Emberly: A History

3:55 PM

Sometimes snowdays are days to stay at home in your pj's, watching movies and lounging about. Sometimes snowdays are days to get housework done, and we all make lists and set out to complete them. However, on this particular snowday, Scott and I headed out to our township's headquarters in search of the property owner history for our home.

All we really knew going into this search was that our home had been owned and operated as an old age home from around the late 60's to maybe late 80's, and we have heard it was used as a group home, and that there were music lessons and doctor's offices ran out of here. I love history, have always been obsessed with the days of old, and needed to know the history of my home.

So this past Monday, during a day off work for Scott due to the snowfall around the GTA, we headed to our township's municipal office to look into some information about our home. The information we were able to gather was not entirely helpful: their records only went back to 2000. With a home built around 1890, we were definitely after a lot more than that! The ladies explained that their files only have records since information went digital, but that we could find more information by going through the Land Registry Office, which should keep record of all names who ever owned the land.

With no plans for the day, we figured "why not?" and got in the car and headed towards Owen Sound, around 50 minutes north, where the Land Registry Office for our county is located. When we arrived, I felt like I was stepping back in time. When I think government office, I think up-to-date technology. There was lines and lines of filing cabinets and in the back end of the room, microfilm readers. Microfilm is how paper documents were archived before computers were prevalent, in case you didn't know. The woman behind the desk helped us figure out our lot and block number from the paperwork the township had provided us (so that trip wasn't entirely useless) and we were able to start searching through the microfilm to find what we were looking for. It took some time...there are quite a lot of documents on one microfilm reel. The one reel we were looking through had our entire township on it, with the history of each lot, and you have to just keep fast-forwarding along until you come to your own block and lot #. When I finally arrived at that number, I was so excited. I would finally know who lived here before, and with those names, would be able to look up so much more information about my home.

So we found the names we needed on handwritten old land plan documents. I printed out the applicable pages and made a few notes along the margin of names that seemed important. Once the papers were printed the names were even less legible and I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything once I got home.

Something you need to know about me is that I have rare internet PI abilities. I have always loved solving mysteries, which was evident at a young age when mystery novels took up most of my shelf space. My parents read mostly thriller and mystery novels, so that genre was something I was raised with and something that molded my way of thinking. As a child, I would form little mystery solving squads with my neighbours - whether it was solving ghost reports or finding a missing dog, I was all over it. Take that interest to the modern age, and I delight in spending time on-line looking up information for people. I guess you could just call me an on-line creeper. Either way, I will find what I am looking for!

So now that you know that about me, I can continue my story.

I got home and quickly began my search, first looking up the name of the man who seemingly owned the home before it became the old age home, which we knew came about in the late 60's and after that the home never saw much loving - it was passed around as an income property, and was never much of a family home again until we purchased it. Many people came in because they saw investment value in renovating it and renting it out, but to my knowledge, no one planned to stay here long-term as their family home.

To my delight, over the past couple days I have uncovered some awesome facts about who has occupied the home. There was lots of work in piecing together random newspaper articles to get the information I needed, but after many hours, I figured out everything I had been searching for!

Our home was built around the summer of 1894 by the town's doctor as a place for him to run his practice out of and also keep residence for himself and family. The man's name was Dr. James McWilliam. Reminds me so much of Gilbert Blythe from the Anne series...which of course makes me happy! Around 1920 ish, James retired and the next doctor came in as his replacement and opened his practice out of the McWilliam home, and later purchased the home for himself. This doctor was Dr. Thomas P. Carter, who occupied the home with his wife until his death in 1955. His wife sold the home sometime in the 60's and it then became an old age home.
Dr. Carter was well respected in Dundalk and the neighbouring communities as someone who would venture far and in terrible weather to make house calls to people in need of a doctor. I've also heard a story from someone who grew up in Dundalk that made this man sound like a very nice person.

Not knowing anything about this whole portion of the home's history (spanning 80 years) I am so happy to know this home was used, loved, and served the community in such an honourable way.

Now it is our home to love and to serve others with!

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