Anne Shirley of
Green Gables




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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


I may have a useful tidbit of family history for you. This comes in connection with the forthcoming visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to P.E.I. Anne Shirley actually existed. According to my family records she was not a fictional character at all. She was born in Aston Sandford, Bucks, England in 1742 and as an orphan was raised by my family. Apparently she was also a red head and very strong willed. This Anne married well and settled in the Haddenham region of Bucks. The Anne Shirley, 1742, Buckinghamshire connection may seem a bit tenuous. However, here is my theory. My ancestor, James Dover, came to P.E.I. in 1835 as a young man and became a prominent land owner in the Charlottetown region of P.E.I. He was recruited in England to receive a large land grant in Canada by a Mr. Montgomery, the Crown land agent, whom I assume is the ancestor of L.M. Montgomery. He may have been a family friend of the Montgomery's and may have shared this family story (as a link to the Mother Country) with them (he died in 1905). These are the strands I have pulled together in my own family history. In our family church in Aston Sandford there is an actual baptism certificate for Anne Shirley. Historians in Buckinghamshire are aware of the Anne of Green Gables connection but this seems to have faded into the mists of time
Please let me know if this is of some use to you.
Gary Dover

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:
"Contents of the Church Box:
1742 - Ann Shirley baptized. Some 200 years later, L.M. Montgomery (of Nova Scotia) would write the most popular children's book about an orphan "Anne Shirley" of Green Gables - in 1993 a popular television serial." I was told by the Goodes that the L.M. Montgomery Society had a copy of the baptismal certificate and were certainly aware of the English Anne Shirley. They probably took note of this as an interesting co-incidence, being totally unaware of the Canadian P.E.I. James Dover connection. The only other bits I have are as follows: James went on to become a major land owner in P.E.I. His farm estate was located north of Charlottetown on the Suffolk Road (north of Pleasant Grove). Cavendish (Green Gables) is fairly near (approx 45 Kms). I notice from LM Montgomery's bio that she worked as a cub reporter for the Charlottetown Daily Patriot in 1890 and after her graduation from university in 1897 had various teaching jobs in and around the island. In 1890 James would have been 75 years and probably would have been active in running the farm. He was certainly well known (and I believe well respected) around the island That's all I have. Did James ever meet up with Maude and spin a few stories about the old country? Maybe, but I have no direct evidence. I am certain the Buckinghamshire Historical Society have alot more on Anne Shirley. From what I remember she was held up as an example of a "likely lass" who rose above adversity and went on to become a prominent figure in West Buckinghamshire society. Could James even have met Anne in England? Before he left in 1835 he was 20 years old. Anne would have been a "grand dame" of 93 years if indeed she was still alive.
It would appear that the Shirley's also farmed in the Oakley region of Buckinghamshire. Oakley is not far from Haddenham. Shirley's and Dover's could have met at Thame (the local market town).


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