Guest blogger and Ancestry Canada Advisory Board Member: Brian Glenn


Newspaper clipping-Shawville Equity, March 1935

“On March 17th a very enjoyable time was spent when Mr. and Mrs. W.A.Glenn, Delburne, and Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Glenn and family motored to the home of Mr. and Mrs. H.C. Glenn, Lousana, Alta., to celebrate with them their crystal wedding anniversary.

This was published in the Shawville, Quebec, Equity in 1935, and would send me down a genealogical rabbit hole. A friend knew that I was researching parts of my family that had moved west and thought this article would spike my interest.

I had all the connections to identify W.A., J.E. and H.C. as three brothers, Wesley Arnold, James Eason and Hervey Clarence from a family of ten children of Robert John Glenn and Frances Jane Sturgeon, all born in Clarendon Township, Pontiac County, Quebec (the Pontiac), between 1885 and 1893. When I received the Equity article, I did have all their birth, death and some census information so I knew that they had migrated west from Quebec, but not exactly when and why, and that became my quest.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Pre-emption declaration for Wesley Arnold Glenn, 1912

The “why” was probably the scarcity of good farm land left in the Pontiac. The Dominion of Canada was offering land at the time in order to populate the country, so the offer of new and rich farm land was to resist. I started collecting more information from to see when they disappeared from the Quebec census and appeared in the western Canada census. Marriage, land and U.S. Border Crossing records found on also played a role in isolating their locations at specific times.

Wesley Arnold’s migration gap came between the 1901 census when he was enumerated in Clarendon Township with his family and the July 1906 census of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba where he was listed as a servant living with the Clements family in the District of McDonald, Manitoba.  By the time of the 1911 census he was in Alberta and in June 1912 he was granted pre-emption in homestead lands in Alberta.

The migration gap for his brother Hervey occurred between the 1901 census at age 12 in Clarendon Township and his application for lands in Tide Lake, Alberta in June 1911, while for James Eason, the gap occurs between the 1911 census in Clarendon County at age 18 where he declared he was a brick maker and the 1916 western census as a farmer in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Extract from 1916 Census Record for James Eason, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Extract from 1916 Census Record for James Eason, Medicine Hat, Alberta

There are still significant gaps in these migration stories, but no records to determine exactly when the migration west occurred.

US Border crossing card for Wesley Arnold Glenn, 1935 visit to his Mother in Shawville
US Border crossing card for Wesley Arnold Glenn, 1935 visit to his Mother in Shawville

From the Pontiac to the Dakotas

Wesley, Hervey and James were not the first of the Glenn clan to leave the Pontiac. A generation earlier, their first cousins (once removed) decided to relocate to the Dakota Territories, United States, now the state of South Dakota.

John Albert, Robert and William were sons of James Glenn and Margaret Cuthbertson of Bristol Township, Pontiac County. James and Margaret had four other sons: Hugh (my great-

Library of Congress,, Maps of McCook County, South Dakota
Library of Congress,, Maps of McCook County, South Dakota

grandfather), James, Joseph and Lewis; and three daughters: Ann, Mary and Margaret. Based solely on census records, John Albert was born in 1851, Robert in 1859 and William in 1861 and all three were at home on the farm in Bristol in 1861, William having just been born.

John Albert emigrated to the United States in 1879 and was naturalized in 1885, the same year he married Dorothy Lucas in South Dakota. Dorothy was also from Pontiac County and immigrated to the United States in 1882 and was naturalized in 1897. Whether Robert’s emigration to South Dakota had something to do with his brother’s marriage in 1885 is not known, but he arrived in McCook County that same year. The United States census of 1900 shows both John Albert and Robert in Grant Township, McCook County. Maps of McCook County in 1900 show John on the north-east quarter of lot 21 and Robert on the north-east quarter of lot 8 in Grant Township. John is listed with his wife Dorothy and five children and Robert on his own.

Obituary: Robert Glenn, Pontiac Archives, Shawville Equity, 6 Jan 1927
Obituary: Robert Glenn, Pontiac Archives, Shawville Equity, 6 Jan 1927

By the 1910 census, Robert was living with his brother John Albert.

John Albert’s death is recorded in the State’s index of deaths as occurring on 2 September 1921 and he is buried in Canistota Cemetery. In 1925, Robert travelled to Bristol, Quebec to visit his brother, James, where he died after a lengthy bout of rheumatism on 30 December 1926. His body was shipped back to South Dakota in January 1927 where he too was buried in Canistota Cemetery.

William proved to be the most elusive of the three brothers as no definitive records were found for him between the 1881 census of Quebec and a Quebec notary’s record in 1895.

On 6 December 1985, the three brothers, John Albert, Robert and William, personally signed a Power of Attorney in Canistota, McCook County, South Dakota giving their brother Joseph the rights to deal with their share of their parent’s estate. The witness swore that he “knew” the three brothers and that they were present at the signing.

BAnQ Quebec Notary MacKay Stephen Alexandre record #1809
Quebec Notary MacKay Stephen Alexandre record #1809

On 21 December 1895, Joseph deposited that Power of Attorney with the notary in Shawville, Quebec, and subsequently Joseph turned over all of the estate to their brother James. All the other children had previously turned over their share of the estate to James in November.

