Great Great Gran

Mary Ann Dutaillis
Great Great Grandmother
Mary Ann Hodge nee Dutaillis

I’ve become an obsessed amateur sleuth / family tree builder… thanks to cousin Jerry!

The above photo is my father’s mother’s father’s mother: my great great grandmother Mary Ann Hodge nee Dutaillis. She had an amazing life.

Having just finished my search for my long missing great uncle, I’ve plunged into another family mystery. Was Mary Ann’s Dutaillis’ grandfather really a count? The story goes a very important French gentleman had to leave France and his fortune behind; travelling to Scotland to start a new life.

The story got embellished along the way I’m sure. My father’s version includes a mistress and the birth of twins … Now, my great gran Eliza, she was a bit of a snob; perhaps her mother-in-law was too. Could the family have made up an association with someone important just because of Mary Ann’s last name? Or perhaps just embellished a few details to try to make the story fit with that important figure in the French Revolution, Count Adrien Dutaillis.

Finding information on a birth before 1800 is difficult (Mary Ann’s father is believed to have been born in 1797 in Edinburgh, Scotland), especially if the couple was unmarried. Records were not kept the way they were later on. For instant, in England, censuses didn’t start until, I believe, 1841. Having become quite fond of census data, I encourage you to participate in all such endeavors yourself when asked. I just completed a “Housing” survey from Statistics Canada. I have a whole different attitude to the questions now that I’ve searched for answers myself.

The mysteries of family genealogy include things like how to spell illegitimate. I might get it right eventually. I think I will come up with an abbreviation! I got mad the last time and just wrote BAS***D instead. You would think autocorrect would correct when you needed it! Nope. NO WAY. Even here. I had to go back and play with the word till the red line under it disappeared.

I have convinced myself we are no relation at all to Count Adrien Ramon du Bosc Dutaillis (1760-1851). Instead I am looking for a member of the Second Estate, born in France probably around 1770 give or take a decade, who had to leave France to save his ass in the face of the oncoming French Revolution. Estimating arrival in Scotland as 1780 to 1790, I have found a few candidates, my favorite, August Dutaillis… Currently, I am trying to confirm that this man is Mary Ann’s grandfather. Because that could be the name he took upon leaving his old life behind, I may never find out his true lineage. First to confirm he is who I seek!

Wish me luck!


My favorite HNY giffy this year!
Thank you to the artist!

A new year always seem to come with resolutions… This year I am endeavoring to master … Today was day one. I made quite a bit of progress on my family tree, and am exhausted. I have hopes to work on it a bit each day and by July 1, to have most of the information I have in my paper files added to my family tree.

I admit to having started this tree on ancestry’s site in 2009, and to having made very little progress since. To facilitate a better effort, I have prepaid for 6 months access to their resources, which are many. I have found more information just today than in the past few years… not that I was really looking you understand. But, I am looking now!

I also wanted to find a way to add some of my family tree info to this web site … So, that’s on the “to do” list too. So far it seems you need a plug in … which requires a business wp account so that’s not going to happen. I am the queen of work around solutions and have designed a few web sites in my day so let’s see if I can figure out a way to present my family tree information here. And in such a way so that only my family or those I wish to can see it. I must learn more about privacy settings and how to make parts of my site accessible by password…. so much to learn.

First things first though, I am still learning how to blog… Not something I ever thought I’d be doing. Ever. But here I am…

Here’s to 2021 everyone! Wishing for an end to the pandemic; a return to “normal” or to a “new” normal that we can all live with! Stay safe! Keep learning!


Christmas Doves

It’s the winter solstice today: the shortest day of the year. And, there is a significant stellar event in the night sky, I believe, as well tonight. Too bright in the city to see it most likely.

The winter solstice marks the turning of the seasons; the beginning of the next cycle … It reminds us here in the northern hemisphere that spring is coming. And then summer …

Today, it mostly reminds me there are only 4 more days until Christmas. A singular, most unique Christmas … a “just the two of us” Christmas. Roast beef instead of turkey. No vegetable casserole or salad to prepare ahead to bring to the annual family gathering. Pretty much the only time we all congregate each year these days. All “Cancelled!” due to Covid-19. However, there are silver linings. There always are!

The importance of family and loved ones, close friends and dear ones, has never been more apparent to me. Reflecting on this past year, I am made aware that the people in my life are what really matters. That being with those I care about counts.

The best thing about the end of this year is that next year is beginning with HOPE! Vaccines have been developed … they appear to be effective, and we may, by this time next year, be close to whatever our new normal is going to be. Last year at this time, there were only murmurs of this new virus… We have come so far, considering how little hope there was when things first began going critical in so many countries; all over the world.

Next year Begins with Hope! That brings tears to my eyes.

Wishing us all a better world in 2021.

Peace & Joy!


For me, Christmas-time always brings “Family” to mind.

