Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Mediterranean Cruise in 1910


In 1910, my mother’s great-aunt Katharine Sophia (Bagg) Mills (1850-1938) and her husband, Reverend William Lennox Mills, the Anglican Bishop of Ontario, visited Europe and the Holy Land. They had been to Europe before, but this was a long awaited trip to visit the places they had read about in the Bible. After returning home to Kingston, Katharine published an account of her trip, Reminiscences of a Cruise in the Mediterranean and a Visit to the Holy Land and Egypt by Mrs. W. Lennox Mills.

This trip took place 110 years ago, when travel was slower and there was greater diversity in the dress and customs of different countries than there is today, nevertheless, their adventures would probably sound quite familiar to cruise passengers of today. Katharine left out the names of her fellow travellers and details of many personal incidents (though I wish she hadn’t), but she did share her impressions of the sights they saw.

The couple set sail from New York on January 20, 1910 aboard the S.S. Arabic, making an eight-day crossing of the Atlantic to the Portuguese island of Madeira. Katharine described her first view of the island: “Mountains, rising one above another, formed a fine background, and there were three high hills, shaped just like bee-hives with rounded domes, quite unique in appearance. The colouring of the picture was superb: blue sea, blue sky, with downy white clouds, green hills, purple shadows, red and grey rocks, white houses with red roofs, and a picturesque old grey fort, crowning the summit of one of the hills.”

Later in the day, after wandering around the town of Funchal, they joined a small group of fellow visitors and hired a motor car. “We dashed through some neighbouring villages and brought the inhabitants rushing to their doors; some in admiration of our rapid flight, and others looking greatly amazed and alarmed.” She noted the clothes worn by the locals: the men in cone-shaped knitted caps, the women with gaily coloured kerchiefs on their heads. The following day, they took a funicular railway to the top of a nearby mountain. “Then came a most exciting experience in descending from the lofty height. We got into a sort of basket carriage on runners, guided by two men holding ropes, and rushed down, with incredible swiftness, over the hard cobble stones.”

After leaving Madeira, they visited Cadiz and took a special train to Seville, returning the following day to the S.S. Arabic.

Their next stops included Gibraltar, Algiers, Malta and Athens. Katharine described a thrilling moment in Athens: “We climbed by very steep and natural steps in the solid rock, to the top of the Areopagus and ‘stood on Mars Hill,’ where the great Apostle St. Paul also stood in 54 A.D., and preached to the ‘Men of Athens,’ declaring unto them the ‘unknown God.’”

They steamed on through the Straights of the Dardanelles to Constantinople (now Istanbul.) “Seen from the ship, the great City of Constantine is bewilderingly beautiful, with its white palaces, many domes and graceful minarets,” she wrote, but, as they crossed a bridge, she described seeing “a motley crowd” of Arabs in hooded robes, Jews with long beards and Turks wearing loose trousers and red fez caps, as well as donkeys with heavily laden baskets and men carrying large boxes of fruit and vegetables on their backs.

The next port of call was Smyrna where, Katharine noted, Christianity laid down deep roots at an early time. From there, they travelled to Ephesus, a great ancient city that was home for a time to both St. John and St. Paul.

They decided to go to see the ruins of the Agora, the Theatre and the Library, which were four miles away and, since there were no carriage roads, they had to ride. The Bishop, as Katharine referred to her husband, was given a white horse, which proved to be “quite a terror,” although William eventually managed to control his mount. Katharine, who had probably learned to ride as a child, was on a donkey. “He seemed to take complete command of the situation, and I had no alternative but to let him have his own way.… Sometimes we would go down an almost perpendicular hill … at other times we would push our way through brier and thorn, or sink for several inches in muddy fields.” She claimed she was not the least bit nervous.

In Lebanon, they were joined by their dragoman, or guide, a Syrian who spoke English well and had been educated at a Quaker school near “Beyrout.” They took a train through the snow-capped mountains of Lebanon and arrived in Damascus, where they stayed at the clean and comfortable Victoria Hotel. (There always seemed to be an English-run hotel in these cities.) In Damascus, they visited a mosque that housed a sarcophagus containing what was said to be the head of St. John the Baptist, and they saw the tomb of Saladin, who fought the Crusaders. The following day, they travelled by train to Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, their first stop in the Holy Land.

Notes

Reminiscences of a Cruise in the Mediterranean and a Visit to the Holy Land and Egypt by Mrs. W. Lennox Mills can be found in several Canadian university libraries, and online.

According the Bagg family Bible, which is in the archives of the McCord Museum, Montreal, Katharine Sophia Bagg was born July 4, 1850 at Fairmount Villa, Montreal. The eldest daughter of Catharine Mitcheson and Stanley Clark Bagg, she grew up with her older brother and three younger sisters. On Oct. 12, 1886, she married Canon William Lennox Mills at Christ Church, Montreal. Their only child, Arthur Lennox Stanley Mills, was born in Montreal on June 27, 1890. At one time rector of Anglican Trinity Memorial Chapel in Montreal, William was Bishop of Ontario from 1901 until his death in 1917, and the couple lived in Kingston for many years. Katharine died at her apartment in Montreal on January 31, 1938.

Shirley C. Spragge, “MILLS, WILLIAM LENNOX,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003– (accessed October 16,  2019), www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mills_william_lennox_14E.html.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Six Years and Shifting Gears


It is hard to believe that it is six years since I started this family history blog. My first post, Help from the Grave, was dated mid-October, 2013. Since then, I have tried to post an article every two weeks (except during the summers) about my ancestors. This is post number 148.

