Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Journey

Long before they arrived in Canada, my Kilner ancestors lived England. My great grandfather William Kilner who was born in 1882 was the last generation of our line to be born on English soil. I can recall Bumpy, as we called him, only vaguely as a tall but frail man who died when I was just 3. My grandfather Frederick Stanley Kilner was born 1911 in Toronto but made several trips to back to meet his relations when he was younger; sadly the connections he made there died with him and we've lost contact with those branches of the family. My family was not much for telling stories or keeping records of the past and it's taken some time to track their origins. On one of the few family photos, William was given a birth year of 1880 which led me on bit of goosechase- it would have made him born out of wedlock and there was a point where I wondered if we were really Kilners at all! Thankfully I uncovered a birth record with his correct year of birth in Horton, Bradford, from the BMD registry. In my research I also discovered that the Kilners we are descended from were originally from Huddersfield and were part of the thriving woolen industry there for many generations. From the records I have been able to uncover it appears they were actually quite well off - not only did they own their own business and the dwellings they lived in but many apparently held land and multiple rental properties as well. Which makes me curious - why would my GG Grandfather chose to leave behind an apparently good life for a new country like Canada?

Further research revealed that Thomas Bamforth Kilner, my GG grandfather, was the youngest of six surviving siblings (two older brothers died young). Thomas B's father, also named Thomas (and who I refer to as Thomas Jr), died in 1856 when Thomas B was barely a year old. His mother Anne Richardson Bamforth and all six children were left well provided for in a will dated just prior to Thomas Jr's death at the age of 44. It's reasonable to assume he was ill for a while and prepared for this eventuality; in his will he stipulated that his investments were to be looked after by a trustee and the proceeds were to be used for the living of his wife and children, then divided among his children when they came of age. Interestingly, Thomas Jr predeceased his father (Thomas Kilner Sr) by two years and an examination of that will shows that Thomas B and his siblings were also entitled to their father's share of a rather large estate. It seems that Thomas B should have come to Canada a fairly well off man! And perhaps he did; The Canadian Passenger List has them as Mr T. B . Kilner, occ/calling gent and Mrs. Kilner, lady. No other profession listed, he appears to be a man of independant means although his lifestyle in Canada wasn't one of wealth.

Thomas B, and my GG grandmother Mary Elizabeth Thwaite arrived in Canada in July of 1884. It would have been a long journey by ship, 3-4 weeks, made even longer for Mary Elizabeth who was pregnant at the time. Hilda Kilner, William's sister, was born in Sept 1884 in Wellington, Canada and grew up basically as an only child. Oddly, or perhaps not given the circumstances, William didn't travel to Canada with his parents but was left behind with his maternal grandparents. Perhaps they intended to bring him once they were established or maybe they wanted him to receive a proper education back in England, but for whatever reason, William didn't come to Canada until he was 16 years old! Family memories hint that Mary Elizabeth was unhappy in Canada, and that she and Thomas Bamforth were often estranged- perhaps she just missed her son. Records show that she made several trips back to England with Hilda for long periods of time, and on one of those trips she brought William back with them. He settled here, married and built a life, apparently never looking back to the country of his birth.

Tomorrow I begin a journey of my own, to see the land where Thomas B, Mary Elizabeth and William Kilner began their journey. It's my first trip across the Atlantic, and as I think nervously of seven hour flight ahead of me, I remind myself of the 3 week journey my ancestors took so long ago.