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.