McCONNELL, Margaret (1900-1900)

[for Margaret’s parents and siblings see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

This story is dedicated to Mary Janet McConnell Smith, a descendant of Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL. Mary was born in Seattle, lived in Montana and now lives in Tennessee, USA. Mary has been, and continues to be, central to the research and interest in the story of Isabella and John McConnell and their descendants.

Margaret McCONNELL was the seventh child and fifth daughter born to John McCONNELL, a gamekeeper, and his wife Isabella WATSON. She was the first of the children to be born in the twentieth century since her birth occurred on 10 January 1900. Like six of her older siblings, she was born at Carcluie Cottage, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Unfortunately, Margaret’s life was short. Only eleven months old, she died after a fourteen day period of “broncho-pneumonia”. Her death occurred at Carcluie Cottage on 16 December 1900. She was the only one of John and Isabella’s eight children who did not survive to adulthood.

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McCONNELL, Elizabeth Wyllie (1895-1968)

[for Elizabeth’s parents and siblings see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

This story is dedicated to Mary Janet McConnell Smith, a descendant of Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL. Mary was born in Seattle, lived in Montana and now lives in Tennessee, USA. Mary has been, and continues to be, central to the research and interest in the story of Isabella and John McConnell and their descendants.

[Please keep checking this space, Elizabeth’s story will be told here as material and photos become available; the last information and / or images added 05 June 2013]

Elizabeth Wyllie McCONNELL, was born on 10 May 1895 at Carcluie Cottage, Ayrshire, Scotland to Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL, a gamekeeper. Elizabeth was also known as Bessie or Betty. It is not known at this time where her middle name ‘Wyllie’ came from.

McConnell002-9Photo left: In this 118 year-old faded photograph, Elizabeth is the baby on her mother’s lap. [see post 16 April 2013 for McConnell family group photo]. Photo is from the collection of Mary Smith, Tennessee, USA. May Wood in Ayrshire, Scotland also has a copy of this photograph. Since Elizabeth is a baby it can be estimated that the photo was taken in the summer of 1895. The boy standing is Thomas Watson McCONNELL, Elizabeth’s older brother.

By 1901 Elizabeth, 5 years old, was a ‘scholar’ [attended school]; no doubt it was her first year. Sometime between the birth of her brother William in February 1902 and June 1904, two serious blows struck the McConnell family. Elizabeth’s father lost his job as a gamekeeper and, probably as a consequence, the family was compelled to move from Carcluie Cottage. The reason for the forced move is unidentified at this time, however Elizabeth’s father John never again worked as a gamekeeper. The move itself (where could the family go?), must have been extremely stressful. The situation worsened since Elizabeth’s mother was seriously ill and may have been unable to tend to her family of seven children.

Elizabeth was only 9 when, on 11 June 1904, her mother suddenly died in the Western Infirmary in Glasgow after an unsuccessful operation. The seven children of the motherless McConnell family, and their father John, were no doubt devastated. The extended family rallied around. Aunt Janet (WATSON)  and her husband uncle Gilbert SPEIRS probably lived nearby; and Isabella’s grandmother, Mary HUNTER, helped the family. Elizabeth’s uncle Thomas and her aunt Jane (her mother’s brother Thomas WATSON and his wife Jane MUIR) helped however they could, however they lived some distance from Ayr. While they were not geographically close, surviving postcards show that the families kept in touch and that the cousins visited with each other.

As has been told in other stories (posted in this blog) of the Watson / Speirs / McConnell families, emigration from Scotland to Western Canada started in the early 1900s. Elizabeth’s older brother John also left for the United States. Elizabeth clearly viewed this as an option and opportunity for a better life.

On 2 November 1912, Elizabeth, 17, immigrated to Canada. She joined her aunt and uncle Janet and Gilbert Speirs and their daughter, her cousin Janet SPEIRS on the ship S.S. Cassandra in Glasgow. The group disembarked in Montreal, Quebec on the 12th of November. The ship’s passenger list showed that: she used the name ‘Eliza’; her occupation was ‘domestic’ [servant]; her destination was Wolseley, Saskatchewan; and that she was “going to aunt and uncle” who would be her mother’s brother Thomas WATSON and his wife Jane MUIR. The Watson family had already immigrated to Saskatchewan in April 1910 and no doubt encouraged other family members to join them.

A train journey took Elizabeth to Wolseley, Saskatchewan. She was likely met at the railway station by some Watson cousins. Christmas 1912 Janet Elizabeth would have spent with her Watson and Speirs cousins.

What was Elizabeth’s life like in her new home of Saskatchewan? As a domestic, Elizabeth likely found work with families as a ‘hired girl’, a phrase used in western Canada more commonly than ‘domestic’.

msmith-1-0029b msmith-1-0029bb Two post cards still exist which paint a picture of Elizabeth’s trail.

The postcard above, addressed to Miss Jean Watson, Ellisboro, Sask [Elizabeth’s first cousin, daughter of Thomas Watson and Jane Muir], was written from Wolseley where she no doubt had work with a family as a hired girl. Elizabeth speaks of having time off from work for a few days over Christmas. Although the small town of Wolseley was only a distance of a few miles from Ellisboro, the common method of communication was by postcard in the days before telephones. The post card was mailed on 5 January 5, 1915 and was delivered to the Ellisboro post office later the same day.

Dear Jean, I must thank you for the sweet little present you sent me. Christmas was quiet although I enjoyed my holiday very much. I had from Thursday till Monday. I had a letter & a card from Jimmy Carter that used to be at Jim’s. Hoping you are all well, from B. [Bessie] McConnell

Work in the Wolseley area appears to have been hard to find. Elizabeth travelled to Regina and on 15 April 1915 let her family know her progress. She wrote the post card below to Mrs. Tom Watson, Ellisboro, Sask.  who was her Aunt Jane [Jane (Muir) Watson].

msmith-1-0029amsmith-1-0029aa

Dear Aunt, Both arrived safely alright today have got views of work. Have found the girl from Girvan and have spent the day with her. There are an awful lot of soldiers around here, love to all, Bessie.

Both post cards are from the author’s collection.

By the time of the 1916 census, Elizabeth was in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where she worked as a ‘maid’ [much grander term then ‘hired girl’]. However better opportunities appeared in the United States and in August 1916, at Portal, North Dakota, ‘Bessie McConnell’ emigrated. Her last residence was given as Moose Jaw. According to her obituary (below) she married Samuel COLEMAN in 1916.

Elizabeth’s obituary, below, is the source of information about her life from 1916 until 1968. Although the obituary contains some inaccuracies (she was born in 1895 not 1896) it does briefly trace the life of Elizabeth and her husband. Elizabeth’s death occurred on 21 March 1968.

Mrs. Coleman, 71, Dies, Local Services Pending Elizabeth (Betty) Coleman, 71, a former Great Falls resident, died Friday in Clinton, Wash., where she had lived with a daughter after leaving here two years ago. Funeral arrangements are pending at the George Co. Born May 10, 1896 in Ayre, Scotland, her parents died when she was a child. After moving to Canada first, she came to the United States in 1915 making her home in Shelby with a sister. She married Samuel Coleman in 1916 and after living in various northern Montana towns, the couple moved to Great Falls in 1931. Her husband, who died in 1954, was a master carpenter for the Great Northern. A past Worthy Grand Matron of the Montana Order of the Eastern Star, she had served on the Rainbow for Girls’ board of directors several times. She was also a member of the Presbyterian Church, White Shrine, and Daughters of the Nile. She is survived by a daughter [name withheld], Clinton, Wash., a son [name withheld], Great Falls, a sister Mrs. Isa Pierce, Spokane and two grandchildren of Great Falls. (Source: unnamed newspaper, clipping with handwritten date of 23 March 1968).

