Friday, September 25, 2009

Grandpa Bellamy - a research challenge

The picture is the last picture taken of my grandfather that I have in my files. Granny (Vinetta Tremaine Butchart) is holding my cousin, Ted Hopkins; and Grandpa (John S Bellamy) is holding me. My brothers, Gordon (left) and Larry (right) are in front. Grandpa died before I was two years old.

I did not know much about my maternal grandfather before I got involved with genealogy. I sometimes wonder if he did not want us to trace his family tree.

The first thing I did in my research was to order his death registration from the British Columbia government. From this I learned that he died of Cancer of the Rectum from which he had suffered for three years before his death on May 15, 1947 in Victoria. At the time of his death he had lived in the province of British Columbia for four years and he risided at 751 Middleton in the municipality of Saanich. The informant was his wife, Vinetta Butchart, and she did not know a great deal about his origins. She knew that his father's name was John Bellamy but did not know the name of her mother-in-law. She did have the birth place of John Stanhope and his parents as England and his birthdate as September 6, 1884.

Granny started asking questions about Grandpa's origins twenty years after his death and sent a letter to Jack Spall, the son of Edith Mary Bellamy and Sidney James Spall. Jack replied in 1967 with the following information:

Grandma Bellamy's maiden name was ELIZABETH RASON if I remember correctly she died in 1924 or 1925 at the age of seventy which would place her birth date about 1854. Grandfather's name was JOHN HENRY BELLAMY - he died in 1941 and was 87 about so his birth date would be about 1854.

The next discovery about my grandfather was that his name was not John Stanhope Bellamy! My mother just casually mentioned one day that he did not like the name John Samuel Bellamy because John and Samuel were both biblical names so he decided to change it to John Stanhope Bellamy and he preferred to be called "Jack". I have not been able to find why he chose the name "Stanhope" or any record of a legal change of name. His name was "John Samuel Bellamy" on his birth certificate, his baptism and on the Certificate of Title for the cemetery plot for his young son, James Roy Bellamy in 1926. His marriage certificate has his name as just "John Bellamy". In 1940 all men in Canada were required to fill out a National Registration Card, on that card he entered his name as: Bellamy, John Stanhope (Samuel). My grandmother listed his name as John Stanhope Bellamy on his death registration.

The next problem was to find where John S. Bellamy was born. It was known that he did not like to be referred to as an "Englishman" and had told my mother that his father was a mariner and he was born at sea on his way to Canada. (His father was a teacher but both his grandfathers were mariners so there is a connection to the British merchant marine.) I now have his birth certificate and know that he was born in Kirton, Lincolnshire, England and his parents were both school teachers. He actually lied when he registered my Uncle Bill's birth and put birthplace of the child's father as United States and on my mother's birth certificate he stated that he was born in Canada. He had told my mother that Edward Bellamy, the American author of "Looking Backward" was his cousin but I doubt that connection because Edward's family came to the United States back in the 1600s.

Once I had the name of my grandfather's parents I could look for them in the 1881 census index from England. I found them in Lincolnshire living in Kirton-in-Holland near Boston. Both John Henry Bellamy and Elizabeth Rason were born in Boston, Lincolnshire and were school teachers. They had no children in April 1881 when the census was taken.

It was about this time that I made contact with a Bill Rason who turned out not to be related to our branch but was very helpful in connecting me to some people who were. Bill sent a copy of a letter which was written to a Margaret Rason in Calgary from Gladys Walmsly (Elizabeth Rason's cousin) dated July 3, 1979. In the letter while referring to her father's family she mentioned: "there was also a girl in the family "Lizzy" whom I imagine was Elizabeth. I believe she married a Harry Bellamy." Later in the same letter she wrote: "My father's sister was a school mistress in England and her husband Harry a schoolmaster."

Soon after receiving the copy of the letter I was in contact with Deborah Glover, also thanks to Bill Rason. Gladys Walmsley was Deborah's grandmother and Deborah was kind enough to give me part of her grandmother's diary referring to Elizabeth Rason.