This year, my thoughts have focused once more on Family History, more so than on presents and the annual family dinner, in part because this is my first Christmas without dad but mostly because there isn’t a family dinner or get together of any kind planned due to the pandemic. Going through boxes of old files and photos has also certainly helped, as has starting a PowerPoint presentation for dad’s “future” internment and celebration of his life.

Hodge Family Photo 1903
Hodge Family Photo

And wouldn’t you know it, a cousin who has been compiling information for a long time got in touch recently. He is also thinking about Family History once again. His grandfather is the brother of my father’s mother. I’m confused already! It’s easy though: his grandfather (Fred) and my grandmother (Rose) were siblings. They are the “children” in the above photo taken in 1903, before Eliza, Charles & Rose came to Canada, leaving Fred in England to finish his studies.

So far, I have 3 binders set up – one is information about my mother’s side of the family, one has information on my father’s family tree, and the other is all about my parents, their children, including me, and grandchildren. My sister started the binder system. I added the new “our generation” binder to it. This information is far from being as organized as I would like. Then, I have a large pocket file of information relating to my husband’s family. Why they don’t rate a binder? I don’t know. Likely just because I don’t have that much information collected on them… yet!

My plan for the New Year is to revisit the binders, add some tabs to create sections for different people, get back on and get going with learning more about my family’s past. About where I come from. And maybe, just maybe, the process will help me figure out where I’m going!


Winnipeg Free Press, Nov 7, 2020

November 11, 2020 is my first Remembrance Day without my father. He served in WWII on the HMCS Ettrick. He never talked of the war when I was a child. By the time I was born, it was long past.

As he got older, memories of his youth became more important. Once mom was in care, he was alone in the house. I would often find him lost in thought, and when I asked what he was thinking about, he would tell me he was “reminiscing” …

His whole life he had told me stories, and so as our roles began to reverse. I the caregiver and he the one needing care, I began to tell him his own stories … the ones he had told me over and over … the one about the painting of the little girl, the one about the eight-legged dog from “Ew Bah Chi,” and then, for the last part of his journey, I made him his own story:

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, a little boy was born, the fifth child of …

I repeated it to him often; at most visits near the end. I think it was more the sound of my voice that gave him comfort. Like a parent reading a bedtime story to a child. The story gave me comfort too. He was more than what he appeared. He had a story. He was important. Especially to me.

Covid came and I was locked out of the facility where he lived in mid-March. Mid-May, on Queen Victoria Day, he passed. Almost exactly 10 years after my mother left us, they were together again. I miss them both every day, but today, on this day of Remembering, it is especially hard.

Stories, especially those that review the important people and events in a person’s life, can help Alzheimer’s patients stay grounded. I encourage you to tell your loved ones stories … about your life; about what and who is important to you. You never know, someday, someone may be telling your story to you.


Owls in the Woods
Owls in the Woods

I’ve been colouring forever… Currently I prefer coloured pencils and my favourite owl colouring book by Lulu Mayo called “A Million Owls” … she has other books too: “A Million Unicorns” for example. Colouring helps me to relax and to focus … and is supposed to help “prevent” Alzheimer’s.

I finished this double-page image on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend but normally I pick a colour and I go from picture to picture. Then change colour. Sometimes, like this past long weekend, I work hard on one particular image and complete it.

Neither of my parents enjoyed colouring either before or after their diagnosis of Alzheimer’s-related dementia. I’m not sure that we really tried to get them interested. Mom did enjoy young children’s jigsaw puzzles, of which there were many on hand at the personal care home she lived at. Both of them loved picture books … Dad did crosswords until he couldn’t anymore… early stages.

There are now colouring books available that are specifically designed for those suffering from dementia. Large print and with images that aren’t as intricate as those found in many easily available colouring books. These days you can find adult colouring books everywhere it seems: cash registers, magazine racks, and online too. Dover is one of my favourite online sources of colouring books because of their less intricate images and wide selection of topics.

From colouring in waiting rooms and other public places I find I get a fair bit of interest from others. Their mother or wife or another loved one colours… or they colour themselves. I hear what medium they use, where they get their books. I get asked where did I get my book? Or where can they get colouring books for their loved ones with dementia, as the conversation almost always turns to Alzheimer’s.

If colouring can help prevent or postpone Alzheimer’s, then I am all for colouring! And for spreading the word! There are books out there on every imaginable topic. Images are available for free too, if money is an issue. You can even colour virtually, although I find it is not as satisfying. I use two different apps on my phone for colouring when I am caught waiting somewhere without my book and a pencil. You don’t get to choose your colour.. and that’s half the fun!

I hope to enjoy colouring for a long time, but honestly, I DO NOT need a single other colouring book… Did I mention I have a wee bit of a too much stuff problem. Well, I have way too many colouring books too …


Today I finally did some more shredding … a small dint, one clear bag of bits of paper all staples removed… I used to drop off my shreddies at the Humane Society and they asked for that … that was many years ago. This is my second bag since I started. And weeks since I did the first one. I haven’t even finished emptying one file box yet.

