Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Home Children - The Culbert Connection

It’s a tale straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. Thousands of destitute British children of all ages were sent to Canada between 1869 and 1939 to be used as farm labourers and indentured servants. Despite good intentions, the Home Child Movement was a hugely flawed child migration scheme.

British immigrant children from Dr. Barnardo's Homes at landing stage, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.
Credit: Isaac Erb / Library and Archives Canada / PA-041785

About two per cent of these children were orphans but the majority were from families who had fallen on hard times. Some of the parents were told it was a temporary arrangement. Sadly, their children never returned home. Parents were told that their children were leaving the bleakness of their impoverished lives in England for a better life in Canada. However, when they arrived, it was clear they were here to work. The children were considered as nothing more than a cheap source of labour.
Some of the luckier children were placed in good homes but many were mistreated. Countless children were abused both physically and sexually; they were given little food, forced to eat apart from their host families, and they slept in barns.

Did you know that a descendant of John Culbert and Mary Ward married a man who’d been a Home Child? I discovered this while I was researching the descendants of Eliza (Culbert) Dagg, the daughter of John Culbert and Mary Ward.
Eliza Culbert (1829-1914) and her husband, Richard Dagg.

Eliza Culbert and Richard Dagg had a daughter, Maria Matilda Dagg (1858-1930).
Maria Matilda (Dagg) Smith

Maria Matilda Dagg (granddaughter of John Culbert & Mary Ward) married Johnston Smith. Matilda and Johnston had a daughter named Laura Smith. Laura (the great-granddaughter of John Culbert & Mary Ward) was born 1896 in Kincardine, Ontario and later moved with her family to Manitoba.

On 7 August 1919, Laura Smith married Ernest Zachariah Howlett Norman in Winnipeg. Ernest Norman came to Canada from England as a Home Child

This photograph was taken on 12 July 1899 by the Bernardo organization, prior to sending Ernest Norman overseas to Canada.

Ernest Norman was born 22 November 1888 in the Swainsthorpe Union House (a workhouse) in Norfolk, England. Workhouses were the last refuge of the poor. 
Boys in a workhouse

In exchange for a flea-bitten mattress on which to sleep and a bit of food, destitute men, women and children were expected to work their fingers to the bone. Men were assigned such physically-demanding tasks as chopping wood and stone-breaking. Stone-breaking required the men to break rocks into small pieces which were later used in the process of road-making. Women were tasked with working in the laundry, and cooking and cleaning. Both sexes were required to pick oakum; a chore that involved using their bare hands to pick apart ship ropes. The fibres were then used to caulk holes in ships. The ropes were coated in tar which caused their fingers to bleed.
Women picking oakum in a workhouse
Poor quality bread and cheese was served to the workhouse inmates, along with skilly, a watery oatmeal soup or gruel that more often than not contained rat droppings.

"Please, sir, I want some more."

Workhouses were little more than prisons where the inmates were free to come and go. Many women took refuge in workhouses to give birth to their illegitimate babies, and perhaps this was the case for Ernest’s mother, a servant girl named Rachel Ann Norman. Rachel is described as “an experienced country girl, unaccustomed to the dangers of a town.
Rachel Norman had two illegitimate children, Herbert and Ernest, by two different men. Ernest Norman, her second child is said to have been fathered by one Albert Mortimer. Both men decamped and nothing was ever heard of them again. 

Ernest Norman and his half-brother, Herbert went to live with Rachel’s mother (their grandmother) but she died. Ernest and Herbert were then left with Rachel’s father (their grandfather). Rachel was struggling to make a living as a servant, and she was suffering from an internal ailment for which she had undergone an operation. Rachel had been sending money to her father for Herbert and Ernest’s upkeep but her father was a drunkard who neglected his grandchildren. Young Ernest was afraid to go home at night so he often slept in the fields. 

Someone in Norfolk stepped in on behalf of Ernest, and wrote to the Home Child programme. So at the age of 11, Ernest was admitted to Barnardo’s, a charity that cared for vulnerable children. 

Ernest’s admission form to Barnardo’s says he was 4 feet tall and weighed 57 pounds.

Ernest was one of thousands of children (boys and girls) sent to Canada. Many of the boys became known as the Barnardo Boys.

A magazine advertisement for Dr. Barnardo's Home, 1899.

