NaNoWriMo Project: The History of Martha

For this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project, I am working on a Kirsch book, which I’ve named “The History of Martha” for now. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of a novel (and, ideally, finish the novel) in the month of November. This isn’t a novel and I’m not planning to finish it this month, but I’ve managed to write 4522 words so far. This is not ideal for November 8, but much of the work I do before and after work, and usually late at night with a cup of tea, is research. That’s still progress, right?

The section I am focusing on right now is Marth Kirsch’s arrival in Canada. I haven’t found a record of her traveling to Winnipeg. Martha’s obituary indicates she arrived in around 1904 or 1905. The 1916 Census of Canada says 1910; the 1921 Census says 1905.

The Stories from the Past blog post series recalls Martha traveled from Russia to Winnipeg with the Rempel family, an elderly couple for whom she worked as a domestic: “Mr. and Mrs. Remple, August Remple and Martha went to live at 868 Ballantine [Bannatyne] Avenue, Winnipeg. It is not certain if Martha’s sister, Julia, was already living in Winnipeg or whether she immigrated along with the Remples. Julia and August did not know each other in Germany. August Remple and Julia Kirsch eventually married each other.” However, according to the 1891 Census of Canada, Martha’s sister and husband were already living in Winnipeg .

“[Rempel family in Hansa ship manifest, 1890]” from Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934, accessed 07 Nov 2020 through Ancestry.

August and Julia immigrated to Canada with their sons Adolf and Gustave August in 1890 (see above record). In 1891, they are living in Winnipeg with August’s 81-year-old father, also August Rempel [update: I erroneously read this as August Rempel, 81, and it should be corrected to August Rempel, son, age 1, the first number being a crossed out 0]. In the 1906 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, the Rempels are living at 509 Alexander Avenue with one boarder, Robert Palmer.

Gustave August Rempel, born in 1889 and referred to as August in most records, would have been in his early teens when Martha arrived.

I indulged my theory that Martha left Russia with another Mr. and Mrs. Rempel (maybe relatives of August Rempel) and that the abundance of August Rempels complicated the story. I began looking for immigration records for any Rempel coming to Canada in the early 1900s.

“[Rempel family in Montezuma ship manifest, 1908]” from Canada Passenger Lists, 1881-1922, accessed 08 Nov 2020 through FamilySearch.

I found a “Marta Rempel” in the Canada Passenger Lists, 1881-1922 collection in FamilySearch. When I clicked on it, the image revealed that her surname was possibly not Rempel as Marta is recorded as having the occupation of “domestic,” perhaps for Friedrich and Rosa Rempel, who were 68 and 60 years old when they traveled aboard the Montezuma and arrived in Quebec City on September 14, 1908. The record shows that they were from Russia and were destined for Winnipeg. Finally, this Marta is 25 years old. Martha Kirsch would have been around 27 in 1908 (and there are usually discrepancies in age reporting).

Friedrich (Frederick) and Rosa (Rosella) “Rimple” are possibly found living in Sunnyside township in 1911. In the 1911 Census of Canada, they are recorded as German Baptists who immigrated in 1809 (born in Russian Poland). This 1911 Census of Canada districts and sub-districts guide shows “Township 11 in ranges 5, 6 east of the 1st Meridian” as including “Oak Bank Village” and Sunnyside. As their ages are close to that of the aforementioned Friedrich and Rosa Rempel, I am very certain they are the same people.

According to Manitoba Vital Statistics, Friedrich Rempel died November 20, 1932, in Springfield, Manitoba (Springfield, which merged with Sunnyside municipality, is a rural municipality that includes Oakbank, which was where Julia’s father-in-law, August Rempel, apparently owned a farm–or perhaps the story refers to this elderly Rempel couple after all?). Rosa died three years later, on June 6, 1935.

Was this our Martha Kirsch aboard the Montezuma? I don’t know if I will ever find an immigration record that confirms when Martha arrived in Canada or be able to iron out the story. Like many tend to do when researching, I get excited over a possible record and try my best to make it fit what I think happened. Perhaps “domestic” was simply just 25-year-old Marta’s occupation and she was the daughter or relative of Friedrich and Rosa. I am curious what others think!

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