Catholic Records

Register of Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa: Part 1

If you’re looking for Catholic ancestors in the Bytown/Ottawa area and beyond (see below), you will probably (and by “probably” I mean “almost certainly”) want to check the parish register for Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa.

The register is available online at two different sites:

  1. At FamilySearch.org, as part of their collection titled Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923. To access the parish register for Notre Dame, Ottawa/Notre Dame d’Ottawa: Go to Carleton; then go to Ottawa; then go to Notre Dame d’Ottawa.This database is available online free of charge, which is truly a gift from the LDS to the ancestor-seeking public. But: it has not been indexed, and is therefore not searchable by name. The only way to find records (and therefore people) here is to search the old-fashioned way, albeit in a new-fashioned mode: by browsing, sometimes page by page, through the online images.

  2. At Ancestry.ca, as part of their collection titled Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967. This set of Ontario Roman Catholic records is a subset of their larger (much larger! they claim to have over 25 million English and French Drouin records, and I believe them) Drouin collection, which includes Catholic records from Québec, Ontario, Acadia (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), and even some parts of the United States (from U.S. states which had French Catholic parishes). Note that on Ancestry’s main page for The Drouin Church and Vital Records, the Ontario Catholic records are listed as Ontario French Catholic Church Records. But some of the parishes in this “Ontario French Catholic” collection were predominantly Irish, and many of the records are in English (other parishes, including Notre Dame, Ottawa, were a mix of French and Irish parishioners, and the records are in both French and English). To access the parish register for Notre Dame, Ottawa: Go to Location Letter O; then choose Ottawa; then choose Basilique Notre Dame. This collection is available by subscription only. It has been indexed, and is therefore searchable by name.

notre dame ottawa titlepage

This Register is Huge

This is not the easiest Ontario Roman Catholic parish register to search, and there are at least a couple of reasons for its unwieldiness.

First, this was a very large parish, serving thousands of Irish and French-Canadian Catholics in the Bytown/Ottawa region. Now, I’m not saying that Notre Dame was a megachurch: it was far too Catholic, and far too old-school (but old-school in a new, frontier environment), to meet the definition of a megachurch. But its numbers were a bit megachurchy.1

Moreover, in addition to recording baptisms, marriages, and (much less frequently) burials for Catholics residing in Bytown/Ottawa, the early register of Notre Dame also served as a kind of repository for baptismal, marriage, and (much less frequently) burial records from surrounding missions in neighbouring townships. Did your Catholic ancestors live in March township in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s? Check the Notre Dame, Ottawa register. Did your Catholic ancestors end up in Pontiac Co., Québec by the 1850s? Check the Notre Dame, Ottawa register. Have you discovered your Catholic ancestors in Renfrew Co., Ontario in the 1861 census? Again, check the Notre Dame, Ottawa register. Indeed, if your Catholic ancestors can be found anywhere in the Ottawa Valley in the nineteenth century, you should not overlook the Notre Dame, Ottawa register.

Second, the priests at Notre Dame were mostly French Canadian and Irish (though there were also at least a couple of Scottish priests), and the two languages used in the register reflect this typically Ottawa Valley mix. The marriage of your French-Canadian ancestors might have been recorded in English by an Irish (or perhaps a Scottish) priest; the marriage of your Irish ancestors might have been recorded in French by a French-Canadian priest. Not surprisingly, the French priests sometimes had some difficulties with the Irish surnames, while the Irish priests sometimes had some difficulties with the French surnames. For this register especially, and especially for the early records, surname spelling variations which evade the algorithm of the Soundex are extremely common.

For example, in records pertaining to the Killeens of South March, the French-Canadian Oblate Father Damase Dandurand seems to have consistently used the spelling “Killahan” — which makes me wonder if my Killeen ancestors pronounced their name as something closer to Killean or Killian, which Father Dandurand heard as Killahan. Here, for instance, is the record of the marriage of Patrick Cavanaugh, son of Christopher Cavanaugh and Jane Malone, to Bridget Killeen, daughter of Denis Killeen and Mary Ahearn, 2 May 1854.2

Marriage of Patrick Cavanaugh and Bridget Killahan [Killeen]

Marriage of Patrick Cavanaugh and Bridget Killahan [Killeen]

Note that Father Dandurand used the spelling Killahan even when two parties — the bride Bridget, and her younger sister Margaret, a witness — signed the register with the surname Killeen. Notice also that the record was written in English. Damase Dandurand, who was surely one of the most interesting and impressive parish priests that Bytown had ever known, 3 was fluently bilingual, and moved easily between French and English. For his French-Canadian parishioners, he wrote the records in French. For his Irish parishioners, he typically used English, though sometimes with some rather quirky phonetic spellings.

So: given its enormous size (there are thousands of pages in this register), and its sometimes quirky surname spelling variations which evade the logic of the Soundex, what’s the best way to search this register?

To be continued…

  1. In his Upper Ottawa Valley to 1855 (McGill-Queens Press, 1990, cxxiii), Richard Reid records that in the 1820s and 1830s, “John Cullen, the pastor for Bytown and Richmond, was responsible for 3,750 Catholics” in Bytown and its surrounding townships. By 1887, l’Annuaire de l’Église catholique au canada (Montréal: B.M. Advertising Inc., 1887) recorded the presence of 9,200 parishioners for the parish of the Basilique Notre Dame d’Ottawa.
  2.  Basilique Notre Dame d’Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1852-1855, image 122 of 244, M. 39, Patrick Cavanaugh-Bridget Killahan marriage, database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 25 April 2015), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967.
  3.  He was not only a priest, but also an architect; and though he contracted typhus at Bytown in the summer of 1847, he survived the disease to live on to the age of 102.

