Friday, 24 February 2017

The Gillies sisters of Nethy Bridge come to Canada

Forgive me for seemingly being on a DNA binge, but I have had yet another cousin relationship confirmed by DNA.

A few years ago, a woman messaged me on Ancestry to say she had seen similarities in both our family trees. This connection opened so many doors for me in my research, as often happens. Until this cousin contacted me, I hadn't known that my great grandmother Annie Ross (1850-1922 had siblings and eight nieces (!! but just one nephew), the children of her sister, Margaret Grace Darling Ross, known as Maggie (1847-1932).

My latest confirmed DNA cousin is a great great granddaughter of Maggie, who lived with her husband James Gillies (1847-1906) and their family in Nethy Bridge, the same Cairngorms village in Inverness-shire where my paternal great grandparents lived with their family. In 1906 and 1908, four of Maggie's daughters, Mary, Jessie, Robina and her namesake Maggie; emigrated from the Scottish Highlands to make their home in Toronto. I wonder why they chose Toronto? Likely they already knew someone there. Their cousin, my grandfather John Matheson (1884-1964) followed them to Canada in 1907, but he chose Montreal for his home.

The sisters all took jobs as servants in Toronto, and between 1908 and 1914, each married. Three sisters stayed in Toronto, but the youngest, Robina Gillies (1888-1969) moved to Los Angeles with her husband Ben Kelly (1884-1939) in 1919, after their only child, Jackie, tragically died aged only seven in January of that year from bronchial pneumonia.

Maggie Gillies Wood
Maggie Gillies (1874-aft 1931) and her husband John Thomas Wood (abt 1857-1931) had no children. Nor did her sister Jessie Darling Mary Gillies (1880-1931) and her husband Thomas Devereux (1881-?)

Mary Gillies Bennett
My 3rd cousin once removed is the great granddaughter of Mary Gillies (1878-1929), who died after being struck by a streetcar in Toronto, leaving her husband Peter Bennett (1870-?) and their children Peter and Annabelle. The January 10, 1929 edition of the Toronto Star carried this very brief death notice for Mary:
"Bennett - On Wednesday, January 9th 1929, at Toronto. Mary Bennett, 7 Grove Avenue, in her 50th year. Funeral private from Bert Humphrey's Funeral Parlors, 466 Church Street Friday afternoon. Interment Prospect Cemetery."
Did the Gillies sisters stay in touch with my grandfather John Matheson in Montreal by letter and phone calls? I suspect so. Since he was a locomotive engineer with CN, he probably went through Toronto from time to time. Letter writing was the great social pastime of that era. I do have a memory of my mother mentioning that her father had a cousin in California -- that would have been Robina.

My cousin is lucky to have photos of her great grandmother and great aunt, and has kindly let me use these here. Not for the first time do I wonder what happened to my families' photos. I have a couple of shoeboxes worth of photos from the late 19th and early 20th century with absolutely nothing to identify the people pictured. This is a great frustration.

My cousin and I live just a couple of hours' drive apart. We're so pleased to be in touch, but we still haven't met face to face. We need to make that happen.

The never ending story continues.....



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