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Settlement of Canadian Prairies 1910s

Discussion in 'Migration and Travel' started by JimP, Apr 1, 2024.

  1. JimP

    JimP LostCousins Member

    Several years ago, I discovered a first cousin of my great-grandfather who popped up in the 1911 Canadian census in Carrot River, Saskatchewan. He was one of four in that generation to cross the Atlantic (my great-grandfather emigrated to Vermont in 1903, his older brother to New Brunswick in 1912, and a third cousin went to Ontario, and later migrated down in to New York).

    Recently, I read A Place Called Winter, by Patrick Gale. The author's great-grandfather had, as a result of some scandal which was never again talked about in the family, emigrated to Canada in 1910, leaving behind his wife and infant daughter. He received a grant of land in Winter, Saskatchewan, settled there, and lived out his life as a "bachelor" farmer, leaving little record beyond census records and a sentence in a local history. Gale, with a great deal of historical research, imagines his great-grandfather's journey and hardships, with a host of colourful characters.

    I found the novel particularly interesting for its depiction of how emigration to the Canadian Prairies was promoted in England, the variety of men who were recruited, and how the reality that these adventurers found was very different from what was pitched to them in England.

    It gave me new insights into my relative. Leonard James Pratt. He was born in 1869 in Norfolk, son of a draper, but his father went bankrupt, found employment as an assistant, and was twice convicted of theft from his employers. He died soon after his release from Wandsworth Prison in 1882. He bounced around living with various relatives. Without land or any chance of an inheritance, he probably found the lure of Canada and promise of free land enticing. In 1903 he sailed to Canada, intending to travel to Fort Albert. He settled in Carrot River (now Flett's Springs), Saskatchewan and married Mary Painter, the daughter of his neighbour. They had 5 children, but Mary died in 1921. Leonard must have found homesteading too difficult, and the same year he moved to British Columbia, then crossed the border into the US in 1923, finally settling in California, though his eldest son remained in BC (except for a time studying at the Memorial University of Newfoundland).
     
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  2. Sue_3

    Sue_3 LostCousins Member

    That's interesting. I have a relative who sailed to Canada in 1906, but I can't find him after that, although his parents included him in their count of their children that were still alive in the 1911 census. I might seek out that book by Patrick Gale.
     
  3. JimP

    JimP LostCousins Member

    Sue,
    Library & Archives Canada has the Canadian censuses on line up to 1921, and I usually use their site for my Canadian research. I don't know if the commercial sites use LAC's indices or their own transcriptions, so it might be worth trying a different site in case one has your relative mis-indexed. Also, LAC has land grant records -- indexed, but no images available -- which might help you find him.

    A few reasons he could go missing:
    1. Many homesteaders, not prepared for the hardships, succumbed to disease, and conditions in the larger settlements were appalling (squatter camps). Medical care was often not available (my relative's wife went back from Saskatchewan to North Bay, Ontario for treatment, and died in hospital there, so her death was recorded).
    2. Some took native wives and disappeared into native settlements (not recorded on censuses or in vital records)
    3. The US-Canada border was quite porous, and there was a lot of migration back and forth. Passenger lists exist for those who crossed by rail or steamship, but not much for those who crossed by private conveyance or by foot, especially at busy crossings like Detroit-Windsor or Buffalo-Niagara Falls.

    Jim
     
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  4. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Star

    Ancestry has the 1931 Canadian census. My maternal grandparents are there, as well as my Dad.
     
  5. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

  6. Sue_3

    Sue_3 LostCousins Member

    Thanks Jim, I'll have a look at LAC when I get a minute and will also ponder those possible reasons for going missing. I have looked for him on US census records, without success.
     

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