Mrs. Coleman To Be Buried Here Tuesday Funeral Services for former Great Falls resident Mrs. Elizabeth Betty Coleman, 71, Clinton, Wash., will be a 2 p.m. at First msmith-1-0018aPresbyterian Church in Great Falls with Rev. H. R. Anderson officiating. Burial will be in Highland Cemetery under direction of George Co. (Source: unnamed newspaper, clipping with handwritten date of March 25, 1968.

[Elizabeth’s story to be continued]

McCONNELL, Isabella Watson (1891-1983)

    [for Isabella’s parents and siblings see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

This story is dedicated to Mary Janet McConnell Smith, a descendant of Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL. Mary was born in Seattle, lived in Montana and now lives in Tennessee, USA. Mary has been, and continues to be, central to the research and interest in the story of Isabella and John McConnell and their descendants.

[Please keep checking this space, Isabella’s story will be told here as material and photos become available, the last information and / or images added 06 June 2013]

Isabella Watson McCONNELL, was born on 5 April 1891 at Carcluie Cottage, Ayrshire, Scotland to John McCONNELL, a gamekeeper and his wife Isabella WATSON. Isabella (often known as Isa), the fifth child and third daughter, was named after her mother Isabella.

In the 1891 census Isabella was ‘under 1 month’ old; her grandmother Mary HUNTER was also at Carlcuie as a ‘nurse’, obviously to help her daughter with the new baby and the other four children under the age of eight. The day of the census there was a visitor to the family, Mary THOMSON, 23 and unmarried. It is not known at this time whether Mary Thomson was related to John Hay THOMSON who would marry Isa’s older sister Janet Watson McCONNELL in 1912.

McConnell002-8Photo left: Isabella, summer of 1895 [see post 16 April 2013 for family group photo]. Photo is from the collection of Mary Smith (in Tennessee). May Wood in Ayrshire, Scotland also has a copy of this photograph.

By 1901 Isabella, 9 years old, attended school. Her small world crashed sometime after 1902 when her father had to leave his lifelong job as a gamekeeper. While the reason he left his job is as yet unknown, it seems certain that he would not have left his job voluntarily as he had a large family to support, no prospects of work and certainly no savings. Suddenly the family, who had been born and brought up at Carlcuie, were forced into low-rental accommodation and, from records found to date, appear to have moved frequently.  Additional misfortune struck the family when, on 11 June 1904, Janet’s mother, who had been seriously ill for some time, suddenly died in the Western Infirmary in Glasgow after an unsuccessful operation. At the time of her mother’s death the McConnell family lived at 7 John Street in Ayr, and Janet’s father had found work as a ‘auctioneers warehouseman’. The seven children of the motherless McConnell family, and their father John, were no doubt devastated.

Isabella was 12 at the time and her older sisters Mary (Mary Hunter Morton McCONNELL) (21) and Janet (15), would have  taken over much of the care of the family, particularly the younger children Elizabeth (9) and, William (2). Her brothers John (19) and Thomas (17) had completed school and worked outside the home; John as an apprentice joiner and Thomas as a clerk. The extended family also rallied around; aunt Janet (WATSON)  and uncle Gilbert SPEIRS probably lived nearby and no doubt Isabella’s grandmother, Mary Hunter helped. Janet’s Uncle Thomas WATSON and Aunt Jane (MUIR) did not live in the Ayr area at the time, however we know from postcards that they stayed in close touch with the family and were no doubt involved in family discussions about the future.

Little did Isabella know at the time how this period in her life was to shape her future. In time she moved away from Scotland; lived for a time in Ellisboro, Lemberg, Rosewood and Wolseley Saskatchewan; married in Montana, USA; and ended her days in Seattle, Washington, USA. But in 1904 all that was in her future.

It is not known where Isabella lived while she completed her schooling. A bank deposit book, owned by May Wood in Scotland, shows that, after she completed her schooling, at about age 15, she worked in several places.

In the early 1900s, as have been noted in other stories about the extended Watson-McConnell-Speirs families, Isabella’s siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins had started to move away from Scotland. In June 1909, Isabella’s elder brother John MCCONNELL, 24, a carpenter, sailed for New York and settled in New Jersey. By April 1910 all of Isabella’s Watson cousins (with the exception of her cousin Thomas WATSON, a chauffeur in London), and her Uncle Thomas and Aunt Jane Watson had moved to Saskatchewan. No doubt they encouraged others to follow. The McConnell family siblings viewed the move from Scotland from their own perspectives. Isabella’s older sister Janet married John Hay THOMSON in June 1912;  In November 1912 Isabella’s younger sister Elizabeth (Bessie), 17, sailed for Montreal with her Aunt Janet (Watson) and Uncle Gilbert Speirs. Also on the ship S.S. Cassandra was Isabella’s cousin Janet SPEIRS, daughter of Janet and Gilbert Speirs.

By the end of 1912 the only members of the McConnell family left in Scotland were: Isabella (21) her older sister Mary (29); her married sister Janet; young brother William (10); and father John (57). Her brother Thomas had died in 1905. Janet and her husband John elected to stay in Scotland, it is not known whether they ever considered a move to Saskatchewan.  Mary decided to stay in Scotland; the decision was made that Isabella and her brother would move to Saskatchewan. Family stories indicate that their father John had decided to move with them, which seems reasonable as William was still a minor and, as his father, John was responsible for him. Plans were made, tickets purchased. Unfortunately, Isabella’s father died suddenly in January 1913.

McConnell1-0001cIsabella, 22, and William, 11, continued with their plan and on 5 July 1913 travelled to Glasgow where they boarded the S.S. Letitia and sailed for Montreal. Isabella listed her occupation as ‘domestic’

Photo left and below: Isabella, taken in 1913. Was this photo taken in Scotland before she sailed to Canada in 1913? From the collection of Mary Smith, Tennessee.

In later years Isabella became known as ‘nurse McConnell’, although it is not known McConnell1-0001dat this time if she received formal medical training or whether she was a mother’s helper or what we might today call a nanny. If she had trained as a nurse she would not have listed herself as a ‘domestic’ on the passenger list; a nurse would have been a much more desirable occupation.

Photo left: Isabella, dated 1920. From the collection of Mary Smith, Tennessee. Does this uniform indicate that she is a trained nurse, or is this of a nurse involved in Red Cross or similar activities?

Isabella appears to have lived for a time in Ellisboro, Saskatchewan – perhaps with her Aunt Janet and Uncle Gilbert Speirs. She likely worked for families in the area, helping with their children and household chores. Her cousin Janet SPEIRS and her husband McConnell023-2 John INGLIS also lived in the Ellisboro area, and Isa may have helped with their children Janet (Jenny) INGLIS and her brother John (Jack) INGLIS.

Photo right: Isa has written on the photo: Little Jenny and Jack Inglis with Isa. The photo was taken about 1917 in Ellisboro, Saskatchewan; the hills of the Qu’Appelle Valley can be seen in the background.

McConnell023-1

Photo left: In Isa’s handwriting – Notice the rivers and hills [of the Qu’Appelle Valley] this is taken behind the store The little Jackson girl are in too. Jenny Inglis may be the girl on the right?. Isa sent both of these photos back to her sister Mary in Girvan, Ayrshire, Scotland where they are still in the collection of May Wood, a descendant of Mary.

