17 November 2008

Wolseley, Saskatchewan, and George Albert Thomas

Robert Hughes continues to excavate his past. He writes:

'Wolseley, in Canada's prairie province of Saskatchewan, had a population of something over a thousand in 1916, and was growing rapidly as migrants flooded into the West: two of them my great-great-uncles George and Frank Thomas.

Frank Thomas, born in 1876, arrived in Canada with his wife and two boys in 1911, and by 1916 was established in Wolseley working as a nurseryman in forestry.

George Thomas was officially Samuel, like his father and grandfather, but presumably things had become too complicated when his father could not shake off the "Sam Thomas Junior" handle, and so this young fellow became George.

By 6th March 1920, when he arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick, on the ship "Scandinavian", he was no longer Samuel but also no longer young; proposing to make a new life farming in Saskatchewan at nearly 48 years of age.

In 1906 he had married Ethel May Morris, who had been brought up near Frome in East Somerset, the daughter of a gardener on a large estate; and who was later known by the family as Aunty May.

Ethel May followed her husband across the Atlantic a month later, landing at Halifax, Nova Scotia from the 'Carmania' on 5th April 1920. With her was a five-year old boy called George.

We had thought that there may well have been no children of the marriage between George and Ethel May, but we were wrong: this child turns out to have been George Albert Thomas born Coventry, Warwickshire, on 25th Feb 1915, their son.

My cousin David Guillaume now remembers an occasion, soon after the Second World War, when Aunty May was showing some photographs to his Aunt Louise at her flat in Alcester. He remembers the expression: “he was already in the air force when the war started”.

This was very likely to have been George Albert Thomas, and as I can find no record of him being a casualty, he is quite likely to have survived the war, although that is not certain, and we all know how high was the attrition rate among airmen.

Of Frank Thomas' sons, we know what happened to Cecil, (born 1905): he had no children of his own, but adopted Jason in 1964; eventually dying aged around ninety.

Samuel Francis Thomas, already known as Frank by the 1916 census of Saskatchewan, and born Upper Ipsley, Worcestershire, on 10th Nov 1900, was said to have married the daughter of a pig-farmer, but we do not know if there were any children.

So if we have Canadian cousins out there, descended from either Frank, (Samuel Francis), or George Albert, we would love to hear from you!'

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