May Family

John May, 1853

John May, 1853

The May family unites with the Man family through the marriage of Harry Morgan Stoe Man to Nora Loeck in 1909. Nora’s mother was Eleanor Ida (May) Loeck the daughter of Thomas May and Ida Marie Wolff.

Thomas was the son of John May (right).  John was married twice, first to Charlotte whose last name is not known and second to Phillis Eliza, again whose last name is not known.

With Charlotte, John had at least three sons: Thomas, Edmund George, and Charles. With Eliza John had several children including Frederick Albert May who married Ida Wolff’s sister Clara.

John’s son Thomas May married Ida Wolff in Hamburg before 1855 and they had seven children:

  1. ALICE FANNY born 1855 in Montreal, Canada;
  2. FRANK WOLFF born 1856 in Hamburg, Germany. (see notes below)
  3. GUSTAVE CHARLES born 1858 in Montreal, Canada. He married Aimee Charlotte Gault. They had one son – Robert – but no descendants.
  4. FLORENCE ELIZA born on 12 May 1859 in Montreal, Canada (She married Walter Pocock, M.D. and details of this family can be found here (<– PDF)). No descendants. 
  5. ELEANOR IDA CLARA who married Otto Loeck
  6. EVELYN (Effie). She married Louis Gustave Schwabe.

Below, five of the seven May children:

Sidney, Evelyn (Effie), Alice, Florence (Dolly), and Eleanor Ida

Sydney, Evelyn (Effie), Alice, Florence (Dolly), and Eleanor Ida

Below, Harvestchuder Weg 10, Hamburg, the home of the May family which was subsequently demolished and where now stands the music department of the University of Hamburg.

Harverstruder Weg 10, Hamburg home of the May family

Harverstruder Weg 10, Hamburg, home of the May family

Below, Thomas May from a photograph in the family’s possession. At the McCord Museum in Montreal, Canada, there is a collection of studio portrait photographs of various members of the May and Wolff families. A PDF has been created of these photographs which can be viewed HERE.

Thomas May

Thomas May

From the 1861 Canadian census we can gather the following pieces of information: Thomas May was born in England and is listed as aged 32 in 1861 which means he was born in 1822. (One source says that he was born on 6 Jun 1819 in Kent but the 1861 Canadian census contradicts this). His wife Ida Marie Wolff (daughter of Moritz Wolff and Fanny Maria Schwabe) is shown 27 years old in 1861 which means she was born in 1834 in Hamburg, Germany.

Also listed on the census is Eliza May who appears as ‘mother’. It looks as if her age is 32 which would not be possible if she were ‘mother’ of Frederick who also appears on the census and so we assume that 32 is an error. (There often are on censuses).  We further assume Eliza is not Thomas’s mother but rather Frederick’s. As Fred would be 22 in 1861 we assume he was born in 1839 (not 1842 as previously thought) in England. The children listed are: Alice, Frank, Gustave, and Florence. The family is living in a two story brick house on a quarter of an acre of land with three servants.

The May Family on the 1861 census for Canada

The May Family on the 1861 census for Canada

Also found a christening record entry for Gustave at St George’s church Montreal.

1. Gustave son of Thomas May & of Ida Marie Wolff his wife was born on the Fifteenth [?] day of February Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Eight [1885] was Baptized on the Twenty Third Day of March [?] of the same Year. (To view the entry click here)

[Signed] By [?]

Parents names:
Thomas May
Ida Fanny [?] May

Sponsors: (There are some names that cannot be distinguished – ‘Charles May’ by Proxy Thomas May’ [?]

Below, a fan in the possession of the family, showing the seven May children:

The seven children of Thomas and Ida (Wolff) May on a painted ivory fan in the possession of the family

The seven children of Thomas and Ida (Wolff) May on a painted ivory fan in the possession of the family.


Frank Wolff May was the eldest son of Thomas and Ida (Wolff) May. He was born on September 8th 1856 in Hamburg, Germany and he married Mary Elizabeth Van Koughnet (b. 1861) on 30th July 1884 at Halton, Ontario, Canada.

The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec) 2 Aug 1884

They had three daughters. Frank died on 22 November 1934 and was buried at Cimetière Mont-Royal. Mary died on 1st January 1953 and was also buried at Cimetière Mont-Royal.

The eldest daughter, Lilian Gretchen, was born on 23 June 1885. On 23rd October 1906 she married John James Alexander Riddell at Montreal. Nothing is known her death (L. G. Riddell) on 10 November 1935. She was buried at Cimetière Mont-Royal.

