Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Fisher family, from Perthshire, Scotland to Beckwith, Ontario

As with all pictures, click to enlarge

The Fisher coat of arms

     The Fisher clan is a sept. It means the family is associated with another family/clan. Popular history has it as a sept of the Campbell clan originating in and around Perthshire, Scotland. A little digging online also has it associated with the Gregor or MacGregor clan in the same area. The Gregor connection has some very interesting history if anyone cares to Google it and see for themselves. Either way, there are many variations of the name,coat of arms, badge, motto and tartan.

The MacGregor black and red or Rob Roy tartan

     The Campbell tartan, the one we are most associated with

     The surname is considered to be an occupational surname or given to someone who lived near a fishing weir. It is a variation of the old English word "fiscere" a derivative of the word "fiscian" to catch fish or a combination of the middle English "fisc", fish and "ger/gere" weir. Surprisingly, or not, there are origins for the name listed in several different countries, my favourite being the mistranslation of the French word for passion to "poisson" which means fish.

     The motto for the Fisher clan is "Respice finem". It translates to "Regard the end", a little cryptic, but there it is.

Perthshire, Scotland

     Our story starts with Duncan Fisher born in Perthshire, Scotland about 1782. I say about because I have a range of dates to choose from, from 1782-90. I haven't found much about his origins in Scotland as of yet but I have a lot of information from his arrival in Canada in 1821 to the present.

     Duncan Fisher arrived in Canada in 1821 on the Swiftsure/Swiftshire ( I have seen both spellings and people insist each is the correct one). He settled in Beckwith township of Lanark county, lot 11 concession 11. His original grant is, as of 1958, under water. In December of 1822 he married and also became part of the militia formed from the "eligible" men of Beckwith and Ramsey. I don't know what constituted eligible.

An old concession map of Beckwith,
Duncan's grant is around Mississippi Lake

     On December 5th, 1822 Duncan married Janet "Jessie" Ferguson. Their marriage banns are part of the LAC collection and the picture I have from online is a terrible copy, I'll have to see if I can't get a better one.

Duncan and Janet's marriage banns,
There is a second page with Duncan's signature on it

     Duncan and Janet had 10 children.

John b)1823, married Ann Lockhart, Feb.22 1867
Catherine b) 1826-July 1, 1896, married John Nicol, April 18, 1847
Peter b) 1827, married Elizabeth Hall May 5th, 1856
James b) 1830
Lillian b) 1832
Margaret b)1835-1901, married Thomas Hughes Nov. 10, 1859
Jessie b) 1837
Duncan b) 1839
William b) 1840-May 9th, 1909, married Sarah Leach July 15th, 1867
Sarah b) 1844-1929, married John McLauglin Oct. 2nd, 1868

     The next three images are the 1851 agricultural census of Beckwith. Duncan is on line 4. For all the farmers in the family, this is how they did it "old school"

     I have the Fisher family on the household census of 1851 as well, Janet's age is incorrect. I'm not going to post it, but if anyone is interested I do have it.

     Duncan died May 20th, 1872. His death registration is the only document I could find that gives any clue to his origins in Scotland. It also makes his DOB eight years earlier than I had seen previously.

Janet died May 9th, 1887

I haven't found pictures of Duncan,  Janet or any of their children but hopefully some will surface.

     William and Sarah Leach (remember the Leach name, it has a unique place in our family) had 5 children. William and family at some point hopped the fence into Goulbourn township in Carleton County.

Jessie A. b) 1869
Jane E. b) Sept. 19, 1969
Susan M. b) 1872
Margaret b) 1874
William Arthur b) Sept 3rd, 1875-Dec. 6th, 1966, married Maria Lavina Porter Oct. 16, 1901

William and Sarah with William Albert behind them

     I have no other pictures of William, Sarah or their children, but here's hoping.
William Albert and Maria Lavina Porter were married Oct. 16, 1901.

William Albert and Maria Lavina Porter

     William and Maria had 9 children.

