Thursday, 2 August 2018

Stories of Alexander Milne and his family

During a recent tour around Virden (a blog post in the works), a few of the present day descendants of Alexander and Jeannie Milne were pondering the circumstances that may have led to them leaving their Scottish homeland for Canada just after the turn of the century.  It was indeed a pleasant surprise to open up my email and find these memories from cousin Greg, as told to him many years ago.  I've added online links and a wonderful picture of Alexander (courtesy of Greg and Donna-Marie) taken around this same time at 30 Union Road in Macduff, Scotland.

 It has come to my attention that I should take some time to write what I know or have been told about my family history.  I can not say that the following is absolutely true, because much of it is third hand.  That is to say, much of the story is what I remember my father telling me, and much of what he told me is what he was told by his mother.  While oral traditions are not always letter perfect, they nevertheless do usually offer the best recollections, though they may be tinted by love or sorrow.

This then is the story of Alexander and Jane (Jeanie) Milne, and their emigration to Canada from Scotland in 1904 and 1905, as made known to me by my father, John Milne, their oldest child.

Alec and Jeanie both grew up in the Banffshire area of Scotland which is now the county of Morayshire.  Alex was born in Dufftown, in 1875, and Jeanie was born in Auchterless in 1876.  I have no idea how they met or of their social life, but they were married in a Manor House just outside of Rothiemay on Christmas Eve in 1897. 
Alec’s father John, was a farm labourer, who apparently had certain skills as an untrained veterinarian and often attended the difficult births of large animals.  On one occasion a land owner asked him to attend a breech-birth of a prized mare.  He managed to save the mare, but the resulting foal was not expected to survive.  The owner told John that the foal was his if it should live.  The story is that John and young Alec, and his sisters, spent days tending the youngster and it did indeed not only survive, but grew into a prized stallion.  The Stallion was later traded for two fine mares. 
At about that time, before he got married, Alec moved away from his parents to set himself up in business as a carter in Charlestown of Aberlour, a distillery town on the banks of the Spey River. and he started with these two Clydesdale mares, which he purchased from his father.  It must have been about 1895 when Alec was just nineteen years old.  It seems that he became a bit of an entrepreneur, as in a fairly short time he had two wagons.  Dad said that one was a “dirty wagon,” and the other was a “clean wagon.”  The former for hauling manure, or gravel, and the second for transporting whiskey casks to the railhead in Craigelachie, six miles north of Aberlour.  My father and his next two brothers Alexander Jr, and William were born in Aberlour.  Dad was born on 6 December 1898.  Business must have been pretty good, because before long Alec also came into ownership of a fine Clydesdale Stallion, and he began his career as a breeder by offering his Stallion to “cover” local mares for the princely sum of £5.00.  That amount of money was close to a year’s wages for a labourer in those days. 
Grandfather had grown up within the Free Presbyterian Church of the day.  He was happy enough there, I suppose, until a certain incident took place.  It seems that the treasurer of the local congregation had “borrowed” some of the funds for his own purpose, and this was discovered just after he paid back the funds into the treasury.  The local Session called him to judgement for his sins and decided to expel him from the congregation.  Alec took issue with the judgement declaring that the man should be forgiven, as he had paid back the funds.  While forgiveness was possible, continuing membership in that congregation was not, so the man had to go.  Alec decided then and there that he would leave that congregation also, and he then joined the local Church of Scotland (auld Kirk) congregation.  This would have happened some time after their marriage, and perhaps after some of the boys were born.  Probably not all that long before Alec left Scotland. 
His move into the Kirk was a sure sign that he had joined the upwardly mobile.  He was happy with that decision until one day a certain member of the upper echelon, who probably also hired him to do certain work, asked him to bring his stallion to his farm to cover a couple of mares there.  Grandpa said, “certainly, that will be £5.00 per mare.”“No, no, you don’t understand young man,” said the gentleman, “since I am your superior, and some-time employer, you must give me this service free.”When Grandpa indicated that was not going to happen, he was made aware that his position in the local community depended upon his obedience.  According to Dad, Grandma was even more angry about this than Grandpa. 
Later, while commiserating with his local buddies at the pub, they all greed that life in Scotland was becoming untenable, and they should emigrate to the “new world.”   In the end the others all backed out, but Grandpa had made up his mind. 
Over the next several months, he sold his wagons, bought three more mares, and managed to get them with foal before loading them on board an empty cattle boat that was returning to Halifax, Canada.  He had also somehow secured a job in Manitoba, where he would be looking after cattle and would be able to breed his horses, and sell stud services to others. 
He got off the boat in Halifax, and put the horses on a train for Manitoba in 1904.  I had no idea of all the places he lived during the next years, tending cattle and breeding horses, but he must have done quite well, as he was able to purchase passage on another returning cattle boat in 1905 for his wife and three small sons, who disembarked in Montreal.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

News from the McAllister Branch

Since beginning my genealogy journey, I had very little family information about my Dad’s paternal grandmother - Agnes McAllister Simms.  I knew she was born April 1859 in Ireland,married William Simms in March of 1880 in Antrim and left for Canada with him shortly after.  William and Agnes were farmers in South Mountain, Ontario just south of Ottawa.  Recently, to my delight, more details about Agnes' family has emerged.

