Friday, February 17, 2017

Who was Walter Glendinning?

click on the photo to enlarge it        jh photo
        There is a plaque in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church cemetery, Scarborough Ontario commemorating the community’s pioneer settlers David Thompson and his wife Mary Glendinning, and Walter Glendinning. 

David and Mary are still well remembered in Scarborough, but Walter Glendinning is not. I wondered whether he was Mary’s brother -- and my three-times great-grandfather. 

Many of Scarborough’s early settlers came from Westerkirk, Dumfriesshire, or from other areas of lowland Scotland. Many of them were related to, or friends of, the Thompsons, and likely immigrated to Canada thanks to the pioneer couple’s encouragement. Mary’s brother James Glendinning immigrated to Streetsville, Ontario and her brother William settled in New Brunswick.

Mary’s brother Walter (1770 - ?) married Elizabeth Park in 1794. The couple had nine children, most of whose baptismal records can be found in the old parish registers of the Church of Scotland in Westerkirk. There is evidence from marriage, death and census records that at least six of these people lived in Scarborough.

The children of Walter and Elizabeth were:
James Glendinning, b. 1796 Westerkirk, m. Eliza Jane Wilkinson, farmer Scarborough, concession II, lot 23; d. 1861, Scarborough. (St Andrews Cemetery)
Janet Glendinning, b. 1798  Westerkirk, no further info.
Andrew Glendinning, b. 1800 Westerkirk, no further info.
William Glendinning, b. 1802 Westerkirk, m. Elizabeth Borthwick, farmed with brother Archibald, concession I, lot 29, Scarborough.
Archibald Glendinning, b. 1804, m. Jean Stobo, 1834; Scarborough farmer, concession I, lot 29; store owner, postmaster, community volunteer, d. 1883, Scarborough. (St. Andrews Cemetery)
John Glendinning, b. 1807, Westerkirk, m. Margaret Whiteside, Scarborough, farmer lot 35, concession 5, d. 1855. My direct ancestor. (St Andrews Cemetery)
Walter Glendinning, b. 1809, Westerkirk, no further info.
Isabel Glendinning, b. 1814, Westerkirk, d. 1832, Scarborough, age 17. (St Andrews Cemetery)
Margaret Glendinning, b. 1819, Westerkirk, m. Andrew Bertram, Toronto, 1839, farmer, lived in Scarborough and Innisfil, Simcoe. I do not have other information about her.

Before I started researching this family, I wondered whether just the younger generation immigrated, or whether Walter and Elizabeth also came to Canada. Assuming that the family immigrated together in the mid-1820s, the youngest of the children would have been quite small, so it seems unlikely that the parents would have stayed behind in Scotland.

It usually took settlers several years of farming rented property before they had enough money to buy their own land. Members of the Glendinning family bought their first land in 1829, so they had probably been in Canada for a few years at that time.

The Ontario land records show that William Glendinning purchased part of Concession I Lot 29 and half of Concession I Lot 30 in 1829. Meanwhile, Archibald Glendinning purchased the other half of Concession I Lot 30 in 1829 and, much later, in 1861, he purchased Concession I Lot 28. My direct ancestor John Glendinning purchased Concession V Lots 34 and 35 in 1850. There is no record of Walter Glendinning buying land, so perhaps he lived on a rented farm, or perhaps he lived with one of his sons.

The 1837 directory of the City of Toronto and the Home District listed five Glendinnings in Scarborough. Walter was listed on Concession 1, lot 28, however, it is not clear whether this was Walter the father or the son. The directory only listed household heads and there was no census taken in these early years of settlement.

There was also a mention of a Walter Glendinning in the records of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, dated July 1, 1837, suspending him from the sacrament.

The main problem is that I have not found death records for Walter Glendinning the father, or for his wife Elizabeth Park. If they were buried in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Scarborough, their grave has disappeared. If they died before the children left Scotland, they probably could not afford a gravestone.

