Family Life - Thomas (1846-1927) & Isabella Kissack (c1855)

Life for our Grandparents by Gerry Kissack

Gerry writes as he researches into the children of Thomas & Isabella that.....

"I'm always returning to how difficult life must have been for our Great-grandparents. It's almost as if I'm living the moments with them. My thinking now is that I want to begin a more encompassing story by starting with our great-grandparents - their circumstances are so key to everyone else's stories.

So very much has been written on the topic "A Parent's Nightmare - Losing a Child", yet picture if You will, step into the shoes our Great-grandparents wore. It was 1890, they were parents to 7 boys and 2 girls and within days in August they lost Edwin Thomas age 4 years, and Robert age 7years. James Henry, and William were either getting ready to leave home to work and live at a neighbouring farm, or had already left. (We know that the 1891 census shows James Henry at farm house 2 working for Robert Joughin.)

In any event, by the 1891 census the nine children of Thomas and Isabella had been reduced by four and they were left with five, and it surely wasn't long before Wilfred was to leave for parts unknown. Then George.

I've done some research on the economy of the Island - in particular, of the people in the depressed mining industry and that unemployment had been high in 1879 and again in 1884-7, with further bad years in 1892-5.

The middle 90's must have been terrible. Imagine birthing twins and surrendering one of them to a relative, aunt Annie Costain at Ballakilpheric.

It would appear that by 1901, a turnaround in the family economic circumstances had occurred. Thomas Henry had expanded his workaday activities to become involved in groceries while he continued working the mine. The Rhenab home now accommodated a family again growing, for George was born in 1892 and the twins Thomas Edward and Clarke arrived in 1896. By this time Isabella had birthed twelve, lost two, probably due to a flu epidemic (uncertain), seen her four oldest boys, James Henry, William, Wilfred, and Ernest leave home and move off the island (Wilfred ?), and while we may never know for certain exactly what influences played out to prompt the decision that Isabella's sister Anne Costain would, it appears, essentially adopt Thomas Edward into her now somewhat smaller family. Leaving this door open we'll perhaps have some 'Eureka' moments respecting the Costain Family.

And, to return to Thomas Henry and Isabella, soon three older boys would start leaving for places far afield, James Henry, Wilfred and John all to Canada by about 1905 followed by George who was to enter the Canadian Forces and perish, killed in action in France in 1917, and, although we can't say for certain that Clarke, Thomas Edward's twin also served in World War I, his sister (my Aunt Bessie), in some of her notes states:

"I would like to mention my Uncle Clarke Kissack, my father's youngest brother. He was in the First World War, along with Uncle George, and Uncle Edward, who were both killed. Clarke was fortunate to get out with only a chest condition. he was about 20 years old when he arrived in Canada and lived for several years with us. After an unsuccessful attempt at a job out of doors, Mr. W. Murphy of the Lakewood Country Club offered him much lighter work as his own private chauffeur. Clarke readily accepted and was with Mr. Murphy a good many years. While there he met and later married Doris Logan, a widow about his own age. Clarke was living in Lions in Winnipeg when he died suddenly on June 8, 1973 at the age of 77."

. . . and although there are some inaccuracies, we've got a lead to follow respecting service in WWI. Aunt Bessie apparently wasn't aware of Walter being the last born in 1898, was correct regarding George but was mistaken respecting the reference to "Uncle Edward" whom she would never have met. Wouldn't it have been great had we developed this interest in documenting family history when those we now wonder about were still here to respond to our inquiring minds?"

by Gerry Kissack

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