Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthApril 26, 1899
Place of BirthRat Portage (Kenora), Ontario
Service Details
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 15, 1975
Age at Death76
Buried AtMountain View Cemetery, Oakland, California, USA
PlotCLM 84, 6, 3

Birbeck, Ivan

Ivan Birbeck was born on 26 April 1899 in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. According to William Shurtleff’s Shurtleff and Lawton Families: Genealogy and History and other sources, Ivan’s father Thomas Edson Birbeck was born in 1865 in Leeds, Yorkshire in England. At a young age he ran away from home and went to sea, later returning and attending Oxford to obtain a degree in engineering courtesy of an uncle. Immigrating to Canada, he met his future wife Frances Vivian Welsh. Born in 1869 in Walton Brech, Lancashire in England, as a child she had moved to Rio de Janeiro with her family, her father a banker. After her father’s death the family returned to England and then travelled on to Canada. Thomas and Frances married on 5 July 1888 in Moose Jaw. Children born to the couple in Moose Jaw were Lional James (1889), Robert Edward (1890), Beatrice Joyce (1891) and Francis Vivian (Frank) (1893). Sadly Robert died in 1891 in Moose Jaw. From there the family moved to Regina in Saskatchewan where daughter Dorothy was born in 1895 and then on to Port Stanley, Ontario where son Thomas Edson was born in 1898. In the various places Thomas Sr worked as a Canadian Pacific Railway agent. Moving to northwestern Ontario in time for the birth of Ivan, the 1901 census placed the family in nearby Ash Rapids, Thomas’ occupation given as contractor. From there it appears that the family moved to Grand Forks, British Columbia where daughter Edith Elizabeth was likely born in 1902. Asked by the Mexican government to assist in the building of the El Pacifico Railroad, the family moved to Mexico City, returning to Canada aboard the Norheim on 27 October 1904. According to Shurtleff, the family lived in Virginia for awhile, then settled in Alameda City, California where Thomas Sr was working for a railroad company by the time of the 1910 US census. At some point Thomas Sr left the family.

Ivan signed his US WW1 Draft Registration card on 21 September 1918 in Alameda. His date and place of birth was given as 16 April 1899 in Canada. Giving his mother Frances in Alameda as his nearest relative, at the time he was working as a piece work counter for the Bethlehem Shipping Company in Alameda. According to the 1930 US census Ivan served during the war. Further details of his service are unknown.

Ivan’s brother Thomas enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto in November of 1917. He was discharged in late March of 1918 having been selected for appointment for a temporary commission. Further details of his service are unknown. His brother Frank enlisted in March of 1918 with the US Engineer Corps and served as a Sergeant with A Company, 319th Engineers of the 8th Division at Pontanezen Barracks in Brest, France. He returned to the States in March of 1919.

At the time of the 1920 US census Ivan was listed as living in Scotia, Humbolt, California where he was working as a salesman in a plant store. He was also listed as living with his mother and some of his siblings in Alameda, working as a checking clerk in a lumber store.

On 17 June 1922 in Lomita in California, Ivan married Edna Howell Buck. Born on 4 October 1895, Edna was the daughter of Calvin Buck and Leni Leoti Howell. Her parents had married on 1 January 1884 in Henry, Illinois and by 1900 were living in Eden, California. Ivan and Edna gave birth to three known children, Lydia Muriel, Frances, and James Ivan. The family lived in Oakland, California, with Ivan working for the American Can Company in nearby San Francisco, first as a foreman and latterly as a superintendent.

Ivan died on 15 July 1975 in San Leandro, California. He was predeceased by his father Thomas, mother Frances (1951, Contra Costa, California) and siblings Robert in infancy, Beatrice Joyce (Harry) Lawton (1948, Seattle, Washington), Thomas (1950, Fresno, California), Lional (1956, Spokane, Washington), and Frank (1962, Watsonville, California). His sister Dorothy died three days later in Contra, Costa and sister Edith in 1998 in Santa Maria, both in California. Ivan’s wife Edna died on 9 February 1976 in San Leandro. Along with other members of Ivan’s family, they are interred in the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.

By Judy Stockham

Grave marker photograph by Kurt,