Wildred Elmer SEARS was born 28 July 1861 in Kenwood, Oneida, Madison County, New York, USA. He married Mary Ann Inez KNIBBS 25 November 1885 in Niagara Falls, Niagara County, New York, USA. He died 06 January 1958 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Mary Ann Inez KNIBBS, daughter of David KNIBBS and Mary UNKNOWN , was born 01 January 1862 in Niagara Falls, Niagara County, New York, USA. She died 08 February 1950 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Children of Wildred Elmer SEARS and Mary Ann Inez KNIBBS are:
1. John Edgar SEARS, b. 26 September 1886
2. Elmer Wilfred SEARS, b. 09 March 1889
3. Grace Alice SEARS, b. 14 July 1890
4. Georgia SEARS, b. 22 March 1892
5. Lester Franklin SEARS, b. 01 July 1893 See Lester Franklin SEARS & Louise Jane HILLMER
6. Elsie Frances SEARS, b. 23 July 1898
7. Adeline Maria SEARS, b. 01 October 1900

Marriage Notes for Wildred Elmer SEARS\Mary Ann Inez KNIBBS:

From the Niagara Falls Gazette, Tuesday November 26th, 1935
Popular Falls Couple Observe 50th Anniversary at Ellen Avenue Home.
Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Sears, in Perfect Health, at Home to Friends During Afternoon and Evening.NIAGARA FALLS. Ont., Nov. 25 - In perfect health, happy and continuing to enjoy the fullest companionship. Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Sears, two of the most highly respected residents of this city, celebrated their golden wedding yesterday at their home, 1603 Ellen avenue, from 3 until 6 o'clock in the afternoon and from 8 until 10 o'clock in the evening.
Throughout the afternoon and evening they were felicitated by hundreds of friends. Mrs. Sears in a graceful navy blue satin gown with gold trimming and corsage of orchids received in the living room assisted by her husband. A profusion of presentation bouquets and baskets of flowers decorated the room.
Mr. Sears who is 74 years of age, and his bride of 50 years ago, who is 72, continue to lead active lives and they are one in believing that the presents hold the happiness for the past filled with pleasant memories. They are a happy couple and the joy of their home is contagious.
They have lived in this city for the past 46 years coming here four years after their wedding took place in Niagara Falls, N.Y., which was the native home of Mrs. Sears. She was formerly Miss Minnie Knibbs, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Knibbs.
Mr. Sears does not smoke or drink spirituous liquor and believes in moderation in all things is a leading contributipn to good health. For 50 years he was on the staff of the Oneida Community plant. Mr. and Mrs. Sears were showered with gifts and good wishes from far and near yesterday.
Miss Adeline Sears, only daughter assisted in receiving the guests. The door was opened by Miss Margaret Quick. Mrs. Charles Ballantyne in the afternoon and Miss Margaret Oliver in the evening. The tea table was centered with a basket of golden 'mums in either sides of which were yellow candles in amber holders and a wedding cake with candles.
Presiding at the table in the afternoon were Mrs. Norman A. McMurray and Mrs. H Utting. In the evening Mrs. John McGee and Mrs. R. Hedge presided. The assistants were Miss Isabel Sears, Miss Marjorie Munro of Thorold in the afternoon and in the evening, Miss Bessie Carpenter, Miss C. Sears and Miss Elsie Beckett.


From the Niagara Falls Gazette, Monday November 26th 1945.
Couple Observes 60th Anniversary.
NIAGARA FALLS, Ont., Nov. 25 - Mr. and Mrs. Wilfrid Sears celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last night at the family dinner party at their home, 1063 Ellen avenue. The bride of 60 years ago wore a
black crepe gown with corsage of white and yellow chrysanthemums. The well known couple was the recipients of many lovely gifts, and messages of good wishes.
Relatives were present from Niagara Falls, N.Y., Thorold and this City.
Mrs. Sears was formerly Miss Mary Ann Inez Knibbs, of Niagara Falls, N.Y. Their wedding took place November 25, 1885, at the home of the bride's parents. They have resided in this city ever since. Mr. Sears is
84 years of age and his wife is 82. They have one son, John, of this city, and one daughter, Miss Adeline, at home, Three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.


