If you’ve ever been to Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island, you’ve likely seen this house. It’s the most prominent feature in the village, although depending when you went, you may remember it as being blue, like I do. The house was built by my 2nd great grandfather, Senator Samuel Prowse (52 Ancestors #4), was passed down to his son, my great-grandfather, Albert, and then to my great-uncle, Gerald. I loved visiting Gerald and his wife Connie when I was younger, and exploring this great house!
My great grandfather, Albert Perkins Prowse, was born on December 24, 1858, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He was the 2nd child of Samuel Prowse and Eliza Willis. He had an older brother, Frederick. Soon after Albert’s birth, the family moved to Murray Harbour, where Samuel went into business. Albert’s mother died after giving birth to a baby girl, Eliza Elizabeth, in Feb 1860. Tragically, the baby only lived for a few months, and Frederick died a couple of years later. Samuel Prowse then married his late wife’s older sister, Louisa Willis, and had two more children, William H. Prowse and Samuel Willis Prowse.
Albert became a partner in his father’s business around 1879, then known as Prowse & Son. In 1884, his half-brother William joined the partnership, which then became known as Prowse & Sons. In addition to a General Store, Prowse & Sons exported dried fish, canned lobster and agricultural produce. The business included a starch factory, using local potatoes to produce starch, a lumberyard and a cannery, where employees made cans throughout the winter for use during the next canning season. Following Samuel Prowse’s death in 1902, William sold his share in the business to Albert, who continued the business alone under the same name.
On November 29, 1881, Albert married Wilhelmina (Minnie) Kirkland at her parents’ home in Rexton, New Brunswick. The couple settled in Murray Harbour, where they raised a large family of 10 children over the next 21 years. Although their first child, Louisa, died before the age of 4, the remaining 9 children all survived.
Along with following his father into business, Albert also followed his father into politics. He first ran for the Prince Edward Island Legislative Assembly in 1897, where he was defeated. He was subsequently elected in 1899 in 4th Kings, the riding his father Samuel had held between 1876 and 1889. Albert held the seat from 1899 to 1900, from 1904 to 1919 and from 1923 until his death in 1925. He was Speaker of the Legislative Assembly from 1918 to 1919.
When I started the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, I decided to focus on direct ancestors, with the occasional foray into collateral lines. This is one of those weeks. While I have no shortage of strong women (this week’s theme) to write about from my direct lines, there’s a group of woman I came upon in my research for whom I have particular admiration.
Agnes had an older sister, Elizabeth Prowse, who was born in 1864. Following the death of her sister-in-law in 1889, Elizabeth moved to Murray Harbour, PEI, to care for her brother Isaac’s two young children. In 1894, Elizabeth, like many unmarried women of her generation, made her way to Boston to seek employment.
In 1896, Agnes, age 23 and unmarried, gave birth to a daughter who she named Bessie. In 1897, Agnes left Bessie in the care of her brother Phillip and joined her sister Elizabeth in Boston. In 1900, Agnes and Elizabeth were working as servants in the same household in Boston.
By 1906, Agnes had reunited with her daughter back in Charlottetown. In 1911, Agnes and Elizabeth were running a small boarding house, in a home that they rented. Bessie, then aged 15, lived with her mother and aunt.
By 1921, they owned a larger house on Euston Street in Charlottetown, which they also ran as a boarding house. By this time, Bessie had begun her long career as a teacher and was living with her mother, aunt and 5 boarders, all male.
It can’t have been easy raising a child as a single mother in the early 1900s in Charlottetown. She clearly raised a strong, independent daughter. Bessie became a teacher who was much loved by her students and was an active member of the PEI Professional and Business Women’s Club, including acting as President of the club for several years in the 1960s. Bessie never married and had no children that I know of.
Unlike many in her immediate and extended family, who had long detailed obituaries, Agnes’s death warranted barely a mention in the local paper.
To Agnes, Elizabeth and Bessie – you may not have left descendants, but know that you are not forgotten.
