Suzy Snapper
Sunday, December 31, 2006
I have always had a fascination with genealogical history...not just the dates and numbers but who these people, my ancestors were. Where they lived, what they were like. Bringing history to life for me, imagining my forebears living through times long ago. The picture below always amazed me from the time I was a little girl. Thinking that my Dad's grandmother lived in the hoop-skirted world was amazing to me.

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As I started to research her story, it became clear to me there was much to find out. This is what I wrote in my old blog in May 2005.

Jane Herkes was born in 1855 in Stenton, Haddington, Scotland to James Herkes and his wife, Janet Hastie. She was the youngest of 4 and the only daughter.

Jane lived a fairly eventful life by the standard of the day, passing away in Vancouver, BC at her daughter, Jennie's on January 29, 1941 at the age of 85.

She married her first husband, Mr. Porter around 1875. Unfortunately, I have yet to find his first name or much information about him, other than she loved him deeply. However, what I do know, is during their short marriage, they had three children: James (b. 1878), Mary (b. 1879) and Janet Margaret (b. 1881).

It would seem 1881 was a difficult time, as both Mr. Porter and Mary passed away in the first few months of that year. Jane became a single mother of one with a baby on the way.

On June 21, 1881, she married her new husband, Andrew Wilson Thomson - a coffin maker and shipwright. It would seem this marriage was arranged hastily as she was pregnant and he was from her church. They left left Scotland to take up residence in Southshields, Durham, England.

James went to live with relatives of their father in Scotland, and although still kept in some contact with the family, seem to have been abandoned by his mother. Janet (called Jessie) also went back to Scotland after her birth. They were seldom spoke of after that and when they were, they were called cousins by my grandmother. I guess half-siblings were not as accepted back then. Census records showed though that they did come back later to live with their mother for a time.

Jane and Andrew had a family of four in Northern England. Andrew was the eldest, followed by Herkes (b. 1883), my grandmother Jennie (b. May 1890), and Wilson (b. 1895).

She was always a difficult personality, and even her daughter left home at age 12 to get away from the turmoil in the house. Later, Jennie moved to Canada to join her children. She lived with the lifelong bachelor Wilson for a while, and finally came to live with her daughter, Jennie Bryant in Vancouver. Jane would be a cantankerous lady and often smack Jennie's children with her cane as they went by.

In Jennie's daughter, Phyllis's words:

When I was about 15 (1940), Uncle Wilson was having trouble with Grandma (because of her age), and moved out here with her to stay with Mom and Dad. She wasn’t very easy to get along with, and was determined that was the way to go, so Dad built a six-foot trellis across the back to get her mind off of it, and one day, we looked out and she was climbing up it (she was over 80 at the time!). She used to drink her tea with the teaspoon sticking up out of the cup, and when I would say, “Grandma, you’ll poke your eye out”, she would say, “It’s MY eye, isn’t it?”

Once, when I was home alone with her and in the bathroom, I heard the front door close. I ran to the window to see Grandma trotting up the street. I didn’t have my dress on, my hair was wet, and I pulled on a coat and ran along 59th Avenue after her. I had to pull her home, with her yelling at me all the way.

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In the photograph above, my Aunt Phyllis claimed 'the old bat was pinching me when they took that picture'. My Dad, the youngest, seems pretty unconcerned though.

Recently, I received an email from a lady in Oregon. She had found my details on a genealogy website and was sure she was from the same family.

My friend in England gave me your address. I am the grand-daughter of James Porter and Isabella Daley Porter and am researching the two families. James had two half-brothers who went to Canada sometime in the twenties (Ithink) with their mother Jane Herkes Porter Thomson. Are you descended fromeither Andrew or Wilson ?

I wrote back, very excitedly as it was obvious that she was our missing link. Not only that, it seemed she didn't have a full picture of our family either.

I was thrilled to receive two pictures from her, essentially fitting together two pieces of our jigsaw puzzle.

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Her photo of Jane in 1881 is just before her wedding to my great-grandfather. In the picture above, she's holding James and wearing Widow's Weeds (mourning attire). She would have also been pregnant in this photo.

She also had another photo to share, showing my grandmother in much happier times in Canada.

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Taken by her son, in Ontario after arriving in Canada in the 20s. It makes me look forward to digging deeper. She was obviously an angry woman, but it may have been circumstance that made her that way.

I hope to find out.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer trapped in a corporate buyer's body. Steel shopping by day, and freeflowing prose by night. One day I hope to have the nights become my days, but am intimidated by the sheer amount of people who share my dream. So I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
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