Our McArthur Clan: Robert (1887-1948) and Thomas (1892-1923); Hidden in Plain Site


By 1912, all four grandparents had made it to Vancouver Island. Matt Hemmingsen had married Margaret Alexander. We await James Dickson to marry Janet McArthur. Meanwhile, we have been truing their sibling data to that point, shy of Robert and Thomas of the McArthur clan. In fact, Dad said great-uncle Robert had lived and died a Scot, but no information was known on him past his 24th year.1 That was curiously captured in Canada Census 1911 for Nanaimo, British Columbia.2

We simply could not let the adult life of our Nana’s eldest brother go unsung. Theirs was a close knit family of seven children who, in looking for a better life, had emigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1910. His census revealed him to be as prosperous a miner, as those times in this land of plenty would allow. So, his decision to leave seemed not to reflect dissatisfaction with his new home, but he apparently did not tarry long.  

We found an appropriately aged namesake on the roster of UK Incoming Passengers in June of 1913.3 It provided insufficient data to prove it him. However, he married Catherine Cunningham on 21 August 1914 in her hometown of Stirling, Scotland.4

Social media, 1914: Imagine the telegrams circulating between Scotland and Canada! Now, we had set out to do a post on Robert because his story was otherwise dead-ended. But, there were two weddings of interest in 1914.5 Practically a brothers’ double ceremony but for five months, a sea and land mass. This begged us to honor Thomas here too, to add to his story, for our generation did not have the pleasure of acquaintance.

See Notes and Sources Item 6

Robert and Thomas were children of Robert McArthur, whose ancestry we traced to just after Culloden Moor, and Mary Hay Gray.


Born and died in Scotland, meant Robert had managed to return from two emigrant episodes: two years in Nashville TN, as a toddler and however many, as a coal miner in British Columbia. Details of his family’s aborted Tennessee migration was previously discussed.

The record showed he had returned to nearby Hamilton, to its Burnbank section of his family’s former environs. There, he continued on as a coal miner, at least until 1914 and may well have resumed his formerly vacated position.  

We can certainly wonder on this new couple’s story. Many a prospective husband of our ancestral kin preceded his intended bride abroad, to secure a position before calling her from her homeland. In their case, Catherine was still located with her parents in Stirling in April of 1911.4 Robert was in his early 20s when he departed and could well have been working and met her in her area, rather than in Hamilton. Perhaps, he expected her to follow him for a marriage in Canada and instead, she requested his return. Or, perhaps their acquaintance was new and flowered over sea, under pen and ink.  Either way, he repacked his bags for her.

Mary Lawrie McArthur was born at the 30 Baker Street address of Catherine’s parents in 1916.4 The young lady was a hosiery folder. The poor dear died single, in 1943 at 26, in hospital, for a cerebellar tumor of some duration.4 At that time, her family was living at 21 Ashgrove Avenue, Dalmarnock, Glasgow. Robert had become a motor mechanic. We had no evidence of other children, although Scotland Census 1921 should be coming along soon, which may shed some light. However, her obituary reads “beloved daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert McArthur”, with no siblings referenced.7

Robert died of malignant hypertension in 1948, still resident of the Dalmarnock address, still motor mechanic.4 However, his daughter’s obituary went on to suggest that the family had been late of Burnside Street, Stirling. Catherine died in 1978, in Glasgow. Her obituary has not been found.


Robert’s second life in Scotland was fairly easy to establish once his second Incoming Passenger was found. Plus, his death year range was known since one son in Scotland survived his mother in 1937, and only one brother mourned the loss of our Nana, in 1960. That said, Robert died at Stobhill Hospital; the site is not two miles from his birthplace in Bishop Briggs.


Thomas McArthur (1892-1923) was the youngest brother of three. He was the first child of seven to marry and the first to pass.

