M.C. Moran

Irish Census: What Was Lost

If you’re lucky enough to find a family in the Irish census fragments, you will no doubt feel enormously grateful that that particular census return was preserved. And you will no doubt also realize the enormity of the loss of the nineteenth-century census returns.

What was lost?

Millions of records, covering the period from 1821 to 1891, which looked something like this:1

Household of Dennis Galaher, 1821 Ireland Census

Household of Denis Galaher, 1821 Ireland Census

The name listed here is Galaher, with Dennis, age 40; his wife Ann, age 36; and their sons Patt, age 14; Mich, age 12; Dennis, age 8; and Danl, age 2:

galaher denis 1821 census inset

galligan griffithsmap loughaconnick

The townland is given as Loughahunogue, in the parish of Kilmore, Co. Cavan. This is presumably the townland of Loughaconnick — a townland which contains a lake, Lough Aconnick, and which, according to the Ordnance Survey map of 1857, also contained a good deal of land that was “Liable to Floods.”2

I suspect the above census record is a listing for Denis Galligan and his wife Ann Kelly, who emigrated to Canada from the parish of Kilmore, Co. Cavan in the late 1830s to early 1840s. In addition to the four children listed above (Patrick, Michael, Denis, and Daniel), they also had Thomas (born about 1824), John (born about 1826), and Anne (born about 1827, and the only known daughter for this couple).

galligan bridget headstone

And here is the source which first gave me the parish of Kilmore, Co. Cavan for this family (and yes, that is snow in the background! I took this photograph about six years ago, on a cold, wintry day in January, when my father and I went to St. Michael’s to look for headstones). This is the headstone for Bridget Galligan, daughter of Patrick Galligan and Mary Cullen and granddaughter of Denis Galligan and Ann Kelly. She apparently died of complications from childbirth, two days after giving birth to my great-grandmother Bridget Loretto Killeen.

There are several Galligan/Gallaghan headstones at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Cemetery (Corkery, Huntley, Carleton Co.), but there are also a number of Galligans who are buried there without headstones. As I’ve mentioned before, the headstones in a cemetery do not give you anything like a complete picture of who is buried there. You can fill in some of the blanks by consulting the parish registers — but for the Ottawa Valley area, many Catholic registers do not have comprehensive burial records until at least the latter half of the nineteenth century.

  1.  1821 Census of Ireland, County Cavan, Kilmore, Loughahunoge, house 14, Dennis Galaher household, digital image, National Archives of Ireland (http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie; accessed 28 March 2015).
  2. OS map, Cavan, Kilmore, Loughaconnick, Sheet No. 25, map reference 2; Griffith’s Valuation (www.askaboutireland.ie).

“Missing Friends” advertisements

Are you looking for someone who emigrated from Ireland to North America in the nineteenth century? Welcome to the club! The booming business of Irish genealogy indicates that we are not alone.

And their early twenty-first-century descendants are not the first to have searched for some of these emigrants. In the nineteenth century, the friends and relations of Irish emigrants (in both Ireland and the New World) often lost contact with those who had emigrated to North America, and who had then gone “missing.” Sometimes these anxious relatives placed advertisements in the local and regional newspapers — as did the friends and relations of emigrants from many different places, not just from Ireland. But in addition to local and regional papers, the Irish also had The Pilot, which bills itself “America’s Oldest Catholic Newspaper.”

From October 1831 to October 1921, the Boston Pilot ran a “Missing Friends” column, where Irish connections placed advertisements for missing sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, and so on. The column makes for a fascinating, and compelling, read. “She left home three years ago, and sailed for New York, and has not been heard from since,” for example. Or: “Any information concerning his whereabouts will be thankfully received by his wife.” To read the advertisements in the “Missing Friends” column is to encounter a chronicle of equal parts hope, anxiety, and despair.

Here’s one that caught my eye — an advertisement, dated 30 June 1855, placed by a John Benton, formerly of Cappawhite, Co. Tipperary, now of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, who was looking for his brother Thomas:

OF THOMAS BENTON, parish of Cappawhite, Co. Tipperary; when last heard from he was in Edgar co., Ill. Information of him will be received by his brother John, care of David Shiels, Pewaukie, Wis.1

Is this Thomas Benton, son of Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer, born in Cappawhite, Co. Tipperary in 1826, died in Arnprior, Renfrew Co., Ontario in 1890?


Certainly, this is the first I’ve heard of Thomas Benton possibly being in Edgar County, Illinois in the early 1850s (railway labour?). Then again, Thomas Benton has already surprised me, with a marriage record in the register for St. John the Evangelist, Gananoque, Leeds Co., Ontario (this discovered after I had searched every available Catholic register for Carleton, Lanark, and Renfrew Counties, and had all but given up). But Gananoque is a lot closer to Pakenham, Lanark Co. (where Thomas Benton can be found in 1861) and to Arnprior, Renfrew Co. (where Thomas Benton lived from the mid-1860s to his death in 1890) than to Edgar Co., Illinois. And do I have any other evidence to suggest that Thomas Benton ever lived in the United States at all? I do not. Still, given the name and the parish (Cappawhite, Co. Tipperary), I’m not ruling out the above Boston Pilot advertisement. Especially since there was also a William Benton in Pewaukee, Wisconsin from the mid-1860s, and Thomas Benton certainly had a younger brother William, born in Cappawhite in 1832.

(The next logical step, of course, is to search for all available records pertaining to John Benton, who died at Pewaukee, Waukesha Co., Wisconsin on 6 March 1882, and who is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Pewaukee, in the hope of finding a record which names his parents. And also to search for all available records pertaining to William Benton of Pewaukee, Wisconsin, in the same hope.)

