Coming to Canada

It’s fascinating to watch the flow of a family immigrating. What surprised me was they didn’t decide to hop on a ship and arrive en masse. Often one or two family members came to the new country and settled. Other family members, siblings, in-laws, cousins, or even neighbours followed. Imagine the letters being sent back home, encouraging them to come. The first ones to come may have been the bravest, or possibly the most desperate to get away. In the new country family members would live close to each other or share the same house until they were more established.

The family of Samuel and Elizabeth Searles leaving Wales to come to Canada is an example of this migration. In this case it happened in a short period of time, 1906 to 1910. The first 2 daughters to leave of Cardiff, Wales were Bessie Drake and Sarah Marsh. Bessie and Sarah arrived in Canada with their husbands and children on August 17, 1906. It was almost a year before other family members emigrated. During this time, were Edward Drake and William Marsh looking for jobs and a place to live? Were they trying to earn money to send back to Wales so the others could afford to come or did it take a year to persuade those still in Wales that moving to Canada was worth it?

Bessie Drake at the house on Gerrard Street in Scarborough, York County, Ontario.

In May 1907, Samuel Searles with his daughter, Alice, and son-in-law, Sam Fudge, arrived. Alice likely came to keep house for the men. It wasn’t long, about 2 months, before Elizabeth Searles came with her daughter Lilian and reluctant son, William. Travelling with them was Ellen, wife of Sam Fudge with their children.

It was over 3 years before the last daughter, Blanche, her children and husband George Nelson arrived in Canada. They brought with them William Harford, husband of her deceased sister, Mary.

As you can see, the family came over a few at a time. It wasn’t the case of everyone deciding to leave Wales and moving altogether.  Interestingly, in 1911, George and Blanche Nelson live with Samuel,  Elizabeth and Alice Searles at 2300 Gerrard Street East in Scarborough, York County, Ontario and the Drake family lived at 2298 Gerrard Street East in the same city. They were next door neighbours. The other families also lived in Scarborough. (As an after note these 2 addresses are now a lumberyard)

Moving didn’t always mean leaving the country. In Canada, it may have meant moving to another community or a part of the country that was just opening up. The McCall family did this when they moved to the village of Lavallee in Northwestern Ontario. From their mother, Mary McCall’s, obituary we learn,

“Andy and Billy immigrated here (Lavallee, Rainy River District, Ontario, Canada) from the east and in the fall Andy returned and brought the whole family from Amberley County Huron” [note that they actually came for Ashfield Township in Huron County, Ontario.

Obituary in Newspaper; Fort Frances Times, March 13, 1924; copy in my possession

The whole family included their parents, Robbie and Mary, and siblings, Maggie, Lizzie, and Bobbie and of course, Billy and Andy

A photo of the McCall siblings. Most likely taken around 1900 before they all moved to Lavallee.
Left to right bottom row – Elizabeth (Lizzie), Andrew, Margaret
Left to right in back – William (Billy) and Robert (Robbie)

It is difficult to move, leaving everything that’s comfortable and homey. With chain migration, the move is made easier because at least some or all your family is with you in the new location.

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