Mystery Monday: Little (Orphan?) Annie

It started on  a Friday, just when I thought I was getting the hang of all this genealogy stuff, when my ancestors managed — after forty years — to throw me a curve ball.

I have been collecting proofs of births and marriages in my maternal grandfather’s line (ATKINSON) for my Upper Canada application to the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) headquartered in Toronto.  I have also been gathering obituaries and gravestone photos to supplement those whom I have not managed to obtain census records and/or vital statistics on.

The Upper Canada application (when completed), describes and proves your direct lineage to ancestors who resided in Upper Canada prior to 1840. (“Upper Canada” was the name used to describe Ontario from 1791 until 1840. From 1841 until 1867 it changed to “Canada West.”  The name “Ontario” was not used until 1867.).

Imagine my surprise, when a research package (I requested 31AUG) came from the Hamilton Branch of OGS on Friday (28SEP).  In it were obituaries, death notices and submissions from the “Social” pages referring to my 2x great grandparents, Thomas II (who died in 1902) and wife Sarah (CAWARD; who died in 1921), as well as details of the published Cemetery transcription record.

Also enclosed in the package were photographs of the cemetery they were buried in — the same graveyard I walked past with my paternal grandmother, Emily (“Gramma Rabbit”) on our Summer visits to the Catholic cemetery, a little further from town, to tend to the other side’s family stones — Dang it, it really is a small world!

Hamilton, Wentworth Co, ON

The pictures of their gravestone are beautiful: a moderately-impressive piece of black granite, sandwiched between a limestone base and capstone.  In Masonic style, the stone has four faces/sides: North, East, South and West.  Thomas, Sarah and their son John’s details of birth and death are found on the East side, facing the entrance along the highway.

East-facing side of stone

There was one more photograph in the set; a single closeup of the North face/side, and it puzzled me:

Donna (my wife) looked at the pictures with great interest. “Who’s Annie?”

I shook my head, “I don’t know.”

Maybe John T’s wife?

But, no, after looking at the years of birth and death, she was not listed as predeceasing him in his obituary or death notice, which were also included in the package (The Hamilton Branch had thought of everything!).

“Maybe she was a sister!” my favourite girl cheered

I quickly reviewed my extensive notes. No Annie, no Anne or Ann, and still no ANNswer — but that wouldn’t necessarily make my wife’s hypothesis wrong, it would make it only plausible.

  • Tom and Sarah were married circa 1869-1870 (if not earlier) in York County, Ontario;
  • He was a first generation of ATKINSON born in Upper Canada (not born in England); and,
  •  She came from East Knottingley, Yorkshire, England.

They had ten (known) children:

  • [1] Mary Elizabeth b.09FEB1870 Peel Co, ON d.16DEC1953 Jefferson Co, NY m.15FEB1905 Ontario, CAN to William A. FULKERSON
  • [2] John Thomas b.30AUG1871 Peel Co, ON d.28SEP1926 Wentworth Co, ON (never married) [OBIT OBTAINED]
  • [3] William George b.17OCT1873 Simcoe Co, ON d.19DEC1955 Wentworth Co, ON m.27SEP1899 Wentworth Co, ON to Marion AULD [OBITS OBTAINED]
  • [4] Richard M. b.30NOV1875 Simcoe Co, ON d.01SEP1943 Wentworth Co, ON m.1898 to Sarah Jane DEWART [OBITS OBTAINED]
  • [5] Herbert Peter b.18JUL1878 Peel Co, ON d.22NOV1955 Wentworth Co, ON m.1912 to Ellen ARMSTRONG
  • [6] Wesley b.23DEC1880 Peel Co, ON d.07NOV1963 York Co, ON m. bef.1908 to Edith WARD
  • [7] Albert b.28JUN1883 d.03MAR1886
  • [8] James Walker b.14AUG1886 Halton Co, ON d.13DEC1964 Wentworth Co, ON m.24MAR1909 Wentworth Co, ON to Eva Clarke WILSON (from County Down, Belfast, Northern Ireland) [OBITS OBTAINED]
  • [9] Harriet L. b.24APR1889 Wentworth Co, ON d.22JUN1944 m.26DEC1905 Halton Co, ON to Samuel BEVAN [OBITS OBTAINED]
  • [10] Ida Rose b.27APR1891 Wentworth Co, ON d.05AUG1972 [never married]

Maybe Annie is Tom & Sarah’s daughter?

  • Only five years older than Mary (1870); Sarah would have been 16years-old when Annie was born and Tom would have been 25;
  • Annie was 6years-old and living with Tom, Sarah and Mary in the 1871 Canadian Census (Toronto Gore, Peel, ON); but she disappeared before the 1881 Census (Trafalgar, Halton, ON)

Only one problem:

Annie was not listed as a surviving (or predeceased) sibling in any of the obituaries of the above-named children or their respective spouses; nor is she listed on Tom or Sarah’s obituaries or death notices.

So, just who is she? Taking my wife’s idea, I made it into another possible outcome that was equally plausible: maybe she was Tom’s (or Sarah’s) younger sister!

Thomas ATKINSON Sr and Bethia KIDD had fourteen (14) children: the oldest (Robert) born in 1838 and the youngest (Rachael) born in 1868!  Annie was born three years earlier in 1865, and, could possibly be another child; but nothing was found.

Unfortunately, Sarah’s siblings I have no information on, and did not learn the names of Sarah’s parents until I located her death registration recently.

So, Annie could fit in any of these possibilities, but where does she properly belong?

Enter: Sheri

A cousin (related through Rachael’s line) with as deep a curiousity of genealogy as I do; only difference — she has an Ancestry subscription!

After I wrote back to the Hamilton Branch (OGS) asking for Annie’s obituary, I told Sheri about our mystery girl and she went digging.  Within an hour, she had information that she quickly shared with me.

  • she could not locate a marriage registration for John T or Annie;
  • the earliest birth registration she could find with Tom & Sarah’s names on it was from 09FEB1870 for a daughter named Mary Bethia not Mary Elizabeth!**
  • Annie’s 1923 death registration: it’s not ATKINSON but CAWARD; and Sarah is her mother!  Richard M. ATKINSON (Tom & Sarah’s fourth child) is the informant for Annie’s death; he is listed as her step-brother!
  • Annie death notice: her funeral was held at the residence of her brother, John ATKINSON

**NOTE: The 1871 Census lists “Mary B” as a one-year daughter

So, Annie was the daughter of Sarah Caward, but not Thomas II Atkinson; and she was born five years before Sarah married Thomas.

But that still leaves the question:  Who was Annie’s father?


  1. Loved this article. I wandered my way to your blog through your comment on another but I’m so glad I did! I took the liberty to look around a little and this particular article caught my attention. I realize it was written a fair while ago and I’m wondering if you managed to figure out who her father was!
    Do stop by my blog for some light hearted reads inspired by everyday moments! Cheers

    1. Annie was the first child of Sarah (CAWARD). Yes, her name was definitely CAWARD, as she was my twice great grandmother.
      I have had long discussions with other relatives who are also genealogists, as well as sought the opinions of some professional friends and the general belief is: that Thomas could be the father, and Annie was born out of wedlock; but this is merely theories, nothing to date has been found.
      Thank you for the visit! Hope you enjoyed it.

  2. Are you sure Caward is Sarah’s maiden name? Unless I missed it, you didn’t mention Sarah’s parents.
    I enjoyed reading about your mystery. I have a couple illegitimate children in my tree. In one instance, Seceral people in the family thought my great great grandfather was the father, but after contacting a descendant of the child and re-examining the evidence we realized that my great great grandmother was the true parent.

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