As for Walter the son, he may have died young in Scotland, he may have accompanied the family to Scarborough, or he may have moved elsewhere.

In the meantime, my tentative conclusion to the question, who was Walter Glendinning the pioneer, is that it was Walter, the father and grandfather of so many of the community’s settlers, and my direct ancestor. 

See also: The Glendinnings of Scarborough,
Notes and Footnotes

The basic genealogy of this family is thanks to Ian Glendinning of Aberdeen, Scotland, who has put together an extensive family tree of the Glendinnings from Westerkirk

George Walton, City of Toronto and the Home District Commercial Directory and Register with almanac and calendar for 1837;

St. Andrews Presbyterian Cemetery (Bendale), Scarborough, Ontario. A genealogical reference listing. Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch. 1988 and 1993. (There are two Walter Glendinnings included in the transcriptions of gravestones at St. Andrews Cemetery, but neither of them is Walter senior. They are: Walter Glendinning, son of James and Eliza; and Walter Glendinning, d. 1892, and his wife Isabella Robertson; he was born 1849 in Scarborough, son of Archibald.) 

Thanks for assistance to Rick Scholfield, archivist at the Scarborough Archives.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Rixon Family of Woolwich, Kent

My three-times grandfather Thomas Rixon (1793-1876) was born in Woolwich, England, moved to Canada as a young man and settled on a farm near Brighton, Ontario where he and his wife brought up their 11 children. I learned his name from notes my grandmother wrote on the back of a photo, but I knew nothing about his parents or siblings. 

A search for Thomas Rixon on brought up the names of five children born to William Rixon and Martha Rixon and baptized at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Woolwich.1 They were: Martha, bap. 17 July 1791; Thomas, bap. 13 November 1793; James, bap. 17 January 1796; Eliza, 8 April, 1798; Robert, bap. 4 January 1801. 
More research turned up the transcription of the gravestone of Wiiliam Rixon and Martha Rixon in Woolwich Churchyard. The monumental inscription reads: “Mrs Martha Rixon of this parish died 27 December 1817 aged 60 years. Mr William Rixon her husband died 3 November 1828 aged 81, and four of their children, viz Robert, William, Richard, Eliza.”

Several Public Member Trees on Ancestry say that the father, William Rixon, was baptized on 15 Jan. 1748 at Kingsclere, Hampshire, the son of John Rixon and Mary.3 I have not found proof that this was Thomas’s father, but the age at death fits. 

Identifying William’s wife Martha has been challenging. Most Rixon family trees on Ancestry say she was Martha Warden, but so far I have not found a record of this marriage.4 There is another possibility: a marriage between William Reekson and Martha Tyler, 29 March, 1784 at St. Mary Magdalene. According to, both the bride and the groom signed with a mark.5 Another public member tree on Ancestry suggests that William’s wife was Martha Yeomans, but this is most likely wrong.6
William’s occupation is unknown, but Woolwich, Kent, located on the Thames eight miles east of London, was home to the Royal Arsenal where military weapons were developed and tested, as well as a military academy and naval shipyard. The area around the dockyard, known as the Warren, consisted of workshops, warehouses, timber yards, barracks, and foundries. There were probably plenty of job opportunities in Woolwich, even if William was not in the military.7 At the times of their deaths, William and Martha lived on Warren Lane, the town’s main road.8 The naval dockyards in Woolwich closed in 1869. 

As for the Rixon children, there were probably eight of them: John b. 1787, Martha b. 1791, Thomas b. 1793; James b. 1796; Eliza b. 1798; and Robert b. 1801. There seem to have been two other children whose baptisms I have not found: William and Richard. 

John, Martha, Thomas and James lived to adulthood while the others probably died young. Thomas and James settled in Upper Canada, while Martha and John remained in Woolwich. John became a coal merchant. In 1878, James’s son Thomas went to England to visit John’s son Richard, hoping to get a donation for a church bell. Thomas was interested in family history and his notes9 shine a light on the family’s past.

