top of page

The Jeffs and Hubbard family

From Fletton to Toronto in the Early 1900s


Fletton and Migration


My ancestor’s story began in 1907 when the eldest son of a brickyard labourer from Fletton and his wife who was the youngest daughter of a railway worker from Woodstone emigrated to Toronto with their two young sons. What their great-granddaughter learned when she began exploring their story was that, like so many other migrants, they didn’t come alone - they were part of a group of brothers and brothers-in-laws who set out for Canada. I would like to thank Dr. Sadie McMullon, for introducing me to Fletton and for her very helpful information, comments and suggestions for this write-up.


The couple in question married in Peterborough in the county of Huntingdon on June 4 1902. The groom, Thomas W. Jeffs, was the son of George and Naomi (Coles) Jeffs who lived in Old Fletton at 171 High Street. The bride, Annie E. Hubbard, was the daughter of Thomas and Keziah (Chambers) Hubbard who lived in Woodstone at 254 Oundle Road. The ceremony was probably held in Annie’s parish church of St. Augustine’s in Woodstone.

Jeffs 1_edited.jpg

Fletton and Woodstone were important brick making areas at this time and many of the brickyard owners in Fletton also owned brickyards in Woodstone. The parishes were closely linked and in fact, marriage was often a way that communities integrated with one another. We don’t know how Thomas W. and Annie met, but a connection to the brickyards may have been key.  Thomas W. and his brothers worked in the brickyards and although Annie’s father and some of her brothers were railway workers several other brothers worked in the brickyards too. This was not an unusual situation since if a family had several sons, they would often work in different occupations to spread the risk of a downturn in one industry. The photo shows Thomas W. Jeffs’ great-granddaughter near his family home on High Street, Old Fletton during a visit from Canada.

The specific reasons why Annie and Thomas W. Jeffs decided to leave the brickyards of Fletton and settle in Toronto Canada are now lost, but five factors are worth considering.

1. The brick industry in general has boom and bust years, and the Peterborough area was no exception. A 1901 strike over wages at the London Brick Company was followed by a 1902 strike at the Fletton Crown yard at Yaxley which was then followed by a longer strike at the London Brick Company. Mechanization was introduced at this stage and by 1907 some yards were doing well but others closed down. A brickyard man like Thomas W. with a young growing family might worry about job security.


2. Both Annie’s father and Thomas’ father had moved their families several times, presumably for work opportunities, so it would seem natural to this couple to also look outside of Fletton for more stable working conditions.

3. In the early 1900s the Canadian government and Canadian businesses were actively seeking British immigrants. The government wanted people to settle in the Western provinces, businesses wanted both skilled workers and cheap labour, and domestic servants were needed in the cities and on the farms. It would be natural for Thomas and Annie to consider Canada when discussing a possible new home.


4. The city of Toronto was a well-known brick-producing centre. The Don Valley Brick Works won prizes for their bricks at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and the Toronto Industrial Fair in 1894. In 1906 the American publication Clay-Worker Magazine published an article “Among Toronto Clayworkers” which described many of the city’s more than 25 brickyards. The Canadian Clayworkers’ Convention was also held in Toronto that year. By 1907 the Don Valley Brick Works was producing between 85,000 and 100,000 bricks per day. Thomas’ brickyard experience would be an asset in any of the Toronto brickyards.


5. The need for bricks in Toronto was growing at a fast pace. A major fire in 1904 destroyed many downtown buildings and led to a ban on wood being the primary material for construction. The population of Toronto grew from 210,000 in 1900 to over 300,000 in 1907. Over that same period, the number of building permits granted in Toronto grew from 678 in 1900 to 3,572 in 1907. The need for bricks, and brickyard workers like Thomas was likely to continue for a long time.


Often when someone decides to immigrate to a new country, they already have a connection to that country. Although Thomas and Annie seem to be the first of their family to leave for Canada, they may have had friends, neighbours or more distant relatives already living there sending home news about life in Canada and work in the Toronto brickyards.

Arrival, Occupation, and Integration


In the early 1900s most immigrants from Europe bound for North America sailed from Liverpool in steerage (also called third class). At that time, the ocean voyage from Liverpool to Canada took seven to eight days. After disembarking at one of the Canadian ports all passengers passed through immigration. Whether they landed in Halifax, St. John, Quebec, or Montreal those bound for Toronto still had a long train journey of hundreds of kilometres before reaching their final destination. Often a special train was laid on for the passengers at the port of entry.