First, I had a message from an Ancestry contact Jimsummers54 who was able to tell me the names of  her parents.  They were Alexander McAllister (1830-1901) and Mary Ann McIlwaine (1831 - 1908).  This couple were married at Inver, Antrim on January 19, 1853 and farmed at Duffs Hill northwest of  Carrickfergus.  His father’s name was Ephraim (1794-1860) as well.  Another generation back was also revealed from the same source, Arthur McAllister (1770-1846) and his wife Mary Templeton (1772-1841).

Then I had another message from a researcher who was looking for Agnes' brother Ephriam.  I had researched him before but she gave me the more specific locale of Penhold, AB and that Google search gave an amazing result  here!

 Ephraim (pictured left) married Mary Jane Niblock (below) and went on to have a family of nine. One son Arthur died in WW1 and is buried in Lapugnoy Military Cemetery in France.  His service file has been digitized and is online here.  Ephraim’s descendants continue to farm his original homestead, Antler Valley Farm.

I had been told that my grandfather Alexander Simms  made a trip to Alberta when he left home in Ontario about 1903.  Now I wonder if he was visiting his Uncle Ephraim and Aunt Mary at Penhold?  I do not yet have a picture of Agnes McAllister Simms but this latest success makes me keep searching.   Thanks to those fellow genealogists and my McAllister cousins for their help!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Aunt Dodie's 1950 Neepawa Class

My Aunt Doris Simms Henry  was the subject of my very first family history blog post over 4 years ago and when I came across this picture in her cedar chest yesterday, I decided to do a little more investigating about it . The photo is identified on the back as coming from Morrish Studios in Neepawa and shows 24 pupils in her "Surplus" Grade 1 & 2 Class in June of 1950. Thirty-one names are listed on the back of the photo as follows:
Grade 1
Edward Zahadnik
Elizabeth Kasprick
Faye Schmans
Karen Breitschmid
Patsy Crabbe
Marjorie Kasprick
Elaine Kostenchuk
Sandra Tyack
Leonard Watts
Barry Scott
Ellen Brown
Gary Tomasson
Kenneth Crabbe
Douglas McLaughlan
Gerald Kozak
Nelson Gutaski
Eldan Faullus
Mervyn Warnock

 Grade 2
George Dalinger
Ronnie Zynger
Darwin McIntyre
Lesley Laidlaw
Mary Ann Parwingsty
Bernard Holod
Norman Chapman
Dawn Leader
Donna Mae Bell
Earl Kyaldgaard
Marion Partridge
Mervyn Hajnrych
Jimmie Lukin

Dodie had graduated from Normal School in Brandon in June of 1941 as described in this blog post . She taught at schools in Lavinia, Penrith, White Bank Lea and Strathclair but had not been teaching for a couple of years when she took on the class in Neepawa

I have her diary from that time which helps fill in a few of the details of those six months.  On December 30, 1949 Dodie accepted the job at the school at Neepawa and writes that January 9 was the first day, she had 31 pupils and it was very cold! The day before classes began she visited at the hospital which makes me wonder if she was taking over for an ailing teacher.  On January 20 she writes that she went home on the bus to Strathclair and her two brothers Bob & Don (my Dad) met her there and took her the rest of the way home.  She went back to Oak River about once a month along with Easter Break.

On January 23 she reports that Inspector Beecher was in her room all afternoon.  The Manitoba Historical website gives a list of inspectors responsibilities here and confirms that Robert Edward Beecher  held that job from 1929 to 1956.  

