Sorting through Ryans in Renfrew County is an exercise in patience and perseverance. Ryan is, in Carol McCuaig’s words, “one of the most popular surnames” in the county.1
1 Carol Bennett McCuaig, The Kerry Chain, the Limerick Link (Juniper Books Ltd: 2003), p. 134.
On Sunday last, a man named John Kelly, was lodged in gaol on a charge of murder, in having in the township of March, on the Friday previous, stabbed one Michael Horrogan, his brother-in-law, in an affray, from the fatal effects of which he did not recover.We are informed it was committed whilst in a state of intoxication.1
It was on Good Friday, 9 April 1841 that John Kelly killed his brother-in-law Michael Hourigan.
According to an account published in the Bathurst Courier (28 May 1841), the two men had spent the afternoon drinking at Henry Smith’s brewery, where they had been overhead quarrelling “warmly” over a child, but had then seemed to make it up. After leaving the brewery in the late afternoon, however, Kelly and Hourigan got into a fight “on the road near Captain Bradley’s.” Kelly stabbed his brother-in-law several times with a knife, and the injuries proved fatal.2 It was, in the words of the Bytown Gazette (see inset, right), a “shocking murder” and a “sad catastrophy.”
Who was Michael Hourigan?
The following account of the Hourigans is based on the (extremely thorough) research of D.T. Lahey.
Michael Hourigan was the eldest son of Timothy Hourigan and Mary Lahey (sister of my 3x great-grandfather James Lahey). Born about 1816, probably at or near Ballymacegan, in the parish of Lorrha, Co. Tipperary, Michael emigrated in the summer of 1825 with his parents and his siblings Patrick and Mary. Shortly after their arrival in Upper Canada, the family met with grave misfortune when Timothy Hourigan was killed by the fall of a tree (an occupational hazard for early Upper Canadian settlers).
Mary (Lahey) Hourigan was now a widow with three young children and a fourth child on the way (Thomas Hourigan, born late 1825 or early 1826, who would marry Julia Moran, sister of my 2x great-grandfather Alexander “Sandy” Michael Moran). The unhappy circumstances of the family were related by Mary’s brother Patrick Lahey in a letter to Peter Robinson, written in a desperate (and failed) attempt to prevent the family’s eviction from Lot 8, Concession 2 in March township:
Sir. At my coming to this Country which is now four years this faul I stoped in the township of March and paid Frederick W. Richardson ten dollars for his goodwill of Lot No. 8 in said township the north west half.
I could have sat on many a better lot that was vacant at the time. But he tol’d me as I was not able to pay for it that any other man could throw me out and he tol’d me it was a Crown lot and that he got provision of leave from John Burk and would make good same to me. But he having cut away all the oak was in a hurry to part with it.
Me self, me brother [probably my 3x great-grandfather James Lahey], and brother in law [Timothy Hourigan] settled and improved on it until the following summer me brother in law was killed by the fall of a tree. The widow and three children fell in charge to us.2
On 8 January 1826, Mary Hourigan submitted a petition to the Crown, asking for a piece of land for “the support of herself and her fatherless Children:”
Petitioner with her husband Timothy Horahan and children arrived in this Country in the year 1825, the 26th August, of which year her husband was killed by the falling of a tree whilst working for the support of his wife and large family, who have been left destitute by his death.
Petitioner has four Children, 3 boys & 1 girl, one of whom was born six months after her being deprived of her husband.
Petitioner most humbly begs that a lot of land may be assigned to her for the support of herself and her fatherless Children, her husband having been killed before his being located to any Land, and yr Petitioner shall ever pray. Mary X [her mark] Horahan.
The petition was supported by a character reference (25 September 1826), which certified “the deceased husband and his Widow to be persons of very good character and worthy of the Commiseration of His Excellency the Governor in Chief,” and which was signed by four members of the local elite, including Tory landowner and politician Hamnett Pinhey and Captain John Benning Monk (under whom my 3x- great-grandfather Denis Killeen had served in the 97th Regiment of Foot, and for whom he worked as a “soldier servant” in March township).3
The Widow Hourigan’s petition was successful, and on 4 July 1827 she moved her family to Lot 19, Concession 2 of March township, for which she received a Crown patent on 24 February 1831.
