This map of Amherst Island, Ontario is from 1878 and shows my great-great grandfather’s land that he owned just to the west of Stella, the island’s biggest town. In the larger map at the top, it would be just below and to the left of the “Q” in Bay of Quinte. John Wilson (former Johan Rustad from Sweden) arrived on the island in 1857.
I stumbled upon this website, Rural Diary Archive, because I was researching my Wilson/Thompson/Gibson line on Amherst Island, Ontario. The founder of the project, Dr. Catharine Anne Wilson (maybe a relative, maybe not!), wrote a book called A New Lease on Life: Landlords, Tenants and Immigrants in Ireland and Canada, which explores landlord-tenant relationships on Amherst Island especially tenant families that migrated from the Ards Peninsula in County Down to Amherst Island between 1820 and 1860.
Anyway, the Rural Diary Archive “showcases over 150 Ontario diarists from 1800 to 1960.” The diaries come from museums and archives across Ontario. You can search transcribed diaries, as well as browse by county, occupation, ethnicity/nationality, and religion. I did find one diary from Amherst Island, written in 1872-1879 by George Wright. That is part of the time period the Wilson’s and Thompson’s lived on the island, but I haven’t a chance to read it yet. Hopefully, it will give me some insight on daily life.
The Archive also has a Twitter account (@RuralDiaries) that tweets diary entries in an “On this Day” format.
Week 24 (June 10-16): Dear Diary
In looking through my photos on my Ancestry tree, I noticed I don’t have very many photographs of bearded ancestors. Most are clean-shaven or have mustaches. However, I have this great image of my great-great grandfather Archibald Thompson.
Archibald Thompson was born in either 1838 or 1841 in either Ireland or Scotland. He arrived in Canada in about 1857 and lived on Amherst Island, Ontario. He married Elizabeth Dunning in about 1860. He was a sailor, then a farmer. Archie and Elizabeth had 11 children, including my great-grandmother Mary. In the mid-1890s, the family moved to Deseronto, Hastings, Ontario. Elizabeth died in 1912 and Archibald died on 24 Feb 1931 at the age of 93 (if the DOB on his death certificate is accurate).
“Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JNSZ-YHC : 8 March 2018), Archibald Thompson, 24 Feb 1931; citing Frontenac, Pittsburg, Ontario, 108, Registrar General. Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,296,529.
52 Ancestors Week 45: Bearded (Nov. 5-11)
This small tablecloth, with the initials, M.T. and the year 1892, was embroidered by my great-grandmother Mary Agnes (Thompson) Wilson when she was about 20 years old. She was born on March 10, 1872 on Amherst Island, Ontario. On the Canadian census of April 1891, she was living on Amherst Island with her parents Archibald and Elizabeth and her siblings Charles, William, Hugh, Agnes, and Cecil. Mary married my great-grandfather John A. Wilson on November 1, 1898 in Deseronto, Ontario. They had 10 children between 1900 and 1916, including my grandfather, Charles Thompson Wilson.
52 Ancestors #24 – Heirloom
Yikes, I’m really behind on my 52 ancestors. Now to play catch-up.
Robert Gibson, my 3rd Great-Grandfather, was born about 1805 in Ireland. His family was from the Ards Peninsula (shown on map above) in County Down, Northern Ireland. They likely moved to Ireland from Scotland. According to Catharine Anne Wilson, Scotch-Irish families “emigrated from 1820 to 1860 from the United Parish of St. Andrews in Northern Ireland to Amherst Island, Ontario, Canada.” (Wilson, C. A. (1997). The Scotch-Irish and Immigrant Culture on Amherst Island, Ontario. In H. T. Blethen & C. Wood (Eds.), Ulster and North America: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Scotch-Irish (134-145). Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press.) St. Andrews was six miles north of Portaferry, from which many ships departed.
Robert married Mary McCormick in Ireland in the 1830s. They had at least five children between 1837 and 1850, including my great-great grandmother Mary Ann. According to her 1911 Canada Census entry, Mary Ann arrived on Amherst Island in 1857, which is when, I assume, the rest of the family came. This also fits the emigration time frame put forth by Wilson. She was married with a daughter by 1859 on the island. In the 1861 and 1871 censuses, Robert and Mary were living on Amherst Island. He was listed as Presbyterian and she was listed as Roman Catholic. In April 1881, they were living with their son Hugh (1848-1881) and his wife Elizabeth and their two children, William and Mary Ellen. Hugh died in June 1881 and a son, also named Hugh, was born in February 1882.
Robert died on May 5, 1882 of dyspepsia. He might be buried in St. Bartholomew’s Cemetery on Amherst Island. His wife Mary died on January 13, 1886 of dropsy of the heart.
52 Ancestors #11 – Luck of the Irish
John A. Wilson, my great-great grandfather, was born 9 Apr 1833 in Sweden. Family legend says he stowed away on a ship when he was 16 and was “adopted” by the captain who gave the boy his [the captain’s] name. But we all have stowaway stories, right?
Anyway, by 1859 John lived on Amherst Island, Ontario and married Mary Ann Gibson and had a child name Rose.
In the 1871 Canadian Census, the Wilsons’ have several more children and John’s occupation is listed as mariner. According to my great aunt, John was a “lake captain.” Furthermore, Captain Wilson loaded grain on Amherst Island. In 1881, John is listed as a farmer and I have no further information at this time about this mariner in the family.
This small table covering was embroidered by Mary Thompson, my great-grandmother. In the center are the cursive initials M.T. and below them is the year 1892. Below is a picture of Mary from 1898, the year she married John Wilson of Amherst Island, Ontario.
See also this earlier post.
Mary Ann Gibson of Portaferry, County Down, Ireland was born to Robert Gibson (birthplace: Scotland) and Mary McCormick (birthplace: Ireland) on April 11, 1837. In A New Lease on Life: Landlords, Tenants, and Immigrants in Ireland and Canada by Catharine Ann Wilson, my relatives – my relatives! – are mentioned on page 231. Mary Gibson married John Wilson sometime in the 1850s on Amherst Island, presumably. They had 4 daughters and 3 sons. One son, a twin named Robert, died in December 1871 at the age of 4 months and 10 days (see picture at right; the stone was broken off at the base when we found it. I swear!). He is buried in Pentland Cemetery on Amherst Island. Mary Ann died September 7, 1923 and is buried on Amherst Island in Glenwood Cemetery.
Next time: John Andrew Wilson, my great-grandfather.
Now that I think I’ve figured out how to add pictures on here, I’m going to try to make some posts pertaining to the Wells’, Wilson’s, Belknap’s, Oakes’, Moore’s, and anyone else I can “dig up.” Speaking of digging up, here is the tombstone for our lone Swedish ancestor: John Alford Wilson. Born April 9, 1833. Died January 6, 1889. He emigrated to Canada, maybe in the early 1850s and lived on Amherst Island and Howe Island, Ontario. I visited there in 2004 and took this picture. On the base of the stone, it says “Meet Me in Heaven.” This grave is located in Glenwood cemetery on Amherst Island. It is next to my Uncle Hugh and Aunt Grace. Uncle Hugh died in February 1979 and they had to wait until the Spring thaw to bury him because the lake was frozen over.
Next time: Mary Gibson of Portaferry