Below are the baptismal records for two of Frank and Mary Elizabeth (VanKoughnet) May ‘s daughters: Beatrix (sometimes Beatrice) Gladys May who was born on 5th October 1886 and Elsa / Elsie Marjorie May who was born on 11th April 1890.  Both were baptized at St John the Evangelist Anglican church in Montreal Canada. Elsa Marjorie died, unmarried, on 13th October 1968 and was buried at Cimetière Mont-Royal.

Beatrice Gladys May's baptismal record

Beatrice Gladys May’s baptismal record

Elsa Marjorie May Baptism

Elsa Marjorie May’s baptismal record

In 1906, at Richmond, Surrey, Beatrice Gladys May married Allan Dickson Grigg (1872-1955) of Eastcliffe House, Bembridge on the Isle of Wight; where they kept and bred a herd of Jersey cattle. Allan Grigg was a close friend of the British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George (1863-1945). He and Beatrice’s home still stands today, enjoying “an exceptional position over-looking the eastern approach to the Solent” on the mainland. The house was built by them in 1930 and has ten bedrooms and extensive grounds which includes its own sandy beach.

Beatrice’s husband was the son of Henry Tully Grigg (1839-1887) Esq., of Queensberry House, Richmond and Buenos Aires, Argentina, by his wife Mary Emma Dowse. The Griggs had an extensive cattle business in Argentina (where Allan was born and died) and after his father’s death, Allan continued to run the firm. Allan’s sister, Elsie Vaughan Grigg (d.1942), married Sir Ralph St. George Claude Gore (1871-1961) 10th Bt., President of the Royal Yachting Squadron. Allan’s brother, Major Ralph Stuart Grigg of the 18th Hussars (though he lived at Buenos Aires too), married his brother-in-law’s sister, Hilda Gore, and they were the parents of Joan Stuart Grigg who married Sir Terence Hume Langrishe (1895-1973) 6th Bt., of Knocktopher Abbey, Co. Kilkenny. [The above two paragraphs borrowed from Mark M. Thank you Mark.]

The children of BEATRICE MAY and ALLAN GRIGG are:
ii. PETER FRANCIS (Born 30th January 1910. Baptised on 6th March 1910 at St Saviour, Upper Chelsea and died in the last quarter of 1910);
iii. MALCOLM ALLAN TULLY b.1908 d.1931; and
iv. ELIZABETH BEATRIX, b. 1912; m. 1948 at Ely, Cambridgeshire, TADEK KUPHAL; b. 1896.(Tadeusz Kuphal / Tadeusz Ruhpal).

Below the death announcement for Beatrice (May) Grigg

The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec) 14 Dec 1948



Location of Houghton and MayThomas started out in partnership with a Mr. Houghton. The following is from a Montreal Business Directory dated 1851:

HOUGHTON & MAY, importers of foreign and British staple and fancy dry goods, German plate, window and fancy glass, Berlin wools, embroideries, &c., 182 St. Paul st.

Left one of the earliest locations of Thomas’s warehouse located  at 180-194, rue Saint-Paul Ouest in Montreal. Thomas held the lease on the building in 1864.

The following is taken from Illustrated Toronto: Past and Present by J. Timperlake.

Thomas May and Co TorontoThomas May & Co.—The warehouse of this firm is one of the handsomest and most commodious in the city, and is situate on Wellington street west, between Bay and York streets. The building is in the Louis XIV. style of architecture, designed by Langley, Langley & Burke, 180 feet deep, by 40 feet frontage, and is five storeys high. The front is highly ornamented, being of finely cut stone, the massive colurans, imposing doorway, and beautifully carved centrepiece giving it an imposing beauty not equalled by any other importing house in the city. The house is . a branch of the Montreal firm of T. May and Co., the largest importers of millinery, fancy dry goods, mens’ and boys’ felt hats, &c. This house has been established over twenty-five years. The firm consists of Messrs. J. Richard Wolff, T. A. May, and James Paterson, Mr. Paterson being the resident partner of the firm.

Thomas May and Co Montreal Herald Sept 6 1892

The Montreal Herald 6 September 1892

The city of Montreal, Que., was unfortunate in January in being visited with a series of disastrous fires. On the night of the 18th the premises of Thomas May & Company, corner of McGill and St. James streets, were gutted, with a loss of about $350,000.Thomas May Montreal Fire

Below from Canadian Electrical News, Volume 11

A couple of items in the daily press lately are worthy of note …  another daily voicing its views on the late destructive fire at Thos. May [it Company’s, says : “It will probably never be known what caused the fire, but no doubt it was due to electric wires.” (When in doubt, blame electricity.)