A party of Barnardo Boys set sail from Liverpool aboard the Tunisian on 19 July 1900, arriving in Quebec on July 28th; destination: Toronto, Ontario. From there, Ernest was put on a train to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Ernest arrived at the Bernardos receiving home in Winnipeg. Before being placed with host families, many boys were sent to Dr. Barnardo’s Russell Manitoba Training Farm, 222 miles northwest of Winnipeg. Here, the boys were trained to plough fields, bale hay, milk cows, make butter, care for livestock, and more.
A boy pushes a plough in a field at Dr. Barnardo's Industrial Farm in Russell, Manitoba around 1900. (Library and Archives Canada/PA-117285)

Ernest Norman married his first wife, Alice Maud Oldrey in 1917 and they had a son in 1918. Alice died 31 March 1919. Left with an infant son, Ernest married Laura Smith (a Culbert descendant) a few months after his first wife died. 

Ernest Norman and his second wife Laura Smith had a daughter, Eileen in 1920. We’ll read more about Eileen soon.

Ernest Norman died 1 July 1922 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His death is noted with the Canada War Graves Registers. The cause of death was listed as Diabetes, Mellitus & Coma. He had heart trouble which was first noticed when he was overseas in 1916 during the First World War. It’s noted that his death was due to [military] service. Ernest is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Saskatoon.

Ernest’s second wife, Laura (Smith) Norman (a Culbert descendant) remarried to Charles Claud Atkinson

Laura died age 48 at Vancouver General Hospital on 7 March 1945. She’s buried in Cloverdale, British Columbia at Surrey Centre Cemetery, Block 204-5.  Her second husband, Charles Atkinson died 1 May 1948 in Vancouver.

Laura (Smith) Norman Atkinson's death notice. Source: Vancouver Sun, 10 March 1945.

About four million Canadians are descendants of British Home Children. One of these four million Canadians is a descendant of John Culbert and Mary Ward. Her name? Eileen McEachern (born Eileen Norman in 1920.)

Eileen (Norman) Atkinson McEachern (the great-great-granddaughter of John Culbert & Mary Ward.) Eileen was the daughter of a Home Child, Ernest Norman and his Culbert descendant wife, Laura Smith.
As mentioned earlier, Ernest Norman and his second wife, Laura Smith (a Culbert descendant) had a daughter, Eileen. Eileen’s father Ernest Norman (a Home Child) died when Eileen was only about two years old. Eileen was raised by her mother, Laura and her step-father, Charles Atkinson.

Eileen married Elmer McEachern and they lived in Langley, British Columbia. 

Eileen McEachern died in 2000 and is buried in St. Oswald’s Anglican Church Cemetery in Port Kells, Surrey, British Columbia. 

Whether or not Eileen McEachern had children, we don’t know. If you know anything about Eileen or any descendants she may have, please contact me at this email address...

Note: Thanks very much to Linda Norman of Victoria, British Columbia on whose Ancestry account I found documents, and a photo of Ernest Norman and his daughter, Eileen (Norman) Atkinson McEachern.

Eileen (Norman) Atkinson McEachern's Family Tree:
John Culbert & Mary Ward (great-great-grandparents)
Eliza Culbert & Richard Dagg (great-grandparents)
Maria Matilda Dagg & Johnston Smith (grandparents)
Laura Smith & Ernest Zachariah Howlett Norman (a Home Child)

Monday, 3 June 2019

Culberts and Colberts: From Ireland to Canada and Beyond

I've been studying our DNA links to other Culbert and Colbert families who left Ireland in the 1800s. 

What have I learned?

I've established that our ancestor, John Culbert (husband of Mary Ward) is related to several Culbert and Colbert families who left Ireland in the 1800s. Aside from his brother, Richard, I haven't yet discovered John Culbert's exact relationship to these families. Nonetheless, here are the families I've found, so far, who share DNA with us:

Richard Culbert & Ann Jane Harlton.
Richard Culbert, born c1813 in Ireland was John Culbert's brother. Richard purchased the property next to John in Biddulph Township near Lucan, Ontario in 1840. Later, Richard and his family moved to Lambton Township, Ontario. I've written about Richard previously in this post

James Culbert & Rebecca Hodgins. 
James Culbert was born c1822 in Ireland and married Rebecca Hodgins born c1827 in Tipperary. We don't know the names of James Culbert's parents. I wrote about James & Rebecca's son, Richard Culbert of Centralia, here.
Now, here's where figuring out the DNA connections gets tricky: James Culbert's wife, Rebecca Hodgins was the daughter of Sarah Colbert (related to us) and Henry Hodgins of London Township. So the descendants of James Culbert & Rebecca Hodgins are related to us on their father's side and on their mother's side.

