Friday, 30 May 2014

Week 22 - William Simms

William Simms (1854  - 1918)

Inscription on headstone in South Gower Cemetery, Dundas, Ontario

William, my great grandfather, was born on the 13th of March in 1854 near Carrickfergus in County Antrim in what is Northern Ireland today.  He was the son of Henry Simms from Week 9 of this blog and his wife Jane Lattimore.  He had 13 siblings, 2 of which emigrated to Canada and 4 to New Zealand.  In 1880 he married Agnes McAllister in Antrim and shortly after they can be found on Passenger Lists on the SS Montreal leaving from Liverpool to Quebec City.  The voyage by sea took several weeks.  William and Agnes settled in Dundas County, south of Ottawa near the village of Mountain.

An online book The Story of Dundas 1784-1904 was written in 1905 and contains a few photos and text of what this area of Ontario was like at this time. From page 55:

Bush-whacking!  Farm-making!  These were terms well descriptive of farming in pioneer times. The crude conditions lingered long, for even after the woodsman's axe had conquered the forest, and the fire had swept along leaving great heaps of ashes,  the huge stumps stood in apparent defiance.  Fortunately the soil was rich. 
On the 1881 Census, William is 27 years old, his wife is 22 and they have a 5 month old son, William.  His occupation is a labourer. 

Ten years later, 5 children are listed in the household from ages 10 down to one, including my 8 year old grandfather Alexander.    He is a farmer now in the Mountain subdistrict of Dundas County and his religion is declared as Free Church. 

The same family is enumerated as Baptist in 1901 with two more young children ages 20 down to 6.

In 1911, William is 57, Agnes is 52, and their daughters Edith aged 21, Martha 18, Elida 16 and son Cecil 8 are still at home.

In August of 1918, William died at Lot 8 Concession 5 in Dundas County of diabetes. 

Family of William and Agnes: (from Aunt Dodie)
  • William Henry (1880 - 1945) married Mae Millar and had 5 children. He moved just across the U.S. border to Oswegatchie, New York and farmed there.

  • Mary Agnes (1884-1948) married Ezra Bryan (pictured above) and had 6 children.  They lived and farmed in the Mountain, ON area and many of their descendants remain there.
  • Alexander (1885-1941) ,my grandfather, married Mary Sinclair after moving to Oak River, Manitoba  to farm and they had 6 children.

  • Jennie "Jean" (1887-1968) married a Swedish immigrant, Gustaf Rensta, and was a nurse in WW1.  They lived in Montreal in the 40's but died and are buried in Kelowna, BC.
  • Edith (1890-1930) married Erroll Murdock and had 5 children.  They lived in the Mountain area as well.
  • Ethel Martha (1893-1934) married James Edgar Scott and had one son.  They also lived near Mountain.
  • Eleda May (1895-1973)  did not marry but lived in the Ottawa area suburb Carp in 1945.  She came to Manitoba in the late 1950's to help when her sister-in-law Mary Simms was ill.
  • Cecil (1902-1975) lived at home and did not marry.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Week 21 - James Kinnaird

James Kinnaird (1864 - 1903)

This week I am writing about another one of my own ancestor's siblings that died without having any descendants of their own.  This seems to be a recurring theme of this blog- telling the life stories of people with no direct line of descendants to come looking for them.  Maybe I watch too much Long Island Medium but when I think about who to write about next, the answer just seems to pop into my head on its own!  This week my story is about James Kinnaird, younger brother of my great grandfather William George.

James Kinnaird was born on March 14, 1864 in Toledo in Kitley Township, Ontario. He was baptized in nearby St. Andrews Presbyterian Church at 2 months old with his parents listed as George Kinnaird and Mary A. Nisbit.  His brother and sister's names are on the same register page as being baptized the year before.  After this baptism, I have not found his father George Chester on any other document and his mother remarried Thomas Levi Cummings in 1868.  An online tree gives his death date as 1882 but where he was in the meantime, I don't know. 

The 1871 Canadian Census find 6 year old James with the last name of Cummings, that of his stepfather.  He is in Winchester Township with his 7 year old sister Elizabeth, 9 year old brother William G (my great grandfather), his mother Maryann who is 35 and his stepfather Thomas who is described as 44 years old and a millwright.  The early Canadian census had a column to note any disabilities and beside Thomas it indicates "blind".  A blind millwright ?

