Catholic Records

Digitization of Irish RC Parish Records?

In his Irish Roots column of 25 October, John Grenham writes of the NLI’s plans to digitize its collection of RC parish records:
The National Library has recently put out a request for tender for the digitisation of all of its Roman Catholic parish register microfilms. These microfilms cover 98% of the pre-1880 baptism, marriage and burial records kept by local parishes on the entire island, and are the single most important source of family history information for the vast majority of researchers. Indeed, in most cases they are the only source of family information before the start of state registration in 1864. They cover almost 1200 parishes on 520 reels and represent one of the most enduring achievements of the National Library between the 1950s and the 1970s. Having them available on-line will revolutionise Irish research.
Honestly, I don’t think “revolutionise” is too hyperbolic a term to use here. This really would change everything about Irish genealogical research (and would no doubt have a major impact on some other kinds of Irish historical research too: e.g., parish-level social history).
I’m not sure about the status of a “request for tender,” though. Is this a sure thing? Can it really be funded, what with budgetary cutbacks and so on? I sure hope so! 

Albert Austin Massey: Home Child

Albert Austin Massey was born in London, England about 1884,* the son of Thomas Massey and Mary Armitage (his parents’ names come from his RC parish marriage record, and also from the Ontario civil marriage record which was based on that parish register). He emigrated to Canada around 1895 (at about 10 or 11 years of age), where he ended up in Renfrew Co., Ontario.

On 4 July 1900, at the Church of St Anne, Sebastopol, Renfrew Co. (record found in the parish register for Our Lady of Holy Angels, Brudenell), Albert Massey made his Confirmation, at which point he was described as “adopted by Frank Kilby,” age 13. He is found in the household of Francis Kilby in the 1901 Canadian census (Ontario, Renfrew South/Sud, Sebastopol, household number 39, pages 5-6), where he is listed as Massey, Albert, Male, Domestic, Single, born 2 Aug 1886, age 14, country of birth England, year of immigration 1895, racial or tribal origin English (the other members of this household are Irish in origin), nationality Canadian, religion R. Cath. [Roman Catholic], occupation Servant. Next door to the Kilby household, or next field over, perhaps, or very close by, at any rate, at household number 40, was the family of William Killeen and Lucy Armstrong.
Albert Massey married the above Lucy Armstrong on 6 May 1909 (Our Lady of Holy Angels, Brudenell).

James Lewis: Home Child?

I came across the following record of an abjuration and baptism in the parish register for St. Isidore, South March (Carleton Co., Ontario):

On the twenty sixth day of January one thousand eight hundred and eighty three, I the undersigned curate of this mission baptized James born about the month of January (in England) Eleven years ago of the lawful marriage of Mr Lewis and a mother whose name cannot be arrived at. The godfather was James Kirwan and the godmother Mary Kirwan. J.A. Sloan, pt.1
I don’t know anything about the Kirwans, except that they were Irish Catholic farmers in South March.

1
St. Isidore Roman Catholic Church (South Marchl, Ontario), Register of Baptisms and Marriages, 1861-1968, James Lewis B2 [1883], database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 8 October 2010), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967.

Headstones

A few random observations, in no particular order:

Scott Naylor’s Ottawa Area Grave Markers gallery is a wonderful source of headstone photographs, covering many cemeteries (both Catholic and Protestant) on both sides of the Ottawa river (i.e., on both the  Ontario and the Québec sides of the Ottawa Valley area). And he is continually adding more cemeteries. I was surprised (and delighted) to recently discover that the site now covers Notre Dame, Ottawa: a huge, and densely populated, cemetery. I can’t even imagine the hours of unpaid work put in by dedicated volunteers: it is a gift to the public (or to that subset of the public that has an interest in genealogy), for which I am very grateful indeed. I’ve found ancestral markers there that I hadn’t realized even existed: I knew (from parish registers and/or civil death records) that the ancestors had been buried at Notre Dame, but I hadn’t known about their headstones.
The headstones in any given cemetery may represent only a portion of those buried there. Or, to put it another way: some people were buried without a headstone. For the nineteenth century (not to mention earlier than that), many people, actually. Headstones were expensive; and for humble folk, much closer to a luxury than a necessity.

William Charles Burton: Home Child

[Note: I’m having trouble combining MT blog software with numbered footnote citations. For the moment, I’m inclined to take the easy way out: if there are more than one or two citations per blog entry, no numbered footnotes, just astericks, and references minimized, out of laziness and/or frustration. The census data, both English and Canadian, via Ancestry.ca].

William Charles Burton was born in England about 1882 and came to Canada in the 1890s (possibly 1898) as a Home Child. Several records describe him as a “Barnardo Boy.”

In the 1891 English census, there is a William C. Burton found in the village of Cheddar, Somerset, in the household of George Wall (occupation: Market Gardener) and his wife Susan (occupation: Caretaker of Children), along with another orphan, Fred W.G. Owen. Fred Owen’s age is given as 10, and William C. Burton’s age as 8; both boys are listed as Boarders and Scholars (i.e., they are said to be attending school), and both are said to be “From Dr. Barnardo’s Home, Birthplace unknown.” I’d say there’s a very good chance that this is the William Charles Burton who ended up in Renfrew Co., Ontario, Canada.

