Monday, 7 September 2015

The Mystery Family Photo

Milne Cousin Greg and his wife Donna Marie recently sent me a copy of an old photo that his sister's daughter had passed on to them.  It is one of those photos that has a familiar feel about it - they must be ancestors!  Six children - 4 girls and 2 boys presumably with their parents.  A great mystery to unravel!

Drawn to the boy standing between the adults, I see a resemblance to the picture below of my great grandfather, Alex Mi┼éne, taken on his wedding day in late 1897.  The Milne family would have been living In North-East Scotland at this time. 

Knowing what I think I do about his siblings from family records, census and ships records, my best guess is that this family group photo was taken in the summer of 1886.   The 1881 census finds them in Elgin and by 1891 they are in Botriphnie at the Moss of Newburgh.  

Far left - Margaret Edward "Maggie" Milne (later Chisholm) age 8
Mother - Ann Robertson Milne age 33
Tall girl in the back - Ann Milne (later Pirie) age 12
In front of her -  Alex age 10 (my great grandfather)
In front of him -  John Robertson Milne age 4
Father - John Milne age 32
Baby on his knee - Helen "Nellie" Milne (later Connon) born April 1885
Far right - Mary Jane "Mamie" Milne (later Duguid) - age 6

There are a couple of possible problems with these assumptions:

  1. Maggie is two years younger than Alex but appears taller in this photo.  Girls do grow faster than boys and she may have been standing on a hill?
  2. John Milne seems rather aged for 32 years old.  The beard and receding hairline make this man seem older than 32, at least by today's standards.
As Donna Marie said, the mystery may be solved by someone who sees this post having the same photo and knowing who is in it.  Please contact me with any ideas or theories!  

Family of William Simms and Agnes McAllister

In August of 2015, I made a  trip to the Ottawa area to visit my sister Janice and continue to gather information for the blog and the family tree. Both my grandfathers came west to Manitoba from the same small area of Ontario and this gave me the chance to visit the towns I've been writing about and appreciate just how close together these men, Alex Simms and Frank Kinnaird, lived at the turn of the century.  

We decided to retrace our steps from 23 years ago to the South Gower Cemetery.  Jan and I took a lot of steps before we found the stone of our Simms great grandparents this time, after walking right to it in 1992!
We were also warmly welcomed into the home of our second cousin David and his wife Carol.  Another second cousin Carol was there as well to share what she knew about the family.  We were fortunate to see the farm and home of William and Agnes Simms nearby. 

 I have now completed a blog post for all of my Grandpa Simms' siblings.  Links to their posts are below but more information and pictures on these ancestors are always welcome!
Family of William Simms and Agnes McAllister:
  • 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 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.

Cecil Earnest Simms (1902 - 1975)

The youngest member of the Simms family and brother to my grandfather Alexander was born on September 9th in 1902.  My grandfather was 20 years older than Cecil and he left for the west the year after Cecil was born.
The form below was downloaded from Family Search and seems to be a declaration made in 1930 by Agnes rather than a birth certificate.  It seems to have been filled in and signed by Robert Bryan, Justice of the Peace. Her first name is written with two s's and I have never seen it spelled that way.  I believe her maiden name is McAllister not McCallister as it's written here.
Regardless, Cecil Earnest Simms was the youngest son of William and Agnes.  His father died when he was 16 years old and although he had two older brothers, both were gone to find their own fortune and the home farm near Mountain would have been his responsibility.

It seems he was not successful at farming and the property and home was taken over by others.  A grandson of his sister Mary Simms Bryan is the present owner and took me to see the property and home.  Although it now has white siding and has had additions, the original red brick home is still standing where Cecil and his siblings were born and raised.  

Cecil remained a bachelor and died in 1975.  He is buried at South Gower Cemetery with his parents and sister Eleda.

Cecil Simms obit

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Mon, May 26, 1975 – Page 30

Eleda May Simms (1895 - 1973)

Eleda May Simms was the second youngest of eight children born to Irish immigrants William Simms and Agnes McAllister on January 25, 1895.   Her birth certificate online at Family Search indicates her given name was Lydia May but she known as Eleda.

I have not found evidence of her being trained as a nurse but I do know she was the family caretaker of her mother Agnes and others.
The only photo I have of her is on the far right in the above photo.  She seems to be in mid bite of a picnic sandwich.  Her nieces Doris and Gwen were visiting Ontario for the first and only time.  At this time, family records indicate she lived at Carp, Ontario which is west of Ottawa and home of the "Diefenbunker".  

The letter below was written by Eleda in 1941 to Mary upon the death of Mary's husband Alexander, Eleda's older brother.

Kemptville, Ont
Dec 15/41
Dear Mary & all
Received your telegram on Wednesday of Alex's death and was very sorry indeed.  We were waiting for better news but when one is called they must go.  You have our deepest sympathy and trust in God that you may be spared for many years to carry on and look after the family.  What was his trouble had be been sick very long  He will be where there is no suffering or pain.  We were shocked to hear of it so suddenly as Mother is not very strong.  She would have liked very much to have gone out and see you all but Mother was not strong enough to travel so far.  We have not even been to Montreal.  I wrote to them all and told them about Alex's death.
There is a great deal of sickness down here both young and old being called away very suddenly.  Was Doris teaching school.  I thought she told me Robert was called for 4 months training.  You will need him on the farm, he will be a great help.   Well please try and write and let us know all about him and take good care of yourself and God will look after you all.
Mother and Eleda
Eleda came to Manitoba to help with the house when my grandmother, Mary Sinclair Simms, was ill.  Aunt Dodie's diary from May 14, 1959 says:
Got telegram from Aunt Eleda and met her at the 12:15 train in Rivers.
Seven months later the December 17, 1959 entry:
Don and I took Aunt Eleda to meet train at Brandon.  Left at 8:28 am. 
Eleda died in 1973 at age 78. She is buried with her parents and younger brother Cecil in the South Gower Cemetery.

Ethel Martha Simms Scott (1893 - 1934)

Ethel was the sixth child and fourth daughter born to William Simms and Agnes McAllister.  She came into the world on July 15, 1893.

On June 30, 1915 Ethel married James Edgar Scott (1893-1942).  He was a 21 years old farmer and she was 22.  The marriage was performed at Saint Andrew Manse in Mountain by H.W. Clitte.  The above record was found in a book of transcribed records in Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa.

The congregation of St. Andrew's Presbyterian South Mountain was dissolved in 1997.

The 1921 Canadian census showed Ethel with her husband James and one year old son Donnie as farmers in Mountain Township who own their own six room wood house.  Presbyterian is their declared religion.  Her brother-in-law Erroll Murdock is the enumerator on this document.

Ethel Scott died in 1934 and James in 1942.  Any further information or pictures about Ethel and her family would be most welcome!