One in Every Family – 30 Babies!

Isabel Woodland Irvine - Family Historian
Isabel Woodland - Nurse's Graduation 1925

There is a certain type of individual that is drawn to recording one’s family history.

As I see it, family historians tend to be curious people.  They sense the importance of recording what has happened in the past.  And they tend to be collectors.

My grandmother Isabel (Woodland) IRVINE (1898 – 1989) was all of these.   She was a true family historian.

And Grandma had another talent.  She was a writer.

She would have never considered herself a writer in the true sense of the word as she scribbled out her recollections of homesteading and nursing in Saskatchewan. As far as she was concerned, she was recording the family history for posterity so it wouldn’t get lost as memories faded and people passed on.

But she was a writer.  She wrote in a warm conversational style as if she was sitting across the kitchen table from you as she recounted her stories.

Irvine Family Farm Yard, 20 miles SW of Young Sask, 1950s
Irvine Family Farm Yard, 20 miles SW of Young Sask, 1950s

Here are Isabel’s words about a stay in the small town of Young, Saskatchewan while her husband Bill Irvine was away for a few days.

“Sometime between two and four a.m. a knock came on the door.  They wanted me to come quickly because there was a sick woman at Mrs. Oakenfold’s and she couldn’t get in touch with the doctor.  I hustled down a couple of blocks and was just in time to deliver a son for the wife of Mr. Carlson, the local butcher.  When everything was over, Dr. Cook arrived from a hockey game in Watrous.

After delivering the baby in Young, I realized I would probably be asked to act as a midwife in the “Hills”, a name given to the area covering the Providence and Meuse School Districts.  I contacted the doctors in the surrounding towns:  Davidson, Neaston, Hanley, Young, Watrous and Simpson.  I wanted permission from them to take charge of the maternity cases in the Hills.

I received the okay from all of the doctors and, in addition they agreed to come if I needed them. As the closest doctor was twenty miles away with no cars or telephones, I knew there wasn’t much chance of getting help from town.  (This was between 1926 and 1936).

During this ten year period after my arrival at the homestead, I delivered thirty babies without a doctor or an anesthetic.  This was in the depression during the Thirties and I collected $10.00 to use for buying medical supplies.”

What a story!  Not only was Grandma a remarkable family historian and writer, she was a remarkable woman.  She delivered 30 babies for her neighbours and friends during a time when services were few and far between.

Even more remarkable, Grandma helped deliver me! (several decades later, of course!)

Joan Kerr, Isabel Irvine, Betty Kerr
Baby Joan (the now grown up writer of this blog), Grandma Irvine and Joan's Mom Betty

We would not have this wonderful story today if Grandma hadn’t thought it important to record her experiences.

My Uncle Bob and I shared her words in the Women Pioneers of Saskatchewan Book 1 published in 2009.  Our biggest challenge was to condense all of the material Grandma had written in order to meet the publication guidelines.  Oh, that every genealogist and family historian would have such a problem!

Grandma…..Thank you for being “The One”.


This post is part of Carnival of Genealogy’s 100th Edition – There is One in Every Family.  Congratulations to Creative Gene for 100 Editions of Carnival of Genealogy!

Author: © Joan Miller - Luxegen Genealogy.

The Luxegen Genealogy and Family History blog presents the family history stories of Joan Miller.