John Rixon (1787-1863). The 1841 census of England and Wales gave his age as 54, suggesting he was born in 1787.10 According to nephew Thomas Rixon from Canada, John was born 24 January 1789. His baptism is not available on Ancestry.

John married Eleanor Farris on 13 July 1806 in Plumstead, the parish next to Woolwich, and they had three children. After Eleanor died, he married Ealey Farnfield on 29 May 1815 in Woolwich. John and Ealey had six children.

Thomas Rixon's notes on John Rixon and Martha Hollingham
In 1824, when he put his son Richard into an apprenticeship as a stationer,11 John was identified as a coal merchant. According to the 1851 census, he was one of the high commissioners for taxes for the county of Kent. At that time, John was living at Rectory Place, Woolwich along with his wife, daughter Eliza, son John (a bookbinder and deputy registrar of births and deaths, district of Woolwich), daughter Harriet and a servant. John Rixon, gentleman, died 31 May 1863 and when his will was probated, his effects were less than 5,000 pounds.12

Martha Rixon (1791-1875). In the note about his cousins, Thomas Rixon mentioned that John had a sister Martha. Baptized 17 July, 1791 at St. Mary Magdalene, she married Thomas Hollingham on 28 June, 1818 at St. Nicholas parish, in Plumstead. The 1851 census found Thomas, a shipwright, and Martha living at 17 Warren Lane, Woolwich. Perhaps this was her parents’ former home. Martha died in 1875, age 84.

Thomas Rixon (1793-1876)  My direct ancestor was baptized at St. Mary Magdalene parish church on 13 November, 1793. He immigrated to Upper Canada as a young man and settled on a small piece of land in Sophiasburg, Township, Price Edward County, on the shores of Lake Ontario. He married the girl next door, Elizabeth Thompson, in 1825 and they brought up 11 children. By 1861 the family had moved to Cramahe Township in neighbouring Northumberland County.

Thomas was counted in the 1851, 1861 and 1871 censuses, identifying himself either as a farmer or a carpenter. In 1861, the family lived in a modest single-story wood frame house.13 His wife and children were Methodists, but Thomas retained his Church of England faith. 

James Rixon (1795-1870) James was baptized in Woolwich on 17 January, 1796 and probably came to Canada around 1820. He settled near Milton, a fertile farming area between Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario. He married Mary Davidson around 1822 and they had nine children.14 He died 9 February, 1870, age 74, and is buried along with his wife and several other family members in the Bronte Pioneer Cemetery. 

Eliza (1798- ) Ancestry has a record of the baptism of Eliza, 8 April, 1798 and a burial record for Elizabeth Rixon, 5 July, 1799. This could be the Eliza listed on the family gravestone.
There are questions or inconsistencies about the following three people: 

Robert Rixon There is a baptismal record for Robert Rison, parents William Rison and Martha Rison, on 4 January 1801, St. Mary Magdalene, Woolwich. A transcription of The National Burial Index for England and Wales15 includes the burial of Robert Rixon on 6 January, 1811, however, his age is not included.

There may have been another Robert Rixon in Woolwich at that time. Ancestry has Robert Rixon’s marriage by licence to Sarah Mortimer, who signed the record with an X, on 1 October, 1811. Robert and Sarah had three children. Ancestry also shows a man named Robert Rixon died at age 37 in the poor house, Woolwich, 5 January, 1821;16 he would have been born around 1784. It is also possible that Robert was the first son and died very young and that later another son was given the same name.