Isa did get involved in the Ellisboro community and joined the local Ellisboro church; the photo at right, labelled “English Church at Ellisboro” she sent to her sister Mary McConnell021-3This church was right across the road from where the Speirs family lived in Ellisboro. The photo right, from the collection of May Wood in Ayrshire, was likely taken in 1917, on the same roll of film as the above photos of the Inglis children. IMG_1688Photo below taken in Ellisboro by the author in 2004.

msmith-1-0017Several years later, in 1922, after Isa had moved to the United States she no doubt informed the church she was no longer part of the congregation and received the certificate below. The certificate is now in the collection of Mary Smith in Tennessee.

In 1917 Isabella had been in the Ellisboro area of Saskatchewan for four years and she obviously considered this her new home. msmith-1-0024bIn May of that year she was working in Wolseley Saskatchewan and sent a post card to her cousin Jean WATSON, C/O of Ellisboro post office. The picture on the postcard of Wascana Lake in Regina; she had no doubt bought the card on a trip to the city.

Wolseley, May 25, 1917. Hello Jean, How are ya and all the folks up home? Did you have a good time at the picnic? Had a nice day for it anyway. And I was disappointed at not getting out there. Saw Sandy yesterday he say his job is not all its cracked up to be. They are still working on Magers [?]. Hope to see you soon. Kindest regards to all. How is the seed and garden coming on. Isa

msmith-1-0024bbPost card from the author’s collection.

[Isabella’s story to be continued

McCONNELL, Janet Watson (1888-1923)

[for Janet’s parents and siblings see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

This story is dedicated to Mary Janet McConnell Smith, a descendant of Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL. Mary was born in Seattle, lived in Montana and now lives in Tennessee, USA. Mary has been, and continues to be, central to the research and interest in the story of Isabella and John McConnell and their descendants.

[Please keep checking this space, Janet’s story will be told here as material and photos become available, the last information and / or images added 5 July 2013]

Janet Watson McCONNELL, was born on 4 October 1888 at Carcluie Cottage, Ayrshire, Scotland to John McCONNELL, a gamekeeper and his wife Isabella WATSON. Janet was the fourth child and second daughter born to John and Isabella in a family that would eventually grow to eight children. In the 1891 census she was a 2 year old toddler.

McConnell002-7Photo left: Janet, summer of 1895 [see post 16 April 2013 for family group photo]. Photo is from the collection of Mary Smith (in Tennessee). May Wood in Ayrshire, Scotland also has a copy of this photograph.

By the time of the 1901 census, Janet was a 12 year old ‘scholar’ [attended school]. Between 1902 and 1904 Janet’s life changed dramatically and unexpectedly in several ways. Sometime after the birth of her brother William at Carcluie Cottage in 1902, Janet’s father, for some reason, lost his job as gamekeeper and the family had to move to rented accommodation. Then, on 11 June 1904, her mother Isabella died after an unsuccessful operation at the Western Informary in Glasgow. Although her mother had been sick for some time, her death was not expected. The McConnell family was motherless and Janet’s older sister Mary likely became the surrogate mother. Janet, 15, would have been expected to help with the cooking cleaning and caring for the three younger children: Isabella (13), Elizabeth (9) and, William (2). Her brothers John (19) and Thomas (17) had completed school and worked outside the home; John as an apprentice joiner and Thomas as a clerk. While Janet’s grandmother, Mary Hunter, likely stayed with the family and her aunt  Janet (WATSON)  and uncle Gilbert SPEIRS helped wherever they could, much would still depend on the McConnell children themselves.

In 1905 Janet’s world suffered another blow with the death of her brother Thomas, 18 years old, from tuberculosis.

From 1906 to 1912 Janet watched as her immediate and extended family of Watsons, Speirs – and also several of her siblings – moved to Canada, in the USA (in the case of her brother John). But leaving Scotland was not what Janet wished to do.

On 7 June 1912, Janet a 23 year old domestic servant, married John THOMSON, a 23 year old locomotive fireman, son of George THOMSON, railway surfaceman and Catherine ROBERTSON. The marriage took place at 169 High Street in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland. Janet’s younger sister Elizabeth was one of the two witnesses at the marriage. At the time of her marriage Janet gave her ‘usual address’ as Shona South Park Road in Ayr, likely the address of her employer at the time.

[Janet’s story to be continued]

McCONNELL, Thomas Watson (1886-1905)

[for Thomas’ parents and siblings see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

This story is dedicated to Mary Janet McConnell Smith, a descendant of Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL. Mary was born in Seattle, lived in Montana and now lives in Tennessee, USA. Mary has been, and continues to be, central to the research and interest in the story of Isabella and John McConnell and their descendants.

[Please keep checking this space, Thomas’ story will be told here as material and photos become available, the last information and / or images added 5 June 2013]

Thomas Watson McCONNELL was born in Carlcuie Cottage on 8 October 1888 to gamekeeper John McCONNELL and his wife Isabella WATSON. As the second son born to John and Isabella, his name was taken from that of his mother’s father Thomas WATSON.

McConnell002-6In the 1891 census, Thomas, 4 was still too young for school.

Photo left: Thomas, summer of 1895 [see post 16 April 2013 for family group photo]. Photo is from the collection of Mary Smith (in Tennessee). May Wood in Ayrshire, Scotland also has a copy of this photograph. This is the only known photograph of Thomas; hopefully others will come to light.

By 1901, Thomas now 14, had become ‘clerk’, although the type of clerk is not identified. He was 17 years old when his mother died, unexpectedly, on the 11 June 1904 in the Western Infirmary Glasgow after an unsuccessful operation. The suddenly motherless family of seven McConnell children had yet another worry – Thomas’ health.

It is likely that by mid 1904 Thomas had begun to show signs of tuberculosis or consumption. He died of this disease, on 1 October 1905 – little more than a year after the death of his mother. His death occurred at Byolu (sp?) Street in Ayr; at the time of his death he worked as a ‘railway clerk’ and he had been sick ‘some months’. His elder brother John was the informant of his death, it is easy to imagine that his grief strickened father, still mourning the death of his wife, did not feel up to the task.

It is not known why Thomas died in Ayr, and not at Carcluie Cottage where he had lived with his parents and siblings for many years. Perhaps his father had left Carcluie Cottage, no longer worked as a gamekeeper and now lived in Ayr? Hopefully answers to this question will be found in the future.

McCONNELL, John (1885-1964)

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[for John’s parents and siblings see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

This story is dedicated to Mary Janet McConnell Smith, a descendant of Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL. Mary was born in Seattle, lived in Montana and now lives in Tennessee, USA. Mary has been, and continues to be, central to the research and interest in the story of Isabella and John McConnell and their descendants.

[Please keep checking this space, John’s story will be told here as material and photos become available, the last information and / or images added 21 August 2013]

John McCONNELL was born on 17 January 1885 at Carcluie Cottage, Ayrshire, Scotland to John McCONNELL, a gamekeeper and his wife Isabella WATSON. John’s name followed the Scottish naming tradition of the first son being named after the father’s father – in this case John McCONNELL.

McConnell002-4Photo left: John, summer of 1895 [see post 16 April 2013 for family group photo]. Photo is from the collection of Mary Smith (in Tennessee). May Wood in Ayrshire, Scotland also has a copy of this photograph.

