Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Saturday, 24 April 2021

The Tompsons in Canada

House on the left 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto, Canada

Family stories, at best, usually have a mere grain of truth in them, almost universally contain large measures of exaggeration and "self-aggrandisement" and sometimes, huge amounts of complete fiction. Researching family history, therefore, becomes an exercise in debunking the family myths. Some relatives are more prone to bigging themselves and their forebears up, so you learn to question (read completely disbelieve) their tales, so you could honestly have knocked me down with a feather when I found this one was mostly true.

My mother had always said that one of the Tompsons had gone to Canada and set up a business. The story wasn't without some exaggeration, as she did make it sound like they'd set up a massive corporation and given the impression that if one were to go to any place in the vast country that is Canada and mention "Tompsons" everyone would instantly know the household name - when reality was a couple of self-employed brickies - but they do turn up in Canada.

To be fair, my mother will have got this story too from her grandmother, Eliza Louisa Sweeney (née Tompson), but my mother didn't seem to know who among the Tompsons had gone to Canada and the way the story came across is that it was some very distant relative, not Eliza Louisa's own father, Dan.

R.M.S. Corsican Image: Eric Eggertson Some rights reserved

It seems Dan's son, Eliza Louisa's half-brother, George Daniel Tompson, had gone first in 1908, but on 6 Jul 1912, Dan (63), along with daughters Amelia (21) and Ellen (19), embarked in London bound for Montreal on the R.M.S. Corinthian. Strangely, they're on the passenger list under "The Salvation Army Pantel". The Profession, Occupation or Calling listed for Dan is "Farming" (nope, he was a Bricklayer) and of the girls, Domestic. (Presumably some ruse to get themselves cheap passages.) They were travelling 3rd class, or Steerage.

Then separately, on 18 Oct 1912, wife Sarah Jane (listed as 36, was actually 61), youngest daughter, Ivy (17) and Willie Thompson (8) - this has to be the "mystery" grandchild listed on the 1911 Census as William Charles Roizen - embarked in Liverpool aboard the SS Corsican, also bound for Montreal.


The family set up home in the Earlscourt neighbourhood in Toronto, settled in 1906 by labourers from the British Isles. Even in 1914 it still had a “shack town” reputation though. This article about the area, which talks of a "Building Boom", I think tells why the Tompsons went there, "The modest sized lots on empty fields appealed to those looking for affordable land, low taxes and lax building regulations." Reading between the lines, my belief is that the family acquired one of the plots and split it between father and son. George Daniel initially lived in the house on the right of the top picture, 133 Morrison Avenue and Dan settled in the house on the left, 131 Morrison Avenue. Given they were bricklayers, I reckon there's a good chance they built the houses themselves.

In the 1913 Toronto City Directory, Dan Tompson is listed at 131 Morrison Avenue, Torontoas a bricklayer

In the 1917 directory, Dan is listed at 73 Ashburnham Rd, Toronto, while son George was listed at 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto

On the 1921 Census of Canada, Dan (72), Sarah Jane (69), Amelia Mary (31), Ellen (29), Ivy Maud (27) and Willie Christie (18) - the mystery grandson with the ever-changing surname - were all living at 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto.

Grave of Dan Tompson at Prospect Cemetery in Toronto

Dan Tompson died on 1 Aug 1924, from "Senility". He was actually only 75. He was buried on 4 Aug 1924 at Prospect Cemetery, Section 17, Plot 509. (Plan)

They must have travelled back to the UK at some point, because on 17 Sep 1926, Amelia Mary Thompson (35) and Ellen Hoile Thompson (32), embark in Liverpool, bound for Montreal once again, on the R.M.S. Regina. Interestingly, they give their last address in the United Kingdom as c/o Mrs Sweeney, 102 Fore Street, London (my great-grandmother, their half-sister). 

Then on 19 Sep 1931, Ellen (38) and Ivy Maud (36) made the crossing from Liverpool to New York, in transit to Canada, on the R.M.S. Adriatic. They state that they are citizens of Canada. (Until 1947, settlers from Britain were considered citizens of Canada without needing to naturalize.)

Sarah Jane Tompson died on 4 Aug 1937 and was buried with her husband.

The three Tompson girls all appeared in the Toronto Centennial City Directory of 1934 at 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto. However, in 1939, they were all living together at Way Homesteads, Broadway, Yaxley, Cambridgeshire. Amelia and Ellen were dressmakers, while Ivy was a School Teacher (Technical). 
 
On 12 Sep 1939, Probate was granted to Amelia Mary Tompson and Ivy Maud Tompson on the estates of both Dan Tompson and Sarah Jane Tompson. They left effects of £400 (worth around £26,000 today), hardly a fortune.

None of these three sisters ever married and they returned to Whittlesey.

Ellen died in 1976. She will have been 83. Amelia Mary Tompson of 81 Benwick Road, Whittlesey, died on 4 Mar 1986. She was 95. Ivy Maud Tompson of Keneydon House, 2 Delph Street, Whittlesey (a Residential Dementia care home) died on 12 Feb 1991, just eleven days before her 96th birthday.

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