The Boston Pilot’s  “Missing Friends” advertisements are available online at two sites:

  1. Boston College has an online database, Information Wanted: A Database of Advertisements for Irish Immigrants Published in the Boston Pilot
  2. Ancestry.com has an online database, Searching for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in “The Boston Pilot,” 1831–1920

Those searching for Ireland-to-Canada emigrants should not overlook this collection. While the collection is often described in terms of Irish emigration to the United States, there are many advertisements which reference Canadian locations (and, of course, Canadian ports of landing).

Another Canadian connection: Thomas D’Arcy McGee was an editor of the The Pilot in 1844-45.

  1.  Ancestry.com. Searching for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in “The Boston Pilot,” 1831–1920 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data: Harris, Ruth-Ann M., Donald M. Jacobs, and B. Emer O’Keeffe, editors. Searching for Missing Friends: Irish Immigrant Advertisements Placed in “The Boston Pilot 1831–1920”. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1989.

A Deathbed Conversion?

I’m adding the Rev. James R. Rossiter (1827-1862) to my list of record-keepers who went above and beyond the call of (record-keeping) duty; and whose records, therefore, now offer researchers a little something more. This list also includes William Dowdall Pigott, census taker extraordinaire, whose 1851 enumeration of Fitzroy township, Carleton Co., Ontario includes an Irish county of origin for the majority of Irish-born residents of the township. And, of course, when it’s an Irish county for an emigrant ancestor who left no written records of his or her own (no letters, no diary, no family Bible), that little something more can be a pretty big deal: it allows you to replace “born in Ireland” with “born in Co. [County Name], Ireland,” which is the first step toward locating an ancestor’s Irish townland of origin.

As recorded here and here, Father Rossiter’s marriage records from the 1850s offer a wealth of information about the Irish origins of his parishioners. His frequent references to “the Rail Road in this mission,” moreover, help explain why at least some of these Irish emigrants were in the Ganaonoque region in the first place: some (perhaps many?) of the men were working for the Grand Trunk Railway.

A GTR Labourer Sends for the Priest

Here’s a nice example of that little something extra.

It is the record of abjuration of errors and profession of faith1 for James Warren (not previously a member of the Catholic mission at Gananoque, obviously; and, unlike many of Father Rossiter’s parishioners in the 1850s, not a recent Irish emigrant, I think it’s safe to assume):2

Profession of Faith of James Warren, 14 November 1856

Profession of Faith of James Warren, 14 November 1856

This record includes the standard formulation for a record of abjuration and profession of faith: “have received … his profession of faith,” and “have given him Conditional baptism and absolution from Heresy.”

But it also offers something more: a couple of specific details, and a striking phrase, which help to set the scene. The profession of faith was received at “the G.T.R.Road Station Landsdown.” And it was made by James Warren, a “labourer on the G.T.R.Road,” who, “on the point of death, sent for the priest.” On the point of death, sent for the priest? That is dramatic, that is almost novelistic. While many priests would have simply recorded the name of the convert along with the standard formulation, Father Rossiter’s details allow us to imagine a dramatic and poignant episode in the development of Ontario (or Canada West, as it was called from 1841 to 1867): the deathbed conversion of a railway labourer.

No doubt Father Rossiter considered this conversion at least a minor triumph for the forces of Catholicism. But what of the labourer himself, James Warren as he is named in the record? Why did this (apparently dying) Protestant send for a Catholic priest and make a profession of Catholic faith at, or perhaps near or in the neighbourhood of, the Grand Trunk Railway Station at Landsdowne? Well, he may not have had access to a minister of his own denomination, of course (there must have been an Anglican minister in the area, but who knows from what Protestant denomination James Warren decided to abjure?). And as a GTR labourer, he would have been working alongside Roman Catholics (both Irish and French Canadian) on a regular basis: perhaps some one or group of RCs exerted an influence?

In any case, let’s hope James Warren (I know nothing of him whatsoever beyond what is found in the above record) did not die in 1856. Let’s hope he went on to live a happy and prosperous life, whether as a newly-minted Catholic, or as an Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, Wesleyan Methodist, or as an adherent of whatever faith he cared to profess.

  1.  That is, of the errors of Protestantism, and profession of the Catholic faith.
  2.   St. John the Evangelist (Gananoque, Leeds), Marriages 1846-1863, James Warren Profession of Faith, image 41 of 41: database, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/: accessed 9 March 2015), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

Irish Origins in Canadian Roman Catholic Marriage Records: St. John the Evangelist, Gananoque, Leeds Co., Ontario, Part 2

18 February 1855 -- 18 November 1856

For marriages from 4 January 1850 to 6 February 1855, please see Part One.

Part 3 to follow.

