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Life on the Farm @ Uxbridge Public Library | Uxbridge | Ontario | Canada
LIFE ON THE FARM: YOUR ANCESTOR’S PLACE IN ONTARIO AGRICULTURE Meeting of Uxbridge Genealogy Group We often think of farming as a traditional occupation—something that hasn’t really changed much. But that is not and was[...]
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The Search for Alban Leaf: Notes

My presentation “The Search for Alban Leaf” demonstrates the use of many English record types—in a period well before census and civil registration. The search for the subject of this case history, Alban Leaf (1681–1756), took me from manorial records and parish registers in Yorkshire, to an ancient church in London, to manors in rural Essex, to intriguing records of inheritance in all locations.

Following are brief notes about some of the sources and reference tools that I think will be useful to other researchers. No single source is the answer. It is a matter of following clues and creative thinking about sources in hand and others yet to be found. And it is such fun…

Alban Leaf held an under-lease of the York waterworks in 1739.

Londoner Alban Leaf held an under-lease of the York waterworks in 1739.

City of York and District Family History Society: Always a good policy to connect with the local family history society that covers your area of interest.

Genuki: A longstanding reference and gateway site maintained by volunteers. Regional coverage varies.

Family History Library Catalogue: An excellent source for English records on microfilm and sometimes digitized. Links to the FamilySearch wiki.

FindMyPast: Search indexes and see digital images of many records. Fee required.

Ancestry: Search indexes and see digital images of many records. Fee required.

Parish Finder: A longstanding tool to find parishes within a specified radius. Bear in mind that the distances are calculated from the centre of what might be a very oddly shaped or non-contiguous parish.

FamilySearch England & Wales Jurisdictions 1851: A fabulous map tool that shows parish and other jurisdictional boundaries overlaid on old ordnance survey and current maps.

Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York: The official depository for Yorkshire parish registers and many other records:

Guild Hall Library/ London Metropolitan Archives: A vast array of London parish registers and other records.

Manorial Documents Register: The official index to English and Welsh manorial records in public and private hands. The index for many counties is online. For other counties, visit The National Archives or contact them for a look up. and

Hull University Archives: Manorial records may be in an archives far from the manor. The only manorial records for Ryther are here.

Yorkshire Wills: This FamilySearch wiki page is a good place to start.

Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills: Are at The National Archives.

Wikipedia page for St. Bartholomew the Great: Wikipedia is usually a pretty good place to start for any prominent parish.

Parish site for St. Bartholomew the Great:

Flickering Lamps: A wonderful long-form blog that talks about places in London and England generally.

Spitalfields Life: Another great blog, concentrating on London’s East End.

British History Online: An online library of key sources.

Essex Record Office: with a very good online database here and lots of images of parish registers and wills available for a timed subscription.

Mr. Pepys’ Small Change: 17th Century London Trade Tokens

Georgian London, a blog by author Lucy Inglis:

London Lives 1690 to 1800: searchable index of 240,000 manuscripts from 8 archives and 15 datasets. You can register and link documents in a personal workspace:

Names and Descriptions of the Proprietors of Unclaimed Dividends on Bank Stock, which became due before the 10th October 1780, and remained unpaid the 30th September 1790. London: Bank of England, 1791.

Dear Diddles: Eliza Mathews writes to her friend Ann Smith

This is my third post about the David William Smith papers at the Toronto Reference Library. The first two posts, A Toronto farm, 1799–1800 and A tale of two Isaac Gilberts, drew from Smith’s service as Upper Canada’s first Surveyor General and his personal land ownership.

1764 letter from Eliza Mathews to Ann Smith

First page of a three-page letter from Eliza Mathews to her friend Ann Smith (mother of David William Smith), written in 1764 in Kilkenny, Ireland.

In addition to the documents created and received while in Upper Canada, there is considerable correspondence received by Smith while he was on leave in England, and after 1802 when he returned there for good.

The David William Smith papers also include some selected correspondence of his father John Smith, Commander of the 5th of Foot at Detroit and Niagara, and letters to D.W. Smith’s mother, the former Ann Waylen.