The hazards of early settler life

As I’ve mentioned before, 19th-century Roman Catholic burial records did not generally record a cause of death for the deceased, but there were exceptions to this general rule. In cases where a death was considered unusually tragic, dramatic, or violent, the priest might note the cause of death in the parish register.

Here’s an interesting example of some exceptions to the rule, which speak to the very real hazards of early settler life in Upper Canada (more specifically, in the Bytown [Ottawa] area). These two pages of burials for the years 1831 and 1832 are from the index of baptisms, marriages and burials for the parish register of Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa.1 (More on this index in an upcoming entry on search tips for this register).

notre dame ottawa burials 1831 1832

Burial listings from 2 July 1831 to 7 July 1832. See footnote 1 for citation.

 

notre dame ottawa burials closeup 1

Burial listings from 2 July 1831 to 1 August 1831. See footnote 1 for citation.

 

notre dame ottawa burials closeup

Burial listings from 3 June 1832 to 7 July 1832. See footnote 1 for citation.

 

On the page which lists burials from 2 July to 27 December 1831, most listings do not have a notation of the cause of death, which was in keeping with standard practice. On the page which lists burials from 2 January to 7 July 1832, on the other hand, 15 of the 24 listings do have a cause-of-death notation, which was a bit unusual.2

The causes of death recorded in these two pages offer a rare glimpse into the living conditions of a frontier environment that was fraught with perils and pitfalls. Death by drowning, for example, was an occupational hazard for lumbermen; and there were also some drowning fatalities experienced by labourers working on the construction of the Rideau Canal. And in performing the settlement duties of clearing and cultivating one’s acreage (a requirement for gaining a grant to Crown land), a man might be killed by the fall of a tree (“killed by a tree” is noted for several men on the above two pages).

And if the water or the woods didn’t kill you, if you were in Bytown in 1832, there was a very real chance that you might be carried off by cholera.

In the spring and summer of 1832, a cholera epidemic swept through Bytown, which “prompted the creation of the first Board of Health for Bytown” and which “also increased existing hostility towards immigrants, who were largely blamed for the outbreak of the disease” (“Cholera Wharf,” Heritage Passages: Bytown and the Rideau Canal [http://www.passageshistoriques-heritagepassages.ca/ang-eng]). In the image above (burial listings from 3 June 1832 to 7 July 1832), there are four cholera deaths recorded, for one adult male and three adult females. And in the three pages that follow (burials from 7 July 1832 to 19 November 1832), there are 37 cholera deaths recorded out of a listing of 58 burials. Men, women, and children alike might succumb to this dreaded disease: when it came to age and sex, cholera was an equal-opportunity scourge (though not when it came to social class: the poor were much likely than the wealthy to be struck by cholera, which was most often transmitted through contaminated drinking water).

“Drowned;” “killed by a tree;” “killed by a gun;” “cholera” (all of which causes of death can be found in the above images): Roughing It in the Bush really was quite rough, evidently.

  1.  Basilique Notre Dame d’Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario), 1829 (Index), image 1411 of 1836, Funerals, 1831 and Funerals, 1832, database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 25 April 2015), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967.
  2.  Another unusual, and especially poignant, exception can be found in Notre Dame’s burial listings for July and August 1847, where we find page after page of typhus deaths.

Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa

Coming up: some search tips for the parish register of Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa. An unwieldy parish register (full of perils and pitfalls, and hence the need for tips and tricks), but also a very important parish register for anyone searching for Catholic ancestors in the Bytown/Ottawa area and beyond.

Below: my high school graduation photo, taken in front of Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa.

mc notre dame ottawa high school grad

From Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Tipperary to March Township, Carleton, Ontario

My Lahey ancestors came from Killycross Upper, Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Co. Tipperary, Ireland;1 and emigrated to March Township, Carleton Co., Ontario, Canada from the mid-1820s to the early 1830s.

And the reason why we have their townland of origin is that John Lahey, sometimes known as John Lahy the Elder, signed the McCabe List, where he gave the family’s origins as Kilnacross [Killycross], Lurrough [Lorrha], Tipperary.2

mccabe ancestry lahy john

From Ballymacegan to March: Who Else?

Who else emigrated from the townland of Ballymacegan (Lorrha, Tipperary, Ireland) to the township of March (Carleton, Ontario, Canada)? As always, the lack of Irish census records and of Irish church records (the register for the RC parish of Lorrha and Dorrha does not begin until 1829) makes it very difficult (and in many cases, unfortunately, well nigh impossible) to trace backward from Canada (or the United States, England, Australia, New Zealand, and so on), and to reconstruct early nineteenth-century Irish families. But the McCabe List, the Tithe Applotment Books, and the Canadian RC parish records (specifically, the register for Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa) suggest (and I do mean suggest: the following should not be taken as a set of well-established facts that can be confidently added to an Ancestry family tree, or anything like that) that the Laheys were not the only family to emigrate from Ballymacegan to March.

