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.


Friday Funny: Bacon and Ham, Nourishing Food

This ad for Woods and Malfet (presumably a butcher shop) ran during January 1906 in the Portage La Prairie Weekly. How things have changed! Today we would advertise the deliciousness of bacon and gloss over the fact that it isn’t very healthy. In 1906 they trumpeted the extra calories (useful to farmers in the cold, but not so useful to most sedentary jobs today) and declared that it would keep you in shape. Of course, you had to have them properly cured as Woods and Malfet surely did, for maximum nourishment. If you needed a tub of lard, the fine folks at W & M had you covered there, too. Just ask the operator for 71.

(From Manitobia, shared under a Creative Commons License.)

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.


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.

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.)