From Farmer to Family to Fallout. What Happened to Job Dowding?

I could tell you the story of a young man who spent his adolescence on a “factory farm” in Fifehead Magdalen alongside his older brother and sister in the Southern part of England.  He lived with his older cousins on this farm that housed his elderly relatives, and learned the trade of dairy farming.  Between the years 1841 and 1851, he travelled with his older brother to Canada in search of a new and prosperous life.  Meeting and marrying his love in York (now Toronto), he travelled South-West with his young bride and her family to settle near Woodstock, Ontario.  He went back and forth between a farm there and his brother’s in Logan Township in Perth County over the course of the next several years. Upon the death of his wife after birthing their ninth child, this man adopted out his children amongst various members of his and his wife’s family, presumably because he couldn’t afford to raise them.  He died in Woodstock jail in 1886 of general paralysis at the age of 58.  Place of burial is unknown and is presumed in the jail’s potters’ field.

That is the story I could tell.  It is an interesting one.  To me, however, the real story was in how I pieced it together.  It has taken me years, several connections and endless Ancestry.ca and Google searches, to bring this tale to life.  It was shrouded in mystery and still has several loose ends.  It is no way a finished story but here is what I have so far.

I introduce you to my great great great grandfather, Job.  He brought my Dowding lineage to Canada from England almost 200 years ago.  My earliest record of him is the 1841 English Census in Fifehead Magdalen. He is listed there at a “factory farm” at 13 with a Sarah Dowding, 20 and a John Dowding, 15.  There were other Dowdings too; a Thomas and Elizabeth both 70, and a younger Thomas of 40.  According to one of my valuable contacts, she explained that factory farms were used to house elderly parents and/or as training opportunities for younger relatives to learn about dairy farming.  She felt it was possible that Job was a cousin and was apprenticing as a farmer to learn the trade at the Factory Farm in Fifehead run by Thomas Dowding. This connection also mentioned that she found other documents that suggested Job had other siblings. These names included Charles, Jemima, William, Edwin James and Albert Charles.  Although I cannot prove undeniably that my Job fits 100% into this line, there are clues that suggest it’s a probability.

I’ve wrote in the past, about the Dowdings in my family tree.  I wrote about my great great grandma Dowding in Alice Stone – A Mystery and her husband in my October 2015 post for Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds challenge.  In both stories, I mentioned that for most of my youth, the extent of my extended family knowledge was limited.  I was told that my grandmother was an orphan and there wasn’t much to be found about my Dowding line.  With modern day technology of course, fact-finding about family history has become much easier, more convenient with more available at our finger tips.  It also brought forth new connections.

Another contact reached out and said in her message: “Just when I thought there was nothing more to add to this family, I stumbled across your site on [ancestry.com]”. She has helped me with the Canadian end of Job’s journey.  This connection is a Danbrook descendant, which is a whole other collection of amazing tales in its own rite.  Elizabeth Danbrook, the wife of Job Dowding and my 3X great grandmother, was this person’s 3X great aunt (if I have my math correct).  Although she claimed she didn’t have much information on the Dowding line, she had considerably more than me.  She gave details of a letter that she had from a Danbrook descendent speaking of Job.  It described Job as a beautiful singer that fostered a love of music amongst his children.  It also mentioned that Job was a victim of St. Vitus Dance.  Also called Syndenham’s Chorea, it is characterized by jerky, uncontrollable movements of the facial muscles and limbs stemming from rheumatic fever.  The letter goes on to read: “Auntie [Elizabeth] died when Bertha was born, the home was broken up, he was not able to work any longer. He was a very hard worker and gave all his wages to Auntie, I don’t think he even knew the taste of liquor.”  

This acquaintance also asked me if I knew how Job ended up in jail where he died.  This was shocking.  I had his death information but did not discover until that notification, that it was jail where his life ended.  When I went back over the record, there it was in a tiny box at the bottom, place of death: gaol.

My contact went on in her email to say her thoughts were perhaps the St. Vitas Dance gave the impression of intoxication and he was jailed for that.  She also had more information that when Job’s wife died, the 9 children were divided up amongst relatives and spread out across Southwestern Ontario.  Some lived with relatives of Elizabeth and some went to a Dowding in Perth county.  Without much information about Job, I didn’t know if he had family that came from England with him.  It was from this clue that I researched further and discovered the likelihood that the John Dowding from Perth county was related, and was most likely a brother.  Some of Job’s children show up in a census with John Dowding in 1881.

These 2 new connections made from information shared on Ancestry have opened up a door to new research and new possibilities.  I have new questions to answer – are there more family connections that come from the Dowdings in Perth?  Why was Job Dowding put in jail, how did he die and where is he buried?  Where were all the children placed after Elizabeth’s death.  So much more to piece together.

 

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Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds: October

John Dowding, The Dowding Family
When I was 8, my parent’s and Grandma (my mom’s mom) took me on a trip to Ohio to meet relatives of my grandmother’s, her 1st cousin, Dick, and his wife, Millie. I fell in love with them both instantly. They were friendly and hospitable and I felt they treated me like a grown up so they were definitely all right in my book. Their last name was Dowding. That was when I remember Dowding solidifying in my mind as a branch to my family tree.

Richard Dowding, Mildred Dowding

Upon asking for more information on that family as I grew older, there wasn’t much to gain. My grandmother’s “Grandma Dowding” was an orphan and there was never any talk of her husband or a “Grandpa Dowding”. Many years of my life were spent with the understanding that my family tree would always be limited because no one had information beyond the orphaned “Grandma Dowding” and that seem to include her husband as well (I wrote about her last September in a post entitled “Alice Stone – Mystery“).  My involvement and passion in family research came to the attention of a distant cousin of mine.  She contacted me and offered to share information on the Dowding family.  What she gave me was “fascinating” as all new genealogical information is to me.  There was a new picture of Grandma Dowding with her husband, John James Dowding, and their two children, Richard and Mary Dowding.  Along with the picture was a notation that read: “Little is known of John Dowding, he was a member of Christian Science Church.  He was in poor health and developed an ailment that was treatable but because of his religion would not see a doctor, and consequently John succumbed to his ailment at the age of 40, leaving Elizabeth to raise their children.”

Dowdings
John and Elizabeth Dowding (nee Stone) with Richard and Mary

John Dowding, John James Dowding, Woodstock, ON

After plugging this information into my online genealogy database, it wasn’t long before a death certificate was produced.  This document revealed that John James Dowding died of pneumonia.  Sadly, he was only 40 years of age.  Learning that he was a part of the Christian Science Church was absolute new information to me and most members of my family.  Exploring further, it is a faith that embraces healing through spirituality and prayer over medicine.  It was a new concept in the time of John Dowding and I’m trying to find out how he may have learned about it and where he may have attended gatherings.  That may provide new insight to how my Dowding ancestors may have lived.  There is no wonder anymore why there was so little known about Great Grandpa Dowding.  He wasn’t around long for his children or his grandchildren to get to know him.  But at least I now have a picture and a story that may help to open a door to find out more about my Dowding line.

12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds