Matrilineal Monday – Nancy Terry

Some time between 1878 and 1881, John Irving and his wife, Nancy Terry, left Nova Scotia and took up farming in Manitoba. They had three small children in tow, and Nancy would have eight more in the next sixteen years. Then when Nancy was fifty, she gave birth to their last child. Her name was Edith Gertrude, for the daughter who died in 1901 when she was fourteen.

In some ways, Nancy had it a bit easier than Agnes. She and John had a two storey house, with eight rooms. They lived closer to town. (The Dunns lived in Oakville, about 25 kilometers outside of Portage La Prairie. Kemnay, where the Irvings lived, is only ten kilometers west of Brandon.)

John died in 1909 in Victoria, BC and Nancy and the younger children returned to the Irving farm in Kemnay. (The farm was likely run by George after John left in 1908.)

Nancy’s children were:

George William – (b. 1874 – d. 1966)
Catherine (Cassie/Casey) Jane – (b. 1876 – d. 1962)
Jennie Ann – (b. 1878 – d. ????)
John Robert – (b. 1882 – d. 1962)
Martha Angelina – (b. 1885 – d. 1966)
Edith Gertrude – (b. 1886 – d. 1901)
Mary Agnes – (b. 1888 – d. ????)
Elizabeth Maude – (b. 1890 – d. ????)
Mabel May – (b. 1893 – d. 1984)
James Albert – (b. 1894 – d. 1955)
Frank Sterling – (b. 1897 – d. 1918)
Edith Gertrude – (b. 1904 – d. ????)
(In the 1911 census, there is a phantom son. He is indexed as Earnest on Automated Genealogy, and in the original the name is pretty much a scrawl with the dates too blotchy to read. He does not appear in any other census, or in the Manitoba Vital Statistics Index. Little Edith is not enumerated. There are other mistakes, so it seems likely that the enumerator hastily scribbled something down and later added “son” instead of “daughter.”)

Matrilineal Monday: Agnes Irving

In keeping with my Ten Things for the Tenth Month theme, every Monday in October I am going to feature a woman in my family tree who had ten or more babies. I have a lot of respect for these women, and the difficulties they must have had carrying and raising so many children.

My third-great grandmother, Agnes Irving married George Dunn in 1885, and bore eleven children in 14 years. In 1891 they were living in a three room wooden house with three children as well as George’s brother James and someone I am almost certain is Agnes’s uncle Adam. How cold it must have been in the winter, with the Arctic wind blowing down across the prairie and getting in through cracks they could never find.

Agnes’s children were:

John Henry (b. 1885 – d. 1885)
Elizabeth (Lizzie) (b. 1888 – d. ????)
Cassie – my great grandmother (b. 1889 – d. 1947)
William (b. 1890 – d. ????)
Frank (b. 1893 – d. ????)
Ross (b. 1897 – d. 1985)
Frederick (b. 1900 – d. ????)
Emmanuel (b. 1902 – d. 1988
Albert (b. 1904 – d. 1911)
Lawrence – (b. 1906 – d. 1990)
Wesley (b. 1909 – d. ????)

The Two Edith Gertrude Irvings

When infant mortality was higher, it was quite common for families to reuse the name of a deceased child. If Little Mary lived only a month, why not name the next one that if she had a chance to carry it for a full life? Less usual was the use of the name of a sibling who had died late in childhood.

In 1901, John Irving and Nancy Terry had eleven children, with George born in 1874 as the oldest and Frank born in 1897 being the littlest. Their house was a lively one, with young people and their friends always about. Reading through the personal notes in the Brandon Daily Sun, the Irving children always had their hand in hosting dances or setting up a rink in winter for their friends to go skating. But in July of that year, the unthinkable happened. Their fourteen year old daughter, Edith Gertrude, died.