We’re up to week 9 in the 52 Ancestors challenge. Over the past 8 weeks, as I have seen each prompt, I’ve thought of different ancestors I could choose, before finally settling on one. But this week was different. When I saw the prompt “Where There’s a Will”, I knew immediately who to write about – my 4th great grandfather, Richard Rider. Not only did his will give me valuable information about his children (including an explanation for something I had been curious about), it also gave me an impression of who he was as a person. And all this in about 100 words!
Richard Rider was baptized on July 18, 1766, in North Huish, Devon, England. He was the son of William Rider and Joan (Unknown). Richard married Agnes Pilditch on June 19, 1790 in South Milton, Devon. They had 8 children who were baptized in the All Saints Church, South Milton, 5 of whom survived to adulthood.
In or before 1824, Richard & Agnes Rider and at least three of their children left Devon, England to settle on Prince Edward Island. Richard and his eldest son, John, purchased lots 416 and 417 in the Royalty of Charlotte Town. They later petitioned to receive to adjacent lots of crown land, lots 415 and 437, which was granted on August 3, 1824.
PEI Public Archives and Records Office, Land Petitions, RG5, Series 4, File 36, 1824
William and Agnes (Rider) Prowse also settled in Charlottetown, though it is unclear whether they came at the same time as Agnes’s parents, or whether they followed later. One of their children, born in Devon before they emigrated, was Joseph Jarvis Prowse.
When I was researching Joseph, I came upon the baptism of one of his sons, which listed the mother’s name as Agnes Rider Prowse. Was this a mistake? Were Joseph’s wife and mother both named Agnes Rider? Further research would reveal that Rider was her middle name – her full name was Agnes Rider Jarvis!
So Joseph Jarvis Prowse, son of Agnes Rider, married Agnes Rider Jarvis. They must be related – it would be much too coincidental for them not to be.
It was Richard Rider’s will that would lead me to the answer.
To Joseph Prouse, one pound. To Richard Jarvis (son of William and Peggy Jarvis in England), one pound. To Elizabeth Grace Rider (daughter of Jane Bryenton), my bed and bedding. My son John may purchase lot 437 at a fair value decided by three or five other men. The proceeds are to be equally divided between my five children. I appoint my children John, Agnes Prouse, Peggy Jarvis of England, Grace Wise, and Jane Bryenton as Executors. All of my children are to have an equal share in my effects, after giving Jonathan Pillage Rider and Robert Herwood my watch to be valued and divided between them. Dated 1 Sept. 1837.
Early Prince Edward Island probate records, 1786-1850 / by Linda Jean Nicholson, 2005, Pg 224, Richard Rider (Estate File Will R-27. Two documents. Liber 3, Folio 150)
How very helpful to have his daughters’ married names listed! Based on this information, I was able to track down each of them. And look – one of them married a Jarvis! They had a daughter named Agnes, who later married her cousin, Joseph Jarvis Prowse.
This still doesn’t explain Joseph’s middle name of Jarvis. Could he have been named after his mother’s brother-in-law? It’s possible, but I believe instead that William Prowse’s mother was also a Jarvis, though I haven’t yet determined whether or how she was related to William Jarvis. More on this when I profile William Prowse in a later post.
The other interesting thing about Richard Rider’s will is the grandchildren that are mentioned in it. At the time of his death in on January 4, 1838, Richard had at least 14 grandchildren, only three of whom were mentioned by name in his will:
To Joseph Prouse, 1 pound. Joseph was the oldest of Richard’s grandchildren. At 13 years old at the time Richard’s will was written, one can imagine that Joseph was a help to his grandfather.
To Richard Jarvis (son of William and Peggy Jarvis in England), one pound. Richard Rider Jarvis was 9 at the time. It is unclear from the wording whether he was with his parents in England, or whether he was on Prince Edward Island with his grandfather. I suspect the latter, as he was not listed with his family on the 1841 census of England. His mother and sisters emigrated about 1845.
To Elizabeth Grace Rider (daughter of Jane Bryenton), my bed and bedding. Elizabeth was born on April 6, 1832 and was baptized 18 months later on October 30, 1833. Elizabeth’s mother, Jane Rider, married George Bryenton in 1835.
I can’t help but have kind thoughts about a 72-year-old man in 1838 leaving something as personal and practical as his bed and bedding to his 5-year-old granddaughter who was born out of wedlock. To me, it speaks of protection and safety – no matter what happens, she would always have a bed to sleep in.
