M.C. Moran

Early Ontario Protestant parish registers online

The partnership between Library and Archives Canada and Canadiana.org over the next ten years involves the digitization, indexing and description of millions of personal, administrative and government documents. It will triple LAC’s digital content on the Web, and allow Canadians to access tens of millions of additional images regardless of where they live, at no charge.

— Library and Archives Canada Blog, Fruits of the Library and Archives Canada and Canadiana.org partnership starting to appear online

LAC has recently added a huge pile of digitized microfilms to Canadiana.org’s Héritage website. Unfortunately, many of these record collections lack finding aids, or even brief explanations of what can be found on a reel.

There are, for example, many parish registers on these digitized microfilms. But as Ken McKinlay points out, “Unfortunately the descriptions of what is on each microfilm is very brief and usually only from the first record set … and there may be MANY record sets on a single microfilms” (“More LAC Parish Register Microfilms,” Family Tree Knots). 

Take, for example, Parish Registers: Ontario: C-3030.

The About page for this digitized microfilm contains no description beyond “Parish Registers, Ontario.”

Here is what can be found this microfilm:

  • Images 5-120: Ontario, Perth, Presbyterian Church, Register of baptisms and marriages 1817-1857
  • Images 121 – 171: Ontario Rideau Circuit Methodist Church, Register of Baptisms, 1824-1843
  • Images 175-319: Ontario, Sandwich, St. John’s Anglican, 1802-1827, Register of baptisms, marriages and burials, 1802-1827
  • Images 321- 462: Ontario, Williamstown, Presbyterian Church, Register of baptisms and marriages, 1779-1810
  • Images 464-515: Ontario, Williamstown, Presbyterian Church, Register of baptisms, marriages and burials, 1811-1817
  • Images 517- 610: Ontario, Osnabruck and Lunenberg, Presbyterian church registers, Baptisms 1852-1909, Marriages, 1860-1900, Deaths 1906-1909
  • Images 611- 726: Ontario, Eastern District, Marriage register of Church of Scotland, Lutherans, Congregationalists, Baptists, Independents, Methodists, Menonists, Tunkers, Presbyterians or Moravians, 1831-1865
  • Images 727- 1076: Ontario, Johnstown District,  Marriage register 1801-1850 [various denominations, marriages registered with the Clerk of the Peace, Johnstown District]

In other words, Parish Registers: Ontario: C-3030 contains an extremely valuable collection of late-eighteenth and nineteenth-century Protestant parish registers.

More on Signs of Catholicity

In Signs of Catholicity, I linked to a blog entry by Gilles Cayoutte of Le chercheur nomade/The Nomadic Researcher, concerning the Catholic burial of an unknown man who had drowned in the St. Lawrence. In this burial record, the priest explains that he had performed the rites of a Catholic burial for this unknown man, because the body or person of the man had displayed sufficient signs of Catholicity (des signes suffisants de catholicité).

It turns out that Gilles Cayouette has more, much more, on signs of Catholicity. In an earlier blog entry, Les registres de l’état civil et les signes de catholicité, Cayouette refers to a number of examples of Catholic burial records of unknown persons, where various signs of Catholicity (which is to say, signs of membership in the Roman Catholic Church) had been discovered, which signs were thought to warrant a Catholic burial.

Among these signs of Catholicity:

  • un chapelet (a rosary)
  • une croix ou un crucifix (a cross or a crucifix) 
  • un scapulaire (a scapular)
  • un livre de prières (a prayer book)

I have no doubt that, when someone entered the home, however humble, of a 19th-century Catholic family, that someone could find evidence of Catholicism. But how many 19th-century Catholics carried with them, on their own persons, and at all times, at least one or more “signs of Catholicity,” such that, were they found dead, and the body unidentified, someone could make a confident judgement of “Roman Catholic”?

It is an interesting question, I think.

Formerly of the father’s Irish county

(Or formerly of [the father’s native] England, as the case may be.)

This is bordering on fussy pedantry, perhaps. Or maybe it crosses that border?

