equivalent to the rank of corporal in other branches.

09Sept1893      -  sent to India to fight on the NW Frontier​ 29Sept1901 _  discharged at Allahabad Railway Station,                                         Northern India ​

British India 1893

It was at this point that I had to get myself a good map of India in the 1890s plus smaller maps of the various provinces. I really had no idea where anything was and how far apart some of these places were. I also had to delve into the history of the country. It certainly wasn’t covered in my High School classes.

I found a book on Google called North-West Frontier 1837–1947 by  Robert Wilson Latham There was a summary as follows:

“For over a hundred years British and Indian troops were engaged on the North-West Frontier of India, policing the tribes, mounting expeditions, and guarding against the ever-present threat from Russia. Populated mainly by Pathans, one of the fiercest warrior races on earth, the Frontier came to be known as “The Grim” by generations of British soldiers. It offers a rare glimpse into life on the Frontier, illuminating Lord Curzon’s remark, “No man who has read a page of Indian history will ever prophesy about the frontier”.

​I don’t know where Richard was stationed or what battles he may have been in. I do know that he was shipped to India in 1891 with the Royal Horse Artillery as a Bombardier and he was discharged at Allahabad Station in 1901.

I created a Timeline to help in writing the story of Richard Edward Sleath​.​

1872    Baptized in Moreton Staffordshire​

1881    Living in Streethay Staffordshire​

1889    Militia Man in Lichfield Stafffordshire​

1889    Joined Kings Royal Rifles​

1891    Dublin District Royal Horse Artillery Gunner​

1893    India  Bombardier​ (Rank between that of gunner and that of sergeant)  Royal Horse Artillery

1901    Discharged at East India Railway Station​ Allahabab         ​

1902    Married Gwyndon Ophelia Mathias at ​  Khagole, Bengal, India​

1907    Richard Sleath died 24Feb1907​

1908    Gwyndon Sleath (Richard’s widow) marries William Frederic Perris​

Richard was discharged from the British Army in 1901. He would have been 29 years old. As I was searching for pictures of the East India Railway Station at Allahabad on the internet I found a postcard. It had been written by Adelaide in July of 1908. She was letting someone know she was leaving from the Allahabad Station.  It struck me that this was the same station Richard would have seen.

1908 sent from someone leaving from Allahabad Station in 1908

The steamer trunk held other photos including one of Richard Sleath in civilian dress. He looked older than the man in the army uniform. I guessed the photo would have been taken after he had been discharged from the army in 1901. The photographer was identified as Bourne and Shepherd of Calcutta.  I thought this picture might have been taken around the time of his wedding (1902) and one that he would send to his sister Sarah Jane.

Richard Sleath ..likely taken at time of his wedding to Gwyndon Matthias


I located an Extract from India Eagle Paper in Calcutta and learned something about this company.

Bourne & Shepherd: World’s Oldest Operating Photo Studio in Kolkata Breathed its Last (2016)

“This dilapidated building named ‘Photographe’ in the busiest neighborhood of Kolkata could have been converted into a world-class photography museum to preserve the footprints of India’s journey from the colonial times to the post-independence era. But Fate had something else in store for the iconic landmark where many historic events across the country were documented through photography for 176 years…..the photo studio was renamed Bourne & Shepherd in 1866 when the British photographer and traveler duo – Samuel Bourne and Charles Shepherd – took control of the business after William Howard left India.”





What happened to Richard Sleath following his discharge? This was an important question I needed to answer.  I discovered a marriage registration on He had married a woman by the name of Gwyndon Ophelia Mathias at Christ Church, Khagole, India on September 25,1902. This record was part of the British India Office Collection . He said he was 28 and she was 17. In actuality he would have been 30. Yes our ancestors stretched the truth!

Richard Edward Sleath married Gwyndon Ophelia Mathias on 26 Sept 1902 at Khagole Bengal India


Marriage record for Richard and Gwyndon in 1902


I had the wedding picture for Richard and Gwyndon. Given the style of the wedding dress this had been a very English wedding.  The couple were married for only five years when Richard died February 24, 1907 in the Medical College Hospital in Calcutta at age 35. This information was from the Times of India newspapers on the Families in British India website.  I could not find a death record. He was an employee of the East India Railway Company.

Richard Sleath and Gwyndon Mattias married in Khagole Punjab India

I located Richard’s will on Find My Past. It would appear that he was living a very good life in India and based on conversion rates for the rupee to today’s purchasing power in UK pounds, Gwyndon was a moderately wealthy widow.

“I give…my household furniture, linens and wearing apparel, plates, pictures, china, horse carts and carriages and also every sum and sums of money which may be in my house…..also my stock funds and securities and all and every other money or bank notes or other securities.”


John Mathias and Ophelia Grose (Gwyndon Parents) were married at St. Paul’s Church on Scott Lane in Calcutta, India in 1862

Ophelia Grose (Gwyndon’s Mother) was born 1862 and christened 1864 at the Sheik Ghaut Chapel Associated with the Presbyterian Mission of Sylhet. She was the daughter nof Benjamin Gilbert Grose and Marian ? Interesting to note other children named Grose were also christened at the same time.

I could end my story at this point. My ancestor is deceased and he left no living children. Gwyndon, at 22 would  move on with her life. Indeed she married William Frederic Perris in 1908.

Family Photo…Richard Sleath, Gwyndon Mathias Sleath, Ophelia Grose Mathias and John Mathias. Unknown woman in top left….sister, aunt?

I was curious though, as to what would happen to such a young woman. I thought why not do some additional research into Gwyndon Ophelia and her maternal family. From the family picture it was clear that her mother Ophelia was an Anglo-Indian. This woman after whom she was named came from Sylhet, Bengal in northeast India. The family name was Grose.  I found Ophelia’s father Benjamin Gilbert Grose born 1840 in Sylhet and his father Robert Grose born in Calcutta in 1808. Robert’s father was John Grose but I was unable to determine where he was born.

Bengal Presidency in India. Sylhet was in the NE corner

On the Perris side we find her husband Wiliam Frederic Perris born into a military family in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India in 1879 to Corporal and Amelia Perris (2nd of the 2nd Queens). He married Gwyndon Mathias Sleath in 1908 and they had 6 children. The senior Perris’ ended up in England in 1951 following the partition of the country.

Calcutta India

This is where the story takes a serendipitous turn. I had advertised my presentation to the Postscript group on my Facebook Page. Liviu Bordas a Romanian researcher saw the post on Facebook and got in touch with John Althouse. The following morning I had a forwarded email from Liviu Bordas. Liviu had being trying to reach me since finding my blog, A Genealogist Goes Wandering, on which I had a posting about Richard and Gwyndon Sleath and William Frederic Perris.

Liviu writes:  May 2019

“I am doing a research on Calcutta (and generally India) during the last period of the British Raj in connection with some European scholars who visited or lived there for some time. In 2015, I have researched the India Office Records in The British Library and National Archives and found some information. I found other information, including their migration to UK, on various genealogical websites. I would like to know what you have found. Thank you.”

Emails went back and forth. I wanted to know why he was researching the Perris Family. Turns out he was researching a noted Romanian religious scholar Mircea Eliade who had stayed with the Perris Family in their Calcutta guesthouse from 1929 to 1931. He was writing a book soon to be published and wanted permission to use some of my pictures.

Liviu Wrote in reply to one of my emails:  “Their entire life is a great story. I wrote it. 🙂

I put all the information I could find about them (their lives and their ancestors) in a text I wrote as introduction to Mircea Eliade’s Indian travelogue (India) and Indian diary (Șantier = Work in progress), published in 1934 and 1935 (now republished in a single volume). Eliade lived in their house for the duration of his stay in India (January 1929 – November 1931), except for January-September 1930, when he lived in the house of his professor, Surendranath Dasgupta. The Perris kept their rented home in Calcutta as a “pension” / “guest house”. In India, Eliade mentions, briefly, only Fred Perris and his brothers. But in Șantier all of them,  including Ophelia, Gwyn’s mother) are a constant presence. Isabel is modeled after Gwyndon, while Maitreyi is Maitreyi Devi, Dasguptas’s daughter. Almost all the other Perris appear under a guise in the two novels. The last one is the only one translated in English and made into a film – Bengali Nights. Eliade also kept a correspondence with the Perris family while he was traveling in India and after his return to Bucharest as well, until 1936.

Introduction written by Livu Bordas



The book is coming out in a week or two. I have quoted your blog post and also included one of the pictures (with Richard, Gwyn and her parents) mentioning as source the personal archive of Louise Perkins”. I apologize for doing it without securing your permission. I have tried to contact you in October and November but received no answer. Unfortunately, the publisher made the picture very small, so I think there is no much use of it in the book. The readers can go however to your blog post. I hope you won’t mind that. Let’s keep in touch. We might find other things to share. With best wishes,”  Liviu

Serendipitous connections kept occurring. I found a book in a bookstore on Whyte Avenue. It contained additional information about the family and their lives when Mircea Eliade was staying there. He refers to Gwyndon Perris as Mrs. P who ran the establishment at 82 Rippon Street.. Her sons were  the same age as Mircea, all in their late teens or early 20’s. I await the publication of Liviu’s book  and translation to English. Who knows what else I might discover?

82 Rippon Street as it stands today in Kolcata India


The young man that lived at the guest house in Calcutta belonging to The Perris Family (Gwyndon was Richard Sleath’s widow. Married Fred Perris in 1908.













As an ending to this story,  I discovered a further connection to a man I had never heard about until May 2019. I was taking a class and the speaker was David Goa, (Adele Goa’s brother for those of you in the know). He is a noted Religious Scholar and curated the Anno Domini Exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum in the early 2000s. I thought I would ask him if he was familiar with Mircea Eliade. He looked at me and said “of course, he was my professor when I studied at the University of Chicago in the 60’s. He was a brilliant man!”  It is indeed a small world!

What does a picture in a trunk, a man named Mircea Eliade, a researcher in Bucharest and a house at 82 Rippon Street Calcutta have in common? I have discovered that they form the basis for a very interesting story and now you know the answer!










The Diaguita People of Chile

2 Aug

Terra Diaguita Boutique Hotel

I never gave much thought to the name of the Hostel…Terra Diaguita Boutique Hostel in La Serena, Chile when I found and booked us rooms online for our South American trip in March/April 2017. Upon arrival, it looked like any other “hole in the wall hotel”…that was until we walked into the small lobby…..then the  magical nature of this place hit us both. There were plants and seating areas everywhere…. art and artifacts on every wall and surface.  The walkway leading to the rooms passed through the back garden. The rooms actually looked like cottages with the outside walls painted a warm yellow.


One of the many areas with plants and artifacts


IMG_20170403_150827 (1) - Copy

Seating area



Pathway to the rooms through the Garden

IMG_20170403_150938Individual Rooms

The next morning, after I had time to settle in and explore the local area, I decided to take a closer look at the artifacts in the hostel. What was the meaning of the name..DIAGUITA…and did it have a relationship to the artifacts and art.

Through further research, I have since learned that these Pre-Columbian Diaguitas had great cultural traditions and in the 21st Century, they have a connection to a large Canadian Company…(Barrick Gold, the largest gold mining company in the world with headquarters in Toronto, Canada). For some, this is a contentious relationship…and today, these Indigenous People are still struggling to retain their ancient culture, art and traditions. If this sounds familiar to stories you have heard about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples….it is.


Book Cover in a Book Stall in the market



Digging further into the history of the Indigenous peoples of Chile….I saw the exact same story playing out over the centuries as the Spanish Colonizers came in contact with the Indigenous Peoples…the same story we have here in Canada with just a change in names… here it was the  British and French Colonizers.

Chile is situated in southern South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean and a small part of the South Atlantic Ocean. Chile’s territorial shape is among the world’s most unusual. From north to south, Chile extends 4270 km (2,653 mi), and yet it only averages 177 km (110 mi) east to west.

The Chilean government currently recognizes nine indigenous groups within its borders, the Atacameño, Aymara, Colla, Diaguita, Kawashkar, Mapuche, Quechua, Rapa Nui, and Yagán peoples, each of which has a rich history and culture.



I was familiar with pre Columbian civilizations such as the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans….but the Diaguita I hadn’t known. I had never really considered that there were likely many other groups that had been living in South America for thousands of years.

The Indigenous Law   Distribution of people from Kawesgar in the south to Aymaras in the North

From Indigenous  (Website)

“The largest indigenous group in Chile is the Mapuche people (approximately 85% of all indigenous people in Chile), which is concentrated in the south. The Diaguita are a much smaller group living in the more northernly regions of the country. Although difficult to summarize, the situation of most indigenous people is one of poverty and marginalization as a result of the discrimination from which they have historically suffered.

