Sunday, 24 February 2019

Omar Westell and the Case of the Stolen Spirits

A whiskey thief is a tool that master distillers use to extract small portions of whiskey from an aging barrel for sampling or quality control.
Whiskey thief

Whiskey thief is also the term that could be used to describe Omar Westell.
Omar Westell

Omar Westell was born 30 June 1865. On 26 November 1890, he married Susan Dagg of Kincardine, Ontario, Canada; the daughter of Richard Dagg and Eliza Culbert.

Susan (Dagg) Westell, born 1 April 1860 in Biddulph Township near Lucan, Ontario. Susan was the wife of Omar Westell, the daughter of Eliza CULBERT & Richard Dagg, and the granddaughter of John CULBERT & Mary Ward.

Omar and Susan raised their five children in Kincardine: Oran Westell, Lorena (Westell) Casemore, Lillie Mae (Westell) Tout, John Earl Westell, and Lila (Westell) Wright.
The Omar Westell - Susan Dagg Family. Photo taken late 1914 or early 1915.

Omar Westell worked for the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) in Kincardine.

Omar's wife, Susan (Dagg) Westell died on 5 October 1916, age 56. Her death certificate says she'd had a cerebral tumor for six months.

On the very day that his wife died, Omar Westell made the papers. 
Source: The Wingham Advance, 5 October 1916, page 5

Omar Westell, an employee of the G.T.R., was last week arrested by a warrant sworn out by Kincardine, charging him with theft. One morning last week he was discovered rifling a case of whiskey which he had taken out of the express office of the G T.R. station. He was taken before J. A. McKenzie, J. P., and Mayor Miller, who sentenced him to six months in Walkerton jail.
A week before his wife's death, Omar stole the case of whiskey. Why? There were no further reports about this incident and there's no record of Omar getting into trouble with the law ever again. 

It's most likely that he was immediately placed behind bars. Did this hasten his wife's demise? She died within a week of his sentencing. 

Most of Omar and Susan's children had left home by the time their mother died and their father went to prison. However, their youngest child, Lila Westell was only 13 at the time. 

Lila Westell

In the course of just one week, Lila's mother died, and her father went to prison. I don't know who cared for Lila during the six months of her father's incarceration but it must have been a confusing and trying time for the young girl.

In 1924, several years after he was widowed and imprisoned, Omar Westell married Margaret Anderson "Maggie" McEwan Campbell, a widow. But just two weeks after the wedding, Omar's daughter, Lila died of smallpox. She was 24 years old.

Omar lived to the age of 83. 
Omar Westell's funeral service. Courtesy of Ian Westell.

Omar Westell died 22 November 1948 in the Kincardine Lighthouse; the home of his son, lighthouse keeper, Oran Westell.

The Kincardine Lighthouse, 1940s.

Omar Westell is buried with his wife, Susan (Dagg) Westell at Kincardine Cemetery, Section D1, Row 11, Stone 72.

We're left wondering why Omar stole the whiskey. It may be a secret he took to his grave. And am I the only one tempted to leave a bottle of whiskey by his headstone?

Did Omar have an insatiable taste for whiskey? Could that be why he stole an entire case of whiskey?...

Omar's grandson, John "Jack" Westell grew up in the same lighthouse in which Omar lived and died. When he was a kid, Jack recalled finding a trap door in the basement of the lighthouse, and much to his surprise it was full of whiskey bottles!

Monday, 18 February 2019

Second Cousins

Many of you have asked, "What's a second cousin?"

To answer that question, I've recruited my second cousin, Pat Rowell to be our example...

My 2nd cousin, Patricia "Pat" (Gowland) Rowell.
Pat and I share a set of great-grandparents: Richard Culbert & Jane Fairhall. However, we don't share the same set of grandparents.

Pat's grandmother (Hulda May Culbert) and my grandfather (Myron Manford Culbert) were brother and sister.

So what about the child of your second cousin? I'm glad you asked. Introducing Jeff Rowell, the son of my second cousin, Pat Rowell...

Jeff Rowell
Jeff is the son of my second cousin. He's one generation apart from being being my second cousin so that makes him my ....

Try to guess.

A round of applause for those who've figured it out. 

Jeff Rowell is my second cousin, once removed. "Once removed" means there is a difference of one generation separating us. If you've been reading the Culbert Family History blog since the beginning, you already know about first cousins, once removed.

So now you know! Go forth and impress your friends with your new-found knowledge.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Snowed Under

Snowy enough this week for you? Milward Taylor "Mel" Culbert shows us what it was like back in 1938...