Edith Gertrude Irving - Funeral Notice Brandon Daily Sun 31 July 1901

The funeral of Edith Gertrude Irving, daughter of John Irving of Kemnay took place yesterday afternoon, from the family residence. The funeral was largely attended by the many sympathetic friends of the family. The service was appropriately conducted by Rev. Mr. Fee. Interment took place at the Brandon Cemetery, the funeral being conducted by Messrs. Campbell & Campbell.

Two years later, it must have come as a great surprise to Nancy to find herself pregnant again at nearly fifty. A little girl was born, and named for the sister she would never meet: Edith Gertrude. Strangely, they may share the same birthday. In the 1901 census, elder Edith’s birthday is listed as February 13, 1886. When younger Edith registered her birth in 1956, she stated her birthday was February 13, 1904.

The Sisters of Agnes Irving

The earliest census in which my third-great grandmother Agnes Irving appears is the 1871 Canada Census. She is living with her family in New Annan, Nova Scotia:

We have Robert, the head; Janet, his wife; and six children, John, Marey I., Marget A., Adhan (Adam), Agness (Agnes), and Jessey L. (Jessie Elizabeth).

In 1881, they are still in New Annan. Robert and Janet have two more children, Robert and Jane. Jessie is enumerated as Elizabeth. John had married Nancy Terry, and they were already in Manitoba with three children. Mary and Margaret either died or were married in the meantime, or were living with the Irvings but weren’t the children of Robert and Janet. I love Nova Scotia Genealogy (the province’s digitized historical vital statistics site) for a lot of reasons, but it turned up nothing on a Mary or Margaret Irving (or any female Irvings in Colchester County) between 1871 and 1881. At least I know where they lived so I can try for some microfiche or paper records! Another thing to put on my to-do list is to contact the archives of Manitoba to see if Robert Irving left a will, and hopefully he mentions Mary and Margaret.

In 1891, the Irvings are in Manitoba. Janet and Robert have Adam, Jane (enumerated as Margaret, which is presumably her middle name as she goes by Jane or Jennie later in life), and Robert living with them. Agnes had already been married to George Dunn for six years. This is where I lost Jessie.

The Irvings went to Manitoba some time between 1882 and 1884, because Agnes married George Dunn in Portage La Prairie on January 7, 1885. Jessie would only have been around twelve or thirteen, so unless she died or stayed with relatives in Nova Scotia, she was in Manitoba too.

The Manitoba Vital Statistics index lists a promising looking marriage in 1888, between Wm. B. Fawcett and Elizabeth Irving in Portage La Prairie. I can’t find a William Fawcett in the 1891 census or any William and Elizabeth Fawcett pairs who are the right age to be Jessie Elizabeth, but there is an Ansel B. Fawcett who is widowed. There is a marriage in the Manitoba Vital Statistics index for an Anele Bennett Fawcett to an Elizabeth Leary in 1892. Anele is almost certainly a mis-transcription. Could Wm. be a mis-transcription of a hastily scrawled Ansel? Did Jessie die some time between 1888 and 1891? I’m putting that certificate on my list of things to get eventually.

Military Monday: Farm Exemptions

A few weeks ago, I got the bug to look up all of the Canadian men in my family tree who would have been of an age to have fought in World War One. Library and Archives Canada has an excellent and easy to search database of service files of people enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. I idly wondered why some families had only one son who went overseas, because I had learned about conscription back in school. That thought kind of sat on the back burner for a while, until I ran a search through the archived newspapers available on Manitobia. I had been looking for news on the Irving family in Brandon (obituaries in particular) when I saw this:

(Article from the Brandon Daily Sun, November 21, 1917. Click on the headline to read the article, or read the transcription below the “more” cut at the end of this post.)

The Irvings were one of the families I had been wondering about. John Irving (Agnes Irving Dunn’s brother) had four sons. Both George and John Robert would have been too old in 1917 to be conscripted. Frank enlisted back in October of 1916. Why hadn’t James? In addition to running a farm, he likely had to support his mother, who was already in her late 60s. He must have wondered who would help his mother care for the land when his name came up in the draft. Then the tribunal offered a chance for exemption, and he took it.