SOMERVILLE

Anthony Somerville also signed (or rather, marked with an X) the McCabe List, where he gave his townland of origin as Ballinriken, Lurrugh [Lorrha], Tipperary.3

mccabe ancestry sommervile anthony image 133

“Ballinriken” (a phonetic spelling of the place name that Anthony Somerville reported but did not himself write) might be a rendering of Ballymacegan; or it might refer to an older place name that was officially obselete by the nineteenth century, but which local people still used. For example, in the Hearth Money Rolls for the parish of Lurha [Lorrha], Tipperary (1666-7), there is a townland called Carigin which is not found in either the Tithe Applotment Books or in Griffith’s Valuation: might Anthony Somerville’s “Ballinriken” (as heard and recorded by someone else) refer to Carigin?4

In any case, the Tithe Applotment Book for Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Tipperary (1824) records the presence of an Anthony Summerill (and also a Richard Summerill). Note that in his McCabe List petition, Anthony Somerville reports that his brothers-in-law Matthew Dayly and John Daily (yes: two different spellings for what is surely the same surname) “are known to Jonathan Harding.” There is a Jonathan Harding listed in the Tithe Applotment Book for Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Tipperary (1824), as well as an Anthony Summerill:5

Anthony Somerville (of the McCabe List, but probably also of the above Tithe Applotment Book listing) married a Mary McDonnell; and the couple had two known children born in Ireland (presumably Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Tipperary), and two known children born in March township. The children’s birth dates indicate that the family emigrated to Canada in the mid- to late-1820s.

The names Daly and Sommervile turn up in the baptismal record for Margaret Jane Killeen, daughter of Denis Killeen and Mary Ahearn. From the parish register of Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa:6

 

Baptism of Margaret Jane Killeen (1835-1913)

Baptism of Margaret Jane Killeen, 22 October 1836

The above record reads:

October 22d 1836, baptized in Bytown Margaret Jane 13 months old, lawful child of Denis Keleine & Mary Herain Sponsors Matthew Daly & Mary Sommerville. W. Cannon, pte.

This Mary Somerville is almost certainly Mary McDonnell, wife of Anthony Somerville. Margaret Jane Killeen later served as godmother to one of the grandchildren of Anthony Somerville and Mary McDonnell: when Mary Somerville, daughter of Thomas Somerville and Elizabeth Little, was baptized on 1 October 1849, her sponsors were Patrick Burns and Margaret Jane Killeen.

And what of Margaret Jane Killeen’s godfather Matthew Daly? Is this the brother-in-law Matthew Dayly that Anthony Sommerville referenced in his McCabe list petition? Or perhaps a son or nephew of that brother-in-law?

Well, of course, Margaret Jane Killeen’s godfather might be another Matthew Daly, from another parish and county altogether. But interestingly enough, just nine days after Margaret Jane Killeen was baptized, her eldest known sibling Ellen Killeen (abt. 1818-1882) married a Matthew Daly in the presence of two Somervilles (here Summervilles):7

Marriage of Matthew Daly and Ellen Killeen, 31 October 1836

Marriage of Matthew Daly and Ellen Killeen, 31 October 1836

The above record reads:

October 31 1836, Married by me after three Publications at the Parochial Mass at Bytown, Matthew Daly of Huntly, to Ellen Keileine of March, and gave them the nuptial benediction in presence of Samuel Summerville, Mary Summerville & several others. W. Cannon.

Samuel was the eldest known son of Anthony Somerville and Mary McDonnell. The Mary Somerville listed here presumably refers to Mary McDonnell, wife of Anthony Somerville and godmother to Margaret Jane Killeen.

FAHEY

John Lahey’s sister Margaret Lahey married a John Fahey. The couple had five known children born in Ireland (presumably at or near Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Tipperary), and two known children born in Canada (March township, Carleton Co., Ontario). The name Fahy appears in the Tithe Applotment Book for Ballymacegan.

KENNEDY

John Lahey’s brother William Lahey married an Ann Kennedy. The couple had two known children born in Ireland (presumably at or near Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Tipperary). William Lahey died in March township in 1827, shortly after arriving in Canada. His widow Ann Kennedy then married the above-named John Fahey, widower of the above-named Margaret Lahey. John Fahey and Ann Kennedy had a son Michael Fahey, whose Fahey-Lahey half-siblings were first cousins to his Lahey-Kennedy half-siblings. And Bob’s yer uncle. The name Kennedy appears in the Tithe Applotment Book for Ballymacegan.

LOUGHNANE

Much more speculatively (as in, if the above is conjectural, the following is downright speculation), there is a Jas. [James] Loughnane listed in the Tithe Applotment Book for Ballymacegan; and a Loughnane/Lochnan did emigrate from Ireland (probably Co. Tipperary, possibly Ballymacegan?) to March Township. Simon Loughnane/Lochnan (abt. 1811-1903) was in March township by 1834, when he married Margaret Hickey (on 23 November 1834). On 28 September 1852, Mary Lochnan, daughter of Simon Lochnan and Margaret Hickey, married James Fahey, son of John Fahey and Margaret Lahey (and half-brother of the above-named Michael Fahey, son of John Fahey and Ann Kennedy).

