On Friday I wrote about John Frederick Norris. The reason I was researching him was because of a ‘JF Norris’ engraved on the Farnham War Memorial. When the original research was done, the only JF Norris who had died in the Great War was a Canadian infantryman called John Francis Norris.
I had to check that John Francis was not connected to Farnham at all so I did some basic research. I thought his family’s story was worth telling. So here it is.
John Francis Norris was born on February 21, 1893 in Aston, Warwickshire. His parents were from Birmingham. His father, Clarence Norris, was a travelling salesman in 1891 graduating to a Superintendent Traveller for the Singer Manufacturing Company by 1901. This was the US company that brought sewing machines into homes all over the world.
Isaac Merritt Singer created the world’s first commercially successful sewing machine in 1850. His company began life in New Jersey, then, in 1876, the first international factory opened in Glasgow. This was hot on the heels of highly successful sales and distribution centres in England. Everyone wanted to ditch hand sewing for a treadle.
The Singer Manufacturing Company was a massive success story. Perhaps Clarence worked for them back in 1891 then climbed the corporate ladder so that by 1901 he was a ‘Superintendent’ whatever that was. Whatever happened, by 1905, Clarence appears to have grown fed up with it.
(Incidentally, back in 1891, his wife Annie (nee Bladen) was a music teacher, presumably working out of their home at 128 Bevington Road, Birmingham. I guess Annie stopped teaching after their kids started arriving because there’s no mention of her having a job in 1901. In 1891, it’s quite rare to find women with an occupation when they have children and a working husband.)
So, seeing some sort of future in the wilderness, Clarence bundled up his family and they all immigrated to Halifax, Nova Scotia. On the passenger list for the Dominion Line ship, SS Vancouver, Clarence had his occupation down as ‘farmer.’ His family included his wife Annie, daughters Cecilia and Dorothy and sons John Francis and Bernard. I can only assume that Canada was crying out for farmers rather than travelling sewing machine salesmen.
The SS Vancouver, by the way, was built way back in 1884 by Charles Connell and Co in Glasgow. It sailed pretty regularly from Liverpool to Canada (Quebec, Halifax, etc) up until 1910 when she was scrapped. It makes sense when steam ships were being retired in favour of the much more powerful turbines, invented by Charles Parsons who I’m certain I’ve mentioned before.
In the meanwhilst, the Norris family of Birmingham, found themselves setting up a new life in Nova Scotia. Then came the Great War.
John Francis, aged 20 and working as a stationer, enlisted on July 29, 1915 and was immediately shipped off as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). He was in the Canadian Infantry, 60th battalion and one of around 30,000 Canadian soldiers who were sent into battle at the beginning of the war. Some of Churchill’s cannon fodder.
John Francis managed to remain alive until September 16, 1916 when he died, possibly in the Battle of the Somme, along with around 656,000 allied and 500,000 enemy soldiers. (It’s just occurred to me that while nearly a million people died during the Battle of the Somme, not a single one of them had anything to do with the reasons for the war in the first place. I have to reason that the people who started the whole thing – not the assassin – could have saved a lot of lives by just having a punch up at the back of a beer house somewhere in Germany. Mind you, that would hardly have satisfied the war mongers in power, would it?)
I don’t have access to the Canadian version of Ancestry.com but I can see that Clarence was still there for the census of 1921 as was Bernard. I can only assume the family remained Canadian for the rest of their lives.
Brave souls, all of them. It’s not the easiest thing to just rip up your roots then plant them half a world away, hoping they’ll flourish in a new soil. I guess it worked for the Norris family.
Just like it did for us back in the 1960’s.