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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why I Love Weird Names, or, There Hasn't Been An Amaryllis In The Family For A While

When my husband and I were expecting our first child, my father-in-law told us a story about one of the Rutherford relatives of yore who, when they were in the same position, had been told by a helpful relative that "there hasn't been an Amaryllis in the family for a while", to which they supposedly snapped, "No, and it's a good thing too!".  There certainly isn't an Amaryllis in our generation, but it is true that naming children after beloved relatives is a time-honoured tradition, and one which I personally find very helpful when I'm trying to figure out who is a relative or who someone's parents were.  Sometimes the records that are available to me don't say, but weird names can be an excellent clue to further research.

Take, for example, William Joseph Davis (c. 1782-c.1863) and his wife Mary (c. 1780-c.1872).  They are the parents of Adoniram Davis (another good name!), who, along with his wife Louisa, were the parents of Minnie (Davis) Scott, the wife of   John Galloway Scott.  They were farmers who spent their adult years and raised their family in Malahide Township, Elgin County, Ontario.  As you will notice from their estimated birth dates, I don't have birth or death records for either William or Mary.  I also don't have their marriage record.  Therefore, I have no primary documentation about who their parents were or even what Mary's birth name was. This is what genealogists call a "brick wall";  in other words, we may not be able to extend the line back any further unless secondary records can give us some persuasive evidence either in establishing this information or in showing us where to look.  The records I do have include the 1842 Malahide Township census, the 1851 and 1861 federal censuses, an 1891 census for one of their adult children, a death record for the same child,  a marriage record for another child and a  brief mention in a book of local history (Discovering Your Roots in Elgin, James L. McCallum, 1999).  Watch how names can help build a case for establishing relationships.

The 1842 census for Malahide Township is pretty limited.  It only records the name of the head of  the household, in this case William Davis.  It tells us that he is a farmer and has been in Canada for 31 years (this is good to know), and also that he is originally from the United States.  There are eight people living in this household, but we don't know anything more (names, ages, relationships etc.).

The 1851 federal census is a lot more helpful in filling out the rest of the family.  It tells us that William Davis is a farmer from the state of New York, and that he is 68 years old.  He is a Baptist, as is his whole family.  He is living with Mary Davis, his wife, who was born in Nova Scotia and is 51 years old.  Next there is a list of children:  Joel Davis, a preacher, age 23, Adoniram, (our ancestor) age 21, Ursula, age 18, Euseba, age 15, John, age 15, Edwin, age 8, and Louisa, age 21.  All of them are listed as being born in Canada.  (Nova Scotia was not part of Canada at this time).  There is no place on the census to record relationships, but 21 year old Louisa Davis is probably the Louisa who married Adoniram, so she would be William's daughter-in-law, not his daughter. This means that Adoniram and Louisa were married before 1851. Now we know the approximate ages and birth places of William and Mary, but we still don't know Mary's maiden name.  We do, however, know the names and approximate ages of six of their children.

In the 1861 federal census, William again confirms that he is a Farmer from the United States. His age is illegible.  Polly Davis (Polly was a common nickname for Mary at that time) is now 61 and is still listing Nova Scotia as her birthplace.  The only one still living in their household is Edwin Davis, now age 18, still single,  and employed as a labourer.

William and Mary disappear off the census records at this point.  However, in the 1891 federal census, there is a David F. Davis in Malahide, East Elgin who is 67 years old, which would have made him 27 years old at the time of the 1851 census.  He states that his father was born in the United States and his mother was born in Nova Scotia, while he himself was born in Ontario.  This suggests very strongly that he is another son of  William and Mary Davis, who by 1851 was no longer living with his birth family.  In 1891 he is living with his wife, Mary E. Davis, who is 69 years old;  interestingly, she was born in Ontario, but both of her parents were born in the United States.  They are also living with a child, Agnes Davis, who is 16 years old and single.  I'm not sure she is their child--Mary would have been 53 when Agnes was born, which is quite old;  also, David F. and Mary are both Baptists, but Agnes is listed as a Methodist.  She is part of the family, however, and not a servant.

Tombstone for Adoniram and Louisa Davis,
Orwell Cemetery, Yarmouth Township, Elgin, Ontario.
From the Elgin County Genealogical Society Website. 