James Culbert & Rebecca Portis.
James Culbert was born c1817 in Ireland. James Culbert and Rebecca Portis married in Modreeny, Tipperary and came to Canada around 1864. They lived in Lucan, Ontario and later moved west to British Columbia. I've written about James Culbert & Rebecca Portis previously in this post.

William Culbert & Margaret Emily Lewis.
William Culbert was born c1807 in Birr, Ireland. Birr is in County Offaly but at that time, it was known as Kings County. Kings County is where our ancestor John Culbert is believed to have been born, and it borders County Tipperary. William died before 1843, leaving Margaret a widow with four children. Margaret Emily (Lewis) Culbert and her children immigrated to Canada, settling in Clandeboye, Ontario near Lucan. Margaret remarried to Robert Hodgins, Jr. 

Rebecca Culbert & Freeman Blackwell.
Rebecca Culbert (born in Ireland about 1807) married Freeman Blackwell (born about 1791) and immigrated to Canada in the 1800s. They settled in Biddulph Township and appear to have lived in Lucan and in Ailsa Craig, Ontario.

The Culbert families of Eau Claire, Wisconsin whose ancestors are from Tipperary.

John Colbert and his descendants of Goulbourn Township and Huntley Township near Ottawa. John Colbert was from Ballingarry, Tipperary, and left Ireland as part of the Talbot Settlement group of 1818.

The Colbert families of Gatineau, Quebec. These Colberts from Ballingarry, Tipperary are related to the Colberts (above) and were members of the Talbot Settlement Group of 1818 from Ireland. Some of their descendants settled in Clarendon, Pontiac County, Quebec.

The Colbert families of London Township, Ontario. One family of London Township Colberts is said to have come over from Ireland with the Talbot Settlers in 1818. We know there was a Colbert family who settled in London Township in 1830. The patriarch of this Colbert family (first name unconfirmed) was from Cloughjordan, Tipperary. He had several children with whom we share DNA, including Rebecca Colbert (c1794-1868) who married John "Stoney" Shoebottom; Thomas Colbert (1804-1861) who married Catherine "Kitty" Mooney; and Sarah Colbert (1807-1893) who married Henry Hodgins. 

And more!

I've discovered DNA links to even more Culbert/Colbert families but I'm still trying to confirm these connections.

Your DNA made these discoveries possible. Thank you. And to the rest of you, please consider taking the Ancestry DNA test.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Happy Birthday, Brad Culbert!

Happy 50th birthday to Brad Culbert! Brad was born 31 May 1969 in London, Ontario, Canada and is now a resident of Mission Viejo, California.

Bradley Steven Culbert's Family Tree:
John Culbert & Mary Ward (great-great-great-grandparents)
Richard Culbert & Jane Eleanor Fairhall (great-great-grandparents)
Myron Manford Culbert & Effie Pearl Taylor (great-grandparents)
Ivan Hector Culbert & Elvira Hutchings (grandparents)
Phillip Myron Culbert & Wendy Roane (parents)
Descendants (Children):
Braden Culbert
Tate Culbert 

Three generations: Brad Culbert with his father, Phil Culbert (right) and his grandparents: Elvira Hutchings & Ivan Culbert.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Midnight Madness: Culbert Shoots Kelly in the Head

At midnight ... while the citizens of the peaceful little village of Centralia were enwrapped in quiet slumber, a shooting affray was being enacted on one of the back streets.

Source: Exeter Times, 22 July 1897, p.4.

William Kelly was a prosperous farmer from the 1st Concession in Biddulph Township near Lucan, Ontario. On the night of 20 July 1897, Kelly stopped at Grafton’s Hotel in Centralia, a small community north of Lucan. 

Kelly then made his way to the home of Billy Taylor and Richard Culbert. Kelly needed help on the farm, and planned to ask Taylor if he could come by the next day to assist.

Billy Taylor and his wife Alice (Porter) Taylor lived with their widowed son-in-law, Richard Culbert of Centralia. Richard Culbert’s wife, Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Taylor died just two months previously.