William Duncan b) May 25th 1903-Sept.5th, 1938, married Elizabeth Merle "Bessie" Brownlee in 1925
William was killed in a hunting accident, here is the link to the newspaper, the article is on page six, tragic story.
Ellen (Elanor) Mildred b) Sept. 20th 1904- 1995
John Arthur b) April 29th, 1907- Feb 14th 1980, married Ida Matilda Geddes Feb. 11, 1931 after 1967 he remarried to Willow Elizabeth Featherstone
Howard James b) Dec. 20th, 1908-Jan. 1984, married Evaline Anne Montgomery Mar. 30th, 1932
Iva May Maria b) Sept 10, 1910-1950, married William Cecil McBryde Apr. 12 1944
Marion Evelyn b) Aug. 8th, 1914-Jan. 5th, 1986, married Robert Edward "Ned" Daly Oct. 26th 1932
Harold Lewis b) Feb. 27th, 1917, married Laura Graham Sept. 2nd, 1939
Herbert Leach b) Dec 6th, 1919-2006, married Beatrice Sadler Dec. 16th, 1942.
Ernest b) Aug 21st, 1922-1979

circa 1945 (Lois Fisher was born in 1944)
Ernie Fisher, Ned Daly?, John Fisher, Ida Fisher (Geddes) (with Lois
Fisher ) Maria, Jennie (Porter) ? Harry Geddes?  William
Front Clarence Fisher, Marion Fisher, Lloyd Fisher, William (Willie) Fisher
Sorry, I don't have the dogs name.
William Maria and Family
c 1941 - Lloyd Fisher was born in 1942 and is not in the picture.
From lower right
1st row - Howard, Ernie, Herb, Lawrence Fisher, Willie Fisher, Clarence
Fisher, Marion Fisher
2nd row children from left - Glenn Fisher , Dorothy Fisher, Evelyn Fisher
3rd row from right - John, Ernie Smith, Bessie (Brownlee), Ned Daley?, Iva
Fisher , Marion? Nellie, Laura (Graham)?, Ida (Geddes) Harold Fisher,
Eveline (Montgomery)?, Gerald Fisher? (with Maria), Maria, William

From right William, ?, Maria, Nellie Smith (Fisher) , Ida Fisher(Geddes)
behind and to the left of Nellie.,
Evelyn Fisher (Brownlee), Iva behind Evelyn Fisher
John and Harold, Laura (Graham) in the rear
Ernie Smith behind Maria, Ernie Fisher, behind Nellie and partially blocked,
Unknown behind Ernie Smith, maybe Herb (looks like a military hat)
Eveline (Montgomery) Fisher in front, child may be Gerry Fisher Duncan's

Ernest "Ernie" Fisher and his wife Doris

Iva Fisher McBryde

John Fisher

John and Ida Geddes Fisher

From left -John Fisher, Ida Fisher (Geddes)
Front - William Fisher (Willie), Clarence Fisher, Marion Fisher
 Lloyd Fisher in Ida's arms
Taken at Henry Porter's farm, Maria's brother,
bordered William and Maria's farm on the east side

A later picture of John and Ida

Ellen "Nellie" Fisher

"Nellie" with her husband Ernie Smith

Right to Left
Harry Geddes, John, Howard, "Nellie and Iva Fisher
Harry Geddes married one of Maria Porter's sisters

       Herbert Leach  married Beatrice Elizabeth Sadler, Dec.16th 1942.

Herbert and Beatrice

     " Herb and Bea" had 11 children.

William Robert "Bob"
Herbert " Butch"

     I have not included details for the "current" family, I'll leave the decision to them as to what they choose to share.

Herbert and Beatrice's family about 1980
Back row: "Butch", Leonard, Gordon
Middle row: Deb, Barb, Rita, Marlyn, Jean, Joan
Front: "Bob, Beatrice, Herbert, Susan

   Joan Fisher married Eric Craig and had me, Paul Craig, November 16th, 1964.

