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.

More

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.

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