Farris Family genealogy

We have to thank new relative Beth Barton from New Brunswick for the following history of the Farris family, in all its different spellings.  It appears that the family has a much longer and more storied history than we might have thought.

Farris family genealogy Nov 2012

It’s a long piece, 14 pages,  but there are a lot of very interesting occurrences in our Farris past.  There are what appear to be very large homes that were either owned or occupied by our ancestors that still exist, at least one purchased by the British National Trust.

Take a look.  Who knew?

Dick Ballard


Huge Farris Houses

Grandiose barely covers it

There is a new section on the blog you can access by clicking Huge Farris Houses on the menu at the top of the page.  I have always been interested in the homes that the three lost boys from New Brunswick got themselves into. It appears that in certain aspects size really does matter.  This same desire was apparently genetic as many of their offspring felt the same way.   I can’t say why they wanted such large, and usually beautiful, homes but I’m glad they did.  I’ve had a lot of fun finding them and taking pictures of them.

Now comes your part:  we need filler.  Sure these are great homes but what about a few stories or recollections?  Wouldn’t that make it just that much more interesting?  Please think of something that you might like to share and either leave a comment on the front page or on each photo enlarged is a spot for comments too.

If there is a shot or two you might like feel free to download whatever is possible.  I say that because I’m not actually sure what is possible.  (Bruce and I run this blog as the Blind leading the Visually Impaired).  If you can’t download, please just get hold of me and I will send you whatever you might like.

Hope you like them.

The house where it all started. This is the original house in Whites Cove NB where the 4 Farris brothers were brought up. Courtesy Wendy Porteous

Bruce Housser’s Remarks

“I was toilet trained at 8 months (if only the next 70 years had been that simple)”

The following is the text of my remarks at the wonderful Farris Family reunion held in Vancouver June 10, 2012:

My name is Bruce Mackenzie Farris Housser . . . and you . . . you are my people.

It is important that clans, tribes, families such as ours gather periodically to examine our common history, to figure out ‘where do I fit in?’ To understand and appreciate our . . . our Farris-ness, those family traits that make us unique.

Let me start by expressing, on behalf of everyone here, our great gratitude to our cousins: Donald Farris, Heather Shemilt, and Haig Farris whose generosity and hard work have made this Farris reunion a reality. Thank you!

I am not going to speak long, but there are a couple of matters I’d like to touch on. I apologize in advance if I leave out names of people such as you or your favorite uncle. You see, I have vowed to speak only about things I know . . . which is unusual for me, but that might help ensure brevity.

I am a Housser and equally a Farris. With those names, in this city, you might mistake me for a lawyer, but . . . no, I come from the sandwich making side of the family – the ‘trade’ side, if you will – as did my grandfather.

Bruce Farris was the only one of the four Farris brothers who was not a professional: Hugh was a doctor; Wendell and Wallace became lawyers. but Bruce never went to college. He left home at the age of 17 and traveled by train to the west coast where he got a job in his cousin Ernest Purdy’s bank in Bellingham.

Just think about that: the year was 1899 (Canada was only 32 years old) and this 17 year old boy leaves the little village of White’s Cove on Grand Lake and travels across the entire continent and settles on the west coast. And, after two years of working in the bank, he had saved enough money to pay for his brother Wallace’s fare. And soon after that he was able to bring Wendell too.

By 1915 Bruce had moved from banking to the lumber business, married Katharine Hadley, had their first child, my mother Louise, and then they moved to Vancouver.

If it weren’t for Bruce Farris we might be holding our reunion in a club in Fredericton or Saint John. But Bruce blazed the trail to the west, and then he and Wallace and Wendell put down roots here and set about making their mark in British Columbia – and they did make their marks! The remarkable success of these three Farris brothers is well known: Wallace, cabinet minister and senator, Bruce, a leader in the all important BC lumber industry, and Wendell, Chief Justice of the BC Supreme Court.

So one of the things we are celebrating today is the vision and success of the three brothers who came west: Bruce, Wallace and Wendell.

As for Hugh Farris, the brother who remained in New Brunswick, it seems old uncle Hugh had a trick or two up his sleeve. Although he had never married, he had fathered a child out of wedlock in 1917. None of us knew anything about this until two weeks ago today when we tracked down one of Hugh’s great grandchildren, and discovered a new, large branch on the Farris Family Tree. We are still very much in the process of getting to know our New Brunswick cousins. Pretty much all the information we have is on the Farris family blog, and I encourage you to take a look if you haven’t already done so.

So, I think a toast is in order: To Uncle Hugh and our new New Brunswick cousins.

Now let’s talk about Farris women, I’m kind of partial to Farris women, not only those who were born into this family but, perhaps more important, those gutsy women who chose to join the family through marriage. You all know who you are and which category you fall into – either genetic or gutsy – so I will only mention a few names:

– Evlyn Fenwick Keirstead, married to Wallace – a bright, university educated, enlightened woman whose life is well chronicled in an inspiring biography which you can borrow from just about any Farris female

– my grandmother Katharine Hadley married to Bruce – also university educated. Kathie Farris or Baba as we called her was the kindest, most generous person I have ever known

– Katie Baird, married to Wendell – what a character! Many of the elders here today were lucky enough to have known Katie. Afterwards seek out some of the grey heads and ask them to tell you Aunt Katie stories. In fact, ask me about her father’s magic elixir, which was sold as H. Paxton Baird’s Balsam of Horehound. You can still buy an original bottle of this cure-all liniment on eBay today.