In 1835, Mary (Lahey) Hourigan made a payment of £5 toward a piece of land for her eldest son Michael. Unfortunately, the record of this payment got lost, and it took Hamnet Pinhey ten years to recover the money. “The poor woman now seeking restitution of her money,” wrote Pinhey, “is in great affliction — purchased this lot through me for her son, then a young lad, and just as he had become the support of his mother was by some ruffians most brutally murdered.”4 By the time she finally received a refund of her money, in July 1845, her son Michael had been dead four years, the victim not of “some ruffians” but of his own brother-in-law John Kelly.
Who was John Kelly?
I know very little about John Kelly.
He was born about 1813, very probably in Ireland, and was a resident of March township by 1838. Unfortunately, the record of his marriage (Notre Dame, Bytown, 20 August 1838) to Mary Hourigan, daughter of Timothy Hourigan and Mary Lahey, and sister of Michael, does not supply the names of his parents. At his trial, he was described as a “shantyman,” which term might refer specifically to someone we would now call “a lumberjack,” but which might also be applied more loosely to an Irish labourer. The designation suggests that he was not a farmer/landholder. Apparently some of his neighbours, not to mention his mother-in-law, thought he was a “dangerous character.”
Indeed, so concerned was his mother-in-law Mary Lahey, aka the Widow Hourigan, over Kelly’s propensity to violence that she took custody of his young daughter Ann, who was both her grandchild and her goddaughter:5
(To Be Continued…)
- Bathurst Courier, 16 April 1841. ↩
- Patt Lahey to Peter Robinson, 10 July 1828. Cited in D.T. Lahey, The Laheys of March Ontario (Guelph, Ontario: 1991), vii-viii. Part of this letter (from Crown Lands Township Papers, RG I, C-IV, Lot 8, March, Archives of Ontario) is also quoted in Bruce S. Elliott, Irish Migrants in the Canadas: A New Approach (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994), p. 349, n. 92, where Pat Lahey is identified as “an Irish Roman Catholic immigrant” who may have later become a “migrant” (which is more or less accurate, I think). ↩
- Cited in D.T. Lahey, The Laheys of March Ontario, pp. 14-15. ↩
- Cited in D.T. Lahey, The Laheys of March Ontario, p. 15. ↩
- Baptismal record for Ann Kelly, who was baptized 25 September 1839, “aged 5 months, lawful child of John Kelly & of Mary Hourogan. Sponsors Michael Nash and The Widow Hourogan.” Ottawa (basilique Notre Dame/Notre Dame Basilica), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1836-1840, image 57 of 80, database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 20 May 2010), Ontario, Canada Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967. ↩
On my father’s side, all of my ancestors came from Ireland, some arriving in Canada as early as 1820 or so, some arriving during the Famine. On my mother’s side, a little over half of my ancestors came from Ireland, with all but one branch emigrating during the Famine (the other almost half of my maternal ancestors are French Canadian).
Once upon a time (but not so very long ago), parents didn’t run around with cameras snapping candid shots that would document every phase of their children’s development. To have one’s picture taken, to have one’s children’s picture taken, was a rare event and a special occasion. It’s not just that people got dressed up in their Sunday best, but also that their photographs had a different purpose and meaning.
On 11 August 1856, John McGlade was convicted of “Breach of Peace on Sabbath,” for which he paid a fine of £1 to the Town of Perth (Co. Lanark, Ontario, Canada). This was no doubt a hefty sum for a labourer, and especially for a recently married one, whose wife, Bridget Dunne, was expecting their first child (Michael James McGlade, born 28 December 1856 at Perth). Another man, Michael Lee, was likewise convicted of the same offence on the same day, but his was apparently deemed a more serious breach of the peace, since the fine levied against Lee was £3 10s. The charges were brought by George Graham, Chief Constable of the Town of Perth.
