Adapted from Rev. William Bell, Hints to Emigrants; in a Series of Letters from Upper Canada (Edinburgh: Waugh and Innes, 1824). Archive.org. Web. 19 June 2014.
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).
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
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.”
Squatter’s rights: the Widow Cahill petitions the Crown to be continued…
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.
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.
- 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. ↩
- “St. Michael’s Fitzroy Celebrates 150 Years,” Catholic Ottawa Newsletter, Spring and Summer 2010, p. 11. ↩
The family lore surrounding my 3x-great-grandparents James Moran and Margaret Jamieson is so romantic (and I have to say, so seemingly improbable) that I sometimes refer to the story of their elopement to Canada as “The Ballad of James and Margaret.”
The story goes something like this:
Margaret Jamieson came from a family of quality, and was the daughter of a doctor, and the granddaughter of a landed gentleman, even; whereas James Moran, of much humbler origin, worked for her family as a coachman. Margaret suffered a tragic loss at an early age with the untimely death of her first husband, a Mr. Conroy. The young widow and her family’s coachman then fell in love; and, her family being opposed to the match, James and Margaret eloped to Canada.
Doesn’t the above story make my 3x-great-grandfather sound like “The Gypsy Rover”? (He whistled and he sang til the green woods rang/And he won the heart of a lady…). Except that James Moran didn’t end up as “lord of these lands all over.” Instead, he ended up as a yeoman of Huntley Township, Carleton County, with 200 acres of land to divide between his two surviving sons Thomas and Alexander Michael.1 Not exactly “lordly,” but not bad for an Irish Catholic emigrant who was likely the landless son of a landless tenant farmer back in Ireland.
But back in Ireland where?
- Another son, James, born about 1824 in Huntley township, died in 1851. There is a notation of his death in the 1851 census, with the cause of death listed as “collara” (cholera). ↩
“Al [Lunney] has this advice for budding genealogists. DO IT NOW, before you lose the members of the older generation who know the family lore.”
— Al and Jeri Lunney and the Lunney Genealogy, The Millstone (11 September 2013)
During the 1930s Alex and Annie operated a small grocery shop in their home on Armstrong St. In the depths of the depression my father, who was a railroader, got very little work and we were often short of cash. At those times our credit was good and we could always get the essentials at the Morans. There were lots of card games and visits to and fro. Uncle Alex was also a fiddle player and he and Aunt Em Delaney played for dancing and entertainment.
— Emmett Patrick Sloan, Memories of the Morans (2007)
Ancestry.ca has an extremely useful database of voters lists: “Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980.” These lists can be used as a census substitute of sorts, although of course they only include adult citizens (age 21 and over until 1970, at which point the voting age was lowered to 18). They can help to discover and/or verify addresses, and they may also provide some useful information on occupations.
But as with the Canadian census (and the US federal census, for that matter, and the UK census too), these voters lists tend to erase evidence of occupation for married women. Well, perhaps “erase” is too strong a term? it suggests an act of commission, when what we are dealing with, arguably, is an act of omission.
My great-grandparents Alex (Alexander Michael) and Annie (Anna Maria Benton) Moran had a grocery store, a small “mom-and-pop” operation at the front of their house on Armstrong St. Here they are in the 1935 List of Electors (Victoria Ward, City of Ottawa), with my grandparents Allan Jerome Moran and Mary Catherine Lahey (here listed as Mrs Allan [W] [= Wife], married woman) listed just below:
Notice how Alex and Annie’s “mom-and-pop” operation has become a “pop” operation in this document: Moran, Alexander is listed as a “grocery store proprietor,” while his wife Annie (Mrs Alexander, [W] [= Wife]) is given the occupational designation of “married woman.”
John Lahey the Elder was the eldest of six known Lahey siblings who emigrated from Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Co. Tipperary to March Township, Carleton Co., Ontario in the 1820s and early 1830s.
John Lahey the Elder never married; and, having no children of his own to inherit his land (100 acres at Concession 3, Lot 14, March Township), he left his farm to his youngest brother, my “black sheep” ancestor James Lahey. My 3x-great-grandfather James Lahey earned his “black sheep ancestor” status by killing his own brother-in-law Daniel Lahey in a drunken altercation, apparently by hitting him on the back of the head with the handle of a spade.
But John Lahey the Elder did not leave all 100 acres of his land to his younger brother James. He bequeathed to James Lahey 98 acres, reserving 2 acres to the Roman Catholic Church. As I wrote in ‘Wilful Murder’ and Black Sheep Ancestors, my dad used to joke that the reason why John Lahey left that land to the Church was that the family had so many sins to atone for. But my father was also known to say, more seriously, of James Lahey’s killing of his brother-in-law: “that’s a godawful thing to have in your family.”
And it is a godawful thing, no doubt. But, eh, there is too much ancestor worship in genealogical circles, in my humble opinion. Let’s face it, some of our ancestors were scoundrels, scofflaws, and rogues. Or hotheaded young men who lacked impulse control, and then one night they got into the poitín … (which I suspect was the case with James Lahey).
In any case, James Lahey’s murder (or manslaughter) of his sister Catherine Lahey’s husband Daniel Lahey was an act of infamy, and a horrible deed; and, by all accounts, it tore the Lahey family apart. Ultimately, John Lahey the Elder stood behind his younger brother James, and then he left him his land:
Memorial of John Lahey the Elder’s Last Will and Testament
(Written 21 December 1853; registered 17 January 1859.)