In March of 1907 Thomas and Annie came to Toronto with four other families and single men. Can you imagine the adults discussing the pros and cons of leaving the Peterborough area and moving to Toronto? Surely, they had favorable information from friends or neighbours already in Canada about the advantages to be gained before such a large group agreed to set out together. Thomas was a bricklayer, and the others were general labourers so the Toronto brickyards would need their skills. By travelling as a group, they could rely on each other if they ran into difficulties and pool their resources once there if necessary. These advantages had to be balanced against living far away from parents and siblings who would not see their grandchildren, nieces and nephews grow up.


Thomas and Annie were both from large families who shared many names that are easy to confuse, for example Annie had a brother Charles Herbert Hubbard and Thomas had a brother Herbert Charles Jeffs. Here is a list of the 12 brothers/brothers-in-law who emigrated to Canada, along with their occupations and the names of their wives and children when they left England.

Jeffs 2.JPG

The planning to make sure everyone was ready to leave when the ship docked in Liverpool must have been intense. They sailed on the Ionian from Liverpool and landed in Halifax on March 17 1907. Onboard were Annie and Thomas W. Jeffs and their two young children Reginald and Jack; Annie’s older brother Moses Hubbard and his wife Mary Ann; and three of their single brothers, Arthur Jeffs, Robert Hubbard and John Hubbard. After passing through immigration in Halifax the whole group boarded a train to continue their journey. Robert Hubbard and John Hubbard had tickets for Montreal, 1350 km from Halifax. The rest of the group had tickets to Toronto, a further 500 km down the line. Annie must have been glad to have her sister-in-law Mary Ann on the voyage with her to help keep the children, safe and occupied. The ticket numbers for each family (75205, 75206, 75207 and 75212) show it is likely they were all purchased the same day, just one of the many details the group had to plan before leaving.


Only five months later another group of Jeffs and Hubbards arrived in Toronto. This time they traveled on the Virginian. The ship left Liverpool on August 16 and landed in Quebec on August 23. On board were George Edward Jeffs, his wife Sophia and their daughter Hilda May, as well as two single men, Herbert Charles Jeffs and Charles Herbert Hubbard. After passing through immigration, they boarded a train to Toronto, a 725 km ride away. Once again, the ticket numbers (75247, 75248, 75250) show that travelling as a group was planned. Their occupations, city labourer, brick maker, and brick labourer, provided the skills the Toronto brickyard owners would be looking to hire.


The stories these two groups sent home over the next three years must have been positive because each year one more family arrived in Toronto. The married men travelled ahead of their wives and children and the bachelors left England when they were 18. With family members already settled in Toronto they would arrive well advised on where to find a job, how much things cost, and how to handle the snowy winters and hot summers and possibly an offer of a roof over their heads until they can secure lodgings.

The last to arrive is also the only family member to make a winter crossing. Up until 1964 ice closed the Montreal harbour each winter. To encourage captains to reach the harbour as soon as possible each year after the ice melts the city of Montreal awards a gold headed cane to the first ship to dock in spring. In Toronto a similar ceremony takes place where the first captain of an oceangoing vessel to dock at the harbour in spring is awarded a beaver hat.


When they arrive most of the Jeffs and Hubbards settle in the east end of Toronto in the Leslieville neighbourhood. At the time this is a new, growing community near many small brickyards so the men have a steady supply of work, and their wives can set up house in newly constructed homes. Leslieville is at the end of the electric streetcar, or tram, line so the residents also have transportation to downtown Toronto.


By 1921 a dozen first-generation Canadians have been born and all the mothers and babies survived childbirth. Tragically one of the children was involved in a streetcar accident. Thomas’ brother and sister-in-law, Earnest and Eva Jeffs, lost their five-year-old son Stanley on May 11 1912 when he died in the Toronto General Hospital from his injuries.

Jeffs 3.JPG

(Four generations of Jeffs. In the centre, Thomas William Jeffs born 1879 in Perry, Huntingdon holds his great-grandson William Edward Jeffs, second-generation Canadian, born 1955 in Kingston Ontario. To the left is Thomas’ son John (Jack) Edward Jeffs, born 1904 in Fletton UK and to the right is his grandson Donald Norman Jeffs, first-generation Canadian, born 1931 in Toronto Ontario.)

Despite the families thriving in Toronto, it wasn’t for everyone. Annie’s youngest brother Frank Hubbard arrived in Canada in March 1911 and only stayed in Toronto a few months before boarding a train for western Canada as a labourer in August. The Canadian government advertised for settlers in the West up until 1906 and settlers could apply for land grants when they arrived. Frank received a land grant of 160 acres in the province of Saskatchewan on August 13, 1919 where he settled permanently. Perhaps going west to be a farmer was his goal when he set out from England. Charles Hubbard returned to England in 1911, George Jeffs and his family emigrated to the States in 1923 and family stories say Leonard Jeffs also left Canada for the States.

