The name I chose to talk about is not my favourite, but my mother’s. When she was young, she decided her first son would be named William Henry, after her grandfather, William Henry Searles, who she adored. She spent some of her early years living with her grandfather and grandmother on a farm in Nahma, Ontario, Canada.
William Henry Searles was born on 27 March 1887 according to my great-aunt Muriel. The son of Samuel Searle(s) and Elizabeth Atkins, he was baptized in the Parish of Canton, Glamorgan, Wales on May 10 1888. He was the only son of 8 children.
There is a very romantic story that goes with his marriage. He met Elizabeth John(s) who was almost 5 years older than him in Wales. When his family decided to move to Canada he had to go because he wasn’t of age yet (21 years old). He didn’t want to leave Elizabeth behind but had no choice. A year later she came to Canada and they married in East Toronto on 24 October 1908. They were married 67 years when Granddad Searles died.
William and Elizabeth had a tough life. Their first daughter, Mary, died 2 days after her birth. Their second daughter, Winnifred also died. When she was 4, her dress caught fire while walking by some burning wood. She died in her mother’s arms. They had 4 children who survived, Harold, the only son, Muriel, Gwen, and Marjory.
The family moved up to a farm near Cochrane, Ontario sometime between 1911 and 1914. For those of you who don’t know, Cochrane is an isolated area in Northeastern Ontario. Can you imagine these British born settlers surviving freezing in the winter and mosquito bites in the summer. And they had no indoor toilets even when we visited them in the 1960 and 70.
In the summers we would visit Grandmother and Grandfather Searles. He was old when I knew him but so big and Gramma was a small, almost delicate woman. We were so young and I don’t remember much about them. They managed to fit all 8 of us kids in their house. I got to sleep on bedding on floor and was quite excited to tell my mom about the mouse I saw running across the floor. The next night I had to sleep on the bed, so disappointing.
Back to favourite names. My mom loved her grandparents and as kids we often heard stories about them. Coincidentally, Mom married a man named Henry so I always thought my oldest brother was given his name. When a mentioned this to my mom a few years ago she corrected me and told me where he really got his name from. I have no pictures of my mother with her Grandfather but do have this wonderful picture of her with Grandma Searles