Saturday, 31 December 2016

My Ancestors at Canada's Confederation

With 2017 being the 150th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, the genealogist in me wondered about the lives of my ancestors in that year.  Some were already living in the land about to become a country, some were probably contemplating emigration and perhaps some had never heard of what was to become the Dominion of Canada!  What follows is a list of my ancestors and where they were in 1867, how old they were and anything else I know about what they were doing.
  • Great Grandfather William Simms was turning 13 years old and lived with his family in County Antrim near Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.  He was second eldest of 8 siblings living with parents Henry and Jane.  Thirteen years later, he would marry and move to Canada to farm  and raise a family at Mountain, near Ottawa.
  • Great Grandmother Agnes McAllister is still a bit of a mystery to me but I think she would have been 8 that year and lived in Antrim as well.  I believe her 11 year old brother Ephraim came to Canada and settled in Alberta around the same time she and William Simms left for Ontario, in 1880 but don't know of other siblings or who her parents were.
  • Great Grandfather James Sinclair would have turned 10 years old that year and lived on the island of South Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands of Scotland.  He, two sisters and a brother lived with their farming parents William and Jane.  Sixteen years would go by before he would follow his Uncle James Garrioch (Garrick) to Canada, never to return.    
  • Great Grandmother Elizabeth Henry would be almost 11 and farming with her family in Hibbert Township in Perth County, Ontario.  Nine years previously they had emigrated from Troqueer, Kirkkudbrightsire in Scotland.  By 1867, parents William and Mary had 2 more girls and 3 boys.  William Henry would only live 11 more years and then the Widow Mary and her family of 11 would leave for Blanshard, Manitoba in 1882.  One wonders when or if news of the naming and formation of the new country "Canada" would have reached the family.  
  • Great Grandfather William George Kinnaird was turning 6 years old and lived with his younger brother and sister along with 4 step siblings from his father's first marriage. George Chester and Mary Ann Kinnaird were farmers in Kitley Township, Ontario.  There is no proof but Mary Ann may have been a single mother of the brood of 7 in 1867 as she remarried to Thomas Levi Cummings in 1868. 
  • Great Grandmother Margaret Carruthers lived in Dundas County near Ottawa and would have been coming 3.  Along with parents Andrew William and Jane, there were 2 brothers and 1 sister in her family at that time.  I believe the Carruthers were farmers although I have read references to Andrew William being a teacher as well.  
  • Second Great Grandfather John Milne would be 14 that year and likely lived with his parents Lewis and Annie.  He had 11 siblings but no doubt some of the older ones would have been out living and working on their own.  They farmed a small croft at Bogbain, near Keith in Aberdeenshire in Northeast Scotland. In six years he would marry and in 1911, John would follow some of his children to emigrate to Canada. 
  • Second Great Grandmother Ann Robertson was almost 14 in 1867 but I don't know anything about her home or family yet.  She died in Scotland 29 years later, after having nine children with John Milne including my great grandfather Alexander.
  • Second Great Grandmother Maggie Duncan would see her 14th birthday that year in Aberdeenshire, Scotland with parents William and Helen and 7 siblings.  Nine years later she would marry in nearby Ythan Wells and go on to have a family of five including their eldest, my great grandmother Jeannie.  Family lore says she died in England in 1905 but I've not found any confirmation yet.  
  • Second Great Grandfather James Jamieson would celebrate his 12th birthday in 1867 but beyond that I don't know much about him.  He was born in Marnoch, Banffshire, Scotland.  On his daughter Jeannie's wedding invitation in 1897 his widow was called " Mrs. W.D. Jamieson".  He had a son who was also given the same initials, William Duncan Jamieson.   
So much has happened in the past 150 years and the last country-wide centennial celebration in 1967 left many lasting legacies in our communities.  I hope that 2017 will do the same and instill the same pride in a next generation of Canadians.  I do wonder if there will be a snappy little song this year like Bobby Gimby's Canada song that sticks in our heads in 2067!    