Finally, I have a death record for a David Flint Davis of Malahide, who died on March 3, 1912, at age 89.  This puts his birth at about 1823, which is within a year of  the birth date that  David F. Davis gave on the 1891 census, and it records his parent's names as William Davis and Mary Sibley.  These two Davids seem to be the same person.   So now we have a potential birth name for Mary Davis, and also we have the name Flint given to someone who is perhaps the eldest son.  Flint is not a Christian name, nor is it the name of any famous figure from that time.  Where did it come from?  I'm guessing it's a family name.  It's also not that common, which in this case is a good thing.

Finally, what about Discovering Your Roots in Elgin?  It tells us that the brothers William, Andrus, Daniel, Simeon and Joseph Davis were the first settlers to reach Malahide Township,and they settled there in 1810,  when William would have been about 28 years old.  This is roughly consistent with the information William gave in the 1842 census, when he stated that he had been in Canada for 31 years, which would put his arrival in Canada in 1811.  No families are mentioned;  we don't know if any of the brothers brought wives or children along.  It sounds like they were all bachelors.  Interestingly, they settled in just before the War of 1812.

It turns out that there were tons of Sibleys in Nova Scotia around the time of Mary's birth--the Sibleys are an old American family that have spread out a lot, and some of them wandered into Nova Scotia in the 1700s.  There have been a few intermarriages of the Sibley and Flint families over the years, and maybe one of them will lead to Mary's family  There is a very long book called The Sibley Family in America that I found on OpenLibrary, and I'm hoping that will help me track them down more precisely.

But what about Amaryllis?  Well, she helped me solve another problem.  Remember how William and Mary's son Adoniram Davis married a woman named Louisa?  I do have a marriage record for them, but it's more like an index--it just gives their names, where they live, and the names of the witnesses.  The date is impossible to read, but it's an 1850 register. Again, we can't identify Louisa's parents.

"Adoniram Davis.  Malahide.  Louisa Norton.  Yarmouth.  Witnesses:  William Davis, Joel Davis." 

However, on the 1861 census, Adoniram and Louisa have some children.  The census shows that Amarillas (sic), Ursula, and William Davis, ages 8, 6, and 1, are part of the household now.  It also tells us that Louisa was born in the United States.   Just for fun, I decided to search some early American census records to see if I could locate any Louisa Nortons of the right age in the right place (in the 1901 census, she gives her birthdate as July 23, 1826, and she also specifies that her birthplace was New York).  And I did!

The 1850 U.S. federal census shows a William and Amarillus (sic) Norton, farmers,  of Granville, Washington, New York, with a 24-year-old daughter Louisa (along with many other children).  William and the children are all born in New York, while Amarillus was born in Connecticut.  Louisa obviously named her first daughter after her own mother, and because the name is so rare, it allowed me to feel confident linking the two families.  And although we haven't had an Amaryllis in the family for a while, my husband's grandmother went by her middle name of Norton throughout her life--and so that's where her name came from.

All I know is, if my kids ever have children, I'll be able to point out that we haven't had an Adoniram in the family for a while.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Oliphant Family History in "Here and There in Eramosa"

Again, a local history book found online proves a great source for information about past family members.  The book in question is Here and There in Eramosa:  an Historical Sketch of the Early Years, and of the People and Events Contributing to the Growth and Development of the Township.  The author, Frank Day, self-published this book in 1953.  The Oliphant family is included in the section on Everton.   

David Oliphant was born in St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1772. He came to this country in 1822 to seek relief from asthma.  He brought his eldest son, Alexander, with him and settled in Dundas until the rest of his family joined him, then they moved to Eramosa, taking up Lot 12, Concession 7, the 200 acres between the village of Everton and the Guelph Road.  Both the church and the cemetery are on this lot.  There were four children:  Alexander, Mary, William and David. [note: Mary is the child our line descends through.]  Alexander died young in 1834.  David Sr. died in 1841 and his widow Sophia Watt, deeded the property to her children.  David, the younger, sold his share and went to Bethany College, Virginia, becoming a preacher, writer and editor.  Mary married William Elliot and moved to Dundas and later to Toronto.  William remained in Everton, marrying Ann Stewart.  William was cut off in 1856 at the age of 42 in the middle of a promising career.  As mentioned elsewhere, he had resigned as Township Clerk in January, 1856, after holding that office since the inauguration of township councils in 1850.  The old Oliphant house, still standing in Everton (1950), must have been built in the 1830s and housed the original David and Sophia Oliphant and their son William and his family.  Now the Everton Post Office, occupied by Col. W.M. Head;  it is full of historic associations, particularly in association with the large part the Oliphants played in the formation and furtherance of the Disciples of Christ and in connection with the Mackenzie rebellion.   From "Early Life in Upper Canada" by Edwin C. Guillet, we learn that is the house where Samuel Lount and Edward Kennedy were given shelter by an Oliphant sympathizer.  After William's death, his widow's brother, Peter Stewart, came to live with her and some farm trading was done between the Oliphants and the Stewarts so that both farms were operated from the old Oliphant home for some years until the brother and sister moved to Guelph in the 1880s.  The Everton farm was then rented and later sold to Adam Weatherston.  The Oliphant farm on the next line was inherited after the death of William's widow by her son, David, and was sold by him some years later.  The only two surviving members of the family bearing the Oliphant name are Miss Mary Oliphant of Detroit, daughter of David Oliphant, preacher;  and Miss Florence Oliphant of Meaford, granddaughter of William Oliphant.