William Kelly knocked at the back door, and told Richard Culbert he was there to see Billy Taylor. Culbert appeared to be out of sorts and refused to awaken his father-in-law. Kelly, who was somewhat under the influence of liquor [1] became persistent, and Culbert ordered him off the property. Kelly returned to the house later, and tapped on the window.

Culbert seized his revolver and fired through the window at Kelly, putting a bullet into his head. The bullet entered at the lower part of Kelly’s left nasal bone near the eye, breaking it, and passed into the back of his head, lodging near the lower part of his left ear.

Kelly staggered half unconscious to a door step to sit down. Culbert came out of the house, caught Kelly by the arm and walked him off the property. When they reached the gate, Culbert must have realized what he’d done. Culbert examined the limp victim and noticing the hole in Kelly’s head, tried to extract the bullet. Culbert became alarmed at Kelly’s considerable blood loss. He sent his father-in-law, Billy Taylor to fetch the local physician. When the doctor learned what had happened, he refused to go near the place without the presence of a constable.

Source: The Huron Expositor, 23 July 1897, p.8.

A number of people showed up at the scene. Kelly was moved into Culbert’s house and stretched out in an attempt to make him comfortable. Meanwhile, County Constable Davis arrested Culbert and placed him in the Crediton lock-up.

More doctors were summoned. They worked for several hours without success to find the bullet. Further probing would be injurious to the patient so Kelly was moved to his own home. Here, Kelly could await developments, and later, if needed, undergo X-rays in an attempt to locate the bullet.

Apparently, Culbert had been quarrelling with several people during the day and was in a bad mood. However, Culbert claimed to be justified in shooting Kelly.

Culbert was moved to the Goderich Gaol (The Huron Historic Gaol) to await trial.

The Huron Historic Gaol. Decades before Richard Culbert was confined in this jail, James Donnelly, Sr. (patriarch of the Donnellys) was locked up here. Donnelly was held in 1858 for the murder of Patrick Farrell before he was moved to Kingston Penitentiary.

In August, William Kelly had the bullet extracted from his head, and had two teeth pulled, behind which the bullet was lodged. It’s reported that Kelly had no ill feeling toward Culbert and wished him to be released from custody.

In September, a trial was held. Richard Culbert and a number of witnesses were examined. A verdict of unlawfully wounding was reached.

Source: The Wingham Times 1 Oct 1897 p.6.

Richard Culbert was sentenced to 12 months with hard labour at Central Prison in Toronto.

Source: The Wingham Times 1 Oct 1897 p.6.

Toronto’s Central Prison had a reputation for brutality. Located near the intersection of King Street and Strachan Avenue, the facility was a place where prisoners were severely beaten, even for minor transgressions.

Central Prison in Toronto

Undoubtedly, the treatment he received at the hands of his jailers would have left Culbert a changed man.

Culbert was released from prison in the fall of 1898. He returned to the Centralia area and rented a farm on William Luker’s property. Notice how the reporter tactfully refers to Culbert’s year-long absence...

R. Culbert, who has for the past year been a citizen of Toronto has returned home again, and rented the farm lately owned by Wm. Luker. Source: Exeter Times, 20 Oct 1898, p. 1.

Culbert’s name never appeared as headline news again. In fact, his name appeared only occasionally in the newspapers after that.

Richard Culbert died on 1 November 1928 in Crediton, Ontario. He is buried in St. James Cemetery, Clandeboye, north of Lucan, Ontario.

Place and date of burial from Richard Culbert's death registration.
For details about Richard Culbert's family history, click here to read my previous post.

[1] "Shot in the Eye" The Huron Expositor, July 23, 1897.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Richard Culbert of Centralia (1860s-1928)

Richard Culbert lived in Centralia, Ontario, Canada but throughout his lifetime he lived in other nearby areas too. So why am I calling him Richard Culbert of Centralia?

You’ve already met two other Richard Culberts so I had to find a name that sets him apart from the others. And although he moved around, he was living in Centralia at the time of the incident. But more about that in the next post.

A roll call of Richards:

1. Richard Culbert (1853-1932) the son of our ancestors, John Culbert and Mary Ward. He was married to Jane Eleanor Fairhall and they lived in Biddulph Township on the Culbert homestead near Lucan, Ontario. For more about this Richard Culbert, click here.

2. Richard Culbert (c1813-1894) the brother of our ancestor, John Culbert. This Richard Culbert was married to Ann Jane Harlton. He purchased the property next to John on the Culbert homestead in 1840, following the family’s arrival from Ireland. Later, they moved to Lambton Township. For more about this Richard Culbert, click here.

