Thursday, 25 December 2014

PIONEERING ELCOCKS and BLANEY ANCESTORS They Came in Ships 1913 - 1923

It was 1988 and Elizabeth (Bess) Blaney Welch was 90 years old when asked by her niece, Patricia Blaney Koretchuk as to why she and Harry decided to come to Canada. Bess hotly declared in her still British accent “I didn’t decide it” and then told the following story:

Bess’s older brother Bill had sent her the funds to go south to Hertfordshire with the children for a two week rest following an illness. On the Tuesday night of the second week she had a telephone call from Harry telling her she had better pack up her things and get home because they were leaving for Canada on Saturday morning. He had sold their belongings and the tickets were bought. “He just made up his mind and that’s it. I was mad! He had sold everything” including some valuable gifts from an aunt.

Likely there had been some prior discussion between them because I found that ten Blaney relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins and brothers) had gone to Canada in the preceding ten years including Bess’s younger brother Stan, about a month before. My mother though, said she was not surprised to hear the story as my grandfather did occasionally behave that way.

I have stretched the Miriam-Webster definition of a pioneer: “someone who is one of the first people to move to and live in a new area” to include these family members who came to Canada first and led the way for other Blaney relatives to follow.

These adventurous men and women were all Elcocks, Blaney or Cheffins ancestors and most of them remained in Canada. One of my Great-Great Grandfather William Elcock's daughters, Ellen (Nellie) Beatrice Elcocks married Harold Wm. Joshua Cheffins Sr. and her sister Martha Jane Elcocks married my great grandfather, Harry Blaney. 

All of them merit their own full length stories be told. For today here is a brief synopsis for each of them with more to follow.


Albert (Abbe) Robert Cheffins (1892-1978)           
The earliest ancestor that  I found to have come to Canada was Albert (Abbe) Robert Cheffins. He arrived in Quebec on June 18, 1913 aboard the ship S.S. Megantic, about a year before WWI. He was twenty-one and listed as an engineer heading for Montreal intending to work as an engineer in Canada.
Abbe Cheffins - Photo from S. Dyer
Abbe was the son of Ellen (Nellie) Beatrice Elcocks and Harold William Joshua Cheffins. According to the 1901 census, he was born in Holland on May 22, 1892 and by the time of the 1911 England Census he was 18, boarding in London and employed as a junior secretary to a consulting engineer. He was from a family of engineers including his father and his grandfather Cheffins. He had two brothers and a sister, Bill, Stan and Ethel.

A year and a half later, which included belonging to the Victoria Rifles Militia for four months, he was attested to the Canadian Army on November 16th, 1914 in Montreal, Quebec. Shortly afterwards, Abbe married a Quebec girl, Mona Beatrice Denovan and in 1921 they were living in Montreal. They adopted a son Ronald who  still lives in British Columbia.


Harold William (Bill) Joshua Cheffins Jr. (1895-1963)         
Abbe’s brother Bill arrived in Canada on April 5, 1914 aboard the S.S. Andania, landing at Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was nineteen and headed by rail to Leamington, Ontario to work as a farm labourer.
Born June 4th 1895, in Lambeth, London, England, by 1911 Bill was living with his parents and his brother Stan, in Seaford, Sussex, England. His sister, Ethel, was away at school.
Less than six months after arriving in Canada, Bill enlisted in Canadian Army on September 22nd, 1914 at Valcartier, Quebec. He returned to England after the war where he married Daisy A. Baker in 1917. They had a daughter, Barbara who married Ronald Hawkins in 1950. 


Clara Elcocks (1868-1956) and Ada Elcocks (1873-1960)                
Clara & Ada or Ada & Clara
Five years later, two more of Bess’s aunts, Clara and Ada Elcocks arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on December 22, 1919 travelling together aboard the S.S Carmania. Both were middle aged widows going to a friend’s (Mrs. Hoskins) home in Paris, Ontario and both were shown with their occupation as being French Polishers.
French polishing was a lengthy, repetitive wood finishing technique that resulted in a high gloss finish with a deep colour. Many thin coats of shellac dissolved in alcohol were applied with an oil lubricated cotton or wool cloth pad. Between coats of the shellac, super fine pumice was applied with considerable waiting time between. The process was finished with a buffing of wax. The finish was beautiful and fragile but it was simpler to repair than a varnish finish. It was prominent in their time and used on expensive woods and furniture such as pianos.

Their older sister Florence was also a French polisher. Being very labour intensive, the technique was abandoned around 1930 for quicker and cheaper methods.

Clara Elcocks Murphy     
Clara Elcocks was baptized in the spring of 1868 in Walsall, Staffordshsire, England. 

On May 3, 1891 at age 23, she married Oswald Bush in what I thought, from the indexes might be a double wedding, along with her four year older sister Florence Phyllis who married Constant Mertens.  However, on receipt of copies of their marriage entries it turns out that Florence was married April 
26th one week before Clara’s wedding. Banns for both couples were read in church and the marriages were performed by Rev. W.E. Ivens, Vicar of St. James Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Sadly Clara was widowed three times, firstly with the death of Oswald shortly after they married. She married Charles Henry Hall, December 16th, 1906, in Birmingham and she was widowed again just before she emigrated to Canada in 1919. Her marriage record states that at the age of forty-seven she was working as a chamber maid when she married Michael Murphy age fifty, on January 20, 1921 in Vancouver, British Columbia. Based on other documents it is likely that her age is understated.

Mike Murphy arrived in Canada in 1899 and was building a logging railroad in Rock Bay, British Columbia in 1920. He also had substantial land holdings. Clara did not have any children but they were close to Clara’s nephews, Albert and Stan Blaney and her niece, Bess.

Clara was widowed for the third time when Mike Murphy died July 1, 1943.                                  

Ada Elcocks Williamson                 

Clara's sister, Ada Elcocks was born in the summer of 1873 in Walsall, Staffordshire, England. 
She married George Francis Tack in the spring of 1901. George died in Birmingham in the autumn of 1917. Two years later Ada then emigrated to Canada with Clara. Ada married a Scotsman, Wm. Williamson in Vancouver British Columbia on October 19th 1920. At the time Ada was a waitress. They had no children. She was again widowed May 13, 1949 when William died in Burnaby, British Columbia. 
Family lore has it that Ada’s husband left town with Clara’s inheritance from Michael, forcing the sisters to live on Vancouver’s “skid row” in their eighties – certainly more research is needed on this story.


Ellen (Nellie) Beatrice Elcocks (1870-1966) and Harold William Joshua Cheffins (1869-1942)
After WWI the rest of the Cheffins family arrived in Montreal. Abbe & Bill’s parents along with their other brother Stanley and their sister Ethel landed in Montreal Quebec June 29, 1920.

Nellie was born in 1870 and was the seventh of eleven Elcocks children.

Nellie & Harold
On May 22, 1895 Nellie married Harold Cheffins who was born January 12th 1869, in Hampstead, Middlesex, England. 
He was the fourth born child in a well-to-do family of seven children. It was a large household including four servants.

She and Harold had four children, three sons and one daughter. 

They both returned to England in 1932 when they were in their early sixties. The passenger list states they intended a permanent return to England with their future address being in Essex.
Harold died in 1942 in Sussex at the age of seventy-three. Nellie travelled back and forth to North America to visit her children in Canada and California USA. She died in 1966 in Welland, Ontario, Canada at the age of ninety-six.

Eric Eustace Stanley Cheffins (1898-1962)            
Stan was born 1898 in Dartford, Kent, England (near London). In 1909 at the age of 11, he is shown on a list of students attending the Varndean Boys’ School, a well known grammar school in Brighton, Sussex, England. 

