Tuesday 29 March 2011

The Storer Story

Joseph William Storer married Eliza Meggot. This couple had 5 children: Eliza, Kate, Ruth, Edgar and Joseph William (Jr). The boys, Edgar and young Joseph, married sisters. Edgar married Leah Bowater and Joseph married Louisa Bowater. Louisa was a widow when she married Joseph. Her prior married name had been Louisa Beale.

Edgar and Leah had at least one child, son Edgar George Leslie Storer. Little Edgar was born 22 December 1906 in Brantford and at the time of his birth, Edgar Sr. was working as a shear fitter. Like many others in the family, Edgar served in the First World War. By the time of his enlistment, Edgar & Leah had moved and Edgar’s occupation was as a brass worker.

Eliza & Joseph’s second daughter, Kate, married James Liggins in about 1880. Kate had quite an eventful life, as did her four sons. Apparently James, a brass foundry worker, was quite a sickly chap and often out of work as a result. The couple had 4 sons: Harry, Archibald, Leonard and Stephen. The Liggins family were very poor as James rarely made enough to feed his family. In 1897, Kate went to an orphanage in Birmingham, England, called Middlemore Homes. Here she relinquished the care of her two older sons, Harry and Archie. Middlemore was a “clearing station” for children being sent to Canada. These children, who had largely grown up on city streets in England, were suddenly transported to a foreign country — without their parents or caregivers—and sent to work on farms in their new countries. The children were indentured to the organization that sponsored them until their 18th birthday.

Apparently Kate “was a bad sort, running around with men.”  When Kate took the older two boys to the orphanage, and was asked if she would ever want them back, she said, “No.” Archie says that he and his brother could always remember the coldness in her voice, the door closing and her footsteps walking away.

Harry is described in the Middlemore books as being of sallow complexion with dark eyes and an untidy appearance. Archie is described as having a dark complexion with dark eyes and an untidy appearance. The Middlemore records state that, “ the circumstance was that both parents were alive. The father is a brasser but is so delicate that he does not earn more and 10/ week. Mother is living with another man named “Berks” She states that she married Berks 7 years ago, although the husband is still alive. She states that she plans to leave Berks as soon as she can as he is a brute. “He is a bad un to our children by my husband. His language is particularly disgraceful.” James was in gaol three times for desertion (non payment of child support) and apparently Steven Berks had also been gaoled twice. Mother quite understood that she cannot see the boys for at least 2 years after they are in Canada. Accepted.”

The records from Archives Canada show the immigration records for both boys. Henry was aged 13 and Archie was aged 10. The two departed Liverpool on May 14 1898 aboard the SS Siberian. They arrived in Halifax on 29 May 1898. Their destination was Halifax.

Henry arrived in Halifax and tracing his movements from that point has proven quite difficult. It appears that Harry stayed in Nova Scotia during his indenture to Middlemore Homes. The 1901 census for Antigonish NS shows Henry residing as a lodger with James and Sophie Gordon. He was 16 at the time. I have not been able to find a marriage record, or a death record for Henry. Nor have I been able to find him on the 1911 census.  The possibilities of what became of Harry are infinite.

Although Archie arrived in Halifax with his brother Harry, he eventually moved to BC where he met and married Ida Martha Taylor on November 24, 1924. Archie was 37 at the time of his marriage. He committed suicide on September 6, 1931 at the age of 44. This is a tragic ending to the tragic life of a British Home Child. A child who was removed from his family, his country, his culture and sent to work in a foreign land. Sadly, no family connections were ever made. Unlike adoptions from foreign countries, the Home Children never belonged to anyone. They were often made to feel unwanted or defective. Many Home Children grew up socially isolated and full of loneliness. Very few learned a trade that would earn them an income. The sad reality for Archie was more than he could bear, even with a new wife.

Kate’s younger two boys, Leonard and Stephen were also relinquished to orphanages. By 1900 Middlemore Homes had closed it’s doors and so the younger boys were sent to Barnardos. It is unclear whether or not they were relinquished together. They were sent separately to Canada. Stephen, the youngest, arrived first in 1900 at the very tender age of 8. His brother, Leonard, followed in 1901 at the age of 9.

On September 27, 1900, Stephen boarded the SS Tunisian in Liverpool and left his family and homeland behind. He arrived in Quebec on October 6, 1900. His destination was Toronto where presumably he ended up at a Barnardo’s clearing/receiving home. From there, he was farmed out to work. The 1901 census shows Stephen living in Muskoka/Parry Sound with an elderly woman named Judith Lever. Judith appeared to have a number of home children in her custody. Stephen was the youngest. From Parry Sound, young Stephen moved to Rainy River/Thunder Bay where he appears on the 1911 census living with a young woman named Irene McKean.

