52 Ancestors: Where There’s A Will


When I research my family history, I run into various people who make the same mistake: confusing my maternal great-grandfather William McCallum with someone of the same name. It’s an easy mistake to make if you aren’t paying close attention: they were born around the same time, lived in the same state, and died within a few years of each other. However, they were different people, and so for this week’s post, I want to tell a little about my William McCallum.

William McCallum was born on 16 September 1872 in Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada. I don’t know much about his life in Canada, but he did lose his mother Margaret when he was 4, and then his father Thomas when he was 13.

1881 canada census

William McCallum listed on the 1881 Canadian census.

The first record I have for him in the United States is in 1904 on a Declaration of Intention. He actually filled out 3 of these (that I know of): this one, 1905, and one right before he was naturalized.

1904 intention

His first Declaration of Intention.

He married by great-grandmother Etta Moore on 10 October 1905 in Orillia, Washington. Etta was born in Perth, Ontario, and it appears they immigrated to the U.S. together before they married.

William and Etta marriage

William and Etta’s marriage certificate.

William and Etta had two sons: Donald Sinclair (born 29 August 1906 in Seattle) and my grandfather, William Gordon (born 27 November 1907 in Seattle). When their children were little, the family traveled back and forth to Victoria, B.C., as William was one of the workers who built the sea wall. William eventually became a U.S. citizen in 1914, after one more Declaration of Intention.

Many of the papers around this time list his address in Seattle, including his World War I registration.

WW1 reg WM

WWI registration card

The cool thing is, the house is still there! When in Seattle last summer, I managed to snap this photo:


my family once lived there! photographed in August 2017.

By 1920, the family had moved to Sumner, a small town south of Seattle, where William is listed as a farmer on the census in 1920, 1930, and 1940.

1930 census

1930 census, with William, Etta, and my grandfather William (who went by his middle name, Gordon).

In August 1951, my grandparents and their two children (including my mom, Peggy), moved to Hillsboro, Oregon. My grandfather couldn’t find a job in Seattle, so he came here and lived in a boarding house for a while. After failing to get another house, they ended up buying a house in the country in Hillsboro. William and Etta followed soon after (my mom is unsure if it was at the same time or very soon after), as they couldn’t take care of themselves. They lived in their own separate house that was connected to the home my grandparents bought.

William died in Hillsboro on 7 February 1953. He is interred at the Powers Woodlawn Abbey Mausoleum in Sumner, Washington, along with Etta, who died just two month later. (He did not die in 1958 in Washington, contrary to some of the records attributed to him).

Now wouldn’t it be cool to have a picture of him? He’s the only one of my great-grandparents who I do not have a photo of!

Thanks for reading about my William McCallum! I think it is important that he has his own identity, and not the incorrect ones floating around the interwebs.

You can find all my 52 Ancestors post through the tag below.

As always, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also email me: familyhistoryfood [at] gmail.com.

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I also have a vintage site: familyhistoryfood.etsy.com.

Until next time,






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