It is one of these letters to Mrs. Ann Smith from her friend Eliza Mathews that caught my eye and then my imagination. It was written in September 1764, just three weeks after the birth of her son David in Wiltshire, England. Eliza, having recently moved to Kilkenny, Ireland, is also expecting a baby very soon and is missing her companion. Eliza writes, as she says, “just as I used to talk to you”. It is honest, enlightening, and endearing. I hope you enjoy the transcription that follows.

You can find the original letter in the Toronto Reference Library’s Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre, Fonds S126, Series A10, folder 4, pages 251–254.

Kilkenny September the 24th 1764

I am rejoiced to hear of my D’r[1] Diddles recovery, and the Diddles Diddle being well and hearty; tell [Tacky] I congratulate him upon his Papa-ship, and wish sincerely I could see you both to tell you what pleasure the news gave me when I heard it. You may imagine that a few month’s absense made me indifferent about you, but indeed you mistake, my regard is not less than at the time of our greatest intimacy. Fy! I abhor the suspicion nor do I think my D’r Smith w’d harbor it of me, therefore shall say no more of it.

Achs and pains, such as you have had yourself, prevented my writing as expeditiously as I ought to you, and even this you may look upon as a farewell, for [so]me time, for I don’t know how soon I may be confined; [d]ont you pity me, is it not dreadful; what but the highest love for your husband can make it [toler]able, nor nothing in my opinion but a return of love from him, can compensate for what we suffer; I know the generality of them only laugh at this, but that is miserable comfort to us, who experience the hardship of having children.

Good God how I pity some women, who I know heartily hate their husbands, and I am certain are as sincerely despised by them, and yet breed as fast as rabbits, what lives of misery they have, you can’t but have known some such couples—but I fear I am going on too rashly in declaring my sentiments, I forgot you have an unmarried sister with you who may perhaps come to the knowledge of this letter, and we sh’d be cautious not to say anything that would be likely to be a detriments to the matrimonial scheme; if she sh’d happen to see this, tell I spoke in general terms, for that I can assure her there are some particular people in the world, who never knew what happiness was, till the knot was tyed. I myself am one instance of it, among the many others to be found in the world.

My D’r Sam and I often wish you w’d take it into your head to come down and see our new house; there is a bed and room at your service as much, or more, than ever Mrs Robinsons was, and another for your Sister, perhaps not quite so good, but such a one as I believe she w’d dispense with for the sake of being in the house with you; I dont ask you, that there are the least public amusements going forward here for you, for in your life you never knew a place more barren of entertainment in that way; its all confined to domestic chearfulness and peace, if you have it not at home you have no other resource to fly to; do D’r Smith come down and see how we live, we can give you a Quadrille, a good fire, and a hearty welcome, whenever you please to accept it, and the sooner the more agreeable to us.

I have scarce looked at my paper since I began, so that I write just as I used to talk to you, that was with very little consideration and less coherency, so I fear you’ll find this letter, all I shall answer for it is, that it has truth to recommend it from first to last for that Diddle is my D’r Diddle and that I am hers and Mr Smiths sincere Friend is what I hope they will both believe. I am likewise [____] in the request, and assure yourself that I am your affectionate

Eliza Mathews

Compliments to your Sister

Willy is [purely] and often drinks your health remember me to the gentleman of Reg’t [D___] for me at the Parade[2]

[1] Eliza used abbreviations lavishly. This one is “dear”.

[2] Spelling and punctuation are Eliza’s. I’ve broken her letter into paragraphs for ease of reading.

The Unfortunate Mr. Pipon

Charles Ashworth Pipon was not a politician or a celebrity, but the circumstances of his death and funeral were major news events in his hometown of Toronto in the summer of 1906.

Right, the modest stone of Charles Pipon in St. James Cemetery, Toronto. The granite that should top the marker is buried beside it.

I came across his modest gravestone in St. James Cemetery —and this story—a few years ago.

Charles was the Ontario passenger agent for International Mercantile Marine Co. with an office at 41 King Street East in the King Edward Hotel building. Among the many, many assets of J.P. Morgan’s International Mercantile Marine Company was the White Star Line well known six years later for its unsinkable Titanic. In 1906, steamship and rail agencies were concentrated in the King and Yonge area, particularly east of Yonge, and overflowing onto Victoria and Toronto streets.