DateGroomSon of [Parents], of [Place]BrideDaughter of [Parents], of [Place]Witnesses
DateGroomSon of [Parents], of [Place]BrideDaughter of [Parents], of [Place]Witnesses
18 Feb 1855Patrick CummingsThomas Cummings and Mary Stanton, of the parish of Tintern Co. WexfordMaryanne CushenMartin Cushen and Mary Gorman of this mission (from the Co. Wexford)Robert Anderson and Mary Ravey
18 May 1855Peter TetreauWilliam Tetreau and Marie Scott (formerly from Laprairie, C.E.)Sarah MarlowOwen Marlow and Mary Mullen (from the Co. Tyrone Ireland)Peter William and Mary Jane Moyner
22 Aug 1855John WoodsJohn Woods and Bridget Casey (from Manchester England)Margaret O'NeilNicholas O'Neil and Mary McCormick from Co. Wexford IrelandThos. Ferguson and Margaret Blake
4 Oct 1855Thos. Clark of Brockville missionBernard Clark and Catherine Kelly from Co. Cavan IrelandBridget O'ShayPatrick O'Shay and Catherine ________ from the Co. Limerick IrelandMichael Clark and Eleanor Fenton
4 Nov 1855Michael DwyerJohn Dwyer and Catherine Ryan, Cappagh White, Tipperary, IrelandAnn BrazilMichael Brazil and Catherine Gleeson, Co. Tipperary, IrelandPatrick Shanly and Eleanor Rossiter
18 Nov 1855Thos. GriffinJohn Griffin and Margaret Bolan, Co. Limerick, IrelandMargaret ManeyOwen Maney and Margaret Rowlan from the Co. Clare, IrelandCon Regan and Margaret Hannon
8 Jan 1856William KennedyPatk. Kennedy and Mary Hunt from the Co. Clare IrelandBridget McMahonPeter McMahon and Ellen Connors, also from the Co. Clare, IrelandMartin Hogan and Mary McMahon
27 Jan 1856Patrick MaddenJames Madden and Eleanor Fitzgerald from the parish of Robertstown, Co. LimerickMary CoxStephen Cox and Susan Armstrong from the Co. Cavan, IrelandJames Shortell and Christianna Madden
28 Jan 1856Laurence BoyleJohn Boyle and Mary Dunn from the Co. Kildare, IrelandCatherine O'BrienTerence O'Brien and Mary McGovern from the Co. Fermanagh IrelandJohn Gavin and Julia Shortell
31 Jan 1856Patrick EnglishJohn English and ________ Lawlor from the parish of Tintern, Co. Wexford, IrelandMargaret FoxPeter Fox and Ann Cameron from the Co. Carlow IrelandJames Turbin and Eleanor Littleton
4 Feb 1856Dominique LeBoufPierre Lebouf and Josette Tessier from St. Ann B.C.Nancy DriscollMichael Driscoll and Margaret Hayes parish of Skibereen, Co. Cork, IrelandPeter Cassedy and Ann Kelly
23 Mar 1856Patrick Boylejohn Boyle and Mary Dunn from the Co. Kildare, IrelandJudith ShortellThomas Shortell and Bridget Swift from the Co. Kilkenny, IrelandDenis Brophy and Mary O'Brien
14 Apr 1856Isidore Isreal GreffeFrancois Grreffe and Rosalie Turcotte of St. John Chrysostom in C.E., now of this missionLatitia FinmoreThos. Finmore and Julia McCann from the Co. Westmeath, IrelandHugh Gusta and Maryanne Stanfield
4 Apr 1856John Beamish (widower of Mary Hurly)Thos. Beamish and Mary Ford, parish of Kinsale, Co. Cork, IrelandJohannah ShayMaurice Shay and Margaret Noonan from the parish of Bantry, Co. Cork, IrelandJeremiah Mahony and Catherine Mahony
14 Apr 1856Thos. BentonThos. Benton and Catherine Dwyer, from the parish of Cappagh White, Tipperary, IrelandHonor RyanMichael Ryan and Bridget Lahey, parish of Kilcommon, Co. Limerick, IrelandPatrick Dwyer and Bridget Conway
14 Apr 1856John RedmondPatrick Redmond and Elizabeth Grammen from New Town Barry, Co. Wexford, IrelandAnn O'BrienCharles O'Brien and Mary Devereux, from the parish of Clonegal, Co. Wexford, Ireland Thos. McGeoghegan and Catherine O'Brien
5 May 1856Denis SantryJohn Santry and Honora Driscoll from the Co. Cork IrelandMary Clifford (widow of dec. John Clifford)Danl. Hogan and Catherine Holohan, from the City of Limerick IrelandJohn Hunt and Mary McGrath
4 Jun 1856Michael QuinnFrancis Quinn and Nancy Macken from the Co. Armagh, IrelandAllice NugentMichl. Nugent and Mary Dunn from the Co. Dublin, IrelandJohn Kennedy and Eleanor McCormick
14 Jul 1856John Spellane, widower of dec. Mary BrophyJohn Spellane and Catherine Daughten from the Queen's Co., IrelandHonor TobinNicholas Tobin and Mary Vardy from the parish of Balingarry, Co. Wexford James Guttery and Bridget Copeland
17 Jul 1856*Daniel W. Daniels (protestant) John Daniels and Elizabeth Smith, from Canton St. Laurence Co. N.Y. U.S.Bridget Daley (catholic), from BeauharnoisPatrick Daley and Mary Morrison from the parish of Fermoy, Co. Cork, IrelandMichael Dunn and Mary Daley
5 Aug 1856Jeremiah O'NeilJeremiah O'Neil and Julia Sullivan, from the Parish of Bantry, Co. Cork IrelandRose McGarveyThos. McGarvey and Rose McNeirny from the parish of Authy, Co. Tyrone IrelandPatrick Ward and Ann Ward
26 Aug 1856Edward HennessyPatrick Hennessy and Eleanor Bulger from the parish of Bagglinstown Co. Carlow, IrelandEleanor BradshawJohn Bradshaw and Bridget Dwyer from the Co. TipperaryJames McDonicle and Rose O'Neil
20 Oct 1856Matthew MurphyLaurence Murphy and Ann Redmond, Co. WexfordEleanor ClarkMichael Clark and Mary Burns from the parish of Baltinglass, Co. WicklowNicholas Roach and Margaret Clark
20 Oct 1856John O'BrienCharles O'Brien and Mary Devereux from the parish of Clonegal, Co. WexfordBridget KarmuddyMichael Karmuddy and Bridget Mack from the Co. Clare, IrelandJames McNamara and Margaret Connors
24 Oct 1856John Joyce, widower of decd. Mary Boyne John Joyce and Mary Hanlon from the parish of Ballykillen, Co. Carlow, IrelandJohannah KehoeJohn Kehoe and Johannah Quinlan parish of Adamstown, Co. Wexford IrelandJohn Dunden and Bridget O'Brien
4 Nov 1856Cornelius Harrington of the Rail Road in this missionTimothy Harrington and Julia Fahey of the parish of Kilcastle, Co. Cork IrelandMargaret RyanMichael Ryan and Bridget Lahey from the parish of Kilcommon, Co. LimerickJames Moran and Ann Dunden
10 Nov 1856Thomas Elligot of the Gr. T. R. Road in this missionJohn Elligot and Margaret Collins of the parish of Grane, Co. LimerickBridget ConwayThomas Conway and Margaret Kennedy from the parish of Kilcommon, Co. Tipperary IrelandJohn Elligot and Allice Kennedy
18 Nov 1856Denis Doyle of the Gr. T. R. Road in this missionDenis Doyle and Eleanor Ryan from the parish of Cappa White Co. Tipperary IrelandBridget McGrathThos. McGrath and Margaret Wilkinson, from the parish of Castletown, Co. Tipperary IrelandThos. Conway and Margaret Karmuddy

