To help me in regulating my blogging activity, outside of the Dauphin Herald, I’ve decided to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s genealogist challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Each week I will be writing about an ancestor of my choosing and will describe a little about their life or the challenges I’ve come across while researching them.
This week I will be writing about two ancestors for the 1st and 2nd week of the challenge, they are a husband and wife pair who came to Canada in the early 1900s.
Thomas White (1880-1909) was the first husband to Sophia Harriett Basham (1880-1959), my paternal great grandmother. He was born abt 1880 in Hackney, London, and resided in the Hackney area for the majority of his youth where he worked as a cabinet worker. Before 2012 I had very little information on Thomas other than what was written about him by his only child, my great-aunt Ruth, who I have written about in a previous post. I had no information on his parents or if he had any siblings and so it was a mystery for some time but I will continue on this thought a little further below.
Sophia Harriett Basham was born on 1 Jun 1880 in Homerton, Hackney, London, to parents John Basham (1837-1915) and Ruth Sarah Goodson (1848-1925). She was baptized at St. Barnabas Church in Aug 1880 along wit her brother George Edward and sister Amy Florence; she resided with her parents and siblings in the Hackney area for much of her youth. They can be found in the England Census in 1881, 1891, and 1901.
Thomas can be found in the 1901 England Census residing, as a border, at 23 Ballance Road with Joseph Charles and his wife Amy Basham. Based on this information I concluded that this is how Thomas might have become acquainted with Amy’s sister, Sophia, who would later become his wife. He married Sophia Basham in Apr 1904 in West Ham, Essex; I believe they married at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Walthamstow and that their marriage record is located at the Waltham Forest Archives. This information is based on the fact that Sophia’s sister, Jessica Grace Basham, married her husband Owen Leveson Gower at St Michael & All Angels Church on 2 Sep 1900 and lived in the same area; it wouldn’t be far fetched to think that Tom and Sophie could have married at this church as I’ve been unable to locate a record at any Hackney churches. When I was passing through London in August 2012 I was unable to make it to the Waltham Archives and can’t confirm whether their record is there.
The young couple traveled to Canada on the S.S. Canada in May of 1904 and arrived at the port of Montréal, Québec, on 15 May 1904. They moved to the Mossey River Municipality of Manitoba possibly for the fact that Sophia’s older brothers John Fredrick and George Edward immigrated in 1896 and 1903 to the area as well as her parents in 1903. A CPR land sale record indicates that Thomas bought 160 arces of land on the NE-1-29-19-W1. There he erected a small farmhouse on the north bank of the Fishing River and the couple can be found on in the 1906 Canadian Census. On 23 Jan 1908, a daughter, Ruth Elizabeth White, was born.
On 22 Oct 1909, Thomas died of typhoid fever. He is buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Dauphin, Manitoba. While visiting the cemetery I was able to locate the approximate location of his burial plot but I was unable to locate his gravestone. All markers in this area of the cemetery have been damaged or destroyed and so it’s not possible to identify whose stone belongs to whom with any real certainty. Based on his date of death I was able to order his death certificate from Manitoba Vital Statistics in the summer of 2012 and low and behold there was information that indicated that Thomas had a brother who lived in Dauphin, named George William White, at the time of his death. From this information I was able to locate George White and his family in the Canadian Census records of 1911 and 1916 as well as their records in Canadian passenger lists and furthermore in the English Census records where I was able to make an educated guess as to their parents and siblings.
On 26 Mar 1912 Sophia married James Washington Johnston (1876-1967) and would have three sons: James Henderson Johnston (1913-1981), Ernest John Johnston (1915-2001), and William George Washington Johnston (1917-1944). Ruth wrote of her mother’s hardships in her 1983 essay entitled “The James Washington Johnston Place.”
Sophie remained ambitious for the welfare of Riverside Farm as she and James worked hard throughout the pioneer years. She has no running water or electrical power to help her. She often needed medical attention which she could not readily get. Much of her brave spirit faded through the years, but her sense of humour never wavered. Her hearty laugh is something Ruth tenderly remembers. As Ruth grew older, she realized that some of her mother had truly gone with her father, when he was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery, Dauphin, Manitoba. But Sophie was always loyal to James, and appreciated his outstanding good qualities of good nature and kindness, and his very clever hands, which could build almost anything and “fix” everything.
After the second world war, Riverside Farm was passed down to the eldest Johnston son, James Henderson, while Sophia and her husband, James Washington, retired to Dauphin. Sophia passed away on 21 Apr 1959 while her husband James passed away eight years later in 1967.