Right in the centre - Waddell family history


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

This column is a departure from the usual but hopefully readers will find it of interest. In 1987, after the death of my father, John Miller Waddell, and having lost my mother in 1986, I inherited a typical family treasure, a shoe box of pictures. For several agonizing nights I poured over the pictures. What I had to start with is about 100 years of family history. With the help of friends who worked in the local archives office, I have also been able to trace the family back to 1831 in Scotland with a fair amount of assurance of accuracy. 

As of 1987, with the death of my father, we had the following sketchy information about the family’s arrival in Canada. The family came from Scotland, but we didn’t even know where in Scotland. We had always been told that the family came in 1912 to Montreal. That my Grandfather, James Aitken Waddell was married to Anne Kennedy Waddell (nee Miller). With a naive acceptance of family lore, I wrote the following under an early 1900s picture that may well be the wedding photo for my grandparents.

“James Aitken Waddell and Ann Kennedy Waddell (Miller) on their wedding day. The Waddells immigrated from Scotland and were, according to family history scheduled to board the ill-fated Titanic but came on another ship. They settled in Montreal where James worked at his trade of iron moulding. He was a master moulder and specialized in bronze and brass.”

James A. Waddell shows up in the Hamilton, Ontario area in 1911 and it seems he stayed for 10 months in the area working his trade. He returned to Scotland and come back.

“James A Waddell (age 32) arrived in St. John NB 8 Jan. 1913 via Saturnia from Glasgow, destination Galt, ON.” 

A later 1913 record show “On 3 June 1913 at Quebec City via Saturnia destination Galt, ON, Mrs. Waddell age 31, William age 10 ½, James age 7 ½, John age 5 ½.” 

So it was 1913, not 1912 and they didn’t come together but six months apart which wasn’t unusual. The husband would go on ahead, get some work and presumably a bit of money stored up and then the family followed. 

This military sign-up application and the confirmation of James Aitken’s birth date  shows that while the family is indeed Scottish, James Aitken Waddell was born in Salford, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, on  October 31,1880 to William Waddell (born 1853) and Annie Waddell. In the 1881 census it shows that the family lived at Pendelton in Salford, Lancashire, England. William and Annie in 1881 census had William Waddell (4), Mary Waddell (2) and James Waddell (5mos,). In the 1891 census they show up at North Road, Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland and the children are listed as William (14), James (10), George (8),Alexander (5) and Thomas (2). Mary is not listed so she has either passed away or gone to live with another family. The 1901 census shows the address at Larbert but at N. Broomage and lists the family unit as husband William (48), wife Annie (44) and children, James (20), Alex (15) and Thomas(12).

James Aitken Waddell had brothers William, James, George, Alexander and Thomas back in Scotland who may or may not have immigrated to Canada.

It appears that James Aitken Waddell’s father, William was likely born in Larbert, Sterlingshire with an address listed as Skaithmuir. At least a William Waddell was born to a George and Jess Waddell living at that address. That corresponds with the 1881 census that lists James Aitken Waddell’s father as a William Waddell born in 1853. George is listed as an iron furnace keeper which would also lead into William later being listed as an iron moulder, as sons usually followed fathers in their trade. William shows up as an 8 year old in the 1861 Scotland census. That would correspond with the later census data from 1881 and 1891 listed above. George Waddell in 1861 is head of the household, George (born 1831) and spouse, Jess (39) along with son William (7) but also Mason (6), Mathew (4) and George (8mos.). It also shows a Grace Penman (20), Andrew Penman(16) and Janet Penman(11). The Penmans may or may not have been relatives but were listed in the census as part of the household.

Every family has a story and like most people I wish I knew more history.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.