Minnie and Wildred, taken in 1937 when they were in their mid-70's (Click to enlarge)

Notes for Wildred Elmer SEARS:

Also known as: Wilfred and sometimes Wilfred Elmer

Wildred was the son of John Freeman SEARS b. 7 Apr 1836, Massachusetts, d. 19 May 1921, bur. Oneida Community Cemetery, Kenwood, Oneida, Madison Co, NY, and Ann Eliza Van Velzer b. 23 Aug 1836, Syracuse, NY d. 6 Nov 1899, occ. Housekeeper, General Services.

Ann Eliza Van Velzer never married and died at the age of 63 in 1899.

Wildred was born into the Oneida Community, a Nineteenth-Century Utopian Society established by John Humphrey Noyes. It was a religious and social society founded in Oneida, New York, in 1848 by John Humphrey Noyes and his followers. In the beginning, most of them were Vermonters, almost all were New Englanders.
The Community was founded on Noyes' theology of Perfectionism, a form of Christianity with two basic values; self-perfection and communalism. These ideals were translated into everyday life through shared property and work. Noyes' solution was a society where the interest of one member became the interest of all - the enlargement of the family. They called themselves Perfectionists and, being logical and literal, they proceeded to substitute for the small unit of home and family and individual possessions, the larger unit of group-family and group-family life.
The Oneida Community canned fruits and vegetables; they made traps and chains; they made traveling bags and straw hats and mop sticks and sewing silk and, last of all, they found out how to make silver knives and forks and spoons.
They practiced Communalism (in the sense of communal property and possessions), Complex marriage, Male Continence, Mutual Criticism and Ascending Fellowship.

Between 1869 and 1880, John Humphrey Noyes introduced a selective breeding programme ("stirpiculture") with parents chosen for intellectual, physical and spiritual characteristics. Fifty-eight children were born. From what I can tell from the various accounts of the Community, Wildred's mother, Ann Eliza Van Velzer, produced at least two children into the eugenics programme: Wildred being one, and a girl named Ruth Baron being another, born in 1870.

The Oneida Community remained true to its original ideals until problems started to occur in 1876 when Noyes tried to hand over leadership to his son, Dr. Theodore Noyes, an agnostic. He tried to run the community with a tight fist which was resented by the people. John Humphrey Noyes himself had to come back to put things back in order but by then it was too late. Factions within the community had already formed and in 1879, due to the opposition and hostility from the surrounding communities, Noyes, who had already withdrawn from active leadership, felt compelled to abandon the system of Complex Marriage. Noyes wanted to keep the community together but since Complex Marriage was such an integrated part of their lives, the community could not settle down to the "normal" style of living. In 1880, a committee was appointed to consider the advisability of re-organizing upon a joint-stock basis. In January of 1881 the joint-stock company, called the "Oneida Community, Limited," was set up and the Oneida Community was abandoned.

We can see him with his grandparents, father and aunt Georgiana in 1870 living at Lenox, Madison County New York:
Sears Freeman 61 Engineer Massachusetts
Sears Ann 57 Nurse Massachusetts
Sears John 34 Machinist Massachusetts
Sears Georgianna 31 Silk Spooler Massachusetts
Sears Wildred 8 New York

We can also see him in 1880 recorded as living at the Oneida Community, Lenox, Madison County, New York with his grandfather, his mother and Alice Sears although I'm not sure who Alice was:
Sears Freeman 71 Silk Skeiner Massachusetts
Sears Ann 44 Alchemist Massachusetts
Sears Alice E 32 General Service New York
Sears Wilfull 18 Salesman New York

I'm not sure who Alice was, but clearly not a daughter of Freeman and Ann as the census tells us that her parents were both born in New York - Freeman is from Massachusetts. Interesting to see Wildred recorded as 'Wilfull'.

The Oneida Community was a 19th Century Perfectionist Commune.

