Documents

Squatter’s rights: the Widow Cahill petitions the Crown (Part I)

The following petition is found amongst the Upper Canada Land Petitions, though it concerns a property in Lower Canada (on Calumet Island/L’Île-du-Grand-Calumet, in Pontiac County, Quebec).

Letter of Anne Cahill, 13 September 1848

Honourable Sir,
I humbly beg leave to state that in the year 1835 I settled as Squatter on the Calumet Island, on a lot of land which I considered would contain about 200 acres, considering that, as I had a large family, no less than about 200 acres would be of any Service to me. I got lines ran which afterwards chanced to correspond exactly with the lines ran by the Government Surveyor — But at the time that I Squatted thereon I expected that when the lots would be surveyed they would each contain 200 acres as was customary. However, when the district was surveyed, it was in lots of but 100 acres each; consequently the tract of land I occupied became two lots as it contained 200 acres, which lots are Nos. 13 and 14. on the 6th Range — And compliance with the rules of Lord Durham’s proclamation, I got my name inserted as Squatter in his registry for said 200 acres — …

– Widow Anne Cahill to the Crown Lands Department, 13 Sept 18481

(Click on the thumbnail of the above letter of Anne Cahill to the Crown Lands Department to view it full-size.)

Who was the Widow Anne Cahill?

in the year 1835 I settled as Squatter on the Calumet Island

The Widow Anne Cahill was Anne Shirley (ca. 1786-1869), widow of Michael Cahill (died before 1840), and mother of nine known children, including George Cahill who married Mary Moran.

She was born about 1786 in Ireland, presumably in the Castlecomer area of Co. Kilkenny. She had at least two brothers, Paul Shirley (married Catherine McNamara) and William Shirley (married Mary Oughnahan), who were amongst the early settlers of the Bytown area. Her brother William Shirley signed the McCabe List, where he gave his place of origin as Castlecomer, parish of Mowhill, County Kilkenny, and made reference to “his brother Paul Shirley (who) with a family reside at Castlecomer in the County of Kilkenny and are known to the Revd Mr Roberts of Said place.” I believe the Shirley family were Anglican;2 however, Anne, Paul and William Shirley all married Irish Catholics, and many (if not most or all) of their children were baptized Roman Catholic. Anne Shirley Cahill (the Widow Cahill of the above petition) certainly had a Catholic burial (20 Aug 1869); she was buried at Ste. Anne, Calumet Island, Pontiac Co., Quebec.

Anne Shirley Cahill was almost certainly also related to the Thomas Shirley for whom she pleaded in one of her two letters to the Crown Lands Department, but whether as sibling, cousin, or aunt, I do not know. This Thomas Shirley was born about 1813 in Co. Kilkenny, the son of James Shirley and Catherine Butler (as per his marriage record), and he also settled at Calumet Island. In addition to the Widow Cahill’s plea on behalf of Thomas Shirley in one of her two letters to the Crown, various records in the Catholic parish registers suggest a familial relationship. For example, Thomas Shirley served as sponsor (or godfather) to Catherine Brennan, daughter of Patrick Brennan and Matilda Shirley and granddaughter of Anne Shirley’s brother William Shirley. And when Thomas Shirley married Honora McGuire (22 Jan 1855, Ste. Anne, Calumet Island), the witnesses to the marriage were two of Anne Shirley’s sons: John Cahill and George Cahill. Moreover, and what’s even more strongly suggestive of a blood relation, when George William Cahill, son of George Cahill and Mary Moran (and grandson of Michael Cahill and Anne Shirley), married Anne Shirley, daughter of Thomas Shirley and Honora McGuire, the couple had to obtain a dispensation from the impediment of a third degree of consanguinity.

I don’t know anything more about the Widow Anne (Shirley) Cahill, but her land petition is among the most interesting that I’ve yet to come across. Her opening line, “Honourable Sir, I humbly beg leave to state that in the year 1835 I settled as Squatter…” basically wins the petition-the-Crown sweepstakes, in my opinion, and then I’d have to give her bonus points for citing Lord Durham’s proclamation.