But genealogical research is all about paying attention to the small details. And Irish genealogy, especially, requires close attention to the small details. Given the paucity of Irish records, and with so few, so very few, records to work with: you need to work those records to the ground, and then turn them inside out and work them over again. Let no detail escape! no matter how small, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

So, pedantry or not, it’s going to bother me if I don’t correct the following misleading statement:

In Irish Counties in Fitzroy Harbour Mission Marriage Records, 1852-1856, I wrote that the Rev. Bernard McFeely’s “formerly of the County [Irish county] Ireland” refers to at least the parents of the bride or groom, but in some (probably quite a few) cases, will also refer to the bride or groom as well. 

And in the majority of cases for these Fitzroy Harbour Mission marriages, the father’s and the mother’s county of origin will be one and the same (so: the parents’ county of origin). But not always. And, having read through a run of about twelve years of these marriage records, it seems clear to me that Father McFeely’s “formerly of the County [Irish county] Ireland” refers first and foremost to the father’s county of origin (which, again, will usually also be the mother’s county of origin, but not always).

Here, for example, is a marriage record where the bridegroom’s mother’s Irish county of origin is not recorded at all, and where her origins are misleadingly subsumed under those of her husband:

finner william breslin catherine 26jun1861

St. Michael (Fitzroy Harbour, Carleton), Register of Baptisms and Marriages, 1852-1863, 26 June 1861, image 65 of 80, M. 5, William Finner-Catherine Breslin marriage, database: FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

Father McFeely here identifies William Finner as the son of Benjamin Finner and Mary Mantle, “formerly of England.” However, while Benjamin Finner was born in England (about 1796), his wife Mary Mantle certainly was not. Mary Mantle was born about 1808 in Rathcormac, Co. Cork, the daughter of Peter Robinson settlers John Mantle and Ellen Hourigan.

This is, by the way, the only “formerly of England” reference that I’ve yet to come across in the early marriage records for Fitzroy Harbour Mission. There are at least a couple of “formerly of Scotland” references, and also a few references to Quebec birthplaces. But the vast majority of recorded origins for these early marriage records refer back to counties in Ireland.

Signs of Catholicity?

One of my favourite genealogy blogs is Gilles Cayoutte’s Le chercheur nomade/The Nomadic Researcher. I cannot remember how I first found this blog, but it must have been while google-searching for something related to Quebec RC parish registers. Gilles Cayoutte mostly posts examples of records from (mostly Roman Catholic) Quebec parish registers; and he has a talent for finding quirky records: records where there is something a little bit unusual or unexpected, or perhaps something that is unusually poignant.

Taken as a whole, the blog demonstrates just how much information can be gleaned from close attention to the church records. But its most intriguing examples often raise more questions than answers.

For example, here’s one that caught my eye: the burial (22 April 1845, parish of L’Assomption de Berthier) of an unknown man who had drowned in the Saint Lawrence River/le fleuve Saint-Laurent. The priest writes that he had buried the body of an unknown person, of the masculine sex (le corps d’une personne inconnue, du sexe masculin) in the parish cemetery, and he notes that the body displayed sufficient signs of Catholicity (des signes suffisants de catholicité) to warrant a Catholic church burial.

Sufficient signs of Catholicity!? Well, unless the poor man was found with a crucifix around his neck, I’m at a loss to account for such signs. My guess is that he looked more French-Canadian than Anglo- (perhaps because of clothing? or some other marker of occupation that was associated with French-Canadians?)

Le chercheur nomade/The Nomadic Researcher is written in French, but Cayoutte always posts a brief summary of each entry in English.

Email troubles

I’m having trouble with the email account that is associated with this website (mcmoran at ottawavalleyirish dot com).

I’ll have to sort this out with tech support, but in the meantime, if you want to contact me by email, please use my gmail account. It is the same as the above, except that gmail replaces ottawavalleyirish (so: mcmoran at gmail dot com).

Sorry if the above, replacing the “@” and “.” symbols with words “at” and “dot,” is a bit confusing, but I’m trying to avoid the spambots.

You can also contact me with this form:

Squatter’s rights: the Widow Cahill petitions the Crown (Part I)

The following petition is found amongst the Upper Canada Land Petitions, though it concerns a property in Lower Canada (on Calumet Island/L’Île-du-Grand-Calumet, in Pontiac County, Quebec).

