52 Ancestors: Agnes Little (1908-1958)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

Agnes Little was ‘Granny’ to me. My paternal grandmother, she was as her surname implied small in stature at just four feet, ten inches in height, but a giant force in her family.

Agnes was born, according to her birth registration, at 6:10 AM at 1 Harvie Lane in the West District of Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland. She joined her young parents, James Little, an 19-year old apprentice iron caulker (better known now as a riveter), and his wife Margaret Mitchell, an 18-year old mother of one, that is Agnes’ older brother Edward Sweeney Little. Agnes’ parents had married in March 1906 when they were just 17 and 16 years old respectively. Over the next few years, Agnes would be there to welcome two additional brothers and a sister into her parent’s family.

Perhaps it was a sense of adventure but more likely, it was a desire to find greater opportunity under the Empire Settlement Act of 1922 that lead Agnes to leave Scotland in 1928. And so, on 16 Jun 1928, with her one-way, third class ticket in hand, Agnes boarded the ship ‘Regina’ of the infamous White Star Line in the Port of Greenock bound for Quebec City in Canada. Her immigration records show that Agnes had been working as a domestic servant in Greenock but planned to work as a “Ward Maid” in Toronto, Ontario where she had accommodation waiting for her at the Salvation Army Hostel.

I can’t imagine that I have ever had enough of a sense of adventure nor the bravery that I think was needed to make this kind of move. As my children know, my sense of adventure has a much smaller geographic reach, larger than that of my parents, but still incredibly minute when compared to my grandmother. And, Agnes relocated thousands of miles from the only home she knew with only $10 in her possession!

Before leaving Scotland, Agnes was told that when she arrived in Toronto, she could look up the Haddens, a family of Scots who had emigrated to Canada just a few years earlier. Agnes did as she was told and by October 1929 she was married to the youngest Hadden son, John.

Agnes died at the too young an age of 50 on 18 Nov 1958 and is interred at Pine Hills Cemetery in Toronto. 

While I remember her, I admit the memories are now vague but my mother loved to recall for me how Agnes, two weeks before she passed away and in spite of the debilitating anguish of the cancer that would claim her life, mustered up the strength to hide from me and feign fright when I visited her to show off my Halloween costume. 

And of course, my mother never failed to remind me of Granny’s favourite expression, spoken with her best Scottish brogue, “Me tongue’s me passport.”

One thought on “52 Ancestors: Agnes Little (1908-1958)

  1. She was certainly a brave woman to leave her homeland and travel alone to Canada. How fortunate for her that her contact in Canada had a young son that she would marry. It is sad that she died at the age of 50 and that you didn't have many years to get to know her. It is great that your mother has shared some memories of her with you.

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