*This marriage, which required a dispensation from the impediment of a mixed marriage, was later crossed out in the register.

Marriage of Michael Dwyer and Honora Benton

Honora Benton was born in Cappawhite, Co. Tipperary in 1818 (baptized 13 December 1818), the daughter of Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer. A couple of years earlier, her father Thomas Benton had served as sponsor/godfather to Mary Dwyer, baptized 17 April 1816, the daughter of Timothy Dwyer and Honora Benton.

So here we have a couple of Benton-Dwyer couples in Cappawhite in the early nineteenth century: Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer (married 11 March 1809); and Timothy Dwyer and Honora Benton (married before April 1816). Were Thomas Benton and Honora Benton (wife of Timothy Dwyer) siblings or cousins or otherwise related? Were Catherine Dwyer (wife of Thomas Benton) and Timothy Dwyer (husband of Honora Benton) siblings or cousins or otherwise related?

If You’re the Daughter of a Benton and a Dwyer …

… why not marry a Dwyer?

Don’t let your emigration to Canada stop you! You can surely find a Dwyer in Montreal.

And that is exactly what Honora Benton, daughter of Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer, did:1

Marriage of Michael Dwyer and Honora Benton, 9 October 1843

Marriage of Michael Dwyer and Honora Benton, 9 October 1843

The above record, from the register for Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal, identifies the marriage partners as Michael Dwyer, “domicilié en cette Paroisse fils majeur de John Dwyer fermier et d’Ellen McGrath du Comté de Limerick en Irlande” (domiciled in this parish son of age of John Dwyer, farmer, and of Ellen McGrath of the County Limerick, Ireland); and Hanora Benton “domicilié en cette Paroisse fille majeure de Thomas Benton fermier et de Catherine Dwyer du Comté de Tipperary en Irlande” (domiciled in this parish daughter of age of Thomas Benton, farmer, and of Catherine Dwyer of the County Tipperary, Ireland). Apparently neither Michael Dwyer nor Honora Benton could sign the register. The witnesses, however, did sign as Timothy Bourke and Edmond Reardon.

Michael Dwyer and Honora Benton had two daughters baptized at Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal: Ellen, born 2 July 1844; and Mary, born 23 March 1846. What happened to this family after March 1846? I have not yet found them in the (Canadian or American) census records.

  1. Basilique Notre-Dame (Montréal, Québec), Register of Births, Marriages and Burials, 1843, M. 143, Michael Dwyer-Hanora Benton marriage: database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 23 March 2015), Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967.

Marriage of Edmund Conroy and Margo Jemmison

book cover areyoumymotherIf, as promised in December 2014, the National Library of Ireland launches a website with digitized images of its Roman Catholic parish register microfilms, this will be a game changer for Irish genealogy and family history research.1 As John Grenham puts it:

These records are – by a long way – the single most important source of historical Irish family information, one of the greatest legacies of the Catholic Church to Ireland.

The idea that someone in Ottawa or Boston (or anywhere in the world, really) will now have free, online access to a set of records (the single most important set of records for Irish genealogy, given the loss of the 19th-century census records) that, until recently, had seemed to lie hidden inside an Irish family history mysterium … well, this is a great idea, is it not?

To be sure, there will be challenges. Some of the records are in Latin, with seemingly bizarre latinized renderings of Irish forenames (Diarmuid [anglicized as Dermot] becomes Jeremiah; Sheila becomes Cecilia; and so on). Pages torn or ripped out just at the point where you think your great-great-grandmother’s marriage record might be. Cramped, spidery writing, with ink splotches all over the page. These records will not present themselves to Irish family history researchers as something warm and friendly, easy-going and easy to use.

They will not be “user-friendly,” I suspect (they will not be indexed by name, for example).

And yet. And yet. Make no mistake: this is a game changer. For anyone who cares to slog through page after page of sometimes poorly-photographed images of sometimes indecipherable handwriting, this is it: this is the key that unlocks the door to the Irish family history mysterium.

And the records will no doubt be crowd-sourced: before too long after their release (not overnight, but sooner than you might expect), we will see local genealogy societies coming out with indexes; we will see random people on the Internet offering their own transcriptions of the records for this parish or that. (And caveat emptor, needless to say.)

Transcriptions are Good, but …

… they’re not as good as the originals.

The thing is, I just don’t entirely trust somebody else’s transcription of an original record. I want to see the original (or a photograph of the original) for myself, and make my own interpretation, and draw my own conclusions. And just as importantly, I want to view the record in context, which means I want see the surrounding records. I want access to la vraie chose, in other words.