Letter of Anne Cahill, 13 September 1848

Honourable Sir,
I humbly beg leave to state that in the year 1835 I settled as Squatter on the Calumet Island, on a lot of land which I considered would contain about 200 acres, considering that, as I had a large family, no less than about 200 acres would be of any Service to me. I got lines ran which afterwards chanced to correspond exactly with the lines ran by the Government Surveyor — But at the time that I Squatted thereon I expected that when the lots would be surveyed they would each contain 200 acres as was customary. However, when the district was surveyed, it was in lots of but 100 acres each; consequently the tract of land I occupied became two lots as it contained 200 acres, which lots are Nos. 13 and 14. on the 6th Range — And compliance with the rules of Lord Durham’s proclamation, I got my name inserted as Squatter in his registry for said 200 acres — …

– Widow Anne Cahill to the Crown Lands Department, 13 Sept 18481

(Click on the thumbnail of the above letter of Anne Cahill to the Crown Lands Department to view it full-size.)

Who was the Widow Anne Cahill?

in the year 1835 I settled as Squatter on the Calumet Island

The Widow Anne Cahill was Anne Shirley (ca. 1786-1869), widow of Michael Cahill (died before 1840), and mother of nine known children, including George Cahill who married Mary Moran.

She was born about 1786 in Ireland, presumably in the Castlecomer area of Co. Kilkenny. She had at least two brothers, Paul Shirley (married Catherine McNamara) and William Shirley (married Mary Oughnahan), who were amongst the early settlers of the Bytown area. Her brother William Shirley signed the McCabe List, where he gave his place of origin as Castlecomer, parish of Mowhill, County Kilkenny, and made reference to “his brother Paul Shirley (who) with a family reside at Castlecomer in the County of Kilkenny and are known to the Revd Mr Roberts of Said place.” I believe the Shirley family were Anglican;2 however, Anne, Paul and William Shirley all married Irish Catholics, and many (if not most or all) of their children were baptized Roman Catholic. Anne Shirley Cahill (the Widow Cahill of the above petition) certainly had a Catholic burial (20 Aug 1869); she was buried at Ste. Anne, Calumet Island, Pontiac Co., Quebec.

Anne Shirley Cahill was almost certainly also related to the Thomas Shirley for whom she pleaded in one of her two letters to the Crown Lands Department, but whether as sibling, cousin, or aunt, I do not know. This Thomas Shirley was born about 1813 in Co. Kilkenny, the son of James Shirley and Catherine Butler (as per his marriage record), and he also settled at Calumet Island. In addition to the Widow Cahill’s plea on behalf of Thomas Shirley in one of her two letters to the Crown, various records in the Catholic parish registers suggest a familial relationship. For example, Thomas Shirley served as sponsor (or godfather) to Catherine Brennan, daughter of Patrick Brennan and Matilda Shirley and granddaughter of Anne Shirley’s brother William Shirley. And when Thomas Shirley married Honora McGuire (22 Jan 1855, Ste. Anne, Calumet Island), the witnesses to the marriage were two of Anne Shirley’s sons: John Cahill and George Cahill. Moreover, and what’s even more strongly suggestive of a blood relation, when George William Cahill, son of George Cahill and Mary Moran (and grandson of Michael Cahill and Anne Shirley), married Anne Shirley, daughter of Thomas Shirley and Honora McGuire, the couple had to obtain a dispensation from the impediment of a third degree of consanguinity.

I don’t know anything more about the Widow Anne (Shirley) Cahill, but her land petition is among the most interesting that I’ve yet to come across. Her opening line, “Honourable Sir, I humbly beg leave to state that in the year 1835 I settled as Squatter…” basically wins the petition-the-Crown sweepstakes, in my opinion, and then I’d have to give her bonus points for citing Lord Durham’s proclamation.

“I did not wish to trouble your honour about these matters if I could avoid it,” wrote the Widow Cahill, “but as I now find that I have no alternative, I humbly beg leave to Submit the matter to your most Serious consideration, hoping that your Honour will condescend to exercise your authority and See me (a poor widow with a large family) Justified.” Does it seem a little odd that someone would petition the Crown to assert her rightful claim as a Squatter?