  1. Killycross Upper and Killycross Lower were sub-townland denominations within the townland of Ballymacegan.
  2. Emigration, Original Correspondence, 1817–1857 and 1872–1896, CO 384, War and Colonial Department and Colonial Office: Emigration Original Correspondence, The National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew, Surrey, England; database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 16 April 2015), Canada, Immigration and Settlement Correspondence and Lists, 1817-1896, 1817-1851, Volume 22: North American Emigration Societies; Individuals, 1829, John Lahy, Ireland, Fulnaerass (Kilnacross), Sipperary (Tipperary), image 90 of 135.
  3.  Emigration, Original Correspondence, 1817–1857 and 1872–1896, CO 384, War and Colonial Department and Colonial Office: Emigration Original Correspondence, The National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew, Surrey, England; database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 16 April 2015), Canada, Immigration and Settlement Correspondence and Lists, 1817-1896, 1817-1851, Volume 22: North American Emigration Societies; Individuals, 1829, Anthony Somnserirlle (Sommerville), Ireland, Ballinriken, Sipperary (Tipperary), image 133 of 135.
  4.  Thomas Laffan, Tipperary’s Families: Being the Hearth Money Records for 1665-6-7 (Dublin: James Duffy & Co., 1911), p. 189.
  5. Tithe Applotment Book for Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Tipperary, The Tithe Applotment Books, 1823-1837, database, National Library of Ireland (http://titheapplotmentbooks.nationalarchives.ie/search/tab/home.jsp/: accessed 16 April 2015).
  6. Notre Dame d’Ottawa (Ottawa, Carleton), Baptisms, marriages, burials 1836-1840, p. 15, B. Margaret Jane Keleine (Killeen), database: FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/: accessed 13 April 2015), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

  7.  Notre Dame d’Ottawa (Ottawa, Carleton), Baptisms, marriages, burials 1836-1840, p. 16, M. Matthew Daly-Ellen Kelleine (Killeen) marriage, database: FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/: accessed 13 April 2015), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

Hourigan twins baptized

Thomas Hourigan and John Hourigan were born in March township on 14 September 1849, the sons of Patrick Hourigan and Ann Teevens. I have no idea whether they were identical, or fraternal, twins, but in any case, the priest who baptized the infants — Fr. J. Ryan — made an interesting distinction between the two:1

hourigan thomas and john notredame 28sep1849

These are twin brothers, born on the same day (14 September 1849), of the same parents (Patrick Hourigan and Ann Teevens), and baptized on the same day (29 September 1849) by the same priest. And I see no less than four surname spellings here: Horehan; Honan; Hurican; and Hurrican. And then there is a Julia Lahay sponsoring Thomas Horehan, and a John Lahy sponsoring John Hurican.

Just to be clear, I don’t really believe these spelling variations have anything to do with distinguishing between twins! This kind of surname spelling variation is pretty much the norm in the early parish registers.

As I’ve said before (but I’ll say it again): Spelling does not count in genealogy.

  1. Notre Dame d’Ottawa (Ottawa, Carleton), Baptisms, marriages, burials 1848-1849, p. 102, B. 288, Thomas Horehan baptism; and B. 289, John Hurican baptism: database, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/: accessed 13 April 2015), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

Married twice (to the same spouse)

Except that, in the eyes of the Catholic Church (and, perhaps just as importantly, in the eyes of the bridegrooms’ Catholic parents), the first marriage ceremonies did not count, because the brides had not been baptized.

Yes, that’s brides and bridegrooms in the plural, because:

Two Gaffney brothers, the sons of Bernard Gaffney and Catherine Killeen, did the same thing: married a non-Catholic American woman in the United States; and then married the same woman again in Canada, in a Catholic ceremony held at Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa. In both cases, the brides were baptized as Catholics on the same day as their second marriage ceremonies. And in both cases, the godparents to these newly-converted daughters-in-law were the bridegrooms’ parents, Bernard Gaffney and Catherine Killeen.

(Another example of a mother-in-law serving as godmother to an adult convert to Catholicism: when Elizabeth Malcomson, wife of John Moran, converted to Catholicism in 1892, her mother-in-law Mary Leavy served as sponsor).

Gaffney-Palmer Marriage

Edward Arthur Gaffney married Johanna Gertrude Palmer, daughter of John Palmer and Esther Toles, about 1887, in the United States, presumably in Michigan. And on 2 August 1891, he married her again in Ottawa. But only after Johanna Gertrude Palmer had been baptized into the Catholic Church:1

gaffney palmer baptism marriage notre dame ottawa 1891

The above record does not give an exact date or place for the initial marriage: the priest records that the couple “declared that they have already contracted marriage about four years ago in the United States.”

Gaffney-Randall Marriage

James Gaffney married Mary Florence Randall, daughter of John Randall and Salome Hoyt and widow of George W. Dickson/Dixson, on 10 September 1891, in Saginaw, Michigan. And on 26 August 1892, he married her again in Ottawa. But only after Mary Florence Randall had been baptized into the Catholic Church:2

gaffney randall baptism marriage notre dame ottawa 1892

The above record does give an exact date (and place) for the initial marriage: the priest notes that the couple “declared to have contracted marriage in Saginaw Michigan on the 9th September 1891″ (but the Michigian marriage records have 10th September 1891 as the date).

Note that in both cases, the couple made a declaration that they had been previously married in the United States. But in both cases, the American (and non-Catholic) marriage was “found null” because the bride had not been baptized. That is, “found null” by one or more Roman Catholic officials in Ottawa, not by any civil authority in the state of Michigan: the marriage of James Gaffney and Mary Florence Randall on 10 September 1891 in Saginaw, Michigan was perfectly legal and valid, but it was not a Catholic sacrament.