Men were exempted from military service for a variety of reasons: health, farm or business obligations, or religious beliefs. (This is a good timeline with focus on Mennonites of conscientious objection in Canada.) However, by 1918 the military had nowhere near the number of soldiers it had hoped because up to 90 percent of the conscripts they called up found an exemption. The act was amended to allow no exemptions.

I’m not sure how common it was to publish the names of claimants in the paper, but it may be worth a look at their local papers between August 1917 and spring 1918 to see if you can find that Canadian relative who didn’t go to war.


Wednesday Women’s Work – Hazel Webb Dunn, Hairdresser

Hazel Lenora Mae Webb Dunn was the wife of my great great grandmother Cassie Dunn’s little brother, Emmanuel (also called Manuel). She was born in 1909 and grew up in High Bluff, Manitoba. In her late teens, she went to Winnipeg to become a hairdresser.

The 1920s must have been an exciting time to be getting into hairdressing, because of the bob. When bobbed hair first became popular, there was nowhere for women to get their hair cut. The salons at the time provided services like marcel waves and styling, but since women generally didn’t cut their hair there was no call for someone to do it. Then the bob hit the scene and women showed up in droves to barber shops. At first the men didn’t know what to make of it. Some were uncomfortable sharing a masculine domain with girls. As these things usually go, money won out and a lot of barbers were happy to cut hair for women. Then the salons realized they’d like to make a buck, and trained women to cut hair, too.

There was new technology, too. Hairstylists were competing to create a method of permanently curling hair.

Eugene Suter curling a woman's hair

(Photo of Eugene Suter, using a heated curler machine designed by Isidoro Calvete. Courtesy of Isidoro’s son, Louis, from the wikipedia article on perms.)

This is an early 1920s permanent wave machine, designed by Isidoro Calvete. I can’t imagine the patience it would have taken to be the hairstylist winding the hair on the curlers while making sure that each cord stayed untangled, or to be the woman sitting there with all of this equipment on her head, worrying about urban legends that a friend of a cousin got electrocuted by one.

In 1929, Hazel moved to Manitou, where she opened her own business. I wonder if it was a hair salon and if it was, how many permanent wave machines she had to set up.

Hazel passed away on July 24, 2005. Her obituary can be read here, on the Passages Manitoba site.

Miserable Specimen of Degenerated Humanity

This piece from the “Town Topics” column of the June 1, 1898 issue of The Portage La Prairie Weekly Review is pretty shocking to my modern eyes. It isn’t just because of the amount of editorial bias (so tabloidy!) but also its placement, wedged in between a blurb about Dan Godfrey’s band playing in Brandon (a rare musical treat!) and the growth of settlement north of the railroad line.

A wifebeater from McGregor, named Jukes, was brought down to the jail here on Tuesday morning to be put in 30 days. This miserable specimen of degenerated humanity is getting off very lightly, thanks to the magistrate at McGregor. About a year and thirty lashes might have some impression on him.

In 1898 it was still considered acceptable for a man to chastise or discipline his wife, but to beat her was beyond the pale because it conflicted with Victorian sentimentalities about marriage and proper behaviour for a gentleman. Only someone vulgar would beat a woman, and likely the writer of this piece felt themselves to be much higher class than the jailed Jukes. There was also the recent legal precedent that wives deserved the same protection that the law would give anyone outside the family who was attacked.

I can hope that everything worked out for the best with Mrs. Jukes, but for most women it didn’t. Often men who were taken to court for wife beating blamed their wife for getting the law involved, and would beat her again. If he were the sole earner in the family, she would go without while he was incarcerated. In that regard, things aren’t that different today.

Tekla Tekla Tekla

This is a bit of a departure from the lines that I have been writing about (The Dunn/Lloyd connection and the Hassans), but I’m just so excited about an avalanche of information that just fell into place after a lot of awkward peering in corners.