Millwrights are often referred to as the people who designed and built the mills that ground the grain into flour and meal.  With increased mechanization, they were the equivalent of mechanics today.  I couldn't imagine being blind and able to work at that job in the 1800's!

The 1881 census shows the same family with 16 year old James, 20 year old William and the stepfather Thomas all with the last name Cummings and all carpenters.  The column for disabilities is obscured on the copy of the census that I have seen.

In the 1891 census above, Mary is a widow and is listed as a seamstress.  James now has the last name Kinnaird and he is 27 years old.  I can't make out his occupation in the enlargement below (under Seamstress and above Labourer).  Willow wood?  The form indicates he is blind. 

The 1901 census confirms James is blind and he is now 37 years old and living with his mother.  She lived until 1906 but James died on April 27, 1903 at the age of 39 (although the death certificate says he was 35) the cause of death is Bright's Disease  which he had for 1 year.  At the time of his death, he was living at 88 Main Street in Chesterville.  Bright's disease is a disorder of the kidneys caused by protein in the urine that is known today as nephritis.  It could have been a result of kidney disease, an autoimmune deficiency, or an infection.  Treatment would have likely included blood letting and warm baths but they were not very successful.

I have not yet found a burial spot for James or his mother or stepfather.  More and more cemeteries are being photographed and put online through websites like Find A Grave and I will continue to try to find his final resting place. 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Week 20 - Glenn James Simms


Glenn James Simms (1923 - 1925)

This is another blog of a relative who died far too young, Dad's older brother. Glenn was born July 17, 1923 to parents Alex and Mary (Sinclair) Simms. He died at the age of 2 years as Aunt Dodie writes about in her memoirs: 
Little Glennie James, twin to Gwennie Elizabeth, passed away from what they called in those days “summer complaint” a form of dysentery, now known from drinking contaminated milk. No deep freezes or refrigerators in those days. If you wanted to keep food or milk cool, you would hang it in a container, suspended by a rope down a well or set it in the cellar (or earthen floor) to keep it as cool as possible.

From left to right - Doris, Gwen, Glen and Bob Simms
Little Glennie passed away on Sept.5, 1925 – Bobby’s 9th birthday. The funeral was held from the house. I can still see the little white coffin. My dad picked me up to see him in it, wearing little white rompers. I can also remember going to the White Bank Lea cemetery, across fields. The old car made into a truck was the hearse and it broke down on the way. Some other truck took it to the cemetery and that is all I recall. I know they grieved terribly. I was too young to take it all in but I know she cried a lot as she cuddled Gwennie, who was very fretful for a long time.

Gwen and Glenn Simms
Online research indicates that summer complaint was a common cause of death for children between their 1st and 2nd birthdays.    Many children would be weaned from breast milk when they turned a year old and would begin drinking cow's milk. The milk would of course be unpasteurized and kept wherever it would be cool. During the summer, often it was not cold enough to kill the germs. Older children would become immune to the bacteria but younger children were vulnerable. Severe diarrhea and dehydration would cause death in a matter of days and there were no antibiotics to cure the infection once it set in.
Gravestone for Glennie and his parents at White Bank Lea Cemetery, RM of Blanshard, Manitoba

Twins! Mary Simms with Gwen, and Glen on left.
Also Shorts, Wertepney, Ramsay twins
We think twins now are a lot of work, Imagine the days before disposable diapers, electric appliances es, microwaves and all the other conveniences we take for granted. My Grandma Mary and Grandpa Alex Simms had two sets of fraternal twins a boy and a girl, nine years apart.  They are genentically passed down on the female side of the family and one of the Simms twins has twin grandsons today. 

From a Roots Web post:
7/18/1923 Twin boy and girl, were born to Mr. and Mrs. Alex. SIMMS yesterday

I also found an almost unbelievable statement from the Oak River Post online through Roots Web:
2/6/1924    The records of this Municipality show that in 1923 half of the births were twins. 1924 has started out in the same humor.

I wonder if this is an exaggeration?  Today twins occur about 120 times out of 1000 births, according to this source.   Hard to beieve that so many twins were born in such a small area.  Even more amazing that it all happened at home without doctors in sterile settings only ninety years ago!