A manuscript in the Oliphant family history file at the Wellington County Museum and Archives shows that the source for this information is Edith Kilgour Bain, granddaughter of David and Sophia Oliphant.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Family Pictures

My mother-in-law very kindly let us borrow some family photos to copy.  Two of these women she could identify;  the third is a mystery.  The elegant woman in lace directly to the left is Mary (Minnie) Scott.  She is the daughter of William Elliot and Mary Oliphant, the wife of John Galloway Scott, and the mother of Arthur Scott.  She is one of my husband's great-great grandmothers.  I believe the lace cap indicates that she is a widow at the time this picture was taken, so that would date it to between 1928, when John Galloway Scott died, and 1937, when she died herself.  If this is correct she would have been in her 80s when this photograph was taken.  She was born in 1846. 

The picture below this is unidentified, although my mother-in-law thinks it is a woman in the Rutherford family (apparently she has the "Rutherford nose").  If anyone can identify her, please let me know.

       The third picture, very faded, is of Minnie Scott.  Born Minnie Davis, she is the daughter of          Adoniram and Louisa (Norton) Davis, the wife of Arthur Scott, and the mother of Edythe Rutherford, (nicknamed "Nort").  She is my mother-in-law's grandmother.  I think she looks very sweet and kind.   She was born in 1871 and I am currently unaware of her death date.  This photo looks like it might have been taken in middle age.  I'm going to see if I can get it restored--I'll repost it when I do. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Family Field Trip to the Necropolis Cemetery

Last weekend, on a beautiful autumn day, Doug, Ewan and I took a walk in Toronto's Necropolis Cemetery.  Our mission:  to photograph the Scott family gravestones that we had found on a previous trip, and to find the Elliot family gravestones which the Toronto cemetery database assures us are there.  Katrina declined to join us;  for some unfathomable reason, she thought it would be "boring"!

The Necropolis is a lovely historic cemetery which was opened in 1850 to replace the Potter's Field cemetery, and is located (conveniently for us) right behind Riverdale Farm.  It has a High Victorian Gothic chapel and many historic gravestones, including that of William Lyon MacKenzie, first mayor of Toronto, which we pointed out to Ewan (he was not at all impressed).  It is also where Jack Layton is buried.  His grave had many flowers and a fresh-looking bottle of Orange Crush on it.

 There is a simple white gravestone for John Galloway Scott and his wife, Mary Elliot Scott, lying on the ground on the south-east corner of the grounds.  Directly beside it is a rather more imposing monument in red granite. The monument marks the grave site of Thomas Chalmers Scott and his first wife Ann (Galloway) Scott, as well as their son John Galloway Scott and his wife Mary (Elliot) Scott.

Here's a shot of the whole monument, and the shady trees surrounding it. You can see the smaller stone embedded in the grass beside it.

The monument reads:

 In Memoriam
Thomas Chalmers Scott
Surveyor of Customs, Toronto
Died 18th December 1876
aged 70 years

Ann Galloway his wife
died 1st September 1854
aged 52 years
"Blessed be the dead who die in the Lord"

And, on the adjacent side:

In memory of 
John Galloway Scott Q.C.
Master of Titles
Died 22nd June 1928
in his 92nd year

Mary Elliot his wife
died Feb. 16, 1937
in her 96th year.

The grave site of William Elliot's family was supposed to be close by, but search as we might, we couldn't find it. It didn't help that Ewan decided that he was a) cold, b) bored and c) tired as soon as we started searching, and couldn't be persuaded that the hunt for a dead relative's grave was like a detective game.  We'll have to make a second trip before winter, just the two of us.

We did find a grave related to the Lesslie family, friends of T. C. Scott

And right beside it, an Oliphant tombstone.  I don't know if these are relatives or not--I'm not aware that any of "our" Oliphants ever lived in Toronto:

Stay tuned for a return visit!