After the first Spanish colonizers settled in the central valley in Chile, the native population began to disappear as a result of the conquest and colonization, and the survivors were gradually absorbed and integrated into the nascent Chilean population. Several attempts by the Spanish to subjugate the Mapuche failed and the Crown recognized the independence of these peoples in various agreements (parlamentos), respecting their territorial sovereignty south of the Bíobío river, which became a real, though porous, border between two societies and two cultures. The Chilean Republic maintained the same relationship with the Mapuche nation during the first half of the nineteenth century, but Chilean forays into the region gradually weakened indigenous sovereignty and led to several conflicts.

Finally, in 1888, Chile embarked upon the military conquest of Araucanía in what became known in the official history books as the “pacification of Araucanía”, which brought about the integration of the region into the rest of the country. In addition, as a result of the war of the Pacific (1879-1883), the Aymara, Atacameño, Quechua and Colla groups in the north of Chile were also integrated.  The main outcome of this period for native peoples was the gradual loss of their territories and resources, as well as their sovereignty, and an accelerated process of assimilation imposed by the country’s policies and institutions, which refused to recognize the separate identities of indigenous cultures and languages. Chilean society as a whole, and the political classes in particular, ignored, if not denied, the existence of native peoples within the Chilean nation. The exclusion of native peoples from the popular imagination in Chile became more pronounced with the construction of a highly centralized State and lasted, with a few exceptions, until the late 1980s.

President Salvador Allende, who was elected in 1970, introduced various social reforms and speeded up the process of land reform, including the return of land to indigenous communities. The military regime that came to power following the coup led by Augusto Pinochet reversed the reforms and privatized indigenous land, cracking down on social movements, including those representing indigenous people and the Mapuche in particular.

The treatment of indigenous people as if they were “invisible” did not begin to change until the decline of the military regime, when their most representative organizations began to push a number of demands for recognition of the rights denied to them. The return to democracy in 1989 signaled a new phase in the history of the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Chilean State, embodied in the Nueva Imperial Agreement signed by the then presidential candidate, Mr. Patricio Aylwin, and representatives of various indigenous organizations, and culminating in the 1993 Indigenous Peoples Act (No. 19,253), in which, for the first time, the Chilean Government recognized rights that were specific to indigenous peoples and expressed its intention to establish a new relationship with them.

Among the most important rights recognized in the Act are the right to participation, the right to land, cultural rights and the right to development within the framework of the State’s responsibility for establishing specific mechanisms to overcome the marginalization of indigenous people. One of the mechanisms set up in this way was the National Indigenous Development Corporation (CONADI), which acts as a collegiate decision-making body in the area of indigenous policy and which includes indigenous representatives.

To back up the State’s indigenous policy in this new phase, the Government of President Ricardo Lagos set up the Historical Truth and New Deal Commission, chaired by former President Patricio Aylwin and consisting of various representatives of Chilean society and indigenous people. Its mandate was to investigate “the historical events in our country and to make recommendations for a new State policy”. The Commission submitted its report, conclusions and proposals for reconciliation and a new deal between indigenous people and Chilean society in October 2003.  IMG_20170404_182212

In September of 2008, after nearly two decades of struggles, the Chilean government ratified Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO 169), which guaranteed additional rights to the indigenous peoples living in Chile.  In particular, ILO 169 supports the rights to consultation, property, and self-determination.  The law officially went into effect in September of 2009, and has only now begun being litigated in the courts.  Despite the victory ILO 169 represents for indigenous rights, in reality, many conflicts and fights remain to be had between the Chilean government and the indigenous peoples living within its borders.”IMG_20170404_180931


download (1)IMG_20170404_181541IMG_20170404_181532

In artistic terms, the Diaguita are known above all for their

distinctive ceramics, which feature two-colored geometric

designs applied on a base of a third color. This kind of decoration

is found on a variety of vessels they produced,  such as pots,

urns, duck-shaped pitchers, and bowls. The Diaguita’s

highly complex designs are thought to be representations

of shamanic visions; many of their vessels bear feline

motifs or people with feline  features. Apart from

ceramics, the Diaguita also produced some of the geometric

designs and mask forms found in the rock art of the region.







IMG_20170403_193242 (1)

Checking out Murchie

On the day we left La Serena, Kunza came to say Good-bye.  Kunza or Cunza is an extinct Language Isolate once spoken in theAtacama Desert of Northern Chile. Likely he is a very old soul….

I have included two articles I found on the web talking about the Diaguita and their land claims and their relationship with Barrick Gold.

Nancy Yáñez is a professor in the Law Department at the University of Chile and codirector of the Observatory of Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Sarah Rea is an anthropology student at Harvard University. She conducted independent fieldwork in Chile in 2006, focusing on indigenous politics in the Huasco Valley.


Publication Date

December 2006


Nancy Yáñez and Sarah Rea

Indigenous people in Chile’s Huasco Valley have held onto their land and their identity for 4,000 years despite conquerors, dictators, and a dominant culture that didn’t recognize their existence. Now they face a new threat, one that glitters.

Legend has it that it was the Inca leaders of Cuzco who told the Spanish colonizers that there were hidden riches in the south. Dreaming of gold, the Spanish, who had already taken the land and treasures of the native Peruvians, headed south for Chile to expand their colonial empire. Neither the Spaniards nor the leaders of the Incan empire could have imagined the magnitude of Chile’s natural resource fortune—now measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars—or the degree to which getting those riches would disrupt indigenous cultures.

This dynamic is still being played out today in the Huasco Valley of northern Chile, which is the traditional home of the Diaguita people. The 700-mile-long Huasco River is fed by glaciers and nourishes the lush vineyards, tropical fruits, avocados, and legumes of the Huasco Valley microclimate. The valley is known for its freshwater shrimp, artisan olive oil, grapes, Pisco (the national liquor), and Pajarete liqueurs. Unfortunately for the Diaguita, the Huasco Valley is also known for its gold, silver, and copper deposits.

The river is fed by two tributaries in the valleys of El Carmen and El Tránsito, the second of which is home to the Diaguita. Some locals believe the indigenous peoples imposed taxes on dried fruits to keep the Spanish out of El Tránsito, and others say the Spanish took the “better” valley and left the lesser for the native Diaguita. Today, the families of El Tránsito still have Diaguita indigenous last names such as Campillay and Huanchicay, and those in El Carmen have last names of Spanish descent like Rojas and Marín.

Chilean history students have always learned that the Diaguita pueblo, or community, existed only from a.d. 900 to 1500, and the Diaguita name was not spoken in public discourse between the Spaniards’ arrival and 2001, when a fieldwork study was carried out by the Chilean Commission for True History and New Treatment. In the course of that fieldwork, Diaguita descendants told stories of their recent ancestors, and archeologists began to share their artifacts with the local people. In 2002, the residents of the Huasco Valley established the Diaguita Cultural Center. Suspicious outsiders say that the Diaguita identity is being revived just to get indigenous benefits under Chilean law. The Diaguita, however, say that the Diaguita ethnicity has persisted for centuries. Community member Oscar Cubillos Cuello says, “The disappearance of the Diaguita name is the fault of the anthropologists who never came to our land to interview us. The ethnicity has always lived; it is not dead.”

On September 8, 2006, the government came to the same conclusion and passed Chilean Law 20.117, which recognized the “existence and cultural attributes of the Diaguita ethnicity and the indigenous nature of the Diaguita people.” That declaration has significant cultural implications, of course, but it also has major political ramifications. The recognition of the Diaguita as indigenous people gives them rights to their traditional lands, but a significant portion of those lands have already been appropriated by the state, and that land is now extremely valuable.

The Diaguitas’ land was taken from them not by the Spaniards during 16th century colonization, but in 1997, when the government claimed 40 percent of the Diaguitas’ territory and divided it into three haciendas. One of those haciendas, Chollay, is currently being developed by the Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada. In October 2006, Nevada, Ltd., a subsidiary of Barrick Gold, began the construction of Pascua Lama gold mine in the mountains above Huasco Valley. The company is digging a gorge about a mile long and 1,800 feet deep, where ore will be extracted and processed using cyanide (the standard method for processing gold ore). The corporation had proposed drilling into three glaciers, one of which feeds the Huasco River, until valley residents and international environmentalists protested in Huasco’s main city of Vallenar and in Santiago throughout 2005.

Swayed to some degree by the protests, the Chilean government barred the mining company from touching the glaciers, and with that most serious concern addressed, gave the project final approval in early 2006. The company itself claims it will minimize the social and environmental impacts of its operations. They will give the local government $60 million for agriculture and will invest a further $10 million in the valley’s towns. In addition, the mine has hired the most advanced mining experts and is using state-of-the-art technology. “It still puzzles me why there is so much controversy,” Pascua-Lama project manager Ron Kettles told the New York Times. “This is far and away the safest and most environmentally sensitive project that I’ve ever built in 40 years in this business.”

Certainly there are those among the 70,000 residents of the Huasco Valley who welcome the mine and hope to be selected as one of 5,500 workers employed there. Most residents of Vallenar, Huasco Valley’s humble palm-lined metropolis, speak fondly of the mining industry. The city was once the prosperous hub of the mineral region, but it has fallen on hard times and now has an unemployment rate of 18 percent. Many there see the Barrick mine as a source of potential economic revitalization for the city.

But for the 262 Diaguita families of the Agricultural Community of Huasco Alto, land is the crux of their identity and the mine is a threat. Local Diaguita say that the mine is “new colonization, by transnational corporations.” When asked what “being Diaguita” means to them, residents of the valley have a standard response: “I was born here.” Most inhabitants of El Tránsito Valley—and El Carmen, too, for that matter—have never left the valleys. Many tell stories of their parents meeting down-valley and moving to the interior to farm their grandparents’ land. Many of the Diaguita families who no longer own ancestral land have a combination of indigenous and Spanish blood, but they choose to identify as indigenous because they, too, value the land in Huasco Valley as their native ancestors did. Some Diaguita families traveled north to take advantage of employment opportunities in the gold and copper mining industries from the 19th to early 20th centuries, but most returned to Huasco. “It’s like a magnet,” say residents across Huasco Valley, from Huasco to Vallenar and into the interior. “You might leave, but you always find yourself coming back.”


The history of the Diaguitas’ land claims is as long and winding as the dirt road that traces the Huasco River up the valley—a road along which pedestrians, horseback riders, and local buses ride from Vallenar to the pueblos of the valley interior. The interior is called Huasco Alto, and various pueblos or communities have lived here since 4000 b.c. The Molle were followed by the Ánimas, Copiapó, and the Diaguita cultures. The Diaguita developed between a.d. 1000 and 1470, when they were invaded by the Inca, and 1540, when the Spanish arrived. The Spanish divided the land into a grid of large landholdings, on which they built haciendas and estancias. The natives ranched, farmed, and mined land belonging to the Spanish patrons, and paid a portion of their produce to them. Under this system, the indigenous people were assigned land and permitted to use it freely.

In the Huasco Valley, the indigenous community was divided by geographic location: Huasco Alto, Paisanaza, and Huasco Bajo. The majority of the native land that was not usurped by the Spaniards was found in the valley’s interior, Huasco Alto. The year 1750 is of great significance to the huascoaltinos, as the indigenous people mounted armed resistance against the state, which hoped to reduce their territory to the space between two mountain ranges in the valley of El Carmen. The indigenous people won the battle, and, in 1757, El Tránsito river valley became huascoaltino territory, creating an environment for the Diaguita people to live autonomously.

At the onset of the country’s independence, the Republic of Chile asserted a new form of control over Diaguita territory. Laws passed in 1823 and 1830 aimed to eliminate Chile’s indigenous communities altogether, transferring most of their property to the state through a process called reduction. The republic hoped for a Chile without natives, at least from Copiapó at the foot of the Atacama Desert to the lakes district. This area comprises the whole of the country’s inhabitable, temperate central valley suitable for lucrative agriculture, ranching, and mining. Fortunately, the authorities focused their efforts on the valleys surrounding Santiago. The huascoaltino Diaguitas were able to conserve most of the territory they have called home since before the Spaniards’ arrival.

In 1993, the Chilean government issued Law 19.253, politically legitimizing the right to organize around a social tradition or culture. This should have cemented the Diaguitas’ land claims, but under the law the Diaguita ethnicity was not recognized. Politicians and anthropologists and Huasco Valley residents alike had no idea that the Diaguita had survived colonization intact. Archeologists had not collaborated enough with locals to realize that many of their beliefs and customs were in line with those represented in the ancient ceramics, roofs, and graves they uncovered. Social anthropologists had not begun to rescue the family histories, pastimes, foods, and legends of living valley residents. As a result, local indigenous histories and regional colonial struggles have not been incorporated into elementary school history classes in Huasco Province. School children learn brief biographies of the prominent conquerors of central Chile but not about the battles their respective ancestors fought.

