M.C. Moran

Aside

Ancestry.ca is currently reporting “11 days til’ 1921!” I take it this means 11 days until the 1921 Census is indexed and searchable by name.

Catherine Frances McGlade, age 2

Or probably not quite 2 years old. My mother was born 10 October 1939, and I’m guessing this photo was taken in the summer of 1941. So she would have been about 21 or 22 months old here.

This photograph was taken at Mississippi Lake, Carleton Place, Lanark County, Ontario, where my mother’s family had a summer cottage.

My mother Catherine Frances [McGlade] Moran (10 October 1939 – 22 December 2012), with my maternal grandmother Delia Lucie [Derouin] McGlade (18 July 1902 – 13 January 1999):

Delia Lucie Derouin (1902-1999)  with Catherine Frances McGlade (1939-2012)

Delia Lucie Derouin (1902-1999) with Catherine Frances McGlade (1939-2012)

My mother was the youngest of six children, all born between April 1932 and October 1939. So my grandmother, pictured above in 1941, gave birth to 6 children in the space of 7.5 years! No twins; no multiple births. She was a force of nature, was Nana Dee. And she lived to be 96.5 years. Sadly, my mother did not enjoy the kind of longevity that her own mother had achieved. She died at the age of 73, of a particularly virulent form of (invasive lobular) breast cancer.

John Alexander Moran, age 15

John Alexander Moran, 6 September 1934 — 14 March 2013

My father at age 15.

I believe this photo was taken in the Gatineaus. My grandfather worked for the Gatineau Power Company; and for at least a couple of years, when my dad was a teenager, the family lived in company housing in the Gatineau region. “But how did you get to school?” I once asked my father (I knew he had gone to school in Ottawa, at St. Patrick’s College [which was a high school, btw]).  “Oh, I got there,” he replied. “But how?” I persisted. My dad claimed he used to hitchhike.

John Alexander Moran, age 15

John Alexander Moran, age 15

The romance of my father’s childhood: the strictness of the adults (parents, priests, and various other guardians and caretakers), combined with the freedom they accorded him (‘you hitchhiked to school?!’). As a child, I was fascinated by this apparently paradoxical mixture of repression and liberty (which was typical of a working-class Irish Catholic upbringing in the 1930s and 1940s, I’m pretty sure): the strictness sounded like something from another era, but so too did the freedom. And my father’s memories of his childhood, as recounted by him to me and my sisters, are now a part of the memories of my own childhood.

When it comes to family history research, I’m all about evidence-based standards of genealogy (exhaustive searches; careful assessment of sources; accurate citation; and so on and so forth). But it’s the romance of the family stories that led me to the research in the first place.

Research Tip of the Day (Oral History Interviews)

If you read genealogy ‘how-to’ books, ‘researching your family history’ guidebooks, advice for oral historians, and so on and so forth, you’ve no doubt already come across this very obvious, but very important, piece of advice. But the advice (or admonition) is so important, I believe (and I speak from bitter, regretful experience), that I think it bears repeating:

Don’t wait.

Don’t wait too long; don’t save it for a rainy day; don’t wait until it’s too late to conduct an oral history interview with an elderly relation who might (and who almost certainly will, if you listen carefully) supply valuable information; colourful anecdotes; or just a sense of the ‘pastness’ of your family’s past. Do it now. Or, if you cannot do it now, do it tomorrow. And perhaps you should have done it the day before yesterday? (Believe you me, I speak from bitter, regret-filled experience).

Do not wait.

Don’t think, ‘Well, I really should interview Aunt Mildred one of these days,’ and then put it off until some point in the distant, seemingly infinite and limitless future. Yes, Aunt Mildred at age 86 seems as hale and hearty as a woman half her age, and has been known to drink a much younger man under the table. She’s a real force of nature, is Aunt Mildred, and such a character! I really should try to interview her one of these days.

Don’t wait. Do not wait until “one of these days” is a day late, and a dollar short.

