Tag Archives: Hill

Becoming a Harding

Stuck at home for a sick day is the perfect opportunity to poke around my family tree.

A while back I received an email that the Surrey History Centre records had been put Ancestry, which meant that I could browse and explore to my hearts content. I immediately assumed that my tree would have little green leaves shaking all over  the place because so many of my ancestors on both sides came from county Surrey in England. Of course the records would immediately match up.

Only they didn’t.

It didn’t stop my interest in family history though and I continued to soak in every single copy of the tv series “Who Do You Think You Are” I can find. As a little background, the show is a documentary that shows celebrities researching into their past to find their ancestors. Many times they are searching for where they came from, or if there are any interesting occupations. Nearly all of them are trying to figure out why they are the way they are.

Shaun Majumder – A Canadian Comedian from Newfoundland who researched how his family came to Newfoundland

Truth be told, it was the airing of the Canadian version on the CBC with Shaun Majumder that intrigued me to start looking deeper at my family tree. It was the first I had ever seen and it really peaked my curiosity. He came from Newfoundland, a strange place for someone with a Hindu father and he wanted to explore his roots. I loved that the show showed celebrities as real people and that it really delved into the who they are at their base. Because in reality, that is what I want to do as well.

And so, lying in bed sick it seemed like it was the perfect time to watch some more episodes and log back onto ancestry. There are a few trouble spots on my tree and for some reason, my sick day made it a priority to have a good look at those branches of the tree that haven’t moved very far.

Moving up my Hill tree, I had the name of my great grandfather, and had previously tracked his father George and even George’s father George. But the line went cold. In the three months around when George was born, there we 10 George Hill’s born. That makes life really difficult to track!

My only saving grace is knowing the town where my family was from. The Hill side came from Surrey county in the U.K. The men generally were farmers – on censuses as Ag Lab (Agricultural Labourer). Knowing that makes me believe that chances are, they didn’t move very far from Surrey until my Great Grandfather Charles did in 1908.

I took my chances and decided to start searching again to see if the Surrey records had been uploaded and matched. I found pay dirt.

Marriage Record of George Hill and Emma Harding 2 Oct 1852

Marriage Record of George Hill and Emma Harding 2 Oct 1852

I found the marriage certificate of my third great grandfather, George Hill to Emma Harding, making her my third great grandmother. To review the document, the marriage took place at Addlestone Church in the parish of Chertsey in the county of Surrey on October 2, 1852.   Doing a little research, I’ve come to realize this would have to be St. Paul’s Church, as the other churches weren’t built until after this time.


The clear details regarding George Hill and Emma Harding
The clear details regarding George Hill and Emma Harding

George Hill was a bachelor and worked as a labourer. At the time of the wedding, he lived in Woodham which is a very small village in Surrey. If it’s little now, I’m sure it was even smaller then! His father’s name was Henry Hill and unfortunately, there isn’t any mention of his mother. 

Dear Emma Harding worked as a servant and lived in Addlestone, a hop skip and a jump away from Woodham. The document notes her as a spinster, which means that she had never married.

The "x" indicates the mark for my ancestors George Hill and Emma Harding on their marriage certificate in 1852
The “x” indicates the mark for my ancestors George Hill and Emma Harding on their marriage certificate in 1852

It is interesting that when they ask for age, the record only indicates “of full age.” This may be that records were not the best in the time and they may not have known their official ages. It is clear by the “x” for their mark on the page, that poor George and Emma could not write their own names, and neither could one of the witnesses. However the second witness, a Martha Jennings, has left a clear signature on the page.

The item I was the most excited about, was a new family member. At the far end of the page, it lists the name and profession of each of their father’s. I had found that George’s father was Henry, however I had no idea what Emma’s father’s name was until I found this document. Stephen Harding, a carpenter. A new ancestor to research and a new name to add to my already growing list of names. How wonderful indeed!

Passion for my Past and Where it all Began

From a very young age I was curious. I wanted to know everything I could about everyone around me and who they are and just what their connection to me was. My family would have large reunions on both sides and I never could wrap my head around the fact that every person there was in some way connected to me.

My grandmother Betty, my mom Marlene and my grandmother Margaret
My grandmother Betty, my mom Marlene and my grandmother Margaret

It’s amazing to look back and realize just how close I was to my family tree and I hadn’t even realized it. When I was born, I had three grandparents living. Both of my mother’s parents, Elizabeth Betty Lovejoy and Henry Harold “Harry” Hyde, were alive and my father’s mother, Margaret Porter. Thinking about them now, I wish I was able to ask them questions, record their answers and be able to record them for my descendants.

Two years ago, I lost my mother to cancer and it wasn’t until I wasn’t able to ask more questions, that I found myself filled with them. Where were we from? How long had we been in Canada? Who were my great-grandparents? Just what made my grandparents who they were and are there any common traits that I have, that they had? You can imagine how emotional it is to wake up knowing that all the people you need to ask questions of aren’t here to answer them.

Two weeks after my mother’s funeral, my husband and I headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia for a wedding. Before we left, my father asked me to go to Pier 21 and look for his dad’s arrival to Canada back in 1908. His understanding was that Halifax was their landing point and he hoped to find the ships manifest. This was where the seed was born. I went online looking through all the ships that had landed in 1908. Or at least I tried. I ended up only getting through half of the letter B, which was probably 100 ships. It was overwhelming, and although I promised to get back to it, I never did.

Some of the kids lining up to do Kick the Shoe during the 2005 Hill Reunion
Some of the kids lining up to do Kick the Shoe during the 2005 Hill Reunion

Every year since 1950, the descendants of my great grandparents, Charles Hill and Ada Woolgar, gather in Rockwood, Ontario for a family reunion. Last summer I was sitting in the room with all of these relatives on my dad’s side and realized that I wanted to know, to really know, how we were all connected. I remembered my dad’s enthusiasm about finding what ship his dad had taken and it really turned a switch. I needed some help.

It all started with a 14 day free trial for ancestry.ca. That was when the curiosity became an addiction. They start off asking you to key in what you know. I keyed in my immediate family and my grandparents with as much information as I could remember. Before I knew it I was having shaking leaves all over the place.

It took some time, and overcoming a transcription error where my great-grandfather was listed as “Charles Hix”, but I finally found the manifest. My great grandfather Charles Hill was 28 years old and had $20 to his name. Born in Surrey, England and his destination is “Gault.”

My great-grandfather's last name was originally transcribed as "Hix"
On the ships manifest, Charles Hill’s last name was originally transcribed as “Hix”

They came on the Lake Manitoba and didn’t land in Halifax, but in St. John, New Brunswick. In all, there were 6 in the Hill family travelling from Liverpool on March 25, 1908 until their arrival April 8, 1908. Ada Hill, formerly Woolgar, was 28 years old and she appeared on a different page of the manifest from her husband. Listed with her are Kate, aged 7, Charlie aged 3, Lily aged 9 months and my grandfather Albert, aged 5. All were born in Surrey. Charles, Ada and Kate could read and write, but Charlie, Lily and Albert could not.

Lake Manitoba Manifest 1908
Ada, Kate, Charles, Lily and Albert on the ship manifest for the Lake Manitoba

It is documents like these that keep my passion for my family history burning. It’s amazing to see what you can learn from the past and where you came from and I look forward to sharing more of them with you.