Needless to say, we’re not talking “consciously recoupling” here, or holding a recommitment ceremony (“I still do!”), or anything hip and contemporary like that. This was Ottawa in the early 1890s; and the Gaffneys were Roman Catholics. And when it came to marriage as a Catholic sacrament, there was a canon law to be obeyed. There were impediments to be overcome. There were immortal souls at stake.

And there was a pair of Irish Catholic parents — Bernard Gaffney and Catherine Killeen — who served as godparents to their Catholic convert daughters-in-law, and who also served as witnesses to the second (but first one to really count), Catholic marriages of their two sons. I can only imagine the family pressures that were brought to bear upon the two couples; and especially, I would guess, upon Edward Gaffney and Johanna Gertrude Palmer, since this couple had a son, Edward B. [Bernard?] Gaffney, born December 1890 in Michigan — born after his parents’ first marriage ceremony of 1887, but born outside the boundaries of a Catholic marriage, nevertheless. I bet Catherine Killeen couldn’t wait to sign that register, to bear witness to things having been set right, not only for her sons but also for her grandchildren.

Neither couple lived in Ottawa at the time of their second (but first to really count) marriages, by the way: both couples lived in Roscommon Co., Michigan, and were presumably just visiting the Gaffney parents in Ottawa when they found themselves at the altar for a second time.

And if I find evidence of a third Gaffney brother having done this, I think I’m going to call it a trend!

  1. Basilique Notre Dame d’Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1891-1893, image 39 of 158, B. 198, Johanna Gertrude Palmer baptism, and M. 45, Edward A. Gaffney-Johanna G. Palmer  marriage, database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 9 April 2015), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967.

  2. Basilique Notre Dame d’Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1891-1893, image 103 of 158, B. 212, Mary Florence Randall baptism, and M. 36, James Gaffney-Mary Florence Randall marriage, database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 9 April 2015), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967.

A Deathbed Conversion?

I’m adding the Rev. James R. Rossiter (1827-1862) to my list of record-keepers who went above and beyond the call of (record-keeping) duty; and whose records, therefore, now offer researchers a little something more. This list also includes William Dowdall Pigott, census taker extraordinaire, whose 1851 enumeration of Fitzroy township, Carleton Co., Ontario includes an Irish county of origin for the majority of Irish-born residents of the township. And, of course, when it’s an Irish county for an emigrant ancestor who left no written records of his or her own (no letters, no diary, no family Bible), that little something more can be a pretty big deal: it allows you to replace “born in Ireland” with “born in Co. [County Name], Ireland,” which is the first step toward locating an ancestor’s Irish townland of origin.

As recorded here and here, Father Rossiter’s marriage records from the 1850s offer a wealth of information about the Irish origins of his parishioners. His frequent references to “the Rail Road in this mission,” moreover, help explain why at least some of these Irish emigrants were in the Ganaonoque region in the first place: some (perhaps many?) of the men were working for the Grand Trunk Railway.

A GTR Labourer Sends for the Priest

Here’s a nice example of that little something extra.

It is the record of abjuration of errors and profession of faith1 for James Warren (not previously a member of the Catholic mission at Gananoque, obviously; and, unlike many of Father Rossiter’s parishioners in the 1850s, not a recent Irish emigrant, I think it’s safe to assume):2

Profession of Faith of James Warren, 14 November 1856

Profession of Faith of James Warren, 14 November 1856

This record includes the standard formulation for a record of abjuration and profession of faith: “have received … his profession of faith,” and “have given him Conditional baptism and absolution from Heresy.”

But it also offers something more: a couple of specific details, and a striking phrase, which help to set the scene. The profession of faith was received at “the G.T.R.Road Station Landsdown.” And it was made by James Warren, a “labourer on the G.T.R.Road,” who, “on the point of death, sent for the priest.” On the point of death, sent for the priest? That is dramatic, that is almost novelistic. While many priests would have simply recorded the name of the convert along with the standard formulation, Father Rossiter’s details allow us to imagine a dramatic and poignant episode in the development of Ontario (or Canada West, as it was called from 1841 to 1867): the deathbed conversion of a railway labourer.

No doubt Father Rossiter considered this conversion at least a minor triumph for the forces of Catholicism. But what of the labourer himself, James Warren as he is named in the record? Why did this (apparently dying) Protestant send for a Catholic priest and make a profession of Catholic faith at, or perhaps near or in the neighbourhood of, the Grand Trunk Railway Station at Landsdowne? Well, he may not have had access to a minister of his own denomination, of course (there must have been an Anglican minister in the area, but who knows from what Protestant denomination James Warren decided to abjure?). And as a GTR labourer, he would have been working alongside Roman Catholics (both Irish and French Canadian) on a regular basis: perhaps some one or group of RCs exerted an influence?

In any case, let’s hope James Warren (I know nothing of him whatsoever beyond what is found in the above record) did not die in 1856. Let’s hope he went on to live a happy and prosperous life, whether as a newly-minted Catholic, or as an Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, Wesleyan Methodist, or as an adherent of whatever faith he cared to profess.