In general, it was quite common for a single man to emigrate and when he was settled to send for his sweetheart. All of our bachelors who stayed in Canada married. Some found spouses who were born near Toronto and others found spouses born in England. In one case a bachelor’s plan to send for his sweetheart may have been turned on its head by the war. Surprisingly, most of the spouses from England were born in the Peterborough area. Or perhaps this is not surprising given the importance of finding a spouse with shared life experiences. Once again, the names can be confusing: amongst our families are two wives named Mary Ann, two wives named Annie and two husbands named Robert. Table 2 provides a list of the post-immigration brides and grooms. As we shall see, these marriages include a widow who becomes a sister-in-law, a sister-in-law who becomes a widow, a wedding that takes place in England and a late-in-life match.

Jeffs 4.JPG

Looking into the details of Robert Hubbard’s marriage to widow Mary Ann Snow uncovers surprising information. Mary Ann (Woods) Snow was born in Fletton, and she married Robert Snow in 1904. Robert Snow was born in Stanground in 1882 and surprisingly, he and Thomas W. Jeffs live side by side at their parent’s homes in Persimmon Terrace on High Street in Fletton, both working in the brickyards. In August 1907 Robert leaves Liverpool not just on the same ship as the second group of Hubbards and Jeffs, but as part of the group - his ticket number 75249 fills the gap in their ticket numbers (75247, 75248 and 75250).


This raises the very important question: Did other young families from Fletton or Stanground travel with or follow the Jeffs and Hubbards to Canada? And were the Jeffs and Hubbards themselves following friends and family?

Mary Ann is not onboard with her husband, but nine months later she and their 10-month of son Jack sail on the Virginian and arrive in Quebec on May 2. Perhaps Mary Ann didn’t make the voyage with Robert the year before because she had just had the baby or because one of them was sick. She and Jack take a second-class cabin which is very unusual as most immigrants traveled in third class at this time. Perhaps Annie Jeffs recounted her story of crossing the Atlantic with two young boys to Mary Ann who then decided that because she was travelling alone with an infant the extra cost of a second-class cabin would be money well spent. Mary Ann and Jack continue their journey by train to join Robert in Toronto.

(Annie and Thomas W. Jeffs’ headstone in Toronto Ontario.)


The Jeffs and Hubbard families often chose to live close to each other. In the 1911 census Hastings Avenue was home to Moses and Mary Ann Hubbard, Thomas and Annie Jeffs, Earnest and Eva Jeffs and bachelor Herbert Jeffs. Thomas and Annie Jeffs are next-door neighbours with Robert and Mary Ann Snow. On Ashdale Avenue, only a 12-minute walk from Hasting Avenue, George and Sophia Jeffs live across the street from Arthur and Margaret Jeffs. All the men work in the brickyards except for Arthur Jeffs who is a plumber.

By the early 1920s things have changed. Arthur Jeffs and Earnest Jeffs live side-by-side in a new Toronto neighbourhood in the east called East Danforth. They are only a 15-minute streetcar ride away from Hasting Avenue. Three of the families still living on Hastings Avenue own their homes:  Thomas and Annie Jeffs, Robert and Mary Ann (Snow) Hubbard, and William and Mary Ann (Reedshaw) (Hubbard) Woodin. Several of the men

Jeffs 5.JPG

have new occupations: Herbert Charles Jeffs is a mechanic, Earnest Jeffs is a driver, John Hubbard is a carpenter, Robert Hubbard is an operator, and his wife Mary Ann is a Housekeeper. In Old Fletton many of the brickyards provided housing to their workers so a change of company could also mean having to move house. Perhaps house ownership was another advantage that brought the Jeffs and Hubbards to Toronto.


By 1921 many people had changed their occupations after acquiring new skills during WWI but several of the Hubbard and Jeffs men changed their occupations before they went to war. During the 1910s the local need for mechanical skills in Leslieville was increasing. The brickyards were doing well and were becoming more and more mechanized, a streetcar house opened to the south and manufacturing plants opened to the west. By 1910 Toronto had an estimated 8000 automobiles and the number continued to climb, creating a need for garages and mechanics.



The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) was the entire overseas force fielded by Canada during the First World War. Of the 630,000 Canadians who enlisted for military service, 424,000 went overseas as part of the CEF. Three of them were sons of George and Naomi Jeffs of Fletton and four of them were sons of Thomas and Keziah Hubbard of Woodstone.


