Friday, April 18, 2014

52 Ancestors: #16 Luchenia Tomelin – Doukhobor Immigrant

Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small has issued herself and her readers a challenge for 2014. It’s called “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”, and as Amy explains, the challenge is to “have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor”.

For the 16th week of this challenge, I chose Luchenia Tomelin (1885-1960).

Family tradition says that my husband’s paternal grandmother Luchenia was born in October 1885 in Tiflis in the Caucasus region of the Russian Empire, now Tbilisi, Georgia. Her birth was probably not registered with the civil authorities, because her parents, Nikolai and Maria (Terichow) Tomelin, were Doukhobors. This pacifist sect’s religious beliefs clashed with the Orthodox Church (they rejected the sacraments and the priesthood) and with the government (they often refused to register births, marriages and deaths, since these events concerned “only the individual and God”). [1]

On 12 May 1899, a group of nearly 2,300 Doukhobors, including the Tomelin family, left the Russian port Batum for Canada, seeking a life free from intolerance. They sailed on the S.S. Lake Huron, and arrived at Quebec City on 6 June 1899. [2]

Two groups of Tomelin families appear on the ship’s passenger manifest. Luchenia’s family group consisted of her parents Nikolai and Maria, her siblings Marfa (Martha), Osip (Joseph) and Maria, her paternal grandmother Anna, her paternal uncles Ivan and Nikolai, and her paternal uncle Vasily, his wife and their three children.

Lake Huron passenger manifest
Lake Huron passenger manifest (portion)

In the above image, which is a cropped portion of a page from the Lake Huron passenger manifest of May 1899, Luchenia’s name is the fourth from the top; she is 13 years old. [3]

Once in Canada, the Tomelin family and the other Doukhobor immigrants travelled by train to settle on lands reserved for them in the North-West Territories, now in the province of Saskatchewan.

Two years later, Luchenia and her parents were enumerated on the 1901 census of Canada living in the Doukhobor settlement Moiseyevo (aka Khristianovka), a little to the west of Buchanan, NWT. [4]

About 1902 or 1903, Luchenia married Wasyl Demofsky, a Doukhobor immigrant like her. The couple’s first child Anastasia, known as Nastya or Tyunka as a child and later as Mabel as an adult, was born in December 1903 or 1904. Four sons soon followed: Pete, Fred, George, and William (Bill), my husband’s father.

Luchenia Demoskoff with sons George and William
Luchenia with her sons George (left) and William (right), about 1917

After Wasyl’s death in 1933, Luchenia lived with her unmarried children. She suffered a stroke in 1938 or 1939, according to her youngest son William. It became progressively more difficult to care for her, especially after her daughter Mabel moved to Edmonton, Alberta. Luchenia’s sons decided she would do better in Mabel’s care, and so she went to live with her and her husband Louis.

In the spring of 1960, Luchenia died in hospital on 28 April 1960; she was 74 years old. Her body was returned to Saskatchewan, and she was buried next to her husband Wasyl in Tolstoy Cemetery near Veregin. [5]


1. John E. Lyons, “Toil and a Peaceful Life: Peter V. Verigin and Doukhobor Education”, Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( : accessed 1 April 2014), 87.

2. Steve Lapshinoff & Jonathan Kalmakoff, Doukhobor Ship Passenger Lists 1898-1928 (Crescent Valley: self-published, 2001), 49.

3. “Passenger Lists for the Port of Quebec City, 1865-1900”, digital images, Library and Archives Canada ( : accessed 28 March 2014), manifest, S.S. Lake Huron, 21 June 1899, p. 24 (penned), entry no. 1445, Lukeria Tomilin [sic], age 13.

4. 1901 census of Canada, Devils Lake, Assiniboia (east/est), The Territories, population schedule, subdistrict Y-1, p. 10, dwelling 61, family 133, Lucaria Tamelian [sic]; digital images, ( : accessed 31 May 2009).

5. Province of Alberta Department of Public Health, registration of death, no. 08-009495, Lucy Demosky (1960); Division of Vital Statistics, Edmonton.

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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