On December 4, 1915, Stephen enlisted to fight in WW1 with the Canadian Overseas Expeditiary Force. Enlisting to fight was one way that the Home Children hoped to be able to return to their homeland. Stephen’s attestation papers show him living at
8 Huron Street, Brantford, with his maternal aunt, Ruth (Storer) Skett. Stephen’s military record shows that in order to be considered “fit” to enlist; he required an operation to repair a double hernia. It is believed that this hernia was the result of having to perform hard manual farm labour from such a young age.

Upon his return from Service, Stephen married his first cousin, Lily Skett (Ruth and husband George’s youngest daughter). This was much to the chagrin of old George since Stephen was a bit of a rebel and apparently drank quite a bit. Stephen and Lily had no children together, and at some point the marriage disintegrated. Both Lily and Stephen remarried. Lily moved to Michigan to be near her family, and eventually remarried there. Stephen and his second wife, Aline, lived in Windsor. Stephen died on December 17, 1950 of a stroke. He was 58 years old. Stephen is buried in the military section of Green Lawn Cemetery in Windsor.

Kate’s remaining son, Leonard, left Liverpool on 18 July 1901 aboard the SS Numidian. His port of destination was Quebec. He arrived on 29 July 1901 with “a large party of Dr Barnardo’s children, 239 to Toronto, 68 to Winnipeg, 20 to Russell Manitoba and 3 to Peterborough Ontario.”  Leonard married and settled here in Brantford.  He was married to his wife, Lily, for 51 years. Leonard and Lily had one daughter, Donna. The three of them are buried together in Mt Hope cemetery, Brantford. In Leonard’s obituary, there was no mention of any other family. His mother Kate later moved to Niagara, New York where she re-married. It is unclear whatever became of the father of these young boys.

Eliza and Edward’s youngest daughter, Ruth, married a man by the name of George Skett. This couple had 5 daughters: Georgina “Elsie”, Annie May, twins Ruth Ada and Rose Harriet and then youngest daughter Lillian (who married her cousin, Stephen Liggins). The family lived at 8 Huron Street for a number of years and George and Ruth seemed to be the couple that all of the other family members stayed with when they arrived in Canada or when they found themselves between jobs or homes. Ruth and George moved to Detroit in their later years. Ruth died in 1925 and George in 1938. Ruth’s obituary in the Brantford Expositor reads: 

The death occurred in Detroit on Wednesday, June 3, of a former well known resident in the person of Ruth Storer, beloved wife of George Skett. Deceased had been in ill health for some time, but bore her suffering with great Christian faith. Coming from England 13 years ago she and her husband resided at No 8 Huron Street, city, for 10 years before moving to Detroit. She leaves to mourn her loss besides the sorrowing husband, five daughters and two sons, Mrs R Deveany, Mrs Wilfred Short, Mrs Gilbert Short, Mrs Steven Liggins, Miss Elsie, Cyril and Bert, all of Detroit: also one sister and two brothers, Mrs Katie Forbes, Mr Joseph Storer, Mr Edgar Storer of the city. Mrs JJ Fletcher, city, is a niece. At the funeral, many beautiful floral tributes bore testimony to the high esteem in which the deceased was held. The pallbearers were the three sons-in-law of the deceased, Gilbert and Wilfred Short, Robert Deveany and J Beal, F Phelps and ? Hustis.”

Edward and Eliza’s eldest daughter, Eliza, married Edward Woodcock. This couple had 6 children:
Bertram, Nelly, Alice, George Henry, Edgar and Mabel. The family emigrated together in 1907. Also traveling with them were two men, Edwin Davies and John Fletcher. These two men were betrothed to Edward & Eliza’s eldest two daughters. Daughter Nelly married Edwin and daughter Alice married Jack Fletcher.

Son Bertram enlisted to fight in WW1 at the age of 29. Sadly, Bertram was killed in action in Calais France at the age of 31. He is buried in the Hersin Communal Cemetery in Calais but is included in the monumental inscription on his mother’s gravestone in Mt Hope cemetery in Brantford.

Daughter Alice and her husband, Jack Fletcher, had 5 children. Their eldest daughter, Edna May, died at the very young age of 5. She succumbed from shock which she was in as a result of burns that she had received. Her death registration states that she had suffered the burns 15 hours before her death and that the shock had resulted in heart failure, and ultimately her death.

