In genealogy we have our family tree, the people we know or knew and consider family. Sometimes we also have a DNA family that is different from who we regard as family. The DNA family is our bloodline, people we match through DNA. On my mom’s side I have a grandfather and a biological grandfather. I always knew my biological existed and his name but that was it. There was no contact with him and he was seldom mentioned. After taking a DNA test, I was able to connect with some of my mom’s biological cousins and learn about that side of the family. I decided it was time to research that family. Although well-sourced research had been done, there were a couple of gaps. This post and the next few will tell the story of my biological great-grandmother and her 6 siblings. I’ll start with the eldest child of Fanny Green and William Atkins, Elizabeth Beatrice Atkins.
In 1902, Fanny Atkins died leaving a husband, William Elbourne Atkins, and 7 children. I was curious to know what happened to the children after Fanny died. There are instances in my Canadian lines where the mother died and the father quickly remarried, or other family members stepped in to help out and raised a child. I was curious to if this was the case in Britain, where the family lived. I wasn’t sure what records might exist to show what happened to these children. The first place to look for the family was in the 1911 census. I was able to find William with the youngest son, Jesse, in the workhouse but the other children were elusive because the name is fairly common.
My first breakthrough was discovering Rosa Atkins on a passenger list stating she was coming to Canada with the Bernardo Homes. I learned of a database at Library and Archives Canada and that lists children that were sent to Canada as British Home Children.
The definition of these children is “a child under the age of 18 who is emigrated by an agency to be ‘adopted’ or placed as indentured servants (e.g. Bardardo, Macpherson, Birt, Middlemore, Quarriers) legally bound to their agency/placements. Often wages were held back until they were adults.”https://canadianbritishhomechildren.weebly.com/hazelbrae-barnardo-home.html
Sure enough, 2 of Rosa’s sisters, Elizabeth B., Rosa, and Alice Atkins, are on the list. It was through clues from DNA family members that I learned what happened to Elizabeth Beatrice. She went by Beatrice so that’s how I’ll refer to her.
Beatrice was sent to Barkingside Girls Village in Barkingside, Essex, England along with her sisters Rosa and Alice. Barkingside was supposed to be a “progressive” home for orphaned and poor children. About a year after her mother died, Beatrice was on a ship bound for Canada. She left England on April 29, 1903 and was sent to Hazelbrae Home for girls in Peterborough, Ontario. From there she was sent to work as a domestic somewhere in Canada. Losing your mother is tramatic. Can you imagine being taken from your family at 14 years old then being sent to another country where you don’t know anyone. Then having to work as an indentured servant until you were old enough to leave. She must have been terrified and lonely.
I lost Beatrice after her arrival in Canada. But family members gave me clues to her married name. She had a daughter, Beatrice Letcher. Well, searching for Beatrice Letcher brought me to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. In 1911, Beatrice Atkins was a domestic for Alice Herman or Harman in Moose Jaw. Alice ran a boarding house with 16 people living as lodgers. I can’t find her anywhere between 1903 and 1911. As far as I can tell she wasn’t in Moose Jaw in 1906.
She married Frank Letcher before 1913 and had 3 children; Beatrice in 1913, Frank in 1921, and Norma in 1923. The 1975 obituary for Frank Letcher indicates that their daughter Beatrice married W.W. Burns and lived in Surrey, British Columbia. Frank moved to California with his wife and children. Norma was not mentioned in Frank’s obituary, she may have died before 1975. Frank owned Letcher Auto Electric which still exists today, but may not be owned by the family.
Elizabeth Beatrice Letcher died on December 14, 1951 in Moose Jaw. Although she was separated from her family, I know there was contact with at least one of her sisters. There are family pictures from when she visited Kate Harrison, in Cochrane, Ontario. There is also a story that my grandfather went out west and must have visited the family. I like to think that creating a family of her own and keeping in touch with her siblings would have made he happy after such a terrifying beginning to her life.
1911 England Census [database on-line]. Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England; Ancestry.com (database online); Provo, UT, USA: Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA), 1911.
Home Children Records; Library and Archives Canada; http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/home-children-1869-1930/immigration-records/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=105587
Immigration Program : Headquarters central registry files : C-4715; RG 76, Vol 51, File 2209, part 1, Bernardos Children Arrival in Quebec, image 1282; http://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_reel_c4715/1200?r=0&s=5; Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association; http://www.britishhomechildrenregistry.com/faq
British Home Children in Canada; https://canadianbritishhomechildren.weebly.com/hazelbrae-barnardo-home.html for information about Hazelbrae.
1911 Canada Census; Moosejaw, Saskatchewan; District 124; Page: 29; Family No: 223;
Ancestry.com. 1911 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Citing, Series RG31-C-1. Statistics Canada Fonds. Microfilm reels T-20326 to T-20460; Library and Archives Canada. lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1911/Pages/about-census.aspx.
1916 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta; Census Place: Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw, 17C; Roll: T-21931; Page: 21; Family No: 252; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009; “Census returns for 1916 Census of Prairie Provinces.” Statistics of Canada Fonds, Record Group 31-C-1. LAC microfilm T-21925 to T-21956. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa; in 1916 Beatrice is married to Frank Letcher and has a 3 year old daughter.
1926 Census of the Prairie Provinces; Moose Jaw Saskatchewan District 27 Subdistrict 72; library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; I was unable to find the family in the 1921 Canada Census.
Saskatchewan Genealogy Society, Moose Jaw Branch; Cemetery Transcriptions; http://moosejawgenealogy.com/Cemeteries/Moose%20Jaw%20Rosedale/Pl.htm; someone from Moose Jaw was kind enough to send me a photo of the tombstone.
Moose Jaw Obits 1970-1998; Saskatchewan Genealogical Society; Moose Jaw Branch; http://moosejawgenealogy.com/obits.htm; someone from the Moose Jaw genealogy society was kind enough to send me a copy of Frank’s obituary. She was unable to find one for Beatrice.