Moynahan Surnames

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Tomlins and Nickersons of Nova Scotia

As a family historian and genealogist, I know that there is only so far I can go in recreating the lives of our ancestors from paper records. The very best information about the lives of our ancestors is often found in the stories and conversations with their descendants and extended family.

In 2009, Carolyn Tomlin, (the grand daughter of Frank C. Tomlin (1882-1918) shared a lot of information about our Tomlin-Nickerson Nova Scotian roots and I have her permission to share it here.

Francis Clifford Tomlin's Headstone (1882-1918) 

Francis C. Tomlin's Headstone at Fairview Cemetery, Halifax, N.S.
(Source: Photo taken by Carolyn Tomlin)
The Tomlin story starts with this photo of a headstone that held clues to an otherwise unknown fact about Francis C. Tomlin (a tinsmith who worked at the Hillis Foundry, Halifax) and the Halifax Explosion of 1917. 

Carolyn explains:,
"This (head)stone is at Fairview Cemetery, Halifax. Francis C. Tomlin searched day and night through the ruins of north end Halifax and the next day's blizzard looking for bodies after the Halifax Explosion. He lost his daughter, mother-in-law, 4 sisters-in-law and their families; 3 brothers-in-law; all those who worked with him at Hillis Foundry where he was a tinsmith. He caught pneumonia, typhoid and then died of meningitis on March 21, 1918. The Halifax Relief commission refused to give his widow, Maggie, a survivor's pension and she was angry when she put the stone up - she made a point of carving in stone that he was a victim, putting the date of the explosion before the date of death."

 A scene following the Halifax Explosion. The Hillis & Sons Foundry is the building on the left
Creator: Unknown; Date: December 6, 1917
Reference No. MIKAN 3193301, 3624172 Library and Archives Canada, C-003624B
N.S. Archives Photo: Looking north toward Pier 8 from Hillis foundry after great explosion, Halifax, Dec. 6, 1917  Date: 1917    Reference no.: W.G. MacLaughlan Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1988-34 no. 14

Detail of Francis C. Tomlin's Headstone at Fairview Cemetery, Halifax, N.S.
Read "Injured By The Explosion Dec 6, 1917; Died Mar 21, 1918"
(Source: Billion Graves)

 Francis Clifford Tomlin (1882-1918) is Effie (Tomlin) Creighton's Brother
Our 2nd Great-Uncle

The tree above demonstrates how we are descended from Francis C. Tomlin

Carolyn said that when she was growing up "... in Halifax; our back yard shared a fence with my Dad's cousin Gladys (Melhuish) Garrison, whom ......was Effie Tomlin's daughter." See the picture below with Effie on the far right and Clyde Garrison (second from the left) who married Gladys Melhuish.
Photo from Barbara Huston Collection:
(L to R): Emily Creighton, Clyde Garrison, (my grandmother) Dorothy (Moreland) Creighton
and Effie (Tomlin) Creighton-Melhuish (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Photo from Doreen Evan Collection:
(L to R): Emily (Creighton) Rudge, Gladys (Melhuish) Garrison,
and Edith (Melhuish) Laidlaw

 A Missing Tomlin? Twin Albert Clarence Tomlin

According to Carolyn, a Tomlin is missing from our family tree: "Effie's third brother Albert, who left N.S. for Massachusetts. American census info indicates he lived in a boarding house, unmarried, and somewhere else I heard he worked in factory." 

When I looked, I found Albert at Family Search and he was a twin!
  • Twin boy: Albert Clarence Tomlin was born 12 Feb 1877 (Source:
    "Canada Births and Baptisms, 1661-1959," database, FamilySearch ( : 27 November 2014), Albert C. Tomlin, 12 Feb 1877; citing Halifax, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 12 Feb 1877, reference ; FHL microfilm 1,318,438.)
  • Twin girl: Frances C Tomlin was born 12 Feb 1877 (Source: "Canada Births and Baptisms, 1661-1959," database, FamilySearch ( : 27 November 2014), Frances C. Tomlin, 12 Feb 1877; citing Halifax, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 12 Feb 1877, reference ; FHL microfilm 1,318,438.)
I have been unable to locate the twin sister. She does not appear with him in the 1891 census so we can only assume that she died (a death record has not been located)

I did locate Albert. In the 1896 McAlpines Halifax Directory he is working as a cotton weaver and in Halifax at King's Place with his father Samuel.

 By 1918, Albert is living in Massachusetts and enlisting in the Army for World War I.

Massachusetts, World War I Selective Service System draft registration cards, 1917-1918) Film MASSACHUSETTS North Easton City, no. 41, T - Z Fairhaven City, no. 42, A - R

Source: "United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 14 May 2014), Massachusetts > image 136 of 652; citing NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

The Tomlin House

Carolyn wrote that "The whole family of Samuel & Emily appear in the 1881 Canadian census, under the name Twomlin on King St. Halifax. The house still exists, except it has been moved round the corner to Robie St. This happened when I was a teenager; my Dad pointed it out to me as his grandfather's house."

