Sechelt resident Judy Malnarick has recently published a most interesting Family History and donated copies to the Sechelt Community Archives and to the Sechelt Public Library. Two years ago, Judy was given a collection of letters, maps and family documents which are now in the Brockville, Ont., Museum and Archives. Reading them revealed a wealth of information about Victorian courtship, social, economic and political conditions in Canada from the 1860s and into the 20th century. Through diligent research Judy has traced her maternal and paternal forebears to England, Ireland, Scotland and Romania.
The English ancestors, the Sherwoods, came to the United States in 1634 and settled in Stratford, Conn. Descendants became judges, ministers, army officers and politicians. After the American War of Independence, a Thomas Sherwood moved to Canada to Brockville where as an Empire Loyalist he was granted land for his services. Each generation of Sherwoods served their community well and became prominent citizens.
A Lett ancestor went to Ireland with Cromwell’s army and stayed there. Various Letts emigrated to Canada between 1847 and 1850 to farm in the Eganville, Ont., area. Judy’s great-grandfather, Dr. Francis Lett, was a farmer, teacher and finally a Methodist minister. He and Ann Jane (Dana) Sherwood were married in 1885, and lived in many Ontario parishes, finally settling in Brockville until moving to Vancouver in 1912 where he became the first minister of the newly formed Methodist Church of Vancouver. He died in 1914 and his widow and children stayed in Vancouver. One of his daughters, Judy’s grandmother, Mary, became a teacher and taught at the Methodist Church school on Haida Gwaii where she met William (Scotty) Fraser. He and his brother Duncan had left northeast Scotland to “seek their fortunes in a new land.”
Mary and William were married in 1917 and lived in Vancouver. He worked for the Pacific Construction Company and died in an accident. Mary and her three very young children, Frank and twins Emily and William (Bill), moved in with her mother, Dana. Dana’s son and Mary’s brother, Sherwood Lett, helped the two widows; he had served in both wars, was Chancellor of UBC and became Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court.
Judy’s father, Bill Fraser, married Lily Toderash whose parents had left Bukovina, an area of Romania, in the early 1900s. This part of Europe has seen many upheavals over the years and life must have been very difficult for the people of the region. Land was fought over time and time again and residents killed, imprisoned or forced to flee.
History should not only be about battles, kings and queens, politics or treaties but should also record how these affected the lives of ordinary families and their communities over the generations. It is important we have a record of our families’ pasts. Thank you, Judy, for sharing your family’s history with us.
Ann Watson is the Archivist for Sechelt Community Archives.