– Clara Bessie Jamieson – the mother of the New Brunswick branch who, for reasons unknown, chose not to marry into our family – under the circumstances, perhaps the gutsiest move of all

– Betsy Farris Ballard, Bruce and Kath Farris’s youngest daughter and now the ranking elder of our tribe. Betsy and I share one trait – we’re never hampered by lack of facts. If we don’t know something, we’ll fake it. I’ve pretty well always been like that; but it’s something that has only come on Betsy lately.

– Patsy Goddard Farris, Dick’s wife. I have known Patsy since the day I was born. I was old enough to be saddened when she returned to England in 1944. I was ecstatic when Dick returned to Vancouver in 1947 with Patsy as his bride, I cannot imagine our family without Patsy’s calm beauty and stylish presence.

– finally, and I won’t get any thanks for this, my sister Katharine Kennedy Housser, the family’s most recent college grad. Kathie got her Master of Arts at Memorial University just ten days ago at the age of 66. Kate, I am so proud of you.

So today, in addition to the founding brothers, we also celebrate the women of the Farris family – truly a force to be reckoned with.

I’d just like to take a minute to clear up some confusion as to which branch of the family has the rights to the name ‘Grampoo’. I’ve almost come to blows with Wendy Porteous about this. I believe that it was I who coined that somewhat silly name just after my first birthday. Patsy Farris recalls overhearing one side of a 1943 telephone conversation between Wallace and Bruce that went something like this:

“Well Wallace, if you must know, Little Bruce has taken to calling me Grampoo . . . no, not Pa . . . it’s Poo! Gram . . . POO! Well I’m glad you think it’s funny. What do yours call you? Really? Your grandchildren call you Senator? Well that certainly makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. You tell those grandchildren of yours what Little Bruce calls me. Maybe you can be a Gram . . . POO too.”

I’ve had a lot of fun in the run up to this reunion, re-connecting with family members like cousin Ann and cousin Wendy whose names I had heard whispered reverently but whom I can’t recall ever meeting. Dealing with my cousin Heather Shemilt whom I had never even heard of until the invitation arrived and I found myself co-opted onto the Blog editorial board; and collaborating with Dick Ballard, whom I have known forever has been sheer pleasure.

My name is Bruce Mackenzie Farris Housser . . . and you are my people . . . and that makes me so proud.

Vancouver Club

This is where the party is – starts at 5:00 pm Sunday.  915 West Hastings Street.

For after the party:  Mahony’s

Mahony’s at Burrard Landing. (right by the giant raindrop, which is just a cheap, but rather accurate shot at Vancouver weather).   A block down Burrard from the club on the water level of the new convention centre.  For those of us who feel they have just a little more catching up to do after the party. We have reservations for the Farris Family.

The oldest living Farris

Betsy Farris Ballard (born 11 April 1924)

Betsy Farris Ballard – Currently the oldest Farris I believe.  (88).  If there is anyone older, please tell us.  Mum will hopefully be at the reunion but please don’t count on her remembering you.  She might, but if she doesn’t she will likely politely lie and say she does.  (Don’t we all?)

New photos and new family

New photos

Hello everyone.  Please take the time to poke around the blog to see the new photos we have been putting up.  In different parts of the blog you will see categories called Current photos.  Take a look.  These are some of the people you are going to meet on the 10th and won’t it be nice if you can remember who they are!

New family

Cousin Bruce Housser (my blog buddy) spent a lot of time and effort and has discovered what appears to be a new wing of the family;  descendants of Hugh Allan Farris.  Amazing but true.  Check out the Hugh Allan Farris page.

Help us find D.B.K. Barton

There might be at least one direct descendant of uncle Hugh!

In 2003, DBK Barton wrote the following on a New Brunswick message centre:

27/09/03 I am looking for any information on DR. HUGH ALLAN FARRIS, from Queen’s County, New Brunswick. I’m told that he would have been my great-grandfather. (My grandmother was born out of wedlock and was given up for adoption at birth. Her mother was Miss Clara Elizabeth Jamieson, also known as “Bessie” – a nurse.) I would love to receive any information that you could provide, most especially information on where I could obtain any youthful pictures of him or his family members.

The email address given is no longer valid, so you clever Farris people, help us find him.  I believe he owns a tool and equipment business in Hanwell NB, but so far no answer at the business (holiday weekend?) and no home phone number.
To see the original Barton message posting:

Purdy at the Bat – the guy who started the Farris migration

Ernest Purdy, a Farris cousin, was the first to leave White’s Cove NB to seek fame and fortune in the West.  He settled in what is now Bellingham WA where he founded a successful bank.  It was Ernest who persuaded his 17 year old cousin, Bruce Farris, to move to Bellingham in 1899.

Ernest Purdy is shown here, at bat in the annual, hotly contested Lawyers vs. Bankers baseball game.  It is likely that Bruce Farris who worked at the bank was also playing for the Bankers’ team.  In fact, he might be among the onlookers in the background.  See if you can spot him.

And now the story gets really interesting. Doug Ballard is a direct descendant of Ernest Purdy.  And, because Ernest Purdy and Bruce Farris were cousins,  that makes Betsy Farris and Doug Ballard cousins. And that means that Peter and Dick and Phyllis and Jean are cousins to each other as well as being siblings.

And that is why baseball should be banned.