I found one of my Great grandmother’s brother William Smith in Canada. This is a tale of three marriages and two home countries plus a new frontier.
One side-effect of my new DNA explorations has been looking at potential areas in our tree where ancestors might have left the fold for greener pastures. The logic being that they may be a sprinkling of DNA amongst descendants there- potentially in USA and Canada. Many of my ancestors were so poor that the possibility of leaving the village let alone the country was remote. However, it appears that William Smith, the brother of Selena Smith (Selena Gadsby my great grandmother) has done just that.
This record popped up after clicking on an Ancestry green hint leaf.
Although my membership isn't valid for Worldwide Ancestry it’s possible to access this record by using Family Search. This particular marriage certificate is 2 pages and includes both parents’ names, their professions and place of place of birth as well as the wedding couples’s age, marital status, religious denomination and locality. Despite the transcription error by Ancestry I pursued it anyway and it's a perfect match with my great great grandparents, George Smith and Julia Baker and their son William. Thus this record links William the missing son known to be alive in 1911.
The marriage certificate shows that William Smith, born 1875 and a widower married a Christina Dick, widow in Parry Sound Ontario Canada in 1912. Both were aged 38. So begins the story merging two families from two countries into a third one. A review of several census and BDM documents culminates in a 1921 Canada census, which fills in the rest of the story.
HINT: If you can't find Canadian Census or Birth, Deaths and Marriages because it is on Worldwide Ancestry and you only have UK membership take a look at resources such as Family Search and you might just get lucky. Alternatively libraries buy Worldwide membership of Ancestry and Find My Past. Just take your library card along and book a computer.
William Smith, the son of George James Greedus (also known as George Smith) and Julia Smith nee Baker was born in Bethnal Green an area of London in 1874. William had three sisters, Julia, Selina and Louisa and two brothers George and Thomas. Being the youngest he is present with his parents as a schoolboy in the 1881 Census and the 1891 Census shows he's out of work and living with his parents in Code Street, Bethnal Green. By 1891 most of his siblings had married and began families of their own. His older sister Julia Wells nee Smith has been a victim of poverty and the poor house and had died in 1887 leaving her daughters destitute and in need of charity care.
William Smith is a difficult name to locate definitively in the future 1901 Census, however his name crops up again in his mother’s 1911 census even though it turns out he had left the country. Thankfully for the intrepid researcher his overzealous mother, Julia, while completing her 1911 census had included her still living children- William, Selina, George and Louisa in the list of residents. She had also completed their marital status and ages. Julia had realised her mistake before completing their occupations, but luckily for us when she struck out the notations it did not obscure the information. Thus it was evident that William was still alive in 1911 and for me to keep looking for him. However given their poor money situation, I presumed that he was some sort of worker in London eking out meagre income– that is until the chance sighting of the marriage certificate online.
As the marriage record revealed that William a widower married Christina Dick a widow, I needed to know the circumstances. Further digging reveals my first-ever experience with a Canadian census document- the 1921 Ontario Census. William lives with his girls Francis and Beatrice, with Christina – wife number two, and her extended family, Annie from her first marriage.
These documents are very comprehensive, revealing the usual family details plus date of arrival, nationalities of parents, religion, occupation and wages. This gives me a timeline. William had previously lived in England and had a female child Francis before immigrating in 1906 with his then wife details of whom were still unknown. This document also has Beatrice Smith, born in 1908 in Ontario. So William’s wife had died sometime after 1908 and before 1912 when William married Christina.
A further search of Family Search records shows that Beatrice's mother was Louisa Jones and that there was a male sibling born in 1910. He died at birth and William’s beloved wife Louisa died 7 hours later after her confinement, which had been followed by a postpartum haemorrhage. A record in West Ham shows the marriage of Louisa Jones and William Smith in 1904. Bingo.
In the 1911 census of St Catherine’s in Ontario William is missing. However his two young daughters are boarders with Frederick and May Brown at Waterloo South. William must have been working away from home, which explains why this ex-Londoner met and married a Scottish widow named Christina in 1912 in Parry Sound, a place 330 km away from his home base.
So what is Christina’s story and how did she arrive in Parry Sound?
Christina Dick nee Barr was a young Glasgow orphan servant who married a widower Alexander George Dick in 1900 in Glasgow. Alexander had a family of four children, Christina, Elizabeth James and John to a previous wife also named Christina. Alex and Christina had a daughter Annie in 1902. It was a short lived marriage as by the 1911 census Christina, aged 36 is living widowed in Scotland with her daughter and stepchildren as Alex had died in 1908. How did she and the family come to live in Canada?
The 1921 census William’s extended family of yours, mine and Alex's children and it is a fantastic resource in that it gives where they were born, when they immigrated, their professions, religion and even income. It shows that some time after that 1911 Scottish census was taken Christina, Annie and John immigrated to Ontario, Canada and her marriage certificate shows she went to work as a domestic at Otter Lakes Station Parry Sound.
What brought all these people to establish homes in Canada? How did they afford passage? This particular 1921 census page shows families from Scotland, Ireland and England with their young Ontario born families. Why did these families end up in this province of Canada? The answer came from the development of Canada at the time. The Transcontinental railway construction linking Canada from coast to coast had led to shipping lines, established hotels, tourism, mining and other industries. The mills and canals around St Catherine’s made it an important industrial centre in the Niagara region.