On August 22, 2006, the Huascoaltino Agricultural Community wrote a letter to President Michelle Bachelet about this situation, asking for official recognition of their overlooked identity. “At the beginning of the 1990s,” they wrote, “our Diaguita identity still had not been presented publicly, because we were accustomed to organizing ourselves like farmers and ranchers. Moreover, we had forgotten our own history, and our schools did not teach us, nor did they teach our children, about where we had come from and who we were . . . [but] up to this moment, we maintained our own property, and with it our customs and way of life remained intact.”

That letter, one of many sent by the agricultural community and the Diaguita Community Center since 2002, worked, and one month later the government recognized them. But that recognition may have come too late. The government gave final approval to the gold mine earlier this year, and all decisions concerning the land are now made by the mining corporation, which will certainly proceed with planned extractions. How will the Chilean government begin to repay the newly “re-identified” indigenous descendants who they have agreed to protect by law? The Diaguita will not forget that they were denied the right to partake in negotiations for the use of their land. For indigenous families, monetary compensation could never come close to recovering the loss of their land, their sustainable way of life, and the worldview those represent.

Nancy Yáñez is a professor in the Law Department at the University of Chile and codirector of the Observatory of Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Sarah Rea is an anthropology student at Harvard University. She conducted independent fieldwork in Chile in 2006, focusing on indigenous politics in the Huasco Valley.


The Diaguita of Chile: Supporting the determination of an Indigenous people

March 30, 2009

For more than a thousand years, the Diaguita have made Chile their home and thrived as a culture within its borders. Today, they are recognized as a distinct indigenous community living in Chile’s Huasco Valley. They have formed a close relationship with Barrick Gold based on a shared mining history and a common focus for the future.

Barrick Gold’s Pascua-Lama project is located 45 kilometers away from the nearest Diaguita settlement, making them the company’s closest neighbors.

The history of the Diaguita begins around 1000 A.D., when the indigenous group first descended from the Andes mountain range to settle in Chile’s valleys. Anthropologist Franko Urqueta, who was hired by Barrick Gold to study the Diaguita and has since written a book on the culture, says the population flourished between the eighth and 15th centuries, settling in the Norte Chico valleys and growing to a population of nearly 30,000 at their peak.

The Diaguita formed an agrarian-based society, creating an extensive and highly efficient irrigation system able to sustain a large population. The ywere known as walking farmers – moving from the coast to the mountains depending on which climate would give them the best agricultural results. According to Urqueta, the Diaguita were an advanced society that valued art and artisans. Throughout Chile, they were known for their varied and beautiful pottery and weaving. These artisanal traditions continued despite years of submission, first by the Inca empire and then by the Spaniards. Today, less than 1,500 Diaguita remain, making their home in the Atacama Region, specifically in the Huasco Valley. One of the smallest of nine indigenous groups in the country, they are a tight-knit and vibrant community.

“Right from the beginning, we have respected the Diaguita and their ties to the land,” says Igor Gonzalez, president of Barrick Gold South America. “We opened up the channels of communication and invited members of the community to discuss issues, to openly ask questions and to work together with us on the Pascua-Lama project.” Globally, Barrick Gold actively engages with indigenous peoples in the areas where the company operates. The aim is to develop long-term relationships that are constructive and mutually beneficial.

Justa Ana Huanchicay Rodriguez (pictured) is a respected Diaguita Elder and president of the Diaguita Cultural Centre in Huasco Alto. She says the company’s support is helping the Diaguita address their greatest obstacles. “Our main challenge is to preserve our customs, traditions, family names and lifestyle for future generations,” Huanchicay said. “To me, that is our major challenge and Barrick Gold is helping to make that happen.”

Huanchicay came to live with her Diaguita grandfather in the Huasco Valley at the age of 12. She has fond memories of her grandfather working the field, sowing wheat, corn, beans and potatoes. “My grandfather Pedro was not an educated person, but he was very wise,” she said. “He told me the history of our people, the importance of agriculture to our livelihood and how it had to be maintained. Our roots are tied to the soil. Helping us thrive as an agricultural society by providing assistance to farmers is a very important aspect of Barrick Gold’s support for the Diaguita.”

In 2006, Barrick Gold set up the Agro-Forestry Assistance Program in the Huasco Valley. The program recognizes the importance of farming to the Diaguita and the challenges of working the land, particularly during the dry season that hits the region hard each year.

Under the program, farmers receive specialized training in animal health, crops and cattle vaccines. To date 107 Diaguita farmers have taken advantage of the assistance program. Cattle vaccines have been provided to 67 farmers and another 40 have received seeds and technical support to help improve crop yields.

Diaguita artisanal traditions have been passed down through generations. Barrick Gold engaged Diaguita artisans, primarily women, to hold workshops and teach skills such as pottery and weaving to a new generation of Diaguita. More than 120 people have already become certifi ed in a variety of artisanal traditions through these workshops, which involve 60 hours of study. In addition to learning the ancient artistry, participants received commercial training to enable them to sell their work nationally and internationally and earn an income.

Already, Barrick Gold has sponsored these artists to attend several cultural and commercial exhibitions, most recently in Santa Cruz, Chile.

Paula Alcayaga is a 24-year old artisan who uses the art of the yard loom to weave beautiful work. She is a graduate of Barrick Gold’s looming workshop and was recently sponsored to attend the Santa Cruz exhibition. She came away amazed at the difference it made to her income and pleased with the contacts she made for future sales. “The company has assisted us with the recovery of Diaguita artisanal work,” Huanchicay said. “With Barrick’s support, we are able to hold courses in various techniques and later exhibit them successfully. We hope this support will continue.”

After years of struggling for official recognition, the Diaguita were granted legal status as a distinct ethnic group by the Chilean government in 2006. Following passage of legislation by the Chilean Congress in July 2006, President Michelle Bachelet signed into law recognition of the Diaguita people in August, 2006.

Subsequently, Barrick Gold agreed to provide free legal assistance to individuals seeking to gain official status as Diaguita and be eligible for government benefits. More than 20 people sought out this legal support and were later recognized by the government. Today in Chile, approximately 600 people have official status as Diaguita.

Five years earlier, the company also set an important precedent. When submitting its Environmental Impact Assessment for the Pascua-Lama project to authorities in 2001, Barrick Gold explicitly identified the Diaguita as a distinct ethnic group residing close to the project. This marked the first time this designation had been associated with the indigenous group. This key document was reviewed extensively by government and the public and laid the foundation for the company’s future relations with the Diaguita in the Huasco Valley.

Huanchicay says Barrick Gold’s acknowledgement in this way was a stepping stone to gaining official recognition. “Many people helped us to attain this,” she said. “From local authorities to members of the House of Representatives, many people were involved. This includes the considerable efforts of the Diaguita cultural centre in Copiapó and our centre here in Alto del Carmen. Together we all pushed towards the same goal.”

To increase awareness of Diaguita culture, Barrick Gold sponsored the writing of Etnia Diaguita, Urqueta’s book about the known history of the Diaguita. The book is now being used in schools in the Atacama Region and elsewhere to teach the next generation about this distinctive indigenous culture. A documentary film was also sponsored by Barrick Gold to give the Diaguita an opportunity to showcase their culture. The film features first-person accounts from Diaguita from all walks of life, recounting ancestor stories and describing their customs, language and traditional activities. More subtly, the film reveals the determination of a people bound by a shared identity who, with little outside support, have managed to endure. The documentary was screened by members of the community on the second anniversary of the group’s official recognition by the Chilean government at an event in Copiapó in 2008.

“To us, the film is a tribute to our effort and our people,” Huanchicay said. “It is a way for our children to get to know the Elders, speaking in their own words.”

At the packed film screening, members of the Barrick Gold team who had championed the Diaguita cause in the region received a special blessing and thanks from one of the community’s spiritual leaders.

“Barrick’s future in the Huasco Valley and the future of the Diaguita are interconnected,” says Gonzales. “We will continue to ensure this community and the region benefit from Pascua-Lama.”

Franko Urqueta is an anthropologist specializing in the study of ethnic groups in Chile. He studied anthropology at the University of Chile in Santiago and has worked with several ethnic groups, namely the Mapuches, Atacamenos and Coyas. In 2005, Urqueta was sponsored by Barrick Gold to study the Diaguita culture. He discusses his research with Beyond Borders’ editor Nancy White.

Who are the Diaguita? Where do they make their home?

The Diaguita were officially recognized as a distinct indigenous community by the Chilean government in 2006. Approximately 600 people have official status as Diaguita. They live in the Huasco Valley, which is part of their original pre-Colombian territory. In all the other valleys in the northern area, as well as in the rest of Chile, the Diaguita population has disappeared. Some individuals bearing Diaguita names continue to live in the Huasco Valley, but they do not constitute an indigenous group. The remaining Diaguita exist only in the upper Huasco Valley.

Why was the book “Etnia Diaguita” created?

The book was an opportunity to compile the limited pre-existing data on the Diaguita and support further study. It examines past and current culture and some of the challenges this community faces.

What makes the Diaguita culture so unique and so resilient?

A key characteristic of Diaguita people is their capacity to adapt. Throughout their history, the Diaguita came into contact with other groups, such as Incas, Spaniards and then the Republic of Chile, that tried to impose their customs and traditions. By adapting to new authorities, the Diaguita were able to maintain their identity and endure as a people for more than a thousand years.

Some critics claim that the culture of the Diaguita will be threatened by mining above the Huasco Valley? Do you agree?

Most of the people who criticize mining activity in the valley do not live in the valley. They also have very limited knowledge of Diaguita culture. From the beginning, the Diaguita have mined gold. Five hundred years ago, they developed mining activities in this valley – becoming the first miners in this inpart of Chile. They paid taxes to the Peruvian Inca Empire in gold and were also gifted goldsmiths. The Diaguita population have combined their traditional agricultural and cattle raising activities with small-scale mining. Barrick Gold has introduced itself as a respectful neighbor, aware of this mountain culture and committed to safeguarding its identity.

Connecting Past and Present in Coquimbo and La Serena …Conectando el pasado y el presente en Coquimbo y La Serena….Agnes Irvine MacMillan Perkins

14 Jun

Plaza de Armas, Coquimbo, Chile    1920’s

The morning skies were overcast, but for a day long tour, it was likely better than frying under a burning sun. Our tour guide arrived at 8:00 and we were off. He had just one other passenger on the tour that day, a young woman student from Germany, Zora, who was working at one of the other hostels and had the morning off. We had already met another young woman from Europe who was on a year long tour of South America. She had run out of money and was working at the Terazza Restaurant.


Jubo and Murchie were so excited..they were telling their new friends all about the tour..

We wound our way through the narrow streets of La Serena on the way out of town. Because the sreets are so narrow, in a effort to deal with vehicle traffic, many have become one way.


The area where La Serena is located was once  inhabited by the pre-Hispanic village called Viluma or Vilumanque (Mapudungin)….. Snakes and Condors.

The origin of the Diaguita culture is traced back to an archaeological culture known as El Molle Compolex which existed from 300 to 700 CE. Later this culture was replaced in Chile by las Animas Complex that developed between 800 and 1000 CE. It is from this last culture that the Archaeological Diaguita culture emerged around 1000 CE. The classical Diaguita period was characterized by advanced irrigation systems and by Pottery painted in black, white and red.

Replica of a Diaguita ceramic bowl from northern Chile.

“It is generally accepted that Diaguita incorporation into the Inca Empire was through

warfare which caused a severe depopulation in the Transverse Valleys of Norte

Chico. According to scholar Ana María Lorandi the Diaguitas, and specially the Calchaqui

Diagui9tas, would not have been conquered easily by the Inca Empire. Once conquered

the eastern Diaguitas did not unanimously accepted Inca rule. The Incas appointed

Kurakas and established mitmas in the Chilean Diaguita lands.] The Incas did also

influence the Diaguitas who adopted pottery designs from Cuzco and Inca techniques in

agriculture and metalworking.” From Wikipedia

Map of the city in 1717.


La Serena was first founded on the orders of Spanish Pedro de Valdiva in order to provide a sea link to maintain permanent contact between Santiago and Lima in the Viceroyalty de Peru.  For this he would need a place for his troops to rest and eat. The village was first founded by captain Juan Bohon with the name “Villanueva de La Serena”. Although the exact date is disputed, probable dates include 15 November or 30 December 1543 and 4 September 1544. Many historians simply say that it was founded in 1544. Five years later, from the night of 11 January 1549 until the following day, an uprising of local Indians totally destroyed and burned the village, killing nearly every Spaniard. It was later that same year, Pedro de Valdivia gave orders to Captain Francisco de Aguirrer to found a new city under the name of San Bartolome de La Serena, now Patron Saint of the city……in the same place where today the Plaza de Armas stands. 

During the 17th century, the city suffered continuous attacks from pirates, including Sir Francis Drake, who opened the Pacific route to pirates in 1578.



We passed by the university and suberbs…YES SUBERBS…and they look just like the ones back in Edmonton. Row on row of cloned houses…

We were heading to a place called Las Rojas in the Elqui Valley. The Tour Guide said this was where the Rojas name originated…true or not who knows! It was my grandmother’s name …Juana Rojas MacMillan.


