Monday, July 31, 2006

Boxes & Boxes of the Ontario (Canada) Crombie Family History

Taken directly from

It’s like a blog done on a typewriter.
Page after page of farm notes, the day’s news, offbeat poems, horseshoe scores, visitors to the farm, literature reviews, profiles and more, all typed around hand-drawn illustrations.
The vivid newsletters from the 1920s and 1930s came to life when Burford veterinarian Chris Crombie cleaned out the damp and cluttered basement in his mother’s home, after her 2003 death.
Crombie had heard that the family, in Canada for centuries, had kept old letters and army commissions in a display case. But in 2003, a set of musty, wooden crates shared their epic tale of family life across the centuries.
“I started sorting through and thought I’d find four or five boxes,” Crombie, 57, says.
“But we kept bringing out boxes and boxes. Sixteen or 17 boxes,” the mild, bespectacled farmer says in the basement of a McMaster University library.
“As I flipped through, it kept getting older and older.”
One gem in the boxes was being damaged by flooding in the basement. The vet’s grandfather, Edward Rubidge Crombie, it turns out, had one foot on the farm, the other deep into literature.
In the 1920s and 1930s, this banker-turned-farmer was compelled, like a blogger, to create hundreds of pages of family newsletters. He tallied how many eggs his hens laid, who visited the farm and how often, profiles of historical figures, Prohibition Era politics.
“He was a mad chronicler of everything,” Crombie says of his grandfather, who he never met because the man died in 1937. “Suddenly, you get insight into these people and background on how (my dad E.H. Crombie) was a Renaissance Man who came by that honestly.”

This goldmine for social historians, about 8.5 metres of material if stacked, told the saga of a prominent southern Ontario family, with links to Ireland, Ancaster, Paris, Brant County and British military life around the world.
The family has been in Canada since about 1815, among the English settlers enticed to Upper Canada to offset the risk of growing American influence.
See collection inventories, biographical matierials and so forth at the McMaster University Library's website.


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