After my tiny success finding some record of Ellen in the Jamaica Gleaner, I thought, what next? What else can I check?
I returned (yet again) to the 1930s immigration cards tracking Ellen over the border — particularly the ones where Helen was temporary barred from re-entering Canada.
If you haven’t read that post – or need a refresher – click here first (and scroll a third of the way down the post, if you don’t have time to read it all).
A couple of the cards described how Ellen “had a fuss” with her former guardian – a Mrs. John Gilpin.
So I turned my attention to Mrs. Gilpin. Who was she?
Two weeks ago – while J was out of town – I was surfing the Web and came across a newspaper archive site with ties to Ancestry. Among the newspapers with accessible archives listed was the Montreal Gazette. You needed a membership to do any searches and access any of the results …
But the site was offering a one-week trial to use the site for free. I thought, eh, why not?
I started plugging in different search terms for Ellen. When that didn’t work, I tried the Gilpins. One listing named a Mrs. John Gilpin in a blurb about a community church event. It could have been her. But then again, it could have been anyone.
I tried a couple of other combinations. Nothing.
Then I remembered the address directories I’d been using a couple of weeks prior (they’re called Lovell’s directories). And a very long time ago, I’d used the directories to look up the Gilpins’ address. So I found their address and typed that, along with John Gilpin’s name, into the newspaper archive search engine.
An obituary appeared in the search results, for December 22, 1947. It was for a John Martyn Gilpin, who’d had passed away on December 17th.
It also finally gave me his wife’s name: Alberta Alexandrina Gilpin (maiden name Johnson).
I decided to roll the dice again, plugging Alberta’s name into the search engine.
In a matter of seconds, I was staring at her obituary – dated September 7, 1962. She’d passed away two days prior. And not only was her beloved late husband listed, but a number of Alberta’s nieces. (It appeared that John and Alberta didn’t have any children of their own.)
Some – possibly all – of those nieces lived in New York. But a couple of names tweaked my brain. One had a last name similar to a member of one of the Facebook genealogy groups I frequent. The other just seemed like the type of name someone from the islands might have. A church elder. A family friend. Someone’s auntie.
Nah, couldn’t be, I thought.
When J returned, I shared my findings with her, and sent her the obits. It took her no time to find a birth certificate for an Alberta Alexandrina Johnson, daughter of John Deleon Johnson and Ann Johnson (née Bean), born in 1880. Alberta was born in a community in Hanover – the same parish as the Campbells on my mom’s side.
Up until now, it never really occurred to me that the Gilpins might have been black. But it seemed like they were Jamaican. So the relationship between Ellen and her guardian couple (whatever it actually was) started to make more sense.
Then J found John and Alberta’s marriage record.
They were married in Montreal January 20, 1925. She also found another record for a woman with the same name, married in the 1940s in Jamaica, which momentarily threw J for a loop. But I looked at that record and could see the dates or ages didn’t line up.
Also, Alberta’s parents – John Deleon Johnson and Ann Bean – were named in the Montreal marriage record.
As far as I was concerned, we’d solved a part of the mystery around the guardian briefly mentioned on my great-aunt’s immigration card.
And this new bit of information gave me hope that I might have found a tiny crack in the long-standing brick wall.