Over these six years, I made a lot of progress with my research. I broke through several brick walls facing the Shearman family, who immigrated to North America from Waterford, Ireland (Breaking Down My Shearman Brick Wall); I tracked down the elusive Lucie Bagg, half-sister to Stanley Bagg (Lucie Bagg: Her Story); and I unraveled some of the mysteries surrounding my great-grandmother Samantha Rixon’s family (The Ancestor Who Did Not Exist). Writing the blog has helped me to focus on important questions about these people, explain my conclusions and back them up with notes and footnotes.

I knew nothing about my great-grandmother Samantha (Rixon) Forrester until a few years ago, and my research revealed that some of the family stories about her were untrue.
This research has given my husband and me a great excuse to travel to Scotland, Ireland, northern England and London. We’ve also been to Winnipeg, Toronto, rural Ontario, New York State, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. In Montreal, we have become familiar with people and places in Mile End, a neighbourhood that is far from our house but was familiar territory to my ancestors.

I have been very lucky to be a member of a family history writing group. Calling ourselves Genealogy Ensemble, nine ladies meet monthly to share our discoveries and improve our writing skills. Every few months, I simultaneously publish my stories to both Writing Up the Ancestors and to that group’s collaborative blog, www.genealogyensemble.com. Two years ago, we collected our favourite articles and published them in a book we called Beads in a Necklace: Family Stories from Genealogy Ensemble.

I’ve also become involved with a similar blogging project in the small community on the coast of Maine where I spend my summers, encouraging people to write about their own families and summer memories.

Now it is time to shift gears. The new posts will continue, but at a slightly slower pace as I am starting to pull together the articles from my blog, revise and update them where necessary, and collect them into a self-published book. Actually, two books, one for my father’s side of the family in Upper Canada and the western provinces, the other for my mother’s Montreal ancestors and their colonial New England ancestors. These two families’ stories are very different, so two separate books will make everything more manageable. Still, it will involve a lot of work.

As for Writing Up the Ancestors, in the coming year, I will focus again on my Montreal roots, especially the Bagg family. They were well known in Montreal’s 19th-century English-language community and, believe it or not, there is still a lot to learn about them.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Man of the Family



I was just eight years old when Grampy, my mother’s father, died, so I have few memories of him, only photos. There’s one of him holding me on his lap when I was about a year old, and another that shows him playing a toy musical instrument. A shot of him demonstrating his stone-skipping skills on a Maine beach was probably taken in 1956, during the last summer of his life.

At that time, children were to be seen and not heard; not all grandparents were as involved as he was, and that makes these photos all the more special.

In fact, he was close to all the women in his family, young and old, as he provided moral support and financial guidance to his mother and his three unmarried sisters, as well as to his wife and his daughter.

Frederic Edmund Murray Smith was born in Montreal in 1879 to Jane Mulholland and her husband, John Murray Smith, a bank manager. Fred was the third of their six children. His was a life of privilege, as the family lived in a grey-stone house on McGregor Avenue (now Dr. Penfield Avenue), on the slope of Mount Royal. They also had a summer cottage on the shores of Lake St. Louis, in what is now one of Montreal’s West Island suburbs.

In 1891, Fred’s seventeen-year-old brother, Henry, died of appendicitis. Three years later, when Fred was just 15, his father succumbed to a heart attack, and Fred became the man of the family.

Women supposedly did not understand money matters, so his mother and sisters looked to him for advice. For example, many years later, when his sisters finally sold the house on McGregor, the task of handling the sale and helping them move to an apartment fell on Grampy’s shoulders.

Fred decided not to attend university, but started his career as a messenger. It did not take long for him to move up the corporate ladder. In 1918, he was a manager with the Royal Bank of Canada, and in the late 1920s, he was with Verret Stewart Co., a firm that was an agent for Windsor Salt.  Between 1930 and 1936, there was no profession listed beside his name in the Montreal Lovell’s street directory, but he went to work as treasurer of Champlain Oil after the depression and stayed there until he retired.

Fred, Joan, Janice, Gwen around 1950
He lived at home with his mother and sisters and remained an eligible bachelor until age 37, when he married Gwendolyn Bagg. Their only daughter, Joan, was born two years later, in 1918.

Fred and Gwen were both quiet people, more interested in spending time with family than in enjoying Montreal’s night life. In fact, Fred was a strict Presbyterian who never appeared at the dining table without a jacket and tie, and would not allow my mother to play cards on Sundays. But my cousin who is 10 years older than I am remembers him as kind and having a good sense of humour.

In a 1946 letter to my father, Fred described his view of marriage: “We … hope that you both may have as happy a life together as your future father-in-law had in his married life, keeping in mind that it is a partnership, which means both of you have to give and take, and that in the home, it is the woman’s department.”

For the first dozen years of their lives together, the Murray Smiths lived on tiny Selkirk Avenue, near the corner of Cote des Neiges and Sherbrooke streets, two short blocks away from Gwen’s mother’s house and several long blocks from Fred’s mother’s house.

skipping stones, around 1956
In the late 1920s, my grandparents decided to build a larger house. According to my mother, when they looked at the architectural plans, they did not realize how big it would be. Not only was the house more than they needed, but their timing was bad since Fred lost his job during the depression. Fortunately, Gwen’s Aunt Amelia Norton helped out financially, but this must have been hard for Fred. He was accustomed to helping others. My grandparents lived in that house for the rest of their lives, and he died there, of a heart attack, at age 77.

