Elizabeth Mowat is my great great grandmother. I didn’t even know her name before I began my genealogy quest. I still don’t know much about her but I now have a photograph, a portrait of her in her “go to church clothes” with the requisite black bonnet.
There were no pictures of her in the box that started my family history search, although there was a family photograph of her husband William, her son Donald, his wife Alice and three of their children, William, Mary and James Dickson. I originally thought Elizabeth was alive at the time, so why on such an occasion was she not with them at the photographers? It later turned out she died in 1883 and not the assumed 1888.
It was through the internet and RootsWeb that I finally saw her face. Robert Harkness, from her daughter-in-law Alice’s line, said his family had lost all their old photos and information in a house fire but his uncle might know some family history. I wrote to his uncle, Bruce Harkness but did not hear anything. Then a couple of months later I received a letter from a George Dickson with photos and stories. He was also a relative of Alice’s and lived in the same apartment building as Bruce, in Belmore, Ontario. Bruce had shared my letter and it was George who responded. In the package was a picture of Elizabeth.
She was born in 1829 in Pulteneytown, Caithness, Scotland. Her parents were James Mowat and Isabelle Houston. It doesn’t appear that she had any siblings or at least any that survived to the 1841 census.
She married William Sutherland a shoemaker and 13 years her senior, May 1845, in Pulteneytown and they set out for Canada soon after. They sailed with two of William’s nephews and their wives so he had some family with him, but Elizabeth left her family and her life, never to see them again. There are Sutherland letters that have survived which reported on all the neighbours and friends so I assume the Mowats also heard about their daughter’s new life and family.
Elizabeth and William had seven children, William, James, Donald, Christina, Isabella, George, and John. They moved from Toronto to West Gwillimbury and finally to their own land in Carrick, Bruce County Ontario. After clearing the land and farming for a number of years they gave up the hard work and moved back to Toronto.
Elizabeth died in 1883 and William died in 1887. My sister Jeannie and I visited Mount Pleasant Cemetery and found their tombstone. The names were readable but not the inscription. As Jeannie went to the car to get some paper to try a rubbing, the sun came out and it’s angle made the inscription jump out,“The dead in Christ shall rise first”.
Ancestry.com. Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.Original data: Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013
Extracts of entries in an Old Parochial Register. Proclamations of Banns and marriages Parish of Wick, County of Caithnes general register Office, New Register House Edinburch on 26 September 2000.
Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 36 Source InformationAncestry.com. Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938, 1943-1944, and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947 Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Cert.
“The dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16
I always thought that my grandfather, William Sutherland was one of three children. He and his brother Wilson died before I was born and his sister Mary when I was a baby, so I never heard any information first hand. There is a picture of the family with three children, parents and grandfather. I always assumed the baby sitting on Alice Dickson Sutherland’s lap was Wilson, until one day I realized the eyes were light coloured. Wilson the youngest son definitely had brown eyes confirmed in many other pictures.
Thinking this was a child who had died, I searched through the Ontario Birth, Marriage and Death indexes. I found a James Dickson Sutherland who died at fourteen months, in January 1886, of bronchial pneumonia and thought he was a possible match. This was confirmed in a letter from Alice to a cousin Jessie McIntosh, where she mentioned little James Dickson. “Baby is growing he is pretty plump but not so big and fat as Willie was when he was his age. We call him James Dickson, he has dark hair, blue eyes and a deep dimple in his chin.”
It was certainly not unusual for young children to die before the discovery of antibiotics and vaccines. In my search I had noticed a Mowat Sutherland, who had died of diphtheria in 1891. Unfortunately, Ontario death certificates don’t give the parents names. No one else in the family had been called Mowat, but that was my great great grandmother’s maiden name. Then a “Knowat” Sutherland age two, was found in the 1891 census living with my great grandfather’s brother William and his wife Jessie Sutherland.
There was also an Elizabeth Mowat Sutherland, who died in 1890. I thought she was probably Mowat’s sister but hadn’t found any birth record. Then, in the LDS database I found both Mowat, Elizabeth Mowat and James Dickson buried in Mount Pleasant cemetery, plot M5120 owned by my great great grandfather William Sutherland.
I kept looking through the records. I searched through the birth records putting in different parents names and then just Sutherland, as I knew the death date and age, 9 months. I finally found a record of the birth of an Elizabeth Maud Sutherland whose parents weren’t William and Jessie Sutherland but rather Donald Sutherland and Alice Dixon (Dickson). This little girl was my great great aunt. She was born July 26, 1888 and died of bronchial pneumonia, April 22, 1889.
Imagine, three babies buried in plot M 5120 with their grandparents, but then there were four. Recently a Dickson baby boy was found to be buried in this plot. He was still born and probably the son of Alice’s brother James Dickson.
Donald and Alice lost two children before the youngest, Wilson was born. As the baby of the family he was spoiled according to all sources. His mother babied him and the explanation was undoubtedly the two children she lost. It was said he never had to learn the value of money and would buy a newspaper every day!
There was one more baby who was never mentioned. My grandmother Minnie Eagle Sutherland and her sister Amy had another younger sister. Elizabeth Martha Eagle, known as Bessie was born October 1, 1886 and died July 18, 1887 of cholera . Her mother Eliza Jane Eagle said, “God knew she could only cope with two children and took Bessie to heaven.”
Are there other little children to find so they too will be remembered?
Ancestry.com. James Dickson Sutherland – Archives of Ontario. Registrations of Deaths, 1869-1938. MS 935, reels 1-615. Series: MS935; Reel: 45
Year: 1891; Census Place: St Johns Ward, Toronto City, Ontario; Roll: T-6371; Family No: 3.
Archives of Ontario. Registrations of Births and Stillbirths – 1869-1913. MS 929, reels 1-245. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Archives of Ontario.
“Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH6C-BDS : accessed 07 Mar 2014), Elizabeth Mowat Sutherland, 1889.
“Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH6C-FP9 : accessed 07 Mar 2014), Mowat Sutherland, 1891.
“Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KH6H-378 : accessed 05 Apr 2014), Eliza M Eagle, 18 Jul 1887; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot T 94, line 11917, volume Volume 07, 1883-1891, Superintendent of Administrative Services; FHL microfilm 1617041.
Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/24MZ-7G5 : accessed 19 May 2014), Wm Sutherland in entry for Dickson, 05 Oct 1888; citing Toronto, Ontario, Canada, section and lot M 51 20, line 5000, volume Volume 01, 1876-1896, Superintendent of Administrative Services; FHL microfilm 1617049.
Personal communication with Elizabeth Sutherland Van Loben Sels. 2000.
Family letters from Carol MacIntosh Small. All the original letters were donated by Carol to the Bruce County Archives in Southampton, Ontario.
Letter from Alice Sutherland to Jessie McIntosh March 18, 1885.