Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of Branches, Twigs, and Roots!

Today's edition features Henry York, a very independent man with an indomitable spirit who endured many hardships in the effort to make a better life for himself and his family. An interesting fellow!


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Henry York

Henry York, 1810 - 1893.
Henry York, 1810 - 1893


Henry York was born February 28, 1810 in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, England, the son of Thomas York and Mary Dickens. He was christened on September 6, 1812, at the local Independent Chapel.

On July 5, 1830, at 20 years of age, Henry married Ann Hall, daughter of Timothy Hall and Ann Palmer, born in June of 1812 in Leicestershire. The marriage took place at Monks Kirby, Warwickshire. According to the marriage record, Henry was living at Thornford, Dorset, at the time of the marriage.

Henry and Ann had five children: Frederick (1831), Mary (1834), John (1835), Sarah (1836), and Henry (1842).

In the 1841 census, Henry and Ann and their family were living in Long Buckby. Henry's occupation is listed as "carrier".

In 1844, Henry and Ann and their five children sailed for Canada, in search of a better life. Henry's dream was to farm his own land. They sailed on the ship Cairo, arriving at Grosse Ile, Quebec on September 2, 1844.

Ann, who had been ill for half of the journey, spent about three weeks in the infirmary there, following which she died, on September 24, 1844. Henry, grief stricken and feeling very alone, made his way with the five children to Picton, Ontario, where he and Frederick found work. Sarah also was placed in a home, where she would earn a new frock and a pair of boots for her wages over the winter.

Many of Henry's letters home, or handwritten copies of them, have survived, and, thanks to my cousin Shirley York Anderson, who has done an enormous amount of detailed and accurate work on the York descendants, they have been transcribed and are available on the internet at http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~syafam/YorkLetters.

The letters provide a fascinating view of the world as seen through his eyes, detailing the prices of things in Canada as compared to the prices in England, and various things that struck him as different. Here is a paragraph or two from one of his letters:

They live different here. They eat butter and cakes, pickles and preserves, plumbs and cherries which grow in great quantities in the woods. I have been out to supper several times this winter, and have had meat, potatoes, pickels, preserves, apple sauce, and pumpkin pye all heaped on my plate at once, like a mess for a mad dog. All very good if kept separete, but such a mixture I don't like.

We have butter and meat allowed us while at work 3 times a day, and tea without sugar. If a man is ever so poor here, he may get plenty of bread and meat and if industrious he will get himself some cattle. They are easier got than money.

When a man has some pigs, which nearly keep themselves, and a cow or too, his family has something to depend on beside his labour. But with all these prospects there is an aching void on my part, for the loss of my wife embitters everything, and is always uppermost on my mind.


Henry commented that Picton was a well settled place, and a poor man would never be able to purchase land there. However, there was land to be had in the Huron area, which had just been opened up for settlement, on terms which he could handle. After doing a good deal of research, including obtaining maps of the area where land was available, and travelling up there to check out various pieces of land, he settled on a lot in St. Vincent township, Grey County, near Owen Sound.

Henry moved the family to St. Vincent Township, Grey County, to their own farm, in March of 1847.



The old stone house, St. Vincent township. Built by a distant cousin of Henry's, a stonemason, Henry and Elizabeth lived in this home for a short time before trading farms with the neighbouring Robinson family.
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Many immigrants to Canada moved here with other members of their extended family, and therefore had some ongoing contact with, and support from, those near and dear to them. Henry, having gone to Canada with his wife and children but without any other relatives, and having lost his wife so tragically shortly after arriving, was clearly very lonely. His letters contain what could be termed "sales pitches" about how wages are so much higher in Canada for less work than in England, and how his brothers, brothers-in-law, and other villagers would be so much better off, and able to live comfortably, if they came to Canada.

It appears that two of his family members did so. His brother Thomas, wife Martha, and daughter Alice York came to Canada in 1855, and settled on Henry's property. His brother Samuel York, born in 1824, married Elizabeth Prothero in Northamptonshire in 1853. Samuel travelled to Canada with Thomas and family, leaving his wife and family in England. Samuel died in St. Vincent County, recently arrived in Canada, in circumstances which are not immediately clear.

Henry's letters reveal that he attempted a number of times to find another wife, both from Long Buckby, and from the area around him. His letters contain passing references to this one or that one in whom he had an interest, and his laments that all of the young girls seemed to be 'snapped up' so quickly. It was December 6, 1851, before he remarried, to Elizabeth Prentice, born in Ontario, Canada, in 1832 to Jacob Prentice and Hannah Devins.

Henry and Elizabeth's marriage resulted in the birth of nine children, between 1853 and 1872.

Henry lived in the St. Vincent township area for more than 30 years. Many, many details about his life and those of his family can be found in the Meaford newspaper, as Shirley York Anderson can attest. See her write-up at http://www.familyhistoryalive.com//my-notes-from-a-presentation-about-newspapers-and-genealogy.html for a few examples of the things which she discovered about the family, simply by browsing through the local archived newspapers.




House built by Henry York, on the second property he and Elizabeth owned. The walls were 18 inches thick, with hand-made concrete.
Henry York's second house


In the late 1870s, Henry assisted others with a move to Manitoba. He returned home all fired up about the wonderful soil he had seen in Manitoba, and, in his late 60s, he and the family packed up their belongings and moved to Marquette County, Manitoba, where they again farmed the land and homesteaded. Sons Thomas, William, Nathan and Levi, aged 24, 20, 17, and 15, respectively, as seen in the 1881 Manitoba census, all farmed with him.

Henry died in 1893, at age 83. He was active until the very end. On the date of his death, he was watching his woodlot, having determined that someone was stealing from it. When he saw a wagon going into the woodlot, he walked briskly over to investigate. After speaking to the man driving the wagon, he sat down on a bench, saying he was "all done in". Shortly thereafter, he slumped over and passed away.

A fitting end to the life of a man whose energy seemed to know no bounds, and who, through all kinds of adversity, never lost sight of the reason he had come to Canada: to own land, thereby providing a better life and opportunities for himself and his children. I think I know where my independent streak came from, as well as the pioneering, never-give-up attitude which my parents and grandparents exhibited!


Announcements this week

It's Black History Month! Many associated genealogy events are in full swing.

Click here for a list of events.

In this vein, the Hermitage, former home of President Andrew Jackson, is to be designated a Freedom Station by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Click here for more information.

Other Announcements

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