Well, there’s a reason why the Widow Cahill had a recognizable claim to the land that she and her sons had been squatting upon, and that reason has to do with Lord Durham’s proclamation, which she references in her letter.

And before moving on to Lord Durham’s Proclamation (this blog entry to be continued….), here’s a fun little item (I google the Right Honourable John George Lambton, Earl of Durham, so that you don’t have to):

If you want to see Barry Morse (the actor who played Lt. Philip Gerard on “The Fugitive”) in one of his earlier roles, he played Durham’s advisor Gibbon Wakefield in the 1961 NFB film “Lord Durham.”

Lord Durham by John Howe, National Film Board of Canada

Squatter’s rights: the Widow Cahill petitions the Crown to be continued…

  1. Anne Cahill petition, 1848, Upper Canada Land Petitions, RG 1, L 3, vol. 137, C Bundle 5, petition 28: microfilm C-1736, Library and Archives Canada.
  2. Or Church of Ireland, which, as I’ve noted before, was/is basically the Church of England in Ireland

Irish Counties in Fitzroy Harbour Mission Marriage Records, 1852-1856

From 1852, there was a Catholic Mission at Fitzroy Harbour (Carleton Co., Ontario). A stone church (St. Michael’s) was built in 1861;1 but the mission did not become the independent parish of St. Michael until 1917.2 The Fitzroy Harbour Mission served Catholics in the Fitzroy Harbour area, of course, but also, in its early years, Catholics from across the river in the Quyon, Onslow area of Québec.

Marriage of Patrick Killeen and Bridget Galligan.

St. Michael (Fitzroy Harbour, Carleton), Register of Baptisms and Marriages, 1852-1863, 28 February 1859, image 49 of 80, M. 9, Patrick Killeen-Bridget Gallagan marriage, database: FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

From 1852 to 1865, the Fitzroy Harbour Mission was served by the Rev. Bernard McFeely. His handwriting was the opposite of neat; his spelling was idiosyncratic at best; and his practice of recording the Irish counties of origin of the parties to a marriage was a gift to future genealogists. It is thanks to Father McFeely that many of the descendants of these Irish Catholic emigrants can begin their family history research with a specific Irish county, rather than just “Ireland,” as the starting point.

To the right is the marriage record for my 2x-great-grandparents Patrick Killeen and Bridget Galligan. Patrick is given as “son of age of Denis Killeen and Mary Hearn formerly of the County Galway Ireland;” and Bridget as “daughter of age of Patrick Gallagan and Mary Quilean [Cullen] formerly of the County Cavin [Cavan] Ireland.” Patrick Killeen was almost certainly born in Upper Canada, whereas Bridget Galligan was certainly born in Ireland (parish of Kilmore, County Cavan). But this distinction is not made clear in the marriage record (I have this information from other records). Father McFeely’s “formerly of the County [Irish county] Ireland” refers to at least the parents of the bride or groom, but in some (probably quite a few) cases, will also refer to the bride or groom as well.

Below is a list of some marriages recorded in the parish register of Fitzroy Harbour Mission, from 1852 to 1856. I have only included marriages where one or both parties are identified with an Irish county (the vast majority of marriages recorded in the early register for Fitzroy Harbour). These Irish counties include: Kerry, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, and Tyrone.  

Please note that the Rev. Bernard McFeely continued his practice of recording Irish counties well into the 1860s; I only stopped at the end of November 1856 because my tabular data was getting a bit unwieldy for a blog-based table. I may do 1857 to 1861 or so in a future entry. 

As usual, I have resisted the urge to “correct” the spellings. In more than a few cases, I could not “correct” the spelling even if I tried: at least a few of the surnames transcribed below do not really make sense to me even as variant spellings of a surname. I have attempted to transcribe what I read, but in a few cases, Fr. McFeely’s text is all but unreadable.

  1. This stone church replaced a wooden church that had burned to the ground in 1854. The suspected cause of the fire was anti-Catholic vandalism. See Marion G. Rogers, “St. Michael’s Church Fitzroy Harbour,” The Ottawa Journal, 29 July 1972.
  2. “St. Michael’s Fitzroy Celebrates 150 Years,” Catholic Ottawa Newsletter, Spring and Summer 2010, p. 11.