Grampy is buried in the Murray Smith family plot at Mount Royal Cemetery with his father, mother, brother, three sisters and wife. My mother is buried with them.

This article is also posted on www.genealogyensemble.com 

Notes:
Legally, the family name was Smith, however, because Smith was such a common name, the family used Murray Smith as if it were a hyphenated last name.

The row house on Selkirk Ave. is still there, the Murray Smith family home on McGregor was demolished to make way for a high-rise apartment building, and my grandparents’ house on Saint-Sulpice became the Iraqi consulate.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Seaside Scientists


“10 Foreigners at Woods Hole: Summer Students From Europe, Asia.” This was the headline on a story in the Cape Cod Standard-Times, Thursday, June 19, 1947. The story added that seven of the 10 students were from Canada. My father, Jim Hamilton, was one of them.

World War II had been over for two years, and people were starting to put their lives back on track. My parents had been married for a year, and I wouldn’t make my appearance for another year, so this was an opportunity for him to study physiology for six weeks at the famous Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory on Cape Cod.

Jim Hamilton, circa 1940
 At the time, he was doing cancer research at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario. Cancer research was in its early days then, and the aim of the project was to learn more about the fundamental character of cancerous cells. According to an article in the London Free Press describing the study he was involved in, “the methods employed in physical chemistry are to be used wherever they are applicable…. The services of a well-trained physical chemist, J.D. Hamilton, have been obtained for the research project.”



My father had an M.A. in physics, mathematics and chemistry from the University of Toronto, but he needed to improve his knowledge of the biological sciences, hence the summer course at Cape Cod.

Every summer the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), founded in 1888, attracted graduate students, as well as some of the world’s best biological scientists, to carry out research and share ideas about invertebrate biology, botany, embryology and other subjects, focusing on the marine life found in the waters around the institute. (The MBL still exists today, affiliated with the University of Chicago, and its research and educational programs are now year-round.)

My father had an excellent memory, a maverick attitude and endless curiosity about esoteric subjects. He was interested in everything from history, philosophy and psychology to mathematics. I can imagine him thoroughly enjoying himself as he dissected a starfish or watched a sea urchin egg multiply under the lens of a microscope, and the knowledge of physiology he acquired during that six weeks no doubt helped him when he studied medicine several years later.  

A postcard of Woods Hole from my mother's scrapbook.
My mother, Joan, accompanied him on this trip. Now that the war was over, she, like many other married women, had left the workforce, so she had the time to travel. Fortunately, the institute had accommodations for married couples and even children. She was also an intelligent and curious person, and she aspired to be a writer, so rather than just sit on the beach, my mother wrote her own article about the lab. It was never published, but she kept a copy of the draft article, along with clippings and photos. She wrote:

“The lovely New England setting of Woods Hole provides a working example of the internationalism of science. In the lab mess hall you may hear Dr. Jean Brachet of Belgium discussing his experiences as a scientific hostage of the Nazis. At another table Dr. Dashu Nie may be telling some of his companions how scientific terms are described in the Chinese language. Still another group may hear Dr. Mohan Das, Professor of Ecology at the University of Lucknow [India], tell how marine life in India differs from that found on the U.S. Atlantic coast.

“On the beaches, in the dorms, or over a cup of coffee at Cap’n Kids, one hears shop talk. For students and research workers alike, the conversations with some of the best scientific minds of many countries provide tremendous inspiration and encouragement, and from a word dropped at such friendly conversations may come the germ of an idea which will lead to the answer to one more problem.”

Both my future parents found Woods Hole to be a stimulating place. They also enjoyed the social activities, which included Thursday night square dancing and Monday’s traditional record night, when, my mother recalled, “it is very peaceful to sit in the darkness, watching the lights come out across Vineyard Sound and listening to Bach or Beethoven.”

After the course ended, they drove up the coast to Boston and to Maine before heading back to Ontario.

See also:

“Jim Hamilton, A Life,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Sept 30, 2015, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2015/09/jim-hamilton-life.html

“My Mother’s Breakout Years,” Writing Up the Ancestors,   Sept. 12, 2018, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2018/09/my-mothers-breakout-years.html

This article is simultaneously posted on www.genealogyensemble.com.






Thursday, June 20, 2019

Making Connections


“There’s a reason for our connection.” So says the poster at the entrance to the current exhibit by artist-in-residence Hannah Claus at Montreal’s McCord Museum. The exhibit focuses on several objects she found in the museum’s permanent collection, and her creative response to them.

I have a connection to one of those objects, so that connects me to Claus and her art, to my ancestor who once owned that object, and to the images my ancestor inspired me to create.

Claus, a Montreal-based visual artist of English and Mohawk background, chose a number of objects in the museum’s collection and listened to what they said to her.  “Materials have a language,” she writes in the exhibition notes. “They have a sensory language and rhythm that speak to me as an artist.” Then she created her own objects inspired by what she saw. Through the process, she came to discover the innate links between objects and their makers, their collectors, ourselves and the world around us. “I understand through making,” she says.

Bag, Tonawanda Seneca, 1830-1850; gift of Mrs Alan C. Lindsay, McCord Museum

One of the objects Claus chose for the show is a tiny beaded handbag. Its pink, white, blue, green and black beadwork is delicate and beautiful, and she was drawn to the repetitive curves of the pattern and the artistry of its indigenous creator.