  1.  That is, of the errors of Protestantism, and profession of the Catholic faith.
  2.   St. John the Evangelist (Gananoque, Leeds), Marriages 1846-1863, James Warren Profession of Faith, image 41 of 41: database, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/: accessed 9 March 2015), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

Irish Origins in Canadian Roman Catholic Marriage Records: St. John the Evangelist, Gananoque, Leeds Co., Ontario, Part 2

18 February 1855 -- 18 November 1856

For marriages from 4 January 1850 to 6 February 1855, please see Part One.

Part 3 to follow.

DateGroomSon of [Parents], of [Place]BrideDaughter of [Parents], of [Place]Witnesses
DateGroomSon of [Parents], of [Place]BrideDaughter of [Parents], of [Place]Witnesses
18 Feb 1855Patrick CummingsThomas Cummings and Mary Stanton, of the parish of Tintern Co. WexfordMaryanne CushenMartin Cushen and Mary Gorman of this mission (from the Co. Wexford)Robert Anderson and Mary Ravey
18 May 1855Peter TetreauWilliam Tetreau and Marie Scott (formerly from Laprairie, C.E.)Sarah MarlowOwen Marlow and Mary Mullen (from the Co. Tyrone Ireland)Peter William and Mary Jane Moyner
22 Aug 1855John WoodsJohn Woods and Bridget Casey (from Manchester England)Margaret O'NeilNicholas O'Neil and Mary McCormick from Co. Wexford IrelandThos. Ferguson and Margaret Blake
4 Oct 1855Thos. Clark of Brockville missionBernard Clark and Catherine Kelly from Co. Cavan IrelandBridget O'ShayPatrick O'Shay and Catherine ________ from the Co. Limerick IrelandMichael Clark and Eleanor Fenton
4 Nov 1855Michael DwyerJohn Dwyer and Catherine Ryan, Cappagh White, Tipperary, IrelandAnn BrazilMichael Brazil and Catherine Gleeson, Co. Tipperary, IrelandPatrick Shanly and Eleanor Rossiter
18 Nov 1855Thos. GriffinJohn Griffin and Margaret Bolan, Co. Limerick, IrelandMargaret ManeyOwen Maney and Margaret Rowlan from the Co. Clare, IrelandCon Regan and Margaret Hannon
8 Jan 1856William KennedyPatk. Kennedy and Mary Hunt from the Co. Clare IrelandBridget McMahonPeter McMahon and Ellen Connors, also from the Co. Clare, IrelandMartin Hogan and Mary McMahon
27 Jan 1856Patrick MaddenJames Madden and Eleanor Fitzgerald from the parish of Robertstown, Co. LimerickMary CoxStephen Cox and Susan Armstrong from the Co. Cavan, IrelandJames Shortell and Christianna Madden
28 Jan 1856Laurence BoyleJohn Boyle and Mary Dunn from the Co. Kildare, IrelandCatherine O'BrienTerence O'Brien and Mary McGovern from the Co. Fermanagh IrelandJohn Gavin and Julia Shortell
31 Jan 1856Patrick EnglishJohn English and ________ Lawlor from the parish of Tintern, Co. Wexford, IrelandMargaret FoxPeter Fox and Ann Cameron from the Co. Carlow IrelandJames Turbin and Eleanor Littleton
4 Feb 1856Dominique LeBoufPierre Lebouf and Josette Tessier from St. Ann B.C.Nancy DriscollMichael Driscoll and Margaret Hayes parish of Skibereen, Co. Cork, IrelandPeter Cassedy and Ann Kelly
23 Mar 1856Patrick Boylejohn Boyle and Mary Dunn from the Co. Kildare, IrelandJudith ShortellThomas Shortell and Bridget Swift from the Co. Kilkenny, IrelandDenis Brophy and Mary O'Brien
14 Apr 1856Isidore Isreal GreffeFrancois Grreffe and Rosalie Turcotte of St. John Chrysostom in C.E., now of this missionLatitia FinmoreThos. Finmore and Julia McCann from the Co. Westmeath, IrelandHugh Gusta and Maryanne Stanfield
4 Apr 1856John Beamish (widower of Mary Hurly)Thos. Beamish and Mary Ford, parish of Kinsale, Co. Cork, IrelandJohannah ShayMaurice Shay and Margaret Noonan from the parish of Bantry, Co. Cork, IrelandJeremiah Mahony and Catherine Mahony
14 Apr 1856Thos. BentonThos. Benton and Catherine Dwyer, from the parish of Cappagh White, Tipperary, IrelandHonor RyanMichael Ryan and Bridget Lahey, parish of Kilcommon, Co. Limerick, IrelandPatrick Dwyer and Bridget Conway
14 Apr 1856John RedmondPatrick Redmond and Elizabeth Grammen from New Town Barry, Co. Wexford, IrelandAnn O'BrienCharles O'Brien and Mary Devereux, from the parish of Clonegal, Co. Wexford, Ireland Thos. McGeoghegan and Catherine O'Brien
5 May 1856Denis SantryJohn Santry and Honora Driscoll from the Co. Cork IrelandMary Clifford (widow of dec. John Clifford)Danl. Hogan and Catherine Holohan, from the City of Limerick IrelandJohn Hunt and Mary McGrath
4 Jun 1856Michael QuinnFrancis Quinn and Nancy Macken from the Co. Armagh, IrelandAllice NugentMichl. Nugent and Mary Dunn from the Co. Dublin, IrelandJohn Kennedy and Eleanor McCormick
14 Jul 1856John Spellane, widower of dec. Mary BrophyJohn Spellane and Catherine Daughten from the Queen's Co., IrelandHonor TobinNicholas Tobin and Mary Vardy from the parish of Balingarry, Co. Wexford James Guttery and Bridget Copeland
17 Jul 1856*Daniel W. Daniels (protestant) John Daniels and Elizabeth Smith, from Canton St. Laurence Co. N.Y. U.S.Bridget Daley (catholic), from BeauharnoisPatrick Daley and Mary Morrison from the parish of Fermoy, Co. Cork, IrelandMichael Dunn and Mary Daley
5 Aug 1856Jeremiah O'NeilJeremiah O'Neil and Julia Sullivan, from the Parish of Bantry, Co. Cork IrelandRose McGarveyThos. McGarvey and Rose McNeirny from the parish of Authy, Co. Tyrone IrelandPatrick Ward and Ann Ward
26 Aug 1856Edward HennessyPatrick Hennessy and Eleanor Bulger from the parish of Bagglinstown Co. Carlow, IrelandEleanor BradshawJohn Bradshaw and Bridget Dwyer from the Co. TipperaryJames McDonicle and Rose O'Neil
20 Oct 1856Matthew MurphyLaurence Murphy and Ann Redmond, Co. WexfordEleanor ClarkMichael Clark and Mary Burns from the parish of Baltinglass, Co. WicklowNicholas Roach and Margaret Clark
20 Oct 1856John O'BrienCharles O'Brien and Mary Devereux from the parish of Clonegal, Co. WexfordBridget KarmuddyMichael Karmuddy and Bridget Mack from the Co. Clare, IrelandJames McNamara and Margaret Connors
24 Oct 1856John Joyce, widower of decd. Mary Boyne John Joyce and Mary Hanlon from the parish of Ballykillen, Co. Carlow, IrelandJohannah KehoeJohn Kehoe and Johannah Quinlan parish of Adamstown, Co. Wexford IrelandJohn Dunden and Bridget O'Brien
4 Nov 1856Cornelius Harrington of the Rail Road in this missionTimothy Harrington and Julia Fahey of the parish of Kilcastle, Co. Cork IrelandMargaret RyanMichael Ryan and Bridget Lahey from the parish of Kilcommon, Co. LimerickJames Moran and Ann Dunden
10 Nov 1856Thomas Elligot of the Gr. T. R. Road in this missionJohn Elligot and Margaret Collins of the parish of Grane, Co. LimerickBridget ConwayThomas Conway and Margaret Kennedy from the parish of Kilcommon, Co. Tipperary IrelandJohn Elligot and Allice Kennedy
18 Nov 1856Denis Doyle of the Gr. T. R. Road in this missionDenis Doyle and Eleanor Ryan from the parish of Cappa White Co. Tipperary IrelandBridget McGrathThos. McGrath and Margaret Wilkinson, from the parish of Castletown, Co. Tipperary IrelandThos. Conway and Margaret Karmuddy