Friday, 9 May 2014

Week 19 - John "Jack" Morcom

Jack Morcom (1899 - 1983)

Jack, husband to my Great Aunt Lizzie, was born on May 2, 1899 in St. Day, neat the southern tip of Cornwall, England.  His father was William James Isaac Morcom and his mother was Nannie Michell.  He went to school at St Day School and also Truno College.  He came to Canada at the age of 14 with his mother and older brother Harry.  A younger brother Bert stayed in England for a few years before joining them.  Jack's father was employed as a mining engineer in South Africa.   He came to Canada too but rather than farm, he worked searching for gold for the Central Manitoba Mines at Bissett , east of Lake Winnipeg, until he retired in 1935. Uncle Jack began farming for himself in 1927.
Although she was not certain, Aunt Dodie thought this picture was Jack's parents.

Below is the obituary for Jack's parents, found online from Roots Web.  (Gerry Perry had some old issues of the Oak River Post and typed many articles onto an online message board in 2002. These clippings have been so helpful to me in my family research.)
From the Oak River Post, Oak River, MB (now changed to The Blanshard-Harrison-Strathclair Post, Newdale, Man.)  11/9/1939  
The Oak River community was profoundly shocked last week when two highly respected residents, in the persons of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. I. MORCOM, passed away within exactly three days of each other.
At 10:30 a.m. Thursday Mrs. MORCOM expired, following a slight stroke suffered the previous Sunday. The funeral took place Saturday afternoon to the Oak River cemetery, Rev. H. J. HARLAND officiating. The pallbearers were Messrs. J. A. HYNDMAN, H. H. GLINZ, W. SINCLAIR, Robt. GRAHAM, Rupert JONES and G. H. THOMPSON.
At 10;30 a.m. Sunday Mr. MORCOM died in the arms of his son, W. H.
MORCOM. He had been in failing health for over a year, and was unable to withstand the shock of his wife's death. The funeral was held Monday afternoon, conducted by Rev. Mr. HARLAND. Interment was made in the Oak River cemetery, beside Mrs. MORCOM. The Cardale Masonic lodge, supported by Freemasons from throughout the district, conducted the last rites of the order at the graveside. The pallbearers were Messrs. J. A. HYNDMAN, S. W. SMITH, R. L. COCHRAN, S. J. MC CORMICK and M. A. HYNDMAN.
Mr. and Mrs. MORCOM (nee Nannie MICHELL) were both born in St. Day,
Cornwall, England, the former July 5, 1865, the latter Oct. 29, 1862. They were married at Pachuca, Mexico, Dec. 29, 1890, where Mr. MORCOM held a mining position and Mrs. MORCOM was living with her parents. Mrs. MORCOM and sons, W. H. and Jack, came to Oak River from England in 1914 and located on the present farm 5 miles north of town. A third son, Herbert, arrived from College in England in 1916. Mr. MORCOM came from his mining position in South Africa in 1920. Mr. and Mrs. MORCOM are survived by three sons, Councillor W. H. and Jack, Oak River, and Capt. Herbert, Montreal.
Mr. MORCOM devoted his life to mining and electrical engineering. He
spent two years in iron mining in Minnesota, followed by five years in silver mining in Mexico. In 1895 he moved to South Africa, and engaged in gold mining in the Whitwatersand and diamond mining at Kimberly until coming to Oak River. In 1937 he concluded ten years service as chief engineer with the Central Manitoba gold mines.
Mr. MORCOM possessed a strong and attractive personality. He was always interested in Freemasonry, holding membership in Craft, Mark, Royal Arch and other bodies. He was responsible for the organization of two lodges in S. Africa. He was elected and served for a number of years on the town council of Krugersdorp, S.A., a suburb of Johannesburg. He was also president of the Transvaal Cornish association. During the Boer war Mr. MORCOM served as captain quartermaster.
William (Bill)  Sinclair, his brother in law, is standing beside Jack in this studio portrait from Martel's Studio in Brandon. 

Jack married my Grandma's sister Elizabeth "Lizzie " Sinclair in December of 1930.  

They began farming the east half of 20-14-22.  Dad told me a funny story about this farm being overrun with rats.  He remembers being there one night and when they turned on the car lights, rats of every colour ran in all directions!  (It's only funny because I wasn't there!)
Thirteen years later Lizzie and Jack bought land a mile east.  Their house was located on SW 22-14-22, pictured above.  My Uncle Bob and Aunt Margaret moved to this farm in 1965 when Jack and Lizzie retired to live in Oak River.  The next quarter north of this one what was always called "The Homestead" by my family because Charles Henry, cousin to Lizzie's mother, had first taken it out in 1879.