I had an additional reason for wanting to see this handbag: it once belonged to my great-great-grandmother, Catharine Mitcheson Bagg (1822-1914). She gave it to one of her daughters, and a descendant’s widow recently donated it to the McCord.

Catharine Mitcheson grew up in Philadelphia, and married Montreal notary and landowner Stanley Clark Bagg in 1844. The bag is dated 1830 – 1850, so perhaps Catharine received it as a wedding present.

collage by Janice Hamilton, photo of CMB, McCord
Museum, Notman Collection #71147
Writing about ancestors is similar to exploring relationships with objects. I daydream about these individuals and learn about the events that impacted their lives. Sometimes I feel deep connections with them. Hannah’s comments also help explain why people treasure objects they inherit from family members. In addition to their aesthetic properties, a teacup from a mother or a carpentry tool that belonged to a great-uncle can symbolize our connections with these people and help us understand their life experiences.

The exhibit also displays the art that Claus created as a response to the objects she chose. The bag’s beadwork inspired her to create a display of shiny disks hanging on strings, and to riff on the patterns used in the handbag.

This museum experience reminded me of my attempts to incorporate themes related to Catharine Mitcheson Bagg in collaged photo transfers done for an art class several years ago. I had just started doing genealogy research at that time. The McCord Museum has copies of several letters Catharine wrote, and I photographed them because I was interested in what she had to say. In my art project, the letters became important as visual objects. I enlarged a photo of Catharine from my own collection of cabinet cards and framed it inside images of her handwriting.

collage by Janice Hamilton; b&w photo of Fairmount Villa, residence of Stanley Clark Bagg, Studio of Inglis, BAnQ    (click to enlarge) 
In a second collage, I tried to connect Catharine to the place where she lived, starting with a photo of a painting of her. This painting of Catharine Mitcheson Bagg, done by artist William Sawyer in 1865, once hung in my grandparents’ dining room and now belongs to the National Gallery of Canada. I added a hand-painted photo of Fairmount Villa, Catharine’s home in Montreal, as well as a copy of a painting she did, probably in Philadelphia when she was young. In the background are snippets of old maps of Montreal.

Connections can be found everywhere when you look for them.

See also:
Janice Hamilton, "Reflections on a great-great grandmother", Writing Up the Ancestors, April 14, 2014, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/04/reflections-on-great-great-grandmother.html



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

John Clark, 19th Century Real Estate Visionary


Clark Street in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood features two-storey row houses, most of them red brick or grey stone, set back a few feet from the sidewalk. Two hundred years ago, this now densely populated street was just a gleam in the eye of my four-times great-grandfather John Clark (1767-1827), who owned that land. Today, Clark Street looks remarkably similar to the way he envisioned it.

Mile End Lodge 
John must have foreseen that his farmland would someday get swallowed up by the expanding city. He wanted to see it developed properly, and he wanted his descendants to profit from it. Thus, he carefully outlined his development vision in his last will and testament.

A native of County Durham in northeast England, John Clark1 immigrated to Montreal with his wife, Mary Mitcheson, and their young daughter around 1797 and he became a butcher and an inspector of beef and pork.

He probably had a nest egg of cash because he soon bought property here. In 1799, he purchased a property on Montreal’s La Gauchetière Street. Perhaps the Clark family lived there. When he sold it 11 years later, the deeds showed it to be a double lot including two houses and several other buildings..2

Between 1804 and 1814, John purchased several neighbouring farms north of the city limits of Montreal.3 He purchased these properties from French Canadian farmers, then named them Mile End Farm, Blackgate Farm and Clark Cottage Farm.  The land, including several houses, barns, stables and outbuildings, was on the west side of Saint Lawrence Street, now known as Saint-Laurent Boulevard and one of the city’s major arteries. At the time, this was the main road to the countryside, leading past the eastern flank of Mount Royal to the Rivière des Prairies on the north side of Montreal Island.

The area was rural, consisting primarily of fields of wheat, oats and peas, as well as pastureland, fruit orchards and woodlots. Both John and Mary had grown up in rural England, so they preferred to live in the countryside rather than in the crowded city. The Clarks’ grey stone house, called Mile End Lodge, was built around 1815 on Saint Lawrence Street, between what are now Bagg and Duluth streets. They had few neighbours: most Montrealers, especially recent immigrants from Britain like them, lived in town.

Land ownership was important. It conferred social status, it carried the right to vote, and land was a financial tool, commonly used as security for loans. I do not know for sure why John purchased so much land, but even in the short term, it was a smart decision: the soil was fertile and the area was close to the city, where there was a growing demand for meat and produce.

John probably wanted to graze his own cattle on that land, and to grow timothy hay for them. Meanwhile, in 1816, he placed an advertisement in the Montreal Herald saying he was willing to pasture cattle on his property for between eight and 10 shillings per cow.4   

John probably collected rental income from these farms. It was not uncommon for members of the city’s elite, and for skilled tradesmen such as John, to purchase land and rent it to local farmers. He went one imaginative step further and, in 1810, leased a two-storey house on the Mile End Farm to father and son Phineas and Stanley Bagg to operate as a tavern.5 The building was located at a major intersection on St. Lawrence Street, so it was in an excellent location for thirsty travellers. 