When I was in kindergarten, one of our assignments was to ask our parents to help us fill in a family tree up to great grandparents and we would all talk about our families for show and tell. I remember feeling proud that half of my great-grands came from Eastern Europe and were prairie pioneers in the 1900s (I had a huge thing for Little House on the Prairie, and I imagined it was like that but more Canadian and with perogies). When I became interested in my ancestors again, I went looking for that tree. I didn’t find it because if it is still around, it’s in a box in my Mum’s attic and I’m too afraid of falling through the ceiling to go up there. However, I found something better: The notes my Dad made when I asked him to help.

They’re a bit grim and while I am grateful now that I have this information, I haven’t a clue why he would tell a five year old about assorted uncles who had liver problems or Schizophrenia[1]. What I was hoping to find was the maiden name of his maternal grandmother, but I had no luck. He had just written “Patrinella” with her birth and death dates. Dad passed away in 2004, so I couldn’t just call him up and say, “So, your grandma Patrinella? Was she some sort of Ukrainian rockstar, or did she have a last name before she married Phillip Podwysocki?”

What I did have on my side was that Podwysocki is not exactly a common name in North America. I already knew that Phillip and Petronella[2] lived in Manitoba and would have been married before 1920. Easy. Use the 1916 census to figure out when Phillip came to Canada and to confirm my gut feeling that there weren’t a ton of Podwysockis around to muddle a search for a marriage registration. There was only one Podwysocki marriage in the Manitoba Vital Statistics Index, and it was in 1917 of Phillipe Podwysocki to a Petronella Kreszczuk[3] in Brokenhead.

From there, I found the Kryszczuks on the 1916 census, and they were living with Petronella’s maternal grandparents, Martin and Tekla Niznik. After that, it was easy to get the record from the ship that brought them to Canada.

The Kryszczuk family departed from Antwerp, Belgium on the Montezuma, and disembarked in Quebec before making their home in Beausejour, Manitoba.

If you click on the picture, you’ll be taken to the full page from the Montezuma’s manifest. At the very bottom is Marcan Niziuk (Martin Niznik). Tekla is not on the next page. There was nobody else on the ship destined for Beausejour.

The 1916 census had said that the Kryszczuks arrived in Canada in 1912, so I hadn’t looked at the 1911 census. Here they were, disembarking in Quebec on the 16th of November, 1910. Maybe Tekla had come a little later. It wasn’t uncommon for husbands to immigrate first, but why would Martin go ahead with their daughter’s whole family and leave his wife behind? They were all living together, so surely the farm could support one more person? Were there loose ends Tekla needed to attend to before leaving home?

Tekla was not living with them when the census was taken in 1911. I started to wonder if she was Domicela’s mother after all, or if Martin had married someone in Beausejour. There was only one Niznik marriage for their area in the index before 1916, and Niznik was the bride’s name.

I had tried looking for Tekla in the past, using Ancestry’s Canadian Passenger Lists database. This turned out to be all but impossible because my toddler likes to babble “Tick tick tick ticka!” and after looking at page upon page of “Tekla” I could hear that baby voice at the back of my mind and it all became nonsense that I couldn’t concentrate on. Anyway, the kid was sleeping so I pulled up the immigration records the other day and proceeded to comb through every Tekla who came to Canada between 1909 and 1916. Then a promising name popped out at me: Tekla Reznik.

I’m no stranger to transcription errors, so I’m willing to click on anything in an index that remotely shares the smallest bit in common with my original search.

Tell me, does this look like “Reznik” to you?

Tekla finally makes it to Beausejour!

Well, maybe a little because of the loop from a letter in the line above it comes down and touches the N. Look at it slowly, though. It’s pretty clearly “Niznik.” The Rozalia Niznik she is travelling with is the Niznik marriage I mentioned earlier. And speaking of Niznik marriages, it was lucky I thought about searching for the possibility of Martin marrying in Canada, because even though he didn’t, Domicela (Petronella’s mother) did get remarried after Bill Kryszczuk died. Her indexed marriage registration states her name as Domicela Kryszczuk Niznik, and she married John Baran in 1928. Finally I have a date range for Bill’s death, and I can find out when Domicela passed away, too. As a bonus, Domicela’s marriage certificate may have Tekla’s maiden name on it or her birth mother’s name if Tekla is her stepmother. Now I can start collecting documents and getting my ducks in a row for that line!

