Sunday, March 31, 2019

The short stories of two George Gibsons

Today I realized I haven't written a blog post since February, and it's the last day of March! This year is flying by much too quickly, so before the month expires, I wanted to share a story I've rediscovered this weekend - that of my second-great-granduncle, George Gibson

I only have a handful of records the record the major events of his life, but I'm grateful to even have this much information on him. As I wrote last year, for many years I had nothing but one record that showed they existed at all. George was born in New Brunswick, Canada, about 1862, and was the youngest known child of Henry and Ann (Stephenson) Gibson. He was quite young when his parents died, about 10 when Henry passed away and 15 when Ann died. He was found in the 1881 Canada census living with his older sister Sarah (Gibson) Harris and her family. Interestingly, Sarah named her oldest son George, perhaps after her younger brother.

By 1881, he had found work as a brick maker, the occupation he would stay with for the rest of his life. Ten years later, the 1891 census shows he was still single, living with the family of Hugh Hamilton, a carpenter. I don't know of any relationship to the Hamiltons, so he may have just been a boarder there. His religion at the time may have been Methodist (the handwriting is hard to read), which is interesting as he'd grown up in a family that belonged to the Church of Ireland.

Two households above George in that census was the family of Patrick McDonald. Patrick and his wife were Irish Catholics, and Patrick worked as a shoemaker. He and his wife had six children living with them, the oldest of which was their 25-year-old daughter Kate. Four years later, George and Kate were married in Fredericton, New Brunswick. George apparently made some life changes for Kate, as their marriage listed his religion as Catholic. The marriage record is actually what gave me the maiden name of George's mother, so I LOVE this record! Despite the fact that Kate was 28 years old at the time of her marriage to George, the marriage record notes that she had obtained the consent of her parents. Makes me wonder how much influence her parents had over the lives of their grown children.

The next census, the 1901 Canada census, showed George and Kate were doing pretty well. They had two children, a son named George and a daughter named Catherine, and had a 17-year-old live-in domestic named Margaret Buckley. George Jr. was 4 and Catherine was 1. George Sr. had steady work as a laborer at the brick works, working 12 months out of the year and bringing home $500 a year.

Everything changed the next year. On July 13th, 1902, George Sr. died of pneumonia. His death record doesn't say how long he had pneumonia before he died, no who his physician was, so it may have been too quick for a doctor to have been able to treat him. He was only 40 years old when he passed away - the same age I am now. I can't imagine the shock and pain and grief his wife went through, or how she had to explain to her little children, only 5 and 2, why their dad was gone. I have a 5-year-old now, so it really drives the situation home for me.

Kate seems to have carried on without George. She moved in with her aunt Mary (a widow like herself, though whether she was a widow at the time Kate and her kids moved in I don't know). Kate's brother, John McDonald, lived with them as well, but had no occupation listed in the 1911 census. Kate did not either, so Mary, who worked as a coat maker for a tailor shop, may have been the breadwinner for the whole family group. Still, George and Catherine were able to attend school that year, so the children were provided for at a level that allowed them to obtain an education.

Sadly, tragedy befell the family again. About 1916, George had a tubercular hip, which as I understand it was either tubercular arthritis in the hip. He suffered with this for two years, until it claimed his life on 16 February 1918. His occupation was listed on his death record as "school boy." He was only 21. I feel so badly for Kate, having to bury her husband, and then her son. Kate lived another 13 years after her son's passing. She died at the Fredericton Municipal Home on September 28th, 1931 of a cerebral hemorrhage. Her death record says she was 70, but based on census records, she may have been closer to 64. I don't know yet what became of Catherine (the informant for Kate's death certificate was the matron of the Municipal Home) but I hope she got to live a long and full life. Stories like that of my cousins George and George, and Kate and Catherine, really make me appreciate all that I have been blessed with - health, family, an occupation (two, actually) that I love, my church membership, and a life that has been blessed with relatively little loss. I know the pain of burying a child, but not parents or siblings or spouses. Really makes you grateful for the generations before us that endured so much so that we could have the life that we do.