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.
When I became curious about the history of my family, some thirty plus years ago, one of the first people I spoke to was my great uncle Alexander Gaull Hadden, or Uncle Alec as I knew him. Uncle Alec told me what he knew of the family. His paternal grandmother was Helen Shand. She had given birth to his father, my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden and then later re-married a man named Gammie. In 1907, she and this Gammie fellow moved to Saskatchewan to homestead. Years later, she contacted her eldest child Alexander and invited him and his family to come join her working on the farm in Canada. In 1923, the Haddens accepted her invitation.
The family story went a bit further but still lacked detail. Uncle Alec told me that his mother, Jessie Gaull, didn’t like it in Saskatchewan, with it’s bitter cold in winter, so in 1927, the family moved to Toronto, Ontario where Jessie had a brother George Gaull who owned a small grocery store. Uncle Alec also made a comment I wrote down in the notes I made during the family history interview with him and have kept to this day. The comment was that there was some tension between the Gammie boys and his father Alexander. No details. Nothing more said.
I first must confess that I am not genetically related to Andrew Gammie Sr. and I am not really descended from him. But Andrew Gammie Sr was the step-father to my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden as seen in the snippet below from the 1891 Census of Scotland.
Andrew Gammie was the eldest son in a family of ten known children (five boys and five girls) born to Andrew Gammie and his wife Jane Christie. Andrew was born on 28 Jun 1861 in Huntly, County of Aberdeen, Scotland. Andrew’s father was a successful farmer of 135 acres in Monqhitter, Aberdeen, Scotland, employing two men and a boy according to census records. It is very likely that Andrew worked on the farm and learned from his much from his father.
On the 14th of June, 1890, Andrew married Helen Shand, a domestic servant, in Ythan Wells. As the census record above shows, with Helen came her son Alexander Hadden whom she had raised on her own, supported by her Shand relatives. Andrew was 29 years old and Helen was 25 when they married. A year later, and just a few months after the 1891 census was taken, Helen gave birth to their first child, the first of three sons. They named him Andrew, like his father and grandfather before him.
Sons Peter and James, or ‘Jimmie’ as they called him, would follow over the next four years. Finally, in 1897, they had a daughter whom they named Helen, after her mother. I’m not certain as to the reason, but Helen and Andrew later adopted a little girl born in 1904 named Whilimena (Williamina) Alexander, known in the family as ‘Minnie.’
Andrew supported his family by working as a farm servant and then as a baker’s van driver and grocer’s carter. Opportunity knocked, at least in Andrew Gammie’s eyes, when the Canadian government offered the chance at land ownership – for free. All that was required was moving half-way around the world to the prairies of Saskatchewan. It was with this promise in mind that Andrew and Helen along with their five Gammie children boarded the Lake Erie in April 1907 for the voyage to St. John, New Brunswick and from there to Stoughton, Saskatchewan where they would wait for their homestead application to be approved and land granted.
While they waited for their land, Andrew moved his family and worked on farms first in Morse, Saskatchewan and then in Anerley, Saskatchewan. Likely the lessons in farming he received from his father now served him well. Eventually, their homestead application was approved and the family settled on and began farming their own land near Aneroid, Saskatchewan.
As in all families, the kids grow up and begin making their own decisions. Such was the circumstance when on 17 May 1916, sons Peter and James enlisted in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. The two Gammie boys went off to fight in World War I but only one would return. Jimmie would die of shrapnel wounds suffered when the Allies were taking a bridge in Fricheux, France. He was buried not far away in a military cemetery outside of Arras, France.
Land that Jimmie had acquired in Saskatchewan, not far from the Gammie homestead was bequeathed to his mother Helen. It was help with this land that she sought when she invited her first-born Alexander Hadden to come to Saskatchewan. Eventually, Alexander agreed to the move and to help with the farming even though he really had no farming experience. I’m told by a member of the Gammie family that Helen had kept her correspondence and this offer secret and so I suspect it was quite the surprise to the Gammie children when their half-brother Alexander Hadden and his family showed up on the prairies in 1923. It is also likely that there was much that needed to be done so there was not much time to quibble about the new arrivals.
However, on 23 August 1926, at the age of 65, Andrew Gammie died. He also died intestate, meaning he had left no will. I don’t know the reason, but Helen, now a widow, chose the younger of her two surviving sons to be the executor of her husband’s estate. Andrew Gammie’s estate file records that Helen, Andrew Jr. and Helen, the daughter, all renounced their rights to letters of administration which were duly granted to Peter by the Surrogate Court, appointing him as executor.
On 11 January 1927, when Helen Gammie renounced her rights to the letters of administration in favour of her son Peter, she listed her husband Andrew’s survivors as: herself, her sons, Andrew Gammie Jr. and Peter Gammie, and Helen Gammie, then Mrs. Harold Hardement. No mention of step-son Alexander Hadden nor adopted daughter Minnie Alexander Gammie. Son Andrew’s renunciation instrument listed the same survivors.
However, just two and half weeks later on 29 Jan 1927, Peter Gammie signed his affidavit as executor that included an inventory of his father’s estate and a list of the surviving family members to whom the estate would pass. Those surviving family members were: his mother Helen who would receive as required by law one-third of the estate, Andrew Gammie Jr., Peter Gammie, Helen Gammie then Mrs. Harold Hardement, and Whilimena Gammie, adopted daughter. No mention of step-son Alexander Hadden.
The estate that they divided consisted of land valued at $7,000, the property described as West Half, Section 1 in Township 8, Range 11, West of the 3rd Meridian. The remainder of the estate consisted of a stove, kitchen cabinet, table, chairs, bed (valued at a combined $100), a wagon, two plows and a set of harrows (combined value of $135), and 6 horses at $60 per head (total $360). The total estate value was $7,595 of which Andrew’s widow Helen received $2,351.66.
And so, the Hadden family, just four years after leaving their home in Scotland appear to have been stranded, at least by circumstances on the prairies of Saskatchewan. Was this the cause of the tension my uncle had told me about? If it was, it seems entirely understandable to me. With apparently nothing for them in Saskatchewan, was this the reason the family moved to Toronto where at least there was some family support available? It seems entirely likely to me.