Do I sound too demanding (I want this, and I’d also like that)? I guess online access to the digitized Drouin records (Catholic parish registers for the province of Québec and for parts of the province of Ontario) has spoiled me, has raised my expectations for online access to (photographs of) the original records. By the way, the Drouin records are available at FamilySearch, and also at Ancestry.ca.

I used to complain about RootsIreland.ie (Irish Family History Foundation) because their former pay-per-view system was simply too expensive. In fact, there was a period a few years ago when I actually banned myself from visiting their site, because the temptation to spend more money on more views was too overwhelming. I mean, it was a bit ridiculous: how much money are you willing to spend in pursuit of a Patrick Ryan, a man with one of the ten most common surnames in Ireland, and with one of the most common male forenames too? Well, too much money, in my case, whenever I visited that site. And so I banned myself.

I no longer complain about RootsIreland, now that they have 1). replaced the pay-per-view system with a subscription service; and 2). added RC parish records from the Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly (and hello, Patrick Ryan: no, not those other Patrick Ryans, but the Patrick Ryan that I was actually looking for). I now find RootsIreland to be an incredibly useful site.

So this isn’t a complaint, exactly. It’s just that what you get at Rootsireland are somebody else’s transcriptions, and transcriptions are not as good as the originals.

Are You my 3x-Great-Grandmother?

conroy edmond jameson marg 1may1815 mountmellick queensAs I’ve mentioned before, the family lore surrounding my 3x-great-grandparents James Moran and Margaret Jamieson strikes me as so romantic, so improbable, that I often refer to the story of their elopement to Canada as “the Ballad of James and Margaret.”

And it’s a great story: a young lady of quality (of “the Quality,” as they called it at the time) falls in love with the coachman, a handsome young rogue of a fellow, who is working for her family. And because her family would never agree to the match, the two star-crossed young lovers determine to elope to Upper Canada.

Well, of course I am sceptical. As I have also already mentioned before, if you grew up as the descendant of Irish emigrants, you will no doubt have grown up hearing all sorts of stories about how we were once the Kings and Queens of Ireland. And then you look into the records, and discover that we were once the agrarian underclass of County Tipperary!

But for all my scepticism, I have never been inclined to dismiss outright the oral family history claim that, before she married James Moran, the young Margaret Jamieson had married a man by the name of Conroy, in the Queen’s County (Co. Laois).

Which is why the record above (a transcription of an actual record) is of interest to me. The county fits; the date fits; and the names (more or less) also fit (“Margo”? I’d like to know how many “Margos” were running about Queen’s County ca. 1815: I suspect not too many, though there must have been a lot of “Margarets”).

Is this Margo Jemisson my Margaret Jamieson? Well, she might be, but then again, she might not be, I just don’t know. The only way to possibly crack this nut is to dig deep into the parish registers, and to view all relevant surrounding records in context.

Which is why I am so looking forward to the NLI’s release of the digitized images of its Roman Catholic parish registers. I want the key that unlocks the door to the Irish family history mysterium.

  1.  And I shouldn’t say if, I should say when (the NLI’s Parish Registers Digitisation Project is currently scheduled to launch “by summer 2015”): it’s just that this project is so monumentally awesome that I still can’t quite believe they will pull it off.

Irish Origins in Canadian Roman Catholic Marriage Records: St. John the Evangelist, Gananoque, Leeds Co., Ontario, Part I

4 January 1850 -- 6 February 1855

From the register of St. John the Evangelist, Gananoque, Leeds Co., Ontario,1 a list of Irish-emigrant marriages from 4 January 1850 to 6 February 1855.

I have only included marriages where the record supplies information about Irish origins (where at least an Irish county is named, in other words). To put it another way, I have excluded marriages between parties with Irish names, where the record does not name at least a county in Ireland.

As always, I have attempted to transcribe what I read, and have resisted the (sometimes all-but-overwhelming) temptation to “correct” the priest’s spelling. The surname “Rennolds” would be standardized as “Reynolds,” for example; and the parish of “Bax” in Co. Mayo would generally be spelled “Backs.” But I have recorded my interpretation of the spelling that is actually found in the register. The priests who recorded this information were the Rev. John Foley (to January 1851) and the Rev. James R. Rossiter (from 1851).

Part II to follow.

