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Trent Family Fonds (P022)

Excerpt from George Norris Trent's notebook (detail), about 1836. Trent Family Fonds P022, P022/C1.3.1 © McCord Museum

Seeking a better life

"White Haired Trunk
A Back Gammond [sic] Board containing about 6 Doz of Mother of Pearl Fish
some Sea Shells, Gilt Snuff Box
a pair of Hand Fire Screens[,] six portraits
Silver Etuis
2 Work Boxes, a Cribbage board
2 Other Boxes with Female ornament
18 Doylies, Sundry Smelling Bottle
and Childrens Play things"

In the summer of 1836, George Norris Trent was preparing himself for what would doubtless be the most important voyage of his life. Deeply affected by the Napoleonic Wars (he had been a lieutenant in the British Royal Navy), the death of his wife six years prior, and the economic crisis gripping Europe, Trent decided to move to Canada with his two children. They were not the only ones seeking a fresh start: that same year, nearly 27,000 immigrants from the British Isles debarked at the Port of Quebec.

This hair trunk (i.e., covered with hide from which the hair has not been removed) and its varied contents was just one of the family's many belongings that Trent planned to bring with him. His notebook contains a 20-page inventory of the items to be brought aboard their ship from Liverpool. The list included clothing, jewellery, weapons, farm tools, flower and vegetable seeds, furniture, hardware, ironwork, cutlery and silverware, dishes, linens, decorative items, books and family archives. The Trents were thus able to establish a certain level of material comfort in their new life in Canada, a privilege that was not accessible to everyone.

The family chose to make their home in the Drummondville area. Having maintained ties to his native land, George Norris Trent returned to England nearly 20 years later to live out his final days.

P022 Trent Family Fonds. - [1800-1978]. - 111 cm of textual records and other documents.

Biographical Sketch

This fonds focusses on members of the Trent family who lived in England (London and Cambridgeshire) and then in the Drummondville region during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Born in London, George Norris Trent (1790-1857) joined the British Royal Navy in 1805, as the Napoleonic Wars were raging. He was quickly promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Demobilized in 1815, he lived off the half-pay stipend given to retired Navy troops. In 1821, he married Dorothy Bennington (1782-1830), the daughter of a London jeweller. Settling in the Isle of Ely region in Cambridgeshire, the couple had three children: George (1822), Maria Dorothy (1824-1910) and Henry (1826-1906).

In 1836, as England struggled with a major economic and political crisis, George Norris Trent and his children immigrated to Canada. The family settled on a farm in the Township of Wendover near Drummondville, Lower Canada. Trent had a stone house built on his property along the Saint-François River, from 1837 to 1848, and also acquired land in the Township of Acton. In addition to farming, George Norris Trent was active in the timber trade.

Maria Dorothy and Henry Trent attended the local school in Drummondville. Henry then continued his studies at École Saint-Paul in Montreal and the Seminary of Nicolet, while Maria Dorothy was educated at Miss Easton's school for young ladies, in Montreal. In 1852, Maria Dorothy Trent married William Skoine Robins (1825-1863). The couple had at least one child, Robin Norris Robins (1858-1946?), who was educated at Bishop's College School. He went on to pursue a career as an accountant, treasurer and administrator in the Sherbrooke region.

In 1854, accompanied by his son Henry, George Norris Trent returned to his homeland of England to live out his final years. Upon his death, Maria Dorothy and Henry inherited his English and Canadian properties.

Henry Trent inherited the family farm in the Drummondville area. After a trip to Vancouver Island in 1862 to prospect for gold, he settled on the farm and ran it with some success. He married Eliza Caya (1844-1936) in 1864. The couple had fourteen children, ten of whom reached adulthood. In 1906, Henry bequeathed the family property to his son, Frederick Trent (1881-1963), who ran it until his death. Known as the "Manoir Trent" or "Trent Manor," the building that was home to three generations of the Trent family received heritage status in 1964 and is still standing today.

Scope and Content

The fonds documents the personal and family lives, finances, properties, and professional activities of Trent family members. The documents focus primarily on George Norris Trent and his children, Maria Dorothy Trent Robins and Henry Trent, chiefly during the 19th century and early 20thcentury.

George Norris Trent's personal life, administration of the family home, finances and various properties in England and Canada are illustrated in extensive correspondence, notebooks, property plans, household ledgers, and various financial and accounting records. Certificates of good conduct, service records and correspondence (including several letters from the Admiralty) document his career with the British Royal Navy.