An article in the Brantford Expositor on August 20, 1918 reads:
            Ethel Fletcher Died of Burns
            Was Playing near a bonfire and her clothing caught fire

            Ethel Fletcher, the five year old daughter of John Fletcher, 7 Huron Street, yesterday afternoon received burns from this morning which proved fatal. The little one passed away at the hospital about 9 o’clock this morning. Yesterday afternoon in the company of some other youngsters she was playing with a bonfire near her home when her clothes caught fire. She received most serious burns about the body, her head and hands only escaping. Dr Robinson was called and the little one was rushed to
hospital, where, despite the tenderest care and attention, her injuries proved fatal.

Edna’s obituary was in the Brantford Expositor on August 21, 1918. It reads:

FLETCHER—in Brantford on Tuesday morning, August 20, 1918, Edna May, 5-year-old daughter of Mr & Mrs John Fletcher, 7 Huron Street. The funeral will take place on Thursday August 23, 1918, from the residence of her parents to Mt Hope Cemetery. Service at the house at 2 o’clock.

Little Edna died at the Brantford General Hospital. She is buried beside her maternal grandmother, Eliza Woodcock at Mt Hope Cemetery. They share the same monument. This monument also bears a memorial for Edna’s uncle, and Eliza’s son, Bertram.

Monday 21 March 2011

Using Obituaries for Research

When you are researching for your ancestors, don’t overlook the obituary. In the obituary you not only find the date of death, but you may also find an address, siblings or parents who died prior to the ancestor, spouse or offspring who were still living at the time of your ancestor’s death, and maybe even a cause of death. Obituaries are often the key to adding the missing twigs on your family tree. As well, the obituary provides the name of the funeral home and if they are still in existence, you can contact them to see if they have a funeral card, their certificate of death, and they may be able to tell you who they dealt with in making the arrangements for the funeral.

Getting Photos Out of Magnetic Albums

Having trouble getting your old photos out of those sticky magnetic albums? Don’t despair. You can use a micro-spatula (a small science tool about the size of a large crochet hook, but with a soft rounded edge) and gently ease this under the photo to separate the photo from the sticky page. These can be expensive, so a “multi-purpose tool” can be ordered from Creative Memories for $9 and will work wonders and last years. Other scrapbooking companies and stores likely have similar items for getting those embellishments off the pages. Drop by a store or check online for a dealer nearby and start getting those precious photos OUT of those sticky albums and into archival safe ones that will keep them preserved for decades.

The History of Hop Scotch

The game hopscotch was invented in Ancient Britain during the early Roman Empire. Roman soldiers would wear their full armor while training on hopscotch courses over 100 ft long. They did this to improve their footwork, much like football players do today when they hop in and out of tires during practice drills. Eventually, children turned this drill into a game and it continues to be played on playgrounds and sidewalks today.

Saturday 19 March 2011

The Adventures of a Ten Dollar Bill: How I Tore Down My Brickwall

For a number of years, I have had two major brick walls. I call them “My Two Elusive Hughs”. They are father and son; my great grandfather and my great-uncle. The younger one left Scotland in 1920 and emigrated to “America” Little was known about him other than that he left a wife and two young children in Scotland and that he died young, in California. From the California Death Records Index, I was able to get Hugh’s death certificate. Although his cause of death sounded like alcoholism, his death certificate listed his death as “accidental.” I learned that he died from drinking
cleaning fluid and that there had been an autopsy and a coroner’s report. I wrote a letter to the Coroner in Alameda County where I knew he had lived in 1936 (he died in 1947). I attached a ten dollar bill to offset the cost of copying and mailing the information to me. A few weeks later, the money was returned along with a note saying Hugh died in San Francisco County. I wrote a letter to the coroner in San Francisco and attached the ten dollar bill to it. Another few weeks later, the money was returned with a note telling me that the archival records were now held by the San Francisco Public Library. One more letter and the same ten dollar bill was sent to the San Francisco Public Library and lo and behold, the next envelope from California held the autopsy report, the pathology report and the coroner’s jury’s verdict! The death was ruled accidental, but Hugh’s wife reported that he had been drinking all day from what he thought was a bottle of gin, It actually contained cleaning fluid. So, ten dollars, three US stamps and a bit of perseverance was all it took to break down a brick wall and learn that “the wife likely did it in the kitchen with a gin bottle!”