I don't know where this photo was taken. It might be in or around Lucan, Ontario (in Biddulph Township, Middlesex County) where Mel grew up on Poplar Farm. Or it may have been taken in or around London, Ontario where Mel was living and working at the time.

In the winter of 1937-1938, a record 207.4 centimetres (81.5 inches) of snow fell in Toronto so chances are it was just as snowy in Middlesex County.

I wonder whatever happened to that Plymouth?

If you have photos of you and/or your family members in the snow, either past or present, send them to me and I'll publish them on the Culbert Family History blog.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Mary Elizabeth (Patrick) Culbert (1917-1989)

Thirty years ago on this day in 1989, my mother, Mary Elizabeth (Patrick) Culbert died.

Mary Elizabeth Patrick and my father, Milward Taylor "Mel" Culbert, circa 1940.

For at least a decade, Mum diligently researched her family history: the Patricks, the Players, the Donleys, the Kerslakes, and the Bowyers. Before the Internet, that meant trips to libraries, archives, and Land Registry Offices all over Ontario, journeys to the United Kingdom, visits to relatives near and far, and a lot of written correspondence and copious notes.  

Mum became too ill with pulmonary fibrosis to continue her research. In a letter to me in 1986, she said...

“I simply have to get back at this family history. Am so frightened that I may kick the bucket and leave all this mess of files for someone to sort out. Maybe after all my work, no one will want to do it, and it will have all been in vain. I shouldn’t say that, as I’ve enjoyed the experience.”

Mum left behind several large boxes of research notes. I'm grateful to my sister, Dana for storing those boxes at her house until I decided to take up where my mother left off. And thanks also to my sister for driving hundreds of miles to deliver those boxes to my door.

One of the boxes contained "A History of the John Culbert-Mary Ward Family and Their Descendants 1828-1995, Volume 1, Branches 5-6-7-8-9" by Grant W. Taylor. Reading that book was one of the catalysts for my decision to create the Culbert Family History blog. 

Mum would be happy that I continue to research her side of the family too, and document my findings on Ancestry. 

So no, Mum, your work wasn't all in vain and somebody still wants to do it. I do this in your memory. And I'm enjoying the experience, just as you did. "Thank you" doesn't begin to cover it. 

With love forever,
Your daughter, MJ

Saturday, 9 February 2019

The Cousin Explainer

Tired of trying to figure out who's who at large family dinners?
Get The Cousin Explainer tea towel!

Then, toss the tea towel to your "first cousin, once removed" and tell him it's his turn to dry the dishes! (That's the child of your first cousin. However, your "first cousin, once removed" can also be the first cousin of one of your parents. Either way, it's not your turn to dry!)

The Cousin Explainer tea towel is available for £9.95 (about 16 Canadian dollars) from Present Indicative, a gift company in Reading, England.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Barbara Culbert (1913-?)

In the previous post, you met Marjorie (Culbert) Royal so you know she had a younger sister, Barbara Culbert. But
what happened to Barbara? Can anyone reading this tell us?
Here’s all that I know, although it isn't much…

Olive Barbara Culbert was born 14 October 1913 in London, Ontario, Canada in Victoria Hospital. 

Barbara grew up at 180 Bruce Street with her sister, Marjorie and her parents, Ernest Adolphus Culbert and Mary Rose (Wilson) Culbert. Barbara was the granddaughter of Thomas Culbert and Letitia Dempster.

180 Bruce Street, London, Ontario as it looks today

Barbara was a graduate nurse from Sarnia General Hospital.  On 25 April 1936, she married James Walter “Jim” Youngman (born 1912 in Winnipeg); a graduate of the University of Manitoba and the son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Youngman.
Jim died suddenly on 5 November 1962, age 50. They’d been living at that time on Lorne Park Road in Mississauga with their three children: a boy and two girls.

Barbara remarried to a man with the surname “More.”

Barbara’s daughter, Dr. Susan Youngman was a graduate of Lorne Park Secondary School in Mississauga who went on to become a family physician. Susan died 4 September 2003 in Huntsville, Ontario, age 56. Susan may have had the surname Mitchell at one time, as well.

Barbara Culbert was 89 years old at the time of her daughter Susan’s death. I don’t know what year Barbara died or where she is buried. 

If any of this information is incorrect and/or if anyone can fill us in about Barbara’s life, please contact me at this email address…

Olive Barbara Culbert’s Family Tree:
John Culbert & Mary Ward (great-grandparents)
Thomas Culbert & Letitia Dempster (grandparents)
Ernest Adolphus Culbert & Mary Rose Wilson (parents)
Descendants (Children):
Dr. Susan Youngman

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Marjorie (Culbert) Royal: Rolling Down to Rio

When I first laid eyes on Marjorie Culbert’s immigration card, I wanted to know more.
Why was the Canadian granddaughter of Thomas Culbert moving to Brazil? And why was Calcutta, India listed on her card?
And so began my search to see what I could find.

