The following is an account by Charlotte Ayers of her research into the "Oscar Benjamin Yerxa" line, written in 1991.

In Search of Oscar

While living in Regina in the 1920's (1917 - 1926) my Mother contacted relatives who she knew were living there, and as kids we called them "Aunt" Vina and "Uncle" Art. We were told Aunt Vina was a distant cousin of Mother's. A couple of years ago I decided to check into this relationship, mostly out of curiosity, but also to add to information on the Yerxa family that I had been researching. I knew her name had been Yerxa, and that she had sisters, Vera and Bertha, and brothers George and Leonard.

My first approach was to locate Aunt Vina's funeral records in Regina and her obituary, which told me she died in 1965 and was born in 1893 in Brandon, Manitoba. I knew her daughter had died in Regina also, and probably a granddaughter still lived there.

My second effort was to find out about a sister, listed as a survivor - Mrs. Vera Reeken of Saskatoon. While visiting my sister in Saskatoon, I proceeded to look up Vera's funeral records. She had died in 1967 and was born at Brandon, Man. in 1891. Two daughters survived, living in Saskatoon, and I phoned one of them. She knew very little about the family background - not even the grandfather's first name. She was quite amazed at how much information I had.

On "Aunt" Vina's funeral record the father and mother were - Oscar Benjamin Yerxa, born in New Brunswick and Mary Isabella Hollingshead, born in Brandon. It also gave the information that Vina was in Sask. for 62 years, i.e. from 1903. Another sister, Bertha, was listed as survivor; her married name was Jollymore, and she lived in Smithers, B.C. Vina's brother, Leonard, had lived in Regina, so I checked his obituary and found he was born in Brandon in 1895 and his survivors were 2 sons, 3 daughters and 3 step-daughters.

I found no record of Oscar being buried in Regina. On a trip to Winnipeg last summer we stopped in at Brandon to find out if Oscar was buried there. From the City cemetery records I found the names of James Yerxa and Mary Isabella (Hollingshead) Yerxa - but no Oscar. A funeral home there could not find any record of his burial. James Yerxa was a boy of 12 when killed in a train accident on Aug. 13, 1912. Mary Isabella died Jan. 5, 1917 in Regina and was buried in the Brandon Cemetery in the same section as James - so probably he was her son.

Later, in the Prairie History Room of the Regina Library I went through Brandon and Regina Directories and got the following information:

In the 1891 census of Brandon:

Homestead records at Sask. Archives were checked at the suggestion of Laura Hanowski, SGS Librarian.

There was a file number for Oscar and for George. I ordered copies of Oscar's file. I believe George was a son by a previous marriage, probably in N.B. before Oscar came to the West.

Oscar was a squatter on N.E. 20-17-26 W2 in 1883 and later filed a claim for this property in 1886, which said he was 39 years old and a widower. In 1888 letters patent were granted. The Moose Jaw Municipality office showed me the location of this land just north of Moose Jaw on the west side of highway #2. It would appear that Oscar was farming this land in the summers and working as a brakeman/baggageman on the CPR in winter, from Brandon to Moose Jaw. His obituary (obtained later) said he was for 20 years a baggageman for the C.P.R., so he was in the west as early as 1882.

The homestead land was transferred in 1891 to Ella A. Baker and title later transferred to Richard West in 1898. It cost $22.00 to search the title of this land, as they had to go back through the transfers to find when it had passed out of Oscar's hands.

All of this searching was to try and find some indication that Oscar Benjamin was the son of Levina Yerxa and Jonathan Yerxa, who appeared in the 1851 New Brunswick census of Douglas Parish, York Co. with their children, James 6 yrs, Osker 5 yrs and Jemima, 2 yrs. Levina was a sister of Charles Yerxa, my grandfather; she was born 31 Dec. 1821 at Keswick, N.B. and died in 1888.

One other note of interest in this lengthy search - the obituary of Leonard Yerxa, Regina, listed in the survivors, Monica Kurtz, Regina. My daughter saw this name in my notes and said she knew a Karen Kurtz when she worked for the Gov't in Regina. We found Karen Kurtz listed in the Regina phone book. On contacting her, she told us that Monica was her husband's Aunt, also that 3 of the girls listed as Leonard's survivors were step-children by his second wife, Daphne Fortier.

Monica was able to give me the address of Jean Mitchell in North Vancouver, a daughter by Leonard's first wife, Rachel Bunn. I wrote to this lady and got back addresses of her brother, sister-in-law, and 2 sisters, also she had filled out Family Unit sheets for Leonard and Rachel and her own family. She knew nothing of her grandfather, Oscar; possibly because he was 25 years older than his wife and had died in 1902, and the grandmother in 1917, before she was born.

I have now received a letter and family unit sheets from the wife of the son of Leonard's who died in 1986.

On a second visit to the Prairie History Room, they gave me 3 books of resource material in Manitoba. In one section I found the Manitoba Genealogical Society had recorded cemeteries, and Brandon was on the list. Just recently I wrote to the Man. Genealogical Society, S.W. Branch at Brandon, and after all this time and negative replies from a funeral home and the City of Brandon, found that the S.W. Branch had cemetery records compiled. A very helpful man, James Wall, sent me the record of Oscar's burial and death, and the obituary from the Western Sun, Brandon.

He died 10 Aug. 1902 and was buried in the Brandon Cemetery. Also, in Oscar's obituary it said he had left the CPR to farm at Qu'Appelle. If the land at NE 20-17-26 was transferred in 1891, where was the land he was farming in 1902?

There was no mention of his parents or a birth date, but Mr. Wall offered to check a couple of sources, and I have not yet received the results of this. Vital statistics had been suggested, but find that at that time there was no record made of parents' names on a death registration.

I'll surely think twice before I try again to connect up with a distant relative about whom I have very little information. The search does become an obsession that you can't give up till the answers are discovered.

Was this Oscar, Levina's son, in the 1851 New Brunswick census? I'm still not sure.

A post-script to add one more piece to the puzzle. When visiting New Brunswick this summer (1991) I was looking for another family connection and found that Jonathan Yerxa (married to Lavina) was a brother of Jemima Yerxa who married George Miles (the parents of the lady I was checking for a relationship). Then, just recently, at the S.G.S. library I found a census book for 1851, '61, '71, '81 of St. Mary's Parish, York Co., N.B. I checked through it for names I was interested in and discovered in 1881 in one household - the George & Jemima Miles family and Lavina Yerxa, age 58 yrs. (W)idow, Oscar, age 34 (W)idower, brakeman, and George E. 10 yrs. The ages are all consistant with information on other documents - the Brandon census, the homestead application, etc. So I am about ready to conclude that I have the correct lineage for Oscar.