[1] Thinking on it, I probably do know why. Dad was a bit awkward around kids, and you almost needed a dictionary to speak with him. He enjoyed horror films and sci-fi with a creepy bent. Dad was the sort of guy who would answer the door on Halloween, looking perfectly normal. Then when he gave the kids candy, a spooky smile complete with vampire fangs would spread across his face, and he’d drool a little fake blood from the corner of his mouth.
[2] Dad probably wrote down “Patrinella” because later in life she called herself Patricia or Pat.
[3] It gets spelled several different ways over the course of the paper trail including Kreszczuk on Petronella and Phillip’s marriage registration, Krischuk and Cherchuck by census enumerators, and Krzyszczuk on the ship’s manifest when they immigrated, but the spelling used most often is Kryszczuk so that is the one I use. If there is someone out there who is part of this line and uses something different, please let me know!

Friday Funny: As Lively A Man As You Would Expect

This item from the “Around Town” column in the January 16, 1906 issue of the Portage La Prairie Weekly tickled me. The breezy editorial tone is kind of hilarious, and the society page reporting always struck me as a bit quaint. Someone is visiting someone popular around town! There might be parties! Something is happening! Nowadays we’d be more likely to see a fluff piece about a guy suing the paper for mistakenly printing an obituary.

Walter Vansickle - He read his own obituary- PLAP Weekly 16 Jan 1906

Mr. Walter Vansickle of Swan River is visiting his sister Mrs. J.J. Darling in town. Walt was the man who was reported to have died by a Dauphin paper and copied into the Times, which must have made very interesting reading for him. He is about as lively a man as you would expect to see after his obituary notice has been writtin. -Treherne Times.

The last line is what really shines here. Is the writer saying that Walt is a carpe diem kind of guy, or that he is so boring he may as well be dead?

(Article found on Manitobia, which is a great resource for Manitoba history.)

(Mini) Mystery Monday: After Agnes

When Agnes Dunn died in 1910, her husband George was left with six of his sons at home, including one who would have still been in diapers. How did he handle this?

In 1911, George was still living on the farm with Ross (13) and Fred (11). Little Albert had died earlier in the year, before his seventh birthday.

The older boys had already moved out. George was listed as a labourer on Richard and Cassie Lloyd’s farm, and Frank was working for the Drain family as a domestic.

Lizzie married Albert Page in 1908 and had two little girls, Ruby and Winnifred, when they took in two of the littlest Dunns, Manuel (nine) and Wesley (two).

But where did Lawrence go? I feel like I must be missing something, even though I pored over the census for Portage La Prairie and looked to see if he went with one of Agnes’ relatives in Brandon. I even ran a search of the 1911 census on Automated Genealogy to see if maybe he got sent to George’s family in Ontario. No dice. Perhaps in all of the confusion, someone forgot to tell the enumerator about him. He went with Cassie to Saskatchewan in 1914, so he could have been living with the Lloyds. Or since Lizzie took the other little boys, it would make sense for her to have Lawrence as well especially because agewise he was in between Manuel and Wesley. I don’t think George would have kept a four-year old on the farm and sent away a nine-year old.

By 1916, Manuel and Wesley were no longer living with the Pages, but George was. Manuel boarded with the Staples family, and worked as a farm labourer. I am having a heck of a time finding Wesley. I couldn’t find him near Portage La Prairie in the census, and as far as I can tell (census, Ena Ralph’s account for “Pioneer Ways to Modern Days”) he didn’t go west with the Lloyds. That leaves death, even though there is no listing for him in the Manitoba Vital Statistics index; adoption; or being missed by the enumerator.

Maybe something will pop out at me on another look-through, or all will be revealed in 2013 when I can finally get my hands on the 1921 census.

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