From the Gazetteer of Towns - Lenox, NY:
The "Oneida Community" is an association, located on Oneida Creek, four miles south of Oneida. It is organized on a peculiar social and religious basis, and was established in 1847, by John H. Noyes, from whom most of their religious and social tenets were received. They form a general community, holding common interest in all things. They call their peculiar social system "complex marriage." They number about two hundred; are located on a farm of over 500 acres, and engaged in horticulture and manufacturing. Their farm and dwellings are in Lenox, but some of their shops are in Oneida County. Their principal manufactures are steel-traps, sewing machine twist, and preserved fruits. They make eight sizes and descriptions of traps, suitable for catching everything, from a house rat to a grizzly bear. Their sales of traps last year amounted to over $100,000. Their sales of machine twist and sewing silk amount to about $75,000 per year, and of preserved fruits of various kinds to about $25,000. They have a saw-mill, a foundry, a carpenter shop and packing box manufactory, and a machine shop, where they make their own silk machinery. In some departments they employ hired help, superintended by their own people. "The Circular," published weekly, is "free to all," but "those who choose to pay, may send one dollar a year."

John Freeman Sears had a sister Georgianna, born 25 Aug 1838 in MA, USA and died on 8 Jan 1924 in Niagara Falls Centre, Ontario, Canada.

I am told by a descendant of John Freeman's sister Georgianna Sears, that Wildred's father (John Freeman Sears) was the son of Freeman Sears who was born on 14 December 1808 in Ashfield, Massachusetts, USA, and died on 7 December 1899 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Freeman married Ann Cooley who was born on 18 November 1812 in Massachusetts, USA and died on 16 June 1901 in Niagara Falls Center, Ontario, Canada.

Leslee Sears, Wildred's great-granddaughter tells me that Wildred's father, John Freeman Sears worked in the US arsenal. It's through Wildred's mother, Ann Eliza Van Velzer that Wildred is connected to John Humphrey Noyes, the founder of the Oneida Community. When Ann's mother died, her father Lyman Van Veltzer remarried and had more children with his new wife. One of his daughters from this marriage, Mary Elizabeth Van Veltzer, became the 7th wife of John Humphrey Noyes. Mary Elizabeth Van Veltzer was born 29 Feb 1848, at Syracuse, New York, USA. She died on 1 Jan 1917.

I found the details of Wildred's parents and his marriage to Minnie at the Oneida Community web site, and it's quite clear that Wildred's parents were members of the Oneida Community and that he and his siblings were born into it. We can see from the Oneida Journals, the following entry which refers to a severe criticism of Wildred's aunt Georgiana when she would have been about 18 years of age:

Every member of the community was subject to criticism by committee or the community as a whole, during a general meeting. The goal was to eliminate bad character traits. Various contemporary sources contend that Noyes himself was the subject of criticism, although less often and of probably less severe criticism than the rest of the community. Although this could sometimes be a harsh process, the majority of community members appreciated this criticism because it allowed them to try to better themselves.

February 2, 1856 ~ ONEIDA JOURNAL. ~
This evening Georgiana Sears was the subject of criticism. She was commended for her mechanical genius; was quiet and respectful to all. She lacked the spirit of improvement, neglected her class in the afternoon taught by Mrs. Skinner. She was as good a representative of the spirit of false love as there was in the Association; was apt to place her heart and affections on those who were extremely attractive. Charles Joslyn thought there was a seductive spirit, which was coquetish, and created desire which she could not satisfy.
Noyes: This is a hard criticism, but I endorse it, for I believe it just and true. Georgiana's relations have been mostly with those who were discontented and unspiritual, and if she does not get rid of them, she will be landed in the world. And I protest in the name of Jesus Christ, that no man who is unspiritual shall be a leading lover.
In the evening of the 3rd a note from Georgiana was read, which was commended by the family. Mr. Noyes had suggested that we commend her; he liked the plan which was started at Putney, to commend a person after a severe criticism.

