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Mark Porteous, 1852/3-1933

I had very little information when I started looking into the life of Mark Porteous, one of my great-grandfather’s brothers. I knew that he was born in Reach Township in what is now known as the province of Ontario, Canada in 1852 or 1853. His parents were George Porteous and Margaret (née Stewart). Mark married Margaret Robinson in East Whitby, Ontario on April 5th, 1882. Here is how I was lucky enough to uncover further details about Mark and his family.

Winnipeg City Directories

I had been working in downtown Toronto, not far from the Central Reference Library. Often after finishing my day’s work, I would visit the 4th floor of the library and browse through their genealogy collections. One day, I picked up a copy of the 1909 Winnipeg, Manitoba city directory, and thumbed through looking for any ‘Porteous’ entries. There he was (or at least someone bearing the same name): Mark Porteous, carpenter. There were no further Winnipeg references to him after 1910. My initial conclusion was that Mark and his wife had migrated directly to Manitoba after they were married, and that Mark had died in 1911. I reviewed all available Winnipeg city directories, from 1897 through 1940 in my quest and found him in a number of the pre-1909 directories. However, I knew I still had several sources of information to consult, including the 1901 census for the city of Winnipeg (at the time this article was written, the 1901 census was the most recent Canadian census available to the public. The 1906 census has since been released, as has the 1911, although it took years for the appropriate revisions to the legislation to be enacted).

The 1901 Census

The 1901 Winnipeg census is on 4 reels of microfilm; after a rather “head-spinning” several hours going through the first reel (and having just gone through several reels of the Montreal 1871 census on another family investigation), I thought it worthwhile to check for Mark Porteous on the Internet at a commercial website known as I found Mark’s entry in their database but had to pay for a 3-month subscription in order to get the exact reel reference. In my case, it was worth the money. The entry seemed to match: the Mark Porteous in the Winnipeg census was born in Ontario in 1853. Armed with the reel number, division and page numbers, I went directly to the 4th reel of the Winnipeg census. What did I find? Mark Porteous, his wife Margaret, also born in Ontario in 1853, and two children: Flossie G. (Gertrude) and Milton E. (Everett). Both children were born in The Dakotas! The entries indicated that the family emigrated to Canada in 1897. Here is a transcript of the information on the census:

Census Year Location Film # Division # Page # Entry # Family # Surname
1901 Ward 6 T-6439 1 13 13 123 Porteous
1901 Ward 6 T-6439 1 13 14 123 Porteous
1901 Ward 6 T-6439 1 13 15 123 Porteous
1901 Ward 6 T-6439 1 13 16 123 Porteous
1901 Ward 6 T-6439 1 13 17 123 Stewart
1901 Ward 6 T-6439 1 13 18 123 Bently


Given Name Relationship to Head of Household Birth Date Birth Year Birthplace Immigration
Mark head 02-Sep 1853 Ontario
Margaret wife 27-Mar 1853 Ontario
Flossie daughter 15-Jun 1884 Dakota 1897
Milton son 25-Feb 1887 Dakota 1897
Maud lodger 18-Sep 1875 Ontario
Lottie lodger 10-Nov 1898 Manitoba

Did you notice the ‘Stewart’ reference? I wonder if the lodger is in some way related to Mark’s mother, Margaret, whose maiden name was Stewart.

In addition, there is a Bently reference. In the 1851 Ontario County, Reach Township census, neighbours of Mark’s father George include:

7 47 Bentley James Lot 5, Concession 5
7 48 Ward George Lot 4, Concession 5
7 49 Horn James Lot 3, Concession 5
7 50 Porteous George Lot 2, Concession 5
8 1 Bentley George Lot 2, Concession 5

In 1906, Mark had a boarder by the name of Millie Porteous; I believe that Millie was a sister of my grandfather’s and a niece to Mark and Margaret.

So there is “evidence” of Mark boarding relatives and/or friends, bolstering the notion that Maud Stewart might be related to the family. See elsewhere on this site for an article entitled “Stewart Mystery” for additional speculation.