It is possible, but highly improbable, that the late fire in Thos. May & Company’s was electrical. The fire, it is admitted, started about to p.m. Now, the establishment in question closed at 6 p.m., and it is rather unlikely that it should smother until then, especially as the factory portion of the establishment hasThomas May Warehouse Fire considerable wooden benching, partitions, etc. Again, if the office clerks were back after hours they would have used gas, as the electric light installation was not extended to the. ground floor. So far as the motor circuit is concerned (50 V. D.C.), the wires entered by a window, on the top floor and the interior circuit ran only about 2 feet to where the motor was located, same being duly provided with a D.P.].K. switch. The electric lighting outfit was limited in its area, and was “open cleat” style, and not of an ancient type. The chances are far stronger that the fire can be laid down about the sewing machines (run from shaft) under bench, as actually was the case in the former Bernier & West fire ; the daily news putting it to electricity, notwithstanding proof.

Montreal DirectoryBelow from The Postal Record, 1892:

A clever swindler has been extensively using the mails in this way: He would notify dry goods and millinery dealers that a large Canadian firm “May Thomas & Co.” had sent them very valuable samples. Later in some adroit manner he secured duplicates of custom house stationery and sent notices to the effect that valuable goods for “you” were detained for payment of custom duties amounting to $5.00. Many were victimized and the good name of the firm of Thomas May & Co. of Montreal suffered. The swindler has been caught.

Below from STYLE Magazine of 1893.


An ingenious swindler, giving his name as O. E. Small, has  just been arrested in Detroit. His method was simple yet most effective. He sent out circulars to the millinery trade of the
United States purporting to be from May, Thomas & Co., of Montreal, announcing that the firm had forwarded to them a sample case of goods. He next sent them a card purporting to
come from the Detroit custom house announcing the arrival of the goods and asking them to remit $3.50 for customs charges to Lock box 162, Detroit. The scheme worked like a charm
Most of his dupes believed the firm of May, Thomas & Co. was the same as Thomas May &: Co., the well-known millinery firm of Montreal, and had no hesitation in forwarding the money at
once. As the goods did not turn up, they wrote to Thomas May & Co., asking for an explanation, and when that firm realized that a swindle was being worked under a colorable imitation
of their name they promptly placed the matter in the hands of Detectives Grose and Carpenter, who soon ran their man to earth. Saturday’s mail brought seventy-five letters from people
who had sent money to the swindlers asking for the goods from Thomas May & Co., and Detective Grose has now over two hundred letters from milliners who had duly forwarded the $2.50 asked for to Lock box 162.

New York Times 9 May 1893

Thomas May Advertisment

PUBLIC Notice is hereby given that under The Companies Act, 1902, letters patent have been issued under the Seal of the Secretary of State of Canada, hearing date the 17th June, 1904, incorporating Edward J. Major, merchant, Bernard McNally, secretary, and Hercule Giroux, commercial traveller, all of the City of Montreal, in the Province of Quebec ; William Macculloch, banker, of the City of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario ; and Dame Mary Elizabeth Van Koughnet, wife separate as to property of Frank W. May, merchant, of the City of Montreal Frank Wolff May from Men of Canadaaforesaid, for the following purposes, viz :—

  1. To acquire the assets and assume the liabilities of the firm known as “ The Canada Ribbon Company,” and to carry on the business and trade now carried on by said firm.
  2. To carry on business, and trade generally as importers of fancy dry goods, ribbons and milliners’ goods and supplies of al kinds.
  3. To buy and sell, on wholesale and retail, and trade generally in all kinds of ribbons, fancy dry goods and articles of millinery.

The operations of the company to be carried on throughout the Dominion of Canada and elsewhere, by the name of “Thomas May and Company ” (limited), with a total capital stock of forty-eight thousand dollars, divided into four hundred and eighty shares of one hundred dollars, and the chief place of business of the said com any to be at the City of Montreal, in the Province of Quebec.



Frank Wolff May

Frank Wolff May died on 22 November 1934. He was cremated and his ashes placed at Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal.

As with a large number of commercial enterprises Thomas May & Co found itself a plaintiff in the case of Houghton and May v Hudson which has been summarized HERE.

Thomas May’s Siblings: This section is ‘under construction’ and has very little data at this point. Thomas had at least two brothers Charles and Edmund George. The former had quite a career in the Hong Kong police force and we will be detailing both brothers’ ‘histories’ some time in the future. We give for now one tiny piece on EGM:


Marriage announcement from The Times 24 May 1859:

The Times, May 24, 1859