“I did not wish to trouble your honour about these matters if I could avoid it,” wrote the Widow Cahill, “but as I now find that I have no alternative, I humbly beg leave to Submit the matter to your most Serious consideration, hoping that your Honour will condescend to exercise your authority and See me (a poor widow with a large family) Justified.” Does it seem a little odd that someone would petition the Crown to assert her rightful claim as a Squatter?

Well, there’s a reason why the Widow Cahill had a recognizable claim to the land that she and her sons had been squatting upon, and that reason has to do with Lord Durham’s proclamation, which she references in her letter.

And before moving on to Lord Durham’s Proclamation (this blog entry to be continued….), here’s a fun little item (I google the Right Honourable John George Lambton, Earl of Durham, so that you don’t have to):

If you want to see Barry Morse (the actor who played Lt. Philip Gerard on “The Fugitive”) in one of his earlier roles, he played Durham’s advisor Gibbon Wakefield in the 1961 NFB film “Lord Durham.”

Lord Durham by John Howe, National Film Board of Canada

Squatter’s rights: the Widow Cahill petitions the Crown to be continued…

  1. Anne Cahill petition, 1848, Upper Canada Land Petitions, RG 1, L 3, vol. 137, C Bundle 5, petition 28: microfilm C-1736, Library and Archives Canada.
  2. Or Church of Ireland, which, as I’ve noted before, was/is basically the Church of England in Ireland

John Lahey the Elder’s Will

Bytown Gazette, 29 November 1837

Bytown Gazette, 29 November 1837. The “Lachie” named here was Daniel Lahey, husband of Catherine Lahey, and “the person who struck the blow” was his brother-in-law, James Lahey.

John Lahey the Elder was the eldest of six known Lahey siblings who emigrated from Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Co. Tipperary to March Township, Carleton Co., Ontario in the 1820s and early 1830s.

John Lahey the Elder never married; and, having no children of his own to inherit his land (100 acres at Concession 3, Lot 14, March Township), he left his farm to his youngest brother, my “black sheep” ancestor James Lahey. My 3x-great-grandfather James Lahey earned his “black sheep ancestor” status by killing his own brother-in-law Daniel Lahey in a drunken altercation, apparently by hitting him on the back of the head with the handle of a spade.

But John Lahey the Elder did not leave all 100 acres of his land to his younger brother James. He bequeathed to James Lahey 98 acres, reserving 2 acres to the Roman Catholic Church. As I wrote in ‘Wilful Murder’ and Black Sheep Ancestors, my dad used to joke that the reason why John Lahey left that land to the Church was that the family had so many sins to atone for. But my father was also known to say, more seriously, of James Lahey’s killing of his brother-in-law: “that’s a godawful thing to have in your family.”

And it is a godawful thing, no doubt. But, eh, there is too much ancestor worship in genealogical circles, in my humble opinion. Let’s face it, some of our ancestors were scoundrels, scofflaws, and rogues. Or hotheaded young men who lacked impulse control, and then one night they got into the poitín … (which I suspect was the case with James Lahey).

In any case, James Lahey’s murder (or manslaughter) of his sister Catherine Lahey’s husband Daniel Lahey was an act of infamy, and a horrible deed; and, by all accounts, it tore the Lahey family apart. Ultimately, John Lahey the Elder stood behind his younger brother James, and then he left him his land:

Memorial of John Lahey the Elder’s Last Will and Testament

(Written 21 December 1853; registered 17 January 1859.)

A memorial to be registered of a will made in the words and figures following that is today. In the name of God Amen.

I John Lahey the Elder of the township of March, County of Carleton, and the Province of Canada, Yeoman, being of sound mind, memory and understanding but sick and weak of body, do hereby publish and declare this to be my last will and testament hereby revoking and making void all former will or wills, that I may have hereto have made.