By all appearances, Charles Pipon was doing well from his association with International Mercantile Marine, and had a comfortable house at 41 Cecil Street for his young family.

Charles and his wife Maud Mary Rutherford were parents of three children—Philip Rutherford (1894), Charles Arthur (1899), and Mary Rozel (1902). He and Maud married in Toronto on June 1, 1892, at her parents’ home on Jarvis Street.[1]

Charles was born in St. Helier in Jersey in about 1856, the son of Philip Gossett Pipon and his wife Sophia.[2] In the summer of 1906, Charles travelled back to visit his family in Jersey and to look after some matters concerning his father’s will.

Well, at least that was the plan…

Charles embarked from New York on June 23 on the American Line steamer New York bound for London. Passengers had the choice of debarking in Plymouth and taking a special express train to Waterloo Station, or travelling on to dock at Southampton for London. The “boat train” from Plymouth was both faster… and the deluxe option: three first class coaches, a powerful engine, a combined buffet and brake van, and a car for luggage.

The New York reached Plymouth at about 9:30 pm on June 30, and 43 of the passengers boarded tenders to take them to the train. Less than two hours later, they were on their way to London.

A non-stop trip. But they were supposed to slow down through Salisbury station.

It was the first time that 40-year-old William J. Robins had driven the boat train but he had 22 years experience with the company. He was, by all accounts, sober, well rested and ready for duty that night.

But he took the train through Salisbury station at more than double the mandated speed of 26 miles per hour.

At 1:57 am on July 1, on a curve at the east end of the station, the engine left the rails, ploughing into a milk train moving the opposite direction on an adjacent line. It also hit a light engine on a siding.[3] The three passenger cars were hurled from the track and destroyed. The brake van and its occupants were preserved by the quick-witted guard who managed to slow the car and keep it upright.

Driver Robins, the fireman Arthur Gadd, the milk train’s fireman Sidney C. Chick and guard G. Chenneour, and 24 passengers were killed. Three of the deceased passengers were from Toronto: prominent lawyer Walter Barwick, Rev. Edward Ley King (36-year-old vicar at St. Thomas’s Church), and our Mr. Pipon.[4]

The accident made news around the world, and particularly in Toronto where it consumed most of the front pages of both the Toronto Daily Star and the Globe. Speculation about why the driver hadn’t slowed was rampant, including rumors of racing between competing rail companies and suggestions that passengers had bribed him to beat the clock. An inquiry was held beginning July 4. It blamed excessive speed but came to no further conclusion about cause.[5]

Rev. King was buried in Salisbury on July 3, but Charles Pipon and Walter Barwick came home to Toronto.

The bodies of Pipon and Barwick, and five other victims, arrived in New York on the American Line steamship Minneapolis on July 16. They were met by relatives and some high-powered friends and travelled to Toronto on a special rail car, courtesy of the New York Central Railway.

The next day, a family service for Charles Pipon was held at his home on Cecil Street, followed by a much larger service at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church. The impressive list of attendees, pallbearers, and floral tributes, are given in great detail in the Globe.[6] The steamship and railway community was well represented, and the White Star line sent a floral flag made of crimson carnations with a star of white roses.

After the service, conducted by Bishop Sweatman and Rev. C. Ensor Sharpe[7], the cortege made its way to St. James Cemetery, where Charles was buried in the Rutherford family plot.

And that’s where I met him, about 100 years later.

[1] Ontario Marriage Registration for 1892, #14502, as viewed on, April 21, 2012.

[2] For more information about the Pipon family of Jersey, see the impressive collection of Pipon documents at the Jersey Archive. The collection is catalogued online at:

[3] The account of the inquiry into the disaster, including testimony from railway employees and passengers is available online here:

[4] The names of all those killed are listed on a memorial in Salisbury. A photo by James Cummins can be viewed here:

[6] Globe, July 18, 1906, p 8.

[7] Rev. Sharpe, an assistant at St. Thomas’s, was later appointed to replace the late Rev. E.L. King.