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The Search for Mother #1, Helen Anderson (Scottish Immigrant)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

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The Search for Mother #1
As a young child with my parents at our local Church Anniversary, a lady from Toronto would be in attendance. This lady always spoke to my mother and would pay extra attention to me. This lady was Mrs. Mary Jervis, my Mother #2; I did not remember her, but I do remember always looking for her at church. In time my Mother #3 admitted to me, who Mrs. Mary Jervis was to me. This information was of great help to me many years later.
When I was in my late teen years, a young school teacher was hired to teach in the one room school where I had received my primary education. This young teacher was from Toronto, her name was Helen Jervis, the daughter of my Mother #2! At first I did not know the connection.
The one room school had card parties and dances on Friday nights which I attended, as did the school teacher Helen Jervis. I found it strange that this teacher paid me more attention than she did to other young men my age. Teen age boys my age were not too interested in young ladies 5-6 years their senior at that time. Eventually the truth came out and now Mother #2 and her daughter Helen were now aware that I knew that they were part of my first year of life. Helen used to help her mother look after me. Another part of my early life was now in the back of my mind.
After I married my wife Dorothy in 1951, children arrived in 1953, 1955 and in 1957, two boys and a girl, "Karen" the youngest. I began to think about my roots, when our children were in public school, and I had a fair income, I felt that the time had come for me to make a search for my birth mother "Mother #1".
Mother #2 had met my birth mother shortly after I was born and had some contact with her for a short time. When my Mother #1 decided that it would be better if I was adopted into a good home, contact was lost with Mother #1 with one exception that came to light many years later; Mother #3 had sent a picture of me at about 16 months of age to Mother
#2, who in tum sent that picture to Mother #1.
I made contact with Mr. and Mrs. Jervis [Mother #2] and was invited into their home to learn all I could about my Mother #1. About 35 years had gone by, but the Jervis family had good memories. I was informed that my birth mother was young, attractive, with dark red hair. She was a immigrant from Scotland and worked for a family in Toronto as a domestic.
A local M.P. did a search of immigration records for me, I then had my mothers landing date in Canada and her destination at the Salvation Army in Toronto. This information was of no help to me, the S.A. did not take kindly to my inquiries and I was told to leave the past stay as is.
I then took my adoption papers, showing that I was born Frederick Vernon Anderson, and adopted by the McGregor's and name changed to Frederick Alexander McGregor to the Registry Office in Toronto. I was informed that I was born in The Toronto Grace Hospital, on July 8th, 1930 and these records were now kept at The Toronto Western Hospital. The records at Toronto Western gave the day,   the hour, the year and my mother's place of residence. Now I had something to work with!!!

My mother's age is listed as 18 years, [no mention of the baby’s father] her place of residence 86 Cheritan Ave., Toronto, Ont.
I went to 86 Cheritan Ave., and inquired of the gentleman who opened the door if he knew of who had lived at this address in 1930. Big surprise! "I lived here, I built this house". He remembered having a live-in domestic by the name of Helen Anderson, after revealing who I was, I was invited into the house; their name was Gibson.
Mrs. Gibson took me to the 3rd floor and showed me my mother’s quarters, and related what she could remember of my mother. My mother had concealed her condition for some time, but Mrs. Gibson   was a mother of two boys and could not be unaware for long.  My mother continued in the employ of the Gibson's until the spring of 1931. Mrs. Gibson gave me theaddress and the name of the large laundry that was my mother’s next employer. Here the trail grew cold, the laundry was still in business but their older employee records were long gone.
I felt that my mother would stay in Toronto, as she was from a big city in Scotland. I felt that she would likely marry in a few years, so my local M.P. had a search of marriage records. Marriage records show that a Helen Anderson age 2'married a James A. Downey on September17, 1938. The marriage records gives the name of Church and the Minister who performed the ceremony Then I searched the church records and came up with the names of the wedding party.
Then came months of footwork tracing people from place to place in Toronto, I finely found a relative of James Downey who verified that his cousin had married a Helen Anderson on September 17th,1938, [he was at the wedding]
I now had the address and the phone number of Mr.&Mrs. James A. Downey, I drove past their home and then I went home to decide my next move.
I was always aware that this search might not turn out in my favour, there were other persons private lives involved, a family, a mother with a husband. I had to be very careful in my next move.
I decided that my Mother #2, Mrs. Mary Jervis, was the only contact to Mother#1 as they had met many years ago, before I was adopted. Mrs Mary Jervis was well aware of my search and I had kept her up to date on all the events and progress of the search.
I asked Mary Jervis, if she would call my Mother #1 and try and find out the feelings of
my mother. I informed Mrs. Jervis, that I wished her to tell my mother that I would not ever come in any contact with her family or herself. If she did not wish to meet me, I would abide by her wishes, my message to my mother was "J.wish you and your family well, and I am happy for you, as for me, all is well". Mrs Jervis made the call, and my mother wanted to meet me, in due time a meeting date and time was set for our meeting in the afternoon of my mothers home.
To this meeting I took all my adoption records, copies of my birth records from Toronto
Western Hospital and- The Picture Taken of Me -that Mother #3 had sent to Mrs. Mary Jervis many years ago. After mother and I had a little chat, I presented the picture, to my surprise mother had the exact copy in her personal album. This really removed all my concern, how-ever there was one great problem yet. Mother had a family of 2 sons

and 2 daughters and her husband Jim, none of them knew of my existence until sometime later.
Mother and Jim had 2 boys before Jim went overseas and saw action in W.W. # 2 after returning from overseas 2 girls were born. The youngest girl " Susan" is the same age as my oldest son, when they were in their teen years the family resemblance was remarkable. Susan married and has a son and a daughter; we are very close and do visit and celebrate holidays together with her family.
After Mother #1 and I met she sent word to her mother in Scotland that I had made contact. My grandmother wish to see me, my wife and I went to Scotland and met grandmother, uncles and aunts. About two years later we went to Scotland again taking our children to see their great grandmother and other relatives. Over the past years we have made many trips to Scotland, and still keep in contact with a cousin there.
I wish to point out that mother's husband, Jim Downey treated me as his own son and there were many visits with Mother #1 and Jim Downey.
This is a long story, the story of a young immigrant girl from Scotland who had a personal problem in her first year in Canada, however I as her first son feel that she did well. I have had a good life, the McGregor family treated me well and as one of their own. My wife and I are now great grandparents a number of times over, and I have never regretted searching for my roots.