The #HollowNet LIVE

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Finding The Holloways


In the early 19th century, sometime between 1800 and 1830 the Holloway brothers arrived at the small fishing village of Catalina, Newfoundland, my Grandfather Clarence Holloway was born, raised and lived his early adulthood in St. John’s starting in 1926. Everything I don’t know for certain happened between.  From what I’ve been able to gather I’m descended from the rather prolific Bonavista Bay branch of the Holloways, and therein lies the rub. There is an expression in Newfoundland to describe uncertain familial relations “I’m tangled up with dat crowd somehow” and for my situation it’s quite apt.

In his GENEALOGY OF THE ABANDONED SETTLEMENTS OF BARROW HARBOUR, LITTLE HARBOUR, BROOM CLOSE AND SAILOR'S ISLAND, BONAVISTA BAY., W. Roy Babstock tells us:"The most rapid natural increase (about 50 births) occurred in the 1840s and 1850s, with the population peaking at nearly 100 in 1860. About 35-40 children were born into 5 different HOLLOWAY families and 4 MATCHIM families during this span."            

 It was after Babstock’s “most rapid natural increase” that my Great Grandfather Wilfred was born in 1899. As a result of large families begetting large families with a healthy sprinkling of good fortune the population of Holloways living around Bonavista Bay positively exploded throughout the 19th and into the 20th century centered around Musgravetown, Bloomfield and Lethbridge and to a lesser extent at White Rock and Red Cliff Island  where William Holloway’s plantation stood.

The Holloway line endured the staggering losses Newfoundland suffered in the First World War (represented in Wilfrid Holloway, Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Nicholas Holloway, Newfoundland Naval Reserve respectively) through World War II and into the baby boom which further swelled the size of the family.I was first able to locate my Great Grandparents in the 1935 Census of St. John’s  which showed that Wilfred and his wife Alice Holloway (nee Hoddinott of Greenspond) lived in Portland, Newfoundland on Bonavista Bay up to 1921 when their first daughter Ina Louise was born. This would turn out to be a rather large discovery as in 1922 it’s recorded that Wilfred’s eldest son, my Great Uncle Lloyd was born in St. John’s. To the layman observer (as I was at that time) this seemed minor, only after a more in depth study of Newfoundland’s culture did the significance of this moment hit me: in 1921-22 Wilfred Holloway ceased to be a bayman like so many of his fathers before him, and his sons and future daughters would grow up “In Town”. It was at this time that Wilfred’s listed profession changed from fisherman to laborer indicating that the transformation was not merely geographic but vocational and cultural as well.

The 19th century Holloways are where my focus lies presently, this is where the line has become “tangled”. Babstock referred to a population of nearly 35-40 children spread over five major family groups as of 1860. The question is: Which one is mine? Records during this time focused mainly around baptism as civil record keeping did not standardize until the mid 1890’s. And even then the new civil lists simply integrated the older parish lists. The trouble there is that some of the Holloways in those days converted from the United Church to the Methodist Church where some of them received baptism again. See? “Tangled”.

The best fruits of my research, located the origin of the first name “Leslie” passed on into its fourth iteration with my little brother Leslie Clarence Holloway III this and weeks of poring over marriage and baptism lists, eliminating false positives seem to indicate that Wilfred was the son of James M & Rebecca Holloway (nee Greening of Musgravetown) and brother of Leslie B. Holloway of White Rock, where James was born in 1863. Further digging showed me that James’ father was William Holloway of Red Cliff as shown in his 1898 marriage record. An examination of the will of Charles Quinton in 1855 revealed his dispensation of fishing equipment to his sons stored “Near William Holloway’s Plantation on Red Cliff Island”.Combined with the emergence of the “Leslie” first name: Why is Red Cliff Island important? This is where family lore comes into play.

As a child I recall my Grandfather Clarence Leslie (Originally Leslie Clarence), my father Leslie Clarence Holloway Jr. and in 2013 my eldest surviving Great Aunt Madeline telling of how the Holloways were a proud fishing family and were once quite well off in Newfoundland having received a large grant of land from the crown that had to be abandoned due to a storm in the late 1800’s and which to date no one has reclaimed… I was only missing the name: Red. Cliff. Island. And sure enough records show the area surrounding Red Cliff Island repeatedly struck by Hurricanes in 1866, 1873, 1886, 1891 and again in 1893. Five direct hits in as many decades would make a convincing case for a family to abandon the Island for the relative safety and prosperity of the southern Bonavista bay.According to satellite images several buildings in severely dilapidated condition still stand on Red Cliff Island, but from what I can tell the island is at present: unpopulated. Could this be the “Holloway Estate” granted us by King George IV or King William IV, or possibly even the legendarily generous Queen Victoria? And what great service would warrant such a gift?

 Enter Commodore-Governor of Newfoundland (1821-1835) and veteran of three wars Admiral John Holloway. Admiral Holloway’s immediate family is easy to find in the British Census of the day, however, records of his siblings and cousins have not survived and his only son died heirless. Which begs the question: are the Holloways of Bonavista Bay a cadet branch of the ennobled Holloway line? Were the original two brothers the Bonavista Holloways tell of: William and Steven Holloway? Were these two who appear in Newfoundland records at Catalina in 1805 brothers or cousins of Admiral Holloway? Perhaps nephews even?

The very proliferation of the Holloways throughout the 19th century seems to suggest wealth and political favour, whereas so many other families either barely survived those tumultuous times or even went extinct entirely: the Holloways flourished and still do today. We number in the hundreds perhaps thousands still concentrated most tightly on Bonavista Bay, and spread further to St. John’s where my Grandfather’s family reposes, to the Day-Holloways of Hamilton, Ontario children of my Great Uncle Graham, the New Jersey Holloways of my father’s generation, the Virginia Holloways: my younger brother and sisters and finally the Arizona Holloways, my wife, my older sister, my sons and I.

In my fascination (nay obsession) with learning what seemed to be the cryptic mystery of the Holloway line, I unexpectedly developed a deep love of Newfoundland’s history and culture. Everything from Lief Erikson’s Vikings to the Governorship of Admiral John Holloway, the formation of the Fishermen’s Union on through the political transitions from Crown Colony to Dominion into the Government Commission and finally Confederation absolutely fascinate me. From my own conservative political inclinations the decision of Newfoundland to abolish responsible government in favor of a Crown commission is an amazing contrast to the American colonial history culminating in our independence, no less fascinating or enthralling either. When faced with overwhelming political corruption versus the moral certainty of Crown rule, Newfoundlanders embraced the Crown which speaks extraordinarily to what I perceive to be deeply traditional values.I believe I’ve finally solved the riddle to a certain extent, though I’m still quite “tangled” with my “cousins” on the bay as I’ve come to call them for lack of a more precise term. Today I’ll ply the Phoenix freeways home with my Great Big Sea playlist running, I’ll try to figure out how to properly prepare Codfish, and tonight I’ll sing my boys to sleep with what’s become their favorite lullaby I’se the b’y.

I’ve found the Holloways and learned that while I’m certainly a mainlander, I am none-the-less the son of a Newfoundlander’s son. To the Bonavista Bay Holloways, me b’ys I say: I’ll drop over ‘round by and by, Stay where you’re at ‘till I comes where your to.

Top Photo Credit https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Tango7174

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