In the first place I nominate, constitute, and appoint George Morgan the Elder and Thomas Horrigan, both of the aforesaid Township of March Yeoman Executors of this my will. I direct that all my past debts funeral and testamentary expenses be fully paid with all convenient speed after my decease, and I subject, in the first place, my personal estate, and if the same should be insufficient, my real estate for the payment.

Therefore I give and bequeath unto my brother James and after his decease to his heirs all that parcel or track of land and premises, being composed of South East half of lot number fourteen on the third concession of the aforesaid Township of March, containing one hundred acres of land more or less, reserving to the Roman Catholic Church the two acres of land of said lot upon which the chapel now stands, together with all houses outhouses, barns stables, that are now erected and built or that may be hereafter erected and built by my said brother James, his heirs or any of them. He shall at no time sell or mortgage the said land hereby so devised. And I give unto him all stock, farming utensils that I may stand possessed of at the time of my decease and all my chattles and personal property.

In witness whereof I have to this my last will and testament written on two sides of a paper to the first side at the bottom therefore affixed my name and to the last my name and seal this twenty first day of December Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Three.

From the Carleton County Land Registry, March. Citation forthcoming.

‘I am a Poor man with a helpless family': Peter Finnerty petitions the Crown

Marriage of Peter Finnerty and Anne Havey, 11 July 1843, Notre Dame Basilica, Québec.

Peter Finnerty was born about 1810 in Co. Kerry, Ireland, the son of John Finnerty and Catherine Dunleavy. He emigrated to Canada probably in the early 1840s, initially working as a labourer (journalier) in Quebec City. Here  he married another recent Irish emigrant, Anne Havey of Co. Sligo, daughter of John Havey and Mary McGee. The couple were married on 11 July 1843, at Notre Dame Basilica, Québec (click preview, left, to see larger image). 1 A year later, they could be found in McNab township, Renfrew County, Ontario, where they raised a family of seven known children.

Two of the sons of Peter Finnerty and Anne Havey — John and James Finnerty, respectively — married two of the daughters — Catherine and Bridget Benton, respectively — of Thomas Benton and Honora Ryan, which two Finnerty-Benton unions produced an impressive number of Finnerty children (nine by John and Catherine; eleven by James and Bridget) who were double first cousins.

  1. Basilique Notre-Dame (Québec City, Québec), Register of Births, Marriages and Burials, 1843, p. 123, M. 69, Peter Finnerty-Anne Havy marriage: database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 23 March 2012), Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967.

Peter Robinson Settlers in Huntley township

Peter Robinson settlers in Huntley township, Carleton County, Ontario [Upper Canada], 1834. The names below can be found on the passenger lists for the Hebe and the Stakesby (from Cork to Quebec, 1823).

Transcribed from:

Return of a portion of the Irish Emigrants located in the Bathurst District in 1823 and 1825, by Peter Robinson Esqr, and who are now entitled to receive their Deeds, the lots having been inspected by Francis K. Jessup in 1834.1.

Township of Huntley:

NameHalfLotCon
NameHalfLotCon
James FORRESTWest2011
William WELCHEast2011
Timothy FORRESTWest2111
Timothy KENNEDYEast2111
Charles SULLIVANWest2311
Jeffery DONOGHUEEast1510
James WHITEEast1710
Michael CRONINWest1810
James ALLANEast1910
John KENNEDYWest1910
John KEEFEWest1910
William GREGGWest169
William WHITEWest209
James MANTLE2710
Thomas BOYLEN.W. 4 [quarter] 24 10
S.W. 4 [quarter]2510
Thomas BRISTNAHAN Senr.West219
Thomas BRISTNAHAN Jnr.East2010
  1. Upper Canada Land Petitions 1835, RG 1, L 3, vol. 435, R Bundle 19, petition 23c: microfilm C-2746

Early Baptisms, St. Francis de Sales, Smiths Falls: Part I

Early Baptisms (May 1848-Dec 1849), St. Francis de Sales, Smiths Falls, Montague township, Lanark Co., Ontario, Canada

This is my own transcription, some of the names were hard to make out. I have resisted the urge to “correct” the spellings. You should check the original for names, dates, and other details, and especially for the names of sponsors/godparents (which I have not included here due to space constraints).

