As I pointed out in the poem, “My Father’s Heir” (see “The Miller Saga: Family Reunion”) I grew up thinking that my father was dead. That was before Mom wrote me “THE Letter”, which laid out some of the details of my father’s family. Here’s what else I learned.
The Millers of Greenbank, Ontario
My paternal great grandfather, James Miller, was a builder of barns, who had been born in Scotland and emigrated to Canada with his five brothers and one sister. James married Sarah Jane Lee (daughter of Joseph Lee and Rosanna Harrington) in 1870. They settled in Greenbank, Reach Township, Ontario County, Ontario. They had three children: James Andrew; Joseph George and Ethel May.
Joseph George Miller was my paternal grandfather. He married Margaret Jean McMillan (daughter of James McMillan and Anna Gibson) in 1908 after George become a minister. They had five children: James Ewart; George Harold; Margaret Isobel; Frederick Archibald; and Helen Jean. George’s wife Margaret died in 1925, the year he was (almost) chosen as the newly amalgamated United Church of Canada’s first Moderator. He had to decline the honour.
My father was James Ewart Miller. He never married: a confirmed bachelor his whole life, he had a few relationships along the way, including the one with my mother in 1949. That`s how I came to be born.
The Brysons of Kendal, Ontario
This really started to get confusing when I was tracing my mother’s side of the family. I only knew that her maiden name was Jean Elsie Groom, and that she had been adopted at an early age. She knew a few more details which she shared in THE Letter, namely that her mother had been based in Orillia, Ontario and that her mother’s (much older) husband had died before Mom was born. That’s why Arthur Sidney Groom and his wife Elsie Kirk were able to adopt her within the first year of her life.
Mom’s mother’s name, it turned out, was May Theed and she had been widowed from her second husband, Thomas Bryson. Mom discovered her birth name (Edith Bryson) by obtaining a copy of the adoption order. I’m not sure which came first, but I suspect she had to get a copy of her birth certificate, too. Anyway, she changed her name subsequently to Jean Bryson years ago. When I wrote to the Children’s Aid Society a few years back, they said I knew more than they did.
The Stewarts of Riviere du Loup, Quebec
Mom was barely of legal age when she joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) during World War II. While serving in Kingston she met and married Edmund Vaughan Stewart, son of Charles Archibald Stewart and Anna Laura Walsh. C.A. Stewart was the President of the Temiscouata Railway, which ran between Quebec and New Brunswick. Charles and Anna had eight children altogether (and as some may still be alive, I will not be naming them).
Mom was still married to E.V. Stewart when I was born, which is why I was christened Christopher David Benedict Stewart. They divorced in 1951.
The Thorpes of County Carlow, Ireland
Mom’s second husband, Ruskin Peter Thorpe was also a United Church of Canada minister. His parents were George William Thorpe and Mary Alice Barker. Mom and Rus married in 1955. There followed the birth of my three sisters. In the early 60’s, I asked to be adopted by Rus because I couldn’t stand the thought that I didn’t belong to any family. After all, I had assumed the surname of Thorpe since their wedding. (I foresaw legal problems with driver’s licence and Social Insurance Number applications if I didn’t.) So, he and Mom adopted me. (Strange law, that one.)
I thought I was sorted, until 1974, when Mom wrote me about my start in life. I’ll continue that story another time.