Awesome Finds, Big Ships, and the Great War

Lester Edgar Ince Sr is one of those ancestors I have on the back burner. I've had him there for some time, but it always amazes me the way breakthroughs can still happen in ways you didn't expect.

HMS Ariadne, provided by Wikimedia Commons
According to the 1911 Canadian census, he immigrated from Barbados (then the British West Indies) to Canada some time around 1900. I have not yet located him on the 1901 census, which could be because he immigrated after the census was taken. The absence of proof makes me question when exactly he immigrated to Canada, and how I can prove it.

To answer that question, I need to understand more of how he spent his life before moving to Canada, as well as the policies controlling immigration between the British West Indies and Canada. 

One new find has given me what I need to begin painting the picture of his life before immigration. He served in the Royal Navy aboard the ship HMS Ariadne, and his service record provides me with some crucial missing information.

Discovery, digital images, The National Archives - Kew, ( : 27 October 2014), Entry for Lester Ince, citing ADM 188/551/362251

Check out that Place of Birth. Lester was born in the parish of Saint Peter!

Barbados is divided into regions called parishes, and all local records in Barbados are organized according to parish. Anyone who does research in the Caribbean knows that if you don't have a parish, you are out of luck. No parish = No happy dance!

Gettin' that parish!

And I can tell you from personal experience, these Royal Navy records do not always include parish information. This was pure luck. Finding someone's parish usually is.

I also find it interesting that Lester was a jeweler, especially since his father's occupation on his marriage record was given as a cooper. How does the son of a barrel maker become a jeweler? You know there's an interesting story at the other end of that question.

As for policies limiting immigration between the British West Indies and Canada, both countries were territories of the United Kingdom. From what I can tell, they all held British citizenship. There was no legal requirement for British subjects to be naturalized upon immigration to other British territories. This makes tracing his or anyone else's entrance from the Caribbean into Canada a unique challenge.

Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics, digital images, Nova Scotia Archvies, ( : 27 October 2014), Entry for marriage of Lester Ince and Ethel May Pinheiro, citing Halifax County, Nova Scotia, "Registration Year 1909, Book 1821," p. 16, line 228.

In 1909, Lester Ince married Ethel May Pinheiro. They lived with her parents, and gave birth to five children in the harbor area of Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

Soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918, digital images, Library and Archives Canada, ( : 27 October 2014), Attestation papers for Lester Edgar Ince, citing RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4688 - 18 [Page 1 of 2.]

After the outbreak of World War I, Lester Ince Sr. enlisted for military service. He was not the only black man to do so, but was one of the few who were chosen. He was assigned to the 60th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. Colored regiments were formed after he enlisted, and there is no record to suggest he served in a colored regiment.

The records that would shed more light on his military service are available at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. All of the World War I service records are in the process of being digitized and published online. They anticipate finishing with the project some time in 2015.

But thanks to, I recently discovered a passenger list that is shedding some light on the end of Lester's military service in World War I.

Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, digital images,, ( : 27 October 2014), Entry for L. E. Ince entering Halifax, Nova Scotia on 14 November 1917, citing Library and Archives Canada RG 76-C, T-4756

Note that L. E. Ince's number (458117) matches the number on his attestation papers. This is the same man married to Ethel May Ince, of 54 Gerrish Street in Halifax. Although the list title says it's of medically unfit men, that's an oversimplification. Browsing through the list reveals men being sent to Canada for non-medical reasons. The reason for discharge given for Lester Ince is "Dis. of A.G." I have been searching for over an hour for some clue as to what that is, or 1Que Reserve unit, or Military district 6, or classification 3. gives the arrival date of the Olympic in Halifax, Nova Scotia as 14 November 1917. One notable fact about the Olympic is that it was a massive ocean liner, a sister ship to the Titanic.

29 olympic 1922
RMS Olympic, image provided by Wikimedia Commons

I think it is safe to assume Lester Ince arrived in Canada alive, given that no note is given on the passenger list of his death. So the question becomes, what happened to him between November 1917, and when the 1921 census was taken? Why didn't he return to his family? And if he did return and left, why and where did he go?

I have a feeling that I won't have all of the answers until I see his full service file. But of course, you never know. I said that before, and I have this much more information without it. Sometimes patience done properly has its rewards.