Eric, Joan and Paul about 1968-70

     I would like to thank Garth Fisher, not related, for sharing so much information with me. I got a 17 page history of the family, so there is lots I haven't posted if anyone is interested. As I go through the family albums, I will update the page with any other photos that come to light.

     I would also like to thank Bob Moore for his photos, identifying the photos I have and adding to what I know of the family.

     I will continue to update the current family on the page for Grandma and Grandpa Fisher, one new arrival already with one on the way soon. It is a natural point for me to keep track of family members. Feel free to pass along any family stories, pictures or information you would like to share. To contact me, click on my profile, About Me, on the right and it will provide an email link. You can leave your email address in the comments and I will re post it with the address removed if you wish. However you decide, please do contact me, it is always interesting to share family stories and see what happened to all of the other Fisher's in the tree.

     Thanks for stopping by, Paul

Monday, March 14, 2011

Irish soda bread aka Grandma Fisher's elusive biscuit recipe

     In keeping with my newly discovered Irish heritage, I decided to look into some authentic Irish recipes for St. Patricks's Day, pay a little homage to the ancestors. It is after all a religious celebration, not just the drunken bruhaha it has become in North America. (Not that I'm knocking that tradition either.LOL)

     I always knew I had Irish blood, I just didn't realize most of it came from my mother's side of the family, namely my Grandma Fisher. Her mother, Mrs. Mary Emma Craig Sadler is from a well know Irish family in North Gower (there's even a book about the family). They were famous for their hospitality, something my grandmother definitely passed down. In searching out traditional recipes I came across this one for Irish Soda Bread. I had seen the recipe before but not really paid much attention, not really a bread baker at this point so ..... How I am kicking myself now.

   My Grandmother was famous for her bread, the yeast kind. I liked it, loved the buns but my favourite was her biscuits. They tasted like no other I have ever had and I have spent countless hours looking for and testing hundreds of recipes to try and find hers. Well I think this is it, not a biscuit recipe at all but an adaptation of the soda bread recipe.

     This is a really easy recipe to make, that's why I chose it to test my bread baking skills. Very little kneading, no proofing, no muss, no fuss.

Irish Soda Bread


4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of sugar
6 tablespoons of butter (1/4 cup + two tablespoons) melted and cooled
1 3/4 cup of buttermilk-see previous post for substitute
2 tablespoons of buttermilk, optional


Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
 Add buttermilk and melted butter, mix well.
Turn out on to floured board and knead for about two or three minutes.
Dust with flour as needed. Mine was really sticky and I ended up using about a half cup of flour to knead the dough.
Shape into two round loaves.
Brush with buttermilk, dust with flour and cut a cross into the tops of the bread.
Place on a parchment lined or floured baking sheet.
Bake for approximately 1 hour or until golden brown.


Add 1/2 cup of raisins while kneading to make raisin bread
Add two teaspoons of carroway seeds for carroway bread

     I scorched the crap out of the bottom of mine while baking. My oven runs hot so I'm not sure if the temperature was too high at 375, I think I'll try at 350 next time. It also baked in about 45 minutes. Singed base aside, much to my surprise, it was delicious and we ate both loaves the day I made it. It is a dense, moist bread with a nice crust but not like yeast bread at all. I'm pretty sure my grandmother rolled the dough out and cut biscuits out of it. It sure tastes the same. If you wanted to try biscuits, roll it out to about 3/4-1 inch thickness, cut your biscuits  and I would start checking the cooking time after about 10 or 15 minutes and it should be perfect.

     I can hardly wait until one of my aunts tests this out for me to see if I have finally found the "one". It feels nice to bring an old recipe home. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Did you know? Buttermilk

     I'm not sure if anyone but me will find this post interesting but here goes. I was asked about the fat content of buttermilk. They assumed it was butter and milk combined somehow because of the thick texture, therefore they wanted a lower fat alternative. I thought they were kidding.

    I tend to forget not everyone grew up on a farm, the grandson of two dairy farmers. I have lots of food knowledge I never even think of because of experiences as a child. It did get me thinking, how much do we know about the ingredients we cook with? I'll be writing a series of "Did you know ?" posts in the future to explain what things are, how they work or what you can use to substitute. Now back to the buttermilk.