Several years later there is also reference to the behaviour and high spirits of Wildred himself (or Wilfred as he seemed to be called) who was then 19 years of age:

July 6, 1880 ~ Tuesday ~ COUNCIL
Report was made to the Council that Wilfred Sears, in opposition to the counsel of his near friends and in entire disregard of the judgement of the family, had taken two hired girls to Morrisville, paying the fare of one or both, hiring a room at the hotel in which to put their things, staying all night to a dance and paying the expenses, some $8.00 out of his personal appropriations; a course that was not only very improper, but liable to bring discredit on the family. The Council considered it unsafe to have such a person in a responsible position, and recommended that Wilfred be taken out of the Tailoring Department and of the Huckster Shop, and put to work elsewhere.---Reference was also made to an irresponsible journey to Norwich by Harry Kelly without consultation with his guardians; and it was thought best to call the attention of parents and guardians to a rule adopted by the Council and family that in case of minors under 20 years of age all expenditures shall be made with the approval and authorization of the parents and guardians.
July 9 ~ Friday ~ COUNCIL
The matter of the relations of hired girls to our young men, as in the case of Wilfred Sears, was furthered considered. It was suggested as a means of preventing such unpleasant connections, that they be told if they allowed any advances of that kind from our young men they would be discharged. It seemed to be the opinion of the Council that while it was decidedly undesirable to take any special action of that kind, it was advisable that the old rule that all connections with hired persons be of a strictly business character, and any special social relations would be improper, should be fully maintained. And that it be clearly understood by the hired help that any improper breach of that rule would very likely result in a discharge.
Note: © The Oneida Journals are the property of the Syracuse University Library

The Oneida Community existed as a utopian, religious experiment for 32 years. It was founded in 1848 by John Humphrey Noyes (1811-1886) and his followers when they moved to Central New York from Putney, Vermont, and ended in 1881 when the communal society became the joint-stock company Oneida Community Ltd.
The members of the Oneida Community were Perfectionists who believed that the second coming of Christ had already occurred. This event allowed a new Eden on Earth in which there would be no sin or selfishness. The members lived communally and practiced what they called "complex marriage" in which each adult was married to every adult of the opposite sex within the community. They managed their society and complex marriage through "mutual criticism", "ascending fellowship" and the inspired guidance of John Humphrey Noyes.

The Oneida Community achieved financial success through the production of canned fruits and vegetables, and the manufacture of animal traps, chains, silk thread and silver-ware. In 1881 the Oneida Community abandoned the communal way of life and complex marriage and became the joint-stock company, Oneida Community Ltd. Now named Oneida Ltd., the company continues as a leading name in tableware.
In recent years, Oneida has licensed it's name on many different items. Vintage Label, as shown below, is one such item - made by someone else but sold with the Oneida name.

The company continues to prosper and grow. In the year 2000, Oneida Ltd. purchased Viners of Sheffield, the UK's largest cutlery company. With this purchase, Oneida became the largest cutlery company in the United Kingdom accounting for approximately 70% of the market.

I bought these containers in the US from the Oneida shop before I knew of the connection between Knibbs and Oneida.

Visit The Oneida Society web site


From the 1901 Census for Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
Sears Wilfreid M Head M Jul 20 1860 40 25 60
Sears Minney F Wife M Jan 1 1862 38 26 60
Sears John M Son S Sep 26 1886 14 27 60
Sears Elmer M Son S Mar 9 1889 12 28 60
Sears Lester M Son S Jul 10 1893 7 29 60
Sears Elsie F Daughter S Jun 17 1898 2 30 60
Sears Hattie F Daughter S Oct 4 1890 6 months

The digits appearing after the year of birth represent the number in the count, with 60 being the number given to the household. It is confirmed by Leslee Sears that the daughter listed as Hattie is indeed the one that we have recorded as Adeline Maria Sears. Leslee's father knew her and remembers that she lived into the 1970's.

