What Really Became Of My Great-Grandfather?

A couple, Joseph & Martha, married in England and had a daughter.  The family came to Canada and eventually settled in Ontario in 1914.  Martha and the daughter returned to England in 1919 with the story that Joseph had died.  The client, Joseph & Martha’s grand-daughter, wanted to know the story behind Joseph’s death. 

Search Results:  On-line vital statistics failed to provide a death registration prior to 1919.  City directories, however, showed that Joseph, a bricklayer by trade, didn’t die but actually continued living in the same city — last appearing in 1952.  Requesting his death certificate, it was learned he died in 1952 — 53 years after his supposed death.  His death certificate also indicated that he married a second time — but well after his first wife returned to England.   On one hand, the family was excited to know that Joseph hadn’t died in 1919 but, on the other hand, were puzzled by the false story of his demise.  At this period in history, husbands and wives often just “went their separate ways” rather than being officially divorced and then made up stories to cover up the truth.

An Orphan Girl's Fate

A 15-year old orphaned English girl left England in 1913 bound for St. John, New Brunswick.   The client, an Australian and a descendant of the girl’s grandfather, wanted to know her fate.

Search Results:  The passenger manifest indicated the girl was headed to Ontario from New Brunswick.   She was listed in city directories in Ontario for a few years.  Now a young woman, she then moved to Wyoming to work as a teacher.  At some point, she crossed paths with a recent divorcee who was last living in Colorado.   This couple had three children born in places across the US and finally settled in Oakland, California.  She died of cancer in 1940 at the age of 44.   Oddly, a son of this couple ended up living in Australia just a few hours’ drive away from where the client lives.   The client and the son have since spoken.  The client and a daughter of this couple (still living in California) have also been in e-mail communication.

An Elderly Mother's Story

A client’s mother had always been known by a particular name.  Near her death, she told her family that she had actually been born with a completely different name (she provided it), she had a couple of siblings, and that her father had died in a violent accident.  The family knew that this lady had been born somewhere in Manitoba and had married there before coming to Ontario.  The client wanted to know the real facts about her mother’s early life.

Search Results:  A person with two completely different names is indicative of an adoption.  No birth registration was found under either name suggesting the record had been sealed.  In addition, the lady was baptised after she married so she was unlikely baptised as a baby.   The time of this lady’s birth was such that she didn’t appear on census records prior to being adopted so her parents names were unknown. The birth surname was common so there were numerous candidates to choose from.  Knowing her married name, the lady’s marriage record was found but the parents listed were the foster/adoptive parents.  The newspapers was searched around the time of her supposed birth date.  Luckily, the birth of a “daughter” with the correct birth surname and same birth date was found.  It also identified the birth parents.   Knowing this, the family (including some siblings) was located on censuses prior to the lady’s birth. Some of these siblings were later found living in a foster home.   Further research showed that the father had died in a horrific train wreck in 1897 leaving the mother to care for 5 children under the age of 10!   Sadly, unable to cope, she placed the children in foster care.   The mother died in 1933.

A Missing German Musician

A German musician immigrated to England, married and had a family of 6 children.   In 1911, he travelled to Canada supposedly with “his orchestra”.  Family stories indicated that, in 1913, the fellow died in a storm on the Great Lakes.   The client, the musician’s great-grandson, was suspicious of the story and wanted to know if it was true.

Search Results:  Census records showed this fellow living in Saskatchewan in 1916 — proving he hadn’t died in 1913.  A year earlier, he had applied for a land grant but withdrew the application.   City directories show him living in Regina and working as a musician — farming, apparently, was not to his liking.  By 1940 he was found living in a small northern Saskatchewan town.   Contacting the town offices, it was found that he died there, a pauper, in 1947 — some 34 years after his supposed demise.  The local newspaper was very helpful in providing further biographical information about the fellow.  Over the years, he worked in theatre orchestras, he was a bandsman with the Canadian military in WW1, led the town band for 15 years and offered his services again in WW2 but was rejected due to his age.  Did this fellow simply abandon his family in England and come to Canada to start again?   While this is often true, we don’t think so in this case.   It is believed that this fellow came to Canada with the intention of bringing his family over later as he always referred to himself as “married” not single or divorced and he never re-married.   With the intervening war and living on a musician’s wages, he might never have had enough money to bring his family over.  Canadian records told us from where in Germany this fellow came. The client has now been able locate his birth records in Germany and visit the area.

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