The only other specific article mentioned in Richard’s will was his watch, which was given to Jonathan Pillage Rider and Robert Herwood “to be valued and divided between them”. I find that very curious – why not just give the watch to one person? The only way to divide it between the two is to sell it and share the proceeds. Usually a watch is something to be passed down, not to be sold. So while Richard’s will gave me some answers, it also left me with a question. And I’m okay with that. It’s the questions that keep me exploring my family history.
This is the story of how a census entry helped me discover the parents of my 2nd great grandmother, Ellen (or Helen) Easton. It all started when I was researching my great grandmother, Wilhelmina (Minnie) Kirkland. I first found Minnie as a 2 year old on the 1861 New Brunswick Census:
From this census, I had Minnie’s mother’s name as Helen, born about 1836 in PEI of Scottish origin. I discovered her maiden name easily enough – I found the marriage record for John W. Kirkland and Ellen Easton, who married in Chatham, NB on November 2, 1854.
And on the 1891 census, she’s listed as Hellen Easton Kirkland, born about 1828 in PEI, with a father was born in Scotland and a mother born in Ireland.
So this is what I had…
Not a lot to go on. I was unable to find anything giving Ellen’s parents’ names. But I did find this:
Exciting as it was to know that my ancestor was a ventriloquist, I was even more interested in the last line “Mrs. Kirkland, who survives him, is a sister of Surveyor General Tweedie.” Huh? Everything else I had found said that Mrs. Kirkland was an Easton.
I had seen this Tweedie name before….
1871 Census – Next door to John & Ellen Kirkland were some Tweedies
1881 – Marriage of my great grandparents Minnie Kirkland and Albert Prowse – witness L.J. Tweedie
1891 – Marriage of Minnie’s youngest sister – newspaper announcement mentions that “Among friends present were Hon. L.J. Tweedie, M.P.P and Miss Tweedie of Chatham.
So who was this L. J. Tweedie?
Lemuel John Tweedie practiced law in Chatham, NB. He was admitted to the Bar in 1871, at the age of 22. His Law partner was R.B. Bennett, who would later become the Prime Minister of Canada
Tweedie was first elected to the NB Legislature at age 25. At 51 he became Premier of NB, for 7 years. Then Lieutenant Governor for 5.
He was the son of Irish immigrants, Joseph Tweedie Jr & Catherine McGary
Interesting, but none of this answered the question of whether he was the brother of my Ellen Easton, who was some 20 years older than him and born in PEI. Obviously there was a long-standing connection between the families, but what? Could she have been his aunt perhaps, and not his sister? Or maybe she was a Tweedie and Easton was her married name from a first marriage?
I had no luck finding anything that would lead me to Ellen’s parents. But then one day, while searching the PEI newspapers for information on my my great grandfather, Albert P. Prowse, I came upon her obituary.
“The late Mrs. Kirkland was born in Rexton, NB and was a half-sister of Lt. Governor Tweedie of New Brunswick.” Well, her birth place was wrong, but could her being a half-sister to Lt. Gov. Tweedie be a clue? Perhaps researching Tweedie’s family would uncover something that researching Ellen Easton’s family had not.
Since Lemuel Tweedie was born 1849, the obvious place to start was the 1851 NB census. There he was, age 2, with his parents Joseph & Catherine Tweedie, as expected, along with two older sisters, ages 5 and 9. But look who else was in the household….
Ellen, age 25. I may have said “Gotchya” so loud I startled the cat. And this explains why I could never find her on the 1851 census – she was not listed as an “Easton”, she was listed as a “Tweedie”
As there were only 13 years between Ellen and Joseph Tweedie, could Ellen have been Catherine’s daughter from a 1st marriage? I started looking for more on Joseph and Catherine, and found a newspaper notice for the marriage in 1841 between Joseph Tweedy and Mrs. Catherine Easton.
And BINGO. A marriage between Catherine McGeary and William Easton in 1825.
Who were Catherine McGary’s parents? Where in County Down was she born? As per the 1851 census, she was born in 1805 and came to Canada in 1817 at age 12. Did she come alone or with her parents?