Living in the next door house were Wildred's aunt Georgianna and probably a sister-in-law Adlen Cooley, her neice Adlin, and her mother Ann Sears:
Cooley Adlen F Head W Apr 25 1834 67 21 59
Cooley Adlin F Daughter S Apr 8 1855 46 22 59
Sears Ann F Mother W Nov 18 1812 88 23 59
Lord Georgie F Sister W Aug 25 1838 62 24

We can see Wildred in 1911 living at Welland District, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada:
37 496 Sears Wilfred E. M Head M Jul 1861 50
38 496 Sears Minnie F Wife M Jan 1863 48
39 496 Sears Lester M Son S Jul 1893 18
40 496 Sears Elsie F Daughter S Jul 1898 12
41 496 Sears Adeline F Daughter S Oct 1900 10

Still living next door to him was his aunt Georgeana:
34 495 Cooley Adaline F Head W Apr 1834 77
35 495 Cooley Adaline M. F Daughter S Apr 1854 57
36 495 Lard [LORD] Geogeana J. F Sister W Aug 1838 73

From the Niagara Falls Gazette, Monday January 6, 1958:
W. E. Sears Dies at 96.
Niagara Falls, Ont., Wilfred Elmer Sears, 96, died at his home, 1603 Ellen Ave., today (Jan. 6, 1958).
A native of Kenwood, N.Y., he came to this city in 1890 where he was employed for more than half a century as a machinist for the Animal Trap Co, Mr. Sears was a charter member of Kitchener Street United Church. He was an elder in the church and had served various church boards and committees.
He was a charter member of Adoniram Lodge No. 573, AF & AM and a member of St. Mark's Lodge No. 105, AF & AM, Cataract Lodge No. 103, IOOF.
Surviving are a daughter, Miss Adeline Sears, at home, a son John E. Sears, Huntsville, Ont.; two grandsons, a gradddaughter and six great-grandchildren.
Services will be conducted at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Heatherington and Deans Funeral Chapel. Burial will be in Fairview Cemetery.


Our gratitude goes to the members and volunteers at Find A Grave web site for recording the details, in memory of Wildred.

Sources for Wildred Elmer SEARS:

  1. Oneida Community Website,
  2. 1901 Census Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, gives 20 July 1860 
  3. Personal Contact with Leslee Sears Nevill, gave middle name of Edward 
  4. 1911 Canadian Census,
  5. Obituary,

Notes for Mary Ann Inez KNIBBS:

Also known as: Minnie

Minnie Knibbs, taken in 1937, in her mid-70's (Click to enlarge)

Information available at http://www.laurahatch.com/Oneida%20Community%20Web/ONEIDA.HTM#CNTC showing the marriage of Minnie KNIBBS to Eldred SEARS in New York.

I was told by Leslee Sears Nevill that she has a copy of an affidavit written by Mary Ann Inez Sears in 1942, attesting to the birth of Lester Franklin Sears (Leslee's grandfather). She states in the letter that that she is Lester Franklin's mother and is the wife of Wildred E Sears. She states that Lester Franklin was born on 1 July 1893.

The letter was provided via a firm of Barristers in Niagara Falls.

Where does Inez come from I wonder?

I've since found a record of her daughter Elsie Frances' death at Welland, Niagara Falls, Canada in October 1918, and in that, Minnie is also identified as Mary Ann Inez KNIBBS. Her son Lester Franklin died in Stamford, Welland, Ontaria in 1922, and Minnie's name was also recorded as Mary Ann Sears.

From the Niagara Falls Gazette, Thursday February 9th, 1950.
Charter Church Member Dies.NIAGARA FALLS, Ont., Feb 9 - Mrs. Wilfred Sears, 87, of 1603 Ellen avenue, died at the greater Niagara hospital last evening.
Born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Mrs. Sears was the former Mary Ann Inez Knibbs. She had lived here the last 60 years. She was a charter member of Kitchener Street United church, a life member of the Women's Missionary society of the church and was active in other church groups.
Surviving are her husband, Wilfred E. Sears; one daughter, Adeline M. Sears, at home; one son, John E. Sears, Huntsville, Ont.; two grandsons, Wilfred E. Sears, this city, and  Lester J. Sears, St. Catharines, Ont., and one granddaughter, Mrs. John Lee, Thorold, Ont.
The body is resting at the Hetherington and Deans Funeral chapel where services will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. with interment in Fairview cemetery.


Our gratitude goes to the members and volunteers at Find A Grave web site for recording the details, in memory of Mary.

