U.S., U.K. may hold key to case of mys­tery photos

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS - JANE SIMS

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.

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