Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Family Ties

David and Sebbie, 1901
My great-grandparents, David Franklin Middleton and Sebbie Rowntree were married on September 26, 1901 in York County, ON. The official records do not specify the exact location. There are some interesting facts that do appear there, however, but I will get to that.

I was not aware that David and Sebbie were so closely related. They were first cousins, once removed. Robert and Ann Middleton had two children (perhaps more) Robert and Elizabeth. The younger Robert married Nancy Ann Emerson in 1867 in Pickering. Among their children was David. Elizabeth married George Topper and one of their daughters was Sarah Jane Topper who went on to marry Robert William Rowntree in 1878. Sebbie was their daughter. Hence, David was the grandson of Robert and Ann, while Sebbie was the great-granddaughter of Robert and Ann.

Now we go back to the official records, pictured here, with a close up of the entry about the marriage of David and Sebbie. You will see that Sebbie’s name is entered as Sylva. Her name was unusual and clerks filling out these official forms were unclear how to spell it. I’ve seen it written in various records as Bebbie, Libbie, Jebbie, Zebeah, Sophie, Zebbie, Sebbia and even Zebra. I also notice that their places of birth were ‘not given’ which seemed odd to me. Every other entry on the page has birth places entered. David and Sebbie certainly knew where they were born, so why did they not give them to the clerk to record?

Then I came to the column where their parents were listed.  For Sebbie, on the lines for both her mother and father was written ‘not given’. For David, his father is listed as Robert Middleton which is correct but his mothers’ name is listed as Sarah Jane Topper. That is Sebbie’s mother though, and the first cousin of David. I’m just speculating here but were they trying to hide the fact that they were cousins? Was it legal at the time to marry someone so closely related to you? I’m not sure.

David and Sebbie
in their later years
On top of that, I imagine it was a hastily arranged marriage when they discovered that Sebbie was pregnant, three months along. How do I know this? Let’s do the math together. David and Sebbie were married on September 26, 1901. Their first child, Robert (Bert) Edwin was born on March 26, 1902 which by my calculation was exactly six months after the nuptials. I’m not judging anyone, don’t get me wrong, just bringing the facts to light.

There is more of the story to tell, but I will leave that for future posts. Let me just say, that by all accounts their union was a happy one. And at the end of the day, that is all that really matters, isn't it?

Saturday, July 4, 2020

In The Year 1905

My grandmother, Myra,
on the right with her
siblings, Sadie and Bert.
My grandmother, Myra Middleton, was born on August 21, 1905 in Thistletown (now Etobicoke, part of the amalgamated City of Toronto), Ontario. She was the third child of David Middleton and his wife, Sebbie Rowntree. She had two older siblings, Robert (called Bert) born in 1902 and Sarah (called Sadie) born in 1903.

Canada looked much different than it does now. Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec were much smaller, and Newfoundland & Labrador were other countries. Alberta joined Confederation along with Saskatchewan in 1905, when the two new provinces were created out of a section of the Northwest Territories. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was Prime Minister, the 8th Prime Minister of Canada and first French Canadian to have that office (1896-1911) He was elected for a  third time elected in 1904.

The first Toronto Santa Claus Parade took place on December 2, 1905, sponsored by the Eaton's chain of department stores. It was a publicity stunt to encourage people to shop at their store. The first parade wasn’t really a parade at all though. It consisted only of Santa arriving at Union Station and walking with the Eaton family to their main store on Yonge Street. As we all know, as the years passed, the parade grew into a major extravaganza much anticipated by children all year long.

I always wondered why my grandmother’s siblings had middle names (Robert Edwin and Sarah Hazel) but she did not. Apparently, Great-Grandma Sebbie had chosen a middle name for her but Great-Grandpa David did not like it. So, when he went to the city to register her birth in November, he ‘conveniently’ forgot what it was and simply registered her as Myra. Unfortunately, there is no one left who knows what her middle name was supposed to be but a cousin once recalled the her father had told her it began with the letter ‘M’. That is one family mystery that will never be solved.

Have you ever researched what was happening the year you were born? 

*The type of doll shown above was used as the Eaton Beauty in 1905-1906 and was made by Armand Marseille in Germany. She had a bisque head, model #390, with a fully jointed composition body.*