DateGroomSon of [Parents], of [Place]BrideDaughter of [Parents], of [Place]Witnesses
DateGroomSon of [Parents], of [Place]BrideDaughter of [Parents], of [Place]Witnesses
4 Jan 1850Garret RennoldsOwen Rennolds and Margaret Curley of the Parish of Mohill Co. LeitrimEliza, widow of John ManleyWilliam Donahue and Catherine Ryan of Leeds
5 Aug 1850John DaleyMichael Daley and Ann Hadden of the County TipperaryMary BoyleJohn Boyle and Mary Dusin of Leeds County CanadaMich McMullen and Margaret Kennedy of Gananoque
2 Sep 1850John ButterfieldSimon Butterfield and Margaret McClare of Cashel, Co. TipperaryAnn JesmahFrancis JesmahJohn Dundon and Catherine Dundon of Gananoque
14 Jan 1851John HuntWilliam Hunt and Catherine Donohue of Cappawhite, Co. TipperaryCatherine BurkeLaurence Burke and Johanna Barry of Cappawhite, Co. TipperaryJohn Dundon and Catherine Dundon
9 Nov 1851Patrick CosgriveThos. Cosgrive and Margaret Degnigne of Galvery, Co. LimerickMargaret HydePatrick Hyde and Catherine Spelane of [Leeds?]Michael Dunnevan and Bridget Clark
9 Nov 1851Patrick O'CallehanPatrick O'Callihan and Margaret Callihan of the parish of Ballymons Co. CorkEleanor BarretHenry Barret and Sally Burk of Bax Co. MayoMichael Docheral and Maria Forester
19 Jan 1852Edward O'Briendeceased Patk O'Brien and Rose Gallaher of the Co. TyroneAnn DunnMoses Dunn and Mary Donaghue of the Co. WexfordJames Dunn and Nancy Murphy
22 Feb 1852Edward O'BrienJohn O'Brien and Catherine Morrisen of the Co. TyroneMary Dunn (widow of decd. Thomas Dunn)Andrew Kinsela and Honor Summers of the Co. WexfordBernard O'Neil and Bridget Dunn
17 Oct 1852Matthew Ryan, widower of Honora MurrayRody Ryan and Eleanor Walsh of the parish of Holy Cross, Co. TipperaryMary Pew, widow of James DaleyGeorge Pew and Jane Walsh of the parish of Bax Co. Mayo Ireland Michael Tierney and Mary Lyons
8 Feb 1853John KennedyMichael Kennedy and Sarah Cunningham of the Co. Armagh, IrelandElizabeth DaughertyEdward Daugherty and Honorah Dillon of the Co. Limerick, IrelandMichael Kennedy and Mary Jane Sidley
9 May 1853Patrick NeelanPatrick Neelan and Honora Hanlon of the parish of Brough Co. Limerick, IrelandMary Jane DavisRichd Davis and Mary Hill Co. Cork IrelandPatrick Neelan and Mary Jane Sidley
9 May 1853Michael McGivernPatrick McGivern and Catherine Quinn Co. Armagh IrelandCatherine O'KeefeJohn O'Keefe and Johanna Ross of the parish of Shanagolden Co. Limerick, IrelandFrancis McGivern and Margaret Kennedy
13 May 1853Edward McGrathEdward McGrath and Bridget Ryan of the parish of Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, IrelandMary Daugherty, widow of deceased William DaughertyThos. Helpon and Catherine Eagan of the parish of Kilcommon, Tipperary, IrelandJohn Hunt and Margaret Kennedy
27 Jun 1853Michel TetreauGuillaume Tetreau and Marie Scott of the parish of Acadie, Diocese of MontrealJohanna NoonanJohn Noonan and Jane Taylor Co. Clare, IrelandPeter Tetreau and Ann Donaghue
26 Jul 1853John HorohanMatthew Horohan and Bridget Nolan of the parish of Ballyragget Co. Kilkenny, IrelandMary Jane McMullenJames McMullen and Catherine McKenny Co. Tyrone IrelandMichael McMullen and Ann McMullen
20 Nov 1853Bernard ShielsJohn Shiels and Catherine McMahon from the County Armagh IrelandAnn BrophyAndrew Brophy and Catherine Brophy of the Co. KilkennyJames Bulger and Jane Shiels
20 Nov 1853James BulgerJames Bulger and Eleanor Kirwin of the Co. Kilkenny IrelandJane ShielsJohn Shiels and Catherine McMahon of the Co. Armagh, IrelandBernard Shiels and Ann Brophy
9 Jan 1854James QuinnMartin Quinn and Eleanor Terry of the Co. WaterfordNancy Melvina HavensDaniel Havens and Tremor Allen, both of Howe IslandMichael Rogen and Mary Ann Havens
9 Jan 1854John O'Mullen [of Howe Island]Robert O'Mullen and Elizabeth Keatley from the To of Mountain Co. of DundasMary Driscoll [of Howe Island]James Driscoll and Elizabeth Doran from the parish of New Town Co. Cork Ireland Joseph Preville and Allice Webster
12 Feb 1854Patrick KeysJohn Keys and Mary Corrigan from the King's Co. Ireland Catherine McKinty (late Cath McCarey widow)Hugh McKinty and Nancy Murphy Co. Antrim IrelandBernard McCarey and Mary McKinty
21 Feb 1854Michael WebbPatrick Webb and Ann Martin Co. Kildare IrelandMaria ForesterCharles Forester and Bridget Barret Co. Mayo IrelandThomas Cummings and Bridget Moyne
20 Aug 1854William HanlonJeremiah Hanlon and Ann Hanlon, from the Co. GalwayCatherine Dogheral (widow of decd John Dogheral)Michael O'Leary and Johannah Kennedy Thurles, Tipperary John Fitzgerald and Margaret Mullen
26 Nov 1854Eustache Bisson (widower of deceased Rose Guenette and Margarite Allaire)Toussaint Bisson and Marie Bordineau Mary SherryPeter Sherry and Mary Burns Co. Carlow IrelandJames McDonnell and Eleanor Rossiter
2 Dec 1854James Curtis (widower of Catherine Riordan from King's Co. Ireland)Patrick Curtis and Catherine Carroll from the Co. Tipperary, IrelandEleanor Murphy (widow of deceased Garret Reynolds and of John Manley)James Murphy and Nancy Cogger, from Co. Mayo, IrelandPatrick Cummings and Christianna Madden
2 Dec 1854Patrick Webb (widower of Ann Martin from the Queen's Co. Ireland)Michael Webb and Nancy Brophy from the Queen's Co. IrelandHonor Karney (widow of William Lynch from Castlebar)Dominic Karney and Catherine HemmleyAlexander Mullen and Margaret Mullen
4 Jan 1855Bernard McCarey (widower of ______ )Hugh McCarey and Margaret McBride from the Co. Antrim, IrelandBridget Rolan (widow of dec. Patrick Glenn)Michael Rolan and Bridget Taylor from Co. Mayo, Ireland -- now of this missionJohn Fitzgerald and Eleanor Curtis
8 Jan 1855Patrick RapeThomas Rape and Mary Hogan (from the Co. Mayo Ireland) of the parish of Smith's FallsRose LappinJames Lappin and Nancy Thompson from the Co. Armagh IrelandJohn Rape and Mary Jane McDonnell
6 Feb 1855John MaddenJames Madden and Eleanor Fitzgerald from the parish of [Askeaton?] Co. LimerickCatherine LyonsHugh Lyons and Margaret Kenny, from the parish of the parish of Aghrim Co. Galway, IrelandThomas McGrath and Louisa Millan
  1. “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/): Leeds > Gananoque > St John the Evangelist > Marriages 1846-1863.