Marjorie Isabelle Culbert was born 7 July 1908 in London, Ontario, Canada to parents, Ernest Adolphus Culbert and Mary Rose Wilson.

Marjorie and her younger sister, Olive Barbara Culbert grew up in this house at 180 Bruce Street in London...
180 Bruce Street as it looks today

After graduating from high school at London South Collegiate Institute, Marjorie attended Westervelt Business College in London.  

In Toronto, Marjorie enrolled at the Margaret Eaton School of Literature and Expression where she majored in Physical Education.

The Margaret Eaton School was an architectural landmark, located on the west side of North Street (now Bay Street) south of Bloor Street West. One notable alumnae (and instructor) was Dora Mavor Moore, a pioneer of Canadian theatre. 

The school’s founder, Emma Scott Raff wanted to educate a student "not so much ... who can stand on her head and perform with her feet, but the student who can stand on her feet and perform with her head."

Marjorie Culbert graduated in 1929 at age 21, and with those feet she became a globetrotter.

Her first few jobs were on Canadian soil. She was employed with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in London, Ontario; Quebec City and Montreal. In Winnipeg, she was the YWCA's Director of Health Education.

Marjorie Culbert, 1934

In 1936, Marjorie was working in Toronto as a swimming instructor at Eaton's. She lived at 10 Isabella Street, near the corner of Yonge Street, south of Bloor. Today, that building is the Artful Dodger pub. 

Today, it's the Artful Dodger pub at 10 Isabella Street but Marjorie Culbert lived here in 1936. I enjoyed many a pint at this pub without realizing a relative once lived here.

While living in Toronto, I wonder if Marjorie saw much of her first cousin, Milton Richard Culbert, an orthodontist who was born just a month before her. Milton lived at 31 Glenholme Avenue and his office was on Bloor Street. 

On 16 Feb 1936, Marjorie’s mother, Mary Rose (Wilson) Culbert underwent an operation at Toronto Western Hospital, where an intestinal obstruction was found.  Mary suffered a brain embolism and died on February 20th, four days after the operation.

Some time after her mother's death, Marjorie sailed to India where she was hired as Physical Director of the YWCA in Calcutta.

Marjorie’s first impressions of India are as follows:

"Bombay looked at first like any other large city with busses, trams (street cars to you), horses, carts, bicycles and crowds of people. Then I began to notice the peculiarities of the east — beggars lying or sitting, sleeping on the street - just anywhere — coolies pulling their little two-wheeled carts at Q jog-trot and keeping time with a little bell in one hand, numerous dome-shaped roofs on the buildings and the sameness of material of which the buildings them-selves are built".[1]
An alumni newsletter from the Margaret Eaton School reported the following news in June, 1940:
Marjorie Culbert (class of 1929) has given up her work in India to be married to Mr. Andrew Royal, a Scot who lives in Rio de Janeiro. Since leaving the "Y", Marjorie has been visiting her fiance’s sister in Madras but at present is probably ’’rolling
down to Rio” and expects to be married there the latter part of June.[2]
Andrew Jeffrey Royal was born 1903 in England but also lived in Scotland. He took a job as a chartered accountant in Brazil. We don’t know how he met up with Marjorie but they married on 26 June 1940 in Rio de Janeiro. As was the norm for women in that day and age, Marjorie was forced to give up her career. In general, women were not allowed to work after they married. 

Marjorie wrote to the Margaret Eaton School in 1944, saying that they were living right on the beach in Rio. 

Passenger lists show that Marjorie and Andrew did quite a bit of international travel throughout their lifetime.

By the time they were in their 60s, Marjorie and Andrew were living on Vancouver Island in Canada. Andrew died in 1974 in Victoria, British Columbia. I don’t know when Marjorie died but she was still alive in 1991.
At that time, she gave a written interview to the Margaret Eaton School. Records show she was living at Beckley Manor at 548 Dallas Road, Victoria.

UPDATE: Since publishing this post, I've found out that Marjorie died 10 April 1996 in Victoria, British Columbia, age 87.

I haven’t found any record of children for Marjorie and Andrew.

If anyone knows anything more about Marjorie and Andrew, please contact me at this email address:

Marjorie Culbert's Family Tree:


John Culbert & Mary Ward (great-grandparents)

Thomas Culbert & Letitia Dempster (grandparents)

Ernest Adolphus Culbert & Mary Rose Wilson (parents)


[1] News of the School, September, 1939; a newsletter of the Margaret Eaton School.

[2] News of the School, June, 1940.