At the age of about 17, Stan joined the Royal Field Artillery and he fought in WWI serving in France from December 1915. 
Stan emigrated to Canada with his parents, at the age of 22 and he married Louise Cherrington in Montreal in 1922. They lived in the Fort Erie area of Ontario. Stan & Louise had two sons, Eric Charles Allan and Albert W.H. who were both born in Canada. Stan also served with the Canadian Army for fifteen years. 

Martha Mary Ethel Cheffins (1900-1988)               
Ethel Cheffins

Harold and Ellen’s daughter Ethel was born in 1900 also at Dartford.  The 1911 census shows her to be a student living about 100 miles away from home at the Ursuline Convent, Westgate on Sea, Kent.

The passenger list of her arrival in Canada states that she was 19 years old and willing to work in Canada as a farm labourer.  Ethel married Maynard DuBois and lived most of her adult life in California USA, dying there in 1988. Ethel did not have any children. 


Albert James Blaney (1904-2001)                                  
Bess’s brother, Albert was born September 4, 1904 in Birmingham, England. He came alone to Canada at the age of 17, leaving England June 22, 1922 on the S.S. Montrose.

Albert & Nell with friend's goat
He landed in Halifax, travelled by rail to Montreal, then on to British Columbia. He had a job offer from the logging railroad that his uncle Michael Murphy (husband of his mother’s sister Clara) worked for in Rock Bay. It turned out that working “in the bush” as he called it was filled with much hard work and danger, but he loved it. Albert remained in Canada for the rest of his adventurous life.

Albert met Helen (Nellie) Atkinson in a Vancouver boarding house. She was also new to Canada, having crossed the country alone. They were married January 12, 1929.They had no children, but they did care for the son of a friend for many years, whom they treated as their son.  

There is so much more of their story yet to be published.  


Stanley Eric Blaney (1906-1978)                

Albert & Stan Blaney

Stanley Eric Blaney was Albert and Bess’s younger brother, born in Birmingham, England on January 12, 1906

At the age of eighteen, Albert was making much more income in the logging camp than even his father did in Birmingham, so about a year after he arrived in Canada, Albert sent some of his savings home to pay his younger brother Stan’s way out to Canada. Stan arrived in July 1923 aboard the S.S. Montrose. He was seventeen years of age and travelling alone.

They both stayed on in Rock Bay for a number of years until a huge fire destroyed their cabins as well as the railway bridges and lumbering land. Stan also remained in Canada for the rest of his life. 

He married Margaret Kelly Thompson in 1930 in Vancouver. After “riding the rails” and hitch-hiking across the country to Toronto, Ontario. They found work there and lived with Bess for a while. They stayed for some years in Toronto where in 1934 they had a daughter, Patricia. In 1945 they returned to their beloved British Columbia.

During the depression if someone heard of work being available somewhere else in the country, and Canada was a huge country, often the only way to get there was “riding the rails” (illegally hopping on freight trains). It was dangerous; there were many accidents as the men and women tried to hop on or off moving trains and there were brutal guards hired by the railroads to make sure there were no non-paying riders.

The two brothers and their families suffered many challenges but they also led very adventurous and often rewarding lives in several areas of Canada with many memories and tales to tell. Both were small in stature but big in heart and courage.

Stan died in Vancouver May 25, 1978 and Margaret died about a year previously, August 5, 1977. Their daughter Patricia has lived most of her life in the Vancouver area.


Elizabeth (Bess) Blaney and Harry Welch               
So, Aunt Clara helped Albert; Albert helped Stan get established and when Harry & Bess arrived in Canada in August 1923, they were able to stay with Harold and Ellen Elcocks Cheffins in Montreal, Quebec for a few weeks until they could get employment and a tiny place of their own. 

This pattern would continue as Albert, Bess and Harry assisted other family members to come to Canada over the following years.

The Blaney and Cheffins cousins as well as the Elcocks aunts continued to visit and stay in touch with each other throughout their lifetimes, including the next generation. My mother still has fond memories of her Cheffins cousins.