Margaret Potter (Ancestor # 6, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, 2015)

This weeks unofficial theme is “So far away”. I think that theme might be applicable for my great-great Grandmother Margaret Potter. Born in Greenock, Renfrewshire Scotland on 3 September 1829, I’m sure when she found herself in Liverpool, England sometime before the age of 20, she thought she was far away from her home. She likely never would never have imagined that she would end up in Prince Edward Island, Canada before she was 25.

Margaret’s father, Cap’t John Potter, is said to have died at sea. I have conflicting dates for his death, but I think he died in 1845. Margaret’s mother, Margaret Kemp Mills, also died that year. Margaret had one sibling that I know about, John, who was 3 years older than she.

I can imagine the relatives were scrambling to decide what to do with Margaret when she was orphaned at age 16. John would have been old enough to have gone out into the world to seek his fortune and indeed, I have found him in Sacramento California, in 1870, though not very prosperous but that’s another story.

The little information I have on the Potter family is that they were a seafaring family. Margaret’s father and maternal grandfather were both sea captains and I believe that some of Margaret’s uncles or cousins owned a shipping company. This is how I think she got to Liverpool and how she likely met her future husband John Ellis, also a sea captain.

The story in my family was that Margaret’s family thought John Ellis to be telling tall tales when he told them that horse races were held each winter on the frozen ice in Summerside harbour. Not having endured any Canadian winters I’m sure they couldn’t imagine the sea water freezing over to the degree necessary to run horses on it. Since most family stories are based on some degree of truth, even if they are embellished through the generations, this story gives me hope that I will find evidence that Margaret was living with relatives in Liverpool before she married John Ellis.

Margaret and John were married 4 October 1848 at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Liverpool. Their first child, Margaret McGowan, was born 19 November 1849. In the 1851 British census, Margaret, was recorded living at 119 Bedford Street, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, Lancashire, England. She was married, 21 years old, born in Greenock, Refrew. Her husband was a Master Mariner away at sea. One servant was living in the household named Mary Ann Lloyd. Mary Ann was a nurse caring for baby Margaret, no doubt.

Hannah, was born 22 July 1851 in Liverpool. Sometime between then and 8 August 1853 when Kenneth Forbes was born, Hannah emigrated to Prince Edward Island where three more sons were born: John Henry, born 8 July 1855, Francis Potter, born 28 November 1857 and Everard Hutchinson, born 4 March 1860. John bought a parcel of land from his father and in true Sea Captain style built a house on the shore just east of the harbour in Summerside. There are no pictures of this house, but I like to imagine that it had a widow’s walk.

That was not the end of Hannah’s travels. Sometime before 25 Apr 1865 she returned to Liverpool. Everard Hutchinson died there that day and was buried at St. James Cemetery, Liverpool. I believe her next trip to the Island (Prince Edward Island) was her last Atlantic crossing. Her comings and goings around the Maritimes were recorded by Robert Ellis, her father-in-Law, in his day books. Captain John Ellis died 18 December 1873 and Maggie went on to live to a ripe old age of 88 years. She died 12 August 1917 and was buried at St. John’s Anglican Church Cemetery in St. Eleanor’s.




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