Your elderly aunt, however impressively sturdy and young for her age, is but mortal, after all, and her time on this earth is finite and limited. Call Aunt Mildred today, or at least tomorrow morning, to set up an interview. Don’t risk depriving yourself (and your family) of the information and the insights that your aunt might have to offer; don’t risk depriving Aunt Mildred of the chance to reminisce, and to regale you with stories of times past, or perhaps to finally set the record straight. Do not wait to talk to Aunt Mildred. Talk to her now, or tomorrow morning, or perhaps the day before yesterday.

(The above example of “Aunt Mildred” is almost [almost!] entirely fictional, and devised for illustrative purposes only [or almost only, at any rate]. When I get a chance, I will post about an actual, real-world example of the ‘don’t wait’ approach to oral history interviews. In this, I will speak from experience).

 

The 1921 Census of Canada

is finally available, though not yet indexed by name.

It is now available free of charge at ancestry.ca (but without index by name, so you need to know where your ancestors lived in order to readily find them). According  to John Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections (who always has the latest scoop on anything related to the LAC), it will be available at ancestry.ca with “a geographic index only,” but “Ancestry [ancestry.ca] is working on a name index to be available to their subscribers this fall, and made freely through LAC after three years.” 

Family ties: how far back do they go?

When my paternal grandparents married in 1932, each was marrying into a familiar family. As I’ve mentioned before, my Moran ancestors and my Lahey ancestors have been linked by intermarriage since the middle of the 19th century. Not that my paternal grandparents were first, second, or even third cousins, as best I make out. But each had collateral ancestors who had married the other’s collateral ancestors, if that makes sense (and with collateral ancestry, things can stop making sense very quickly, which is one reason why I love my TNG database).

The first Lahey-Moran connection that I’ve discovered is not a marriage but a sponsorship. On 4 March 1832, my 3x-great-grandparents James Moran and Margaret Jamieson served as godparents to Elizabeth Lahey, born 16 August 1831, the daughter of Patrick Lahey and Elizabeth Wharton. Elizabeth Lahey was probably baptized at March township; the baptism was recorded in the register for Notre Dame, Bytown [Ottawa]. Her father Patrick was the brother of my 3x-great-grandfather James Lahey.

My paternal grandparents Allan Jerome Moran and Mary Catherine Lahey married at Ottawa on 25 May 1932, one hundred years after James Moran and Margaret Jamieson stood sponsor for Elizabeth Lahey. By Canadian standards, those family ties go back very far indeed!

NOTE: A note on baptismal sponsorship and familial relations.

If I’m looking at an Ottawa Valley area RC baptismal record from about the 1850s until about the day before yesterday, I’m going to assume that I should be looking for a blood connection between the baptized child and his or her godparents. And if I don’t readily find one, I’m going to assume that I should be looking harder. Not that I’ll always uncover one, of course, and not that such a blood connection will always exist. But for me, the presumption is always in favour of at least one of the two godparents as blood relation (aunt; uncle; cousin; etc.).

For the 1820s and 1830s, however, things look a little bit different.

In some of the early townships of Carleton County (e.g., Huntley township, where my Moran ancestors very peacefully settled; and March township, where my Lahey ancestors somewhat less than peacefully settled), Irish Catholics were very much in the minority (the same cannot be said of some of the later settlements of, say, Renfrew County, where Irish Catholics, if they did not actually form a numerical majority, certainly managed to achieve critical mass). For early Irish Catholics of the Bytown area, my sense is that strangers from very different parishes and counties of Ireland forged friendships and close ties (it helped to belong to the same New World parish, or perhaps mission, of course) which then led to marriages, and then intermarriages, which then led to close family connections. Well, that’s the story of my dad’s family, at any rate. Someone from Galway marries someone from Cavan in Upper Canada; and then someone’s sister from Tipperary marries (in Upper Canada) someone whose parents came from Galway and Cavan; and by the end of the 19th century, they’re all one big (if confusingly connected) family. Had these folks stayed in Ireland, they never would have married one another, because they never even would have met (originating from such very different Irish counties, after all). In Canada, they become close (if confusingly connected) family members.

Were there any blood ties between the Morans or the Jamiesons and the Laheys or the Whartons? I’ve yet to discover any. Both the Morans and the Laheys were Bytown area pioneers, and amongst the early Irish in the Ottawa Valley.