What happened to William Easton? There was a William Easton who died in PEI of excessive drinking in 1833. Was this him?
Where and when was William Easton born, and who were his parents. An autosomnal DNA match has shed some light on this, but that’s a story for another day.
And speaking of the census, Ellen (or Helen) is one of those miraculous women we hear about who did not age at a steady rate. Here’s her age in each of the 7 years I found her in the census:
Since the first and the last are consistent (born in 1826), I’ve gone with that as her year of birth, but who knows for sure. Not even her or her family, by the looks of it. And was her name Ellen or Helen? Hard to say. But at least I’ve figured out who her parents were, so I’m counting that as a win!
I thought I’d share some of the tools and sites I used to research Senator Samuel Prowse, the subject of my last 52 Ancestors post, along with other ancestors from PEI (including my next 52 Ancestors subject – stay tuned!). This list is by no means exhaustive, but covers some my more frequently used sources.
If your ancestors were politicians or anyone else who would be likely to be written about in the paper, newspapers are an invaluable source of information. Even if they weren’t, newspapers are often a source of birth, marriage and death announcements. And its a great way to better understand the world our ancestors lived in.
Many PEI newspapers from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s are available in a free, searchable, online database at Islandnewspapers.ca. Unfortunately, there are some dates/issues missing (like January 1902 when Samuel Prowse died – oh how I want to find his obituary!), but overall, it’s an incredibly valuable resource.
The following censuses are available for PEI:
1841 – Lists heads of household only. Includes occupation of head of household, sex and ages of household members, religion, land holdings, agricultural production, country of origin of household members. Can be searched on the PEI Provincial Archives and Record Office (PARO) site. None of my names were found on this search, but maybe you’ll be luckier than I was.
1861 – Lists heads of household only. Includes occupation of head of household, sex and ages of household members, religion, land holdings, agricultural production, country of origin of household members. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), FamilySearch (free, no images)
1881- Lists all household members, sex, age, country or province of birth, religion, origin, occupation, marital status, infirmities. Note that it does not include relationship to head of household, so you might assume someone is the child of the head of household when they are actually not. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription) FamilySearch (free, no images)
1891 – Lists all household members, sex, age, marital status, relationship to head of household, country or province of birth, place of birth of father, place of birth of mother, religion, occupation, employment status, able to read/write, infirmaries. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), Family Search (free, no images).
1901 – Lists all household members, sex, colour, relationship to head of household, marital status, date of birth, age, country or place of birth, year of immigration to Canada, year of naturalization, racial or tribal origin, nationality, religion, occupation, employment status, education, language, infirmities. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), FamilySearch (free, no images).
1911 – Lists all household members, residence, sex, relationship to head of household, month and year of birth, age, country or place of birth, year of immigration, year of naturalization, racial or tribal origin, nationality, religion, occupation, employment information, insurance held, education and language, infirmities. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription), FamilySearch (free, no images).
1921 – List of all household members, residence, type of home, relationship to head of household, sex, marital status, age, place of birth, father’s place of birth, mother’s place of birth, year of immigration, year of naturalization, nationality, racial or tribal origin, language, education, occupation, employment information. Available at Library and Archives Canada (free), Ancestry (requires subscription).
I especially love the parents’ place of birth on the 1891 and 1921 census, and the birth date on the 1901 census (but take that with a grain of salt, the year is frequently wrong!).
Here’s a hint for accessing Canadian census records if you don’t have an Ancestry subscription (or if you’re a non-Canadian who does not have a worldwide subscription) – All of the Canadian censuses are available on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website. However, the search function on that site is less than ideal – you have to have the exact spelling (with or without wildcards) to get the entry. FamilySearch, on the other hand, has a better search function, but does not have the images of the census pages (unless you access them from a Family History Centre). So I like to use a combination of the two – I’ll first do a search on FamilySearch, see how the name was spelled (eg Prouse instead of Prowse), then use that spelling at LAC to find the census images. Works like a charm!