In 1901 both families have seven sons living at home and the families are joined together in 1902 when Thomas W. Jeffs marries Annie E. Hubbard. Twelve Jeffs and Hubbard brothers and brothers-in-law immigrate to Canada along with their families between 1907 and the outbreak of war. By the end of the war seven of these Hubbard and Jeffs men enlisted or were called up.

Jeffs 6.JPG

The first to sign up are brothers John Hubbard and Fred Hubbard. They travel 400 km from Toronto to Ottawa to submit their Attestation papers on August 24, 1914. Their regimental numbers are 129 and 130 so they must have been among the very first to sign up. They are both in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) in France. Princess Patricia was the daughter of the then Governor General of Canada, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. They both sail on the S.S. Royal George on October 4 1914, for Southampton.


John Hubbard is working as a mechanic when he enlists, having served in the South African Constabulary (S.A.C.) for 5 years, is single and lists his mother Keziah Hubbard of Oundle Road, Woodstone as his next-of-kin. On August 15 1914, the Toronto Daily Star reports “JOHN HUBBARD of 240 Hastings Avenue is a modest man. He possesses King’s and Queen’s medals and six clasps for his part in the Boer War, but absolutely refused to talk about his experiences.” He embarks for Canada on April 12 1919 and is discharged on April 23 1919 in Toronto. His proposed residence after discharge is on Hastings Avenue at the home of his sister Annie Jeffs. In 1921 at the age of 44 he marries Lillian Ruddy – the marriage certificate gives his occupation as carpenter. He passes away April 5, 1950 in Toronto.

When he enlists, Fred Hubbard is working as a butler-valet, is married and lists his wife Winifred Hubbard as his next-of-kin. Their address is No. 2 Mackenzie Ave. Rosedale. Rosedale is a very affluent neighbourhood in Toronto and the owner of No. 2 was Walter Scott Waldie, the son-in-law of Sir Edward Kemp who was Minister of Militia and Defence and Minister of Overseas Military Forces during WWI. It seems likely that Fred was Walter’s butler-valet and perhaps Winifred was employed by the Waldie family too.


Prior to enlisting, Fred had 7 years of service with the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards. He is a Private when he enlists and is promoted to Corporal on March 21 1915 and then Sergeant on April 10 1915. He is killed in action on May 4 1915 near Ypres. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial as one of the 55,000 British and Commonwealth men who were lost without trace during the defence of the Ypres Salient in the First World War.


Winifred travels to England while Fred is overseas. Some of the places she stays during the war include her sister-in-law Annie Jeffs’ home in Toronto before setting sail, Wales, her country of birth, and Wiltshire. It is unlikely she returns to Canada as she passes away in 1938 in Worcestershire.


The next to sign up is farmer Frank Hubbard on October 23 1914 in Regina, Saskatchewan. He lists his father Thomas Hubbard as his next-of-kin. He is a Private and just like John and Fred, he too serves with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) in France. His unit sails on the S.S. Northland on May 29 1915. In July 1916 his pay is reassigned to his mother, probably after the death of his father Thomas.


While he is overseas Frank marries Annie W. Garratt in August of 1917. Annie was born in Peterborough. After their marriage she first lives with her family in Peterborough and moves several times within England during his service, with the last address in Exeter. We don’t know how Annie and Frank met but several possibilities come to mind. They may have been a couple before Frank left for Canada with plans to marry when Frank was established, or they may have met or renewed their friendship when he returned to England and France as a soldier.


Frank is discharged May 27 1919 and his proposed residence after discharge is the small village of Truax in Saskatchewan. Annie arrives in Canada before him on May 22 1919 on the Grampian. He and Annie settle in Truax Saskatchewan, and he receives a Land Grant for 160 acres on August 13 1919. Frank passes away in 1972 in Saskatchewan.


In February 1916 brothers-in-law and neighbours Robert Hubbard and Thomas W. Jeffs enlist. When they sign up Robert and Thomas are both in the militia with the 12th Regiment York Rangers, they both serve with the 127th York Rangers Battalion in France, and they sail out together on August 22 1916 on the S.S. Olympic. The 127th York Rangers Battalion was redesignated the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops.


Robert enlists February 17 1916. He is a janitor, and his next-of-kin is his wife Mary Ann. He lists his children: Jack Snow (8), Kathleen Snow (5) and Freda Patricia Hubbard (1). Robert became step-father to Jack and Kathleen when he married Robert Snow’s widow Mary Ann in August of 1913. Robert serves as a Private, Corporal and Sergeant. He is shipped back on the H.M.T. Minnekahda and is discharged in Toronto on March 29 1919. His proposed residence after discharge is his home on Hastings Ave, next door to his sister Annie Jeffs and his friend Thomas W. Jeffs. Robert passes away August 8, 1955 in Toronto.