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Christmas Eve Shopping 1944

This old receipt from the Simms house helps me imagine my Grandmother Mary, Christmas eve shopping for her family 72 years ago in 1944.  One stop shopping for gifts, candy, and even the wrapping paper for less than ten dollars! It sounds like so little but the Inflation Calculator online says that would be the equivalent of $131.23 today.   Her husband Alex  had died a little over 3 years before and there were 5 children to buy for.  Bob would have been 28 years old, Doris was 23, Gwen 21, and the twins Dorothy and my dad Donald were 12.

It would turn out to be the last Christmas of WWII but of course they wouldn't know that at the time. Rationing was in place for items like meat, butter, sugar, tea and coffee as well as gasoline, alcohol and silk. Being farmers, they produced their own meat and butter but had to use government issued coupons to purchase other restricted goods. The United Store in Oak River was Glinz's Store, run by Harvey and Mona Glinz. His brother, Art Glinz had retired from store keeping in 1943 but I recall him with his long-bladed speed skates whipping around the skating ice in the 1960's and 70's.

Simms Siblings in studio photo taken for their mother for Christmas on December 10, 1949.
Bob and Don in the back.  Doris, Dorothy and Gwen in front. 

The back of the receipt supplies a Kitchen Reminder - a list of popular shopping items for humans and their livestock of the time. I had to look up some (Apples - Evaporated, Glauber Salts, Junket, Oilcake Meal, Mapleine, and Mucilage) and others just made me cringe (Gopher Poison, Rat-Nip and Sulphur Flour).  It never ceases to amaze me with the things I can learn and imagine from one old piece of paper!



Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Little Cream Jug

We came across this little cream jug while cleaning out a closet this summer and I've finally got around to researching it.  We are not sure which side of my family it came from but I've found it dates to around the 1930's or 40's.

 With a picture of a clipper ship, the bottom says Gray Pottery Hanley England.  Albert Edward Gray started a factory in England that was at its height in the 1930's but continued producing pottery ware right up until the 60's. The faint green stamp underneath the bright yellow maker's mark with the clipper ship was quite common and indicates the jug itself was made by another company and then Gray Pottery did the hand painting as decoration.  The design is like one I've found online called leaves and grapes but not exactly. With each jug being hand painted however, there would be variation I suppose.

The type of pottery is called copper lusterware and this website gives a helpful description of the way some of the unique copper-like design was created using a resist method.  

This one above from the Etsy website is the closest I could find in decoration but the shape and handle are different.  

This one from picclick is the same shape as ours but a slightly different design, without the green grapes part of the design. 
The Gray Pottery site shows this one with the pink flower along with several others on a slide show of pottery that came from the factory at Stoke-on-Trent, England

It's a cute little piece that is less than 6 centimeters tall so its practical uses are limited.  It has found a place on a shelf in my house however!

Simms to Simms 1930

This Bill of Sale from January 1930, details the transaction of all his possessions from my paternal grandfather, Alex Simms to his wife Mary for the sum of one dollar.  No one knows what led up to this transfer but I assume Alex owed someone money and his possessions were at risk of being taken to pay the loan.  By transferring these goods, chattels and effects to his wife, he kept them from the creditors until times improved.  The circumstances don't really matter but the list of property owned by my grandparents in 1930 is fascinating!   It has been a bit of a struggle to make out the handwriting and figure out what each item was and what its contribution to farming in the early days on the prairie was. The pictures were found on Google searches and may not be right!  Please let me know.

  • our bay gelding star on forehead
  • our chestnut gelding stripes on face
  • our bay team of horses, 2 bay mares stripes on forehead 
  • our gray gelding, our gray mare, our piebald gelding 
  • our bay gelding star on forehead, 1 gray gelding, our brown mare
  • 10 milk cows, 4 heifers two years old, 9 yearling calves 
  • seven pigs, 100 hens
  •  J I Case 15-27 engine, 
  • our Deering Binder, 
  • our Massey Harris Binder, 
  • our Deering Mower, 
  • our 22 disc drill, 
  • 2 John Deere plows, 
  • Our Great West Plow, 
  • Our set 6 furrow harrow, 
  • Our Massey cultivator, 
  • 1 Roers Cultivator, 
  • 3 high wagons, one truck wagon, 
  • 3 racks, 2 sets of sleighs, 1 wagon box, 
  • 4 hp engine, 
  • our crusher, 
  • 1 fanning mill.
  • Ford Car 1918 model, 
  • our democrat,
  • several sets of Harness,
  •  a quantity of feed and  ? ,
  •  all General Household furniture