Upper Canada Land Petitions Online

I can’t believe these documents are now online (and have been online for a couple of months, apparently — John Reid posted about this on 14 January 2012). Not just the index to the petitions (which index was put online around September 2010, I believe), but now the digitized images of the petitions themselves. 327 microfilms (over 82,000 entries, and thousands upon thousands of pages of text), now readily available to anyone with an internet connection.

Two of my direct ancestors (both 3x-great-grandfathers) can be found on the same page, three lines from the top and five lines from the top, respectively (click image below to see larger version):

  1. Denis Killeen, Irish Emt [Emigrant], Township of March, Concession 3rd, S.E. [Southeast] 1/2 of Lot 11, 100 acres.
  2. James Morin [Moran], Irish Emt [Emigrant], Township of Huntley, Concession 1st, N.W. [Northwest] 1/2 of Lot 11, 100 acres.

Upper Canada Land Petitions, Perth Military Settlement (RG 1, L 3, Vol. 421), Microfilm C-2739, Petition 70, p. 70h.

Actually, perhaps my above “readily available” was a tad hyperbolic.

Denis Killeen’s Will

Denis Killeen made a will on 24 May 1850, a memorial of which was registered on 9 February 1854 (about three or four years after his death).
The memorial was “signed” (that is, marked with an X) by his eldest son Patrick Killeen; and was also signed (I mean, with actual signatures) by John Armstrong, Thomas Morgan, and Albert Hopper, all of March township. None of these three subscribing witnesses — John Armstrong, Thomas Morgan, and Albert Hopper — were related by blood or marriage, so far as I can tell. They were all Irish emigrants to March township, of Protestant (Church of England) background, presumably chosen as trustworthy and literate neighbours of the Irish Catholic Killeens.
The following is my transcription of the memorial, with hyperlinks to my database listings of the persons named in the will. A few words (indicated by brackets [ ] ) are illegible, or at least, not legible to me.


Some (Adult Male) Roman Catholics of Huntley township, 1837

The following petition contains the names of 88 adult male Catholics of Huntley township (Carleton Co., Ontario [Upper Canada]), circa 1837. This is not a complete inventory of RC males, or of RC male heads of household, in Huntley township at that time (among the names that I was expecting/hoping to find, but which do show up here, are Moran, Hogan, and Cahill, for example). It is a list only of those men in and around the Huntley area who signed on to the petition.

While most of the names below were written by the same hand, a few of the men appear to have signed their own names. In transcribing the names, I have not attempted to “correct” the spellings, which vary considerably even for the same name within the same document (which is typical of pre-twentieth century documents, of course). A few of the names I found difficult to make out, in which cases I have given my best guess.
Some of the names (e.g., Mantil/Mantle, certainly; but possibly also Allen, Buckley, Forrest, Gregg, Roach/Roche, and no doubt some others) are names associated with the Peter Robinson Settlers.

Last Will and Testament of Francis Moran

Francis Moranwas born about 1812 in Co. Leitrim, Ireland, the son of Ambrose Moran and Margaret [maiden name unknown]. He emigrated to Canada about 1833, where he settled at Fitzroy township, Carleton Co. He married 1.) Margaret Behan; and 2.) Anne Galligan.

With his first wife, Margaret Behan (born Ireland about 1818; died Canada between 1846 and 1852) he had seven known children: Ambrose; Mary; Jeremiah; Catherine; Ellen; Catherine; and Francis.
On 4 January 1853 (Fitzroy Harbour Mission) he married Ann Galligan, born about 1827 in Co. Cavan, daughter of Denis Galligan and Ann Kelly.

Interestingly enough, there is no mention of his first family in his will, which is transcribed as follows: