52 Ancestors: Andrew Gammie, Sr. (1861-1926) or Why My Family Moved to Toronto, Ontario?

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.

Andrew Gammie (1861-1926)

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. 

52 Ancestors: Helen Gammie (nee Shand) 1864-1951 – "The Strongest Woman I Ever Saw"

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.

Helen (nee Shand) Gammie was described to me by my grand uncle Alexander (Alec) Hadden as “the strongest woman I had ever seen.” Helen was Alec’s paternal grandmother and he had watched her strain and toil, carrying heavy loads long distances as she worked the Gammie homestead lands of southwest Saskatchewan, Canada. 

Helen Shand was born 20 Sep 1864 at Hillhead of Aucharnie in the Parish of Forgue, Aberdeenshire. She was the daughter of John Shand, an agricultural labourer and his wife Isabel Morrison. All was well for the working class Helen, or Nellie as she was called. She worked as a domestic servant, a maid in a local home, until the day she met was smitten by John Hadden, an assistant shopkeeper to his father Alexander Hadden who ran a general merchandise shop in Insch, Scotland. 

Helen ‘Nellie’ Shand

John and Nellie were both teenagers when they found out that they were going to be parents. And so, on 6 Sep 1883, just before her nineteenth birthday, Nellie gave birth to a baby boy. Following the Scottish naming convention, John and Nellie named their son after John’s father Alexander and they included Nellie’s surname as the baby’s middle name. As they were just teenagers, John in fact was even younger than Nellie and he likely had no real means by which to support Nellie and their son, they decided not to marry. Nellie kept the baby to raise on her own.

A few years later, Helen met and married Andrew Gammie, a local farm servant who is recorded in the 1891 Census of Scotland as the head of his small household and step-father to Alexander, who was then recorded as being seven years of age. Helen and Andrew soon started a family of their own children, three half brothers and two half sisters to Alexander.

When the Canadian government began offering free land as part of an initiative to settle the western prairies, Andrew and Helen decided to leave Scotland and become landowners in the far off land that had been made to sound so attractive. On 22 Apr 1907, Andrew, Helen and their five children arrived in Canada on board the ship “Lake Erie.” According to the Gammie family in a commemorative local history “Ponteix Yesterday and Today” (Ponteix and District Vol. 2), the family rented some land while their homestead application was being processed. In 1910, they made the last part of their journey by horse team and wagon to their land, described as W 1/2 of 2-8-11-W3rd south, where they lived in a sod hut until a two-story frame house was built.

When Helen’s son James Gammie was killed in World War I, land that James had owned was transferred to Helen as next-of-kin. I’m told that Gammie family members knew Helen was corresponding with someone whose identity she did not divulge. That someone was her first child, the son she left in Scotland as a young man, Alexander Shand Hadden. Helen convinced Alexander to bring his family to Canada and join her working the land. And so, the Hadden family arrived late in 1923 on the Canadian prairies, only to move away in 1927.

Helen’s husband Andrew died the year before the Hadden family departed and she continued living on her land for many years before she too passed away at the age of 86 on 2 Apr 1951 in Ponteix, where she was buried next to her husband.

52 Ancestors: John Shand (1825-1906)

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.

The subject this week is one of my paternal 3X great grandfathers, John Shand about whom there is probably more I don’t know than I do know.

Scotland’s Old Parish Registers record that John Shand was born 20 Feb 1825 in Aucharnie, Aberdeenshire, the son of John Shand and his wife Jean Anderson. He was baptized at the church in Forgue, Aberdeenshire two miles north of his parent’s home one week later on 27 Feb 1825.

The records show that John was a worker, a farm servant specifically. By 1853, he was working on a farm in Fyvie, some 13 miles east of his parental home. In that year, John married Isobel (sometimes her name was recorded as Isabel or Isabella) Morrison. I have no idea as to how John and Isobel met or courted given that she lived in Huntly about 35 miles away from where John was living and working. For my sake, I am glad they did meet and marry – or there would not have been a ME! But meet and marry they did, on 22 Jul 1853 according to their marriage registration in the Huntly Old Parish Register.

John seems to have worked hard to support his family and rose from being a farm servant to being a tenant farmer or crofter by 1890. Over the course of the first twenty years of their marriage, John and Isobel welcomed into their family nine known children, the first born in 1854 and the ninth born in 1874. Their family consisted of seven boys and two girls. Their second daughter, Helen, born in 1864, would become my great great grandmother.

By 1900, John was running the Clinkstone Croft in the village of Insch. That is when life seems to have taken a real downturn for John. First, his wife of almost 47 years, Isobel (her death registration records her name as Isabella) died on February 10th due to bronchitis. John was approaching his 75th birthday at the time and I am certain that work would not have be easy for John. His death registration record shows this clearly. 

John died on 17 Apr 1906 in Aberdeen, his death the result of chronic heart disease. Sadly, it apears John was not surrounded by loving family members at the time of his death as many modern obituaries record. He died alone in the West Poorhouse which I suspect was not, even at the best of times, not a happy place to be.

Opening Up Canada’s West

One of the challenges that I have faced researching both my family lines as well as those of my wife, Ellen, is the relative young age of Canada. This is especially problematic due to the involvement of our family branches in Canada’s western, specifically the prairie provinces.

My Hadden family ancestors first immigrated from Scotland to Saskatchewan around 1907 when Helen ‘Nellie’ Shand and her husband Andrew Gammie took up a homestead near Aneroid, Saskatchewan. I have recounted previously, how in 1923, my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden answered his mother’s call for some help and he left Scotland with his wife and children and put down Canadian roots that I can now call my own.
I have not yet found Helen and Andrew in the 1911 census records but they appear in the 1916 census records of the Canadian prairie provinces.
Saskatchewan only became a province on Sept. 1, 1905, meaning that are only three publicly available set of census records – 1906, 1911, and 1916. As my family was still in Scotland in 1906, I’m limited to the two remaining record sets.
But (!) thanks to a stalwart group of volunteers, additional Saskatchewan information for genealogists is becoming available – one plot at a time! I have found through the Saskatchewan Cemeteries Project website a small treasure trove of burial locations, date information and numerous gravestone photos of many Latimer ancestors (Ellen’s family). A special thanks to volunteer Val Thomas who photographed and indexed the Benson Cemetery, the final resting place for several of Ellen’s relatives.
The Saskatchewan cemeteries site contains the transcriptions of more than 1,000 of the province’s more than 3,300 cemeteries so while there is still lots of work to do before the ‘project’ is complete, great work has already been done and made available. The site provides a listing of the transcribed cemeteries along with the municipality to which they are associated.
More than just cemetery transcriptions, the site also includes an obituary index with links to the obituary text that unfortunately does not seem to allow the ‘copy and paste’ function. This technological aspect is in my opinion not helpful. However, the obituaries, if you find one connected to your family as I did with Ellen’s Latimer relatives, are typically full of great information about family members but also about the deceased and their life in the community.
Keep up the good work Saskatchewan Cemeteries Project volunteers!