Entering Las Rojas

The Elqui Valley, formerly known  as Valle de Coquimbo , is a watershed located in the Coquimbo Region.   There are numerous reservoirs located here and the valley benefits from these water resources, as well as the long periods of sun, both of which are excellent for production of fruits, vegetables and especialy the cultivation of grapes.  Having one of the clearest skies in the southern hemisphere, several international organizations have installed astronomical observatories on the peaks of the Pachón and Tololo hills. This area is said to have an energy pole and has been associated with various arts.

Gabriela Mistral, Chilean Poet and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature in 1947, was born at Vicuna, here in the valley. Mistral’s meteoric rise in Chile’s national school system plays out against the complex politics of Chile in the first two decades of the 20th century. In her adolescence, the need for teachers was so great, and the number of trained teachers was so small, especially in the rural areas, that anyone who was willing could find work as a teacher. Access to good schools was difficult, however, and the young woman lacked the political and social connections necessary to attend the Normal School. She was turned down, without explanation, in 1907. She later identified the obstacle to her entry as the school’s chaplain, Father Ignacio Munizaga, who was aware of her publications in the local newspapers, her advocacy of liberalizing education and giving greater aceess to all schools for all social classes.

Although her formal education had ended by 1900, she was able to get work as a teacher thanks to her older sister, Emelina, who had likewise begun as a teacher’s aide and was responsible for much of the poet’s early education. The poet was able to rise from one post to another because of her publications in local and national newspapers and magazines. Her willingness to move was also a factor. Between the years 1906 and 1912 she had taught, successively, in three schools near La Serena and in Antofagasta in the desert north, in 1912.

Mistral may be most widely quoted in English for Su Nombre es Hoy (His Name is Today):

“We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow,’ his name is today.”


The Gabriela Mistral – 41 CH International Route links this Region of Coquimbo with the Province of San Juan in Argentina, and seeks to be a complement to the future tunnel in the Agua Negra pass, which will also link both countries. Since July 2014, they have been working on the design for the expansion and replacement of this road. In the first stage they will begin construction between the urban boundary of La Serena and the locality of Las Rojas. It is a 15.8 kilometer stretch.


The road to Las Rojas


Small village


AdTech AdWe stopped at the church for a photo op.



They really like Blue in the village



Looking back towards the highway we came in on and towards the hills

Then we headed back into La Serena to the local market.


Not much water in the river bad at this time of year.


Colorful cafe


Local Market in La Serena


Chickens roasting


Wall Hangings






A quick bite to eat and were were once again on the road to Coquimbo. It has been 98 years since my Mom left the place of her birth.



During the tourist season, this beach at La Serena would have been packed….this is how I like it….empty

Along the coast road we came to the fishing port.



Beach Hotels of la Serena in the Background

I never expected to visit  Coquimbo because it was so far away and South America had never been on my “Must See List”. I had googled pictures of the Port and the Plaza de Armas. In recent years it is the port where many of the Big Cruise Ships make a stop. We drove along the shoreline of the Habour which connects the two cities..La Serena and Coquimbo.    Finally we were in Coquimbo proper. My eyes were looking for that distinctive church on the Plaza de Armas that I had seen in so many pictures and the suddenly..there it was.


Plaza de Armas Coquimbo


Plaza de Armas Now with Same Hotel?


Plaza de Armas Then (1929) with Hotel

We continued along the one way to come back directly in front of the church where we would park.


Many more houses than on the hill  back when…

The Church of San Pedro is a parish located in the Chilean city of Coquimbo. It is the main Catholic religious center in the community, and is located in front of the Plaza de Armas de Coquimbo. The church was built in the middle of the nineteenth century on the land donated by Buenaventura Argandoña. The 19 of November of 1857 it was designated a parish by the bishop of La Serena.


And here I am in Coquimbo…

Coquimbo is a town ll kms from La Serena. Its population is 188 thousand inhabitants and it is the main port of the region. Unlike the striking  churches of La Serena, in Coquimbo, it is the fishing industry, distilleries, tanneries and construction that stand out. In recent years, tourism has also had an increase.

The natural harbor in Coquimbo was taken over by Pedro de Valdiva in 1550. The gold and copper industry in the region led to the city’s importance as a port around 1840 and many Europeans especially from England settled in Coquimbo. In 1879 it was recognized as a town.

Mining and agricultural activities account for the location of various places in and around the region. Originally this organization was structured according to the location of Indian villages of the DiaguitasA high percentage (70-75%) of inhabitants are of Mestizo(Euro-Amerindian) background, higher than any other region in Chile. Other indigenous peoples include the Aymara, Atacamenoc, Mapuche, and Quechua who were immigrants themselves from Peru and Boliva.


San Pedro Church

We continued driving through the gritty port of Coquimbo. You could  see the difference in the structures from La Serena.

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Driving through the Barrio de Ingles

The pictures are from Post Cards



Houses on the hill above the port


Colorful houses heading to the Fortress on the Penninsula

Fort Lambert (also known as Fort Coquimbo) is a nineteenth century fortification situated on the “Castillo del Carmen” hill at the southern end of Coquimbo Bay. This part of the city is known as “Punta Pelícanos” (“Pelican Promontory”) because just off the coast there is a small island inhabited by pelicans. Fort Lambert no longer has an operational role militarily, but it is a popular tourist destination because of the views it provides across the Bay of Coquimbo. The fortress was constructed here by a entrepreneur Carlos Lambert in order to protect the port of Coquimbo from possible attacks by Peruvian ships during the War of the Pacific. A 150-pound muzzle loading cannon from the British Armstrong munitions company was installed on 10 July 1879 by soldiers of the Municipal Artillery Brigade. It had been brought to this site by Joseph Lambert.


For more than a century the fort was maintained in its original state, with the canon positioned at its center. Due to structural deterioration, in 2003, the municipality launched a rescue plan which involved investing 68 Million Pesos. The structure was both restored and expanded, with the addition of three additional stone-built low lookout towers with lighting and benches. The restored Fort Lambert was officially inaugurated in 2005.


Looking down toward the small fort


Wonderful rock formations


Wild dogs


Looking across the bay towards the beach hotels of Coquimbo

We spent some time here checking out the views and the wonderful rock piles as we had the entire site to ourselves. ….only a couple of old dogs lying around..NO OTHER PEOPLE.


You don’t appreciate the size of the cross till youn get there…

I had seen a number of pictures of this structure, but I had no idea what it was for nor did I realize the views from up there.

I copied an article  from the internet. It explains the entire site…I will put it at the end of this Blog. Meanwhile here are some of my pictures.IMG_20170404_131520 (3)

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Our next stop was to be at the grounds where the Pampilla de Coquimbo (local Festival) is held every year. I have pictures of my Mom at this very place some hundred years later.


Mom is one of three girls with their heads together near the bottom

The Pampilla de Coquimbo , or simply La Pampilla , is a festival that takes place between September 18-20  each year – although it usually extends two days before or two days after those dates – in the esplanade of the same name, located in the city of Coquimbo. During that time, even weeks before the activity starts, hundreds of families settle into tents and vehicles in the hills.

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Likely my grandfather and grandmother are in the photo..???

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Pampilla Grounds


Harbour at Guayacan






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Guayacan Church



Agnes Irvine MacMillan Perkins  age 10

Our final stop was the Cementerio de Ingles at Guayacan  where my Grandfather was buried in 1917. The family left for England in 1919, leaving behind their beloved Husband and Father. They were going to Kent England to join their son/brother who had gone over in 1917 to fight in WW1.







We were not able to find his exact gravesite, but it was comforting to know that he was being well cared for in this beautiful location. He had been alone for so long….but I am sure he knew that a family member had come to say “Hello Grandfather and Goodbye Grandfather… are not forgotten!”

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Thomas MacMillan  c.1850 to 1917

And after a day like none other……… the most fitting thing to do would be to celebrate at the Terraza Restaurant with local Food and Drink…so I did!IMG_20170404_145138

Third Millennium and its life-size ‘Via Crucis’ SPECIAL

BY IGOR I. SOLAR     JUL 17, 2013


Coquimbo – The Cross of the Third Millennium of Coquimbo, Chile, is the largest religious monument in South America. It was built for the Jubilee of the Year 2000 of the Catholic Church. It has a high-tech bell tower and a Way of Sorrows with life-size sculptures.

In the 90s, the civic authorities of Coquimbo came up with the idea of building a monument to commemorate the Jubilee of Year 2000 of the Catholic Church, celebrating 2000 years since the birth of Christ, and the introduction of the Church into the third millennium. The project, appropriately called “The Cross of the Third Millennium,” gained great support from local church authorities and the Vatican.

The site chosen for the construction of the structure was the summit of Cerro El Vigía (Lookout Hill), located at 157 meters above sea level. The hill overlooking Coquimbo Bay has historically been home for the city’s poorest residents. With funding from the community, businesses and the support of local and national political and religious authorities, the construction of the structural work of the impressive cross was completed in a record period of 10 months, in May 2000.

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the...

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the port of Coquimbo, Chile.

Igor I. Solar

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the...

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the port of Coquimbo, Chile. Station X – Jesus’ clothes are taken away.

Igor I. Solar

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the...

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the port of Coquimbo, Chile.

Igor I. Solar

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the...

Life-size bronze sculptures of The Stations of the Cross at the Cross of the Third Millennium in the port of Coquimbo, Chile.

Igor I. Solar

In 2004, efforts began to construct a large Via Crucis comprising the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross with scenes extending from “Jesus is Condemned to Death” to “Jesus is Laid in the Tomb”, plus a 15th station representing the “Resurrection of Jesus”. The complete set was made in bronze by Italian sculptors Giuseppe Alambrese and Pasquale Nava. It consists of 53 sculptures of human figures measuring from two to 2.2 meters in height plus eleven 3.5-meter-high crosses.

In 2006, the Coquimbo City Hall decided on the construction of a bell tower. Nine 1.5-meter-high bells were made by Rincker Bell Foundry in Sinn, Germany, and installed in May of 2013 in a 33-meter-tall tower next to the cross. The nine-bell system is computer-controlled and has 480 melodies in memory, including Chile’s national anthem.

The great cross is made up of three columns that emerge from an equilateral triangle representing the Holy Trinity. The structure is 93 meters tall and the arms measure 40 meters. The central column contains an elevator that brings visitors to the 40-meter-high arms where there are large windows allowing a 360-degree view around the cross.

At the base of the cross there is a museum and a prayer chapel with an altar whose facade has a large embossed brass image of “The Last Supper”. On the second level there is a bronze statue, a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà, the famous work of art depicting the body of Jesus on the lap of Mary after the Crucifixion. On this level there is also a set of 10 cylindrical columns symbolizing the Ten Commandments. The 15 Stations of the Cross were installed in the gardens surrounding the giant cross and on the terraces of the second level.

The site chosen for the construction of the structure was the summit of Cerro El Vigía (Lookout Hil...

The site chosen for the construction of the structure was the summit of Cerro El Vigía (Lookout Hill), located at 157 meters above sea level. . On the left of the image is the bell tower with nine bells.

Igor I. Solar

View of part of the city and the port of Coquimbo from the arms of the Cross of the Third Millennium...

View of part of the city and the port of Coquimbo from the arms of the Cross of the Third Millennium.

Igor I. Solar

The Cross of the Third Millennium is the tallest religious monument in South America and the sequence of Stations of the Cross is the largest in the world. The monumental complex is motive of great devotion and pride for the people of the city of Coquimbo and has become a major tourist attraction for local and foreign visitors.

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Chile … Tierra de los Cielos Nocturnos (Land of the Night Skies)….A Chilean Lassie…Coquimbo, Chile

17 May

Moon through the telescope at an Observatory in the Elqui Valley, Chile

In 2017, I was blessed with an opportunity to visit my Maternal Ancestral Homeland…..CHILE. My friend Sandra and I had planned a big trip to Peru and the Galapagos Islands. In due course, we learned that the Galapagos Cruise Tour did not fill up and they could not offer us alternate dates that would jive with the rest of the tour….. so we would end up with only our two week Peru Tour. I said “why don’t we go to Chile and see where my Mom lived and my Grandfather was buried”. She was game and so we did.

We landed in Santiago after a 2 hour flight from Lima. The Immigration and Custom’s line was long and it took us over an hour to snake our way through. We were stamped and given an Entry Document which we were required to carry in our passport. We located a taxi and at last we were on our way into Santiago and our hotel which was located in the Los Condos district. Once the taxi finally located the address for the hotel we had booked…our nightmare Check-in began. About 2 hours later after Sandra cried and I yelled…we finally had the manager escort us to our new hotel…The Rugendas..a lovely hotel, where she basically told the staff to treat us nicely for our entire stay. We will be forever grateful to this young woman, who had actually studied in Thunder Bay, Canada…maybe this was a Pay-it-Forward situation.

