The Milne/Smeed Connection

Family Stories Past and Present

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Rebecca Cromer Johnson McArthur

52 Ancestors Week 3 – Longevity


Rebecca Cromer Johnson McArthur

Rebecca CROMER (?) was born in County Kilkenny, Ireland on 10 May 1807.

She lived a long life in three countries, married and was widowed twice and raised three daughters mainly on her own in what must have been difficult circumstances.

The (?) follows the name Cromer because although it appears as Rebecca’s maiden name on one of her daughter’s death certificates no record of the surname Cromer can be found in Ireland at the time in question. The name may have been mispronounced or misspelled on the document. This has led to difficulty in tracing Rebecca’s early life and her ancestors.

It is not yet known when Rebecca left Ireland, however, by 1845, Rebecca was married to William JOHNSON, a seaman, and living in New York City.  They attended First Mariners’ Church which was located on Roosevelt Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. William and Rebecca probably lived in this area whose proximity to the docks and the notorious Five Points district would make it a none too desirable location for raising a family.

Nevertheless, the baptismal register of the Reverend Henry Chase of First Mariners’ Church, New York shows that William and Rebecca’s daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was baptized on 6 May 1845 and daughter, Catherine, was baptized on 30 September 1847.

At some time before 1850, Rebecca became a widow for the first time. Rebecca and a new spouse, Daniel McARTHUR, also a seaman, were in Ontario in 1851 when their daughter, Agnes Rebecca, was born. The growing family has not been located in either the 1850 U.S. Census or the 1851 Census of Canada.

In the 1861 Census of Canada, Rebecca and her three daughters are living in Wentworth County. Daniel is not in residence at the time. He died on 15 May 1862 and Rebecca became a widow for the second time.

Daniel’s will in 1862 refers to Rebecca Johnston, not naming her as his wife. He leaves her $10, a dark grey cow and one half of his bedding. He also leaves Mary and Catherine Johnston $10 each. To his daughter, Agnes (no surname given), when she reaches the age of 20 he leaves his land, $100, and all other possessions.

The wording of the will and the bequests suggest that Rebecca and Daniel never actually married even though her tombstone refers to her as “widow of Daniel”. The fact that Daniel is recorded in the will as a seaman like Rebecca’s first husband, William Johnson, suggests that they may have met in New York City.

Daughter Agnes married Henry Quillman and the couple resided on the farm that had been left to Agnes. Daughter Mary Johnson married William Wallis and that couple moved to the Stoney Creek area. Daughter Catherine Johnson married William Milne. Catherine and Billy lived in Millgrove until about 1879 when they moved to Elma Township in Perth County.

According to census records from 1871 to 1901, Rebecca lived with Agnes and Henry until her death which occurred on 14 September 1902. The 1901 census provided Rebecca’s birth date of 10 May 1807 and the age of ninety-three. When she died the following year, her obituary in the Hamilton Spectator and the official death registration both state Rebecca’s age as ninety-seven. The Memorial Inscription says she was 98. Whichever of these ages is correct, the Spectator was right in naming Rebecca as one of the oldest members of her community.




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A Favourite Photo

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks

Week 2 – Favourite Photo

I chose this photo because it is the only one that I have of our whole family unit. We have many family photos but it seems that one of us was always out of the frame behind the camera. This photo was taken in the fall of 1955 by my cousin, Ida Milne, from Fort William. She dropped in to surprise her aunts and uncles in Listowel while on a trip with a friend. I vaguely remember her visit but I didn’t actually see the photo until I went on a return visit  in September 2000. Ida’s mother, Aunt Dorothy, had prepared a package of photos for me and this was among them.

Not only is this a photo of the family… Mum, Dad, Elizabeth (age 4) and me (age 10), it is a reminder of our home as it was on that day. We don’t have many indoor photos from that era. Usually we went outdoors to take advantage of daylight.

The house was one of the many “wartime” houses built for returning veterans in the late 1940s. We are sitting in the corner of the sitting room with the kitchen in the background. Visible are our original Frigidaire refrigerator and the buffet of the dinette set my parents bought when we first moved into the house on Jefferson Street.  On the left side of the photo is the telephone… no dial,  just an operator on the end of the line asking “Number, please?”. The phone sits on a table that I still have in my possession.

