Sunday, 8 November 2015

It was Probably No Accident

In my last post, I mentioned that I had contacted the Canadian Immigration Museum - since then, I've had some very helpful information from Steven Schwinghamer, one of their historians, who, I think has become somewhat intrigued by George's story, and as I write this, he's busy trying to find out where George was in 1911... but that's another story altogether, which I hope to get around to writing about soon.

Frankly, I'm quite annoyed with myself for not making much better progress with this blog!  I've been working on it since June, and I've only got through the first 25 years of George's life.  He lived to be 92, so there's a long way to go.  But I'll make no excuses for being slack, and just plough ahead. (Never explain, never complain - that's my motto.)

So to get back to Steven at the Museum - he explained that at the time George arrived in Canada (1875), admission procedures were very lax, especially when it came to British immigrants.  I get the impression that just about anybody could stroll into the country as long as they weren't sick or a 'lunatic', and the ship's captain provided the port authority with an accurate passenger list.  So I still don't know if George would have been required to produce any identification or otherwise vouch for himself at all, as long as he could be ticked off the passenger list.

Steven also expressed his opinion that he thinks it's quite unlikely that George's name change came about simply because he got someone else's ticket for the ship.  As he says,
In a nutshell, while I would expect civil examination at the time to have included a check of documentation to verify a person's identity, the practice at ports was so loose that it is credible to me that a British subject might have entered at that time on weak documentation, as you describe.  It would be exceptional for someone to enter with a name so different from any other identification, though.  His actions in support of the other identity (maintaining it for the immigration process ... and for years in Canada) might indicate some agency on his part with regard to the change. 

I have to say that I tend to agree with him.  It would seem to be more trouble than it's worth to start going by a completely different name and keep it all your life, just because... well, no reason, really.  It was a theory worth considering though, and of course it hasn't been completely dismissed, and it won't be until and unless I discover the unequivocal truth of the matter - and that seems quite unlikely too.

As I said, although Steven couldn't give me a definite asnwer to my question, he did send me some very helpful information about early immigration to Canada, which I'm still reading through, and being inspired to write about in relation to George.

And for those of you who are interested in the subject generally, check out the Museum's website at or better still - go and visit it!  I wish I could do that.

No comments:

Post a Comment