Whilst tracking the comings and goings of my Great Great Uncle James Rettie across the Atlantic at the start of the last century, I made an interesting discovery about the work of the Salvation Army.
I first found James Rettie leaving Glasgow on 2nd May 1908 on the steam ship Ionian bound for Quebec and Montreal in Canada. He had Contract Ticket Number 260 and is listed as a ‘Labr.’ (Labourer) aged 36. This fits with the date of birth I had of 31st October 1871. His emigration also explains why I could find him on the 1901 Census (working as a General Labourer and living with his widowed mother Harriet in Aberdeen), but not the 1911 Census.
After finding these emigration details on FindMyPast, I then checked for the corresponding immigration details at the Library and Archives Canada site. I searched the Passenger Lists, 1865-1922 for the arrival of the Ionian in May 1908 and found that the voyage took 8 days.
On page 2 of the Passenger List of the steam ship Ionian arrived Montreal from Glasgow, 10th May 1908 I found James listed as age 36, a Labourer and born in Scotland. However, he also had ‘Salvation Army’ written next to his name – as did the majority of the passengers on the first two pages! What could this possibly mean? Were they on a massive recruitment drive and had invaded Canada to spread the Word?
An article entitled ‘Crossing borders: Scottish emigration to Canada‘ by Marjory Harper of the University of Aberdeen explained that:
The Salvation Army, which in the early twentieth century claimed to be the world’s largest emigration agency, was active in Scotland both before and after the war, providing assisted passages and employment advice for single women, unemployed men, and juveniles.
So it seems that James had fallen on hard times after the death of his mother in 1905 and taken up the charitable offer of passage to a new land and a new start in life.
However, it seems that he became rather restless in the New World! Further searches have him crossing the border into the United States (Noyes, Minnesota) in 1912 then back again to Canada (Winnipeg, Manitoba) in 1918. Then, just before Christmas 1924 he arrives back in Glasgow en route to visit his brother George (my Great Grandfather) in Edinburgh. He went back to New York in February 1925 where apparently he worked as a Fireman [TODO: look him up in the FDNY library].
He then crossed the ocean again for Christmas 1926, staying in Scotland a little longer this time and not returning to the USA until September 1927.
To-date I can find no Marriage, Death or Census records for him in any of these three countries!