Sources for Mary Ann Inez KNIBBS:

  1. 1880 US Federal Census,
  2. 1901 Census Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, gives date only 
  3. 1911 Canadian Census,
  4. Obituary,
  5. Personal Contact with Leslee Sears Nevill,

Notes for John Edgar SEARS:

Leslee Sears, the granddaughter of Elmer's mother Minnie, has papers from her mother to say that John became a Lt. Engineer during WWI, and that he studied at Queens College.

He married a girls named Ethel Mary.Brown McKenna on 26 Jan 1912 in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada.

On 13 September, 1924, we see John and his wife Ethel arriving in New York from Liverpool, England, aboard the vessel SS Aurania. The ships manifest identified that John was aged 38 and Ethel 36. They were living at Thorold, Ontario. John was an Engineer by trade. Ethel was born in Glasgow, Scotland.

Our gratitude goes to the members and volunteers at Find A Grave web site for recording the details, in memory of John.

Sources for John Edgar SEARS:

  1. 1901 Census Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada,
  2. Oneida Community Website,
  3. findagrave.com,

Notes for Elmer Wilfred SEARS:

Elmer supposedly married Ethel McKenna in 1912.

Leslee Sears, the granddaughter of Elmer's mother Minnie, has papers from her mother to say that Elmer died in a tragic accident when he was at college training to become a Vet. He was apparently kicked in the head by a horse.

Our gratitude goes to the members and volunteers at Find A Grave web site for recording the details, in memory of Elmer.

Sources for Elmer Wilfred SEARS:

  1. 1901 Census Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada,
  2. Oneida Community Website,
  3. LDS - Ontario Deaths,1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,

Notes for Grace Alice SEARS:

Our gratitude goes to the members and volunteers at Find A Grave web site for recording the details, in memory of Grace.

Sources for Grace Alice SEARS:

  1. Oneida Community Website,

Notes for Georgia SEARS:

Our gratitude goes to the members and volunteers at Find A Grave web site for recording the details, in memory of who we believe to be Georgia.

Sources for Georgia SEARS:

  1. Oneida Community Website,

Notes for Elsie Frances SEARS:

Elsie apparently died in the influenza epidemic in 1918.

Name: Elsie Francis Sears
Death date: 28 Oct 1918
Estimated death year:
Age at death: 20 years
Death place: Niagara Falls, Welland, Ontario
Birth date: 1898
Estimated birth year: 1898
Birth place: Niagara Falls, Ontario
Gender: Female
Marital status: Single
Race or color (expanded):
Spouse name:
Spouse titles:
Father name: Wilfred Elmer Sears
Father titles:
Mother name: Mary Ann Inez Knibbs
Mother titles:
GSU film number: 1862887
Digital GS number: 4170891
Image number: 538
Reference number: yr 1918 cn 41593
Collection: Ontario Deaths 1869-1947

Our gratitude goes to the members and volunteers at Find A Grave web site for recording the details, in memory of Elsie.

Sources for Elsie Frances SEARS:

  1. 1901 Census Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, gave 18 June 1898 
  2. 1911 Canadian Census,
  3. Oneida Community Website,
  4. Personal Contact with Leslee Sears Nevill,
  5. LDS IGI Records, Ontario Deaths 1869-1947 

Notes for Adeline Maria SEARS:

Adeline is given as Hattie at the 1901 census so I am not quite sure which name it really is.

A photograph taken in 1950 of Adeline with her father Wildred Sears (Click to enlarge)

Adaline lived a full life in Niagara Falls with many years of service to a local law firm. She was a veteran traveler to
exotic places and remained single.

On 30 July 1931, Adeline sailed on the Duchess of Atholl from Quebec to New York.

Our gratitude goes to the members and volunteers at Find A Grave web site for recording the details, in memory of Adeline.

Sources for Adeline Maria SEARS:

  1. 1911 Canadian Census,
  2. 1901 Census for Ontario, Canada,
  3. Oneida Community Website,
  4. 1901 Census Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, gave the name Hattie and 4 October 1900 
  5. LDS Ontario Births, 1869-1912,
  6. Personal Contact with Leslee Sears Nevill,