John’s life was likely normal for that period; he grew up in an ever expanding family. By the time of the 1891 census, John, 6 was a ‘scholar’ [attended school] and had three younger siblings as well as his older sister Mary. His grandmother Mary HUNTER also lived with them, perhaps John became close to his grandmother?

By 1901, John now 16, had completed school and became an ‘apprentice joiner’ [carpenter]. John likely still lived at home, and walked from Carcluie Cottage to work in Ayr each day. A family story indicates that he worked as a ship’s carpenter. Ayr, a seaport town with a large active fishing fleet, would have certainly offered that type of work and training. John would have contributed a larger portion of his meager apprentice pay to his parents to help support the large McConnell family.

John’s youngest brother William was born in 1902. Shortly after that date John’s apprentice take-home pay became even more important when his father lost his position as gamekeeper. The loss of this life long position occurred sometime between William’s birth in 1902 and 1904; the reasons for this job loss are unknown, although it seems certain that it was not a voluntary decision as his father would not willingly give up the steady job required to support his large family. The family was forced to leave Carcluie Cottage where John had been born and had lived his all his life. The family moved to Ayr to inexpensive rented accommodation, a move that certainly would have been considered a ‘step down’ and signal a reversal in fortune for the McConnell family. John’s mother Isabella, still nursing John’s young brother William, was also likely ill at the time, adding an extra burden of worry and gloom to the family’s situation.

By June of 1904 John’s father had found work as an auctioneer’s assistant – a far cry from his position as gamekeeper. John’s mother was seriously ill and went for surgery at the Western Infirmary (Hospital) in Glasgow. On 11 June, John’s world dramatically changed with the sudden and unexpected death of his mother as a result of her surgery. John (19) likely continued with his work as a joiner, which contributed to the family income that his father brought home. John’s elder sister Mary (a dressmaker, aged 21) likely took on much of the care of the younger children, while his brother Thomas (17) continued his work as a clerk. John’s three younger sisters – Janet (15), Isabella (13) and Elizabeth (9) – still attended school, while his youngest sibling William, was only two years old.

The motherless McConnell family also had help from extended family: John’s grandmother Mary Hunter; and his mother’s sister Janet and her husband Gilbert SPEIRS; and his mother’s brother Thomas WATSON and his wife Jane MUIR. John, his father and John’s six siblings were forced to cope with this new life reality. Now, perhaps for the first time, John became ever more serious about his future career as a joiner – now not only did he have to support himself and any future family he might have, but he would also need to financially support help his father and siblings. Perhaps it was at this time that John began to think of emigrating for better work opportunities.

Unfortunately the bleak McConnell family situation worsened. John’s younger brother Thomas became ill with consumption [tuberculosis]. He may have already been ill at the time of his mother’s death, certainly he was ill shortly after it as his death registration indicates he was ill for “some months”. During this time there would have been increasing the worry for a family member’s health as well as an additional financial burden on John and his father as Thomas would not have been able to continue his work as a railway clerk.

On 1 October 1905 – little more than a year after the death of his mother – Thomas, 18, died of consumption. His death occurred at Byolu (sp?) Street in Ayr, the family’s home after leaving Carlcuie Cottage. Normally Thomas’ father would have made the trip to the Registrar’s Office to register the death. However, in this case the sad journey was made by John, then 20. It is easy to imagine that his grief strickened father, still mourning the death of his wife, could not manage the task.

About this time the extended McConnell-Watson-Speirs family began to seriously consider options for their future. Emigrants were leaving Scotland for Australia, Africa and other international destinations. North American beckoned our family. The first to move, in June 1906, was a Watson cousin, 17 year old James (Jim) Muir WATSON. After he arrived in Montreal, Jim went to Manitoba where he worked as a farm labourer to save up money to buy his own land. His reports home to Scotland – likely by postcard – no doubt encouraged others to follow.

Three years went by until other family members did so. During that time, a family story is told that John worked as a carpenter on board transatlantic ships out of Scotland (Ayr? Glasgow?) If he did so he may have made several trips to the United States. Whatever the circumstances, by June of 1909 John had decided that the New York area was the place for him; he perhaps saw the potential for work as a carpenter, without having to spend months at sea.

This same family story also tells that John had been aided by his captain to ‘jump ship’ in America. While this is a romantic scenario, his entry into New York was formal and not furtive. ‘UK Outward Bound Passenger lists, 1890-1960’ document John’s departure, as a passenger, from Glasgow on 12 June 1909. He was on the Anchor Line’s ship S.S. Caledonia, destination New York. Ellis Island immigration records document his entry into the Port of New York on 21 June 1909. On the ‘List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival’ John is listed as a 24 year old carpenter, last permanent address Ayr, Scotland; his nearest relative is listed as J. McConnell [his father John McConnell] of Straud Cottage, Girvan, [Ayrshire, Scotland]. The Manifest also tells us that John was 5′ 11″ tall, of dark complexion, dark hair and blue eyes. We also learn that he paid for his passage himself, and that he had less than $50 with him. When asked ‘Whether in possession of $50, and if less, how much?‘ John indicated that he had $30.

A month later, in July the exodus of the extended McConnell-Watson-Speirs family continued when John’s cousin William (Bill) Watson Muir WATSON, 17 years old, sailed for Canada where, like his brother Bill, he worked on a Manitoba farm as a farm labourer earning money for land purchase. By 1913 all members of the three related families were in North America with the exception of John’s two older sisters Mary and Janet.

In 1914 John, 29 years old, became an naturalized American citizen, at the Essex County Court in Newark, New Jersey. We learn this from the U. S. Ellis Island Records which record a trip that John took from Bermuda in 1924 [see note below].

John married about 1917. This can be deduced from the January 13, 1920 U.S. census in which John, widower, 34 years old, occupation: ‘carpenter, house’, lived with his father-in-law Alexander McHENRY and his family, at 579 Valley Road, West Orange, New Jersey, U.S.A. With John was his 1 1/2 year old daughter Mary McHENRY.msmith-1-0020 msmith-1-0021

A photograph exists of John’s wife Mary McHENRY and John, perhaps taken at the time of their marriage. Although documentary evidence still has not yet been located, it seems likely that John and Mary married in New Jersey, their daughter Mary was probably born in 1918. John’s wife Mary died between 1918 and the time of the census in January 1920.

In 1924 John still lived with his McHenry in-laws; we learn this from Ellis Island records which record a trip he took from Hamilton, Bermuda to New York. From these records we learn that on 24 April 1924 when he was 39 years old and single, John, from 579 Valley Road, West Orange, New Jersey, sailed from Hamilton, Bermuda to New York on the S.S. Fort St. George. [No record has been found of when he travelled to Bermuda]. On this manifest he is listed with other ‘United States Citizens’ and we learn that he became a naturalized citizen in 1914 at the Essex County Court in Newark, New Jersey. The address at 579 Valley Road cross checks with the 1920 census records and confirms that this is the correct John. The Naturalization records have not yet been checked.

Between the 1924 trip from Bermuda and the time of the 1930 census, John married Alice BLAIR, a widow. This is deduced from the 2 April 1930 U. S. census in which John, 44 years old, occupation: ‘working contractor, general building’ lived at #77 – Cobave [?] Terrace, West Orange, New Jersey, U.S.A. John’s daughter Mary, 12, born in New Jersey, also lived there. The census also tells us that Alice, who was born in Ohio about 1889, was a widow as her son, Robert BLAIR, 17, also lived at the address. John’s income is given as $16,000 – a significant income for the period.

