|My great grandfather, Daniel Tohm
and his wife Caroline Bittner of Poland, dressed in their
|We visited this street in
Walden, England in 2001. My grandmother's mother, Ellen
Parkin, was born here and worked as a house maid.
First Church established in the village of Norway, Ontario.
This is the original St. John the
Baptist, Anglican Church in Toronto set up about 1855 with the help of
my great, great grandfather, Thomas Smith. The modern church
still exists on the same site.
November of 1999, I began pestering my mother, Carrie Smith, about her
early recollections. She had reached her 85th year. Soon
after, Murray Creighton became a major collaborator via email.
Leslie Smith, also in his 80s, provided many details and served to keep
his sister honest. Carrie, Leslie and Murray were the last
remaining “Smiths” who had migrated across the country from Manitoba to
settle at Sahtlam in the Cowichan Valley of Vancouver Island.
Eighty years had passed since the family had arrived on the farm, but
the stories I collected soon kindled my imagination and made
me thirst for more. I discovered the people and the farm were only
the beginning of a long and interesting family history.
Several other common descendants have emerged since
my investigations began. Judy Smith (Gilchrist) of
Winnipeg, Jan Gilchrist of British Columbia and Mary Crandall of
Toronto all share our common ancestors, William Loane and Sarah
Winnett. Susan Miller of Alberta and Matthew
Winnett of Australia have emerged as descendants of the Winnett
family of Killaloe, Ireland. Charles McIntosh discovered these
web pages and learned he was a Creighton.
I visited the town of Killaloe, Ireland, home
of the Winnett family and Bandon where the Loane family
originated. We also did research at the National Library of
Ireland and the County Clare Library.
Away the Dead
great Irish famine is part of
my family history. In the village of Cork about 1846, bodies of
the starved are being hauled away.
Daniel Tohm, came to Canada about 1888. Daniel
Tohm and his wife Caroline
Bittner were Polish born, but emigrated when the people of German
descent in Volynia
under Russian rule. My early investigations led me to Carol Hart
(Winder), daughter of Hilda Bittner (Hart), all common descendants of Gotlieb
Bittner. In the early days of their immigration, the Tohms
and Bittners farmed near each other in Alberta and then Saskatchewan
where Carol Winder continues to live. Two children, Lena and John
Ohlson, were adopted by the Tohms in 1898 and one of Lena's
Nazerden (Wilkinson), currently of Peachland, British Columbia,
also provided many details about the early days. (Hazel
moved to Chilliwack in 2007)
In 2008, I visited Poland and Ukraine and made
a train journey across Europe by the same route Daniel Tohm and his
shocked to discover how little was known about
the Foster family. I had never shown any interest. As kids,
my sister and I always resisted when my father wanted us to visit
Grannie and the “old maid” sisters. We never really knew them and
my father had died when I was 17. My mother was little help. We
knew they were from England and Grandpa had been a tailor; end of
story. My father had a brother, Jimmy and one sister, Bessie, still
alive but our families hadn’t spoken for 40 years. There had only
been Christmas cards. My quest for answers finally pushed me to
visit Uncle Jimmy, who at the age of 90 still lived with Hazel, his
wife of 60 years. It was a fine reunion which has led to many
subsequent visits. I was very fortunate. A search through his shoe
boxes stuffed with old momentos, turned up a Christmas card from the
70s with an address in England. He explained that his sisters,
Rhoda, and Elsie (both deceased) had visited some “English relatives”
about that time. I visited Aunt Bessie and heard the second-hand
stories of the visit. Without great expectations, but with no other
options, I wrote a letter to the English address, addressing it
“To the Occupant”. It gave instructions to pass the letter on to
a member of the Foster family if they knew one. Again I was very
lucky. Thank goodness English families don’t move every 5 years like we
do. In her reply Sarah Tattoo began “Two days ago I received the
letter you sent to my parents’ old address and which was kindly
forwarded to me by their former neighbour.” Her parents had moved away
in 1988. Sarah and I are third cousins, sharing
Margaret Foster, a lady in her 80s and youngest
daughter of John, my
grandfather’s brother, also wrote me several letters. She died in the
year 2000. She was the last remaining family member to have lived
at the Sheffield house. Thanks to her and Sarah, I have been able
to collect considerable data on the family.
In 2001, I did research at the Pubic Records
Office in London and also the County Records Office in Cambridge.
grandmother, Esther Chapman, came to Canada from Cambridge, England in
1905. She followed her future husband, Richard, who had
arrived in Winnipeg a few months earlier. The couple soon
moved to Victoria where the family has lived ever since.
I've been unsuccessful in finding descendants of the
Chapman family. Our visit to Cambridge in 2001 unravelled several
mysteries but created many more. Josiah Chapman, the
earliest ancestor I've discovered, was an agricultural worker (ie. he
worked on a large estate) but probably didn't read or write.