Thursday, September 24, 2009

Grandpa Bellamy

My maternal grandfather has been a challenge, partly because I never knew him, and partly because he left a trail of untruths behind.

My quest to know more about my grandfather started with my Mom's knowledge about her father. She did not believe his claim that he was born at sea on his way to Canada, but she had no reason to doubt the other stories handed down by her father. Grandpa went by the name of John Stanhope Bellamy and I was well into my research when Mom happened to mention that he changed his middle name from Samuel to Stanhope because John Samuel sounded too biblical.

The family story was that, as a child, he lived with his father (a mariner) and mother and two sisters in Toronto. The parents were wealthy and owned a lot of real estate in Toronto before losing most of it in the depression. His uncle was Edward Bellamy who wrote the futuristic novel Looking Backward in 1888. He went to Trinity College School, a private school for boys, until he was expelled for cutting down the flag pole.

The only truth in the above paragraph is that my grandfather had two sisters, Edith and Gladys. I have been doing online research since 1997 and I went through many blind alleys looking for Stanhopes, the history of Edward Bellamy, and wealthy people in Toronto before the true John S. Bellamy revealed himself to me. The myths with the actual facts are listed below:

He was born at sea - John Samuel Bellamy was born on September 6, 1884 in the town of Kirton, Lincolnshire, England. His father was John Henry Bellamy, a school master and his mother was Elizabeth Rason. The information has been verified by his birth registration. John Henry Bellamy's father was a mariner, perhaps that is where he got that idea. The census returns from 1901 and 1911 in Canada show that the family emigrated in 1899, when my grandfather was fourteen or fifteen years old.

He had two siblings - He had three siblings including a brother, George Henry Parker Bellamy, who was born April 12, 1881. Edith Mary Bellamy was born on August 3, 1882, and Elizabeth Gladys Bellamy was born on June 2, 1892. All the siblings were born in Kirton. I was able to put the family unit together using the census returns for England and Canada.

His father was a mariner – John Henry Bellamy was a school master when he married Elizabeth Rason, a school mistress on May 27, 1880. He continued in that profession until they emigrated to Canada. John Henry or “Harry” Bellamy worked as a motorman for the Toronto Street Railway until his retirement.

The parents were wealthy – In 1901 the family was living in Etobicoke and Harry was earning $500 per year, an average income at that time. Other occupations in the neighbourhood included bartenders, a brickmaker, a gardener, and a general labourer. In 1911 the family was listed at 550 Gladstone Street which appears to be another working class neighbourhood.

Uncle Edward Bellamy – I managed to trace the author, Edward Bellamy, who's ancestors came from England to New England many generations before my grandfather was born. I did find that Edward had a first cousin, named Francis Bellamy, who wrote the American Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Both Edward and Francis were considered socialists in their time. My grandfather, being a bit of a rebel to conformity, might have felt a kinship to these men.

Trinity College School – The picture of my grandfather as a young man is supposed to be him in front of Trinity College School but I have not found any pictures of the school that look like the building in the picture. In 1999 I sent an email to Cathy McCart, Archivist of Trinity College School, and this was her reply to my query:

I have researched your grandfather's name in our records, unfortunately came up with nothing.

We have files with all the entrance cards with information on incoming students, and their records at the School. These are usually a pretty reliable source of information however there is always the possibility that the card could have been lost or misfiled, although it is unlikely.

I proceeded to go to the list of all students' names who, upon entry to the School are given a number and listed in a large book which begins in 1865 and still records the names of todays students. It is a handwritten list, done by the Headmaster. A copy of this list is also printed in The School On The Hill, a book on the history of TCS. I went through all the names from 1890 through 1910 and came up with nothing.

Neither the Development Office records nor the deceased files had any such name.

My conclusion is that John S. Bellamy, born in 1884, never attended Trinity College School.

Even if your grandfather had been expelled, we would still keep his entrance card and name on the Admission's list.

With regrets,

Cathy McCart


Grandpa filled out a National Registration form at the time of World War II and when asked for educatation beyond elementary or secondary school, he reported “Business College”.

I sometimes wonder if Grandpa Bellamy is watching me put together the puzzle of his life and laughing at me as I follow the red herrings he has thrown my way. That's okay Grandpa, I have enjoyed the trip.

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