Finding the fallen
When Pembroke resident George Maybury sits down on Nov. 11 to watch the History Television program Finding the Fallen, he will be seeing a familiar story -his family's.
This Remembrance Day marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War and History Television is commemorating the occasion with the first in a new series of eight hour-long documentary episodes in the Finding the Fallen series. In each episode, archeologists, forensics experts, historians and genealogists unearth the history and personal stories that have been buried under the bloody battlefields of France and Belgium for the last 90 years.
During an archeological dig of a trench mortar pit, key to the Allied taking of "Hill 70" in France, an artifact was found that was traced to William Maybury, the great uncle of current Pembroke resident George Maybury.
"Through the artifact, they traced back to the regiment, to my great uncle, the story of this English Canadian that had gone over to fight for King and country," Mr. Maybury said.
The episode about Will Maybury is titled Barnardo Boy as he along with his little sister Elsie and later his youngest brother George (George Maybury's grandfather) were Barnardo children, sent to Canada as orphans.
Mr. Maybury is in possession of what he calls the family "tickle trunk" -a small chest filled with old photographs, and photocopies of documents relating to the lives of his ancestors.
He remembers his own father George (he is the third in the line of George Mayburys) originally possessing the "tickle trunk," which was then only two shoe boxes crammed full of items. George's father sat him down when he was 14 or 15, took out the shoe boxes and started to explain the family history. But, it is only now as an adult that curiosity has taken a hold of him, and he has begun to casually research his lineage himself.
"Over the years I've gone on the Internet and snooped here and there," he said.
The call from the History Television came out of the blue. The show's producers tracked George down through his brother David.
Over a two-month period, George was interviewed several times. He also dutifully scanned and emailed many of his family photos of Will for the television show.
While he knew the basics of the story, he has learned a lot about his family through the research done for the television show and he is expecting a few surprises Tuesday when the show airs. He still does not know what the artifact was that started all this in the first place.
"It's kind of cool and it catches you totally off guard," he said. "Now when somebody asks me about my family, I can just hand them the DVD. This is one story out of 1000s they could have picked to do. There was quite a number of British Home Children but it was luck of the draw. They found an artifact with personal information in a mortar pit that led them to Will Maybury," Mr. Maybury said.
According to Mr. Maybury's research, his grandfather George, great aunt Elsie and great uncle Will were dropped off at Barnardo Homes as orphans.
Their mother Emma died in childbirth and their father, listed on documents as putative, died of dropsy.
Their half-siblings said they could not afford to take care of the three children and took them to Barnardo Homes.
The Barnardo Homes sent thousands of children like the Maybury kids to Canada under contracts signed with farmers.
The children weren't adopted, but were contracted as farm hands to Canadian farmers for $20 a year.
Will, 10, and Elsie, seven, were shipped to Canada in 1903 and were immediately separated. Both went to different farms in southwestern Ontario.
George was considered too young at the time to come over. He did come to Canada when he was 13 after receiving a British education.
"A lot of the story is these three trying to unite and that here's this guy William, abandon by his family, abandon by his country (shipped to Canada) who, when called upon, goes to fight for King and country and doesn't come home," Mr. Maybury said.
There isn't a lot of detail on the lives of the children as they grew up other than they moved around a lot. Mr. Maybury has postcards from Oakner, Manitoba and Arcona, Ontario.
He believes that William was reunited with Elsie in 1912 and later on Elsie was reunited with George, but he doesn't believe the three were ever reunited together before Will died in battle at Ypres.
"Elsie continually wrote to the Barnardo Homes to try and get George moved closer to them, but it appears the brothers never met again,"Mr. Maybury said.
George Maybury (Will and Elsie's brother) died in 1926, less than a year after his son George (the second) was born.
Mr. Maybury said he tried to trackdown Elsie but all he knows is that she got married, had two children and lived in Toronto for a while.
"That's it. I believe though that she is the one who tried to keep the family together. When pictures were taken, she wouldn't just write a name on the back -she put a story to keep the context of what was going on. We lose track around the Second World War although both of her sons went off to war," Mr. Maybury said.
Mr. Maybury said he hadn't had a lot of contact with his own siblings David and Janet but the experience with History Television has changed that.
"The family all came together here in Pembroke," he said.
Finding the Fallen season two Barnardo Boy episode airs on Nov. 11 at 1 p. m. and again at 8 p. m. on History Television.