Friday, December 11, 2009

William George Webb's birth date

Over the last 10 years, I have not been able to locate William George Webb's birth date. In the 1881 census, I found him as a small boy living with his family, and from that record and his marriage certificate I figured that he was born about 1871 in Ceylon. That is all I have had until about a week ago.

Here is more information about his family. William came from a family of at least 10 children with 1 being born in Essex, 2 in Ceylon, 5 in India, 1 in Hampshire and 1 in Ireland. His father was with the Blackwatch Regiment and travelled extensively with his career. I have located every birth record for William's siblings except for the two in Ceylon. The Family History Library has a number of records for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) but the films are for specific areas in Sri Lanka and there are over 300 of them. It would be an impossible task to locate his birth record without a clear date to search. And contacting the archives or anyone that lives in Sri Lanka has been an ongoing effort for at least 5 years with no success at all.

Then, it hit me about a week ago, after I obtained the birth record for William's daughter, Violet Ruby Webb in Surrey, that because he declares on that record that he is with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces that I could access his attestation papers online. (I've done it before with other family members.) Sure enough, minutes later I was staring at his birth date on those papers: 21 January 1872, Kandy, Ceylon. Whoopee!!

In fact, it is the same date as his daughter Alice's birthday. Now I'm trying to drill down through films in the Kandy area (and there are a lot of them) to see if I can locate an actual birth record. So far, it is futile but I have to give it a try because if I find him, chances are I'll find his sister's birth record as well.

As a tribute to the family, I will celebrate "Webb Day" on January 21st! Now to continue the digging . . . . .

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Searching for Grandma Alice

My maternal grandmother, Katherine "Alice" Cleland Webb married my mother's father John (Jack) William deWinter on 11 Jul 1913 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. They had 3 children - Sybil, Audrey & Jack. During their shortlived marriage, Alice followed Jack (who was serving in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in France), over to England where Audrey was born. The couple then returned to Winnipeg where Jack opened up his own mechanic's garage. However, after the divorce there was no contact with Alice. Sybil recalled that gifts arrived at the house several times and were promptly thrown in the trash. Consequently, our family has no good photos of Alice and has had no contact with her since 1923/24. The burning questions have always been, "What happened to her?" and "Where did she go?"

Here is her history as I have comprised it through searched records over the last 20-30 years.

Katherine "Alice" Cleland Webb (born 21 Jan 1897 in York, Yorkshire) was, as far as I know, an only child.

Her parents William George Webb (born 21 Jan 1872, Kandy, Ceylon) & Nina Gilchrist Gordon-Glassford (born 17 Jan 1871, Auckland, New Zealand) married 18 April 1896 at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. William was a Lieutenant Quartermaster with the 2nd Blackwatch Regiment and Nina was a nurse.

In June 1899 Nina died of tuberculosis and Alice was probably left with a number of caregivers as William pursued his military career.

In the 1901 England census, I found Alice living in Portsmouth, Hampshire with three aunts and one uncle - all her father's siblings. One aunt, Grace Ethel Webb, was single; one aunt, Beatrice Maud (Webb) Hall, was married and Adela Mary Webb & Charles Graham Webb were teenagers. Alice was 4 years old. I'm pretty sure that all the men from this family were serving in the Boer War at the time, explaining why there were no men present in the household.
The question for me was how did 16 year old Alice get to Winnipeg and marry my grandfather in 1923? I have known for some time that Alice's father William had remarried to Susan Stewart Brown in Perth, Scotland in 1905 and then died there in 1923. And so I concluded that her parents didn't travel to Canada at all.

All I could figure was that Alice must have been a nanny or a companion to have made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean by herself. And then, just over a year ago, I found a manifest for the ship "Pretorian" leaving Glasgow and bound for Montreal, Quebec, Canada in July 1912. Alice was on the manifest with her father, her stepmother, and three step-siblings: Nina Agnes Webb, William (Willie) George Webb & Arthur Stewart Webb.

This discovery explained how Alice got to Winnipeg but then I wanted to find out more about these new half-siblings. I obtained all three birth records of the children this past year.


Recently (and coincidentally since the death of my mother), I discovered that William & Susan and their children returned to Perth, Scotland in 1920 on the same vessel "Pretorian".

In the mean time, Susan had made three round trips back home and had an additional two children, Harry Nixon Webb & Violet Ruby Webb during this time period from 1912-1920. I am unable to get Harry's birth record because of the 100-year rule in Manitoba and will have to wait until 2016 for that but I did get Ruby's record. As stated on Ruby's birth certificate, William had joined the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in Canada and was in Surrey, England for her birth. He was with a reserve battalion serving in WWI.

It has been wonderful to find this new family. The most amazing piece of the puzzle came to me when I discovered that Susan returned to Canada in 1924, a year after father William's death in Perth, Scotland. She had four surviving children travelling with her - little Willie had died in Winnipeg of scarlet fever.


The realization that this family could have very easily been in Winnipeg while my mother and her siblings were growing up is a bit saddening as my mother was never aware of Alice's family living in Canada, let alone possibly in Winnipeg.

And so the adventure continues. At the present time, I only have Susan and the four children arriving in New Brunswick, Canada in April 1924. I have still to investigate more Winnipeg records to see if they actually returned there or if they settled somewhere else. It might be a difficult journey but one that I am anxious to take.