On 5 November 1964 John, 79 years old, died the Memorial Hospital in Orange, Essax Counbty New Jersey. His usual residence was 234 Eagle Rock Avenue, West Orange, New Jersey, U.S.A., occupation was given as ‘contractor’. The informant was ‘Mrs. J. McConnell’ of the same address as the deceased – no indication if this was the former Alice Blair.

On 9 November 1964 John was buried at Restland Memorial Park, East Hanover, New Jersey

[John’s story to be continued]

McCONNELL, Mary Hunter Morton (1883-1955)

[for Mary’s parents and siblings see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

This story is dedicated to Mary Janet McConnell Smith, a descendant of Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL. Mary was born in Seattle, lived in Montana and now lives in Tennessee, USA. Mary has been, and continues to be, central to the research and interest in the story of Isabella and John McConnell and their descendants.

[this post last edited, new information and / or images added 5 June 2013]

Mary Hunter Morton McCONNELL, was born on 23 March 1883 at Old Knockjarder, Ayrshire, Scotland to John McCONNELL, a 27 year old gamekeeper and his wife Isabella WATSON, a 25 year old farmer’s daughter. Mary’s name followed the Scottish naming tradition of the first daughter being named after the mother’s mother – in this case Mary HUNTER. However John’s mother’s name was also ‘Mary’ (Mary MORTON) so wee Mary’s name kept both sides of the family happy.

McConnell002-5Photo left: Mary, summer of 1895 [see post 16 April 2013 for family group photo]. Photo is from the collection of Mary Smith (in Tennessee). May Wood in Ayrshire, Scotland also has a copy of this photograph.

Mary was the first born of what was to become a family of eight children born to John and Isabella McConnell. As the eldest she would always be expected to be the ‘Big Girl’, and help out with the younger children. In the 1891 census she is 8 years old, going to school, and no doubt helping her mother with the four younger chidren John (6), Thomas (4), Janet (2) and Isabella (‘under 1 month’). Her 63 year old grandmother Mary Hunter (widow of Thomas WATSON) is also with the family – no doubt to help her daughter Isabella with the birth of the new baby Isabella, and care of the other children. Mary THOMSON, 23, is also a visitor, but there is no indication of the relationship she may have had with the family.

By the time of the 1901 census, Mary, 18 had trained as a dressmaker. The fact that she was listed with the family meant that she either still lived at home, or at least was home the day the census taker visited the McConnell family.

Suddenly, on 11 June 1904, Mary’s mother Isabella died after an operation at the Western Informary in Glasgow. Although her mother had been sick for some time, her death was not expected. The McConnell family was motherless and Mary, as the eldest child and daughter, likely became a surrogate mother. Her brothers John (19) and Thomas (17) had completed shcool and worked outside the home; John as an apprentice joiner and Thomas as a clerk. Three children – Janet (15), Isabella (13) and Elizabeth (9) still attended school. The youngest, William, was only two years old.

It seems fairly certain that Mary’s grandmother, Mary Hunter, would come and stay with the family. Also, Mary’s aunt and uncle Janet (WATSON) and Gilbert SPEIRS helped wherever they could.

Photo below: A photograph of Mary, taken in 1913. The inscription on the back of the photo, in Mary’s handwriting, “With the Seasons Greetings, From Mary, Dec 1913“. The photo is from the author’s collection.

WATSON1913-000Mary mailed this Christmas greeting to Saskatchewan, Canada to both her Uncle Tom and Aunt Jane/Jean (Thomas WATSON and his wife Jane MUIR), and their family as well as her Aunt Janet, Uncle Gilbert and their daughter (Janet WATSON, Gilbert SPEIRS and Janet SPEIRS) who had arrived in Saskatchewan in 1912.  [for the stories of her Watson cousins see posts 14 May to 22 May 2012, for the story of Janet and Gilbert Speirs see post 28 February 2013]

WATSON1913-000a

[Mary’s story to be continued]

McCONNELL, John (1855-1913)

[for John’s family see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

This story is dedicated to Mary Janet McConnell Smith, a descendant of Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL. Mary was born in Seattle, lived in Montana and now lives in Tennessee, USA. Mary has been, and continues to be, central to the research and interest in the story of Isabella and John McConnell and their descendants.

[this post last edited, new information and / or images added 8 June 2013]

John McCONNELL was born on 25 August 1855, the second youngest child of John McCONNELL and his wife Mary MORTON. The 1855 birth registration – since it was the first year Scotland required births be registered with the government – recorded detailed information. The birth occurred in the small town of Tarbolton, Ayrshire, Scotland where John (the father) was a mason (stone mason). The registration said that John (the baby) was “the 10th child born to Mary Morton (40 years old). Her husband is John MConnell (42 years old), a mason who has 5 boys living and 5 girls living. John and Mary were married at Carngillan Farm, Tarbolton in 1834.”

In the 1861 census the MConnell family lived at 10 Garden Street in Tarbolton, John (the father) was ‘Master of free stone quarry’, seven of the children still lived at home; Gilbert (24) followed his father as a mason, Jean (18) was a ‘sewed muslin worker’, and Anne (15) was a domestic servant. The four youngest children – Elizabeth (12), William (10), Andrew (8) and John (5) – all attended school. [An eleventh child, James, was born in 1857.]

McConnell002-2Photo left: John, summer of 1895 [see post 16 April 2013 for family group photo]. Photo is from the collection of Mary Smith (in Tennessee). May Wood in Ayrshire, Scotland also has a copy of this photograph.

By the time John was 16 years old he had left home; it was expected that everyone would start work and earn money as soon as school was completed. In the 1871 census, his parents, John and Mary, still lived at 10 Garden Street in Tarbolton with several of their children, however John is not among them. It is not known how, or where, John became a gamekeeper. Perhaps he missed being counted in the 1871 census because he was out in the fields learning the gamekeepers’ trade.

John next shows up in the 1881 census, by which time, at age 26, he lived at Old Knockjarder, Dalrymple, Ayrshire. His occupation is listed as gamekeeper. A year later, on the 5th of October 1882, John married Isabella WATSON, a ‘farmer’s daughter’. The marriage took place nearby at the bride’s home, Mount Oliphant Farm.  Isabella’s parents were Thomas WATSON, a tenant farmer, and his wife Mary HUNTER.

John and Isabella lived at Old Knockjarder where their first child, Mary Hunter Morton McCONNELL, was born on 23 March 1883. By the beginning of 1885 Isabella, John and Isabella had moved to Carcluie Cottage, near Ayr in Ayrshire; it was to be their home for the next nineteen years.  It was at Carcluie Cottage that the remainder of Isabella’s and John’s children were born.

John’s world turned upside down when his 46 year old wife, Isabella, suddenly died on 11 June 1904 after an operation at the Western Informary in Glasgow. John was in Glasgow with Isabella and was the informant of her death. Suddenly John, 49 years old, was left with a motherless family of seven children. Some of the children had completed school and were working: Mary (21) was a dressmaker; John (19) was an apprentice joiner; and Thomas (17) was a clerk. Three children – Janet (15), Isabella (13) and Elizabeth (9) still attended school. The youngest, William, was only two years old.

It is not known how John managed with his family for the next few years. It seems fairly certain that Isabella’s mother, Mary Hunter, would come and stay with the family. Also, Isabella’s sister Janet WATSON and her husband Gilbert SPEIRS helped wherever they could. Perhaps Janet also came to stay with the McConnell children – or perhaps William the youngest went to stay at the Speirs home. No doubt much added responsiblity was taken on by Mary, the eldest of the McConnell siblings.