On Saturday morning, after a good nights sleep, we were picked up by a shuttle and taken to a central location where we joined our Day Tour to Valpariso and Vina del Mar. It was from this harbor that my Grandfather had sailed on his trips up and down the coast of Chile in the 1890’s and 1900’s while working for the Pacific Steamship Navigation Company.


Looking towards Valpariso Port


Valpariso…. the locals waiting for the bus after a day of Saturday Shopping


Looking northwest to Vina del Mar

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Valpariso with its steep streets and quirky art




Heading down to the port


Transatlantic shipping now goes via the Panama Canal

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Buildings in Old Port

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Fishing Boats


Container Shipping







Built in 2015 and sailing under the Flag of Panama


Chilean Navy training ships








Old Salt

Monday morning we were off to La Serena and Coquimbo. I can’t tell you how excited I was as we stepped off the plane onto the tarmack at the tiny La Serena Airport…I was really here!


La Serena, Chile Airport

We took a taxi to our Boutique Hostel….Terra Diaguita in central La Serena. What an amazing place… we were awed to say the least. The rooms were like cottages around a garden and there was art and artifacts everywhere.




Terra Diaguita

The origin of the Diaguita culture is traced back to an archaeological culture known as El Molle Complex which existed from 300 to 700 CE. Later this culture was replaced in Chile by Las Animas Complex that developed between 800 and 1000 CE. It is from this last culture that the Archaeological Diaguita culture emerged around 1000 CE. The classical Diaguita period was characterized by advanced irrigation systems and by pottery painted in red/black and white. The Chilean Diaguitas were conquered by Spaniards coming from Peru.



My room..which Murchie really enjoyed


More decorations

We settled in and went looking for a place to eat…turned out to be a great place just across the street. Then I set out to explore the city. It was late in the afternoon and people and students were everywhere.


I walked a couple of blocks through the shopping streets, found the Cathedral, and one of the major pedestrian areas.


Central La Serena


Beautiful time of year – April in La Serena


Sun sets  early at this latitude


Kunza (extinct languages of Chile) He was my Spirit Cat and waited for me outside my room





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Our Lady of Mercy Cathedral on the Plaza De Armas


Tomorrow was the day I had really been looking forward to…I would be taking an all day private tour of the entire area and ending in up Coquimbo, the place where my mom had been born in 1908.  That Special Day deserves it own story in another Blog…..

Life on the Frontier…Prince George, British Columbia……1902’s

16 Mar

Prince George, BC …..1921


Canada Arrivals Form 1921…Agnes MacMillan

She arrived in Canada June 13, 1921 at Quebec City aboard the Empress of France after a 6 day Transatlantic Crossing.  The family was then routed across the country on the Canadian Pacific /Grand Trunk Railway to Prince George, BC. This would likely have taken a week or more of train travel from the east to west coast of the country…a distance of 5500 km. Agnes MacMillan was only 12 years old and was on her third continent in as many years.

Growth of Prince George…

“The Nechako and Fraser rivers were the main transportation routes through the early 1900s. Sternwheelers paddled the rivers, transporting people and goods from place to place. Fort George and the newly developing town of South Fort George boomed in 1909 as forestry became the main industry and sawmills were built.

When the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway arrived in 1913, the Nechako and Fraser River junction became the new town center and was named Prince George. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company chose the name, though it is unclear why Prince George was selected. Three reasons have been suggested: that it was named after King George III; that it would distinguish it from other similarly named nearby towns of Fort George and South Fort George; or that it was actually named for Prince George, the youngest brother of King George VI.

With the onset of the World War I in 1914, the local economy was devastated as many local men enlisted and the construction of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway was halted, creating a massive drop in population, a problem that was exacerbated by the ensuing Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Prince George persevered through the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s and did not experience any significant growth until World War II when an army camp was built at the foot of Cranbrook Hill, bringing new life to the struggling businesses and service industries.”   From Prince George Wikipedia

Agnes was likely registered in the local school upon arrival in Prince George. In the online newspaper collection for the Prince George Citizen…I found my mom listed in the school grades which were posted in the paper.

Prince George Citizen Building Prince George 1921

In the December 1921 edition my mom was in Division 2 and had an average of 57%.  This would have been her first year of school in PG. Looks like the school would have additional classrooms for the new term in January 1922. By June she was still at the bottom of the class but had been promoted. 

Certificate of Proficiency …June 1923

By 1923 she was on the Roll of Honor. Her teacher was Olga Shields.

My mom must have had a job as a Mother’s Helper because there are a number of pictures of her with a family. One photo says “From Bayley” and is of the youngest child. Thesed pictures taken over several years show my mom at different ages.





Mom and her charges..possibly the McInnes Family ( a name on the back of a picture)

1921 directory

1923 Directory

I also checked the BC Directories and found that in 1921 Stephen Presence was listed. This was the friend the Bates family listed on the Port of Entry form. He was working for the CNR as a station fireman, the same thing Fred Bates would do when he arrived later in 1921.

My mom had several boyfriends according to pictures in her album. Looks like she had her coat draped over her arm in the first picture……couldn’t figure out what it was at first. Then I saw the next picture..1489593546385-39c99f8c-f21c-484d-b417-ec8faf0ce713

Is that a coat on her arm?

Mr. WHO?


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Her Friends?


Bathing Beauty


Main Street

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What was the occasion for the Roses?

She seemed to have had a carefree life in Prince George as a teenager. ….Interesting I could find no pictures of her with Fred and Daisy. She was also in Edmonton by 1928  when she would have been just 20…possibly even earlier as I think she may have gone to Westmount School for awhile. Why no family pictures…..?

 Chilean Lassie…..The Early Years!…Coquimbo, Chile

10 Mar

One determined young lady…Agnes Irvine MacMillan

She was playing in the garden and her mother told her not to stick her fingers in the parrot’s cage…which, of course, is precisely what she did…..and, of course, she was bitten. This is one of the few stories I can recall my Mom telling me when I asked her about her life in Coquimbo. I had no idea where this place was, but I knew it was a long ways away.

Like many others before me, I now regret not asking her more questions….but realistically, how many of us do this in a timely fashion. When we finally take an interest in our ancestors, it is too late. Those who had the answers are gone and we are left to piece the individual’s story together from whatever bits and pieces we can cobble together.

Knowing that my Mom had been born in Coquimbo, Chile ….I was fascinated with her EXOTIC ORIGIN. Her Father, Thomas MacMillan, was a Scot who had left Glasgow and somehow ended up in South America. Her Mother, I thought her name was Juana Rojas,  was supposedly a Spanish woman. I never saw a picture of her as most of the family pictures were destroyed in a fire at some point in time, or so the story goes.

Thomas MacMillan..his portrait hangs in my living room

I knew that Thomas MacMillan had died in Coquimbo and the family ended up in Kent, England where my mom went to school in Maidstone/Chatham. Her brother David had gone there to fight in WW1 and was now responsible for the  family. Sometime later she came to Canada  with her sister and Canadian brother-in-law and wound up in Prince George, BC.  Several years later she came to Edmonton and went to school at Westmount. She also worked as a Nannie for the Tommy Dykes Family. In 1928, as a 20 year old young woman, she enrolled in the Nursing School at the Misericordia Hospital. It was here in 1938 that she met my Dad and the rest is history.

These are the simple facts that  tell how my mom made her journey from Chile to to England to Canada, met my Dad and had her children. Seemed to me there was more of a story to be told to fill in all the aspects of the life of this amazing woman…Agnes Irvine MacMillan Perkins. And so…I began to dig in the old steamer truck and unearthed the pictures.

Inastroza siste I’mrs

Postcard from The Inastroza Sisters to my Aunt Daisy 1929

I found a photo of 2 ladies and a post card sent to Daisy, my Mom’s sister. I remembered her talking about the Inastroza Family and the 2 daughters. I checked Family Search and found a number of Baptisms at the Cathedral in La Serena for a number of Inastroza babies in the 1890’s….obviously a local family. The postcard dated 1929 was sent when Daisy would have been living in Prince George. The picture was of the Plaza de Armas in Coquimbo.

Then there was a baby picture of my mom…she would only be a few months old. (1908) Because she was an afterthought….her siblings were 18 (Daisy) and 23 (David)….they were just more adults in the household. What was it like growing up in that adult world? This also raises a question….could she have beeen the illegitimate daughter of her sister Daisy? My grandmother would have been around 53 when my mom was born and not impossible…. but…… I will never know.


Agnes as a baby….4 months (1908)


Coquimbo as it looked when my Mom was born…was her house up there on the hill…somewhere?

I would imagine that around age 6, Mom went off to school. Was this a British School? I do remember that she said she spoke Spanish, but as an adult she had lost most of it.


“After the Port of Valparaíso opened to free trade in 1811, the English began to congregate in Valparaíso. The first to arrive brought with them tools, articles of china, wool and cotton, with instructions to return with copper and hemp. This was the first exchange of what would become a deep-rooted commercial relationship between Great Britain and Chile. In Valparaíso the English established their largest and most important settlement, creating neighborhoods characterized by British schools, social and sports clubs, business organizations, and periodicals. Even today British influence is apparent in such institutions as banks and the national navy, as well as in certain social activities, such as football (soccer), horse racing, and the widespread consumption of tea.” Wilkpedia

This was a skipping song she taught me...
"Arroz con leche quiero
casarme con esta niña mi casa yo" and meant
 "Rice with milk I want to get married
 with this little house and me" 
Funny what sticks from all those years ago.


Coquimbo….Location of Pampilla today


Chile’s Independence Day in September….Pampilla


Mom is the middle of the three girls bottom left


Agnes…..age 10….before leaving for England

Thomas MacMillan had died, and when WW1 was over, the family joined her brother David who had gone to England to fight in the war.

They sailed aboard the Oriana (Pacific Steam Navigation Co.) from





Valpariso, through the Panama Canal and arrived in Liverpool, England 27 May 1919.

Found the Passenger lists on Ancestry…

Notice Juana, my Grandmother , is now Jane.

Bedford Place at Rocky Hill, Maidstone as it is today.

I know very little of her time in Maidstone and Chatham. I visited there in 1979 on my first trip to England. Didn’t have much time and there was little to see on a day trip from London. Upon arrival they gave Bedford Place, Rocky Hill, Maidstone as their address. I would assume that was where her brother David was living with his wife Miriam.

Marriage Certificate for David and Miriam..Their father’s Thomas MacMillan and George Thomas Evernden were deceased. Witnesses..GT Evernden and William C Cormwell…?  Daivid was living at The Barrack’s Maidstone..Miriam at 1 Bedford Place.

I discovered pictures of her brother David and sister Daisy, her father Thomas..but none of her mother.

David Taylor MacMillan

David married Miriam Emily Everden at St. Peter’s Church in Maidstone on September 14, 1918.

St. Peter’s Maidstone, Kent

David Taylor MacMillan circa 1917…Maidstone Kent, England

GoogleEarth_Image (3)

1 Bedford Place Maidstone Kent

My grandmother, Juana/Jean MacMillan died in 1920 age 65 making her birthdate c. 1855. She died in Chatham at 37 Church Street, age 65, of Heart failure. Her daughter Daisy MacMillan was in attendance. Listed as widow of Thomas MacMillan, Marine Engineer.

Daisy MacMillan married Frederick Charles Bates on April 17, 1921 at St. John the Divine in Chatham. Georgina Bates was a witness….mother of Fred and a widow.


Cooking Class in Maidstone School

White door is #27 Rochester Street Chatham, Kent, UK

This early chapter in my mother’s life ended on June 8, 1921 when she sailed from Liverpool aboard the Empress of France to her new life in Canada. Her Father had died in Chile in 1917, her mother had died in England in 1920 and so, she was accompanying her sister Daisy and Daisy’s new husband, Fred Bates to Canada.

What was she thinking as she stood on the deck watching the coastline of Liverpool, England fade away. This was the second time in only 2 years that she had watched the Place she called Home disappear on the horizon. She was only 12 years of age! an ocean away….another county, another place to call HOME!


Stay tuned for Chapter 2….Life on the Canadian Frontier!

Thomas MacMillan….A Glasgow Lad goes to Sea… and ends up in Valpariso and Coquimbo, Chile

22 Feb

Thomas MacMillan


His picture has hung in my living room for over 40 years. I always thought he had a kind face. I know very little about about him except the few details I remember being told by my mother when I was a child. He was Thomas MacMillan, my mother’s father.

It is Family Day Weekend here in Alberta, so what better time to try and discover something about this man…. my Grandfather. I knew he worked the boats along the coast of South America. My mother and her siblings had been born there…David and Daisy in Callao, Peru and my mom, Agnes, in Coquimbo, Chile. He was supposedly born in Glasgow, Scotland, but how he got to South America and married a local woman…well who knows!

When I was looking at old pictures in a Steamer Trunk in the basement, I had  come across a picture of him on a ship…I assumed this was one of the Coastal Steamers he worked on  up and down the coast of South America.