We do not have a firm full account of children that Thomas had with Mary as we could not locate their 1921 Census and BC Archives has not released data for children born after 1903. She remarried to James William Wheatley in 1927, such that when available, Canada Census 1931 might assist. As to his married life, we see the following:

After a short honeymoon tour of the Mainland, Mr. and Mrs. McArthur will take up their residence in Nanaimo

“Were Wedded at The Manse” The Daily Herald, See Notes and Sources Item 8


The funeral of Thomas McArthur, who died at Tranquille on Friday last, took place yesterday afternoon from his mother’s residence, 15 Strickland Street, under the auspices of the Knights of Pythias.

“Funeral at Nanaimo” The Daily Colonist, See Notes and Sources Item 9


Dad reported merely that Thomas had died in Kamloops, B.C. His obituary, though, spoke to Tranquille. That told a whole new story. Tranquille was a Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Kamloops in Thomas’ time. TB had no good prognosis then and must have been a particular hardship for our coal miner. We mourn that he was gravely ill, so far from home. Tranquille re-opened later as a mental health facility, only to transform again. It had gained a haunted mystique by the time of Dad’s writing. He need not have worried to write Tranquille, for Thomas’ good soul was brought home.


The first hidden document in this update was the 1921 Census that owed to Thomas McArthur (1892-1923) and his family.2 It sits at Library and Archives Canada, but misinterpreted as Mcaontor. To muddy the find, Thomas’ immigration date was actually inked a decade in mistake. However, it showed that Thomas had brought home a fine salary for a coal miner of the time and that he had been off work for the last four months, due to illness. We know he succumbed to TB by 1923.


Various Family Trees at Ancestry.com support three children of the couple: Ronald Robert 1915-2000, Alexander 1917-1999 and Mae 1921-2002.  The boys were listed in this Census; Mae was born later that year. It also showed a son, Thomas, born 1919. They lived in the Five Acres District of Nanaimo City.

We were aware of a Thomas McArthur growing up, but could not recall whose child he was. Our pursuit here, was to prove our memory was of this Thomas born 1919, who would be our Nana’s nephew.

THOMAS McARTHUR (1919-2005) and JEAN MILLER WILSON (1921-1988)

The couple wed on April 4, 1942.5 At the time, he was a cook in the Royal Canadian Navy. She was a store clerk born 1921 in Motherwell, Scotland.  Those job descriptions guided us through Canada Voter’s Lists.10 They located baker Thomas McArthur and sales clerk Jean McArthur, at 612 6th Ave North, onetime site of W. C. Bakeries, in Port Alberni. Coincidentally, or not, that is about from whence arose spicy aroma of soft cinnamon bun from the ovens of our great-uncle Clarence Cornish. Clarence’s wife was great-aunt Jeanie McArthur.  

We lived in Port Alberni, on and off, during the 1950s. Alberni District High School Class photos for one year equally memorialize grandchildren of our Nana and her brother, Thomas McArthur.12 Point made: normally we would save this for our “Memories” section, but this recall of six decades past, was just too sweet to wait.

To recap, Nana was Janet Gray McArthur. She arrived on Vancouver Island in 1910 with her parents and all siblings. Here we see that Robert Jr. returned to Scotland to marry and live. Thomas married, had four children and died young. We will reset to circa 1912, the year Grandad Dickson arrived on Vancouver Island. Soon John, Janet, Agnes, Mary and Jeanie McArthur will marry. Their stories and those of the children will live in our “Memories”.  

Our McArthur ancestry can be traced to Robert and his wife, Jane Russell, who were born in Scotland around 1760. Descendant Robert, born in 1862 and wife Mary Hay Gray, emigrated to Canada in 1910. CLICK HERE to read our collection of stories.

Notes and Sources

1 The Hemmingsen Family Collection including “John O Hemmingsen/Mary Margaret Hemmingsen (Dickson)” authored 1999 by John Oliver Hemmingsen. All materials posthumously published here are copyright © Marilee Wein 2018-2019. All rights reserved.  The collection also holds related material such as the newspaper articles, pictures, etc.