William Rixon William is listed on the family grave, but with no birth or death dates. One of the member-submitted Rixon family trees on Ancestry gives his birthdate as 6 Nov. 1785, however, I have not seen an official source for this date. There is a burial record in Woolwich in 1813 for a William Rixon, age 43, but he would have been too old to be William’s and Martha’s son.17  

Richard Rixon was buried in St. Mary Magdalene cemetery on 9 October 1796, but I have not found a baptism record for him and there was no indication whether the deceased was a child. With a smallpox epidemic in London that year, there were more than 30 burials in Woolwich churchyard in September and a similar number in October. 

photo credits:
courtesy Janet Clark

Notes and footnotes:

The name Rixon was not uncommon in southeast England. It was sometimes spelled Rison, Rixson, Rickson or Rixen. 

I have not included the source of every fact in this article; if I have not noted otherwise, I found all the baptism, marriage and death dates and census information on Ancestry. I examined all available document images.  

1 St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich, Composite register: baptisms, burials, Jan 1779-Dec 1799, London, England, “Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812”, database, ( accessed 21 January 2017), entry for Thomas Rixon; citing “Church of England Parish Registers, 1538-1812. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives”.  

2. “A transcription of Vol's 4 & 5 of Leland. L. Duncan's manuscript notebook of Monumental Inscriptions for Woolwich typed up by Margaret Broomfield; Monumental Inscriptions Woolwich Churchyard M.I.s #s 451-903,”  # 607, accessed Jan. 20, 2017,

3. England & Wales, Christening Index, 1530-1980 database, ( accessed 21 January 2017), entry for William Rixon; citing Genealogical Society of Utah, “British Isles Vital Records Index, 2nd Edition” Salt Lake City, Utah. 

4. I discovered a hint that someone named Martha Warden may have been in Woolwich in the 1780s: a Martha Warden married William Atkinson at Saint Martin in the Fields, Westminster, on 13 June 1780, and a William Atkinson was buried less than a month later, on 18 July 1780, at St. Mary Magdalene, Woolwich. Perhaps Martha’s first husband brought her from central London to Woolwich. 

5.  A search of for William Rixon (with the soundex box ticked), marriage, Kent, 1780-1790, returned this result; accessed Jan. 22, 2017. 

6. Ancestry has an index to a marriage record of William Rixon, of Wateringbury, bachelor, and Martha Yeomans, married in Maidenstone, Kent in 1801. Given that my Rixons had all their children prior to 1801, it seems doubtful that Martha Yeomans was related.

8London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980”, database, (, accessed 20 January 2017), entry for William Rixon; citing “Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906 and Church of England Parish Registers, 1813-1906. London Metropolitan Archives, London”.

9 “Public Member Trees”, database, ( accessed 23 January 2017), entry for Thomas Rixon (1834-1882); undocumented family tree submitted by Janet Clark.

10  “1841 England, Wales and Scotland Census Image”,, citing The National Archives, London, England.

11 “London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1930”, database, ( accessed 8 Jan 2016, entry for Richard Rixon; citing “Freedom admissions papers, 1681– 1930. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives.”

12 “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995,” database, (, accessed 8 January, 2017), entry for John Rixon 1863; citing “Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London, England.” 

13 “Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1055-1056, Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada”; ( and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed 20 January 2017), entry for Thomas Rickson; citing 1861 Census of Canada.”
14 Year: 1851; Census Place: Trafalgar, Halton County, Canada West (Ontario); Schedule: A; Roll: C_11726; Page: 150; Line: 32. digital image, (, accessed 10 January, 2017), entry for James Rixon; citing “1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.”
15 Woolwich and District Family History Society, “National Burial Index for England and Wales Transcription”, database, (, accessed 23 January 2017), entry for Robert Rixon.  

16London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980”, database,  (, accessed 22 January 2017,) entry for Robert Rixon; citing “Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906 and Church of England Parish Registers, 1813-1906. London Metropolitan Archives, London”.

17 Ancestry shows records at St. Mary Magdalene Parish Church, Woolwich, of a William Rixon, who drowned in 1813. His wife, Ann, was pregnant at the time and the baby, named William John, was born in March, 1814, son of the late seaman. According to the church record, this William was 43 when he died.