Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thomas David Berry

Thomas was born September 8, 1829 in Blockley, England. Blockley is located in the Cotswold’s, a rural area in the western part of the country.

He was born during the Victorian period in England. There were distinct and severe class differences during this period and his family would have been near the bottom in the Agricultural Laborours class. All members of the family would have had to work, the children from the age of about 9. They most likely lived in a rented, two or three room cottage as all the dwellings were owned by the "farm" and leased back to the workers. They would have had a very small home garden in which was grown primarily potatoes and cabbage, so as to discourage self reliance. Near Blockley it seems that the men and boys worked the farms and the women and girls worked in the silk mills. Adults worked 12 hour days and children 10 hours, six days a week. Thomas is listed on the 1861 census as a journeyman miller, a slight elevation in position; however in 1871 he is back to being listed as an agricultural labourer. It was extremely hard to move up in class status. The family probably earned enough for the basics but few luxuries. Historical accounts of Blockley indicate that the men often spent their money in the taverns and were persecuted by the district constable.

The family obviously had very little to loose by emigrating. During this period the English population was expanding at a rate that the country could not sustain. The population was increasing by over 200,000 per year. Emigration societies were organized to help workers leave England for Canada and other colonies. These societies raised monies to provide passage. I have not discovered which society sponsored the family’s travel but they arrived in Ottawa on the ship Prussian on 21 June 1874. Family oral history is that on landing in Canada, Thomas threw his friend "John Barleycorn" overboard and yelled, "We're through!"

The family initially settled in Fitzroy Harbor. In 1881 he was listed as a miller in Gloucester, Russell Co, Ontario. By 1901 they had moved to Ottawa and owned a five room house and he worked as a sexton. He died May 4, 1907 and is buried in Beechwood Cemetery.

This originally appeared at The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree on 31 March 2006. I have neglected my Berry line and I hope to expand on the family's story. My grandfather, Kimberly Berry, corresponded with a woman researching another branch of the Hollington family and he included what little he had heard of his grandfather, Thomas. Never having heard whiskey referred to as John Barelycorn, I initially thought he had thrown a person overboard!

1 comment:

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I too thought he'd thrown a person overboard for a moment there!