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?

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