This is the second part in a series I am writing on the Jeffery sisters.
When I first started researching the Jeffery family I had no idea how I would be drawn to Margaret’s story, it may be because I was able to learn many details about the trials in her life, which was possible with the release of the Quebec Notary records on Ancestry. With the help of Ancestry, I was able to uncover details of Margaret’s life that had long been forgotten.
Margaret Stock[w]ell Jeffery was born 1832 to parents Robert and Elizabeth Tipper. Margaret was their fifth child, with only two of her older siblings still living.
Margaret was baptized Nov. 1, 1832, in St. Andrew’s Church, Quebec City and lived in that city for most of her youth. At the age of seventeen, she married an Englishman, George Grey Humphry who was Captain of the aptly named ship The Margaret.
In the 1840s there was a regular shipping route between Torquay, England and Quebec City. Passengers were brought to Quebec on timber ships like The Margaret and the return journey brought wood to England where it was in high demand. 
After doing some digging I discovered that after her marriage Margaret moved to Devon, England, the home of her husband. A journey across the sea to a new life, I can picture Margaret standing onboard the ship with her face in the wind sailing towards her future.
Screenshot highlighting the distance between Quebec City and Totnes, Devon. I think the journey would have been quite a bit longer by boat in 1847.
The Humphrys settled near Totnes in Devon, Margaret had a lot to adjust to as her husband would have been gone for months at a time on his voyages. The children started arriving and with Margaret’s family far away, the letters back and forth would have been greatly anticipated.*
Their first child was George who arrived in 1851 but died the following year. The next two children were daughters, Emily arrived in 1854 and Margaret Adelaide (aka Addie) in 1856. Two years later the girls were baptized at St. Andrew’s Church back in Canada. Why did they return? The baptism record answers that question, Margaret was a widow and why George died has yet to be discovered.
Times were tough for a single mother with limited ways of earning an income. In 1859 Margaret gave up the right to raise her girls, Notary Leon Roy (document No. 2618), drew up the agreement between her and La communauté des Soeurs de la Charité (Sisters of Charity Community) also commonly referred to as the Grey Nuns (Soeurs Grises) . At the time Emily and Addie were only five and three years old. A moment that would tear at any parent’s heart.
In 1861 while at the Hotel Dieu Hospital in Quebec City Margaret is again meeting with a Notary. This time she is moving the girls to the Ladies Protestant Home of Quebec. This home was located at 95 Grande Allée Ouest. I am not sure why she would move the girls from one institution to another, one possibility is the Ladies Home was newly established.
A portion of the Notary document reads that Margaret
doth relinquish and renounce all paternal authority and continual that she now has or might hereafter have or pretend to over the said two minor children in any manner or may whatsoever from this day until they respectively attain the aforesaid age of eighteen years
The document also states that the girls will be provided with clothing, lodging, education and medical attention as needed as per “their station in life”. Their religious education will follow the doctrine of the Church of England and they will conform and comply with the rules and regulations of the institution. The girls were ages five and three.
Ladies’ Protestant Home, rear view: Quebec Gouvernement; Inventaire des oeuvres d’art A-4; circa1950. Photograph used with permission
1864 brings hope when Margaret walks down the aisle a second time. Her husband is James Atkins from Ohio, a civil war veteran. Three children are born to the couple, daughter Fannie and son Henry in Montreal and after a move to New Jersey, daughter Lillie is born.
You may wonder what happened to the Humphry girls, Margaret was able to return to the Home and claim them once and for all. The joy that day must have been overwhelming for all of them.
The Atkins family eventually settles in New York where they are all found on the 1875 census with James working as a printer.
Atkins family, Brooklyn Ward 21, Kings, New York, USA, Ancestry.com
Emily is noticeably absent from the household, she married the same year to Constantine Philips, a painter by trade.
The happiness for Margaret doesn’t last, three years later she dies in New York, making her time with her family fleeting and so precious.
James Atkins marries again, another girl from Quebec, Esther Martin. The Atkins family makes a final move to San Juan, Washington which is where James dies in 1900.
With some research I have found descendants of Margaret’s, her story had been lost to them over time.
- Seeking a Better Future: The English Pioneers of Ontario and Quebec by Lucille H. Campey
2. This document was in French and I am grateful to expert Sharron Callaghan for her help in interpreting it as well as offering an understandable interpretation of the legal jargon. I am continually grateful for her assistance in my Quebec research.
-More reading on the Sisters of Charity in Quebec
-More reading on the Ladies Protestant Home of Quebec