M.C. Moran

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).

Canadian Census Quirk: Married Women’s Maiden Names

A Scottish quirk?

For the most part, you are not going to find married women’s maiden names in the Canadian census returns (nor in the English or US census returns either, for that matter). Census enumerators were neither required nor expected to record married women’s maiden names; not surprisingly, most of them did not do so.

But occasionally (very occasionally indeed), you will find a census enumeration where the enumerator did record the maiden names of married women. A useful quirk, from the perspective of the genealogist, and a bit of a research bonus if you’re lucky enough to find such an emumeration.

From the 1861 enumeration of the Township of Algona in Renfrew County, here, for example, is the household of Cornelius Harrington, who is listed along with his wife Margaret Ryan (here spelled “Reyan”), his sister-in-law Johanna Ryan, and his children Michael and Bridget:

Cornelius Harrington household, 1861 census of Canada West (Ontario), Renfrew County, Algona, p. 1, lines 39-43.

Cornelius Harrington household, 1861 census of Canada West (Ontario), Renfrew County, Algona, p. 1, lines 39-43.

That “U C” — for the birthplace of Michael and Bridget Harrington — stands for Upper Canada. The “R C” of course stands for Roman Catholic.

My guess is that this census enumerator was Scottish (and I suppose I could look this up, but for now I’ll leave it as a guess). In Scotland, it was customary to call a married woman by her maiden name even after marriage. To be sure, most Scottish or Scottish-Canadian enumerators of the Canadian census followed the English practice (which was what they were instructed to do, after all) of listing married women by their husband’s surnames (which was a married woman’s legal surname, of course). But in the only other example I have seen of an enumerator of the Canadian census listing married women by maiden names, that enumerator was Scottish.

NEW feature: the Ottawa Valley Irish Discussion FORUM

This is a new and experimental feature, which I am going to try out for at least a few months:

the Ottawa Valley Irish Discussion Forum

This is a forum where readers can post and reply to queries about surnames, families, localities, records, and so on. I am hoping it might serve as an alternative to my currently haphazard “system” (it is not a system!) of email queries.

In order to participate in the Discussion Forum, you will have to register with a username and a valid email address.

Please note: the only part of this site that requires registration is the Discussion Forum. You do not need to register an account in order to read the blog, post a comment to a blog entry, search the database, view the galleries, and so on. Registration is required only for participation in the Discussion Forum.

NLI Parish Registers Digitisation Project

This is huge. This is absolutely fantastic. This has the potential to transform (and by “transform,” I mean radically improve) Irish family history research.

Press release from the National Library of Ireland:

We are delighted to announce that we will make the NLI’s entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms available online – for free – by summer 2015…

…Commenting today, Colette O’Flaherty, Head of Special Collections at the NLI, said: “This is the most ambitious digitisation project in the history of the NLI, and our most significant ever genealogy project. We believe it will be of huge assistance to those who wish to research their family history. At this stage, we have converted the microfilm reels on which the registers are recorded into approximately 390,000 digital images. We will be making all these images available, for free, on a dedicated website, which will be launched in summer 2015.

More on this in a later post.

Ireland-to-Canada emigration: from which port?

According to historian Timothy J. Meagher (The Columbia Guide to Irish American History), Liverpool was the point of departure for the vast majority of Irish emigrants to both Canada and the United States, at least during the Famine period:

Even most of the Irish bound for North America, however, first went through Britain, more specifically Liverpool. By the mid-1840s, over 90 percent of the Irish going to Canada or the United States went through Liverpool and over one million Irish passed through the city between 1847 and 1853.1

And how did these Irish emigrants get from Ireland to Liverpool, before embarking on their journey to the New World? By steam ferry, before crossing the Atlantic by sail. “It was not an easy trip,” writes Meagher. Indeed.

Was Liverpool the main point of departure to North America for pre-Famine Irish emgrants to Canada? This I do not know (but I suspect Liverpool was also an important port for Ireland-to-Canada emigrants from the 1820s to the early 1840s).

  1.  Timothy J. Meagher, The Columbia Guide to Irish American History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 75.