Phineas and Stanley ran the Mile End Tavern until 1818. The following year, Stanley married John’s daughter, Mary Ann. As a wedding present, John gave them a lot on St. Lawrence Street, including a two-storey house he named Durham House, that he had purchased in 1814.6

John may have had an emotional attachment to the Mile End Farm and Durham House, but he certainly saw his land as a long-term investment. The population of Montreal had increased from about 6000 in 1780 to 20,000 in 1820, and he foresaw this area would eventually be developed.  
In 1825, at age 58, John wrote his will, leaving his properties to Mary Ann and to his young grandson, Stanley Clark Bagg.

Click to enlarge. Plan for proposed subdivision of a part of Mile End Farm. The names of modern streets have been superimposed on this diagram; computer graphics by Justin Bur. 
He added a codicil a few months later that included a plan for housing lots on St. Lawrence Street and on the yet to be created Clark Street, one block west. He specified that the lots should be 44 feet wide by 90 feet deep, and that the buildings should be built of stone or brick and set back from the road.8

John’s codicil also specified that the sale of the lots were subject to a rente constituée, meaning that, in addition to the initial cost of the property, the buyer was to pay the vendor an amount every year, usually about 6% of the property’s value. This was a common practice in Quebec, designed to provide funds to the seller’s family members for several generations. However, when Clark Street was finally developed decades after John’s death, buyers were not interested in this old-fashioned practice and the rente constituée was eliminated.9

Meanwhile, most of the property lines and all of the street rights-of-way shown on the plan in John’s will are still in effect today. Also, the specifications for building quality were respected, and similar conditions were imposed by neighbouring landowners.

See also:
“Mile End Tavern,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Oct. 21, 2013, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-mile-end-tavern.html

“A Home Well Lived In”, Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 21, 2014, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-home-well-lived-in.html

 “John Clark, of Durham, England,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 29, 2014, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/05/john-clark-of-durham-england.html

“A Freehold Estate in Durham,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 3, 2019, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2019/05/a-freehold-estate-in-durham_92.html

Notes and Sources:

1. John Clark is usually identified as an inspector of beef and pork. There was another John Clark, a master butcher, living in Montreal at the same time. That John Clark made a will in 1804, while my John Clark made a first will in 1810 and a final one in 1825.

2. Thomas Barron, notarial act #2876, “Deed of sale John Clark to William Scott,” 18 Oct. 1810, BAnQ.

3. These properties are listed in John Clark’s will, (Henry Griffin, notarial act #5989, “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” 29 August 1825, BAnQ) and in the inventory of his grandson’s estate (Joseph-Augustin Labadie, notarial act #16733, “Inventory of the Estate of the Late Stanley Clark Bagg Esq.” 7 June, 1875, BAnQ.)

4. Jennifer L. Waywell, “Farm Leases and Agriculture on the Island of Montreal 1780-1820,” Dept. of History, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, McGill University, 1989, p. 88; https://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item?id=TC-QMM-59553&op=pdf&app=Library (accessed May 14, 2019)

5. J.A. Gray, notarial act, “Lease for five years John Clark to Phineas and Stanley Bagg,” 17 Oct. 1810, BAnQ.

6. The marriage contract is attached to records for lot 110, Saint-Laurent Ward, Montreal, p. 395, Registre foncier du Québec online database.

7. Henry Griffin, notarial act #5989, “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” 29 August 1825, BAnQ

8.  Clark Street as laid out in the plan attached to John's codicil ran from just south of the city limits (Bagg St. near Duluth) to Saint Catherine Road (now Mont-Royal Ave). Clark Street was developed in segments throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with the first part, around Mile End Lodge, subdivided in 1873. In the early days, a section of Clark Street was called Mitcheson Street (Mitcheson was John’s wife’s name), but by 1912, it became Clark Street along its length. 

9. The rente constituée was often used in France, England and French Canada. In those days, there was no modern money-lending system, so people could rent land for an annual sum. The borrower/purchaser could redeem the rent, however, the capital value of the property was not reduced by previous rent payments. John Clark and his grandson Stanley Clark Bagg complicated things by using testamentary substitutes to require that their real estate be subject to such arrangements far into the future. Their wills specified that the actual beneficiary was three generations down, while the intervening generations were responsible for keeping the estate in good shape for their children. When the Bagg and Clark properties were subdivided in the late 19th century, the Quebec legislature passed an act to end the substitution.

Image Credits:

Mile End Lodge, watercolour by John Hugh Ross, copyright Stewart Museum, 1970, 1847

Plan attached to codicil to the last will and testament of John Clark, December 1825, BAnQ, CN601 S187.

Further Reading:

Justin Bur, Yves Desjardins, Jean-Claude Robert, Bernard Vallee and Joshua Wolfe, Dictionnaire Historique du Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal, Les Éditions Écosociété, 2017.

Yves Dejardins, Histoire du Mile End, Québec: Les éditions du Septentrion, 2017.

Justin Bur, “À la recherché du cheval perdu de Stanley Bagg, et des origins du Mile End,” Joanne Burgess et al, Collecting Knowledge: New Dialogues on McCord Museum Collections, Montreal: Éditions MultiMondes, 2015.

Sherry Olson and Patricia Thornton, Peopling the North American City, Montreal 1840-1900. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2011.

Alan M. Stewart, “Settling an 18th-Century Faubourg: Property and Family in the Saint-Laurent Suburb, 1735-1810,” Dept. of History, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, McGill University, 1988, http://digitool.Library.McGill.CA:80/R/-?func=dbin-jump-full&object_id=64109&silo_library=GEN01 (accessed May 20, 2019).