The documents associated with Maria Dorothy Trent Robins and her family consist primarily of a ledger, personal and financial correspondence, invoices, and report cards of her son, Robin Norris Robins.

A substantial proportion of Henry Trent's archives is made up of diaries he kept from 1842 to 1863. These texts record his daily life and interests, finances and professional activities, travels, and various events that marked his adolescence and adulthood. The collection also includes school work, letters exchanged with his father, sister and godmother, Hannah Dean, and several poems, drawings and copies of the Farmer's Almanac published from 1849 to 1906. Financial and accounting records as well as correspondence about Henry Trent's properties in England complete this series.

Finally, the fonds contains correspondence and financial and accounting records documenting the activities of Norris Trent and Frederick Trent, along with several photographs and other portraits of family members.

Source of title proper: Based on the creators of the fonds.

Physical description: The fonds also contains 66 iconographic documents, 3 cartographic records and 6 architectural drawings. The iconographic documents consist of 4 photographs, 1 watercolour, 14 prints and 47 drawings.

Arrangement: Documents about Maria Trent Robins from the Canadiana Collection (C002) were added to this fonds in 2007.

Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

Finding aids: An inventory of the documents is available.

General note: The McCord Museum's collection also includes a silhouette of Frederick Trent (M980X.55) and a photograph of Manoir Trent (MP-1974.133.16).

The fonds contains the following series, subseries, sub-subseries and files:

  • P022/A History and Genealogy

  • P022/B Norris Trent and Liddy Trent

  • P022/C George Norris Trent
    • P022/C1 Personal and family life
      • P022/C1.1 Birth and baptism
      • P022/C1.2 Education
      • P022/C1.3 Emigration to Canada
          • P022/C1.3.1 George Norris Trent's notebook. - [1836]. - 1 textual record ; 15 x 10 cm.

          • Digitized document
          • Scope and Content: This notebook documents the Trent family's emigration to Canada in 1836, notably the organization of the journey to its new home. It contains a list of the items shipped with the family and pieces of furniture sold prior to departure, as well as several notes about the voyage and subsequent arrival in Quebec City.

            Source of title proper: Based on the type of document.

            Language: The document is in English.

      • P022/C1.4 Personal writings
      • P022/C1.5 Correspondence
      • P022/C1.6 Leisure activities and interests
    • P022/C2 Finances and assets
      • P022/C2.1 Properties
        • P022/C2.1,1 Plans
        • P022/C2.1,2 Household ledgers. - 1830-1836. - 3 cm of textual records.

        • Digitized documents

          Scope and Content: This file documents the household accounts and certain activities of the Trent family. It contains seven ledgers kept by George Norris Trent from 1830 to 1836, covering the family's last years in England and its first year in Canada. These ledgers, which are like family account books, record the primary household expenditures in the form of weekly tables, as well as an account of the highlights of each week.

          Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the file.

          Language: The documents are in English.

        • P022/C2.1,3 Rent receipt books
        • P022/C2.1,4 Insurance polices and receipts
        • P022/C2.1,5 Letters
      • P022/C2.2 Financial and accounting transactions
    • P022/C3 British Royal Navy activities
    • P022/C4 Other correspondence
    • P022/C5 Death and estate

  • P022/D Dorothy Bennington Trent

  • P022/E Maria Dorothy Trent Robins and William Skoine Robins

  • P022/F Henry Trent
    • P022/F1 Personal and family life
      • P022/F1.1 Education
      • P022/F1.2 Personal writings
          • P022/F1.2.1 Henry Trent's diary. - 1842-1843. - 1 textual record ; 20.5 x 17 cm.

          • Digitized document
          • Scope and Content: This document is the first in a series of diaries kept by Henry Trent as an adolescent and adult. In this volume, which begins on October 14, 1842, and ends March 14, 1843, the young man records his primary daily activities. He makes frequent references to his love for hunting and notes the chores he has to do on the family property.

            Source of title proper: Based on the type of document.

            Language: The document is in English.

      • P022/F1.3 Personal and family correspondence
      • P022/F1.4 Leisure activities and interests
    • P022/F2 Finances and assets
    • P022/F3 Other correspondence

  • P022/G Other Trent Family Members

  • P022/H Miscellaneous

  • P022/I Iconographic Documents


Last update: June 5, 2018