I knew he had died in Coquimbo prior to my in in mom, her mother and sister Daisy going to England to join her brother David, who had been there to fight in WW1.   I believe she said he had been kicked in the head by a horse and died as a result of the injury.

So where does one start in a search for someone on whom you have almost no information, including a Birth date. Fortunately I have a Genealogy Family…those are the folks that have an addiction to Family History….their own and that of others…and who are willling to help out others. Joyce Willard and Lynn Fogwill are two such people. They gave me hints on how and where to search in Scottish Records. Lynn, having Seafaring Ancestors, gave me great clues as to the hierachy on a ship, apprenticeships and the Maritime Archives at Memorial University in Newfoundland.

So I began my latest quest with that infomation in mind. Apprenticeships…..many of my Paternal Ancestors has apprenticed as Carpernters and Bakers….but an Apprenticeship for someone going to sea…?

About UK, Apprentices Indentured in Merchant Navy, 1824-1910 (From Ancestry)

This collection contains lists of young men who were indentured to merchant navy ships between the years 1824 and 1910. They include details such as name, age and date at registration or indenture, vessel, port of registry, and birth year and place.

Historical Background

The National Archives describes the legislation that brought these records about:

Under the Merchant Seamen, etc, Act 1823 (4 Geo IV c 25) Masters of British merchant ships of 80 tons and over were required to carry a given number of indentured apprentices. These had to be duly enrolled with the local Customs Officer. These provisions were extended by the Merchant Seamen Act 1835 (5 & 6 Wm IV c 19) which provided for the registration of these indentures. In London they were registered with the General Register and Record Office of Seamen and in other ports with the Customs officers who were required to submit quarterly lists to the Registrar General. In 1844 it was provided for copies of the indentures to be sent to the Registrar General, and although compulsory apprenticeship was abolished in 1849 the system of registration was maintained. Under the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 (57 & 58 Vict c 60) a parallel arrangement was introduced for apprentices on fishing boats.



Apprentice’s Indenture Record for Thomas MacMillan 1864

The Ancestry Site is publishing amazing records these days and I was able to locate a record of Indenture for Thomas MacMillan. Not 100% sure this is my Thomas, but for now this is a search in progress.  The age would line up with what I think would be his birth date.

The records indicates that Thomas was 15 years of age when he was Indentured on October 7, 1864 for 6 years to Jonathan Starling out of Grimsby, aboard the Wanderer #15888.  Interesting that I call my blog A Genealogist goes WANDERING….perhaps it is in the GENES and we are both WANDERERS!

Grimsby  is a large town and seaport in Lincolnshire England, on the South Bank of the Humber Estuary close to where it reaches the North Sea..In 1857 there were 22 vessels in Grimsby. Six years later in 1863 there were 112. The first two legitimate steam trawlers ever built in Great Britain were based in Grimsby. By 1900, a tenth of the fish consumed in the United Kingdom was landed at Grimsby, despite the many smaller coastal fishing ports and villages that also supplied the nation.

I searched a number of Crew Lists and found another Thomas MacMillan. This one was aboard the Russia out of Liverpool in 1868. Now according to the term of indenture on the Wanderer he should have been there till 1870….but things happen…. in 1868 he would have been around 18/19.  This Record is for the Release at Termination of a Voyage…March 28, 1868.





















About Glasgow, Scotland, Crew Lists, 1863-1901

This database contains crew lists, agreements, certificates of discharge, and some related documents for 11 ships that landed at Glasgow’s ports. The ships were

  • Bornu
  • Russia
  • Scythia
  • Pride of England
  • Gulf of Lions
  • Parthia
  • Hispania
  • Galoon
  • Clydesdale
  • Persia
  • Cherokee

Details available vary


« Back

Name Official number Flag IMO
Year built Date launched Date completed
1867 20/03/1867
Vessel type Vessel description
Passenger / Cargo Iron Screw Steamer 3 Masts
Builder Yard Yard no
James & George Thomson, Govan Cessnock Bank 93
Tonnage Length Breadth Depth Draft
2960 grt / 1709 nrt / 358.0 ft 43.0 ft 19.4 ft
Engine builder James & George Thomson, Finnieston, Glasgow
Engine detail
600nhp 1-screw

1880 re-engined C2cyl

1889 re-engined T3cyl 14kn, J & J Thomson

First owner First port of register Registration date
J F J Burns, Glasgow (The British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Co – Cunard) Glasgow 09/05/1867
Other names
Subsequent owner and registration history
by1875 Burns & McIver (Cunard), Liverpool
1875 Charles McIver (Cunard), Liverpool
c1877 The Cunard Steam Ship Co Ltd, Liverpool
1879 SA de Navigation Belge-Americaine (Red Star Line), Antwerp – reg Antwerp
Vessel history
1880 lengthened: 4572grt 435.1ft (4 masts?)
End year Fate / Status
1902 Collision 06/03/1902
Disposal Detail
On voyage Liverpool for Philadelphia with 114 passengers, 89 crew and general cargo, collided with ss HARMONIDES (3521g/1891, River Plate for Liverpool) 45nm WSW of Holyhead in dense fog and sank; 2 lives lost in launching one of the boats, but remainder transferred to HARMONIDES, which later arrived Liverpool.
WAESLAND was being navigated with extreme caution but HARMONIDES, while at reduced speed still struck WAESLAND amidships with considerable force






Thomas MacMillan aboard the Arica as Chief Engineer sailing Coquimbo to Valparaiso



Certification Certificate for Thomas MacMillan, Chief Engineer  1894

About Liverpool, England, Crew Lists 1861-1919

This collection of crew lists held by the Liverpool Record Office includes records for 912 ships whose home port was registered as Liverpool, England. The lists contain information on ship voyages, crew members, and apprentices. Many of the records are grouped together as agreement booklets or ships’ logs.

Crew lists vary in detail but can include the name or signature of the crew member, age or birth year, birthplace, nationality, residence, service on other ships, rate, date and details of engagement and discharge, reports of character and ability, and other assorted notes.

Once you locate your ancestor on a particular ship, do a search for just the name of the ship to find logs and other ship information. Ship information pages consist primarily of the crew list cover pages and contain information regarding a ship and its voyage(s). The name of the ship, port of registry, and date are almost always present, but these documents do not contain lists of names.








To find the Agreements of a particular vessel and year, researchers have to locate a ship’s official number: the MHA documents are filed by this number. Watching the video on this site “Welcome to the Maritime History Archive” will explain why: the following explains how you find a number, and then how you can check for what documents have survived and which now constitute archival holdings.

In the Mercantile Navy Lists [See Glossary], find the name of the vessel alphabetically. There may be several vessels with the same name, but the official number is unique: it never changed for the lifetime of a vessel regardless of changes of name or purpose. Several vessels may have the same name, so it helps to have as much information about the vessel, including Port of Registry, Tonnage, and Ownership.

To search the Mercantile Navy List, one can locate physical copies for the years in which one is interested in by asking the MHA staff for research assistance. The Maritime History Archive holds bound volumes for the following years:

1868, 1875, 1876, 1878, 1880, 1882, 1891, 1892, 1896, 1899, 1904, 1907, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1918, 1919, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1925-1940, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, 1957-1965, 1968, 1973.

Microfilm and/or microfiche copies are available for the following years:

1857-1864, 1866-1908, 1910-1914, 1916-1920, 1922.

Researchers can also check their local libraries or archives for copies of the MNL near their relevant year.

It is becoming easier to search the Mercantile Navy Lists online. The Maritime History Archive and the Memorial University Digital Archive Initiative now offers the Mercantile Navy Lists and Maritime Directory online in their self-search collection.

The Crew List Index Project (CLIP) is also a useful resource for finding official numbers and other vessel information through their online finding aids.

Once an official number is determined, researcher can use the number to search the Maritime History Archive Index, which will show the years for which the MHA has documents, including the main type of document, and whether other archives have holdings for vessels and years. See the guide to the MHA codes and Agreements and Accounts for the different types of documents.  For example, if we search the MHA Index for the official number of the Brio (97966), the Index tells us the MHA has holds at least document for each of the years: 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1897, 1899, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1906, 1908, 1909, and 1910.

Finding Official Numbers

To find the Agreements of a particular vessel and year, researchers have to locate a ship’s official number: the MHA documents are filed by this number. Watching the video on this site “Welcome to the Maritime History Archive” will explain why: the following explains how you find a number, and then how you can check for what documents have survived and which now constitute archival holdings.

In the Mercantile Navy Lists [See Glossary], find the name of the vessel alphabetically. There may be several vessels with the same name, but the official number is unique: it never changed for the lifetime of a vessel regardless of changes of name or purpose. Several vessels may have the same name, so it helps to have as much information about the vessel, including Port of Registry, Tonnage, and Ownership.

To search the Mercantile Navy List, one can locate physical copies for the years in which one is interested in by asking the MHA staff for research assistance. The Maritime History Archive holds bound volumes for the following years:

1868, 1875, 1876, 1878, 1880, 1882, 1891, 1892, 1896, 1899, 1904, 1907, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1918, 1919, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1925-1940, 1947, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, 1957-1965, 1968, 1973.

Microfilm and/or microfiche copies are available for the following years:

1857-1864, 1866-1908, 1910-1914, 1916-1920, 1922.

Researchers can also check their local libraries or archives for copies of the MNL near their relevant year.

It is becoming easier to search the Mercantile Navy Lists online. The Maritime History Archive and the Memorial University Digital Archive Initiative now offers the Mercantile Navy Lists and Maritime Directory online in their self-search collection.

The Crew List Index Project (CLIP) is also a useful resource for finding official numbers and other vessel information through their online finding aids.

Once an official number is determined, researcher can use the number to search the Maritime History Archive Index, which will show the years for which the MHA has documents, including the main type of document, and whether other archives have holdings for vessels and years. See the guide to the MHA codes and Agreements and Accounts for the different types of documents.  For example, if we search the MHA Index for the official number of the Brio (97966), the Index tells us the MHA has holds at least document for each of the years: 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1897, 1899, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1906, 1908, 1909, and 1910.

In 1902 PSNC’s Royal Charter was extended for a further 21 years and the crown on the house flag changed from the Royal Crown to the St Edward’s Crown. Between 1890 and 1904 an number of iron hulled ships were converted into coal storage hulks at the major South American ports as it was considered cheaper to bring ships alongside for coaling and storing rather than to undertake the operation using local lighters. At some ports larger ships did not go alongside a quay but used PSNC’s pier-like jetties or tenders. In the UK the Merseyside ‘naval yard’ was closed down, the stores, maintenance and engineering staff being dispersed, and their berth was moved across the river to the Alexandra Dock in Liverpool.

PSNC sold their interests in the Australian route to Royal Mail Line in 1905 together with their share in the Orient Pacific Line and the Oroya (2), the Oruba (1), the Orotava and the Ortona. With these vessels the Royal Mail incorporated the Orient-Royal Mail Line in February 1906 and gave the ships distinctive buff-yellow funnels. The Orellana and the Orcana became surplus to requirements and were sold to the Hamburg America Line. Investment in new ships continued and during 1906 four new cargo ships were delivered demonstrating the company’s propensity for ordering in bulk. In 1908 the Orcoma (1) was delivered. Referred to as the ‘all-electric’ ship she was the first of the company’s vessels to exceed 10,000grt.

The introduction of certificates of competency gave engineers in the British mercantile fleet a status they had not previously enjoyed and it put them in the same position as deck officers.  Standards of training still varied widely and the Institute of Marine Engineers, established in 1889, became the driving force behind moves to change the rules relating to apprenticeships.  The Board of Trade, which controlled the granting of British certificates of competency, had initially insisted upon an apprenticeship lasting a minimum of three years, six months of which had to be spent in a drawing office.  As shore apprenticeships throughout Britain lasted a minimum of five years the Institute requested that this term should also be required for potential seagoing engineers as it would ensure that they had completed their apprenticeships.  This request was resisted under pressure from influential shipowners who feared that a shortage of engineers would result and eventually a compromise was reached on a four-year apprenticeship with allowance being granted for time spent at a technical college. New regulations were introduced in 1901 and since then they have been frequently amended with respect to the training and examination requirements ensuring that the high standard of the British certificate of competency or ‘ticket’ is recognised throughout the world.


I Always Wanted an Inca Ancestor…..and now I may have one! Chapter One….The Beginning…My Grandmother Juana Rojas  from Coquimbo, Chile

24 Sep

My Indigenous Ancestors lived up here in these Hills…. Machu Picchu in Peruvian Andes….joking of course!


At last, I have the results of my DNA testing done by Ancestry and now I know I have  DNA from the Indigenous People of the Americas. It may be a small amount….but it is there!

I had Autosomal DNA tested…. the following is a definition….