It is certainly an interesting document from the past and I learned a lot about farming 86 years ago from writing this blog post!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Henry Brothers in the News - Part Three

Now - the final tale of the Henry brothers that were involved in the 1877 shooting of an aboriginal man as detailed in this blog post.  Joseph's (1857-1896) end came with a shotgun blast from a short tempered 20 year old Arthur Gerhold as written about here.  Today's post tells of the death of Charles Henry and resulting legal proceedings as it was reported in the newspapers papers of the time.  Aunt Dodie's notes about him refer to him as " Red Charlie" so as to distinguish him from his cousin Charlie.  

Charlie was born the 24th of October in 1862 in Listowel, Ontario.  He came west with his family at the age of 16 and according to family history, took out several pre-emptions before homesteading on SW 22-14-22 in April of 1892. (This was my Uncle Bob and Aunt Margaret Simms' farm home when I was growing up.)
Interestingly, paperwork for a $500 mortgage with The London and Canadian Loan and Agency Company Limited on the original John Henry farm at W 22-13-21 from September of 1884 was found among some Henry papers. Charles had a handsome signature which I assume indicates an education in Ontario.

On February 25, 1885, Charles had married Fanny Sarah Cleaver (daughter of Thomas Cleaver and Katherine McNeil) at the manse in Oak River.  Charlie and Sarah became parents to Ida Ethel (b 1887), Viola May (1890), Percival Albert (1892), John Thomas (1895), Roy Elmer (1896) and Leslie Hilmger (June 1898).  Another son Harvey Harold Cleaver was born in January of 1899.

The story goes that on July 4th 1898, Charles, Alex Miller, Ab Hayes and  R. Cornborough  went to see the Lemen Brothers Circus in Rapid City. The main attraction at this circus was apparently Rajah, claimed to be the largest elephant that ever walked the earth.  Tom, the boxing kangaroo along with the "Monster Show" made the tour of Gladstone, Birtle, Yorkton, Russell and Neepawa as well as Winnipeg that summer.  The Portage La Prairie Weekly August 11, 1898 edition reported:
Several parties who were to see the Lemen Bros. Circus at Rapid City came back disgusted.  They report swindling and gambling the order of the day.  
Ironically, swindling and gambling would have been much better than the fate that awaited Charlie that day.  Arriving too late to see the circus, the men decided to make the rounds of the local hotels and began drinking.  Newspaper accounts say between 9 and 10 o'clock that night words were exchanged and then fighting began with some Rapid City boys.  Charles was hit on the head with a club or pole as part of the melee.  Thomas Cleaver (perhaps his brother-in-law?) was also stabbed in the back with a penknife while trying to come to the aid of the Oak Riverites.  After the fight broke up, Henry and two of his friends loaded up in the wagon and headed for home.  Somewhere on the road home, his companions noticed he was unresponsive and that Charles died.  They rushed him to Oak River where the Dr Jackson declared him dead and found a blow to the base of his skull to be the cause.

Found on

Investigation into the event began and Charlie's sister Jessie Henry, who worked at a hotel in Rapid City, claimed she overheard a man admit to her boss that he had delivered the fatal blow.  At the Fall Assizes of 1898, Christopher Stewart of Rapid City, the accused, pled not guilty in the death and Miss Henry's boss denied Stewart had ever confessed to her.  In the end, he was found not guilty of manslaughter. Witnesses said the man who struck Henry ran after him into the mill pond but the doctor who treated Stewart that night testified his pant legs were not wet while tending a wound on his knee 30 minutes after the fight.

Thirty-five year old Charles Henry was buried at White Bank Lea Cemetery, not far from his homestead.  In 1907, his widow and her five surviving children moved to Dauphin. The youngest two sons had also died in the meantime, compounding her grief and hardship.  Sarah passed away in Dauphin on August 18, 1926 at age 61.

It has been most interesting to me to research these three stories.  The style of blunt and graphic writing in the local papers in the early days of western Manitoba is fascinating.  Fellow Henry researcher Mary Bole intrigued me about them in her book called the Henry History written in 1998. offers a seven day free trial.  Try it - you never know what you might find...