 

 

Bigamy in the 19th century: how common?

I’m going to guess: not very common. And yet, it certainly did happen. I’ve actually come across very solid evidence of a bigamy case in the 1840s in the parish register for St. Philip’s RC Church in Richmond. No relations of mine, or I would certainly post about the case.

When you think about 19th-century parish registers, you probably think about names and dates and records. Well, that’s what I generally think about, because I most often consult the parish registers searching for names and dates in the records. But if you read through the parish registers very closely (which I sometimes do, and find myself engrossed in the perusal of records that don’t even mention my own ancestors; but I can’t stop reading, because here is a window into the world of my ancestors, even when they themselves are not cited), you will find traces, and sometimes more than traces, of human dramas and human sorrows; of misjudgments and miscalculations; of criminal violence and sexual exploitation; of the scandals that once blighted actual lives, and that once ruined the hopes and expectations of those who were once living, breathing, flesh-and-blood people.

Incest? Yes, I have seen one obvious 1 instance in an Ottawa Valley RC parish register: it was shocking to come across, even 150-or-so years later. “Illegitimate” (i.e., out-of-wedlock) births? I’ve seen too many instances to enumerate (though the vast majority of RC baptismal records that I’ve read, I should add, concern an infant who was “born of the lawful marriage of [name of father] and of [name of mother].” Bigamy? Yeah, I’ve seen evidence  of that, too; though, in the interests of accuracy, even it runs against an impulse toward sensationalism, I have to say that I can only think of one example (at St. Philip’s, Richmond, already mentioned above) of obvious bigamy.

I suspect that one of the brothers of one my 2x-great-grandmothers was guilty of bigamy. But I haven’t yet posted the details, because so far the evidence I’ve amassed is highly circumstantial, and I haven’t yet found the “smoking gun” that would prove him guilty of what I now just suspect. This is one of those cases where things just look a bit weird, and the details don’t seem to add up. Am I just letting my imagination run away with me? Perhaps. But there is definitely something a bit irregular here, something that doesn’t quite look right. I will post details if and when I find that crucial piece of documented evidence.

For the most part, my Ottawa Valley ancestors (and yours too, if you had ancestors who settled in the Ottawa Valley in the nineteenth century) lived in small, face-to-face communities, where bigamy was not at all a viable life strategy: too many eyes and ears, too many folks who knew exactly who you were, and where your parents came from, and what your father did. And the penalties for bigamy in 19th-century Britain and the British colonies were quite severe: up to seven years of penal servitude, after all, and by “hard labour,” they meant, “We will work you so hard, we will make you wish you had never been born.”

On the other hand, the boundaries between regions and provinces, and even between the British-run Canadian dominions and the newly-forged American republic, were in the nineteenth century highly porous and permeable, and easy enough to slip through. You could cross the border into America without a passport in the 1900s (which was decades before the establishment of a regular system of passport control); you could totally game the system (which was not yet a “system”). For those with the ambition, or perhaps with the law breathing down their necks, there was always the chance to cross over (into the States), to head out, to head west, to “light out for the Territory.”

The brother (of the 2x–great-grandmother) that I suspect of bigamy was raised in Lanark Co., Ontario (whether born in Lanark Co., Ontario, or perhaps in Ireland: this I do not know), and he died and was buried a couple of thousand miles away, in Washington State, in the US of A. Did he cross that border, and take that escape route, into a new life with a new wife?

Have you come across any evidence of bigamy in your own family tree? Not to reduce genealogical research to the status of a gossip mag or a scandal sheet, but ‘enquiring minds want to know!’

  1. Obvious, as in, the priest explicitly spelled out the relationship between the parents of the baptized children, which was that of an uncle and his niece. The priest could not hide his disapproval of the “unlawful” union of uncle and niece even as he baptized their innocent children, and who could blame him? Btw, in the 1851 census, the uncle and niece were recorded as a married couple, which they certainly were not.

Link

Some excellent advice by professional genealogist John Grenham, whose Irish Roots column is a must-read.