“Autosomal DNA is a term used in genetic genealogy to describe DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes. An autosome is any of the numbered chromosomes, as opposed to the sex chromosomes. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes (the X chromosome and the Y chromosome). Autosomes are numbered roughly in relation to their sizes. That is, Chromosome 1 has approximately 2,800 genes, while chromosome 22 has approximately 750 genes. 


Native American 8%

“Primarily located in: North America, Central America, South America..this info came with my DNA Results from Ancestry…..Your genetic ethnicity estimate indicates that you have ancestry from the region that is home to the indigenous people of the Americas. This vast region stretches over two continents to include the rugged territory of Alaska and Canada, mountains and plains of the United States, dry valleys of Mexico, tropical jungles of Central America and South America, and the Patagonian steppes of southern Argentina and Chile.

Migrations into this region

“North and South America were settled by at least three waves of migrants from Asia, who occupied the Americas from Canada to the southern tip of Chile. North America was initially occupied by people who came from Siberia and coastal North Asia, when probably fewer than 1,000 individuals crossed the Bering land bridge; they were likely tracking animal herds and discovered an expansive new territory. Native Americans appear to derive from this initial wave of migration. Mounting evidence suggests they dispersed rapidly along the western coast of the Americas, perhaps by sea, within a period of only about a thousand years. Not long after humans first appeared in today’s Alaska and the western United States, they had already settled as far south as the tip of modern-day Chile.”

MY DNA would suggest that in addition to my Native American DND, I have some Celtic DND from Europe and Great Britain…pretty good combination, I would say. 

Europe 92%

  • Ireland 33%

  • Europe West 33%

  • Iberian Peninsula 9%

  • Italy/Greece 8%  

    Prehistoric Ireland & Scotland

    “After the Ice Age glaciers retreated from Northern Europe more than 9,000 years ago, hunter- gatherers spread north into what is now Great Britain and Ireland, during the Middle Stone Age. Some 3,000 years later, during the New Stone Age, the first farming communities appeared in Ireland. The Bronze Age began 4,500 years ago and brought with it new skills linked to metalworking and pottery. During the late Bronze Age, Iron was discovered in mainland Europe and a new cultural phenomenon began to evolve.

    Around 500 B.C., the Bronze Age gave way to an early Iron Age culture that spread across all of Western Europe, including the British Isles. These new people originated in central Europe, near what is Austria today. They were divided into many different tribes, but were collectively known as the Celts.

    The Celts

    From around 400 B.C. to 275 B.C., various tribes expanded to the Iberian Peninsula, France, England, Scotland and Ireland—even as far east as Turkey. Today we refer to these tribes as ‘Celtic’ though that is a modern term which only came into use in the 18th century. As the Roman Empire expanded beyond the Italian peninsula, it began to come into increasing contact with the Celts of France, whom the Romans called “Gauls.”

    Ireland  33%

    Primarily located in:Ireland, Wales, Scotland  Also found in:France, England

    A variety of internal and external influences have shaped Ireland as we know it today. Ireland’s modern cultural remains deeply rooted in the Celtic culture that spread across much of Central Europe and into the British Isles. Along with Wales, Scotland, and a handful of other isolated communities within the British Isles, Ireland remains one of the last holdouts of the ancient Celtic languages that were once spoken throughout much of Western Europe. And though closely tied to Great Britain, both geographically and historically, the Irish have fiercely maintained their unique character through the centuries.

    Europe West  33%

    Celtic and Germanic tribes

    Although “Celtic” is often associated with the people of Ireland and Scotland, the Celts emerged as a unique culture in central Europe more than 2,500 years ago. From an epicenter in what is now Austria, they spread and settled in the areas of today’s western Germany and eastern France, generally near the Rhine and Danube Rivers. By 450 B.C., their influence and Celtic languages had spread across most of western Europe, including the areas that are now France, the Iberian Peninsula and the British Isles. The Celts either conquered or assimilated the previous inhabitants of the area, and almost all languages and cultural and religious customs were replaced. The only exception, most scholars believe, is the Basque language, which managed to persist in the Pyrenees of southern France and northern Spain.

    In the early 4th century B.C., Celtic tribes in northern Italy invaded and sacked Rome, setting the stage for centuries of conflict.

    In the 5th century B.C., Germanic peoples began moving south, from Sweden, Denmark and northern Germany, displacing the Celts as they went. It is unclear what prompted their movement, but it may have been climate related, as they sought warmer weather and more fertile farmland. The Germanic tribes’ expansion was checked by the generals, Gaius Marius and Julius Caesar, as they approached the Roman provinces around 100 B.C.”

    And just to round things out..I have

    European Jewish  4%…. go figure! Primarily located in:Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Israel

    Coquimbo, Chile                                              


    Coquimbo Plaza de Armas today



    Just like her Ancestors…….My Mom lived somewhere up in the hills above the Port of Coquimbo, Chile …..not quit so posh as the Incas! though!   

Agnes, my Mom and Daisy, my Aunt

Chalk and Chilean Cheese…circa 1939. Agnes and her sister Daisy

Knowing that my Mom had been born in Coquimbo, Chile in 1908…..I was fascinated with her EXOTIC ORIGIN. Though her father was a Scot that had left Glasgow some time around the 1880’s for South America, her Mother was supposedly a Spanish Lady. I never saw a picture of her as most of the family pictures were destroyed in a fire at some point in time. I also never asked those important questions such as, “what did your mother look like” and “what was her name”? I remember being told that it was Juana Rojas, but when I located Passenger Records for their trip to England in 1919, she was listed a Jane McMillan, likely Anglicized.  Regardless, my Mom’s appearance hinted at DNA from somewhere other than Scotland. 


Once you start looking on the internet it is amazing what you are able to discover. I was looking at old images of Coquimbo and I came across this photo which looked amazingly familiar. It seemed to be a gathering of some kind. Down to the basement and into the old trunk. There they were…2 pictures I had looked at previously trying to see if I could locate my grandparents. Apparently in September every year a big Fiesta is held. “With the advent of the twentieth century, the Pampillera Party and festive connotation of day 20, were growing year by year. The variety and incorporation of local popular entertainment led to a large influx of public, interested in enjoying a day of leisure and the spectacle of racing.



Found this photo on line and it looked like a familiar setting…it was the Pampilla in Coquimbo.


Somewhere in this group is likely Thomas and Juana MacMillan enjoying the Pampilla.


In this picture I can locate my Mother..middle of 3 girls in the center of the picture.

I have never told my Mother’s Story as I really didn’t know much about her early life. I knew she was born in Coquimbo Chile on October 23, 1908.


Thomas MacMillan, My Grandfather

Her father was Thomas MacMillan, a Scot from Glasgow, who had somehow made his way to South America likely sometime in the late 1870’s or early 1880’s. He worked on the Steamships that went up and down the coast of South America. Had he originally started out sailing across the Atlantic when The Pacific Steamship Company introduced sailings from Liverpool through the Straights of Magellan to

Valpariso in 1869 and then to Callao in 1870 and…… when he met Juana Rojas he switched over to work the Coastal Steamers…..but did he work the Coastal Steamers exclusively…found the on Ancestry..Crew Lists from Liverpool…one Thomas MacMillan from Coquimbo age 43 in 1895..could this be my Grandfather??


Crew List for the Arica…previous ship the Boliva…Thomas MacMillan 1895  Found on


Thomas MacMillan..front row Right as you look

Jean Taylor or Juana Rojas is much more an unknown. I have never seen a picture of this lady but I believe my mom took after her in looks and stature. Given the birth dates for her children, it is likely she married Thomas in the early 1880’s, possibly is Callao Peru, but equally likely Coquimbo, if that was his home base.   They had 3 children, David, Daisy and Agnes. I believe they may have had other children…Robert, Margaret and Thomas who may have died as infants.                                                                                                                                  


David Taylor MacMillan Born Callao, Peru c. 1885


Agnes Irvine MacMillan Perkins Born Oct 23, 1908 Coquimbo, Chile




Daisy Wallace MacMillan Bates Born c. 1890 Callao Peru

Family Story is that David went to England in 1917 to fight in WW1. Thomas, the father died sometime thereafter, and when the war was over the remaining family moved to England in 1919. David was listed as Clerical on the Ship’s manifest, age 33 which would make his birth 1884. Travelling with him from Valpariso, Chile was William James Trevissick and his family.


David Taylor MacMillan Chile to Liverpool March 1917 aboard the Orissa.

Orrissa Pacific Steam Navigation Company

“The Pacific Steam Navigation Company (PSNCo) was formed by an American, William Wheelwright, to operate steamship services along the Pacific coast of South America. Having failed to raise money in the USA, he succeeded in London and was granted a Royal Charter of Incorporation in 1839. Services started in 1840 with two wooden paddle steamers, Chile and Peru. The company built up a large fleet of coastal steamers, and 1867 it was decided to introduce a through service from Liverpool via the Straits of Magellan. Five screw steamers were ordered to operate this service. Rather than wait for delivery of these, PSNCo inaugurated the new venture in 1868, using their paddler Pacific, built for coastal services in 1865. The ships ordered in 1867 began arriving in 1869, operating between Liverpool and Valparaiso. In 1870, the PSNCo decided to extend services to Callao, and a further four steamers were ordered. In 1872, a mail subsidy of £10000 per annum was granted and the PSNCo began operating a weekly service from Liverpool. The calls at this time included Bordeaux (later Pauillac), Lisbon, Sao Vincente (Cape Verde Islands), Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo and Punta Arenas.

The three sisters were built for the Valparaiso service. They were inferior to the ships built for the Australian route which preceded them. They were 5300 gross tons, 421 feet long, and had single funnels. Oravia was wrecked in Port Stanley in 1912. Oropesa became an armed merchant cruiser in 1914, and was passed to the French Navy in 1915. She was sunk by a submarine in 1917. Orissa was lost to a submarine in 1918, having remained in commercial PSNCo service.

David sailed to England aboard the Orissa in 1917.

The PSNCo was the largest steamship company in the world in 1873, but their success was short-lived. Due to a combination of circumstances, including political unrest, and competition from other shipping lines (White Star amongst them), PSNCo found themselves in financial difficulties and many ships were laid, service speeds were reduced, and departures became fortnightly again. Two ships were sold to Royal Mail Lines, and four others were chartered (and later sold) to the Orient Line for a new steamship service from London to Australia via the Suez Canal. Conditions in the PSNCo original trade area continued to deteriorate, and Chile went to war with Peru and Bolivia in 1879.

Information found on Find a Grave


Thomas MacMillan had died in 1917 and was buried in the English Cemetery at Guayacan Coquimbo. We also share a birthdate…January 18th.

Name: Thomas MacMillan
Birth Date: 18 Jan 1855
Birth Place: Glasgow City, Scotland
Death Date: 1917
Death Place: Chile
Cemetery: English Cemetery
Burial or Cremation Place: Coquimbo, Coquimbo, Chile
Has Bio?: N

Copy of the register of the British cemetery at Guayacán, Coquimbo, Chile    images-1


Guayacan Cemetery

Format: Family History Library Salt Lake, Utah

Books/Monographs/Book with Film






[20] h. : tabla geneal.

Subject Class:

983 A1

  History of Guayacan

“In 1846 the village of Guayacán was established as a maritime and mining establishment thanks to the management of Robert Edward Allison.  In 1856, José Tomás Urmeneta installs its copper smelter and a rail line was built in 1862  to pique Tamaya and pier on the coast.  The establishment of Guayacán cast was one of the largest in the country in the nineteenth century , growing to about 35 hearth furnaces in its heyday.

In 1874 it is created the English Cemetery, home to the first Scottish and Welsh families who settled in Coquimbo. In 1880 the Church of Guayacan is constructed, made of pieces by engineer Gustave Eiffel in Paris.”


Coquimbo in the early 1920’s

Mom had few memories of her childhood, not that I really questioned her. She remembers the garden at the rear of their house. There was a parrot kept in a cage and she had been instructed not to put her fingers into the cage. Well ….you guessed it..she did and she was bitten! 

Coquimbo today…

From the website    “Thus the English Neighborhood (Coquimbo, Chile) revived…. it became more representative of the history of the city as buildings and facades were restored..


Port of Coquimbo Chile


English District today

“The cobbled streets made us walk through a gallery of stores. Each facade witnessed who inhabited the place two centuries ago…. behind them there are shops offering everything from fine wines, chocolates and snuff to art objects and handicrafts made by local artists. Today in Coquimbo, thanks to the joint efforts of its inhabitants and restoration policies, it is possible to navigate a real postcard of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Notably, the neighborhood was called “English” by the language of those who lived and quickly excelled in Coquimbo. Fine old homes  were raised with balconies looking for a glimpse of the sea. The community of immigrants was entering its style and design in this port architecture that helped to consolidate this parallel to the social and commercial life of the city expansion.”














Through the center of town..







