Employment Opportunities in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Employment Opportunities in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Over the past several weeks I have written a series of posts that centre on a series of letters from one branch of my ancestors who lived and travelled between Scotland, Canada, and the USA. Please visit my introduction to the letters and my work on their news of births and deaths, their experiences with immigration and transatlantic travel, and agriculture and the environment in their old and new communities.

This week I want to build on the post I wrote about farming and agriculture by looking at some of the other branches of employment the authors of the letters and their friends and family were undertaking in the latter half of the eighteenth century in Scotland’s rural central belt.

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Segment of Shotts showing Hareshaw, Muirhouse, and the Kirk of Shotts, ‘Northern Part of Lanarkshire’, John Thompson’s Atlas of Scotland, 1832 [NLS]

From farming and mining to service in homes and religious institutions, the Gilchrists, Shearers, and their families and friends provide us with fascinating little details about their lives and their livelihoods. Continue reading

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Postcard from Port Glasgow, Ontario

Postcard from Port Glasgow, Ontario
Port Glasgow

Beach at Port Glasgow — Photo Credit: P. Dumas

Port Glasgow is a village on the coast of Lake Erie, about 75km southeast of London, Ontario. It was settled by Scottish immigrants to Upper Canada around 1818. Erosion eventually destroyed the original harbour. The port itself now features the Port Glasgow Yacht Club and marina, a small lighthouse, sandy beach, and a walking trail through the forest along the water’s edge. Continue reading

Farming and the Land in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Farming and the Land in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Over the past few posts I have been working through a series of letters from a Scottish branch of my ancestors and delving into some of the themes that come up. You can check out my introduction to the letters, and look at death and disease, and contemporary thoughts on emigration in my previous posts.

Today I’ll be looking at issues of agriculture and farming, another topic that comes up frequently in the letters. The Gilchrists and Shearers were not strictly farmers. Several worked in service (as servants), for example, and as such I’ll take a closer look at employment opportunities in a later post.

Farming opportunities, the land and the weather, and how the markets and trade in general were doing were of interest to the writers and recipients of these letters. These factors affected their well-being, their diet, their place of residence, and their ability to survive. Continue reading

The Ulster Unionist Tour of Canada, 1886

1000px-flag_of_canada_28pantone29-svgCanada’s 150th birthday is coming up in a few days! As part of my doctoral work at the University of Edinburgh, I looked at visits across the Atlantic by Ulster unionists who aimed to publicize their cause and to counter Irish nationalism during the Home Rule era. One of the more interesting stories involving Canadian history that I came across involved two of these Ulster unionists, who toured North America in 1886.

1200px-flag_of_ulster-svgReverend Dr. Richard Rutledge Kane and barrister George Hill Smith were commissioned by the Ulster Loyalist Anti-Repeal Union shortly after the defeat of the first Home Rule Bill to present the unionist cause to the North American public which they believed were blinded by a pro-nationalist press.

Kane was a fairly notorious figure within Belfast society as the rector of Christ Church, the Grand Master of Belfast’s Orange Order, and a prominent unionist speaker; he was accused of inciting the Belfast riots in 1886.  Smith was a barrister from Armagh who spoke throughout England and Scotland on behalf of the Ulster Loyalist Anti-Repeal Union and other Irish unionist organizations.

Kane and Smith’s tour first took them to Canada and then to the United States.  Speaking at gatherings of Irish immigrants and their descendants, and to Orangemen, they promoted the cause of Irish unionism and attempted to discredit Irish nationalists. But there was one particularly remarkable incident that stood out both to me and to Smith, who considered it one of the most extraordinary things to happen in his long speaking career. Continue reading

Travel and Immigration: Insights from the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Travel and Immigration: Insights from the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

I have been writing about some of the themes that arise out of a series of letters from the latter half of the nineteenth century that travelled across the Atlantic between Scotland, Canada, and the United States. You can read my introduction to the letters here and my first thematic post on life and death in the letters here.

I’m following the story of some of my Scottish ancestors, and today the story brings us to a discussion of travel and immigration as shown in the letters.

Travel and Immigration in the Gilchrist Shearer Letters

The central figures in today’s letters are James Shearer Sr. and James Shearer, Jr. Continue reading

Postcard from Brock’s Monument, Queenston Heights, Canada

Postcard from Brock’s Monument, Queenston Heights, Canada

 

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Brock’s Monument at Queenston Heights National Historic Site — Photo credit: P. Dumas

Brock’s Monument commemorates the work of Major General Sir Isaac Brock. Brock was a leading figure in the early battles against American forces in the War of 1812 and died at the Battle of Queenston Heights. The monument stands an imposing 56m (185ft) tall and is actually the second to commemorate Brock at Queenston Heights, as the first was dynamited in April 1840 in an act likely related to the 1837 Rebellion. The monument towers above the Niagara River, very close to the modern-day border between Canada and the USA.

Queenston Heights offer beautiful picnic grounds, a historic walk related to the Battle, and a new monument and garden acknowledging the vital contributions of First Nations peoples to the War.

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Brick’s Monument, Queenston Heights — Photo Credit: P. Dumas

Disease and Death in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

Disease and Death in the Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

I am working my way through a series of letters sent between my Scottish ancestors and their families and friends in Scotland, Canada, and the USA. You can find my introduction to the letters here. Their authors have included some fascinating morsels of information about everyday life, and the nature of their letters also tells us about channels of communication that were maintained by Scots, regardless of where they travelled.

One thing that is immediately noticeable across these letters is that the authors were focussed on the putting the most important news first: that of their health and the health and wellbeing of family members and close friends. Unfortunately, this means that a number of the letters begin with news of recent (and not so recent) deaths. Continue reading

Scots in Canada: The Gilchrist-Shearer Letters

The Scottish people have a long history of migration and as a result many Canadians have Scottish roots.

I think there’s a tendency to lump all 18th and 19th century immigrants to Canada and the United States together and think of them as poor, desperate, unskilled workers, in some cases the victims of industrialisation, crop failure, land clearances, etc., and who by leaving for a new country would be abandoning everything and everyone they once knew, never to be heard from again. Continue reading

Postcard from Port Dover, Ontario

Postcard from Port Dover, Ontario
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Beach at Port Dover — Photo by P. Dumas

Port Dover is a small town in southern Ontario, Canada, on the coast of Lake Erie. Now famous for its Friday the 13th gatherings of motorcyclists from across Canada and the USA, the town was settled by Loyalists in the 1790s and saw action during the War of 1812. Continue reading

Viewing Canada Live & Online, Pt. 5 – British Columbia

Viewing Canada Live & Online, Pt. 5 – British Columbia

In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, we have been making our way across Canada on the blog via webcams! You can revisit our look at the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, and the Prairies, and travel northwest with us as we wrap up our survey of some of the great online views of Canada.

I’ve learned a lot as I’ve virtually travelled across the country seeking out webcams aimed at great views and historic places. Continue reading