||Anne Shirley of
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Anne of Green Gables
by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
This is a classic story that never grows old with time. There are many items available for purchase including dolls, videos, books, etc. from specialty shops. I have collected several of these items because of the Shirley name. If you are interested and can't find a shop in your area, I will be happy to put you in touch with someone who can help.
From: The Avonlea Traditions Chronicle (Winter 1992 edition)
Anne Shirley was a fictitious character created by L. M. Montgomery's imagination. But often, for inspiration, she drew on people, events and landscapes that were a part of her life. This summer our office received a call from Betty Shirley of Cupertino, California asking the question: "Why did the author give Anne the surname Shirley?"
Mrs. Shirley is fascinated with the genealogy of the Shirleys. She went on to say that she has searched through her records to see if she could find a Shirley family living on Prince Edward Island during the author's life time but didn't find any. She did find Shirleys living in the neighbouring provinces of New Brunswick and Newfoundland, and in the nearby states of Maine, New Hampshire and New York in the mid-1800's. She speculates that there could be other records that she doesn't have, but so far nothing has shown up. Mrs. Shirley things L.M. Montgomery must have been in contact with or had a relative who was a Shirley. "Anne's surname had to have come from somewhere! I doubt it was just made up." Mrs. Shirley asks that if any of our readers know or have any ideas on this, to please let her know.
What Anne knows of her "Roots"
In the story, Marilla was determined to return the unrequested girl orphan to Mrs. Spencer. On the buggy ride from Green Gables to Mrs. Spencer's house, Marilla asked Anne what she "knew about herself", and heard a story that was to soften her heart.
"I was born in Bolingbroke, Nova Scotia. My father's name was Walter Shirley, and he was a teacher in the Bolignbroke High School. My mother's name was Bertha Shirley. Aren't Walter and Bertha lovely names? I'm so glad my parents had nice names. It would be a real disgrace to have a father names- well, say Jedediah, wouldn't it?"
"I guess it doesn't matter what a person's name is as long as he behaves himself," said Marilla, feeling herself called upon to inculcate a good and useful moral.
"Well, I don't know." Anne looked thoughtful. "I read a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage. I suppose my father could have been a good man even if he had been called Jedediah; but I'm sure it would have been a cross. Well, my mother was a teacher in the High School, too, but when she married father she gave up teaching, of course. A husband was enough responsibility. Mrs. Thomas said that they were a pair of babies and as poor as church mice. They went to live in a weeny-teeny little yellow house in Bolingbroke...I was born in that house. Mrs. Thomas said I was the homeliest baby she ever saw, I was so scrawny and tiny and nothing but eyes, but that mother thought I was perfectly beautiful. I should think a mother would be a better judge than a poor woman who came in to scrub, wouldn't you? I'm so glad she was satisfied with me anyhow; I would feel so sad if I thought I was a disappointment to her--because she didn't live very long after that, you see .She died of fever when I was just three months old. I do wish she'd lived long enough for me to remember calling her mother. I think it would be so sweet to say 'mother,' don't you? And father died four days afterwards from fever, too. That left me an orphan and folks were at their wits' end, so Mrs. Thomas said, what to do with me. You see, nobody wanted me even then. It seems to be my fate. Father and mother had both come from places far away and it was well known they hadn't any relatives living. Finally Mrs. Thomas said she'd take me..."
Anne of Green Gables, Chapter V
*Lucy Maud Montgomery was born Nov 30, 1874, Clifton , Prince Edward Island. Her first book, Anne of Green Gables, was published June 1908.
From Betty Shirley
In 1993, my daughter, Delaine, and I went to visit Prince Edward Island. I contacted George Campbell, a cousin of Lucy Maud Montgomery, who owns a museum on the Island. I asked him the same question...Why did the author choose SHIRLEY as the surname? I inquired if she might have known some Shirleys, etc. He called a college professor who has studied in detail about the life of Lucy Maud Montgomery. She said she had never really thought about SHIRLEY being a surname. I pointed out that Anne Says in the book that her parents were Walter and Bertha Shirley. I shared with her and with George Campbell, the information sent to me by Rea Wilmshurst, who I think is also a college professor in Toronto.
The visit to Prince Edward Island was a wonderful experience. We toured the house where the story was filmed and went to a play that evening that was most entertaining. We have fond memories of our visit to Anne Shirley of Green Gables home.
Email from Canada May 2011
Wikipedia says this:
"Montgomery found her inspiration for the book on an old piece of paper that she had written at a young age [another wiki says 'written in her journal'], describing a couple [another Wiki says 'relatives'] that were mistakenly sent an orphan girl instead of a boy, yet decided to keep her. "
A follow-up email
James Dover, my ancestor, would not talk about his family
in England. No records were passed on. For years my Father researched
and researched and essentially got nowhere. Then a fluke connection.
I was serving in the British Army at this time (1989) and was
stationed in Salisbury, Wilts. My Father was corresponding with
a historian in Bucks (the only snippet we had was that James
was visited by his sister before he died in 1905 and that she
came from "High Wickham" (High Wycombe in Bucks). He
and my Mother came over to England on a visit and we all took
a day trip to visit Mrs. MacLauchlan (the historian) in Haddenham.
The first thing she said was "we found your James and there
is a Canadian connection - Anne Shirley was raised by your family
here in Aston Sandford.". We paid a visit to our family
farm (it passed out of the family in 1908 - James was the fourth
born and stood to inherit very little). The Goodes (the current
owners) welcomed us and mentioned the same "Anne Shirley"
story. There is a book about our family estate and Anne Shirley
is also mentioned:
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