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.


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.)

(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.

On to Portage La Prairie – The Dunns

Photo by Cameron Grove, used under a Creative Commons License.

My search for Illa Lloyd’s ethnicity led to Oakville, Manitoba, a small town in the Rural Municipality of Portage La Prairie. For that matter, Portage La Prairie isn’t that big, either. (Does anyone else remember commercials where Subway or Tim Hortons would say they said they sold a million of something everyday, and compare it to the population of Manitoba? Yeah.) In 1901, the population of the entire province was around two-hundred-seventy-two-thousand, and Portage La Prairie had about ten thousand residents.

What I knew from the census was that Illa, Ena, Bill, and Cassie had been born in Manitoba; and Richard was from Ontario. I decided to start out with the maternal line because it stayed within the province longer.

Using the Manitoba Vital Statistics index, I was able to find birth records for Illa and Ena that confirmed that Cassie’s maiden name was Dunn.

I also found birth and death records for another son, Clifford Hilliard Lloyd, who was born in January of 1908 and died in February. His death was likely related to his premature birth, as Richard and Cassie had only married in June 1907.

First stop was the 1906 Prairie Census. Since Fred wasn’t enumerated with Cassie’s family in 1916, I had no idea of his age. I didn’t want to overshoot and start with 1901 in case he was born after that date. I also was unable to find Cassie’s birth in the Manitoba Vital Statistics index, so I was unsure if she and the Fred Dunn born in Portage La Prairie in 1900 shared the same mother.

1906 Census - Dunn Family, Oakville

We’ve got Cassie (the only one in the province, and the right age), Fred, and Agnes. That’s good enough for me to go back to the 1901 census to see where George and Agnes’ parents were from.

George and Agnes both said they were Scotch. Agnes was born in Nova Scotia if you believe the 1901 census, or Ontario if you take 1906.

If nobody is lying, we’ve eliminated any Plains Cree connection in Cassie’s line. If any Native ancestry exists on this side, it has to be through either Agnes or George’s mother, or one of their paternal grandmothers.

(Side note: George and Agnes registered the births of most of their sons with the province, but not of Lizzie and Cassie.)

Tombstone Tuesday: Agnes Dunn

Agnes wife of George Dunn Feb. 12, 1910 Aged 44 Yrs 20 Days  DUNN - Photo by Amy Hickmott
(photo by Amy Hickmott, from Canadian Headstones)

wife of
George Dunn
Feb. 12, 1910
Aged 44 Yrs
20 Dys

Agnes Irving Dunn was my third-great grandmother. She was born in New Annan, Nova Scotia around 1866 (I haven’t yet located a birth record for her). Her family arrived in Manitoba some time between 1881 and 1884. She and George Dunn were married in January of 1885, and they had 11 children.

She is buried in Hillside Cemetery, Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.