Birth, Marriage, Death records
Civil registration only began in PEI in 1906. Prior to that, BMD information can mostly be found via church records. There are some indices available on PARO and FamilySearch, but I’ve found it pretty hit and miss on whether someone’s included. As well, FamilySearch has images of church records that have not been indexed: Prince Edward Island Church Records, 1777-1985
Once you know the location and religion (which you can get from the census), I’ve had pretty good luck going through the church records page by page to find names of interest. Or when I do find them in the index, and it provides the church record number, I can then go look at the church records to find the actual entry.
The biggest drawback of PEI BMD records is that marriage records don’t include parent’s names and baptismal records rarely include the mother’s maiden name (at least not in the non-Catholic churches).
Master Name Index
The Master Name Index has been compiled from a variety of sources, such as cemetery transcripts, selected newspapers, funeral home registers, the 1880 Meacham’s Atlas and other sources. It’s available at the PEI Archives, but if, like me, you don’t get to PEI often, there are copies on microfilm available at other places. In Ottawa, there’s a copy in the Genealogy Room at Library and Archives Canada.
Family Histories and other goodies
Genealogies and family histories compiled by previous researchers are a great starting point for further research. I’m fortunate to have a copy of “The Descendants of James Willis and Samuel M. Smith”, compiled by Vernon E. Hargraves, 1980.
As well, a great source for family histories (and many many other things) is Dave Hunter’s The Island Register. You can also sign up for Dave’s weekly newsletter to be informed of new things added to the site.
And finally, don’t forget to use Google or your search engine of choice, especially if you’re dealing with a less common name and/or a prominent person. Here’s a list of things I found just by googling “Senator Samuel Prowse PEI”
This week’s prompt for the 52 Ancestors challenge is “Invite to Dinner”. Well, who better to invite to dinner than my 2nd great grandfather, Samuel Prowse. Not only would he be likely to bring some delicious food, what with being an exporter of fish, lobster and agricultural produce from Prince Edward Island, I’m sure he could also be counted on for some scintillating political conversation. Samuel was in politics for over 30 years, including 13 years in the Canadian Senate (and unlike a more recent senator from Prince Edward Island, he actually lived there).
Samuel Prowse was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in August 1835. He was the 6th of William Prowse and Agnes Rider‘s 7 children. William and Agnes had emigrated from Devon, England in the mid-1820s, with their son Joseph in tow (their first son, Richard, having lived only a month). They had 5 more children after they settled in Charlottetown.
Samuel married Eliza Elizabeth Willis on October 17, 1856. Eliza was born in Wiltshire, England in 1834 and had immigrated to Prince Edward Island with her family at the age of 8. Samuel and Eliza had two children in Charlottetown – Frederick in 1857 and Albert (my great-grandfather) in 1858. In 1859, the family moved to Murray Harbour, PEI, where Samuel went into business. Eliza died 3 weeks after giving birth to their first daughter, also named Eliza Elizabeth, in February 1860. Tragically, the baby only lived for a few months, and son Frederick died a couple of years later, at the age of 6.
A year after the Eliza’s death, Samuel married her older sister, Louisa Jane Willis. He had two more children with Louisa – William, b. 1862 and Samuel, b. 1869.
Samuel’s business, first Prowse and Son and later, when William joined the business, Prowse and Sons, flourished in Murray Harbour and became a major employer in the region. In addition to a operating General Store, Prowse & Sons exported dried fish, canned lobster and agricultural produce. The business included a starch factory that used local potatoes to produce starch, a lumberyard, and even a can factory, where employees made cans throughout the winter for use during the next canning season.
In addition to his successful commercial ventures, Samuel also had a long political career. He first entered politics in 1867, at the age of 32, when he was elected to the PEI Legislative Assembly. He was defeated in the 1873 election, but then was re-elected in 1876. He remained in the PEI legislature (except for a brief period in 1882 when he was defeated in the general election and then re-elected in a bye-election the same year) until Sept. 14, 1889, when he was appointed to the Canadian Senate by Sir John A. MacDonald. He remained in the Senate until his death in 1902.
