I used to think families didn’t move around much in the past. It didn’t take long to realize this premise is incorrect. Let me use the Titchworth family to as an example.
William Titchworth was born about 1808 in New York (state or city I’m not sure). He migrated to the Dundas area of Ontario, Canada some time before 1839.(He married Nancy Mulholland in Dundas in 1839). His wife died about 1856 (information given to me by Kay Corbett, a descendant) and then about 1864 he moved to Kansas. So far away from his children!
William and Nancy’s children didn’t stay put either. Emily, married and stayed in Southern Ontario. One daughter, Leah, moved to Saskatchewan with her husband. Their son, Silas went to Detroit. Another daughter Pheobe, moved with William to Kansas where she married then moved with her husband to the Victoria area of British Columbia. And their son Ira, the black sheep of the family, ran away from his wife and daughter to Mariposa, California. Most of this family was far away from each other.
I often wondered if they ever visited each other or stayed touch. Then I discovered the Kay Corbett who had saved letters written to her grandmother Phoebe Field nee Titchworth, the one who moved to Kansas then Victoria. Most of the them are written by the children of Leah Jane Titchworth and Reuben Clarence Taylor (my 3 great-grandparents). The children lived in Ontario and Saskatchewan, Canada and California, Washington, and Michigan in United States.
They don’t contain much genealogical information (birth, marriage, death information) but they do describe our ancestor’ lives and their day to day concerns. One of my favourite letters is written by Silas in his old age, trying to get the family together for a reunion. He seemed to miss everyone.
Some letters let Pheobe know what was going on. This letter from Jennie Barclay nee Taylor was written Dec 2, 1942. She and her husband owned a raisin farm and we learn how hard it is to find workers during the war.
James is busy boxing raisins, it is some late but help was very scarce during the entire season & he cannot accomplish as much as he once could. Like your apple crop the raisin & grape crop was short but good in quality & prices much higher, for which we are gratified.
Here’s one written by Josephine Taylor from Bethune, Saskatchewan in 1938. Can you imagine that much snow!
We have lots of snow. I had to get a man to shovel the snow away from the living room window before I could see to do much. The snow was banked up nearly to the top of the window…. We ought to have good crops this year.
Other letters talked about family. This letter from Jennie Barclay nee Taylor was written Dec 2, 1942.
Sister Emma (Nancy Emily Cranston (nee Taylor) passed away Nov 4 after several months of pain and suffering with cancer. Emma was our oldest sister & of course was very much to me. The sorrow is much but of course I knew when coming away fourteen months ago that I would not see her any more. (note: this is Nancy Emily Cranston nee Taylor, my great-grandmother)
Then there are fascinating letters about how world events affect the family. This letter is from Jennie Barclay in 1942 where talks about how the war (World War 2) affects them:
Yes all the Japanese were sent from California. They could not be trusted & like yourselves there is still danger on the coast near San Francisco particularly. There are watch towers through the valley and watchers continually on watch day & night. We do not expect any japs to strike here but are prepared.
We have dim out orders & all window shades are drawn which seems funny to me as we never did draw our shades in all these years. I suppose you folks are rationed on sugar & coffee etc as we are here. We have not felt stinted for sugar. We have 1.2 lb each wk & get along very well. Not so many pies of course & few cakes however we can get cakes & pies still at the bakery. Coffee ration has just begun, 1 lb every 5 weeks. We will not use that much at any time as we drink coffee only at breakfast. Gas rationing will not affect us as we do not drive the car to excess as some do of course.
One thing I learned from reading the letters is that family members did visit each other. Not often, but once they did they reminisced about the visit.
We seldom (well never) write letters, instead we use facebook or some other form of social media. It will be interesting to see what our descendants learn about us from our posts.
I’m thinking of posting all the letters. Let me know what you think.
Wilson, Thomas B; Ontario Marriage Notices, 1830 – 1856; Marriage of William Titchworth and Nancy Mulholland; page 56.
1851 Canada Census; William Titchworth Household; Paris, Brant, Canada West; District 2; page 33, line 42; Microfilm C-11714;accessed 20 December 2015; http://www.ancestry.com ; [database online]; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario
1861 Canada Census; William Titchworth Household; Paris, Brant, Canada West; page 25; Microfilm C1109; accessed 20 December 2015; http://www.ancestry.com ; [database online]; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario
1870 US Census; William Titchworth Household; Cedar Creek, Cowley, Kansas; line 15; accessed 20 December 2015; http://www.ancestry.com ; [database online];
“Kansas State Census, 1875,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS3B-7SMY-M?cc=1825178&wc=WD7G-VFK%3A1597272361%2C1597272483%2C1597262301 : accessed 7 February 2018), Cowley > Windsor Township > 2 Agriculture > image 1 of 3; citing Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.
1880 US Census; William Titchworth Household; Windsor, Cowley, Kansas; line 16; Enumeration District 185; accessed 20 December 2015; http://www.ancestry.com ; [database online];
1885 Kansas Territory Census; William Titchworth; Harvey, Cowley, Kansas; line 32; Roll KS1885_29; accessed 20 December 2015; http://www.ancestry.com ; [database online]; citing Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, Kansas
Kay Corbett Collection; Copy letters written to Pheobe Titchworth, Chester Field, and Kay Corbett in my possession.