Private Ralph Louis Ackerman- Finding Living Relatives


Winding down from my time on the Board of The Ontario Genealogical Society hasn’t meant relaxing and sipping drinks on the back deck. Research is now occupying my time more. A contact made with Lambton County Branch of The Ontario Genealogical Society by Phil Egan, Editor-in-chief of the Sarnia Historical Society, distracted me from my Campbell research. Phil was wondering if the Branch would like to get involved in a search for female descendants of Private Ralph Ackerman’s female siblings. Private Ackerman went missing in action in France 23 August 1917 and was officially reported as dead 29 March 1918.1 Phil’s article on the subject was published in the 31 May 2018 issue of The Sarnia Journal.

My first steps were to confirm that I had the correct parents for Ralph. The address given for his father, Wilbert A. Ackerman, of 390 Russel Street, Sarnia, Ontario, matched that given in his mother’s obituary in 1912.2 At this point in time I knew that his mother’s given names were Jane and Elizabeth. From Wilbert and Jane’s marriage registration I learned that she was the daughter of William and Jane Malcomb, she was born in Hamilton and at the time of the marriage was residing in Belleville.3 The marriage took place in Norwood, Peterborough County.

Finding an Elusive Birth Record
Ralph’s birth record was elusive on due to an error in the transcription of Ackerman as Acherm??.4 I was able to find it using his first name, the first names of his parents, his year of birth as per the Canadian Expeditionary Force attestation papers and the place of birth, Sarnia, as search terms in the Ontario Births collection. This collection can be found by using the catalogue function under the Search tab. The birth information on the attestation papers was differnt as to year, 1891 instead of 1894 as per his birth record.

Using Census Records and Obituary Information
The 1891 Canada Census emumerated a Florence and a Clarence as his siblings.5 I have not yet found the family in the 1901 Census. I plan to check City of Sarnia directories to see if Wilbert appears in the 1901 or 1902 issues. The 1911 Canada Census listed Clarence, age 21, and Ralph, age 16.6 Wilbert, Clarence and Ralph were all working for the Grand Trunk Railway. Fortunately Ralph’s siblings stayed in the Sarnia area. Their mother Jane died 19 August 1912.7 Sadly the only survivor mentioned was her husband, Wilbert.

Florence married Albert Ernest Chambers, son of William Chambers and Sarah Clark 31 March 1909.8 A son, Harold Wilbert Chambers was born 28 October 1911 at Sarnia.9 The 1921 Canada Census enumerated only Harold and no other children.10  Florence died 23 February 1929 at Sarnia.11 Once again the obituary only mentioned her husband and her father by name. Based upon the 10 year time period between Harold’s birth and the 1921 Canada Census, my “educated guess” was that there were no other children to consider. Clarence died 26 November 1941 and his obituary noted that “His nearest surviving relatives are his brother-in-law Albert E. Chambers and his nephew Lieut. Harold Chambers…”12  Albert died 22 September 1957 and his obituary notes that he was survived by his widow [second marriage], his son Harold and a granddaughter Ann Chambers.13 The information in these obituaries supports my “educated guess”.

With Florence not having a daughter, the search returns to Jane Elizabeth Malcomb to see if she has a female sibling with a maternal line to the present since a mitochondrial DNA sample is needed. Wish me luck!

1. Private Ralph L. Ackerman,Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)service file, No. 602916, downloaded from Library and Archives website 6 June 2018.
2. Obituary for Jane Elizabeth Ackerman, Daily Observer, Sarnia, 25 February 1929.
3. Marriage registration for Wilbert Chambers and Jane Malcomb, Ontario Vital Statistics, registration no. 9503, downloaded from 20 June 2018.
4. Birth registration for Ralph Ackerman, Ontario Vital Statistics, registration no. 14692, downloaded from 19 June 2018.
5. Wilbert Ackerman and family entry, 1891 Canada Census, Ontario, District No. 82, West Lambton, Sub District Point Edward, p. 23, lines 7-10.
6. Wilbert Ackerman and family entry, 1911 Canada Census, Ontario, District 88, Sub District 11, Enumeration District 10, Sarnia, p. 3, lines 41-44.
7. Obituary for Jane Elizabeth Ackerman, Daily Observer, Sarnia, 20 August 1912.
8. Marriage registration for Florence Annetta Ackerman and Albert Ernest Chambers, Ontario Vital Statistics, registration no. 12475, downloaded from 19 June 2018.
9. Birth registration for William Chambers, Ontario Vital Statistics, registration no. 27407, downloaded from 19 June 2018.
10. Albert Chambers family entry, 1921 Canada Census, District 96, Enumeration Sub District No. 53, City of Sarnia, p. 25, lines 43-45.
11. Obituary for Florence Chambers, The Sarnia Canadian Observer, 25 February 1929.
12. Railway Man Dies on Way to Sarnia [Clarence Ackerman], The Sarnia Canadian Observer, 27 November 1941, p. 18.
13. Obituary for Albert Chambers, The Sarnia Canadian Observer, 23 September 1957, p. 1.

Alan Campbell
Lambton Lifeline
Lambton County Branch of The Ontario Genealogical Society
(c) 2018 



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