From Downton to Canada
My family is descended from Downton. Impressive isn’t it? When I hear “Downton”, of course, I immediately think Downton Abbey. Being a fan of the television series, I conjure up images of large estates, beautiful gowns, tea and servants. Exciting right? Digging deeper, it didn’t take long to learn that this illusion was far from the truth. In fact, it is more ironic than anything, for the family I am speaking of, were paupers.
This family is the Pressey’s. My great-grandmother on my father’s side was Ella May Pressey. Her great-grandfather, George came from Downton, Wiltshire, England. Times were grim in Downton during his life. There was an agricultural depression during the 1830’s and many were out of work. According to a fascinating find I discovered on the internet: The Downton Story, it explained that the answer to this overwhelming poverty in the Wiltshire parish of Downton, was to send its poor to Canada. John Pracey (Pressey – George’s brother) and his wife and family, were amongst the first group of Downton folk to head over the Atlantic ocean, on the ship the Louisa, to Quebec, Canada. From there, they made their way down the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes and eventually landed at Port Talbot, south of London, Ontario; a community that was once at the centre of a booming new world settlement. Words of favour were passed back to Downton and more enthusiastic villagers set sail for the new, and better, world.
The next group to arrive included George,my 4th great-grandfather, his wife, Mary and 5 children: Henry, Phineas, Frederick, Ann and George. They started their life in Canada at Port Burwell, Ontario as one of the first settlers to the area on what was part of the Talbot Settlement. To this day, many descendants of John and George Pressey still live in the area of Port Burwell having established a new history for the family name and a new history for this land we call Canada.
- “The Downton Story,” accessed Dec. 22, 2015, http://www.thedowntonstory.com/index.html.
- “PRESSEY FAMILY_DESCENDANTS OF PINEAS PRESSEY (1246) & RUTH BAILEY (1247),” accessed December 22, 2015,http://presseyfamily.tripod.com.
- “Port Talbot, Ontario,” accessed December 22, 2015,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Talbot,_Ontario.