*This marriage, which required a dispensation from the impediment of a mixed marriage, was later crossed out in the register.

Marriage of Michael Dwyer and Honora Benton

Honora Benton was born in Cappawhite, Co. Tipperary in 1818 (baptized 13 December 1818), the daughter of Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer. A couple of years earlier, her father Thomas Benton had served as sponsor/godfather to Mary Dwyer, baptized 17 April 1816, the daughter of Timothy Dwyer and Honora Benton.

So here we have a couple of Benton-Dwyer couples in Cappawhite in the early nineteenth century: Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer (married 11 March 1809); and Timothy Dwyer and Honora Benton (married before April 1816). Were Thomas Benton and Honora Benton (wife of Timothy Dwyer) siblings or cousins or otherwise related? Were Catherine Dwyer (wife of Thomas Benton) and Timothy Dwyer (husband of Honora Benton) siblings or cousins or otherwise related?

If You’re the Daughter of a Benton and a Dwyer …

… why not marry a Dwyer?

Don’t let your emigration to Canada stop you! You can surely find a Dwyer in Montreal.

And that is exactly what Honora Benton, daughter of Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer, did:1

Marriage of Michael Dwyer and Honora Benton, 9 October 1843

Marriage of Michael Dwyer and Honora Benton, 9 October 1843

The above record, from the register for Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal, identifies the marriage partners as Michael Dwyer, “domicilié en cette Paroisse fils majeur de John Dwyer fermier et d’Ellen McGrath du Comté de Limerick en Irlande” (domiciled in this parish son of age of John Dwyer, farmer, and of Ellen McGrath of the County Limerick, Ireland); and Hanora Benton “domicilié en cette Paroisse fille majeure de Thomas Benton fermier et de Catherine Dwyer du Comté de Tipperary en Irlande” (domiciled in this parish daughter of age of Thomas Benton, farmer, and of Catherine Dwyer of the County Tipperary, Ireland). Apparently neither Michael Dwyer nor Honora Benton could sign the register. The witnesses, however, did sign as Timothy Bourke and Edmond Reardon.

Michael Dwyer and Honora Benton had two daughters baptized at Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal: Ellen, born 2 July 1844; and Mary, born 23 March 1846. What happened to this family after March 1846? I have not yet found them in the (Canadian or American) census records.

  1. Basilique Notre-Dame (Montréal, Québec), Register of Births, Marriages and Burials, 1843, M. 143, Michael Dwyer-Hanora Benton marriage: database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 23 March 2015), Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967.