This article is also posted on www.genealogyensemble.com




Friday, May 3, 2019

A Freehold Estate in Durham


According to family legend and several published sources,1 my four-times great grandfather John Clark (1767-1827) owned a freehold estate near the cathedral in Durham, England. I imagined a large house surrounded by shady old trees and fields of lush grass.

It probably wasn’t like that at all, but it took me years to discover that.

Clark’s father, a farmer, did not own land. And as a butcher by trade, John did not sound like someone who could either inherit or buy a large piece of property in England. Also, he left for Canada with his wife and young daughter when he was about age 30. If he did have land in England, why would he go to Canada?

I began to wonder whether he owned property in Durham at all.

John Clark 
 Then I found John Clark’s will, written in Montreal in 1825.2 It said, “The said testator doth will, bequeath and devise unto his said daughter Mary Ann, her heirs and assigns, the whole of his real estate of all and every nature and description soever, situated and being in the city or town of Durham or in the neighbourhood thereof in England.”  In other words, Clark did own property in Durham, but his will gave no clues as to where it was located; thus, I imagined the country house.

Part of my problem was in misunderstanding the term “freehold estate.” This expression simply refers to a property, or real estate, that is "free from hold" of any entity besides the owner.

I also imagined that Clark lived on his own land. When he married in 1794,3 he lived in St. Giles parish, a largely agricultural suburb of the city of Durham, but there is no evidence that he owned property there.

Durham Cathedral and River Wear
Finding out whether my ancestor really did own property, and where it was, presented three big challenges: the fact that John Clark is a common name, my distance from Durham, and the lack of relevant historical records. Over the years, I have hired three professional researchers to search collections such as land tax records,4 deeds, enclosure records and tithe applotment records at the archives in Durham. They added small pieces to the puzzle, but the records themselves are incomplete.

Finally, after 11 years of looking at this question off and on, it has become clear that the exact nature and location of this freehold estate will likely remain a mystery, however, Clark may have owned one or more buildings in the city of Durham.

Durham, a very old city in northeast England, is built on a peninsula surrounded by the meandering River Wear. On top of the hill are Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. Several bridges cross the river, leading to the market square, and from there, Sadler Street goes up to the cathedral. At one time, Sadler Street was also known as Fleshergate and butchers had their shops there. That may be where Clark owned some property.

Map of Durham City by John Wood, 1820. (DUL ref: NSR Planfile C19/2). https://community.dur.ac.uk/4schools.resources/locality/maps2.html

A collection of old Durham city deeds notes that a man named John Clark was an occupant of the building at no. 5 Sadler Street until 1796, which was shortly before my ancestor left for Canada.5 He was probably renting or subletting here, though, since his name is not listed among the main parties to the deeds.

When Clark died in 1827, he left his Durham property to Mary Ann, his only daughter. Mary Ann’s husband, Montreal merchant Stanley Bagg, was executor of the will. Clark also left 13 bequests of 50 pounds each to several of his brothers and sisters in England, and to several of his wife’s relatives.

Two years later, Mary Ann decided to sell the property in Durham.6 It was difficult to manage the property from across the Atlantic, and she could use the proceeds to pay these bequests. William Mitcheson, John Clark’s brother-in-law who lived in London, was appointed an executor of Clark’s will in England. So far, I have not found proof of Clark’s will being probated in England.7

Market Square, Durham
There is strong evidence, however, that the family sold property in Durham in 1842. Mary Ann died in 1835, leaving it to her son, Stanley Clark Bagg (SCB), who was still a minor. Stanley Bagg was the executor of her estate until SCB turned 21 in 1841.

The following summer, Stanley and SCB took a trip together to Durham8 and sold the remaining property. On their return, Stanley recorded the names of the three buyers in a notarized document in which he admitted he had used some of the rental income from the Durham properties for his own purposes. He arranged to repay his son and listed the names of three people who purchased the properties, as well as the name of a Mr. “Bromwell” who had collected the rents.9 The name “Bramwell” was listed in the document regarding no. 5 Sadler Street at the Durham University archives.

Several questions remain: how extensive was the property when Clark first acquired it? Was it sold off bit by bit, or did the properties SCB sold in 1842 represent all of Clark’s real estate? And how did Clark acquire it in the first place? His father left him 70 pounds in 1776,10 when John was nine years old, which was not a huge sum. Perhaps someone helped him invest his inheritance, perhaps he bought the property when he became an adult. Later, in Montreal, he proved to be an astute businessman who invested in property near the city.

Those answers will probably remain a mystery.

See also:

Janice Hamilton, "Ralph Clark's 1776 Will," Writing Up the Ancestors, April 17, 2019, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2019/04/ralph-clarks-1776-will.html

Janice Hamilton, "John Clark of Durham, England," Writing Up the Ancestors, May 29, 2014,  http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/05/john-clark-of-durham-england.html

Photo credits: Detail of portrait of John Clark, Bagg family collection;
photos of Durham City, Janice Hamilton,

Notes and sources.

1. “In Memoriam – Stanley Clark Bagg, Esq., J.P., F.N.S.” The Canadian Antiquarian, and Numismatic Journal: published quarterly by the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal; Vol. 11, No. 2, October, 1873, p. 73.
Also, William H. Atherton, The History of Montreal, 1535-1914, Biographical, vol. 3, p. 406. In this article, Atherton noted that SCB inherited freehold property in County Durham, England, but he wrongly stated that Stanley Bagg was from England. Other authors, including Douglas Borthwick, made the same error.

2. “Last Will and Testament of Mr. John Clark of Montreal,” Act of notary Henry Griffin, #5989, 29 Aug. 1825, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, p. 9.

3. England, Durham Diocese, Marriage Bonds & Allegations, 1692-1900, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q21P-XMQK : 29 July 2017), John Clark and Mary Mitchinson, 07 Jun 1794; citing Marriage, Durham, England, United Kingdom, Church of England. Durham University Library, Palace Green; FHL microfilm.

4. I searched online the land tax records at the County Durham Records Office for the surname Clark: The name does appear, but I did not find a listing that I could identify as my ancestor. http://www.durhamrecordoffice.org.uk/article/10924?SearchType=Param&Variations=N&Keywords=Land%20Tax%20Records&ImagesOnly=N 

5. Durham University Library, Special Collections Catalogue, http://reed.dur.ac.uk/xtf/search, results for John Clark, Durham City Deeds, Bundle 22, Sadler Street alias Fleshergate, 5 Sadler Street, east side, Reference: DCY 23/1-34, Dates of creation: 1776-1856. The entry says,
“These premises were described as a burgage [land or property in a town that was held in return for service or annual rent] and shop, with appurtenances, almost throughout. In 1856 it was called a freehold dwellinghouse and shop….The occupants of the property included, initially, John Clark, by 1796 one Haswell ….”

6. Annex attached to John Clark’s Last Will and Testament, by notary Henry Griffin, 10 Nov. 1829 and attached to records for lot 110, Saint-Laurent Ward, Montreal, p. 391, Registre foncier du Québec online database.

7. I searched online the PROB 11 collection of the National Archives (Prerogative Court of Canterbury and related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers,) but it might be in another record collection. Also, I have searched the online catalogue of the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York, England. 

8. There are three clues that father and son visited Durham. In 1866, SCB wrote an article called “The Antiquities & Legends of Durham, a lecture before Numismatic & Antiquarian Society of Montreal” in which he recalled his own visit to the cathedral with his father more than 20 years earlier.
There is a record in a passenger list of Stanley Bagg and S.C. Bagg travelling from Liverpool to Boston aboard the Acadia. Boston Courier (Boston, Massachusetts, Monday, Sept. 19, 1842, issue 1921;) 19th Century Newspapers Collection, special interest databases, www.americanancestors.org; accessed 18/04/2019.
A search for Mary Ann Bagg in the Durham University Archives online catalogue brings up a result in the Durham Cathedral Library: J.H. Howe Collection. It cites Montreal parish records showing how John Clark was related to Stanley Clark Bagg, and includes an affidavit from Montreal notary Henry Griffin and a note from Charles Bagot, Governor General of British North America, verifying the information. Reference: JJH 11 Dates of creation: 1842 JJH 11/1, 27 April & 9 May 1842.
Similarly, there is a note appended to Clark’s will, dated 13 May, 1842, from Charles Bagot, certifying the information; attached to records for lot 110, Saint-Laurent Ward, Montreal, p. 395, Registre foncier du Québec online database.  

9.  “Account and mortgages from Stanley Bagg Esq to Stanley Clark Bagg.” Act #3537, notary Joseph-Hilarion Jobin, 8 October 1842, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
“From ? Summers for sale of property in the neighbourhood of Durham in England, two hundred and five pounds, one shilling and six.
From  ? Brown, for sale of property in the neighbourhood of Durham in England, four hundred and ninety pounds two shillings.
From ? Elliot and son for sale of property in the neighbourhood of Durham in England, seven hundred and ninety-five pounds fifteen shillings.
From Wm Bromwell for the rents of the aforesaid property in England in 1841 and 1842, three hundred and eighty-one pounds ten shillings.”
In an email dated Jan. 11, 2019, Durham genealogy researcher Margaret Hedley, Past Uncovered, noted, “The names mentioned in the Stanley Bagg document with regard to the sale of property in Durham, I believe may relate to the centre of the city as at least three of the names are (or were) well-known businesses in Durham City.”

10. Last Will and Testament of Ralph Clark, Oct. 11, 1776; 1776/C8/2, University of Durham Special Collections Department

20. 


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Ralph Clark’s 1776 Will


It is amazing how much a last will and testament can reveal about someone’s life – even a life that ended almost 250 years ago.

Ralph Clark (or Clerk), a farmer in County Durham, England, died in 1776 at about age 55.1 He must have known he was dying because he made out a detailed will, 2 dated a month before his death. He was probably worried because his wife had died the previous year and their children would be orphaned.

Ralph Clark was my five-times great-grandfather; I am descended from him through his second-youngest son, John Clark, who left England around 1797 and settled in Montreal.

I knew little about John’s origins in County Durham. Then I found a note of his birthdate (June 9, 1767) in some family records.3 That discovery set me on track to find the names of John’s parents and most of his siblings. After a visit to Durham in 2009, I set my most of my research on the Clark family aside and only recently picked it up again when I hired a professional genealogist in Durham. She found Ralph’s will.

Wingate Grange Farm in 2009, JH photo.
 Ralph Clark was probably born in Kirk Merrington parish, County Durham, around 1721. His future wife was Margaret Pearson, baptized 31 Oct 1725, in Kirk Merrington parish.4 Ralph and Margaret married on May 8, 1746 in Kirk Merrington5 and the first of their twelve children was born a year later.

Kirk Merrington is a rural parish south of the city of Durham. The nine eldest children were baptized there, or in Auckland Saint Andrew, between 1747 and 1762. The family probably moved to nearby Kelloe parish around 1763, and the three youngest, Edward, John and Lancelot, were baptized at St. Helen’s Church in Kelloe. In the 1760s and 1770s, the family lived on a farm called Wingate Grange, and Ralph’s will revealed that he also leased a farm called Hurworth in Kelloe. He did not own the land.

An ad published in the Newcastle Courant on several occasions between 11 Oct and 10 Jan 1778 described Wingate Grange Farm:6

TO BE LET
(Any one or two farms and entered upon at May Day next)
All that tenant or farm situated at Wingate Grange in the Parish of Kelloe, late in the possession of Ralph Clark deceased, tenant by survey 526 acres and tithe free, within six miles of Durham, well watered and enclosed; a draw kiln lies contiguous and limestone upon the premises; there are two very good farm houses, four barns and all other necessary buildings. The son of the late tenant above mentioned will not be treated with. Also, the farm in the possession of Jonathan Moody, situate at Wingate Grange aforesaid, containing 161 acres - enquire at Elemore Hall or Mr Henry Angus at Birkenside near Shortley Bridge.

Wingate Grange, 2009. JH photo.

Margaret had died in 1775. The record of her burial, included in the Bishop’s Transcripts for Kelloe parish, simply says, “Oct. 15, Marg, Wife of Ra. Clerk of Wingate Grainge.”7 So as he wrote his will, Ralph was clearly concerned about his children’s prospects. 

He mentioned his cousin Robert Dent of Morden Red House in Sedgefield parish.8 Although he did not name Dent as the children’s guardian, Ralph did give Dent some financial control over the bequests left to the younger children. But it is not clear where the children lived after their parents’ deaths. Perhaps the younger ones lived with the Dent family, or with their older siblings.

Ralph must have realized that each of his children had different needs, so he varied his bequests to them. He also ensured that not just his sons, but also his daughters, received inheritances.

Daughters Letitia and Elizabeth were already married when their father died. Letitia (also known as Lettice, and married to butcher Richard Jefferson,) was to receive £15.

Ralph seems to have been particularly concerned about Elizabeth -- or perhaps more accurately, about her husband, George Dobson. Ralph left £40 for Elizabeth in trust, and her husband “shall have no power or control whatsoever and shall in no wise be liable to the payment of his debts or otherwise.”
Son Thomas was left £20 and a horse. Anne was to have £40 and a third of Ralph’s household goods when she reached 21. Ralph and Edward would each get £60 when they reached 21. Lancelot was to receive £90 when he turned 21. Ralph appointed William, Mary and Margaret as joint executors and residuary legatees.

My four-times great-grandfather John Clark, who was age nine at the time of his father’s death, was to receive £70 when he turned 21 – about £8500 in today’s money. While still living in England, John became a butcher and acquired some property, probably in the part of the city of Durham known as Fleshergate, where the butchers plied their trade. He also bought property shortly after arriving in Montreal. Perhaps he was putting his inheritance from his father to work.

Updated April 27, 2019 to add footnote on Robert Dent. 

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “John Clark, of Durham, England,” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 29, 2014, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2014/05/john-clark-of-durham-england.html

Sources and notes:

Special thanks to Margaret Hedley, Past Uncovered, for research in County Durham, 2018-2019.

1. Burials, Stockton District, record # 573795 2, St. Edmund the Bishop Church, Sedgefield, 8 Nov. 1776, Ralph Clerk {Clark] of Wingate Grange in the Parish of Kelloe.

2. Will of Ralph Clark, Oct. 11, 1776; 1776/C8/2, University of Durham Special Collections Department

3. Black notebook of Bagg family births, marriages and deaths; private collection. Also Northumberland and Durham Baptisms, Northumberland & Durham Family History Society, Findmypast.com

4. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NBC9-BQD : 11 February 2018, Margret Pearson, 31 Oct 1725); citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 91,097, 94,097.

5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "International Genealogical Index (IGI)," database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/2:1:MDK6-CRN : accessed 15 April 2019), entry for Ralph Clark, batch A23286-7; citing FHL microfilm 455,471; submitter not specified. This marriage is also included in Boyd’s Marriage Index, 1538-1840, Findmypast.com

6.  Find My Past

7. "England, Durham Diocese Bishop's Transcripts, 1639-1919," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DZW3-3VF?cc=1309819&wc=9K5M-T3D%3A13618101%2C28349502%2C28349503 : 12 June 2014), Durham > Kelloe > 1762-1852 > image 15 of 723; Record Office, Matlock. Accessed March 31, 2019.

8. Possibly, baptism of Robert Dent in Sedgefield in 1725, father John Dent; and marriage of Johannes Dent to Elizabetha Clark in Sedgefield in 1721.
"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J7SK-P2C : 11 February 2018, Robert Dent, 20 Oct 1725); citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 91,112.
"England Marriages, 1538–1973 ," database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NLZY-9MB : 10 February 2018), Johannes Dent and Elizabetha Clark, 16 May 1721; citing Sedgefield,Durham,England, reference , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 91,112.

For more information about the region in the mid-1800s, see the following publication through Google Books online. You can search for the names of people and places. History, Topography, and Directory of the County Palatine of Durham: Comprising a General Survey of the County, with Separate Historical, Statistical, and Descriptive Sketches of All the Towns, Boroughs, Ports, Parishes, Chapelries, Townships, Villages, Wards, and Manors. To which are Subjoined A History and Directory of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and a List of the Seats of the Nobility and Gentry, Whellan, William, & Co, Whittaker and Company, 1856.