Searching for Grandma

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A few years ago, I was contacted by a grandson of Bertha Josephine (Brown) Manning. Bertha was the niece of my great uncle, Francis Henry McCurry.

Bertha’s grandson explained that his grandparents had gone through a messy divorce in 1926. Following that divorce, the whereabouts of his grandmother could not be discerned. Despite my best efforts at the time, I was unable to determine what had happened to Bertha after 1926.

During the holidays, I decided to do further research on the McCurry family. While doing so, I came across a document that would further our understanding of where Bertha had gone after her divorce.

Bertha Josephine Brown was born 1 Mar 1893 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to parents Benjamin Joseph Brown (1858-1922) and Barbara McCurry (1855-1928). On 30 Jan 1918, Bertha married Richard Cecil Manning in Toronto.

record-image_33s7-l1p4-467.jpg

“Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-L1P4-467?cc=1784216&wc=3NWZ-SP8%3A1584308903%2C1584356801%2C1584357101 : 28 May 2015), Marriage licenses and affidavits > 1919 > no 1001-1687 > image 408 of 1428; Archives of Ontario, Toronto.

Witnesses to the marriage were Bertha’s brother, John Brown, and her sister, Gertrude (Brown) Bowman. Interestingly, Bertha indicated that she was Presbyterian but she’d actually been baptised into the Roman Catholic faith.

Following their marriage, Bertha and Richard Manning settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. Their son Robert George Manning was born in 1918 and a second son, Elmer Eugene Manning, was born in 1920.

According to court records of the Kent County, Michigan circuit court (sourced by Bertha’s grandson), Bertha filed for divorce from Richard in March 1925, citing extreme cruelty. The divorce was granted 17 Jun 1925. She was awarded custody of the children. A month later, however, Richard Manning filed a cross complaint, seeking custody of the children and reduced alimony. On 21 April 1926, Bertha petitioned the court stating that her ex husband had not been able to pay the alimony. She and the children had become destitute. The court ordered the children placed with Richard’s mother, Emma Manning, with whom they were to live until the age of 14.

By 1929, Richard Manning had moved to Cleveland, Ohio, USA where he married Cecile (Blum) Minor. His sons appear with their father and step mother on the 1930 US census.

Bertha’s grandson believed that she’d gone back to Toronto to be with her mother, Barbara, who died of lung cancer 17 March 1928. However, we had no evidence to back this up. The informant of Barbara (McCurry) Brown’s death was Bertha’s sister, Levinia (Brown) Williams.

Uncovering Bertha Josephine Brown’s baptismal record a few days ago provided an important further clue about what happened to Bertha after her divorce.

Bertha Josephine Brown was baptised at Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto on 9 Apr 1893.

b baptism2SOURCE: Ancestry.com. Ontario, Canada, Roman Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1760-1923

There’s a written notation directly above the record of Bertha’s baptism:

Bertha Jos. Brown married to Angus Prisk Mar 24 1956 at St Margaret’s Church, Midland by Rev F. Voorwerk

Bingo! This indication of a second marriage for Bertha (Brown) Manning led to further research on her new husband. ‘Angus Prisk’ was baptised Augustin Legris dit Prisque 8 Mar 1896 at St Ann Church in Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada, the son of Jean Baptiste Legris dit Prisque and Philomene Dusome.

Angus baptism

SOURCE: Ancestry.com. Ontario, Canada, Roman Catholic Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1760-1923

There’s a notation on Angus’ baptismal record, too.

Married March 24, 1956 to Bertha Brown Manning in St Margaret’s Church, Midland, Ont before Rev. F. Voorwerk.

This is where knowledge of Bertha’s whereabouts currently ends. Neither her grandson nor myself have yet been able to determine when or where Bertha died. Research is ongoing. If you have any connection to the Legris dit Prisque family of Simcoe County, Ontario and are able to help us learn more about Bertha and Augustin (Angus) Prisque, please get in touch! wgb.familyresearch@gmail.com

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