“Of the Rail Road in this mission”

Thomas Benton (1826-1890) was born in Cappawhite, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, the son of Thomas Benton and Catherine (“Kitty”) Dwyer. Of these facts I am now reasonably certain (which is to say, as certain as one can ever be when it comes to 19th-century Irish genealogy).

But for the longest time, I had only “Thomas Benton, born about 1830 in Ireland, of parents unknown” in my database. I suspected that he had been born in the parish of Doon (Limerick or Tipperary?); and from about last May, I had reason to suspect that he was born in Cappawhite, Co. Tipperary, the son of Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer. But until very recently, I had no documented evidence to confirm or refute my suspicions.

It’s Always in the Last Place You Look

And the main reason why I had no evidence is that I could not find a record of Thomas Benton’s marriage to Honora Ryan, daughter of Michael Ryan and Bridget Lahey.

Given that all nine of their known children were born in Canada, I suspected (rightly, as it turns out) that Thomas Benton and Honora Ryan had married in Canada, not in Ireland. And I knew that Thomas Benton and Honora Ryan could be found in Pakenham, Lanark Co., Ontario in 1861, and that they shortly afterwards moved to Arnprior, Renfrew Co., Ontario, where Honora Ryan died in 1879, and where Thomas Benton died in 1890. But I searched the Catholic parish registers of Lanark and Renfrew Counties, and searched in vain, for a marriage record for Thomas Benton and Honora Ryan. And because the baptismal record for their daughter Bridget Benton is found in the register for the Catholic mission at Fitzroy Harbour (Carleton Co.), I also searched surrounding parishes in Carleton County. I also briefly considered, and searched for, a Protestant marriage record, though without really expecting to find one, given the overwhelming evidence of staunch Roman Catholicism for this family.1

I finally found their marriage record in the register for St. John the Evangelist, Gananoque, Leeds Co. — a place I had not thought to look, because I was so focused on Lanark and Renfrew Counties.

‘Of the Grand Trunk Rail Road in this mission’

And what were they doing in the Gananoque area in the 1850s?

It looks like the men were working for the Grand Trunk Railway, perhaps on the construction of the line which ran from Montreal to Brockville, which opened in 1859.

When Honora Ryan’s sister Margaret married Cornelius Harrington on 4 November 1856,2 the priest, the Rev. James R. Rossiter, identified Cornelius Harrington as a railroad worker:

Marriage of Cornelius Harrington and Margaret Ryan, 4 November 1856

Marriage of Cornelius Harrington and Margaret Ryan, 4 November 1856

The above record lists “Cornelius Harrington of the Rail Road in this mission, son of age of Timothy Harrington and Julia Falvey of the parish of Kilcastle [Kilcaskan?], Co. Cork Ireland,” along with “Margaret Ryan, also of this mission, daughter minor of Michael Ryan and Bridget Lahey from the parish of Kilcommon, Co. Limerick.”

And in the marriage record which immediately follows, that of Thomas Elligot and Bridget Conway (10 November 1856),3 we have Thomas Elligot identified with the Grand Trunk Railway in particular:

Marriage of Thomas Elligot and Bridget Conway, 10 November 1856

Marriage of Thomas Elligot and Bridget Conway, 10 November 1856

The above records lists “Thomas Elligot of the Gr. T. R. Road in this mission, son of age of John Elligot and Margaret Collins of the parish of [Grane?] Co. Limerick Ireland,” along with “Bridget Conway, daughter minor of Thomas Conway and Margaret Kennedy from the parish of Kilcommon Co. Tipperary Ireland.”

gananoque mission marriagesIndeed, for the mid- to  late-1850s, a number of men in this register are identified as railroad workers in their marriage records. Which is to say, in other words, that the Rev. James R. Rossiter took the time to add that extra detail about the men’s occupation (and in one record, he also identifies a woman as being “of the Rail Road”). Given the difficulties of locating Irish emigrants who worked on the construction of canals and railroads, the register for St. John the Evangelist, Leeds Co., Ontario therefore strikes me as an unusually valuable source (I consider any Catholic parish register to be a valuable source, but for at least a few families [probably more than “a few,” I haven’t yet counted] this one has that little something extra). Moreover, the priest’s tendency to record counties, and sometimes parishes, of origin in Ireland also makes this register extremely valuable.

By the way, I would expect that many of the people found in this register did not remain in the Gananoque region for very long. Like my own Benton and Ryan ancestors, they had probably moved on by the 1860s — to other parts of Canada, and also to the United States.

Thomas Benton is not identified as a railroad worker in the record of his marriage to Honora Ryan. But given the occupational listing for other men (including his brother-in-law Cornelius Harrington) in the same mission, for now I am filing him under “Possibly Working for the Grand Trunk Railway” in the late 1850s. Thomas Benton’s future son-in-law, Alexander Michael Moran (husband of Anna [“Annie”] Maria Benton), did certainly work, as a machinist, for the Grand Trunk Railway. And Thomas Benton’s grandson, my paternal grandfather Allan Jerome Moran, also worked for the GTR, and later for the CN (Canadian National Railway).

I am currently compiling a table of marriages from the register for St. John the Evangelist, which identify Irish parishes and counties (similar to my Irish Counties in Fitzroy Harbour Mission Marriage Records). To be posted within the next few days.