The 1906 Census


University of North Dakota: 1885 Census Index

Although I always like to have a copy of the original documents, I first went back to the Internet and searched for any online sources of Dakotas information. I was in luck again. The University of North Dakota had created an index of the 1885 Dakota Territories census.

There they were: Mark, Margaret and Flossie (Milton had not yet been born). Location: Cass County (of which Fargo is the county seat).

I have since learned that Mark may have been born in Grandin, North Dakota.

The census index is available at You may need to do a little searching; webmasters often reorganize the content of their sites.

The Route From Ontario to the Dakota Territory

I became curious about the route Mark and Margaret may have taken from Ontario and posed a number of questions on an Internet newsgroup dedicated to discussions of Ontario genealogy. A variety of routes were presented, including one via the Great Northern Railway that would have passed through my partner’s home town in Minnesota! The tracks have been replaced by what is now known as the “Lake Wobegon Trail”, in honour of one of author Garrison Kiellor’s books, which pokes fun at the local citizenry in much the same way that Canadian author Stephen Leacock depicted the town of Orillia (“Mariposa”)..

Eventually, the railway was constructed through to Whitefish, Montana where we stayed prior to attending a family reunion over the Labour Day, 2001 weekend. What is it they say about “6 degrees of separation”?

University of North Dakota: Naturalization Index

Another genealogist noted that the University of North Dakota also had a Naturalization index. I found Mark there too, the date of his first citizenship request was April 9, 1883. The records do not show him making a 2nd and final application. The index can be found at

All Porteous entries

Name Country Date Papers County Volume Page
Porteous, Alexander S Scotland August 11, 1888 1st Rolette D-1 169
Porteous, Alexander S Scotland October 29, 1894 2nd Rolette F-10 322
Porteous, George Canada November 05, 1892 2nd Rolette F-10 254
Porteous, George A Canada May 21, 1888 1st Rolette D-1 154
Porteous, John Canada April 04, 1881 1st Traill D-1 047
Porteous, Mark Canada April 09, 1883 1st Grand Forks D-5 314
Porteous, William B Canada March 22, 1886 1st Ramsey D-1 415

Note that Traill and Grand Forks counties are adjacent to each other. Might John Porteous have been Mark’s brother? I know very little about John, who was born in Reach Township, Ontario, Canada 29 Jul 1857; perhaps John preceded his brother and sister-in-law to the Dakota Territory, but returned to Ontario. John died in Epsom, Ontario 28 Mar 1938.

Alberta Cemetery Index

Some additional extraordinary luck presented itself. Pat Allan of Winnipeg, who is the Porteous research contact for North America, was recently in Alberta and came across a cemetery index entry for Mark Porteous in the town of Innisfail, near Red Deer. A history of the Fox family (into which daughter Flossie married) indicates that Mark, his wife Margaret and their daughter Flossie moved from Weyburn, Saskatchewan circa 1919. Weyburn is the centre of the area where my grandfather and several of his siblings were living. It now seemed reasonable that the family moved from Winnipeg around 1911, about the time Frederick Blake Porteous (my grandfather) became manager of the Weyburn Security Bank in Pangman, Saskatchewan.

British Columbia Vital Statistics Index

Noting that many people migrated from Saskatchewan and Manitoba to British Columbia (as did my grandfather), I investigated the BC Vital Statistics death index (also online). There I found an entry for Milton Everett Porteous. He passed away, alone in his cabin in Barkerville, BC in 1932. With further digging, I was able to obtain a newspaper item detailing his death.

National Archives of Canada: WWI CEF Index

Another very good source of records is the National Archives. They have a database index of WWI CEF soldiers. Lo and behold, there was Milton Porteous. I knew from previous documentation that the CEF could provide very valuable information. A few weeks after ordering them from the National Archives, the CEF documents arrived. They highlighted some of the inaccuracies that can be evident in people’s recollections of the past (the newspaper account of his death in Barkerville, BC at 46 or so years of age of a heart attack was rather inaccurate). In keeping with his occupation as a miner, Milton, better known as “Bill”, had been employed as a sapper and tunneller in World War I.

I noted that he was born in Devils Lake or Grandin (see my note above), North Dakota (while Flossie may have been born near Fargo). I have a radio in my home office and often listen to it while using the computer. As I sat at my desk reading the CEF document, I turned on the radio. The first two words I heard were “Devils Lake” The CBC was doing a news story about the extremely high water levels in Devils Lake and the proposed plan to somehow divert this water to the Red River, thereby possibly flooding parts of southern Manitoba. I found this coincidence to be very odd, as I had not heard of Devils Lake until the CEF papers arrived. A somewhat spooky coincidence.

The CEF papers also indicated that Milton’s father was deceased, but I knew that Mark Porteous died in Innisfail, Alberta in 1933, one year after Milton’s death. Were there bad feelings between father and son perhaps? The CEF documents also stated that Milton’s personal belongings were to go to his mother in Colgate, Saskatchewan, thereby confirming the accuracy of a write-up in a local history book of Innisfail, Alberta. The write-up stated that Margaret Porteous had died in Saskatchewan. My search for her monument in the Colgate cemetery was fruitless; I later learned from her Saskatchewan death registration that her body had been sent to Winnipeg for burial. *The most recent information indicates that she was buried 12 Nov 1919 at the Elmwood Cemetery in Winnipeg, Manitoba.* See _Margaret_Robinson_ for details.


I now know that Mark Porteous:

  • • married in East Whitby in 1882
  • • migrated to the Dakota Territory circa 1882/1883* farmed in a number of places in the Territory
  • • had 2 children born there (Milton Everett and Flossie Gertrude)
  • • moved his family to Winnipeg around 1897
  • • lived on streets named Atlantic, Burroughs and Cathedral in Winnipeg
  • • moved to the Weyburn, Saskatchewan area — where my grandfather and his siblings were living — in 1911

(Mark’s wife, _Margaret_Robinson_, died in 1919, in Colgate, Saskatchewan not long before Mark, his daughter and his son-in-law moved further west to Innisfail, Alberta.)

  • • moved to Innisfail, Alberta in 1919
  • • served as a Justice of the Peace in Innisfail, Alberta
  • • died in Innisafail in 1933 at the age of 80

Mark’s son Milton, occupation miner, died alone of a heart attack in 1932 in his cabin in Barkerville, BC just after Christmas. Flossie married the longest serving mayor of Innisfail, Stanley Fox. There are many descendants still living in the Innisfail area. I know of another descendant living in Edmonton and another not far from Atlanta, Georgia.


The Innisfail Province, Thursday, October 26, 1933

Mark Porteous

Father of Mrs. S. A. Fox Passes after Brief Illness. Resident of Innisfail Thirteen Years The late Mr. Mark Porteous of Innisfail died at the home of his daughter Mrs. S.A. Fox on Friday October 20th. Death came after a short illness although Mr. Porteous had been ailing for some time. The deceased who had been a resident of Innisfail for the past 13 years was born in Beach County [sic, should be Reach Township, Ontario County], Ontario, eighty years ago. He leaves to mourn his loss Mrs. S.A. Fox. Mr. Porteous was predeceased by his wife fourteen years ago at Colgate, Saskatchewan, and by one son Milton E. Porteous who died at Barkerville, B.C., on the 26th. of December last. The funeral service was held from the United Church on Sunday the 22nd at 2 p.m., Rev. T.J. Stainton performing the last rites. Interment took place in the Innisfail cemetery. The pallbearers were Messrs. J.C. Calder (”druggist”), R.J. McMahen (real estate/life insurance), G.T. Ingham (”jeweller”), A. Lennox (”tinsmith”), John Murgatroyd (”butcher”) and John Johnson. Funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. R.D. Sheffield.The late Mr. Porteous will be greatly missed, as he was a well beloved and familiar figure around town.Sincere sympathy is extended by the community to Mr. and Mrs. S.A. Fox and the family.

In 2005, I drove to Innisfail from Calgary to meet a number of ladies from the local United Church who had known Flossie and to see where Mark was buried. It was great to be able to learn about a relative whom I didn’t have the opportunity to meet.

Written by Doug

January 24th, 2012 at 6:59 pm