M.C. Moran

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:

From Ireland to New Jersey (and Back Again): Free Talk

I doubt I have many (if any?) readers in New Jersey. The majority of the readers of this weblog appear to be located in (in this order): Canada; United States (but more Michigan and Minnesota than New Jersey, I’m pretty sure); United Kingdom; and Ireland.

But if you’re in northeast New Jersey on 15 March, and you want to hear a free presentation on Irish genealogical research, I’ll be at the Israel Crane House and Historic YWCA in Montclair, NJ, giving a talk entitled “From Ireland to New Jersey, and Back Again: Tracing Your Irish Roots.”

One Household: 2 Adults, 10 Children …

… and those 10 children the offspring of 3 separate (but related!) marital pairs.

I’ve written about this before (see, for example, “Blended Families”): the blended family is nothing new. When a widower married a widow, and one or both parties to the marriage had children from a previous marriage, the resulting new household might contain a complex combination of children from two or three marital pairs. That complexity was not necessarily registered in the census returns.

In some (many?) cases, the widow’s children from her previous marriage will be listed in the census under the surname of her new husband (the children’s stepfather), even though legally, and often practically as well, those children carried the surname of their biological father.

Moreover, since a widower’s children from a first marriage carried the same surname as his children from a subsequent marriage, the census listing will generally not (as in, almost never) distinguish between the children produced by a first marriage and the children produced by a subsequent conjugal relationship.

Here, for example (and I am taking my census geekitude to a new level with a colour-coded representation), is the household of George Vallely and his second wife Mary Moyle in the 1861 Census of Canada:

vallely_george 1861 census

Geo Vallillee [George Vallely] household, 1861 Census of Canada East (Quebec), Pontiac County, Bristol, p. 56, lines 10-21.

The first four children (the “greens”) are the children of George Vallely and his first wife wife Anne O’Hanlon. The next four children (the “blues”) are the children of George Vallely’s second wife Mary Moyle and her first husband John Bean. But note that they are listed here with the surname Vallillee (Vallely), even though their surname was Bean. And to further complicate matters (well, whoever said genealogy was supposed to be easy peasy and trouble-free?), the surname Bean was sometimes later rendered as McBane  The final two children in this census listing (the “yellows”) are the offspring of the widower George Vallely and the widow Mary Moyle.

So the “greens” were the half-siblings of the “yellows” (they had the same father: George Vallely). And the “blues” were the half-siblings of the “yellows” (they had the same mother: Mary Moyle). But the “greens” and the “blues” were not blood relations at all: they were related only by marriage.

Well, “only by marriage.” The above-listed children of the the three marriages (George Valley to Anne O’Hanlon; John Bean to Mary Moyle; Mary Moyle to George Vallely) were all Roman Catholics, and according to Catholic canon law, they were all related by affinity. It was forbidden for Edward Vallely (son of George Vallely and Anne O’Hanlon), say, to marry Jane Bean (daughter of John Bean and Mary Moyle), say, even though they had no blood relation at all, because one of Edward Vallely’s parents (his father, George Vallely) had married one of Jane Bean’s parents (her mother, Mary Moyle).

In sum: I think it’s fair to assume that the Canadian census returns will not adequately capture the nuances of Roman Catholic canon law. Also: don’t assume that every child given the same surname in a census return is the offspring of the same marriage.

1842 Census of Canada East (Quebec)

The 1842 Census of Canada East (Quebec) is available at ancestry.ca (subscription-only), but also at FamilySearch (free of charge). At FamilySearch, the database is titled Canada, Lower Canada Census, 1842. At both sites (and it appears that FamilySearch is the source of ancestry’s census database), the census is searchable by name, and the search engine seems fairly powerful — capable of handling variant surname spellings, that is.

A No-Name in the Nominal Census

1921 Census of Canada

In my previous entry, I noted that you are generally not going to find married women’s maiden names in the Canadian census returns. And even well into the twentieth century, you will occasionally find a census listing where a married woman was enumerated but not named at all.

Here’s an example, from the 1921 Census of Canada, where a married woman was enumerated but not named:

Alexander Moran household, 1921 census of Canada, Ontario, Ottawa St Georges Ward, p. 3, lines 33-36.

Alexander Moran household, 1921 census of Canada, Ontario, Ottawa St Georges Ward, p. 3, lines 33-36.

The above shows the household of Alexander Michael Moran and Anna (“Annie”) Maria Benton, with their two sons Allan Jerome Moran and Orville Alexander Moran. And for some reason (I guess the enumerator forgot to record her name?), there is a blank where the name of Wife Anna (“Annie”) should be, though the birth places of her parents (Ireland), and her religion (R.C., for Roman Catholic), have been duly recorded.

And by the way, there is an error in the recorded birthplaces of Alexander Michael Moran’s parents, both of whom were given the birthplace of Ireland in the 1921 census. While his mother was certainly born in Ireland (County Longford), his father was just as certainly born in Canada (Huntley township, Carleton County).

The census is one of the most important sources of genealogical information for any family history researcher. It is absolutely indispensable. But always remember that the census return is only as accurate as the accuracy of the information that was supplied, and that was recorded. In the enumeration and recording of information for any given census return, there were numerous opportunities for mistakes, misunderstandings, faulty assumptions, and sometimes just plain laziness. Always check the information found in a census return against the information found in other sources (civil records, church records, city and county directories, headstones, obituaries, and so on).