I checked the two following Wikipedia websites and could not see a house that fit this description.

I sent an email to Heritage Nova Scotia asking for assistance in locating this house (if it still stands) and I was redirected to the Nova Scotia Archives who responded:

"There was only one house part of James Dempster’s North End Planning Mill on the 1879 Hopkins City Atlas of Halifax, Plate No S. See Maps on our web site and you can look at the atlas.  The Goad Fire Insurance Plans of 1895, 1899, 1911 have a small two storey building or residence on the south side of the street.  By 1914, the house has a one storey addition at the rear. The street appears on the 1878 City Atlas but we did not find it laid out on the 1889, 1895, 1899 Goad Atlas. The 1911 atlas show the street but it is unnamed. The 1911 Atlas calls it Garrack Street.

We perused the Halifax City Directories on-line and found Samuel Tomlin listed as a labourer at 84 Grafton Street. By 1880, he is listed as a coal hawker and later as a coal carrier. The first year he resided on King’s Place is 1888 and his home was on the east side of the street. The only street in the area where that fits this description is Love’s Lane later known as Kings Lane and today is June Street. This street runs from Cunard to West and was originally a cow path.

Please forget the previous. We checked a 1901 Halifax City Directory and found Samuel Tomlin living on King Street which ran between North Street and St. Alban’s Street west of Robie Street. This is where Francis “Frank” G. Tomlin and his daughter Veronica Tomlin lived when they were killed as a result of the 1917 Halifax Explosion."

The Nickersons

The last of the oral history shared by Carolyn Tomlin is about the Nickersons:
" ....But Emily Tomlin was Emily Nickerson, daughter of James Nickerson & Esther Purdy.
Plug those names into the search engine on Ancestry, and it'll take you back to the 1500's in England.
The 1871 Census of Canada shows Emily - but Esther is dead by then and a stepmother is there; and in our home town of Clark's Harbour on Cape Sable Island there is the Archelaus Smith Museum, which has hand-written records of the local families, and one Emily Nickerson married to a Samuel Thomlin of Halifax. Voila! I have a picture of it which I can't lay my hands on, but I will find it.
The Nickersons came from Cape Cod after the expulsion of the Acadians to take over the Atlantic fishery."
Carolyn Tomlin concludes her message by saying, " I kept my Tomlin name when I married because I am literally the last of the Tomlins."
Halifax Explosion Postcards

I am grateful to another distant cousin (Doreen Evans) who is filling in more of the Nova Scotia gaps with wonderful photographs.

I have added four postcards below depicting the Halifax Explosion so that you can have a better idea about the conditions that poor Francis Tomlin searched for his lost family members. They are scanned from the photograph archive held by Doreen Evans (granddaughter of Effie Tomlin)

Daughter Veronica Tomlin died in Explosion

As you recall from the beginning of this post, "Francis C. Tomlin searched day and night through the ruins of north end Halifax and the next day's blizzard looking for bodies after the Halifax Explosion. He lost his daughter," and many, many other family members and co-workers.

You can view the death certificate and other information about his daughter Veronica Tomlin who died in the Halifax Explosion Dec. 6 , 1917 here: Veronica is buried st Mount Olivet Cemetery, Halifax, NS.

You will read from the photograph of her death certificate that she died from "shock due to injuries in explosion" which was the standard cause of death in most of these death records at the time of the explosion.

More Halifax Explosion Links
Another Explosion?

Doreen Evans also sent photographs of smoke clouds that appear to be coming from the opposite shore in Halifax and at first I thought they were related to the Halifax Explosion but then I looked more closely at the clothing in the photo below.

Above: Young folks walking with smoke visible in the background

You can see the young women above are wearing short dresses (below the knee) which would make it a different time period than the 1917 explosion. When I researched further, I came across a reference to the Halifax Explosion II. This referred to an explosion of munitions at the Magazine near Dartmouth, (The Bedford Magazine explosion) (July 18-19, 1945)

See The Other Halifax Explosion, Bedford Magazine, July 18-20, 1945". H. Millard Wright. Retrieved 2013-03-14.

Another view of the smoke
Above: Young Men in foreground looking at the smoke
 Cloud of smoke over the rooftops

I cant be entirely sure, but I believe these photographs may have been taken of the explosion of munitions at the Magazine near Dartmouth. If you have any thoughts, please add them to the comment section below.

Many thanks to distant cousins Carolyn Tomlin and Doreen Evans for helping to fill in the stories about the Tomlins, Nickersons and Melhuishes in Nova Scotia. There are so many more stories waiting to be told. Nova Scotia is a beautiful place with a wonderful history that I love to research.

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