2 Canada Censuses 1911 and 1921 from Library and Archives of Canada, Ottawa ON. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca specifically for Mary McArthur, 1911, Item 471247 British Columbia, Nanaimo and 1921, Item 4549733 and for Census 1921: Surname Mcaontor Item No. 4552299 District Name Nanaimo Image No.: e002872637

3 Source Citation:The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 6 Source Information: Ancestry.com. UK and Ireland, Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. 

4 Scotland Registers of Birth, Marriage and Death Records and Scotland Census 1841-1911 accessed at http://www.scotlandspeople.UK.gov are Crown copyright National Records of Scotland. Specific citations include but are not limited to: Statutory Registers Death: 1943 McArthur Margaret Lawrie 492/ 45 accessed 01 May 2020, 1948 McArthur Robert 644/5 635; Marriages 1914 McArthur, 490/ 118; Census 1911 Cunningham, Catherine 490/ 9/20; Births 1916 490/392 McArthur, Margaret Lawrie

5 Royal BC Museum: BC Div. Vital Statistics accessed at royalbcmuseums.bc.ca for Marriage Registrations: Thomas McArthur 1914 Vital Stat Images(s):004400855_00484.jpg and Thomas McArthur Marriage Registration 1942-09-52752 Vital Stat Image 004438069_00932.jpg

6 Graphic “The Manse”: Flower Girls graciously provided by cousin Margot Orcutt. Marriage data as in Items 4, 5 and 8.

7 “McARTHUR.—At Killearn Hospital, on 4th June, 1943, Margaret Lawrie McArthur, aged 26, beloved daughter of Mr and Mrs Robert McArthur, 21 Ashgroye St, Glasgow. (Late of Burnside St, Stirling.) Stirling Observer – Tuesday 08 June 1943 Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of The British Library Board Page 2 of 10 Accessed at https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ on 04/29/2020 10:55 AM

8 “Were Wedded at the Manse” The Daily Herald 7 March 1914 Item 277 Accessed 28 Apr 2020 at https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.N_00116_191401/277?r=0&s=5

9 “Funeral at Nanaimo” The Daily Colonist accessed 28 Apr 2020 at The Daily Colonist (1923-09-13) page(14) The Daily Colonist (1923-09-13) i I’ .1

10  Ancestry.com Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980 for Jean McArthur 1972. Source citation Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Voters Lists, Federal Elections, 1935-1980

11 Obituary “Thomas McArthur” “at 87” The Alberni Valley Times 25 OCT 2005  

12 ADHS Class Photos 1956, PN 20437 and PN 20414 accessed at The Alberni Valley Museum June 1, 2020

9 thoughts on “Our McArthur Clan: Robert (1887-1948) and Thomas (1892-1923); Hidden in Plain Site

  1. That’s a really strong Scottish lineage you have, Marilee – more than mine! I was interested about the connection to mining. The street that intersected our housing estate was called Prospecthill Road.. Most of Glasgow is built on old mines which has led to catastrophic road collapses. BTW, Bishopbriggs is a posh part of Glasgow, although it may have been just a village back in the day. Your ancestors chose a particularly lovely part of the world to migrate to.


    1. I linked to a lovely painting of Govan in sailing days found at RandomScottishHistory.com and displayed an old post card of Nanaimo BC, again in sailing days in my post The Great Wall of Margaret. My ancestors left one beautiful site/sight for another, as Scotland’s mines were failing and BC.’s were thriving. I’m mostly Scots, Norwegian, and a tiny bit Irish. As I wrote I couldn’t believe that they had little plan against subsidence.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Many of the mines were so old that their presence was forgotten about. My claim to fame is that I was on a float at the Govan Fair to publicize the Scottish Youth Hostelling Association. I really can’t find that many Scots in my lineage but there are some.


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