A memorial to be registered of a will made in the words and figures following that is today. In the name of God Amen.
I John Lahey the Elder of the township of March, County of Carleton, and the Province of Canada, Yeoman, being of sound mind, memory and understanding but sick and weak of body, do hereby publish and declare this to be my last will and testament hereby revoking and making void all former will or wills, that I may have hereto have made.
In the first place I nominate, constitute, and appoint George Morgan the Elder and Thomas Horrigan, both of the aforesaid Township of March Yeoman Executors of this my will. I direct that all my past debts funeral and testamentary expenses be fully paid with all convenient speed after my decease, and I subject, in the first place, my personal estate, and if the same should be insufficient, my real estate for the payment.
Therefore I give and bequeath unto my brother James and after his decease to his heirs all that parcel or track of land and premises, being composed of South East half of lot number fourteen on the third concession of the aforesaid Township of March, containing one hundred acres of land more or less, reserving to the Roman Catholic Church the two acres of land of said lot upon which the chapel now stands, together with all houses outhouses, barns stables, that are now erected and built or that may be hereafter erected and built by my said brother James, his heirs or any of them. He shall at no time sell or mortgage the said land hereby so devised. And I give unto him all stock, farming utensils that I may stand possessed of at the time of my decease and all my chattles and personal property.
In witness whereof I have to this my last will and testament written on two sides of a paper to the first side at the bottom therefore affixed my name and to the last my name and seal this twenty first day of December Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Three.
From the Carleton County Land Registry, March. Citation forthcoming.
A new online exhibit
If you have Irish ancestors who were in the Bytown (Ottawa) area by the late 1820s, you should certainly check the McCabe List (which I wrote about in this entry).
And if you’re lucky enough to discover an ancestor on the McCabe List,1 you may want to learn more about the Rideau Canal and its construction.
Heritage Passages: Bytown and the Rideau Canal is an online interactive exhibit which presents the history of Bytown “from the arrival of Colonel John By in 1826 to the incorporation of the City of Ottawa in 1855.” The site makes use of extensive archival materials to explore the social, cultural, economic and political dimensions of the construction of the Bytown Locks, organizing its material under such headings as Military, Disease, Labour, and Community.
The section on Disease includes some fascinating material on malaria (which was known as ague, swamp fever, and lake fever). Malaria is now extremely rare in Canada and the United States, and most people now see it as an exclusively tropical disease. But during the construction of the Rideau Canal, malarial outbreaks were common, and the disease killed hundreds of men, women, and children. Even Colonel By himself contracted malaria! The malaria section includes “A Personal Account of Malaria” from John McTaggart’s
Three years in Canada (1829).
The section on Community explores some of the tensions between different groups (French, English, Scottish, and Irish), whose political, economic, and religious rivalries could sometimes erupt into violent clashes. See, for example, the subsections on Brawling Bytown, Lawlessness, and Conflict and Struggle — early Bytown was a very different place from the staid and peaceful Ottawa that it would become. Not surprisingly, “it was the impoverished working-class Irish who were generally held responsible for the disruption of the peace, though it is uncertain whether such accusations were based on fact or on negative cultural stereotypes.” It should be noted that the worst period of violence (1835 to 1845) came after the construction of the Rideau Canal, when unemployed Irish vied with French Canadians for jobs in the timber trade.
Heritage Passages: Bytown and the Rideau Canal is a great example of how the internet can be used to offer a deeply sourced and multilayered form of public history.
- I say “lucky” because to discover an ancestor on the McCabe List is, in most cases, to find the Holy Grail of Irish genealogy, at least for that ancestor and his family: you will get the name of a county and a parish, and perhaps also the name of a town or townland within that parish. ↩
Ottawa Passé & Présent/Ottawa Past & Present is a remarkable website: an interactive blog which juxtaposes photographs from Ottawa’s past with photographs from the Ottawa of today.
Here, for example, is 96 to 102 Wellington Street, in 1938 and in 2014. Use your mouse to move the slider to the right to reveal the photograph from 1938; move the slider to the left to reveal the 2014 photo. The beauty of brick and stone masonry, with arched windows and doors to soften and humanize the building’s lines, versus the cold utilitarianism of completely regular rectangles of glass.
And here is the Ottawa Public Library at the corner of Metcalfe St. and Laurier Ave., circa 1900 (I believe this Carnegie library opened in 1906) and in 2013. Again, use your mouse to move the slider from left to right, and from right to left, to reveal how a beautiful neo-classical building was replaced by, in siteowner Alexandre Laquerre’s terms, “another one more along the lines of brutalism.” It is to weep.
As I mentioned in my post on the “Lost Ottawa” Facebook group, I find it rather depressing to view the photographs of older Ottawa buildings that were demolished in the name of “progress” and “development:” in my opinion, the wanton destruction of heritage buildings to make way for soulless concrete blocks and generic condo towers is an ongoing scandal in Ottawa’s urban planning. Needless to say, I can only agree with Ottawa Past & Present’s tagline: “We believe this city could be better.”
Ottawa Passé & Présent/Ottawa Past & Present is the work of Alexandre Laquerre, an engineer who has lived in Ottawa since 2006, and whose interest in architectural heritage was first inspired by his dismay over the destructive effects of the Dufferin superhighway (l’autoroute Dufferin-Montmorency) on the downtown core of his native Quebec City. The website is clearly a labour of love; and also, I think, a gift to the Ottawa public.