"Lizzie as they called her lived on Garden Avenue in the Sunnyside District. She was married in England to a man named Bellamy. Harry, I think his name was. They both taught school in England He was a school master and Aunti Lizzie was a school mistress. They had "Harry" and a girl named "Gladys". Harry, my cousin was a great organist and they had great hopes for him but he was hit by a train and was deformed which ruined his career. I do not know who Gladys Bellamy married. Cousin Harry died young. Aunt Lizzie's husband, Mr. Bellamy did not teach school in Canada - he had to take a six-month course to acquaint him with the standard of "School Certificate" required in order to continue to teach here. He felt this was below his dignity so my father said. However he was hired by the old Toronto Street Railway and was to be a very important man for them until he retired or died."

I was now pretty sure that the Bellamy family in the 1881 census was the same family referred to by Gladys Walmsley but young Harry Bellamy did not sound like my grandfather. At this point I searched for the Bellamy family in Kirton in the 1891 census and found them still living at the school on Wash Road. Both parents were still school teachers and the children listed were: George H. Bellamy aged 9, Edith M. Bellamy aged 8, John S. Bellamy aged 6. Gladys did not appear on the census because she was not born until 1892. The George H. Bellamy was George Henry Bellamy who was christened on June 18, 1881 in Kirton and must have been the "Harry" referred to by Gladys Walmsley. My mother had no idea she had an uncle on her father's side. I now have the birth certificate which states that John Samuel Bellamy was born on the sixth of September, 1884 at Kirton, Lincolnshire, England to John Henry Bellamy, School Master, and Elizabeth Bellamy, formerly Rason. He was baptized on the fifth of February, 1885 in Holbeach while all his siblings were baptized in their birthplace, Kirton. Holbeach is about nine miles south of Kirton and I have found no family connections in that parish other than my grandfather's christening.

The date that the Bellamy family immigrated to Canada is another enigma with conflicting information. According to the 1901 census, they arrived in 1899. It is possible that that information is wrong, because the years of birth for the whole family were incorrect on the form. In 1911 the date of immigration was given as 1898. Jack Bellamy reported on the 1940 National Registration that he came to Canada in 1892, quite a difference. They were definately still in England for the christening of Elizabeth Gladys Bellamy in July of 1892.

Another problem I have had is confirming J. S. Bellamy's education. My mother was told the family was wealthy when they arrived in Canada and John attended a private boys school, Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario. He claimed to have been expelled for cutting down the flagpole. There is a picture of him taken in front of a building which is supposed to be that school taken in about 1901. According to the 1901 census in West York, Ontario, the family emigrated to Canada in 1899 and were living in a six-room house on 4 1/2 acres in Etobicoke. John S. Bellamy was still living with his parents and was working as a clerk and earning $200 per year. If by March 31, 1901, the date of the census, he had been working for twelve months as a clerk and the family moved to Canada in 1899, there would not have been much time to attend that school. I have an Email message from the Archivist of Trinity College School which states that they have no record of him at the school from 1890 to 1910. The archivist claimed that even if my grandfather had been expelled, they would still keep his entrance card and name on the admissions list.

At Christmas of 1999, I asked my mother's eighty-six year old brother, William Edward Bellamy, what he remembered about his father. When asked about the school, he answered: "Yes, my father did go to Trinity College School, Port Hope. He was a poor student and I do not think he stayed very long. Your Aunt Vivian visited the school when she was in the Air Force and she found out about him. They must have lost his records." In the 1841 National Registration his education indicated: Primary and Secondary and Business College but no College or University degree.

Yes, it has been a challenge to sort the truths from the myths about my grandfather, but with every little discovery one more piece is fitted into the puzzle of his life. I am still trying to find proof of his existance from 1901 in Ontario until he showed up in Edmonton, Alberta in 1909.

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