Monthly Archives: December 2010

Spelling Doesn’t Count! (in Genealogy)

Most of the complaints that I hear from others involve relatives that dispute dates and spellings of names–the latter being a BIGGIE. I still have difficultly convincing new family researchers themselves to accept the fact that their ancestors’ names were spelled many ways. It can be impossible to convince relatives, especially those who have never gone bleary-eyed reading old Irish baptismal records on microfilm, that, no, the family did NOT always spell Kavanagh with a “K” instead of a “C.” 



No family feuds (and I hope no hurt feelings) to report here, but certainly the issue of surname spellings is sometimes an issue.

And it’s not surprising, really, that so many people are wedded to a notion of the one “correct” (and historically immutable) spelling of one’s surname, given how important surname spelling is today. If the clerk at the DMV misspells your name, for example, and you end up with a driver’s license with just one vowel or consonant different from your officially registered name (as found on your birth certificate, say, or perhaps on your passport), that’s going to bother you, right? Well, it would certainly bother me, and I would spend time and money to have that error corrected. A variant surname spelling on a document related to your contributions to the Canada Pension Plan? Yeah, you’d definitely want to look into that, and correct that misspelling just to be safe.

Bridget O’Hanlon = Sister of Ann O’Hanlon Vallely?

On 15 November 1841, in the parish of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours at Montebello, Papineau Co., Québec, Thomas McTeague married Bridget O’Hanlon. The names of the couple and of their parents were written as follows (with my translation/interpretation in italics):


Thomas McTeague, fils majeur de Joseph McTeague et de Brigitte Scerloc, du Township de Grenville, d’une part; et Brigitte O’honlon domiciliée en Grenville, fille majeure de Pierre O’honlon et de Marie Thooner, domiciliés en Irlande, d’autre part…[Thomas McTeague, son of age of Joseph McTeague and of Bridget Sherlock, of the Township of Grenville, on the one part; and Bridget O'Hanlon, residing at Grenville, daughter of age of Peter O'Hanlon and of Mary (Toner?) who reside in Ireland, on the other part]*

The witnesses to this marriage were Charles Major (who signed the register), George Vallillee (who did not sign), and Owen McTeague (who signed).

The reason why the above-cited record interests me is that George Vallillee/Vallely is my 3x great-grandfather, and his first wife Anne O’Hanlon my 3x great-grandmother. Did he witness this marriage as a brother-in-law of Bridget O’Hanlon?

And where did Thomas McTeague and Bridget O’Hanlon eventually settle? A quick search of the 1851 Canadian census turns up a number of McTeagues in Grenville (Deux Montagnes County, Canada East), but no sign of Thomas and wife Bridget O’Hanlon.

*Montebello (Co. Papineau, Québec), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1840-1851, M. 5 (1841), McTeague et O’honlon, p. 23, Ancestry.ca (http://ancestry.ca/: accessed 12 Dec 2010), Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967.


Who was Jennie Stafford?

Found in the household of John Sullivan and Mary Ann Galligan in the 1901 census for Arnprior, Renfrew Co., Ontario:

Stafford, Jennie, Adopted, born 1891 (no day or month given), age 9, place of birth Ontario, racial or tribal origin Irish, nationality Canadian, religion Roman Catholic, attending school 10 months in the year.*
This family had a daughter Mary Catharine Sullivan, born 1891 (so: roughly the same age as Jennie Stafford), who died of nephritis at age 9, in December 1899. Did they adopt (which is to say, informally adopt) Jennie Stafford after the death of their daughter of the same age? Certainly, this family had no shortage of children, with five known sons, four of them still living in 1901, but with only one other daughter, Ellen, born 1880, and listed as age 19 in the 1901 enumeration.
Jennie Stafford is not found in the Sullivan-Galligan household in the 1911 census.
Was she indeed born in Ontario, as listed in the 1901 census, or was she born in England and “adopted” by this family as a Home Child?
*1901 Census of Canada, Ontario, Renfrew (South/Sud), District Number 111, Arnprior (Town/Ville), Subdistrict B-1, p. 9.