Family history

William Walter Reed

While I was working on a personal project, I ran across this picture. It immediately captured my attention – there’s something about it that both my wife and I really liked. We had no idea who the men were, but we immediately made a copy of the picture so we’d be able to hang it up in the house.

I eventually reached out to my Uncle Barry, hoping that he might be able to shed some light on the identity of the men. He was able to help me out, and filled in some biographical details.

It turns out that the man in the middle is my great-grandfather, William Walter Reed. He was born in London, England in 1876. At some point in his childhood, he was recruited and sent to Canada to work as child labour on a farm. It sounds like this was part of the Home Children settlement program, where orphaned or pauper children were sent to Canada in the hopes of a better life (and as a cheap source of farm labour). Apparently he ended up with a family named Henderson around 1890. I’ve searched the available online records, and came up with a couple of possible matches. Two of those William Reeds match the birth year of my great-grandfather, although they both ended up in Canada a few years earlier than 1890.

The Hendersons treated him quite well, and he ended up marrying their daughter Margaret in his late teens. They settled in Ochre River, Manitoba and had three children – Ellen, Lyall (my maternal grandfather) and Cecil. The only mention I could find of them was my grandmother’s wedding announcement from June 20, 1938. If you zoom into the second column you can see some of the details. It’s the Reed/Reed wedding – my grandmother had the same surname as my grandfather.

Margaret passed away in mid life. Eventually my great-grandfather moved in with Ellen who ran the post office in Makinak, Manitoba. They moved to British Columbia and settled in Burnaby in 1946. My uncle’s family (which would have included my mom and my other uncle by that point) moved to Burnaby in 1948 and eventually William and “Aunt” Ellen moved in with them. William lived there until he passed away in 1959.

As my uncle wrote, “he was a nice man and will always be remembered”.