Customer Brag of the Month:

“Lying About Age Doesn’t Change Over the Years!”
by Ancestry Customer, Jonathan McColl

Ernest McColl in his GGBG uniform

My grandfather was Ernest McColl, son of one of the original McColl Brothers whose name joined with Frontenac to give a well-known Canadian oil company—but I’m afraid the money was on a different side of the family, so I’m not rich. He joined the Governor-General’s Bodyguard (the GGBG) as a junior officer in 1906 and made his way up to Major.

Many years ago the government gave me a one-page military career for him, and Ancestry.ca files more recently gave me his attestation papers. He went to Europe in 1915 commanding a battery of artillery in the CEF and they fought on the Western Front right up to the invasion of Germany. I have his mentioned-in-dispatches for an engagement near Cambrai, and a photograph of the battery taken on New Year’s Day 1919. Read More (link TBA)

The National Archives in London has copies of his units’ war diaries (originals in Ottawa I think) so I know where and when he moved, and that his guns fired mustard gas, so it wasn’t just the enemy that did that! In due course I’ll use Google Earth to all draw this up on a map.

One entertaining part of all this discovery and detective work was trying to find out precisely when he was born in Ontario. I have his birthday and age from many sources over his long life—Ancestry.ca gave me many of them—from his replacement birth certificate (sworn by his mother when he married in the 1920s), through his army records, adding in his frequent sea journeys in his post-War job of Canadian Trade Commissioner in South America, Cuba, England and Ireland, up to his death in Ireland. It’s hard to find any two of those records showing the same birth date!

I finally decided on 20 Dec 1880 because 20 December was mentioned more often than other dates in March and November, and the clincher was the 1881 census that said he was just a few months old. I suspect it started when he ‘lost’ a few years on joining he had to remember to use these dates for the rest of his life. GGBG or CEF, as he might have been too old to be allowed to go to a hot war, and then

That may be wrong, perhaps it was a social thing as his wife and sister also ‘lost’ a few years in each record, the greatest being his sister having the same age in 1901 and 1911, and 1901 had been wrong anyway!

Jonathan McColl
Dingwall, Scotland
Commander of the Field, Ernest McColl, VI Battery Canadian Field Artillery, Cologne, Germany

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