 

(John’s story will continue)

WATSON, Isabella (1858-1904)

[for Isabella’s family see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

This story is dedicated to Mary Janet McConnell Smith, a descendant of Isabella WATSON and her husband John McCONNELL. Mary was born in Seattle, lived in Montana and now lives in Tennessee, USA. Mary has been, and continues to be, central to the research and interest in the story of Isabella and John McConnell and their descendants.

[this post last edited, new information and / or images added 5 June 2013]

Isabella WATSON was born on 18 March 1858 at Mosshill Farm, Dallmellington Road, Alloway, outside Ayr, Scotland to Thomas WATSON and his wife Mary HUNTER. Thomas and Mary were tenant farmers at Mosshill Farm.

scan00001-1Photo left: Isabella, in a photo taken by the photographer Kyles, in Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland. Photo from Mary’s collection. Date uncertain; was this photo taken about the time of Isabella’s 1882 marriage?

Isabella was the last born to the Watson family of four; she had a half-brother William [William WATSON] born in 1847, a brother Thomas [Thomas WATSON] born in 1854 and an older sister Janet [Janet WATSON] born in 1856. In the 1861 census Mosshill Farm had ’60 acres’, Isabella was 3 years old.

Before the 1871 census was conducted the Watson family moved to Mount Oliphant Farm just outside Ayr. The farm had some renown as the previous home of Robbie Burns during the poet’s childhood. Mount Oliphant was a larger farm, here Thomas was able to rent 71 acres.

Photo below: Mount Oliphant Farm, taken by the author in 2003. [for more information on Mount Oliphant Farm also see the post on 1 May 2012 on TheirOwnStories.]Mount Oliphant Farm 2003

The 1871 census showed the Watsons as a farming family; as well as her farmer father Thomas, Isabella’s mother Mary also listed her occupation as ‘farmer’, and Isabella’s 16 year old brother Thomas is listed as ‘farmer’s son’. Her half brother, William, was away from home. Isabella was still at school; her older sister Janet, 15 years old, worked as a domestic servant.

On 2 Mar. 1878, Isabella’s father Thomas, only 50, died of ‘paralysis of the brain’ at Mount Oliphant Farm. On 22 November 1880 at Mount Oliphant Farm, Isabella’s older sister Janet, a 24 year old dairymaid, married Gilbert SPEIRS, aged 22. After their marriage Janet and Gilbert moved to Rankinson Farm, not far – within walking distance – from Mount Oliphant. It seems likely that Isabella, Janet, Thomas and their mother Mary visited back and forth as frequently as possible; the extended Watson family stayed in close touch all their lives, even when separated by the eventual move to Saskatchewan, Canada by parts of the family.

The 1881 census showed Isabella’s brother Thomas (26) had taken over responsibility for renting Mount Oliphant Farm. Isabella (23) and her mother Mary (53), also lived there, worked on the farm and no doubt sold eggs and extra produce in the Ayr markets to supplement the family income.

About this time John McCONNELL, a 26 year old gamekeeper entered Isabella’s life. He lived and worked at Old Knockjarder, Dalrymple. On the 5th of October 1882, 24 year old Isabella, a ‘farmer’s daughter’  married John, 27. The marriage took place at the bride’s home, Mount Oliphant, as was the custom.  John’s parents were John McCONNELL, a quarrymaster, and his wife Mary MORTON.

Isabella moved to Old Knockjarder with John and they continued to live there for some time. Their first child, a daughter Mary Hunter Morton McCONNELL, was born there on 23 March 1883.

carlcluie in the distanceBy the beginning of 1885 Isabella, John and Isabella had moved to Carcluie Cottage, near Ayr in Ayrshire; on 17 January 1885 a son, John McCONNELL, was born there. Carcluie Cottage was to be their home for the next nineteen years.  It was at Carcluie Cottage that the remainder of Isabella’s and John’s children were born.

Photo above and below of Carcluie Cottage: from the collection of L.A., a Watson descendant who still lives in Scotland.

CarcluieA second son, Thomas Watson McCONNELL was born at Carcluie on 08 October 1886.

In 1887 Isabella received a gift of a teapot; IMG_0040this teapot now is owned by Isabella’s great granddaughter May Wood in Ayrshire. In 1887 Isabella was 29 years old; she and John had been married for five years. Would either of these events have prompted the purchase of a gift to mark a special occasion?

Between 1888 and 1895 three additional children were born at Carcluie: Janet Watson McCONNELL (b. 04 October 1888); Isabella (Isa) Watson McCONNELL (b. 05 April 1891); and Elizabeth (Bessie, Betty) Wyllie McCONNELL (b. 10 May 1895).

McConnell002-1aPhoto left: Isabella, John and their family. Photo is from the collection of Mary Smith (in Tennessee). May Wood in Ayrshire, Scotland also has a copy of this photograph.

The photograph was taken in the summer (leaves on background tree) 1895 as the baby on Isabella’s lap is Elizabeth born in May 1895. Others in the photo, left to right: John (father), backrow – Mary, John (standing on a stool?), Thomas. Girl in front with large lace collar is Janet, girl sitting on ground is Isabella.

After 1895 two more children were born at Carcluie to Isabella and John. Margaret McCONNELL was born 10 January 1900.  Sadly, Margaret did not reach her first birthday; she died on the 16 December 1900. William Watson McCONNELL, born 16 February 1902, was the youngest of Isabella and John’s children.

Perhaps it was from about this time that Isabella became ill; we will likely never know. If so, the last year’s of her life were difficult, with a large family of eight children, the youngest still barely a toddler. What is known that she died on 11 June 1904 in the Western Infirmary Glasgow Residence. Cause of death was given as “excision of breast”; more specific information about the reason for the breast operation was not given. Perhaps this was an operation that had disastrous results? Clearly the medical techniques of the time (1904) bore little resemblance to the medical possibilities of today 109 years later.

Isabella’s husband John was with her and signed the death registration.

Several things about Isabella’s and John’s lives at the time of her death are unclear. While Isabella and John had lived at Carcluie Cottage since at least January 1885 – and their son William was born there in 1902 – Isabella’s ‘usual residence’ in 1904 was given as “3 John Street, Ayr” on her death registration. Also, John’s occupation, which had been as a gamekeeper for many years, was given as “auctioneers storeman”. Had Isabella and John left Carcluie Cottage and moved to Ayr? Did John, 49 years old in 1904, find the work as a gamekeeper too strenuous? Or had they moved to Ayr to be closer to amenities such as doctors, shops, etc.?

Whatever the reasons for the move and Isabella’s unexpected and untimely death, the McConnell family’s future was drastically and permanently changed.

[stories of the McConnell family children are posted 20 April to 28 April 2013]

WATSON, Janet (1856-1935)

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[see WATSON Family under heading ‘WATSON’]

[this post last edited, new information and / or images added 01 June 2013]

Janet WATSON was born on 7 February 1856 on Peebles Street, Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland to Thomas WATSON and his wife Mary HUNTER. Thomas and Mary were tenant farmers on Mosshill Farm, Dallmellington Road, outside Ayr. Thomas also worked as a ‘carter’, probably to supplement the family income, and he was not present at the time of Janet’s birth. Perhaps he was away on a carting job. Or perhaps, as a farmer, Thomas may have had a strong “draught” horse which, when it wasn’t used for ploughing would be hired out. Thomas may have been away delivering or picking up the horse.