He also advocated on behalf of the Lobster Packers and Fishermen Association. At a meeting on December 31, 1890, Hon. Senator Prowse was thanked for his “services in the interest of the packers and lobster fishermen of this Province in presenting our case to the Department at Ottawa, working indefatigably to have the Government recognize the reasonable demands of the packers and fishermen.” (The Guardian, Charlottetown, December 31, 1890, Pg 2)
As a symbol of his success and status, Samuel Prowse had a substantial home built in Murray Harbour around 1875. The house remains a prominent landmark in the village of Murray Harbour, and has been identified as one of Canada’s Historic Places. This house was owned by three generations of Prowses -Samuel, his son Albert (my great grandfather), and his son Gerald (my great uncle) before being sold.
Samuel died on January 14, 1902 and was buried in the Murray Harbour Old Cemetery.
Senator Samuel Prowse was the first ancestor that I got to know, and one of the easiest to research. It all started in the mid-late 1970s when my family was contacted by Vernon Hargrave, a distant cousin who was researching my 3rd great grandfather, James Willis (father of Samuel’s wives Eliza and Louisa). In 1980, we received a 180-page, typewritten, photocopied, spiral-bound history of the Willis family that included lots of information on Samuel. Almost 30 years later, I came upon it again while going through a box of photos and documents at my mother’s, and it was a great starting point for researching Samuel (and the rest of the family). I’m amazed at how much information Vernon was able to gather in a pre-internet age.
The best thing about having a politician ancestor is that they’re easy to find. How I wish I could find this much information about some of the others!
Charlotte Richardson was my 5th great grandmother. I’ve always had a special interest in Charlotte, as she was my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother. Considering that researching female ancestors is often more difficult than researching male ancestors, I love that I’ve been able to go back 7 generations and 240 years on my maternal line.
When I first researched Charlotte, I had her parents as John Christopher Richardson and Mary Flintoff. John & Mary were among the over 1,000 immigrants from Yorkshire, England who settled in the Chignecto Isthmus between 1772 and 1775 (for those of you who don’t know Atlantic Canada very well, the Chignecto Isthmus is the neck of land that joins New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). John & Mary made the journey from Yorkshire in 1774, with two young children and a third born en route. Their son, Joseph Providence Richardson, so named because he was born on the ship, “The Providence”, is also a direct ancestor of mine.
In 2014, I met a distant cousin, Arthur Owen, who is also a descendant of Charlotte Richardson. He had evidence that was inconsistent with Charlotte being the daughter of John & Mary Richardson. Arthur had previously used DNA to disprove the oft-cited parentage of another of his ancestors. Since I’m a female-line descendant of Charlotte, we realized that if we could find the right people to compare to, we could use mtDNA to test various theories about Charlotte’s parents. In 2016, with support from Arthur, I did just that.
In an upcoming series of blog posts, I will explain the process I followed. In the meantime, suffice it to say, I had to throw out everything I thought I knew about Charlotte’s parents, and begin anew!
Here’s the new story of Charlotte.
Charlotte Richardson was born in about 1776 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. She was the daughter of James Richardson and Hannah (Unknown). James died when Charlotte was about 6 years old, following which Hannah married David Dobson. Ten years later, in 1794, Charlotte, then age 18, married her step-father David’s younger brother, Richard Dobson, age 25.
Charlotte and Richard settled in Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, where they raised 12 children, including my 4th great grandmother, Mary Ann (Dobson) Allen. At the time of the 1851 census, Richard, age 82, and Charlotte, age 75, were living near at least two of their children – their youngest son Job and his young family, and my ancestor Mary Ann Allen, then widowed, and 6 of her 11 children.
Charlotte’s husband, Richard, died in July 1855, as did her son Job two years later. In 1861, she was living with her daughter-in-law Eliza (Wells) Dobson, widow of Job, and their four young children.
1861 Census of New Brunswick, Westmorland, Botsford – Pg 11
Charlotte died some time after 1861, having had 12 children, at least 120 grandchildren and at least 91 great-grandchildren (those were the numbers in Richard’s obituary in 1855 – no doubt there were more grandchildren and great-grandchildren by the time Charlotte died.)
The reason I chose Charlotte for this week’s 52 Ancestors post is because the prompt for this week was “longevity”.
With the exception of Miranda Allen, who died of dropsy at age 39, my maternal ancestors have all lived good long lives. So if longevity is passed down through mitochondrial DNA, I’d say I’m in pretty good shape!