All Hallow’s Eve, A Celtic Tradition

Did the Fleming families, who settled near Kilsyth, Derby Township, in the mid-1800s, partake in the Scottish tradition of All Hallow’s Eve?  Hard to know.  There is no mention of Halloween in family papers. As Disciples of Christ, they would have disapproved of pagan practices of ghouls and ghosts and the connection to the occult. But they may have retained something of the “All Saints” day on November 1 to remember the departed faithful.

Modern day, inflated plastic pumpkin - lawn ornament. 2021
Inflated plastic, artificially lit pumpkin 2021

We may think of Halloween as a North American excuse for spooky lawn decorations, jack o’lantern competitions, and costume dress-up for children going from door to door to get candy.  But Halloween has been much more, with traditions of bonfires and spirits more frightening than the inflated, lit, plastic ghosts we see today.

Halloween has its origins in Samhain (pronounced SAH-wane), a Celtic festival at the end of October when the spirit world became visible. The celebration marked the end of harvest and the beginning of winter and was an occasion to commune with the Otherworld – when spirits and faeries and the souls of the dead mixed with the living. Big bonfires kept people safe from the visiting evil spirits. Lanterns were fashioned by hollowing out turnips, carving scary features, and placing a lit candle inside to cast light and safety.  Children, to hide from the spirits, would go “guising” in costumes undercover as the malicious ones. Adults might do the same.  A song or a trick or just knocking on a neighbour’s door might earn them a treat.  For a game, they might bob for apples. (1,2,3)

Robert Burns recognized Halloween in his poem of that name in 1785. The first verse (in English translation) caught the night’s excitement of moonlight and movement.

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Ontario Township Papers ca 1783-1870

Announcements of newly digitized archival materials are always a pleasant surprise. In November 2020 genealogy blogs active in Ontario publicized that Family Search had loaded the Township Papers  ca 1783-1870 for the Province of Ontario held  on reels of  microfilm at the Archives of Ontario. These reels consist of a mélange of land-related documents not filed elsewhere. Archives of Ontario described  them as follows:

… copies of orders-in-council; copies of location certificates and location tickets; copies of assignments; certificates verifying the completion of settlement duties; copies of receipt; copies of descriptions; and copies of patents; and copies of incoming correspondence.

Township Papers – Archives of Ontario

My objective was to see what can be found about the Fleming families who pioneered in Derby Township, Grey County in the 1850s.

The papers are organized alphabetically by township.  Access at Family Search is through these two links.

We begin with Derby Township, identified on two lines on the image below. Click on the camera icon to view a gallery of images for the letters of that township organized by concession and lot.

UPDATE 12 April 2021 – I explored the Derby Township papers in late March. On preparing this blog post I found that townships from D to Haldimand had been dropped. This is probably a temporary glitch. Hopefully, your interest will be in one of the other townships.

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