Mum smiled for the camera; Dad was his usual reticent self; I looked rather serious with my hair pulled back in a severe ponytail; Elizabeth, cute with her bangs and wearing a dress, seemed like she wasn’t too sure about having her photo taken. Great memories to have, thanks to a surprise visit all those years ago.



Bet, Charlie, Jane and Elizabeth – Fall 1955

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52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks

I have joined Amy Johnson Crow’s writing challenge, 52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks. Each week a new prompt encourages the participants to choose an ancestor to write about. Since we are already near the end of January I have some catching up to do.

Week 1 – Start

For this topic I’ve chosen the two people who first got me interested in researching our family history, my Mum, Doris Elizabeth Smeed, and my Dad, Charles Wesley Milne. From early childhood I was fascinated by stories of a family castle and a wealthy family’s daughter who was disinherited when she ran off to Canada with the coachman. These stories of course were not proven to be true.

However, many of the other stories I heard from them were true and extremely interesting, sometimes tragic. Mum spoke of life in England before and during the war and of the stories she heard from her parents. Dad took us on Sunday drives that often took us to places in Western Ontario where he had lived, gone to school or worked in the early part of the twentieth century.

Unfortunately, I only became serious about recording these stories and doing further research after Dad died in the early 1970s. When Mum was well into her eighties I encouraged her to record some of her memories and these are a valuable resource.

Thanks to their instilling in me the value of remembering our family history I have been on the hunt for my ancestors for many successful years.


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January 1946

The following is another excerpt from my Mum’s story of our first winter in Canada.

A Lovely Surprise

In mid-January we were invited to a social evening in the village hall. It turned out to be a surprise Welcome Home party for Charlie, Jane and me. After a delicious supper we were called to the front and were presented with a number of gifts. We got a roasting pan – white enamel with red trim, three matching saucepans, kitchen utensils such as an egg lifter, potato masher, long-handled spoon and a long-handled slotted spoon. There was also a lovely pair of flannelette sheets – cream with blue trim. Jane was presented with a rocking chair which she immediately took to the middle of the hall where she sat down and started rocking. I don’t think that the people of Trowbridge could have given her a better gift. It was hard to convince Jane to move her chair to the side of the room to enable the grownups to dance. After the presentation Muriel Hamilton read a welcome speech/poem that she had written. We had a lovely evening meeting people from the village and surrounding farms.


Editor’s Note:

These pages of the booklet were followed by several more pages signed by our new neighbours.

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Christmastime 1946

The following is an excerpt from a memoir that my Mum, Doris Elizabeth Smeed Milne, a war bride wrote about our experiences during our first year in Canada. Mum was in her mid-eighties when she wrote these stories down for us.

Christmastime 1946

We were invited to the children’s Christmas concert at Trowbridge school. After the concert a lunch of sandwiches and cookies was served then Santa Claus came and distributed gifts from the Christmas tree. Jane received a pretty coloured rubber ball. It was a present from her cousins, Betty and Joan.

We were invited to Ellie and Frank’s for Christmas Day. There were eighteen of us there. Frank and Ellie and their five children (Velma, the youngest was seven months old); Bob, Kath (also a war bride) and Ann Milne; Grandma Milne and George; Ellie’s brothers Charlie and Roy Thedorf  and Roy’s war bride, Sheila; Charlie, Jane and me.

What a banquet! We had not seen so much since before the war. After dinner the younger children had their afternoon naps. The men sat smoking their cigarettes and reminiscing while the women all worked at clearing the tables and washing the stacks of dishes. When the work was done we all sat down and relaxed for a while.

After the children arose from their naps Santa Claus arrived to give presents out from under the big Christmas tree. Jane received a doll from Charlie and me. She promptly undressed it and walked around carrying it by one foot. That poor doll was always in a state of undress no matter how many times I put its clothes back on.

Jane and Doll Snow

                                                         Jane and her Christmas doll