Their particular area of Grantham, St Catherine’s looked to be newly urbanised as most families had arrived in Canada in the past 10 years. After declining growth following the completion of the lake canals the region known as the “Golden Horseshoe” along the western shores of the Lake Ontario was now experiencing fast population growth in addition to business activity and industrialisation coming from the Great Lake system water supply, rich fertile soils and expanding manufacturing, mining and milling. The area had tremendous appeal.
Christina’s background was not particularly affluent and some of William’s extended family had one or both feet in the poor house. Certainly East coast Canada had good prospects for establishing a new life and raising a family away from the slums of London and tenements of Glasgow. In these times ships were sailing back and forward across the Atlantic between Canada and Britain. However, despite the relatively short trip from the British Isles to East Coast Canada the cost of passage even in 3rd class steerage was ½ a year's income.
An awful lot of people arrived between 1905 and 1911 and it was largely due to the British Bonus Commission paid by the Canadian Government Immigration Department to Steamship booking agents in the UK for each suitable immigrant who purchased a ticket to sail to Canada. Although it was not paid to the immigrant themselves surely there had to be a discounted passage as an incentive to book.
In addition, there were agents who undertook to bring people to Canada in particular professions. For example Christina Dick’s passage details on the “Ionian” shows her as part of the “Buchanan Party”. Buchanan was an agent who specialised in bringing domestics to Canada. However it is also known that various charities were helping with "assisted" passage. These organizations were bringing children (from reformatories, industrial schools) and emigration groups and included such organisations as the East End Emigration Society and the Clerkenwell Emigration Committee. These two groups, and others like them, brought hundreds of families and adults to Canada.
It should also be noted that the arrival was usually to the Port of Quebec or Montreal, which then necessitated transfer to the shores of Lake Ontario some 920 km away. So by August 1912 Christina had married William and they returned to St Catherine’s, Grantham.
More of her family members had arrived over the years.
-Annie Dick on the Pretorian 19/8/1912
-John Dick in 1911
-James Dick on the Hesperian aged 17in 1911
-Elizabeth Dick arriving in Quebec 16/6/1913 on the Hesperian
-Christina Dick aged 25 in Montreal 26/7/1916
By the time of the 1921 Census the family of yours, mine and his are settled in the newly urbanised St Catherine’s. In the City of Grantham in the province of Ontario, St Catherine’s is in the Niagara region of Southern Ontario 12 miles inland from the US Border. They lived in Rosedale Ave. Francis is 16 and working as a shoemaker earning $320 per year, Beatrice is 13 and still at school. Christina and William are 48 and 47 respectively. At last we find his profession as a lock tender earning $1500pa Together with the Smiths live the Fyfes. Little Annie Dick married a fellow Scotsman, Jack Fyfe on November 1920.Jack is a labourer earning $1500pa. A couple of doors down lives John and Lizzie (Warner ?) Dick with son William, aged 1. John had arrived in 1911and was earning $1300pa as an electrician.
Elizabeth Dick had married an English carpenter in 1915 by the name of Joseph McKenzie Lowry and by 1921 had three children Joseph, John and Sidney. They lived in York Township and York South Toronto later moved to California, where Elizabeth died in 1969.
William’s most likely death certificate has been accessed. The dates are a pretty good match, but the parental details are off. (could be excused due to their dying 20 plus years before and in a different country.) He lived for 63 years, dying on 23/5/1938 and finished his working career as a canal worker around 1930 possibly as a result of the Depression. A perforated gastric ulcer was the cause and wife Christina was the informant. Unless she followed the children to California it is possible she died in either 1948 or 1958 and is buried in Grimsby Regional Cemetery Ontario.
A chance sighting of a marriage record has led to this fascinating tale of the Dicks meets the Smiths. More satisfying is the fact I’ve put families to 5 of the 6 children of George and Julia Smith. (Come on Thomas send me a clue) Selina took her family to Australia in 1912 with the threat of the outbreak of WW1 and seeking a better climate for her children. George stayed in London with his family and Louisa remained also despite her widowhood in mid 1914. Interestingly I have just discovered that Selina’s sister in laws family- the Rowbothams all took off for nearby Belleville in Ontario in 1905 after the death of their mother Catherine in 1904. Another story awaits!
I visited this beautiful area of Niagara, Quebec, Montreal and Toronto not quite 12 months ago never dreaming that so many relatives had left England to make it their home. It certainly puts the trek and the distances in perspective and reinforces the history I learnt on that trip. While the temperatures would have been quite chilly in the winter months the other three seasons would have been far more pleasant than our relatives would have experienced in Scotland and England.
This story is far from over- what became of Francis and Beatrice and what became of the rest of Christina’s lot? Hopefully a couple of my blog readers will provide me with some inspiration. Certainly I’ll keep them on my radar as I will keep pondering Christina’s choice of parental birthplace for William’s mother? Germany- I’ve never found definitive evidence of Julia Baker’ birth. Watch this space.