Thomas W. Jeffs enlists February 26 1916. His occupation is shipper, his next-of-kin is his wife Annie E, and his children are Reginald (13), Jack (11), Ray (5). He is listed as a SAPPER, which is a rank in the Canadian Engineers. As railway troops, they build railway lines and other structures. And so, like many other men in the war, Thomas W. learns new skills, in his case he switches from brickyards to railyards.

Thomas is shipped back on March 29 1919 on H.M.T. Caronian and he is discharged in Toronto April 8 1919. His proposed residence after discharge is his home on Hastings Ave, beside his brother-in-law Robert Hubbard. He passes away January 16 1960 in Toronto.

Robert Hubbard and Thomas W. Jeffs may not have been the first pair of Hubbards and Jeffs to go to war together. In Huntingdon at the corner of George Street and High Street, next to All Saints Church Yard lies the memorial erected to the Huntingdonshire men who died in the Boer War (1899 – 1902). The Roll of Honor lists Arthur Henry Jeffs from Huntingdon and Arthur Hubbard from Ramsey.

They did not serve in the same units, but perhaps they knew each other and perhaps they were related to the Jeffs and Hubbards we are discussing here, especially Annie’s brother John Hubbard, a veteran of the Boer War.


Canada introduces conscription for WWI in 1917 with a promise that call-ups will not start until January 1918. All male citizens between the ages of 20 and 45 are now subject to military service, if called, for the duration of the war. Herbert Charles Jeffs is conscripted on January 9 1918, and Leonard James Jeffs is conscripted on May 25 1918.


Herbert Jeffs lists his occupation as chauffer and names his mother Naomi as his next-of-kin. At this time Naomi is widowed and Herbert applies for separation allowance for her as her sole support – citing a crippled brother as her only unmarried member of family. He serves in the 15th battalion Canadian Infantry in France and is discharged in Toronto on May 10, 1919. His proposed residence after discharge is the address on Hastings Avenue where he was boarding before the war. In the 40s he marries Grace Holman. He passes away in Toronto in 1971.


Leonard Jeffs lists his occupation as machinist and names his mother Naomi as his next of kin. He is also listed as single, which contradicts Herbert’s statement of January 9th that he, Herbert, was the only unmarried family member able to support his widowed mother. Leonard serves as a Gunner with the 85th Battery of the Canadian Field Artillery as part of the Siberian Expeditionary Force (SEF).


The SEF campaign was very controversial in Canada. Although the campaign was authorized before the end of WWI, the legality of sending men conscripted under the Military Services Act to Russia was questioned once the war ended and public protests were occurring across the country. A mutiny occurred on December 21 1918 when two companies of troops marching to the docks refused to continue the march. They were beaten and forced to continue, and the ship left harbor the next day. The campaign was short-lived, and the troops were evacuated between April and June of 1919. Charges against the mutineers were dropped.


Leonard’s service record is incomplete. He may have been transported to Russia, or he may have still been in the province of British Columbia when it was decided to disband all troops still in Canada. He is transferred out of the SEF on March 27 1919 to other units, and he is struck off on June 25 1919 cited as illegally absent. Proposed residence after discharge is missing from his records but family stories say he eventually changed his name and emigrated to the States.


Hastings Avenue pops up in the service records of many of these men and this street was home to Jeffs and Hubbards before, during and after the war. Four sisters-in-law lived there: Annie (Hubbard) Jeffs and Mary Ann (Snow) Hubbard raised their children side-by-side. The children could run down the street to play with their cousins, Eva (Church) Jeffs’ children. Mary Ann (Reedshaw) (Hubbard) Woodin was the fourth sister-in-law, and for a short time a fifth sister-in-law, Winifred (Willis) Hubbard, lived with Annie Jeffs before following her husband Fred to England.


These families were very fortunate to have so many of their men return home after the war,less than a dozen years after they first arrived in Canada to take up new employment opportunities and raise families in tight-knit communities. It seems clear that the story of the 1907 journey of Annie (Hubbard) and Thomas W. Jeffs has a prequel so their great-granddaughter will continue to explore the records, uncover more of the story and add new characters from Fletton and Peterborough to the cast

Thank you so much Janice for sharing your family history story with the Fletton website. It is fascinaitng to learn about Fletton's connections with Canada.

bottom of page