While there are numerous records for “William Glenn” in parts of the Dakotas, the Quebec notary record is the only reference that can be found for our William in South Dakota with his two brothers. Review your existing material whenever you hit a brick wall proved to be the breakthrough to locating William. His sister Mary’s obituary in the June 1908 Shawville Equity refers to her brothers John and Robert of South Dakota and William “of Alberta”.

Obituary: Mary Glenn, Pontiac Archives, Shawville Equity, June 1908
Obituary: Mary Glenn, Pontiac Archives, Shawville Equity, June 1908

William was not found in Alberta in any of the 1901, 1906 or 1911 censuses of western provinces but an unsourced record of his death in an Ancestry Family Tree file indicates he died in St. Albert, Alberta, in 1924. There is no reference to his death in the Alberta Archives, there is a entry for a William Glenn with a link to the grave of his spouse, Catherine Glenn, and her, to another spouse, Arthur Corrigan. Family lore had given William’s wife’s name as Kate Corrigan, so these entries seem to support that William was in Alberta after 1895 and died there in 1924. The inscription on his gravestone indicates that he was a Mason. William and Catherine were then found in the 1921 census, with one son Robert Arthur, living in the municipality of Roy, Alberta.

Land Come and Gone

Did William have any intention of homesteading with his brothers?  Records that might be associated with William or his brothers were requested from the Office of the Registrar of Deeds (ROD) in Salem, South Dakota. The ROD found nothing for William but an incredible number of documents for John Albert and Robert. Together with estate probate records from the Office of the Clerk of Court for McCook County in Pierre, South Dakota, an interesting picture of the Glenn family’s relatively short life in South Dakota is painted.

On 15 July 1884, John Albert bought the North-East quarter of Section 21 in Township 101 from Edward Flynn for $840. Two years later, brother Robert paid a $4.00 deposit on for a homestead at the North-East quarter of Section 8, also in Township 101, for which a Land Patent was issued on 12 January 1897.

Sale of land to John Albert Glenn 1884
Sale of land to John Albert Glenn 1884

According to a story found on’s Family Trees, John Albert was very involved in raising Portland-China hogs. An article in the Mitchell Capital newspaper of Mitchell, South Dakota, on 13 January 1916, reveals that J.A. Glenn of Canistota, gave a talk on “How I Fitted My Herd for Show at the State Fair” at the14th annual meeting of the South Dakota Improved Livestock Breeders Association. Presumably, this was John Albert senior rather than his son John Albert who was only 19 at the time.

In January 1920, perhaps sensing an end to his farming and hog raising days, John Albert purchased two town lots in Canistota for $5,500. Later in March, John and Dorothy mortgage their Section 21 land for $5,000, probably to help pay for the Canistota town lots. In May, John transfers ownership in all of his lands to wife Dorothy for “$1 and affection”.  Four months later John Albert dies intestate, so this transfer may have been in anticipation of his death. John Albert’s estate is finally settled in the courts on 5 August 1922, leaving the balance of his estate to his sons William Lewis and John Albert and his two daughters Margaret E. Thompson and Mary L. Nelson, who each assign their share to Dorothy for “$1 and love and affection”.

Medical bills for Dorothy Glenn’s estate
Medical bills for Dorothy Glenn’s estate.

Following a lengthy illness, Dorothy dies on 27 April 1928. The executors of her estate are given court approval in June 1929 to sell her estate to the highest bidder but it was not until 26 October 1938, when Sheriff Joe E. Ryan stood on the front steps of the Court House in Salem and sold the land to the highest bidder in order to pay off the $5,000 still owed on the mortgage. There is no mention of brother William in John Albert or Dorothy’s probate records or those of his brother Robert, which tends to support the premise that William never settled in South Dakota but was only passing through in 1895 when he signed the Power of Attorney with his brothers.

A year after Robert Glenn’s death in 1926, John Albert junior, his nephew and executor, is given authority by the court to sell his property to cover the bequests in his will. Other members of the family purchase the land but end up defaulting on the mortgages in 1935. Within two generations, land was acquired and lost in South Dakota by the two Glenn bothers from Pontiac County, Quebec. Their descendants migrated east to Iowa and Michigan, south to Nebraska and west to Colorado and California leaving no known Pontiac Glenns in South Dakota other than in five graves in the Canistota Cemetery.


Construction of timeline charts for each of the brothers showing dates of documented events helped to visualize the gaps where I needed to further my research. A summary is shown below.

While this story tells of the migration of two Glenn families to western Canada and the United States, I found during my research that they were not alone. Like the family group migrations from United Kingdom and Europe to Canada and the United States, the pattern of family continued to occur after one or two generations of settlement in North America. From family stories and a few known connections, I knew our family had western connections, but I never knew how or why. Now, I know some of the story.


Brian was initiated into genealogy over 40 years ago when his mother-in-law asked if he could replicate their family history on a sheet of wallpaper. Being a “computer person” he bought a $10 family history program and dug in – and he’s still going!

Brian became involved with the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) when he made enquiries about the reverse of the British Home Children programs (Brian’s mother was born in Montreal but was sent to England to be raised by family until the age of 18 when she returned to Canada with her mother). Over the years with BIFHSGO, Brian has been the Director of Education, Director of Research and Administrative Chair of the annual Family History Conference.

His current family history focus is on two sets of Glenn brothers who left Pontiac County, Quebec, for finer farming pastures in Western Canada and South Dakota, USA in the late 1800s and early 1900s.