Via John Reid’s Anglo-Celtic Connections, the National Archives of Ireland now reports that the 1901 census (with all data for all counties) will be available online from 3 June 2010. The digitization of the 1901 and 1911 Irish census returns, with free online access to the records, is the result of a partnership between the National Archives of Ireland and Library and Archives Canada.
Mary Laura Lahey was born in Ottawa on 29 December 1893, the eldest daughter of John James Lahey and Bridget Loreto Killeen, and was baptized at St. Patrick’s, Ottawa on 5 January 1894, with Denis Lahey and Mary Finner serving as godparents. Her birth was not registered with the province of Ontario until 23 November 1935.
Presumably it was her marriage and subsequent emigration to the US which prompted the delayed birth registration. On 30 November 1935, at St. Theresa’s (Ste. Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus), Ottawa, Mary Laura Lahey married John Oswald Green, son of John Green and Rose Ann Doyle. John Oswald Green had been born and raised in Arnprior, Renfrew Co., Ontario, but had emigrated to Detroit, Michigan in 1925, along with his mother and siblings. Shortly after the couple’s marriage in Ottawa, Mary Laura Lahey also moved to Detroit to take up residence with her new husband, and also with her brother-in-law William Francis Green and her younger sister Agnes Evelyn Lahey (whose marriage to John Oswald Green’s younger brother in 1931 had also
prompted a delayed registration of birth, with a declaration signed by her mother Bridget Loreto Killeen).
At the time Mary Laura Lahey’s birth registration, which is dated 23 November 1935, both her parents had been dead for several years. It was her uncle Thomas Lahey who swore a notarized declaration of the birth, which reads as follows:
I, Thomas Lahey, of the City of Ottawa in the County of Carleton, in the Province of Ontario, Do Solemnly Declare as follows: That I am the Uncle of the aforesaid; That I was a brother of the said Mary Laura Lahey’s father and was on intimate terms with his family at the time of the birth of the said Mary Laura Lahey. That although I was not present at her birth I saw the child within a few weeks thereafter and was informed at the time and fully believe that she was born at the place and on the date above mentioned and I have known her since the date of her birth. Thomas Lahey [his signature].
Although civil registration of births began in Ontario in 1869, it took several decades at least before government authorities could expect anything close to full compliance with the Vital Statistics Act which mandated compulsory registration. As Fawne Stratford-Devai reports, with reference to George Emery’s Facts of Life: The Social Construction of Vital Statistics, Ontario, 1869-1952(McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993), “in the early days of government registration…many people and local institutions were often suspicious of why the government wanted such information and simply refused to register births, marriages and deaths.” Emery estimates that for the period covering 1875-1895, Ontario birth registrations were only two-thirds complete (with one-third of births unreported), and that registrations were not 90% complete until about 1920.
John James Lahey and Bridget Loreto Killeen had five daughters (Mary Laura; Margaret Hilda; Mary Catherine; Agnes Evelyn; and Mary Gladys), all born in Ottawa between 1893 and 1901, and all baptized at St. Patrick’s Church (now St. Patrick’s Basilica), Ottawa within a few weeks of birth. As best I make out, none of these five births were registered at the time. Nor have I discovered a civil registration of the birth of my grandfather, Allan Jerome Moran (husband of Mary Catherine Lahey), also born in Ottawa (30 December 1897) and also baptized at St. Patrick’s (2 January 1898). The only civil records of birth that I have found for any of the above are the two delayed registrations of Mary Laura Lahey and Agnes Evelyn Lahey, both of whom married (Canadian-born) US naturalized citizens and emigrated to the US upon marriage. A third sister, Mary Gladys Lahey, also married (also in Ottawa, in 1924) a Canadian-born emigrant to the US, Richard John Anthony Cunningham, who was also originally from Arnprior; I have not found a delayed registration of her birth.
The online databases at the Irish Family History Foundation include, according to John Grenham’s best guess, “75% of per-1900 Roman Catholic registers, 50% of surviving Church of Ireland records and 30% of Presbyterian records.” So that’s a lot of records, and they’re finally online, and easily accessible through an internet connection on a home computer. Great system, right?