Tag Archives: Elizabeth johns

Tragedy – 52 Ancestors

Photo_Elizabeth John

Elizabeth John(s)

This week’s prompt is misfortune but I’m changing it to tragedy. I want to tell you about Grandma Searles, our great-grandmother and the tragedies in her life.  Her maiden name is Elizabeth John(s). Grandma was born in August 31 1882 in Walwyn Castle, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Her parents are Charles John and Sarah Nicholas. She had 3 sisters, Ann, Sarah (Lala), and Jennie; and 3 brothers, James, Thomas and William. Her dad was a farm labourer. The family lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales but moved from small town to small town.

Sometime between 1891 and 1901 she left home and started working. My mother says this is when she met her future husband, William Henry Searles. I’ve told this story before, but when the Searles family decided to move to Canada, they forced their 19-year-old son, William, to come with them even though he wanted to stay and marry Elizabeth John.  William, his mom, and sister Lilian arrived in Canada on 2 August 1907 and made their way to Toronto (Scarborough) where the rest of the family was living.

Almost a year later, on 29 May 1908, Elizabeth John left her family and friends to travel to Canada to meet her beloved William.  She arrived in Toronto sometime in June of 1908 and on October 24, 1908 she married William Henry Searles, 6 months after he turned 21.

The newly married couple moved close to her in-laws, Samuel and Elizabeth Searles. Elizabeth became pregnant almost immediately and Mary, her first child, was born about July 21, 1909.  It was a difficult delivery and 2 days later, the infant died from “convulsions following severe labour”. Except for her husband, Grandma Searles had no close family to comfort and console her at this tragic time. She must have felt grief and loneliness.

Following Mary’s death, they had another daughter, Winnifred Phyllis, in March 1911 and a son, Harold in 1913. After Harold’s birth, they moved to a farm near Cochrane. This is when the next tragedy occurred. According to my mother, they were visiting at the station house when 4-year-old Winnifred walked too close to the fire and her dress caught fire. She died in her mother’s arms. As any mother would, Elizabeth did what ever she could to save Winnifred but it didn’t work. The death registration says she died from accident (burned) but lived for 2 hours afterwards. Once again, Elizabeth was in a new place, remote from her family and had to deal with the death of a child.

The family still had Harold, their only son, and then went on to have 3 more daughters, Muriel, Gwen, and Marjorie. William and Elizabeth lived long lives. They were married 65 years when William died in 1974. Elizabeth died in 1978.7b_Searles, William_60 Wedding Anniversary


1891 England and Wales Census; St. Brides, Haverford, Pembrokeshire; page 5 Enumeration; accessed December 23, 2015; www.findmypast.com; [database online]; citing

1901 England and Wales Census; St. Bride, Haverford, Pembrokeshire; Enumeration District 14; page 6; accessed December 23, 2015; www.findmypast.com; [database online]; citing

Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935; Searle, Wm viewed 28 November 2014; Ancestry.com; [ database on-line]; Provo, Utah; citing; Passenger Lists, 1865-1935; Series: RG 76-C; Roll: T-489; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario

UK Passenger Lists; Elizabeth Johns; UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]. Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012 citing Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Outwards Passenger Lists. BT27. Records of the Commercial, Companies, Labour, Railways and Statistics Departments. Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies. The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England

Ontario Marriage Registrations; Searles, William; John, Elizabeth; East Toronto, York; #21560; Microfilm MS 932 Reel 138; www.ancestry.com [database online]; Provo, Utah; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada.

Ontario Death Registrations; Searles, Mary; Toronto, York; #3337; Microfilm MS 935 Reel 141; LDS Film 004,135,109; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada

Ontario Death Registrations; Searles, Winnifred; Cochrane, Temiskaming; #38870; Microfilm MS 935 Reel 216; Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada.

1911 Canada Census; William Searles Household; Scarborough, York, Ontario; District 136; Subdistrict 26; page 3, family 22; ; viewed 28 November 2014; www.ancestry.com [database online]; Provo, Utah; citing Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

Ontario Birth Registrations; Searles, Harold; Toronto, York; # 12387; Microfilm MS 929 Reel 238; viewed 28 November 2014; www.ancestry.com [database online]; Provo, Utah; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada.

Ontario Death Registrations; Searles, Winnifred; Cochrane, Temiskaming;#38870; viewed 28 November 2014; www.ancestry.com [database online]; Provo, Utah; citing Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada.

Tara Shymanski Collection; 60th Wedding Anniversary [copy]; undated clipping from newspaper; probably Cochrane newspaper; handwritten date 1968; in possession of Tara Shymanski, Calgary, Alberta

My favourite name – 52 Weeks

Searles, William 1

William Henry Searles

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.

Searles, William & Elizabeth

Grandfather and Grandmother Searles

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.

Joan with Grandma Searles-cropped

Mom with Grandma Searles

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