I have a wall of these boxes beside my desk 4 long x 3 high that another row of stuff sits upon… and more boxes under my desk. My real file cabinet has been so full for so long that I just keep starting new boxes or those plastic “crate” cubes … I would love to have this space back.

Over 25 yrs in this house = lots of paper. Plus tons of paper from taking care of my parents’ house, and them … Over a decade of the daily log books dad’s companions wrote in to share information with each other – for example. That’s on my hit list. An easy decision to shred. But I am not ready for that item, not yet.

Today I did old life insurance policies and banking agreements… and the mortgage papers on our first house … pretty dry reading. Good riddance. I did keep the letter from the lawyer re that purchase. Interesting document for the family history binders? I believe we may have another house purchase agreement in there somewhere. 50 yrs from now it will seem cheap. Hell, it seems cheap now. That house is probably, if it sold today, worth 4 times what we bought it for.

A bit at a time gets the job done… it’s not a race… all the pep talk in the world won’t made this job fun… Next I think I’ll tackle my mother’s box. She died in 2010.

Learning WordPress

Learning goes slower after 50??

During my University years I studied Human Development and I focused on aging … I used to know the technical answer to that. I am so used to Front Page … I am finding the transition to WordPress very difficult.

Why do this?

  • Front Page was discontinued in 2003 and support for the program ended in 2013.
  • I guess it’s time to move on – learn a new way to do something I already knew how to do.

Doesn’t it seem we are always reinventing the same thing over and over and over …

So bear with me while I learn how to do what I already knew how to do a new way.

  • This is hard stuff!
  • Not as intuitive as I’d like
  • Once I get rid of these sample posts with my witty repartee I hope to actually say something?
  • In the format: fonts, colours and layout I choose, with my graphics …
  • It is coming along, but seems like pulling teeth. Like WHY are all these posts dated September 26 … today is October 6th… GRRRRR… Learning curve in action!
  • Tags … that’s next topic to master! I know how to add them in Front Page… Just saying!

Hi There!

The Older I get the More and MORE Stuff there is in my life … more stuff to store, more stuff to clean, more stuff to remember … you get the idea…. More and MORE Stuff.

I’m hoping to sort through some of my stuff; get rid of some stuff; repurpose some stuff and maybe even be obsessive enough to catalogue some stuff…


  • First … in case I can’t remember some stuff, there will be the possibility of there being a record somewhere about it
  • Because it will help me figure out what stuff I have (some seems to be missing??) and don’t have but would like to have… and
  • For sure I’d like to get rid of some stuff – downsize is a big catchword for those in our senior years!
  • And it will hopefully help me clarify just what stuff is important to me (that seems to change depending on where you are in life) and what stuff isn’t.

I’ve never been good at doing anything Every Day … so I don’t know how often I’ll get around to writing new blog entries. First job is to figure out how to use WordPress… make a few entries and baseline each page and launch the site. Then we’ll see if I can establish a rhythm.

The point! you ask… well, as I mentioned, getting rid of some Stuff …. We’ll see if this project can help me do some of that (hahaha! who’s laughing?) AND, more importantly, perhaps, to share memory tricks and ways to remember and ways to stimulate our memories … Because for me, my most important stuff has memories attached to them; memories I don’t want to lose.

  • For instance, within my vision, there is my mother’s pink elephant, and a host of other personal belongings that have “stories” attached to them;
  • My dad’s ashes are in front of me too… and beside me, boxes and boxes of stuff relating to his care for the past decade: stuff to purge; stuff to sort… lots and lots of stuff … some to keep to remember … to include in the family history binders;
  • Then there are my many collections of stuff… china springer spaniels, garden books, craft supplies are a few examples… obsessive collector? Yup. Maybe we can talk about ways to deal with that issue!
  • Mostly, I hope to help you deal with Your Stuff by dealing with some of My Stuff!

Let’s see where this all goes … will I have less Stuff or more Stuff next year this time? What will we have talked about?

If you are past 50; likely you are well aware of how much stuff accumulates…

Some of it you never want to part with and some you wish you had never owned but just how to get rid of it? Yard sales… what a lot of work! Hmmm. I’ve recently given all my father’s clothes to the Canadian Diabetes Textile Recycling bin… I kept his hat… the special one – it’s on the urn!


To Aud’s Stuff…. where we will talk about Stuff … and Alzheimer’s:

One Day at a Time!

This became our Mantra!

Good words to live by!

  • Going forward means not dwelling on the past; learn from it yes, but move on!
  • For us, staying focused on what was important meant staying in the moment.

Each person’s journey is different. Your family may find other solutions. Another catch phrase… or talisman … may become the centre for your story.

Don’t sweat the small stuff:

  • there’s big stuff to worry about, especially at the beginning …
  • Power of Attorney’s and stuff like that …
  • an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is life-changing …
  • you and your loved one will never be the same.

But that doesn’t mean life is over. Or that there is no more joy and love in your world.

I hope by sharing our journey it will help you find your own way through yours!