John Lahey the Elder’s Will

Bytown Gazette, 29 November 1837

Bytown Gazette, 29 November 1837. The “Lachie” named here was Daniel Lahey, husband of Catherine Lahey, and “the person who struck the blow” was his brother-in-law, James Lahey.

John Lahey the Elder was the eldest of six known Lahey siblings who emigrated from Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Co. Tipperary to March Township, Carleton Co., Ontario in the 1820s and early 1830s.

John Lahey the Elder never married; and, having no children of his own to inherit his land (100 acres at Concession 3, Lot 14, March Township), he left his farm to his youngest brother, my “black sheep” ancestor James Lahey. My 3x-great-grandfather James Lahey earned his “black sheep ancestor” status by killing his own brother-in-law Daniel Lahey in a drunken altercation, apparently by hitting him on the back of the head with the handle of a spade.

But John Lahey the Elder did not leave all 100 acres of his land to his younger brother James. He bequeathed to James Lahey 98 acres, reserving 2 acres to the Roman Catholic Church. As I wrote in ‘Wilful Murder’ and Black Sheep Ancestors, my dad used to joke that the reason why John Lahey left that land to the Church was that the family had so many sins to atone for. But my father was also known to say, more seriously, of James Lahey’s killing of his brother-in-law: “that’s a godawful thing to have in your family.”

And it is a godawful thing, no doubt. But, eh, there is too much ancestor worship in genealogical circles, in my humble opinion. Let’s face it, some of our ancestors were scoundrels, scofflaws, and rogues. Or hotheaded young men who lacked impulse control, and then one night they got into the poitín … (which I suspect was the case with James Lahey).

In any case, James Lahey’s murder (or manslaughter) of his sister Catherine Lahey’s husband Daniel Lahey was an act of infamy, and a horrible deed; and, by all accounts, it tore the Lahey family apart. Ultimately, John Lahey the Elder stood behind his younger brother James, and then he left him his land:

Memorial of John Lahey the Elder’s Last Will and Testament

(Written 21 December 1853; registered 17 January 1859.)

A memorial to be registered of a will made in the words and figures following that is today. In the name of God Amen.

I John Lahey the Elder of the township of March, County of Carleton, and the Province of Canada, Yeoman, being of sound mind, memory and understanding but sick and weak of body, do hereby publish and declare this to be my last will and testament hereby revoking and making void all former will or wills, that I may have hereto have made.

In the first place I nominate, constitute, and appoint George Morgan the Elder and Thomas Horrigan, both of the aforesaid Township of March Yeoman Executors of this my will. I direct that all my past debts funeral and testamentary expenses be fully paid with all convenient speed after my decease, and I subject, in the first place, my personal estate, and if the same should be insufficient, my real estate for the payment.

Therefore I give and bequeath unto my brother James and after his decease to his heirs all that parcel or track of land and premises, being composed of South East half of lot number fourteen on the third concession of the aforesaid Township of March, containing one hundred acres of land more or less, reserving to the Roman Catholic Church the two acres of land of said lot upon which the chapel now stands, together with all houses outhouses, barns stables, that are now erected and built or that may be hereafter erected and built by my said brother James, his heirs or any of them. He shall at no time sell or mortgage the said land hereby so devised. And I give unto him all stock, farming utensils that I may stand possessed of at the time of my decease and all my chattles and personal property.

In witness whereof I have to this my last will and testament written on two sides of a paper to the first side at the bottom therefore affixed my name and to the last my name and seal this twenty first day of December Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Three.

From the Carleton County Land Registry, March. Citation forthcoming.