Marriage of Edmund Conroy and Margo Jemmison

book cover areyoumymotherIf, as promised in December 2014, the National Library of Ireland launches a website with digitized images of its Roman Catholic parish register microfilms, this will be a game changer for Irish genealogy and family history research.1 As John Grenham puts it:

These records are – by a long way – the single most important source of historical Irish family information, one of the greatest legacies of the Catholic Church to Ireland.

The idea that someone in Ottawa or Boston (or anywhere in the world, really) will now have free, online access to a set of records (the single most important set of records for Irish genealogy, given the loss of the 19th-century census records) that, until recently, had seemed to lie hidden inside an Irish family history mysterium … well, this is a great idea, is it not?

To be sure, there will be challenges. Many of the records are in Latin, with seemingly bizarre latinized renderings of Irish forenames (Diarmuid [anglicized as Dermot] becomes Jeremiah; Sheila becomes Cecilia; and so on). Pages torn or ripped out just at the point where you think your great-great-grandmother’s marriage record might be. Cramped, spidery writing, with ink splotches all over the page. These records will not present themselves to Irish family history researchers as something warm and friendly, easy-going and easy to use.

They will not be “user-friendly,” I suspect (they will not be indexed by name, for example).

And yet. And yet. Make no mistake: this is a game changer. For anyone who cares to slog through page after page of sometimes poorly-photographed images of sometimes indecipherable handwriting, this is it: this is the key that unlocks the door to the Irish family history mysterium.

And the records will no doubt be crowd-sourced: before too long after their release (not overnight, but sooner than you might expect), we will see local genealogy societies coming out with indexes; we will see random people on the Internet offering their own transcriptions of the records for this parish or that. (And caveat emptor, needless to say.)

Transcriptions are Good, but …

… they’re not as good as the originals.

The thing is, I just don’t entirely trust somebody else’s transcription of an original record. I want to see the original (or a photograph of the original) for myself, and make my own interpretation, and draw my own conclusions. And just as importantly, I want to view the record in context, which means I want see the surrounding records. I want access to la vraie chose, in other words.

Do I sound too demanding (I want this, and I’d also like that)? I guess online access to the digitized Drouin records (Catholic parish registers for the province of Québec and for parts of the province of Ontario) has spoiled me, has raised my expectations for online access to (photographs of) the original records. By the way, the Drouin records are available at FamilySearch, and also at Ancestry.ca.

I used to complain about RootsIreland.ie (Irish Family History Foundation) because their former pay-per-view system was simply too expensive. In fact, there was a period a few years ago when I actually banned myself from visiting their site, because the temptation to spend more money on more views was too overwhelming. I mean, it was a bit ridiculous: how much money are you willing to spend in pursuit of a Patrick Ryan, a man with one of the ten most common surnames in Ireland, and with one of the most common male forenames too? Well, too much money, in my case, whenever I visited that site. And so I banned myself.

I no longer complain about RootsIreland, now that they have 1). replaced the pay-per-view system with a subscription service; and 2). added RC parish records from the Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly (and hello, Patrick Ryan: no, not those other Patrick Ryans, the Patrick Ryan that I was actually looking for). I now find RootsIreland to be an incredibly useful site.

So this isn’t a complaint, exactly. It’s just that what you get at Rootsireland are somebody else’s transcriptions, and transcriptions are not as good as the originals.

Are You my 3x-Great-Grandmother?

conroy edmond jameson marg 1may1815 mountmellick queensAs I’ve mentioned before, the family lore surrounding my 3x-great-grandparents James Moran and Margaret Jamieson strikes me as so romantic, so improbable, that I often refer to the story of their elopement to Canada as “the Ballad of James and Margaret.”

And it’s a great story: a young lady of quality (of “the Quality,” as they called it at the time) falls in love with the coachman, a handsome young rogue of a fellow, who is working for her family. And because her family would never agree to the match, the two star-crossed young lovers determine to elope to Upper Canada.

Well, of course I am sceptical. As I have also already mentioned before, if you grew up as the descendant of Irish emigrants, you will no doubt have grown up hearing all sorts of nonsense about how we were once the Kings and Queens of Ireland. And then you look into the records, and discover that we were once the agrarian underclass of County Tipperary!

But for all my scepticism, I have never been inclined to dismiss outright the oral family history claim that, before she married James Moran, the young Margaret Jamieson had married a man by the name of Conroy, in the Queen’s County (Co. Laois).

Which is why the record above (a transcription of an actual record) is of interest to me. The county fits; the date fits; and the names (more or less) also fit (“Margo”? I’d like to know how many “Margos” were running about Queen’s County ca. 1815: I suspect not too many, though there must have been a lot of “Margarets”).

Is this Margo Jemisson my Margaret Jamieson? Well, she might be, but then again, she might not be, I just don’t know. The only way to possibly crack this nut is to dig deep into the parish registers, and to view all relevant surrounding records in context.

Which is why I am so looking forward to the NLI’s release of the digitized images of its Roman Catholic parish registers. I want the key that unlocks the door to the Irish family history mysterium.

  1.  And I shouldn’t say if, I should say when (the NLI’s Parish Registers Digitisation Project is currently scheduled to launch “by summer 2015″): it’s just that this project is so monumentally awesome that I still can’t quite believe they will pull it off.