Whatever the situation, since her husband was away, Mary went into Ayr, to a home on Peebles Street to have her baby. She may have gone to the home of her in-laws William and Isabella (McCREATH) WATSON who lived on Peebles Street. Mary’s own parents, William and Janet (McCALL) HUNTER, also lived in Ayr, likely on Clunes Street. Perhaps the Hunter home was not large enough to accommodate Mary and the new baby, or perhaps Mary’s father, who worked as a weaver, needed the available space for his weaving equipment and looms. Weavers cottages were  basically just ‘but an’ bens” so likely there would be no place or  privacy for a visitor in labour. [A ‘but an’ bens’ is a class of worker’s house which had a main room where work and daily life went on and then through to a bedroom. This type of home was a step up from a single room, but had no place for cattle or barn for storage. No kitchen or bathroom either! The word ‘ben’ still exists in Scots today and is used to refer to other rooms in the house e.g. “working at the computer Ben the house”.]

WATSON1930-000aPhoto: Janet, about 1930 in Ellisboro, Saskatchewan, Canada. Photo from the author’s collection.

At Mosshill Farm baby Janet joined two older brothers, a half-brother William [William WATSON] born in 1847 and a brother Thomas [Thomas WATSON] born in 1854. A sister Isabella [Isabella WATSON] born in 1858, completed the family. In an age of large families the Watson family of four children would be considered small. In 1861 Janet, 5, was a ‘scholar’ the term used for children who attended school. The census that year also tells us that Mosshill Farm had ’60 acres’.

Sometime after the 1861 and before 1871 census, the Watson family moved to Mount Oliphant Farm just outside Ayr. The farm had some renown as the previous home of Robbie Burns during the poet’s childhood. Mount Oliphant was a larger farm, here Thomas was able to rent 71 acres.

The 1871 census showed the Watsons as a farming family; as well as her farmer father Thomas, Janet’s mother Mary also listed her occupation as ‘farmer’. As was done from all the working farms in the area, Mary and possibly her daughters drove  the ‘jig’ [horse and cart] into Ayr to a market where she sold her butter and cream to the townspeople. Janet’s 16 year old brother Thomas is listed as ‘farmer’s son’. Her half brother, William, was away from home. Janet, 15 years old, who would have finished school, gave her occupation as a ‘general servant’ an indication that she may have been employed elsewhere, likely to bring in some money and supplement the family income.  If she had been working on the farm her occupation would normally be described as ‘farmer’s daughter’ or ‘farm servant. Perhaps she worked at a nearby farm, walked to work each day, and returned home in the evenings. The day of the census she was at home with her parents, brother Thomas and sister Isabella. A 14 year old ‘farm servant’, Charles Blackley also lived and worked on the farm.

On 2 Mar. 1878, Janet’s life changed dramatically when her father Thomas, only 50, died of ‘paralysis of the brain’ at Mount Oliphant Farm.WATSON1878-000c Janet’s mother Mary, herself only 50, was left a widow with three children and together the family helped run the farm. The 1881 census shows that Thomas’ son Thomas had taken over the rental of Mount Oliphant, and his mother Mary and sisters Janet and Isabella continued to live on the farm. (Right: Death memorial card from the collection May Wood, of a descendant of Thomas Watson who still lives in Ayrshire)

Two years after her father’s death, on 22 November 1880 Janet, 24 years old, married Gilbert SPEIRS, aged 22. The wedding took place at Janet’s home of Mount Oliphant farm; Janet listed her occupation as ‘dairy maid’ and her usual residence as Mount Oliphant Farm. Gilbert, a farm servant, listed his address as Mount Ferguson Farm which is the farm next to Mount Oliphant. It is likely that Gilbert and Janet met as they were neighbours, or Janet may have even been a dairy maid at Mount Ferguson; the farms still exist and are within easy walking distance of each other. Gilbert was born on 10 October 1858 in Balichmorrey, Barr by Girvan, Scotland, a son to Ivie Alexander SPEIRS, a ploughman, and his wife Euphemia SIMPSON. WATSON1930-000b

Photo: Gilbert, about 1930 in Ellisboro, Saskatchewan, Canada. Photo from the author’s collection. Family stories recount that Gilbert “Always had a corn cob pipe in his mouth.”

Janet and Gilbert did not stay long in the Mount Oliphant Farm / Mount Ferguson Farm area; perhaps there was not work or accommodation for a young married couple. Within six months, by the April 1881 census Janet, 25, and Gilbert, 28, were on the Rankinson Farm in the parish of Coylton, where Gilbert worked as a dairyman. In this census Janet has become 3 years younger than Gilbert; perhaps this was more socially acceptable? Mary Thomson, 14, lived with them as a servant. Perhaps Janet and Gilbert had ambitions of running a dairy together, as dairyman he may have had a little  autonomy, and the reason for the servant was to assist in the dairy (unskilled) as well as their house?

That same 1881 census showed Janet’s brother Thomas (26) had taken over responsibility for renting Mount Oliphant Farm, and her mother Mary (53), sister Isabella (23) also lived and worked there; perhaps Janet visited whenever she could as Rankinson Farm was not far away. The siblings and their mother stayed close all their lives; a bond that would support them over the years and the three countries of Scotland, Canada and USA.

One trip that Janet may have made to her family home of Mount Oliphant was for the marriage of her sister Isabella, 24, to John McCONNELL on 5 October 1882. John was a 27 year old gamekeeper, the son of quarry master John McConnell and his wife Mary MORTON. At the time neither Janet nor her family had any idea of how much support the future McConnell family would need from the extended Watson family. [see posts 19 April  – 28 April 2013 for story of Isabella and John’s family]

The Watson family extended again when, on 20 January 1887 Janet’s brother Thomas married Jane MUIR, the daughter of James MUIR and Helen McNAB. Thomas and Jane continued to live at Mount Oliphant for some years, before moving to several other farms in Scotland and eventually immigrating to Saskatchewan. Their immigration and the start of a new life were also to change that of Janet and her family. [see posts 14 May – 22 May 2012 for story of Thomas and Jane’s family]

In 1888, Janet’s and Gilbert’s only child, Janet, was born. Although I have not been able to locate her birth registration her Saskatchewan death registration listed her birth as 22 December 1888. Scottish census records indicated that she was born either in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland (1891 census), or Kingarth, Buteshire, Scotland (1901 census). The 1911 census adds to the confusion as Janet, 22, listed her birth place as ‘Argylshire Inellan’. Whichever is correct it appears that Gilbert and Janet frequently moved, itinerant tenant labourers always looking for work or a better opportunity.

By 1891 Gilbert, 33, was a shepherd and Janet, 35, a housekeeper for a farmer named Mitchell, on Overton Farm, Killearn, Stirling. As was the practice, Gilbert likely had taken a year’s contract to work as a shepherd on the understanding that his wife Janet would keep house for the combined household of the Speirs family, plus the farmer Mitchell and a 39 year old ploughman James Ewing. Janet, their daughter, was two years old in this census.

By 1901 Janet and Gilbert had moved again (and there may have been several moves in between census years); Gilbert was a farm servant and Janet worked as a dairymaid at Rankinston Farm, Ayrshire. Their daughter Janet attended school in the area. Rankinston Farm is where they had lived in twenty years earlier in 1881.

In the early 1900s Watson family experienced many changes. In 1904 the tragic and unexpected death of Janet’s younger sister Isabella  left a family of young children motherless. Janet’s brother-in-law John McConnell was not able to look after all the children by himself. Isabella and Gilbert lived in the area and no doubt spent time helping the McConnell family cope. Around this time, Janet and Gilbert moved to Chapeldonan Farm, near Girvan in Ayrshire which was not far from the McConnell family.

