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.
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.
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
St. Isidore Roman Catholic Church (South Marchl, Ontario), Register of Baptisms and Marriages, 1861-1968, James Lewis B2 , database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 8 October 2010), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967.
A few random observations, in no particular order:
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.
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.
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
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.”
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
1 Carol Bennett McCuaig, The Kerry Chain, the Limerick Link (Juniper Books Ltd: 2003), p. 134.
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).