     As any dairy farmer knows, traditional buttermilk is the leftover liquid from churning butter. It is naturally low fat because the fat has been taken out in actual butter. It has a thicker texture because it has started to ferment, much like yogurt. I used the term traditional because to separate milk from cream, it has to sit; the cream rises to the top to be skimmed off. It is during this sitting time the fermentation takes place.

    With the advent of technology, cream separators, there is no sitting time anymore so buttermilk is infused with bacterial cultures to simulate this. It is then left to sit to ferment.

     To make your own buttermilk, well you can churn some butter. I remember making butter as a kid at Grandma Craig's. We did it for fun once to see how it worked. The other alternative is to introduce an acid, like vinegar or lemon juice to low fat milk. This will simulate the fermentation process.

     In the bottom of a 1 cup measuring cup, add one tablespoon of vinegar. Fill to one cup with low fat milk and let sit for about five minutes. Give it a stir and you have your buttermilk substitute. This only simulates the taste and texture of traditional buttermilk and is only as low fat a the milk you start out with. Strangely enough, this is also the recipe to sour milk if you need it for a recipe like Barb's Rhubarb cake but I digress.

     If there are things you have questions about, let me know and I'll add it to the list of "Did you know?"s.

     Take care, Paul

Classic raisin oatmeal cookies

     It seems like forever since I did a recipe post. I have been busy tracing family history. Note to self, do not ever attempt to trace eight family histories at the same time. Work is proceeding better than I could have hoped with "cousins" making contact and lots of help.

     I've been updating the picture pages for the family, two beautiful new arrivals, both on my grandparents pages. I will be updating the family photos there, it's a natural place for me to keep track of the family.

    Last but not least, I have been cooking. I tested out grandma Craig's doughnut recipe. Not a success, but not a complete failure either. I actually made a mistake in the recipe so... there will be a do over there. Same thing with Irish soda bread. Still haven't got to the butterscotch pie, maybe next weekend.

     What I did make, while testing other things, was a batch of oatmeal cookies. You've got to have sustenance after all. I love oatmeal cookies and have several recipes but this is my "go to" version. It's simple, tasty and makes a lot. All good things in my book. It is also kind of healthy. Oatmeal is good for helping to lower cholesterol levels and a good source of fiber. Remember,

     As with most of my recipes, the one below is the base. I have never made it like this but will add my variations after the original.

Oatmeal Cookies

3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup of chopped pecans


In a small bowl, mix together beaten eggs, raisins and vanilla. Let sit for one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cream together, softened butter and the brown and white sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients except the oatmeal and nuts.
Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar.
Add the egg and raisin mixture.
Add the rolled oats and nuts.
You should have a stiff batter.
Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 40 cookies.

     There it is, my "never failed yet" oatmeal cookie recipe. These drop cookies are kind of crunchy, kind of chewy, all delicious. To change it up, add dried cranberries or cherries or chocolate chips instead of the raisins. You could also use fresh blueberries, raspberries or chopped strawberries, just watch the cooking time as they have a higher water content. A little tip here. If you freeze the fresh berries spread out on a cookie sheet, they will stand up to the mixing better than fresh which end up getting crushed. It is purely for aesthetics Add any kind of nut you like, there are hundreds to try. Finally change the nuts to seeds: flax, sunflower or pepitas. It's all good.

I have never used all the sugar, I reduce it by at least 1/2 cup, 1/4 of each.
I don't add the nuts. I do like them, just not in this recipe.
I add two teaspoons of bourbon to the egg mixture when soaking the raisins. The plump, flavourful raisins are the appeal for me in this recipe and the bourbon adds a little something extra. Bourbon and vanilla go really well together but you can also use rum or brandy if you want to try it with alcohol.
I don't add the salt

     I am pretty sure these would freeze well if you wanted to make them ahead of time. Mine never last so I've never tried but there is no reason they wouldn't.