The extended Watson family had grown: Janet and Gilbert Speirs and their daughter Janet; Isabella and John McConnell’s seven children; and Thomas and Jane’s seven children. The period in Scotland from 1904 to 1913 for the extended family is not clear. What is clear from the postcards, shared photographs and existing records is that the three families were in close contact, visited when possible and continued to help and support one another.

In the early 1900s the Canadian government mounted an advertising campaign to attract settlers to western Canada. Land agents, who traveled throughout England and Scotland, extolled the virtues of emigration with the promise of free land and the opportunity for advancement. Newspapers carried advertisements, and in some cases letters from those who had already emigrated who encouraged others to follow. It was a lure that many young men could not resist.

In 1906 the extended Watson family began to move to the ‘new world’. The first of Janet’s nephews to leave Scotland was 17 year old Jim [James Muir WATSON], second eldest son of Janet’s brother Thomas and his wife Jane. After Jim arrived in Montreal in June of 1906 he travelled to Winnipeg, Manitoba by train and worked for a farmer as an agricultural labourer.

In 1907 an important family tie to Scotland was broken with the death of Janet’s mother Mary, age 81. Mary died on 07 July 1907, of bronchitis, at Chapeldonan Farm, Scotland. Gilbert was the informant of her death which suggests that Mary lived with her daughter Janet and son-in-law before her death.

In June 1909 another of Janet’s nephews, John McCONNELL, son of Janet’s deceased sister Isabella emigrated to the United States; his ship docked in New York City on June 21, 1909. John was a carpenter and may have been attracted to the opportunity to use his trade in the building boom on the eastern coast of the United States. He eventually settled in New Jersey, however he may have made at least one trip to Saskatchewan, perhaps with a thought of moving to Canada and farming.

The summer of 1909 saw another of Janet’s nephews leave Scotland. Bill [William Watson Muir WATSON], 17 years old, third eldest son of Janet’s brother Thomas and his wife Jane, sailed from Glasgow on the ship ‘S. S. Hesperian’ and arrived in Quebec City on 19 July 1909. Like his brother Jim, Bill’s eventual destination was Manitoba to work as an agricultural labourer.

By 1909 Janet’s brother Thomas and his wife Jane had decided to join their sons in Western Canada. In Janet’s Christmas post card to her nephew Bill that year indicated their decision. The post card below, in Janet’s handwriting was mailed to her nephew William [Bill] Watson who worked on a farm near Stockton, Manitoba. The post card was mailed 9 December 1909, and delivered in Canada 23 December 1909. The postcard is from the author’s collection.

WATSON1909-030WATSON1909-030a

Chapeldonan

 Wishing you a Merry Xmas all well hoping you are well had a letter from your father they were all well you will be having them out next will write about the New Year Aunt Janet

As Janet predicted in her Chritmas post card, on 2 April 1910 her brother Thomas (56 years old), sister-in-law Jane (45 years old), and four of their children left Glasgow, Scotland on the ship ‘S. S. Hesperian’. The ship docked in Halifax on 11 April 1910. The Watson children that accompanied their parents were Nell [Helen McNab WATSON], (20 years old), Alex [Alexander Hunter WATSON] (15 years old), Jean [Jane Muir WATSON] (11 years old), and John [John McConnell Muir WATSON] (7 years old).

Janet had misgivings about moving to Canada, as can be seen by a postcard  [not shown here, see post 12 May 2013] sent 9 September 1910, by her daughter Janet to Janet’s cousin Nell (“Write and give me all the news about the paces you can. I am still on the notion to go our but mother thinks I am just as well where I am but I will see“). However, perhaps jobs were becoming scarce for Janet and Gilbert, or family were encouraging them to come to the ‘new world’ which had opportunities for advancement.

On 2 November 1912, Janet, her husband Gilbert and their daughter Janet boarded the ship S.S. Cassandra in Glasgow. With them was Elizabeth Wyllie McCONNELL, 17, Janet’s niece [see post 26 April 2013]. The group disembarked in Montreal, Quebec on the 12th of November. The ship’s passenger list showed that their destination was Wolseley, Saskatchewan. Gilbert gave his age as 57 and his occupation as ‘labourer’, Janet, 54 (who continued to shave a couple years off her age) was a ‘housewife’ and Janet, (their daughter), 23, was a ‘domestic servant’.

A train journey took them to Wolseley, Saskatchewan, where no doubt they were met at the railway station by members of the Thomas and Jane Watson family. Christmas 1912 Janet, her husband and daughter would spend with her brother Thomas and his family.

WATSON1918-007Photo: Left to right – Thomas Watson, his sister Janet (Watson) Speirs, his brother-in-law Gilbert Speirs (with the ever-present corn cob pipe). Taken about 1918 in Saskatchewan, Canada, photo is from author’s collection.

[‘Life in Saskatchewan’ a story yet to be posted.]

Janet and Gilbert lived on and rented several farms in the Rosewood – Ellisboro area. WATSON1930-000For their last few years, during the first half of the 1930s they lived in Ellisboro in a rented home. This was the time of the Depression and a family story relates how, “while everyone was poor and in experiencing desperate times, the Speirs lived in extreme poverty. The story teller went on to say, “I don’t know what they lived on, or how they ate.”

Photo right; Janet and Gilbert Speirs, at their home in Ellisboro, about 1930. From the author’s collection.

Some time before her death Janet moved the home of their daughter Janet who had married John INGLIS. [see post 12 May 2013] where she died McConnell1-0002on 19 February 1935.

Death memorial card right was sent by Janet’s daughter Janet (Speirs) Inglis to her cousin William Watson McConnell in the United States. This card is now (in 2013) in the collection of William McConnell’s daughter, Mary Smith, who lives in Tennessee, USA.

Ellisboro, Saskatchewan Feb 21 – Tuesday morning, Mrs. Janet Spiers, 79, died at the  home of her daughter Mrs. John Inglis of Abernethy. Mrs. Spiers was born in Ayr, Scotland and with her husband, Gilbert Spiers, and her daughter came to Canada in 1912 and until the past few months had made their home in Ellisboro. The remains were interred in the cemetery here Friday afternoon in the presence of a large number of relatives and friends. The service was conducted by Rev. E. C. Cuming. The pallbearers were James, William and John Watson, Joseph Acton, J. W. Tubman ; and Kenneth Campbell. (Source: Regina Leader Post, Feb 21, 1935, Evening Edition, p. 20)

For the next while Gilbert lived with his nephew James (Jim) WATSON and his wife Agnes (Nancy) ACTON on their farm in the Qu’Appelle Valley. Jim Watson’s son Samuel Acton WATSON remembered that, as a boy growing up on the farm, one of his jobs was to take a plate of supper out to the shed or shack that had been fixed up for Gilbert to live in.

Gilbert died, at the home of his daughter Janet and son-in-law John Inglis on 19 April 1941. McConnell1-0003Gilbert’s daughter Janet also sent notice of her father’s death to her cousin William Watson McConnell in the United States. As with Janet’s death memorial card, this card is now (in 2013) in the collection of Mary Smith, William McConnell’s daughter.

IMG_1625Janet and Gilbert were buried in the Ellisboro Cemetery, beside the grave of Janet’s brother Thomas Watson and his wife Jane Muir. Photo from the author’s collection.