I thought you might be interested in reading about my family's history.
The research has taken place over the last 40 years and there are still pieces of the "jigsaw" to be fitted together..
I was told confidentially by my mother when quite young, the true facts, as far as she knew them, about her background.
The story was put to the back of my mind and in the day to day process of growing up, almost forgotten.
I must have been 15, maybe 16 years of age, when I began asking questions, usually prompted by some article that I would discover in a drawer - a tiny, gold locket with a seed-pearl bearing the name of a jeweller in Sudbury, Ontario.
Gradually, I pieced the story together, only to discover that the most important facts were missing - who were my family and where we were they?
"Victoria Mines" my mother repeated over and over- it was all she could remember of an address. Perhaps near Sudbury, Ontario. She recalled seeing photos of a log cabin, fur-trapping, Niagara Falls.
Browsing records and with the help of my mother, I learnt the following;
My grandfather came from Inverness to Liverpool in the 1890s where he met my grandmother. She was the daughter of a professor of music and composer who travelled Europe with the D'oyly Carte Opera Company (around the turn of the century) and also conducted the Liverpool Symphony Orchestra.
My grandmother had three sisters but whereas the family lacked nothing in material wealth, their parents were never home. My grandparents married young and moved to Swansea where two sons and a daughter were born.
Their marriage was not happy since my grandfather started drinking and drank his way through my grandmother's inheritance. She became pregnant again (my mother) and during this time, my grandfather kidnapped the two boys in the middle of the night and took them "in their pyjamas" by train back to Liverpool.
My grandmother was befriended by a local widower who persuaded her to emigrate to Canada when my mother was born in 1908. My mother was too young to undertake the arduous journey in those days, so was left in the care of a dear friend, on the understanding that she was to go to Canada when she was one year old with her grandparents from Liverpool (the musician & his wife). This never happened.
When my grandmother arrived in Canada with my mother's younger sister, she lived in a log cabin where, in the harsh Canadian winter, she melted the snow for drinking water. The man she had gone with, eventually built up a cattle rearing business and became the town mayor, but drowned in a boating accident in northern Ontario.
She later married a friend of his, who had been valet to King Edward VII and worked in Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria (his is another fascinating story).
My mother grew up believing that her foster mother was her real mother and received letters and gifts from her real mother, who she thought was an aunt. It wasn't until the eve of her wedding that she told the truth and then promptly told to forget all about it!
The letters from Canada had ceased many years before that.
In 1962, at the age of 19, I travelled to London to search the Census records in the hope of finding my mother's two brothers. Our long day's search ended with us extremely tired but triumphant. My mother's youngest brother had died of meningitis when young but the eldest brother had married in Northampton.
With the help of the Liverpool Records Office, I traced my grandfather to 1934 when he died (he had worked as a brassfinisher on the Queen Mary boat) and my mother's brother was still living in Northampton.
He was united with my mother for a few years and he was overjoyed to discover that he had a sister in this country as he had been told that his mother had died. He had a dreadful upbringing in lodging houses (another story).
My next task was to try and trace the family in Canada and I wrote over the years many times to Sudbury Ontario without success. I searched reference libraries and old encyclopedias for any reference relating to Victoria Mines, finding nothing useful but became an expert on mining locations!
In 1983, I gave it one last shot - instead of writing a list of facts, I wrote everything as a story and sent it to the City Clerk of Sudbury, Ontario.
I contacted the Red Cross for details of boats etc. My letter was passed to a relative of the city clerk who agreed to help me.
Letters crossed the Atlantic every few weeks with information we had both discovered (incidentally - he belonged to a Genealogical Society in Toronto, so was just as excited as I was).
A whole year went by until New Year of 1984 when I received a telegram to say that he had found them.
My grandmother had died in 1959, my mother's sister had also died young but there was a half-sister.
She came over for a heart-felt reunion and filled in much of the story that I have related above.
I acquired ten first cousins overnight!
My research now is concentrated on the family that is still left in Liverpool - descendants of my grandmother's sisters. I have recently joined the Liverpool & S.W. Lancs Society, so fingers crossed!
I have traced each of them up to early 1900s -their marriages & partners names but have now drawn a blank.
It would be wonderful if I could find someone as my mother is now 99 years of age. She is a remarkable lady with an amazing memory. There is lots more to the above story (the human bits) which would take too long to recount.
I do know that one of my grandmother's sisters had a permanent portrait in the Liverpool Gallery...
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