Tuesday, August 20, 2019

One in Every Family – 30 Babies!

November 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Family History

Isabel Woodland Irvine - Family Historian

Isabel Woodland - Nurse's Graduation 1925

There is a certain type of individual that is drawn to recording one’s family history.

As I see it, family historians tend to be curious people.  They sense the importance of recording what has happened in the past.  And they tend to be collectors.

My grandmother Isabel (Woodland) IRVINE (1898 – 1989) was all of these.   She was a true family historian.

And Grandma had another talent.  She was a writer.

She would have never considered herself a writer in the true sense of the word as she scribbled out her recollections of homesteading and nursing in Saskatchewan. As far as she was concerned, she was recording the family history for posterity so it wouldn’t get lost as memories faded and people passed on.

But she was a writer.  She wrote in a warm conversational style as if she was sitting across the kitchen table from you as she recounted her stories.

Irvine Family Farm Yard, 20 miles SW of Young Sask, 1950s

Irvine Family Farm Yard, 20 miles SW of Young Sask, 1950s

Here are Isabel’s words about a stay in the small town of Young, Saskatchewan while her husband Bill Irvine was away for a few days.

“Sometime between two and four a.m. a knock came on the door.  They wanted me to come quickly because there was a sick woman at Mrs. Oakenfold’s and she couldn’t get in touch with the doctor.  I hustled down a couple of blocks and was just in time to deliver a son for the wife of Mr. Carlson, the local butcher.  When everything was over, Dr. Cook arrived from a hockey game in Watrous.

After delivering the baby in Young, I realized I would probably be asked to act as a midwife in the “Hills”, a name given to the area covering the Providence and Meuse School Districts.  I contacted the doctors in the surrounding towns:  Davidson, Neaston, Hanley, Young, Watrous and Simpson.  I wanted permission from them to take charge of the maternity cases in the Hills.

I received the okay from all of the doctors and, in addition they agreed to come if I needed them. As the closest doctor was twenty miles away with no cars or telephones, I knew there wasn’t much chance of getting help from town.  (This was between 1926 and 1936).

During this ten year period after my arrival at the homestead, I delivered thirty babies without a doctor or an anesthetic.  This was in the depression during the Thirties and I collected $10.00 to use for buying medical supplies.”

What a story!  Not only was Grandma a remarkable family historian and writer, she was a remarkable woman.  She delivered 30 babies for her neighbours and friends during a time when services were few and far between.

Even more remarkable, Grandma helped deliver me! (several decades later, of course!)

Joan Kerr, Isabel Irvine, Betty Kerr

Baby Joan (the now grown up writer of this blog), Grandma Irvine and Joan's Mom Betty

We would not have this wonderful story today if Grandma hadn’t thought it important to record her experiences.

My Uncle Bob and I shared her words in the Women Pioneers of Saskatchewan Book 1 published in 2009.  Our biggest challenge was to condense all of the material Grandma had written in order to meet the publication guidelines.  Oh, that every genealogist and family historian would have such a problem!

Grandma…..Thank you for being “The One”.


This post is part of Carnival of Genealogy’s 100th Edition – There is One in Every Family.  Congratulations to Creative Gene for 100 Editions of Carnival of Genealogy!


18 Responses to “One in Every Family – 30 Babies!”
  1. How wonderful to have all of that written for you and many more generations to reference.

  2. Hi Terri,
    It is wonderful! We are so fortunate to have all of her stories.
    Thanks for visiting.


  3. Gini Webb says:

    Joan ~
    I think your Grandma was a lovely writer, my kind of story teller! I sure wish that my ancestors had kept a journal or diary, but none have been found as of yet. You are very fortunate to have had a grandma that shared her life for you to read and learn about.

    Thank you for sharing your sweet and wonderful Grandma with us. She sure was the one!
    Gini Webb´s last [type] ..Happy Birthday Emma

  4. Xenia says:

    Hi Joan,

    Your grandmother is a great inspiration!

    The sister of the grandmother on my Ukrainian half wrote her memories, but some descendants believe much of it is fiction! Still it was wonderful for me to read because I was born after my grandmother and her sister had died. It helped me gain a sense of how difficult their life was in this promised land. My grandmother on my Austrian half told me the stories and I wrote them down. So I guess we are the ones to record the present for our future generations.

  5. Joan, your grandmother sounds like a fantastic woman. I certainly hope you were able to know her as you grew up. Wonderful that you have her hand written stories.

  6. Having given birth at home with a midwife myself I can tell you it is not always an uncomplicated affair! I would love to see your grandma’s “uncondensed” version!

  7. Hi Cheryl,
    Grandma was truly a fantastic women. She and I had a special bond. I was the oldest grandchild and she made us all feel very special. We were indeed fortunate to have her in our lives until 4 days short of her 90th birthday.
    Thanks for visiting.


  8. Hi Xenia,
    Thanks, Grandma was a great inspiration! She would have loved the internet and all the connections we make here.
    I’m glad you have some writings and stories from your grandmothers.

    Thanks for commenting.

  9. Lisa,
    You are right! There were stories about complications – cords around the neck, breech births. One of the challenges was keeping the babies warm in an farm house with no central heating, other than a wood or coal stove. Grandma said she used a wooden box filled with blankets and placed on the opened oven door as a warming area for the baby (closely monitored I assume!).

    She said it was rewarding to see all of those babies grow up to be fine young men and women.

    Thanks for visiting.


  10. Amy Coffin says:

    Wonderful story, Joan! Thanks for sharing about your “one.”
    Amy Coffin´s last [type] ..COG 100- Theres One in Every Family

  11. Thanks Amy. Grandma was definitely one of a kind!


  12. What a heartwarming story! It made my day. Thank you.
    Michelle Goodrum´s last [type] ..Mesa Family History Expo Registration

  13. Michelle,
    Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to visit!


  14. Nancy says:

    Oh, that every current family historian could have such remembrances as your grandmother wrote! I wonder if she went so far as to record every birth, date, time, male/female, etc. She sounds like a great woman!
    Nancy´s last [type] ..I Love Being Found!

  15. Hi Nancy,
    We are indeed fortunate to have Grandma’s stories. Apparently there was a list of every baby she delivered. I’m not sure where it is now.
    Thanks for dropping by.


  16. T.K. says:

    Joan, what a great story! You’re so fortunate to have had such a grandmother!

  17. Hi T.K.
    I had a special bond with her too as I was the oldest granddaughter. I loved spending time with her.

    Thanks for visiting.



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  1. One in Every Family – 30 Babies! | Luxegen Genealogy and Family History…

    There is ONE in every family – read what 30 babies had to do with the One in Joan’s family. 100th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy…

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