She writes about going to church Sunday nights at the Calvary Temple and also the Baptist Church. She mentions listening to Lux Theatre and Ford Theatre on the radio, going out for a bean supper, big dances at the airport and bowling.  The girls gave each other "Toni's"  and spent time after school together. She often went out for a Coke at the Bamboo Garden with her teacher friends after work and a google search tells me the same restaurant continues in Neepawa today.
Picture from Prairie Towns website
This blog post from 2015 has some great pictures of the town including of the outside of the restaurant in 2015. The opening of Fenwick's Department Store on April 27, 1950 was a big event and she visited it many times from then on, usually just to look. Dodie remarked on 
May 11 the first evacuee train from Winnipeg (due to the flooding) arrived with 130 people on board.  The next day being Arbour Day, she and her class cleaned up the school yard. Her fiancee Sam Henry took her to Minnedosa for supper then to a show "All The King's Men".  Shows were popular evening entertainment in Neepawa as well and she gave favourable reviews to "Challenge to Lassie" , "The Wizard of Oz" and "Jolson Sings Again".  A week of evening sewing lessons given by the Singer Sewing Company was a June highlight.

Her teaching colleagues were often mentioned and this card as well as a cup and saucer were given to her on one of her last days at Neepawa. 

Interesting that included in the group is Hazel Kellington, the celebrated lady that taught in Neepawa primary rooms for 45 years and whom the current elementary school there is named for.
These would be her last days as "Miss Simms" and aside from a few days filling in at nearby Medina School, her last days teaching.  A new routine awaited her as farm wife as on July 17 at the First Church United on 8th Street in Brandon, she and Samuel Robert Henry were married at 2:00 in the afternoon in front of 10 members of her family.  Above are pictures from that day - Doris and Sam posing in front of his 1947 Chevrolet and with their attendants Jim and Gwen Milliken. After lunch at the Olympia Cafe they left on their one week honeymoon.  She writes that they spent the first night in Roblin then Elfros, Kindersley, Calgary, Maple Creek and Regina before heading back to the farm.

I would love to hear from any of Miss Simms's Neepawa pupils to pass your class picture onto you.  Please contact me at

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter Greeting Postcards

The three Easter postcards on today's blog post come from the collection of my dad's Aunt Elizabeth (Lizzie) Sinclair Morcom. It seems these greetings began at the turn of the century but after WW1 they were in their heyday.

Only one has writing on it and that identifies that it predates her marriage in 1930.  Her nephews, the little Fortune boys were born in the early twenties and  are the little boys in the picture below on the Sinclair house steps. Their little sister Irene, born in 1925 is being held by Nannie, their mother Jean is in the black tie.  Lizzie (with the glasses) and Jessie are on the right side.

The picture above shows Lizzie is sitting on the same steps with her brother Bill.  My sister Janice and I have said his wild hair gene may have been passed down to her son!  The postcard that appears to be in a car has Lizzie at the back (in the glasses), Nellie holding Irene but I'm not sure of the other two sitting in the front seat.  Hopefully my blog readers can help me identify them!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Grandma Kinnaird's Birthday Post

Today marks the 112th anniversary of my maternal grandma's birth - Frances Jeannie Milne Kinnaird.  My previous blog post about her  was written over 3 years ago and since then I've been able to scan many more great pictures of her that I'd like to share today.  Cousin Karen has invited us to supper tonight along with Frances and Frank Kinnaird's daughters Marjorie and Margaret (my Mom) to share memories and I'll take this blog post along.

The first above picture is of Frances in the back with her two younger brothers Charlie born in 1913 and  Jim born in 1910.  That would date this picture of them posing in a pumpkin patch to about 1918 perhaps.  The picture on the right is a young Mr. and Mrs. Kinnaird shortly after their wedding in 1927.  I have never seen any pictures of their wedding day, maybe there are some out there in someone's album?

This one of a young mother Frances carrying Marjorie wrapped in a shawl and with her hand on son Keith's shoulder is a favourite of mine.  Looks like Keith is wearing the same hat later that summer while saskatoon picking near Miniota in the next picture.  He is sitting on his Aunt Nan Milne's knee, Frank is next with the glasses, then Marjorie on Jane Milne's knee and Alex Milne on the end with the moustache.  Grandma was known to avoid the camera but I love this picture of her with her hands on her hips! These photos would both be from 1931, I'd guess.

Grandma is having a tea party with her granddaughter Dolores Tapp in 1960 and maybe baby Karen is in the buggy?  Christmas 1965 was the occasion of the colour picture of Frances with her Simms and Kinnaird grandchildren and she is holding me!


And finally, a postcard she sent to us from B.C. in March of 1968:
Sat 4:30 M.S.T.
Hi Sharon & Donna & all
Just got back from a drive around Princeton, mountains on all sides, been having a wonderful time. wish you were all here. grass is just beginning to get green, a few early flowers out. We are going to Penticton tomorrow & Mon to Vancouver for the day. Had a lovely train trip stayed in Kamloops till Thurs. noon. Have not missed any sleep yet.
Be seeing you before long.
Love to all