M.C. Moran

“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 Fahey of the parish of Kilcastle, 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

Burial of Four Irish Orphans

From the register of Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal, the burial of four Irish orphans on 2 August 1847.1 Apparently all girls, their names unknown, and with only a guess as to their ages:

Burial of four Irish orphans, 2 August 1847

Burial of four Irish orphans, 2 August 1847

The record reads (in translation):

The second of August eighteen hundred and forty-seven I the undersigned priest have buried four Irish (female) orphans who died the day before yesterday and yesterday at the Bon Pasteur Monastery of this city, one of them aged about ten years, two of them aged about eight years, and the other aged about six years. Witnesses Benjamin Desroches and Isidore Godin who have declared that they cannot sign. Nercam, priest.

These orphans (and their parents) were no doubt victims of the typhus epidemic of 1847, which killed thousands at Grosse Île, and which also spread to other Canadian cities, including Montreal, Ottawa (Bytown), Kingston, and Toronto.

  1. Basilique Notre-Dame (Montréal, Québec), Register of Births, Marriages and Burials, 1847, image 184 of 309,  S.S.S.S. Orphelines Irlandaises (Burial of four Irish orphans): database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 13 March 2015), Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967.

Patrick Ryan (1842-1920)

I found this photograph attached to a family tree at ancestry.ca, and contacted the owner for permission to post at my site. The owner, who must be a distant cousin of mine, kindly granted my request.

This is Patrick Ryan, with perhaps one of his daughters, Bridget (“Jette”), Catherine (“Cate”), or Honora (“Annie”). The photograph was probably taken at their home, outside Killaloe Station, Renfrew Co., Ontario.

Patrick Ryan (1842-1920)

Patrick Ryan (1842-1920)

Patrick Ryan was born in 1842 at Curraghafoil, Doon,1 Co. Limerick, Ireland, the son of Michael Ryan and Bridget Lahey, and the brother of my 2x-great-grandmother Honora (“Annie”) Ryan, who married Thomas Benton. I am not sure when Patrick Ryan emigrated to Canada. His parents and sisters were in Canada by 1856; and his youngest sibling Hannah, born about 1854, may have been born in the United States (perhaps Ogdensburg, New York?), which would suggest an early 1850s Ireland-to-North-America emigration for Michael Ryan and Bridget Lahey and their daughters. But Patrick and his brother John Ryan may have come later (late-1860s?).2 In any case, Patrick Ryan was in Canada by 1871, as was his brother John.

On 17 August 1874, Patrick Ryan married Bridget Devine, daughter of Michael Devine and of Catherine (maiden name unknown to me). The couple had nine known children, six sons and three daughters. Bridget Devine died on 24 April 1891, and the cause of her death, as recorded in her Ontario civil death registration, indicates a ghastly death from childbirth complications: she apparently died, at the age of 38, of “Haemorrhage of the womb. 2 days’ duration.”3

On 13 November 1893, the widower Patrick Ryan married Ellen Harrington, daughter of John Harrington and Julia Sullivan (of Co. Cork, Ireland? I have not looked into the records here, but my first guess would be Co. Cork). The couple had four known children, all sons. Their third son, the Rev. Stephen Joseph Ryan, was a Catholic priest who died in New York City in 1930.

Patrick Ryan died on 14 August 1920, and is buried at St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Killaloe, Renfrew Co., Ontario. His headstone identifies him as a “Native of Co. Limerick Ireland.”

  1. Doon is the civil parish. The Roman Catholic parish is that of Kilcommon, a North Tipperary RC parish which extended into Co. Limerick.
  2. The 1901 and 1911 Canadian census returns, along with their Ontario civil death registrations, suggest that Patrick Ryan and John Ryan did not come to Canada until the mid- to late-1860s. While their parents and sisters were certainly in Canada by the 1861 census enumeration, I have not found Patrick or John in the 1861 Canadian census returns.
  3. Two days!? O, the horror. Nineteenth-century death records are the main reason why I’m pro-modern medicine, and also the reason why I’m a bit of a proselytizer on the necessity of childhood vaccination. Whenever I encounter a proponent of the anti-vaccination position, I want to take that person on a tour of the nearest graveyard, to show him or her the headstones for all the little Johns and little Marys who did not make it to age 5, who were carried off at a tender age by childhood diseases against which we now have the solution: and that solution is vaccination.

SMASH! (that sound you just heard …

… was me smashing through a brick wall).

Last May, I asked whether my brick-wall ancestor Thomas Benton might have been the son of Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer of Cappawhite, Tipperary.

And the answer is Yes.

If you have Irish Catholic ancestors, I cannot overemphasize the tremendous importance of the Catholic parish registers. In come cases, the Canadian Catholic marriage records will actually give you the names of counties and parishes of origin back in Ireland. For example, the marriage of Thomas Benton and Honora Ryan:1

Marriage of Thomas Benton and Honora Ryan, 14 April 1856

Marriage of Thomas Benton and Honora Ryan, 14 April 1856

This record identifies Thomas Benton as the son of age of Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer “from the parish of Cappa White, Tipperary Ireland.” And it also identifies “Honor” (Honora) Ryan as the daughter of Michael Ryan and Bridget Lahey of the “parish of Kilcommon Co. Limerick Ireland.” And not only does this remove Thomas Benton from my list of brick-wall ancestors, but it also removes Honora Ryan as well.

Just two days ago, I finally found a set of Ryan baptismal records from Curraghafoil, Co. Doon (Catholic parish: Kilcommon), Co. Limerick. They looked like my Ryans, and I was almost, but not quite, certain. The above record confirms it.

After six years of searching for the origins of my Benton and Ryan ancestors, I just hit the Irish genealogical jackpot with this one record.

  1.  St. John the Evangelist (Gananoque, Leeds), Marriages 1846-1863, Thomas Benton-Honor Ryan marriage, image 18 of 41: database, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/: accessed 9 March 2015), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923

Un Canadien errant (a Wandering Canadian)

One of my sisters found this notebook page inserted in a book, Ireland’s Best Loved Songs and Ballads for Easy Piano, that our mother had given her:

lyrics un canadien errant

Well, that’s pretty much the Ottawa Valley for you: a French-Canadian ballad inserted into the pages of an Irish songbook. The Gallic-Gaelic connection, if you will.

This song is all about the rebellions of 1837 and 1838 (as my mother noted in her beautifully clear script, which my father always called “the nun’s handwriting”).

Un Canadien Errant, as sung by Alan Mills. That “O mon cher Canada!” always chokes me up. I’m sentimental that way.

Wikipedia has a rough translation of the original French lyrics into English.

“A unique musical culture:” the Ottawa Valley

I’m a jolly good fellow,

Patt Gregg is my name,

I came from the Chapeau,

that village of fame.

For singing and dancing

and all kinds of fun,

the boys from the Chapeau

cannot be outdone.

Chapeau Boys

From the logging shanties and the dance halls of the Ottawa Valley: “a unique musical culture.”

Death of George Vallely

When and where did George Vallely die?

Sometimes the records just don’t add up. Oh, I don’t mean numerically or arithmetically: genealogical research is not double-entry bookkeeping, after all. What I mean is that sometimes the information found in one record will directly contradict the information that is found in another record.

A case in point: