U.S., U.K. may hold key to case of mystery photos
The mystery of the suitcase full of photographs dating back a century that appear to be from a London family may find its answer either over the border or across the pond.
Facebook has been abuzz with genealogy sleuths trying to figure out who W. H. Robinson of McNay Street in London was, and if anyone is still connected to the steamer trunk that landed at Found Again Resale, a thrift store in Oakville, two hours away.
The best answers, it turns out, might be in Lancashire, England, where Robinson was born, or in Michigan, where his son and grandson settled.
The photographs taken in the early 20th century depict scenes and people in London. There are wedding photos, class pictures and candid shots. One photo was taken outside a home at 128 York St.
Attached to the trunk was a leather identification tag for W.H. Robinson on McNay Street.
What was most intriguing to Mary Margaret Johnson-Miller, an archivist with Library and Archives Canada, was the Canadian Pacific sticker applied to the trunk when Robinson sailed to England on the Duchess of Richmond on Sept. 25, 1936.
Johnson-Miller did some serious digging. “I saw the (Free Press) article and I thought I’d take a look,” she said.
She discovered that W.H. Robinson was William Henry Robinson who was born in 1868 in Garston, Lancashire, England, to James Robinson (1835-1920) and Rebecca Rimmer (1840-1904).
William Robinson moved to Canada in 1898. He was married in York, Ont., to Catherine Smith, who was also from England and was born in July 1900. She died of pneumonia on April 28, 1921, at Victoria Hospital. The address on the death certificate was 128 York St., London.
The 1911 census listed William Robinson’s job as a comber in a brush factory in London. JohnsonMiller said he married a second time in 1928 to Sarah Martyn and there could be family from that union, but she could only find evidence of one child. Sarah died in 1931 and McNay Street is the address on the death certificate.
William Robinson still had family in England, in Lancashire, and the steam trunk sticker was from a trip there in 1936 to visit them. Johnson-Miller was able to find the ship’s manifest listing the people on that voyage.
He and his first wife had one son, Charles Harold Robinson, who served in the First World War. He was born on July 4, 1900, and appears to have lied about his age when he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, listing his birth year as 1897.
He moved in 1923 to Detroit, where he became a die setter.