1919 the family left Coquimbo via Valpariso for England. Perhaps this was the train they took to Valpariso 430 km to the south where they would board the Oriana. My mother was only 11 years old when she made this voyage through the Panama Canal and on to Liverpool. Her life would take many turns in the next 3 years…To Be Continued!                                    

Benford Family: Northamptonshire 1600’s – Plague, War and Fire

15 Jul


Northampton, on the Great North Road out of London, was for many centuries, subject to a steady flow of people and goods on the move and thus liable to infections and diseases from this transient population. It succumbed to the plague from 1570 to 1579, then again from 1603 to 1605 when 500 perished.

In 1638, the Register Book for St. Sepulchre’s ChurchThe-Church-of-St-Sepulchre-Northampton-by-Harris-Brothers-Abel-Son-c-1850s2  has  an entry on March 29 among the burials…”att which time the sickness beegan”…and on January 1 of the following year…”att which time the sickness ceased, the Lord be praised.” In this parish in 1638, there were 114 deaths, the average for the previous five years only 18. Great_plague_of_london-1665 (1)

Understanding what is happening in the area in which your ancestors lived is extremely important. We often overlook the fact that entire families can die when a disease sweeps through the city, town or village. We are searching the records without success and asking ourselves why we can’t find any marriages…perhaps the reasons could include deaths in the family causing families to break apart and move elsewhere to re-establish themselves.

There is also the fact of this case, The English Civil War, a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between the Parliamentarians (Round Heads) and the Royalists (Cavaliers)  principally over the manner of government.

One of the famous battles took place at Naseby in Northamptonshire. “It was a war that more men per head of population lost their lives than in the First World War, with Northamptonshire always on the front line between the Royalists and Parliamentarians.

Article comes from “Northampton Herald and Post”   Posted: May 27, 2015 By Mike Ingram

Battle of nasby

Battle at Naseby, Northamptonshire

“On 22 August 1642, King Charles I raised the Royal Standard at Nottingham, signalling the start of the war. He immediately sent around 300 men under the command of Sir John Byron (the poet’s ancestor), from Nottingham to the Royalist center of Oxford to enlist effort in the south. Byron’s route took him through Brackley, where he arrived on the evening of 28th August. Then, as supper was being prepared, they were attacked by a force of some five hundred locals wielding pikes, bills and pitchforks. Whether the attack was opportunistic or planned is unknown, although the numbers are large enough to suggest an ambush. Byron and about half his men made their escape towards Oxford. The others were caught unprepared and routed. The booty was enormous, and the value of all the gold, money and apparel taken was worth more than £6,000 to £8,000. Most but not all was handed over to Parliament.

Parliament began to assemble its army at Northampton under the Earl of Essex. In letters to his brother in London, Nehemiah Wharton, sergeant of musketeers recounted how he, and his men marched from Coventry to the town, plundering the countryside as they went. On 1 September, they spent a night at Long Buckby, ignoring the Royalist presence at Holdenby House, but there was a shortage of accommodation and the church was crowded with tired soldiers. Nehemiah Wharton, told his brother they “were glad to dispossess the very swine.”

 Northampton would become the main infantry garrison and supply depot for the Parliamentarian Army in the East Midlands for the entire war. On 14 September, the Earl of Essex reviewed his army in Northampton. It was said to be 00 – 20,000 strong. The royal connection to Northampton Castle had becomes less significant, and by the time of the English Civil War,  Northampton was decidedly pro-Parliament, the people of Northampton supported Parliament and Oliver Cromwell’s Republican Roundhead Army. The town had a long history of religious dissent from the Lollards and Puritanism gained a strong hold on the town. The corporation of the town, having already refused to provide troops to the King in 1632 or to pay the notorious Ship Money Tax in 1636, petitioned Parliament in 1642 against papists and bishops.

Over 4,000 pairs of leather shoes and 600 pairs of cavalry jack-boots for the Parliamentary armies were manufactured in Northampton during the Civil War, and a further 2,000 for Cromwell’s New Model Army  in 1648. Until well into the 19th century, the shoe industry boomed in and around the town with small manufacturing workshops set up in the surrounding areas.

The war ended with a Parliamentary victory. England became a Commonwealth which lasted 10 until the restoration of King Charles II in 1660.”


As usual in wars of this era, disease caused more deaths than combat. There are no accurate figures for these periods, and it is not possible to give a precise overall figure for those killed in battle, as opposed to those who died from disease, or even from a natural decline in population.

Figures for casualties during this period are unreliable, but some attempt has been made to provide rough estimates. In England, a conservative estimate is that roughly 100,000 people died from war-related disease during the three civil wars. Historical records count 84,830 dead from the wars themselves. Counting in accidents and the two Bishops’ wars, an estimate of 190,000 dead is achieved,out of a total population of about five million.

Northampton had only begun to recover following the war when the entire town center was destroyed by fire in 1675.  The blaze was caused by sparks from an open fire in St. Mary’s Street near the castle and devastated the town center, destroying about 700 buildings [out of 850] including All Saints Church, in six hours. Three quarters of the town was destroyed, 11 people died and about 700 families were made homeless.

The Fire of Northampton in September 20th 1675. (Northampton Mercury Sept’ 25 1875.) 

The late Mr de Wilde, writing in the “Northampton Mercury” on September 25th 1875, says:  “September 20th 1675` – perhaps the most memorable day in the history of Northampton – was a blistering autumn day, with a fierce wind blowing from the West. We can imagine that the industrious trade folk were not tempted out much but preferred – those that were in the leather trade to stay at home and apply their skill to the manufacture of leathern bottles and the immense pliant folding-top boots of the period, the women plying their bobbins and thread. Towards 12 o’clock, however, when, perhaps dinner was occupying the attention of most, the news spread that a fire had broken out in a hovel near the castle, and had extended to some adjoining tenements. Some run down to the scene of the disaster, to look or assist in extinguishing the flames, while others deemed it the wiser and more comfortable thing to make sure of a good dinner while it was good, designing to stroll down afterwards and see what was to be done. Little did they think, those who were thus nonchalant, that the fire was coming to them to save them the trouble of going to it. But such it was and with terrible speed. The bells of All Hallows had scarcely chimed the hour of noon, when say an eyewitness they “began to jangle a different tune.” Dinner was then forgotten and boots and leathern bottles and lace, and everything save personal safety, for fanned and fostered by the fierce west wind, it was making its way with terrific speed to the centre of town, literally licking everything up in its course. It commenced in a cottage at the upper end of St Mary’s Street near the castle”

Now you may ask what all this has to do with my Family History and my Research. Our ancestors did not live in a bubble. They were part of the action that was going on around them. It is extremely important to know your history and its timelines. It is also important to have maps from that same time period. Villages disappear..borders move. All this information can help you understand why your ancestors did what did and moved where they moved. 

 Nathanel Benfford was likely born around the end of the English Civil War…circa 1654. He married Jane Joalmer in 1679, four years after the great fire destroyed Northampton. They were married at St. Giles on December 20, 1679. The register indicates they were living in Denton, a small village 7 miles outside Northampton.


Nathanel Benfford of Denton 1679

Interestingly, at the same parish church, St Giles, in 1660, a Will Benfford married a Mathe?  Taylor on February 11, 1660. It took me awhile to decipher the early English writing, but when I did I had quite the surprise. Here was a possible C. The register indicated that Will Benfford was from Couentree (Coventry, Warwickshire) and Mathe? Taylor was from Northan (Northampton, Nothamptonshire). Hours of hard work had finally paid off….and only if you are a Family Historian will you understand why anyone would spend hours searching for one record.


Will Benfford of Couentree…1660

Why would I stop searching at this point when I am on such a roll. WOW…there he was… even earlier Bennford…William Bennford… with another spelling of the surname….this time in Raunds, Northamptonshire in 1626 and marrying Mary Wells. Raunds is 20 miles from Northampton. Don’t      know where this William is from….more digging.

FreeReg Marriage entry on 13 Jul 2016

For information about this place follow the link to Raunds

If you believe there to be an error in this transcription then please report it to our data manager.
Field Value
County NTH
Place Raunds
Church name St Peter
Register type
Marriage date 01 May 1626
Groom forename William
Groom surname BENNFORD
Bride forename Mary
Bride surname WELLS
Register note
Transcriber not
 People move….people have always moved….we tend to overlook this fact when trying to locate our ancestors. 


Peter Spufford is a Senior Lecturer in History

“single population movement in seventeenth century England was this enormous flow of people into London. The growth in size of London affected many parts of the country...He mentions Cogenhoe in Northamptonshire where “in a 10 year period…1618 to 1628…two thirds of the population changed due to migration”.
Don’t limit your thinking to the village where your ancestors were born and when you can’t find them there in subsequent years …give up…It would be like saying “people born on the other side of the country in Newfoundland would never move to Ft. McMurray Alberta for work”…they do now and they did then!
mary wells

Mary Wells daughter of Thomas Wells, Parish Record, 1606 of Wadenhoe..21 miles from Northampton

Going backwards one generation, to search for William’s father has proved difficult. There are a number of William’s born in Warwickshire around this time and also one born in Lichfield, Staffordshire in 1600. Are any of these William’s the father I am seeking….who knows…..suffice to say….likely one could be and that makes my connection to Warwickshire even more certain.

TIP: Spellings of names aren’t fixed..they change for many reasons….I look for Benford, Bentford, Beneford, Bendford, Benfford and Bennford and I am sure there are others….makes life interesting. 


If you are interested in Coventry…..Further Reading

The City of Coventry: Social history to 1700

“The 1590s and 1600s were marked by another period of activity on the part of the Puritan council. The same council meeting which gave permission for the last performance of plays in Coventry ordered all the maypoles in the city to be taken down ‘and not hereafter to be set up’. With the suppression of the last of the public festivals, life became very drab, and, moreover, trade probably suffered. Ben Jonson’s description of the Puritan tradesmen of Coventry, though written in 1625, doubtless applied equally to the 1590s:

‘A pure native bird This: and tho’ his hue Be Coventry Blue Yet is he undone By the thread he has spun For since the wise town Has let the sports down Of May games and morris For which he right sorr’ is, Where their maids and their mates At Dancing and Wakes, Had their napkins and posies . . .’ Jonson ends by suggesting that the only use left for the Puritan’s thread is ‘to hang or choke him’.

Sabbatarianism was also growing during this period. In 1588 the opening of shops, playing games, or idly walking about were forbidden during servicetime on Sundays.  In 1599 these orders were intensified, indoor games and idly sitting in streets or fields being added to the other forbidden activities. Football in the streets would incur gaol after 1595 and children’s games in the street were forbidden in 1605.  This suggests that the earlier prohibitions were being disregarded, as does the complaint of churchwardens that, in spite of their efforts, many ‘do lie in bed’, while others went to neighbouring villages where they could spend the Sabbath profanely, drinking and enjoying themselves ‘to the great dishonour of God and the offence of others’. In the same year church attendance on Sundays was made compulsory and listening to sermons and theological debates replaced the more frivolous recreations of the past. The first weekly lecture, which was to become a feature of the Commonwealth period, was established in 1609.

The Puritans found that James I, like Elizabeth, disappointed their expectations. In 1611 they were ordered, in a letter from the king himself, to receive the sacrament kneeling, ‘to the grief of many’. Ten years later James refused to approve the new charter until he was satisfied that the orders of the church were being observed.

The Puritans were back in the ascendancy in 1641 when the altar of Holy Trinity was replaced by the table. Two Presbyterians, Obadiah Grew and John Bryan, became vicars respectively of St. Michael in 1642 and Holy Trinity in 1644. The covenant was taken in 1643 and Coventry remained staunchly Parliamentarian throughout the Civil War period. It is possible that the phrase ‘sent to Coventry’ derived from the unbending attitude of the townsfolk to Royalist prisoners sent there.  The diary of Robert Beake (mayor, 1655) gives some indication of the strict Sabbatarianism in force in Coventry during the Commonwealth period. Offenders were put in the stocks or the cage for travelling on Sunday, and even the man who was travelling ‘to be a godfather’ was fined.

Most of Coventry’s chief citizens remained Protestant and anti-Royalist in sympathy, and many of the measures of the Puritan years, like the compulsory attendance at church and the closing of shops on Sunday, remained. Nevertheless, there was a conscious reaction against Puritan repression at the Restoration, at least on the part of those in power, and probably among many of the people as well. The Restoration was celebrated with feasting, bonfires, and conduits running wine. Grew and Bryan were ejected, the lectures suppressed, and maypoles brought back.  In 1662 the font and organ were restored to St. Michael’s and the king’s brother, later James II, was entertained by the city council.  The pageants were never revived but there was some attempt to recreate the pageantry and gaiety of an earlier period. Waits were appointed in 1674 ‘to play in the city as the waits formerly did, during the pleasure of the house’ and the Great Show Fair, the successor of the Corpus Christi Fair, was celebrated by feasting at about the same time.  The year 1678 saw the permanent establishment of two institutions – the waits and the Godiva procession.

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