I stumbled upon this website, Rural Diary Archive, because I was researching my Wilson/Thompson/Gibson line on Amherst Island, Ontario. The founder of the project, Dr. Catharine Anne Wilson (maybe a relative, maybe not!), wrote a book called A New Lease on Life: Landlords, Tenants and Immigrants in Ireland and Canada, which explores landlord-tenant relationships on Amherst Island especially tenant families that migrated from the Ards Peninsula in County Down to Amherst Island between 1820 and 1860.
Anyway, the Rural Diary Archive “showcases over 150 Ontario diarists from 1800 to 1960.” The diaries come from museums and archives across Ontario. You can search transcribed diaries, as well as browse by county, occupation, ethnicity/nationality, and religion. I did find one diary from Amherst Island, written in 1872-1879 by George Wright. That is part of the time period the Wilson’s and Thompson’s lived on the island, but I haven’t a chance to read it yet. Hopefully, it will give me some insight on daily life.
The Archive also has a Twitter account (@RuralDiaries) that tweets diary entries in an “On this Day” format.
I love learning family members’ middle names. Sometimes they are unusual or passed down in the family. But sometimes they are the mother’s or grandmother’s maiden names. So if a relative has a middle name that sounds an awful lot like a surname, you may have hit on a female relative’s maiden name.
My grandfather and two of his siblings have the maiden names of their mother and both grandmothers as middle names:
Charles Thompson Wilson, born May 1907 – Thompson was his mother Mary’s maiden name
William Gibson Wilson, born September 1908 – Gibson was his paternal grandmother Mary Ann’s maiden name
Theresa Dunning Wilson, born December 1909 – Dunning was her maternal grandmother Elizabeth’s maiden name
In looking through my photos on my Ancestry tree, I noticed I don’t have very many photographs of bearded ancestors. Most are clean-shaven or have mustaches. However, I have this great image of my great-great grandfather Archibald Thompson.
Archibald Thompson was born in either 1838 or 1841 in either Ireland or Scotland. He arrived in Canada in about 1857 and lived on Amherst Island, Ontario. He married Elizabeth Dunning in about 1860. He was a sailor, then a farmer. Archie and Elizabeth had 11 children, including my great-grandmother Mary. In the mid-1890s, the family moved to Deseronto, Hastings, Ontario. Elizabeth died in 1912 and Archibald died on 24 Feb 1931 at the age of 93 (if the DOB on his death certificate is accurate).
“Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JNSZ-YHC : 8 March 2018), Archibald Thompson, 24 Feb 1931; citing Frontenac, Pittsburg, Ontario, 108, Registrar General. Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,296,529.
This small tablecloth, with the initials, M.T. and the year 1892, was embroidered by my great-grandmother Mary Agnes (Thompson) Wilson when she was about 20 years old. She was born on March 10, 1872 on Amherst Island, Ontario. On the Canadian census of April 1891, she was living on Amherst Island with her parents Archibald and Elizabeth and her siblings Charles, William, Hugh, Agnes, and Cecil. Mary married my great-grandfather John A. Wilson on November 1, 1898 in Deseronto, Ontario. They had 10 children between 1900 and 1916, including my grandfather, Charles Thompson Wilson.
John Alfred Wilson was born March 25, 1905 in Pittsburg Township, Ontario in Frontenac County. He was the fourth child and third son of John and Mary (Thompson) Wilson. In 1911, Jack was aged 6 and living with his parents John (37) and Mary (38), his brothers Hugh (9), Cecil (8), Charles (4 – my grandpa), William (3), his sisters Marjorie (5), Theresa (1), and his grandmother Mary (Gibson) Wilson (74). He is listed as Swedish because his grandfather, John Wilson, came to Canada from Sweden.
In 1921, Jack was 16 and living with his parents John (47) and Mary (49), his brothers Cecil (18), Charles (14), William (12), his sisters Marjorie (15), Theresa (11), and his grandmother Mary Wilson (84).
At age 24, in April 1929, Jack passed through Detroit on his way to Dearborn to join his brother Hugh who was living on Park Street. In the 1930 census, Hugh was rooming on Park Street and was a salesman at a creamery. My grandfather Charles had arrived in 1928 and in 1930 was living on Columbia Street in Dearborn and was a truck driver at a creamery. Jack, in the 1930 census, was employed as a crane operator at a foundry. He was living with Fred and Mary Curtis on W. Lafayette in Detroit.
On September 2, 1930, Jack married Bessie Winnifred Eastwood (her mother’s maiden name was Curtis). In the 1940 census taken on April 11th, Jack and Winnie were living on Military Street in Detroit and he was a crane operator at a brass factory. According to this census, Jack had completed 8th grade while Winnie had completed 2 years of high school. In 1935, they had been living in the same place.
On April 29, 1940, Jack’s mother died at the farm in Pittsburg Township. On May 16, 1940, Winnie gave birth to a son in Detroit. The family moved back to Canada soon after to run the farm. On September 23, 1945, they had a daughter. According to William J. Patterson’s Lilacs and Limestone: An Illustrated History of Pittsburgh Township, 1787-1987, Jack won Farmer of the Year in 1963 from the Frontenac Soil and Crop Improvement Association. Jack died June 11, 1987 and Winnie died in February 2001.
This small table covering was embroidered by Mary Thompson, my great-grandmother. In the center are the cursive initials M.T. and below them is the year 1892. Below is a picture of Mary from 1898, the year she married John Wilson of Amherst Island, Ontario.
Annie Maude Wilson was the first child of John Wilson and Mary Thompson who had married on 1 November 1898. She was born on 8 March 1900 on Howe Island, Ontario. Annie died 26 July 1904 in Pittsburg Township, Ontario. According to her death certificate, Annie died of infantile convulsions. (Annie was my grandfather Charles Wilson’s oldest sibling. He was born in 1907).
Mary Agnes Thompson was born in March 10, 1872 on Amherst Island, Ontario. She was the daughter of Archibald Thompson and Eliza Dunning, both from Ireland. Records show she had one sister and nine brothers. Mary married John Wilson in Deseronto, Ontario on November 1, 1898. The witnesses to the wedding were her brother Cecil and her sister Agnes. The Thompson family seems to have moved to Deseronto sometime between 1891 and 1898 since they were still living on the island in the 1891 census. John and Mary lived on Howe Island, Ontario for the first 5 or so years of their marriage.
The small tablecloth pictured above was made by Mary Thompson in 1892 when she was around 20 years of age. Click on the image to see it a little bigger.
Today happens to be Mary’s (it’s hard to call someone who died 39 years before you were born “Great-Grandma”) 139th birthday. She died on April 29, 1940.