Hugh Macdonald IV of Boisdale’s daughter Mary Moffatt was widowed at a young age. She had 4 sons by her husband Robert Moffatt. In the 1871 UK Census you see them living as a family in Liverpool but by 1881 she is living with her 5 sons, the youngest being John. (above) John was born in 1875 in West Derby, Liverpool. He grew up never knowing (we think) that his father was different than the older boys. Part of me thinks this couldn’t be true because his grandmother was alive until he was 6. I can’t imagine a woman so bent on being “upper class” would not have shared who his grandfather was and how he came to be. Regardless, his life was a struggle to survive. His mother remarried a widower who had children and in the 1891 census you see all the boys listed with their step-father’s last name Ellershaw. By 1895, at 20 years old, he was married to Emily Lawton and living on his own. By the 1901 census, all the boys had reverted to their previous surname Moffatt. John worked as a slater fixing roofs. He married Emily and together they had 6 children. One son, Alfred Ernest Moffatt, lived on 1 year and died of scarlet fever. Here is a photo of him (peeking over his wife’s head) with some his family once in Canada.
Things must have been really tough because John HCBH Moffatt emigrated to Canada circa 1907 and started working in what is now Thunder Bay. The rest of his family had to be split up and lived in the workhouse in Liverpool! He was in Canada for 9 years before he could afford to send for his whole family. His eldest daughter arrived February 15, 1914, at 18 years old to join her father. Two years later, the rest of the family arrived on August 31st, 1916. How brave they must have been to travel over the ocean right in the middle of WWI when ships were being torpedoed.
Emily had not seen her husband in 9 years. His youngest son Jack, who was not quite 7 when he left, was now 16 years old. Jack was my husband’s grandfather. How strong this family must have been to be apart for so long.
In a previous post I shared a black and white photo of the family. Sitting on her mother’s lap is Flora Moffatt. She was born September 9, 1918! She was 18 years younger than the 2nd youngest child and her mother was 41 years old when she had her. Flora passed away in July 2013 well into her 90s. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get to question her about her parents and I waited far too long. By the time I realized how much she could help my research, she had fallen into old age dementia. Count this as a hard lesson to anyone reading this. Ask elder relatives about their history NOW!
Once John HCBH Moffatt and his family were reunited they eventually moved to Toronto. John and his wife Emily worked as a superintendent couple for an apartment building on Carlton Street, right next to the old Maple Leaf Gardens. They were very much a happy couple. John was a huge jokester and often told stories about how he was the son a “Lady Eaton” etc., so I believe he had an idea that he had some important blood in him! Emily and John loved to play cards and they kept canaries. Their grandson, who now lives in Florida told me he vividly remembers visiting them and how they had thick Liverpool accents and called everyone “love”. “Kindest, friendliest couple I ever met” and “they loved each other very much”, were some of his comments about them. John HCBH Moffatt died in 1957 and his wife died in 1964. Their remaining 5 children remained very close their whole lives. We have stacks of family photos of them all gathering together with their own children for some fun. Of John HCBH Moffatt’s 13 grandchildren, only 7 survive. Luckily for me, I was able to share their fascinating family history at a family reunion in 2011. A lot of them had no idea of their background!