Jack specialized in purebred Clydesdale horses and he exhibited them at all the local fairs.  At different times, he had horses chosen to compete in the Royal Winter Fair at Toronto.   Among his winnings there was a shield for the top Clydesdale gelding bred, born, raised and owned in Canada.

They took at least one trip to the "old country" in the 1950's to see friends and relatives of Jack's.  The picture on the left was taken of them in the Sinclair house in front of the fireplace in the parlour.  The other is a studio picture, likely from the 50's I am guessing.

This photo was taken on the steps of the Simms house in the 1970's.    I am the one wearing the scarf on my head (why?) and my sisters and Lizzie are behind us.  On the other side of Jack in the green shirt is Fiona, a neighbour of Lizzie and Jack's who spent a lot of time with them.
I remember Uncle Jack with his pouch of tobacco in his shirt pocket and him rolling his own cigarettes with tobacco falling out everywhere!  He was always one to tease and I remember him fondly. 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Week 18 - Lizzie Sinclair Morcom

Lizzie Sinclair Morcom (1898 - 1988)

Elizabeth was sixth born in a family of eight to James Sinclair and Elizabeth Henry in 1898.  She was educated at Bankburn School near the family farm and lived at home until her marriage to a neighbour farmer, Jack Morcom in 1930.  Her siblings include Nellie, Jean and Alexander from previous weeks on this blog, as well as my grandmother Mary.  Lizzie is always easy to spot in family photos as she was the only one who wore glasses. Luckily for me, she was a "saver" and many of her old photos, letters, and postcards continue to help me tell her family's stories with this blog.  
Lizzie with her stepbrother Jimmie Henry.
Lizzie on the right with  (I think) her sister-in-law Jessie Henry Sinclair on the left.

I am so glad that she saved the letter below that was written to Lizzie from her future father in law, to welcome her to the Morcom family after she and Jack had made a "young folks agreement".  My favourite sentence is
Of course, we are getting old & cranky you may find it hard to bear with us at times, you are looking to the front and we have to cast glances behind us, some of those glances may be with great regret, but there are others full of real happiness which makes up a great deal.

The following clip from the Oak River Post was found on Roots-Web:

12/25/1930 MORCOM - SINCLAIR
A quiet wedding was solemnized in Brandon on Tuesday, (Dec. 16) when Lizzie, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James SINCLAIR, became the bride of John MORCOM, second son of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. I. MORCOM, both of Oak River, Man.
The bride was given in marriage by her brother, W. SINCLAIR, and Miss Jessie HENRY was in attendance. W. H. MORCOM, eldest brother of the bride-groom, acted as best man. Following the ceremony, Mr. and Mrs. MORCOM left for Winnipeg, Man., where they will be the guest of the groom's cousin, Mr. P. F. ROUSE, 128 Emily St. Later they will return to Oak River, Man.

----Winnipeg Tribune.

After she was married, Lizzie was active in community life being president of the Busy Bee Red Cross group which was active during WWII. She was also a volunteer with Hospital Aid, 4-H, and the Agricultural Society. Being a director of arts and fancy work for the Oak River Fair was a long time calling. Lizzie showed her crafts at all the surrounding fairs in the summer while Jack showed his horses.  She was also an active member of the Oak River United Church. She decorated many wedding cakes, did embroidery and other fancy work and knit heavy "Mary Maxim siwash" sweaters like they are wearing in the picture below with Mrs. Percy Rouse between them.

Lizzie was known for her flowers and the greenhouse she operated for many years.  Below is a video showing their house on the farm that my mom took with her movie camera in the summer of 1960.  What a show of flowers!  She and Jack moved off the farm into  the town of Oak River in 1965 and she continued to be involved in her hobbies.  
I remember as a kid when my sisters and I played in their basement while the adults visited upstairs by playing on a swing hanging from the floor joists.  What fun to swing in any weather, even if there was a cement floor underneath!  It certainly would not pass safety regulations today and especially when you twist up the swing!  

Aunt Lizzie died at age 90 in 1988 and Uncle Jack had died five years earlier.  They are buried in the Oak River Cemetery and their memory lives on through their nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews as well as in the community that they helped in so many ways.