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Vancouver Island GenWeb Project - Links To The Past  

Welcome to Vancouver Island
in Beautiful British Columbia.
We are proud to be part of the: British Columbia GenWeb Project
and the Canada GenWeb Project.

My name is Wendy Jones.  Please remember to reload if you
haven't been here in a while.  If you find pages that have links
that don't work, please email me!

Our Family far

Wendy's Family Tree

Jones, Sage, Dando, Nott, Cooper, Edmunds, Easlea - just to name a few

Robert Stubbins

  Dando - One Name Study

  The Sage Pages

 My Prairie Ancestors

Please email if you have a family connection

Dave's Family Tree

Cornwall, Yorkshire and Norfolk, so far

Stevens, Watling, Hobbs, Jacka, Fitt, Oatey, Otley, Firstbrook - just to name a few

Where is Vancouver Island?

Introduction from "The Volumes Of The Black Country"

From Brierley Hill to Vancouver's Island

In the mid-nineteenth century, steam was reaplacing sail as the motive power in the navies of the world.  Because of this, Chief Factor James Douglas of the Hudson's Bay Fort, established at Victoria in 1843, became interested in coal.  He could forsee that the Company could supply the many navy ships being stationed on the coast.  He also needed coal for the Company blacksmiths' forges and for the Hudson's Bay ship, the Beaver, which at that time was still a wood-burning vessel.  Douglas also knew that the Americans had been searaching for coal since the mid 1830's.

Early discoveries at the north end of Vancouver's Island had led to the establishment of Fort Rupert in 1849.  The Company brought out a Scottish miner, John Muir, as oversman.  He came on the Harpooner with various members of his family, all destined to work the recently discovered coal fields.  However, the venture at Fort Rupert was not successful and this failure was responsible for the development of Colviletown, now Nanaimo.

When reports came to Victoria concerning Fort Rupert's problems, Douglas's clerk, Joseph McKay, remembered an old Indian named Che-wich-i-kan who had come to Fort Victoria to have his gun repaired and that he had told of burning black stones where he lived.  He was asked to bring in some samples. After a winter of illness, in April 1850 he brought south a canoe load of good coal.  In May, McKay was sent to investigate and found a source of excellent coal.  In 1852 when it was evident that Fort Rupert could not supply the needed coal,  McKay returned to the area and his favourable report influenced Douglas to visit the regions and claim the mines for the Hudson's Bay Company.

The miners were then brought from Fort Rupert to Nanaimo at serveral different times.  Among them were Boyd Gilmour, three Muirs - John Sr. & Jr. and Alexander, engineer Andrew Hunter, Robert Dunsmuir, the two Work brothers, William Isbister, the French brothers Adam and Archibald, Alexander Papley, John McGregor, Edward Walker, Emanual (Bob) Wiles, Harry Sampson, James Stove and Raymond, the blacksmith.  The wives came on a later boat.  They included Joanna Dunsmuir and three children, Mary Hunter and her children, Margaret Work, Mrs. French and some First Nation girls who cohabited with some of the bachelors.  Most of them married these men and raised fine families.  One early visitor to Nanaimo stated their houses were neater than some of the miners.  There are also some French Canadians and some Kanakas.

That year, Leo Labine and Jean Baptiste Fortier, expert axemen, came to construct a protective bastion, similar to what they had built at other forts.  Ovid Allard came with his family to look after the Indian labour, Francois Cote came to build houses, Joseph Despard Pemberton and his Chinese helper, Udbe, came to survey and John Malcolm to tend stores.  Several Metis canoemen came to provide transportation to Victoria. Independently, Magnus Edgar and Thomas Degnen came in search of land, but first worked as miners.  So began the community of Nanaimo or Nanymo, as name suggested by Pemberton which was a corruptionof the Indian word Sne-ny-mo, which meant a strong tribe made up of five Indian bands who wintered in the area.

Needing more men for the mine, and to fill their obligation to the British Parliament to encourage settlement, the Company placed an advertisement in English papers to recruit miners and their families to work on Vancouver's Island.  Many English families were aleady familiar with possibilities of emigration, for James Conner had toured the country between 1847 - 1853 in a stage coach advertising America.  He stopped in many small towns, including some in the Industrial Black Country, talking to the local people about the clean air, pure water, available land, and easily obtainable game for food.  His promises were tempting to the Black Country miners who worked long hours for low wages in unhealthy conditions at work and at home.  The scarcity of food, the lack of adequate housing, many mine accidents and wide unemployment due to the growth of the urban population during the Industrial Revolution were all factors that entered into the decision to emigrate to a place where there was a chance for a better life for their children if not for themselves.

Want more information?
Please contact Nanaimo Community Archives

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