  1. In the early Ottawa Valley, where conditions were harsh and clerics were scarce, members of various Protestant denominations sometimes crossed denominational lines to baptize an infant or to marry: in the absence of a Presbyterian minister, a pair of Presbyterian parents might have their infant baptized by an Anglican minister, for example. For the most part, however, Roman Catholics resisted this pioneer-era ecumenicalism: to be baptized or married by a non-Catholic, as Catholics understood it, was scarcely to be baptized or married at all.
  2. St. John the Evangelist (Gananoque, Leeds), Marriages 1846-1863, Cornelius Harrington-Margaret Ryan marriage, image 22 of 41: database, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/: accessed 9 March 2015), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Recors, 1760-1923.

  3.  St. John the Evangelist (Gananoque, Leeds), Marriages 1846-1863, Thomas Elligot-Bridget Conway marriage, image 22 of 41: database, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/: accessed 9 March 2015), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

Irish Counties in Fitzroy Harbour Mission Marriage Records, Part Two

22 August 1858 -- 18 June 1861

A few more marriages from the register for the Catholic mission at Fitzroy Harbour (Carleton Co., Ontario). This is a continuation from Part One.

DateGroomSon of [Parents], of [Place]BrideDaughter of [Parents], of [Place]
DateGroomSon of [Parents], of [Place]BrideDaughter of [Parents], of [Place]
22 Aug 1858James DoyleDenis Doyle and Ellen Ryan late of the Pontiac and formerly of the County Tipperary IrelandAnn CollinsMichael Collins and Ann Shae formerly of the County Wexford Ireland
6 Jan 1859William GormanPatrick Gorman and Margaret Cashin formerly of the County Tipperary IrelandMargaret ButlerJames Butler and Ellen Bele formerly of the County Dublin Ireland
10 Jan 1859John KeefBernard Keef and Ellen Kennedy formerly of the County Limerick IrelandJohanna FlemingJohn Fleming and Margaret Henessy formerly of the County Cork Ireland
10 Jan 1859John O RorkDaniel O Rork and Peggy Doherty formerly of the County Cavin IrelandSally DohertyDenis Doherty and Bridget Gallagher formerly of the County Donegal Ireland
19 Jan 1859John O'ConnorJohn O'Connor and Allice Donagher formerly of the County Limerick IrelandMary Burk, widowJohn Burk and Mary Mahon formerly of the County Tipperary Ireland
19 Jan 1859Alexander McGillisAngus McGillis and Isabella McDonald formerly of Glengarry C.W. [Canada West]Johanna DeneenDenis Deneen and Ellen Power formerly of the County Limerick Ireland
24 Jan 1859Hugh O'DonnellJohn O'Donnell and Margaret Jones formerly of the County Mayo IrelandMargaret BennettMichael Bennett and Mary Lynch formerly of the County Kerry Ireland
14 Feb 1859Thomas GibbinRichard Gibbin and Eleanor McNally formerly of the County Mayo IrelandEllen CannonJames Cannon and Sarah McDermott formerly of the County Sligo Ireland
23 Feb 1859William LeaheyPatrick Leahey and Elisabeth Wharton formerly of the County Tipperary IrelandMargaret PowerJohn Power and Alice Keeley formerly of the County Donegal Ireland
28 Feb 1859Patrick KileenDenis Kileen and Mary Hearn formerly of the County Galway IrelandBridget GallaganPatrick Gallagan and Mary Quilean formerly of the County Cavin Ireland
28 Feb 1859Patrick RadyMichael Rady and Mary Duffy formerly of the County Mayo IrelandMary McCreaCharles McCrea and Cathrine [illegible] formerly of the County Fermanagh Ireland
5 Mar 1859Thomas McNamaraMartin McNamara and Margaret Bond formerly of the County Tipperary IrelandJulia CurleyMatthew Curley and Julia McGra formerly of the County Clare Ireland
1 Jan 1860Thomas NugentArthur Nugent and Ann McDermott formerly of the County Tyrone IrelandSarah ClarkWilliam Clark and Cathrine Clark formerly of the County Sligo Ireland
21 Jan 1860Thomas WilliamsJames Williams and Mary McGattisan formerly of the County Donegal IrelandHarriet Derawa David Derawa and Mary Arno formerly of the township of Hull C.E. [Canada East]
2 Feb 1860Patrick KerryJames Kerry and Honora Hennessy formerly of the County Clare IrelandBridget QuigleyPatrick Quigley and Ellen Golden formerly of the County Sligo Ireland
8 Apr 1860John LeaveyJohn Leavey and Jean Byrne formerly of Longford IrelandMary FarryPatrick Farry and Mary Lunney formerly of the County Fermanagh Ireland
27 Jul 1860Edward KennedyJohn Kennedy and Margaret Mangin of the township of Huntley and formerly of the Co. Tipperary IrelandMary LyndsayPatrick Lyndsay and Cathrine Quinn of the mission and formerly of the County Tyrone Ireland
27 Sep 1860James HerrickFrancis Herrick and Cathrine O'Neil, of this mission and formerly of the County Tipperary Ireland Ellen WilsonJames Wilson and Margaret Murphy formerly of the County Mayo Ireland
28 Jan 1861Edward CavanaghPeter Cavanagh and Mary Quinn formerly of the County Wexford IrelandAnn DevineMichael Devine and Bridget Farrell formerly of the County Longford Ireland
11 Jun 1861James McDonald Hugh McDonald and Johanna Chence of this mission and formerly of ScotlandMary DevineAndrew Devine and Cathrine Mulligan of this mission and formerly of the County Cavin Ireland
18 Jun 1861Patrick DoyleJohn Doyle and Mary Carberry formerly of the County Armagh IrelandSarah DowdWilliam Dowd and Jane Spraul formerly of the County Fermanagh Ireland