3. Richard Culbert of Centralia (1860s-1928).

Centralia is a small community in Huron County, north of Lucan. In fact, Centralia is actually much closer to the Culbert homestead (Poplar Farm) than it is to Lucan. I wonder if the locals ever confused Richard Culbert of Centralia with Richard Culbert of Biddulph (son of John & Mary). Surely, the two Richards would have known each other. Whether or not they knew the exact nature of their relationship is unknown. 

I don’t yet know how Richard Culbert of Centralia is related to us but DNA testing proves there’s a connection. So why am I introducing him to you?

1. Because I’m studying our DNA connections to Richard’s family.

2. Because there’s a story about Richard that you won’t want to miss, coming up in the next post.

But for now, let's find out a little about his family.


Richard Culbert of Centralia was born in the 1860s in Usborne Township, Huron County. Richard’s parents were James Culbert (c1820-1898) and Rebecca Hodgins (1827-1912). This James and Rebecca are not to be confused with James Culbert and Rebecca Portis.

Richard's mother, Rebecca Hodgins was from Tipperary but I don't know if his father, James Culbert was from the same part of Ireland. I don’t know the names of James’ parents. 

And now here’s where it gets interesting and/or confusing, depending on your point of view...

Rebecca Hodgins’ parents were Henry Hodgins and Sarah Colbert (1807-1893). Sarah Colbert’s family emigrated from Ireland and settled in London Township in 1830. Sarah Colbert was one of the London Township Colberts with whom we share DNA. Therefore, Richard Culbert of Centralia is related to us through his father’s line (a Culbert) and through his mother’s line (a Colbert). This makes studying our DNA connections with this family challenging. But whoever said genealogy was easy?


Richard Culbert married Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Taylor on 19 December 1891. Lizzie was the daughter of William “Billy” Taylor and Alice Porter of Usborne Township.

Richard and Lizzie had two children: Rebecca Culbert (born 6 Feb 1893 in McGillivray Township) and Wesley William Culbert (born 15 Apr 1895 in Usborne Township). Rebecca married Edwin James Walker, and William married Fanny Winson.

Based on his children’s birth locations, Census forms and newspaper articles throughout the years, it’s clear that Richard moved a lot. Although Richard was listed as a farmer on his daughter’s birth registration, he was listed as a labourer on his son’s birth registration, and appears to have remained a labourer for the rest of his life.

Richard’s wife, Lizzie (Taylor) Culbert died of peritonitis 7 May 1897, age 22. Lizzie's death registration shows she’d been living in Centralia, Stephen Township, Huron County.

Just two months after Lizzie’s death, something happened that would have a profound effect on Richard. We’ll get to that in the next post.

In the years between Lizzie’s death and his second marriage, it seems that Richard lived with Lizzie’s family.

Fast forward to 16 April 1913. Richard married for a second time to Minnie Kenny (alternate spelling, Minnie Kenney.) Minnie was born c1886 in Stephen Township to John Kenny (alternate spelling John Kenney) and Mary Hunsicker.

Richard Culbert and Minnie Kenny had four children: Hilda May Culbert (born 1913) who married Thomas Henry Anderson; Mary Edna Culbert (born 1914) who married Andrew Miller; Vera Culbert (born c1920); and Norman W. Culbert (born 1921) who married Marion Jane Clarke.

The 1921 Census shows the Richard Culbert family back in Usborne Township again at S Lot 4, Concession 1. Richard’s brother, Robert Culbert is living with them, too.

1921 Census of Canada. Note the spelling Colbert rather than Culbert. Documents regarding Richard’s surname vary in spelling.

Richard Culbert of Centralia died in his sixties on 1 November 1928 in Crediton, Ontario. He is buried in St. James Cemetery, Clandeboye, north of Lucan.

Come back soon to learn how Richard Culbert shocked the peaceful little village of Centralia. Click here to read.

Richard Culbert of Centralia’s Family Tree:
James Culbert & Rebecca Hodgins (parents)
Descendants (children with Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Taylor)
Rebecca (Culbert) Walker
Wesley William Culbert
Descendants (children with Minnie Kenny/Kenney)
Hilda May (Culbert) Anderson
Mary Edna (Culbert) Miller
Vera Culbert
Norman W. Culbert