Translating French Records: Baptismal Records

If you’re looking for Roman Catholic records in the Ottawa Valley area, you’re almost certain to run into some French entries in the parish registers. But no worries, and please do not panic. Even if you don’t speak a word of French beyond “bonjour” and “merci beaucoup,” you canread and understand the relevant records.

First, realize that these records, whether written in Latin, French, English, Italian or whatever, all adhere to the same formula. The parish register was no place for authorial innovation and brilliant flashes of originality. So if you know the English-language formula (which you surely already do), then you’re already halfway there to figuring out the French. Second, learn a few key French terms and phrases which correspond to their English equivalents, and you’ve arrived at an understanding of the record (in fact, in many cases the bigger challenge will be to make out the priest’s handwriting, though you can do that too, once you understand what terms and phrases you’re looking at).
This entry deals with baptismal records, with marriage, burial and census records to follow in later entries.

Where was Patrick Killeen born?

Different Sources, Different Birthplaces

In a history of Ottawa published in 1927, A.H.D. Ross wrote that “the first white child born in the Township of March was Patrick Killean, whose father, Denis Killean, was in Captain Monk’s employ, and the second was Benning Monk.”1 Perhaps Ross was relying on Mrs. M.H. Ahearn’s earlier “The Settlers of March Township,” which was first read before the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa on 10 March 1899, and later published by the Ontario Historical Society. According to Mrs. Ahearn:
The first settler to locate [in March township] was Captain John Benning Monk, of H.M. 97th Regiment, who arrived in June, 1819, having been paddled and portaged in boats from Montreal, where he had the misfortune to lose his baby daughter. Leaving his wife in Hull, Captain Monk proceeded by river to March, where, with his soldier servants, he constructed a rude shanty, to which he brought Mrs. Monk, and which was aptly named ‘Mosquito Cove’ by the much-tormented occupants…
…Captain Monk had ten children, and among his numerous descendants are several prominent citizens of Ottawa. One son is G.W. Monk, ex-M.P.P. for Carleton County, and Mrs. Chas. McNab, a well-known member of our society, to whom the writer is indebted for many details of this sketch, is a daughter. The eldest son, the late Benning Monk, was the second child born in March; Patrick Killean, whose parents were servants of Captain Monk, and who afterwards took up land in South March, being the first.2
It’s not clear where Mrs. Ahearn got her information about Patrick Killean/Killeen’s birth, although it may have been part of the detail supplied to her by Mrs. Chas. McNab (Frances Amelia Monk, daughter of Captain John Benning Monk and Elizabeth Fitzgerald).

Conditional Baptism

While going through RC parish registers in search of your Catholic ancestors, you may come across the phrase “baptized conditionally” or “baptized sub conditione,” or, in French, “baptisé(e) sous condition.” What did the padre mean, you may wonder, by this seemingly cryptic communication?

What the priest meant, basically, was that he had performed the baptism with words to the effect of, “If you are not already baptized, I baptize you.”

When a Ryan Marries a Ryan

Sorting through Ryans in Renfrew County is an exercise in patience and perseverance. Ryan is, in Carol McCuaig’s words, “one of the most popular surnames” in the county.1

When one Ryan marries another (let’s hope reasonably distant if not completely unrelated!) Ryan, the opportunity for confusion is multiplied to the nth degree of Ryan.
For example, on 16 June 1884, Stephen Ryan married Hannah Ryan at St. James the Less, Eganville. Stephen was the son of John Ryan and Sarah Gallagher, and the widower of Ellen Behan (who had died “in childbed” a year earlier, on 14 June 1883). Hannah was the daughter of Michael Ryan and Bridget Lahey. The witnesses to the marriage of Stephen Ryan and Hannah Ryan were Jeremiah Ryan and Bridget Harrington, whose mother was a Ryan (Margaret Ryan, older sister of Hannah, and wife of Cornelius Harrington).
That’s a lot of Ryans.

1 Carol Bennett McCuaig, The Kerry Chain, the Limerick Link (Juniper Books Ltd: 2003), p. 134.

Irish Origins through Canadian Sources: Introduction

On my father’s side, all of my ancestors came from Ireland, some arriving in Canada as early as 1820 or so, some arriving during the Famine. On my mother’s side, a little over half of my ancestors came from Ireland, with all but one branch emigrating during the Famine (the other almost half of my maternal ancestors are French Canadian).

So that’s a lot of Irish ancestors, and they came from the north and the west and the south and the southwest of Ireland (though not, so far as I have yet to discover, from the east). Once in Canada, they tended to marry as one Irish Catholic joining up with another, which probably tended toward the construction of a new, colonial Irish identity (back in Ireland, they never would have met one another, let alone married, since one came from Armagh, and another from Cork, and so on and so forth: but in Canada, they were all the same people who all came from the same place). When I was a kid, come to think of it, “The Wild Colonial Boy” was a song that I and my sisters used to sing for the company, it was something of a party piece for us, which we had learned from a couple of uncles. That song has to do with Irish emigration to Australia not Canada, of course, but I think the colonial theme resonated with us, or at least with our uncles.